Saturday, January 28, 2017

There is a certain joy in discovering words written by others that so aptly capture your own thoughts and reactions.

From NYT review:

'The difference between selling out and breaking through is not always clear, and “La La Land” is not so hypocritical as to pretend otherwise.'

'The real tension in “La La Land” is between ambition and love, and perhaps the most up-to-date thing about it is the way it explores that ancient conflict.... the drive for professional success is, for young people at the present time, both more realistic and more romantic than the pursuit of boy-meets-girl happily-ever-after. Love is contingent. Art is commitment.'

'[Chazelle] outdoes himself in the last 20 minutes of “La La Land,” and outdoes just about every other director of his generation, wrapping intense and delicate emotions in sheer, intoxicating cinematic bliss.'

From AV club review

'... Mia and Sebastian are drawn to each other’s respective passion. La La Land traces their salty-then-sweet courtship by season, watching as it evolves from mutual dislike to flirtatious antagonism to head-over-heels romance.'

'There are moments in La La Land where that Chazelle, the unapologetic grandstander, threatens to gain full control; a few of his big musical interludes, like one that spins around a swimming pool at breakneck speed, are more technically elaborate than transporting. But as much as the writer-director lives and breathes for the choreographed excess of Busby Berkeley and Vincente Minnelli, he never loses sight of the relatable dreamers at the center of his bravado set-pieces. The aforementioned pool-party scene eventually stops time to usher us into Mia’s emotional sphere.'


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Selected quotations from Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
 
* "The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there's arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there."
 
* "The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light."
 
* "cultivate an understanding of a bunch of the other things that the best, sanest people on the planet know: that life is long, that people both change and remain the same, that every last one of us will need to fuck up and be forgiven, that we're all just walking and walking and walking and trying to find our way, that all roads lead eventually to the mountain top."
 
* "The future has an ancient heart" (quoting Carlo Levi)
 
* "an ethical and evolved life also entails telling the truth about oneself and living out that truth."
 
* "there will likely be no clarity, at least at the outset; there will only be the choice you make and the sure knowledge that either one will contain some loss."
 
* "after destiny has delivered what it delivers, we are responsible for our lives."
 
* "Be brave enough to break your own heart."
 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” 

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

I had been wanting to post this quote on my blog for a long time, but I decided that I'll only do so after I had read the book. I just did, a few minutes ago.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.


A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands."


Tomas Tranströmer, The Blue House

Sunday, January 22, 2017

“I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

Bertrand Russell, What I Believe

Reading this 12-13 years ago or so is when I first realized Bertrand Russell was an atheist, and it had a tremendous emotional impact on me.

I believe that when I die I shall rot, but I am also inclined to believe that something will survive of my ego. Something devoid of my memories and personality, devoid of what identifies me as me in this current existence, but something of me nonetheless. I realize this statement by itself is likely only causes confusion rather than clarification, but I'll defer further explanation to the future. Despite these philosophical inclinations, I am not afraid of annihilation. I would be fine with annihilation, if that is indeed our ultimate end. I aim to live my life as if it has intrinsic value, independent of what happens after death,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I am scared by the realization that I don't really know if the things I am working for in my life at present would lead to my happiness down the road -- they are a good bet, given what I know at present, but a gamble nonetheless.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

“Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Those who’ve read the Book of Ages never admit to it."

A wonderful review of the movie Arrival and Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life in The New York Review of Books.

"For what’s sure in a universe that dopplers
away like a siren’s midnight cry?"

Sarah Howe, Relativity (poem dedicated to Stephen Hawking)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"— for this I have abandoned
All my other lives."

Robert Francis, Waxwings

“And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
Of a craving for something I cannot find
And of the shame of never finding it.”

T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"... [Derek Parfit] is most famous for the view that personal identity – the conditions under which you continue to exist as you – does not, contrary to appearances, really matter. We are psychological bundles of memories, inclinations, intentions. In the future there will be bundles who will go by my name, who will share many of my memories, and act on some of my intentions. They will think they are me. At a certain point – my death – there will cease to be any such bundles, though there will be other bundles who remember me and perhaps even carry on some of my projects. From this perspective, the boundaries between ourselves and others begin to dissolve. So too, perhaps, does the horror of my death."

Amia Srinivasan, Remembering Derek Parfit

Friday, January 6, 2017

The children cannot be blamed for the sins of the fathers, but it would be a sin for the children to be oblivious or dismissive of moral burden of those nefarious deeds. I speak in a metaphorical sense, with regards to the history of medical and psychiatric tyranny.

Here is a wonderful and sobering article by Andrew Scull on the history of lobotomies and the horrendous treatment of the patient H.M. at the hands of medical professionals (a review of Dittrich's book).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I'm quite late to this, but I saw the first 3 episodes of Girls today.... all the characters are annoying as hell! The show has many virtues; I am not commenting on the greatness or quality of the show, just the fact that I'm not sure it resonates with me. It is interesting for me to wonder why I found it to be so annoying. Most shows have a few characters that can be irksome, but vexation appears to be a universal feature of the Girls universe. The characters in the show all appear to defy some professional or personal ethic that exists in my mind, and that I clearly value enough to be annoyed at its flagrant violation in a show that has clear intentions to satirize. 

I don't think that my annoyance with the characters is because of any patriarchal reasons. I think I am primarily irked by the depiction of character flaws such as self-absorbed narcissism and irresponsibility. Would I have found them less annoying and more comedic in a male character? I don't think so, but I am possibly not the best judge of that.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"How lush the world is,
how full of things that don’t belong to me—"

Louise Glück, Vespers:Parousia

“Writing down your thoughts is both necessary and harmful. It leads to eccentricity, narcissism, preserves what should be let go. On the other hand, these notes intensify the inner life, which, left unexpressed, slips through your fingers.”


Continuing with the theme of introspection into my motivations, I feel it is important to clarify what this blog is about and what are my motivations for resuming blogging.

At times in the past I have tried to sell the blog as offering something to the readers; the effort was perhaps misplaced. It would be a mistake for me to pretend as if the blog offers material of great philosophical, literary or artistic merit to the reader; I don't think it does. I am no Marcus Aurelius and these are no Meditations. Even in cases where philosophical and literary musings are dished out, that has not been the primary point. I think the blog has always primarily been an avenue for me to process my own thoughts and emotions, to share things of beauty and art that have an influence on me, and to preserve a record of my intellectual development. I started this blog at a point in my life when I was lost and alone, desperately in need of a voice, and I return to it again for solace in a time of confusion. I hope to rediscover myself through resuming a dialogue with the self.

There is something worthwhile about engaging in this sort of personal writing without seeking any financial or professional gains. In the past I have sought fame, but at this point I am not even concerned with amassing a following. Trying to actively promote the blog now feels like sacrilege... I have nothing to offer but the mediocre workings of my own mind. The fact that some people may find it worthwhile to follow is a pleasant surprise, and one I'm glad for.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love lends itself well to re-watching. I saw it for the first time more than 4 years ago, and I had been wanting to return to it for a while, finally getting a chance today.

It's a wonderfully artistic exploration of love, infidelity, marriage, beauty, regret, time, moral restraint, society. Kar-wai is an expert in creating desired atmospheres and moods. Lights, colors, angles, music, attire (the unforgettable succession of gorgeous cheongsam dresses!) are adeptly used. It is a subtle expressionism that everything in the environment, from dresses to lightening to movement to music is utilized in creating an emotional resonance. The plot is cleverly minimal and ambiguous, opening it up to multiple interpretations, To a large extent, this ambiguity is not because of deliberate withholding of information, but rather an ambiguity that arises from all that can be, and is, left unsaid in a relationship. It reminds me of certain romantic experiences from my own past, which remain ambiguous to me, and I have subjected them to multiple interpretations over years. Perhaps what I love most about the film is the poetic idea that romance transcends dialogues and physical boundaries, and resides in the atmosphere around the characters; the lovers can no more escape it than they can evade the air they breathe.

A grief that cannot be shared is a terrible loneliness.

Beginning around mid-December, I developed a growing sense of melancholy and fatigue. I suspect I was getting psychologically burnt-out following a few stressful months. This led to a period of prolonged introspection, and a couple of scattered realizations.

* There is a need for times of personal leisure and idleness. It would be mistaken to view leisure simply as time to recover to work again. It is not just a break from work in the service of productivity, but a goal in itself. It provides creative and emotional breathing space for the mind. The recreational artistic, literary and philosophical pursuits are among the things which make life worthwhile. I had forgotten this for a while, and I have suffered as a result. 

* I also became aware that my life had become too busy and I was taking on too many projects and responsibilities. I had to take a step back to ask myself why am I doing what I am doing, and what am I getting out of it. This introspection into my motivations led to a simplification of what I had been planning to do in 2017, and I ended up discarding many plans that had seemed important to me earlier but no longer seem to have any enduring value in my educational and career development.

* I have been seeking opportunities for further research training after residency, and I was getting incredibly frustrated by the fact that my particular personal and marital circumstances were making it impossible for me to pursue many of these options. When it came to potential work options, I was so focused on the prestige of the position and the institution that I was ignoring there is more to work and career than that. Equally important, if not more so, is the workplace culture and relationships, and the need to balance career with family and personal life. If a prestigious career comes at the cost of the impoverishment of my personal life, is it really worth it? It would be unwise to tie my happiness to things that are inconsequential in the end.

* There is something to be said about the great fortune of having a great group of friends, yet it does not entirely make up for the lack of great individual friends. The ideal of a great friendship I have in my mind is perhaps too idealistic: presence of common passions and interests; emotional intimacy; a friend who is appropriately non-judgmental; intellectually open; artistically curious; there is mutual admiration; there is available time and energy for frequent-enough interactions (whether in person or virtual); and lastly there is an element of platonic love. Despite this being too idealistic, I am fortunate to have had a few friends over the course of my life where the friendship came pretty darn close. While I have a great group of friends at present, possibly the best group friendship I've had, I do not have an individual relationship that comes anywhere close to this idealistic notion. I suppose it is too much to ask this of life. The lack, nonetheless, make me feel quite alone at times.

Much of what is above consists of rehashed truisms; no insight is in any way remarkable or original, yet, the psychological realization of the truth of a cliched truism is quite another thing.

"The biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net, I'd catch only beautiful things."

The OA

 

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