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