Friday, October 28, 2011

The Fireman

Sitar music is on. Mingled with guitar, I think. Dunno how come, but I’m grateful for it. The guitar bits sound like the beginning of Spanish Caravan. Spanish guitar, I think. Just finished reading Fahrenheit 451. Didn’t feel like doing anything after that. Just lay still, curled up on my couch (it’s brown leather and I’ve draped my black winter coat over it, so that it forms a sort of pillow for me, which is where I can rest my head, curled into a 4). I’m in Starbucks again, of course. The Asian girl close by has a virulent pink playboy bunny cellphone. It strikes me as odd and a little jarring. I’ve licked the whipped cream off my pumpkin spice latte (no spilling this time, no sticky sweet warm mess), crunched up the usual butter tart. There was a boy next to me for a while there, some banter. He had a small-ish beard that leaned towards ginger. Seeing him, I understand what it means to be young looking. Behind that beard, is the face of a small gentle boy. Perhaps the kind who liked to watch pigeons. Or shoot them- what do I know after all. I sometimes wonder if books swallow me up. I was reading ‘The Night bookmobile’ last night. Ma and I were discussing the dark side of reading. She didn’t think there was one, and was surprised that I did. She looks at books as a type of escapism. I said that books could consume you if you weren’t careful. Set your standards so high that you became unable to accept an ordinary life. Mundane everyday things start to bore you. Or on the flipside, you could start to notice the beauty in the small things. Get caught up in observing and reflecting, instead of doing- leading to a sort’ve stasis.  I know that at times I’ve been so overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of a piece of writing, that I found that I couldn’t write anymore.  Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m composing the perfect life in my head, setting impossibly high standards- and that’s the danger I guess of really good art. Books, and music, and film, and oh, everything! They can inflame you, inspire you, spur you to strive for the very best. But if you don’t succeed, if your life is less than exciting, if at last you examine your life and it simply does not compare- then what? Then you’d be left with this sense of futility and failure, and most intolerable of all- sheer monotony. What do you have to look forward to? Fear can be crippling, if you let it.
Here’s another thought- too much stimulus. Reading, listening, watching, always rushing, rushing, rushing- doesn't leave you the scope to think.
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way ti was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime”
“Stuff your eyes with wonder’, he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that’, he said, ‘shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass’”
-Granger, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.

6 comments:

Tangled up in blue... said...

Fahrenheit 451 is a truly lovely book. And this is a truly lovely post, Riddhi. Makes one wonder about real life versus fiction. Fiction does not contain the longueurs that real life mostly consists of. It lacks the tediousness of two hour train rides with sweaty armpits in one's face and the ennui of endless sweaty afternoon hours creeping by in a power-cut. Nor is there the boredom of studying for endless exams or the exasperation of a bumpy busride.

All art feels like a distillate - the very best and the most intense of human experience. It is a mirror to life, of course, but more of a funhouse mirror than a real one. To hold life up to art's standards is unfair to life. :)

But that bit about being so overwhelmed by a piece of writing so beautiful it makes one question one's own ability to write - that I can identify with. One realizes that one's own thoughts will not hold well against scrutiny as someone else's more eloquently worded ones. But that's alright, it's enough to communicate at times.

Which is why I am so grateful for this post of yours. :) Lovely!

Riddhi G.D said...

I'm grateful for your comment- about art being a distillate. You're so right. Even the whole mundane bit of writing exams, going through training etc is done as a sorta montage with really inspirational/laid back background music.
And this is where wishing life mirrored art comes in. Damn, I'd study so much harder if I lived in a movie montage of about 1 minute :p

Arumugam said...

@TUIB- Your comments feel like art sometimes:-)

@Riddhi- Am new here, came through TUIB’s blog. This is a very interesting post. I too have had thoughts about real life being quite dull and monotonous compared to art.

If I may, allow me to share a wonderful passage I read a while back. I was quite overjoyed on reading this, It was a eureka moment.

“If we are inclined to forget how much there is in the world besides that which we anticipate, then works of art are perhaps a little to blame, for in them we find at work the same process of simplification or selection as in the imagination. Artistic accounts involve severe abbreviations of what reality will force upon us. A travel book may tell us, for example, that the narrator journeyed through the afternoon to reach the hill town of X and after a night in its medieval monastery awoke to a misty dawn. But we never simply journey through an afternoon'. We sit in a train. Lunch digests awkwardly within us. The seat cloth is grey. We look out the window at a field. We look back inside. A drum of anxieties revolves in our consciousness. We notice a luggage label affixed to a suitcase in a rack above the seats opposite. We tap a finger on the window ledge. A broken nail on an index finger catches a thread.
It starts to rain. A drop wends a muddy path down the dust-coated window. We wonder where our ticket might be. We look back out at the field. It continues to rain. At last the train starts to move. It passes an iron bridge, after which it inexplicably stops. A fly lands on the window. And still we may have reached the end only of the first minute of a comprehensive account of the events lurking within the deceptive sentence ‘He journeyed through the afternoon'.
A storyteller who provided us with such a profusion of details would rapidly grow maddening. Unfortunately, life itself often subscribes to this mode of storytelling, wearing us out with repetitions, misleading emphases and inconsequential plot lines. It insists on showing us Bardak Electronics, the safety handle in the car, a stray dog, a Christmas card and a fly that lands first on the rim and then in the center of a laden ashtray.
This explains the curious phenomenon whereby valuable elements may be easier to experience in art and in anticipation than in reality. The anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress; they cut away the periods of boredom and direct our attention to critical moments, and thus, without either lying or embellishing, they lend to life vividness and a coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present.” --The Art of Travel

Riddhi G.D said...

It really is a wonderful passage. It conveys beautifully what Karishma compressed into a few lines. Total eureka moment- which is exactly what I had when I read Kari's comment. The stream of mundane events it talks about- you actually quite a few movies these days going more along that route. Showing you the ordinary and capturing the aesthetic in it.
I want to read this book now! Who's it by? And welcome to the blog :)

Arumugam said...

Its from 'The art of travel' by a Swiss author Alain de Botton.

You might like this one too..

http://www.amazon.com/Solitary-Vice-Against-Reading-Counterpoint/dp/1593761872

Riddhi G.D said...

Thanks, I'll check it out :)