Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where I finally read Paradise Lost

I have had the book forever and it's pretty famous and I was an English Lit major and so, I thought I should probably read it.

So I have read Book One so far and it's actually pretty cool. Ok so Book One is basically just a catalogue of demons, ok? And everyone in the world has already pointed out that perhaps when Milton went out to humanize Satan and to make him the adversary worthy of God, perhaps, just perhaps he went overfar and as a result Satan is now way Cooler Than God.

Part of it is that God hasn't entered the picture yet. Now Milton is probably working the scenes a little bit, laying the groundwork and making us anticipate and salivate, so when God draws up in his limo, his entrance will be all the more brilliant, but meanwhile Satan is working the room like no other and giving us his version of the events so that God comes off a bit Machiavellian and you actually start to feel a bit sorry for Satan.

You see, Satan charges God with instigating the rebellion:
"But He who reigns Monarch in Heav'n...His Regal State Put forth at full but still His strength concealed, Which tempted our attempt and wrought our fall." Book One, Ln 637-642.

Sort of begs the question:
Did God create Hell as a sort of boundary maintenance mechanism?
After all, what is Heaven without Hell?

Book One is thus Satan as underdog, as victimised victim, all proud and offended dignity in defeat, and at this point I am all for him and "his dark designs." Also he has some great lines: "The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven!"

Milton's proposed reason for writing the epic is to "justify the ways of God to men." So the question is, did Satan run away from under his hands? But possibly I should read more before answering this.

After Book One, I now think of Satan and his rebels, the denizens of hell, as a sort of diaspora community. Hell is nothing more than exile from Heaven, an exile from which they cannot return. So how do you not feel bad for Satan? At least, for us from Dharamsala, return is still possible.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Little Golden Statues

The Oscars yesterday were...not very funny. In fact, flat almost.

When I found Hugh Jackman of the blisteringly hot Wolverine was the host, I did feel considerable trepidation. Hugh Jackman is seriously goodlooking and not British - how could he be funny? Perhaps Oscar was thinking of Grant or Laurie?

Here are my morning-after thoughts. Basically, Oscar, if you want to be a musical and still entertain, you have to be Made In Bollywood. And if you want to be goodlooking and funny, you can't just be a Hugh, you also have to be funny.

At least Slumdog and Kate Winslet won. Small mercies.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pet Salad and Rice Beer

Yesterday we bought two pots of wheatgrass (called "Lobue" in Tibetan and also known as "Pet Salad" because cats like to eat them, and not at all related to marijuana) from Bread and Circus and today my parents fermented some rice for Chang.

Because Losar, New Year, falls on February 25th.

Of course, we aren't really celebrating this year's New Year. In solidarity with the Tibetans in Tibet who have said that they aren't celebrating in protest against the Chinese crackdown.

But, you know what, in many ways, it feels like I have already lost Losar anyway. Part of it is just this: Try being a Red Sox fan in Kathmandu, try being a Sachin Tendulkar fan in Vermont. But part of it is something else.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vigiling on Wednesdays

I went to the Vigil yesterday with my mother.
We meet in Harvard Square, in the Pit, for two hours, and hold up Tibetan flags and signs saying "Free Tibet", "Tibet Belongs to Tibetans", "Honk for Freedom", "Long Live His Holiness" etc. Then we pray, for all the Tibetans who were taken, tortured, executed because of the March protests. Yesterday there were about 25 people, older and younger Tibetans. It's generally the same crowd.

There was heavy snowfall yesterday. I mean, snow was falling like confetti, like all the angels in heaven were clearing out their sidewalks and we just happened to be underneath their shovels. Truth be told, we probably wouldn't have gone if the weather hadn't been fine when we started out. Because, you know, it's very easy to think 'what good will it do anybody for a bunch of us to gather in the pit and hold a couple of signs?' It's warm at home, and there's TV. I have missed these vigils any number of times, out of habit, laziness and cognitive dissonance.

Even when I do go, sometimes that seems to be habit too. And sometimes because other people whose dedication I admire go. Sometimes to get out of the house. Sometimes out of guilt, and only very occasionally, from a small inspired burst of activism.

There's no sort of "Eureka" reason for why we hold these vigils. I guess, mostly, we hold the vigils because we can.

I think I'll write something about what it means to be Tibetan, what it means to be from this country we have never seen and yet always to think of going to Tibet in terms of going back to Tibet, to have terms like "occupation" and "colonialism" mean now and not history. Perhaps I can call it "What We Talk About When We Talk About Tibet".

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If you are a Schizo

Ok it already sucks because you have a mental disorder. But you know what else, turns out you can't go to China either because they won't let you in the door!

Here's the additional information on Chinese visas, from the website of the Chinese embassy, in the section entitled Additional Information:

"Any person suffering from a mental disorder, leprosy, AIDS, venereal diseases, contagious tuberculosis or other such infectious diseases shall not be permitted to enter China."*

Yeah, how very medieval totalitarian state (as opposed to modern totalitarian state)! Come on, China, be yourself.

Also I am wondering, and just wondering for wonder's sake, you understand: is the term "person suffering from a mental disorder" strictly defined to mean only the full blown psychotic or loosely defined to include the occasional mild melancholic?


Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Tibetan Woman as a Nun

I resolve to update more regularly. So it isn't Losar yet, won't be until February 25, but it'll be good practice.

Today finished editing "Status of Tibetan Nuns in Exile" for the Tibetan Women's Association. Tenky asked me to do this since, she said, "u enjoy working with nuns and reading about nuns" - which makes me sound like I have a weird nun fetish. This because I told her that while I was at my cousin's wedding reception at Soaltee Hotel (in Kathmandu!) I spent some time chatting with the novice nuns from the local nunnery. A very young nun, 14 perhaps, newly out of Tibet, went red, covered her face with her hands and would not talk to me because I have short hair and she was convinced I was a boy. Later, another nun asked me which nunnery I was from. Perhaps I need to rethink this boy's haircut and learn the lesson that Samson taught.

So anyway, nuns. I am interested in nuns and have always gotten along well with most because Dolmaling Nunnery/School of Dialectics was my home for three years and a half years, and so see past the red robes and the monastic mystique. Basically I edited TWA's report on nuns because I wanted to read it.

Although the report and the data compiled presents no new finding or bright idea, it was very interesting reading and I think it's going to be a good and helpful thing, a great thing, to have these actual statistics. So there are 1651 nuns in exile, and about 342 nuns form the survey's raw pool. So a pretty good percentage. There's a positive correlation between the number of nuns who are political prisoners in Drapchi and the number of escapee nuns in exile the following year, while it may be predictable it's still exciting to see the graph. Another exciting -and really, entirely dramatic- point is that 80% of the nuns said they would study for the Geshe Degree if they could. Yeah, 80%. Yeah, the Geshe Degree, the PhD. of Tibetan Buddhism. Well, perhaps the nuns ticked that box because they knew that right now, they can't even if they wanted to, since they are not allowed.

You see, only people who are fully ordained can sit for the Geshe Exam. And the reason that brilliant nuns can't sit for this exam is because -wait for it, it's good: nuns aren't fully ordained, they can't become Bikshunis because the Bikshuni lineage died out a long time ago. Seriously people, is that your excuse? Surely there are loopholes. True, I conceive of bizarre scenarios in which a nun would get a sex change, become a monk and then become a Geshe. But no, seriously, there must be other ways the Bikshuni lineage can be revived.

After all these women already get shafted as Tibetans nationals (by the Chinese government) and as Tibetan women (by Tibetan men). They do not need to be shafted -by the monks- as Tibetan nuns!

We have established that a mother's son with the necessary wisdom may win the Ganden Throne, but what about a mother's daughter?