Essays (English)

Contemplative prose texts.

BG 235 – Between

We Dutch sometimes use the word ‘between’ in strange ways.

For example, we say, ‘Ouch, I got my fingers between the door!’
‘Between the door’ and then what…? I assume between the door and the door frame, but we don’t say that.
And when we get our fingers ‘between the drawer’ (also painful!), we obviously mean between the drawer and the cabinet where it slides in.
Our fumbling with the word ‘between’ here seems to be in line with our fumbling with the aforementioned doors and drawers.

Another example: recently, a news item listed how often something had happened ‘between 2021 and 2022’. Uh, between 2021 and 2022…? There’s absolutely nothing in between! As usual, those years fit together seamlessly.
Just like you can’t do something ‘between Tuesday and Wednesday’. There is nothing in between there either. You probably mean that you’re going to do that either on Tuesday or on Wednesday, or maybe even in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday.

And then we have the curious ‘between the afternoon’. Although that sounds very strange, it is correct Dutch. But between the afternoon and then what…? We mean around lunchtime, so between morning and afternoon, around 12:00-13:00, but we say ‘between the afternoon’. Weird right?

More logical ways to use the word ‘between’ are: at a moment after the first mentioned time – but before the next; or in a place with something or someone on one side and something or someone else on the other side; or in a place in the middle of or surrounded by, for example, people or trees; or in comparative expressions such as ‘the difference between a table and a chair’, or ‘sitting between two fires’ (having to choose between two unpleasant possibilities). Yes, that explanation stands ‘between brackets’.

BG 231 – Inventions

Until now, most of humanity’s great inventions have aimed to kill as many other people as possible from a safe distance. Let’s change that and henceforward come up with inventions to stop the climate catastrophe and give our planet a chance to recover. As far as I’m concerned, that may include an invention that ensures that fewer people are born, instead of more being killed.

BG 229 – Inspiration

As a writer (and also as an artist, designer and maker) you are often asked:
‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’ or ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’
As if there is some obscure website, a hidden beach, or an inconspicuous supermarket where you can ‘get’ inspiration and ideas.

At first, I was puzzled by such questions.
What do you mean, where do I get my inspiration from? It just IS there and has always been there. Isn’t that the case with other people, then? For as long as I can remember, my (un)consciousness has been filled with all kinds of creative ideas that demand to be worked out at some point, for example into a short story, an essay, or a poem. I don’t have to ‘get’ my inspiration somewhere.

I think writers are mostly perceptive people, who read a lot and who are interested in a lot of things. Who use their senses well and take in a lot of the world around them. Who see the humor or, for example, the wonder in small events that other people barely pay attention to. Who live consciously and who love language. And because I don’t have a very good memory, I regularly make a note about something I think I might want to write about one day. Or I come across a web page about a topic that I ‘want to do something with someday’ and …

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BG 225 – Clap for yourself

Lately, I’ve noticed something special when I’m watching, for example, a quiz on TV.
As soon as someone has won a round of the quiz, or the whole quiz, and the other attendees clap for her or him, the person in question simply claps along.
Apparently, that clapping is contagious and the winner automatically participates, instead of receiving the praise with a grateful nod or smile.
Why applaud yourself?
Do they have no idea that the applause is meant for them, and just mindlessly follow the rest, like a herd animal?
Or do they consciously choose to clap for themselves?
Am I the only one who thinks that’s a little strange?

BG 223 – Virtual Reality

Virtual reality, now almost exclusively linked to computers, due to rapidly advancing automation, is in reality as old as mankind. Virtual means fictional, imaginary, imagined – and you don’t really need a computer for that. When we had learned how to make fire and our distant ancestors told each other stories at bedtime about their own experiences and dreams and those of their ancestors, both the storytellers and their listeners used their imaginations to see before them and to empathize with what was conveyed with words. In rituals, shared feelings and interconnectedness were celebrated and strengthened.

Today, we mainly use our imagination while reading books and stories. As we take in the printed text, we create images, smells, sounds and other sensations in our minds. Recently, research has shown that the parts of the brain that normally light up on a scan with running, shouting, laughing, friendship and sexuality, for example, also light up when we only read about them. Apparently, we are able to experience things almost in real life in our imagination. Unfortunately, this is the case for fewer and fewer people.

Due to the lightning-fast development of automation, we still live with our bodies in the natural world, but with our heads a large part of the time in the virtual computer world. Our phones and other screens provide us with an abundance of ready-made, short, fast, and addictive stimuli, preventing us from concentrating on anything for long periods of time. Of course, this new world is very attractive, but it is a pity that we hardly read anymore. Because by reading books and stories and therefore by using our imagination, we learn valuable skills that we need in our lives. Such as: empathy, putting things into perspective, non-virtual communication, standing up for ourselves, care for our living environment, self-care, satisfaction, being able to be alone, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and resilience.

BG 202 – Tons

What about that ton again?
What is it? What does it measure again? And how much does it measure again?
Let’s get it straight…

When talking about weight, a Dutch ton (metric ton) is equal to one thousand kilograms (often abbreviated as kilo or kg).
So: 1 ton = 1.000 kg.
That sounds simple, but from an international perspective it is somewhat more complicated.

The weight unit ‘ton’ can have different meanings in English (lbs = pounds):
1 ton = 1 ‘short ton’, US = 2,000 lbs = 907,18 kg
1 ton = 1 ‘long ton’, UK = 2,240 lbs = 1.016 kg
1 tonne = 1 ‘metric ton’ = 2,204.62 lbs = 1.000 kg

So what about that short and long ton? …

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BG 186 – Artificial Intelligence

No AI (Artificial Intelligence) was used in the making of this Blog.

Everything you see and read on this Blog was made by me and is the result of my imagination, my creativity, my thoughts, my feelings, my intelligence, my knowledge, my individuality, my memories, my experience, my attentiveness, my fallibility, my sense of language, my talent, my effort, my faltering concentration, my perfectionism and my perseverance.

I have not illegally copied any sources of knowledge, violated any copyrights, or committed any intellectual theft (plagiarism) for creating this Blog.

Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is nothing more than super-fast reproduction and combination of other people’s data. Data that in many cases has been obtained illegally.
I don’t think intelligence is the right word for that.
What it lacks are empathy, (various levels of) awareness, conscience, feeling, morals, memory, self-correction, interaction, and everything else that distinguishes us humans from super-fast copy and combine software.

I wonder: …

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BG 178 – Multiple lives

Everyone is free to believe what she or he (or they) wants and everyone else is free to agree or disagree.
Life knows no absolute and unchangeable truths, no matter how much we try to capture it in our stories and firm beliefs.
Having said that, I am of the opinion that some people have misunderstood the subject of multiple lives.
You cannot convince me that there will be other lives for me after my death.
Not as a human being and not as another living being, such as a favorite animal.
And it just seems pointless to me if such a next life is all about punishment or reward for the current one.
The shelf life of a living being is finite.
I’m more into science and not into wishful thinking, also where my own life is concerned. When I die, it’s over for me, and that’s fine.
I also don’t like the pseudo-science that would have us believe that our ‘soul’ is a tangible thing, that *poof* leaves our body at death and that, weighing about 300 grams, then makes its way to a newborn next living being to live on in and learn new lessons in.
No, I think that, like all other living beings …

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BG 176 – Weather experts

If there is one thing we can say with certainty about the weather, especially in small countries with a temperate maritime climate like the Netherlands and Belgium, it is that it is unpredictable.
It is therefore admirable that meteorologists, like other deities, inspire great confidence in their followers, though they are seldom correct in their predictions.
You would expect that their constant blunders would cost them their jobs, but nothing could be further from the truth: they remain as popular as ever.
So is the weather forecast, which despite, or precisely because of, all its misses remains a never-ending source of conversation for many people.

BG 165 – Name confusion

I suspect that I am the only Bea Graansma in the world.
And also the only Bregtje Graansma.

Bregtje is my baptismal name. But in my country of birth, the Netherlands, there are two kinds of official first names: your baptismal name(s) and your possible ‘call name’
A short summary of my birth announcement: ‘Born: Bregtje Graansma, we’ll call her Bea’. That’s how it was being solved.
In the 43 years that I lived in the Netherlands, I always used the first name Bea.
Only in very exceptional cases, those where I needed an extract from the population register, did I have to use my baptismal name.

I feel like a Bea. But the name Bregtje does remind me of …

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BG 162 – Fertility

All over the world, sperm counts in men are rapidly declining. That is, if you forget for a moment that it is a sign that men are also generally becoming unhealthier, good news!
After all, our planet is overpopulated and we want to do something about it. But we can’t play god and decide who can or can’t have children and how many.
So, hooray, men are becoming less fertile en masse!
With a bit of luck, this will also boost the emancipation of women!
After all, many women really do have better things to do than be pregnant, bear children, and change diapers.
And, let’s face it, most women never had the inténtion to get married to, let alone spend the rest of their lives with, that man who accidentally managed to get them pregnant.

BG 161 – Detour

Belgians claim they are ‘born with a brick in their stomach’. By which they mean that they are always building, rebuilding and renovating. This applies not only to their houses, but also to their roads.
Despite this, the Belgians seem unable to make proper roads.

I come from the Netherlands, where the roads are much better and where there is also a safe and extensive cycle path network. That is why many Belgians who enjoy cycling or motorcycling regularly travel to the Netherlands. As a Dutch person, the deplorable state of the Belgian roads therefore strikes me even more.

We, for example, live in a street that is covered with cobblestones (in Dutch also referred to as ‘children’s heads’). They are probably intended to slow down traffic, after all, the maximum speed here is 30 km/h, but that doesn’t help, because …

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BG 152 – Women are better

Women are better!
No, not better than men (just as men are not better than women), but women are better, much better, than they think they are.
Most men overestimate themselves, while most women underestimate themselves. And that perpetuates the imbalance of power between men and women.
If women realized what talents they have, what capabilities they have and what their possibilities are, they could give their lives more meaning, find more fulfillment, be more independent and happier.
They could stop self-effacing, keeping quiet for the sake of peace, and putting up with unfair situations, whether private, social, or at work.
Women are better, much better, than they realize.

(I am aware that not every person feels that they fit into the male or female category and I respect that, but that is not the subject here.)

BG 148 – Populist politicians

The political debate was once a – combative – exchange of points of view and arguments of representatives of the people in order to reach agreement in the interests of the people. Nowadays it seems to be a stage for megalomaniac narcissists to present themselves to their followers.

Populists are people who manipulate you (frighten and reassure you) for their own sake and for their own popularity, through lies. Fortunately, democracy doesn’t end when populist leaders tell untruths. Most of the politicians and journalists just keep doing what they are supposed to do and keep refuting. This also gives the people the opportunity to pierce through shameless inaccuracies.

It is not out of malice that people …

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BG 136 – Music and Time

One of the reasons we humans love music so much is that it gives us a grip on time. The time that often makes us feel powerless, by flying by relentlessly. We grasp it with music, connect it to tones, to rhythms and to melodies. We give structure to time and arrange it so that we can enjoy it. The basis of music is usually a fundamental rhythm, much like our heartbeat, or, on a grander scale, the coming and going of hours, days and seasons. That rhythm, that variable beat, dictates the tempo and keeps track of time for us. Precisely because life is so fleeting, we naturally like patterns and repetitions, recognizable rhythms and arrangements and unexpected deviations from them. Music influences our heartbeat and triggers emotions in us. We can influence our perception of time with the help of music and shape it to our own pleasure. And, unlike clock time, which is already behind us before we are aware of it, we can experience music over and over again whenever we want.

BG 130 – Curb our greed

What if we stop producing and consuming a lot of unnecessary products? Those products that are produced only to keep the economy going and to fill the infinitely deep pockets of the rich industrialists. Especially disposable products.
What if we focus on what we really need and produce that in the most sustainable way possible?
That we make considerations: better a little more of this and a little less of that.
On the Earth’s surface that we now use to produce meat, especially beef, we can grow a hundred times as much plant-based food.
That way we also remove a lot of carbon from the air, instead of adding more to it.
We don’t necessarily have to become vegetarians, after all we are omnivores by nature, but a few days a week without meat will do us no harm, if we make sure that we get the nutrients we miss that way through other products.
What if we strive for a circular economy, in which waste materials form the raw materials for the production of other, sustainable products?
In which we give away what we no longer need to …

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BG 126 – Love for language

Many people don’t like to read anymore.
Books, long texts, never mind!
Give us passive entertainment
and short summaries.
TLDNR (too long, did not read).

We prefer to be on social media,
we prefer gaming, we watch movies,
we stream series.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But…
we don’t (like to) read anymore.
As a result, we lose language skills
and our pleasure in reading.

We are falling behind …

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BG 123 – Birthday

Today I turned 58 years old.
You can’t call that middle age with the best will in the world, unless you believe I’m going to live to be 116 years old.
I am already well over halfway and already quite worn out, but I have learned many wise lessons.
That we ourselves determine the meaning of our lives, for example.
That we should not let other people determine who we are and what we should do with our lives.
That life consists of time, that it is finite, that it seems to go faster and faster.
That we ourselves also consist of time and are therefore finite. That this finiteness makes life worth living, makes it precious.
And that we can give meaning to that fleeting time by …

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BG 121 – The power of the (old) white men

The fact that straight white men – including those who should have retired long ago – are mostly in charge of our society is not (as they themselves and also many women believe) due to their superior brains and their superior strength and ingenuity. On the contrary.
The fact that white men think they are automatically entitled to all top positions in politics, in companies, in clubs, and at home, is because they are, well, pretty stupid.
And they are thick-skinned.

There are many things that (old) white men don’t realize.
For example, that women are generally better at leadership and at dividing their attention over several important matters at the same time.
That women are better at detecting and analyzing problems, at finding creative solutions, at choosing the most effective and efficient solution, and at planning its implementation.
That women are less inclined to aggression, violence and to pushing through their own opinion, and that they listen better. That they not only listen to what is being said, but also to what is not spoken aloud.
That women attach less importance to…

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BG 116 – Tolerance

We humans tell each other stories.
In fact: our civilization is made up of storytelling.
Unfortunately, the stories about everything that is wrong with the world are constantly and enthusiastically told and shared, while the stories about everything that is pretty and going well with the world receive much less attention.
Because apparently, we get less excited about them.
We pay more attention to what makes us angry.

The result of that unrestrained anger is a culture in which people no longer understand the other, have no feeling for the past or context.
A culture in which groups of people quickly feel victimized.
Our collected stories, …

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BG 110 – Thoughts on the internet and social media

There is nothing inherently wrong with the internet and social media.
They are very useful and popular.

But because politics, education, healthcare and legislation always lag behind technological developments, especially since the exponential growth that is inherent to digitization, a number of things have been messed up.
– A handful of computer geeks have become absurdly rich with the introduction of the internet, online commerce and social media. It’s time we pump those extreme riches back into society. We could even use that money to solve climate problems and restore nature.
– That same handful of computer geeks have become far too powerful for lack of appropriate legislation. It is high time we gave that power back to our elected representatives.
– A large group of users of the internet and social media have inadvertently become addicted to dopamine kicks, addicted to shopping, victims of psychological problems and/or convinced of extreme and incorrect ways of thinking.

But now back to the technology.
The internet is a wonderful system that gives the majority of people access to almost all existing knowledge. We all benefit from that.
Social media were created to facilitate and revolutionize our social interaction. That also worked out well.
But not in the way we envisioned.

Guess what? …

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BG 36 – Wait a minute

Our life is very different from that of our ancestors.
Long live progress!
But since the introduction of automation, we have been exaggerating.
We confuse progress with consuming ever more and ever faster, and have lost sight of the limits of our physical and mental health, of the resilience of our environment and the exhaustion of our natural resources.

We are living faster than ever before …

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BG 32 – Dutch Directness

‘Hi, how are you? Where are you from?’
‘Do you have a boyfriend? No? A girlfriend?’
‘How old are you?’
‘Where do you live? Oh yes, that’s nice. I’d love to live there too.’
‘So, how much rent do you pay?’
‘Are you here on holiday? How long will you stay?’
‘Why are you friends with him?’
‘You’re late.’
‘You look great! Better than when I met you last week.’
‘Have you put on weight?’ …

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BG 27 – Books

I love books.
For as long as I can read, I have loved all kinds of books: fiction and non-fiction, novels, short stories, poetry, books in every genre, on every subject.

The public library in the town hall was one of my favorite places in my youth, with its hollow silence, disrupted by hesitant piano notes from the music school above it, and its typical dusty smell of books. …

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BG 14 – Yes you can

People often say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I can’t write.’
But is that really true?

Unless you have a physical disability that prevents you from moving the tip of a pen or pencil over a piece of paper, or from using the keyboard or mouse of a computer, you can draw and write!

Maybe the standards you set for yourself …

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