My wonderful brother Maarten, who animated the cover of my upcoming Dutch book for me earlier, has made this all-too-cute animation of the cover of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’!
Thank you, Maarten!
Anyone who wants their own covers animated, or who wants to hire him for a cool animation project, or who just wants to see more of his wonderful work, please visit his site maartenisaakdeheer.com.
Today, FedEx delivered a box full of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ to my door!
My ideal vacation? GOING TO SCHOOL. Well, not just ANY school. My husband and I are enjoying a week’s stay in Christ Church College, the biggest college of Oxford University, where we are taking classes every morning on the subject of English Country Houses.
But we’re mainly here for the food, which is extremely good, and served in the astonishingly beautiful Hall that served as a model for the Great Hall in Hogwarts.
Many places in the college have been used to shoot the Harry Potter movies. It’s easy to see why: there’s a mixture of imagination and magic here. In all of Oxford actually: it’s the city that boasts the most published writers per square mile; it’s here that Middle Earth took shape, and Narnia – and now it’s home to us, and this is where we’re staying:
(I figured out this balcony is the ACTUAL balcony from Brideshead Revisited – where a drunken Anthony Blanche recites poetry from)
Couldn’t be happier.
The classes are wonderful, all about old english houses, why people built them, how they lived in them, how they treated their staff. It’s illuminated by many slides and films. We sit in the back and are secretly doodling, like we did in high school. Except now we don’t get punished for it, but admired by our kind classmates. Which is nice.
Here’s what I doodled so far:
This programme is called The Oxford Experience and I should really let the whole world know it’s an excellent way to spend your holidays: it’s a 5-star hotel combined with the best teachers you’ve ever known, amongst an international crowd that is enthusiastic and interesting.
But I think I won’t.
This will be our secret holiday (re)treat for years to come, wouldn’t want it spoiled by hordes of other people. So: DON’T COME! It’s Horrible! And who in his right mind would want to go to SCHOOL in their vacations anyway…?!
Everyone is on vacation. Officially, I have been “free” for a few weeks now. That’s what the word “vacation” literally means, by the way: “to be free”, from the Latin word vacare – also the root of vacuum, which is a space devoid of anything. But I don’t feel very free at all, especially not on the inside. To continue the metaphor of vacationing as “emptying” – I feel like I’m trying to dig a hole in the ocean. Yes, a lot of Work is tossed out of the daily routine, but immediately Daily Stuff has flowed in and replaced it with small worries, aches & pains. Nope, I’m not in vacation-mode at all yet.
My inner unrest is made worse by the general imperative, shouted at me from commercials, billboards and through the social media, that THIS IS THE TIME TO RELAX! HURRY UP! SUMMER’S HERE! ENJOY YOURSELF! NO STRESS! OR ELSE!!
I must forget about getting a vacation. I’m not going to be “free” from my own thoughts & routines. A better approach is to consider this period the Holidays – and I really mean Holy Days. (called that because in the Olden Days people only got days off that were religion-related).
What did people do on holy days? It was not a matter of being free, but of doing something ELSE than the daily routine. To find an occupation that is a bit more edifying than just work. Something that lifts you up and gives you a new perspective.
When you look at it this way, everything can be Holy. As long as it gets you away from the ordinary.
This Summer, I’m not going to be Vacationing – I’ll be Substitioning.
Thanks guys at NBM for fixing the plug-in so I can post this animated cover of my newest book in The Netherlands!
The animation was done by my brother, Maarten Isaäk de Heer.
You can click on the image to get the machine to start.
I hope the content of the book lives up to this cover…
This comic book is about science, and I’ve been working on it all of the past year. It will appear in Holland in October 2012. If it ever appears in the US (pending the success of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’), it will probably be called ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’. More information (in Dutch) can be found when you click here.
A friend of mine used to be a real asshole. He was rude, self-centred and boorish. At a certain point, he decided this attitude wasn’t working for him, and he chose to behave in a more pleasant manner. He’s been a nice guy for years now. “Deep down, I know I’m an asshole,” he says of himself, “But since I don’t act like one, doesn’t that mean my nature has changed? Am I still an asshole or not?”
Different philosophers have different things to say about this issue of True Nature. Plato would probably hold that in the absolute realm of ideas, his Asshole-ness is a fixed given. Aristotle might argue that True Nature is what someone is “meant to BECOME” – so was my friend meant to become an asshole, or someone who chose not to act like one?
The best thing I have heard about True Nature comes not from a philosopher, but from a children’s book author. “It is our CHOICES that show what we truly are, far more than our ABILITIES.”
Can you guess who said this?
It was Professor Dumbledore, speaking to Harry Potter, when he wonders how much of the Dark Side he has in him, seeing how many talents he has in common with his dreaded enemy Voldemort.
So ask yourself: what are the choices that shaped your True Nature?
Do we have Free Will? Anyone who grew up in a western civilization will probably answer YES to that question. Of course I have Free Will! Am I not completely free to decide what I will do or not do in the next second? I could choose to get up and go to the toilet, OR make myself a snack in the kitchen, OR I could even go out of the house, into the car and ride to Paris to start a new life!
But it’s not very likely that last thing will happen. Why not? Well, I’m just not that kind of person. So, my Free Will is limited by who I AM.
What makes me who I am? DNA and past experiences. Those two together seem to predestine me to DO certain things and NOT do a whole lot of others. So how much of a Free Will do I have then? My choices are a lot more limited than they seem at first.
I can’t change who I AM – that is fixed, by my genetics and by everything that I have experienced in my life so far. Does that also mean I can’t change what I will do in the next second? Is every future action also fixed? Nope. If my genes and background have predestined me to be afraid of heights, for instance, that does not prevent me from deciding to climb the Eiffel Tower tomorrow. I probably won’t. But maybe I have grown sufficiently fed up with my phobia. Maybe I feel I should confront my fears and overcome them. That might make me decide to do a course on “coming out on top of your vertigo” – and that will change who I am, which will change the range of choices I have in the future.
Maybe we shouldn’t call it FREE Will but FLEXIBLE Will. You can’t do something that’s completely opposite to who you are destined to be – but you can make a choice that nudges your personality into another direction, which opens up new possibillities to choose from.
(Unless it is already a fixed thing whether we are a person who can nudge their personality or not. In that case everything is predestined, after all.)
What do I do for a living? I’m a drawer. Funny word that. Makes me imagine small furniture.
But there’s more to the word “drawing”. It also means “to bring, take, or pull out; to bring toward oneself, as by inherent force or influence”.
I’ve been drawing professionally for over ten years now, and one of the biggest breakthroughs for me was when I realized I had to visualize the thing I wanted to draw before putting pencil to paper. The more detailed I imagined it, the better the drawing.
I like to think of drawing as “pulling things into existence”. One minute it’s nowhere, just an intangible vision in my head – the next it’s out there, first tangible on paper, then conjuring images in other people’s heads. It’s magic, when you think about it.
Greek philosopher Plato taught that the visible world is merely a shadow of the higher world of Ideas. When I draw, I have a little understanding of what that might mean.
Since I started this blog, I’m paying more attention to other bloggers and the choices they make. There are promotional blogs, ranting blogs, look-at-our-kids-blogs, look-at-our-cats-blogs. Blogs with endearing content in gruesome, flashy designs, with or without soundtracks. Blogs with superficial content in very slick layouts. And ever since Blogging became all the rage, there is an increasing amount of stranded blogs.
Blogs have lifespans. A blog like this, essentially started to help sell my book, will probably peter out in about a year. Blogs by doting parents on their firstborn usually don’t survive the birth of the second child. Blogging artists get burned out or lose interest after their addiction to “the stats” fades away.
There’s one blogging author that I’ve followed for a while with great interest now: Neil Gaiman.
He was one of the first to start, in 2001, and has been going steadily ever since. What’s his trick, I wondered, how does he do it? Well, I guess he is first of all a writer who loves to write – be it novels, comics or blog entries. And second of all, there seems to be a transparency and innocence to his writings – he genuinely likes sharing stuff from his life, about his kids, his dogs, his bees, and in recent years about his wife Amanda Palmer, who is equally accessible in all kinds of online accounts of her exciting life as a performer/artist/musician.
Fearlessness, is a word that comes to mind.
In an age where warnings about putting personal information on the internet are part of children’s education (& rightly so), some people don’t hesitate to share their intimate thoughts, feelings and experiences with the whole wide world. These are probably the same people who greet strangers in the street. Who exchange pleasantries when you wait with them in line. Who will return your wallet when they find it. Social people.
It touches me and gives me hope for mankind.
(Could I be such a person…? Oh no, I’m way to anti-social – I prefer to hide away in my secret sanctuary, working on secret projects; and then, once in a while, I’ll jump out shouting TA-DAAH! and show the world what I’ve made – before I slink off into the shadows again…)
(It’s a good thing I married someone who is the same way – and now I’ve made a perfect link to the second part of this blog-entry, which contains Thoughts about Marriage:)
Yesterday, Neil Gaiman wrote on his blog about how he reads to his wife, and how she often falls asleep when he does.
It seems like a harmless enough thing to mention – yet it struck me with the raw intimacy of such a moment. The image somehow reveals the heart of their marriage: the interest in each other’s work (he is reading her his newest book), the feeling of ease and familiarity (falling asleep to the sound of husband’s voice) and the atmosphere of trust and understanding (evidently the fact that she falls asleep while listening to his work does not invoke a row – “Well thank you for this blunt reaction to my work – if it bores you that much why don’t you just say so!”).
The essence of a marriage captured in one image.
I have such an image for my marriage with Yiri, too. It’s this:
Yiri wears clunky, unyielding army boots which he laces up real tight – they give him the necessary support, we walk a lot. Getting them on takes a while, but taking them off, with feet swollen, and often exhausted from whatever adventure we had Outside, can be a regular Ordeal. So I take them off for him. We sit on the bed, his leg on my lap, and I unlace his shoes while we chat a bit.
Of course he could do it himself. Of course I have better things to do (I’m always involved in some all-important project, or so I think). But I go out of my way to make life a little easier for him. To add just that little bit of luxury of being “waited on”. To have a very basic, physical interaction – which to me, to us, has become very intimate.
That is the essence of our marriage for me – at least, my half of it.
(Yiri’s half involves handing me lots of cups of tea and chocolate. Oh, and coloring my books for me, although he says he does not do that for Love but for the World, which he thinks will be a better place with my work in it. See why I love him?)
Note that I don’t say: Essence of Marriage, but of OUR Marriage – I think the meaning of a marriage is different for everyone. People sometimes seem to think that Marriage is a kind of concept you have to conform to when you tie the knot. My (our) experience is that marriage takes shape over the years – exactly because of little interactions like the one above, which we consciously cultivate.
(I think there should be more kinds of marriage available to people. It’s nice to aspire to a marriage-until-death-do-us-part, but it’s much more practical to focus on clearer goals. There should be Marriage-until-the-children-leave-home, and Marriage-until-the-sex-is-gone, and Marriage-for-just-the-summer. People could get extensions if they both wanted to. This way, they would probably pay more attention to each other in the long run)
(But I digress)
So, what I’m trying to say is: Blogging, like Marriage, is a very personal thing and takes shape only according to the rules that we ourselves set by them.
And since my blog started as a promotional tool, I’ll end with the admonition to Go Buy My Book! this September. Philosophy – a Discovery in Comics - it’s funny and thought-provoking and a Labor of Love, conceived, gestated and colored all within the holy bonds of matrimony.
‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ is actually the first of three books I’ve made in the past three years. The second was on Religion, and the third one is on Science. This third one is now in the last stages of being finished and will come out in Dutch around the same time the Philosophy-book will be published in the US. Right now, I’m wrapping things up and starting to think about the upcoming promotion.
This is the cover of the Dutch ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’:
With a bit of luck, it will also be available in the US in the future, as ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’.
My brother Maarten (him with the big nose from my last blog entry) found it very inspiring and unleashed his amazing powers of animation on it – he made it into a moving, chugging, huffing & puffing machine that you can activate yourself: just click on this sentence and it will take you to his site where the animation is.
Have fun – I know I did!