The fault in our relationships

Today’s topic of reflection is relationships. Relationships are basic components of our lives as highly social beings. Probably most of us are part of several relationships at the same time, but it can often be hard to glimpse behind their thick layers. Frequently, relationships are extremely complex and can easily become a source of great pain. I was wondering how people unconsciously cross this invisible bridge between happiness and the point where their relationships are mostly filled with heavy feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and shame. Any kind of relationship, either with family members, friends or with a partner can, at any given moment in life, seem like an inescapable labyrinth that weighs down on you. You can, all of a sudden, find yourself in a relationship that seems absolutely broken, in a lonely place where the person who used to bring the most joy to you is now floating on the parallel bank of the same river. If in the past you used to walk hand in hand, in the same direction, reaching for the same goals, now you feel alone and misunderstood. Or worse still, you feel like you are not being cared for or listened to attentively. It is a strange situation dominated by feelings of isolation and disconnection even though you might be sitting right next to other people. At this point, any attempt at communication is a complete failure because you and the other person in the relationship are on different frequencies. It is almost like you both want to transmit a message and receive a message and you do your best to put together a concise message that can communicate your feelings. However, you fail because you are using distinct communication mediums. Say, it is similar to one using a phone and the other using an email. It ends in a connection error.

I started to brood over relationships after watching a few Romanian short films (available on http://www.cinepub.ro with English subtitles, if you are interested). These shorts portrayed exactly a tangled spiderweb of painful and damaged relationships that suddenly explode and discharge cruel words and agonizing sounds. We can all agree that this type of extreme communication is damaging, but once in a while it sweeps over us, almost like a cold taking us by surprise each autumn. Sometimes, humans reach their limits and they need to release all the anger, the frustration, the anxiety, the shame, the bitterness, the despair, the jealousy, all the feelings that have been piling up inside of them. When we arrive at the point of utter fragility and desperation, our relationships become so dramatic that the tiniest of things can set us on fire. It is not about what has been said or what has been done, it is just the last blow, the icing on the cake or a mere raindrop added to a violent inner storm.

Dramatic portrayals of characters and relationships in the short films: a woman choosing solitude over attending a New Year’s Eve party because her friends invited her in the last moment and she felt betrayed (ask: what are your expectations of a friendship?; what is your conception of friendship?); a couple blaming each other for tiny mistakes or sudden actions during tense external occurrences; siblings fighting because of an unequal distribution of responsibilities in the family; an overprotective father and his daughter keeping secrets and fighting for her freedom; disagreements and shouts between spouses on how to treat their child; a man expressing his anger over the fact that he feels unsupported by his wife, daughter, brother and parents; a woman being ignored by a husband who is so taken with reading a newspaper and feeling invisible in her own house , etc. All these intense portrayals of relationships and the feelings that arise inside them illustrate examples of thwarted communication. We could argue that they are intensified or dramatized in order to create more artistic films. However, I suspect that the shorts can have such a strong impact on the viewers exactly because they feel so real. I can identify the intricate details inside my own relationships and in the relationships of people that surround me. The ultimate feeling that arguments, fights and miscommunication bring to an individual is that of isolation. Imagine being in a dark cave, completely alone! You are withdrawn from the world at that moment. It is as if your partner, friend or family member is not concerned with your feelings at all. You feel as if no one listens to you, or rather that they appear to be listening, but your words do not reach them.

Each of us have been, are or will be at some point in a situation where the way we communicate is not functional anymore. Our desires, needs, wants, goals, feelings and thoughts dissipate in the air and the person near to us seems so distant, so removed from ourselves. Maybe communication is not the problem, but rather our connection. The fact is that maybe we need more time to look within ourselves to find solutions, to listen more attentively to our feelings  instead of looking to the other person for solutions and advice. In a way, we are very self-absorbed and everything is about we, we, we…how we feel, how we suffer, how overwhelming the feeling of loneliness is, how bad was our day, our week, our entire year. Maybe it is better to start taking small steps for improving the connection in the relationship by doing pleasurable things together and by actively listening to the other. I believe that we have, in general, become so selfish that we don’t really know how to actively listen to people with an open mind and heart. We listen in order to reply and to advance our points of view. Let’s direct our attention towards our inner selves! Let’s listen and understand more!Let’s identify our painful feelings at the incipient stages and express them in a thoughtful and loving way! Let’s try to deal effectively with the fault in our relationships!

 

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Orient Express: My dream, my fantasy, my inspiration.

 

An international affair,

Murder and le bon air,

Velvet, stockings, lace and silk,

A moral hazard,

Retro crimson shoes,

The sound of soft steps,

Tak, tak, tak, tak…

On the Orient Express.

Candlelit dinner,

La Belle Époque,

Mischief,

And a well-known thief.

Lips are sour,

The witness swallowed a flower.

From Paris to Constantinople

Mystery, my dear sire!

The truth shall never transpire!

Silence is woe,

Secrets and snow,

Dwell in the shadow.

Spring emerges

 Crime, it purges!

Yayoi Kusama: All about love speaks forever

As a lover of art, I am still a beginner. I am a person who does not know the latest, the most trendy art currents or the most avantgarde painters, the most creative urban artists or the darkest, most mysterious sculptors. That is because I like to enjoy the art itself and not the name behind it. In exceptional cases, when I am emotionally touched by art, I make an effort to know the person behind the piece.

I always appreciated art and considered it one of the most amazing and worthwhile human endeavours on Earth. When it comes to art I lose every bit of realism I might have and all I want is the realm of pure creativity, dreams, obscene thoughts and provoking feelings. I love art so much that I can always discover parts of myself inside most pieces of art. The hard part is to find the most relevant parts of your being in other people’s art. Art speaks to me, but to be honest, I only remember or try to engrave on my brain the names/ figures that impress me the most. And they are, but a few. 

Last week, I stumbled upon an exhibition of Yayoi Kusama. I knew nothing about her, but after wandering through the exhibition ‘All about love speaks forever’, I wanted to know everything. I discovered a quite well-known Japanese artist, whose art pieces communicated directly to the realms of my dreams and connected to the various life forms of my fantastic kingdoms. 

Who is Yayoi Kusama? She is a 90-year-old contemporary artist, who was born and raised in Matsumoto, Japan. For a period of time she lived in the US and exhibited her pieces of art all over the world. She received various prizes in Japan and the US and played around with distinct forms of art, from sculpture, painting, to film, fashion and poetry. Her name seems to weigh a lot in the contemporary world of art. But fame matters nought to me. I decided to get to know the woman behind the art because my curiosity got the best of me and my interest was stimulated by the vivid colors she used in her paintings and by the intersection of a multitude of art forms in her installations. 

 

Personal Interpretation of her artwork:

1.The colors she used in her paintings and installations remind me of animations and make me feel like I am walking or living inside a dream become reality. The similar face shapes that predominantly appear in the paintings remind me of lucid dreams and somehow of the multiplicity of beings I experience in life, of my alter egos.  

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2. The world of the ocean combined with the terranean world. The strong yellow of sun, the light, the force of life with the deep, strong blue of the sea, the night, the dream. A fantastic cohabitation of terranean creatures with sea creatures and mushrooms. Yayoi Kusama’s paintings made me think of hallucinations at first. I seem to be right since I read that she played around different magic mushrooms and all sorts of drugs to produce her artwork. 

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3. A recurring theme in movies based on fantastic lands and in animations is the land of giant flowers. These colorful, breathtaking plants appear as a piece of heaven on Earth. That is until these giant flowers open up and reveal themselves to be a threat to humanity because they are carnivorous flowers. 

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4. An enormous octopus-like creature extends its dotted tentacles to form a labyrinth of imagination in a yellow world. What if the world was a giant octopus and survival meant meandering and running through the constantly moving tentacles? Sounds like a horror movie created by a Pointillist artist. 

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5. Reflections of lights and self in a never-ending mirror room. The mirror room is a finite space, quite small actually, but creates the illusion of infinity of selves and space. Quite like the inside of a human being. 

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6. The human brain on drugs or the realm of optical illusions or a 90s’ music disco club after unusual mixes of strong alcohol. Reflection of lights and self, mirrors and dots are signature marks of Yayoi Kusama. 

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7. The artist singing a poem composed by herself. It is a performance created and curated by Yayoi Kusama. The stage presence of the artist, strong colors, dots, the orange wig, the playful mixture of song, poem and non-verbal gestures, brings us to a world of fantasy tainted by the recurring sadness of reality (sadness creeps into Kusama’s world through the title: A Manhattan suicide addict)

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8. Reflections characterized by a fisheye effect. The multitude of selves and others, various dimensions of reality exposed in mirror-like dots. Theme: You only see yourself as reflected in the eyes of others and of the environment around you. 

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A small step for a big change: Rational compassion

Big sister comforts and embraces her little brother to alleviate fears and anxieties

Human nature is a concept that has been debated for thousands of years by philosophers,  and more recently by psychologists, a wide range of scientists, but also by common people. This concept is essential to comprehending our own nature and our purpose on Earth. While there is no common definition or shared understanding of human nature, I believe that empathy is a prevalent characteristic of human beings. Whereas human nature differs substantially from individual to individual and is understood and manifests itself distinctly across countries, cultures and communities, oftentimes there is this shared feature of humans: empathy. We can connect that to the fact that across cultures and borders people seem to want similar things, such as health and happiness, in whichever way they might manifest themselves for the individual. The desire to be healthy might be associated with what the Epicureans suggested of human nature: that it is quintessential to our nature to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. Thus, when witnessing suffering in any perceivable way, in ourselves or others, our instinct is to avoid or to remove the cause of pain. That is a natural reaction because our first response to human suffering is feeling emotionally touched and feeling empathy.

The next thing we could do is to act on the feeling of empathy in a rational way. That would bring us exactly to rational compassion, a concept supported and spread by Paul Bloom through his book “Against Empathy: The case for rational compassion”. We could easily employ our rationality to act on our feelings of empathy if we believe ourselves to be rational beings, as Aristotle claimed. How can we use rational compassion in our societies? How can we apply it to make countries a bit better for their inhabitants? For instance, as Paul Bloom suggested, we could commit to analyzing which charities and NGOs are the most efficient worldwide and start by donating a certain monthly amount to these organizations.

More specifically, how can we use rational compassion in my own country, Romania? First of all, the most useful thing would be for each of us to change the perception we have of animals and people in need of support, money or treatment by educating ourselves and by reading more about manners of contribution to those in need. I believe that in Romania there is a high need of workshops and seminars conducted throughout schools and universities that could lead to future generations understanding that less is more. Give a bit of what you have, renounce some of your material possessions and you can help others lead a better live! What is more, there is a dire need for pupils, students and other categories of people to get involved with charities and NGOs, to learn more about these organizations and to start volunteering. The more direct contact with and the more awareness of societal issues we have, the more we can develop the feeling of empathy and act on it afterwards. I also believe that certain sensitive issues that people misconceive should be publicly discussed in educational environments. Therefore, universities in Romania should learn from internationally famous universities that have a variety of societies for like-minded people. These associations provide students with an adequate space to socialize, to generate revolutionary ideas and to create innovative projects. The student societies we usually lack in Romania and we definitely need are: LGBT and feminist groups, animal rescue and animal protection groups, environmental groups. and minorities’ rights groups. Another thing to do is to use crowdfunding and other social platforms to raise awareness of those in need. For example,  someone can create a webpage dedicated to marginalized, peripheral villages inhabited by Roma people, who are in need of better housing conditions, jobs, education for children, a stable source of electricity, running drinkable water and so on. A considerably numerous group of empathy-led people could take everything in their own hands and alternately go to the village to teach the children who do not have access to school.They could also gather second-hand things and donate them to the people in the village and make a campaign to raise money in order to improve the living conditions of the village inhabitants. Last, but not least, a pressure group can be formed to force the local authorities to deal with the electricity and water problems. This is just one possible example, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of such cases in Romania, from poor children, orphans, lonely and sick elders, abandoned animals to mistreated wildlife and so on. I want to believe that we can act on our empathy and transform it into rational compassion for the better of the country. But what Romania needs most is ‘acting’ and people who would be willing to do something. Unfortunately, most people sit and discuss the corruption and the miserable state of the country. Stop complaining, start doing Romania! Life is not going to give you lemons for your lemonade, you have to grab them for yourselves!

Just for laughs: Gags in China

Sometimes I am stuck inside of a huge, grey, dismal world, but then, all I have to do is step out of my apartment and discover the wonders around me. I am lucky enough to be in the right place for observing a multitude of things that can make one giggle out of the blue and bring a long-lasting smile on one’s face. Here are the things that turned my mood around in the past in China:

  • A middle-aged man carrying a Winnie the Pooh textile design suitcase in the metro.

 

  • A conversation with a 5-year-old during English class that went like this:
  • -Do you have cat?
  • -Yes, I do.
  • -What’s its name?
  • -Cat.

 

  • Women matching summer shoes with cotton socks.

 

  • -Hey, let’s have a nap!
  • Where?
  • Does it matter?                                                                                                                              
  • Old men wearing socks that look like lace or a type of laced transparent women’s stockings.

 

  • People heading out for a walk, for shopping or for other daily tasks in their pajamas.

 

  • Welcome to the new world of the latest fashion trends embraced by the old generation.
  • Migrant workers carrying heavy loads in raffia or nylon sacks in subways, buses and trains.

 

  • Some people bring their own foldable camping stools to sit down on when it is too crowded in the subway or trains.

 

  • People eating sunflower seeds pretty much everywhere: from airplanes and trains to restaurants, while waiting in the queue to get a dinner table.

 

  • People buying and wearing t-shirts, blouses, jackets and bags with messed-up messages in English.                                                                                                                     
  • Small bubble tea shops that have more than 12 employees on the same shift and can barely accommodate all of them.

 

  • Chinese restaurants that don’t provide tissues at tables or together with your ordered food.

 

  • People cleaning their plates, soup bowls, cups and glasses with hot tea before proceeding to serve themselves from the common dishes.

 

  • When at the beach, try the popular facekini!
  • Old Chinese people saying hello to me and smiling out of nowhere.

 

  • Kids shouting to their moms or grandmas, whenever they see me ‘laowai’ (foreigner), as if I were some sort of exotic monkey.

 

  • People occupying two seats in the subway and not bothering to move when other commuters are standing.

 

  • Young boys and toddlers getting a ‘bowl style’ haircut as if it would be the most fashionable thing ever.                                                                                                                
  • Other popular haircuts for kids!

 

  • People stocking up on rice and oil in the supermarket as if preparing for the end of the world.

 

  • Some people carrying enough crap on their e-bikes or simply on their backs to furnish an entire apartment.                                                                                                      
  • Street cleaners still using the old style twig broom.

 

  • Cleaners in subways and in some small Chinese restaurants mopping the floor while people are still walking by, ending up with a wet, dirty, slippery mess.

 

  • Toddlers, show us your butts! Trousers or overalls for kids that have butt holes to make peeing and pooping faster and easier, anywhere, at any time!                                        dsc04737.jpg
  • No space is too public to stop you from doing urgent tasks , such as toenail clipping or having a haircut.
  • The new use for the extra baby stroller in the house: walking the dogs or carrying grocery bags.

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  • Dogs in China be like: Bitch, I am more fashionable than you with my new trendy hair color!                                                                                                                                        
  • Chilling out, talking or waiting in the most natural position of all: squatting.                         
  • Talking about road and baby safety!

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  • The kingdom of fake stuff!

The skill of procrastination


deckchair

This morning, I saw a job ad.

Like all the other job ads,

Like yesterday’s job notification,

Received by email.

Sinking in a bathtub of:

Skills, capabilities, abilities

And the sort

Hard and soft

– What can you do for us?

Personality, emotions

Creativity, uniqueness

Useless.

Praise yourself?

Advertise your skills?

Package your persona, neatly!

Desirable skills:

Teamwork, communication, organization

Leadership, problem-solving

Meeting deadlines, flexibility

Describing aliens

Peeping into neighbors’ houses.

Ups, I got carried away!

 

Don’t have them? Next!

Mass-production, conveyor-belt

Possible job seeker no. 249.

And while I adore the sound

Of abstract sounding donkey-dust skills

I, myself, am the queen of procrastination.

Here’s to my leadership skills of:

Peeling oranges, cutting potatoes

Collecting postcards, gazing at the stars

Spreading butter on toast, window shopping!

I had a dream last night:

Every newspaper’s headline was:

“The coolest job of the 21st century

Requires…..tadam!

The skill of procrastination!

Welcome to my kingdom!

 

The fantastic life of the absurd

 

 

Imagine an all-encompassing society

A ridiculous one, for that matter

So absurd, so out of this world

Even ludicrous stories would stop

And stare!

The most preposterous happenings

Would choke

And swallow nervously.

This fantastic life of the absurd

Would be a bit like:

Fluffy, flying mini pigs

In airplanes, and cars, and subways

Ruling countries, being leaders.

Because it’s the year of the pig, after all!

Fair and smart pigs would commit

To a society of the animals

For the animals.

This fantastic life of the absurd

Would be a bit like:

You, offenders and criminals!

Obey the chain of command!

Walk on a leash,

Do house chores

Help the poor

Live a life of silence

Submit to your master!

You, helpless house pets!

This fantastic life of the absurd

Would be a bit like:

Art, colors and cubism

Are the new currency.

We trade in oil paintings

Sketches and charcoal pencils.

Cash, banks?

All gone!

We trade in beauty, and imagination!

We all get to share!

This fantastic life of the absurd

Would be a bit like:

Fat, slim, white, Black

Short, tall, fit, or not

It’s all the same.

No rules, no stereotypes

No ethnicities, no beauty standards.

A meal’s nutritional value

Got into a fight

With the good looks of models and actors.

They both lost.

They vanished.

This fantastic life of the absurd

Would be a bit like:

Bookshops and libraries

Sprinkle and twinkle

In their new roles

As therapists and psychologists.

-For an anxiety and stress-free life

Please, step inside a book, or two

Become a character

Deconstruct your body, your mind

Run in the wild

Of stories and poems

Come back, anew!