Life and Work

“I remember the old storyteller, the wife of a dalang, an Indonesian wajang player, who could recite the entire heroic epos of the Mahabharata from memory and who told me these stories over a four-year period, saying to me once: “You have been listening for a long time now; soon it will be your turn to tell the story.”
She meant the great Story, within which my own story is just one of many, and part of the everlasting Story that is enlarged and rejuvenated every time it is told, because each of us adds our own story to that one great Story.

When you realize this, life takes on an entirely different meaning. Then you are no longer content to listen passively to the story since you realize that you must tell it yourself. That is a very great responsibility. Because what you tell, and how you tell it, will go into eternity and reach other people. And if you only tell it passively, as if recounting some past event, then it has not actually happened. Then it has passed by like a shadow dance which fails to touch your heart.”
Maarten Houtman, From the session talk of Wednesday, April 21th, 1993, at Huissen
Hanna Mobach, The little boy Maarten looks at the monkeys on the edge of the jungle, 1993
The blue mountain
“This is the end, he thought. He might squat above the sewer drain that ran through the camp to relieve the cramp a little, but he knew from the dying and emaciated inmates whom he cared for in the death ward that this cramp would be followed by another, and then another until the last cramp in which you passed out.
The cramp became more severe, sending his chest into spasm.
The old storyteller sitting at his bedside always said, when the moving shadows of the oil lamp threatened to close in on him: ‘Listen on, you don’t know how it will end, that is still hidden in the story.’

Then the young boy once again heard the chirping of the crickets, and sometimes the sad call of an owl under the stars, as the wind drove the shadows away.
Now the young boy in him listened on.
He remembered that during the half hour he was allowed out in the sun every afternoon to disinfect himself the blue mountain sometimes beckoned to him as he gazed, empty and lost, at its gentle summit, around which small clouds slowly circled.
And he forgot about the fences and watchtowers that separated him from the blue mountain.

Sometimes the mountain grew and came to him so that he could be absorbed in the sweetness of the unborn; but only if he desired it, for the mountain never compelled him. He was there solely in his undivided fullness.
Even in this rain-sodden night the mountain was there and was aware of him, he thought, and, together with his cramp, he gave himself up to it.”
From: Maarten Houtman, ‘De andere oever’ (‘The other shore’, Maarten Houtman’s autobiographic novel about his youth in Java)


Hanna Mobach, The blue mountain, 1997

Being in the pause
“Where is there an opening in the busy machine of your consciousness?
After every thought there follows a pause. But because we are so focused, and our consciousness keeps on turning, we fail to notice this pause. To us, there appears to be a continuous flow of thoughts and feelings. But if you take the time to be attentive, you’ll notice that the pause is there. A pause that is absent of all that you know.

I noticed the pause yesterday afternoon when I got into the lift on my way here. I pressed the lift button, the lift started moving and suddenly there was nothing any more. For me it lasted for a very long time, even though I was only traveling from the first to the third floor.
And I realized that this is a phenomenon that I had forgotten about. I suddenly saw a very small boy, sitting behind the white house on the plantation watching the shadows slowly lengthen and shorten.
In that pause the world – the pineapple garden, the trees beyond and farther still the jungle – looked quite different. Whereas things were normally very clear and distinct, in such a pause everything is initially one, before separating into individual objects.

Normally we are in the world where everything is distinct and separate.
Everyone can experience this. The only thing you need to do is not hurry.”
From the session talk of Wednesday, April 27th, 1997, at Huissen.



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