Tag Archives: Catholic

Emo of Friesland – globetrotter in the 13th century


Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting in a pub in Amsterdam for their evening meal.

“It was good to continue our quest in Amsterdam this afternoon with two sermons in stone. Tonight you wish to give us a brief description of the life story of Emo”, says Man.

“Your prelude to intensities and associations was impressive in brevity and versatility”, says Carla.

“Thank you for this compliment. The life story of Emo of Friesland – priest, theologian, scholar and abbot in the 13th century – shows a nice contrast and a resemblance with the changes during the Reformation in Holland in the 16th century. His life shows at the same time a similarity and a unbridgeable rupture with the pastors, scholars and Protestants after the Reformation.

Emo of Friesland – in Germany known as Emo van Wittewierum and in the Netherlands as Emo van Bloemhof – was born around 1175 AD near Groningen within a family that belonged to the elite of the “Ommelanden” around Groningen. These “Ommelanden” were part of Friesland, but the city of Groningen and the areas west of the city belonged to the Diocese of Utrecht; the land north and east of the city of Groningen belonged to the Diocese of Münster [1]. This separation had started because the areas Christianised by Boniface [2] – in the eighth century AD working from the Diocese of Utrecht – became part of the Diocese of Utrecht. Boniface converted these areas preaching in the old Frisian language instead of Latin. The areas converted by Liudger [3] – the successor of Boniface and the first Bishop of the Diocese of Münster – ordered by Charlemagne, became part of the Diocese of Münster. The separation between the sacral power and profane power was usually virtual at that time.

Emo had attended the school of a Benedictine monastery in the “Ommelanden” where after he had studied church law at the Universities of Paris. In 1190, he was the first foreign student at the University of Oxford. Thereafter he had attended the University of Orléans in France [4]. We can only surmise how he had made the study trips; probably he had travelled overland on foot – whereby he had mostly stayed at clergymen or in monasteries – and part of the trip to England he had travelled by boat. During his studies he had mainly used Medieval Church Latin, supplemented by Medieval English – old Frisian was akin to old English – and flawed French for daily contact with the local population in France.

After his studies, he had been teacher schoolmaster in Northern Groningen around 1200 AD and afterwards pastor in Huizinge.

Kerk in Huizinge[5]

In 1208 AD Emo had entered the convent of his cousin Emo van Romerswerf. This monastery joined in 1209 AD – one hundred years before founded – the order of Premonstratensians [6]. By a donation of the Church of Wierum (Wittewierum) Emo had founded the monastery of Bloemhof. The Bishop of Münster had wished to reverse the donation by this Church – located in the northeastern “Ommelanden”, because the Bishop was concerned about the strong rise of the various monastic orders (Premonstratensians, Cistercians) in Friesland and Groningen with an independent authority of the monastic order outside the worldly sacral power. Emo – with his knowledge of Church law – had defied the decision of the Bishop and in 1211-1212 AD he had travelled by foot to Rome to set the decision of the Bishop for discussion with Pope Innocent III.

In 1213 AD the monastery could officially be founded under the name Hortus Floridus; hereby may be conclude that Pope Innocent III had accepted the donation of the worldly Church of Wierum to the monastery.

Abdijkerk Hortus Floridus Wttewierum[7]

In 1219 AD Emo had witnessed the Saint Marcellus flood that caused 36,000 casualties and resulted in a famine [8]. The monastery is located on a mound, hereby the damage to the monastery had probably been limited; also at that time the rich farmers and the clergy in Northern Groningen knew where to establish their farms and monasteries.

We know the life course of Emo – and herewith a part of the life of the “Ommelanden” in relationship to the world of the 13th century AD – so detailed, because Emo had started with the well preserved “Chronicle of the monastery Bloemhof at Wittewierum [9].

The decline of the influence of the monastic orders in Friesland and Groningen – and also in England – began with the rise of the Reformation in 1521 AD. With this Reformation, the authority, the knowledge and the influence of the monasteries and the Church with its centuries old customs and habits were defied, just like Emo – with his knowledge of Church law as a literate man –had defied the authority of the Bishop of Münster three centuries earlier in order to give his life and work shape in the monastery Bloemhof.

The unbridgeable contrast between the mindset of Emo in the thirteenth century and the conceptual framework during the Reformation in the sixteenth century, is evident from the manner whereby the right is sought on their side during disagreements. In his stubbornness Emo had sought – and probably received – his right in his dispute with the Bishop of Münster by submitting his case to Pope Innocent III. An impression of the scope of the worldly power of Pope Innocent III: he had contested the Cathars; he had excommunicated the English King John of England; he had forced the French King Philip II Augustus to take his wife Ingeborg – from whom he had been divorced – back again; he had succeeded in the deposition of the German Emperor Otto IV [10].

Paus Innocent III[11]

In their stubbornness the Protestants had proclaimed many aberrant religious doctrines during the Reformation, that were also proclaimed by many Catholics. The Protestants were not drawn or pushed in a schism by their different doctrines, but by their stubbornly clinging to these different doctrines. The cause of their separation was the refusal of Protestants to take back their words “unless convinced by the Holy Scripture – that the Protestants had started to study independently within their own faith community – and by pure reason” [12]. Where Emo and the Bishop of Münster had finally accepted the opinion of the Pope and the Catholic Church, the Protestants had followed only the judgement of Holy Scripture and their own pure reason.

In the Netherlands the Protestants were drawn or pushed by their stubborn clinging to different religious doctrines in a rebellion with King Philip II, who was an equal to the Protestants in stubbornness and piety  [13], who certainly had as many issues with the Catholic Church, which had fought with and against the Pope of Rome [14] as befits a worldly king in those days, but who had eventually accepted the Catholic doctrines and practices.

Partly due to the different internal positions in religious affairs and under the influence of the “pure reason” – whereby in Holland commercialism is never lost sight of –, the Protestants in Holland had decided to a marriage of convenience between Church and State [15]. From this marriage of convenience between Church and State, the Dutch Republic [16] had arisen as first republic in world history. Tomorrow more about the start of the Reformation at our visit to the Old Church of Amsterdam”, says Narrator.

“During your description of the life of Emo and your explanation of the gap between the mindset of Emo for settling issues in comparison with the reference framework of the Protestants over three centuries later, I was reminded of a passage that I had read in the bookstore “Au Bout du Monde” at the Singel this afternoon. Freely rendered:

Yunmen [17] – a Chinese Zen master from the 10th century AD – asked his students: “Each and every person embodies the radiant light. If you try to see it, it is totally invisible. What is each and every person’s radiant light?”

No one of the assembly answered.

Yunmen answered for them: “The monks hall, the church, the kitchen, and the monastery gate”

Yunmen klooster in China[18]

As commentary tot his Buddhist question was written: “It is not Yunmen’s personal answer, everyone’s light makes this answer” and “All humanity embodies the radiant light” and “Know that the radiant light that each and every person embodies, is each and every person that is actualised” and “Even if the church, the kitchen and the monastery gate are the ancestors of Buddha, they cannot avoid being each and every person[19]. From the point of view of Indra’s Net, it is an easy question, but in everyday life it is difficult to accept the light in the eyes of each and every person”, says Man.

“In times of rebellion against (supposed?) injustice – in society or in religious questions – a situation that previously was experienced as perfectly normal, is now seen as a unacceptable injustice. During the Waning of the Middle Ages, Holland had lived according the rhythm of the Catholic Church, but with the rise of book-printing – whereby literate people started to study independently – mindlessly following old customs and faith according to the habits of the then Catholic Church did not fit any longer. The radiant light had changed during the Reformation. Did the radiant light change because humanity had changed during the Reformation? Is the radiant light so all-encompassing that it can also contain any injustice? I think the latter, but for me it is hard to accept”, says Carla.

“Is the radiant light – just like the Gods – tied to the law of cause and effect, or can the radiant light surpass partly or entirely from this law? Perhaps both. Shall we have another beer before we ask for the bill?”, says Narrator.

“I like a Belgian Tripel Trappist beer because this beer filters the light so beautiful”, says Man.

“For me a Gulpener Pilsner as a reminder of the light of my uninhibited youth”, says Carla.

“I will buy these beers from the the proceeds of the musical performance at Centraal Station this afternoon”, says Narrator.


[1] Source: Boer, Dick E.H. de, Emo’s reis – Een historisch culturele ontdekkingsreis door Europa in 1212, Leeuwarden: Uitgeverij Noordboek, 2011, p. 11

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Boniface

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludger

[4] See: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/introducing_oxford/a_brief_history_of_the_university/index.html and http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_von_Wittewierum and http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_van_Bloemhof

[5] Photo of the contemporary St. Jans-church from the 13th century on the place where the previous Church had stood where Emo of Friesland had been parish priest in the twelfth century. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huizinge

[6] see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premonstratensians

[7] Photo of the former abbey of the monastery Hortus Floridus in Wittewierum around 1600. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_von_Wittewierum

[8]  See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Sturmfluten_an_der_Nordsee, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_tides_of_the_North_Sea and http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erste_Marcellusflut

[9] This record can be read via the following hyperlink: http://www.dmgh.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb00000886_00464.html

[10] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paus_Innocentius_III

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Innocent_III

[12] Source: Fernández – Armesto, Felipe & Wilson, Derek, Reformatie – Christendom en de wereld 1500 – 2000, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Anthos, 1997, p. 108.

[13] See also: Fernández – Armesto, Felipe & Wilson, Derek, Reformatie – Christendom en de wereld 1500 – 2000, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Anthos, 1997, p. 98 and Noordzij, Huib, Handboek van de Reformatie – De Nederlandse kerkhervorming in de 16e en de 17e eeuw. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Kok, 2012, p. 18 – 19

[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Spain

[15] See also: Noordzij, Huib, Handboek van de Reformatie – De Nederlandse kerkhervorming in de 16e en de 17e eeuw. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Kok, 2012, p. 414

[16] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republiek_der_Zeven_Verenigde_Nederlanden and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Republic

[17] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunmen_Wenyan

[18] The contemporary Yunmen monastery in China. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunmen_Wenyan

[19] Source: Tanahashi, Kazuaki ed., Treasury of the true dharma eye – Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo. Boston: Shambhala, 2012, p. 419 – 420

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Man Leben – interview 2


The previous post includes the first part of the interview about the description of your life. Now I continue with some questions about your move from South Limburg to Rotterdam.

“You started to live with your aunt in the vicinity of Rotterdam at the age of 12 and you went to grammar school. How was this change?”, I ask

“In South Limburg I have probably had the best years in my life. I felt fully at home, although I have been a misfit. First I could not understand the local language and customs, but after a year everything was fine and I could speak the dialect fluently. In Rotterdam everything was again completely strange. I lived in a Dutch and Christian environment with an accent from Limburg, Catholic habits and a Jewish background: all exceptional. The bad word for Catholic “paap”; this word means in the Sanskrit “wrong, bad, guilty” [1]. The first years near Rotterdam I have had difficulties to adapt myself. Luckily I was accepted at school in my class. My aunt also has had many difficulties: she had to finish a former life in a difficult environment; the possessions, the taxes and finances deserved attention. Also a new life had to be started. She was lucky that she could get a good post in a trading company due to a family relative. Later I have thought that she might have emigrated to America if I did not exist; She has never told this”, you say.

[2]

“You have said that the small capital that your grandfather has deposited in Switzerland around 1924, was very helpful”, I say.

“That I understood later on, when I was 21 years old. Before my aunt came to South Limburg, she had visited the bank in Switzerland where my grandfather has opened the account in 1924. This account remained outside the scope of others – including the authorities in Germany and the Netherlands. This is a small part of my arrogance: in that time for me very understandable. This small capital covered my study and a part of the capital for the homes of our family. Later, when our family had fallen apart, I also opened similar account from the sale of our family home for my children in future difficult times”, you say.

[3]

“In that time it was money outside the books for the Governments”, I say.

“That is true. It was a different time: by our family the authorities were not experienced as very reliable. It was wise to have some savings outside view. Later, when I put my trust on the wind and the Moon during my journey to Dachau, I began to see the vanity of capital. I saw the full meaning of the second commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. I began to understand that money is a metaphor for confidence. I put my trust on All en One – volatile as the wind and moving as water; from then on my way is lit by the Moon. In this world money is sometimes a useful medium of exchange, but a burden on the eternal way”, you say.

The next post include several questions about love.


[1] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

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

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banking_in_Switzerland

Man Leben – Convent years


Im Kloster entdeckt man Leben in vielfältiger Form

In the monastery one discovers life in various forms

You continues the story of your life:

“After my visit to the camps at Dachau and the grave of mother on All Souls ‘ Day in 1983, I moved on. My continued presence in Dachau was not appreciated: wanderers are not welcome. For one week I could sleep in the open air, but I became to visible. Early November I returned to the North. I had a vague plan to visit the grave of my father in Auschwitz. But quickly I understood the impossibility of this plan. The winter is a very bad time of year for wandering and Germany was still divided in two. I couldn’t walk through Eastern Germany to Poland.

I became ill. It started with a cold, and afterwards the fever came. A relatively small monastery gave me hospitality and within four weeks I was fully recovered.

In a very short time the monasteries changed considerably. At the beginning of 1960, there were many young men who entered the monastery for study, contemplation, focus on God and His works, and for disseminating faith and His works in other parts of the world. The monasteries were still in full bloom. Ten years later, no young men entered the convent and many monks had left the monastery for ordinary life with or without a partner. Again ten years later, only the older monks and the Abbot remained. In 1983 the buildings were very inward oriented.

[1]

The monastery where I recovered, was not very large. In 1983 the intrusion of emptiness was not depressing in the buildings. The last 15 years only one new brother entered the convent and the resident monks were 15 years older. If the monastery wished to survive, then a change was needed.

I also needed a change. It was still winter and moving without purpose was not on my way. During my recovery I was getting used to the rhythm of the monastery. After my recovery I could stay until spring came. I helped with necessary maintenance and I did jobs for my meals and indwelling.

In the beginning of the spring I had a farewell meeting with the Abbot. This conversation was a new beginning. The Abbot expressed his concerns about the future of the monastery; the convent had to a change in line with the tradition and focus on the future.

Any time, any act, each prayer and singing, every day, every year, everyone’s life, the life within the monastery and the faith in the monastery were focussed on God. The world outside the monastery changed constantly over the centuries. In the past the changes have had effects on the monastic life. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of almost all scientific knowledge and skills in the Western world. Many monasteries acquired richness that were not in line with the tradition of the monasteries. By the end of the Middle Ages – around 1550 [2] – many monasteries were violently stripped of their richness: a number of monasteries decayed.

The last 15 years, the world outside the monastery changed very fast. This rapid change had a significant effect on the monastery, because the average age of the monks increased very rapidly. Stillness, contemplation and focus on God belonged to the monastery; on the other hand inflexibility and clinging to the past was not in line with the tradition.

The Abbot asked if I could contribute to the orientation for the monastery. My architectural background and my introduction to different religions could give good points of view. In addition to the usual tasks for a lay monk, I would dedicate myself to advice for and contributing to this orientation.

The monastery building was in good condition. It was excellent for monastery. With a declining number of permanent residents, parts of the building could also be used for activities in line with the objectives of the monastery.

[3]

The orientation on the outside world showed that outside the monastery and the Christian Church, there was a need for reflection and contemplation. This need was often expressed in other manifestations.

[4]

This orientation resulted in a monastery open for reflection and education of outsiders: individually and in groups. A number of monks in the convent studied religions from Asia to enrich the monastic life with the motto “explore the new and preserves the good”. Also knowledge and skill was acquired for guidance of groups in religious activities and meditation. Lay monks entered the monastery for  guidance of contemplation and education. Often they stayed temporarily or permanently in the monastery.

Approximately 5 years I have worked and lived in the monastery accompanying groups. At the end of this period, the monastic vows oppressed me. The vows of simplicity/poverty was no problem; I had a luxurious life with good health, sufficient simple meals and a useful contribution to the monastery and the world. The vow of chastity was slightly trickier. Since my student days there were always women in my life. During my stay in the monastery, there were no women in my life; the temptation was not great. The vow of obedience was the major problem: I’ve always been independent and my motto was: “nobody’s boss, nobody’s servant”.

My wish to start studying Eastern religions did not go along with the request of the convent to accompany other monasteries with their changes. I remained involved in the drafting of future plans for other monasteries, but the implementation of these plans was carried out by others. Occasionally I have given advice given during the progress. From resident of the monastery, I became a periodic visitor.

Around my 55th year of life, a new phase of my life began. I began with my study of Eastern religions”, you say.

The next post covers your study of Eastern religions.


[1] Example of a monastery. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedictijnen

[2] In England by King Henry VIII – see also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries; In Europa during the reformation whereby in the Netherlands the iconoclastic and the Eighty Years’ War did harm the monastic orders.

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti.jpg

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meditating_in_Madison_Square_Park.jpg

Man Leben – on the way 3


Geschichte, mit denen man leben muβ

History, with which one must live.

You continue the brief report of your life with the arrival in Dachau after a pilgrimage of two months:

“In September 1983 I left the farm of my godmother in South Limburg. She had recommended me this pilgrimage in order to honour the wish of my aunt who had asked me after my 21st birthday to carry out the traditional Jewish remembrance of the dead for my parents, when I would be able to do so. My mother died in 1944 and was buried in Dachau. During All Souls’ Day on November 2, I hoped to visit the grave of my mother according to the Catholic habit in South Limburg.

On my journey by foot I got to know the wind [1] and the moon [2] and I started to identify the wind and the moon with the “He” and “his” in the Kaddish prayer [3]. Hereby I could say this prayer every day – for a full year – for my father, mother, aunt and Godfather.

As wanderer, but a luxurious wanderer, I arrived in Dachau at the end of October 1983; my health was still excellent and my equipment comfortably. Also with the early nightfall at the end of the afternoon I learned to life by making a small fire in a small used tin.

A day later – on a stormy day – I visited the camp. The images and impressions of these camps are well known. Sources report that the administration in the camps at Dachau recorded the intake of 206.000 prisoners and 31,951 deaths mainly caused by malnutrition, exhaustion and diseases [4]. In comparison, on the war cemeteries in Omaha Beach in Normandy, France  and in Henri Chapelle in the Ardennes, Belgium, 7000 and 8000 soldiers were buried: bottomless grief.

During my visit to the camp I noticed what my aunt could not mention and wished not to mention. I also understood why she added to her wish so explicitly: “When you are able to do so”. Later, much later, I could put into words my feeling during the visit.

Inside and outside

Stilled and turned to stone

The Wind played Her song.

At the fall of dusk I left the camp. Outside I sang the aria from Cantata 82 “Ich habe genug” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen,
Fallet sanft und selig zu!
Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,
Hab ich doch kein Teil an dir,
Das der Seele könnte taugen.
Hier muss ich das Elend bauen,
Aber dort, dort werd ich schauen
Süßen Friede, stille Ruh.

This Cantata was written by Johann Sebastian Bach for February 2nd or “Purificatio Mariae” [5] – the purification of Maria – 40 days after Christmas. Appropriate: I sang the cleaning of and for my mother, her memory be a blessing to our world and for the hereafter [6]. For me, these two worlds of Her have always been one and the same.

The next day I came back to see if my mother’s grave was well taken care for. I had a round pebble with me: this pebble I put on her grave.

[7]

Then I walked along the Catholic Chapel, the Christian Church of Reconciliation and the Jewish Memorial. For me, none of these rooms were inviting to enter.

[8]

[9]

[10]

[11]

In Ulm, I had seen the study model for the continuum that includes the entire universe in all its simplicity and limitation. Inside and outside change continuously. At the same time this reconciliation room gives shelter, and breathable includes everything from the universe in security and responsiveness. My mother, her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

[12]

On November 2 – All Souls Day – in the afternoon I visited my mother’s grave. The stone was gone. I could understand this, otherwise there might arise a mountain of stones. At her grave, I have said the prayer of Kaddish.

Near the fall of darkness I moved on. My feelings during this departure I read many years later in the Zen koan: “Each of you have Your own light. If you want to see, then it is not possible. The darkness is dark, dark. Now, what is your/Your light? …… The answer is: the room of the universe, the road.” [13]

Country walkers are not welcome in Dachau. I moved on. Winter began. It took 10 years before I visited the grave of my father in 1993. First I lived in monasteries for several years”, you say.

The following post is about your monastery years.


[1] See post “Man Leben – op weg” van 14 oktober 2011.

[2] See post “Man Leben – op weg 2” van 17 oktober 2011.

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish

[4] Sources give different numbers. The numbers in this post come from: http://www.dachau.nl/het_kamp/historisch/index.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentation_of_Jesus_at_the_Temple

[6] See also: Wieseltier, Leon, Kaddisj. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1999, p. 11

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dachau-015.jpg

[8] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KZ_Dachau_Todesangst-Christi-Kapelle.jpg

[9] Source image: Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_054.jpg

[10] Source image: http://hu.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=F%C3%A1jl:2500_-_KZ_Dachau_-_Protestant_Monument.JPG&filetimestamp=20071012014216

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_064.jpg

[12] Model for the continuous design by Ulrich Burandt as study during the workshop of Tomas Maldonado at the Ulm School of Design. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

[13] Free rendering of Yunmen’s light – case 86 from the Hekiganroku. See also: Aitken, Robert, The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. New York: North Point Press, 2000⁸. pag. 62. Remark: According to the sources the answer to this koan is: “Storeroom/kitchenstorage, gate/gateway”. In this post “Storeroom” is rendered as “the room of the Universe” referring to “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” or “Your soul is the whole world” – see also: Hesse Herman, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10. In Sanskrit “Gate” means amongst others “going, and the locativus for the verb to go”.

Man Leben – back to Limburg


Treibend auf die Wellen kann man leben –

Flooting on the waves one can live

You continue with your return to Limburg:

“My godfather had died. The farm in South Limburg urgently needed help. I was ready for a change; my “Jaguar – Saab years” were finally over. At the age of 48 years I became a farmer for a year and a half.

My godfather and godmother could not have had children. I have always felt it, but it was told over adult. During the war until the end of my primary school, they took care for me. I was more than welcome; living with them I had the most beautiful time of my life. Now my godfather suddenly died and the farm wished to resume the rhythm of spring.

The funeral of my godfather went according to use in Limburg. A heavy bell let the village know the sad news that there was a dead,  a mass, walking to the cemetery, a meal with the usual good food. The legacy had not yet to be divided. On her own my godmother had to take for the farm, the cows, the fields, the vegetable garden and orchard. The transition to work on the farm was on my way. Again I moved to South Limburg.

I settled myself to the rhythm of the day, month, season and year on the farm. I could remember much from the past, but a lot had changed. My godmother still followed all the rituals of the Catholic Church, but the secularization was also advancing in Limburg. The farm used to be almost fully self-sufficient. The surplus of the farm was sold and part of the money was used to purchase tools and for maintenance, another part was set aside for savings, and the last part went to church and help for others. The mechanization had already begun – there was a tractor and a number of machines were available. But a further increase in scale was needed in a few years: the choices were not easy and the necessary investments would be considerable. Was the farm large enough to be taken over by family or heirs? My godfather and godmother had been thinking about this question for several years; soon a decision had to be taken. Now she had to make this decision on her own. My godmother noticed that for me a change was more than welcome that year. After a few weeks my godmother and I agreed that I would continue at least until the farm was ready for the next winter.

[1]

For her, this was not an easy time: loss of her husband, help from me – an inexperienced farmer, how to continue with the farm and the changes in everyday life. In Limburg the secularization started and the television showed all the changes of the world in the kitchen. She fulfilled her duties for her late husband and I went along to each mass. This rhythm and the rhythm of the farm gave form to my life again.

[2]

In the autumn – just after the 6 months mass for my godfather – my aunt said that my help on the farm was welcome, but I was not a farmer; I did not belong on a farm. I belonged somewhere else, just as at the age of 12 I belonged somewhere else. On that evening we decided to live another season on the farm and within that year take for the transfer of the farm.

A college friend visited me for a weekend at that time. We have always kept in touch. Now he was a successful architect. Together, we considered the possibilities for a holiday farm. The location was good, the buildings were in a good condition and they offered sufficient opportunities. In consultation with my godmother we developed the plans further during winter and spring. At the end of spring my godmother – after consultation with the family – bid the farm and land for sale. In summer she bought herself a nice apartment in the village. We finished the summer season on the farm. The cows were taken over by villagers and the land was leased. So, we finished our farmers’  rhythm.

In that year we also talked about my future plans. I would save myself: my godmother believed me, but in her opinion this was not my destination on earth. We also discussed the wish of my aunt. She fully understood the wish of my aunt to honour my family with the traditional remembrance of the dead according to the Jewish tradition. My inability to do this, my godmother did not well understand. One may take the position of “no one’s boss, nobody’s servant”, but there existed a natural order with a God who created heaven and earth; He had to be honoured. For my godmother her faith and her way of life has always been clear: one knew what to do – like it or not – you had to do it. Gently she proposed a pilgrimage to me; a pilgrimage in the autumn to Dachau. That would be a preparation for honouring my family.

Looking back on my life in Limburg and the hike/pilgrimage, I remember a text that I have once read: “Disease and medicine help each other. The medicine is the universe. Who are you?”. [3]

At the end of the summer of 1983, I packed my backpack with two sets of clothes, a bivouac sack and a small stove. I said goodbye to my godmother and to the village and I hit the road”, you say.

The next post is about your trek to Ronchamp.

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

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


[1] Examples of farms in Zuid Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Houtemstgerlach.jpg

[2] Example of landscape in Zuid Limburg: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationaal_Landschap_Zuid-Limburg

[3] Free rendering of Case 87 from the Hekiganroku. See also: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Hekiganroku, Die Niederschrift vom blauen Fels – Band 2. München: Kösel-Verlag, 2002 p. 321.

Man Leben – Everyday life


Wie soll man leben – How to live

Now you continue with your contribution to society and your everyday life in Amsterdam:

“I have completed my general education at a Catholic primary school in South Limburg and a Christian grammar school in Rotterdam. In my grammar school time my aunt promoted the regular study of the Jewish scriptures. At that time these were complete different worlds. Looking back, I mainly see the similarities.

Open-minded I started my study Architecture in Delft without formal obligations. On my 21st birthday the disillusionment followed. My aunt explained to me how she had handled the legacy of my parents and family. She had done well, but the time was not well-disposed to her. Hereinafter I finished my studies in four years with a reasonable to good study in the field of utility-building.

Everyday life took me on. A short period I worked at an architectural firm on utility projects. Through this firm, I ended up in the trade of building materials. In the early sixties more money came in society and there was also more money available for building materials. I lifted on this tide.

[1]

Through my work on the architectural firm I met my wife and mother of our three children. In grammar school and the first two years of my study, I have been in love several times, but there was always a distance. Now I saw her and she appeared in a white glow; not as bad as when in primary school I fell in love for the first time. Then lightning struck me and everything was completely white, now it was gentler and only she stood in a white glow. Fortunately I could utter a few meaningful words. The second time I had the courage to ask her out. So it went on. We are quickly engaged and we married in 1959. A short time we have lived in an apartment and when the children came, we moved to a house near Amsterdam.

The trade in building materials was very successful. For me my “Jaguar year” started.

[2]

I will keep the description of these “Jaguar years” brief, because Lucy Irvine [3] in her book on the stay on a deserted island in the Pacific could not stand it when her companion “G” began about his “Jaguar days”. Our success increased and we moved to a detached house on the outskirts of Amsterdam; we went with vacations further and further. The children went to primary school and everything seemed quiet and fine.

With the increased wealth at the end of the 1960s, there was a underneath sense of uneasiness in society that also got a place in our family. Structures and ways of living changed, values and ways of behaviour changed and we felt a great increase of freedom [4]  and possibilities. The imagination seemed to come to power. The routine of a fixed family with fixed ways of living together changed in a free family with free manners. Our marriage changed in an open marriage with room for other relationships. The Jaguar was exchanged for a Renault 4 as family car – a delicious moving car, which flowed like everything else in that time –, because we felt we were still young and alternative; we enjoyed life.

[5]

The trade prospered and required another car – a Saab 99. Looking back the joy of this freedom and entering into other relationships was fleeting and shallow; the latent discontent remained.

[6]

The second-wave feminism rolled into our family. After our wedding my wife stopped working, she took care of everything in and around our house, and for the children; I took care of the income, for all official business and for the management of our possessions. We made plans for the future and considered together important decisions. Everything was nicely divided as usual in that area. We started with a normal marriage like everyone else in that time. The hippie time made everything loose and more jolly; clothing was alternative and the relationships as well. In the early 1970s my wife wished to develop and orient herself on her place in society.

My wife started to develop herself; she began a study languages at the University of Amsterdam. Her social life changed – her new friend came in our life and not much later they moved on with the children: she was my ex-wife and a visit arrangement with the children followed. My social life changed: there were several female friends in my life and my circle of friends changed because our separation also resulted in a separation in the family and friends – “partir est mourir un peux”. My inner discomfort and dissatisfaction remained.

With these changes also the view on other religions came in my life: Catholicism, Christian and Jewish faith had already found a place in my life – the last 25 years more or less dormant. With the alternative movement also Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism came into view. Later these religions played an important role in my life.

At the end of the 70 ‘s I was – additional to my work in the trade – a few years part time teacher for modular construction elements at the Delft University of Technology. I had transferred part of my job to younger colleagues. In that time I followed the lectures in philosophy by professor W. Luijpen. His view on society had a major influence on me.

In 1980 my aunt died after a short period of illness. I have organized her funeral and the additional matters. At that time she was again my closest member in the family. I visited her grave annually in the Catholic fashion around 1 November. I still could not fulfil her wish to honour her with traditional remembrance of the dead [7] according to the Jewish tradition. I still was not ready for it.

In the spring of 1982 my godfather in South Limburg suddenly died. My life was ready for a change. I decided to help my godmother on the farm: I moved to South Limburg and I was temporarily farmer. Before I left, I handled my business in Amsterdam, sold our house and for the children I have – like my grandparents had done for my parents in 1923 – a small capital base in deposit. My family has not appreciated this change. When I look back, I shouldn’t have taken these steps so bold, but in that period of my life I felt that this change was on my way”, you say.

“I remember that confusing time. In Limburg these changes happened later, but at the end of my grammar school time everyone had long hair and colourful clothes. During my study in Delft I felt resistance against men because I had the opinion that women had an unjust place in society”, I say.

“When we married, the society was organised differently. The changes came later. On my return in South Limburg, I went back in time. In Limburg the relation between men and women were not so much changed”, you say.

[8]

The following post is about your return to Limburg and how you started to drift.

 

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

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


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Piping01.JPG

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jaguar.3point4.750pix.jpg

[3] See: Irvine, Lucy, Castaway. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984

[4] The verb root “Vraj” means in Sanskrit “go, walk”. Source: Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit – Part Two. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2005 p. 395. According to the electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta, “Vraj” also has the meaning “to go to (a woman)” and “have sexual intercourse with”.

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Renault_4_R_1123_1968.jpg

[6]  Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saab_99_EMS_1974_(UK_Spec).jpg

[7] See also: Zie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Ford5000.jpg

You: Man Leben – South Limburg


Die Zeit die man leben nennt [1]

Until the end of 1941 you have lived your early childhood in Amsterdam as a Dutch boy.

[2]

No existing man and place has been model for one of the main characters and places. Their names might be Allman, Everyman and Everywhere.

Just before your eighth birthday you said goodbye to your parents. After a night of staying at your aunt, you arrived by several places in between and with a new name Jacobus Hermanus Maria Leben – they called me “Man”– as Catholic boy on a farm in South Limburg.

On your eighth birthday you ended up in a country where a language extends as far as you can watch [3]. So many foreign armies have set foot on this country that the new regime from Germany brought no shocking change. But the manner in which one lives and who is allowed to life here, the Pruusj – or German – the Dutchman has nothing to do with. In 1942 life went on as it has done for many thousands of years.

You continue with your primary school years:

“A long journey on foot, on a bike, by train and on a carriage followed when I left my aunt. A number of nights I have lodged with different people. In between I am renamed and baptized Catholic. I still use this name. At the end of the trip just before sunset I arrived in a different world; a farm near Valkenburg [4]. I could understand no one. The farm looked like a castle surrounded with walls and buildings and everything smelled unlike anything I was used to. The farmer and his wife – who I have adopted me as their (temporarily) godfather and godmother – and the servants were kind. First I got supper, bread, and many delicacies. I was tired and I fell fast asleep in a strange bedroom. The next morning began the rhythm of the farm, Church and school: first I helped with milking of the cows, then I went to the church – a strange world – had breakfast and then to school. The pastor introduced me in the classroom. Odd looks; I could understand no one. After school I helped on the farm. Later I also played with classmates. I remained an outsider at school: I could learn far too well.

  [5]

After the period of habituation, this is the most beautiful time out of my life. Everything was stable between my eighth and twelfth year. In that time I got used to the seasons, the change of light and the rhythm of nature. I still carry the field flowers with me, the Church with the processions through the fields, and the golden yellow light from that time.

[6]

Soon I was allowed to confess like all children of my school. After some classmates did there confession, the door of the pastor opened, he opened the door of a brutal boy. The boy received several  slaps – in a farmers’ environment this did not really hurt – and he was allowed to carry on with his penance. I actually had not sinned, but I decided to invent a few small sins; my first deviation from the right path – more followed later.

At the age of 10, I unexpectedly fell in love with a girl in the village. It seemed that lightning struck, so fiercely and unexpectedly; Everything was covered in a white glow. From then on life was different with extra feelings and concerns. Nobody has ever known of my first love.

Later I never more helped so open-minded on the fields with ploughing and sowing. The smell of freshly ploughed earth only smelled of growth and bloom. After I left South Limburg, another – sad – smell was added [7].

In between in September 1944 the other regime from Germany was expelled from South Limburg without any clashes in our village. Near Aachen, in the Ardennes and in North Limburg there were fierce fights. A new regime from the West arrived with first the sensation of change and later habituation; life re-took its rhythm.

In the summer of 1946 my aunt came. With her I moved to a village near Rotterdam. I moved from an environment that is completely Catholic to an area that has a strict inner faith and guilt with a sharp “F” and hard “G”. As I look back, this move is – next to having children – the biggest change in my life “, you say.

“These changes should have been shocking for you”, I say.

“In Limburg, it came as it came, it was as it was and it went as it went; and not otherwise. Falling in love was a change. After this lightning struck, life was no longer the same, no longer carefree as before. I have had a very good time in Limburg. Around 1975, I have again lived two years on the same farm: again a good time. The shocking changes came when I moved to Holland”, you say.

The next post is about your grammar school years near Rotterdam.

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

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



[1] Translation: “The time one names life”. There exists a film with a similar title; see: http://www.tvspielfilm.de/kino/filmarchiv/film/die-zeit-die-man-leben-nennt,1318419,ApplicationMovie.html

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AmstelAmsterdamNederland.jpg

[3] In France until the time of Napoleon, the languages did not extends further than one can watch. See:  Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007

[4] No existing farm or neighbourhood in the area of Valkenburg has been model for this post.

[5] Examples of farms in South Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Houtemstgerlach.jpg

[6] Source image: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=1361079

[7] This may remind of the title of a novel by: Pavese, Cesar, La terra e la morte.