Strawberries: false fruit with many secrets that will enrapture your senses

There are more than 600 varieties of strawberries and they are botanically not berries at all, while eggplants, tomatoes and avocados are berries, gotcha! The sheer diversity popping around me from Denmark though France, Germany, Israel, California, Switzerland, as far as to Japan rose my curiosity. My studious research yielded quite shocking revelations of our communally shared ignorance. The fibre-rich, multiple fruit according to the Carnegie Science Center researchers reveals: “The brownish or whitish specks, which are commonly considered seeds, are the true fruits, called achenes, and each of them surrounds a tiny seed.” Since the seeds are placed outside, it cannot be classified a berry as a blueberry is for example. Each strawberry has about 200 fruits on it. And this is only the start, I gasped at my further findings.

Japanese wagashi

Human creativity meets natural selection though questions

What you probably did not know about strawberries beyond their Wimbledon fame, whipped cream pairing, milkshake and frozen treats, is that it is not just where they are grown or on which farm but as with apples, there are many different taste profiles and colours to show. While it is unlikely that you will ever taste all the hybrids and cultivars (Wikipedia incompletely lists only the US&UK), each tastes slightly different.

Tinted by sun exposure or the lack of it from off-white, through Valentino red, to inky violet. I tried the rainbow of this jolly pseudo-fruit (allow me to refer to it a ‘berry’ further on as per familiar, while incorrect linguistic labelling) except for the almost blackish Chinese breed (China unsurprisingly also produces the largest quantity of 草莓 read: Cǎoméi).The so called black strawberry is actually of a very deep dark violet hue. It is remarkable that no genetic modifications were used in creating this breed. The ochre, yellowish variants I had in Munich (imported from Belgium) and Stockholm (imported from Netherlands) called “pineberry” is actually a light-hued, red seeded strawberry found recently in South Africa that tastes like pineapple. Dutch farmers saved this breed, which was on the brink of extinction.

Heart-shaped (is human heart indeed two joined mirroring question marks??), but also conical, oval or indefinably shaped like the most recent claimer of the Guinness World record for heaviest strawberry Ilan (named charmingly after the farmer’s son) at 289 grams!! (an average strawberry weighs 15 grams) grown in Israel in February 2022.

white strawberry

Rainbow of strawberries celebrated around the world

My globe-spanning travels include countless strawberry stories. From picking them in the wild anywhere from the Swiss Alps (German: Erdbeeren) and Zurich hills (again this morning on my way from yoga), French gas stations (fraises), sampling the previously world’s heaviest ‘King of Strawberry’ and the priciest white in Japan (苺 read: ichigo) to the world’s best chefs’ creative recipes at the fine tables.

This time of the year I would be driving through the Mediterranean Eze village, seduced to stop my car for a giant basketful of sexy red Naiad strawberries driven from Provence fresh daily by the roadside vendor. Buy a kilo or go to a supermarket. This large quantity would stir creativity once one was overfed by the pure fruit. The assembled deliciousness at home from countless cookbooks, as I did once with a giant white truffle, I would add them into anything (best recipe suggestions further down).

While the Italian fragola can sing a libretto according to the Pinocchios of that well-heeled land, the strawberries in Italy as well as from Spain have not impressed me so far. Even from the Southernmost Sicily, they do not taste as complex as those grown in France or further North. No matter how South the berry was grown, the Italians could not measure up to the Provencal specimens when in season.

In Denmark I tasted Favori, the first harvest of the year mid May (Danish jordbær). Chef Christian Baumann now at the superb Koan Copenhagen, where local bounty meets Nordic and Korean culinary heritage, worked as a teenager on a berry farm each summer learning about the subtle differences between strawberries and serves others like Rumba as the season progresses.

June strawberry

Always seasonal superfood

Forget June, there is always peak ripeness somewhere in the world. Heralds of early spring sunshine in the Middle East, later in Europe and Northern America, strawberries sweeten the year with juicy Vitamin C brightness, yet in some places it is the winter when they are at their best and cooler weather also favours more intense flavour. Mountain berries taste the most concentrated.

Plus, a bowlful has more fibre than a slice whole grain bread, so do not hesitate to eat plenty, sans gluten. More, the not always red juicy rascal turned out a relative with rose hanging out botanically in the same Rosaceae family.

These are the first ripe fruits rouges, to use the deceitful French term for all berries including black, blue, purple, yellow, beige, white, opal, or whatever colour a surface acquires as the sunshine warms its pigmented skin, ripe in the mild climate of four-seasons variability.

Burgundy strawberries

Made in France, literally

These edible roses grew from only a few original wild strawberry species into many breeds. The garden strawberries were first bred in Brittany, France in the 1750s from fragaria virginiana (American wild strawberry) hybridized with Chilean Fragaria chiloensis. This became the Fragaria ananassa species (there are about 20 now) resistant to diseases that ripens earlier and is the most used variety in commercial strawberry production. Hundreds of other crossbred species are available around the world throughout the year.

wild strawberrieswild strawberries

It is also the French who honour the distinctions of these not always red berries most beyond the garden shops also on the food marketplace. I love the bloody juicy and bright Anaïs from the Loire valley, sweet Burgundy-deep Cirafine from Brittany, reliable Cléry from Ille de France, and while the Provençal Dream candy, marmalade processed sugar flavour is not for me, Joly and Murano — both  straightforward bursts of sunshine in your mouth are delightful. Most distinguished in Provence are strawberries from Carpentras, Pertruis and Vaucluse. The Gariguette are perhaps most farmed in France and they are reliably sweet.

At Septime in Paris we ended a birthday meal with brick pale, juicy and balanced sweet Diamante. Most French Michelin chefs favour the cross of Mara des Bois for their wild forest fragrance resembling Alpine strawberries (fraises des bois in French).

Their bright acidity qualitatively sets apart Mara de Bois, with an intense, instantly recognisable strawberry perfume. It is more like an 80 percent dark chocolate in terms of sweetness and the pure taste of the place it grows. I can smell and taste the leaves, the bushes on the sun-warmed hedges where they like to grow. It is a luxury product of savvy breeding. These are one of my favourites, but it really depends on the day or how I want to eat them. The former chef to the designer Kenzo, Nakayama Toyomitsu serves mara de bois with caviar or shaved feta cheese at his Michelin star counter in Paris. 

French strawberry

The success of any strawberry plant is about location. In the US different varieties dominate than in Europe or Asia. In America, the hard worker Honeoye, forerunner Earliglow, giant Allstar and the pretty red Jewel, not to be confused with the rare Japanese white Jewel. It is getting rather confusing in the strawberry world, doesn’t it?

While the low-yielding breed white Jewel strawberries in the Saga prefecture of Japan are very difficult to find, the most expensive there are the Kokota breed, priced at around $22 for just a single berry this is indeed a jewel, not your regular milkshake friend. The giants in Japan may look suspiciously oversized, but far from a watered down inferiority. The Amaou strawberries from Fukuoka Prefecture are widely considered to be the best, and so called the King of Strawberries. Grown inside temperature-controlled vinyl greenhouses from December to May, the first picks are generally considered the sweetest.

rare strawberries

How to savvily buy strawberries

Often imported from earlier ripening warm lands like Spain (fresas), Morocco (friz – the peak seasons are between December and January), Portugal (morangos), California to our impatient Northern palates  before the local, often very short growing season kicks off.

Farmy, my Swiss delivery platform focusing on more sustainable, local produce even dares to claim that the Swiss strawberries are more sweet than from other countries because of their slower ripening. Well, with global warming we get the red garden berries from late May as other parts of Europe, yet if you compare with the imported produce to Switzerland, often inferior to what I eat in France, Oregon and the Nordic countries, locally farmed Erdbeeren indeed tend to be sweeter since they can be picked perfectly ripe.

Like all berries, they are fragile to handle so they are often gathered, transported and even sold in punnets, a small, usually paper or wooden box. Best, pluck your own and eat them the same day. Not just their antioxidant potency is diminished, but their flavour is muted by refrigeration, and since they are susceptible to moisture, mold easily develops so eat that punnet rapidly.

While strawberries are included in the dirty dozen list having often the highest residues of pesticides, here organic does not mean necessarily better taste. Eating a few samples I got around the markets in Paris next to the conventional varietal ones, I was struck how inferior the “bio” tasted. Too often, the flavour is watery, diluted, bland, sour, rarely you get to know the exact variety. Most organic shops around Europe stock them from the vast plantations in Spain.

perfect strawberry bodySwiss strawberries

Wild joy of the colour red in nature

Searching through strawberry photos in my library, yielded unexpected discoveries. The quirkiest were my favourite strawberry bikini travelling with me from Italy through Asia in my early 20s. While I am working on getting that strawberry body back, my fascination with strawberries has grown. Well, if I subsided on a diet of strawberries only for a month, I would probably get there with a flash of those ripped abs, but anything too much is just not fun.

Driving through France last July, I spotted plentiful red sparks in the grassland and picked a box-full of wild joy around a gas station set in the countryside. Cycling in my native Czechia (Jahoda in my native Czech even graces some families with the strawberry namesake, greetings to all of the Mr and Mrs Jahoda!) often seduces me into the roadside hedges and hiking in the Alps each summer often turns into slow strolling as my face and fingers turn red with all that juicy bounty. Have you wondered which variety is the sweetest? It seems that the tiny Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is one of the sweetest fruits you can grow.

Usually the first crop is best. High in the mountains, the wild Alpine variety ripens later, I usually pick them mid to late August, while down in altitude around Zurich I can forage around early in July, our backyard beset by usually haloes the ripening season.

wild strawberriesstrawberry recipes

How to eat the not-berries and some palate-opening recipes

Chefs keep the admired fruit going as well on their bold menus including lobster, black pepper (in Copenhagen) and other savoury ingredients in their strawberry recipes. In Vienna at Tian, I had them dressed with verbena leaves, poppy seed crackers, topped by their sorbet. Alain Ducasse marinated fraises de bois in sweet juice and in Monaco served them simply (even a three star restaurant can do things in uncomplicated way, bravo!) with vanilla ice cream. Just this weekend in Zurich at Maison Manesse, they pureed unripe Swiss green strawberries into a refreshing desert with cucumber, pistachios and sorrel sorbet. Superbly light for an unusually hot first June Saturday!

I would also add strawberries into a chilled gazpacho. Blend them in with the sweet n’sour tomatoes, bell peppers, even a cucumber, season well with spicy sauce and white pepper. In Europe usually crossing path with the tail of asparagus season, mixing them together in a salad is not a bad idea, add feta cheese or some string beans. Sage surprisingly pairs well. Herbs like basil or mint, heating spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and chili also enhance the flavour of the pure fruit. A ripe strawberry does not need any sugar in my opinion. Once a sweetener is added, the breadth of the taste is diminished.

traditional strawberry recipes

Honestly, I love them mostly bare, not in cakes, perhaps with a drizzle of olive oil and fleur du sel or aged Modena balsamic vinegar. 

My grandmother used to make me a milkshake in June, she had no blenders or electric equipment back then. Just ripe strawberries picked from her garden minutes before were mashed with a spoon, easily (not with a fork as that would break the flesh chasing the texture) adding the icing sugar powder to it ground it a bit, then little by little she would pour some whole milk from her dairy cow into it. This tastes like no milkshake I have ever had anywhere ever since.

The most famous strawberry recipes include a Pavlova, pies, jams and marmalade in the West, Far East Fukuoka’s most famous wagashi ichigo daifuku, a strawberry enveloped in azuki red bean paste, mochi (sticky rice cake) and rolled into a ball is a must.

In Amsterdam, strawberries (aardbeien in Dutch) are marinated in rose sirup to be served alongside verbena ice cream and fresh almonds (also in season with the strawberries). At the Restaurant de Kas the chef Gert Jan Hageman profits from his organic greenhouses dating back to 1926.

At Brae in Australia’s countryside the pairing with green fresh almonds finds refreshing rendering with fig leaf oil and yogurt whey in a broth of broad (fava) beans. The chef Dan Hunter prefers the sweet Japanese specimens and the wild and rather rare white “fraises des bois”.

In cocktails, especially frozen or blended smooth beyond daiquiris (cask-aged rum), they work well with gin, neutral vodka, sparkling wine (as in Hugo), in France there is even a liquor made with the wild fraises de bois with countless blending options (in French). My local Swiss farm also makes a strawberry liquor from their superset crop. You can of course make a mocktail or that indulgent frozen strawberry daiquiri.

Raw or smoked fish like salmon pair well and so do vegetables like fennel. Mix in other fruits like mango in a spicy fresh salsa:

  • 3/4 cup diced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup diced mango
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

June fruitsFrench strawberriesNew Nordic cuisineJapanese strawberry

I like them as they are, like a kaiseki restaurant would serve these treats plain at the end of a long meal. I enjoy the Chinese and Japanese tradition of enjoying the highest quality fruit plain, showing their natural perfection, without adornments, dough, cream and other desserty companions we like in the West. My Japanese friend says: “I had them with some herbs like mint and shiso, white chocolate injected and so on, but  still like them most as they are.” Anyway creativity knows no borders and the Western influence on either culinary culture infiltrated the Far-Eastern markets with layered sponge cakes, trifles, chocolate fountains, waffles and other sugary accompaniments to strawberries.

Some no brainers, so obvious generalisations of our seasonal experience just automatically escape our closer examination. Yet, when one pays attention to details, and in spring reads the labels above or bellow the “fraises” at markets in France. While being one of the most popular western spring heralds of ripeness, strawberries are one of the most qualitatively stretched fruits I know. The greatest of these berries stand alone strong!


On Meaning of/in Your ‘Connected’ Life

Meaning is perhaps the most important aspect of one’s happy, fulfilled life. Without having a purpose or a meaning, what is the source of motivation and lasting success? For thriving is not about that one moment of glory but about happiness in the long run, and as research into the Blue Zones shows, also benefits longevity.

While, some confidently roam through life with the flag of purpose, meaning is that known unknown for some of us. It is when instinct meets our heart.

So have you ever asked yourself what were you meant to do in this life? Even better, have you felt it? Feelings can confuse but also bring us closer to the truth, our inner version of it at least. Are you genuinely connected to your essential self?

Meaning of life

You can work literally you ass off, but if a deeper meaning does not back your effort that you better do nothing. Well what I mean, sometime the best ideas, the breakthroughs happen we we rest.

Yet, if you do what you were meant to do in this life, you do not need to ask this question. You just flow, thrive and trust yourself. You might not be well off financially, but you may be the well of creativity, wisdom and happiness.

Still, without a keel, the boat cannot sail for long. There may be wind forcing it forward (external motivation), a skill needed to take it (learned through practice), yet without the balance supporting the frame, the trunk of you (internal motivation), you won’t succeed in there race of life.

Incongruity rots your integrity. Rusty poses and smiles take their toll over time.

Unclear meaning of life fogs one’s path. You can get easily lost in that noisy obscurity.

Your heart-core satisfaction, your growth potential towards lasting happiness, and thus success beyond measure depend on you, solely and only on you.

Fondation CarmignacFondation Carmignac

The artist Miguel Rothshield quoting W. Shakespeare as his muse in the universal starlight piece above (and the video of it I made below) reminded me that ‘meant’ doesn’t mean shedding all responsibilities, right the reverse: “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves, that were underlinings”. Once again creative, theatrical wisdom took both, my heart and my brain by their tails!

Miguel Rothshield and Shakespeare alert on the importance of connectivity and our individual responsibility for our success or failure. It is not fortune or destiny written in stone that drives our purpose. It is the deep connection with ourselves.

Your ‘Connected’ Life

Meaning does not just walk in without your heart, or If I may dare – the soul. I will explain myself now. Some words just blend into one meaning. There is that physical pump pushing oxygenated blood through the vessels out into the organs and our limbs. But there is also that metaphorical heart that humanity has used ad memoriam. Yet this emotional, even metaphysical meaning of the heart touches us deeper than just the physical, machine-like function keeping human life on the go. The soul may be just a metaphysical well and psychological concept, but we cannot escape the self in our existence. We may not accept this part of the Cambridge dictionary definition “the spiritual part of a person that some people believe continues to exist in some form after their body has died”, yet we cannot deny “the part of a person that is not physical and experiences deep feelings and emotions”.

contemporary art

Like the mind, the soul is likely connected with the body. We already know that stress and other emotions affect the wellbeing of our physical body. The realm of psycho-somatic health problems has been expanding with more measuring tools at our disposal. The ancients spoke cross-culturally of the mind—body—soul alignment as the ultimate achievements of a spiritual being. It goes beyond the spiritual though, and surely the religious pathways. How comes that so many atheist intellectuals meditate? Even Einstein was puzzled and gave into the force of nature and the universe.

The work by Latin American artist Thomas Saraceno is often exhibited in NYC. He is one of the leading contemporary conceptual and visual artists. This video is the part of the Web series.

How we feel, how energetic or exhausted both in our body and the mind affect our experience of daily life. It may seem as if I strayed a bit here off the theme, but I did not. For being connected with your meaning is to be tuned into your soul. Where else would purpose come from? If it were dictated by some outer source then we would be robotic, unfree tools of someone who knows how to manipulate us. Connected therefore means free. Within — with oneself; as well as externally with others, nature, the universe. Hence, if you feel the connection then you have a meaning. Further, the more separated we get, the further lost we are. The soul home resides within us. Once we understand, accept, embrace and love ourselves, we will never be lost again. The web starts from you and it is all about love.

emotional art

I just read the bestselling fantasy book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, where after a surreal journey “in-between” lives, the leading character Nora learns a very contemporary lesson: “You could eat at the finest restaurants, you could partake in every sensual pleasure, you could soak up whole thunderstorms of applause, you could travel to the ends of the Earth, you could be followed by millions on the internet, you could win Olympic medals, but this was all meaningless without love in your root life.” That love is not just romantic, butterfly excitement of meeting your kindred soul, but also your love of nature, yourself, life, family, and indeed someone who loves you back. That most reliable lover is yourself. For as everyone dies your attachment to them is vulnerable. What matters is that you love yourself until you perish.

Love is as much an attitude as it is an emotion. We must let the light in. I wrote more on this in my past musing and a few poems, but here I would like to quote Matt Haig again: “She had to try harder. She had to want the life she always thought she didn’t, the future was unwritten, a blank page”. Life consists of days and nights spent doing, thinking and resting. Therefore, what you fill each moment with is the sentence, page, leading to a chapter in the book of your entire life.

If you resent what you are doing it is perhaps because you do not love yourself enough and see no meaning in it, therefore your attitude is sour and not joyful. You do more harm in ‘helping’ with a sour face, bitter attitude and negative energy. Even for a helper who chose to do charity work, if meaning is not connected with love, it is not a genuine feeling and your connection is broken.

sharing meaning through street art

Love and meaning increase their potential when shared. For example if I compose songs, play instruments, listen to music, I may feel calm, uplifted, focused, connected with myself and perhaps something higher, unexplainable, but unless I share my work of joy with others, that selfish devouring of pleasure won’t last. It will not fulfilled you over time. There is a limit. But, when you share your meaning through lyrics, the tone of your guitar, piano, and a voice, then love works magic. The rockstar Lenny Krawitz coined it in his latest (I believe) album “Let Love Rule“. This is not a hippie slogan or a devotional cocktail of nativity and faith, but a gravitational pull of greater lives lived.

Finding what brings you joy is quite simple. For some it sparks in youth, for others it takes decades to reveals, but the rick is to become aware of all those activities that make you feel, genuinely and in a long term good. For one it is gardening, another savers the adventure of sailing, climbing mountains, composing poetry, challenging oneself physically, mentally or growing spiritually, discovering and researching, chatting with the locals at the cashier of your grocery store or the farmers market, …

Go back to your school years. What subjects were like a feather floating in a breezy afternoon? What just felt natural, doing as if it were the utmost expression of you? Perhaps this talent or its alternatives is exactly what you meant to do.

Matt Haig contemplates: “Is happiness the aim? Success isn’t something you can measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.” And his heroine confesses with her brimming heart: “I want my life to mean something – to do something good.” So find that activity that makes your heart swell with love, your mind so focused that you forget time, and your life more than just worth living. Do not expect any gains from that, just you being happy and content.


THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN is a poem I wrote while climbing one of my favourite trails in Côte d’Azur this spring. The flimsy April weather brings an abundance of clouds and fog hovering over the coastal Alpes Maritimes. While the Mediterranean blue brightens the low seaside, the rising rocky Alps shovel in a cape of veiled mystery. Add some spring wind, that pushing steady force, rather than the Mistral’s stormy disorder, and you get a moving scene of darkness and light.

Like the human soul, nature, which is within us, shows its dichotomy blending in, painting over light with cloudy darkness, shady glimpses of duality that don’t rest. Never the same, constantly changing. Like our emotions, like who we show that we are depending on the situation and perhaps the others, who are considered safe to accept our vulnerability.

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in the creative process

Nature has always inspired poets, painters, novelists, scientists, even powerful, millions of lives influencing politicians like Winston Churchill, who holidayed painting on Côte d’Azur. Since we are nature, naturally, we are moved by her swells. And some of these undulating waves breathe inside us the muses’ whispers or crash en force a storm of creativity. My own experience attests that all one needs is to accept the call of the muses and to be openly listening to the flow of this unexplainable joy that takes all over you. This is when one accesses the known unknown, the personal and collective unconscious meeting at once on the level of consciousness. Therefore, one cannot understand the words in some poems literally but metaphorically, and that is the puzzle to be riddled with a relishing poise of a player.

Forget reason, that comes later when you reflect on what intuitively was given to you and the poet. At the opening exhibition curated from the history of art at The Louvre Abu Dhabi arresting quotes accompanied the visual experience. A few touched my heart, some stirred the reason, others spoked united to my heart, reason and the soul.

Like this one: “The ignorant affirms, the leaned doubts, the wise reflects.”

THE KNOWN UNKNOWNTHE KNOWN UNKNOWNspirit898 meaning

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in poetry

Often, I only understand what I wrote in the poetic swell, days, weeks, even years after I reread it. Able to connect the content with some further experience, the poem becomes the whole, self-sustaining entity more ready to be appreciated by the reader. Yet, as readers some poems we don’t understand until the ripe time in our eventful lives ushers clarity shaded by ignorance or the lack of cues. I could only get Shakespeare’s sonnets past my mid-thirties. Before then, I was a drowning swimmer in the whitewater of cluelessness. Then I saw a live performance By Heart in Brooklyn by a Portuguese director, well it was a one man show, plus the voluntary audience called to the stage, whose task was to memorise a part each of Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 30. Over the two hours we were all taken into the unknown depths of these magic fourteen lines, accompanied by the director’s insights and readings from other authors such as Boris Pasternak touched by this particular prodigious work. So, once I got this raft to paddle through, I was mesmerised by their universal, time-defying depth.

the musecoexistence

I gave you the raft by drawing the scenery that inspired me above, the skilful paddling is in your hands.

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

Innocent beginning clothed blue

Bathing in the seaside morning 

I set to climb the unknown truth

A veil of dark fog hovering

In a weighed down ghastly mood, blown

Like a flying carpet of grey glue

Down is up, up is down, change is true

 

A poetic realm thrones high above

The noise of sunken humanity

Into a thick fog of vanity.

 

But here, the apian song grooves

My soul along its flawless notes

I feel so free diving in whole

While flying jolly through high and low

The verdant treasure throve of life

~RB

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN has an intuitive rhythm of 8-9-8. I’ve just googled the number and what showed up in the search results took my spirit by its tail. I am vaguely familiar with tarot, and only once was introduced to the so called Angel Cards. Pulling a symbolic card from the deck after a sound meditation session, I was rather amused than assured, yet this call from 898 rang a divine clue: “you are worthy of greatness. It means that you must detoxify your thoughts and environment. Get rid of all the negative reviews, toxic people, and situations in your life.”

New ZealandMountain lake

I shared this poem with a friend, adding: “Poems have hidden messages in them that we can only see in a certain stare of mind.” Of course I meant “state”, but one indeed has to pay close attention, literally, to stare at the content sometimes to decipher the meaning. She had to “let it sit for a few days” before getting it to “sink in”, meaning to grasp the details and the wholeness of it. Hopefully, she did.

The Nietzsche path up to Eze inspired a few of my poems. Some, I published on La Muse Blue previously. Depending on the season, my state of mind and the alignment of my heart and soul in that moment of strenuous climbing up, ideas flow, words pour out. I hope, they will guide you too for whatever fruitful purpose it may be.


Light is the way of joy: WHERE TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU

Beauty is about angle. While we worry about its physical appeal withering over time, accepting that everything changes can sooth our anxiety. Shift your perspective and you will find beauty. It is always somewhere there. Lurking behind the translucent window curtains or the holes between the shutters, the light’s flickering appeal seduces those open to join in the revelry of appreciation. No need for anyone else’s presence, your solitude can immerse in it. Wholly like in holy water of divinely purifying force, TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU beyond our limitations.

Light is the way of joy

To see beauty, it needs light. Light showed me the way of joy gushing from the simplest things. And so, sun is the path to discovery. Its golden brightness journeys the round of a passing day. Just watch, as I snapped the above video from a mindful snippet of time passing at my home — metaphorically enlightening.

Wonder and wander, this is how great it feels.

Take you time and do it slowly, that is the trick. Bathe in this changing beauty and accept its visual ending with the sunlight’s moving way (or someone disrupting your indulgent solitude). This is the continuity of change we cannot stop, unless we close our eyes and minds to it unveiling in front of us or we die. Blindness of the mind equals death to me. Remember you can keep the beauty in your mind well after it actually ceases to manifest.

ABSTRACT ARTnature

TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU TO LIGHT

I wrote about light a lot here on La Muse Blue. I conceived countless poems on its enchanting powers, still I cannot let it pass between my fingers as it comes back, over and over. Insistent, waiting in the pocket of my mind, hungry to include more wholesome joy in the lustrous pearl necklace of my life. Each pearl, a year, round and finite, yet weaving around my neck on a string like the span of my life. Even at night natural light does not sleep. The sun whispers ballads through its reflection on the moon. An eternal cycle of renewal and death. Sun appears and hides, the moon follows, infinitely.

simplicity change

nightsky

Find the path

Art is open, in it imagination has no limits, therefore art can expand our horizons of consciousness. Truth sparkles in front of us. Just pay attention to its passing signs floating around our senses, like a barge on a lake — from dusk to twilight.

Nature offers countless of mundane truths. That is set in stone, although Nature teaches us that nothing is permanent. Light travels over its surface, painting this canvas with its own cast of colors, shades, and thus shapes the natural form with its creative hand of continuous change.

LUGANO LAKE

Pixelwald Turicum is a light and music installation in the permanent collection of Kunsthaus Zürich in the 2021 inaugurated Chipperfield Wing. The 15 minute loop was conceived by a creative group lead by Swiss visual artist Pipilotti Rist. Her experimental installation art fills your heart with colors and opens the soul to an open feeling of enchanted bliss. I recommend visiting for a full immersion in the beauty of this collaborative magic light forest. A garden of joy to some minds open to experience fully what it means. The musical scores in synchrony with the changing lights – calming blues, purple sparks, warming golden hues in yellows, in loops of mesmerizing beauty of change sensually captivated me and many wandering through its enlightening path.

experiential artexperiential art

Trust in patience and the distracting force of travelling across incompatible time zones took me to another installation of her immersive collective soul work in Downtown Los Angeles. Purely by chance, a poem in the hall, and later having some spare time after a classical performance at Frank Gehry’s marvelous Walt Disney Concert Hall, we were directed by a MOCA employee to the art institution’s other building still having tickets left for the day. There, I witnessed the global reach of art and was reminded of the powerful message I received earlier before traveling. The Pipilotti Rist Collective exhibited a smaller piece of the very same light installation there.

Humanity has invented many passtime tools to realize and savour the beauty of change. Forest bathing in Japan, the swirling dance of the sufis, flower arranging, gardening, meditation on loving kindness, a great story (a fairytale, myth or novel), there is so much we could do to enhance our perception of wonder in life. I tried many of them, yet light turned to be my greatest, brightest teacher of beauty’s fragile vulnerability. This effortless messenger delivers the assured, yet shifting reality through highlighting change.

 

We seek connection

Contradictions puzzle us, yet it is all about their woven interaction. Not isolated in the sun’s own shine, but related in connection with the varied surfaces on and beyond the Earth, light plays in tandem with what it encounters.

Music also reflects the beauty of change as does nature with its seasonal blush. Light tunes take turns with dim, sombre keys. A piano can move slow or fast, but any instrument played by a human hand has a pattern of rhythm conducted by sensibility instilled perhaps by nature in us if we trust its guidance. Sensibly, the wind whirls, the trees rustle and so does the grass, water ripples, an echo vibrates through a gorge. We are part of nature’s vibrations.

Chinese artphotography and light photography and light photography and light

The freedom to choose our attitude is our most precious gift

Sometimes the stark difference, some see in it a flaw while others charm, moves us. Yet, as in art, no limits can be imposed on human imagination. Perhaps, this is our most precious gift. The freedom to choose our attitude. Liberating our minds from uncontrollable fate, why being attached to unpredictable outcomes?

A painter’s brush, like the Chinese-French Zao Wou-ki can transcend East-West concepts in mesmerizing gusts of energy whirling through and over his calligraphic murals. Or like Georgia O’Keefe, later in her transformative career, enlightens us through her pure captures of simple beauty in nature. Even in noisy cities, her brush caught the silent whispers of transcendence. Her Curvy Winter Road I. (photo bellow) mesmerizes me to an almost ecstatic sensation of void. Not loneliness, but expansive joy. Perfection looking simple, but it is not. Only a genius with clear perception skills could conceive and interpret the harmony between the black road on the snow white canvas. Like life’s journey, the thick line narrows nearing the end of the canvas at the far upper edge of the canvas.

Nature’s manifold forms point at symbols of life and death on every turn. An aware mind open to gaze and inter-relate when it is not limited an inexhaustible variety manifests through our creativity.

light split modern art

Timelessness of art decoding universal messages

Monet knew all about the power of light. In his London paintings (such as on the photo below), the calm light contrasts the active reality inside the Parliament. Shifting our gaze to the so called contemporary art (I would keep in mind Picasso’s take: “To me, there is no past or future in art. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past: perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was.”) of Tadao Ando, his architecture always considers the available and changing light and its affective beauty. As I mentioned earlier, Georgia O’Keefe penetrated the depths of light over time. After battling her own depression, she healed on a sunny island and later moved into the desert where she created her most profound works. One does not experience more sunlight than in the desert.

Impressionismpoetry

Ignorance was never a remedy to suffering, it is a shadow of refusal to put an effort into opening the book of one’s heart and mind. The changing nature of light is available to all of us to savor, to inhale beauty of impermanence. Just trust it. I DID NOT NOW WHERE TRUST WOULD TAKE ME, but it feels right to follow the well-lit path rather than darkness in the mind. My gratitude goes to patience, to not hitting publish anxiously to end this essay. About two weeks passed, a huge time zone shift, jet lagged zombie days, blossoming California hills, some mind widening art, with wine intoxified Malibu sunsets, all the way to the Yucatan jungle where I am sending off this piece to inspire your joy.

And I had to finish a book meanwhile. Quan Barry’s When I am Gone Look For Me In The East, will certainly illuminate a happy way to anyone accepting and open to joyful life.

Caribbean

Such bright minds opened to light share/d its magic with us willing to appreciate it through art. We can apply this to real life. Seeing the world like a painter or a poet unveils beauty right in front of us that we might otherwise pass, overlook or just in a mindless rush snap in out digital memory, only to never reflect on the snapshot again. We are distracted by the sheer quantity, but we have the power of choice to control what we let in and how experience can affect our feeling of happiness.


See the world like a poet by appreciating beauty in the mundane

These globally infected times can clear or further fog our vision. Lao Tzu, the widely praised chinese poet captured this illuminating wisdom centuries ago. Not just optically, austerity reveals how the world currently is and what genuinely drives people around us. Still, truth is often difficult to face and optimism feels good, but for the sake of survival and our genuine happiness we must weigh on the realities of contemporary culture, lifestyle choices and common interest as much as to mentally escape into fictional idealism.

poetic eye cats

Above all, we must learn to appreciate beauty in the mundane. And for that we must switch off our inner critic. Flow with the environment like a sailboat on a calm sea through your powerful imagination.

Poetic potential untangled

During the slow unveiling of 2022, hopefully the final Covid pandemic year, I want to shift your perception. The most certain way to success in life is to work on our attitude to ourselves and the world. We daily experience, feel, and are also translators of everything that happens. What comes out of this semi-automatic process adds on to who we become and how we are doing in the present moment. So, genuinely answer the ubiquitous “How are you?” with how do you do now.

Catch the rogue mindset at its seedy spinning of reality.

The sensual eye of a poet expresses feelings through words that do not come from the rational wiring of the brain. Those mystical webs of stanzas come from a liberated land of creative connection with the unnamable. Life is tough for everyone in its vicious and often spiralizing forms, rich or poor, black or white, Eastern European or Asian, we all live through strange times. Together, we need to create meaning in this chaos of ceaseless change.

Your life will be transformed once you are able to see through things. Beyond physicality a poet in each of you can impregnate their spiritual aura of existence. Is it real? One has no idea and it does not matter as long as the resulting joy means eons to you personally. Our imagination is not animated virtually by an algorithm, it is the flow with the chaos or merging with the stillness surrounding us. Let’s dream, transform and see the world through the poet’s lens.

Seaborne Bliss

SEABORNE BLISS

Seaborne breeze wafts kissing my cheeks

While, so sweetly, I close my gazing lids

Opening my trenched self to the air divine

Flying high as if my soul drunk too much wine

My bacchanalian inhales of each sensory element

Imbibe the minutely chiming electric moment

An apian goddess rises from the changing sea in stillness

Far beyond just being, she expands the meaning of nowness

Weightless through her liberating breath, empty yet full

Fearless, yet innocently playfull like a freed soul

Her united spirit shatters all resistance

Rested, being their only sustenance

 

Time strides by and we vainly desire

To slow its clock by bathing in the divine

While ocean currents crease my skin dry

I am but a butterfly endowed with fragile wings

This beauty shared not just for kinks

As the poet’s heart rises and sinks

Bliss and inferno at once, yet no fear

Mires the mind and eternal creeds 

Just like myths entertain, not feeling wry

~RB

Art in Valencia Walls of Valencia Valencia beauty Light and shadow

See the world like a poet

When walking through a city I grasp poetic nuances in unexpected things. That cute humanised rabbit sculpture on the canvas of extramundane architecture, that large-breasted angel on the ancient stone wall, the naturally crooked tree fronting artificially perfect shapes of the medieval architect’s plan, that meeting of night light and shadow on a church wall, that man musing on a river bank over glistening reflection of the sun on the water’s face, that vintage art book store full of wonder, even a bird savoring the day sounds poetic to my open ears funneling amazement into my ecstatic heart.

Symbols speak to us. Some have universal meanings (Jung called them the “collective unconscious”), yet there are also symbols uniquely expressing something that only our individual self can illuminate to others. We all need more light in our mundane existence. So, tell me where do you see poetry on your everyday passing through your city?

Imagine yourself as a cat, stretched wide, and basking in sunshine on a warm terrace or a playful squirrel. What would their songs or words be if they could write? Here is my basic example:

Lucky squirrel, luring little rascal

Unashamedly playing up our feelings

Approaching, tossing her regal tail

Like an apple tree bejewelled with ripe fruits

Her daring as if wiped off by her fluffy brush 

Humans are unfair to squirrels sans tails, the rats

Shy underdogs fed by trash, living off canals

Brooding through their reeking stinks, yikes!

Squirrels unafraid like cats just ask

For your picnic basket, noon or dusk

I adore their lightness of being, courage, the push!

Cats that can stand on two feet without a fall

~RB

Greek mythology

Poetic inspiration: How we create more joy

Poetry is unchained love. The fire of the heart that burns through your chest when you hear that song. Something about it levitates your mind.

Greek mythology envisioned lovers in vastly impossible quests, so let the Luna mother fifty daughters with an eternally sleeping shepherd. Fantasy ascribed her many Godly names, Diana, the Moon Goddess, watching in silence over her Endymion asleep in eternal bliss. Divine spirituality moved the mystics’ pens, but passion awakens anyone’s creative chest.

tarot deck symbolism

Poetry is like an analog photograph. It can be expressed in black and white or throw a rainbow of colors through the lens sensitive to light. The sun shines through joyful poems, while the dark night and overcast gray winters imprint sadness, even melancholic meaninglessness in a poem. Let it be what it is. Express emotions.

Nature paints poems in tune with her seasonal cycles of life and death. The mood sways from gray to green, through red to chestnut in the fall. It is all the colors that make her beautiful, so let them come out as they shift.

What poetry is when it touches us most is honesty. Curiosity and a genuine conversation with oneself, others, lovers, parents, and a cathartic release of the subconscious and unconscious material in the mind. Like dreams poems can seem nonsense at the first encounter, unless one connects these subliminal expressions with reality. However surreal a poem may sound, there is a grain of truth in it. Just as in Dali’s paintings, there are more fascinating stories than just some strange objects whisked in the psyche of an eccentric with moustache and bulging eyes.

Spanish surrealismSalvador Dali art

When poem is not about truthfulness than it is a playful game with words. And that is great. Play unleashes our inner child so we feel unafraid, liberated from the ego and uninhibited because of others’ opinion. We just are, happy and creative through action. There are no rules in contemporary poetry. Free verse allows for your freedom of expression.

Sometimes it is plainly much easier to see beauty in everything. Like when the sun shines, the world is calm and people around you are healthy and happy or at least they appear so. On gray days, when facing unprecedented challenges, falling with an illness, being in pain or threatened by crime or war, we have to work harder on the poetic vision slumbering deep in our hearts. The spark that ignites the fire though dwells in your own will. You decide whether you will show yourself fireworks or stifle even the tiniest chance for happiness. Illusions do not have to break us but inspire joy. Look up at the luna. Moonshine is not the sun, but only the reflection of light in the dark depths of each night.

Therefore, whenever you can, choose to see the world through the heart of a poet. Weep and laugh over all that speaks to your soul. Become the lover of it all.


Discussing Languages of Truth in the essays by Salman Rushdie

Truth can be the mother of common interest, but there is a glitch, well a few and its enemies know…

Truth is a powerful asset. Through either — art and activism — politics and religion are challenged. We need these disruptive forces if manipulation of truth still remains their major tool to seducing followers into their divisive ranks. Democracy shall help, but is not devoted to truth. Voices can be loud or stifled, but they are not necessarily truthful. Anyone from the Roman Consuls, the Popes to Churchill were well aware of democratic shortcomings and so are some realistic as well as fanatical contemporary politicians. The inscription “veritas” on curiously many historical Harvard University buildings reminds us; within democracy, education and open discussion of dissenting voices accompanied with reasoned points do their hard-earned job without unreasonable punishment by the power structures. I wrote an essay on truth, click through if that interests you.

Languages of truth top education

Perhaps no other voice in the current literary landscape remains more prominent in scale, no clearer mirror of human vices, vanity and raw reality, no one lauder crying for freedom of speech than the aural, cursed, visual pen of Salman Rushdie. Whether in fiction, public speech or essays, his journalistic devotion to seeking truth pervades his life oeuvre. Of course the seekers of truth do not always find it. Colored by personal experience, ego and the multilayered filters of humanity. I had a dream once, too — a journalism student awakened from her naivete finding out post-graduation that truth can be bought. Therefore, any selfless individual working for our common public interest is like a hero to me. In our society today it seems, human character is not valued as highly as one’s egoistical numeric success, physical appearance and ability to conceal truth – long live filters! When I cannot recognise people I know on their social media feeds, I am concerned. We are skewing away from reality to virtual lies. On that I bark in another musing on envy, digital culture and in some poetry and more poetry.

Languages of Truth

Languages of Truth colored by time and politics

Languages of Truth expose the current and past literary landscapes from India through Europe to America in an enlightening string of mindful connections. A journey not unlike the life of the 74 years-old author, multi-prize awardee, visiting teacher at NYU, an instructor on Masterclass heading PEN America, who had to hide from the now legendary death sentence edict for speaking out his creative mind. Unafraid to share his intellectual exposures, Sir Salman Rushdie encourages anyone to dare in pursuing truth. “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” His successful novel Midnight’s Children (1981) is an example of the alter ego set in a historic period the author himself did not experience.

Rushdie’s problems with God

His deterrents denounce him as “a Picassoesque imposter” figure who is dead as the independent voice he used to be. In the same critique for AlJazeera (owned partly by the Qatari Royal Family skilfully defending Islam: “Al Jazeera is an independent news organisation funded in part by the Qatari government”), Rushdie’s former fan Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, further rants: “I basked in his nasty, naughty, joyous, playful, giggling, irksome prose – its virtuoso performativity, its bravura theatricals, its happy communion with English language, its bringing the Muslim sacrosanct forward for a rendezvous with a homely life away from home. Never ever (long after that horrid fatwa) did I think the novel an insult to Muslims. Quite to the contrary: it brought their sacrosanct to a renewed rendezvous with their history. But alas for me, Rushdie died and never came back… a magnificent writer [succumbed to] subsequent moral degeneration into a bitter old Islamophobe, [and] it is hard to resist the irrefutable feeling that the old ascetic Iranian Savonarola did, after all, manage to have the great inveterate novelist “assassinated”.” The author of Theology of Discontent and Truth and Narrative is familiar with the very themes Rushdie dissects in his Languages of Truth.

Reza Aslan

Coming from a muslim family in India, the atheist Rushdie attended a Catholic school in England and does not spare his disdain for God. The British-American novelist and essayist famous for his controversial book The Satanic Verses was emblazoned in a death sentence by radical religious groups. Misunderstood by those who hated it without ever reading, it was mainly about migration, Rushdie asserts. Blasphemy is telling lies in his words rather than insulting an imagined being (God or a Prophet who waged wars instead of forging peace).

Yet, as his friend Harold Pinter warns in his Nobel Prize lecture: “A thing isn’t necessarily either true or false.” Asking “Does reality essentially remain outside language, separate, obdurate, alien, not susceptible to description?” Or “we distort reality because we fear it?” The answer is, I think, for the reflective reader to riddle out through being honest with oneself.

Ancient theatre

Footing current literature in the mirror of its past

Back to language. Rushdie highlights that in literature “we live in an age of invented, alternate worlds”. Not unlike the Greek, Norse or any other myths, which contain grains of truth – the real human life is magnified by the grandeur in magical skills of fictional characters. Consider the works of Cervantes, Tolkien, C.G. Marquez, Rowling, to the current dystopia of the Hunger Games. Magic Realism can be done well or poorly as with anything.

These recently released collected essays by Salman Rushdie illuminate the celebrated and damned author’s humor, his learned insights on anything from the misuse of words like freedom and liberty to his personal relationships with Nobel prize awardees and experience with going through the Covid19 virus himself. In Voltaire’s steps, Rushdie uses humor to criticise current societal aches and troubles, yet his politics are not independently portraying either side. His is very much unlike Candide, whose “countenance was a true picture of his soul, he combined a true judgement with simplicity of spirit”, in the pen of Voltaire. While Rushdie dislikes moralising, he does so by pointing fingers at the perpetrators of what he views as truth. The question between objective and subjective truth is left unturned.

The celebrity of intellect: Inner circles revealed

A fascinating cohort of friends, many famous authors, actors, artists, activists, journalists, all arrive at an elevating discussion in his illuminating memories. Some are not anymore between our mundane ranks of living flesh, yet their unique contributions and the immortality of their profound ideas find their public icon erected by Rushdie in The Languages of Truth.

This is clearly a work of nonfiction. The Languages of Truth tell rather than show, demystify not fog reality. They are journalistic essays filled with direct quotations of the inspiring minds that the author celebrates for daring to fight for their ideas regardless of the potential personal harm inflicted by powerful political circles or other, close-minded ill-wishers. We better connect via the languages of truth, rather than insult the other side. A wholeheartedly recommended read.


How is digital culture changing us? Digital, analog and our own perception of life are radically different

Digital, analog and our own perception of life are radically different. Our engagement with life, the intensity of experience changes according to the tools we use. The eyes, ears and other sensory organs were for most of our human history our major connectors with the outside world. Then, of course, the brain cooked it all into a ready meal. Negotiating, the middleman of sensations consults with the mind games and concludes in a deal that makes sense for that specific time and place in which the person stands influenced by the societal sensibilities, rules and culture of their era. Let’s abandon the past and zoom in to now. 

Leica love of perception digital culture

Perception shift

The way we perceive the present profoundly affects our attention. The increasingly challenging ability to focus in the second millennium is an epidemic inflicted by technological advancement so fast that our brains run like an incessant river dealing with the rainfall of information. It may soon flood your world to the brims of its banks, spilling over in an irreparable damage.

The widely tested solutions employed for taming rivers work also for the mind. A dam-like containment by switching between the tools we use every day increases our awareness of how we are affected by technology and thus our control over it. By widening the space of the corridor, the flow slows, catching more that passes through its current of happenings. This is a holistic remedy for mental health, memory and overall well-being.

trapped climate change

My recent rewinding into analog photography taught me a striking lesson. My engagement with reality or what I see has changed profoundly over the past decade. Ever since “smartphones” outsmarted us we imbibe on the ease of inebriation via our handy gadgets. We share ideas and emotions differently, we consume fast and do not linger long enough to evaluate things broadly and fairly. As a result of the virtual life teenagers develop carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, anxiety disorders, relationship impotence, void of empathy, new forms of addictions, and time will only show more ills of the digital age. What used to trouble the middle aged typers and waitresses has entered the mainstream of youth. What is concerning is how our reactions and perception are changing under these daily lifestyle influences and how our environment including the people we deal with are affected by these shifts.

How is digital culture changing us?

How has our mind changed recently? The brain scans have documented that our cognitive performance changes with use of digital devices, but some studies seem to confirm that so far our brain has not changed physically yet.

Chinese art

One doesn’t need to zoom into one’s brain to notice the change. My self experiment in perception revealed immediately how I felt while snapping limitless digital snippets of my day — disengaged, aggressive, less controlled. An outdoor sculpture exhibition and earlier an architecture stroll around Paris (and stopping time at a Japanese tea room in Le Marais), Milan and Vienna, flashed how differently I perceived, memorized and felt about experiencing these via my phone’s digital camera versus taking my time with setting up manually my vintage Leica.

Still, using the only implanted recording device humanity naturally is equipped with – the brain – and trying to focus without any other tools felt the most indulgent and immediately satisfying. Yet, the limits of our memory and our desire to flash back after seeing an image or reading an old journal, often win over this in-the-moment-only reward mechanism. I realised that if I let it, that speed and draw of outer objects randomly passing by raise my anxiety. Without any recording tool in my hand, I barely stopped and only for a split of a second noticed the whole picture. The sixth sense was ruled out in my hasty experience.

slow lifestyleVintage cameras

On the other spectrum of attention — being limited by the film roll in my Leica, taking my time, observing patiently and using my own decision system by rating (and discriminating) how much is this worth being captured in the physical visual memento of a printed photograph. The material presence curbs our use, unlike the digital vastness that can rattle our minimalistic cravings for optimizing what we consume. And we indeed consume time. Our attention is given to its voracious abyss of calculable space in any living being’s lifespan. Limited as our time on Earth is (well our physical bodily existence) we’d better decide how we spend it. Mindfully reaping joys from tiny miracles we encounter daily or insatiably and unsatisfactorily grabbing more from the infinitude of options. Doing more, does not equal meaningful engagement with happiness.

 

Technology gave us quantums of opportunities, ways to fill or kill our time through gaming, snapping, uploading, liking and commenting on tabloid feeds (most of social media), applauding friends’ baking show-offs, angering us over apparent injustice and violence, traveling us through light, shape and sound around the globe without leaving our sofas, well the screen, and boundless more. As we are skimming voraciously the content like kids watching cartoons, we never get bored, no crosswords are needed to entertain our brains, no physical walking into the photo lab, no random bumping into an old friend on our way there and sharing a bottle of wine or chatting over a coffee consequently. Now we do it all on our screen, just cross off the coffee and wine pleasantries. I’m guilty too. Writing part of this musing while strolling on a mossy forest path, I stared on my mobile, typing, stumbling over expanding tree roots and only for a handful of moments lifting my head to the changing sky. I think better while moving in the open space and my mind is perhaps more open too, so this is a tough dilemma for me, a chance to write something that won’t hop into my head while sitting at a desk.

Leica camera

The process of photography

And so it goes with photography. Capturing that “decisive moment” as Cartier Bresson famously professed with a pre-calculated synchrony between an analog and the photographer feels very different from a random clack of a button on the go. Nevertheless, the digital editing process has an added value in the reflective depth of the captured moment. Our perception is shifted into the later moment.

From my personal experiments I learned that while analog required more technical skill, patience and focus than taking photos with my phone camera, I was most struck by my direct vision. The old school gaze. The only tools being my eyes, brain deciding to focus and appreciate, to take in the bounty for one’s own benefit of immediate joy. Not later, now. Now is only now in front of you. Take it, live it, savor it every time you encounter something worth photographing. 

Observing certain museum goers, their future-oriented fast in and out digital snapping walk through the galleries knocks on my sense of presence. This moment of direct engagement will not repeat itself by simply scrolling over the last June in Paris folder in my cloud library. Who does it anyway? With over 100k photos I’m terrified of the reckoning one day with every single item. I do not feel the same overwhelming endlessness leafing through my childhood photo albums (pre-digital era at least in the former Czechoslovakia).

As we don’t trust our memory we fall into this trap of becoming tools rather than the beings engaging in and processing the feelings and lessons taken. Life passes so fast and we try to catch it all. Mistake. Documenting does not have to interfere with everything we do. I mean I take photos of almost every proper meal I cook, of each canvas I am smitten by, a wall with intriguing street art, video that squirrel hopping across the road, stop, honey! I must snap your eyes before you kiss me. Well, I do not go that far, yet I repent.

street art in Americahuman perception

The pill is in your head

Musts this unique, perhaps once in a lifetime experience, halo itself at our older selves? To look at it when you cannot do that young stuff anymore? Think about this the next time an opportunity to hug that tree, wholesomely savor that flaky warm croissant, to stop your mind & body, arises in a communion of a wonderful coexistence. It doesn’t have to be hippie cum mystical. Just savor this Sunday morning, a walk to work, grocery store or a library (finding books and leafing through them in a real place where you are standing, squatting or leaning on that standing shelf, feels so much more engaging and physical than clickbaits with a thumb on a screen, doesn’t it?), inhale, smile, exhale, wonderful world!

Dim Dam Dom magazine perception vintage camera

Even when it rains, out there a gray day, I feel marvelous, my own experience cheekily whispers into my with raindrops occupied ears. Za zzaaa I wrote a poem on that experience once.

On my way through the forest I noticed a plastic and glass bottles, so picked them up and properly disposed in a recycling bin in town. Connected with my genuinely mindful experience of walking I realised that shinrin-yoku offers karmic benefits! Perception shift made me a better person.

This brings a disconcerting idea, what would you do passing by a violent action of someone imposed on another? Would you call the police or film it all to share on social media? Bystander reactions are surely complicated further with our egoistic opportunism. Numbers of viewers, likes, call it virtual fame. How vain can technology transform us.

fog in China

Confucius statue in China

Our current dilemma of choices to be made between quantity versus quality does not make life easier. America went for the loads, Japan for precision, Italy staled and mingles between the two antipoles, while China seems to want it all these days, rapidly and inevitably with an extra cost to those innocent bystanders — my metaphor for the environment.

This essay was obviously not meant to be a scientific overview of perception. While I studied psychology and read on neuroscience, I believe that one’s own experience with something as universal as perception is the best guide to useful awareness of the differences. We have lived through profound shifts in the tools we use to engage with and document the world around us. Such a curvy span of changes positions us best for an engaged reflection on the differences inflicted upon us by technology.


Conversation with Music: connecting beyond words

Dear note, rhythm, vibe of the instruments that raise me high — Music,

You are my savior, the pill without side effects, the rush of love without pain, the family member who never dies, the child I love unconditionally. Thank you Music for being always here for me when I need you tender touch. Together we are connecting beyond words.

I found that it is important to meet my body every day and to find a snippet of joy in it. There are many ways, but music [so you] seduces people naturally to merge the body and the mind into a swirl of dance. Well, at least into a tension releasing head shaking, shoulder rubbing and fingers tapping. During a live performance I feel even more vibrational surge in my body, do you too? Let’s talk.

A random street performance or just the right playlist when down, muting the surrounding noise of a daily commute in my happy day song plugged in my ears, all of your forms work magic spells on my weary heart. You are recharging precious energy plugged into my soul. Often you are offering yourself free, no strings attached, just enjoy! Bravo! Grazie, grazias, very much made my day.

Sometimes sound elevates the present moment, in others just listening to the ripples on the lake, the rustling voices in the trees or to the rare monastic nothingness of my empty home bring me nirvana. I use sound as a potent mind medicine. Musical presence easy through digital streaming injects the goodness into my bloodstream. By listening and reflecting on how a specific song or rhythm right now makes me feel, I communicate with my soul through you.

 

Please, tell me, what’s music? What are you that your beating heart pulls masses into a communal feast?

For there’s so much of joy in and from dancing or just listening. Still, some songs or sounds speak only to a certain individual, while other is kept cold. Perhaps those vibrations are some cluster of souls in the universe that meet in the unconscious bubble of the aether. Are you the guide?

Music assembles and dissolves. Celebrates and mourns. Without you, life would be just a monotonous discourse lacking the spark of joy.

French rivieraFlamenco in Spain

 

 

Diverse themes flow from lyrics, yet some like love, pain, sadness and justice seem to relate to us, humans, all. 

Are you the God’s quiver striking our hearts through the string of a guitar? Are those fingers of the Almighty that press down the piano keys in such a marvelous composition? Not, I believe that you are poetry set into the motions by tunes. Like a stroll through a leafy forest or a park in the fall, you are a photo story I savor through my ears.

You, Music, like other arts are created by human minds, sensitive talents and hard-working beauty seekers, but what brings you alive?

There is so much passion ❤️‍🔥 vibrating from the belly of a drum. The rhythm of making love. You say sax, I say sex. Better do not connect it with the drum though, but I had fun drumming in the temple with the monk and both fully dressed, mind me.

drumming in London party St Tropez drumming in Kyoto

All this beautiful selflessness creating of harmony is a gift not just for the ears, but a balm for our hearts. You elevate like love, calm us too. “Music energizes as much as a cup of coffee”, my trainer keeps saying bouncing during our trx cardio class, “I need nothing more in the morning but music.” Perhaps a great song can taste better than a regular espresso on the go. Can you add a foamy oat milk, please?

Some days you taste like a gastronomic feast played by a concert of hands. Still, you are a phantom I cannot always fully recognize, confused.

Please, tell me, who is Music or what’s your music about?

Manhattan band

Either way, you enter our lives whether we aim for it or not, unless we are deaf.

Personally, I love your character that spills out the soul, the very essence of life, such a precious seed of existence. Like Glassworks by Philip Glass. 

My gratitude is boundless. To all the wonderful musicians creating a better world through their art. Mastery of joy deserves our blessings and respect. Via their music we find our inner cool through joy, I did at least. Keep playing, please.

LMB ~ The Joyous Soul

NOTE: My love letter to M/music was written during a difficult time. I hope that it inspires you to flow in the rhythm of joy. Let that magic carpet carry you away from pain and worry, at least during that wonderful song.


On Envy through problems, solutions, social media and Shakespeare

Some people deliberately create envy, and the ease of visual boisterring on social media has stirred a global fire of human vices from jealousy, lies to murders and stomach-turning mistreatment of animals (read NYT investigation into the company hired to vet out violent or otherwise toxic Facebook and later also Instagram posts). Encouraged by the nodding likes, some real, others fake, surreptitiously bought or strategically amassed, posts that are envious get often the highest numbers of virtual engagement. This is not just about morals, but our conscience and genuine joy.

If you get swirled into the downward spiral depends on your capability to see through, recognise it and pull yourself out of that eye of the storm. I have a few remedies for our current afflictions. These worked for me, so may do good for you as well. At least I hope, for I work to make the world a better place through helping others and in so for myself. It is a law of attraction, perhaps even a circular economy. What goes around, comes around; either way.

American art

Pop art by Roy Lichtenstein at the Fondation Carmignac, France

On envy though problems and solutions

I have this linen-hued skin notebook (made in Italy, the host of the Catholic church, what a coincidence!) where I write down what bothers me. Kind of Saint Augustine’s Confessions of a Sinner, but not as profound, and eschewing any religious scale. I name a concrete problem I face on the left side, and develop a solution/s on the right page/s. Sometimes the solutions run over a couple of sheets, but I try to keep my own advices brief, so I actually ever read them back. And I do, finding that some problems keep returning. Same old issues spur from deep inside ourselves. Some are universal, others unique to our personality, background, situation and experience. This is perhaps the most practical aid out of my countless stacks of scrapbooks into which I scribble random ideas and inspiration next to my poetry, as well as insightful wisdom of others. I advise you to get one P&S journals for yourself too. When kept at hand, this genuine journal of confessions can move you forward from a sticky, marshy, stuck place.

wild flowerswild flowers

Here, I would like to share one of my problems. Well, not that I want to bother you with my junk, but this is a universal “deadly sin” humanity has dealt with from the time beyond recorded history. Even before the Bible mentioned it, we succumbed to envy. Let’s address it humanely together!

For some of life’s questions, you are not alone. By opening, together we can find an answer. Therefore sharing a piece of myself, my PROBLEM, I hope that you can be inspired to find your own SOLUTION.

religion

So on the PROBLEM with envy. I do not suffer from this disease of the heart and mind chronically. Yet, insidiously like a virus it creeps in, attacking my immune system before its symptoms manifest. Once out there, we can catch the vile worm eating up our otherwise happy minds. I realised that we judge harsher those whom we envy. Jealousy, familiar in its romantic metamorphosis even to the gods in the Greek mythology (for they all already had some form of power), casts blinds over our eyes. It has transpired that the Greek mythology and other centuries-defying mythologies such as those of the Aztecs and the Maya (intriguingly its namesake – maya – is used in Buddhism as the veil that blinds us from seeing truth) were the antecedents of the science known as psychology today. By dimming of the light that might shine behind the shutters of our envy, out there in reality, we perceive more darkness in our life’s days and we ignore potential innocence next to other qualities possibly there. This is not just bad for the unjustly envied objects, but also also for ourselves.

Negativity burns our hearts into the ashes of lonely bitterness.

Envy blocks out our genuine happiness, the small joys of the everyday. We feel underappreciated, weak, smaller when we are under its spell. Jealousy’s poisonous resentment tastes bitter. Envy is gender neutral, unlike most negative traits that were historically ascribed a female side (perhaps innocent while under the spell of the snake’s venom).

envy

The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Helen Vendler

Shakespeare’s Lessons on envy

Shakespeare said in Othello that envy has green eyes, but to me it sees only one color — gray. Did he mean calandine, leek or blackish green? I can settle on verdigris (closest shade of green to grey at least in its name). His tinted metaphor spoke of jealousy. Othello’s faith in Desdemona, his wife, is not strong as he suspects her of cheating on him based on Iago’s unfounded allegations. That “green-eyed monster” in this case of the main character’s envious possession ends in the graveyard. He kills his wife and later himself when he finds out that his rage — based on a rumour — was unjust. Shakespeare’s Sonnets also include some insight into jealousy (read the No 69 in Helen Wendler‘s wonderful rendering inserted above).

Shakespeare further taught me that there are many forms of envy beyond the obvious sexual, and that denial is a vicious self-harming weapon that either wounds or kills us. For example when we desire something in what the others shine. Our craving for that which we think we do not possess drives us to the madness of jealousy. Be it beauty, boldness, hard work, inventiveness, success, talent, zeal, and other enviable possessions. We also may go after the darkness in others, and that is even worse. Control, fame built on supperfice or sleeping their way up with the ‘right’ people, manipulating by strong charisma, money, power or throngs of lovers. The Angels must get sick by this! Glad I am not one of the winged guardians.

The Levitated Mass at Los Angeles County Museum of Artart photography

With the shutters down we keep slumbering in our ignorance. What’s going on outside, really? What is true? Like in a dream, we imagine what our envy dictates. Subconsciously filling the unknown lines with invented stories, that we eventually believe are true. This is a negative defence mechanism of the ego, comprehensively connected by psychodynamic theory (I incline towards the Jungian, broader version, simply explained here). Such an incomplete lie we tell ourselves becomes even more harmful when spread to the world. Today, one does not have to be a wealthy media-owner to circulate mass lies, you can just be an “influencer”. Whether an organisation or an individual, responsibility evades either when not being publically ostracised or in other ways punished.

envy

Newsha Tavakolian: A microphone and an empty stage in Tehran Freedom women in Iran at the Fondation Carmignac, France

What to do about our jealousy for our own good

Before envy brings you down, recognise it and name it. Denial poisons truth and our own selves, our integrity blasts without us even noticing. The SOLUTION to envy starts here. We need to understand why and what we are jealous about before we can remedy it. Imagine, giving an aspirin to someone with a headache for years, but then the person dies because of an undiagnosed brain tumor. Too late for detecting correctly and to apply the best available cure in the moment.

To be fair, also try to see that envied human being in their unique context. Holistically acknowledge their strengths and try to appreciate their humaneness beyond just the surface. Perhaps their intentions are noble. They might just want to create a comfortable, safe life for themselves and even better for their families and loved ones. Most of us do. Shamefully though, empathy is a too scarce a commodity we shall praise more. These people we tarnish may be in a precarious situation we may not be either familiar with or aware of it at all.

People often cover their weaknesses with manifold masks. Playing up their strengths is not only wise, but it balances some deeply seated insecurities. Well, sometimes we put on a mask for fun, safety or necessity. Being human is not simple.

Rolls Royce ladyRady diving

The last, but perhaps the most important step in remedying envy is to ask yourself: What is it that I am lacking in myself? Why did this form of envy had arisen in my mind? How connected is that concrete jealousy with what I truly want in life, expect from myself and is it reasonable? The remedy is only complete when we deal with the root of it — our own insecurities. Mask down, this is the only way, be transparent with yourself.

I was inspired to start this personal psychological confessionary upon the initiation by Carl Gustav Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst. Studying Jungian psychology today, one comes across the posthumously published The Red Book that Jung had drawn, painted and wrote throughout his long life. Unlike with most of his other work, he was unsure whether it should ever see the light of his readership beyond his closest colleagues. What preceded the edited version of what became later The Red Book (Liber Novus) were black and white journals (named simply after the colors of their covers) containing the personal entries of Jung on his own psychological processes. Later defined as individuation. For me the black became “PROBLEM” and the white “SOLUTION” both included in my beige, neutralising notebook.

goodness inspirationpsychoanalytical reading

I must alert you that the majority of us never achieve this complete psychological stability that the psychoanalyst spoke and wrote about. To name a few that Jung mentioned – Jesus made it in. Add Confucius, perhaps Socrates, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc and Gandhi. Individuation is a process that leads to a self-actualised completion of a person here in this life, the full integration of one’s conscious and unconscious mind. Gordon Allport, the American father of developmental psychology, wrote that any given individual is a unique creation of the forces of nature. There was never a person just like them and there never will be again. We each have a unique set of traits. Perhaps fully individualised person laughs over others envy, it is something they are well above and beyond.

Therefore your black and white books will be different from mine. These journals of your problems and your own concoctions of solutions become your idiographic overview of your true self. They are opportunities for change or further steps to development as a complete being. The solutions are sometimes written much later as we do not shake the answers immediately off our mind when the bothersome issue arises, yet we shall keep our journal at hand. The solution pops out during a random everyday situation, while reading a book, dreaming or relaxing. Grab it and write it down. This will be your mirror and muse for most of the future’s heart and mind ills. Envy being one of the symptoms of inner dissonance, alerts us where we should focus and work more on ourselves.


War Zone Angel: Connecting Death, Space, Reentry and Work by Loving Change

To open my heart to joys I had to soar

Above the deadly peaks of jagged fears

Climbed by some, devouring others

Whose ribs crush into the void of the seas

Like withered stones off their cliffs

Connecting by love

Yet I am carried by the wings spurred from my arms —

Feathery dreams of bliss in this voidless space roar

They are my mast of true love against the beasts

Wailing on loud their insatiable storm of lusts

I sail over to the unsafe lands of lost mothers

Unafraid where others are overcome by oil, [perhaps]

 

Their burning fields incinerate curious minds

Into the ashes of hope falling into my palms

Open to offerings, I only receive the alms of honour

From the rich in loving, not hate and egos

Humbled I bow to their fearless knees

To share our vulnerable hearts

Because I know my truth and valour —

Only integrity saves our fragmented souls

 

Becoming one with the quiver

Whatchu doin’ to meet your core

See the light even in the stone

Just don’t be someone you’re not

Claim space through the expanse of love

female sculpture of Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti: sculpture of a woman

Connecting meaning in War Zone Angel

The War Zone Angel poem is on legacy, honour, inner space, integrity, love’s power, peace, war, happiness and unrelenting harshness of life, but also about choices we can make to escape the seemingly inevitable. As everything changes, our circumstances, attitude, and ultimately joy from being alive can change too. The power within us is greater than we may believe in, so trust it, believe in yourself by connecting with others! Through love one climbs not just the mountains, one’s heart soars in joy in this very life, not after it is over. Once we or others die, it is too late. Live in truth and you will be rewarded now in your heart.

Afghanistan and its current, hapless situation echo in some of my stanzas. And so are other countries struck by the wreck of war. Syria, Yemen, Northern Ethiopia, Mexican drug war… sad counts. Vain power games in some cases cost thousands, even millions of innocent lives. While change would be welcomed by many citizens of these unfortunate lands, the horizon is blurred by continuing violence and chaos. The best weapon though is love. If one has to die for it, one departs in honor inside one’s genuine heart.

I believe that women must play a huge role in expanding love. Men need to accept and give back (Haruki Murakami poignantly alerted me on this issue). If we are to connect and benefit mutually, then we must become fearless in sharing love. Connecting not conflicting.

I do not write many political poems and the War Zone Angel is not meant to be politicised. It is a free expression of what can benefit those suffering through terrible long armed conflicts.

Connecting death, space, reentry and work by loving change is possible and desired for humanity’s sake. In my essay for Medium SPACE NOW: You are a social animal, and so am I, the concept of love mirroring today’s circumstances is further elaborated.


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