Thank you for asking about my work. I’ve put the death and dying book on the back burner and started writing another book (about post-psychoanalysis) but it’s slow. I am not much of a plodder and not at all disciplined. I am thinking of using some of my rapidly dwindling savings to rent a writing studio so I could, at least in theory, go there every day with the intention to work on finishing the book.
I am continuing what I think of as ‘the work’, one aspect of which is responding to requests for conversations from people who manage to find me - with those for whom it is useful, on a regular basis.
This happens in a number of contexts. One is a small posthumanist group that meets weekly on Sunday mornings, another is an ongoing attempt to think about and practice a kind of collaborative post-psychoanalysis with an extraordinary person that I have been working with in different ways for almost two years.
There is also my role of coordinator of and participant in the so called huiskamergesprekken for the Coöperatie Laatste Wil. This is where people get together to talk about what it means to prepare to end their lives and to be prepared. There are also one to one conversations with people who have an active wish to die, or rather, to be dead.
This is worthwhile and satisfying work. Somehow or other it has also come to be that I regularly have very interesting conversations with people who have experienced, or would like to experience, a connection with, let’s call it, for the want of a better word, the Big Thing (which is Nothing, het Niets, but which is also Every Thing that ever was and will be and could be — in my book I called it ‘the ten to the power of five hundred universes and the eleven dimensions’.
As an aside, I came across the work of the Belgian philosopher and novelist Patricia de Martelaere who writes so eloquently about het Niets and then I realised I knew her name from one of Christa Anbeek’s books, Overlevingskunst. (One of the great joys of being more or less bi-lingual is all the texts you have access to in the second language which are not available in the first language — and in addition sometimes a better translation of a text in another language is available.)
What’s interesting about the people that have not experienced such a connection but feel a kind of longing for it, they yearn for it, but they don’t know what to call it — and the ones that have experienced of such a connection, is that they don’t know what to call it either. They don’t have words for it and if they don’t want to call it God or use some other name or concept from another religion, they are quite literally lost for words. They are not even certain that what they have experienced is real. And so when you say, it’s real! and I and others know this feeling, and you talk about it with them, it is very meaningful.
I wonder how many people are out there who have such experiences but they don’t know how to think about them, let alone talk about them. And people translate their experiences into stories using the words and metaphors that are available to them. What kind of experience did Bernadette actually have at Lourdes? And anyway, there is no objective reality. Unfortunately this idea has been … shall we say highjacked or appropriated here…? by greedy, cynical, power-hungry men who use it as an excuse to lie to people and create chaos.
What a great topic to do research on! but I have gone completely cold on the idea of doing another PhD. It would only be worthwhile to do it at an institution which is committed to a progressive theology/religious studies approach and encourages unusual and innovative methodologies. So, not VU ha ha. Perhaps such an institution doesn’t exist anymore in these increasingly conservative times when it seem like ‘batten down the hatches’ is the prevalent modus operandi.
And so this is what more or less fills my days — also plenty of empty days come, which I am not entirely unhappy about :)
ps I am posting a redacted version of this letter on my website, just because it is sometimes useful and good for someone else to be able to read someone’s letter, not that i am saying this will be, but isn’t it good to make something possible? isn’t that all we can do in our so-called lives? to make spaces where something can unfold, where some things can connect, interact, intra-act. i said to some people today, this is what i do now, this is all i can do and i remain radically optimistic that to create possibilities, to make spaces, and to listen, is my ‘calling’ — such as it is.#letters