If you have the patience, you can find almost anything on the market floor at Souk al-Ahad. Hiding beneath pink plastic pianos, among stuffed Hello Kitties, giant soup ladles and mountains of miscellaneous clothing, fading lives are scattered like dice.
Empathy: the intangible architecture that supports our deepest connections; the unseen building blocks that help us to understand the needs, perspectives and motives of others; the ticket for a society racked with hate?
“Are you going to experience Resort Cuba or the Real Cuba?” my friend asked me as I prepared to leave Canada for Havana. “Or the Actual Cuba?” she added, neatly encapsulating the traveller vs tourist debate.
On the east side of Humayun’s tomb, a young European woman in leggings and a black sports t-shirt positions herself so that she is perfectly framed by the 16th century arch behind her. She fixes her hair, lies down on the ground and pushes up into a yoga pose.
Anne Carson once wrote that in order to survive, you needed an edge; in this age, I suspect that a blade might be better. Reading the year’s new clatch of stories about the “real” Gone Girl ... I found myself wishing that men who turned out to be killers and mass manipulators were rare enough that a story about the “real” Gone Guy would catch on.
Around five years ago, I decided to move to Berlin after visiting the city for a weekend and instantly loving it. A sense of freedom was palpable along its wide streets and in the parks where people sat drinking massive bottles of cheap, decent beer.
“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.” — Arthur C. Clarke.
“Palmistry and astrology are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and everybody has a palm” — Kurt Vonnegut.
I’m inclined to argue that my sham national pride is, in many instances, better than the real thing; that orthodox patriotism often masks nationalism and the odious opinions of those intolerant of others. I’m in decent company in this assessment.