If you ask my family and friends they will pretty much agree that I am a positive person. I prefer the sunny side of the street, focus on what I like about a person and preferably wear my pink shades. But there is another side to me that comes out now and then and can feel overwhelming.
You see, injustice in any shape or form has me fuming within minutes. Stupidity, thoughtless response, repeating other people’s opinions without giving them a second thought is on top of my frustrations list. Ignorance on social media, people joining in discussions that only contribute to division and hatred, drawing simplistic conclusions without wanting to know the story behind the news. At times I question superficiality and usually get as a response that they don’t care or have time to look beyond what they see. A black and white vision is apparently easier to uphold, to defend and to share.
The sad thing is that we live in a system of political world order which is fortified by simplistic thinking. Bij division. By just accepting things as they are. By not questioning the underlying flaws in our food system, in our sick care, our assumption that economic growth is the only way forward. By not addressing the need for preventing rather than curing economic, social and personal imbalance. By not contributing to solutions which are for the general good.
Why? Because the financial returns of the real structural solutions are, well, let's say they are not as lucrative. We live in an economy which thrives on oil leaks, war and on sickness. How is that for a wake up call? I know, I couldn’t get my head around this either and it almost breaks my heart.
Almost. Because I also know there is an increasing movement of people Changing the Conversation and making a difference. Thousands of small movements started by people with an idea, a vision of how we can live meaningful lives. Of spreading sparks of innovation, creative living and organic farming. They are not demotivated by cynics and system holders. They are committed to walking on the sunny side of the street and inviting others to cross over.
This insight usually sets in after a 20 minute walk. As I wonder at the beauty and the magic of the trees and the grass. The effortless flight of geese in perfect formation. The sun on my face peeking through the clouds. The river flowing, no matter what. It reminds me of Joanna Macy’s words in her interview with Joanna Tippett; "if your mother is dying of cancer next door, would you just let her die there on her own??"
In the same way we can't detach ourselves from the world or from life around us and move into another room. In fact, it is the love for all life that brings out the commitment and passion of joyful living. I would want to spend every precious moment with her and hold her hand, talk, listen to music, laugh, read poetry, eat good food and drink wine. Right until the end.
So that is what I will do.
In the words of the poet Jack Gilbert,"We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world".
In previous posts I have mentioned my admiration for Krista Tippett and her radio programme/podcast On Being. I am reading her latest book "Becoming Wise" (non affiliate link) and savouring every word. It is beautiful, inspiring and deep nourishment on all levels.
The podcast is brilliant, you can download it on your phone and listen in the car/when you are cleaning/ironing or (please do!) lounging on a Sunday afternoon :)
Her interview with Joanna Macy "philosopher of ecology...translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke" particularly touched me and I listened to it a number of times yesterday in the car. In this interview she is in her eighties and sums up everything that I believe in a way that I hope I will be able to do when I am that age.
She talks about a "pivotal time in the landscape of her life" when she realised that "our difficulty in looking at what we're doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain", "that dance with despair, to see how we are called to not run from the discomfort and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear and that, if we can be fearless, to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn't stay static. It only doesn't change if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it and keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face, and the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life."
"So that is what keeps me going, Krista. The Great Turning is a revolution that is underway, the transition to a life-sustaining society, that this is sprouting up in countless ways, new ways of holding the land, new ways of generating energy, new ways of producing food, some of them very old ways that we are going back to, wisdom of the ancestors and of the indigenous people, often, new ways of measuring prosperity and wealth, new ways of handling differences through nonviolent communication, through restorative circles instead of outside the dominant punitive penal system now. There’s a tremendous energy."
I leave you with this truly inspiring woman and her beautifully translated Rilke poetry.
This way, when I go out, swim and absorb the sunlight I can let all my new thoughts find a place until I feel I want to share them. Usually, first with my family over a delicious lunch or dinner with fresh fish and lush salad. I did notice a bit more eye rolling from them than usual on this holiday. It may have to do with the philosophical reading I was doing (The Path, Michael Puett)
Admittedly I think it increased my usual analytical look on life, seeing symbolism in practically everything. For teenagers, parents tend to be ridiculous most of the time anyway so this only proved their point. "Yep, she's gone bonkers, it's official" was the look they were giving each other. Needless to say, I was dealing with it in a very philosophical manner :)
I have always been a lover of words. It literally feels like warm honey for my soul. So you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered Krista Tippett and her podcast "On Being".
"On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact."
On her podcast she has interviewed all the inspiring minds you can imagine in a way that is second to none with so much respect, grace and intelligence that you come away after 50 minutes feeling infused with hope and desire to pay forward the energy. So far I have listened to The Conversational Nature of Reality with David Whyte, Listening to the World with Mary Oliver and Your Life is a Poem with Naomi Shiha Nye. I am not sure if it was by chance or intentional that they are all poets but it made me realise something about myself, I love poetry.
The last time I read poetry before this must have been in 6th form, preparing for my A'levels. I remember loving the symbolism but never felt inspired to pick up a poetry book until I discovered David Whyte a few months ago. (See my last post on that here.)
I find that it is true what he says, poetry finds a way of saying things prose cannot achieve. Besides, it is so magically universal.
So I leave you with my discoveries and hope they do the same for you; sweeten your soul and invite to share because the world needs more poetry.
Do the test and read the poem below by Naomi Shihab... :)
Love & Joy,
I have a thing for conversations.
Why do some go smooth without any effort and others, with all the effort in the world, never seem to get anywhere.
A conversation takes two people. That is part of the problem and all of the magic. But it takes a lot more.
Of course shared interests can help, curiosity is a must and respect a prerequisite. But even then it is not a guarantee.
When going beyond the chit chat, small talk and entering real discussions we all tend to do the same:
We listen with the intention te reply.
We have our opinions ready on global issues, the meaning of the threat of terrorism. Why GMO’s are the only solution in feeding the world or why they are absolutely not. What the world will look like without banks. Or why the world will always be led by them.
However intelligent our conclusions, and in depth our reading, it is never too late te learn. To learn to look at things with a different viewpoint including other horizons and considerations.
The thing is, meaningful conversations become connections. And connections are at the basis of the meaning of our existence. I came across this speech of Dean James Ryan at the Harvard University and felt an immediate recognition of the essence of real connection:
-Asking TRULY essential questions-
Turns out they aren’t very complicated or philosophical.
Anyone can ask them and, really, everyone should.
If you have a remote interest in success and happiness that is.
And I’m guessing that may be the case.
Funny thing is asking them makes you as happy as being asked. Showing true interest in the answer shows true interest in your conversational partner. As per James Ryan: "I would urge you to resist the temptation to have answers at the ready and to spend more time thinking about the right questions to ask”.
Watch his part on 5 Essential Questions HERE on YouTube (6 mins), you really don't want to miss it, trust me. The questions have been worked out by Garr Reynolds and can be read HERE .
So just to sum them up:
At the core of Joyful living and creativity is curiosity. More on that in my next blog...
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How the languages you speak change your world view
Having grown up trilingual I have always found it difficult to explain to monolinguals just how grateful I feel for being able to look at the world through different eyes depending on the language I am speaking at the time. Even when I write I feel the difference.
I came across the article below published online in www.theconversation.com and found it really resonated, I think a lot of you will feel the same.
The icing on the cake besides all the other "perks" is that dementia, is likely to kick in 5 years later.
Then again, when it does, the gibberish I will be fabricating is likely to be triple Dutch ;))
Thank you Panos Athanasopoulos (Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University) for this excellent article.
"Bilinguals get all the perks. Better job prospects, a cognitive boost and even protection against dementia. Now new research shows that they can also view the world in different ways depending on the specific language they are operating in." Read the complete article here...
In preparation for an evening with David Whyte at the School of Life in Amsterdam on the 9th of June I came across this talk:
Life at the Frontier: The Conversational Nature of Reality (20 min)
The theme: "Inevitably everything is waiting for you" is highly promising and at the same time overwhelmingly scary. Finding the edge between your own particular signature and genius and the surrounding world is where astonishing conversations occur. After all, as David Whyte so eloquently puts it in his poem "Working Together", everything is a conversation "The visible and the invisible working together in common cause...".
There are still some tickets available here (non affiliate link) for his topic on "Courageous Conversations".
The funny thing about real conversations, according to Whyte, they will occur with or without you. "You can choose to look away but the conversation is still going to happen. The real choice is, will you look it in the face?"
An interesting invitation for creative minds...
We shape our self
to fit this world
and by the world
are shaped again.
and the invisible
in common cause,
I am thinking of the way
the intangible air
passed at speed
around a shaped wing
holds our weight.
So may we, in this life
to those elements
we have yet to see
and look for the true
shape of our own self,
by forming it well
to the great
intangibles about us.
There is something about Art that brings people together. Particularly amongst artists there is a common ground of recognising each other's process of passing everything through your heart after it comes out of your head.
A humanising filter, the vulnerability of making your emotions visible and opening your heart. Pretty scary actually and quite a process. Not surprisingly therefore a great conversation topic at the table where we all shared our lunch at the Heart for Arts Event in Marbella, Spain on 28 & 29th of May.
For whom do you make Art? is another good topic. Although believing that making art from your heart should be the only way to stay true to your own convictions, is in fact not a guarantee for success. Clearly integrity becomes a lot easier once there is some sort of recognition. Because, as Martin Stellar states, the days of aspiring to being a starving artist as the only way of staying true to oneself, are over. Not that they have seized to exist, mind you. But it has become clear that starving, doesn’t do your art any favour. The importance of art, of beauty, for its own sake is becoming increasingly essential in sterile, brick, city environments for the sterile and brick minds.
So yes, let’s have a great mural by George Kowzan by MacDonalds, sculptures by Lieuwke Loth in communal gardens, symbolic messages in the paintings by Anouk Slegers, hidden truths in the photographs of Mena Sambiasi and inspiring emotions in the portraits of Paul Arts.
Art is a human necessity, an inspiration for the senses which are otherwise overloaded with facts & figures. Artists deserve to get paid for what they contribute. Agnes Torok is becoming an inspiration for her generation for not accepting the gradual shift that we are all part of by becoming so preoccupied with finding a “job” that we may end up living a life which is unfulfilled and uninspired.
There is no shame in keeping yourself financially alive as an artist, in fact you are doing the whole world an enormous favour by feeding starving souls.
The event was a great success for the artists for precisely that reason. Coming together and realising that we are all fighting the same battles and that it is time to stand up and do something about it. Learning from each other not only by sharing painting techniques but also by planning joint events and connecting on a personal level.
I have subscribed to Martin Stellar’s newsletter for “ambitious creators”, a refreshing approach to turning your passion into a business. I have pledged Agnes Torok via Patreon which is a great crowdfunding way to support artists financially so that art can continue to be accessible to everyone (check Agnes here on Youtube).
What will you do to make your own art or other people’s more accessible?
Have a good think about it and then do something. And for those of you thinking “I’m not an artist!”... have a look at “The Icarus Deception” by Seth Godin in which he says: “Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.”
So, go make some art.
For lack of a social life, Twitter was my best friend
For lack of a social life, Twitter was my best friend for those first months. It was a great way to find inspiration for new initiatives, meet people working on interesting projects and contact businesses for possible job opportunities.
It soon became apparent that, in spite of being trilingual, a business owner, hard worker, life learner, leader, having a university education, initiative, amazing social skills AND a sense of humour that my age seemed to work against me. Not that anybody ever told me that but I did have to draw that conclusion for lack of anything else that made sense.
In all honesty I should add that I only applied to jobs that I thought I could do without being suicidal within a week -which rules out supermarket cashier and bookkeeping- but I even responded to receptionist & bookstore sales positions. So no arrogance on my part.
Inspired by everything that matters and convinced that creative living is on top of the list.