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.

Language

This is Blog 12 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Language

My boyfriend, G, and I share a love for language and linguistics.

It happens almost weekly that some odd expression, pronunciation or unusual word makes my ears perk up (and often it is something that I see is simultaneously happening in his mind, which is obviously a huge turn on).

We then tear the matter apart, googling the heck out of it (after we’ve agreed on the best search terms, which sometimes can be challenging enough).

The last word we dove into was “psychopath“, which I now know stems from the Greek words psykhe, meaning mind and the word pathos, meaning suffering.

So a psychopath is, in the purest sense of the word, somebody who has been diagnosed with suffering of the mind.

In modern times we envision a psychopath to be a manipulative charmer that spends his days fantasizing of all the ways he could make you disappear. We would say a psychopath is more often the cause of suffering than the victim of it, wouldn’t we? I suppose we have TV crime-series and horror stories to thank for that.

G and I debated on how much empathy a psychopath really would have. I decided that they actually could have some empathetic abilities in the sense that they recognize feelings and know how to respond to them convincingly. What they lack are soft feelings such as pity and compassion (making them perfect for politics or wall street).

Another word we tried to decipher was “discussion“. Not something you would normally need to look up the meaning of, right? We came to the conclusion however that our personal definitions were quite different, with his being much more negative than mine.

In his view, there is no such thing as a “good discussion”, given that there are always two (or more) people participating with opposed opinions and no real willingness to change that.

In my opinion a debate can be a tool to get closer to the truth and changing your mind about your argument is actually allowed.

This made me realize that being in (his definition of) a discussion is an experience he does not enjoy at all. Now that I know that, I can change the way I react to him when he mentions a discussion he’s had with this or that person.

These elaborate exploratory talks we have (often during breakfast) remind me of how important it is to check during conversations if we are actually talking about the same thing.

Even when your convo partner is using the same words as you are, you may be missing the point completely because you do not know the weight it has for the person across from you.

We are a species blessed with the ability to use language, in spoken form and also through gestures and posture. Putting a little effort into the way you communicate can make life so much easier!

Mind Cleanup – Summer edition

In Dutch we call this time of year “cucumber time”… I’m not sure if it’s also an expression in English though…

We use it as a way to express the time during summer when nothing really happens and newspapers and TV channels have very little news to report on but still manage to fill the pages and daytime TV with non-news about nothing-really-happening. I guess they call it that because  a cucumber may be a pretty large vegetable, but has hardly any nutritional value as it consists mostly of water. It doesn’t really have much taste eitherOstrich Head Out of Sand

All though in all honesty it’s not true that nothing is happening, is it…? My goodness, so much is happening, it’s actually hard to take in… I feel so small and hopeless in the presence of the “real news” and shamefully admit I’m pretty much in cartoon-style-ostrich-mode. Not proud of it… Working on it… I promise (myself) a more substantial, thought provoking piece next time…

Anyway… September is knocking on the door, which means “the r will be back in the month” (another Dutch expression signalling the end of summer and the return of scarves and warm coats); and it was an Olympic summer!

olympicrings400.png          Olympics          olympicrings400.png

To be honest, us Dutchies were a bit disappointed by Team NL’s results at the Olympics. This feeling stems from the fact that we weren’t able to bring home precisely those medals that we thought we had the best shot at. Ergo, the matches that we were all watching, were actually the ones we weren’t able to cash in on.

Which ones were we counting on?

  • Epke Zonderland
    (fell on his face)
  • Dafne Schippers
    (she did take home silver, but she was so pissed off about it that it felt like she fell on her face too)
  • Yuri van Gelder
    (was sent home for behaving like the bad boy we always knew he was)
  • Ranomi Kromowidjojo
    (others were just faster)
  • Jeroen Dubbeldam
    (crossed the finish line a heartbreaking o.02 seconds late)
  • Hockey
    (if only they gave out points for ball possession (and pretty faces))
  • Judo
    (don’t really know what happened there…)

Which ones did we unexpectedly win?

There were also sports where we didn’t win a medal at all but were still ecstatic about anyhow; For example our gymnast team, who finished seventh and our ever-smiling runner Churandy Martina, who made it to the 200m final for the third Olympics in a row and was just proud and grateful for the gift he had received from the big almighty.

And finally, I guess we were all pretty proud of our royal family.

emoji music           Music           emoji music

As it’s been a pretty warm and sunny week, I feel some dreamy, slow summer songs are in place. I envision a hammock, a cold drink and the absence of to-do lists, and the following songs playing in the background:

JP Cooper

Daniel Gidlund

Axel Flovent

On a different note:

I can’t believe the amount of songs Rihanna is kicking into this world… and this one is so surprising! (and so recognizably co-written by the amazing SIA!!)

Speaking of soundtracks: Every song I’ve heard from the Suicide squad movie has gotten stuck in my head straight away. Worth a listen! Haven’t seen the movie yet though…

Interesting stuff others wrote

Vox

Trump is on the front page of every newspaper, tabloid and what not and for obvious reasons. I felt this article in Vox showed an interesting theory about his brainfarts, though. Some quotes from the article:

Donald Trump is not a conservative — it’s no secret that he came to Republican Party politics after decades as a Democrat. He’s a populist, and so are his core fans.

Trump still hasn’t really learned how to speak conservative. At best, he just repeats key phrases; at worst, he unleashes some mutated monstrosity, like a conservative talking point that had survived and evolved for generations underground.

The problem with treating Donald Trump as the conservative id, though, is that Trump isn’t a conservative. He’s not saying things he believes because he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to say them; he’s saying things he doesn’t believe because he thinks other people do.

Being Woke

Fellow blogger “Being woke” posted a blog on the Burkini ban, that was installed by the mayor of Cannes on the 12th of August, followed by… very little actually. No collective public outrage, very few critical opinion pieces and no sign-carrying feminists on the streets. As the blog painfully points out:

“This ban has not liberated anyone or stopped any kind of “Islamic” extremism. What it has done is stopped women enjoying a swim, provided further ammo for gendered islamophobia and and once again shown the political system does not ask the opinions of those it effects.”

Such ugly choices, being made in France… 😦

 Epilogue

Woah, my blog is really all over the place today…I apologize… which probably means I shouldn’t publish it yet… But I think I’m gonna anyway…

Please let me pretend it’s cucumber time one last time…

The power of words

[…]

Now, it is a massively difficult to get your head round; how ordinary people, – and Germans are ordinary people just like us, and if we don’t believe that, then we’ll be doing to them what they did to the jews, we will be ascribing a racist characteristic just to Germans, that is unique to them, – I think we can all be grown up enough to know that it was humanity doing something to another parcel of humanity, and that it was very extraordinary. We’ve seen examples of it in our own lifetimes, such as Ruwanda and Burundi and other places where massacres of extraordinary brutality have taken place.

And in each one of these genocidal moments, or attempts of full genocide, each example was preceded by language used again and again and again to dehumanize the person that had to be killed, in the political eyes of their owners. […] And they start to characterize them week after week after week after week, and you start to think that someone who is slightly sullen, someone you don’t like very much anyway, and you’re constantly getting the idea that they’re not actually human. Then it seems that it becomes possible to do things to them that are, we would call unhuman… inhuman… lacking humanity. Oddly enough, we’re the only species that does it…

It is interesting and important to remember that language not only guarantees our freedom.  In free exchanges of ideas, such as this, in which one is allowed to say anything in which one would hope everyone observes the decencies of debate and of good nature and is not cruel and unkind, mocking derisory, unpleasant, vicious or indeed whipping up violence, but as long as ideas are exchanged freely then we can more or less guarantee some level of stability within our societies. But the moment we begin to use special language for special people and special terms of insult to special people, then thats when, and we can see it very clearly because history demostrates it time and time again, that’s when ordinary people are able to kill.

There’s an amazing book called “Ach die schone Zeite”, which I think has recently been translated under the title “Those were the days” and it’s a horrific thing to read because it is so ordinary. It is simply the letters home from the guards and soldiers and SS members and officers of the death camps of Auschwitz, letters home to their families.

[…]

It’ so human that it makes someone kind of gasp at how this kind of happened. And language is at the root of it and I suppose that is why we have to be careful about our language or we have to be alert to it, we have to think about it…