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.

 

Supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger

In my mind, Arnold Schwarzenegger never really rose above the status of “ambitious meathead”. I always joked about how tragic it really was he had reached a point where his English was now as good as it was ever going to get and that his German was actually not very good anymore either. There aren’t very many people that aren’t fluent in any language…

I know that he was the governor of California for a while and that people called him the “governator”. He seemed popular enough but I really know nothing about his political legacy, other than that he served two terms and is a republican.

So, when he dedicated a video message to president Trump earlier this summer, with an anti-hate message, I was very pleasantly surprised. He comes across as a very wise man, actually!

 

 

 

I’d vote for this guy based on this!

And then after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, he posted another video:

 

So yah, if he would drop his support for the death penalty, I would totally buy this t-shirt.

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Fighting intolerance by popping our filter bubbles

It’s Political Crunch Time in the Netherlands.

Just two more days before election day. I am ready. I have decided. I know who I’m going for, or at least which party, which in itself is a mini victory as we have about twenty political parties to choose from this time around…

As many places in the world, our country is going through a phase of polarization. It’s not so much “left and right” anymore, though… The logical question to ask is: Ok, if it’s not about left- and right-wing politics, what is it about? Well… I can’t explain that in just one sentence, because it took me some time to figure out… In fact, I think I will need more than one blog for this.

Let me start by pointing out the white elephant in the room:

Geert Wilders.

geert wilders tulp.jpgThis man is quite something.

I know many people say he’s the Dutch Donald Trump but I really think that gives him too little credit. Contrary to the Donald, I actually don’t dislike Geert Wilders as a person. He does quite well in one-on-one interviews and is a very talented speaker. I think he is a much better politician than the current POTUS and deserves some props for that.

I dislike him in debates, that’s for sure. What happens is that he gets so fired up, that he degrades any good argument he may have had into a vulgar mud slinging contest. I do get it though. I mean, it must be incredibly frustrating to have practically every single person in parliament go against your propositions and ideas, sometimes purely on principle…  But still… Not chic…

I can not deny I feel sorry for him as well. His ideas have put him in a position where he needs security 24/7, preventing him from conducting politics in the same fashion his colleagues can. He can not simply go out and shake hands with people on a random market place, even though I believe he would like to.

bruce hulk.jpgAll though I can follow his rhetoric up to a certain degree when he explains it calmly in interviews such as this one for Europa Magazin, he completely loses me with the way he chooses to bring it across at rallies and debates. I can sympathize with his Bruce Banner version but he seems to prefer the Hulk, which is nasty, ugly and rude.

Until this morning, I had nothing positive to say about Geert Wilders, besides feeling pity for his security issues and the burden this must be on him and his family. But I made an effort to truly look into this guy, who is so easy to dislike. So many people apparently agree with him that I felt I should at least try to get it. At least one honest look. So I took off my filtered glasses just for a bit and started reading, watching and listening.

All though I have always tried to be conscious of the fact that my reality is based on how I was brought up and which lessons I was taught, it has been increasingly difficult to sympathize with the “Trump voters” across the pond and the “Wilders voters” in my own country. It’s so easy to just dismiss them as “angry white men”. The shameful murmurations inside of me about the ignorantes who don’t know what’s good for themselves nor for the greater good, can hardly withstand the light of day…

Last weekend though, I read an article about the phenomenon of “filter bubbles”. It wasn’t something that was new to me but for some reason it really hit home at that moment. I realized how unfair I was being and that I really needed to read news from other news sources and open my mind to the Wilders voters, even if they may not be prepared to show me the same courtesy. Or was that just an unjust preconception as well?

I watched several full length interviews with Geert Wilders and read articles I would otherwise have dismissed as populist propaganda or clicked away from in annoyance, without even giving it a listen.

And boy is it important to do this every now and then. Because it turns out we’re all actually not that different from one another and essentially want the same things. I know, shocking right?

And do you know what? Don’t take my word for it. Go figure it out yourself!

I recommend it.

Having said that, I’m still not voting for the guy. I disagree with him on many different levels, which I will not be going into right now (but maybe after the election results are in). But at least now I know why and can look myself in the eye when I stand up for my version of what is right.

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A very cathartic weekend to you

By Marco De Angelis
By Marco De Angelis : Terror’s curtain of death spreads

How do you react to terror? A great part of me wants to give them as little attention as possible. They do not deserve my tears. I will not admit I am afraid. I will not let hate bleed into my heart, even though its poison is all around me. On the other hand I do not want to become indifferent. I want to feel and see and know it all, even though it is  so very tempting to close my eyes and (try to) forget.

The thing that keeps poking Mr Cynic awake in my mind every few minutes is the “pray for Paris”-campagne so many are supporting online. I appreciate its intention, but all the while I think: What good will THAT do??

By Marco di Angelis : The difficult path of tolerance.
By Marco di Angelis : The difficult path of tolerance.

Why pray? Religion is partly what got us into this mess! What do you think god is going to do about it anyway? He stood by while it happened and now you ask him to… to what? To heal the wounds? To give us the strength to carry on? You don’t need someone to GIVE you strength, you already have it. What you need is a kick up the ass! Or a hug… yes, maybe a hug is better…

And while we’re at it, why are you only praying for Paris? Shit is hitting the fan all over the place. If you think prayer is the solution, pray for Beirut too! Pray for the airplane victims in Egypt, pray for Baghdad, pray for Thailand. Hell, I don’t even know half of the places this stuff is going on…

So don’t fold your hands and trust some almighty cloud dweller to fix this mess. It’s up to you and me. Don’t let your thoughts be led by fear or hate. Do you feel any negativity towards your hijab wearing neighbor? Check yourself: what is this feeling based on; have you every actually spoken with her? Give it a try! Or just throw a smile in there. It won’t fix the world, but it might steer us away from this self fulfilling prophecy. It’s a small and easy gesture and I assure you it will do more good than your bedside prayer.

Also, let’s stop calling that group of hateful cutthroats “Islamic State”. They do not deserve to be acknowledged by this name. They are neither worthy muslims nor do they have or deserve an actual state. They are the Daesh. If there were a way to acknowledge them less, I would.

I don’t feel like predicting the future right now or finding any justification for last night. I clearly have no solutions for this either. So yes, this blog may have been a pretty futile undertaking all together and I apologize if you feel it was a waste of your time. I guess this is what they call catharsis.

Beware of the Chinaman (and his money)!

argument shadowsThe other day I had a disagreement with one of my best friends, let’s refer to her as Annie, that lasted no more than ten minutes but has been bothering me ever since. I’m not sure if it’s fair to play the Frisian card, but after digesting my annoyance with her for a couple of days I am tended to do just that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Friesland. I spent the greatest part of my teen years there and am always happy to go back. However, it is also a very unforgiving place. Not only is the wide emptiness of its landscape overwhelming to city slickers, but it’s harshness can also be felt in its people.

The blow up
I’m sure this disagreement I had with Annie will sound incredibly silly to many of you and you wouldn’t even be wrong. But bare with me, I’ll lift it to a more abstract level further on that might (or might not) make it sound less petty. If you’re not in the mood to read about a childish disagreement between two grown women, skip ahead to the analysis, down by the Snoopy cartoon. I totally would. 😉

Anyway, it started out with us chatting about soccer, and SC Heerenveen more specifically. They haven’t been doing so well lately and on top of that the club’s board of directors is struggling with internal conflicts and childish name calling.

While I was with Annie one of the members of the board, Mr Hettinga, resigned. In his announcement he said his position had been put up for discussion and he felt there was no longer enough support for him to be able to stay on. He also described threats he had received in recent days but he felt the final straw break the camel’s back when angry “fans” had come to express their anger at his home and threatened his family.

I must admit, Annie is way more into the daily hustle and bustle of the club and often has more inside information than I do. She told me he was ruining the club and that if he had had his way there would have been no more Heerenveen. She said his resignation only demonstrated he had no true heart for the club and that his complaints about his safety reaffirmed he was self centered and a coward on top of that . My reaction was, “What the hell were supporters doing at his house!?”.

So how had he been damaging the club? Was he stealing money? Was he involved in some gambling scam? Was he selling off our best players with no profit for the club?

No, the issue was that he had dared speak to a Chinese company, who had shown interest in investing in the club…

Annie sent me the links of several newspaper articles to back her story up, but the more she showed me, the more I disagreed with her.

argument disagree rightI told her I was mostly disappointed in the fact that heerenveen fans were starting to behave like hooligans and that that was more damaging for the club than a guy discussing the possibilities for foreign investors.

She told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that if Hettinga would have had his way there would have ended Heerenveen. She didn’t say “Heerenveen as we know it”. She was literally convinced the club would be wiped off the face of the planet…

I expressed my doubts about this. I told her that ruining the club was not in the interest of an investor. They want profit. I reminded her Heerenveen, like so many soccer clubs, had been struggling financially. Even though we may not like to see it that way the club is actually a business and if an investor offers to pump money into it, you would be irresponsible to NOT consider it.

When she noticed I didn’t share her hatred for mr Hettinga nor her fear for the Chinese, she made a quick attempt to change the subject. However, I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet.

And that’s when she exploded. She let all the sarcastic bile out of the bag and said something along the lines of “I guess you don’t care about the club anyway so why don’t you just hand in your membership card straight away and request a Cambuur membership card”. To understand how serious this remark is, you may want to read back the blog I wrote about the rivalry between these two clubs.

In short she was calling me a traitor…

Her reaction was so strong that it startled me. At the same time it made me giggle because it was so bloody ridiculous! I asked her, jokingly, if I should barricade my house now that I had dared disagree with her and her beloved newspaper (notorious for its crappy journalism, but I didn’t tell her that). She said maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea and might give some of those hooligans a call. We both laughed, but with clenched teeth…argument snoopy

Analysis
So…. What was this really about and why did I feel the urge to write about it here? After thinking on it for a while I decided you can boil it down to one word:

Xenophobia.

Such an ugly trait. Narrow minded and based on fear.

My friend Annie and I were raised very differently and we get along both despite and because of our differences. She is a farmer’s daughter and was the first one in her direct family to get on a plane. Her family were only OK with it because it was with me, and I understood the world. We have traveled long and far together, which is why it pains me to see I have not been able to rid her of this ridiculous fear of the unknown.

I have compared Frisians to hobbits before and I think the comparison still fits in this context. I believe it was Bilbo who wrote to his nephew:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Frisians have a similar attitude towards traveling. It’s mostly something you hear about from those black sheep in the family that dared wander beyond the border, where you can no longer see the town’s church tower. It’s endearing, in a way. But when it translates to wariness and mistrust of all things foreign, it becomes not only annoying but also dangerous. It makes a community close up like a clam or a fearful hedgehog with its spikes all out.

It impedes them from seeing beauty in new places. And even if they saw it, half of them would never dare admit it. It gives me a nasty taste in my mouth to think that my great friend can not overcome such pettiness and I guess I am disappointed I didn’t influence her as much as I thought I did.

And at the same time… It’s what I love about her. She’s strong willed and unapolagetic and I’m pretty sure next time we meet we’ll give each other a punch and a hug and continue on as we always did, because as the Chinese say:

Chinese proverb friends 1