27 January 2020

All the world's a stadium

How does a sport look?

It looks and looks
and looking finds its way
to one of many scores
its weary truth.

. . . .

Is a sport a record?

Always the body needs
to muscle limits
as predators learn
to outrun for food.

. . . .

Is a sport an art?

Perfecting a difficult pattern
is nothing but an exciting

—Excerpts from What Is a Sport? by Alex Gregorio ("The Rosegun", 2004)

Tears, mine, flow as I read reports on the death of Kobe Bryant. I have to wonder why as I don't care about the guy, and these news — celebrity deaths, tragedies and its casualties — rarely affect me. At most I respond with short-lived shock, which mellows into empathy before fading back into indifference.

Perhaps the reason is he's become real to me through the people I know. And being a sportsman, I find him a symbol of vitality.

This event has also made me realize the stronger kinship I feel towards athletes more than artists. When I think of the Olympic motto, Faster, Higher, Stronger, I think, What meaningless pursuit! Yet I practice the same straightforward principle. All this fixation on records, difficulty, and repetitions that aim at but never reach mastery.

01 January 2020

Reading and writing, what else?

The last book I read in 2019. As in finished it on New Year's Eve.

Tokarczuk, Olga. Flights. Translated by Jennifer Croft, Riverhead Books, 2018.

1. Places
The internet is a fraud. It promises so much — that it will execute your every command, that it will find you what you're looking for; execution, fulfillment, reward. But in essence that promise is a kind of bait, because you immediately fall into a trance into hypnosis. The paths quickly diverge, double and multiply, and you go down them, still chasing an aim that will now get blurry and undergo some transformations. You lose the ground beneath your feet, the place where you started from just gets forgotten, and your aim finally vanishes from sight, disappears in the passage of more and more pages... You feel like spreading out your arms and plunging into it, into that abyss, but there is nothing more deceptive: the landscape turns out to be a wallpaper, you can't go any farther. (pp 343 – 344)
We've moved our photo albums online and mine, collected as with others on Instagram, shows adventures at concert halls, the theater, and various dining tables. The occasional trips outside the city and, rarer, outside the country. And then the profusion of books; because, as corny as it sounds, it's an easy way to travel with higher rewards.

Somehow the public nature of social media has allowed, better yet nudged us to visit strangers' homes, pluck their photo albums from the lowest shelves of their libraries, and imagine perfect lives from the images before our eyes. Lives that neither we nor these strangers own.

It's cruel that the internet provides a universe of information every minute yet I don't expand with it. Rather the exact opposite happens. I shrink.

With books and its resolve to have a beginning and an end, literally and conceptually; a sense of integrity no matter how amorphous its parts, I gain a satisfaction akin to eating a full course meal. Within me is nourishment I needed, at least for the time being.

2. Faces
Don't be shy, I think to the rest, all waiting for our gate to open — take your notbebooks out, too, and write. For in fact there are lots of us who write things down. We don't let on we're looking at each other; we don't take our eyes off our shoes. We simply write each other down, which is the safest form of communication and of transit; we will reciprocally transform each other into letters and initial, immortalize each other, plastinate each other, submerge each other in formaldehyde phrases and pages. (p 401)
People will charm me, then leave — not me, though me being left behind is a side effect of their having to go. This is painful to accept. Seeing your friends already prove to be a challenge, but the acquaintances whom you crave to know deeper — how to keep them close?

Some of my saddest days are right after talking to a stranger who has to be on a different part of the world. Their beauty is like an aftertaste, revealing itself as soon as you say good-bye, when you take another look at their calling card, or replay the party in your head before sleep.

We admit to a fear of missing out. I don't care about climbing K2 or diving the Great Barrier Reef. How many wonderful human beings have I not met whenever I choose to stay locked in my apartment?

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