As you can see, this man seemed to have taken no notice of me when I claimed a spot at the big rectangular table. He gave me no look, not a glimpse of curiousity at all. He was fully content with just his book, which he read zealously, and a notepad to write his notes, maybe phrases of interest or just his plain thoughts. 

” Plain thoughts!” as if that was the right way to describe the absolute versatility and imagination of a readers mind. But he seemed despondent, sullen, immersed in heavy thoughts with his drooping head with eyes scrurrying between the book and his notepad. Then he was called on his mobile cellphone and his slavic accent betrayed his anonymity. 

Then at that moment, he filled the perfect picture of a Russian man in highly praised literary master pieces: desperate, sad, on the brink of capitulation and his book is his only solemn escape into a world where his mind is not constrained by the frailty of his body or shackled by the impoverished material condition.

 He is free.

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The session

Munch

‘How do I feel?’ I wondered. ’Describe your feelings’ Dr. Youssef asked me in a fatherly stern voice, his glasses slightly and slowly sliding over his arched nose. ‘The poor creature keeps pushing his glasses back’ I thought to myself jokingly. I kept looking at his dark beard with some grey stripes ,showing the inevitable aging process in us, while I was pondering, wrecking, cracking my mental faculty over his request. ‘ I don’t know, doctor’ I replied while he scribbled something on his notepad. I tried to raise my head to see if I could catch anything of notice. He smiled at me and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. ‘Just some minor notes’ the doctor said. I kept staring in front of me and trying to come up with an answer, but I couldn’t. I said ‘Could you give me a specific question, something more tangible? Because in all honesty I don’t like vague questions. ‘well’ the doctor replied, this time he got up and poured tea into his glass and mine: ‘you’re into details, aren’t you?’. ‘Yes, very much doctor. It gives me clarity, I need the full picture. It gives me a target to aim at, if you will’. ‘Well I want you to try to let go of the specifics and just let your mind wander off’. The doctor suggested. I felt nervous, as if he was to trap me like a wild animal. ‘What does he mean, wander off?’. ‘ I don’t like his approach’ I thought to myself, the anguish surrounding me with pikes and shields, trying to push me into the corner with the shields and piercing me with the pikes to subue the frightened animal in me. Why did I listen to her?

‘ I’m feeling uncomfortable, would you humor me this one time? I promise I’ll do better next time’. I said it with what it seemed a pleading voice. At first, the doctor seemed firm in his pursuit and wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. I felt the room was getting a hold on me, the walls stared at me. I felt ambushed and naked on elevated platform and the curtains drawn aside. The audience gleefully staring at me. They will get me. The furniture seemed as if they were turning towards and against me for not fulfilling their masters bidding. I felt exhausted and strenuous.

The doctor sat back in his chair behind a huge desk, which was filled with paper works and portraits. A huge vase behind him had plastic plants in it, which I didn’t like one bit. ‘He could at least have placed some live plants, would give this room a more cheerful appearance’. I thought to myself while I tried to disguise my anxiety from the doctor. The good doctor however wanted to be press me on, but his cell phone rang. He seemed distracted while looking at his phone. As I excused him, he went outside for a while. ‘He didn’t look very happy, serves him right for making me nervous’. I stood up and paced the room a couple of times while I let my fingers slide over the books he had on his shelves. I had a particular fondness for books, but they reminded me of sadness and sorrow but also of happier times. In my books, my hero’s would suffer or die and I would weep for them. Or they were victorious and lived happily ever after, and I’d feel grateful for being a part of their story.  ‘They were fictional characters, but what of it?’ I thought to myself, regaining my composure. ‘They were more real to me than she ever was’.

The doctor came back in and apologised. ‘ I am honestly sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me for today. I have to cancel our session.’ The doctor said hurriedly as he was packing his briefcase. I felt puzzled but extremely annoyed. ‘He sent me through the harrowing abyss by probing me like a guinea pig and now he cancels the session?! What an arrogant prick!’ But of course I did not say that to him to his face. I ought to give it a chance still, if only for her sake. ‘Go to my secretary and make an appointment in two weeks’. As the doctor walked past me, I could feel his own destressing vibration penetrating my own body. I felt nausea. I felt fatigue. I reminded myself of the seashore and how my feet felt as they touched the cool sands beneath them. I tried to recollect the breeze and the sounds the seagulls made. I felt slightly better, I didn’t throw up this time. ‘Again, I am very sorry for this sudden occurrence’ the doctor replied. As he was about to walk outside the room, he turned around and looked at me with a solemn look ‘And don’t forget about what I asked you today, or I won’t be of any help’. ‘ Yes, doctor’ I answered bitterly, as annoyance replaced nausea. ‘I won’t forget’. ‘and close the door when you leave, ok?’. The doctor remarked as he finally left the room. I was still standing by the bookshelves and noticed the windows behind his desk were still open. It was quite the weather that day. It had rained a lot, which I didn’t mind, as long as I’m inside somewhere. However the winds were rattling the tree branches outside and some leaves were blown into the room. I walked to the windows to shut them close. It reminded me of the breeze at the beach that day, but this weather is “angry”. I walked slowly, taking my steps one at the time. I closed the windows and the angry sounds of the winds subsided and I felt relieved. ‘Well, I should probably leave now, before the “doctor” comes back and gives me more homework’ I said it loudly to myself when I caught sight of the newspaper with my picture in it. ‘It’s from the museum!’

To be continued..

Study, career, life?

When the odds are stacked against you, it is a challenge indeed to overcome them with some difficulty. Cheesy as it may seem to the reader, the truth is self evident. Especially if you’re dealing with a couple of papers for which the deadline is within 24 hours. How did I let it come to this?

The answer to that question is not a straightforward one, though simplicity in handling affairs are much desired over complex ones. But I must make the detour to arrive at that answer. I fear, in not doing so, I might only give you the view of foams, while making you oblivious to the raging waves. Because that is my mental state presently.

Since not everyone knows what I was doing the last three months, let me fill you in. I’ve taken upon myself the challenge to read the seven volumes of Marcel Proust in May. I underestimated the challenge, but that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was the procrastination, or Proustination in my case. I flunked several exams and papers, then I decided that I would do the re-examination in august when I finish the volumes.

True to my word, I finished my Proust Challenge, but just as I wanted to start studying, something unpleasant was brought to my ears. I felt my being shattered like a chandelier that meets the surface of the floor. I can’t tell what it was, but I can tell you that it was so devastating to hear that it actually gave me pause for a moment.
To be honest, I was impressed with Proust and I loved his philosophy, but it was because of this devastating news that forced me to think about life. I felt that I rushed everything without taking the simple moments to enjoy. I squandered my hours with worrying while feeling paralysed to do anything about it.

Upon hearing this unpleasant news, I lost all my concentration to start studying for my exams and papers. it took almost a week till I regained my composure when I finally found out that there was nothing to worry about. While the good news made me feel happy, I could not shake the thought that held me into its firm grip. I still felt that I was wasting my time and I start doubting my college study. Who wouldn’t question it, if one is studying political science, right? Of course there are other reasons why I flunked the prior exams, such as my inability to travel every day to the university or get a room. However, it wasn’t the sole reason. I always felt the need to study something which would fill my future life with meaning. I must be more specific; my career life needed to be something of worth, of contributing to the world around me. but since last week, I felt the absurdity of the entire academic life. especially social/political science studies. I abhorred every single bit of it. It wouldn’t make my life meaningful, even if I did graduate, which I highly doubt presently.

With a little more than 24 hours to go, I still haven’t started working on my papers and to be perfectly honest with myself, I’m not feeling the urge to do anything about it. I will feel something of regret afterwards but will it be a regret that I shall feel for the rest of my life?I highly doubt it. Political science is one of those studies which is highly overrated but it totally worthless. From a practical point of view, it is perhaps wiser if I graduate and get my degree.

The point is that since I embarked upon Marcel Proust and the unpleasant news that shook my very being, I feel liberated and anxious at the same time. I don’t feel the need to have a huge career, and that I want to enjoy life more voluptuously. On the other hand, it feels terrifying to start all over again and I’m not even sure what to do next.

What are your thoughts?How would you go about something like this?I would really appreciate your own experiences.

My journey with Proust

One does not simply read Proust in a short time. And one does not simply read Proust and remain untouched. Apparently I did read Proust’s marvelous In search of lost time within three months. How did I ever decide to read Proust at all? The sum of small incidents is greater than any individual incident. It started with some remote interview I saw with Christopher Hitchens. The subject of Proust at that time was very brief, but it stuck in the background of my mind. Then I came across his name in a bookshop and tried to remember where I saw that name before, but didn’t manage to localize that particular memory. Fast forward and I see a video on youtube channel called “the conquest of Marcel Proust” by an Arab guy, who told his story of his reading Marcel Proust and how he encouraged everyone to embark upon this endeavor. Then I remembered Hitchens and I decided I should give it a try. I ordered my first two volumes and on the fifth of may the two gems arrived. Since my 30th birthday was to be on the 23th of july, I thought it exciting if I could challenge myself to read the six volumes and finish the book by the 23th of july. Of course, I knew nothing of Proust’s writing style neither his longish and elaborate musings. Thus I began my own journey with Marcel Proust

Swann’s way was the first volume and one of the hardest to read. Initially, I had no idea what to expect of the book. I have read many books and it went fairly smooth. I took it for granted that Swann’s way wouldn’t be any different. I opened the book and read the first sentences. I re-read the first sentences again. Then I paused. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of what I just read. I remember picking up the book and laying it to rest for a while. But I returned and picked it up again and began reading. The first few moments of reading I felt heavy. The text felt heavy. However, I pushed myself a bit further, until I began to grasp what he was talking about. Even then, I couldn’t appreciate it that much. A story about a boy who’s contemplating his direct surroundings…..in so many pages. Needles the say I did finish the book and was perplexed and when I found out in an article that a lot of people couldn’t get past the first 50 pages. I felt proud of course, but reprimanded myself for feeling proud. Because that was not the feeling that should have taking precedence when I read that article. I felt that these people missed out on an amazing experience. Now I will commit the same exaggerated and pompous display that many have shown, because many times I was bored by the overstretched sentences in the book and quiet annoyed for the author not getting to his point. The same recurring boredom grabbed by during the next volumes. But I didn’t mind in the end, because just as I was bored at times, I was also gripped with emotion and the throbbing of the heart when describing the sad story of Swann for example ( I really hoped he would break up with Odette, only to read further that he married her; what the….). I loved however his musings about art and wisdom. His special relationship with his grandmother and her passing caused even me some discomfort. And this is the magic of Proust. He relays every single detail of his surrounding and the surroundings of his own mind. He takes you by the arm and willingly you let him guide you through the maze of life. Even when heading towards a dead end, you know the journey to be worth the trouble and you are reassured that you will be ok if only you look at things with different glasses.

I cannot thank him enough for his work that deserves to be described as a masterpiece. The final hundred pages only confirmed what I had thought or read other peoples opinions. I felt the end coming near, and I did not resist it, although I did experience the anguish feeling of parting. The volumes occupied a large section of my life in those three months that it was hard for to comprehend finishing the book. I had experienced similar feeling when I went to Portugal for an intensive school program. The program lasted for two weeks where I met amazing people. But when we had to go back to our countries, we all shed tears. Why? Because although we only spent time together for two weeks, it was long enough to form a bond and we would always look back at it with some sense of happy nostalgia.

Thus I finished the last pages in Paris, where I also visited his grave and paid my respect. I didn’t consider him dead, though physically he was. He attained immortality and I wouldn’t mind not meeting him a hundred years ago, because I can meet him, anytime I want. He is immortal in the masterpiece he has left behind. He gave me the tools of looking at things differently and appreciate the life a whole lot more.

Thank you Marcel Proust.

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The scent of strawberries, sweet and savory.
Devoured one at the time but cherished with every bite. I refrain my gaze, but the side stalking continues. The remnants on her fingers, licked gently as if to relish in her enrapture and willingly surrendering her senses to the taste of that red voluptuous and fruitish embodiment of her wishes and desires

Why the world screams at the death of one but remains silent in the ugly face of mass murder

It seems coincidental sometimes that events would unfold itself that it might give rise to the peculiar notion of destiny. In a sense, without resorting to hollywood jargon, everything seems interconnected and have only meaning when the pieces are put together.
So you may ask yourself: why then dedicate the first paragraph to something as ambiguous as destiny, if it has no relevance to the title of this article. Perhaps when I’m finished writing that the pieces would fit together (I did it again).

I don’t think that anyone has missed the recent terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, resulting in the deaths of 17 people. The shockwave it sent through France and subsequently through many parts of the world made me pause for a moment. On the one hand, I was exhilarated to witness the condemnations of these cowardly attacks from people around the world.
At the same time I was annoyed by several things, which were more or less interconnected. The remarks made by the but-squads ( a name beautifully phrased by Salman Rushdie) were obnoxious; freedom of expression but!! You can voice your critique but!! You can even be satirical but!! I think everyone would agree with me that the “butts” glued right after their first comments made it smelly, even nauseating.
The second objection made also by the butt-squad( extra emphasis on the letter “t”) is more cynical but does contain some truth in it. The objection runs along like this; it is bad what happened in France but why forget the people in Palestine, Irak, Syria and other places tormented by sadists and psychopaths. I heard the same line of argument when Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban. My line of reasoning is that every horrific act of barbarism deserves the severest of condemnations and if necessarily by force. There comes a moment when the intolerable are no longer to be tolerated, especially when they grab for weapons and use violence to impose their barbaric anti-human sadist rule. Being cynical about the terrorist attacks of any kind only makes your remarks frivolous.

However, when you look at the events separately, you do notice something. We have seen demonstrations when the people in Gaza were massacred by the Israeli killing machines, but the anger and the outrage subsided after a while. Ask only yourself when you saw a demonstration for the Syrians and you might understand where I’m heading.

Just then, I found an article by Paul Slovic “psychic numbing and genocide” or the genocide neglect as I first read it in Sam Harris’s excellent work the moral landscape ( how coincidental right?).This article gave some interesting insights in how it is that people would react and get into action when only a single person or group has been killed while being totally paralyzed when genocides occur. To give a brief timeline of the genocides committed; The holocaust, Cambodia, east Timor, Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Bosnia and now you might add Syria to the list. In none of the mentioned countries, did the international community act ( except for Bosnia, but then too late).

Slovic argues that the people are only to get involved when the victims in one way or another are either close to them or when you put a face on it. Dry statistics does not produce the reaction desired. People might feel terrible about it, but they will not lose their sleep at night. Better explanation perhaps is that humans are evolved to only care for their own and are less inclined to take the care of distant events into account.

Furthermore, severals tests have been
conducted to see whether people donate more if you use high numbers of civilian casualties or when you put faces on the victims. Results showed that donations were more likely to be given to the options where picture and a story was mentioned describing the life of a child instead of dry statistics.

General public are not quite easily moved when you try to make the situation dire for attention by throwing numbers of deaths, because they’ll not able to comprehend the figures. Everyone can imagine their son or daughter be killed and it moves them, but multiply it by the thousands or millions and it loses that effect.

In conclusion, when someone says that the world is being hypocritical when addressing the charlie Hebdo or Malala incident, understand that the reason behind this lack of effort is because of our own psychological make up.

Does it mean that we then should give up hope and accept the reality as it is? No, of course not. It only means that different approaches should be tried to persuade the general public, so that they in turn force their governments to act on their behalf. How to go about to make this happen? I honestly don’t know, but I’m thinking of writing my thesis on how to get politics to react in the face of genocides and other mass murders by mobilizing the general public.

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Happy Valentine

Happy Valentine,

The first time I touched you, you willingly opened up to me. You embracingly let me venture in your realm of mysteries, of joys, laughter and of sorrows and tears. You illuminated my days and kept the dark clouds at bay and gave me warmth and comfort during the cold nights ahead.

I love you passionately, without hesitation, without doubt and without a shred regret.
The wrinkles around your corners only beautifies you, the changing of colors of your thousands of pages of deepness only magnifies you and proves yours resilience which I adore most. And the smell of you is like the smell of roses and flowers and every sweet scent, but as roses fade and lose their fragrance, yours stays true at all times.

I know that you will always be my thousands of candles in the darks tunnels and roads ahead. I am glad to have you as my guide, my revealer of secrets.

I promise you that I will be faithful to you, never abandon you and will always hold you dear and near to me. I will love you till death do us part.

Happy Valentine my precious books

Yours forever, most adamantly lover,

#valentine #books #love

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