Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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Just something fun

column January 2006 Sunday 15 January 2006 In January 2003, I wrote a column about my migraine attacks entitled “Every day a feast day”.  Since then, three years have passed and still every day without a headache is a feast day.  Even now I’m not rid of those migraines.  Today it’s another one of those headache days.  I lie down in bed in a darkened room.  The painkillers don’t do their job, I can’t sleep, and I am thinking about things.  What else could I do?

Reading or watching TV won’t work, sleeping neither, so I lie there, thinking.  “To think is to speak with your soul,” Plato once said, but he thought more about the deeper matters of life.  I think about the windows I should have washed and the cat litter box that needs to be cleaned.  What do you mean, deep discussions with the soul?  Besides, I don’t really want to talk at all, not even with my soul.  I want to feel better, get up, manage the household, and then busy myself with fun stuff.  But no, I lie in bed, ticked off about another lost day.  Then, suddenly, something my sister always said comes to mind.  My sister was ill and when I visited her we always started our conversation with the way she felt that day.  After that, it was my turn to tell her something fun, because there is more to life than illness.  There were happy things, too, that she wanted to hear about, because distraction was good. With the lesson I learned from my sister vividly imprinted in my memory I now lie in bed myself and I want to think about something happy.  I try to remember the last time I laughed, really laughed, laughed out loud.  I remember... it was on the training day of the Voluntary Help Association of the (ex)Detained, when during a skit I played the role of a volunteer who visited a detainee for the very first time.   The role of the detainee was played by a real actor and he was a “macho man”, a real tough guy, one who would not pull any punches, who wasn’t always polite, but who, as it turned out, had a soft heart.  We shared an interesting talk about, among other things, music and writing.  He let me read a moving poem, written in a childlike handwriting with many scratches, but ever so beautiful.  He briefly spoke about his young daughter whom he was not allowed to see.  There was seriousness and sadness during the conversation, but humor prevailed.  Also because of the other subjects, that training day was one of the most interesting days of my life.  When we had to describe our experiences of the day in one word, I said, “enriching”.  Now that I visit a real detainee and talk with him about music, his problems, the fact that he doesn’t see his children, the poems he writes... it’s familiar and recognizable, including the humor and the laughter.  These visits I find to be an enrichment of my life as well.

I lie in bed and think about something beautiful.  About four months ago when my sister and I went on a walk together, she sat in a wheelchair and I was behind it, and she, as a member of a book reading club, told me about the book the members had just read and discussed.  And so we walked in the sun, along the water, avoiding some angry geese.  I received a full description of the book, complete with my sister’s own spicy and clever commentary.  Walking with my sister, talking about books and other matters.  “Fun” is not the right word for such an afternoon.  “Beautiful” and “valuable” are better descriptions.

Then there are those philosophical afternoons with readings about various subjects, such as the art of living.  They are so wonderful!  The Humanitarian Society organizes the readings and I notice, as I’ve done before, that humanitarians actually have a sense of humor!  During talks about the most serious subjects there is still laughter, perhaps so as to not take life and ourselves too seriously.  As I said, the subject is “the art of living”, and the message is one we all should know about:  That we have to make life work.  That we need to find happiness in things we love to do and that make us feel good. That it is a good thing when we volunteer and give of ourselves to others, but it shouldn’t become overwhelming. We ourselves are important, too.  Basically, the message is that we, before our life is over, should realize that we have enjoyed a good and rich life, and not to think:  “It was all for naught.”  That we may enjoy, but in the right way, not the egotistical manner it so often happens:  that enjoyment and possessions are an entitlement.  In my opinion, that has more to do with egocentrism than with the art of living.  The real art of living is one you need to learn, I think, although there are a few lucky ones who master it naturally.

The art of living also consists of the enjoyment of the little things, a small child that laughs, a little bird that sings, the days without headaches, an interesting conversation, and a walk with my sister.  “Tell me something fun,” she often asked me.  She will never ask me again, but she did leave me something very precious; the lesson on how valuable it is to enjoy the simple, little things.  Yes, I think that’s called the art of living.

I lie in bed with a headache and I managed to think about fun and beautiful things.  That is some art of living, too.  As I lie there I arrive at the realization that Plato was right after all:  thinking is speaking with your soul.  Even if you don’t think about serious matters but just something fun.

Text: Dini Commandeur   Translation: Maria O’Neill      January 2006


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