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DIARY: 1999
63 entries (# 7-69)
(ARCHIVE)

Section Index


  1. A New Year
  2. Site Birthday
  3. Snow
  4. Purposes
  5. Empty Screen
  6. Perfect Moment / Meet Joe Black
  7. Handheld PCs
  8. Studying
  9. Night Sky / Nature
  10. Color of the Sky
  11. Potential of the Diary
  12. Basic Instinct Soundtrack
  13. The Snow Must Go On
  14. Pressures / Politics / Individuality
  15. Death
  16. Life
  17. Best Before...
  18. Sel. Remembrances, Emotionality
  19. Tiredn. / Our Cat / Emotionality
  20. Nature
  21. Purgatory
  22. Funeral / Religion / Death ..
  23. Not Setting the Alarm Clock ..
  24. To Lean Back and Relax
  25. Writing/Internet/Money
  26. Over-Population
  27. Death Penalty
  28. New Layout
  29. Violence / Strike Ag. Yugoslavia
  30. Chocolate Easter Bunnies
  31. Rain / Nature
  32. IMAX / Everest / Nature
  1. Stalinism / Yugoslavia II
  2. Driving / Speeding / Thinking
  3. Trying to Sleep / Clear. Head
  4. Dreams / Reality
  5. Spiders
  6. Remembrances / Dubbing
  7. Evening Sun
  8. Morning Sun
  9. Fear / Horror Movies
  10. Enthusiasm
  11. Language Courses
  12. Politeness
  13. After the Rain
  14. Depressive Moods
  15. Perfection
  16. Writer's Block
  17. Commemorating DeForest Kelley
  18. Commemorating Millennium
  19. The Dalai Lama
  20. Childhood / Middle Ages / Rome
  21. Goodbye Geocities
  22. Requiem for a Cat
  23. Loss
  24. Homosexuality & Discrimination
  25. Good/Bad Weather
  26. Dot Com Domains
  27. Communist China
  28. About the Redesign (V 9)
  29. Ten Years of Freedom
  30. Never
  31. Y2K

  What's Related  
  Subsequent Pages - Diary  
 






Entry # 7: Jan 1 1999 - A New Year

As a new year commences, we are compelled to look forward into the future - into this new year, still to be discovered. As I mentioned yesterday, such measurement of time is an artificial one. So apart from what our calendars tell us, there is no big difference between yesterday and today; what's today then, what's New Year's Eve then? The time the new year begins varies from town to town depending on the location, depending on the time zone. The new year had already started in Australia some time ago when I was still awaiting it. So what's the big deal?

And then, this is only a new year in regard to the Gregorian calendar: While this our culture using this calendar might be quite a dominating one, it is definitely not the only one. There are other calendars in use, and none of them is less right than ours. Thus the artificiality of this New Year is revealed again: It is just in our minds. But, and to repeat myself, that what is in our minds can influence us just as if it were 'real'; yeah, what's the difference? It being in our mind, it has become real. But with one exception: It is a personal experience not shared by everyone. That's the difference: There exist personal, individual realities; nothing like a common ground would hold true, just as a matter of simplification. You and I may agree that with today a new year has started, but both of us would not necessarily share the same thoughts on that phenomenon. Our perception and thus our reality are different.

Sometimes, beginning something new is the only way to get rid of something too antique. To begin anew doesn't mean to forget the old, it will mean to keep the old in mind and to try to make it better, make it possibly a bit more mature and a bit more enjoyable at the same time. Let old ideas grow into new light, let new experience be added to create a greater diversity and to finally get richer combinations.

PJK
January 1st, 1999







Entry # 8: Jan 8 1999 - Site Birthday

Yes, this site has now been on the internet for one year. And while being on-line, it has changed a lot, and it has grown into dimensions I wouldn't have dreamt of when I first thought of establishing a home page. This site grew from just sort of a nice little tidbit or gimmick into almost my primary occupation; it has given me new motivation and new perspectives. For while I am writing, I also am thinking - writing I understand as supporting thinking, not just as being the aftermath of it. Both actions depend on each other - thoughts progress while being transformed into writing.

I have had some changes of the layout during that time, now feeling quite comfortable with it. Concerning its history, you may check the Chronology. Right now, this site has received about 2060 hits; and subtracting my own visits to my site for testing it, there still remains quite an astonishing number of guests to this site, astonishing in regard to what I expected and what I have seen on other people's pages. But then, I also am longing for more visitors, and I hope anybody out there actually reads what I write. Hope floats. And some really seem to do read it: As I have gotten some mails already (not mentioning spam).

So, this site will continue to exist, it will be the realm of my interests and thoughts. So, this being the year before the new millennium (counting 2000 as the beginning, not 2001 - I'm aware of that), also this site will move into the next millennium. Another year, let's see what will happen!

PJK
January 8th, 1999







Entry # 9: Jan 12 1999 - Snow

It is snowing outside, just while I am now typing on my keyboard. With the window above me opened, I can smell it - there's a strange smell about snow, or about snowy landscapes: It is a fresh breeze, a very comforting and animating smell. Of course, here it doesn't snow that vividly and devastatingly as in Chicago these days; the temperature is relatively mild, too. But still it feels like winter, which is a very rare thing at this time of the year around Berlin.

I cannot help but feel happy as soon as I see snow; everything is touched and changed by it, everything suddenly looks calm, clean, peaceful - which is just the surface, for winter also means coldness and starving. But for us sitting in our warm homes, with the comfort a heating and a refrigerator and a supermarked provide us, winter has lost its cruelty - just for autos it is a bit more difficult. But apart from that, technology has overcome nature and we can admire it at last, without fear.

A winter landscape is a stunning picture, as is a desert or outer space. All have something in common, something utmost majestic - deprived of the usual plentiness of life as it would be found in forests for instance, nature lets us stand amazed; giving us a hint to what it is capable of. In an instant, without our technology, it could kill us - so we stand in awe before the power of it. Mankind is being dwarfed, forced by nature into protection, into defense.

PJK
January 12th, 1999







Entry # 10: Jan 19 1999 - Purposes

So now I feel compelled to make an entry into this diary; compelled most of all because I seemed to have neglected this part of my site too much in the past time. Most of all, and I think this is a general problem of mine, I am forced to divide my interests and work into my studies and this site; although I see this home page as a reflection of my studies. So there would not be an immediate purpose, one might say.

Purpose - what a nasty word! What is purpose then if not an empty excuse for doing nothing else? We are hiding behind pragmatism; no, we are hiding some other purposes from sight because they do not seem convenient. So is that lazyness - or stupidity?

PJK
January 19th, 1999







Entry # 11: Jan 24 1999 - Empty Screen

Right now, I am in something like a conflict: I do want to write something; but then I also do not know what topic that would be about; and also I am tired: So I am just sharing this emotion with my diary. This is something really devastating and disturbing: To want to write, but then not to be able to - that's something which could drive me mad sometimes; and as you might see, the previous entry to this diary also constitutes the latest piece of work on this site; and such (relatively) long periods of inactivity are not really cheering me up.

So now I'll quit here, because there is Seinfeld on the air just now; it's a re-run, but who cares? It's Seinfeld.

PJK
January 24th, 1999







Entry # 12: Jan 26 1999 - A Perfect Moment / Meet Joe Black

Although I am a bit like tired now, I nevertheless chose to get in front of my computer to make this entry. I am tired because it is already late at night, or better, early in the morning (which should have an impact on the date; but I consider this day still as Tuesday 26th, not Wednesday 27th). This tiredness does not originate from my watching the three-hour-movie Meet Joe Black, for which I still have to produce a review. So no great length about this film; but merely about a general perception of mine after it: The experience of something like a perfect moment after something like a perfect day.

The moment I am talking about enfolded clearly with me sitting in the car heading home after the movie. This usually is a 42-minutes ride, for there is only one cinema in Berlin which regularly airs the original English versions sans subtitles. For the 42 minutes, I used to listen to the Insurrection Soundtrack; all of this happening while it was raining outside. It is quite a vista; a city at night with rain falling down; moving through its roads and freeways with a car. And with a movie in mind like the one seen, moments like this are especially important. Beautiful pictures to be collected.

PJK
January 26th, 1999







Entry # 13: Feb 2 1999 - Handheld PCs

There is a certain convenience to palmtop computers, mainly, and almost solely, that you can operate them at any time, any place. Even within an aircraft - for they would neiter cause radiation nor any other kind of disturbance signals, I hope. Also, given the case that you have a stationary super-speed action-packed local computer at home, they make the purchase of a notebook or laptop computer unnecessary; and they are much cheaper; mine at least. There are of course also such monsters with extra-width screens and illumination and photon torpedoes or so; mine doesn't have that. I just need to be able to connect it to my stationary terminal.

So, after that way too long and boring introduction, what's my point? The point is the keyboard of such small things. Who the heck is supposed to be able to use it without any problems? Also the individual keys; some times they react not at all, or they are over-reacting. No, it wasn't really cheap, just in comparison to a notebook PC.

Why am I writing this? Well, obviously you bother to read it! So either there is a sense supposed too be with it; or I'm just boring you excessively. All I wanted to say, now that I remember it, was that I appreciate that technology enables me to fill otherwise empty time in a train or aircraft with writing.

PJK
February 2nd, 1999







Entry # 14: Feb 2 1999 - Studying / Productivity

Every single one around me who has not been a student at a univerisity thinks, and utters such statements often quite vigorously, that as a student one would have a lot of leisure time, especially with subjects like mine. Forget it! I say it again, forget it.

The surface, the first impression is almost always a misleading one: constantly we students have to prepare either for examinations or for writing papers. Sometimes I wish I had something like a regular daytime job which would not demand for any additional spare time to be occupied with it.

But could I actually live with such an alternative? Working to earn a living, and using that for a life of intellectual and cultural passivity, besides family matters of course? I think this home page of mine proved such an option unsuitable for me. If there is any reason for my working on this web site of mine, it is a constant, self-applied pressure to be productive.

PJK
February 2nd, 1999







Entry # 15: Feb 3 1999 - Night Sky / Nature

I think I have never in my life seen a night sky. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't have been out of a house between dusk and dawn; and I also am quite sure that not many of us in our Western civilization have had the privilege to really experience night and to see the nightern sky. Yesterday, driving home from the cinema, that came into my mind - just as I looked out there; and there was no place to be found which would lack human influence. A nightern sky is a contradiction to itself when there are city lights near and illuminating it; quite a spooky light that is indeed. Spooky - for where has nature gone? Where have we driven her?

My only comfort was seeing national parks, which was sort of a relief; but it might not be enough. I am in no way attacking technology; I am just questioning our ability to run this place - running it with care and wisdom; not with profit and egotism in mind. Am I preaching? The hell I am - we better clean up our mess here. We teach every single one of our children to clean up their rooms - which is a necessary thing to do. So why then don't we hold up to the ideals we ourselves pretend to believe in?

PJK
February 3rd, 1999







Entry # 16: Feb 8 1999 - Color of the Sky

Who said the sky of the Earth would be a blue one? It's mostly gray - at least here around Berlin. Then I mostly will think of some classic Star Trek episodes depicting red or otherwise colors of the sky; but what is the normal color of our sky anyway? Blue, yea, show it to me. It's the same as stating London was a foggy city. Conventions, simplifications! Nada más.

PJK
February 8th, 1999







Entry # 17: Feb 8 1999 - Potential of the Diary

I like the diary section especially because it allows me to write just anything that comes into mind. The potential of it then is much greater; it is much less restricted. So expect me to be a bit more emotional in here; also be prepared to encounter some portions of talk about nothing; just like now. Wow, I do love that Seinfeld show. No rules and regulations; except the disk space of my server and the restrictions and options of HTML. But there seems to be something about it, for obviously you're reading it right now.

PJK
February 8th, 1999







Entry # 18: Feb 8 1999 - Basic Instinct Soundtrack

Don't say I warned you, for now I am talking about nothing. I'm sitting in a commuter train right now, which is transporting me right now, and my walkman is producing the music of 'Basic Instinct' right now. Jerry Goldsmith has struck again with a great piece of music. It also is very straight-forward; aimed at the point of greatest .. interest in the movie; a very erotic score so to say. And now that's it for now, the train is about to arrive at my station. Switch the palmtop off.

PJK
February 8th, 1999







Entry # 19: Feb 18 1999 - The Snow Must Go On

Judging from a previous entry of mine, you might already have got the impression that I ike snow very much. Why can't it stay any longer than just a few days? It did snow the day before yesterday, but does the white coat stay which has turned the world around me into a winter wonderland? Everything looks so stunningly beautiful, and also the colder temperatures are all of a sudden seeming to be not so cold.

PJK
February 18th, 1999







Entry # 20: Feb 20 1999 - Pressures / Politics / Individuality

It now seems almost an eternity since I made my last entry into this diary, or on this site. That of course is not true; only the day before yesterday I used to finish Gen.Disc. Page 7 - The Truman Show Discussed, and I also made the above entry into this diary of mine. But somehow this was not at all whole-hearted as I wished it to be; with that I want to express the kind of pressure which used to last upon me in the last few weeks, and which is not entirely over yet. Well, it is just a relative pressure - relative to those who experience real pressure; in comparison with those, my feelings seem silly and also not really justified. But, alas, they do exist.

Such kind of pressure is always building around and within me during the semester; it is always building when there is something or someone wanting to tell me how to lead my life, it is a feeling of lost control. How disturbing it is to virtually watch myself losing that control, of seeing something or someone other than myself, which I do not want to do that, getting hold of my life. This is not about delegating power or about agreeing to concessions; some concessions we agree to which we do not want to agree to but have to anyway. Compromises which make us lose our freedom every day again a little bit; sometimes even forcing us to compensate for that. My compensation right now is this home page of mine on the internet; where I can basically do what I want. And to all of you reading this and participating a bit in my search for the truth, which it is I am looking for, to all of you: thanks for spending some time with my thoughts, for trusting me to provide you with my personal perspective.

Pressure is building for instance by the way students are supposed to do their studies. Isn't studying about doing it by oneself? Aren't universities and schools supposed to give guidance and opportunity instead of restrictions and, thereby, also discouragement? Which is what has befallen me to a certain extent. The choices we are given are no choices any more once examined a bit closer; say, we have the choice of choosing two different lectures out of a number of two, or even of one. I appreciate the idea of choice; but as much as I understand the concept, it also would include different options. Restrictions then are made not by the university or those teaching there, they are made by money which, in turn, is strongly a policy issue.

Politics is much too often hiding from its responsibilities; whatever system there might be, the policy makers are usually very well paid. In contrast to those who, by force of taxation, have to pay them. Elections? Also such a kind of pseudo-choice: At the end, the outcome would be similar. It seems like there are not people any more being elected but parties, parties strongly directing the course of the people who are in it. And usually not including the extremist parties, which I do not consider an alternative option, all other parties not being altogether seperate entities but forming much more of a party community. Will it change? Dream on. I still have some belief left that a single person could make a difference, but it is fading away with the time passing by. The so-called utopian states also, apart from being non-existing, are not at all so utopian they are supposed to be: If utopism is becoming a doctrine, it loses its identity and merges with the rest of the universe. At the end, it comes down to the decisions of the individual. I am not saying that a government could not serve its people; I just think it is becoming more and more difficult to serve someone when you've got power over those whom you're supposed to serve.

But I was talking about pressures. There is nothing wrong with pressures when they are meant to guide people and pushing them once and then a bit into the right direction. But the issue here is how hard to push, and what direction would be the right one; for that's much more often open to personal opinion than it usually would be thought. It is about seeing the people as human beings with their very own dignity and honor instead of subjecting them to an almighty bureaucracy. That also gives the people much more responsibility; and also one of the most important rights of all: The right to make mistakes. Self-responsibility is becoming an unknown term nowadays. But self-responsibility does not mean egotism: For it has to include caring and understanding (see Dark Matters, Part 11 and The Truman Show Discussed, Part 11). We are not separated but connected; but we are connected as individuals, not as Borg drones.

PJK
February 20th, 1999







Entry # 21: Feb 25 1999 - Death

For quite some time now I intended to think aloud on this page about the topic of life and death; a topic which I for quite some time now am dealing with; a very natural topic, for life it is we are supposed to have right now; and death means the end of this state of now for us. So the questions and anxieties and insecurites surrounding these topics come easily; and are being observed all around us. Life and death are all around us; right now in the moment of speaking or reading, the cycle of life is progressing for each one of us; and around us, people are born and die, people and other living beings.

This very day an uncle of mine died. He died of cancer, and throughout a very long period of time this was obviously about to happen. So it came as no surprise, but, of course, it came as an event that happened: There is a difference of percepting something as about to happen or as happening or having happened. Death is present in the lives of all of us; we know she is going to come; but when she comes indeed, we usually are shocked one way or another. We can try to rationalize, we can try to forget, the emotions stay.

How do we deal with it? We usually ask questions. But are those the right questions? We cannot know neither the place nor the time; death will come - and when she comes, our physical life is going to end soon. This is a reality; nothing can stop it from happen. It doesn't matter therefore how long a living being lives; death will follow, if not after one year or a dozen or a hundred years; our physical reality is just a temporal institution. If it is temporal, the question arises, what then will be before and after our physical existence. All of us will have to find their answers; none of us will know the absolute truth. We can only take a glimpse behind the fabric of our limited reality, and we only can perceive what we are able to grasp.

Am I supposed to giving answers? Yes, I am. Otherwise, all of my writings would be of no worth, would be more vanity than they already are. And you can surely guess what my answers look like, judging alone from the choice of words of mine. I make clear-cut differenciations and definitions, speaking of physical life, temporal existence, personal reality, circle of life. As the Christian I am, I believe in the resurrection of the dead and in an eternal communion with God. As the philosopher I intend to become, I try to rationalize these facts with common concepts and theories like the circle of life, and as the scientist I sometimes intend to be, I try to put my philosophy into a scientific model. All those rationalization attempts are vanity; faith is the only thing which can and which will prevail, at the end and in the beginning.

I do not mourn for the dead, I do not grieve. I believe and know, for knowing is just a form of believing, that what awaits the dead is nothing we have to be afraid of. The only reason to mourn would be that I myself would have lost a beloved person; therefore would my grieving be directed at myself. I would not grieve for the person which has died but for myself - so I prefer to accept this new reality of mine. I know where the deceased go to; it's a place which we will go to also, and which is in us all the time.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
Et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
Ad te omnis caro veniet.

PJK
February 25th, 1999







Entry # 22: Feb 25 1999 - Life

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna in die illa tremenda;
Quando caeli movendi sunt et terra;
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

Rex tremendae maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

We do not usually think about life and death; we take life for granted and expect death to occur at the end of our lives; this end being most conveniently fit to our planning. At least that's what I've observed in the Western world, in our society of conveniences, of social standards and relative social security, of hospitals and of a functioning infrastructure. Death is an event taking place mostly on the tv screen, either in the news or on other shows; also in books, sometimes people we've known will die - but we remain safe from thinking about it; we live our lives awaiting them to go on for at least some subsequent years. We plan for the future. What if we have no future?

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

(Matthew 25,13; King James Version)

Some years ago, I spent my winter vacations with my family in the Czech Giant Mountains. That's a beautiful place, especially in winter - for cross-country skiing that's the best place I've ever seen in Europe. There are paths all over the mountains there where you can go with your skis, not just in the valleys but also on top of the mountains and on the ridges. There is always quite a lot of snow, mostly in February and March. Also, there is often a lot of fog there; both snowing and fog often combining. So the paths are marked by long sticks alonside, following in regular distances, so that you know where to go by following the sticks. Sometimes all you see is the next stick; sometimes you have as grand a vista in front of you as you can get. On the ridges, there the snow is often quite icy, making it quite difficult to actually cross those areas with your skis; but going by foot is not such an alternative either.

Now imagine the hill to the right, the slope to the left, ice under your ski or feet, the next you can see is the next few stick, behind you the same. You will need an hour or more to pass some hundred meters; and once you slip, you're going down the abyss into death. And on another day, the same place could be perfectly harmless with new, soft snow and a better view. Suddenly, pardise can turn into hell and you'r amongst it all; trying to survive. No more civilization, no more sublimal thoughts, just plainly trying to keep your little life. But the good thing is that in such a situation your state would be obvious; you can almost smell death. Not that of others, no, your own.

Then of course such a situation would not belong to daily life, one might say. Yeah, that's true, usually it's not that obvious. Have you ever thought about what could happen when you made a mistake while driving your car? I mean, really thought about it? One false move and everything changes. One false step on the road as a pedestrian and it's over. But to what end is such a discussion? I certainly do not want to invoke a panic. But what it is I want to demonstrate is that life's a gift; a gift we should value much more than we usually do. Once this life is taken, we cannot restore it. And even with the prospect of eternal life at another level of existence, we still would have lost this one: If our existence in this form weren't important, we wouldn't be here. That's why death might be something we should not worry about and even embrace here; but that's also why depriving a person of this life is the worst we could possibly do. The afterlife is no excuse for killing others including oneself.

It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

(Matthew 4,7 / Deuteronomy 6,16; King James Version)

There's a saying: Live every day as if it were your last. That's also why I'm working on this web site of mine. Life is too precious to be wasted.

PJK
February 25th, 1999







Entry # 23: Mar 01 1999 - Best Before...

Yesterday we were tidying up the cellar when I found a bag with mashed potatoes dating back to something in the 1980s, still made in GDR. The date on it said it would be best before the year 2001. Thinking about that, I couldn't help but laugh - this product outlived the country it was produced in; so I came to think about this best-before-date. Did the GDR have such a date? Do states have such a date at all? Well, I just thought it was worth thinking about it. We plan for the future; but nothing is guaranteed, nothing at all but change.

PJK
March 1st, 1999







Entry # 24: Mar 01 1999 - Selective Remembrances, Emotionality

Usually we tend to perceive everything via our eyes and ears and do not think a bit about other senses; we think they would somehow be minor. While that might be the case in plain comparison with for instance the abilities cats and dogs have, it basically ain't true. Just some hours ago I was again reminded of it when I was drinking a glass of "Dr. Pepper" - this is something one rarely gets in Germany, and I encountered this beverage in the US. Normally I would drink water, plain tap water or non-sparkling water for I hate carbonic acid. But today I felt like I wanted to have some "Dr. Pepper".

As soon as I had taken a sip of it, I was remembered of my vacations in the US - just like that; a simple taste can unleash memories or associations with memories in no time. That somehow also adds another dimension to what we usually are perceiving as reality; and it also demonstrates how our mind can work - how something is being stored in the brain. Sometimes, it needs associations with other circumstances and we can easily recall something.

That's also the case with music - as a child, I read Robinson Crusoe while listening to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto. Every time now when I hear a certain passage of it, I am being reminded of the book; or more of the perception of the situation I was perceiving through reading the book. I am not actually being reminded of concrete scenes but more of an abstract concept of the book which I have in mind; like imagining a beach and being stranded in the wilderness. That also happens with other books; that's why I prefer reading with music in the background, but the music should not be too direct, should rather form a background sound. For that, New Age stuff or synthesizer tunes are great - while for writing I prefer a more active kind of music.

With smells it is similar. I used to use after shave some years ago; and I also used it during my first three months of military service. During this time I was stationed as far as possible from home, so I could only return to my place at the weekends for one and a half day. Also, I had to share the room with five other people. Don't get me wrong, those were great guys and I couldn't have wished for any better company during this time. I'm also somehow sad I'm not seeing them any more, but somehow you get out of sight. But I usually am a kind of solitary guy; I do not bother being alone. Others I know wish to have company all the time. Well, I guess that's different with each person. After that time I didn't use after shave any more, and when I smelled that stuff some years later, I was reminded of that time; but not of the nicer aspects but just of the uncomfortable and somehow depressing things there.

By the way, why is our memory somehow so selective? I do not mean our abstract or logical memory, for I can recall quite clearly that specific time, but why are our emotions towards it just being remembered so selectively? As much as we might try, we only get to feel what was most dominant during that period. And when I am reading what I wrote in that time, the overall impression ain't that positive. But when seen in a more abstract and logical way, positive aspects outweigh the negative ones by far. So it seems we are much more emotional beings than we might think; and that how we deal with other persons should much more take into account the emotional level than the logical one, and it would also explain why we wouldn't be able to deal with other people, without finding any logical explanation why we couldn't.

PJK
March 1st, 1999







Entry # 25: Mar 08 1999 - Tiredness / Our Cat / Emotionality

You cannot imagine how tired I had been up to some minutes before now; it just is incredible. Well, perhaps you can imagine. And I didn't even get to bed too late and woke up too early; I had more than six hours of sleep. Normally, I tend to get eight hours of sleep; or even more - but occasionally I can live with just five or six. So is it just need for sleep - or is it something else?

I do not know how it is you're feeling about it; but on my behalf, I sort of envy our cat. He can sleep as much as he wants to, well, if we don't disturb him. You see, a cat always owns your house and you are just allowed to be there because he (or she) lets you. But apart from looking nice, getting something to eat and cleaning himself; occasionally playing with us or being petted by us, what is it he does? Sleeping. Either he is tired all the time, or everything around him is just too boring, or he just enjoys it. I wonder what he dreams about. And don't tell me he wouldn't have a tight sleep; well, usually not. But he can. At days his sleep ain't that tight when we're around disturbing his majesty, but at night he's sleeping also, undisturbed, only around perhaps five or six o'clock he has some business of nature to fulfill. Well, lately he got a mouse. Yeah, one mouse in some months, and free lodging and food - that I call the hell of a job. By the way, his name is Purzel (roughly meaning tumbler).

Now, with tying and chewing a chewing gum at the same time, and the window above me opened, I'm returning to life again. But for fourty-five minutes I had to doze, listening to Prokofieff's symphony number five; now I feel a bit more relaxed. It is nice to have something to concentrate your thoughts on; and as a single guy, this has to be the computer. But of course, a computer can only perform a very restricted range of options. Well, let's not get too personal here. If you wanna hear emotional stuff like that, watch Oprah. That doesn't mean I would be opposing such stuff, but it doesn't mean I would be writing it right now either. Perhaps I'll write a poem later.

PJK
March 8th, 1999







Entry # 26: Mar 09 1999 - Nature

While I was redesigning my Title Page, there was Baywatch in the background running on the tv, and it indeed was the only thing I could watch; on all other stations there was just crap. The episode was set in Alaska; thereby showing also quite a lot of the scenery. Also, the Millennium episode 2.12 'Luminary' was set there; although I doubt the pictures shown there were shot very far from Vancouver. Anyway, it made me just think - we have to retreat to distant places to see nature still unharmed by mankind.

But also, we do not notice nature when it surrounds us; we have our thoughts too much fixated on our daily routine; we live in our houses and have our technology surrounding us; we are not seeming to be part of nature any more, and we are surprised when we notice that there is something around us which is a living and chaotic eco-system; chaotic meaning that it doesn't behave regularly but that desasters can occur; that it can be surprising.

I noticed that some years ago when I woke up at night, at 4 AM, but it was already dawn outside, and the birds were singing. I hadn't noticed that the days before, nor did I take notice of that the days after very much. But all it needs would be to take a glance around; and, witnessing nature's grandeur and beauty, we would much better understand how fragile and important she is - and that we are supposed to protect her, not fight her.

PJK
March 9th, 1999







Entry # 27: Mar 10 1999 - Purgatory

My hands are almost still shaking; my calmness not yet regained; my thoughts not yet fixed towards what I was intending to do today; I'm still a bit deranged and upset about what happened to me to-day, about what I made happen to me, to be more concrete. So what was that? Usually I make backup copies of my work on Zip disks, and so I intended to do this morning. But before copying, I had to remove the old files from the disk - as the images had changed, remember yesterday's redesigning of my site. So I chose the directory to delete, as usual deleting it without sending it first to the Recycle Bin. But then the remaining disk space displayed showed 180 MB, which should be impossible for Zip Disks (which have only 100 MB). Realizing what I had done, I was sort of breathing heavily: Instead of deleting the copy in order to renew the backup, I deleted the master - I destroyed it within an instant; this homepage of mine and some other, really important files.

So perhaps you can understand how I felt deranged. Luckily, most of the files were still on the internet, some of them were outdated and just still on my disk for archival purposes, but some others were really important and unrecoverable - thanks to Windows' protection against undeleting programs in the DOS mode, and I wasn't really able to check out other possibilities. That's why there is a recycle bin; well, I guess next time I will look twice at what I'm doing. Thanks to FTP, the largest part of my files are here on my PC again; and it took me less than an hour to restore most of them.

But of course this made me think about it. In an instant, everything (except some older versions) was gone, suddenly and, had it not been my home page, unrecoverable. Thanks to the internet, this is now rather annoying and startling than destructive; but once it was done, it was quite a shock, to say the least. I chose the word 'purgatory' as a heading because this whole procedure had such an effect; and it was entirely self-inflicted. A problem entirely caused by my own, stupid behavior. And a small version of it; for it could have been worse. This was a warning shot. Next time, it really could hurt.

PJK
March 10th, 1999







Entry # 28: Mar 13 1999 - Funeral/Religion/Navajo/Cemeteries/Death

Yesterday I attended the funeral of my uncle; and it was sort of a startling experience. Not the funeral, not the cemetery. I have been to some funerals, I have seen some cemeteries. No, it was the way it was conducted. The ceremony wasn't a religious one, and you should know by now that I'm a religious person. I do not want to be insensitive here, but I was sort of surprised as I saw something so strange to me. I was surprised of the spiritual emptiness of such an atheist ceremony.

What then does religion mean to me? It surely doesn't mean to restrict it to attending mass on Sundays. I tend to possess sort of a Native American affiliation to spirituality:

The Navajo's concept of religion is so total that it can be said that there is no such thing as religion in Navajo culture because everything is religious. Everything a Navajo knows - his shelter, his fields, his livestock, the sky above him and the ground upon which he walks - is holy. The Navajos for the most part, have long resisted Christianity. They look upon it as a "part-time" religion where a man's god is available to him for only a few hours on Sunday and then has to be sought out in a special house where his spirit dwells.

(Raymond Friday Locke. The Book of the Navajo. Los Angeles: Mankind 51992, 5)

To me, such a concept of a part-time religion is just as strange. Either you believe and live that way, or you don't. Just make it count, just make it clear what path it is you've taken. So to me, cemeteries are places of rest, of rest for the visitor who visits them; they are places of comfort for they remind me of what comes next; they are places of the beginning or rather of the continuation of a journey. Death isn't the end of everything, it's merely a new beginning. Dying might be painful, losing someone close to you might be sad, but death? Death is not only inevitable, it is a doorway into our next level of existence. What are we afraid of?

PJK
March 13th, 1999







Entry # 29: Mar 14 1999 - Not Setting the Alarm Clock / Leisure Time

During the semester break, I am able to do something which is for me perhaps one of the greates examples for personal freedom: Not setting the alarm clock. When was the last time you were able to do that? Going to bed when you're tired, not setting any alarm, and leaving your bed when you think you're awake enough to start the day?

And although I still have two papers to write for my studies, plus doing some other writing, web-page designing, not to mention to continue my work on this site here, I feel compelled to take some hours off from time to time. I haven't had a real vacation since some time, since the summer of 1997 would be precise; but right now I think what is suffucient for me is making some weekend trips now and then, also going to the cinema more regularly and, of course, watching tv. And, some day, I might also have a girlfriend. But not right now. Right now, I'm gonna watch a movie, 'Seven Years in Tibet'. BTW, I seem to have become sort of a Brad Pitt fan overnight; starting with 'Kalifornia', then with 'Meet Joe Black' and 'Legends of the Fall'. Well, he's just a damn fine actor.

PJK
March 16th, 1999







Entry # 30: Mar 16 1999 - To Lean Back and Relax

What is it that drives us, that compels us to indulge in work or other mind-consuming activity, rather than just simply practice living? Observing the world around us? Is it then possible for me, for us, to just simply lean back and to relax - without the outside and inside pressures hunting and haunting us?

PJK
March 16th, 1999







Entry # 31: Mar 16 1999 - Writing/Internet/Money

Writing is both perception documented and happening: But writing what? There of course is a difference between writing fiction and non-fiction; a constructed difference mainly. However, both kinds of writing live from the input the scriptor provides; the differenciation between fiction or non-fiction is merely a mask being applied to the construction.

The media of publication is another critical area - the traditional one would be a book or a journal. But nowadays, the internet provides possibilities dwarfing all other attempts. Thereby but, by the risen amount of writing available, it is also increasingly difficult to get heard.

Money is perhaps a difference also - you don't get money by writing for your personal web site; you don't necessarily earn money with books either. But why do I write? What's the primary motivation? I think you know my answer to that.

PJK
March 16th, 1999







Entry # 32: Mar 19 1999 - Over-Population

When in school, or in writing courses at university, one is usually being forced to think and write about certain critical issues of society. Regarding to specific university courses of mine, check my Miscellaneous Essays section for such essays. I will deal with some of them in my diary now, although in a much less scholarly way. I'll just be presenting my thoughts to you.

The first issue I'll be dealing with is the so-called over-population of our planet, an issue very often mentioned and discussed these days. Let me say it very bluntly and directly: There is no such thing as over-population. But there is a crisis of supplying the world's population with necessary items for living. This crisis but isn't caused by an over-population, it is caused by the greed and egotism of the Western world. The countries suffering from poverty are still affected by the imperialist methods of the colonial era. Europe, Russia, China, Japan and the United States therefore are much more responsible for the so-called Third and Fourth World countries, which have suffered from Western economic games and which were also the battlefield of the Cold War.

Over-population is very much a term which could have been created by the Nazis, for it would imply that a certain number of lives would be superfluous. Who is supposed to be deciding this? Who is supposed to decide which life is worth to be continued and which not? There cannot be enough life around us. We just have to recognize our responsibility for those in misery. Perhaps it is Western arrogance and egotism which is superfluous?

PJK
March 19th, 1999







Entry # 33: Mar 19 1999 - Death Penalty

The death penalty is something I've been thinking about for quite some time now. At first I thought that there couldn't possibly be an easy answer to such an issue. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that such an approach would be way too evasive, way too simple, way too cowardly. There can be just one answer: The death penalty is wrong.

Murder is wrong, every kind of murder; also if it is intended as a means of punishment. That but makes it even more deliberate, even more abject. Death penalty is murder, sanctioning it by law doesn't make it right. No crime can justify murdering the offender - this wouldn't be justice, it would be nothing but cruel revenge.

PJK
March 19th, 1999







Entry # 34: Mar 26 1999 - New Layout

I usually tend to be very critical with my work, and when in addition to that there are other voices too giving some remarks as to what might be better, I feel compelled even more to make changes and to rethink a certain approach. The result regarding my site was a complete restructuring which was made effective yesterday; resulting in easing navigation and structuring it anew.

The result is also a change of name; the former name, "faces of the unexplained", now names the section dedicated to science fiction and post-structuralism. The overall name of my site is now "philjohn.com", although the domain name isn't working yet. The name itself is sort of a short version of my real name, thereby explaining the "J" in PJK. So much regarding to that.

PJK
March 26th, 1999







Entry # 35: Mar 26 1999 - Violence / Strike Against Yugoslavia

How to deal with violence is always a very difficult question, how to deal with aggression and war even more (see also Creation of an Enemy / The Mechanics of War). Two days ago, after years of diplomatic efforts, NATO started an air-launched attack against Yugoslav dictator Milosevic, who could very well, like Saddam Hussein, be defined as a present-day Hitler. Milosevic already had attacked other territories once belonging to Yugoslavia, i.e. Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now it is the Kosovo which is under attack, after the Kosovars protesting against Milosevic's ending their autonomy. And after Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro will surely be Milosevic's next targets.

There of course has been a lot of criticism against NATO's actions, combined with the usual anti-American sentiments. This was been constructed as an attack, an act of war, against a sovereign state. But this is utmost wrong. Milosevic is the one leading a war, leading genocide. Milosevic's actions are aimed at ultimately eliminating the Albanian majority within Kosovo; and his methods are systematic killing and destruction. There is no profit for NATO in its actions; there is nothing to win for the alliance except more bad blood from its adversaries. These air strikes are solely directed against Serb military facilities; as the strikes against Saddam were directed against his military structures (see also: Defying Saddam). As President Clinton put it, if Milosevic is unwilling to make peace, NATO will diminish his capabilities to lead a war.

Is violence justified here? Normally I would take a pacifist standpoint. But while it is wrong to use violence, it is also wrong to not help others defend against violence. Pacifism to me doesn't mean not to use military force at all; you have to be able to defend others. It is unimportant to defend oneself, but you have a responsibility for your fellow human beings. What happened in Kosovo, and what is still happening, is a humanitarian catastrophy, innocent people dying because they do not accept Milosevic's regime of terror. And, not to forget, NATO didn't act just out of nothing; there have been ongoing talks with Milosevic, but diplomacy failed because Milosevic has no intention of making peace. You cannot talk the devil into reason or even peace.

NATO has nothing to gain for itself but problems. This could lead into a second Vietnam Scenario. The nations criticizing NATO for its actions are most of all Russia and China; but who are those to dictate morality? Both are much more fearing similar reactions against their very own acts of terror against for instance Chechnya or Tibet. And Saddam, of course, is criticizing NATO, too. Seems Yeltsin and Primakov should check more closely what kind of company they've joined. The Yugoslavian press, also, cannot be trusted - it's the propaganda of a bloody dictatorship.

A line must be drawn here. If Hitler could have been stopped right at the beginning, what could have been prevented. Hitler, too, started with annexing and attacking territories once belonging to Germany. There is no end to what Milosevic might want to achieve. He is not only endangering the region, he is suppressing and betraying his people. And if Milosevic's military capabilities are being degraded, his reign will ultimately become much more fragile, allowing resistance to help Serbia join the line of peace-loving nations.

There have been complaints that the recent NATO action and also last year's US-UK strikes against Iraq would have hurt the UN charta, that those strikes should have been authorized by the UN Security Council. In theory, that's true. But with Russia and China consequently blocking western peace initiatives, the Council is just a farce - its abilities not degraded by the US, but by Russia and China themselves. While NATO objectives in this strike are solely humanitarian, they actually serve the UN charta - and such an action wouldn't have been possible with the Council. What is more important here, the letter of the law or stopping the killing of an entire nation?

This action won't solve a centuries-long conflict in an area already the Romans had difficulties with, but it can contain it and lessen the horror. There is never a simple answer to the question of the application of violence; and violence surely isn't the right way. But not acting definitely would have been much worse. Also, NATO would have lost its right to exist - diplomacy against people like Saddam or Milosevic only works if otherwise actions would follow. Empty threats are worth nothing. When Hitler invaded the Rhineland area, he was prepared for backing down if the Western alliance had protested. But they didn't, and they also didn't stop him annexing Austria and Bohemia. Thereby they gave him the license to kill. NATO this week has given the opposite answer: thereby promoting democracy and peace. But it really is a very sad thing that violence is the only means to stop maniacs like Milosevic.

see also Strike Against Yugoslavia, Part II

PJK
March 26th, 1999







Entry # 36: Apr 4 1999 - Chocolate Easter Bunnies

So now, at Easter, those little chocolate Easter bunnies are out there everywhere, also chocolate eggs et cetera. Right now, I'm almost through devouring one of those bunnies. But that somehow is kind of a lot of work - you have to fight your way through the bunny, first cut the ears, then decapitate him; well, it sounds sort of brutal. It's the same with chocolate Santas - is there a message behind? Capitate bunnies, in there there's just air, but you can eat the crust?

Why don't they just make chocolate the usual way? I guess that wouldn't look that funny; but it would be much less brutal and way simpler to eat through it. But perhaps it is sort of a dietary measure: I almost feel sorry to destroy such a little piece of chocolate art by eating it; maybe that's supposed to reduce the consumation of it. Or maybe I'm just talking about nothing.

PJK
April 4th, 1999







Entry # 37: Apr 8 1999 - Rain / Nature

Why are we so afraid of the rain? While I can understand that getting wet might be somehow uncomfortable and even unhealthy when there weren't a possibility to dry oneself somewhen soon, this usually ain't the case. I thought about that two days ago when I was returning from the cinema, having watched 'Arlington Road', and it was raining outside. I had forgotten my basecap at home, so I had to walk in the rain. And you know what? While I usually was sort of disgusted by that idea, now I sort of liked it even. I liked it especially because it made me realize that even within our technologicalized environment, nature is still present. And with the rain dropping on my head, I realized this connection - a connection with nature. Walking in the rain - a symbol of freedom; and without fear any more - anything wet can dry.

Yesterday, I watched '8mm'; this being a film where rain too is being seen. The rain washes away all the dirt and all the pain, relieves the world of the dust of the day, of the dust of ages. Nature's work is never done; and it is continuously being done. While I was driving home, it was raining outside also - and there is perhaps nothing as striking than driving at nighttime in the rain; it was early morning even. With the headlights cutting through the chains of raindrops falling down on the asphalt, with the sound of rain accompanying every second, with the road being wet - paying a tribute to nature and being in need of slowing down. Such a thing reduces us back to normal size, showing us our true dimensions.

PJK
April 8th, 1999







Entry # 38: Apr 8 1999 - IMAX / Everest / Nature

Earlier yesterday, I also watched another film, an IMAX® film about Mount Everest. IMAX is a great thing - you almost are transported to the location; it surrounds you. What is missing though is the temperature, and are the smells and the feeling of actual presence. But your eyesight is being betrayed very believingly by the vista of the grand screen - also leading to a physical feeling of uneasiness when watching a rapidly flowing scene from a helicopter perspective. You actually get this feeling in your stomach that you are moving up and down, although you aren't. But your vision betrays you - seeing is believing.

Watching 'Everest' made me again realize how humble and small we humans actually are; and also, how great our achievements can be in regard to the majesty of nature surrounding us. But whatever we want to achieve, we have to do it in concordance with nature, not as an adversary. Perhaps it is not so wrong at all to see nature as a manifestation of God - and however badly we treat nature, she is stronger than we are. If we should succeed in destroying the environment, which I hope and also believe we eventually wouldn't, we would not be destroying nature - we'd be destroying the environmental conditions eventually supporting human life. Nature can survive without human influence, humans cannot survive without or in opposition to nature.

see also movie reviews: 'Everest'

PJK
April 8th, 1999







Entry # 39: Apr 12 1999 - Stalinism / Strike Against Yugoslavia, pt. II

see also Strike Against Yugoslavia, Part I

Currently, I'm preparing for an exam in history, taking place tomorrow, about Stalinism (that's what I had to write the specific term paper on Stalinism and Nazism about). The more you read about the disgusting cruelties and lies caused by Stalin and his system, and taken into account that Milosevic is sort of a follower of that kind of system, the more you understand why Milosevic is doing the things he does. To him, and to the Communist/Stalinist doctrine, they're just a normal way of doing politics! In fact, they're sort of the 'light' version of what Stalin did, and of what Hitler did.

That might also be one of the reasons Russia is struggling so hard trying not to be involved in this, it is also the reason it is dealing with Milosevic in another way. The Serbs have been allies of the Soviets - especially Milosevic seems to be much more of a Soviet puppet than Tito, who in fact was just the opposite. Milosevic perhaps can't understand why his former allies are not supporting him. But the Soviet Union is dead. Russia is now in its place. Is it? I hope not. But there are still Russian nationalist and communist factions supporting Belgrade. Also in Germany, the disgusting ex-Communist party, formerly ruling the GDR, is spreading their poisonous lies and webs of deceptions again. But what's the actual situation?

There is no alternative to the air strikes: Diplomacy has utterly failed, and there have been long-lasting attempts at dealing with Milosevic in a civilized way. But the sad truth is, Milosevic does not want that kind of solution. And unless he can be forced militarily, he doesn't need to change his approach of ethnic cleansing. Speaking of military force: What effect do the airstrikes have? What effects can the airstrikes have at all? With airstrikes, you can diminish the military and economical capabilities of an aggressor. But you cannot defy him if he is as uncaring about his country as Milosevic is - unless use of ground troups is made. NATO is often being said of acting as the airforce of the UCK, the Kosovo Liberation Army. But the UCK obviously is not as potent as it ought to be in dealing with the Serb troups. And unless the Serbs would actually lose terrain, they will prevail.

However, using ground troops would pose another, even greater risk. Yeltsin might be forced by certain groups within the Russian population to react to a NATO liberation (or invasion) of Yugoslavia in a very drastic way. Think about it: With former Soviet-Block states now integrated into NATO or associating themselves with NATO, with foreign relations between the US and China starting to enter a de-frost phase, with the economic situation of Russia and her former allies more than grim, desperation and anger could be enough to drive this politically very unstable ex-dictatorship, which is not yet a fully democratic country, into desperate action. As Yeltsin put it, a new world war could be immanent. But apart from the catastrophic results of such an action, starting a war would be suicidal for Russia. They might have the nuclear weaponry, they might have some ground troops. But their technological equipment is far outdated, their economy weaker than ever before. The Soviet Union collapsed because the web of lies was being destroyed by Gorbachev. And this he die because the economical situation couldn't any more sustain the military potential needed to resist the Western world. Right now, Russia is dependent much more on economical help from Western countries. Cutting that help would mean the collapse of Russia too. But logical arguments might not be enough to prevent a catastrophy.

But what would be the alternative? Letting Milosevic continue following his Nazi-like policy? By now, even Yeltsin seems to have understood this. And with latest efforts trying to put such an action unto UN guidance, the crisis could be resolved. There are two possibilities: Either the theories about the end of the world in the year 2000 are true, or they are not.

PJK
April 12th, 1999







Entry # 40: Apr 17 1999 - Driving / Speeding / Thinking

I love to drive a car. There probably is not much as satisfying as this, to feel the steering wheel between your hands, to give or reduce speed with the pedals, and doing it with the stereo turned on, playing tunes you like. The road is becoming not a mere path of asphalt, it is becoming a moving entity with you. The scenery is passing by, with you in control. That is power.

Also, power means responsibility. While to some this might sound boring, I occasionally love driving slowly (i.e., sticking to the prescribed speed). Mostly I exceed it a bit, but not by more than 9 kph (5 mph), at least consciously. Also, the traffic often leaves you not much choice but to speed up a bit: I also have heard of a case when someone was stopped and fined by the police for sticking to the speed prescribed by the law. I sincerely hope that's just an urban legend, but I ain't so sure about that.

But slightly exceeding the speed limit is also something underlining the feeling of freedom: Within the given limitations, of course. But what do these limitations mean? They are restricting individual freedom. But, unless thoughtlessly applied, they do serve a certain purpose. But when I hear of people driving at 100 kph (60 mph) in a populated area (where there would be a 50 kph = 30 mph speed limit), I really neither can nor want to understand that. And those people really exist. At such velocities, cars become dangerous weapons - back to the power thing. More power - but who pays for the loss of life it would cause? Who pays for the loss of life caused by drinking and driving?

Maybe I'm preaching now. But I wanted to clarify that, nevertheless, I love to drive. But driving also involves thinking about the consequences. Would it really be freedom if we needn't think about that? Or wouldn't it be nothing but a silly illusion? Our freedom is a freedom of choice, a freedom to make mistakes - or to do it right. We do not have the freedom not to think. We're human beings - we are being expected to use our brain. Cogito, ergo sum. Non cogitant, ergo non sunt?

PJK
April 17th, 1999







Entry # 41: Apr 17 1999 - Trying to Sleep / Clearing One's Head

Sometimes it is very depressing not being able to sleep; not being able to sleep because you cannot stop thinking about anything. Some weeks ago, I started placing a notepad near my bed so I could at least write down such things; and the diary entries you're reading are mostly the result of such night-time inspiration. Another place I think about stuff like that is while driving or reading - get the picture? Give me a break, and let my ideas appear when I have something to write them on...

It is difficult to get the head cleared of this constant babbling and thinking. I do not wanna be thoughtless - but sometimes I would want to have a little bit of silence, not only around me but also within me. I'll never be able to meditate...

PJK
April 17th, 1999







Entry # 42: Apr 17 1999 - Dreams / Reality

So I was talking about trying to sleep, let's talk about dreaming. There are the utmost strangest and diverse theories about what dreams are - are they just in our head? How to clarify that? Are they real and it is our thinking which reduces them into the realm of imagination? Both psychology and philosophy, and also religion have tried to solve this puzzle; neither of them could deliver absolute clarity. But also, within a dream, usually we do not recognize it is a dream. There are some lucid dreams or lucid moments within dreams, but they're rare. What makes us so sure that what we call reality is nothing but a dream, and what we experience during sleep is reality? I remember having had something like continuations of earlier dreams. To me, that poses a serious problem. What do you think?

What if such things as synchronicities or déjà vus are lucid moments within the dream we call reality? Can we really be that arrogant in assuming and continuing to assume that what we perceive is what is real, and nothing else than what we have stated within scientific theories could become real? How do we dare prescribing creation her possibilities...

PJK
April 17th, 1999







Entry # 43: Apr 17 1999 - Spiders

Eight more or less tiny legs. A more or less small body being carried by them in the center. The ability to create webs of astonishing size, perfection and stability. They're hunters who can help us getting rid of insects which would otherwise bother us - e.g. mosquitos. SPIDERS. But what is it about them which makes some of us shudder?

I think it is mostly a question of the "more or less" - factor. Have you ever met a tegenaria domestica? They are quite small, in the beginning. Just as small as a computer key. But they grow, especially the females. In maximum size, they might reach the size of the decimal block on your keyboard. Nice, eh? But they are completely harmless to humans. However, even I tend to remove them from the house. But still - I don't kill them (I don't even kill a mosquito), I would take an empty glass and some paper, catch 'em and set 'em free.

There are of course the more dangerous variants. But that's not the point here. There seems to be a latent fear of them within most of us, even me. It's just that I try to fight that fear with logic. The Vulcan approach. Why do we fear spiders and not ants or flies? Are these two additional legs so frightening? They can't even fly! Mosquitos fly, flies fly, both are difficult to catch. But a spider sitting somewhere? Come on. An easy target (for catching and releasing them, of course). But still the thought of having a spider crawling into your bed at night, or your shoes... Remember that scene from "Dr. No"? I haven't even seen Arachnophobia...

PJK
April 17th, 1999







Entry # 44: Apr 17 1999 - Remembrances: Books, TV, Movies / Dubbing

Somehow there's a difference between television/movies and books concerning remembering things. I could tell you some lines of dialog from films I like (favorably 'Sgt. Bilko' and 'Pulp Fiction') - but with books that's nearly impossible. What I especially love about the cinematic kind of fiction is its consisting of various levels of storytelling: Dialog, Speech, Sounds, Music, Pictures, Angle, Light, Effects, Story. That's also why I hate dubbed versions: They destroy a piece of art. With dubbing, the element of speech is lost, the unity of it is destroyed. It's the little details which prove important. And it's the little details making me remember something.

PJK
April 17th, 1999







Entry # 45: Apr 30 1999 - Evening Sun

Usually most of us do not notice nature around us, we live our fast-paced lives, our heads stuffed with whatever we have to do - and we do not take the time to really take a look at our surroundings. The people in the streets - they're nothing more than strangers, faceless faces passing by. The trees, the birds, the insects, the sky, the sun - all remains usually unnoticed, uncared of.

Yesterday I missed my train and had to wait for some fifteen minutes, and out of a sudden, noticed the evening sun, how he slowly was approaching the horizon. At the opposite, the moon was already there. She was still pale, waiting for her male counterpart to disappear. But Sol made quite an appearance still, sending out his orange light, touching everything, transforming once sterile-looking houses into a glittering sea of warm and changing colors.

After thirty minutes, he was gone; still spreading some light from behind the horizon; but Luna now started to reflect the glory of the day, started to get noticed - what once was a pale disc hanging somewhere in the sky, now was emanating this bright light by which a full moon turns the nightscape into a silvery, ghostly scenery, just to make way again in the morning.

PJK
April 30th, 1999







Entry # 46: Apr 30 1999 - Morning Sun

Unlike the evening sun, in the morning the sun is very powerful, very demanding. He is dominating the scene by a very bright, almost white light, thereby creating stark contrasts and contrasting lines; making a strong presence and hurting the eye; while in the evening, he is creating quite a tranquilizing atmosphere.

By now you might wonder why I am referring to the sun as a male, to the moon as a female character. That's something I have observed wih Emerson's writings, and I decided to pick this up. It's origin this procedure has in antique mythology: The Greek/Roman god Helios/Sol represents the sun and it's force (cf. also the concept of Yang, see Dark Matters, pt. 5), while the goddess Selene/Luna represents the moon and it's mystic flair (cf. also the concept of Yin, see Dark Matters, pt. 5).

The smells of dawn are of such intensity, paired with some mist and the early birds' songs, it is somehow one of the most beautiful times of the day. Still I am not really able to get up at dawn, for that would too much counter my evening and afternoon schedule; it is society again dictating our lives. What would it be like to have all exterior and biological restrictions overcome! Just imagine dawn at a scenery like Grand Teton...

PJK
April 30th, 1999







Entry # 47: May 5th 1999 - Fear / Horror Movies

Just watched 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer', and now I'm on my way home, killing time in the train with my palmtop computer. It's after 10pm. Now imagine having just watched a horror movie, and then going home by means of public transportation, passing through empty hallways and rarely populated areas; still in the movie-defined routine of suspecting a stalker behind every corner... To speak of heightened apprehension would be quite a euphemistic approach, quite an understatement.

Now, is it supposed to be somewhat unmanly to be afraid? To have fear? Come on. You know, y'all know we usually don't talk about that. And we might even pretend, however believably, not to have fear, to have overcome fear. We might also have succeeded in making ourselves believing that. But however convincing our masks and pretentions, deep down inside our basic instincts still are active, still are at work. And they do serve a function: Fear is causing apprehension, apprehension being critical for survival. That's also why I like horror movies: They reduce us all to normal size and confront us with our deepest, inner fears. Know thyself, know thy enemy.

PJK
May 5th/6th, 1999







Entry # 48: May 17th 1999 - Enthusiasm

Lately I attended a concert, they played Beethoven's Third Symphony. I've never ever seen an orchestra as bored with doing their job as this one. The conductor tried very hard to sort of convince his people to do what they did with some esprit, but his benefactory influence didn't reach out that far. From the first rows of violins, there was a drastic decline in the degree of obervable enthusiasm. Sad thing is just that this is always having an impact on not only the general visual impression but on the music too. Next time I'll prefer a CD.

PJK
May 15th, 1999







Entry # 49: May 17th 1999 - Language Courses

Somehow, language courses are a matter of survival. You need to survive the vocabulary-checking attacks, when the teacher is trying to get some words or even sentences out of the students. Most unnerving of course are the obligatory "spontaneous" chats which the students are supposed to be having sometimes with each other... But beyond all complaining, it still is fun. And I really have to repeat some stuff...

PJK
May 15th, 1999







Entry # 50: May 17th 1999 - Politeness

Usually, there is not much human contact between you and the people you meet on the average day - which leads to us consequently ignoring each other, and sometimes also to a bit tensed atmosphere. Lately, when one of my seminars started, it was started with an introductory round. Usually I would not have thought too positively of those, they're sometimes a bit silly. But then I realized what an introductory round is able to achieve! While the process itself may be annoying, it is annoying for all - leading to all loosing up a bit. The tension is gone.

Equally, politeness can achieve miracles too. Don't pass away, but say hello or greet others with a smile. But don't do it just on purpose, that would be nasty, also you wouldn't achieve anything by that. No, do it as a true reflection of a general, inner benevolence and sense of caring. It is less the actual doings, much more it is the general attitude towards your fellow beings.

PJK
May 15th, 1999







Entry # 51: May 17th 1999 - After the Rain

In spring and summer and fall, when there are some warm or even hot days, the air gets sort of tight, unpleasant, motionless; standing more than flowing around. But when there comes the wind and the rain, everything changes. After the rain you have this clarity, this brightness shining through everything - after the rain, the world is cleaner, the problems washed away. After the rain it's time to start anew.

PJK
May 15th, 1999







Entry # 52: May 17th 1999 - Depressive Moods

The week before last week I had quite a bad time, but still I don't know why, I was in a kind of depressive mood. That sometimes happens when there's too much to do and too little time for it to be done; and equally when most of the courses at university don't seem to hold what they promised. Those are the times when you question everything around you, everything within you, every tiny minute and even second of your puny little existence. Those are the moments which reduce your ego back to normal size, back into being human.

But what such days are best for is to overcome them, to learn from them but without carrying their enormous weight with you all the time. And so I bought the latest Star Trek cassettes and watched them; thus learning that all my problems hadn't been of such a magnitude - nothing which three hours of Star Trek weren't able to fix.

PJK
May 15th, 1998







Entry # 53: May 30th 1999 - Perfection

Whenever something needs to be done, it needs to be done right. But sometimes this very much understandable pragmatic approach turns into blind worship of perfection and efficiency - without really thinking about the consequences these words almost necessarily evoke - what is perfection? To make something pefect means to make it completely (from Latin Past Participle of perficere < per-facere, to make something complete, to make it thoroughly). But can we reach this perfection, this completenes? Isn't that an illusion, a scimera - something we put onto our agendas but will never be able to achieve because it doesn't exist in the material world?

But still we dream of it or try to push it - taking the risks. But human beings aren't perfect, they're individuals. That's perhaps the key: Perfection would demand for a general definition of what it meant to be perfect; but such a generalization would aim at removing the fuzzy edges at the borderlines of any definition - humanity would be reduced to a scizophrenic idealization, to a concept we should have overcome by now. Concepts like that of Nietzsche's "Übermensch" as well as the Marxist-Leninist new man, both trying to construct some kine of super-human, both have manifested in the most cruel political systems we have ever had to endure.

Perfection is a dangerous aim, it could lead to a state not unlike that of Star Trek's Borg - no individuality, just a hive mind controlling the drones. The quest for perfection cannot find a general answer in our level of reality; but it can, however, manifest in the little details. Of course I'm aiming at perfection when writing, when working on my web site, when constructing or organizing something. Of course I can admire the perfect beauty of a flower, of a mountain-side vista, of a lake - but this is not the aggressive kind of perfection I've been talking about. You just can't create perfect human beings - you can but admire the perfection within, the beauty within.

PJK
May 30th, 1999







Entry # 54: June 17th 1999 - Writer's Block

You might have noticed some negligence on my part towards working on this site; and partly this is true, but it is mostly true because of some recent mood problems of mine, as I would call that. I tried to sit down and write something, but I didn't felt like it. So there were some efforts of mine to improve the visual and structural layout of this site, and also some attempts at tying some lose ends. But during the last two weeks, I had to dedicate more time to both my studies and to watching some movies; also working on some poems yet to be finished.

Generally, such a period might be called as reflecting some kind of writer's block. This I would underline to a certain extent, but as much I would deny it. Not being able to write doesn't mean not being able to think; and sometimes not writing is just as productive for it can mean to concentrate, to focus on a certain aspect much more. You have to wait for the right time, the right moment. Only when you're ready to write, then and only then you'll be able to produce something which you can be satisfied with.

PJK
June 17th, 1999







Entry # 55: June 17th 1999 - Commemorating DeForest Kelley

Last Friday, June 11th, DeForest Kelley died. He was best known for impersonating Star Trek's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, one of the three central characters of the original series. His death came as some kind of a surprise to me, and also as some kind of a shock, producing a strange kind of awareness - mostly that of how fast time goes by. But also, with Star Trek still very much alive on the tv screens, both in its original incarnation as well as in its successors, the show has already outlived one of its characters - with DeForest Kelley having become immortal also in a cultural context.

McCoy always has been a central figure to Star Trek, and he also gave sort of his blessing to the new ship, the 1701-D, in TNG's pilot show. The cynical doctor always has been my favorite character of the old series, and that was due very much to the performance of this great actor. McCoy was the voice of emotionality and humanity, Spock the voice of logic and reason, Kirk the acting synthesis of both. But while I might have said that in the past tense, it would be true rather also in the present - the show never vanished from tv screens around the world. And so DeForest Kelly can be very confident that his memory will not fade for quite some time, I certainly won't forget him.

PJK
June 17th, 1999







Entry # 56: June 17th 1999 - Commemorating Millennium

Another casualty to be mentioned, although having died somewhat earlier, is the tv show Millennium, one of my favorites and truly one of the best television shows ever having come into existence. Its cancellation happened much too early, its "parent" show, The X-Files, survived it even.

But as sad as its early end may be, it shares its fate with other extraordinary shows like Twin Peaks and Space: Above and Beyond. This doesn't mean it will be forgotten. Perhaps we'll even see a movie, sometimes, although hopes aren't too high. The thousand years may be over, but this show will stay alive in our memories. --- Do I sound a bit touching or sentimental today? Maybe. You'll get over it.

PJK
June 17th, 1999







Entry # 57: June 19th 1999 - The Dalai Lama

Yesterday evening I attended a speech by the Dalai Lama. It was the very first time I saw him in person. His presence is very delightful, he's a very amiable person. His ability to reduce seemingly complex matters to their basic underlying conflicts and constituents might for some seem like a simplistic approach, but the opposite is true: The core of things is always rather simple, while the way we construct things, the way we construct discourses around things, leads to some degree of confusion, of alienation.

At the very basic level of things, we all are human beings. We all have basically the same needs, the same potentials to make our lives either happy or unhappy - with these simple words, His Holiness reached very deep into the cause of suffering, and also into the possibility of fighting suffering. This is also what Buddhism is about: To teach what suffering means, and how to overcome it:

Then and now, monks, I teach only this: Suffering and how to overcome suffering.

(Majjhimanikaya 22 I. quoted from: Hans Wolfgang Schumann. Buddhismus. Stifter, Schulen und Systeme. München: Diederichs, 1997, 115 [my translation].
[English Version: Buddhism, an Outline of its Teachings and Schools. London 1973 / Wheaton 1974, 31989])

This illustrates the real problem: The problems we might have are mostly in our head - arising from expectations, and from expectations which cannot be realized. It is our personal outlook on life which determines our fate - the choices we make might depend on other people, but they are our own. "Tolerance doesn't mean indifference", and "non-violence doesn't mean inaction".

The speech he gave dealt with conflict management. One question from the audience addressed the Kosovo conflict and the general question of how to react to violence: in a long-term perspective, non-violence is the only prevailing option. But in a short-term situation, under a sudden threat, the reaction might need to be different:

"[Then] compassion is foolish: We have to run away, if necessary, fight back."

He also spoke of negligences and missed opportunities in the past to take preventive measures for the future. To the question, how the crisis could have been solved non-militarily, his answer was very short and poignant:

"I don't know!"

It's mostly also the little details, how he reacts to certain situations, how he is able to cheer up the audience. With exclamating "now, conclusion!", he came to the end of his speech and summarized in a very brief but effective way his opinion towards the subject - that conflicts arise in ourselves. We need to develop a peace of mind, an active compassion and caring for others. Caring about other people's problems makes our own problems look foolish and insignificant. Overcoming our own misery, we will be able to help others. It is quite revealing how similar some basic points in Buddhism and Christianity are - how fundamental basic truths are, even not bound by religions. Mentioning the obvious fact that he himself is a Buddhist, he also acknowledged that other people might be happy with their own religions, but he says that once a religion has been accepted, it has to be lived consequently. He cites the example of those going to church or into the temple, reciting their prayers there, and when leaving the building, their first thoughts being "money, money, money!"

When I, as a Catholic, refer to the Dalai Lama as "His Holiness", I do so not because I would just follow a convention, but because I indeed recognize a truth behind this title. As a person, a human being, he is very humorous, his manner of expression very refreshing. To me, it seems that humor comes naturally with enlightened persons - this is true for instance also for the Holy Father and for St. Francis. -- There is no barrier, no unnecessary cult, no de-humanizing stylization - his message is very direct, very immediate - and very persisting. When he is lacking some words in English, he switches to Tibetian, after finishing a thought smilingly indicating the translator to do his job. He doesn't sit on his chair in a motionless way but always moves slowly from one side to the other like a ship in troubled water. He starts and finishes talking with a smile, with true compassion; with a deep compassion which easily eliminates any doubts about its existence. I am glad to have had the opportunity to listen to him.

PJK
June 19th, 1999







Entry # 58: Jul 01/May 3 - Childhood / Middle Ages / Rome
   regarding Neil Postman. The Disappearance of Childhood.


Remarks on Chapter 1: When There Were No Children. 61-78
Neil Postman. The Disappearance of Childhood. NY: Vintage Books 1982, 1994

1. The So-Called Fall of the Roman Empire

Today's understanding of what the Roman state meant usually is strongly influenced by contemporary understanding of government. But today's principles cannot be applied onto the past that easily: In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, government was easily exchangeable without leading to a great impact on the mass of the population, which was mostly rural. In fact, the provinces and towns were at the time of the collapse of the Roman government virtually self-sustaining, for there had been a long-lasting decline of the power of the emperor(s). By the end of the reign of Romulus Augustulus (472), usually referred to as the end of the Roman Empire, and by Odoaker establishing his reign in Italy, Rome had for quite some time been separated into an Eastern and a Western Empire. This division but was already apparent right from the beginning of the rise of Rome - the empire broke apart at the linguistical divide between Latin- and Greek-speaking areas.

Also, the end of the empire as such didn't mean the end of the idea of Rome: Large parts of the Medieval world understood themselves as the ongoing continuation of the Roman Empire. Charlemagne's empire was a Roman Empire, so was the German Empire of the Ottonian and of later emperors. This new empire was called sacrum imperium, holy empire, and it was seen as a direct continuation of the old state.

The Imperium Romanum and the idea of it also existed in various forms and incarnations. It's just a matter of definition. It ended for example in 391 when Christianity became the official religion under Theodosius (thereby meaning the end of the secular Rome). It ended in 395 after the separation into East and West. It ended for example in 1453 (with the fall of Constantinople), It ended in 1806 (with the fall of what was left of the German Empire acfter Napoleon's victory at Jena and Auerstedt), it ended in 1919 (with the fall of the German Wilheminian empire), it ended in 1917 (with the fall of the czaristic Russian empire, which understood itself as a continuation of Byzantine Rome). And anyway, after C. Iulius Caesar and M. Tullius Cicero had been murdered in 44 resp. 43 BC, Rome hadn't been the same anymore.

The so-called Fall of the Roman Empire was not something which took place at a certain time, at a certain place. Much more, the empire died a slow death and experienced an ongoing restauration, a rebirth into newer forms - both at the same time. At the end of antiquity and at the beginning of the Middle Ages, around 500 AD, the result was a more or less Romanized Europe, into which the structures and ideas of Rome had been carried. This also allowed Christianity to spread, so that the medieval world was something where the Roman idea and Christianity were very much present, and very much alive. Postman makes the mistake of relying on outdated historical concepts, preferring drastic changes over continuity. He confuses changes on the map with changes inside. But this is not the only weak point in his argument.

2. The So-Called Dark Ages

There is not a single term in pseudo-historic writing as deceptive as that of the 'Dark Ages'. This term itself is a construction of Renaissance and Enlightenment, and it has to be understood in the context of a growing antipathy towards the Catholic Church and towards religion itself. The medieval world as a more or less deeply religious community must have been quite a deterring image for the secular movements following. Postman doesn't hesitate to use and exploit this one-dimensional picture, blaming the Roman Church for almost everything which he thinks was wrong in the Middle Ages. Such thought is, however, not uncommon.

Had it not been for the Roman Church, and for its monks, the knowledge of antiquity would have been lost. Postman distorts this picture and presents us the Roman Church as eagerly hiding knowledge from the people, eagerly thus protecting its power. The church as a means to promote illiteracy? I've never heard anything quite ridiculous as that.

Concerning the so-called scientific and educational decline following the so-called fall of the Roman Empire: Writing and education in Rome, as well as in Athens, was a prime domain of the upper classes. In Rome, that meant restriction of such faculties to the senatoric and equestrial class. The rural population and the proletarians of the towns mostly remained illiterate. Within medieval conditions, that changed - but it was more a shift within the distribution of knowledge: The rulers of the new world weren't any more republican senators, the new rulers were dukes and kings. The church itself was more like an intermediary, the Pope himself didn't really have worldly power (with a few exceptions like Gregorius I. (590-604) and Gregorius VII. (1073-85), who tried to influence politics to a great extent). And within an agrarian, pre-industrial society, knowledge and education naturally are the domain of those having both the money and the time for that. That's not ill will, that's a matter of practicability.

But Rome itself meant scientific degradation and stagnation. It focussed on agriculture, architecture, politics and war. But its main interest was to uphold the status quo - which ultimately meant its decline as a political entity. Rome's governmental and military structure didn't adapt to a changing world, or it didn't adapt as fast as it should have. The great scientific inventions of today were made possible with the beginning of the Middle Ages. Postman tries to stress the importance of printing with movable letters. That of course was one of the most important inventions ever made. He likes the idea that with this technology, a new era of historical development had started, ending the Middle Ages - but he forgets that it was the Middle Ages that made this invention possible. The technological and industrial revolution didn't happen after the Middle Ages, they were being initiated by them. The thousand years of Rome, however, meant more or less stagnation.

The only dark thing about the Dark Ages were living conditions in the colder areas; but they hadn't been much different in antiquity either. The medieval and antique world has to be looked at from a geographic perspective: Living conditions around the Mediterranean sea were drastically different from those in Germania, northern Gallia or other areas. In those northern areas, life was threatened by cold weather, smoky and overheated cabins etc. Also, one just has to look at today's Third- and Fourth-World countries. But I haven't yet heard anybody calling our "modern" world the Dark Ages.

Concerning morale. In Rome as in Athens, sexual intercourse with children, even with animals, was something not uncommon at parties of the upper classes (although there were also quite many examples of a much more advanced morality, as visible in the writings of Cicero or Seneca). The point Postman tries to make, that the medieval world would have been emotionally cold and amoral is again a very gross weakness of his.

Equally, the (wide-ranged) notion of the Roman Empire as kind of a mother of civilization is just as erroneous. One just has to take into account that basically all our information we have about the Romans is what they said about themselves. This loss of objectivity is even more underlined by the obsession with Rome which was and still is a constant factor within historiography (I for one am not free of such thought myself). Equally, Renaissance tried to create the illusion of being much better than its historical precursor. Thus, the Middle Ages have fallen victim to the self-praise of other periods, they've become a scapegoat.

3. Disappearing Childhood

Not only does Postman deliver a distorted image of historic events and situations, he also misses the point by ignoring further evidence. Child labor might be quite an unpleasant thing, but it is only in today's top-notch industrial countries that we can condemn it without risking to endanger our economic stability. In Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, workforce was a very critical factor. While today we have unemployment, those times didn't have the adult population necessary to support the agrarian economy. Children had to work on the fields or in the factories together with their parents because there weren't any machinery like today, and the population wasn't as large as it was later, at least in rural areas. In the cities, the situation was different, and during the late Middle Ages, there was also a heavy unemployment rate in the cities.

Education and childhood, now something like a matter of course, were luxury items at this time, available only to those who had certain economic liberties. But also, everybody could make use of the Church's offers to learn in the monasteries. But, as also today in less industrial areas, children were an economical factor. Children weren't forced to work because of a lack of understanding of what childhood means. They were forced to work because that was the only way for a family to support itself, they were cheap workers. Today, family businesses work the same way.

That's also a reason for slavery and serfdom in antique and medieval societies. And it is also a reason why there was slavery in the agrarian American South, and not in the industrial American North: This was not due to any kind of higher morality of the North, it was due to the fact that the work on the fields and plantations in the South was something unpleasant, something also demanding for lots of workers. This lack of willing workforce then served as a justification for slavery; as it also did in Rome. That doesn't make it right - on the contrary: It shows that human beings can be extremely ruthless under extreme conditions. That slavery by now is being understood as something evil is best supported by it not being necessary any more; and so is child labor.

Postman also makes the point of childhood disappearing today again, stressing that by the loss of traditional children's games and clothing and dialect. But while it might be true to a certain extent that the traditional concept of what it means to be a kid has changed in recent decades, that doesn't mean that there wouldn't be childhood any more: It just looks different. Because of education and technology, kids are spending time in front of the tv or the computer, or even with books. They usually are capable of dealing with technology - which might look frightening to those adults who can't.

Childhood isn't something which can be defined by speech, clothing or occupation. Childhood is something we carry within us, something we choose to deny when being adults. We construct adulthood in opposition to childhood, to look very grown-up. We dress ourselves differently, we talk differently - we apply a mask of seriousness which is supposed to uphold the artificial construction of adulthood. But inside, deep down inside of us, we're still a child looking for appreciation and respect. When we grow older, some of us will hopefully realize the emptiness of such pretending.

PJK
May 3rd / July 1st, 1999







Entry # 59: Jul 02 - Goodbye GeoCities

This marks the end of an era for me. I started my web site at GeoCities and only moved it to my university account because the uploading to the US server took me too long from Europe. But I still had some parts of my site there and was planning to move over again after finishing my studies in some years, I also thought of using it to create a mirror site. But that's over now. I've canceled my GeoCities account - the reason being the merger with Yahoo . The new Terms Of Service they introduced contained what would have allowed them to use any of my material without further agreeing on my part. But I do not want to be a part of this charade, and I'm joining a lot of other former GeoCities homesteaders.

GeoCities felt like a special place, and when I was deleting my files and then deactivating my account, that was a sad thing to do. I will still have to change the Guestbook option, the feedback form is gone too. And of course, the GeoCities URL won't work any more. Terminated. Deleted. Erased. Gone. Thanks Yahoo , thanks for destroying GeoCities. I hope they'll learn from their mistake, I hope they'll recognize it, to make GeoCities a special place again. But for me, I'm done.

July 2nd, 1999







Entry # 60: Aug 05 - Requiem for a Cat

Yesterday, our cat passed away. He had lived for fifteen years now, quite some time for a cat. But some weeks past, he started to lose his energy, retreated into every possible hidden corner, refused to eat and became quite apathetic. Diagnosed with a kidney disease, it was clear he would never regain his health. However, he seemed to recover for some days, until by late last week he became a mere shadow of his former self, he wasn't even any more able to walk without stumbling. So we called the veterinarian yesterday, and at 8 PM he was put to sleep.

Now matter how obvious the situation, no matter how well you're prepared - nothing of that is of importance when it actually happens. I held his head during the procedure, and suddenly, the friend who had been around me for more than half of my life, was dead. When I was eight years old, we found his mother with four kittens. We played with them for some time, their names being Mauzi (the only female), Thomas, Peter, and Purzel. Then one day, the kittens started to disappear, their mother was moving them to another place. So we retained one, Purzel, and kept him. I'm pretty sure that all his other siblings have been dead for a long, long time now - cats usually don't live that long outside households. I do not know if you have experience with pets, but when you do, and especially when you've had a dog or a cat, you'll understand this feeling: I cannot help but think of him as an individual with a mind of his own. It is very easy to indulge in the conception that an animal is just an animal, that they don't have emotions, don't have thoughts, that they are essentially motoric, that they're just like mindless robots chasing for food, reproduction, relaxation. But think about it. That's all we do ourselves, and the reason it looks different is that we ourselves have created the definitions by which we judge and estimate ourselves and others. And do not say animals don't speak - we might not understand their language, but we surely can communicate with them. We just have to lose our superiority complex.

To say it was strange to have to dig his grave in advance, to buy a small wooden box, to cover the inside with fabric, to write his name and birth date and point of death on it, to produce a cross for his grave - and then to take him, put him on a chair and let the vet do his job - - - after we buried him and I had finished the cross, and put some stones and plants on his grave, I had to do some cleaning in the house and some watering the plants outside of the house. I removed his feeding bowls from the kitchen and his sleeping basket from my dad's office and his pillow from my dad's desk, which he both hadn't used for some time anyway but prefered to sleep under the closet during the last weeks. You have to keep yourself occupied, you have to move your thoughts unto the future, away from the past, away from the present. But you also have to allow yourself to grieve, to cry, even when you're a man. Playing tough doesn't help. It might help to try to give this impression, but do not pretend something which isn't there. Showing strength - this can also mean to allow your emotions to be visible, and be it just mostly in private, and a little bit in front of others. It is no use if all the people cried at the same time, someone has to do the work. Someone has to do the dirty work, dig the grave, build the coffin, call the doctor, lay him into the coffin, close the grave, put the cross on it, clean up. But you have to let your compassion, you have to let your grief out. Pretending something which isn't there is foolish - and, contrary to common belief, it is not a sign of strength but of weakness. And believe me, I cried. And I said my prayers.

Another common belief is that in times of great sadness and great pain, religions do work best. But when everything is fine, they're forgotten. That might be true for some people - but I would not call that religious. That would mean to see religion as a mere kind of sociological component - which function it does perform also - but leaving the much deeper, much truer part out of it. Pray in good times, pray in bad times. Blaming religion for what happens in bad times is stupid, and regarding to that I would recommend Job, chapters 38-42. There is no one to blame, no reason to lose faith - not in God anyway, perhaps in yourself. What decision is that anyway? Shall we put him to sleep or not? He would have died sooner or later, and I struggled with the decision. We had to make it, but that doesn't make this choice easier. But still, basically, I took his life. I did it to save him from his pain - did I have the right to do it? Genesis 1, 28-30 might sound quite simplistic but it makes sense though: Responsibility. But I do not promote active euthanasia for humans - why not? Wouldn't that be a logical step? No, and this is leading too far here. No switching topics now. Two different veterinarians had said two weeks ago that it was time for him to die, and we waited until his status was of an utmost certainty approaching the end. I'm glad we waited to give him two more weeks, two more weeks during which he could enjoy the garden, his life - but when it became very clear there was not an ounce of enjoyment there anymore, when it became clear that he had given himself up, when it became clear that he wanted to die, we supported this decision. At least that's the version I'm comfortable with.

But enough. He had fifteen years, and I believe he was happy most of his time. His physical existence has ended, just like everybody else's end will come. I do not have the slightest doubt that he rejoins eternity, or gets into heaven, but I do not like this word, it has been childified too much. I see no reason why non-human life should be worth anything less, why there should be no other level of existence for them. I know where he goes to, I do not know it in my brain - but intelligence, thinking and intellectual knowledge is just nonsense if it comes to any matter of importance. I know it in my heart, and I am sure of it. There is no doubt, not anymore.

Purzel, beloved cat and friend. Born March 1984, deceased Wednesday, August 4th, 1999, at 8 PM. Requiescat in pace.

Pie Iesu, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona ei requiem. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona ei requiem sempiternam - requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternam: quia pius est.

PJK
August 5th, 1999







Entry # 61: Sep 20 - Loss

You might be able to deal with death when you know that there is nothing like a permanent end; death is not the end of life - of this I am certain. But still there remains loss, sadness, loneliness and even some kind of desperation after the death of a beloved person. So I'm still coping with our cat's death; you might say, he's just a cat - yes, he is, but that's irrelevant. Emotional detachment doesn't help in such cases, nor does it help to apply stupid categories. I still think I just saw him passing by, sitting there, coming into the room; he's still present in my thoughts - he always will. It is a personal dimension at work here; I do not grieve for him because of where he is now; I grieve for myself as he isn't around any more. I haven't even been able to do my work the way I used to; everything has changed. But the show must go on.

PJK
September 19th, 1999







Entry # 62: Sep 20 - Homosexuality & Discrimination

There has been a discussion on CNN's Larry King Live recently about gay men in the military, and what I heard there was incredible, I didn't believe what I was seeing. As a heterosexual myself, I understand that the heterosexual world is somewhat uncertain in the presence of gay persons; but that's the same uncertainty as when a person of the opposite sex is around you; just that now it's the same sex. This is odd, but this is nothing else but odd: There's nothing else to it. There exist heterosexual and homosexual people, get over it. I do not know what the problem is. But to listen to people like Congressman Barr (R) made me shudder.

Prejudice is nothing new among human beings, but judging from the past, the present should be more aware of its illegitimacy: Prejudice is a result of anxieties, it is the result of insecurity and missing understanding. So just say the truth: I feel insecure around gay men. But I also feel insecure around attractive girls too, as do I feel insecure when a superior or a professor or someone I don't know is around. I feel insecure around Blacks, but not because I would not accept them, on the contrary, I feel insecure about them because of what white people did to them - I feel somewhat responsible for acts of enslavement and discrimination just because I am white. Not even talking of my insecurity as a German native, considering what the Nazis did. But this insecurity should not lead to discrimination, on the contrary, it should lead to understanding and acceptance!

The arguments Congressman Barr made against gays in the military were amongst the stupidest and grossest things I've ever heard, they were simply ridiculous. Gay men would undermine the chain of command because they would bond in a certain way, thus endangering the safety of the troops - what a nonsense! And it is the same kind of nonsense which lead to the exclusion of black people from the military in the past. But from the mouth of a politician, such talk is dangerous. Just now I'm reading Arthur Herman's The Idea of Decline in Western History, a brilliant but also disturbing book which tries to explain philosophical ideas like that of Gobineau or Nietsche, which in a way made path for the Nazi movement; it also approaches issues of racial discrimination and prejudice. The people creating and believing in this dangerous nonsense haven't been the usual Nazi idiots but serious scientists and philosophers, they believed the lie.

Amongst the most outrageous arguments against gay people are those "derived" from the Holy Bible. Remember, slavery and racial discrimination were also being justified with certain biblical interpretations - and the same thing is happening again. As a Catholic I find this not only dubious but blasphemic. To use the Bible as a political instrument is nefariously wrong - especially when people try to use it to justify discrimination and criminal actions. The phrases in scripture which could be relevant to condemning homosexuality would be Leviticus 18,22 and 20,13; but then again, the historical context of these laws is important! Do these people who use scripture for this purpose follow all the laws in Leviticus and Numbers? Why rely on archaic laws made for the Jewish people at that time? These are the two single passages in the Bible concerning the topic, much more important is the issue of fornication, which but is something different. It is hypocrisy at its highest to amplify one of the least important parts of the Bible while at the same time, by doing so, practicing discrimination and injustice which clearly do not justice to the single most important law of God - Matthew 22, 37-40. Everything else in scripture is secondary to this. When a gay couple loves each other, where could there be a sin in it? Homosexuality is neither a disease nor a pretention. The Law of God (including Leviticus) isn't against love, it is against the things which destroy the love between the people, and between the people and God. Gay people are gay not because they would be evil, but because it is their nature, because it is how God created them. The specific Leviticus passages are rather to be understood in the context of fornication, as it was practiced in orgies of Greeks and Romans. This is the context these laws are set into. To use pseudo-religious arguments which are taken out of context and practiced out of context is dishonest.

Sorry for having gone into religious argument, but that was necessary to disprove the false and one-sided argument of others. I myself do not like using religious arguments in a public discussion; and they are not necessary: Homosexuality isn't a religious issue as it isn't a sin, it isn't a crime against God - it isn't a crime against ourselves. Sins are something which separates us from God; but I clearly cannot see any connection to homosexuality here. Discrimination against any group is a bad thing; except of course discrimination, or rather action, against those in favor of discrimination. But not in an aggressive way but peacefully. This is the only way to overcome these injustices, it is the way paved by people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And it is sad, very sad, that at the end of the 20th century, issues like racial and sexual discrimination are still alive in so-called modern societies.

PJK
September 19th, 1999







Entry # 63: Sep 30 - Good/Bad Weather

I'm somewhat at a loss sometimes as to what is regarded to be good or bad weather. I understand that no one, myself included, would think of such drastic things as hurricanes or tornados or floods as something one should be looking forward to. But I'm rather aiming here at things like rain, snowfall, wind, clouds, temperature. Actually, rain can be very good weather; perhaps not for the average tourist, but for the vegetation and the animals. Anyone thinking of that some time?

And most horrendous of all is the notion of blaming nature or even God for most natural disasters. These terrible floods in China, and the rather harmless floods in parts of Germany, are mostly man-made, results of straightening the course of certain rivers, of clearing the woods in the montaneous regions which leads to increased erosion. The water cannot be slowed down or absorbed in the mountains anymore, so it goes down the river. Straightened rivers carry the water faster - and like on a freeway, when there suddenly is an obstacle, you got a problem.

In other cases, where floods have been made impossible or less frequent by building a dam, the surrounding regions might suffer too. Prime example is Egypt's Assuam Dam, which has reduced the instances of floods around the Nile. But these floods were essential for agriculture. So another man-made disaster was created. But we call it a "natural" disaster or bad weather anyway, shifting responsibility. I haven't even talked about the rain forests yet...

PJK
September 30th, 1999







Entry # 64: Sep 30 - Dot Com Domains

Just a small remark concerning my own dot com domain, philjohn.com. In internet slang, the ".com" usually stands for commercial. But that's just one aspect of it. In the days of DOS, when handling filenames was a bit different than in the age of Windows, ".com" meant (and still means) a command file, the core of a program. That's more interesting than the commercial aspect. This ain't a real commercial site, anyway.

PJK
September 30th, 1999







Entry # 65: Sep 30 - Communist China

When the "People's Republic" of China celebrates its fiftieth birthday these days with parades of faked happiness on the square where innocent blood was spilt some years ago, I am reminded of the days of the GDR and the Soviet Union. Pictures like I remember them from my childhood are still the present in China, that's sort of a real horror movie going on. But among the sadness and the sympathy for the suppressed, I am also confident that this regime will come down too. The difference in the situation is just that Eastern Europe (with the exception of Yugoslavia, as we all can see these days again) fell with the fall of the Soviet Union, but China, having been the declared enemy of the USSR, wasn't that much affected by this - which makes it more difficult to overthrow the communist dictatorship. But the people shall overcome their oppressors. I'm certain of this.

PJK
September 30th, 1999







Entry # 66: Nov 9 - About the Redesign (Version 9.0) / Site Census #1

Again, I have undertaken the task of a general refit of my site. This resulted from my being less happy with the appearance of it during the last weeks. It is a funny thing - a webmaster's work is never done. You might develop a layout and navigation that you really like, apply it: and as soon as it is on the net, in your mind it is already obsolete. You realize all your little and big mistakes and try to correct tis or tat; but it's no use. One day you need to do it all over again to remove these little inconsistencies.

To date, this site contains

  • 238 HTML text files,
  • 263 images for navigation and layout,
  • 171 photographs with their
  • 171 thumbnail images,
  • plus two sound files;

making a total of 836 files or 14.5 MB of data. Perhaps size does matter.

The aim of the redesign was to smoothen navigation by removing unnecessary and subjective sub-divisions like the Miscellaneous Shows section. Many other changes had been made before like re-arranging the movies section or consequently marking out the subsequent pages navigations. The main problem was that the previous version grew out of so many little corrections that it seemed necessary to clarify the overall impression, to make the used color scheme less offensive, to create a more intuitive design.

The problem is always that you try to plan ahead, to create in advance the structures you want to fill. That works to a certain extent; but over time, a kind of natural growth will always break up such structures. Things get out of control, and corrections have to be made. But the corrections you make mostly arise out of your own perspective - once you ask for a second opinion, you'll always be surprised about the things you're going to hear. In most cases, you yourself cannot take a step aback, you're too deeply involved - someone else has to make you aware of the problems. But the good thing about the internet is that you always can correct your mistakes over time - nothing is fixed. A site evolves, and it has the chance to evolve.

PJK
November 9th, 1999







Entry # 67: Nov 9 - Ten Years of Freedom

Ten years ago, GDR authorities gave the order to open up the wall and to let the people out. Ten years ago, this evil system had to step aside to let the people make their decisions. Ten years ago, the Russian president did not give the order to enact countermeasures (like it happened in 1953 in Berlin and in 1968 in Prague). Ten years ago, the people of the GDR got their freedom. Ten years ago, I myself got my freedom.

The Communist system of the GDR, belonging to the truly evil empire of the USSR, was relying on imprisoning its citizens. What a perverse and sick logic was behind this! But in itself, the wall was the most honest sign that Communism had failed: The Communist system gave up its perspective the day the wall was built, and once the wall was torn down, the day the wall was opened, this ninth of November in 1989, this day the system of the GDR was dead. Everything that happened between November 9th, 1989, and October 3rd, 1990, was just an artificial prolongation of a not only dying but of a dead state.

The problems which are there today in the former GDR are not arising from unification, are not arising from the "capitalist" system of the Federal Republic of Germany. These problems are based on the catastrophic state the GDR, the entire Soviet Bloc was in. The day the wall was opened was the last chance for the Communist system to take its leave in a more or less orderly way. Unification then was possible just in the way it happened. This was the time, this was the place, this was the method. Anybody saying something differently is making a mistake.

PJK
November 9th, 1999







Entry # 68: Nov 10 - Never

Never go without a good-bye.
Never forget to say you're sorry.
Never don't think twice.
Never let your emotions not tell you what's right.
Never stop listening to your heart.
Never disregard others.
Never forget that others are human beings too.
Never forget that these share the same basic needs and sorrows.
Never disengage from reality.
Never disengage from eternity.

In all other cases: Never say never again.

PJK
November 10th, 1999







Entry # 69: Dec 31 - Y2K

Only a few hours from now, the date we'll be writing each day will carry a "2" as the first cipher; only a few hours from now, we'll know whether there'll be a Y2K problem or not. Personally, I don't think there will be any great impact. Life will go on - some minor systems might have problems, but the rest should be fine. There won't be the end of the world either - why should there! Our method of numbering the years is just an artificial thing, other cultures do it differently - furthermore, there've been so many deviations from the method; it simply isn't true that tomorrow it will be 2000 years after the birth of Christ. Our chronology is a convention, an abstraction - it is a nice number, this even 2000, but it's nothing more than that. Next Monday, we'll all start working or studying again. Life goes on.

There's just one difference: As you watch CNN, you can see how all the different cultures will join in the millennium celebrations. One world - united in celebration. Today it's mostly an illusion, as fighting in Grosny and in other places will go on. But it's a signal towards the future. Yeltsin left office to let Putin succeed as acting president of Russia; let's hope for the best.

Let us leave behind a century that had it all - the most cruel dicatatorships and wars, pollution, crime and desperation - as well as great art, great inventions and the increasing influence of liberty and democracy. The next century shall be different - we shall overcome the pain and the terror and the separation. We don't have a choice either if we intent to survive. Let us all hope for a happy new year indeed.

PJK
December 31st, 1999





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