Close to it all

They say that when all falls silent one is better able to hear their own voice. That resonated with me the past weeks. It’s terrible what’s happening in the world, but it also has good and interesting sides. To take a moment to ask ourselves what’s really important to us: if we really need all the distractions all the time: many trips a year, big festivals, dinner outings, dating craziness or if we can find happiness in the environment of our own families and neighbourhoods. Think about what we really appreciate in our lives. Sit still and go back to the essence of things. Are we only waiting for this episode to pass or are we willing to start living differently after this?

Which jobs are really important? Do some jobs need adjustment? When it comes to musicians for example living room concerts seem to be very much valued now as simple entertainment. They are very practical and the oldest forms of entertainment and storytelling. It gave me a fuzzy feeling to see bigger artists play simple gigs from their livingrooms, struggling with technique. When all the glamour falls away we’re all some form of campfire artists in the end. And why do we actually need more than that?

I started broadcasting daily #lockdownsessions in studio on YouTube over the past 10 days. It’s quite a bit of editing work since it’s not live, but I (also!) stumble upon technical difficulties to do it livestream in studio quality, so I might go for live streaming acoustic sessions instead in the next while and make the studio work a less regular thing…

To me making music brings me closer to the feelings and energies around us. While playing live I usually tune in on what the audience wants to hear, what the energy is like in a hall, and I still try to do the same online, looking at the requests that come in and reactions to songs. That way even now it’s pretty intense work. One thing that I noticed is that people seem to value old songs, songs with a history more than newer ones. They carry powerful memories and have helped people in the past so they can still help us these days.

I’m learning lots of new songs this way as people can send in any request they like. One of the songs that I really felt while playing it for the first time  is this one: Close to it All by 60’s Woodstock singer Melanie Safka. If we get back close to the essence of things we can’t fall so deeply, and our society can’t either, so maybe that’s something we should be aiming for: to get back close to it all….

 

 

 

 

Insecurity and gratefulness

After I was in hospital in 2017 for surgery for an ovarian cyst that was initially thought to be malicious, my life turned upside down. I physically made a speedy recovery but mentally I was made aware that existence is not something one can just take for granted. It filled me with insecurity about life and my own body. How could this happen to me while I was healthy all my life, while I was sporty, and lived a healthy lifestyle?

I had to learn to have faith again and trust in myself and circumstances when I planned my agenda. Sometimes my body let me down or sometimes my mind told me: ‘how can we really plan all these things? What if this and this happens?’. Anxiety starts from a place where one doesn’t embrace this insecurity but instead wants to control it. And this will and illusion to control everything has become a big part of how we live daily life in the Western world…

Ironically just when I was positive about all these things again and looking forward to some travels, society was hit by this corona outbreak. And now all of us are confronted with this basic insecurity of existence.

We have it all organised in Western Europe and our medical knowledge is at such a stage there are few things threatening us on a wide scale anymore, compared to the past. We tend to live in a pink coloured glasses world, planning trips and work and fun events and not paying much attention to bad things that could happen.

We sometimes don’t realise too much how special this really is!! Maybe it’s what the Old Greek called ‘hybris’: excessive self pride of men towards the ‘Gods’, us humans feeling immune to the downsides of life. Let’s all be thankful and humble about our existence on a daily base. Life is insecure. There are many things we can’t control. Let’s look forward to upcoming events, but realising every day how special it is that we can!

Social responsibility

“What are your plans for the weekend? Where are you going for your next holidays? How was the last weekend away? What was the festival like? Was the traffic heavy on the way to work?”

All very normal questions people would usually ask at work at the coffee machine. Not in Italy for the next few weeks however or in the other corona affected areas where there are forms of societal lockdown. I don’t want to get into the question here if these measures are justified in this specific scenario, but I’m intrigued by the impact they have and how everyone reacts so differently to the eventuality of a lockdown situation.

Reactions I heard so far vary from easily hermitting in the house to people who wouldn’t obey to any governmental advice because life needs to go on and they’re not worried since they’re young and healthy or ‘because there are enough elderly in the world anyway.’ One thing is for sure: government measures of this type won’t have any effect in free Western countries without some feeling of responsibility. Probably exactly the same for possible climate measures. So that brings me to the question: what is social responsibility?

For most people social responsibility would be doing their work to use their skills to help each other and to make money for their families while doing so. We don’t really need our neighbours to look after us when we’re ill since we have hospitals and home nurses, so health care  wouln’t be one them for the majority of us anyway. But what if it would be necessary? Would we be there for each other? And how bad or close do ‘abstract situations’ need to be in general before we are prepared to change our behaviour? People close to us dying from a virus, climate disasters happening in our own street?

Crisis situations show the cracks in our individualistic societal building. People get angry when they have to cancel their holidays or their events, because of the small chance of some far away 80 year old that might die. We are all so focussed on our individual needs while we fully rely on the government to solely ‘fix major issues’ like a pandemic situation or climate crisis. BUT WE DON’T WANNA CHANGE ANY OF OUR OWN BEHAVIOUR. Isn’t this bizarre? If there is any good I hope from the corona virus, is that it will shed a light on that.

Doing nothing or less of all those activities we feel so entitled to can be an answer aswell! Plus it will help the climate crisis and the planet while we are doing so.

And isn’t that a good enough reason on its own?

Second guessing

In 2006 I made a big decision to quit my lawyer job to leave to Ireland a few months later with only a guitar and a backpack to explore the unknown, knowing there should be more out there! I knew for sure I loved music as I was playing some local festivals already (see pics, Haagse Bos Summertime Festival 2006). A friend helped me with moving all my belongings into a storage space since I also had given up my apartment. Some belongings weren’t suitable to move into the storage, like my five guitars and two large plants, so I stalled them at friends’ houses. The friend who helped me moving at the time suddenly texted me a picture last week of the plant he still looks after! That one pic of the plant brought back so many memories of the packing up time and just going blindly for my passions.  Like suddenly meeting the younger me again.

It’s mainly in our teens and twenties that we dare to take big steps without much thought. Gathering experiences we tend to think longer about everything, or we often reconsider decisions we already made.  Even though I can still fall into the habit of searching for ‘serious’ jobs at times, I never ever regretted that decision to leave, It was the best experience ever. Second guessing ourselves (I love the word, we don’t have it in Dutch) can be a very bad habit and a sign of perfectionism. Trusting our gut feelings and daring to go with them often brings us into the best situations. That old plant of mine reminded me of that in many positive ways this week. And it’s even better that it’s a growing plant, and not just a thing….

What are the biggest decisions you have ever taken for your life course? And do you recognize the bad habit of second guessing your decisions? Even if you do sometimes: never give up believing in your dreams!

Food and the illusion of individualism

While the Corona virus is spreading quickly over Europe now, there is no reason to panic yet, but it’s always good to be prepared.  A friend recommended to stock up on food in case supermarket supplies would be affected. So there I went this morning, for a few walks to the supermarket: enough long life food supplies in the house now to survive for weeks. Asides from the practicality of having so much in stock it was a very valuable shopping trip that got me thinking about what kind of foods to buy in possible disaster situations, but mainly about the bigger question of how we organize our societal food supplies. About the essence of it all.

While we are living in an era where we all focus on our personal development, growth, personal leadership courses, how to find the ideal job, the ideal partner, a bigger home, the ideal holidays, maximizing happiness, individual life coaching, there is still one brutally simple thing that really matters at the end of the day and that is: food on our plates.

We think we have it all sorted as soon as we have a good and steady cashflow of digital numbers on our bank account coming in, and can declare our highest independancy, but is it really like that? The globalized food system seems very fragile. This morning I went to stock up on rice, pasta, nuts, beans, lentils, life long milk, cheese, tinned vegetables, frozen vegetables, but where to get fresh dairy, eggs or vegetables in case such a situation would last longer? I would really miss having a garden where I could keep some animals and my own veg growing patch. Where I would be more self sufficient.

Maybe we are still much more depending on others for our individualistic lifestyles than we would really like to admit. Maybe more than ever in history? Global food supplies seem a very abstract system and thus more fragile. Maybe we should go back to relying on our local neighbourhoods more, if even possible at all? I would like to hear your opinions.

In the meantime I’m off baking my own homemade bread. A very meditative and happy exercise.

Two sides of the brain

When I tell people I graduated as a lawyer and became a professional musician people always look at me as if something doesn’t add up. Usually when strangers judge me they don’t believe that I’m also a lawyer. Apparently I look more like a musician (don’t know if that’s good or bad haha)….

People like to put others in boxes. But I have always had many interests. I found it fairly hard to pick a subject to study after school. I did exam in five languages and was good at maths and science. I still love history, reading about holistic healing and plant medicine, about nature and animals, so many interests! How does one combine these things? In an ideal society I would probably do all of that in one day, every day. But we usually don’t. Specialism in work is rewarded.

Even as a musician I found playing guitar, bass and piano confusing so I ended up mainly playing guitar, the only instrument of the three that I never had any lessons in funnily. Oh and then I haven’t mentioned choosing between all these genres that I love, from Irish to Spanish, folk, pop, country….from covers to writing songs…

I have to force myself to focus on a daily base to not get distracted. And to not go insane. Still, to combine skills is very valuable if possible.

The past month I successfully helped out a friend with a legal case and I found it very interesting to think legally, logically, strategically, and to attend a court case again. It’s just a whole different side of the brain being used, so different from making music.

I am curious to hear about your own skills and interests? Do you feel you are mainly using one certain side of the brain? Do you have hidden talents that noone knows about, very different from your daily activities? That you would like to develop? Tell me!

 

Sing to me of the man, oh Muse…

Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε.

‘Sing to me of the man, Muse…..’ The beginning of the famous opening lines of Homer’s Odyssey, a long poem in which he describes the twists and turns of Odysseus’ adventurous journey.

It’s directed straight to his Muse, one of the Greek Goddesses of inspiration, support and song. I think we all have Muses for our creative work. I do at least. Shortly before I write a song, I get a certain feeling as if I have to lay an egg and then I just grab a guitar and it usually flows straight through me and I only have to listen to the recording to get it right. It’s magic, like I don’t really do it myself! Sometimes I even sing words I don’t fully understand untill I hear them. Usually the lyrics still need some fine tuning but the idea is there right away.

Looking at it that way the Muse is a very abstract idea, like a Holy Ghost of inspiration. But sometimes our Muses can be very concrete people, mainly when we are in love. I have had a few important male soulmate muses over the years. And there is still a vacancy for ‘Muse (M)’ here haha. It doesn’t involve much, it’s a long distance job, only to be very inspiring, preferably a male musician and to be the subject of many writings haha! 😉

By the way, my old Muse was suddenly very kind to me this week and I’m delighted with the result which is probably gonna be a new single…

Do you have Muses for your own creations? I’d like to know all about yours!

 

The right to pollute

While I studied law I worked as an environmental volunteer in a National Park in Ireland over the summers. I loved it so much to be outdoors all day to protect the oak woods from invasive species that I realised I wanted to work with nature in daily life. I should maybe have become a veterinarian as I initially planned! Anyway, when I came back home I signed up for a course on Environmental Law. And that became a very depressing period to me: The whole environmental law system evolves around the idea of ‘pollution rights’. Companies have a right to cause a certain amount of emissions and pollution. If they don’t use their full share they can sell it to a company that needs a little bit more: tradable emission rights, the complete moral downfall of capitalism.

Strangely I found out lately that individuals think exactly the same. When talking about climate change issues people say for example that ‘because they don’t eat meat they can fly to Asia for their holidays now’. As if we also have a certain right to pollute and that we can choose how to divide that.  Of course being alive causes pollution. But we can still try to keep it as low as possible. That would ask a major lifestyle change for many. I find it strange that we are not able to do that ourselves without government intervention. When I see how people are loading up their supermarket trolley’s for December feasts I lose my hope for change already….

This climate problem needs a cultural and psychological revolution. Sometimes I can’t understand why it’s so hard for people to change their own lifestyles on their own initiatives, to buy less, fly less, holiday less, change their diet. Even many people who believe the climate facts still don’t change their behaviour. We must be a very egocentric species. I hope we all can talk about it over a sober Christmas dinner  to make the people around us more aware that there is no such thing as a ‘ right to pollute’ . Happy Christmas!

 

 

The thinning veil

The season of Halloween is upon us: scary movies, trick ‘n treat, pumpkin carving. And besides that…..the more serious stuff like rituals, awakenings and magic. Traditionally The Celts celebrated the start of a New Year at Samhain. “The veil” or the energetic and psychic barrier between dimensions was said to be thinner around this time. It allowed the living to have increased intuition and psychic abilities.  A time to contact the ones we loved who passed away to the other side, and to reflect on the past year. Rituals still to be found in Christian All Hallows and All Saints feast days.

I was baptised as a Catholic but raised without a particular belief. When I studied in the Southerly city of Maastricht I became more aware of the influence of religion and rituals in many people’s lives. I have always really valued them. The magical atmosphere of beautiful dark old church buildings where people prayed since early medieval times. Also the value of contacting ‘that other world’ in whatever form. In Dutch society religion or spirituality doesn’t have a prominent place. I certainly appreciate it as a counter actor against our overly rational society. There is so much we don’t know! When I was bashing rhododendrons as an environmental summer volunteer in Killarney National Park when I was 17, people told me stories and legends about magic trees, little people, elves, the banshee, a deep connection with nature and magical places. I found it fascinating!

Do you allow space for otherworldly things in your life? Any exciting stories? Do you have cool rituals to open yourself up? I like burning sage and palo santo, some meditation, reading tarot cards, some astrology, be aware of the influence of the moon cycle. And the odd foretelling dream now and then 😉

Happy Halloween Season. Enjoy the magic. And may the Force be with you!

 

 

 

Idealism and identity

“Do you remember a moment when you were very focussed and driven working towards your goals?”. When a friend asked me recently I noticed in my case most of these situations had love as a keyword: love for another person or love for an idea I was mad about.

Thankfully last Friday I felt this loving spark again in all its intensity when I took part in the climate protest in The Hague. It was amazing to be there with tens of thousands of people uniting for a higher goal. With a group of 100 professional musicians and singers we played and sang  protest songs from a stage before this immense crowd. There was a very special energy out there, all these people carrying protest banners they had made at home, and a large sense of community, almost like stepping out of our individualistic society for a day!

Well we weren’t there for fun. We were there because the government will need to take drastic measures to prevent further climate crisis and doom day scenario’s, and we will all need to change our lifestyles in a big way. But still we had a lot of fun doing so. And suddenly I became aware of something that had been missing in my life. A feeling of idealism, that had been much stronger in the past but that I neglected a bit doing my daily tasks, and also to be really part of a group of people of a similar “lifestyle conviction”.

We have all this unlimited freedom and money now to buy whatever we want, to go on holidays whereever we want to, to date whoeever we want, to take up any job offer we like, but who is really aware of ethics and morality these days when tackling these questions? Of course there is not just one correct answer but ain’t the main problem that we stopped thinking about moral questions at all? We seem happy enough when we can organise our little lives and pay the bills and mainly have enough fun doing so. But we don’t seem to be able to make decisions on a higher level than our own houses and family’s. Maybe return of some morality and ethics might be good for us planet earth inhabitants, and society as a whole?

Also for all these individuals suffering of anxiety or burnout complaints (of whom there are more than ever before): It might be giving a lot of headspace to think about what’s good for the world instead of complicated individualistic thinking. It helps me anyway. Become an idealist! May ethics be your guideline! I promise you a feeling of joy, drive and strong sense of identity doing so 😉 Oh, and let’s please hope it is contagious. Love is the keyword. I fell in love already!