Just because there is sh*t in the world, it doesn’t mean the world is sh*t

“And, God forbid, do not read the Soviet newspapers before lunch.”

“Um … Why, there are no others?”

“Do not read any then. You know, I observed thirty patients in my clinic. And what do you think? Patients who did not read newspapers felt great. Those who I specifically forced to read ‘Pravda’, lost weight.”

“Hmmm,” said the bitten one, ruddy with soup and wine.

“Moreover, reduced knee reflexes, bad appetite, an oppressed state of mind…”

[Translated from Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov]

Whenever current affairs get really divisive, my faith in humanity wanes. Like really, wanes.

I am referring to the combination of the Belfast trial, the upcoming referendum in Ireland, the Skripals, the Russian election and the tragic fire in Siberia…

Feeling overwhelmed by all the recent news coverage and watching friends engage in social media battles, I was walking down the street and I really didn’t know how to handle it… and then I realised I was near a gallery.

I went in to look at The taking of Christ by Caravaggio, the most celebrated painting available in Dublin. I sat beside it for like a half-hour, probably looking like a mad person.

I stared at it just to get my mind off the other stuff.

I vaguely remembered a lecture that discussed how the arms of the different characters are all disproportionate. Look at Judas vs Jesus vs guard in armour:

IMG_9559.jpg

And then I thought: Jesus, there are some serious problems with this painting! Yet, this is one of the most celebrated paintings out there. And it is, in my opinion, beautiful.

Just because there is sh*t in the world, it doesn’t mean the world is sh*t.

Insensitive or disingenuous?

I read a lot of personal essays from people in their late teens. The theme of hurting people’s feelings versus being honest preoccupies many of them.

It’s all the more fascinating for me because I’ve experienced two cultures that have opposing views on this.

I’ve often seen Irish people choose to err on the side of sugarcoating reality and lying by omission in the name of being kind. Around here, you will be forgiven for being misleadingly delicate, but not for being insensitive.

On the flip side, the brutes from the old country would soon forgive someone for not considering someone’s feelings given that it is in the name of integrity. I’ve heard a lot of Russians retrospectively end friendships while accusing the perpetrator of “how could you not let me know that”… <my ass looked too big in that>, <our mutual friend didn’t invite me to the party>, etc. The “it’s not my business” defence doesn’t cut it for them.

Looking at it from a skin in the game perspective, you make a much bigger gamble when you risk offending someone by being straight with them.

At the same time, people often get carried away with their opinions to the point of forgetting that it is, after all, just an opinion, not “the truth”, and so communicating it may not really be that beneficial for someone else. Realising the insignificance of our humble opinions may be key here. Not sure you can do that to facts that your friend would prefer to know.

Question.

Assumptions: you know each other very well and solicit your friend’s opinions.

Who would you rather as your best friend? The insensitive swine who won’t hide their thoughts or the kindly sweetheart that weasels around the truth to avoid hurting you?

No Frankensteins. You have to choose.

A little bit of Irish politics

What is the purpose of having four political parties if for the last couple of constitutional referendums they all virtually agreed with each other on how people should vote?

I don’t necessarily disagree with them, but there seems to be a resounding group-thinking lack of pluralism.

P.S. Are you painting yourself green for Paddy’s Day?

The bread panic

Ireland is out of bread in anticipation of Storm Emma, or Beast from the East. It is cold and icy here – and there is very little bread in the shops. I wonder why the run was on bread and not, say, spuds or butter.

My mother tells me it was on the Russian news.

Checkout #breadwatch for complete ridiculousness.

The film about Churchill

Darkest Hour opened today in Ireland.

Spoiler: the most exciting thing about the film is Gary Oldman’s makeup.

The first half of the film captivates the viewer with the impossible situations Churchill is forced into, the many subplots shaping the final decision and lots of moral ambiguity. Churchill is portrayed as a somewhat flawed but likeable human being.

The second half, however, bores them with cliche rallying for a cause.

Interestingly, the audience was made up of a mix of school kids still in their uniforms and people over fifty. Millennials? Zero interest.