My Triumphant Return

Mark Twain said… “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  I don’t think that is true.

Having just returned from ten days of wandering through beautiful gardens, consuming magnificent beers in ancient Trappist Monasteries and stuffing myself with exquisitely prepared meals in gorgeous locations I find that, if anything, I’m more of a prejudiced bigot now than when I left.

Popeye The Sailor said… “I am what I am and that’s all what I am” and I’m going to have to agree with him on that.  Standing in line for one hour and forty-five minutes at the airport just outside the capital of the once greatest nation on earth just to get to see a Customs Agent who treated me like I was an agent of some Al-Qaeda sleeper cell brought it all back in spades to old Mrs. N. like the snap of a rubber band up the side of your head.  I’m home.

Just moments before I was a part of a magic act that involved me and a chair that flew through the air at over 500 miles an hour.  I returned from a land that was flatter than flat, manicured, and inhabited by people who were not obese, did not drive pick-up trucks and did not dedicate their lives to the endless accumulation of “stuff” that someone on TV told them would make them happy, but, never did.

For a full week and a half I didn’t see a Jesus fish sticker on the back of a car.  I didn’t see a pick-up truck.  I didn’t see a State Trooper, County Sheriff or local police car lurking behind a billboard… I didn’t even see a billboard.  Never spotted a fat kid with a video game in hand.  Not once did a stranger come up to me and ask if I had heard “The Good News” about Jesus.  I saw no litter in the streets.  Public transportation was clean, fast and ubiquitous.  Compared to the Capitalist Paradise I call home it was… different in ways I admit I was not quite prepared for.  It’s going to take Old Mrs. N. some time to process all this now that she is home.  I will be out in the garden this weekend.  There will be lots of time alone to think, to sterpulate, and to go over what I have experienced and what, perhaps, I have learned.  It’s too soon to try to make sense of it all now.  To early to go jumping to conclusions without having lengthy conversations with myself first, out among the magnolia leaves and seedlings.  It all hasn’t jelled yet.  It isn’t ready to be handled, let alone handed to anyone else.

I can give you this.  I learned that The Netherlands is a country that was made.  Only 7% of the land that makes up the country was there to begin with.  The rest was under water, or, under water at least part of the time.  As the saying goes… “God made the world, but, the Dutch made Holland”.   They did it over centuries by digging canals, building dikes and using over ten thousand windmills to pump out the water.  In the process a culture developed that put a high value on engineering skill, hard work and never, ever, disobeying the rules.  Showing off is considered exceptionally bad form and children are taught from the very beginning of their education that rules are meant to be followed without exception.  Life in The Netherlands is nothing at all like life in these United States.  I mean… Nothing at all.

I’m back now and so much of what I see and hear seems stupid.  Not that it didn’t seem stupid before, but, it’s even worse now knowing that here we sit, telling each other that Americans are the “exceptional” people and that everything we do is not only better, but, the only right way to do things.

Again and again and again Mrs. N. finds herself embarrassed at what it means to be human.  The other side of the coin is drinking beer in a Trappist Monastery…

Wandering through a garden of 7,000,000 tulips…

IMG_0630

Walking the streets of ancient towns that are clean and lively…

Drinking beer again…

and again…

and again…

Now, Mrs. N. doesn’t want any of you to get the mistaken notion that all she did in the Netherlands was drink beer and stuff her face with good food.  That would be far from the truth.  So, I will close this little piece of nonsense, this little slice of the absurdity that is my life with a picture of how one trains a tree to grow into the shape of a cube.  No doubt, like myself, many of you have always wanted to know.   Take a good look.

Now you do.

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My Triumphant Return

  1. Sounds like you had a nice reprieve during your time away – and thanks for the pictures. I look forward to doing some more traveling at some point. I would love to ask people of varied places: “what is a meaningful life to you?” I wonder if the answers would be in any way surprising.

  2. We seem to think a lot alike Brad, and I don’t mean that as a compliment to either of us, but, the answer to your question about a meaningful life was surprising and quite enlightening to me with regard to how they see it in the Netherlands. It was shockingly different to life in America and what Americans want and how culture has shaped everything.
    My son-in-law is a scientist who designs electron microscopes and my daughter has degrees in philosophy and sociology. Their circle of friends over there are mostly all highly educated people living and working abroad. Brad… they don’t want to come back!

    Life is very expensive, the taxes are very high, their home is a little over one-third the size of the last one they owned here, there is one closet in the whole place, they have only one vehicle and much, much less “stuff” than they once had. But, in my daughters words… “We feel so much safer and people are so much happier.” Their oven is smaller than my microwave and their refrigerator is minute. But, shopping for wonderful produce, meats and bread and cheeses is a short walk away. They have a beer tap in the house. My grandchildren walk safely to beautiful parks on their own and are getting a magnificent education. It’s clean. No one has any stickers on their cars advertising what college they went to or what religion or organization they support. Public transportation is a dream. Every place you care to look it’s manicured and beautiful. I don’t blame them at all for not wanting to come back.

    As I said, I’m still processing, but, so far the conclusion I come to is that they are LIVING, not busy acquiring things they are told will make them happy. There is no bragging in the Dutch, or, showing off. The locals we interacted with universally seem to think Americans are insane. I think they are right… and it’s a culturally induced mental illness fueled by the deep rumble of chronic discontent that capitalism MUST keep burning to keep the masses chasing that next new thing that will finally make them happy. But, of course, it never does. Add to that the terror inflicted upon us all by the corporate media to keep us at each others throats enabling the owners to control us like sheep… and there you have it.

    I bit the bullet yesterday and ordered Schumaker’s “The Age of Insanity”. I had no choice but to stop being so cheap. I also ordered Tallis’ “In Defense of Wonder” and “Man Beast & Zombie”. I’m out of books, the shakes are starting to set in.

    Always a pleasure communicating with you
    Be Well Brad
    Mrs. N.

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