Perspectives in Art

We were on a long-ish hike from Fira to Oia in the island of Thera (now known as Santorini) 

It was not a very long one – a 7 mile hike spotted with fantastic views of the surrounding islands, sweeping views of the calm Aegean Sea and vista points of the island of Santorini itself. When done after a full continental breakfast, (the kind given by Santorini hotels), and with an interesting conversation on the side, it is easily done. Around the 3 mile mark, when we had left the busy white buildings on Santorini behind us and were walking gingerly up the slopes towards the narrow cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea, I asked the daughter her thoughts on art. I continue to be amazed by her artistic abilities, seeing …well how her parents draw. The previous evening, while we had all taken a hundred pictures of a gorgeous sunset, she had sat sketching the area while enjoying the sunset. 

IMG_2314therathera_2

“So can you really identify the artist based on the stroke of the paintbrush or something like that?” I asked.

“I can identify a few of them – definitely not all of them obviously. “

“Well – yeah! People study art for years and entire lifetimes. “

“The thing is, with art, everybody starts off with learning the techniques of realism, but as they keep growing as artists, they also develop a unique style. That’s what I am working on – developing a style. I don’t yet know mine, but I am trying.” , she said.

I looked at her with a new perspective. This child always doodling in her room was working on developing a style. It humbled me to see that I had not even appreciated or seen most of her work. Sometimes, she showed us. Most times, she did not, for as she claims, she wasn’t proud if it. 

I could understand this, but did want to see more of her work and said so.

She shrugged with her brand of nonchalance , and I recognized the style. She laughed at this.

“See? With writing or language, almost everybody comes with a style. That’s why it is easy to spot plagiarism. Everyone’s perspective is unique. The way we see the world, the way we use our words, the way we laugh, almost all of that has a unique perspective, but it isn’t that easy to develop your unique style in art.” , said she.

I made some agreeable noises at this, but demurred. Was language really that easy to find a style to? “I felt like I had spent years trying to ‘develop my voice’ as famous writers say, and it is still evolving, which is why it is interesting too. For it makes the development of the craft enjoyable. But I don’t think we are each ‘born’ with a style.”

 “True True – Writing does get better with practice and work. “ she said. 

“But okay – let’s try this: we were in Delphi yesterday. If you were to write about your trip to Delphi, what would you write about?”

I thought about the glorious day at Delphi. Nestled in the Parnassus mountains, the home of the muses, this was where the Temple of Apollo was built. Apollo was the Greek God for light, poetry, and the patron of the arts. It was also the place the ancient Greeks went to, in order to have their futures prophesied to them. The Oracles of Delphi spotted literature the world over (Sybil Trelawny of Harry Potter Divination fame was named after a Pythia of Delphi called Sybill). Almost every story from the ancient times had a prophesy to run the show. As our bus left the city of Athens behind and ascended the Parnassus mountains, I wondered whether I would like to know my future. What if I did not like what was foretold in my future? Many did not. But their destinies were met even as they tried hard to fight it. Would I like to be guided by some vague prophesy even if I’d like to know how everything will turn out alright in the end? And what if it didn’t turn out alright? I don’t think I’d want to be miserable about it all. 

“Hmm…many many ways in which I could write it. But I think I would like to go at it from the perspective of how we got to visit the Temple of the God of Light on the winter solstice, on the shortest day of the year. Think about it: It was forecasted to be an intensely cold and rainy day high up in the mountains with limited visibility. I was worried we would not be able to able to enjoy the place as much it is was that cold and rainy. Indoor museums are alright, but high up in the mountains? And yet, it turned out to be a glorious day with ample sunshine. We got to enjoy the Parnassus mountains where the Oracles of Delphi gave out predictions and prophesies in directly opposite conditions from what was predicted. I loved the irony of that. So may be we are lucky and the trip to Delphi itself was a blessing in a way. “

delphi_2delphi_3delphi

“Okay see – that’s what I mean.We went to the same place, had the same tour guide explain stuff to us, and enjoyed the same day. But if I write about it, I would write from the perspective of seeing the cats at Delphi. How they roamed among the tourists, came to some of us, and how it all felt magical. There was that woman who made me mad – because she shoo-ed away the cat from me, and then ordered me to take a picture of her. If it were unto me, I would have taken the picture of the cat instead! “ 

I laughed. “Did you take a picture of the cat?” She is entirely capable of that. 

“No! “ she said with some regret, “But, just imagine how it must be from a cat’s point of view seeing so many people.”

“What about you truffle bumps? How would you write about Delphi?” She said pulling her brother into conversation. He was trudging along ahead of us in the mountain path.

I’d write a story about how I was fighting some bad guys who were coming at me. They were there: hidden in the ruins of Delphi, and how I defeated them with the myths of Apollo to help me.”, said the son flexing his arm where there were supposed to be muscles. 

“He and his super villains. Huh Hmm. But do you see what I mean? We already have a unique perspective with our almost identical experiences. So, yes, writing is unique to most people. But since art starts off with classical realism as the basis, we need to work harder at developing that style and perspective I suppose.” 

We were 2/3rd of the way done and we turned around to see the distance covered. This hike is unique that way – it shows us the meandering coastline and the beautiful buildings we passed on the way – all in one panoramic view. We took a few pictures here and the daughter peered out to see how much farther we had to go.

santorini_3

“Gosh – this is so far away, I left this piece of the jutting island out when I was sketching yesterday!”

“Lighten up! We can have a good coffee and a wonderful meal once we get back.” 

“I wonder what the myths of Santorini are.” I said to break them out of brooding over the remaining distance, and we passed the time discussing myths instead. 

santorini

Aphonia

I hadn’t met my siblings and siblings-in-law in 3 years and this unexpected trip to see them was rejuvenating. I found myself in a bit of a jitter as I boarded the airplane. My stellar siblings, nieces, nephews, parents and parents-in-law had all come to Bangalore to spend a few days with me, and I felt my heart bursting with gratitude and anticipation.

Covid travel made for strange times, and though I was enormously grateful for video calls, phone calls, and all the different modes of communication, the ability to see and be with those you love was going to be special. Accordingly, it was an excited  chronicler of lives who stepped out into Bangalore airport.

The next few days were a blur of activity. 

I felt myself talking so much my jaws hurt. One particular night when the chats went late into the night, I felt my voice crack. It just sort of gurgled and went hoarse. It had to – there is such a thing as too much talking. It was a malady that struck us all this week. I suppose it happens to those who talk or sing for a living. It was a curious phenomenon for me. 

a·pho·ni·a (Pronunciation: /āˈfōnēə,əˈfōnēə/)

loss of ability to speak

I was told by Dr Google about the causes for Aphonia, and I nodded along – that last part was the cause:

What causes aphonia? The main causes of voice loss are: Diseases of the respiratory system: a cold, laryngitis, cough, tonsillitis, nodules, allergies, throat cancer. Misuse of the voice: straining the voice too much or shouting.

Dr Google

The next day as I coughed my way into the morning, my voice refused to wake up – the teas, ginger-lemon hot waters, nothing seemed to work.  I was told (with some glee if I might add) that it might be a good idea to keep quiet. I nodded wondering how I was going to do that when in a few hours, I was going to see my sister after 3.5 years. 

I was correct in my apprehensions, for the next night went into the same mode. The sister and I had sore throats the next day. We croaked and moaned our way through the day, and still kept talking. It was as if a dam had broken loose and the word torrents wouldn’t stop. Finally, it had reached a point of hopeless whispering and we were still going strong.

I had a strange feeling wash over me the following day -maybe this is what a hangover feels like. Fits of good girl-i-ness overcame me and I said to the sister that, “I want to be serene and above mere emotions! You know? One of those strong and silent types who are able to convey emotions with a mere grunt and a nod. The populace listens, the masses oblige, and the powers that be execute.” 

She gave me one of her looks, and chuckled, “No you won’t! To say you want to speak less, you used 3 sentences. You’re not going to be the strong and silent type. Besides, we want this one – not a buddha who nods and sshhh-es!”

With that I had to be content. 

The author can be found sipping hot water and lemon teas with her heart full and throat sore for the next couple of days.

Poetry

“How was your morning Amma?” said the son looking solicitous. He has taken to asking me this question every now and then knowing that I have been missing the companionship of the past few months. (The daughter went to college, the parents left for home, the niece left for her college, and what was a swirling whirlwind of wonderful social interactions suddenly quietened down to a buzz. I do enjoy solitude, but the suddenness of it took me by surprise )

That week-end morning, I answered with zest.

“Good kanna. I listened to galaxies, and then went rock climbing to solve a few problems. Then, I closed my eyes and went to some wild, wild places to hobnob with some wild, wild things. “

“Right!”, he said rolling his eyes just like his teenaged sister taught him. “So you read a couple of children’s books!” 

“Yep! Which ones did you like best?”

I looked at the cosmophile and gave him my truthful answer.

“Listening to the Stars – the life and story of Jocelyn Bell Burner who was credited with discovering the first 3 neutron  stars, but denied the Nobel Prize for the discovery. They gave it to her male colleagues instead.Ugh!”

“Yes..I read that book too. It was awesome! I wish she won the Nobel Prize too.”

We then shared a moment or two about the unfairness of it all. Then to lighten things up, I said, “But I also realized that the fragile tendrils of love tethering us to Earthly existence are very strong!”

“Ugh! Cheesy! Which book is that?”

“Forgotten poems of Pablo Neruda.” I said grinning.

He chuckled as he walked away. “Poems by Pablo Neruda!”

“You can’t just be an astronaut – you also have to have poetry in your heart so you can share it with the cosmos my man! Remember how folks would’ve liked that from Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin?”

“And music too. Remember you might to have to interpret whale song for other lifeforms! Our life as a kaleidoscope!” I said with a grand gesture of the world with my hands.

“Yes..yes! Well – good to hear you all chirpy. Have fun ma!”

Happy Birthday To You! – Dr Seuss

“Hey ma – will call you back later okay? Just talking to my friends rn.”

I stayed up till midnight doing this-and-that so I could wish the daughter a happy birthday. This also happens to be the first time she is away from the home for her birthday. 

I had with me a Dr Seuss book “Happy Birthday To You!” And read out the “You are you-er than you today” line for her, to which she gave me a teen-new-college-going eye-roll, which is rather like the Ferrari of eye-rolls. 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” 

I chuckled and let it slide. After all, eye-rolls take the place of approval sometimes. 

As the day progressed, she called to tell us how her day was going. As annoyed as I was with my parents for asking me what I ate when I called, I did the same thing. The cupcakes, Mac-and-cheese, and coffees seem to have filled her day. I noticed that healthy eating had taken a backseat with their college diets and I gingerly pointed it out.

She said she was thinking of eating a salad and that ought to do.

“But did you really eat the salad?”, I said

“Well…no! But I thought of it, and she is eating a salad – see!” she said pointing the video cam towards her more nutritionally balanced friend. Honestly!

This letting-go is a funny business. I don’t suppose Dr Seuss wrote any books for adults on how to do that. But if he did, I should like to have a copy.

Mystery of the Missing Keys

In P G Wodehouse novels, he often says that when people look at these sleepy country cottages they assume nothing happens. But come night, and it is a seething place of action. I felt the same in our sleepy quiet suburb. The lads and lasses in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York had retired for the night at 12:30 a.m. but No Sir! Not in our neck of suburbia.

T’was around the time Olaf & Anna sang “It’s Summer! It’s Summer” while yours truly went to work.

The house was filled with more plans than time or people to accomplish them. But the busy buzz of possibility was everywhere. Grandparents planned elaborate delicacies, aunts indulged the senior and junior citizens with games and food along with rigorous hiking plans, children made plans for movies and outings, older children made plans for hanging out with fellow teens. 

The household functioned like an orchestra – high notes and low tones harmoniously blending into one and another. Sometimes the violinist was missing, other times the banjoist, but the orchestra went on anyway. T’was during those one of those evenings when the count for those who planned to stay for dinner was fluid, that plans were made for teen nephew #1 who sweetly told his mother to leave the keys in ‘the usual hiding place’ for him as he planned to be a ‘little late’. 

So the fellow’s mother came to me knitting her hands and giving me meaningful looks. The pair of us before heading to bed hid the keys in ‘the usual place’, told the grandparents of all concerned and hit the sack. It was well past midnight. 

The phone call came even later. Nephew #1 was trying to keep the accusatory note out of his voice when he said the usual place was devoid of keys or any metal really, or wood for that matter, or crowbars. #Mysterious 

Filing the mystery of the missing keys for the morning, the fellow was let into the fortress. 

Now, I don’t know what you’ve heard about senior citizens – the ones I’ve seen on television are sanguine, snoring by 10, and up at 7 am for their spot of coffee and hot water. Not that party bunch in our home however. The trio partied late into the night well after we went to bed.

It was after the seniors had switched off their hearing aids and started snoring that the phone call came. The nephew, the poor fellow who had asked for the keys so he would not be left out on the porch was standing out on the porch in the night, looking like he had eaten a bush or two, climbed a tree or two, and scoured off a raccoon or two, all in search of a good key. 

After murmured sympathies, the fellow was let into the home, locked and padlocked like a fortress I might add. The next morning, I took it upon myself to solve the mystery of the missing keys. 

It turned out that one of the hearing aid wearing grandparents had a malfunction when the information about the nephews arrival was broadcast. So, they dutifully went about locking, padlocking and triple locking the doors before going to bed. Forget the keys – they would have been no use in a case of locked doors such as this one. All the grandfather had refrained from doing was pushing an almirah against the door. 

Hogwarts did a poor imitation of it when they secured the castle in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

“Who do you think is going to come and rob the place?” I asked taking my first sip of coffee for the day in.

A sputter of answers poured forth, none of them satisfactory.

I held up my hand, and stemmed the flow.

“Let me get this straight. You senior citizens partied well into the night – way past midnight seeing that we only went to bed at half past midnight. 

Then, before heading to bed, you barricaded the doors and windows so that so much as a moth couldn’t enter the house. 

And you were up at 6 a.m. to make coffee anyway. 

So when do you think any fellow can rob the house?! They had a slim hour in which to make an entry and even that was thwarted by nephews arriving. No wonder the thieves are all moaning and talking of a change in profession!” 

The household started laughing and all chagrin forgotten went about another day in which summer thrived in ‘leisured cosiness’.

The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness.

P. G. Wodehouse

It Takes a Village

It was going to be a busy weekend. 

“I’ll try my best to make it and may just stop over with my father – even if I am a little late. Hope that is okay.” I said to my friends. They had kindly invited us for my school alumni dinner – the pater taught at the school for around 30 years and I could see it was going to be a lovely occasion. 

I walked into the daughter’s room. She was getting ready for her high school graduation the next day. She was decorating her graduation cap: she had drawn the picture of waves on which she intended to write the college name. I admired the waves so beautifully done and was pumping for that one to be used. 

The daughter’s drawing

“I don’t want to cut through the center of the ocean right there and spoil it.”

“You don’t need to Moses. You can paste over that so you don’t spoil the picture.” I said.

“Ha! Very funny! “

“Don’t worry, I will do something else!”, said the girl and settled down happily to some music and picked out her glue and art supplies. A few hours later, a beautiful hat with blue satin roses and other things tastefully aligned and decorated emerged. I gasped at the simple artistic beauty she had managed to achieve on a small hat.

As I sat there at the daughter’s high school graduation ceremony the next day, I hadn’t quite expected such a grand affair. There were proud parents, siblings, teachers, and of course, the high school children themselves. The hilarious stories of high school were swishing and swirling in the throngs as the names of the children were called. 

It seems only yesterday that we were all shoo-ed out of the pre-school classroom after dropping the 3 year old daughter. I still remember that lump in my throat as I forced a smile on my face. My eyes were beginning to smart. Blinking rapidly, I moved out so she would not see my acute feelings – in a room full of new children, new teachers, how would this child settle down? Well, she did settle down, and went on to enjoy her schooling.

Looking at the faculty who gathered there, I could see the joy and satisfaction with the set of children in the class of 2022. I thought of all the people in her life who had genuinely cheered and believed in her.

  • All her teachers, coaches, parents of friends, after school teachers, administrative staff.
  • The love of arts, dance and music being instilled by teachers who showed her the larger life and the elements to being happy and fulfilled despite academic and other life pressures.
  • All the volunteers and parents, who over the years, had set aside time to foster an environment for growth, learning and encouragement.

All the science fairs, debate tournaments, plays, dance and music performances, Ted Talks, sporting events : everything flashed before me in that beautiful instant when the children threw their grad caps up together in one harmonious, energetic motion. It truly does take a village to raise a child. I am so grateful to each of you who believe in our children and genuinely root for their happiness and success. Thank you!

Looking back at that first day of the daughter’s school through to the high school graduation, the days felt long at times, but the years incredibly short. 

The next day, the father & I attended the dinner with my high school alumni. We sat around the table, and as the stories and reminiscences tumbled over one another, a warmth filled the room. Like fine wine, the stories had textured beautifully with the passing years. Tales of haunted houses, maypole dances, plays with many children starring as actors, escapades of school mischief etc flew around the room. Teachers were remembered fondly, and the tales from the heartlands of the Nilgiris somehow managed to capture the misty rapture. Time and distance did not seem to matter much. 

It was apparent in that conversation that night, that the teachers had passed on to the children in their care, values and a way of life that we appreciate more in retrospect than in the throes of youth. It reminded me of this quote of Miss Read with regards to her old and esteemed friend and colleague who taught through 4 decades. 

Book:  Miss Clare Remembers

“She could only pass on to them the philosophy which sustained her throughout her life. She could teach them to face whatever came with calmness and courage, to love their families and their friends with unswerving loyalty, and to relish the lovely face of the countryside in which they lived. It might seem a humdrum, day-to-day set of values, but Dolly Clare knew from long experience that they could carry a man bravely through a lifetime’s vicissitudes.”

Miss Read, Miss Clare Remembers

On the way back after that dinner where we had relived the beautiful experience of school, I wished the same for the high school daughter, and the wishing-to-attend-Hogwarts son. The joys of friendships, shared spaces, tales of teachers, escapades and laughter.

Shark Splashers & Bear Growlers Creativity Index

“Why would I punch a shark in the nose?” I said swiping the phone with my hand as it rang on our evening walk.

The husband who had probably called with a view to getting a sane opinion mopped his brow on the other side. Was this really a good idea? He seemed to ask himself. After a second of stunned silence he said, “What did the poor shark do to deserve being punched in the nose by you two jobless folks out on a walk?” 

The son & I laughed. We were on our evening walk and the fellow was telling me a little story he had imagined the whole afternoon when I had droned on in one meeting after another. The thrilling tale involved Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, the Boston Tea Party, and somehow as I nodded along, the tale had an inexplicable presence of trained sharks by the British Army going after the American Revolutionaries. The revolutionaries, on their part, weren’t quiet either. They had trained bears. How the bears fought the sharks with the humans aboard made for a loud, raucous tale with lots of noise and action. I was a confused, if slightly inattentive audience. For one, the day’s meetings were not yet pounded of the system, and for another, a marvelous spring sunset was in progress. The egrets, ducks and geese were making a fumble of noises, and the son’s story did not quite hold my attention till the sharks and bears fighting sequence made an appearance.

I double tracked and asked questions not letting on that I had let my mind wander over the past mile. He gave me a swift look, and said, “I know you haven’t been listening. Fine! I’ll explain again.” And off he went from the beginning again. This time, the story was even wilder than I imagined while half listening. 

I shuddered a bit at the high moments of battle between creatures.

That night I did chuckle to myself on the sharks vs bear theme to the American Revolution.

It also led me to think of the Torrance Studies for Creativity (in the book, In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman) where they studied the different aspects of imaginative story telling in children and had an independent body of panelists rank the ingenuity, creative elements, and nuances to the story telling in primary school going children. The study apparently shows a drastic reduction of the creative elements somewhere around 1990. The correlation is plain. It is around the same time that the usage of the Internet and screen time soared.

The study is here:

The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking – By Kyung Hee Kim, School of Education, The College of William and Mary

It does make me wonder how many marvelous tales we will be missing with the advent of more advanced technologies. Even brilliant ideas such as code generators, image generators can either be used actively by us to better ourselves or passively used to distract and stop us from doing the hard work of utilizing our talents. Which way will we choose? 

I do hope the shark splashers and bear growlers continue to use their imagination to better this world.

A Whale of a Time

“Just read some book that is interesting, but not too interesting. Shouldn’t make me laugh too much, or make me say.”Oooh! That is interesting right?”, but make me sleepy in 10 minutes.”, said the son.

I said I would try. 

The strange specific request was because it was well past bedtime. The lights were off, but the young fellow was having trouble falling asleep. I could hear him chuckling at the conversation in his sister’s room, and getting up every few minutes to dart across and contribute. The rambunctious older sister and father were given a sober talking to so bedtime rituals could commence and I looked at the stash of books by the bedside trying to find one that would fill this vaguely specific request. The written world did not disappoint, and pretty soon, I had in my hands several books that could help.

However, the book on Whales seem to fit the description perfectly. It was interesting enough, the illustrations beautiful and the content remarkable yet not thrilling enough to keep one awake at night. It was like listening to Whale Song.

There is something remarkably therapeutic about the color blue.

Whales – by Kelsey Oseid

Seeing the pages in various hues of blue, with the lovely pictures of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth made for a magical few minutes. It is no wonder that the daughter loves doodling with blues, and drew numerous pictures of whales.

The daughter’s drawing of Whales

The light blue on the pages lulled one to sleep and before long, the fellow drifted, and I tiptoed out with the book. 

Reading about whales on a weekday night is strangely relaxing. I kept going. Spreadsheets, documents, planning, working, cleaning – everything seemed irrelevant in the face of these creatures. The feeding, bubbling and the many aspects of the whales is beautifully shown. The illustrations in the book make it a relaxing artistic phenomenon – I have spent many nights since looking at the pictures in the book. 

Sample page to show the beauty of the illustrations in the Whales book by Kelsey Oseid

Whales also gently reminded me of my recent folly: It has been sometime since I went on a children’s book reading spree. So, I went about rectifying this immediately. It is no wonder the old spirit has been feeling jaded lately. Nothing like a dose of magic, art, laughter and childlike stories to rejuvenate the spirit. Sometimes, when we make a Whale of a Mistake like that, all it takes is a trip to the library to invite the guardian of the spirit to visit again.

I look forward to reading this lot, and having a whale of a time.

Children’s Books

What’s our hurry?

“Oh! How I love the fiery glow of the sunset and how I missed our quiet garden“, I said leaping out of the car after my long dredge of a commute back into the office. It has been two years since Covid shut office spaces down, and I cannot say that I missed the crowds on the trains, the noise of the city, or the snarling traffic inching along at peak times.

“I am so happy to come back to this suburban paradise from the hustling, bustling city!” I said sighing happily and taking in deep gulps of fresh air. I flitted to the rose buds starting to form, flew to the jasmine bushes sending wafts of jasmine-ly scent into the evening air, and lovingly tousled the lavender bushes. I suppose butterflies when let loose in a meadow from a bottle do the same.

I looked up to see the daughter giving me that look: the one where she is wondering whether it is prudent to have my head checked for bumps.

I am such a country mouse my dear!” I said by way of making conversation.

“I wouldn’t want to be a cat in a world that you are a mouse, that is for sure!”, said she, never one to falter at smart quips. 

I straightened my shoulders haughtily and wanted to retort. Sharply. With sarcasm, speed and humor. 

Nothing came. 

I shook my head and tried to fetch some quip, anything. Nothing.

I stood there fumbling and stammering. Maybe the pace of the day had taken it all out. So, I finally laughed. 

It was while I was out sauntering on a mild spring morning a few days later that I remembered the study on the pace of life in the book, In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

In the book, Alan Lightman writes of the study where people’s average walking speed was measured across a decade. The speed was measured in suburban places, cities and bustling city centers. Apparently, the walking speed had increased considerably. An average woman of today in San Francisco city walks faster than an average woman in the 20th century. Makes us pause and think doesn’t it? What are we hurrying towards?

Excerpt from the book:

A momentous study by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with the British Council found that the walking speed of pedestrians in 32 cities around the world increased by 10% just in the 10 year period from 1995 to 2005.

How did we arrive at this point in the history of the world?

First, there is business. The pace of life has always been driven by the pace of business, and the pace of business has always been driven by the speed of communication. In 1881, in a book titled American Nervousness: its Causes and Consequences, physician George Beard noted the increase of nervousness and stress in the public caused by the new communication technologies of the day: The railroad and the telegraph. Today, its the Internet. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

It is no wonder that spending time in Nature is such a soother, acting almost like an analgesic. The pace of nature hardly varies. 

Like Lao Tzu says: 

Nature never hurries, yet accomplishes everything.

Lao Tzu
Bryce Canyon National Park

Purpose, Meaning 🌌 ? Experience 🌿

I was sitting on the window ledge talking to the daughter of this and that. Outside, it was a beautiful spring day. All the world seemed to be up and about. Bustling, blooming, tittering, fluttering, racing. “Life seems abuzz with a sense of purpose and so full of meaning today, don’t you think?” I said lazily to the daughter. I myself was content sipping coffee in my night suit.

She laughed and said something to the effect of meaning being humbug or some such thing. I sipped my coffee and waited. Seeing that she had lapsed into painting, I prodded on giving her the talk about finding the meaning of life, and how some days are more important than others etc. When she still didn’t bite, I pulled Mark Twain for support. 

“But you know what Mark Twain said? Two days are the most important days of your life. The day you were born and the day you figured out why you were born.”

“And who is Mark Twain exactly to be talking about this? “

“Mark Twain!”

“I know who Mark Twain is. Point is: of course his saying would be skewed towards purpose and meaning and all that because that is what he spent his life trying to find the answer to. I just don’t think there is one grand purpose to each of us you know? I mean, saying that we all come to this Earth with one grand purpose is subscribing to this theory of God putting us all here for this-and-this-and-this. There is nothing like that. The accident of life happened. A thousand things could’ve gone wrong, could’ve gone differently, but they panned out this way and therefore we are here. When we are here, I get that we must do things to be useful, happy etc, but that is it. There is no, like grand scheme of things or whatever!”

“So, you are saying it is okay for me to be wasting time like this, when I could be doing anything.”

“Well…again. There is no wasting time.”

“Ah – but that is the arrogance of youth isn’t it? Time isn’t exactly ticking for you all.”

“At your fine age, it is. “ she laughed a bit too callously for my taste, but that is youth all over. 

“So, you are saying that if all I want to do is look at the wind rustle through that pine tree, it isn’t a waste of time.”

“Sure…if that’s what you want to do!” she rolled her eyes and I couldn’t blame her. Watching wind rustle through pine trees isn’t exactly teen-buzz.

I get that you are cuckoo when it comes to nature stuff. But we’ve all got to do stuff we don’t like, stuff we like, stuff that’s just got to be done whether you like it or not. But whatever it is, if you are experiencing it, it isn’t a waste of time. And yes, all this stuff about meaning of life etc has been done by philosophers who spent their entire time trying to figure out the answer to that. If you were to pick any random person who lived 200 hundred years ago, what was their purpose? I don’t know. But if they lived happily, then I suppose they had a good life, and that’s what matters.”

I looked at the child astounded. There she was, teaching me to experience life, when she seemed to have only been born a few short years ago

“And this thing about the most important days of your life. The pressure of a thing like that could completely throw enjoying the day you know? I mean I could say it was the day I got a brother. But it wasn’t you know? It was more like a normal day with a wailing baby sure, but in time,  he grew up to be a brother that I enjoy. Don’t tell him that!”

She isn’t the philosophical kind. She is barely the deep thinking kind, yet she has this refreshing outlook that bodes for a contentment in life that I strive for. At this fine age, as she so eloquently described my age, I still confuse achievement, purpose, meaning and life. Here she was, happily painting one minute, off to hang out with her friends the next, while keeping up with her course work, and all that was required to be done.

But I disagreed with her on one thing. I do think there are special days and special moments – even if we don’t always celebrate them. The day she was born is one of them. 

The whole chat left me feeling like I had read that quote by Ursula K Le Guin again. It never fails to enlighten and uplift.


“Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.”

Ursula K Le Guin
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