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Sometimes I doubt our border collie’s intelligence. Django always perfectly senses when we plan to go somewhere. He picks up on small signals – even before we take any real action like putting on our coats. And then he furtively disappears into the garage, to his pillow, tail between his legs. As if he thinks he will become invisible to us over there. This is quite peculiar as he loves going for walks. But we know why he behaves in that way – once in a while “getting ready” means he needs to get into the car, which he hates profoundly. When he was a puppy, he always got car sick. But most of the time “getting ready” means just going for a walk, not going for a ride. He seems to think that as long as he keeps trying to hide, one day he will succeed in getting invisible. His behaviour reminds me of one of my favourite quotes “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

Humans excel in that. We somehow believe that if we keep trying harder we will ultimately succeed, even if we keep ending up with the same result, time and time again. You see it on all levels: individual, collective and societal. An example that comes to mind is how we deal with reward and punishment for so-called right and wrong behaviour. The basic idea is that wrong behaviour needs to be punished so that the person concerned will do better in future and others will be warned. You would think that after all these centuries of locking up and punishing, crime would no longer exist. Quite the opposite is true of course – and our response is to build more and larger prisons. You see the same happening in education, the school system, but also in our companies, organisations and our social and political system.

Should we not question the way of thinking that causes these problems? Einstein put it like this: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. This kind of questions is on my mind these days. I have not found an answer yet. What I do know is that I am completely rethinking my website, to better reflect what I am working on nowadays and what I can offer. You will hear more about it soon. This also means that I will apply my creativity more to that specific project, which will leave me with less inspiration to share here with you. Maybe I will even decide to replace my current blog by something completely different, who knows?

See you soon!

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We were halfway through our holiday when the chirping of crickets – my ringtone – broke the silence of the mountains. It was my sister-in-law and neighbour calling – one of the few contacts I had programmed as “favourite” in my smartphone so she could reach me during our four weeks’ absence. She was the bearer of the unfortunate news that our house had been burgled during the night. The back door had been lifted out of its lock and judging by the messy trail left by the burglars, they had swiftly proceeded upstairs. That is apparently where most of us assume is the safest place to keep valuables.

We have – sorry, had – one item that looks especially valuable by the look of it: a safe. We thought we had hidden it well, in the back of a closet, behind some suitcases and junk, out of sight. They must have yelled “bingo” when they found it. Without looking any further, they must have dragged the heavy metal thing down the stairs. I would have liked to have seen their disillusioned faces when they opened it. Except for some documents and a few pounds and dollars, there was nothing in there they could turn into cash. No expensive jewellery, no gold coins, no thick wads of euros.

Coincidentally (!) I was just re-reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle when my sister-in-law called, and more specifically the chapter on “Identification with objects”. At a given point he writes, inspired by a similar story: “Has who you are become diminished by the loss?”

This made me think. Since the burglars did not take any items of sentimental or other value, I do not feel shaken by what happened, I do not feel that something fundamental has been taken away from me. But how would I react if that would be the case? And what if even more fundamental things would have been taken away from me?

I am thinking about people in regions plagued by war, as well as refugees and the horrible concentration camps of the past and present. The story of the Jewish pianist Alice Sommer-Herz comes to mind. Despite the atrocities she endured, despite having everything taken away from her, she was still capable of remaining free, deep down inside. To find “A Garden of Eden in Hell”, as the title of the novel about her life says. And there are many other similar stories about extraordinary people. Or are they ordinary people capable of doing “extra-ordinary” things? Detaching yourself from all things material and from what you consider your possession and your right is indeed not something we are used to.

I don’t suspect the burglars reacted in a detached way when they opened our safe. The fact that this kind of misdemeanours continue to take place is the living proof of our attachment to possession. But I am optimistic, I continue to cherish hope that every cloud has a silver lining.

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I may need to disappoint you from the start: this title does not refer to my voluntary communication silence of the past month (see my previous inspiration) but about our holiday experience with our loyal four-legged companion. He never ceases to amaze us, this dog of ours.

The first two weeks of our holiday it looked as if he had been climbing mountains for all of his two-year life. With his little red dog backpack we saw him running effortlessly up and down the steep rocky paths. Even fast flowing mountain streams were no obstacle to Django. He casually jumped from one rock to another and fearlessly waded through small rapids. But he really emerged as a true lover of great heights when he needed to cross snowy patches. With great enthusiasm he plunged through the eternally frozen snow, which must have felt like heaven to his heated paws. And then the big moment – a mountain animal that made his hunting instincts run into overdrive: the marmot. Whenever he spotted one of the bever sized rodents, often before they sounded the alarm by whistling loudly, he shot away like an arrow towards his prey.It was as if those two kilos of dog feed in his backpack were weightless. We felt anxious when we saw that red spot growing smaller with enormous speed and disappearing behind a rock. Luckily those marmots are the true kings of the Pyrenees and Django never managed to catch one.

The second surprise happened in the last week of our holiday, which we were spending in the Cévennes, along the banks of the Gardon. Up until then Django could not be persuaded to swim. He enjoyed standing chest-high in the refreshing water and he did not seem phased by crossing fast flowing rivers, as long as his feet – or rather paws – felt solid ground. And suddenly he started swimming of his own accord. A bit hesitant at first, but after a few days it evolved into a true hobby. He merrily paddled around, like a puppy seal with his head just above the surface, sometimes biting at air bubbles or catching sticks we threw at him. See the enclosed clip to prove the case.

He seemed to fully enjoy both new experiences and environments, not hindered by worries about potential danger or threats or assumptions like “what if” or “do I look good with this little red back pack?”. Just living fully in the moment as animals can do. Being more “in the moment” is what this detox from media and communication technology has brought me during this holiday (I kept my promise!). I feel like I have spent more non-fragmented time with myself and I quite enjoyed it. During the classic ‘dead’ moments I did not reach for my smartphone to check email or social media updates. I sometimes read a book but mainly I was just present with what and whom was there at that moment at that place.

I also suddenly felt like drawing what I saw – the mountains and rock formations, the contours of a mountain village, the picturesque chimneys on the roof of the building underneath our terrace. I bought a sketch book and pencils and took up an almost forgotten hobby (during my ‘younger years’ I drew and painted a lot). How great it felt to try and transfer what I saw into lines and volumes. Moreover, I was no longer really interested – like in the old days – to create a perfect reproduction or esthetically beautiful image. Just watching, enjoying and putting the lines on paper was so incredibly relaxing. A completely different way of doing and being simultaneously. I did something that I often used to do – and that I gave up just as often, frustrated, because it was ‘not good enough’ – but it felt completely different this time because I was completely different. Not worried about achieving a result or making an impression with my art. Just being completely in the moment, like our dog in the water, no more and no less. Pure bliss.

See you next time with a completely different, but equally educational story from our holiday.

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There are quite a few of us who remember the time when email, mobile phones and social media did not exist yet – which is not even that long ago. But at the same time we can hardly remember what it was like, as these tools have become such an obvious and almost imperative part of our daily lives.

If they would suddenly disappear, I think a huge amount of bandwidth – to use the telecom jargon – would become available in my head. Just imagine all that I would be able to do.

I gladly volunteer for this ‘what if’ experiment, which I will carry out between 14 July and 15 August. My research location will be the Spanish Pyrenees, followed by the French Cévennes. I expect to suffer from serious withdrawal symptoms and promise to report on this self-chosen communication isolation on my return.

See you then and enjoy your own holidays.

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Dit is een quote die me op het lijf is geschreven. Ik vind mijn actiegerichtheid zo normaal dat ik dat talent niet meer opmerk. Ik heb anderen nodig om me erop te wijzen dat dit echt typisch voor mij is. Ik vind het heerlijk wanneer ik ergens kan invliegen en kan zien hoe het dan vooruit gaat, vorm krijgt en afgewerkt wordt.

Langdradige losse eindjes zijn niet aan mij besteed. Ik word er rusteloos en moedeloos van wanneer iets te lang onafgewerkt blijft. Of wanneer een toestand van deconstructie te lang aansleept. Ik schreef er in april over in Lost in deconstruction.

Ondertussen is de toestand van de tuin het levende resultaat van mijn actiegerichtheid – ik kan gerust zeggen ‘onze’ actiegerichtheid want mijn man lijdt aan ditzelfde kenmerk. We vliegen er graag samen in!

Ik merk ook altijd dat het wordingsproces zelf meer informatie geeft over hoe verder te gaan met iets. Het is dus vaak kwestie van de eerste stap te zetten wanneer je ergens naar verlangt. Eenmaal die gezet is, volgt de rest als vanzelf, bijna moeiteloos. Of zoals Goethe schreef “Als je iets wil realiseren of droomt te kunnen doen, begin eraan. Durf bezit genialiteit, kracht en magie. Ik kan die gevleugelde woorden alleen maar bevestigen.

Tot volgende keer!

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