Monday, April 25, 2011

reading music.

i do not mean reading musical notes - i mean reading about music.
when i was growing up music was not as nearly available as it is now. i would buy a magazine ('dzuboks', 'rock' or 'itd') and read about new bands and albums, and i would decide whether i liked them or not based on the photos and on what was written about them. upon eventually hearing a song or a band, i would either get disappointed or fully embrace them. one of these songs, however, baffled me.
i was fourteen when sting's album 'the dream of the blue turtles' came out. since i had never been a huge 'police' fan, i did not pay much attention to this album. then i read an essay by david albahari titled 'the songs i never dance to', about sting's song 'moon over bourbon street'. it was a phenomenal essay. i read it over and over again. no wonder, since albahari's currently one of serbia's leading novelists, living in canada. but it didn't really make me buy the record and listen to it.
it so happened that my cousin bought this album, so i eventually listened to all the songs. they were not in my taste. i found the song 'russians' so tedious. but 'moon over bourbon street' had something in it, though i couldn't really figure out what. jazz sound was not awfully attractive to me then, the atmosphere of the song was too serious and gloomy, but for some reason i started liking it. and i still do, a lot. it's difficult for me to say whether it's because it takes me back to the time i was starting to grasp new meanings, or because it's a good song, but as soon as i hear its first notes, i walk bourbon street on a moonlit night.

the generation gap.

today my psych students in the second year were editing some interview questions, selecting interesting and discarding boring ones from the presented list. they were almost unanimous in dismissing the question about the generation gap (if it divides people) as uninteresting - what could the interviewee tell us about it we already haven't heard - they said. well, they are probably right, but for some reason the question got stuck in my mind and made me think about it for myself.
of course people of different generations differ, and of course we encounter those differences all of the time. this particularly holds true for those less individualistic, who fit into the traditionally prescribed roles characteristic of different walks of life. the more idiosyncratic, original and natural a person is, however, the less stereotypically 'generational' will he or she be.
the same can be applied to people of different nationality, religion, education, wealth, etc. the less their true selves they are, the more they identify with their outwardly personas.
they are so many younger people, even children, i stand in awe of, and so many elders i consider immature and underdeveloped. among all of them, as well as among peers, there are those we consider equal, superior or inferior. at least this is how i see the things. and this made me pose myself a question - does the generation gap actually exist? the answer is yes, it certainly and obviously does. but what do we of different generations differ by? whatever it be (tastes, habits, life pace, experience), i believe that we differ by outer, superfluous things, while the things that connect us and wipe the generation gap away are the things that matter - ideas, humanity, communication, laughter, spirit. i likewise think that all other differences among people are superfluous and ornamental, while the human core that we share makes the differences insignificant and fleeting.
so, although i cannot but admit that there is a generation gap that places us on different steps on life's ladder, i certainly do not agree that it divides us. anything can divide us as we so choose, but we also have the potential to transcend the countless barriers that are constantly setting us apart.


i was 13 in 1984. it was an apocalyptic year. the movie 1984 was shot that exact year, eurythmics made the soundtrack. i was slightly disappointed with this album, having loved the previous one, 'touch'. i am not sure how well i understood the whole dystopian idea, but at least i was driven to and intrigued by it. instead of sitting in the living room with my parents, watching miso kovac and lepa lukic on the tv, i was crouched in a distant bedroom corner by an old philips gramophone, listening to 'sex crime', 'i did it just the same', 'doubleplusgood', 'for the love of big brother', trying to figure out the sense of it all. although i did not manage to get the main point, i felt something was in there, still unpenetrable, prereflexive, but something meaningful, though gloomy. i don't think i was precocious, i was just inquisitive. and i felt that sharing my parents' taste in music would for some reason just not have been right.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

a monomind.

i stand in awe of people who are capable of investing enormous amounts of energy and patience into what they are doing. writers, for example. i try to write a short text, and even before i start i begin to feel restless. sometimes i make myself persist, and manage to do so for up to an hour, hardly ever longer than that. and then i hear about authors who have full-time jobs, families, and who write profusely. i am certain their pages are not coming out of the blue - they are the products and results of their talents, combined with efforts. and sacrifices.
my mind wonders like a mad dog. i can get absorbed in a scientific book for half an hour, but then i get an urge to sit by the computer and check the weather for the next week. or listen to a silly song on youtube. i might come across a good idea for a paper or an essay, or even blog, but it much more frequently vanishes into thin air before i even put its title down. should i then feel bad about this ever-shifting mind of mine? i am pretty certain that i shouldn't.
people with a 'monomind' are capable of great achievements. they can focus their energies on their works and produce amazing things. they create and probably actualize themselves through creation. but they also probably sacrifice many a walk in the woods, or many a whim of the moment. or perhaps their work absorbs them to such an extent that it compensates for the loss of all other needs and interests?
people like me hop from place to place, take a peep here and a peep there, are all over but never in the one place. we dissipate our energies and do not have enough of them needed for great attainments. but such diffuse absorption of the world and fragmented reciprocation in form of casual products of our minds is probably our way. some rivers run straight into the sea, some meander and create wide deltas, but they get there nonetheless. or is this but a rationalisation? i do not know. but i do not have a monomind, i have the one that i have, and it will hopefully serve its raison d'ĂȘtre right.
(Paul Hankinson wrote 16 March 2011 12:04am
Interesting thought there, Janko! I also suffer from this seemingly very 21st century disease, and have seen it increase as my indulgence in technology has burgeoned.
But unlike you, I'm not happy with the way I am, and am trying to focus my mind more. It seems like the monominds create big things, and initiate change in things around them. I'd like to aspire to that creation, rather than remain the mediocre consumer that I am now.
I'm quite happy being a jack-of-all-trades and not a monomind, but I've spread myself so thin that I risk losing any value in anything that I do.
So I now try to question what I do - especially on the computer - before doing it...reading all those newsfeeds, checking email so regularly, catching up on my favourite 5 I need to know it all?
Apparently our brain doesn't help us; we get kicks of dopamine when we scan things like news articles, so it encourages us to not focus!
Here's to bigger hippocampuses (hippocampii?...I'll let you look that up, as something to do!)!
16 March 2011 2:55pm
just checked seems it's hippocampuses after all
you are absolutely right about this age not making minds like ours any favours. it just does the opposite - encourages dispersement of interest and concentration. i listened recently to alain de botton's 'point of view' on bbc's radio 4 where he spoke about this very thing. it seems we need to make compromises.
i will never be able to write a 1000 page book, or spend ten years of my life working on a single project. i am not regretting it because i do not find any thing as comprehensive and all-encompassing that i would be ready to sacrifice so much for it. i don't want to miss out on other things in life.
however, when i said compromises, this is what i had in mind - i impose restrictions upon myself when internet and other sources of entertainment are concerned, and allot some daily minutes or hours to more serious things. i usually read for about half an hour when i wake up in the morning. my monthly minimum is at least one novel and one non-fiction book. i usually manage to read more than that. when i get up i make myself a cup of choco-coffee and spend 20-30 minutes checking my mail and favourite sites. that's the usual routine. after that i spend an hour or two, whether in the morning or in the afternoon, working on a paper, taking notes, reading and preparing for my classes, reading students' diploma papers, etc. when that is done, i can take a hike, or hang out with friends, or spend some time on the internet just doing whatever i feel like doing. not that i manage to meet these standards every day, but for the most part i do, and it really works for me. it is a surprising thing how much we can learn or read or create if we spent just half an hour every day doing it. that's my recipe. i know you have longer work hours, but i am sure you can also squeeze some 'productive' time in your daily schedule.
funnily enough, i just came across an illustration of a monomind in the book that i was reading this morning:
'was it rutherford who, asked how he discovered the composition of the radiation emitted by radioactive substances, replied, 'i don't think i thought about another thing for seven years'?' (taken from 'forgotten truth' by huston smith))