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May 29 2005
This afternoon the board of the Center PMV convened for the last
time. It was more an informal gathering on the terrace of restaurant
the 'Wolfsberg' ('Wolfe Mountain') with its beautiful view over the
border lands between Holland and Germany near Nymegen. What for heavens
sake is the center PMV? PMV stands for 'Pro Mundi Vita', latin for
'on behalf of the life of the world'. Now you still don't know nothing.
Further explanation: The center PMV was a kind of small super market
for all kinds of courses in personal or spiritual growth, lectures,
workshops. It developed out of a local Roman Catholic emancipatory
movement after the Second Vatican Coucil, and turned into a non-denominational
center where in the seventies, eighties and nineties of the past century
the Nymegen citizens could explore the new field of all kinds of spiritual
directions offered to a more and more secularized world.
Much idealism in running the center was in the game and many voluntaries
gave their best. But giving a solid economical foundation was not
the strong point. As time went by the 'Zeitgeist' and its orientation
Economical changes made the municipal policies economize on grants
up till then given to the centers like the PMV.
Circumstances grew more and more unfavorable for surviving. Eventually
there were no longer terms to keep the PMV center alive.
One and a half year ago we stopped all activities and had to dismiss
the personnel And a month ago we finally dissolved the juridical foundation.
So on this sunny afternoon in May we had a lively conversation about
all kind of topics with a hardly spoken undertone of melancholy about
past times and the often emotional history of ups and downs the PMV
centre went through during its eventful and stirring history.
I myself joined as a voluntary in 1996. From 1998 till the end of
2001 I chose the kind of courses and workshops and composed the program
booklet published twice a year.
From may 2003 I joined the board, which eventually had to decide about
dissolving this valued part of the Nymegen social world. The last
euro's we spent on coffee, rolls and salad. We spoke about health,
cars,restaurants in Nymegen and God, especially Intelligent Design
(which yes or no had brought us together on green slopes of the village
Below the board on the terrace: left to right:
Good Luck, John Bank, master Wimmel, Reb Rob, Peter Koyoga and Penny
May 16 '05
Survey of a week with illustrations
(names and some details have been changed with
a view to privacy)
Sunday 8th. In the morning we had our bible discussion group
at my place. From all corners of the province of Gelderland came the
participants to the town of Nimway, where I live in a sturdy 50 year
old twelve store apartment building. Anna brought a bouquet of lilies-of-the-vally
out of her garden, Cilly brought fresh dates and we sat all six at
my table to take a closer look at the deeper meaning of the first
two chapters of Genesis. A hot item is of course the relation of man
and woman, Adams rib, or is it instead of rib "side", some
bible scholars translate it thus, which places Eve in a more equal
position; the two men in our group, me and Edward, are not very machismo-disposed
and we agree that Genesis, though composed in a patriarchical society,
doesn't preclude man-woman equality and later Edward mailed about
the latest scientific insight: Not the woman originates from Adam's
rib but the man originates from a chromosome of Eve.
On the way home Lisa phoned me: I 'm involved in a crash!
I jumped in my car and drove to the place of the accident.
Fortunately Lisa was not hurt, but her small car, a Fiat from 1991
- in Holland nicknamed "biscuit tin" - was badly damaged
at the front, total loss.
There the car was, part of a multiple collision on one of the main
roads in Nimway, it was the last in the chain, and there we were,
the police, the other paticipants of the crash and Lisa, upset, under
a grey sky, the drizzle pouring down on us on this chilly sunday.
After all the formalities I brought Lisa home and we thought about
a solution of finding a replacement for her car.
In the evening another group session took place in my home, the Jewell
Path group. The followers the Jewell path try to to understand the
structure of personality on a deeper level and to loosen the bonds
of the ego to reach subtle inner energetic layers, which are to be
found in the free domain of the soul. The ultimate goal is living
an engaged and enlightened life. What we do is report to each other
on our experiences in this process and to do so called 'inquiries'
in pairs or triads, inquiry being a kind of intense meditation, during
which experiences may be communicated to the other. This serious description
of the process doesn't mean the evening was a silent and solemn happening.
It was of a lively and sometimes touching gathering.
monday ninth: afternoon a massage by master masseuse Harriet
in the village of Bolsterhout on the other side of the river. Sshe
runs her massage business in a small room on the second store of the
house with its marked pointed roof, under
which she has raised four children and under which her husband is
trying to get accustimed to his recent retirement. In the evening
I had another group session; it was a busy group week. This time it
was the so called 'intervision group', that already for almost ten
years convenes in the framework of a counseling training we once followed.
Once there were more of us, but now we are three but very true to
each other we follow and discuss each others life events.
Lunch with my good friend Marcel. During our lunch we exchange news,
which very often transforms in a kind of mutual counseling about our
soul condition. This time Marcel brought a picture of himself as a
kid. Many times our explorations center about how our daily awareness
is influenced by child states we still carry in ourselves, child states
which sometimes distort our perceptions but when we are able to find
an inner place of unconflicted child awareness it may help a great
deal to heal ourselves.
In the evening a meeting in Amsterdam of the board for the magazine
of the confessional association of which I am a member. Long talks
about mainly financial affairs.
Wednesday eleventh: The day after I was again in Amsterdam,
this time in the afternoon and now for a periodical visit to my hepatologist
in the Amsterdam University hospital. The subject of our talks is
my liver condition, and to free this organ from a stubborn virus I
use already for more than half a year the medicines interferon and
ribavirin. Want to know more about this condition, click to my special
Thursday 12: after lunch my friend Louis passed by. We talked
among other things about his developing a consultancy in education
in important human values, especially in the field of child rearing.
In the evening I attended the rehearsal of the choir I sing in. More
about this very special choir may be read on the website
I dedicated to it.
Friday evening thirteenth I dined with Irene and we celebrated
the shabbat and she had prepared delicious asparagus and we talked
about our mutual families and how they survived Wotld War II or not
and if so how they fared after.
Saturday fourteenth: after a long time I attended a theater
play. I journeyed with my friends Minny, Cathy and Bill to Amsterdam
to see the play 'The shortest century' (De kortste eeuw), produced
and written by the well known Dutch theatre company Orkater. It took
place in the one of the buildings of the ancient Amsterdam gas plant,
which gradually is being transformed in a important cultural center
with a cinema, theater etc. The play was a kind of musical theatre
about a company of party participants trapped in the 293th store of
a sky scraper by a second Flood. An array of characters had all kinds
of archetypical encounters, interspersed with some beautiful songs,
skillfully underlined with nice music by a proficient music group
led by known Dutch theatrical music composer Vincent van Warmerdam.
The actors were top of the bill. The surprising dénouement
implied the appearance of God in the person of an electrician and
a dialogue between him and the Faustian bandleader (played by Gijs
Scholten van Aschat who also wrote) in the framework of Genesis.
The play was somewhat unbalanced in quality in the field of script
and text, though some beautiful scenes stayed with us and a beautiful
picture of Bill, Minny and Cathy, taken afterwards, is to be seen
This Japanese (or Indian?) flowering cherry tree
is nearby my apartment building. He is now at the peak of his blossoming
bloom. It is a splendid culmination of the year: when the cherry tree
is celebrating its rose orgy to the full of its youthfull power, just
after the midst of April.
With regret I use to see the first blossom leaves whirl to the ground,
it is a turning point, when the cherry tree goes down hill; whatever
in the following months nature will show of her growing and flowering
and other many coloured manifestations, the youth of the year has
I picked a little branch and put it in a bottle, that will adorm the
seider table of the Jewish holyday of spring and liberation from galling
I just read an article about philosopher Martha Nussbaum,
the "running philosopher" because of her passion physical
work out. The article is in the form of an interview with Martha Nussbaum,
in which she expounds some of her ideas.
Her main tenet is that emotions are not to be discarded as of no use
for better understanding, but as a form of information that may point
us to what are essential values in life. She has been inspired by
classical philosophy like stoicism and Aristoteles. I have not read
a book of her (she wrote many), but I can't help feeling the need
to give some commentary on what I read in this article in the Dutch
newspaper "Trouw" of this date. So this article gives me
cause to vent my own ideas rather then that my statements are just
criticism on her ideas, maybe they are, maybe in her books they are
also expounded or refuted.
I agree with the general premisse, that emotions are a form of information.
Indeed when I grief, I am informed about the importance of the loss
I have suffered;
when I am afraid, I am informed about an imminent danger and the need
when I am angry, I am informed about a damage I suffered and the need
to eliminate the cause of it;
when I am glad, I am informed about a great advantage bestowed upon
me and the need to celebrate it by laughing or dancing or so;
when I experience awe, I am informed about the immense superiority
of someone or something compared with me.
I miss in her words as recounted by the interviewer
the nuance, that emotions and cognition/rational thinking are not
to totally separate compartments in the mind.
It seems important to see that we are dealing with a complex phenomenon;
emotions can't do without cognitions: the perception that I am in
danger - that a crook is threatening me in a desolate alley - is cognitive,
the feeling of fear penetrates me with the great importance this situation
carries for my well-being and the urge to act (to flee or to defend
myself, depending on my cognitive evaluation of the situation, the
level of my excitement, or the degree of presence of the value of
courage in myself).
So emotions and feelings can't really be separated from cognitive
aspects, every cognition has some emotional tone, every emotion or
feeling has a cognitive aspect.
I dearly miss in the article and Nussbaums some important distinctions,
that are for me essential in discussing these matters.
First: the distinction between feeling and emotion.
Emotions are mainly responses in which the totality of the psycho-physical
body is lost in a one-sided expression, a kind of collapse of the
whole system, mostly in the form of an eruption, a short lived expression
in which the whole body is affected, rage, crying, jumping for joy,
Feelings are more enduring and are embedded in in the totality of
body, mind and soul. Mostly Nussbaum refers to feelings, it appears.
They contain informative indications of what we judge important in
Secondly I miss the concept of personality/ego, viewed as the system
that we have developed as a defensive response to wants, dangers and
other influences on us during childhood, the system that furthers
our interests as we have come to see them in the course of this process.
Most feelings and emotions are in the service of our self interest.
One of our lifelong challenges as humans, not by all experienced as
such or in different degrees, is to understand and transcend this
ego-system and to rise above our self interest, eventually to rise
to the level of service to others, to the community, some would say
to God. Nussbaum seems to make a distinction between personal and
political values, but I think this is the less essential distinction.
Am I living in the closed world of my personality that's grown on
me or do I connect with, reach out to the wide world of the unknown,
in which in every moment is disclosed to me what is my task in the
Maybe it is possible to say that in the field of personality/ego love
is a feeling, based on what I want and what I get, in the space outside
personality love is a state of Being.
This transcend the dimension of politics, I realize.
But also in the words of Martha Nussbaum - conversed to Judaism as
is mentioned in this article - I hear the sound of those fundamental
valies of Jewish ethical thinking: compassion and justice
January 28 moods and songs
These days I feel a weight like a heavy bag of sand on the verge between
body and mind. Somw representants of my inner research committee explain
it as a consequence of the medicine's I take against the hepatitis
virus, others ascribe it to the lack of fullfilment in my relations,
the more deep searching analysts refer to a partial unconscious intense
want of motherly protection and encouragement and of cours there are
some who plead a mix of all these causal factors. All advisors have
the best intentions. But what the use of this busy committee...
What good are all these consultants.
The best I can do is keep a keen and noncommittal, though concerned
awareness of all the ups and downs of the phycical-psychic motions.
A complete surrender without all the mind games will help me best
through this temporary valley, this low down mood, this unwilling
This afternoon the choir I sing in performed in a benefit afternoon
for the Tsunami victims. The meeting took place in a community center
in Berg en Dal, an affluent suburb of Nymegen, near the Dutch-German
border. Gradually a lot of people gathered to hear an array of very
diverse performance of all kind of amateurs doing their best against
the background of the noble purpose of the meeting.
Our repertoir very much stood out against the other choirs and vocal
groups. The Yiddish, Hebrew and Ladino songs formed a marked contrast
to songs like Can't buy me love, Sealed with a kiss, and this and
that adolescent, strumming his guitar to a self made sung about the
Asian disaster. The audience sat through this Jewish vocal intermezzo
with some kind attention I tried to stir up by a short explanation
of context and content of the various songs, some of them stemming
from the Synagogue prayer service. On the last moment we decide to
add such an explanation and I was honoured to do this. Helped to raise
my spirits from the rather low down mood I felt myself in.
Can't help to feel some friction of performing Jewish prayers in such
a context. (Though one can imagine also christian holy songs to be
performed in such a secular context, like Stabat Mater for example).
Should merit some discussion.
15 2004 the first three words
Today I spent most hours of the afternoon and evening studying Genesis
chapter 1 and reading about it.
Just imagine what interesting, deep probing, mostly unanswereable
but nevertheless always intriguing questions may be asked about the
'In the beginning G-d created...', in Hebrew: 'Bereshit bara Elohim',
three words, that evocate the most fundamental issues about how we
are here, why we are here, why there is a universe, who is
G-d and does he exist in the first place, what is the state of being
and what is the process of creating.
(NB: mark the word play with 'The first three seconds', remarkable
popular scientific book about the Big Bang by Noble price winner Steven
Apart from the hebrew text and the recently published new Dutch Bible
translation I reread some pages of prof. Umberto Cassuto's very thorough
historically and philologically based commentary on Genesis, some
texts from an English anthology from the esoteric Zohar, but also
some pages about the big bang from the delightfull book of Bill Bryson
'A Theory of nearly Everything'. ( Also I use the article of R. Joseph
Soloveitchik 'The Lonely man of Faith' and the commentary of Nechama
Leibowitz on Genesis).
Let me mention the following remarkable view on those three creation
words from the Kabbalah tradition.
The usual explanation of those first three words of the Bible is of
course that G-d is the subject:
HE creates in the this mysterious beginning-moment. But it is also
possible with a little bit of alternative reasoning to see "Elohim"
not as the subject but as the object. And this is the way the kabbalistic
interpreters of the Zohar, the most well known medieval kabbalistic
text, like to view it.
They insist in respecting the Hebrew order of the three words:
Beginning create Elohim.
Who is the the subject? That is the Nothing, or the Always, the Ayn
Sof ('No End'), the unspeakable not to catch in any word.
From there flows the 'Bereshit', which word is to equate with the
primeval spark, and from that spark
ensues the Elohim, the
source from which the remaining creations are to rise.
those more or less knowledgeable with the Tree of Life and its components,
the so called sefirot: Ayn Sof is Keter - the Crown - Bereshit is
Hocmah - the spark, wisdom - , Elohim is Binah - the Palace, understanding;
also for the kabbalist it is no accident Bereshit begins with the
second letter of the alfabet: beth, not with the first, aleph, symbolizing
the impossibility of speaking about the before. Beth means 'house'
which corresponds nicely with 'palace', one of the symbols of the
Of course thorough linguistic and rational reasoning prefers the obvious
logic of Elohim as the undeniable subject. No doubt my strictly logical
namesake Cassuto (Umberto) would not support the kabbalistic language
play, as he also refutes with sound grammatical arguments an even
minor alternative interpretation of the three words by the famous
medieval bible commentator
Rashi ( Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).
To me the kabbalistic playful digging and playing with these words
and the resulting interpretation (Which in the Jewish bible explanation
tradition would count as a so called interpretation on 'Sod'(esoteric)
level, unearthing the hidden meanins) appeals as much as the more
To acknowledge the Primeval Divine Ground as above and outside any
human endeavour to know or to circumscribe it, what else can we do?
But also to accept that a never ending Creative and Formative Principle
once started to create and keeps creating the universe; and in this
process created us humans with an urge to explore and to tell about
Him/Her, what else can we do?
And this Creative Principle, which we are capable of admitting in
some degree in our knowledge and experience,is the G-d of the first
three words of Genesis, chapter one, sentence one, word three.
This entry is a small foretaste running ahead of a course about the
creation story from Jewish viewpoint, a course I am preparing for
(I consulted the book 'Zohar', translation and introduction by Daniel
Chanan Matt,Paulist Press, 1983, p. 210; the book contains only a
small selection of the original Zohar.)
December 12 2004 Hanukkah in Zwolle
Saturday evening December 11 was the time for lighting the fifth candle
of the chandelier of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday remembering the
succesfull defense of Jewish identity against the Greek kings during
Greek domination of Palestine in the second century before the Common
After recovery of the Jerusalem Temple and at its re-initiation it
appeared that only enough oil for the temple chandelier - the menorah
- was left for one day, eight days being needed for the priests to
make fresh consecretated oil; nonetheless the chandelier burned those
eight days on that one day quantity, the miracle of Hanukah.
Usually the Jewish congregations celebrate Hanukkah with a gathering
during the eight day Hanukkah week, a social event with snacks and
songs and sweets for the children.
Sometimes a band or a singer group is invited to perform and this
time I was part of a singer group,which was to perform in the Synagogue
in the Dutch town of Zwolle.
The group was specially recruited for the occasion from the
choir Hatikwa - the Nymegen choir with the Jewish repertoir; explicitly
it was to be stipulated we were not the official choir, for the director
was not present and the usual level of quality he stands for could
not be guaranteed.
Because it was the end of shabbat first the evening prayer - maariv
- was performed and then the ritual closure of shabbat - the havdalah
- was done.
Then the five candles were lit on the beautiful big chandelier in front
of the people present and the traditional Hanukkah song 'Maoz Tsur' was
The synagogue of Zwolle is a beautiful example of Jewish-Dutch 'fin de
It stands in the centre of Zwolle,
a typical larger well conserved Dutch province town.
The synagogue is a spacious building with windows inspired by two tablets
of the Ten Commandments, a theme returning also in the balustrade of the
balcony, originally destined for the women and now organised as a little
museum of ritual objects from the region, objects saved from the German
Synagogue Zwolle, view from the balcony
and a corner of the balcony serves as a place of remembrance for the
members perished in the war.
Our singer group performed some liturgic songs and a Jiddish partisan
song; suffice it to say we did moderately well, but missed the solidity
we use to have with the director present, so we couldn't infuse our
songs with the usual passion.
Afterwards we all gathered at the tables prepared in the back of the
synagogue hall and drank coffee, ate pies and sang the traditional
Hanukkah songs and other top hits from the Jewish repertoir and the
rabbi present - of Lubavitch stock - held a not all to clear speech
(jiddisj: drosche)about dreams and then the singing started again
and lo, some of us went kind of folk dancing, arms linked, I too joined
the merry bunch, how joyfull...but attention: the men and the women
were to dance in separate groups, the rabbi saw to it this was observed.
Some women of our singing group were not Jewish, let alone orthodox,
they were surprised by what they felt as old fashioned discrimination.
Especially M. was indignant about this.
She, N. and me travelled back to Nymegen together in my car; usually
we have no lack of conversation subjects and of course this separation
thing was on top of the agenda.
The singing party standing on the platform before the Ark, Meda
as subsidiary director before us
Yesterday I saw on TV the movie 'Faithless', directed by Liv Ullmann
and scripted by Ingmar Bergman. An aged film and theatre director (Erland
Josephson) ruminates about a script he is writing and he conjures up
from his past an old lover (Lena Endre) he once had an intense affair
with, and in his room, looking out over the majestic Swedich coast,he
imagines her telling the story of their extramarital affair. She fell
for him despite - or because - he then was a gloomy, depressive and
desperate man in in an artistic crisis. She steps in his imagination
and his writing room and tells about the deep hurts and the tragic consequences
her step towards him, the best friend of her husband, had for her daughter
and her husband. The aged director, by letting his lover of old tell
the story - and of course her tale is interspersed with emotional flash
backs - , relives his charged memories and at the same time he tries
to use it for a new script. So we are left in doubt about what really
happened and what the fantasy of the old man makes of it. And outside
the framework of the film we of course on good grounds may surmise that
sriptwriter Ingmar Bergman also has used one of his major love affairs
as material for this movie.
So the movie is about looking back on an episode of passion and guilt,
woven masterfully together in an intricate play between levels of memory,
fantasy, subjectivity, and creativity. Especially Lena Endre does a
piece of sublime acting, also the other actors perform excellently and
the intent and focussed listening look on the lined face of old Erland
Josephson (one of old time film buddies of Bergman) is not easily forgotten.
Now for a jump cut to Bernhard, prince of the Netherlands today to be
buried solemnly in the 'Nieuwe Kerk'in Delft, he may rest in peace.
I wrote about him in the entry of December sixth, mentioning his confessions
about his frustrated love affair as an adolescent.
After seeing 'Faithless' I saw in my minds eye a movie to be made about
A biographer - or maybe Bernhard himself - conjuring up in his imagination
some major characters of his life, the leitmotiv being that after the
deep hurt of the treason by his lover he shut off the innermost part
of his heart; all later adventures, war buddies, old boys friendships
and love affairs being a compensation but never reaching this most intimate
kernel. Of course for Jeroen Krabbe a major part in the movie is to
Mind my words, I bet it will not be too long and indeed a movie about
Bernhard will be made, if not a musical, Bernhard The Musical, produced
by Dutch theatre tycoon Joop van de Ende.
December 6 Bernards secret
Past wednesday evening, December 1, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands
Thursday evening there was a panel discussion on Dutch TV (RTL 4,
in the in Holland well known "Barend en van Dorp" program)
about Bernhard, especially probing into the important landmark experiences
of his life.
One of his intimate friends was the well known actor Jeroen Krabbé.
To him Bernhard entrusted in his last years his most secret thoughts
Once Jeroen K. questioned Bernhard about what he thought was the major
determinating event of his life.
Bernhard disclosed,that when he was about eighteen he was madly in
love wirh a girl, who appeared sensitive to his utter dedication,
but eventually she chose Bernhards friend and ran away with the latter;
Bernhard was deeply hurt and plunged in a episode of drinking sprees,
until one moment, when he was vomiting, his head hanging above the
toilet, made the decision "nevermore to be jealous".
Everyone in the panel was astonished: they thought that no doubt Bernhard
would have mentioned some event during that intense period of World
War II, when he belonged to the staff of Queen Wilhelmina in London,
had access to the highest in command at the time and was an inspiring
icon of the Dutch partisans.
Me I am not astonished at all; also in this case my suspicion is confirmed
that the most important life events in the last ressort take place
on the soft inner area of the young heart. Life determinating decisions
are made as a consequence of the battle that happens there and the
strokes which are given out during the adventures of love and adversity
in early life.
The love and consequent pain Bernhard had felt in this youth episode
may never have been surpassed in depth by the thrill of his later
adventures in the war and his affairs, let alone by his relation to
Today I brought friend M. to Schiphol airport.
Always fascinating those giant junctions of human mobility, halls
bustling with travellers intent on their hidden destinations, moving
with focussed speed or sitting in resignated waiting, old and young,
persons of all colours, all walks of life, beautiful and plain, often
with excited or whining children at their side and among those crowds
me and Minke, passing through giant endless halls full of commercial
seductions, glistening with luxury articles, and then, two hours after
having arrived at Schiphol at about a quarter past seven, after a
ride from Nymegen in dense fog, after an early rising at four o'clock,
then at last I wove goodbye and she dissappeared behind the customs
to boarding on her flight to Johannesburg.
Sun going down on the IJsselmeer; when
you drive from Lelystad on the new polders extracted from the ancient
Zuiderzee, now IJsselmeer, to Enkhuizen in the north of the province
of North Holland, along the dike which separates two masses of water,
you arrive on a point with a small finger of land granting a view
as seen above.
On this point my good friend Minke, her niece Fenna and me performed
the ritual of dispersing over the water the ashes of Minkes father
who deceased some weeks ago
(Aug. 14), may he rest in peace.
After the cremation the ashes had been neatly conserved in a vase
which we brought with us.
Afterwards we drove to the picturesque little town
of Enkhuizen and drank coffee
I attended the celebration of the new Torah
scroll in the Nymegen shul; it 's an orthodox congregation brought
recently to new bloom after a period of starvation after the war.
Though I am not orthodox but more in the Reform line I feel a special
connection with this congregation in my home town and from time to
time I am present at memorable occasions.
After the Tora scroll was inintiated the attending rabbi's and other
members of the community brought the new Tora together with the already
present specimens seven times around the 'bima' (pulpit) which was
adorned for the occasion with a 'chupah'.
The rabbi reading in the prayer book was the one who wrote the new
Tora scroll in Jerusalem, a very meticulous job requiring months of
accurate handiwork. The very last words of the scroll have just been
written, as tradition wills, on the spot.
I made this picture with my new digital camera!
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