SP3 from Grave to Wijchen

Today I made only a short walk, not even 22 km. The weather was quite okay. Some rain was expected, but the first rain drops fell, when I was already on my way back by car.

The region, in which I walked is very interesting. The landscape is beautiful, but also very historical. I began my walk in Grave, an old fortified city, which played a role in the war with Spain in the 16th century. Mind, the city is in Noord Brabant, one of the more Catholic provinces in the Netherland, so the citizens of the city in those times, were not necessarily in friendly relationships with the surrounding countryside. The second city, Ravenstein, also a fortified city, under control of Holland, therefore Protestant, became a property of a German Catholic dynastic called Pfalz-Neuburg in 1630, so since then enjoyed much more liberty. Around the city of Ravenstein, in the village Velp, you find some monasteries.

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Castle-monastery Bronkhorst (last nuns left in 1990)

While enjoying the nice views I had to think about a short discussion we had at high school. I remember well that one of the pupil said to our teacher latin, Mr. Koeneman, that it appears to him (or her) that there is not really a fit between the city of Rome and the citizens of the city. It looks like if the decor of the city is not well chosen. Koeneman said that the contemporary Romans are not necessarily direct descendants of the old Romans, the Ciceros and Senecas, but rather of the peoples, who conquered Rome. So a modern citizen of Roman has more Longbard or Visigoth blood  than the old Roman families, not to mention the Etruscans.

While walking along the monastery of the nuns and the Minor Capuchin monastery I wondered whether there is still a fit between me, or us, and the landscape, our decor. In our times the beautiful parks, old cities, ancient villages are just pleasant scenery for the tourist, for the walker, alone or in groups. This landscape itself has little to say anymore to the people. There is no connection anymore. We lost contact or are losing contact very fast.

So Monastery Bronkhorst is not really part of my personal context.  It is not a very pleasant thought, I have to say. It even made me a bit miserable.  Especially after a while when I began to realize that I may also belong more and more to such a fading decor.  So the difference between the few remaining monks and me isn’t even that big; I am just walking behind them a bit.

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Walk 26.iii.2017 LAW from IJmuiden to Egmond aan den Hoef

Distance 33,4km

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It is rather irritating that the Ramblr App didn’t work properly, so I have to use a map from another app. At the moment I  am having hard thoughts whether to continue with Ramblr at all!
Anyway, the walk was rather nice. The weather was nice, except that so now and then the wind was a bit cold. But most of the time there was lovely sunshine. Also the number of people wasn’t that big. Only in the neighbourhood of some restaurants I had to walk in a bit higher pace.

It was my intention to park my car in Egmond aan Zee, but it was not possible to find a normal parking place. I have no problems when you have to pay for it, but I rarely have cash with me. Luckily I found a good place for the car 100m from a busstop in a village nearby. I had to run for the bus, because when I stepped out the car, I saw the bus already approaching. Only one bus and the train from Castricum to Driehuis and I was ready to go walking again.

I am not stupid. I, of course, notice that most walkers do not walk alone. Many walkers walk in couples. More often than not they are talking. When I walk with my brother certainly we talk so now and then, but most of the time, I think, we just walk. I really like to walk with my brother, as I like to walk with my wife, though she is definitely more talking than my brother, but on our short walks this is not such a problem. Besides I do not have any problems to ask, when I feel I have to, her to be quiet for a while. Ah, this sounds harsh, but, for example, when we walked Friday evening, when it was getting dark, she said she would like to hear the owls in the park. I asked her then to be quiet, because the noise may disturb the owls or, another possibility, in the conversation the calls may escape your attention.  And, yes, we heard the tawny owl in the park!

BTW, there were also a group of men walking and talking so loud. After 5 minutes I was fed up and waited until they passed me and walked about 200-3oo m ahead of me. Why didn’t they go to a pub to talk there?
In case you want to use your walk for some good thinking it is absolutely better to go alone on a long walk. While enjoying the first butterflies, the bumblebees, the anemones under the trees, the first Marsh Marigold – how beautiful yellow are those flowers – it is not difficult to develop a  long line of thought. My walk yesterday in Marienwaerdt, about 9 km, is far too short for it.

My personal problem, perhaps, is that I have to repeat over and over again the same lines of thought, before I am able to let it rest for a while. This repeating is sometimes tiresome even to myself. IMG_5116

While walking in the beautiful gardens of Beeckestijn I had to think over the lecture about Nietzsche by Rick Roderick. Yesterday I watched it for the second time and, I have to add, during the last two weeks I did quite some reading in The Genealogy of Morality and Beyond Good and Evil. Now you may wonder what do you think about for so many hours?  In the past I attended often lectures about philosophy and several times actually about Nietzsche. Despite all this “experience” Roderick opened my mind about some aspects of Nietzsche, which I never considered before really. Roderick says when you want to summarize all Nietzsche wrote in one simple sentence it is: be skeptical of everything! Good and Evil are not neutral. They are defined by powers. Depending from which side you are the killings in London are bad, but the bombing of a school in Syria is not bad, although not 4 people died there, but over 30. No, no, I did not write that the bombing of the school is ‘good’, because I am perhaps afraid to write down it is good. I did not write it is ‘good’, because actually it is rather considered here ‘unimportant’ and, yes, “important” and “unimportant” fall into the same category as “good” and “evil”, so they are defined by powers. So, according to Roderick Nietzsche says you have to be on the qui-vive when you notice something ‘labeled’ by a power. Things or issues are not good or bad, or important or unimportant by themselves, but because they are thus labeled by powers.

Of course during the walk my thought are sometimes going their own ways. So it is not so difficult to keep your mind focused  for a few 100 meters on Nietzsche and his ‘fool on the square’ or his ‘Übermensch’. But my mind did not dwell long on Nietzsche’s obvious meaning of Übermensch, before, as always, his bloody sister comes into mind and how she destroyed the original meaning. BTW, I was already across the Noordzeekanaal, when I was amused by the thought that while thinking thus about Elisabeth Nietzsche I was making a mistake Friedrich Nietzsche would not have liked! I was criticizing the meaning of a word. Perhaps the criticism itself was ‘justified’, but I should have realized that words have no absolute meaning by themselves. Meanings are given by, again, powers. Powers, national socialist ones, were ‘manipulating the word “Übermensch”,  but it is not enough to be skeptical about those nazi ideologists, it is also important to be skeptical about Nietzsche himself. IMG_5130 So, you have to be skeptical about practically everything. On what philosophical fundaments do you build  your personal ‘project’ (in the Heideggerian sense)? Are there still philosophical fundaments? I am a bit worried for the possible answer, namely only you yourself are able to decide what will be or may be or should be your ‘philosophical fundaments”. There is bloody little to talk about then. I think Kierkegaard is laughing in his grave. It sounds so much as a leap of faith.

Anyway, enough stuff to think about for many more, long walks.

Robert Southey: a reflection

At high school I was introduced to the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth. I remember well that we had to read STC’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and we had to read The Daffodils of Wordsworth. I began to read them much more later at university.
But I am pretty sure not even the name of the third lake poet, Robert Southey, was mentioned as was de Quincey’s. I ‘discovered’ both during my excursions in the second hand bookshops of Groningen. I spent there days!

Coleridge was by far my favorite. There are lines, which I still know by heart as “Well, they are gone, and here must I remain, this lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost beauties and feelings, such as would have been most sweet to my remembrance even when age had dimm’d mine eyes to blindness!” which was, btw, dedicated to another intellectual of the circle, Charles Lamb and, of course, many lines of the Rhyme. Wordsworth was more the poet of nature as Southey, I think, was more the poet of history. Love for nature and history as we all know are typical for the Romantic period.

Driving home from work today some lines of Southey popped up from the crevices of my memories . Strange, as I read his poems at least 20 years ago. “My days among the dead are past” and then “My never failing friends are they with whom I converse day by day”. Okay, I knew only a few lines by heart. Actually I checked the lines and found that my memory was not 100% correct. In those two short lines I had made two minor modifications in my memory; the worst one: ‘talk’ in stead of ‘converse’. But when looking for the correct lines, I noticed again how beautiful the poem is. He wrote, or rather published, it near the end of his life, about 1840. Most likely it was written much earlier

While reading and rereading the four stanzas, I really had to smile a bit at stanza 4. “My hopes are with the dead, etc. “It reminds me of Martin Heidegger’s advise to  spend more time in graveyards in order to recover authenticity.

NPG 4028; Robert Southey by Edward Nash

Portrait of Robert Southey by Edward Nash, 1820

My days among the Dead are past;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears,
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead, anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.

Walk 12.iii.2017 LAW 5 from Zandvoort to IJmuiden

Schermafbeelding 2017-03-12 om 20.15.58Total distance 29,2km

A lovely, Spring day. It was the first walk this year I had to take of my coat. The wind wasn’t strong. Most of the time the sun was shining.

I put my car in Velsen Zuid, about a kilometer from the trail. I took me about 1 1/2 hours bus to arrive at the starting point near the Kennemer Golf & Country Club. BTW, while the bus drove not far from the railway station in Haarlem, I noticed quite some beggars. I do not remember to have seen them before in Haarlem.  I also have to say that I remember Haarlem as a very clean city, but maybe I was blind then, because I noticed today here and there quite a mess. And so many old houses, especially from the end of the 19th/beginning 20th century in a bad state. Lot of rotten woodwork, obviously lacking some good paint.
At the bus stop in the Tempelierstraat I stood opposite a beautiful old building, which was more or less decayed. To my surprise a young lady came out of it. She was very well dressed, but the door she came through had no paint whatsoever. I was actually convinced that it was completely uninhabited. The guy, who waved her goodbye, when she drove away on her scooter, looked rather shabby. Only then I noticed that in the building was a hairdresser. Who the hell is going to such a hairdresser? It looked just shit!

Anyway, at about 9:33 I was able to start walking. After about a kilometer I was able to leave the busy road and go into more natural environments. IMG_5011 Obviously I wasn’t the only one enjoying the lovely weather. I think half of Haarlem was in the dunes on their mountainbikes or just running. But I was prepared for this. Actually I looked very much forward to my walk in Haarlem itself. I passed Kraantje Lek in Overveen, where my mother played often as a young child. Near Kraantje Lek I saw my first Ranunculus ficaria in flower of Spring 2017. About the same time my wife phoned that the trouble of the leaking tap in the kitchen was not over yet, but let’s forget the nightmares of the Saturday! Our handyman will certainly look at it again. Anyway, about a kilometer further I walked in Haarlem proper.

The walk in Haarlem itself was about 7km.

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Narrow streets, beautiful buildings from the 17th century and often even earlier. And then the fantastic churches. Of course the Sint Bavo, a superb Gothic church, which was taken over by the protestants after the reformation. Later the catholics build again a new Sint Bavo in Haarlem, which is a very nice cathedral, almost as impressive in size, but the first Sint Bavo is with justice considered one of the most important monuments in the Netherlands. And we should not forget the Walloon church, which is perhaps much smaller, but unbelievably pretty and is the oldest church of Haarlem. Before it became the Walloon church it was the Begijnhof Chapel.
While walking in Haarlem, and knowing a bit of its history, it is interesting to see that it appears, at least to me, a rather catholic city than a protestant one.

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As soon as I passed the old railway station, again one of the most beautiful of the Netherlands, the city became a bit less interesting for me. I had to follow a crazy busy road for quite a distance. Only in Overveen it was a bit more quiet until I had to follow the busy road again! And then the Kennemerduinen. When I saw the masses of people there I was getting rather desperate. But, I have to admit, after a few kilometers, it became more and more quiet. Most people prefer to stay in a circle of 2 km of the parking place with restaurants.
I became busy again when I approached the beach of Bloemendaal. I have never understand why people like to form herds. The walk along the beach was only 1 1/2 km. Luckily I could turn east again into the National Park of the Kennemerduinen.
Very nice was that a fox was crossing the road only a few kilometers from me. Only a km or so further 6 deer fled across the sand path; an impressive site.

Only 1 km or so after leaving the dunes I reached my car again and came home earlier than expected.

 

Walk 5.iii.2017 SP6 Drenthepad from Uffelte to Diever

Schermafbeelding 2017-03-06 om 21.02.45Total distance 25,5km

Unexpectedly the weather turned out to be very nice. Sometimes it was even warm, so I said to my brother that I almost felt sorry that I did not put on just a t-shirt.
One moment Bastiaan said he felt a raindrop on his head. I didn’t notice it. The sun was shining quite often, the wind was not very strong. Lovely early Spring weather.

I spent the night at my brother’s as the distance is so big and we intended to walk 30km and I had to be on time at home for a nice deer stew with a splendid Saint Emilion.
Any way it turned out not so good as our mother had some problems, so we went by car to the end point only at 9. We began our walk about 10:15 AM. I decided to cut it 5km from the original plan, so we didn’t walk to Wateren, but till a parking place north of Diever.

We can compare this walk with the first part of the SP6 as it weather was so cold then. We hardly could sit down to drink a coffee as the wind cooled down the coffee too quickly.
bit unpleasant for me was that I suffered for the fourth time of an occipital epilepsy attack. We were not walking for a long time when I began to notice the colourfull ‘waves’ of the view of the world. It began on the lower side of the view. It looks likes everything was covered in a oily film. It began to move upwards and after about 15 minutes it was gone. I felt a slight headache, but perhaps this was caused by the beer of the previous evening. Anyway, I was unable to read the lines of a description of an archeological site in a forest. The letters were too blurred. It was my fourth attack in my life. The previous one I had April 5th last year. The second one maybe 2 years before, in the car, and the first one many years before when Bettina was about 4 years. I had it when we visited a clothes store in Geldermalsen.

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We enjoyed the walk a lot. The variety of various landscape was fantastic. Forest, heath, grassland, nice villages, pretty pools; it was never boring. Only in the beginning , when we had to share the muddy roads with too many mountainbike cyclists, we saw many people. For sure in Diever it was a bit busier, but it was not too unpleasant.

IMG_4983The good thing with walking with Bas is that you can have good talks during the walk, about just make fun or walk some kilometers without saying anything. It is never troubling.

very good is that we saw the first Hunebed during this walk, in Diever.

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At a decent time we arrived at Bastiaan’s car and we could go home not too late. I arrived in Culemborg at 18:00 PM

Walk 26.ii.2017 LAW 5 from Katwijk aan Zee to Zandvoort

schermafbeelding-2017-03-02-om-21-48-07

Total distance 32,3 km.

Quite lucky was the fact that the weather wasn’t splendid. It was windy and so now and then there was some soft rainfall. Temperature was about 9°C.

I put my car in the parking place of Heemstede/Aerdenhout. At the end I had to pay about €8. By train to Leiden and then by Bus to Katwijk. I believe it was line 71, but I noticed a bus line 7, which left earlier. I had used my chipcard already when the driver said that he will arrive much later at my desired stop than bus 71, so I had to go out and wait another 10 minutes or so.Later, when I was walking for 15 minutes I saw the same bus; the driver was waving to me, which a brought a smile to my face.

The first few kilometers were so so. Only nice was the lady in bikini, who was enjoying the weather.img_4883

Only after Noordwijk, a terrible place with the disgusting looking hotels, the landscape became much nice, although the Coepelduynen weren’t bad.
The Amsterdamse Waterleiding Duinen were just fantastic. I guess the fact that the weather wasn’t excellent and you actually had to pay an entrance fee, which I didn’t, were responsible for the fact that it was relatively quiet. But first I had to walk for some time on the beach. It was extraordinary windy there. I was walking with the wind in my back, which was good as it took lots of sand with it. It was quite a spectacular sight.

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I think it will be very nice to collect flies in the dunes of the Amsterdam Waterleiding area, but it is absolutely forbidden, I guess. Lots of wild animals….wild? Hmm, I have seen many deer, which did not seem to be afraid at all for H. sapiens. They stayed a few meters from the path not even paying attention to the human guests.

img_4927I found the busstop at the exit of the park and I had to wait only a few minutes for the bus, which took me to my car. I was tired at all. I could have walked easily another 10 km.

 

https://www.ramblr.com/web/mymap/trip/161970/599422/

Walk 7 and a bit more of botany

Of course one should not expect that all of Rousseau’s Reveries are very interesting. For me walk 6 was again quite boring. By reading Walk 7 I was able to recognize again a lot of myself. Clear from this part is that Jean-Jacques has not been active as an amateur botanist his whole life. They were more active times and time he hardly didn’t do any botany. In fact he become fascinated by the flora as an adult.

From this reverie it is clear that at least he considered other occupations as an amateur naturalist. First I have to say I am always careful with the word ‘amateur’. Far too often the word isn’t used in a positive way. In this case I just mean that Rousseau didn’t make a living as botanist or was not full time active. Darwin, of course, wasn’t really a salaryman, but as he was definitely full time active as a naturalist, I don’t want to call him an amateur. From this essay you may at least draw the conclusion that he considered to study birds and mammals or insects. It is  a pleasure to see that he even mentioned ‘flies’!

 

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Rousseau in 1753 by Maurice Quentin de La Tour

I think I have been studying flies more or less seriously from 1982, so I am study Diptera for 33 years now. Only between 1986 and 1989 I more or less stopped collecting as I wanted to give all my attention to my study chemistry, but in 1990 I know I was collecting again quite fanatically soldierflies in the park behind the flat, where we lived. In the years before 1982 I was doing all kind of things in nature: birding, studying dragonflies, studying spiders. And even in my boarding school time I was fascinated by nature. There are a lot of stories about this in my family.

But this was obviously not the case with Jean-Jacques. He is here and there using words I will never use when I try to describe my passion for entomology.”Stinking corpses, livid running flesh, blood, repellent intestines, horrible skeletons, pestilential vapours! Believe me, that is not the place where Jean-Jacques will go looking for amusement.” I’d never, never, never use the word ‘amusement’ when discussing entomology. One may ask “what is it then?”. It is everything for me, but not amusement. There has never been a second that I thought: why not study mollusks instead of flies? Yes, I have very often thought that I need 10 lives, because I also would like to study other fly families, or barklice, or pseudoscorpions or even completely other groups as lichen, but never give up dipterology.

Another difference between Rousseau and myself is that botany was for him a way to escape from society. Again in this essay he is mentioning his problems with so called enemies. As I said before I looks a bit too miserable to me, but this having said, certainly he fled from unwanted company by joining collecting trips. Possibly I am as misanthropic as Jean-Jacques, but for me the excursions in nature or my long hours in my study are not a way to escape company. The fact that you are often alone in the forests or moors for collecting flies is just a pleasant extra joy.

But let for a while forget everything what Jean-Jacques writes about being a naturalist in general or a botanist in particular. He writes many words about it, but if you put this aside for a moment, the most important things he says in the beginning of the essay: ‘I have no other rule of conduct than always to follow freely my natural leanings’. When I read this I thought immediately: ‘I have no other rule than to be authentic!’. When reading walk 3 I had to think of Kierkegaard, while reading the opening of the essay about the 7th walk I had to think about a later philosopher, namely Heidegger. It would be nice to see whether something have been written in the past about the influence of Rousseau on Heidegger.

 

Walk 5 or Island of Saint-Pierre

After such a nice 3rd walk, the 4th one was for me rather disappointing. Only the beginning caught my attention when Rousseau wrote that Plutarch was his favorite author. I read his Moralia, I think I have it here somewhere, but I do not recall that it made such a huge impression that it belongs to my 10 favorite books. I remember so well Seneca’s Letter to Lucilius or the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius or the Discourses of Epictetus, but Plutarch, no, not really.

The 5th walk is again much more interesting. Jean-Jacques lived for 2 months in 1765 on the island of Saint Pierre and he considered those months the happiest of his life. Too soon he was chased away from it by the senate of Bern and moved to England.

The Island of Saint-Pierre is not an island anymore. It became a peninsula in the end of the 19th century. It is still possible to visit the house where Jean-Jacques stayed.It is nowadays a fancy hotel. In the 18th century the island received few visitors. It must have been a great place to stay.

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When describing the island Rousseau mentioned that the shores of the Lake of Bienne are wilder and more romantic than those of Lake Geneva.I sometimes have discussion about the word ‘romantic’. Some people, in fact many people,think it is romantic to sit with a pretty woman near a burning fireplace with a nice glass of red wine in the hand and some lovely music in the background. Well, according to my opinion this is not romantic, but sentimental. I do not say it is bad to be sentimental, but I think we should keep the words ‘sentimental’ and ‘romantic’ distinct from each other. Romantic is rather, as am used to say just to irritate others, walking alone in the huge forest, foul weather and then hang yourself. It think the word ‘Romantic’ is in itself not particular pleasant. So Rousseau used the word ‘romantic’ between 1776 and 1778. I tend to think that Rousseau is using the word in the rather unsentimental way. He says in the sentence in which he compares the Lake of Bienne with the Lake of Geneva that yet the Lake of Bienne is not less pleasing, so for Jean-Rousseau the use of the word ‘romantic’ may have lead to the conclusion that for his contemporary readers Lake of Bienne is less pleasing, while Jean-Jacques claims it is not. For a ‘modern’ reader ‘romantic’ shores are rather pleasing than unpleasing. I wonder now whether Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the first author, who is using the word ‘Romantic’? If I think about Romanticism I definitely think rather of the beginning of the 19th century. Mind, Wordsworth, a poet, which I strongly associate with Romanticism, was 6 or 7 years old when Rousseau wrote his Reveries.

By the way, he continues with claiming that the island is fascinating for solitary dreamers, so not for a couple!

In this 5th walk he is just dreaming about these happy 2 months. What did he do? He just became an enthusiastic botanist. He walked with ‘his’ Systema Naturae, by Linnaeus of course, under his arm to study the plants, mosses and lichen of the island. Of course I would like to know what edition. I never thought of the Systema Naturae as a nature guide. I have seen it in Uppsala, in the house of Linnaeus, but I do not remember how big it was. I wonder how heavy was it. Just think of it to walk in nature with this work in your hands. It sounds very funny now.

Jean-Jacques began to fill his room with flowers and grasses after becoming infected by the botany virus via Jean-Antoine d’Ivernois. He did not want to spend his time with serious work (just catching flies means actually doing nothing, I believe), so he began to study the flora of the island. He wanted to work on a  Flora Petrinsularis, describing all species of plants, mosses and lichen on the island. He described the ecstasy while doing his work in the field. It is all too familiar to myself. Just because of this I cannot help to get more sympathy for the guy.  Of course, when reading about this man wandering alone on the island collecting plants I had to think of The Fly Trap of Fredrik Sjöberg. The passion of Rousseau for collecting the plants on Saint-Pierre or Fredrik Sjöberg collecting hoverflies on the island Runmarö in Sweden, how familiar this all is to me and how weird for those, who do not share this passion.

Thoughts of Kierkegaard during reading JJR’s 3rd walk

Again, it is not my intention to write a blog about each walk of our friend Jean -Jacques Rousseau, but I am about to begin with my 3rd blog about the 3rd walk!

This third essay isn’t completely free of pathetic phrases, but, maybe because I am getting used to it, it become less disturbing to me. In fact I think the author of this essay was a nice person and I find quite some similarities between his attitude and mine. At first I wanted to write “his personality” or “his thoughts” , but “attitude” is a much better and more correct expression.

The essay is a bit longer, namely 15 pages. He is starting with some rather ordinary remarks about the so called uselessness of knowledge. You may summarize it with ‘blessed are the meek’. You may say that ignorance is better than knowledge, because overall you gain little profit from this knowledge. Indeed, we like to say that old people are wise, but I suspect that their wisdom is only: do not make a too big fuss of life as in the end it is not worth it or, even nicer, life is a dead sparrow.

When you ask young people what they want to become all too frequent you hear: ‘famous’! They do not add with what, because it is not very important. Important, though, is to be famous, to be recognized in the street. So I had to smile when I read: “Several of them wanted to write a book, any book, so long as it was successful. Once it was written and published, its contents no longer interested them in the least. So we do not see something very new! Even in the 18th century people just wanted fame.

And then Rousseau continues with some lovely pages about the blessing of solitude. He did not fit well with society. He mentions that when men reduced him to a life of solitude in order to make him feel miserable they in fact did more for his happiness. I think I know this situation quite well. No, I think I was never forced by others to a life of solitude, but I found out that many people are surprised that someone can be very happy when alone. I am able to spend hours and hours, in the holidays even days and days, alone in my room studying flies or listen to music or even to silence, occasionally going out walk a long walk, also alone, or a run, yes, again alone and be, nevertheless, perfectly happy. I am pretty sure it is easy to be more lonely in company than when you are actually alone. People should not feel sorry for it. It is a kind of a blessing.

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Sören Kierkegaard

I like the word militant atheists. I am not sure whether this phrase has been invented by R. Dawkins, but he used it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau calls the militant atheists of his time ‘ardent missionaries of theism’! He does not mention names, but I can imagine he means people like Holbach and Diderot. When I read this essay for the first time, I thought I wanted to moan about JJR misunderstanding about atheism, but, I admit, this seems a bit boring here. I, an atheist, cannot convince him anyway! Yet interestingly he mentions the same things about those atheists as theists nowadays do about the militant atheists of our age, namely that they are intolerant! This is so silly, I think. How can you say about, in the 18th century at least, that this tiny group of atheistic people are intolerant given the fact that whole peoples were under control of the church or religion. Who is intolerant? Well, we cannot ask him.

He complains: Instead of removing my doubts and curing my uncertainties they had shaken all my most assured beliefs concerning the questions which were most important to me….etc. I always thought it is the task of a philosopher to shakes somebodies believes. With every book you read at least one other certainty should be destroyed.

But then I realized that Rousseau was not only arguing against the non believers of his time. He writes: Shall I allow myself to be tossed eternally to and fro by the sophistries of the eloquent, when I am not even sure that the opinions they preach and press so ardently on others are really their own? He mentions that he was going to look for a philosophy for himself. While he mentioned ‘the fear to endanger the eternal fate of his soul’, dogmatic charlatans, hair-splitting metaphysical subtleties, confirmation by hearts and confirmation by an inner voice etc., I thought: this guy reminds me of Sören Kierkegaard! He is more focused on the subjective truth than the objective truth.

I read some things about Kierkegaard. It is quite impossible to understand our times without being familiar with the ideas of Kierkegaard, but I never saw Rousseau mentioned in a work about this Danish thinker. But thanks to Google, I found that Vincent A. McCarthy wrote in ‘Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions’ a chapter titled “Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Presence and Absence. I put this chapter on my ‘to read-list’.

 

 

Some real botany in essay 2!

It is not my intention to write ten pieces about the 10 walks in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Reveries of a Solitary Walker”, but for me the 2nd walk is more interesting than the 1st one. It is certainly less pathetic.

I am not able to judge whether his walk was a long one on October 24th, 1776. After dinner he walks along the boulevards of Paris to the heights of Ménilmontant, then crossed the vineyards and meadows till Charonne. On reaching this village he returned, but took another path. Charonne is now a metro station in Paris. I suppose the environment is now completely different than in the end of the 18th century. By the way, the walk wasn’t perhaps that long as, thanks to internet, I see that it is nowadays just a  walk of 1,8 km from metrostation Charonne to Bd Voltaire in Ménilmontant.

He mentioned three flowering plants during this walk. First hawkweed oxtongue or Picris hieracioides. I cannot judge whether it is very common or rare in France. In the Netherlands you may find in chalk grassland, so mainly along the coast and in the south east, the province of Zuid Limburg.

Picris hieracioides

Picris hieracioides

 

The second plant is Bupleurum falcatum or sickle hare’s ear. In the Netherlands the Umbelliferae is much rarer than Picris hieracioides. It is known only from very few locations in the south east. Indeed this plant prefers chalk grasslands as well.

hasenohr04_p1

Bupleurum falcatum

It has been said that this plant is used as antidepressant, so might have been useful to Jean-Jacques. I have often difficulties with recognizing species of the Compositae; often I do not even give it a try.  But I am quite familiar with the Umbelliferae. I am sure that I have never seen sickle hare’s ear in nature.

half The third species, which excited Rousseau very much, is Cerastium aquaticum, which correct name is actually Myosoton aquaticum, or water chickweed. But, sorry, Jean-Jacques, this plant is not at all rare! The only difference between water chickweed and the two others is that it is not liking chalk grasslands. In my country is quite common. I remember well that I collected danceflies on the flowers by sweeping.

myosoton aquatica

myosoton aquatica

The second half of his essay Jean-Jacques mentions a rather unpleasant accident involving a giant Danish dog. He fell, lost temporary consciousness, but was happy enough not to have lost any tooth.

He continues with some minor events with some guests, which made me wonder why he complaint so much about his loneliness before? And then we move slowly to the end, which is quite remarkable. He writes, just out of the blue: “God is just; his will is that I should suffer, and he knows my innocence.”. I am not able to see any logic in this. It is astonishing. Why does he writes this?