Monday, May 6, 2013

Meet Teju Cole

If I could be a writer, I would want to be a writer like Teju Cole. His story telling ability reminds me of my old HTC phone: "Quietly Brilliant." Below are samples of his (stellar) literary outputs, from creatively thought-provoking commentary on Twitter to a debut novel that gave me the feeling I feel whenever I watch a silent movie. His writing silences the noise outside and puts me back into the quiet sanctuary of my head, which is my favorite place to hang out. I really hate to say this, because I don't like to gush but suffice it to say I am a strong admirer of this man's work.

He tweeted "seven thoughts on the banality of sentimentality" which is a sharp and unapologetic critique of the western inclination to intervene in the problems of the Third World in a manner which is in fact egocentric. Here's one tweet:
 “From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex,”
and here is my favourite in the series:
“The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.” 
 In seven short stories about drones he brings the horror from hard to imagine foothills of Afghanistan or Iraq to our own doorsteps.
"Mother died today. The program saves American lives."
Cole makes an interesting link between drones, the IMF and Downton Abbey, which could be construed as a little reaching but I think it's very smart reasoning.
  1. 1. Each age has its presiding metaphor. Ours is aerial bombing.
  2. 2. Drone warfare and the IMF are variations on a theme: decisions taken from a great height, with disregard for consequences on the ground.
  3. 3. Downton Abbey’s popularity is about a nostalgia for class superiority, and the desire to watch those who act from a great height.
 I read his debut novel, Open City and I knew immediately that my mind had connected with a mind of great intellectual capacity and authenticity. It is a reflective and unhurried novel that is not for those among us who seek instant gratification in our literature. The book demands that you forsake all other activities and commit yourself to a journey that will not reward you with a profound epiphany or a sharp emotional response but rather it will reaffirm what you already knew in the quiet recesses of your consciousness but had perhaps forgotten in all the clamorous demands of modern day living.
Still, the way my thoughts returned to the fact that it was the middle of November and I hadn't yet had occasion to wear my coat made me wonder if, already, I was one of those people, the overinterpreters. This was part of my suspicion that there was a mood in the society that pushed people more toward snap judgments and unexamined opinions, an unscientific mood; to the old problem of mass inumeracy, it seemed to me was being added a more general inability to assess evidence. This made brisk business for those whose specialty was in the promising of immediate solutions: politicians, or priests of the various religions. It worked particularly well for those who wished to rally people around a cause. The cause itself, whatever it was, hardly mattered. Partisanship was all.
          - Teju Cole, Open City 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

That I would be timeless

My obsession with the firmament continues unabated. I could stare at the sky for hours, and often do. Then I remember that I am small. I am so very small and yet all of the universe is in me. In the face of billions of years behind me and the billions that will come long after I am dead, nothing really matters. Yet I also know that because of this, everything matters. Absolutely everything. And when I am lucky enough to see a perfect sunrise I am urged to seek significance. On nights so clear I could reach up and touch the stars I am compelled to do something beautiful for the world in return: something that will outlive me so that my story is longer than the duration of my time on earth. I find myself humbled by my insignificance and challenged by my potential. I am made from the stuff that was there at the very beginning of the universe. How very validating and empowering!

The pictures below were taken in Tofo, Mozambique.

"Sunrise offered a very beautiful spectacle; the water was quite unruffled, but the motion communicated by the tides was so great that, although there was not a breath of air stirring, the sea heaved slowly with a grand and majestic motion." - George Grey

"Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth." - Prince Gautama Siddharta, founder of Buddhism.