Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 19

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Friday March 21, 2008 (bio, trees)

Cherry tree in neighbour's farm

I love trees. That seems strange perhaps, as I am such a restless person, moving around all the time, never staying long at one place. Trees are the opposite, grounded at one spot for hundreds of years. Perhaps the wind, blowing through their branches, twigs and leaves, gives them a sense of movement. That is, if they do have some sort of sense at all.   But then of course, my forester ancestors have established this connection with trees for me.

I have climbed in trees ever since I was a young boy, right through until the end of High school, perhaps even Uni days.   The first tree I climbed was when about 5 at the Coerhoornsingel in Zutphen. Diagonally opposite our house was a small grassy depression, a tiny park along the river Berkel. In the middle of the depression was a pine Christmas tree. Its branches reached right to the ground and I climbed in that.
Later at Martinshof I climbed many trees, mainly large oaks. Also a chestnut tree in which I built a hut, reached by a Tarzan movies like rope ladder which I had made myself. Hanging from branches we swung and jumped from branch to branch, like in the movies.
Our neighbours, the farm of Van der Mei, on the opposite of the dirt road ("Fliederweg") had a wild cherry tree in the middle of their meadow. In summer we spent hours in there eating the yellow-red cherries.

These days I just look at the trees. Australia is a country full of exotic trees I love. Some bloom in bright colours of blue, red, yellow or orange. Others have such powerfully expressive shapes, like the pandanas, boabs and blackboy trees. Most of the trees are hardwood and their trunk and branches survive for ages after the tree has actually died.

A most impressive one of these dead trees I spotted when traveling around Australia. I was driving down the West side of the Eyre Peninsula, and about 50km before Port Lincoln, noted on my left the rising slope of a small range. Slightly up from the bottom of this rise stood a magnificent dead tree, ash-ivory in colour with branches, reaching in grotesque gestures like a dozen arms up to the sky, all inclined slightly to the East. I will never forget this tree, and the thought occurred to me there and then :

This is how we remember our dead. In life we see them as we deal with them on a daily basis, without much in depth thought for most of the time. But once they have gone, we remember their specific personality characteristics in a much clearer, starker (almost cartoon like) perspective, and suddenly recognise the contributions they made.

With trees it is the same. During their life their true character is obscured by their twigs and leaves. But once dead these fall away and the tree's true nature comes to the fore, plain to see for all of us.

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Saturday March 22, 2008 (concept, awareness, compassion, ethics, religion)

Awareness 10 continues from March 16
The evolution of life on earth has largely progressed through one simple natural process :

survival of the fittest

A species that adapts well to the environment prevailing at the time flourishes and develops. A species that struggles gradually declines and disappears. This rule also applies within a single species itself. The stronger members will dominate and set the trend for future growth, weaker members decline and die off.

Sunset over the Indian ocean With the emergence of us, the human species, on earth (and our increasing awareness of the world and wider environment around us), this basic but rather ruthless rule of survival does not quite agree with our dawning and gradually increasing humane inclination.
It has therefore been (and still is) in our nature to somewhat modify it, soften its edges so to speak - primarily within our species, but increasingly towards other species (like animals, plants, trees) as well - through our notions of compassion and morality (ethics).

Here is how the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau has defined these :

Compassion : "Do good to yourself with as little possible harm to others."

Morality :

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

These are concepts which by no means have been fully realised by us in this world. But it are goals to strive for, for this how we ultimately will define ourselves as true human beings.
Many philosophers (as well as others) have pointed out that Religion is not the foundation of ethics, morality. It is rather the other way around : ethics provide the foundation for Religion. Religion of course has been a successful vehicle spreading morality over time and through large region of the world to a wide audience. But (in due course) it has also started to misuse and corrupt the very principle of morality by giving it a selfish slant and using it as an instrument of crowd control :

"We know you are suffering and have a miserable life,
"but be good in this life and you will go to Heaven, (be reborn in a higher class, a higher human being)"

"on the other hand if you do not behave you will go the Hell, (be reborn in a lower class , or as a monkey)"

A believer who respects ethics merely in the hope of Heaven or fear of Hell is not virtuous, but simply selfish and prudent. As Immanuel Kant has expressed it :

"An action is good only on condition that it does not depend on the result expected from that action."

I personally believe that most members of a formal religion these days are so to speak "in good faith". But those carrot and stick are inevitably always in one's mind.
In this regard the conscious atheist has an undeniable advantage. He does not believe in a hereafter or in any reward or punishment for his actions. When he does good he is therefore more likely to do it in the right spirit as defined by Kant.

The various quotes included in this section are derived from The Little Book of Philosophy by André Comte-Sponville. As I have mentioned earlier in this Blog it is a delightful book which I wholeheartedly recommend to you.

Awareness continues on April 2

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Sunday March 23, 2008 (bio, diary)

Easter in Newcastle, 1967 It is Easter Sunday today. When we were children the Easter Bunny (my father) would always hide Easter eggs in the garden. My sister, brother and I would each be allocated our own patch in the garden to look for them. One year at Martinshof when we caught my Dad in the act in the garden, we all protested loudly. It was not fair that he was allowed first at finding the eggs before us we complained.
Antien and I continued the tradition with our children and their friends. First in Newcastle (New South Wales), then in Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) and later also in Yonki (Papua New Guinea). From Yonki we traveled one Easter weekend with some friends to the (then) very end of the Highlands Highway, past Goroka and Mount Hagen to Mendi. Here we stayed in a motel and I hid the eggs in the garden there.

Today at ThreePonds we have a quiet day. In the morning I get some problem with my web site's URL address sorted out with iiNet over the phone. Great, it had been worrying me. In the afternoon Ian and Mary join us for some food and drinks. Mary made some delicious salads, sauces and breads which we all enjoy. Later I play a bit on the keyboard and Ian joins me with his harmonicas. All and all a pleasant day.

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Monday March 24, 2008 (diary, bio)

I go to my lockup to store a few things before I leave and get some more copies of my Scales & Arpeggios book to take with me. To my delight I find some more visual material for my Blog, including three lovely batik paintings by my mother. I have been looking for them for some time.

Owls - batik My mother Else was a very versatile artist and worked in a wide range of media over the years. During the first few years at Martinshof (1942-44), probably inspired and prompted by the surrounding corn fields, she worked with straw. Else was an expert at plaiting straw, a delightful skill common amongst many women in Germany and Scandinavia. More often than not the bath in our bathroom was filled with bunches of straw soaking in cold water for a few days. She made animals etc. from plaited straw but also rather figurines of un plaited straw material.

Later, during her time in the post WW2 concentration camps she made figurines from scraps of hessian. She continued with this back home at Martinshof after her release.   When I was a teenager Else got into batik painting of which I have included three items in my Blog Photo Gallery.
When we were in Australia she got into patchwork banners. She used to send several of them to us but I have no idea where they have gone after all these years. I believe Wivica still has some at her home and if so will photograph those too.
Glazing pottery When my mother started visiting us in Australia, first in Kalgoorlie (in 1970), then later with my father in Yonki and Canberra, she at once got together with Antien into making pottery. During these stays she learned as much as she could and soon was making things back home in Holland. By that time Else had retired from the Martinshof business and had a small studio at home in the garden where she was daily visited by a few children who loved making things together with my mother.

After my father's death she moved to a townhouse in the village of Gorssel, opposite the new premises of the Martinshof business I had sold by that time. We converted the garage into a lovely studio complete with kiln. Unfortunately in her final five years my mother suffered a mental setback, requiring my sister Wivica to look after her. This prevented her from making complicated things. Much frustrated she resorted to the only thing she was still capable of, knitting simple scarves in a variety of colours. As mentioned earlier in this Blog, after her funeral in 1989 we gave everybody one of her scarves, mine is green and blue. I still have got it.

Wednesday I will start driving up North to Darwin, a distance of 3,500 kms. I promissed myself to take it easy this time and take about 5 days to get there. My Blog entries may therefore not be quite as regular over the next week or so, we will see.

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Tuesday March 25, 2008 (diary, food)

Paté de fois gras with truffles I start packing up and say my good byes at the Surf Club.
I have not visited Pru at The Outrigger men shop in Mooloolaba for a while so decide to go and check it out before leaving. I usually buy there something every year. They have a great woolen sweater and dark blue Gazman tencil jeans, just right for the Black Forest, where they had 15 cm (6 inches) snow this weekend.

We have booked for dinner at the The French Room Restaurant in Woombye tonight (07 5442 1511). Babette is shouting me a farewell meal there. She manages to get home from work relatively early and brings some great news, so we are in good spirits as we arrive at the restaurant.

The French Room, WoombyeJo the maitre d' welcomes us at the door and I see Erik van Alphen the chef already busy in the kitchen. All week we have been looking forward to the entree we already decided on, paté de fois gras with truffles. Well we are not disappointed, they prove to be absolutely magic. As main course I have an entrecote with a delicious red wine sauce with wild mushrooms. The sauce is so good I ask for some bread to mop up my plate. Yes, of course, real French bread imported from France frozen at minus 80° Celsius !
I now find out why the French bread we buy in Australia never ever tastes as it should. The Australian flower, Erik tells us, is just not suitable to make this type of bread. And boy, can you taste the difference !!
After the meal Erik joins us for a glass of wine and a chat. He has settled down here after 38 years in the business, a Michelin 5 Star chef who worked with top chefs in Europe including Paul Beaucouse. I am not an expert on food, but this was really good tonight. We leave home very satisfied customers.

Early to bed tonight. I am on the road tomorrow.


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