Picture shows one of the monks at Kurisumala
A chance of scattered showers…
Picture taken in Fort Cochin,
Palm fronds reflected in a street puddle.
Picture taken in Fort Cochin
A monsoon-battered bloom floats on the road.
Picture taken outside my house.
Picture of fishermen taken in Chellanam, Kerala.
The ancient cathedral in Salisbury has a modern font.
On it are written words of scripture.
In it is reflected the cathedral’s beauty.
“…creatures walk the earth unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep” John Milton
“I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.”
It is official. The monsoon has set.
On first hearing this phrase, I thought I might be experiencing an Al Gore moment, and that the monsoon must have finished early – extremely early.
But by setting, the monsoon has in fact arrived.
When I retired to my bedroom last night, the comfort of sleep was unaccustomedly difficult to find.
Instead, I was entertained by a mighty son et lumière performance.
For over an hour my room became the stage on which searingly bright lights, cruelly sharp shadows, deafening sound and powerful tremors fiercely interplayed.
As dawn broke I questioned if an early morning walk would be possible.
But, other than a few puddles, life had returned to normal.
The sky was brightening,
Now is the season of umbrellas.
The monsoon may still be somewhere over the Andaman Islands but along the Kerala coastline we see its harbinger.
Looking out from my door
I receive the New Yorker regularly.
It is a kind gift from my younger son.
This month I particularly enjoyed a writer’s account of his return to the USA after many years abroad.
The following section was especially intriguing.
Most Chinese were intensely curious about foreign life, and they liked to ask certain questions. What time is it there? How many children are you allowed to have? How much is a plane ticket back?
People tended to have extreme views of the U.S., both positive and negative, and they became fixated on fantastic details that they had heard. Are American farmers so rich that they use airplanes to plant their crops? Is it true that when elderly parents eat with their adult children the kids give them a bill for the meal, because they aren’t as close as Chinese families? When I taught at a college, a student names Sean wrote in an essay:
I know that persons in America can possess guns from some books and films. I don’t know whether it is true….I know that beggars must have bulletproof vest from a book. Is it true? There is a saying about America. If you want to go to heaven, go to America; if you want to go to hell, go to America.
It was hard to respond to such combinations of truth and exaggeration. In the early years, it frustrated me, because without any context I couldn’t convey a more nuanced perspective. But eventually I realised that the conversations weren’t strictly about me, or even about my home country. In China, I came to think of the United States as essentially imaginary: it was being created in people’s minds, and in that sense it was more personal for them than it was for me. The questions reflected Chinese interests, dreams, and fears – even when people discussed America, the conversation was partly about their own home.
Go West, Scenes from an American homecoming.
Peter Hessler, The New Yorker. April 19, 2010.*
My recent trip to the USA, despite many previous visits, reflected this pattern of being conditioned by what was familiar, rather than objectively seeing a different society and culture.
As Vedic Hindu philosophy first suggested and modern physics agrees:
The observer, the observed and the process of observation are intimately bound.
When we think of, or question, the unfamiliar what we articulate is based on what we have seen before.
But our questions have value.
They provide insight into what motivates or worries the observer.
When ever we examine national character, religion, history or even alien life forms, we project our fears or required certainties, often attempting to reinforce existing judgements.
We rarely wish to explore beyond this safety zone.
Like a newspaper with its own agenda, the mind exercises censorship.
By first defining the questions, awkward observations can be kept at bay.
It seems impossible to see beyond the shadows on the wall.
All that catches my eye is conditioned by previous reflections.
My desires and fears are caught in the picture
If I am a camera, that camera casts its own shadow.
*Sadly, Peter Hessler’s excellent and entertaining article is only available on-line to subscribers of The New Yorker.
Three weeks in the New World:
Then gently relaxing with family in New Mexico
The spring light and warmth has coaxed out new foliage from the trees of Central Park
In New Mexico, most cottonwoods remain bare.
The waxing light of spring brings new reflections:
Cubist reflections of the high-rise city;
Quieter reflections of New Mexico.
But even in the midst of nature’s reflections