Expectation. Judgment. Involvement.

For someone schooled in the self-confident West, it’s generally been hard to get my mind around meditation and yoga.  While I still claim cheerily and smugly to friends that, “It’s an Eastern thing, you wouldn’t understand,” I’ve got to admit to being slightly confounded by the three principles that my teacher mentioned as the way to mental peace.

  • Expectation: Don’t expect too much from the world, because you can’t control it.
  • Judgment: Do not judge the world because you cannot say what is right and wrong with authority.
  • Involvement: Do not involve yourself too much in the world.  Remain somewhat detached.

I’m confounded in the sense that this way of thinking is a departure from the supreme faith in oneself that marks my belief in individual responsibility and  in infinite possibility.

Things to not think about more deeply.

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It’s a stick, It’s a stone…

Is it good or bad luck to fall in love with someone you’ll never meet? This is what happened tonight when I attended a forum about bossanova at the Calcutta School of Music. For the first time, I had the opportunity to see this video of Elis Regina singing Tom Jobim’s Águas de Março. The song here is more minimalist than the recording commonly available, and is all the better for it.

Combine this with the simple b&w shoot, her expressiveness (watch for the look of infinity in her eyes when she says É o mistério profundo), her ability to pull off a short haircut, and the song’s lyrical cadence, and you have nearly 4 minutes of the sublime. From longing to indifference to happiness and back again — one of the best examples of saudade that I have ever seen. Sadly, Elis, like so many others, died of a combination of alcohol, tranquilizers, and cocaine at the age of 36.

For a poorer quality video with English translation, click here. Be warned that most Brazilians will say the transaltion doesn’t do justice to the meaning in the original language.

Memory

Whenever I flip through photos (and in this instance I mean hard copy, printed pictures), I’m drawn quickly to the ones that are white-bordered.  The border is like a fog, or a mist, or a cloud that frames the picture.  Somehow, because of this cloud, the photo becomes both more real and more elusive. That cloud, I realized, simulates what we commonly think of as memory. Continue reading

Grills

Everywhere I go in Kolkata, I see people, mostly women, behind bars of iron.  Sometimes the iron has been shaped and twisted into beautiful patterns that resemble vines and flowers.  Sometimes the bars are painted to match the rest of the building or the shutters.  Often these women are looking out from behind the bars, and I wonder what they are thinking.  Do they wonder if they are protected from the outside world somehow, or if the world is protected from them?  The bars are not so common on the houses of the rich.  Though there may be more to steal, there is less of value inside the houses of the wealthy.  The bars remind me of shacks in rural Meghalaya, abandoned or just left for a time by their owners.  The shacks all have padlocks on their doors, which look like you could kick them in with one half-hearted blow.  Again, I wonder about what people choose to protect.

I wonder, too, what a life seen through bars must be like.  Does the rain, when it comes, seem different?  I think if I had bars, I would often lean my head against them and smell the acrid metal, until someone broke me from my reverie.