Tag Archives: Relationship

Psychoindustry

On february 13th, a group of students decided to occupy the Bungehuis. That building was just sold by the University of Amsterdam, who no longer wished to use it for education of arts and languages. Students did not agree with a debate night, they wanted commitments by the board. At the time the building was still being used by the UvA, and many people, including the press thought the occupation went too far. But the Faculty of Humanities supported them.

After several attempts to talk to the occupants, the municipality of Amsterdam ordered the riot police to evict the occupants at dawn of the 24th. They were taken to jail, where they were held for some days.

That afternoon, a different group of students hit the streets for a protest march against the eviction. 300 of them went towards the Maagdenhuis, the board office, and occupied that instead. They were visited by the Mayor, but did not leave. They presented their demands the nex morning: resignation of the board and democratization of the decision-making.

In the years after the crisis, there have been enormous government cuts on university subsidies. Students are no longer funded, research budgets have reduced and teachers no longer have time to attend the enormous amounts of students, a problem that has worsened throughout the years. Instead of being places for dialogue and reciprocal teaching, Universities are turning into psychoindustries where minds are bred and force-fed information without being able to digest it in a social or ethical context. This is what the students protest, and they are finding support.

The students are still there. Over 400 teachers and employees have already signed their loss of confidence in the board. There have been protests on similar topics all over the country. More are scheduled. Nationwide newspapers acknowledge the issue. Just now, as I write this the UvA has offered a plan to increase democratization, and pressurize the government.

It is no isolated movement, but it’s part of a global trend. It’s not just the universities that are being industrialized, it’s all of us, and all nature that surrounds us. We are letting it happen, and it’s going too far. It is for that reason that this simple impulse has triggered something so much bigger. The movement has not stopped, and will not until we liberate our psyches. Let this be a motivation for all of us.

The mental chains are cracking and with our effort they will break.

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Marrying words

It just dawned on me that words, in fact, are an experience. Rewind? Okay.

I am adjusting a scientific article on spiritual experiences in nature. One of the central problems is the definition of the word ‘spiritual’. It has so many meanings! It all depends on who describes it. Some authors have the courage to define it as something ‘non dual’. They say that within a spiritual experience, there is no connection between a person and God, because there is no distinction between them.

One can dismiss those words as elitary blah blah, but whoever does that ignores the fact that every word manifests itself as an experience to the one who uses it. He denies the experience of another. It is the same with words such as God or Allah. The user experiences them and they are therefore meaningful.

This is an essential insight for a frequent writer such as myself. It might be one of my core drives. Writing, for me is about letting go, about enjoying the ride. It’s about discovering my relationship to the words, separately and combined. And I invite you as a reader to do the same.

So how did I get entangled in this quest to pin down ‘spirituality’ as a truth seeker? It seems paradoxical to look for objectivity in a place where the topic cannot exist without the lived, personal world. But it’s a beautiful paradox, because the role of the truth seeker brings me to a new experience of the word ‘spiritual’. As a scientist, you have to believe that words have a certain objective meaning in order to create a valid story. Even if only temporary, you have to believe in order to be believed. In that sense, science is not more than a theatrical act, an impersonation of ‘the objective’. And by impersonating the objective, we get into a closer relationship with the word ‘objective’. A word that cannot exist outside of our experience of it.

The relation we ultimately have to our words defines our communication. The more we cling to the word, the more intimately we experience it and the harder we are willing to fight for it. It makes sense, because the way in which we experience our words makes us who we are.

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?

 

Outsling

As I mentioned earlier, I’m ascribing names to emotions and sensations I know no name for, in order to be able to talk about them in a more tangible, physical or maybe visual way. Today, I’d like to discuss outsling. It’s a happy day for me, because it means that from now on I can say: “apologies, I have outsling” to justify my behaviour.

I chose this word because of the outward, slingshot-like movement in it. When I have it, it feels as if some force from inside me pushes the mental, witty part ahead. Sometimes it’s as if my face is pressed against that of the person I’m talking with. I get in between myself and the environment without being in relationship with it. It is out of control in the sense that the aware me agrees with this propulsion, even if it is recognizes the risks.

When I have outsling, I will not respect the laws of politeness, nor will I attempt to spare someone’s feelings, even if I’m vaguely aware of them. I don’t mean to disrespect them per se. My actions precede my morale, meaning I feel careless about that aspect of myself. Perhaps my care concerns the wrong things. But even if I’m divided I’m alert, as if a part of me is more blended with the events around me. In outsling, I’d be the first to make a comical or sarcastic remark about superficial things. I think of myself as funny and some people may indeed laugh. I could buy crappy food or drink too much alcohol. Instead of making love, I hammer. If I’d find the button that annihilates the universe during outsling, I could push it to express my disagreement with its designer.

Outsling can be brief, but it could also last for a few hours. Short events are usually triggered by strange names, ideas I find silly or unusual aspects of someones outfit. They feel like a subtle revenge that was called for: excellent filters against people who cling too much to their act.

Longer lasting outslings are mostly caused by exhaustion, high doses of caffeine or simply because it’s that time of the month. They are harder to call back and usually end up in a lack of force. I feel empty and meaningless afterwards, as if most of myself has indeed been shot in all directions and I have to go around to recollect all pieces. The alertness is then completely gone. Such longer lasting ones work against myself in a deeper way. As if I run so far ahead, that I can no longer protect the more delicate me.

Outsling can be lots of fun, but it can also be destructive for myself and people close to me. As I grow older, I learn to control it better. If I can persuade myself to make an effort to halt it, I go clean up the house, walk in a park or do some sports. As if one being has to catch up with the other to be able to calm it down.

Exglow

I’m of the opinion that there are far too few words for the different kinds of feelings, sensations and emotions we go through. Why, for example, is there only one word for emotion, while it contains an entire world with subtle and vigorous differences? It’s weird, because emotions occupy a notable aspect of our existence.  By not naming them, we keep them covered under a surface where they stay until they are dug out by whoever finds the access.

The one I am going to discuss now is probably my favourite. I’ll call it exglow, but if you have a better word, feel free to use that one instead. I think, I hope that everyone experiences it once in a while. It’s a sudden, usually brief, very localized , but also very present sensation right below my belly button. It’s not a pressure, rather a release. It is about the size of a walnut, but with less defined contours.  Sometimes when it happens, it contracts my attention into some kind of light. I can see it, but not in a day-to-day-visual way. It seems, rather, that because the sensation is so strong, it temporarily blurs my sight, while my mind directs at the point it comes from. Very often, it feels like the start of something new. As if a seed  germinates. I don’t always notice a change afterwards, though.

At times, but not always, the feeling radiates through to my eyes, which then release a single tear, sometimes more. Other times, it causes a pressure somewhere above my belly button, could be anywhere. I seem to suppress it then, but I don’t know how. Or it doesn’t give a pressure, but it flows upwards along my chest and nipples towards my shoulders. Those are all effects of the feeling, though, not the feeling itself.

Several things trigger exglow in me. They all have to do with a shift. Films can do it, and more specifically, instances of breakthrough. It could be the infamous declaration of romantic love, but it can also happen during revolutionary breakthroughs, such as in the courtroom during Erin Brokovich or sometimes when I see the ‘I have a dream’ speech. More individual revelations do it too, for example in Blue Jasmine, and, very memorable, Doubt. If you’ve seen them, you’ll know which instants I mean. Revelations. One more side note: I if I watch the films again, I don’t necessarily feel exglow again. The surprise element plays an important role.

For me, exglow also occurs during empathic moments with friends, for some reason mostly with women. Sometimes the trigger is  a change in emotional charge between us, or sometimes either of us went through some personal transition. It can also happen when I’m looking into someone’s eyes, and I feel that person is looking back. I usually can’t invoke it though.

Once, during a dream, I felt it for the longest period I can remember. I was in a courtyard of a ruin and I saw a shiny object hover from the right side to the left. Much like a small star with a glow that was terracotta and green. The whole dream had those colours. I ran towards it, jumped into it and kind of merged with it. As we flew at bit further together, I felt exglow very vividly. It is one of the most beautiful dreams I had.

What I think is very remarkable, is that apparently for this emotion -if that’s what it is- it does not matter if the trigger is real. After all, it happens during films and dreams as lively as during real life events, or even if I just imagine those events, for example when I write. Still, it is a very physical sensation, and it can even motivate me to do certain things or ascribe a certain value to a relationship. Isn’t that interesting?

And it has a scary part too. If I am so easily moved by exglow, all you’d need to do to steer my life in a direction, is to give the suggestion that triggers it in me. Is that why we naturally keep people at a distance? I don’t know, but as I said, I think more openness about this topic wouldn’t hurt.

Spirals

I have to slow down to blow my nose. The napkin bill is going through the roof. It’s the time of the year. I’m on a two-hour drive to the sea-shore because I had to get out. The house is too small sometimes, the city too loud. My mind clogs together with the decor of my days.

The roads are narrow and curvy. Red and grey rocks lay spread over the landscape. Some edgy pinnacles rise out of the surface, giving testimony of more violent times. All that grows here are lichens and dry shrubs, stuck close to the ground to seek protection from whatever dangers threaten them. Plains are alternated by enormous rock formations as far as the eye can see.

As I drive, my mind wanders off, back home, where my habits and shield me from the fact that nothing is for certain. I am suddenly aware of the dusty corners of the house and visualise cleaning them. It presses on me now, but there is nothing I can do. The relationship with Isabella has taken over five years. The past week hasn’t been good. Strange fights over the least important things. Where the Indian cuisine originates from for example. Or whether we should or shouldn’t exchange the forks with the spoons. I saw a side of her I did not know so far. Childish, irrational, as if some force has come out that had been locked in there for years. It’s a new burden.

A tree, lonely in the barren landscape. It grows sideways, as if pushed down by an invisible hand, punished for its continuous urge to take more space from the vast and endless nothingness, which it mocks by its presence alone. Its print on my mind’s eye keeps ridiculing this whole site in the same way as the appearance of Isabella’s new face mocks her infinite beauty. How did this tree get here? Were did the seed come from? Was it blown from the outside? Has it always lingered, awaiting the moment where the rocks were softened enough by the rain? Perhaps there was a forest here before.

Shots of thought rush through the space in my head. The fights were disproportionate. They opened up paths to some long forgotten sides of who we are, pulling the rug from underneath our feet. We fell. The extent of it is still as unclear as are the consequences. The red stones around are merely observers of these whirling motions in my mind. They don’t know what’s going on, let alone do they take part in it. They’re old. Lay there, serving lichens and shrubs that eat them away in steady, painful perseverance. I wish they grew upon my mind, undoing it from all the random crap I don’t need. Perhaps they do. Maybe I should just water them.

Meandering, the road carries me further and further away from the inhabited world, nearer and nearer to the place where the land meets the sea. I turn on the radio, but all I hear is a distant and distorted version of the Ride of the Valkyries. I turn it off again. A pull on the wheel makes me hold it stronger. The fight goes on for a while, until after a few more bends, a fire tower stands out on the horizon. It has diagonal red-white stripes painted over it. It says: “here I am! Do watch me!” At its foot stands a little stone house with broken windows. Its brown wooden door is rattling. Some of the roof tiles have disappeared, revealing light wooden grid-like structure that once held them up. I park on an uneven rocky spot along the ending of the road. I grab my coat and my hat, and open the door which instantly gets pulled away, and I’m standing outside in the storm. It takes an effort to close the door. My coat flies out of my hands and gets stuck behind a rock, 33 meters ahead. I run to get it. Pulling the sleeves over my arms turns out to be no less of a hassle, but I finally succeed. I grab the keys out of a bush and walk back to lock the doors. I wonder why, but do it anyway. I don’t let go of my hat.

It’s hard to tell if it is stormiest inside or out of the run-down house. There is a broken furnace here and a gas bottle with a hole in it. A ray lights a closet. A bush grows through its bottom plank. Its branches eagerly try to reach out for some more sun in the room. Its roots hold on to the splinters of the broken pots lying around. The memory. Sudden flapping wings make me jump, and I see an owl fly off through the hole in the roof. “Odd. Its daytime” I hear myself think and a cloud casts a shadow over us.

I too go outside. The hair blowing in my face stings me a little. I try to get to the tower, but blasts of air hold me back with irregular force. Breathing is hard when the storm squalls into my throat, or when it suddenly pulls the pressure away from me. When, after battling the elements, I finally reach the towers door, I feel victorious and exhausted. Stairs spiral up, and I follow them to the lantern room.

“You always make me feel like shit” pierces her voice through my head. I see spit shoot out of her mouth. Disgusting. That issue wasn’t even worth mentioning either. Some conversation about the medicinal use of Melissa. What followed was increasing tension with accusation after accusation, reaching a scale that I couldn’t oversee. I tried to search for truth inside her words, but was blinded by the anger they conjured. Despair about her, about us maybe, and myself. The thought has taken hold of me. I cannot release the dark look on her face, as if she deliberately wanted to break the trust we’d built in all these years.

Near the top, a new gust surprises me, taking me back into the struggle of this place. The sea stretches further than I can see, though I have to close my eyes against the stingy air. I scream from the top of my lungs, but a new blast pushes my voice back into my throat. “You cannot get me!” I scream once more. For a second, I look the elemental force straight into the eye. Then, the fence I lean on gives way, and I am on the fastest track back to the rocks. My fall leaves me no time to think of any plan, and I would crush if it were not for the twister that captures me right out of the air, pulling me back up in direction of the sea. While my limbs whirl and twist, I am not sure if this unexpected salvation is fortunate or not. I try to pull myself together and move along smoothly, but the storm keeps shaking the confusion into me.

I can reorient when I reach the top of the twister. I am now well above the tower, very hard to tell how far. The grey red endless landscape looks less meaningful on the majestic blue background of the sky. I have no time to ponder that because I’m interrupted by a changing pressure, launching me further away from the land. In a glimpse I see that my car is lying on its side. That worries me. My face gets wet and cold in the moist I’m pulled through. I don’t understand why I don’t fall. It seems as if I’m going up instead.  Whatever I try, there’s no chance that I can steer. I’m subjected to the will of the storms. So I fly.

The doors of my house are open. Windows too. The furniture moves through the living room. Papers fly all around and so does the laundry. Plants in pots are either ripped or they have scattered on the floor. The cat has disappeared. The scene disrupts me. That mess was mine to clean. Then again, who am I to speak, I’m up in the air. A snap. I spread my arms. It dawns on me that I have never been this high in the air on my own. It may be cold and unnerving, but the view is beautiful. I feel a wave of respect for the thunderclouds that roll in my direction. Isabella’s insecurity feels easy now. Cute, even. There are no other pressures than the movements of the tides. I am weightless as a feather, dancing through the wind. A shoe spins through the air. It used to be mine. Just like that coat over there, with the napkins. Is that my hair circling around my head? One moment, the sun is up, the next, there’s sea above me. And then she’s down again. I can’t keep track. Different parts of me each take their own direction, whirling along with the motions that carry it. Words, feelings, body parts, sensations and thoughts fly by. None of them attached to one another. It tingles.

The lack of radio signal on the Actarius II caused some trouble on the open sea. It took a few hours before someone was bright enough to inspect the antenna on deck. A complete outfit covered it, the owner of which was never found. The clothes were taken to a farm, where they still serve as a scarecrow.

Freedom

Today is Dutch liberation day. It is exactly 68 years ago that the Americans hunted the Germans of these lands. An occasion to contemplate what freedom means, if not “being able to live in peace”. It is an interesting concept about which I still think quite often. Is that typical for men?

Some say the West is free. Is that the same as saying that the people living in the West are free? If we are indeed free, then what does that mean? That we have money? That we are able to choose whatever we do with our lives? To be the navigator of our own ships? Reach our Dreams?

Okay, so one way to explain freedom, is by the extent to which we can reach our dreams. But we can go deeper. Who chooses our dreams? Say a person’s dream is to earn money. Then having a lousy job would make that person free, right? The boss would be the liberator. But often, when a person has money, he or she would like to have more. The same is true for meaning. There is a point when our dreams become our prison. At that point, freedom means letting the dream go. It means to be satisfied.

So is a satisfied citizen a free citizen? I wouldn’t always say so. I have met many people who slowly but gradually grew trapped in their satisfied lives. People on a comfortable position, whose light seemed to be dimming. They wouldn’t always admit it, but sometimes you can tell. Then again, how do you break out of satisfaction? By losing everything, perhaps?

I’ve personally always felt freest while hitchhiking. But I know that if I’d do that all the time, it would not feel the same. So I need balance. My girlfriend recently asked me what freedom means. To my own surprise, I answered quite quickly. “To not be guided by fears”. I think I’ll stick with that definition for now. Until it becomes my mask.