Thursday, July 16, 2009

Imagination running rampant

The three weeks that my mother visited me with my four-year old nephew, nothing else was being shown at home but Cartoon Network. One of the shows that interest me was Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. As the title implies it's a show about abandoned imaginary friends adopted by the Fosters. According to pop psychology children abandoned imaginary friends for real friendships, because I think based on the same pop psychology again that if a child has reached a certain age and he still have these imaginary friends, then there must be something wrong with him.

Or maybe I am just reading the wrong kinds of books or admiring the wrong kinds of authors and artists and being friends and mixing with the wrong people.

The Dominatrix, one of my favorite Philippine authors certainly has imaginary friends galore. She even has an imaginary husband--Conan O'Brien. But then she never really put too much weight on people who defined themselves normal.

In Saul Bellow's novella The Actual, the main character Harry Trellman imagines a lifetime of conversation with his high school girlfriend whom he reconnected with after several decades. I'm wondering what happened to the character's imagined world. Was he able to turn away from that world which he carefully constructed for so many years? Can the mind immediately turned itself off from that? Does the reality of his marriage and love to Amy able to stand up to this other reality?--"Half a century of feeling is invested in her, of fantasy, speculation, and absorption, of imaginary conversation.”

I do like to read a good love story every now and then. But I am rather of Kurt Vonnegut's school of thought about love story in that: "I try to keep deep love out of my stories, because once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don't want to hear about anything else. They go gaga over love. If a lover in a story wins his love, that's the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucer."

Alejandro Sanz, a spanish composer and singer said to a girl, who may or may not be his real girlfriend: Me paso el día planeando (I spend the day planning) Nuestro encuentro imaginario (Our imaginary encounter). So why would he say our imaginary encounter if she is already his girlfriend who's just on a really very long vacation? Shouldn't he say instead I'm imagining our re-union? Or maybe she's a former girlfriend whom he has no hope of ever reuniting with so he imagines maybe he'll bump into her in the mall...

And some Hollywood artists do admit to having imaginary boyfriends and such. And imagined love after all is a Hollywood B movie stock for obsession themed films. Usually people get hurt in these kinds of imaginations but who cares really if it is his reality?

Vladimir Nabokov said about reality: "Your use of the word "reality" perplexes me. To be sure, there is an average reality, perceived by all of us, but that is not true reality: it is only the reality of general ideas, conventional forms of humdrummery, current editorials. Now if you mean by "old reality" the so-called "realism" of old novels, the easy platitudes of Balzac or Somerset Maugham or D.H. Lawrence--to take some especially depressing examples--then you are right in suggesting that the reality faked by a mediocre performer is boring, and that imaginary worlds acquire by contrast a dreamy and unreal aspect. Paradoxically, the only real, authentic worlds are, of course, those that seemed unusual. When my fancies will have been imitated, they, too will enter the common domain of average reality, which will be false, too, but within a new context which we cannot yet guess. Average reality begins to rot and stink as soon as the act of individual creation ceases to animate a subjectively perceived texture."

This is why I read because my own imagination fails me sometimes, so I borrow or enter into the imagined worlds of others. Authors who I admit have more vivid and rich imagination than I have or if not because they are better able to put these rampant imaginations into words.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Efforts at self knowledge"

I've just finished reading Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan. It is quite an interdisciplinary book or transdisciplinary as the epilogue says. I am reminded why I read and try to take interests in all subjects, even if some of them are beyond my immediate grasp.

The book reminded me of a conversation overheard a few weeks back. Two girls were complaining about the heat. One girl wondered if there are planets that are not as hot as the Earth. She'd rather live there. Maybe she'll go to Mars or Pluto. The other girl as clueless as the first said, Pluto is a planet? Where is that? (Maybe all this was said in jest but that's another matter and another subject altogether.)

This conversation also reminded me of the why of the service courses in college. But I wonder if everyone understands the reason for these service courses because most often than not, the complaints about them are how they could be useful to one's life or one's professional undertaking. It's "what do I do with an algebra or biology subject for when my course is English?"

These subjects are taught in high school and required in college so that when we complain about the humidity and heat of the Earth we won't want to relocate to Mars or to Pluto. Or that if we are the nursing student who complains about Algebra (another overheard conversation) we won’t kill our patient when we are already a full-pledged nurse because we can differentiate a milliliter versus a fluid oz. of drugs, maybe we won’t know its exact conversion but we would know what to do.

The world has changed from our parents’ days when we are very good just at either Maths or English. Now the world requires us to have at least a basic understanding but more than rudimentary knowledge of every possible subject in the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Smart Asterisk

During the orientation, there were two classes I've handled all by myself that reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's drawing of an asshole, in the Breakfast of Champions, which looked so much like a giant asterisk.

I don't know why the asshole has become an analogy for a person's generosity or selfishness but there it is, the behavior of these two groups of students has brought to mind an asshole.

One group is a tight asshole, unable to produce anything, while the other group is a smart asshole giving but one has to figure out what it is that is given.

It's a sad fact that majority of students who come from public high schools have not had any library experience, so to make the orientation about the card catalog a little lively, we usually asked the students what authors and titles of books they know. Most groups give the standard authors they've encountered in high school: Shakespeare and Rizal and Harry Potter and Twilight.

Now when I was giving the orientation to this one group, not a squeak came out. I had to prod them and challenge them and nothing. Of course there was a student who gave an answer which he obviously got from his syllabus because it was the name of a freshmen psychology book author so I had to discount that answer. I wanted an author that they know, not an author that they know of, because surely Shakespeare and Rizal and other authors have been discussed and whose works (some of their works anyway) were read or discussed in high school.

The other group was a delight because no standard answers or authors were given. One student answered Charles Dickens, it was unexpected so praises were given (and it became the signal for the smart assess too.) I told the group that some Dickens are in the library. They'll just have to learn how to use the card catalog to find him and his works. Encouraged one student said Bob Hope, taken by surprise this time, I said I was not sure if the library has any Bob Hope but if they really are interested in him, they could just check the card catalog later.

Guffaws and catcalls and all sorts of noise. I would have been insulted but everyone had their eyes on one classmate.

"Me: well what's so funny about your classmate?"

"Them: his name is Bob Hope."

"Me: so you're calling him Bob Hope because he is funny? That's good! "

"Them: (Guffaws again) no, his name is Bob Pag-asa and we call him Bob Hope, you know hope equals pag-asa."

"Me: oh I thought you're all calling him Bob Hope because he is funny."

"Them: he is funny but his name is still Bob Pag-asa."

So there I was trying to calm the class down and at the same time trying to explain who Bob Hope was and trying to move the orientation along despite the occassional snickers.