Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 15

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Saturday March 1, 2008 (idea, mortal, awareness, brain, evolution)

Awareness 4 continues from Feb. 29
Dawn - by Karasso When you look up the noun "mortal" in the Concise Oxford Dictionary it says :

mortal = mortal (especially human) being

A being that is going to die. But why "especially human", what does that mean ? A rather clumsy attempt it would seem to exclude animals.

The Greek philosophers (as I read in André Comte-Sponville's delightful "The Little Book of Philosophy") have a far better and very precise definition of the word :

mortal = a being who knows he is going to die

Here we have a clear distinction, all living beings die, but (presumably) only human beings actually know, are aware, throughout their lives, that they are going to die.
This of course is the defining characteristic of the human species. At the point in time at which he breaks out of the restricted awareness sphere of an animal, which thinks in terms of eating, mating, protecting his territory, (in other words his immediate needs), he becomes a true human being. For a human the dimension of time is extended to cover his entire life span, and expanding in conjunction with that are the dimensions of the wider world and universe around him.

It is precisely because of our wider awareness that we have started to observe, explore, discover, think, invent, create, to eventually reach the very point of development at which we are at this moment. All our achievements of the past have been possible because of our ever increasing awareness of the world, the universe and of ourselves.
This process represents in fact the evolution of our species. No wonder then that this process is primarily focusing on the further development of our awareness center, the brain, and is proceeding at a cracking pace, close to one and a half times faster than the average speed of evolution in general (according to the modern biologists of today).

But the birth and growth of this wider awareness has had, and still has, its growing pains. The wider awareness makes us at times better than animals, but at times too much worse than them. We see that in the news on TV and in papers on a daily basis. We have become human beings, but as yet have not reached the stage that we are truly humane (= "benevolent, compassionate, inflicting the minimum of pain").

Fear too has been a byproduct of our greater awareness. Fear (initially) of thunder, lightning, storms, and all the things we can not (or as yet do not) understand. So we created Gods to explain them (assigning them the same function as a patriarch, head of a family, but at an amplified scale), and who could punish or reward us according to our actions, behaviour.
Most of the fears have been resolved. The Gods too have reduced in number, but some are still there (although gradually receding in the Western world), holding us back from reaching our destiny : to become human in every sense of the word.
Awareness continues on March 3

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Sunday March 2, 2008 (diary, dogs, 5BX, travel)

Tin Tin and Kiku It must be one of the coolest summers on record this year. We had one really hot day a few weeks ago, but that was all. The rain has now largely retreated and it is sunny (just with the odd shower) but with a rather cool breeze. I am definitely getting in the mood of moving back up North into the warmer climate. I am also looking forward to seeing Jeroen, Lisa and my friends at the mango farm again. The road however will probably still be blocked by floods or swollen creeks here and there.

Also of course I am looking after the two dogs (Kiku and Tin Tin) while Doug is away in India. They are easy to look after. Overnight they are locked in the front veranda. At earliest light I let them out to do their business and also leave the front door open so they can come into the house later. There they usually end up on top of my bed, snoozing away while I do the same. The highlight of their day of course is feeding time. At around 5 pm they get their "VIP Gourmet Chicken with Vegetables and Eggs". A half inch slice of this delicious 4 inch thick sausage. They absolutely love it and excitedly jump up and down when I am preparing it.

My 5BX Exercises are coming along fine and I have climbed up to level C on Chart 1. It is most important, especially at the beginning, to proceed very slowly up the Chart so that you don't strain any muscles. I have done this so far and feel my whole body loosening up now. I only do Exercises 1 to 4 and have not started the mile walk yet, but that will start soon too.

I checked online today again for overnight accommodation in Singapore. I arrive on April 15 at about 4 am with Tiger Airlines and leave 19 hours later with Lufthansa to Frankfurt and Basel. I can't get in the Airport Transit Hotel (I had been looking forward to) so have to look for place outside and pay for 2 nights.
I think I will give this idea a miss and book an alternative flight with Jet Star. It will arrive at 19.00 hours in Singapore, ideal for my Lufthansa connection. Won't get my Tiger fare back but so be it. Live and learn.

I have started writing a few keywords behind each day's date heading on my blog pages. This alerts you in advance (before having to read through it) what the day's material is all about, so that you can skip topics in which you are not interested.

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Monday March 3, 2008 (awareness, belief, Peters Principle, Sinterklaas, bio, diary)

Awareness 5 continues from March 1
Awareness is multidimensional. Besides the dimensions of space and time it can include any or all of our senses, what we hear, we see, we smell, or what we feel on our skin. Some aspects of our awareness grow naturally, almost without effort, other aspects we have to work hard on to achieve.

For example I listened to music for almost 40 years without much increase of my general awareness of it. However during and after my 6 years of sustained study and practice at the Jazz College in Adelaide, my awareness level of music went through the roof. I could hear chord changes, which scales were being used, a microscopic sense of precise rhythmic time and pitch. When I listen to a concert I am sure I have a much greater awareness of what is going on than 99% of the audience.

When I am on the water with experienced sailors however I feel like a deaf and blind man. I have little idea of what the wind is doing, or the tide, the weather. Whereas the experienced sailor, even when not consciously focusing on it, will instinctively pick up even the slightest change in wind or weather, simply by the subtle change of motion of the boat or of a breath of wind he feels on the skin of his face. He too has gained this awareness level over a long learning curve and years of serious (usually competitive) sailing.

Your personal belief system (I include under this name all possible religions as well as agnostics and atheists) too is largely subject to the awareness you have of the world and universe around you and the way you see yourself in it. By deliberately broadening (enlarging) your awareness of these your belief system too will have room to grow.
In other words your belief system follows the Peters Principle :

it rises to the level of your ignorance, the extent of your awareness

Our understanding of the world around us will always be limited, as the true nature of the universe goes well beyond the limits of our human comprehension sphere of 3 dimensional space and time. Therefore your belief will be a reflection of your virtual world, just as my belief is a reflection of mine.
On this and some later entries I will describe my journey of awareness which have led to the belief I have right now. This of course is not necessarily my final position, because we continue to grow and change until the day we die.

Sinterklaas in Holland In Holland the first awareness and belief level you break through is as a 7 or 8 year old child. The belief in Sinterklaas ("St.Nicholas"). Sinterklaas arrives every year on his birthday (5 December) by steamboat from Spain, accompanied by one or more Zwarte Pieten ("Black Peters").
His task is to reward children who have been good (with sweets and presents), and punish those that have been bad (by putting them in de zak (large hessian bag carried by a Zwarte Piet).
This traumatic punishment is rarely dished out to a child, but an obliging school teacher is usually the subject (much to the delight of the children of course).
When I went to Primary school in Gorssel our whole school would march to a landing point on the river IJssel and await Sinterklaas' arrival there. It was a wonderful sight seeing him slowly steaming towards us on the boat. We all were of course very apprehensive about the Zwarte Piets with him. Once landed we all would march back in procession behind de Sint, who sat either on a white horse or was driven back to school in an open carriage.

The important demarcation line for us children was : did you still believe in Sinterklaas or not. This wonderful level of feeling "grown up" was usually reached at age 7 or 8. And once over the line, you were of course actively involved in maintaining and if possible even strengthening the belief of the younger children. "Careful what you say to him. He still believes in Sinterklaas!" we would whisper to each other.

Many years later, when I was doing my National service in Assen, my neighbour asked me to act as Sinterklaas for his children. He had hired a Sinterklaas costume complete with white beard for the occasion. In the afternoon I rode on my motorbike to Cafe van Houten to put on the costume. Of course I had to get also into the right spiritual mood and Cafe owner Jan van Houten helped and joined me with this part of my preparation by means of several beers.
Ramen with Karage chicken When I felt ready I crossed the canal via the foot bridge, my beard flapping about in the breeze and walked towards our street. I thought it would be a good idea to get in some practice before my final performance and knocked on several house doors along the way, causing great joy and happiness as I threw around plenty of sweets and peper noten ("pepper nuts" = small brown hard spherical cookies).
By the time I arrived at my neighbours house I was in supreme spirit and delighted my neighbours and children with my performance. In due course I walked back to the Cafe where Jan debriefed me extensively, with of course plenty more beers.
The next afternoon returning home in Army uniform on my motorbike the children all along the way waved and shouted to me "Hallo Sinterklaas!". I must have helped quite a few children across that important demarcation line that day.

Awareness continues on March 6.

Today I did book my Jetstar Darwin-Singapore flight with 'Flight Centre'. Babette cooked some delicious ramen (Japanese soup) and deep fried Karage chicken pieces for dinner. We talked and drank all night (she wine, I sake and Cinzano), with a hangover to match the next morning.

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Tuesday March 4, 2008 (bio, my mother's birthday, pre war, politics, jewelry shop)

With my mother, 1939 It is my mother's birthday today. Else Johanna Erna Martha Hicken was born in 1909 in Wismar, on the Baltic Sea in Germany. Her mother died young when Else was only a teenager, but her father soon remarried again. The relationship with her stepmother was never perfect but they both managed I think to keep it fairly good.
My mother grew up in the middle of the euphoria of the rise of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. The entire country (in stark contrast with most other European nations) was in high spirits. The economy was booming and there was much emphasis on rebuilding National pride (lost after WW1), through communal and National activities and sport.
My mother was captain of the local girls hockey team and traveled to and competed in various competitions throughout the country. She really enjoyed that. My mother did not join the Nazi party but was, like most, enthusiastic about the positive achievements made during those pre war years.

After my father died (in 1981) my mother kept telling me on a number of occasions that she had been the political on of the pair, while my father had followed her because of his romantic love for her. Although there was something in that, I don't believe this was entirely true.
Before my father met my mother, he lived and worked for two years in London, followed by two years in Paris. He then went on to work in Germany where he met my mother. The purpose of these travels was to develop both business and foreign language kills, the latter being essential in a small country like the Netherlands.

During these years he must undoubtedly have observed the enormous difference in mood, attitude and economic development, between Germany and the other two nations. I am therefore quite sure that he must have been sympathetic to the German policies from his own personal view point rather than for romantic loyalty to his wife.

That said however, when my parents started their jewelry business in Zutphen (where small town narrow mindedness was rife) he was very soon confronted, nagged and pestered by several other merchants in his street who wanted to know on which side he was on.
Bricks were thrown through his shop window and my father then, furious and intent on making a big statement joined the Dutch Nazi party, the NSB (National Socialistische Bond). This I firmly believe was for 95% a show of his love and loyalty to his German wife, and I believe he never ever regretted that from this point of view.
(Most Furstners are by nature typically not much interested in politics, let alone inclined to join a political party, so my father's action from this perspective is highly unusual.)

My father never intended to gain from his political decision, it always was a purely idealistic (or rather emotional motivated ?) one, and he never did. On the contrary. Immediately after joining the NSB he lost a large number of his regular customers, and bricks kept flying through his shop window at regular intervals. But he stayed loyal to his position and to his wife throughout the war.

My mother's father, my German Grandfather, was a watch maker by profession, and had a flourishing jewelry shop in Wismar. My mother, in the years before she married, worked in the shop and was well qualified and highly experienced in the business.
It was this that led my father to the path of jewelry himself. When they started their business in Zutphen it was my mother who had all the expertise. My father did the required courses through the Jewelers and Goldsmiths College in Schoonhoven and in due course received his qualification.

I was born in 1937 in the private quarters above the shop in the Beukerstraat. But soon we moved from there to the Coerhoornsingel at the outskirts of town, where my sister Wivica was born in 1940. I now believe that this move was primarily made for safety reasons. My father and his mother (my Dutch Grandmother) were building a house in the country, Martinshof and as soon that was ready (in 1942) we moved to there. It was paradise.
My parents never went back to live or work in Zutphen again. After my father's release from the concentration camp (in 1949) he started Atelier Martinshof, converting the Martinshof garage into a goldsmith atelier. My parents lived and worked at Martinshof for the rest of their lives.

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Wednesday March 5, 2008 (bio, Martinshof)

Martinshof I have managed to get half a dozen photos together to give you an idea of our family home Martinshof. All of the images are photographs I took with my new Nikon Coolpix camera from old photos either Babette or I had kept. So they are not the best quality, but at least we now do have a permanent record of them this way.

The Furstners have had a centuries old custom that the oldest son of a generation is either called Johannes Theodorus or Johannes Martinus. The two name combinations alternate from generation to generation. My Grandfather was a Johannes Martinus, my father a Johannes Theodorus, I am, like my Grandfather a Johannes Martinus again, and my son is, like his Grandfather (and my father) a Johannes Theodorus.
My parents wanted to keep the custom in tact but also wanted to give me their own preferred choice of name, so they added Michael at the end of it (Johannes Martinus Michael). Antien and I had the same idea so we called our son Johannes Theodorus Jeroen.

My Grandfather died before my parents got married, so I never knew him of course. When my father and Grandmother built the house near Gorssel in 1942 they decided to name it, in memory of my Grandfather, "Martinshof". So he lived there in spirit rather than in the flesh.
After WW2 my father decided to start his goldsmith atelier there and it was logical to call that Atelier Martinshof. In due course when the business became a wholesale business for jewelry and wedding rings the business name became simply Martinshof.
I am therefore the only real "Martin" who ever lived there, and perhaps it was therefore quite appropriate that I lived there again for the final few years with my mother (until 1983), before both the business and the house were sold.

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