Firing up my soul force

You know how festive days such as mother’s day and valentine’s day always get responses along the lines of “What’s the point of being nice to your mother / lover once a year? It should be done each and every day or not at all.”?

All though a tad cynical, these people are right, in a way. So are the people that say that emphasizing or reinforcing their love on this given day is an important reminder to not take such a beautiful thing for granted.

A national holiday we have in the Netherlands and that I write a blog about almost every year (see here and here) is our World War II remembrance day (4th of May), followed by Liberation Day (5th of May).

All though I have always payed my respects (two minutes of silence at 8PM) and always did my best to celebrate my freedom consciously, I must admit that lately, I feel like the previously mentioned cynics when it comes to remembrance day…

Every year I make an effort to ask my friends and co-workers what they will do when the clock hits 8 PM on the 4th of May. I always try to remind them that it is not just 2 minutes of “having to be quiet” but that these 2 minutes can be used to explore our own thoughts on the current state of the world and honor those who have died for the freedom we now so easily take for granted.

quote wars Enoch Powell

I always feel fired up and ready to act after liberation day. And then… NOTHING. Maybe I write a blog about my white privilege and dive into a couple of Facebook discussions and call my friends out on their inherent racism… But that’s it.

I feel icky just admitting that. I feel useless and I feel hypocritical. If only the world wasn’t collapsing under the weight of all the racism, bigotry and hate mongering, then I could act as if my help wasn’t needed.

But it is, and so is yours.

It seems the Dutch committee for 4th and 5th of May celebrations agrees that we all need a kick up the ass, and therefore decided the theme of this year’s WWII remembrance should be RESISTANCE. Even more, it has been decided it should be the theme of the whole 2018 calendar year…

Museums are adapting their exhibitions to this year’s theme and special education series are being compiled at schools, where WWII veterans and war heroes are stopping by to tell their stories.

I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but the Dutch year of resistance happens to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. The exact date of his murder was the 4th of April and on this day last week I watched the movie Selma.

The general story line and historical context were not new to me, as I hope it isn’t for anyone else. The film did however contribute to a better understanding on my side about what resistance entails.

It requires courage. It requires perseverance. It requires not taking “no” (or “wait” or “I can’t” or “It’s too hard”) for an answer. It requires caring more about the cause than your own well being.

As Dr King said in his legendary “I have a dream”-speech (which does not feature in the film, btw):

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

So yes; SOUL FORCE!! And now that I come to think about it, I actually wrote a blog about it just last week, only in the version of super woman Valarie Kaur. She didn’t call it Soul Force though. She called it revolutionary love.

And then former American president Jimmy Carter showed up at Stephen Colbert’s late show. Such a sweet and wise man; I had no idea! He reminded me of the willpower it takes to love those that seem undeserving of that love but the importance of doing it anyhow.

It seems my generation’s greatest purpose in life is to achieve inner peace or “zen” or a perpetual state of “Netflix & chill”. These are actually all thing I excel at, but I suddenly realize that being relaxed is making me complacent and -oh the horror-, indifferent.

I need to refuel my inner rage and channel it into something productive and less egocentrical.

Pff… I think I’ve even written about this before… What do I do to get out of this cycle?

I need to start planning some field trips.

Goals for the month of May:

  • Visit at least one exhibition, museum or lecture that fits the “resistance” theme.
  • Make a grumpy looking stranger smile.
  • Think of a good present for my bf’s birthday.
  • Bake a cake and eat it too, but with friends (especially the undeserving ones?). Or maybe it should be humble pie.

To be continued!

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Love through wonder

I know I’m late to the party, but I am finally learning to appreciate podcasts.

I think I’ve always liked the idea of listening to podcasts, but I never really found the right moment for them.

I usually put my headphones on when I need something to either pick me up or chill me out. I use music as a backdrop for an activity and always avoided audio that would occupy more than 5% of my brain capacity.

A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned perfectly and I found myself in “right place, right time, right amount of attention span bandwidth”-situation, as I stumbled upon a Ted Talk about revolutionary love by Valarie Kaur.

valarie kaur

Valarie’s choice to start her talk by describing the experience of giving birth to her son as an analogy for the deepest, most intense and unconditional type of love, is one I can follow rationally. I understand that women that go through labor, experience indescribable pain while simultaneously being flushed with hormones, enabling them to love and care and protect the new little creature more than they’ve ever loved anything else, including themselves.

I love the idea of feeling so connected to this little helpless being, and realizing it is an extension of yourself and your legacy for the future. I can see how this deepens the connection you feel to you mother, and her mother, and her mother and how this makes you realize you are part of something bigger than you. I can imagine this is both humbling and empowering at the same time.

As much as I appreciated the anecdote, it did not motivate me to explore my own ability to love. I see the beauty of it on a poetic level, but it does nothing for me on an emotional level. Some people say I need to have kids of my own to understand this. Others say it’s a clear sign I’m not meant to have them. Who knows.

RevLoveBut Valarie continued explaining how she learnt the lessons of revolutionary love and started reeling me in as she went…

The desperation in her voice when she reminded me that hate crimes are the highest they have been since 9-11 drove a cold chill over my spine and an ache into my heart.

The realization that, despite her efforts to bring people closer together for the last 15 years, so many of her compatriots chose to vote this hateful figure into the white house, is heart breaking.

The tears that filled her eyes as she acknowledged that her son is likely to be labeled “terrorist” at least once in his life, is just infuriatingly sad.

She shared her realization that answering an act of hate with more hate would be understandable but pointless and counter productive. She explained:

We love our opponents when we tend the wound in them. Tending to the wound is not healing them — only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents: the terrorist, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.

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She then admitted that removing hate from her own heart required a conscious effort, or as Valarie puts it: “It becomes an act of will to wonder.”

And all though the point of her childbirth reference was lost on me at the very start, she drove it home when she presented me with her final lesson in revolutionary love:

 

This is a feminist intervention. Because for too long have women and women of color been told to suppress their rage, suppress their grief in the name of love and forgiveness. But when we suppress our rage, that’s when it hardens into hate directed outward, but usually directed inward. But mothering has taught me that all of our emotions are necessary. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger is the force that protects it.

Now that is some superhero stuff right there.

She concluded her TED talk by revealing the three directions in which revolutionary love must be practiced: towards your direct surroundings, towards yourself and towards your opponents. The method: wonder.

Yepp, that’s it. She’s wonder woman.

But as it turns out, so am I!

wonder woman

And now I’m wondering about you… Are you OK, sister? How was your day, brother? What did you learn to day, uncle?

Let’s connect.

 

You say “lack of ambition” like it’s a bad thing…

Last week my aunt Nikki came to visit. She’s the type of family member that asks how you’re doing and really wants to know the answer, whatever it is. Also, with a background as a councilor at a local university’s student services division, she always knows which questions to ask to get you thinking.

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When I told her how I was doing at work, I had to admit I had just gone through a challenging period, coming to grips with the fact that bars and expectations were being raised, as more experienced colleagues moved on to new jobs and I was now often the most experienced person in the room.

Of course Nikki knows of my “lack of ambition” and / or “fear of responsibility” and presented me with the following riddle:

When you say you see the absence of ambition as a strength and a tool to protect and guarantee your own happiness, it sounds like it all stems from a fear of failure; either in the eyes of others [aka my parents] or your own. To what extent is this a twisted attempt to regulate the expectations of your parents?

Now… obviously… you know… it’s clear that… stuff is just not… sometimes, you see… yeah. no.

whut potc

Let’s just say there’s a reason why it took me over a week to put this thought process into words.

Growing up as a third culture kid, I always had ideas about having a job later on that would take me around the world. I remember loving the idea of being a stewardess, and at some point dreamt of being a “Flying Doctor”, a development worker or a diplomat.

This last idea was mostly my mother’s. It was something that she started saying jokingly, especially when I tried to negotiate myself out of a sticky situation. Up to this day it’s something she says to me every now and then, as an afterthought; “you really would’ve made a good diplomat, you know…”.

It wasn’t until I started studying at Leiden University, – which is close to the Netherlands’ diplomatic center: the Hague – that I really realized how wrong she really was.

women-competing

I so clearly lack the cut throat mentality it takes to even get into “het klasje” (meaning “the small classroom”, the term used in the Netherlands to refer to the diplomatic training institute), let alone to ever hold a position as diplomat. Also, the fact I suck at small talk and always forget to ask crucial questions such as “what does your father do” and “which university (and fraternity) did you attend”, doesn’t help.

I admit that when I go to work in the morning (in the Hague) and I hear the tip-tapping of hurried high heels walking behind (and all around) me, I get really annoyed. In my mind, that quick paced person is “one of them”; an ambitious self-proclaimed Barbie feminist. She’s probably overworked and on the verge of a burn-out, but is comforted by the idea that she’s “made it”. She looks herself in the mirror each morning and reminds herself this government job is exactly where she has always wanted to be. She just finished reading Ivanka Trump’s book.

WOW! This was a really round about way to arrive at the point… I apologize… Are you still with me?

I think the point is: I really don’t like those people and don’t want to be like them.

I’m actually really pleased I came up with Ivanka Trump as a reference. I don’t know how I would’ve explained this, without her and the video above. (honestly though… Is she for real??)

So yah… In my mind being ambitious has become synonymous to become an Ivanka Trump category person.

What I still have to figure out now, is if I can really answer my aunt Nikki’s question with “no, this has nothing to do with my parents”, which I would very much like to do.

I admit that my logic is still a bit fucked up and perhaps something I should work on. I would really like to be able to say that all though my lack of ambition may be based on silly reasoning, it’s definitely more than just a lingering rebellious spasm of puberty.

It’s driven by more than just my inner-child saying “I just don’t feel like doing what you want, mom”.

whut loki

Right?

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Amsterdamdamdidam

This morning, while driving back from Friesland to Leiden, I heard one of Nothing but Thieves’ new songs:

The song is called Amsterdam. I don’t think the videoclip was actually shot anywhere near our nation’s capital though… or maybe he left his heart in the Amsterdam in New York state…?

I realized I had heard another song named Amsterdam just a week ago, by the Danish band Nephew:

I was looking into Nephew as they were one of the big names starring on the Roskilde Festival 2018 poster. Amsterdam was obviously one of the first songs I clicked on and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised! I really like their sound and am looking forward to seeing them play @ RF18. All I have to do is brush up on my Danish… :s

Sadly for me, a band that will not be present at Roskilde but is very high on my wanna-see-live-bucketlist, is Coldplay. Did you know thay also have a song called Amsterdam?

Oh! And I just learnt that Imagine Dragons, another fave of mine, also has one!

None of these songs seem to have a lot to do with the city they’re named after.

Want to know more about Amsterdam?

Read about the (slightly cliché) must-sees here, look into a list of free tours here or watch these 14 (very accurate!) YouTube tips below:

My tip: leave Amsterdam at least one day during your stay and visit another city in the Netherlands to get a feel of the non-Disney version of the low lands!

Non – Amsterdam tips:

  • Leiden
  • Rotterdam
    • Modern by default > bombed to bits during WWII
    • Cool, edgy and innovative
    • Colorful melting pot
  • Maastricht
    • Most southern city of the Netherlands
    • Feels like France on a sunny day
    • Cool caverns and beautiful river landscapes
    • Hills! Believe me, that’s a big deal here…

I can name several other out-of-A’dam tips but I’ll leave it at this for now. Fellow WP blogger bitterballen bruid has put together an awesome list though. Read it here!

Enjoy your time in the Netherlands!

In the Lyme light

A very close friend of mine has been battling chronic Lyme disease for five years now and even though I have always tried to be supportive, I am only just starting to understand her struggle.

In May of 2017 I accompanied her to a national awareness event, focused on Chronic Lyme disease, called So Strong. It was incredible, in every sense of the word. It’s hard to believe how much is still unknown.

What do you do when you are certain there is something very wrong inside you but doctors tell you it’s all in your mind?

What do you do when you finally receive a diagnosis that makes sense but also reveals there is a big chance you will never truly recover?

My dear friend broke down in tears when Jesse Ruben climbed the stage and played this song:

It helped her, the way crying sometimes does, and it helped me, the way a slap in the face sometimes does, I suppose…

So when we heard there would be a sponsor event the following year, to raise awareness and collect money for the treatment of Lyme patients, we agreed we should put a team together.

Fast forward to 2018 and here we are! I will be running to collect money and invite you to sponsor me and help my good friend Anneke to get better, as the chronic form of Lyme’s disease is still not fully recognized in regular medicine and therefore neither are the treatments she needs.

If you would like to contribute; here is the link to the sponsor event’s website. I’m afraid it’s all in Dutch, so feel free to contact me via the Facebook page if you need help navigating the website.

 

Prompt me

My blog and I are good friends.  Lately though, I’ve been behaving like the kind of friend that only shows up when life is shitty and I need a shoulder to cry on. I’m the type of friend that takes energy and gives little back. I’m not being a good friend to my blog-buddy and I apologize.

bad friend

Blogtober was too intense. Showing up because I have to is not how I want this to go. I want to want to be here. And I know I want to be here more often than I currently am, and maybe that starts with forcing myself to show up, at first(?). Inspiration is so hard to plan though….

And Daily Prompts aren’t inspiring me, either! I mean… Just one word? Why not set the scene a bit, like they you used to?

And what happened to the weekly Discover challenges?? I liked those!

Read Write Live‘s blog did inspire me though, especially when she (or he?? I don’t really know) asked her readers what she should write about. I’d like to be able to do that. The problem is that I don’t really have readers. I’m not even insulted. It is the way it is. I never really set out to have a following anyway, but for this specific experiment it would be nice…

But perhaps there is still a way to follow the same train of thought, but with just me, myself and I (and the handful of people that stumble upon my little corner of the interwebz).

How about writing what I want to read? And how about I base this on things I actually did read, like the blog I just mentioned? Instead of using the boring, standardized and uninspiring one-word-“you figure it out” Daily Prompts, I could pick a word or sentence from a fellow bloggers post and build on that… I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, right?

Yes, that’s what I will do. Now is the start, and it sounds like: Ladidada dada!

 

Three historic dinners

Who in history would you dine with?

This question was asked (and answered) in last week’s post on “Why evolution is true”-blog.

I started coming up with a couple of names, but got lost in semantics at some point. I mean, I think most people would answer that question by naming interesting characters they would like to have a chat with… right?

But the question is “who would you dine with?”

So then I ask myself, are there people with whom the specific setting of a dinner table would make the meeting more worthwhile? I suppose that would be the case with someone from the culinary world. But then again, I don’t care much for cooking myself, so I wouldn’t know what to ask a top chef or dietary guru anyway…

So then I turned it around: Are there people I would love to have a chat with, but would prefer not to do so over dinner?

And I guess there the answer would be yes.

gandhi eating

Take Mahatma Ghandi for example. I can imagine meeting him would be amazingly inspiring. Life changing maybe. But the guy hardly ate at all, and if the food is tasty and plentiful (like Indian food can be) I tend to eat like an absolute pig. The food would just make me look like a shitty individual and make me feel so self-conscious that any chances I had of saying something smart would’ve evaporated in seconds. Just like the food placed in front of me.

Or what about Stephen Hawking; super duper interesting guy, who I’d be super honored to meet. But over dinner?? I think I might have to pass on that one… Or actually no, I think he would have to.

And then there’s Donald Trump and his off putting dietary preferences. But I’m actually not really worried about this one, because I would never really consider putting his name on my dinner invitation…

I asked my boyfriend just now who he would invite and he actually didn’t have to think very long. His answers: Aleister Crowley, Copernicus and Michelangelo. He didn’t mind not speaking their exact languages and was sure he would find a way… He’s so much braver in these things than I am. 😛

So, I’ve probably given this way too much thought, but here goes:

 

Mary Magdalene

I was named after the very first woman, according to most mainstream Christian sources, Eve. A lot of women came and went after that but none has been so controversial as Mary Magdalene. I am not a religious person myself, but I do believe that many of the events described in the bible and other holy scriptures are based on true events and historical figures.

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I can imagine a visionary man named Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth at some point and I can imagine he did not stay single. I can imagine Mary Magdalene was his spouse and I can imagine that she was demonized after Jesus’ death for all sorts of reasons, earning her the title of “prostitute” in many tellings.

I would love to hear her side of the story. Break some bread, drink some wine, you know how it goes…

 

Sylvana Simons

Another demonized woman. I have written about Ms Simons and her tragic position in Dutch society in previous blogs. Cruel jokes and racist remarks are still part of her daily life, proving her point that Dutch society has something rotten at its core but not really getting her anywhere close to fixing it.

sylvanabuitenhof

She still fascinates me. Or rather, the fact that she has managed to get nearly every single Dutchman and -woman to dislike her, fascinates me. I have done my research and am no longer completely in the dark as to why and how this situation has come to be, but I would still love to look her in the eye and hear her out. Over dinner, sure.

 

Mercedes Sosa

La negra, which translates to “the black woman”. To most of us, she would not be considered to be black at all. It is actually a very common nickname given to those  friends and family members in not-so-black circles that have slightly darker or thicker hair or a slightly darker skin.

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I have written about Mercedes Sosa in several of my music related blog posts. Her voice just never ceases to amaze me. The chills she manages to send down my spine, every. single. time. can not be ignored. I love her.

Her death was a slow process that happened in plain sight. She suffered from a parasitic disease called Chagas; every backpacker’s worst nightmare. As her body lost its strength so did her voice, all though she sang and recorded until the very end.

I don’t know what I would say to her if I had the chance to raise her from the dead and enjoy a meal with her. I would just want her to feel my appreciation for her. I don’t really know that much about her nor feel I need to. She is not even human to me. She is just that voice.

Yeah I know, sitting at a table with her would be super awkward…

So there you have it. Three dinners. Three women. Two dead. I’m ready!