Monday, 26 January 2015

The loneliness of a wolf-man

c Jenne Bleijenburg
"We have to shit on a wolf, don't we pappa?"
"Say what?"
"If we see a wolf, we have to shit on him! Don't we?"
"And do you know what yellow means?"
"No, what does yellow mean?"
"Yellow means that you cannot touch him!
That is what yellow means."

Oh, my dog never bites sir!
He is a sweet kid. A sweet and disturbing kid. Disturbing because he scares them. The other kids:
"Off with your head!"
"I am gonna cut you..."
I know that these are just sentences from movies or books, that he only knows the emotional impact they make when you say them, and that he does not connect them with the meaning of those sentences themselves. He is merely stating the syntax, not the meaning. It is like Maus is speaking in ink, where the other kids speak in words.  He just constructs them,  like card houses.
But the other kids don't know that.  I see them scared by these lifeless, zombie-like sentences he recombines with all random words he's got lying around in his head.
He is like a doctor Frankenstein of language.

Wolf's child
I sometimes tell them (the parents or the children)  what's wrong with him, or at least what I know about what is wrong with him.
Or what is different with him, when I am in a politically correct state of mind.
But more often I joke about it. Because jokers have the magical power to change something frightening into something funny:
"Yeh, well, sorry. We found him in a forest. He's been raised by wolves so be careful: He might bite your leg off or eat your dolls."
When he was born, the only thing wrong (or different) with him seemed to be this weird little finger nail. Thin, long and hard, like a wolfs nail. So that's when we started to call him "our Wolf's child".
My other two boys have their own, different totems:
The oldest (13 years, ET) - The Owl: Because he always had his eyes wide open and never slept (compared to other babies we knew).
The middle one (10 years, WT) - The Monkey: Cause he could climb before he could even walk. One of the carpenters once fished him out of the roof gutter when he was just one year old.

When I'm gone
c Jenne Bleijenburg
I sometimes lay awake at night, worrying about the future.
Who's gonna love him when I am dead. Who's gonna take care of him, laugh at his funny and absurd words.
Will his brothers do?  Will he be able to stand on his own two feet.
He can be terribly annoying. It is sometimes like I am in love with a dangerous animal.
I see these ragged dirty men, singing in the street, hollow eyes, just some teeth left, talking to walls and screaming, scaring people with their words and their behavior. They are the ones that talk to the death, talk to the animals, they are the crazy ones, the holy ones, the sacred half godlike part of this world and part of another world ones. And I worry that Maus could be one of them, later. Sleeping under bridges, or under large things that smell like bridges. What kind of a man will he be? What kind of life will he lead...?

Wassiks fears
The mere thought of how Paul Ehrenfest - a brilliant physicist - solved his fears for his son Wassik, who had Down syndrom, always freaks me out. Ehrenfest was suffering from depression, and, primarily motivated by that I suppose, he first arranged the future care for his other children, and then first shot his 15 year old son Wassik, and them himself.
I really hate this guy. That is not love. That is managing your own fears. The mere fact that he took care of his other children but chose to take Wassik with him to his own grave, disqualifies him as a father, depression or no depression. And I really hope that no one ever solves the Ehrenfest Paradox. Just to piss him off.

Tiresome - c Jenne Bleijenburg
And my son, Maus, he will have to cope, somehow. With or/and without us.
And we are going to make him cope. That's what we (fathers/mothers/brothers) are here for.
Ehrenfest be damned!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The unbearable lightness of death

Maus' grandfather in 2012
c Jenne Bleijenburg
- Can i fetch him?
- Who?
- Grandpa. In the picture.
- Grandpa is dead, Maus.
- Grandpa is not dead.
- Oh yes, he is dead.
- But I could go into this picture there and fetch him?
- No. You cannot enter a picture.
- Yes. I can! And then grandpa will put on his glasses and take his long long legs and walk on home.

- Grandpa cannot walk anymore, Maus.
- And he will bake me a chocolate-cake.
- Grandpa cannot bake no cakes anymore for anyone, Maus. Not even for you.
- Say:"Yes, you may go and fetch grandpa, boy."
- You may fetch him, but you cannot fetch him.
- Shut your face up!

c Jenne Bleijenburg

There is something heartbreaking in his misunderstanding, hopeful smile when he talks about his grandfather. His grandfather, my father, died in the spring of 2013. And my father was almost annoyingly fond of his grandsons. So they had a very close relationship.

Extensions in a realm of otherness
Maus does not understand the concept of death. I imagine that this misunderstanding, or the source of this misunderstanding, is the same as why he does not seem to know that we cannot feel what he feels. That we do not know what he is thinking, or feeling.

- Will it stop?
- What? What stops?
- This pain.
- What pain? Do you have pain.
- Yes. Will it stop? Say: "Yes Maus, it will stop."
- Where do you have pain? Did you hurt yourself?
- If I put water on it, will it stop? Can you say: "Stop!"

The world is an oyster to him. It seems connected to him on every level. We, me, his mother and his brothers, are not really different persons. We are like attributes of himself. Extensions in a realm of otherness.
I think that is why he is incapable of imagining the death, the NOT being of his grandfather. Simply because he himself is, and his grandfather was. And still walks around in his memory.

I will cut off your head
c Jenne Bleijenburg
Death and the other minds
This connection on every level also works the other way around, because he does not believe that there are feelings that he himself does not feel. And of course, in reality there is a disconnection. We need a theory of mind about 'the others'.  But Maus does not fully acknowledge the pain of the others. When playing with his brothers we have to interfere a lot when one of them is crying: "You are hurting me Maus. Stop!" But Maus does not stop. The sounds they make seem funny to him.

Up a tree
He's learning though, we really try to make him aware of that. For when he grows up, living  in a world without that ability will surely get him into a lot of trouble. We try to learn him how to imagine the pain and the emotions, of others.
"Listen, he says stop."
[Remind me to write something about this two wonderful brothers at a later time.]

Afraid of heights
But it is hard. It's like trying to teach a fish how to build a nest in the top of a tree. He does not seem to have the innate empathy my others boys do.

It's because the mirror neurons don't work that well,  they say. Although that makes sense to me, on a representational level, like the understanding of emotions of others, on the other hand he is quite a good mimic. Which need the same neurons I suppose. So I am not sure as how and where to place this knowledge in the context of his behavior.

Maus and the other minds
When I try to imagine how it is to be Maus, it must be something like being in the world and being the world itself and being something outside the world at the same time. It is this being the world itself state of mind that we miss. It must be like Spinoza's god. The world is a part of him, and not the other way around. But there is something incomprehensibly unapproachable and disconnected about this panentheistic god. And that must be why he is navigating in such a totally different way through his live, compared to his brothers. Being connected and lonely at the same time.
I am just looking for metaphors I realize, trying to understand what it is to be Maus. And I think it must be approaching a quote of Rabbi Moses Cordovero:
"He is found in all things, and all things are found in Him, and there is nothing devoid of His divinity, heaven forfend. Everything is in Him, and He is in everything and beyond everything, and there is nothing beside Him"

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Egbert en Willemien

So, yeh, it's been a while since I wrote on this blog. The reason for that is that both my parents, in their seventies, became ill simultaneously, and me and my two sisters had to take care of them as good as we could. They both had different kinds of cancer, and they both died in different ways, with me and my sisters present and holding them. So that was simultaneously good, and bad, and sad. We talked a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot. And as everybody dies, so this being a minor event in the history of the universe, it changed Maus his universe in a big way. Like the moon is suddenly missing from it's orbit.
They were lovely, funny, and loving parents and grandparents, and it was heartbreaking to see them both this ill and hopeless.

As for me, I plan to shoot myself from a cannon if I ever get that miserable and helpless.

c Jenne Bleijenburg - 2013

Sunday, 23 February 2014

While god is sleeping

I have developed a working hypothesis about my son's brain.
"So, why you need a working hypothesis about your son's brain?" is probably the first question that pops up in your mind.
Well, he's different. Like a cat amongst dogs. Us being the dogs in this case.
When you try to understand him intuitively, you won't get very far. His tail up does not necessarily mean that he is in a good mood, as we dogs might think.  So we need an extra pair of glasses when we look at him, otherwise he's just a fuzzy enigmatic boy-like humanoid.
Revolution in the head
And of course my hypothesis may be totally flawed, there could be a whole host of other things wrong with him: It could be a food allergy, it could be schizophrenia, me and Marjon just sucking as parents, he may be possessed by a demon, et cetera. But then again, I am one of the people closest to him, so my view should account for something. And I based it for a large part on what the psychologists and the pediatricians told me.
My hypothesis is thus: Maus' brain is alway in a state of revolution. There is a constant cyclone of mingled thoughts, impressions, affections and emotions turning and twisting in his head. And this constant turmoil keeps him from reacting adequately, keeps him from forming an understanding about the world around him and of the people therein.

Maus scored rather low on an IQ, roundabout 52/56 or so, on the cognitive and performance part. And that puzzled me. His eyes always look so bright and lively. Intelligent.

Torn -  c jenne Bleijenburg 
I know he is a bright kid. I can feel that, somehow. That may be a totally useless proposition about him, cause it may never show up, it may never materialize. Like a tree falling in a forest where no one sees it, it might just as well not be true. Maybe my other two boys can throw crocodiles all the way to the moon, but as there are no crocodiles here we will never know.
But nevertheless, I believe there is an intelligent kid somewhere in there, in this strange little boy. Like a bird in a cage. And strange he is. As soon as you start a conversation with him you notice there is something different. He usually starts with a funny or quircky remark, and from there on the dialogue rapidly goes haywire. Talking like he is a Formula 1 car trying to drive a small countryside road full of twists and turns.

"So he is not that smart, but you believe he is intelligent, " you will say, "Does not sound like a very consistent story here. How you reconcile these logically conflicting propositions?"

Well, watch me!

I think it is like this:
Due to the distorted information processing in his brain, where some parts don't seem to coƶperate as they should, he is living in a world totally different from ours. What he sees and understands, and what we see and understand, are totally different things. Our world and his world are fundamentally incommensurable. There is no rock bottom proof I can give you for this, just circumstantial evidence. Like the way he talks: Sometimes words just seem to seep out of him, weird words, beautiful words, contractions and sentences like exotic birds and biotopes. He speaks like a poet, but a poet from another country using a misprinted dictionary. And a poet who thinks repetition is a poetic form. And funny as what he says sometimes is, it also contains an element of despair.
I think the source of this mismatching poetry is this twister of thoughts and impressions in his brain.

It may be a stupid sideway, but when I look at him I often think of Berkeley's explanation for the continuity of the phenomena in the world.  (Which really made me laugh the first time I read it.) Berkeley thought that sensible things do not have an independent existence, but exist only as collections or corgeries of ideas in the mind. And that then raises the question - how come objects seem to exist continuously, even when no (finite) minds are watching it.
When you put your lunch in a box, the lunch is still there when you open the box three hours later.
Berkeley explains this by stating that: This is proof for the existence of God. Cause he's the one that looks at all things all the time. So they don't disappear. DUH!
Extrapolating this conclusion it is also proof for god having eyes that are lubricated very differently from our eyes, cause it implicates that this god may never blink.

I think Maus is lost in a world without this god, without Berkeleys god, where people, things and situations disappear and reappear. There is no encompassing structure in his world. It is a fragmental world; conceptually, spatially and temporarily. Looking at him with this in mind explains a lot of his behavior. Though it also gives me a rather powerless feeling. Because I have no god to place into his world that will make things right. I cannot change the way his brains work.
But I hope and think that, growing up, his mind will become stronger, and we can give him the mental tools with which he will be able to tame the turmoil, to fight the twisters, and, though more distracted, more careful and conscious of every move and detail around him than most of us, I desperately hope that he will be able to find his way in, and connect to this here world I live in.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


My third son is kind of an astronaut. He regards his own body as a suit, just barely attached to himself.
I often worry about him flying too high, or floating too far away, that he won't be able to return to this here earth I live on. To the trees, the cars and the birds with no names.
He is an astronaut lost somewhere in his own mind.

The messages he sends also are disturbing and not always understandable. The words are all mixed up it seems, scarred by static interference. And when I ask him something his answers seem like answers to questions I asked him weeks ago, or questions I will ask him in a year or two.

Sometimes then, when I am talking to him, I'm scared that I will never reach him again. That someone, someone scary, someone inside, recorded his voice a long time ago, and tries to answer my questions with samples of these recordings. Carefully assembled sentences, but just words, no meaning. Words like flees.

But ever so often he returns. From where-ever. My son. I can see his eyes seeing me. And he is just a kid, a boy, no pressure suit, no empty space between us.
He cuddles up to me, like the other ones did, and do.
Tickle me daddy, tickle me! Throw me in the air!
I love that, him laughing, the bed dangerously creaking every time he lands on it. I love to throw him high up in the air.

But never too high.
Because he's getting rather heavy lately.
And you never know how long he will stay up there......

Maus 2013 - c Jenne Bleijenburg

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Being Maus - introduction

Together with my sister Jenne Bleijenburg (photographer) I've started this blog about my third son, Maus. It's not that my other two sons are less interesting, but Maus is our only Wolf child. Sometimes Jenne will add photo's to one of my texts, and sometimes one of her pictures will urge me to write something. Apart from that I steal pictures from the web without any scrupules.
This is Jenne's website, and this is a piece I wrote about her work for the Keep on dreaming exposition in New York, Amsterdam and Tokio.

As I am Dutch, there is also a more or less synchronical Dutch version of this blog. As the particular language sometimes forks off thoughts in a different direction, the one is not an exact translation of the other. (Just as the current english queen Elisabeth II can not be converted to our current king Willem Alexander by some finite set of conversion rules....)

Maus & me  -  c Jenne Bleijenburg

I realise that in writing this blog, I might be violating Maus' privacy. After all, I publish stories about him without his consent. So I worry that he might be disturbed by this when he is older.
I sincerely try  to walk a tightrope here.
And to be honest, I am not sure about this blog in this sense. There are ethical as well as motivational components to this.
One of the reasons for this blog is to promote my sisters photography, but I could do that in another way, writing about another subject.
Another reason is that I love to write, to take the time and think things over. And as my youngest son is rather a large part of my life, he is one of the subjects I think about a lot.
There is also a vanity part, probably large, of me wanting to show off how well I write or what interesting thoughts I have.....

On the other hand, the stories here are mostly just my personal ramblings on about a subject, just taking Maus as a starting point. He is like the muse of this blog, not necessarily the subject.

All things considered, it might be better to simply add a disclaimer.

Any resemblance in the stories in this blog to real persons, events or situations is purely coincidental!

And me, I also might be totally someone else.