Posts tagged ‘life’

February 17, 2012

You could be dead next Friday

All you have to do is take away one quite important minute out of each day.

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July 31, 2010

Lessons from tango – how to do things well

During a very turbulent time for me when student protests, moving and other things came my way, I slowly became aware that tango has not only been having a more and more profound impact on my life in many ways, but it had become the one good constant; an example and comparison, in fact, of how I could do everything else. This awareness grew to the point of happy bemusement (sometimes bordering on irritability): while all my conscious attempts to improve various aspects of myself and my life have been processes with their highs and (oh so many) lows, tango started great and, without any seeming intervention on my part, only became better. I thought about why this was so, and one of the things I came up with is a concrete list of the circumstances that I had in tango which made it all possible:

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February 28, 2010

Tango

In the meantime, tango happened.

Other things too – new protests, new friendships, a new organization – but this is the most important one; because tango, like a lot of things, but more than most, is a paradigm of life.

Before the eye rolling begins, here’s why:

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May 25, 2009

The calm after the storm

I really have a hard time not only comprehending how quickly the last few months have past, but how different that person looking ahead from a few months ago is. I am now for the first time in the paradoxal situation of looking forward to studying for my exams, because of how simple that is – you don’t make arrangements or intricate schedules or  negotiate with the books, you just goddamn sit down and study from them. Too many things have happened recently, most of them demanding that I put them down of paper, but it simply didn’t feel right to do it yet. But now it feels right.

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January 22, 2009

Thinking properly, part 2 – looking Lady Destiny in the eyes

I enter the small flat. They are sitting at the kitchen table. Greetings are exchanged, and we begin the process.

I translate their words to Jenny, the social worker. Her very calm, soothing demeanor makes it difficult for me, and even them, to be nervous. I convey their story – the sad history, the current situation, the outcome they desire.

They answer her questions. She asks them more. They speak about everything, calmly and truthfully. They do what they must – slowly, they lay their lives in front of us on the table, bare and defenseless.

I look into their eyes, and they look at mine. For a moment, I become a part of their world, of them. I may be translating their words coldly and objectively, but I cannot help feeling incredibly moved by the whole situation. Their lives, and the lives and destinies of two more persons they care about immensely, will be determined by this conversation, by this appraisal of whether or not they are… adequate.

We finish. I say goodbye to the family. It is a truly strange feeling; stepping into someone’s life, watching them talk about their most private, most important thing in their world, and then disappearing, probably never to see them again.

I take Jenny to the tea-place where just hours ago I had a very special situation of my own.  We talk about the adoption case, Serbia and life in general. I receive my payment and we say our goodbyes.

I cannot talk about the adoption case in detail, because I am forbidden by law, but it is not necessary. What is important here is to realize that, yes, there are special moments; moments which have enormous impact on how your life will go from there on.

But they are not always so clear and powerful. In fact, they are a lot more common than you think. But too often we say no to them.

It could be from fear, or social conditioning, or indifference, or any combination of those. In any case, the result is that you say no to them; and because of that you don’t organize that road-trip, you don’t meet that amazing new person and you don’t learn that language you always wanted to. You miss a chance not to grow, but to flourish. Because you thought that it wasn’t anything important.

I passed by Dina on the street, and our eyes met. We, stopped, talked and realized we don’t know each other, but exchanged phone numbers anyway.

Two months later, I promised to her I’ll visit her in Paris next summer.

Next summer, I visited her in Paris. I slept in 5 different places, from a student’s flat so small you literally cannot lie down on the floor (don’t ask about the bathroom. Just don’t.), 10 minutes by foot from Notre Damme, to a spacious apartment in a luxurious suburb.  I met Laura, Penelope, David, Vladi, Brankica and others. I had breakfast with Milica on Montmartre. I walked, relaxed, read books, planned my experimental workshop and also learned a lot about myself. Being alone most of the day in a beautiful city had that effect, among many others.

My trip to Paris was a fantastic experience, and I have no idea how much further it will positively influence my life.

But it wouldn’t have happened if Dina and I didn’t look each other in the eyes. And decided to stop. You know, just to check if we know each other.

So, say yes to those moments. Learn to recognize them and capture them before they pass you by. Listen to that voice. It takes practice, and, as with everything in life, you will make mistakes. Some of those moments will lead absolutely nowhere. But some will make you go to places or do things or meet people you never dreamed you would.

Like when our eyes met. And next summer, I was in Paris.

to be continued

January 12, 2009

from Rembrandt to Jack Daniels – doing vs. wanting to do

Nikola: “Hey, there’s an exhibition of Rembrandt’s work in Zagreb, wanna go?”

me: “I don’t listen to hip-hop.  Yeah ok, but it’s not like I’ll understand it.”

Nikola: “Yeah, me neither, but can’t we at least give it a try?”

True. And besides, I’ve been having a growing desire to understand art. Until recently I was pretty much part of the “What’s the big deal with Mona Lisa anyway?” crowd. Ok, I still am. I’d like to understand art, enjoy it etc. but I don’t really know how. All of my attempts to get to know art had ended in my looking at paintings and going “Oh look, a naked lady, drawn nicely. Oh, a guy sitting very still, thankfully not naked, drawn nicely. Booooriiing”.  I’ve never felt the je ne sais quoi you’re supposed to feel when in front of a masterpiece.

And don’t get me started on abstract art.

However, after a few years of an on and off relationship with drawing, combined with an awesome high-school art teacher, my art sense finally started tingling. It’s not something I can really express in words, other than, well, I’d really like to stand in front of a large picture and finally understand that je ne sais motherfucking quoi.

So, off I went to Zagreb.

A little back-story. Nikola, who invited me, is a friend I’ve known since we were kids. Since he’s from Split, our friendship for the most of our lives was  “that cool dude I see once or twice a year” i.e. whenever I go to visit my mom’s family from Split.

That was until one december evening of 2005 when we were chatting and he suggested we could walk across Spain. I took him up on the offer, and next summer we spent one month walking some 800 km, from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. It was an amazing experience, and one of a number of examples of Nikola and me motivating each other to, simply put, do things.

Because Nikola is one of those people who do things. If they want to do something (and they often do), they usually make it happen. Spain is one example. Another is a several thousand miles long trip across land and sea from Croatia to Japan (Croatian only, but lots of nice pics). Or a group of creative people he organized which made several satirical and Monty-Pythonish sketches which were a small sensation in Croatia (homepage is in Croatian only).

A lot of people have ideas. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did a road-trip?”. “I have the bestest idea for a best-selling book ever” “Being an interpreter is awesome, all I have to do is learn 4 languages.” And stuff like that.

However, when it comes to making those things happen, it’s oh so easy to postpone them. “I’ll start tomorrow, honest.” “I don’t have the time now, I have to study for exams.” “It’s not like I really wanted to do that anyway.” And stuff like that.

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December 25, 2008

confronting snapshots of yourself

“Wait, I wanted to learn 3 languages to near fluency in one year? What was I, crazy?”

“Hah, you know better now. Look at this though: I was planning to learn how to drive, which is a bit simpler than 3 languages, and I still didn’t do it.”

“Yeah, but you did graduate in 3 instead of 4 years, as you stated here, which is awesome, so I think you can be forgiven for the driving thing.”

“True. You didn’t do as well with your exams, but hey, you did make your workshop happen, which is a huge thing and wasn’t planned at all.”

And it is a huge thing. And I really didn’t plan it at all. Because the me now is quite  a different person from the me that sat down with my friend Filip last December and wrote  down our goals for the next 12 months. Now, looking at it for the first time after that day, I’m amazed at the difference between what I thought I could and would do and what I actually did. Some things happened as planned. Some big things that happened weren’t planned at all. And some I failed to achieve after a year of trying, or I didn’t even think about them after that December coffee, let alone try to make them happen.

This is because once we wrote down our general goals for the next 12 months, on a single piece of paper, I tucked it away and we forgot about it. For we knew that this isn’t supposed to be a true plan of our activities or something to constantly remind us what we should be striving towards; it is, rather, a snapshot of ourselves at a particular point in time – of our ideas, plans and experiences. It shows what was important to us personally, what we thought we were capable of.

There was another piece of paper which we also looked at for the first time since last December. On it we wrote down all the things that happened to us over the course of 2007 that we felt were important to us – everything from projects, travelling and falling in love to disappointments, emotional crises and personal revelations about life.

We did the same thing now for the year 2008 and then, as I said, we compared it to what the we-from-December-2007 thought we’d do in 2008, and… well, looking at a snapshot of you and your plans a year ago next to a snapshot of a year of your actual life is both a humbling and an exhilarating experience. You can’t believe that you really thought you could learn 3 languages to fluency in a mere 12 months (instead failing to achieve fluency in even one); that you actually did travel to Paris because of a promise to a certain person you met accidentally on the street; that you would get incredibly closer to knowing what it is you really want to do in life.

So, we’ve written down our goals for 2009 and we’ve tucked them away. Already, two weeks later, they are becoming hazy – I know I want to reach fluency in Japanese, learn how to drive and do some other things, but I’m not really sure if I could recall the whole list. And that’s good, because as I said, this is not a guideline, it is a snapshot of my and Filip’s plans on one December afternoon.

How much will I accomplish? How much I won’t? What will I be like, what will happen to me and what will be important to me next month, next summer, next December, next decade? I don’t know; And I’m really looking forward to finding out.

Why don’t you do the same? Grab a good friend, sit down in a quiet bar or somewhere, and write what were the most important things that you did and that happened to you in the past 12 months. Then write a set of things you want to achieve in exactly one year from that day. Then stash those two pieces of paper away and go on with your life. 12 months later, sit down with that friend, look at the papers, and take it all in. Repeat.

Don’t rely on your memory for this. This is not just one thought – this is you at a certain moment in your life, and also your life over a whole year. It’s incredibly hard, if not right down impossible, to remember such a range of thoughts and emotions with any semblance of precision without recording them externally in some way. The mind is quite a slippery thing, and if we need stuff such as grocery lists, are we really expecting to remember what we thought and believed about ourselves and life at a certain moment in our past? Especially 5 or 10 or more years down the road?

So, go grab a friend and a piece of paper.

You’ll be surprised at the results. I guarantee it.

September 23, 2008

Log 9

Read Chie Nakane’s Japanese Society a couple of days ago and Erich Fromm’s Psychoanalysis and Religion today.
Japanese Society is an excellent read, and what left the strongest impression is the utter rationality with which the Japanese society and the Japanese individual are analyzed. After all the stereotypes of “The Japanese are so mystical and incomprehensible”, it’s a strange feeling to read a book which makes you truly, rationally understand some of the fundamental attributes of Japanese society. Also has several examples from India and the Western world, which makes for some great comparisons of different social dynamics.

Fromm’s Psychoanalysis and Religion is a great read. Basically, He explores the essence of an individual’s search for meaning and happiness and the place of psychoanalysis and religion in this search. The hard (but so true) conclusion is that there’s no easy path or 12-step (or in fact a 1200-step ) program to getting there, but rather what is required is that we, through careful observation of our thoughts and actions, finally realize how misguided the “official” story of how a life should be lived is (in the modern, predominantly capitalist societies, or what he calls “the ‘marketing orientation’ of modern man”); from there, by accepting this method of constant, honest introspection, we should devote ourselves “to the realization of the highest principles of life, those of love and reason, to the aim of becoming what [man] potentially is, a being made in the likeness of God”.

Yes, I know it’s very difficult to paraphrase over a 100 pages of philosophical thought in 2 sentences and show why it shouldn’t be dismissed as hippie-talk (this stereotyping of almost any mention of searching for life’s meaning and brotherly love as some misguided bullshit for naive, misguided flower-children is a whole another story). But what’s in this book is, for the most part, very true or very near the truth, and while not offering an easy solution (since there isn’t one), it gives some good pointers to what’s not good with today’s world – and after reading it I feel as if I have a deeper understanding of the workings of today’s capitalist society and the individual trapped in it.

I’ll stop here, because this topic requires a whole new post (or three). Just a last random observation: I’m happy to say that my reading concentration is visibly improving – even though I should now probably be, for various reasons, very emotionally stressed, not only am I mostly successfully overcoming the stress (again, for various reasons), but I’m amazed to notice that my attention while reading was almost constantly on a very high level. There were several moments when I had to go back and read a sentence 10 times, like trying to start an old car, until the words started registering in my head, but my motivation never wavered and I always regained my attention. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.