… and still there is hope

If you look at the news these days, it is easy to feel pessimistic. So many things seem to go wrong.

There is war. And terror.

And so many people in need.

There is the everyday stupidity and racism and self-centredness.

Not even mentioning the way we are polluting this planet.

 

And still.

Today many people around the world are celebrating Easter, a day of hope and love and life.

In spite of all the terrible things happening, let us not forget the good things. We need to live our ideals, need to continue to hope and to love.

Let us make this a good day. To show everyone that we are not despairing, that we believe we can make it happen.

Happy Easter!

– And tomorrow, let’s get up and fix this mess! If everyone starts with the little things right in front of them, we can achieve a lot.  🙂

 

 

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Judgement

Normally this blog is the home of my random thoughts. I don’t put anything here that you would describe as “fiction”. But yesterday evening something happened, probably triggered by recent events. Words bubbled up in my mind, forming a sort of story I felt needed writing down. They bubbled up in English, so I wrote them down that way.

So, here you go, a strange little piece of I do not know what. Probably just a piece of my mind.

 

Judgement

A flash of lightning.

Darkness.

Greyness. The man whose finger had been on the trigger slowly got up. He looked down on himself. Although he could see his clothes, arms, hands, could recognise them as his, they had a strange shadowy quality. He looked around, at the bodies lying on the floor. Men. Women. Children. A little boy.

The man took a step forward, and the surroundings began to fade, turning into mist. More grey mist. In front of him, the mist solidified into a shape. Dark robes, a hood concealing the wearer’s face. The shape gestured with one arm, while words turned up inside the men’s head. “Come.”

The man hesitated. “Will you lead me to paradise?” he asked. He had imagined this differently.

“Paradise?” The voice in his head was flat, expressionless. “I would not call it that way.” He lead the way, and the man realised he had no choice but to follow.

They walked through the grey mist.

After a while the dark shape stopped  He stretched out one arm. “Go. Your questions will be answered now.” Strangely enough, this did not sound reassuring.

The man took one more step and saw something taking form in the mist. It seemed to be a swirl of movement, a mixture of dark and light. Power radiated from it so strongly that the man did not dare to move any closer.

“Are you…?” he asked timidly.

Again words turned up in his head.

“I am.” The man was not certain if that was the answer to his question or just a statement of facts.

He almost did not dare to speak. “Will you reward me?”

“Reward you?” The voice inside his head sounded almost surprised. “You have destroyed life. Why should I reward you?”

The man started to shake. “But it was only the unbelieving…” he began, but the voice cut him short.

“There are no believing and unbelieving. There are only living and dead. I cherish life in all its forms. It needs to be respected and protected. Not destroyed.”

The man stared at the thing in front of him. It was moving more quickly now, and he thought he could see different shapes, human ones. Male and female, old and young, tall and small, with dark hair and light hair, with white skin and dark skin, and everything possible in between. He tried to concentrate more, give the shape some more distinct definition, but instead of clarifying, it seemed to become even more varied, including shapes of animals and even plants. It had began to pulse in the colour of the rainbow and now the shapes began to fade, leaving only dancing light.

“What will happen to me?” The man was confused and scared.

“I will let you see”, the voice answered. “I will give you a shred of my knowledge, so that you can see what you did. You will see why it was done and what the consequences are, the small ones and the bigger ones. You will see the whole picture and you will also understand your responsibility. This will be – your reward.” A wisp of rainbow-coloured mist trailed around the man now, and were it touched him he faded. After a few moments the rainbow around what had been the man dissolved, leaving a small spinning shape, rapdily changing forms.

A scream pierced the mist.

 

The little boy walking besided the robed figure stood still. “What was that?” he asked. “It sounded scary.” He hesitated. “Is someone being punished?”

The hood bend down a little. “Don’t be afraid.” The voice seemed softer. “That is just the moment of realisation.”

“Realisation?” Still the boy did not move.

“When you suddenly understand everything. Don’t worry. There is nothing for you to fear in this place.”

They walked on.

A little while later the robed figure returned alone. He walked, then stopped, turning his head as if waiting.

Laughter cut through the mist. Pure joy.

The robed figured nodded. Then it walked on.

The Beach and the Power of Calm

Today I treated myself to another walk on the beach. It was a bit cold, but sunny, without wind, which is rare. There must have been some wind active further out on the sea though, because the waves rolling in were quite high – much to the pleasure of a lot of surfers who did not seem to mind the cold at all.

As it was a normal weekday morning there were not so many people on the beach, just some solitary walkers with their dogs, a few couples and even fewer mothers with small children in rubber boots who tried to play tag with the waves. The surfers were all out in the water, from the distance they looked like seals in their wetsuits.

I walked for a while, looking at nothing special, just feeling the warmth of the sun on my back. When I finally turned around to head back I walked a bit closer to the water line. The tide was low, so low that first I thought it must be at its lowest. But when I stopped and watched the coming and going of the waves I realised the water level was still sinking. There were a lot of fresh sea shells lying around, and of course I started picking some of them up. I never leave the beach with not at least one or two special ones, or an oddly shaped stone. I kept on looking, saw the water flowing out of the little sand pools, trying to get back to the sea. Now and then one of the bigger waves refilled them a bit, but all in all the beach was growing bigger. You could actually see the sand getting drier where the water had left. It did not glisten so much in the sun anymore, growing darker and softer looking.

I stood and watched and felt calm. Where all attempts to meditate regularly fail, sea and sand easily succeeded. I stopped thinking, I merely observed. I was.

 

 

We, the fortunate ones

There are things you know on a theoretical basis, they are like a background, just part of your general view of the world. But sometimes, the reality of them hits you in an instant. I just had one of these moments.

Husband and I were sitting in the kitchen and enjoying the laziness of a Saturday morning. We had just finished breakfast, but lingered on, with a last cup of tea and the morning paper. Entrance Older Boy, telling us about some science news he heard – the theory how the moon used to be a part of Earth and was “born” when another planet hit Earth. As we talked about it, the word “isotopes” fell and needed to be explained. When I got up from the table, Husband and Older Boy were bent over a picture of the periodic table. I left the kitchen smiling.

And then the thoughts came: How fortunate we are. I mean, between Husband and me, we got the world pretty much covered. At least the world that needs to be explained to children up to teenage level. Very cliché, Husband will do better with mathematical and scientific topics (although I am not a complete loser in that area either), while I can provide a lot of info about things like literature, history and art (and fairness commands to add that Husband does know his share here too). Issues of current politics and society we try to do together.

My point is: our children can come to us with their questions. We are fortunate enough to have the knowledge and the urge to explain, to show and to teach. What we do not know (loads of things, of course), we can look up in an instant. In this house, ordinary homework often sparks discussions growing wider and wider circles.

But how many children are left alone with their questions? How many, if they don’t understand what they read in their school books, can only ask their teacher (which does not mean that asking your teacher is a bad thing!)? Even in our privileged world I can sometimes see it in the homework projects other children bring to school. You can tell it where the parents are involved and where the children plod on their own. (Not that I mean the parents should do their kids homework, or even help too much. But you can see in which families the whole project was discussed broadly, ideas shared, alternatives offered. You just see it.)

I am happy and grateful we have the means and the time to do this. I love to explain the world to my kids. But today I am also very aware that we are living in a bubble. I love my bubble – but oh would it be wonderful to let it expand over the whole world.

 

Everyone out there in the snowstorm – hang on!

This is really weird: I walked around in sunshine and mild temperatures today – the little bit of “winter” we had in the Netherlands (meaning a few degrees below 0 Celsius) was washed away by the rain yesterday. The birds are singing, there are loads of green buds in my garden, and I have the feeling that spring is on its way.

And then I switch on my laptop and look at the news: snowstorm in the US…. definitely not looking like spring over there.

So, everyone across the Atlantic, hang on tight! If I could, I would sent you some warm weather to make all that snow melt… but as it is I can only send some warm thoughts.

Take care and be save!

Here it is – 2016

Yesterday shortly after 11 pm, Husband and I set out for the beach. We walked there – taking the car would have been outright silly and we thought it would be too crowed to sensibly bike there (in the end, I guess biking would have been ok, but walking was still nicer). Even though it was an hour before midnight, we could already see at lot of fireworks. (What happened to the idea of actually greeting the new year with fireworks when it was really there, not hours before? But ok, it did look cool and it gave us something to watch on our way.) On the beach they had erected a huge bonfire over the last few days (actually there were two – one one either side of the harbour entrance). At midnight, the real fireworks started (meaning it got really loud and really colourful) and then the bonfire got lit. It looked good, with a very showy flame, helped along by the right amount of wind. Shortly after that a faint drizzle started that sort of spoiled the whole thing a bit – you could see many people starting to head home, us included, me having made the same mistake I always make at these occasions: dressing too lightly. I had thought, oh, it is so mild anyway, without thinking of a) the wind b) the fact we would be standing still for some time. So I already was slightly cold and did not need to add being completely wet. When we arrived home, Granny had already tugged the boys in (who had watched the fireworks from the big windows upstairs). We stayed a bit longer, as you cannot really sleep before 2 a.m. anyway, when noise from all those fire crackers starts to fade.

I got up this morning with my usual first-of-January-feeling: very tired (did not manage to fall asleep until long after 3 a.m.), slightly grumpy about being tired, slightly feeling strange because it is supposed to be a new year but really only is a new day, but with a new way to write the date. Usually it takes some time until I can write the proper year without flinching. (So, let’s practice: 2016, 2016, 2016….) But the sun was shining, which was good, and the boys were reasonably friendly with each other, which always helps.

After lunch I decided it was time for a Zen moment, took my bike and headed off for the beach again. It had gotten colder, like it often does after new year (funny, does the weather have a calendar too?), but this time I had dressed more sensibly. The first thing I noticed was how empty the streets around our house were. Everyone seemed to be either still having lunch or taking a nap. The second thing I noticed was the dirt that was lying around in front of many houses: the remnants of the fireworks, sticks and paper wrappers and stuff. Some spots were covered with red cracker wrappers. Normally I would not describe our area as dirty, but today many streets were outright filthy. What happened to cleaning up after yourself? I mean, even if you are too tired in the evening or claim it is too dark, why can’t people pick up a broom in the morning and clean up the mess they made? Fireworks are not really environment friendly anyway, but at least you could try to limit the damage. Oh well.

When I came closer to the beach, I realised where all the people where: there. The beach is still big enough that it did not look crowded, but the streets were. It always amazes me how many people still try to take their car to the beach on days like this. I mean: public holiday, clear sky, sunshine… not a good idea to take the car there. There are enough parking spots now I guess, but the streets leading to and from the area had sprouted traffic jams. I weaved through them with my bike, locked it next to loads of other bikes on the boulevard and started my walk on the sand.

The big bonfire had burned down to a big heap of ashes, still producing smoke. Some diggers were busy transferring the ashes on trucks. Every time they dug into the ashes, thick dark smoke came out, twice I could even still see a flame. It must still have been very hot in there.

People were walking on the beach, alone, in pairs, in groups, with children or dogs or both. Quite a lot of surfers where out too. I could feel the sun in my face, amazing that it has some strength even in January. In spite of all the people, I still managed to keep my feeling of being on my own. My beach, my sea, my sky. Briefly I considered dropping in at one of the cafes for coffee, but I did not feel like speaking. Plus when I passed them I saw how crowded they where, so I just enjoyed the smell of fresh coffee coming from there and walked on.

When I pedalled home on my bike later, a saw a girl, maybe thirteen, fourteen years old, blond hair, cleaning the street in front of her house with a broom. I smiled at her, but she was too busy to notice me. She had a look of serious concentration on her face.

Faith in humankind restored. We can do this. 🙂

Welcome, 2016. We may have greeted you in a way that was showy but messy, but we can still make it good.

Doors

I don’t know how many of you know the “Never-ending Story” by Michael Ende. The original (“Die Unendliche Geschichte”) is considered a classic German children’s novel, one I really loved reading when I was young. I recently rediscovered it reading it to my oldest one as bedtime story. Most of the story takes place in “Phantasia”, the land of stories. Beside the gripping story there is a lot of food for thought hidden inside, most of it probably going unnoticed by the younger readers.

One of the strange places in Phantasia is the “temple of 1000 doors”, a sort of maze consisting of an endless array of rooms with doors leading to more rooms with doors. Every door in Phantasia can temporarily be an entrance to the temple, any of the doors inside could lead outside again – if you open it for the right reason. The trick is that – once inside – you can only escape it by finding a wish, coming right from your heart. You need to choose the doors that by their shape, colour or material remind you of your wish. If you choose rightly, after a couple of doors you are outside, in a place that will bring you closer to your wish. If you cannot find a true wish, or do not manage to choose the right doors, you will wander the maze forever.

How often are we stuck inside this maze without even realising it? That was the question that floated in my mind yesterday late in the evening. How many of our daily choices lead nowhere, only to more choices? And how many of them come from a true wish?

And how many of the choices we take lightly turn out to be big ones when looking back? Things we discarded with a quick shaking of the head, could they have changed our lives? For the better or the worse?

And what about my choices? Do I regret any of them? (The big ones, not the ones about which pizza to choose for dinner.)

I don’t really know the answer to the first two questions. But strangely enough, when pondering about the third one, the answer was no. As far as I can say today, the big choices where good ones (apart from some not so great pizzas). There is no point in my life that I look back to and say “I should have (not) done this”. Of course I did things I am not so proud of now, and I would do a lot of things differently today, act more kindly or more brave. But looking at the crossroads of my life so far, I am happy that I took the turns I did.

Which probably means I am happy with the life I am living.

Which I am.

(And no, it probably is no coincidence that these thoughts came up at the end of the year… It is a (bad?) habit to reflect on your life in December.

By the way: Happy New Year, when it comes!)