To be miniaturised is not small-minded. To love you needs more details than the Book of Kells— Your harbours, your photography, your democratic intellect Still boundless, chip of a nation. —Robert Crawford
I went out shooting for a bit today. There’s chronically nothing to shoot around. So I made do with the seasonal enhancements to the village square. I deliberately toned down the bright colours and cheeky glitter in some parts of the photos. To me, this is a more appropriate representation of the season than the false cheer that one is force-fed.
I perceive Christmas as the epitome of falsitude. Whether we view it as an originally pagan or as a Christian celebration, people who are neither ancient pagans nor Christians celebrate it nowadays. I find this extremely puzzling. What I associate most with the season, besides false cheer, is obligation and duty misrepresented as affection and love.
Also, there is seasonal anxiety, pressure, vague disappointment, gnawing aimlessness, deeply felt loneliness, fear of the new year, regrets about the old year, unfulfilment and all that is crap. Along these lines, here are my crappy photos.
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders.
—Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”
The other day I ventured on a business trip. It was good but the best thing about it was when it ended. It involved getting up at 3:45 am. I normally go to bed at 4:00 am. Yes. As far as my as my zombie condition allowed, I busied myself taking photos from trains and buses. I’m a firm believer in the ugly being pretty when it comes to it.
I’ve run out of my Ginkgo Biloba and I’m lost. I suspect that the memory pills might have been actually working. I hate to admit it (I always hate admitting things). Since I’ve stopped taking them, I’m constantly finding myself lost.
Yesterday I got on the wrong tram. In a city where I’ve lived for quite a while and which has exactly eight tram lines. Not much space for confusion here (but I’m resourceful). I saw my mistake on the next stop, duly got off and back I went on another tram in the opposite direction. (The right tram, this time.)
Today I thought I’d take a shortcut on my way home from a yoga class. I did get home but it was the opposite of a shortcut (a longcut?). It would’ve been a shortcut if I could fly over buildings (but I didn’t have my broom) and walk over water (but I’m clearly no Jesus). Well, at least I’ve seen a part of the town where I wouldn’t normally wander.
They say that not all who wander are lost. I strongly disagree. I am lost whenever I wander. Otherwise I wouldn’t wander. I’ll probably want to restock on brain pills. Unless I forget where I was going or get lost on the way. Or unless I forget. Full stop.
I’m extremely unpatriotic. The arbitrary circumstance of me being born and living in one country rather than another isn’t enough to inspire any attachment to my homeland. I have my sentimental moments though. For instance, when the national sports team wins a world championship, I may experience a vague sense of pride—being proud of nothing related to me really, especially since I don’t follow any sports.
The older, I mean the wiser, I get, the more I consider it fortunate to find myself in the second world. I believe it balances the extremes of the first world and the third world rather nicely. I don’t do anything coming close to a collective national pride, but I enjoy the comfort of familiarity. It’s the familiar, not the alien, that makes one feel at ease and, by extension, at home.
What works for me as a marker of home is the characteristic Eastern European socialist architecture. It’s a soothing sight, and whenever I see, say, a fellow blogger posting pictures of tall concrete tenements, it triggers an immediate sense of shared heritage in my mind. When I went out on the terrace tonight and saw the sun setting behind the blocks of flats—as captured in this post’s featured image—I had a weak moment when I was almost defiantly proud of my background.
I still deny any accusations of patriotism though and if you ask me, I will also deny having authored this sentimental post. It was the cat who hijacked my laptop and tried to embarrass me by blogging about feelings. I don’t do feelings, of course—unless related to the cat, who is currently sitting on the window, staring at the darkened tenements across the street and plotting how to taunt me next.
I met my favourite professor in town today. Academic encounters tend to be highly humorous because academia means social awkwardness. A high degree of it.
I recognised the professor straight away though he was pacing—not very steadily, as he was juggling his deep thoughts while walking—some distance in front of me. I sped up, caught up with him, said Hello, professor and introduced myself, in case he didn’t remember he spent the last n years collaborating with me. He did remember. He also acknowledged that it wouldn’t have been odd if he hadn’t recognised me because he had broken his glasses. (Damn it, I’m probably not getting this tense shift right and I need a tense even more in the past than past perfect. Yet, such a tense does not exist in English grammar.)
In lieu of a conversation, the professor and I exchanged our individual mutually unrelated streams of consciousness. In a rare moment when we actually actively interacted, the professor inquired whether I was still unemployed. I said I was, however, I now officially called it being self-employed. It’s the same, minus the social security benefits, plus the self-employment expenses on taxes and insurances. The professor complained about his low salary. I didn’t tell him that he should be glad he can earn enough to pay his bills, even if just enough. I also didn’t ask how much he earned.
The professor expressed some concerns about his four-year-old son, who, surprise, is a prodigy, reads in two languages and, surprise again, no one in the kindergarten likes him. No one likes smartass people. I advised the professor (because in academia, no one expects you to behave adequately, which allows me to dispense with advice to my professor) that as long as he discourages his offspring to follow a career in the humanities, everyone will be just fine. I didn’t recommend a career in IT, which I do recommend.
Owing to the lack of his glasses, the professor was more disoriented than usual. When I inquired which tram he was waiting for, he gave a me a bus number. While waiting at a tram stop. After a metaphysical discussion concerning trams and buses and the meaning of life, the professor decided for tram number seven. I made sure to wait with him and put him on the tram. He really looked lost. The encounter cheered me up. It’s refreshing to see someone who is more lost than yourself.