video 22 Apr

A truly insightful and entertaining talk on education and creativity by Sir Ken Robinson (TED conference talk, California, 2006)

"Good morning. How are you? It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away about the whole thing, in fact, I’m leaving… There have been three themes, haven’t there, running through the conference, which are rather relevant to what I want to talk about. One is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity, in all of the presentations that we’ve had and in all the people here, just the variety of it and the range of it. The second is, that it’s put us in a place where we have no idea what’s going to happen, in terms of the future. No idea how this may play out. I have an interest in education. Actually, what I find is everybody has an interest in education, don’t you? I find this very interesting. If you’re at a dinner party and you say you work in education -actually, you’re not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education. You’re not asked; and you’re never asked back, curiously. But if you are and they say, "What do you do?" and you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face. They think, "Oh my god, why me? My one night out all week". But if you ask people about their education they pin you to the wall -because it’s one of those things that go deep with people. Am I right? Like religion and money and other things. So I have a big interest in education, and I think we all do. We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education that is to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary. And the third part of this is that we’ve all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinary capacities that children have -their capacities for innovation. I mean, Sirena last night was a marvel, wasn’t she? Just seeing what she could do. And she’s exceptional, but I think she’s not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person of extraordinary dedication who found a talent. And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. Thank you. That was it, by the way. Thank you very much. So, 15 minutes left. Well, I was born… no.

I heard a great story recently -I love telling it- of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God”. And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like”. And the girl said, “They will in a minute”.

When my son was four in England -actually he was four everywhere, to be honest. If we’re being strict about it, wherever he went, he was four that year. He was in the Nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it was big. It was a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel. You may have seen it: “Nativity II”. But James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!”. He didn’t have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in. They come in bearing gifts, and they bring gold, frankincense and myrhh. This really happened. We were sitting there and I think they just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boy afterward and we said, “You OK with that?” And he said, “Yeah, why? Was that wrong?” They just switched, that was it. Anyway, the three boys came in -little four-year-olds with tea towels on their heads- and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said, “I bring you gold”.  And the second boy said, “I bring you myrhh”. And the third boy said, “Frank sent this”. What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this. He said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. So why is this?

I lived in Stratford-on-Avon until about five years ago. In fact, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles. So you can imagine what a seamless transition that was. Actually, we lived in a place called Snitterfield,  just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare’s father was born. Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he? How annoying would that be? “Must try harder”. Being sent to bed by his dad, you know, to Shakespeare, “Go to bed, now,” to William Shakespeare, “and put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. It’s confusing everybody”. Anyway, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to say a word about the transition, actually. My son didn’t want to come. I’ve got two kids. He’s 21 now; my daughter’s 16. He didn’t want to come to Los Angeles. He loved it, but he had a girlfriend in England. This was the love of his life, Sarah. He’d known her for a month. Mind you, they’d had their fourth anniversary, because it’s a long time when you’re 16. Anyway, he was really upset on the plane, and he said, “I’ll never find another girl like Sarah”. And we were rather pleased about that, frankly, because she was the main reason we were leaving the country. But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.

If you were to visit education, as an alien, and say “What’s it for, public education?” I think you’d have to conclude -if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything that they should, who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners- I think you’d have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn’t it? They’re the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there. And I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn’t hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement. They’re just a form of life, another form of life. But they’re rather curious, and I say this out of affection for them. There’s something curious about professors in my experience -not all of them, but typically- they live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied, you know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads, don’t they? It’s a way of getting their head to meetings. If you want real evidence of out-of-body experiences, by the way, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics, and pop into the discotheque on the final night. And there you will see it -grown men and women writhing uncontrollably, off the beat, waiting until it ends so they can go home and write a paper about it.

Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. The whole system was invented -around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you won’t be an artist. Benign advice -now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution. And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence, because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.

In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people, and it’s the combination of all the things we’ve talked about -technology and its transformation effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population. Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job it’s because you didn’t want one. And I didn’t want one, frankly. But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.

We know three things about intelligence. One, it’s diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity -which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value- more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things. The brain is intentionally -by the way, there’s a shaft of nerves that joins the two halves of the brain called the corpus callosum. It’s thicker in women. Following off from Helen yesterday, I think this is probably why women are better at multi-tasking. Because you are, aren’t you? There’s a raft of research, but I know it from my personal life. If my wife is cooking a meal at home -which is not often, thankfully. But you know, she’s doing -no, she’s good at some things- but if she’s cooking, you know, she’s dealing with people on the phone, she’s talking to the kids, she’s painting the ceiling, she’s doing open-heart surgery over here. If I’m cooking, the door is shut, the kids are out, the phone’s on the hook, if she comes in I get annoyed. I say, “Terry, please, I’m trying to fry an egg in here. Give me a break”. Actually, you know that old philosophical thing, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it happen? Remember that old chestnut? I saw a great t-shirt really recently which said, “If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?” And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct. I’m doing a new book at the moment called “Epiphany”, which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I’m fascinated by how people got to be there. It’s really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, she’s called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some have. She’s a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did “Cats”, and “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see. Anyway, Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, “Gillian, how’d you get to be a dancer?”. And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the ’30s, wrote to her parents and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder”. She couldn’t concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn’t been invented at this point. It wasn’t an available condition. People weren’t aware they could have that. Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it -because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of eight- in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, “Gillian, I’ve listened to all these things that your mother’s told me, and I need to speak to her privately”. He said, “Wait here, we’ll be back, we won’t be very long.” and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her”. And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick, she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school. “What happened?”. She said, “She did. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think”. Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and founded her own company -the Gillian Lynne Dance Company- met Andrew Lloyd Weber. She’s been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she’s given pleasure to millions, and she’s a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down

Now, I think … What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology, and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish”. And he’s right.

What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios that we’ve talked about. And the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way -we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. Thank you very much.”

photo 17 Apr

Portrait of Simon George (c.1536) by Hans Holbein the Younger

text 14 Apr Le bain

Ils nagèrent tous les trois vers le large. Couchés au ras de l’eau, ils voyaient accourir de l’horizon le poids régulier des vagues, et dans un capiteux vertige il leur semblait qu’il tombât tout entier sur leurs épaules et dût les écraser, - avant de se faire au-dessous d’eux un flux de silence et de douceur qui les élevait paresseusement sur un dos liquide, avec une sensation exquise de légèreté. Tantôt la crête d’une vague projetait une ombre brusque sur le visage de Heide et tantôt reparaissait l’étincellement salin de ses joues lavées. Il leur sembla que leurs muscles participaient peu à peu du pouvoir dissolvant de l’élément qui les portait : leur chair parut perdre de sa densité et s’identifier par une osmose obscure aux filets liquides qui les enserraient. Ils sentaient naître en eux une pureté, une liberté sans égales - ils souriaient tous les trois d’un sourire inconnu aux hommes en affrontant l’horizon incalculable.

Julien Gracq, “Au Château d’Argol”, 1938


'Lost in the sea' by joivir @ flickr

They swam, the three of them, toward the high sea. Lying almost on the surface of the water, they watched the heavy waves come rolling toward them from the horizon in regular succession, and in the vertiginous tumult of their senses it seemed to them that the entire weight of the water fell on their shoulders and must surely crush them - before forming beneath them a swell of softness and of silence which would lift them lazily on its weary back with a sensation of exquisite lightness. Sometimes the crest of a wave would brusquely throw a shadow over Heide’s face, sometimes the salty gleam of her wet cheek would reappear. It seemed to them that, little by little, their muscles began to partake of the dissolving power of the element that bore them along: their flesh seemed to lose some of its density and to become identified, by an obscure osmosis, with the liquid meshes that entangled them. They felt a matchless purity, an incomparable freedom being born in them - they smiled, all three of them, a smile unknown to men, as they braved the incalculable horizon.

(Translation by Louise Varese)


∗ ∗ ∗


Nadaron los tres hacia alta mar. Tumbados a ras del agua, veían llegar desde el horizonte el peso regular de las olas, y en un vértigo embriagador les parecía como si cayese todo entero sobre sus hombros y debiese aplastarlos, antes de formarse debajo de ellos un flujo de silencio y suavidad que los elevaba perezosamente sobre una espalda líquida, con una sensación exquisita de ligereza. Unas veces la cresta de una ola proyectaba una sombra brusca sobre el rostro de Heide y otras reaparecía el centelleo salino de sus mejillas lavadas. Les pareció como si sus músculos participasen poco a poco del poder disolvente del elemento que los llevaba: su carne pareció perder densidad e identificarse mediante una ósmosis oscura con las redes líquidas que los encerraban. Sentían nacer en ellos una pureza y una libertad sin igual, los tres sonreían con una sonrisa desconocida para los hombres cuando hacían frente al horizonte incalculable.

(Traducción de Mauro Armiño)

video 30 Mar
the chauffer Duran Duran

Candy bar | Vídeo MySpace

One of the most elegant musical masterpeices of the eighties: Duran Duran's “The Chauffeur”, written by the band's lead singer, Simon Le Bon. [Many thanks to Ana for the link discussing the “classiomatic”]


Out on the tar plains, the glides are moving 
All looking for a new place to drive 
You sit beside me, so newly charming 
Sweating dew drops glisten, freshing your side 
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind the front of your dress all shadowy lined 
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart 

Way down the lane away, living for another day 
The aphids swarm up in the drifting haze 
Swim seagull in the sky towards that hollow western isle 
My envied lady holds you fast in her gaze 
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind the front of your dress all shadowy lined 
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart 
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind the front of your dress all shadowy lined 
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart 
Sing blue silver 

And watching lovers part, I feel you smiling 
What glass splinters lie so deep in your mind 
To tear out from your eyes with a board to stiffen brooding lies 
But I’ll only watch you leave me further behind 
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind the front of your dress all shadowy lined 
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart 
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind the front of your dress all shadowy lined 
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart 
Sing blue silver 
Sing, sing blue silver 

There’s more to this kind of camouflage 
More than just colour and shape 

Who’s going now, into a
classiomatic?

text 27 Mar Reading: march 2010: “L’ignorance” by Milan Kundera

2
The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.
* * *
In Spanish añoranza comes from the verb añorar (to feel nostalgia), which comes from the Catalan enyorar, itself derived from the Latin word ignorare (to be unaware of, not know, not experience; to lack or miss). In that etymological light nostalgia seems something like the pain of ignorance, of not knowing.
* * *
Odysseus lived a real dolce vita there in Calypso’s land, a life of ease, a life of delights. And yet, between the dolce vita in a foreign place and the risky return to his home, he chose the return. Rather than ardent exploration of the unknown (adventure), he chose the apotheosis of the known (return). Rather than the infinite (for adventure never intends to finish), he chose the finite (for the return is a reconciliation with the finitude of life).
* * *
Calypso, ah, Calypso! I often think about her. She loved Odysseus. They lived together for seven years. We do not know how long Odysseus shared Penelope’s bed, but certainly not so long as that. And yet we extol Penelope’s pain and sneer at Calypso’s tears.

3
All predictions are wrong, that’s one of the few certainties granted to mankind. But though predictions may be wrong, they are right about the people who voice them, not about their future but about their experience of the present moment.

7
Her desire; the sad story of her desire. (…) The years rolled by, and on posters, on billboards, on the covers of magazines displayed on the newsstands, women stripped and couples kissed and men strutted in underpants, while amid the universal orgy her own body roamed the streets neglected and invisible.
* * *
But at perhaps that same time, or very slightly later, she began to harbor a vague suspicion that her body had not entirely escaped the fate it was apparently destined for all along. That Gustaf, who was fleeing his wife, his women, was looking to her not for an adventure, a new youth, a freedom of the senses, but for a rest. Let’s not exaggerate; her body did not go untouched; but her suspicion grew that it was being touched less than it deserved.

9
(…) for memory to function well, it needs constant practice: if recollections are not evoked again and again, in conversations with friends, they go.
* * *
For nostalgia does not heighten memory’s activity, it does not awaken recollections; it suffices unto itself, unto its own feelings, so fully absorbed is it by its suffering and nothing else.
* * *
For twenty years he [Ulysses] had thought about nothing but his return. But once he was back, he was amazed to realize that his life, the very essence of his life, its center, its treasure, lay outside Ithaca, in the twenty years of his wanderings. And this treasure he had lost, and could retrieve only by telling about it. (…) But in Ithaca he was not a stranger, he was one of their own, so it never occurred to anyone to say, “Tell us!”

10
(…) isn’t beer the holy libation of sincerity? the potion that dispels all hypocrisy, any charade of fine manners? the drink that does nothing worse than incite its fans to urinate in all innocence, to gain weight in all frankness?

15
They grip hands and gaze at each other. These are gazes of enormous intensity, and both men know very well what is going on: they are registering —swiftly, discreetly, brother about brother— the hair, the wrinkles, the teeth; each knows what he is looking for in the face before him, and each knows that the other is looking for the same thing in his. They are ashamed of doing so, because what they’re looking for is the probable distance between the other man and death or, to say it more bluntly, each is looking in the other man’s face for death beginning to show through.

17
(…) he was utterly free and utterly like everybody else.

21
(…) love is the glorification of the present. His attachment to the present drove off his recollections, shielded him against their intrusion; his memory did not become less malevolent but, disregarded and kept at a distance, it lost its power over him.

22
Men grow old, the end draws near, each moment becomes more and more valuable, and there is no time to waste over recollections. It is important to understand the mathematical paradox in nostalgia: that it is most powerful in early youth, when the volume of the life gone by is quite small.
* * *
The intrusion of the previous boyfriend into the story she is currently living is to her mind not some secret infidelity; it adds further to her fondness for the man walking beside her now.
* * *
It’s so tiring, faithfulness that does not spring from true passion.

24
(…) desert without ecstasy (…)

25
The life we’ve left behind us has a bad habit of stepping out of the shadows, of bringing complaints against us, of taking us to court.

26
Couples have a continuous conversation that lulls them, its melodious stream throwing a veil over the body’s waning desires. When the conversation breaks off, the absence of physical love comes forward like a ghost.

28
She knew that love means giving each other everything.  ”Everything”: that word is fundamental. Everything, thus not only the physical love she had promised him, but courage too, the courage for big things as well as small ones, which is to say even the puny courage to disobey a silly school requirement. And in shame she saw that despite all her love, she was not capable of mustering that courage.

29
Transfixed, she watched her shattered love, the most beautiful piece of her life, drawing away slowly and forever; nothing existed for her except that past; to it she wanted to make herself known, wanted to speak and send signals. The future held no interest for her; she desired eternity; eternity is time that has stopped, come to a standstill; the future makes eternity impossible; she wanted to annihilate the future.

33
Those two skies had divided her life into two parts: blue sky, black sky. The second sky was the one she would walk beneath to her death, her true death, the faraway and trivial death of old age.

34
For the very notion of homeland, with all its emotional power, is bound up with the relative brevity of our life, which allows us too little time to become attached to some other country, to other countries, to other languages.
* * *
Sexual relations can take up the whole of adult life. But if that life were a lot longer, might not staleness stifle the capacity for arousal well before one’s physical powers declined? For there is an enormous difference between the first and the tenth, the hundredth, the thousandth, or the ten-thousandth coitus. Where lies the boundary line beyond which repetition becomes stereotyped, if not comical or even impossible? And once that boundary is crossed, what would become of the erotic relationship between a man and a woman?
* * *
The notion of love (of great love, of one-and-only love) itself also derives, probably, from the narrow bounds of the time we are granted.

35
Memory cannot be understood, either, without a mathematical approach. The fundamental given is the ratio between the amount of time in the lived life and the amount of time from that life that is stored in memory. No one has ever tried to calculate this ratio, and in fact there exists no technique for doing so; yet without much risk of error I could assume that the memory retains no more than a millionth, a hundred-millionth, in short an utterly infinitesimal bit of the lived life. That fact too is part of the essence of man. If someone could retain in his memory everything he had experienced, if he could at any time call up any fragment of his past, he would be nothing like human beings: neither his loves nor his friendships nor his angers nor his capacity to forgive or avenge would resemble ours.
* * *
I imagine the feelings of two people meeting again after many years. In the past they spent some time together, and therefore they think they are linked by the same experience, the same recollections. The same recollections? That’s where the misunderstanding starts: they don’t have the same recollections; each of them retains two or three small scenes from the past, but each has his own; their recollections are not similar; they don’t intersect; and even in terms of quantity they are not comparable: one person remembers the other more than he is remembered; first because memory capacity varies among individuals (an explanation that each of them would at least find acceptable), but also (and this is more painful to admit) because they don’t hold the same importance for each other (…) an unjust and revolting inequality.

36
When two people live in the same apartment, see each other every day, and also love each other, their daily conversations bring their two memories into line: by tacit and unconscious consent they leave vast areas of their life unremembered, and they talk time and time again about the same few events out of which they weave a joint narrative that, like a breeze in the boughs, murmurs above their heads and reminds them constantly that they have lived together.
* * *
That’s another enigma about memory, more basic than all the rest: do recollections have some measurable temporal volume? do they unfold over a span of time?
* * *
And there lies the horror: the past we remember is devoid of time. Impossible to reexperience a love the way we reread a book or resee a film.

37
Remembering now all those farewells (fake farewells, worked-up farewells), Irena thinks: a person who messes up her goodbyes shouldn’t expect much from her reunions.
* * *
She pictures his jovial figure, dressed up in his T-shirt, shouting that Kafka was born in Prague, and she feels a desire rising through her body, the irrepressible desire to take a lover. Not to patch up her life as it is! But to turn it completely upside down. Finally take possession of her own fate.
* * *
She knows she is good at gratitude; she has always prided herself on that as her prime virtue; when gratitude required it, a feeling of love would come running like a docile servant. (…) But was that something to be proud of? Isn’t gratitude simply another name for weakness, for dependency? What she wants now is love with no gratitude to it at all! And she knows that a love like that has to be bought by some daring, risky act. For she has never been daring in her love life, she didn’t even know what that meant.

38
But she died, and from then on all he could think about was his new life with the absent woman. He tried hard to persuade himself that it was a happy life. But is “happiness” the right word? Yes; happiness like a frail, tremulous ray gleaming through his grief, a resigned, calm, unremitting grief.

39
Everyone is wrong about the future. Man can only be certain about the present moment. But is that quite true either? Can he really know the present? Is he in a position to make any judgment about it? Certainly not. For how can a person with no knowledge of the future understand the meaning of the present? If we do not know what future the present is leading us toward, how can we say whether this present is good or bad, whether it deserves our concurrence, or our suspicion, or our hatred?
* * *
(…) conversations carried on in the higher stratospheres of the mind are always myopic about what goes on, with no reason or logic, down below (…)
* * *
If in the past people would listen to music out of love for music, nowadays it roars everywhere and all the time, “regardless whether we want to hear it,” it roars from loudspeakers, in cars, in restaurants, in elevators, in the streets, in waiting rooms, in gyms, in the earpieces of  Walkmans, music rewritten, reorchestrated, abridged, and stretched out, fragments of rock, of jazz, of opera, a flood of everything jumbled together so that we don’t know who composed it (music become noise is anonymous), so that we can’t tell beginning from end (music become noise has no form): sewage-water music in which music is dying.
* * *
But the future was a river, a flood of notes where composers’ corpses drifted among the fallen leaves and torn-away branches. One day Schoenberg’s dead body, bobbing about in the raging waves, collided with Stravinsky’s, and in a shamefaced late-day reconciliation the two of them journeyed on together toward nothingness (toward the nothingness of music that is absolute din).

43
An irreparable mistake committed at the age of ignorance.

44
-“So who’ve you got to talk with? Who thinks the way you do?”
-“No one.” Then: “You.”

47
And, suddenly giddy with the explicit mention of her sex organs, her voice lower, she slowly repeats the last sentence translated into dirty words. And then yet again, in a voice lower yet, in words yet more obscene.
* * *
She makes love wildly, lasciviously, and at the same time the curtain of oblivion wraps her lewdnesses in an all-concealing darkness. As if a poet were writing his greatest poem with ink that instantly disappears.

50
A feeling of peace envelops him: for the first time in his life, sex is located away from all danger, away from conflict and drama, away from persecution, away from any accusation, away from worries; he has nothing to take care of, love is taking care of him, love as he’s always wanted it and never had it: love-repose; love-oblivion; love-desertion; love-carefreeness; love-meaninglessness.
* * *
The situation is very slightly solemn and thus embarrassing, as are all such situations when after the initial love-making, the lovers confront a future they are suddenly required to take on.

51
He was still looking at her crotch, that tiny little area that, with admirable economy of space, provides for four sovereign functions: arousal, copulation, procreation, urination.

52
(…) meat reminds her that her body could be cut up and eaten as easily as the body of a calf. Of course, people don’t eat human flesh, it would terrify them. But that terror only confirms that a man can be eaten, masticated, swallowed, transmuted into excrement. And (…) the terror of being eaten is only the effect of another more general terror that lies at the foundation of all of life: the terror of being a body, of existing in body form.
* * *
But despite all his amazing rockets, man will never progress very far in the universe. The brevity of his life makes the sky a dark lid against which he will forever crack his head, to fall back onto earth, where everything alive eats and can be eaten.

—Milan Kundera, “Ignorance”, 2000. English translation by Linda Asher for Faber.


"The Return of Ulysses" by Giorgio di Chirico
"Il ritorno di Ulisse" by Giorgio de Chirico, 1968.

2
En griego, “regreso” se dice nostos. Algos significa “sufrimiento”. La nostalgia es, pues, el sufrimiento causado por el deseo incumplido de regresar.
* * *
En español, “añoranza” proviene del verbo “añorar”, que proviene a su vez del catalan enyorar, derivado del verbo latino ignorare (ignorar, no saber de algo). A la luz de esta etimología, la nostalgia se nos revela como el dolor de la ignorancia.
* * *
Ulises vivió junto a Calipso una auténtica dolce vita, una vida fácil, una vida de alegrías. Sin embargo, entre la dolce vita, en el extranjero y el arriesgado regreso al hogar, eleigió el regreso. A la apasionada exploración de lo desconocido (la aventura) prefirió la apoteosis de lo conocido (el regreso). A lo infinito (ya que la aventura nunca pretende tener un fin) prefirió el fin (ya que el regreso es la reconciliación con lo que la vida tiene de finito).
* * *
¡Calipso, ah, Calipso! Pienso muchas veces en ella. Amó a Ulises. Vivieron juntos durante siete años. No sabemos cuánto tiempo compartió Ulises su lecho con Penélope, pero seguramente no fue tanto. Aun así, se suele exaltar el dolor de Penélope y menospreciar el llanto de Calipso.

3
Todas las previsiones se equivocan, es una de las escasas certezas de que disponemos los seres humanos. Pero, si se equivocan en lo que al porvenir se refiere, dicen la verdad acerca de quienes las enuncian, son la mejor clave para comprender cómo viven su tiempo presente.

7
Su deseo; triste historia la de su deseo (…) Pasaron los años y, en carteles, paneles publicitarios, portadas de revistas en los quioscos, las mujeres se desnudaron, las parejas se besaron, los hombres se exhibieron en calzoncillos mientras, en medio de semejante orgía omnipresente, su cuerpo deambulaba por las calles, apartado, invisible.
* * *
Pero en esa misma época, o tal vez algo después, empezó vagamente a sospechar que su cuerpo no había escapado por completo a la suerte que, aparentemente, le había sido destinada de una vez por todas. Que él, que huía de su mujer, de sus mujeres, no buscaba en ella una aventura, una renovada juventud, una libertad de los sentidos, sino un descanso. No exageremos: su cuerpo no permanecía intocado, pero en ella crecía la sospecha de que era menos tocado de lo que se merecía.

9
(…) la memoria, para funcionar bien, necesita de un incesante ejercicio: los recuerdos se van si dejan de evocarse una y otra vez en las conversaciones entre amigos.
* * *
Porque la añoranza no intensifica la acitividad de la memoria, no suscita recuerdos, se basta a sí misma, a su propia emoción, absorbida como está por su propio sufrimiento.
* * *
Durante veinte años [Ulises] no había pensado en otra cosa que en regresar. Pero, una vez de vuelta, comprendió sorprendido que su vida, la esencia misma de su vida, su centro, su tesoro, se encontraba fuera de Ítaca, en sus veinte años de andanzas por el mundo. Había perdido ese tesoro, y sólo contándolo hubiera podido reencontrarlo. (…) En Ítaca, sin embargo, no era un extraño, era uno de ellos y por eso a nadie se le ocurría decirle: “¡Cuenta!”.

10
(…) ¿no es la cerveza, (…) la bebida de la sinceridad, el filtro que disuelve toda hipocresía, toda la comedia de los buenos modales, e incita a sus aficionados a orinar sin pudor y engordar con despreocupación?

15
Se dan un apretón de manos y se miran. Son miradas de una inmensa intensidad y saben muy bien de qué se trata: cara a cara, los hermanos se pasan revista, rápida, discretamente, el pelo, las arrugas, los dientes; cada uno sabe lo que busca en el rostro que tiene enfrente y sabe también que el otro busca lo mismo en el suyo. Se avergüenzan de ello, porque lo que buscan es la probable distancia que separa al otro de la muerte, o, por decirlo de un modo más brutal, buscan en el otro la muerte que asoma.

17
(…) era totalmente libre y totalmente igual a todo el mundo.

21
(…) el amor es la exaltación del tiempo presente. Su apego al presente ahuyentó los recuerdos, lo protegió contra sus interferencias; su memoria no pasó a ser más malévola, sino más descuidada, como desprendida, y perdió poder sobre él.

22
El ser humano envejece, el final se acerca, cada instante pasa a ser siempre más apreciado y ya no queda tiempo que perder con recuerdos. Hay que comprender la paradoja matemática de la nostalgia: ésta se manifiesta con más fuerza en la primera juventud, cuando el volumen de la vida pasada es todavía insignificante.
* * *
La intrusión del amor de entonces en la historia que está viviendo no representa para ella una secreta infidelidad, sino que acrecienta aun más su afecto por el que camina en aquel momento a su lado.
* * *
Qué agotadora es la fidelidad cuando no brota de una verdadera pasión.

24
(…) desierto sin éxtasis (…)

25
La vida que dejamos atrás tiene la mala costumbre de salir de las sombras, de presentarnos algunas quejas, de imponernos juicios.

26
Una conversación continua mece a las parejas, su melodioso fluir corre un tupido velo sobre los declinantes deseos del cuerpo. Cuando se interrumpe la conversación, surge cual espectro la ausencia del amor físico.

28
Sabía que el amor significa darlo todo. Todo: palabra fundamental. Todo, no sólo, por lo tanto, el amor físico, que ella ya le había prometido, sino también el valor, el valor tanto para las grandes cosas como para las pequeñas, incluso aquel ínfimo valor para desobedecer a una ridícula obligación colegial. Y comprobó, llena de vergüenza, que, pese a todo su amor era incapaz de encontrar ese valor.

29
Ella contemplaba asombrada su amor acabado, el más hermoso periodo de su vida, que se alejaba, lentamente, para siempre; ya nada existiría para ella sino ese pasado; ante él quería hacerse notar, y a él quería hablar y enviar señales. El porvenir no le interesaba; deseaba la eternidad; la eternidad es el tiempo detenido, inmovilizado; el porvenir hace imposible la eternidad, deseaba aniquilar el porvenir.

33
Los dos cielos habían dividido su vida en dos partes: el cielo azul, el cielo negro. Bajo este último caminaría hacia su muerte, hacia su verdadera muerte, la muerte lejana y trivial de la vejez.

34
Porque la noción misma de patria, en el sentido noble y sentimental de la palabra, va vinculada a la relativa brevedad de nuestr vida, que nos brinda demasiado poco tiempo para que sintamos apego por otro país, por otros países, por otras lenguas.
* * *
Las relaciones eróticas pueden llenar toda la vida adulta. Pero si la vida fuera mucho más larga, ¿no aplacaría el cansancio la capacidad de excitarse mucho antes de que declinara la fuerza física? Porque hay una enorme diferencia entre el primero, el décimo, el centésimo, el milésimo o el enésimo coito. ¿Dónde se situaría la frontera tras la cual la repetición se volvería estereotipada, si no cómica,incluso imposible? Y, una vez traspasado ese límite, ¿qué ocurriría con la relación amorosa entre un hombre y una mujer?
* * *
La noción de amor (de un gran amor, de un amor único) nació probablemente también con los estrechos límites del tiempo que nos ha sido dado.

35
Tampoco la memoria es comprensible sin un acercamiento matemático. El dato fundamental radica en la relación numérica entre el tiempo de la vida vivida y el tiempo de la vida almacenada en la memoria. Nunca hemos intentado calcular esta relación y, por otra parte, no disponemos de ningún medio técnico para hacerlo; no obstante, sin grandes riesgos de equivocarme, puedo suponer que la memoria no conserva sino una millonésima, una milmillonésima, o sea una parcela muy ínfima, de la vida vivida. Esto también forma parte de la esencia misma del hombre. Si alguien pudiera conservar en su memoria todo lo que ha vivido, si pudiera evocar cuando quisiera cualquier fragmento de su pasado, no tendría nada que ver con un ser humano; ni sus amores, ni sus amistades, ni sus odios, ni su facultad de perdonar o de vengarse se parecerían a los nuestros.
* * *
Me imagino la emoción de dos seres que vuelven a verse después de muchos años. En otros tiempos, se han frecuentado y creen, por lo tanto, que están vinculados por la misma experiencia, por los mismos recuerdos. ¿Los mismos recuerdos? Ahí precisamente empieza el malentendido: no tienen los mismos recuerdos; los dos conservan del pasado dos o tres situaciones breves, pero cada uno las suyas; sus recuerdos no se parecen; no se encuentran; incluso cuantitativamente no pueden compararse: el uno se acuerda del otro más de lo que éste se acuerda de él; primero, porque la capacidad de memoria difiere de un individuo a otro (lo cual aún sería una respuesta aceptable para cada uno de ellos), pero también (y eso cuesta más admitirlo) porque la importancia de uno para el otro no es la misma (…) una injusta e indignante desigualdad.

36
Cuando dos seres viven en la misma vivienda, se ven todos los días y, además, se quieren, sus conversaciones cotidianas van reajustando las dos memorias: por consentimiento tácito e inconsciente, dejan en el olvido amplias zonas de sus vidas y hablan y vuelven a hablar de unos cuantos acontecimientos con los que van tejiendo el mismo relato que, como una brisa entre las ramas, murmura por encima de sus cabezas y les recuerda continuamente que han vivido juntos.
* * *
Éste es otro enigma de la memoria, áun más fundamental que todos los demás: ¿puede medirse el volumen temporal de los recuerdos? ¿Acaso se desarrollan en una duración?
* * *
Y ahí está el horror: el pasado del que uno se acuerda no tiene tiempo. Imposible revivir un amor como volvemos a leerlo en un libro o volvemos a verlo en una película.

37
Al recordar ahora aquellas despedidas (falsas despedidas, despedidas postizas), se dijo: el que echa a perder sus despedidas poco puede esperar de los reencuentros.
* * *
Lo ve jovial, con la camiseta puesta y gritando Kafka is born in Prag, y se siente invadida por un deseo, el indomable deseo de tener un amante. No para recomponer su vida tal como es, sino para darle un vuelco. Para tener por fin su propio destino.
* * *
Sabe que está dotada para la gratitud, siempre se ha jactado de ello como de su principal virtud; cuando se lo ordenaba la gratitud, un sentimiento de amor acudía a ella, como una dócil sirvienta. (…) Pero ¿había en ello motivo alguno de orgullo? ¿Acaso no es la gratitud otro nombre para la debilidad, para la dependecia? Lo que ahora desea ¡es el amor sin ningún tipo de gratitud! Y sabe que para obtener semejante amor debe pagarlo con un arriesgado acto de audacia. En su vida amorosa nunca había sido audaz, incluso desconocía lo que eso quería decir.

38
Pero murió, y desde entonces él no concibió otra cosa que su nueva vida con la ausente. Se esforzaba por convencerse de que era una vida feliz. Pero ¿puede hablarse aquí de felicidad? Sí; una felicidad que, como un tembloroso rayo, atravesara su dolor, un dolor resignado, sereno e ininterrumpido.

39
Todo el mundo se equivoca acerca del porvenir. El ser humano sólo puede estar seguro del momento presente. Pero ¿es realmente así? ¿Puede de hecho conocer el presenta? ¿Es acaso capaz de juzgarlo? Claro que no. Porque ¿cómo podría comprender el sentido del presente el que no conoce el porvenir? Si no sabemos hacia qué porvenir nos conduce el presente, ¿cómo podríamos decirnos que ese presente es bueno o malo, que merece nuestra adhesión, nuestra desconfianza o nuestro odio?
* * *
(…) los debates sostenidos en las altas esferas del espírituo son siempre miopes con respecto a lo que, sin razón ni lógica, ocurre abajo (…)
* * *
Si antaño se escuchaba música por amor a la música, hoy aúlla constantemente por todas partes “sin preguntarse si queremos escucharla”, aúlla por altavoces en los coches, en los restaurantes, en los ascensores, en las calles, en las salas de espera, en los gimnasios, en las orejas taponadas por los walkman; música reescrita, reinstrumentalizada, acortada, desgajada, fragmentos de rock, de jazz, de ópera, flujo en que todo se entremezcla sin que se sepa quién es el compositor (la música convertida en ruido es anónima), sin que se distinga el principio del fin (la música convertida en ruido no sabe de formas): el agua sucia de la música en la que muere la música.
* * *
Pero el porvenir se convirtió en un inmenso río, el diluvio de las notas en las que flotaban, entre hojas muertas y ramas arrancadas, los cadáveres de los compositores. Un día el cuerpo muerto de Schönberg, a merced del trasiego de las olas embravecidas, chocó contra el de Stravinski, y los dos, en una reconciliación tardía y culpable, siguieron su viaje hacia la nada (hacia la nada de la música, que es el estrépito absoluto).

43
Un error irreparable en la edad de la ignorancia.

44
-Entonces, ¿con quién puedes hablar de estas cosas? ¿Con quién te entiendes?
-Con nadie. -Luego dijo-: Ahora, contigo.

47
Y de repente , en un tono de voz más bajo, lentamente, embriagada por la mención expresa de su sexo, ella le repite esas últimas palabras reemplazándolas por otras más groseras. Y, en voz aún más baja, vuelve a repetirlas con palabras aún más obscenas.
* * *
Salvajemente, lascivamente, hace el amor mientrs la cortina del olvido envuelve sus lubricidades en una noche que lo borra todo. Como un poeta que escribiera su mayor poema con una tinta que, al acto, desapareciera.

50
Le inunda un sentimiento de paz: por primera vez en su vida la sexualidad se sitúa más allá de todo peligro, más allá de conflictos y dramas, más allá de toda persecución, más allá de toda culpabilidad, más allá de las preocupaciones; no tiene que ocuparse de nada, el amor se ocupa de él, el amor que siempre ha deseado y nunca ha tenido: amor-reposo; amor-olvido; amor-deserción; amor-despreocupación; amor-insignificancia.
* * *
Es una situación algo solemne y por lo tanto incómoda, como siempre que, después del primer acto de amor, los amantes se enfrentan a un futuro que, de pronto, se ven obligados a asumir.

51
Él seguía mirándole el sexo, ese reducidísimo lugar que, con una admirable economía de espacio, garantiza cuatro funciones supremas: excitar; copular; engendrar; orinar.

52
(…) la carne le recuerda que su cuerpo puede ser trinchado y comido tan bien como el cuerpo de una ternera. Por supuesto la gente no come carne humana, eso le espantaría. Pero ese espanto confirma que el ser humano puede ser comido, mascado, engullido, transmutado en excremento. Y (…) el espanto de ser comido no es sino consecuencia de otro espanto más generalizado y que está en lo más hondo de la vida: el espanto de ser cuerpo, de existir bajo la forma de un cuerpo.
* * *
Pero, pese a todos sus asombrosos cohetes, el hombre nunca viajará muy lejos en el universo. La brevedad de su vida convierte el cielo en una tapadera negra contra la que siempre se golpeará la cabeza y caerá a tierra, donde todo lo que vive come y tal vez sea comido.

—Milan Kundera, “La ignorancia”, 2000. Traducción por Beatriz de Moura para Tusquets.

text 19 Mar Love yourself first

All humans are imperfect (…) When I was young I wanted to be anybody but myself. Dr. Bernard Hasselhoff said if I was on a desert island then I would have to get used to my own company, just me and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all. And that we don’t get to choose our warts, they are a part of us and we have to live with them. We can however choose our friends…

—The words of Max Horowitz in “Mary and Max" (Adam Elliot, 2009)

Todas las personas somos imperfectas (…) Cuando era joven quería ser cualquier persona menos yo mismo. El doctor Bernard Hasselhoff dijo que si estuviera en una isla desierta entonces tendría que acostumbrarme a mi propia compañía, sólo yo y los cocos. Dijo que tendría que aceptarme, con mis verrugas y todo. Y que no tenemos la oportunidad de escoger nuestras verrugas, son una parte de nosotros y tenemos que vivir con ellas. Podemos, sin embargo, escoger nuestros amigos…

—Las palabras de Max Horowitz en “Mary and Max” (Adam Elliot, 2009)

text 16 Mar

Il est de ces maisons, de ces existences qui stupéfieraient les personnes raisonnables. Elles ne comprendraient pas qu’un désordre qui semble à peine devoir continuer quinze jours puisse tenir plusieurs années. Or ces maisons, ces existences problématiques se maintiennent bel et bien, nombreuses, illégales, contre toute attente. Mais, où la raison n’aurait pas tort, c’est que si la force des choses est une force, elle les précipite vers la chute.

Les êtres singuliers et leurs actes asociaux sont le charme d’un monde pluriel qui les expulse. On s’angoisse de la vitesse acquise par le cyclone où respirent ces âmes tragiques et légères. Cela débute par des enfantillages; on n’y voit d’abord que des jeux.

Jean Cocteau, “Les Enfants terribles”, 1929

Paul and Elisabeth in their room with Gérard, an illustration for the novel by Jean Cocteau
Paul and Elisabeth in their room with Gérard, an illustration for the novel by Jean Cocteau.

Hay casas, hay existencias que dejarían estupefactas a las personas razonables. No podrían comprender que un desorden que apenas parece poder mantenerse quince días más pueda aguantar varios años. Pues bien, esas casas, esas problemáticas existencias resisten perfectamente, numerosas, al margen de toda ley, en contra de cuanto cabría esperar. Pero en lo que la razón no habría de equivocarse es en que, si la fuerza de las cosas constituye su fuerza, también las precipita a su caída.

Los seres originales y sus asociales comportamientos constituyen el encanto de un mundo plural que los destierra. La velocidad adquirida por el ciclón en el que respiran esos espíritus trágicos y ligeros es angustiosa. Y todo comienza con chiquilladas; que al principio no se interpretan sino como juegos.

(Translation by José Ignacio Velázquez for Cátedra. I will update this post with an english translation soon.)

audio 14 Mar

In your face! 

Uri Caine's 2007 wild recreation of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K.364

played 31 times.
photo 12 Mar

Dans le lit" ("In bed" / "En la cama") by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, circa 1893.

text 10 Mar

Penelope or Calypso?

navigolucky: Penelope. I like fidelity over the exotic.

Yatusabes :-D: If today’s Calypso would be tomorrow’s Penelope… then choose Penelope. Or sooner or later, you will find yourself at the same crossroads.


I would be happy to correspond with anybody: moi-pour-toi [at] hotmail.com

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