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Showing posts from 2018

Oppression? What’s that?

The sky can be oppressive. The atmosphere in a room is bound to turn tyrannical if too much time has gone after the door last closed. Winter clothes, ah, winter clothes, lead-heavy, turning shoulders and back into a shuddering mass of fatigued flesh. Who said it’s all political?  The strangest example of oppression is the kind born inside. What is called ‘the soul’, (in a rather cavalier manner, one must say), is a fugitive slave. Ready to die for a sliver of freedom, it will feel oppressed till the end.

Strength is not what is seems

It's heard everywhere, the call-to-arms type of appeal: "Be strong". Fortitude is praised, resilience is envied.  I could not agree more, they are all virtuous expressions of some kind of inner steely mechanism, the kind that triumphs over misfortune and does not recoil before blatant injustice. Stiff upper lip, a straight back, eyes never looking down, an assured step. You know the lot, romantic propaganda has been disseminating it for ages and philosophers have usually gone along with it. If the physical body is in any way a manifestation of our true essence. It has been a good recipe to save face when confronted with adversity. We could say at least that we got beaten down, but not vanquished. No one seems to care much about non-exceptional situations, when inner strength is not just a slogan, but a consumable, quickly exhausted by the continuous drip-drip of demands. Life is usually exacting a heavy price just by allowing us to experience it. We are not immortal,

Ode to ageing

I adore getting old. While most of my youthfulness was spent in a blur of emotions and irrational decisions, growing-up at last feels like real freedom. Once captivity is over, life appears as the real chance to see the choices clearly and then pick up something that does not harm either body or soul. Ageing is a luxury train if the right ticket has been bought. It's not the Titanic, definitely. I would rather arrive at the natural destination than end up on the bottom of a frozen sea. I admit the journey starts in a lush environment and ends up in the desert. It is called the cycle of life. To each camel, its own reserve of water. Sharing is for oasis stopovers. Sailing to Byzantium  should be compulsory reading of any mature education curriculum, be it humanities or civil engineering, let's say.

On ice

               Thalassa, Thalassa, said the older fish.  Can't hear you, replied the younger one.               I've got an ear infection, spent too much time on ice, and fish don't speak anyway.

Beauty within, beauty without

"Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite" is a wonderful book by Robert Kurzban and the site where you can read a bit about it has a great URL too: It is all about evolution and the mind that has different compartments, creating this apparently terrible habit of noticing inconsistencies in all but ourselves. As our mind is a kind of cabinet with many drawers and some of them are full of junk and others of exquisite art objects, things can look a bit incongruous. Our inner balance depends on ignoring the co-existence of junk and art and happily thinking of the whole cabinet as a solid piece of furniture.  This is of course a bit of a simplistic review of the book and the theory behind it, but it serves the purpose of my own theory: that physical beauty is our greatest source of hypocrisy. If there is a drawer that very few people dare to open, let alone examine its contents, that is the drawer of our looks. The real physical appearan

Pour l'amour des arbres

Trees are the most underrated subject. Also the most difficult one, really. A human face changes all the time, visibly. A tree does not. All of its essence is running much deeper, inside each of the small netted veins of each and every leaf. They move with the wind, fooling everyone that they have no power whatsoever. They lie.

The Day

Must have read it somewhere, that no one wakes up and decides that they are going to ruin their day. Every day starts with the best intentions. Then it all goes pear-shaped. Most of the time. So never look at how many days have already gone since the time of birth, despite the fact that it's quite tempting to use online calculators that throw at you a horror-inspiring number. What, so may thousands of days already behind me? That cannot be true. Denial is the first symptom of the disease calling flight of fantasy.  As it has been carefully and abundantly nourished by various stories, first by fairy tales and then by novels and movies, the disease is like a severe eye condition. Wearing glasses can make it better only up to a point. Then an operation is needed. Then as luck would have it, some eyesight is regained, but never fully. Ideally, we should be exposed to reality from a very early age, and then never go too far from it, the same way most people don't walk a

Everyman and everywoman and every habit

It’s been repeated so many times that it has lost any trace of meaning: ‘we are all creatures of habit’. Waking up at the same hour every day, buying the same brand of toothpaste and using the same type of toothbrush. Toaster set at 3 for the perfect slice of bread ready to be buttered, oven temperature at 220 Celsius or point 7 for the ideal roast.  Dinner at 6.30. Thankfully, the gods of consumerism and commercial greed will not allow too much self-indulging in the comfort zone. If they can’t change out habits, they will at least change our desires. What ambitions and lust for glory never achieve at personal level is easily done by advertisers. It would take most people a lot of persuading and motivation to move closer to a childhood dream. It only takes a couple of well-placed and well-crafted ads to stir up unknown hunger for a new perfume. Or car. Or cardigan. Holidays that involve lots of money, preparations and distant travel become a lifelong objective and no effort is spar

Compulsiveness, the old enemy within

                        It is worth putting up a fight in defence of technology as a liberating force. Various Cassandras are prophesying a future of lives lost to non-flicker screens (before the pixel revolution, the flickering was an aggravating circumstance). With implacable periodicity, a study will unveil to the world cases of 'digital addiction', with most unfortunate consequences. Suddenly, going back to scratching beautiful drawings on cave walls  is desirable pastime and sending messages by word of mouth looks like a sane solution. Some say that technology is a ferocious creature that eats up its children, like ancient Cronus. Mythological allegories are always useful for doomsday scenarios. What if Cronus is actually eaten by its children? Not all of them, just those that would eat too much whatever is put in front of them. I was inspired to turn the allegory upside down by a videoclip with Sadhguru. He makes a very insightful comment about the ti

Two legs good. Is it ?

No words. No, it's not cheat day on daily blog posting.

The advantages of a classical education

We never step twice into the same river, let alone walk in the same forest As an armchair philosopher, quotes attract me. I devour them wherever I come across anything that looks like being a quote (such are the advantages of multiple digital channels), I automatically memorise them and even worse, I use them in otherwise normal conversations. I never tried to go any deeper into the mystery of having such a fantastic memory when it comes to famous quotes, while the same brain does not seem to care about house keys or mobile. Can it be a case of acquiring "fast wisdom", in an age of ads that promote "faster fast food"? Reading a whole book is is a slow experience, and wisdom, if any at all, comes in dribs and drabs. The reader is told lots of metaphors or small facts, goes through the maze of literary infrastructure and at some point, if paying enough attention, stumbles upon the memorable phrase. Take John Milton, for instance. How many people ca

We are all Narcissus (part 2)

Narcissus was about 15 when his adoring mother asked Tiresias, famous for his prophecies, if her son would live to a ripe old age. Tiresias answered in his cryptic way, that old age was within reach if the boy would never recognise himself. Otherwise put, if he would remain totally oblivious of his own appearance. Why was the mother so keen on probing the future? Was she anxious that her son’s beauty would give rise to jealousy in others, potential rivals in a girl’s affections? This seems to be the most linear explanation, but something is missing. Did the mother keep the boy away from anything that would reflect back his image? Ovid’s Metamorphoses do not provide any clue. All we know is that Narcissus kept rejecting any amorous advances, spurred by an ego that could not find anyone satisfactory enough. Hubris never went unpunished in the Classical world and Narcissus was no exception. At the end of a hunt, his thirst made him stop by the clearest of spot of water that had

We are all Narcissus (part 1)

How can anyone not be fascinated by the origin of words? Half of misunderstandings and miscommunication would disappear. The other half would be sorted out painlessly, usually round dinner tables or in cafes. Take photography for instance, and its fast-growing progeny, photos. Thank heavens for digital photography, otherwise the end of the world could come from a deluge of photo prints.  Dictionaries tell us that 'photography' comes from two Greek words which, taken together, mean "drawing with light'. It is such a delicate, almost diaphanous combination. Unfortunately, the weightless, imponderable nature of photography is not felt beyond its name. Once it's taken, a photo becomes the object of continuous scrutiny and if it is a portrait, or just a snapshot, recriminations and self-abuse follow. "You should have told me you're taking a photo", "I told you I didn’t like my photo taken', "Let me put on some make-u

Mobile-friendly not

A very short blog post, as befits the non-mobile friendly template. Honest, I would have thought that in this day and age, whenever inspiration takes us, we can just let run free and wild. Not on mobile.

Mourning becomes us

I don't know how to write about death without using words which have already been exhausted by intensive use. I don't want to be original either,  it would be a terrible act of self-indulgence and ultimately psychopathic behaviour. For short, I have no idea how to express what I feel whenever I hear of someone's death, especially when it is someone close. Am I saddened by their fate or mine? The realisation that someone is no longer within reach, be it remotely, always comes as a surprise.  It is hitting the same nerve, imaginary or not, that never learns. Sudden deprivation, loss of a certainty, however vague and infrequently remembered, fear of one's own inevitable death? No, fear is not the right word, although it has been mentioned by many as the dominant emotion when confronted with news off someone's demise. There must be something different, heavily tinged, at times, with the guilt of not having made that phone call or visit. Pre-death behavio

Cats, humans and rules

Papa Hemingway did not like long sentences. He disliked long paragraphs too. So I'll be brief. Cats should set an example for humans and police the way the latter behave. Cats turn up on your doorstep when they feel like it, are hungry or just lonely. Would you begrudge a cat for infrequent appearances? If you do, the cat will walk away and look for a friendlier face. They are always hedging their bets. Jordan Peterson makes it Rule number 12 for life: pet a cat when you encounter one. QED.

Bridge of expectations

It happens again and again. We call a friend or a relative. We are in neutral mode and do not anticipate a wave of bad mood swirling its way towards us. In the past we engaged and ended up heavily bruised. Now we think we know better and breathe in before we try to move on the conversation. It doesn't work. We bail out, cowardly. The only source of relief is found after scurrying towards some Stoic quotes.   Epitectus has an answer for the pressing question: who or what is pulling my strings? Anything that we set out our heart on or want to avoid has the controls of our inner peace. Bit pathetic, really. Expectations are our masters.   If every encounter involves as much mental preparation as going into a war zone, no wonder some prefer infrequent human contact and even give it up completely. Stoics advise against isolation though. Resilience needs scars and battles won, so that it is a badge of honour rather than a genetic gift. No wonder human interact

Images and words

I have recently discovered a Reddit corner that presents would-be writers, as well as established ones, presumably, with a 'wordy bait', a paragraph to fire up their imagination and get them down to writing. Having lived most of my life among words and through words, I thought I should do it too. Then I changed my mind. We no longer live in the traditional story-telling set-up. The world comes to us (and at us) mostly through the eyes, although ears are still important. The art of podcasting is now being taught, in exchange for a fee, and audio books are a good companion during hours of chores or lonely driving. Both audiobooks and podcasts are demanding mistresses, they require exclusivity and no competing sources of interest, like other noises or images. Sharing headphones is such a brief teenage act. Anyone above the age of 16 would not be seen dead pushing an earbud that carries someone else's genetic traces... and earwax. An image, on the other hand, is ins