Tag Archives: Fear

The clash of the fears

On March 11th 2020, Dr. Tedros Adahom Ghebreyesus, chairman of the WHO declared in his already historical speech that the outbreak of Sars-CoV-2 fits the definition of a pandemic. He also stated that this virus can be controlled and called upon governments to ‘take urgent and aggressive action’. Now, as the weeks unfold, we are starting to wonder if our ability to control this virus is a gift or a curse.

Photo by Nandhu Kumar

 

I am reading the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling. In chapter 4, The Fear Instinct, he discusses 3 primordial fears, as they have evolved along with us: the fear of physical harm, the fear of captivity and the fear of contamination. Many of our every day fears, rational or irrational, can be brought down to one or a combination of these three. Fear for snakes and spiders, for example, is in fact a fear for the invisible threat of the poison that comes out of them, meaning it is a fear of contamination. Fear for being stuck in the same office for the rest of your life, would then be a type of fear for captivity. And fear for being hit by a bus or drowning are fears for physical harm.

Rosling mentions these fears because they catalyze our interest for certain news stories. He illustrates it with terrorism, which intentionally combines the fear for physical harm and the fear of captivity for the purpose of drawing an endless amount of attention to or away from a certain issue. It works. Stories on terrorism often go viral. When reading chapter 4, of course, I immediately thought about what a nice shit show cocktail of these 3 primordial fears we have found ourselves in with this coronavirus.

Fear being a “fight or flight” type of motion, Rosling explains, decreases our ability to reason. We are quicker to choose a certain side in the discussion and take less time to carefully weigh the facts. In this crisis, I’ve felt that. We all have, because it’s a natural response. But that makes it all the more important to be aware of these fears. Society is being launched into a pressure cooker of crazy situations and out-of-the-box decision making. We are all trying to figure out which way to go in our own private lives and together as a society. For those who can grant ourselves some time to step back and think, it may be a good idea to look for our own fears and ask ourselves how they are pushing us to conclusions. If only for our peace of mind.

Which is why I am going to go through a number of fears I have encountered in my own life throughout the weeks, in the order in which they occur to me. I’ll give my quick personal assessment on how I perceive these fears, but I’m not implying that it’s complete. I’m guided in my assessments by big newspapers such as NYtimes and European equivalents, numerous scientific and anecdotal podcasts, the information by the WHO and national statistics of the individual countries, recent research published by universities and of course the quabbles between all kinds of camps on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

The stack of fears
I’ll start with the fear for the vaccine, or worse, compulsory vaccination. My mum brought it up about a month ago, and I see it come up here and there online. She told me that before I was born, a wrong vaccine caused her to feel illish for about half a year. At the moment, I’m involved in a Facebook discussion about it with some good friends, who are pointing out some examples in the past where vaccines didn’t work. Another very good friend has helped eradicate the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak with a novel vaccine in West Africa. I am very glad he did that. The fear for the vaccine itself clearly relates to the fear of contamination and physical harm. The compulsory part adds the element of a fear for captivity. Loss of autonomy over the own body. I also have a light version of that fear, though I do trust 21st century testing procedures are good enough to make them safe enough. Particularly in the unlikely scenario in which it is made mandatory, at least in my region in the world. I am not particularly fearful for a mandatory vaccine, but I would of course scrutinize its side effects.

Second: fear that there will never be a vaccine, or worse that this virus eludes immunity. Since I’m sure this virus is real, dangerous and far from over, this is one which scares me more. It illustrates the clusterfuck of fears going against each other in my case. It’s connected to the fear of captivity and physical harm, since having no vaccine or immunity would potentially mean being stuck in this situation for longer and having a bigger risk of catching and spreading the virus. As flawless vaccines are hard to acquire, it sounds unlikely to me that there will soon be one that could be used on a global scale. Which would mean more lockdown. Scary foresight.

That brings us to the fear for catching the virus itself. This too, is a clear case of fear of contamination and physical harm. The big, unknown and invisible and scary virus is out there and it is coming to get us. For young and healthy people like me, catching the virus is probably not much more scary than being bitten by a snake. But for older people and people with suboptimal health, men specifically, the fear seems justified. I’m not really afraid, but the thought does itch the scary-center in my brain. I do regularly have minor lung problems.

And how about the fear of being imprisoned in our own houses? It’s almost not possible to think of a clearer case of the fear of captivity. Some countries, such as China and the Southern European ones have taken the order to stay home very far. It’s not strange people there are frightened about being locked away. Particularly if they haven’t experienced this virus for themselves or don’t know anyone who has almost died from it. Here in the North, things have been better. Whenever it becomes too much, I am free to go for a long walk or bike ride. Or meet a friend outside and have a drink. It’s a way to mitigate that fear, perhaps. But also just a way to move and breathe some spring.

Next one: fear of passing the virus to another. Since my last post in early March, I think this fear has become much better felt and acted upon. I’m happy with that. The connection to one of the primordial fears is not very clear to me, and so far I haven’t seen many stories of this. Perhaps it relates to the fear of captivity, because it implies a loss of control over the consequences of your own actions. You don’t want to infect others, but do it anyway.

Another very real fear that is emerging: the fear of losing our livelihood. In a locked down capitalist society, not being able to work poses a real threat of losing the freedoms you acquired earlier. Your house, your luxury. Losing everything would lead, in part, to losing your autonomy, so this one quite clearly translates to the fear of captivity. If this lockdown lasts for very long, I too might lose my home. Many others would go before me, though, and for that reason I think it’s not likely to happen to me. I imagine others are more afraid of this, and rightly so.

Related and stronger: fear of starvation. It doesn’t come near me, here in the Netherlands, but it’s very real for people in poorer countries. For those who are on the edge of this, any action coming from this fear, even if blind, is of course legitimized. The UN is working hard to mitigate this, but that will unlikely be enough.

Or how about the fear of the unknown? The scale and size of the measures to control this pandemic are unprecedented. We don’t know what our next year, two years, three years will look like. We never did, of course, but this time feels different. I think this one also originates from the fear for captivity. Not only because we are inside all the time, but also because we have reduced control over our own lives. To embrace the unknown is one of the hardest things for people who have everything, but we’re all forced to do that now. It’s truly crazy to imagine how much could change. This tempts us to already make a choice for ourselves on knowing how things will play out. But whatever we imagine the future will be, we’re likely wrong. I am actively refraining from trying knowing anything except that I’m pretty sure we’ll still be dealing with this in some form for a long time.

I was glad to see quite some of the politicians political leaders admitting that they don’t know what will happen either. This included Putin, Merkel and the lesser known Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. They refrain from making predictions on how this will evolve in the coming months. They all show a certain insecurity about the facts out of fear of getting it wrong. The risk here, though, is that they shift the power and the blame of decision to epidemiologists, which isn’t always the best approach either. With the constant stream of information, I’m also regularly afraid of being wrong, but luckily I don’t have this great responsibility of decision-making. Is being wrong a type of incarceration of the mind? I don’t know. This one doesn’t very clearly fit one of the boxes of media-friendly fears, I guess.

On the other end of the spectrum, the fear of appearing weak, more clearly relates to the fear of captivity. Because if you’re weak, you can be controlled. According to some leaders, at least. Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, and Orban are shining examples. Well okay, I can’t speak for them, and in hindsight not for the guys I mentioned in the previous paragraph either. If I look into myself, the moments where I want to appear powerful are when I want to get my will to become reality. Anyway, I’m not so afraid of this, in the context of this virus I think.

Personally, I have more fear for societal or economic disruption or collapse. Did you see the oil price drop to negative territory? Insane. It is an intricate fear these days, because such a disruption could come in many forms. It could come with a sudden wave of sick people overloading the hospitals, but also from economic or social unrest due to an overly locked down consumer lifestyle. From the popping of the debt bubbles. It could come with the emergence of a new kind of apartheid, where immune people can freely move while the vulnerable have to keep locking themselves up. Or when a scary order seizes control. Such disruption could lead to situations of captivity and physical harm. I do think this fear is rooted in those two fears, among others, and therefore very media-friendly. The big question is the order of magnitude in which things may go wrong and how they might get fixed.

Then, of course, there is the fear of a sudden implementation of intelligence infrastructure such as 5G. All around the world, people are now burning down 4G towers because they believe the emergence of 5G is bad news. A clear link with the fear of contamination and also with the fear of captivity. The fear comes with the hypothesis that 5G is meant to control us somehow, for example by making us sick. While I kind of share the fear for the emerging intelligence infrastructure, I find it hard to relate to this virus. We were already well on our way with installing 5G before this mayhem started. People want their self-driving cars.

Related, and also very much linked to the fear of captivity, is the broader fear of being controlled by the government, the media or by the corporate world. The lockdown itself is quite scary. It weakens us all in our way. And under these circumstances, the removal of a video from Youtube or Facebook, due to “community guidelines” looks extra suspicious. Or the implementation of surveillance apps. Some people believe thight response is a test to see if governments and corporations can further control the population. Living in Western-Europe, in one of the countries ranked highest on the global press freedom index, where everything is up for debate and every fart of the prime minister is under scrutiny, I’m personally not too worried by this. If this was the case, they would not have removed the circuses. But I do see the threat of the emergence of dictators exacerbate, which is scary, particularly for people living in the areas where they tighten their rule.

In the early phases of this thing, Asian people were looked upon with disgust throughout the world. Later, the same happened to Italians in Europe, New Yorkers in the US and now, foreigers are seen as scary in Asia. Well, at least we have something in common. Indirectly, that’s a fear for the virus itself, of course, so a fear for contamination, but journalists like to elevate this to xenophobia, which I think comes closer to a fear of captivity. I have felt this fear in the early stages when I saw some Asian people with masks, I must admit.

Let me end this series on that fear for masks. Personally, I find people with masks on the street a little scary. Not when I think about it, of course, but the sight. Wearing them myself, not so much, but it’s certainly not my hobby. Masks are introduced as a mandatory thing in many countries, but not here, so I don’t wear one at this time. Perhaps I will if I become aware of a local outbreak in my neighbourhood. This fear definitely has an aspect of loss of control and captivity. Particularly if the mask is mandatory. An ominous sign of a dark presence in the streets.

Taming the coronamonster
By declaring that we are able to control this virus, the WHO has laid an unprecedented burden on each one of us, and on our leaders in particular. Whoever is in power now, is obliged to make the effort to solve this problem.

For the first time in history, we are putting all our global human effort in getting a grasp over an elusive beast of this scale. There is something majestic about that ambition, but at the same time, it has something utterly naïve. What does success mean here? Will we ever get there? And what does failure look like? The fact that we’re taking up this collossal task says something about who we as a human race think we are. And who we are becoming. What that is, no-one knows.

What we do know now, is that we can no longer go back. This virus isn’t simply a force of nature anymore. We have made it into a nuisance that we are failing to get rid of. When people die, that is our fault. When people live, we can praise ourselves. No more God or Allah to rely upon. We have called upon ourselves the burden to look for the middle way between life and death on a global scale.

That in itself is a frightening thought. It combines, at least in part, many of the fears I mentioned above, makin the coronavirus into the ultimate subject for media and social media to publish about. I’m not surprised to see a lot of different, opposing views clash online and off. And since fear is a strong motivator, I would also not be surprised to see eruptions of civil unrest, resistance and disobedience appear in the months to come. I just hope people will cut each other some slack when looking each others fears in the eye. Because I don’t think demonizing each other is the way to go.

However it looks to you, we all agree that the fears are real. Yet while some may see in it a call to arms, I’m trusting that things will turn out well. I’ve seen structures crack open that I’d never expect to some years ago. Something to talk about in my next blog, perhaps. Who knows when that will be. And while there is a lot to doubt, question and meditate upon, there’s one thing I’m certain about. We live in interesting times. And I’m grateful to be in the priviledged position to witness it from a distance.

Donald Duck rants and raves

For about two years, Friday night was the night where I’d write a post for this blog. I didn’t care too much about the quality at the time, – a little of course – what mattered was the process. Building. Moving forward. Adding words to my repertoire. In time, writers realise that it works in a similar way as fossilisation. You add layer upon layer, and somewhere in the depths, let’s call it subconscious, a pressure starts growing. A forgotten shape, a feeling, does not decompose down there. It gets solid. And one day some part of us will have the courage to break through it all, knowing that there is something waiting. Something demonstrable. Perhaps that wasn’t exactly how I saw it at the time, but I do now. Time gradually moved me forward.

What better moment to honour this freedom I apparently experienced, than on a Friday night? I’m listening to Stromae on KEXP at the same time. And what better subject to add to this meaningless pile of information than our dear friend and buddy, President Donald Trump? May I start this with the question: ‘for how long will people keep reciting the list of American presidents?’ And, you know what? Let me end it there as well. Or, instead, at a recommendation to listen to the New York Times’ Daily of today. If you’re into the media discussion, that is. They’re far better at wording all that than I am. And I’ll spare you Larsen C as well.

Which leaves me in a void. A similar freedom I used to envision myself to have. A blank canvas. The unthreaded snow I’ve seen recently, here in Amsterdam and in Vienna.

It’s scary in the void. It reminds me of a time when I was a kid. Several times. When I was ill, I’d see this infinite space of living links. In black and white. The worst was that I was one of them. And so was everybody else, regardless of their pretending. Their beliefs. It was terrifyingly real. So real that whatever my parents told me, I was six the first time, has never been as convincing. So real that I still believe in it.

Why is it that whenever we have the sense of being free, we are faced with our worst fears? Why do we keep carving our blank canvasses with vileness? For lack of a better word. Is the reason what they say it is? What who says? So many have spoken, so many have carved us as they have themselves. So few have been free, who taught the rules.

Someone once taught me that Friday night is no better than any other night. I don’t know if I can believe that.

A holy grail

For the first time in my life, I’m walking to my grandparents’ grave without either of them being buried today. My grandma was the second one, and she died six years ago. Haven’t given myself time to go there since. Did I become a martyr of my domineering mind?

I’ve received a fulltime job as copywriter, and am starting in a few weeks. I’m letting my thousands of little (and bigger) projects go for now, and take some time off. Walk. Visit friends. Let the losses slide of my back. Early this morning I decided to go for a walk to the north. Out of the city, into the land of my ancestors. Flatlands. A deeply manmade structure which scared me when we drove here during my childhood. Flat grass, straight, arranged ditches and many little houses packed in villages as far as the eye can see. We’re in one of the most populated countries of the world. Windmills.

I think it’s the first time that I so thoroughly enjoy it here. It may be the freedom of simply walking out of my door, into the fields. Or the cacophony of the birds, whose names I still don’t know. Their volume overrules the sounds of the roaring highway just behind us. Or perhaps it’s the red sun that is now at about 10° above the horizon, shining in my face as if to tell me to take off my new hat for it. Or maybe it’s the fact that I am sure that one day, when my grandpa felt like taking a detour, he crossed this little bridge here, in the middle of what was nowhere at the time, just for his enjoyment. Or the reflecting shadows of the water’s wrinkles on the moving straw, which combined mesmerize me into dreams. I’m amidst serene tumult.

That’s not to say that while I walk along the little path here, away from the deafening noise, my soul transcends along with the millions of glimmering dewdrops, slowly releasing themselves from the young blades of grass around. Or actually it is, now that I imagine it to. I’m liberated, even from myself. Especially from myself. Even if just for a little bit of time.

My grandpa was a kind, calm man when I knew him. His white hair surrounding his bald crown was long enough to be combed back. That looked pretty cool. So did the loose skin of his big thin hands, with thick blue veins meandering over them. I remember him sitting back on his couch, circling his thumbs around each other. He must have been furling his inner disagreements there. His lost memories. His missed chances. His incapacities. But I did not see that then. I was fascinated and he smiled gently. He always served us with chocolate, slices of sausage and other snacks. He limped a bit, when walking to the kitchen. His hip had been replaced.

Neither he nor I spoke much in company. What we would do, is hold each other’s gaze for a while. It told me I was his grandson, and that words aren’t always necessary to know you have a connection with someone. Still, I am not under the impression that I knew my grandpa that well. We lived about 400 km away from each other. Visiting them meant travelling hours and hours in the car. We slept there occasionally as kids, me and my sister, but most of what I remember from him were grownup visits where we did grownup things such as sitting at a table and eating and drinking. Though he did teach me how to play chess.

Once, he took me on a bikeride through these lands. I was a kid. Eight maybe? It was flat. And long. Kids from Luxembourg aren’t used to long bikerides. I think this one took several hours. I do remember enjoying following him on the bike, and stopping to have a chat once in a while, but there’s one memory that stands out. Somewhere near the end of the trip, he told me something about a bird around. My response? “I’m not very interested in that”. I possibly had to pee, or was tired, or was saturated with information. Maybe I was looking forward to a chocolate milk he promised me somewhere at the end of the road. I don’t remember his reaction, but today, a part of me feels guilty about it. Anyhow, years later, my grandparents were surprised to learn that I was going to study biology. And when it comes to bird species, they were right: I still don’t know that much about them.

“Grutto!” yells one of them from quite close. Hey. I can tell it’s panicking because of me. It probably has a nest. More interesting: I suddenly understand why it’s called Grutto in Dutch. I never knew, nor have I ever heard it that clearly. Was it trying to teach me his name?

When I visited my grandma after his death, I felt drawn by my grandpa’s encyclopedia. I walked there, took one of the 20 books of the shelve, opened it, and picked a random word. It was ‘dode hand’ (‘dead hand’). I had never heard of that word. It read something like this: “The dead hand is the property of the Church that is not inheritable by non-church members”. I was certain this was a message, related to him.

Moving to the Netherlands, and particularly Amsterdam was a personal declaration to look for my roots. My ancestor’s history. Figure out my family’s lives. In the meanwhile I have learned a bit about life in the city, before the war, during and afterwards. Things have changed quite radically. The past is gone, yet with a little bit of conversation and imagination, you can summon a vivid reconstruction of how life used to be. Walking in these wetlands is a similar attempt to reconstruct a forgotten past. Untangle a life of people who mattered little, yet stream forward in history through the very blood that rushes by my pen. Even if just for this moment, they are my entire world.

My grandpa grew up as a farmer, but through hard work became a manager in a company. He was the last one in my family lines to make that choice. Independence from the land. There were stories around him. Dreams. Meetings with deceased spirits. Predictions. At some point he developed automatic writing. He explained he would just lay down his hand with a pen in it, and then letters would shape themselves. Words, sentences, and new meaning would arrive without his conscious interference. He thought it was the input of a spirit, or a higher power. He once wrote something like: “Hendrik”, that was his name, “watch out what you do with your life”. He had a moterbike accident the next day.

Much has changed. Biodiversity dropped over here, electricity poles were built, the land is slowly being invaded by the ever growing civilization. Landprizes here have skyrocketed, and the farmers are slowly being replaced by rich people with big cars who spend the final decades of their life in retreat. Most I meet jog. They catch up with the sweat they failed to let to the land. I picture ghosts, hovering ahead of them, drawing them forward towards… what? What is it I am looking for? Which ghost precedes my steps? The tiny asphalt road bounces up and down when joggers come by. It is laid out over what used to be swamp. Utterly unreachable to man. But the Dutch built dykes. We showed them.

People would visit him to receive messages, until it suddenly stopped for ever. His explanation for the loss of his gift was that his ego started interfering. But by then he had already written what has always interested me most: a few pages in Latin. He did not know Latin. In an attempt to translate it, he discovered the text was about the evolution of the soul. That we all make steps forward, and then go back, and that we are all part of a slowly evolving collective consiousness, floating among us in the aether. That what we think of as our own awareness is merely a part of that bigger whole. A befriended priest offered to translate the manuscript for him. My grandpa gave him the papers, but never got them back.

After the incident with the encyclopedia, I’ve enjoyed imagining that those handwritings of my grandpa are still hidden in an occult library of some church in these lands. That they were in fact breathed into this world by some divinity or local spirit. That there is a holy grail somewhere, linking me back to something bigger and more meaningful. A unique message that would consolidate my spiritual quest and reveal the limits of the mechanistic paradigm. A proof. That the church was always aware that there’s more going on there, but that they shield us from it, because they want to remain in power.

The truth is that this fantasy inside me is slowly being overgrown by a sense that spirits in the west are dead, the document has disappeared and I’m perfectly fine without both. The transmission of lore is now all around us with the internet, and the format of film and imagery has made it more effective than ever. Oculus rift and hololenses are already catching up with our dreams. We are slowly immersing ourselves in representations that seem so real that it will be harder and harder to tell the difference. As opposed to believing in ghosts of the ancestors, which people all over the world have done for as long as they existed.

But what of reality? What is reality? Was the text of the manuscript really written in meaningful Latin? Or was my grandpa’s mind playing creative tricks on him? Did he, without knowing, gather some of his little knowledge on the language to create a sloppy text, imagining it was given to him? Did the priest simply forget it, given its insignificance? If so, what of the striking double, even triple meaning of the word ‘dead hand’? Was it a remnant spirit of the past, guiding me there, or was it just a lucky hit, short circuiting my sense of what is real? If it was true, am I making his same mistake by publically writing about it?

The grave has no answers. It is static, grey and silent. Both names are on it. There are freshly cut tulips here as well. White with red ones. Who put them here? A distant cousin? My uncle or aunt? Great unlce? I haven’t been in touch. And these grape hyacinths in the pot? How long have they been around? Did my grandma choose them? I vaguely remember them having these in the garden. I wipe some of the dead blossom of the smooth stone and have another look. A drawing of a hawk. Our name.

They are dead and I’m alive. There’s a world of difference between us. A world the nature of which I have never been certain of. Perhaps I’m here to remind myself that even if I do not know, I can still surrender to the stories. Accept them, like I would accept a film. I can dream a new truth. Revive the dead by recounting them. Let them live through me. How could I forget? How did I forget? Did I forget?

Am I here to accept that my own spiritual connection with nature was harmed with my grandpa’s choice to abandon the land? That in reality, I was always more interested in comfort, computer games and films, and that this was already written in the stars when I was born? That I am here to let go of these roots, and set the next step forward, into a virtual world of engineered redemption? Am I here to accept that humans will keep conquering these lands until even the tiniest patch is rid of its diversity, then recreate it in a different, imaginary world? Will there be life in that world?

No. This is not an end. There is no conclusion here. We can always go back. We can still go back. Nature can teach us. Nature will teach us. This is merely a meeting of life with death. Mysterious.

I don’t stay long, why would I? To find peace? I have more to do today. I’m a city boy now, living a civilized life in the great metropole that watched over us for generations. They are dead now, their memories gone. There is no reconciliation. The bird has flown.

There’s only one bus here per hour. Turns out I don’t have to wait long. No chance to go back. What would I expect to see anyway? In the shimmer of death, it’s still life that matters most. I’ll be back one day.

Subsyruped

There’s another emotion I’d like to describe, but don’t know a name for. At the time I am writing this down, I haven’t found the right word yet, so I’m going to try to squeeze it out by writing this text. Surround it. Catch it. Become it. Look at it from a distance. As if some part of my mind yet has to travel to that point, a light perhaps, where it has crystallized.

It’s a high tension emotion which, in my case, only arises from the interaction with another human. An interaction with high charge. The emotion comes afterwards, when, in an upcomming surge, the conversation starts playing back inside my head. When it rises in between me and my thoughts, hijacks them and blinds me from what’s happening around.

There are three clear moments when this can happen in my case: after an argument or a fight, when I have a crush on someone, and as occurred recently, when I have a job interview. There’s always a question involved. A fight can leave me puzzled about the question ‘who is right?’. The anger fuels this, and causes me not to think clearly. In the turbulence, I construct a frame of thoughts that makes me right, and makes me feel better about myself. Then I start wondering how I can relate back to the other person. Solve it. All that time, I’m dominated by this same emotion.  Having a crush is similar, but the life-dependent question there is: “does she like me back?”. Whatever that may mean. Very important, obviously, so there come the thoughts that interpret the conversation during the recent date in my favour, and there goes the focus on anything else. Job interviews, might objectively have an impact on my life, but they trigger the same mechanism. Did I say this right? Was I spontaneous enough? Should I have added more information here? Was I too quick? To jovial? Still didn’t hear if they hired me, by the way, but the emotion has faded by now.

What I want to describe, find a word for, is the gooey structure of this emotion, which I notice if I want to break it. For example, when I want to get to work. It’s so viscous, that when I arrive at a point where I can concentrate, it undermines that, lurking me back into its useless rambling. And particularly when I fight it, it can cause electric bursts of panic in my heart or shoulder, or right under my belly button. But surrendering to it doesn’t release its grip either: it fuels it. Regardless of how I relate to it, it passes with time. As a falling tide.

It’s a bit like being submerged by a flood of mental syrup, really. My functional mind moves slowly and with a lot for force, working itself into being stuck in a new position. There seems to be a lot going on, but in fact I’m stuck in a sticky cloud of anxieties. Think I’ll call it subsyrupism. As in, “I’m feeling very subsyruped” today. Or: “she can’t hear you, she’s subsyruped.”  Yes, that works. Good. Subsyruped it is.

Return to the core

At the end of the 4th year of my blog, this is my 200th post. Had I kept the weekly posting up for the past months, I’d have had an average of a post per week. I’m just short of that now, but that’s fine.

When I started this blog, early 2012, I intended to write a pathway into my own subconscious. Digging into darkness and light, expressing it by doing. I also intended to experiment with writing, get myself into the flow. Try out some styles, do interviews, poems, ramblings, short stories and testimonies of my adventures in life.

As I wrote about love, hate, social injustice and the limitations of the mind, as I condemned superficiality and took part in it, the desire to be recognized grew. I could see viewer and follower statistics. I discovered tricks that increased my readership and secretly hoped that one day, independent blogging might become my livelihood. But tricks result in temporary pulses, and Sailing on Dreams did not gradually expand in the way I hoped it would. This became a struggle, I put an effort in making the content more interesting, but discovered that joining trends had more effect. The amount of people who read my blog seemed unrelated to the quality of my articles as I perceived it, but far more linked to the effort I put in attraction. That was, possibly still is, the strongest disillusion I have had as a blogger.

Assuming that good work promotes itself, I started to wonder if my work was good enough. Is the blog’s title too pretentious? Does it miss the match with what I actually write about? Does it work against my words? Do I create the impression of being ungrounded? Is the work itself ungrounded? Not developed enough? Are the topics boring? Am I using bad English? Have I milked myself too far? Am I wrong?

Meanwhile, the lack of real breakthrough in my career and some concerning geopolitical developments grew onto me as a darkening cloud. Some of the stories became darker, too. And who wants to read sad, negative recountings? I usually don’t. But yes, I did get positive feedback from dear friends, and even from strangers. Also a single quite painfully negative one from a friend. Still, it seems as if some people were touched by some of my work. And I did realise that it were never the numbers that mattered, but the motion when touching each others’ souls.

I stopped using that word. Soul. What does it mean, after all? Its smurf-intensity is gi-normous. And it turned into cliché. Trying to be original, I have learned to despise repetition. But repetition gives structure. Stability. Accountability. And the sound of the word soul is good. It comes from deep. It hits breath-bottom.

Perhaps I forgot to find the magic in my words. Judged their enchantment as something self-centred, narcissistic. Perhaps I saw through my own marketing, and lost the capacity to convince myself.  The capacity to surrender to the dreams I sail. In attracting the invisible you, I sometimes forgot about  me.

As I did before in this time of year, now, for my 200th post, I find it time to return to the original intention of this blog. To recalibrate. I still think that in its spark, this blog has the right aim. Some of the series I wrote, such as the words for emotions, tuned into that well. The desire for readership fundamentally does not match that intention, and yet I could not ignore it. The expansion of the original intention towards ‘persociety’, as an attempt to dive into our collective subconscious was also good, as it possibly made the texts more relevant. But the fact that the collective subconscious of the modern west hides some very dark aspects is clearly not popular. I can imagine that exploring it that way, even if playfully, could feel like an accusation of the innocent public. But if that’s where I want to go, then that’s where I will be. Digging tunnels, in the cavities of the internet, sharing happily with those few souls I meet down here.

Thirty years ahead in life, 200 posts on my blog. On the threshold of 2016. You can divide that number by two for five times. Where this year will lead I don’t know. For what it’s worth, it will not stop me from rambling.

Slippery Ice

The war is on.
They have taken Brussels.

Isn´t that a thrilling opening of a text on a contemporary issue? I think so.

I remember screaming “No War in my Name!” on a massive march of the Luxembourg city schools towards the American embassy, back in 2003. The Bush government had just played the Saddam Houssain card, after ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’ had failed to convince the European leaders to join the war on terrorism. I had to pass by the nurse to get a throat pastil the next day. And it worked: France and Luxembourg didn’t join. England did. Houssain was, after all, a badass motherfucker, and he had to be burned out of his hole.

After my first long hitchhiking trip in summer 2004, I was waiting for my train back home in the Gare du Nord in Paris. France had by then let itself be persuaded to join the fights in Afghanistan. The speakers called upon the owner of an abandoned backpack, ordaining to come and pick it up. It repeated the call after a minute. Two minutes more and a special police unit entered the station. They cleared the area with red-white ribbon, and blew up the backpack. I laughed out loud. Earlier that month a driver had told me that some tourists had lost their passports in such an explosion. Precautionary measures after an earlier attack somewhere around.

It’s 2015 now. Europe is still bombing North Africa, and a small group of marginalized Arabs is still giving their lives to end it. Meanwhile, some say that Europe cracks by the thirst for power of old rivals, new members and the descendents of the ancient philosophers of our civilization. Refugees couldn’t cause the closing of the borders, but now, a handful of delinquents can. As if someone wanted this to happen.

I think fear is an excuse. Something people hold up in order to justify their thrill. The events in Paris and their out-of-proportion political response have kept the continent occupied for over a week. Code four in Brussels is the first news topic of all European newspapers. Second, third and fourth remain info on the victims, witness reports and head hunts… We can follow the latest events on live blogs and join the discussion on whether we should keep having fun or start taking terrorism seriously.

The constant becalming of our desires has numbed us. We have been able to buy off our troubles, put a stamp on them, and send them to countries all over the world. Our lives have become boring, so we seek excitement. We click and scroll, compelled by sensation that both hides as well as reveals a bloody debt of Western society at large. It is not about the victims, it never was, we are merely consuming the latest adventure, following the same brainless urge these terrorists feebly attempted to wake us from. Meanwhile, our leaders, perhaps driven by a similar thrills, temporarily pass through a number of police state measures, silently acquainting the mass with a new, safe societal equilibrium. It never hurt to show some strength.

We have lived a youth where war on our grounds seemed impossible. I’m starting to doubt it now. Not because of some angry Arabs, but because of the eagerness with which my people seem to see it happen. Or maybe that´s my thrill. I wish I could still say this war wasn´t in my name.

Fear Spiders

If I dream about fear, my own fear, it is often embodied by a poisonous spider. The spider in my dream frightens me especially on moments when I cannot see it.

In real life, spiders only scare me if they are larger than my hand and faster than my arm. In dreams they emotionally disrupt me. They often co-occur with the collapse of my house. In a recent episode, there are giant moths involved, about 30 cm long, which have been eating the foundations of a wooden top floor. They live symbiotically with a black widow in her nest made of half composted, tar-smeared branches. The spider is hiding somewhere deep inside, behind the eating larvae which quickly evolve and fly off. I know I will encounter it when I clean up this nest. And it won’t be happy.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who, albeit below the surface, has a fear for spiders. I do wonder what causes that because honestly, they’re not that dangerous. Only a few exceptional specimens could kill you, but you’ll have plenty of time to find the antidote. It would make far more sense to dream about poisonous snakes or about an aircrash or a bulldozer falling un top of me, because those events are far more threatening. Why the spider?

A spider is generally blackish and has eight legs with which it runs rapidly and with a very light tread. More often, it sits still, hiding in a dark corner, or somewhere on its self-built sticky and artistic web. Most spiders have beautiful patterns on their back which deserve a better look. They are hunters. Top of the food chain. Prevent the blood from clotting, then suck their victims dry. To humans mostly harmless.

My mom and sister used to panic when there was a wolf spider in the house. Motioning after them, I did too. As the man of the house, I had to gradually learn that the easiest way to get a spider out of the bathtub, is to let it walk onto your arm, get outside and push it off the place of your body were it felt comfortable to stay. A spider is most scary when it runs, because we don’t know where it is going. The aspect of the unknown. I think her sudden speed also reflects the suddenness with which our fears present themselves to us.

Do spiders in my dream reflect my mothers fears from when I was a kid? The explanation is interesting in combination with the collapse of my house. The loss of control over my limited, constructed understanding of myself and reality. Is this fear culturally inherited? Is it psychologically entangled with the cognitive challenges of our childhood?

There’s another hypothesis I’d like to propose; one of more mystical nature. It’s connected to the number eight. The sacred geometry of it. In semi-dream mode I sometimes have visions of octangular, tunnel-like structures that seem to be a passageway to a certain insight or to my subconscious. The vision sometimes evolves into spider shapes, and even into highly detailed images of spiders with nice, colourful back patterns and fangs. It seems meaningful sometimes, as if these spiders have something to do with the access to my subconscious. Hiding in the dark, unknown corners of my mind.

The spider. A small, powerful entity that makes our imagination go wild. One day, she’ll trap the bug that ate from my corpse.

The good, the bad and the energy

Let´s talk about energy for a bit. I mean the cultural phenomenon, the modern version of aether. In particular the concept of positive energy versus negative energy. And I mean it in contexts such as: ´this guy has such negative energy´, or ‘wow, you can really feel the positive energy here’. I have a bit of an objection against this distinction, particularly the negative pole, because it legitimizes judgmental beliefs. I think it motivates people to believe in their own projections, and by that stimulates the construction of their own mental cage.

The reason why I bring this up, is that the belief in spiritual energy is often seen as an emancipation from the religious dogmatic thought. Heaven and hell are let go because they are seen as a design to blind us from the truth. But if that truth is that you should follow positive energy and avoid negative energy so that you can reach nirvana and leave this semi-damned existence, then I don´t think much as changed.

What would you think if I told you that there is positive fire and negative fire? Good water and bad water? Sacred air and evil air? Perhaps you´d laugh, or perhaps you´d think I mean the level of pollution of a pond or a city street. Or maybe you´d say that it all depends on the intensity of these elements. Their pressure. I don´t think you would think that I mean that those elements are somehow negative.

Okay, so what if we assume that people who talk about negative energy mean to say that the energy is polluted? In many cases they probably do. My question would be: what is the energy polluted with?

It is an important one to answer, I think, because we´re talking about a medium here that, in my view, is easily coloured by our thoughts and emotions. That´s how a stressed person causes an emotional sandstorm just by walking into a room with people, or how a little kid can fill the hearts of many with delight. You would have to be quite trained or at least very sensitive to distinguish the level of pollutedness of the energy from the impact of your own emotionally charged perception on that energy.

I think that most often when people get negative vibes from someone, what they actually perceive is an incompatibility of their emotions with those of another person. I would explain this by differences in energy pressure. When an active person meets someone who´s tired for example, it can be quite irritating for both. That doesn´t mean that either one has negative energy. With a bit of willpower from both ends, such pressure differences can be easily overcome.

Energy could also be perceived as negative when it triggers a fear or discomfort. In my case that´s most often the fear of the unknown or the fear of being manipulated. It could also be the fear of not being accepted or the fear of pain or death. But being afraid of something doesn´t mean that this thing is harmful to you. And even if it is, harm will be healed.

What I guess I want to say is that classifying aspects of life as negative immediately makes you miss out. It is closing your own doors to life. I do believe that real, deep experiences of energy can be an intimate, revelatory thing with potential to give direction to life. By all means, attend to them as they come.

Battling Mediocrity

One of my worst fears is to be a mediocre writer. It wasn’t always like that. Ten years ago I was fearless. I thought I was one of the better writers. But the more I get to know about it, the easier it is to see my flaws. And the more flaws I see, the harder I have to work to fix them. What was once a free and joyful act, thus becomes a procedure of delicately finding ways around my imperfection.

I haven’t truly tested my market value as a writer so far. Sure, I’ve earned some money with it here and there, and yes, I’ve received some feedback, generally positive, I’ve even joined a competition or two (without success), but I never looked for agents or publishers for my work. This is partially because I’m quite busy, but it is also linked to the fact that what I’m trying to sell might be meaningless, or at least not meaningful enough to another.

As I grow older, I have invested more and more time and energy in writing, meaning my work takes an ever bigger place in my life. I hang on to it more and more. You would expect that the quality of the work keeps increasing, but I feel as if I’m hitting an invisible wall somewhere. Something I should pass if I am to improve further.

Perhaps I’m starting to feel the need of an external view by someone whose work I admire. Someone who can crush my self-comforting blindness and can really teach me something about writing. Someone who can force me into this fear of mediocrity and help me acknowledge that indeed, I’m not as good as I hoped I was. Someone who can show me my many areas of improvement.

Or maybe I need to really dig into a specific theme. Write a book, not just ramblings and short stories. Give myself the space to truly develop something that is worth the reader’s while. Create real, living characters who face each other in living situations. My characters always have something rebellious. I don’t know why that is. I don’t find other characters very interesting. Maybe I should broaden my scope.

The key to greatness, where can it be? Perhaps it’s in the struggle.

On Reincarnation

People usually assume that I believe in reincarnation. I don’t. I believe reincarnation is a hopeful thought that propagates itself through the noosphere, fuelled by the fear of disappearance of whatever people believe to be themselves.

Reincarnation presumes incarnation and excarnation of an individual spirit in a body. To me, there’s no sharp separation between the two. That is not to say that I don’t believe in ghosts, past life memories, visions of the future or out-of-body experiences, but I interpret them differently. My outlook on space, time and life differ, I believe, from the status quo of, let’s call it Western Reincarnation Theory. I think it’s an interesting topic, so I’ll try to explain my point of view here, starting with some examples.

Let’s start with ghosts, they’re one of the trickiest subjects. Haunted houses, dead people walking or even just the feeling that something heavy is trying to tell you something, but you can’t quite catch what it is. Some perceive it, others don’t. To me, ghosts are a charge, released by a living person during their lifetime. It can be mental, emotional or spiritual, so let’s just call it a psychosomatic charge. Imagine Lonely Jack, who constantly sits in his living room, complaining to himself about the woman he never had, the job he missed and the choices he never made. I believe this guy can leave a footprint on his living room for as long as he’s alive. Then, once he’s dead, new inhabitants could still perceive this footprint as a ghost.

Would that footprint be self-conscious? One might ask. My answer would be: only to the extent to which the complaining is self-conscious, which is not that much at all. I don’t believe that the charge is Lonely Jack himself, I’d say it’s what he’s left behind. Then again, I do believe it is possible to send extracts of awareness into, for example, the furniture we possess, and make it look back at you. Or at another, when you’re not around. We can charge our surroundings with thoughts the way our surroundings can charge us with thoughts. Thus, some parts of us can live on. If others interact with those they empower them, and the bits of us empower those who interact.

Another typical proof for reincarnation and the separation between body and soul is the memory of past lives. The reasoning: since I experienced being in the past, apparently “I” have lived past lives. I value the occurrence of such experiences, but they don’t necessarily point to reincarnation. I see them as bridges between eras. Between lives if you will. Like meeting someone in the tram, but different. Sometimes, psychosomatic charges find their way through “wormholes” in such a strength that they invoke the “I” sensation upon the perceiver. To me, they really are just messages from the past with relevance for the listener of today. Think about it this way: you were a different person as a kid, but the aspect of “I” hasn’t changed. Ask the oldest person you know about this, and he or she will tell you there’s no difference between being old and being young. Nevertheless, all molecules have alternated time after time, lessons have been learned and forgotten, and the body has evolved and worn out. Throughout a single lifetime, we are many different people, but we don’t perceive it that way. Then why is it so hard to believe that temporarily being a different person would feel differently than being yourself?

The topic of future visions is similar. I believe that the general consensus there is that they are impossible, yet if they occur, they pass through the spirit world , mediated by beings who reside there because they have reincarnated many times. I believe the moment or vision that is foreseen is simply very psychosomatically charged, and therefore radiates back in time. Perhaps the meaning gives the charge, and the need for meaning on the other side the attraction. Metaphysical pressure differences, so to speak.

Out of body experiences? To me they are instants of high psychosomatic charge in the body, where the mind bridges space in the same way as it could bridge time. The fact that the people see and hear things in this different space, I believe, is a way for the mind to accommodate itself when away from the body. But I still think the phenomenon is powered by the life force inside the body of the one who perceives it as “him or herself being out of his or her body”.

So, if not in life after death, what do I believe in? I believe that there’s only one core soul, which is hidden deep inside all of us. Time, space and basically all rules an limits we take for granted are expressions of that soul. I think it created them all for fun. So are our bodies. Without our bodies, we would just be that one soul, undivided and forever, free from the illusions of existence we’ve created all around us. We are borrowing our bodies, our spirits and our minds from this big shared illusion, and when we die we give what we borrowed back.

Don’t ask me how that would feel by the way, I wouldn’t know.