Tag Archives: judgement

Education

People sometimes use the word education when in fact they mean brainwashing. I’m quite sure that most people who do that are not aware of the fact that they do so because they have been brainwashed themselves.

An example: “We should put more funding in education of African countries so that they can build a democracy from the bottom up”. Great idea, but how would this look in practice? Money would go to certain organizations, monitored by their funders according to Western standards. They would employ people to build education programs, benchmarked along Western thought, then train people to teach the deep truths that stand at the base our beautiful democracy, powered solely by light and guided by the highest ethics. Then, at the end, of course, they are checked for optimal performance.

Such structures provided by nation states are often seen as education. Mandatory programs, packages of concepts, knowledge that is transferred and tested, ranking the students into their overseeable life paths, may lift society to a different standard, but they are only a limited part, a controllable bit, of a collective learning process that could also be tuned to enlivening, respect and curiosity-driven exploration of whatever it is that the human mind is eager to find out. I would say real education starts at the point where teacher and student receive the space and the freedom to show each other their views on reality in all its colours.

Transmission of knowledge is important, but we should honour the pathway through which this occurs. That pathway would in my view be called mutual trust. The possibility that another might see something out there which you don’t, not because he or she is more or less capable or suitable to see it, but merely because that other stands on a different position. Exams and profiles undermine such trust.

To translate this back to the omnipotent West, perhaps indeed, there was a time when our long fought for ideals made sense and empowered society at large. But these ideals are starting to take the form of dogmas, heritage we should protect and keep in place with tighter rules and regulations. Our knowledge is growing old, expiring, starting to fail us and begging for fresh inputs from the same societies we have kept in the enlightened dark for centuries.

And yet more importantly, I think we should all allow our inner wise guys to sometimes shut up and listen to the voice of the weak and silent for a change. The fact that we still understand education in a top-down way, taking all these quality checks for granted, shows us a whole lot about our status quos. If only we could see that in the mirror…

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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.

Decorating judgements

Last week, I wrote about the fact that we have institutionalized judgment, that we overly value it and even publically thrive on the act. Today I’d like to propose that if indeed we appreciate judgement so much, let’s take it a step further. Give it a personal touch. Add a little cherry to the cake.

Imagine you see a fat bald guy on the street. Someone whom you’d classify as ‘eating disorder’. One of those people that starts sweating after a hundred meter’s walk and sits down for a break after another. You could call this person an elephant and turn your head away, but you could also keep looking at him and wonder how a long grey trunk would suit him. If he was an elephant and would walk through the street, would it cause cracks in the asphalt? You would probably feel it shaking. And what if he would be covered with some amazingly detailed Persian carpet and seated upon by a Maharadja? He could be walking in a parade. Would that make you smile? Perhaps he’d smile back.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It is why I plea for more imaginative judgement. Spice it up a little. What good is a sentence such as ‘I don’t like her looks’, if you can say ‘her screaming khaki shirt reminds me of the day when I lost my cat and went for a drink in that bar with this plant that seemed to have grown on some volcano in Singapore, and I burned myself on it. What an unlucky day that was’. People will understand you better. Even that girl in the khaki shirt will accept that you don’t want to talk to her.

So, next time you reject somebody for a job because of his darker skin tone, don’t go with ‘you didn’t meet the criteria’, that hardly bears witness of a thoughtful approach. Be creative: ‘during the interview, I saw a mosquito on your nose, and when it flew out of the window, I saw it grow in size and land on a woman on the street and when it was done with her, all that was left was a pile of bones wrapped in some skin. I cannot take the risk that your blood type has that effect on other mosquitoes in the office: that would compromise the productivity of the other employees’ is far easier to digest for the applicant. There, you have a clear and well framed reason of which the candidate may think: ‘o well, at least she considered me seriously, better luck next time’.

Do you see my point? There is a lot of potential out there to make the world a better place by taking judgement to a new level. And there’s societal momentum for it. I say: ‘let’s go!’.

Organized Judgement

We live in a society where judgement is an institutionalized norm. Even though we read books that say we should leave judgement up to whichever divine entity we worship, we are totally okay with apps such as Tinder or cultural phenomena like Facebook.  We are thrilled, even, when watching programs such as X-factor, the Voice or So you think you can dance. They are programs where we are stimulated to judge. It feels rewarding.

Consider the job interview structure. It is a generally accepted fact that the choice if you’re in or out is made within the first few seconds after meeting. Still, we all look upon it as an adequate way to determine who is going to work and who is not. But if there are 100 working hours for two candidates, why don’t we divide them 50-50? Because one of them is better at promoting himself? We believe that by judging both, we make a wise selection. That’s also why we vote for politicians. The truth is: we are guessing in the dark. Judging just makes us feel in charge. But do we really need to?

In the Netherlands – a country that’s supposed to be developed and tolerant – the more pigment you have in your skin, the harder it is for you to get a good job. Darker people are more likely to be searched by the police and less likely to be accepted into classy bars or clubs. And yet we keep believing that our views help us separate the wheat from the chaff. What’s more, we want to be judged by others, equally blind, as the ‘good’ group. Why else do we dress up nicely, post duck-faced selfies online and correct our exteriors with surgery?

Even if a part of this behaviour has natural roots, these issues should be publically put into question. Whoever is hip today will be forgotten tomorrow. I wonder how aware people are how much we collectively praise judgement, yet at the same time carry the burden. Is that truly necessary? Could we change this in society? In ourselves? Would you?

Wielding Attention

Do you own your attention? Do I have it? Are you giving it to this text? Am I luring it?

I’m on the final two pages of my booklet. The first text, ‘Revolution’ was written in 2012. I kept it close for all that time. These papers have grown dear to me. They are turning from a living presence in my life into an artifact on a shelf. End of an era. To make our final union count, I’d like to write on a subject that matters.

Attention is our most intimate tool of perception. Think about it. A nagging pain in your knee disappears if you have a good meal. Worldly troubles fade when we fall in love. An ugly face turns beautiful once we get to know the person behind it. Our attention, more than anything else, determines who we are. And yet we are so unaware of it. So limited in our capacity to use it.

Knowledge. Beliefs. Habits. Patterns the attention follows over and over again. Until bolts of insight pierce them. Seduce the attention to flow over their borders, see them from another side. Some patterns of belief do never crack. Dissolve, at most, when their container treads the grave.

Can you watch your attention? Can you see where it goes? Can you direct it? Redirect it to a place it never went before?

If I’m frustrated in life, it is because I see how many people are not free. And don’t want to be, either. Most believe they already are. There are so few who dedicate themselves to their attention. So many just wave it around, letting it spill on places where others do before them. People in the modern world waste so much of their precious, limited attention on worthless things. If I call myself a freedom activist, it is because even if I don’t know how, I need to break that chain.

Whether something is painful or beautiful, attention will see it. Jew, muslim, atheist? Attention will be with you. We blame ourselves for looking at midgets on the street. Our attention did not judge. It just travelled, as it would, if we didn’t pull that leash. ‘Stay away from that midget’. ‘Run from the weak’. If we let it be, our attention will go where it is needed.

By giving attention to the world around, senses sharpen. They become receptive. If you give attention to your garden, it will flourish. By listening to another with care, two souls will shine brighter. Attention is our pathway to bring the world to life.

Do you sometimes hold your attention in your mind’s hands? Pet it gently? Does it stay with you?

By giving my heart to this booklet one last time, I imbue it, one last time with a desire that does not sleep. I see the scratches of my previous words, I feel my booklet push my pen, I see the black ink stick here, on this paper, for as long as it will. From a far away conceptual world, I bring down images, experiences, meaning which, when I close it, will keep living as a part of me. I try, I have to try, to testify of this potential. It’s an urge that reveals itself in the interaction with this last page.

Of course, attention is meaningless. It’s a concept, like all others. Elusive, uncontrollable. Tell another he is not free, and he’ll present to you his freedom to hit you in the face. You’re a prisoner of your own mind. Hit me. But break the wall between our cells. I want them to crumble.

Have you cleaned your attention today? Thanked it? Let it wander for a bit? Did you follow? Did it come back to you? Did it bring you something?

My last words in this booklet, better make them count. A final kiss. A final breath of us together. In a few short lines, can I still imbue it with something meaningful?

How much charge can you contain before the charge contains you? How much pain do you need, before you accept this responsibility?

Do you charge your attention with love?

Loving the fear for the lie

There are people in this world who talk about fear and love as if they are each other’s opposites. Some of those people frame it as a choice between two pathways: do you take the path of fear or the path of love? You may have met them. Some people also categorize acts into ‘fearful and loving’ behaviour. This scene from Donnie Darko puts it poignantly. It makes me wonder how it has happened that these two simple words are now so deeply embedded in the human understanding of their lives.

What strikes me most about the way society understands fear and love, is that both are very tightly connected to our will. Ask a person what he or she fears, and many times that person will speak of something he or she likes to avoid, while if they talk about something they love, they’d bring up a situation they would like to attract. There’s a movement of the mind towards or away from some object. If both are indeed movements, aren’t fear and love ultimately very similar things? Or seen from a different angle: how would fear and love look if we imagined ourselves out of the equation?

Perhaps my objection here is not with this immature definition of fear and love, but rather with the omnipresent understanding of all things as having a dualistic nature. I think this whole yin yang thing is a veil over a colourful reality. The reason it is so popular, I think, is that our minds prefer to contrast themselves to the background of their own projections. And how do you better do that than in black and white? Then again, since I am perceiving the world through my mind, I am per definition not the right person to contest a well established truth as dualism. After all, it is possible I am unknowingly objecting against the nature of existence itself. My mind can not know reality without it, but then again, whose mind could? How can we be sure duality exists? Or does not? Isn’t this very question dualistic in nature?

Something you fear can turn into something you love, something you love can turn into something you fear. You can love fear, and you can fear love. You can even fear and love a single thing at once. If you dig into it, you find vast varieties in what people perceive as their fears and their loves. They can be emotional states, but they can also be lingering presences in our conscious or subconscious perceptions with, admitted, influence on our choices. A triggered fear can lead you anywhere, and a triggered event of love could lead you to exactly the same place. They can be directed towards something that actually exists, but they can also confront something imaginary, something that we have made up, yet presents itself to us as lively as anything else.

To talk about fear or love is to talk about two mountains in the own emotional landscape. We don’t usually clarify if we are talking about the peaks or the base, the tree line or the sound of the birds. Are we talking about the act of climbing these mountains, or sliding off from them? Instead, we are tempted to just place one mountain on the opposite side of the other and say: well my experience is either of the two. What is the benefit of doing that?

Perhaps downsizing the richness of the inner world makes it easier to lead your life. Or maybe it is part of an evil plot serving to control our behaviour by fragmenting our inner coherence and scatter our will. Or am I overcomplicating things and are fear and love indeed poles of our mental existence? Poles we can simply pick a direction from. Maybe I’m justifying my incapacity to do so myself. Am I guided by my fear of the lie? My love for the truth? Or maybe I’m just playing around.

A fearful loving fool would know.

Slit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Judge not, that you be not judged”

For the past ten years I have wondered: why do religious and spiritual groups unanimously condemn the act of judgement? What is so fundamentally bad about it that we all tell ourselves and each other to stop? And if it really is so bad, why do we keep doing it? What is judgment in the first place?

In a recent bright moment I understood that judgment is bad at the point where our thoughts create reality. For example: if I believe that homeless people are losers, I will subconsciously express this while talking to them. With my tone and behaviour, I will impose the thought of their inferiority upon them. At the same time, my surroundings will see how I behave towards homeless people and whether they want it or not, be influenced by it. This way, people collectively turn their back on the homeless, and such a person will find reason to believe in their nature as an outsider. The surroundings don’t see their role in it, because they stopped paying attention. Consequently, the very word homeless and all its connotations act as a mental net, limiting the possibilities of those it has caught.

Politicians and activists use judgement as a discursive tool for control. They justify this behaviour by calling it “framing”. Even if the act often affects minorities in the same way as man-to-man judgement does, it is seldom frowned upon, let alone condemned or punished. It is sometimes even used as a way to take away power of those who stand out, meaning it can restore the power balance somewhat. Yet even then, it probably does damage to people who don’t necessarily deserve it. Think for example of the ingenious declaration “bankers are wankers”. As if all bankers are men.

This question becomes more interesting at the point where you genuinely ask what is true about a certain judgement. Some bankers, for example, have played a vital role in the way their guild are currently perceived, and some homeless people may indeed have called their situation upon themselves. But others didn’t. Curious beings as we are, we don’t necessarily need to judge ourselves for trying to make sense of the cosmic blob of information that surrounds us, but we should remain aware of our weakness.

Somewhere on the way between our sensorial perceptions and our mental interpretations of them, our desire to be in touch with our surroundings turns into an attempt to dominate it. We place ourselves on the sideline  of the same existence we so deeply want to belong to. I think that what religions want to say is not that judging is something to avoid; that idea is confusing. What I think is meant is that we should spend time in making an effort to distinguish our illusions from reality. Otherwise they might invade it.

Pride

When I say pride, you say … ?

I’ve been wanting to write this one for a while, partially because homosexuality is hot, but also because I feel the need to contribute to the discussion and because I like to walk on thin ice.

When it concerns the gay, there is much to say and even more to say wrong. To avoid confusion, I’ll start with my own position (isn’t it strange that one can speak about a position towards gays?). I have several close gay relatives. I have kissed several guys for fun, and had to conclude girls are better kissers. I have been offered gay sex on several occasions, but I was disgusted by the idea, so I respectfully declined. I was present at the last gay pride parade in Amsterdam, and though I enjoyed the boats, I think the whole thing became pretty lousy after six. Biologically speaking, being gay makes little sense to me, but I have no problem with gay marriage, because it has economical and psychological benefits for some. At occasions, however, I can be quite annoyed by gay extravaganza. I don’t think many gays are like this, but they do spoil it a little for the rest.

That said, I have a problem with people who publically come up for homosexuals while heaving no idea what is going on. Gays are the new Jews sometimes. Russia for example, is not much different from the way the West was fifty years ago. It’s easy to judge the Russians because they have people in power with priorities we don’t understand. But how many gay defenders would not experience a moment of deception when their kid comes out of the closet? Imagine looking into your parents’ eyes and seeing that lack of understanding for something as beautiful as being in love. Those who fight hardest are probably the ones who have not accepted it. Be honest to yourself and ask: how would you react?

We cannot change Russian politics, just like they can not change the sexual preference of their people. Being pro-gay is similar to being anti-gay. In both cases, people are trying to change a sensitive feeling with pressure. Such acceptance needs time. One who has fully accepted gays does not fight in their favour either. Ultimately, the only healthy state is open. Neutral. No position. Every person has his peculiarities.

Gays don’t own the rainbow. We all do.

King

He’ll wear stoat fur in front of the world. Tradition before justice. The country loves him.

Walking though Roosendaal helps me realise that indeed, Amsterdam is a superior town. This place is dull and spineless. I cannot even find a supermarket after a 40 minute walk which includes crossing the centre. Yet when I see the portrait of the royal couple in the display window of a shop, I feel at home.

The country hates him. All he does is take up space. He and his beautiful family enjoy their mansion in Greece. Who pays for that? The crowd. We live in 2013! How can a man be granted dominion over a whole country purely because he left the right womb at the right time? Of course we know that he’s no more than a puppet like all of us, but we want our cage to be golden like his!

We love his wife. Man, can she dance! For a Dutch girl. And so smart! Much better than her dad. We’d rather forget her dad, but we understand if she doesn’t. That’s just who we are.

And his kids. Three girls. How cute.

Great interview he gave. Planned, but so what? A real man will rule. No beard, but he stands for our past. And our future. Present, he stands for us all.

So we’ll watch the crown besiege him. That’s how much he’ll take for us. Thus will be our lives. Happily tied to his. So what if some threaten that? That’s not what we’re drinking to. That’s not what we’re singing to. We believe in miracles.

As if you do better.