Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Philosophy Lessons - The Relativity of Truth

My dog has just died. I loved him. It makes me sad.

This statement is not true: my dog was not my dog. He was my cousin's dog. He came to live with my family when my cousin was very small. I was sleeping that week in the same bedroom with my little cousin to keep her company, since her mother was travelling for work and she was not used to slip alone in her room. The first day the dog was with us he cried the whole night, missing his mummy. The only way I could manage to make the puppy to keep quiet and not wake up my little cousin was to give him my hand to chew on it. That made him happy. Eventually, he felled asleep. My hand was scratched for weeks. That first night created a strong bond between us, or at least I thought it did. Even when I did not named him or owned him or took care of him, I started calling him my dog.

The statement, though, is still not true. He did not just died. He died last Monday, two days ago, but I just heard the news. My aunt just told me via chat. I knew he was sick, so it came as no surprise. He was also old, for a dog. I left Havana when he was 2 years old. He died when he was 12. I guess the distance in time and space gives me the license to round up numbers.

Like it gives me the license to claim I loved him - yet another falseness in the statement - even when I left him behind 10 years ago. Surely I can ignore the two days it took for the news to travel to me. Surely I can ignore the 48 hours I chose to ignore he was sick, knowing he might die, and not to inquire for his health.

I guess I will always live two days behind. Death news will take two days to reach me. I will always be two days too busy to get them, to have the time to hear them. My loved ones will always live two extra days in my live. I will always have the luxury to neglect them for two full extra days.

But, nevertheless, the statement still stands false. His death does not make me sad. The pain of love, like any other pain, can be learnt to be lived with. I left my dog ten years ago. I have had ten years to learn how to forget him, or at least to live without him. I had ten years to practice this day. And I did. Now I won't miss his cold nose on my arm asking for scraps at the end of the dinner. I won't miss his smile when I called him good dog. I won't miss his soft snoring noises under the sofa. I won't miss his lazy body blocking the exit to the balcony while he bathes in the sun. I won't miss him waking me up in the mornings breathing on my face, licking my hand. I won't miss him. I have learnt how to not to. I had to. He became part of the Pandora box I rather not open. He is part of the box of photos I rather keep at the top of the closet, safe but away. He is the photo at the bottom, that got so faded that one cannot distinguish what it portraits anymore. Now he is only a memory. His death does not make me sad. It makes me frightened.

My past is a stack of yellowing Polaroids, slowly but surely fading.  Slowly the horizon of my live creeps in, making my life shorter, erasing my past like the dark quiet waves erase, at night, the sand castles that children leave behind on the beach. One day my memory will fade too, with the stress of the now, and the decay of age and the chemical corrosion of life preserving medication. One day the memory of my dog will be no more, not even in my mind. One day I will be sure I never had a dog with a cold nose that chew on my hand to fall asleep. One day I will be sure I never had a dog and he will not be there anymore to prove me wrong.

So, while I still have the memories, I'll stand true by my lie, validated by relativism: my dog, indeed, just died. I did love him. And it makes me sad.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Philosophy Lessons - The Arrow of Time


"We could have her inhabit" - said the Writer - "a labyrinthine mansion of empty rooms. Each chamber would be daintily furnished and exquisitely stocked yet desolate, as if its dwellers would have just left or would be just about to arrive."

"She would cross one door" - exemplified the Writer - and find herself on a drawing room were a china set complete with a steaming teapot is waiting over a credenza. Or perhaps a bedroom were the sheets have just been freshly changed and a pair of slippers loyally awaits at each side of the bed; or a parlour filled with the vanilla scent of a cigar consuming itself over an ashtray; or a narrow hallway where the bell of a wall phone would stop ringing just as she closes the door behind her back."

"Each room would have four doors: one entrance and three exits that would lead to three different yet identically inhabited rooms." - followed the Writer – "She would be free to choose any of the exits but it would be impossible to go back to the entrance through which she just came in. Perhaps it would be due to a magical curse or thanks to an ingenuous mechanism that would keep a pathway blocked once used."

"Now that I think about it" - murmured the Writer with an evil smirk - "we could have the mechanism wired on her very own brain: a strong directive skilfully rooted on her subconscious mind that would force her to always keep on going forward across the empty manor making the mere idea of going back overwhelmingly terrifying for her."

"Tell me" - asked the Writer, with almost honest doubt - "would that really be too cruel?"

The voice of the Writer travelled freely across the empty room, bounced back from the solid bare wall and, finding no obstacles on its way, turned back to his ears as a crystal clear echo. Exhausted, and a little bit bored, the Writer sank into deep silent thought.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Thánatos Song

Just after the sunset, at the time everything goes quiet - as if the great clockwork of the city would have been turned off - I was walking with a friend along one of Amsterdam's streets. It was one of the many streets that runs along a channel, paved with small bricks and covered by slender maple trees. It was late enough for the light not to be the dark orange hue of the yawning sun anymore but too early for it to be the warm golden one that, pouring down from the street lamps, turns the city into a stained collection of aged sepia daguerreotypes. There was just that undistinguished pale gray radiance that always precedes the night.

A small boat approached from our back, gliding slowly over the silver waters of the channel. There was no sound coming from the boat, not from its motor nor from the passengers standing on its board. The only sound that could be heard was the faint flapping of the waves rippling against the brick sides of the channel. It seemed as if the boat would not be passing by at all. Or perhaps not at that moment in time. It seemed more as if I would be recalling the memory of a boat I once might have seen passing by.

The boat disappeared under a low bridge at the end of the street and only then the voices of the passengers could be heard, turned into unintelligible echoes of liquid chanting by the acoustics of the water and the passage's moist walls. After that the boat could not be seen anymore, as if it would have crossed that thin fabric backdrop that we call reality.

We kept walking until we reached the bridge. I stopped over the passage and looked at the channel along which the boat had just sailed. There were no more traces of the ripples the boat had left behind.

It seemed as if I could have stood very inert, so quiet, so silent that time would not notice my presence and, forgetful, just pass me by leaving me behind, extending that moment forever and forever being calm.

My friend asked me why I looked so sad. It is strange how calmness and sadness sometimes wear the same mask.

I could hear Thánatos humming one of his wordless songs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vocation

A few days ago a friend - a very delicate soul and a wonderful photographer - left very sweet comment in one of my posts saying I should be studying literature. Since she teaches and studies Spanish literature herself, she jokingly added that perhaps I was too intelligent to think anyone could make a living with that profession.

Her comment reminded me of a poem I scribbled long time ago, on my high school days, on the back of my literature notebook. I was debating at the time between following my romantic side and studying an arts career at the university or humouring my geek side and studying computer sciences.

Today, while ruffling through a box of old papers, I found a scrap with the poem.



The poem could be translated like this:

- Vocation -
He wanted to be a poet
but he had to become a civil engineer
so he could earn his crust.
Some time after, he died of poverty
because he only designed
castles in the sky.

Seems to me one is never as wise as when one is a confused teenager. I have come a long way, but I do place all my foundations on the uncertain clouds.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

The Eye of the Beholder - I

This is a fragment of a short story on which I'm working, suggested by a conversation I had at a dinner party about Augmented Reality (AR) and its possible implications for humankind. I'm still working on it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Eye of the Beholder (Fragment)

Today I tried to remove one of my AR lenses with no luck.

As I have said before, looking at my own eyes in the mirror was no help at all. In the reflected image my eyes look as free of devices as I always thought they were. Probably the AR lenses erase themselves on the mirror image to perfect the illusion of their nonexistence the same way they modify everything at which I look.

If I touch my eye balls, though, I can clearly feel them. I can even feel them if I touch them with my eyelids closed, so they must have a substantial thickness. They are roughly shaped as a disc, more or less the diameter of my irises. I would assume that they are not flat discs, but sections of a sphere, so they can conform more easily to the shape of the eyeball. Nevertheless, they seem to be loose, slightly floating over the cornea like jellyfish on the sea.



Anatomy of the Eye - The Household Cyclopedia

Although mostly circular in shape, they seem to have a small smooth protuberance directed towards the inner corner of the eye. It is interesting that I can't feel any part of these devices just by blinking. Probably my eyelids are used to the presence of the lenses. Particularly if it is true, as I assume, that they are installed on the eyeballs right after birth.

I kept my left eye open securing my eyelids with my left hand and tried to grab the lens with the finger tips of my right hand, but it kept sliding. The lens seems to be made out of some kind of slippery substance, some sort silicon perhaps, and highly lubricated.

Failing to grab the lens directly, I tried a different approach. Using the fingernail of my thumb as a lever I tried to to separate the lens border from the eyeball. I could feel the lens edge, slightly bevelled. It took me a few seconds until I managed to tuck my fingernail under it. Delicately, I started pushing, but as soon as I separated the border of the lens from the surface of my eye, just but a fraction of a millimetre, I saw a sudden flash of light.

I am not sure if it was a flash of light or an the electrical discharge, because it was very intense. As it was rather painful, I immediately stopped what I was doing, closed my eye and instinctively covered it with my hand, putting pressure over my eyelid, probably reattaching the lens with this gesture. I was blind of my left eye for a few seconds, after which it started getting full of tears. The black subdued and the vision came back. The pain was gone and everything looked the same.

By touching the left eye, though, I could feel the lens was not as moveable as it was before. It seemed secured on its place. The inner protuberance seemed engorged and somehow more lubricated, as if the tears were not coming from my eye but from the lens itself.



Anatomy of the Eye - The Household Cyclopedia

I tried to find the edge of the lens again with my fingernail and I discovered that it was no longer bevelled, but saw-toothed. Moving my thumb up and down I could feel the tiny teeth rubbing against my fingernail. They were rather small so it was difficult to determine their geometry but, instead of radiating from the disc, they seemed to be bent 90 degrees towards the eye and even sunken on the cornea.

I felt something warm and thick had collected on the fingertip I was rubbing against the toothed border. I took it for blood, but after carefully inspecting it I noticed it was a clear fluid. It had a peculiar smell of iron and a slightly salty taste, but it had no colour whatsoever. Perhaps another trick of the lens.

Rubbing my eye had started to make it hurt again, so I stopped my experiments and went to bed.

Maybe there is not such a thing as AR lenses after all and I'm just damaging my own eyes with all these explorations. I should device a different method to prove or deny their existence – and with it my sanity. A less prosaic method. One that would play with the lenses' own rules.

(...)

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Time to Land - Part II

Leaves of Grass

I

There are certain things every immigrant avoids in order to stay healthy. Mentally, healthy that is. Certain portraits one cannot let to gaze upon us; certain books are better not awakened; certain songs are better not be hummed.

This is a lesson I learned by trial and error: the best way to learn sometimes. And I discovered I was not alone on my believing when four years ago I made a copy of a Mercedes Sosa CD for a Cuban friend of mine. We had just met each other, so we were still on very polite terms. She thanked me for the gesture, she promised she would treasure the present, but apologized in advance saying she would never play it, or otherwise she would drawn in her own tears of nostalgia.



Her comment suprised me. Even when it is true that Mercedes Sosa is dearly loved in Cuba, her music does not particularly represent the motherland we left behind. Gently inquiring - as gently as a geek can inquire – I asked her which of the songs would be the one with the power of making her so sad. She replied saying that all of them – we Cubans don’t know of middle grounds – but that in particular “Todo Cambia” was very difficult to listen without getting misty eyes.



Her comment made me think about the feelings this song arouse on me. I knew this song talked to me deeply, although I was not quite sure what the topic of the conversation was.

II

I remember the first time I heard this song. I was at the time on a boarding school specialized on sciences named after Lenin. Heaven on earth for me, one would think, given my love for everything measureable and reducible to plain logic, but although for most of my classmates their period on this school was one of the best experiences of their adolescence, for me was a harsh one. Even amongst geeks there is such a thing as too geeky. Every social group needs its shooting targets. And young adult archers tend to have very vicious bows.

The situation, of course, can turn worst if besides the science books one keeps a poetry journal, it can turn particularly worst if the journal contains quotations by Walt Whitman, and it can turn dramatically worst if ones poems imply one fancies Whitman’s beard as much as his verses. That would be the equivalent to paint the core of the shooting target with bright red paint.



I was a teenager and I needed a mentor, so there were not enough arrows to make me stop being in love with Walt Whitman. I suffered all of them with the ecstatic patience of a good Saint Sebastian.

The only time I could go home was on the weekends, which were for me a garden of respite from a week of overwhelming social acidity. One of my favorite things to do on Saturday nights, to get my mind off the school and its drama, was to visit a night club at the National Theatre where Rita del Prado, a friend of mine, used to run, together with Alberto Faya, a show devoted to Latin-American music.

It was a very low cost show, but a very imaginative one. Almost everything was handcrafted, from the food and drinks served to the hand written and illustrated programs. Part of the show consisted on guessing the meaning of a ten-line stanza riddle Rita would have composed, a different one every week. As I have always created crafts as a hobby, Rita would ask me very often to create a unique object related to the riddle, and would use it as the present for the winner of the night.

It was a delight to spend the Saturday morning creating the present and then, at the end of the night, to see somebody take it home. The objects usually had poetry embedded: short verses I would have written during the week while ducking and dodging the acid missiles my endearing classmates would so sportingly shoot. Knowing my unsigned verses were hanging on somebody’s wall served as a secret revenge against the idiotic archers. It helped me endure their arrows, even with a sarcastic smile. True, thinking on Whiltman’s beard also helped.

The musicians invited to the show were a mixture of well know performers and budding artists. It was in that show that I first heard the assemble "Fragua", one that I don’t think exists anymore. Their work was not only music, it was living archeology. Their instruments alone were a pleasure to behold, including the most amazing handcrafted pan flutes, rain sticks and even a quijada, a percussion instrument made out of two donkey jawbones bound together, that despite its macabre looks, when pounded, made a very warm rattling sound.



Most of their repertoire was inspired by Mercedes Sosa’s. It was by them that I first heard “Todo Cambia”. The singer had a very velvety voice, deep and soulful. When she sang, the whole night club was transformed and filled with energy, not a bright and happy one, but definitely a humane, warm, and truthful one.

“It all changes” - asserted the song – “the superficial things, and the deep ones as well. The shepherd changes its flock; the bird changes its nest; the lover changes its heart; the elder changes his hair; and see, if everything changes, it’s not that strange I change as well.”

“It all changes.” – reiterated the chorus with an increasing background of guitar and pounding percussion that sounded like a heart bit.

I felt a deep current of meaning ran underneath these lyrics, evidenced by the sorrowful melody and the urgency of the chorus. It was a mixture of surprise and of sad realization, even with a slight tone of apology, the way one apologizes for things one could not do anything to stop. Still, I could not understand what was so painful about changing. This song, for me, was a beautiful sequence of parallelisms that rephrased the well known fact about the mutant nature of the world.

One cannot forget I had a very intense training in materialist philosophy. True, I did not pay too much attention on Marxism class, dreaming instead of Whitman's verses. But nevertheless the materialist concepts were securely hammered in my brain by ten years of education.

“Change is the cradle of progress!”- shouted from the depths of my brain my unconsciousness, dressed as union worker, clad in a greasy overall. – “And you should better be listening to L'Internationale and not to this nostalgic rubbish!” – added brandishing a shiny wrench with his a virile proletarian arm.



I never cared too much for proletarian charm, so I turned to Whitman and asked him to help me clarify the deep sorrow beneath these lyrics. “What is so fascinatingly sad about changing?” – I asked caressing his beard like Thetis caressed Zeus', thinking this would get me a better chance to get the needed answer from him.

But, holding my hand and smiling with a puzzling expression, a mixture of amusement and sadness, Whitman uttered the same and only frustrating phrase every mentor in my life ever offered: “You are too young to understand”.

Brokenhearted, I abandoned Whitman and what I thought was his unwillingness to sip any non vintage wine. A few years after I left my motherland.

III

“I have been sitting for a fair while inside my barrel” - I thought – “so I guess I could not be blamed for my youngness anymore. Maybe it is time I resource to myself as my own mentor and, stroking my own beard, I listen to this song and try to find what strings of mine and my friend’s hearts it is pulling, or better yet, it is jerking in a non particularly musical way.”

I listened to the song paying attention to its lyrics and soon I started to feel anxiety and distress.

“Why do these poetic images make me feel so uncomfortable?” – I thought, puzzled - “It should be the other way around. Beautiful poetry should sooth the spirit.”

But with every verse I could feel a stronger anxiety, a closer, colder and more asphyxiating one.

Part of it I could recognize was nostalgia. But nostalgia is a softer anguishing feeling, not a piercingly distressing one. By the time the song reached its chorus I was in plain fear. And being the song about changing, it could not be anything else but tropophobia, the fear of change.

The drastic change that a migration process imposes is one of the hardest tasks an immigrant would face. Not knowing middle grounds, as I mentioned before, Cuban immigrants seem to handle the process of changing in two boldly opposite ways: either by jumping into it headlong, blending perfectly with the environment and losing all their identity or by sinking their hills on the sand and resisting adaptation with all the strength they have.

I belong to the second group, the group of the stubborn immigrants. That is one of the reasons there is a rhinoceros at the top of this blog, looking at this seemingly endless post. It is a symbol of stubbornness and anachronism. Coated by alien plates, the stubborn immigrants try to stay loyal to their origins and not to let a single hair to change.



Perhaps it is in hopes that if they stay loyal to their identity, they would not feel the pain of the nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a very heavy weight to carry around, consuming a good fair of energy. And lots of energy are necessary to start a new life.

Or perhaps it is the nostalgia itself the one that feeds the stubbornness, making it feel as a lethally painful danger to let oneself change. The environment might seems so alien that turning into an alien could seem to be the only way to blend in. So, in fear of being transformed and loosing his identity, the stubborn immigrant turns himself into living dusty scrapbook, into a walking safe box of memorabilia, a caricature of his past.




I was not a preserver of my identity when I was back in Cuba. I was just me. I did not live resisting changing my accent, my clothing style or my routines. I did not live by treasuring a way of thinking or of doing things that were a set of anachronisms. I did not defined myself as the mismatching piece of the puzzle.

By turning myself into a stubborn immigrant, by thinking that I was cherishing and protecting who I am, I did exactly – and with a single blow – what I was trying to avoid: I turned myself into a different person. And, may I say, into a different person a little sadder, and a little bitterer, where the term “little” can be conveniently adjusted, just for my ego’s sake.

"Not only that." - sais my proletarian unconsciousness rolling up its dirty sleeves – “You seem to have forgotten that everything changes, even if you want it or not. So, by trying to preserve your memories and manners, by enclosing them in a time-proof capsule, you have suffocated them, you made them stale, you made them rot. And you have started to confuse the fungi growing amongst your possessions with the original treasures you brought along from home.”

“Plain materialistic thought.” – continues my unconsciousness, prosaically scratching its back with the wrench – “I guess you have been stroking the beard of the wrong guy, when ours, after all, was not that bad.”


IV

While walking hidden under my winter coat I see Walt Whitman sitting in a close by café. He waves with a smile and I run to him. I give him the warmest embrace one could give from inside a down stuffed coat. I sit by his side and tell him all about my pains, my fear of changing. Whitman listens and smiles, but I can see he is evidently holding himself from yawning of boredom.

“How can you not sympathize?” – I demand – “I did exactly what you taught me! I celebrated who I am!”.

“Still so young.” - says Whitman with the same expression of twenty years ago, now not so puzzling anymore – “Since when celebrating includes moping around?”

“Listen.” - says Whitman, calmly holding one of my gloved hands – “Don’t look at my beard, or my eyes, or your eyes reflected in mine. This time, just really listen.”



“If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” – says Whitman. And I’m left sitting alone at the café holding a handful of grass leaves on my glove.

V

I left my motherland because the needed to change things was too imperative. Amongst other things, I needed to leave behind the archers and their omnipresent bows. I left home to be able to love Walt Whitman without being tied to a column and executed in an auto de fé.

But instead of embracing change and building a new live in my new found freedom, I hid myself in a cocoon made out of nostalgic memories that soon was covered by so many sparrow droppings I could hardly see the outside.

The fear of change paralyzed me. I took the initial brave step by leaving behind my motherland but I did not have the courage to let myself arrive.

I am still hovering over Toronto. Maybe it is time to land.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Time to Land - Part I

The Plot of the Blind Belivers

Today, on my way back from work, I was called by the sirens from inside a Chapters bookstore and I could not resist the temptation. Bookstores have always been for me a hideaway and a space to unravel. Sad or excited, enamoured or cranky, sick, energetic or exhaust, there is always a book that can match my mental ramblings.

I stopped for a few minutes, just to check if the had a copy of a couple of books that friends of mine had suggested: “Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs and Alastair Fowler's annotated edition of “Paradise Lost” by Milton. I also wanted take a peek at a copy of “Morpho Eugenia”. My mental ramblings can be quite disorganized.

I was geekly enjoying one of Chapters' state-of-the-art digital search stations when I saw a middle-aged Asian lady standing by my side. I looked at her and she politely asked if she could have some of my time. I immediately assumed she was going to ask me for money, and I was surprised that she had the courage to do it in a commercial environment. But then she said she wanted to give me a letter and, opening a messenger's bag hanging from her shoulder, she pointed at a pack of printed sheets.

She started talking very fast with a strong foreing accent. I have to confess I still have troubles understanding spoken English, particularly if it is seasoned with spices from a foreign land. It usually takes for me one or two sessions with an acquaintance to get used to their accent and understand all they are saying. I always pretend, proudly, that I am not missing a syllable, but my face usually cannot hide what is going on inside my mind. So, looking at my frowning expression, the lady made a pause on her speech and candidly asked if I could understand English.

After seeing me nod, she continued talking in the same urgent fashion. I tried to pay closer attention but I could only understand some disconnected phrases like: “to know were my child is”, “fascist government”, “human rights”, “forced me to work” and “pulled my teeth off”. Saying this last phrase she pointed at a gap in her mouth were the two lower fore-teeth were missing.

I assumed she was Chinese based on her accent, so I thought the lady had been a persecuted Christian or a practitioner of Falung Gong trying to expose the crimes she and her fellow believers had suffered. But as I was not really following her speech, I accepted the letter, said I was very sorry, wished her good luck and looked at the search station screen hinting I wanted to finish the conversation.

The lady did not get the hint and kept talking and showing me her gums, so I started to sense I was being too naive and the lady was just missing a few screws. Feeling very awkward and almost doing a reverence, making a show of taking the letter with me, I wished her luck once again, and moved to a different section of the store hiding behind a bookcase. A few minutes later I could hear the lady on the other side of the shelves talking to different person.

On my way to the restaurant, walking through the Eaton Centre, I perused over the letter and quickly confirmed my suspicions.



Her letter was a collection of ramblings more disorganized that the ones of my own mind, but one could see the lady was no joking when she wrote about them. Her need to write seemed to be so urgent that, even when she had already printed a cleanly typed letter, she added handwritten notes on the borders of the sheet. It reminded me of the classical Chinese tradition to compile comments on already printed books by writing on their borders, some of the writings so insightful and poetic that they were considered works of art on themselves.

The topic of the letter was horrifying. The “fascist government” she was trying to denounce was not the Chinese one, as I had assumed, but the Canadian government. Seemingly suffering from a set of bizarre mind delusions, she is convinced that the government of Canada is set to abuse her and destroy her life by performing a series of nightmarish sadistic actions such as damaging her personal possessions, prohibiting her to drive, forcing her to take jobs she does not want, preventing her from reaching her parents back on her homeland, brainwashing her son and planting on him the desire to leave home, hiding from her his current location, and controlling her husband's mind with paranormal powers forcing him to beat her. She even claims the government has physically humiliated her with horrendous things like pulling her fore-teeth out by using remote beams.

She thinks the government wants to turn her into a “blind believer”, term that she underlines, and of which she is probably very afraid.

The life of this lady was probably a very harsh one, some of the things she claimed on the letter being possibly true – the damaged possessions, the abusing husband, the uncaring son, the parents left behind. Sadness and despair had probably made her pay her sanity as a toll for surviving. By reading the letter one could see she was not an ignorant woman. Behind the disordered and hallucinated ideas, there seemed to be a logical and intelligent mind, even a poetic and delicate character, given that amongst her damaged possessions she mentions her piano and her violin.

Her mention of the violin made me think what could her life have been if she would have had a little bit more of balance. Instead of compulsively talking to strangers, full of pain and despair, she could have been right now at home calmly playing her violin.



If one does not look at the frightening fable and ignore the mind controlling phobias, her letter echoes the letter any immigrant could write, one of those in which the environment is always depicted as a harsh and cold one, and one has to resist not to forget one's own culture, not to be converted into something one is not.

The process of migrating is always a difficult one. Learning everything from scratch with the urgency to survive is not an easy task. For this lady it probably was a particularly rough task beyond the scope of her strength. But reading the frightening delusions depicted on her letter I could not help but seeing myself endlessly ranting, complaining to my friends and family about how hard sometimes things are.

On my complains I always place the culprit on the anonymous other: on the new society, on the new culture, on the new way doing things. On my complains I am often the victim of a cold hearted Kafkaesque society or, if I am feeling particularly vengeful, a viciously predatory one.

Maybe my points of view are also plagued by deluded visions. It is true I have no claimed the loss of any of my teeth but I do have complained about loosing many features my life and my environment had before. Have I really lost them? Did I really have them? Have I lost the ability to tell truth from angst?



Perhaps I should have sat with the Asian lady and, over a cup of tea, tell her about my own delusions. Probably she would have looked at me with incredulity and then have a loud wide open laugh, forgetting she had lost her two lower fore-teeth.