Monday, June 25, 2007

Arrival in New York (written two weeks ago)

Date: 2007.6.25. 18:47:32
Arrival in New York City
I'm sitting in the small living room of my host, Dr. Anton Bara, an MD originially from the Phillipines. Looking out at midtown Manhattan here on E. 86th & 1st ave. The building dates back to at least the fifties. The metal laundry hamper fixed tothe wall in the bathroom is just like the one in the bathroom back in the Bronx where my father and i lived in the early 1980s. The apartment still has all its original fixtures, as far as i can see. By the looks of the flaking ceiling and walls, it hasn't seen too many paint jobs, either. A lovely collection of antiques furnishes the place, including a pair of old kilims onthe floor and several antique paintings on the walls.

New York is so very different from most European cities. The people are largely quite friendly. But i can't say that about the city itself. Its diverse character prevents from having a sufficiently strong core that would enable this, such as I've seen in Stockholm. At the big airport in Stockholm there are clearly marked signs guiding you to the train that takes you swiftly and comfortably into the center of town. At JFK in the NY, it's chaotic. The train was hard to find and there were no instructions whatsoever about how to pay or even where it goes. As it turned out, i had to take it to a bus stop, then take a lingish bus journey to an elevated subway train that took me to Manhattan where i had then to change to yet another train. The whole journey cost $4 and took well over an hour. I had to ask directions several times. By contrast, the Stockholm train takes 20 min, by costs at least $25.

New York certainly has a buzz to it. But it's not essentially different from Budapest. The apartments cost much more, but they aren't really any nicer. And the jobs people do are more or less the same, except they are more influential to the world economy. A Budapest adman works on national and regional campaigns, where his NY counterpart works on global ones. But to both, it's just "my job," after which they meet friends, eat, sleep, etc. Newcomers may feel thrilled to be on top of the world economy, but that wears off and it becomes just another place.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back in the USSA

Here I am back in the country of my birth for the first time in 7 years. I first cam to NYC, then went on to DC. The DC trip has involved meeting between me and my lead client and Carl Chidlow, budget director of the Democratic National Committee, with the aim of hooking the Democrats on my client's web-based intelligence tool,

The meeting itself went well enough; my client presented well and was politely received. With luck, it will lead to greater things.

It has been strange being back in the US. The paradigm is so familiar, yet different. It's more corporate. New York was great, even if I didn't see all that much. Just the scale and energy of it all was great to experience again. It has lost a lot of its edge. The barbarians have been beaten back and replaced by a whole lotta whitemen. But it's still something to see.

Tomorrow I see my old friend John Lippert and will visit my father's ashes.

I'm very tired. Up this morning at 2:30 to get to the airport, where delays and bizarre hassles nearly caused me to miss my flight.

But all is well. Now hanging out in DNC headquarters in Washington, DC. Waiting for my old friend Carl to finish so we can go out for dinner and drinks.

It is clear to me that I'm not only tired, but still ailing from the cold I came down with on the flight over from Budapest to NY. But I'm better than I was, if not at my all-time best.

It's intriguing to see Carl again. He's very much his old self, but mature, sharp, a real leader. It will be cool to hang out with him this evening.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The human soul hungers. As a threshold between coming and going, what comes in forever goes out and vice versa. The whirlpool of thoughts and feelings that captures greatest intensity of this coming and going forever searches for greater fluidity; faith, understanding that allow incoming emotions, concepts and information to be processed and stored, reproduced and dispensed with in a manner that puts the soul at ease, rather than leaving it tortured.

Educated Europeans have the benefit of a structured exploration of the depths of the human soul. That is, they are exposed - through their education - to a holistic and historical understanding of how human knowledge - scientific, technical, metaphysical - was built, how turnkey concepts came into being, how contemporary axioms - those truths taken for granted by so many of us - came into being. How previous ideas came to be questioned, how new evidence was explored, how experiments were undertaken, debates engaged, new ideas were formulated.

This is all undertaken not just in the language and forum of science, but also in poetry and literature, both of which are required high school reading from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Germans, Russians and French writers of more recent centuries. It is systematically read and discussed, taught by teachers who make it their passion. An understanding that this knowledge, this understanding, this nourishment of the soul is of vital importance permeates the classical European education. To produce balanced souls, balanced minds, balanced and responsible human beings, there must be must a digestion of the struggles of those humans that have paved the road upon which today's humans walk.

Americans are deprived such an education. They enter a complex world, replete with technologies and processes, demands on their being so little of which is understood by most, and explained to them by ever fewer. They struggle alone and in groups to make sense of it all, their minds corrupted by entities that feed on their ignorance and desperation by convincing them they are ill and should take medicine, or that they are uncomfortable because they don't have enough spending power and should therefore go into debt. Or that they are hungry for scintillating flavors and should exchange their labor and credit for heavily processed, unhealthy foods divorced from the millennia of evolutionary creation that produced

There is of course Yoga and meditation, and these offer a path to liberation. Unfortunately, this path is unseen and unrecognized by far too many. But even Yoga and meditation do not fully prepare you to cope with the complexities of contemporary life in the "developed" world.

The German novelist Thomas Mann wrote in an essay that the philosopher Nietzsche went mad so that his readers wouldn't have to. That is, he put his struggles into words - struggles that directly faced the conflicts and contradictions in the center of the whirlpool of the human soul. What he wrote gave and gives comfort to his readers who recognize those struggles as their own. They find it easier, then, to say, "life is like this, there's nothing at all wrong with me, I can relax and continue to live."

But most Americans - unlike most educated Europeans - never read Nietzsche or Thomas Mann, never mind Aristophanes or Sophocles. Instead, they have been trained to follow the processes of the machines and the corporate administrations they serve and become hopelessly alienated in the process. This is ironic because it is just these machines and corporations that have relived them of so much burden.

But without balanced minds and souls to lead them, these machines and corporations enslave and destroy human lives rather than liberate them. So many problems facing human beings today are so clearly soluble. But the mechanical and corporate interests tied up in keeping things the way they are block the way. Ignorance and fear collude to stifle the innovations that offer the most promise.

I'm not pessimistic. Not entirely. My next entry will be filled with optimism,