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Reading Aloud 2

… for I am my own fever, my own pain.

Aldous sang us a love-song from the time of the Renaissance, a man complaining about not being able to get away from ‘love-sickness’ and recognizing that ‘I am my own fever/pain’. I drew our friends’ attention to this remarkable degree of self-knowledge. They agreed. I thought, this was easy and came forward with the next proposition : It means we cause our own problems. Nobody else we can blame for them. They agreed. I was surprized Aldous didn’t place the responsibility for the man’s plight squarely on the shoulders of the girl in question. Maybe he had agreed without thinking. I was encouraged to propose : When we have problems with hurt feelings, it’s our own fault ! He was up in arms now. This was going too far. One can’t be held responsible for that. It’s the responsibility of those who do the hurting ! I said, everybody is responsible for himself ! I also maintained that any susceptibility to being hurt was a weakness. No, he said, it’s inherent in human nature, it’s an ability, you’d have to go through life with the skin of a rhino to avoid being hurt, insensitive to the extreme!

Maybe we can’t avoid being hurt, but it’s not desirable. It creates a bad atmosphere and difficult relationships. It can’t be helped, he said, if somebody hurts you, it’s not your fault. What can you do about it? I said we can control our feelings by analyzing them. When I’m hurt, something has happened to me that I don’t like. As simple as that. Which doesn’t mean that I have to accept it. But no reason to develop hurt feelings. Why bring in emotions ? Ask the person who’s done the hurting, Aldous said.

He then told us about the dangers of a closed mind. A good scientist will always keep an open mind. He admitted there are a lot of bad ones around. As for him, he has had to change his views about homeopathy, for example, because he had found an article in a scientific journal describing sophisticated experiments corroborating the claims of this branch of medicine. He was now led to believe, he said, that there might well be a lot to it after all, things that science had not yet grasped. I told him that the efficacy of homeopathy had been known and made use of for two hundred years and that in my view he was exactly these two hundred years behind. He said, science asks why. He didn’t want to blindly believe without a convincing demonstration of some kind. The danger of abuse, of placebo effect, etc. He had every reason to be sceptical. Science worked slowly sometimes, but surely, producing satisfying results as in this case, he said. I still thought he was two hundred years behind, able to believe only what science allowed him to.

I asked, can you form a judgment of something that hasn’t been proved scientifically ? We have to be careful, he said, obviously you can’t. You can consider the factor of probability, of course … But until something is proved, we can’t say much. As far as I know he had until recently not only been sceptical of homeopathy, but had openly scoffed at it … Of course, he tells me frankly, I scoff at religion. I like his openness. At least I know where I am with him.

Religion and science are, according to him, closely related. The Turin shroud was an excellent example of cooperation between the two disciplines, he said. Maybe science could render religion a great service in this case … Establishing the exact age, reconstructing the body by means of a computer, it would be very interesting to see what the findings were. One or two people present interrupted him, asking what the point of this investigation was. I don’t remember what he answered, nothing that stuck in my memory. He was undeterred, though, and went on for quite a while. It probably went over my head, for I couldn’t help asking spontaneously, that is, without premeditation, what the connection between science and religion really was. Of course, that was what we had been learning all this time, I realized too late. My silly question appeared to frustrate him and I was sorry. He shook his head at me and told me, I was of the nineteenth century.

My husband likes to bring in Buddhism and challenged Aldous on the subject of ‘chakra’. Was this phenomenon scientifically acceptable? He said, what are ‘chakras’? Can anybody show me? How many? seven? why not eight, nine, ten? He was about to scoff at the idea openly, but held back, I suppose just in case science would be able to provide evidence in later years.

There is nothing else I remember of this evening, except that Yan sat a long way from me. It was just as well. He didn’t get a chance to ask my husband’s permission to go out with me. I’m looking forward to this concert, the programme is wonderful.