Thérèse


Today is nods

shuffling feet and complacency.

Today is smiling eyes

a nurturing glance and

those pants you wear when

you're happy then

but your girl

your whirl

your twirl

your tip

your tap

is not

all that.

I see you see

me.

Ma petite Thérèse elle rêve

de quoi?

"Nohhhhhthing-ah."

Rearview mirror

eyes on the back

of your head

all the nods and

the smiles

you knew.

In the tunnel radio blurs and

lights out

your warm and

leathery paw

knows just how to hold

my shivering hand.

To my daddy -

because you can.

Rare Vogel

 

You are the walker,
I am the watcher.
You trod and throw
a glance at whoever’s willing to show.
I spy
with every inch of my little eye.

“Jeremy, it’s late…”
Those words abate
my dear bore who’s subtle hate
slips through her words:
“…do you still love me?”
I turn
to watch the herds.

You amble for air,
to give you peace from that Herr,
(though you’ll never dare
fly free).
But I won’t sit here and wince
wishing I could rinse
this debauchery.
Oh lust,
will you marry me?

You are the watcher,
I am the walker.
I pace
and try to retrace,
align all my mistakes.
Gawking and squaking,
like an ill-mannered bird,
you pick up the pieces
talking feces
about how you’ve inferred.

You know me,
but I don’t know you.
I know you,
but you don’t know me.

Bicycle Perspectives

Today is Monday. I have spent the entire night trying not to sway side to side and disturb my snoozing neighbours. And you get your own bed! It varies from day to day, but there are about five of us that rest our tiresome tires in the snug and supportive dividers. On windy nights like the last, however, sleep changes into an awkward game of flexing your axles to stay on your side of the rack.

“Aaaaaaand here we are. Sorry Maaike. I can’t get up. I’m trying. I think my metal is bending. Maaike, do you think you could give me a push?” Inconsiderate bum.

I wake up with the sun on my back, ready to saddle up and face the frenzied zoom-zoom rush hour where our companions jaunt like zombies on horseback. Seeing Mine come out of her apartment, I allow the wind to shake me around, trying to exhibit my utmost excitement. Finally! She is coming this way to shake off this pig-tail rubber chain and allow me to get my gears grinding. I think I’m getting old and stiff.

And then it hits me again… today is Monday. I immediately regret showing any enthusiasm as I see her rattle her keys, as though she is waving a bone to a dog. I lean back against Maaike, hoping to crack an irreparable nail and pull a melodramatic “not today, honey! I’m too ill.” Harrowing memories of rush hour Mondays start to flow back into my inner tubes and I whimper to the thought of the endless traps Death sets out in these chaotic, feverish days and I wish I could deflate and I wish I could take off on my own to escape the tyranny of Death. Death is such a dick.

Before I can protest we whiz off into the morning to face the phases of asphalt I’ll have to endure. I have done this a million times, and still cannot get used to the tickling transition from concrete to cobblestone. As usual, the journey is surprisingly calm. At first the old rubbery soles of my shoes kiss the ground delicately, freely, so as to avoid any unwanted friction. I fool myself into thinking that Death won’t find us today, that although it is lurking around any corner, Mine will steer my handles in the right direction. But fooling oneself is as futile as boasting an old, gritty frame amongst my kind. From the tiled and craggy squares to the fluid pavement those devilish tram rails discontinue, to the inexhaustible cobbles that delineate this city. Mine and I encountered Death twice in these adrenaline-filled ten-plus-two minutes.

Exhibit A: After my short-lived two minutes of misconceived relief, it begins to rain. Usually I keep my chin up and keep on keeping on, but this time my meditations are abruptly interrupted by Mine’s rookie attempt of trying to cross over tram rails. My leg is stuck, and I can’t get it out. My leg is stuck, and there is a tram coming. My leg is stuck, and Mine is just cursing. My leg is stuck and “DING!” My leg hurts and we are alive.

Exhibit B: There it is—that incessant blah-blah and obnoxious giggle which hides behind some device, about an arm’s length long, which holds a phone. The poor red ones… they are forced to choose a life at the mercy of endlessly abusive companions. Mine is clearly enraged after exhibit A, and loses her patience “RIIIIIING RIIIIING!” The laughter continues, and when these blasphemous fools turn around to see what the commotion is, they swerve directly in our direction like drunken buffoons. Hello Death, there you are again.

You see, Death to you is not necessarily as omnipresent as it is in our lives. You don’t arise from a slumber to find yourself dodging bullets without even having eaten a proper breakfast… at the least. Neither do you worry that, when you are waiting for your companion to finish a night of wild partying at the Milky Way, Death will sneak up on you and dismember a precious limb. Have you ever had a conversation with a newfound acquaintance, when suddenly Death decides to push them into a canal—left to drown—mid conversation? I think not. But so it goes, this is something as fatalistic as the fact that your kind can bear children and we can reincarnate. The only way of knowing, of truly gaining insight into our lives is to be one of us. What is it like to be a bat?

Heart Cave

Everyone has one. It could very well be one of the most complex uncertainties of the human condition; it contends questions of consciousness, of self-awareness and requires delicacy, as our relation to it has the power to position us as individuals in relation to our worlds. Writing about this heart cave - or inner self - seems almost counter-intuitive as it is ineffable. But I believe there is a point in everyones lives where they begin a conversation with this inner self, where you begin to approach and discover its boundaries whilst simultaneously trying to preserve its mysteries.

When people say you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, what does that actually mean? The other day I asked a colleague who is not much older than I am if it's difficult being married at such a young age, and her only response was: "yes but you truly have to know yourself before doing something like this". In both of these instances there is an emphasis on a certain selfhood that somehow discontinues the conversation. At this point, it is almost a given that this is something that can be achieved. Our inner self becomes a truism. I don't think it is an achievable goal, or something that can be understood indefinitely. In the same way that Socrates' wisdom was only valuable in his awareness that he could not know everything, our inner selves have no defining structure - they are something that we explore without end throughout our lives. Our understanding of this inner self fluctuates and grows in different dimensions, at different points in our lives. At some point in our lives we may feel extremely close to it where, during others, it may be the most puzzling and daunting concept.

If there is anything that I have learned, it is that this inner self is strongly linked to a sense of privacy. Not the conventional and slightly more politically charged idea of privacy (censorship, etc.), rather, the intrinsic privacy of this selfhood. It is simply something that you can't share with others, and if it is lost in others, it can begin to feel like this sense of self is too externally exposed. I read a beautiful article about Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy that intimately laced these two concepts together. The struggle of trying to know our inner selves versus keeping them at a distance to preserve life's mysteries is concluded with this quote:

"There is no final, satisfying way to balance our need to be known with our need to be alone. The balance is always uncertain and provisional; it is always a matter of dissatisfactions, give-and-take, and sacrifice... It's up to each of us to balance the risks and rewards--to trade, in right proportion, loneliness for freedom, explicability for mystery, and the knowable for the unknown within ourselves."

Understanding parts of our inner selves, and gaining a stronger sense of self is about balance. It is us trying to establish an evenness between our values and our desires--our values being a strong sense of self and our desires being what mystifies this sense of self. Being grounded with your head in the sky. Acknowledging this struggle for balance keeps us at a comfortable distance with our inner selves, and at the same time asking ourselves questions (daily? weekly? periodically?) that bring us closer to understanding our core - our heart cave.

And that's all for now, and it is enough.

The River

I waddle through the shallow waters becoming more surprised each step at how strong the current is.
"This must be a magical place," I think to myself, "what a clichéd thought".
In all honesty, I am here because I fucking stink. I smell like the rastafari who has been hazily lecturing me on the balance that "our" nature needs, the process of giving and taking, and how its "her" decision to not bring us water. I mean cool, man, but how about not bathing myself in the dark surrounded by cockroaches from the rain-gathering blue smelly plastic barrel that is our only source of water. My eyes glance excitedly to the crystal waters, the unmoving pebbles, the innocence of this water. It is always renewed, rebirthed, always nascent.
"Have I walked far enough? Am I out of sight? Fuck it."
I trot clumsily trying not to trip on stubborn pebbles. Struggling to look graceful in the strong current, struggling to reclaim the flip flop that has chosen to abandon me in embarrassment, struggling to throw my foul backpack back where it belongs whilst I lean over to capture the escaped thong. Be here now. Be in the moment. This is what it's all about, the visceral experience. I unpack the holy bottle of Pantene that cost me an unholy 20,000 COP. Slapping the water that acts as mother to all inhabitants of this town over my body, I begin to think again about what he said when a family of Kogi indigenous appear on the bank of the river. My heart jumps as I rub my hands between my legs to clean the most neglected alleys and backstreets of my body. They are just staring straight at me, and as I begin to take on their stare as a sort of challenge, I realize that this is not the game we are playing.
"How many times in your life can you say you've been observed inelegantly cleaning yourself like a baboon in shallow water whilst a beautiful Kogi family--unaware of anything about you, incapable of understanding anything you say--watches you."
Maybe this is what he means. I perform and they watch, I take and nature gives. I pour out the seeds and things grow, they grow and I breathe. It is all a matter of give and take. Suddenly humbled by this awkward experience, I splash trek back to the river bank and gather my things to head downstream. Looking back, the Kogi family pass through and carry on upwards to their home in the sierra.

God am I happy I am clean. What just happened?

Being Nature

San Franciscing, no time.

We spent the day at Hume Lake, an oasis in the middle of the forest - here is my scribble.

Being Nature

As I drink the air that surrounds me,
I consume my surroundings.
In peace, in nature, in quiet.
I ask myself why the rats of the cities do not migrate to this haven,
surrounded by resources
and sources of sources.

But what has been poisoned by the irrational touch of the driven mind,
the mind that aches for
improvement, efficiency, accessibility -
is now impure.
It belongs to the rats, those who cannot set their petty priorities aside
to take the leap of faith.

As I drink the air that surrounds me,I detest the noises I consume.
How can the poison reach as far as my wings can span?
It fills the air, my peripheries,
and only subsides at dusk.

From dusk until dawn the rats yawn,
I slither through the water -
cutting it in half -
as if to draw the line that divides them and I.

My eyes adjust, my senses too,
and all I take in becomes harmonic.
God's mighty melody.
My song.
I am the dancer of the night.

As the sun licks the corners of my peaks,
I am anxious.
One long ocean breath sweeps into my lungs and I am frozen.
The surroundings I create fuse with my frozen breath
and hold still.
Now the rays of the sun can no longer be tamed.

In an explosion of light,
of colors supreme,
my fellow belongers (or belongings)
come back to life.
"Sleep," I wish,
"sleep so I can retrieve my peace."

The Work of a Seamstress

During a conversation last week, I was reminded of this subject. For a long time I was fighting the struggle in university of trying to demonstrate to my professors how literature/film/theatre... the art, in general, are a direct link to past cultures, times, and places.

Everybody will remember the days in high school when you were trying to memorize facts in history class. When did the French Revolution begin? Why was it so important? Who was involved? But there is always something missing in the textbooks - and that is the essence of the time. When reading Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I already wrote about in a previous post, I was instantly drawn to the fact that his novel captured historical essence. Be it Kerouac, Kundera,  or Kafka, each (gifted) author manages to draw the reader in to a world that cannot be experienced without their words.

A week or so later, when discussing different types of authors and their gifts with others - I found that each had one common characteristic. We came to the conclusion that every talented author holds the power of an age. By an age I do not mean simply a time period, or a time and place in history. An age signifies an experience, a memory, and a background to a person's life that becomes a part of their essence. The difference between people who hold the power of an age, and authors who hold the power of an age lies in their ability to manifest an essence into words.

Reading about the effects and difficulties that censorship in the Soviet Union brought can be insightful. But that line between facts and feelings becomes a blurred middle-ground - no man's land - when one reads about such things by those who carry the gift of translating an essence into a work of art.

A great book is an embodiment, the fine work of a gifted seamstress. A great book's parts have been sewn together meticulously, placed together to form a story - the experiences of this seamstress. But in the greatest works the thickest stitch lies between the heart and the mind of the body. All the others are reparations of what once was. 

Mensana en Corpore Sano

Never have I left a theatre so eager to retrieve the connection between my mind and my body.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see a dance piece spontaneously with my boyfriend and his dad. When I was small my parents and I would go to see lots of ballets, and I would always find them beautiful but a bit boring... this time, on the other hand, I knew that I was to expect something different.

What I love about watching people dance is how instantly I become mesmerized at how in tune people can be with their bodies. For years I forgot about how important it was to be in touch with the simplicity of your body's movement, and seeing this piece completely turned the tables for me. I couldn't, for one minute, take my eyes off of the dancers. Their every move spoke to me, and had such force and emotion that it moved me to tears.

The dance itself was mostly contemporary; a mix between hip hop, modern, and ballet - although I really could not tell that these different genres were compartmentalized in the choreography. The choreographer managed to blend all of these styles into perfect synchronization. The stage was simple: it consisted of a semi-circle of aluminum cylinders placed meticulously in the deeper parts of the dance space. I only later found that these cylinders were filled with soil, which the dancers tossed around and rolled in to create a firework of their movements.

However, what caught me off guard the most was one moment in the two-hour show. In the middle of their routine, the dancers (half men and half women) stopped what they were doing and sat with their feet dangling off the stage facing the audience. For what seemed like 10 minutes (but in reality was only 4) the wall between performers/movers/dancers and spectators was knocked down. We were staring into the eyes of our entertainers, listening to them breathing heavily. This moment was when I realized how much they had been using their bodies, even their panting and heavy breathing was exhausting to watch - it was entirely confrontational.

What this moment made me think of was how often we get lost in our heads, and forget that our bodies are what allows us to think. Mensana en corpore sano. With a healthy body comes a healthy mind. All too often we get lost in our thoughts, lost in the world of academia, essays, routine, and forget how simple it is to escape those places. All it takes is running, playing as we did when we were young, or even just paying attention to how you we are breathing. Being with a child can have the same effect on you - noticing how tiring it is to play with him or her. Why not return to our youth, when our only struggle was the limitation of our bodies? Why not remember that we have conquered our bodies, we can control them and use them? Why not choose a healthy body, why not condition ourselves to understanding that having the latter will provide us with a healthy mind?

While you read this, pay attention to your body. Unclench your jaw, un-tighten your fists, rest your back, stop your knee from shaking, and take a deep breath. That is life. And it is the greatest gift we have - thinking just comes afterwards. 

To see more (because, p.s., the music was also pretty breathtaking)

Rethinking Education: Sir Ken Robinson

Pass it on!  These videos by Sir Ken Robinson on TED Talks. 

What led me to his talks was  my struggle between getting an education and the real world. In a moment of spite, I became extremely frustrated with myself as I learned that the education I am (often) killing myself to take the most advantage of is not going provide me with a perfect place in the real world. The synthesis between receiving an education and working to getting the life you want is not something that works simultaneously. After having understood that there is a limit to what you should sacrifice for work (the limit for me is sleep, health, and always food), I still felt uneasy about the lack of encouragement my university provided me to be able to leave the nest, and many of my friends tended to agree...

The problem was not only - how am I going to define myself as an individual in an education system that has become standardized, but also - how am I going to fit the time in to: be an individual, define myself in this world, leave a trace of my being somewhere, and continue feeling significant when I leave this safety net called university? Well, the crisis was never going to be averted by thinking but by doing. However, I still think that the education system can entrench individuals and often discourage/intimidate them to reach out into the real world whilst they're still learning. Life is a learning experience, after all.

Ken Robinson meticulously dissects the problem that we are facing, and placed several arguments in his videos, of which I think the latter refer best to what I just mentioned:

1. Teaching and learning are not individualized, but are standardized processes which narrow the number of actual individuals who leave university. Without an individualized education system, how are we going to be able to be what the competitive world/job market wants us to be? We are fighting for individualism whilst being taught in a flattening and often bo-ring manner. Tell me what I want to hear and spark my curiosity! (Side note: a great professor also warned me that self-education is one of the greatest gifts, and that you will never be satisfied... thank you master Yoda).

2. We should grant the teaching profession with a high status. Teachers, as we all know, provide us with the encouragement we need to understand the synthesis of our education and the real world - they are living examples! I've often asked my professors what the 'in between stuff' was in their life, namely, what happened between leaving university and NOW. Also, teaching should fulfill the learning process of engagement, and spark curiosity, and not become a de-personlized regurgitation of information.

3. The school's success should be reflected from its students, and its activity in participation. When students become actively engaged and curious, they create spaces for themselves in which they (too often indirectly by authorities) participate in the real world. Examples are university newspapers, student council, etc.

4. Get rid of the hierarchy of subjects so that we can individualize education. It is so so so so necessary to escape of this dominant culture of science and math, and start to encourage art and humanities just as much. Both are just as necessary, but the point here is that there should be no dominant culture. As students, we should not feel pressured to take a specific course just because "there are more jobs in that market".

The last point is what I would to end on - I realized that, no matter how many times I was asked "But what are you going to DO with these subjects??", I am doing what I love, and I should encourage myself to make that relation to the real world. Trial and error.

Maybe Pink Floyd were getting at something here...

Lessons from the Unbearable Lightness of Being

L'insoutenable l'égèreté de l'être.

I am going to carry this book around with me for the rest of my life. Milan Kundera’s masterpiece truly opened my eyes to a completely new world of literature. This world was no longer about simple narrative, an entertaining story with interesting and quirky characters; this world was about reflection and self-identification.

Authors like him manage to seep under any reader’s skin and comfortably find a place in which to bury his lessons, his ideologies and philosophies.

Literature of this sort is rare, as I have come to find out, but is something to sincerely take to heart.

Isnt that what a great book is after all? A learning experience? One in which the author provides you with a new set of eyes to see the world through; where at the same time you are reading your own meaning into the black and white printed letters on the page.  A new perspective calls for sharing, and that’s exactly what I want to do with what I’ve gathered as the most important insights from the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

It is not up to me to personalize these passages, but merely to make them more seen – more magnified – in order for there to be a greater understanding as to myself as a person, and hopefully yourself whilst you read this.  I even started ranking them, although I think they all deserve to be winners…

1. Compassion:
“The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion – joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucitMitgefüuhl) therefore signifies the maximal capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.” (p. 19)

2. Weight:
“Since the German word schwer mean both ‘difficult’ and ‘heavy’, Beethoven’s ‘difficult resolution’ may be construed as a ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty resolution’. The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate (‘Es muss sein!’); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.” (p. 31)

3. Human lives:
“They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual’s life… without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress. It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences, but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences… for he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” (pp. 49-50)

4. Questions:
“(… Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naïve of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.)” (p. 135)

 5. Dreaming:
“… is not merely an act of communication (or coded communication, if you like); it is also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination, a game that is a value in itself. Our dreams prove that to imagine – to dream about things that have not happened – is among mankind’s deepest needs. Herein lies the danger.” (p. 55)

6. Characters:
“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own ‘I’ ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.” (p. 215)

 7. Infinity:
“The darkness was pure, perfect, thoughtless, visionless; that darkness was without end, without borders; that darkness was the infinite we each carry within us. (Yes, if you’re looking for infinity, just close your eyes!).” (p. 91)

Although I could write a post about each quotation, which I might in the future, here is the food for thought for this moment.

What do these passages inspire in you?