Pleasure

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Latin again? 🙂 Well, yes, although English just mangled a French version of it. But oh, just the research of it was indeed its name. I have read about Hedonism, Schopenhauer, Buddhism and I have just scratched the surface of a word expressing something that is so intuitively normal that one has to wonder at the amount of paperwork that exists in order to analyze, explain, opine or otherwise debate the subject. Basic or elevated, frowned upon or exalted, pleasure has baffled many and upset even more 🙂

And isn’t it ironic that what I heard about people like Schopenhauer, while remaining true or at least truthful, comes nowhere near the begrudging agreement with some of the ideas of the man himself 🙂 Out of my comfort zone? Well, yes, I am an agnostic, compassionate, cynical humanist, of course some of those ideas take me out of my comfort zones. It is easy to call him a mysoginist when I was born so deep in my century that I have no idea about his world. Anyhoo, back to pleasure…

Besides being normal (not only in the absence of pain) pleasure is of course individual. De gustibus… and all that. And I have always enjoyed hearing about but have never practiced the list making of pleasurable things, to be taken out and explored when the road ahead of us is rough. I never practiced it because I seem to just do it. Like the baby of the zodiac that I am, I do not have to learn to be in the moment, because that is where I am 🙂

If you have been in pleasurable contact with babies and animals, then you know all about the luxurious stretching, the trusting floppiness that signals impending sleep, the silly expressions and strange positions that seem to give them an inordinate amount of pleasure. But even for me (self described as happy) it is easy to differentiate between happiness and pleasure. Different ends of the spectrum, different stage of being, different intensity and emotional involvement… really, more differences than similarities!

Bone tired and snuggling into a warm bed is so pleasant I wriggle about trying to feel it with all my body. But learning a new thing or having old things rearranged into a new scenery raises that pleasure into happiness.

A song heard for the first time and immediately liked can keep me humming for hours, even days. But a piece of music that reminds me of a friend, of times of joy, of love requited, albeit lost… ah, that is treasure indeed, and so much more than pleasure.

The little things that children do, making something with my own hands (jam, a scarf, a puzzle), a plant that was almost dead but in the spring pulls through, “these are a few of my favourite things” 🙂

But seeing the little one grow, writing a poem or cooking my own produce… these I put on the same level as those dreams I have of travelling and absorbing art and walking with a friend through rain and wind while discussing the state of the world as we know it…

I guess what I am trying to say is that pleasure can make life bearable. But for true living, it is not enough, not even nearly…

Person

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For a blog like this an article on persons seems a bit superfluous, don’t you think? And yet as I find myself musing on the things that matter to me and the relationship of each to the people I interact with I find myself trying to define humanity, you know what I mean? Or rather, describe humanity. Even more precise, describe this particular human. Which begs the question: is there a way to generalize? Is there a definition of “person” or “people” that everybody will agree with? Methinks…. Not! Especially because we are, to quote a well-known phrase, “unique, just like everybody else”.

Our definition of person depends on many variables like culture, ethnicity, era, religion etc. It seems not only impossible, but downright foolish to try and unify those as we are self-evident, like time. Except that we find exceptions (fetus, child, racially different human, non-physical beings, animals, rivers….) based on the variables described above so we are anything BUT self-evident. Or we are self evident to ourselves but not so to others and vice-versa. We are usually self-evident to our own groups but even that is not fool-proof – think children and decision making

Some general ideas: we are people when we live and behave like other people (feral children and psychopaths?), we are people because we are born so (apes and corporations?), we are people because we can make decisions (in a coma and women?)… you get the gist, for every definition, for every right granted, there are exceptions and they all sound oh so logical.

What to do, what to do?

It may be that the problem lies with the words like “definition”, with our desire for things to be clear-cut, once and for all, fixed. It may lie with our brain’s perceived inability to deal with change and uncertainty – although that is highly debatable. It has to do with the complexity of our worlds where systems and laws and policies and procedures and beliefs and biases account for more and more of our very lives.

I think it’s time for fluidity. We can both be human and grow into it. We can accept a river is important enough to count as one of us. We can continue to talk about it around the dinner table not just in obscure journals: is Puppy Dog a person? How about that gorilla or that dolphin? What makes humans human? What makes humans and non-humans persons? Are aliens persons? How about robots and clones and embryos? The key word is talk. Another key word is acceptance. My little one may not think our cat is a person, but many a people might disagree with that.

In my books relying on self-evidence is dangerous because it perpetuates ignorance. Even though I have been, am and will be, this second and forever…

Fashion

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Remember WOMAD? So do I 🙂

This article is about festival fashion, so no magazine name-dropping here please!

Anyway, as you may know, festival fashion is outrageous maximalism at its best for the most part, with huge variety within and a few notable exceptions without.

Shoes: travel or outdoors, leather, strappy, some strings and ribbons, no heel higher than orthopaedic requirements, loafers and the occasional slipper.

Exception: jandals – why? Difficult to walk in, terrible for the foot, accident prone – I like the ones with ankle support but have never managed to persuade myself that the pain between my toes is going to lead to any more comfort than my other leisure shoes.

Rest of the body – anything goes, really, long and floaty, short and tight, midi and romantic, ripped, fringed or sophisticated. Sumptuous lush fabrics, indulgent patterns and colour combinations that make your eyes water and your heart rejoice. The earth-mother velveteen/viscose/lace concoction walks right beside the high-street understated cotton and linen mix. Ball gowns and tuxedos are not uncommon. Traditional clothes from all over the world are “done” in a myriad variations. Gauzy scarves and conical straw hats are overshadowed by huge mohawks on which lizards in lurid plastic sun themselves and all that is interspersed with the flower circlets the young are wearing above their bejeweled braces.

Exceptions: jumpsuits and those beautiful fisherman pants that tie both in front and at the back. Toilet breaks being the bane of any festival (ah, the queues!), why would I want to undress totally and drag them in whatever is on the floor for this purpose?

Festival fashion has to withstand midday scorching sun, cold nights, sitting on the grass and eating on laps. And, of course, at least two or three types of dancing in close contact with many, many others. And being worn all day (backpacks with layers are common). And allowing us to take a bit of a break from usual clothes.

It’s a tall order to fill 🙂 It seems to me that there are two main characteristics. First is style. Not everyone has it, but festival fashion is a lot more forgiving for body shape than most others. Being allowed to “play” rather than conform also has the advantage of encouraging the very creativity festivals are based on.

The second characteristics of festival fashion is a no-brainer (which makes you wonder why do we not practice it more). It inspires confidence and a more natural way of moving. It makes tiredness rest easier on our bodies. Whether you are a hopping-skipping nana or a serenely gliding yogi, self-conscious youth or brash middle-aged dancer, it makes style even more suitable.

I am talking, of course, of comfort. Festival fashion is the most stylish variety of comfortable apparel ever invented by people. With the possible exception of yoga pants… of which there are not many… it just wasn’t that type of festival…

Do you know what I mean?

WOMAD

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I’ve been to WOMAD this weekend just gone and it seems fitting that there should be an article about it. I will explain, but let’s start with the definition: World Of Music, Arts and Dance, at your service.

And the disclaimer: even if I was the one thinking about it, I could not have come up with a better way to entertain myself or with a better expression of the eclectic nature of this particular human being. In short, WOMAD suits me as if it was made to order! Lucky for me, Peter Gabriel is a genius 🙂

I will start with the obvious: it would be very difficult for me to stick with one genre of music. Yes, I love rock, yes, I love classical, yes, I love folk… and I can say yes to pretty much most music, with the possible exception of rap and punk. So WOMAD suits me because it has variety and choices within that variety. Sounds pretty dry, huh? Somehow not enough…. despite every word being absolutely true.

Like most people I listen to the music I love and occasionally delve into something similar to it. But WOMAD means that I can sample a lot more than just the tried and true. It opens up the world, which I assume is not far from the intent. I can listen to Canadian Irish folk then go straight through to Austrian electronica, Brazilian bossa nova, Australian soul, Kiwi rock, Korean drum and this is just one day out of three!

Then it’s the people watching – one of the pleasures of going to WOMAD. You see, the atmosphere at this festival is quite interesting. The experience is more important than individual taste, so instead of competing, people are more likely to settle down and decide they actually like each other. Which, in turns, makes for a relaxed, smiling crowd, mellow during the day (smoking of the green could possibly have something to do with that 😛 ) with an edgier alcohol fueled vibe in the evenings. But its’ family friendly at all times so the little one has come with me since birth 🙂

The food and drink are expensive, as with all festivals, and I have been known to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home in leaner years 🙂

The weather plays an astonishingly small part of the festival despite some real wet or scorching events – if it’s wet then you might see less of the fashion, but that seems to be all.

I don’t know quite to explain why the diversity of people at WOMAD makes me excited and happy rather than apprehensive and on guard. I may know some of them, but we have different taste in music, food, drink and clothes…. we are not of the same age, physical ability, ethnicity. We walk, act, sit and enjoy ourselves differently.

We are not attracted to this festival by any similarity other than our shared humanity – mayhap it’s enough?

Sadness

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Sated? Weary? Enough? Strange meanings for such a short word… and my heart is not in it anyway. The modern (if you call middle English modern) meaning is more than enough (there’s that word again) to carry wearily… ok, that’s it! I am giving up on linguistics for now, before I start agreeing with the definition. I am not in the mood to be cajoled out of what I actually feel, which is sadness.

You see, a friend is moving away for a while. That while is not forever and it is not even a very long time as these things go… what’s a season when time goes so fast I can barely recall where this year is up to?

So one puts on a brave face and talks about this and that because there is always so much to say and never enough time to actually say it and make the connections and explore your own ideas and find common ground and share oddments and tweaks. And one laughs and smiles and generally pays attention because, yes, that’s what this is all about, being present, with your friend and never mind that there are another million things you should be seen as doing.

But then the time is up.

And that while mentioned above is actually starting and it will continue to exist, encompassed in this lifetime, and you can’t really avoid it anymore.

Have you noticed how difficult it continues to be to cry? People might even ask what’s wrong and do you need a counsellor with your fries? No, no, no, better wait until you’re at home…. what? Cry in the bathroom under the shower? How very quaint! Let’s be adult about it, though, and defer all this emotional “stuff” until another time… an appropriate time for sadness… that’s sad, isn’t it?

And then, if you please, one realizes that sadness just is and won’t just go away and saving face by appearing brave serves no one. So one says “I’ll miss you” because really, why not? With whom should I banter over memories of a country I have not actually seen?

I will wait and keep busy and be an adult and all that. Distraction does work and so does social media and email and pictures. I will, as the saying goes, “deal with it” and I will not even need a counsellor.

But, my friend, there are so many things still unsaid… the strangely squat mists over the low lying fields that looked as if a faerie sea is slowly advancing towards you, and then driving through it the car lights make alien circles of pale rainbows and cattle appear like spectres out of the clearly delineated layers of earth, fog, clouds and blue sky… then there’s the realization that cloudy skies are always more interesting than the clear ones, and because of the humidity there’s a much better chance of actually finding that precise shade of blue eyes have… and then there’s that song, Piazzolla’s Oblivion, a saxophone solo you would have enjoyed…

I will need a good memory, to last me a season…

Democracy

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I was thinking about power and responsibility the other day – as you do 🙂

It’s a bit of a theme with me, that I see many human things around me in terms of those two terms. I believe (helped of course by reading science-fiction 😛 ) that having power without responsibility makes you bad, having responsibility without power makes you sad and having them unbalanced makes you mad. Or maybe it’s viceversa 🙂

Anyhoo, I reckon that only by having a balance of power and responsibility can we act well.

I will examine those two words in other articles. For now though, I want to focus on human systems. I was reading an article a couple of months ago, and for the life of me I can’t find it. What I understood it to say is that roughly 50% of the people surveyed don’t believe democracy is the best ruling system. Now I have to confess I am biased and stand with Winston Churchill “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. I shall explain.

Going back to power and responsibility, I guess the point I am taking from the life I have lived until now is that only people can take responsibility for themselves. And if they are to take responsibility, they might as well take the power to help them carry it. The alternative, for me, does not bear contemplating. Now I don’t mean each man for himself, That’s why I have used the plural, because I believe that only by standing together we escaped extinction, only by standing together we hunted the mammoth and only by standing together we have any chance of making it past the troubles that are all around us. I am, after all, a humanist.

And yet, people have an abysmal record when it comes to turning against their own. How to reconcile these without going bad, mad or sad? I guess I could analyze the options, at least those that have already been applied: oligarchy, aristocracy, autocracy, anarchy, theocracy. Each of them have been taken to extremes by people with the usual gruesome consequences. Each of them has its own proponents and protesters. But in all of them, the responsibility remains with the people themselves (yes, even in a theocracy, it is still people) yet the power stands (with the exception of anarchy) with people that are kept apart by an ideology that accepts collateral damage in its own name. I have issues with that.

Isn’t it enough that democracy itself is too generalizing because there are too many of us for it to be flexible? Do we have to loosen the reins on an already damaging idealism and make a joke out of caring for one another?

I have spoken before about my views on communism and capitalism (please please please do not confuse them or put them on the same level as the subject we are already discussing!). I have already expressed a wish for a particular type of revolution. But what worries me is not the fact that many people wish for something else than democracy. It’s the fact that history seems to have been forgotten… or not learnt. Except for Antarctica, where we don’t seem to want to live, each of the continents has seen different ruling systems put in place at one time or another. Countless people have died, are dying or wish they were dead because of them. All of the systems are thought up and executed by people, no matter what else they might say. A few people, I might add. It seems to me that, chancy as it were, standing and ruling together is the best hope to actually live.

People ruling… safety in numbers… democracy. Now, if only we could get it right!

Personalize

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I was thinking about this after a long talk with a friend but also after a bit of a media binge. Government departments applying the rules with no flexibility. Businesses trying to reach many more people effectively. Finding a doctor that suits one’s personality and approach. Industrial revolution – no, I am not joking! They are related at some level but it took a while to figure out what that level actually is.

And I’ve got it!

It’s the generalized approach. Like clothes size 8 that fit only a percentage of the people who should generally meet the size criteria. It’s the rules and regulations that we are supposed to follow just because they are despite not actually being suited to the humans who live with them. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against rules and regulations per se. In fact, I think they are necessary. I just don’t think that there is a one size fits all approach.

Where does the industrial revolution actually fit in this? I have this (potentially wrong) idea that prior to the industrial revolution most people were self-employed contractors. Some were not, like slaves, priests, aristocrats. But most were, participating in a loosely wild economy. It seems that the industrial revolution changed this into a rigid, time-bound system that had flow-on effect on most human life, from child care to leisure to death. And despite it being only a couple of hundreds years old, the “civilized” world swears by it and has to be forced to percieve alternatives. The language we use is telling: a self-employed” person is somebody who is “out of the rat-race” as opposed to a government employee being “out of the wild race” or some such expression. So the rat-race is normal and being out of it is not, with (again!) flow on effects like being eligible for social welfare or insurance.

One reason for the above is sheer number. Of people, I mean. Because, of course, other flow on effects of the industrial revolution were the advances in health care, sanitation, convenience etc. So people numbers went up like a kite. So then the generalization that made the Industrial Revolution possible became necessary – or so we think.

Now we’re going the other way and talking more and more about population burden and reducing the number of people on Earth. Few of us have actually stopped to think what that may mean though. We may agree that there are too many of us, but somehow we never include ourselves in the number of people who needs to… disappear, for want of a better word… like death. It always seems to be someone else who needs to die so that we may continue to experience the better life, on a cleaner planet with enough food, water and services.

And yet live how? Why do we have to be lucky to be told that there are alternatives to the rat race? Like self-sufficiency. Or financial independence. Or self-employment. Work from home. Creativity.

What would you choose, if money was not a factor?