Monday, 27 January 2014

On Happiness

I was meditatively sipping tea, when the guy at the next table said to his friend in a stentorian voice, "I always wanted to be a chef but I am frightened of food." I wanted to hug him and say, "Brother, soul mate, spiritual twin, I know how you feel!"
I discovered le mal de vivre very early on in life. When I was a small child, a sun ray came through the window. I looked at it, ready to rejoice, when I saw it was DUSTY. I learnt in that moment that beauty was impermanent, that everything gets covered in dust, and that, ultimately, life is a fight against physical and spiritual dust. I also discovered that my mind had a mind of its own, a trickster that created bizarre obstacles, unnecessarily convoluted thoughts, to keep me away from my goals. So, I became interested in happiness, what is it, is it fleeting or permanent, can it be achieved and, most of all, can you achieve it by actively pursuing it. I studied philosophy, religion, magic, meditation, nlp, cbt, positive thinking, negative thinking, not thinking. And decades later, I realised that my mind's mind was still playing tricks and that the world was still rather dusty. I felt that I had dramatically failed, because I had not achieved the wisdom that gave access to happiness. But then a thought occurred to me, "I don't NEED to be happy!" And that, well, that made me happy.
I asked my friends to give me their definitions of happiness, and here are some: a garden; a quiet moment, calm, ecstasy, beauty, making art. Happiness is something very simple, yet magical and fleeting. Sometimes it's just a moment, sometimes it lasts longer. We don't go to it, it comes to us, it's not in a place where you can always access it, the same garden will not always make you happy. Yet, happiness will always come back. But, for how hard you practise, you cannot run away from pain and sorrow, your mind's mind will always be with you with its bag of tricks, and you will always be you. I have not learnt how to be happy on command, but I have learnt to accept le mal de vivre as an annoying, yet stimulating, companion. I don't try to wrestle it to the ground any more. And happiness now comes back more often.

Friday, 24 January 2014

JawSpring Exhibition : Poetry Art: The promise of Francesca Albini

JawSpring Exhibition : Poetry Art: The promise of Francesca Albini: Francesca Albini - TUBE book Welcome to Jawspring, the exhibition that is celebrating World Poetry Day on the 21st March by fusing Art a...

Monday, 20 January 2014

no of-fence, or in my de-fence

Three guys with hoods over their heads are digging up my garden in the first dry day for a long time. Lady Luck has given me a shy smile. As they take away all the rubble, they also relieve my anxiety and the stratification of out of control circumstances that have characterised 20 years in this place I try so hard to call home. I am still half asleep after dreary dreams of fences and potential people of-fended by them. So, I decided to stay in bed and read. Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote. The antidote for positive thinking, that is. So far, the actual prescriptions or suggestions leave me quite cold, for instance the Stoic approach, which seems to me pretty grim, I prefer no approach at all, then, perfect atheism and suspension from belief. Yet, I have now entered a part of the text that tackles the sense of discomfort given by uncertainty, and of how much we always try to scramble upon safer land, to avoid the pain of uncertainty. Somehow, in my personal life, I seem to think of  less uncertainty if I purchase what I like instead of just admiring it. The actual physical possession, taken from a shop and brought to my cave, seems, at the the time of purchase, to give me control. I am leading a quite nomadic urban life at the moment, thanks to all the public spaces available in this town, from the Barbican, to Southbank, Tate Modern, etc. Plus the plethora of new coffeehouses, that  for a couple of extra pounds offer you star treatment in incredibly inspiring, relaxing, creative environments. I enjoy the fact that my purchase of a cup of tea grants me a couch, a table, often wi-fi, clean toilets, polished floors, new furniture and even pleasant art on the walls, not to mention sometimes stunning views. But these places are NOT MINE, and the desire for security, for constant, private access to those places, kicks in. Possessions. What exactly are the mechanisms of possession. Why would you want to own a book instead of borrowing it? I went to celebrate a friend's birthday yesterday, and I loved her flat, big rooms, nice classic furniture, a good cosy atmosphere. And I immediately thought, I want this place. Yet I had enjoyed it, yet I can enjoy visiting many friends with beautiful places and immerse myself in their atmosphere. Uncertainly will always be there. Out of positive thinking though, I want to keep dreams of a fun future in beautiful locations. Lake Tahoe being one of them. Perhaps Lady Luck will smile again. And no, Mr Burkeman, I am not giving her up for a nice parade of worse case scenarios.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Not quite Monday

Still Sunday, but I made a promise to myself to write a new post every Monday, until I don't, that is. It's fine either way. The thing is I haven't really thought much about what to write about. So I'll just tell you about my day. As I read every night before going to sleep, my body has learnt that if I'm reading it must be time to sleep, no matter what time of day it is or where I am. So I read on the tube, and I fall asleep on the tube, and then I wake up suddenly, wondering if I have snored, screamed or spoken or cried. Today, reading Wallander, I fell asleep from King's Cross to Holborn and woke up banging my elbow really hard. I cannot recall as to whether I banged my elbow during my sleep, or soon after. All I know is that it hurts. A lot. I went to a misophonia meeting to see if I can get rid of some of the hurdles that I seem to avidly collect, you know, all those knots, useless paths of thoughts, mental habits that stop you from functioning well, but at the same time are a wonderful stimulus for your intelligence. The misophonics mentioned hypnosis and meditation. And I thought, yes, I should really learn how to meditate properly. The way I meditate now is like playing tennis against six or seven people, they throw balls at me and I try to catch them, labelling them, 'thought', 'thought' 'thought'. I catch them and throw them out of the court. It is good because I don't follow any thought, as I throw it away, but I rush around the tennis court in a state of frenzy that leaves me quite debilitated. Anyway, I was thinking of all of these things on the train back home, while sleep-reading Wallander and trying to remember the murder scene and whom he was talking to. At home I found some good hypnosis by Mark Tyrrel, and followed him inside his colourful bubbles and through walls into safe places, that were quiet, beautiful and relaxing. And then I came back to the room, my room. At least I think I did, my elbow is still hurting, but everything else is softer and gentler.

Monday, 6 January 2014


It all started with a Time Out card that offered a discounted membership to the ICA. And there I saw the film All This Can Happen. I found the film absolutely amazing, old footage, but the way it was put together was sheer magic. A voice-over was reading The Walk by Robert Walser. I kept on trying to remember the name Tomzack, until I came home and forgot it. I borrowed Walser from the library, though, and read The Walk, and remembered the footage, and found Tomzack again. A writer friend of mine mentioned that Walser died during another walk, in the snow. And also that W.G. Sebald liked him. Sebald being one of my favourite writers. One of the short stories in Walser's book is about Heinrich von Kleist, another author new to me, another solitary person, like Walser, like me. I was also watching a BBC programme yesterday about still life and they were talking about Cezanne, who became a solitary person and just painted objects from his studio. All of these magical people, though, were somewhat connected to other great artists and writers of the time. Now we are all connected through social networks, the good the bad and the ugly, and it takes up an extraordinary amount of time to get back what seems to me very little. Everything is so vast and time consuming, so, although all of these networks are supposed to bring us together, we are in fact more isolated, I believe, than before. It takes too much time to sift through what is original and refreshing and real. It seems to me that now it is all down to serendipity, islands you mysteriously bump into while lost at sea.