a simple life

When I read Anna Karenina, the character that stood out the most to me, and that had the most impact, apart from Anna Karenina herself, was Konstantin Dmitrich Levin. I think all of the characters were constructed and explored really well, but Levin in particular was given a lot of depth.

One of the main things I remember about Levin, even several years after reading the novel, is how, despite being a well-off landowner, Levin yearned for a simple life of honest labour. There is one part of the book where he helps his muzhiks with the harvest, wielding a scythe alongside them in his fields. To him, it was satisfying work, but not only in the physical sense of “a good day’s work”, but also in a psychological or spiritual sense.

I’ve heard that Levin was the character that Tolstoy most identified with, or that was most closely modelled on his own thoughts and beliefs. In War and Peace the equivalent most Tolstoy-esque character is Pierre Bezukhov. It is not surprising then, that this yearning for a simple and honest life is also experienced by Pierre.

[Warning: spoilers ahead. Please note, also, that I haven’t quite finished War and Peace yet, so please don’t spoil the ending for me.]

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Meditations: prove me wrong

For several weeks now, I have been thinking of this quote from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, and I’ve been meaning to find it so that I could blog about it, but I either haven’t had time or, when I did have time, I just couldn’t find it.

During my first reading of Meditations (now a few years ago), I used some scrap paper to jot down some notes regarding noteworthy passages. For some of these, I copied out the passage (if it was short), and for some I simply noted the book and chapter numbers. I kept these scraps of paper as reminders — some within the pages of Meditations, and the rest on my bedside table. I had hoped that the quote I was thinking of would be on one of these but, alas, no luck.

But, no matter, I thought, there is a helpful index in the back of the copy I own, which can be used to find passages relating to various subject matter and concepts, so I tried this next. I pondered over words that might lead me to the passage, but these either did not take me to where I wanted to go, or they did not exist in the index.

As a last resort — or perhaps just a despairing effort — I flipped through to random pages, hoping to find it by pure luck or coincidence. (Keep in mind that I didn’t do all this searching in one day; it was spread over several weeks, whenever I thought of it and had time.) Unsurprisingly, this tactic proved fruitless too.

Last night, however, I was really determined to find it. I was so determined that I resolved to go through each entry in the index that was even remotely relevant, starting with A and working through the entire index to Z.

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Meditations: on character and expectations

A colleague recently gave me some advice that reminded me of the words of Marcus Aurelius. They didn’t use the same words, but the message was essentially the same. Their words actually reminded me of a part of Meditations that I thought I would never blog about — not necessarily because I disagree with it, but because it never sat quite right with me.

When I first read it (a few years ago), I remember that I felt a bit… uncomfortable about it, I suppose is the best way to describe it. But I think, for the most part, I’ve come to terms with it now. I’m sure there is still some part of me that is bothered by it in a way I cannot quite articulate, but maybe acceptance will come with time. Continue reading

one twelfth

I watched a TED Talk recently about bees and have since decided that bees are in my top 10 favourite animals. I mean, they could probably be in the top 5, but I don’t really know what my favourite animals actually are beyond the first two, so I can’t say for sure. Just never gave it much thought, I suppose.

But this post isn’t about me — it’s about bees and the wonderful work they do. The talk, if you’re interested, is by Marianne Gee, and is titled “Want to change the world? Think like a bee”. The title intrigued me because I was probably in the middle of an existential crisis, or just out of one. Highly recommended, though, even if you have never despaired at how impossible it seems to make any worthwhile impact or change. Continue reading

proud to meet ya

The dialogue in The Grapes of Wrath was a bit hard to get my head around at first, but I suppose I got used to it soon enough. It’s actually really grown on me. I quite like it now. Half worried it’s slipping into my own way of talking, but half don’t mind that it is.

There’s something about the way they speak in TGW that feels more honest and genuine. Unpretentious. You mean to say something so you say it, and you don’t dress it up with fancy words, and you don’t even worry about getting all the words in line with grammar and such. (I still have to spell things correctly, though. Can’t let myself spell words incorrectly when I’m writing.)  Continue reading

just dance

It is a little-known fact about me that I like to dance. The other day I wondered why this is a “little-known fact” – why I never tell anyone this, as if it’s something majorly embarrassing – and then I read something in Bird by Bird and decided to write a post about it all.

Sure, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is mostly about writing, but the tagline says “some instructions on writing and life”, and that is the way I have taken it. The following quote is from the chapter titled “Broccoli” and is about finding, listening to, and trusting your intuition. (Yes, I do like that there is a chapter named after my favourite vegetable. It’s probably the only book I’ll ever read with a chapter named after broccoli.)  Continue reading