Sunday, 22 June 2008

Tune in, Turn Off, Drop Out, Drop In, Switch Off, Switch On, and Explode

“Tune in, Turn Off, Drop Out, Drop In, Switch Off, Switch On, and Explode” This is originally a Timothy Leary quote that also featured in Across the Universe. It’s a bit like this summer. It feels like being young, I guess. Like finding yourself. Like learning who you want to be.

My first year here at Mt A has been surprisingly painful. When I graduated from high school and especially after my gap year, I had developed an image of myself as a well-adjusted, grounded, strong, intelligent person. And then I went and made a bunch of terrible decisions and almost lost everything that I’ve worked really hard for my whole life. Instead of being what I thought I was and what I wanted to be, I was weak and stupid. I think maybe I should have gone home this summer. I worried I’m going to find that I needed to go home more than I allowed myself to believe. We shall see.

I’ve shared this summer with my roommates and my friends and Jona … but essentially I’ve had this time to be alone and figure things out. A lot happened in the last year that has had repercussions that go fairly deep. I’ve spent the summer so far peeling it all away, layer by layer, and processing everything one layer at a time. I think plunging to the heart of it and addressing it all at once would be too difficult. There’s a machine in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy called the Total Perspective Vortex that shows anyone placed in it the “entire unimaginable infinity of the universe with a very tiny marker that says "You Are Here" which points to a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot.” (Wikipedia) Supposedly, the mind of anyone placed in this Vortex will be totally destroyed by the weight of this perspective. I guess this would sort of be like that … in a less Zaphod Beeblebrox-y kind of way.

It’s weird how painful growing up can be. Total honesty. That’s what it needs – absolute and complete honesty with oneself, about oneself. It’s hard when you find you’re not who or what you wanted to be.

There’s a person I missed this year that I haven’t talked about much, or at all. My best friend from high school. Rokimi. Kimi, to me. In school we were inseparable. We got through the IB together. We giggled. All the time. We spoke Spanish to each other a lot. I’ve forgotten most of my Spanish since we graduated. We listened to good music and read great books and shared it all with each other. We refused to go to the bathroom together because it was just way too girly and we were better than that. I made sure she had pens and knew what our homework was. She was the first person I told when Jona asked me out and I was absolutely bursting open with happiness. And of course, in typical Kimi fashion she just laughed at me. She always laughed at me. And I laughed at her. And we made sure neither of us took things too seriously. She accepted my insane obsessive compulsiveness even though it completely contradicted every one of her tendencies. She cried just as much as I did when another friend and I went to put her on a bus after grad. That was two years ago. It’s been two years since we’ve seen each other. We hoped we’d get to go to the same university but that didn’t work out. I worried that she wouldn’t have pens that that she’d miss all her classes. I missed her this year. As she said, Facebook really doesn’t substitute for physical presence. I've never been much of a girly girl. I wouldn't say I have 'girlfriends'. I haven't hung out in a group of exclusively girls since ... 10th grade. But I miss Kimi with every bit of me. I miss my second other half (Jona being the first other half). I miss being able to just talk without having to explain anything and just know that I'll be understood. She's only a few hours across the border into the States. Maybe I'll get to see her some time soon.

Month two of this summer is through. It’s weird. At the start of the summer, when I was saying bye to people, we kept commenting on how long four months really is. But it’s not. We’re half way through already and I’m starting to get that vaguely panicky feeling that comes with knowing that you don’t have much time left and you feel like you need to start making the most of every free moment. So: Tune in, Turn Off, Drop Out, Drop In, Switch Off, Switch On, and Explode!

Alexi Murdoch, Orange Sky

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Thou Mayest

A few days from now Jonathan will get on a plane and before we know it, he and I will be back to the same old same old on opposite sides of the world. Big sigh, little shrug of the shoulders, and on we plod. Two clichés keep me going: ‘C’est la vie’ and ‘This too shall pass’. They’re true. We’ve lived by them for the last four years and I have no doubt that they’ll continue to be true. And anyway, what’s a few thousand miles, right? Surely love transcends space and time? Yes … with a lot of grumbling. My lyricism and a box of magnetic poetry once produced:

‘My first thought before or after
Goes toward you, where love is.
The bridge to a perfect world
An ocean between his reality and hers.’

That was a few years ago and I thought that now that I was here in Canada and Jona was trying to find a job in Toronto, it would just become something that reminded us of the four long and hard years. But I guess that was wishful thinking; good things don’t come so easy. Ah well. C’est la vie …

I recently finished reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden which may be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s what I describe as epic because it covers large time spans and many families and people. Anyone who’s ever read The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough would know what I mean. Anyway, the book talks about a Hebrew word: timshel. The context in which this word becomes contentious is in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.

The story tells how the brothers, Cain and Abel, bring offerings to God. Abel, a shepherd, brings a lamb sacrifice and Cain, a farmer, an offering of harvested plants. God is pleased with Abel’s offering but unhappy with Cain’s. Cain becomes angry and God asks him why he is angry and says, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Cain then takes his brother out to a field and in jealous anger, kills him. Later God asks Cain where his brother is and, in discovering that Cain has murdered his brother, he banishes Cain. But, God also puts a mark on Cain so that were anyone to kill Cain “vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” The important words of this story are God’s words “thou shalt rule over him.” This is a promise God makes to Cain saying that Cain will conquer evil. In other translations these words are read as ‘do thou’ – an order. And, in the original Hebrew version the word is ‘timshel’ which means ‘thou mayest’ – a choice. One may choose to conquer evil or not. It is not an order to be obeyed, nor a promise which then requires no effort on our part – but rather, it is a choice for us to do or not do. A character in the novel says there is godliness in choice.

This has made a big impact on me. This isn’t to say that I didn’t understand that I have a choice to live my life the way I wish or that I didn’t understand free will or anything so literal, but rather that it sort of functions as another one of those clichés like ‘C’est la vie’ or ‘This too shall pass’. Thou mayest. What ever it is, thou mayest, or equally, thou mayest not.

Thou mayest love or not love. Thou mayest forgive or not forgive. Thou mayest do right or do wrong. Thou mayest work hard or not, be honest or not, be kind or not. In choice there is power and freedom. I think it’s fantastic. So yea ... food for thought.

This song is for the next few months that are going to be long and hard: All My Loving, by the Beatles.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Chasing Cars

It’s been a while since my last post. My apologies. There are a few valid reasons though.

Jonathan was here for a week and a half. Initially we had only planned for him to be here a week but I got a few unexpected days off work because they were fixing the kookie kutting machine and so Jona stayed three days longer. The week and a half was incredible and desperately needed. It gets very hard to be away from each other for such long periods of time. Sadly it looks like we’ll be doing it again. Jona will be heading home to India pretty soon to find a job there since Canada didn’t turn out to be particularly fruitful. And then we’ll be doing what we’ve done for the last four years, except in reverse. Before, I was in India and he was in San Francisco and now he’ll be in India and I’ll be here in Sackville. It’s a little demoralizing but they say people do crazy things for love. Things will be a little bit harder and a little bit sadder but otherwise essentially the same and life will go on.

That was reason number one. Reason number two was that the monitor I was using died. It was lent by a friend (Stuart) who couldn’t lug it home for the summer. It took a while for me to get in touch with him to get instructions to fix it and then it turned out that the monitor was simply refusing to be fixed. I managed to check my email and such once a day on one of my roommate’s computer but that was it – not enough time or comfort to sit down and write a blog.

Work has been cutting us back a fair bit. I only worked three days last week and I won’t work more than four this week because we had Saturday, Monday and Tuesday off. I’m a little irritated and concerned by the whole thing because they said they’d be increasing production and I know I’m no Einstein but I do understand that more cookies cannot be baked in fewer days. Anyway, for now it looks like I’ll be working at least 20 hours a week which is enough to keep my afloat. Less than that and this won’t be a job at all. I have nothing else though so I have to stick it out no matter what happens.

In spite of not working, the days have been full enough. Sleeping late, reading, watching movies, cooking and hanging out have kept me fairly busy. It’s a rare night now when it’s just Horace, Kevin and I. Justin has moved in with Rhiana because his landlord was giving him a hard time and so they’re over almost every night. Faisal and Rizwan come over fairly often to, and most evenings end up being a bit of a party – or at least a large, happy family gathering. It’s great. Without that, this would have been a pretty miserable summer.

My Indian cooking is improving steadily. I think my mother would be proud. The rice that I used to burn has become something I can do with my eyes closed. I made really good alu gobi (potato and cauliflower) yesterday and almost equally good rajma (red kidney bean curry). And I think the rajma can be excused because it’s the first time I’ve attempted it. This afternoon when I was cooking the rajma, I threw cumin seeds into hot oil and when they were done, I threw in chopped onions and the smell was so strongly reminiscent of home. I hadn’t realized it until I smelled it but the smell of roasted cumin and frying onions is the smell of my mum cooking. It made me really happy. I then proceeded to make a bit of a mistake and I added too much of a spice and the curry started to smell a bit strange. I wished my mum was there to tell me what to do to fix it. The spice was turmeric powder which has a slightly strange bitter taste that, in excessive quantities can be fairly disgusting. But, it all turned out fine in the end. I feel like I should start documenting my recipes but they’re never the same twice in a row and it might be a bit pointless. Anyway, just as an update, my cooking skills are improving rapidly and I’m feeling rather pleased with myself.

I guess that’s all for now. I’ll try and be a bit better with my posting from now on.

Here's a song that makes me think of Jona - Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.