Archives for posts with tag: Humanity

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I took this photo in the room where I currently spend most of my days. Hopper’s Automat hangs on the wall facing me, while behind is a window with bars. I sit equidistant between both. I love Hopper’s art, something about the melancholic aloneness. His work has always spoken to me, now more than ever. I watched a documentary on his life on youtube—a commentator stated that in Hopper’s paintings, time is elongated, stretched, contemplative, a sense of time slowing down.

In the current lockdown situation, I have been considering time and its meaning right now. The days pass quickly, which surprises me, but at the same time there is a slowness to my life. I seem to do things, particularly reading, at a different pace. And I like that—it feels as if I am more attentive, somehow, that life is more consciously deliberate. I was reading a piece in the New York Times by Olivia Laing. She reflects on time and its current meaning:

“Most of us are perennially short of time, and now we’re left hanging in it”

For me, it’s not a bad place to be hanging. But the sense of uncertainty does challenge. I am not in the country where I normally live. I do not know when I will see my daughter next. I do not know when I will next touch someone. Will someone I know and love contract the virus, and suffer? When will this end? Will it ever end?

There are so many unknowns. Before all this began, I thought that I had reached a place where I was relatively ok with the not-knowingness of life. But the pandemic challenges this, and me, on so many levels. The future is indeed unknown—it always was, really, and we mostly collude with the illusion that we can to some extent predict, and even control our futures.

My daughter finds solace in the shared experience that we are all going through (albeit to hugely varying degrees of suffering). I agree, the corporate nature of the pandemic—no one can escape its impact—is reassuring.

And then there is also hope. It’s too soon for me to think about the end of this, when and how we will emerge from our physically isolated worlds. And what that world might look like. But in the meantime, I am optimistic. Mainly about humanity and the acts of compassion that I observe daily. And the new connectedness that I am experiencing with friends old and new across the globe. People are what matter, they give life its greatest value, meaning, and joy.

And on the note of hope, from Derek Mahon:

Everything Is Going To Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate

the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window

and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying,

but there is no need to go into that.

The lines flow from the hand unbidden

and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything

and the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight

watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right.

 

CQ

 

 

This is the title of a documentary film that I saw today, the final day of the UK Jewish Film Festival, at the Tricycle cinema.

What a cinematic gem it is, a profoundly moving and authentic piece of art, which is so affirmative, and reassuring, of the goodness that humans are indeed capable of. And more importantly, a goodness and a genuine caring of the other, which transcends that most divisive of forces, religion.

The film tells the story of Albanian Muslims who protected Jews from the Nazis in WWII. Unlike almost all other countries, Albania welcomed Jews during the Holocaust, and we hear the stories of some of the very many Muslim families who sheltered the refugees, despite the inherent dangers to themselves, as well as the those of the Jewish people and their descendants who, as a result of the humanity they received, managed to survive the war.

Albania was the only country where the number of Jews increased from pre-war, approximately 200, to post-war, approximately 2000. It remains a relatively poor country.

Albanians see themselves as just that – not as Muslims or Orthodox or Christians – but as the people of Albania, and all of whom share and enact Besa, an honour code that offers assistance to all those who knock on their doors looking for help.

Besa: The Promise is a gripping and humbling story, which concerns a nation that lost so much during WWII and even more so in the subsequent communist years, but which nonetheless holds steadfastly to the notion of kindness and and generosity towards those in need, irrespective of religion and creed.

CQ

I have seen all of Michael Haneke’s films to date, and so, unsurprisingly, I very much looked forward to his latest creation, Amour, which I saw tonight.

I am not sure I fully understand my fascination with Haneke’s work. It probably results from a combination of factors, from its ability to simultaneously surprise, seduce, shock, distress, and disturb.

Amour has been much hyped, particularly since its Palme D’Or accolade at Cannes in May. There have been many reviews, and 5-star ratings, and a further, albeit much more pedestrian, review would be superfluous. What I can share, is how the film made me feel. Or, I should qualify, how it made me feel during the screening and immediately afterwards. I suspect that over the next days, much more will evolve personally from my experience of seeing Amour.

I found it extraordinary. But in a different way to his other work. I found it extraordinary in how it moved me, and also in the extent to which it disturbed me, much more than Benny’s video or The Seventh Continent. I suspect this results from the fact that the subject matter for Amour is so ‘ordinary’ and real and human, that this, perhaps perversely makes the work feel so important, and critical. Essentially, it is the potential story of you or me, and our frailties and vulnerabilities. Perhaps life doesn’t get more scary than that.

I wondered whether, having seen the film in a pretty packed cinema on a Friday night, such a topic would have been so welcome in mainstream cinema 10, even 5 years ago…

Progress, of sorts.

Go see.

CQ