Tag Archives: Book of Serenity

Narrator – A cold winter


At the beginning of the winter, I came back to my attic room in Copenhagen. I mourned for the loss and the death of two former lovers from Amsterdam who had died from AIDS. A few days after my return I was ill with a cold. I had fever, I sweated at night in bed, I had a headache, my breathing was difficult and I felt exhausted. In the library I had read the beginning symptoms of AIDS – I was afraid that I was also infected by the virus. After a few weeks the cold was gone, but my concern for infection with the disease remained.

My attic room was not properly heated. That winter I was only in my room at night; I slept under a thick duvet at the open window when the weather allowed. In bad weather with the window closed, I felt trapped in my room; my nightly fearful visions could find no way out. During daytime I was rarely home; usually I was at friends, I read in the library or I played in a jazz band.

Zolderkamer[1]

In this attic room I slowly detached myself from the three embarrassments [2] , which I read in the book with Buddhist questions that I had received as farewell gift by my previous beloved.

The first embarrassments wherefrom I had detached myself at the end of my youth, was an own home. As a child I had moved around with my mother and her herd; our home was the place where we had stayed temporarily. In my time as child soldier, the militia was my temporal home. After my flight from the militia, I continued to wander with temporary resting places. During my stay in Copenhagen my house became more and more transparent coinciding with the human world during daytime and with the universe during night-time when the window of my attic room was open. Once I hoped to arrive home, maybe at the end of the Odyssey to “Who are you”.

800px-Glass_House_2006[3]

The second embarrassments that I gave up gradually, was an own body, because due to aging my appearance as exotic idol eroded and because due to the threat of infection with HIV I saw the individuality of my body in a different light. In Copenhagen my body became more and more connected with the city, the world and, of course, the universe.

Anterior_view_of_human_female_and_male,_with_labels[4]

The third embarrassment that disappeared gradually, was an own life. After reading and studying in libraries in the neighbourhood of my attic room, I became increasingly connected with all the knowledge in the world. Also I read in a book the questions: “Where is a Buffalo when it is eaten by a lion” and “How does a lion change after eating Buffalo?”.

Male_Lion_and_Cub_Chitwa_South_Africa_Luca_Galuzzi_2004[5]

Together with my body, my life became gradually connected to the world and the universe. At that time I read in a novel by Hermann Hesse: “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” [6] – or in English: “Your soul is the whole world“. In the dark at the open window in my attic room, my life became interconnected with the whole space.

The legacy that my beloved had left behind for me, depleted. I had no money left to maintain the white Citroën DS; it was time to give this Goddess another destination. With a part of the selling price, I bought a bike. After some practice I could move around with the inhabitants floating on the roads through the city.

800px-Cyclists_at_red_Kopenhagen[7]

The next spring I made several long bike tours through Europe.


[1] Source image://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comble_(architecture)

[2] Source: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 120 – 124. The “three embarrassments” are freely rendered in this post.

[3] “The Glass House or Johnson house, built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut – USA, was designed by Philip Johnson as his own residence”. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_House

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_anatomy

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life

[6] See: Hesse Hermann, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10.

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_Copenhagen. This photo was made around 2010.

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Narrator – Copenhagen and Amsterdam – a reunion


With all my belongings in the trunk of the Citroën DS, I left Stockholm on an early morning in spring. During the Nordic cycle that lasted more than one year, my reincarnation wherein I had adopted the appearance of an idol earlier in Amsterdam, evaporated. In the nearness of my beloved I had returned in the world of ordinary mortals again.

Just before the departure to his new stay in a monastery in America, my beloved was engaged in the Buddhist question: “One gain, One loss” [1]. Now he had left more than two months ago, my life felt like a gain and a loss – a void and a new destination. In the notes to this Buddhist question was written: “If you want to avoid misery, rely on your own lot” and “Gain and loss, right and wrong, let go of them all at once” [2]. Both sentences were applicable to my new reincarnation as ordinary mortal. Much later during the quest to “Who are you” I would get more insight in the first sentence. The peace of the second sentence I hoped to find in my final homecoming.

Via a road along the many water of several inland lakes – to which I had become accustomed during my stay in Holland – I drove in my white Citroën DS from Stockholm to Malmö. There I took the ferry to Copenhagen. First I visited my friends where I could stay a few nights. With their help I could quickly rent a room in the attic floor of a characteristic House in the Klosterstræde in the Centre of Copenhagen near the University and various libraries. First I saw this room as a temporary stay for several months; eventually I lived there for several years. I felt immediately at home. From my window I could see the moon and the starry sky at night. During daytime the name of the street reminded me of my beloved who really lived in a monastery now. I had received his book with Buddhist question [3] as a farewell gift. From time to time I read a passage from this book whereupon the question found a place in my life as far as I could realise. In this way my beloved and I remained connected with each other.

KLOSTE~1[4]

My years in Copenhagen I lived from the legacy – that my beloved had left for me – supplemented by a small income from performances in Jazz ensembles. Almost every day I visited the colourful painted houses along the Nyhavn, that reminded me of the fields with flowers and the canals in Holland.

Nyhavn_copenhagen[5]

My first autumn in Copenhagen I received sad news from Amsterdam; one of my precious lovers died from the mysterious disease which at that time around 1983 had received the name HIV and AIDS [6]. After reading the funeral card, I drove to Amsterdam in one day. Upon arrival I heard that many more of my former lovers suffered from this disease, which is caused by transfer of a virus – that affects the human immune system – during the love game [7].

Human_Immunodeficency_Virus_-_stylized_rendering[8]

In this sad environment I was welcomed by my former friends and acquaintances as an long lost friend and they saw me as a refound idol. I had discarded my mask of an idol during my stay in Sweden and the former carefree feast of everlasting love that wafted exotically around me through Amsterdam, was gone forever.

The funeral of my deceased lover was impressive. One of our loved ones was too ill to attend. With several former friends we cared for him until his death; his funeral was also intense. Both times all relatives, friends and acquaintances were present. For a number of lovers it was a sombre forecast for their future.

After this second funeral I fled to Copenhagen. Again it was an escape from my earlier stay in Amsterdam where I did not belong anymore and it was at the same time a flight for this disease wherefrom I was saved by a wondrous lot [9]. Later, during a medical examination it appeared that I belonged to a small group, which is resistant to the infection of HIV.

Back in Copenhagen, I was again an ordinary mortal, that was only noticed by a black/blue colour and rhythmic play on percussion during Jazz music.


[1] The Zen Koan: “Fayan points to the blinds”

[2] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 118

[3] Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998

[4] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_danske_guldalder

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS

[7] See also: http://www.rivm.nl/Bibliotheek/Professioneel_Praktisch/Richtlijnen/Infectieziekten/LCI_richtlijnen/LCI_richtlijn_Hivinfectie

[8] Cross-section of the Human Immunodeficientie Virus (HIV). Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aids

[9] Source: http://www.nationaalkompas.nl/gezondheid-en-ziekte/ziekten-en-aandoeningen/infectieziekten-en-parasitaire-ziekten/soa/aids-en-hiv-infectie/welke-factoren-beinvloeden-de-kans-op-hiv-infectie-en-aids/