Tag Archives: essays

poesie – i dream myself alive

cheret8

Awake I know I dream not

As the sense still alive

Tells what is seen is not

A fancy but a reality alive

Of the wonder of the mind

Working wonders of creation

Of a fiction of the mind

In a mind’s reservoir. 

 

Awake I think when I dream

As the pulses of sense weaken

And the images seen past seem

All but phantasmal panorama seen

In a mind’s theater of illusion – 

Fantastic beasts, wailing ghosts

Enveloped in the cloud of dreams

Lurking in the stupor of the sense. 

 

Awake, awake, awake I become

When the sense divorces fancies

As the mind calls dreams hokum

And claims a seat of imaginations

Till it clears the clouds of ignorance

Darkening the light of the mind wondrous

Of creating the reality of its sovereign own

With no assistance of chants and spells. 

 

P.S.: Thomas Hobble (1588-1679), an English scientist and philosopher, excoriates in his essay “You and Your Dreams” the knavery of sham magicians and magical folk claiming to deal with supernatural beings to induce naive people to believe in superstitions and the power of magic for the promotion of their trades. Hobble enlightens readers that superstitions arise out of the ignorance of distinguishing imaginations, a second-hand reality, from dreams, a detritus of agitated part of the mind. The gist of his argument is that ghosts and haunted places ensue from an intractable combination of the images of the seen and the second-hand images that become distorted imaginations made look real.  In sum, Hobble’s theory of dream interpretation corresponds to the postmortem dream theories of Carl Jung. Hence this poem is my understanding of Hobble’s essay on the aforesaid subject. 

‘Papillon (1973)’ – film review

6daa8bbc3333a0740fe55fecd9b16439

From Shakespeare to Hemingway the resilient human spirit rising above life’s challenges is always a great human drama. Nietzsche said: “What does not kill you only makes you stronger.” This paean to a noble human spirit against the existential strains of life has been a paramount theme for masterpieces of arts, especially in literature and cinema appealing to the universal audiences, touching the deepest valleys of human consciousness and pulling at the heartstrings all in a polyphony of humanity. It is this very reason that Papillon (1973) directed by Franklin J. Schaffner still evokes ineffable inspiration and indelible impression so powerfully displayed on the screen with the authenticity of a true story of a real-life character.

DagmEaVV4AENyWE

Papillon, a butterfly in French, is a nickname of Henri Charriere (played by Steve McQueen), a safe-cracker framed for having murdered a pimp because he has a butterfly tattoo on his chest. Henri was sentenced to life imprisonment in French Guiana and decides to escape from the man-made inferno where death is the only way out of the murderous maltreatment doubled with dysentery and hard labor, which makes me wonder if the Nazis, especially Himmler and his ilk of the Final Solution, adapted the French Penal Colony system into concentration camps during World War II. And yet, Papillon’s will to escape and to live as a free man supersede the hellish daily realities fraught with endlessly cruel labor, inhumane solitary confinements, prolonged starvation, and deaths of his fellow inmates, all of which seem to conspire to break his will to live so as to conform to the totalitarianism of inhumanity in the name of punishment of his crime that he didn’t commit. Escape after escape, hope against hope, and betrayal after betrayal is fortune’s malice trying to overthrow his sovereign state, but Papillon’s sturdy mind exceeds the compass of her will, even if it takes him to the furious watery main and the murderous cliff in the Devil’s Island.

source

The stellar performance of Steve McQueen, playing the role of Henri Charriere, renders a sense of verisimilitude of the character and the story so convincingly that you dive into his emotions without realizing a boundary between a screen and yourself, and upon watching the film, you feel that you have contracted a severe biological strain of Stockholm syndrome with the Henri character on whose biography the film is based, which bestows the power of reality and the authenticity of truth upon your mind. Steve McQueen, often referred to as the King of Uber Cool, is excellent in portraying the convict with extraordinary feats of fortitude and rebellion against the totalitarian penal system that wrongly imprisons his free spirit. McQueen’s abilities as a character actor shine when he commands his presence in a way that seems wholly authentic without overt gestures and contrived charisma but with his eyes sparkling even in the filthy prison uniform that speak a thousand words surrounding him like a radiant halo as a token for his invincible will to freedom.

This film is in a way reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ in terms of old Santiago’s indomitable burst of pep to fight the shark appropriating his hard-won big fish. The old man might look feeble and weak in comparison with the mighty power of the wide sea, but it is his will to win the battle against the force of sea that is sublimated into a victory of the human spirit with the resounding  dictum of this feat of humanity: “Man can be conquered, but cannot be destroyed.” That’s what comes to my mind while watching this great film about an ordinary human being with an extraordinary power of will to freedom. Hamlet uttered: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” To Henri Charriere, such contemplation is a meaningless echo of a defeatist. For Henri is more of Macbeth working out on his plan for life as a free man with stubborn courage: “We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail.” And Lo! Did he not take the advice of the Bard! And so splendidly!

unnamed

Author’s Note: I watched the film last night and was totally immersed in the characters and the story. Not that I am an admirer of Steve McQueen but that he’s one of the greatest actors who vanished like a short-lived comet to the universe gives a special meaning to this film. This is one of the best performances in his acting career and will always linger in our hearts. 

Raphael’s Tapestries

Tapestries-in-the-Sistine-Chapel

The Tapestries by Raphael

Art can never be old. It is a piece of work that transcends the subjectivity of time in the discovery of the universality of Taste and Reason in the eyes of all human creatures as regards the principles of judgment and sentiment common to all mankind. The beauty of art spreads through the mind of the beholder and stays there in such alterations that it almost feels physical. It is this kind of sensation when we look at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel that penetrates deeply into the fortress of Reason surrendering to the force of the Senses. And what if such sensual feast of beauty is doubled by more pleasure that will make it sound sybaritic, and sinful, even? But it is happening now and is happening in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, the Vatican has all 12 tapestries designed by the artist hung on the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. The tapestries were weaved and kept in an art studio in Brussels, and this time they are back in the Sistine Chapel, where they were when Michelangelo, Raphael’s contemporary rival, worked on the frescoes, which eclipsed the silky and shiny tapestries that allude to the affable and delicate nature of the creator. The tapestries are said to have been restored by Vatican Museum conservationists in the last 10 years. It is also said that the last time all of 13 tapestries were on display was in the late 1500s.

The magnificent display of Raphael’s tapestries was originally Pope Francis’s idea that the beauty of art should be shared and appreciated by all coming from all over the world, the low and the high, the ignored and the admired. Likewise, art should not be a prerogative of a few select or the haves who pride themselves on possessing and knowing a thing about art. Art is not a thing, but a way in life that nourishes our minds, imbuing us with a breath of artistic inspirations to create an art of our own. The Pope knows that through the power of art, the Mysteries of Faith will be understood in manifold ways, which chimes with Shakespeare’s view on art as thus: “The object of art is to give life a shape.” Right on. Rock on.

‘Adam Smith kidnapped’ by Stuart Kells – review

In the case of life imitating art, you tend to find meanings of events in life, to liken them to values of adversity in life, and to sublimate them to the divine auguries of purposeful human existence. In fact, this existential approach to the causality of certain human behaviors and characteristics can help you to understand whys and wherefores of the way people are and thus can even disarm all hostility towards strangers without prejudice. Such is the case of Adam Smith, the father of modern idea of Capitalism, author of “The Wealth of Nations” whose such proverbial reputation had piqued me no more than as a boring illustrative curriculum vitae of just another stuffy intellectual with privileged educational and social backgrounds until I read Stuart Kells’s article about the Real Adam Smith whom I might never have known.

Adam Smith, a posthumous son of a successful lawyer and customs official, was a rather melancholic, lonely, but humane thinker who liked to spend time with himself alone but also kept his foot in reality by observing everyday people’s lives and considering them to employ in contextualizing ills of society as a result of ineffective rules of law failing to protect the welfare of subjects. Smith’s brilliance shines on the simple and lucid illustrations of his thinking in common language that the literate and the illiterate could understand. He was a soul of the wit distinguished from his peers and progenitors favoring abstruse expressions of bombastic words pedantic of their academic learning. 

Kells enlightens us that this humane trait in Smith can be originated from the traumatic experience of being kidnapped aged four at the home of his Scottish maternal uncle allegedly by a set of vagrants called ‘Tinkers’ or a party of Gypsies, the Wandering Egyptians. Although who the real culprit of this kidnapping is still a mystery to this day, what the event affected the tender mind was all over but the shouting. It was Smith’s first interaction with the world outside the safety of class, the innocence of childhood, and the security of the family. Already fatherless, the very young Smith must have felt powerless, hopeless, and homeless at the hands of his kidnappers. And this melancholy spell cast upon him became his curse and bliss as it made him look into the pains of other people and meditate on the causes and effects thereof by sympathizing with their sorrows and emphasizing with the sorrowful. 

The kidnapping incident of Adam Smith read like a piece of sensational news to me, a kind of new awakening, the equivalent of modern-day news that a bestseller writer or a prize-winning writer hails from a poor family without expensive private high education. And it makes you think about what makes a person become who he or she is and appreciate the person’s values that overcome adversity. In this respect, Adam Smith is in league with Charles Dickens, who turned his suffering into works of art. It’s a triumph of the human spirit over the travesty of life. All in all, thanks to Kells’s telltale article about the wondrous event, I have abandoned my prejudice against Smith as a cold, stiff upper lipped economist and warmed to his humane side. Maybe I might even read “The Wealth of Nations” into the bargain.

On Ovid: The Exiled Poet in Woe

oviduo

People tend to think that the books of antiquarian authors are far-fetched from the reality of our digital era, whereas our calendar years on the evolutionary scale amount to microseconds on the twenty-four-hour biological clock. Apart from a great divide of time, great writers of all time show us the wounds and mirth at the heart of humankind and stand observant of the anfractuous human lives as though to be seen through opera glasses. In this respect, Ovid, author of Metamorphoses, can be regarded as an ancient trailblazer of popular literature whose subject matters, such as cause and effects of love and devotion, are still appealing to readers.

Ovid first gained popularity with The Ars Amatoris (The Art of Love), a kind of self-help book for men on how to woo women and keep their love with practical tips under the guise of a formal didactic reference to avoid censorship. Heroines, a series of dramatic monologues centering on mythological women, including Penelope, Dido, and Ariadne, lamenting on their mistreatment at the hands of their men, earned him the sobriquet of best-seller writer of his time. However, what Ovid secretly and really craved was a learned readership vis-à-vis the reputations of his peers Horace and Virgil whose works were regarded in high intellectual esteem by the elites. Hence, Metamorphoses, a series of 250 stories of gods and immortals intertwined in a vortex of love, lust, grief, and terror, was his magnum opus, a kind of literary vindication of mass demotic literature. It seemed that Ovid as a man of flowering Roman letters arrived at his pinnacle of literary career until fortune’s malice overthrew his state.

Ovid suddenly fell out of favor of the emperor and exiled to Toms, a city on the Black Sea. Whys and hows of Ovid’s exile are still clandestine to this date as Ovid also never recorded any details about what caused the emperor to banish him to the backwater of the empire. As with many a conspiracy story, there are hypotheses of the cause of this unfortunate event: (1) Ovid had a love affair with Livia, Augustus’s wife, while married with children; (2) Ovid knew of an incestuous affair between the emperor and his daughter Julia; or (3) the error might have been of political nature because Ovid might have gossiped about certain political factions. But then any of the above can be a figment of imagination.

Notwithstanding the above, I like to think that Ovid is a great benefactor of mankind with his dazzling reworking of Latin and Greek myths and entertainingly vibrant guidance of practical love. In fact, he was far more gentlemanly in treating women regardless of their age and looks than any of our contemporary man writers. To Ovid asking a woman’s age was highly improper and telling a woman of good things about her are a must to keep her love ongoing. In light of the above, none of the aforesaid presumptions rings true to me, and it is my presumption that maybe Ovid’s jealous contemporary despising the well-deserved success of Metamorphoses conspired against him and pushed him to banishment in the outpost of Rome, the city Ovid loved so much.