three paragraphs
// introspective
Supercentered
Jul 31, 2014

To be or not to be me?

The question floats up in my consciousness as I bite into the sandwich. Cucumber’s refreshing scent fills my nostrils and I shoo it away. I continue my Wikipedia journey of zeppelins and optics and the biology of the eye, the breadcrumb trail fading with each sequential click. Intrigued, I hum as I finish reading an entry about a photographer who captured the motion of a horse.

The sandwich gone, I close the page, the question returns.

I sigh lazily and stand up from my chair. I freeze the time, take the film out of the projector and inspect it in the light. The fabric of my timespace, the rich multi-dimensional capture of all things me. An autobiography, a faint copy of which is stored in my brain. The insta-filtered, interpreted and distorted version of it. This, however, is the untouched, high-fidelity source. This is me. Or so the film would suggest.

Muybridge’s horse greets me, but can it be trusted? Frame after frame, glued together with time, it shows me airborne in trot. It suggests that all of this is one motion. That it has led to what I am now and what I will be next. I shake my head.

I’m not the person in the frame from ten years ago — I can barely recognise the one from last week. We look similar, there is no denying that, but turn the dark light on and look at the variations in the soul spectrum. No. We are looking at a billion people. And the man coming after me would be a fool to say differently.

To be or not to be me. The question insists.

“I could be someone else,” I tell it, not averting my eyes from the film. “If you would show me the way out of causality, I could… Aren’t these million frames anything but stones tumbling downhill, their trajectories predefined?”

I put the roll back and flip the switch. The projector resumes its task as I walk over to the closet.

“And what do I do with these?” I ask to the question as I pull the doors open.

Burn them, it tells me.

“Aren’t they supposed to remind me of the people I’ve been?”

Burn them all, it says. It’s up to you, of course. But who do you want to be?

I nod and reach for the matches in the pocket of the man from the past. He liked to smoke. I light one and throw it into the closet. The dried bones hungrily swallow the fire with a merry crackling. I close the doors.

Which will it be? The question doesn’t let go.

“I could be someone else,” I tell it, “if only I knew who I am now.”

That’s simple, it says. You are me.

The grander scheme of things
Jun 24, 2015

Not you, not anything you have or ever will create, means a thing, and there is no way out or around it. That applies to you, me, and every snowflake in the world, even those chinese no-sunday snowflakes in sweatshops that make labour camps looks like tea parties. In the end they will have sewed your shoes for precisely one zilch.

If I’d be me, I’d have two questions now – first – what makes you think so and – second – what are you proposing. Third could be why are you telling me this, to which there is no definite answer.

Scale. Let’s borrow from astrophysics. Imagine zooming out – you, your house, your street, your city, your country, your continent—you know how they zoom out in those flying movies – everything becomes smaller, then the clouds come, and then we are through the clouds, we are in the space – your planet – our planet, boom—planet Earth. Let’s keep zooming. Solar system, solar system neighbourhood (there are many of those), galaxy, galactic group (there are quite a few galaxies in a group), supercluster (quite a few groups in a supercluster), and then finally The Thing itself – the observable universe. The word microscopic doesn’t even start to describe the scale of humanity. Micronanoinfinitesimalistic. And you and I are but micronanoinfinitesimites of the micronanoinfinitesimilastic world.

Purpose. Fine, you and I say in revolt, so what if we are nothing compared to everything and everything compared to nothing (mr Pascal liked to say that a lot and today we like mr Pascal. He comes from long ago). At least we can have a purpose between us, micronanoinfinitesimites. Let’s shorten that to manofinimites. Our manofinimite world can still have a purpose, we object in chorus.

Let’s examine exhibit A – my dog. Let me tell you about the exact purpose of my dog’s life – it’s utterly and excruciatingly pointless. He spends most of his waking life sleeping. And the few hours a day that he is, in fact, awake, he spends trapped with me. Make no mistake – my dog has an excellent life, better than average, I’d say. He is hardly ever alone, we go for long walks, and he is well cared for and gets plenty of affection. But there is zero purpose in his life. We will go like this for about 10 years, and then he, being the dog, will cease to exist.

Except for very brief excursions, the lives of two of us are physically exactly the same, with the only difference being that my dog doesn’t know how to read and the concept of the screen is lost on him entirely. So what exactly is so different here that would suddenly give birth to a purpose?

That doesn’t mean we should despair and harakirize ourselves out of the existence, of course, for the inverse is also true – it’s not just that we don’t matter – nothing matters, and while there is no purpose to pursue, there is also no unpurpose.

So, hey – what makes you tick? Let’s write a three year plan for living like there’s no tomorrow.

Weekends included it's 37
Jun 26, 2015

I got the chance to take 5 weeks of paid break on top of the regular vacation. The opportunity came with just a single condition – it had to be done in a single go.

Day 0

And so the descent into the unknown starts. I counted the days—weekends included it’s 37 if I make every one of them count. 37 carte-blanche, do whatever you want, no strings attached days. I did consider traveling as an option, but it seemed like too much work. My head is abuzz and I want to sit down and have a good listen to that, instead. Besides, I’ve traveled plenty in the last 4 years (Berlin, Toronto, and now Edinburgh – my new base where I’m still kind of settling in).

I will be traveling, but in a very different sense – an exploration of solitude and free will. Imagine just for a second having 37 days entirely to yourself. No family obligations, no work, no oughts or musts – just you alone, and your brain. Is it a lot? How much? And what will you do? So I figured I’ll keep a journal.

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Who are you?
Jul 19, 2015

Scarcity is the foundation of desire. Similarly, the base of passion that fuels us, is the irreversible permanence – the inability to change.

We might approve of a flashy outfit, but we will instantly long for, fall for, the piercingly blue eyes (or brown, or coal black, for that matter) that came with it.

The fierceness of emotions about the permanent exhibit themselves best in popular -isms. The superficial attributes of our genetic code like race and gender, and the causal properties, like origin, are pet targets of racism, sexism, nationalism, and so many others, and because of what – because you can’t simply take your skin off, like you could a shirt, and put another one on?

But there are many other constants in our lives—apart from the extremes—that we deal with in a myriad of ways. People with frizzy hair will envy the ones with straight, and the latter will be getting perms; blondes will paint their manes dark, and dark ones will bleach theirs; the short will look up to tall and the tall will slouch to blend in. From attraction, to admiration, to jealousy, to fear, to hate, to misplaced pride, we form a relationship with those attributes both internal and external.

Something that should be a mild preference, a liking, becomes attitude, one we start to identify with, becomes something we long to establish as our own permanence towards others. Our identities should be a collection of fleeting emotions cycled in a feedback loop—never the same, always evolving. But more commonly they are a snapshot, taken a good while ago, that we hold close to our hearts so we would never forget what we supposedly really are: the result of a fulfilled demand of establishing ourselves during our teens. Look, this is me – I like playing tennis, and collecting pictures of hedgehogs.

When the change, unexpected or otherwise does happen, for the sake of continuity we can’t take it kindly. How to think about someone who has managed to change their opinion, their beliefs, or maybe their gender or even race. How to think about someone who is wearing a beard now, or has lost their beard. One, who has become hipster, or gone underground, or overground, or just died. Will they still like us? Will we still like them? Can we still hate them if we did so before? How do we frame this new person – how do we rediscover the way to think about them? “Deep down,” we assure ourselves, “you are still the same.”

The question should never be “who are you?” and only sometimes “who are you, today?” and, really, it doesn’t matter who you are – what matters is what you do, and not—following an equally drilled-to-death cliche—what you do with it – but what you do at all.

Having a seemingly fixed identity, however, can give us control. After shaping it, we try to sell ourselves and see, if anybody wants to buy this version of us. In the search of maximum appeal, we can adjust the image by pretending it to be constant. That’s what people talk about when they talk about becoming a better person. This pretense, still, introduces the duality of change and stagnation and, suddenly, it’s a dialogue between two parties, both of which argue for you, both of which do not know you. Kill that, and we maybe might get a bit closer to ourselves.

There is nothing more reinforcing and change-prohibiting than the people around you. Your friends and family who claims, or hopes, to know you. They will lovingly cast your image in stone and force you to stare at it clockwork-orange style 24/7. They will expect things, they will see things coming, they will tell you what’s you and what’s not you and, all in all, it will seem that they know more about you than you do. And, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, you will step on every single rake you are expected to step on, curse about the resulting cut on your forehead, just the way you were expected to, and at the end of the day, everyone will have been right about you.

So why not start there. Tell society (your friends, relatives, children, guinea pigs and pet lizards) to fuck off. Tell them to take 500 hundred steps back, then sit yourself down and promise to never, ever, ever change.

In search of a better person
Nov 11, 2015

The people who know me will ascribe two things to my personality. First, that my spiritual animal is a space donkey and second, that they don’t really know me, or at least that’s what I’d like them to think.

I’ve been relentlessly experimenting in mind and in practice in pursuit of becoming a better person, so here’s what I have found.

Quitting coffee has made me a better person. And it won’t work for you.

Losing my accent, has not made me a better person, but has given me handy camouflage for when traveling to states so I can sound all weird with confidence.

Morning walks have made me a better person, for I can spend a whole hour trying not to think and then finding myself thinking.

Adopting a dog has not made a better person, for my dog is not a better person and together we hate, oh we hate so many things. Especially if they are fireworks related.

Abstaining from alcohol for weeks has not made me a better person. There is wisdom to be found in the magical pints of delicous lager.

Attending yoga classes twice a week has made me a better person, one whose healthy sheen snobbily mocks you.

Donating to animal charities has not made me better person, for I give them money and they spam me asking for more.

Meditating daily for four months straight has not made me a better person but rather one that wants to tell everyone what a better person it has them made.

Watching 600 episodes of Naruto has not made me a better person, but watching 300 episodes of Gintama has made me appreciate toilet humour more than ever.

Moving to Scotland has made me a better person, relatively speaking, for one can either become better, or everybody else can become worse. But jokes aside, Scotland fits me like a blown up rubber glove on the head.

Getting platinum trophy in Need for Speed: Rivals has not made me a better person, and I’m checking if getting a platinum trophy in the next installment would.

Switching over to Joylent has made me a better person by means of feeling better.

And writing, oh well, has made me an arrogant twat.

Thinking without words
May 7, 2016

Easier said than done – thinking without words. Except you can’t say it, because you are thinking without words.

So take a breath, hold it in for a moment, and then breathe out. If you are listening, close your eyes, breathe in… breathe out. Through your nose, a drag in, and a push out.

I hope you are sitting comfortably? Just nod or shake your head, don’t reply, not in voice, not in mind.

You know how it’s easier to remember your phone number, if you say it out loud? Just like a good Shakespearean actor, I myself need the to-be-or-not-to-be – I need the opening line – the oh-seven-eight, to deliver the rest of my number. And when it’s not your phone number but rather your pin code you are typing in, while around people. What do you do? Lips pursed I mumble. Mmhm-mm-mhm-hmm – eight three seven five.

We’ll try to do the same about thinking.

I’ll name some animals, and let’s see if you can imagine them.

A dolphin. A sheep. A dog. A cat. Your neighbour.

We will start again. And when I call out the animal, try imagining it, but do not to think it’s name, do not to put a label under it. Just look at it.

Dolphin.

Don’t try to describe it to yourself. You see its fins and its head and the long nose, its toothy smile and mischievous smirk, and its slick blue-gray dolphin body. Dolphin.

Now think about how you feel. And remember to not use words.

Is it just blankness? Or your shape, how it feels from inside, if your eyelids are closed. And, like your hands bound behind your back, the absence of words – unthinkable? But try sticking with it for another second.

I’ll give you some more words, so they will be mine not yours. Try to imagine yourself feeling them. Try to imagine it and then try to remember the feeling for a short while. Safe. Tired. Happy. Sad. Blissful. Angry. Relaxed. Now breathe. And notice how it’s easier to go without breath than with it.

Words let us connect. They let us frame visions and project ideas. And they allow us to build sophisticated worlds within sophisticated worlds. They are the ultimate layer of culture, but not the only one. Under the paint there is another painting.

Thinking without words, the more you think about it—without words—is just one, very simple, thing.

It’s feeling.

Favourite things (500 x 22)
Jun 1, 2016

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by how much beauty there is in the world. From microscopic, highly geometric creatures, to almost full sapience of our pets, from a plant that can’t tell you when it’s thirsty, to trees too big to hug and, impossible to capture with our eyes nor minds, mountains of incredible magnitude. In that moment I want to breathe it all in. I want to tilt the painting and drink its paint, till it fills me, and never let go, for a moment, then let go.

But also how much beauty there is in humanity and in our ability to be kind, particularly. How, sometimes, we can go miles out of our way just to help someone we might not even know, without expecting anything in return. Expecting, in fact, nothing in return, and at times not even that. Or, suddenly, succumbing to that subtle impulse and tossing the homeless person a coin on passing them the hundredth time. And when it comes to the people we are closest with – our capacity at ingenuity of finding ever new ways to surprise them.

It can be big, like remembering something said late at night, long time ago, to then materialize it one day. Or it can be tiny, like giving a heartfelt smile to a stranger you meet on your path in the morning. And, at times, it can be something you experience and at first think nothing of it at all. Like plain chatting, or sitting on a bench. But as time passes you look back, and you look back fondly.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed, and it catches me by surprise. The emotions press hard, I lose my breath, my eyes well up, the view goes misty and I laugh and wipe my tears away, but they don’t stop. And I laugh and think – this is absurd, so absurd – and am afraid to drown in those emotions a little, but I allow them to take me, a little.

From displays of impossible solidarity, to heartbreaking passages in text and elsewhere, from considerate strangers to being one, from videos about prime numbers to brown paper packages tied up with strings – that’s what makes me human – my favourite things.

Year on the floor
Jul 4, 2016

It has been precisely 365 days since I’ve started meditating, so I thought a quick write-up would be in order.

Now, when I say meditate, I should be specific – I’ve been sitting on the floor with my eyes shut for 20 minutes every day, for a full year – that’s pretty much it! That, and the helpful audio instructions from the headspace app in my phone. Nothing crazy – it just tells you to sit down, and close your eyes, and it guides you through a routine, from scanning your surroundings, to scanning how you feel, to focus just on your breath, and then to focus on nothing at all, and then it brings you back.

The realisation that, in the confines of your home and the beforehand set timespan, you are safe to let go of all your worries, and that for that moment there is just you and you alone, and everything else can wait, is what has kept me coming back each day ever since. It’s like dancing like nobody’s watching, without dancing and anybody watching.

It was most intense in the beginning – that feeling of ridiculous impossibility – that I can just sit there and feel good and don’t have to do anything at all. That I am obliged, infact, I told myself, to do nothing, and that by doing nothing, I’m doing a favour to everyone. The release valve in the head popped off and I laughed and chortled, tears dripping. It seemed preposterous – I felt like I’m cheating- nobody has time for that. But it felt like drinking the nectar of the gods.

As time goes, of course, you get accustomed, but that time for yourself – just yourself alone – that doesn’t go anywhere. And as days keep going by, you start to find more time for yourself in those moments that seemed busy before. Instead of walking your dog and thinking about work, you just walk your dog, suddenly. And you look at the hill and you see just the hill, and you feel the wind, and somebody has not picked up their dog’s poop and you look at that and think – that’s a dog’s poop, and then you move on, and you think – I’m Zen as fuck now, and you are at least a bit more Zen as fuck as you were. Here’s that buzzy word – mindfulness – it’s kinda pretty awesome.

Ok, but so what does that mean – meditating 20 minutes a day for a year – have I changed? A bit. But not in any way you’d expect. What people sometimes expect, is that I’d become more like what they want me to become like, whatever it is. I’m still very myself though. Bit more awesome, of course. Bit more content, bit more understanding, bit more kind, bit more easy going, and a bit more creative.

And, I hate to break it to you, but I still can’t levitate.