Saudade for The Buried Giant

Every once in a while, there appears a piece of work so misty in its form, that you are forced to use your imagination rather more than you are used to, in order to fill in the gaps. To be scatter-brained and write like that is easy. It is natural. But to deliberately write about a mist clouding your memories, in a vague voice, while not losing your reader, is hard. It is what Kazuo Ishiguro managed in The Buried Giant.

The story makes you meander through the English countryside, centuries in the past, with a couple looking for their son. The land is filled with a mist which makes people lose their memories and live in a sort of vague, uneasy manner. A dragon is the cause for all this mist. The story gently nudges the readers towards varied levels of discovery as the mist clears in places, like little rays of sunshine sparkling through the clouds.

Misty
Misty

The couple is looking for their lost son and hoping that his reception of them would be as warm as they want it to be. It is beautiful when a single word can capture all that: Saudade

Saudade: a feeling, a longing for something or some event that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future
Saudade: a feeling, a longing for something or some event that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future

It brought about the question of what we are without our memories. I had the same disorienting feeling when I read about a novel about a virile, active person who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. How aspects of her life went up as wisps of cloud.

It is our future that is often clouded in mist. Our future that we try to hurtle towards – doing things we believe in, and trying to piece it together based on random skills and interests in our present. We try to un-fog the future doing the best we can in the present and hope that it will be helpful in the future.

As I was reading The Buried Giant, I found myself wondering whether we have a complete knowledge of the past. Our past. Our memories comprise our past, which means that our past is blemished by our reactions to the events. What we see are our flavors over the years. People who are nostalgic for the most part, are those who have associated positive emotions with most of their memories. Choosing to enjoy the company of the happy ones over the less happy ones.

Could the same principle be applied for the future? Or the present for that matter? Maybe it could. Can we choose a happy flavor while living in our present, so that we can color our past happy, when we look at it from the future?

P.S: After this book, I sorely need a light, easy read.

Edit a few days afterward: I read this article about the ability of time and wanted to update the link in this post: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/07/01/mental-time-travel-dan-falk/

The Art of the Considered Response

In our age of reminding us to breathe, here is a breath of fresh air!

This 15 year old girl came up with a solution to reducing online abuse: It is so simple; it is brilliant.

http://magazine.good.is/articles/how-a-15-year-old-tech-whiz-is-using-software-to-fight-internet-hate

On reading about a teenage girl who committed suicide after being at the receiving end of abuse, Trisha Prabhu, was shocked. That a girl who could have had a productive, love filled life chose to deprive herself and her family and friends of the opportunity was nothing short of devastating for her.

She spent hours researching the topic. She found out teenagers tended to be way more impulsive than adults. The efforts led her to Rethink. The problem is we are in such a rush, the heady feeling of sending that email response, that comment out the door, so we can get started on the next stimulus is draining. Something has to give and that something is the ability to stop & think. So, her solution is simple: Her algorithm detects abusive language and pops up a message that says, “You are about to say something that may hurt the other person. Are you sure you want to post this?

The rate of abuse with this simple action was down by 93%. A whopping 93% of the time, all the brain needed was a second’s introspection.

We are rewarding behaviors requiring instant reactions.

For instance, I do not like it when somebody is notified that I have read a message, because the clock is then ticking. I am fairly certain some team danced their way to the bank after that feature was rolled out, but I cried. Now our brains go: They know I have read it, they are wondering why I have not responded. They now know I am thinking about it. How long can I think about it? Will they think I am thinking about it?

thinking and writing
thinking and writing

I read another article on the gentle art of letter writing and thought to myself that what I miss most in these days of frenzied communication is the space to ruminate and practice the Art of the Considered Response.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/01/27/lewis-carroll-letter-writing-email/

There are certain gems that Lewis Carroll says that are as relevant to the letter writing era as the social media era:

Don’t try to have the last word!

Don’t repeat yourself.

When you have written a letter that you feel may possibly irritate your friend, however necessary you may have felt it to so express yourself, put it aside till the next day.

This post could go a hundred different ways and indeed has been written and rewritten multiple times over the years and has not made it to the blog on each of these occasions because I was not satisfied with it. I still am not satisfied with this post, but I am rewarding my sense of instant sharing by publishing it now.

What do you want to be?

I like reading children’s literature. I have always liked reading children’s books. They tap into beautiful aspects of our mind that is dormant in our adult lives. It is almost like unicorns and fairies are only there for minds great enough like a child’s mind. The son seems to like tales of friendship between frogs and toads, race cars and tow trucks, octopus and squid etc.

Squid and Octopus : By Tao Nyeu
Squid and Octopus : By Tao Nyeu

The ability to imagine a whole different world when we have a perfectly good one around us requires an imagination greater than our conditioned minds can take.

Imagining
Imagining

Of late, I have been thinking often of the post of mine a few years ago:

https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/logarithmic-linear-logarithmic/

Children’s books remind me of the quote by Einstein.  When asked what to read to children to make them intelligent, he said:

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/14/einstein-fairy-tales/

I love the books by Dr Seuss addressing important questions such as:

Want kind of feet do you want?

Would you rather be up or down?

A question our children often get asked is: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I know it weighs on some children a rather lot more than on others. When they ask me what they should be when they grow up, I reverse the question and send it back to them to think. What do you like to do, and from there we can see what you would like to be.

The son’s answer is an interesting one. He wants to be an eye doctor and a fire fighter ‘this month’. (He was fascinated that his sister went for an eye exam and got to come home and test her brother’s eyesight, and he is in awe of fire-trucks and Disney’s Planes 2 movie about a plane training to be a firefighter ).

The daughter picks a different profession every few months, and one day when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I thought a little harder instead of shooting something out to appease them: This is what I want to do. I want to do several things that stretch my  imagination in several directions for several weeks at a time. I want to be a writer,  a dancer, a teacher, an entertainer, a researcher, an economist, a firefighter, a nurse, a counsellor, a tree planter, a software engineer, a banker, a naturalist, a biologist, a librarian (one of my earliest dreams), a doctor, a teacher, a painter, a sculptor, a physicist, a chef, a scented candle maker, a perfume maker, a florist, a gardener, a textile engineer, a physicist, an anthropologist, a historian.

How about a reader, a dreamer, a traveler, an adventurer, an imagineer?

Dr Seuss: Would you rather be?
Dr Seuss: Would you rather be?

Some weeks, I want to be as introverted as it is possible to be, some weeks, I want to work a party into everything I do. I would like to be the animated one day and an animator the next. I would like to be a thinker one day and a do-er the next.

I would like to be curious-er everyday.

There are several things that removal of poverty can bring about. One, I hope is the ability to try different things to see the most appealing work for each person. That, in itself, could obviate the need for self renewal:

 http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/07/14/self-renewal-gardner/

Our education could be a few years of doing everything, for the mundane is already taken care of, the existential is no longer a question.

What do you want to be today? This month? This year?

The Full Moon & Half Sun

The past week-end  made me think of our Seattle-Vancouver vacation again. We trooped into the house after making a hash of things at the Annual Arts Fair in the sun. We looked like the grass in California with the signs on them saying “Brown is the new Green!” Parched, in other words. The son, approaching the color of a roasted salmon, put his hat down and said, “There is a half moon. There is a full moon. Why is there no half sun? Always full sun!”

Half Moon and Half Sun
Half Moon and Half Sun

I could not have expressed it myself better, and thought about our sentiments during the vacation.

As far as experiences go, the previous vacation was marvelous. We had many firsts. Almost missing a flight by arriving at the wrong airport in time notwithstanding.

The sun rose like it was being called to bake cookies in the open grass at 5:30 a.m., and long after the cookies were baked, the fish dried to make karivaadu (dried fish fries) and the vattals (some sun-dried lentils) dried, it blazed on. Around 10:00 p.m. it would reluctantly start to set, assuring us that it will be available at 5 a.m. the next day.

All this wonderful Sun meant that we were harder-put-than-ever to pass up any part of the day for resting or otherwise missing out on the fun. We went traipsing from waterfalls to rivers and bays with gusto. At 10 p.m. we took a short breather before heading out to night-time activities such as fireworks and taking in the lovely images of the Seattle skyline by night.

I have to also make a honorary mention of the fact that we were almost thrown out of a coffee shop. The Son has a loud-ish sort of voice. The kind of voice that make apples leap out of their skin. When excited, bananas peel themselves too. He was excited when we stopped at one of Seattle’s famous coffee shops for a refresher.

He had been spending time with my friends’ sons: two adventurous lads of 7 who looked like demi-Gods to his 4-year old self. When they leapt, he tried to leap too even if it it looked like a dull thump of a jump to retrieve his pride. The boys were having a blast in the car. They laughed at their own wit and the son was beaming trying to join in on everything. We were trying to keep things classy.
“Guys! No Fart jokes please.”
“Let’s try some other things to talk about. Poop is not cool.”
“Yuck! Guys! You know – let’s move it back to the classy Fart jokes again.”

When we tumbled into the Coffee shop, the boys were singing songs.

The son had learned a line or two from these wonderful boys-of-7 (He had to keep saying their age, like you call someone Dr Doofenshmirtz). They had taken him in to their circle without asking a question. He beamed at being included and used that wonderful voice of his to belt out the Lego movie song, “Everything is awesome. Like over-priced coffee.” The daughter can show a remarkable sense of propriety when she can boss over the little fellow and she clamped her hand around his bass tones chiding him for singing about coffee. “They won’t give us coffee then!” she said to him, and he replied quite logically, that he wanted ice-cream and not coffee.

All in all, it was a wonderful treat to hang out with friends, even if it got us nearly thrown out of a coffee shop, in Seattle.

We then popped into Vancouver and finished up with bicycle rides along Stanley Park, rope bridges, gondola rides and what not.

gondola
gondola

I must say the long days were lovely and though the husband and I on occasion looked like drooping dogs who could be mistaken for carpets, there were no such problems for the children. They were truly indefatigable. At the end of a long day, they would perk up again at the mention of ice-cream or a swim.

It is wonderful how Vancouver made a thing about rope bridges and we swerved and swayed with the best of them. The children were thrilled when shown nature’s model and we spent a few minutes crouching to see this marvel at 96 F before heading back indoors.

nature's inspiration
nature’s inspiration

In 5 days, we had thoroughly exhausted and enjoyed ourselves. We headed back hot and happy. The half-sun would have been good, but the half-sun is what those poor folks get in the Winter I suppose.