Know Thyself

Boo!

While standing in front of the mirror, who do I see? Sometimes it’s her, sometimes it’s me. This morning “Her” was staring at me. So I said “Boo!” and she said “Boo!”, too. That’s when BOOM! I realized, that she was actually me. Because there are two me’s—the one I use to be and the one I am now. Feeling out of sync, I decided to consult the Priestess Pythia and took a boat to Piraeus where I had a tough time getting a donkey to Delphi.

Know Thyself

Over the door of Delphi’s temple was the inscription “Know Thyself”. The line to get in was long but finally I got to meet with Pythia. She was sitting over a crack in a rock moaning and saying nonsensical phrases. Finally she looked at me and said: “Adapt and go on.”

Priestess Pythia

It seemed like too cryptic a response. But the last donkey back to Piraeus was about to leave and there was no time for questions. I had no choice but to leave and reflect on Pythia’s advice.

Donkey to Pireaus

Riding on a donkey while trying to reflect on existential problems is not an easy thing to do as the bumps are distracting. But, once home, I made a dedicated effort to figure out how to “Adapt and go on.”

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(excerpt from “Cool Breeze, the Age of Reconfiguration” ©)

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Changes.

Tombstone Rubbings at Campo Cesto

One lovely October morning in 1819, I was rubbing tombstones at Campo Cesto when I heard a woman crying. It was Mary Shelly. Her son William had recently died and she, obviously, was overwhelmed. There was nothing I could do to console her save for hug her as she cried. Sharing grief helps the healing process.

Frankenstein's Creature

Mary had recently published her story about Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s Creature who was so ugly that, after seeing his reflection in a pool of water, he understood why everyone rejected him. The pain filled him with hatred and he went on a killing spree. He even killed Dr. Frankenstein’s wife. Crushed by his wife’s death, Dr. Frankenstein said “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” Of course the change he’d been subjected to was traumatic, extreme and unexpected. But  not all change is negative.

Panta Rhei

Even if it sometimes seems monotonous, life is an unavoidable sequence of constant changes. As with Heraclitus’ panta rhei, from the outside the river seems static. But once you step inside of it, can feel the flow.

Aging is a change. And, like most changes, it requires reconfiguration. Because what once was is not always compatible with what is.

(from Cool Breeze, the Age of Reconfiguration ©)

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Birthday Post.

Birthday Cake

Today is my birthday. In 14 years, I’ll be 80 years old. The idea of becoming old is something I’ve been reflecting on for some time now. Especially those mornings when I wake up full of aches and pains.

Once I could do 10 things in one day. Now it seems like I need 10 days just to do just one thing. Nevertheless, I continue to overdose myself with projects that I can’t complete. My mental habits are terribly démodé but, as we all know, habits are hard to break.

Table Reconfiguration

For years we had a table on our back veranda that we never used. Then we painted it and moved it to the terrace. Now we use it all the time. All it took was a bit of reconfiguration to turn something useless into something useful. And that’s what I need– some mental restyling necessary to make space for the new me. In other words, I need to reconfigure my mental image of how I used to be with that of the way I am now.

I want the last part of my life to be the best part. That’s why I’ve written a manual for myself dedicated to the Age of Reconfiguration. It’s going to be tough as much effort and discipline will be required to keep myself mentally and physically fit. But I can’t wait to start! And will, right after my birthday lunch of truffles and wine!

Birthday Girl

(from Cool Breeze, the Age of Reconfiguration ©)

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Why Keep a Journal

In “On Keeping a Notebook”, Joan Didion writes that she was just a child when she began keeping a journal. Her mother had given her a Big Chief tablet and told her, instead of whining, to amuse herself by writing down her thoughts. Joan amused herself so much that she kept on writing.

Big Chief

Joan explains that she is not interested in recording the day’s events because she finds this boring and meaningless. She prefers a journal that mixes what happened with what might have happened.

The way we write about things in our diary is how we will remember them. Memory affects our psyche (and our psyche affects everything), so if we could learn to write about what has happened in a poetic way, we could make our lives read like poetry. Like Joan, we could whine less and amuse ourselves more.

Joan wonders if the need to write about others is indirectly minimizing ourselves. For me it’s the contrary. Writing about others is like suiseki, the Japanese art of stone collecting. It’s the talent of finding something extraordinary in the ordinary. For example, if the essence of a waterfall can be seen in the particular shape of a rock, the rock is collected and then displayed in such a way as to give it artistic autonomy.

Suiseki Stone

Of his ready-mades, Duchamp said that he’d simply tried to create a new idea for an object that everybody thought they knew.

I would love to keep a diary with a suiseki spirit and, like a talent scout, discover a special story in the people around me. By writing about others, we orbit less around ourselves and give our inner world a rest.

A diary can be seen as a rough draft for a book entitled “The Way I Used To Be.” That’s why rereading old diaries makes me uncomfortable. I no longer identify with the person who wrote them because I’ve changed so much. But that’s one of the main reasons we should keep one—so that we can see that change and understand that, even still, we’re in constant motion.

My mother told me that I cried on my first day of school because I was afraid of being ridiculed for not knowing anything. My low self-esteem had me focused on how little I knew instead of focusing on how much I was going to learn. Diaries are the opposite. You think you know everything about yourself. Then you reread a diary from the past and the you from your past seems like a stranger.

P.S. It’s interesting to note that the swastika is depicted on the Big Chief tablet as it was a motif commonly found in southwest American Indian designs. The swastika dates back thousands of years but all it took was one powerful dictator to change its meaning forever.

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“On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion free pdf HERE.

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM, a collection of essays by Joan Didion can be read via Archive.org HERE.

Related: Chinsekikan: Japanese Museum of Found Stones that Look Like Human Faces

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Sometimes you catch, sometimes your throw

Mexico has left many landscapes in my mind that won’t go away. One is that of driving hours through the desert when, unexpectedly, the nothingness was interrupted by a small village of homes constructed from cardboard boxes. Poverty had not obliterated the need for beauty. The homes had been painted with bright colours and further adorned with planters made from old tires. Suddenly I understood that art is an awareness, an awareness that existence alone is not enough.

 I‘d wanted to stop to take pictures but feared doing so would show a lack of respect. So the only photo I have is that in my mind. It’s there to remind me that, to give my life purpose, all I have to do is make art.

Sometimes You Catch, Sometimes You Throw

Life is not static. It’s about interrelating with yourself, with others, with the world around you. Sometimes you’re the protagonist, sometimes you’re a spectator. In other words, sometimes you catch, sometimes you throw.

It’s how you interrelate with the world around you that determines the quality of your life. You can sit there and whine about what you don’t have. Or, like the inhabitants of the cardboard village, you can paint your life.

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(from Luz Corazzini’s NOTEBOOKS ©)

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