Saturday, February 25, 2006

In quest of harmony

In a world of increasing interaction between goods, people and ideas, in a world where the word "isolation" loses its significance by the day, it seems paradoxical the fact that quite often people cannot relate or even communicate successfully. Whether it is the family household or the Parliament is of little importance; what matters is that people fail to be "at the same pace" more so than not. What seems even more interesting is that gaps dividing parties tend to be huge rather than small; that collisions tend to be harsh rather than mild. Why?

While it is hard to generalize with such diverse exemples, patterns do emerge across imany ssues, even when the factors that cause them appear unrelated. The first thing that comes to mind is the complexity of issues: nothing today is to be dispelled as simple or easy; to do so it would be childish. Seldom can an issue of certain gravity be resolved using a single approach; most issues have many dimensions or layers and therefore many connotations. This is primarily because of the fact that the layers interact with one another in many ways but also because the technologic/scientific advances challenge our perceptions by the day.

To ignore or overmphasize one layer of an issue over another can shift the meaning of any concept in unprecedented ways. But this brings us to the second point which concerns the role of the individual. The interpretation one accords to a concept/term/problem, the failure or success to comprehend the layers of an issue, all depend on the individual's ability to perceive and evaluate the issue at stake. Despite the increased access to information, knowledge and education the closing of the mind has not perished. While in the past one could comprehend this phenomenon based on the historical/social elements of the era in question, what explanation is to be provided in our western societies where the rate of illiteracy has dropped so close to zero and people have the greatest access ever to information?

Certainly, one parameter to be taken into consideration involves how we use the resources available to us. With the rate of book reading(and newspaper) dropping in many countries one can question the extent that people take advantage of the resources. Second is the fact that we people may know a lot, but we often fail to contextualize the information or, with respect to others, we fail to put ourselves in their shoes. Whether this behavior reflects an inability or unwillingness to do so or results from an obsession with one's own self is yet to be known. Nonetheless it is destructive. The last scenario is the gloomiest. While information is abundant, people are masterfully channeled away from "subversive" ideas. Propaganda is not be found only in fascist/totalitarian states; the power of rhetoric most certainly has not collapsed with the Soviet Union and the fact that many among us might be "soldiers" without uniforms, (and often without knowing it), fighting in the name of some concept infiltrated to our psyche through persuasion or fear (or...) remains a distinct possibility.

Oblivious and unable to understand the root of discord, we push our case to the extreme while we refuse to look at successful cases that of course abound. Have we done any better? From divorces to riots to wars our societies have embarked on an increasingly difficult task: the search for agreement and peace, a challenge that grows more difficult by the day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Waiting" for the snowstorm

So it will be 15 inches [~45 cm] and we will "all be burried underneath" and it will be a "white Sunday tomorrow" and... and... and... Despite the news alerts, the conspiracy theories, the predictions, the impeding catastrophy has yet to come, it is 6 hours late as a matter of fact. While aware of the coming snowstorm, they are not infrequent in the northeastern US states, the question of a friendly taxi driver -"Have you rented your dvds already?"- shocked me in many ways, not least for the fact it followed a long discourse about how snow was coming and how terrible it would be - such dissemination of "information" I thought was exclusively to be reserved for media, snow shovelling- related services and city halls.

"Well no, I have not", I replied, "I have done my groceries for the week though", I said, in a shy tone [in the US, supermarkets are open daily, including Sundays]. While this may be considered good planning, I have come to contemplate what motivated this decision of mine. I must have become more organized - with age we become mature, right? Going back to the media question and considering the gravity of snowstorms in the northeast, there is no doubt that the media should take an active stance in preparing people for such weather phenomena, right?

Overtaken as we all are, somewhere between fear, anxiety and awe, as no snowflakes have appeared on the Boston sky yet, the lines of the poem "Waiting for the Barbarians" by Constantine Cavafy come to my mind,

"Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion (How solemn the faces have become)
Why are the streets and sqaures clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought"?

Eventually it will snow. We are all waiting for the snow. Hopefully the blizzard will not last for long.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

About time, timing and timelessness

"Long time, no see": if my blog had a voice, surely this would be the comment at the end of the post. Time has indeed "flown" since I last posted something, in fact a new year has started too. The days gone by, indeed, and I wonder, has there been a change in the meantime? Something that strikes out perhaps? Or does everything in our lives seem to follow its predestined path...?

For people that got married or for children that were born in the cold winter days of our northern hemisphere, surely there has been a change. But what about the rest? Considering that the commonly referred to as "landmark" events occur rather infrequently, the majority of people tend not to detect astonishing events in a random two month period. Still, for the majority of us who lead modern highly complicated lives, time is crucial. Still, no matter how much we stress, time is never enough. If time is important, why is that we let it go by without experiencing something more profound rather than stress?

It seems obvious that the energy we spend on a daily basis to accomplish what is "to be accomplished" is worthless, since few events/incidents "make it" to (our) timelessness after all. Added to that is the fact that our lifestyle is seldom satisfying, as this is to be observed in the "monday morning syndrome": one that affects an increasing amount of people. In our vain efforts to achieve the "perfect timing", we voluntarily sacrifice our time, as if though the days gone by were gone only temporarily. For those who frown upon this description, considering their lives gratifying as they are, congratulations! But for the rest, for all those who glance with terror at the sight of a birthdaycake, unable to believe how another year has gone by, how about lowering the standards of what "makes it" to the memory, of what deserves to be remembered? Or perhaps, what about incorpotating some lifestyle-change clauses in the new year's resolution?

It is only february. There is still time.

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