when i found my-so-called-self looking in vain for an 'about' button on a website and thinking every website should have an 'about' button, i naturally thought about my own website, which does have an 'about' button but there's not much there when you click on it. this is because i don't really know what to put on an 'about' page. lately i am finding that i have less and less to say about my-so-called-self. i am more interested in other people, and things. 1

the old 'about' page said :

ah yes. the 'about' page.
my name is johannes klabbers and i am …
what am i actually …?
what do people who click on the about link on a webpage want?

coincidentally, or not, the website with the missing 'about' button was that of the writer györgy konrád who died last year. konrád said or wrote at least two things which i find interesting. one of them is that life is a slow suicide. as to the other, i've been unable to find an english translation only a dutch one and it is difficult to render this in english because of the presence of a deceptively simple dutch word, 'zin'.


zin has several meanings, one of which is 'meaning' but it is a different sense of meaning, and another is in fact sense. it is also used when you feel like something, like a snack or watching a movie — or when you don't feel like doing something. so when you ask what is the zin of life, a number of different but related questions are being asked at the same time. it is also a question about sense making or sense giving. how do you make sense of life? what is the sense of living? and what gives your life meaning? what is the meaning of life? what is the point of life? one might even argue that it contains a layer of meaning which is about what makes you feel like you want to keep living.

when the question is asked of people, györgy konrád said, everyone answers with their life story. (‘op de vraag naar de zin van het leven antwoordt iedereen met zijn levensloop.’) another dead white male writer, a dutch one, jules deelder, famously said : ‘de zin van het leven ben je zelf' — that is, the meaning of life is yourself.


for me, another white male writer, although not dead quite yet but it won't be long, if someone asked me what the meaning of life is, my response would be, in one sense, the exact inverse of jules deelder's. it is the self which prevents you from knowing/feeling, or rather experiencing, what the point or meaning or sense of life is.

this idea is one espoused by countless mystics and philosophers of various kinds at various times over the last five thousand years, and some of them have led to organised religions with vast bureaucracies and wealth which is one of the reasons i don't belong to any of them. and it is why i think the biggest mistake you can make, if you are interested in these questions, is to join a religion. at least konrád, deelder and i would agree on this, i think : no one else can tell you what the meaning of life is.

ultimately that is what i would say my website is about, and it is also the subject of my first book — and the second, if it's ever finished. if it is much of what will be there has been published on one of my websites or another, in a more or less rudimentary form, over the past few years.

if you're interested in having a conversation with me, i am interested too! please get in touch.

johannes klabbers



1 is it annoying you that i keep saying 'my-so-called-self' instead of 'myself'? does it make you want to scream? i like making the reader want to scream, so that's great.