une petite évasion

A 3-minute gem which reminds us of the simple joys of life, despite all its trials and tribulations. A little escape.


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“Stay Weird”

September 1, 2015. In the past couple of weeks, this gem of a 4-minute video from Canada has been doing its rounds on the web. It’s a video posted as a farewell by the CBC Radio show “Wiretap” which ended after 11 seasons. Created by Jonathan Goldstein, a former producer of This American Life, WireTap invited audiences to “eavesdrop on a mix of funny, thoughtful, and unpredictable stories and conversations.” The Montreal Gazette called the show “something between borscht-belt comedy and Franz Kafka.”

“How to Age Gracefully” was originally an episode that kicked off the show’s tenth season on September 6, 2013. In it, people between the ages of 5 years to 90 years old shared their wisdom about growing up — and it was as witty as powerful. Goldstein remarked that the concept seemed to have stuck with people; so he and the show’s team decided the best send-off would be to invite listeners down to the CBC and make the premise of that episode into a video. 

If my readers get the chance, do pick up a copy of Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness.” Among its many insightful observations there is one that perhaps correctly notes that each individual person may think that he/she is utterly unique (which in a sense everyone is at a DNA level) but in truth how we feel or question or ruminate later in life in fact can and will be very, very similar in manner and kind to those who are like us in personality, but are much older than us. So a good way to deduce how your future self may feel/regret/question/wonder is by asking someone who is older than you, yet with a similar outlook, attitude, profession, upbringing, preferences and belief system, and find out how they feel at their age and what they would have told their younger selves.

In that sense, other than its charming premise and real life characters, the video “How to age gracefully” is a simple, minimalist yet powerful and poignant philosophical vignette shining a light on existentialism and what it means to grow up or grow old or to keep “growing” with age.

Make sure to watch till the very end ;)


Unconditional Love

On a late December evening in 2002 just before Christmas vacation started, I brought my little Moitié home.

Earlier that afternoon I had decided to give myself a little Christmas gift after a year of excruciating hard work at one of the city’s largest and busiest architecture and planning firms. At the Papineau Veterinary Clinic in Montreal, they have cats of all ages for adoption. The little 7 week old kitten – half black, half white – which they had found abandoned when he was even younger immediately won my heart with his affectionate demeanor. Within seconds of holding his little fluffy body in my arms, he broke out into a loud purr. He had found his home.

Later that evening I returned to make the payment of $89 and take him home in a cat carrier. “Home” was a cavernous 2 bedroom apartment next to the Oratorie St. Joseph  on Montreal’s Queen Mary street where I lived with my then-partner Guillaume – a successful lawyer now with his own practice, but at the time working on his Bar exams. We were both in our 20s, full of youthful optimism and naïveté, the world before us and not in the least aware of the twists and turns in our life that the little cat would be directly affected by.

On exiting his carrier, immediately the kitten started rubbing against both of us, unable to stop giving and wanting affection. All kittens are cute, but it was easy to see that this little one was exceptionally cuddly. Our other cat Biloo, a beautiful Maine Coon, around a year and half old which we’d both chosen together in the summer of 2001 to celebrate a year since our first meeting, had always been independent and was not exactly a cuddler, so this little one with a white dot at the end of his black tail was an instant heart-warmer. We decided to name him Moitié-Moitié (for the pronunciation- here) or “half-half” as he was half black and half white and was justly dividing his time nuzzling between both of us.

Moitié would go on to accompany us as we moved to the house we bought six months later in Montreal’s south shore with a big backyard and swimming pool. He loved the outdoors, and it soon got impossible to let both cats stay at home, as their exploratory instincts had taken over.

Biloo would die shortly after, hit by a horrible speeding car in the early morning in the fall of 2003 when she was making her way back home – and it would be eighteen hours before we’d discover her hiding, painfully injured but still alive, rush her to the vet, and be told that the best thing was to euthanize her. For years, it would remain an incredibly traumatic and painful memory in my life. Pets have that effect on us. They love us so innocently, so unconditionally, so simply…..anyone who has lost a pet knows how hard it is, and even more so, if the death was a violent or painful one.

Through it all, Moitié continued to love us, heal us. He was one of those cats who liked sleeping tightly right next to you, loved snuggling and sitting on your lap, and head-butting, licking or nipping like a pure eternal fountain of love and affection. He stayed on with Guillaume when I moved to Florida for a new job, with questions suspended around our relation, as quite frankly – I had reconsidered it by now due to sheer exhaustion as I was working crazy hours, while he was still getting his ropes around law. And there were other issues – which in retrospect were so minor, that they could have been easily worked out. Love or a lack of love as well as chemistry had never been an issue though, nor had there been any incompatibility in literary, artistic or intellectual tastes, as all those fundamental aspects we shared in plenty, and I am quite lucky to have been loved so deeply and strongly by a great person. It was more his extreme possessiveness and most of all, inability to understand the crazy working hours of the architecture world. Instead of loving support, there used to be constant rages against my working late, the long hours before deadlines, the loss of vacation time. I had no choice as he was still an intern, and we needed my job to keep going. Architecture hours are truly brutal and it would be several years before I would question the masochism and slavish workaholic brutality of my profession, and wake up to smell the coffee and look beyond the bubble architects lived in, but, alas – back then neither of us could understand the other’s point of view.

So when I moved to South Florida in early 2006, it made sense that Moitié should stay back with Gui as he had grown more attached to him as in his kitten days it had been Gui who had spent more time at home while I was at the office. In 2004, soon after his internship, he had refused an offer to join that firm as an associate and instead decided to start his own law firm which had only led to an increased workload for me as now I was working as an architect by day and moonlighting as a legal assistant at night, helping build up a business, where failure was not an option. Gui had rented an office on Montreal’s Rene Levesque Boulevard, but the pressure and exhaustion had caught up with me and I was ready to leave to be on my own now, to have my own metaphorical “space” to grow individually. It was a sad, uncertain period for us, and Moitié comforted him unconditionally to the point that Gui would joke that all his inheritance would one day go to the cat. We sold the house we’d bought and now had our own apartments in our own respective cities. On every visit back to Montreal I would run to hug and spend time with the little fella, who had never forgotten his mommy.

When Gui decided to leave Canada to open a second office in south-east Asia in early 2007, he handed the kitty over to his twin and his girlfriend. The cat must have been confused and devastated. He had known no others except Gui and me. It took him a while, but soon enough, he was giving his love to Raphael and Marie.

In mid-2007 they all bought a beautiful duplex I had picked out, the twins deciding to live in the same building, or at least renting the upstairs when Gui was away while Raph and Marie would live downstairs. When I returned back to Montreal – there was Moitié – affectionate as ever, fatter, wiser and giving love to all who came his way, even to my grouchy new cat Mojo – who had been adopted after being found starving and abandoned in a garbage dump in Fort Lauderdale, along with his siblings locked up in a box. Moitié in the meantime had survived many adventures, disappearances (when he ran away from the twin for a month), break-outs (when he found a way out from a basement heating room to escape in the bitter Canadian cold for 14 days and lived outside till our return from a vacation in Cancun) and many other ups and downs in his kitty life.

On this return, I stayed on for another 18 months much of which, from the early summer of 2008, I spent in an apartment on the top of the Mount Royal Summit Park (on Ridgewood avenue) and resumed working at a distinguished firm I’d worked at since 2004. The housing recession had started to strike much of the US, and Canada had a far more stable job market at the time. Gui and I figured out our relationship and finally split on very amicable terms and moved on with new partners in new countries – he deciding to spend the major part of each year in Asia and me moving to Cambridge in 2009 and eventually to New York.  As I had already spent some years in Asia, prior to meeting him, I didn’t feel like going back there again, while for him it was a fascinating novelty. While we had “officially” or legally split in 2006, this time any strong lingering emotional ties were cleared up, and boundaries that reinforced mutual respect towards each other and to our new partners further strengthened. We still remain professional trusting friends, and on my trips back to Montreal, I’m always invited to stay at his mother’s or at his twin’s – and they both extend the invitation even to my present partner.

Moitié stayed back with the twin after our split and would later even become a patient and loving pet to the little baby girl that Raphael and Marie-Claude would have in 2011. He was well-known in the neighborhood as a loving, peaceful cat, a gentle soul who liked taking strolls through connecting backyards, protective of new kittens and ready to take on any feline bullies.

He was there to comfort me when I returned deeply hurt after receiving the insulting rage in a supposed meeting for a long overdue in-person  “apology” by a cruel individual in October 2010; he had always been there whenever I used to come home exhausted from a day in the office; he was always there to greet me every time I would visit Montreal,  a can of his favorite cat food in my hand, my pace escalating with excitement and anticipation as I walked round the corner towards the duplex, crying out “Moitié, Moitié” as he would come running from wherever he was like a faithful little dog.  And he had been there, as a steady anchor, for all the other humans in his life, nuzzling, cuddling, always demanding and giving affection, with dog-like loyalty yet in full feline grace and elegance.

Cats on average live for about 15-18 years. Moitié was only a little over 11 years old.  So it was with a jolt of shock when Sunday night I was forwarded a mail from Raph to Gui about the sudden demise of this little feline angel. They had found him paralyzed in half his body in the bedroom on their return home from an afternoon out. He had suffered a stroke.  After careful consideration, the vet’s advice and several hours in the clinic they had opted for euthanization. He died in their arms, purring and rubbing against them till the last moments before falling asleep forever. Living in New York, I had last seen him only several months back during a summer visit to Montreal. Little did I know it would be for the very last time.

Tears and sadness at the pain of loss have engulfed me since the news. Guilt as well….wondering if I should have moved him with me to Cambridge, to New York…..but then he really loved his backyard and the house in Montreal and he would cry and bellow whenever he was moved to a new place (had tried that) and was a creature of habit. He was happier where he was. And what guarantee was there he wouldn’t have had a stroke at that age anyway?

I beat myself up with all the possibilities (as unfortunately I often tend to be quite hard on myself at times), was upset for a while wishing they’d informed me earlier so I could have rushed to Montreal to see him one last time, but then finally reconciled that what happened was probably the kindest and sanest option – that at least he had not been killed by some car and died without being found and painfully bleeding. After a long phone conversation with Marie on Thursday other facts started to bring in some peace, despite the sadness. At least the stroke had occurred at his home, not outside, where the paralysis would mean that he would freeze to death, unable to walk in the -25 Celsius Canadian winter that week. It had always been a concern of mine – that such an incredibly loving and affectionate kitty should be near his loved ones in his last moments. And in that respect – his death had been peaceful, relatively painless and dignified. Guillaume was perhaps the most devastated as the cat had been like his son. He is still inconsolable, breaking out in tears in the middle of the day in his office, and buried with guilt wishing he had never left the cat and moved away to Asia. He had thought the cat would live for 20 years so when he returned back full time in another 3 years, he would be reunited with his “son.” Alas, that was not to be. Fortunately he had been able to spend three weeks last Christmas with Moitié during a trip back to Canada.

Animals come into our life, mostly the mammals we have as our pets, they give us irrevocable love, ask no questions, pass no judgment, spend the day waiting for us to return home, all they ask for is to be fed and walked, loved and caressed and in return they give us the most unconditional and loyal love we will ever know or experience in our lifetime… They remind us over and over again the simplicity and beauty of life and love, bereft of the complications, greed, power-wars and duplicity of humans who have innumerable flaws and failings – especially when it comes to loyalty and unconditional love. Yes, no one can love you like a dog, a cat or a faithful pet. There is no substitute for that kind of joyous, simple, innocent and genuine  love.

We see all around us in our world (at least those who are introspective or meta-analytical to see) hypocrisies, superficialities, toxic attention-craving, ass-kissing hierarchies, injustices (tons of those committed against animals), online status-whoring among fame-and-validation-hungry people, narcissistic self-indulgence, mind-numbing idiotic “selfies,” pussy-footing political correctness where we’re disallowed to call a spade a spade,  and many more  widely accepted societal “norms” that make the mannerisms of the human race often seem so pretentious and repulsive at times.  I came to a realization a few months ago; it’s something  some others I know also believe in – something I used to feel as a kid too, but at some point I’d lost that wisdom: that I prefer to trust warm-blooded animals far more than humans; that I’d rather spend time with the innocents of another species than with some of the conniving, constantly self-promoting caricatures of our species…Being an introvert who loves solitude, and generally not very social (except in good company) that realization wasn’t hard to come to.  Moitié’s death and his legacy reminded me even more to focus on real life in all its textures and fragrances, instead of the virtual parody much of “life” has become these days with an overdose of excess-information-without-wisdom, quantity-without-quality..….

Spring will step into Montreal again this May, the last slivers of snow will melt and the tulip buds sprout, the birds will commence their singing again….but this Spring I will know that no pink-nosed Moitié will awaken from his lazy slumber to go out and play like he did every day.  Life will go on. Except someone will now live on only in memory and in the innocent love he brought to all whose lives he touched in his short time upon this earth. This Spring, the new grass in the backyard of that house will sorely miss the silent and soft steps of the most affectionate cat in the world that I ever knew and who will forever live on in my heart and who I’ll always deeply miss – mon meillieur minou Moitié.

*

What was up with February 9, 2014? That night I not only lost my beloved Moitié forever, early that week I received the news that on that same evening one of the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful and most unpretentious souls I had met in New York’s art world, Hudson – who ran Feature Inc. gallery – and was a breath of fresh air in the snooty art community, had also passed away.  He was only 63.  A New York Times article on his death: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/arts/hudson-gallerist-and-nurturer-of-artists-dies-at-63.html?_r=0

Hudson and I had connected instantly – from the first glance and further reinforced through our conversations. He was my kind of guy/human – solitude-loving, unpretentious, with good taste in art and ethics, and with “an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector.” Humble yet firm, witty yet serious, energetic yet low-key – his innate authenticity and ethics shone through his gentle old-soul face. Every week I would receive his emails about the shows in his gallery and his opinions on art. It is with great sadness I will know that Spring will seep into New York City after this whitewashed winter, but Hudson will never be there in person again. One of the last remaining good ones…..He will be greatly missed. An apt eulogy written on him:

Seeing Out Loud: Remembering Feature Gallery’s Hudson

By Jerry Saltz

“Hudson — the founder of the Feature Inc. gallery, who went by one name — was one of the greatest of his generation, a generation that was rich in art-dealer talent. Feature opened on April Fool’s Day 1984 with a show of work by Richard Prince, and was eventually among the first to exhibit the art of Takashi Murakami, Raymond Pettibon, Tom Friedman, Charles Ray, B. Wurtz, Judy Linn, Richard Kern, Lisa Beck, Tom of Finland, and many others. Hudson was 63, but seemed timeless. He was one of the last of his kind, and among the smartest, wittiest, and most visionary gallerists I’ve ever known — old-school in that he almost seemed not to want to be a dealer. He just loved art and artists. 

The possessor of a sharp eye, an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector, and an ability to disagree affably but firmly, he started in Chicago, then moved the operation to New York four years later, landing first at 484 Broome Street. Before that he’d been an artist and a performer and spent ten years as an administrator and curator in the not-for-profit sector. Hudson called his gallery Feature “as a way to deflect a personality from the gallery, an attempt to let the exhibitions be the focus. The structure of having several galleries simultaneously show differing exhibitions was my move against stardom and a push for pluralism and multiplicity … it is the artists who lead the way. Watch what they’re doing and you’ll see what is happening.” When it came to curators—many of whom drifted away from his gallery over the past decade — he told the artist Dike Blair, “They should flee from hipness and the current notion of art as fun … What ever happened to the museum as a place of study, aesthetics, and the subjective, or the quiet time wandering about a museum deep in thought or ecstatic with emotion? Perhaps museums should institute one silent day weekly … curatorial positions should be created for those with training outside academia.” Amen.

At first he might be placed in the class of gypsy-dreamboat super-intelligent anti-gallerists like Colin de Land, Gavin Brown, and Michele Maccarone. But Hudson was more taciturn, detached, solitary. He avoided being the center of attention and was not social. He said that when he went home after hours, he didn’t read the paper or the internet and, except for listening to music, remained in total silence until the following day. “I prefer art that is complex and multi-focused,” he said. “Such work is, and probably always has been, out there, yet because it isn’t an easy read, or easy to explain. It rarely functions in the market in a very big way.”

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

“Unlike almost every other dealer I’ve ever known, Hudson sat at the front desk. No office walls separated him from the gallery. Getting a checklist or signing-in meant seeing him, as he was forever working — usually with a staff of one or two. His great director Jimi Dams left to form his own excellent gallery in 2005. Since then, it’s mainly been Hudson and the wholehearted artist Anne Doran. Once, when asked to comment on the architecture of other Chelsea galleries, he remarked, “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it architecture. In scale, administrative layout, and personality — the suits — we see business at work, the corporate model, which I don’t find rewarding or wish to encourage.” Whenever I called late on summer weekends looking for information, Hudson always answered the phone himself, in the gallery.

It wasn’t until recently that Hudson participated in art fairs, saying, “We should all pay less attention to the salesmanship and showmanship of auctions and fairs, and, of course, be more aware of the not new and hot. Stop running around trying to see everything everywhere, and spend more time with the richness that is close to home.” Time eventually forced his hand, and over the past few years he did participate in a few, to fabulous effect. The first, I think, was at Zucher Studios on Bleecker Street where there were no more than a dozen other galleries, most lesser known. I bought two marijuana brownies from him for $25 each and gave them to my best stoner friend, who said they were divine and a great price. His fantastic booth at the Outsider Art Fair (Feature as an outsider!) was all tantric drawings by anonymous Indian artists.

I often saw Hudson early on Saturday mornings going around to other galleries. He saw a lot of art and had well-formed individual opinions on everything he saw. I learned a lot from him and stood corrected often. In the early 2000s, when photographic work dominated the scene, he called for a “moratorium on photography, especially art-directed snapshot-quality images of low life, especially when class, gender, and sexuality are pictured …. and avoid the notion of the largest possible photographs, particularly when laminated to Plexiglas. MoMA’s Gursky exhibition made me think that this guy makes great postcard images, and many of them actually would be more significant at that scale and in that form.”

He was ultra-aware of the shift in metaphysical control from artists and dealers to speculator-collectors and auction houses. He lost artists to bigger, slicker galleries. Still, few dealers have been more committed to and passionate about the artists they represent. In 2014, Feature is a special gallery of special artists: Always on the cutting edge, but always art-first. I often didn’t quite understand the work he showed. But — as with only a tiny handful of gallerists — I trusted him enough to make extra efforts to come to terms with it. I was sometimes sheepish around him, especially when I wrote about an artist and event I assumed he didn’t like. Even then, he was sweetly funny with his disapproval and scorn. He had nicknames for people. He called me “Salt shaker.” I knew this was a sly reference to the way I can get caught up in the flavorful hype and throw myself at, say, a performance by Jay Z. I’m told he could be quite harsh to artists who sent him unsolicited work that he didn’t like, writing notes that suggested why they might want to give up art. I’d love to do an exhibition or book of these letters and notes to artists. Hudson loved engaging with those who engaged with him. He was always available for conversation. I think I loved him. I know I’m in shock and despondent that he’s gone. The art world has lost a colossal spirit.”

*

Carl Sagan. Always….

Essential viewing…..For those times, when the inexplicable injustices of the world grip you (such as several recent miscarriages of justice in Florida’s legal system), for those tumultuous political/social times when a form of hateful discord grips people of different communities, colors and religions – and you understand the futility of such group-think, for the times you need answers or just peace or closure – helpless at your inability to reconcile with justified anger at certain man-made systems, for the times you wonder about your “place” in the world, for the times you need to get out of the abyss of excessive navel-gazing myopic views and understand the fallacies of our anthropocentric world; and for the times when the sheer scale of the Universe and imagining its immensity becomes akin to a spiritual experience……… For the times when perspectives of a wise and ethical astrophysicist, ecologist, anthropologist or scientist-philosopher, and based on proven facts, makes much more sense than any subjective opinions blindly followed……..For the times when knowledge sets one free, while ignorance merely buries.

carl-saganI feel very lucky to have been exposed to the work, shows and writings of Carl Sagan at an early age. What an incredibly wise man he was! Wish there were more objective scientist-philosophers like him. Wish he hadn’t passed away so soon.  When I met the “father” of landscape ecology research Richard T. T. Forman at Harvard in 2008, I gushed like a teenager. But wish I could have met Sagan, at least once, before he died. He was also one of those few great men, whose private conduct had integrity and ethics, and did not differ from his public image – a disparity oftentimes sadly seen in many creative or public figures who may seem very alluring from the outside, but have hypocrisies within. Carl Sagan even transcended that – by all accounts he was good, wise, humble and ethical, both publicly and privately. Yes, he truly was a great man.

Here are two well-made videos by a fan, with Sagan’s narration. There are many more videos of him out there, of course, and his must-have series “Cosmos” which is a testimony to the good that great and intelligent television shows can do, as opposed to the murk it more often churns out.

On my blogroll section is a link to “Carl Sagan quotes.” And a chapter from his last book can be found here: * Billions of stars * Billions of sports fans

Wishing you wisdom………and billions of warm wishes from the ravenous July heat of New York City.

Bonjour from Paris

Paris. France. April 9, 2013. I have been travelling through various cities in Europe since mid-March, both for work and rest. This post is written from my current city – Paris;  sitting right next to the steps of Square Caulaincourt, Rue Lamarck, Montmartre. 

montmartre steps

While in later posts, I shall post pictures from the travels, today marks the first death anniversary of my father, who passed away due to a sudden swift heart attack last year.  Youthful, hyper-active and conspicuously full of life – he remained that way right up till the very end – bursting with frank, undiplomatic outspoken chutzpah, never afraid to call a spade a spade, and  so vibrant that friends, neighbours and his loved ones still miss his vivacity and near-comical foot-in-mouth well-intended but bluntly-phrased verbal gaffes even today.

This morning I had a long talk with my mother – my parents had eloped and got married in their 20s and remained married till his death.  My mother had a Ph.D in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics, and my father a Ph.D. in Geology with a minor in Physics. Definitely not the most diplomatic nor quiet person around, he complemented my mother’s calm, logical Spock-like reserve.  I have to hand it to my parents though – that in all the years I know them – I never saw them have fights – no screaming drama, no loud vulgar expletives; no vindictive arguing, no throwing things – none of that; none at all. The occasional short argument for sure, which was usually over things related to infrastructure – such as a broken plumbing fixture, a fridge door accidentally left open too long – and that sort of thing – but never, never the bitter, screaming, shouting matches that I have sadly heard some of my friends say they witnessed among their own parents.

My father certainly loved my mother a lot – although he was self-centred and not a great planner. My mother loved him in her own deep and quiet ways. They had very different personalities, he a scientist/musician who went to work in management later, with a past in athletics and the arts and a straightforward candor; she a composed, complex woman who loved books and solitude, and had studied philosophy & mathematics only because due to the sexist Victorian attitude of her own father she’d been deeply disappointed for life that she was not allowed to enter Medical school despite acing in her school board exams…..

But somehow they made it work – first out of love and the rush of romance in their early years, next for their two children and raising a family; and finally out of the bond and habit that form in couples who have spent several decades together, and no longer can think of other options, but have become more like best friends. She still remains the calmest woman I have known – stoic, pragmatic and perhaps a tad too emotionally reserved. Drama and hysteria are as alien to her nature as the color blue to the planet Mars.  

My father – on the other hand – was warm, gregarious, accident-prone, dramatic – a bit of a braggart – but a heart that was almost naive in a somewhat childish way of guileless goodness, and a simple, uncomplicated way of thinking. I realize now that I was raised by a math-whiz mother who was like a female Mr. Spock – a Ms. Spock, and a father who was a lot like Captain Haddock (from Tintin) minus the swearing and drinking. (He was a teetotaler, as alcoholic drinks gave him non-stop hiccups – much like me – except I can manage a good glass of wine, and an occasional cocktail, but anything else, including aerated drinks sets off those damned and comical hiccups.)

My father playing his Stradivarius. My first memories of him, perhaps even from the womb, are of him playing his violin. The Dad with the Strad. When I visited my parents in 2009 I made them tell me their entire story of love, courtship, elopement, marriage, trials, tribulations, togetherness. And it was beautiful how happy and excited they got as they narrated their tale full of plot twists and turns. He had wooed my mother by fiddling music for her when he first met her some fifty years ago. It was love at first sight, he said.

My father playing his Stradivarius. My first memories of him, perhaps even from the womb, are of him playing his violin. The Dad with the Strad. When I visited my parents in 2009 I made them tell me their entire story of love, courtship, elopement, marriage, trials, tribulations, togetherness. And it was beautiful how happy and excited they got as they narrated their tale full of plot twists and turns. He had wooed my mother by fiddling music for her when he first met her some fifty years ago. It was love at first sight, he said.

On the night of his death, I was attending a concert by Anoushka Shankar in New York City – whose father’s music had been introduced to me at a young age by my own father. On the first anniversary of his death – I am enclosing this mesmerizing concert – the one she played at Lyon, France. It was her exploration of the Indian gypsy roots of Spanish Flamenco music. Unquestioningly one of the most elegant, exotic and beautiful series of compositions I have ever listened to.

Lyon – a city not far from the one from where I am writing this…..

To a rainy evening in Paris, the timeless winding streets of Montmartre,  to flickering lights against a wet dark Spring sky, to love and loss, to friends and family, to life and travel; to new beginnings and forever-goodbyes……..

To closure and to letting go.

To memories – which can never be forgotten. And to the seeds from whence we come from – before we disperse like nomads into the sands of time or scatter like dandelion clocks unto the winds of change……….

*

Related post:

“In memory of my Dad’s birthday”

And still my sitar gently weeps.”

and “The Four Mothers”

Overdosing on Facebook

I recently saw this thoughtful, minimalist and well-done little video made by a young  Scottish English teacher addressing ‘Facebook addiction’ from which he himself ‘recovered’ and is now traveling to various countries instead of being sucked by the social network Giant. Facebook addiction (along with texting of course) has become prevalent amongst many teenagers (and adults as well.) Pass it on to those who might need it or to concerned parents of  teens who did not even know of life before Facebook existed. Pass it on. Without judging though.

Although it is ironic that the cameraman (but not the protagonist) of this video has a facebook page, this is a relevant little video, especially at a time when online narcissism has been glamourized to mind-blowing proportions. And unless they are truly marketing, like some older professionals use facebook to do, an average young adult now without even having traveled or worked much has on an average anything between 500 to 5000 “friends.”

I do have an account under my real name.  Joined very late comparatively, though I used to walk past  for over 18 months along the streets and  wrought-iron fences of Cambridge that Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network ran across in the film’s opening sequences. I only befriend those I know, those who I have met in the real world and those who are my real  friends and well-wishers or at most have common friends I know who are working in architecture or music. After all, how can you deny when architect  Ben Van Berkel himself sends you a friend request?  (On the other hand, okay, there are about 10 people on my list I haven’t ‘met’  in person but responded to their requests as they were architects and composers, with whom I shared common friends and we exchanged mails first so we were not total strangers. 10 ‘unmet’ on a list of 180 is not bad.) Yes, I do turn down many ‘requests’ but send a polite mail first to explain why – it is not personal, just a silly principle I’ve to follow to keep privacy and to an extent online security. I will also admit that I have not befriended those who were mean or bullied me back in school and now suddenly send me requests after years goodness knows for what reason.  (It is not because I hold any grudge, far from it since there’s nothing more liberating than forgiveness and equanimity –  it is because I believe that my private profile and photos are meant for real friends, not nosy priers or voyeurs or those who never cared in the first place but now are curious to find out about my life.) They are free to see my professional work site, but the personal is private.

It is okay to be all open too, perhaps to keep all your personal content public as many do on FB and I commend those who are brave or inclined enough to do so – privacy, spamming and security concerns be damned. Come to think of it, even this blog is in many ways a personal muse but one I willingly share in public. But for some reason, I draw the line for Facebook. FB is a convenient invention, but it is not our Master nor our tell-all diary. And one always has the choice on how one wishes to use or not use that networking tool. Perhaps there is something alluring to have the freedom to suddenly ‘befriend’ anyone from anywhere on this planet, to be on a network that has over 500 million people (and several fake profiles on it as well,) and no one should be judged on their choices – but every person is different and every person has a choice on how much they want to share.

And as this video rightly reminds – announcing every little mundane detail of your life as a ‘status update’ that millions of facebook users do is something the world has lived without for centuries and still can. True, FB is a great connecting tool, it has both pros and cons and is a great way to share information, but really – saying what you eat, when you pooped, how long you slept are details we can do without.

There is a whole big wide wondrous world out there that is not virtual. Yes, I do get the irony of writing this through a virtual medium. But still…..

Go out and see that world before it is too late.

Live. Laugh. Love. Learn.

Really.

You do not have to follow Ross or the message he gives in this simple  effective little video. You do not have to focus on how many times he licked his finger. But you can stop an addiction with determination, any unhealthy addiction if you have one.

Enjoy!

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

– St. Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430)

(Hey – if this dude Augustine could travel waaaaay back then, what’s your excuse to not get out into the world and away from that computer screen? And by ‘travel’ I don’t mean package tours in Disney resorts, but real, visceral, tangible travel. Good for the bones, good for the brain.)

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Related post: (1) Mountain Madness and  Thinking in Pictures

(2) Is Facebook making some people sadder with too much unrealistic ‘comparing and judging’ or an online version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? A Stanford University studyA Slate online article – Here.

A Time magazine article on the same – Here

Be happy, not envious, for others’ joys. Just. Stop. Comparing. And see how liberating it is. (I haven’t for years after a wise teacher in my school once told the class in junior high – ” Self-improvement starts when you do not compare with others, but compare your self with yourself.”)

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Once in a lifetime

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

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That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

Believing what you don’t believe

Does not exhilarate.

– Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

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New York. 20. 10. 2010. If you ever get a chance, please take the Amtrak train from Montreal to New York in mid-October. It is certainly one of the most picturesque and magical rides you will ever take in this lifetime (or $ 60 well spent) – it is literally like winding through a painting enriched by spectacular fall colours and the breath-taking beauty of Lake Champlain along the shoreline of which and the Adirondack mountains the tracks traverse by. A long ride, but one that leaves you fulfilled and overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of nature’s colours and serenity; and the fragile-but-oh-so-beautiful gift of human life. As I’ve oft-repeated, it is one of those journeys that is a reminder once again that “We all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful.” Because, compared to what luck could have handed us, we are so, so fortunate………

The sweetness of life comes from days lived well, with the decision to follow the best of  rational ethics and integrity one is possible of practicing; of acts of love and kindness to others without losing wisdom or the logic to analyse and create and to think independently and not fall prey to hypocrites; the sweetness of life comes from the knowledge that at the end of each day the only person you need to stand before and answer to is your own conscience; to look back at a life led without hypocrisy, where you adhere to integrity if only for your own sake; and to know before you fall asleep each night that you have never knowingly hurt anyone for it takes very little to be kind, to think before you speak; to know that we are so lucky in comparison to far larger problems, injustices and sadness in the world and therefore to complain a little less and at times, a lot less; to know the truth of global realities and the reality of our own  strengths and weaknesses; to give a thank-you to the inventors and minds which made our infrastructures and taken-for-granted comforts possible; to thank the hearts of the gentle souls amongst us who are capable of healthy love; and to always remember that because life comes, but only once, to make the most of it.

Trust me on this one, for I’m on my fifth life now through four brushes with death in my past, and every day lived reminds me of life’s sweetness. We go through trials and troubles, fight back or climb out of abysses, but at the end it is only those who love the gift of Life and the responsibility of integrity and authenticity that gift entails, who know the pleasure of the sweetest of slumbers: the true exhilaration of a clear conscience and a life led without regrets. And with the strength to take full responsibility for every action you have committed or will commit once you have left the realm of childhood. The peace of mind for staying on-track on that one single choice? Priceless.

A typical view from the Montreal-New York train in Autumn. (photo by Kevin Ebi. livingwildnreness.com)

The Montreal to New York Amtrak route

Bicycle Alert: On the topic of land travel, check out the tales of an interesting and friendly young Franco-Swiss adventurer I met in Old Montreal who has been traveling along various continents of the world since the age of 32 on his bicycle for the last several years. He had just finished a tour across Central and South Asia and was setting off across America. Marco Ausderau : http://acrosscontinents.ch/Navigation/histoire-d-un-reve?set_language=fr&cl=fr

One of  the quotes that inspired him to embark on this long journey is Antoine de St. Exupery’s words: “Fait de ta vie un rêve et de ton rêve une réalité.”