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May 29 2005

PMV

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 were changing.
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 of Groesbeek.
Below the board on the terrace: left to right:
Good Luck, John Bank, master Wimmel, Reb Rob, Peter Koyoga and Penny Rose.

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.
Tuesday tenth:
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 liver diary.
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 below



april 22

toppunt/climax

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 passed.
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 bonds, Pesach

april 7

Martha Nussbaum
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 to flee;
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, loud protest.
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 our lifes.
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 present.
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 body.
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.

December 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 first words:
'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 Weinberg)

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.
(for 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 sefirah Binah).

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 current readings.
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 next year.

(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 Era.
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 sung.

The synagogue of Zwolle is a beautiful example of Jewish-Dutch 'fin de siecle' architecture.
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
destruction 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

December 11
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 Bernhard.
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 be reserved...
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 passed away.
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 and memories.
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 queen Juliana.

December 5
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.

November 20
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

October 31
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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