I give you my brain… Or would you rather have my heart?

Let’s start this with a confession. Some days ago I had a very strange dream… a standard dream… a very standard strange dream -all my dreams are strange-. Since that day, I’ve been trying to contact Freud many times. I dialled and dialled his number but was never able to get hold of him. I supposed he wouldn’t answer because my dream was of no importance, so I simply put it away in the dreams box. Oh, but there! This little piece of the dream would not stay in the box. It would jump out again and again to knock at my conscience’s door. All the noise this little dream scene made kept me thinking about brain and heart matters, what’s a brain for us? What’s the meaning of a heart?
I guess you’ll be curious to know about this rebellious scene of my dream. It’s a low-budget scene really. In fact, it has no special effects or anything flashy; a dearly loved friend of mine stars in it. In my dream, my friend says that he’d love to have my talent. And I answer –oh, shame!- I answer: ‘you’ll never have my talent, but you can have me’… It was a dream, ok? I ask for your mercy, don’t think me too proud. Anyway, that moment in my dream has kept me thinking about the different value and meaning we attribute to our heart and our brain. The way we use these two things in our language.

Let me give you an example. I read this sentence the other day: ‘she ripped my heart out and ate it’. Why doesn’t it work with ‘brain’, why wouldn’t anybody eat anybody else’s brain? I know, I know, because it would be disgusting. But if you think about it, eating any of the two – brain or heart – is just gore. You don’t have to explain me that heart stands for one’s feelings. It is a literary figure. Precisely, why do we give an aesthetic value to the heart and not to the brain? You can offer your heart in a poem, it’s beautiful, but would you offer your brain? I guess one of the fascinating things about hearts it’s their anarchic nature; no one can tell you what to feel. Al cuore non si comanda, you can’t rule your heart. When you have someone’s heart you can go and tell their brain: “hey, you! You think you’re the boss here? Well, that little engine that keeps you alive belongs to me!” The brain may be really powerful, but the heart follows its own paths. Then, why is it so difficult to let your heart loose when you write?

A month ago, when I was in Madrid, I had a very interesting conversation with two friends of mine who are writers. One of them says that for something to be good, it has to be written with your guts. Writing has to be a visceral process. When I think of it, I realise that many of the texts I consider good literature seem to be raw pieces taken directly from inside the writer. But are they good because they are ‘raw’ –and therefore they keep their natural colours- or are they good because they’re authentic? I vote for authenticity, I’m not so sure I like digesting raw food.
Ever since that conversation I’ve observed that many people make an equation between raw and good. Let’s make an experiment: think of two books and two films you consider masterpieces, there’s a high probability that they are about ugly things in life. For many people, a good book is one that talks about such serious matters that it slaps you every time you turn a page. Good films are those you would never watch while having dinner because their content would take away your appetite. Why? Why a comedy can be hilarious but not a piece of art? It is as though inside ourselves there were only thorns and no soft parts. Art reflects the artist, I agree with that. I also agree that a brainy work is not attractive. However, an artist can put anything in their work, wouldn’t it be nice to put guts –ok, you’re right, my friend- but also a bit of heart?

Underneath words

Someone talked about you today. They talked about what you like and why you like it. They described in every little detail the place where you live and they told me that I would love it. They assured me that I would feel happy if only I could walk the streets that you now call yours. I let them know about the promise I made to myself long ago to never ever follow your steps. They must have not heard me because they went on talking about the tepid evenings that open tenderly the way to your nights. They said that your city is not the biggest but it is certainly the most cosmopolitan and thriving. They explained all the reasons you have for keeping a smile on your face. They told me they were sure you would receive me with open arms… I tried to explain that you and me simply don’t fit into the same place, but I guess the plan was making to much noise for my words to be heard. Because you see, suddenly it was all about a plan, they were making plans for me to move into your space. They dared use ‘when’ instead of ‘if’, ‘when you go’ not ‘if you go’. ‘When’ became the oracle that predicted that sooner or later I would end up where you are. There was no cigar smoke, no crystal ball. There wasn’t a tarot deck, no conch shells. As though calling upon your phantom could be done without the proper material. I understood by then that it was better to quit any resistance so I took my hands off my ears and let the words carry me away to you.

There was someone talking today. They thought they were talking about a place, a city. They didn’t know it was clear and plain they were talking about you.

Debajo de las palabras.

Hoy me hablaron de ti. Me contaron lo que te gusta, por qué te gusta. Me describieron con detalle el sitio donde vives y me aseguraron que me encantaría, que me sentiría alegre andando por esas calles que ahora son tuyas. Les conté la promesa que me hice hace tiempo de no pisar nunca, jamás, por donde pisas tú, pero no debieron escucharme, porque siguieron hablando de la tibieza que te acompaña al principio de la noche, la que da paso suave a tus horas de oscuridad. Me dijeron que tu ciudad no es la más grande, pero sí la más cosmopolita y viva. Enumeraron los motivos que tienes para no borrar tu sonrisa y me aseguraron mil veces que abrirías tus puertas para mí… Intenté explicarles que tú y yo no cabemos en el mismo lugar, pero mis palabras se vieron acalladas por el ruido que hacía el plan. De pronto, todo era un plan. Se atrevieron a hablar de mi entrada en tu espacio como si de una cosa hecha se tratara. Pusieron mi figura entre los edificios y los árboles que ahora son tu paisaje. Como oráculo infalible usaron ‘cuando’ en lugar de ‘si’; ‘cuando vayas’, no ‘si vas’. Y te aseguro que no fue con arrogancia, sino con la convicción de que tarde o temprano acabaré donde estás tú. Así, sin puros ni bolas de cristal, sin tarots ni caracolas, como si tu fantasma no necesitara algún tipo de introducción. Entonces comprendí que era mejor no poner resistencia, quité las manos de mis oídos y dejé que las palabras me llevaran hasta ti.    

Hoy me hablaron, convencidos de que hablaban de un sitio, de una ciudad, sin saber que estaba clarísimo que hablaban de ti.

Tú-rismo

¿Cuándo pasaste a ser un punto en el mapa? ¿Cuándo, de ser mi mundo (muy a tu pesar) pasaste a ocupar un lugar discreto en el polo? 

Me pregunto si todos estamos destinados a ser puntitos en el mapa de los demás. Banderitas que terminan por amarillearse y caer. Una serie de alfileres que marcan los lugares que visitamos… O que queríamos visitar. Sabes que contigo me habría perdido en la exploración, me habría ido a la expedición sin retorno. Y es precisamente esa disposición absoluta la que hoy me mira con ojos de plato, sorprendida de que te me hayas quedado en los márgenes. ¿Importa? Creo que no, hay más banderas tanto en tu mapa como en el mío, y de todas formas, el río siguió corriendo y el poblado quedó ya muy atrás.


Y sin embargo, recuerdo que en la época en la que tu bandera estaba en la tierra del fuego, alguien me dijo que el paisaje está en los ojos del viajero, no en el lugar. Que lo que veía en ti, en realidad estaba dentro de mí y por tanto podía encontrarlo en muchas otras tierras. Busqué de ojos para dentro. Y encontré lo que estaba en mí, lo que efectivamente llevaba en mi capazo y podía transplantar -casi- en cualquier pampa. Así que me di a la siembra, con una convicción (frágil, es verdad) de que las nuevas plantas acabarían por desterrar tu empecinada raíz. No voy a contarte cómo regué los brotes, a estas altura deberías saberlo. No voy a decirte cómo las capas de barro se fueron superponiendo en mis manos. Una sobre otra, y siempre, al menor movimiento, se abría una grieta y ahí estabas tú, en el centro del mundo.




Hoy estás tan al margen que necesito algo que te recuerde, es necesario el detonante para acordarse de que un día, en el agujero ese grande de este mapa viejo, estabas tú.  

The asexual kung fu freak

This afternoon a Chinese-looking guy gave me a leaflet at the library. It turned out that indeed he was Chinese, but I’ll tell you about this later. There was an Eastern girl walking in front of me. Of course she got her leaflet before me. I must confess that I was surprised when the guy gave me a copy, not only that, I was surprised that he even spoke to me. That’s sad! Why did I just assume in less than a few seconds that he wouldn’t talk to me? Chinese people only speak with other Chinese people and I am not one of them. This idea was comfortably sitting in my brain as an irrefutable truth. Why? Well, there’s a reason for this. In the town where I live there’s a high percentage of Chinese student population. One of the things I liked the most about this university before joining it was its international atmosphere. I could picture myself speaking different languages tasting different foods making friends from many different countries… Nothing could go further from the actual situation.  I mean, I have friends from many different countries only all of them Western, that’s the point. Someone said once that East and West will never touch. That’s sadly true here. They’ve learnt to share the same places, the same streets… But let’s not say “share”. They’re like rivers that can run along the same path without ever mixing their waters. Even more, while on the same path, they’ve become thousands of tiny streams. All in the same place but never together. Anyone would say that there are two halves in the world. But while we seem to share a common currency “on our side”, the other half insists on separating in further segments: Japanese with Japanese, Chinese with Chinese, Koreans with Koreans. It seems so absurd to me!

In my first months I continuously tried to talk with my Chinese colleagues, but little by little I stopped trying till I finally gave up completely. They are polite and nice I have no complaint whatsoever about this, however it seems that they don’t have the least intention of interacting with the “Western” (yes, we are Western, I had never thought about myself this way). At first I thought they didn’t speak with me because their English is not very good, but very soon I felt that they just don’t “need” me at all. Why would they talk to anyone outside their group? They’re not fluent in English, ok, so it isn’t easy for them to talk but also they’re not fluent BECAUSE they never talk, they never practice so their English never improves. They don’t need me, true. Their community is so large that they can do it all among themselves: make friends, have parties, find a partner. Once their time here is over they go back to China with two important things in their bags: a qualification to get a good job and a husband or a wife. We all need friends, that’s a shared concept, only I never expected it to be “you have your friends and I have mine.”

But let’s talk about the leaflet. It was a five or six pages photocopied text by the Chinese guy. It started by telling how its author lost most of his Chinese friends when he expressed his ideas. Basically it is a pleading for equality and communication, it is a very beautiful text. It explains how this guy felt discriminated and ignored by others until he realized that it was a two-way process. The others didn’t have a clue about him and his culture, but he didn’t have a clue about others either. The others showed no interest in understanding him, an at the same time, he and his Chinese friends weren’t interested in the others. What can we do about this huge lack of communication? I know, open up. That would seem simple, however, the boy … Oh, let’s stop calling him “boy” and use his name! Li Sheng. Li Sheng’s smart call to his countrymen is this: in order for things to change, both sides have to open up. I found particularly interesting the pages where Li talks about Western girls and their way of treating Easter guys. He says that Easter guys usually find Western girls very attractive, but –he feels- for us they are virtually invisible. “You see some Eastern girl with a Western guy, but the opposite is never seen,” he says. He blames it largely on American films which have created the image of the “asexual kung fu freak,” the Chinese man who shows no interest in women at all. The guys in these films have no sex drive because in their world there’s nothing but kung fu. According to Li, that’s why a girl here won’t even look in a Chinese guy’s direction. I do not know, maybe these films don’t help but the way Li Sheng portrays the situation seems exaggerated to me. Ok, the question anyone would as me now is: do YOU find them attractive? Well, I can say that in my time here I’ve already been invisible for Chinese guys twice. So, what do you want? After being doubly ignored the easiest way –or maybe the smartest- is not to try a third time. So, please don’t call it discrimination if I tend to keep my eyes within Western lands.

There’s certainly something that I’m learning well by living here: “otherness” shines equally on both sides of the mirror. Sad, I know. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to see that at heart we share more than we think. It sounds like idealism as Li Sheng says. Anyway, I still can have some hope.

The asexual kung fu freak

  

   

Esta tarde un chico con pinta de chino me dio un panfletito a la entrada de la biblioteca. Resultó que, efectivamente, era chino, pero eso ya lo contaré más adelante. Frente a mí iba andando otra chica oriental, que por supuesto recibió el correspondiente panfleto antes que yo. Tengo que confesar que me sorprendió que el chico me diera un ejemplar, no sólo eso, me sorprendió que me hablara. Tristemente, mi mecanismo deductivo había concluido en milésimas de segundo que los papeles eran sólo para chinos; los chinos sólo hablan con chinos, y yo no soy una de ellos. Verdad irrefutable instalada cómodamente en mi cerebro. ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué pensé eso? Pues bien, es una cuestión curiosa. En la ciudad donde vivo hay un porcentaje altísimo de población estudiantil china. Una de las características que más me llamaba la atención de esta universidad antes de unirme a ella era precisamente que alardea de tener alumnos de un gran número de nacionalidades. Ya me veía yo en mis imaginaciones coloridas hablando distintos idiomas, probando distintas comidas, haciendo amigos de un montón de lugares del mundo… Nada más alejado de lo que en realidad ocurre por aquí… Bueno, sí y no. Tengo amigos de muchos países occidentales, punto. Oriente y Occidente no sólo no se tocan, sino que ni se rozan por casualidad, son aguas que han aprendido a correr por la misma calle, siempre en direcciones opuestas y sin mezclarse, bifurcándose en infinitos chorritos. Cualquiera diría que hay dos mitades en el mundo. Pero mientras lo del mestizaje parece ser moneda común “de nuestro lado”, la otra mitad insiste en separar los gajos: japoneses con japoneses, chinos con chinos, coreanos con coreanos. No deja de parecerme absurdo. 
Como decía, el mayor porcentaje de orientales aquí viene de China. En mis primeros meses intentaba hablar con mis compañeros chinos, pero poco a poco fui abandonando hasta que terminé por tirar la toalla. Son corteses, educados, no tengo ninguna queja al respecto, pero no hacen por relacionarse con los “Western” (sí, nosotros somos western). Al principio me daba la impresión de que no hablaban conmigo porque su manejo del inglés no es muy bueno, pero muy pronto tuve la sensación de que “no me necesitaban” en absoluto, no necesitan hablar con nadie más fuera de su grupo, y además, para ellos, mi comida y mis costumbres podrían valer sólo para un documental de esos en los que uno ve cuán raritos son en otras partes del mundo, poco más. Uno de esos documentales que uno ve sólo durante un rato, porque aburren. De verdad, mi intención no es ser políticamente incorrecta, lo que aquí escribo es puro fruto de la experiencia. Por lo que al idioma se refiere, es evidente que no hablan con los demás porque no tienen buen inglés, y no tienen buen inglés porque nunca hablan con los demás, nunca practican, nunca mejoran. ¿Que no me necesitan? Esa es una verdad como un templo. Aquí son tantos que llegan, hacen amigos, tienen fiestas, encuentran pareja y vuelven a China con dos pilares bajo el brazo: el título que les dará acceso a un buen trabajo, y un marido o una mujer. Todos necesitamos amigos, está claro, sólo que nunca esperé que fuera “ellos los suyos y yo los míos”. 
Pero vayamos al panfleto. Es en realidad una fotocopia de un escrito bastante interesante. Empieza por narrar cómo su autor (chino) perdió a la mayoría de sus amistades chinas cuando expresó sus ideas. Básicamente se trata de una apología de la igualdad, es un escrito muy bonito. Explica cómo este chico se sentía discriminado e ignorado por otras nacionalidades hasta que se dio cuenta de que se trataba de un proceso de doble dirección. Los demás no sabían nada de él, pero él tampoco sabía nada de los demás. Los demás no mostraban ningún interés en comprenderlo, él y los demás chinos tampoco estaban interesados. ¿Qué podemos hacer ante tan grande incomunicación? Ya, abrirnos. El chico… vamos a dejar de llamarle “chico” y usemos su nombre: Li Sheng. Pues eso, Li Sheng hace un llamamiento inteligente a sus compatriotas para que vean que la apertura tiene que realizarse por las dos partes. Me llamó bastante la atención una de las páginas de su escrito donde habla de cómo las chicas occidentales resultan muy atractivas para los orientales pero cómo los chicos orientales son virtualmente invisibles para nosotras. “Ves alguna chica oriental emparejada con un occidental, pero nunca se ve lo contrario”, dice. Culpa en gran parte al cine norteamericano de haber creado la imagen del “asexual kung fu freak”, el hombre chino que no muestra ningún interés por ninguna chica, no tiene ningún impulso sexual porque en su mundo no existe nada fuera del kung fu. Según Li, eso hace que tengamos una imagen poco atractiva de los orientales. No sé, puede que el cine no ayude, pero kung fu o no kung fu, puedo decir que dos veces ya ha resultado que la invisible soy yo, y en fin, tras ser ignorada por partida doble una tiende a no intentarlo una tercera vez. La naturaleza le indica a una que debe virar hacia mares más receptivos. No es discriminación, en las aguas del norte de Europa se navega mejor.
Si algo me está enseñando esta experiencia es que el famoso concepto del “otro” es igualmente aplicable en los dos lados del espejo. Ojalá que consiguiéramos un día ver que en el fondo no somos tan diferentes, pero como dice Li Sheng, eso huele mucho a idealismo. Da igual: ¡ojalá!

 

 

 

The blinding light of freedom


I’ve been enjoying this little space of mine for three years already. My blog. I’ve always thought of this place as something to be enjoyed. However, I had never realised that the way in which I’ve been enjoying it is that of a child. That’s it, I’ve moved in this blog like a child in a park, playing, running, staying for a while in the swings, getting bored of them, taking long naps under the trees. I know that my friends peep now and then. I also know that, since this is a public place, strangers may also be watching. None of this has ever stopped me from behaving as seriously or as playfully as my changing mood has asked me to do. This is my park and I’m a happy child. Never, however far my imagination could have reached, would I have thought of the possibility of coming one day just to find an empty block where my park used to be. That doesn’t happen in my world, no one steals big things. We, blessed people who live on the privileged side of the moon, never think about the most basic question regarding our beloved blogs, i.e., their right to exist. I had never realised that I’m really lucky because in my little universe there aren’t any naughty giants who can step on my blog with their big boots carrying it away on their soles to faraway places.

A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine covered the blinding light of freedom with his hand. It was just for a brief moment, long enough to let me open my eyes. He told me about a Cuban blogger, a philologist just like me. Her blog has been boycotted. Hers, and other Cuban blogs can be read outside Cuba but if you try to reach them from the island all you get is an error message. Of course, the first thing I did was to visit the link my friend gave me. And there she was, the Cuban girl. I saw her face, her name. I could see the shape of her words, I could hear her accent. Suddenly, I felt on me the huge semantic weight of the verb I’ve been using so lightly: to enjoy. I think we don’t get to grasp all its shades and it is important that we do: air, space, privilege, freedom. We (or at least I) don’t get the true sweet taste of justice. For justice is sweet, no doubt about that. It is only fair that we can express whatever it is we have inside without anyone assessing the convenience of our words. Freedom of speech… I know, we should all have it but that’s not the way it really works.

You may be as astonished as I am with my own naïveté. Don’t give me wrong, I’ve always known that freedom of speech is nonexistent in many places. However, I have to confess that I was bewitched by the idea of the internet. I thought of it as a wild animal that can’t be tamed.
I guess by now what you really want to see is the link to the Cuban blog. So here it is, together with another Cuban blog that uses a horse running free as their symbol. I hope you ENJOY this “new land” as much as I do, feeling lucky that nobody holds your feet to decide the pace of your steps.  

Generación Y
Potro Salvaje 

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