Thinking Out Loud

A Discourse on Society, Science, Perception, Art and maybe still more…

Homesick or “Timesick”?

As you may know I moved fairly recently – 9 months ago – to Australia. Having lived all my life in one place, it came as no surprise that the well known to migrants nostalgic feelings and longing for home would affect me at some point. So there I was, often homesick, looking back at nice moments and memories of my Greek life. There I was, feeling like the alter ego of the lead-actor of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (if you have read my previous post, you must by now know that Ι am a devoted Tarkovsky fan!)…

Trying to stay on top of this sort of feelings, I pictured myself back home, living everyday life the way I used to. Somehow, however, this daydreaming failed to work. I knew deep down that even if I were to find myself back in my “safe” routine, still a sense of unfulfillment would dominate. I started thinking that probably I was not feeling so much homesick as I was feeling timesick. I don’t think I was missing home on itself as much as I was missing past memories and isolated segments of my past easy going and carefree lifestyle. Needless to say that all those moments belonged only to the past and could not have been revived even if I were to find myself back home. The more I thought about it the more it seemed that, at least for me, timesickness  overrules homesickness. Missing fond memories prevails over missing home.

Still, why was I experiencing those strong timesickness feelings often? Although the past is rich in very fond memories, present can offer a great deal of pleasant moments, which will become tomorrow’s nostalgic memories. I am close to be convinced that it all comes down to the lag between the moment an event occurs and the moment it is classified as a pleasant memory by our perception. It takes some time before our selective memory distorts our view of how things actually happened, leaving only the pleasant aspects, while suppressing all the negative ones. This makes us so often praise the past and feel nostalgic about it when comparing to the present. Woody Allen’s recent movie Midnight in Paris depicts that in a very nice way. (By the way, I started writing this post before Midnight in Paris was granted an Oscar award)

My assumption is that if we could minimise this lag between experiencing a moment and classifying it as a pleasant one, then contemplating about what past experiences at other places, with other people, under different circumstances, all that would only serve us to enjoy event more the present moment. Good old days and the comparison of them with the daily routine, wouldn’t daunt or impede us from trying out new experiences in life. On the contrary our history would merely provide a sense of connectedness, fulfillment and optimism about what is to come.

Finishing this post, I should say that I am yet to find those thoughts fully working for me… I am getting there however!

Art in a Prosperous Society

The great Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky had once said that “If life were perfect, art would be pointless”. Although I had appreciated the profoundness of this quote when I had first come across it, it was not until very recently, after moving to Sydney in Australia, that it started resonating in my mind pretty much on a daily basis. I think the reason that triggered it was mainly the scarcity of any sort of “cultural” places (I use the quotes to differentiate between the pretentiously and the truly cultural spots, being of course concerned about the latter here) in this big Aussie city. Jazz clubs, cinema theatres that play European or independent American films are rare as… hen’s teeth, like they say here, Down Under.

But let’s take things from the beginning. Sydney is a beautiful, vibrant, extrovert city, thriving with amazingly nice beaches and lush vegetation parks. The climate is a blessing from heavens; soft winters (no house in Sydney has central heating!) and warm summers with breaks of rains that prevent prolonged heat waves. The yearly percentage of sunshine is incredibly high as well. On the other hand, although it has grown to be a very expensive city, its residents still seem to manage fine somehow, which in turns results in low unemployment and criminality rates. All in all, Sydney seems like the wonderland!

So in such a place, where everyone is happy and always “busy” either working or enjoying the sun and the sea, who really cares about art? What does art have to offer apart from being an alternative form of entertainment? After all isn’t cinema supposed to be a Friday or Saturday evening’s entertainment event, when spectators find themselves sitting in front of huge screens, being exposed to blasting sound effects, consuming their pop-corn and coca-cola drinks and watching movies of sub-zero value what-so-ever? Or, in line with that, isn’t art a means for higher social class people to show off by, say, hanging that expensive, unique painting on their living room wall?

Well, it seems, I think, that art degenerates into forms such as that when it is not driven by a deeper need to convey a strong idea, a burning feeling to change the society towards the better. If life is perfect, or at least as “perfect” as could be claimed to be the case in Sydney, why would anyone for example seek to watch Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Bergman, Truffaut and Fellini and not some Hollywood junk? What could those masterpieces of the Seventh Art possibly have to offer to people that might have never been bothered by the inherent injustice of our political, social and financial structures?

Although by no means I would prefer to sustain, had it been in my hands, social injustice for the sake of art, the very thought that art could degenerate into a technical endeavour stripped of genuine ideas and emotions which would aim only to the superficial satisfaction of our senses, seems quite disturbing to me. Certainly, life might never be perfect (anyway how good does it take to be “perfect”?), so all this contemplation might simply be futile. If humanity however manages to get past its adolescence and establish societies based on a truly sustainable economy, having nothing to do with the profoundly corrupt and inherently unfair current institutions that are fuelled by the greedy desire to maximise monetary profits, regardless of the long-term impact to the environment and the dignity of peoples, would those societies breed artist of the ingenuity of Mozart, Chopin, Tarkovsky, Da Vinci, Picasso and the likes? Seems like it is only time to tell…

In lieu of an epilogue, I have to say that I consider our current civilisation to be extremely far away from “perfection”. In that sense my contemplations about art might seem absurd… They may even be so… It wouldn’t have been bad though to have more authentic art in Sydney!

My First Post, or… Hello World!

This is my very first post in this blog which I decided to start, a mild wintery August (yes, I am residing in the South Hemisphere right now) Sunday evening. The idea struck me just few days ago, while studying for my PhD in the library of the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I am not doing a PhD course in political/social sciences or the media. In fact I’m formally enrolled in the Faculty of Human Sciences but my research is deeply Electrical Engineering-oriented, namely “Binaural Hearing Aid Signal Processing Methods in Complex Acoustic Environments“.

However, this blog will be political and social in it’s nature! The very idea which motivated me to start it all up was to express some of my ideas and thoughts, in a concise (hopefully!) way, while keeping it public and open for review. In this way (again, hopefully…) I aspire to get valuable feedback and comments from friends and readers, concerning issues that often keep my mind engaged. Issues that could span all the spectrum from rather trivial ideas that float in my mind while, say, brushing my teeth, to more fundamental issues like the deep inherent incompetency of the current social and financial structures to support a fair and sustainable model for the society.