Of Love and Other Demons

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez - cover

I won’t lie. This book took me an embarrassingly long time to finish. Not because I’m a slow reader, but because, as is the case with so many books, I found it easier to put it down and not pick it up again. Another prominent book I did that to is One Hundred Years of Solitude, also by the same author. I might be sensing a pattern here…

Regardless, it didn’t help that the story picked up well into the story. It was designed to be a slow start, much like One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s almost as if Marquez was testing his readers to see if they’ll hang around long enough, if they were loyal enough, to endure the creeping pace of the initial chapters before bestowing upon them some of the greatest and heart-wrenching prose of all time.

In other words, Of Love and Other Demons features beautiful writing—writing that will stay with you well after you finish reading the book.

“Disbelief is more resistant than faith because it is sustained by the senses.”

I’m not pious. And I don’t enjoy the company of people who shove their religious beliefs on others. This story is scattered with Christian beliefs and the ancient traditions of bishops and exorcism. Even though this book personifies everything I’m against, I cherished the way it’s done.

I mean, just read this:

“The bishop could not continue, because the thunder resounded over the house and then rolled out to sea, and a biblical downpour cut them off from the rest of the world. The bishop lay back in a rocking chair and was shipwrecked in nostalgia.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I started reading this book before COVID-19 was born. And now, as I got to the last page of the book and rethink the narrative, I’m amazed at the uncanny and coincidental reference to today’s reality.

This is the story of a young girl who’s bitten by a dog with rabies. Unfortunately, she didn’t contract the disease, and that abnormality made those around her, subject her to eternal damnation.

Gabriel García Márquez has given us a wonderful tale in Of Love and Other Demons.

The wait

I don’t believe in co-incidences. But I also don’t run away from them. Unable to write much today, I jumped from one tab to another on my browser trying to locate an idea that’d spark and open up my well of thoughts. It almost never works—I often read random things for hours before giving up on finding inspiration. I end up rambling or publishing a quick haiku.

Today, however, as I read through last week’s newsletter from the ACT writers centre (while this week’s newsletter lay open on the next tab), I stopped at this quote.

Waiting for inspiration to write is like standing at the airport waiting for a train - Leigh Michaels

I’ve heard it, or something like it, a hundred times before. It’s the standard advice any writer offers a wannabe. I’ve said it plenty of times too, to myself and to others. 

Waiting for a lightening bolt of inspiration to hit you is like taking the bus south and hoping it goes north. I know because I’ve done them both. Waiting is an excuse not to write. It’s a way to get around the larger fear that encapsulates your being, the uncertain possibility of an outcome you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. And I think that’s how writer’s block comes about. It’s a reason to avoid seating yourself on that chair and getting work done. That’s what happened to me.

This afternoon, I arrived at my local co-op ready to write. It’s a great co-working space—they sell bulk foods, snacks, and have free artisan (sourdough!) bread. The best part? It’s almost empty after lunch.

And so I propped my laptop on an empty desk, wandered around the shop, bought some onion and sesame seeds, got coffee, nibbled on some bread, read through notes from a panel discussion I attended two days ago, and got distracted at least ten times before the newsletter came as a slap in the face.

The only reason I kept avoiding the blank screen is because I wasn’t sure what to write. And yet, the moment I started, I knew what I’d write. That’s the biggest hurdle most people never cross—they linger at the beginning for too long, and give up just before they discover that a world’s waiting to unravel underneath their fingers.


If you’re interested: Read the full newsletter.

Intent: Creepiness

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.

— Stephen Hawking

One of my blogger friends shared this as a tribute to the now-late Steven Hawking. And it got me thinking. The truth of those words clenched deep, and I cringed to call myself a part of a community ingrained with such destructive mentalities that it prides itself in creating something as creepy as a computer virus.

Not only are viruses vile creatures that creep through our systems and violate everything we cherish and hold dear, but they exist because of us. I did a little digging about the most evil of viruses and came upon a few chilling names. What’s more startling is their uses.

We’ve created viruses to attack and disable other nations’ systems. (Sure, they were nuclear systems—but still, is a virus the right way to go?) Some of them sneak up on our children while they play innocent games, gaining unauthorised access and control over their lives and computers. They can corrupt unwitting minds and souls, and turn them into abusive, power-hungry youngsters. Pity. We could’ve used the same technology to offer remote customer support, instead.

As for the adults, we’ve tempted them with the promise of beautiful women and sometimes porn only to attempt a convoluted goal. We’ve created worms that go knocking on computers during holidays paralysing our contacts and spirits in the guise of wishing a Merry Christmas.

Some of our programmes have crippled governments and defaced other unassuming nations.

Oh, and just the hell of it, we’ve even created viruses that run through emails, sending itself to our contacts over and over again until the internet once broke with the load. All for no reason.

As if all that isn’t enough, we’ve also peeked into our fellow humans’ deepest desire for love, planting viruses as admiration letters only to break down millions of worth of assets.

The specialty knowledge that it takes to build such malware is so vast that it’s a testament to humanity’s skills. If only we use that for good things, instead.

The hacking culture and the cinema-influenced stereotypepes associated with computer geeks—the nerdy glasses, the shady hoody, the dark corner, the millions of lines of undecodeable scripts—has opened up our brains to wrong ideas and ideals.

We’ve created a culture of sad, pathetic humans driven by malicious desires. For a prideful, educated community such as ourselves, it’s shameful.

Shame that we don’t even realise it.

The Paradox of Life

“The situation in America, the most highly monetized society the world has ever known, is this: some of our needs are vastly overfulfilled while others go tragically unmet. We in the richest societies have too many calories even as we starve for beautiful, fresh food; we have overlarge houses but lack spaces that truly embody our individuality and connectedness; media surround us everywhere while we starve for authentic communication. We are offered entertainment every second of the day but lack the chance to play. In the ubiquitous realm of money, we hunger for all that is intimate, personal, and unique. We know more about the lives of Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, and Lindsay Lohan than we do about our own neighbors, with the result that we really don’t know anyone, and are barely known by anyone either.”

“The things we need the most are the things we have become most afraid of, such as adventure, intimacy, and authentic communication. We avert our eyes and stick to comfortable topics. . . . We are uncomfortable with intimacy and connection, which are among the greatest of our unmet needs today. To be truly seen and heard, to be truly known, is a deep human need. Our hunger for it is so omnipresent, so much a part of our experience of life, that we no more know what it is we are missing than a fish knows it is wet. We need way more intimacy than nearly anyone considers normal. Always hungry for it, we seek solace and sustenance in the closest available substitutes: television, shopping, pornography, conspicuous consumption — anything to ease the hurt, to feel connected, or to project an image by which we might be seen and known, or at least see and know ourselves.” – Source

I was stunned.

We live a paradoxical life without even realising it. That’s when I decided I should read this book. It’s out of my comfort zone; it’s non-fiction, it’s about money, and it’s called Sacred Economics.

Of the 23 chapters, I’ve stepped into the eighth, and it’s been great so far. There are dull parts of it, parts I cruise over without feeling the words, but there are also parts of the book that I linger, reread, inhale, and wonder in wonder. Not everyone would enjoy reading it, but everyone should understand the essence of it.

I’ve scratched just the surface of the book, but my view of our society’s monetary system has changed forever, already.

Understanding Zen

I just finished reading, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s an achievement, believe me. It took me almost 9 months to finish that book.

zen

And it wasn’t because I read many other books at the same time. No, while I read this book, I read no other. And it still took me 9 months. I should say, though, I was also studying for my exams and, for about three to four months, I didn’t even touch Zen.

Still, it’s a long time to read a five hundred+ page book. An international best seller, at that.

I read slow, but even I’m not that slow. After all, Harry Potter, the Inheritance series, and Chronicles of Narnia are all about the same size and I’ve sat through all night glued to those books. Why then did this book take so long?

It’s the writing for the most part. It was complex, it was all over the place, with two different narratives that just kept throwing me off the original message.

But there were so many good parts in the book that just jumped out at me. The best thing that came out of spending 9 months on one book is that it seemed like a lifetime. And the book is about a man’s discoveries over a lifetime. In hindsight, it feels like I’ve learnt so many different things, at different stages of my own life.

The book transcends from Pirsig’s life, into my own; my learnings, and my own understanding of how the world works.

Disclaimer, though: I don’t mean to sound all enlightened and zen-like. There are so many parts of the book that I read without taking in a thing.

But these blank parts of the book that I read three months ago, make sense to me now. What I though I understood while reading a paragraph is so different from when I understand after finishing the book.

And I’m counting on the same thing happening with other complex topics in the book.

And I’m sure when I read it the second time, I’ll see more things I didn’t see this time. Or, maybe, when I’m in the shower worrying about my hair fall, I’ll realise I should let the future be.

future