Tag Archives: ancestors

Carla Drift – Early Years

The history of my ancestors is shrouded in mystery. My uncle made the pedigree of my mother’s family until the time of Napoleon, before that date nothing can be found on paper. My father’s family made no effort for a pedigree, because his family is closely linked with the three families that have lived for more than 1000 years in our village. The village exists more than a thousand years, but some 1000 years ago the village is mentioned in a deed. And if it is officially stated on paper, than it exists according to the people in my village.


My mother does not come from our village. She will never fully belong in our village, although she lives here more than 50 years. She will always remain Belgium – or “Belsh” as they say in our village. Due to this, we – my two sisters and I – also remain mavericks in our village. At our home everything is little different; by my mother, we have many Belgian habits in our family. In the beginning I had trouble to understand my mother’s family: they speak a Flemish dialect between each other. Even if they speak a kind of Dutch to me, I could I not follow them. Now I’m older and I have no trouble with their tongue; by many travel Flemish became very familiar. Now I know their way of living; it has a certain charm – closed to the outside and warm inside.

My father and mother got to know each other in the 1950s by chance. Two normal, young and kind people have met and started to love each other – and they still do. After a few year courtship, they married and soon we – the three sisters – were born. My first memory is the birth of my oldest sister. I was almost 2 years old. Suddenly everything was strange in our house and that night when I called for my mother, she did not come. Then many, many other memories arose. At the birth of my second sister when I was three years old, I felt a real mother for her. I was well able to take care for my youngest sister; my mother thought otherwise. Our first generation conflict had arisen.

In the kindergarten it soon became clear that I was different: I could learn far too well. I soon noticed that it was not wise to show it. Reading was still nothing for normal girls in the kindergarten. Unnoticed I read old children’s books of my mother at home.

In that time I had caught a grasshopper. That evening it sat in a matchbox on the night-stand next to my bed. As I shook the box, I heard it jumping. For always I would have company of my grasshopper. The next morning it was dead. My father and I burried it officially in the garden. This was my first real farewell.

In elementary school I played hide and seek with the teachers. I did not think it wise to show how easy I could learn. The master in the second class had a magnificent collection of butterflies from Indonesia. He was drafted there as soldier: about the fights he told nothing. Later, much later I understood that there were about 95,000 Dutch soldiers in Indonesia: 2500 soldiers have not survived this conflict [2]. This number corresponds to almost a third of the graves at the military war cemetery in Margraten. It was no police action, but a real war. The number of victims among the inhabitants of Indonesia is many times higher. After the second world war, Holland wished to retain this colony for its prosperity; the joy of life of my schoolmaster was sacrificed for this aim. As a girl of 7 years old, I saw that razor sharp.


I also played hide and seek with my mother. I could count very quickly. Counting is addition and subtraction of numbers. I never had to learn the multiplication tables: I could add 9 times 8 in a flash. When shopping with my mother, I could add the final amount at once. As a girl of 6 years old I saw at once when my mother received the incorrect exchange money. A discussion about a difference of a few pennies with the shopkeeper and my mother is not wise for a child of 6 years old. Since that time I only intervened when the differences were large.

I was the oldest of three sisters. I thought it was natural that I had a better overview about everything and I could be their second mother. At that time I did not notice that I could learn so much easier than my two younger sisters. My sisters are normal happy people who married in our village. They still live there with their families.

Every Saturday I went with my father to the library in a larger town. The librarian chose for me small book to read and my father chose the books to read to me. He chose in the second class of elementary school “Letter for the King” written by Tonke Dragt. I did not look at the books selected by the librarian for me. The books to be read to me, I read myself – Tiuri the page in Letter for the King was my hero. My father was asked why he read so much to me. My father said that he only read out the first pages. That was absolutely right: I read the rest on my own. Hide-and-seek again.

[1] Picture of a village in South-Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijlen_(Limburg)

[2] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politionele_acties

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Greta_oto.jpg

You: Man Leben – the first years

Wie kann man leben, wenn man nicht sterben will [1]

In the previous post you have told in a nutshell the history of your foreparents and parents – until the moment you came in their lives. No existing person has been model for one of the main characters. Their names could have been Allman and Everyman. Now you will continue with your first years of life:

“On the evening in March 1933 when I came into the life of my parents, they decided to leave Frankfurt am Main. They moved to Amsterdam with abandonment of many of their possessions. They have never told me, but I think I am conceived during that night within a cocoon of love, hope and consolation.

First a sketch of the time and area wherein I came to life. After the defeat in “A war like no other, a war as everyone”, Germany fell into a deep economic crisis with high unemployment. In 1923 due to the reparations, the hyperinflation of money – the confidence inspiring “object in the middle” – was so enormous that the salary earned at the end of the morning had to be converted in one bread, because in the course of the afternoon that money became worth only a few slices. At that time my grandparents have based a small capital in sound currency in Switzerland and the Netherlands.


My foreparents and parents have always been outliers in every society – also in Germany – with all consequences thereof. In the second half of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s Germany created an overwhelming dynamism, hope and wrath – icy wrath [3].  Motorways were built, industry flourished, an huge urge to life came into existence and the soldier’s boots were prepared for a mars forward. “Everything on the puff; who is going to pay”, said the grandmother of Hermann Simon in Heimat – Eine deutsche Chronik [4] after visiting her family in the Ruhr area. The future price was still unimaginable [5].


In order to establish this mutual trust in the German society, a “person in the middle”, “objects in the middle”, “myths” and “rituals” [7] were necessary. Also a scapegoat in society was quickly found; my grandparents, parents with other descendants of my ancestors were identified as collective bearers of evil. By the sacrifice and removal of the scapegoat from the society, the German people thought to remove all evil from society. It started with destruction and small harassments and it continued with smoke offerings wherein Synagogues and books were burned in the Kristallnacht in 1938.


When in March 1933 the other government in Germany had obtained all powers, my parents decided to leave: they didn’t want to be sacrificed. My grandparents remained.

I was born in Amsterdam in early January 1934. Also Amsterdam was in a financial crisis. With the small base capital deposited by my grandparents in the 1920’s, my parents could start anew in an district similar to the Rivierenbuurt [9]. My father went into trade. I grew up as a Dutch boy in Amsterdam.

In May 1940, the other government from Germany also engulfed the Netherlands. Some acquaintances of my parents committed suicide in despair, because they did not know another way out. My parents continued their lives. In September 1940 I went to elementary school. Except the “J with yellow star” on my clothes, life continued as usual until the end of 1941. On a night before I went to a sleepover at my aunt, my parents told me that I would stay away for a long time, but that eventually everything would be fine.

I stayed at my aunt for one night. Via several intermediate stops and a new first and family name I ended up on a farm in South – Limburg (The Netherlands). From that time my official name is Hermanus [10] Maria Jacobus [11] Leben; I was baptised Catholic. They called me Man – a name that against the wind carries far over the fields “, you say.

“I originate from South – Limburg. I recognized your first name “Man” right away. In South Limburg there are so many names that carry far over the fields. Mat of Matthew, Wiel of Wilhelmus, Sjraar of Gerard,  Sjang or Sjeng of John, Joep of Joseph, Pie of Peter, Nant of Ferdinand, Sjier, Sjoef. In all these names have faces for me”, I say.

“I also carry these names and faces with me”, you say.

“And your parents?”, I ask.

“I always carry my parents with me. In 1942 – nearly a year later, a sister was born named Carla [12]. That is the only thing I know about her. Still always if I see women of her age with some similarity in appearance with my family, I look if it is her. Once I read: “If there is even a hair’s breadth of difference, heaven and earth are clearly separated” [13]. There was also written: “The Supreme way is not difficult, it simply dislikes choosing”. Later more”, you say.

The next post is about your school time in South – Limburg.

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”

[1] Translation: How can one live, when one doesn’t want to die.

[3] See also: ”Wrath, icy wrath that brought countless horrors” in the post of 31st of Augustus 2011: A war like no other – the leading players

[4] Source: Reitz, Edgar, Heimat – Eine deutsche Chronik. 1984 See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimat_(Edgar_Reitz)

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll and for the toll of the Spanish flu at the end of the Great War: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic

[7] See former posts with the same titles.

[8] Photo of the fire in the Synagogue in the Börnestraße in Frankfurt am Main during the Kristallnacht on 9th of  November 1938. Source of image: http://www.frankfurt.frblog.de/ostend-industrieviertel-mit-juedischen-wurzeln

[9] Description of the history of refugees from Germany in Amsterdam during the Second World War: http://www.zuidelijkewandelweg.nl/tijdtijn/razzia%27s.htm

[10] The name Hermanus consists of “Herr” and “Man”. Possible the German word “Herr” is connected to the verb root “√hṛ” meaning “to offer, sacrifice” and “take, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. See also the first Chorus in the Cantate 131 of Johann Sebastian Bach: ”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir. Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“. Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!”.  “Man” “man” means “think/consider/observe”.

[11] Probably this name is closely linked to the verb root “√śak” meaning “be able/capable” in Sanskrit.

[12] The name Carla is composed of “car” meaning “to move, to wander” in Sanskrit and “la” meaning “undertake or give”.

[13] Bron: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 – case 17, p. 54.

“Who are you – Part 1” is available for download

All posts from February until September 2011 are available for download as Pdf-document.

On this page you will find two Pdf-documents – Small and Big – including all posts from February until September 2011 about the search for “Who are you – Part 1” comprising the chapters 1, 2 and 3.

The future two parts of “Who are you” will cover the chapters  5, 7 and 0.

The following improvements need to be made in this concept for Part 1:

  • Including an Index
  • Editing of the text
  • Reviewing all images on possible copyright
  • Including the Publisher
  • Including an ISBN number
  • Improving lay-out of front, side and back

The first file “Small” includes the images in low resolution and comprises 7 MB.

2011-09-18-Who are you-Part 1-Small

The second file “Big” includes the images in high resolution and comprises 63 MB.

2011-09-18-Who are you-Part 1-Big

These files may be downloaded and stored on a computer by right-clicking with the mouse. Choose “save as” to save the file on the hard disk of your computer under documents or downloads.

This document includes 247 pages: printing for own use or for education purposes is permitted.

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A war like no other – a fatal regatta

In the previous post your Narrator has given a glimpse in the leading players during the Peloponnesian War. Due to a continuous cycle of honour/power – pride – wrath – revenge the two main players Athens, Sparta and its allies inflict upon each other countless horrors. Sparta and its allies had the militaristic hegemony on land and they devastated at regular time the surroundings of Athens. On its turn Athens and its allies had the maritime hegemony on the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and they plundered the coasts of the Peloponnesos with their fleets. A terrible plague had broken out within the walls of Athens. This plague caused more deaths than all acts of war. In 421 BC – after 10 years mutual humiliations – a temporary armistice was decided upon. Local fighting and cruelness continued during this peace.

In 415 BC Athens begins its adventure in Sicily. Athens has some allied cities on that island. These cities ask help of Athens in a dispute with Syracuse – the ruling city in Sicily. Syracuse is also a democracy that has many similarities with the democracy of Athens. This we shall see later.

After intercession of amongst others Alcibiades, the inhabitants of Athens decide to send a fleet to Sicily with three executors including Alcibiades. Athens hopes to get a big influence in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe it gives an opportunity to move the city state of Athens in its entirety from the hornets’ nest of Asia Minor to Sicily.

The two university boats manned by the last amateurs from Cambridge and Oxford [1], are for about 17 minutes – or a day, or a year – lord and master on the River Thames in London [2]. For 150 years the 300 trireme of Athens – partly private [3] warships of Athens; per boat powered by 170 oarsmen – are lord and master of the Aegean Sea [4]. The life of a rower was hard and very uncertain: many could not even swimming. Good rowing was the only possibility to enhance the chances of survival. The hoplites on land behind their wall of bronze shields participate directly in the battle: they try to expel the enemy in a kind of rugby scrum and they use their lances to harm the opponents. The oarsmen behind their thin wall of wood and leather float at sea in their fast light boat equipped with a battering ram: the battering ram destroys the boat of the opponent. Rowers only take indirectly part in the sea-battle. Are the rhythm of the boat and the rowing stroke – with the mighty sound of “Twwhhsh” – for the rowers the real lord and master for whom they do all efforts?


The rowers were free inhabitants Athens from the lower classes. Once Athens had a lack of oarsmen available in her city: a large part of the fleet was gone. Slaves manned the boats. The battle was won. Athens thanked these rowers by recognizing them as free inhabitants of her city.

Exercise in peace time was of great importance to keep the boat at a speed of 10 knots for a long time and to perform the manoeuvres for battering the boats of the opponents quickly and correctly. Your narrator has read in a book [6] that the religion of our ancestors is based on experience, exercise and faith. Is the religion of the Athenian oarsmen and the current oarsmen also founded on these three principles?

In the second half of June 415 BC the fleet departed. The entire population of Athens with its foreign allies was in Piraeus – the harbour city of Athens – to see the spectacle. It looked more like a show of power and wealth for the Greek world than the departure of an expedition army. A trumpet sounded and the fleet departed. The boats started in a mutual contest: they raced until Aegina. It seemed to be more a regatta than the start of a long and precarious adventure [7].

In Sicily, inability, bad luck and fate struck Athenians. The siege of Syracuse failed because the city could not be sealed off on land. Always groups experienced horsemen of the opponent made passages. On the water the fleet of Athens engaged in a battle with too little room for manoeuvres. Alcibiades went back to Athens with the request for reinforcements. When this request was refused, he fled to Sparta.

After fighting and destruction of boats near the Athenian camp, the Athenians delayed their flight too long. When they finally fled by land, there was a lack of water and food and everywhere ambushes of the enemy were in place. In a valley some muddy water was found. Soon this water became red due to the attacks of the enemy. After many losses, thousands of Athenians – including many unarmed oarsmen – surrendered to avoid a further massacre. The prisoners were led to Syracuse. Against the will of its leaders the democracy of Syracuse decided to kill the two Athenian executors and to imprison the other Athenians in a stone quarry near the theatre that was opened by Aeschylus himself with a performance of the “Persians”.


Almost all prisoners were being confined here at a very low ration for eight months. Many died in the quarry and the survivors were branded and sold as slaves. No one returned to Athens. Athens lost by this expedition about 7,000 men. This number matches the number of fallen American soldiers buried in Omaha Beach near Colleville-sur-Mer. This was the price for the folly and the pride of Athens. This was the price for the verdict of the people of Syracuse.


In 413 BC the war flared up again. Athens had a major lack of good oarsmen. Many free inhabitants decided to volunteer for oarsman with all the risks and hardships. Sparta built a fleet with the help of Persia. After the democracy of Athens had alienated several allies by committing unnecessary atrocities, she was defeated on her own speciality in several sea battles. Herewith ended the Peloponnesian war.

This regatta is part of “a war like no other, a war as everyone”. Like any fight, this fight knows only losers. Athens lost a part of its population and Syracuse lost her good name. Syracuse has committed death sins against the core of the Buddhist life according to a contemporary female Buddhist recluse in China [10]. Athens and Syracuse have sinned against “benevolence, compassion, joy and detachment” for the eyes of the world.

Is this regatta also included in Indra’s net [11]? Your Narrator thinks so. He once read that the number of Avogadro is so large, that with each breath we inhale a few molecules of Julius Caesar’s last exhalation with the words: “Et tu, Brute” [12]. Are we – with every breath – in a similar way connected to this war and to this regatta? Is here also applicable: “Mysterium magnum est, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [13], that means: “the mystery is great, that transcends us without a doubt.”? Your Narrator does not know the answer.

This ends the report of the intermezzo that the first main character has passed in preparation before entering the five easy entities. The following post gives a report of the preparations of the second main character. He has attend a graduation ceremony of one of his granddaughters. As a consequence of this ceremony, he has read the opening line of John’s Gospel in Sanskrit.

[1] See: Rond, Mark de, The last Amateurs, Cambridge: Icon Books, 2008

[2] See former post titled “Amateurs”

[3] See: Hanson, Victor Davis, A War like no other – How the Athenians an Spartans fought the Peloponnesian War. London: Methuen, 2005 p. 251. Generally the the boat, the crew and the equipment was supplied by the State, but the food etc. had to be provide by the trierarch – the commander of the boat. There were also private boat supplied by rich Greecs: these boat had the best material and the best oarsmen.

[4] See: Hale, John R., Lords of the Sea – The epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democraty. London: Penguin books, 2009

[5] Source image: http://www.utexas.edu/courses/greekhistory1/outline16.html

[6] See: Lewis-Williams, David & Pearce, David, Inside the neolitic Mind. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009 p.25

[7] Source: Kagan, Donald, The Peloponnesian War – Athens and Sparta in savage Conflict 431 -404 BC. London: Harper and Collins Publishers, 2003 p. 264 and Hale, John R., Lords of the Sea – The epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democraty. London: Penguin books, 2009 p. 189

[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Theatre_at_Syracuse,_Sicily.jpg

[9] Source image: http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/no.php

[10] See: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993. page 109

[11] See former post: Indra’s net.

[12] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Et_tu,_Brute%3F

[13] See the posts “Three – Object in the middle – The Word” and “A day without yesterday – a day without tomorrow? “

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Meditation rooms

In previous posts, you and I have visited several houses of God. With churches as “object in the middle” the faithful express a mutual trust between people and God. This confidence is continuously and periodically confirmed through rituals. Besides, the churches often create a bond between people mutual, but sometimes churches cause rejections. Churches are trying to be a timeless reference point from which the environment – air/heaven and earth separately and in combination – is experienced. The churches also provide hope for a transcendence of human life through a resurrection in an afterlife. We will visit all the churches that we encounter on our Odyssey.

We also encounter “objects in the middle” which give room for meditation. These special areas create the possibility for transcending the human scale and/or experiencing a complete oneness. Specific parts of the natural landscape have been used for this purpose for centuries. During our Odyssey we have seen stone circles, caves and stones in the landscape.

Probably with the occupation of homesteads people have created rooms for meditation that resemble their homesteads. Initially, the rooms for meditation are mainly located in or near their residences. Over time these rooms become major sacred places for worship and/or houses of God. Some of these places have been transferred in worldly contemplation places that we now encounter as museums and art galleries. During our Odyssey we visit almost all museums, but we cannot report on these visits.

Let us visit two special rooms for meditation. This first room – the Mark Rothko [1] chapel in Houston from 1967 – is building for religion and for art. The exterior is a monolithic octagon with a small entrance. At first glance it looks like a mausoleum.


We enter the chapel. The interior radiates serenity – as monolithic as the exterior. The light comes from above. Internally I sing the first chorus of Cantata 131 by Johann Sebastian Bach:

”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr[3], zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“


The windows to the outside consist of paintings by Mark Rothko from 1964 – 1967, shortly before his death.


The paintings render all impressions of the World. It seems that he tries to imprint on the panels – in translucent blue/black ink – every word ever written and spoken.” You say.

“That’s right. All glass beads of “Indra’s Net” [6] are included in the paint of the panels, the colours are so dense.” I say.

The sun breaks through. The blood of the earth lights in a purple red glow on the triptych.


We sit next to a meditating – Zen? – Buddhist. When the Buddhist stands up, we go outside.

Outside you say: “I once read: “A man asks a female Buddhist hermit in contemporary China to calligraphy the essence of Buddhist practise on paper. She puts the paper aside. A few months later, he receives four words by post: goodwill, compassion, joy and detachment. Her calligraphy is strong and clear as her mind.[8] Are these four words applicable to the chapel?”

“Yes.” I say.

“I have hesitated on joy, until the sun broke through.” You say.

In the next post we will watch the last part of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky from 1986.

[1] For further information on Mark Rothko: Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New – Art and the Century of Change; and Arnason, H.H., A History of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979, pages 533 – 534

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Rothko_chapel.jpg

[3] Maybe the German word “Herr” is linked to the verb root “hṛ” meaning “offer, present” and “seize, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. Both meanings of the verb root “hr” express the two roles of the warrior caste within the cattle-cycle: they rob the cattle and give a part of the cattle to the priests for offers to the Gods. A lord has also two roles: offering protection and taking a part of the harvest. Probably the role of Lord coincides with the role of God. In the experiences of many nationals the king and God are closely interwoven.

[4] Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!” In German the word “Flehens” means supplication. Here this word is translated with doubt, because doubt is the origin of nearly all supplication to God. See also the book Job from the Old testament.

[5] Source image: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576118063020357484.html

[6] For further information on “Indra’s net”: the post “Introduction: one – Pantheïsm – Indra’s net” of 8th of April 2011.

[7] Source image: http://hayleygilchrist.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/contextual-studies/

[8] Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993. page 109

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_the_Tower_-_Mark_Rothko.JPG

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church

In the previous post you and I have met the role of the house as “object in the middle”. The role of the home has changed over the years from the environment where we live to a habitation. This habitation in the form of a house is seen by our ancestors as a safe haven and as a reference point from where the world is experienced. Recently, people started to identify with their home: they give shape to the house and the house expresses who they are. Our society demands of us more and more that we have a nationality and a permanent home and residence. Without these assets, people are not treated as full citizens.

Now you and I are looking into the role of the house of God as “object in the middle”.  The first sacred places, we have already seen. We have encountered sacred stones on our Odyssey. We remember the stone circles as places for ceremonies which we no longer know.


We also know the golden calf as an image of a (demi-) god [2]. We have read in the Old Testament about Yahweh who is present between the tips of angel wings above the lost Ark of the Covenant,.

Probably the hunter-gatherers have already given shelter to Gods. We have read about rituals performed by the hunter-gatherers to unite the hunters with their prey as redemption for killing of the prey, and to maintain the unique bond between prey and hunter for both their survival. The rituals may be performed at specific times and places. These sites may be seen as a precursor to the house of God. The many caves with paintings of hunting scenes are a next step towards a house of God. Probably, these paintings also had a religious background.

Many nomadic peoples have travelled around with their herds. They may also have known fixed holy sites. And probably they have seen sacred sites of established residents. Have they identified themselves with the gods of the established residents and the hunter-gatherers? Probably not, but maybe they have adopted some elements of the faith of other people. As nomads, they will have carried their sacred objects on the travels with their herds. In their tents special places are reserved for shrines. One example is the Ark of the Covenant that the Jews carried around on the travels and place in a tent during stages. Even in the temple in Jerusalem, the ark is placed with poles on both sides as a reminder and a preparation for a new travel.

The form of Islamic mosques reminds you and me of temporary stays – large tents and outposts to indicate the entrance point – in a desert. These mosques are transferred in imposing houses of Allah with courts and outbuildings around. An example is the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul.


Farmers with fixed fields are moving into permanent habitations. Also the gods receive their private habitations. The recognition of the house of Gods does not happen overnight. When we visit the oldest stave church at Urnes in Norway, the guide explains that the woodwork of the church is decorated with dragon motifs on the outside to keep the many evil spirits outside. This is necessary in the long dark winters. The Vikings have to leave their swords outside next to the door. Inside the church has only a few small lights from above. In that light a wooden crucifix is seen from which redemption and access to the afterlife may come. The priests at that time do try to change the image of Valhalla – the hall where the honorary fallen soldiers during battle continue eating, drinking and fighting to the end of time – into a longing for deliverance from sin and a Christian view of the afterlife. The blue paint color – lapis lazuli – on the wooden crucifix from around the 12th century AD comes from Afghanistan according to the guide.

During the explanation of the guide I think of Jalāl al-Dīn – also known as Rumi, who is born around the same time in Vaksh in Balkh Province in Afghanistan. Probably Rumi transcends the “object in the middle” in his contact with Allah: “My thoughts are in the heart of Allah, the heart of Allah will be sick without the thoughts of me [4]”. Later on our Odyssey more about this.

When we leave this church, you say: “Those light openings under the roof remind me of a saying by Oscar Wild:” We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars “.


“Do you remember the first rays of the sun at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring? [6]” I ask.

“Whenever I visit a church.” You answer.

The next message continues on churches as “object in the middle”.

[1] Source of image: Marieke Grijpink

[2] See the previous post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1” on 5th of May 2011

[3] Source image: http://www.islamleer.nl/islaam/biografie/geleerdenoverigen/758-kanuni-sultan-suleyman-i

[4] See: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[5] Source image: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/urnes-stave-church

[6] See the last post on “Two” on 25th of April 2011

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 3

In the previous post you and I have made ​​a first exploration to the role of symbols – like “objects in the middle” – to establish and consolidate mutual confidence. We have noticed that the symbols call hope, expectation and deep trust in people, but that symbols also give rise to deep disgust. In addition, symbols may incite violence, destruction and outright hatred. Sometimes symbols have a comprehensive influence and provide a strong bond of mutual trust, but symbols rarely provide an input to the “perfect oneness” for all. [1].

Now you and I encounter another “object in the middle” that is seen by many people as a place to establish and maintain mutual confidence with the close family. This “object in the middle” is our home [2]. For individuals, the uterus is the first house where human beings pass about the whole evolution before their birth. After birth a baby depends on its parents, educators and a community where the child grows to adulthood. As adult the environment with which one has become accustomed, is seen as home.

Hunter-gatherers experience their habitat – literally, where one lives – as their familiar surroundings. Violations of trust, that may arise between the hunter-gatherers and their habitat, is – as far as we know – restored through rituals. E.g. in rituals hunter-gatherers identify themselves with their prey for two reasons. They seek redemption for the sin of killing their prey, and they identify with their prey to maintain their unique system of survival for both hunter and prey [3].


Pastoral people will also see their habitat – in which they wander – as their home and environment. Their habitat provides forage for their herds and, indirectly, for themselves. Through rituals pastoral peoples try to maintain trust between the knowable and unknowable habitat on one hand and themselves on the other hand. In previous posts, you and I have seen the Trito myth and the cattle-cycle as examples of these myths and rituals.

Farmers will experience their fields and crops as their habitat. Initial the farmers move on after a short time when the land has impoverished by growing the same crops several times in succession. Once the farmers have developed a periodic system for maintaining a balance in time between different crops and the soil, they stay in permanent residences. They see their habitat as their home.

Later in our Odyssey, we will encounter people who are constantly at home everywhere. A glimpse of this, we may see in the following poem by Rӯokan:

Even though I sleep
Every night in my life
Always somewhere else,
The eternal dream takes me
everywhere to my home.

Many people see a home as a safe haven and as a origin from where the world is experienced. They see a house not only as a familiar environment, but they largely identify themselves with their home: they give shape to their house and the house expresses who they are.


In this respect, our present society only recognises people when one has a nationality and a permanent residence. Without possession of a nationality and a permanent residence, people loose many of their common rights within today’s society. We see that today’s society gives much faith to a home as “object in the middle”. In other times and under different circumstances, people have given another value and trust to a home as “object in the middle”.

Why is our society so attached to a permanent residence? Has our society only confidence in its people with this specific “object in the middle”?

The previous night, you and I have slept under the stars. Tonight you and I will sleep in a caravan where the ceiling will show the sky in the dark as a reminder of the sky in the open air. Tomorrow you and I will sleep in a house.

The next post is about the house of God as “object in the middle”.

[1] See posts related to Introduction of “One”

[2] In Sanskrit “grham” is one of the words for house. This word possibly consists of “grh” meaning “take, grasp en encompass” and “aham” meaning “I” – first person, singular, nominative.

[3] See also: Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas, Volume I, page 5.

[4] Source image: http://www.defeatdiabetes.org/advocacy_community/text.asp?id=MADDCAP_Impact_Food

[5] Free rendering of translation of Tanka from Rӯokan on page 170 in the bundle: Tooren, J.van, Tanka – het lied van Japan. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1983

[6] Source image: http://www.drsfilm.tv/en/utrecht_by_the_sea