Saving Grace

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There isn’t one, is there? You thought that walking away would protect you from the cold, didn’t you?

You were oh so sure that it would be enough to cobble up a fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war, but it never was, how could it?

On the other hand it is all so pretty and you’ve been told that pretty suffices.

 

 

* and yes, I do know whom I misquote.

• • •

Paradox

The Window Pardox

Doesn’t this urgency to publicly announce your impregnable privacy and wise majesty strike you as a bit of a paradox? It’s as if you would open a window to proclaim to the world that it is closed.

Did you ever consider that the world might not care whether it’s open or not?

• • •

Nothing To Add

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This is all there is, sorry.

Just a few qualities and many shortcomings (all of which vary over time, true, yet their relative proportions stay constant.)

Granted, none of this is in any way remarkable but I hope it presents an explanation, or maybe simply a sufficiently valid reason as to why I have no opinions to offer about this particular predicament or enchantment of yours.

Even if I wanted to I’d still have nothing to add.

• • •

Signs & Milestones

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He said that he often thought about those signs that we’re absolutely certain to have shaped significant decisions in our lives. About how we’re generally inept at reading signs at all and then arbitralily choose some to be more relevant than others. I wonder, he said, if the signs we’re most inept at reading aren’t exactly the ones that actually matter most instead of the ones we single out.

Then again, we could be simply misinterpreting not the signs but that which we promote to be our life’s milestones.

• • •

Oh Well

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Image © Lotus Carroll

What’s surprising (to me) is not so much that we harbor childish reactions beneath a veneer of maturity, that much is obvious.

It’s rather to discover that the veneer is paper-thin, and especially that none of this makes it any thicker.

• • •

Which is Real?

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But on that particular day I did not even begin to feel interested in this chore, and was suddenly more deeply bored than I have ever been before, and just turned around and went back inside. Which made me wonder why I wanted to do this chore at all, on other days, and also which was real: my slight interest on other days or my profound boredom now. And it made me wonder if I really should be profoundly bored by this chore all the time and never do it again, and if there was something wrong with my mind that I was not bored by it all the time.

Lydia Davis ― Can’t and Won’t: Stories

• • •

Certainty

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Bayes’ Theorem. Image © mattbuck

 

In no affairs of mere prejudice, pro or con, do we deduce inferences with entire certainty, even from the most simple data.

Edgar Allen Poe — The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

…In other words, cavēte theorema Bayes, as explained by John Horgan.

• • •

Es Ist Noch Nicht So Weit

Immer dichter fiel der Schnee vom Himmel und senkte sich auf die Felsen und auf die satten grünen Wiesen. Egger ging weiter. Er achtete genau auf seine Schritte, um nicht auszurutschen, und alle paar Meter wischte er sich mit dem Handrücken die Flocken von Wimpern und Augenbrauen. Dabei stieg eine Erinnerung in ihm hoch, ein kurzer Gedanke an etwas, das sehr lange zurücklag, kaum mehr als ein verwischtes Bild. “Es ist noch nicht so weit”, sagte er leise, und der Winter legte sich übers Tal.

Robert Seethaler — Ein ganzes Leben

• • •

L’Opéra Tactile

Egon Schiele, Die Umarmung - 1917

Egon Schiele — Die Umarmung (1917)

Ils sont nus maintenant, et leurs peaux que l’obscurité fusionne prennent même température et mêmes nuances carbone, ils se tendent une main jusqu’à se toucher par dessus le lit, jusqu’à se rapprocher l’un contre l’autre, alors c’est le grand tâtonnement, l’opéra tactile, et les corps à fragmentation multiple qui se débrouillent parfaitement bien dans la pénombre.

Maylis de Kerangal — Naissance d’un pont

• • •

The London Promise

(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2014)

I was enamoured of London long before I had even visited it and for two very specific reasons, random as they may sound: Walt Disney and Foyle’s bookstore.

I first saw “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” at around age ten, and loved it from beginning to end, as a ten-year old would. One scene (or rather, a song) however, was to stay indelibly etched in my mind: Portobello Road.

It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that my image of Portobello Market during the war was of course a complete illusion: the scene isn’t filmed in London at all but rather in a studio set in Burbank, California. It didn’t matter: by then the damage was already done.

To this day I can’t exactly determine what fascinated me so much. It wasn’t the song per se; after all it’s not as if I was expecting to one day visit London and see people spontaneously spring into song and dance in the middle of the street (these days, with the advent of flash-mobs, I’m less certain.)

Perhaps it was the sound of the (fake, I know) cockney accent of stall-owners and spivs offering everything from vegetables and fruit, to jewelry, to books, and even secret instructions (for a fee) on how to find the Star of Astaroth. Or maybe was it seeing the music and choreography being adapted on the spot by Jamaicans, Sikhs, Australians, Irish, and many others, making Notting Hill their own and yet shared.

Come to think of it, it may very well be due to the simple fact that these were children like myself, in a shady market, late at night, during the war, when despite all the horror which only later I came to comprehend, all rules seem to have been suspended. To me it felt like adventure; slightly dangerous, slightly forbidden and slightly mischievous, much as good adventures ought to be.

Depicted, a magical flying bed. You can tell it’s magical, because it glows. Obviously.

Least of all, let’s not forget that they had a magical flying bed. It is a known fact that childhood memories of magical flying beds are character-forming. I mean, think about it: it’s a bed and it flies, I can’t stress it enough.

The origin of my fixation with Foyle’s on the other hand, has proven impossible to trace despite many attempts to do so. Its spot on my “top ten list of memorable… stuff” was never endangered even though it sometimes changed positions. It has proudly occupied the rarified atmosphere of the top three positions for a long time, but is now in danger of leaving it; it appears that the Charing Cross Road location is being sold, and the store is moving somewhere else. (update: it has, right next door)

At the beginning all I knew of the place from pictures and from reading about it was precisely its current location and peculiarities, later confirmed by subsequent visits: inconceivably large for those times, a labyrinth of shelves and corridors that connected the five floors of three different buildings, hastily merged into a single space while keeping the layout and floor-plan of each. Like a family whose members aren’t necessarily keen on each other but have no choice but to live together; not exactly ideal but still better than having to move in with strangers.

And books. Pile upon pile of dusty books. Fifty kilometers of shelves, it is said, in two and three rows, on tables, on the floor even, mixing used books with new ones, from floor to ceiling, either organized by a sadist or else simply left abandoned; the purpose seemed to be to make it as difficult as possible to find the volume you were looking for. My own extended speleological surveys of the space later revealed that this chaos served me very well: after all this wasn’t a bookstore where you went to buy the books you wanted but much rather a bookstore you went to to want books you didn’t yet know.

Organizing books, as imagined by Kafka.

After having discovered your volumes, or as some would argue, they had found you, exhausted from the travels to the darkest ends of the mysteriously winding corridors — some leading apparently nowhere, changing subject-matter mid-way for no logical reason — and in anticipation of the wonders buried in those pages, you still had to overcome the greatest hurdle of them all: you had to pay for them.

You wouldn’t normally suppose it to be a problem, had not the sadist in charge of organizing the books also designed the check-out procedure: there were two, sometimes three, queues. You had to surrender your book in one in exchange for a note, obtain an invoice for that note in another queue and finally pay the invoice in yet another queue. All was written by hand by less than inspired clerks, some of which didn’t even speak English at all. Only then could you have your book.

The whole experience felt as if Foyle’s was appalled that you (dishonestly, surely) had found something you wanted to buy and gave itself a moment of reflection on the merits of your disposition before allowing you to walk out with what sometimes felt like a brick of the house itself; it wasn’t just a purchase, it was a test of character.

At any rate, my childhood obsession with both Foyle’s and Portobello Road gave me purpose: I studied Tube maps, photographs, movies, books (the ones I could understand), and descriptions from anyone I knew who could tell me something about London.

My first visit at thirteen wasn’t the grand event I had anticipated: it was incomparably better, a familiar surprise. I knew exactly where I was and where I wanted to go first: Central Line to Notting Hill Gate, walk down and back up ever so slowly Portobello Road. Still walking, cross Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, catch the Piccadilly Line at Knightsbridge, hop off at Leicester Square. From there it’s a short walk up Charing Cross Road to Foyle’s. In the event of having survived it whole reward myself with a visit to Convent Garden by way of Trafalgar Square.

I have since been to London more often than I can remember, and my perception of it has become a palimpsest of memories of events, people, scents, colour, all-important conversations, life-changing emotions and a whole collection of many other sights, from the preppy times of drinking Bellinis at the Claridge’s, to the punk years of the bug-ridden bed-and-breakfast near Victoria Station. The city and I are inextricably, and I now realise, inexplicably linked to each other.

Every now and then I convince myself that it forgot about me which makes me a little sad and a little anxious, as if I was discovering once again for the first time a promise that’s impossible to keep.

Most of the time however (and misquoting Whitman) I just know that we were together, the rest I forget.

 

• • •

Water

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New album by Hélène Grimaud, produced by Nitin Sawhney, but only on February 5th, 2016. I was foolishly hoping that the story would be ready to be told by now… 🙁

The album features works by nine composers: it opens with Berio’s Wasserklavier and includes Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II, Fauré’s Barcarolle No.5, Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, “Almería” from Albéniz’s Iberia, Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este and the first movement of Janáček’s In the Mists, before closing with Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie. These myriad reflections on the qualities of water were recorded live at the Armory during the installation and then connected and woven into the album narrative by seven “Transitions” that were newly composed, recorded and produced by Sawhney. Grimaud was delighted to work with the award-winning composer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, praising his ability to highlight “the universal human dependence on our planet’s most precious resource” and weave “contrasting poetic and philosophical perspectives into a single, cogent musical ecosystem.”

via Deutsche Grammophon

• • •

The Second of Man’s Creeds

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Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars. We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare.

T.E. Lawrence — Seven Pillars of Wisdom

• • •

Mind The Gap

(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)

You will never know how much music has transformed you, not until it has, but by then you won’t remember what it was like back when it hadn’t. You’ll swear that it was always like this, that it didn’t so much transform you as it unlocked something in you.

And yet it did transform you: there were neurological changes, dormant nerve paths awoke, new ones were discovered, tiny and impatient little specks of light now travel through you, an imminent and familiar menace, one to which you cannot wait to capitulate.

It is your mother-tongue now.

You never saw it coming, did you?

• • •

The Spring Apprehension


(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)

This puzzles me:

I hear the expression “words were said that cannot be taken back”, and yet I don’t know where or how we draw the conceptual line that separates words that can be taken back from those that cannot. I mean we can all easily differentiate between monstrous statements and innocuous ones, yet I suspect that there exists a grey area where we cannot do that at all, one which contains many more words than both extremes.

It all depends on who hears those words I suppose. If that is the case, maybe it should read: “there will never be a correct apology for the words you’ve said”, or in other words: “the separation line is clear to me, regardless of where you think the line is”.

It all sounds very final.

As if it were supremely important that Spring must die or else never be.

• • •

Omelette

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I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able—if called upon to do so—to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners should, afterward, make the other an omelet—passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment.

21 Incredible Life Lessons From Anthony Bourdain On Life, Relationships, Travel And Most Importantly – Food

• • •

The Love Recipe

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(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)

Hell is the incapacity to be other than the creature one finds oneself ordinarily behaving as.

Aldous Huxley — Eyeless in Gaza

Love is easy, here’s what you do:

  • Tell her you love her every day, several times a day. Fucking mean it as if your life depended on it. Hell, your life does depend on it.
  • Did you have a fight? Are you carrying a grudge? Slow down, don’t call her just yet. Go first look at a picture of her, the one you like best. Yes, that one where she’s happy, complete and laughing as if nothing else mattered. Talk to the picture, tell it that you’re a sorry moron (because you know you are) and that you love her and fucking mean it. Now call her and tell her that.
  • Can’t call just now? Did she hurt your feelings badly? Are you sad? Well boo-hoo-fucking-hoo. What are you going to do? Mope? Sulk like a child whose toys have been taken away? Or are you going to grow a pair and grasp that you’re the shithead who provoked it? Make amends you simpleton. Remember that once you’ve been your usual cretinous self it’s almost always too late to make amends. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Do it now.
  • Your fucking “standards” don’t matter, you pathetic little nitwit. Don’t ever be so arrogant as to think that you have deserved to be loved by someone like her, you haven’t. You were just lucky that someone peeked inside you and found a flame to kindle, remember that. We should all be so lucky.
  • When she shares something with you, no matter how trivial, understand it for what it is: you have been chosen to carry a fragile and unique gem that you need to protect and tend to. And guess what, no one gives a flying fuck about your accounting of the credits and debits of the laying bare of souls. A single one is enough for you to carry a debt you can never hope to repay.
  • Know every millimiter of her body as if it were your own, know it better that your own. There is a place for lust of course, but unless you’re an animal, don’t succumb to it until you’ve accepted how the simplest of her gestures or a flick of her hair can floor you and leave you breathless. Don’t be a fucking animal.
  • You don’t absolutely need a constant confirmation of her love for you. Don’t be an insecure little shit and trust your instincts. Only contemplate asking when you feel completely like yourself and of good cheer. Only then. There is darkness inside us all yes, but try to get rid of it (and for fuck’s sake don’t think for a minute that the darkness makes you any more “interesting”). The both of you are one now, not a unit of you plus her. Darkness will only get in the way and cast doubt when it finds the slightest opportunity.
  • And by the way, did you tell her you love her? Did you fucking mean it?

 

If you didn’t, if you can’t, if you’re not sure about all this, if you are stupid enough to think that you “need to think about it” or even if, hey, you reach the conclusion that maybe you’re not in love with her, then get the fuck out of her way.

Stop wasting her life and go be an imbecile on your own time.

• • •

Purple


(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2013)

 

Yes, it hurts, just a little, and there is no way to avoid it.

The damned conjugation of life’s little ploys always ends up pushing you to the edge of a cliff where you are exposed, defenseless, where anything, no matter how trivial, can make you loose balance and plunge you into the pit.

Even your surprise at finding yourself here is predictable.

You’ll try to argue, to reason: No, not me, why me, I had no demands, not this time. I didn’t screw up, not that much, I was good, I was courteous, I was delicate. I was prepared to be hurt, for fuck’s sake. I shouldn’t even be here. Look, that moment, that stupid awkward moment, that hesitation? It meant nothing that can’t be undone, right? Right?

See, so long as you don’t accept that you are the only part in this, that no one is punishing you, no amount of protest will ever save you; so you know, if you crave redemption, you first need to know from what.

Rest now. Everything will be alright. Messy and chaotic.

Flawless.

 

 

• • •

The Rottenness

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Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.

Jonathan Franzen — How to Be Alone

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