How to fix something broken

Random thoughts

Month: March, 2016

Walls and bridges

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German-American anthropologist Franz Boas (ca. 1895)

If we are part of the same species, why are we so different from each other? Why are there people with different skin color, who have different customs and pray to a different God?

Anthropology won’t answer most of these humankind’s inner, profound queries, but it will teach us to ask ourselves -and others- the right questions.

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a lonely heart was a hit by British progressive rock band Yes featured in their 1983 pop era masterpiece 90125.

Remember that Simpsons episode where Lisa draws a graph on the relationship between intelligence and happiness saying “As intelligence goes up, happiness goes down.”?

I hate that cliché, and what is more: I refuse to believe it.

Being intelligent means having more and better resources to reach happiness (or at least a state of mind that resembles happiness). Of course you can be intelligent and be unhappy. You can, either way, be dumb and be unhappy.

There are several types of intelligence as well. To me, being intelligent means basically adaptability (especially to the environment, but also to the group). But that leads us to a problematic issue: hierarchy between species that eventually has legitimized the exploit of Nature by humankind. Is a penguin necessarily less intelligent or even expendable or profitable to us humans because it can only live in extremely cold climates?

As for the adaptability, it also brings forward a problematic issue: a hierarchy among humans themselves. Is someone with DNS or with palsy less intelligent because they have a constant need of others to live? But since we are all dependent throughout our lives, and at least especially in need of others in two stages of it, childhood and old age, is the intelligence of us “normal” people fluctuating?

Humankind is a gregarious species. There is a reasonable dependency on others up to a certain point. However, it’s true that we are basically alone in our path to reach a higher level of conciousness. Maybe being aware of that is what makes us fearful and unhappy, and it also makes us search for shelter in others, instead of simply searching someone to keep us company along the way.

But being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Being alone -and realising about it- doesn’t have to mean being unhappy.

Emotionally crippled, part II

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Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh as the tragically in love warrior Yu Shu Lien in Ang Lee‘s masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

 

‘When it comes to emotions even heroes can be idiots.’

The rover

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The comic vignette that appears at the end of every Lucky Luke album. Lucky Luke is a character developed by Belgian cartoonist Morris and French writer René Goscinny.

I went on my own for a visit in the big city yesterday, and it was pretty fruitful. I visited a museum house; I got lost in the streets of the old town; I passed by the sinagogue in the medieval jewish quarter -I didn’t even know there was a sinagogue… The jewish community was expelled from Spain twice: in 1492 and in the XVII century*– where I heard a rabbi singing; I went into a church were they were celebrating what I think was an Evangelicalist Sunday mass; I found a clothing vintage market at the central university campus area; and I came across a Japanese stall at a small square from an association that raised funds for the victims of the 2011 tsunami by selling self-made products such as T-shirts, watercolor paintings, or writing your name in kanji characters.

But the most interesting experience I had was probably meeting a guy who claimed having lived on the streets for about 6 years.

He rode a bike where he carried a black leather jacket he told me had just found in a trash can, and a couple of bread loaves in a plastic bag. He had a black beard, he wore a bun, a Red Cross sweatshirt, khaki trousers and trainers. You could have mistaken him for a hipster. He told me he was 45.

He came to me to ask for some money -he told me that since I was a native it was easier for him to approach me than grumpy tourists- because he wanted to buy a couple of shoes he had just seen in a showcase in a shop. He bargained to get the store manager to sell him those for just 6€, and he had succeeded. Now he just needed to gather the money.

First of all, I have to say that I don’t usually give money to beggars or anybody else for that matter. I am pretty distrustful when it comes to money -and as a general rule. I was recently tempted to give a few coins to a couple of girls who sang tangos in the subway, but I finally backed down. But, even though I was reluctant at the beginning, I genuinely liked the guy. He was a loner eager to talk and I guess so was I, so we hit it off, I gave him just a little money and a piece of a cheese sandwich I hadn’t finished at lunchtime -for which he was thankful- and also some conversation.

Apparently, he wasn’t living on the street because he had been evicted -as many people in this country during the crisis-, or anything like that, but because he had actually chosen to. He wasn’t living a happy life and since he had no family obligations because he had no kids, he decided to give up on everything and start a new life as some kind of hermit or rover. Ever since, he had live here and there and travelled around Europe on his bycicle.

“All these people are living a lie.”, he said referring to people passing by. And even at the risk of sounding like a proselyte, I think he was right. He talked about God a lot: “People need to walk with God instead of talking about him so much.” I think he was right as well. I guess he was worthy of admiration, though I didn’t tell him because apparently he was tired of being told that by other young beggars he encountered in his street life -I was shocked to find out there were so many youngsters, most of them drug addicts, living in the streets.

Don’t know. Maybe he was lying to me. Maybe he wanted to buy some grass -he told me he smoked pot- instead of a pair of shoes he needed because the ones he was wearing had worn off. Maybe he thought I was an easy target because I was a young woman walking alone in the street. Whatever the case, I chose to believe him. I had a nice time talking to him and I believe he had a nice time talking to me too -although he didn’t want to tell me what he did before leading this kind of life because he said giggling shyly he was embarrassed. To be honest, I was sad when we parted. It felt like talking to an old friend. We hadn’t exchanged names, and anyways, it was quite unlikely that I was ever going to see him again. We were talking for about twenty minutes, but I wished we had talked a little -or a lot- longer.

I wish him well.

The preposterousness of it all

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         Baron Münchhausen under water (ca. 1894), by Gottfried Franz.

 

When we were children the grown-ups used to say to us:

“Don’t worry. When you’re older you’ll understand.”

Understand? What is there to understand?

In aeternum

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Bronze head from a statue of the Roman emperor Augustus (27-25 bC)

Someone once said :

“If life were measured by accomplishments, most of us would die in infancy.”

Before discussing this quotation we should perhaps redefine our notion of accomplishment. If achieving something is about “making it big”, then yeah, we’re all doomed. If it means making money, gaining recognition or fame, building the pyramids… well, yes, most of us are definetely going to die incomplete.

The point is, our idea of accomplishment is that of doing things in order to being praised by others’s on our deeds and actions, when in fact we shouldn’t depend on other people’s approval or rejection to move on.

Moreover, I’ve always had a hard time being persistent in my pursuits because I needed to find a purpose in everything I deed, and something inside me was telling me that everything is meaningless itself. I was right: it’s us who give it its meaning simply by doing it.

I wake up every morning and apparently I don’t do much. Most of the time moving on is just enough. But it’s a great deal in my own little world. If I ever stopped doing what I do, as small as it is, nothing would make sense… and by the time I tried to resume what I was doing the act or deed itself would have lost its own meaning as well.