Deserving

This post was first published on The Blog on 30 August 2017.

I felt like sharing it here on The Storm Lamp tonight.

It is about friendship.


Was told today that the father of my best friend, MN, has cancer.

MN did not tell it to me yet, but I know he will, because we will talk sooner rather than later. (Tomorrow is his birthday.)

I thought a lot about how to handle that and how to support MN the best. He is a very independent, proud and self-reliant man. It is difficult for him to admit when he is overwhelmed.

Not so much wonder.

His mother has been ill for many years and close to dying and his uncle once shot said uncle’s girlfriend and then jumped from a bridge.

Yes, it is true, unfortunately. I remember that day (in high school) very clearly.

MN’s only response to me about the murder/suicide episode was a gritted “My uncle has done something very stupid and selfish”.

MN is one of the most beautiful persons I know, he is a musician, a storyteller, an artist and above all the real deal when it comes to being there for others.

Often, though, it feels as if he hasn’t too many persons being there for him. Much of that may have to do with him generally and almost habitually projecting an image of self-reliance and confidence, even if he can admit to being pressed, sad or angry.

Come to think of it, I’ve heard MN tell me many times how he felt, but rarely seen him show it. I think the last time I saw him truly angry was when we were teens and we had sabotaged a role-playing game he had created for us, by generally goofing around and not taking it seriously.

Usually his eyes and tone will get dark, when he is angry but he always talks civilized and is much in control of his emotions, or the display of emotions.

No great wonder, with a family history like his and lots of people dependent on him for a great many things.

For example, he had 40-50 people – just ‘the guys’ – come over for his last birthday, people whom he knew from work, music, family, private, etc. I’d be hard pressed to find 10 persons only to come over for my birthday, if couples were not allowed. In any case, my point is that with so many connections many people do turn to MN for help and advice, or just take his time and attention, but in private and business-contexts. And he lets many of them, including me, do it, of course.

But again: Who is taking time for him? Except in superficial ways? And who will he allow to take time for him? Those are the big questions. Continue reading “Deserving”

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We Are Not Born As Saints, We Grow Into Them

Sophie Scholl …

Don’t know her? Well, let me tell you a story:

Germany actually had a resistance movement against Nazism during World War II – The White Rose, as they called themselves.

They were young, idealistic, and they of course got caught and executed, but not until they had put out an immense number of illegal leaflets calling upon Germany to refuse the yolk of the Nazis and Hitler.

One of the White Rose’s most well-known members was the student Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) who is a Big inspiration for me, and has been for many years. (She and The White Rose also has a lot to do with the name of this blog, believe it or not.)

Now, there are only few really extensive bios about Sophie in English, unfortunately, but I like the movie “Sophie Scholl – the Last Days” which can be purchased with English subs. It is largely accurate and the girl playing Sophie gives a moving performance.

Figurehead Or Freedom Fighter?

What is interesting about Sophie in particular is that – despite her hero status today (at least in books and movies) – I’ve also read stuff on the net about how her actions didn’t really matter THAT much.

There were, so the argument seems to go … – other resistance members who had been in it longer – who took far more risks then her – and who from an earlier point in time were clear that they had to fight Nazism.

The debate, as always, when it comes to real human beings is complex and nuanced. You can get a sample of it here. Continue reading “We Are Not Born As Saints, We Grow Into Them”

The Power of the Past

I was thinking one morning, as I sometimes do, with a vague nostalgia about the time I lived in the second largest city of the country. Over 20 years ago …

We lived three young people in a shared apartment and the days went by with me working in an after school club and then in the evening the two of us sometimes went to the cinema and to events about comics and movies.

It was a strangely laid back, optimistic and fuzzy time, and I think in hindsight it feels better than it was because I think of it as being young without much responsibility or much to care about, and that … is sometimes an alluring time to want to return to.

But, as always, there is a catch.

Sure, those were happy carefree times in many ways. But now – 20 years after – I have a great many things in my life that I did not have then. And I am not talking about material things.

For a side from a larger credit account in the bank and a student loan I am almost as rich – or as poor – as I was back then.

I have not been able to earn money at any significant level, mostly because half the time since 1995 I was a student or I was ill or I was traveling, but also because I chose to look for very specific jobs that felt compatible with my creative interests and idealism.

Needless to say, those jobs don’t grow on trees.

But I digress … for I wanted to say that I have so much in my life today that I wish I had had back then.

I have so much in fact that that makes my age as well as my receding hair line worth it.

Here is the most valuable thing I have …
Continue reading “The Power of the Past”

What Is Needed to Be Open To Eternal Life

My experience tells me that openness to a certain kind of reality is neither the product of ‘proof’ nor ‘faith’, particularly not blind faith.

It is, I believe, more a function of a certain mix of feelings or attitudes that define not just our perspective on life after death, but very much our perspective on life before death, too.

But let me start with looking in the mirror.

Openness to some form of ‘life after death’ for me has been the result of a gradual development – or release – over time of some of these feelings in me …

1) A core emotional need

Obviously that need came first, although, it was very ill-defined when I was younger. I don’t really know where it comes from  – this yearning for ‘more to life’.

It came before I was ill enough to really pray daily for some kind of help.

Perhaps it is just that undefinable part of who I am and who I was born as. But I felt I had to mention it, because it is there – this variable that is just difficult to grasp. It wasn’t permanently fixed from the beginning, though. I had very agnostic parents, so they did not influence me. I influenced myself.

I remember reading books on dinosaurs when I was a 1st grader and then getting very angry when our religion teacher told us the story about the animals in Paradise and on the virgin Earth that Adam came to. There were no dinos, so obviously she was lying!

Later, in my teens, the feeling grew, though, that there was something more and I felt more comfortable with just accepting the Bible as a story that pointed somewhere, not necessarily a photograph of reality.

So this core need can come up, apparently, and maybe it can disappear again and change. But as we grow older we can do certain things to be open for it, or close it down. Like … Continue reading “What Is Needed to Be Open To Eternal Life”

Joan of Dark

Been a long time since I thought about Joan of Arc.

But now I think I might go back to her.

I’m fascinated by Joan, but not so much because of her ‘divine inspiration’ but rather because of the way she embodied, I think, being both human and ‘inspired’.

Why is Joan of Arc so magnetic?

Much has been made in hundreds – if not thousands – of books, films, plays, songs, etc. about the heroic and fantastic victories of Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who led the armies of France to renewed victories during the Hundred Years War in 1429.

Joan said she heard ‘voices’ from God (coming to her in the form of angels who were like the three saints, Michael, Margaret and Catherine).

These voices told her that she was chosen to show the French that God still supported them and would help them win the war, or at least avoid being overwhelmed by the English (who at this time occupied roughly one third of present day France).

This feat required also that the dauphin – crown prince – Charles VII was taken to the ancient city of Reims and crowned to be France’s rightful king, an event which was made possible by Joan’s victories at Orleans, Meung-sur-Loire, Jargeau, Patay and elsewhere. So far so good.

If you are reading this post you probably have more than a passing interest in Joan and know the outlines of her career, if not more. If you need a refresher, Wikipedia does a respectable job at giving the highlights … and, of course, the ‘dark lights’, too.

Joan: My high school crush

I’ve been interested in Joan since 1992, when I wrote a high school assignment on her. Later that year I learned to my delight that our class was going to visit a French high school in Rouen – the city where Joan was kept throughout her trial in 1431, when the English had captured her.

She was, sadly but not surprisingly, tried for heresy and burnt at the stake on 30 May that year. Nowadays I sometimes give live-talks to various audiences about Joan’s life.

In later years, I’ve become more and more interested in the not-so-glorious episodes of Joan’s brief life, the times when she faltered, failed or suffered.

I think the reason for this is probably that I myself have grown older, and whereas my 17-year old self naturally identified with Joan and saw her as a kind of perfect Medieval rock star to be idolized, my soon-to-be 43 [now 44 – ed.] year old self knows very well that life is full of ‘the other stuff’ as well.

As I changed so did my view of Joan

Continue reading “Joan of Dark”