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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I was in the US recently taking on some new work. Two things really struck me about being back in the US. The first was ERMAHGAWD, WINTER. Apparently I forgot what that felt like. The second thing was how the political atmosphere had changed. Marriage equality, healthcare, guns. It’s all happening. I submit this picture I took while entering the office as evidence.

Dear America, don't bring your guns to work

Dear America, don’t bring your guns to work

So strange to see these signs around, and even stranger that other people didn’t think they were strange. Or maybe 3+ years abroad has made me the strange one. Now there’s a philosophical question for you.

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Krishna Das was in town a few weeks ago. Two friends and I snagged the last few tickets. We followed the trail of flowing skirts and mala beads from Kings Cross St Pancras to the Camden Centre to find a rockstar style line. Actually there were two lines. One was for the VIPs; the special guests, studio owners and teachers who had front row tickets, and another line for us plebeians. I chuckled to myself at the incongruence of yogic chanting and VIPs.

We entered the building, settled on three seats together at the middle left of the hall and waited for KD to take stage. Whew, that was hard work.

As the building began to fill, the room became hotter and hotter. The girl in front of me opened a garlicky take out rice and began to eat. We tried our best to hold our collective yogic cool, but everyone was having problems. The girl behind us began to fuss over jackets being hung on backs of chairs and we were all trying our best to try and accommodate one another. The chanting desperately needed to begin.

Finally KD entered the stage with Radhanth Swami, an American Swami whose book, The Journey Home, we had all been given a copy. After some introduction, the chanting began, then stopped so that Radhanth Swami could tell his story. And a big story he had. His tales of love and his times in India were very interesting, but not what the audience had expected from the evening. I tried to pay attention, but the heat was still unbearable and now the garlic was beginning to seep out of the pores of the girl in front of me. Radhanth Swami was describing being stuck on a severely overcrowded train in India where you could not breathe for 12 hours and I made a personal vow always to splurge for first class trains in India. How could I survive that when I could hardly deal with the smells I was encountering now?

Packed house for Krishna Das at the Camden Centre

Finally Krishna Das took control of the stage and began playing again. It was already too late. One of my friends was in her second trimester and couldn’t take it anymore. We went to the back of the room where a door was left open and ventilation was available.

I am so glad we did because as KD continued to play, we had the freedom to dance, greet others and, well, breathe.

Finally the Kundalini was rising. By the end of the night the group at the back had formed a community, and we were all a little lighter than when we began.

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The other day while walking through the park and looking like total hell, I was thinking about how it was a good thing that I wasn’t famous. There was very little chance that someone was going to run up to me, snap my photo and then draw funny pictures around my image describing how I had let myself go all because I didn’t bother to put on makeup or heat damage my hair that day.

This thought was very fortuitous. The very next day I was walking through London a bit more groomed when I was nearly knocked over by a large man running down the street. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was holding a professional camera. I turned to see what was going on and realized there was a whole crew of men with cameras in their hands.

Waiting for the shot

Standing at the foot of The Wolseley the men were poised and ready for action. Papparazi, I realized. I’ve crossed paths with a few celebrities in the past, but hadn’t given much thought to how many there must be in London. I decided to pause for a moment to find out who it was.

When the door opened, the men started yelling “Kate! Kate!” and I immediately got excited that I was only a few steps from Kate Middleton. A minute later, a woman exited yelling at the papparazi to go away. She retreated into the restaurant and re-emerged with Kate Moss.

Oh, THAT Kate.

I texted Mariah back in the U.S. figuring this would be the exact type of thing she got a kick out of.

“So how did she look?” she asked.

“Gorgeous, of course. Flowing hair, large sunglasses, designer clothes. Actually with all of that in the way I didn’t see her at all.”

So that’s the trick.

That evening I told Husband about my celebrity run-in.

“Why didn’t you get a photo? You probably could have sold it” Husband asked.

I thought back on that day I looked like hell walking through the park. “I don’t know. I guess I wanted to respect her privacy. What if she was having a bad hair day?”

“Celebrities don’t get to have a bad hair day” he answered.

Exactly.

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“Some people dream their entire lives about going to Italy” I tell Husband. We are unenthusiastically packing for a weekend jaunt to Milan and I want to be reminded of how amazing the phrase “weekend jaunt to Milan” actually is. Don’t get me wrong, we are happy about going on this trip. We just have so much else going on as well.

Access to so many cultures. This is why people dream about living in Europe. When it gets integrated into everyday life it may start to feel blase.

I had a conversation with my neighbor about the sites and history we live among in Central London. He found it odd that people he met traveling were so enamored by his proximity to world heritage sites. “I mean, they live around great stuff too. You know, like in America they have the Grand Canyon.”

“Except people don’t really live at the Grand Canyon. It’s in the middle of nowhere,” I point out.

I walk past Buckingham Palace a few times a week on my way to the studio where I practice yoga and sometimes work. Because it’s me and because it’s London, I am usually late.  I should be enjoying my surroundings but instead I feel frustrated. The area is jammed with tourists. One can only stop and let tourists set up their next Facebook profile photographs so many times. I have been this tourist. I have been this tourist in London. My impatience is practicality, not malice.

I wonder how many holiday photographs feature a rushed me in the background.

I pause sometimes to contemplate the gravity of my scenery. A place I heard about but never knew if I would see is now a part of my everyday life.

I took this quick photo while dodging tourists during one of those sudden contemplations.

Just another stroll past Buckingham Palace

Gotta go, I’m late for the studio.

Don’t get me wrong, we are happy about going on this trip. We just have so much else going on as well.

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I snapped this picture of a sink at a pub back in May. Wikipedia tells me that there is no correlation to the slang word crap and Thomas Crapper, inventor of water closet improvements and the floating ballcock. The similarities between his name and the euphemism are completely coincidental.

Thomas Crapper and Company

I guess this is the same as someone named John Singer growing up to be a musician. Some things are just your destiny.

I’m grateful for his inventions, even if its provided him with a legacy I wouldn’t particularly want to have. I wonder if he would mind or if he’d be proud.

We seem to have very little control over these things. You have to work hard at something to achieve, but you don’t always get to choose your genius. All one can do is focus and channel  effort. In the end we have little control over our creativity. If you manage to catch opportunity and inspiration at the same time, it would just be wrong not to take it.

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Husband (did I mention Boyfriend has been upgraded?) wanted to see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate Modern. This was an easy sell for me. I am a sucker for modern art museums.

Unilever has commissioned Ai Weiwei’s brainchild: 100 million hand crafted porcelain sunflower seeds displayed in the Turbine Hall. The colors of the concrete floor blend with the small porcelain seeds like a slight ripple in the floor’s texture continuity. As you approach you notice the individual pieces making up the whole until you eventually realize the small tiny pieces are sunflower seeds. At this point you want to pick one up and bite one, but the sunflower seeds are not real and the exhibit has been deemed non interactive for safety reasons. The dust from the porcelain is easily kicked up and can enter the lungs.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

A fifteen minute video shows how these pieces were handcrafted in Jingdezhen, China. You get a glimpse into the lives of the 1600 people and two and a half years that the manufacturing took place. The people are grateful for the work but I’m curious to whether they find value in the project beyond a paycheck.

This reminds me of a story someone once told me about explaining the end use of  Mardi Gras beads to Chinese factory workers. “So… you toss this at someone out of a slow moving vehicle and girls will take their tops off?”

And perhaps that’s the point – to make me consider the “Made in China” label. Or maybe it’s a statement on how all these small pieces can make up a whole. How collectively we become something we could never be as an individual. The political weaves it’s way in and out of the display. There is mention of how the sunflower seed was once a symbol of goodwill between neighbors but was adopted and altered into kitsch and propaganda by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.

Seems like a lot to say all at once.

“Did I get it all?” I asked Husband. He is standing on the bridge above the sunflower seeds looking down with awe that I haven’t seemed to muster.

Maybe I’m not suppose to be so worried about whether or not I got it right.

The exhibit is free and runs until May 2, 2011

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I woke up yesterday morning to reports that the day was going to be the absolute worst day of the year.

“Ha,” I thought, “Only in Britain would someone come up with a statistic like this.”

This third Monday in January is supposedly the day when depression is at an all time high due to weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since you failed your new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and general ennui.

I got out of bed expecting to be depressed and in actuality I was very relieved. There’s something comforting about knowing scientifically and philosophically this is the worst it’s going to get. Life has no where to go but up!

Perhaps that’s the intended result. Very clever, indeed.

I’m really grateful that someone went through the trouble of trying to cheer me up BUT….

I’m not quite sure about this science. I mean, look at the formula I got from Wikipedia.

weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. ‘D’ is not defined, nor are units.

D isn’t defined and neither are units? Um, no. The former aerospace engineer in me wants to see a mathematical proof.

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