March 27, 2011 § 15 Comments
when i began to read, i read because it was fun and because i seem to have been expected to.
i was a smug little people-pleasing child, and if more reading meant that more people would coo admiringly at my nascent nerdiness, then i would read. eventually reading became its own motivation, largely because my parents chose never to interfere with what i read or why i was reading it, and this was an oasis of surprise in my much-interfered-with life. there was no question of vetting books for ‘age-appropriate’-ness or whatever the hell this generation of parents is obsessing over, so i wholeheartedly canonballed into territory my parents – to paraphrase – feared to tread. one seizes at what freedom one may have. mine happened to be reading.
when i grew older and asked why reading was so earthshakingly important, i was told ‘knowledge is power’; this is one of those things it seems irreligious to disagree with, although the way the cliche originally meant to be read, and the way it has currently expanded to fill a universe of generalisation, may be two very subtly different things. knowledge is unquestionably power in a specific, current situation of conflict where any relevant information may gain the possessor an advantage; yet, that knowledge needs to have been gained prior to the moment of conflict. since the occurrence and exact nature of conflict is not predictable, it seems almost tautological to suggest that the amassing of information is in general a good thing.
i read fiction, non fiction, academic literature, comics, gossip websites, personal blogs, political opinions, celebrity gossip websites and political opinions on the same day. but i do it less because i think it’s a good thing and more because it’s become a habit. it is, with the internet, a habit that is criminally easy to feed. i suspect the ‘goodness’ of reading (in my mind) is less virtue, more habit, less rational, more rationalisation of a compulsion.
in the sign of four, i remember, sherlock holmes told (see here) an incredulous watson that the skilful workman should reserve his brainpower to retain only information that is exactly relevant to his life. to my thirteen year old self, that was blasphemy. i was shocked and i deeply disapproved… i mean just look at it: it is the most provincial sounding thing one can say. today i’m not so sure he was wrong.
in the obsession with information, i think i, and perhaps we, have overlooked the power of technique, and the fantastic plasticity of resourcefulness, the ability to creatively jump the distance between that which is known and that which is required to be known in a given situation. both in law school and in life outside it, i’ve begun to realise that the ability to resolve crises is grounded less in exactly how much one knows than in the power to transcend that limitation with practice and presence of mind. the ability to really think may be a lost art… in any case, i think i may be losing it.
always operating on a surplus of facts and opinions has the ability to create a complacence that is simply misleading, especially when i have no clear idea as to their provenance, veracity or quality. equally importantly, it physically tires me out. i’ve never been a hoarder otherwise, so i’m going to experimentally quit being one now; experimentally because curiosity about the world can’t be a bad thing either, and hacking it away makes me a little uncomfortable.
perhaps i am stupendously wrong, but what do we know until we try? and so –
into the wild. :)
March 11, 2011 § 14 Comments
jaipur, january 2011.
for someone who has no great love of travel, i sure do love my travel.
i also really, really miss it. i really, really do. why is it that funds, time and ideas never seem to come together? is this a pattern of things to come? i am presently spending evening-time hanging out at the railway tracks and flattening handfuls of gravel and my old 25 paise coins under train wheels. it cures my wanderlust a little and also, flattening coins under trains is addictive, have you tried it?
they say shady people hang out at the tracks. i haven’t seen any yet. either the shady people are home making better use of their time, or i am the shady person referred to. either way, i have decided to quit hanging shadily by the tracks because there is an insane family of goats that has taken up residence there. the mental picture composed of the sunset, the tracks and Your Philosophical Thoughts gets a lot less appealing when you factor in a family of freakishly hungry goats.
i will take my pride and my (so far) undamaged clothing elsewhere.
stupid things like internships and Work have caused my bonnies to go over the ocean. i am left all alone, a melancholic figure in a russian folktale, consoled only by the promise of karaoke, masala pasta and credit default swaps.
this really doesn’t deserve to be a post on my spandy new quality conscious (hah) blog, but since this is a perverse, perverse sort of day, i will be a perverse, perverse human bean and post this whine just to remind everybody of what this blog (and human bean) could be if she did not take good care to prevent it, so that you may appreciate her better.
March 5, 2011 § 5 Comments
too many things inside my head. the stupid, vapid clickclickclick of the internet, hours approach and blink and sidle away while i float glassy eyed through them, thinking of nothing and everything. i sleep too lightly, my eyes are shot and my head aches dully with thousands of sharp-edged, disjointed phrases echoing endlessly off the inside of my skull, a nightmare mashup of tax, investment law and (present distraction) stephen king (carrie). i walk to class and it surprises me every time the cruel suddenness with which the light cuts into my face, always the five seconds of disorientation where i lean on the tree twisted by lightning and the bark is cool against my skin, which always seems to be too warm, too warm these days..
all day i seem to talk soft superfluities with a mouth that is filled with cotton that i can’t see; i dutifully spit snippets of keywords gleaned from conversations overheard whose context i can only guess at. conversations begun in a halfhearted effort to remain coherent dissolve into tuneless mental renditions of songs i’d forgotten existed.
this night i lay spread-eagled on the tank right over there, next to those two buildings. the air was cold and still and the sky was very clear. there is a curious lack of perspective in the night sky here, the stars are always large and flat and extraordinarily bright, only an arm’s length away. i shut my eyes. in the beginning i could still feel the starlight and the streetlights on my eyelids, but soon i couldn’t tell. it was a funny state in between wakefulness and sleep where for one merciful, fluid moment of eternity, my head was completely empty. there was not a single thought in there. i have no idea how long i lay there.
i did something like this once on a beach at covelong a few years back. i hired a cycle at a beach resort where my parents were (at that time) recovering from Life, cycled to the dead private beach at the very end of it, and flopped down on my back in the shallows.
that day and that place were different, though. it was very hot. a thin, salty mist lay suspended over the still pools of seawater that would collect inside the black rock formations where i lay like a fat, dying fish. i shut my eyes and every so often, water would wash over my ears and my hair in warm waves.
when i opened my eyes i’d be blinded by the glare of the afternoon sun right overhead, like a sheet of burning whitemetal giftwrapping the sky, and when i shut my eyes again, the sunlight would set off brilliant purple and orange fireworks inside my eyelids.
i never wanted to leave.
i think i need to go somewhere that i won’t be allowed to read and won’t be expected to talk for a good long time. for the first time in my life, any mental stimulation makes me want to throw up, but throwing up takes more energy than i have, so i will probably curl into a ball and go quietly to sleep instead, a stupid, restless sleep that is of no use to anyone, the only kind of sleep i am getting these days.
i can say with reasonable confidence that i have no idea what is going on, but i want it to stop.
March 2, 2011 § 7 Comments
my eyes are hot and dry and i’m tearing up at completely inappropriate moments because i have been watching way too much TV. my eyes are fighting it and my brain is so incredibly sick of the theme to boston legal, but here i am still watching denny crane say ‘denny crane!’
it’s funny every time. i swear it is.
(it’s not even that good a show! what is wrong with me?)
i have still been doing some halfhearted reading though, virginia woolf’s to the lighthouse. by the way, does it look like the quality of my reading has gone up? because yes, of course it’s gone up… for the first time in many years, there is literally no limit to what book i can get hold of. this is because i’m now reading PDFs. as a habit. i know! cue collective gasp. i hear you.
because i am rather attached to my eyes and would love for them to keep on working, i allowed myself the occasional PDF strictly as a way to fill the time in between two paper books, but the internet’s incomparable ability to supply ebooks makes this particular task – an uphill one at the best of times, a slippery one. i discovered to my dismay that slippery slopes are – as per reputation – slippery.
which is all my way of saying, i now read PDFs exclusively.
this means, of course, that i can no longer unblushingly wax lyrical about the fragrance of the pages of books or the romance of vintage dustjackets, or bemoan modern technology’s culpability in the impersonalisation of books… i.e., i’ve lost the fellowship of my bibliophilic, bespectacled brethren.
i don’t appear to have lost my ability to be annoyingly alliterative, however. in fact i still have ‘annoying’ covered rather well –> onomatopoeia (hell yes i can spell it) <– look! this is me showing off! annoyance is still a forté (<–look! french derivative word! with the accent and all!)
a friend and i went grocery shopping recently, armed as usual with strict budget and limited funds. what we did end up buying, however, was one large block of feta cheese. we also bought one tin of preserved pineapple. let’s recap – with the money intended to be spent on necessities such as shampoo, conditioner, soap and detergent, we bought an enormous, enormously overpriced block of sheep cheese.
so what has happened is, i am presently taking baths with a rather ancient (and tiny) hamam soap that i suspect i stole from a hotel somewhere, and washing my hair only when strictly necessary. i smell like my grandmother; if the hair gets any greasier, i will look like her as well.
i am, however, eating a hell of a lot of excellent cheese (with pineapple), and i am pleased to report that resultant morale in Room No. AAA (hidden for reasons of privacy) in Hostel BBB (ditto) in College ABC (come on, you know this one) is excellent. morale is excellent, dear reader. this proves my point that cheese can solve anything. plus there has got to be some redeeming value in any transaction that allows the reading of virginia woolf alongside the eating of expensive cheese with preserved fruit.
i am such a snob, sigh..
so strictly in terms of economics, the sheer extent of satisfaction resulting from this set of transactions (that my mother had the temerity to term ‘ill-advised’ – imagine!) means that they were a success.
at this point in my life, i truly have little to ask for. i have never felt more the helmsman (woman) of my life, the captain of my soul. it is at moments like this that you almost wish you believed in a god, because you want somebody to thank for this largesse that is your life. it’s true, i am happy.
once upon a time, i used to have one friend; today i have others. the only thing i’ve really learnt in the making of these friends is that human beings are not interchangeable, which is to say, the entry of many people does not make up for the exit of one. there are many kinds of loneliness a man can experience, some of which he cannot rely on himself to put an end to.
to my old friend – perhaps only ever in my dreams – to my one imaginary square peg in his own square hole – today i am happy. i remember you.
undoubtedly the only way is forward, the only option is strength, and the only optimism is conceit. still, memories exist to some purpose, right? right?
maybe they were made for days like today.