Wednesday, December 23, 2015

No Pill Direct Access. Clean First

Thursday, two weeks ago I asked a good friend: "Why don't you drink alcohol? Don't you need being intoxicated every now and then?" Answer: "No!" My follow-up question: "Did you know that alcohol is one of many ways for the mystic to reach That?" Answer: "No!" Next to that he explained that he didn't know much about mysticism.

All the above puzzles me. He is a renowned historian who still has the ability to stay curious and wonder.

How to explain my direct experiences with That to someone who apparently never experienced feeling One with humanity and planet Earth with everyone and everything on it? I was given That three times:
  • Czestochowa (Poland) in 1984. More
  • Aswan (Egypt) in 1987. More
  • Castelo de Vide (Portugal) in 1990. More

I did experience That without being intoxicated. Is it a coincidence that all three were abroad? All I know is that I felt pregnant with It for days. I never looked for That. It happened to me. Meanwhile I learned that looking for It makes no sense. It has to be granted. You can literally take no pill for It. 

After my first direct experience with That I hadn't words and a language to speak with. Only after reading Catharina  Dessaur's book 'De Droom der Rede' (1982) I understood that I had my moment of enlightenment. 

Back to being intoxicated. These roads or gates seem "proven" as good 'soma' for entering That (not exhaustive):
  • Fasting
  • Praying
  • Meditation
  • Alcohol
  • Sex
  • Laurier blades
  • Hemlock
  • Fly agaric
  • Other psychedelic drugs
  • ... - there must be more

Gates for entering but ... you will never know for sure - there is no guarantee - if you will experience That. (Mark that I don't write "see".) It has to be granted. In a way you have to be ready, clean or pure first. Donna Tartt, 'The Secret History' (1992):
"Only this. To recieve the god, in this or any other mystery, one has to be in a state of 'euphemia', cultic purity. That is at the very center of bacchic mystery. Even Plato speaks of it. Before the Divine can take over, the mortal self - the dust of us, the part that decays - must be made clean as possible." 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

All Dreams of World

The key of understanding my personality is scouting. I was a Sea Scout for five years (from the age of 12 to 17). I remember countless sailing trips, camping, hiking/ walking and cooking on wood-fires. Golden days! Be prepared, that's what we always did. Good equipment. Train and prepare as good as possible and if necessary improvise.

What I learned above all is that we don't need much - clothes, shoes, backpack, pocketknife, small amounts of food and water, sleeping bag - to stay alive and to move from one place to another. Next to that it gave me self-confidence.

All the tips & tricks I learned back then shaped my personality mentally. I have been using it in the army as a drafted soldier, at the university, in my professional life and in love.

Since then I know that the unknown is "not-known" and that we just have to face that literally and use all the other senses too. (Did you know that the excessive use of and trust in the sense of 'seeing' is a bias of the species 'homo sapiens'?) It will be fun - partly - and there will be constraints - that's for sure - but at the end of the trip we will know more of what we didn't know before. As if we peeled an onion.

To paraphrase and transform Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935): "I am prepared for anything. And if not I'll improvise. Next to that, I have in me all the dreams of the world."

And you ... where did your self-confidence come from? In an image: what is it's 'wellspring'? 

P.S. Original quote reads "Não sou nada. Nunca serei nada. Não posso querer ser nada. À parte isso, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo." Source: poem 'The Tabacco Shop' (1928).
P.P.S. Trip. What I mean is the physical trip like a 25 km walk and mental trips like writing and reading. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lady Almina

In 1895, at the age of nineteen, she married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866-1923). She was Almina Wombwell (1876-1969), the daughter of banker Alfred de Rothschild, and brought in a considerable amount of money. She held the title. He the money!

The book 'Lady Almina and the Real Downtown Abbey' (2015) describes in great detail the story of their lives. A lovely read! In telegraphic style: peerage, money, big money, country houses, archaeology in Egypt, Howard Carter and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankamon. 

In fourteen years of digging in Egypt, the 5th Earl spent around 50,000 British pound (10,000,000 in today's money). He wanted to stop in 1922 - he could no longer afford it - but Carter seduced him to pay for one more season. And the rest of the story became history and front-page news. In the first week of the 1922 season - in November - the tomb of Tutankamon (KV62) was discovered. Four months later the 5th Earl died. Almina paid for the eight years it took Carter to unload the tomb and to catalogue all its artefacts. In 1936, the Egyptian government paid Almina 36,000 British pounds for her expenses and to get the ownership of the Tutankamon discovery. 

To pay death duties, in 1926 Almina sold the Earl's private ancient Egyptian collection to 'The Metropolitan'. Three items of his collection #inblue:

 More details: here.

 More details: here.

 More details: here.

She was the woman who made it, with her money, possible to "discover" Tutankamon. But ... her greatest contribution to humanity are her activities in the medical world. In World War I she opened Highclere Castle - and later a house in London - for the wounded soldiers. Medical care with an integrative or holistic method of treatment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Road to Take - If Any?

Stairway to heaven firework. Impressive work of art!

But .. what road to take - if there is any! - to heaven?



Inside or through a black hole?

Blow yourself up for your "God" - and take with you as many "enemies" as you can?

Something metaphorical - the solstice sun falling on the statue of an ancient Egyptian "God"?

Something metaphorical - mist over meadow?

Something metaphorical - indian summer?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Ultimate CAS

Did you know that the exhaust of the engine is so hot that it melts concrete?

A couple of weeks ago I finished Bob Marston's book 'Harrier Boys. Volume One. Cold War Through the Falklands 1969-1990' (2015). The Harrier is one of my most favourite military fighters. Why? Because it doesn't need a long and clean runway to take-off into the air and to land on the ground. It can fly vertically - and backwards! The technical term for this type of airplane is V/STOL. It's in my opinion the ultimate close air support (CAS) fighter for armies with lust for 'blitzkrieg'.

Unbeaten! The Harrier is one (of few) of the aircraft that have engaged in significant air combat but never been shot down in air to air combat (losses 0). They shot down themselves 21 aircraft in the air. Three were shot down by ground fire. Source: here.

Bob Marston was one of the Harrier boys. He wrote down his memories and of the other boys that flew in these aircraft too. He also documented a few stories of the supporting staff.

Two new insights for me from this book.
1. Falkland Islands. The Harrier force was well prepared for a war in Europe. An out-of-NATO operation in the South Atlantic was not envisaged. In fact, it had been ruled out in successive Defence White Papers. For the Falklands the British had to start from scratch, at very short notice and with small margins for protection.
2. Others fly Harriers too? A little conversation between an English and American crewchief. The British had 58 airmen for 8 Harriers and flew a "hundred" sorties a day. The Americans had 600 airmen for 12 Phantoms and flew six sorties a day. "He didn't openly call me a liar, but disbelief was written all over his face. (...) He then clearly saw that one of my aircraft had flown 12 sorties a day, and the other one 13. Talk about impressed, he asked how we managed with so few airmen to an aircraft, so we explained the aircraft trades to him. He couldn't believe that one rigger did the whole aircraft, undercarriage, wheels, tyres and brakes."

This picture may be not very sensational but this is what a training field site looks like. With drive-through hides and connected pad and strip. A strip that can stand the heat of the engine exhaust.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Just Want To Walk Down

I just want to walk down your road
I just want to dance slow

Of all I’ve known
All I’ve seen
All I dream
You’re ...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Ancient Egypt?

The ancient Greeks, and through them the ancient Romans held the ancient Egyptians in high regard as a font of ancient wisdom. The roots of our Greek-Roman civilization of today owe more to ancient Egypt than is commonly realized. 

What are those roots? Answer via book 'The Illustrated Dictionary of Ancient Egypt' from Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson (2008):
  • AKHENATEN. For the first time 'There is only 1 God' is born. Freud claims - not in the above mentioned book - that Akhenaten is the Moses of the Bible.
  • AMMUT. The creature of the netherworld that eats the hearts of those whose evil deeds (read: the weight of the 'heart' doesn't match 'maat') made them unfit to proceed into the afterlife.
  • BOOK OF THE DEATH. 42 negative confessions. Summarized they resemble the 'Ten Commandments' of the Bible.
  • ETHICS/ MAAT. Right is live in Maat ('truth' or 'harmony'). Wrong is live in Isfet ('chaos', 'lies' or 'violence').
  • FIELD OF REEDS (AARU). Heavenly paradise. Ideal hunting and fishing ground in eternal reed fields.
  • HIEROGLYPHS. Language
    • CALENDAR. A year has 12 months and three seasons with four 30-day months. Each month comprised three 10-day weeks. Day and night have each twelve hours.
    • MATHEMATICS AND NUMBERS. Value for Pi of 3.16. Calculation of the height or angles of pyramids. Moving of large weights of stone.
    • MEDICINE. "Egyptian medicine was a mixture of magical and religious spells with remedies based on keen observation of patients."
    • PRIESTS. They were the 'servants of God' and held a number of different offices. One of them were the 'hour priests' who  were responsible for the hours and calendar.
  • TEMPLE. In the innermost shrine was the image of the deity kept.
  • ART. Colums (reflecting a bundle of reeds) and figures. 

P.S. I wrote about this before in 'Following Trails' (2014).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Then Do the Next Best Thing

What a cool guy is Chuck Yeager (born 1923)! In the end he logged ten thousand hours flying in 180 different militairy aircraft. He loves flying, hunting and fishing. And he uses every change to do so. In the past and in the present.

A few days ago I finished reading his 'Yeager. An Autobiography' (1985).

He was not one of those guys who knew from the start that he wanted to become a pilot. It happened by accident. He wanted to pull out of guard duty and applied for a 'Flying Sergeant Program'. He got sick the first few flights. 

Did he have the right stuff? Answer Chuck (page 407-408):
"Ever since Tom Wolfe's book ['The Right Stuff' J.D.] was published, the question I'm asked most often and which always annoys me is whether I think I've got "the right stuff". (...) The question annonys me because it implies that a guy who has "the right stuff" was born that way. I was born with unusually good eyes and coordination. I was mechanically oriented, understood machines easily. My nature was to stay cool in tight spots. Is that "the right stuff"? All I know is I worked my tail off to learn how to fly, and worked hard at it all the way. And in the end, the one big reason why I was better than the average pilot was because I flew more than anybody else. If there is such a thing as "the right stuff" in piloting, then it is experience. The secret to my success was that somehow I always managed to live to fly another day."

Never tired of flying? Answer Chuck (page 421):
"Life is as unpredictable as flying in combat. If the day comes when a flight surgeon tells me I can't fly anymore in high-performance jets, I can always sneak out back and fly ultra-lights. Just like when the day dawns that Andy and I can't manage our treks into the Sierra to fish for golden trout - hell, there are still nearby lakes and plenty of rowboats. You do what you can do as long as you can, and when you finally can't, you do the next best thing."

Why was Chuck in the cockpit of the X-1 - the first airplane that would break the soundbarrier in 1947? Answer Albert G. Boyd (page 125):
"We had several other outstanding pilots to choose from, but none of them could quite match his skill in a cockpit or his coolness under pressure."

Breaking the sound barrier - on october 14, 1947 - was a let-down (page 164-165):
"Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach - then tipped right off the scale. I thought I was seeing things! We were flying supersonic! And it was as smooth as a baby's bottom. Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade. I kept the speed off the scale for about twenty seconds, then raised the nose to slow down. I was tunderstruck. After all the anxiety, breaking the sound barrier turned out to be a perfectly paved speedway. (...) Later on, I realized that this mission had to end in a let-down, because the real barrier wasn't in the sky, but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight."

In the house of Jacky Cochran (1906-1980) Chuck was always the star of her show. Noone could outrank Chuck there no matter who else was there.

P.S. I wrote on Chuck Yeager before: The Right Stuff (2010) and Apex. A hero's heroes (2015).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Each Little Dream

The tune is the same as in Marcos Valle's song 'Samba de Verão' (1964). Next to that it's just one of many covers of a song with different lyrics, focus and connotation from Norman Gimbel. Anyway I like Stacey Kent's interpretation of 'So Nice' best: here.

It would be so nice. You and me. Someone to understand each little dream in me. Someone to sing to me.

P.S. Original lyrics of 'Samba de Verão' and translation into English: here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Understood & Gently

Nor Vashti Bunyan (born 1945) nor Sibylle Baier (born in the 50s?) opted for pursuing a singing career in the 70s. They made one album with lovely folk music and that was it. They concentrated on raising a family. How cool!

Listen to this lovely song 'Tonight' from Sibylle Baier. Music: here 

"tonight when I came home from work 
there he unforeseen changed in the lazy chair 
and said "what's that sorrow you bear?" 
and I could tell him, he understood 

he gently took my arm 
he listened to my tears till dawn 

I dedicate this song to you 
tonight we had change of the moon 
we had change of the moon" 

P.S. The picture above is Sibylle with her son Robby. The source is probably the website that no longer exists.
P.P.S. More info on her: here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Comment

Give it up! Gibs auf! Desistir!

It's the title Max Brod give to a short, unpublished story of Frans Kafka (1883-1924). In the original papers of Kafka the title of this "story" was 'A Comment' (German 'Ein Kommentar').

The story in German (original) and English (translation):

Thursday, September 17, 2015

And You've Just Gotta

A lovely song I discovered yesterday:

"I don't want to wait anymore I'm tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there's music and there's laughter
I don't know if I'm scared of dying but I'm scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I've got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road"

Singer and song? Here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I've been searching for it for 15 minutes but I can't find it as yet. The quote I was looking for reads something like this: "What a woman may expect from a men is food and a roof above her head. All the other things she is looking for is for her self-unrolling." If I remember well there was a negative connotation connected to it too - or was it me?

Yesterday I realized that the man who spoke these words is "trapped" in Maslow's 'physiological' level and could or didn't want to follow his love into her being on the level of 'self-actualization'.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hard to Explain?

During the past six weeks I read only one book. Better: I "chewed" on the pictures (this is a metaphor) and let the not so many words "shine" on my mind like the sun warms my skin (this is a metaphor too).

Book? Mark Reibstein, 'Wabi Sabi' (2008).

What is Wabi Sabi? Hard to explain! Hard? It's embracing the fact that nothing is perfect. Embrace!

The rays of sunlight
in my face this morning 
a day full of promise ahead

P.S. Of course this is another Chinese Garden and an invitation to ...
P.P.S. I found lemma on wikipedia on Chinese and Japanese gardens. It made me so happy to discover that someone took the time to write them down and they are ready to be digested by ... me, you and everyone else.
P.P.P.S. Source image: here

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Offline for the next six weeks. Holiday! I'll walk the 'International Four Days Marches Nijmegen' next week. My 5th.

After that at home. We are not going abroad this year. In the morning (7-13) I'll work on my Hessel Gerritsz translation of his routebook on the Cabo Verde Islands (1629). Remember my post 'Right in the Middle'?  Rest of the day I'll enjoy the kids and my wife. Read a little, swim a little, walk a little, sleep a little. Just enjoy ... not working.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Apex. A Hero's Heroes

Chuck Yeager was the best of the best in the 1950s. As Tom Wolfe puts it - in 'The Right Stuff' (1979):
"For every militairy pilot knew where the apex of the great ziggurat was located. You could point it out on a map. The place was Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert. 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Everyone knew who resided there, everyone knew the name of the individual who ranked foremost in the Olympus, the ace of all the aces, as it were, among the true brothers of the right stuff."

On which shoulders did Chuck stand on? Who are his heroes? He gave an answer to this question on facebook (May 6th, 2015):

P.S. "Col Boyd" is Albert Boyd (1906-1976). He was Chuck's commanding officer at Edwards and a test pilot too. Not John Boyd (1927-1997) of whom I wrote before: here 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

50 Words For ...

The Sami languages have as many as 300 different words for types of snow, tracks in snow and conditions of the use of snow (source).

The people of the Cook islands have many words for the age, freshness and use of coconuts (Frisbie, 'The book of Puka-Puka' (1929)). More than 50 words?

The Ma'aza have more names for watercourses than any other topographical features (Hobbs, 'Bedouin Life in the Egyptian Wilderness' (1989)). More than 50 words?

What words are #top1 for
... Farmer in 8,000 BC? Different for the 20th Century farmer? Different 21th Century?
... Sailor in the 17th Century? Different for the 21st Century sailor?
... Singer?
... Writer? Different for a songwriter?
... Hooker?
... Soldier?
... Historian?
... Greek in year 2015? Different than in year 2005?
... Someone who loves listening to 'fado menor' music (listen: here)? Different for the singer?
... Lovers?
... Earthworm?
... Egyptologist?
... Bookreader?
... Someone who lives on the back of the Moon?
... Glider pilot? Different from a fighter pilot?
... Individual 'homo sapiens'? Different from species 'homo sapiens'?
... Oak (tree)? Different from a poppy (flower)?
... Blogger?
... Virtual assistent (VA)?
... Trapper who lives for 10 months a year in a lodge and makes use of a canoe?
... 'Poeta' or 'poetisa'? In Europe? In South America? In Australia?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Turtles All The Way Down

For a couple of months now my son T walks with me on a Sunday morning. For at least four hours every-time. He likes walking. At first mainly for keeping his sixpack into shape but slowly I seduce him with:
  • history stories: questions and answers on what happened really
  • images: questions and answers on what happens to facts - past, present or future - if we just take another metaphor
  • dreams and fantasies: questions and answers on what could have happened if  ... or happens if ...
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the beginnig and the ending of our Universe and on why planet Earth moves. I told him the story about the 'Turtles All the Way Down'. He liked the story.

Since then the two of us have an inside joke '"Planet Earth is moved by a turtle ... or was it an elephant?"

P.S. The picture of the elephant is fake. It's made digitally by artist Marcel Laverdet.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Becoming Fruit

The ancient Egyptians wrote down their wisdom "long" (read: >1,000 years) before the ancient Greeks. Read these, proverbs of more than 3,500 year old and still sound so modern:

  1. "Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source."
  2. "Grain must return to the earth, die, and decompose for new growth to begin."
  3. "Be patient with a bad neighbour: he may move or face misfortune."
  4. "Social good is what brings peace to family and society."
  5. "When the governing class isn't chosen for quality it is chosen for material wealth: this always means decadence, the lowest stage a society can reach."
  6. "An answer brings no illumination unless the question has matured to a point where it gives rise to this answer which thus becomes its fruit. Therefore learn how to put a question."
  7. "Man, know yourself... and you shalt know the gods."
Sources: here, here and here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Give Water?

Ancient Egypt proverb out of the 'Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor': 
Do not act arrogant my friend. In the morning you will be held accountable for your failed expedition for the King. "Why give water to a goose (literally bird) at dawn before its slaughtering in the morning?"

A more literal translation, including the hieroglyphs (source: here)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Numerous As

The love for islands or the joy of being alone (solitude). Where does it come from - and where does it go to? Observation: the roots are ancient and examples numerous. Question: something all 'homo sapiens' need every now and then?

Three "random" pictures of islands, moving in some transmission medium, I like very much.

Title 'Provence' (2004). Artist: Mildebergius (born 1965) from Estonia. 

Title 'Braslav Lakes' (2010). Artist: Anna Silivonchik (born 1980) from Belarus. 

Title 'Fantazya' (2012). Artist: Dilek Isiksel (born 1948) from Turkey. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nor Divine. Nor Unspoiled. Nor Virgin

A desert traveler writes (2015): "It's no longer imaginable: the divine desert only for me and the camels. Back then [30 years ago J.D.] there were no cars and there was no GPS."

Strange assertion for a historian like me. It must be a 'Golden Years' (David Bowie) kind of view on the traveler's, travels of thirty years ago. But ... back then the desert was nor divine, nor unspoiled, nor virgin, nor without cars, nor without GPS.

Navigation is of all time - no exception for navigating in the desert:

Transport is of all time - no exception for transporting in the desert:

New techniques give new (im)possibilities. With their own (dis)advantages, limitations and range. A walking man can, under a full sun, in "the" desert survive 3 days without water. A camel can walk for 3 weeks without water. A motor vehicle can drive for months without water. A man and camel need food for fuel and a car gasoline. A ship is bound to water for transportation. Etcetera

What's my point? William Roe Polk in his book 'Passing Brave' (1973): "Abu Jurj, it is all gone. Labid is dead. You were right about the truck. It has killed us [the camel and the nomad J.D.] all." Read for trucks: cars, trains or airplanes.

What rests is romanticism. 'Romanticism' defined as "fallible people who pursue the dream of perfection." The camel as transport for salt and other commodities is gone. Since 1900 the camel, in the Middle East, is one of many ways of transport for the tourist, traveler and soldier. A source of revenue for the tourist leader, writer or filmmaker. The desert is a place - with and without a camel - where you must be able to survive as a soldier.

Source photo: Dany Marique