Richly layered travel through reading

Sometimes it takes a book to allow for travel to a whole new world. This is what happens as you read Assia Djebar’s early novel Children of the New World. Though written decades ago, it may cobtain some nuggets of wisom for today’s world. A review:

http://bit.ly/1To5Wvl

A book that does not lend itself to a fast read makes for a difficult subject on which to write. The reader navigates through the eyes of multiple, intertwined, characters whose movement toward the future of a young, nascent nation unfolds as a spectacle; one where the reader is inexorably drawn and propelled to the radiant apotheosis. Clarisse Zimra describes it in her afterword as “visually kinetic [and] almost three-dimensional” (224). While Djebar wrote a work about the Algerian War, as the subtitle suggests, its appeal to a broad audience across time and place is aided by its style and structure.

I shall transfigure…

I am not an expert on Ancient Egyptian symbolism and mythology, but I found this poem to contain intriguing imagery; suitable for end-of-year reflections and new year celebrations

Maxada Mandala

NO_USAGES =

I shall live…
where life is plane geometry….with
pyramids dimensional and
weighted…holy squared on
bedded rock…as desert reference
to orient my sanity
against a pale horizon.

I shall live…
where great Nile’s
summer floods force
papyrus gifts…impaled
to verticality through
thin siltiness…where
Egyptians draped in shadow
slice pomegranates…figs
with obsidian knives…and
stain incarnadine the
carving wood.

I shall transfigure…
to flensed bones
Ra bleached to whiteness…
burned in a marble crucible
to spare ash…collected…balance
weighed against a
feather.

Bonnie Marshall

The weighing of the heart of Hunefer by Anubis, before the Devourer Ammit: from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, 19th Dynasty, c. 1285 B.C. (British Museum, via National Geographic)

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Resolutions, resolutely ordinary

I have listened to this gospel reading countless times. It is simple and easy to remember. And it is read in churches that are usually quiet, since many of the New Year revelers are still asleep after a long night of celebration. I like that. My life is busy enough and any bit of quiet and calm is welcomed without hesitation. The appointed reading of the Luke gospel closes as follows:

 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Reading

This pithy statement comes at the end of Old and New Testament readings with talk of holy mountains, thundering voices from the heavens, grand appointments to apostleship and singing angels. We are now left with some mundane things: a common Jewish practice, a common Jewish name, a common family affair.

A deeper, practical significance of the text never dawned on to me until this year. I had kept the Christmastide decidedly low-key. No big travel plans, no huge expenses, no big feasts or meals to attend and no elaborate decorations. At this time of year when some very firm resolutions tend to be on the minds and lips of many, I found it a most happy opportunity to sit in peace and ponder.

It turns out my thoughts needed some major reorganization. Some needed to be tossed out, others needed to be sharpened and still others needed to steep a bit more in a brew of reason and heart to produce something of worth later on.

The Practice

Barbara Mahany, author of Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door encourages us to “live sacramentally; lift even the most ordinary moments into holiness. Weave the liturgical into the everyday.” Mary, precious and highly favored as she is, I think, would agree. And so, when she and her husband Joseph have to comply with a steadfast Jewish tradition, there are no bells and smells. There are more likely cries and screams, and efforts to keep a little boy as steady as possible during a most painful procedure. But Mary “treasured them all and pondered them in her heart”

My Christmastide was filled with conversations – long as well as short—with a variety of people. Connecting, reconnecting, and deepening. Armed with a bag of scrumptious cookies one of my (many) cousins had baked I sat on porches, on the side of streets and in messy homes with all kinds of people. Someone celebrating a birthday, a chat with someone who’s had a rough year and a candid sit-down with an old friend whose religious life seems to be in turmoil.

The Reflection

It may seem like it was burdensome, but it was intensely liberating. With no pressure and rush to fill up my space with accoutrements of the season, I used my time to fill up the space of others; and found, quite unexpectedly, the adornments of the season in self-giving, in scaling back on expenses and food to have a feast of relationships and thoughts. Mahany explains: “[…] find that holy poetry in life, […] realize that it’s right here in the words our children whisper to us as we’re tucking them in, in what we see outside our kitchen door,”

So, there I was in Mass during the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord; in the sanctuary of a quaint dimly lit building, pondering the things I had experienced in a short season. I made no great resolutions, just a commitment to sifting joy and peace out of simple events. One ordinary day at a time.

 

Amidst the chaos this Christmas time…

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Dogged determination

A typical day in (air) travel

A confession: I adore traveling. The fascination must have started very early on; in fact, I would dare say even before my head poked through the birth canal. I was in the early stages of gestational development when my parents hopped on a plane to celebrate their honeymoon. Perhaps it’s in the genes. Consider my father’s 15 year stint with on ships of a Norwegian company before he tied the know and you could well say that the love is deeply engrained in me.

Whenever I get a reasonable chance, I do so. Traveling is a line item in my budget.  The sights, smells and sounds of foreign places beckon me like the sound of a pied piper. Magical! So, when I came across this piece of computer generated magic, it affords me one more way to indulge the travel fervor. And I learn a thing or two. Case in point: I did not know that London Heathrow, whose Terminal 5 I have traveled through twice and whose fine-working processes I have thoroughly enjoyed, has merely two runways. The third-busiest airport in the world based on passenger volume according to a recent article in the Economist, and it does so with aplomb — at least, judging from the seamless experience I’ve had so far in its terminal 5.

Now, kick back, relax and take a trip through the wonder of technology:

All hail the Virgin!: the pilot episode of the CW’s Jane the Virgin

As a kid I was fed a steady diet of the telenovelas: Spanish-language soap operas that hailed from all corners of the Spanish-speaking world and spanned the wide expanse of the Latin American and Iberian Peninsula dialectical worlds . It is with that sense of nostalgia that I stumbled unto  Jane the Virgin, an unlikely venture of the CW network into an area other than teen-spirit fueled drama outfits . In its first episode Jane The Virgin takes the essence of what makes the telenovela latinoamericana successful, transplants it into a mainstream US market setting, recasts itself with believable US situations and characters which are samples of Latino situations for first, second and third generation immigrants. It follows the story of aspiring teacher Jane Gloriana Villanueva who lives with her mother and her grandmother and who gets pregant under implausible circumstances.  The use of an omniscient narrator who expertly and with a soothing voice peels away the layers of the complicated stories in which the characters are embroiled is a delicate addition to usher and guide the telenovela newbie into the tangle of over-the-top plots, subplots, intrigue, mysteries, coincidences and emotions characteristic of Latin American telenovelas. the addition of the narrator turns the tangle into a charming piece of jewelry; resplendent with attention-getting shine and staying power

If the first episode is any indication, the telenovela connoisseur should, however, not despair. The recognizable tones of authenticity are assured in the prominent use of Spanish alongside English as a primary vehicle of communication; a welcome change from its role as a secondary, stereotypical,fiddle player bereft of depth and background. It also realistically portrays a common reality for first generation immigrants who, though they may have learned to understand and even speak English out of necessity or as a matter of course in daily life in the wider world into which they migrated, prefer to speak Spanish when it comes to more personal affairs; or, very apropos for the telenovela genre, matters of passion and high-flying emotions or even deep reflections.

As icing on the richly layered torta, we are regaled with the musical offering of Colombian artist Juanes’ “Una Flor” ( A Flower) taken from his 2014 effort “Loco de Amor” (Crazy in Love)  The inclusion is a staple of the telenovela: a famous artist’s musical interpretation of a key feature in the series. It works phenomenally in this case and is suffused with Argentine music producer Gustavo Santaolalla’s midas touch.

Let’s give the series a chance and congratulate the CW on a bold move.  Qué sea una flor de fino perfume. May it be a flower of fine perfume.

Writing can heal

The joy of writing:
“A blank page is a world of endless possibilities”

Cristian Mihai

writing_healing“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.”  – Gao Xingian

Have you ever asked yourself why is it that people write? Why is it that they feel this urge?

Perhaps they do so because they don’t want to forget. Or maybe because they write differently from what they think, and only in writing do they find the freedom they so desperately need.

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