Being myself

We make a living by what we get

We make a life by what we give

Dear All,

Driving for hours through the fields and enjoy the beauty of Bali; a good plan to give a sensible note to a day that is, in fact, a lousy one. People are working on the sawah’s (rice paddies), the roads towards the north are quiet, everywhere there’s something to see; here a wedding, a cremation over there and further down the road a ceremony for I don’t know what. The deeper meaning is not clear to me but it’s a beautiful sight. The mountains as a backdrop, the terraces with sawah’s make walls of deep green, the landscape is overwhelming.

No speeding, enjoying is the mantra of the day. There are those dates; I fact nonsense because there is no real difference between them but that’s not how it feels. Ten years and it’s really ‘past perfect’ now, as if it wasn’t from day one … And nevetheless, still a boy in short pants and a white shirt is running – as always in my dreams on his way to school – even through the rice paddies in Bali.

In the evening I have dinner at Frans’ place and it is good. It will never be ‘finished’ I think and nevertheless, ‘past perfect’. When it bites again, I’ll go to those fields again. He can run there.

Working on objects for an exhibition somewhere this spring in the Netherlands. They all will be based on poems of poets I admire; among others Rainer Maria Rilke, Lucebert, Wally Serote, W.H. Auden, Ingrid Jonker and others. Difficult, exiting.., and such a good feeling when it works out well. Call it my reaction to the world as I see it. I have to do something with it and more than my own square meter I don’t have.

Leaving the laptop closed in the morning would be a solution but then, my head is too big to be an ostrich. There are things I can’t handle well. The satire, maybe appropriate, in the joining of a number of world leaders in Paris, the satire or opportunism in the reactions after the death of the king of Saudi Arabia… Self-proclaimed Charlies almost fall over each other in debiting lies for the sake of oil. In the meantime Ralf Badawi is waiting for the remaining 950 hits with a cane of the 1000 to which he is convicted. And for his 10 years in prison and a € 200.000,– fine. He wrote a blog, a little liberal, a bit smelling of atheism and the latter, declared the king last year, is a terroristic act. That’s why. The 80 people that were beheaded last year are not waiting any longer. The ambassador of Saudi Arabia wasn’t the only one that walked through Paris as a fraud.

More or less at the same time as the attacks in Paris, in Nigeria, according to an estimate of Amnesty International, 2000 people were killed, a few weeks earlier more than 100 children in Pakistan; two facts from a mindboggling list. And it doesn’t stop. Last week, more than hundred were murdered in Cameroon and god knows how many others in how many places. The attention for what happened in Paris was overwhelmingly bigger than the attention for any of those atrocities far away. Who is surprised if they think they don’t really matter? How could opportunism, using different standards if that suits us better, bring any good?

The, in my opinion, narrow frame of being Charlie doesn’t suit me. A little story in a newspaper comes to mind again. The teacher asks the children what they want to be when they’re grown up. Every possible profession is mentioned; from astronaut, over ballet dancer to president. One boy though doesn’t want to become anything at all. “Nothing at all?” the teacher asks in surprise. “No, I just want to be myself.” That’s what I choose too. Let me be Nigerian, Syrian, Pakistani, and, and, and …You are me in another appearance. That attitude also puts freedom of expression in the light of respect.

The coming months it’s hard work for a lot of people here in Penestanan. Soon there will be a Ngaben Masal, a mass cremation. De Balinese Hindu’s – there are, thanks to the missionaries, a catholic and protestant village – are cremated. A long time ago that was, at least for the not so rich, a relatively simple ceremony. But over the years it became so elaborate and thus expensive, that Wayan the worker can’t pay for it. And still it has to be done because, what will the neighbors say when we just, simply… So usually the body is buried first and, once every five years, there is a cremation for all the deceased from the years before. It costs less, now it’s ‘only’ 10 million Rupiah per ‘participant’. That is for the same Wayan the worker between a half and a whole year of salary. “You have to go and look, don’t forget. It’s beautiful here” says Ibu Putu.

The governor of Bali was, in a recent speech, wondering if the ever more expensive ceremonies contributed towards more poverty. I think so, yes. I won’t criticize when I’m not asked to (see above) but of course it doesn’t help. The bigger issues the governor avoided carefully; Indonesia is one of the countries with the biggest inequality in the world. And in a broader view; the 80 richest people in the world have a total of assets, as much as those of the 3,5 billion poorest put together. One percent of the world population has as much as half the world has. I think we’d better not complain if the price of coffee goes up because the farmer needs a bit more, there is a pressing need for more and bigger steps.

Love, Frank




In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Banksy

Dear All,

In fact it was clear from the very first minute, twelve o’clock and there it was, another year in which we have to do it all ourselves. It’s a simple plan but bigger plans I don’t have for this year, to be a friend, to work on the base.

The words of Banksy above can be interpreted in two ways, both emphasizing the importance of friendship. Is it about the pleasant silence of “al is good and well” we can experience with friends or beloved ones and that falls like a warm blanket around us? Is it about the deafening silence that we sometimes let be while another is in need? Both experiences will stay with us, being deprived of friendship maybe most. Either way, it doesn’t work without (being) a friend. That’s why.2212jaaroverzichtkranten_GERMANY2-947x735

‘Playing golf in a globalizing world, people in the ‘comfortzone’ get visitors.’ Photographer Jose Palazon at the Spanish border on October 22, 2014.

It seems to be correct to state that I’m looking forward to the coming year with enthusiasm and a lot of trust, the truth is that I’m looking at it with worries as well. Horrific and disgusting incidents, not only in Paris. Today everybody is Charlie. I only belief half of it. Yes, a bit of Charlie I want to be. The pen and the pencil as a tool to spread our ideas are, beside our words and our attitude, the only valid instruments. It is also a right that can be denied to nobody, nobody at all. If you don’t like it, there’s the same tools at your disposal – also after Paris no other tool is acceptable. In that context I wonder how many of those that claim to be Charlie today are really willing to be a Charlie indeed. And who is prepared to keep looking beyond the we and them thinking. Voice, pencil, pen, attitude in life, there cannot be more than that. No less either. That freedom of expression sometimes is experienced as a license to insult and therefor asks for compassion is a fact, it can never ever be a reason to constrict the first. If one doesn’t like it; pen, pencil and voice. A freedom, to be used with care and compassion. Never out of fear, always from the strength of the desire to be a friend.

Ibu Putu doesn’t quite understand. That they celebrate New Year three months before Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, is one thing. Everybody is different and she doesn’t put too much value on that particular date although, on this island, it’s bending the rules. It’s about the cracks and bangs. She knows the youth likes it loud and she’s willing to let them have their fun. That fireworks and firecrackers are common now, it’s a shame but ah, computers, telephones, al those modern things; times are changing and that’s the way it should be. It’s something she can handle. (At the supermarket that afternoon, half and whole monthly salaries went direction cashier to buy, mainly, crackers.) It’s the guests that explained to her that the old year is being chased away with all that noise that brought confusion. Why would one chase away the old year? It’s part of you and you shouldn’t throw it away. I try to put some nuance to the story – without one positive word about the fireworks, no way – but I think that, at least partly, she has a point. Leaving the old year behind like a used and worn out utensil won’t work, bad plan. A lot of noise and then think it’s all gone. Not. A fresh start, okay. Small exercise books in school so that you could start on a new page quite often. Throwing away the past is nonsense. That is not taking into account the fact that some events in life add, or take away, colors for good and change the music in further life with deeper, maybe more beautiful tones. It’s not taking into account what all the years left within you, it’s denying who you are. Letting go is also accepting the past and the inevitable and to life with what is. And how could one be a friend while discontent with his own history?7DSC02381

Just before the years end I was in Yogyakarta for four days. I lived there earlier, more than ten years ago already, and it was nice to see how the city sparkles again. And changes. From Herly Setiawan I bought a painting of the pasar ngasem, the bird market that doesn’t exist anymore.

Brilliant painter, beautiful name. Setiawan means loyal friend.

Love, Frank