miércoles, 28 de enero de 2015

Who We Are

   I don’t believe it. I just can’t. The pure concept of a “community” is, for me, just nonsense. If there were a community, any kind, they would be there to stop all atrocities and crimes from happening. But that’s not the case, is it? This world is rotting at a formidable speed and there’s nothing that can stop it. It’s just the way it is. Is it intentional or did no one see the signs we are just fucked?

 People say, often, that we live better now than others did fifty or a hundred years ago. That is obvious. Any person with half a brain, more than most people use, would know that. But I’m not talking about the comforts of life; I’m talking about people as people. We have gone down the drain and gotten worse with time. Of course, not to wonder much about it as humanity has been capable of killing itself in mass. What comes after that then?

 Yeah, yeah… “Humanity has done great things too”. Well, really? Medicine they say… Well why do you think we advance in medicine if it’s not for lengthening our lives, to be able to be more powerful, more than the bags filled with gas that we are? Medicine does not exist to make life better but to make it longer. The innocent that thinks that vaccines and medications are made to take care of the frail and hopeless, are just too innocent to see what’s really going on.

 So, what comes after we have killed so many of ourselves? Well, hate of course. People hate they are free from xenophobia, free from actual hate, senseless and insane. Well, we’re not. We all hate something or someone. We might not consider ourselves racists, but we still fear the people that oppressed us and those who we oppressed. It’s only natural, after generations that behave like animals. Now it’s us who have to be scared of the world around us, which has gotten more dangerous.

 And why is that, we may ask? Well, precisely because people in the past did so much to prove they were above others. Little stupid groups claiming they were in possession of universal truth, telling people how to live their lives, who to admire, who to loath and even what to eat, how to eat and when to eat it. Sounds insane? That’s because it is. We praise the human brain so much but the truth is our biology is so easy to influence. So much that today it’s not hard to make someone ill, make them have a headache or make them sick to their stomachs. We can even kill someone without using a real weapon. We are weak.

 The interesting thing is that we just won’t admit hoe fucked we are. People are killed all over the place, disease comes and takes a shitload of people and many are still denied the same rights as others. Nevertheless, less important “news”, that aren’t new at all, invade the papers to make us feel fear and hope at the same time. The grand media folk make us love someone and hate others. They just shift the pieces of the puzzle and make up dozens of variations on the same subject. So there’s a little bit for everyone but the truth, the real one, is always lost forever, known to no one, not even to the ones that make her disappear.

 It is true we live better than before. But that is because we have been taught what to think of society and we have learned the model we live by is just the best because they haven’t create a better one. Haven’t they? May there be something better? Who knows? We are in no capacity of knowing that because even the most “perfect” place in the world is deprived of something. And whatever it is, it makes that “community” and incomplete one.

 Take for instance rich people in a rich country. They can buy all they want but any of us know that that’s not very important at the end of the day. No, not because it doesn’t matter. Try to live life without money on this planet. No, it’s more because we don’t really fill our head with riches. We fill it with experiences and those who make us feel better are not specially attached to money.

 Many, for example, seek for love. The one true love. Most people are so enthralled with the idea of “real love” that they don’t even stop to think what that means. How do I feel love? Does it feel the same for everyone? And here’s comes the real news: no, it doesn’t. It is a fact that feelings are chemicals reactions happening in the brain. Rats can feel pleasure if we put some electrodes on it and influence the right area of its brain. Same thing can be done with humans. But feelings are more than that. Why? Because they are stored inside our heads and have consequences beyond the mere experience.

 When we love, hate or feel curiosity, we feel something. But we also create from that. A relationship is made by what you remember and what you don’t. And all of this is classified: this is good, this is bad, and this is weird. We keep it in mind and we use it as words or actions if we need it. Those are still feeling but they have stopped being only chemicals in our bodies. We keep them in there if we need to use them.

And we do. But not in a very good way. Humanity has always been very trivial. We have always, in one way or another, loved staring at shiny objects. Whether those are nice precious stones or a beautiful body, we have always idealized what it is to be human. We have grown as a species thinking we are just the best there is because we can speak and walk and conquer. But what’s the use of all of that if don’t have anything to show for ourselves?

 Yes, the discoveries. We cannot deny some humans have gone beyond themselves to explain certain things and create new objects from what nature has given us. That cannot be denied. But another fact that cannot be denied is the fact that most of us have no idea how to create and we are really not interested in it. We created religion precisely to do that. To explain what we, lazy as we are, won’t or can’t explain. Humanity doesn’t like when something cannot be explained and that’s why so many crazy theories exist. We just need to explain, even if the answer is obviously fabricated.

 Then again, we keep killing each other, just because they decided to lie to themselves with different lies that we did or because they eat differently or dress with other clothes. Or just, and we never admit this, because they live far and looks different. This would mean xenophobia but this is the real reason of many wars that humanity has gone through. Just hate, without sense or consideration.

 We fail to see that biologically we are exactly the same. And we are not special. Other creatures walk and breathe and speak. The fact that we don’t understand them doesn’t mean we are better. I won’t go to saying we are the same psychologically because that is a creation of man to explain what’s inside one’s head. And the explanations, often, are as ridiculous as the explanations the ancients have for why the sun was up there with the moon.

 No, the best we can do in this world is acknowledge that we are different, even unique, inside our heads but that we are all the same outside of them. Of course, this doesn’t bring any peace of mind to anyone but nature rarely cares about that. We are just one species on a small particle of dust in the vast universe. And we fail to realize that daily, we fail to see we don’t really matter in the broader context of time and space.

 This doesn’t mean we should just go in deep depression and die. It means we should really live, like real people would do. Let’s just not get into the lives of others and let’s try to learn from each other’s differences that reside inside our heads. If we took a moment learning about what others do in life and what they think on certain important matters (not politics, of course), we would see how similar we are, even inside our heads. That’s the surprise of it all.

 We are not unique, special or precious. We are flawed, simple and unimportant. But we are here and that’s what really matters.  

martes, 27 de enero de 2015


   La habitación del hotel era hermosa, mejor de lo que Tomás hubiera esperado. Y no es que esperara algo particularmente malo o siniestro sino que siempre pensaba que su agente no tenía ni la más remota idea en cuanto a hoteles se trataba. Ya le había ocurrido, en París y en Los Ángeles, que había encontrado con que el hotel que había elegido su encargada era peor que un nido de ratas. Pero bueno, la gente aprende de sus errores y esta era sin duda la prueba.

 Desde su habitación, Tomás podía ver la cordillera de los Andes extendiéndose no muy lejos de él. No podían ser más de cincuenta kilómetros que lo separaran de las nieves ya casi no tan perpetuas de los Andes chilenos. No sabía de que lado quedaba el Aconcagua pero seguramente no estaría lejos. Siempre había querido ser uno de esos grandes aventureros pero su cuerpo y su energía no eran los necesarios para una persona que necesitara  estar de un lado para otro, caminando sobre agua, piedras y demás.

 Sonrió solo, pensando que por ponerse a caminar un par de kilómetros ya le salían cosas en los pies. Ciertamente no podría aguantar un ascenso duro. Además aquello de acampar no era algo que le agradara mucho: el solo pensamiento de dormir en un espacio pequeño con otras personas y no poder bañarse en más de dos días, se le hacía horrible. Si algo tenía de bueno la civilización, eran los baños. Y él no cambiaba un baño bien equipado por nada del mundo.

 Después de pasearse fascinado por toda la habitación, Tomás decidió cambiarse y salir a dar una vuelta por los alrededores. Mónica, su asistente, lo había llamado para decirle que hoy no habría nada más sino una cena a eso de las nueve de la noche en el hotel así que tenía prácticamente cinco horas para hacer lo que quisiera. Y la verdad era que, aunque el vuelo había sido largo, no estaba cansado. Al salir del lobby lo golpeó un viento frío, seguramente proveniente de la montaña. Se contentó al recordar que había empacado ropa para el invierno, que ya estaba por entrar a la región.

 Al caminar por la avenida que tenía enfrente, Tomás hizo una nota mental para agradecerle a Mónica y a su agente del perfecto trabajo que habían hecho eligiendo el hotel: los andenes eran amplios, había mucho comercio y árboles. No había mucho tráfico tampoco. Será que su libro era tan exitoso como para pagar una buena ubicación? Esto pensó el escritor mientras caminaba sin rumbo. Era posible. Al libro no le había ido del todo mal y siempre podían haber sorpresas, especialmente después de dos fracasos con la critica.

 Habían sido voraces. Esa era la palabra. Se habían comportado como hienas sedientas de sangre y, al parecer, Tomás había sido elegido como su próxima víctima.  En esos largos y tediosos artículos de critica literaria, hablaban de cómo su estilo de escritura dañaba las bases de la literatura castellana y no sé que más tonterías. El escritor solo pensó, sin decirle a nadie, que esos viejos estaban demasiado bien amarrados al pasado y tenían problemas viendo que las cosas ya no eran como hacía cincuenta años.

 El escritor levantó la cabeza y vio que estaba en un cruce de semáforo. En frente tenía un gran edificio de vidrio pero no parecía haber nada más allá así que giró a la izquierda y siguió su paseo por una pequeña avenida, esta sí más transitada. La gente parecía querer protegerse del viento y muy pocos estaban manteniendo conversaciones con alguien más. Era sorprendente, pero no había gente ni hablando por teléfono móvil.

 Esos viejos, anacrónicos y sin importancia ya, lo habían desechó en más de un par de publicaciones. Incluso, en televisión, leían párrafos de sus obras y se burlaban, como si fuera su juego preferido. Era horrible, recordó Tomás. Era miserable y se sentía aún peor que eso. Como era posible que la gente fuera así? Porque no solo fueron esos dos viejos horribles sino que todo el que leía, como buena sociedad consumista, creía en lo que veía impreso en toda publicación. Era deprimente ver como gente que por algún milagro de la vida podía leer, se burlaba de su obra como si fueran conocedores intachables.

 Tomás llegó entonces a otro cruce y, del otro lado, vio un enorme edificio o, mejor, era un conjunto de edificios. El principal parecía tener la forma de un cuadrado enorme y era, sin lugar a dudas, un centro comercial. Pero una esquina estaba uno de los edificios más altos que él hubiese visto. O sería que había visto más altos? Probablemente. Pero el pensar y reflexionar hacía que cosas así, se vieran diferente.

 Lo primero que hizo después de cruzar fue comprar un café bien caliente en una popular cafetería y luego se puso a caminar por todo el centro comercial. Mónica le había mencionado que tendría una firma de libros en un centro comercial. Sería este? Había mucha gente por todos lados y todo tipo de tiendas. Sin duda sería un excelente lugar para lanzar su nueva publicación. Era una historia de ficción histórica, basada en las experiencias de los prisioneros homosexuales en los campos de concentración nazi. No era un tema que llamara mucho la atención pero Tomás lo había encontrado fascinante.

 Precisamente investigando para este nuevo libro había podido viajar a la ciudad de Cracovia. El viaje lo había pagado él de sus ahorros y había ido solo. No quería que nadie interrumpiera la experiencia. Era casi como ir al Vaticano, algo que tenía que hacer con el más profundo respeto. Sin embargo, algo le pasó que no tenía nada que ver con su investigación. En una pequeña librería cerca del museo del campo, Tomás se puso a hojear una que otra publicación. Le gustaba tener algo ligero para leer en sus viajes y ya estaba cansado de los que tenía en su portátil.

 De repente una joven mujer, mirando libros en la misma parte que él estaba, se puso a hablar en un tono más alto de lo normal con un amiga con la que venía. Seguramente era polaco porque Tomás no entendía ni media palabra de lo que decían. Alguna idea tenía del alemán o del ruso pero lo que hablaban, estaba casi seguro, no era ninguno de esos dos. Se sonrojó cuando se dio cuenta de que la chica que más hablaba lo miraba a él y, sutilmente, lo señalaba. Tomás trató de no fijarse pero era casi imposible: la librería estaba todo menos abarrotada.

  Entonces las dos chicas se le acercaron y con una sonrisa le preguntaron:

-       Tomás Grosez?
-       Gómez, sí.

 Las chicas rieron y entonces una de ellas sacó un usado libro del interior del abrigo que tenía puesto. Para sorpresa de Tomás, el libro era una de las noveles que habían sido duramente criticadas hasta hacía poco. Ver una copia le hacia doler un poco la cabeza. En menos de un segundo, pensó que las chicas estaban riendo porque habían conocido al autor un libro especialmente pésimo y criticado por todos. Seguramente le pedirían que lo firmara para tener una prueba de que habían conocido al atroz escritor.

-       Ex darme libro. Yo gustar mucho tu.

 Las dos chicas rieron de nuevo.

-       Tu escribe firma?

 Y le estiró el libro a Tomás que lo tomó, lo firmó robóticamente y les dio a las chicas una sonrisa atontada. Entonces, cuando ellas parecían irse, el escritor les preguntó si en verdad les había gustado el libro. Tuvieron que comunicarse en inglés para entender mejor pero, en resumidas cuentas, la chica que tenía el libro decía que se había identificado con el personaje que él había creado: era una mujer que iniciaba decida y luego se veía derrotada por la vida. La chica decía que el libro la había ayudado a no decaer y a seguir adelante.

 Cuando se dio cuenta donde estaba, Tomás sonrió sorprendido. Mientras pensaba en la lectora agradecida que le había dado un impulso a su ambición de ser un mejor escritor, sus pies lo habían paseado por todo el centro comercial hasta que quedó frente a una librería. En efecto, era allí donde presentaría su libro. Había afiches en la entrada al sitio y algunas copias ya estaban siendo vendidas. Tomás sonrió. No había nada como ver su nombre en la tapa de un libro que esperaba ser comprado. Y se alegró aún más cuando un joven, de la mano de otro joven, compró una copia para cada uno.

 De vuelta en el hotel, cambiándose a una vestimenta más apropiada para cenar con gente de una editorial, Tomás pensó que era un hombre muy afortunado. El ser bueno o malo en algo no era el punto. El punto era intentar hacer lo que más le gustaba y disfrutar de cada ganancia, como la hermosa vista del atardecer que estaba viendo desde su habitación.

lunes, 26 de enero de 2015

Gods & Monsters

-       I tell you what. Fuck you!

 Alfie stood up and left, not waiting to be dismissed. He just wasn’t into doing this anymore, this work, this stupid pretending act that he had begun two years ago. Yeah, he loved being a photographer. But that didn’t meant he had no voice of his own or a clear opinion of the world. Of course, she had a point on thinking he wouldn’t mind doing anything she asked: the other photographer’s were just as simple-minded and shallow as she was. They would ever stand up to their beliefs, if they had any that is. They were just empty heads, filled with glamour and sparkles.

 Yolanda stood up right when she saw Alfie walking her away. She didn’t need a word from him, she knew her friend to well to need any statement. He only smiled at her and she answered by pointing at her phone and saying in a low register “Later”. He nodded, walked to the staircase and, moments after, walked down the street. The good thing was that his contract was about to expire, so he wasn’t really losing anything new. He was just appalled that someone would ask him the same things over and over and would not even look at his proposals.

 As he walked to the bus stop, Alfie went through it all in his head: he had woken up that morning very happy because he knew this was the day one of his proposals was finally going to end up being actually done. Normally, someone else’s idea was chosen but this time, his boss had told him it was going to be one of his ideas that would be chosen as the other photographers had all had a shot at it. And Alfie was not mediocre at all, he was a person that loved detail and accuracy so every proposal was just on the spot, with every single information needed to make a proper photo shoot for the brand that needed their work.

 So he just went crazy with ideas and chose three that he thought were best suited for the product. The first idea was just about the makeup related to the product. He had investigated the colors he wanted and the faces he wanted to portray. The second idea was all about the dresses, explosions of color and imagination that he knew would attract a lot of people to watch the publicity.  The last one, however, was the most daring but the one he loves the most. It involved a group of four people. All stark naked and with different body proportions and personal styles. All the proposals had something in common though: he wanted to work with real people.

 As he took a seat on the bus, he looked around. Those were the people he had wanted to use for every single one of his ideas: real folk. Just everyone and anyone. Old or young, fat or skinny, tall or short, black or white… It didn’t matter. He needed real people.
 But no. He got angry, remembering the meeting he had just come out from. Apparently the company had decided not to accept any of his idea because they were “too radical”. At first, he asked his boss to define that because he didn’t found anything radical about his work. If anything, he thought it was real and true to his ideals. And then came the real argument: the women that was his boss told him that the owners of the product had not asked for ideals but for their product to be well promoted.

 As calmly as he could, Alfie asked if he needed to apply other ideas but she said they had already gone with a shelved proposal by a photographer called Harry. But his name wasn’t Harry. It was Percival. But he had decided to call himself Harry because he told everyone he looked like Prince Harry. Of course he didn’t but no one told him that because he was one of those star photographers. Everyone wanted to work with him, he knew everyone, and he always had ideas that people would qualify as “marvelous” or “genius” but that were rather stupid in Alfie’s eyes.

 Harry, or Percival, would always make the same photo-shoots: a bunch of “perfect” male and female models, all in underwear and disguised as angles or something like that. Or maybe just shirtless and doing that stupid “duck face” Alfie hated so much when taking pictures. His ideas were what the boss said was “what the people wanted”. If people wanted to stare at perfect faces all the time, Alfie thought, they would just watch porn 24/7. And even porn had different types of bodies and faces, for everyone.

 He laughed alone on the bus at the memory of an idea he had had when beginning in the firm: he had made a whole proposal using porn actors to promote condoms. And he had looked for all kinds of actors and actresses who ere actually thrilled with the idea. But his company, and actually all other companies he tried to sell the idea to, were not interested in showing people that were not attractive enough “for the camera”. The good thing was the Association of Adult Films had contacted him and he finally did the shooting, as he wanted. The money was great but the audience wasn’t that big: the pictures were only used in sex bars and discos.

 Alfie, nevertheless, was proud of that work. It had been his only real job, the only one he had done that showed his potential and his urge to do something new with photography. But when he came back to his job, he realized that just wasn’t his real life. Everyday he would shoot pictures of mediocre TV stars and local movie people. Maybe some professional models, who had great stories but not much deepness in their minds and souls. The number of interesting models he had worked with was certainly very low.

 Yolanda, who worked as an assistant, knew very well who Alfie intended to be as a photographer. She had worked there for several years and told him, right away, he should be doing something more with his skills. But Alfie needed the money and decided to sacrifice his ideals for it, because he needed experience first to be considered good. That, for them both, was a stupid thing. Some people have had many jobs but that doesn’t mean they’re good, it just means they’re better at being annoying.

 Alfie stepped down of the bus and walked home. Before he entered his place, he stopped by a bakery and bought something to eat later. When paying, the young man realized he needed to check his financial condition because he needed to pay rent and having quit, he wasn’t going to collect unemployment. The moment he got home, he pulled out his laptop from the backpack he had went with to the meeting and started to check for jobs. But after a few hours, he realized it was a waste of time. Nothing.

 The phone then rang. It was Yolanda.

-       Hey
-       How are you?
-       Guess everyone knows by now, right.
-       Kinda, yeah. She’s not as pissed as I would’ve thought.
-       Good for her.
-       What are you doing now?
-       Looking for a new job.

 Yolanda giggled. That annoyed Alfie but she had her reasons.

-       I need you to call the following number. – Said Yolanda.

 Alfie noted the number and his friend told him he had to ask for Peter Hurt. He was a teacher in a university and he often needed assistants and so on so maybe he would have something, at lest temporary, for Alfie.

 The young man called Peter and they decided to meet that same afternoon. When they did, Alfie realized he was, what he called, a real photographer. He had done everything: fashion, publicity, journalism, art… But he had decided his thing was teaching. He told Alfie it was a miracle he had called because he really needed a replacement right now. To Alfie’s stunned face, Peter explained he had received a great offer abroad to do a series of shoots all over the World for a prestigious magazine. So he needed someone to teach class for a year in his behalf.

 Alfie had apparently lost his ability to speak. Teaching, he thought, was a very good answer to the question “What the fuck I’m I going to do now?” He asked Peter if he needed references and so on and Peter laughed in his face. He explained Yolanda had called earlier and told him all about Alfie, his current situation and talent. Yolanda had even sent a few proposals she had on digital format. Peter showed those to Alfie and he realized Yolanda must’ve taken the files he had left for his boss.

-       The job is yours if you want it. Of course, I can help you with some of these ideas and you could use the university studios for them. I think these ideas would make a killer exhibition.

 Alfie took the job, still a bit surprised. In one day he had lost a job and got another one. And he had Yolanda to thank. But also, he knew he owe it all to his ideals and being true to himself.

 Going back home he realized he would never have to do a stupid shooting anymore. No more gods and monsters of fashion for him. It would only be about real people, the ones that mattered and wanted to recognize themselves in the subtle art of photography.