A weekly digest of varied conversational musings on day-to-day life, society & whatever the world throws our way.

Love is in the Air

LoveThere seem to be three main sentiments that arise when Valentine’s Day arrives. One is either: 1) excited beyond belief to celebrate a relationship with another on what is – arguably – the most romantic day of the year; 2) livid, because one is alone and annoyed with all of the pomp and circumstance, commercialization, and general amorousness; or, 3) indifferent and more thrilled about the Season 2 premier of House of Cards on Netflix. Perhaps there would be more excitement all around if it were a statutory holiday. Who doesn’t love a day off work? This way, too, singletons could sleep the day away, far from public displays of affection and buried under duvet covers, eating self-purchased chocolates, and watching When Harry Met Sally and other Meg Ryan-approved films until the clock strikes midnight, bidding the cursed day away. (Not to sound all Bridget Jones about the matter, or anything).

In all seriousness though, I think that it is wonderful that there is a day on which we celebrate love. It may be the eternal optimist in me, or the side of me that wants to believe, despite so many examples to the contrary, that human beings are capable of great love and kindness. Given how efficient we are as a species at undercutting others, or pillaging, maiming and killing fellow Homo sapiens, it seems more than reasonable that, on at least one day in the year, we pause to celebrate love and extend affection to others.

Although the day has become focused on eros love (that focused on sexual or romantic desire), I believe that we do ourselves a great disservice when we forget about the three other forms of love that the Ancient Greeks identified: storge (kinship or familiarity); friendship (philia) and agape (self-emptying or divine love). It could be the idealist in me that seeks inclusivity, but looking at love in this multi-faceted way makes love even more accessible than we might at first believe. Despite what commercials or films may show, even if one is without a romantic honey, there is still so much love to celebrate. I love my friends. I love my family. Sometimes (I must confess) I even love strangers – particularly those who, with an offhanded remark, make me laugh or who remind me of something that makes me nostalgic. In sum, the glass is more than half full, given how many beloveds you really can possess.

Signing off (with love),

Y.

Tortured Artist
Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinhoodh Matadin for The New York Times

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinhoodh Matadin for The New York Times

I had the intention of posting something very different this week, but upon hearing of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman I changed my mind.

Like other people who have posted comments on social media or entertainment or news websites, I too am saddened to hear of the circumstances of his death. I can’t, and don’t want to imagine what it would be like to die so utterly alone, wasted by an addiction that was stronger than my own will.

Hoffman was devastatingly skilled at playing complex and sometimes very dark individuals. His livelihood often necessitated venturing to the dark core of humanity to authentically bring a character to life. Having only ever done minor and small scale acting stints, and always for fun, I don’t know what it would be like to constantly mine the depths of human frailty, or the world’s shadows, while trying to prevent such a craft from working to the detriment of my own personal happiness and well-being.

The tortured artist is a common archetype in society. We’ve become accustomed to attaching melancholia, a life tinged with darkness and the murky depths to artistic greatness – the kind achieved by the likes of Hoffman. Perhaps Hoffman would have still suffered from his addictions even if he wasn’t an actor, play acting the lives of others for our own joy and amusement. But I can’t help but wonder if it all, for him, went hand in hand – the self-destruction mixed with creative genius – to make him shine so bright.

Rest in peace Philip. I hope the demons no longer haunt you.

Signing off,

Y.

Schadenfreude

So, this week a fairly big celebrity, who happens to go by the initials JB got himself into more legal trouble. It was seemingly another nail in the coffin sealing his reputation as an entitled brat, bad boy, miscreant, or whatever other term may be most appropriate.

Several commentators have stated that JB’s fall was predictable or inevitable. What else could one have expected of a very young man who rose so quickly to fame, wealth and notoriety before he had a driver’s licence or reached the age of voter eligibility? Even the strongest of individuals, from the best and most supportive families would have difficulty with the laser-like focus of fans and media examining each move, each step, from album to merchandise sales and beyond.

There’s no excuse for JB’s behaviour or the behaviour of any other young celebrities who believe they are above the law or who think that their fame or riches make them greater than the rest of us mere mortals, or “civilians” as some celebrities like to call the non-famous. What he did was wrong, reckless, and quite frankly, disgusting and embarrassing to watch.

Although it might not be as egregious, what is also terrible to watch is the glee with which many have reported the latest events. One can see on people’s faces and hear in their voices, a sense of pleasure at JB’s misfortune. Yes, he brought it on himself and he is responsible for how he conducts his life – and unfortunately he’s made some poor choices, some of which could have endangered other people’s lives – but it doesn’t give the rest of us license to enjoy watching someone’s life implode. Is what he did wrong? Yes, absolutely and he should receive the same treatment as anyone in a similar situation. But should I, or anyone else take joy in someone else’s fall or misfortune? For me, the answer is no.

Signing off,

Y.

Legacy

Christmas is over and we’re a couple of days away from ringing in the new year. It’s a naturally reflective period and I’ve found myself mulling over a story a friend relayed to me. This friend heard a story on the radio about a man’s re-entry into the modern world after almost 15 years living in a bunker. Apparently, this man, along with other cohorts from a ‘cultish’ group, believed that Y2K spelled the destruction of the world and so, in order to escape the perils and dangers that they expected, they shut themselves off from society and prepared to remain in their bunkers until 2015 – when the world would be habitable once again.

For whatever reason, this man left the bunker early and, to his astonishment, entered a world that never stopped ticking – that in fact progressed beyond his wildest imagination. Although I never heard the radio program myself, I couldn’t help but imagine the level of regret and sorrow this man must have felt considering the people he lost and abandoned, like his (ex) wife, not to mention his many friends and family; there also must have been numerous “what if” thoughts that traversed his mind considering the time he wasted sealed from society.

It takes a certain level of ingenuity and preparation in order to shut oneself from the world and sustain human life whilst living apart from others. Somehow this group of people managed to survive for so long. Imagine some of the great things they could have done or created had they devoted their energy to really living their lives and not holing themselves up somewhere underground while others in the world marched on?

If someone told me that the world really was to end imminently, I’d hope that I would live – clichéd as it sounds – each remaining day to the full. Of course, there’s no need to wait to hear the death knell. We can all live our lives in a big way, as though we have no choice but to do so.

Personally, I think that for 2014 this man’s story will be my touchstone for the year so that I can remember the importance of really living life – living as though I’m dying or as though the world will end at a moment’s notice – even if it means that I’ll be exposed to the elements and buffeted by life’s waves. I may take a line from Fefe Dobson’s song “Legacy” and use it as my motto for the year: “If I die tonight at least I left a legacy”. Hopefully those words will be true.

Signing off,

Y.

Mandela
Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Like so many others around the world, I have been thinking about the legacy of Nelson Mandela in the days following his death. He is arguably one of, if not the greatest statesmen I will ever live to see. I never had the opportunity to shake hands with the legendary man – I only had the privilege of being in the same room as him in the UK a decade ago – but I didn’t have to be near him to feel his presence, power, or influence.

When one saw Mandela, one could see – as so many others have said – his connection to other legendary political figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. But, unlike those other great figures, Mandela was a man living in ‘my time’. He was not long gone, relegated to history books, or crackling black and white footage. He was live and in colour and affecting change in real time for people across the generational divide: from my grandparents, to my parents, to my own generation.  I was fortunate enough to be born when I was and to witness history being played out before my eyes even when I was too young to completely understand, but aware nonetheless of the significance.

He was as charismatic and caring as he was bold and defiant; he was remarkable, but imperfect, still human and flawed like all of us, but capable, despite the many setbacks, of doing the extraordinary.  He lived out and practiced his famous quote: “It always seems impossible until it is done”.

When a man like Mandela passes away you come to realize how rare it is to come across people like him.

Mandela, sadly, is gone. On the day of his public and international memorial the skies opened up. It seems that the heavens were weeping too. When an exceptional person leaves this earth it makes one realize that there are too few who inspire and there is too little in this world that is great.

Goodbye Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela . We will miss you.

Signing off,

Y.