Dec 2019 mind cleanup

It’s a crispy cold day today, which is my favorite kind of weather to be sitting in a train as it makes for beautiful skies and landscapes.

The month of December was actually quite a good one for me. I managed to keep my schedule quite empty during the christmas holidays (which in my case was just two days, but still…). I’m so chilled out, I hardly feel I need a mindcleanup at all, but I’ll give it a shot!

Headphone Sessions

After running into some of Amber Run’s collaborations with a choir called London Contemporary Voices I ended up on a YouTube channel called “Headphone Sessions”, which I thought was quite awesome. This in turn brought me to Sam Brookes, who has a very Decembery vibe, imo. Click play below (but also cruise through the songs on the Headphone Sessions YT channel).

the Witcher

I just finished watching Netflix’ series called the Witcher, based on a bookseries, written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. My bf told me he also knew and enjoyed the accompanying videogames.

Without having any of the context (didn’t read the books, didn’t play the games, never heard of the author) I actually very much enjoyed the first season. For a Netflix series the acting was quite good and the special effects were not disappointing or distracting.

I definitely recommend the series to anyone who’s slightly into sci-fi and fantasy and look forward to the next season (which is expected no sooner than 2021).

the Dutch King’s speech

Of course a lot of impeachy things happened this last month but I don’t really feel like reflecting on any of that.

An interesting news moment this last week was the message my nation’s king presented in his annual christmas speech.

Photo by: Arenda Oomen

The first part of his speech was mostly an optimistic enumeration of our country’s qualities. The king reminded us that “freedom” is one of the terms most frequently used to explain what defines us as a nation, but that freedom does not come without a price.

This last year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, which means we have had three quarters of a century of peace. The people that fought for our freedom are in their nineties and soon there will be no one left to tell us first hand about the price of freedom but also the weight of the lack thereof.

The king pointed out that in order for freedom to thrive, we must put trust in one another and let our personal bubbles overlap a bit. He emphasized the importance of tolerance:

If we start threatening people with different opinions, we undermine exactly what we hold dear. To be free, we must allow contrarious thinking; in ourselves and in others.

King Willem Alexander – 25-12-2019

I loved this part of his speech. It is always valuable to be reminded that other people’s opinions are allowed to differ from ours. Even more valuable is to be reminded that it’s OK to have an opinion that differs from the rest.

Small sidenote: the king used the term “dwarse denken” to refer to the type of thoughts we should be accepting of. Dwars is another one of those wonderful Dutch words with no English equivalent, that can mean all sorts of things. You can say one street runs ‘dwars’ in reference to another street, meaning they intersect. It can also mean diagonal, skew or wayward. When used as a word to describe someone, dwars can mean ‘contrarious’ but also ‘tenacious’ and ‘obstinate’. It’s usually not said as a compliment, even though it’s a trait most Dutch people seem to have…

The king went on to remind us that we are really doing very well as a nation, but that in our ambition, we can sometimes be to hard on ourselves.

This part of his message seemed to be aimed at people who thrive for instagram-perfect lives, but crash and burn in the process. We all know the kind. He described how he often had to remind young people that it is OK to be imperfect. I mostly hope he also tells his daughters this, who seem to get all the troll shit of the world spilled out over their heads every time they appear in public.

The king then ventured onto thin ice, saying that happiness is an elusive thing that can not be obtained by force. Sure. And that’s when the most privileged person of our nation made me cringe; he said happiness comes “suddenly, as a gift from heaven”.

Oooooh, no you didn’t just say that did you, your majesty? I mean… Yes, I also wish life got better for everyone who channeled their inner Elsa and just chilled the fuck out, but you know how life can be… Hold on, no you don’t (and no, I have no clue what kingness is like either). And yeah… about the heaven part… I don’t know why you had to drag that into it, man… Bad idea.

But OK. I forgive him. I know what he was trying to say. Sort of. And the sentiment is nice.

Oh wow. It turns out I did need a mind cleanup after all. HAHA! Who knew?

New year’s wishes

I hope you all had a beautifully imperfect December month. For 2020 I predict the heavens will rain down all their happiness on you and your loved ones!

Peace out.

Lifetip 1: Believe in goodness

Rutger Bregman and Jesse Frederik are the hosts of my favorite Dutch podcast: de Rudi & Freddie Show. They discuss all sorts of topics, which at one point ventured into their disdain towards self help books. But, as is typical for R&F, they decided to investigate the popularity of the genre and then ended up coming up with their own list of life-improvement tips.

Rutger Bregman’s first tip, also stars in his most recent book “De meeste mensen deugen”. The title is kind of difficult to translate as there isn’t really an English equivalent for the word “deugen”. The noun “deugd” means “virtue”, and the verb means something along the lines of “to be virtuous”, but it’s used in a much more casual way than the English version makes it sound…

Someone could ask me if I’ve met my brother’s new girlfriend. My answer could then be: “Ja, ze deugt”, which is just basically three words to say that I have indeed met her and that I give her a thumbs up.

Long story short, Rutger’s newest book title translates to something along the lines of “Most people are cool”.

The accompanying tip boils down to:

Always assume good intent.

There will always be moments in life when you are not quite sure what “the other” thinks, feels or might do. When you find yourself in such a situation, you can assume the worst and start preparing (mentally) for somebody’s anger, stupidity or deceit. You can also chill out, assume all is well and nobody is out to get you.

Why would you give people the benefit of the doubt?

  • Because it is most often right.
  • Because it is less stressful
  • Because you avoid making it a self fulfilling prophecy

Rutger insists that trust is the water that we swim in. Having your trust broken (by being set up, robbed or swindled out of your money) is collateral damage. The price you pay for mistrust is not worth the amount of negative energy it brings into your life.

True story

A while ago, somebody knocked on my door. The person at the door was a stranger. He told me he lived down the street from me and that never did this kind of thing but that his sister had just been hospitalized and that he needed a couple of euro’s to fill up the tank of his scooter to go see her.

So what were my choices? I could assume the worst and let my fantasy freak me out:

  • He’s a junkie who is going to use the money to get high.
  • He’s never going to pay me back.
  • Next time he knocks he is going to rob me.

The alternative was to assume he was telling the truth and help the dude out.

In all honesty I did a bit of both: I assumed he was telling the truth, but didn’t count on seeing him or the money back ever again (even though he assured me several times he would be back the following week).

I dug through several bags and pockets to collect all the bits of change I could find (because really, who still has cash these days?) and told him it was not necessary to repay me but that he should pay it forward to somebody else some day.

So yah, I may have “lost” 4 euros. Or did I?

  • Maybe he really did come back with the money but I wasn’t home.
  • Maybe the handful of change is still being handed down to people in need, spreading kindness and smiles across the country.
  • Maybe he was really planning on coming back to rob and kill me, but changed his mind after my kindness (or when he glanced into my house and saw that my house was a trip hazard).

Hold on… That last one doesn’t sound quite right. This positive-assumption thing takes some getting used to, I guess…

Society and politics

Let’s try applying the same logic to a larger scale.

Because if we trust the people right in front of us, we can trust people a bit further away as well, can’t we? And if we do that, we can assume whole groups of people consist solely of good-intentioned folks.

What could we achieve as a society if we put full trust in each other? What would our laws look like if we weren’t always basing them on the assumption that people want to take advantage of the system?

That is some radical thinking, I’m telling you…

Trust your friendly neighborhood charlatan

Have you ever been cheated? Good! That means you put trust in someone. Keep it up!

If you haven’t been scammed at least a few times in your life you may be missing out on the good stuff by being too mistrustful.

Mind Cleanup Nov 19

The “wiggle room” I was anticipating in my previous mind cleanup didn’t fully materialize yet, but I have good hopes it is on its way (all though I do realize chilled-outness is not what Decembers are usually known for…).

Bee Family Day

November started out with a family reunion, thought out and partially organized by my dad. His health and energy level didn’t really allow him to be as involved as he might have liked, though. I did all “the online stuff”, prepared the slides for the presentations and did some of the small logistical stuff.

Because my name was at the bottom of all the invitations, confirmations and additional info I got a lot of credit for the whole day, which was nice, but perhaps not entirely justified. I just played along though. 😂

In the end, the day was a success and my dad was super happy. I met a lot of new family members and had a chance to re-evaluate some of our “typical family traits”.

After my father welcomed everyone, my aunt held a presentation about the family tree and what you can see on the My Heritage website. An uncle / cousin (several times removed) played a classical guitar piece he had composed himself. He also held a short speech about the finances of the family’s foundation that takes care of the family graves.

My hope that a third family member would come forward with some cool family stories, didn’t really come to fruition… so I decided to do it myself… which is actually atypical behavior for me… but it went well and it also means I get to strike “get better at public speaking” from my bucketlist. YAY!

Bolivia

Bolivia is the heart of South America and a notoriously complicated country. I lived there for eight years as a child and always joked with my brother that I would be the president one day, but that he had to be my front (as he was born in the country and I was not).

The current state of the country really breaks my heart. It angers me that Evo Morales clung to power in the way that he did and that he did nothing to make a smooth change of power possible. It saddens me to see the country so terribly divided (which in all truth it always kind of was).

I’d pray my heart out for Bolivia, if I believed in such things. It’s a country that has so much going for it but always relapses into self-destructive behavior.

Lines from the country’s national anthem have been ringing in my head the last few weeks (like a prayer?):

Al estruendo marcial que ayer fuera y al clamor de la guerra horroroso,
siguen hoy, en contraste armonioso, dulces himnos de paz y de unión.

The martial turmoil of yesterday and the horrible clamor of war are followed today, in harmonious contrast, by sweet hymns of peace and unity.

Vamos Bolivia, you can do it. I believe in you. I know you don’t need a white European girl telling you how to fix your shit but at least take the message in your own national anthem to heart and look up those sweet hymns of peace and unity!

Music

This new Jamie Cullum song struck a chord.

Rudi & Freddie Self Help tips

Earlier this year I heard a podcast episode from one of my favorite Dutch journalists that I have been recommending to anyone who might be (slightly) interested.

The podcast show is called the Rudi & Freddie Show, staring Rutger Bregman (Rudi) and Jesse Frederiks (Freddie). Officially they are a historian and economist but most of all, they are two smart dudes that can’t help but ask “why is that?” at every corner they turn.

Absolute facts make them suspicious and their skills as academics and modern day journalists give them the tools to disentangle the facts from the opinions, gut feelings and bullshit arguments. They don’t always agree with each other. Better even, they don’t always agree with their own (past) selves. I have tremendous respect for people that are able to admit they were wrong when presented with new facts or experiences and are willing to change.

I am sad to inform the majority of the planet that their podcasts are only available in Dutch, but if you ever needed a motivation to learn our impossible little language, being able to understand their discussions should help.

After having made fun of (the popularity of) self help books, they decided to embrace the “if you can’t beat them join them” philosophy, and come up with their own recommendations for a better life. In an episode that was posted online last April they discussed their ideas.

Starting in December I want to share a few of the R&F Self help tips. I will share one per post, perhaps continuing with the tradition with tips of my own, after the R&F ones run out.