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Friday, September 28, 2012

AWOL

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 :))



Jo

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: https://implicit.harvard.edu/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

Overpowering...

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

Judgmental

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]
Discussion:

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?


Homework:

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.


Jo

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pit(y) or Well?

pit (n.1) Look up pit at Dictionary.com
"hole," O.E. pytt "water hole, pit," from W.Gmc. *puttjaz "pool, puddle" (cf. O.E. putti, O.N. pyttr, Du. put, Ger. Pfütze), early borrowing from L. puteus "well, pit, shaft." Meaning "abode of evil spirits, hell" is attested from early 13c. Pit of the stomach (1650s) is from the slight depression there between the ribs.
pit (v.) Look up pit at Dictionary.com
mid-15c., "to put into a pit," from pit (n.1); especially for purposes of fighting (of cocks, dogs, pugilists) from 1760. Figurative sense of "to set in rivalry: is from 1754. Meaning "to make pits in" is from late 15c. Related: Pitted; pitting. Cf. Pit-bull terrier, first recorded 1945. This also is the notion behind the meaning "the part of a theater on the floor of the house" (1640s).
pit (n.2) Look up pit at Dictionary.com
"hard seed," 1841, from Du. pit "kernel, seed, marrow," from M.Du. pitte, ultimately from W.Gmc. *pithan-, source of pith (q.v.).


I'm interested in the concept of  wells, wateringholes or pits. THey're so important: life giving. Yet they obviously have a bad reputation. It is this ambiguity that fascinates me.  If I have any faithful readers, they might know that I like to point at the weakness of things that are usually regarded as positive and I like to throw some good light over supposedly dark matter. I'm now feeling trapped by my own thinking... 

Suffering, being down, feeling depressed does it serve a purpose? Can it really bring good to anyone. Others or myself? 
Do I really find beautiful gems at the bottom of the well where I reside, or am I only learning to get out of it by closing my eyes for the truth, for my mistakes? Is my 'belief'  an empowering faith or is is just a fancy way of lying to myself... 
It's something I am writing about, in my head. Maybe in a day or so I will be able to write about it on my blog.... I have thinking and feeling and sorting to do. 
Which I will start right now :)

Jo