Sunday, June 27, 2010

So many Books, So little Time

Man reading a book in bed

Sometimes I feel I am lost in Borges labyrinth-sized library. There is an infinite number of books out there in the world that I will never be able to read in my short human lifespan, even if I were to forsake family, work, food, and sleep. So many books will be left unopened and unread; worse, I won't ever know of their existence.

Normally, I would not despair about this fact. Despite being an avid reader, I would simply choose the familiar and beloved authors and philosophers and let all the others be.

Yet how will I know if I have made the right choice? What if I have not yet stumbled upon my most favorite, destined author that could give me unfathomable reading pleasure or even be able to change my life forever? What if his or her works are lurking in a bookstore or library corner gathering dust and being eaten by moth, while I go about ignorantly completing my supposedly meaningful tasks in this world?

A lot of it may have to do with luck – and advertising. What others consider literature may arouse my interest. What close friends suggest as good reading I might take on. What the media or critics rave about, I might actually pick up and read.

It is always intimidating to enter a bookstore or library of any size and be overwhelmed by the odor and the hidden wisdom of so many stacked and shelved books. If I had better hearing, I would hear their whispers echo in the empty spaces. They could call out to me and make me pick up the right book at the right time.

Sometimes I have dreams about books but so far they have been misleading. I dreamed once that I picked up Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek. I followed the advice, bought it in the same week, read it and felt baffled and disappointed afterward. Why did my higher self want me to read that particular book? Did I fail to read between the lines? Was there a hidden message for me?

In the meantime, I can only try my best and read voraciously whatever crosses my path or catches my interest in the hope that somewhere in those pages I will find my spiritual guide or “soul-mate” - in a philosophy book or a book of excellent fiction. Who knows I might even stumble upon the perfect recipe in a cookbook.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Eternal Fixation and the Gaping Gap between Desire and Realization

Woman sitting on edge of bed looking bored

Be careful what you wish for, we often say, and there is a grain of truth in this statement. In many cases, we are either let down or disappointed when we finally reach our goal. It is part of human nature and make-up, I suppose. We spend, for example, weeks, months, years in order to reach our destined objective, and then we may enjoy it for a bit, but soon it wears off like any old hat, and we are left with our desire for more and evermore, for variety or more of the same but in improved presentation.

Yet at the same time, they often say that it is the journey that counts; it is the path that is more important than the destination itself since the destination always leaves a lot to be desired and ends up being a sham anyhow. This may be why the happiness of people who suddenly become rich by winning the lottery or via an inheritance may not be as long-lasting as those who have worked hard to get there and who “make” it through their own efforts.

Whether it is money that you are chasing or love or a family or your retirement, when it comes down to it, you will never be fully satisfied with the results. Commonplace boredom will ensnare you sooner or later, and there seems to be no immunization against it. Or is there?

The driving power is indeed the journey itself but in the shape of our desire. Now desire is something that lasts. And desire is constantly moving us towards action; it is our constant craving. It is desire that makes the object worth pursuing in the first place.

If you are in love with somebody, and you desire them, you place a high value on them, and hence you double or triple your efforts to conquer this person. It is your desire that makes her beautiful. Without it, she would be just an ordinary girl, but your longing has made her into a shiny star, a regal beauty queen, a unique person in the world.

Although there is often a consensus of what constitutes beauty, namely what the majority of the “experts” of the time, such as media and peers, agree upon, I am more interested in the individual's perception of the object or the person in question. We can hide desire from other people's views, yet it burns inside us; it gives us energy during the day and robs our sleep at night. It is the stuff that furnishes us with poetry.

And strangely, paradoxically, it finds its most beautiful expression in its failure to achieve its fulfillment. It is the everlasting gaze, the arms outstretched in eternity, far away, yet so close to the desired goal.

It is the final step that was never taken, the desire that remained spiritual forever and never became flesh. It is Juliet who will never be with the beloved, but who finds him in the eternal embrace of death's shadow.

The desire that never materialized is the most beautiful. Why? Because it shines forth in all its splendor, in all its facets, in all its myriad possibilities, never actualized but always there and always full.