Tag Archives: Illusion

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.

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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.

Mental life

If you’d start a religion today, would you ban or allow violent video games?

The reason why I ask, is that my sister gave me Grand Theft Auto V for my birthday. Playing it brought me back to my teenage years, when a big part of my worries could be narrowed down to the question: “how can I beat the next boss and get into the next level?”. It also helped me see this game for what it really is: a piece of art.

GTA V, not unlike earlier versions, has so many facets that it is hard to know where to begin talking about it. The game holds a tremendous amount of possibilities: you can shoot down people in the street, do some yoga, blow up busses in a drive by, play tennis with a real or virtual friend or you can just light up a joint and enter in a fist fight with one of the innumerable clowns that materialize from the smoke. GTA V has storylines in which you make choices and feel the consequences of your actions and characters that support you or fuck you over. All of it happens in a world full of detail which would take you about half an hour to drive around in one of the faster cars, stolen or bought.

The game comes with an excellent package of sarcastic jokes about all aspects of western society, in particular media manipulation, New Age gurus and consumerism.  The in-game equivalent of Facebook, for example, is called Lifeinvader. It has its own office building in Los Santos, which you can enter to mess with the technology. Another example: the day you steal nerve gas from a lab somewhere in the mountains, the presenter of the news on the radio wonders why “the criminals went to great lengths to get their hands on a formula for cheap perfume”. Afterwards, the same radio channel broadcasts a commercial on why “Flow”, with its great packaging and advertisements by famous people, is far better for you and your self-esteem than tap water.

The game has the perfect combination of qualities to suck you out of your daily trouble into a dream where you are the ruler of your destiny and that of the imaginary other. It has doubtlessly had more attention than the Mona Lisa – during the phases of crafting as well as appreciation -, has brought in more money than most blockbusters and has probably made more people happy than Jesus.

Still, people world-wide fight a battle against the virtual violence in such games which has little more consequences than getting some virtual cops on your virtual ass. Easy to shake off once you have some experience. Opposers of the GTA franchise argue that the violence promoted rewires the back of the players’ brains. They believe that shooting people in a virtual world will alter the subjects perception of life and death in the real world, reducing the barrier to shoot people in real life. Personally, I have to admit that after playing GTA for several consecutive hours, when going to the almost closing supermarket for a beer and a pizza, the thought of blowing someone’s brains out may occasionally cross my mind when a random bastard walks in my way. Of course, it wouldn’t easily happen: I don’t usually carry a minigun around.

The discussion raises an interesting series of questions about the perception of the real versus the illusory, quite relevant in a society where virtual and casual reality overlap more and more. How big is the influence of actions in virtual worlds on our actions in real life? Can the power we feel while playing such games settle inside us as a day-to-day desire? Or could such games satisfy desires we already have, and thus make us live our normal lives in a calmer way? Would that just be a superficial thing, or could virtual lives be deeply nurturing?

Mankind has made fantasy more tangible. Young generations are growing up alternating between real and virtual worlds. From a young age onwards, we learn to discern the two from each other. I do believe that being in touch with virtual worlds helps us relativize our own lives, by making us accustomed to be view things from a distance. I’d guess that rather than having us irrationally import behaviour from one world to the other, games help us see things in their contexts and act according to the circumstances. So next to being masterpieces, I believe they might have educational value.

As long as we still eat, sleep and jump around from time to time in real life. Let’s not forget that.

A different hat

Magicians are fascinating people. As a kid I was always stunned by what some of them manage to pull off. Learned some small tricks myself. Chris Bordet, earns his living with sleight of hand. We meet for an interview at the Central Station of Amsterdam and find a bench near the water. While we watch birds and boats pass by, we talk about the ins and outs of his work.

Chris lets me know that the English word magician is deceiving because it raises the impression that the tricks are real. He prefers the Dutch word ´goochelaar´, etymologically linked to ´joke´, and the French word ´prestidigitateur´, literally meaning finger artist. He also likes the German ‘Tasche Künstler’, ´pocket artist´.”I am not a magician” he says “I play the role of one”. The difficult part is to believe what you do and trying to project that to the audience. Body language is very important.

A microcosmos
The common 52 card deck can be seen as a model of our world. The two colours, red and black, represent the principle of duality. There are the four seasons for clubs, diamonds, spades and hearts; the 52 cards represent the 52 weeks; there are thirteen cards in each suit, representing the 13 moons in the year; if you add up the numbers of all cards, you get 364 and if you add the joker, you have 365. “It´s a story magicians use to mystify their act, to get people in the mood and distract them from the technique. First you create a frame, then you can play with it.”

Magic works in the same way as humour in the sense that it aims to surprise the audience. He explains: “it´s playing with the unexpected.” as he grabs a match from behind my ear. “You start with something very easy and then you go further.” He´s now holding three matches. “And maybe at the moment, because it´s surprising, it can be a little mind-blowing. That´s a big word, but it´s the goal of the magician”. The matches disappear behind his lifted hand.

“Let me show you a trick to illustrate how it works” He gives me a deck. “Pick your favourite card”. I check his deck and take the Ace of Spades. I return the deck, and give him my card. He puts it somewhere in the middle and shuffles. He takes out some cards and counts them, showing them one by one from the back. Four cards. He passes me the deck back, I keep it in my hands. Then asks me if my favourite card might be among the cards in his hand. I say I´m not going to tell him.
“Okay … I’m the magician, Let´s check if it was among them”. He turns around a Ten of Diamonds, ponders a little and says: “It was not the Ten of Diamonds.” He takes a look at the second card and says “No, it wasn’t the Eight of Diamonds either. He shows me the card. He takes a look at the third card and says: okay, maybe it´s the Ace of Spades. He puts it back, reveals all cards in his hand and says: “well the Ace of Spades always has the weird habit to fly back into the deck.” There are three cards there, no Ace of Spades.

I check the deck in my hands. The Ace of Spades is in the middle, up side down, smiling at me. Damn… It flew back into my hand, and I missed it.

He explains the trick this time. First, he showed me four cards from the back, but one was counted twice. He gave me the deck back and asked if my card was among his cards. The question served as a reminder that there were four. By making me think of that number, he made me strengthen my own belief that indeed, there are four cards in his hands. The Ace of Spades was already back in rest of the deck that I was holding in my hands. “Not a big deal” explains the prestidigitateur. There were in fact three remaining cards. He first revealed  the Ten of Diamonds saying”Ten of Diamonds”. Of course I didn’t notice, because he was pretending to be figuring out if that was the one. The second time he looked at it first, then said “Eight of Diamonds”, and showed it to me as a confirmation that he was speaking the truth. The third time, he just said “Ace of Spades”, causing me to create the image of the Ace of Spades in my mind which was enough to believe it was there in his hand. “It´s all about images.” Chris says. “It´s conditioning. I have manipulated you to believe that I really had this card in my hand, but it was in your hands all the time.”

“Film and magic are a very similar arts. Just like with comedy, it is often the visual effect that makes people laugh, not what you say. People miss out on the point where they should look, they´re always a few steps behind. That´s how it works . An important principle of magic is that we shouldn´t do things that seem too impossible, because otherwise people will see the solution. For example, if you are working with a secret companion and the things you do are too big, they´ll know that this person was your companion.”

The dark side of magic
Chris knows magicians who pretend to be the real thing. One of them always has a crow with him. He wears his magician clothes in the street. He plays the role non-stop.

Have you figured out any of his tricks?
“Yes, yes of course. He attended the Uri Geller show in Germany once and he won, because a lot of people just believed him. They want to believe in something like that. He´s a spooky person. He told me once that when he was a child, he took his church robe on a skateboard to scare the old people into the belief that he was hovering over the street. It´s funny that people like that exist. Once when I was visiting him he made his crow fly in a circle around me, touching me very gently, and then it sat in front of me. I don´t know if it was a trick, but for a moment I thought: “this is pretty impressive”. I think he uses his tricks in conjunction with some gift he has or something. But it´s about demonstrating power, it´s not the kind of magic I like. He is playing with people’s fear.”

Most magicians tend to distantiate themselves from the tricks others take too far. Magic clubs debunk people such as Uri Geller. It also happens in politics and religion. “You could say: wow, the twin towers are destroyed, now we have to go to war, but nobody knows what exactly happened. It could be a frame, made by somebody who has interest in propagating those ideas. The ancient Greeks moved their temples with the use of hydraulics to make people believe that their preachers had more power than they actually had.  Mass hypnosis.”

Can you as a magician steer other people?
I think every human can do that, yes. I think we are all one, and if we put a little bit of love in what we do, and pay some respect to each other, we automatically guide each other to the goal that is the right one. It has nothing to do with magic in that sense.

A miraculous paradox
How do you feel when you do magic?
“I feel good, because people are sometimes really happy. They feel so surprised at that moment, that they become like a child again, like the first time you see snow for example. Then I have achieved my goal, because they had this feeling for just three seconds, and I gave them a bit of happiness. There can be really loud laughter. Once or twice, I´ve seen a girl scream. I think they were too open for this kind of thing. One of the reasons why I do it is  to show people that not everything is like they think it is. Be carefull with what people make you believe.

Do you know tarot?
I ask the question because Chris reminds me of the fool card.
“Well, I´m always interested in mystical things, but more with the view of a magician, a goochelaar. I´m curious to see what´s the trick, because I don´t really believe it is real. In a sense I believe it is real, because by asking the question, you already have the answer more or less. It doesn´t really matter which card comes out, because either way it will give you a perspective on your question. The question is the important thing.” Chris enjoys watching tv shows where people call clairvoyants, who shake some nuts and an answer comes out. “It´s really entertaining, but it´s really sad for the people who believe it is real. The performers listen carefully to what a person says, then use psychoanalytical tricks to satisfy them. It´s pure coincidence which card comes up. You could use how the bird flies, or how the bird shits, or whatever.”

Does it make you feel better to know how these things work?
“No. It makes me feel more stupid, actually. We know nothing. It´s games. We try to find the truth, maybe, but we´re never going to find it. It´s not important to know everything. But of course we want to know. That´s why we have scientists. We want to know. But we don´t. Or at least, we don´t know the whole thing. Maybe it would be easier if we just lived.”

Wouldn´t it be nice to forget all of it from time to time?
“That´s the gift we magicians have, actually. We are able to perform as if we would be doing it for the first time. When another magician shows me a trick, and I think: WOW, then I want to transmit this initial feeling I had to other people. When I perform, I always look for the experience I had when I saw the trick for the first time, otherwise it doesn´t work that well. And that´s a perspective only magicians must have. I realised this when I worked with theater makers. Some directors forget about the impact something can have the first time when people see it. It´s something magicians are really good at. I know how I felt when I saw the trick, and I know how I should behave in a way that others have the same feeling. I believe it myself while I perform.”

With your knowledge about the tricks of life, do you believe in miracles?
Well of course I believe in miracles. The fact that we are sitting here the sun is here, it´s warm and next to the water, that already is a cool thing. I can be in control of myself, that is a real miracle. Sometimes things happen that put you back on a path of life. I have had it a few times that I wanted to do something big, but it was not possible, because I had an accident for example. Those events are like guides in your life. In that sense I do believe in miracles.

As I bike home, I digest the curious paradox Chris revealed today. His skill is that he is able to believe things that are not true, and he uses it to show others that they shouldn’t believe things that aren’t true. In fact, he doesn’t want others to believe him. By manipulating his own mind, he conveys the ease with which that can be done. By always approaching illusions, he takes a distance from them. Magicians are fascinating people.

Parsimony

One of the basic rules of today’s science is the law of parsimony. It states that when there are two possible explanations for a given observation, the one that requires the smallest amount of assumptions should be selected as the true one. In other words: a good scientist always strives for the most conservative and simple explanations of the facts.

It makes a lot of sense to avoid needless complexity.  Not only does that make it easier to understand things, it also helps in the communication with other scientists, journalists or your grandma. Overcomplicating things is as exhausting as it is boring and it makes it harder to judge where illusion ends and truth starts. But by sticking too closely to this law, scientists become a self-assuring collective that drift away into a meaningless void, possibly leading exactly to the opposite of what a scientist strives for.

The law of parsimony obliges the trained scientific mind to focus on a problem and avoid looking at its surroundings for as long as possible. If, for example, one wants to study the effects of a medicine on lung cancer, one will not include father-son-relationships or religious beliefs in an experimental design, because they are unlikely to be of influence. Fifty years ago, eating habits, air quality and smoking habits would possibly also not have been included in such research. They are very important factors now.

Parsimony goes hand in hand with the reductionist vision of cause and effect. It has resulted in the rising of different disciplines such as economy, medicine or ecology, where they were once one thing. Even within those fields, there are endless specializations. They distinguish from each other not only by the aspect of life they study, but also by the assumptions they take for granted. The ones they no longer see. What seems obvious to a person from discipline A, may be very far-fetched to a person from discipline B. The result here, is that communication between disciplines becomes harder and harder.

By always looking for the fewest amounts of assumptions, the parsimonious scientist creates a mental island for himself. Our society as a whole is stuck in a construct of assumptions that, by the fact that they are repeated in the classroom, feed the part of our minds in which they seem so clear and logical that they are no longer understood as assumptions. In economy for example: growth is the base. Wouldn’t it help the world if we assumed that dispersal and equality are important, even if we seldom observe them? In medicine: diseases have a physical cause. How about the complex role of the mind? In ecology: plant and animal communities behave according to mathematical models. Isn’t that a disrespectful view?

Parsimony invites us to keep building our understanding on the world we know already. I think science could serve life better if it allowed itself to dive into the unknown.

Turn

“Look at me”
“You don’t really want that”
“Yes I do”
“No you don’t”
She allowed some silence to seep in between them. It filled the void she felt with a little bit of trust.
“Why are you here?” she asked, and she detected a hint of his curiosity in a twitch in his left leg.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Again, she kept her mouth closed for a few seconds. If he would speak now, she practically had him in her pocket. If not, she’d have to do some more work.
“I mean… It seems clear what you are planning to do… the question…”
“Say it” He interrupted her.
“Say what?”
“Speak out what I’m planning to do.”
“Would it make you feel better if I did?”
“Of course not.”
This guy was tough. She was not sure what to do, but she could not wait for too long.
“Why are you planning to jump?”
“Exactly! I’m planning to jump. Was that so hard?”
“Not it wasn’t. Why was it so important to you that I said it?”
“I was going to be an actor.” He said. Okay. He began to share his frustrations and by that, would start feeling the relief necessary to persuade him to turn.
“Studied for it, then had my first contract. I was brilliant! I let my voice roll over the audience as a king does with his people. I was a king! I had a car, a nice apartment in town, a very cute cat. I had friends. I even had servants. Everything was sorted out.”
She was quite sure where this was going. Her colleagues were sometimes astonished by her instinct. To her, it was simple deduction. This man was in the force of his life, a great communicator, built attractively and even quite charming in this vulnerability. He had a cat to care for. Clear case of a heartbreak.
“Then I met her.” He said.
“Her…?” acting surprised was always the best way to seem interested.
“Jara.” From the position of the back of his head she judged he must be looking beyond the city lights, towards the pitch black horizon. “Then I met Jara…”. This time it was him who created space through his silence.
“Tell me about her.” She did a small, inaudible step forward.
“Jara’s parents had a small hut in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. But she had adventure in her blood. And she was smart, so she left to study.”
This man clearly was a story-teller. She considered sitting down to listen to him, but knew that would make it impossible to make an emergency move if her estimation turned out wrong.
“Anthropology”
“In Papua New Guinea?”
“At first, yes, but then she came all the way here to study us.”
“Really?” she said it just a bit louder than she’d planned to. She coughed.
“Does that surprise you?” He asked, still without showing his face.
“Well… yes” she uttered. The timing of his question made her suspect that he probably never wanted to jump off the roof of this skyscraper. If that was true, there was going to be a confession of some sort. An issue he needed a second opinion on, possibly related to guilt, but more likely to his loneliness itself. She needed to be patient.
“Me as well.” Said the man. “That’s what attracted me in her. She always knew how to surprise you with her exceptional curiosity for so many things. One day, she came home with a fox skull she found in the forest. The way she studied it was just fascinating. I can still see her holding it, with her fragile wrists… So smart…”
Why the wrists? She wondered.
“Do you see that bar down there?” He pointed down steeply along the west side of the building. She had to take a few steps forward to follow the direction, but she could not discern a bar.
“It has a very warm ambience. Candles, pillows, jazz on the background. They serve great wines.” He paused again. She was now looking for a reddish light among the brighter ones. “It’s called Sheila’s. Jara loved that place. She would write her thesis there. One day I walked by, and it was as if the bar called out to me… Invited me in. So I went. I still see her sitting there, with her brown laptop. I went to the bar and ordered a ginger beer. Great drink. She came to the bar to pay and I looked at her and she looked at me and that was it. Our spirits merged. From that moment on, we were together.”
She started to doubt again. Perhaps there was more going on than a girl leaving a boy. Or perhaps he thought of her as the one but Jara didn’t, and did he need convincing that there’s no such thing.
“She specialized in western suicide.”
Okay rewind. This man knew more about her job than the usual suicidal. Why did he mention it? She had to be careful.
“Do you know that most people kill themselves because they don’t feel loved? It depresses them, so they take their own life away. Jara didn’t get that at all.”
Perhaps he’d cheated on her?
“She studied, I acted. At night we’d hang out together, alone or with friends, and drink a bit, often in Sheila’s. Or we’d watch TV, or dance and make love in the living room. Life was good and simple. The only thing in between us was that she missed her parents at home.”
She sat down on the floor. It was cold. She felt like standing up again, but didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself. She’d have to go with her choice for now. Expression of the comfortable atmosphere.
“Then one day I found her at home in a state of panic. She said something was wrong back home. She had to go there. We booked a ticket. She would fly in three days. I called in sick for work and cancelled all appointments. They were the most intense days of my life. We made love and declared our love for each other, and spent time in the parks around and cooked some of our favourite dishes. Then she’d tell me about her tribe and her family, as if they were there with us. I could see how much she loved her grandma, and how much she’d learned from her. And from her dad, who had motivated her to learn the letters of the alphabet and to get out of her little jungle world. I saw how much she missed her people, but in the mean time felt more connected to her than ever. I could feel her pain, and at the same time her joy over our coming together. These three days were probably the most complete experience of the whole emotional spectrum I ever had. But then I had to put her on the plane. She explained on the way that we could not stay in touch because of the lack of internet or phones in the village, but that she would try to contact me instead. I drove back home on my own, thinking only about our last kiss. I could feel it in my mouth. Moving delicately. It slowly dissolved over the hours, then it was gone. I sat on my couch for the rest of the day, caressing the cat. The next day I couldn’t act, only cry. I went home. That lasted for a week at least. The director started to worry about me and told me to pull myself together. Then I did. I could suddenly work again. Strange how you can just ignore your feelings like that, right? As if I’d run out of sadness. But I knew that wasn’t the case.”
He turned his face. Looking into his eyes shook her heart. There was suffering there. She saw him look from inside his pain. It infected her. Nested inside her. He looked away, and stared over the lit towers again. The pain was out of her reach, but she longed for it. She was suddenly convinced that this man knew exactly what he was doing, but kept her in the dark. Even so, all she wanted him to do was to keep talking. “Yes…” she answered softly.
“It took a few months before I started worrying.” He continued. “I was so occupied with my work again, that I decided to trust her in her choices, and also that I would hear from her as soon as she’d be able to contact me. Meanwhile, I was loved for what I did and that was great. My cat enjoyed the attention. But something was gnawing away inside. The discomfort grew until I could no longer hold it. My director did not allow my leave, so I quit, rented out my apartment, housed poor Lixy at my moms place and took the plane. In her address book, I had found only one Papua New Guinean address, so I thought that must be it.”

“It took me three days to find the place after I’d arrived. It was somewhere on one of the bigger islands in the east. An old woman opened the door. She had messy greyish hair and a very wrinkled face, but she stood straight and her movements were agile. Very agile, actually. She seemed strong. She didn’t know Jara’s name. She also had a hard time finding out what I meant when I explained about the girl who left to the west. I don’t think she knew where the west was. But her English wasn’t too bad, and she got it eventually.”
From his description, she liked the woman.
“She called me inside, and showed a map of a different island, where I’d find a man called Makali. I was outside before I realised it. She didn’t even offer me a drink. And I couldn’t keep the map either! I think she was related to Jara, but she clearly didn’t treat me that way. I don’t blame her. But at that moment I felt very abandoned.”
“And now?” she felt as if she had to take control somehow. Over him or over herself? She could not say.”
“I don’t feel abandoned now…”
“Keep talking”
“What are you? My therapist?”
“No, no, no! I’m just interested!”
“In many ways, the search for Jara was the biggest adventure of my life. I realised that there was so much more to it than the acting and the love. We live in a human industry. There are jungles, and people who are entirely different. Their lives take place in nature. Always. They have no need for the devices we so heavily depend on. Of course I knew those people existed, but to see it for yourself is a different thing. Some offered me to stay at their huts They were beautifully helpful people. Gave me food and everything. Some didn’t even speak English. There turned out to be lots of Makalis, and I wouldn’t have found the right one without them.”
“Who was he?” she asked
“A local man of knowledge. I’m still not sure how it all works there, but he knew that Jaras tribe had disappeared, together with their land.”
“Disappeared? How?”
“Trees were sawed  and removed by machines that had docked near their village.  None of the villagers were found. I told Makali I wanted to look for them, he answered that the mere sight of their old home would hurt me more than I could imagine. I told him that it didn’t matter, then he told me that he could not take me there because it would hurt him too much. I told him I’d find it on my own if he just pointed me the way, then he walked out of his hut and convinced another tribe member to accompany me there. We had a long walk through the jungle. Even slept there one night. He cooked for me, just from the roots, fruits and herbs he found around. The next morning we walked on, but at some point he stopped. He waved his hand in the direction he wanted me to go in. I went there by myself. The beautiful coloured plants and butterflies and birds and frogs and insects we saw on the way, were suddenly gone. There were just enormous stumps. I fell down and cried. Don’t know for how long. Then, when I stood up, I could only think about Jara. I panicked. Started to run in a random direction, looking for her. But the vastness of the empty land was overwhelming, as if the disowned spirits of the forest told me to give up. I went numb. Went back to Makali. He took me into his place and offered me to wait for them here, but I couldn’t: sitting still drove me insane. I just had to go find her, but I had no idea where to start. Makali didn’t know either. They’d just disappeared. The other tribes had been looking for them for some months, but found no trace. It was as if they’d been taken together with the plants around. I left Makali’s house in three days afterwards, on an impossible quest. I wandered through the country like a ghost. All that I could tell people was that I was looking for a tribe that disappeared, one of whose members was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. They all knew where to find great girls, but no-one had seen a homeless tribe. I managed to find the docks where the company’s trees were shipped to. All I found was a lot of resistance. I went to the company that bought the trees. Equally resistant. I even consulted witches in the area. They told me not to mingle with such dark forces. None of them wanted to say more. I would usually try to convince them that it was love I was dealing with, but could convince only one.
“One?”
“Yes, she was a very nice lady in fact. Gentle. She wore very colourful feathers, of birds of paradise, she said. And she served delicious tea. She tried to persuade me to go home, and that Jara would contact me there, but I kept going for a few more weeks. Looking back, it was she who planted the idea in my head that Jara would keep following our love.”
The gentleness of his voice confused her. It seemed as if indeed, Jara contacted him. If that was true, why was he on this roof?
“For those final weeks I was lost in the jungle. Maybe I was afraid to go back. As that was admitting my defeat. As if I had put my life at stake for nothing. After all she promised to contact me. By coming here I broke her trust in a way. Nevertheless, my presence there felt more and more futile. One day I gave in and left. The plane trip was horrible. The nerves were pumping through my veins like a rhythmical demonic rage. At some point I almost fainted, when I stood up to go the airplane toilet. Once I got there at looked into the mirror, I felt an incredible sting in my heart, as if I’d die.”
“And here you are, on the point of throwing yourself of a building. ” His whole way of being now told her he wouldn’t.
“Don’t joke about it… When I got home, my tenant gave me a letter that had arrived for me just after I left. Do you want to read it?”
His right hand slowly entered the left inner pocket of his long black coat. It took out an envelope, light brown coloured. It had an odd glow about it which accentuated the wrinkles on the hand that held it. He seemed much older than she’d estimated him. She stood up, stepped up the ridge where he stood and received it in her hand. Warmth entered her body in waves. She and the man were now hovering in a never-ending space with an envelope in it. She opened it carefully, then took out a letter. A breeze gently folded it somewhat, then let it rest upon her hand. It looked as if she was the first to read it.

My Dearest Love,

I know you came to look for me, but I was already dead. Please don’t take our act as a message to you personally, or as a decision that had anything to do with our relationship. It doesn’t.

While she read the message, an image appeared in her mind. It was beautiful Indonesian lady with long straight black hair and light brown eyes. She threw both arms around her neck in a delightful embrace. She loved this woman instantly.

Isn’t it interesting that I, who left my home to study suicidal behaviour in the Western world, now ended up killing myself? Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone. My tribe joined. We had a final party, actually. It was sad, I have to say, but it was one of the deepest and most beautiful experiences we had together. It’s sad that you never got to meet my friends. I hope you liked Makali though.

The embrace of the woman became tighter, as if she was afraid to let go. It was delightful. She saw green and blue hues around her. All she wanted was to protect this fragile soul.

You’ve seen what they did to our home. You cannot imagine the terror among us when they hunted us away. Or when they started cutting. If you could, perhaps you’d join our decision. If you cut a tree from its roots, it will not survive. That’s us. We’ve been cut, and have been slowly dying since.

Do you know what? I suddenly understood why Western people kill themselves. Many have never been able to make roots. Your system gnaws them off as soon as you try to grow them. They do whatever they can to avoid you from growing towards the light. They want you to bow for them. Poor souls! After returning from such an intense meeting with your world, I get why some want to leave it.

A tremendous sadness captured her heart when the truth in these words hit her. She fetlt that her life had caused the mess in Jara’s. Meanwhile, Jara’s embrace tightened further, like a snake’s, when creeping around her prey. She started to have trouble breathing, but felt compelled to keep reading.

Nature always strikes back, my love. And that’s what you and I are going to do. I know you’re with me on this. I knew from the instant that I saw you at Sheila’s that we would follow each other anywhere. Please don’t join me among the dead, I’ll come to you instead. We need allies on both sides to make our vengeance felt. Together, we will free the poor beings from their suffocating illusions.

She felt the grip tighten until she could no longer concentrate. Her life was now in Jara’s hands. Her diaphragm made rapid contractions. She felt intense fear rise up her chest. Then, suddenly, peace, deeper then she’d ever felt before. She must be turning blue by now.

I’ll always be with you, love. Warm embrace,

Jara

When she finished reading, she gave the letter back to the man at her side. He put it back in the envelope. The grip loosened, and she felt the blood come back to her head. The sensation was euphoric. She felt tremendously grateful.

“Well?” asked the man.
“You were right” she answered, and she took her final step. The man turned around, and stepped of the ridge.

While falling, she wondered if she’d done it out of pain or out of joy. A combination of factors perhaps. Anyhow, she’d never before been as convinced of a decision. In her last meters above the ground, she caught a glimpse of Sheila’s. It looked cosy indeed.

Word missing

What is the first thing you want to know if someone has a baby? Boy or girl, right? Can you tell me why?

How do you address a stranger on the street? By their gender. Ever did it wrong? How did you feel?

The only alternative for he or she is it. There is no universal way to mention or address someone without using the sex. If you know any culture where that’s possible, please, enlighten me. Even our names, carried as the definition of ourselves, are often sex-specific. Whether you are a boy or a girl at birth has enormous implications even at the very instant, while the differences only become relevant years later. Our gender precedes us! We are conditioned to the bone.

Imagine the impact on our mind. As soon as we familiarize with conceptual thought, we have to get used to the fact that we are undeniably different than half of the people in our lives. Our belief in this split goes deep: at some point, all of us have to prove that we are the man or the woman that we are. For status and satisfaction.

I’m not calling men and women equal, I’m merely wondering how deep this division goes. Every time I interact with an unknown, I am reminded about my sex. What if there was a neutral way to address a person? On the street, in a letter, on the phone? What if addressing people neutrally was mainstream? In a world with asexual words, would a boy still be a boy, and a girl a girl?

The division between men and women is not as fundamental as we are making it seem. While I leave the assessment of the severeness of this global psychosis up to you, I note that I am not the only one who would feel for solving the misconception. The abbreviation Mrx. has been brought up. Nobody knows how to pronounce it, let alone if it is legit to use, but it exists. Gender-neutral language is being developed as a set of ways to avoid the box. Gender-role transcendence, gay marriage and androgyny more popular than ever. The movement is as fragile as it’s young, but it gives a hint.

I think we need that word.

Addiction to the Real

I have a love-hate relationship with reality. Don’t get me wrong, I like reality, but I often think of it as being too addictive. I tend to blame myself for the things that go wrong and I usually explain them with the thought that I overly engaged in just a single aspect, without taking the whole into account. I narrow myself down too much.

If I feel tired for example, down and low on energy, I tell myself that this has to do with the coffee I drink, the beer of yesterday, or the orgasm I had earlier. Usually such self complaints come together with the notion that I did not enjoy these things enough, and am therefore in need for more. But this need gets harder to satisfy the more you do something. I have the same with losing time or working behind the computer or hunting for a job. And it’s not like the voice in my head always wants me to do these things, but they happen. Perhaps as a response to my own will to control the urge to act like an animal.

I have nothing against animals, but I did have my favourite cat castrated. It’s exactly that. I try to domesticize the human I encounter when I wake up in the morning. I try to adapt this human to the society I choose for it. This way, I can have it receive the soft comfort of the metropole. Yet the only way to do that is by not allowing it to hunt after it’s desires.

What you are witnessing here now, is an attempt to conquer an unexisting land. I am trying to belong to something I can never enter. The answer lies deeper than this, I know, but even if I am a calm person, I don’t always have the peace of mind to look. Distracted by a world which I know is illusory. A world to which even these words belong.