Artie and Atman

Three years ago  I wrote a  little story  about an old man and his dog. It is, of course, based on a famous philosopher. Going through some older blogs I thought not many people have read the story. So, here it is again : “Artie and Atman”.

When I go on my early morning walks, along beautiful Lake Illawarra, I often see “Old Artie”. He walks at a slow pace, stops and waits for his black poodle Atman. His white hair acts like a beacon and every one knows Artie and his dog. They have been doing those walks for as long as any one can remember. Everyone’s dog got old and died; apparently not Artie’s poodle. Atman seems to have eternal life. No one ever asked him how old his poodle really was. Until a woman, who only recently had joined our unofficial walkers club, asked Artie,

“How old is Oldman?”

“Atman,” Artie corrected her, annoyed by the nosey woman.

“Sorry, Atman.”

“ ‘Atman’ is not my name. My friends call me Artie,“ he said in a brash voice, annoyed that the woman interrupted his meditations. “ ‘Atman’ is the poodle’s name. It stands for the eternal soul of all living beings.” The woman wondered whether Artie would have any friends.

“So your dog lives for ever?” the woman asked mystified.

“Not this dog, no. What you see here is only a phenomena and when that particular one changes back into what it was before, I get another poodle, similar to it.”

“That sounds all very philosophical,” the woman said wondering what the dog could have been before.

“Is this why you have difficulties understanding the concept of Atman?”

Now it was the woman who was annoyed and she asked, “Do I understand right, your dog is just a concept to you?”

“It is! Like you and me and all the other people, we are the present state of the ‘Will’. Atman is what we call a dog, it is loyal and happy and is always able to accept life as it is; as all dogs do. We delight in our pets because of the naivety of all their actions. They are not as complex as we are. What I like most, it has never asked me silly questions. It doesn’t need to. It is happy with life as it presents itself.” He turned around, walked away and left the woman standing. The dog who has just gone into the bushes to follow nature’s call ran up to him and waged its tail.

When we came up to her she said,

“What a rude old man. He should not be allowed to own a dog.” She then told us the whole conversation she had with him. I had to smile as we all had similar encounters with Artie and knew that he could not stand people, because he thought we all think too much without really knowing anything.

Arthur_Schopenhauer_by_Wilhelm_Busch

The drawing is by Wilhelm Busch of Arthur Schopenhauer and his poodle. 

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Email Conversation

Betty and Jack are in different rooms of their home. They sit at their respective computers and communicate with the outside world and occasionally with each other.

Jack  (shouts to the the other room)    Betty are you there?

Betty  (shouts back)            Of course I am. Were else should I be? I’m busy writing. What do you want?

Jack  (shouts back again)            I’ll write you an email.

Betty  (shouts back)              I’m not sure I’ll answer back. Could you be quiet. I have to concentrate.

Jack  (starts writing)            I’m lonely. I have not talked to you for hours. I just read an  article that says, loneliness is killing us.

Betty (writes back)               You are so silly Jack. You are just like a baby. If someone  is not holding your paw you feel abandoned.

Jack  (writing)           Abandoned? I’m sitting here, whiling away my time , playing “Free Cell”  and waiting for you to come out of your den.

Betty  (writes back)               You don’t need to play “Free Cell”. Have a look in the  back yard – a lot of bushes need trimming.

Jack   ( writing)          They say, loneliness kills twice as many people as  obesity. You might find a skeleton by the time you come away from that PC of yours.

Betty    (writes back)             Aren’t I unlucky? If you would be obese you could be dead   already.

Jack   (writing)      You used to cook beautiful meals before I bought the PC  for you. What a mistake that was.

Betty (writes back)             They also say, women kill their husbands with food. I  don’t want to do that.

Jack   (writing)      No – you kill with loneliness.

Betty (writes back)             Kindness wouldn’t do the trick.  You are a cry baby now, Jack. I’m sick  of you winging and moaning. I have to write another sentence and then  we can have a cup of tea. In the meantime, put the kettle on !

Jack   (writing)         Is that the sentence you wrote already last night? People feel better in a community; in a village type of society. We shouldn’t be on our own.

Betty (writes back)                  Stop that, Jack. You are not on your own. I’m here and think of you all the time. I can’t avoid you. You are sending me emails –  constantly 😦

Jack   (writing)         You are there and I’m here hammering on this keyboard.

Betty (writes back)              Why don’t you write to your sister or a new blog? You have friends all over the world. Communicate with them and let me communicate with my friends.

Jack   (writing)      The capitalists have succeeded in separating us by providing  each of us with a computer.  We lost eye contact. Words lose a lot of meaning without eye contact.

Betty (writes back)             I hear the kettle boiling. Make the tea and I’ll be out there in a flash. Do you understand this without eye contact?

Jack   (writing)       I can’t hear a thing, but will check it out.

Jack gets up and walks to the kitchen to prepares the tea. When he comes back he writes again.

Jack   (writing)          You were right the water was boiling.

Betty (writes back)             I told you so. No good talking to you as you can’t hear anyway.

Jack   (writing)        The tea is ready.

Betty (writes back)              Take it out to the front porch and we have our tea there. We talk about your plans for Saturday.

Jack goes back to the kitchen and prepares a tray to take to the front porch. He takes some biscuits and a banana for a snack. He carries the tray out and Betty joins him there.

Betty                                   That looks good. Lets enjoy our tea.

Jack                                    I enjoy these rare moments with you and watch the birds at the same time.

Betty                                   What will we do on Saturday? Surprise me!

Jack                                   We’ll go to the theatre and see Maxim Gorky’s “Children of the Sun”.      

Betty                                 That’ll be nice. Gorky foresaw the revolution and understood that the middle class was disconnected from the working class.

Jack                                    I feel sometimes that I’m disconnected from you.

Betty (writes back)           Don’t start this again. We are together now and are enjoying our tea.

Jack                                      Yeah, yeah. I’m looking forward to the theatre too. At least you have to sit for a couple of hours  beside me.

Betty                                   It is breathtaking how you like us to stick  together like glue.

Jack                                       I thought that is the idea of marriage you know – “for better or worse”.   

Betty     (emptying her cup and putting it down)    You can   clean up here, while I’ll finish  my comment. Then we spend time together. Is this a deal?                             

Jack                          I’ll do that and wait out here for you.

Betty walks inside and when she comes back out again she finds Jack fast asleep in a chair.

She turns and goes back inside  to her computer.

Is God Purpose or is Purpose God ?

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I lived now for nearly eighty years, seemingly without purpose.

There must be a purpose in that !

There is still hope that I discover this purpose, because in the end, when the balance sheet of my life is ruled off, there should be a balance – or not?

Some people think,  “God is Love”. I don’t believe this. Love is only the grease that makes life bearable. The more love there is in our lives the less we squeal.

When we are born we scream like mad because of the rude awakening. That moment is our own expulsion from paradise.  We realise at that point, a priori, that we have been released into the world to find, not our purpose, but THE PURPOSE !

New Arrivals Down Under

Everything comes to an end one day. But, at the same time, it is  the beginning of something new.

Paul and Ursula were standing at the railing of the ship that had been their home for five glorious weeks. They felt they were treated like royalty. It was a journey of a lifetime that transported them from the cold war  Europe of the fifties to a new life on an ancient  continent.

They had their girls on their arms and observed the activities on shore. Men in blue singlets were hoisting the gangway into place so a new wave of migrants could get on land.

Only in the morning had a doctor decided that they could disembark because Ursula suffered  a large abscess on her knee which made walking near impossible only the day before. This would have meant they would have continued their  cruise to Sydney. But over night the knee became better.

A cold wind blew from the South and they had to prepare to disembark. For the last time they went to their cabin and collected their hand luggage and the pram for the girls. Nothing was easy but they looked forward meeting and experiencing their new homeland. The future lay right in front of them. “Just walk the plank,” Paul said with a smile to Ursula as she pushed the pram, containing both girls, carefully towards solid ground.

There were people everywhere showing them the way into a large hall for the custom check.  Busy hands were frisking the  luggage of the new arrivals.

“What are they looking for,” someone asked in German.

“Knifes and dirty pictures,” someone answered back in German.

Slowly they moved towards  a table with a stern looking customs officer. Paul had to lift their suit cases on the table and open them for inspection.  He felt terrible, ” just like the East-German police,” he thought. The officer found a couple of rolls of  negatives and stretched them open. He held them against the light to see  whether he could discover some lewd photos. It was his duty to stop those migrants bringing filth into this beautiful country of his.

Paul had a couple of books in his suit case and the officer turned them upside-down hoping, pictures of naked ladies would fall out. What was this obsession with those people?  They could soon proceed and walked outside to a waiting train. The migrants were talking among themselves about their experience with the customs officers.  A man told them, that he saw, how they confiscated a large knife from a Yugoslav man.

Later when the train was slowly departing from the Port Melbourne wharf they were informed that the train would stop at Seymour for a lunch break. The train gathered speed and was soon taking them through the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

While Ursula took care of the children Paul took notice of what passed by the window of the train. He noticed that there were mainly single story dwellings in which Australians lived and he wondered whether they would, one day, own such a dwelling themselves. A house of their own! What a dream.

After about an hour and a half  the train slowed down and then stopped at Seymour. They all felt a bit peckish as the breakfast was only  a distant memory on that beautiful ship, the SS Strathaird. People were happy to stretch their legs and they were looking forward to their first meal in Australia.

When Ursula and Paul wanted to enter the refreshment room at the station, they were stopped by a resolute woman. “No men in here!” she shouted, “only women and children.”

Paul tried to argue with her, as he was used to giving a hand with the babies. Ursula would have trouble feeding them both at the same time. But to no avail. He was told in no uncertain way to go to the other room.

The food was not appetising at all. After the beautiful meals on the ship this was almost inedible. What was most memorable were the grass green, reconstituted peas.

Soon Paul was reunited with Ursula and the two girls. The train continued its journey inland. They passed through an area of a dead forest. For miles there was nothing but dead trees. It was devastating to look at. They could not come up with  any reason for this.

Later on the train stopped for a tea break at another station. Once again they were separated but they coped much better the second time. They felt they had to go through a period of learning and it wouldn’t take that long before they could start shaping their own life. After all they were optimists or they wouldn’t have gone on this journey at all.

At the end of May it is winter in Australia and the sun sets early. Nothing could be gleamed from looking out the window any more. The train came to a hold in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Shouts were heard telling the new migrants that they should detrain as they were at their destination: Bonegilla Migrant Hostel.

“What? There is nothing out here,” people said. There was no station and they had to climb out of the carriage. Others helped them with the pram. They noticed ,  that it was bitter cold. They were asked to just wait and  get familiar in the dark before setting of to the hostel nearby. Someone out in the front said something. Paul did not take any notice as he was not able to understand English anyway. Instead he looked up to the sky. There wasn’t any cloud in the sky. As his eyes got adjusted to the dark he could see a sight he had never seen before in his life: stars, thousands of them and a band of light – the Milky Way.

He grabbed Ursula’s hand and pointed with the other hand to the sky. While other people were talking and swearing about the dark, they were both in awe and looked in reverence to the starry sky above them. They knew they had arrived at their destination and took the assurance from the impression that they had done the right thing. They decided  then, that they would like Australia.

Reflections of an old Man, living in a country at War

We Australians,  are at war. Our government, lead by a self-confessed liar (Don’t trust me, unless it is written down). He tells us, we are on a “humanitarian mission”. And he talks a lot.

We wouldn’t be there unless the US  tells us so. On our own we are not “humanitarian” enough to help those people in the Middle East who are in danger of being slaughtered.

When asked how long we’ll be there, they say, “For a long time,” or ,”when the Iraqi people can look after themselves”. I can tell you exactly how long we’ll be there. When the Americans have enough and cut and run, we will not stay one minute longer even for “humanitarian” reasons. President Obama said they want “to degrade and destroy” ISIS. I hope the US will “complete the mission”.

Our government is demonising  people of Islamic faith, so much so, that their women don’t dare going onto the street in fear of being harassed. They came up with the idea that women wearing a burqa are not allowed to sit in the public gallery of the parliament in Canberra. They will have to sit in a separate room with a glass window. Apparently the parliamentarians are afraid the ladies in question could do something  to endanger the lives of said parliamentarians. In this room normally  noisy children are kept so they cannot disturb the proceedings in the chamber. The Prime Minister calls the “burqa a “confronting  attire” ; but they want  to put children and those so clad ladies in one room. I hope the children are of sterner stuff than our PM is.

Never, ever has a burqa clad person been seen in  parliament. Any person that enters the public areas of the building is being checked out for any dangerous implements. But “No”,  more and more new laws and regulations are introduced to make daily life more inconvenient. The PM said, “We have to trade some freedoms, for more security.”

This new conflict in the Middle East will lead to realignments of old enemies and old friends. The Turks and the Kurds come to mind. The US has to re-evaluate its relationship with  Iran. Even the crisis in Ukraine is a bit on the  back burner, because Russia is needed to combat the ISIS menace.

Germany, who just celebrated its National Day, is still spooked by  WW II. Never again war, the slogan goes. But the world hasn’t stopped spinning and is spinning out of control fast. Germany has an army, but it is barely functioning. Their hardware is in disrepair and the defence minister is fighting for her own survival as a minister. When she asked for volunteers to fight Ebola in West-Africa she got 5000 ! In the Middle East they are sending weapons and equipment to the Kurds, but no “boots on the ground” as the saying goes. The Kurds are the only ones keeping up the fight and they are running out of ammunition.

Well, this war in Syria and Iraq, or “humanitarian” mission, will take its course. Young people from all over the world are flocking to join ISIS. And mothers can’t understand what has gone into their children. Why have they joined up? But soon they are  getting  a note from those people saying, “Congratulation! Your son is in Paradise now!”. This happened only recently to a German mother of an eighteen year old boy.

I went through WW II and have seen enough dead soldiers to last me a life time. Everyone was loved by a mother and they are still being dug up in the forest near Berlin, nearly seventy years after the event. Mankind has not learnt a thing. Today a right-wing journalist said, “Nobody is bombing Pakistan or Indonesia!” But he is wrong, because as we speak, American drones are killing people in Pakistan and making the population there more angry. No war has been declared. They are on a mission but it is not “humanitarian” either.