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baratillo @ cubao : www.baratillo.net

I need reading glasses

Posted in Politics and Culture, Readings by juned on the May 23rd, 2009

The past few weeks I noticed I am finding it hard to read the fine print in most medicine bottles. And also the fine print in most forms. Next week I will have to buy myself reading glasses. A sign of old age but I am still lucky because my younger sibling sported glasses while still a teenager.

Seeing is important. Both with eyes and the heart. One is empirical in a sense something we learned from the hilosophers and Scientists from Ancient Times. To observe is to learn. And you learn a lot of things by just observing, which actually seeing, hearing and using our other senses. And then there is seeing with the heart, A phrase borrowed from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye..”.

Taken from the book called The Little Prince. It is a book I highly recommend you read. There are probably several copies about.

And seeing with our eyes and hearts we can often generally discern whether our loved ones - may they be friends or family is in pain or is in trouble. And more often it also pains you to see this. Specially, if the friend or loved one decides to keep it to himself or herself. All you can do is wait till your needed and/or subtlely tell the person that you are there - ready.

I am just here is the phrase I think.

And that in a sense is one of the essensce of friendships - which can exsist between friends and family members. And this reminds me of Saint-Exupery’s book and one of the more poignant passages contained within.

Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .

and further down…

My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .

Ah the problem and joy of taming and being tamed. What a nice euphemism for Friendship.

Reading and the death of newspapers

Posted in Politics and Culture, Readings by juned on the March 30th, 2009

This morning I attended a presentation that tackled at one point the state of the newspaper industry. It has been reported that a number of publications have been closing as a result of economic crunch. It has also been predicted that around three hundred publications will be shutting in 2009. A lot magazines have been shutting down locally as well.

And then there is also a migration of a number of periodicals and magazines online.

An interesting question here is would this be the end of the Printed Word?

A long time ago I stumbled upon a book about reading. It was one of those all encompassing books about reading. Included among its contents was why read, startegies in effective reading and reading assignment. There was also a piece or a chapter on the different types of reading depending on purpose.

There is the reading if one wants to get informed
. We do this when check the signs on the street or directions on a road map. We also do this when we buy stuff at the grocery. It is a quick read. And there are times when we use this to read the newspaper. Finding out the latest news about a war. a place or the stock market.

Then there is the reading where one wants to learn. This is more slow and deliberate reading whose aim is to learn rather than get informed. These are two different things in the world: Getting informed and learning knowledge.

Then there is the long and pleasurable practice of reading. An essay one enjoys about the pleasures of smoking a cigar. A report about a hostage crisis in the the Philippines. A Poem of Walt Whitman The list is endless.

So what is the point to this discusssion. Put simply there is life after the fall. The Fall of the Newspaper and print will hasten the move of a number of publications to the web. There is life online.

People will read news amd articles on line. In a sense they are a form of reading to inform. Something that needs to be read fast at a glace.

So does that mean publishing is dead?

No it just needs to refocus. Printing is for books for learning and pleasure.

Tolstoy’s Three Questions

Posted in Readings by juned on the March 19th, 2009

It is said that one of the greatest pleasures a reader gets in life is when one stumbles upon a written work that somehow strikes a cord within you. And there are times when the author of such work lived long before you. And it seems that at this point it seems as if a hand is extended and befriends you.

Here is one such tale.

Three Question by Leo Tolstoy

One day it occurred to a certain Czar that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.

What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The Czar issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the Czar make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the Czar should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the Czar could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.

One person said that the Czar needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

——————————-

The Czar was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given.

After several nights of reflection, the Czar resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The Czar wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the Czar disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the Czar found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The Czar approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the Czar on the shoulder and continued digging. The Czar said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the Czar the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the Czar stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the Czar continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The Czar put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home.”

The hermit lifted his head and asked the Czar, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The Czar turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the Czar before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the Czar and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The Czar cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The Czar ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the Czar a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The Czar was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the Czar, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.”

“But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the Czar asked.

“You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.”

The Czar was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the Czar returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the Czar wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the Czar. “But your questions have already been answered.”

“How’s that?” the Czar asked, puzzled.

“Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”