Sunday, August 30, 2015


Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
A lot of things do not make sense. Technology should help us to free our time for doing stuff that interest us but somehow it is not necessarily so. Due to computerization and electronic data system, as  consumers and end users , we are compelled  to spend  our precious time going through some processes on our own.  Automated services  are in essence a form of self service that takes up all your time at your own cost. For instance, if you want to find out about certain status of your bank account, when you dial the toll-free number, you have to patiently press your account number and enter your personal particulars including pin code and your personal ID and by the time you press all the buttons and follow through the menu, you finally get to speak to a customer service officer who will ask you again all the  questions that only you are able to answer to verify that you are actually the account holder. As you do not wish to go through the recording message, you grit your teeth  and let the officer quiz you in the name of security and protecting your account. Then finally you get to ask the questions before you forget why you have wanted to speak to the customer  service personnel in the first place.

It is apparent that with the internet, we can perform and  execute tasks electronically and access  to information  24/7 thus it means that we can do things on our own timeline and wherever we are so long as there is network. We make virtual acquaintances and stay connected with friends and associates in cyberspace. Life is kept very busy by reason of  technology and if we are not careful, technology will dictate our lives  instead of  us having a control over technology.  Throughout our growing years, we are all programmed one way or other and as we become reliant on androids and computers,  we think and  function differently to keep up with technology and  social media.

I read disparately and the internet offers infinite choices of subjects. There are articles ranging from the right way to chop an onion to the telling signs of Alzheimer and if you get stuck reading these symptoms, you spend another one hour fretting over every bit of absent mindedness you have exhibited in the past weeks. I feel that the reason we become forgetful is that we are trying to compartmentalize our minds and our time in order to fit in all the things we do in cyberspace and also in the physical world.

In her book 'Why Grow Up' ,  Susan Neiman writes that she spends hours most days in cyberspace and is grateful for many of its resources but she suggests that we limit our time  in cyberspace and experience action more palpable than making a cursor click’ . 
 In her book

Neiman  writes ,
‘Even a week off the web can work wonders for your imagination, and your sense of being in the world.’ 

Perhaps people do not like to second guess things. They want to be spoon fed and told what to do as it is easier that way. They like things straightforward. With the internet, we can easily google for information, instructions and directions without having to figure things out ourselves. Didn’t  I read somewhere that humans only use a fraction  of their mental power ?If we are  freeing our mental space , for what purpose are we  freeing our mental space ? Only in unplugging ourselves from time to time, we will leave  our minds less cluttered, our thoughts more focused. 

 To rise again at a decent hour written by Joshua Ferris is a very hilarious story. It is  about Paul D’Rourke, a 36 year-old dentist who despite having a thriving dental practice does not seem to fit into the modern age and a reluctant New Yorker, a curmudgeon, an atheist and a Red Sox fan. For someone who has no facebook account, one day, Paul O’Rouke discovers that an ex patient of his has impersonated him, created his profile and  is tweeting in his name and write about religion and talk about the Jews.The impersonator has also created an email account in his name. He is told by a strange religious group that he belongs to a growing sect and that he is an Ulm. The protagonist narrates, " No invention in the world, not the printing press or the telegraph, not the post office or the telephone, had done more to get people communicating than the Internet. But how did one person, the inaudible and insignificant single human voice, communicate with the Internet itself? To whom did it appeal an error? How did it seek redress? "
Here is a snippet from the novel. 
‘ I wanted nothing more than to say good morning first thing in the morning. Saying good morning was good for morale, converying to everyone in their turn, Isn’t it something? Here we are again, wits renewed , armpits refreshed, what exciting surprised does the day hold in store? But some mornings I couldn’t bring myself to do it . We were a cozy office of four; three good mornings, that’s all that was ever asked of me. And yet I ‘d withhold my good mornings. Ignoring the poignancy of everyone’s limited allotment of good mornings, I would not say good morning. Or I would in all innocence forget about our numbered opportunities to say good morning, that horrifying circumscription, and simply fail to say it. Or I would say good morning sparingly, begrudgingly, injudiciously, or tyrannically, I would say good morning to Abby and Betsy but not to Connie. Or to Betsy but not Abby or Connie. Or to Abby in front of Betsy , and to Betsy in front of Connie, but not to Connie. What was so good about it anyway, the too-often predictable, so- called new morning? It was usually precede by a long struggle for a short drowse that so many people call night. That was never sufficiently ceremonial to call for fresh greetings. So instead I’d say to them, “ Where’s the day’s schedule? “ If I said, “ Where’s the day’s schedule? “ I was saying that to Connie, who worked the desk.

After reading Ferris’ third novel, I decided to read his second novel “ Unnamed” particularly after finding out that the protagonist is a successful lawyer who is on top of his game until he is hit by some mysterious illness. He walks aimlessly when the unknown illness hits him. A very depressing story that started off very promising but I ended up skimming through just to get to the end of the story. I  remember having read the author’s  first novel “ Then it came to an End” and had liked it . To rise again at a decent hour is quirky and  its dark humour makes me want to catch a Woody Allen film.
Montjuic Magic Fountain, Barcelona

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Becoming adult

Basilica De La Sagrada Familia , Barcelona
The central focus of parenting seems to be preparing children for conventional success . Since young age, every nurturing act is aimed at ushering a child to a life of accomplishments that is believed to be the key to a good life. Many of us have fallen prey to the system where certain conceptions about measure of conventional successes have been in place.  As parents, we cannot leave our children to their own devices for we are afraid that they may go astray or become idle so we guide them zealously with what we know but they really must figure things out themselves. It is necessary that we must encourage them to trust their own judgments and  grow up as individuals in a less than ideal world.

Becoming adult is indeed a daunting task. As a parent, I tell my children they can do what they want  if they have the resolve and convictions to follow through what is on their wish list. Often in chasing what we feel will make us happy and fulfilled, we lose sight of engaging ourselves in moments that actually matter . Growing up does not mean renouncing your hopes and dreams, growing up means trying to make sense of the world, living with uncertainties and making the best of what you have and what you can do.

Growing up needs courage because it means being responsible for yourself, learning to trust your own judgment,  taking responsibility for your actions and omissions.We must make sensible choices that work for us by knowing our strengths and weaknesses but how do we know by thinking rationally and acting sensibly , we are not limiting ourselves? Growing up means finding a place in the world and not losing yourself  despite experiencing unfair treatments and acknowledging the presence of injustice around the world.  

In her book Why Grow Up, Susan Neiman writes @page 73
You have probably forgotten the details of your first unfairness, presumably because it happened very early, and was followed by many more. Still Barrie is probably right to say no one ever gets over it, and the reason Peter Pan remains an eternal child is that each succeeding unfairness is a surprise. None is ever internalized, so his trust in the world remains unscathed.

Not so for the rest of us; Peter Pan is a fairy tale. Even babies, as we’ll see, sense and suffer from a world that doesn’t fit. It’s the beginning of alienation , but also of indignation that, if properly guided, will be needed to make a life active. What guidance is proper? We want our children to see as little suffering as possible, and we know that even Buddha’s royal father couldn’t shield him. Most of us have considerably fewer resources than he did.  When my own son was eleven or twelve he came home from school complaining that a teacher had treated him unfairly, and hearing the details I thought he was right. Here’s what I told him : This won’t be the last time that someone in power treats you unfairly. They may be threatened or jealous or simply tired, they may prefer the kid or the employee who flatters or falls. Besides reading and writing and arithmetic, one of the things you need to learn in school is how to live with that – without losing yourself.  Was the balance right? After too many encounters with unfairness I could not share his outrage. We want our children to remain awake to injustice; we just don’t want them to be undone by it. I was rather pleased with my little speech; it was certainly better than anything I’d heard as a child, when my own parents’ refusal to acknowledge that a teacher might be anything less than benign left me not only alone with my indignation but deeply confused: weren’t they just saying  the is is the ought ? But the problem is one of proportion.’
Only butter butters (Restaurant  Story , London)
Growing up means having to interact and deal with people who are different from us. Growing up means knowing how to manage one’s expectations and emotions. Growing up means being tolerant of others and embracing all our differences and failings. Ideally, growing up leads to better judgments. Growing up is simply about thinking for ourselves. But it does not mean you have to give up  striving for what you think is the ideal world.

Susan Neiman also writes, 

‘Growing up is a process of sifting through your parents’ choices about everything: the music you couldn’t help hearing because it was playing on a stereo you couldn’t reach, the religion you couldn’t help believing because you were taken to sermons, or holidays in a car you couldn’t drive, the neighbourhood they set up home in, or move to when they changed jobs, and a host of general values you will not even recognize as values until you are old enough to get out in the world and encounter other ones. Sometimes when you’re sifting, with any luck at all, you’ll be able to say and thank your parents for it one way or another, if only by living in a way that proves them right. On the other hand, if you don’t reject any of their choices you are not grown-up-if only because their choices were made in a time that isn’t this one, and not all of them fit into the world you now inhabit.’

Why Grow Up does not tell you how but why it is necessary to grow up for coming of age itself is an ideal one should strive for. Susan Neiman shares her thoughts about aging and the need to build a new model of maturity in the 21st century from reading disparately and widely and  in her book , she discusses works by philosophers namely  Immanuel Kant, Jean- Jacques Rousseau and Simone de Beauvoir.

In conclusion, grownups are not boring and being grown-up is itself an ideal.
Monmouth Cafe, London