Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snow Day

“The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.”
― Robert Frost, Dust of Snow

The complete album and post is here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The World is Amazing

“The world, whatever we might think about it terrified by its vastness and by our helplessness in the face of it, embittered by its indifference to individual suffering—of people, animals, and perhaps also plants, for how can we be sure that plants are free of suffering; whatever we might think about its spaces pierced by the radiation of stars, stars around which we now have begun to discover planets, already dead? still dead?—we don’t know; whatever we might think about this immense theater, to which we may have a ticket, but it is valid for a ridiculously brief time, limited by two decisive dates; whatever else we might think about this world—it is amazing.”
― WisÅ‚awa Szymborska

My most recent cause of amazement was the Red-breasted Flycatcher, which once I spotted it seemed as common as the House Sparrows (making a valiant comeback), reminding me of another red-breasted bird moving through the bare trees in another winter, on another continent. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Essay on the Personal

The personal over the ages has changed definitions and come to signify many things, for example the personal is political – the rallying cry of 1960's-70's feminism. In fact, the Twentieth Century is widely referred to as 'The Century of the Self'. 

With the advent of social media we are now the product and the consumer all rolled into one. Quite like the snake eating its own tail. With every change in online privacy laws what once was marked personal is now increasingly becoming the property of a domain much wider than our insignificant circle of influence. 

By the time we are able to separate the snake from its tail what would have become of the personal? What would be its definition? And significance? Sociologists, psychoanalysts and neuroscientists among others have been discussing this issue. As have writers and poets. Here's a poetic look at the personal and its inherent limitations.

Because finally the personal
is all that matters,
we spend years describing stones,
chairs, abandoned farmhouses—
until we’re ready. Always
it’s a matter of precision,
what it feels like
to kiss someone or to walk
out the door. How good it was
to practice on stones
which were things we could love
without weeping over. How good
someone else abandoned the farmhouse,
bankrupt and desperate.
Now we can bring a fine edge
to our parents. We can hold hurt
up to the sun for examination.
But just when we think we have it,
the personal goes the way of
belief. What seemed so deep
begins to seem naive, something
that could be trusted
because we hadn’t read Plato
or held two contradictory ideas
or women in the same day.
Love, then, becomes an old movie.
Loss seems so common
it belongs to the air,
to breath itself, anyone’s.
We’re left with style, a particular
way of standing and saying,
the idiosyncratic look
at the frown which means nothing
until we say it does. Years later,
long after we believed it peculiar
to ourselves, we return to love.
We return to everything
strange, inchoate, like living
with someone, like living alone,
settling for the partial, the almost
satisfactory sense of it.

– Essay on the Personal by Stephen Dunn, New and Selected Poems, 1974-1994

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

With every mistake we must surely be learning

New Year dusk by Sonam Chhoki displayed along the Southbank, was part of Poetry Parnassus, an event that accompanied the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
It is said that it is imagination that distinguishes humans from other forms of life. Human imagination is the basis of all our understanding and also all that we seek to understand. No two humans share the same imagination. Imagination is subjective, limited by our particular experiences and perceptions. Often imagination is far removed from reality. That is why imagination is necessary for growth. And mistakes are an indicator that we are doing something different.

Imagination is also the basis of all our desires, all that we seek and all that we feel we are devoid of. It is the single largest source of misconceptions and misapprehensions. Fear the root cause of all evil and sadness in the world is often a result of our highly developed and complex imagination.

But imagination begins with our ability to 'see'. What we see and what we do not see determines the limits of our imagination. And the nature and extent of our mistakes.

With Infinite Truths lies the Eternal Truth
Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes
Indra, a hundred
And I, only two*

*Hymn from the Rig Veda, one of the four canonical texts of Hinduism.