Tag Archives: consolation

Narrator – On foot through France 2


On my hike through France, I met many people. I stood out by my dark skin; there were no other Maasai/Indian walkers on our way. In the Jura, people were dismissive at first sight: I was strange, unknown and obscure. But almost all fellow walkers thawed by my smile and with a friendly greeting in the French language. The farmers were more suspicious. This is understandable because they had to defend their homes against a dark unknown stranger.

[1]

Eventually I met much hospitality on the road. With two fellow travellers I walked several days to the North. We saw several cairns as guardians along our path. At one cairn we decided to have our lunch. One of my companions wondered how many people had placed stones here. The other asked where the people were now. I replied: “In any case we are here”. Then we had to laugh. While I drank water, I was wondering where all the sages of the past remained. Suddenly I felt clearly that we were directly connected with the people who had piled stones here and with all sages from the past [2]. We lived our life directly in the footsteps of the others.

[3]

The next night I dreamed the dream that I regularly dreamed after the fire in the forest during the night where my fellow militia members and I had massacred a village. In this dream the flames came toward me together with the ghosts of the villagers. They started to engulf me. My skin was already blackened by the flames and I began to lose myself in the ghosts of the villagers.

[4]

At the moment they were threatening to devour me, I awoke; I was all sweaty and I breathed heavily. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Moon and the starry sky as reassurance. The night sky slowly brought me back to life as in the Maasai myth the god Engaï brought the Moon to life each night [5].

[6]

The night after the cairn, that dream proceeded in the same way, but the moment I woke up terrified, the sky was completely cloudy. The moon and the stars could not offer me any consolation. Everything was pitch dark and I heard only a quick loud painful breathing; my chest moved violently. Terrified I asked myself: “What breath is there? [7]”. First I thought that the breath of the ghosts of the villagers had come back to life inside me. Therefor I dared not stop panting because, I was afraid that my breath would be carried away with the spirits when they disappeared in the dark.

Slowly my breath calmed down and I came to rest. In the darkness I promised the dead villagers that from now on my breath was their breath. I promised that my breath – as long as I lived – would be a temporal home for them. Once I hoped to arrive home together with them. After this, the dream returned less often.

I was on my way to Amsterdam – my new home for the time being.


[1] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Maison_typique_du_Jura_2.jpg

[2] See also koan “Attendant Huo passes tea” in: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 60 – 62

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steenmannetje

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

[5] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_sterrennacht

[7] This is the last question in the koan “Yunmen’s two sicknesses”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 46 – 50. See also: Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan, The hazy moon of enlightenment. Somersville: Wisdom Publications, 2007 p. 21 – 27

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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.

[2]

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].

  [6]

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.

  [8]

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.