How I Write of Castles

I realised, after having reviewed castles (and, actually, historic sites of all types: palaces, temples, hills) that I have not said what I look for when I visit these places. While it is not that difficult to get the sense of what I say and don’t say, this might not be too helpful for people looking for some concrete facts or a detailed picture-overview.

Neither of these is in the realm of what I aim to do here. What I aim to do is to offer some snippets of historic curiosities, events which made me laugh or think or cry when I read about these places. That Tantallon’s lords liked going shooting on the nearby granitic outcrop, the Ailsa Craig of the eastern coast, or that James VI heard of his accession at Falklands and made it into a local title, or that a lord Cassilis of Culzean went and shot his umbrella-holder in the rainforests of Gambia…

These are stories which bring these places to life. They illustrate how living people treated each other and themselves in times gone past. What they laughed about and what they might not have enjoyed as much. All of these snippets help me build a better, clearer, window to look into history.

And I visit these places mostly to expand my understanding of history. This understanding takes many shapes. I do not particularly like reading about places and not being able to visualise them in my mind, and yet not many a text would describe Dunnotar Castle as well as the effort of climbing those steps to reach the peak of that peninsula. But this understanding also takes the form of the farmers at Alpsee who have ever lived looking at two or three castles on their nearby peaks. How do they relate to these? Is it a symbol of hope and strength, or does it merely represent wasted fortunes?

Naturally, all of these could be answered by other methods in the modern day. Yet, the feeling of going to somewhere and seeing it in its natural climate — no matter whether the result is a wintery Schloss Linderhof, sunny Mull of Galloway, or a rainy Rothesay — helps put that place into its natural context.

So… what I look for is emotion, a feeling, any feeling, that would relate to this place I am writing about. How this place fits into the world I have seen and into the lives of the people who were involved with it. How a representation of this place can carry the message that was dearest to my heart. How the inhabitants of this place would have looked about in the beginning of their day or at the end of their toils.

Memories of Tōkyō

One of my most favourite moments of 2016 took place on September 7th. Why? What? Where?

This was in Tōkyō, the capital of the State of Japan. More precisely, it was in the Imperial district and by the entrance to the Imperial Palace. The sun was setting with its last rays still casting a faint light, bringing the park to life in an unique way. There were not many people present, the tourists had come and gone though it was not yet late (twenty to six) — but the Sun was setting and people move with it, so for that day, they had passed on.

The setting was beautiful in every mentionable way. It is still in my mind, the Sun’s quiet descent as daylight slowly receded, as it left the Imperial District, and as its last rays illuminated the former heart of the Shogunate.

Overall, I did not see much of Tōkyō as I had barely 24h there, but I am incredibly happy that one of the places I decided to go to was the Palace. Having the limited time to explore, I had started out without much of a plan and with a very limited grasp on which options were plausible. Chance ruled. The providential decisions which made me exit the underground in that station and walk down the street to arrive in the nick of time to see the day pass away are worth pondering about on their own. How much of what happens to us is chance, and chance alone? How much of this was indeterminable by anything I did?

But, with regards to this post, I mostly wanted to share this image:

Kōkyo

I can still remember the serenity. Can you sense it?

Clear Skies

Today has been a brilliant day, the sky clear and resplendent; these brilliant days often make me wonder. Firstly, the question to wonder about is what else can be seen under this sky? The answer to this is — literally anything. Similarly, who else could be looking at the sky at the same time?, who else might be wondering the same things?, asking these same questions? Again, it could be anyone. It could also be no one.

Slightly aimless? Perhaps…

But now, what if we try to think of places which have never seen a clear sky? How many of those can there be? If Jupiter’s gaseous clouds hide sentience, what is their concept of a clear sky? What of the people on Titan, or the inhabitants of Venus? Is a clear sky on Mercury the one which burns under the gaze of Sol, or the one which faces the vast emptiness of space?

When we start considering these issues, we are truly lost. Lost since the answers are impossible to comprehend since they are so far out of our normal range of experiences. I wish they weren’t though… That would be the greatest experiment of pathos, the way to awaken tender emotions, that a man can undertake — finding an instance of normality (the reality we know) in the most foreign of environments.

Unfortunately, this is something very difficult to actually practice. It would be good fun though.

 

The Second Benefit of Queues

I recently posted on how I enjoyed the feature of scheduled posting. That is still so, but now — around half a week into this experiment of mine, I can safely say that I forgot about an important part of this style of writing that I couldn’t really imagine before. Well, when I say “forgot” and “couldn’t really imagine”, I am speaking against myself, I know that. Do forgive.

However, what I wished to say is that when I schedule my posts I remember what I have written, and I get the wish to go back and change the words. I want to edit the post at least once so that when I read it through myself the next day (far less time consuming than writing itself), I get no bad feelings about anything I say. The wording might change and I might be improving the thoughts I wished to convey, but their internal inconsistency might have been the biggest downfall thus far with my posts.

So, there we go — another point for scheduled posting. =)

The Benefit of Queues

I have recently started writing posts in advance and then queuing them so that they are published throughout the week. This seems to be the approach that works better for me for otherwise I need to find the time and opportunity to come here every day (or every time when I have something to say), and to expand on my thoughts there and then. This clearly has not worked very well in the past so maybe this new way will do better.

For example, the posts this week on this site and on my literature blog both were written on Saturday evening when I had a moment to myself that I used to the best effect I could have thought of at the time.

It could be that in a sense I am losing the moment of “I am here, right now!” if I continue to think of what to say on a certain day in the future (or in the past).

Also, since my mood on that Saturday evening (well, it would be so much easier to say ‘right now’ but that wouldn’t be *the right now* when this post will be published so that I do not really want to do that) was a bit philosophical I am clearly avoiding writing of the world in favour of the topics that have a bit less to do with any tangible place and more with those passing feelings.

One benefit I do feel to be present though is a more consistent style. I could be mistaken, but these would probably read better overall than my posts from say November or December which were far more intermittent. Those posts were also written in a more hurried way — the time I had for them wasn’t really meant for them, but potentially a simple stolen 5-minute gap between eating and running out of my house. It would be interesting to see how this actually represents itself in the words you are reading though.

My next challenge therefore — if I am to continue this scheduled writing — is to find a way to encompass the world into the topics. I am certain that I can do this, although I might require some sort of incentive. I think that looking at National Geographic’s published photos or something similar would be enough though.

For anyone in a similar position as me — that is, feeling like writing at certain moments and not at others where thinking is the realm you’re in — I do suggest trying this scheduled posting way of writing.

Curiosity

Do you know that moment when you see something on the mind of other people? And your inner curiosity is so kindled that you have to insist of getting to the very bottom of it immediately?

I am very easily taken in by such thoughts, but then again I am also very much on the other side: not mentioning it at all until people are willing to talk.

The second option, however, is by far a better one — and I managed to confirm it yesterday when in a show I watched, a line went: “Hey, you look as if you have something troubling you… Oh, you’ll tell me when you’re ready.” and the guy was off. No doubts, no need to ponder about it.

So I’ll be trying to conquer that curiosity within me in a permanent way, leaving only the other option. We’ll see how that goes.

On Swearing

I saw a few days ago that an acquaintance on Facebook posted a picture which went by the effect that “Science shows that people who swear are most honest in their daily lives”. I offered no comment then, but in my mind a rather prominent question-mark appeared. So, I thought of this…

As a general note on the background, I have to add that this same person does use swearwords as part of his everyday vocabulary, both online and in-person as far as I know. I, on the other hand, rarely do so — I indeed remember a particular instant last week when I did use an expletive with the explicit goal of trying to emphasize my point to the other person, which I believe worked at that time for her first reaction was: “I don’t think I’ve heard you swear before.”

Now, however, to get back on topic: I am very adamantly of the opinion that any use of an expletive in a conversation between two people only serves to dumb the discussion down, and is of no use in building intelligent constructive arguments. That, along with the fact that anything can be very well said without swearing, is the main point that I stick to as much as possible (singular cases like the one I brought out before excluded).

That is also the same critique I apply to most items I read and hear: if they have needed to use expletives to define their own point of view, then clearly something is wrong. Either their statement was too weak in their opinion without swearing or they just feel as if they need to add to it to make it stronger. And that “addition” by default makes me regard the entire point as less, not more.

I would indeed state that I have yet to see a sentence which has improved in its overall value by making it more profane — it is, in short, for me the (first and foremost) sign of an uncultured mind.

A Use of Facebook — What is in Your Mind?

While Facebook certainly has its advantages, consuming time for no real gain is one of the general disadvantages. However, it does work to keep one posted with news (assuming people other than me are as foolish to add ten-twenty newspapers to their news feed so that anything is broadcast at least twice) and with interesting things friends do. Friends, as in FB friends, which does not necessarily need to equal that on any other level. But that is irrelevant here and now.

What I actually wanted to display was an interesting thought I saw. Namely, the following status a friend of mine posted:

“You really love him/her, don’t you?”
A psychological question, no name was mentioned but still, someone came into your mind.

What did your mind do?

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