Tuesday, January 24

Talent vs. willpower

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.
- Isaac Newton

Well, that's a comforting thought for me... hardly. Studying my chemistrybooks for thursday's exam, I find it hard to be patient, or pay any attention. In today's math exam, I have proven not to have any talent for the subject, what so ever. I'm okay with geometry, but trigonometry is like Chinese to me: I don't know a word of it, and if I'd read one, I'd forget it in the very same millisecond. I just can't interest myself in drawing circles with my graphic calculator. I don't care about the formulas. I can understand why somebody would want to learn... anything, but not thát. But I must try to like it. I believe that -with willpower- you can even influence your own interests. And I wíll be interested in trigonometry. And I wíll study exothermic reactions as a hobby.

I like it. It's such a challenge, I actually wish for every schoolsubject to be this difficult. I like it, I really do.


Saturday, January 21

Family Stories

During english lessons, we often listen to recorded interviews and lectures from british radio, and answer multiple choice questions about them. This is done as a kind of test. It is also practice for the final exams, during which we will have to do the same thing. I'm not the kind of person that brags about her abilities, but I'm pretty good at these tests. This allows me to listen to what people are saying in general, as opposed to listening simply to find the right answer to the question.

Yesterday, we listened to a audio-fragment about family stories: Stories told by relatives to each other about certain events that happened to the family or a member of it. Not only are these stories entertaining, they also help us remember family members that passed away, and they cause bonding between members, thus giving the family its own identity. Today, I visited my grandma. It's not something I do alot, but when I'm there I do like to listen to one of her stories. Now, our family is not of the family-story-type, we don't pass on stories on a regular basis or something. But my grandma does have lots of stories to tell, that is, if you first encourage her. Often, the stories are not about family members (though comments on them are made), but they're about all things my grandma did and saw in her life. About 'the war' (WWII), sometimes, but lots of other things too. Today, she told me about a the most beautiful painting that's on her wall. I asked her about it, and she told me that she knew the painter because he used to buy paint in the store my grandmother and -father owned. "He was so poor", she said, "he had a wive and ten children to support and they were living in no more than a shed". Well, this might be a little exaggerated. But anyway, they were really poor and their house was a dump. One day, the painter's wive came to the shop and bought some paint. My grandfather said to her, "I would like to buy some of the paintings your husband has made, but only if it's for a lousy price." My grandmother didn't believe her ears, and the painter's wive didn't either. She got a little angry and told him that they had to sell those paintings for a good price, because that was the only income they had. I can see it now. They were probably desperate for some money, but the woman hadn't lost her pride and told my granddad that he could forget it. Now, usually the heroes in family stories are members of the family itself, or so the woman on the audiotape said. But it's still a good story. And a beautiful painting.

There is one thing that bothers me. My grandma is still a very independant woman, but she's getter older too. When she dies, alot of those stories, alot of her life, will be forgotten. I once told her that she should write a book about it, but she won't, of course. Maybe I should visit her more often, and let her tell some more.

About the image
A painting called The Storyteller, based on archaeological work conducted along the Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina. Indians gathering round the campfire to listen to stories.

Thursday, January 19

Discussions and their rules

I have alot of discussions with some of my friends. We talk about subjects on which our opinions differ, but not because we want to prove that we're right or something. I really think discussions can be a vital part of a friendship, although in most cases it isn't. To me, a good discussion is not even about convincing the other person, it's about sharing ideas and putting them to the test. This is very important when trying to be as objective as possible, too. Hearing other peoples opinions is the best way for me to realise that there is more than one way to look at things. To me and my friends, it's the best way to communicate on a -somewhat- higher level as "Hi, how was your weekend and could you help me with my biology-homework?". Of course, we do say that too. But there are days that we just can't stop talking about everything ranging from abortion, religion and the influence of the brain on physical health.. to our future, the definition of beauty and when (not) to divorce someone.

This way of communicating can be very confusing for 'outsiders', though. I guess it looks alot like we're seriously arguing sometimes. Even worse, I sometimes forget this and start to discuss on a similar way with other people. Like my parents. In those cases, I'm afraid I make the wrong impression. This even gets worse as I'm used to taking the opposite of my friend's opinion as mý opinion, just to make the discussion more interesting and forcing the other person into really explaining his/her thoughts.

I guess you could say there's 2 types of discussion, that I'd better not mix up. Number one has the goal to exchange information and opinions, getting a broader look on the subject and -eventually- life itself *. Number two is all about deciding who's right and who's wrong, something that is very subjective and should only be done when absolutely necessary (this is only my opinion, though).

* Are you beginning to wonder if all seventeen-year-old dutch girls prefer discussing the meaning of life, as opposed to discussing clothing, gossip and such? No, definitely not. We're just not totally normal, that's all ;)

About the image
This painting by Caso illustrates how it might be a good idea to try 'getting out of the frame' more often. The human brain -inevitably- tends to put everything in little boxes, but sometimes it's necessary to try breaking some of those borders. Free your mind.

Wednesday, January 18

How happy is the little stone

How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn't care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears --
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity --

One could ask if these words of Emily Dickinson are meant to be sad and depressive, or rather happy and lighthearted. Personally, I think the last. At http://www.americanpoems.com/, a user says the poem is quite self-explanatory "once you are familiar with the transcendentalist movement that swept the nation during the time period Dickinson wrote this poem." This movement believed very much in the happiness a simple life could bring. The little stone has no worries, it is simply a stone. It doesn't decide its own fate, but this is seen as a good thing, since it doesn't really matter anyway.

Yet it is possible to see the poem in a different way. The stone has no fears or cares, but it is alone and nobody cares about it and its future. A dutch poet translated this poem in a very exact way, while preserving the beauty of it. This version does seem more depressing, since the stone is called very alone, it doesn't make a career (but it might care for it)... "How happy is the little stone" could be meant in a cynical way. Yet I believe that Emily really meant for the stone to be a happy one. When you're feeling down, it's not a strange thing to wish you could not feel at all. When we think of the immense space in which our tiny little Earth floats, we might feel alone and insignificant. But isn't that a good thing to realise, sometimes? Everything happening here is just so small, it might not matter alot.

Tuesday, January 17


I can really be a stresskip sometimes; literally translated that's a stress-chicken. Just think of one of those hens living in a *cosy* battery and you'll know what I mean. Me stressing out often leads to bad situations, which lead to more stress. It's a circle that's hard to break. What hurts me most, more than all the fights and worries, is the subjectivity that I perceive everything with at such a day. I don't like seeing the world through coloured classes, no matter what colour they are. One of the most important things I pursuit is objectivity. Which is like happiness of course; it's a direction, not a point, and therefore always unreacheable. But everyone wants happiness, so. Anyway, objectivity is an impossible yet noble goal, I reckon.

Yesterday, my day was all about stress. Today is about beating it. There are several ways to beat stress, and thus fight subjectivity. Luckily for me, I've found out one of the best ways to do this today (for me, that is). It goes like this, maybe you'd like to try:
1) Breathe deeply in while expanding your belly (no, not your chest.. your belly). 2) Close your eyes imagining you're at a beautiful valley, with your feet in a cool stream. 3) See, feel, hear and smell everything that happens there. 4) Imagine you're like a tree (no, really). Your roots are firmly in the earth and you won't fall: You'll just swing gently.

Laugh. But it really helps. I'd say the the cool stream does it for me, actually. No, here's the thing: It seems like some vague yoga-meditation-veganistic buddha thing, but it's pure science. I tried this while my heart rhythm was being monitored, and my heart started to beat very nice and calmly. This results in positive signals being send to the brain (something like "okay, just chill out, we're doing fine..") which takes stress and anxiety away.

When your heart rhythm is irregular, stress signals are sent to the brain. The brain immediatelly switches to survival-mode and starts ignoring the neocortex. And that's exactly the part of the brain that makes us human; the intelligent part that you need for tasks like... exams. Ahuh, thát's my problem. Exams. But you know what? When making my exams, I'll be in a cool, relaxing stream somewhere in a valley.

And I'll be fine.

Monday, January 16

First words of Silence

si·lence: the lack of any sound
Thus Silence can be found at

And so it begins. Often, the beginning of Silence is either unnoticed or deafening. In this case, probably unnoticed. This Silence will bring philosophy, poetry and thoughts together; Words of Silence.

Emily is not my real name, it's a tribute to Emily Dickinson, an American poet that devoted herself in secret into writing. I'm not nearly as melancholic (and neither will this Blog be), but I do find her poems very inspiring. She once wrote;

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me.

This is my letter to the world too. Just like Ms. Dickinson, I don't expect an answer from the world. But you're very welcome to post a comment, always.