Ship of Theseus (The Film): A Philosophical Exploration

 Ship of Theseus:

Ship Of Theseus

Ship Of Theseus

After a long long time there comes a movie which is intellectually stimulating & which stays with you beyond the 2.5 hrs in the movie theatre. It makes you think and think and think………  ‘Ship of Theseus’ by Anand Gandhi belongs to this rare category.

The intrigue of this movie starts with the title itself, ‘Ship of Theseus’ also called ‘Theseus Paradox’.

The paradox engages in the idea of identity: “If parts of an object are replaced with similar parts, does it remain the same?” (In ancient times, there was a ship, called the “Theseus” after its famous former owner. As the years wore on, the Theseus started getting weak and creaky. The old boards were removed, put into a warehouse, and replaced with new ones. Then, the masts started tottering, and soon they, too, were warehoused and replaced. And in this way, after fifty years, this ship now has all new boards, masts, and everything. The question then arises: Is the ship in the harbor, now called S2, the same ship as the ship that was in the harbor, fifty years ago (called S1, for convenience)? In other words, is S2really the “Theseus”?~ Wikipedia). A simplified way to express the same thought is ‘George Washington’s Hammer’: A guy is admiring a hammer at an antique shop, he is informed by the dealer that it belongs to George Washington, so the guy says it’s in a pretty good condition considering it’s rather old age to which the dealer says sincerely, why should it not be considering he had replaced it’s head twice n it’s handle thrice. 😀

The film also refers to ethical issues brought out by applying the Theseus paradox to human beings, “All the cells in a person’s body regenerate entirely in seven years. An individual goes through a shift psychologically, ideologically and physically. Is it still the same person?”

Main theme is the theme of identity…or what makes Me, Me? What makes You, You? What makes Us, Us?? If some of our organs are replaced we are still the same person. That means we are something more than the sum total of our body parts..who are we then? Are we our thoughts? But even the thoughts theory is not satisfactory ‘cos as I look back on my life most of my thoughts n behavior patterns have changed totally. I have transitioned from a shy teenager to a confident Professional to a laid-back oops a hard working 😉 housewife and yet I am the same person that I used to be!! Even my passions have changed completely. Earlier I was a bookworm, then I became a travel enthusiast & a fashionista, now I’m more into cooking n yoga etc..yet I remain the same person! This thought is mind boggling to me at this moment.  This argument builds a strong case for the existence of a Soul. Despite the changes in physiology n psyche it is the soul that provides continuum to a living object as a single identity. (Ask yourself this one. I was born John Doe.<Insert your own name in place of John Doe> The cells and organs in our body die off and become entirely new cells every 7-10 years. In essence, I become an entirely new person every decade. At age 80, am I still John Doe? Am I still that tiny infant? Some would argue no, but following my line of prior reason, we are ourselves for our entire life, because of emotional memory.)

Several other themes like Atheism, Ethics, Compassion, Vegetarianism, limits of human goodness, Death, Soul, Reincarnation etc. are explored.

The movie comprises of 3 stories which are beautifully weaved together as the movie approaches its end. The first story is the story of a blind photographer n how her Art changes as she regains her vision. Is she a different person with eyes than what she was before?(“A frog once asked a centipede how is it able to walk on a hundred feet, so gracefully synchronized while the frog finds it difficult to manage even two. The centipede took a moment to analyze its own walk and was baffled. So as it tried to walk further its feet got entangled and it tripped.” – Aliya in Ship of Theseus)

The second story is about Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) ,an Urbane, suave, good-natured, rational, compassionate, atheist monk!,  as he faces the dilemma of choosing between his ethics (compassion towards all living beings n not just human being) and his very life. The Philosophy of the Monk is Brilliantly captured in the Song ‘Naham Janami’ . This is the Quintessential Atheist Anthem. By large Atheists are a misunderstood lot. We are accused of behaving as we please in the absence of fear of God. But Atheist Ethics are stronger than blind faith ‘cos we take responsibility  for all our actions and our firm belief  in ‘cause & effect’. This part has some very Cerebral & witty conversation between Maitreya & a young Lawyer Charvak . Charvak asks Maitreya a question which I too have pondered for many years. How does one reconcile the paradox of existence of soul and reincarnation without the existence of God?? Buddha too propounded that there is no God but  asserted about Reincarnation. Maitreya initially held Buddha’s view on the matter but later as he grew physically n emotionally exhausted he admits that he doesn’t know anything definite about the existence of soul. (Charvak:”you say you’re an atheist and at the same time you believe in the concept of soul, which I think is rather convenient. I don’t think karmic causality is a reason enough for anybody to behave ethically. You know, that there is retribution of any kind in this life or any other. It’s like a weak man’s hope for some kind of cosmic revenge.”)

(Charvak:”We invent God, soul… heaven, afterlife…even life-imitating technology, all sorts of transcendence to cope with the idea of an absolute end. And then, we die for an idea that promises us some sort of immortality.”)

(Charvak:“Exactly. See, it’s pretty clear how inconsequential our actions are in the larger scheme of things.”

Maitreya- “Main is baat se sehmat nahi hoon. Hamaare har kaam ka prabhav karaakash mein rehte har parmanu par padta hai. Agar yeh baat sach nahi, toh phir sab nirarthak hai. What is the sense of existence then? The hedonism and nihilism of your namesake, Charvaka?”)

(Maitreya- “You see, in his world, it’s not all humanity that’s equal, it’s all existence that’s equal.”)

Naham Janami

Naham Janami

The third story is of Navin (Sohum Shah, also the co producer of the movie), a stockbroker,  who has his kidney transplanted. He apparently loves only money & is shown doing his business even when critically ill ,as opposed to the so called finer things like music, literature et al which his Granny(Ajji) would like him to explore & appreciate. But as the narrative progresses he shows great empathy n compassion for a poor bricklayer whose kidney has been stolen.

(Navin-‘Kuch ho nahi paaya’
Ajji-‘Jitna kuch hua, kyunki tumne kuch kiya. Itna hi hota hai’)

Everything about this movie is immaculate and Superlative. The Script, Direction, Acting, Cinematography, Subtle Humor, The Underlying Philosophy, and The Very title of the Movie.

Also read about my other all time favorite movies:

The Groundhog Day

Babel

Guzaarish

Peepli Live

Chalo Dilli

 

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July 22, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Existentialism, Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, My Values, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings. 5 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #32(Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield)

Miss Brill is a story about an old woman who lacks companionship and self-awareness. Each Sunday, Miss Brill ventures down to the park to watch and listen to the band play. She finds herself listening not only to the band, but also to strangers. She enjoys living vicariously by eavesdropping into the lives of others. Miss Brill spends her Sunday afternoon seated on a park bench, this is the highpoint of her life. She watches others around her and pretends that all of them including her-self are actors in a play; She weaves an elaborate fantasy around this thought n it gives her huge satisfaction to be involved in the grand scheme of things. On this particular Sunday she has chosen to wear her favorite coat which she believes to be fashionable. She is generally enjoying herself, listening to the band, lost in reverie n at the prospect of her favorite past time: Eavesdropping. But things take an unexpected turn, a young pair of lovers walks in n makes some rude comments about her. Why does she drag her old mug out of her home? Says the guy n the girl laughs at Miss Brill’s coat. This disheartens Miss Brill n she hurries home, forgetting even to stop at the bakery to pick up her Sunday indulgence of honey cake. Miss Brill is a story about the loneliness of an old, solitary Lady. But for me it worked differently. It spoke to me of two things.

 1) Why do people take so much interest in the lives of others? Granted one may be living alone, but there are enough things in the world to engage oneself constructively without taking interest in lives of others. One can enjoy one’s glorious solitude with variety of things like music, gardening, reading which are richly rewarding n not pathetic.

 2) Why do we let the opinions of others effect us so deeply n badly.By doing this we make ourselves a puppet into other people’s hands. Just one remark from the young woman about her coat n suddenly it ain’t her favorite coat anymore!! She goes home n packs it away. N by the way who is the young man to decide whether Miss Brill is wanted in the park or not? Instead of getting so wounded by careless remark by stupid young people, Miss Brill should have continued to enjoy what her special Sunday outing in the park n her treat of honey cake.

~The unhappiest people in this world, are those who care the most about what other people think. ~ C. JoyBell C.

~I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

~No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

~ He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” ~ Brigham Young

I find Buddha’s way of dealing with insults the best way. Once Buddha was passing through a village n some people in the village very angry with him for spreading radical ideas n inspiring youth to lead an ascetic life. So they gathered around him & started abusing him. Buddha listened to their abuses patiently n even compassionately!!! In the end he just said that he’d be passing through the village in the evening again n if someone had some more accusations they could abuse him then, People were surprised. They expected Buddha to retaliate n abuse in return, to get angry/upset/sad. But Buddha did none of these. He then explained that if someone gives you a gift n you don’t accept it, the gift is returned to the sender, in the same way he had not accepted the insult/abuse. Now I know Miss Brill is no Buddha n neither am I. But still we can remind ourselves of Buddha’s way n act a little more intelligently n not be wounded by harmful words of others.

Oh yeah, now the story!!! :

Miss Brill

Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting – from nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. “What has been happening to me?” said the sad little eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown! … But the nose, which was of some black composition, wasn’t at all firm. It must have had a knock, somehow. Never mind – a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came – when it was absolutely necessary … Little rogue! Yes, she really felt like that about it. Little rogue biting its tail just by her left ear. She could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it. She felt a tingling in her hands and arms, but that came from walking, she supposed. And when she breathed, something light and sad – no, not sad, exactly – something gentle seemed to move in her bosom.

     There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday. And the band sounded louder and gayer. That was because the Season had begun. For although the band played all the year round on Sundays, out of season it was never the same. It was like some one playing with only the family to listen; it didn’t care how it played if there weren’t any strangers present. Wasn’t the conductor wearing a new coat, too? She was sure it was new. He scraped with his foot and flapped his arms like a rooster about to crow, and the bandsmen sitting in the green rotunda blew out their cheeks and glared at the music. Now there came a little “flutey” bit – very pretty! – a little chain of bright drops. She was sure it would be repeated. It was; she lifted her head and smiled.


     Only two people shared her “special” seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking-stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her.

     She glanced, sideways, at the old couple. Perhaps they would go soon. Last Sunday, too, hadn’t been as interesting as usual. An Englishman and his wife, he wearing a dreadful Panama hat and she button boots. And she’d gone on the whole time about how she ought to wear spectacles; she knew she needed them; but that it was no good getting any; they’d be sure to break and they’d never keep on. And he’d been so patient. He’d suggested everything – gold rims, the kind that curved round your ears, little pads inside the bridge. No, nothing would please her. “They’ll always be sliding down my nose!” Miss Brill had wanted to shake her.

     The old people sat on the bench, still as statues. Never mind, there was always the crowd to watch. To and fro, in front of the flower-beds and the band rotunda, the couples and groups paraded, stopped to talk, to greet, to buy a handful of flowers from the old beggar who had his tray fixed to the railings. Little children ran among them, swooping and laughing; little boys with big white silk bows under their chins, little girls, little French dolls, dressed up in velvet and lace. And sometimes a tiny staggerer came suddenly rocking into the open from under the trees, stopped, stared, as suddenly sat down “flop,” until its small high-stepping mother, like a young hen, rushed scolding to its rescue. Other people sat on the benches and green chairs, but they were nearly always the same, Sunday after Sunday, and – Miss Brill had often noticed – there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards!


     Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping, and through them just a line of sea, and beyond the blue sky with gold-veined clouds.

     Tum-tum-tum tiddle-um! tiddle-um! tum tiddley-um tum ta! blew the band.

     Two young girls in red came by and two young soldiers in blue met them, and they laughed and paired and went off arm-in-arm. Two peasant women with funny straw hats passed, gravely, leading beautiful smoke-coloured donkeys. A cold, pale nun hurried by. A beautiful woman came along and dropped her bunch of violets, and a little boy ran after to hand them to her, and she took them and threw them away as if they’d been poisoned. Dear me! Miss Brill didn’t know whether to admire that or not! And now an ermine toque and a gentleman in grey met just in front of her. He was tall, stiff, dignified, and she was wearing the ermine toque she’d bought when her hair was yellow. Now everything, her hair, her face, even her eyes, was the same colour as the shabby ermine, and her hand, in its cleaned glove, lifted to dab her lips, was a tiny yellowish paw. Oh, she was so pleased to see him – delighted! She rather thought they were going to meet that afternoon. She described where she’d been – everywhere, here, there, along by the sea. The day was so charming – didn’t he agree? And wouldn’t he, perhaps? … But he shook his head, lighted a cigarette, slowly breathed a great deep puff into her face, and even while she was still talking and laughing, flicked the match away and walked on. The ermine toque was alone; she smiled more brightly than ever. But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly, played tenderly, and the drum beat, “The Brute! The Brute!” over and over. What would she do? What was going to happen now? But as Miss Brill wondered, the ermine toque turned, raised her hand as though she’d seen some one else, much nicer, just over there, and pattered away. And the band changed again and played more quickly, more gayly than ever, and the old couple on Miss Brill’s seat got up and marched away, and such a funny old man with long whiskers hobbled along in time to the music and was nearly knocked over by four girls walking abreast.


     Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play. It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn’t painted? But it wasn’t till a little brown dog trotted on solemn and then slowly trotted off, like a little “theatre” dog, a little dog that had been drugged, that Miss Brill discovered what it was that made it so exciting. They were all on the stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all. How strange she’d never thought of it like that before! And yet it explained why she made such a point of starting from home at just the same time each week – so as not to be late for the performance – and it also explained why she had quite a queer, shy feeling at telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons. No wonder! Miss Brill nearly laughed out loud. She was on the stage. She thought of the old invalid gentleman to whom she read the newspaper four afternoons a week while he slept in the garden. She had got quite used to the frail head on the cotton pillow, the hollowed eyes, the open mouth and the high pinched nose. If he’d been dead she mightn’t have noticed for weeks; she wouldn’t have minded. But suddenly he knew he was having the paper read to him by an actress! “An actress!” The old head lifted; two points of light quivered in the old eyes. “An actress – are ye?” And Miss Brill smoothed the newspaper as though it were the manuscript of her part and said gently; “Yes, I have been an actress for a long time.”

     The band had been having a rest. Now they started again. And what they played was warm, sunny, yet there was just a faint chill – a something, what was it? – not sadness – no, not sadness – a something that made you want to sing. The tune lifted, lifted, the light shone; and it seemed to Miss Brill that in another moment all of them, all the whole company, would begin singing. The young ones, the laughing ones who were moving together, they would begin, and the men’s voices, very resolute and brave, would join them. And then she too, she too, and the others on the benches – they would come in with a kind of accompaniment – something low, that scarcely rose or fell, something so beautiful – moving … And Miss Brill’s eyes filled with tears and she looked smiling at all the other members of the company. Yes, we understand, we understand, she thought – though what they understood she didn’t know.


     Just at that moment a boy and girl came and sat down where the old couple had been. They were beautifully dressed; they were in love. The hero and heroine, of course, just arrived from his father’s yacht. And still soundlessly singing, still with that trembling smile, Miss Brill prepared to listen.

     “No, not now,” said the girl. “Not here, I can’t.”

     “But why? Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?” asked the boy. “Why does she come here at all – who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”

     “It’s her fu-ur which is so funny,” giggled the girl. “It’s exactly like a fried whiting.”

     “Ah, be off with you!” said the boy in an angry whisper. Then: “Tell me, ma petite chere–“

     “No, not here,” said the girl. “Not yet.”

 

On her way home she usually bought a slice of honey-cake at the baker’s. It was her Sunday treat. Sometimes there was an almond in her slice, sometimes not. It made a great difference. If there was an almond it was like carrying home a tiny present – a surprise – something that might very well not have been there. She hurried on the almond Sundays and struck the match for the kettle in quite a dashing way.

     But to-day she passed the baker’s by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room – her room like a cupboard – and sat down on the red eiderdown. She sat there for a long time. The box that the fur came out of was on the bed. She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.

May 14, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . My Favorite Things, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Solitude, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #31 (The Billionaire by Maxim Gorky)

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I once read an amusing anecdote by Osho which goes like this:

One day Mulla Nasruddin told me, “I wish I had more land”.

 I asked him, “But why? As it is you already have enough”.

 He said, “I could raise lot more cows”.

 I asked him, “And what would you do with them?”

 He said, “Sell them & make more money.”

 “And then? What are you going to do with that money?”

 “Buy more land.”

 “For what?”

 “To raise more cows.”

This is the way it goes, you never come out of it.

Similar sentiment runs through this humorous & Brilliant short story by the Russian author Maxim Gorky

The Billionaire

by Maxim Gorkiy


The kings of steel, of petroleum, and all the other kings of the United States have always in a high degree excited my power of imagination. It seemed to me certain that these people who possess so much money could not be like other mortals.

Each of them (so I said to myself) must call his own, at least, three stomachs and a hundred and fifty teeth. I did not doubt that the millionaire ate without intermission, from six o’clock in the morning till midnight. It goes without saying, the most exquisite and sumptuous viands! Toward evening, then, he must be tired of the hard chewing, to such a degree that (so I pictured to myself) he gave orders to his servants to digest the meals that he had swallowed with satisfaction during the day. Completely limp, covered with sweat and almost suffocated, he had to be put to bed by his servants, in order that on the next morning at six o’clock he might be able to begin again his work of eating.

Nevertheless, it must be impossible for such a man — whatever pains he might take — to consume merely the half of the interest of his wealth.

To be sure, such a life is awful, but what is one to do? For what is one a millionaire — what am I saying? — a billionaire, if one cannot eat more than every other common mortal! I pictured to myself that this privileged being wore cloth-of-gold underclothing, shoes with gold nails, and instead of a hat a diadem of diamonds on his head. His clothes, made of the most expensive velvet, must be at least fifty feet long and fastened with three hundred gold buttons; and on holidays he must be compelled by dire necessity to put on over each other six pairs of costly trousers. Such a costume is certainly very uncomfortable. But, if one is rich like that, one can’t after all dress like all the world.

The pocket of a billionaire, I pictured to myself so big that therein easily a church or the whole senate could find room. The paunch of such a gentleman I conceived to myself like the hull of an ocean steamer, the length and breadth of which I was not able to think out. Of the bulk, too, of a billionaire I could never give myself a clear idea; but I supposed that the coverlet under which he sleeps measures a dozen hundred square yards. If he chews tobacco, it was unquestionably only the best kind, of which he always sticks two pounds at a time into his mouth. And on taking snuff (I thought to myself) he must use up a pound at a pinch. Indeed, money will be spent!

His fingers must possess the magic power of lengthening at will. In spirit, I saw a New York billionaire as he stretched out his hand across Bering Strait and brought back a dollar that had rolled somewhere toward Siberia, without especially exerting himself thereby.

Curiously, I could form to myself no clear conception of the headof this monster. In this organism consisting of gigantic muscles and bones that is made for squeezing money out of all things, a head seemed to me really quite superfluous.

Who, now, can conceive my astonishment when, standing facing one of these fabulous beings, I arrived at the conviction that a billionaire is a human being like all the rest!

I saw there comfortably reclining in an armchair a long, wizened old man, who held his brown, sinewy hands folded across a body of quite ordinary dimensions. The flabby skin of his face was carefully shaved. The underlip, which hung loosely down, covered solidly built jaws, in which gilded teeth were stuck. The upper lip, smooth, narrow and pallid, scarcely moved when the old man spoke. Colorless eyes without brows, a perfectly bald skull. It might be thought that a little skin was wanting to this reddish face, to this countenance that was expressionless and puckered like that of one new-born. Was this being just beginning its life, or was it already nearing its end?

Nothing in his dress distinguished him from the ordinary mortal. A ring, a watch, and his teeth were all the gold he carried with him. Scarcely half a pound, all told! Taken altogether, the appearance of the man recalled that of an old servant of an aristocratic family in Europe.

The furnishing of the room in which he received me had nothing unusually luxurious about it. The furniture was solid; that is all that can be said. Oftentimes elephants probably come into this house, I involuntarily thought at the sight of the heavy, substantial pieces of furniture.

‘Are you the billionaire?’ I asked, since I could not trust my eyes.

‘Yes, indeed,’ he answered, nodding convincingly with his head.

‘How much meat can you consume for breakfast?’

‘I eat no meat in the morning,’ he avowed. ‘A quarter of an orange, an egg, a small cup of tea, that’s all . . .’

His innocent child’s-eyes blinked with a feeble luster, like two drops of muddy water.

‘Good,’ I began again, half disconcerted. ‘But be honest with me; tell me the truth. How often in the day do you eat?’

‘Twice,’ he answered, peacefully. ‘Breakfast and dinner suffice me. At noon I take soup, a little white meat, vegetables, fruit, a cup of coffee, a cigar . . .’

My surprise grew apace. I drew breath, and went on:

‘But, if that’s true, what do you do with your money?’

‘Make more money!’

‘What for?’

‘To make more money out of that!’

‘What for?’ I repeated.

He leaned toward me, his hands supported by the arms of his chair, and with some curiosity in his expression he said:

‘You are probably cracked?’

‘And you?’ I said . . .

The old man inclined his head, and, whistling softly through the gold of his teeth, he said:

‘Droll wag! . . . You are the first human being of your species that I ever became acquainted with.’

Then he bent his head back and looked at me some time, silently and scrutinizingly.

‘What do you do?’ I began again.

‘Make money,’ he answered, shortly.

‘Oh, you’re a counterfeiter!’ I exclaimed, joyfully, for I thought I had finally got to the bottom of the mystery. But the billionaire flew into a passion. His whole body shook, his eyes rolled actively.

‘That is unheard of!’ he said, when he had calmed down. Then he inflated his cheeks, I don’t know why.

I considered, and put further the following question to him:

‘How do you make money?’

‘Oh, that’s very simple. I possess railroads; the farmers produce useful commodities, which I transport to the markets. I calculate exactly to myself how much money I must leave the farmer, in order that he may not starve and be able to produce further. The rest I keep myself as transportation charges. That’s surely very simple!’

‘And are the farmers satisfied with it?’

‘Not all, I believe,’ he answered, with a naïve childishness. ‘But they say that the people are never satisfied. There are always odd characters who want still more . . .’

Some people get fixated on acquiring more and more money without even pausing to think what do they want it for? Is it worth slogging for money after we have enough to get all our necessities? Where will all that huffing n puffing for more and more money lead us? Isn’t contentment a smarter choice?

~It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor. ~ Seneca

 ~Greed will always leave you dissatisfied because you’ll never be able to get everything you desire. Greed never allows you to think you have enough; it always destroys you by making you strive ever harder for more. ~ Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Taking Stock: A Spiritual Guide to Rising Above Life’s Ups and Downs

~Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.~Socrates

~Money is just a tool, don’t let it make you a fool.

May 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Humor, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Osho, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #30 (Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Conell)

Mrs. Bridge

Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell is the story of India Bridge n her married life. The story is told in form of vignettes/snapshots from events in her daily life rather than as one long continuous narrative. All the vignettes show how she interacts with her children, her husband, her Domestic Help n her Social Circle n thus draw her character sketch for the readers, one episode at a time. This makes the book different n interesting n a very breezy read.

 I found India Bridge’s character fascinating in that I’m always incredulous that some people are actually like her .. she lives to please others. What will others think is her prime guide in doing anything. Even in something as personal as reading books. She doesn’t have any particular taste in books but reads whatever happens to be popular in the circles within which she moves n the purpose for reading books is so that she can talk about them with others!

Her character is brought out in several episodes in the novel, like when she gets upset at her son Douglas ‘cos he actually uses the expensive napkins which she keeps to impress her guests, they are meant only for show off n not for actual use, or when she advises her daughter to carry a purse instead of stuffing things in her pocket ‘cos all ladies are supposed to carry a purse. Her behavior strikes looks at times absurd, at times amusing & even hilarious.

She is also not very sure what she wants from her life n is in a state of perpetual confusion.  On one hand she has too much free time n is at a loss as to how to pass that time, n yet she finds herself  very busy when she wants to do something for herself like learning Spanish. Also she can’t do away with her cleaning woman though she could very well have constructively engaged in managing her home so as to avoid boredom of having too much time n not really having anything to do.

 In my own life individuality, freedom n authenticity have been the prime values. I have an inner locus of control. I think over everything from the reference of my own values. Whether it be my decision to remain child-free or not to pursue a career outside my home or choosing to be Agnostic n Buddhist rather than follow the religion I was born into, never following religious rituals, not watching Cricket (the most popular sport in India) even when it’s an Indo-Pak match (and everyone insists on talking about anything else when such a match is on), not buying expensive jewelry or expensive anything,using a very basic mobile (no smart phone) n camera, etc. all my decisions are made after long careful reflection on my own values n to please myself rather than others. I also have the ‘courage’ to be vocal about my contrarian choices, be it online or in close relationships in my life. After my marriage a friend of my DH hinted that I should remove the article on child-freedom from my blog ‘cos it gave a wrong impression of me as a woman and as a wife!! & I was like, helloooooooo this is giving very much the right impression of me as a woman ‘cos that is who I am, take it or leave it. I also remember a married friend who had to quit job being literally afraid to break the news to her parents ‘cos her parents believed pursuing a career was the only right path for her. Again I never have any problem in breaking any such news to my near n dear ones,’cos my life, my rules, my way, as simple as that. Why should you be having any problem with my decisions as long as I’m not hurting you or interfering in your life a your happiness?!

 Now coming back to Mrs. Bridge…her character reminded me a lot of Peter Keating from Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, which is one of my most favorite books of all times. Peter Keating like Mrs. Bridge lives to please others. Peter Keating is a conformist who lives for fame, always seeking approval from others, always doing what would look good to others & not what he actually wants: He wanted to be a painter but became an architect instead; He loved Cathy but married Dominique because Dominique is more beautiful & sophisticated & hence a better wife to impress the world; he rises in the profession by flattery, manipulation, lying, cheating n even near-murder. “Always be what people want you to be,” is his motto. He is what he is because of others, he depends on others for his identity.(As opposed to the protagonist of the novel Howard Roark who neither cares about what others think of him nor spends much time thinking about others)

 Mrs. Bridge’s social life is what Guy Debord refers as ‘Society of Specatle’.Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” People are becoming more n more interested not in who they actually are but in how they appear to others, much like Peter Keating n Mrs. Bridge.

You can read the book here:

http://www.archive.org/stream/mrsbridge011005mbp/mrsbridge011005mbp_djvu.txt

 

May 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Book Review, Books, Fountainhead, Reading, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #29 (Music by Faran Ensemble)

Faran Ensemble

Me & The Hubs just love the music by Faran Ensemble. We don’t seem to get enough of it. In fact the Hubs loves listening to it as he drifts off to sleep. Their music is not ordinary. It touches your soul. It stirs something within you. It is soothing & Meditative. N their videos are just as beautiful. There is something very very calm n simple about the videos that adds to the serenity that is created by their music. Their videos are shot in beautiful desert n show simple things like coffee being made from fresh coffee beans n enjoyed by friends while playing music and beautiful Dessert landscape in the background. No flashy lights that hurt the eyes here or 100s of ladies dancing in the background. The faces of Musicians are very calm n dignified. Their faces n their music reflects the beauty of their soul.

Here are three of my most favorite videos from Faran Ensemble

Faran is a musician trio, who joined each other in a spiritual quest, expressed in music and sounds.Faran Ensemble is a three player group, who joined each other in a spiritual quest, expressed in music and sounds. It has been years now thatthese players have deeply engaged themselves in studying the musical instruments and the theory of music with the best teachers in the country and abroad.

Faran Ensemble’s FaceBook Page

Basic Info

Founded 2010

Genre Original Ethnic – World Music

Members Roi Smila ~ KAMANTCHE
Gad Tidhar ~ OUD
Refael Ben-Zichri ~ PERCUSSION

General Manager Ziv Hand

Influences Arabic & Turkish Makam, Azeri Mugam, Persian Dastgah,world music, Phsycodelic rock, classical western music, jazz

March 22, 2013. Tags: , . Music, My Favorite Things, You tube. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #28 (The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco)

The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco

English: Eugene Ionesco on a ship's deck cross...

I love everything about this book, starting with the title ‘The Hermit’…the word Hermit is so beautiful n peaceful. To me it signifies one who has found value in one’s own company.

 (Great minds are like eagles, and build their nest in some lofty solitude.~Arthur Schopenauer;

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.  ~Tillich, Paul)

I was immediately attracted to the Title of the book a couple of years back (& I reread it just now). At that time I did not in any way know about the Genius of Eugene Ionesco or that I would start loving his absurd plays.

Then there is the most wonderful opening sentence of the novel:

At thirty-five, it’s high time to quit the rat race. Assuming there is a rat race. I was sick & tired of my job. It was already late: I was fast approaching forty. If I hand’t come into unexpected inheritance I would have died of depression & boredom.

(Now it is a coincidence that I too gave up the rat race if there was any rat race for me to begin with  at 35, not that I was bored of my job…I was thoroughly enjoying my stint as a teacher but there came a time when I said to myself enough was enough…already time to quit n explore new things..the new things being doing nothing but devoting a large part of my time to thinking n philosophizing, devoting time to explore n adopt a simpler way of living, a frugal way, a Zen way, a quiet way, far from the madding crowd, far from the white noise of the society n confirmity )…so our unusual protagonist retires at 40 & devotes his time to ponder over the existential issues & the real meaning of our lives, not the superficial or mundane but the actual why n how of the human existence. He devotes his time to ponder over the nature of time, memories, death, infinity of the Universe, n such. Most people would regard him as eccentric n that is the general opinion of people towards him in the novel…sample these conversations & interactions of the narrator with various people:

~ I have a suspicion that the way I lived, the way I acted, rarely if ever going out, must have struck to her as odd. She made a number of allusions to my inactivity. According to her, I had no right to be retired in the first place. Not at my age anyway.

~Yes, that was it: they are all hostile towards me. What did they have against me? The fact that I didn’t live the way they did; that I refused to resign myself to my fate.

~She asked me questions that were vaguely indiscreet: “So it’s you again! Where are you going at this time? You always seem to be going out. And yet it’s safe to say you’re not going to work. You are lucky. Not like the rest of us.”

& the Best of all

~ I was about to drift off when Jeanne (His maid) came into the living room. As she rubbed the furniture to make it shine, she upbraided me, telling me that the life I led was unhealthy. Wasn’t I  going to buckle down & find some work for myself ? All right, so I had an inheritance. That’s no reason to sit around and do nothing all day. At least get married. Did I intend to go on living all alone like some impotent? I ought to start a family. I should have children. Man is made to have children, and there is nothing cuter than little ones underfoot. And then when they grow up and you grow old, they don’t abandon you to poverty; no, they reach out a helping hand when you need it the most. If there’s anything worse than living alone, it’s dying alone, with no one around to offer you a little milk of human kindness. I didn’t know what was in store for me. As for herself, she had a husband she didn’t get along too well, but now he was sick. They had had a child, a boy they had brought up with tender loving care, he had a heart of gold, only he had gone away and left them; he had a heart of gold, it was only because of that wife of his. They hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Apparently they had a baby. She had also had a daughter whom they had raised with similar loving care. A lovely girl. That is, she had been. But she too had a baby, only the baby had died. After that she deserted her husband. She came back home for a while, then left again, she had begun living fast n loose, from all that they had heard. Some cousins were in contact with her and kept them informed. Apparently she was on drugs. Children are ungrateful! You bleed yourself white for them, they aren’t all that easy to bring up in the first place and then when they grow up they go away and leave you, forget you: the best thing is not to have any. You’d better not count on them to show you any gratitude in the time of need.

I told her I was sure she was right. That didn’t stop her, she was still talking, with the dustrag in the right hand while she gesticulated with her left. She made me promise to marry and have children.

This conversation with Jeanne is perfectly classic Non-Sequiter dialogue in which Eugene Ionesco excels. The maid has not too good experience with her own children & yet she wants our guy to marry n have children. Somehow everyone is uncomfortable with anyone who leaves the race of conformity n who wants to live life on his/her own terms, then everyone will jump over each other n try to convince her/him to make the conventional choices no matter how badly they themselves are faring in life with their conventional/conformist choices. I too find myself on receiving end. People try to convince me that I must be bored to be staying at home all day n doing nothing since I don’t have any children either. No matter how happy I am & I look they are not convinced. How can I be happy until I am behaving like everybody else? Unless I have a fancy Job Title n a fat pay packet?

And one more thing is that people never value anything we do for it’s own sake. Not for making money but for the joy of doing the thing, like Vincent Van Goh painting his master pieces none of which sold during his life time. He said he painted for the sheer joy of painting regardless of them not selling. People can’t accept the fact that a guy wanna leave his job n focus on his inner life.

But I admire him for his ability to quit, afterall all of us know many people who crib about Monday mornings n enjoy life only on weekends n yet they can’t give up their lousy jobs ‘cos they gotta buy stuff to impress the people whom they don’t like’…that urge seems to be powerful for the masses of people.I guess it’s very easy to quit the drudgery of work if one wants to follow a simple n frugal life. Our guy (he remains unnamed in the novel) doesn’t squander money on big n fancy things like flashy car or luxury villa or such but just buys himself a modest flat where he can be with himself

I found his character intriguing in it’s aloofness. He tends not to think too much about other people. He is very much attached to his girlfriend upto the extent a person of his nature can be attached to anyone. Yet when she leaves him he has great difficulty in recalling her name…he’s always like ‘I miss Yovne or was her name Marie?!! In this sense he reminded me of another of my favorite character Meursault from ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus  (“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”)

 I like this novel for what goes inside the mind of the narrator. This book is not for anyone who likes suspense/thriller. I never like that kind of books where you are on tenterhooks as to what will happen next. I could not care less for a whodunit. My kind of book is that in which nothing happens…just life goes on at it’s own pace n that’s it. So no wonder I found this book extremely satisfying.

 

March 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Eugene Ionesco, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Solitude. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #27 (That don’t impress me much by Shania Twain)

I’ve known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you’ve got being right down to an art
You think you’re a genius-you drive me up the wall
You’re a regular original, a know-it-all

Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist
That don’t impress me much
So you got the brain but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much

I never knew a guy who carried a mirror in his pocket
And a comb up his sleeve-just in case
And all that extra hold gel in your hair oughta lock it
Cause Heaven forbid it should fall outta place

Oh-oo-oh, so you think you’re something special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt
That don’t impress me much
So you got the looks but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much

You’re one of those guys who likes to shine his machine
You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in
I can’t believe you kiss your car good night
C’mon baby tell me-you must be jokin’, right!

Oh-oo-oh, so you think you’re something special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’ve got a car
That don’t impress me much
So you got the moves but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night

That don’t impress me much
You think you’re cool but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm on the long, cold, lonely night
That don’t impress me much

Okay, so what do you think you’re Elvis or something
Whatever
That don’t impress me

Though Shania sings the song in context of guys, I get this general feeling whenever I meet anyone (of either gender) who tries to impress (the rest of) us with their materialistic possessions or their useless knowledge, they just end up boring us n making a fool of themselves. So you got everything but do you have the things that matter, for example let’s say imagination, wisdom, inner peace, joy?? Now those are the things that would actually impress me, but sure they are very rare in the jokers who show off their banal stuff…this showing off has reached new lows with social media…some people will just update you on all the places they go to eat, or the pics of stuff they bought!! …oh hello, ohhh really?? Now what are we supposed to do?? get impressed??? sorry folks…we just end up laughing at you..get over your petty materialism n show us something real.

March 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Music, My Favorite Things, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #26 (The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco)

English: Author Eugene Ionesco onboard a ship.

The Bald Soprano is an Absurd play by Eugene Ionesco.  At the beginning of the play we see an English couple, the Smiths who are sitting and discussing the day’s events or at any rate Mrs. Smith is discussing n her husband is reading the newspaper n clicking his tongue n responding sporadically (As seems to be the tradition of husbands n wives all over the world. What is so great about the sadistic boring newspaper that husband’s prefer it over the wives juicy talks?). Anyways, the conversation takes place in non-sequiturs which makes it totally inane and totally hilarious. Examples

MRS. SMITH: Mary did the potatoes very well, this evening. The last time she did not do them well. I do not like them when they are well done.

MR. SMITH: A conscientious doctor must die with his patient if they can’t get well together. The captain of a ship goes down with his ship into the briny deep, he does not survive alone.

MR. SMITH: All doctors are quacks. And all patients too. Only the Royal Navy is honest in England.

MR. SMITH: Here’s a thing I don’t understand. In the newspaper they always give the age of deceased persons but never the age of the newly born. That doesn’t make sense.

MARY: But it was you who gave me permission. MR. SMITH: We didn’t do it on purpose.

 Then they go on to discuss a family where everyone is named Bobby Watson. So Bobby Watson has died n yet Bobby Watson is supposed to be married in a few days. Bobby Watson is unemployed n Bobby Watson faces a tough competition in business. their illogical conversation continues till their maid comes n announces that they have some guests, The Martins, who are invited for dinner n who are standing outside ‘cos they were too shy to come in. (At this point Mrs. Smith who had only minutes earlier said ‘There, it’s nine o’clock. We’ve drunk the soup, and eaten the fish and chips, and the English salad. The children have drunk English water. We’ve eaten well this evening. That’s because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith.’ now says, ‘Oh, yes. We were expecting them. And we were hungry. Since they didn’t put in an appearance, we were going to start dinner without them. We’ve had nothing to eat all day. ‘) Then they rush to change…now it is the turn of Martins to carry on the absurd conversation, they forget that they are married n come to the conclusion that they must indeed be married by elimination n deductive reasoning. & so the absurdities continue…

To me the play spoke about the futility of our conversations. We human-beings flap our mouths a bit too much n insist on chattering despite not really having anything to say. Why are we so uncomfortable with golden silence n fill our time n space with trashy, meaningless gossip? Though we don’t talk in non-sequiturs but if we really think about it, our conversations are mostly unnecessary n as meaningless as that of The Smiths n Martins.

I get really terrified by the amount of small talk that happens at the parties. People go n on n on about the topics of no interest or relevance. They keep repeating what they have read in the newspapers forgetting that others get the newspapers too!! & I live in constant terror of phone calls for gossiping. I very much prefer the written communication which is so non intrusive n non abrasive.Though I don’t really yap all that much but the verbosity in play inspired me to introspect n find more opportunities to stay quiet. (“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” ~Will Rogers)

The Bald Soprano is a parody of our conversations, of the so-called dramatic situations of our lives, and of our inability to remain silent…. By a deliberate, stark use of the banal and a repetition of the worn-out clichés of language, Ionesco generates an unusual, fresh atmosphere.The Reader’s Encyclopedia of World Drama

 

This reminds me of one amusing story recounted by Osho tells of how each day Lao Tzu went for a morning walk.  Often a friendly neighbour would follow him, but knowing that Lao Tzu did not like idle chitchat, the neighbour would keep silent.  One day the neighbour had a visitor who also wanted to come; they took a long walk of several hours but the visitor was not comfortable in the silence and felt suffocated by it, so much so that when the sun was rising he said: “What a beautiful sun … look!”Later Lao Tzu said to the neighbour: “Please don’t bring this chatterbox with you again, he talks too much. ‘Cos I know the sun rise is beautiful, you know it is beautiful, he knows it is beautiful, what’s the need to blabber?’

“Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.” ~ William Faulkner

Silence is the means,
silence is the end, in silence only silence permeates.

If you would understand,
if you want to understand,
then only one thing is worth understanding – silence.

Osho : Early Talks – Bhuribai

See the Other Absurd Play reviews on my blog:

Come and Go 

and

Happy Days

 

March 12, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Eugene Ionesco, My Favorite Things, Plays, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #25 (Soak up the sun by Sheryl Crow)

Soak up the sun by Sheryl Crow

My friend the communist
Holds meetings in his RV
I can’t afford his gas
So I’m stuck here watching TV

I don’t have digital
I don’t have diddly squat
It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got

I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I’m gonna tell ’em that)
I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I’m looking up
I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna soak up the sun

I’ve got a crummy job
It don’t pay near enough
To buy the things it takes
To win me some of your love
Every time I turn around
I’m looking up, you’re looking down
Maybe something’s wrong with you
That makes you act the way you do

I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I’m gonna tell ’em that)
I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I’m looking up

I’m gonna soak up the sun
While it’s still free

I’m gonna soak up the sun
Before it goes out on me

Don’t have no master suite
But I’m still the king of me
You have a fancy ride, but baby
I’m the one who has the key
Every time I turn around
I’m looking up, you’re looking down
Maybe something’s wrong with you
That makes you act the way you do
Maybe I am crazy too

Who needs stupid expensive materialistic stuff when we have a rocking attitude to enjoy an uncomplicated simple life? The beauty of simple pleasures (n listening to such songs is among them) is really something else n is really kinda lost on people who are stuck in the rat race n living the false dream.Maybe something is really wrong with them to be lost in false glittery branded fake things n looking down on folks who are having the real fun!! Instead of racing for the new car, or gizmos or exotic vactions n villas, I’d just soak up the sun n chill. !!

Also check out my another favorite: Society

March 7, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Happiness, Music, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Simplicity, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #24 (Come and Go by Samuel Beckett)

These days I’m captivated by Samuel Beckett. ( Read about my other favorite play by him ‘Happy Days’  here).

His is minimalist theater. Not much happens on stage. But much happens in the viewer’s/reader’s mind. In the play ‘Come & Go‘ we see 3 ladies in bright colored coats, eyes covered with hats, sitting on a bench. From their scanty conversation we can make out that they are old friends who once attended elementary school together n in those days too they used to sit like this on a bench. They are meeting after a long time. Their names are Flo, Vi & Ru. During the course of the play, one of them leaves & other two get a chance to talk about the one who left. In this manner all three women at one point occupy the central position and all become privy to a secret about one of the others. From each response (Ru: (about Vi), “Does she not realise?” Vi: (about Flo), “Has she not been told?” Flo: (about Ru), “Does she not know?”) it is not unreasonable to assume that each is in fact terminally ill but unaware of the fact.

This human trait would be so comic, if it were not so sad. Each one is shocked by what is happening in life of the other two n being saddened by it while being blissfully unaware of their own tragic fates. Now all of us humans share the same tragic fate, such is nature of our life, but while we understand this to be a fact of our fellow humans, we royally ignore this very human condition in our own life.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in other’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

Why are we so much interested in n fascinated by the lives of others? What is the charm of gossip in our lives?

  “You get together with a friend and talk about the faults of this person and the misdeeds of that one. Then you go on to discuss others’ mistakes and negative qualities. In the end, the two of you feel good because you’ve agreed you’re the two best people in the world.” ~Geshe Ngawang Dhargye

Wouldn’t it be better if we gave up this behavior & focus on our own lives?Though others have faults,let’s concentrate on our own.

 “Criticizing others while being unaware of their own faults is something that many people do. We can even say that it is something we all do from time to time.” ~ Derek Lin, The Tao of Daily Life,

Let the improving of our own life take up so much of our times that we don’t have time to criticize others.

March 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Existentialism, Reflections/Musings, Samuel Beckett. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #23 (When I Retire, We Will See the World)

When I Retire, We Will See the World

It was 10 p.m. Fritz said good night to his wife. She was watching TV. He went to bed. Tomorrow was a big day. It was his last day of work. Thirty years with the federal government. Thirty years of flying out of town for weeks on end. Thirty years of interviews, meetings, and heavy briefcases. Tomorrow it would all be over. Not that he didn’t like it. He had enjoyed his career.

Fritz felt blessed. His father had had a tough life as an unskilled laborer. Whenever Fritz was a bit discouraged or upset, he thought about his overworked and underpaid father. He thanked God for his own good life, and for the fact that he had been able to make his dad’s last years comfortable.

His two children were married and had their own careers. His wife Paige kept busy with, among other things, her bridge club. She had tried to get him interested in bridge, but without success. Fritz was content with his own Friday night poker group.

Friday morning, he went to work for the very last time. Those who knew him well would miss him. Fritz was a genuinely nice guy. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. Some people might have thought he was a little dull, but he was intelligent, a hard worker, and a team player. He had taken only three weeks of sick leave in 30 years.

A small group took him out to lunch. When he returned from lunch, the whole office gathered around for cake, ice cream, a farewell card, and a few short speeches. They presented him with various going-away gifts, including a big paperback US atlas. It listed all the motels, campgrounds, national parks, tourist spots, and other information to help guide a leisurely traveler throughout the good old USA. He had told his friends that he and Paige were going to spend a couple of years visiting all the places that he never had gotten to explore while there on business. As a final gift, his supervisor told him to take the rest of the day off.

Paige’s car wasn’t in the driveway when he got home. She was probably shopping for some traveling clothes. Maybe she was out arranging a dinner at a restaurant that evening for just the two of them. That would be nice.

But something was wrong. When he hung up his jacket, he saw that the bedroom closet was half empty. Paige’s clothes were gone. Her shoes were not on the closet floor. Confused, he looked around the bedroom.

He saw an envelope on the lamp stand. Inside it were two pieces of paper. One notified him of a divorce proceeding. The other was a hand-written note from Paige. “I’m so sorry,” it began. She said that her lawyer had told her to wait until today. If she had sought divorce a year earlier, like her boyfriend had suggested, she would not have been able to qualify for 50 percent of Fritz’s pension. She hoped that he would find it in his heart to forgive her. She felt terrible about this, she wrote, because “you’ve been so good to me. But I can’t ignore my own heart.”

Fritz sat immobile on the edge of the bed. Her note was in his hand; her words were burning in his brain.

Maybe an hour later, the phone rang. He picked it up on the fifth ring. It was Bob, wondering if Fritz was going to play poker later that night.

Though it’s so short, I found it a fascinating read with a surprise ending & it made me think too!! Often we wait for a certain day when finally everything will be in place for us to undertake big adventure in our life…but sometimes when that day finally arrives, life (or maybe we can say fate) pulls the rug from our feet. What we never imagined in our worst nightmare happens just on the our Big Day, the timing is ironic!! Life’s way of mocking at our anticipation n complacency. Far too many slips between cup n lip, as they say. Just a day before Fritz was thinking his life had been god n not as tough as that of his father n after he came back from office after his retirement party, he thought maybe his wife was planning a surprise dinner for him. But his wife n life had other plans for surprise.

On another note, though this is a very short story, we get a pretty good glimpse of Fritz’s character. He is hardworking, dependable, cares about his wife n father, & he’s not a loud party animal. One huge lesson for all married folks, it’s not good enough to provide for the family, the spouses must share atleast a few common interests. Him playing poker n her playing Bridge is not going to work for the long term. Also, we should not keep postponing things we want to do like traveling or whatever be it that our hear desires till some future day. If we do, it almost invariably happens that day doesn’t come at all. Between all our busyness, we have to make time for life or  life will pass us by while we are focusing only on work, money, success n responsibility. 

February 26, 2013. Tags: , , , . Reflections/Musings, Short-Story. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #22 (Happy Days by Sameul Beckett)

Happy Days by Sameul Beckett

English: Sketch of scene in Happy Days by Samu...

Happy days is an Absurd play by Samuel Beckett who is best known for ‘Waiting for Godot’. Happy days is the story of Winnie, a woman who is trapped waist down in a mound of earth. As she begins her day she declares it to be another lovely day, a rather strange assertion for someone in her situation. She has a huge bag in which she has an assorted nick-nack of items, her toiletries, a hat, an umbrella, a revolver, etc.  Burried in a nearby mound is her husband Willie. Throughout the day Winnie keeps herself busy with her possessions in the handbag & engaging in a long monologue while Willie is busy with his newspaper n occasionally grunts in response (eh, this is how all husbands indeed are, whether in an absurd play or in real life (and there is nothing more absurd than real life after all)!! This is the situation of most married people, the wife chatters n the husband suffers her chatter,is engrossed with newspaper n grunts in response occasionally).

As the Act II of the play begins, Winnie is now buried neck deep inside the earth but continues her life in the same fashion, as optimistic as ever.What makes this play extraordinary n poignant is that the story of Winnie underlines the general human condition, it is the story of all of us. We all get stuck in certain situations in our life n we try to take it in our stride by calling it our inescapable fate. (Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.~Lemony Snicket). Despite it all  we try to resort to positive thinking n make the most of it anyways. There seems to be no other choice. This is the absurdity of our existence. And even as we keep repeating our positive mantras our lives as that of Winnie moves from bad to worse. I remember a joke which goes like this, a guy goes to an astrologer who tells him that his life will be very hard for 2 years…the guy asks will it improve after that? Nopes, says the astrologer, but you will get used to it!! So in life, nothing gets better but we learn to adjust.But the tragedy is that when we get used to our bad situation it grows even worse.

In a way we can say Winnie is trying to ignore the reality of her situation by being exuberant. This is both a good thing and a sad thing to do. Is it really wise to engage in the trivialities of contents of handbag? (in real life we are engaged in the trivialities of money, possessions, career, success while ignoring the real futility of all this, while the real issues in life are un-understood & unsorted we are like Winnie who says ‘There is of course the bag. There will always be the bag.). This is like trying to paint one’s house while it is on fire.

One more way of looking at Winnie’s predicament is realizing that sometimes in life we are not in a position to control our external environment but still we can control how we react to them & how we try best to cope up with our bleak reality. (everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.~Victor Frankl). The Title of the pay is very ironic, the situation is not called sad days! This is the way our life seems to be designed, we have to extract our happiness from our life experiences. (Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world.~Samuel Beckett)

February 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Samuel Beckett. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #21 (About my very tortured friend Peter by Charles Bukowski)

About my very tortured friend Peter by Charles Bukowski

Drawing of writer Charles Bukowski

he lives in a house with a swimming pool 
and says the job is 
killing him. 
he is 27. I am 44. I can’t seem to 
get rid of 
him. his novels keep coming 
back. “what do you expect me to do?” he screams 
“go to New York and pump the hands of the 
publishers?” 
“no,” I tell him, “but quit your job, go into a 
small room and do the 
thing.” 
“but I need ASSURANCE, I need something to 
go by, some word, some sign!” 
“some men did not think that way: 
Van Gogh, Wagner—” 
“oh hell, Van Gogh had a brother who gave him 
paints whenever he 
needed them!” 

“look,” he said, “I’m over at this broad’s house today and 
this guy walks in. a salesman. you know 
how they talk. drove up in this new 
car. talked about his vacation. said he went to 
Frisco—saw Fidelio up there but forgot who 
wrote it. now this guy is 54 years 
old. so I told him: ‘Fidelio is Beethoven’s only 
opera.’ and then I told 
him: ‘you’re a jerk!’ ‘whatcha mean?’ he 
asked. ‘I mean, you’re a jerk, you’re 54 years old and 
you don’t know anything!’” 

“what happened 
then?” 
“I walked out.” 
“you mean you left him there with 
her?” 
“yes.” 

“I can’t quit my job,” he said. “I always have trouble getting a 
job. I walk in, they look at me, listen to me talk and 
they think right away, ah ha! he’s too intelligent for 
this job, he won’t stay 
so there’s really no sense in hiring 
him. 
now, YOU walk into a place and you don’t have any trouble: 
you look like an old wino, you look like a guy who needs a 
job and they look at you and they think: 
ah ha!: now here’s a guy who really needs work! if we hire 
him he’ll stay a long time and work 
HARD!” 

“do any of those people,” he asks “know you are a 
writer, that you write poetry?” 
“no.” 
“you never talk about 
it. not even to 
me! if I hadn’t seen you in that magazine I’d 
have never known.” 
“that’s right.” 
“still, I’d like to tell these people that you are a 
writer.” 
“I’d still like to 
tell them.” 
“why?” 
“well, they talk about you. they think you are just a 
horseplayer and a drunk.” 
“I am both of those.” 
“well, they talk about you. you have odd ways. you travel alone. 
I’m the only friend you 
have.” 
“yes.” 
“they talk you down. I’d like to defend you. I’d like to tell 
them you write 
poetry.” 
“leave it alone. I work here like they 
do. we’re all the same.” 
“well, I’d like to do it for myself then. I want them to know why 
I travel with 
you. I speak 7 languages, I know my music—” 
“forget it.” 
“all right, I’ll respect your 
wishes. but there’s something else—” 
“what?” 
“I’ve been thinking about getting a 
piano. but then I’ve been thinking about getting a 
violin too but I can’t make up my 
mind!” 
“buy a piano.” 
“you think 
so?” 
“yes.” 

he walks away 
thinking about 
it. 

I was thinking about it 
too: I figure he can always come over with his 
violin and more 
sad music.

The poetry is a conversation between two friends, the poet & a young man who seems to be stuck in the ‘Rat Race’ n consumerism (He lives in a home with a swimming pool). The poet lives his life the way he wants (he writes poetry but doesn’t want to publicize his passion for the praise of others, he does it for the joy it brings him) n the other guy also wants to do the same, he means to do the same but he can’t get un-stuck. He somehow keeps justifying his choices. Now this is very, very interesting, people who live their life according to the pre-made script of the society always have their reasons to remain stuck in their misery. They keep cracking Monday morning jokes but can’t break away from work-consumerism-impressing others-more work-more misery cycle.  The friend though seeking advice from the narrator to quit his work doesn’t miss the chance to brag about his supposed superiority. He is definitely self deluded …no wonder he’s confused  & can’t find the courage to do what he really wants. If we look around us, the majiority of the masses are tortured like our tortured friend Peter. The last lines are so powerful, they give me goosebumps, even if our friend Peter gets a violin/piano as he has been planning for a long long time, he’ll only play sad music on it. Joy is not possible till he is stuck in his current mindset.

February 20, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Poetry, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #20 (Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Natheniel Hawthrone)

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Natheniel Hawthrone

Dr. Heidegger, an eccentric scientist, invites his old friends Colonel Killigrew, Mr. Gascoigne, Mr. Medbourne, Madam Wycherly & tells them about discovery of water from the fountain of youth. All the four are very eager to grow young again n greedily drink the potion. They indeed grow young again & start behaving in their old ways, dancing, flirting, chasing money n being engrossed in politics. Dr Heidegger himself is wise & says that having taken up so much time to grow old & wise, he has no desire to grow young again. But his friends share none of his wisdom. They see old age as something dull & youth as the only desirable thing. They want to have their beauty & vitality back , not realizing that their youth was wasted in silly pursuits. In fact they represent the majiority attitude in our society which worships youth & dreads old age. I’ve heard many folks (esp women) saying that they want to be 16 forever!!! Why can’t people age gracefully, enjoy the wisdom that comes with age, instead of running after youth??…youth was fine while it lasted but there is a time for everything. I for one am loving growing older…don’t wanna be 18 till I die. I’m 37 going on 75.

The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on a fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts and we grow happier as we grow older.”–William Lyon Phelps

“Aging is no accident. It is necessary to the human
condition, intended by the soul. We become more characteristic of who we are simply by lasting into later years; the older we become, the more our true natures emerge. Thus the final years have a very important purpose: the fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.”
James Hillman

“I don’t know why people are so afraid of getting old…there are tremendous gains…the ease and the security of feeling essentially being able to cope…” Hedda Bolgar

Here is George Carlin telling us advantages of growing old (1.40 mins onwards)

Read the story here:

http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Nathaniel_Hawthorne/Dr_Heideggers_Experiment/Dr_Heideggers_Experiment_p1.html

& watch it in action here:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/138928/Dr

 

February 19, 2013. Tags: , , , . Reading, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite thins: #19 (The Diary of a superfluous Man by Ivan Turgenev)

The Diary of a superfluous Man by Ivan Turgenev

English: Photograph of Turgenev after receivin...

This is a Diary of a man (Tchulkaturin) who is about to die & who declares his existence to be superfluous, frivolous & meaningless. Being a diary it shows us the inner life of the narrator & I always love a peek into the inner lives of people who think interesting thoughts (& insights of a dying person are even more interesting, ‘cos they grow more reflective & more honest). Although written in 1850,   it reads like a contemporary work  (though at some places it does talk of strange things like old fashioned Balls & duels…I never understand duels-men ready to settle small differences in opinion by killing or being killed, rather drastic) .

When Turgenev published Diary of a Superfluous Man in 1850, he created one of the first literary portraits of the alienated man. Turgenev once said that there was a great deal of himself in the unsuccessful lovers who appear in his fiction. This failure, along with painful self-consciousness, is a central fact for the ailing Chulkaturin in this melancholy tale. As he reflects on his life, he tells the story of Liza, whom he loved, and a prince, whom she loved instead, and the curious turns all their lives took

 It is peppered with interesting observations on Life, Death, & (unrequited) love. Sample these:

~But isn’t it absurd to begin a diary a fortnight, perhaps, before death? What does it matter? And by how much are fourteen days less than fourteen years, fourteen centuries? Beside eternity, they say, all is nothingness–yes, but in that case eternity, too, is nothing. 

 ~My father had a passion for gambling; my mother was a woman of character . . . a very virtuous woman. Only, I have known no woman whose moral excellence was less productive of happiness. She was crushed beneath the weight of her own virtues, and was a source of misery to every one, from herself upwards. In all the fifty years of her life, she never once took rest, or sat with her hands in her lap; she was for ever fussing and bustling about like an ant, and to absolutely no good purpose, which cannot be said of the ant. The worm of restlessness fretted her night and day. Only once I saw her perfectly tranquil, and that was the day after her death, in her coffin. Looking at her, it positively seemed to me that her face wore an expression of subdued amazement; with the half-open lips, the sunken cheeks, and meekly-staring eyes, it seemed expressing, all over, the words, ‘How good to be at rest!’ Yes, it is good, good to be rid, at last, of the wearing sense of life, of the persistent, restless consciousness of existence! But that’s neither here nor there.

~Yes! I fought shy of my virtuous mother, and passionately loved my vicious father.

~But it occurs to me, is it really worth while to tell the story of my life?

~No, it certainly is not, . . . My life has not been different in any respect from the lives of numbers of other people. The parental home, the university, the government service in the lower grades, retirement, a little circle of friends, decent poverty, modest pleasures, unambitious pursuits, moderate desires–kindly tell me, is that new to any one? And so I will not tell the story of my life, especially as I am writing for my own pleasure; and if my past does not afford even me any sensation of great pleasure or great pain, it must be that there is nothing in it deserving of attention. I had better try to describe my own character to myself. What manner of man am I? . . . It may be observed that no one asks me that question–admitted. But there, I’m dying, by Jove! –I’m dying, and at the point of death I really think one may be excused a desire to find out what sort of a queer fish one really was after all.

~Winter again. The snow is falling in flakes. Superfluous, superfluous. . . . That’s a capital word I have hit on. The more deeply I probe into myself, the more intently I review all my past life, the more I am convinced of the strict truth of this expression. Superfluous–that’s just it. To other people that term is not applicable, . . . People are bad, or good, clever, stupid, pleasant, and disagreeable; but superfluous . . . no. Understand me, though: the universe could get on without those people too . . . no doubt; but uselessness is not their prime characteristic, their most distinctive attribute, and when you speak of them, the word ‘superfluous’ is not the first to rise to your lips. But I . . . there’s nothing else one can say about me; I’m superfluous and nothing more. A supernumerary, and that’s all. Nature, apparently, did not reckon on my appearance, and consequently treated me as an unexpected and uninvited guest. A facetious gentleman, a great devotee of preference, said very happily about me that I was the forfeit my mother had paid at the game of life. I am speaking about myself calmly now, without any bitterness. . . . It’s all over and done with!

~Yes, one can’t help saying with the Russian philosopher–‘How’s one to know what one doesn’t know?’

 ~peculiar sort of consolation which Lermontov had in view when he said there is pleasure and pain in irritating the sores of old wounds, why not indulge oneself?

~Kirilla Matveitch offered me a seat in his coach; but I refused. . . In the same way children, who have been punished, wishing to pay their parents out, refuse their favourite dainties at table.

~I fully realised how much happiness a man can extract from the contemplation of his own unhappiness. O men! pitiful race, indeed! 

 You can read the Novella here:

http://www.eldritchpress.org/ist/dsm.htm

 

February 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Reading, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

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