Dec 27, 2004

Season's Greetings

This is a unique period in my life. I am totally and utterly by myself, without (so far) the tiniest tinge of loneliness. It was marked by the first night ever without Mihail in the bedroom. The shock on entering the room at bedtime and seeing the empty cot was almost physical. It's been almost 22 months of constant bonding between mother and son, intensified, rather than weakened, by his time spent in the nursery. And now he's gone, so is his sister. Rada was 6 months younger when I first sent her to stay with grandparents. She calls me every day, sometimes twice in a day, to recount the highlights of her eventful life in Bourgas. I don't miss them that much, overall. Or do I?

The benefits of a kids-free life are numerous. I sleep in until noon, fix myself a breakfast-lunch hybrid about two hours later, and generally lazy around not doing much. I play loud music (Ayreon, Into the Electric Castle and Human Equation, and all of System of a Down, accompanied by a rare Tool, Wallflowers, or GomJabbar song), I don't do anything in a hurry, I don't plan things, I don't think of anything in particular. I got so carried away with relaxation, that I forgot to pay my Internet account, so I got stranded without any connection with the outside world:) At first I panicked at the gap in my life, as often happens when an addictive substance is withdrawn, but I got over it almost immediately, and quickly convinced myself that it is for the better. Now all prerequisites for the 3-day experiment at isolation are present.

Unbelievably, I sank into the depths of philosophy, reading After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory by Alasdair MacIntyre. In the beginning, he basically claims that we are living in a world whose moral framework is nothing but the debris of a catastrophic demise of the moral universe of our ancestors. In the first few chapters he talks about the moral premises of Kant and Kirkegaard, their similarity to and difference from earlier philosophers, as well as their foreshadowing our modernity. For him, these philosophers signify the failure of the Enlightenment Project, as he calls it. MacIntyre's object for attack is the so-called theory of emotivism, which he defines as a moral framework without any ultimate reference, in which any moral statement is only an expression of attitudes, emotions etc. I'm enjoying the book slowly, since I alternate it with a collection of articles entitled Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics. Definitely an easier read than the other one. Also, I read The Superstition of Divorce by G.K. Chesterton, and found I agreed with almost everything he says;), probably with the exception of his emphasis on patriotism which I have always found an inexplicable sentiment, ever since I was a kid. Right now I do not plan re-marriage, so my Catholic-friendly 'self' can rest with clear conscience:)

Music and books are old (I almost wrote 'cold', Freudian slip of the finger) friends, but I've got a newcomer in my life which makes me smile at the mere thought of its presence. It's a computer game, an unlikely pastime, as all who know me even a little will concede. It's The Longest Journey, released in 1998, a very beautiful game, with a female protagonist called April Ryan. I am so immersed in playing, that I refused to go out for a drink, in total contradiction with all my promises that I'll go and paint the old town red :D The invitation, however, came from another gamer, who so obviously preferred World of Warcraft to my company, that I felt neither guilty, nor a freak for refusing him. This particular game which hooked me is, I am told, a quest, or a point and click adventure game. Either way, I begin to find parallels with my real life, as always happens with any fictional narrative I choose to internalize. Yesterday I had to go and feed a rabbit while his owners were away, and just parking outside their entrance, I found I had forgotten the key to their apartment, so I had to go back and get it. This example shows exactly how bad I am at my game:) The picture will become even clearer when I tell you that the same thing happened on the next day, only this time I had forgotten the whole bag with the keys, driving licence etc. I just need to concentrate more on inventory use, I know:)

Ontopic: We truly live in a post-Christian, post-religious society. Almost noone remembers the 'reason for the season', and although I understand this worldview, I don't want to be a part of it. I missed going to church and hearing "Glory to the Lord in the highest". All the talk is about peace and prosperity and good will on Earth, which is an example of how far interpretation can stray without context. Christianity has been reduced to an ideosyncratic attitude and somewhat deviant behavior. I don't practice Orthodoxy as much as I would like to, still, I do profess my faith in public, which tends to be embarrassing for others, not for me. (Nothing can embarrass me these days, have I become a complete and hard-hearted cynic? Here's a poem to contradict this statement, or maybe to enhance it?)

For us there are no certainties, no star
blazing our journey, no decisive dream
to reassure hurt hearts or warn us when
it's time to move. The shepherds, harassed men,
are given answers to the questions they
have never thought to ask. Told where to go
and what to look for. We try out our way
unlit with angels, wondering 'How far?"
Yet in the story we find who we are:
the baby is told nothing, left to grow
slowly to vision through the coloured scheme
of touch, taste, sound; by needing learns to pray,
and makes the way of the flesh, dark strategem
by which God is and offers all we know.
Jennifer Dines

I found this poem in a 1993 notebook of prayers and reflections, in my own handwriting;). I don't remember where the poem is from, I had totally forgotten it (as well as the notebook). Yet, it is an amazing message from me to me, doubly so when considering that at the time I was a die-hard, right-wing, born-again evangelical Christian. Not that I felt entirely comfortable in that guise, that's why I chose Orthodoxy about 2 years later.

I like to think that although I have changed a lot, I still want the same things for my soul, and I'm growing to vision. And God, He hasn't changed.
Happy Christmas, folks:)

Dec 7, 2004

Musings on Solipsism

"We all weigh and compare each other’s experiences with the desperation of people who feel one life is simply not enough. "

This is by no means the only quote which impressed me from a recently devoured collection of essays and poetry entitled 'Impossible to Ignore', but it seems appropriate for my topic.

It strikes me deep inside with its truth; bells ring so loud my head throbs;) And yet, I feel an impulse to disagree, or rather, contradict its implication that a confluence, or fusion of lives IS enough. No amount of experience shared can satisfy a hungry mind, or a thirsty soul. I am not trying to deny all possibility for communication (otherwise I would be thinking this instead of writing it;), but I am denying the level of fulfilment we achieve by interacting with other humans. I am aware of the importance of the community for individual growth, however, I challenge the humanist assumption that this is all there is:) To throw in a cliche, expanding horizontally is not enough, we need the vertical. Our one life may be puny and insignificant, but so is everybody else's. Multiplying human experience is enriching, but why not admit the likelihood that we are a function of an invisible Entity? Ooops, do I begin to sound like a New Age fanatic?

" Communication is one part forgery, two parts self-delusion, and yet real all the way through."

Great as a catchphrase, but what's real, then? Something which can live harmoniously next to forgery and self-delusion? No, thanks. If reality is verifiable by experience only, direct or indirect, then the definition of 'experience' must be really stretchy. The distinction between primary and secondary experiences , made elsewhere by the author of the above words, is workable, but somehow it bothers me. So, what happens to me is primary, what happens to you and the characters of a book, is secondary. I am the original, you are copies. I am the center of the universe, you are marginal. I am a creator, you are just creation material. The border between me and 'not-me', the line between subject and object is as eternal as the line between God and 'not-god' ... for theists, that is. And if God is capable of initiating contact with the creation, being all-powerful, are we, too, capable of contact with one another? In a world where we make up new images of ourselves by the minute, and pose them as 'me', the feeling of togetherness, the sense of belonging is anything but real.

"Although it is normally considered a great marker of psychological normalcy to be able to tell where your own life ends and other people’s lives begin, I believe that a careful traversal of the boundary enriches one’s existence incalculably"

This is an eye-opener;) (Definitions of normalcy have haunted me for quite some time, I even discussed the mathematical definitions of local normalcy and extremum with an expert in the field. I can see much better now I'm blind, period.) Tight personal territory and sturdy bounderies prove my sanity, as if other clues are not enough! My recent insistence on the benefits of isolation has led me to re-build the walls around me with state-of-the art bricks. I like windows, though. And incorporating these quotations in my text, of course, subverts the very idea of being on a virtual island:) So, I'll continue sending messages in bottles every few days or so, aka blogging. Solipsism is just a pose, after all:D

Dec 2, 2004

System of a Down

My hard drive has some bad sectors. So has my body.

This is my second antibiotics treatment in a year. My son has a cold, too, and my daughter refused to go to preschool this morning, saying she had a headache. Deadlines are piling up, the moon has reached its hateful phase, so I scream every 10 minutes or so.

Hey, I am using the blog for its correct purpose, at last. I am complaining:)

A friend said the other day that I should feel lucky (lucky lucky) I am lonely only about 2 or 3 days a month. Self-sufficient IS my middle-name, true. I reached new heights of self-sufficiency by opening my PC and taking out the hard drive. I had to, since I don't have a CD burner. Probably carrying it around in combination with my toddler caused the trouble. Sorry, life is hard. And has some bad sectors.

How repairable is the damage I wonder? A few days ago I exchanged a few words with someone I had thought I had swept out of my life. My consolation is that he definitely was more scared than I was. After all, I have had so much experience of courage in unimaginably tough situations that I know I can face 'the horror' and survive. Survival, however, is not a virtue. Or is it?:)

Yeah, I can be down-and-out, and still smile. As my son says at least 20 times a day - AZ MOGA! He can't dress, but he tries to. Same here:)

System of a Down is not only an attempt at applying structure to PMS blues, but my newly discovered fave band;) Courtesy of Supercow, thanks:) I don't know exactly why but I was thrilled to find that 75% of the band's members are Armenian. I have always felt a cosmopolitan, but I seem to appreciate ethnicity in others:D

Nov 18, 2004

Some kind of wonderful

Reply 1

Three teardrops were my answer
to your invited memory.
It could have been my memory.
I was 26 at the time,
I should remember more clearly,
but I guess I'm the forgetful kind.
All I can hear is the burst
of memories colliding.

Reply 2

you bet
but you don't know the odds
you don't know the stakes
and the length of the race

she is
a lover of edge-like spaces
a collector of border-line cases
a reader of shadowy faces

you bet
but you're too far ahead
you squint to read letters
fail to touch that crevice

she is
a mentor of all-time wannabes
a seeker of far-off galaxies
an avatar of reachable goddesses

Nov 11, 2004

Movie Review - A Lame Attempt

I just saw a Russian movie with English subtitles, and I laughed and laughed and laughed. The movie was "Come look at me", Prihodi na menya posmotret. The movie is about an old disabled lady who lives with her spinster daughter. The lady desperately wants her daughter to marry, and the daughter, driven by the supposed imminent death of her mother, invites a total stranger home and introduces him as her boyfriend. The man and the prospective mother-in-law like each other immediately, and he makes every effort to be liked by the daughter. With the intervention of a fantasy granddaughter, quasi-miraculous healing, and a lot of hilarious repartee in between, the movie has a happy ending, as Russian movies go. And Irina Kupchenko is beautiful...

I am hopeless at writing reviews:) Lately I come across movies which show middle-aged women looking great and falling in love: Something's Gotta Give, Pornographic Liaison, now this one. I wonder whether this is a sign that I should wait until I'm over 40 to fall in love:)

Middle age looms round the corner, regardless of what the mirror says... I am not sad, just amused.

Just to note that now the music's back I indulge in it like a maniac:) Current album: Ayreon, the Human Equation. Current song: Rainbow, Can't Let You Go.
New additions to my music: Tool, Wallflowers
I welcome recommendations for downloads, now that I am content, tolerant and only slightly apathetic;)

Oct 28, 2004

Midweek Camping Mania

The mountain can touch Sofia if it reaches just a little bit.

Tired of waiting, I joined a group of insiders for a midweek foray into the woods. After an extremely fast but safe drive, we stopped at a small clearing next to a little stream. The only huge object visible was the full moon, gazing at us serene and inquiring.

We collected wood and lit a fire in the standard scout fashion. I was the slowest of all wood-gatherers, stumbled all the time. But I'm like this, really awkward with hands and feet alike. I liked the pile of wood. To me it signified care and forethought, hard work preceding pleasurable relaxation. I enjoyed the food we'd brought, however couldn't eat as much as the others. Eating is ok, but not among my top 5 choices for passing time.

Talk was much better. We had beer and wine, in moderation (yeah!), and discussed various unrelated topics. The one I seem to remember best was communication and reading people's faces. A friend claimed that online communication does not provide real insight into the other person, because you lack visual info. True, but. Visual info, I argued, sometimes just creates a facade and blocks the real personality. Body language can conceal emotions as well as revealing them, especially when self-control is good. Example: eye contact. Averted eyes are supposed to be a sign of insincerity and insecurity. However, I can force myself to look people straight in the eye and STILL be insecure and insincere. So, an observer may misinterpret visuals as surely as a reader - typed messages. Also, my argument ran, there is something about personality that cannot transpire behind looks. I call it 'underface', and I picture it as a rather unpleasant jelly-like substance just beneath the skin. I know it's anatomically unfeasible;) Still, virtual communication sometimes provides a shortcut to a person's head. And probing another's mind, when the face is invisible, often is both a challenge and a revelation.

There was other talk, of music, art and travelling.

Sleep in the tent was fitful and interrupted by conversations with the moon. The next morning I woke up much later than usual, and took a walk with two photographers who didn't have to hurry for work. I am really lucky to know people like this...

Back in Sofia we learned there had been an earthquake during the night. We missed it, we didn't see a bloodred moon. However, we saw something else. A world with a difference, in a secret place, at an unlikely time.

Oct 22, 2004

Minus Music

I miss the music on my PC. About a month ago the ancient hardware went silent, and since then I have been writhing in abstinence. The new machine is being assembled now, but it is taking much too long even for someone like me, struggling to perfect the virtue of patience. Patience eludes me. I can wait for a long, long time, seemingly unperturbed, while on the inside the fires are burning, in anticipation of hell.

Whatever. Music turned out to have been a major player in my mind. I find I am constantly humming something under my breath, and the brain-jukebox is starting to croak from exhaustion. I miss musical shapes and tastes, the way music impacted everything I did. I miss my mp3 collection on my drive. Incidentally, my radio isn't working either, so I resort to VH1 and MTV. Which helps somewhat, but not too much, as I don't choose the songs. In my pre-silence period, I never used the 'shuffle' function. This probably means that I am a control freak, or, as someone concluded, I make poor playlists. So, I want to have lots of available choices, and then do a poor job of making the right ones. So much for self-reflection and analysis:)

Right now, I feel like listening to the song Hey You (Pink Floyd), which is one of the saddest songs ever sung. There is a cover by Dream Theater but I don't remember it.

Together we stand, divided we fall - a recognition of a fact, or wishful thinking?

The choice of music, I have always known, can tell a lot about a person's character, viewpoint and mood. Music is utterly superfluous, it has no survival value for humans, therefore, I want to thank God for it. Truly you appreciate what you have after you lose it.

I'll end with The Doors:
When the music's over... turn off the lights.

Oct 19, 2004

Sources of Inspiration

No man is an island... I am in two minds about it at the moment. Physical and psychological isolation, whether self-imposed or not, can be a source of growth and wisdom. I realize this on the intellectual level (yeah, I work for the title of 'an intellectual'), but on the emotional level I'm struggling with it. When all I see inside is a hole, there is a temptation to try and fill it with things (people) from the outside world. Rather, I should bend my inner self, so that the hole is healed, ot at least diminished to a bearable size. (Holes hold an attaction for some, caving IS one of the sports I've tried and found fun only the first time.) Bending, however, is time-consuming and hard. And, sometimes, the curves can be ugly.

Doing what is right and trying to be a virtuous person has been one of my top priorities for the past few months. Yesterday I became aware that I had done something terrible to someone I deeply care for. Inadvertently, on the surface. Meanly, maybe, when probed. In either case, I am ashamed of myself and disappointed in trying. I haven't felt that bad about myself for years. Betraying someone's trust is one of the worst crimes in my value system. Honour is a virtue I esteem highly, and friendship is a 'skill' I thought I had perfected. Yeah, right...

I have learned a lesson from what happened. And this is a source of comfort, somewhat, cause Learning is exciting and inspiring, for me. QED. Inspiration even from failure. Applause. Bow.

Oct 18, 2004

Some things are fun only the first time;)

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Starting with a cliche, I promise to keep them to a minimum, although cliches are a nice way to relate to the rest of the community. Be too original, and your audience shrinks.

In this blog, I plan to train as a columnist, writing on various topics of interest. Here's a non-cliched definition of 'topic of interest'.

Pieces of the macrocosm that accidentally or intentionally collide with pieces of the microcosm.

OK, here are some of my current interests:

  • online communities (yeah! this is the world we live in)
  • reading texts (60% still on hardcopy)
  • the music realm (ranging from progressive rock through classical piano to chillout), watch this space
  • SIRI (Sources, Images, References, Influences) - my newly-coined acronym for what some call 'cultural studies'.
  • parenting (two kids, aged 5 and 1 1/2)
  • God (yes, low priority, sorry God)
  • sports (rock climbing in particular, planning to paraglide some time when I have time)
  • kindness, truth and beauty (aka, ethics and philosophy)

WHOM MAY IT CONCERN? Or, who are the implied readers?
A small part of the world population who:

  • have access to the internet
  • can read English
  • have interests at least marginally overlapping with mine
  • know hazel offline
  • like, or are, nuts
  • my kids in 10-15 years' time, if blogs are still in fashion

But the number one addressee is of course, myself;)

I usually work a lot, but I fear I'll post regularly, as I tend to distract easily, and writing is one of my favorite distractions. So, cower!:)