Best Visited Articles: 184.000 views (and counting)

I oscillate between my love for drawing and writing: one day I like writing, the other day I need to paint. When I paint, my love for using colours or using graphite (monochromatic artwork) also swings back and forth with a regular rhythm. It is this versatility, this fight between my pen, pencils and palette, that keeps me ambitious and eager to learn new skills, better grammar, and new styles.

My website statistics list almost 190.000 visitors. This prompts me to offer you an index, slightly categorized, so that -perhaps- you will appreciate an article that hasn’t brought you here via search terms.

This website consists of a variety of seemingly unrelated subjects. However, there is one thing that does bind all these different subjects and that is Jane Austin’s advice: ‘Write what you know’. All that I have written or painted starts with inspiration that comes to me, my thoughts, feelings, and take on life. Hopefully my articles offer you great reading pleasure and hopefully my art will enrich your feelings.

Creative Writing

Writing is fun, therapeutic, a good exercise for the brain, and it feels like painting; you start with a draft and over the days you add more layers of thoughts and quotes, more polished vocabulary, more interesting sources, and refinement. Not a day passes in my life without reading and annotating what I read. I love to pen down quotes, sources, thoughts in my dairy which later will enrich my essays or articles. Here are a few of my most visited articles:


During my youth the Middle Ages was my favourite time in history. As I grew older, I found myself drawn to even older times, to Ancient, Neolithic, and Prehistory. At Oxford Department for Continuing Education I followed two courses on The Celts and Prehistory with great pleasure and I haven’t stopped reading books in prehistory ever since. Here are my essays and articles that have our deep past as subjects:

Mandarin Ducks

Picture my website to be a duck pond, surrounded by lush lotus plants. Which water birds will you spot regularly? Mandarin ducks, or Aix galericulata in Latin. This is because I draw and paint mandarin duck commissions. I opened an Etsy shop in 2011 and mandarin ducks stole the show. It is certainly not that I draw and paint mandarin ducks exclusively, I do other artwork too. However, to make my art-making self supporting, I keep on drawing and painting these lovely birds which always fill me with happiness. It is said that by having mandarin duck art in your home, works wonders.

Art Musings

There are many artists who find inspiration in nature, and so do I. But I find inspiration in art perhaps even more. Art inspires art. Culture inspires culture. Love inspires love. I can spend a whole essay on these cliché quotes, explaining in detail how this works (and I have), but sauntering about in art galleries or museums, or leafing through an art-book instantly fills me with inspiration and musings. Enjoy!

Monochromatic Artwork

Although working with colour is soul nourishing, making monochromatic artwork feels remarkably more soulful. It is as if you lay bare the matter of the soul after taking away its colours. Monochromatic artwork often reveals and uncovers the essence of things. I have a great love for my coloured pencils, but I love equally designing monochromatic bookplates. Bookplates are traditionally monochromatic but nowadays they are more and more in three primary or in full colour because colour printing has become affordable.


For miscellaneous posts, scroll down and down each article and see all categories (subjects) that -with one click- offer you more subjects to explore. Another method to find more inspirational posts is looking at ‘Related Posts’ under each posts you have just found.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s portfolio at Instagram

Paula’s art store is at Etsy.

Contact Form:

Visiting Lebuïnus’s Well (Deventer, Netherlands)

in Dutch: Lebuïnus put

Visiting Lebuïnus Church’s Well in the Netherlands

It is six o’clock. My husband and I leave the comfort of our warm bed for an hour of meditation after which we skip breakfast and head for Central Station on our bare feet. Having done penance and being in a spiritually heightened state before our pilgrimage to the Church of St. Lebuïnus is a good thing. That is, ideally. Nobody needs to know that we sleep till 8, after which we enjoy breakfast, a comfortable 1st class journey, and a coffee -with cake- near the main church of Deventer, a Hanseatic League city at the Dutch river IJssel.

I am eager to visit a well and my husband is perfectly fine with a nice day out for whatever reasons. Recently, I read Katherine May’s Enchantment in which she and a friend visit Black Prince Well in the village of Harbledown (UK). Reading her reflections on visiting a well made me question how many sacred springs and wells I have visited in my life. I can list a few abroad, mainly in the UK like Bath, Winchester, one near Hadrian’s Wall, and few in Italy, Germany and Austria. In the Netherlands, my home country, I have visited Springendal since my early youth. ‘Springendal’ loosely translates as valley of springs, which shows there are a few natural springs.

I like to visit a well again and do it right, although, like Katherine May, I have no idea what right is. Katharine May mentions that ‘You are in fact the one who fills the well’ because we seem to have forgotten the rules of engagement. Should I use the water to draw a small cross on my forehead? Should I sense the well giving me energy? At Geology and History class we learn how springs and wells are formed and how vital these were from prehistoric times till the time of tap water. But spiritually, we seem to have forgotten what to do near a well. Or perhaps not.

The evening before we plan our visit, I Google the well. I can’t find information when and how it came into existence. Is it man made and later Christianized? It looks like it. There are no records of any wonders that happened after drinking its water. Pilgrimages in the 13-14th century took place to venerate the remains of Saint Lebuïnus, not because of the well.  

Lebuïnus Church

We arrive at a large church that -far back in time- most likely started as a wooden hut placed near or over a well. This is the church of Lebuïnus, who was an 8th century Anglo-Saxon missionary.  Lebuïnus (LebuinLebwin or Liafwin) was an apostle of the Frisians and patron of Deventer but born in England. In between Lebuïnus’s preaching the Gospel in the vicinity of Deventer and dying there in c. 775, there is a lot of building, church burning, fleeing to Germany, and returning to Deventer. If you think erecting a church as a straightforward job, you think wrong.

Saint Lebuïnus

The colossal church we visit today was completed in 1525. We walk around the church and find it a delight. The sun shines and the sand-coloured stones give it a soft feel. The interior of the church enhances this impression with its friendly pastel palette of off-white, soft peach pink, and Naples’ sand yellow. It is what some would describe as the inside of a human body, that of flesh. We enjoy its wonderful frescoes. They have the same peach-creamy hues which are very appealing. No bright Medieval blue, red, and yellow, but pastel coloured Bible scenes and lots of botanical decorations. 

It is time to enter the 11th century crypt and to see what I came for, the well. We are used to dark and gloomy crypts, but this one is different. Similar to the church, the crypt has whitewashed walls and is full of soft light. Open apertures filter the light from the church windows which give this crypt a luminous feel despite its strong Romanesque pillars.

There is no reference that this is a sacred well, no information. Later, a volunteering church lady tells me that it is connected to the river IJssel, which runs nearby. The well itself is a hole in the ground in the centre of the crypt. An ugly metal grid is placed over the well, it is the kind of grid you use for brushing off mud from your shoes. This cheap modern grill allows you to see the well and to offer coins but it speaks volumes in frugality.  

There is no reference that this is a sacred well, no information. Later, a volunteering church lady tells me that it is connected to the river IJssel, which runs nearby. The well itself is a hole in the ground in the centre of the crypt. An ugly metal grid is placed over the well, it is the kind of grid you use for brushing off mud from your shoes. This cheap modern grill allows you to see the well and to offer coins but it speaks volumes in frugality. 

Today there is no water in the well. Looking through the grid is still pretty because of its stone walls and the layer of donated coins. In my imagination, I picture how the well looks like with water covering the coins. On my way out of the church I ask the same church lady if the water has permanently receded. Absolutely not, but since the Dutch allow the river to overflow and take up more room, there is less flooding in the crypt. This, the lady says, is a good thing because with the water also comes muddy residue. The lady goes on saying that the crypt has been a safe house for nuns during times of religious battles, as well as a bunker for those seeking safety during WWII bombardments. Nowhere in her story do I sense a reverence for the water well. 

Deventer’s Lebuïnus Church close to the river IJssel

We sit down in the crypt and so does an older man. He closes his eyes and goes into prayer. A few tourists enter but they -respectfully- keep their voices down. There is a prayer book, an altar and two burning candles with the Α and Ω symbols. The crypt is a welcoming place. But that cheap grid leaves an impression that this well is not important. At home, it takes me half an hour to find its name, ‘Lebuïnus put’, meaning Lebuïnus’s well, despite that it most likely dates to the Bronze and Iron Age. Archeological findings confirm Deventer as a very old river side settlement.

Early Christianity had to allow pagan elements, like this well, to bind folks to Christianity. Should the church crack down too hard on pagan traditions, this would estrange those who still held ancestral beliefs. Gradually pagan elements were neglected and ‘deliberately’ forgotten. Perhaps this well will suffer this fate too. That said, it might have been Christianized by Lebuïnus but even that isn’t mentioned in the church. 

Winchester Cathedral does it better. It tells the amazing history of its well and its hero. This cathedral lies on a hill and is situated over its well. Diver William Walker (1869–1918) saves Winchester’s church from imminent danger of collapse as it starts to sink slowly into the ground. Walker shores up the walls by putting concrete underneath them. He works six hours a day—in complete darkness, because the sediment suspended in the water was impenetrable to light. He is commemorated with a small statute whilst inside Winchester cathedral many holy men lie in their large and richly elaborate graves. I will never forget this disproportionate honour. Imagine William Walker having been a woman; her statute would be as small as a pinhead. That said, Winchester’s well is part of its historical narrative contrary to Lebuïnus’s well that is missing an information board. For many it will just be a hole in the ground, safely ‘sealed’ with a grid. 

We visit Lebuïnus’s well on a day when it is dry. If healing properties are connected to water, one has a problem. But if beneficial qualities are related to a place, rather than to water, then the absence of water is no problem. The water level in the IJssel River is high. The church lady expects the water to rise in the well during the day. I would have loved to see that because looking at coins feels like looking into an old treasure chest.

That said, the coins tell a story of how we behave near a sacred well. We haven’t collectively forgotten how we interact with holy places. We trust the well with our wishes and because we understand reciprocity, we offer a coin. And why do we offer a coin? We have no idea but offering something metal goes as far back as the Iron Age. 

Archeologists believe that during the Iron Age anything metal that had lost its form and gained a new shape by the fires of a blacksmith testifies of having a soul. Perhaps this was because on a chemical level metallurgy wasn’t understood and the processes like welding or metalworking looked magical. Sometimes an Iron Age sword of shield was not even utilized but offered to gods who resided in lakes. These offerings took place in western Europe, and we still do this; we offer coins to wells and fountains. 

The Witham Shield is an Iron Age decorative bronze shield dating from about the 4th century BC. The shield was discovered in the River Witham, England in 1826. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witham_Shield

We sit near the well and are invited to trust our prayer to the crypt prayer’s book. We offer a coin, a kind gesture to the well itself, because it isn’t about the money, it is about offering a metallic object that we -far back in time- regarded as having a soul. Our offer is not a lifeless object, no object of monetary value, but a spiritually valuable object. We have learned from our ancestors that there is something beneficial about interacting with sacred springs. It allows and perhaps invites our prayers and welcomes our offerings. More than any other thing, except perhaps for a cave or a tree, we share intimate thoughts and feelings with a well, especially on an emotional or spiritual level. We are in communion with it. 

I leave a prayer in the crypt’s prayer book. I do not feel comfortable with sending a wish list up to the saints above for myself but for someone else I am happy to pray. Our financial donation is done via a digital payment system at the exit but not before I look for a postcard. There is no postcard of the crypt or the well. It is a good thing I had knowledge of the well before visiting the church because I might have overlooked it.

Lebuïnius’s well has survived under the immense weight of our shifting religious preferences. However, it now seems overlooked. What we need to do is offering coins and interacting with it. And above all, it should have a less industrial grid. Otherwise, perhaps it might be forgotten as the geological, historical, and perhaps spiritual reason why this massive church was built on the banks of the river IJssel.

It is my wish that next time we will visit Lebuïnus’s well it will be decorated with an exquisite and artistic grid, like that of Glastonbury’s Chalice Well.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.

I invite you to enjoy this website that is full of art, art-musings, reflections, diary entries, literature, art-history, and more. I am Paula Kuitenbrouwer freehand-drawing & commission artist. Art is often seen as a luxury but when it comes to joyful, sad, or memorable events in our lives, we are in need for art. Please, feel free discussing commissioned art with me. I was taught drawing and painting by Spanish-Dutch artist Charito Crahay and Dutch artist Johan Kolman. I have an M.A. in Philosophy and enjoyed a few courses at Oxford Department for Continuing Education. Currently, I live with my husband in the Netherlands. Our daughter studies abroad. My portfolio is at Instagram and my shop at Etsy.

Order your Mandarin Duck Art Card (frame-able)

Would you like to order a professionally printed Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata) art card or postcard that can be framed? You are at the right place. Over the years I have drawn and painted many Mandarin duck couples as commissions but also free hand.

Two cards are double folded, others are postcards. All come with envelopes. Plus, as long as I have them in stock, I will include an Asian, vintage mandarin duck postal stamp. For large orders I need extra time because large amounts will be printed on demand. Please, contact me for orders of more than 5.

What do I have in stock?

I have this double folded art card with the drake (male duck) on the left side:

and this double folded art card, with the drake on the right side:

Plus, I have two postcards. A monochromatic (a romantic 19s century graphite drawing) post card with mandarin ducks resting near a forest stream:

and this vintage coloured (watercolour) one with mandarin ducks resting under large, lush lotus leaves:

A box with several mandarin duck cards also makes a very nice gift:


In case a postcard is not enough, in case a more substantial gift is needed, I have a few mounted mandarin ducks available too. These are coloured pencil/water-colour original artworks. They are mounted with professional Kadinsky mounts (UK). They will arrive at your home in a strong package. They can be framed but there are customers who do not frame them and put them on their shelves on a small painting’s easel (which I have available as well). For more information on these lovely mandarin ducks, click here. This link provides you with the option to add a small painter’s easel for displaying your mandarin ducks without a frame. Take good care: there are mandarin ducks looking left or right. You probably prefer a mandarin couple looking to the directing of the welcoming door of the room where you will put them on display.

Please, use the contact form, for informing me which art or postcard you prefer and how many, and please add your full address and email. Inform me please also whether you prefer Track & Trace (which will have additional costs of around 5 Euros). I will send an invoice via Paypal.

After you have paid, the Mandarin ducks will take off and migrate a.s.a.p. to your home.

Would you like to order via Etsy, follow this link.

There are many MANDARIN DUCKS at my ETSY. Sometimes I think my Etsy shop is a duck pond with the most colourful and cute ducks imaginable (including wood ducks, teals and swans)

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Why Should you Write a Spiritual Resume (Curriculum Vitae)?

-Some Inter-religious, Multi Religious, Non-denominational Recommendations-

Consisting of two parts this article begins with why one should write a spiritual curriculum vitae (resume). In addition to the why there is the how; how would such a resume look like? Must it be a written piece or are there more creative amalgamations possible? Lastly, some tips on how to grow your spiritual notebook, not so much as to list achievements but more for gratefully reflecting on special experiences. In both two chapters the term Resume is interchangeable with the Latin Curriculum Vitae.

Due to the length of this article, I’ve organized it in two chapters. Here is the shortcut to HOW COULD ONE DRAFT A SPIRITUAL RESUME and HOW TO GROW ONE’S SPIRITUAL RESUME.

Despite having no idea how a spiritual resume looks, a question about how my spiritual curriculum vita would look like, causes low grade panic in me. Spirituality has largely been erased from our society and our society’s rat-race doesn’t allow for us to reflect on other things like costs of living or maintaining my house, or the next holiday. Materialism has become the norm. Inquiring about my spiritual resume is a confrontation with myself; ‘Do I spend enough time on spiritual growth?(Male, midlife age)

Imagine compiling your spiritual resume. There is a big chance you will find large gasps between reading spiritual books, doing spiritual retreats, or musing over spiritual-mystical experiences. That is natural; one cannot have too many spiritual achievements happening in rapid succession. A monastic life is for life for a reason. Should you spiritually burn too brightly, like a candle flame in a drafty place, you consume too much of your wax in a too short time. Also, between spiritual developments, or growth spurts, one needs time to integrate experiences into one’s mundane life. One can’t have spiritual growth without properly transforming spiritual experiences into profound wisdom.

That said, these long white stretches, in which nothing spiritual or no spiritual development seems to happen, sometimes years, do unnerve us. It is important not to put pressure on ourselves. We are here to live a human life, not per-se a holy life, and there are many phases in life that are very down to earth, like growing up, reproduction, and growing older. These are deeply human experiences and should be valued as such. Humanism believes that we can give our lives meaning by seeking happiness and helping others to do the same. A similar idea is voiced by religious believers that we are here -on earth- as spiritual beings living a human life (with all its happiness and misery). This comes close to believers in angels who believe that angels wish for living a human life in order to feel: to smell flowers, to taste honey, to be intimate, to give birth, or to grief. There are many philosophical or religious reasons to value living a human life. We must value its vicissitudes in both blessings and tragedies.

Let us return to our spiritual resume. When one grows older, one sees a lot of closed doors. For women, for instance, that is the reproductive door. For men often that is career improvement. It feels sad to dwell on the past, on the closed doors, and past successes; it is undesirable to cling to the past. Although we welcome reflection on the past, we are especially interested in how to deal with closed doors; how to turn regret, disappointment, hardship into acceptance or blessings? Perhaps one finds the greatest solace in one’s wisdom or transcendent experiences.

What is remarkable about sacred or mystic experiences is that they are stored in your memory -for what seems- forever. Often, they can be recalled with significant ease and decades later one is able to talk about these experiences in great detail.

I have seen things, or experienced things that are more real to me than this world. I know this sounds unbelievable but many who have had spiritual experiences say this. These experiences come with a heightened awareness, more colour, and so much more definition. They make a lasting impression.’

Read, read and read….till you find what you found what you need to gain deeper understanding. Then…keep on reading because you will learn more. Eventually a combination of empirical and theoretical study will become the foundation for genuine wisdom (and resume).

Another extraordinary characteristic is that whilst analysing mystic dreams, or having visions, or feeling God, kundalini or satori, or being in contact with angels or divine beings, one feels ageless. And that is because we are spiritually ageless. When one adopts a broader sense of the meaning of life, or that of lives, in terms of reincarnation, age does seem relevant. What does matter is how one accumulates spiritual growth through life (for some, through multiple lives). It is probably therefore that going through mystical or spiritual experiences is not strictly linked to our aging bodies. Although there are often more spiritual experiences during childhood and midlife, that does not mean that one can attach an age label to a mystical experience itself. Mentioning age and using a chronological timeline is an important feature of a worldly resume but not so much for a spiritual resume.

How then to write a spiritual resume? A standard layout (timeline) of a resume does not seem to work which allows us to give our creativity free hand. See this absence of a formal lay-out as an invitation to give it your own creative format or interpretation.

Finding words to describe a spiritual development, insights or experience is another humongous task. Unless you attended a religious school or a congregation, one can be lost for words.

It took me 35 years to understand that an old medical record of an EEG (electroencephalogram) that sat in my medical files surprisingly belonged to my spiritual files. This EEG was the result of me, as a teen, complaining to my mother about weird things. She had witnessed me being absent minded and talking gibberish over seeing her from far away while she held my hand. Nothing conclusive was found. Later in life I understood that I experienced OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences). When I experienced OBE‘s again, I pondered over what if I had been an Indian or Nepalese teen and my mother had not brought me to a doctor but to a yogi or priest? Perhaps he or she would have understood I was -without suffice terminology- talking about OBE’s and my mother would have been reassured. Maybe I would have received some training to return to my body (because that part was frightening).It took me 35 years to understand that an old medical record of an EEG (electroencephalogram) that sat in my medical files surprisingly belonged to my spiritual files. This EEG was the result of me, as a teen, complaining to my mother about weird things. She had witnessed me being absent minded and talking gibberish over seeing her from far away while she held my hand. Nothing conclusive was found. Later in life I understood that I experienced OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences). When I experienced OBE‘s again, I pondered over what if I had been an Indian or Nepalese teen and my mother had not brought me to a doctor but to a yogi or priest? Perhaps he or she would have understood I was -without suffice terminology- talking about OBE’s and my mother would have been reassured. Maybe I would have received some training to return to my body (because that part was frightening)”.

This quote shows how difficult drafting a spiritual curriculum vitae is. My advice is to accept the challenge and complexity; see it as doing research. Perhaps you need to have a close look at your medical records. Perhaps you have a look at your portfolio, or at your love for animals, or your holiday locations.

We haven’t been trained to write a spiritual essay. That said, nobody will judge your resume. A spiritual resume is perhaps the most personal piece you will ever write. It is such a private document that one should keep it for oneself. Not only because keeping this undisclosed lessens the risk of being misunderstood, or made into a laughingstock, one doesn’t fall into a trap of spiritual ego aggrandizing. Spiritual experiences are only relevant to the person who experiences them; the wisdom that comes because of having these experiences has relevance if, and only if, it is shared properly and ethically.

Why write a spiritual resume? It is not that we still hold the belief that in exchange for a good resume we are granted access to heaven. Painting: Sistine Chapel with Perugino’s Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter 1481-83, fresco, (photo: Clayton Tang)

In an interview at Buddha at the Gas Pump, Bri. Joan Shivaripita Harrigan Ph.D., Joan says that most women start writing their spiritual journey and writing their spiritual resume in the vicinity of their 50s. By that time, women have done their worldly ‘duties’ in the sense of education, relations, reproduction and often have gone through menopause. Menopause offers a reorientation on life. ‘If I have 20-30 years left, what will I do, what is important?’  For others, often absorbed by jobs and careers, this moment of spiritual or philosophical re-calibration comes around retirement. Which is on the late side, because by then identification with job-titles and work related achievements have been written in stone and are less easy put aside to create room for a more spiritual orientation on life.

Fragment Spiritual Notebook:

“I sat -in my ‘dream’- in front of an older Tibetan Buddhist master. I knew it wasn’t a dream; it was a meeting. The face of the master was full of ancient wisdom. I expected something to happen, something out of the ordinary. I was filled with fear, but I also noticed how the old master knew this. It was as if a whole lineage of wise masters had a look at me. I calmed and waited and then instead of -what I expected- something was done to me, the master offered me a cup of tea! Later, I thought back of this and I remember being disappointed. Why had I been so afraid? Why only a cup of tea? I wanted to gain deeper insight or a spiritual transformation. Much later, I understood. After having more spiritual experiences, I learned my nervous system is too sensitive for spiritual fireworks. That cup of tea was pure caring kindness. I now think back of this ‘meeting’ as very precious.

(I know the Tibetan master wasn’t a figment of my imagination. I would have never been able to dream up an ancient face that held such unbelievable amount of wisdom. Also, at that time I wasn’t busying myself with Tibetan Buddhism at all! )”.


Writing a spiritual resume will not be a short-term project. It won’t be done in a fortnight. It might be an ongoing process in which more and more white disappears and more experiences, memories, dreams, courses, quotes, will be penned down. In fact, it might morph into an essay that will be revised through the years. It eventually might become a diary or a personal book of prayer.


What are the benefits of drafting a spiritual resume? To me, the answer is a change of focus that will be hugely beneficial. Beneficial in terms of well-being and happiness, and of feeling more whole by connecting the spiritual and the mundane.

Here a warning seems appropriate. A spiritual resume is not about spiritual self-importance. It is not even about growth in the sense of stimulated growth. What it shouldn’t be is just another ego document, aimed at a new career.

What is then its relevance or importance? A spiritual resume, or letter to your angels, or God, opens new doors. It deepens your spiritual focus. The process of writing offers new perspectives, new shifts in life, it prevents clinging to the past. It might prevent growing depressed because contrary to the inevitable age-related physical losses, it is beneficial to see something of yourself that is still growing and developing. It stretches your mind over your whole life (if not beyond it). And you will be surprised how the white fills up itself! Do not for one moment think this is not for you because you haven’t experienced levitation, seen an archangel, or experienced enlightenment. To use a metaphor: just because you aren’t able to paint a Night Watch, it doesn’t mean you can’t colour in a pretty colouring page. Also, a spiritual resume is not about collecting spiritual experiences. It is about weaving these experiences into the mundanity of our daily lives. Like a shift from materialism to a more poetical, spiritual appreciation of life.

There are two more important aspects about a spiritual resume. One is its free form; your resume might take form of a notebook, or an essay, a poem, a painting, an embroidery sample, all creative expressions are permissible. Read more on how to write a spiritual resume in the next post. Furthermore, a spiritual resume or essay will develop, so it is important to choose a format that allows growth. This also will be discussed in the next article.

Wishing you many wonderful and soul-nurturing hours penning down your spiritual resume. I hope this article has been helpful. Should I receive valuable comments, I might post an additional post consisting of these comments (anonymized, if your prefer that). In other words, feel free to use the contact form.

For reading how to write and grow your spiritual resume, click here.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist at Etsy and Instagram

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and works as an artist in Utrecht. She is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic. Contact Paula freely for commissions or articles.

The next article deals with the question on how to write a spiritual resume and how to grow your spiritual curriculum vitae.

How to Write your Spiritual Resume, or Curriculum Vitae?

-Some Inter-religious, Multi Religious, Non-denominational Recommendations-

Let us start with saying what a spiritual resume isn’t. It is not a document to hand over to others. Writing it is a process cannot a single task, and that process has no fixed beginning or end. A spiritual resume is not about Facts & Figures like ‘I have done 7 retreats in 7 years’ or ‘I had a mystical experience at the age of 13 and 33’. Better describe what happened during that retreat and how did that mystical experience unfold and what did you learn from it? Thus, it is not a record of your spiritual accomplishments; it is a description of these spiritual achievements. Should you like to mention meditation or prayer, instead of recording the hours you have put into that, what about describing how your meditation or prayer has developed over time? Describe your spiritual blossoming instead of the milestones, although milestones are worth noting.

If you describe you have been ‘in God’ as Brother Lawrence, a monk, did in the 1600s, you could narrate how close you have come, the efforts, the process. Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, promised himself he would live day and night, in good and bad times, in God. He spent many years practicing the presence of God in his life. His key to this practice was that he strove to be consciously aware of God’s presence at all times, which seems a perfect synonym of (Christian) mindfulness.

Brother Lawrence at work in his monastic kitchen.

Should your spiritual resume use a different religious or spiritual lexicon, for instance the language of yoga, one could write what and how special forms of meditation have helped you, how they have offered you insights, and which ones. It is not about credentials; it is about describing developments which you should not judge or grade. The tiniest insight can have a profound ripple effect. One doesn’t need huge breakthroughs to see these small steps as valuable.

How can you record or narrate the developments you like to add to your resume? Now here comes the art of creatively thinking. Just start with a few words, draft narratives from there, and then think about whether you like to use words or perhaps stone, yarn, clay, wool, colored pencils, oil paints, or musical notes. Because your spiritual resume is about you, materializing it should feel as doing something as close as possible to you as a person. If you love graphite pencils better than a fountain pen, why not make a drawing? Should you like wool more than grammar, why not weave a tapestry? Whether you opt for an Aboriginal art inspired large canvas or a Beaker bell inspired pot, this is a very personal choice and one could use one’s skills and talents.

There is no need for a spiritual resume to follow a timeline. One can better adopt a more medieval approach that time is circular. Such a medieval concept begs the question how to write a resume that has no beginning or end, neither facts or figures. The best way to write a spiritual essay is not regarding mystical experiences, insights, or meditative breakthroughs as achievements on which other successes build. It is far better to see these ‘achievements’ as gifts being given to you. It is said that if you take one step to God or Allah, God or Allah will take ten to you. Which automatically leads to a spiritual resume as having a tone of gratefulness, and perhaps resembling a gratitude journal.

Another possible form is writing letters. Again there is no need to follow a chronological setup. Write about the most mysterious, insightful, and wonderful experiences followed by the less significant but probably equally important encounters or occurrences.

I had an uncle who for years wrote a letter to his guardian angel, which listed his spiritual progress and experiences. After his demise, his children turned it into a booklet that was distributed among his family and friends‘.

‘My old dairies, that held my deepest perhaps even spiritual thoughts, made me feel ashamed. I had no other vocabulary than a girlish one. I was even scorned by family members after they read a diary entry. I trashed my notes; I came to see them as melodramatic. Around the time I became aware of spirituality, there was only enlightenment or not. Enlightenment was something huge, something for well trained, wise, old men, not for young girls. Thank God, we now have vocabularies of different spiritual traditions for writing about our spiritual developments. And that is because we now have Spirituality shelves in bookshops offering us spiritual lexicon, even modern secular lexicon. But that took decades. I can now write about spiritual experiences but it took a society becoming interested in spirituality and publishers to print spiritual narratives‘.

Still, a spiritual narrative or resume does not have to be written down. One can also become a medieval craftsman making art ‘for God’ not signing the art. This is not a usual thing for us, 21st century people, but perhaps you get my gist. Maybe you prefer a needle and yarn for making a grand sampler that records your spiritual growth. Or compose a piece of music. Whatever medium you use and how is your choice and your choice only. Of course, we easily identify books as spiritual resumes. Think of Teresa of Avila’s written texts on her spiritual journey through life. Or of ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence. Or visit any proper bookshop and see how many modern people help you by offering their narrative which can be very educational in terms of offering lexicon and tools to discern what spiritual growth is. But what about altar cloths handwoven by anonymous women? Or nameless temple decoration certainly made in full devotion? Perhaps these are spiritual resumes as well.

By now, I have moved far away from the meaning of the word resume or curriculum vitae. In my defense; had I used -for instance- artwork or autobiography, this would have deterred those who aren’t artistic or do not feel like writing a book. Notebook, diary, or a journal? Name your document whatever you may see fit.

Entry to a spiritual diary:

There was this one single moment in which -in my twenties- I overlooked a harbour. A gull passed over me, calling its melancholic cry. The sound of that call seemed to expand in the fast open space of sea and sky. I thought how it would be to be that gull having no home, no ties, just taking this endless open space for granted. And then it happened. I didn’t become that gull, but all the sudden I was in that open space consisting of a seemingly endless blue sea and a cerulean sky. I dissolved and it was so peaceful, not scary at all. I have no idea how long that moment lasted but it never left me. I will at no time forget this moment and perhaps death might feel like this; just dissolving without emotions or attachments.


One can ask for growth and help it happen, but one can not force it. Modern people are very much in the business of managing developments, ‘working on it‘, ‘making it happen‘, but spiritual experiences do not belong to the domain of things that are manageable. We can only invite them and open welcoming doors.

To recall and describe experiences that belong to your spiritual resume, or essay, or poem, or painting, I found a few ideas that might be helpful. Some seem self-explanatory. Clearly this advice comes from me and has helped me which does not automatically apply to you. You might list sailing or visiting ancient monuments as supportive. Do feel invited to comment and add what has been supportive for your spiritual curriculum vitae.

Also, a disclaimer here. To grow your spiritual resume is not a business of stimulating growth, which means no drugs or extreme actions. We have ‘to sit by the grass and let it grow by itself‘ (Zen saying). There is it, sitting by the grass is active; we have to sit by the grass (we have to create favourable conditions). But letting the grass grow by itself is passive. We can open doors and leave them open but we can’t force friends to come in. We invite them in, politely.

  • Meditate or pray. In meditation or prayer we gain deeper insights and are offered spiritual experiences. Nobody plans enlightenment or mystical experiences. They come to us as gifts or accidents. But we can invite gifts by prayer and meditation. The interesting thing with meditation is that there are 1001 courses in which you can learn to meditate, but there is hardly any advice on how to pray. As a child I thought it was sending a wish-list up to the Wise Man above. Should you like to read more about prayer, may I advise reading Thich Nhat Hanh‘s The Energy of Prayer?
  • Listen to religious or spiritual music. I once read a quote by an Indian spiritual lecturer. He said if he had to choose between spoken language or music, he would choose music which is remarkable for a former university and later spiritual lecturer, for somebody practically spending his whole life giving lectures. He said (not a verbatim quote) that ‘From music, spiritually naturally follows’. Bach lovers know this and voice it with a humorous twist: ‘Bach is God and God is Bach’. Music is majorly important, hence listening to Zen-bowls, shamanic drums, Gregorian chants, or other religious-spiritual music.
  • What also helps us to invite mystic experiences or deeper insights is art-making. By art-making I do not mean making a gallery or museum piece. Modest and focused art-making or crafts work is enough: knitting, sketching, woodwork, needle art, working on a religious patterned colouring page. It is not the art that counts, but meditation that shuts down our loquacious mind. Once we have calmed our minds and turned our inner cacophony into a zen-like symphony, there is more space for divine or spiritual insights or wisdom to break through. Grandmothers seem to have known this. They didn’t need to sweat and burn at hot steam yoga classes. They sat themselves near a window for calmly doing an hour of knitting or crochet whilst they went deep into meditation. If you interrupted them, they returned to their busy family life from what seemed a place full of silence and wisdom.
  • Good sleep is another method for becoming wiser. A good night’s sleep and keeping a dream journal offers a possibility to study our subconscious mind through Jungian dream analysis. You do not need a degree for this. You do not even need to buy 10 books. Reading a few is okay to open your mind to the symbolic language of our subconsciousness. Not all dreams should be analyzed; one quickly learns which ones stand out in significance. There are nice methods and nice theories that help us to integrate our subconscious mind into our daily living. Once you have gained some techniques and insights, these stay with you. One will feel more whole being in touch with wisdom that is stored within us. Remember that in ancient and holy books much divine communication comes through dreams.
  • Going into nature. Again, almost self-explanatory, just like art-making, spending time in nature is beneficial to our well being. The sensual enchantments of spending time in nature will quiet your mind. That said, where is ‘nature’? Despite that there is hardly any unspoiled nature left, a park, a rewilding corner in your garden, or a holy well a few kilometers away must do the job. If these places are unfeasible, perhaps listening to a tape with bird sounds will do? Take some nature to you but adapt the definition of nature to your living condition.
  • Diet! Yes. I have experienced it myself firsthand. Three weeks into turning vegan, I had a profound spiritual experience that shocked me out of my socks. There is hardly any world religion not advising on fasting or diet. A rich diet harms the body and inhibits spiritual growth. I read a Yogi saying that ‘Yoga requires a diet’. Yoga exercises without a diet are just physical exercises. You can’t stuff your body with bad food and then hope subtle energies will run through it.
  • Read spiritual books. Start somewhere and see yourself developing through different themes, ‘religions’, and advice. Look for information but check whether the author or source is trustworthy. Theoretical study is important for its special vocabulary, identifying stages of development, and good advice. After giving this much thought, I think there are exceptions; the uneducated shepherd who finds enlightenment by walking the hills or the brainy scholar that neglects his body by spending decades on reading holy books and finds enlightenment. Even so, for most of us a good balance between proper sleep, listening to music, meditation and prayer, a healthy diet, with additional theoretical studies welcomes spiritual development.
Spiritual books by Therese of Lisieux, Gopi Krisha, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee are a few of the myriad spiritual books available.

Here is ‘Why One Should Write a Spiritual Resume‘.

Wishing you many wonderful and soul-nurturing hours penning down your spiritual resume. I hope this article has been helpful. Should I receive valuable comments, I might post an additional post consisting of these comments (if preferred anonymized). In other words, feel free to use the contact form.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s art is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram.

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic. Feel free to contact Paula for commissions.

Inspiring Artist Studios II

After publishing Inspiring Artist Studios my idea about artist studios expanded after reading ‘Your Brain on Art‘. Let me explain….

‘Your Brain on Art’ connects art and science, and states that art-making is good for your brain and for your well being. In chapter Creating Community, Maria Rosario Jackson focuses on historically marginalized communities. Maria sets up ‘kitchens’ for revitalizing communities and their culture. ‘What we need are places where people can repair and make whole again their cultural roots, as well as create new traditions. A place where they can figure out how they want to show up both individually and collectively, and also have a chance to imagine their future’. (pg. 213, Your Brain on Art, Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross, Canongate, ISBN9781§805301202). Of course, ‘kitchen’ here is a metaphor but a good one as a kitchen is a place where people sit down, eat, and talk. It is often the heart of a home. ‘The work here (at the Cultural Kitchens) is about repair, nourishment and evolution, about making the mix. (…) Cultural kitchens can take many forms, but they all ask well, who am I who are we in this evolving context what do I/we bring? What does it mean to be bringing my/our voice or contributions forward?

I can picture these kitchens and value these places. Some time back, we rented a cottage in a small village in Wales. It was interesting to observe how important the community centre was to the village and the farms in its vicinity. If stress out women come together to knit or weave, children to join a theater play, men to repair stuff or play chess, it connects them, it eases loneliness, and adds strength to creative processes and a feeling of belonging to a community.

An artist’s studio is often an individual place whereas cultural kitchens are communal just like that arts & crafts classrooms. Artist studios, whether they are individual or communal, are places where we relax and focus. More significantly, studios (kitchens or art classroom) are places where culture is born or revived.

How many studios did it take to establish (what was later called) the Dutch Golden Age? Twenty or perhaps fourty only? Or take French Impressionists? How many where there? Not that much if you project that number of studio against the hundreds of museum galleries that have Golden Age or Impressionist art on display. Studios are cultural kitchens where art and art-movements are born. These places are almost sacred because of the artworks, books, crafts works they incubate. These are places where artists materialize inspiration, which to some is divinely given. No wonder we like to visit these places (even as replicas). We like to see birth-houses of famous artists; once inside, we are very eager to see their studio, desk, or workplace.

Let us look at two more places where two creative minds are at work, the desk of writer Maricelle Peeters and art studio of Sybille Tezzele Kramer. Both places are so aesthetically pleasing, not only for Maricelle and Sybille, but also for visitors. Looking at their studios alone fills us with a longing to be creative.


Maricelle Peeter’s Writer’s Desk
Maricelle Peeters lives and works in South Africa. In a land that is celebrated for its natural wildlife and its abundance in hues, it is not surprising to find a writer -like Maricelle- carefully paying attention to the colour palette of her desk.

I think what “makes” an artist’s studio is its practicality combined with its aesthetic. A good workplace caters to our creative needs; a balance between stimulating but not distracting, organised for work but not boring. It’s the aesthetic that makes the studio the artist’s own.

It should be a place that reflects the artist’s heart; where we can feel at home and familiar, yet encouraged and challenged to grow, learn, and push beyond our limits. For me, this looks like a combination of space and colour, always prioritizing practicality over pretty. I need enough practical workspace, or I feel cramped, but I must be surrounded by some decorations to make it cozy, or I feel lost and uncomfortable. My space must feel tidy, be handy, and look pleasant.

I have a dedicated space for writing, big enough for a notebook or laptop, which I keep clear. This way I can always write at once in a strike of inspiration. I also have allowance areas for clutter – a necessity that prevents my dedicated workspace from becoming a mess. I always have multiple projects I’m working on, and having a dedicated area to shelf them has been a lifesaver to my sanity. The less clutter, the clearer my mind.

My tools I store on my desk – easily accessible – using a makeshift stationary organiser. Inside I’ve ordered the materials according to purpose and frequency of use. I’d love to have a practical set-up for the collections of loose papers and notes lingering around. I want to put them in folders and line them up a shelf; for now they’re stashed beneath my desk, out of sight but close at hand.

As a visually oriented person, I enjoy having an order of colours, posters, and nick-nacks decorating my space. Not too much, or it feels cluttered and becomes distracting, nor too little or it feels naked. All decorations must serve the aesthetic and purpose. Motivating quotes, reminders of goals and dreams, paintings, mantras, all earned a home on my wall. Some small, random decorations (pebble, candle, tiny vials) fit well in on my desk, too. My colour palette I’ve tuned to a soft but stimulating, calming collection of earth tones: creams, white, some browns, and accents of peachy salmon (the colour’s name is a topic for debate). When I seek a fresh theme I simply replace the accent colours. This way my workplace is always changing – stimulating and challenging – yet familiar enough to keep me motivated for growth!

Maricelle Peeter’s inspiring desk with good light, visual inspiration, and a fish bowl.

Here is Maricelle’s work & Maricelle at Literal. Subscribe to Maricelle’s newsletter & blog here. Maricelle’s Instagram is here.

Maricelle Peeters is one of the two Literary Ladies who published the Gothic Literature Magazine. Literary Magazine on Gothic Literature is available here.


Sybille Tezzele Kramer at work in her art room
Sybille Tezzele Kramer is a bilingual artist living and working in Sud-Tirol. Her room hardly can’t be more inspirational; there is 360 degrees artwork and art in progress. Sybille’s artwork records and celebrates her South Tyrol’s landscape, woodlands, hills, lakes, and typical mountainous houses or farms. No wonder, with so much nature around her, Sybille’s studio feels like a source that oozes a steady flow of colourful, locally inspired art.

In 2013, I retired as a homeschool mum, and it was then that I transformed our ‘class’ room into my design and art studio. Half of my workroom is devoted to designing learning projects for teachers and homeschooling families. Small slips of paper with work orders or planned projects decorate the walls so as not to lose track of things. The other part is for freehand drawing, and a third area is for fabric design and embroidery. I like bird watching and I always rush out onto the balcony not to miss anything when I hear a special song or call, so I have these binoculars at hand.

As you can see in the photos, my room has a high ceiling and a large west-facing window which offers good light conditions. This is very important to me so that I can see the colors as they really are when I am drawing.

My design-art room is the heart of our apartment; it connects all other living areas. As soon as you open the apartment door, you are visiting my working place, and from here you can go to the kitchen and the other rooms. This allows me to perfectly combine everyday life and work: the smell of bread coming out of the oven comes from the kitchen, and I can hear the rumbling of the washing machine in the corridor. However, there are moments when I wish for my own room, more isolated, because the disadvantage of this arrangement is that everyone who comes in sees my work immediately and I don’t like that all the time. That’s why I often clear away my projects when I expect visitors, which is a bit disruptive and stressful. My sketches, notes, recordings and even my work in progress are not for everyone to see and comment on. Of course, this does not apply to my family members!

As you can see, the cupboards are mainly used for work utensils, because I like having everything within reach. There are boxes for pencils and paper, as well as stacks of lapbooks and notebooks for the learning projects. There are also map prints, threads for sewing, embroidering for my fabric prints, as well as other sewing utensils, and cutting or folding devices.

The furniture here is well used or second-hand, which I think is great because I don’t have to be too careful about being neat and it allows decoration. This supports a relaxed way of working. I think this easy-going working atmosphere is also transferred to children or teachers, whom I sometimes welcome here for individual or group workshops. My workplace is important to me because it is full of inspiration! All walls function as inspiration boards. Some of my framed drawings and fabric prints, art cards, and works by artist friends are on display in my room. I collect feathers, stones, shells, etc. From time to time, I change the arrangement of things, because it is good to welcome a bit of modification. The dangling mushrooms are a constant reminder of my almost spiritual connection to the forest.

Sybille Tezzele Kramer’s Dangling Mushrooms that are her spiritual connection with her regional woodlands.


May you have enjoyed this second article on the artist studio. For the first, click here. It has been such joy to write Inspiring Artist’s Studios I and Inspiring Artist’s Studios II. I hope to receive more enthusiastic contributions that enable me to write another article on inspiring artist ateliers.

Feel free to contact me via the contact form.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.

Website at mindfuldrawing.com

Art shop at Etsy & Portfolio at Instagram

Mandarin ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer on Etsy.

Elderly People can Make Disastrous Mistakes

Word is out that the Dalai Lama did the most horrific thing a world leader of Buddhism could do; asking a young boy to suck his tongue. President Bush senior butt-touched a female nurse, and my father turned against me. What is this and why does this happen? Why do some geriatric people grow mellow and sweet whilst others become combative, rude, or sexual?

Growing old, becoming ill, and undergoing medical procedures, a pandemic, vaccines, or taking pills are not good for the brain. It fast-tracks ageing and ageing often means becoming childish. Childish not as in behaving like a child but leaning on behavioral patterns and memories learned at the time of childhood and adolescence. In the case of the Dalai Lama this must have been his monastic training and living among young boys, being playful with young boys. Others -for instance- become shamelessly misogynistic or rude.

The deep adolescence-brain, young-adult patterns of behavior emerge ones more in full force around the time an elderly is diagnosed with dementia. Often there is still enough skill and smartness to hide the onset of cognitive decline which causes some to spot the onset of dementia earlier than others. ‘It started in 2019’. ‘No, it didn’t, it started in 2022’.

‘Dementia ripping families apart’ results in 3.740.000 links on Google.

Not many families are unified in dealing with dementia because some see dementia, whilst others see playfulness, naughtiness, character, upbringing, or culture. Despite all these excuses make a bit sense, essentially it is about a gradual loss of control that preludes dementia. Therefore one must listen to those who notice behavioral changes and not let these first ‘observers’ feel like they suffer from Cassandra Syndrome. Because the price for not believing them is high. Not only is a young boy needlessly shocked by the behavior of a world famous and loved religious leader, also the Dalai Lama has done great harm to his life work.

With denial of geriatric character changes or dementia comes terrible conflict and great sadness. How many now purge their bookshelves from books by the Dalai Lama? This could have been prevented by isolating the kind old man from those who think high of him. This should have been done. Like nurses of old people’s homes advising family members of demented elderly: ‘Don’t visit…you might get hurt and they don’t even remember your visit’.

An old woman by Théodore Géricault. Does she look angry? Or only vulnerable? Or neglected? What do you see? How many of you spot craziness? That is unkind to spot, isn’t is? I missed it when I first saw this painting. I thought the old woman was neglected, poor, feeling perhaps ill. Dementia is also difficult to see. The title of this artwork is ‘Crazy old woman’.

Abuse is abuse, no matter whether somebody has used alcohol, drugs, medication, or suffers from dementia. It is a slippery slope to set one kind of abuse apart from another. Also, forgiveness paves the way for establishing a repetitive pattern. Yet, we must make a difference between hurt done by a person suffering from the early stages of dementia and hurt inflicted by a healthy mind. How can we do that?

It is highly recommendable to not deny ageing, nor cerebral and behavioral changes. No matter how brilliant someone has been; no matter how utterly harmless and kind, these geriatric changes cause elderly to make tragic and humongous mistakes. Like the Dalai Lama being the world’s most unstoppable promoter of (Buddhist) kindness. Holy and unholy people age and ageing can lead to making devastating mistakes. Like my father setting up siblings against me (and me against them). As a father you spend 50-60 years as a peace broker, keeping your children together, only to do the absolute reverse at the end. Dementia can lead to abusive behaviour, risking undoing all that is so carefully is achieved over a lifetime. Is that tragic or not?

Spanish artist Belette le Pink drew an old mole, blind, and absentminded. His grandson, the cat, insists on going together to the movies. With this artwork Belette shows the absurdity that comes with ignorance or denial of old age limitations.

Belette le Pink: ‘My friend is starting to lose his mind. It puzzled me because only a few months ago he was a clever and sensitive person. Now he is like a child fantasizing and reacting angrily. I stayed with him in silence but it is really difficult to deal with people when you are not trained to take care of geriatric patients; they consume your patience. I second that old people must be reprimanded when they show bad behavior no matter their age. Old people tend to be forgiven for everything, and it is okay to forgive but you must reprimand even if that is unpleasant. When you take care of your parents out of empathy or love, it’s a real nightmare, especially taking care of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. I have friends who went through that experience and it left them depressed because of feelings of guilt. People with dementia or Alzheimer are out of the world and “out of service” and it is you who is here and you will be here in the future, so it is you first. To keep this in mind might be the best surviving strategy which enables you to help old people’.

Maybe abuse and hurt by old people isn’t 100% preventable but at least it should be limited. Abuse by elderly shouldn’t be brushed away because it won’t go away. Hurt will stay if we continue glorifying and respecting unfit old men and women. It is paramount to let them retire. We should keep a very close eye on their behavior, take lead over them, and not fall for their charisma or charms. In age old people can shine brilliantly, like a star that expands before it implodes. Instead, we should provide elderly people with an insignificant place out of the public eye where they can grow old in a relaxed way and prevent shame that comes with failures. At first they might feel mortified, downsized, angry, irrelevant, and consequently they will lash out but that only confirms the need for them to step down.

Our society keeps old people alive years or decades after they are capable of surviving without the help of medication. Modern medicine ignores what we used to say is ‘God’s calling’. In cases in which this leads to a second chance in life, it is great science. In cases it leads to hurtful geriatric behavior, depression, and dementia, one is justified to ask whether a death-defying intervention is a happy one.

Please, help each other preventing elderly people from hurting next generation(s). Stop them, even if that is a Sisyphean task. Reprimand them. Warn each other; console each other. Form a united front. Believe it when somebody waves a red flag. Just because an elderly becomes abusive is so out of sorts and so unbelievable, you better put your trust in unpleasant observations.

Poetically, becoming an abusive elderly is like guardian angels have left the scene and little devils have taken over.

Biologically, empathy diminishes with age. Being kind without empathy takes a huge effort. Gracefully growing very old doesn’t come naturally to all and everyone of us. For some it turns out to be one of the most difficult things in a human’s life.

Spiritually, growing very old is like risking undoing your whole legacy, which is tragic.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

P.S. A related post ‘When an Elderly Parent Hurts You’ is here.

Website at mindfuldrawing.com

Art shop at Etsy & Portfolio at Instagram

Carl Larsson’s and Karin Bergoo’s studios & Inspiring Artist’s Workplaces

What makes an artist’s studio?

This blog post starts with famous pastel paintings of Carl Larsson’s home studios of him and his wife Karin Bergöö. Such paintings make us long for more, but why? Is it because we want to nail what makes an artist’s studio? We will find out by asking different artists what makes their work place functional and special to them.

Carl Larsson’s Artist Studio ‘One half of my studio’, 1890-1899.

Carl Larssson & Karin Bergöö Studios

Aren’t Carl Larssson and Karin Bergöö’s studios inspiring? For me they are but that is because I can relate to artists’ studios. Whether it is the inevitable messiness or chaos that comes with creating art, or the opposite, the neatness and organization, artist’s studios are fascinating.

Painter, illustrator, and artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was a representative of the Arts and Crafts Movement and is best known for his idyllic paintings of family life. He married artist Karin Bergöö (1859-1928) with whom he had eight children. With so many children there was no shortage of models for his family life paintings. Larsson and Bergöö’s creative marriage must have been helpful in setting up their inspiring studios.

Here is the other half with a large canvas. ‘The Studio’, Carl Larsson c.1895; Sweden

Carl Larsson’s studio looks so inviting because of its soft pastel tones that add to a friendly atmosphere. Larsson’s studio juxtaposes Rembrandt’s dark, baroque atelier which makes us want to switch on a light. Larsson’s desk with an ink-pot for sketching, a tool rack for preparing canvases, and a painter’s easel for painting are the eye-catching pieces of his room. On his desk lie various sketches and, in the corner several paintings in process. Larsson might walk in, sit down, and continue with whatever project he has in his mind. There is nice light emanating from the window and the pillows show Swedish folk-art designs, undoubtedly designed by his wife and textile designer Karin Bergöö.

More about Carl Larsson is here.

Here we see Carl and Karin ‘After the Children have gone to bed’ (1901). We see Karin working on her textile art but unluckily we cannot see what she is doing exactly, perhaps embroidery, mending, or upholstery?

There is one painting of Karin inside her textile design room, showing her standing near her loom. Karin, being Carl’s muse and wife, has her work immortalized in many of Carl’s paintings of their home at Sundborn. Their creative and aesthetic partnership was a lucky one and one can tell by how attractive and inviting they proudly show their workplaces.

Let us have a look at some contemporary artists;

Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s Art Room

‘My atelier has a large table in the middle for my workstation, piles of reference books, boxes full coloured pencils, and pots with pencils and brushes. I need to move these things around during the various processes of art-making. There are painter’s easels in my art room for my work-in-progress and for my finished artwork. My art room has large north-east facing windows for overlooking a residential area with trees and some churches. I love my workroom and should I be imprisoned there (we had 3 lock-downs), I would stoically continue with art-making without being too needy for going out.

I allow messiness during the art making process. After I have finished a drawing or painting, I clean and reorganize my room. I pay attention to my room being artistically pleasing. I have never walked into my art room without feeling eagerness to sit down and make art. A place where an artistic mind opens itself to the mysteries of life, like inspiration, fills itself with a special atmosphere. My room nourished my soul even without me drawing or painting’.

Maryse Kluck, aspiring writer

‘My desk must be colourful but not obnoxiously so. It must not be messy but have an absence of an absence; it must have pictures referring to a story that sits in my mind. Pictures of a place, a painting, and books that are like my friends. I need these aesthetics because I need something to produce something. I consider literature as a work of art and art leads to art. Spiritual things are necessary for me too because I regard inspiration coming from God.

An element of ancestral worship is important to me too, but it is not a blood relation that I need. I need pictures and books from the Brontës or Mary Shelley, or William Holman Hunt, because it shows respect to those from whom you draw inspiration from. We aren’t unique, we are part of a tradition, we are always in a way plagiarizing, standing on the shoulders of those before us and therefore we need to venerate and credit them. If Emily Brontë does not inspire anymore, that is the moment that she really is dead. Thus, my work desk is rather busy, yet organized’.

Two articles by Maryse Kluck are here and here. Maryse is one of the two Literary Ladies who published the Gothic Literature Magazine. It is available here.

Ancient Sage Designs at Shazeeda’s Atelier

‘There is no “must look like” in an artist’s studio. An artist’s studio needs to be a place that serves the artist’s creativity. For me, that space must allow me to focus. It needs to be quiet so I can read and write about the ancient art that inspires my embroidery patterns. I need a space where I can be alone. The only time I enjoy someone’s company during my creative process is when I am stitching a new pattern.

I also need adequate light. I live in the northern hemisphere and the room that I use to make my art is in the northwest corner of the building. The room has a west window and a north window, but not enough light comes through these windows. The natural light in the room doesn’t allow me to see the holes in the evenweave fabric that I use to embroider. So, I have adapted to using a task lamp while I stitch. When selecting my colour palette, I don’t choose my thread colours in this room. Instead, I go where there is natural light so I can see the true colours that I am working with.

When I am away from my studio, my favourite places to stitch are wherever I find lots of natural light streaming through a  window or where I can sit outside in the shade. It is my dream to one day have a studio with lots of natural light’.

Shazeeda Linktree is here and her online shop is here.

Inspiration & Concentration

A studio is a place where inspiration and concentration meet, and to achieve that artists create various conditions and aesthetics. A studio can be a boat, a garden shed, a corner in a room. It may contain common objects like a laptop or magnifying lamp but most likely it is instantly recognizable as a studio, as a special place carrying the idiosyncratic signature of an artist. More about inspiring artist’s studios and also about communal cultural kitchens functioning as artist’s studios one finds in Inspiring Artist’s Studios Part II.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Inspiring Artist’s Studios Part II is here.

More reading on Larsson and on the studios of two famous artists, William Morris and Mariano Fortuny:

One response to “Carl Larsson’s and Karin Bergoo’s studios & Inspiring Artist’s Workplaces”

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    […] publishing Inspiring Artist Studios my idea about an artist studio expanded after reading ‘Your Brain on Art’. Let me […]

The Haunting Season


Maryse Kluck, 2023
Do not fetish and glamorize death, states Maryse Kluck, literature and history student, after reading The Haunting Season, a Sunday Times bestseller. Writing enchanting Gothic stories isn’t about explicit sexual content and gore, but about subtle supernatural events Elements of fear, romance, and intense emotions that do not imply explicit gore. On the contrary, states Kluck, proper Gothic books are often supplemented with a moral dimension. because to Maryse Kluck, reading is learning.

In this essay I will share my ramblings on ‘The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights’, a Sunday Times Bestseller, published by Sphere. I bought it for keeping me entertained whilst flying from York to the Netherlands, and I finished it a couple days after arriving home.  The book cover is stunning. Dark blue and gold, it drew me into a spooky, dreamy world, and let’s be fair; a good cover makes me buy books. I know, ‘Don’t buy a book for its cover’, but I really can’t help it. I’m even thinking of adding a third -very pretty- edition of ‘Frankenstein’ purely as an aesthetic addition to my bookshelves. I’ve put The Haunting Season on my desk, because it is so lovely, and it didn’t fail to inspire me. The first story; A Study in Black and White, is excellent, and I do not say this lightly. A sinister, chess-oriented story about a black-and-white half-timbered house and its former, malicious owner, its narrative drew me in and reminded me of the classic Gothic stories that I love. It is subtle and uncanny, and I especially liked it because it was about a half-timbered house. For those who do not know what half-timbered is, it is a building technique, often medieval, made of a wooden structure, with articulated beams in various positions, filled with filled with other materials, which can vary from clay, rammed earth or stones. A story with preternatural elements featuring a half-timbered house? What could get better? The story is frightening- not as strongly as Ann Radcliffe’s novels though-but not something you want to read before going to bed (on a sunny balcony during the middle of the day is better). Thus, the book opens with its strongest story.

However, I was taken aback by the inclusion of stories which definitely had a political agenda, which irked me. Modern books do that these days; authors tend to take their political standpoint and force it down your throat. This is not necessarily bad- I know my stories carry a certain message too- but I wish there had been more information about this on the backside or blurb.

Stereotypes and a lack of originality are often other unwelcoming ingredients of a book, especially those of women. In Thwaite’s Tenant, by Imogen Hermes Gowar, a woman flees her abusive husband, presumably in the Victorian Era, with her son, ‘aided’ by her openly sexist father, who, despicably, tells her to return to her husband. Whilst I am, as a historian, glad that the Victorian Era isn’t romanticized, I am slightly concerned by the constant trope of men being downright evil to women. There is no dispute that the Victorian Era was sexist, and had normalized terrible things such as wife-beating. My only worry is that not all men, in their attitudes towards women, held such ghastly attitudes. It is important to mention Thomas Hardy, famous writer of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, in which he attacks double sexual standards for men and women and describes the devastating impact of rape for a woman- this novel could be called one of the first ‘Me Too’ novels, in my opinion. Furthermore, there were also men campaigning for women’s suffrage in the Victorian-Edwardian era. For further information on this, I would recommend reading these sources on Women-votes and Women’s Right Movements. Unfortunately, men who fought for women’s rights and equal treatment were in the minority; but existed nonetheless. I barely come across this in contemporary fiction, which aggravates me as an undergraduate historian. The fact that feminist men were a minority back in the Victorian time- a minority, but still present- would add an intellectual depth to the story that it unfortunately lacks.

Lack of Originality

The complete lack of originality in two other stories irked me as well: Thwaithe’s Tenant and Lucy Wilt. It happened to be so that a couple months ago, I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by the talented, proto-feminist writer Anne Bronte. Thwaithe’s Tenant comes dangerously close to plagiarism of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; a woman escapes her abusive husband, lives in an abandoned house away from him, struggles against patriarchal norms and values, and fears her son will grow up to be as disgusting as her husband. Why, even the title of the story is reminiscent of Anne Bronte’s novel. Whilst it is good for writers to be inspired by those who came before them, it is one thing to wish to pay homage to a writer and the other to take their plot, their socio-political ideas, and their characters, without any credit or show of gratitude. 

Lucy Wilt happened to be another ‘rip off’ of famous novels, although this time it was more subtle. In order to detect the lack of originality, one has to close-read the text. This story happens to be about a man falling in love with a ‘beautiful’ corpse, and he tries to bring it back to life. You read that right- a man falling in love with a corpse. This makes Dracula look tame. My reading pleasure was gradually replaced by a feeling of deep disgust and horror at this story line- this is not your average Gothic story, but a hallmark of our overly-liberal times, in which everything has to be allowed and everything can be written about- even one of the most depraved and grotesque of things. There’s barely any moral message to this story- nobody calls out the main character for his repulsive actions. Thankfully, the story wasn’t explicit, but it was nonetheless revolting in many ways. If a writer chooses to write about something horrifying and abhorrent it would be good to add a moral message. We learn from stories when a writer tells us why his gruesome story is ‘not okay’.

For long winter nights….

As if this story wasn’t offensive enough, the man who ‘falls in love’ with the corpse- I loath to write this words- is asked if the seventeen year old corpse is that of a twelve year old. This is mental. The character, who is in no way condemned, has three very big problems that aren’t called out: he falls in love with a cadaver, the cadaver belongs to a seventeen year old woman, who, looks like a twelve year old. The shocking and monstrous elements of this story only keep adding up. Besides the nauseating aspects to this story, it was highly unoriginal. I, as reader of the Gothic genre, have, of course, read Dracula by Bram Stoker. It did not sit well with me, although it compares as a pleasant and moral read to Lucy Wilt. Let’s go to the death of one of the characters, Lucy Westenra ,who is bitten by Count Dracula and dies, only to be resurrected as a vampire. Stoker goes into uncomfortable detail on how beautiful the dead Lucy is:

Death had given back part of her beauty, former brow and cheeks had recovered some of their flowing lines; even the lips had lost their deadly pallor.

She makes a very beautiful corpse, sir. It’s quite a privilege to attend on her. It’s not too much to say that she will do credit to our establishment!

Compare that to Lucy Wilt:

Pemble conjures before him her body lying in sweet repose. Her golden hair, the upturned button of her nose, the slim breast under the white lace. Her downy arms and heavy lashes and pearly little lace. 

Her delicate toes, lovely shins, the beautiful arch of her eyebrow, her dear story cheek.

In death, she is nothing short of a miracle. Her beauty grave and sublime. Her expression enigmatic. Her mortal shell exquisite and untarnished by natural processes

Glamorizing death, really?

These lines are glamorizing death. I feel morally obliged to call out the repulsiveness of these lines. Furthermore, see how close they are to the text in Dracula, which, thankfully, did not spend as much time elaborating on the beauty of a dead body (although enough to put the book in my ‘least favourite novels’ list). Notice the similarity between ‘Lily Wilt’ and ‘Lucy Westenra’. Then, as if borrowing from Bram Stoker wasn’t enough, the main character, the highly problematic Pemble, decides to do a Frankenstein. Yes, you heard right- he decides to resurrect Lily Wilt. I love Frankenstein for its moral message and passionate descriptions of the landscape, not to mention its powerful dialogue, so seeing one of my favourite novels being copied does not sit well with me. Pemble resurrects Lily Wilt, thinking she will be his perfect lover (I shudder writing this), only for him to find out that bringing the dead back to life is not the best of scientific ideas- just like Viktor Frankenstein discovered. 

All in all, this story filled me with disgust at a lack of originality and an abhorrence at its depravity that the author fails to condemn. If any of you are sensitive readers who read Gothic novels for the supernatural and spirituality and not for the demonic forms of sexuality and gore, skip this story. I cannot emphasis that enough.

Thankfully, other stories are better. The Chillingham Chair has a bit too much elements of fantasy for me, but it is a good revenge plot, and it reads like a thriller, a ‘whodunit’. This story I would definitely recommend. ‘The Hanging of the Greens’ is good as well, although it contains the usual contemporary disparagement of religion, and ‘Confinement’ was one of the best; a story of protective motherhood, a woman fighting against evil. I love it when main characters are mothers, because we include too few mothers in fiction. Society has forgotten the importance of parenthood. 

My final critique, which goes for ‘Confinement’ and ‘Monster’ is the amount of graphic descriptions of bodily functions, ranging from the erotic to the scatological. Part of the enchantment and mystery of famous Gothic books such as Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, and The Mysteries of Udolpho are because the gore is skipped; it is not needed to be gory. I do not need to know about ‘two bodies slammed together’ or a character’s digestive habits. It is unromantic and takes away the terror and eeriness. You see, Dracula is much more explicit and it leaves me more with a feeling of sickness than with fear, horror, terror, or suspense. I just want to purge my mind of these details. The key element of Gothic literature does not come through when the reader becomes nauseous.

All in all, I would give this collection of short stories a three or four stars. It does not come close to the writers I love, such as the Brontës, Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe. It lacks a moral dimension, uniqueness, and it takes away feelings of the sublime and terror, replacing them with disgust. Nonetheless, there are some good stories in there, at the very beginning and at end of the book. If anything, as an aspiring writer, I have learnt from it- what elements and styles I wish to avoid writing. Perhaps, for future writers, one can use this book more to learn than to actively enjoy and how we can return to writing classic Gothic literature. 

Maryse Kluck

Literature lover and History student at York University & Utrecht University; writer at Literary Ladies and owner of @kluckmaryse on Instagram.

Maryse is one of the two Literary Ladies who published the Gothic Literature Magazine. It is available here.

Other posts by Maryse Kluck:

Maryse Kluck as Author at Reflections.

Sketching Serendipity

Serendipity is the gift of finding value or agreeable things not looked for. This can happen whilst sketching. You, an artist, weren’t planning for drawing an extra wild hamster, or an extra flower, an added feather on the wing of a mandarin duck, but a blemish, a smudge, an accidental line guides you to noticing and adding this extra feature to your composition which becomes the serendipitous element of your drawing.

Zemblanity is the opposite of serendipity; the smudge or really wrongly placed and unfortunate line makes your composition fit for your bin. What a shame, how unlucky! You have just utterly ruined your drawing.


Noticing or imagining something in the unexpected shadow of the light of your studio, or in the cream of your coffee, in a smudge on your drawing (not even visible to others), or a very vague accidental line that seems to come alive as a leaf, an animal, or a lotus popping out of the water, how welcoming is serendipity! It feels as if a sketch isn’t only made by you but your sketch helps sketching itself.

I have been trained on composition, on avoiding smudges, on in-cooperating accidental lines or spots, and this is not what I am referring to. What I like to put forward is the idea that a sketch or drawing sometimes provides you with a helping hand. It subtly ‘talks’ to you (through what you call accidents) and please, do not neglect this indistinct communication.

Opening yourself up to serendipity is like opening yourself up to unexpected inspiration. It requires you to allow your planning to be a bit altered or supplemented; it offers your sketch to help manifest itself a bit differently than you had in mind, but most likely it will be better than you hoped for.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s shop at Etsy

Paula’s art at Instagram

Mystery Books & Mysteries in Our Lives

Guest Blog by Maryse Kluck

Maryse Kluck

Summery: Comparing and contrasting Mystery books from two centuries, Maryse Kluck finds the old genre valuable. Why is this and what has it to do with the battle between good and evil? Mystery Fiction from the 20th century inspires to fight for the good in our lives, like Greek Tragedies, the Bible, and old classic literature does. Writing literature can be a timeless form of activism.

I have been busy reading mystery novels. Usually I avoid them as I deeply dislike reading humbug such as blood spattering, dismembered limbs, and insane psychopaths, but 20th century mystery fiction seems to be much better than I thought it would be. I’ve been reading some mysteries before, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’- a beautiful book- and one of Dorothy Sayers’ books. But now I’m actively adding detective novels to my reading lists, as I have not done before. A week ago I finished Dorothy L. Sayers’ ‘Gaudy Night’, a detective set in the fictional Shrewsbury College of Oxford, and now I am reading an Agatha Christie novel, ‘The Pale Horse’. My goodness, how I love these novels! But I have been thinking why. They are literary classics, yes, and popular (my own grandmother was an admirer of Agatha Christie), but they touch something deeper. Hence why I wish to write this blog post; what snare these mystery novels touch and what they might say about our Western society.

I was reading ‘Gaudy Night’ a week ago and I was half immersed in the book, half irritated at the fact that there is no suspense in day to day life. Maybe some of us would think that this is a good thing, and to an extent, it is. In ‘Gaudy Night’, there is a villain leaving poison-pen letters and trashing the sacred halls of the college, leading Harriet Vane, a detective novel writer, to try to find the cause of this. We are embarked on a journey through Oxford, after the illusive villain, who seems to hold a grudge against women being in academia. This is clearly unpleasant, but there is a motif here; good against bad, heroine against villain. This is what keeps us reading; the allure of Oxfordian academia and intelligence, but also because of the age-old trope that we all love; the fight of the light against the dark. 

Mystery and Suspense in Our Lives

We can identify the same theme in Agatha Christie’s ‘The Pale Horse’. There is even some occult in there, which for me gets me even more ‘hyped’, to use a colloquial phrase, because naturally, as a Christian, I would be deeply skeptical of those who dabble in magic and the occult. Even worse, a priest is murdered. The blend of sorcery and the murder of a priest- who would represent the good in this novel- clearly sketches out the plot; good Christianity versus dark magic and homicide. We are brought into a sleepy town, but there is more to it than we think:

People who say the country is dull and the towns full of excitement don’t know what they are talking about. The last of the witches have gone to cover in the tumble-down cottage, black masses are celebrated in remote manor houses by decadent young men. Superstition runs rife in isolated hamlets.

We are thus brought to a setting where we, the reader, the hero or heroine (for we do not know exactly who the protagonist of the book is), are poised against old, malicious powers; a setting that dates back to old literature. Whilst we may live in a predominantly atheist society now, the traditions of Christianity and the fight against the occult and the bizarre still run through us, still thrill us, hence why we love a spooky Gothic mystery. The fight against evil is a motif we still love; we may no longer read the Bible with its monsters and Romans with their torture methods, we may no longer believe in folklore, but the desire to fight against evil is something embedded so much in our society, we are drawn to mystery books, to assert the role of the hero or heroine. 

I can’t really go along with this modern playing down of evil as something that doesn’t really exist. There is evil. And evil is powerful.Sometimes more powerful than good. It’s there. It has to be recognised- and fought.’

Our Western society has, thankfully, embraced things such as peace and democracy. We are no longer prey to warring kings or tribes or invading forces- something which we should be thankful of! The last tyranny that Western Europe experienced was in the 1940s, with gruesome, horrifying results. We should be grateful that we live in a free society.

However, there are some drawbacks. I don’t think we should even call them drawbacks, as I see little to no ‘cons’ of living in a place where there is democracy and I can be who I want- a Christian woman who wishes to become a writer (and, bear in mind, being an ambitious woman was not something easy back in the day, and religion could get persecuted)- without fear. My point is, that admits all our freedom, we have gotten so used to it that we no longer feel the need to ‘fight the good fight’. Our daily battles are with bureaucracy (and I know a thing or two about university bureaucracy), spats with friends or acquaintances, and, God forbid, fights on social media. We have lost passion to battle against what is really evil; religious extremism, political extremism, the loss of certain norms and values. We barely call out our politicians if they turn out to be right wing extremists- we just repeat what they said on social media, call them anti-Semities, but actually do something against their barbaric ways- no. We just sit around. We cancel writers and people with different political opinions on social media, but we barely do anything about the fact that in certain places around the world, women are still oppressed, and the earth is slowly but surely heating up. We don’t pick our battles correctly. We no longer face and fight true evil. And some of us actually choose to side with wrongness; whether it is promoting unscientific and ridiculous politically extreme ideology, or destroying academia through the lens of postmodernism, or siding with a dictatorial country that is performing genocide, we seem to have lost it. Perhaps, we know this. Perhaps the universal plot of ‘good versus evil’ in mystery books is what makes them so popular.

Picking Our Battles & Fighting Back: Learning from Mysteries 

That said, this is not a ‘call to arms’ to become a social justice warrior, a climate change radical, or a right-wing extremist. And neither is it a call to actual violence (sadly, some people these days think that in order to work against something they disagree with, they have to resort to aggression. This is a flawed and dangerous way of thinking). What I am arguing is to become passionate about something. Identify something wrong in society- and no, that does not involve writing ugly things on Twitter about an author just because she has contrary political beliefs- and deepen yourself in it, how you can take up the banner and strive against it. You do not need to donate hundreds of euros to do this. Anne Brontë wrote a dark, wrathful book about how women were treated in 1800s England, and her book lasts. If she had written a complaining, whiny pamphlet, the 19th century equivalent of social justice warrior tweets, that would not have made an impact. She threw her heart and soul into creating an incredible book about sexism and made it beautiful- but powerful. She thought it through and used intelligent, academic, even spiritual arguments against it. In ‘Gaudy Night’, Dorothy Sayers put effort into describing the academic world, and pinpointed sexist threats to women scholars. Artists, whether they be writers, painters, musicians, poets, have all put time and effort into carefully considering a problem and using the right tools to fight against it. Agatha Christie put writerly effort into creating her ‘good against evil’ mysteries.

We need to introduce more mystery, more ‘hero cycles’ in our lives. We need to become the hero or heroine of our stories, working against something we consider wrong or evil. This gives passion and excitement to our lives, which motivates us to step out of bed in the morning. Now, this might seem like philosophical rambling to you, but this is what I believe. We can’t indulge in our easy lives and not care about suffering or destruction. And, deep inside, I think we do yearn to be our own protagonists and battle against villains. Otherwise, why are we so drawn to mysteries? 

These are my thoughts thus far…as I read more, I am quite certain I shall have more to say on this subject.

Maryse Kluck

March 2023, James College, York University.

Other posts by Maryse Kluck: The Haunted Season

Special issue of the Literary Ladies’s ‘Gothic Literature Magazine’ is here.

Maryse’s letter to her great-grandfather is here.

Maryse Kluck is History student at York and Utrecht University, owner of Prosperinapublishes.com, and writer at Literary Ladies, Reader & Book Lover. Rower at Orca (Utrecht).

Should you offer your artistic freedom in exchange for exposing your artwork?

With my daughter at York University, I look back fondly on my halcyon years of being a home-school teacher. I retired as a home-school teacher some years ago after which I expanded my portfolio (drawings & paintings). Starting a creative job at being in the neighborhood of 55 caused some trepidation. Of course, there are many manuals for starting a business, however there is no playbook for expanding one’s portfolio; you -as an artist- have to write that playbook yourself. Along the way of growing my portfolio, I noticed how creativity is progressively framed by social and digital media.

My Swan and Pumpkin artwork.

These days there are many digital fora on which artists exhibit their work; social media platforms are helpful for setting up a business but probably equally limiting or even compromising creativity. How much of your creativity are you willing to sacrifice putting yourself out there? This question slowly emerged after the first elated feelings resulting from rekindling my creative life. (Not to say that being a home-school mother hasn’t been creative, it sure was). But once past the tickled pink phase of selecting platforms, I had to write an ‘About me’. Here presents the first creative limitation in which you are expected to function. What about it isn’t about me but about my art? What follows is a multitude of lay-outs in which you showcase your work, express yourself, communicate with your colleagues, and possible meet customers. Somebody has done the thinking for you; you only have to follow guidelines and lay-outs, often resulting in having friends and fun. But where is your creativity? Is it still there?

Mandarin duck double folded note card by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Surely, you can be creative and do a sterling job within these frameworks, but these are frameworks nonetheless. Creative minds squeeze themselves into configurations and the question thus is how much original creativity gets lost along the way? Also, where can an artist still be boundless creative? How would my art or your art look like had we lived during the High Renaissance (no digital representation)? Or at the time French Impressionists left their studios to paint the outdoors the way they saw it, not the way art galleries told them to paint for clients?

Aren’t we collectively making too many and profound concessions? Are we forsaking to teach the next generation to function outside digital media? Creatively thinking outside the box? Are we building character or are we the best boy in the social media classroom? Will the next generation yield a Raphael or a William Morris? How much room is there to develop one’s creativity when one compromises to existing arrangements? The onslaught of functioning within digital per-modeled lay-outs damages, standardizes, and limits our creativity. That is because no matter what, formats dictate our functioning despite I am often pleasantly surprised how much wiggle room artists find within rigid frameworks.

My workstation shows work in progress on my Yukiwa composition.

Allow yourself to be creative outside your studio, outside your website, outside social media platforms. Once trapped into these Faustian patterns (selling your creative soul for exposing your artwork) search for maximal freedom. A website is better than a blog because a website allows you more design tools. A blog is better than an Instagram account (self explanatory). A physical sketchbook is better than a digital pad. Use creative tags instead of existing ones, despite that might give you less exposure. Although creative minds can work with a minimum of tools, always run a mental check whether you actually want to give in to per-existing formats. I applaud the generation that shrugs off social media and finds new and original ways to grow their businesses.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.

Website at mindfuldrawing.com

Art shop at Etsy & Portfolio at Instagram

How are the killers and midwives of your art? Read more here.

Wedding Gifts: Mandarin Duck Art

This is a lovely and exceptionally harmonious original Mandarin Duck composition. There is something magical about this couple positioned in the centre of a pentagonal shape, which is a Sakura flower (Japanese cherry blossom). Five chrysanthemums enrich and embellish the composition.

This artwork serves Fengshui aspirations, Valentine’s Day or as wedding gifts inasmuch as you aspire to confirm or attract love and loyalty. The mandarin ducks are closely together. Their show of synchronicity confirms their life long bond.

I have currently several of these Sakura- Mandarin ducks at my Etsy shop.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s art shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram. Contact her freely to discuss your commissioned artwork.

When your Elderly Parent Hurts You 

In this blog-essay Paula Kuitenbrouwer uses several narratives to illustrate how elderly parents can hurt their adult children. She turns to classical literature and fine arts for soul nourishing inspiration. Kuitenbrouwer guides you through the classical story of Pelops followed by philosophical musings and concluding thoughts.

Over a year I have collected different narratives from three continents; all are voiced by women between 55-65 years of age who have taken care of (one of ) their parents. The stories are anonymized. This blog-post essay offers a message of understanding and hope.

Person 1. ‘My ill and rapidly aging parent attacked me verbally. It left me shaking. After a while, I felt a need to talk this over with her but she had forgotten all about it. I know that what she said is part of how she feels about me and that hurts me’.

Person 2. ‘I felt such deep shame for the attack by my old father that it took me a long time before confiding in a friend. It turned out that I wasn’t alone. It was extremely stressful to find yourself in a situation where a parent turns against you. I was astounded how my father pitted my siblings against me when I told him caring for him became too much for me. My siblings ate out of his hand; my father has always had a knack for playing the victim or for acting vulnerable. It opened my eyes to a side of my father that made me question how much I had benefited and suffered from his strategic behaviour. Ever since, I haven’t been able to shake off the feeling that he had never much respect for his children; he had no problem playing them. Luckily, he took responsibility later and apologized, but by then my relationship with my siblings was irreparably damaged. He now suffers from vascular dementia, maybe being mean was a prelude to dementia’.

Person 3. ‘After months of hurling insults, my father returned to his charming sweetness without remembering his offending remarks. Only a vague unease lingered in his mind. He kept on mentioning he was indebted to me. It took me a long time to wrap my brain around his behaviour. What was it? Brain damage? Character? Medication? I still do not know and probably will never know’.

Person 4. ‘You have no idea how racist my parent became towards her Asian nurse’.

Person 5. ‘I have seen it in both of my families; my own and the one I married into. Some parents hurt their adult children and then when relations turn sour, they do not shy away from using their fortune to secure attention, care, and power. Disinheriting as a punitive threat or action; it fast-tracks the disintegration of a family’.

Person 6. ‘I had times when I wondered whether I would actually survive my parent. I noticed that my physical and mental health improved exponentially the longer I stayed away. I would never forgive myself for hurting my child. I have also decided to never start any old age medications. These are drugs that keep the body going whilst the mind deteriorates and perhaps that toxic mix is largely to blame for mean behaviour’.

Person 7. ‘Having been insulted makes you question how much love there was in the first place. We are dealing with a generation that had children because that was what was expected from them. Perhaps there just is not enough love to sustain till the very, very end’.

Person 8. ‘No matter how often I drive hours back and forth to my parents, it is never enough. The suggestion that I fail them is often bluntly communicated’.

Person 9. ‘My parent used others to attack me. They voiced my parent’s disdain in unequivocal terms. This cleverness withheld me for a long time thinking in terms of dementia‘.

Person 10. ‘It all has left me depressed and fearful for my own ageing. High age is romanticized. Perhaps it would be beneficial to offer elderly mental health coaching. There used to be a chaplain taking religious care of old people, now there are mainly nurses and managers’.

Person 11. ‘My father discussed disinheriting my brother with me. I would never capitalize on something so unfair and hurtful, so I advised against it. But I did ask; ‘Did you discuss disinheriting me with my brother also?’ on which the reply came; ‘Yes’. The threat was out in the open. Disinheriting hangs as a Sword of Damocles above primary caretakers whilst siblings not participating in daily care chores are idolized’.

Adult children aren’t snowflakes; they have experienced social hurt as from their young schooldays. There are parents who age into angels and those who resort to toxic games, and all stages in between. The question is why? There are many possible reasons: old age, behavioral side-effects of medication, illness, drinking, rusty social skills, tiredness, decreased empathy, dwindling love, frustration, and character. The answer is seldom uni-causal. Knowing what mix has caused hurtful remarks can put suffering into perspective, so here are a few to consider (and should there be more, please add them to the comment section):

Your parent suffers from brain damage caused by delirium or vascular dementia. In this case, you will shake off the horrible remarks (sometimes even sexual). However, forgiving does not imply tolerance: like with a pet, baby or toddler you should set boundaries. It is no different for geriatric people. Walk away, urge your parent to apologize to you. Prevent this behavior to normalize.

On a less brain-damaged level; parents can have too many debit cards. They pull these cards whenever they feel vulnerable (which is sad). One card is Illness, the other Old Age. Loneliness is another card and so is Inheritance. They masterfully play around with these cards; remember, they know you well. It is a power game of emotional blackmailing, manipulation, and future faking

There can be an underlying trait of autism, arrogance, or narcissism. In the limited world of an elderly parent it is expected that their children will care for them. That is the natural thing to do, right? Well, children of older parents are somewhere between 50-70 themselves. They are the sandwich generation: taking care of their parents and (adolescent) children, sometimes even grandchildren. If caretakers fall ill or fail, a Vesuvian anger can erupt. Adult children, especially women/daughters, are to be expected to work unrewarded, unpaid, being available 24/7, or else….you will be taught an old fashioned parental lesson.

After identifying possible causes for hurtful behaviour, we need to get as close as possible to compassion. I forgo using the word ‘forgiving’ because forgiving is too often creating fertile soil for more abuse. What I seek here is Buddhist or Christian compassion and kindness which is an inner state that should not (I cannot stress this enough) prohibit assertiveness and sensible self-defense. Many caretakers feel drained, overstretched, and exhausted. They feel like taking care of their elders is a Sisyphean task. Only saints have an inner strength that helps them with their life long service. I am not saintly and maybe neither are you. I need gratitude, encouragement, support not to grow exhausted.

Returning to kindness and compassion. Consider the physical and mental condition of elderly parents; many have old age behavioral changes and inhibitions (neurological changes in the brain), lack of empathic feelings, diminished motherly or fatherly feelings, survival stress (to get through the day), are flushing (or drinking) down bags of medications one-two-three times daily (think about taking these medications yourself; how would that make you feel?), and many -especially the less religious elders- have no perspective other than growing older, becoming more fragile or ill. Where there used to be a heaven and a reunion with those who passed River Styx earlier, now there is just the end of a life. Surely, we can feel the frosty, biting cold of those last wintry years.

Now you have pulled a knife from your back, it is time for some healing thoughts. We will find these by close-reading the story of Pelops”.


Let us now turn to fine art and literary inspiration for healing and nourishing our minds and souls. After that, I will conclude with practical and philosophical reflections. Greek mythology has it all; it never fails to morally support us with profound psychological insights and supportive philosophical thoughts. Parental disloyalty towards a child is narrated in the haunting story of Tantalus and Pelops.

Tantalus, 1588
Hendrick Goltzius and Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem. What you see Tantalus fall from the realms of the gods after manifesting his hubris. The technique that is used to show his fall from a position above the viewer is called foreshortening.

Tantalus was a son of Zeus and Plouto and as such he was welcomed for dinner at Zeus’ table at Olympus, the abode of the gods ad the site of the throne of Zeus.

Mount Olympus, Zeus’ palace.

There, he is said to have abused Zeus’ hospitality. Even more punishable, Tantalus offers his son, Pelops, as a sacrifice (gore warning; but happy ending). Tantalus cuts up Pelops, boils him, and serves him up as a banquet for the Olympian gods in order to test their omniscience. The gods immediately become aware of the gruesome nature of the menu. Goddess Clotho is quickly ordered by Zeus to bring the poor boy to life again. She collects the parts and together with Hephaestus and Demeter revives Pelops. Pelops grows to be an extraordinarily handsome man.

The torments of Tantalus by Bernard Picart (1673-1733). We see here Tantalus reaching for overhanging fruits that he can’t reach and the waters will recede upon trying to quench thirst.

Tantalus is punished by standing in a pool of water with overhanging fruits; he cannot eat the fruits nor drink the water. Tantalus will forever feel deprived to fulfill his hunger and thirst. This has become to know a Tantalean Punishment, referring to good things in life that are there to grab but forever elude our grasp. In English the word tantalize refers to an object of desire that is out of reach.

Practical & Philosophical Reflections

It is deeply tragic that sometimes a parent cuts up a child, be it metaphorical. Yet, the classical story of Pelops has a surprising happy ending. The child is revived by the loving and crafty care of a few Olympian gods and goddesses. The story could have had a bad ending with Pelops not being able to ‘put together again’. Like Humpty Dumpty who -despite ‘the work of all king’s horses and all king’s men- could not be put (back) together again’.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Unlike Humpty Dumpty, the story of Tantalus describes in detail how Pelops is revived. Black-smith Hephaestus and motherly, caring Demeter go through great lengths to resurrect him and even forge a new shoulder made of ivory. The assembling process takes time, creativity, and resources which can be interpreted as ‘don’t expect this healing phase to be rushed’. This contrasts with the fate of Humpty Dumpty, standing symbol for a person or thing that is toppled over, broken, and irreparable. It stands to reason that by stressing that Pelops is brought back to life and becomes an remarkable handsome man, the hurt inflicted on a child by a parent can be turned around with the help of caring others.

We have moved away from believing in Greek gods a long time ago. However, that should not inhibit us from replacing the omnipotent gods with loving and supportive friends. They will offer a shoulder to cry on and over time that helps to rebuild self-esteem. You have done nothing wrong. There are thousands, if not millions of Pelopses, well-meaning sons and daughters who have been scolded, undermined, or punished, even disinherited. It has hurt them and has damaged their ideas about their parent’s character.

Since I came to learn that at one time in your life you can become Pelops, I was told that siblings and caretakers should be wary and cautious of taking sides of their geriatric parent when they fall out with somebody. Don’t enable them; geriatric elders have certain age-related behavioral patterns. Like crabbiness, lack of empathy, anger and depression, and a feeling of having been robbed. They are aware of their diminishing auditory, visual, kinetic, and cognitive abilities and this translates into the feeling of insecurity, misgivings, or even mistrust. Not being able to find something, like having lost their wallet or fountain pen, these surely have been stolen! No, they haven’t been stolen. Double check robbing stories, gossip, and avoid believing slander. Only those families whose children and caretakers take a united stand are able to navigate through the choppy waters of caring for an elderly parent.

Now that you know that you are not alone, Pelops does not need to be your middle name. Keep a healthy distance from your elderly parent if abuse happens or continues. I know about a geriatric nurse who advises family members not to visit their demented parents too often of even not at all because ‘They do not notice and it will hurt you’. These are sobering and somber thoughts, but one must be realistic.

I hope this blog-essay will help easing emotional hurt. Feel invited to add your advice or insights.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A. is owner of mindfuldrawimg.com. She works as a commission artist in the Netherlands. Her art shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram.

Paula majored in Philosophy at UU and UvA and won a few essay contests during her study. Paula worked as an editor and teacher in the Netherlands and abroad. For a decade she home educated her daughter in various countries. Currently, she lives in the Netherlands with her husband whilst her daughter studies abroad.





Dieren, Lascaux, Bataille, & Paleopsychologie

De relatie tussen mens en dier is minstens even plezierig als problematisch vergeleken de relatie tussen mensen onderling. Mens en dier kunnen elkaar bezien als een ‘nood­zakelijk’ onderdeel van de voedselke­ten. De mens kan het dier gebruiken voor z’n wel­vaart en het camoufleren van z’n handicap. Niet te ver­geten kunnen mens en dier af­fectief tot elkaar staan. Hierbij is het de vraag in hoeverre het affectieve as­pect bij het dier een door de mens geantropomorfi­seer­de interpretatie is van een dierlijk instinct. De mens wringt zich, in de relatie tot het dier, in vreemde bochten. Er bestaan talloze vervelende voor­beelden die duiden op een pro­blematische relatie tussen mens en dier daar waar belangen botsen. De re­latie tussen mens en dier samenvattende in termen van utiliteit, affectie en agressiviteit is kenmerkend voor de huidige samen­leving. Eens was deze re­la­tie geheel anders. Hypo­thetisch kan gesteld worden dat termen als respect en geestverwantschap moeten hebben gedomineerd in de beschrijving van de onder­linge relatie. Niet zo lang geleden ervoer ik een geheel andersoortige ver­houding tussen mens en dier.

Voor mij zijn de prehistorische grot­schil­de­ringen het meest illustrerend voor het be­schrijven van de archaïsche ver­houding tus­sen mens en dier. Uiter­aard be­treft het hier een gewaagde illu­stratie, daar de func­tie van de grot­schilderingen en de daaruit af te leiden relatie tussen mens en dier op ver­on­derstellingen berust. Desal­niettemin zijn deze hypothesen dermate interessant dat, ge­combineerd met andere bevindingen over de pre­historische mens, een beeld gevormd kan worden van hoe eens mens en dier sa­menleefden.

Ook al blijven vele vragen met betrek­king tot de grotschilderingen onbeant­woord, een aantal stel­lingen en interpre­taties zijn vrij ac­ceptabel. De prehistori­sche schilders had­den er veel voor over om de schilde­ringen aan te brengen, getuigende de lange weg die de schilders moes­ten afleggen om in de ruim­te te komen die men in Lascaux de ‘Hall of Bulls’ heeft genoemd of de centrale ruim­tes van de Vallon Pont d’Arc grot. De schil­de­ringen oude graffiti noemen is onzin. Gezien de techniek van het schil­deren, ge­zien het feit dat de verf giftig was en ook in de mond werd genomen om op de wand te spugen, mag men veronder­stel­len dat het hier een grote en ris­kante op­gave betrof. Men bracht een ode aan de dieren door ze te schil­de­ren in een zo’n verbluf­fende schoon­heid dat Picasso, na het zien van de schil­de­rin­gen van Lascaux, ui­triep; “We have in­ven­ted nothing”. En de schoolmeester van de vier, jonge ontdekkers van Lascaux bij het zien van Lascaux ” (I) shouted cries of admi­ra­tion (…) I had literally gone mad” van zo­veel pure schoon­­heid.

De functie van de grotschilderingen blijft voorlopig raad­selachtig. Waarom alle dieren dieper de grot inrennen, waar­om er zoveel te­kens ingekrast zijn en waar­om de mens zoveel minder fraai of als half dier is afge­beeld, dit zijn vragen die een lang traject van studie behoeven. Maar dan nog, zelfs wan­­neer men met antwoorden komt, blijven deze tijdelijk van aard.
In de negentiende eeuw dacht men aan de grot­schilderingen als l’art pour l’art, een hypothese die niet lang standhield. Daarna kwamen structu­ra­lis­tische interpretaties. Vaste patronen zouden doelbewust in rela­tie staan tot andere patronen. Maar wat die pa­tronen betekenen vertelt het meest mo­derne paradigma ons. Lewis-Williams en Dowson, twee Zuidafrikaanse onderzoe­kers me­nen dat deze patronen produkten van hallucinaties zijn. De grotschilde­ringen zou­den dan ook direct in verband gebracht moe­­ten worden met sjama­nistische rituelen. Wat pleit voor deze hypothese is het in de mond nemen van giftige verf ten einde dit op de grotwanden te spugen. Het gif zal on­ge­twijfeld z’n werking hebben gehad. Lorblanchet, een onderzoeker die de grot­schilderin­gen heeft getracht te reproduce­ren, suggereert dat de tech­niek een spiri­tuele di­mensie heeft gehad; “Spitting is a way of projecting yourself onto the wall, be­coming one with the horse you are pain­ting. Thus the action melds with the myth. Perhaps the sha­mans did this as a way of passing into the world beyond“. Het is niet ondenkbaar dat de schilders door het schilderen van de dieren gingen halluci­ne­ren en vervielen tot het aanbrengen van deze abstracte tekens. Want tussen het schilderen van de dieren, vaak vanuit es­thetische en artistiek oogpunt, uniek goed weergegeven en de abstracte te­kens (zigzag­lijnen, cirkels en streepjes en roos­ters) een verschil zit van dag en nacht in weer­gave en waar­schijnlijk betekenis.
De sjamanistische rituelen zijn door de twee Zuidafrikaanse onderzoekers goed onder­zocht en be­tref­fen vooral de schilderingen van abstracte tekens. Voor een interpretatie van zowel de weer­gave van dieren, mens en abstracte tekens leent zich de inter­preta­tie van Anne Baring, historicus en schrijf­ster, en Jules Cashford, filosofie docent en schrijfster. Zij veronderstellen dat de grot de baarmoeder van de aarde is, die als een le­vend organisme wordt beschouwd. Het wegkruipen in de grot is niet alleen noodza­kelijk om te overle­ven, het is het kruipen in het lichaam van de Moeder Godin. Soms zelfs 2 -3 kilometer verder de grot in liggen de centrale, beschilderde ruim­tes.
Om de vraag te stellen naar het ‘waarom’ van deze schilderingen moet nagedacht worden over de band tussen de palaeoli­thi­sche mens en het dier. Men moest dieren doden om te overleven. Al het ge­reed­schap, de kleding en het voedsel kwam van het dier en daarmee wordt duidelijk hoe es­sentieel het dier voor de mens was. Dieren beteke­nende leven en overleven. Bovendien had­den de dieren kennis van de seizoenen en is het denkbaar dat niet alleen het dier voor de mens es­sentieel was, maar dat het dier zelf superieur was, getuigende deze kennis. Het is niet eens nodig de hy­pothese te opperen dat de dieren incarnaties van voorouders waren, zoals bij de Indianen. De dieren wa­ren wijs maar moesten gedood worden. Dit veroorzaakte een conflict. Het is denkbaar dat de grot­schilderingen het conflict weer­geven of een expressieve compensatie zijn voor het leed dat gepaard ging met het con­flict. Misschien ver­tellen de grotten een ver­haal. Welk verhaal is zo oud als het verhaal van Lascaux dat schil­deringen bevat van 30.000 tot 10.000 voor Christus? Welke ver­haal was zo intens dat het zo lang opge­schilderd werd? Les Trois Frères (grot te Ariège te Frankrijk) vertelt onder anderen het verhaal van de verwonde beer. De beer is gewond en de schildering ervan zit onder de krassen en cirkels. Pijlen steken in het li­chaam en de beer spuugt bloed. Zo’n schil­dering bevestigt niet alleen de voorbe­reiding of verwerking van een ver­schrik­kelijk jacht­ritueel, ook kan het te maken hebben met de communicatie die men trachtten te verkrij­gen met de beer zelf. De beer was wijs, su­perieur en gevaarlijk en moest der­halve ver­geving ge­vraagd worden voor het toegebrachte leed en de dood.


Om het beschreven conflict te begrijpen is het il­lustrerend te be­studeren hoe men de gedachten­wereld van de palaeolithische of archaïsche mens beziet. De studierichting die dit tracht te achterha­len wordt ook wel palaeopsychologie genoemd. In de huidige archeologiestudies wordt meer waardering opgebracht voor mysterieuze ri­tuele activi­teiten die niet marginaal maar relevant voor de menselijke ontwikkeling waren. In 1982 in­troduceerde Colin Renfrew, schrijver van het boek The Ancient Mind: Elements of cognitive archa­eology, het nieuwe concept van palaeopsy­chologie als ‘Archaeology of the mind’. Een net zo moeilijke als interes­sante discipline.
Om palaeopsychologie succesvol toe te pas­sen vereist het kennis over hoe de mens zich­zelf en de omgeving er­voer. Veel des­kundi­gen veronderstellen dat de mens zich niet bewust was van een eigen identiteit zoals wij dat zijn. Het onderscheid tussen ‘ik’ en ‘jij’ was ondergeschikt aan een groter besef dat alles wat leefde gerela­teerd was aan en met elkaar. Oftewel, een wereld zoals die in my­thische verhalen wordt be­schre­ven. Uit de interpretatie van zo’n mythische we­reld wordt duidelijk dat er geen wezenlijk onder­scheid is tussen men­sen, dieren en sterren. De identiteiten zijn aan elkaar gerela­teerd, weerspie­gelen zich in elkaar. Toen deze verbinding met el­kaar minder werd, zijn er nog een aantal pogin­gen ondernomen om deze relatie en weer­spiege­ling te herstellen. Door ‘recen­telijke’ citaten kan men kennis maken met hoe mensen eens met de aarde en de ove­rige levende wezens hebben sa­men geleefd. In 1855 liet Chief Seattle ons zien hoe erg wij vervreemd zijn van het samenleven met de aarde en haar schone nazaten.

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the me­mory and expe­rience of my people. We know the sap which cour­ses through the trees as we know the blood that cour­ses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfu­med flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our bro­thers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family. The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our an­cestors. Each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The wa­ter’s murmur is the voice of my father’s fa­ther. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. The carry our canoes and feed our children. (…..)”.

Opmerkelijk is de overeenkomst van deze levens­beschouwing met de levensbe­schou­wing of mys­tiek van de Kelten. Ook de Kelten hadden een orale traditie van ver­zen en gedichten die blijk ge­ven van een enorme verbondenheid van alle denkbare werelden; de kosmische, de Onder­wereld (wereld van hallucinaties, meditatie en mys­tieke commu­ni­catie met Goden en die­ren) en de aardse wereld. Zo verliefd als ik als tiener was op de wijsheid van de Indianen, zo gefasci­neerd ben ik nu door de kunst en wijsheid der Kelten.
Nu we -heel bescheiden- de geest van de oude mens hebben geprobeerd te analyse­ren, kan iets gezegd worden van het ver­bond tussen mens en dier. Chief Seattle zei het al; de dieren zijn onze broeders. Er is sprake van een familie en een bloedband tussen de levende wezens. U kunt zich het gevoelsmatige trauma voorstellen dat ont­stond bij het doden van een oudere, wijzer familielid, de beer uit de grotten van Les Trois Frères. Het was niet alleen levensge­vaarlijk, het was een zaak van tegen­ge­stelde ideeën: de beer was wijs en z’n leven was een aanwinst op de dun bevolkte aarde en de beer moest dood want er waren ma­gen te voeden, kleren en gereedschap te maken en vet te branden. Zonder religieuze implicaties te willen opperen, omschrijft ‘bloedzonde’ deze situatie het meest tref­fend. Het laten vloeien van het bloed van de beer was gelijk aan het schade toe­bren­gen aan de Moeder Aarde.
De grottekeningen zijn mijns inziens ont­staan uit een levensgroot gevoel van con­flict. Want pas toen het leven in de natuur en het volmaakte besef van eenheid nolens volens barsten ging vertonen, zocht de mens een compensatie en ventilatie voor het gevoel verscheurd te zijn tussen tegenge­stel­de gevoelens. Uit het beschreven con­flict werd de religie als compensatie gebo­ren en de kunst als expressie ervan.

Because the unity of life is the central phenomenon of the situation of psychic origination, every distur­bance of this unity -the felling of a tree, the killing or eating of an animal, and so on- must be compensa­ted by a ritual of­fe­ring, a sacrifice. For early man all growth and development depend on man’s sacrifice and ritual activity, precisely because man’s living bond with the world and the human group is projected upon nature as a whole”.

De religie, het offer als troost. De kunst, het voortvloeisel uit rituele ac­tivi­teiten.

If the blood of an animal slain in returned to the soil, it will carry the life principle back to Mother Earth for rebirth, and the same beast will return next season to yield its temporal body again. The animals of the hunt are regarded in this way as willing vic­tims who give their bodies to mankind with the under­standing that adequate rites are to be performed to return the life prin­ciple to its source”(J. Campbell).

Al is Campbell een autoriteit op dit gebied, zelf geloof ik niet in incarna­tie van indivi­duele men­sen of dieren. Daarmee bedoel ik dat individuen ofwel ka­rakters kunnen ster­ven. Een terugkeer van dit unieke karakter, hetgeen de optelsom van een constitutie, conditie en conditionering vormt, is vol­gens mij uitgesloten. Het unieke duidt al op het onvervangbare as­pect van een per­soonlijk­heid, dier of plant. Sommige feno­menen zijn eenmalig, waaronder elke le­vend we­zen. Dat een in de aarde begraven dier of mens z’n energie laat vervloeien in de aarde en dat de aarde deze weer kan af­staan aan andere levensvormen, ja, dat lijkt mij aan­nemelijk. Maar dat iden­titeiten aan recy­cling on­derhevig zijn, neen, dat zou ook het ver­haal van de Palaeolithische identiteits-loze identi­teiten ont­krachten en derhalve de sterke verbon­den­heid tussen alle levende wezens als één fami­lie onder druk zetten. Ik hanteer de minimale de­fini­tie van reïn­car­natie. En beschouw het der­halve meer als een metafoor dan een term die een incar­natie van een al eerder geleefde geest in nieuw vlees veronder­steld. Voor mij is reïn­carnatie een begrip dat gere­la­teerd is aan de idee dat energie nimmer ver­loren gaat en transmuta­tie toe­laat. Dit wil zeggen dat bij het sterven ener­gie vrijkomt. Al ken ik de aard van de ener­gie niet, op cel­niveau of spiritueel ni­veau, in wezen maakt het niets uit om de idee reïn­car­natie toe te lich­ten. De mens heeft geleefd en het verschil tussen le­ven en dood is de aan-of afwezig­heid van levens­kracht. Deze kracht, lijkt mij, neemt aan het eind van het leven af en vervalt bij het ster­ven in andere vormen of blijft nog een tijd na-ebben. Het zal deze naëb­bende energie zijn die mensen kunnen ervaren in­dien ze dicht bij de dode mens verblijven en diens ‘aanwezigheid’ voelen. Niet alleen mensen zijn bekend met deze naëbbende energie, waarvan aangenomen kan worden dat die in de sterkst uit­gekris­talliseerde vorm, te we­ten de botten, aan­wezig is.

Ook olifanten zoeken contact met de dode soort­genoten door het aanraken van de bot­ten. Zij keren terug naar de plaats al­waar het dode dier tot ‘stof’ is wederge­keerd. Ik heb films ge­zien waar de olifanten de bot­ten koesteren, aaien met hun slurven, een eindje mee rondlopen om het stuk bot ver­volgens weer te rang­schikken bij de an­dere over­blijfselen. Het is indruk­wekkend te zien hoe deze intelligente dieren soortge­lijke han­de­lingen verrichten als de palaeo­li­thi­sche mens (naar schijnt), die niet alleen botten verzamelden voor het ma­ken van ge­reedschap­pen, maar ook om ze lange tijd te vereren. De Chinese filosofie vertelt het ons duide­lijk: hoe harder de op­ge­bouw­de mate­riali­satie, botten, tanden en nagels, hoe groter de daarin neergeslagen energie. Niet voor niets worden relikwieën (botten, tan­den, ha­ren en nagels) van heili­gen zo lang be­waard en vereerd. Naëbbende ener­gie roept de behoefte aan contact op en vormt de steeds meer subtiel en va­ger wor­dende binding met de ge­storve­nen.

Opmerkelijk is dat de dieren van de grot­schilde­ringen zo gesitueerd zijn dat het lijkt alsof ze de grot verder inrennen. Wanneer men er van uit gaat dat de grot de opening naar de Moe­der Aarde is, de poort naar de dood en het nieuwe leven, zoals ik dat be­schreven heb, valt één en ander samen. Het lijkt zon­der meer de dood van het dier te be­vestigen en een actieve weergave te zijn van de wens dat de dier snel door de Moeder aarde geab­sor­beerd wordt. Zo’n these zou niet alleen het jachtritueel an sich bevestigen maar ook het concept van de zorg, het res­pect en de ver­wer­king van de bloedzonde betreffende het dode dier.
In principe zijn veel theses te interessant te nege­ren. Ook die thesen die andere tegen­spreken. Het is immers mogelijk dat de grot­schilderingen, net zoals de Megalieten, een speciale functie hadden in de continue­ring van bepaalde rituelen. Dat de monu­men­tale vorm over tienduizenden jaren heen steeds gelijksoortig is, wil niet zeggen dat de in­terpretatie van deze monumenten, grot­schilderin­gen of steencirkels, uniform moet zijn. Zoals de steencircels begrepen kunnen worden “as a com­plex of grandiose mani­festations of ideas that could well have been diverse, but among which the cult of the dead, nevertheless, played an im­portant role”.
Zo zouden de grotschilderingen di­verse vormen van animalisme kunnen weer­ge­ven. De term animalisme is niet ge­heel op z’n plaats omdat het hier een falend con­cept weer­geeft: de palaeo­lithische mens zou niet hebben in­gezien dat de mens supe­rieur is aan het dier. In de palaeo­li­thische tijd, maar soms ook nog in de huidige tijd, wa­ren die­ren heilig en dus superieur. Dat op de grotwanden soms nog een mens ge­schil­derd is, soms geantropomorfiseerde figu­ren van half mens half dier, geeft aan dat er een in­tieme relatie was tussen mens en dier.
Het vereist een intense studie deze relatie te ach­terhalen, men zou ervoor buiten de mo­derne denkkaders moeten gaan. Men zou de leg­puzzel moeten bestuderen van allerlei ri­tu­e­len; het ge­bruik van dierbotten als ora­kels, het offeren van dieren in meren, het na­ma­ken van beren van klei, het naspelen van vrucht­baarheids­rituelen van dieren en de idee aannemen dat die­ren superieur zijn, een ziel heb­ben en magische krachten en wijs­heid bezitten. Deze studie vereist niet alleen een mentale in­spanning, maar vooral een men­tale flexibiliteit. Het verstand moet uit­gerekt worden tot 30.000 voor Christus!

Diegene die een intense studie van de grot­ten heeft kunnen opbrengen is de Franse filo­soof Georges Bataille. In 1955 publi­ceerde hij een boek onder de naam Lascaux ou la naissance de l’art. Het boek wordt helaas noch door palaeontologen noch filo­sofen gele­zen. Ik had zo graag 25 jaar lang z’n studie van Lascaux willen volgen. Voor­al de dagen en nachten die Bataille in Lascaux verbleef ten einde de grotteke­ning­en te bestuderen. De bevindingen die Bataille heeft gemaakt zijn inte­ressant. Ook Bataille is gefascineerd door het verschil tussen de afgebeelde mens en dier. De men­senafbeeldingen zijn schets­matig en lij­ken soms niets met de dierschil­deringen, veelal gesti­leerd, te maken te heb­ben. De dood moet angst hebben ingeboe­zemd, al­dus Bataille, getuigende het feit dat de pa­la­eo­­li­thische mens hun doden be­groeven. Op de dood rustte een soort taboe. Het pro­fane, noemt Bataille het doel­rationeel han­de­len dat de palaeolithische mens eigen was en de gra­ven die uit die tijd te vinden zijn. Uit­er­aard staat het profane niet op zich. Is er sprake van een hei­lig­schen­nis, dan be­staat iets hei­ligs. Het doden van dieren is heilig­schen­nis, mensen en die­renof­fers kunnen in het licht gezien worden van het verzoek om vergeving.
Het empirische argument van Bataille spreekt een pragmatische functie van de grot­schilderingen te­gen. Bataille beschrijft het verschil in gevoel en ervaring bij het schou­wen van palaeolithische ge­reedschap­pen en de schilderingen. De grotschil­derin­gen ma­ken een veel diepere indruk, aldus Bataille, ze raken het hart. Dit valt niet te verkla­ren uit de pragmatische functie die men deze schilderingen destijds (rond 1955) toe­dichtte. Volgens Bataille roepen de schil­deringen het beeld op van het hei­lige. Het beeld van de dieren, het natura­lisme waar­mee ze geschilderd zijn, ge­ven blijk van het respect dat men voor de dieren had. Dat de mensenafbeeldingen dit niet doen ge­tuigt van het feit dat de mens dit respect re­ser­veer­de door de dieren alleen. Mijns in­ziens treft Bataille in z’n be­schouwingen een goede snaar. Immers wanneer de schil­ders zo fraai, artistiek zo buitengewoon kundig, zelfs rekening hou­dende met de on­effen wanden van de grot­ten en daar zelfs voor het effect gebruik van makende…dit ta­lent had ook aangewend kunnen worden voor de mensenafbeeldin­gen. Maar dit is doelbe­wust niet gedaan. “Slechts getooid met het pre­stige van het beest” een vacht of een ge­wei, dan was de mens een afbeelding waard. Pas dan werd de mens gethematiseerd.

Met zekerheid kan het volgende gesteld worden. De dierschilderingen zijn buiten­gewoon prachtig. Het heeft de palaeo­lithi­sche mens veel inspanning gekost. De die­ren rennen de grotten in. De men­sen­afbeel­dingen zijn artistiek beneden­maats af­ge­beeld. De palaeolithische mens heeft doel­be­wust de schilderingen over tien­duizenden jaren aangebracht. Het ver­haal van het waar­om is complex en uiterst moei­zaam te achterhalen. Misschien zal er net zo weinig met zekerheid ge­zegd kunnen wor­den als het aantal grotten dat ons ter be­schik­king staat. Door de stijgende zeespie­gel ligt het merendeel van de beschilderde grotten waarschijnlijk onder de zee­spiegel. Net zo­als vele grotten onder de zee­spiegel liggen, zich als het ware onttrekken aan onze vin­ding, zo ontglipt de ware betekenis van de schilderingen zich aan ons bewust­zijn dat -als door een zee- ge­schei­den lijkt te zijn van de diepe palaeolithi­sche geest der voor­ouders. Ergens, diep in ons oude ge­nen­ma­teriaal ligt het antwoord, maar een zee van nieuwe informatie heeft het overspoeld en alleen door in­tense studie, zoals van Bataille, komen gefrag­menteerde, intelli­gente inzichten aan de opper­vlakte.

Ik herinner mij dat ik een geliefd huisdier moeten laten insla­pen. Het werd steeds zieker. Ik herin­ner mij een enorm ver­zet en hoop dat het on­vermij­delijke te vermijden was. Het was één van de meest tegen­natuurlijke dingen die ik moest doen; ik wilde het dier ver­zor­gen en bij mij houden en moest het op­ge­ven.
Het dode dier werd in de kou­de grond ge­legd en de aarde dekte het nog lauwe beestje toe. De warm­te van het dier, de ener­gie zou vervallen en het dier zou verder sterven. Uiteraard was het dood, maar in tegen­stelling tot een geconstateerde dood -het weg­vallen van bio­chemische funkties- is sterven geen momentop­name maar een proces. Nadat ik het dode dier begra­ven had, speelde schuld­ge­voe­lens en verdriet een grote rol. Ik her­inner mij dat ik somber was. Zo viel ik, de eerste avond na de dood van het dier, som­ber in slaap. s’ Nachts werd ik plots wakker. In m’n droom had ik het dier zien zitten op een zacht, blauw kus­­sen. Dit symboliseerde zonder­meer een he­melse staat. Ik had het dier voer ge­bracht en ter­wijl ik het dier be­naderde, knorde het van ge­not. Het zat prins­­heer­lijk, ja, het gaf zelfs blijk van ge­not. Ik was stom­verbaasd. Het was zo’n con­trast met hoe het dier de laatste dagen stil en zie­lig in een hoek had ge­zeten. Zo gelukkig had ik het dier bij le­ven de laatste tijd niet meer ge­zien. Hoe kan zo’n beeld in m’n droom dan ontstaan? En, hoe kan ik in een zo’n trieste stem­ming een zo’n plezie­rige droom ontwikke­len?
De volgende nacht schrok ik wederom wakker. In een lucide droom had het dier onder de slaap­kamerkast ge­zeten en had z’n kop omhoog gegooid. Ik kende dit ge­baar maar al te goed. Het was een teken van plezier. Het dier leek niet alleen gezond maar ook erg in z’n nopjes. De dag daarop gaf ik toe aan de idee dat er iets vreemds gaande was. Met mij of met het dier, ik weet het niet. Het dier was ster­vende en ik riep het steeds weer op in m’n dromen, in m’n gevoel en be­wust­zijn. Ik herinner mij dat ik overvallen werd door een vreemd­soortig idee. Wat zich sterk aan mij op­drong, ja, inderdaad als een idee dat niet door mij voortgebracht was, maar zich aan mij op­drong, was een indruk dat het dier een grote vorm aan­nam. Niet zicht­baar, niet voelbaar maar als een aanwezige identiteit waar ik op­nieuw ken­nis mee maakte. Het riep respect en ontzag op. Ik was er zeer verbaasd over. Ik herinner mij dat ik schrok van deze ideeën of in­drukken. Diverse ma­­len riep ik mijzelf tot de or­de, maar de indruk­ken bleven dominant. Ik wist ze niet te plaat­sen al­leen ­maar te obser­veren. Ik meende er goed aan te doen de idee­­ën scherp te onthouden om, wan­neer het ver­driet over was, ze rustig te over­den­ken.

La­ter heb ik be­dacht dat het een unieke erva­ring was. Het was een ervaring met de dood, die, omdat het hier een dier betrof in een geheel andere maat of omvang bestu­deerd kan worden in verge­lij­king met de dood van een mens. Dat wil zeg­gen, bij het sterven van mensen is het verdriet zo alles­over­heersend dat het op­vangen van de glimp van de dood of van een ­ziel onmo­gelijk is. Het ver­driet was be­perkt (in ver­gelijking met verdriet over het verscheiden van een mens, het was groot in vergelijking met het verdriet over een gekapte boom) en kon daardoor niet domine­ren over gedach­ten en gevoelens met be­trekking tot de dood van het dier. Ja, zelfs de dood van een dier roept vragen op over de onme­telijke af­stand tussen leven en dood.

Ik zei tegen mijn man dat er twee ver­kla­ringen voor de dromen en in­druk­­ken wa­ren. De eerste heeft met her­sen­func­ties, verdriet en nor­male droom­acti­viteiten te ma­ken. De tweede is archaïsch en ver­langt een stu­die van de bo­ven­beschreven relaties tussen mens en dier. Het heeft te maken met de ziel van het dier, verdriet, con­flict en het losweken van een verbin­te­nis tus­sen mens en dier. Van een rela­tie tussen mens en dier zoals de pa­laeo­lithi­sche mens, de Indianen en de Kelten die moeten heb­ben gekend. Hierover had ik gelezen met een afstandelijke acade­mi­sche in­stel­ling. Na de dood van het dier meen ik deze ma­­te­rie beter te kun­nen begrijpen doordat de materie zelf was ervaren. Of zelfs een zeer be­scheiden idee te hebben wat palaeo­psycho­logie met be­trek­king tot het onder­zoek van de re­latie tussen mens en dier kan bete­kenen. “Een klei­ne Keltische er­va­ring”, heb ik deze wonder­lijke indrukken ge­noemd. Wat het voor mij zon­der meer be­ves­tigd heeft, is dat leven en dood mystiek verweven zijn en als dusdanig er­varen worden. Zowel bij mens als dier.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer werkt als kunstenaar te Utrecht. Ze studeerde af in de Wijsbegeerte en is alweer 12+ jaren vegan.

Paula’s shop is hier en haar portfolio hier.


Dit essay voert de lezer mee naar een rijk waar de mens respect heeft voor dieren en planten. Een rijk waar respect is voor het leven gebaseerd op gevoelens van gelijkwaardigheid. In dit rijk, dat de mens waarschijnlijk al wel eens eerder heeft betreden -al is het alleen maar in de geest-, laat men zijn conditioneringen vallen. Met conditioneringen bedoel ik misschien wel het meest de conditionering dat dieren dom zijn. Pavlov heeft met zijn proeven ‘bewezen’ dat dieren gewoonte beesten zijn. Dit associëren we met niet-flexibel kunnen denken, geen zicht hebben op men­se­lijke verwachtingen en dit alles zou getuigen van een inferieure positie ten opzichte van de mens. Conditioneringen die de mens heeft gemaakt tot een we­zen dat zich superieur voelt aan dier of plant. Wanneer deze superioriteit vervalt, volgt respect. Men ontdekt dat de dier ons ver­vuld van onzekerheid. We weten maar bar weinig van wat een dier bezielt, denkt, voelt of over wil bren­gen aan de mens of aan zijn soortgenoten. Wanneer het menselijk denken zich niet meer bedient van oppervlakkige oordelen, sentimenten en angst met betrekking tot het niet-menselijk leven, wordt de juiste mate van respect en liefde voor het dierlijk leven erva­ren. De mens heeft mogelijkerwijs al eerder dit rijk van respect betreden. Getuigen de prehistori­sche grotteke­ningen niet van een groot respect en empathie van de mens met het dier?


Op 12 september 1940 betraden vier jongens, Marcel Ravidat, Jaques Marsal, Georges Agnel en Simon Coencas de grot van Lascaux. Zij troffen daar de best ge­conserveerde wand­schilderingen aan uit de Paleolithische periode. Wat zij zagen kunnen we vandaag alleen nog maar op foto’s zien omdat de grotten -zeer terecht- sinds 1963 voor het publiek zijn afgesloten. Niettemin zijn de foto’s van de grottekeningen indruk­wekkend. De jonge mannen hadden de grot geopend en waren afgedaald in het diepe en donkere gedeelte van de Hall of Bulls. Toen zij de wandschilderingen ontdekten, beloofden zij elkaar dit geheim te houden. Dat de ge­heimhouding van een zo grote ontdekking een te zware last was, dreef hen ertoe een oude schoolmeester, Monsieur Laval, hun verhaal te vertellen. Deze man betrad enige dag later de grot en ‘shouted cries of admi­ra­tion’. ‘I had literally gone mad’, zou hij later hebben gezegd. In de Hall of Bulls, een ruimte van 17 meter lang, zijn wandschilde­ringen te bezichtigen van een bijna niet te be­schrij­ven schoonheid.
Middels het bezien van foto’s die de wand­schilderingen van de grot weergeven, kan men een fic­tieve wandeling maken door de grot. De wandschilderingen van Przewalskipaarden, van Chinese paar­den, van wilde runderen, de voorouders van onze runderen doen je duizelen van schoonheid.

Sometimes a detail in the rock with a particu­lar shape was the initial motif: the eye, for example, of a horse whose body will be per­fectly integrated on the wall. Some animals were distorted by the painter to give the spectator, who will view it from a different place, a more striking perspec­tive. The use of undulations in the wall is frequent, and they give a surprising volume to the paintings. Thus a concavity forms /the belly of a pregnant cow. Also to give a third dimension, the artists have detached- by the means of a blank or uncoloured area- the legs that are most distant from the spectator from the rest of the body of the animal. Thus the ar­tist knew perfectly how to render this perspective with the bison in the Nave‘.

Zo betreden we het atelier met schilderijen van 17.000 jaar oud. Een ruimte waar hoogstwaar­schijnlijk riten gehouden werden en religieuze bijeenkomsten plaatsvonden. Het diep in de aarde wegkruipen, begeleid door de geschilderde dieren op de wanden en het plafond moet de prehis­torische mens in vervoering hebben gebracht zoals 17.000 jaar later de oude schoolmeester Laval.

Dit is de grot van Plato. Hier kunnen de dieren worden aanschouwen. Als afbeelding én idee. De schaduwen van de dieren kan je zien bewegen alsof een fakkel hen illusoir laat bewegen. Zo kan men een reis maken naar het diepste van de grot. Voel het respect voor de vele zwangere, laag hangende buiken en de krach­tige dikke bizon­-nekken! Zo’n fascinatie duurt uren, dagen, neen een heel leven, zoals ook Jacques Marsal, de jonge ont­dekker die zo geïnspireerd werd dat hij zijn hele leven bij de grot bleef en nu rondlei­der is. Deze wer­kelijkheid, de stille getuige­nis van een 17.000 jaar oude vervlogen tijd, tegen de wand, fascineert en ontroert. Wat is werkelijkheid? Buiten of binnen in de grot? Kan van de in de grot op de wanden geschil­derde wer­kelijkheid iets worden geleerd? Welk verhaal vertelt de grot? Ligt tussen het zonlicht van buiten en de 17.000 jaar oude im­pressies van een lang vervlogen tijd een speciale waarne­ming? Een boodschap? Gaan de schilde­rin­gen het juiste verhaal van de oude tijd vertel­len? Kan dat verhaal juist geïnterpreteerd worden? En wat vertellen de reeds uitge­stor­ven dieren? Zoek maar in de verste uithoeken van de menselijke geest naar wat er in de re­latie tussen mens en dier fout is gegaan. Doe dat snel. Want de oude grot met tekeningen ge­tuigt van de voorbijgegane tijd, maar won­derschoon gestold in ons heden. De grot slokt in zijn oudheid de vluchtig menselijke ideeën op. En het individuele, vergankelijke menselijk bestaan.

De grot, het huis van 17.000 jaar oud waarvan de inwo­ners of be­zoekers reeds lang geleden zijn gestorven, toont de dieren op weg naar het binnenste van de aarde. Zij bestaan en zullen blijven bestaan. Zij zullen nog eeuwen doordraven op die wanden. De vergankelijk moderniteit buiten de grot is ten dode opgeschreven. En met die moderniteit alle vergankelijke para­digma’s. Geen paradigma zal de grot overle­ven. Wil men het verhaal van de dieren ver­nemen, dan moet men bereid zijn voor­oorde­len ten opzichte van dieren te laten voor wat zij zijn. Er zal dan experimenteel gedacht moeten worden vanuit dier-perspectief.

Grote steun voor dit denkexperiment of voel experiment vind ik bij de schrijver John Cowper Powys. In zijn ‘My Philosophy up to date as influenced by living in Wales’ schrijft hij over hoe hij het leven ervaart. Hij noemt zichzelf een empirist.

‘For I am proud to be the sort of empiric who is called a quack, a charlatan, and even a mountebank because he insists on accepting the immediate shocking, startling, soothing, tantalizing, transporting, terrifying physical -psychical contacts with life , as his starting-points -‘the many’ as against the ‘one’ ente­ring, you see, at the very start -in forming his patch-work hand-to-mouth philosophy’.

Powys beschrijft hoe hij impacts van het le­ven maar ook van natuurbelevingen of litera­tuur kan nemen als zijn startpunt voor zijn le­vensbeschouwing.

My system of thought-tricks or of thought-gestures, then, represents a return with a dif­ference, with that inevi­table difference which all such Renaissance must reveal, to the chaoticisme, animism, fetishism, polytheism and pluralism and even something uncom­monly like magic, of those happy ages be­fore the authoritarian Parties and Dictators in both religion and science became the totalitarian ab­sorbers of and the infallible an­nouncers of all the truth as they have taken upon themsel­ves to be to-day’,

…vervolgt Powys zijn uiteenzetting van zijn le­vensbeschouwing. Voor mij klinkt dit ci­taat als muziek in de oren omdat deze empiri­sche levenshouding noodzakelijk lijkt te zijn voor het achterhalen hoe de relatie tussen mens en dier in de prehistorie is opgeschil­derd in de grotten van Lascaux.

Wanneer ik de beschouwingen neem van de filosoof Bataille, die 25 jaar lang met dit on­derwerp bezig was en dagen en nachten in de grot van Lascaux verbleef om de schilderijen op hem in te laten werken, sluiten deze aan bij Powys’ levensbeschouwing. Dit omdat Bataille zijn inzicht in de afbeeldingen van de beschilderde grot-wanden baseert op een em­pirisch argument.

Als ik naar vitrines vol prehistorische fossie­len en gereedschappen kijk’, redeneert Bataille, ‘doet me dat niets. Het feit dat de prehistorische mens wellicht honger had en daarom op een succesvolle jacht hoopte, doet mij ook eigenlijk niets. Maar de afbeeldingen die hij heeft gemaakt, die doen we wel wat, die raken me in mijn hart. Dat valt niet te verklaren uit één of andere pragmatische func­tie die de afbeeldingen misschien had­den‘.

Dat de schilderingen nog steeds tot de ver­beelding spreken komt volgens Bataille doordat ze een beeld oproepen van het hei­lige. Er bestaan talloze beschrij­vingen van volken die het heilige zien als iets machtigs dat tegelijkertijd ongrijpbaar en le­vensge­vaarlijk is. Het heilige was bovendien nauw verbonden met de overtreding van verboden. Een universeel en fundamenteel verbod is het verbod om te doden; dit verbod wordt in veel cultu­ren overschreden tijdens offerrituelen. Misschien zijn de schilderingen gemaakt in een tijd dat de overtuiging dat mensen superi­eur zijn aan dieren niet was uitgekristalli­seerd. Het onderscheid tussen mens en dier berust tenslotte op een overtuiging dat men­sen anders of beter zijn in verge­lijking met dieren. Maar waren de mensen ten tijde van Lascaux beter dan dieren? Het natura­lisme van de schilderingen geeft aan dat men res­pect had voor het dier. Datzelfde respect had men niet voor de mens; in de mensen afbeeldingen wordt het menselijk onderwerp als het ware ver­minkt, onder meer door de toevoe­ging van dierlijke kenmerken. Blijkbaar ging het erom het men­selijke te ontkennen ten gunste van iets heiligs dat geassocieerd werd met het dier. Slechts getooid met het prestige van het beest is de mens in de schil­deringen gethematiseerd.

Batailles’ these is zonder meer interes­sant. Zijn argument ‘De schilderingen doen mij meer dan vitrines vol prehistorische ge­reedschappen’ is een empirisch argument dat interessante be­spiegelingen tot gevolg heeft gehad. De bespiegelingen zijn zinnig maar ook eigenzinnig. Ze on­derstrepen dat ieder­een zijn eigen interpretatie kan en mag geven van Lascaux. Totdat het weten­schappelijke onderzoek is afgerond en de filosofen zijn uitgedacht, kan je veronderstellen dat de kennis verloren is gegaan. Wat overgebleven is, is de schoonheid en die interpreteert ieder naar believen.

De prehistorische grotten vertellen een ver­haal, zoals ook de tekeningen en hiërogliefen in de Egyptische piramides een verhaal vertel­len. Zoals ook de zegelringen uit het oude Mesopotamië een verhaal vertellen.

Het verhaal van Inanna, de godin van het oude Mesopotamië, is een aantrekkelijk verhaal. Haar naam is in Noord Sumerië Ishtar en haar grootheid ten tijde van de Bronstijd is vergelijk­baar met Isis van Egypte en Cybele van Anatolië. Zij is het archetypi­sche vrouwelijke en haar le­ven is het verhaal van geboorte, moederschap, sexuele liefde en vruchtbaarheid, de hemel en de dood. In haar verhaal van het heilige huwelijk wordt de maan en de zon, de aarde en de hemel sym­bolisch verbonden. De vegetatie-god waar­mee Inanna zich trouwt, is Dumuzi-Tammuz. Het overgeleverde gedicht van deze ceremo­nie vertelt hoe de Summarische bevolking dit ritueel op de juiste maanstand in het Summarische paleis uitbeeldt. Rond 2250 voor Christus liep de hoge priester die Dumuzi verbeelde naar de tempel en bracht offers mee voor Inanna. In het gedicht van 2250 voor Christus wordt het huwelijk tus­sen Inanna en de vergoddelijkte koning Isin-Dagan uitgebeeld:

She embraces her beloved husband.
Holy Inanna embraces him.
The throne in the great sanctuary is made glorious,
Like the daylight.
The kind like the Sun-God,
Plenty, happiness and abundance before him prosper.
A feast of good things they set before him,
The dark-headed people prosper before him.

Tot hier lezen we een in scène gebracht ritu­eel. Het toneel is als het ware geschetst. We denken dat twee mensen elkaar ontmoeten. Maar dan volgt een dialoog voor tweeërlei uitleg vat­baar.

Dumuzi zingt;
My sister, I would go with you to my gar­den.
Inanna, I would go with you to my garden.
I would go with you to my orchard.
I would go with you to my apple tree.
There I would plant the sweet, honey-co­vered seed.

Inanna zegt;
He brought me into his garden.
My brother, Dumuzi, brought me into his garden.
I strolled with him among the standing trees,
I stood with him among the fallen trees,
By an apple tree I knelt as is proper.
Before my brother coming in song,
Who rose to me out of the poplar leaves,
Who came to me in the midday heat,
Before my Lord Dumuzi,
I poured out plants from my womb.
I placed plants before him,
I poured out plants before him,
I placed grain before him,
I poured out grain before him.
I poured out grain from my womb.

In dit gedicht lezen we twee talen. De lief­destaal tussen man en vrouw. En het verhaal van het zaaien, oogsten en de vruchtbare aarde. Inanna spreekt over haar baarmoeder waaruit ze graan laat stromen wanneer Dumuzi haar mee naar de tuin -de vruchtbare aarde- neemt.
Voor de meeste lezers zal het duide­lijk zijn dat het ritueel waarin Inanna en Dumuzi sa­menkomen een vruchtbaar­heidsri­tueel is. Het gedicht is als het ware dubbelta­lig. Dat dubbeltalige aspect vinden we ook te­rug in het verhaal van de Egyptische Isis en Orisis. De relatie tussen Isis en Orisis is te beschrijven als van de creatieve krachten van de aarde. Het is een verhaal van mensen die de creatieve krachten van de aarde verbeel­den. Zo groeit uit Orisis graan dat door de priester water wordt gegeven. Is Orisis een mens? Of de aarde? Of verbeeldt Orisis zowel de aarde als de mens? Valt in dit verhaal de vruchtbaarheid van de mens samen met de vruchtbaar­heid van de aarde? Of moest het verhaal van de aarde geantropomorfiseerd worden ten einde het begrij­pelijk te maken? Zoals ook het geval is in het fraaie verhaal van Inanna en Dumuzi?
Wat hier in ieder ge­val uit geconcludeerd kan worden is dat oude verhalen, tekeningen, rituelen een andere taal kunnen hanteren die ons als dubbeltalig overkomt. Maar misschien lopen hier niet twee ver­ha­len door elkaar. Wij, moderne mensen, lezen er twee verhalen in: het ver­haal van de vrucht­bare aarde en de zaaitijd en het verhaal van de mens. Wij lezen er twee verhalen in omdat wij de natuur en de vruchtbaar­heidscyclus van de aarde, de sei­zoenswisselingen, de zaai en oogsttijd onder­scheiden van het verhaal van de mens en diens liefde en intermenselijke relaties. Net zoals wij, maar nu loop ik op de zaak voor­uit, een onderscheid maken tussen mens en dier door te ver­onderstellen dat er über­haupt een onderscheid te maken valt. Wanneer we een denkexperiment doen en ons trachten te verbeelden dat deze onderscheidingen tussen aarde, dier en mens niet zo evident zijn als het nu voor ons lijkt, ontstaan er nieuwe in­terpretaties. Ineens bezien we het ver­haal van Inanna en Dumuzi of Isis en Orisis niet meer als dubbeltalig maar als een consistent ver­haal. Een verhaal dat mens en aarde als gelij­kende en gelijkwaardig beschrijft.


Wanneer we kennis hebben gemaakt met de dubbeltalige oude verhalen van Isis (3000 v. Chr.) en Inanna (ongeveer 3500 v. Chr.) kunnen we terug naar de prehistorische grot­tekeningen van 17.000 v. Chr. Dat is een hele stap terug in de tijd. Welhaast een te grote stap. Om zo’n gapend gat in de tijd te kunnen overbruggen, moeten we nadenken of dat het überhaupt tot de mogelijk­heid be­hoort. We zouden moeten concluderen dat het verhaal van Inanna en Isis al moeilijk ge­noeg is te lezen met de bedoelingen en inten­ties zoals het ooit eens neergeschreven is. Te lezen met de geest, de denkwijze en de cog­nitieve inhoud van een persoon van 3500 jaar terug. Kunnen we de grottekeningen zien en begrijpen door een transformatie van onze geest naar een grotschil­der van 17.000 jaar terug in de tijd? Kunnen we onze mentale in­houd transformeren? Zelfs Bataille nam er 25 jaren voor om tot heel bescheiden, hypotheti­sche argumenten te komen.
Laten we eens bedenken wat we met zekerheid kunnen zeggen van de grotschilde­ringen. Zonder twijfel opperen we dat er die­ren geschilderd zijn. Maar is dat zo evident? In het verhaal over Orisis -waar graan uit groeit- denken we een mens te zien waaruit graan groeit. We hebben al moeite om met zekerheid te stellen of het verhaal van Isis en Orisis een mensen of vruchtbaar­heidsverhaal is. Wij zien dieren geschilderd op de rots­wanden van Vallon Pont d’ Arc en Lascaux. Maar wanneer Orisis als mensenfiguur de aarde verbeeldt, dan zouden de dieren van Lascaux zonder enige twijfel een vergelijk­bare verbeelding kunnen zijn van iets bewegelijks (ze draven immers allemaal een kant op) en derhalve bijvoorbeeld de wind kunnen verbeelden. Of een waterstroom, of de trek van mensen naar een veilige plek.

Het volgende feit dat we zouden kun­nen stellen van Lascaux is dat de mensen er veel voor over hadden de rotsschilderingen aan te brengen. De inspanningen en de geva­ren waaraan de mens zich blootstelde ten einde de schilderingen aan te brengen zijn in­drukwekkend. Lange passages werden af­ge­legd om in de beschilderde ruimtes te ko­men. Dieren, gehuisvest in de grotspleten, werden getrotseerd. De koude, de duisternis, het ge­vaar te verdwalen…en dan het schilde­ren zelf met giftige pigmenten bij het bewege­lij­ke licht van een fakkel. De krassen in de rots­wanden met scherpe voorwerpen en het zoe­ken en gebruik maken van het oneffen vlak en pla­fond. Een Sixtijnse Kapel van 17.000 jaar geleden? Nou nee, de (on)comfortabele positie van Michelangelo (hij lag op steigers) is niet vergelijkbaar met de barre condities waaronder de prehis­torische schilder moest werken (vuur, koude, gevaar). Dit argu­ment, het argument van het ‘er veel voor over hebben’, blijkt stand te houden. De bezieling die de schilder had en schilders van prehisto­rische schilderingen hadden, is wel degelijk vergelijkbaar met die van prehistorische bouwers van monumenten zoals Stonehenge, Avebury en Silbury Hill. En ook met de pi­ramides en de latere Kathedralen in West-Europa. Meer feiten hebben we niet dan dat er dieren geschilderd zijn om waar­schijnlijk het schilderen van dieren zelf. Nogmaals, misschien zijn dieren geschilderd om het water of de wind te verbeelden. En dat er sprake is van een enorme bezieling die de schilders ertoe motiveerden de schilderin­gen aan te brengen.

Minder subjectief is dat de schilderin­gen mooi zijn. Ik geloof wel dat zo’n subjec­tief oor­deel kan rekenen op instemming, maar misschien vonden de schilders het natu­ralisme waarmee ze schilderden niets meer dan gewoon. Het probleem dat zich na het verzamelen van deze harde en minder harde feiten voordoet, is het identificeren van de schilderingen. Gaat het hier om buiten­ge­woon fraaie en bezielde schilderingen van dieren of moeten we sceptisch zijn en con­cluderen dat het gaat om schilderingen van iets dat door dieren uitgebeeld wordt. Proberen we deze twee voorlopige conclu­sies met elkaar in overeenstemming te bren­gen dan mogen we spreken van een belang­rijk gegeven met betrekking tot de dieren. Immers, wanneer het gaat om het dier of wan­neer het gaat om iets dat verbeeld wordt door het dier, het dier is het belangrijkste ge­geven tot dusver. Of het dier gewoon of mooi of buitengewoon mooi is weergegeven, de kunstzinnige waardering van de schilde­rijen is irrelevant wanneer we het hebben over de keuze van het te ge­schilderde object, te weten, het dier. Het dier was belangrijk, als medium om iets te verbeelden of als we­zen an sich. Het dier was het object van de bezieling: door het schilderen van dieren werd een passie, een missie volbracht. Welke en waarom weten we niet, maar dat er veel voor over was, fysieke ontbering en artis­tieke inspanning, is klaarblijkelijk.

Het laatste feit dat we kunnen over­denken, is dat er vele grottekeningen zijn ge­vonden waarop het dier prominent vertegen­woordigd is. Het dier vormt op de rotsschil­deringen, waarvan er waarschijnlijk vele on­der de zeespiegel liggen en nimmer meer ge­vonden kunnen worden, steeds het object van de thematisering van een ons onbekend verhaal.

Onze hedendaagse relatie met het dier ken­merkt zich door een nogal tweeslachtige houding. We beschouwen het als etenswaar, proefdier, sportattribuut en knuffelobject. In al deze functies wordt het dier ondergeschikt gemaakt aan de doeleinden die de mens stelt. We knuffelen het dier zo in­tens dat het dier zich gaat richten op de mens en zijn natuur­lijke leefomgeving en taal met soortge­noten vergeet. We gebruiken dieren als proefobjec­ten om onze make-up en medicijnen op uit te testen. We willen bekers en medailles halen, desnoods maken we het paard na de wed­strijd af omdat het z’n benen heeft gebroken. En tenslotte zijn we niet erg kieskeurig met het eten van vlees, althans de economische belangen prevaleren boven de ethische. Onze relatie met dieren is door de steeds verder doorgedraafde veronder­stel­lingen dat wij su­perieur zijn aan de dieren, doorgeschoten in willekeurige utiliteits­beginselen. Markante voorbeelden ten over: we hebben een schaap voor het gerecht gesleept, apen naar de maan gestuurd en ergens in Nederland liggen een op intensive care honden hun derde chemo­kuurtje te doen.
Uiteraard zijn er ook biologen en de wat meer kritische mensen die zich inzetten om een ‘natuurlijke’ leefomgeving en condi­ties voor dieren te realiseren. Die het bestude­ren van dieren in hun eigen leefwereld inte­ressanter vinden dat het dier in de kooi of aquarium. Maar dat het dier te lijden heeft van de superioriteit van de mens zal toch door de meesten beaamd worden.

Wanneer men de geconditioneerde superiori­teit ten opzichte van dieren afbreekt, beseft men hoe de mens het dier tekort doet. Zelfs wanneer we voor het dier zorgen of het knuf­felen, schieten we te­kort in gevoelens van respect tegenover het dier. We leggen reser­vaten aan, prachtige dierentui­nen of hangen een kooi vol hamster­draai­molens…het is nog steeds een zorg om het dier dat niets (behalve geld) van ons kost. Waar we onze superiori­teit niet voor hoeven in te leveren. Maar stel dat we dat wel doen. Stel dat we onze superioriteitgevoelens eens op de tocht zetten. Dan doen we nieuwe ontdekkingen.

Eén van die nieuwe ontdekkingen betreft de grotschilderingen. We willen het verhaal van Lascaux leren ontsluiten maar moeten erkennen dat we maar weinig harde feiten kunnen achterha­len. We bestuderen de grond, de verfstoffen, de artistieke waarde, de menselijke inspanningen die nodig waren de schilderingen aan te leggen. We bestude­ren de handafdrukken, de cirkels, de krassen in de wand, de botten en voetafdrukken op de grond. We bekijken de voor­ouders van onze dieren, we concluderen dat ze zwanger zijn afgebeeld of dat ze al rennende zijn weergege­ven. We hebben het over een Sixtijnse kapel van de ijstijd, oude graffiti of een prehis­torische kunst. Maar wat over­geslagen wordt in al deze beschouwingen is het geschil­derde ob­ject, het dier. Ik bedoel niet dat we de dierenschilderingen niet be­wonderd hebben. Dat we heb­ben gekeken naar welke dieren geschilderd zijn. Naar hoe ze geschilderd zijn. Waar ik op doel is dat we de schilderijen hebben bestudeerd maar niet de dieren zelf. We bestuderen het verhaal van de prehistorische schilder, maar we ver­geten het verhaal van de prehistorische dieren te be­studeren. We trachten met het onderzoek naar de grotten de geest van onze voorouders te be­grij­pen, maar we kruipen niet in de geest van het prehistorische dier. Neen, dat doen we niet om­dat het kijken in de geest van onze voorouders een schier onmogelijke taak is, het proberen te be­grijpen van dieren is zo niet uitgesloten. Maar toch, er zijn voorbeel­den die het tegendeel beplei­ten.

Dat er een onderscheid valt te maken tussen mensen en dieren is geheel te danken aan de mense­lijke eigenschap zich te willen onder­scheiden. Wij zijn geheel vertrouwd gemaakt met deze onder­scheiding. Wanneer we niet­temin de mythologie bestuderen, kan een an­dersoortige relatie tussen mens en dier vast beschreven worden. Heel makkelijke voor­beelden zijn bijvoorbeeld de uitspra­ken en riten van de Amerikaanse indianen. Niet zel­den leest men vol romantiek de prachtige uit­spra­ken van Chief Seattle die spreekt over de dieren en rivieren als zijn ‘voorouders’ en ‘broeders’. De wijze Indiaan spreekt niet te­gen ons om ons een romantisch beeld bij te brengen. Neen, hij legt zijn levens­beschouw­ing en cultuur aan ons uit. Zonder sentiment of romantiek moeten we met kracht proberen ons in te leven hoe het werke­lijk voelt een beer of paard als je broeder te beschouwen.
Misschien lukt dit denkexperiment nog. Moeilijker wordt het je dierenbroeders en zusters te beschouwen als wijs. Of als medium voor goddelijke boodschappen. Neen, niet zozeer het dier maar de heilige krachten welke het dier onthult, zijn dan het object van de verering.
Maar er zijn ook middenwegen be­wandeld. We herkenden dierlijke driften in ons hetgeen ons lichaam dierlijke karakteris­tieken gaf. Maar onze geest, onze ziel was goddelijk. Althans dat was de Middeleeuwer de mening toegedaan. In de moderne tijd is deze visie bijgedraaid. Biologen kunnen na nauwkeurige observatie sociaal gedrag aanwijzen bij bijvoorbeeld apen en koolme­zen. We zijn dankzij het werk van biologen weer naar elkaar toegegroeid. Immers, dieren en mensen hebben gemeen dat ze met elkaar kunnen praten, ze onderling seksuele en so­ciale rela­ties vormen.

Wanneer we de taxonomie (het wetenschap­pelijk classificeren) van mensen en die­ren even terzijde schuiven, kunnen we nieuwe gedachten ontwikkelen. Uiteraard moeten we dat niet alleen in gedachten doen, maar ook met ons gevoel. We moeten een enorm taboe opheffen dat is inge­steld om de gebruikelijke classificatie te doen standhouden. Ik bepleit niet met een aantal dieren rond een tafel te gaan dineren. Noch met een duif te gaan picknic­ken. Echter, willen we het raad­sel van Lascaux kunnen ontrafelen dan moet er een soort respect en empathie ontstaan dat dwars door de taxonomische barrières breekt. Het onderscheid tussen mens en dier moet als het ware semipermeabel worden: noodzakelijke onderscheidingen blijven bestaan ter preven­tie van ziekten, sentimenteel gedrag, idiotie en sodomie. Maar uitwisselbaar moet worden het vermogen tot com­municeren, gevoelens van respect en liefde. Dit element van uitwis­seling of vloeibaarheid is op veel verschil­lende wijzen uitgedrukt. Om enkele voor­beelden te noemen; het sociale karakter van het totemisme, de mythen van geboorte en dood van de we­reld uit dieren. Maar ook vi­sueel heeft de mens een scala aan hybride entiteiten gecreëerd die doen vermoeden dat de relatie tussen mens en dier een enorme reikwijdte aan motieven en implicaties heeft; de Centaur (paard-man), de Minotaur (stier-man), Echidna (slang-vrouw), Pegasus (paard-vogel) en de Sfinx (vrouw-leeuw-vo­gel).
Het belangrijkste aspect van het doorbreken van de grenzen tussen mens en dier is wel het werk van de sjamaan. De reli­gieuze specialist die dwaalt tussen hemel en onderwereld en niet zel­den een gevecht moet leveren met een dier of een dier ontmoet als zijn begeleider. De sjamaan transformeert zichzelf in een dier en heeft contact met de overige dieren. Enkele aspecten van het werk van de sjamaan zijn verrukkelijk speels be­schreven door Terence H. White. Deze auteur laat Merlijn de jeugdige Koning Arthur in meerdere dieren transformeren als scholing voor zijn aankomend leiderschap. Wanneer Koning Arthur vele jaren na zijn scholing zijn innig geliefde metgezellen in een grot ont­moet;

Doe de deur open en kijk”, (zei Merlijn te­gen Arthur). Hij deed hem open (…)…en het beste van alles was, zijn oudste vrienden waren er (…). Zij (de dieren c.q. Arthurs vrienden) zaten in een kring rond het vuur; das, die zich bedeesd overeind hees ter­wijl een ware la­wine van beschreven vellen papier uit zijn schoot in de haard vloog; T.natrix, die zich ontrolde en met een ebbenhouten tong trillende waarmee hij van plan was, zo nodig, de vor­stelijke hand te kussen; Archimedes, die op en neer danste van plezier en verwach­ting, de vleugels half spreidend en ermee fladderend, als een kleine vogel die vraagt om gevoerd te worden; Balin, dier er voor het eerst van zijn leven verpletterd uitzag, om­dat hij bang was dat hij misschien verge­ten was; Cavall, zo gekweld door de heer­lijke van zijn gevoelens dat hij zich in een hoekje moest afzonderen om over te geven; geit, die de keizerlijke groet in een vooruit­ziende flits lang geleden had gegeven; egel, die loyaal en rechtop aan het eind van de kring stond, waar men hem afgezonderd van de anderen had doen plaats nemen vanwege zijn vlooien, maar vol vaderlandsliefde en verlangend, indien mogelijk, te worden op­gemerkt. Zelfs de enorme opgezette snoek, die een noviteit was boven de schoorsteen­mantel onder de Stichter, scheen met een smekend oog naar hem (Arthur) te kijken. “O, mensen!” riep de koning uit.

Het antropomorfiseren en de reactie van Arthur op het weerzien van zijn vrienden ont­roert de le­zer. Terence White heeft speels geschreven aan de hand van een prachtige le­gende. De premis­sen zijn ‘scholing door ob­servatie van het dierenrijk’ en ’empathie met het dierenrijk’. Als van­zelf volgt het mo­ment waarop we onze dierenvrienden begroe­ten met ‘O, mensen!’.
De sjamaan, Merlijn en de vakkundige bio­loog vertellen het verhaal van nauwkeurige observatie en  empathie. Deze ingrediënten zijn onmisbaar om gevoelens van verant­woordelijkheid en empa­thie op te bouwen. Op een meer directe wijze verhaalt het vol­gende gedicht van een puur inle­vingsvermo­gen:


Een vlinder danst rond mijn hoofd

en zet zich opeens op mijn knie.

een trillend rustpunt van leven.

in het gras aan de rand van het water

zit ik een vlinder te zijn.

De Klimmende Boomvrouw  
Catharina van der Linden

Zo wandelt men denkbeeldig door de grot van Lascaux. Men probeert vanuit mensen en dieren ogen te kijken naar de schilderijen. De dieren zijn zo vrienden, neen zelfs broeders en zusters. Net zoals de jonge Koning Arthur is ontroerd, begroet men de die­ren met ‘O, mensenlief, wat mooi zijn jullie’. Net zoals Bataille, die een interessante filosofie over de grottekeningen heeft ontwik­keld, loopt en kruipt de ware geïnteresseerde mens daar rond. Zo bevoordeeld als Bataille was, is men helaas niet. Vandaag de dag zal men zich met plaatjes en kleurenfoto’s tevreden moeten stel­len. Desalniettemin valt te denken aan Franciscus van Assisi en aan de ontroerende foto’s van het zwaar autistisch kind dat lacht wanneer een dolfijn langs zwemt en tegen het kind spreekt in dol­fijnen-taal.

Zo zal men beseffen dat de grottekeningen niet alleen ontroeren vanwege de schoon­heidservaring. De grot ademt schoonheid maar zwijgt in de ons bekende mensentaal over haar verhaal. De ge­dachte dringt zich op van een menselijke tekortkoming; het tekort schieten in broeder en zuster gevoelens ten opzichten van het geschilderde dier. We be­studeren de tekeningen maar slaan iets over. We bekijken het als een schilderij, maar het schilderij heeft een object. We beschouwen Lascaux als een Sixtijnse kapel maar vergeten dat het de prehistorische mens misschien ge­heel niet om het schilderen was gedaan. Zij, deze schilders, waren gefascineerd door het object dat in talloze grotten een hoofdrol speelt; het dier. We willen Lascaux ontsluiten en doen enorme moeite in de geest van de prehistorische mens te kruipen. We moeten echter onthouden dat het onder­scheid tussen mens en dier door de geschiedenis heen di­verse vormen heeft gekend. De schilder was bezield  in vrij letterlijke zin van het dier en als weergave van deze bezie­ling schilderde hij of zij deze dieren op een naturalistische wijze.

Willen wij het verhaal van Lascaux leren kennen dan zou het kunnen zijn dat we in de huid van het dier moeten kruipen. We moeten onze huidige ver­onderstelling van super­iori­teit verlaten, experimenteren met onze empa­thische vermogens en een subtiele wilskracht ontwikkelen. Want wij zijn ergens in de ge­schiedenis gestopt met ons in te le­ven in het dier. Met onze superioriteit kwam het breek­punt in het communiceren met hen. Deze dramatische breuk moeten we herstellen. Want het Lascaux-dier spreekt wel, maar de mens ver­staat ’em niet meer. Wanneer we onze superioriteit transformeren in respect en op den duur res­pect in liefde, dan zal het communiceren tussen mens en dier weer op gang komen. Vele verhalen zullen volgen.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Lascaux’ officiele website.

Drs. P.M.L. Kuitenbrouwer is kunstenares in Utrecht. Ze studeerde Wijsbegeerte aan Utrecht Universiteit en aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Paula is vegan.

Paula’s Etsy shop is hier en Paula’s portfolio is hier.

Mandarin Ducks, Mandarijneendjes, Aix galericulata

Over the last month, I have designed and worked on a new Mandarin Duck composition. A mandarin duck couple happily swims in their duck pond that is surrounded by five chrysanthemums. The duck pond has a pentagonal ‘Sakura’ shape, sakura referring to Asian cherry blossom. I combined the sakura, chrysanthemums, and mandarin ducks and was delighted and surprised by how harmonious the combination turned out.

At my Etsy art shop, I have several of these compositions available, mounted and not-mounted with a passe-partout, with full colour mandarin ducks or with albino or leucistic ducks. I am going to experiment with another Japanese flower shape: the Yukiwa flower, an equally harmonious shape that will elegantly ‘frame’ the mandarin ducks.

Should you like to commission a larger mandarin duck composition or you like to order a wedding set, feel free to contact me.

Stay healthy, creative, and kind.



Paula Kuitenbrouwer ‘s art shop at Etsy, her portfolio at Instagram. Here website at mindfuldrawing.com.

What is Cassandra Syndrome?

Cassandra Syndrome, also known as Cassandra Complex, Phenomenon, Predicament, or Curse. What is it? In this blog-post you will learn about Cassandra. Three women describe their experiences with Cassandra Syndrome.

IN SHORT: Cassandra Syndrome applies to a person whose valid warnings or concerns are not believed by others.

Cassandra by Ferdinand Rothbart


In Greek mythology, Cassandra is a beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy. The young god Apollo smitten by her beauty, gives her the gift of prophecy. Despite this gift, Cassandra does not return Apollo’s romantic feelings. As a result, Apollo is so angry that he ensures Cassandra’s prophecies are never believed. Thus, in stories, Cassandra often appears as a prophet of doom, forewarning all her warnings stay unheeded. Over time, Cassandra’s name has become synonymous with prophets of doom.


Modern people have little knowledge about prophesies; we prefer statistical data and scientific simulations to map out our future. Those who dare to speak about prophecies are seen as mad or religious fanatics. That said, we fill our days with policy making. Whether you are a housewife/man, or a governmental senior policy maker, we run errands for the rest of the week and make plans for the next five year. We are very busy with forecasting and foretelling our future. Keeping an eye on the future is an integral part of living a well-planned life.

Remember the fall of Troy? Cassandra attempted to warn the Trojan people that Greek warriors were hiding in the Trojan Horse. Nobody believed Cassandra. Instead the Trojans resorted to calling her names and hurling insults at her. At night, the Greek soldiers hiding inside the horse, take the city of Troy, leading to its fall. So, what is Cassandra Syndrome? It consists of two aspects: prophesy and disbelief.


Prophesying is about seeing, or believing, or knowing something goes wrong. This knowing is based on a gift by the god Apollo in Cassandra’s story, but we -modern and often secular people- can base this knowledge on life experience, intuition, or scientific data. Whatever the source or method of knowing, Cassandra Syndrome is about knowing what is about to happen, and this can be very stressful.

I once read about a man who saw his whole life playing like a movie in his mind when he suffered a NDE (Near Death Experience). After this NDE, his life evolved just the way he had ‘seen’. He knew what would happen, who would die (first), just as he had ‘seen’. I gave this much thought and asked myself ‘Would I want to know all that? And would I be in such acceptance?’ The man’s wife died before him. ‘Would I put effort in trying to change that, to change the ‘natural’ course of things as they had presented in his NDE?’ These are difficult questions.


It is extremely stressful if your warning or knowing is met with disbelief. People die; Troy falls. All of that could have been prevented had people listened to Cassandra. Most climate change advocates must have suffered from Cassandra Syndrome. Who believed their doom scenario (of rising sea levels, increased heatwaves, horrendous floods) till we actually saw it happening?

Max Klinger, Cassandra, 1893

Have you ever suffered Cassandra Syndrome?

I did at least twice and it was very stressful. Am I bestowed with the gift of prophesying? No, of course not. Whether knowledge comes intuitively, divinely, logically, or scientifically, that is rather irrelevant. The point is that you had knowledge about a future development and you weren’t believed. Like Cassandra, I was ridiculed.  

Cassandra was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family. Her father, Priam, locked her away in a chamber and guarded her like the madwoman she was said to be. How could Priam rule when his daughter could foretell the future? As a king, he should be in charge of the future, not his daughter. But because of the gift of Apollo, Cassandra was the real policy maker; she could anticipate the future. Thus, she was shamed as a madwoman. She was silenced.


I. ‘I got Cassandra syndrome from a conflict with my father. We strongly disagreed about his future. In my opinion, he should sign up for an old people’s home because he needed care and socializing. He said I was psychiatric, which is a very classical reaction of an old man in relation to a woman speaking her mind. Priam drove a knife in Cassandra’s back to stay in power; my father back-stabbed me in order to silence me. And boy, my siblings were too willingly believing the Master of Manipulation. Calling women psychiatric is what (some) men do when women say things they dislike. This begs the question; has anything changed since Ancient Greece?’

II. ‘When I think of Cassandra Syndrome, I think of Camille Claudel. She was a very talented sculptress but she lived in the shadow of Auguste Rodin. Claudel made art at the time when it was highly unusual for a woman to make a living as an artist. How could she ever step out of the shadow of the famous Rodin with whom she was in a collaborative and passionate relationship? It is said she lost her mind and lived for 30 years, till her death, in a mental asylum. Why was it that the woman of the artistic couple was stored away? Was she a madwoman or was she perhaps silenced by a male oriented society?’

III. ‘How long did it take for the pharmaceutical industry to acknowledge that it has been a men’s industry, testing medicines on men, for the benefits of men? How long have women taken medicines that were designed and tested on men? I understand there has been reluctance with testing medication on women for fear of damaging the reproductive system or unborn babies. But when these male designed medications didn’t help women, women too often were advised to seek psychological help for ‘psycho-somatic’ illnesses. In essence, the pharmaceutical industry was failing women and by suggesting they needed emotional help this industry was ridiculing and silencing women, saying they were a bit loopy, in need of mental help. In fact, the industry should have designed medicine for women. I think that women collectively suffer from Cassandra syndrome.’

For more on women and healthcare issues: Voices of Women. Books: Invisible Women, Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. And: Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn.

How many women (and men) -do you think- have been Cassandra during a time in their lives? My guess? Too many. Far too many.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Likewise posts are here:

What is a Sisyphean Task?

Sketching & Serendipity

Ma, a Japanese Aesthetic Principle

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, owner, commission artist, and writer at Mindfuldrawing.com, a website full artwork, art-musings, art-appreciation, and art-essays. Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and loves painting and drawing. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s artshop is at Etsy. Just go there and have a look. You do not need an account to order art. Paula is also at Instagram, where she uses her Instagram as a portfolio for pictures and videos for you to enjoy.


Ina, a former arts & crafts teacher, tells her story about a failed character assassination attempt. Her narrative does not focus on the conflict that lies at the root of the bullying (dealing with a geriatric/demented parent) nor on the mortally malcontented being in need to vent their frustrations on her and her family. Instead Ina’s story centers around the notion of a failed attempt. Why did it fail? And how did it fail? What role did art play? Ina shares her experiences because she profoundly hopes that it might help others. ‘Even if it is one teenager or woman that is helped by my story, I am happy‘. Her story is illustrated by several artworks.

Medieval Illuminated Manuscript
of a Phoenix burning and regenerating itself. Ina says that she adopted the phoenix as her role model. She got burned but regenerated herself.

Ina’s interview takes place at her studio. Her large work table and various artisan tools ignite a desire to become creative. Various unfinished projects give evidence of an overload of inspiration. Ina reluctantly revisits a time in her life in which she and her family received hate mail after hate mail. ‘Hateful emails seek a reaction, a response, they invite a counter attack’.

I read ‘Religion and Violence’ by historian René Girard when I was in my twenties and I was impressed by his theory of the Scapegoat Mechanism. How important a scapegoat is for social cohesion and how collectively accusing is more important than the substance. Thinking back of Girard’s theory, I concluded that -unluckily and apparently- it was my time in life to experience that mechanism first-hand. Scapegoating me was skillfully done with drip-feeding fabricated and exaggerating accusations that resulted in attacks on me’.

As soon as Ina realized that attempts to counterbalance false accusations didn’t help, that there was no real conversation, and that she wasn’t responsible for one other’s envy, she withdrew and refused to interact with those who made it their mission to bring her down. She hoped that the campaign against her would die down as soon as some fact-checking was done. It was not the accusations that hurt her (they were silly, made-up, and unfounded) but the fact that people were so willingly believing gossip by a formerly very clever instigator but now in his early stages of dementia. Ina knew therefore that trying to get into the good books of her aggressors was a Sisyphean task. Thus, Ina decided to wait it out but that didn’t work. Eventually, she had to hire a lawyer as a firewall. ‘Seal off your personal space, and resort to things that are soul nourishing, like studying, being creative, doing sports,’ advises Ina.

‘Just because there is an attempt to harm your life, to bring you down, to harm your family, it does not imply that you should get emotionally involved. That said, hate-mails hurt no matter how utterly unfounded or dumb the content is. I noticed that I started to excuse myself and resorted to using disclaimers, I adopted an apologetic attitude. That was not good, so I changed that’.

‘I realized one has to live one’s own life, suffer one’s own sufferings, and rejoicing in one’s own luck and happiness. Not to say that I have adopted a hyper-individualized form of existence, instead, I am Aristotelian in believing that one’s telos, one’s full potential should be the focus of our lives in relation to others. We are inherently social beings. But you need to select carefully with whom you hang out. Relations are healthy when they support each other’s telos and growth, unhealthy when they hamper one’s telos. It was unfair to ask from me to absorb other people’s hate and discontentment. I decided not to become a sin-eater for envious others.

What does character assassination look like? What is its anatomy?

‘It is much more than an ordinary squabble or an unresolved conflict. Character assassination is a coordinated and prolonged effort to maliciously harm a person, to damage a person’s good reputation, and to destroy someone’s self esteem. I will not sum up the long list of areas of my life that were targeted but the vile accusations were emotive, paternalizing, and downright hateful. There was relentless criticism on almost every aspect of my life along with reproaches and objections. My education, my past, my choices, what I said-thought-felt, the way I looked… my husband, his work, his voluntary work, even my child, nothing got spared. It was frighteningly obsessive.

I noticed many characteristics of conspiracy thinking too: deep and unfounded suspicion, blaming without evidence, no fair hearing (jumping to conclusions or unsubstantiated ideas). The amount of emails describing me and my family as elitists and elite were significant. That word ‘elite’ was obsessively used. And of course, the ‘elite’ was to blame for ‘everything’.

It grew -even without me interacting- and after a few months the hate had accumulated in that I was a despicable and dangerous person. That I was dangerous made me almost laugh, had it not been so sad, because I am a boring, good citizen. And, also very conspiracy-like, I was to blame for everything that was wrong. My villains were so proud of echoing that I was the single cause of a layered, multi-faceted, and complex problem of having a geriatric parent suffering from the onset of dementia, showing paranoia, combativeness, lack of empathy, a need for quarreling, and manipulation. I was a called a witch! Such is the beautiful, simple world in which one woman causes the fall out of paradise. Ever since Eve!

‘Things completely spiraled out of control. It was frightening (and interesting) to see how every next email or letter was harsher in tone, more accusative. When I received a physical threat and a death-wish, I was advised to go to the police and a lawyer, which I did.

‘At that time, I came across ‘Tax Collectors’ by Reymerswale but I did not know the title of this artwork. It shows two tax collectors doing their paperwork. Despite their luxurious clothing and fine interior, the painter has deliberately made them look downright ugly. To me, this painting could have been titled ‘Two Hate Mail Writers’ because hate makes ugly’.

Workshop of Marinus van Reymerswale Two Tax-Gatherers probably 1540.

‘I asked myself what in my life had been left untouched by hate. There was not much left. Others who received the same treatment by my foes said there was a need for hating, a need for venting conflict and anger, exactly like Girard had theorized. There was a need for a shared enemy to ease tensions. I had become a lightning rod for an unsolvable conflict and frustrations. I was deeply shocked.’


I suffered terribly. I have had moments wondering whether I could cope with all the anger directed at me. Hate is a terrible monster, like Cerberus (the three-headed dog of Greek myth guarding the entrance to the underworld). Envy is an even more devilish monster. You have to protect yourself against monsters. I was greatly supported by my husband and grown up daughter but I needed judicial help too. So, get help is number one.’

‘Number two: look at where the anger comes from. Is it justified? Does it come from a well-educated, well balanced person (or persons) who is open to mediation, respecting the choices you make in your life? Or from an ill person who benefits from blaming you for whatever. Try to stay unaffected. People willingly venting their unrestrained anger are harming themselves; it is like the trash taking itself out. So, get help and try to stay unaffected. That sounds contradictory, but it isn’t’.

Peasant Mother by David Alfaro Siqueiros. To Ina this painting shows there are times you feel surrounded by cacti.

Ina came across a painting of a mother with her child positioned between man-high saguaro cacti navigating her way through a barren and hostile landscape. She felt one with the painting. ‘This is a great expressionist painting. You immediately are drawn into the painting. The background shows a sunset but it looks like it is on fire, adding to the dramatic scene. I loved this painting because it so cleverly shows danger juxtaposing tenderness. I felt like the mother in this picture. But I also felt like the child, held by the protective arms of my family. As long as my family and I kept on walking, that landscape would change for the better’.

Phoenix Regenerating, Aberdeen University Library: showing a Phoenix after its regeneration.

‘During the prolonged attacks, I felt as if I had died a bit inside. A crisis can break or make you. If I died a bit inside, I decided that I would be like a phoenix, the mythological, immortal bird, who dies by flames and arises from its ashes. It took time, but I completed my regeneration. My health was restored (that took more than a year) and I felt good again. I adopted a Phoenix as my mascot. Its picture helped me to keep strongly focused on regeneration. That was very important to me’.

Will you forgive and what did you learn?

‘It would be a mistake to forgive because it was a well-planned and prolonged attack, not a faux pass. I decided against forgiving because I am setting an example to never allow emotional abuse’.

‘The long period of harassment happened during the pandemic. It was a shameful fact that in the Netherlands there was an increase of women and children’s abuse during the pandemic, especially during lock-downs. Apparently, some were in need to vent their boiled up anger. Perhaps it helped them to write hate mails, but they should have dealt with their frustrations differently’.

What I learned? I learned that people are shockingly easy to mobilize against another persons even by a demented parent classically falling prey to tearing his family apart due to old age character changes. All the instigator had to do is preying on feelings of envy or frustrations. Such is the tragic of dementia and its wide spread degeneration’.


Shame withheld me to look for help. It is probably a womanly thing to react as a sin-eater. I felt ashamed being so hated. Shame is a very bad reaction to bullying (there is no way you have brought scapegoating onto yourself). It results in withdrawal and silence. What one needs is the opposite, to set up a robust defense. I remember my lawyer hearing my story and saying; ‘This is awful, let me take it from here and I’ll run this pass a criminal lawyer too’. The intense relief that caused! So, did the character assassination fail? Initially, no. It caused emotional and physical damage. Also, money was spent on judicial help which better could have benefited the next generation. And I still keep my friends at an arm’s length, afraid they too pop out of Pandora’s box as hateful puppets. But overcoming shame and seeking help changed everything. I am absolutely not a fan of Nietzsche, but he is frequently quoted for having said that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. In the end, the character assassination epically failed’.

Any advice for teenagers who get bullied, for women who become conduits of anger?

‘In teenage language? ‘Switch on your WTF-mode! Seek support NOW. You are worth living your cool life without the bullshit of others’. To adults, I advise the same, though in different wording: go to the police, get a good lawyer. Stop feeling shame, stop suffering; harassing behaviour by others is socially or judicially unacceptable. Seek help’.


THE MORAL OF THIS BLOG-POST? You have read this before on this website: We make art, appreciate art, and see our lives reflected in art. The great stories about the human predicament, whether Ancient Greek, Biblical or classical literary sources, or famous fine art paintings, all cover some part of our lives. Seek refuge in art and literature. Nourish your soul with literature and art. Art matters. Books matter. Art heals. We -humans- have created a huge reservoir of healing properties to be found in libraries, museums, galleries, studios, and bookshops. Use it; enjoy it.

Next blog post will be about what is a Cassandra Syndrome?

Mindfuldrawing.com is owned by Paula Kuitenbrouwer who holds an MA degree in Philosophy. Paula’s pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic. Paula has an Etsy shop here. Her Instagram account serves as an online portfolio and is here. Contact Paula freely by email or a contact form for commissioned artwork.


Inspiring Artist Studios II

‘Your Brain on Art’ by Magsamen and Ross states that art-making adds quality to our lives. For art making we need studios, cultural kitchens, or workrooms. Writer Maricelle Peeters and artist Sybille Tezzele Kramer inspire us with their art-making rooms. These are special and treasured places.

Midwinter Holiday Season Christmas Art Cards 2022

It might sound paradoxical but thanks to the heatwave of Summer 2022, I have my Midwinter holiday season art cards available in my Etsy shop. I know this is very early so let me explain why.

I am too much a northerner to enjoy weeks of deep blue skies, high temperatures, and sweltering nights. In fact, during a heatwave I prefer to stay out of the sun, pretending trees, shrubs, and plants do not suffer from drought, animals aren’t thirsty, and all is perfectly normal. But of course, it isn’t. We are breaking weather record after weather record and these high temperatures are very challenging. The heat also has taken a bite out of our holiday. Not that we didn’t enjoy our holiday; we did! But the high temperatures prevented us making long walks and caused long delays on motorways due to fires on the shoulders of roads. So, these are the downsides to a heatwave. Now, the upside! A deep longing for cooler temperatures, made me work on two Midwinter compositions. Perhaps, subconsciously and illogically I thought that as long as I focus on winter, I can endure the hot summer a bit better. ‘Art-heals’ is said, isn’t it?

Midwinter Forest
Six languages

I designed a round composition showing a midwinter forest with deer, hares, and a squirrel with pine trees and holly. Inside there is a Christmas wish in six languages and on the backside you find a deer, the title of this painting as well as my name in small print.

The other composition shows a mandarin duck couple resting near their duck pond that is surrounded by holly, ivy, and overhanging rowan branches. The scientific side of me urges me to tell you that a mandarin drake loses much of his bright plumage before winter arrives. Should he keep his outrageous bright colours, he would stand out too much and soon would become a colourful meal for predators. That said, you won’t spot a teddy bear with a snowman’s hat during your winter walk either; the holiday season allows us some room for imagination.

Enjoy my Midwinter Mandarin Duck postcard and Midwinter Forest double folded note-card. Should you like to order a set, or a large quantity, contact me freely. As I will have them printed on demand, allow me 2-3 weeks of production time.

There is nothing better to have all seasonal greetings cards ready halfway November. Not only because it takes away last-minute pressure, also because there are still postal delays.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I have my shop at Etsy & my portfolio (including videos) at Instagram.


What is Future Faking?

I could have been living the life of Esme, the main character in The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, going through my days learning new words. When I am reading and I come across a new word, I use a dictionary and make notes. New words are intriguing. I like to share a (to me) new word and supplement it with personal reflections and artwork.


Future Faking is when a person lies or promises something regarding your future in order to get what they want in the present. It is often used in the context of men telling lies to women. For instance, a man does not like to bring a relationship to the next level but also do not like his girlfriend to date others, thus promising a future. His lies sound like ‘When I introduce you to my parents’ or ‘When we go on holiday together’. That is future faking (if it turns out to be a lie). The same counts for gifts, inheritances, and rewards. ‘Take care (of me), work hard, stay loyal, and one day you will receive a reward’. Or, ‘One day I will deal with my indebtedness towards you’. But that day never comes. The rewards or gifts never materialize, hence the faked future.

Apparently, women suffer more from future faking than men. When it comes to trust, women are more gullible (forgive me this generalization). Perhaps this is because women do not easily negotiate proper payment, deadlines, promotions, or rewards (forgive me also this generalization). A woman asking for a raise, a promotion, or expenses is often seen as unbecoming, over-assertive. Because the natural state of a woman should be voluntary caring anyway, so way pay?

Future Faking symbolized by an empty gift box.


I have suffered a good dose of future faking. Once, I was promised a compensation for caring/assistive work that I had done for many years. After waiting and waiting, I mustered the courage and asked for it (friendly). What followed was moral indignation and conflict. Instead of being compensated, I was shamed. Not the person (a man) -who for years ‘forgot’ or postponed to compensate me- was being accused of being shameful, but me a woman asking for a compensation was breaking traditional rules”.

‘I have a word of caution for young (or new) female artists. Beware of future faking whilst building a business as an artist. ‘Exhibit your art for free’ -followed by a future faking- ….’and you will gain a lot of exposure’. And that will bring in sales. Or, ‘Let me do some P.R. for your art’. Or ‘You will gain followers’, which are exactly that ‘followers’, not customers. I believed it, foolishly. But the promised results never happened; the only thing that de facto happened was giving away art for free. My advice is to never take the future-faking-bait. You should always make signed arrangements on paper or draft a contract to prevent future faking’.

Are you now more aware of future faking before you knew the word? Do you have a more acute awareness of this manipulative trick?


When it comes to choosing an illustration for this blog-post, my head swirled with stories. God and Moses and the opening of the seas? No. That was a case of a kept promise. ‘(Exodus 14:21) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” Moses reaches the holy land. No future faking.

I have chosen Orpheus and Eurydice trying to walk out of the Underworld to illustrate this blog-post.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861

Hades, god of the Underworld, promises that Orpheus is allowed to guide Eurydice out of the Underworld as long as he does not look back at his beloved Eurydice during their perilous journey. What does this mean?

In Hades’s Underworld dwell those who have died. Orpheus can’t accept that Eurydice has died and thus has parted from him. Orpheus descends into the Underworld to plea for his reunification with Eurydice. Hades promises Orpheus a future with Eurydice however Hades’s promise is conditioned: Orpheus is not allowed to look back at Eurydice during their journey out of the Underworld.

During their journey, Eurydice is in tremendous need for support, and constantly begs Orpheus to check on her during the long and perilous journey to the end of the Underworld. Imagine the darkness, the horrors. Moments before stepping out of the Underworld, Orpheus can’t ignore Eurydice’s need for his encouragement anymore. He looks over his shoulder to Eurydice (‘Is she still there?) and by doing that he irretrievably loses his Eurydice to Hades (to death) again. He was just about to live with Eurydice again and have a future with her, when he loses her again. The suspense in this story is breath-taking and has inspired musicians, writers, and painters forever).

Hades knows beforehand that it is impossible for Eurydice to leave the underworld. As long as Eurydice dwells in the Underworld and does not see daylight, the natural order of things (Eurydice being dead) is not breached. Read: ‘no-one is brought back to life after having died’ but close to entering daylight, Orpheus loses Eurydice because Hades will never give up his power over his realm of death. However, this does not withhold Hades from perfectly preying on the deep longing of Orpheus for Eurydice.

The moment Orpheus looks at Eurydice, she slips back into the underworld.
Orpheus and Eurydice by Carl Andreas August Goos  (1797–1855) 

Hades foresees that Orpheus will feel an overwhelming urge to support the vulnerable Eurydice along their journey. Is she still following his footsteps? Has she fallen back? Does she still trust him when he is not making eye contact with her? Has the darkness swallowed her? Orpheus loses Eurydice but he was never able to retrieve her from the underworld in the first place. Odysseus is deceived by Hades. Hades has made a false -future- promise. Orpheus and Eurydice being united again after her death? No. Impossible. Too good to be true, future faking in hindsight.

Perhaps the end of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the most haunting. Orpheus has given it all; he has ‘convinced’ Hades and has tried to guide Eurydice out of the Underworld. Yet, he loses Eurydice twice. A double heartbreak is too much for Orpheus. He becomes so pitiable, being alone (again), that he is murdered by malicious wood nymphs. Perhaps Orpheus’ death symbolizes that something dies after a breach of trust.

Death of Orpheus (1494) by Dürer

Future Faking has inspired writers to great stories and artists to haunting paintings. Forgive yourself when you have been a victim of future faking, but don’t make the same mistake twice.


Future faking is a highly manipulative method; its relational or emotional damage should not be underestimated.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Commission artist living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and owner, artist, and writer at Mindfuldrawing.com. Mindfuldrawing.com is a personal blog full art, art-appreciation, art-musings, and essays on art plus artwork made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula has a lovely Etsy shop here. Her Instagram account serves as an online portfolio and is here.

Contact Paula freely by email or a contact form for commissioned artwork.

Commission your Fengshui Mandarin Duck Artwork

Should you need a mandarin duck display in your home, think about a commissioned painting. Consider real, original art. The benefit of ordering a mandarin ducks commission is that you have a large say in your exhibited artwork: you can order a mandarin duck composition in bright or toned-down colours, the position of the ducks can be discussed, the background (floral, water-plants, or no background), all preferences are cared for. Do you prefer a border, Asian or West-European, gold or blue? We will discuss the possible use of a tiny bit of iridescent paint to highlight the awesome plumage of the mandarin drake too. And so on.

Mandarin ducks come in all sizes, positions, and environments. Some couples sit, others swim. Some rest and hide, whilst others are out there in the open. Look at your room and look at what you favorite quality of your (possible, new or existing) relation is: you like to be depicted synchronized? Lovingly looking at each other? Side by side? Resting or bobbing on high waves? All is possible.

Room with my Mandarin Duck artwork (imagine a mount and frame).

Fengshui says: ‘Mandarin ducks are the most effective remedy for love, devotion, marriage and luck. Since mandarin ducks are clear sources of love and romance, the ideal spot to place them is the couple’s bedroom. Place an artwork -showing a marvelous mandarin duck couple- to cherish their attractiveness. For married couples, the strong vibes given by the mandarin ducks keeps them together and deepens their love for each other’.

I happily work on Wood duck and Albino mandarin duck commissions too as these ducks are as pretty as full colour mandarin ducks.

Contact me freely to discuss your mandarin duck wishes. I might have a painting ready to ship, or otherwise, I welcome your commission.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Owner, artist, and writer at Mindfuldrawing.com, a website full artwork, art-musings, art-appreciation, and art-essays.

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s artshop is at Etsy. Just go there and have a look. You do not need an account to order art.

Paula at Instagram. I use my Instagram as a portfolio for pictures and videos. Mainly, for videos that that show me working on a drawing or painting.

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A Dystopian Creative Writing Challenge

I wrote ‘Felix 120’ as a contribution to the writing challenge ‘Write like Kazuo Ishiguro a dystopian piece of max 500 words’. I received encouraging feedback: ‘Your darkest and best piece so far’, which surprised me because I do not favour dystopian literature. That said, I highly admire Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go and The Buried Giant. Allow me to share my writing with you.



Once upon a time there was a man named Felix, and goodness, did he live up to the meaning of his name happy and lucky. Felix rode the waves of the economic boom following the Second World War which meant that he could afford the life he had in mind. He loved his life. In fact, he loved no one or nothing more than his life. This wasn’t surprising after all; he had been able to turn disadvantages into advantages. Felix was the embodiment of the principle that effective egoism is best achieved by calculated altruism. Thus his life was long and fortunate. Health-wise he was lucky too. Not only had his deceased wife helped him through all the minor health troubles he had had during their time together, Felix was also blessed with a strong immune system. He survived a war and two pandemics brilliantly. In fact, so blessed was he that it was hard to glow in his shadow.

Felix set out to become a centenarian, which he did with ease and in good health. It slowly became obvious that he stood a good chance to become 120, even 122, which scientists regard as the limit of a human life. When Felix turned 100, a few remaining children attended his birthday but when Felix turned 118 it was a lonely business. His last children had expired in their eighties due to a combination of fragile health and the four year lasting nuclear winter following North Korea’s bomb.

The mayor of Felix’s town paid his annual obligatory visit to his city’s oldest man, Felix. Cheerfully the major advised to all that were in the room, a medium sized cooled cell, to enjoy each other ‘whilst they were still alive together’. The director of the retirement home quickly whispered to the mayor that there was no family present. Later, after Felix was hauled to bed by his robotic nurse, the mayor and director walked to the exit exchanging some facts and figures.

‘Any children left?’ the mayor inquired.

‘No, only a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rumor has it that they all moved north’. The mayor was well aware of the ‘moving north’ phrase; it meant escaping global warming by moving closer to the arctic circle.

‘Who pays for his Aircocoon and assisting robot then?’ asked the mayor.

‘He himself’ said the director, ‘Felix is a man of great self-preservation’.  

The director and mayor continued their walk to the exit passing tens of cocoons. Soft neon lights and whooshing sounds of bleeping assistive nurses emanated from the cabins.

Outside a scorching sun burned down on the roof of the former warehouse.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.



P.S. My wood duck composition is ready and available at Etsy.

My shop is at ETSY. Please, feel invited to contact me directly should you be interested in my art.

I am currently very inspired by our recent stay in the Cotswolds. Expect some lovely medieval paintings before the end of this year!

Listen to Intuition

My husband and I were driving through the countryside just around the time of a wonderful pink-orange sunset. I was driving and my husband was sight seeing woodlands and meadows. Suddenly, I decided to drive slower which prompted my husband to ask if anything was wrong.

‘Nothing wrong’, I replied, ‘I do not like to hit crossing deer’.

Not many seconds later a suicidal squad of weasels crossed the road just in front of our car. I braked (reflex), stopped breaking (for fear of being hit by someone driving behind us) and asked full worries to my husband whether I had hit the daring family.

My husband checked his mirror and said he saw no roadkill. Big sigh of relief! That was close.

Later, I recalled that just before breaking for this twilight loving family that I had slowed down, knowing there could be a confrontation with wildlife crossing our road (or, and better, our road crossing their habitat). I interpreted my ‘knowledge’ as a worry for crossing deer.

The point is, one knows. Ones knows more than one knows. That intuitive knowledge, or intuition, is a very subtle knowing, extremely easy to dismiss or being overrule with thoughts, day dreaming, or reasoning. It is not vague or nebulous. But it is subtle. In fact, it is so subtle that one probably and unknowingly fails to act on intuition perhaps 99% of the time when it tries to gets its subtle message across to you. A suitable metaphor would be picking up the song of a nightingale at the time ten lorries are passing.

Driving through the lazy countryside, at sunset, with very little traffic to worry about, I did pick up on intuition and it saved four weasels. I wish that more often I would be able to hear, feel or act on intuition, because it is so beautiful. It makes you feel an actor in a large play in which you are allowed to act with the overview and wisdom of the director.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

P.S. Allow me to show you some recent work. I’ve been very productive which makes me very happy. Happiness equals art-making and vice versa: art-making generates happiness. 😁

For my artwork click here. I have a portfolio of at least 100 artworks. Should you have questions regarding my work, please feel free to contact me.

Stay happy and cool,

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.