Quaint

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It’s one of those words with changeable meaning. Originally it meant clever, ingeniously unusual, something to marvel at. Nowadays it is used in an almost derogatory way: obsolete, old-fashioned. Sometimes though it goes further and means simply unobtrusive, nothing to write home about, and if relating to décor, to be changed to something more modern.

Kind of like us, then 🙂

Even if the Chinese didn’t say “may you live in interesting times” it remains a favourite wish of many to do so. Craving adventure, out of ordinary events, escapism, forgetting perhaps that we also need solitude, peace, a roof over our heads sometimes, security even. Not to mention the money that must be made somehow, relationships that need sustaining, books that are too heavy to carry in a backpack.

I am one of those people, you see. Railing sometimes at the routine I am told will make my life easier. Watching jet planes tracks across the sky and wishing I was on one of them. Wanting to go with the retreating wave.

It doesn’t mean I am forgetting the above. The small pleasures, the gratitude for so many things, the safety routines can bring to everyday life. Just that sometimes I am also aware that there is more to life than just the small circle in the sand I have been marking. That’s where the envy comes for those who travel, who create, who explore.

If I remember correctly, those anti-suffrage used to say that women who go to higher education will no longer be content with the life prescribed for them. It was true, too! 🙂 Whole systems needed to be changed to accommodate those women.

So what to do when life is prescribed and I am no longer content with it? When the soul demands that the eyes witness what documentaries present? When the spirit rebels against bedtime as night dreams can’t hold a candle to daydreams? When the body aches from sitting in the office and asks to be allowed to roam at will?

Reading remains a staple, sometimes to the point of obsession, but fiction can’t hold me anymore. If I am to be stuck on the couch then I want my brain to fire on all cylinders. I can find emotion and feelings elsewhere! Music, especially live, is another good way to escape routine. Walking, while useful, is no longer enough in the weekends, so gardening will have to take its place, especially permaculture where the brain is involved as well, not just the wonder at life appearing out of seemingly nowhere.

It seems to me then that the brain is the culprit then, so it’s the brain that needs to be pleased until the time will come for an escape from the routine. And stubbornness will have to suffice, until freedom is at hand. And if there is a sacrifice… well, I assume it will be sleep!

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Hope

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Between possibility and reality several concepts shoulder and elbow each other, trying to maintain a continuum, it seems. I have written about expectation, but its sister, hope, knocked on the door as well. Is there a difference? Are they one and the same? Twins maybe? They are both in the waiting period, both of them concerned with a future and a belief… and yet to my eyes they are not of the same realm.

Looks like expectation is formed objectively (even when unrealistic) from our interactions with the others (family, society), while hope is subjective, linked more to our resilience and optimism rather than the choices we face.

And I think we can agree that our hopes and expectations can sometimes be miles apart. Like my younger self realized, when she was supposed to study for university entrance but a pair of blue eyes were somehow more compelling… 🙂

Hope is not always portrayed as positive. Just thinking about Pandora’s box (jar, really!) is quite depressing, notwithstanding her journey from Earth mother to deceiver. Does hope really help, or does it prolong the torment? Norse mythology goes even further and doesn’t even pretend to look at hope as good.

Yet without hope resilience is just a bad joke, the future is random and, let’s face it, the human’s reproduction imperative isn’t nearly on par with other species. But hope, aside from being considered one of the three great virtues, is also stubborn and active. For good or for bad, people have realized that the future is coming towards them like a freight train anyway, so you might as well come on board and check what’s at the next station. It is that realization, combined with a certain talent for manipulating reality, plus a huge degree of consideration for one’s comfort that make hope a fearsome motivator.

Because, let’s face it, it is not with real life details that hope is necessarily concerned. Sure, we can hope for good weather to dry out our clothes, and we can hope for a pay rise to deal with the credit cards, and we can hope to make a good impression on our first date.

But hope has bigger fish to catch, and this comes with a price to pay, in introspection and religion, meditation and principles. We will all die, as we know even without having to think carefully about it. But the death of the body doesn’t scare us nearly as much as it is portrayed (looking at embalming procedures over the centuries, I might have to eat my words!). Beyond reality, beyond knowledge, beyond even belief, hope is humanity’s way to stand up against the annihilation of the spirit.

This, our pride cannot concede.

Versus

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Hm, Latin makes an appearance yet again… why is it that the interesting words almost always come from Latin? This one hasn’t even been changed much! It means turned to face something, opposite. And today, from two different areas influenced by religion (Christianity in this case), the duality it implies demands a bit of analysis.

The first area that brought duality on my mind is the environment. I remember being a very young student, taking the environment for granted but starting to realize the extent to which humans change it. I had heard about an organization that protected animals from excessive hunting and I happened to talk to a devout Christian about it. He disagreed with that organization because he thought they interfered with his fundamental religious right to do what he pleased with the environment, as said in his Holy Book, right at the beginning (Genesis). It had not occurred to me at that time that people considered themselves lords and rulers of the Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up around and among people, in the world of people. I was aware from books and TV of animals and plants that exceeded human abilities by magnitudes. I suppose I just saw us as very different, sharing the same whole world but with humans interested only in the domesticated species, while leaving the others alone. I know, naïve, huh? I hadn’t thought that there might not be enough space for everybody – there are no trees in a wheat field, are there? And once we domesticated sheep, well, wolves really had to go, right?

The second area that brought duality on my mind is art. I love reading about art, especially figurative art (where I don’t have to wonder what the artist meant by it). Just as an aside, one of my friends brought home to me how Eurocentric my education really is (well, with good reason!). I remember talking to her about European history and I realized that, not being European herself, she had an idea about what I was talking about, but not necessarily the time and the significance of the time for the history, the art and even the religion. Ultimately though, being a devout Christian herself, I was able to use the religious timeframe to put it in context for her. Truly, I know much less about her timeframe than she knows about mine, and that is a sobering thought!

But back to art, this book I was reading covered very thoroughly the period on time in Europe (and neighbourhood) after Christianity became a lawful religion, therefore it could begin to truly influence art. The intensity of feeling around this new religion was quickly evident in artistic expression, even though this remained essentially figurative. Even though it was not doctrine, the conflict between Christians and non-Christians started to be assimilated to the perceived conflict between body and spirit, between Nature and Heavens. Nature and body and non-Christian (believing maybe that one god controls thunder and another the sun) needed to be subdued, conquered, put in their places. In art, it means that perspective all but disappeared, important people took front stage with stiff bodies and huge, intense, disembodied eyes and nature only took the symbolic place that showed the spirit’s purification.

Seventeen centuries later some are still struggling with this duality, still try to impose a hierarchy with people at the top, even evolutionists 🙂 We call it progress.

Maybe we need to look beyond?