Things I learned in the midst of frivolous amusements 

I am a frivolous person and I have often felt guilty about it mainly because I fear that most people would understand that as meaning that I am a shallow person. Most of my time seems to be occupied with aesthetic considerations or concerns of some kind. Most of the space I live in is organized accordingly. Every morning I go out hoping that what I have chosen to wear will contribute to make the day a little more beautiful, a little less real (I suppose that’s where the love of vintage clothes comes from). Every evening I want to come back home to the same kind of fantasy. I watch movies and plays looking for the kind of visual and emotional grandeur that can make one forget that there’s some kind of reality out there. I read books to be seduced by the music in words and I like music because it embodies all the beauty I find in movies and books.
Form always seems to overcome purpose and content.

Except when it comes to people. Their content is what sustains their form. And still, I also tend to understand human relationships as an aesthetic ideal in the sense that they should be a pursuit of pleasure and an avoidance of pain.  I like people. I like watching them, I like talking to them and getting to know their stories and I feel mesmerized by the things they know and the lives they lived.

I am terribly shy so I never start conversations with strangers but I do engage in them often and listen.

There was someone from Belgium sitting next to me on a flight to Lisbon and he told me how he hadn’t spoken to his family in over twenty years because he had taken his dad to court over child support money. There was an  elegant lady in the subway in New York who collected ancient tiles and a kid from Spain who talked for over seven hours during a flight between Johannesburg and Madrid and  street artists in London and drag queens in Porto and soccer fans in Zambia and the regal looking lady in Houston during intermission at the ballet. She was a widow and her son was working for an oil company in Nigeria. Maybe we could go to the ballet together the following week. I would not be in Houston anymore. And the Brazilian girl  that had been left at the altar and was trying to forget that she was hurt and afraid of flying while the plane was getting ready to land.

And, if they asked me, I could go on and almost write a book with all the moments some stranger decided to confide in me. Sometimes I talk and understand how liberating it is to be your vulnerable self with someone you know will not cross paths with you ever again. And you go on for hours sitting across a perfect stranger in some Lower East Side bar after checking some independent production of Hamlet and talk about all your unfulfilled dreams and what your fear and how finding Shakespeare has changed your life.

These are the moments of bliss that truly feel they could be enough for a whole lifetime and shield me when the world just seems to hurtful to endure. I am one of those. Deeply hurt by the trivial, the rudeness and mainly by the pain of others, of strangers, by the injustice, by whatever dehumanizing force seems to be operating on any given day.

“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”

And my heart also got used to marvel at others, to shudder, tremble and thrill with the same pleasure and emotion it felt coming face to face with Hopper’s “New York Movie” or driving to Jarrett’s “Köln Concert”.

Works of art,  Martha Nussbaum says,  “give us insight into how other people live and feel, how they strive for happiness, and how conditions of many types affect them. [And] that is crucial for living any sort of decent life.”


References

Marcel Proust

Dinah Washington

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Homer

Martha Nussbaum

I’d love to wear a rainbow everyday 

I have started dressing in black in my late 20s. Before that I used to wear what I now think of as very loud and over the top colorful outfits that, in a way, were in direct contradiction with a tendency for existential nausea.

I do not remember if black was a conscious choice or it just happened that I started to resemble myself more while retreating into some kind of invisibility at the same time.

Now, dressing in black does have, sometimes,  the same burden of the “perpetual  mourning” for the state of the world and I identify with every single line on this song.  How could I possibly wear “bright colors on my back”? Black helps me not to manifest emotions in ways that would most probably lead me to a nervous breakdown.

Not everyday does dressing in black assume this suffocating grief for “our suffering age”.  In all its absence, black is full of contradictions. The color of oppression and rebellion, the color of religious Puritans and bondage fetishists, the uniform of authority and intellectual nonconformity.

In all its “poetic beauty” black allows me to write a different story everyday. This song is often part of the soundtrack.

References

Johnny Cash

Charles Baudelaire

Rebecca Willis via Feelguide

Paint it black 

Travel souvenirs

When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist. Because of this I spent hours improvising excavation sites with sofa cushions in my father’s office and fantasizing about going to Egypt, while my apparent natural vocation was nurtured by history books I was not old enough to understand. I did not become some sort of post modern female Indiana Jones (Lara Croft had not been created) but finally made it to Egypt for work (totally unrelated to my childhood fantasies) in 2008.

I was in Alexandria for a conference for four days feeling as excited as the kid who had fantasies of breakthrough discoveries that would forever alter the understanding of history. I did discover a common history and felt small, humbled, ecstatic and privileged for having the opportunity  to walk to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina every day, to wander inside, to imagine how the Ancient Library of Alexandria might have looked, to stare in awe at full reading rooms and the bookcases still longing to be filled.

Apart form a small bronze Egyptian cat statue, this  was my only souvenir, I don’t even know what happened to the photos I took (I do tend to loose digital photos) but when I found this caftan yesterday, I’ve realized I don’t actually need the photos, I can still feel the incessant wind and the warmth and the blue, I can still remember talking to three small kids who wanted to have friends in different parts of the world. Better than a photo and it sure beats a magnet.