Tag Archives: Silence

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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Calming Volcanoes

Rainbow Thunderheart or Bavado LeBeau is a Native American shaman from Wyoming, concerned with the healing of mother earth. He is part of the bird tribes and sound healers. His ancestors have asked him to teach the people of the world about the laws of nature. He has travelled to 28 American tribes to get to know them. His teachers educated him on how to maintain a good relationship with nature and its spiritual entities. He now acts as spiritual guardian of the Yellowstone Park and has travelled to the Netherlands to give teachings on his work. I have asked him for an interview and he agreed.
(Picture: Aljaz Gabersek)

College
Lian organises the session; it comes with several landscape healing rituals and a sweat lodge ceremony. She invited me to join diner. It’s hectic when I meet Bennie, right before we eat. He’s in blue with nice ornaments. Gentle, to the point. Diner is vegan, made of rice and local flowers. Before we eat, we hold our hands above the food to get rid of the bad energy. I feel like making lots of inappropriate comments, but manage to keep most of them in, where they light up a little flame that makes me smile. The companions smile back. An airy young blond man on my right explains that he is from a far away galaxy, and that he always purifies his food this way. He gives me some tips on how I can do the same. I try. It seems to be a big deal for him.

The college room is full. When no more people enter, the group gradually becomes silent in expectancy, until we cannot even hear whispering. “I’m not going to talk yet” says Lian. The humming starts again.

Bavado gets the stage. He stands legs wide and his voice is peaceful but loud. After introducing himself, he sings a song that he calls a message of his culture. He blows on a whistle. The high-pitched sound, he explains, scatters the negative energies in our minds. It’s beautiful. In a long presentation, he sketches a paradigm that is for a part new to me. Some words I find hard to digest, with others I feel as though I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll give you a short personal summary.

Central in Bavado’s vision is grandmother spider’s web. This is a pattern similar to that of the seeds in a sunflower. It is spread all over the world and the intersections of the lines have sacred sites, to wich everything is spiritually connected. Bavado says that the problems are global and they therefore concern us all.

The large-scale mining and transportation of gold, oil and minerals of the past century has put the weight points of the earth’s tectonic plates out of balance, comparable to removing a piece of a spin and sticking it to the other side. Consequently, the earth spins into a new equilibrium, which causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This process has been predicted by tribes from all over the world, who learned this information from inhabitants of different star systems. Some of these legends were passed from parent to child; others were carved as drawings on stones. It was predicted, for example that when the White Buffalo returns, the nations will stand together as brothers and sisters to heal the earth. The process goes hand in hand with the coming of a generation of children who are born spiritually awake. Today, Bavado says, people from all over the world are having vision dreams about volcano eruptions and they have the chance to do something about it. The global reset is going to happen with or without us, but we have the potential to smoothen it a little.

Rainbow Thunderheart has himself once dreamt about a super eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. To prevent this, he has made a journey by 19 sacred natural sites surrounding Yellowstone in a wheel with a diameter of 1200 miles. On each of these sites, he taught volunteers how to engage in a healing ceremony with him. After he motivated all groups, they did a joint ceremony where every group was located on every sacred site to send their positive energy to the centre, the volcano itself, where he did his prayers. During this process, a hole opened in the ground that allowed steam to go out, relieving the pressure of the mountain. He says the ritual  also helped reduce the impacts of weather hazards in the area.

For the solutions, Bavado explains, it is important to understand that the elements, earth, wind, fire and water mimic our thoughts and our actions. Throughout the generations, atrocities such as rape and violence fell upon the heads of children. Parents had no control over it, the behaviour was embedded in the DNA. Today, we have the chance to heal this pain from our past. In this process we should be aware that we can not always sense the bad energy. We should therefore bless everything we take in: tap water, food, emotions, words, thoughts, you name it. In this process we should all have complete faith in love.

Someone in the public asks: what to do with the new forms of radiation such as Wifi or nuclear radiation? The answer for Bavado is simple: “I love the radiation, so I send my love to it. That is what shamans do. That is the essence of the power and it is true for everything: either you stop resisting, or you get ill.” Doubt can kill us.

Cleaning the thoughts
It is about ten O’clock at night when the presentation ends. We clean up and part ways. I go to the Lian’s house to meet Bavado for some questions. It is a walk through an alley with many trees. They calm my mind as I wonder how far I really go along in this. In the past years I have lived in the conviction that there is no such thing as bad energy, that it is all part of a huge energetic circle of life and death, but I sometimes felt this vision took the sting out of me. Bavado’s advice is to let go, that’s precizely what I stand for. But let go of what?

Part of the diner group is present in the living room where we have our chat. They are jolly, playful company. I ask Bavado how exactly he obtained his knowledge. He answers that it’s in the myths and the legends of his tribes. The way to understand it is to listen between the lines of the tales. “But if you listen to these tales, be careful with the thoughts that are already in your head, they may change the vision.” The basic teaching of the elders is that you should continuously put effort in keeping your thoughts clear and clean, just like you always have to clean up your house. A practical tip: replay your spoken words in your head. Look into them to see what you created.

I ask about the role of emotions. He says they are important. We are made out of twenty emotions, he explains, all ruled by the moon. Like the tides, there are higher emotions and lower ones. But we don’t usually notice our emotional cycles because we are distracted by the events in our lives. They’re easier to feel during sunrise. It is important to be with your emotions during prayer. Just like in a relationship: when you really love someone, you feel it in the words you speak. If you feel the love for the mother earth, she can hear you.

But what if you are divided between different thoughts or emotions? Then they work against each other and create a conflict. Bavado points his fingers to each other. A part of your energy can splinter off, leaving you more vulnerable for negative energies. It happens quite often in the case you follow a command of another person, and then blame that person for what you did. It does not work that way. You are the only one responsible for your actions.

Bavado distinguishes between different kinds of dreams. Some represent one of the four elements. If you get a dream like that, it tells you to go shape shift –impersonate – that element. Then there are vision dreams that give you a glimpse into the future. Bavado tells a most fascinating thing. Before he came into this life, he agreed to the events in it. Everything was shown to him like a movie in fast forward. He remembers being sent here to do what he is doing now.

So what are the most valuable lessons you learned from your elders? I ask to conclude. “Well, he says, once when I was young my girlfriend broke up with me. My grandma said: get over that girl, because there are plenty of fish in the sea. What she meant was that you should not get stuck onto things. My grandpa sat next to her. He said: that’s ill advice. If I would have taken it, you would now be alone”. He pauses for a while. “Yes and my grandpa also taught me to be gentle to girls when they are in their moon time. They could cause an earthquake five states wide…”

Isaac

“You’re the man, right?” “I’m da man!” a high singing voice. I find him cool already. They serve my tea and I enter the big church hall to see a session of a man I’ve been hearing about for over two years.

The principle is simple. Isaac sits on a chair on stage. Whoever feels like it joins him on a slightly less comfy one and tells him how he or she feels. Those who come are not allowed to keep on talking, because that way the public is guided too much into their thoughts. We take a little distance from our minds together and see that all we need is inner peace.

“I’m afraid.” Silence. “I’m afraid that I will lose my family”. Isaac watches him carefully. “We sometimes say ‘I love you’, but who is it we love, then? Do you ever wonder who that is?” He directs the question to the public. The microphone goes around for people to answer. “A projection”. Says someone. She explains that if people say they love someone, in fact they follow a mental image. “Did you ever try to love yourself?” Asks Isaac. “Who is it you love, then? And who is it that loves?” It’s the joyful manner in which he speaks which makes this situation pleasant. And the topic of course. My mind’s eye shows me the fusion of clouds of consciousness into a common delight which I’d call love. I’d say that’s what ‘I love you’ means. But I don’t state that now. Why answer such questions out loud?

“I’m afraid I’ll lose my job.” People have all kinds of fears these days. Again, the careful observation. “Yes, that happens”. He turns to the public. “Did you ever try that?” To be afraid of losing your job? Why don’t we all try that for a little bit?” Everyone tries. “Did it help?” “No.” I notice how it slowly gets dark.

When the session is over, I shake his hand. “I could see you resonate”. He says. He’s right, in his presence, the people on stage moved me. I understand why my housemates like him.

The Grid

“Place the bar on the moving band. Then the next client can put his groceries there!” Her voice is binding. The open space between my food and the articles of the couple behind me is at least one third of a meter. Not clear enough. I place the bar. With this act I clearly separate our future belongings. Almost before I lifted my hand from it, the couple, acting as one, puts the bar perfectly right in the middle of the moving band, perpendicular to its side. What follows is a sudden reorganization of the groceries behind me. The couple places their bread at exactly one centimetre from the bar, parallel to it. Another centimetre away: a pot of jam. Ham. Gurkins. Toilet paper. So they go, until everything lies exactly one centimetre apart from the rest. As I watch them construct this grocery grid, a discomfort creeps into my spine.

“That’ll be 12.48 please” says the cashier.

I put my pass in the machine, type 9-6-3-1 and pack my bag. Paid. Macaroni and cheese tonight.

I walk outside. The street cleaner must have just passed. I see a Dalmatian in a zebra suit, held on a line by a lady who appears to have made a separate plan for every hair on her head. I unlock my bike. My bike has a character: the frontal rim is slightly loose. When I hit the pedals its rattling noise and the shriek of my unoiled wheels find their way through the street, bouncing back and forth over the smoothened walls. A man in a black suit looks at me in intense disgust.

“So what?” I think. And as if the man has heard my thoughts, a fierce “SHAME ON YOU!” echoes behind me through the streets.

My mind wanders of to yesterday night. We were making a campfire in the woods with some friends. Our view was marvellous: a red sunset on a lake, seen from the top of a hill. Fish. Freshly caught, on the grill. The aroma of smoke and just a little salt completed a perfect day. We wished for such natural freedom to stay in our lives forever. How different is the city life?

A little disrupted, I now try to make as little noise as possible. Though the streets are as crowded as usual, there is an uncanny silence around today. As if everybody purposefully holds himself in line. It accentuates the beeps and shrieks.

I place my bike in a rack. More bikes are placed in a row. Straight up. Saddle erect.

“HEY! Put your bike up properly, like everyone!”

The woman who yells it has blond hair till her shoulders. Her face looks symmetrical, clean, with feminine as well as masculine aspects. Not extremely beautiful, but not ugly either.

“Oh, sorry”. Before I know it, I have put my bike up and straight. I notice that the cars driving by maintain equal distances from each other. Their speed is slow and constant. I dare not look at the drivers. Walking to the bookshop I silently tread the tiles, not crossing their borders. My nerves seem to get to their limit.

The bookshop is cubical. Books of different colours and sizes have been carefully laid down in piles of equal heights. There are different structures: squares, circles, triangles, a pentagon… All displayed with chirurgical precision. In the middle of the room hangs a collection of books of which the sizes and the shapes perfectly fit together to form a tetrahedron, turning loosely in the air. Despite of the people, it is the only movement in the room.

The books in the perfectly shaped piles are not ordered alphabetically or by category. When I pick one up, a sound goes off.

“SIR! Don’t touch the books! You will mess them up!” A woman with thick square glasses, a black coat and a tight black skirt looks at me with straight black eyebrows that point down towards the centre of her face. She runs at me, grabs the book from my hands, takes a frontal position to the place where it used to lie, bends over with a straight back, and lays it back with the care as you would a baby.

“Sorry”. I say.

“Sir, you should not act as recklessly as you just did, picking up books like that”

“I was looking for a book about sacred geometry”

“There is nothing sacred about geometry” says the woman. “But if you want a book, you should stand in the queue.” Her finger points at the empty space behind a straight line of patient people. I walk towards it, take my ruler out of my pocket, and measure the distance between the last person in the line and the one before him. 33. I try to do the same with the two before them.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m measuring the distance between you and him.”

“Please don’t. There is no need. It’s thirty three centimetres.”

I count twelve people in the line. The woman has returned to the desk and takes the orders. Every time a customer asks for a book, she walks to one of the shapes in a slow and even pace. She gets a book from the pile, and replaces it with a book she brought along from her desk every time. It always takes her a while to put the new book back perfectly, but when it fits, she walks back with the same pace, hands the book over to the client and asks for the payment.

“That’ll be 22,44 please.”

“Hey tall mister! You are not standing at the proper distance in the queue. The proper distance is thirty three centimetres.” When I do a step ahead, he follows. When I turn around and do a step towards him, he steps back, looking at me with an angry face.

“I said thirty three centimetres!” He says every time a customer finishes his transaction and the line moves forward as if steered by one mind. During the six last customers I manage to keep my stalker silent. I dare not breathe.

When I finally arrive at the desk of the book sales, I ask for my book about sacred geometry.

“There is no such thing” she says. She walks away at the same pace. This time she grabs a ladder which she carefully installs below the shape of the tetrahedron. Step by step she climbs on it. She takes one of the books of the upper ridge, replacing it slowly and with a steady hand. When she is finally back, she hands it over. The cover shows a print of an oak.

“I am sorry, miss, but I asked for geometry. You give me a book about an oak”.

“Sacred geometry is nonsense. This is a Boak. Pay.”

I accept the Boak and pay 22,44. After all I like oaks. When I give her a smile, I see a tiny blade of grass coming out of the end of her pointy nose. So I exit the bookshop.

My attention is drawn by three eagles crossing the sky. I watch them till they have become too small to see, wondering where they’ve gone. A tiny white feather whirls down, followed by the leaf of a red rose. On the spotless grey street, their presence seems like an insult to all that is without life. This feather and this leaf ridicule all who have fought for this. For just a sec, I am at peace.

A scream. High pitched, coming from the bookshop. People seem suddenly tense. They have abandoned the orderly and now look around with a fear in their eyes. The silence on the street has passed. I grab my bike, unlock it and drive away. With the same noises.

I turn around the corner. The greenness of the once grey compels me. The ghostly walls from before are now entirely ivy-grown. The plants absorb my bikes calls. Instead, I hear the chirping of locusts here and there. I can not make out if I am puzzled or delighted. I continue my way home. But before I have crossed half of the street I notice that the ivy is moving gently. In fact, it is creeping up the road. By the time I reach the end of the street, the plants have almost reached my bike. If I stop now, they will catch a hold on it. Things in the next street are barely better. People are screaming; their heads are covered with grass, rooted in their skulls. Someone tries to run inside but finds that little roots have shot out of his toes. They now find their way between the tiles into the ground. The man waves with his arms, but out of his fingers grow leafed branches holding themselves back on the wind. His movements cease and before anyone knows it, there stands a broad little birch growing to the sky. A pigeon lands on its top.

I make haste, but as I go the asphalt rises and an enormous beech erupts out of the ground. I crash upon it and a squirrel falls on my head. It quickly runs back into the tree, looking back one more time before it disappears. My bike is broken now, so I run in despair. A sticky substance seeps out of the scratch the squirrel made. Birds’ songs deafen my ears while they still can. My nails are bark and I have a strong broccolic feeling where my lungs once where. Next to me, a hortensia emerges out of the depths of a poor man’s throat. People around are growing in all directions, leaving their dogs to bark at them and at the boar that just showed up. Should they hold or charge?

Tomato-hearted, I try to get towards my front door, but it is turning into rock as the cells in my veins grow their own little walls. My feet’s roots meander over the street. My testicles go nuts. I feel how my spine gets taller and woodier. Juices flow up and down to my brain which is now spawning snails out of my ears. They tell me that the city has been overrun. I believe them.

While my head bursts open and branches shoot into the air, a safety enters what is left of my mind. We are naturals. The last thing I see is a bunch of pumpkins dangling down an electricity cable. They seem to enjoy it. Drunk with force, I reach deeper into the ground and find delicious juices. I feel them entering my trunk from below and flow up into the air.

Later that day, a white moth decides take a little flight around the woods. It is silent outside. He flies to the pond and has a freshening drink of a big purple flower. It smiles at him. Behind them, somewhere deep inside the forest hidden under a pluck of moss, lies a book with a big old oak on its cover. It’s making a giggling sound.