To Be or Not To Be
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!
~A Wise Man Said~
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~My Photo Blog~
...Worth a Thousand Words
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It’s funny how we look at fulfilment from different perspectives. For some, a great job is fulfilling, for some doing something on their own is fulfilling, for some being free to spend time with family is fulfilling, for some earning enough money, for some fame, for some creative recognition, for some doing social work… the list is probably as long as the number of people you talk to… but it’s funny, isn’t it? How we are all so different, coming from the same mould…
Which brings me to ask myself, what is my idea of fulfilment? A lot of people probably don’t ask themselves this question or reflect on it. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. Does awareness about a thing increase or decrease its enjoyment? I mean, if I am feeling ‘fulfilled’, do I need to have defined my idea of fulfilment to myself to be able to have this feeling? I know I am going into complicated territory, where the question of ‘conscious’ comes into play. Is ‘happiness’ , ‘fulfilment’ etc a matter of the conscious mind? Or is it possible for us to experience these feelings subconsciously, without entering into debate with ourselves of what is it that makes us truly fulfilled or happy?
Well! I do show a tendency to meander into philosophical pathways even when the subject at hand is starkly practical! J So where was I? Yes, what is my idea of fulfilment? Maybe to be all that I can be… is that cryptic? Maybe that’s just as well. Probably fulfilment is driven by the subconscious and to articulate it, in precise words, is not even possible… can you tell why your face lights up when it rains or why you feel low watching the sun set?
As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said,
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I really MUST catch up more on the blog, or so I keep telling myself before I realise how the months are going by…
I keep reading about how people must find the happiness within, and how we tend to depend overmuch on others and outside definitions of our own self and outside validations of our own worth and outside love of us. Apparently, if we loved ourselves enough, others would love us enough too. Not to get into the technicalities of the argument – sadly, everything boils down to an argument with me J – but it makes sense in a roundabout way, I guess. If you loved yourself, you’d project a more healthy image of yourself, and that would attract people to you and maybe a positive cycle unfolds. And suppose you did not love yourself that much (incidentally, how do you love yourself less?), you would project a rather unattractive image of yourself, and that would generate a negative cycle. Hmm.. makes me wonder, is it all about projection? Isn’t there a reality beyond that? Doesn’t validation and warmth and positive expression and emotional support from near and dear ones lead to a more positive image of oneself in one’s own mind which again triggers that cycle of positivity? How does this love for oneself happen in the first place—I mean, why do some people love themselves more and some less…? Could it be because the first received that kind of validation from outside from childhood and second didn’t? … all I am saying is, while looking within yourself for happiness and love and life-giving emotions is all good, one cannot reject the role people in our lives play in making us feel like a more happy and loved human being … I don’t know, maybe I am far from reaching the stage of detachment people talk about… I am unable to envision a state of happy non-attachment, completely immersed in the self.
Leaving with a poem...
The Night has a Thousand Eyes~ Francis William Bourdillon
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Does anybody, ANYBODY, have anything else to talk about, nay, obsess about these days? Gone are the days people used to talk about lack of food—I am sure there were those days—today, it’s all about the problem of plenty of food and nothing to eat. You pick this, you see calories, you see that, you see calories, you eat something, you groan about the calories, you don’t eat something, you blame the calories…I don’t know about the global recession but I sure know we’re all into one kind of global obsession.
I was talking to a friend today and that’s when it hit me. Everybody is talking about the same thing! Normal, healthy, fine looking people who neither are nor claim to be aspiring to become supermodels, are all talking about how to lose weight, how to control weight, how to eat healthy, what to eat healthy, what the dietician told them, why they aren’t able to catch up on yoga, how difficult it is to make time for evening walks...get the drift? Now, I have nothing against people working on being healthy, absolutely nothing, it’s a good thing of course and all that. But, when I look into the overall aspect of these multiple conversations, I really wonder if being healthy is at the heart of all this hullaballoo about losing weight. Though everyone seems to be convincing themselves that it’s all about being healthy and fit, it just doesn’t seem as simple as that. There was a very recent study that came out with facts to show that being fat doesn’t necessarily mean being unhealthy and being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you would live longer—but I doubt anyone took this study seriously and started eating what they wanted to, because, you know, you could still die.
Then, what exactly does this obsession with ‘diet and exercise’ boil down to? Again, like I said, I am not against diet and exercise; in fact, I am as much on this boat as anybody else. What I am really trying to understand is, is this obsession with diet and exercise really what we like to think it is, a desire to be healthy and fit, or is it something very different, a desire to be thin and attractive or at least the current concept of attractive? Mind you, I am just digging into motives and not judging them or evaluating them at this point: Are we avoiding eating what we like and when we like because we are afraid of developing some form of health ailment at some later stage, or are we simply afraid of developing a paunch and not looking great in that dress next week?!
Well, to cut a long story short, the thing that really bothers me is this… does over-obsession with food, especially if driven by current ideas of what is deemed as attractive and what isn’t, healthy? When healthy and fine looking people worry too much about what to eat and what not to, and stop enjoying life in the process, is that healthy? When people are made to feel less attractive because they don’t conform to current ideas of ideal weight, is that healthy? … I mean, in the perceived drive towards ‘healthy’, which is just a euphemism for ‘thin’ really, aren’t we globally creating a culture of obsession with weight and food and calories and diet and thinness that is extremely unhealthy?
Think about it…
Friday, January 18, 2013
“Whatever with the past has gone,
The best is always yet to come.”
~ Lucy Larcom
Nice thought to have when another birthday comes along!
To me, more than New Year’s, it is the onset of this day that triggers a lot of introspection, reflection, anticipation, some excitement, some anxiety… a mix of feelings. Not entirely consciously, I start ticking things on an imaginary list of positives and negatives… things that got accomplished and things that didn’t. Things I did and things I failed to do. Things that luckily happened and things that didn’t happen for me. Where I stood when the year began and where I stand now, and am I richer in any way or poorer? Not in material terms of course, though that counts too, especially in today’s world.
When I consider the recent horrifying things around me (Delhi rape case?), and the utter misery that surrounds me (lived in Mumbai?), I feel blessed in thousands of ways. Having a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, people to call my own, great work to stimulate me, bosses to appreciate me…—I mean, how kind has providence been to me! Yes, there are some things I should like to have very much. Who doesn’t wish for at least one or two things, which they simply know would make life worth it?
It’s good to wish for, want for, dream for, desire for your favourite things. I for one believe in the positive power of dreams… and the power of holding onto and working on dreams. They come true when you aren’t looking, in the strangest of ways, at the funniest of times, when you have even almost given up…illuminating that little glimmer of hope you have sincerely held in your heart all along.
The best is indeed always yet to come! J
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love” — H. W. Mabie
Indeed! It is that time of the year when you feel blessed just to be alive, to have the love and loving of so many, to be a part of a warm circle of fellowship, to be something in the universal scheme of things…
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas (belated) and a fantastic, brilliant, gorgeous New Year! J
P.S: May the New Year make me a more prolific blogger!
Monday, November 05, 2012
Is the butcher’s sin the greater,
Because it is his hand that chops the head?
Is the hangman more to blame,
Because it is his arm that tightens the thread?
Is the mind a greater culprit or the machine that bids its call
Does the deed merit punishment and thought nothing at all?
Monday, October 29, 2012
Seems like I have been on one of my unintended hiatuses!
I intend to come back with some concrete thoughts in a bit, but just to break this long silence… here’s a little something…
But do thy worst to steal thyself away
But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
For term of life thou art assured mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end.
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend:
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
O what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die!
But what’s so blessed-fair that fears no blot?
Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.
Monday, August 13, 2012
A man's wife goes with him to the door,
His friends go a few steps more.
At the corpse-ground there's only the stretcher.
After that, swan, you're on your own
Recently happened to read the Bijak of Kabir, translated by Linda Hess. What I found most surprising is that someone as early as in the 15th century, in India, could have had such modern and liberating thoughts, on religion, on society, on man, on God…
In Kabir’s own words:
I've burned my own house down,
The torch is in my hand.
Now I'll burn down the house of anyone
Who wants to follow me
The verses may not have a poetic quality, but they are alive with the purpose of awakening man from his earthly composure and making him aware of a higher purpose, or at least to question his purpose beyond materiality...
Thought of sharing this on the occasion of Independence Day, day after. Probably one cannot know what it is to be really free till one has experienced a state of being un-free… and then we sometimes believe we’re free but not really free… till we are bound by shackles that stop us from being true to ourselves, stop us from authentically expressing ourselves, stop us from doing the right thing, stop us from seeing the right thing done… what does it mean to be free if not to be free in spirit but only in body? Maybe these are things to introspect on… as Independence Day dawns on us…
In other news, I will be in Bangalore over this long holiday. Looking forward to it! J
Saturday, July 28, 2012
It seems frightfully long since I last wrote! Well, let me try and avoid these long hiatus-es; I don’t know if you don’t like them, but I sure don’t… and if any of you out there enjoys reading through my thoughts, give me a shout-out once in a while, will you? It would be encouraging to see some human comments among those bots J
Several thoughts rushing through my head at this moment. I am a bit wary of speaking about the same things over and over again… the trouble is, even if the point is a bit different, it’s so interlinked with other points I have gone over before, that it could almost sound like the same point. For example, when I end up in a debate with someone or let’s say with 2-3 people, and those 2-3 people are batting on one side (I am no cricket buff so if this analogy is all wrong, it would be quite natural)—okay, so if they’re on one side and I am alone on the other, what should I feel? Now, take life. Sometimes in a situation you can feel you’re all alone, in your conviction, in your principles, in your attitude to dealing with things, and you know deep within yourself that you’re absolutely right, but at that moment there is really no way to prove it, and you’re made to feel all wrong, what do you do? How do you stick by your guns when the natural result would be alienating everyone else? How do you trudge through life, alone, with head held high, belief deep-rooted, but nobody by your side? I think great people do manage to do that, and one day they are vindicated, but I ask myself How and Where do they get that courage from.
Another thing I was thinking about today, triggered by a newspaper article, though always a topic of interest to me is, Ego vs. Humility. I say “vs.” not because I feel they’re mutually exclusive or in competition with each other—in fact, quite the contrary. I say “vs.” because the general perception seems to be this or the other—either you have ego or you’re humble, and you can’t be both.
Now, I think there are several ways to understand “ego” —there is a positive aspect of ego and a negative aspect, and to my mind, having that positive aspect of ego is absolutely essential to being a person of character. That positive aspect could be defined as a “sense of self”, a “sense of identity of oneself”, a “self-esteem”… a person without these, according to me, cannot claim a higher character. Whereas, there is that negative aspect of ego, which like anything taken to an extreme, is bad… and it could be understood with words like ‘pride’, ‘egoism’, ‘self-centeredness”, “narcissism” and so on. The problem is, most people seem to perceive “ego” itself as bad as they confuse ego with its negative aspects, not realizing that a healthy dose of ego is absolutely essential to developing a healthy personality.
I for one don’t understand the whole idea of negating or subjugating one’s ego or identity or sense of self, like some spiritual gurus seem to recommend. Maybe their recommendation is in the context of humbling oneself before a higher identity or experiencing a higher power or God, however, the perception of ego in itself as being a bad thing has only damaged a proper understanding of what “ego” itself is about.
On the other side is the quality of “humility”. Like I said before, to me, humility can very well coexist with a positive aspect of ego, and in fact, only when humility coexists with positive ego, does a truly admirable character emerge. Humility, again, has been misunderstood—it does not mean becoming a doormat like in a saas-bahu soap or allowing the world to walk all over you. If “ego” has a negative side when taken to extreme, so does “humility”, and “humility” when taken to its negative extreme results in the negation of personality, self-worth, self-identity. A positive humility is about acknowledging and respecting others’ identities while being conscious of having one’s own. It is a modesty that works within the realm of and consciousness of ego; does not subjugate or negate it.
When positive ego and positive humility coexist, you get a person genuinely proud as well as truly humble—a contradiction you may think, but I think not!
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
There is a breed of people who warm the cockles of my heart. This breed is rare and this feeling is rarer still.
Usually, in my experience (at least in
It takes a lot of courage and a commitment to a goal higher than one’s personal goodwill to stand up for one’s convictions, even at the cost of being proved wrong, being proved a fool, being the one toppling the nice apple cart. Maybe some apples would fall now but one may actually manage to save the cart in the long run. Not everybody would see it that way though, and therein lies the risk.
Now, coming to that rare breed of people…
It is indeed a rare breed that will hold on to and speak up for what they believe in in spite of the risks, a rare breed that will be answerable to the purpose to which they have committed themselves to…rather than the dictats and diplomacies of the world… but it is not them I talk about.
I talk about that other rare breed … the ones who appreciate honesty and sincerity of purpose rather than blind service. The ones who actually urge ‘honesty to one’s self and one’s conscience’ where the common run of people will tell you to ‘just do what is said’. The ones who will make you feel that you did right, and that your actions are a reward unto themselves.
I owe a lot to this breed… may their tribe increase!
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
On His Blindness
WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoke, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.
-- John Milton
I have been reading Stanley Fish’s critical essay Interpreting the Variorum, and it was quite a task manoeuvring around the elaborately argumentative piece. I will probably want to discuss my thoughts at length when I am at more leisure, but such a time never comes, so I will at least briefly run over them for now.
Stanley Fish’s important claim in this essay is that literary texts cannot be judged on the basis of their ‘formal’ features. Formalism is a school of thought that believes that the text is an independent entity, and whatever needs to be understood or analysed about it, can be done by purely studying the text’s form such as the literary devices used, narrative strategy, and so on. Fish is completely opposed to this mode of thought, so much so, that he believes that an independent text, as such, does not even exist! The latter appears to be too radical a thought to admit belief; however, Fish takes the reader through a series of arguments to prove his case. For my part, I found the arguments going a bit round and round, in that, some of the premises themselves didn’t hold water with me.
Now, the question is, if the text’s form is not the ideal basis for literary analysis or criticism, what is? Fish’s answer to this question lies in the ‘Reader’. The Reader’s ‘experience’ in the course of reading the text is what makes the text what it is, according to him. No Reader, no text, and as such the text as an independent entity, does not exist. The text as an independent unit that can be analysed without reference to an intended reader, does not exist.
To elaborate and explain his point, Fish selects some of Milton’s poems as examples. The poem On His Blindness (reproduced here) is one such. In the course of reading this poem, the reader traverses a gamut of emotions. In the beginning, the reader feels the pain of the speaker and cannot but empathise with his complaint—why did God deprive him of the very gift or eyesight that he could have used best in God’s service? As we move along the poem, our emotions continuously undergo change. When the speaker says ‘I fondly ask’, we know that the speaker’s faith is a bit shaken merely but still intact; the speaker instinctively believes that God has his own ways of dealing with his servants. The voice of Patience brings another perspective, and soothes or fails to soothe our troubled emotions depending on how convinced we are with its arguments. The last line “They also serve who only stand and waite” leaves us confused. We do not know, for sure, who spoke this line¬—Patience or the speaker. We do not whether this line suggests the speaker’s acceptance of his passive duty (which would be the case if he spoke this line) or whether this line merely continues the argument that Patience has been making, in which case, the speaker is still ambiguous about his role and faith. The words ‘stand and wait’ are also susceptible to two readings—does it mean ‘wait for a suitable opportunity for active service’ or does it mean ‘wait passively’? Literary critics over the centuries have apparently debated over what these lines exactly mean, who spoke them, and such other questions that are difficult to determine by studying the text. They have also tried to introduce extra punctuation and other such intrusions to give the text the meaning they chose to interpret. According to Fish, the problem lies in the fact that we believe that the text is supposed to have some independent or inherent meaning. According to him, there is no such independent meaning; the experience that the individual reader goes through in the act of reading is the meaning!
This is not the end of the argument nor is this the only dimension. He also goes so far as to say that readers do not read a text—they actually write or create the text in the process of reading!
I must admit, I do not agree with many of his arguments. I do not feel that the form of a text is as fluid or as arbitrary in the interpretive process as that. While Fish says that readers create the form of the text depending on how they interpret the text, I choose to believe that the author’s intention of giving the readers a particular experience leads him to choose a particular form.
What I find intriguing and useful about Fish’s argument, though, is that the readers’ experience cannot be ignored while interpreting a text (whether that experience is not motivated by the text at all, as he says, or whether the experience does arise because of the author’s studied use of markers in the text, no matter how successful or unsuccessful, is a different argument). The experience of the reader, as Fish says, is a ‘temporal’ one as against the ‘spatial’ experience suggested by form analysis. It is not a moment of experience after reading the text, but a series of thoughts and feelings and mental adjustments that the reader steers through in the course of reading the text that accounts for the overall experience.
… When you think about it that way, you do realise that you had hitherto never given this ‘experience’ that much notice, hitherto only thought about ‘what the text is’ but not ‘what the text does to me’. That’s a potentially rich line of thought to explore.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Little flowers bloom
in the warmth and shade of love
ever protected, ever watered
away and outside the harsh light of the world
Light that opens knowledge unbounded
expands the mind and opens intellectual horizons
but, leaves the heart empty and cold
encased in an iron box
each in its own
with no means to reach out
to touch or enfold
another kindred heart, trapped like its own
An unnatural development
blooming one way, dying in another
growing one way, stifled in another
such is our modern world
plenty in riches -- money can buy
plenty in food -- for the seeking mind
But, starved of the warmth and shade of love
where little flowers bloom
and where the soul finds nourishment.
(I am the last to downplay the accomplishments of the mind, but I can't help feeling that somewhere we have left our hearts and souls behind, in this eternal race or search or march of civilisation)
Thursday, February 09, 2012
I never thought I would feel this way for a puny, small, tiny little thing. I didn’t even know about its existence till three weeks ago, when my brother got a huge cage and this tiny wonder, the little cockatiel bird. My brother told me it was a specie from Australia and he pronounced it as ‘cocktail’. Being my usual pragmatic self, not given to excitement when I see something or someone new, I looked at it detachedly, and went about my stuff. When everybody stared at it and cooed at it, I didn’t bother to notice, and when nobody was around, I went near it and thought it was quite a cutie, with a little crest on its head and orange cheeks. Most of all I liked it’s innocent babe-in-the-woods look. I wanted to call it ‘cookie’, short for cockatiel, and my brother insisted on calling it birdie; what a non-name, like calling a girl ‘girlie’, I thought. I decided to call it cookie, no matter what he said, and I decided cookie would want to be called cookie, if I called it often enough. I soon gave up my act of not being interested in the new creature, and had animated conversations with my mom about it. We discussed its eating habits, sleeping habits, playing habits, almost like it was a baby (I don’t have experience with babies but I know how moms talk about them). Things started settling into a nice pattern with cookie joining me for early morning tea (she seemed to wake up when we did and whistled so loudly that we had to wake up when she did anyway). I felt nice saying a bye to her in the morning and I don’t know if she whistled back at me when I called out cookie, but I liked to think she did. I started looking up articles on what cookie may enjoy eating or doing. I would call home in the afternoon to check up on what cookie was up to. My brother said she needed to be let out of the cage for some time during the day and then let back in. My brother did this at first and my mom, who being brought up in Mangalore is rather handy with these things, took up the task when he wasn’t around. During the weekend, though I wasn’t scared of cookie when she was out...I still felt like being in some other room when cookie was let out of the cage. When I warned the folks about what if she flies away, they had a very philosophical attitude: what if she does? Then maybe she wants to be free and let her be. None of us have had any experience with pet birds and I couldn’t help feeling that yes, wasn’t cookie really bored sitting in the cage all day? What if she did feel like getting away? Should we cage her because we want to? And another voice would say, but could she survive outside…? here we were taking such good care of her, talking to her, petting her, feeding her, who would take care of cookie outside? I didn’t know what was right. But I couldn’t bear the whole shock of what if she just flew away. And somehow, being oblivious in the other room when she was out, I could ignore these conflicting feelings. I would feel glad to see cookie back inside her cage later. And slowly, after a few days, my mom told me she had started going inside the cage on her own. I felt better knowing this, almost like a certain indication that she liked being with us too.
Every night, it was so funny to see cookie sleep perched on that exact same spot in the cage. It tickled me and pleased me, I don’t know why. I couldn’t understand how a bird could have a sweet spot like that. Or maybe because I like consistency, this consistency in her habits quite appealed to me. One day last week I remember how she danced a little jig from one end of the tiny pole to the other when I walked in home in the evening. I don’t know whether she was happy to see me, but she made me very happy. How I cooed to it! One day when it seemed to be growing too cold, I moved her cage a little further over the window, where the view outside was a little blocked… what a little ruckus she made! And then I moved it back and she was quiet. She used to be too quiet after sunset, perched on its favourite spot, and come sunrise, she would whistle and jump and gorge on the grains and other little tidbits we kept for her, like she had been hungry for weeks rather than the night. My mom would sit next to her with her toast and tea, and cookie would jump so much, that mom just had to give her a little bit of toast.
Today, as usual, I waved goodbye to cookie in the morning. Around afternoon mom called frantically, ‘Ayyo! cookie has flown away, what do we do?’ I knew the inevitable would happen someday. She had let cookie out of her cage as usual but this time instead of climbing down from the fan, she just whizzed out of the opening in the curtains, even out of the grills surrounding our window. Mom is an unreasonable optimist and never really thought she would fly away through those. She seemed to be upset and hurt—maybe she never really meant that if cookie did fly, may be it was alright if she wanted to. Suddenly she seemed to realise that truly, she was gone. No cookie, only an empty cage. I didn’t know what to say, what to do to make cookie come back. She couldn’t see her around, and she had frantically looked outside. Doing a bit of Google search, the only sensible suggestion I found was to keep the cage outside with some bird food. Maybe she would recognise the familiar home and come back. That’s what I told mom but doesn’t look like something positive has come of it. The more I read the Google pages about lost cockatiels, my heart sank. I wanted to read about it because I couldn’t think of anything else, and I wanted to read something to give me comfort, but there was so much that made my heart sink. It doesn’t matter if cookie doesn’t come back but let nothing happen to my little baby, let it be taken care of, let it only find a kind soul, let it get food to eat, that’s all I ask for. I read that owners usually clipped their birds’ wings that they wouldn’t fly (it almost feels like cutting legs!), but cockatiels are strong fliers and if they get away, they rarely find their way home, because they don’t have homing instincts. It looks like we have lost her, never to see her anymore. I am thinking of all the sweet little moments I had with her over the last three weeks; I feel rather heartbroken as if suddenly our little one is gone and we can’t do anything.
Truth is, when my brother brought her home, I didn’t want to get used to her or get attached to her… I wanted to be aloof because I cynically thought, birds die soon… so why get attached to something that wouldn’t be around for long…silly me never realises that things never last…and then I was told how the cockatiel lives for 15-20 years… and that pleased and reassured me… cookie wouldn’t die soon after all…I started imagining how our cookie will grow old with us, how it would grow fond of us, how it will recognise us, how maybe it will even start talking a little, how it would look forward to being petted by us… I started thinking so far ahead… and how I loved her day by day, how my heart grew warm for her every day... and now, there is a dull ache…thinking about the dear little thing, gone, God alone knows where… I am missing its soft whistle and merry jig and how it perched itself in the same spot every night… I feel heavy about the thought of walking home and not finding her there, in her cage… no cutting small veggies to feed it, no enjoying her dance of delights, no discussing what she was up to, no smiling at its little figure at night, no waking up to its sounds… how I miss her already! Maybe she will come back, maybe she won’t… all I ask is, she may be safe and sound and loved wherever she is… I never understood people’s love for pets, and never thought I would… but now I do…I never thought there could be love where there was no deeper understanding…but cookie taught me something…that love sometimes transcends the mind and reaches the heart directly…will miss my cookie…
Monday, February 06, 2012
I was cleaning a room and, meandering about, approached the divan and couldn't remember whether or not I had dusted it. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious, I could not remember and felt that it was impossible to remember - so that if I had dusted it and forgot - that is, had acted unconsciously, then it was the same as if I had not. If some conscious person had been watching, then the fact could be established. If, however, no one was looking, or looking on unconsciously, if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been. [Leo Tolstoy's Diary, 1897]
And so life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.
— Excerpt from Victor Shklovsky’s ‘Art as Technique’
Most of our lives seem to be full of ‘habitualized’ or ‘automatic’ activities, things that don’t provide us any sensation at all, things that we go about doing without knowing what we are doing. We go through the motions of everyday living, so to speak, with nothing to interrupt its ebb and flow, or make us start from our unconscious reverie. We yearn for ‘sensation’, whether it is in books, in movies, in music, in travels, we want to feel ‘alive’, to consciously ‘experience’ a thing. Which is why we are drawn to novelty, to excitement, to adventure, to experiences that we are not ‘familiar’ with, and which promise the maximum ‘sensation’. Shklovsky talks about how this desire for ‘sensation’ is exploited even in art, by making objects ‘defamiliar’ so that we are forced to take notice, to actually experience or perceive them. Techniques in art are used so that the same objects or experiences, though familiar and habituated, may still kindle ‘sensation’. Poets come up with novel ways of describing the beloved or the sunset, and each time, it is like seeing the beloved for the first time, or watching the sunset with new eyes…the same experience affords sensations as if we were experiencing it for the first time. We see it as if it were something new, we actually ‘perceive’ its beauty.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder how a balance between monotony and sensation could be best achieved. I am convinced that a balance is important, because just as a person cannot be eating rich food all the time because it affords ‘sensation’ (in any case the sensation would disappear when one gets habituated, and damage one’s health too), so also, one cannot be drenched in sensation all the time, to feel like one is ‘living’ every moment. At the same time, one cannot be going on living in monotony, going about work that does not involve the mind or heart at all, and deadens one’s spirit so that one may as well not be ‘living’ or ‘consciously experiencing the sensation of life’.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
All beauty is what
But an imposture
Cruelty hidden behind
Every act of nature
Kindness, gentility, honesty
We all claim like masks
Carrying on our frightful farce
Teach me, O God,
To know your ways
Like an innocent child
Let me not fall prey
To words uttered but never meant
To emotions expressed but never felt
Teach me to distinguish the true from false
That I may live among the corrupt
But never to corruption fall.
One of those times when I feel overwhelmed and deeply jolted by how low human nature can stoop, how selfish it can be, how its own ends it can seek without one little whit of thought for another. We seem to live in a world full of superficialities and the only tools to survive are the superficial, the sophisticated, the suave and the trivial ones. Simplicity, honesty, and other core values have become a relic of the past. They are fashionable, yes, but only as a surface cosmetic. Any more deeper and they seem a nuisance.
We no more judge of people by the ‘substance’ they possess — the form, the outward, the veneer has become all important. We place so much emphasis on cultivating the exterior in today’s world, while the interior, the heart, the soul remains forgotten and unattended.
How I wish we had the capacity to look into the heart of things and the wisdom to know that only what we find there, is really worth possessing.