Tag Archives: Doubt

Don’t Panic

So. Here we are. The final month of 2016. John Oliver made a shitty-year-tribute to it. Do look that one up. Anyhow, this is my first post since the infamous elections. I feel obligated to write about the state of the globe, and the task has presented itself to me as daunting. Thus, here I am, digging up my old motto. It’ll have to come alive again.

A symptom, they call him. Žižek in particular. I agree. But a symptom of what? The plain and clear answer would be voters’ dissatisfaction. About the slowly tightening thumbscrews, compelling us to conform to the psychoindustry. Mindscrews. Dissatisfaction with the tiny cubicles that we are forced to create and recreate. The prison we have to work harder and harder for. If we even have that chance. Our identities. Our trust. It could have been Sanders, now it was Trump.

The ecological crisis
I’m quite sure that the history books will point out climate change as a trigger for the current instability. After all, the consistent lack of water in Syria was one of the main drivers of the local war and the consequent refugee crisis. More of such events will follow. And let’s be honest: those refugees were an important trigger for the Brexit and, for example, the Dutch ‘No’ against the trade agreement with Ukraine. Their arrival also encouraged the pro-Trumps. It was certainly part of the campaign discourse. What flabbergasts me though, is that no one is truly threatened by these people. It’s only in the minds. This never needed to become a crisis. These people could have just dissolved over the many European cities… Such a shame.

And though I don’t have data to prove it, I’m sure the repression of the ecosystem is part of the cause of the upsurge of anger worldwide. I’ll get back to that briefly.

Framing
Now, when it comes to these refugees, we should not forget that Europe has been a breeding ground for discriminatory views upon the arrival of strangers, notably those of the Islamic faith. The media have gratefully fed us with our own shitty thoughts. The vibe has been able to spread over the net and infected the US as well. The emergence of the FPÖ in Austria  came even before the 9/11 incident, when the Algerian integration in France was still considered a success. But the schism was already latent. Could we have cured it back then? It doesn’t matter now. What matters is that the constant repetition of thoughts we condemned 20 years ago has worked. Even if, gratefully, Austria has voted against the extreme right wings today, their numbers have been growing all over Europe and in the US.

Dictatorial leaders all around the EU break the rules consistently
Putin, Erdogan, Orbán and the eastern European cluster, now possibly Trump as well. All have an effective regime of controlling media and education, eradicating political opponents and encircling themselves with a fortress of trustees. They all structurally and consistently break international agreements and by that lower the standards of international collaboration.

Continuous economic instability
While the US stock exchange is at a higher point than ever, recent years have not been reassuring. The fluctuating oil prices, Chinese, Russian and Brazilian market failures and the threat of gradual EU dismemberment – if you’ll allow me the term – have demonstrated significant weaknesses in the system. House prices in several regions in the world, including in the Netherlands and the US are above the pre-crisis levels, whereas the salaries have barely raised and unemployment is far higher than in 2008. Where did that money come from? It’s a bubble again. People sense this kind of thing. They are not stupid.

The emergence of surveillance infrastructure
Oh. Something else. 20 years ago, there were no mobile phones, barely any cameras and certainly no crazy algorithms that track down people who even think about performing an illegal act. We all know how it is today. Our environment is filled with spyPhones. And while they constantly watch and listen to us, software is figuring out what our actions mean. Knowing us better than ourselves. No real threat, until we undermine someone or something that does not want to be undermined and is willing to make some sacrifices for that. Or until we are faced with malevolent hackers or AI. The progressive intrusion into our private spaces is something to be nervous about. This nervousness is collective and it’s global. Even if we choose for it ourselves: the choice is no real choice. It’s seduction. There’s an uncanny voice in the back of our heads.

Our heroes are falling
The fact that there are wealthy elites in this world is rooted in abuse. We know that now. Slavery of the poor. Economic disadvantaging. Land grabbing. All keep happening day in, day out. People are not entitled to their own little spot on earth, no, they are persecuted. And the role models, whom we thought had deserved more than ourselves are dropping like flies. Clinton was just one of them. Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, the Church, Sinterklaas, Neelie Kroes. The list is infinite and growing. Wikileaks, the Panama Papers, Edward Snowden. Revelation upon revelation fuels the anger. And to quote Michael Caine in The Dark Knight: ‘In their desperation, they turned to a man they do not fully understand.‘ A clown.

Now what?
I’ll tell this story more elaborately one day, but I once met a guy in a valley in Istria, Croatia, who told me his third eye was very developed. Don’t ask. He heard voices sometimes. Once, a voice told him: ‘if the clown becomes the president of the US, this man will start the third world war’. This was eleven years ago. He was convinced the voice spoke about Rudy Giuliani. When it comes to being a clown, however, I don’t think that guy competes with Donald Trump. And if I look at the circumstances, it wouldn’t surprise me if the voice in this man’s head, who had excellent local wine by the way, knew what it was talking about.

But even if we’re at the dawn of a new global conflict, and don’t get me wrong here, I believe there’s still a huge chance that people will prove wiser than that, I believe we can learn from our ancient spirit father Douglas Adams. When the world gets eradicated because of an interstellar bypass, it’s a great idea hold your thumb up and hope for an extraterrestrial race to pick you up and swipe you towards your next adventure. Don’t panic. Those two words were his.

No, but seriously. I used to wear Adams’ quote on my black Eastpack at school. Painted in Tipp-Ex. The soundbite feels like a dear old pet. And I still think that’s the way to go. Not by ignoring the problems: we should keep looking the beast in the eyes. Because even in the face of war, it’s ungrounded fear, being swept away, that will lead us to make wrong decisions. If anything, being afraid of war will cause us to move straight towards it. Bouncing back will invite it to bite us in the face. Like a driver who fixates on a tree ahead. He’ll hit it. And we shouldn’t. Nobody wants that. More than ever, we all have to speak out against the injustice in our surroundings, aware that us westerners were born into being part of the evil. Fight to bring justice back. And I don’t mean lawful justice. I mean soulful justice. Cos when the shit hits the fan, there’s no need to give yourself to quick-tempered choices. Even then we can stay cool.

 

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Programmed soul

I recently had a conversation with a webdesigner about The Grid. The Grid is a website builder that uses ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to design websites according to the demands of the user and makes it look attractive. It will launch soon, and I’m considering to try it out. My conversation partner told me he believed human minds will always be necessary for this kind of thing. I replied that I wasn’t sure. One of the most striking films I recently saw on this topic was Her. In it, a program and a human become friends. I don’t want to spoil too much, but at some point the AI composes a jolly song. It’s fiction of course, but the story is self-explanatory and makes it credible. I bet it’s not the first time you hear that Artificial Intelligence is rising and taking over our jobs or even our lives, but have you ever really believed it? I’m starting to. If you would have asked a person before the war if a computer would ever be able to beat a human in chess, the answer would have been “No!”. Today, computers beat all champions. You could argue that chess is limited to the board and the predictable movements of the pieces, and therefore easy to calculate. Then, you could say that thoughts and words are unlimited, and that their sounds and meanings are too subtle for a computer to get, let alone to create with it. My answer would be: maybe. It might depend on how you program the AI. Let me take writing as an example. I’m not a grandmaster, but I’ve been doing it for a while now. A big part of it is technical: you attract attention with a title, build a structure of intro, middle and end, and try to choose your words such that they mean something. Build in some contrasts, break some grammatical rules. I don’t think people would disagree that the technical part is easy to learn for Artificial Intelligence. It’s the lived aspect that is harder. The part where emotions come in. Where meaning comes in. Where the sounds of the words dance around in your head. Where senses are triggered. The rhythm. Knowing what works and what doesn’t. Re-reading. Disagreeing with yourself. Making impossible choices. Creating symbols and metaphors. And yet when the text is done, there was only so much that a writer could do: the rest is what the reader creates for herself. If google can learn to recognize voices, can’t there also be a recognition of emotions in the tone of the voice? It’s all sounds, no? If facial recognition is possible, aren’t facial expressions the next step? With the increasing sensorial finesse of AI based systems, it could well be a matter of time before AI can discern a good wine from a bad one. Or a good story from a bad one. Give it control over the story, and it might improve it. I think another crucial thing to program is hunger. The insaturable need to take up information. To learn. The program should have limits, which force it to create. Digest, get stuff out. And it should be able to grow, but with a limited speed. Those are probably the hardest things to program, yet they have been attained with bacteria. Peristalsis, perhaps? I’m not an expert. Finally, to increase its status as a creator, the AI should have a drive to be acknowledged. If nowadays you can measure much of your societal recognition by the amount of views and likes of your webpage, then a ‘like = good – no like = bad’ algorithm should do the trick. Of course, you could further improve it with video information of people reading the words. Add up the factors and computers could become better at creating art, marketing themselves and being loved than humans ever have been.

Calming Volcanoes

Rainbow Thunderheart or Bavado LeBeau is a Native American shaman from Wyoming, concerned with the healing of mother earth. He is part of the bird tribes and sound healers. His ancestors have asked him to teach the people of the world about the laws of nature. He has travelled to 28 American tribes to get to know them. His teachers educated him on how to maintain a good relationship with nature and its spiritual entities. He now acts as spiritual guardian of the Yellowstone Park and has travelled to the Netherlands to give teachings on his work. I have asked him for an interview and he agreed.
(Picture: Aljaz Gabersek)

College
Lian organises the session; it comes with several landscape healing rituals and a sweat lodge ceremony. She invited me to join diner. It’s hectic when I meet Bennie, right before we eat. He’s in blue with nice ornaments. Gentle, to the point. Diner is vegan, made of rice and local flowers. Before we eat, we hold our hands above the food to get rid of the bad energy. I feel like making lots of inappropriate comments, but manage to keep most of them in, where they light up a little flame that makes me smile. The companions smile back. An airy young blond man on my right explains that he is from a far away galaxy, and that he always purifies his food this way. He gives me some tips on how I can do the same. I try. It seems to be a big deal for him.

The college room is full. When no more people enter, the group gradually becomes silent in expectancy, until we cannot even hear whispering. “I’m not going to talk yet” says Lian. The humming starts again.

Bavado gets the stage. He stands legs wide and his voice is peaceful but loud. After introducing himself, he sings a song that he calls a message of his culture. He blows on a whistle. The high-pitched sound, he explains, scatters the negative energies in our minds. It’s beautiful. In a long presentation, he sketches a paradigm that is for a part new to me. Some words I find hard to digest, with others I feel as though I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll give you a short personal summary.

Central in Bavado’s vision is grandmother spider’s web. This is a pattern similar to that of the seeds in a sunflower. It is spread all over the world and the intersections of the lines have sacred sites, to wich everything is spiritually connected. Bavado says that the problems are global and they therefore concern us all.

The large-scale mining and transportation of gold, oil and minerals of the past century has put the weight points of the earth’s tectonic plates out of balance, comparable to removing a piece of a spin and sticking it to the other side. Consequently, the earth spins into a new equilibrium, which causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This process has been predicted by tribes from all over the world, who learned this information from inhabitants of different star systems. Some of these legends were passed from parent to child; others were carved as drawings on stones. It was predicted, for example that when the White Buffalo returns, the nations will stand together as brothers and sisters to heal the earth. The process goes hand in hand with the coming of a generation of children who are born spiritually awake. Today, Bavado says, people from all over the world are having vision dreams about volcano eruptions and they have the chance to do something about it. The global reset is going to happen with or without us, but we have the potential to smoothen it a little.

Rainbow Thunderheart has himself once dreamt about a super eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. To prevent this, he has made a journey by 19 sacred natural sites surrounding Yellowstone in a wheel with a diameter of 1200 miles. On each of these sites, he taught volunteers how to engage in a healing ceremony with him. After he motivated all groups, they did a joint ceremony where every group was located on every sacred site to send their positive energy to the centre, the volcano itself, where he did his prayers. During this process, a hole opened in the ground that allowed steam to go out, relieving the pressure of the mountain. He says the ritual  also helped reduce the impacts of weather hazards in the area.

For the solutions, Bavado explains, it is important to understand that the elements, earth, wind, fire and water mimic our thoughts and our actions. Throughout the generations, atrocities such as rape and violence fell upon the heads of children. Parents had no control over it, the behaviour was embedded in the DNA. Today, we have the chance to heal this pain from our past. In this process we should be aware that we can not always sense the bad energy. We should therefore bless everything we take in: tap water, food, emotions, words, thoughts, you name it. In this process we should all have complete faith in love.

Someone in the public asks: what to do with the new forms of radiation such as Wifi or nuclear radiation? The answer for Bavado is simple: “I love the radiation, so I send my love to it. That is what shamans do. That is the essence of the power and it is true for everything: either you stop resisting, or you get ill.” Doubt can kill us.

Cleaning the thoughts
It is about ten O’clock at night when the presentation ends. We clean up and part ways. I go to the Lian’s house to meet Bavado for some questions. It is a walk through an alley with many trees. They calm my mind as I wonder how far I really go along in this. In the past years I have lived in the conviction that there is no such thing as bad energy, that it is all part of a huge energetic circle of life and death, but I sometimes felt this vision took the sting out of me. Bavado’s advice is to let go, that’s precizely what I stand for. But let go of what?

Part of the diner group is present in the living room where we have our chat. They are jolly, playful company. I ask Bavado how exactly he obtained his knowledge. He answers that it’s in the myths and the legends of his tribes. The way to understand it is to listen between the lines of the tales. “But if you listen to these tales, be careful with the thoughts that are already in your head, they may change the vision.” The basic teaching of the elders is that you should continuously put effort in keeping your thoughts clear and clean, just like you always have to clean up your house. A practical tip: replay your spoken words in your head. Look into them to see what you created.

I ask about the role of emotions. He says they are important. We are made out of twenty emotions, he explains, all ruled by the moon. Like the tides, there are higher emotions and lower ones. But we don’t usually notice our emotional cycles because we are distracted by the events in our lives. They’re easier to feel during sunrise. It is important to be with your emotions during prayer. Just like in a relationship: when you really love someone, you feel it in the words you speak. If you feel the love for the mother earth, she can hear you.

But what if you are divided between different thoughts or emotions? Then they work against each other and create a conflict. Bavado points his fingers to each other. A part of your energy can splinter off, leaving you more vulnerable for negative energies. It happens quite often in the case you follow a command of another person, and then blame that person for what you did. It does not work that way. You are the only one responsible for your actions.

Bavado distinguishes between different kinds of dreams. Some represent one of the four elements. If you get a dream like that, it tells you to go shape shift –impersonate – that element. Then there are vision dreams that give you a glimpse into the future. Bavado tells a most fascinating thing. Before he came into this life, he agreed to the events in it. Everything was shown to him like a movie in fast forward. He remembers being sent here to do what he is doing now.

So what are the most valuable lessons you learned from your elders? I ask to conclude. “Well, he says, once when I was young my girlfriend broke up with me. My grandma said: get over that girl, because there are plenty of fish in the sea. What she meant was that you should not get stuck onto things. My grandpa sat next to her. He said: that’s ill advice. If I would have taken it, you would now be alone”. He pauses for a while. “Yes and my grandpa also taught me to be gentle to girls when they are in their moon time. They could cause an earthquake five states wide…”

Slit

I drive my bicycle by the Huizingalaan for my job. There’s an anxious feeling, but I can’t put my finger on it. The traffic light is red. Shall I cross the street anyway? I’m almost at my third destination of this morning, meaning I’m halfway the duty: taking pictures of the litter on the street. The rubbish in the grass doesn’t matter, that’s not in the assignment. I decide there’s no rush, so I just stop for the red light. The weekend pops into my mind. We had a nicely easy pace, far slower than the footsteps I hear behind me. They’re close, actually. I want to turn my head, when I feel a firm, warm hand on my right ear. It is attached to a left arm that is now in front of my face. It my face in a turn to the left. A sharp cold blade enters my neck on the left side of my Adam’s apple and painfully slits through. I am surprisingly aware of it cutting my aorta. My body pressure drops. I’m calmer than ever when I bend my right shoulder forward towards my steer. Whoever is behind me still holds my face back and I’m looking at the sky. I feel my legs give way and my body comes down like a scaffolding with a missing lower pole. My heart pumps out quantities of blood and I cannot stop it. My extremities start tingling. The feeling steadily creeps in. I lose perception in my skin.

He doesn’t look into my eyes, but instead goes straight for the inner pocket of my coat. I hear myself attempt to ask what the black hat expects to find there. His survival? Another pulse of life leaves my arms and legs. It’s sad. The dark black coat and the hat run off with my wallet, leaving what is left of me buried under the bike I had with me. “Now nobody will know who I am”. The thoughts sound distant but meaningful. Light flashes appear. They come with a pulsating headache. Part of my view is replaced by colour patterns. Someone I once briefly dated enters my vision. Never thought she would.

“What did you do wrong?” I hear.
“Should I have ignored the red light and crossed the street?”
There’s no answer. I feel the question press stronger upon me.
“Should I have looked behind me when I felt something was wrong? When I heard his footsteps? Should I have seen him when he wanted to attack?”
Still no answer.
“Should I have taken a shorter coffee break, so that the evil would never have met me? Perhaps I should have called in sick this morning, when I felt that little headache rise? Or should I have forgotten my camera at home and caused a delay, or overslept a little, or made some more love or…”
“What did you do wrong?”
The similarity in tone and volume with the earlier question is frightening.

“Was it my dedication? Should I have been a more effective worker? More persuasive? Should I have been more pro-active in times where I was needed? Should I have tried harder to convince others about this team building idea? Should I have put more effort in the workspace? Cleaned more? Worn more suitable clothes? Perhaps I should have reviewed my products better? And the others’? Paid more attention to their personal problems instead of my own?
It remains silent for a while.

“Should I have been more loving to my girlfriend, maybe? Thought less about sex, perhaps? More about tenderness and care? Cuddled more? Should I have avoided those other girls I felt a stronger affection to at times? Spent less time drinking with friends? Should I have mastered my feelings better, so that she would’ve had a stronger shoulder to rest on? Tried harder to listen to her when she had a hard time? Perhaps I should have practiced Yoga? Should I have asked her to marry me? Have babies? Would that have saved me from this horrible death? Should I have reached out to her more while I still had the chance? Did I date the wrong girl?

“What did you do wrong?” Again, the exact same words in the exact same, serene but powerful voice.
“Should I have saved more energy? Bought more organic food? Perhaps I shouldn’t have bought a car? Lived a more sober life, cared more about strangers? Should I have visited my grandma more often? Learn from her words and give her some news on how the younger people live? Should I have fought her lonely existence and restored the generation gap? Should I have called more with my parents? Asked them for their points of view? Listened to their warnings? Should I not have moved so far away? Chosen my dad’s profession, tried to understand him? Should I have granted them a grandchild while I had the chance? Could I have been less hard on my brothers? Fought them less, given them more space to be who they were? Should I ha…

“What did you do wrong?” am I in a loop? Will this go on an on?
“Should I have dedicated my life to the spiritual? Moved to a monastery? Helped out in the third world, perhaps? Should I have actively practiced a state of constant joyful trance? Strived for enlightenment? Compassion? Should I have passionately sought the wiser ones to support me in a path of service to the divine? Travelled through dimensions? Been more in touch with myself? Should I have established a disciplined bio rhythm? Meditated more? Should I have been an example to those who needed one? Or perhaps I should have been more humble? Taken my convictions less seriously? Or simply have been more open to others? Where the Christians right? Should I have just understood that Jesus was our one and only saviour? Should I have separated milk from meat? Prayed towards the middle east? Or maybe I ignored you when I met you, disguised up as a homeless person? Or were you dressed up as a business man? A beautiful woman in a long black dress, perhaps?

“What did you do wrong?” I’m running out of thoughts. What if I don’t find the answer? I don’t know what to say.
“Should I have slept more?”
“That’s enough, man!” says the voice. “I was just messing with you! You should have crossed the red light while you still could. Your first guess was right. But it’s too late for that now” a jolly laughter. “Anyway, dude, welcome to the afterlife.”

Europe in times of anti-ism

The EU countries are voting for the future of the continent. In the Netherlands, one of the dominating questions in the matter is: are you pro or contra Europe? I was raised as a European and I my life is marked by transborder friendships. Regardless, I have recently started to doubt. Not because I actually doubt, but because the black and white question echoes in society and it has invaded my mind. Yet if I take some time to contemplate it, anti-Europeanism appears to me as one of the most ridiculous ideas of this time.

Some talks on this matter led me to believe that when a person says he is anti Europe, he usually doesn’t mean it that way. The person could mean that he or she is anti-capitalist or anti political power accumulation or anti politics in general, or maybe that he just hates some French guy he once met during holidays. Because of that, I’m sad to see that the pro or against debate rules so much of the political propaganda. It is an easy way to draw votes, no doubt. The concept of a European union brings forth a spectrum of collective emotion.

And does that not say enough? Doesn’t that show we have little other choice than to deal with each other the way family does? Europe has grown into a network of entangled stakes. The very parties we vote for could not operate if the European Union did not exist. They cannot interrupt its existence either. That would be comparable to a liver saying goodbye to a body because of all the crap it gives it. It would die. We need our neighbours as much as we need ourselves. Our union is a given of this time and we should be grateful for its vitality. That’s fragile.

I won’t advocate that everything is going smoothly. There have been bumps and mistakes. What I’m saying is that anti-Europeanism is a waste of thought. A fake debate. The more such virtual constructs occupy the public opinion, the less power people have.

Go vote one of these days and please do it because you believe in something better, not because you want the borders back.

Iceberg!

My hay fever started in the beginning this week. I don’t believe this ever happened in March before. It usually comes in May, last year in June. I saw butterflies fluttering around the beginning of last month and the first wasp entered our house today.  Yet perhaps the most discomforting sign of seasonal extremities was the man with the ice cream van in front of the window on a February night. I can assure you: if that happens in the Netherlands it means trouble.

This was the week in which the IPCC presented its fifth report compiled by 300 top-notch international scientists. Some media largely ignored it. Perhaps they didn’t consider it important enough. Or maybe they believe that whatever we don’t give attention does not exist? Others spoke of it using terms like food-pocalypse  – it’s tempting to be original – or in more a nuanced way: “justified rise in global concern“. IPCC has a conservative stand in presenting climate data. The facts have never been as clear as they are now.

It is now officially proven that humans have caused or amplified much of the climatic extremities we see, and we know that they are likely to keep doing so, with self increasing consequences. Take the simple example of drought caused by increased heat. It will cause forests to burn more easily, and by doing so, release more CO2 in the atmosphere. This will cause more heating, more burning and even more CO2 . Another example. A forest is like a sponge: it sucks up water and keeps it on the spot. As you know, plants need that water to grow. Now, what happens if that forest gets burnt or cut down? No more sponge, no more water, and no return of the trees. This has happened before, in the worst cases it is called desertification. Such processes are called positive feedback loops. That’s because they increase themselves, not because they predict utopia.

Reality is more complex than these examples, because there are negative feedback loops as well. That is one of the reasons why the IPCC uses terms such as “likely”, “more likely than not” or “very likely”. This time, however, with the arrival of new information, they have managed to present rather unpleasant findings as “virtually certain”. Time has lifted our doubts, catastrophe is upon us. We cannot avoid it anymore, only reduce it’s effects. But politicians remain awfully idle, too occupied with ownership to induce a regime of global custody. Hence we arrived at the day when climate experts predict more war.

Strangely enough, there’s something in this story that deeply comforts me. Apparently, I’m not the only one who believes that humanity has gone insane. There are experts out there who agree, and what’s more, nature herself starts striking back. Perhaps there is a time in the future when we’ll learn from what we’ve done.

Hoax

I see well-educated people spread viral messages with deformed, badly reviewed or simply unjust information about a wide variety of topics. Hoaxes. A sense of sensation seems to drive them to copy bad articles, and spread them further over the web. Popular topics are Monsanto, the EU and our privacy. Power and control, basically.

What is true and what is not? This question has held people’s minds for as long as they exist. Through the ages, there have been opportunities for new beliefs, and they have been either undermined by the dominant players or embraced by them.

The emergence of science provided simple methods that help verify certain statements for truth. As time went on, topics became less straight forward and “truth” turned into “validity”. Some scientific branches evolved into constructs of theories and ideas. These constructs became institutions and these are now defended by those who work for them. Like the fortifications in the Medieval age.

Dollars where spotted. Doubt arose. Scientists now contradict each other. Humanity feels this. Outside of the institutions, some people see truth as no more than a belief. Take the climate sceptics. Valid reasonings are understood as stories that can be undermined. After all, some people say, political forces shape what is considered “true”. And hasn’t the past shown that truth is subjected to the altering force of time? It’s under these circumstances that social media appeared.

Conspiracy theories are not new. What is new, is the way they are spread over the net by people who should know better. What is also new is the way each theory can be traced back to its source. Posts can be tested. If we stop believing in the unquestionable authority of scientists, why not take responsibility and research for ourselves?

The fact that scientists are not always right does not prove that truth is purely a negotiable thing. Truth is also something every individual can honestly strive for. I’d like to invite you, reader, to look through to the sources of your on-line information. It can be quite interesting to see how some stories are blown up when rewritten. And if you plan to re-post something, take a moment to consider your own credibility. Your E-identity is at stake.

With the expansion of social media, the entrance of noise on the line will only get worse. I think it is therefore essential that we all check what we and our friends post and re-post. We have the opportunity to reshape science into something we should all take part in. Knowledge to the people.

What will become of information now lies in the hands of the people who are willing to work for it. Join us.

Arguments for Forest Protection

Do you know what the problem is with nature conservationists these days? The way they treat arguments.

I was once present at a discussion during a course on wildlife management. Students were talking about how to conserve Wolves and Foxes and Bears. At one point it went towards reasons to conserve nature. I said that people do so because they love nature. I wasn’t taken seriously.

Throughout the years, I have been taught to give arguments on why one should protect forests. CO2, biodiversity, erosion, water storage, filtering… You name it, I’ve heard it. They taught me that I should never start a paper about forest protection without an explanation on the arguments to conserve a forest, because otherwise policy makers do not get it. That approach is wrong.

By giving arguments we create an impression that there is a discussion going on. Have you ever heard someone say: “I hate the forest” or ” Dunes, I despise them” or “Let’s bring down those mountains”? There is no discussion. We should protect nature at all costs. Entering this discussion is admitting doubt. There is no doubt.

By giving arguments on why forests should be protected -which is a different story than how– we invite policy makers to dismantle such arguments and counter them. And of course they will; if you think long enough you can argue that Hitler was a pretty decent guy. But the fact here is: there is no discussion.

Of course we should protect our last forests at all costs! Questioning that is questioning the core of our existence. To hurt nature is to hurt ourselves. Of course we should protect it. Of course!

Stop playing this game, society! The only reason you cut trees and destroy bushes is because you think other people want you to. Explain that to the lives you take! Explain it the soul you hurt every time you do. Your soul.

It’ll be glad to hear the arguments.

Awards

It takes some guts for a birch to grow its first branch. So too for Benny. While our little seedling pulls all his courage from the ground, scents travel back and forth through the forest. Seraph the Oak, on the open space a bit ahead, has a message.

“Fellow trees from the forest, the tree awards are about the take place once again. It promises to become a match like no other: the winter was strong and spring has brought us a fair balance of rain and sun. The conditions were perfect for growth and development, so the quality of the top trees will be very high this year.”

Of course, the old oak himself did not benefit that much from the favourable weather. With his years, his growth is slow and constant. He does not compete in the tree awards: he won all awards there are to win hundreds of years ago. As the forests oldest, he now only prepares and presents the contest.

The trees of the forest are exited every year when Seraph spreads the competitor’s scent. Who will be chosen this year? Will the most beautiful tree be Margaret the Magnolia again? Some spread Wilbert the Willow stands a chance for his pose near the pond when sun sets. The most robust tree will go to one of the older oaks, but will it be William or Abraham?

Benny does not mind who wins what. He is growing his branch. Young though he is, he already found a spot on the south east where he receives a lot of sun. His parents are proud and constantly show off to the trees around. “When he’s older, he’ll win the prize of the most adapted tree” says his mom. “Yes, and that will help him grow better, and he will win the broadest tree prize”. Birches usually don’t go for the price for the most robust tree. They stand little chance against oaks and the exceptional baobab winner.

Slowly but steadily Benny pushes the top of his branch out of his trunk. At first, it hurts a little to his thin young bark but his inner urge persists and he keeps pushing. The branch wants to go down: it has no support. But Benny the Birch would like it to grow upwards. He turns it a little. And back. And up. It’s like a game with a pull to the ground. Not aware of the big events that are about to take place.

The Tree Awards have become the most important social event of the year. They take place from dawn till dusk when the day is longest in the open space in the middle of the forest. Trees can’t walk there of course, so they send chemical signs, which are received by Seraph the Oak, who then signals back the decision of the forest community. None of the trees in the forest know exactly how it works but it yields outcomes every year and trees don’t really care about objectivity.

Nor does Benny as he carefully gives his first branch shape. He has no concept of an eye catching branch, he does as he feels fit. Grow a little. A branch. Left and right and back again. Into the sky he reaches. Happily stretching out his cells. Yes. He likes it. It is fun to grow.

“It is important that we grow” echo the scents through the air. “We should all be as close to the sky as we can. This is why we originally sowed the Tree Awards.” Over time, of course, they added some categories so that more trees would feel they could be part of the game, but the greatest tree award is without a doubt the most prestigious award in the forest. Some say that without these awards, trees soon forget to grow. There needs to be stimulation, or the forest might get lazy, which cannot be the Intention. Tree Awards are the summit of forest society. Its ultimate expression. The pride of our age. And be honest: where would we be without it?

Benny is about to grow a leaf on his branch. Leafs are quite different and they take a different effort to grow. Benny knows how. He’s done it before. You start with a little packed ball. In it, you grow little nerves, connecting all the parts of the ball. Main nerves and side nerves. It’s important that you grow them such that they don’t stick together. Once you feel secure about the nerves, you connect them with green tissue. Then, all that’s left to do is that you push. You pump fluids into the nerves and they’ll unroll into a leaf and you enjoy the light. Keep pushing and it’ll grow bigger. Benny likes to grow leafs. They make him feel good. He grows a few more.

Leafs are important in the Tree Awards. They show the quality of the tree that holds them. It is common knowledge among trees that leafs are vital for growth. With dark green leafs, more sugars are made and more energy can flow. But dark leafs get hotter than light leafs and they burn more easily. So there’s a risk involved, which makes the whole story even more exciting, particularly for adolescent trees. It wouldn’t be the first time that an audacious young one takes that little step too far and ends up with fiery leafburns.

That’s not Benny’s concern. His tiny leafs are always lighter than those of his older brothers and sisters. His parents are proud of anything he grows. If a leaf would grow too dark, his parents quickly grow a branch above, just to make sure he is ok. Benny doesn’t realize that.

Winners of the concourse receive a fair amount of nutrients. Other trees will transport it in their direction through their roots or drop some leafs when the wind blows towards them. Being winners, it is trusted that they’ll use them wisely.

Benny takes his joy in growing another root. Roots are funny because the ground is full of bugs who tickle from below. To grow a root, Benny has to pierce the soil and dig between their homes. The bugs don’t seem to mind that much, they simply move aside. Benny is happy about that because he likes bugs. When he’s big, he’d like to house some ants.

Dawn arrives. “Fellow trees of the forest,” Seraph’s scents set off a chain reaction among every Birch and Beech around. The hedges listen silently. Their competition does not take place till fall. “The Tree Awards have started. Please prepare yourself for the first vote”. Except repetition and amplification of Seraph’s words, the forest remains silent as can be. These words are always deeply respected; no tree dares to bring in anything now. Except Benny. He just hurt himself on a thistle’s thorn and now he’s crying for his mom. Mom strokes Benny with her branch. But she is not as soft and caring as usual. Never mind. She pushed the thistle away and Benny is free to play again.

To interpret the voices of the forest is a skill that requires hundreds of years to master. There are very few who can. You can imagine the great awareness needed to listen to all the trees in the forest at once. Those who have that awareness have great responsibility. Seraph is one of them. He has developed a sensitivity few can imagine. It’s as if a part of him is present at all spots at once. All trees of the forest feel him. That is why he is assigned this important task. Of course, he is not alone. Seraph relies on a network of older trees present all through the forest. Together, they quickly digest the messages of their surroundings and pulse the results back into the air.

Even at his age, Benny adds to this networking cloud of consciousness. Few take note of his infantile, unstructured expressions. His parents and grandparents perhaps, but barely, during the year’s most important event. Benny does not mind, especially now that a butterfly landed on his new branch. Benny is not that fond of butterflies. Flappy creatures he finds them. He doesn’t know yet how destructive their larvae can be. For the moment, this butterfly has no interest in Benny. He just flaps around, leaving Benny dizzy at the spot.

“We will start today,” Seraphs clear and strong chemicals spread “with the golden bark award. Please place your vote about who you think deserves the award of creator of the most remarkable bark of the forest”. The award for the most respectable bark was introduced not so long ago by a community of cork trees, just down the hill. Cork trees adore the bark like no other and they would do anything to do part of it for the forest’s assembly of respected items. Soon after this introduction it turned out, unfortunately, that their view of the most respectable bark differed somewhat from the forest’s public opinion. No Cork tree ever won the award. “Trees and Treeesses, the vote was expressed”.  Even if this is not the most important award these words raise the tension enormously. The trees of the forest know that the awards have begun. “And this year’s winner of the golden bark is…” this is the most decisive moment of the awards for the Corks. “Quinten the Plane”.  A small cheer from a corner of the forest. “This years bark prize was based on Quintens exceptionally beautiful pattern”. Admitted, he’d been working hard to make his mosaic smooth as he could. Just down the hill, the cork community cries injustice. They voted for several trees in their community, none receives the prize. It’s not fair.

Till now, Benny the Birch had little a bark at all. Lately he had the idea of becoming a bit more woodier, so he did thicken somewhat around the edges. But his is far from the impressive white bark which his brother Jim the Birch brags about all the time. Jim secretly hoped for this prize. Benny had no clue, he enjoys growing one more leaf. That bark will come.

On the open spot, Seraph the Oak continues his careful process of interpreting. Wally the Walnut-tree goes nuts when he wins the golden nut. The golden flower goes to Maggie the Magnolia, with Edward the Elderblossom as a close second. Fanatic cheers and shouts alternate each other in a wavy sea of scents.

For the first time in his centuries old existence, Seraph grants the greatest tree award with a fundamental doubt. “Are these awards a good thing? Aren’t we needlessly benefitting the strong? Shouldn’t we be fertilizing the weak instead”. These thoughts usually occur to a queer tree in a dark corner of the forest. But Seraph has this thought and when a tree has a thought it cannot withhold it. So it is expressed.

The cheering ends abruptly, making space for a vast silence in the woods, interrupted only by some disrespectful birds. Noisy creatures they are.

This never happened before. Not from a tree of this status. Questioning our forests pride.

When he has to speech, Abraham Oak, winner of the golden tree, does not know what to say. Nor does any other tree of the forest. It remains silent.

Benny is about to grow his second branch. It will take guts.

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