That awkward moment when your mother catches you watching youtube and it’s easier to claim you’re watching porn than physical theatre…
That damned ‘what if’ is torturing me again!
Away, away with you!
Taunt me not with thy sweet treachery.
Get thee hence to endless night! Away!
[See how old and ‘sophisticated’ I can sound? Admittedly, the last phrase isn’t mine, but I can’t remember where I heard it.]
[Technically we’re one hour into Saturday in my current timezone, but to abuse the famous quote: it’s always five o’clock somewhere – in this case, on a Friday, so THERE!]
So… reading. Well, this week has been a peculiar one. Between researching a subject for my potential PhD (which seems to be turning into a Master’s – just to improve my chances of actually completing a PhD if and when I want to) and my morning reading, I’ve ended up with a strange mix.
Books I’m currently thumbing through:
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
This isn’t what you’d call a cheerful read; Frankl tries to deal with his experiences in prison camps during the Holocaust through the scientific lens of his profession (he was a professor of neurology and psychiatry). At the moment, he’s describing the three major phases the prisoner (in this case, he) went through – the initial shock of camp life, the self-preservation and maintenance phase once it became a habit, and finally the post-liberation phase. I’ve not made it to the last one yet, but so far, I’m quite intrigued by what Frankl has to say. While not a strictly sterile, scientific text, it’s fascinating to watch his attempt to divorce himself from his own experiences and break them down in a way that could be useful to anyone – without actually becoming preachy! It does get kind of mushy – which is expected, I mean, it’s about trying to make sense of extremely traumatising events. OK, I’ll admit, as someone who’s recently been near death (in a completely different way), it’s possible I’m biased.
Still, I think even if you’re not looking for hope as the cover would have you believe or seeking your life’s higher purpose, it serves up an interesting slice of insight into what life was like in a prison camp, alongside some refreshing philosophical ideas about the choices we can or can’t make. I’ll confess I was skeptical at first (I generally am with regards to any book that claims to be ‘life-changing’ or meant to help you reach some sort of realisation) but he’s slowly changing my mind. Damn him.
As an added bonus, Frankl quotes loads of other writers and philosophers (mainly Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky). Here’s my favourite quote from the book (I mean, that he’s not quoted from someone else) so far:
it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
Poetics – Aristotle (translated by Joe Sachs)
Where to begin with a book that has influenced people who think about art and philosophy for so many millenia? Legend has it the Poetics are a collection of Aristotle’s lecture notes. To put it simply (and rather crudely), good ol’Aristotle is having a long, complex rant about his favourite kind of performance. What makes a tragedy a tragedy? What makes a ‘good’ tragedy good? And so on… Of course, Aristotle just declares his opinion as if it’s a fact. Art is imitative (he got that from Plato, who possibly got that from Socrates…), and of all the kinds of performance there are, tragedy is the one he fancies the best (admittedly, I don’t blame him – the ancient Greeks did write some great ones). In His opinion, tragedy should deal with the imitation of persons of a greater moral stature and try to move audiences through pity and fear to a sort of emotional cleansing. On the other hand, comedy isn’t worth bothering with because it’s not serious.
Once you get used to the arrogant-sounding tone, Aristotle does make some interesting and valid points. Some of them are so obvious that you’d think it’s ridiculous someone felt the compulsion to write them down, but they are actually things that performers today still have trouble with. I’m thinking specifically of his ramble about the magnitude (length/duration) of a tragedy, which according to him should suit the action, and not end up dragging on. Unfortunately, he’s got a point there.
I must confess I’m reading this as an e-book, so I hadn’t seen the fancy cover (although I do have a different translation in Cyprus). I’ve also discovered Aristotle is ridiculously difficult to paraphrase, perhaps because he’s so precise about everything! I’m sure he was the pedant in the friend group…
Oh yeah, and he totally loves Homer (not Homer Simpson – I mean the other guy who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey). A blossoming (one-sided) fanboy bromance there.
Here’s a quote (if I’m not mistaken, Aristotle used it in the Metaphysics, but it is mentioned somewhere in the text):
wonder is only the beginning of philosophy
Kafka On The Shore – Haruki Murakami
This book is completely different to the other two. I’d go so far as to say it’s not like any other book I’ve ever read. I’m not sure how much of the plot I want to give away, mainly because Murakami has this amazing style that drips with lyricism and poetry while not becoming tiring or excessively flowery (does any of this make sense?). It starts off with 15 year old Kafka who runs away from home. Also, I peeked at the next chapter (I read one chapter per day, usually) and it seems to have a talking cat in it. No idea how that’s relevant, but hey, it’s Murakami!
I just wish I had one millionth of the talent (and guts) he does! I can live with the delusion of grandeur and in vain hope. 😛
That’s all I’m going to say for now.
A big chunk from this one, because it’s insanely difficult to not lift all of the book and stick it here:
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
Aside from my usual contemplation of ‘what to write today’, I’ve been pondering what regular feature I could add to my blog, in accordance with the suggestion from the Blogging 101 course. I had thought to share a word of the day, every day, but then I realised that there are other things I want to tackle – like reading up on theatre theory, or writing (shit) poetry and other animals. [Speaking of animals, I’ve promised some kids a story about penguins and one about piranhas… should get on that sometime soon!]
Anyway, I’m glad to announce, I finally found it! I had my EUREKA moment.
Every Friday, I shall tear myself away from whatever I’m doing to offer you a post about the things I’m reading. Reading in the sense of sitting down and finishing a book was something I hadn’t done in ages, and instead of complaining I don’t have time, I forced myself to reintroduce the habit to my life. Every morning during breakfast and every night for at least half an hour before bed, I read. It’s not a lot, but it’s been enough to get me back into it. Apparently all writers are meant to read – a way of fueling the imagination, feeding new words and ideas into the brain machine.
Today I managed to read while in the doctor’s waiting room. A public place – and I actually had the discipline to stick to my book! Sure, this isn’t a great achievement compared to other things (like mastering university-level algebra or something) but it’s important to me. Not only did it prove I have the discipline (and brain energy) to do it, but it also proves another important – far more valuable, perhaps – point: shoving my lame excuses aside, and just altering my life even in the slightest, I can do anything. Slowly, but surely.
Speaking of reading, have you seen the goodreads widget I’ve added at the bottom of this page? (Unfortunately, this theme doesn’t accommodate sidebar widgets) Scrolling right down, you can see what I’m reading at the moment – there, right next to the Blogging 101 badge. I would beam with pride, but I’m not sure that’s possible across the Internet.
Getting way too fond of using memes… This one expresses my frustration with regards to finding philosophy e-books in the ‘wrong’ (or well, least useful) language.
It’s recently been suggested that I undertake a PhD. It all began when an acquaintance started listing my pros and cons (more cons than pros… I guess that proves I’m human?) and declared that I should focus on one thing instead of picking up tidbits of projects and losing focus. Sure, I’m not organized, but I like variation – variety is, after all, the spice of life… right? Besides, why shouldn’t I be allowed to do more than one thing at a time? Is there a magical rule that demands I focus on one thing, one subject, one calling, for the rest of my life? When there are so many things to learn about and explore in just one lifetime, do I really have to stick to one?
After a day or two of getting defensive and panicking about my inadequacies as a human being, I began to look into the possibility on a more serious level. My conclusion thus far:
me??? PhD??? What have you been smoking?!
I’ll admit, I’ve never thought of it before – I was quite content with a masters, and was considering a second masters, if I was to proceed with anything academic at all. Though I love learning, I find an academic environment extremely unhelpful and, well, infertile. I have a lot of trouble with academic writing, possibly because I don’t try hard enough or just because I’ve never been interested in something long enough to pursue it academically.
PhD! Can you imagine? Dr. Wolf! (if only they could give them to aliases, hehe) It’s ridiculous, really.
I’ve been told I’m smart and make something of myself, if I just apply myself, but in this case, I doubt it. I’m way out of my depth in everything – even the subjects that interest me. I lack the vocabulary to read the books that would be required to cover the gaps, and already feel like a fraud simply for considering it. I could bluff my way through some conversations with people who are educated to that level, but I sincerely doubt that would be enough to get through however many books and words it takes to research a 3-year postgraduate degree.
And then, just when I’ve decided I’m having none of it, another voice speaks up. Barely a whisper that says why not? What are you afraid of? What have you got to lose by asking about it? Are you just being chicken? Quitting before you even start?
Time for me to go to bed and check my privilege while I’m over there.
I hid my truths in poetry.
I have always thought it takes a particular kind of skill to turn thoughts into words. Alchemists used to (or well…claimed to) turn crude metals into gold. Is it not a reverse alchemy to transform thoughts and feelings by reducing them into words?
The poem I wrote for issue 2 of my webzine FreeFall. Looks like I’m heading back into the realms of poetry…
by Mr. Wolf
The cigarette, a smouldering glow-worm between cracked lips,
He watches the world lurch and turn from the rocky perch,
King of the empty beach, Lord of silent nothings,
A fatigued god in decay.
The sun offers no comfort;
The cold lives in his skin, hugs his muscles,
Encrusts his twisted bones,
The dried salt of solitude.
Water stretches out before him
While he sits,
to lurk among the ruins of a life.
The ‘gift’ of Memory
– A crude, cruel joke.
An unfulfilled promise. A bitter taste upon the tongue.
The merciless fruit of Hindsight
– spawn of Experience and Knowledge –
rots the brain from the inside out
And that wretched Ferryman is nowhere to be seen.