There is always Hope…..

New York, December 25, 2012. I had first placed this little French film in my post Red December – Post 3, Love and the Red Balloon. But in light of this strange Christmas season, where the end of the year saw the unimaginably tragic deaths of several young innocents in the Connecticut school shootings, and the nation stands poised for a fiscal cliff, and despite the festivities of the holidays, a strange uncertainty and poignancy and sadness hangs like a shroud upon our future, I thought I would place this…..It captures the purity, the beauty, the joys and cruelty of childhood all at once. When I was a little girl, this was the first film I saw (on TV) which made a lasting impression and still does. Albert Lamorisse’s 34 minute gem….

“The Red Balloon” – In memory of the young innocents here and elsewhere…..In memory of love, and childhood’s simple pleasures and indescribable pains, and in hope towards healing, and finding it in our hearts to be uplifted again, when the time comes on its own…….

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For the innocents in childhood’s kingdom. Banksy’s graffiti – “There is always hope.”

banksy-there-is-always-hope

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Pascal and the Red Balloon

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And, I hope, there is kindness for the innocents in the animal kingdom too

all-I-want-for-Christmas-is-my-life

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Musings on an August morning…


“Transformation” (acrylic on cardboard. click to enlarge)

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august      morning

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Last night, I saw your smile.
That incipient curve
Crooked at first
Before it  burst
Full force
like a radiant ray of sunshine
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And you spoke of random acts
Of travel
life, love, learning
Of wandering
And wondering….
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Over a glass of velvet wine
While Jarrett jammed Jazz
In Pandora’s box
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Do you know what you mean to me?
The joy you bring through Our 
Aberrant moments together?
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Carousing through this city
Those carefree conversations?
And tumbling-spontaneous-endless-unexpected sensations?
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And I am once again that girl
Who whirl’d on a quiet cloudy beach one afternoon
without a care in the worl’
Drunk in the joy
Of unchained abandon
Letting the waves of the surf-speckled ocean
Kiss her skin on the salted sand….
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And I feel those kisses again
In the touch of your hand….
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That hand that makes your music
That breathes life into this thirsty August air
With notes that pull my heartstrings
And ripple through your careless hair
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And the innocence of a connection
That has no name, no heed.
Yet binded by our laughter
And similarities that exceed
Beyond our wildest expectations
A surprise each time we meet
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Ah! The beauty of the written word,
Of letters, and of longing
You’re far again, yet in my thoughts
Every single morning………
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Love Earth, Torture Animals?

Because glossing over or turning away from Facts, does not take them away. 

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Love Earth, but Torture Animals? The irony of “celebrating” Earth Day & torturing for Easter on the same weekend

New York. ‘Good Friday’. 22 April, 2011. One of the strangest contradictions of life is when you have Earth Day and Easter on the same weekend. “Be green”, “Care for our Earth,” “20 ways of ‘eco-living’ to impress your friends,” “Save the polar bears,” “Save our animals from global warming, big bad corporations! – oops, wait a minute! Starbucks goes “green” – while the ‘save the earth’ meeting was being conducted there! Wal-mart goes “green”(my ass!)! While one was buying that made-in-China pot-roast deep dish!” Slogans, articles and cute animal-faced smiley cartoons and much cheesy marketing that goes on “Earth Day” – that’s today. And in the very next instance be bombarded with more slogans and tips and suggestions telling “20 ways to welcome spring by baking the best new-born lamb for Easter,” “Celebrate Easter weekend with baby lamb, roast chicken, suckling pig,” “The way to your man’s heart this Easter and to get a ring before the Royal Wedding and the cuddliest bunny soft toy is to cook the most delicious baby bunny rabbit in the world, ladies! after of course, you have impressed him with your Green Nature-conscious skills on Earth-Day! Yea!

Ah, the irony! No more words today. Just pictures. And a film I’d been planning to place for a while.  Not to induce guilt. Just to inject Truth. Unfortunate. Objective. Truth – ah sweet, sweet, bitter, brutal Truth. To me, ‘God’ is not in the skies. Truth is ‘God’. Love is ‘God.’ And Reality is Reality. Those soft-toys on the store shelf – bought for giggly-cosmo-obsessed-girlfriends and innocent kids……My words from a poem written years back as a kid : “Soft-toys are subjected to affection, while REAL animals face butcher’s knives.” 

You see, all those pretty smiley, emoticorny escapism, rationalizations, ‘religion’izations will not take away reality, the truth, the way, the unfathomable, cruel, unnecessary, savage, evil, psychopathic way those animals will be treated, will be tortured, will be killed, and areevery single day – all across the world – be they dogs and cats and so many other species in China and elsewhere, or lambs and calves and much more in the West – but tortured, skinned, killed, cut-up, shipped, cooked and then placed under the soft lights of a fancy meal – the ambiance and music ‘wishing away’ the reality of how their life really was led……while that toy filled with fuzz, or at times the furry toy made from the fur of some cat or rabbit skinned alive somewhere in China is handed over as the great gift of ‘love’ to that naive, innocent child – who, if he or she knew how cruel the world is, would perhaps never be able to eat lamb again. Or then be given enough ‘rationalizations’, and ‘desensitizations’ to do so. Or better – told those happy, smiley stories and fairy tales that say that after brutal, bleeding, tortuous death – they – like ‘Him’ – in all their original intact forms will ‘resurrect’ and live happily ever after in a cloudy, pearly Heaven.

Ah – the Truth is so hard to take – fables are made to heal the heart and self-soothe. But alas, Truth remains Truth. Reality – Real. And perhaps only Real, Truthful Love is what is needed more. So Empathy can overcome greed and gluttony. To remember the eyes of an innocent in its last breaths of life. To have enough Love for life to have the courage to say “No – I will not partake in the suffering of sentient beings with advanced nervous systems that feel pain, that feel excruciating physical pain just like you and me, who are tortured in this fashion in reality and then given the ‘glamour shot’ while they lie in cut up little pieces on my plate in that candle-lit table.”

I am not against humane death and a humane free life, but against such unnecessary, unfathomable inhumane cruelty when in our present day and age, and even before, we do have many, many other choices.

I am not against the taste of pleasure , but against this mind-blowing hypocrisy. And I have far greater respect for the person who truly lives off the grid and hunts for his own sustenance in the wild, using every part of his kill, than those who tout ‘go green’ cliches while sitting dandily eating the meat from a slaughterhouse.

I am not against the ‘tales’ and stories we say to protect children from harsh reality, but against those consistent ever-present countless immeasurable Lies we hear even adults preach to one another and pretend to believe for self-protection to hide the face of Truth. Or to deny the Truth of their own inner reality that allows and justifies cruelty like this to occur and look the other way with apathy and cowardice.

So I will still stare without taking my eyes away at the 360-degree reality of Truth.

I will still walk that way which is often a road of solitude, but one I have taken many times before, and will never stop from taking again. And I will walk on that road, no matter how few or large its takers.

I will walk on it – if just for my own truth and empathy and nothing else.  No matter how much the ridicule, no matter all the economizations, intellectualizations, rationalizations, confabulations to mock another being.

And I will follow only for that Trinity which to me is real freedom: The simple trinity which needs no book, nor leaders, no tales, nor followers.  Just a long hard look at life, reality, knowledge and the choices we have and the choices we make.

The road, the trinity of:   Truth * Love * Integrity.

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Happy Earth Day! Happy Easter! Whatever those terms mean. I studied in a Catholic Convent – of course I know what those ‘terms’ mean. And yet, they are but words – because true integrity is not in words, but what lies within and is practiced consciously through our actions.  (Though I came from a family of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and more so – a dad who was a scientist and a mother a philosopher/mathematician, I am a non-believer of any God in the skies.)  

(p.s. I am a vegetarian, not a vegan. I eat eggs from freer-range free-running hens. With regards to milk – I don’t buy dairy milk after knowing how the dairy industry treats cows and their babies, so I buy almond milk. I only drink cow’s milk when in India, where you can actually meet the cow and they live with their calves. And if you get a chance, do watch ‘Fast Food Nation’.)

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And the truth of the process of how they end up in that last picture…here. This film. The sad fact of life is that turning your face away will not take truth and reality away, nor the pain of billions of mammals and birds who are treated this way or the heinous crimes and greed of the owners of slaughterhouses and users who support this system:

“Mercy for Animals” – a film. Narrated by James Cromwell. Now watching the truth – that  is having real kindness for our Earth. 

We do have a choice. Yes we do. We do not have to endorse cruelty.

All it needs to make that choice – like all other ethical choices in life is – Love. Truth. Determination. and above all, Integrity.

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Related posts:

1. This too shall pass.

2. Saltationism of Silliness

3. Red December – Part 3

4. Truth or Dare

5. UNFETTERED

 

Barter

“In the Dionysian dithyramb man is incited to the greatest exaltation of all his symbolic faculties; something never before experienced struggles for utterance – the annihilation of the veil of Maya, Oneness as the soul of the race, and of nature itself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche in “The Birth of Tragedy.”

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BARTER

(Sap-Alert! somewhat sappy, mushy stuff, written during a bout of metaphorical madness in 2009; the predicament when logical Apollonian souls get bewitched into loving Dionysian frenzied chaos, and get churned into inspired innuendos and dancing hearts. Any similarity of characteristics outlined here, with persons alive or dead, is purely coincidental.)

“Dionysus and Artemis.” Pen, ink and water color. Completed in 3 hours. (c) Maddy, 2004. “The Greek God of chaos, madness, wine and dark ecstasy Dionysius claims Apollo’s twin Artemis (the Light Bringer and goddess of the wilderness, of mountains, animals and virginity) in her own forest.”

For the poem “Barter” (2009): Wholeness within a single person can be conceptually attributed when one has been able to identify, struggle with, embrace, incorporate and balance both one’s lighter/logical and darker/emotional realms – or in other words – the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of one’s psyche and state of being. Generally (as in the works of most philosophers as well as Camile Paglia’s book Sexual Personae) Apollonian logic, intellect and reason is seen as the masculine aspect, and Dionysian emotion, enigma and creativity as feminine.

Nietzsche for the first time presented Dionysus as the raw, wild, engulfing, destructive, angry, chthonic, impulsive, creative, powerful, sexual alpha-male and Apollo as the structured, calm, orderly, organized, rational man.

So what happens when completing the duality constitutes of finding the Dionysian within a “logical woman” instead, one who has more Apollonian traits and is awakened to the dark mysterious emotions of womanhood through the injection of the whimsical, sexual Dionysian within her? Hence I chose Artemis as the female anima of Dionysus – one who is an Equal Opposite – and where neither one can annihilate the other, but combine to make a balanced Whole. This resilience of Artemis (and her self-reliance) is necessary, because in philosophical texts – wherever Dionysus unleashes his turbulence, Apollonian qualities are completely destroyed. But not here – due to Artemis’ innate strength.  It is through the willful subjugation at the hands of the primitive, dominating male Dionysus that Artemis (hitherto stubborn, strong, virginal, reserved) finally learns to evoke her repressed passions and sensuality and show a vulnerability and softness of deeper womanhood, first losing herself to his pain, darkness and ecstasy and then regaining herself as an individual but more complete than before. And unlike the usual victims of Dionysus – the screaming maenads who lose control and become mad – Artemis’ intrinsic Apollonian logic and rationality keep her in balance, despite being able to experience fully YET withstand Dionysus’ intoxicating chaos and frenzy. What drove the maenads to madness, only makes her laugh. Because she willingly seeks his darkness as “the fuel for her light” as well as the space for her repose.

The no-man’s land where the overlap, their meeting occurs is a neutral territory where the union of the two opposites results in the balanced expression of art, and it is in this fertile overlap that the architect dwells and shapes his/her Will in line with a Nietzschean quote. (Architecture and Music are the two art forms since ancient times viewed as the balance of Apollonian & Dionysian qualities. It is also worthwhile to remember, therefore, the mention of Hesse’s humorous “immortals” – Pablo, the theater-designer and Mozart, the musician/composer – in Herman Hesse’s symbolic novel Steppenwolf – who are presented as those capable of living and creating in that fertile yet rare overlap, through the strength of their Will, their understanding of the facades (illusions) as well as the Reality of the world, and yet be able to create and live life fully due to their advanced sense of humor. Laughter and Love are the catalysts that can make individuation possible.)

Barter

(a spontaneous silly poem written in the spur-of-the-moment in the very early springtime of 2009, as I stood looking out into the beautiful maple forest outside my bedroom widow, on the top of the Summit Forest of Mount-Royal, Montreal, Canada. The last verse at the end was added more recently, in 2011, after a solitary walk in Central Park, New York.)

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In the twilight hour
of no-man’s land
where dreams and nightmares
blend to one
On a narrow ledge
where both collide
and turn to mist
where secrets hide
and compress to form
an even narrower strand
on that strip that comprises
no-man’s land:

Light becomes an illusion to you
elusive, beyond a darkened tunnel
But light is where I’m doomed to live
till I’m scathed by brightness,
Scorched
and blinded.

A child of light
I long for darkness
It’s mystic calm
and sensuous madness

A child of darkness
you seek the light
to laugh and play
take off in flight

Freedom to you beckons
like a sunlit sky
But to me –
freedom’s the starlight
of a blackened night

Exhausted by light
I crave to rest
and close my eyes
in your mysterious cave
of satyrs and suffering
bogs and waves
guffaws and cries
of mirth and hate

My world is joyful
Too bright and blithe
Like constant daytime
of a thousand lamps
It burns the ones
who cause me harm
And wish I could cry
to brave the storms
But ‘stead of tears
only laughter forms
for I’ve learned to
just not give a damn.
I see too well
through social masks
and senseless rituals
of a blinking mass
I prefer the madness
of those who dare
to reveal anger, sadness
feel real pain and fear
Unlike the pretenders
who dwell in
Apathy
Or hide behind banal
hypocritical
Duplicity.
So I seek the truth
of unpredictable flights
of those who truly know
The ups and downs
The highs and lows
of Intensity
The breathless turbulence
of shifting soil
The flowing caress
The ebb and tides
The whimsicality
of roller coaster rides.

You have the gift
of forgetfulness
to hold memories
like an ocean’s
fleeting waves.
But I’m Doomed to hold
every memory
like consistent earth
in solid constancy
And etched in stone
is every image I have
from adult responsibility
to childhood’s laughs.

Will you teach me how
to be like ocean waves
So I can skip my stones
on the water’s surface?
Will you take my light
When I’m tired of it?
Will you share your night
When it swallows you?

I need the dark
to recharge my light
and if you want my laughter
my genuine joy and smiles
take them in lieu
for the dark I desire
for I need it to relight
my innate fire

So when the sandman
sends your eyes to sleep
or when on grey days
you’re a dead man walking
I’ll take your grey
should you want my yellow
or I’ll learn to live
in that soothing mellow
If you’re the thundering skies
of black and grey
I’m the autumn leaves
of golden glades
that get blown off by your breezy rage
only to renew in brighter shades

I need to die
so I can Live again
a child of Light
that found its fuel
I was frozen once
and forgot to die
but you killed me
so I could resurrect again

Now addicted I am
to the thrill I get
of cyclical resurrections
I seek my death
I seek a hollow
like you seek your life
Here – take my life
till you’re whole again.
My cup keeps filling
till it cannot contain
it runneth eternally
with warm summer rain

So when you need authentic joy
and I need authentic pain
a life-blood to both
We shall exchange;
please take my smiles
for I need your screams
to feel alive
like I’ve never been
I’ll enter your nightmares
and you’ll enter my dreams
of peace and love
and tender streams

So I’ll wait for you,
Barter my joy for your sorrow
on that narrow
ledge
to lend and borrow
Each twilight hour
when the sun is low
and the glow of day
sinks in shadow
When the night descends
and takes our hands
into the scarlet hollow
of no-man’s land…..

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Forbidden words,
Forbidden lies
Forbidden glances
From your eyes
And yet your madness
Set afire
And freed
the myrrh
of desire
But like all else in that overlap,
that ledge where our two worlds briefly met,
I sank again,
like you knew I would
You watched me fall
To
A
Newer
Death
The Woman arose,
For the girl was dead;
And the Man subdued
her boyish ways.
He conquered her
not in weakened state
But in all her strength
Transformed to Love, not hate.
Yet unsatisfied,
He struck again
For Dionysus maenads
are maddened dead;
He forgot though, this
was Artemis
His equal opposite
With no fear of dread
And her spirit
would never give up on Life
‘Stead she
Laughed at the follies
Of his reckless youth,
And
happily shouldered
Responsibility
And
laughed and braved
his every mood.

For it is not perfection
One must seek,
But the perfect balance of the Light and Dark
And all Re-newal leads to Spring
Be it summer heat or winter stark.
If the detritus on the forest floor
Was not removed by Bacchic rage
How could the sunlight from the skies
Re-birth the saplings, Re-verse the page?
Re-write amidst the thunderstorms
A hymn of wisdom well worth singing:

The simple secRet of Re-surection is –

The Will of
Springing
Back
To

A
New
Beginning…..

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(c) Maddy. The Gipsy Geek. 2009.


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*“The architect represents neither a Dionysian nor an Apollinian condition: here it is the mighty act of will, the will which moves mountains, the intoxication of the strong will, which demands artistic expression.” –  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

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The Apollonian & Dionysian here (Wikipedia link)

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A video celebrating an entwining of the two (The Apollonian science that created NASA’s satellite images, and the Dionysian sensuality of the composition of one of Chopin’s best nocturnes, yet each entity within itself – the music and the images- already have a perfect balance of the Apollonian-Dionysian duality) http://www.youtube.com/Chopin for EROS

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The ‘forest’ or rather stills of it that I stared at through the seasons and a log that held witness to a promise that I held on to with the naivete of the belief in words:  http://www.youtube.com/Memories of Montreal

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The literal meaning of ‘Re’ – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/re-  

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Love and the Red Balloon – an ode to love :  https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/love-and-the-red-balloon/

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Love in the time of February

LOVE IN THE TIME OF FEBRUARY

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Warning: Contains sarcasm. The following post is unsuitable for V-day stuffed-toy-worshipers and/or women and men who turn love into abuse, pain, guilt, shame instead of knowing what authentic love truly is.

Ah! February! Ever since commercialism unearthed Valentine’s Day and made it into a Hallmark-etched, marketing-approved, commodity-crazy phenomenon, it’s practically impossible to see any mall, store or plaza without the ubiquitous pink and red hearts, chocolates, flowers and stuffed bunnies and bears (don’t get me started on the last, as I’m an outspoken critic of the way REAL animals are treated for the fur industry while fake animals – at times made using the fur of the real ones – are shown ‘affection’ in our culture.)

Consumerism comes colour-coded. Blacks and oranges for Halloween, red-white-green for Christmas and then a burst of pink & red for Valentine’s before pastels dominate the Easter shelves.

Anyhoo – I’m not a cynic about Love. Far from it.  Yes – although I proudly love Spock, Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python, my ideas of love and its practice in my real life is very deep, very intrinsic and a few of my posts have been on it – without revealing private details. I believe in the poetry, the poignancy, the applied pragmatism of love, and its indescribable beauty so deeply that often words are not enough to describe its depth and those who have known me closely know that perhaps my ways of loving are from a lost century where reality resonated more than virtuality and the commercialism of ‘love’ was not yet so ubiquitous.

Perhaps that is why I’ll never quite understand the allure of stuffed toys and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes and the Valentine-day-special-dinner-coupons that dominate this day and almost make a joke out of relationships, a gimmick, some Hallmark-approved, stuffed-bear-endorsed, follow-the-crowd-and-corporation joke. It’s ‘cute’, I guess depending on how one defines ‘cute’. Having some cute-alert-chip missing, except when it comes to REAL animals and babies and sorry, that too minus the gushing – I don’t find commercialised Valentine-products cute. Cheesy is more the word. And I thank life and luck every day (or most days) that in spite of being a late bloomer in the ‘land of loving’ and having had relatively very few intimate ‘love’ relations (by choice, not due to a lack of chance), I am reminded everyday just how beautiful love and life truly is: Intensely, passionately but with a basic simplicity devoid of all the frills and goo and  commodification that the whole concept of ‘love’ has been turned into.

Come February, and it is hard to notice any glossy or newspaper or online news channel without every medium screaming out helpful ‘tips’, tidbits, analysis, prognosis, assumptions, presumptions, ‘premonitions’ and all sorts of ‘helpful’ strategies, stratagems and statistics about dating, loving, relationships, sex, pursuing, gifting, wooing and…. the list goes on and on and on. Logically in the freezing month of February, the coldest in most of North America, chances are that one’s libido is anyway climatically low. Yet it seems the buzz of a looming ‘V-day’ is supposed to make groins magically tingle in some mass unison of dating delirium. A men’s ‘game’ (a.k.a pick-up artist) website helpfully says how chances of getting laid are tremendously increased due to most women’s ‘romance fantasy’ getting peaked at this time. And don’t get me started about all those ‘women’s websites’ which in fact ‘train’ the women into looking for this ‘fantasy.’ As I’ve once written earlier (Racqueting on a Grass Court) – all their articles can be neatly filed under two categories : (1) How to get a man, (2) How to get over a man.  Or depending on whether  it’s written by an angry feminist  or a feathery floozy: “How to screw a man.” (both versions of ‘screw’ covered by each cranky camp.)  Or the way I phrase sans frills and frosting their usual take: “Flirt, Fuck, Fight, Flight.” Naturally, V-day articles in those ‘modern-women websites’ concentrate on the first two Fs.

Okay, now to get back to more pragmatism: Since I’m no psychologist nor trained therapist to give out  relationship advice, and neither some experienced sexoholic who has slept around with thousands to give ‘helpful tips’, the best I can do is this: Attach some links and articles from probably two of the most grounded, factual and no-nonsense sites that looked at, for a change, on how to comprehend wisely and not let crazy relations vacuum- suck or exhaust you. Having had one of those ‘crazy’ experiences in my first relation (lasted 18 months and being a late bloomer, I was in my 20s) geez, wish I’d come across these sites before. Also, working in a profession where there are nearly 90% men and often finding myself as an accidental confidante and ‘free-shrink’ to my male buddies and colleagues, now I can safely hand these sites to them instead of trying to figure out the crazy partners most geeky men in engineering and architecture often end up with initially.

Introverted, sensitive, ‘problem-solving’ men are often prime targets for female bullies as are those men who willingly exhaust their youth, love and passion to ‘rescue’ professional victims or conversely lose their own masculinity under dominating narcissistic women. The same applies to  introverted women too. Kind-and-good-hearted girls often fall prey to the ‘lost-puppy’ type dangerous man or become victims to dominating narcissists who are pathologically cruel but ooze initial outward charm. The two conditions that do the most damage are when you get hooked by women and men suffering from ‘personality disorders’   known as ‘borderline’ and ‘narcissistic’ disorders. Of course, like financial acumen is not taught in high schools, these facts are not taught either. Can you believe how much time, love, energy, money and broken dreams and hearts would have been saved if the psyche of emotional ‘predators’ was taught back in school?! Oh well….

An important note: Most crazy, tumultuous ‘love’ stories we read about in fiction or see on film often involve these drama-crazy characters since after the hell one suffers in these turbulent, crazy-making relations – perhaps to find closure or solace, most men (and women) HAVE to write stories, songs, screenplays (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 days of Summer etc. amongst more well-made films of covert abuse, while of course you have the more blatant crazy-lover types) to make sense of it all or as self-therapy. (Some even develop magical thinking to make sense of it – either joining religious cults or embracing new age trends where they encounter even more narcissists and borderlines. Those who have been bitten too badly and cannot overcome the trauma even turn into misandrists and misogynists – generalizing entire genders based on the bad apples – and not self-reflecting on what qualities or predispositions within themselves caused them to attract the ‘crazies.’) Trust me, Logic solves ‘crazy’ puzzles way better than emotional reasoning. There is a reason behind Spock’s equanimity ;-)

Do NOT get fooled by the way unfortunately ‘great romances’ have been captured in film and tales as though turbulence, pain and insanity are requisites for them to be great. Real Love (and by ‘real’ I mean authentic and honest love) is calm, healing, all-accepting, forgiving, reciprocal and inspires you to be more balanced, more free, not less. Intensity in a healthy relation is deep yet peaceful; the initial ‘intensity’ in a crazy relation is an illusion based on swings and drama – not rationality. ‘Crazy’ love by these disordered folks distorts ‘love’ into feeling like fear, pain, guilt, shame, turbulence, craving and longing, a push-pull rollercoaster, walking on eggshells or avoiding landmines and convert relations into sick, co-dependent prisons. Quite simply stated it is ‘emotional abuse disguised as love.’ And yes, men are abused equally too except society does not want to acknowledge it. Kind-hearted, stable and ‘giving’ men and women need to know about these ‘emotional vampires’ and also try to understand where their own self-sacrificial, ‘fixing’, and ‘rescuing’ compulsions are coming from. It can be from your own childhood where a parent or sibling gave you less or your first adult romantic relation where you may have paired up with a manipulative cruel person. Such cruel, unempathetic persons – whether they initially portray themselves as perpetual ‘martyrs’ and ‘victims’ or as the ‘misunderstood, dark, unknowable lover’, or just outright blatant bullies –  are sadly those you can’t ‘fix’, no matter how endless your love is. They either have voracious needs that will never be met or they literally have the ‘empathy connection’ missing in their brains (like the sociopath) or are pathological bullies.

So, in the ‘spirit’ of the month, instead of offering ‘how-to’ tips and bunnies and bears and flowers and chocolates, I’ve decided to include articles and links by two smart experienced therapists. Dr. Tara Palmatier of Shrink for Men and Shari Schreiber of Getting Better have broken away from the mould and have no qualms of calling a spade a spade  without the ‘romantic’ frills; and redefining what healthy love feels like, in lieu of the way abusive, commercialized and fake ‘love’ is marketed as acceptable in our society. Though Dr. Palmatier’s site is geared more towards men, for this post I’ve placed two of her more gender-neutral articles. I like her no-nonsense, non-sappy, rational style of writing. I like the way she stays clear of new age or mushy lingo, and is a refreshing breath of logic and rationality. Perhaps because my brain seems to be wired more like an analytical, visual-thinking geek-man I can relate to her style of writing more.

I did do my research and found these two ladies to be the healthiest ‘therapy’ resources online and they are two rare emotionally healthy women. I call this ‘rare’ because a well-kept secret in the psych world (which most laymen should know by now) is that high functioning disordered folks enter the profession of clinical psychology and psychiatry in large numbers – a way of ‘figuring’ themselves by ‘figuring’ others. It is better to find therapists who are more the ‘caregiver’ or ‘rational problem-solver’ type than those who are disordered themselves but  hide it very well.

I have never been in clinical therapy myself as I like solving problems through logic instead. (As well, having traveled to and spending long stretches of time at a young age and in adult life in some countries where I saw unimaginable poverty and suffering, and yet  saw people with remarkable optimism and resilience despite all the odds, has always made me very grateful for the gifts and resources we have  in more developed countries – which is why I often retort that we all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful. Because things could have been much, much worse through a stroke of even worse luck and I count all the blessings I have. ) But I have to confess that four of the craziest people I came across (personally, not professionally) in Canada & the U.S. – the two women were ‘therapists’ and the two men were psychiatrists. The women seemed to suffer from some permanent ‘women- are-victims’ syndrome – part mixed with some rabid man-bashing misconstrued version of feminism, part a self-righteous wallowing of self-pity. I abhor the ‘perpetual victim’ attitude and shoot more for determination and self-reliance so their notions seemed to be very self-defeating and blame-shifting rather than solving real problems in a productive manner.  The two male psychiatrists were well-read and very intelligent, but boy – were their perception of reality incredibly warped! It was nutty to say the least, and I later understood that their behaviours included projection‘, gaslighting and a problem separating fantasy from reality.  Regardless, I will always owe an immense gratitude to one of those men because it was his puzzling mysterious behaviour and ultra-baffling swings of cruelty and kind intellect I was subjected to that finally got this geek who never cared about psyches but more about buildings and geography and music to start searching deeply in the labyrinths of the human mind.

I am sure there are far saner examples in the therapy field and those four, I hope, were anomalies – though writers on many forums, including wikihow and yahoo answers have stated how their therapist seemed to need more therapy! But I have to honestly confess that in my life, a person I knew who showed the least integrity and exhibited mind-blowing pathological narcissism and Machiavellianism – literally seeing and blatantly pronouncing himself as “Jesus” (!!) yet never practicing what he preached – was a church pastor. I have met some very kind and ethical pastors too but, due to that particularly bad apple, am very skeptical of those who do excessive ‘God-talk’ yet have a different character behind the mask.

Both Schreiber and Dr. Palmatier have faced flak for whistle-blowing the fact that there is a great deal of hypocrisy in the ‘therapy’ business and there are many many psychologically disordered folks in the clinical psychology business which she has aptly named ‘estrogen-ghetto’. In fact there’s a blog or two that exposes out the misdeeds of those in the helping profession: http://psychrapereporter.wordpress.com/ and http://psychsex.wordpress.com/

In the world we live in, often the people we are told to blindly trust the most – caregivers, religious or political leaders (be they from churches, temples or cults), therapists, close partners – can misuse their positions of power. I quote here from systems engineer Barbara Oakley’s book ‘Evil Genes: Why Rome fell, Hitler rose, Enron failed and my sister stole my mother’s boyfriend’ which I have mentioned in my post Truth or Dare‘ as a reminder on how being too innocent and trusting can make one ripe for victimization.

When kindhearted people are unaware that a few leading individuals in “their group” are likely to be sinister, they are ripe for victimization. Their own kindness can be turned against them and others. Hitler’s greatest strength, for example, was his ability to appeal not only to the worst characteristic – hatred – but also to people’s best qualities – faith, hope, love and sacrifice. As with most Machiavellians, he was a master at turning people’s best traits against them. “He confided the secret of his approach to an intimate : ‘When I appeal……for sacrifice, the first spark is struck. The humbler the people are, the greater the craving to identify themselves with a cause bigger than themselves.’”[ix]

At the root of all such misconducts, a lust for ‘control’ is what pushes disordered people to inflict incalculable psychological injury to those who trust and love them. It is easier to get out of social institutes. It takes a far greater amount of discernment and self-analysis to get out of unhealthy relations with covert bullies. And while developing discernment and healing yourself, perhaps the most important aspect is to never, yes never, let innocent close ones in the future suffer the consequences of a past partner. If you have been in an unhealthy relation, not only should you get away and heal and strengthen yourself, but STOP that cycle of abuse and be open and receptive to healthy, loving and giving partners. And be ready to receive. Living well without holding anger, revenge or regret but rather equanimity and perspective is the best antidote to those who have hurt you in the past. Never let others’ poison infect you or worse, turn you into a conduit of cruelty yourself. That is giving too much power to your past. And as I’ve often written here, determination can get you out of every mess.

Here’s wishing to happy, safe and truly authentic love lives – where differences are sorted through mutual respect and understanding, and love is a place of solace and peace – not a four letter simile for pain. Where passion means intimacy with healthy vulnerability, not anger diffused with controlling demands. Where love sets you free to be the best you are with all your strengths and weaknesses, instead of being held hostage in some guilting-and-shaming prison with no escape.

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF FEBRUARY

II

The following article is more suitable for those partners in relations who tend to be more of ‘givers’ or ‘fixers.’ It is very important to fix one’s own ‘fix-it’ tendencies. It is even more important to feel comfortable in a mutually reciprocal relation and not relate ‘pining away’ to love. And more importantly, to be more open to ‘receiving.’

I used to be one of those unconditional ‘givers’. I have understood the root of my habit and ‘training’ (a bullying abusive, demanding and controlling older sister who I loved dearly and perennially ‘gave and gave and gave’ to,) a habit which was replicated in a future relation.  Though after that I did have a wonderful 7 year long relation, when that ended on sane, mutually-respectful and very friendly terms,  I found myself again relating love to ‘giving’ and ‘puzzle-solving’ and developing a high tolerance to the other’s cruelty much like  in my first relation.  I tended to offer ‘unconditional acceptance’ far too easily loving both  the other’s strengths and weaknesses and was often baffled why  someone who had prior relations with abusive partners was so bewildered at the lack of my idealization-devaluation swings. It was sad to realize that steady kindness was a concept not fully understood by the other person who had only known the ‘thrill’ of dramatic push-pull relations.  It was then that I started reading the root of such patterns, both to understand others’ psyche and to stop my own ‘overt optimism’ and ‘gushing giving’ and ‘working immensely hard’ to work at and ‘help’ situations. I have  since learned to  receive and am very content now in my relation which has healthy mutual affection and respect with a deep loving connection on many different levels.

Please note that sometimes ‘givers’ are not necessarily feeling ‘worthless’ or ‘inadequate’ as stated below. (I have never felt  ‘worthless’ though of course I’ve certainly had my moments of self-criticism and been hard on myself.) There can be other reasons sometimes for excess giving, such as  an overabundance of energy, or a subconscious habit to be overtly kind  or “hoping my unconditional love will cure all your problems” sort of mindset without the discernment to see who your recipient is, or letting our taught lessons of the ‘virtues’ of ‘patience’, ‘sympathising’ and ‘sacrifice’ dictate our behaviour, or believing you have to ‘work hard’ to receive or earn something – a habit that needs to be cured in order to be comfortable with receiving love just for who you are.

While it is hard to admit, there is a subconscious pride attached in the notion that we can ‘give and love someone into health.’ Let go of that hidden ‘helping’ pride and ‘rescue’ compulsion. Unfortunately, for pathologically emotionally disordered people, all your ‘loving and giving’ will go down their bottomless pit – and you too, if you’re not careful. They will themselves have to do their own healing work – you cannot ‘love’ someone into emotional health (unless that person is an innocent child in need, not a grown adult. Trust me, there are plenty of poor children in the world and abused animals you can show that compassion to.) You’ll only get exhausted and frustrated giving endlessly to manipulative emotional vampires. Instead find what predisposes you to get attracted to those adults who only suck.

  • Healthy Self-Love. The foundation of good relationships by Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men)

You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” Everyone knows this platitude. Self-help “gurus” and therapists regurgitate it as a mindless mantra ad nauseum.

I don’t know its exact origin, but whoever first uttered the phrase confused things terribly. Accepting and loving yourself is a precondition to being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. However, the oft-recited advice has it backwards: Before you can LET YOURSELF BE LOVED by another, you must first accept and love yourself. If you’re not capable of receiving love, you will attract and be attracted to others who will give you anything but love.

There are men and women who have no trouble chasing after romantic quarry; “loving” them without rhyme or reason, only to have their feelings rejected and their needs unmet. They languish in their unrequited anguish. These are usually the same people who run in the opposite direction when they’re offered real affection by another person. When they have a chance at a real relationship and love, they’re uninterested for a variety of reasons.

If you believe the cliché, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,”then there should be no pursuit of a love interest until you learn to love yourself. If you’re attracted to others who can’t love you in return, you’ll begin a futile cycle of pursuit and distancing behaviors. Think of it as “mutually assured unhappiness.”

This pattern of behavior typically reinforces your inner and oftentimes unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. In other words, you seek intimacy and love from others who either can’t tolerate or aren’t capable of intimacy and love, which confirms your faulty beliefs about being undeserving or having to work for love.

The end result: When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who sees your positive qualities (that you can’t or won’t see in yourself) and who offers you affection and acceptance; you push her or him away. You devise many reasons and excuses why the other person isn’t“the one.”Typical excuses include:

  • The other person is nice, funny and smart, but there’s some missing ephemeral quality you can’t quite articulate. (Like a proclivity to be rejecting and/or abusive, perhaps?)
  • You’re just not feeling “it.”
  • You only date a specific “type.” (e.g., abusive).
  • He or she is “too nice.” (Isn’t that what we all claim to be looking for?)
  • He or she is “boring.” (This is usually because the thrill of having a corrective emotional experience with an abusive personality who reminds you of mom, dad or some other early formative relationship is missing and you don’t have to work for or prove yourself worthy of love).
  • There’s no “chemistry.” (Mind you, the only “chemistry” you’re likely to feel is with someone who isn’t interested in you, has their own intimacy issues and keeps you at arm’s length and/or an abusive personality).

Buying into the above excuses are how many men and women end up in relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other abusive personality types. These excuses enable you to reject people who are capable of love and who would accept you as you are.

“Loving” someone else is easy enough, especially since people who languish in this position tend to idealize those whom they “love”—at first. If you’re caught in this pattern, you may tend to have an unrealistic, highly selective vision of the other person—until one of their flaws are exposed and then your “love” disappears as soon as you realize the other person isn’t “perfect.” Alternatively, if you’re attracted to abusive personalities, you probably minimize, rationalize or ignore their hurtful and abusive behaviors and tell yourself you need to “work harder” to win their love.

How do you begin to love and accept yourself?

First, you must acknowledge and wrestle with your inner daemons. Explore your faulty relationship beliefs, for example, the belief that you’re unworthy or undeserving of love. Figure out where these beliefs come from, challenge them, lay them to rest and adopt healthier beliefs.

Second, you must accept that you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, but that doesn’t make you unlovable and unworthy. “Perfection,” if there is such a thing, has nothing to do with peace and wholeness. If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, you won’t be able to tolerate them in another person. Others will always fall short and you will reject them. Alternatively, you will accept hurtful behavior from others because you’re not “perfect” and on some level believe you deserve to be treated badly

Third, you must develop the ability to hold and sit with the discomfort and strangeness of the new and unfamiliar, such as being with a kind, loving person who accepts you warts and all. Being with a woman or man who is capable of returning love and values you—including your imperfect parts—will initially feel really strange and uncomfortable. At first, you might feel the urge to flee or push away. You need to ride out any feelings of discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal and feeling bad feels strange and uncomfortable. It will be a big change from your previous relationships. Remember, if change felt the same as what you’re accustomed to, it wouldn’t be change. (Repeat the last sentence to yourself a few times.)

Fourth, you need to be able to tell the difference between forgivable imperfections and abuse in all its forms: covert, overt, emotional, physical, psychological and financial. For example, leaving the toilet seat up, talking too much or difficulty expressing emotions are forgivable “imperfections.” Abuse is unforgivable—at least while it’s active and ongoing. Loving yourself also means creating boundaries and not accepting bad, hurtful, crazy and abusive treatment from others.

The fear of being loved is related to the fear of being “discovered;” of having your vulnerabilities and those aspects you don’t like about yourself exposed to another. This is fundamentally silly because we all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. It’s the fear that he or she won’t love you if they find out how “horrible” you think you are. At heart, this is what causes narcissists, borderlines, bullies and other abusive personalities to lash out and try to control others and it’s what causes you to be the target of these emotional predators.

Having a healthy and happy relationship begins with you loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Once you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself and let go of old, counterproductive relationship beliefs, you’ll be surprised how good being in a relationship can be.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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  • Ever wondered why  some folks find it difficult to break the habit?


InWhy We Stay in Bad Relationships” – Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men) asks why many people stay in dead end, unfulfilling relationships despite immense personal dissatisfaction. Yet they stay on against their better judgment. Why?

To read the full article, go here : http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/why-we-stay-in-bad-relationships/ (copy paste the link)

It outlines the reasons of the main causes of why we repeat old patters of inaction and inertia – for instance:

The Familiarity–the comfort of dysfunction vs. the discomfort of the unknown. “Oftentimes, relationships are a matter of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” We all make choices about how much we can deal with and what we can tolerate. Some people worry that they’ll end up in an even more dissatisfying relationship. They tell themselves that their current situation is a better option to meeting a new, possibly even more damaged mate or being alone.” – Dr. T

Other reasons include :

The investment of time and energy.

The trap of working harder. Yes, relationships take work, but they shouldn’t be a continuous struggle. Healthy relationships are a source of mutual comfort, support, and growth, which often involve challenging each other to be your best selves. Every relationship hits some bumpy spots in the road, but it shouldn’t be the Bataan death march.If you keep having the same problems without resolution, the same arguments, the same hurt feelings and resentments, and have been to couples counseling for a significant period of time and can’t reach a place of understanding, just end it.” – Dr. T

Shame and failure. “It’s difficult to admit a relationship needs to end. Many experience ending a relationship with a sense of shame and failure.” – Dr. T

And if it is an emotionally abusive relationship, Dr. Palmatier states that:

“counseling rarely helps because the abusive partner uses treatment to blame and control and/or quits when confronted with his or her bad behavior and goes “therapist shopping.” Don’t confuse “working harder at the relationship” with entrenching yourself in the problem. It’s better to get out than dig your heels in deeper.”

Wise words at the end of her article:

“The real shame and failure is to waste your life in conflict and dissatisfaction or, in extreme cases, an emotionally abusive relationship. Growth and change occur across a lifetime. Partners we choose for ourselves early in life when we’re still sorting through childhood baggage make sense at the time. However, as we resolve those issues, if our relationships don’t evolve with us, they will no longer fit.  It’s never too late to let go of misery or resignation and embrace change.”

Think about that for a few minutes. The full article is available on that link. A must-read.

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Related: Are you stuck in an unhealthy relation pattern? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/are-you-stuck-in-an-unhealthy-relationship-pattern-part-three/

Do you need to be loved and love to be needed? (An absolutely spot-on piece by Shari Schreiber directed towards eternal ‘fixers’ and ‘givers’):   http://gettinbetter.com/needlove.html

Did you have to  find closure all by yourself when a man or woman you deeply loved and cared for and were endlessly kind to, suddenly or cruelly disappeared? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/divorce-and-break-ups-there-is-no-closure-with-a-narcissistic-or-borderline-woman/

Have you wondered what the hooks of control are that keep you on your toes and in an unhealthy relation? Do you have a fear of loss and a need for approval? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/how-emotionally-abusive-women-control-you-the-fear-of-loss-and-the-need-for-approval/

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  • Abuse is often seen as a male-on-female problem. Wrong! Women especially in countries where they have far greater rights are equally abusive, except it is not spoken of. In fact men in western countries are quite frequently abused by their female partners  (and the legal system is skewed to protect women even when they are at fault) while the reverse is often true in more patriarchal Islamic countries. How do you tell if a woman is an abuser?

In “10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully” Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men) outlines the tell-tale signs of both overt and covert crazy-making and psychological abuse that women may be doing to men in relations, and how to spot them instead of living in perpetual denial. An excerpt:

Does your girlfriend or wife yell, scream, and swear at you? Do you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your relationship because they just wouldn’t understand? Is your relationship making you feel like you’re slowly going crazy?

If so, you’re probably involved with a woman who is an emotionally abusive bully. Most men don’t want to admit that they’re in an abusive relationship. They describe the relationship and their girlfriend/wife using other terms like crazy, emotional, controlling, bossy, domineering, constant conflict, or volatile. If you use words like this to describe your relationship, odds are you’re being emotionally abused.

Do you recognize any of the following behaviors?

1) Bullying. If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay. She wants to control you and resorts to emotional intimidation to do it. She uses verbal assaults and threats in order to get you to do what she wants. It makes her feel powerful to make you feel bad. People with a Narcissistic personality are often bullies.

Result: You lose your self-respect and feel outnumbered, sad, and alone. You develop a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which you identify with the aggressor and actually defend her behavior to others.

2) Unreasonable expectations. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, it’s never enough. She expects you to drop whatever you’re doing and attend to her needs. No matter the inconvenience, she comes first. She has an endless list of demands that no one mere mortal could ever fulfill.

Common complaints include: You’re not romantic enough, you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re not sensitive enough, you’re not smart enough to figure out my needs, you’re not making enough money, you’re not FILL IN THE BLANK enough. Basically, you’re not enough, because there’s no pleasing this woman. No one will ever be enough for her, so don’t take it to heart.

Result: You’re constantly criticized because you’re not able to meet her needs and experience a sense of learned helplessness. You feel powerless and defeated because she puts you in no-win situations.

3) Verbal attacks.This is self-explanatory. She employs schoolyard name calling, psychopathologizing (e.g., armed with a superficial knowledge of psychology she uses diagnostic terms like labile, paranoid, narcissistic, etc. for a 50-cent version of name calling), criticizing, threatening, screaming, yelling, swearing, sarcasm, humiliation, exaggerating your flaws, and making fun of you in front of others, including your children and other people she’s not intimidated by. Verbal assault is another form of bullying, and bullies only act like this in front of those whom they don’t fear or people who let them get away with their bad behavior.

Result: Your self-confidence and sense of self-worth all but disappear. You may even begin to believe the horrible things she says to you.

4) Gaslighting. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It wasn’t that bad. You’re imagining things. Stop making things up.” If the woman you’re involved with is prone to Borderline or Narcissistic rage episodes, in which she spirals into outer orbit, she may very well not remember things she’s said and done. However, don’t doubt your perception and memory of events. They happened and they are that bad.

Result: Her gaslighting behavior may cause you to doubt your own sanity. It’s crazymaking behavior that leaves you feeling confused, bewildered, and helpless.

For the signs, explanations and results of the other 6 tactics used such as unpredictable responses, projection, emotional blackmail and withholding affection & sex as well as isolating you from friends and family, read the full article here: http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/10-signs-your-girlfriend-or-wife-is-an-emotional-bully/ (copy paste the link)

As Dr. Palmatier concludes at its end: “Life is too short to spend one more second in this kind of relationship. If your partner won’t admit she has a problem and agree to get help, real help, then it’s in your best interest to get support, get out, and stay out.”

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If you are a woman who has faced the turmoil of being with a man with BPD (which for men is often misdiagnosed as bipolar), Shari Schreiber has written an excellent article with wisdom and humour, though her site graphics are a tad too colourful: http://www.sharischreiber.com/casanova.html

Also from Schreiber, for men who suffer from the ‘hero-syndrome’ and like to ‘rescue’ waifs and ‘professional victims’: http://gettinbetter.com/waif.html

Is your girlfriend/wife a “professional victim”? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/is-your-girlfriend-or-wife-a-professional-victim/ (copy-paste the link)

Saving your life after being excavated to exhaustion after loving a borderline: http://www.sharischreiber.com/anycost.html

Dr. Palmatier’s site has many great articles in the index section of both her old and new site. Here are a few links:

If you are a woman in love with a man who has come out of a relation with an abusive woman or with a man who has a history of being with manipulative women and you are not one (a very important and poignant read because often the kind girl who comes in a man’s life later has to bear the brunt of the misconceptions about love and trust created by the disordered women in his past): Excerpt:

Men who’ve been involved with emotionally abusive women need to go through a period of “deprogramming” and relationship “re-education.” Being with crazy, abusive narcissistic or borderline women warps these men’s perspective on love and relationships. They view crisis, criticism, conflict, drama, insults, neglect, etc., as normal because, with these women, it is the norm. Sometimes, it’s difficult to break  this pattern because of the rush from being on constant high alert and the exquisite thrill of the rare occasion when these women are nice to them.”

http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/can-a-man-who-was-emotionally-abused-by-his-narcissistic-or-borderline-wife-or-girlfriend-have-a-relationship-with-a-healthy-woman/

Deciphering the code of female mindgames in ‘crazy’ relations: (if you are  a rational woman in love with a BPD man, just change gender for the perpetrator.) This article is  for those men who have spent months in a war zone at home with advanced bullies and are looking for a logical explanation of the ‘pattern’ of their tactics: http://www.shrink4men.com/2010/11/15/high-conflict-phases-of-abuse-blame-shifting-distortion-rage-and-manipulation-diagram/

How ‘brainwashing’ occurs in abusive relations: http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/how-abusive-women-brainwash-you/

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Yes, Love truly is a wonderful phenomenon. To love and to be loved – one of life’s greatest joys. But before you run around outpouring romantic love, make sure that the other person is worthy of unconditional love. Nobody is perfect, but  imperfection does not include abusive behavior. Love wasted on emotional predators, bottomless vampires and bullies – be they in the form of Waifs who need constant rescuing or Monsters who need to constantly control – is a loss of youth, a loss of kindness and a betrayal of trust. It takes a long time to heal and longer to overcome that exhaustion. It is unfair to those who come later in your life, especially if they are innocent, and bear the burden of the wounds of your past patterns.

An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure or self-immolation. Because knowledge IS power. Love well, for sure, but even more so, love wisely. And when you find the one with whom you can share healthy, reciprocal, connected Love, love with abandon and without fear. And above all, believe in the power of Resilience. The power of Love. And the clarity of the power of Logic.

And that doesn’t need to be confined to only the 14th of February.

As for me, I am very happy to live this dream in reality:

xkcd. “Beautiful Dream”

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Below, a poem, written from years back – before I’d even fallen in love. It was about the way I thought love could be, would feel like. (It’s a side I rarely show on this blog, it’s very hard for me to show my deepest feelings or dreams, or the mushy side, but what the heck – ‘Love’ goes beyond an xkcd cartoon depiction.) And when I fell in love, was it like this? Oh yes, yes it was. Authentic Love always is.

LOVER

My lover,

You bring me love,
More than I could ever dream of.
And emotions that were alien once seem all too omnipresent now;
The shell I thought my heart was in seemed all too fragile, all too thin
When it came to you to penetrate, it broke to pieces and set me free.

Perhaps we had been strangers before, perhaps wayfarers traveling along the same road,
But in subtle, soft, mischievous ways, our love happened because it was meant to be,
Like unpredictable destiny, or for that’s what Nature intended to see:
A Man, a Woman with a child in each who hold hands like lost twins reunited
A love which has no legal name, no rhyme nor reason nor sanity.
And yet it spells out innocence, untainted, untarnished purity.

It’s your love which gives me happiness and warmth from the cruel winter
Of complicated mechanical beings who do not rejoice at others’ well-being.

I don’t want to think of the morrow, or of yesterday for it is now that matters,
I don’t want to think of the sorrow which I have felt before or shall later,
Let me live in this moment where time stands still,
Let me bathe in this ocean of love –

Because,

My Lover,
I never knew how beautiful love could be
Until I rose in love with you.

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Hmmm, so much for the cynic in me ;-) Must be the smell of all those flowers in every shop on the streets….

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Related:




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 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. It’s available on this link. Enjoy!

https://archive.org/details/LeBallonRougetheRedBalloon

and here (without the opening title) :

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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Memories of Montreal – un petit film

Montreal, Canada. 10-10-’10. I have been busy with my travels these past  several days and shall be traveling for a few more to come…..and Internet access has been sporadic and minuscule, at best. One of the joys of traveling and reconnecting with old friends and places in general is the humane factor of touch, sight, sound and smell which the virtual world, no matter how rich it can be, can never equal. The virtual at the end, serves only as the medium – the conduit through which the essence of the real can be captured only in bits and pieces on a two-dimensional plane.

So until I find the time to write a more reflective or analytical post, I’m re-posting an older article and video which had been, in essence, a quick ode to a city that has always remained dear to my  heart. On this trip, as I packed up the remnants of my existence here and found closure on many levels, I understood with some poignancy that it was indeed “Goodbye Montreal” and “Hello New York” for good. Time flies, people change, precocious girls we knew from our work days get married, have children; men we knew who carried an intense fire for living look beaten and broken in the grind of work life and compromises….those who thought they would live a ‘James Bond’ existence wake up to a reality of  ‘The Office’ (ah! mid-life crisis, or should I say mid-life acceptance, for many a man.)  A girl who was a sworn spinster is now married in a big Greek wedding with a baby on the way. A good architect friend who had the worst year of his life in 2008, is now not only on his best year but has become a successful theatre-actor on the side. Another who I thought would forever remain timid and servile has broken free and has his own firm.  A man who I thought had crazy intensity  ended up truly being intensely mentally crazy when I saw him again after two years. A girl I thought would never lose her integrity, I found, has now sold her soul in the name of society’s cliched definition of success……

We meet many, we lose a few, we remain static with some, we grow for, with and at times, away from others.  And for some like myself, sometimes looking back I have to confess (as a private joke that a few friends will understand) by fluke, I certainly was ‘Saved by the Bell’  in October 2008 in Montreal. Had it not been so, I certainly might not have perhaps found myself in Cambridge and subsequently in New York City. Thank you, Antonio Stradivari!

Life goes on, time never waits and all that is left behind are memories…….Yet for some places and people looking back at them never quite brings clarity – like looking at one’s past and hoping to get a balanced vision – yet instead it feels akin to when you open an old book and find inside its pages a pressed exotic flower from long ago and its faint scents and faded colours prevent detached objectivity.

But: We move on, thus. We must. We look back – sometimes with 20-20 vision, and at times with visions still blurred and foggy. Yet we move on. Or at least try our best. Or hobble on. Or, if we are lucky, sail smoothly away.

And oh yes – one more thing – xkcd-style. Just for the heck of it (or maybe it’s just all these cafes selling baguettes here.)  Either way:

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MÉMOIRES DE MON MONTRÉAL

(originally posted on May 25, 2010)

This is a short and quick film I made to capture some moments at my favourite city where I lived and worked for many years as an architect. I made this to celebrate both Montreal’s unique poignancy AND vibrancy.

Location: The film is based on my photographs through my years in Montreal. The apartment featured is on Ridgewood Avenue where my balcony and windows opened out into the forest of the Mont Royal Summit, behind the gigantic St. Joseph’s Oratory featured both in the early part and in the closing shot of the film. The ‘summit forest’ is the highest point of the city at the bifurcating median of the eastern traditionally ‘French side’ from the western ‘English side’ though of course in reality the city is entirely mixed and diverse. My apartment’s location enabled an incomparable view of the surroundings as well as the seasonal changes of the magnificent trees in its forested backyard. I lived in two different apartments over the years on the same street though I lived in other areas of the city as well, including the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, in downtown Montreal, on the east side near the Village and also in the historic suburb of Vieux Longueuil. I’ve had 7 addresses during my years in the city.

The office featured in the film is of my architecture mentor Dan Hanganu on Rue Dizier.  Its arched windows looked out into the art galleries of Rue St. Paul. The three friends in the ‘four architects’ photo are Anca, Lucia and Athena (and no, we are quite the opposite of the self-absorbed, shoe-crazy, man-hungry, navel-gazing ‘sex and the city’ hyper-materialistic girls.) I met them while working at the historic multi-disciplinary and multi-national architecture firm Le Groupe Arcop one of whose founding fathers had a fellowship in his name at McGill university which I had been awarded more than a decade ago, not knowing then that some day I would go on to work at the firm he had founded. There are other pictures here of friends who are dear to me. I have added quite a few well-known streets and landmarks of the city as well as those places that are personally meaningful and memorable.

The repetition of the sunflowers in the clip is not just a reminder of the lively kiosks and flower shops dotted around the town (and the little herb and flower corner of my balcony), but also a representation of the human potential and inclination to seek and search for joy in life despite how gray the skies may become at times and…….well, because sunflowers are my favourite blossoms. I always say that no matter how sad a moment may be, looking at a ‘happy sunflower’ brings back the smile on my face. They just seem to be such sprightly optimistic flowers, following the light of the sun….

Music: The featured musical pieces on this video are ‘Oblivion’ (violin – Joshua Bell; bandoneon – Carel Kraayenhof) & ‘All of Me’ by Jazz great Lester Young (tenor sax), Teddy Wilson (piano), Jo Jones (drums), Gene Ramey (bass). Since I wanted to capture the paradoxical ‘poignant joyousness’ of the city, the first half of the film includes a heartfelt piece ‘Oblivion’ played by the versatile virtuoso Bell (whose movie The Red Violin’s ending culminates in this city and who I met in Montreal, so I thought it would be appropriate to place his rendition.) The second half of the film picks up the tempo, rhythm and joie-de-vivre unique to this belle ville and reminiscent in a very jolly 1950s tune ‘All of Me’ (composed by Gerald Marks & Seymour Simons) played by the jazz legend  Lester Young – which captures the spirit of the famous International Jazz Festival that Montreal hosts every summer and also the ambiance of its many cafes, clubs, youth culture, its ‘book capital’ status and bicycle and pedestrian-friendly street life.

Additional photography: Almost all the photographs used here are my own. The ‘night vision’ shots though hazy, I felt captured the lights, music and movement better of the city’s nightlife and festivals than clean ‘perfect’ ones taken with a camera stand. There are around 5 pictures featured here taken from Montreal tourism. And out of the total 160 photographs used here – 12 are from the collections of two friends who are extremely talented professionals and have their own studios and should be credited – Jessica Petunia and Robin Cerutti who are both Montreal residents

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jessicapetunia/popular-interesting/

http://robincerutti.com/

The music in the video is beautiful when heard through the right speakers since a tiny mono speaker of a laptop cannot do justice to a big jazz band nor to a 1713 Stradivarius.

This is just a little personal ode to a city that has meant so much in my life and where, in many ways, an integral part of my mind, heart, soul and body will always remain, always belong, and live on through its multifarious memories.

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And now for something completely different…

The Four Mothers

(or)

The Moth, For sure

(or)

her  soFter  MouTh

(or)

rose (eros), Fur, heM,  hotT  ( strictly from the perspective of how a dad views ‘mom’ – his wife)


Generally, I do not ‘observe’ a date just because some group at some point decided to designate a certain day of the year to commemorate some cause or event, either real or invented and which years or centuries later Hallmark decided to capitalize upon and for which hundreds and thousands of flowers are plucked and bundled up. Nor do I think that people who are truly important in our lives and to whom we owe a lot should be wished and remembered only on the one day our  calendar has demarcated us to. But some ‘designated days’ perhaps are named after those people without whom we would not have popped out into this world. Literally.

So since I’d thought of writing about these women some day in any case, I thought that it would be only appropriate that I send them a virtual salute on Mother’s Day. And I’ll keep it short ’cause even before I completed this paragraph my geeky mind had veered off into all the different connotations of the word and somehow I’d found myself wiki-ing the word ‘mother‘ and its translations in different languages. But, thankfully, I’m back after that meandering away from the Mother ship.

I have four mothers in my life. There is no other way to put it. And no, my father did not marry four times. In fact he is still married to the woman who gave birth to me. I have four mothers because I  received love and learned from four women through different stages of my life. And since I lived in different cities and countries where my birth mother wasn’t always physically present, I had my other mother-figures as surrogates by accidental meetings. But because of these four very special, very wonderful women I have learned so much about love, about life, about learning and logic and limericks and laughter, it would seem unfair to say that one was less influential than the other.

To this day they love me, and I love them incredibly. And so this is my little ode to each of them. Though I am inclined to not cite their names, more so because I am very private in person, I still feel I should. When out there in the media, so many shallow women battle to get their names in and mentioned through acts of notoriety, I’d rather put forth instead the names (or at least parts of the names) of four authentic, beautiful, brilliant , humble and truly good-hearted women. I have used the maiden name for my mother here, and for the  other two the family name they go by, and only the last lady mentioned here took on her husband’s family name.

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Mom no. 1 (A. Dutsch): My birth mother. The one who shaped my first perceptions of the world around me. Gentle, calm, confident, beautiful and rational-to-an-extreme. A blend of four ethnicities. A doctorate in philosophy with a major in mathematics and a minor in political science.  A perfect 100% score in mathematics in her high school graduation. Former math professor and teacher. And also a yoga teacher for a while. Still practices yoga daily and can do envious 180 degree splits and twist her body like a pretzel. The one due to whom I was exposed to books of both western and eastern philosophies early on, particularly Russell, Nietzsche and Aurobindo. To books of math, physics, paintings, puzzles. And M.C. Escher – her favourite. The one who made sure I ate healthy meals; who encouraged my fascination for jigsaws, riddles, Lego, scrabble, gymnastics, ballet, science books, Tintin & Asterix comics and trivia-quiz books (while my dad was only too happy to teach me about car engines and geologic rocks on Sundays).

The mom who was tolerant and accommodating of every little wounded bird and animal and critter I’d ‘rescue’ and bring home as a pet; who made me a member of a library at age 7 giving in to my incessant pleas; who attended every major event of my academic and cultural milestones to show her support and love: my first dance performance, every theatrical play I featured in later, my photo-shoots (‘just to make sure the photographer doesn’t take advantage of you!’), my music concerts, my award ceremonies for various quiz and debating contests, when I graduated from architecture school as valedictorian and snagged both the gold medals; at the inauguration of the first project I designed from the company I’d started, the look in her eyes when I showed her my work was the best fee a young architect could get.  

The one who was strict towards me at times telling me I could have a boyfriend only after I graduated from university.  The one who stayed up late in the nights when I’d pull all nighters at work just in case I needed something. The one who went up to the Himalayas later to convince me to not become a monk in the mountains nor quit through escapism; the one who decided to learn and master the Russian language at age 40 ‘for a lark’ and ended up acing her class. The one who finally reconciled with my hobby for extreme sports and mountaineering. (I think now sometimes how she did it…I wonder how I’d feel if I ever had a child and knew that he/she  did high-risk acts.)

Efficient, ordered, introspective. A woman who abhors guilt-and-pity-inducing-displays by adults and yet is an immensely generous donor to animal shelters and for sponsoring street children. Quietly and privately and anonymously. And still loves roller coasters and amusement park rides.

The mother who briefly teared up for only the second  time I saw her cry in my life when I boarded the plane to go far away from home. The one who cheered as I won four fellowships in grad school.  The one who would exasperate me at times reminding me of the writers, doctors, mathematicians and Euro-socialist politicians from her side of the family. That our “genes kick in sooner or later, until we use  our Will to shape our futures.”  The one who would call me ‘impractical’ because I’d follow my heart; till the day she finally admitted I was more intelligent than her and made good decisions.

The one who sent me long philosophical hand-written letters, who called in to check once every 2 weeks, who has a tendency to never display her own needs partly out of self-discipline and partly out of pride to never show  her vulnerability. Yet almost telepathically calls me when she ‘senses’ something’s wrong at my end. The one who is so darn rational, unemotional and unruffled, at times I suspected this year that she might have a mild touch of Asperger’s. Who took so effortlessly to her first laptop late in her life without even any instruction manual that I had the aha moment that my mother all along had been an ubergeek born before her times.

The one who had told me to “be strong, don’t cry” so forcefully and repeatedly every time I’d come home after facing bullying in school, that it took me years before I learned to not be so Spock-like stoic, but take time to quietly cry if I did feel sad. The one who follows her head more than her heart (except when she had fallen in love with my dad at 18). The mom I have never ever seen screaming, yelling, raging or ranting. Nor ever fight with my father. Not one single day for all the years I have known her. The one who is calm and strength and stability personified. Whose girlish feminine voice belies the undisturbed steel inside.

The woman with an age-and-gravity-defying bosom (genes I’ve hopefully inherited.).

The one who loves discussing about science, philosophy, the inter-connections of the world around us, yoga, the problem with religious and medical quacks, sees the ridiculousness of most forms of ritualism and bursts out laughing at those…..the one who told me and often repeats: “There is no compromise to personal dignity.” (Please check the ‘AFTERTHOUGHTS’ addition at the end for a more ‘human’ painting that represents my mother.)

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Mom no. 2 (R. Zimberg): Funny, fiery, feisty, optimistic, freckled,  petite, bursting-with-chutzpah redheaded Rochelle. Where do I begin?

She took me into her house  on Dudley Avenue one windy grey November night when I had to move out from two very cruel roommates during grad school. My landlady, my friend, my mentor on financial acumen, my part-time surrogate mom – to me and to many other girls who by an incredible luck in life ended up as her tenants.

A former Director of the association of Canadian municipalities for her entire province. Former Liberal Party of Canada member and election candidate. Breast-cancer survivor and proud of it. Avid golfer; dragon-boat-rower; Entrepreneur. Art-collector. Aunt to many kids, godmother to others. Never got married. An infectious laugh that brings a room to life. Canadian. Australian. Russian-Jewish. Had two cats, Peanut and Pi – the latter who lived for a record 24 years. Open, adventurous (at 23 she went off for over a year hitch-hiking all through Europe and the Middle East after catching a Dutch freighter from the port of Montreal after a visit to the Expo and later went on to  scale the Tibetan mountains at the age of 65) and  traveled widely. Went off for 3 years in 2006 to start up and work as a principal in a school in China. Wrote a series of ‘postcards’ about all her travels from Mongolia to Vietnam and everything in between.

Rochelle, who would leave treats for me when I’d come back home from long nights at the studio; who told me that a man ‘unwinds’ in front of the TV and a woman unwinds in a bubble bath jacuzzi.  Rochelle – who drove me many times to the airport when I’d just be about to miss my flights; Rochelle – who taught me all the tricks and trades of good financial decisions, investments and financial independence and security; Rochelle – who loved hosting dinner parties with great panache, candles, silverware and all the works; Rochelle – who held me tightly as I cried inconsolably the evening my very first boyfriend broke my heart and when I was done crying I looked out at the yellow-pink sky after a storm and saw a rainbow and solemnly announced to her that ‘This rainbow is my new beginning’ and she said with all her chutzpah – “There you go, girl. Never, never have regrets in life; and never look back, only ahead.” Rochelle  who– when I in order not to be noticed too much after an incident in grad school had started dressing dowdy – stopped me in front of the mirror one morning on the way out and told me: “Now listen. Never, never give up your personality and never dress dowdy just to appease those who are insecure. If you are a lady and other women get jealous of that, that’s their problem. And if men get attracted because of how you look, that’s their problem too. Promise me that you won’t lose who you are because of those who like to bully a good girl.” And then she made me change back from the shapeless gray smock I was wearing to an elegant red blouse – one of my favourite colours.

Whenever I come across any good-hearted young girl who has moved to or is visiting Canada, and if she needs some help or advice, my heart goes out to her like an older sister. When one lovely girl I met last year wanted to thank me, I told her it wasn’t necessary – I was only passing on Rochelle’s legacy. For once I had been alone and naive and because of her I had been safe from a storm. And even to this day I can call her when I want and talk to her about my life. My work. My dilemmas. Or lament why I tended to get attracted to insanely intelligent eccentric men,  who would mostly turn out  to be  Jewish. And she would let out her characteristic  laugh and say: “Oy vey! as long as you can deal with the Mother!”

Update (2010): Since writing this article, Rochelle went off on a two year stint in Egypt taking up another school Principal assignment. The revolution in Egypt started and she had to run to Israel for security. After her return to Canada, she will soon be off to Arizona.  Her adventures continue……

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Mom no. 3 (S. Brien): I fell in love with Sylvie at first sight. Completely. Irrevocably. Unfathomably. Not because she resembled a Raphael-esque version of a Marilyn Monroe but with higher cheek bones, not because she was the mother of the Frenchman I was with at the time and would stay with for many years, and not because of her poise and elegance. It was because of a powerful connection to a heart that was softly, beautifully, unconditionally good. Pure unadulterated Goodness. That stood out at our first meeting. The first hug. The first smile. We recognized something in each other that I still cannot find the words to explain.

She was the mother I still consider as the one who gave me the softest, warmest kind of unconditional love. My real mother loves me unconditionally too, but as I’d mentioned she is rational and ruled-by-her head. Sylvie was all heart. She took me into her family like a long-lost daughter. She told me that she’d always wanted a daughter, after her 3 sons, and had gone as far as trying to adopt a girl (which never happened as some corrupted officials of the country from where she was adopting, as she later found out, had stolen the money and bungled the process.) Sylvie herself had been adopted. Along with her twin sibling and two other children by a kind dentist and his wife.

Sometimes, when I need courage and/or inspiration in life I think of her personal story of strength and resolve. Her life itself, which I will not talk about, was like the fantastic plot-line of a novel – one that she herself should write a book about someday – as she had transformed from a mother-of-twins-at-19 to a lawyer to a best-selling author in French both for adult and children’s books. She became the first woman  and only the second writer from Quebec that the exclusive French publishing house Gallimard had signed up and her books are widely read in both Quebec and France. Currently one of her books is being made into a film. When you hear a young girl on French TV say that her favourite young-adult writers are J.K. Rowling and Sylvie Brien, you know that you’re writing something that young teens love to read. Albeit the French market is very small.

In the last few years she has already produced 20 books and now makes her living as a writer. Complete with a cottage in the picturesque Laurentian mountains which she recently acquired. But when I’d met her she was still practicing law. A workplace accident that forced her to take rest for a year made her decide to write her first book and there was no looking back. The first book I still think was her best – a story about a woman’s journey through time and of love and loss, written with an extremely elegant  literary flourish.

It is from Sylvie that I learned the most how beautifully a woman could combine femininity and feminism (that of inner-strength and intrinsic self-worth, not the angry ideological kind), to have kick-ass time management and organizational skills and yet retain soft-loving-kindness. To manage to be a mother, wife, writer, traveler without losing any of her strength to her delicate appearance. One day an evening a few years back, I was passing by a book store on a street in downtown Montreal and saw the store window lined with her books and a huge picture of her. The book ‘Les Templiers du Nouveau Monde,’ had been written a year before the Da Vinci Code and was a work of literature unlike the latter, but the curiosity of the Templars increased by the Code had boosted the sales of her book. Sylvie was very embarrassed about it and wished the timing had been different.

It was weird when I saw her poster – to me she was the woman who would bake the best banana cake at Christmas and serve a meal to remember every time I went to her place, but to the buyers in the store she was ‘an author’ for whose signed copies they had lined up. She’d take me along at times to her book readings and launches. She does not like driving and has a hard-to-resist vulnerability that belies her inner will. It is truly strange how when you know someone on a personal level, their public persona is something you can never get used to. Another book of hers went on to  get chosen by the UNESCO to  represent Montreal when the city was declared the world book capital in 2006. She has told me many times to write my own books and said it was an injustice to one’s heart to let words and thoughts remain unexpressed. “The first book is always autobiographical,” she said. “Therapeutic. And after that you are set free.”

The  French literary world may view her as a successful writer for youth and adults, but to me she will always remain Sylvie, the soft, kind, loving mother who always wore her heart and vulnerability on her sleeve for me, who hugged me the day I went crying to her over my lost cat, the one who understood the cruelty of the world to women with good hearts, the one who always baked a cake for me on my birthdays and gave a thoughtful present on Christmas (including the very first bottle of French perfume anyone had ever gifted me), the one who took my side over her own son when he’d make errors,  the one who even after I was no longer with her son warmly  invited me to stay over at her house when I had moved away from Montreal and no longer had a place of my own to stay in the city on a visit back there, the one who told me that she loves me so much that the bond she and I share would always be there, no matter who I chose to be with. That some connections of love can never be broken because they are framed not by blood and legal ties, but by ‘the language of the heart.’ And by the recognition of inherent goodness.

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Mom no. 4 (A. Hanganu): At Le Groupe Arcop, Anca was called the ‘resident nut.’ Lovingly of course. The first impression when I saw her at my first job at a Montreal firm (after my free-lance days) was of a woman who was unique. And exceptionally different in every which way. Stunningly beautiful. With the saddest, craziest pair of green eyes that saw right through you. Intelligent and talented to the point of insanity. And eccentric. Oh yes! Eccentric.

I told her years later that even though she was much older, I had felt an attraction to her first that had been strongly, alarmingly, almost sexual. (Nothing of that sort materialized in reality, for those with imaginative minds reading this ;-)

Anca, who could dine with kings and heads of state at building inaugurations like an elegant fashionista in the most refined locales of the world, then fly off in a rickety helicopter to do a project all on her own for a school in rural Bangladesh, then go off to exotic lands like Tajikistan, forests in Madagascar, tea gardens in Darjeeling and war zones in Afghanistan.  She possessed the stubbornness of a mule, the courage of a lioness and the litheness of a gazelle. A mother to two gorgeous daughters. Today at 62, her works and designs as an award-winning architect are splattered through the world.

The firm paired us up almost immediately in the year 2000. “She’s a very difficult woman to work with,” said Bruce, a senior partner, “but for some reason she likes you a lot and you seem to get her. Yes, in fact you seem to get along very well with her. Damn, I think she loves you.”

The question was – how could I not get along with her?

This was a woman after my own heart. Free. Feminine. Fearless. And incredibly, yes, incredibly, unfathomably kind. The same Anca, who could grab a contractor on site by his collar and speak to him like a man over some construction  issue, could delay a meeting at work if she had to help some stranger on the street or fight for a social cause where someone had faced injustice. Her work in the world included as much architecture as it did social justice. Especially for the women in forgotten parts. With an abhorrence for publicity and an adherence to only her integrity. To write of her works would take an entire post so I will not include them here.

With her I had spent countless hours at the office, pouring in cups of coffee and poring over drawings till 4 in the morning at times.  Accompanied her to crazy places and sites and discussed design with the passionate fire that had kept us in the profession despite all its trials and tribulations. Straight lines, sinewed curves, drafting, daftness, defiance, devotion. We would often describe the thrill we got as we created concepts and designs to an orgasmic experience. It was largely due to my proximity and dialogues with her that I got released to be free with the sexual metaphors that are used in the architectural workplace. Anca was uninhibited. Wild -yet-principled. Never cared for the status quo nor gave a damn for protocol. She still remains that way.

Those long nights of work, dinners at sushi restaurants, little gifts she would bring for me from her travels, free discussions about sex, philosophy, life, love, those caring, loving, wild, free, gypsy eyes…..it is always with a twinge that I remember both the exhaustion and exhilaration of working, working and designing with her, before she sent me to work for her famous and even more eccentric husband as he asked her if he could ‘borrow’ me at his firm.

I never understood how she loved him the way she did, and one day I understood when I felt that for someone else. When I did, I told her husband words he said he will never forget: and which had made him cry: “I often used to wonder how your wife can love you as she does, no matter the difficulties and disappointments you have given to her in Life, although you are a genius at your Work. Most would say she’s a fool to love you the way she does. But the truth is, and it shows in her eyes, she stays by your side as your greatest supporter, your deepest lover and your most faithful friend simply because she loves you. Immensely. Her love is so complete that it never edits out any part of you. She had once said to me that when you had married her she had told you that she would love you just the way you were and you never had to change a thing. I can see now how she lived up to her words. Once, when I had asked her how she could put up with all your moods and ways, she had told me laughingly – “It’s so easy!! People like to complicate things and look for all sorts of intellectual, philosophical, material and psychological explanations; but the simple truth is that when you love someone completely and unconditionally, it all becomes easy. SO easy!!” And she had laughed in her carefree and mad way. I used to wonder what force kept her going. But now I understand that when love is real and based on acceptance and not expectation – nothing, that’s right, nothing that that person says or does, no matter how his moods sway, all of him is taken in by the love you hold for him. That love like that lives, inspires and redeems for itself.”

Yes, it was understanding Anca and her unique way of perceiving the world that made me decipher something very powerful in life. A lesson even more important than the work and the architecture that had bound us intrinsically together and lived through our joint designs in sandstone and steel. silk and stucco. Anca my work-Mother who taught me what real love, talent, passion, artistry, invincibility and eccentricity truly are and why those qualities when added with everything else makes a woman so remarkably unique.

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Here’s to my four mothers! The scientist-philosopher, the leader-entrepreneur, the poet-planner and the architect-activist.  Definitely the four most important and influential women in my world who taught me lessons on love, life, logic, language, laughter and learning. I wonder sometimes if life chooses our mothers for us or we choose the mothers in our life…in any case I feel incredibly blessed to have had both. A happy day to my quartet maternelle – and to all the kind, loving, wonderful mothers around the world…

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AFTERTHOUGHTS ON MOTHER NO. 1

 

I realised this evening after publishing this post that M.C. Escher is my mother’s favourite artist along with Dali and Picasso, so the Escher etching represents more her mind or her mode of thinking, but it does not represent her femininity. So I chose two paintings which to me capture my mother’s essence the most and her favourite colour blue; her high level of comfort with her body;  her love for the ocean; the way my father whose hobbies included photography would capture her in his photos in earlier days; and the way I myself had photographed her once draped only in blue fabric. The woman in ‘Le Magie Noir’ represents more her calmness – her abstract, yet complex mathematical way of thinking while the one in ‘La robe du soir’ is more of my first memories of her physical appearance and her long hair. It had to be Magritte because if Escher is the ‘harder’ representation of her mind, Magritte  is definitely her softer,  mysterious side.

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Note: When I had started this blog I had promised myself that this would cover topics that were not just reflective and thought-provoking, but that in the process of sensitivities, the harder and not-so-pretty facts of life would not be omitted. So in light of the day, I’d like to point out that those of us who are lucky in life to have had good moms, consider yourself exceptionally fortunate. Unfortunately for some people, and I hope that is a real minority, this may not be the case….Long before neuroscience and experimental psychology found how stress-and-fear related hormones like cortisol in our systems can be permanently affected by the way a mother loves/or does not love her children, and how so much of our mothers’ behaviour affects our psychology later in life, Sigmund Freud had already found the connection between mothers and children in the shaping of our future patterns and choices in life. So in order to keep the truth objective, and to leave it to the reader to continue their own research should they want, I have attached this link about a new book that has hit the stands ‘Mean Mothers’ by Pegg Streep and its related article : ‘Freud was right : Mean mothers can scar for life.’ For those of us with good mothers who were not affected by BPD, NPD, HPD and other mood/empathy disorders please feel lucky, very very lucky. And perhaps that itself is enough reason to wish your mother warmly today and at many other times through the year.

Also – Rebecca Walker- the daughter of famed feminist Alice Walker – writes how her mother’s fanatical ideologies tore them apart, and how her mother’s public persona of a woman’s rights activist was sharply contrasted by the reality of how ruthless, emotionally withholding and narcissistic she was in her private life towards her own daughter. A must-read : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1021293/How-mothers-fanatical-feminist-views-tore-apart-daughter-The-Color-Purple-author.html

Thinking in Pictures

Various Places – 2009.

[Travels from last year. Not quite as off-the-beaten-path as some other places I have been to. Last year was safer. No photos have been retouched, only three have been cropped and one has been desaturated. Click for zooms, should you fancy.]

The world's second longest town name. In Wales. (The longest name is in the Maori language, in New Zealand.) I took this photo while on a train and ferry ride from England to Ireland via Wales. For the pronunciation,go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cy-Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch_(Welsh_pronunciation,_recorded_17-05-2012).ogg

On a train and ferry ride from England to Ireland via Wales. The world’s second longest town name. (The longest name is in the Maori language, in New Zealand.) For the original Welsh pronunciation,go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cy-Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch_(Welsh_pronunciation,_recorded_17-05-2012).ogg

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The rugged 700 ft. high Cliffs of Moher (Irish: Aillte an Mhothair, lit. Cliffs of the Ruin) more than 300 million years old, on a rainy foggy day. Western seacoast of Ireland.

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A structural detail from the Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, Wisconsin, USA.

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Two separate art installations at the MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in the Berkshire Mountains, North Adams, USA

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Dublin, Ireland, an evening in July 2009, before a U2 concert (which I did not attend). Photo uploaded here exactly as I clicked it – no retouching. Really.

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Now THAT’s a first! A memorial in a prime location (under the London Eye) for its Technical Director & Senior Site Engineer Peter Koorevar. London, England. (Did you know that Clifford Milburn Holland died of overwork just days before the opening of the project for which he was the Chief Engineer – hence named the ‘Holland Tunnel’?)

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A billboard for the decades old annual Jazz Festival, Bombay (Mumbai), India. The recession in America has increased the number of western musicians and actors working in the Bombay music/film industry.

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Three time runaway bride Maria finally gets married. At a church in little Italy to the reception in a lake Ontario pavilion. August 2009,Toronto, Canada.  This is the youngest guest at the event – who knows that the best part of a big Italian wedding is the food, and not the protocols. The un-inhibition of innocence.

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I still like sitting on the upper deck right up front in London’s local buses. The best way to view the street. A used book store I long liked. No – it’s not the movie one. At Notting Hill, England. After a rain shower.

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The front view works for canoeing too. Calm waters in the everglades of the Florida keys, USA

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Kanchenjunga range of the Himalayas in Northern Sikkim, India. My favourite for mountaineering, apart from the Kumaon range. Its highest peak has a 28,169 ft elevation. The 2.75 sq. mile state of Sikkim has 11 official languages and is home to the red panda.

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Yep! THE original Starry Night of Van Gogh. Close up taken at MoMA, New York City

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Sculpture in front of the Salvador Dali Museum along the Thames river-walk. London, England.

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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 saw 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.

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After years of unnecessary bureaucratic squabbling, politics and red tape, the McGill Law Library (designed by architect Dan Hanganu) finally gets all its new renovations and design & structural revisions taken care of. 6 years of backlog politics solved in one year. It remains the only contemporary building in Montreal with red sandstone cladding. May 2009. Montreal, Canada.

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Marley the dog. Age 10 years; looking up from the floor of a cafe in Brooklyn, New York. Marley doesn’t do politics. She just eats, plays, sleeps. and loves. unconditionally.

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The Indo-Gothic spires on the building of the Baroda School of Architecture (the second oldest architecture school of that country), western India. November 2009.

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Elaborately decorated hand-crafted kiln-baked clay pots made on a potter’s wheel sold by a street vendor in a traditional art market in Gujarat, India. Pottery is the oldest export of the state, after textiles, for centuries. The pots are used for decorations in weddings and festivities. Each costs around 50 cents. In an upscale NYC boutique each would be priced anywhere from 50- 100$ upwards.

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Christmas decorations in front of the Apple Store on 5th Avenue, New York City.

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Sugar maple tree in early autumn, 2009, outside the MASS MoCA building, North Adams, Massachusetts, USA. The museum is the largest center for contemporary visual art and performing arts in the country and has 100,000 sq.ft of exhibition space.

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“The Magic Theatre. For madmen only.” A corner in my former apartment at the edge of the forest on the summit of Mount Royal, Montreal, Canada, early 2009.

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“To love. To be loved.   To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you.  To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair.  To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple.  To respect strength, never power.  Above all, to watch.  To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”

Arundhati Roy

More pictures: Thinking in Pictures – part deux : 1.1.11