My youngest son Maarten has been bugging me now for a couple weeks to help him build a fort in the backyard. Because I have been preoccupied with all the computer stuff and setting up the new room, I felt guilty for having neglected him. So on Saturday we went to the local hardware store called Gamma and purchased lots of wooden planks. The moment we returned home and unloaded the car, Maarten went to work. I was expected to help him as experienced senior fort builder, but I quickly learned that for a child that age it is less important what is actually built as the process of building in itself. At first I had the tendency as so-called expert fort designer to attempt to create the finest fort anyone has seen for years, but I just let Maarten go on his owning sawing, hammering, measuring and that kind of stuff. In the end he was not very successful in building a fort in which one could actually enter and use as a clubhouse, but he had nailed a number of planks together as well as sawed off about a hundred pieces of wood.
This all reminds me of the time we lived in Turlock, California way back when I was about the same age. I also loved building forts, but at the time the in thing to do was digging underground forts. This involved digging out a relatively deep hole, fixing the sides, covering the top with a piece of corrugated sheet metal or large piece of triplex board, and then piling on the dirt about a foot deep. The entrance was usually hidden at the side and camouflaged quite carefully. It was all great fun for a kid that age. Underneath there were usually one or two secret tunnels for escaping the enemy, and in order to see there was a candle for when we held our club meetings. Of course we also had our password and secret knock in order to get in.
This fort had been dug at the side of the house where there was just enough room for a version with two chambers, and late that afternoon I had just covered over the top with dirt. This fort was hidden so well that no one would know it was there. The only problem was that evening when it had become a little dark, making the fort even more impossible to see. My father was making the usual rounds after his workday, checking that everything was locking and inspecting the backyard for pieces of paper and other unwanted items. He walked to the side of the house and did not see the fort. He walked to the fence and stood on the fort. It held for about one or two seconds and then it gave way. My father fell into the hole. My beautiful fort that had taken the whole day to dig and build was destroyed with one fell swoop of my fatherís weight crashing down. Boy was my father mad, cussing and yelling all over the place. In an irate mood, he yanked off the top plank, grabbed the shovel and refilled the hole again. To make matters even worse, he twisted his back pretty bad. Took a week to recover, and he was pretty grumpy reminding me daily about the underground fort.
Years later, this story had taken on a comical form, a famous episode in the lives of the Gish family about which we occasionally spoke about, laughing and joking. One of those few memories that come back once in awhile.
Now as a father myself it is up to me to relive these so-called youthful adventures, this time on the other side of the mirror.
Well, I knew it was about to happen any day now, so in a way I was fully prepared for it and not the least surprised. Everywhere I looked, all I could see were strings. There were strings floating in front of my eyes, there were strings hanging from the sky, and there were strings growing at my feet. A thick carpet would form right before my eyes, getting thicker and thicker. However, no matter how many strings there were, no matter how long I waited, my view was never precluded completely. While my vision lessened, it never reached that limit of being completely filled. Strings, strings and more strings. As I think back upon that moment, I cannot for the life of me recall what color they were, the thickness or their exact composition. They were simply strings. My whole existence, my every turn, my breathing in and out, even the sounds which I could not hear, they were part of the strings, the strings which kept on growing. All the strings growing downwards from the sky especially enraptured me. My own hair became strings, my eyes and ears, the tips of my fingers, stretched out tightly from underneath my fingernails. There were strings coming out of ears, my nostrils, my navel, my penis, my rectum. Every imaginable orifice of my body, including the hair follicles and sweat glands and other cellular fissures defining physical as well as spiritual interfaces. Fortunately, it did not take me very long to get used to this bizarre situation, and before I could realize it I was at perfect peace within this realm of strings. Strings, strings and more strings. This was so much so that as I look back I now miss it very dearly. All those strings were everywhere. The universe is made up of strings, and no matter how small or how large you scale your awareness, down to the size of atoms and quarks or up to the size of whole galaxies, the strings will be found. Just like it is now. Even when you do not choose to look closely at all. I am proud to be a part of the strings everywhere.
When worse comes to worse, it is sometimes better to admit that you have failed badly, go back to the drawing board and start all over again from scratch. At least for me, it is very hard to admit that you have been wrong or that you have not been able to solve a problem using brute intellect. After more than four days trying to get my home network up and running, being creative on just about every imaginable dimension of insight, that is exactly what I decided to do. It was either that or jump out of the window.
Choosing for life (even though the window is only on the second floor and I probably would not have injured myself too badly except for at most a broken ankle), I gave up, turned away from the tempting window, walked gently towards the computer that would not work, put down the axe I was about to use on it, paused and took a deep breath of surrender. It felt good to surrender somehow. I gave up and decided to reinstall Windows 98SE on my other computer which wasn't working.
My life has been saved in the NIC of time. Get it?
...Several hours later. I discovered the culprit of my problems. Turns out to be my ZoneAlarm firewall. How do I know this for sure? Well, after I had a clean system reinstalled, I started adding the original programs one by one. All went fine, until I installed ZoneAlarm again. Bye bye and the network settings were destroyed. Fortunately I could rewind the settings at that point because I knew the source. I was wrong for blaming my kids for having installed Kazaa which I had unjustly blamed. Bad father, bad bad father. I think the kids will forgive me now because they can go on the computer. For the time being I have had an overdose of computers so I will take a breather now for a week or so. Maybe give up computers altogether now.
Click this picture.
The whole world around me was ready to crumble. Everywhere I looked around me, reality was just barely in balance. Each item I touched, where I walked, the wall I barely brushed by, they all cracked and then crumbled. Like the hand of Midas, except that instead of gold it all turned into dry powdery dust. Even a simple glance caused cracks to appear, the crumbling motion barely starting but not quite starting, a slow motion abruptly halted by a snapshot of what could happen. A carefully directed forefinger and a jab anywhere to the surface recreated the motion abruptly halted, so that the crumbling motion finished off where it began. This is all pretty strange to experience first hand, especially when you realize that you are the reason for the crumbling in the first place. A huge burden of responsibility presses down on the mind. The mind that is the brain that is a collated and convoluted surface of cellular matter causes cracks and fissures of its own device. The surface of everything looked the same except for a form it assumed, just like caked mud which has dried and is already starting to crack and crumble. Crumbling all over the place that will never stop. The cellular matter will not stop. Fissures and cracks and crumbling motions and sound are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
My favorite music artist of all time is Neil Young. He just came out with yet another album called
Are you passionate? so of course I have been going to the music store every day now for the last few weeks hoping to discover it. And this morning there it was, the very last CD just waiting for me to pick it out of the music rack. I guess I am not the only fan in Gouda who was been anxiously looking forward to it's arrival. I have been blaring it on my new computer since I got back from watching Sabien and her field hockey match (they won 6-1, of course, and Sabien scored two impressive goals). One of the songs on the new CD is called Let's Roll. Supposedly, it was inspired by the passengers who overtook the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11th. If you are interested in learning more about this fine artist, then check out one of the many sites on the following list. Or you can go directly to the official Neil Young Website.
I got to hold on
I got to be strong
I got to live long and be with you
Be with you baby...
Be with you
Trees were never not meant to be chopped down. I have always had a thing with trees, respected them greatly, and since childhood have enjoyed climbing all over them. That is why I felt really bad cutting down the tree in our background. It had to be done because it was taking over our backyard and covering up the whole back of the house. I hated to do it, but it had to be done. The first cut was the worst and I apologized for causing any pain. Certainly this big healthy tree did not deserve such an end to life. Or was it so absolutely necessary? That question still occupies my mind. I always climbed trees, and often climbed so high that I risked my neck more than once, feeling emptiness in my stomach as I almost fell into oblivion. In Stockton, California we had these three glorious cherry trees in the backyard. I knew them by heart, the limbs and braches and the various climbing paths upward I could take depending on my mood. When the season was right I would collect cherries and put them into small brown paper bags. For a dime a bag, I would sell the cherries at the front of our driveway to passersby. There was this tables, and two fold up chairs, and I would sit there proud of my collection. More often I would escape up into a tree, the middle one which was the highest. People would call looking for me, and I would hide up there quiet as a tree squirrel. I watched the people searching in the backyard, walking just beneath me and then giving up they would continue their search elsewhere. I had a heck of a time holding my breath in order not to laugh. So here I was being so unrespectable to this other tree some forty odd years later. This time as an adult that I was (is). But it had to be done. Later, Maarten used the stump and few thicker branches that were left for the sake of honor as the basis for yet another fancy fort. He could climb a meter and stand on the top as a lookout tower. That made me happy, as even as things come to an end they can be used again for what is left of them. Even trees, which deserve it more than we humans do.
Today I have a really bad case of shin splints. In a feeble attempt to make time go backwards and make myself believe I am actually getting younger and not older, I have been running almost every day now for the last two weeks. In twelve of the last fourteen days I have paced off my six kilometer route in under thirty minutes. My shin splints are killing me, but I just had to run again this afternoon. Had to run again. In order to release extra tensions and energies. You see, today wasn't the best day at work. The economy sucks right now and the chances of finding an assignment in the wonderful world of mobile telecommunications is not that great at all. I was given sound advice to shape up or ship out. Oh well, I will keep on running until I attain what I deserve. Be productive and bring in tons of Euros for my company. Live up to the expectations of others. But what about yours truly? No shin splints for me, not this time around. Keep on going. I am actually getting younger.
The many woes of translation work have kept me occupied for the last couple of weeks. You see, since there is no work available which is relevant to me, that is one matching my knowledge and background, I have assumed the role of "junior" translator type of person. At least I am being productive, I hope. As a native English speaker, I have been invited (asked in panic and desperation) to help out with a number of so-called important documents that need to be written in snappy attractive flowing sentences. By tomorrow. Should have already been done yesterday.
The average Dutch person is pretty good in written English but misses out in the subtle writing style required to catch ones attention and pull the reader along to the desired conclusions. This is the company for you! Selling by using the written form is an art in itself. Now that that rumor has spread through the company grapevine, I get called by tons of people all the time. You see, I am an experienced senior project manager, NOT a (junior) technical writer. How dare you! However, I am expected to remain productive during very difficult times, so it is difficult to say no. The ironic thing is that all this internal activity I work hard at and occupy myself with is not valued very highly by my employer. No, not in the very least. He is greedy and only wants money, more and more money.
In the meantime, I am expected to search out and land a so-called "paying" assignment somewhere, a lucrative project, or I am out of there! See you later, man. See you in prison.
Now, translating is okay for a while. It does involve some creativity and it can be quite challenging receiving scraps and pieces of input from everyone every which way and trying to collate varying writing styles into one coherent piece of majestic art. In Dutch, there are many many words that consist of many many words put together, at times exceeding thirty to forty letters, believe it or not. These humongous word forms represent one concept that cannot be easily translated into English form without producing some mangled spaghetti sentence. Take for example the following words:
omgekeerdevenredigheid - inversely proportional.
huishuidelijke aangelegenheden - domestic affairs.
matigheidsgenootschap - temperance society.
onfatsoelijkheid - indecency.
fijngevoeligheden - niceties.
samentrekkingsteken - circumflex.
onverschoonbaarheid - inexcusable.
ontwikkelingsgeschiedenis - history of development.
openbaargemeentevervoer - public transportation.
The last word in the list openbaargemeentevervoer is especially interesting as it reminds me of the very first week I was living in Holland. I decided to take a bike trip to the countryside north of Amsterdam. In order to get there, I first had to take a ferry behind the train station. As I stood waiting for the ferry to return from the other side, I could not help seeing the large thick yellow letters spanning the full length of the ship. Even today I can see the clearly as if it was yesterday:
O-P-E-N-B-A-A-R-G-E-M-E-E-N-T-E-V-E-R-V-O-E-RAs a non-native Dutch speaker (who just happens to come from America where the conversation consists at most of a bunch of short and choppy sentences) such a long word is impressive to say the least. How can people in this country read and think and talk all at the same time? Does the human mind first have to collate the whole length of twenty-four letters before it is known what is implied? Or is there some kind of intuitive foresight that after the second or third syllable, combined with some contextual reference mode, where the mind can already jump into the future and figure things out. This is the very same with the construction of passive tense where the verb forms do not appear until the end of the sentence. How does one know what the action is when the verb does not appear until the end of the sentence?
Put this way: How does one the action when the verb until the end of the sentence know does not appear?
So should I continue this translating stuff? No thanks but thanks. I have no choice now, so just make the best of it. Yes, thanks.
Okay, so tomorrow at eleven o'clock I will have an important interview so that I can explain myself such that they will want to hire me as project manager. This could mean a new beginning for me or else it could mean the end of the struggle, time to go elsewhere. I am a little nervous, but I will just be myself. I think I have the relevant knowledge and experience and am a viable candidate I hope. Boy, it would be nice to land this interesting position. However, it is also how the folks on the other side react to "who I am" and if they feel I am good enough. Often based on sublime feelings and far from the hard facts. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please. If you are interested in further information about the wonderful world of mobile telecommunications and what it can mean to all of us if we just try then have a look here or there. You might also want to have a look at eurotechnology or mobilemediajapan.
The future is here before we even realize it, so where did the past all go then? We will just have to wait and see.
So if this wasn't an interesting opportunity, then I don't know what anymore. My long-awaited-for interview went pretty well, I think (and hope). With a combination of expertise, personality, affirmation and light humor, I hope I proved myself to be a good match for the function they are looking to fill: project manager. In the end, they gave me a chance to tell a little bit more about myself. I feel pretty positive, but I have to be very careful. I know out of experience that the moments one is overly confident are omens to dissappointments of the worst kind. We all know that in the end it is not knowledge and expertise alone, but how well these areas are combined with a good solid feeling for common sense and the ability to inspire others to get the job done. "Knowing" and "actually being able to" are two sides of the same coin which have to be exposed and balanced in order to be successful. Perfectly successful, that is. The only possible shortcoming of the whole episode might have been when I accidentally spilt a couple drops of coffee on my notepad. Without thinking (I guess I was a little nervous) I just brushed off the brownish substance with my shirt sleeve. Dumb. At least I was showing the human side, the real me. As far as experience and knowledge is concerned, they indicated that I probably fit the required skills alright. They were only a bit concerned that I might be too experienced for the position. Who me? To be honest, I do not mind at all. I still have to wait for my so-called competitor (and who is that guy anyway?) who will be interviewed on a later date, after which a final decision will be made. Who cares if it is only trouble-shooting and running around to put out fires, that is fine with me. A great opportunity to become familiar with a new environment, technology and that kind of thing. Actually, such chaos is an ideal manner quickly and efficiently to get up-and-running and familiar in the new surroundings.
Good luck to me, good luck to you all, good luck to everyone and everything on the face of this Earth, and the rest of the universe and beyond. I would appreciate it if you guys could keep your fingers crossed for me. Use telepathy or extremely positive thoughts to influence the decision. Whatever you can muster up, please. Now it is time to wait, hope and be positive about the future.
We are the coughing family. Everyone is sick in one way or the other in various degrees of incapacitation. Cough, cough, hack and hack. This has been going on now for a couple weeks, starting with me. If one is sensitive to sounds (like me) then it can be very irritating at times. When I was at the peak of this sickness, Thea kept telling me to quit exaggerating all the time, e.g. my coughing had become just a psychological annoyance. Now she has got it and is hacking away tens times more than I ever did, and for much longer now. The other kids have gotten the hack-disease also. Poor Sabien is now lying in her bed trying to make drawings and listen to the radio for comfort. She was all pouting and teary-eyed when her mother had to leave for a so-called team-building course at the hospital. I guess she felt letdown that she would be stuck at home with her father. What a bummer, to be stuck with me of all people. Now that the hacking-disease has gone full circle around each of the family members, it will be my turn again. But do not expect anything less than a full battle of defense, and I will fend off this disease, banishing it from the Gish abode forever into the distant past. Hopefully these microscopic critters have not mutated in some way that my defenses will be over run again. Nowadays all these fluís and colds and other diseases mutate all over the place. I brought the disease here and unleashed it and it is up to me to get rid of it. Mind over matter will in the long run conquer everything, I hope.
This afternoon Lennart and I decided to head on into town on our bikes and hang around. You know, the usual father-son type of activity. Lennart is at that age when he doesn't have that much to say, so I can really appreciate the few times we spend together like this. When we did speak, we discussed his latest computer escapades, the new army clan he has started and the various multi-player tournaments he has organized for other so-called soldiers from around the world. Well, after having done the chores we had been assigned to do, we decided to award ourselves for the fantastic job we had done. So we bought ourselves a new Playstation2 games called Air Combat Distant Thunder, the latest and hottest genre-defining flight video mission game around. Of course, the moment we returned home, we dashed up to the new "entertainment headquarters" and fired up the fantastic game. Lennart was a born ace of course and I had alot of trouble figuring things out. Like how to turn the aircraft, which is pretty fatal if you cannot even maneuver in the air. You fly straight and just hang there like a sitting duck just waiting to be blown up by the enemy. Lennart was buzzing all over the place, shooting me down on average about every fifteen seconds. Killed would flash on the screen in bright red colors. I often just crashed for some unknown reason, and more than once smashed my plane into the side of some stupid mountain. What was I doing wrong? Turned out that when you want to go left, you first have to turn left and while your aircraft is pointed to the left you have to elevate in order to make the turn. Otherwise you just keep spinning around and around. Sorry, didn't know that. But now I do, so watch out. Life is great fun because you get to learn new things every day.
I was never meant to be a teacher, because I have very little patience. This is especially true with one's wife where irritation is an inevitable consequence of that man-woman battle of wits. Technology versus intuition, who is going to win? First of all, Thea has been trying to learn Microsoft Word, and this morning she was practising with some excercises from her computer class which she attends every Thursday. She is still in the basics, and for someone like me who has been working with Word for almost ten years now, the gap in expertise is impossible to bridge. For example, centering text, using different fonts, that kind of thing. Not knowing when to double-click or when a single-click is enough. After having to repeat things more than two times (that is my limit) I lose patience and blow my stack. Why is this all necessary? The second example involves the use of our wireless telephones at home, so-called Dect phones. There are all kinds of fancy things you can do like putting someone on hold, transferring to another phone, handling call waiting, switching between incoming calls and internal calls, that sort of thing. But my wife has a heck of a time figuring this out also. Of course, I lose patience again and can get so mad, wondering why she just does not get it. Okay, it's simple. Just press here then select the R-button for the transfer. Wait until the other person picks up the phone and then hang up. Simple, isn't it? Could not be simpler. She gets confused and presses the R-button too early and then after retrying for the second time does the transfer okay but hangs up before I have the chance to pick up the other phone. At one point I was seriously wondering if she was just doing this on purpose just too bug me. No she was not, she is just not that technical she confesses. Alright then, I can forgive her for that. She always has to do the bills and the taxes for us, and that is an area of which I have absolutely no understanding, no patience, could care less about. Thanks alot Thea for doing that for me. I will try to be more patient in the future.
Hurrah, I finally got the job today! Originally it was agreed that I would be contacted yesterday evening with the final decision, but no one called. So the first thing I did when I arrived at the office this morning was to give my account manager a buzz. He is responsible for the telecom market, and he would be the first one to know. He did not pick up the phone, so I just left a short message on his voice mail. I asked him to call me back with the decision, and that he had better "make my day" or else. So he called me back after less than five minutes and did, "made my day" that is. This means that I will start this week, taking the next logical step in my very chaotic and unpredictable career as a project manager. Pretty exciting, don't you think? Here I am at the forefront of the latest mobile technology again, trying to be a true pioneer who knows all there is to know. Before you realize it everything will become wireless.
The human mind has been wireless since the beginning of time, so it is high time that the rest of the world catches up. In the meantime, I feel very grateful and very happy that things have been turning out the way they have up to now. Life goes on again.
"The mass slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica is a horrifying and probably the most violent excess to take place in the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia in the first half of the 1990. Great-Serbian ambition played a major role in this process. This places a relatively large share of the responsibility with the Serb political leaders, especially former president Milosevic. The very large degree of responsibility for the violent nature of the process of disintegration borne by the Serb leaders should not encourage turning a blind eye to the responsibility of other leaders for the resort to violence. All of the warring factions were guilty of gross violence. The reports and images of this violence met with repugnance throughout Europe and provoked a strong call for intervention by the international community, in which the Netherlands figured prominently..."
In the NIOD report it is clearly stated that the Dutch government failed miserably when on 11 July 1995 it allowed Bosnian-Serb troops under the leadership of General Mladic to enter the Srebrenica safe-area conclave, resulting in the deportation and massacre of more than eight thousand innocent Muslim citizens, mostly men and boys. The 3500 page report details the reconstruction, background, consequences and analysis of the so-called safe area, and it attempts to discover the reason one of the worst war tragedies in Europe since the end of World War Two could have ever taken place. No one could have ever imagined such an awful event ever happening, but it did. In the press summary, a number of devastating conclusions have been made, namely:
"The members of Dutchbat have also been deeply affected by their time in the enclave. Many of them have long-term psychological problems arising from their experiences in Srebrenica, and in some cases they are still serious. Many of them were not impressed by the counselling and aftercare they received. Their reception in the Netherlands, in an atmosphere of public debate in which Dutchbat was often presented in a very negative light, certainly did not help them to cope with their problems in a healthy and balanced way on the home front. That atmosphere left little room for understanding what it had 'really' been like according to the Dutchbat members. They did not recognise themselves in the image that dominated in the media, of deep black (mainly Bosnian) Serbs and lily-white Muslims. Most of the members of Dutchbat had difficulty in accepting that picture. The world that they had known during their stay in the enclave had been different..."
This is all very sad, and deserves a moment of silence please.
There was that guy standing over there again. I decided to approach him with caution and crossed the street in order to get a closer look. When I walked passed him, my left shoulder brushed the plastic shopping bag which he was carrying, and inside there was something heavy with sharp edges. I continued on my way until I reached the corner, stopped in my tracks, paused for about ten seconds, and turned around. I could see that guy in the distance with his back turned to me. He had started to cross the street, and when he almost reached the same spot from which I had first spotted him, he too paused. It seemed as if he was thinking about something, aware that something unusual was happening, perhaps even that he was being watched. However, as far as I was concerned, that guy had changed very little since the last time, meaning that he was not in the least capable of entertaining those kinds of thoughts. His ideas of reality were strained to the extreme, very similar to what I had been through on several occasions. The interested twist to this story was that while that guy was more experienced and wise than I, he was perhaps not even half my age. I was the older and wiser person, not he. That is when that guy shook his head violently and then dove to the ground. He lay flat and motionless and not a soul even noticed. For the rest of the world he did not exist, no longer existed, except to me, for me and about me. What was there to do? Not much really, except to retrace my steps the way I had come. Back to the point where my shoulder had abruptly made contact with the plastic shopping bag, making this all happen in the first place. I looked left, then right and then left again before I re-crossed the street in the other direction. I made it back to the starting point, but that guy was not there. I had seen him lying motionless, but when I got close enough he had been totally absorbed by the sidewalk as if by some sort of cynical and illusionary form of quicksand. Gone for good, but still inside of me. While that guy has supposedly disappeared again, I knew where he was. He would be appearing again someday in the future, who knows when exactly, but he would definitely show up again. And then we would have to repeat this whole ritual, go through similar motions and similar though patterns. Now he was inside of me again and it was my duty to protect his poor soul, fondling the energy inside and acquiring strength at the same time. That was the very least that could be expected of me. If I would lose concentration, forget about my task or even take it too lightly because of some good mood I was entertaining, that guy would appear to me again. As a warning to be careful again, to find him again, and bring him inside again where that guy really belonged. In the first place, the very first place.
Just thought it was time again for me to remind you all that each and every one of us is a unique creator of one's own unique world. You create the world around you, no one else but you. Close your eyes, and it is there. Open your eyes and it is still there. Close your eyes again and nothing has changed. Or has the whole universe changed and rechanged inbetween opening and closing your eyes without you even realizing it? Opening and closing the mind is a similar process, except that rather than accomplishing this trick with your eyes you are now doing it more naturally with your ideas, those endless streams of thoughts. Thoughts which are bouncing back and forth, and then flowing in the very same direction. Over there, do you see it? That is how we can create the world around us.
There was once this guy named Abraham Maslow, and way back in 1943 he devised an interesting theory about human nature. Based on his research, and having read alot of stuff by earlier psychologists like William James, he came up with this pyramid structure that can be viewed as a form of personal development, progressing from the bottom (the starting point) to the top (the ultimate goal). The theory is called the hierarchy of human needs. Before the next stage above can be reached, each progressive stage underneath must first be completed. Each deficiency is detected, dealt with and then removed before progressing to the next level. In fact, all basic human needs are based on the following two universal groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. These are the levels of the pyramid from lowest to highest:
So tell me, on which level do you now find yourself? I have studied this all very carefully, and I see myself as vacillating between level 4 (41%), level 5 (33%) and level 6 (17%) with the remaining 9% distributed randomly everywhere else. I still have a long ways to go before I occupy level 7 (2.2%) and level 8 (0.3%) on a more regular basis, but that is the ultimate concern (purpose in life) for everyone else including me, myself and I.
So if we are expected to relate this fine theory to a real life situation, then how does one define the keys to success? In other words, in view of the Maslow's pyramid, how are we to avoid the temptations of failure and/or the pitfalls that weigh us down too much by groveling at the lower stages? There is a natural resistance, but once the lower levels are satisfied there is a world of opportunity opened up.
For the real-life situation, I have chosen the concrete example of implementing a successful customer relations mind-set as described in the article The Human Dimension of CRM by Bill Brendler. In this article it is stressed that not all change is technical. In fact, the most important changes are never technical at all; rather the changes take place on the level of perceptions and feelings. One can say that there is a company growth required, fueled by a collective growth of individuals (the employees), a number of phases that must be passed.
There is obviously an excellent match with Maslow's pyramid. First of all, one must move away from the lower, more physical needs in order to adapt and accept external changes. These are satisfied. There is a movement towards a customer-centric attitude, and it is a welcome change that can best be confronted head on. Indeed, it is a phase transition for the whole company, during which management plays a vital role in prioritizing the "human" issues. People resist change because they do not see that it is in their self-interest, the lower levels of the Maslow pyramid. Resistance is the weight that pulls one downwards, but it is not bad. Through growth one recognizes that resistance is typically an energy that can be redirected and geared towards the more noble pursuit of helping customers.
The deficiency needs of the employees are taken care of by the company that provides the basic "physical needs" like the working environment. From here, the growth needs of the individual are fuelled with passion in order to stimulate a customer-centric energy source. In a sense, keeping customers and making them come back again and again means acquiring significant capital gain. After all, customers are humans also and each and every one of them is undergoing the very same pyramidal phase transition.
The key to success is thus matching the internal phase transition within the company with the external growth of the customer with whom one is building a changing and evolving relationship.
Note: this entry was written in the form of an executive summary for a course called "BCR - Building Client Relationships," and covers the topic "What and why of client relationships."
Okay so I finally got around to finishing the book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. I had really been struggling to get through the last couple of chapters, but I could not muster up enough energy nor inspiration. To think that I had purchased the book with so much enthusiasm more than a year ago. It has taken me that long (and even longer, when you think about it) to make my way through a measely 191 pages. I think I have had a complete overdose of spiritual and other esoteric literature, and it is time to return to planet Earth.
My mind-pendulum swings back and forth between the real and the unreal and now back to the real again.
The very last chapter is called "The Meaning of Surrender." To extract a random quote from this area of the book I come across the following.
"Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation."
Does this make any sense? I feel that I have heard this so many times over and over again that it no longer makes the slightest sense to me.
"Begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined. Each part of your life - today's behavior, tomorrow's behavior, next week's behavior, next month's behavior - can be examined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you. By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole."
Taken from: "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey.
As a good parent it is important to care for your kids and do your very best job using tender loving care to create the perfect little human beings. At the same time however it is your job to teach them to be independent so that when they grow up they can survive in this big-bad-world with as few bruises and scratches as possible. You want to be close to them, cuddle them closely, kiss them goodnight, and have boring family outings together. But at the same time you want to let them grow up and let them go. You cannot keep them forever, and you cannot go against nature's grain, who are you to think that you own them or something? They chose to be with you and God provided a gift for all of mankind. This is very difficult, probably one of the biggest dilemmas of parenthood: to be close and to be faraway at the same time. It is only natural to feel hurt or letdown or irate when your obnoxious and sassy kids who think they know it all just ignore you the whole day. Of course they know it better than you and they know that. But at the same time you are proven the hard way that you have done an exceptionally good job up to now. Congratulations to all parents out there who have achieved similar difficult results. You done good, darn good. Those are the future leaders of the world who have allowed you to take care of them while they have prepared themselves. Yes, the future leaders of the world.
I have been reminded on a number of occasions that I have the tendency to chew too loudly. Chew too loudly, what does that mean? Well basically the chomping sound of my upper and lower teeth meeting forcefully is loud enough that it easily irritates those poor souls sitting adjacent to me. This is especially true for family situations where children are more easily distracted and irritated by any and all eating noises, e.g. smacking, slurping, licking, gulping, etc. So what can I do about this unsavory habit of mine? I have tried to chew ever so quietly, but that is very difficult for me. By repressing natural urges from within, my eating pleasures are reduced drastically. I cannot for the life of me chew quietly, there is an instinct within me to chomp down hard, the harder the better. So why do I do this in the first place? Is it some feeling of inner frustrations, excess energy that has to be released through the actions of biting down hard and with more force than necessary? Could be, if you look at it that way. Chomp, chomp, release, then swallow hard, the next bite, chomp, chomp, and then the cycle will repeat itself. Okay, if I am sitting alone it should not matter, but if I am eating next to other people, I guess I should be more a responsible father, fellow worker, citizen of society. This is similar and can be compared to the art of coughing or sneezing. If you are alone you can just let it go and spray the mucous droplets all over the place. However, if you are in the company of important people, say your neighbors or the royal family or whatever, then you must resist the urge to sneeze or simply hold a handkerchief to you nose in order to sneeze ever so casually and politely at the same time. Sure it does not feel as good as letting it all go all over the place, but as far as retaining and not risking your formal relationships are concerned this is by far the preferred choice. The same applies to eating I guess. Rather than spray chomping and biting sound waves every which way, I must learn to chew softly and quietly for the sake of formalities. Can you teach old dogs new tricks? There I am giving into society again, what I am expected to do. That is the way life comes and goes and we must adapt in one way or the other.
Elements of the unknown make a welcome intrusion into an orderly life. Brainpower is the most efficient form of energy. Expression comes and goes in daring new ways...
Everyone nowadays knows that the human brain is divided into a right and a left hemisphere. Or so they say. The scientific community claims that specific human thinking and walking tasks are divided across this cortical separation in such a way that certain roles are delegated to the left side and other roles are delegated to the right side. Thanks to science we tend to view the human mind as a dichotomy, not only between right and left, but also bewteen intuitive and logical, feelings and senses, the good and the bad, being creative and being down-to-earth, and finally between physical and spiritual, the real and the unreal. And then there was the brain. Or was that the mind? Too bad the brain has been created in such a misleading physical form. Where is it exactly? The mind starts where the brain stops. The brain begins where the mind stops. The brain and the mind overlap the same areas of space and time.
The mind and the brain. The old man over there is speaking to us. Speaking ever so quietly. And then there was silence, complete silence...
Today is the queen's birthday. The Dutch people refer to this yearly event as Koninginnedag and it is a national holiday. Big deal? Yes, for all the Dutch folks in this small country, it is a very big deal. Queen Beatrix is coming, she's coming! People dress up in orange, put on their finest clothes, and wear orange hats of various shapes and sizes. This is hard to imagine for a boring American like myself who grew up completely oblivious of the wonderful world of the royal family. Every year it never ceases to amaze me. The Royal Family walks through a specially chosen town (this year it was Meppel) and wave endlessly to the droves of people streaming along the walkway. Waving, smiling, shaking multiple hands, kissing babies, that kind of thing. The Queen always has this giant bizarre-looking hat on, for she is famous for her collection of giant hats, wearing two or three different hats a day and never again the same hat. She stands patiently listening to the many children singing songs, people doing folk dances, and the local citizens displaying the various wares which are famous for the region (usually some cheese, silver trinkets, a giant cake from the bakery with the pictures of the royal family on top of it). Long live the Queen! The ironic fact of the whole affair is that today is "not" really the Queen's birthday. It is her mother's birthday (the former Queen). Since Queen Beatrix's birthday is in the middle of winter when it can get extremely cold, and traditionally the celebrations should take place during the mild and sunny climate of Spring, it was decided to retain the original date of Koninginnedag for the sake of better more bearable weather and enjoyment. Funny how Queen Beatrix still walks around majestically as if it is her birthday. She smiles at all the children who sing her a hearty happy birthday song, sincerely believing so much that it is this fine women's real birthday today. After I saw this episode on the television (yes, my Dutch wife and my four half-Dutch kids were glued to the boob-tube the whole time), I escaped into the countryside with the usual thirty-minute jog. Tomorrow I will have to work again.