First time buying six books by the same author, I guess I’m obsessed. Bought these second-hand books here for roughly 20 euro in total, what a steal. The guy (apparently the owner) said: “you’re buying all the Steinbeck’s. Remember that we’re buying back from you for half the price when you’re done.”
Being at a flea market is always a good cure.
And going to Mauerpark always does it all. I once made a so-called photo essay about this place. So today was sunny and warm til like 25°C, and the only crowded place I’m likely comfortable in is here. Wanted to find for myself a good old brown leather bag I went browsing through 3 to 4 stalls. I’m lousy at haggling, probly because (1) I rarely practice (2) I’ve never lived in India (3) I’m doomed with an ego bigger than my head (4) I’m hardly ever desperate for something. At the first one I asked how much and the man said “fünfzig Euro” then I gave him a “pfft” chuckle sound. The second bag I found at the other stall was a dark brown and a more compact size. I asked the lady and she said, “fünfundfünfzig”. I asked my friend and she said, “gila kumuh banget nih tas”. I replied, “perumahan kali”. My passive attitude got its reward as the lady asked me back, “how much do you want?”. I put some assertive tone to my bid, “fünfundzwanzig!”. She laughed. I grinned and waited. Waited. And waited, and walked out empty-handed.
Next, we ended up finding this old german guy sitting on his fishing chair. He apparently got some good sunglasses that don’t look like one of those trying-too-hard-to-look-vintage glasses. So, known as *clear throat* a remarkable eyeglasses/sunglasses advisor among friends, I was trying to convince my friend that these particular sunglasses with reddish tinted lenses look good on her. She seemed convinced and as she asked for the price, the old man said surprisingly in English, “twelve”. I told her, “lumayan, tawar aja”. And that’s where the misunderstanding began. The old man thought I said “teuer” which means “expensive”. Out of nowhere he went snapping at us, “you want these things for 1 euro? it’s euro because it’s Europe. Why don’t you just go home to your homecountry and buy those there?” and blablabla. We stared at each other and was confused huh?! what’s got into him? So I got quite emotional and snapped back at him, “excuse me, what did you say? we didn’t say anything at all just incase you misheard something.” He continued, “you think you guys Asian tourists can come all the way from the Museuminsel to this place and buy these for 1 euro”. I raised my voice, “we didn’t even say anything about the price, mister. And just because we look Asian it doesn’t mean that you have the rights to generalize us and put some prejudice on us like that.” I think because everybody around us began to notice the loud argument he began to be aware that he might have misheard us saying, “oh okay sorry, I must have heard it wrong. I thougt you said “teuer”" while pointing to his right ear. I added, “und wir sind gar keine Touristen” “Okay, okay I said sorry already, it’s just sometimes difficult to face asian tourists coming from museuminsel who expect to get things cheap here in Euro”. My friend replied again, “so how much?” He said, “okay, it’s 10 euro”. We ended up buying those glasses and he kept complementing on my friend’s necklace and asked where we’re from. My friend answered and he said, “oh sorry I thought you’re from Japan or China” My friend went like summing up everything wisely, “the same thing applies that we asked you first about the price and you ask a person where she’s from are reasonable enough before you generalize people”.
We joked a lot about this as we still circled around the Mauerpark and each time we seemed to be passing by his place again, like wanted to wear a typical tourism cap and haggled the glasses for 1 euro but strangely we couldn’t find his stall again.
Anyways, on the way to somewhere else from Mauerpark we bumped into this beautiful girl who was performing under the bridge of U-Bahnhof Eberswalderstrasse. She got a powerful voice and gave a stunning performance. As I watched her singing, I couldn’t forget how dramatic she looked as the sun stroked her blonde hair and pale-white skin. We stayed watching for around 20 minutes and I ended up buying her CD for 5 euro (my second music CD since Bon Iver!). And it turns out that she’s a NZ born singer-song writer and going to release her album in November. Here’s her website where you can also taste her music but I think nothing would outrank a live performance even with the intervals of bustling trains and irritatingly loud police sirene.
Randomness rate: high.
Okay, this is March. To me personally, this is the moving month.
Why why? Easy. First, we all gonna move to the new apartment (again). Second, the new office building is ready to be occupied by our warm presence so starting next week all the employees from 3 different buildings are gonna be reunited, and seemingly I will be sitting in a room full of people, unlike now only with 2 other introvert-nice colleagues in a tiny room. Third, I (finally! *wipe sweat*) finished the master program and I must admit that I missed one thing already: the busride in Potsdam.
Anyway,in the office team I’m currently working we usually have our moment of delight called Cake Friday. It used to be held every Friday, but then due to the budget-wise consideration, this enticing-diet-screwing Cake Friday may only be enjoyed every second Friday each month. The cakes are normally abundantly and seducingly displayed on the table consisting of 3 to 4 different tastes, which means 3 to 4 cakes. Yes, 3 to 4 roundshaped cakes.
And recently, it appears that this Cake Friday has been threatened to become Cakeless Friday. One of the colleagues in the team suggested the following. I found the email very entertaining. Not just entertaining, I found it rather cute since the idea comes from a guy or at least he bothers to write it down (or even bake for the team). Have a read:
Hey all,What with current budgetary considerations and such, the glorious thing that became known to the masses as “Cake Friday” has become a rare beast, and this has become the cause of much lamenting, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. But fear not, for there is a way out of the dark labyrinth of cakelessness (?). How? I hear you cry. Easy…we bake our own. My very superb and quite brilliant idea (an idea that also percolated up in the grey matter of others so it seems, great minds very much thinking alike) is that every second Friday, three intrepid bakers will hopefully volunteer to bake a cake of their choosing, and present said sweet delights to their esteemed colleagues to much joy and happiness to all that partake of it. Some caveats come with such an arrangement of course. Firstly, if you volunteer, you MUST provide cakey goodness. If for whatever reason you cannot bake your own (such as your oven eloped with the washing machine) then you must simply buy one, since nothing is worse, or more dangerous, than a horde of ravenous software developers, QA engineers and UX whatchamacallits deprived of cake.Actually that was only one caveat. Can’t think of any more. Oh, wait…no, sorry, only one.What do you (yes, you) think?CheersK****
After being inconsistent and greedy reading 5 books at a time (I get bored easily) and meeting a pointless situation out of it, I’ve decided to focus on the legendary Moby Dick. Inspired by a friend that had successfully finished The Great Gatsby by reading it only during bus ride, I’m green with envy I decided to make good use of my time on the subway by reading a book only instead of chatting on gadget, pointlessly daydreaming or constructing scenario of strangers for fun. It’s a great read and I’m currently on page 130 of 536. I think by the time I manage to finish it, I can die happily.
This is the view from the subway station near where I live. These last 2 weeks have been maddeningly freezing almost -15°C. Every. Bloody. Day. Never been this cold in winter since 2007. To compensate, it’s sunny almost everyday.
This is a poor blue bear I always pass by on the way to work. These pics are all taken with mobilephone, and as I’m uploading them now I can’t help but thinking of getting myself an iPhone. Just for the sake of Instagram. The desire appeared again since Bon Iver signed up for it. Pfftt.
My professor once asked this question in one wintry afternoon, “Is genius born or learned?”. “The next few hours will be very interesting,” I remember saying that to myself smiling, lacking an answer.
What makes one a genius? What does a genius have that the others don’t?
Shakespeare, according to Edward Young (1681-1765) (and the whole world), is a genius. He’s considered to have possessed this creative and life-giving power through his proliferate stunning poems, plays and sonnets. He is called “that much more than common man,” which nowadays would refer to the term superman or in German, Übermensch. His works consist of “extraterrestrial” ideas, more than what a normal man could produce, from out of this world or in a more moderate term: original (did not priorly exist). A genius is the one who can create something that did not exist before. Let’s say Einstein with his theory of relativity, Picasso and his cubism, Edison and his “enlightening” light bulb, Darwin and his “ego-smashing” theory which robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated man to a descent from the animal world yet it’s the basis of biology until the present day.
A genius doesn’t only possess a good understanding. Speaking in metaphor, Young says “a genius differs from a good understanding as a magician from a good architect”. A genius is like a magician for he possesses this so-called “powerful imagination” that can create, populate, and also animate new worlds, and thus it’s called a sort of magic.
“Is genius born?”. Edward Young once again asserts that true genius speaks not only of nobility but of divinity. He reaches a conclusion that genius must be born, being a genius can’t be acquired by learning: “Genius is from heaven, learning from man.” A genius has this seed within him/herself, the seed of muse, a powerful ability in creating not based on another object but based on his/her out-of-this-world imagination. Creating something that isn’t there in the first place. A genius is a creator, a magician that speaks “be”, and it exists.
Kant, the german philosopher agrees that the essential characteristic of genius consists of a productive imagination. A productive imagination that drives Oscar Wilde to boldy argue that life imitates art far more than art imitates life. From a scientific or a metaphysical point of view, Wilde argues that Nature is our creation, not vice versa:
“It is in our brain that she (nature) quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence.”
He mentions the fogs as an example:
“At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them.”
And that mysterious loveliness of fogs is there in the poet or the painter’s mind as a result of their productive imagination, a productive effect from muse that strikes them. Perhaps the same thing as one would not enjoy or look at the exquisite beauty of a scene when passing an array of daffodils (which in fact is a very ordinary-looking flower) and imagining them to dance in the breeze in a windy spring day before one encounters Wordsworth’s poem Daffodils (1804):
I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
As today’s creative mind might agree with the fact that imitation is inseparately a part of a good creation of art or creativity in general, it’s true. Imitating (in its variety of type/level) is in fact an important process that most of us cannot disengage from, and the great creative fathers aren’t against imitation. But one thing has to be understood first about imitation and original. About good artists and genius.
Oscar Wilde once mentioned that the more perfect art is, the more autonomous it becomes that it frees itself from the burden of resemblance (or imitation). In other words, imitation is lower than original since to imitate one doesn’t require the capacity of powerful imagination, but still, one needs creativity and talent, and don’t forget, learning.
In the context of this perfect art, Baudrillard has another name for it; perfect simulacra: a simulacrum has no relation to any reality whatsoever. It creates a new reality. A perfect simulacrum doesn’t have to resemble anything to be powerful because it no longer works under the logic of representation, it works only for the sake of productivity, its own simulation. An imitation gives credit to the subject it imitates, whereas a perfect simulacrum attracts the whole attention and praise to itself. An imitation might be superficially awesome, while an original is wholly striking. Young describes it as:
“Of that spring originals are the fairest flowers: imitations are of quicker growth, but fainter bloom. [...] But suppose an imitator to be most excellent, (and such there are,) yet still he but nobly builds on another’s foundation; his debt is, at least, equal to his glory; which, therefore, on the balance, cannot be very great. … An imitator shares his crown, if he has one, with the chosen object of his imitation; an original enjoys an undivided applause.”
A genius in authorship produces words in a way that it awakes us to a new reality, it opens our eyes of understanding to a completely new horizon and since then the way we look at things he describes would never be the same again. It has the power to surprise a mind, produces pleasure so great that it inspires to create another pleasure, a pleasure that shelters us:
“we have no home, no thought, of our own, till the magician drops his pen; and then, falling down into ourselves, we awake to flat realities, lamenting the change, like the beggar who dreamt himself a prince.”
While imitation, no matter how excellent they are, are common things, and thus Young calls it as a flower that grows quicker but blooms fainter. The meaning it carries is already carried many times before:
“So thoughts, when become too common, should lose their currency; and we should send new metal to the mint, that is, new meaning to the press. … We may as well grow good by another’s virtue, or fat by another’s food, as famous by another’s thought. The world will pay its debt of praise but once, and, instead of applauding, explode a second demand as a cheat.”
Oddly new to me, the term genius indeed holds a very high standard of exceptional quality more than what I thought at first as I was reading this Edward Young’s Conjectures on Original Composition (1759) . Later on he audaciously calls most of the Latin classics, and all the Greek that receive world’s highest applause are all in fact imitators except for Homer, Pindar and Anacreon. He says “though not real, (they) are accidental originals; the works they imitated, few excepted, are lost.”
To the contemporary new artists and creative (hopefully imaginative) people out there, don’t lose heart. Genius are a minority it is true, but Herder, another German philosopher believes that “every man has a genius, that is, deep in his soul he has a certain divine, prophetic gift, which guides him”
But perhaps this gift may extinct within you, or may never come out of you, without one thing called ambition. Young names the lack of this trait as “how few are awakened by it into the noble ambition of like attempts! Ambition is sometimes no vice in life; it is always a virtue in composition.” This extraordinary ambition is the power that drives a genius to be revealed, and because only few that are willing to strive for this ambition, so few are our originals.
Furthermore, why are originals so few? Why are genius a minority among the minority?
Here’s what’s great, read on.
It’s not that ideas are running out from the earth’s atmosphere that we who live in this 21st Century are left with nothing but imitative creativity (which I’m saying, requires learning and hardwork to succeed). It’s not that the good old era had long gone. Edward Young comes up with what he calls the engrossing, prejudicing and intimidating effects of the great works before us:
“because illustrious examples engross, prejudice, and intimidate. They engross our attention, and so prevent a due inspection of ourselves; they prejudice our judgment in favor of their abilities, and so lessen the sense of our own; and they intimidate us with the splendor of their renown, and thus under diffidence bury our strength.”
Funnily said, he states that those ancient genius shouldn’t be given credit for being originals, because they couldn’t be imitators since there’s nothing to imitate before them. They simply didn’t have the choice even to be imitators. While the modern artists, the modern creative minds all have a choice to make, and therefore may take pride in their power of choosing: to “soar in the regions of liberty, or move in the soft fetters of easy imitation”
It doesn’t mean that we should restrict ourselves from engaging with and being inspired by the great ancient works or great works before us. But the more important thing is, imitate the ambition and give yourself a chance, not to be intimidated that you are hindered from seeing the genius within you, in whatever context it is or whichever fields you’re involved in. But frankly speaking, in this Internet and Information Age, where the biggest crisis takes place when system of communication breaks down, it’s even harder for us not to be engrossed, prejudiced and intimidated by the other great works, thanks to the excessive information on our finger tips on the wild wild web.
So my accurate example of contemporary artists would be the indie genius whose works I’ve been listening to on a daily basis, Justin Vernon with his Bon Iver.
Why? Vernon started Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago during his solitary living in his father’s cabin in the Wisconsin forests for four months due to a personal crisis. This 4 month-solitary life produces nine excellent tunes for the mentioned album, unlike anything he had ever composed before. This decidedly low-tech recorded album was a breakout hits of 2008, selling more than 325,000 copies for an independent band. It made him an international headliner, LA Times calls him a critics’ darling whose songs landed in hit movies and TV shows like House, Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill.
Come on skinny love, just last a year
Pour a little salt we were never here
The solitary 4 months have definitely awakened a muse, an imaginative creator of tunes and lyrics, a musical genius within him. His enchanting falsetto voice collaborates with ethereal tunes producing a calming effect and contemplative mood, not to mention his rich-imaginative lyrics, they are melodious poetry. Many people that went to his concert would say something similar, of having something so strongly magical and ethereal experience about it. His concert last September in LA was remarked by LA Weekly as “better than Monday Night Football”, with a plenty budget affording nine vocalists, a horn section, and 2 drummers, “it reached new height” and if you just happened to be there, you would feel like “Dorothy stepping into the Land of Oz in all of its Technicolor glory.” Notice something divine here (not just great)?
Now I can relate well between his quality of genius and his 4 month-seclusion of chopping woods. He might not intentionally try to discover that trait, but he accidentally managed to escape from the burden of resemblance and intimidation from the other great works by alienating himself, focusing on his own affliction but at the same time embracing his own strength and buried imaginative genius.
Back to my professor’s question, “Is genius born or learned?”. It’s most probably not learned. But perhaps one would never know until he fully explores himself and strives for the same ambition of the ancient greats. Or to put it simply, Freud taught us that we could be angry and not know it. Similarly, you could be a genius and not know it.
image from here.
Love, love love it can be a wonderful thing. It can make you crazy.
She’s upset. I gave her too many coins.
I want to invite you to join us sitting in this room? I thought it’d be better than to sit there alone. I’ll really consider it, thanks by the way.
Oh no, I don’t want to move to that room full of people.
The one with soya sauce ok?
She keeps talking about her ex, it makes me sick.
You’ve got to solve a math problem first before you can press snooze. Ha ha ha crazy..
I dreamed of having a good brown horse I could talk to then we went to a street market in Indo but what’s weird is I never got the chance to ride it then the dream ended.
Which one? no that’s not blonde. Yea, but more blonde than the other black one.
She’s from Mexico.
So glad we met for lunch.
Got the fever, got the fever got the fever.
People Mountain People Sea. Shanghai Metro.
Your introvert employees would feel stressed out sitting in cubicles.
That Wozniak guy, he used to work for HP rite.
I’m tired. Tired. Tired. All clear now. I’ll get lost. Sorry I can’t change how I feel. The incidents happened way too often. Ok.
Incidents. Happen. Often. Often. Ok.
Gundula Schulze Eldowy.
Yours is reserved until 6 pm.
Bu hao yi si, do you have a pen? Bu hao yi si, no I don’t have a pen. It’s ok, bu hao yi si. Bu hao yi si, I think that guy has. Oh, which one? Bu hao yi si. That one, bu hao yi si.
How to make your vacation in Bangalore unforgettable? Order ice in your drink. May I write that?
Sie kriegen 5 Euro Gutschein von uns. Ah, danke sehr.
What’s the difference between emo and melancholic? Emo is a materialized uncreative attitude of a melancholic.
She’s definitely staring at his buttocks. Well now I am.
I thought that I heard you laughing, I thought that I heard you cry.
It’s Mastro pizza. Why do I keep saying Maestro.
I missed you. I missed being annoyed and needed.
Hit the road Jack no more no more no more
Music is good. Having a big cuddle is good. Laughing is good. Quietness is good. Funny Matt.
This time 10 years ago I was not anyone’s Dad.
Last seen today at 17:01.
Education is what the secular world really believes in.
Muffins are just ugly cupcakes.
10 minutes. Oh shoot. 6 minutes. 1 minute left.
Haraway. Gibson. Baudrillard.Why don’t you just gather and blow up my brain?
I know you’re gonna kick some ass.
Rational adults. We need information, we need data.
How to defend a thesis guidelines. Do not overdress.
Some spaghetti for you in the fridge.
My batteries are all leaking.
The sentences above are bits of information I received today, from articles, from songs, from what people told me or said near me, and what I told myself (Hint No.1: library. Hint No. 2: buttocks). Anyway, Alain de Botton, that Atheism evangelist once said:
What’s the difference between a sermon and our modern secular mode of delivery, the lecture? Well, a sermon wants to change your life, and a lecture wants to give you a bit of information.
Speaking from a Coelhoistic view, I’m very (well pretty.. hmm okay quite) sure that the way the universe tries to communicate (if I would like to think it does) with us is not in the mode of sermon, how easy and nice if it is. It’s more like a big lecture hall full of enthusiasm, boredom and distractions, making out couples behind you, geeks and nerds around (or within) you, a ticking clock (if not digital) and flying paper airplanes, multiple speakers at times taking turns at times simultaneously speaking. Some other times, it’s only filled with silence, empty chairs, and trace of erased sentences on a blackboard.
“It is by living there from day to day that you feel the fullness of her charm; that you invite her exquisite influence to sink into your spirit. The creature varies like a nervous woman, whom you know only when you know all the aspects of her beauty. She has high spirits or low, she is pale or red, grey or pink, cold or warm, fresh or wan, according to the weather and the hour. She is always interesting and almost always sad; but she has a thousand occasional graces and is always liable to happy accidents. You become extraordinarily fond of these things; you count upon them; they make part of your life. Tenderly fond you become; there is something indefinable in those depths of personal acquintance that gradually establish themselves. The place seems to personify itself, to become human and sentient and conscious of your affection. You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it; and finally a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love-affair.”
“The barbarians are in full possession and you tremble for what they may do. You are reminded from the moment of your arrival that Venice scarcely exists any more as a city at all; that she exists only as a battered peep-show and bazaar.”
Venice -Henry James (1843 – 1916)
I’m out of words to describe this city. Here are some photos I made.
But first, don’t deny your doubt.
According to Jan Nattier, all religions (in her essay American Buddhism is chosen as a case study) travel in three major ways: as import, as export, and as “baggage”. An example of religion traveling as import would be a college student who puts great interest in Zen Buddhism after reading a book about it then decides to buy a plane ticket and head off to Japan beginning to study meditation in a Zen temple. After years of experiencing Buddhist “awakening”, he returns and establishes a Zen center, teaching this form of Buddhism to other fellow Americans. This kind of Buddhism usually only reaches individuals to whom money is not a problem and leisure time is abundant, where like attracts like, those with higher academic status or in other words, bunch of intellects. As a result of this deliberate preference (usually made up in a settled scene of adulthood), the belief or religion is modified, doubt is made use to uproot the religion then is cultivated into a completely different soil, inclined to parallel one’s own cultural and social “climate”.
The second type, religion traveling as export is normally experienced by potential converts through missionaries coming to their land. Because the initiative belongs to the home institution, the potential convert doesn’t need money, power, or time to come into contact with Buddhism of this sort, only a willingness to listen. This evangelistic “marketing” could take place on a street corner, in the subway or even in one’s home. Nattier notes that this is thus something of a wild card, which means that it can attract a wide range of followers/believers, or it may appeal to no one at all. Doubt is a determining factor in buying into the evangelistic “product”, the take it or leave it attitude.
As someone who grew up in a country where we have to choose one of the five mainstream religions as an obligatory school subject and religion preference is required when filling up any personal information for bureaucracy, I belong to the third group. The “baggage” religion is also a transformation of the second type for this reason: I’ve never been in a direct contact with the missionaries who try to convert me nor in any relation with those enthusiastic religion “importers”. In other words, my religion had already been “chosen” for me. I have been “brainwashed” as much as those who have been taught the benefits of having no religions (atheism is not included as being “brainwashed” since to be an atheist is a conscious, usually a knowledgeable and well-thought decision, read this). Furthermore, Nattier describes those who belong to this third category as:
Buddhists who were simply born into their faith of their ancestors [...] only in Buddhist groups of this type that ethnicity serves as the primary defining feature.
If only I had been born in a Hindu family or any other mainstream religions in my homecountry, I would have lived up to each of its standards thinking that Hinduism contains the very truth, or even if I’m not a zealot, I would always be tempted to remain content, avoiding from questioning my own long-time traditional faith. That’s what happens when people believe in any religion, they stop questioning it (I don’t mean to generalize). Consequently, when one doesn’t even know much about his/her own religion, it’s justified to assume that one would not even bother to have interest in other religions and thus in any capacity to be tolerant of differences that stand in between. Nattier observes that this ethnic Buddhists:
tend to be deliberately monoethnic in membership at the outset, for they serve not only religious purposes but operate as supportive community centers as well. Such temples may provide language lessons, a place to network for jobs, and above all a place to relax with others who share one’s own cultural assumptions and to whom nothing needs to be explained.
In this case, culture and religion are treated the same. As culture is a social product that doesn’t need to be questioned, neither does religion. It is mostly in this “baggage” religious group that people treat doubt as taboo and reason as obstacle of (blind) faith. All this might have required me to step back for a while from any social status concerning religion, not being ignorant but more because I care too much about this. As much as I want to stick to a blind faith that can “move mountains”, I don’t want to inhabit a self-righteous state above other’s faith to the extent of labelling it as fallacy.
Therefore, why should we panic in the presence of doubts? It’s doubt after all, which stimulates us to discern true faith from sentiment. Let’s not repress doubt for it drives us to seek the truth among everything which confesses as “the” truth. On the other hand, I’m also aware of the potent danger of doubt, when it’s not deployed as a truth-seeking engine but instead being handed the total power and constantly fed to obesity.
About this kind of doubt, nobody says it better than Pi, the Indian teenager obsessed with religions in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi:
I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
I might not move any mountains, but I stand (even if wobbly) on the solid surface of my black Gethsemane.
If you’re about to have pity for someone else, may it be a friend, a relative, an old neighbor or even a homeless person whose breath smells like acid and beer you pass by every day, don’t waste your energy. Better think twice.
Here’s why. The answers might be scattered among the following paragraphs, you might find it, nod to it or even disagree with it. But yeah, keep on reading.
It’s a four letter word, a sugar-coated emotion filled with really, uselessness. I’m sure everyone must be very familiar with it, some of us are even silently proud of having such human “quality”.
Pity: sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy. (merriam webster)
Admiration and Pity. Love is a paradox. Love is north kissing south, west married to east. If we try to dissect the concept of love, we would soon find two opposing elements evoked by the object of love: admiration and pity. In most cases, we would fall in love with someone who is able to arouse those two emotions in us. Love is all we need they say, because what human constantly wants is to seek beauty (admiration) and to feel useful (pity). When a helpless weak innocent baby is born, one can’t help but to feel pity and admiration at the same time and we call it “love”. Along the history of civilization, all we do in spreading and cultivating love is developing admiration and pity but none of us would want to see it differently, which is separated from each other. Admiration and pity need to stick together. Thus, admiration alone isn’t enough to evoke love, nor is pity alone. Absolute admiration alone would produce foolish and irrational self-sacrifice while pity alone without admiration would be like nonsense, an empty suitcase that we carry everywhere hoping for someone else to fill it up. Even worse than that.
Pity hinders justice. Kahlil Gibran once wrote that “pity is but half justice.” Pity and justice don’t go hand in hand, they never share the same bed. What’s so paradoxically irritating about this quasi-sympathy is that, it is a very self-centered act, which is in most situations, no forms of actions of any kind would ever follow the emotion for the benefit of the object of pity. Pity only benefits the subject, the one who feels it. It is savoured by the subject alone with the flavour of contentment of being grateful to be in a better position and simultaneously of preserving faith in one’s own humane quality of, sadly, being able to feel pity.
Therefore, when one loves he/she has the tendency to be lacking in capacity of being just. Being just speaks of giving what the other deserves of getting in the way that is morally fair and reasonable, be it a punishment or reward. Love (which contains admiration and pity) has been one of the main sources of injustice that occurs in the world. “Love” drives the father to welcome and hug the prodigal son as if nothing ever happened and then throws a festive celebration on the day of his return while the obedient son isn’t even given half of the affection. The lack of justice is then justified by the father by saying that his possession is already his, which does not really solve the core of the problem of injustice. Most of the time we admit that love is all we need, without having to care about being just or not. But at a particular crucial case, all we ever need is a cold fair judge to knock his hammer onto the table.
Furthermore, pity is affection without concrete act of justice, the lowest form of human self-content. A clear evidence is found in human and animal relation. There are several ways that in how we consider animals as a major yet lower part of our earth that we have all the rights to disrupt their territory and decide upon their metamorphoses. First, animals are deemed to the label of beasts, inhuman and savage in such a way that they have all the rights to remain silent and be the object of our scalpel in laboratory experimentation for the sake of science. Baudrillard in his essay The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses formulates it as the following:
Beasts of burden, they had to work for man. Beasts of demand, they are summoned to respond to the interrogation of science. Beasts of consumption, they have become the meat of industry. Beasts of somatization, they are now made to speak the “psy” language, to answer for their psychic life and the misdeeds of their unconscious. Everything has happened to them that has happened to us. Our destiny has never been separated from theirs, and this is a sort of bitter revenge on Human Reason, which has become used to upholding the absolute privilege of the Human over the Bestial.
The human’s transgression is justified by referring to the primitive act of sacrificing animals to the gods. Basically, the outlaw isn’t about the killing of animals but of how their territory along with their privilege being trespassed according to human’s reasoning. As a matter of fact, animals used to be sacrificed not because they are low and inhuman, but because they gain a more noble position than human in the eyes of the primitives. “Once animals had a more sacred, more divine character than men” and thus “only the animal is worth being sacrificed, as a god, the sacrifice of man only comes afterward, according to a degraded order.”
And here comes the worst part. When we no longer sacrifice nor punish them, we domesticate them and somehow become proud of it. Baudrillard writes, “that we have made of them a racially inferior world, no longer even worthy of our justice, but only of our affection and social charity, no longer worthy of punishment and of death, but only of experimentation and extermination like meat from the butchery.” We simulate natural environment for them in zoos and domesticate them in homes, thinking that we save them.
So love me, but never pity me. Include your admiration in the formula. Never pity me for it won’t do me any good. It won’t benefit me. Don’t use my unfortune as a target of your contentment darts. Your pity doesn’t feed my hunger, it doesn’t warm my trembling body. When you pity me, I am nothing but a painting in the gallery that you stare at with great interest.
Pity is not compassion. Pity will make you stop walking and staring with a concerned look at a small bird lying on the ground with its broken wings. You might want to take picture of it and share it to others to evoke their pity as well. But only compassion will make you approach it, heal it and set it free flying again. Often times, compassion doesn’t have anything to do with pity. Pity keeps your hands and feet clean while compassion drives you to step into the mud. Therefore, pity only those who deserve it, those whose misery you want it to last like the painting in the gallery. But think twice first.
I pitied him in his blindness. But can I boast “I see”? Perhaps there walks a spirit close by, who pities me.”