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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Power Circles continued

A picture that somehow stays on my retina: an elderly woman with a young girl, five or so. Probably the granddaughter. It was in a shopping area with hardly any traffic and many benches placed along the sidewalk.  The little girl was 'hopping' around happily and ready to step onto a bench, not only to avoid a detour... but for the sheer joy of running up high and jumping off...
Her grandmother whisked her away by her arm. Bending over and 'whispering' audibly:  "Don't do that. Suppose everybody would start walking over these benches..."

? ?

Would you? I might enjoy walking over those benches a couple of times, but I can imagine that there are hordes of people who aren't interested in it at all. So why would this little girl have to imagine everybody doing that? And feel responsible for it as well?   -I hope she imagined it. And saw the fun of it :)  -
What I like is sitting snug on my bed, with three propped up pillows, reading a book. When I was twelve, that's how I read Jean Webster's "Daddy Long Legs" in a day. I enjoyed it so much, it stands out in my memory.
Now if I would run into my son reading a novel... my eyes would pop out of their sockets. Reading is absolutely joyless for him. He likes to swing in his hammock  -transversely- his head nearly hitting the ceiling. I see no fun in that, I feel sick even watching it.
We're just not all the same, we don't always like to do things the way others do them.
Gotcha, we're back at Mary, Jack and Davy.

Or rather.. at you and me. Because the junction where these children went separate ways, pops up very often in our own lives. And what do you do. Do you turn left or right? Do you stick to your talents or do you try to adapt to the wishes of the world around you?

An example....  how does your manager manage the people under his 'care'?  Or maybe you are a manager?
   A manager's jigsaw pieces are the people who work for him, the function descriptions and the actual job that needs to be done.  The functions are chosen to 'match' the job that needs to be done. Not to match the employees that are hired. People are hired if they seem to fit the description.
   Now how does the manager come up with a productive department?  Is he
A) analysing the shortcomings of each employee, to give them the proper training and tools to make them match the function description
    or is he
B) analysing the talents  of each employee, so he can divide the tasks over his team making use of the different qualities of its members. Getting the job done ...and probably more.

And how do you apply for a job? Do you try to prove you fit the function description? You know, the one that was put up to get the job done.  Or do you try to prove that you can get the job done. Without fitting the function description.
   It's risky. Can you sway your possibly, maybe, future employer and make him hire you, because he is confident you can get the job done? That you are worth risking his reputation as manager. Or are you going to invest in fitting the description, creating an image of yourself that you will have to keep up? So that you'll be walking on your toes for as long as you are hired? Working way out of your power circle instead of from within?

   The choice is up to you. Of course you can try to fit in and leave your power circle, but do it consciously, not subconsciously. So you can focus on your shortcoming(s) and make a success of trying to fit in.
I'm trying to learn to stay in my power circle. A tough battle, but deep inside... it's satisfying to be able to say that I made a stand for who I am. Even though I'm not always rewarded by getting the job, the assignment, the contract.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Power Circles

Every primary school in the Netherlands has 'individual coaching', 'individual training' or 'individual adaptations' in its program for children. Hurray! 

Hurray? It all depends... on the goal of the individual approach. Most often it means that the child that is deviating from the mass, especially when it is functioning below average, will be pulled or pushed in the direction of the mean, so that it will fit in, in the bell curve, at an acceptable distance from the average.
Only rarely will a school state that it will help the child deviating from the normal range, to stay away from the mass and make its deviation even more pronounced.  Unless the child has a high IQ, the overrated trait in this rational society. Yet for some children it would have been the better option.
There's a hidden message in moving a child towards the mean and away from its own spot in the graph. It tells the youngster it's not a good child. That in order to be appreciated it has to do what others like or are good at. That its own inclinations and senses are wrong.

OK, so the extra lessons brought Mary's grade in maths from 2 to 6 ( from E to C) ... that's only good for Mary if she can now calculate with as much ease as the other kids. If she has to struggle for every 6 / C... how healthy is that?  In class she has to concentrate so hard, that she can't join in on the jokes and 'illicit' communications. She gets home tired and grumpy, Her class mates avoid her, so she is playing alone most of the time. She's not exactly developing her social skills.... all she is learning is that she'll have to walk on her toes the rest of her life. Don't be surprised if she's burned out at fifty... not knowing why.
Jack never liked learning, being in the classroom makes him feel overwhelmed, left out and a good for nothing. He is now doing a home schooling program. A little bit of learning, lots of playing... slow progress, but he feels relaxed, happy, proud. People really like this 'urchin' and chances are he'll get hired somewhere some day, and he'll grow into his job at his pace, making a living after all.
Davy likes painting more then anything else in the world. He is not good in English and abominably bad at geography and history. How easy would it be for his  teacher to say that he should do geography while the rest of the class is painting. Because Davy doesn't need to learn anything about that...he's a natural.   No, his teacher knows that Davy's eyes will shine energetically after half an hour of painting and that this good feeling it will help him battle his way through geography and history. And if Davy can learn more history through making a painting of a medieval castle, rather than writing a paper about it... the teacher will ask Davy to make that painting. Davy is allowed put his talent to use, he can stay in his 'power circle' and learn from there. It;s not likely he'll get a burn out at midlife. More likely he is a painter then, because his teacher taught him to believe in his own talent.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Taking a Break

... at home.
Yes, I have to do it. Go on a holiday at home. Simply lay down my worst chores and trade them for some things long overdue.
It's not my son who is tugging at my sleeve, nor my mom or brother. It's me I can't say 'No' to.

I'm trying to build three cities in one day. And when it's not finished before midnight, I'm so annoyed with myself. Suppose I would succeed... it would be done by 'overcropping'. My buildings would be there, but their foundations would be shaky.  And I'm getting to be like that too. By listening to that silly part of me that uses fear and greed as motivators.

I'm retracting my 'short notice' of two weeks ago, I'm going on that holiday!  Where am I going to? I'm going to see  [ sea ;)  ]  whether letting go and NOT working on my dreams with full force is more constructive for them than all my latest investments have been. Funny... I've been here before, I'm back at the well once more

I've already started packing my suitcase: I bought two large plywood planks today... Never worked with my planks on an easel, but I have my mom's easel for working with pastel standing downstairs. Starting this weekend... I'll have dirty hands and jeans but there'll be a tune humming in me. My 'Heartsong' as Matty Stepanek called it.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Suitcases 1

With mobile phones and internet, going off on a holiday is changing. You're not letting go of your 'old' life entirely. But holidays still help you step away from the daily grind and look at what you're doing, accomplishing, heading towards etc. from a distance. The change in daily routine still is characteristic for a holiday and it helps you feel like a different person. Hopefully you'll meet the 'real you' that got covered under the dust of daily life.

But how do you look at your life from that safe distance when your budget is too low for an actual journey? When the only trip you can take is to the supermarket, or maybe a cup of coffee at that one lunchroom where you've never been before? That is.. if the costs aren't so high that it makes you worry about your financial state even while sitting and smelling that magic aroma?

Mental suitcases... that's all that's left.


I see I'm at a two track station here.... I can elaborate on the concept of mental suitcases, or on how to take a break from life and take a holiday in your own home. Will I end up at different points, or will my conclusion be the same, no matter what road I take?

True to my standard mental processing I will take the ride that is less fun, and might remain unexplored if I don't dutifully choose it....  but deeper inside I only agreed to this because I sense that the mental suitcases just lie waiting for me at the end of this ride....

Suitcases 2

Departing from Track 1:  Holiday at Home

Holiday, taking a break. It's the break that we long for: breaking with the present. your present state, your present habits. Why is it so hard to really see what mistakes you make and come up with better plans when you're staying at home?

It could be the fact that you stay in the same surroundings... But a little meditating, making a list of the pros and cons of your life, or even watching a movie or read book to help you look sharper and make up your mind, should be enough, shouldn't it? These things help you look at life from a different viewpoint. 
When I munch on these suggestions, there's two things coming up in me. Two big heavy metal balls, chained to my legs. 

First of all, in my same old surroundings... I don't FEEL different. I'm still covered with the gray dust of daily life and all these new ideas seem distant and unreal. So not applicable too little old me. Maybe I did manage to shake off the dust by putting my foot down and announcing that I am taking a break. Right here, right now... but somehow the dust, now floating through the air, is slowly coming down. Striving to get back to it's old place: all over me. 

Second, one very important ingredient is missing when you do your holiday at home: 'New People'.  
New people are a fantastic mirror to see how you are doing. Their response to you will tell you that.
And they'll help you feel about in yourself.... do I feel comfortable riding a bus, sitting next to Joe Sixpack. Do I feel at ease in a glittering dining room full of -allegedly- smiling people? Or am I just longing for the drone of the ocean waves, sitting next to a friend who doesn't mind that I keep quiet for a while?

Or let me rephrase it: one very important aspect about holidaying at home is that you're still surrounded by 'Old People',  people you know. and who know you! Now THAT is detrimental.... if you plan to change your course in life.

Have you ever heard of people, being firm friends  but getting into a feud during the trip they went on together? 

It doesn't have to happen.. it depends on the type of people you're dealing with, the character of the relationship you have.. 
Is it an open one, where unexpected things are welcome? Or are constancy and predictability King and Queen in your relationship? That has nothing to do with the type of relationship you have... man and wife, parent and child, customer and supplier, friend and foe  :) .

There simply is a certain type of people,  Ulrich Schaffer describes them so eloquently:
Sie wollten nicht die Herausforderung deiner inneren Stärke, nicht die Verunsicherung, die mit deiner Offenheit und Direktheit kam. Sie wollten dich profillos. Sie wollten dich grau und berechenbar.  
<<They didn't want the challenge of your inner strength, nor the uncertainty that came with your openness and directness. They wanted you without profile. They wanted you gray and predictable>>.

I know it's true. Changing your role, or rather the way you play your role, unnerves those around you.
Have you ever tried it? I have and it triggered heavy protests. The loudest from the people closest to me. Which is logical... they have fit you into their lives. Like with falling domino pieces, when you change, you force them to change their life too, though not more than a small part of it.  Which may not be bad -at all-  but just horribly uncomfortable for them.

Don't get me wrong... I love my old friends. 
Not all of them are like that... and those that are... they still are good people, nice people... but not capable of helping you when you are being critical about your own life. 
If their friendship is strong enough though... they will eventually calm down and admire the new you.

So, when these are the type of people that surround you.... they will discourage your plans to change.  By clouding your new viewpoint on life. By dragging your decisions into a thick mist, and by draining your determination to change before you had the chance to gather strength.

Hm, they will even do that if you go on a holiday 5500 miles from home... if you take these people along.
So what is essential to the success of your holiday is the luggage you take along... what do you put into your suitcase? And more importantly:  what do you leave out?

Suitcases 3

Waiting at track 2: the train that only allows Mental Suitcases

"What is essential to the success of your holiday is the luggage you take along: what do you leave out?"

Hah, now we are on familiar ground: turning concrete matters into metaphors.

We are not going on a standard trip, the annual happening that you talk over at length with your colleagues.
You are taking a break, because you've had it, really had it, with the way things are going now. You need clarity, room to think and draw conclusions, make new plans...
So we're not going around the corner or cross the channel. We'll be taking a plane to move through timezones. 

I think I won't take a backpack, but a real suitcase, nice and strong.  I'm going to lock it and make sure that my most precious items don't show up on x-rays... I don't need security people and customs to scrutinize what I value most: my old dreams.
- I want to gather the strength and passion for them. So I can pursue them, even if other people, -those who seem to have made it in life- tell me it's safer not to try. 
I've tried living their way... didn't work out.  Their style is the unsafe way for me.

No, no cell phone.  My family might call on me, asking me how to fix this, to arrange that etc.  When you take no cell phone, it means people will have to call the hotel lobby first and talk in a language foreign to them. A great threshold to block communication. forcing those that stay behind to learn to solve their problems by themselves. That would be the first good change!

Do I take along swimming gear, sun block? Nah, not going to hang out in the sun or be a sportswoman. Those things don't clear my head at all. I rather take along some plywood 
and my crayons.

Maybe even a bit of clay. I saw a very inspiring couple in the waiting room of the animal clinic where I go to for Mario, the white cat. And my daily life doesn't leave much room for art. Being able to create all day will be terribly good for me. It'll cure my numbed sense for who I am.
-  There you go, I pinpointed another problem: I need to spend more time drawing, sculpting and writing!  
It usually makes me feel so good that I do my chores twice as fast afterwards. It pays itself back.  
***  Parents: don't teach your children to do the boring things first!!  

I'm a bit doubtful about taking along a laptop... I love using it for writing and it helps me find my way around at 'Wherever I May Go'. Good info on public transport just broadens my world.  But I must make sure 'the others' won't use it instead of the cell phone that I left behind...   
- That is another thing I might change in daily life: my inaptness at drawing lines, setting limits. No is no. Let others really solve their own problems. Minor problems. Ay, here I go again. I may say 'No' to some major problems to. I'm a human being, I cannot carry the load of everyone around me!

So the laptop is definitely coming along. Even if it's only to teach me to do what I want while my family finds out they cna do without me. 

-That sounds like i'm making myself 'not needed'. Does that mean they'll love me less?  Nah, have you never heard of the lines  " I love you because I need you" and "I need you because I love you" ?   Time to make room available to experience the latter :)

I could go on for hours, but what YOU need to do... is pack your own Mental Suitcase.

Suitcases 4

This train has reached it's final destination...

No matter how you call it, how you write about it: if you really feel you're doing 'something' wrong,   
try taking a look at it from different angles...

(c) 'Lantern Pole being curious' by Jene Jasper.

in any which way. It doesn't have to be by packing your suitcase.
Now , if you come up with ideas for a change for the better... 

- Make sure that this time these ideas are truly yours. Not suggestions taken from others. else you can't stand for your choice when the going gets tough... and it  will get tough if you choose for 'Change'.

- It doesn't matter whether you decide to slowly introduce them or go for the big bang.
Just the plain fact that you are changing course, or tracks, means that your life IS different from now on.

- Don't give in on these ideas, not even after 300 failed attempts... after all, there is beauty even in the attempt: the attempt in itself means you are being true to yourself.  

If the journey means nothing to you, and you are only focusing on reaching your desired destination ....   boy you are closing your eyes for the biggest part of your life. And  you might be disembarking at station "Disappointment" if you turn down the unexpected switches offered to you in your journey.
God [or Fate or Life or Love] 
     may have a better destination in mind for you, than you do yourself!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Short Notice

Blogging is put on hold for now...
I need the month November for focusing on my career as  Writer, Researcher, Subtitler and Translator.
So I'll be working on that and boosting up my website ""

If  time allows it.
    a little post might come up...
    all blogging will be postponed until December...

You see?  It is high time I switch to a full time career as writer and stop being a programmer.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

True to the Child

"Everything is right for me that is right for you, O Universe. 
Nothing for me is too early or too late that comes in due time for you.
Everything is fruit to me that your seasons bring, O Nature"
Marcus Aurelius

I am doing research on the roman era.  No doubt this will influence my posts for a while. Although... right now I'm studying stoicism. And I must say: I have always been very much a Stoic. -Not the weird definition we have of  stoicism now, but one who sees how giving in to Lust can distract you from finding Love- 

The rest of the text for this post is already written down on a paper handkerchief. All I need is the time to type it out as a post.

October 10. 

Thanks to something horrid I suddenly have time to write. While I'm in the middle of sorrow I finish this post that deals with the question "are you content with your life?"  Only my greatest fan(s) understand(s) this weird twist of fate...
December 2011  I introduced a portrait in clay... Eve, the Goddess of change I named her later on. Because my life is changing ever since I started to make her and climbed out of the garbage bag I was in. Was I living in it, or hiding from life I ask myself now? 
Even now that Eve has left my house and lives practically on the other side of the earth.. -to help someone else change his life :)  -  the changes don't stop. And they don't come easily. So naturally I ask myself at the hard moments "Are you satisfied?" 
I decided to pass the question on to the child I was forty years ago.

I remember having on my night stand a small pile of papers with the beginning of a story typed on it. My first "Chapter 1".  I could barely read and already I was addicted to books and drama. I knew what I wanted to be, when I'd grow up... a writer. 
I remember the plot and the plan.  It would be about a classroom with all the classmates in it.. torn off the building by a storm. It would land on some remote, enchanted place and there....  I didn't have any clear idea of actual scenes or dialogs, but I knew it would be about the confrontation between the class's most popular girl and it's ignored "class dummy". This  "wall flower" would step out of the shadow into the light. I just didn't know how. I simply had faith that while writing the story, it would enfold itself.
That is how I write my stories today! Even the theme is one I'd like to work out right now.

So when I ask the child I was whether she's content with how I'm doing now... I know she says "Yes". As I knew for sure several years ago that she'd say "No".  
Not that I've reached all the goals I was dreaming of as a child. But I'm believing in them, reaching for them and putting up a fight whenever I am pushed back into the shadow. And that is how I was at six... openly defending what I thought was right. Not caring whether I got hurt due to the fight. By watching passively I felt hurt so much more. 

Slowly I let my society, and my fears, cover these traits with the dreamless gray dust of forced adaptation. I lost my way. But I've found it back again and I'm determined not to let it get out of sight again.
Look at me, I'm actually writing. Only very few listen, understand and appreciate it, but those few are enough for me to push on. I thank them for their support, right here! 

Is your inner child happy with you?


Friday, September 28, 2012


I am defecting, right now, right here, I should be either translating a text from German to Dutch, or write an English text about sexuality amongst the ancient Romans.  I should.  I used to define the verb 'should'  as 
<< I know I ought to, but let's not...>>  with a smile.

Now that's the problem. My smile is gone.  I looked under my bed, it isn't even there. 

According to the newspapers I'm an average dutch person, and being very fashionable: having a part time job and setting up a small private company.  The difference between me and the interviewed persons however is that this is not what I want. I see this as a very unfortunate phase that must be 'lived down' as quickly as possible. I spent eight and a half hours in the office today, including a thirty minute lunch break in which I have been translating a booklet on autism.  Next to the office hours, I travel almost 3 hours, forth and back, in which I work approximately an hour. working on that same translation. And now I feel I ought to be writing for a few hours more.
I know, there are people who have to work even harder than I do, for less reward. If they can manage to do so while retaining their capacity to smile ... I am jealous of them. 
I don't mind the hard work, but something grim crept in. That's what I'm complaining about. I seem to have maneuvered myself into the corner of competition.
What for, I ask myself right now... it may be only a ghost that  I've conjured up myself...

That is exactly why I started to write... because my blog, born out of a toothache that I'm still grateful for, is the only place where I manage to mellow again, become myself, I write here what I like and if you like it, join me, read my posts. If you don't, move back to google. Find yourself another page!  Ay, here I go again, being gruff and short tempered.

Maybe the crucial part is my shaky belief in the outcome. The dark muddy garden, only seeds in the ground and no idea whether they will send out roots and leaflets... If you read the post on the woman at the well, you will realize I haven't taken the water that will cause me to not to be thirsty ever again... 
Then again, anyone can hang in, if he had the guarantee the outcome would be good. Child's play. It's time to stop being childish and mix planting with pleasure.  
I must make sure my nose is still capable of smelling when the blossoms open up in my garden, And my taste buds must be in order by the time the fruit of my work begins to ripen. All is dark now, seemingly resting but in truth.. teeming with life power... 

Sigh... there's nothing to do, doing too much might cause harm. But there's so little to enjoy right now, in this barren backyard. Working is actually more fun than 'loitering' when there's no palm under which you can drink your piña colada. Or in my case: a beech tree to keep the rain out of my coffee mug :)
I'll do some watering tomorrow, and some weeding the day after... I should do as my saplings are doing:  lie still and let Life run through it's course. But I know what will happen while I try... it won't be happy thoughts, growing roots. It'll be weed, shooting up and becoming a 'choker'.
-May be for the better Jo. So you can identify them and get rid of them most effectively -

This gardener should learn to dream again, she still could, not so many months ago ... even if it's only about the harvest celebration that  -stop doubting!-  she one day will have.That would be the biggest loss: to be bitter by then. 

Maybe I'm not smiling brightly yet, but at least I know what is most important right now... find something tiny, amazing and touching. Or something that needs care, not toughness.  That's the best cure against bitterness. Deadline's, Reputations  and Prestige can't hold up against such rivals :))


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beginner's Luck

Is beginner's luck really luck? Or is it the chance you have to do something without being hampered by reasoning and memory. Acting on your instincts?

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink"  about thin slicing and IAT tests.. you can take these tests yourself on Implicit:

I thought I'd agree with what I would come to read in the book, but I think mr. gladwell is mixing a few things up...
Come back some other time ... this post is under construction

Friday, September 21, 2012

Disempowerment 2


With fascination I have read about Beckham’s Panopticon and Foucault’s study of Beckham’s gruesome design. The Panopticon is a prison, a building in which the inmates cannot see each other but they can be seen constantly by the guards. 
Staying in a Panopticon can deform a person's 'psyche' completely. According to Beckham this can be used in a positive way: to make a useful person out of a good-for-nothing. A criminal, a psychiatric patient, a child.
But who is to be the judge of that, who will throw the first stone?

Gruesome, that’s what it is to me, I have trouble accepting unconditional power of one person over another. Because almost always this power is used without real consideration of the powerless party.  Wantonly or because the one exerting his power is incapable of truly thinking and acting in behalf of the party or individual subjected to his power.

Why would someone long to have power over others? To secure his own happiness? I'm usually happy over little things: moderate possessions, funny challenges and silly 'adventures'  -mere anecdotes.
Actually, my happiness is built upon the happiness of others. Don't you know that exhilarating feeling.... of having a rush of  positive energy washing over you when you exchange furtive winks or someone smiles at you. A  real smile, in which the eyes are in harmony with the mouth?
Thus my fascination was a negative one and it took me some time  - to distance myself from the subject-  before I could write this post.

Divide and Rule. Or: Isolate and Subordinate
<< In Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault builds on Jeremy Bentham's conceptualization of a panopticon as he elaborates upon the function of disciplinary mechanisms in the prison and illustrates the function of discipline as an apparatus of power. The "panoptic" style of architecture may be used in other institutions with surveillance needs, such as schools, factories or hospitals. The ever-visible inmate, Foucault suggests, is always “the object of information, never a subject in communication.”.
 He adds that, "He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection"  >>

In other words the inmate adopts the ways of thinking and deciding of his suppressor and loses his own value system, his individuality He becomes a docile body.

Foucault speaks of the Gaze and generally people emphasize the permanent visibility of the inmate of the panopticon as the aspect that makes the Panopticon so effective:
The Panopticon was the ultimate realization of a modern disciplinary institution. It allowed for constant observation characterized by an "unequal gaze"; the constant possibility of observation. Perhaps the most important feature of the panopticon was that it was specifically designed so that the prisoner could never be sure whether they were being observed at any moment. The unequal gaze caused the internalization of disciplinary individuality, and the docile body required of its inmates. This means one is less likely to break rules or laws if they believe they are being watched, even if they are not.

Unless  the Gaze is meant to be seen metaphorically, this is not the aspect that makes the Panopticon so dehumanizing, turning people into docile bodies. Look at the TV hypes like the dutch “Golden Cage” where a group of persons let them selves be 'locked up' in a house or on an island, being filmed day in day out. These people were being watched constantly. They knew and they didn’t care.  The Gaze didn't bother them.
Because there was no 'unequality' in the gaze. They were allowed to express and pursue their own visions, ideas and  opinions. Of course not all they did went by without criticism... but at least the contestants were allowed to explain and defend themselves, to criticise their critics. They had the choice to go on as they liked, if they were willing to accept the consequences like being voted away from the show.

The Panopticon uses the credo 'divide and rule'. It is constructed to isolate the inmates. While the inmate is alone, sees nor hears anyone who can back him up, the guards are obviously part of a group. They communicate and inform one another about the inmate’s transgressions. And the inmate is not allowed to explain his acts, to defend the motivation behind his behavior. Whether and how his doings are to be punished is solely dependent on the what the group(members) decide(s).  Or to quote Foucault: the inmate is “the object of information, never a subject in communication.”

And this is devastating. This is what causes a person to outwardly live a life that is accepted by the rulers, but inside … his soul is wilted, suffocating. Foucault again: the inmate became a “docile body”.
Our souls simply need appreciation and recognition to thrive. Or when you're alone... the possibility to act outwardly in accordance with what lives inside. This is harmony and causes your heart song to well up in you.

How to maintain an abusive system

Funny, didn't we just run into a weak point of the totalitarian-like system described above? I wrote <<dependent on the what the group(members) decide(s).>>   Now here is a weak point: does the group decide or do the group members decide? 
In order to maintain itself, a system based on unequal power [totalitarianism] depends not only on keeping the lower ranking members subordinated, but also on making sure that the leading party, the elite, will be faithful to one another. 
In a way the leaders are each other’s subordinates…. However the Elite's cage is gilded and chances are that they are willing to stay inside.
It's the subordinates in their rotten smelly cages that are willing -or should be willing-  to leave. And therefore they are to be kept under control by ‘discipline’ . As in 'disciplinary action', not as in healthy self control. 
This is done by imposing FEAR…  fear of what might happen if you go by you own ideas.  The frightful thing that might happen can either be a severe punishment, physical or psychological, or your efforts to live your own life turning out to be a flat failure, causing you to end up lost, lonely and poor.

To infuse such a strong fear of failure in a person you must
a)  make it hard for him to communicate with others, especially outsiders. Because others might support ideas of the victim that can cause him to become insubordinate.
b) cultivate very low self esteem.rob people of their ability to act and think creatively, to think for themselves, by my making them feel insecure. 

If the organisation plays it smart, the victim thinks he is being saved while in fact he is being held down. In the Netherlands we have a saying for such people:  <<He is pushing you into the ditch just to get you out and say “I've saved your life!” >>   

It is just that "Ill save your life" credo that attrackts people in the first place, right? An ideology and a charismatic leader... the hallmarks of a totalitarian system.

Why stay in an abusive system?

If your life seemed empty and meaningless at the moment you were being pushed into the ditch, just being noticed and rescued feels so nice, so safe and loving... You'd rather warm yourself in that glow, wearing a blindfold, than open your eyes and see that the flames come from a dragon's mouth, opening wide to swallow you.

Or maybe you are greedy and your rescuer is one who promises you golden mountains, if you just... do this, do that, just hang in there a leeeettle longer...  At one point you realise you're on the wrong train, it'll never take you to the destination you once had in mind. But it's so much more easy to stay on the train than disembark and find the right one. Besides, who'll guarantee you'll hop on the right one after disembarking? 
'Though I think this kind of reasoning fits someone who is higher up in the abusive system, not really suffering -yet-. 

To be continued....


The quotes (italics, blue) are from Wikipedia "Discipline and Punish"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Alas, this is a true story ...

My son is a thrill seeker, his body is not apt to give him any warning signals. Worse, if he sits still for too long his body is giving him hardly any signals... so he craves movement, speed, danger...

I am the opposite. I hate speed and the slightest touch or just being moved about frightens me. And such a 'slow mow' as I am... terrible. Looking after my son when he was a toddler  was more than an ordinary challenge for this single mom. 

My son did have his 'safe distance' as all toddlers have... the maximum distance that a child moves away from his mother, when out on the street and not corrected by an overprotective mom.  His safe distance was around 150 meter  [ 492.1259842519685 Feet  :))  ]  And he didn't respond to audio cues, he preferred visual information.  Can you imagine a two year old, not apt to listen and with his back turned towards his mom... How much time would it take to stop him if he was about to do something dangerous? 

Way too much, so that's why I took my son out on a leash, a toddler's leash. Oh, the comment people gave me. From the jokes about him being trained as a dog or us playing horsey, to downright denigrating remarks, that I was being insensitive and cruel. That my kid would learn nothing from this.... 
I just hated this short sightedness of others. How stupid can you be, judging someone else based on such little information,  on looks alone... it marred my shopping trips.

I didn't just take my son out on his leash for shopping, the time when mother's get absorbed in their surrounding and take a risk at neglecting their child. I even took him out like that for our little walks to a nearby 'park'...  an overgrown stretch of grass, with a few large trees, benches and a broad ditch..

On a beautiful autumn day I went to this park, my high spirited child hanging in his harness like a sled dog in training. From a distance I noticed him, with his girl friend.. They were sitting close to one another on the first bench of the park.  I tried to decide on what to do... crossing the street was impossible, too much traffic. I could take the part of the sidewalk that ran past the park instead of through it, but even that was too obvious.. the best thing, I figured, was to walk past as quickly as I could and swallow the remarks about the leash, forgetting about them as quickly as I could. Because no doubt this huge punk with his lugubrious Gothic clothes would make the meanest remarks ever...
I took a deep breath and geared up, which wasn't hard thanks to my son pulling at his leash. 
Yes, I was right... just as I passed the couple, the guy looked away from his girl friend. His eyes first rested on my son, then he looked me in the eye...
"Good for you ma'am, that you use a leash. My mom used it for me and it saved my life".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back at the Well

Dear God,

there I am again, fallen on my face, lying down at the bottom of the well. Bleeding and sobbing. Deservedly so.

I didn't trust you. I summed up my dreams to you. But didn't really expect you to help me fulfill them. Or not in time anyway... MY time, the timespan calculated with my negative worldly viewpoint. I forgot how short sighted that is and went ahead to meet my deadline. I am facing it now... the first four letters taunting me.

I ripped my dreams out of your hands and set out to fulfill them myself. In a way so calculating and free from surprises, I left no room for romance, love and adventure. The detours that I love so dearly were cut off from my map. I was being the tour operator and forgot that tourists like scenic routes, not freeways embedded in sound screens.

My hands are incapable, my 'drive' is all gone. Except for a few tiny flames. The flames I wanted to see soaring high, but that I almost quenched. Did you preserve them for me? I thank you for it. 
Regaining Sight
These little flames are the pilot lights in the darkness I have called upon myself. By thinking I should build dreams on my own. These lights are my true fulfillment, and my hopes for them will guide me back to you. For without trust and comradeship with you, this 'undertaking' is void of color. 
I hereby give you my dreams and again I will not ask you to help me fulfill them. Because I TRUST you to do so.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Woman at the Well

(c) Alette Stoutenbeek
John4: 3 -29
Written for the “Start Sunday” of my church
dutch version here.

In the room we are going to focus on the story depicted
in this icon: the woman at the well. The icon is painted
by Alette Stoutenbeek, who has been painting icons
for several years now and even teaches it.
There are strict rules for painting icons. One of those
rules is that there's an element it that symbolizes Easter.
In this icon it's the well, which has the shape of a cross.
At first I felt disappointed about it, because I wanted
the well to be the focal point of the meditation.
However as I started to write I discovered that this
just fits in beautifully.

A well is a fantastically fascinating place. It's a place where sadness and joy come together. Like at the cross that signifies the suffering and dying of Christ, while it's also a symbol of his resurrection.
You go looking for a well because you are thirsty. Or maybe you are taking good care of yourself and you want to prevent getting thirsty. And at the bottom of the well is the water that you need to pull through, to carry on.
The well, as seen in this picture, is more than just the water, the headspring. It means others have been therre before you. When the well wasn't there yet, they dug a pit and built the well, making it easier for you to find and reach the water.
Not so long ago I was deeply down in the dumps, or as the dutch would say: sitting in the “put” [ = pit or well ], so a friend told me “Cheer up Jo. I've been there so often. Try to let your path unfold with little steps, don't force it. And keep your eyes open for the beautiful surprises of life” Those words impressed me, especially because I was so thirsty. I repeat them over and over, even now that I'm well out of the well. When my friend was thirsty he had to dig deep for water and built this well. Making it easier for me to drink the water that I so desperately needed.

A meditation about the story of the woman at the well. It's in John 4. Most of us will know the story.
The icon depicts the samaritan woman. Here she's standing. In other paintings she's often kneeling down, her position lower than Christ, whom she runs into as he is sitting at the well. Her low position expresses her modesty, her sense of shame. That she harbours these feelings is obvious from the words in the bible. She's surprised about the fact that Jezus is asking her for water. She's used to people looking down on her and has adopted the sense of shame that her environment thinks 'befitting' her.
Yet there is this beautiful power running through her. She's straight and honest. She points out that she's a samaritan, that she feels uncomfortable about a Jew accepting something to drink from her. And she admits she's not married. She could have said her husband was away on a journey. This woman is a very social person. She gives Jezus what he wants. She doesn't like being alone, so she lives with her 5th partner! Accepting the negative consequences thereof. And finally, at the end of the story, she shares her happiness and the good news with others.
No doubt she'll have her moments of being down caused by all the criticism of her environment and of being critical about herzelf. That is when she's coming down at the well The jug is empty, going down. Good for her that she reaches the water, a full jug is moving up again. Alas, this will only satisfy for a while. Repeatedly her thoughts reach the same point, she's being thirsty again and kneels down at the well.

Today there's a man sitting by the well and he treats her with respect. He's not looking down on her and accepts her gift. Admitted, he had to coax her to give it to him. He knows her . Not her role in her society, or her -lacking- worldly success, but the sensitive, loving woman behind all of that, the woman that she IS. It's God's message: I knew you before you were born. I can see through all those layers and I love what's behind them. That is the person I created.
The woman is receptive to the message. One can see the change coming over her. Instead of needing encouragement to hand out water, she's now being generous by herself. She goes back into her village, where she's sharing the good news with others. She's full of charm now, her magnetism has changed. When she comes back to the well it's not because of thirst. She's guiding others who want to drink from that same water, that will ban thirst forever. Did you notice? She's no longer alone.

The water Jezus spoke of is God's unconditional Love for us. A love that sees right through our social standards to our soul.
God knows as no other that here on earth we are often pushed into a playing a part we didn't choose. Or didn't choose consciously. Which often puts us in a situation that tempts us to act in a way that we're accustomed to call 'sinful' . God is not so narrow minded that he'll let his love for us depend on that. He loves us anyway. Any way. Our part or position are no longer a curse, something to be ashamed of, something that would make you 'unloveable'.
Because of God's unconditional love our place on earth is no more than a challenge to see how far we can get. In learning to live from a deep well of power: Love.

God's second largest command is “love thy neighbour as you love yourself”. Sometimes the focus is misplaced and people make it sound like “love thy neighbour more than yourself” and “be good for your neighbour or else ...” God allows you to love yourself just as much and as unconditional. He wants you you to, because without it you will get depressed and tied down, making you incapable of taking care of your fellow creatures. That is what being 'bound by sin' means and you'll be free from this if you understand those words of Jezus and accept them. Not that you will never commit a sin again... It just means that the act does not make less as a person. You will still be loved inspite of it. Once again: God knows WHO you are, he sees through all thelayers... amd loves you. He's inviting us, through Jezus, to do the same. With our neighbours and ourselves.

Love is patient and kind.
Love knows neither envy nor jealousy.
Love is not forward and self-assertive,
nor boastful and conceited.
She does not behave unbecomingly,
nor seek to aggrandize herself,
nor blaze out in passionate anger,
nor brood over wrongs.
She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others,
but joyfully sides with the truth.  
She knows how to be silent.
She is full of trust, full of hope,
full of patient endurance.

[1 Corinthians 13;4-7]

1) Would you ever go back to the well again if you were convinced beyond doubt that all your difficult moments harbour something good? Like the chance -for you or someone else- to grow spiritually.
Would you ever go back to the well again if you were convinced beyond doubt that God loves you? Whether directly or through someone else on earth, even though your part in life is but a small one?

In other words, would you ever be down again, if you felt loved or had a sense of fulfilment all the time ?

2) Actually... the well is a beautiful spot. Because it's only when we aren't happy, but thirsty, we start searching for our power, recognise it and embrace it. Could we be happy, if we weren't unhappy from time to time?


1) When you are down in the dumps, check your thoughts. Are they yours, or are you applying the world's rules on yourself ?

2) When you run into someone who is thirsty, very thirsty ... dig way deep, for the soul of this 'Samaritan' . Through the layers of our society, until you the person that God sees. With all this digging you build the well the other can drink from.
Or tie an extra long rope to your jug, so you can be sure to reach the living water no matter how deeply tucked away in the other. There is clear water in everyone, but in some it's further down.

You might like to read Sirach 11:1-13

JoAnne Lakefield

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Impatient Gardener

For years she had kept the tending of her garden to a minimum. But there was no more escaping it: the garden was getting overgrown. The weeds that had been blown in and settled uninvitedly were now choking the plants that were put in by choice. It was time to get out the gloves, pruner and spade.  Time to make room again for beauty and harmony.

It wasn't an easy job, but she got it done with the help of a friend. The heavy physical work she had enjoyed. It was harder when she ran into the little plastic pots with plants her mother chose a year ago, before her illness forced her to move out. The plants were left unattended, only one little 'Broken Heart' survived.  The daughter decided the Broken Heart could stay. Funny, she now realised that most of the plants she had ripped out of the ground and thrown on the pile outside her garden were plants her mother had chosen. Her mother had always been the one who arranged the garden.

But now the daughter was  in charge of it herself, being very critical as to which plants were allowed to stay. Surprisingly few.  That at least gave room to put in a lot of new "choicelings".  She went down on her knees and dug little holes in the black earth to plant the seeds she had bought, or put in the small cuttings her friends had donated.    Doing so was fun, she had visions of what they would like, once they were full grown.
She got up, scratched, sore and dirty, her work all done for now. With a satisfied sigh she looked at the result.  Her mental picture of a sweet scented place rich in colors  is gone, ridiculed  by the dark and barren state the garden was in now. It was even less inviting than when it was overgrown.

That is the trying part of being a gardener... putting in hard work and hours of tending seeds that are invisible, somewhere in the cold earth. You have no guarantee that they will turn out as magnificently as you hoped for.
There's no luscious shade, scent or color now. And you cannot dig up the seeds to see if the roots are promising you any success.  If you would...they'd die.  There's only blind trust and loyalty to see you through this time of starting a new life.