The Quote Hanger

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
- George Bernard Shaw

Monday, February 4, 2013

'This IS a story of boy meets girl ...

... but you should know upfront: this is not a love story'.

Sometimes, stories don't make any sense at all while you're living in them. You acquire a glimmer of understanding of the "moral of the story" only when it has ended. But what if you don't believe in endings? Perhaps the epiphany does not signal a summation, but a beginning; an opportunity to start over with your new-found wisdom.

I don't believe in endings; but I do believe Frank Costello (The Departed) when he says, 'A man makes his own way. No one gives it to you. You have to take it.'

Let's see who blinks first.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

'A place that has to be believed to be seen'

A few months ago, I read A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's memoir about his first few years in Paris. It is the first book that I have read by him, and I was instantly struck by the immediacy of his descriptions. He talks about sitting in cafes, scribbling away with a pencil in his notebook. That sustained urgency of instantly capturing what you encounter does reflect in the book, too. There are no passages of lingering beauty, as there are, for instance, in Proust or Fitzgerald's works, but there is a very distinctive allure to his writing, too. Hemingway proceeds from one meticulous description to the next, almost as though he is presenting a disinterested, purely informative report of his days in the city.  However, when you least expect it, right in the middle of, say, a systematic recreation of an innocuous lunch that consisted of oysters and wine, he abruptly interjects a pithy, yet often immensely moving, observation. All of a sudden, without any anticipatory flourish, he seems to unveil the very heart of the subject that he was talking about. This recurring feature in his style of writing seemed very apt, to me, for a book which is an ode, of sorts, to a city. 

Even though his book is about Paris, which is a highly unique city that has served as a muse for many, the approach he adopted while writing about it seems ideal for writing about almost any large city (I will eventually arrive at the reason after providing a long-winded, non-Hemingwayesque context). Lately, I have had several similar conversations about the nature of cities with different people. I have noticed that cities frequently tend to be misunderstood, especially the "fast-paced", "relentless" cosmopolitan ones. People seem to have the strangest expectations of cities, and, perhaps because I have spent a large part of my life in cities, I don't quite comprehend why. 

Although it might sound slightly kooky, places, 
like people, have specific temperaments, too. If you know only too well that Ms. XYZ is inherently self-sufficient, it would be a tad unreasonable to be disappointed when she does not wholeheartedly empathise with you for feeling desolate about having to go grocery shopping alone. Similarly, when I hear well-informed, city-dwelling people berate gargantuan cities due to the absence of a "sense of community", and the general "lost in a crowd" sensation that they exude,  it seems slightly off-kilter and paradoxical to me. Skewed expectations exist for smaller towns, too, of course, and I find them equally strange, but with cities in particular, I find that one requires an especially acute sense of wonder to be able to spot the beauty amid the chaos. Hemingway seems to have achieved precisely that effect. He spots the magnificent in the mundane, and derives wisdom from the banal. The landscape and standard of living in cities is such that we usually overlook the absolutely spectacular aspects of the place, and eventually stop expecting them, too; that is why I think urban beauty is one of the most unique kinds, because it takes you by surprise, and leaves you all the more awe-inspired by it. Cities, like any other place, or like most people, too, need to be recognised for what they are to be truly seen, understood, and appreciated.

'I've never seen you there.'

'You must not have been looking.'
500 Days of Summer

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Selfest of selves

'My memory of the London of my youth is the memory of endless vague wanderings, of a sun-dazzled window suddenly piercing the blue morning mist or of beautiful black wires with suspended raindrops running along them. I seem to pass with intangible steps across ghostly lawns and through dancing halls full of the whine of Hawaiian music and down dear drab little streets with pretty names, until I come to a certain warm hollow where something very like the selfest of my own self sits huddled up in the darkness.' 
- Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

Saturday, March 31, 2012

'If you're not angry, you're not paying attention.'

Have you ever felt pure, unadulterated anger? I am not referring to the frustration induced by that man steadfastly chewing insert-fried-food-here loudly, and ruining your two hours at the cinema. I mean that blinding   rage you experience when someone has finally stepped on that last nerve, and you are about to snap. Immediately after this fury, impotence strikes, because you realise, much to your dismay, that you cannot act on your animalistic anger. You have to address the issue at hand in a "reasonable" manner. Sublimate.

Now, forget about that crushing helplessness and niggling rationality that follows immense anger, and rewind once again to that moment of luxurious fury. If you dissect it sufficiently, you'll notice that anger is usually one of the most powerful sentiments, because, well, it makes you feel empowered. For those brief seconds of glorious irrationality, you feel incredibly righteous. You are willing, for once, to trust your instinct entirely, because you are unbelievably certain about the other person being in the wrong. Anger eliminates the necessity of ceaselessly questioning oneself. However, that confidence dissipates rapidly, because anger generally flares and subsides like a flame gun. It is rarely sustained.

It's quite strange, though, that we seem to be the most self-assured while experiencing what is commonly regarded as one of the most bestial sentiments, which is highly transient and is, ironically enough, followed by powerlessness. Is it customary to demonise unapologetic self-assertion? Or is it reasonable, because if we all walked around assuming we are right, we would be inhabiting a globe full of fundamentalists?

I have a lingering suspicion that anger is a much misunderstood sentiment. To add to the confusion, here is a Philosoraptor-esque combination of quotes:

'Anger is a short madness.' 

 'And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.'
  Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

As clichéd as it may be, but let this be a leap year in more ways than one. 
Let this be the year that you choose to leap above what prevents you from moving forward. Leap beyond your own fears, plunge into the the unknown, and emerge with a little piece of yourself that you didn't know existed. Leap away from excuses, petty concerns, being judgmental, and blaming other people. Leap over immaturity, and grow up - it's never too late. Leap away from the past, and leap as rapidly as you can away from the people that restrain you, or make you feel small. Leap above self-deprecation to make other people feel better; let them take care of themselves. Leap into yourself, and seek within yourself what you desire from other people. Move from one leap to the next, because pretty soon you'll have arthritis, and will be unable to walk comfortably, let alone leap. And because Bukowski does the inspirational stuff quite exquisitely, I shall now hand over the mantle to him - 

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

[The picture is from here]

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Epiphany - On Lowe

Do you remember those 'Love is . . .' comics? I thought of a similar 'definition' today, but minus the little figurines: Love is, or at least should be, like a Jack Johnson song. It should exude a sense of comfort and wonder, of shorts, flip-flop slippers and laid-back glasses of lemonade, with little umbrellas in them, by a breezy beach. The association of the much-dissected sentiment with intensity and inevitable pain is long-standing and possibly erroneous. Of course, it can't always be pleasant. The rose-tinted glasses will fall off soon enough. But if it's too unpleasant for too long, then you can't brush it aside by saying the nature of the emotion is such; the nature of your relationship is the one you should be worrying about. 

Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Hello, good morning, how you do/What makes your rising sun so new?"

Another year, another bout of amazement at how quickly time seems to stride past.

I always plan to write about the things that I have observed or experienced over the year, but never quite get around to it. This year, I seem to have begun, but am quite unsure about how to go about it. It all seems like a pleasant blur. But one of the foremost things that I have learnt towards the end of this year is that where I will be tomorrow, or the day after or the next year, is not set in stone. There are no guarantees, no comfy predictions, and no 'foolproof' plans - and there is nothing more exhilarating than that. Clichéd, yes, but carpe effing diem indeed!

Happy new year!

". . . I hope you're done with yesterday,
All the things we've heard have left and made their way,

Say goodbye to your sorrow,
And hello to tomorrow!"

- Wolfmother, 'Tales'

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Best Medicine

It's strange how you spot and retain little bits of insight from the most unlikely places. About two months ago, I was reading a lengthy interview of Anne Hathway's in 'Marie Claire.' She had apparently been in an approximately four year long relationship, which came to an abrupt halt when the man in question was imprisoned. A little while later, for her appearance on a talk-show, Hathway wrote and performed a humorous rap song, wherein there was a light-hearted reference to her former relationship. The interviewer seemed surprised by her ability to almost immediately joke about what must have certainly been an immensely traumatic incident. When she was questioned her about it, Hathway said, "That’s always been the way I deal with things. You make a joke of it. When you feel like a lot of things are out of your control, there is a certain power in being able to say, 'Ha! I’m laughing at it first." She goes on to say, "People deal with horrible things all the time. Downstairs in this pub someone has a parent who is battling cancer. Someone has just lost their job ... Life is really fucked up and it’s really painful sometimes." Laughter, according to her, is a way to "doggy-paddle" until one can accept the circumstances and move one. 

No, she certainly isn't saying anything extraordinary. I'm sure similar suggestions have been implied in a dozen different ways in self-help books or depressingly optimistic posters/cliches. But somehow, what she said in that interview seems to come back to me occasionally. A feeling of control does arise in being able to chuckle, if not laugh, at your so-called plight. Perhaps that's what makes Woody Allen films so endearingly funny and poignant.  

If you're able to laugh at something, it usually means that you're able to regard it objectively, to accept it, and to dismiss it as mildly amusing - and that is a gigantic step forward if you're anxious or distraught about that something. 

Well, those were my two cents for the Wisdom Jar, now here are Kurt Vonnegut's: "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

You have built a fortress of fantasy
(and other odds and ends) around you,
My wiliest weapons cannot penetrate through.

I am weary,
And, to be honest,
A little teary.

But I don't wish to bore you
With my foolish rhymes
That aren't worth your time.

I can't keep trying
To wake you up,
But no, I am not giving up.

I know that
You know
That I still won't let go.

Whenever you emerge from La La Land,
I hope you remember
I'll still be waiting to hold your hand.

I am merely tossing the ball back in your court,
(It is yours, do with it what you please.)
And if I do see it glide my way,
I will catch it, whatever the time of day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Riddler

I was scrolling through my blog, and I noticed that most of my posts contain several questions. In fact, one of them comprises entirely of questions.

While it is essential to question what you encounter, perhaps it is this incessant inquisition that leads to hitherto non-existent complexities. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living; but a life that is too closely examined doesn't really seem worthy, either. Magnified flaws are often all that one can see after prolonged scrutiny.

"... It occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility ... One gets sometimes such a flash of insight. The essentials of this affair lay deep under the surface, beyond my reach, and beyond my power of meddling."
- Joseph Conrad, 'Heart of Darkness'