Tag Archives: knowledge

Christopher

When the men hammered the head of the fish, the boy screamed, crying. In the short time it had lived in his bathtub, he had grown fond of the big swimming creature. He’d named it Christopher. It’s understandable that the boy loathed the act of his uncles. But our Christmas meal was at stake and the young emotional bond had been destined to be ignored.

It’s a Buddhist belief that if you give someone or something a name, you make a claim to that which you name. It means that young parents who, out of duty, name their newborn Pete, immediately make it their possession. But it also means that if you give your partner a nickname, this person or the aspect you named, becomes your property.

Adversely, when you give someone your name, you give that person ownership over you. And every time this person calls it, he or she summons your attention. Have you felt that? It’s an excellent sales technique and a good way to get yourself liked to call another by his name. The other way around: creating a name for yourself or your organisation, makes you graspable to the audience and by that less threatening.

It would be an act of liberty, in this perspective, to invent a new name for yourself and keep it secret. That would give you a claim to yourself that no one else has. A different approach would be to behave in a way that is not expected from your personal or family name. But the freest is he or she who detaches from all names that are given to him or her. The one who doesn’t have a name.

I would take this idea a step further and say that any judgement people make of each other is an attempt to seize something. Calling another by his or her profession, for example, or by a political preference, or cultural background has this same effect of occupation, even if you don’t attach a value to it. Even thinking it has that effect. We allow each other a certain degree of possession over ourselves by sharing who we are, but set limits as well. And by conceptualizing, we are determining our place in a hierarchy.

You could say that the idea of ‘not being understood by anyone’, something we all have to a certain degree, is a result of being judged in an inacurate way. It could be solved by giving your loved ones the names you secretly hold for youself. Yet while we give these names away and create a space for trust through which we can bond, we also hand over part of our autonomy.

As we could see in the case of the death of Christopher the fish and the reaction of his young friend, these things can have enormous emotional implications. ‘You never call me honey anymore’ means that you’re no longer taking your claim of this aspect of her that you once shared. Changing your official name is a deliberate act of breaking out from the property of your parents. The name switch of women after marriage is comparable.

A friend once called me ‘joyful sailor of dreams’. This blog is a tribute to something she observed in me. Reappropriated, as you can see, but I’m still thankful. By that simple act, she called something into life. This is what the boy did with Christopher. It’s no more than a memory now, but who knows what that will grow into?

It’s probably because I agree with this Buddhist theory that I have become a writer.

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.

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…

Breathshake

In the series of new names for unspoken emotions, I´d like to discuss breathshake. Breathshake is what it sounds like, a deep shaking of the breath that interferes with the actual breathing. It comes together with a pulsating fear of the loss of life, possibly that fundamental one. In fact, I´d challenge you with the thought that breathshake is a pulsating appearance of life out of a state where it is not. Appearance of emotion too. It´s probably the most terrifying fast emotion I know.

The obvious pathway to the experience of breathshake is running out of air. You can do this by not stopping with breathing out, going very deep into the water or doing sports while breathing far below your natural rhythm. The first option is probably safest. In these cases, my diaphragm starts contracting and I have the sensation of being cut off. The thought “this situation is eternal” forces itself upon me. You could call it fear of death, but I think it is a fear of never getting access to life anymore. While silence is present, a feverish tingly cloud dwells up in my upper body. I feel sweat emerge from several spots. I sense that the feeling could subdue me from the back of my neck and shut off my awareness. It never has.

Lighter forms of breathshake can occur without that I run out of air. An interesting thing that can trigger this for me is the tought of not receiving attention from a person I love. It can also happen in conversations where I feel incapable of standing up for myself the way I think I deserve. It is as if the conversation partner suppresses my self-perceived value and does not recognize my true character, or whatever it is inside me that needs to be appreciated at that moment. The parallel with being cut off from oxygen is interesting, as if human attention also is a substance we need.

The pulsating character of breathshake delivers a remarkable alteration of states of mind which reveals parts of myself to me. Fuelled with panic, short, shallow gulps of breath try to resolve the feeling of sinking away into a swamp. That experience alternates a state of tranquility and acceptance, as if the end is already there. This tranquility eventually takes over and allows my breath to deepen again. All of it happens quite quickly.

Breathshake relativizes my concerns. It can release some tensions, but it also makes me aware of my incapacity to be fully in control of myself. I am aware again that somewhere deep inside me lingers a deep desire for taking part that can become stronger than myself. The thought is humbling, but slightly discomforting too.

Gutwrench

When I make up words for emotions, I look them up to see if they exist already. This one did. Not only is it slang for – apologies for the upcoming graphic in your head – large penis, it also has the meaning of emotional scattering, anxiety and despair, sometimes caused by uncomfortable images. Do take a moment to enjoy this inconvenient homonym for our brothers with whale-sized willies, then let’s move on to the emotion I’d like to discuss, shall we?

I considered deathsqueeze and lossgrip, but gutwrench works better for me, because I don’t think the the word should encompass it’s cause. It’s as if somewhere central below my navel, around the exglow area, an invisible hand grabs my intestines and suddenly wrenches them like a wet towel. It comes together with pulsating pulls at my adam’s apple and uncontrolled crying. Surrounding belly muscles contract as well. It draws my full attention to that inner spot, much like a 220 volt electric shock, if you ever had that.

Some clear triggers for this sensation are the death or the long-term departure of a person close to me, and the breakup of a relationship. In fact, looking closer, the trigger is usually a very specific, self-centered memory, such as that persons expression of appreciation for me, or the image of me staying behind on my own. I believe gutwrench has a lot to do with a turn of attention from something shared to something individual. I oversee the beauty of what is lost, wishing to be able to express that to the person, but I can’t, because he or she is gone. The hole that person left behind is painful and at the same time there’s new freedom. That realisation feels good for me, but it is a type of betrayal too. Everything is intensely happy, yet intensely sad.

Because this experience squeezes my being so tightly, the relaxation afterwards is very deep. As if some weight has truly disappeared, I see the world under a different light: more laid back than usual. I’m open for new things, ready and obliged to dive into new experiences, into new beings. Even though I went through gutwrench, I’m still here, and that knowledge has primordial power.

The word gutwrench existed as something negative. I understand it as a manifestation of a bond. How about you?

 

Happiness engineers

If you work at Google nowadays you eat the healthiest food, work out and take naps whenever necessary. Your bosses will avoid conflict situations for you, encourage you to meditate and do whatever else is in their capacity to keep you as an individual happy. Why? When you are happy, your products are better.

In some advanced farms, cows are being trained to choose the timing of their milking by themselves. The machines they use for this system measure milking frequency and milk quality for every cow individually, and continuously adapt the cow’s diet to make her milk as nutritious as possible. The philosophy: every cow has innate needs satisfying those results in happiness and great milk. Such farms save human labour hours because no one has to force the poor animals into milking machines.

Have you ever heard of Plant Lab? This organization advocates that plants don’t enjoy growing in nature at all. The constant combat for light and nutrients and the irregularity of the weather make them stressed and weak. After long-lasting experiments, they have concluded that plants prefer stable, controlled conditions with purple light, the perfect amount of nutrients and a warm gentle breeze . In their arrangement, plants grow faster, are more nutritious and are more resistant to bugs. In fact, their defence systems become so effective, that if you take a seedling out of Plant Lab into the field, you don’t need to add pesticides for a whole month.

These are just three examples of how the performance of living beings is being optimized with support of knowledge and technology.  By paying more attention to the individual wants and needs, providing not more than the necessary, the boss spends less and gains more. The workers are happy. That’s a win-win, right?

Something in that construct itches me, but it’s not easy to place. Perhaps it is the fact that it emerges out of the industrial paradigm, out of the reductionist idea of beings as objects with on/off switches. By taking the experience of this being into account, by listening to it, one respects it in a different way. The reductionist paradigm meets the holistic paradigm, lifting society to an unprecedented state of enlightenment.

I haven’t convinced myself yet. Is it the idea of domineering? By giving someone precisely what he wants, one can control him entirely and use his energy at will. It increases the power of industry owners and mankind in general to a new level that can become scary if the power is in the wrong hands. Then again, if need satisfaction becomes the status quo, the owners are replaceable.

What itches me most, I think, is the fact that over my lifetime, I have learned to appreciate adventure and uncertainty. I have learned that longing for something for a while can deepen satisfaction in life. Perhaps I am afraid that if this trend continues and the emotional turbulence stabilizes, we will forget the beauty of suffering. Yet we luxuriant people have already long forgotten that.

I might just be old fashioned.

A night with Sabina Nore

December 30th, 2013

Sabina is a soul with broad interest for many arts. She currently presents herself through the visual, having her work described with terms such as Fantasy and Surrealistic. With her rational and creative mind, she challenges the audience to break out of what she calls ‘loops’, repetitive ways to respond to situations. I am staying at her house in Vienna. Being around her is losing the sense of time. Day and night flow into each other and lose their grip on me. She has inspired me in writing. It’s almost midnight when we move to her atelier, and I start taking notes. While we talk, her son Christopher unleashes a cascade of photographic clicks, taken from any angle you could imagine. His constant movement and effort for the proper picture are impossible to ignore but they quickly become an appreciable part of the setting, Sabina’s life.

I’d like to let her paintings guide our conversation. She gladly explains them in more depth. We start with the Divine Fury, because that one hangs in the permanent collection of the Viennese Museum Für Phantastische Künste. It is also one of my favourites. It represents a goddess of vengeance. The painting is the first in a set of three, which together show a chronological story. They express female resistance against those who disturb the natural order. Though fury itself may appear negative, it is in fact an important thing. Goddesses of vengeance have been painted regularly since the Medieval Age, but they were historically depicted as ugly, because male painters perceived female goddesses that way. But the anger they possess exists with just reason. If you suppress the divine, there will be a reaction.

The Divine Fury shows a personification of the ancient wisdom that existed long before the emergence of religion. Her hair is tied to the tree of knowledge, this woman is knowledge herself. Weak men demonize women of knowledge. They represented women either pure as a muse, or as the devil herself. The bloodsuckers on the body of the woman on Divine Fury represent those who attempt to capture her energy. The burning cross on the background represents the burning of the witches. Wise female’s voices were violently silenced, sometimes even with mortal methods.

“So, she has all the reason to be mad…” I say
“Wouldn’t you be?” Sabina looks at me with a slight flame in her eye.
“Write that down!” – commands Christopher.

In Fury Rising, the second painting, the goddess breaks out to restore the natural order. It combats strong players who prey on fragile young beings. It removes the sources of mass delusion we are currently dealing with in society. The trash that is being sent upwards in the background represents the cleaning of the place when fury comes in action. There’s a medusa head statue on the background which is crying. From her tears grow roses. It is a renewal.

Sabina says that she was far less passionate to paint the third painting, but it had to be done to complete the story. It shows the fury as a content, blissful being. The pools have a male and a female figure in them. They are in balance. When everything is in order, there is no reason for fury. The painting is an important part of the story, because it shows what the fury strives to.

When I ask Sabina if these paintings also represent aspects of herself she answers that they have nothing to do with an internal conflict. She explains that she chose to build her own career so that she doesn’t have to deal with the crap society has gathered throughout the years. From a distance it is easier to see what others are facing in their daily lives. These paintings are about women setting the angry part of themselves free. Women’s drive for justice is not as hideous as has been framed for ages. That’s easier to see if you are not part of it. She tries to represent that in such a way that people understand it.

When I ask her if she ever felt angry while painting she answers she was all the time. She was the fury. Sabina becomes that which she paints. The emotional charge was highest during the first painting. Most of the emotions happened inside, invisible to others, but sometimes a spark of anger would come out. It was exhausting for her. After finishing the first painting, she realised that she had to paint a few more. She apologized to her family in advance. During Fury Rises, she repeatedly listened to the same song; hating the haters by Niereich, not something she would usually listen to. When she finally got to the third painting, there was no fury left.

We move on to the Privileged Lovers. The title was based on a poem with the same title by the mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi. It is about love without ego or games. It’s about giving yourself to each other without fear. An alternate title is The Quintessence, the place where the gods reside. I ask her if such love can last, she answers yes. She explains that a funny chain of events led to her painting this. She had started writing an essay about love with the mission to demythologize it and unveil the illusions poured over people’s hearts and eyes. She was ready to give up on the quest for the perfect other even if she had thus far always very strongly believed in it. While she started the essay in the belief that she had read too many fairy tales in her youth, she explains that fate set things up to change her mind. She didn’t want to finish the story. She first painted the Immortal Quest, which is essentially about the never-ending search for egoless love. After that, she painted the Privileged Lovers.

In this case she didn’t experience the love while painting, but something similar, seeing the potential. When asked, she says this kind of feeling cannot exist when you’re on your own. You can experience many other beautiful experiences while alone, but this one needs the meeting of Yin and Yang. She does not believe that just any two humans can reach it. Each one would have to be quite evolved. If either of the two has too much ego, that gets in the way, and then it is not possible to give yourself completely.

I ask her if she has tips on how to encounter such love. She answers that more important than finding the right match is to be the individual that can establish this kind of connection. If you find the one, but you are not ready, you might wrongly conclude that he or she is not who you are looking for. To become that individual who can recognize such a connection is a quest on itself. It is very blissful.

We move on to the final painting, Sub specie Aeternitatis. The title was a word invented by Spinoza, meaning “from the point of view of eternity”. The unique feature of this painting is that there are two versions: one with the foreground scene, and one without. The one without is called Aeternitas, eternity.

The background represents the hall of lives. It is the perspective where you overlook them all. Sabina believes in reincarnation. She has always lived her life from the point of view of eternity. Eternity is now for her. From the point of view of eternity, every moment matters. Living in the now means not to dwell too much in the past, nor to focus on the future all the time. If you’re always in the moment and make all choices from this point of view, every moment brings something important. You either give everything you have, or you learn something new. Sabina enjoyed painting this, because it meant being in the space of eternity, believing she could stay in that hall forever. Paint that from now on.

The woman on the foreground is a traveller. She is living her life from the perspective of eternity. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe vitam. That’s Sabina’s motto. Seize every moment of our entire life. Seize life itself. By leaving the woman out in Aeternitas, Sabina stressed that this is not just a personal thing, but a choice anybody can make.

There are plenty of details left to discover in Sabina’s paintings, but I stop writing down her words. We spend another few hours talking. Christopher goes to sleep. We watch a film, then talk some more.

Hoax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thesis Spiritual Experiences in Nature

For those who are interested, I wrote a thesis in 2011 on spiritual experiences in natural areas in the Netherlands. I got an 8,5 for it. I have have written an abbreviated version for publication, but it was rejected for one or two good reasons and a whole list of quite silly ones. My intention remains to publish it when I have more time. Whenever that may be.

Here it is:

Havik2011ThesisSpiritNature