Tag Archives: Perspective

As a man, I am involved

The organic campaign #metoo has taken many shapes and spheres as it moved from Weinsteins cases of rape to denouncing and confessing to sexual harassment and intimidation in general. The movement has become so multifaceted that it has become hard to fathom and even harder to criticize. But there’s one thing it seems to agree on: society should no longer tolerate men’s behaviours. We men have to change. In the past week, I have felt threatened by the tone of some of the exclamations that have passed my screens. I’ve been confused about whether and how I should look at female people on the street. I’m concerned about the polarizing effect this discussion seems to have. And especially about the slippery slope of equalizing lust-inspired acts to rape.

First a step back
Okay let’s go back to the positive side of #metoo. Many women have resisted the urge to declare their experience of rape to the police. The ruling power structures, as well as their own beliefs and other individual reasons have withheld them from claiming their rights. Society has discouraged them to do so. This week, through a somewhat anonymous outlet, they can air some of the remnant frustration and, more importantly, display the omnipresence of the problem to those man enough to look into the gaping wound. It’s indeed important that people feel the confidence to act against such violence. And that people don’t perform it, or let it happen around them.

Let’s not forget the elephant in the room
Looking at our actions, we are collectively largely ignoring climate change and associated manmade ecological collapse. If society breaks into chaos because of these, women as well as men will experience a state of existence that offers less space for safety. And more for rape. These impacts cannot be stressed enough, and have to be mentioned also in this context. We are trying to move to a better world, so we all have to deal with climate change. And keep building society together.

Tension
At some point, men started answering #metoo with #Ihave and #Iwill. Confessions. Online promises. Sometimes quite mundane in my view, sometimes clear disclosures of criminal acts. Audacious, but not a proper substitute for turning yourself in. Then, people saying ‘men’ should not make this discussion about themselves. This was about women who were raped. Here’s where I went: “What? Why are we not allowed to be part of the conversation?”

A point followed, I guess, where we have to do our best and look through social media and their slaves from journalism to see what is really happening. But what is really happening? Is this a new wave of feminism? Where does it want to head to? Not being raped? Good, but how? Is this a new kind of anti-terrorist movement that wants to accuse a large group of innocent people for the acts of some very guilty ones?

The status quo
For me personally, there’s nothing I think I should admit. Sure, I’ve played the game. I’ve looked, I’ve touched, I’ve joked around. But I haven’t threatened, raped or harassed anyone in a way that clearly bothered them. I also check, sometimes, if everyone is still comfortable with the group dynamics. And yes, I have noticed ambiguity among women and wished they would be more expressive about it.

Yet let’s not forget that sexual or semi-sexual acts occur in the context of personal relationships. They should always be seen that way. I don’t think it serves a purpose to reframe acts of the past and deny this relationship. And if I may speak for other men as well: to us, the status quo here in the Netherlands is quite allright. Not the street harrasments, those are wrong, but the general atmosphere at work, on the street and at parties. If you look at history, we have reached quite a good spot. Not perfect, but quite good.

It creeps in on you
One of the best stories I read these days was in Dutch by Bregje Hofstede of De Correspondent. She explained how being grabbed under her skirt has made her live more reluctantly. It reminded me of the time I was blindfolded in the back of a taxi in Peru. Not that time itself. I think I managed to keep myself toghether quite well there. No. Afterwards. Looking behind my shoulder all the time. Not going through parks on my own by night. Heigtened vigilance. A reduction of the extent of your world, Bregje called it. I tell myself that it’s wisdom. Knowledge by experience. Knowing the danger. She sees it as men taking her freedom from her. She feels afraid, now, when men look at her intensely.

Even if I fully understand the feeling she descibes, and I acknowledge such events occur more often to her than to me, something inside me turns bitter when I hear these views. We are now in an era that is safer then ever. More luxurious than ever. There are disagreements on how to approach the other gender, but aren’t those what makes life interesting? What makes love interesting? The act of exploring each others boundaries.

Power struggles
Women are now teaching men that we cannot know what it’s like to be a women. True. And women cannot know what it’s like to be a man either. It is us who generally have to play the leading role when breaking the physical barrier. Not always, but most of the time. And, yes, we make mistakes with that, but if we don’t try, we don’t get laid. Or married. Not all people have the same level of perception when it comes to body language, nor are all people equally expressive when it comes to things they do or do not want. Not everyone is equally sensitive. So yes, mistakes occur, but that does not make the intent bad. I think framing or perceiving it that way is harmful.

But we men have an excellent grasp of what fear can be. All of us, men and women, are contributing, daily, to the accumulation of dark acts that is happening all over the place. Being forced to do things we do not necessarily agree with is a society-wide phenomenon. Whether it is out of insecurities, strategic career choices, or because we are being pushed pysically or emotionally, this concerns us all. Where #metoo becomes more vicious, is where it denies our common ground. And it shouldn’t. Men don’t need to take these wild accusations.

Can we move forward?
The way this hashtag unfolds does not help the conversation; I think we’re rather arriving in a deadlock. Not the idea of the hashtag, that’s good, but the way people are treating it. As if there needs to be retaliation. As if we should move towards a world where men and women avoid touching each other altogether. No. Let’s move towards a place where we see the sexual tension for what it really is. A role we play. Just like everything else. A role we need not get too caught up in. And yes, respect each other, like most women and most men have always done. Something that can be joyful. Let’s see this as a call, yes, to better education for everyone where that failed. But let’s also cherish the freedoms we have acquired. We are in this together. And we are not in a time and a place where we can use more division.

So let’s all keep talking.

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Battling Mediocrity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orgelet

So two days just passed in which I was once again lost on big and smaller roads in France, carried along by well willing locals with their innate stories and perspectives, while I tried to shake off the worries and concerns of my little life in the Netherlands, meeting them all the more in their contrast with the nature and freedom I viewed from a very close distance.

It’s remarkable how differently time passes by when one hops from spot to spot. Is it a mind-set thing? With only three hours on the road, how many sites have passed by today that would totally be worth further examination? Have fragments of myself perhaps remained behind, still hovering around to perceive the local beauty? Have pieces of my soul remained in conversation with the beautiful people I’ve met along the way? Is there a realm somewhere, where what has happened is still taking place? Is that why all those lifetimes have passed since I left Barcelona? In this state, stronger than in others, the feeling seems so real…

In the same way in which this lifestyle is exhausting, it is extremely energizing. Massive amounts of inspiration get sucked through my existence like water through narrowing river banks. It is impossible to guide it all into shapes, yet I experience things vividly, and am right here to digest it all at once. I feel the space and the strength to accomplish anything I want, but the need to do little more than flow. But more than last time I travelled, I am carrying a burden. It is here with me, in between all beautiful voices. To survive in a Metropolitan world, you need to push things at the cost of others.

Was it a mistake to surrender to the city life? Or was the mistake,  that I chose to grow up? That I did not arrest time before my twenty-fifth? That I did not manage to place myself outside of the big bad wild West? Did not find the loophole?

Below a river

The Ebro Delta. We just had a delicious comida in a restaurant on poles in the sea. My aunt is driving her car, exited because with its far-stretching flatness, this landscape looks like her country of origin. With its palm trees, great egrets and temperatures of 30ºC and above, it looks a lot like Spain to me. Exactly as I want it to.

I consider taking a picture, but I don´t.  The inclination triggers a thought. Every person is a unique being with a unique path and unique experiences. I am now sitting here in the back of a car, perceiving a landscape in which people have grown up, raised their children and found their way back into the earth. By taking a picture, would I have overlooked them? Capturing this landscape would be a visual reference to my own passing through it, far less meaningful than theirs. Do I even have the right to claim this land and take it home?

And those who would see my picture stand even further from the place than I do. To them, It would likely just be another image that drifts by, along with an ever-increasing amount of others. It would instantly erase itself from their tiny memories and remain hidden in a dark corner of an enormous database of forgotten stuff. With what purpose?

Some people believe that humans are on earth to experience. Some say that these experiences are stored somewhere in a collective field of knowledge. The idea would explain our tendency to so carefully document the things we see and hear and think. You hear objections to that behaviour nowadays, but I don´t think it´s fundamentally bad.

And yet there is something tragic about it. However well we try to put the moments we experience in forms and works, there always are essential aspects that slip away. We can photograph, paint and write what we want, but the intangible besieges our existence, approaching us continuously from angles we instantly forget. On the plus side, perhaps this feeling helps us live with the fact that similarly to the pictures, words and ways we once so passionately held on to, one day we too will disappear.

A Chakra perspective on Evolution

I wrote this text originally for the Ajna forum on January 5th 2010. I have adjusted it a little.

The beginning? There never was. A misconception of the human intellect. Since she is our home, since she gives us ground to live, let’s start with earth’s awakening.

Rocks, fire, water and air; she brought their spirits into one. Little ones started spiralling, exchanging and flowing along. In the water first, but they quickly reached dry ground.

Plants, rooted in their standing place, breathing light and air, eating rocks and drinking water, developed the spirit of the ground. They vaporize earth mass. By growing and dancing in the wind, they have become our base. Their roots to earth are ours. They are our OM, our chakra of the ground.

Walking out of the waters came a new kind of being. Nerved. Choose well or die, that was its quest. Select by moving around. But use the earth, eat the plants, be attached to her. And reproduce: enjoy! Senses arose to help this choice. So developed the sacral chakra.

When ground was filled, a limit reached, a limit to the growth. The ego had to come in play, the will to overcome. Trees fought for light, beasts for terrain. Among, between, there was war to teach us where to stop. Struggling for survival, power raised, the Plexus Solaris got its form.

Among wars and fights, Gaias bigger ones found the power of communal love. In groups, we could reach greater heights. The work was in the heart. The knowledge of all cells: “Together we are one” now grew among the bigger ones. Cultures formed, dividing what to eat. Groups that loved, avoiding fall-apart. Herds arose, bees unite and lions lied in prides.

Now that battle was not the only option anymore, and animals and trees stayed close, new ways had to be found. A realm of signals was discovered in our throats. Noises, charged with meaning travelled up and down the lands. Civilizations attained new levels, by telling and by listening. Behold the birds, the apes and ants. We slowly formed new minds. And then came the morale.

Humans rose, with in their heads: mind´s eye. They killed, destroyed, controlled it all except them very selves. With time they learned about the fish and trees. They learned about the heart and soul, they did it for us all. They saw the past, and that which is to come. They saw it two, they saw it one, they saw that all at once.

And now, when new ones are conceived, they have to live it all again. From little fused cell they grow to creature with a brain. They leave the womb into the void and start: motionless base. They eat, they sense, deny and love, learn speech and thought: get lost.

When one learns, all learn, even if so slow. Together with the cats and birds, together with the plants. Together with the rocks and flames, with water and the air. Together we are Gaia’s growth. And then, maybe one day a creature comes that grows a crown, and opens heavens’ earth new ground.