Sunday, August 02, 2009


Ben is home! He had so much fun, but I missed him. He and Naomi were ecstatic to see each other. She held him tightly and wouldn't let go and he cried he was so happy to see her. I know they will not do this forever, but I hope that the core of their feelings never changes, I hope that they always have each other. As an only child I never had the chance to bond with a sibling, instead always hanging out on the sidelines and watching it. Do we ever grow out of our desire to have that kind of relationship? Do we always look for people to fill that role?
Last week was rough. I lost my ability to cope for reasons I'm not sure that I understand. I'm sure that this week will be better, not perfect, but better.
I watched Up the Yangtze last night. What a lovely, sad, sweet, surreal movie. I'm not sure how he managed to get people to let him film quite so much. I mean, some of it must have been staged? Just to see how people live, how they survive. The main family start out living in a hut they built by the river, but they must move eventually. They grow some food and he works jobs carrying goods or breaking rocks. Neither parent can read or write or speak English. I guess the thing that struck me most was their knowledge of where they stood in the universe. They had regrets about what they could not give their children in terms of paying for higher education, but they didn't question their place in society or the government's decision to build the dam and displace them. Their ability to accept the decisions of those with authority and even their daughter's boss was very sad for me to watch, but their acceptance of their roles in life was oddly freeing. I've been watching TED talks again, and I was listening to Dan Gilbert talk about the what makes us happy and synthesizing happiness and Alain de Botton talking about our ideas of failure and success and it got me to thinking. As I watched this movie, watching the people, real people, their acceptance of their fate, the way that the mother and father are at peace with their roles in society, they don't beat themselves up because they don't have wealth, they are matter-of-fact about their daughter having to go and work on a cruise ship at the age of 15 or 16. Their daughter has a middle-school education and resents not being able to go to high school, she wants something more and is not content. As much as I could not imagine not questioning authority or willingly tolerate a class system, I realise how easy it must be to come to terms with your life when that is your reality, when you believe that your choices in this world are finite. Does that mean that limited choice and resignation to one type of life is good? Maybe not. But it certainly doesn't keep you up at night. Gilbert's main gist is that people who make a decision and stick to it (are not given a choice to change it) are happier than ones given time to deliberate on whether they are happy with it or not. If not given an option, the choice that you make is one that you eventually become very satisfied with, your brain comes to peace with the situation rather than pondering, "what if". Once again, removing choice and possibility from the menu seems to determine your course. So how do you apply that to a life full of choice? How do you walk down that great big cereal aisle of life and make your choice and stick with it? What happens when you realise that you went with the Cheerios and should have gotten the granola? The times I have been happiest in life have been the times when I have just acted, but that can't be good advice for everyone. And what about when you're happy with your own decisions, but not happy with the decisions of others?
I think it's time to do some baking and see if my head can't get around this.

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