This gallery contains 6 photos.
Have you noticed how the following themes keep popping up, almost obsessively, in contemporary discourse – in the media, in the public sphere and increasingly in ourselves?
This obsession with sex – and complete devaluation of love and tenderness and commitment.
This obsession with doing – and complete devaluation of being.
This obsession with the intensity of fragmented experience – and complete devaluation of profoundness and resilience and eternity.
This obsession with work and maximization – and complete devaluation of contemplation and spirituality. Of the time it takes to realize that you have a soul, that you are a human being capable of transcendence, not a machine plugged in to churn out as many objects as possible per unit of time.
We treat ourselves and each other as equipment, as products. We apply to beings the logic of machines. We have transferred the maximum efficiency mantra of the technological sector to human life. We have internalized the algebraic depersonalisation, the callous disregard, the flattening subjugation of being to efficiency and utility present in our discourses. We find it OK to behave and to be treated increasingly like predictable robots or like working animals. Like mammals, all dapper and happy to be allowed to act out their basest instincts.
This obsession with Darwinism, with us as little more than physical organisms in biological evolution, this bench-marking against apes, not against angels or saints. This devaluation of angels and saints as melodrama and cheap esoteric – or, even, as oppression. This talk of our “natural instincts”. Nature, our nature, as a new goddess. But should we always make way for our natural instincts? Will that improve us? What will build more character and more goodness and a deeper path to the absolute we secretly yearn for?
(Is something good or legitimate simply because we were born with it? Because we acquired it? Because it is fun? Because it brings pleasure or monetary value? Are we not supposed to transcend ourselves?)
This frenzy of devaluation… No religion, but brand religion. The branding iron.
What is slavery for theoretically free individuals? According to Simone Weil, the disconnect between one’s efforts and their life’s work. (We work, but we no longer have a life’s work, an opus, an oeuvre. We expect our work to be the foundation of our identity, but in fact, so many of us no longer feel like creators. We no longer develop our being in the process of our work. Work all too often feels like odd life-draining tasks under excruciating time pressure, away from the ones we love. It no longer feels like purpose. Just endless busyness. Our work has control over us, but we no longer have much control over it.)
What else is slavery? In Gravity and Grace, S. Weil goes on to say it is the coercion to accept that “reading” of yourself, that interpretation of yourself, which others stamp on you. Having no choice or having only wrong choices. Allowing yourself to be devoured by exhausting activities, and making all this daily effort simply to stay in your current condition – no horizon, no finality, mere survival. Day to day to day. The arbitrariness of how you are treated. The dependency. The addiction.
Any illusion begins to feel real when enough people accept it and internalize it as “the thing to do”. Repeated, it reproduces, it propagates.
This destruction of the human soul…
We no longer recognize the sacredness of our own and each other’s being.
Will the human spirit ever rise against this flattening iron?…
It is upon us.
Its blistering tongues lurk behind the levee,
They pounce like savage beasts
Mercilessly they wheeze
Blowing the tumbleweeds against my doorstep.
A goodbye kiss, crackling dry.
Deserted yards, howling.
The yellow earth swelling and swirling,
It is in my eyes, my nostrils, my teeth.
Every time I spit,
I spit grains of sallow sin.
There used to be ponds along the river
And fishing nets heavy with fish
The cabins on the lake full of
guffawing and cheer,
There used to be trees and snakes.
The forest playing organ to the gales.
It is gone now.
Its birds scattered
like dust from old carpets.
The vineyards are dead.
Their grapes, dried up and shriveled,
Won’t be quenching no thirst
Won’t be crowning no wedding
There ain’t gonna be no toasts around here
Only the sheer shriek of the southerly wind,
Only the curses of the departed still drifting
across the inward-moving sands.
*poem inspired by this article: https://www.vice.com/ro/article/9ke3nz/seceta-si-nisipul-au-cucerit-sudul-romaniei
“Ne la laisse pas tomber
Elle est si fragile
Etre une femme libérée tu sais c’est pas si facile…”
Copyright photos France: A. Sepi & A. Csordas 2019
I have given life to two children
I have exhaled all my words
I am all written out of poems.
My Japanese ink paintings are modest
They’ve long been made into paper airplanes.
Here I stand like a leafless tree basking in the nonchalance of autumn.
I draw my vigour from the earth
I squint at the antediluvian depths I have recreated and revived.
I blink out of three pairs of eyes
(The plastic crow on my balcony never blinks – I became disenchanted with doves a long time ago
Flight for me is a flight of stairs.
Watch me carry haikus in my bags as I climb.)
I run my fingers through my hair and pear blossoms fill the floor.
Are you emboldened, literati?
How do you rank against my writing?
I’ve been composing multicolored ribbons of DNA and have mastered
The secret cellular alchemy
Of original thought. And original being.
I’ve been weaving balls of synapses into lyrical epics and dramas
Perfecting my bildungsroman for generations to come.
I have fleshed out my heroes (my villains, too!)
And catapulted glitter into the night sky.
This gallery contains 6 photos.
Simssee – Upper Bavaria
Cartierul e împăturit într-o tăcere mare, albă, stranie;
se afundă în înserare până la genunchi.
Lumea a devenit improbabilă, fără margini:
prospețimea imaculată a zăpezii – și restul.
Copacii sunt gheme încâlcite de bumbac alb,
din cer se deșiră în tihnă pânzeturi orbitoare și reci.
Cărări tăiate mai adineaori în pântecul feciorelnic al iernii,
ninsoarea le-a pansat cu tifon de fulgi moi.
Cicatricile orașului se vindecă.
Din scutul fonic al zăpezii se desprind cu greu: o clipă trecătoare, frânturi de voci.
Acum sunt lângă tine (te întorci și ești singur),
acum se resorb, înghițite de gaura de vierme a spațiu-timpului,
ca să răsară fantomatic într-un cotlon obscur,
departe de trupurile lor.
(Iată, cei doi îndrăgostiți râzând, aproape te-ai ciocnit de ei).
Pete negre, mișcătoare, se decupează din timp în timp de pe fundalul
monoton, de film mut.
Se nasc, apoi se topesc din nou.
Par dincolo de sticlă, par din altă lume.
Lumea aceasta s-a oprit,
urmele noastre se șterg,
contururile dure, paralelipipedice ale realității se estompează,
(înăuntrul lor locuim noi),
Doar chiotele copiilor se mai aud de pe dig.
Sănii și tăvăleală.
Name five things you can see, the app said.
I counted drapes, floors, slippers…
I couldn’t name the truth.
I knew I had it somewhere, but I didn’t want
To slide open the drawers of memory again
(the place was so tidy).
Name four you can hear, it menaced.
I strained but heard nothing, nothing.
The room is dead quiet.
I am alone. The sun is quiet, the floors are quiet, my clothes are quiet.
There are no voices, there is no inner music.
Nor did I smell, or touch, or feel.
There was a vague odor of petrol in my rough woolen sweater, but the place
I went to the river.
Here the air is warm and smells
Of dead things that used to be living.
It wraps around my neck like a shawl.
Here the grass is moist and the leaves
In it dry and rustling.
I rub my palm against thick hedges. They scratch.
The autumn sky lowers it golden gaze like a shy geisha.
Young birches lean with honey-tinged bibs toward the water.
They come alive with black birds.
Like inscrutable lenses, willow leaves swirl through the air
Then alight on an eddy.
You guessed it: there’s a breeze.
I went to the river.
It is warm.
It goes places.
It hurtles away, quietly.
An old man dressed all ocher and chestnut sits by it and listens
Then checks his pulse.
It is still there.
The river and me, we walk along in opposite directions.
A bike rolls on by, turning the gravel sunwards.
A handsome young man asks me for the time.
I give him what little time I have on me – and he smiles back, clutching a beer.
I came out here to read some Ezra Pound but the place
Is teeming with poets.
Let us make here three tabernacles, said the apostle.
One for thee, and one for Moses and one for Elias.
You’ll never know it, but
I’ve never known happiness until now.
By bringing me here, you brought me into being.
The graduation cap kept slipping off my head and the tassel was getting into my field of vision, occasionally blotting out important surrounding objects, like pillars or toilets. I couldn’t bend down, nod, or even glance at my phone. I was beginning to get an inkling into why all graduands look so dignified – standing tall, chin up, gaze fixed firmly ahead, stiff smile. They must be terrified of dropping the thing…
I hadn’t worn a robe before either, and this ceremony at the London Barbican for alumni of the University of London’s International Programmes was my first British-style graduation, national anthem and all.
So when the lady at the dressing booth carefully placed and arranged the heavy black robe on my shoulders, the eerie weight of responsibility settled on them too.
I was on my best behavior: walked across the stage confidently when my name was called (having wisely ditched my stilettos in favor of more sensible flat-sole boots), bowed imperceptibly to the Vice-Chancellor and the other members, looked proudly (how else, cap was unstable) up into the audience, shook someone’s hand and was utterly relieved to be seated again without any major incident.
I was all too happy to relax and watch the long procession of excited graduates that followed, their enthusiasm, the faculty speeches, and the subtle yet undoubtedly motivating and inspiring pomp of the ceremony. I barely fidgeted. The fact that I was dead beat after hours of walking through London must have had something to do with it.
Trying to pack this buzzing and fascinating city into only 48 hours and tick most of the major boxes on my to-see list is no small feat. It is, in fact, for no small feet at all. I have come dangerously close to a broken back, but I did manage to get a pretty good sense of the place, if I do say so myself. Yes, boys and girls, it can be done!
So, as my throbbing, swollen feet are my witness, and in my capacity as surface-scratcher extraordinaire, I feel it is now my duty to dispel at least 3 common misconceptions right off the bat:
1. English food is terrible.
No way. Not necessarily. The gusty winds of healthy living are sweeping through the busy streets and teeming bike lanes of London, with tasty treats, leafy salads, fresh thick soups and vegan sandwiches on every corner. Things like pumpkin or papaya slices on rye bread with seeds, arugula, coleslaw, vegan mayo, vegetables and cheese can make a wholesome yet light and savory breakfast at a fraction of the price of fish and chips. Eat away! The food scene is amazing, and old traditional pubs, local steakhouses, elegant seafood restaurants, or first-class international cuisine are equally sophisticated and delightful. I particularly liked the looks of some eateries around Covent Garden.
2. The British are sticklers for protocol. (You know, stiff upper lip, haven’t been properly introduced type of stuff…)
Well, what can I say, if you marry into the Royal family (new wedding coming up!) most likely, but then you’ve brought it upon yourself. In my experience, however, even during official ceremonies there is the occasional cutting of slack, and guidance is always offered with smiles and in a calm tone of voice.
On the streets, the British are considerate and friendly chaps (and lads), who do not seem at all phased by the bustling crowds and will always take a second to give you directions or duck while you’re trying to photograph the sights. There will be a polite sorry for every brush against your arm, and thank yous are abundant. Never an arrogant snarl, never a condescending eye roll. There is a touch of affability and humor with every interaction. (Oh, I love decorum and a good upbringing!)
And even though the city is as vibrant, diverse and fast-paced as they come (more than 300 different languages are spoken in London schools), I did not get a sense of hectic rage among its inhabitants at all. They are lax and at ease in the commotion (occasional exception: cyclists – no, they are not training for the Tour de France, they’re just pedaling to work). To my complete surprise, most pedestrians don’t pay the slightest attention to red traffic lights. These seem to be optional, as jaywalking is common. So no sticklers there.
The hard focus on discipline and immediate punishment so typical of Germany is oddly missing here, as is the idea that human communities can only be held together by an obsession with conformity and the strict enforcement of procedures.
3. London is outrageously expensive.
Again, if you want an apartment on the riverbank, overlooking the Tower Bridge, or a nice flat in a posh neighborhood (ok, rents are pretty high everywhere) that will bore a significant hole through your bank account. High-life central London entertainment and tickets to most tourist venues will also take a toll on your finances; croissants and hot dogs in the immediate vicinity of a tourist attraction tend to be quite overpriced. But regular food and transportation fares are decent and even a couple of nights in a pleasant hotel not very far from the City are affordable.
You will see the occasional homeless person, and beggars on the Tube. But you will also see great culture and art (Tate Modern has sections with free access); impressive architecture – an eclectic mix of old and new, gleaming glass-and-steel structures cuddling the grimed walls of old churches, townhouses emblazoned with heraldic symbols, and charming little gardens redolent of rhododendrons; garrulous seagulls on the Thames and a buzzing fleet of red double-decker buses that will seem like they’re all driving on the wrong side of the road!
So be careful when you cross the street, pack an umbrella and enjoy five o’clock tea!
I’ll interrupt my reminiscing now and stand for God Save the Queen as my graduation ceremony closes. London, it’s been a pleasure!
Spoiler alert: here are (some) pictures. Don’t forget to also follow me on Instagram, under ipesardna, for more interesting stuff.
See you next time!
“În vremurile aspre și triste, oamenii liberi pot să se consoleze întotdeauna cu lecția de bază a istoriei, și anume că tiraniile nu pot dăinui decât printre neamurile slugarnice.”
în Humes, J.C. – Vorbele de duh ale lui Winston Churchill, ed. Humanitas, București, 2008.