The Istanbulite


I've found myself haunted by this self observation by Franz Kafka:

“I am free and that is why I am lost.”

Being free as a concept promises us the chance to chart our own course, yet Kafka cautions that this very promise can become a labyrinth of indecision.

Is freedom really liberating if it’s also disorienting?

In essence, the abundance of choices can paralyse us, making us feel confined rather than liberated.

How do we navigate a world that seems both limitless and confining?

This reminded me of this quote by Jean-Paul Sartre:

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

Here, Sartre confronts us with the weightiness of freedom. It’s not just about the choices we make, but also about living with the outcomes.

How do we find a balance between the intoxicating allure of endless possibilities and the sobering responsibility of making choices?

Most importantly, can we ever find a way to not just be lost in freedom but to carve out a meaningful path within it?

The challenge, then, lies in understanding that freedom is not a one-dimensional concept; it’s a layered experience demanding both awareness and responsibility.

And perhaps, in accepting the inherent complexities of it, we may find a way to not just be lost in freedom, but to find ourselves within it.

#ReflectiveReading #NatureOfBeingFree

There's a powerful excerpt from “Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabokov, a brilliant writer who is more known for “Lolita,” but his other works are sometimes overshadowed:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

In this opening to his poem within the novel, Nabokov captures the nature of reality and the tragic consequences of misconception.

The waxwing sees the sky in a window and, thinking it real, fatally crashes into it.

This can be interpreted as a reflection on the consequences of misunderstanding or being misled and how life's “unfairness” can sometimes be a result of our perceptions.

Often, what we perceive as injustices can be traced back to misconceptions or false beliefs:

The window, in its essence, isn't malicious or deceitful; it simply reflects the world around it.

The bird's tragic collision with the window isn't a result of the window's intent to harm but rather a consequence of its inherent reflective property and the bird's misinterpretation of that reflection.

This can be extended as a metaphor to many experiences in life:

What might seem as acts of unfairness or malignance may often be neutral events that arise due to the inherent nature of things, and the tribulation results from our perception, interpretation, or reaction to them.

The liability then lies on us to understand and navigate the world with awareness and discernment, recognising that what may appear as one thing might be something else entirely.

How often do we mistake the reflection for the real, and how might our lives change if we learned to see beyond the surface?

#ReflectiveReading #RealityCheck #IllusionOfPerception

Murakami writes:

“It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.”

I read:

Our ability to imagine shapes our reality, and with this creative power comes a profound responsibility to both confront and construct the world we inhabit.

We are the architects of our own destinies and the arbiters of our own perceptions.


I felt really drawn to this passage while reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers:

“People see better what looks like them... They think the thoughts they’re already comfortable with. They give themselves the pleasure of their own soft, agreeable confirmations. Confirmation bias. It’s why people learn little from others. They’re dying to be told what they already know. Given a choice between their world and someone else’s, they pick their own. Why would anyone pick a strange world when you could pick a familiar one?”

In this passage, Powers delves deep into the human propensity for choosing the comfortable and familiar over the unknown and different. The passage dissects the tendency to favour information that validates one’s existing beliefs and perceptions, shutting out differing perspectives and ideas. It highlights a fundamental aspect of human nature, the search for affirmation and the avoidance of the unfamiliar, and challenges us to recognise this bias within ourselves, inviting us to venture beyond our comfort zones and embrace the unfamiliar, to learn and grow through the exploration of “strange worlds.”

The message within these lines is a contemplation on openness, learning, and the willingness to see the world through myriad lenses other than one’s own.

This reminds me of a passage by Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World”:

“But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

It conveys a desire for experiences and knowledge that lie beyond our comfort zones and familiar territories, resonating with Powers' observation about our propensity to prefer affirmation over challenging encounters with the unknown.

Both excerpts compel us to contemplate our inherent biases and the comfort of the known, challenging us to venture into the diverse and profound realms of existence and understanding, to break free from the cocoon of our preconceptions and to embrace the richness of the unfamiliar world around us.

I've found myself pondering...

How often do we truly challenge the foundations of our beliefs and step willingly into the disquiet of the unknown?

Do we dare to unravel the threads of our ingrained perceptions and weave them anew, allowing the unexplored and the unfamiliar to reshape our understanding of the world and our place in it?

Can delving into the discomfort of unfamiliar territories enrich our spirits more than the warm embrace of the known ever could?

#CognitiveBias #BeyondComfort #ReflectiveReading