Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yes Strawberry Season

My oldest son asked a couple of months ago what book he should read for his oral English exam at highschool. I advised him to read Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star (1977). I told him that it's an easy and thin book. The last book Clarice wrote before she died.

He finished reading the book last week and told me that he didn't understand the book. He had no idea what it was about. No clue.

Yesterday evening we talked, just the two of us about the book. In English. This is what I told him:
  • You have to read this book with care and slowly. Change the way you breath in and out. It's not a hamburger from McDonalds. Take your time. You need to learn to read. That's what English at school is about. Learn to read, learn to summarize and being able to talk about it in English.
  • Clarice is a mystic. Be aware that there are dimensions that you don't grasp. Or don't grasp yet.
  • Clarice likes and is interested in 'the void'. She can look concentrated in an empty shop-window with mannequins for minutes. You have to look with this in your mind at this quote "Meanwhile the clouds are white and the sky is blue. Why so much God. Why not a little for men."
  • In Jewish religion - Clarice parents were Jews who fled, at the end of WWI, from Ukraine to Brazil - a part of "reality" can't be said. This part is a mystery and has to be discovered. In this respect Clarice was Jewish.
  • The title of the book is 'The Hour of the Star'. But it could have been one of the other twelve too. Those 13 titles are 13 different views or perspectives to look at the same story. 
  • The narrator of the book is sophisticated Rodrigo who tells his story about poor, underfed, virgin and unattractive 19 year old girl Macabéa (or Maca) who lives in Rio de Janeiro. She is a typist but will probably not keep her job for long. She lives in one room with four other woman in the slums. All of them called 'Maria'.
  • We do not know what the relation is between Rodrigo and Maca. Partly he feels that his life is more successful than Maca's. Partly he identifies with her ("I'll die too"). Partly he feels sorry for her ("there are many more like her").
  • Maca is in love with jerk Olímpico. He will leave her for hot co-worker Gloria. For Olímpico the father of Gloria is a step up on the ladder of society. Why? He's a butcher. (Maca's father died long ago.)
  • Maca lives in the "now" and is happy with eating hotdogs, drinking coco-cola, sipping cold coffee before she goes to bed and listening to the radio. Going to the movies once a month. Imagining being like Marilyn Monroe. She is poor and has a miserable live but isn't aware of that. She enjoys her simple life. 
  • Gloria feels sorry for Maca (because she stole Olímpico) and recommends visiting a fortune-teller. The fortune-teller tells that she will keep the job, Olímpico will propose her and that she will marry a rich and loving foreigner called Hans. Full of bewilderment and wonder Maca leaves the fortune-teller. She steps off a curb and a huge yellow Mercedes runs over her. Maca dies.
  • Rodrigo reflects on death and existence. Having a miserable life and miserable death.
  • A sad and depressing book? No, it's a book that tries to unite a lot of things that seems conflicting and first site. And that can exist perfectly next to each other. The book begins with "yes" and ends with "yes". First sentence: "One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born."
  • Last sentence: "(...) all I [Rodrigo] can do is light a cigarette and go home. My God, I just remembered that we die. But - but me too?! Don't forget that for now it's strawberry season. Yes."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why ... Matters

Why does reading matter? For you? For me? For me, it's mostly the mirror in which I look at myself and which tells me who I am (source).

I bought a couple of new books (picture). Two weeks ago I started with Fernando Lameirinhas, 'Een fado voor mijn vader' (2016). An autobiography from a musician and singer who emigrated from Portugal to Belgium. I checked out his music and was not impressed. I don't know why.

After Lameirinhas I'll read 'Why Orwell Matters' (2003) because Big Brother and New Speak matter. 

P.S. I wrote on reading before in blogpost 'Reading books. It's like a mirror. It always brings me closer to ...' (February 6, 2010).

Friday, November 11, 2016

What the World Needs is ... Evolutionary Love

On the day Donald Trump became president elected of the #USA2016 I went to a Stacey Kent concert in Rotterdam #Netherlands.

What lovely music. Her voice and singing: beautiful, intense, crystal clear and honest. I cried twice. After her first song she spoke to the audience. She told she slept that night 1.5 hour and that her heart was broken in thousands pieces because Hillary Clinton didn't win the elections. Heartbroken and devastated.

What puzzles me since, is 'Why?'. Why are so many people so over the top on Trump's "winning"? He won? She lost? Why don't we celebrate democracy? We agree, we disagree and we agree to disagree. Play hard to get selected but within the rules of the law. Democracy isn't perfect but it's, "the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried" (Churchill). Give the President elected a fair chance. In people we trust. In democracy we trust. In the long run presidents want to be remembered as a "good" president. This endeavor is a guarantee for "misbehavior". Have trust!

Next to that there is a bias when we see democratic elections as a "game of or win or lose". The image is according to me wrong. The engine of the evolutionary process is not struggle, strife, greed or competition. Rather it's nurturing love. In which individual 'homo sapiens' are prepared to sacrifice their own perfection for the sake of the wellbeing of its neighbor.

Addendum to my 'reading list on history' (October 19, 2016):
21. Charles S. Peirce/ Evolutionary Love (1893). Antidote against Charles Darwin's image 'Survival of the Fittest'. The image is not evolutionary competition but evolutionary love.

P.S. Number 21 is a footnote on number 4, this is the power of images/ metaphors.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Footnote. Ancient Egypt Behind Iron Curtain

Why do we in the western world consider Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome as the birthplace of western civilisation? What is the constraint to accept that Ancient Greece itself was a legacy or colony of the Ancient Egyptians? Because ... white scholars at the end of the 19th century simply couldn't believe that blacks are at the root of Ancient Greek's civilisation.

Coppens in his 'Egypt: origin of the Greek culture' (1999):
"The answer is to be found at the end of the 19th century, and the racial situation of that era. The central question is what race the ancient Egyptians were. The relationship between blacks and white Europeans was a powerful social issue in the United States and Great Britain; in 1879, Britain ruled one quarter of the world. It was at this time that scholars began to awaken to the realisation that the Egyptians possessed a powerful culture; it was at this time that Greece was identified as the cradle of western civilisation. It were largely white scholars who would do anything to make sure that blacks would find no place in history… after all, it could lead to serious social consequences. Blacks surely could never be at the roots of that wonderful Greek civilisation? That “had” to be erroneous. It was simply impossible…"

P.S. The fact is black for Ancient Greece is a footnote on number '3. Antidote against Ancient Greece and Rome' in list 'Invitation to Wander' (October 2016).