Saturday, January 1, 2011

Aronofsky and the Swan

Art. Does reaching artistic peaks necessarily imply a huge amount of sacrifice? Does art, at some point, become more important to the artist, than the artist himself? Does conventional madness sometimes dance with great artistic achievement?

Is highly appraised art inextricably linked to the emulation of artist and art? And, does the artist lose a bit of himself in every masterpiece? Furthermore, does losing bits of yourself allow you to reach perfection? Then, are we "too complex" to reach perfection?

Finally, does perfection imply a simplicity that we are not able to understand without sacrifice?

If you like, you may find bits of answers to all the above, or even more questions, in Darren Aronofsky's 2010 film, Black Swan:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What are we willing to sacrifice and for Whom?

As I was getting a bit buzzed during the late hours of one long day, I started contemplating the value of "wasting time" with friends. The contemplation continued the following day, as the dark circles under my eyes began to show and a general feeling of "Oh my! Where did my energy go?" started to soar over me.

I kept thinking that I can compartmentalize work and fun, so that one would not affect the other. But when you're using the same body for doing both, problems might occur. I used to totally eliminate from my mind the possibility that I can ever benefit from a life of 9 to 5, going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 7am, working during the day, having light fun during the evening and resting well at night. But as it seems, I was too quick to judge as being "so not me" an existence that seemed quite dull to me a few years back, and that now I wish I could have...for a while.

Although there is more to life, or there should be more to life than working from 9 to 5 and partying during the weekends (as a reverend at TED once said, but I forgot his name, thus I put another related and inspiring TED video below), should we choose not to have healthy habits and money just because it's not original? Then again, what is original in lifestyle anymore? I think we heard of/seen a fantastic variety of lifestyles, ranging from beggers, monks, and workaholics, to notorious party girls, alcoholics and junkies to people who have animatronic tails attached to their spinal cord and live as felines. Yes, we have all sorts, but are they really ALL? What humans have proven so far is clearly the great ability to majorly change things about them, while oddly being basically the same.

So returning to staying up late and partying with friends (for whatever reason you can think of) vs. being deemed responsible in socially accepted terminology and going to bed early, what is the cognitive dissonance in choosing one or the other? Should it necessarily be a choice? And if it does come down to these two choices, aren't we smart enough to think of a third choice? - e.g. writing on my blog instead of partying with friends or going to bed at a "decent" time.

I think it is not whether you make a choice or not, but rather who is the one for whom you make the choice in the first place. On the one had, if drinking with friends has the purpose of cheering up a person you care about, then the cognitive dissonance slowly goes away. If, on the other hand, you have the interview of your life the next day, the cognitive dissonance will either be there to stay (in case the interview goes really bad, or even marginally bad, but you don't get the job), or it would be probably inexistent (in case you don't go partying at all and get a nice night's sleep before the big day, and do your best there, and still don't get the job).

If we really think about, it always depends on whom we think about when we make the choice...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

August Rush, not the movie, which is quite lovely by the way, but my summer vacation. Although it was rather short, my vacation again, not the movie, it was intense, filled with gatherings, story telling, memories, adventure, travel, visits and no rest. The thing about being away from home for a while is that, when you come back, you need to rent a conference room, invite all your family, friends and relatives and give a presentation about your time abroad...At least, that's what I should have done :). Instead I ended up retelling the same story, with some tone or adjective modifications, still basically the same, to everybody.

Still I loved my summer back home, ever minute of it. I realized how lucky I am to know and be friends with such great individuals: people who open their own business, people for which failure in not an option, people who always make time for trips, people who fight for what or who they love, people who joggle jobs and studying, people who continuously want more from themselves, people who move on, people who love life, people who are perfectly content and happy with their lives, people who love me, people whom I adore. Each and every one of them is unique, and I have so much to learn from all of them, and seeing them in one short summer vacation filled me up with hope and energy. So, thank you!

The summer ended with a blast, a lovely wedding from which my feet are recovering still. I was rather scarred by bad wedding settings or customs in the past, but this wedding was just lovely, every bit of it. The pictures are on their way...I think :).

Now, being back in the Netherlands, I realized I'm very lucky here too, because I know wonderful people who supply my new room with good mood, plates and IKEA assembling services. Plus I have a cute, finger biting cat, that cannot take "No, Draco, no!" for an answer.

Finally, looking at the gray sky of Groningen, which seems slightly friendlier this year, I'm eager to see what this fall shall bring and what new things I can share with my friends when I'll see them again.

Take care of yourselves,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rainy thoughts

Sometimes it rains everywhere, outside the house, inside the house (water dripping from the ceiling), inside the head...It's as if thoughts hit your mind like heavy drops that ricochet and hit your mind again. Then it all goes quiet, still as if nothing existed before and nothing will exist after. For a moment you feel out of place and yet, in the exact place you should be. After the rain, the sky clears, all the gray fleets to another dimension, and a pure blue welcomes shapeless, white clouds.

A pleasant emptiness fills my shell, and I see that crises come and go, and that the multitude of universes that we belong to conspire to make existence complex and marvelous and too many times so unappreciated by us. The sad part is that all our existence always sums up to what we remember from it, and the moment we remember it all. It's just that.

If we leave something behind, if people remember us, if we have visions about the future...should all these matter that much? Isn't it more important for us to remember our mistakes and what we stand for in order to continuously become a better version of ourselves? Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn't. Or it's both. There are perpetual moments when our lives influence the lives of others. If what we stand for includes caring, at least a bit, about what's around us, then our existence should be what we remember and what others remember at the moment of remembrance, which is the most important time reference point that will ever exist, something we call the present.

My yesterday's present was slightly altered by a sequence of fast moving frames...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A bit of death, a lot of love

The question "are you afraid of death?" inevitably arises in conversation. I guess people ask about death in the pursue of comforting emotions. We all are familiar with the concept, but we never get to ask one that actually experienced it. I am not aiming for a sad post, I just read the most beautiful and sad poem I have ever laid my eyes on, and I wanted to share it with you. It's by Wystan Hugh Auden and it made me happy, after it made me incredibly sad:

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

Why would something like this make me happy?
Because it's more about love than death, and I think most poems and thoughts of death I triggered by thoughts of love. We might talk about death because we love life, or we lost a loved one, or we are afraid of not feeling love anymore etc..

I always seem to come back to love. I am so fascinated by the topic, that many times I forget to move from in front of a book shelf dedicated to poetry or philosophy. The last time it happened, I stumbled across Sartre's "The Being and the Nothingness". I don't think I agree with somebody on the topic of love as I agree with what J.P. says:

"(...)the triple destructibility of love: in the first place it is, in essence, a deception and a reference to infinity, since to love is to wish to be loved, hence to wish that the Other wish that I love him. A preontological comprehension of this deception is given in the very impulse of love - hence the lover's perpetual dissatisfaction. It does not come, as is so often said, from the unworthiness of being loved but from an implicit comprehension of the fact that amorous intuition is, as a fundamental-intuition, an ideal out of reach. The more I am loved, the more I lose my being, the more I am thrown back on my own responsibilities, on my own power to be. In the second place the Other's awakening is always possible; at any moment he can make me appear as an object - hence the lover's perpetual insecurity. In the third place love is an absolute which is perpetually made relative by others. One would have to be alone in the world with the beloved in order for love to preserve its character as an absolute axis of reference - hence the lover's perpetual shame (or pride - which here amounts to the same thing)."

O this windy Sunday noon, while birds sing seemingly unaware of currents, I ponder my own relation to love in general. It is as controversial in my head as the subject of religion, but not quite as adored. Recently I come to terms with the fact that I am more in love with love, that I could ever possibly be with another individual. And while that might seem sad, it stems from the fact that we, as Satre so elegantly puts it forth, love ourselves above it all. Thus loving love is loving my idea of love, which is inextricably linked to who and what I am.

Therefore, death is not so sad when it comes to any other death than our own. We tend to project each death on ourselves, thus the grieving. Although I might think I understand and possibly be in-control, it will certainly not prevent me from experiencing the deep tragedy of a loss. And if we talk about our own death, well, we are always with the being we love the most, ourselves, thus even in death, we can never be alone. The question is: "Do we really need the Other to feel more comfortable with the inevitable death, or are we equally impacted by it, regardless of who would be left behind?"

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I think that most of us are more concerned with "How do I get to be happy?" than with "What is actually happiness?" and more importantly we get caught in this game of definitions and forget to enjoy every moment of our lives.

Dr. Rao tells us a bit about mental maps and the way we have constructed the concept of happiness.

Then Dr. Kahneman tries to show us how we manage to mess up our happiness moments and explains some things about experience and memory.

These very smart gentlemen present valid issues in human lives, since the beginning of our species' quest for the best. We strive daily to get more of everything and in the end we are left with the hole of wanting even more or wanting something different.

How many times did/do we say "I need a change", or "I need to do that in order to...", or "Starting tomorrow, or Monday, or day X I will..."?

I think I say stuff like that to myself everyday, but the moments that are truly meaningful to me are most of the time not buried in my head, but outside my mind. Moments like the clouds under the plane while coming from a great trip, or admiring Lake Como with nice friends, or the laughter of a child near Lake Lugano, or playing War with two packs of cards and a funny friend in a McD's in Milan.

All these were things that I enjoyed and I cannot enjoy anymore because they passed.

We need to enjoy life more before all our existence becomes but a memory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A week of contusion...confusion...or was it both?

My dear sweet parietal lobes and I have had a rough week, sort of. As it seems, if you're not very good at skating and you're going at a considerable speed on the ice, and for a brief period you sort of drift and just enjoy the gliding and forget to concentrate on leaning forward, chances are that your head will have a very nasty confrontation with the ice. This might result in a few moments of pure synesthesia (it was nice to see the sounds around me in bright red and yellow spirals of color that were intertwined with a very black background, all this with my eyes closed), then 15 minutes of blackout, followed by a huge bump on the head and 85 euro for a 3 minute doctor consultation and a week of only being able to sleep, take pills and eat.

I was lucky enough that the three friends I was with, really took care of me. Two of them, with whom I also live, took turns to wake me from 2 to 2 hours the night after the contusion, so I wouldn't slip into a coma. Therefore I really owe them one, or two, or a couple of big favors :).

Now, for those of you who are better at the skating part than I am, remember: a helmet cannot hurt, but not having one can hurt a lot.

This week made me realize, again, how fascinating the human brain is and how cool it is to study it's inner-workings right at the point of damage, for lack of a better word. Reassured that my word processing abilities are not damaged, I am waiting to test my math skills as well, and I will test them starting tomorrow. With or without contusions, assignments still have deadlines, and these may be postponed, but not indefinitely.

While "enjoying" my recovery time, I stumbled across a very interesting parallel between creating music and managing a business or a country (thanks to a musical friend of mine), a different sort of synesthesia, as I like to abuse the term.

There is constant talk about interdisciplinary contexts and sharing information and data bases between and across fields, departments etc. and it's all, as it always is, linked to the mechanism that we are.