Feb 212015
 

One of my strong beliefs is that just about anything can be learned. If I really want to run a marathon, I could train until I could. If I really wanted to design a space ship I could take a few years of my life to become an aeronautical engineer (or whatever the title is of the people who designed the Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon).

I'm sure it will be here any minute now...

I’m sure it will be here any minute now…

The above relates mostly to practical / physical skills. Very important for everyday life, as they influence what you can and can’t do (well) and through that they influence what you do and don’t enjoy (being good at something definitely helps enjoying it!), which then influence what you actually do.

There are however also other things that make us who we are. Personality traits, temperaments. How alert are you? How much do you enjoy romantic activities? Are you thorough or a slob?

In my feeling these are far more set. You might see slight drifts over time, but in general you die with the same set you were born with. Most importantly, there is nothing to “learn” about these.

Interestingly enough, I recently found a counter example to this.

Patience has never been my strong suit. I much prefer things yesterday than tomorrow and I’ll settle for right now if that’s the only choice.

Yet over my years of life, the universe has consistently been serving me a message: ”Stuff takes time.”

Being patient is one thing. What I still struggle with is “not having anything to do”. Can you un-learn boredom (or learn it’s opposite)?
It takes time for people to call back (even if you want to know now

Through all that something must have gotten engrained in my subconscious: “Don’t worry, it’ll work out.” Or: “No need to fret, let’s go do something else in the meantime.”

I’m still very far away from your average zen monk, but I’m definitely better than I was a few years back. And learning isn’t so much about being good, as it is about getting better.

I am better, I am more patient.

Which makes me wonder: What other personality traits are actually amendable to learning?

I can’t wait to find out…


Bastiaan ReininkHi, I’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Feb 202015
 

When going from the train station to my home (in The Netherlands), I pass by a huge piece of construction work. They are tearing one of the major traffic arteries in the city, to build a new canal and upgrade the traffic situation at the same time.

I think they're building an amphitheater...

I think they’re building an amphitheater…

This being a major artery, they can’t just shut it down for a year, so instead they work around it. Block of a part here, do the work, open it up again, move to the next piece. This means that my way home changes slightly from week to week. It also means that a lot of building is done, which is subsequently broken down again.

The same happens with building a building: Part goes up, scaffolding is put in place, to build the next part, and so on.

And I read that even a human being is constructed this way, with many cells forming only a temporary function, before being broken down and re-absorbed by the growing fetus.

When I went to school I learned about grammar. This was not because grammar was particularly useful, in fact, when you actively think about grammar, it’s very difficult to construct a coherent sentence. When you’re learning a new language however it’s very handy to know about grammar, is it gives very general rules that allow you to learn just a single word but use it in many different ways. Grammar is the scaffolding the intermediate step that makes it possible for me to go from “not being able to say a word”, to “being (reasonably) fluent in a foreign language”.

Completely unrelated: After my flight landed and clearing customs I noticed that I had 0 minutes to get my train (or wait half an hour). Ran for it anyway and made it, with 2 seconds to spare. The universe is not always against me! :-)
Once I’m able to express myself decently, the grammar is forgotten, the scaffolding is taken down, stored somewhere until the next language, the next construction site.

And one final example. At work I have to solve some (analytical) problems. I spend time thinking, trying things out, doing preliminary analyses, perhaps doing some programming. The final result of all of this is that I can go to my manager saying: “The answer is X”. All the work that has gone before it was absolutely required, but once the answer is known, it’s not useful anymore.

It’s almost always this way: Most of the work is in the work before you get to do the real work.

What to take away from this:

  • Pay-offs, the final answers, they are far between: enjoy the process!
  • Today’s “failure” is what allows us to set the “right” step tomorrow.
  • If it’s just one more step along the road, no need to get too attached to it; there is nothing wrong with throwing something away when it has served it’s purpose.

Happy building!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Feb 152015
 

“We need to talk…”

I just can't bear to keep this to myself any longer...

I just can’t bear to keep this to myself any longer…

We’ve all seen enough Hollywood movies to know that this is the end of a relationship. Or at the very least the beginning of the end.

And why shouldn’t it be? Love is something beautiful, souls singing in tandem, hearts beating the same rhythm. Something as vulgar as talk can only get in the way, right?

Sure, we chat a lot, about work, what’s on TV, the latest gossip on mutual friends. At times we reminisce on the vacation we were on. Sometimes we even discuss plans and the future.

But talk?!?

About you and me? About us?!?

That’s scary! What if you don’t love me just as I am? Or maybe I’ll be forced to admit that I’m not as enamored of your cooking as I always make out to be. And what would be the point in that? No, much better to just bury all those tiny little things. It’s not like they really matter, right? So what if I don’t really want to go visit your dear old aunt Mathilda? Relationships are built on small sacrifices. It’s the big picture that counts. And in the end we’re both much happier.

Until we aren’t. Until all the little things add up to one big thing. One big thing that is important enough to talk about. Or perhaps not talk, but just tell: “I’m sorry, but it’s over…”

It feels somewhat hypocritical for me to be writing this. I’ve been there, multiple times. Not talking, until it was too late. But a big part of life is about learning from the past, of doing things a bit better next time around.

Yesterday was valentine’s day. I love a good holiday as much as anybody, but something in me rails against the idea of commercializing love. I’m therefore very happy not to have done anything special (though this did take a bit of talking with my girlfriend…).
So that’s what I’m trying. To discuss things before they become too big and too scary to ever talk about (again, until it’s too late). To mention the small irritations and to actively ask what my girlfriend’s small irritations are.

Yes, it’s scary! But it does seem to work much better. To catch what isn’t going perfectly and to try to figure out a way around it together. Sometimes there is no immediate solution, but even then, just being heard makes a big difference!

For me the most important thing in any relationship is trust. Listening, talking, being able to spill the beans and to feel confident that we will work together on whatever is bothering us does wonders for that.

Not just that, but every time it gets a bit easier. It’s still not my favorite phrase, but some time soon I’ll be looking forward to hearing: “We need to talk…


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Feb 092015
 

This weekend was my first in a long time spent in the Netherlands without any other reason than than “seeing my friends” (and I ended up spending most of it in Germany…).

My time in the Netherlands is limited. And being very Dutch, I want to use it optimally. I know that “cramming in more” might be efficient, but it’s definitely not effective, so “seeing everybody for a little while” doesn’t work. Instead, I’ll have to make choices on whom I see when.

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Before I knew it, before I really wanted to, I was creating a mental list of my friends, ranked in order. At first I was quite appalled by myself, doing something like this. But thinking about it a bit further, everybody has best friends, good friends, friends, good acquaintances, acquaintances, vague acquaintances… So instead of railing against this, maybe it’s more interesting to see what puts someone where in the ordering.

So, things that for me make better friends:

  • Time spent together: The more time you spend together, the better friends you become. And the better friends you are, the more time you spend together… Maybe this isn’t just a desirable “quality”, but just the definition of friendship? But that’s not entirely true, I have really good friends, whom I can’t spend a lot of time with due to circumstances (distance mostly)…
  • Trustworthiness: Finding a knife in your back is a sure end of a friendship. But it’s also subtler than that. Not canceling when meeting up (and being on time when you don’t cancel), keeping a secret, basically “doing what you say you would”. And in some cases, going well beyond that. I’m very happy that there are a few people in my life that would come and pick me up from a South American jungle if I really needed them to…
  • Enjoying the same things as I do: It’s nice if you are able to enjoy activities together, ranging from a night in the pub or club, making music, playing games or going for a (long) hike. This makes the “spending time” easier and more enjoyable.
  • Speaking with a passion, listening with compassion: A lot of talking is involved in being friends. So I want people who have something interesting to say (and say it in an interesting way), while also being able to listen to what I have on my heart. There should be a fair balance in this, with both parties contributing more or less an equal amount (over time). This also means listening to my woes, while sharing theirs (which is very different from complaining, see below), as well as support to carry on and / or to do the right thing.
  • Being fun: This means for me being optimistic, having a laugh, doing something silly, being game for something interesting and / or new. It also means not complaining or bitching, not bragging, not being obnoxious.
  • Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but thinking about all this I was a bit surprised that my girlfriend very neatly ticks all of my “friendship” boxes as well (though we still need to work on the “time spent together” ;-) ).
  • Mixing well: I enjoy large(r) gatherings, of having a group of friends together for whatever. So, “playing nicely with others” is a definite boon. This can be because you’re part of the same group of friends (that always works well of course), but also just a general “openness of character”.
  • Being admirable: I like looking up to people. I like my friends to do cool, interesting and important stuff with their lives. This doesn’t have to be “finding a cure to cancer” (though one, in a very limited way, actually is doing that!), simply being good at something and being a good person is enough for that. I enjoy being inspired.

I wonder if other people would have markedly different things in their list (if so, post a comment?). Until then however I’m just going to assume that other people are just like me and that this is what others desire as well. So, if I want to be the best friend that I can (which I do want!), the above is what I will have to do as well. I think I do ok most of the time, but perhaps I could focus on it for a bit more?

Happy friendships!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Feb 022015
 

There are two forms of freedom, “freedom from” and “freedom to“.

Why can't I have the freedom to breathe underwater (without gear)?!?

Why can’t I have the freedom to breathe underwater (without gear)?!?

The first contains freedom from tyranny, freedom from taxes, freedom from fear, freedom from nagging parents-in-law.

The second is freedom to vote, freedom to say what you dammed-well please, freedom to go where you want.

In western society we have a lot of these freedoms embedded in law (though not freedom from taxes unfortunately). Even better, these laws are actually upheld quite well too!

Still, I find myself struggling for freedom. And I know I’m not alone in this.

The freedom I struggle for is “freedom to do what I want” (which is perhaps the most general freedom of all). To live my life as I see fit, to do exactly what makes me happiest.

As almost all of the things I would want to do wouldn’t hurt a fly, the law hardly stands in my way. Still, the are three things opposing me.

First is “the system”. Food and a roof over my head aren’t free, so I’m more or less required to spend a fair amount of time as a bondsman to the thing they call “work”. There are ways around this, but they all require sacrifices of freedom in some other way. “Freedom from taxes” would certainly help here…

Second is “society”. There are strong ideas and beliefs about what people (which includes me) “should” (and, perhaps more importantly, “shouldn’t”) do. Things like “being polite” and “getting a job”. Again, nothing of this is immutable, but it takes time and effort to go against it.

Finally, there is “me”. A lot of what both the system and society teach have been internalized, making me fearful of going against them, making me reel against myself in my simultaneous quests for freedom and being accepted. 

The oppression of freedom: Having a free Sunday and not knowing for the hell of it what to do with yourself!
“The system” isn’t going to change any time soon I’m afraid, nor is “society”. Which leave “me”. I can change so that “what I want” coincides with “what I can get”; go with the flow, but try to steer a bit left or right once and awhile. That feels a lot like giving up, or more accurately, giving in.

Perhaps a more fruitful way of looking at it is to realize that there are more things in life than freedom. I actually enjoy a good challenge (of going against the flow?). And there is fulfillment in making others happy (which at times may entail being dull and predictable and “fitting in”). In fact, pure freedom, being able to do whatever I wanted, without any restraint, would very quickly become boring and meaningless.

Freedom is important, absolutely. But it’s not the end-all of happiness. I’ll definitely continue to work towards increasing it, but in balance with the other things that make life worthwhile. Something that increases slowly, sometimes is traded for something else, something even more important / enjoyable. I’m just happy I’m free to make those choices!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!