Saturday, October 31, 2015

Closeness and Kane

I know that in my last post I promised my next post would be about St. Petersburg. Sorry, that's not the case. StP is great; that's all you need to know. June is an excellent time to visit.

I watched Citizen Kane for the first time a few weeks ago. There's a scene in which Susan, Charles Foster Kane's second wife, accuses Kane of never actually loving anyone, only appearing to love them so that they'll love him back. She accuses him of giving things that are easy for him to give but carry great value to others, with the intent of receiving from them undying gratitude, esteem, and affection in return. She asserts that he is the opposite of what he pretends, and is purported, to be.

This exchange caused me a great deal of consternation as I reflected on my own life. Have I ever really given of myself more than I expected to get in return? More important, have I ever given anything that was hard to give? Or have I always arranged things such that I'm giving a smaller fraction of my whole self than is the other party, so that I'm more in a position of power, and less in a position of vulnerability? And if this is so, can the arrangement truly be called altruism, friendship, love--or is it closer to selfishness, misanthropy, cynicism? If it's the latter, could the behavior have any explanation other than fear?

Ever since a couple early and serious relationships, I have maintained a longstanding aversion to sharing too much of myself with any one person. I'll share almost everything with everyone in aggregate--a piece here, a piece there--but never everything with one person. I suppose this is because I prefer to feel that no single person knows me too well--I certainly wouldn't want him to know me better than I know myself! But why this fear? Am I worried he or she will point out my inconsistencies and hypocrisy?... Should I not be more concerned about actually being inconsistent, or a hypocrite, than I am about knowing it, or others knowing it?

There is shame in being exposed as a hypocrite, but he who isn't fully known to others can never be exposed by them. He can deny being a hypocrite in the face of accusations, and no one can claim to know better.

Must I feel that by sharing a piece of myself with another, my ownership of that piece is lessened? Is it the case that my "I"--my identity, who I am--is limited to only what I have retained for myself and denied others? Or can a person share everything, have no secrets at all, and still retain his sense of who he is, and not end up a mishmash of what others say he is?

Perhaps what I really fear is for someone to believe he knows me, to say and be convinced of such a thing, as this belief presupposes I am a quantity to be known: a discrete, static, knowable entity. And I can think of nothing more frightening than being such a thing, as such a thing means ceasing to grow and change.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

CLS catch-up (July 3-22)

I intended to write a post this past Sunday or Monday July 5th or 6th, but life got in the way. So now here I am, on Friday evening weeks later, finally crossing it off my to-do list. Minor aside: I always love weekends because they allow me to catch up/get ahead on my work. Does that make me weird?

Every day has been busy. On weekdays we have a 2-hour language lesson before lunch and another one after lunch, but the topics and instructors cycle. Our topics are grammar, speech practice, phonetics, history, and (fiction) literature. For the speech practice class everyone must prepare a short topic for discussion. For grammar, we take turns preparing more substantial presentations; each week it's the turn of someone new.

After language lessons conclude at 2:30pm, we have either folklore lessons (traditional music, dancing, and games) or cuisine lessons. However, this week we also had to make up for two excursions that had been postponed for various reasons. So every day this week went late! It's been a long week.

Commencing recap:

Last weekend I went to Moscow

Week before last (week of July 6), our first excursion was to Bogolyubovo, where there are some fantastic churches.

Our second excursion of the week was to the Golden Gates of Vladimir. There's a museum inside, but there weren't many good photo ops. Here's a photo of the Golden Gates at night that I took well after our excursion.

At the end of the week we went to Suzdal. It is another historic city with really old churches and a historically accurate settlement. There happened to be a medieval festival happening while we were there.

The shirt with Putin in sunglasses says "The very nicest person"

Last week (week of July 13) I came down with a stomach bug and missed two and a half days of classes. I only took my temperature three times, so I don't know exactly how high my fever got, but one of the times I measured it, it was 38.8C. I felt pretty awful, but recovered by Saturday morning (July 18) when we had a master class on miniature lacquer paintings. I forgot to take a photo of mine, but we'll get them back soon and I'll try to remember to come back and add a photo.

This week has been a short one because our excursion to St. Petersburg begins tonight (in an hour, hence my rushed writing). Earlier today we had an excursion to the Vladimir historical museum. Here are some pictures, as well as a photo of my delicious breakfast (blini with homemade jam and not-homemade cream cheese)!

And here's a bonus picture of Vladimir's own Uspenskyy Cathedral with a rainbow behind it.

Next post will be about St. Petersburg, my favorite city in the whole wide world (so far)!