Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nobel-Winning Author Naguib Mahfouz Dies at 94

I love Naguib Mahfouz's work, and mourn his passing. I have felt those moments of his writing, the quiet dusk Cairene moments when the lights begin to glow from behind your neighbor's turned wood screens, when children playing in the street drift home, and the sounds of life float like the warm desert wind up to your balcony... I raise my glass of sweet mint tea to this man. I send my prayers for him up with the breath of exhaled Sheesha. He loved Egypt and he will be mourned by his beloved nation, and the World.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Limitless Human Potential?

Check out this interesting article in the Sunday Los Angeles Times by Lewis Segal. It's title is Five things I hate about ballet.
A snippet:
Ballet has given us visions of limitless human potential and a sense of grace as profound as anything we have ever thought, felt or believed. But all too often, it now commandeers a disproportionate amount of money and attention in the dance world and returns only an increasingly self-satisfied triviality.

Thinking of dancers as beautiful children might seem harmless enough, but in ballet it's part of a system that denies young people any real choices in their lives. The best foreign training processes and company structures develop distinctive artists through career-long mentoring relationships. Ours, however, too often turn out obedient classical athletes by imposing rules about where to be, what to do, how much to eat, whom to believe in and when self-esteem is deserved or not. It's even worse for the ballet women who starve themselves to match a skeletal ideal and then stop menstruating for the length of their careers. Talk about arrested development.

For the audience, this system produces something well worth hating: dancers forever young (because there's always someone new to replace them when they age) who don't really know themselves but have learned how to move skillfully and energetically while thinking critically about how they're doing — not what. It may be a minority opinion, but a life lived by someone else's counts is the ultimate unexamined existence, and it gives an audience nothing when set to music.

Although I agree that sometimes ballet is guilty of all the things he hates, I also feel like through it's discipline and training, I have felt the most alive. There is nothing like that instant when your warm and trained body does something amazing and surprising. It is like that moment at the top of a leap when you hang in the air for a split second that feels eternal. Or that feeling that every cell is breathing, moving, and alive.
I don't know how to reconcile all that yet.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The ancient Hawaiians had too many possibilities to make mistakes. A very complex systems of Kapu (Taboos) ensured they were constantly offending, making atonement, or suffering the punishments, including death! When one had broken such a serious Kapu, there was only one thing to do: Run. Run as fast as one could to a Place of Refuge, where, once safe inside its walls, one could make atonement and be forgiven.
The Place of Refuge on this island, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, is a thatched temple surrounded by an almost insurmountable wall, at the bottom of a cliff, bordered on most sides by pounding surf. As with most Hawaiian Heiau (temples) it exists on one of the most beautiful pieces of Real Estate on the coast. However, it seems like quite a journey to get there, especially while running for your life from angry warriors.
These days Kapu are long gone, yet we still often need refuge, rest, and forgiveness. Saturday I went diving at Honaunau Bay, the protected bay adjacent to the temple. The bay is designated as a marine sanctuary, and is teeming with diverse life, including many snorkelers and quite a few divers. The topography varies from deep sandy bottom, to a steep sloping coral wall to about 70 feet, up to a vibrant coral garden around 30 feet, then shallower, sunnier corals full of snorkelers and kicked up sand at about 10 feet. It makes a spectacular shore dive due to the varied topography, the diverse life, and the ease of entry and nearby parking. In fact, I mapped this site for my Divemaster certification.
Saturday I took my brother, visiting from the mainland, and we met a friend of mine there for our second dive. We shared two hour-long dives filled with fish, protected turtles, beautiful corals, and even a large snoozing white tipped reef shark! In between dives we shared a walk in the park, pineapples, bagels, and croissants, and a bit of a sunburn. (Wetsuit sunburn: Top is burned and legs are white. Comes from folding down only the top of the suit!)
These days diving feels like my refuge. For that one hour I am floating only in the moment, free of worries, appreciating the world around me. My existence is whittled down to only my breath and my body's placement, and the beauty before me. Through monitoring my breathing, I can extend this moment for about an hour. And then the weightiness of the land crushes down upon me again.