What a vulgar little people we are, us Dutch. So plainly utilitarian. How Romantic the Brits, or at least how would-be Romantic…

They call this indispensable companion of the bricoleur, the tool of carpenters and cabinet makers, a spirit level.



This sounds like the right name for your writer, who as a carpenter knows that the bookshelves he is making for a friend will carry works filled with sublime thoughts and intense poetry.


The bookcase ready

The intuition of matter…

Within itself the instrument contains a little brother, used to measure wood in small corners as to their being on the level. At the sight of this miniature version sentimental thoughts fill a bricoleur’s breast.


Its Dutch name merely describes the tool’s function for the craftsman. The name, however, is also spiced with a little metaphor befitting a people originating from their lifelong fight against the sea and smaller waters. Waterpas is what we call it, indicating a piece of wood being level with the water’s surface.

We Dutch, we are so down to earth, mixed up in the nitty gritty of everyday life – a watery people, always busy, busy with dikes, canals and pumps. Afraid of the liquid, as if it were the Devil in disguise.

On their sturdy chalk rocks The Brits have no inkling of such fears, always in search of higher heavens, painting sky scapes and creating Romantic poetry of an almost Germanic Sehnsucht.

The great Dutch painters did paint magnificent skies and quite nicely so. Yet, a terra firma always supports these expanses. Only a Brit like Constable could confine a painting to pure sky and clouds as such.


Constable: Cloud Study

It were the Scots who created an unassuming philosophical empiricism. Perhaps their mountains were too rugged to feel safe and happy in those skies – not chalky enough. To a Dutchie the Scots feel more like kinsmen.

Brits were perhaps too much of mixed blood, rather like bastards. They may subsequently have lost their Southern frivolity inherited from the French, yet all the more they long for it. Always seeking the Mediterranean atmosphere, either to find poetry out there or, as tourist, to be saved from puritanical afflictions.

Spirit level – a delicious couple of words.

Sierksma, Montmorillion, 24.8/2015


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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