And I wouldn’t have much to say here today if it weren’t for the fact that I consider my holiday part of my foundation programme, rather than an interruption of it.

The central theme is emptiness. I’ve begun to see the value of emptiness, thanks in part due to the personal coach I was assigned as part of my Master’s degree (for which I thank you, EUR, I would recommend this to every student). Put your phone away, tidy up your room, allow yourself to just stare out of the window for a little bit (an hour). During my holiday, I had the time and opportunity to experiment and shape this void, and I will take this experience with me when I embark on the next stage of my foundation programme. In this way, my holiday will serve me well in who I am going to be.

I also came to see the importance of emptiness in a different way, of which I became aware after watching De Tranen van Tito (Tito’s Tears), a series of documentaries made by trauma psychologist Iva Bičanić. The series showcases the complete absence of emptiness in the lives of people living in the Balkans. Instead, there is passion, which takes the form of honey (bal) and blood (kan). Bičanić shows, with unceasing fascination and a slight Croatian accent, how poverty is borne like a yoke, how trauma is swaddled with flags taking the place of rags, how energy is consolidated in blood, to prevent it from being lost. However, she also shows how lightly people in the Balkans bear that yoke, dancing their folk dances, how intense their interactions with each other are, how keen they are on a collective spirit, the sweet honey that used to be ubiquitous back in the old days.

Some emptiness would do these people good. I know from experience that blood will only clot if honey comes first. To put it another way: by attaching less value to the ethno-nationalist delusion that makes the whole population schizophrenic and by living more in the now, one can learn to temper, not to say restrain one’s temper. Usually, however, the stakes are too high, and the present is not exactly rosy, not to say horrible.

But there is something else that can be used: doggedness. Doggedness makes people on the Balkan see emptiness as a denial of the heart. The emptiness, however, is not a vacuum, but a space filled with the ethereal: the emptiness devalues opinion, refutes fact, and makes room for that which flutters, flows and hums: silence, the heartfelt, love.

I shed a tear for my father’s people, but I must also hold up a mirror to us. For as rough as people on the Balkan can be in their passion, so platonic can the Dutch be in their abstraction, in their visionlessness. Emptiness, honey and blood are not proportionally allotted to everyone. Be open, experiment, dose, titrate, let go, fulfil!

Ah, emptiness.

Dino Gacevic column2-Levien.Pauline

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