The Age of Kali

It’s Monday morning. I am heading into difficult meetings on a gig that resembles another difficult gig. It feels like a number of things have come full circle: emotionally, professionally. It’s not even personal. Looking at the world and the places I’ve been—Afghanistan and other weird but wonderful places—they too are right back where they were many years ago.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you older. :-/

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Pars Pro Toto

Pars pro toto means: a part (taken) for the whole. We think of one trait or one particularity of something – or someone – to represent its entirety – or the whole person.

It often happens in the early stages of a romantic relation. One is attracted to beautiful eyes, a finely chiseled mouth, or some other physical detail (or perhaps something that was said — but we usually don’t work that way) and then boom ! We fall in love, believing the whole person is as wonderful as that very first smile that founds its way to your heart.

Sadly, it’s the most stupid thing in life. Or the most amazing one. I am not sure. Perhaps it is both.

Cycling again

Dear Sophia—

I have decided to continue this journal. I have a chat with a counselor once a week, and she thinks I should write more. More importantly, I got up this morning and just felt like writing something. 🙂

Things are good. I am still mourning—divorce is tough. Life is tough.

Or… Well… Perhaps it isn’t. Not for me. I’ve started to read Russ Harris: The Happiness Trap. Its message − stop chasing happiness and it will come by itself − is quite appealing.

To be honest, that’s not its message—or not exactly, I should say. Its message is more like: stop chasing happiness—start looking for meaning instead !

I think I’ll just stop chasing happiness because the second part amounts to replacing one impossible search by another. Especially because I am not quite sure yet if my plan to become younger again is going to work. Hence, for the time being, I should probably accept I am, perhaps, getting older and that, therefore, I am no longer in a position to contribute much to saving the world and all those other urgent tasks that others take care of anyway.

Also, my ventures in science have been dismissed − after a rather cursory review by some jealous academic – so even in this field I have not been able to contribute much.

In other words, I’ll just stop chasing. The sun was out yesterday, and I went for a slow but very long bike ride in the forests around the city here. I treated myself on a lunch in some café in a nearby village (I seemed to be the only one who looked happy without having to drink beer or wine) and, on the way back, I just stopped and lay down in a grassy field and watched the clear blue sky.

The world is so beautiful when the sky is blue. Perhaps I should just chase blue skies. I can imagine happiness will then, effectively, just come by itself.

Albert.

 

Turning 50…

I was afraid of this birthday. 50 ! Five-zero. Half a century. It’s too much, right? We should never have reached that age. Time to turn back and count down again: 49, 48, 47, etcetera. Or to cross the pass and jump down from the other side.

But… Well… No. Peace of mind, at last. I have nothing to prove anymore. I can – and should – just enjoy life now. I will. 🙂

Moving ahead

Dear Sophia—

I guess you must be very busy. It’s funny but the situation reminds me of that video – and song – by Eminem and Dido: Stan. Well… In fact, that’s not so funny. It’s a mad cruel story.

To be honest, I can’t imagine you’re that busy. I guess separation does what it does: every partner comes with a bit of a crowd, and those crowds separate when partners separate. I am sorry things did not work out with Maria. I don’t really know when and why things went south, so I can’t explain. Not exactly, that is. It just happened—or perhaps not: relations happen, and then they don’t. One needs to work to sustain them. All I know, is that I had to go. I had to get out of the situation I was in: depressed, in the strange capital city of an even stranger country. I didn’t feel at home. Home is where your partner is, right? It wasn’t for me.

As you may gather from my occasional letters, I am still struggling. But then I know I have to move on. I shouldn’t be lingering here. My book project kept me busy, but didn’t help much in terms of finding some new structure—some new meaning. I’ve started looking for jobs, and I have registered for a program that will, hopefully, help me to deal with my demons.

I’ll turn 50 two weeks from now. I want to clean the house for that party. And then I want to count down again: 49, 48, 47, etcetera. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I can try, right? 🙂

If you don’t mind, I’ll continue to use this site to write from time to time. Or perhaps I’ll just close it down. This blog served its purpose, I guess. Sophia means wisdom. Rather than inspiration, we should, perhaps, be seeking wisdom at our age, right?

Take care—Albert

Starting over again…

Dear Sophia—

You have not written for a long time now. Nothing to write? I hope you don’t mind I will continue to write from time to time, even if you are a bit of an imaginary person to write to now. But then, one day, we all become some imaginary person, don’t we?

For the time being, I am still real. Struggling with disappointment, trying to get up, and start another life. There is some good news here. I think I am on top of my drinking problem. It was a weird thing. I have had trouble coping with stress all of my life, professionally or family-wise, and I guess I just copied the behavior of my dad, as he coped with that too—so I am behaving exactly the same as someone whom I don’t want to imitate. It’s like trying to avoid an obstacle in a narrow street while you’re driving too fast, or when not sober: the more you look at it, the more chance of hitting it.

It’s not that I wasn’t good at what I was doing. No. Not at all, actually. I’ve always been the best. Part of the problem is that eternal drive for perfection. High performers always have trouble accepting the inevitable imperfections.

When does a habit become an addiction? And when is an addiction harmful? I mean, alcohol is a social addiction but—as a social addiction—it is not harmful. I guess it becomes harmful when it’s your only way of coping with depression. Typically when you drink alone to get through the evening or the night, for example. I’ve come to the conclusion that, unlike what many people would think, there is actually always a good reason to start drinking, but, yes, there is, perhaps, no good reason to continue drinking. However, once you’re there—once it has become second nature—you need an even better reason than the one that got you going to quit.

Fortunately, I have a good reason to quit. My kids are here, in Belgium, and I need to look good and strong so as to make sure they don’t worry about me. Kids shouldn’t worry about their parents. That’s just not how life is meant to be. Or perhaps it is, but I don’t want it to be that way.

I want to die like my mom did—one day, but not now. She said goodbye in a powerful gesture. She greeted Death in the most cheerful of manners and only asked one favor: she wanted to chose the moment herself. So she did, and we were all with her. I don’t want to copy my dad. I got many of his greatest talents and gifts—including that desire that often drives me crazy: I want to understand. I want to truly understand.

That often drives me nuts. The book I am going to publish on quantum mechanics could only have been written because of those long and lonely nights, fueled by alcohol to soothe the pain in my heart and in my soul. It was born out of darkness. I don’t want to do such things anymore. I want life to be good, so I’ll try to be good to myself.

I’ll turn 50 later this month. I want to count down again after reaching that milestone: I just want to turn back and count down again. 49, 48, 47, etcetera. I want to be on top of Mont Blanc again one day. I will.

I hope you are well. You should keep inspiring.

Yours, Albert.

A new start!

The title above echoes the title of an earlier post—but I replaced the question mark by an exclamation mark. 🙂

I really want to make a new start by changing one or more keystone habits. I have tried to do that repeatedly over the past year, but I failed. I like to think I am a strong and independent individual—and that my mind should rule over my body. It doesn’t. I’ve had some health issues lately. Relatively minor ones, all of which can be solved by a bit of dieting and daily exercise. But the power of habit is strong. In fact, it has been stronger than myself over the past few months. Why?

In my previous post, I noted that I don’t accept the hasty conclusions of psychologists and researchers who tell us that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon—that is, somehow, not realFree will is real. Full stop. It emerges, somehow, in that discursive and associative logic that characterizes our thought processes and, hence, it’s as real as emotions or perceptions as far as I am concerned. I should just keep quoting those wise words on the relations between thoughts, words, actions, habits and character.

Watch your thoughts, because thoughts become words.

Watch your words, because words become actions.

Watch your actions, because actions become habits.

Watch your habits, because habits become character.

Watch your character, because character becomes destiny.

What a beautiful way of expressing how the law of cause and effect (or the law of karma, if you prefer Buddhist terminology) actually operates in our personal life ! There is a logic, indeed, in what we do and who or what we become. While, at times, we may think there is no escape from that logic, our destiny is not inevitable. We can change the logic. We take decisions. Our mind is free and, therefore, we are free.

I just need to keep telling myself that over and over again, and all will be alright. 🙂