Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 21

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Tuesday April 1, 2008 (history, bio, diary)

As children we used to chant :

"Op 1 April verloor Alva zijn Bril"

On April 1 (the Spanish Duke of) Alva lost his "glasses"

In Dutch "bril" means (eye) glasses, but the rhyme is a pun on Den Briel ("Brielle" on the map, 25km W of Rotterdam), the second city the Spanish lost 400 years ago in our 80 Year War with that country. The conquest to free our country from the Roman Catholic Spanish was led by William of Orange who later became the first Dutch King. His dynasty has continued to this day as one of his ancestors Queen Beatrix rules our country now.

Leiden William's first victory was the liberation of Leiden on 3 October 1574. This day is still celebrated each year in Leiden. William kicked the nuns out of their nunnery which he then gave to the city as the first Dutch University. I graduated there as a Doctorandus in Geology, Petrology and Geochemistry 389 years later in the very same building.
Our present Queen Beatrix too graduated there at about the same time, as it has been the custom that the oldest Royal of each generation studies at Leiden. Younger offsprings are unbiased educated at other Dutch Universities.

William's initial Kingdom consisted of the two coastal provinces North and South Holland only. This is why our country is still often called after them ("Holland"). Gradually 9 other provinces joined the new Kingdom : Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland (where I come from), Utrecht, Brabant, Zeeland and Limburg. Our country The Netherlands ("the low countries", "De Lage Landen", "Les Pays-Bas", "Die Niederlande") therefore now consists of 11 provinces in total. (Note that the pink on the map are the areas below sea level.)

Today in Darwin is a lovely day again. I see my GP who recommends I just rest the shoulder and see how things improve, which they are doing already. Lunch at Bar Zushi where I take some photos, then to Stokes Hill Wharf for a coffee and my midday read of "The Selfish Gene" (fascinating). I enroll for a Photoshop Course at the Seniors College. Their third term starts early August, which is great because I am then just back from Europe.

I also contact the Darwin Repertory Club and offer my (free) services as improvisor over any play or reading they may perform when I get back. They seem enthusiastic about the idea. I much prefer to play in a situation where people actually listen too your music rather then providing just background music. Also creating improvised musical support for a play or reading is always challenging and much more interesting than going through the good old repertoire each time.

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Wednesday April 2, 2008 (awareness, bio)

Awareness 11 continues from March 22
Richard Dawkins, in his book "The God Delusion", urges again and again to "raise your consciousness". I totally agree with him, except that I prefer to use the words "expand your awareness". This to me reflects something multi-dimensional, rather than an (inferred) vertical only "raising". Perhaps this partly reflects my introvert nature which prefers to "feel" things all around me rather than observe them.
Ageless Australian outback I think of my awareness as something that stretches out in different directions and on various time scales. As a former geologist the time dimension has of course always been with me an important element. I try to be aware of four different time dimensions in which I place myself.

  1. my own life span
  2. my ancestors, going back as far as the 400 year old records allow
  3. Western Civilisation, especially as preserved in Europe
  4. geological life span of the earth and further back to the birth of our Universe

Good thinking 99 ! My forthcoming trip to Germany and Europe is especially aimed at nurturing my awareness of levels 2 and 3. My ancestors (as I mentioned before) were originally foresters in Austria and South Germany, and I want to connect with their past environment and spirit through walks in the Black Forest, Bavaria and Austria.   My travels through Europe will of course also immerse me in the wider Western Civilisation through its architecture, arts and ancient historical settings.

Living in Europe however (I suspect and feel when I am there) can be a bit of an awareness trap. You virtually live within a time box, its walls consisting of the extend of Western culture, only a few millennia old. I find it very hard to think beyond these dimensions on that Continent, and therefore largely miss the 4th level of my awareness when I am there.
For this I need to travel through Australia, not along its coastal fringes, but deep into the interior. Here I find the elements which bring me closest to the earliest times of the earth's existence and which give me a sense of awareness beyond this point to the earlier and wider Universe.

Kalgoorlie outback What are these elements ? It are the vastness and millions of years old mature flat land forms, which make one feel to be on a different planet altogether. This is (more often than not) over span by a very dry cloudless bright light blue sky which appears to reach far up into the Universe.
One can reach even further back into the past when travelling through the outback of Western Australia, through the so called (geological) Greenstone belt (rich in gold, nickel, copper, etc.), which stretches NW and SE from the main mining town Kalgoorlie.
Within this belt the timeless land surface is a patch work, rich in colours - consisting of low ridges of black and purple ironstone band formations, flanked by greenstones, punctuated by sparkling white quarz blows, with flat regions in between of dark red soils, white salt lakes and low green and grey bushes.
These rock exposures and the surrounding rubble represent some of the oldest rocks on earth, up to 3.6 billion years old. To hold such a single bit of rock in your hand is, to the aware person, an awesome experience.

For anybody who has not had the experience and comparison of both the European and Outback Australian environments it may be hard to imagine what it feels like.
The best metaphor to think of is perhaps the difference between being inside your home and outside in your garden or on a walk through nature. Inside you are surrounded by furniture, photos, decorations, etc. Apart from the pot plants and flowers all man made. But as soon as you go outside, surrounded by nature's environment you feel entirely different.
So come outside, to outback Australia, and get a sense of the early earth and Universe we live in. Or, if you have done that already, go inside, to Europe, and experience the rich culture of Western Civilisation. The two experiences complement one another and will substantially enhance and broaden your awareness.

You may of course add or substitute any other human civilisation to the "level 3" awareness I listed above. That is a personal choice one should make. But being a European myself and mindful of its dominant role in shaping all aspects of the human society we have today I consider the Western Civilisation crucial to focus on.
Awareness continues on April 9

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Thursday April 3, 2008 (diary)

Yesterday I moved to a friend's place, Paul Hedrick from the Arafura Bridge Club. We always get on well and he generously offered me a room before my departure to Germany. This gives my son Jeroen and his partner Lisa the privacy they should have while going through their somewhat traumatic process of an IVF program.

with bridge partner Freda Today I bought some nice suitcases for the journey, had lunch as usual at Bar Zushi and read more on Darwinian Evolution while relaxing at Stokes Hill Wharf. I get a sniff of Richard Dawkins' suggestion that perhaps we (as human species) are at the dawn of an entirely new direction in the evolution of life. His idea fits in well with something I have been munching over for a few months now and will write down in a forthcoming Awareness segment shortly.

For dinner I drive to the Palmerston Hub Club, where I play a weekly bridge competition with Freda, one of my bridge partners. The organiser, Betty Mills, is there already. She is a few years older than me, still very active and a life time bridge enthusiast who still travels each year to numerous tournaments throughout Australia and New Zealand. She is glad to see me again and we have dinner together before getting things organised for the evening. Many members are away at present so we have only two and a half tables, but the evening is most enjoyable all the same. After a final drink I return home at about midnight.

I had not received any reply from the Hotel Zum Schwarzen Kreuz in Altenahr in the Ahr valley. So Wivica phoned them and booked on my behalf for 7 nights there (April 20-26). Sounds like a great deal. Only Euro 33 per night for a single room with shower, toilet, TV and including breakfast and a 3 course dinner. The Hotel is recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide and I trust them to give good advise.
My other Hotel, Sankt Maximillian in Bernkastel-Kues on the Mosel river, has confirmed my stay there for 7 nights (May 2-9).

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Friday April 4, 2008 (diary)

Dry in the morning but some heavy showers in the afternoon. After my Bar Zushi lunch I drive to my bank in Coolalinga to transfer some money to Germany and get some cash. I pick up the mail from my Virginia PO Box. It includes my new tencel jeans from the Outrigger Mens shop in Mooloolaba which fit well (thank you Prue).

At the mango farm where I camped everybody is working, so I can't help but join Andrew briefly with a paint brush. Margaret and Brian are cleaning the tiles inside the new house, now almost ready for grouting, and David Jones is riding the lawn mower around the property cutting the grass underneath the mango trees. It is a happy gang, in due course to be expanded by a few more friends. I will probably be the last one back on the farm on August 1.

with Babette and Jeroen, 1976 Then back to Darwin to have a few drinks with my son Jeroen.
We have a good talk. I am a lucky man with two wonderful children and I am very proud of them both.
Their attitude to life is making an impact amongst those around them socially as well as in business. Both Jeroen and Babette combine a great generosity of spirit with patience and a wisdom well beyond their present age.

Back at my host's home Paul has cooked dinner tonight, grilled snapper using various herbs, which is quite delicious. I am in bed early with two new books I bought, Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy. I just love the way these two authors write. Their language is so flowing and beautiful. Good relaxation reading for in between the heavier stuff.

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Saturday April 5, 2008 (diary, food, concept, history)

Staff of Bar Zushi A quiet, nice sunny day today. I feel relaxed, my left shoulder is slowly improving. I do my usual round of Bar Zushi and the Stokes Hill Wharf. Talking to one of the waitresses at Bar Zushi (the tall one in the photo) about somen noodles she tells me to sprinkle grated fresh ginger over the somen. That sounds like a good addition and I must try it out. So I buy a jar of ground ginger. I am not sure if this is the right stuff as it is very fine and I imagine that courser grained grated ginger would provide a better texture. We will find out.

There is an enormous lag time between new ideas and discoveries being made and the acceptance of them and their logical consequences by the general public.   It is great to have these new ideas presented in readable form by authors like Brian Greene, Richard Dawkins and others. This hopefully will help to speed up the process of "raising the consciousness" (Dawkins) of humanity to a level in line with the reality of modern discoveries and thinking. Still I imagine it will take hundreds of years to shed our old belief systems (so embedded in our cultures) and become truly modern humans.
Shedding the old is frightening of course, as it means leaving behind, or at least very significantly modifying, the old cosy reassuring ideas about a benevolent God and a hereafter. But one must move forward in order to grow.

Failing to do so can have its consequences, as I read in Geoffrey Blainey's A Short History of the World. The Chinese culture was for thousands of years well up with, if not in front of, the Western culture. However their largely inward looking focus kept them chained to the old belief that the earth was flat until into the 1500s. This put them way behind the West which had shed this idea decisively well before that time. Columbus and others tested and proved the round earth theory and in the process discovered and conquered the World.

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Copyright © 2008 Michael Furstner