"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Surprised by the Past; or, Pork and Parathas

Dear reader, I had intended this weekend to finally getting down to the business of answering my friend Artist's questions in this previous post.

I obviously did not get to do that.

What I did do was to finish re-reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is a captivating read: there is so much richness to consider; a gem that one can turn about this way and that to see the what and the how of catching the light.

There are many more qualified persons to discuss Pirsig's metaphysics than I, so we won't be doing that here.

What I loved to think about this weekend's reading was Pirsig's evocation of the ancient Greeks, and how they perceived themselves in relation to time. He explained that in our modern western society, we view ourselves facing the future as we move forward in time and the past is shown our backs; yet, to the ancient Greeks, we faced the past: it was the future that was shown our backs.

What do you think about that, dear reader?

It's true, isn't it, how we have such a habit of reading the past, of seeing our stories as we replay them, tell them, perhaps even perpetuate them, and then, suddenly, as we keep walking backward, we bump into our future?

Isn't that just the good stuff?

On Saturday, BG and I drove to the Indian grocery. I bought the spices I'd need to make and replenish my garam masala. I chose to use dear Anita's recipe for Punjabi garam masala.
Making the masala was at the top of my priority list. I needed it in order to make the parathas stuffed with peas that I was so hungry for, and that are so handy to freeze and to pull out and warm up in the toaster on those evenings when the easiest supper is the only one that will satisfy.
The fragrance of Anita's masala was spellbinding: the freshly-ground fragrance of the masala seeming more akin to a low, bee-humming sound than a smell. In the air as well was the unmistakable scent of the ubiquitous local dish, pork and sauerkraut, cooking away in the crock on the kitchen counter for Snowy, BG, and LG. Whenever that particular dish cooks, always, it evokes family dinners of times past, when we were all children, when my elder brother was still alive, mixing it all into the mashed potatoes, when we were all there at my grandmother's table. Cauliflower does this as well, dear reader.

Sometimes it is easy for us to see the ways that we are different in my family, I am the only vegetarian-Buddhist-post-undergrad-Bollywood-loving-etc., etc. when it is ever so much as easy, it seems, to see the ways in how we fit within our life. As I rolled out and stuffed the parathas, BG eagerly awaiting the first from the griddle the smell of hot iron, of fermented cabbage and roasting meat, of Punjabi garam masala and toasty wheat, BG hitting replay over and over for the title track of the Aaja Nachle soundtrack, it all seemed to make sense, every last bit of it fitted, in place.

Feeling this fit, it was not so much an issue of whether we are oriented in a position to face the past or to face the future. No, rather, it was like floating above that positition, able to see in any direction; and when coming back down to earth, the past, the present, the future, why, yes: they do reach out and receive us with open arms.
That's the good stuff, dear reader.

The next time I make parathas, they will be filled with mashed potato and sauerkraut.
Wish you could be there.


14 comments:

Anita said...

You write some thought provoking things here...I've never thought like that "...walk back and bump into our future..."

And yet you love Bollywood ;-) at the same time! Gosh, I'd have never thought...but I should think more about how we are similar. Stuffed paranthas for instance...I'm so happy you tried out the garam masala!

adam said...
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neroli said...

Dear Anita, it's so good to think about all the good stuff that we all share, isn't it? Great food is one of the best ways to do so---and stuffed parathas? Got to be at the top of the list! (Bollywood a close second ;)
The older I become, the more I am surprised, and surprisingly pleased, by the future.
Blogging is case in point: how glad I am to visit with you, and all our other friends.
That is definitely the good stuff!

Swampwitch said...

Me thinks I'll come back a read again...there's so much here, my brain is on overload...
How did you find this video of me?

Diane O'Connor said...

Sounds so profound, I love it! I've never read the book but now I'm intrigued and I'm off to find it. I'm also convinced I definately want to take belly dancing lessons!
Diane

neroli said...

Dear Swampy, you can never fly on over too many times:)
How did I get that video? I remembered that Madhuri has been living in Colorado for the past six years...and I asked the HansMan if he could spare some home video.
Isn't that you all celebrating the wedding ;)?

Diane, I'm glad you will be reading it...it's one that I learn from every time I pick it up.
I bet you're a wonderful dancer!

bee said...

congratualtions on your new job!! wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

bee said...
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captain corky said...

And just maybe I'll show up with my bib on next time. ;)

neroli said...

Friends, what a storm!---without power for a while, but now back ;)

My dear Bee, thank you. As always, my very best to you and yours. I count the first time I went to Jugalbandi as one of the best things that happened in 2007 for me.

Corky, come on over! I won't tell you what's meat analog and what's the real deal ;)!

Pelicano said...

Yes, isn't that wonderful to be in that peaceful place of just "riding the current" without thoughts of the future or past intruding upon it? I took some cash today and headed to a large, local thrift store, where I proceeded to push my cart here and there, sifting through the debris of others' pasts, and quite forgetting for a time where I was or what I had come for.

neroli said...

Dear Pel, it certainly is.
What you write of is one of the reasons I almost always will seek out items at auctions. I like the fact of the continuing life of the object.
One reason why I love old valentines.

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

I get so hungry when I read your cooking blogs! We have a Holiday party tonight (catered by the college - so I doubt there will be any Parathas) but that means I'll have to postpone cooking Indian food fora day or too. But gosh you have made me long for it!!

neroli said...

Dear Artist, I hope that you had a relaxing time at the party!
(Even if the food wasn't Indian! :)