Lifetip 7: Embrace doubt

This post is about doubt, about truth, about facts and our reliance on them.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

One of my favorite books of all times is Life of Pi, which is basically 400 pages of inner musings of a very contemplative kid.

It is a story about a boy surviving a shipwreck and dealing with his trauma by befriending it. Pi’s inquisitive nature and innocent mind investigate religion in a such an open-minded way, that it opened my mind towards the spiritual realm more than any cleric ever could.

During a conversation Pi had with a fervent atheist, he came to the conclusion that this conviction was not for him, but he did respect the thought process behind it. He understood that atheists were thinkers as well, which was something he could appreciate. He concluded that agnostics were the ones furthest away from the truth, as they accepted the idea that anything could be possible, while at the same time doubting everything. He said:

It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.

Even though this is one of my favorite quotes from the book, I will be making a case for doubt as a philosophy.

Uncertainty is the only truth

These are insecure times. Somehow though, this is not reflected by what we see and hear in the media. People with strong opinions debate each other, the one more certain about their point of view than the other.

In the current state of the world, experts are mocked for changing their views on matters such as climate change or the way viruses spread. Yet, it is the ones that claim to know precisely what is going on and what we should do that we should be watching with suspicion.

If you really want to be right, be prepared to admit some things are simply not known or clear. Doubt and nuance are key, yet these properties are not welcome guests at talk show tables.

Mark Rutte

Our own prime minister admitted that during the peak of the COVID-19-crisis he was making decisions for our country based on whiffs of evidence and in some cases deciding what the course would be only minutes before the press conference. There were no clear facts, only ideas. I definitely don’t envy him for having to govern under such circumstances.

I praise him for admitting that he had no certainty to build on.

Subsequently though, as Dutch citizens, we must accept the idea that the prime minister may have flipped a coin to draw the lock down road map, but we need to follow it nonetheless. His doubts may not be reflected in our actions.

The appeal of misinformation

Sadly, US citizens do not have a leader that gives them a clear path to follow. This is not just tragic for the American people themselves, but also for the rest of the world. Just like it gives a kid confidence to compare notes with the classmate with the best grades before a test, we have become accustomed to look at what the “land of the free” does, to see how our own course compares.

In fact, POTUS #45 does pretty much the exact opposite of what our prime minister does. Whereas the Dutch prime minister says much is uncertain he still tells us what our course of action is going to be. The US president says he reads everything and knows all, yet he gives the American people nothing to go on as far as a consistent plan is concerned. More even he contradicts himself on a daily (hourly basis) and spreads (and invents) misinformation on the go.

Fake news and disinformation create fearful people that crave for a simple answer on which they can build a simple truth. People prefer a solution in a happy meal package; not nutritious per se but cheap and easy to swallow. We must not give in to that.

Actual facts take a while to take form. Ideas that don’t rely on research can be up and ready pretty much immediately. When faced with a new situation, people need a frame of reference. Conspiracies and fabricated information find fertile ground in these moments, as scientific information will not yet be available in such an early stage.

Practice doubt

In order to become a doubter, you must:

  • ask questions
  • empathize with people that think differently
  • be brave enough to change your mind
  • accept that absolute facts are rare (if they exist at all)

Because the more we admit we don’t really know anything for certain the closer we will be getting to the truth. The humility we gain in the process could even turn out to have a positive side effect in other areas as well.

Lifetip 6: Calibrate and compare

This lifetip was originally supposed to be titled ‘Create your own compass’.

When Jesse Frederik discussed this lifetip in a Rudi & Freddie podcast episode, he lamented that fact that people tend to prioritize whatever fact they encounter most often.

He described that, as a consequence, we only seem to talk about what everybody else is talking about. His tip was meant as an encouragement to always ask ourselves what is important to us individually and to talk about that instead.

This all rang so true to me. I could think of dozens of examples of people that followed their heart, going against the stream, and making the world a better place because of it.

Also, Jesse Frederik proclaimed that people should make their own estimates and assessments with the available facts. You can do that by asking yourself, what ‘a lot’ means to you (for example when speaking about money)? What is a ‘big’, what is ‘small’? What is ‘wealth’? What is ‘poverty’?

Is a billion dollars investment in military equipment ‘a lot’? Should the amount going towards education be equal to that or would that be ‘too much’? Is a farmer in Spain rich or well off? Is he still rich when compared to farmers in the Netherlands? Is he rich in comparison to you?

Those type of questions are crucial for people like Jesse Frederik, who make a living from the understanding of politics and economics. It must be so frustrating to realize that people (including politicians and people in positions of power) have lost sight of proportions.

In money terms, it’s like everything above a million is just ‘a lot’, putting millions and billions and trillions all on the same heap of unfathomableness. This lack of understanding that we have of amounts and dimensions, is something I will go into further on another day, in another blogpost.

Whereto does the compass point?

Allow me to bring the focus back to the metaphor of the compass and the suggestion to ‘make your own’.

This lifetip was pretty much ready to be packed and posted, when the pandemic took over our lives. From that moment on, all sorts of people started deciding they knew what was good for themselves and their families in ways that were hard to fathom.

All of a sudden, me telling people to stand up for their own truths and to ‘create their own compass’, suddenly sounded like quite a dangerous notion, or in the very least an incomplete one.

I guess I had never considered the possibility that the idea of having an original opinion and a rebellious mind could backfire this way. That sounds incredibly naive now, doesn’t it?

So I came to the conclusion that suggesting you can make your own compass, implies that it is up to you to decide what North is. That is really not a good idea at this particular time.

We already know where North is, as well as East, West and South. The wind directions are not up for discussion. These are facts, backed by science and carefully crafted compasses (and modern day global positioning systems). The compass is fine. you don’t need a new one.

At the same time, I can not ignore the importance of questioning absolute truths every now and then and to never settle for answers like “That’s just the way it is” or “Because I told you so”.

So I went back to the drawing board.

True North

Something that applies to all compasses is that they are of no use if you don’t know where you are or where you want to go. If you don’t know what the starting point is, then there is really very little point in knowing what North, East, West or South is…

I then renamed the blogpost to “Find your own true North”, which is more of an encouragement to figure out which ideas you want to guide you through life.

I also contemplated if it would be different if the lifetip would be ‘Calibrate your compass’. This wouldn’t require a whole new set of truths (aka a new compass), just a re-allignment of your values with the current one.

It also reminded me of Jack Sparrow’s ‘broken compass’, that doesn’t point towards the classical wind directions, but only towards the thing you desire for most in life.

The idea of having a compass but no idea of ones position or destination paralyzed my whole thought process for a while.

Explorers and cartographers

When I found my courage to continue with this post, I decided to investigate the compass metaphor a bit further. I realized that, as a tool, it is most useful when you also have a map. With a map, you can pinpoint your location (or so I’ve been told) and analyze what you would encounter if you were to go in this direction or that.

Once you’ve decided where it is you want to go, the compass can be useful to set your course.

The map we all have to deal with in our daily lives, is one of those computer-game-type-maps where you only get to see the areas where you’ve already been and only fill in the rest as you proceed.

This means you will inevitably be flying blind for a a bit, until you pass a certain threshold and the new borders of the map become visible. I guess that notion comes closest to the way the first explorers had to navigate.

The point beyond the furthest anyone had ever gone remained blank on maps for many centuries. Dragons were drawn into these unknown territories to discourage people to go any further down that unknown path.

The parallel between that metaphor and life is that we can’t really know anything about situations in the future, nor anything that we haven’t experienced first hand.

I have to suppress the urge to type something sarcastic after the previous sentence, as it is almost insulting to have to say it. As professor Redundant would say: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Compare maps & compasses

Basing your choices in life solely on what you have experienced first hand is not very practical, though.

As an example; if I saw somebody diving into a pond from a high cliff and not die, I would assume I could do the same and survive as well. I wouldn’t need to measure the depth of the pond or the wind or check if the water was of the right density. I also wouldn’t check if there were crocodiles, sharks or anacondas down there ready to gobble me up. I would instantly accept that the reality that applied to the first diver would also apply to me (and that I would have fun in the process).

But what about the person standing on the side of the pond refusing to take the jump, convinced it would not end well? What reality does he base his ideas on? Does he have different facts? What does his compass read and what does his map show? Can both realities be true?

If I were to speak to the bystander, I could encourage him by saying “Come on and jump in with me! Hakuna Matata. It is fun!”. With that, I would be assuming many things.

His answer could be: “I am so clumsy, I would surely trip before making the jump and hurt myself with the fall”. I could comfort him by saying (without lying) that I had very poor motor skills myself and that if I could do it, he would surely be fine as well.

If he were to say “sure, but I can not swim”, that would definitely change things. It would indeed be dangerous for him to jump in, without being able to swim, and very reckless of me to encourage him anyway.

Pushing someone who can not swim to dive into a deep pond, would be homicidal. One could say that, from where I stand (with my compass and my map), it is quite rare to encounter someone who can not swim. It is customary for Dutch children to learn how to swim at an early age. My frame of reference tells me that, being an adult equals being able to swim. The possibility that an adult may not be able to swim, would simply not occur to me.

So… long story short: when speaking to someone with a different idea or opinion, it is very useful to check if your maps and your compasses are based on the same parameters, for you could be having a very long discussion without realizing you are simply not talking about the same thing.

Trust the equipment

This leaves me with the dilemma that I don’t want to encourage people to embrace ideas that are just not true.

After thinking it over, I arrived at the conclusion that people that are embracing ‘true fake news’, are not using a compass at all (and the fact that there we live in an era where we have to differentiate fake fake news (which is true) from true fake news (which is fake) continues to baffle me, but no something to go into further here).

People that are not willing to base their life decisions on facts but prefer to rely on gut feelings, would never look at a compass to decide whether to go left or right. They navigate more like Sandra Bullock did in the movie Birdbox; moving around in fear with a blindfold on, shooting at scary sounds and hoping for the best.

A compass will always just do that one thing, which is show you what direction North is. If someone would say “I don’t want a compass that shows me what North is, I want one that always points towards the closest supermarket”, you can simply conclude that they don’t really want a compass. That is not what compasses do. Period.

That means that the compass metaphor stands and that “Make your own compass” is still sound advice. The definition of that device already encompasses (hehehe) its parameters as well as its scientific origins.

Check your coordinates

Along with the creation (or purchase) of a compass one must also be encouraged to figure out the coordinates of ones current location.

I suppose that means you must become conscious of your position, which you can only do by looking around you and retracing your steps to where you came from.

Which lessons did you learn along the way? Ideally you would also ask yourself which lessons you didn’t learn, but that is a tough one (that goes back to the lesson professor Redundant brought us earlier).

What are your values? By whom were they instilled in you? What are your life goals and how do you wish to reach them?

Let’s say your life goal is “owning a house, a pool and a golden retriever”. Do you want to achieve said goal by working your ass off and slowly climbing the corporate ladder? Do you want to marry a rich gal or guy who will make all your dream come true? Or would you rather rob a bank?

All these options are viable. All of them have their up- and downsides. Your moral compass can help you decide which method fits you best.

The triad of tips

Congratulations, you have reached the bottom of the page and the end of this blogpost. The conclusion is that this lifetip consists of a triad of metaphorical tips:

  • Make and calibrate your own compass to set your course.
  • Determine your coordinates to figure out where you are, where you came from and where you want to go.
  • Check and compare your map and compass to that of the person beside you, especially if you plan to go out on an adventure together.

For now, I will leave any further translation of these metaphors to your own personal lives to you.

Lifetip 5: Climb on the soapbox

This lifetip is based on an idea Rutger Bregman spoke about in one of his podcast episodes, as were the previous four. It is motivated by his conviction that this is a time to be explicit and open about good deeds and ideology. We can go back to humility later. Right now we need to “be good out loud”.

The idea behind this, is that seeing others do good deeds is inspiring and contagious.

Charity & Public goods

There is a whole science behind understanding how and why people decide to do selfless things. Organizations that rely on donations and charity from the public can benefit greatly from these observations when applied to a fundraising campaign.

It has been observed that people’s decision making changes when confronted with different circumstances (such as time pressure or group dynamics). I find all of that super interesting, but it’s not really relevant for the point of this blog post, so I’m going to leave it at that. If you want to know more, this relatively short YouTube vid is a good place to start.

A 2004 Harvard research confirmed the idea behind this lifetip, revealing that seeing others making donations to a a charitable cause makes an individual more likely to do the same. Gentle encouragement from a family member or celebrity can also make a big difference.

Just be nice

An organization in the Netherlands that has put this message to the test is called SIRE. It’s sole mission is to make us better people through commercials and posters since 1967.

In 2019 it launched a campaign revolving around the hashtag “doeslief”. That word is a contraction of “doe eens lief”, which is basically the Dutch way of saying “just be nice”.

The videos and posters from this campaign showed statistics of unkindness, followed by nothing more than #doeslief (#Justbenice).

The image above shows three posters from the SIRE campaign #Doeslief, stating:

  • “146.571 vulgar tweets were sent in 2018 referencing cancer”
  • “Every year 8% of all public transport employees gets spat on”
  • “Cash register employee Myriam will be ignored by 30% of all customers today”

The campaign made many people chuckle at the time, but there’s no denying the phrase “Doeslief” did catch on. People say it to each other when they see a good deed being done or when there is need for one.

A follow up hashtag is now being used on social media, when an every day hero gets a shout out: #daslief. In correct Dutch that would be written as “Dat is lief”, meaning “That is nice”.

Claim the spotlight

So, don’t wait any longer. Claim your place in the spotlight.

Did you save a duckling from being run over? Tweet it!

Did you throw somebody else’s litter in the trashcan? Tell a colleague!

Did you wash your elderly neighbor’s windows? Take a pic and share it!

There is that danger of becoming an annoying and presumptious smartass. Just remind yourself that staying quiet and modest would mean the only ones talking would be the Drumpfs of this world.

So be nice, be generous, be a hero. And be explicit about it. #Daslief

YouTube

This is Blog 25 in my A-Z Blogseries:
YouTube

Social media have become something to love to hate and hate to love. If YouTube is a social medium, I think it’s my favorite one.

It’s so easy to lose half a day just clicking from one silly animal video to the next.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Simon’s Cat. I started watching these cute animated videos 11 years ago, when they first came out. If you have a cat (or wish you did) then I’m sure many of the scenes will look familiar in some way. The video below is the very first video Simon ever made and it’s still one of the best ones:

When it comes to news and satire I love them all; starting with the Daily Show and the Late Show all the way to Seth Meyers and Bill Maher. I also love Graham Norton from time to time.

When it comes to music I’m always excited to see a new video of the Pentatonix appear or of Walk of the Earth. When I’m looking for a good live version of a song I always go for KEXP, Mahogany Sessions or NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

A musical flashmob video, that for some reason brought a tear to my eye when I saw it for the first time, was this one:

Actually, now that I’m re-watching it now, I know why it gives me all the feels. It’s the fact that it’s such an ancient art form, such an ancient song and such a universal message, along the lines of “let’s just have a drink and be friends”.

I also just love it when I run into little faith-in-humanity-restoring vids like this one, that was made 3 days after the Paris attacks in 2015:

Let’s use social media for wholesome shit only, what do you say!?

Twitter pup

This is Blog 20 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Twitter pup

The other day, my friend Z asked what I was doing with my T.

It took me a second to figure out what she was asking me.

Was she asking me about the way I pronounce my “t”? My tea? My tee?

She quickly explained that she wanted to know what I was planning to write for the letter T. She was particularly interested to know if I was planning on dedicating the T-blog to the current POTUS, so that she could mentally prepare…

I must admit the letter T was indeed reserved for a blond wavy haired Twitter fanatic. Luckily the twitter-feed I have decided to focus on, only spreads messages that mend the soul (and not… you know… the opposite of that).

Yes, I am talking about Thoughts of Dog.

This twitter account is dedicated to the thoughts, feelings and adventures of a golden retriever.

This dog, who I will referring to as a “he” in spite of not actually knowing if he is male or female, wishes me a gooooob morning on a regular basis.

As you can see, he doesn’t entirely understand punctuation. But then again, why would he? He’s a golden retriever!

Another thing they don’t teach at the puppy academy is the human numeral system. He does however enjoy making lists, so he just improvises:

One of his greatest passions is monitoring the skittle under the fridge. Sadly I wasn’t able to trace the origins of the skittle or why it needs monitoring. That might actually be the point. Because what is more mysterious than an out-of-reach skittle that just appeared out of no where? I’m thankful he’s keeping an eye on that little bugger on behalf of the world…

Besides his beloved humans, the human’s frens and neighbors, my canine guru also has a companion of his own that he shares all his adventures with. It’s his “stuffed fren sebastian”.

For a long time I thought he was a crab… like the Little Mermaid’s conscientious friend Sebastian, you know?

A tweet that I came across recently (but dates back to Dec 2017) taught me Sebastian has floppy ears, so now I don’t really know what Sebastian looks like. But it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s there for this good boy.

Sweet as he is, he still feels very much responsible for the security of the household. To keeps everybody safe and secure, he upholds a clear scale of alert levels. A factor that does complicate things is the fact that, like all dogs, he is colorblind…

His main purpose in life is however, to give and receive love and joy.

I could go on and on forever and never get bored. I could tell you about his philosophical moods and about his love for zooming. I could tell you about his small neighbor human and his car rides.

So there you have it.

I have now let the world know (quite anonymously, but still) that I am not only a big fan of a comic book series written by a grown man in which a child has all sorts of crazy adventures with his stuffed tiger. I am also a huge fan of a twitter feed, written from the point of view of a dog who talks to his stuffed animal, which I now imagine to be crustacean with floppy ears…

And somehow, I still function.

As a matter of fact, escaping from reality is probably the best thing you can do, to maintain your sanity these days!

Flying

This is Blog 6 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Flying

Yesterday I gave us all a break by writing something sweet (literally) and simple. No politics in there, whatsoever.

For the letter F I had several ideas:

The first two already featured in previous blogs and the third and fourth are too heavy and complicated for a quick ABC-post. All though the penultimate option was a close contender until the last minute (because, what is friendship really?) I chose for the latter.

Last year I travelled quite a bit:

  • North Finland (January)
  • Denmark (June)
  • France (August)
  • Londen (September)
  • Spain (November)
  • Ireland (December)

With the exception of my trip to France all of these voyages were made by airplane, which means I have a ginormous ecological footprint. I feel bad about this.

Apparently not bad enough though, because for 2019 I have two new trips to faraway destinations planned and maybe a third (but this one I could try to organize with some other means of transportation).

It’s a flying shame!

Mea culpa. Mother earth, please forgive me…

Awareness is the first step, right? So, here I am. I’ve reached level 1.

Now I’d rather not t stay here too long, on the one side because a gnawing conscience is annoying and on the other side because… well… because I actually want to do better.

So, what would level 2 entail?

No more flying until the airline industry makes cleaner air-travel possible, I guess!

I must admit it hurts a bit to think about it, but I am willing to go there (right after I visit my brother in Canada this October)…

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.

love-3-directions-uai-516x333

 

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.

 

Chuck the list!

bucketlist

This morning I stumbled upon a blogpost that made so much sense, that I can’t believe I hadn’t already written about it myself. The post is titled “Chuck that list“, describing the blogger’s feelings about her bucketlist.

bucket-list

And all though I love the idea of a bucketlist and am oddly attached to mine, I can totally relate to what Imadcap wrote about the limitations of such a list.

My bucketlist was supposed to inspire me. It was meant to motivate me to pursue these goals, even the ones that make me nervous or uncomfortable.

In hindsight, making the list public kind of messed it up. Or no, I think putting it into writing did that. Because then it became a to-do list and not striking anything off became failure. And that really wasn’t the point!

I suppose it’s like playing a video game, where you are actually doing great, passing level after level and gathering points and bonuses along the way. Striking an item of your bucketlist is like finding an easter egg. It’s not necessary, but it is cool!

And Imadcap puts it very well when she says: “a list always limits you into thinking these are the stuff you want to do.” That is so true! Some of the best experiences I’ve had were ones I hadn’t counted on having at all!

Imadcap adds: “Secondly, lists change. Or at least they should.”

Woman Reading Long List

Again, I couldn’t agree more… I always thought my bucketlist would continue growing; with more and more life goals being added on at the bottom, striking the goals that I achieved, as I went.

But as it turns out, I actually don’t demand as much from life as I used to or at least not the same things. There are things on the list that, deep down in my heart, I really couldn’t care less about now… And that’s OK!

All of this helps me pinpoint and eliminate the nagging feeling I’ve been having… You see, a dormant bucket list can lead one to believe that nothing is happening. That life has come to a standstill.

First of all, let me say that a quiet life is not necessarily a bad thing…

But second of all, the fact that I haven’t stumbled upon or pursued as many of the bucket list items, is merely proof of my lack of imagination. Life has so much to offer and if I had been more creative I may have made more room for the smaller ideas that ended up leaving the biggest impact.

On the other side, the fact that I put some life goals into writing, may have even prevented me from enjoying them as much as I would have if they had simply crept up on me out of nowhere.

Another thing that kind of bugs me when I look at my bucketlist, is that I feel it doesn’t represent me. When I put it together I really made an effort to think out of the box and include things that I didn’t necessarily think I would enjoy but that I felt I should do anyhow, either to broaden my horizon, to become a better person (whatever that means) or to be able to say “yes, as a matter of fact I DID try that and it sucked as much as I thought it would”.

tales of the unexpected-logo

So, I guess what I am saying is that having a bucketlist is one thing, but it is not complete without a second list with all the unexpected stuff that actually meant something on the long run. Small anecdotes that have shaped who I am and reflect what matters to me.

Like the time I bumped into the homeless man that used to sleep on my porch but whom I hadn’t seen in many months (I moved and actually felt bad for some reason that I hadn’t been able to tell him that, since I was quite sure the new tenant would be less accepting of his midnight ramblings). It warmed my heart to see his face light up when he recognized me and seeing his toothless smile appear on his face as he exclaimed: “HEY! It’s you!”

Or the time my boyfriend and I decided to order takeout dinner last summer and eat it in the grass a couple of streets behind our new home and then sharing our food with an amazingly tame blackbird. And as he flew off, my boyfriend and I couldn’t believe our eyes as he flew away, over several houses and straight to our very roof, that we could (by chance) only just see the tip of from where we were sitting… and he’s been around ever since!

Awkward-White-People-Dance-Moves

And how about the love I have developed for Roskilde Festival? This year will be my third visit and my second time as a volunteer. I could never have foreseen how proud it makes me to be a part of that. More, I could never have imagined how welcome I have felt there, even as an only-slightly drinker, a not-at-all drug user, an awkward dancer and a very non convincing hippie.

These are all things that define me but in no way or form feature on my bucketlist. I suppose I could add them in very general terms and it wouldn’t even look like I was cheating. How about:

  • befriend a bum
  • bond with a bird, like a true Disney princess
  • Go to a music festival for free

This won’t do though. It defeats the purpose of the bucketlist and does no justice to the anecdotes…

So I did the only right thing and added “Chuck the list” to the list.

Morituri te salutant

“Those who will die, salute you”, is what fighters in the gladiator pit supposedly said in ancient times, before fighting to the death in an arena full of bloodthirsty onlookers.

Athlete and silver medalist Marieke Vervoort could have greeted the crowd in the same fashion before her race last week. She is most certainly a fighter. Just like the gladiators of old she does not want to die. And just like them, it is likely she will die before her time. She is an athletic hero, named paralympian of the year in both 2012 and 2015. She also happens to have progressive myelopathy.

She has never made a secret of her feelings towards euthanasia. But when she declared the Rio Olympics would be her last, the interwebz exploded, convinced she was going to celebrate her silver medal on the 400m with a some super special suicide pill that she must have been saving for the occasion.marieke-vervoort-euthanasia

Last Sunday she took some time at a press conference to explain what she meant and basically told the world to take a chill pill themselves.

She explained how she had indeed signed papers several years ago, giving her the possibility to end her life and that these were partly what had kept her going for so long. Make no mistake, this woman is not choosing the easy way out. She is already dealing with a degree of pain on a daily basis that you and I can’t even begin to fathom. She explained it as follows:

Yes, I have euthanasia paperwork ready. I’ve had them since 2008. Because I can tell you it’s really hard to deal with this disease en endure the pain. But this permission I have for the euthanasia process, which I have in writing and carry with me, gives me a sense of peace. It’s this feeling that helps me live. I can enjoy every moment I have now. But when the time comes that I have more bad days than good days, I will have my euthanasia papers ready. But that moment has not arrived yet.

So, when she said these would be her last olympics she was basically just announcing the end of her topsport career, not the end of her life.

She will continue living her life to the fullest, as she always has. She will continue facing her pain and her progressing paralysis head on, as she will all the hateful fools that feel they have a right to judge her.

As her disease creeps on, she may completely loose her sight (it has already deteriorated to 20% of her original vision) and her epilepsy attacks will become more frequent. The cramps in her body will keep her awake during the night and the wheelchair she sits in will no longer be powered by the muscles in her strong arms. She lives in constant fear, not knowing which part of her body will give in next.

She directed her strong plea for euthanasia at the people and politicians of Brazil and other countries where euthanasia is still a taboo and a crime above that.

I hope people don’t feel [euthanasia] is murder. Just being in the possession of these papers, which is something I obtained legally in my country, gives me tranquility. If I did not have this option I may have already committed suicide.

You don’t just beat your opponents, you beat the odds. You don’t just break your personal (and world) records, you break taboos.

Right on, Marieke. I salute you.

Mind Cleanup – May

 May flew by in the blink of an eye. Time to reflect!

mirror

Self reflection

When I ran into this post on Bored Panda about what introverts love in life I started to wonder about where I fit in. I can identify with all but 3 or 4 of the 20 images on the list, which pretty much proves I am an introvert, right?

On the other side though, I know some of my friends  and colleagues must wonder if I ever shut up and if I have the power in me to not wordvomit every on of my ridonculous thoughts at them as soon as they pop up in my brain. Also, I sometimes feel the need to skip across a room, instead of just regular-walking. Not something you would expect of an introvert… maybe a slight schizo one…?

introvert-me.jpgI also have both an urge and extreme dislike towards being the center of attention. So, what’s up with that? I decided to do a personality test just now and even after answering a trillion questions the result was “right on the borderline for the Extraversion vs. Introversion dimension. We can’t say for sure what your style is for this dimension of personality.” Bleuh, I hate being called “regular” or “average”…

Luckily though, it turns out my personality type does have a name, which I found out after reading this little article about outgoing introverts. So there you have it: I’m an outgoing introvert!

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Epicureous

  • I love elderflower flavored drinks.
  • Jamie Oliver’s so called 15 minute meal recipes actually take about 45minutes to an hour to prepare.

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Movies / Series

The other day I somehow stumbled upon an old episode of the Graham Norton Show, in which guests Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville have such a contagious amount of fun that it had me laughing out loud multiple times. If you’re having gloomy day: go for it. It’s bound to cheer you up.

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Music

Last weekend Brazilian guitarist and incredble vocalist, Badi Assad, visited the small village in the North of Holland, where my parents live. Amazing show, lovely lady!

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Cowabunga

Daydreaming about possibility of going on a big trip in 2017/2018.

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Bummerama

The state of my country continues to worry me. We are all doing quite well for ourselves but for some reason little is left of the tolerance and open mindedness we were once known for.

The most recent example is the way a startling number of my compatriots reacted to Sylvana Simons, a Dutch TV celebrity that had criticized the Zwarte Piet element in our yearly celebration of Sinterklaas on several occasions and has now joined a slightly controversial political party to get her point across in a mor substantial manner.  I for one, agree with her and wish her the best of luck. Luck and an extremely thick skin.

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Looky here

As a tribute to David Attenborough, who celebrated his 90th birthday at the beginning of May, Aardman Animations made a trilogy  of small videos, “interviewing” some of the animals he visited. Such a lovely gesture. Happy Birthday, sir David!

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Epilogue

I have quite a few nice things lined up for the month of June!

  • Beth Hart performance this upcoming Friday.
  • Pub quiz next week.
  • Aunt’s birthday celebration on the 4th of June and my mom’s the next day.
  • Trip to Copenhagen at the end of the month.
  • Summer!