Geneva Diaries #63

Randomness, Yoko Ono, Chess

Sat, Feb 28, 2015, 8:25 PM

Dear Purnima,

Please excuse my tardiness in getting back to you about your trip to the

States. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to stop in SFO on our way back

from France, but it doesn’t look like it will be possible.  We have booked a

one-way flight back to LA from Paris on Icelandair and we land in Seattle

and then fly to LAX on Air Alaska, and there is no way that we can change

our tickets to stop over in San Francisco.  Drats ! It would have been so

delightful to see you in that beautiful city, but the timing is just not

right this year.

Do you have plans for any other trips to the States in the future? Let’s

keep thinking about dates and times that would work for us to see you again.

You seem so far away, and it would be a delight to reconnect again.

I’ve been watching an absolutely delicious series from the American TV

channel Showtime.  It’s called “The Affair” and recounts in a very

interesting narrative way the summer fling that a married professor/writer

has with a young, also married woman in a resort town in New England. The

woman in the affair is played by Ruth Wilson, a British actress whom I

really love. She played in the BBC series called “Luther” and this is one of

her first roles for American TV. She won a Golden Globe for her role in “The

Affair”. The professor is faced with such gut-wrenching decisions about

following his muse-like love for the young woman and on the other hand his

marriage and his four children. It’s clearly the kind of situation where one

feels like they are truly between a rock and a hard place. In one scene in

the next-to-last episode, his father-in-law tells him about an affair he had

with one of his own students when he was younger. The son-in-law asks his

father-in-law, who is now a famous writer and into his late 60s, if he ever

thinks about the young woman. His answer just floors me: “Every f…..ing

day!”

We are also hosting a young Japanese student for a week.  We picked him up

at the airport this afternoon, and he is really delightful. Tomorrow is

Farmer’s market day and dinner at home in the evening.

We also saw a delightful and wonderfully done play in Santa Barbara a couple

of weeks ago: “Intimate Apparel” about a black seamstress in the New York of

1905 when nearly everyone in the city was an immigrant or former slave. It

was really touching and so well acted.

I’ll write again in a few days with my reaction to your other email. If

there is installment number 2 waiting in cyberspace someplace, I can’t wait

to read it.

(Personal tidbit)

Voilà. Maintenant, tu sais tout!

I just wanted you to know how much I value you as a friend. I feel that I

can share anything with you, and have told you things that I haven’t told

anyone else. That is very special to me.

Take care and have a wonderful trip to the States. I’ll call you when we get

back from France and before you leave to return to India. At least we can

touch bases via AT&T.

Lots of love and hugs,

Roger


3/11/15 

Randomness Yoko Ono

Dear Roger,

I’m glad to get your mail with all your news, but am very disappointed that despite being almost next door, we will miss each other. I really do hope we can coordinate to meet sometime soon, it would be wonderful to see you. You had mentioned in your mail how you value me as a friend, and feel you can share everything. That makes me feel very special Roger, thank you for being there for me as a guide, mentor and friend. One who has passed through the tortuous routes my life seems to be taking, and can comfort and advise me through my journey.I too value you as a friend and often find myself having conversations with you in my mind both when I am faced with life’s complexities or when I have a juicy tidbit to share (oh so much more on that Tidbit!). I often have to anticipate your response, for have now become my imaginary friend, and continue our conversation through museum exhibits, plays, books and personas that cross my path. Often we laugh together, but it’s reassuring that somewhere across cyberspace you do exist and share a chuckle with me in real time.

A has a lot on her plate already with the move to a new country and settling in. However, she seems to be taking it well, I am happy for her. Do give her lots of my love and tell her that she is always welcome to come and visit me and treat my place like home. She is truly a wonderful child and I wish her the very best.

Talking about teenagers, I just had my son over during his mid term break, its been a week since he left and I’m still recovering. He has turned 16, and is bursting with ideas, rebellion, demands interaction, and challenges my mind like 24/7. I attempt to be everything, mother, father, friend, teacher, disciplinarian and it always collapses upon my head. In order to keep pace with this American teenager, i have found that I need to know his universe and talk the talk and walk the walk alongside him. It is only then that he is willing to open up and share his thoughts and fears, and as a single parent that is crucial. The divorce has been a long hard journey for him, and now I want to be his friend and support more than anything else.

This of course means i venture into the world of gaming head on, not just sitting through Dark Souls 4,  Sky Rim, and Civilizations 5, but discussing the details of the game and the gaming world, so that perhaps we can one day move on to discuss the realities of the real world. Our debates have often been intense, but this it was power play, if i could not hold my argument i had to submit and vice versa. And so he started on about my human-centric fixation, and my quest to find out what makes us human and distinguish it from the rest of the universe, so that we may retain it as we morph and evolve into the future. He knows I genuinely believe that there is something special about us humans and “humanness”, and this I struggle to express to him over his million and one objections with vivid examples demonstrating how we humans are really a vile violent and selfish expression of this universe and that if we morphed out of our humanness or if humanity was eradicated in the future nothing would be lost. Like many human evolution games which are very popular in the online gaming world, like Civilization 5, I got engrossed in a mind numbing game which tracked the evolution of man from the prehistoric stage well into the future where all is controlled by AI (artificial Intelligence), with the game/human civilization coming to a very abrupt end repeatedly once AI technology is introduced. This somehow rings alarm bells in my mind as I struggle to retain and reinforce the value of this very magical and special quality of “humanness” persuading my son that there is value in humanity, for us to hold onto, to retain till the end. Roger, I would really appreciate your holding my hand as i guide my son.

 My son with his large and empathetic heart insists that based on our inhumane treatment of animals (whom we chain confine and slaughter in the most horrific ways from boiling to bleeding), who in his opinion are not very different from men, he believes that if a more intelligent civilization did the same to man it would not be unjust and should not shock us.

 In order to distinguish humanity i discuss empathy, I discuss love, and finally I reached art. I insisted that Art was unique to man, and did not exist in the animal kingdom. He vehemently refuted this, insisting that birdsong is a creative expression of the bird, and thus art in the animal kingdom, and similarly are the various songs, dances and movements of the animal kingdom. My response which had to be electric as I had to ensure that my teenage subjects attention did not wander having made his case, I responded that however beautiful the birdsong, the movements of the animals in dance was essentially instinct primarily for dominance or foreplay. My argument was animals in all their colorful forms are merely instinctively acting, there is no conscious will, intent or desire. Shouting over my son’s vehement refusal to accept that consciousness is limited to the human form and does not permeate the animal kingdom, i went on to stake the claim for humanity: Humans, I said expressed with intent. So all forms of human expression, song, dance, drama, are done so with a conscious mind. Infact I went so far as to say that everything touched (up) by man is design. And the moment it is expressed by man it goes beyond the instinctive, it is no longer random. Even where man intends to generate a random work, it is design, it is creative for it is the result of a conscious mind and free will. In fact I often wonder how it is in any way conceivable for man to produce generate anything remotely random (all those claims of recreating randomness in the labs!). Now Roger, you have to take this design, human expression, and tell me is it always art, or is it art only in the instance of an observer! What about the Self as an observer? Our dialogue continues…

My obsession for determining randomness in the human realm followed me (along with all the other ghosts and demons that ride on my shoulders) through an art exhibition on Chess pieces (a game dear to my heart), utilizing the game of chess, the chess pieces and board, to highlight societal issues. It was very inspiring, and two in particular excited my imagination. However, as i did the rounds of the various chess displays, I kept returning to a nondescript  one, sitting by the corner, which initially left me cold. The caption and description were a one liner, which did nothing to express the art. The chess pieces themselves were plain and boxy, representing rectangular blocks, and were not particularly attractive, unlike the other chess boards and pieces at the exhibit. But most curiously, even though the pieces were blocks in black and white, all in different sizes representing the chess hierarchy, the painted lines on top of some of the pieces did not make sense. they did not follow any order and could not be comprehended however many times i visited them. It left me very uneasy, for we all look for patterns and there was absolutely no pattern, no underlying idea, no inkling of the design neither from the pieces nor the description. The demon of randomness loomed high above my shoulders, as i struggled to push him away. I them approached the gallery owner and casually asked her to explain the various art works, making a point not to lead her to the beast right away. When we finally got to this particular chess set, i cornered her and then with all my focus and high anticipation i quizzed her about the designs on top of the pieces, did they represent moves, anything, anything at all. She laughed and said that they meant nothing, it was just“random”, just a design with no meaning. I felt my brain explode and  I would not let her go, repeating my question in all the ways possible in case we were missing something in communication. When she laughed at the nondescript one-liner caption, i promise you the floor fell through. I had dreamt and thought about this so much, I revisited the board/demon every time I passed the gallery, and now with that foolish laugh and sing song voice I am told the patterns meant nothing, they were a mindless design drawn on top of the pieces at “random”. It was then that I recognized however many times she may repeat the word random, the fact that it was the creative expression of man, done with intent, even if it was with the intent of being random, it could never truly be random. See attached chess board (Janarthanan R. “Construction”).

The journey of the chess pieces brought me to a chess piece inspired by Yoko Ono’s White Chess “Play it by Trust”. Yoko Ono, a wonderful artist and wife of John Lennon, created this piece of art as a part of her larger anti-war message: Imagine Peace. White Chess consists of all white pieces (white on both sides), places on a board of white squares. So in order to play you have to remember where your pieces are placed on the chess board at all times, and so must know where your opponents white pieces are placed. however, this game can only be played by trust, ie, the two opposing sides have to come to a consensus, agreement as to where their corresponding pieces lie at each move, for from plain view or the eye of the external observer it would be near impossible to determine the same. Similarly, drawing a parallel between the game of chess and the dynamics of nations (especially the delicate dance played out as nuclear warheads are moved around), with white pieces being played on a white chessboard, in order for the two opponents to move, trust is integral to gameplay.

Yoko Ono, through this work of art reiterates the need for mutual trust between peoples and nations for we are all the same and as we play deeper into the game all lines and divisions blur, the only thing that remains is trust. This I found brilliantly true, and enjoyed the Yoko Ono’s message through her brilliant piece.

See below Yoko Ono’s Play It By Trust at the LongHouse, NY: https://www.longhouse.org/pages/yoko-ono

A Forbes article on Yoko Ono’s Play it by Trust below:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2014/01/23/yes-yoko-ono-is-a-great-artist-and-we-need-her-latest-show-now-more-than-ever/

Yoko Ono takes me back to John Lennon of course and the wonderful song Imagine with its beautiful lyrics pasted below. Yoko Ono and John Lennon also take me back to my last email about our Brave New World, and your request that I continue with that chapter, so here goes…

John Lennon-Imagine

Lyrics:

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

love

Purnima

PURNIMA VISWANATHAN

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

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