Red December – Post 3

RED DECEMBER – 3

LOVE & THE RED BALLOON

The heart has its reasons that Reason knows not of.”  – Blaise Pascal

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The Red Balloon. Albert Lamirosse’s 1956 Oscar & Palme d’Or winning 30-minute Film.

It is a liberating feeling to know that writing/journalism is not your mainstay profession – that way you are free to write for the sake of writing and let your stream of consciousness  transfer through your mind and heart to your fingers without a plethora of intellectual/politically-correct debates sprouting up. Just a thought. This is the last of my ‘Red December’ series. In a sense it was the idea of this post that had first made me think of the associations of the colour ‘red’ – isn’t it interesting how the most extreme ranges of human emotions are associated with this colour? Danger, alertness, action, stoppage, sexiness, war, anger…..but most importantly the emotion of Love.

Yes, despite all the downers in life, the one ’emotion’ that kept me in balance, kept me optimistic, was that Red Balloon of Love. And I don’t mean ‘romantic’ love. Just ‘Love.’ The kind that just lives and redeems for itself. On watching the film again, I realized why this movie is so profound – it is a metaphor of what love is – the kind that stirs your heart like never before, like an understanding playful friend reaching out to you against a shared loneliness or greyness of the apathy and complacent cruelty in the world around – the way love lifts our hearts, the way we grow attached to it, depend on it, nurture it, are loyal to it, sacrifice for it, learn lessons in pain and longing from it, and finally, the way Love sets us free because of the epiphany its magical presence brought in our lives.

In November 2008, while going through a period of metaphorical insanity that produced volumes of writing, I’d had a powerful epiphany about love. It still remains one of the most profound times of my life where logic and love found a balance, and Love truly lifted me from my own darkness. Many chapters and stories were written in that inspired frenzy, and the following is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote titled ‘Love and the Lameness of Logic.’ Today I read it again, and though I have grown more since then, I am glad in retrospect that I grappled in those dark depths, if only for the euphoria that this realization had brought me. Not that I had not experienced ‘love’ before – but this time the intellectual, the practical, the emotional (and every other ‘al’) finally found congruence and I was set free. The condition where ego no longer matters but the Self finds itself. And truly discovers the capacity, the power, the unbridled abandon of Love.

“……..As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as constantly kind and just, sadly, we are cruel in life. Sometimes. Often. Unintentionally or through ignorance. Why? Because we keep those waiting who love us the most; We take love for granted. I know I have which is why I can write so. We waste our energies convincing those who do not care for us. They become a challenge to please. We show our bright lights to the uncaring. Yet we let those who care for us remain forgotten in the shadows. We do not remember them until it is too late. Until after facing the coldness of the world we turn around to seek them, thinking they will always be there and then find they have walked away finally exhausted, or are dead.

“Pride and ego work antithetically to love; silencers of confessing the truth to ourselves and to others; we are so concerned about how we will be perceived, so concerned that we will make fools of ourselves, so concerned of the stuffy and pretentious dictum of social protocols that after a while we stop listening to our hearts. I know this because I have sometimes noticed that ‘pride’ in myself and in others becoming the blockage in expressing love. But really, Pride for whose sake? Although in my case more than pride it has mostly been a sense of overwhelming shyness to express. The mind often thinks it knows better but in the end the heart is the one that breaks free when love is real. Hurt and its fear is the barricade that blocks the flow of love between our hearts and brains and since amongst the logical, the brain mostly transmits our words to our lips – we blurt out the wrong words because that bridge between the heart and the lips has been blocked. And now that I have confronted the hurt – or rather the shock – how clear it is to cherish the understanding I had received and yet had not wanted to see blinded by stubbornness so as to allow only Reason to overpower emotion and everything else. In a strange way – logic almost becomes the thwarter of love. As Tagore (the Nobel laureate Bengali poet) had said – “A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.”

“Or As Blaise Pascal had said: “The heart has its reasons which Reason knows not of.”

“Useless by cartoonist Randall Monroe of xkcd.com

“Love is what keeps us. What makes us. What saves us. And love is for love’s sake only – it completes and redeems itself. And the love that combines romance, strength, spirit, intellect, body, mind and compassion – and ah, so very very rare to find – and the one we all search for in one person and find it only in parts in many – that is the closest to salvation we come to. At the end one realizes that that is how one has to love one’s own self inside, to view the “love” inside in its multitude and then when it dwells as an integral part of one’s state of being, it becomes both the flame that enlightens one and the flame that gives warmth to others. It is difficult  to reach at this stage for many, but it is true nonetheless. My mother used to say that “Every human has his own limited capacity and within that some try to reach their own limit, some do not even recognize what they have inside and never even try to expand. And then there are those who break away from even their own limits to a higher state.” And the holistic state of love is the fire that breaks the limit. It is true. It is a personal journey. The mantra has been tainted, ritualized, made clichéd by various forms such as religious quarks, cheesy commercialism and even extreme ‘free love’. But it is an internal philosophy that at the end reveals the truth through personal reflection and experience only. It is only then that Love translates into the type of self-actualization and exaltation that covers and becomes one with the entire universe – a truly cosmic experience. This is something that some wise (or crazy) souls had discovered and tried to pass on, but forgot the folly that comprehension cannot be distributed second-hand. That just that personal knowledge was enough and not it’s craving to pass it on. But it is a lonely craving to share with similar minds. Ah – the craving to share, I know it. Because the solitude of epiphany is a peak where you wish to see others yet have to let them make the climb themselves.

“And that is why I looked back at the gift of understanding  (although Reason had clouded sight) and I realized that love is the one quality that as humans we should never forget in our hearts no matter how many times we get caught in earthly disappointments. I read words I had received of a few who shall remain unnamed for their privacy, of those who were not poets or writers and seemed so rational and restrained; and yet love had evoked something rare in them. I understood how it is love or its loss that makes men of logic and reason, finance and institutes turn into poets and philosophers. I understood how love arises in the human heart and why introverted men and women with their quieter ways take longer to put their thoughts and emotions into spoken words (never mind that they may be writing treatises in the privacy of solitude). And how it also causes sadness when the object of one’s love moves away. And  that it was not conquest but absolute surrender that could open the heart to love.

“Oh, how could I have forgotten such beauty in my search for logic and reason?? How could I have started reading on the ‘biology of chemistry of love’, terrified that my heart would overpower my logical brain. How can any brain chemistry or neurology explain such poignant honesty of the heart? Actually it can – but what good is prose in life without poetry? There is no substitute for pure unadulterated love. How telling it is of why in petty human misunderstandings there is no real reason to get sad and angry because many truths are simply hidden. Comprehension ignites compassion; Learning enlightens love. Just as love inspires learning.

“so really it’s not just a matter of “understanding men or women”, it’s understanding understanding.” (quote of an old long-lost friend.)

“And at last the honesty of acknowledging the truth about love was released.

“As a child I believed in love in spite of my visions of war. Till 28 I believed in personal love even after seeing hatred. How did I – who could give love so freely to everything else – restrict myself from believing in its power when it came to my own personal life and looked for answers in purely logic and reason? And have evaded from seeing the powerful love behind words and simply started seeing words like an arrangement of letters of the alphabet? I know why I did it – it was to avoid the pain of disappointment by those who did not mean their words – and now that folly has been rectified; the lodged bullet that blurred that vision removed. Words are the expression of our deepest thoughts, our innermost psyches – the purest form of an invitation into the chambers of the mind and the heart; as is music and painting and most art forms of course – but words by far the easiest to transmit and share. And love which I believed in as the most beautiful abstraction in the world since childhood spread out full force inside in every pore again from the unrestricted heart and I could express it through language again.

“I think when love gets held back by fear or not finding the right words to express itself, it comes out silently as tears. Or falls inwards like pricking icicles hurting the heart.

“And when love becomes part of one’s entire being again – one understands its force in the world, in the everyday. And one also understands that it is truly the absence of love that creates the horrors of the world. Some may say a love for power creates a mess. That is a blasphemy of using the word ‘love’ – ‘love’ is not what those power hungry people feel. It is a Greed for power, a greed for control, a greed for forceful assertion that creates the chaos in the world. As I walk down the street – it is so obvious……the power of love: It is love that makes the baker put his artistry in the delectable pastries, it is love that makes the artist pour out his soul on a canvas, it is love for their children or families that make men and women take up jobs they don’t like but to sustain a livelihood, it is love that makes people seek beauty, it is love for their work and their conscientiousness that make architects and engineers and all the professionals who we cannot do without build up the pillars and the infrastructure of the urbanscapes we dwell in, it is love that makes us smile for no reason when we feel happy, it is the love of a mother for her child that makes her do anything to get the best for him, it is love for one’s music that makes a musician produce such beautiful notes, it is the love of his work that makes the craftsman make those musical instruments, it is love for knowledge that makes the scientists and inventors of the world go to the amazing lengths of medical and technological advances and space travel that we have today, it is love for compassion that makes some people risk their own lives to help others…….on and on it goes………Love and a love for their work; or love and love for duty. That really is what makes the world go round. And of course ecology – but that’s another completely different aspect. But it is love that makes at least the human plane survive. At least the love of those who are the pillars that carry everyone else. And those who say love is foolish, presumptuous or the idea of fools have sadly perhaps never experienced genuine unconditional love, except perhaps from a mother.

All ideologies end up killing people. If you separate love from nonviolence you turn nonviolence into an ideology, a gimmick. Structures that are not inhabited by justice and love have no liberating or reconciling force, and are never sources of life.” – Jean Goss.

“It is sad to realize that in a sense the men who hound bars, the women who do the same in the seduction game, lonely inside, are actually all looking for love but trying to find it through temporary pleasures. Or perhaps that is all there is and they are genuinely happy in that physical expression of love, but I believe no person and animal can survive without love. A kind lady (oh well, fine, it was Mother Theresa) had once told me that love is often even more needed than bread. That love finds a way to provide bread. Which is why it is so beautiful, so wondrous. Love brings joy and joy generates peace. Of course peace becomes a whole different system of world politics and………oh well, that logical brain always has to butt in once in a while.

“But if love is so unimportant in life why do our greatest songs, our greatest epics, our most beautiful works of art always deal with the beauty of the presence of love and the ugliness of the absence of love (war)? It is love which gives us life and its absence death. And when we resurrect ourselves, it is due to our love inside. And death has its limits but it is truly love that is limitless.

“It is love that makes people cross oceans and mountains to bring back their beloved home, it is the understanding of the knowledge and power of love that gives the meditator nirvana. It is the echo of the beauty of first love that people try to recreate in all its innocence – no matter how much they try to rationalize. Einstein had said something to the effect once that how on earth can you ever explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a phenomenon as first love. The chap was right of course. So when thoughts of that causes one pain, or a craving to recapture that sense of wonder and innocence and the unadulterated love in one’s heart – what does one do? One remembers just the love, that fire inside one’s heart and forgets the ups and down of the attachment factor in the past. And that fire within oneself then translates into a luminance of Love inside of the Here and Now.  That fire becomes one with all the other types of love inside and the light inside glows  inextinguishable. A supernova-of-sorts constantly regenerating…. And one is then at peace with one’s darkness too.

On the other hand, it is the absence of love that causes the worst horrors of life. Because hatred consists of the absence of love. War is the culmination of all the negative forces of the human psyche. And within it too emerge acts and flashes of incredible courage and love. Jealousy that causes some women to do horrible things to others is the absence of love for others’ better qualities. Isolating others because they are different in some ways is the act of withholding ‘group-love’ to psychologically torture another. The advanced Self realizes to churn out a powerful love from within oneself and not get caught by the immature dictum of society.

It is important to remember though that in a bustle to ‘exoticise’ love in other places, logic is not abandoned. Sometimes there is a trend to think that those who prefer solitude or are introverted may not need love, while those who always wish to be a part of big social groups are more “loving” in some ways. This premise is not entirely true. Rather, in highly communal societies the ‘groupism’ present is often not so much out of extreme brotherly love, but because there is a direct relation between bad infrastructure and tighter communities. The worse the infrastructure of a country, the tighter the communal camaraderie of its people – because they have to depend on each other for survival, not on the government. In more technologically advanced societies it is precisely because the infrastructure is more developed that groupism becomes a choice, not a necessity. A person’s individual capacity to generate love is independent of his civic structure. And this then starts off an entire new debate of inherited values, ingrained bonding abilities, and of individual love, communal love and the balance between the two………..but that’s another story. And another post for another day.

For now all I know is this : If we were told we only had 10 minutes to live, the only people we would remember are the ones from whom we learned and the ones whom we loved. And those who truly loved us. It is strange how clear life becomes when one thinks with a bucket list.”

– written during a bout of ‘madness’ in November 2008, during the stillness of nights on Rue Dizier, Old Montreal.

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LE BALLON ROUGE

34 minutes of your time that will bring back  the rawest and purest form of childhood’s  joys, tears, injustice, cruelty and redemption. And love that can speak in the language of silence. Happy Holidays and wishing you the best for 2011!

My little gift (thanks to youtube) to all my readers who have read my random words through this year, and especially to those who sent me beautiful mails, insightful comments. Your feedback makes it worthwhile to keep writing.

For a long time it was very difficult to get a copy of this gem of a film. Enjoy!

For more on Le Ballon Rogue : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Balloon

& and a beautiful analysis of this film, done by author and illustrator Brian Selznick:  Here

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Red December – Post 1

RED DECEMBER – 1

New York, December 1, 2010. In North American seasons, it seems more appropriate to say ‘Red October’ as the leaves change colours. ‘White December’ would seem more apt since most of the north has received its first snowfall by then. But for this December, I feel like writing three posts with a ‘red’ theme in common – Red – the colour of cherry-red lips, the predominant colour of Christmas wrappings and stockings, but most of all the colour of blood, of the heart, of the glow in a fireplace, and of Love.

I just returned from a week in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, cities I lived in for 2 years in 2006 and 2007 for work. Moving from Montreal, Canada, with its cold northern winters, the two Floridian cities were escapes to sun and sand and sea……the stunning turquoise blue waters of their Atlantic shorelines obliterating all the other problems and urban – sprawl lifestyle. Greedy to soak in the waters, I lived on the high floor of a condo on Pompano Beach directly overlooking the vast endless ocean. After two years of filling my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the ocean waves that I woke up to every morning, I returned back north. On this visit, after nearly 3 years, I met again those who were dear to me, those who were my friends; and after the hellos, I said goodbye more as a closure once again to those with whom I had shared talks and walks and an occasional drink on patios and on white sand beaches or gone on boat and canoe rides in the picturesque waters of the Atlantic ocean and the Florida Keys. Some friends will remain so forever, no matter how far the distance in miles and years. Here’s to lovely Michelle and Gladys and Debbie and Sharolyn – four versatile, multi-dimensional, incredibly good-hearted women, and to four other straightforward male buddies. Thank you all for your senses and sensibilities!

Florida Keys  

It often takes a visit back as a traveler to appreciate what you left or find closure and peace for why you did. It IS true that familiarity breeds contempt and scarcity creates value. That is sadly a truth about human nature. The scorching sun and the serene waters that I’d begun to take for granted towards the end of my stay there in 2007, bogged by the lack of intellectual or ethical values that predominated much of flashy-car-and-silicon-boob-and-loud-showing-off South Florida, reminded me that the warmth of the sun can be appreciated only after experiencing the bitter northern winters, and the fakeness that used to affect me could disturb me only as long as I allowed it to – for if I chose to look beyond the noise, I could always find a quiet little bench in a hidden boardwalk on a marina where the boats docked where I could sit and enjoy fresh oysters I’d bought from Mr. Fish on Pompano, or find quiet beaches away from the crowds and choose to bicycle and canoe without giving a damn of ‘what car I drove or someone else drove’ (a predominant showiness of status that is found most in South Florida and Los Angeles-area-California when you live there.) And I discovered that beneath the surface, there were many authentic, happy, laid-back people and friends who did care about Florida’s fragile ecosystems and had a joyous relaxed attitude, sunnily different than the neurotic “Go-Go-Go” hustle of the Big Apple or the overtly-intellectually-competitive climate of Cambridge, MA, that I had grown more accustomed to.

When I transformed into a traveler again, I became more open to the charms of the city that a fresh revisit can bring back, (unlike the fear I’d experienced while getting lost driving in Overtown, the most crime-infested neighbourhood in Miami; or another time when I naively was walking into a dangerous trap while buying something off Craigslist and was saved by a friend.) This time, I let it all be, and just went along without fear, focussing more on all the far better memories I had of the city. Fort Lauderdale brought back its lovely beaches and my favourite hangs behind porches of lesser-known gems of restaurants that looked out into the ocean. Sadly I saw on this visit that many smaller cafes and shops which I’d frequent had closed down due to the economic hit this region took during the recession. Chatty business-owners told me tales of how the economic crash had affected their lives and those of others. Some of those stories were sad, some were funny and a few outright bizarre. In another honest talk, a good friend of mine (who is a self-made entrepreneur and a rising star in the building trade, with a residential project-in-construction even on the exclusive Star Island that he walked me through,) explained to me that he bought his Porsches truly for their engineering, not as any ‘symbols.’ He explained how given a chance, most men who liked cars would like to own a Porsche – more for its speed and amazing engineering, not necessarily for any ‘show.’ Thanks to him I can now say I have experienced what driving a 2009 Porsche Turbo feels like ;-) (Still, nothing beats flying a humble Cessna…but that’s just a personal preference.)

And this time, with a renewed perspective free from any past preconceived ponderosity, Miami brought back its Latin flavours, its predominant whiffs of delicious Cuban cooking,  Spanish guitars and the heat of its warm sun-kissed Decembers.

I am no ethnic gypsy, just a metaphorical ‘gyspy’ due to my nomadic travels and the many cities I have lived and worked in, but what better way to start a Red December than the haunting strum of the musical mastery of a real gypsy group of Catalonian Romani gitanos who reside in Southern France – The Gipsy Kings? Though I had received training in classical dance for many years, for a couple of years later in my 20s I took a rigorous training in the style of dance known as Gypsy Flamenco. And it is hard to remain still when the Kings take off on their guitars and lively vocals. But for this post, I have attached one of their pure instrumental compositions – a sensuous Red rendition that stirs one’s inner passion, and reminds us once again of the poetry of love, of longing and long nights under an open sky, of the hopes and desires of timeless youth when hearts were open, and gazes held fire, and the flow of your blood pulsated against your skin with a Dionysian rhythm of an inspired frenzy surpassing the Apollonian mind……..

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