Wednesday, May 31

To remember forgetting

Finally! I have just completed the last of my final exams. I feel pretty good about all of my exams, so I will not worry too much in the weeks to come. To me, my certificate will be a milestone. A reward for six years of studying. I can be quite absent-minded and as a result I always forget alot of things, but I will remember these exams forever. And I will never forget the following stories.

The final exams took place in the school's gym, were temperatures are either too high or too low. And we're not allowed to keep our shoes on, so I took a pair of blue woollen socks with me to every exam. During maths exam yesterday, it felt like we would all become oversized ice cubes before the end of the test. Fortunately I had brought my sock... but I left the other one at home! My bare foot would freeze off , I was sure. My most difficult exam, and something was going wrong already. At times like that, I want everything to be perfect. I don't want to be distracted by hypothermia. I tried to put two feet in one sock, but my friend laughed and said I looked ridiculous. People were looking at me. This wasn't a good start. But to my surprise, none of these events bothered me. It occured to me how this sock-experience was really a symbolic representation of what I had learned in all these years. When I began attending secondary school, I was an insecure girl to say the least. I thought hell would break loose if something went wrong. I thought that other people's opinionwere more important than my own feelings. I felt horrible for days if someone had said something hurtful to me. Six years later, I know better. I looked ridiculous - so what? People were looking - so what? It did not affect me. It's one of the most important lessons I have learned in all those years: My test results did not depend on a missing sock.

Today, an odd event took place during my exam. Nobody was aware of this miracle taking place, nobody but me. I had just found out I forgot to take my triangle with me - which I would almost certainly need to use as I was doing a physics exam. At one of the first questions, I seriously began to panic. I needed that triangle! At the very same moment, one of the teachers walked by. He stopped at my table and picked something up. He assumed I had lost the item, because he placed it on my table without asking any questions. It was a triangle. A perfect, brand new triangle. I had never seen it before. Now, I do not consider myself to be a superstitious person. Neither do I believe in miracles. But the exact moment I wanted a triangle, I got it.

Monday, May 29

To quote or not to quote

Whatireckon.com features the 'philosophical ramblings' of Mark Virtue. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, he reckons. I like to visit his website, it inspires me. In this post Mark reckons at least one quote should be attributed to him before he dies. To make it easier, he quotes two of his quotable quotes. And they’re actually very good quotes too.

Reliability is to the future what honesty is to the past.

- Mark Virtue

Worry is to the future what regret is to the past.
- Mark Virtue

Sunday, May 28

Waterhouse: The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott (1888) is actually the the name of a romantic poem by Alfred Tennyson. The painting by John William Waterhouse is based on it - many other artists were inspired by The Lady too. The poem itself is commonly believed to have been loosely based upon a story from Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur concerning a maiden who falls in love with Lancelot, but dies of grief when he cannot return her love. Tennyson dissagreed and said that the poem was based on Donna di Scalotta, a similar thirteenth-century story from Italy. The Lady of Tennyson’s poem lives in a tower on Shalott, an island located in a river near Camelot. She is under a curse; doom will befall her if she looks directly at Camelot. Therefore she watches the world through a mirror. She weaves what she sees in a magic web. But she is often tempted to look directly at the life beyond the tower. One day she sees Sir Lancelot in her mirror and cannot help but to turn around and fix her eyes upon the handsome knight. “On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode; from underneath his helmet flow’d his coal-black curls as on he rode, as he rode down to Camelot” Tennyson writes. But instantly “The mirror crack’d from side to side” and the Lady knew that the curse had now come upon her. She leaves the tower and finds a boat, on which she floats down the river while singing a mournful song. By the time she arrives at Camelot, she is frozen to death. “And in the lighted palace near, died the sound of royal cheer. And they crossed themselves for fear, all the Knights at Camelot. But Lancelot mused a little space. He said, She has a lovely face. God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott.”

Other paintings of the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse can be found here, here and here. Click on the names of the following artists to see their interpretations of the Lady; Donato Giancola, William Mau Egley, William Holman Hunt, Arthur Hughes, Sidney Meteyard, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and Seymour Garstin Harvey.

Saturday, May 27

One day

We can be Heroes, just for one day. - The Wallflowers

What defines a hero? I have been contemplating this question for some days now, because I felt the word is used too often and too rash. According to Dictionary.com, a hero is “a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life” or “A person noted for special achievement in a particular field.” The last definition explains why even Michael Jordan is considered a hero by some. Wikipedia.org describes a hero as “a person performing an extraordinary and praiseworthy deed” or “an archetype embodying key traits valued by its originating culture.”

I think a hero is a person who has a profoundly positive effect on the lives of others - as well as on society as a whole - and serves as an example to people by performing deeds that are considered admirable and extraordinary. This is often reached by overcoming fear (i.e. being couragous) and having a deep compassion for fellow human beings, something which itself is thought to be admirable.


If this is the definition of heroïsm, we can indeed all be heroes - if only for one day.

Friday, May 26

Rainy days

It's so easy and yet so destructive. Self-pity. Yes, I consider myself happy. But there is something so seductive about feeling unhappy. I have no idea why. The times that I think something is wrong with my life are very scarce, I am actually a very happy person. I have all three things required for happiness; something to do, something to look forward to and someone to love. But one rainy day and an Oprah Show about unhappy women makes me feel a little lost in my life. Am I that mentally unstable? I guess today is just one of those sad days. Let it be.

Problems you experience in your life can result in unhappiness. And if you struggle with issues in your past, you cannot focus on making the best of now. But it does not mean that you cannot change something and become a stronger, happier person. There has been a period in my life in which I felt like an empty shell. A shadow of my former self. It took me a year, but I did find the courage to start living again. To start feeling again. I realize all to well that there are people who feel many times worse than I ever did, to whom happiness seems like a fairy tale. But it is not. If you're willing to believe in happiness, then you can reach it.

Most of the time, I am able to enjoy my life - it is not troubled by serious problems or loss. I sincerely wish the same for all of you. Let us consider ourselves fortunate, every day. Especially on rainy days. Because if there is one thing I know for sure, it's that we sure are fortunate.

Thursday, May 25

Poem

I’m in the middle of my final exams right now, and the following experience is one I will avoid at all costs;

I felt a Cleaving in my mind
As if my Brain had split-
I tried to match it - Seam by Seam -
But could not make them Fit.
The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the thought before
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls - upon a floor.


- Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, May 24

Place to go: North Korea

It might seem like a strange choice for a holiday destination: North Korea, one of the few remaining socialist states. Yes, a country where human rights are violated on a massive scale and freedom is a myth. Where tourists are not allowed to travel independently and US visitors are rarely granted visas at all. WikiTravel warns everyone who will be visiting North Korea:

Under no circumstances whatsoever are you to say something that could be perceived as an insult to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-Il, communism, or the North Korean people or government. You and your guide are likely to face serious trouble, although your guide will bear the worst of it. Assume at all times that you will be under constant surveillance throughout your trip. Your hotel room, bathrooms, telephones, faxes, emails and even modes of transportation will probably be bugged. Also, unless you have the explicit authorization of your guides, you are not to wander anywhere on your own, not even outside of the hotel. If you are courteous to your guide and toe the line, a brief walk around the hotel grounds alone may be possible, but always ask first. Do not take pictures of ANYTHING without explicit approval of your guides.

Yes, that’s the place. I want to walk through those broad, empty streets with their patriotic billboards on every corner. I want to enjoy the sight of waterfalls in the mountains of Myohyang. I will have no choice but to lay flowers in front of Kim’s statue to honour him. Why, you wonder? Because it is unique. There is no place in the world that is isolated from the world in such a way. And soon, there will be no place like North Korea at all. Of course I agree; a massive and constant violation of human rights should not be tolerated by the international community. The North Korean government should be faced with the consequences of their actions. Something should be done, and it should be done as soon as possible.

To me, visiting North Korea is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To witness this bizarre situation myself, and to realize how fortunate I am - living in a free country and being able to make my own choices. Even if such a choice includes going to a place that is totally different from everything I know. Living in a free country, nothing can stop me from going there. Except for the lack of €2000 and time ticking away slowly...

Tuesday, May 23

Books to read

I’ve made myself a promise. The moment I earn my own income, I will start purchasing the books on my “To read list”. These are not the kind of books you borrow from the library - you need to have them in your bookcase, always at your disposal. At least, that’s my opinion. These books on philosophy and psychology are on my list, and I am looking forward to buying them - although that is not going to happen for quite some time. For now, I will cherish the prospect.

Blink: The power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
About the first two seconds of looking - the decisive glance that knows in an instant. I would also love to read The Tipping Point by the same author. According to reviews it makes you see the world in a different way, which I find quite promising.

Insights for a new way of living
by Osho
This is actually a series of books by the modern religious guru Rajneesh. The books have titles such as Courage, Awareness and Creativity. I wonder what the theories of such an unusual man are. I’m also interested in his book Body Mind Balancing, because I believe it is very likely that the mind has a direct influence on the healing capability of the body.

The paradox of choice by Barry Swartz
Why you don’t want to your supermarket to have 85 different varieties and brands and crackers available for you. Why you don’t want to choose between 285 varieties of cookies either. Or 95 snacks, 61 suntan oils and sunblock, 40 types of toothpaste and 360 different shampoos. But the “paradox of choice” is not limited to the shopping aisle. Why more is less.

Monday, May 22

What it takes

What made Einstein a genius anyway? According to himself, there were two ‘rules’ to achieving the great hights of such amazing intellect. First of all, one should be able to concentrate in an intense, long lasting way. Second, one should never stop asking. Ask the questions of a child. When Albert was young, he once looked at a passing tower clock while sitting in a train. What would the clock look like if the train was racing away from it with the speed of light? The answer; time would appear to have stopped - while Alberts watch inside the train would still indicate the elapsing of time. From this simple question, the concept of relativity was born. According to Einstein, every child is born a genius. The trick is to preserve your creativity, curiosity and openmindedness into adulthood.

To my opinion, Einstein possessed a third, indispensable capability. He was not afraid. Or maybe he overcame fear. Einstein found the courage to keep asking childish questions and to keep searching for the answers. Working for years on the same idea, while it might all lead to nothing. He persevered through doubt - not to mention the contempt of his collegues. To me, it is the most admirable character trait of Einstein. Finding courage, against all odds.

Sunday, May 21

Words from a genius

In some way, Albert Einstein has a great deal to do with yesterdays post. These are some of his opinions about the subject. You might like to ponder on them yourself - I would not dare to interrupt your thoughts.

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.


As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Saturday, May 20

Mind versus heart

I like getting feedback from the readers of this blog - it’s nice to share some thoughts. In this post, I would like to discuss a comment that was posted about a week ago. It’s actually a response on something I wrote back in march, and I had some trouble finding the posting itself. This is what I wrote on March 21:

(…) Although there are some differences, maybe we could look upon science as if it were a religion. Maybe a better word would be belief. According to Dictionary.com, belief is "the mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another". It can also be described as "a mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something." According to science, we should obey the Forces of Nature. Thousands of scientists are both prophets and theologians, following the Commandments; discover, research, verify. Be curious! I feel science ís a belief. A belief in scientists and their proof, but more important, a belief in all we conclude from our surroundings. A religion is often accompanied by stories, to make us understand how we should believe, and what we believe in. Science has its own tales. All of them can be found in nature, it just takes an effort to discover and understand them. (…)

Certainly a statement to be discussed! This is Alan’s comment:

(…) In your posting you comment on the very real spiritual sensibility with which many of us approach science, but I believe that there remains a major distinction between science and religion which hinges on the confounding of two quite different uses of the word "believe". In particular, the belief I have just expressed is one which I can imagine giving up in the face of a contrary argument, but the belief of a religious disciple prides itself on its immutability. To me, that is the essence of "religion" and is something to be avoided. Perhaps "faith" would be a better word for the religious kind of belief (although that word also sometimes is used with a more modest interpretation - more like "trust"). Also, a religion seems always to be based on authority, but I believe that a "belief in scientists" is in fact contrary to the true spirit of science. In my opinion, a true scientist doesn't believe something because some greater scientist declares it but only as and while she is convinced in her own mind that the weight of evidence and argument supports it.

Thank you for giving your opinion, Alan. I will try to explain what I meant to say. Alright, maybe scientists are not the ones we believe in. We believe in their observations of the world, and the theories they formulate as a result of the perceptions they have - as well as we believe in our own observations and ideas. Religion (in contrast to science) is the belief in things we cannot rationally conclude from matter. Of course there are big differences too (something I have clearly indicated) such as the fact that beliefs in science - unlike in religion - are affected by contrary arguments. But I think we should realize how little concrete evidence is found by scientists. Even the atom theory is exactly what the name says it is; a theory. Nearly everything we know about matter seems to be in consensus with this theory, but that doesn’t mean it is definitely correct. Nevertheless, an enormous amount of ‘knowledge’ and dozens of other theories accept the atom theory; it is the fundamental idea on which they have been built.

Standing on the shoulders of giants that might just be fairytales. Why? Because a scientist has no other choice - none of us have any other choice than to believe what seems right. No other choice than to believe what we are told. Even the most basic information we receive is not one hundred percent reliable. I take it I am writing an article for my weblog. I take it I am sitting on a chair in a house in Alkmaar, a town in the Netherlands. To doubt these facts is futile. But they are not one hundred percent certain. I accept them because I have no choice - and doubt will not make any difference. At the very most, doubting will enable me to perform some interesting thought experiments and perhaps entertain others with these ideas.

I still think there are notable similarities between science and religion. Both of these systems explain our world and attempt to answer our greatest question: Why?

Thursday, May 18

Online portfolios

Many people put their art online nowadays. These are three websites of talented artists I would like to bring under your attention. I'm especially impressed by the sketches of Bosley; if I ever was to write a book - no matter what subject it takes on - I would beg him to draw the illustrations.

Sketchhunter: The artwork of Andrew Bosley

Whispers in Blue: The artwork of Lilli Farrell
Sparth: The artwork of Nicolas Bouvier

Wednesday, May 17

Into the night

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. - the Odyssey, by Homer

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. - Thomas Dekker

I love watching the evening sky in all its grace and grandeur, locating the constellations and contemplating the stories behind them. But as soon as darkness falls, my intentions of going outside and looking up disappear. I just feel too tired. This is probably caused by rising melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone found in all living creatures, playing an important role in the immune system and endocrine system. Normally, production of melatonin is inhibited by light and permitted by darkness. That’s why people get sleepy at night - I know I do.


Disturbing the biological clock can cause jet lags and sleep disorders. Artificial lighting reduces the exposure to darkness, which results in very low melatonin levels. This is believed to have a negative effect on the human body. For instance, reduced melatonin production is a likely factor in the significantly higher cancer rates in night workers. Yet another reason why one shouldn’t neglect ones need for sleep. I’m glad I love sleeping.

Tuesday, May 16

Irrational fears

A few months ago I followed an online course, designed by a dutch university as an introduction to their subject material. I was obliged to choose one of the many courses offered, but unfortunately there were no earth science or geology classes available. I decided to go for biological psychology instead. The subject we would be studying in the next four weeks; phobias, the most common form of anxiety disorders. Many people have an extreme or irrational fear. Acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) are very common phobias. But have you ever heard of amychophobia, a persistant fear of men? Or pteronophobia, a fear of being tickled with feathers…

I am most fascinated by a disorder called coulrophobia. I can imagine it seems like nonsense, but I can definitely imagine why some fear clowns. When I was just a little girl, a painting of a clown decorated my bedroom door - left behind by the previous residents of the house. I have had terrible dreams about it. It dragged me out of my bed and through the house. It hit me. There have been times I woke up from those nightmares on the floor, cold and shaking, not daring to breath, not daring to stand up and get back into bed. The clown was standing right in front of me - on the door. Large as life. And it was not just me being scared. My niece and I both remember how she stayed over once, and she was just as scared as I was. She almost broke down in tears that evening, or so she told me later. But the story has a happy ending. When my parents found out I was scared by the image, the clown was soon covered by bright pink paint.

Now, I am not scared of clowns. The experiences haven’t affected me in such a profound way. But I still dislike clowns. I have a deep rooted aversion of them, to be honest. I have no problem with a person that dresses up as a clown. It’s the character he pretends to be that makes me shiver. The bright paint on his face seems like a deceiving mask. Who knows what hides under there? Today, two layers of paint cover the clown on my door - and not just his countenance. But underneath that… He’s still there.

Monday, May 15

Waterhouse: The Danaides


The Danaides (1904) were the fifty daughters of Danaus, son of the king of Egypt. His twin brother Aegyptus commanded that his sons marry the Danaides. Danaus did not agree and built a ship - the first ship that ever was - to flee with his daughters to the city of Argos, were he eventually became king. But after a while, Aegyptus and his fifty sons arrived to take the Danaides. Instead of starting a battle, Danaus allowed them to marry his daughters. But the young women were instructed to kill their new husbands on their wedding night, and forty-nine of them actually did. Only one daughter refused; Hypermnestra would not kill her husband Lynceus because he honoured her wish to remain a virgin. Danaus was very angry with his disobedient daughter, but Aphrodite - goddess of love and beauty - saved Hypermnestra from her fathers rage. Lynceus later killed Danaus as revenge for the death of his brothers. The couple then began a dynasty of Argive kings, while the other Danaides where punished in the underworld. They were forced to carry water through a jug with holes so the water always leaked out - or into a leaking reservoir, as can be seen in this painting by John William Waterhouse.

Sunday, May 14

The Third Thing

Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water and nobody knows what that is.
- D.H. Lawrence

Mankind has always been interested in understanding the world, and water has always been considered a vital part of it. This odorless, tasteless and virtually colorless matter is essential to all known forms of life and an abundant substance on Earth. Common - but unique in many ways. For instance, the solid form of a substance is usually more dense than its liquid form. As a result, one would expect that common ice sinks in liquid water. As we all know, it doesn’t. Water is one of few substances that expands when it freezes, while most other materials contract. Liquid water becomes denser with lowering temperature too, but at 4 °C it reaches its maximum density. As water cools further, it expands to become less dense - forming the distinctive molecular structure of ice. This is an extremely important property of water, vital in the ecosystems on Earth. If water were more dense when frozen, polar lakes and oceans would eventually freeze solid from top to bottom, as the ice would sink and the sun would be unable to melt it in the summer.

Water is often believed to have sprititual powers, and is worshipped in many cultures. The Greek philosopher Empedocles held that water is one of the four classical elements, along with fire, earth and air. It was regarded as the ylem; the basic stuff of the universe. The Bible states “the Earth was formed out of water and by water.” There would be no life without water - as a solvent, greenhouse gas, climate regulator and essential part of all living beings. No wonder it is worshipped and treasured.

Saturday, May 13

Place to go: Philadelphia

An American friend of mine complained about the lack of old cities in the States, with their traditional street patterns and architecture. Although there are some comparatively ‘old’ cities in the East, she said. In a dutch lifestyle magazine called Villa d’Arte, a photo-reportage on Philadelphia’s finest buildings caught my eye. Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the United States, and also one of the oldest, most historically significant cities in the country. I would love to visit Philadelphia City Hall with the bronze statue atop the tower, or the Museum of Art which is probably as grand on the inside as it is on the outside, as it houses outstanding collections of European and Asian art. Rittenhouse Square! The Italian Market! Mütter Museum! But I was especially charmed by the numerous murals - beautiful artworks as well as an effective tool against graffiti. The themes of the murals are chosen by the residents of the neighbourhoods, and often reflect social issues or local heroes.

Friday, May 12

To catch a moment in time

I have discovered a new way of looking at nature that is full of beautiful surprises. - Lilli Farrell

I like taking photographs, but I hardly ever do it. Though that is going to change. In this delightful season I cannot wait to get outside and catch some moments with my photocamera. I like digital cameras because you can make as many pictures as you like - which I do. Of course, I always end up deleting ninty percent or so. These are some of the pictures I took in the garden.

Thursday, May 11

Questionable knowledge

Chelly from However blog mentioned this website some time ago. It’s one of those algorithms which tells you who you were in your past live. I was a female in my last earthly incarnation, born in Portugal on approximately 875. I was an inquisitive and inventive person who was either a teacher, mathematician or geologist. Wait a minute… geologist? Guess what I am going to study at university next year. Some things mentioned about ‘my past live’ sound very familiar to me.

I do not allow myself to believe in many things, as I have said before. But in general, I do not believe in past lives. Nor do I believe that the future can be predicted. Why does it seem like the prediction of a horoscope is often fullfiled? Not because I want to believe in it - because I don’t. There must be some other reason. First of all, I think the descriptions given are not very specific and can be interpreted in many ways - although the text is formulated in such a manner that it does seem to deal with absolute facts. Anyway, after reading the horoscope, the events happen throughout the week - or not. If they do, you will probably remember the prediction and conclude that it did tell you your future. It is less likely that you remember the content of the horoscope if none of the events occur. Afterwards, you estimate the percentage of predictions coming true higher than it is in reality.

I think my explanation is reasonable and logical. It could even be tested in a series of experiments, making the idea more plausible. But I have no proof, and I will never be able to find all pieces of evidence. There will always be other possibilities. Therefore I am of the opinion that alternative explanations must always kept in mind, and one must try not to disregard them in any way - not in ones thoughts, nor in ones outward opinion. Being totally objective is never possible, but it is a noble goal, right?

Many fools claim they know it all, but only a wise man dares to admit his ignorance. Hence I admit: I don’t know. The world may house more mysteries than I dare to believe in, and that’s just fine with me.

Wednesday, May 10

Bob Marley - Redemption song

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the 'and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it's just a part of it:
We've got to fullfil the book.

Tuesday, May 9

Growing roots and wings

There have been several posts on narrow-mindedness on this weblog before. I would like to use the dutch word hokjesgeest. A hokje is something like a cage; a narrow space surrounded by walls. Geest is the dutch word for mind. It is like having numerous divisions in your mind, putting everything you hear and see into these small boxes. Judging and condemning it. But there are other ways of thinking - and to my humble opinion those are better ways. Crossing those borders, expanding your thoughts.

On television, I saw a man in search of his roots. He went to Ghana because he wanted to know who his anchestors were - living in Africa before they became slaves and were transported to the dutch colony Suriname. He failed in finding his forefather, but decided to adopt one. He admitted that the chance of having picked the right man was very small. But it didn’t matter, because it is the belief that counts.

Monday, May 8

Asian wisdom

There are thousands of chéngyu or four-character idioms in the Chinese language. They are highly compact proverbs, and do not have the usual grammatical structure of modern Chinese - they are widely used in Classical Chinese which can be compared to Latin. Many chéngyu derive from fables and historic events. The Japanese equivalent of chéngyu is the yojijukugo. Four wise sayings;

起承転結 ki sho ten ketsu
Start, Continue, Change, Conclusion... The simplest way to make a story or a poem.

傍若無人 bo jaku bu jin
As if there were nobody beside you. Indicating a selfish person that has a very high opinion of himself, and acts only in his own interests.

骄兵必败 jiao bing bi bai
An arrogant army will certainly be defeated. If you are over-confident about your own abilities, you will fail indeed.

掩耳盗铃 yan er dao ling

Covering one's own ears while stealing a bell. Ignoring the facts is only fooling oneself.

Sunday, May 7

Waterhouse: Ophelia

Ophelia (1889) This is a character in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Ophelia is believed to be around 16 to 19 years old, and is the submissive daughter of a chief advisor to the King. She is both loved and rejected by Hamlet and loses her sanity as a result. She walkes down to a stream and drowns herself. John William Waterhouse depicts Ophelia lying in a riverside meadow, one hand in her hair, the other grasping flowers. Waterhouse has painted Ophelia several times. In the painting at the bottom left she looks slighty more upset. At the right is another Ophelia. She takes her time to prepare for her death, putting flowers in here hair as she sits on a branch - on the borderline of land and water, life and death. In both paintings it becomes clear to the viewer that Ophelia is the daugther of a wealthy man - looking at the beautiful dresses which are abundantly decorated. I like the fact that Waterhouse did not make Ophelia look dismayed or insane. She looks as if she is finding peace.

Saturday, May 6

Feel

A lack of sound; it describes these words. I am writing them in attempt to make a feeling concrete, speaking my mind in silence. There are no words to describe the sensation I feel. A feeling that you cannot hold, but have to reach for. Like balance. It is happiness in a fluid, durable state - peace of mind and a spoonful of fervour, spiced with a pinch of enchantment. Gentle and warm, like the morning sun drawing bright lines on the parquet. It mingles with sadness when remembering what is lost. Looking at fading pictures, realizing how distant our past seems. Sad, but never sorry. And it is there at those moments, when everything seems to be in the right place - when bliss overflows you for no apparent reason. Confounding, but never exuberant. Happiness that doesn’t dazzle you - but instead makes everything clear, in a soothing way.

I believe it comes from within. We do not have to wait for something or someone to make us feel fullfilled; it is up to us to experience it. Turning antipathy into devotion, weariness into serenity, sorrow into peace. Find it in a poem, a song or a thought. Find it in Newton's Laws of Motion or an apple falling from a tree. Find it in a flower. All it takes is a little practise and belief. All it takes is a choice.

Friday, May 5

Nature

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. - Frank Lloyd Wright

I took this picture not long ago at one of those magical moments. Just for a couple of minutes, sunlight broke through the dark clouds. I always feel it is a surreal moment, as if nature tries out her new paint-brushes.


Thursday, May 4

More

Greed seems to be one of those characters reserved for mankind. I am not sure if this is true. During the last few weeks, I have noticed that dogs have no sense of self-control - certainly not when food is involved. Can this behaviour be regarded as an expression of greed? After all, it is the desire to obtain more material possessions or any other entity than one needs. It is a sin, too. Greed or avarice is listed as one of the Christian seven deadly sins. But don’t we all experience greed sometimes, if only in a weakened form? A little greediness could serve the purpose of a vaccine; an infection with cowpox to realize that you should be happy with what you have.

More by Mark Osborne is a short film, which was nominated for an Academy-Award in 1998. I have watched it many times and I am still touched deeply by the sincerity of this film, telling the story of a lonely inventor whose colorless existence is brightened only by dreams of the carefree bliss of his youth. By day, he is trapped in a dehumanizing job in a joyless world. But by night, he tinkers away on a visionary invention, desperate to translate his inspiration into something meaningful. When his invention is complete, it will change the way people see the world. But he will find that success comes at a high price, as it changes himself, as well.

I recommend you to watch this film, which will only take six minutes of your time. Get happy…

Wednesday, May 3

Lines

Ancient cultures have left us some mysterious phenomenons, such as Stonehenge and piramids. I find geoglyphs to be one of the most interesting ‘monuments’ of ancient history; huge designs on the ground, depicting images that can only be seen by ‘the eye in the sky’ (unless the geoglyph lies on a hillside). The horse-shaped chalk figures in the United Kingdom are examples of these peculiar designs. When commercial airlines began flying across the Nazca Desert (Peru) in the 1920s, passengers reported seeing figures on the ground below. Further research revealed that the Lines had been made by removing iron-oxide coated pebbles which cover the surface of the desert. Joe Nickell proved that it is possible to create these figures with the mere use of technology available to the Nazca Indians of the time, and without aerial supervision. Others had previously stated that the Nazcan lines presuppose some form of manned flight.

Archaeologists uncovered the lost city of the line-builders, Cahuachi. It was build two millenia ago and mysteriously abandoned five centuries later. Why did these people create the lines? Some believe that the lines are a warning of events to come - such as the end of the world. The shape of one figure (an hourglass, as seen in the picture) may also support the idea that it represents some sort of countdown. Or do the lines depict an enormous star map? One of the most famous and controversial theories; the lines would have served as landing strips for alien spacecraft. The ‘walking temple’ theory appeals to me personally. According to this hypothesis, a large group of worshipers walked along a preset pattern, wearing away the dark top layer of soil over time. Scientists believe the take of the local residents is most likely to be true. They say the ancient Indians conducted rituals on these drawings to thank the gods.

These amazing works have been preserved to the present day because of the fact that the Nazca desert is one of the driest regions on the planet. In 1995 UNESCO declared the lines a World Heritage Site, to make sure they will be preserved in the future too.

Tuesday, May 2

Losing control

My final exams are coming up, and to practise a little I decided to participate in a few test exams that were being organized. I chose an english exam because I had no intention of studying english for the actual final exams, but I wanted to know if that might be necessary after all. To my relieve the results were good. My grade: a 7.8 out of 10, which almost met my expectation. One of the texts in the exam was an article in The Observer, written by Nigella Lawson. I found it on their website here. One of the interesting things about this text: Lawson states that using drugs is in fact the result of a normal, human characteristic.

(...) the desire for intoxication is innate in humans. Any primitive society investigated by anthropologists depicts peoples who either danced themselves into whirling states of frenzy or who ate berries calculated to induce hallucinations (or both). Both my children, from the age when they were barely stable, used to twirl themselves around until they fell down helplessly dizzy.


I'm not sure what my opinion on this matter is. I don't think I have one, actually - and as usual there is no need to form it. I just felt it was an interesting thought; we want to have ánd loose control at the same time.

Monday, May 1

Place to go: Iceland

There are many places I would like to visit, and Iceland is one of them. This large island is located in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of the Arctic Circle. It is also located on both a geological hot spot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This combined location means that the island is extremely geologically active, which has resulted in many volcanoes and geysers. But there is more. Glaciers, fjords, lakes, waterfalls, natural hot pools... A magnificent landscape in general. Enough to explore for a lifetime.


Goðafoss waterfall Here, the water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 m. In 1000 A.D. the Icelanders voted to adopt Christianity. The wooden idols of the Norse mythology were thrown into the falls in a symbolic gesture that swept away the old religion. Thus the Godafoss literally means the Waterfall of the Gods.