Sunday, September 13, 2015

Vacation on the weekend

I have been doing this for last few weekends. When I go for a long walk on Saturday or Sunday morning, I leave my phone home.

I do it so I don't whip it out every five minutes with an excuse of checking my email. Or see what the temperature is (as if knowing that at that very moment is vital!). Or what's the rating on Yelp of the restaurant I see across the street. Or what a "knot" is when I see a board of speed limit for the boats in the canal. Or to take a picture of a beautiful flower on the side of the trail and google it. So may reasons. So many excuses. It keeps me so busy while I walk. Interestingly enough, I see plenty of "busy" people around me who are also taking a weekend walk, some even with their friends!

But when I step out without the phone on me, it's like vacation! It's like vacation on the weekend. It's just me and the surroundings. Yeah, yeah, there are enough articles and tweets about how we all have become slaves of the internet connectivity. But I never really realized that until I said this aloud "vacation on the weekend!". After all, don't we all love the vacations and camping trip where our cell phones don't work, there's no reception, no Wi Fi!

Go figure!!

Now I do not check the weather, but feel it, breath it in and soak in it. I just walk up to the restaurant and check the menu, the ambience, perhaps say hi to the server. I don't know what a "knot" is but I sit there and watch the waves the passing boats generate and let my mind wander with them. I don't take the picture of the flower, but stand still and watch the romance a little bee is playing with it. All my curiosity and appetite for information can wait to be satisfied for later.

Of course, you say, why can't you do both: check the temperature and still feel the weather? Nyah, somehow it's not quite the same. Something about that smart device (or the absence of it) makes a difference. It's makes me free to be with myself. It has been a good exercise for me. And as it turns out, after I come home, I am not that hungry for knowledge after all! I am not sure if that is good or bad, but at least it is self enlightening!

Some day, I will get good enough at it so I can create these vacation moments any time, even if I have my smart phone with me.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Prophet, and Words and Pictures

These are two movies I watched in last few days. That's the only thing common in them for me.

The Prophet is an animation movie based on Kahlil Gibran's book The Prophet. Those who have not read it, it is a series of prose-poetry on various topics such as love, marriage, friendship, freedom, good and evil, death... It is highly dense philosophical text that has enlightened many. Personally, I have found it hard to understand in places; yet in places offering these gems that I can't help but keep reflecting on. For example:

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?

The movie is a collage of animations, each depicting a poem from the book and created by a different team of well known animators. Each animation flows on the screen as the poem is recited or sung in the background. There is a story of Mustafa that strings these animation poems together - a story that is not told by Gibran's book. Its purpose is to add entertainment and humor to the otherwise very heavily philosophical content.

Words and Pictures is a romantic comedy. It is a story of falling in love of two professors: one of creative writing, and the other of painting. Their debate or war is about which is the stronger medium of expression: the words or the paintings. The argument includes that the art of drawing came earlier in human development than the art of words. Or that the words are caged by language, pictures are not, etc. etc.

A picture speaks thousand words, but sometimes thousand strokes are not enough to express what is conveyed by a word. Both, strokes and words are open to interpretation. Both can invoke feelings. Both are inspired by feelings. Both can be factual, or abstract, or everything in between.

When I watched The Prophet, this debate came back to my mind. What the movie does, or attempts to do I think, is to draw Gibran's philosophical words on the canvas with artistic styles rich with colors, strokes, animations. The animation "On Freedom" is all about caged birds, the one "On Marriage" is drawn with a couple dancing, so is the one for "On Love" etc. Each has a distinct visual style, of course, and is a beautiful piece of animation in itself. But so much is packed in Gibran's words, that it is not even fair to expect that these beautiful animations can do justice to the narration.

It is easy to end on a compromising note that "each medium has its strengths..."! I was never good at drawing. Ironically, one of my most favorite teachers in school was the drawing teacher. I owe it to her for getting me some success in those drawing exams, for getting the best out of me which was mediocre at best. I am better with words. I am more comfortable with words. So while I am occasionally moved by a picture, words still remain dearer to my heart. For the power they have on me, for the power they vest in me. I will watch the movie, The Prophet, to enjoy that beautiful richness of strokes; but it is the book that I have with me - the one that I open any time and read a piece over and over again.