The Quote Hanger

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

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 clich├ęd 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.