The neat and ordered black lines on the page of the novel I am reading bleed into one another. Fatigue draws my eyelids to shudder and then close, like a banged up 90’s Ford Escort attempting a hill start before silently rolling downhill. I am warm, comfortable and relaxed. The day has been full and my muscles feel that satisfying light ache of excursion. The room is quiet and uncluttered. It is a reasonable hour in the evening - perhaps 10pm. All the ingredients for a good night sleep are here with me. I switch off a bedside lamp and snuggle into my duvet. I pop in the earplugs I have come to trust for their utility and comfort.
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On a flight back to Amsterdam from a recent trip to Kenya, I stumbled upon a short story by JM Coetzee, titled The Dog. The story focuses on an unnamed female who makes a daily journey on foot to work. En route, she passes a private property guarded by a vicious dog. The story has no particular location, although the language spoken between the characters is French. Work and homeward bound, She is harassed by this dog. It is a terrifying and beastly hound, with sharp teeth, a stinking breath (no doubt) and a keen smell for female blood:
Some books appear in my life precisely when I’m meant to read them. Usually, these books shake me to the core. I discover them, or they discover me, in a moment when I’m avoiding a ‘serious work to-do list’ in a cafe-cum-workspace and I spend an unreasonably long time surveying their dogeared library collection. One book will jump out at me and say ‘hello’. Or, it may be when I’m travelling and a fellow voyager makes a recommendation - or drops a paperback (admittedly, I am one type of thief - a book thief) out of a handbag.
A recent special issue of the National Geographic, titled Gender Revolution, makes a fascinating study of how youths around the world are increasingly pushing the boundaries of gender and sexuality to mould a sense of self that is more fluid and non-binary. This shift can only happen in the context of generalised growing social acceptance and awareness of the limits stained male/female, girl/boy binaries. A spin off is a progression towards gender equality. Of course, some societies are better at accepting these changes than others.
One of the most luminous and profound commencement addresses I have ever seen was by Parker Palmer. Palmer was being awarded the first ever honorary degree at Naropa University in Colorado in 2015. Naropa was founded in 1974 by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher and Oxford alumnus Chogyam Trungpa. The university was intended to be an experiment in the synergy of contemporaryWestern scholarship methodologies and timeless tenets of Eastern wisdom. Palmer’s speech draws on a life of experience - he is in his mid-70s - and snatches of what can only be transcendent insight to layout his six pillars of meaningful human existence.