Artur

Latest from writer Ara Baliozian

305 posts in this topic

///Never think of yourself as a dispenser of wisdom. ///

Mr.

So why you are trying to spread wisdom here ???

:) :) LoL. Begin from yourself and then try to advise something to others

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i am not dispensing wisdom;

i am sharing my blunders;

i am being a witness;

the question is:

is my testimony honest or a perjury?

you decide...

you are a member of the jury!/ ara

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Friday, September 12, 2003

********************************

ON BELIEF SYSTEMS

Armenia existed long before

any one of our present belief systems

and it will continue to exist long after they are forgotten.

But if Armenia dies

it will be a premature death brought on

by the divisive tactics of those

who uphold these belief systems.

*

Our belief systems (ideologies, religions,

or political parties and churches)

would have us believe that they hold the keys

to the next millennium. In reality, however,

their narrow-minded dogmatism and intolerance

lead not to salvation but to an early grave.

*

Speaking for myself,

after I become infatuated with a belief system

or worldview or idea, I want to know more

about its critics.

D.T. Suzuki’s INTRODUCTION TO ZEN BUDDHISM

was a turning point in my life,

but Koestler’s THE LOTUS AND THE ROBOT,

a merciless exposé of Eastern religions and mysticism,

including Zen Buddhism, made me realize that

this turning point led to a dead end.

The best book on Christianity that I have read is

Bertrand Russell’s WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.

I love Toynbee but I also enjoy reading his critics,

except Trevor-Roper.

*

JOBS

As a wage earner, may I confess that

I have no pleasant memories perhaps because

I never had a job I didn’t hate – with the possible exception

of my first and last jobs.

Stoking the fire for a neighborhood blacksmith

at the age of nine was my first part-time summer job

and my last at the age of thirty:

organist in a Catholic church.

As an organist I preferred funerals to weddings

because at weddings I would be asked to play

the same old wedding marches (by Wagner and Mendelssohn),

Schubert’s or Bach-Gounod’s Ave Maria,

and Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus, and sometimes even

silly and sentimental tunes from the hit parade.

In compensation I would spend endless hours

with the complete works of Bach’s organ works

in an empty church with only the Good Lord as my audience.

*

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS

After they surround themselves with yes-men,

they think they are right because everyone agrees with them.

*

The unbelievable ease with each he who hates his enemy

will also hate his friend and his brother.

*

If you challenge an adversary with the certainty

that you will win, you will lose.

*

To act in the name of God is bad enough;

but to think that our faith makes us invulnerable

is nothing short of suicidal arrogance.

*

A lie is like a deadly virus.

Left unattended it will poison and kill its promoter

as well as his dupes,

families as well as communities,

tribes as well as nations, empires and civilizations.

*

Perhaps I write because my life has been

a succession of blunders which I hope never to repeat

but which I keep repeating.

*

More Translations from

Jules Renard’s JOURNALS

******************************

Snow on water: silence over silence.

*

"What we need is a good tyrant!"

"For good slaves?"

*

Someone else’s success bothers me

but not as much as if he really deserved it.

*

If you are afraid of solitude, don’t try to be just.

*

Rivers will stop running if they knew

their tributaries are about to dry out;

but fat men will continue to gorge themselves

in the middle of a famine.

*

Dream: when reason takes a walk,

fools dance in the brain.

*

Pigs: all that filth on a pink background.

*

They ask me for my latest news

so that they can tell me all about their own problems.

*

The pathetic life of a tree

that no matter how much it agitates

it cannot take a single step.

*

A flock of sheep guarded by such a diminutive boy-shepherd

that if the sheep look the other way,

he may fall prey to a hungry wolf.

*

Posterity: why should the next generation

be better that this one?

*

He lost a leg in the last war;

he kept the other for the next one.

*

Peasants are probably the only species of humans

who don’t give a damn about landscapes.

*

My horror of lies has killed my imagination.

*

The sun rises before I do,

but to even things out between us,

I go to bed after it does.

*

Where there is a will there is a way;

but where is it exactly that the will resides?

*

Nietzsche: you want to know what I think of him?

I think there are some useless letters in his name.

*

My body is the guide dog of my blind soul.

*

Yes, I am bored but I don’t mind

because boredom does not hurt as much as

anger, pride, desire, etc.

*

Pig: a potato with ears.

*

"You are modest."

"Yes, but it hurts."

*

On waking up every morning, we should say:

"Great! I am not yet dead."

*

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an honest lawyer

were to plead the jury to find his client guilty?

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Saturday, September 13, 2003**********************************VANITYCharlie Chaplin asked Truman Capote to read the manuscript of his memoirs with the eyes of a professional writer. When Capote did and reported back with a list of suggestions, Chaplin said: "Get the hell out of my sight!"*TERRITORIALITYAnimals defend their territory. Men do too. But men also defend their prestige, pride, vanity, prejudices and ignorance. * MORE ON TERRITORIALITY In the eyes of Muslims all Christians are infidels and vice versa. Both Muslims and Christians may pray to a merciful and compassionate God, but in defense of their "territory" they prefer to be merciless in their dealings with their fellow men who don’t share their prejudices and ignorance, which they call faith. Innocent until proven guilty may be a valid principle in some justice systems but not in religion.*ON PLAGIARISMWhen Garcia Marquez published ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE he was accused of plagiarizing Faulkner and Balzac. But he has himself admitted that his main source of inspiration wasthe first sentence of Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS. So what if he was also inspired or stimulated by many other writers including THE ARABIAN NIGHTS? There are two kinds of plagiarism: the petty larceny variant practiced by mediocrities, and the creative variant, the kind that all writers, including Shakespeare, practice.*WHAT’S YOUR RACKET?Even after 30 books and over a thousand articles, stories, and essays in periodicals and newspapers I hesitate to identify myself as a writer because more often than not I am asked: "How come I have never heard of you?" to which I am tempted to reply: "Next time you visit your public library check and see how many names you recognize besides Shakespeare’s and Hemingway’s?"*HIS RACKETI can’t imagine Mozart at the age of thirty saying: "I have composed enough. I am quitting." I have no doubt whatever in my mind that Mozart would have gone on composing even at the age of 80, very much like Verdi. Likewise, I can’t imagine God saying, "I have created the universe and enough is enough!" What if, even as I write these lines, God is busy creating other universes?*MORE OR RACKETSSpeaking with a forked tongue comes naturally to most lawyers, politicians, statesmen, religious leaders, businessmen, and so on. And the higher their position in the hierarchy the more transparent their double-talk. *ORIENTAL WISDOMTo avoid grief, conflict, misery and suffering, do nothing and be nobody. Or simply, imitate the dead. That’s what most Oriental wisdom boils down to. But since life is only an extremely tiny interval of light in the darkness of non-being, it should be as different from death as we can make it even if in the process we experience confusion and misery.*FROM MY NOTEBOOKSImagined places are not subject to weather conditions.*We all need critics. I have mine and you have yours; and if you say you have none, I say you have been very lucky so far but don’t expect your luck to hold forever, especially if you move within an Armenian environment.*A self-appointed commissar of culture may qualify as a potential murderer but not as a critic.*Why fight an enemy who is his own worst enemy?

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Monday, September 15, 2003

*******************************

INSPIRATION VERSUS STIMULATION

Inspiration is more like a chance visit

from up above somewhere. By contrast,

one can be stimulated by a line or a memory

as surely as an encounter or an overheard remark.

*

THE MIND OF MAN

Gather together ten or twenty of the greatest minds

in the world today --scientists, artists, composers –

and place among them a totally unknown young thing

with a pair of fabulous legs in nylons and ask yourself:

"Who or what would be the main focus

in this group portrait?"

Whoever said "The mind of man is the naked body of a woman,"

sure knew what he was saying.

*

GRUB FIRST

Since I speak in terms of common sense of decency

as opposed to complex Hegelian or mystical principles

I am astonished when sophisticated readers,

among them academics, contradict me

and they contradict me not because they disagree with me

but because they are not dependent on my goodwill

but on the goodwill of those I criticize.

Brecht is right: "Grub first then ethics."

*

HEMINGWAY AND SAROYAN

Rereading Hemingway’s Paris memoir, A MOVEABLE FEAST,

which I first read forty years ago.

Saroyan and Hemingway were rivals rather than friends

but in their dysfunctional private life, friendships,

and writing style (or search for simplicity),

they might as well be twins.

*

HEMINGWAY AND SIMENON

I note with pleasure that Hemingway was fond of Simenon too

though he doesn’t say why.

It is not easy to explain why Simenon

has fascinated so many readers.

The most revealing explanation that I have read

is that he is "Chekhovian." And to think that Chekhov

could never write a novel and Simenon

produced several hundred of them.

*

More translations from

Jules Renard’s JOURNALS

*******************************

I continue to live with the foolish hope that some day

I will receive a letter that will make me happy

for the rest of my life.

*

"When I started being unfaithful to my wife

I felt so guilty that I wanted to confess to her…

and I did by making a joke of it.

She didn’t believe me.

Now I cheat with a clear conscience."

*

A horse bursts out laughing in the night.

*

There can be nothing like a dictionary of medicine

to make you disgusted with life.

*

I have a horror of rhyme, especially in prose.

*

I am not one of those who think

there is nothing more mysterious than the soul of a young lady.

*

How can you expect a man who doesn’t raise his voice

to pass for a genius?

*

I am one of those free thinkers who wouldn’t mind

having a good parish priest as a friend.

*

Being deaf he makes nasty remarks

probably assuming no one can hear him.

*

The key in the keyhole on the outside door

does not mean you may enter

but don’t bother entering because there is nothing to take.

*

Happiness may be expressed with the first words

that come to mind. Tenderness requires

a more careful choice of vocabulary.

Serious words run the risk of sounding false.

Happy words do too but they don’t attract as much attention

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September 16, 2003

***********************************

HEMINGWAY AND CRITICISM

With the possible exception of Isak Dinesen and Simenon,

Hemingway was very critical of his contemporaries.

At one time or another he has denigrated

and even insulted Sinclair Lewis, William Saroyan,

William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein,

Michael Arlen, Norman Mailer, and

James Jones, among many others.

He has also said: "Criticism is s**t."

One could collect all his critical remarks

and publish them under the title HEMINGWAY'S S**T.

*

QUOTATIONS

In Pietro Kuciukian's travel impressions of the Middle East

I come across the following quotations:

According to Lord Byron: "Swear in Turkish,

negotiate in English, make love in French,

issue orders in German, sing in Italian,

pray in Armenian."

*

"Armenians are so nationalistic that

they are even willing to sacrifice Armenia

in the name of patriotism."

*

"An Armenian will hoodwink ten Jews

but two Armenians will be taken in by a single Jew."

*

"If an Armenian cannot write poetry

he will organize a new political party."

*

"Before you speak the truth

mount your horse."

*

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS

You start winning when you no longer care

whether you win or lose.

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Monday, September 22, 2003

*********************************

BEFORE AND AFTER

In a single day last week I aged twenty years.

Before my eye surgery,

when I was classified as "beyond legally blind,"

I saw the world through the eyes

of an impressionist painter (more Monet than Renoir).

I now see it through the eyes

of a Depression era photojournalist.

*

OVERHEARD

"A single wolf is a dog, a pack of wolves is a mafia."

*

"Suffering is a bad companion but an excellent teacher."

*

LITMUS TEST

How to recognize a Bolshevik?

If you say Stalinism and he says McCarthyism,

in the sense of six of one, half a dozen of the other,

even steven, tit for tat,

he is a Bolshevik and a good candidate

for a killer commissar who will gladly purge

not only his enemies but also friends.

To such a one the words dissent and death

might as well be synonymous.

*

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS

A Muslim scholar in Canada

has written a book critical of Islam

and now lives in fear of assassination.

*

Fanatics think with their intestines.

Their role models are people like Stalin and Saddam.

They are conditioned to be critical of others (which is easy),

never of themselves (which is harder).

*

You cannot engage in dialogue with cancer.

Cancer should be analyzed, understood, and if necessary,

surgically removed, because that is the only way

to obstruct its path of destruction.

*

Never complain to someone

who may have more problems than you.

Instead of sympathy you may get contempt and ridicule.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

************************************

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS

*******************************

"We prefer to promote our own,"

one of our partisan leaders is quoted as having said.

And what happens on the day

they run out of them – as they appear to be today?

Do they lament or do they congratulate themselves

for successfully eliminating the intellectual class?

*

Once, recently, when I said something to the effect

that our treatment of writers

has been worthy of barbarians,

it was the barbarians who were eager to prove me right

by hurling insults at me and in general

behaving like hoodlums on the warpath – as if

that was the only way they knew

how to prove me wrong.

*

"For a smart man you can be very naïve!"

a trial lawyer, who is also a good friend, tells me.

I don’t know about smart

but I am worse than naïve

when I get emotionally involved.

Emotion reduces a complex reality

into a one-dimensional extension of ourselves.

Emotion, writes Sartre somewhere,

attempts to change the world by means of magic.

What could be more primitive?

*

The most beautiful spectacle I have ever beheld

was a sunrise from a seventh story hospital window;

and to think that the purpose of a sunrise

is not to provide man with beauty.

*

To any objective observer

our underdog status is a direct result

of "a house divided against itself."

And yet, our dividers continue to enjoy community support

and those who call them gravediggers

are ignored, vilified, silenced, and starved.

*

Men feel about women

the way prisoners feel about freedom.

But as every free man knows,

freedom has walls of its own

and sometimes many more than a prison.

*

Overheard: "Too good is no good."

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Mr. Baliozian

Did you ever think about relocation to Armenia about which you write so much? Would you every love to move to your mother country?

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Friday, September 26, 2003

**********************************

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS

*****************************

No one can be as catastrophically wrong

as one who thinks the truth is one

and he is its voice.

*

You may have noticed that

enemies of the U.S. appear to know more about the U.S.

than the average American.

Something similar could be said

of anti-Semites and racists in general.

If only these gentlemen knew as much

about the evils of totalitarianism, anti-Semitism and racism.

*

And isn’t it strange that

the very same people who criticize the U.S.

for its support of corrupt dictators

in Latin America and elsewhere,

are also ardent supporters of murderous thugs like Saddam?

*

We have this in common with the Arabs:

we are conditioned to ascribe most of our own failings

on the West, with one difference:

their enemy number one is Israel, ours is Turkey.

*

The Middle East has produced many more neurotics

than the Oedipus complex. On the day this becomes evident,

psychiatrists will have a new market.

*

Mullahs promise 73 virgins to horny teenagers on the warpath.

What do they promise to virgins?

A hundred gigolos?

*

Hatred of injustice should not be confused

with love of justice, especially in an environment

where there is more hatred than love.

*

One cannot speak of vision

where "the blind leads the blind."

*

I am attacked by our hooligans

and ignored by our academics because

I recycle the central message of Khorenatsi,

Yeghishe, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, Zarian,

Shahnour, and Massikian among others,

as opposed to promoting hooliganism,

pseudo-medievalism and dead-end massacrism.

*

Intolerance is born of insecurity.

Intolerance means fear of doubt and dread of exposure.

It might as well be synonymous with cowardice.

*

From the atomic structure of things to distant galaxies:

we all agree that there is an organizing principle

at work in the universe.

What we don’t agree on is

the goal of this organizing principle.

We cannot even explain why things exist.

As for the existentialist credo that life is absurd:

Is it conceivable for an organizing principle

to be subservient to its own contradiction?

*

The most interesting man in the world

is a bore to himself. Hence the old Armenian saying:

"Marte martov g’ella."

A man is made [whole] by another.

*

Criticism and death wish are mutually exclusive.

A critic who is driven by hatred

undermines the validity of his criticism.

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Mr. Baliozian

Did you ever think about relocation to Armenia about which you write so much? Would you every love to move to your mother country?

i know enough about my beloved homeland

and the manner in which it has treated its writers

to want to set foot there. / ara baliozian

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Saturday, September 27, 2003

********************************

ON JUSTICE

The very same people who accuse me

of exposing our dirty linen in public

run to an odar lawyer

whenever they have a grievance

against a fellow Armenian;

and once, when I proposed an internal justice system

to deal with such grievances

I was met with apathy, silence and even ridicule.

Why is it that those who demand our trust

do not trust one another’s sense

of fair play, judgment and justice,?

*

ON SHAMANISM

We were raised without the benefit

of Freud and Spock, granted;

and I am even willing to concede that

our ignorant, hidebound and disoriented parents

(disoriented by war, massacre, deportation,

exile and destitution) could have done a better job.

And yet, I shall always be grateful to them

for not conspiring with some hack or shaman

to make of us charlatans and frauds.

*

TWO SHAMANS

I respect both Marx and Freud

as pioneers in their respective field of inquiry,

but consider their differences:

Marx would have accused Freud

of using a pseudo-science of his own fabrication

to adjust the individual to an unjust,

dehumanized and essentially evil social order.

In his turn, Freud would have accused Marx

of Jewish messianism and a total inability to predict

the consequences of his own theories

which were fated to be far more dangerous,

lethal, and evil than those of capitalism.

And the irony is that both would be right.

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Monday, September 29, 2003

********************************

There are advantages in living

in a boring little town in the middle of nowhere –

no distractions and only two or three distant friends

who keep their distance and who

after a while may even forget

to check if you are dead or alive.

*

To those of my gentle readers

who are eager to inform me

that I am a failure as a writer, I say:

I prefer to think of myself

as one who has had three bad decades –

which is something that can happen

to the best of us.

We as a nation have suffered six bad centuries

(or sixty decades) under the Turks

and seven worse decades and under the Bolsheviks:

Who among us will dare to suggest

that we are confirmed failures

and no effort on our part will have any effect

on our jagadakir (that which is written on our forehead)?

*

If blunders don’t lead to wisdom

they will be repeated until the final catastrophe.

There you have it: our history in a nutshell.

*

The impressions of Armenian tourists in Armenia

remind me of the old Indian fable

of the three blind men trying to describe an elephant.

"An elephant looks like a rope,"

says the first after touching its tail.

"Like a tree," says the second

after touching one of its feet.

"Like a snake," says the third

after touching its trunk.

Speaking for myself:

I have heard and read enough to keep my distance

and I can only repeat what an Irish writer said of Ireland:

"It’s a good place to die";

and to paraphrase the famous last words

of a 17th-century French philosopher:

"I should like to see the last corrupt politician

strangled with the guts of the last corrupt policeman."

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

********************************

Writes Hazlitt in one of his essays:

"The least pain in our little finger

gives more concern and uneasiness

than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings."

There you have it: human nature in all its glory.

Swine are better than us

if only because they don’t brag

about their non-existent moral superiority.

If only our revolutionaries at the turn of the century

had read Hazlitt!

*

Pity the nation whose leaders and educators

would be exposed as frauds and dupes

in an enlightened democracy.

*

Increasingly now I cannot help noticing that

our pundits and commentators write more

about Turks than Armenians

and when they write about Armenians

it is more often than not

about Saroyan, Khachaturian,

or some other contemporary semi-celebrity

who is making a name for himself in odar circles.

*

All arguments boil down to the assertion:

I am better or wiser or more patriotic.

Question: Who feels the need to make such assertions?

My guess is: Fools and dupes who cannot tell the difference

between patriotism and treason.

*

Growing up means acquiring an enhanced awareness

of the reality of others.

But no matter how intensely aware we become of them,

they are destined to remain second-class citizens

in our consciousness unless we artificially exaggerate

their importance to the same degree

that we diminish our own.

*

I have been exposed to too much Armenian crap

to be tolerant of Armenian nonsense.

*

Making yourself inaccessible to the enemy

is also a victory.

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Friday, October 03, 2003

*****************************

If some day we produce an objective historian

he will have to conclude that

alienated and assimilated Armenians

(beginning with the imperial dynasties of Byzantium)

made more contributions to mankind

than so-called authentic Armenians.

The question we should ask at this point is:

What is it about our environment

that infects us with mediocrity?

*

An Armenian tends to think that

just because he is an Armenian

he is also an expert on Armenian affairs

beginning with the Genocide.

But I suggest anyone who knows only

one side of a story, any story,

cannot qualify as an expert.

And to be the dupe of propaganda

is worst than a little knowledge,

which we are told is a dangerous thing.

*

Some of the most inane assertions I have heard

were made by Armenians about Armenians.

Which may suggest that if we are smart,

it is only in the market place.

Anywhere else we might as well be babes in the woods.

*

If you believe in an ideology, religion

or any closed system of thought,

read its critics and dissidents, not its propagandists,

because propaganda has this in common with serial killers:

it will invariably plead not guilty.

*

A headline in our local paper today:

AFTER ADMITTING TO KILLING HIS SIX CHILDREN

HANDEL PLEADS NOT GUILTY.

*

The approval and support of a writer

by a political party is as good as a kiss of death.

*

What legitimizes and perpetuates divisions

in a nation or community is not

enlightened self-interest or common sense

but tribal instinct for feud and vendetta

that every generation passes on to the next.

*

Blood may well be thicker than water

but common sense goes farther than chauvinist crapola

and common decency is superior to mumbo jumbo.

*

Here are some aphorisms by Antonio Porchia (1886-1968),

an Argentine writer of Italian descent

who appears to know all about us:

*

"Truth has very few friends and those few

are suicides."

*

"A door opens to me. I go in and am faced

with a hundred closed doors."

*

"You think you are killing me.

I think you are committing suicide."

*

"Some things become so completely our own

that we forget them."

*

"They will say that you are on the wrong road,

if it is your own."

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Saturday, October 04, 2003

******************************

In Turkey we were classified us "Christian Turks"

in the hope that if they stopped calling us Armenian

we may forget our identity.

In Russia we were ridiculed as "cowardly"

probably because we refused to die in someone else’s war.

In Italy we acquired the reputation of cunning merchants

because Italians dealt only with Levantine merchants

and not with hard-working farmers and craftsmen

of the mainland.

In France we were described as "filthy"

because in Shahnour’s words "destitution stinks."

In Greece we were dismissed as "Turkish gypsies"

because as refugees from Ottoman atrocities

we lived in a ghetto that looked like a gypsy encampment.

And if you think the odar world has been rough on us,

consider what repatriated Armenians were called

by the natives: "akhber" – an obvious pun

on the word garbage.

As Americans are fond of saying:

"Everyone has an angle."

And we ain’t no exception.

*

Almost every other Armenian I meet

has no intention of dedicating his life

to literature but would like to acquire the reputation

of one who could have been a great poet,

author or even intellectual-statesman

but preferred to sacrifice his genius

by serving the people in more tangible ways,

such as selling Oriental rugs,

making a pile, and sharing a few crumbs

with the needy – provided this fact is broadcast

to the whole wide world.

*

There will always be questions we cannot answer

and corners in our psyche that will remain inaccessible.

It is the darkness in these inaccessible places within us

that religions and ideologies exploit.

*

TV violence is bad, yes;

but far more dangerous is a belief system

that promotes prejudice.

There was no TV violence in the Ottoman Empire

and Nazi Germany, and yet, millions of innocent human beings

were slaughtered in cold blood.

*

When I was my own worst enemy,

I didn’t know it.

*

I like this expression by Beckett:

"like a caged beast born of caged beasts."

*

Reconciling self-interest with noble altruistic principles

is not easy but that doesn’t stop anyone from practicing it.

*

Whenever I dismiss one of our notorious Soviet-era brown-nosers,

I am asked: "What would you have done in his [or her] place?"

Here is a good answer by the 18th-century French philosopher

Joseph de Maistre: "I don’t know

what the life of a rogue can be like,

since I have never been one,

but the life of an honest man is abominable."

*

You cannot reason with insanity,

you cannot compromise with charlatans,

you cannot communicate with trash,

and you cannot love those who promote

prejudice, hate, war and massacre.

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Monday, October 06, 2003

********************************

Going places and meeting people

I consider activities that belong to

the showbiz department of life.

I prefer my solitude and the company of trees.

*

A charming man does not waste his charm

on someone he considers useless to him.

*

Speaking of a writer we were about to meet,

a friend of mine once warned me:

"Be careful of what you say in his presence:

he may write about it."

That friend as well as his friends

are no longer friends of mine.

*

I am clumsy with tools.

Whenever I try to fix something around the house

I end up doing more damage.

Once when I tried to nail a framed picture on the wall,

I damaged the wall,

shattered the glass in the frame,

hurt my thumb,

separated the hammerhead from its shaft,

and bent the nail.

Now, whenever they see me with a hammer in my hand,

members of my family scatter in panic.

Which is exactly how I feel too

whenever one of our leaders pretends to have found

the solution to all our problems.

*

I question the validity of using our victims

as proof of moral superiority.

If anything, they are proof of our incompetence

and ignorance of history.

What could be more morally reprehensible

than using someone else’s heroism

to cover up our cowardice or

someone else’s generosity of spirit

to justify our pusillanimity?

*

When you visit a doctor

and he finds something wrong with you,

you don’t say: There is nothing wrong with me

and he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

And yet, this is what I am told

whenever I point out a contradiction in our thinking.

All nations are torn by internal conflicts, I am told.

All political leaders are clowns.

All religious leaders engage in double-talk

and promote intolerance against anyone

who refuses to accept their authority.

In short: there is absolutely nothing wrong with us,

we are God’s chosen people and

we sit at the His right hand.

But if there is a message in our history

of defeats, catastrophes, and tragedies, it is this:

We are at the mercy of arrogant and corrupt nonentities,

we are not God’s chosen people,

and if we sit anywhere it is at the edge of the abyss.

*

I feel guilty even when innocent.

All it takes is an accusation.

I feel guilty if only for appearing guilty

in the eyes of another; and

I feel guilty because I have experienced

the kind of white-heat rage during which

I could have committed the most unspeakable crimes.

In a way I understand the Turks.

What I refuse to understand is

the shameless impudence of our leaders

who plead not guilty on the grounds that

they believed the West would never allow the Turks

to massacre Armenians.

*

Does religion civilize?

Before you answer that question,

consider the history of organized religions

and the barbarism of religious fanatics.

*

Following the example of Socrates,

Chekhov compared his role as critic to that of a horsefly.

To be a horsefly, you need a horse’s ass.

All I have at my disposal is horse manure.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

*********************************

My mother likes talking to her flowers

and I don’t mean small talk

but such things as recent developments in the Middle East;

and judging by the way they thrive,

I am now convinced they are very much interested

in everything she says.

My mother has better luck with her plants

than I have with my readers.

*

How many Armenian dissidents

did the Armenian diaspora support during the Soviet era?

Case in point: a high-ranking member of the AGBU

(also known as KGBU at the time) once told me:

"Paradjanov is a syphilitic homosexual and black marketeer.

They should have locked him up

and thrown away the key a long time ago."

With such friends, who needs Talaat and Stalin?

*

All I ask from writers, even the very best among them,

is the occasional good book

and if that’s asking too much,

the occasional good line that may illuminate

a dark corner of the human psyche.

I find it incomprehensible therefore whenever

one of my readers asks more than that from me,

and I can’t help speculating that

if I were to deliver more,

his opinion of me would sink even lower.

*

Human rights has never been

a central issue in our media.

The only time I remember to have read

an editorial on freedom of speech was when

President Levon Der Bedrossian

banned an ARF newspaper in Yerevan.

*

To say it will take one or more generations

for things to change is to abdicate our responsibility

to do what must be done today.

Because if anything changes

it will have to begin here and now.

Which is why I assert, nothing will change

until the day one of our bosses or bishops states:

"I shall resign for the sake of solidarity."

These gentlemen (if you will forgive the overstatement)

cling to power for as long as they can

by demonizing the opposition

and they compound the felony

by trying to project the image of

selfless and patriotic servants of the nation.

*

When two Canadians soldiers died in Afghanistan last week,

there was a veritable avalanche of commentaries,

editorials and letters to the editor

blaming the Canadian government for

(a) getting involved in foreign wars,

and (b) for not equipping the Canadian army adequately enough.

And for everyone who adopted a critical stance

towards Bush and the Taliban,

there were those who defended them.

And now, compare our attitude

towards our million and a half.

How many of our so-called pundits

who fuel our Genocide industry

would dare to say anything remotely critical

of our political leadership?

On the contrary, they are unanimous in placing the blame

squarely on the Turks and the West thus implying

the conduct of our own leaders

was beyond reproach and criticism.

*

If every writer took an oath

not to be subservient to any political party

or power structure,

I suspect the number of our writers and scholars

would dwindle to almost zero.

*

There is nothing wrong in hating your enemy

so long as you also learn from him.

*

The smaller the country

the bigger the spiel.

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

*******************************

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unspeakable crimes

against humanity, yes, certainly.

But let us consider the context:

Japanese militarism, fascism, fanaticism,

imperial ambitions and atrocities in Asia during World War II:

in what way were they manifestations of moral superiority?

The same applies to Muslim fanatics.

The only reason so far they have not incinerated

New York City and Washington and every civilian in it

is that they lack the means and not the ruthless disposition.

To be politically correct, they are technologically challenged.

And as far as I know, no one, not even a certified moron,

would dare to suggest that being backward

is an unmistakable symptom of moral superiority.

*

Dupes proceed on the assumption that

they are as smart as they come,

and based on that illusion

they resent anyone who exposes them as suckers.

"How dare you suggest you are smarter than I am?"

they seem to be saying.

*

Armenian saying: "With the hands of odars

you can harvest only thorns."

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Saturday

*****************

The problem with ascribing all our

problems, defeats, tragedies and

catastrophes on outside agencies is that

this allows us to adopt a passive stance,

to do nothing,

to be dependent on the goodwill of others --

including those who may or may not be

favorably disposed towards us -- in short:

to surrender our destiny as a nation into

foreign hands, which, according to an old Armenian saying,

"will harvest nothing but thorns."

The common sense of our peasants

contains more wisdom than the calculations

of our self-assessed cunning political leaders.

*

As i write i also read what i write

through the eyes of an unfriendly critic

who understands everything i say

but does not always agree

with the manner in which i say it.

*

If you want to appear intelligent,

do not utter inanities.

If you want to appear civilized,

do not engage in hooliganism.

If you want to pontificate in the name

of Armenia or Armenianism,

refrain from sounding like a bloodthirsty Turk

on the warpath.

*

Only single-digit morons

brag about their IQs.

As a rule, we brag about things we lack,

so that you can tell a man's deficiencies and needs

by what he brags about.

My ancestors were heroes!

They were nothing of the kind

and if they were were,

they couldn't have been his ancestors.

If present-day Greeks share anything in common

with their illustrious ancestors of ancient Greece,

it is not with the likes of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

but with those who persecuted them.

What about us?

What do we share with the likes of

Abovian, Baronian and Zarian?

Nothing!

With those who persecuted, betrayed and silenced them?

Everything!

*

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Monday

*****************

Our reality is so complex

and the result of so many blunders,

miscalculations and contradictions that

it is impossible to make a general statement

without sounding like a simpleton.

To an Armenian who says:

"Armenians are tolerant," I ask:

"How tolerant are you towards anyone

who says Armenians are intolerant?"

To an Armenian who says

"Armenians are smart," I ask:

"How smart can an Armenian be who says he is

tolerant only of those who are

in complete agreement with him?"

*

Criticize the U.S. and Israel all you want --

nothing wrong in that.

Everyone does it, including Americans and Jews.

But there is everything wrong in recycling

Soviet-style anti-Americanism

and Nazi-style anti-Semitism.

This type of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism,

in addition to being anachronistic,

it is politically bankrupt, morally reprehensible,

and ultimately self-defeating.

*

"You are telling us the emperor has not clothes!"

No, i am also saying, the emperor is not an emperor

but an impostor who has been unmasked again and again

but for reasons beyond human comprehension

continues to enjoy the loyalty of a small

and non-representative fraction of the people.

*

Nothing can be more optimistic and naive

than to rely on the common sense and enlightened self-interest

of your fellow men.

*

To go down into the gutter with your adversary

is almost to agree with him -- if not with his words

than with his way of life.

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October 15, 2003

*******************************

We have had so much history rammed down our throats

that we haven't yet had a chance to digest it.

We are a nation suffering from chronic constipation.

*

A civilization in the making

is also a rejection of all previous civilizations.

The Greeks rejected the personality cult

and the apotheosis of death

on which the civilization of Egypt was based.

But the Greeks also rejected some of their ablest men

without whom Greek civilization would be an oxymoron.

Which amounts to saying:

there is an element of barbarism in all civilizations.

*

Perhaps the Good Lord in His infinite wisdom

gave us old age to remind us that

being physically desirable is not the sole aim in life.

*

In their infinite cunning and our unlimited gullibility,

our leaders call us smart before they exploit our credulity.

*

The unspoken platform of our leadership:

To do that which should be left undone

(to claim historic Armenia -- remember:

Columbus discovered America 500 years ago,

and the Turks conquered Armenia 600 years ago),

and to undo that which was done

(to unite the nation after the divide-and-rule tactics

of our former rulers and masters).

*

My country right or wrong and

myself right or wrong might as well be synonymous.

*

How to win an Armenian argument?

If you cannot dismiss your opponent's words as irrelevant,

question his integrity.

*

More often than not "I am right, you are wrong," means:

My self-interest or ego is more important than yours.

*

Until very recently, we, Armenians of the diaspora,

were not allowed to know the identity of our political leaders;

and now that they know them,

we understand why they prefer to remain anonymous.

*

An Armenian writer on his 50th birthday once told me:

"If i am ever asked what has been

my most important contribution to Armenian literature,

i will say, I have survived.

There are not too many Armenians writers

who could have made that boast."

*

Political platforms, advertisements, public relations:

they are all designed to promise more than they can deliver;

and whenever they can get away with it,

to promise everything and delivering nothing,

and sometimes even less than nothing:

like cigarette commercials that promise sex appeal

and deliver cancer; and closer to home:

our own revolutionaries at the turn of the cenbtury ]

who promised a free and independent homeland

and delivered massacre; or as the old proverb has it

"They went out for wool and came home shorn."

*

Our situation is unique?

Our problems are complex?

No, they are nothing of the kind

if they can be condensed in slogans,

expressed in cliches,

and analyzed by anonymous proverbs.

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Oct. 17, 2003

******************************

MEMO TO OUR EDITORS

Burning books,

burning men,

Nazi concentration camps,

Soviet Gulags:

they all begin with censorship.

*

It is impossible to struggle against the certainty of ignorance

with the doubts of knowledge.

*

On the origin of the universe:

was it an accident?

was it by design?

was it designed to look like an accident?

*

What is the use of rising from the ashes

only to sink in the mire?

*

Since everyone wants wealth and power,

those who have both will support a religion

that says poverty and subversience are virtues

that will be rewarded in an afterlife.

Likewise, what our revolutionaries support today

is quintessentially unrevolutionary

(namely, obedience to authority):

that's because regardless of what they preach and promote,

all power structures share

the same unspoken values and principles.

*

Armenians and their perennial demands

of Genocide recognition and territorial claims

are like sheep preaching vegetarianism

in a world run by wolves.

*

"The problem with us is that we have no role models,"

one of our pundits once informed me.

I would amend that statement to:

"Having rejected all role models,

we are left with none."

*

If they have donkeys as leaders,

the smartest people on earth

will be defeated by the dumbest.

*

The greatest obstacle to progress

is the sensible man who says:

"You cannot change human nature.

Nobody listens. Nobody gives a damn.

You are wasting your time."

*

So what if i am not a popular writer

and through my writings

i have made more enemies than friends?

The biography of the greatest philosopher

will have fewer readers today

than the autobiography of a common harlot.

And with some audiences,

Barabbas will be more popular than Jesus.

*

If Judas had written his memoirs,

i suspect it would have been a perennial best-seller in Armenia.

*

To believe means to believe in one thing

and to reject a thousand other belief systems.

The believer is the true skeptic.

*

If you review the history of faith

you may notice that people have believed in all kinds of nonsense.

*

"We don't need critics,"

is the first half of a sentence, the other half being:

"We can go to the devil on our own."

*

Sacred cows make delicious shish kebab.

*

On more than one occasion I have been criticized as a critic on the grounds that criticism is a waste of time.

*

What is the difference between kibitzers and critics? A kibitizer's central concern is one-upmanship. A critic's central concern is exposing contradictions and charlatans.

*

Armenians in the Hemshin region on the Black Sea coast within the Ottoman Empire converted to Islam and survived the massacres. Armenian intellectuals of the Soviet era converted to atheism and were slaughtered in successive purges.

What is the difference between religion and ideology? Or, more specifically, between Islam and Communism?

The first speaks in the name of a "merciful and compassionate Allah," the second in the name of the brotherhood of all men. But both are used by power-hungry men as instruments of deception and when power speaks, God and ideals are silenced, and power has only one message: "Challenge me and you die!"

*

Only when your situation is hopeless will an Armenian wish you good luck.

*

The vulgar man knows that the most effective argument against good sense is hooliganism.

*

The Romans knew that the most fail-safe method to be masters of a tribal environment was to support one tribe against another and let them handle the rough stuff. Countless defeats, catastrophes and tragedies have not yet taught us the value of presenting a united front to the enemy. What are the chances that some day in the next two millennia our leadership will see the light?

*

A prayer: "If I am ever reincarnated as an Armenian, please God bless me with a thick skin even if it means being reincarnated as a crocodile."

*

Ever since one of our most celebrated writers of the Diaspora wrote a book about a moneyed nonentity in exchange of thirty silver pieces, I have trouble explaining even to my friends that I'd rather translate a writer I respect for nothing than a mediocrity for money.

*

American proverb: "The more arguments you win, the less friends you will have." Likewise, the more prejudices you expose….

*

One should not speak of music with a tone-deaf person, or of art with a blind man, or of feet with a cripple, or of honesty with an Armenian.

*

Separate an Armenian from Armenians and you may have a decent Frenchman, a charming Italian, a dashing Spaniard, even a civilized Turk; but leave him among Armenians and he will grow horns, hooves and the tail of a scorpion.

*

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

*********************************

If kings can be beheaded, czars executed, dictators driven to suicide or hanged, and sultans forced into abdication, can anyone in a leadership position feel invulnerable?

*

If the written word is powerless to change things, why is it that Talaat and Stalin slaughtered our intellectual class? My guess is, they knew something our philistines do not: namely,

Everything begins and ends in the convolutions of the brain.

*

To those who say the deeds of our bosses, bishops and benefactors are more important than the words of our writers because actions speak louder than words, I ask: Who has been more influential in the history of mankind: Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus or Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Napoleon?

*

Our own history is lousy with men of action (emperors, kings, princes and nakharars): what have they done except to tribalize, divide, and demoralize the nation, and preside over its disintegration and death of a thousand cuts? And more to the point: What have our present-day bosses, bishops and benefactors learned from them except to repeat their blunders?

*

To be a millionaire means to live with the constant suspicion that your friends love your money more than they love you, and even those who really love you may prefer you dead than alive. This much said, however, I am not foolish enough to believe that the poor are better off, and if I had a choice I'd rather be a friendless millionaire than a popular pauper.

*

To all those who at one time or another have insulted or attempted to silence me, I say: I don't know who you are and I don't care to know.

But I do know this much: where you come from, writers were betrayed to the enemy and slaughtered like sheep. You may now choose on whose side you prefer to be.

*

It is true, not being a miracle worker I cannot change things but I can always live with the hope that some day I may succeed being the source of insomnia to at least one of our charlatans even if the insomnia lasts a fraction of a second.

*

Words have different meanings to different people. Consider the word patriotism as a case in point. To some it is a noble sentiment; to me it is the source of all wars and massacres; and to say my patriotism is good but my enemy's patriotism is bad is an oxymoron worthy of a moron.

*

I write about what I think and feel based on what I have seen and experienced. If your thoughts run in a different direction it may be because you base them on your own experiences which are different from mine. I don't see why I should base my thoughts on your experiences and vice versa. Finally, I write the way I write because no one is paying me to lie.

*

On the one hand you have those who say literature is irrelevant and critics useless, and on the other you have readers who are so outraged by what you write that they would gladly dance on your grave.

*

I harbor a special kind of contempt towards individuals who think just because they are members of a party or organization or gang, they are in a position to bully with impunity solitary outsiders.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

****************************

To those of my readers who are outraged by what I write, I say: You, my friend, have a serious problem. But you are in luck because I have its solution: Stop reading me.

*

Bullies may be a tiny minority but they have prospered throughout history and continue to do so today because "Among ten men nine are sure to be women" (Turkish proverb), and (to paraphrase FDR), if man has nothing to fear, he will fear fear itself.

*

Marx saw more clearly than anyone else the evils of capitalism but was completely blind to the potential evils in communism. We Armenians knew all about the Turks, but we were completely ignorant of the West and we were thus easily taken in by its double talk. Which may suggest that nothing can be as dangerous as arrogance based on knowledge; and since there is no such thing as unlimited knowledge, all knowledge is bound to be limited and thefore, "little knowledge."

*

In our environment the fools speak, shout, sing, speechify and sermonize and the wise are silent.

*

I would like to meet an Armenian who is not intoxicated on himself or some obsolete ideology.

*

The only time what you say offends no one is when you say nothing.

*

The aim of education is not to deceive but to expose deceivers. Pity the nation whose educators are dupes.

*

Some people are interested in politics the way a fox is interested in hens.

*

Many years ago two prominent Armenians told me: "Scratch an Armenian and find a Turk." I have been told many other things but wiser men than myself but I have forgotten most of them. I remember this one because every day I see proofs of it.

*

It took us 600 years to be ottomanized. I am beginning to suspect it may take us 6000 years to be re-armenianized.

*

To some, life is an open road, to others a dead-end, to still others a vicious circle.

*

There is no such thing as an innocent dupe. Charlatanism prospers because of the active support of dupes.

*

What kinds of people get repeatedly massacred? The kind who are naïve enough to believe they can go on provoking a mad dog or a wounded tiger with impunity.

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