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…live dangerously!

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…live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships out into uncharted seas! Live in conflict with your equals and with yourselves! Be robbers and ravagers as long as you cannot be rulers and owners..

A mere week into this newborn expedition, and already I am flagging. I must keep in the forethought of my mind the urgings of one E Hawke, aforementioned.

So this shall be more of a stream of consciousness type entity; written without aim or direction, and as is due, possibly written with an uneven quality, too.

Folia: Rodrigo Martinez, 1490 – Improvisations D’Apres Le Villancico du CMP (Anonyme)

I have recently discovered this odd musical repetition, hauntingly titled La Folia. Born from folk dances of Iberian peasants many hundreds of years ago, the tune has been appropriated and elaborated by various sources, and now appears as a theme and a multiplicity of variations throughout the classical music canon.

I will not trouble you with the technicalities of the chord progression. It is easy to find, but to read it is not to understand it. Rather, you must listen to understand, for there is on the evidence (given the fashion in which the melody has survived and flourished across the course of history) an inherent value within La Folia that strikes at the very depths of our ears, brains and souls.

If you were curious, I have taken those lines above from Nietzsche. I imagine that he is the kind of philosopher who is often quoted, seldom read and understood even less. I have undertaken to accomplish the first (and can now check that from my list), traverse the second and ultimately, realize the third. I’ve made it as far as the Introduction for Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Penguin Edition, 1972 reprint, set in Monotype Garamond), written by one R.J. Hollingdale, who also doubles as the translator for the main text. I’d become idly curious whilst reading Mr Hollingdale’s introduction; who in fact is this man? If I’m to put my faith in someone to successfully demystify this novel for me, I’d like to know who he is.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered two facts that put my mind at ease apropos the gentleman’s professionalism and good standing; first, he was known as ‘Reg’ to his friends. Second, he was educated in an area of London called Tooting. He was, incidentally, also a visiting scholar to the University of Melbourne from 1991 – 1992. And now that I have also managed to connect him to my own universe, I can continue in his company, confident of his bona fides.

If I succeed in completing the Introduction, then I shall begin on Zarathustra, described thusly as ‘a spiritual odyssey through the modern world’. I have my doubts, and suspect that it may be full only of sound and fury.

I’ll let you know.

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Shrinking Prostitutes

Some small part of me believes that seeing a therapist is a kind of intellectual prostitution.

You’re paying someone to listen to your problems, many of which are trivial and often times, easily resolved.

A prostitute doesn’t listen to your problems, at least, not in the formal sense. She’s certainly exposed to them though, after a fashion.

And surely the outcome is the same, more or less. A sense of catharsis. One physical, the other, emotional.

The question is, do either really help, and is one more helpful than the other? 

A ridge too far

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So goes the somewhat recherché headline adorning the front of page B1 in the Haaretz newspaper dated Friday, May 31, 2013.

It may seem like a strange souvenir with which to return home; a tattered newspaper carried halfway across the world. Yet the editorials struck a chord with me. Perhaps within Israel itself there’s an odd, paradoxical honesty in the way that they report the goings on of the Palestinian conflict.

And so, in what may or may not be a sign of things to come, my first proper post will be an editorial of sorts itself, a summation and largely a possibly selective quotation of three articles from the aforementioned news sheet.

The general thrust of these writings can be boiled down to three significant points. To wit; the Israeli settler movement holds tremendous sway over the policies of the government, the realpolitik of the Israel-Palestine question is often just barely hidden beneath a veneer of disingenuous diplomacy, and finally, the Zionist project is a self-defeating notion driven by the very zeal from which the idea was born.

My initial conclusions upon reading these articles were comprised primarily of a feeling of pessimism, which I suppose is not a novel emotion when it comes to the conflict that rages within the borders of Israel and Palestine; however given that these reports were of a somewhat more firsthand nature, my pessimism rings a little more true than usual.

The first of these three points is summarized in the following quotes from Amos Harel’s piece, the name of which I’ve appropriated for my own post here.

“The problem is not just the fundamental differences in the approaches of the two sides to they key issues…[it is] above all, the expansion of the settlements…the settlers’ leadership has failed to prevent establishment of a future Palestinian state and ensure the settlements’ annexation to Israel…It’s hard not to reflect on the possibility that maybe they have already won, and that the situation on the ground is in fact irreversible.”

Regional commanders speak at length about the creation of illegal settler outposts, but admit “…in the same breath that the army was providing them with security…One arm of government declared that building was forbidden; a second ensured that the settlers in the outposts were guarded; and a third saw to it that they received sufficient infrastructure and logistical aid.”

Mr Harel speaks of the overwhelming influence of the settlers’ lobby and the various pressure groups that have been set up throughout many branches of Israeli governmental bureaucracies. He continues to say that senior figures on the Palestinian side are both cynical and pessimistic in their view towards the true intentions of the Israeli government when it comes to returning land to the Palestinians, and that if negotiations for a fair and equitable land sharing deal are not concluded in the near future, ‘…the road from there also leads to a third intifada”, a reasonably terrifying prospect given the horrors of the past.

Now one may ask, is there evidence to suggest that the Israeli government is indeed beholden to such lobby groups as mentioned in Mr Harel’s editorial? That very question brings me to my second point, and our second editorial, written by Yossi Klein and entitled ‘In the blink of an eye’.

In a more anecdotal fashion, Mr Klein relays a story of a press conference witnessed by a “short balding guy” who works as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

The scene is a press conference, held by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and John Kerry.

“When Mr Netanyahu spoke of his desire for a durable piece, or something like that, the short balding guy noticed that while speaking, the prime minister shut his left eye and blinked rapidly…he also noticed that National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror was seized by a similar spasm…Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon…in turn shut an eye quickly but vigorously.”

A taller man, a colleague of his from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, explained. “That’s what they do here…[they] wink at one another to express disagreement. Their wink cancels out anything their mouth is saying.”

“God help us”, said the short guy to himself.

This is merely a snippet, a story told from person to person to person, and hardly verifiable as truth. But perhaps it gives some small insight into the inner workings of the most senior members of Israeli government.

My final point is illustrated by Uri Misgav’s essay, ‘The real post-Zionists’, and I hardly need write a word of my own here.

“What will bring the Zionist project to an end is the occupation the the settlement enterprise…the goal of Zionism was to create a national home for the Jewish people…but this goal cannot be achieved as long as the occupation continues and the settlement enterprise exists.”

“It has become apparent that [the settlers’ movement] are the surprise political winners. They haven’t succeeded in inhabiting they hearts of the people, but they have managed to inhabit the land and the hearts of the ruling establishment. A small and determined vanguard has managed to impose its principles and desires upon a silent, confused and paralyzed majority.”

The conclusions that are reached are similar to those mentioned in the first article. The grip of the settlers’ lobby upon the heart of the Israeli establishment, and even the Israel Defense Forces “physically prevent the settlement enterprise from being dismantled.”

In concert, these three articles make for somewhat discouraging reading. If indeed there are such influential minorities such as the settlers’ movement successfully executing their agenda within Israel and the occupied territories, then it is difficult to see how a realistic two-state solution can be reached in the foreseeable future.

I would have liked to say that a first-hand glimpse of the world that the Israelis inhabit was an enlightening and encouraging experience. Instead, I’m going to continue the theme of this post (that being taking others’ writings and using it to improve my own) by quoting Morgan Freeman as William Somerset, himself quoting Hemingway.

“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”

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Write every day…

Write every day. Not every other day. Not tomorrow. Not after the party. But before. The more you write, the more comes out of you. If you don’t give inspiration an opportunity, it will never arrive.

The unlikely source for the above quote was Ethan Hawke, the famous actor. Famous at least to me, and presumably to you, too. 

To take a brief diversion (I imagine it will be the first of many), Mr Hawke conducted via the website Reddit what is known in online circles as an AMA, which stands for “Ask Me Anything”. These AMAs are undertaken by a great many people, some of them famous, others less so. Some of them warm, personable and insightful, others less so. I’m glad to say that Mr Hawke fell into the former category, and it was this particular quote of his that stayed with more more than any other. 

I would guess that there are a great many people who would consider themselves writers, despite having not often put pen to page. Indeed, I put myself in this category. 

So, despite my great reluctance towards the blogging universe as a whole, this is me attempting to take a step forward, to take on Mr Hawke’s advice. To write.

Forgive me if you don’t find me writing every day. You may not find me at all at first, for I’m not even certain to whom I’m writing. Regardless, I think I can find pleasure simply in the act of writing the words themselves, even if they are never read. To enjoy the satisfaction of choosing the perfect word for the perfect sentence at the perfect moment. To get lost within the rhythm of phrase. 

So Mr Hawke, I thank you. Given my past failures, perhaps prematurely.

Let’s see how far we get.