mid-december notes

15 December 2008

These days the things I read about other countries invariably leads me to reflect on our own. If they could pull themselves up from the mire of poverty and corruption, why can’t we? I just finished plodding through The World is Flat (or as Esquire calls it, that Friedman monstrosity), one of those bibles for twenty-first century globalization. It highlighted the value of trust in any society as the key to its success. “China and India and other Asian countries would not be successful at innovation unless they have successful capital markets, and they will not have successful capital markets until they have rule of law which protects minority interests under conditions of risk.” The book outlined the governmental and educational systems that best coped with globalization, and emphasized the importance of creativity and imagination, how these were the best things individuals would to offer in a flat world where barriers are down and everything becomes global. The book read like one loooong interminable column, but the one thing I didn’t expect the book to be about, was hope. There was so much resplendent hope in the interwoven stories of successful Indian startups and social entrepreneurship, so much faith in the capacity of human beings and wide-eyedness at how fast the world is changing. On a whim, I bought The Audacity of Hope (can’t beat that title) last month, the eve of the U.S. elections and finished it some time after the proclamation. I don’t agree with some of the policies but I can’t help but be envious of a country with a politician who has (or at the very least, very credibly seems to have) such breadth and depth of vision, with full awareness of the sacrifice that people as a nation must make in order to become great again. I know we have the same kinds of people here, but they seem harder than ever to find. [I am a little ashamed at my lack of comprehensive understanding in matters of economics (daamn you Mrs Giroon) and policy, but I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.]

+++

Been baking/trying to bake for the past month. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I finally went and loaned a whole appliance from my sister to do it. December is the month to tie up the loose ends of want and desire, before 2009 breaks open. B was laughing at the idea of myself in an apron bending over an oven, and I don’t blame her – eating is more my forte. There is something edifying in work that you do with your hands. (One of my ambitions used to be to become a house-painter, because I felt there was no city job more serene that rolling paintrollers over walls leaving color in its wake. Alternatively, I wanted to be a window-washer.) And baking – dear god, such joy. I now understand why they say happiness lies in the taste of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, still warm and moist and melty. Everything I bake now has to have chocolate in it, in one form or another. Rich and fudgy, chipped and tiny, dark and broody, shiny or crumby, chocolate in all its multifarious glory. Chocolate, or fresh fruits. If I start moving on to antipasti and cheese, I may never leave the kitchen.

+++

Two months and a half—ten books, twenty or so movies, countless dinners and drinks with lovely friends, long stretchy days with little and everything to think of. I will miss this.

“Even now the sun is dropping below the horizon; a few moments ago it was still light enough to read but now it is no more, the printed characters swarm over the page to create an impressionistic blur. Soon the page itself will be invisible. Yet one has no urge to get up and put on a light; it is enough to be sitting here, grateful for the reminder that yet another day has come and gone, and you have done nothing about it. What about the morning resolutions to convert all the confused details in the air about you into a column of intelligible figures? To draw up a balance sheet? This naturally went undone, and you are perhaps grateful also for your laziness, glad that it has brought you to this pass where you must now face up to the day’s inexorable end as indeed we must all face up to death some day, and put our faith in some superior power which will carry us beyond into a region of light and timelessness. Even if we had done the things we ought to have done it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway as everyone always leaves something undone and this can be just as ruinous as a whole life of crime or dissipation. Yes, in the long run there is something to be said for these shiftless days, each distilling its drop of poison until the cup is full; there is something to be said for them because there is no escaping them.”   –John Ashbery

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