Heidegger and Cemeteries

heidegger cemeteries

We have forgotten to notice we’re alive.

We know it in theory, of course, but we aren’t really in touch with the sheer mystery of existence, the mystery of what Heidegger called ‘das Sein’ or ‘Being’.

Martin Heidegger was a 20th Century German philosopher, following a lecture, in 1961, Heidegger was asked how we might recover authenticity, he replied that we should simply aim to spend more time ‘in graveyards’.

I used to have a student who lived near Vake Cemetery and if I arrived early, I would wander about the cemetery, taking photos and reflecting on my own mortality. Georgian graveyards are different to British graveyards, many of the gravestones have photos etched into the stone of the deceased person. Many of the deceased lived for less time than I have.

Heidegger cemeteries 2
She died young

At 53, I am acutely aware that I am nearer death than birth (I won’t live to 107+). Heidegger like Kafka and Murakami highlighted  the uncanny strangeness of everything, wondering why things exist as they do.

For Heidegger, the modern world is an infernal machine dedicated to distracting us from the basic wondrous nature of Being. It overwhelms us with information, it kills silence, it distracts us– partly because realising the mystery of Being has its frightening dimensions. What we’re really running away from is a confrontation with ‘das Nichts’ (The Nothing), which lies on the other side of Being.

heidegger cemeteries 3.JPG

The Nothing is everywhere, it stalks us and it will swallow us up eventually, it’s only when we realise that other people cannot save us from ‘das Nichts’ that we’re likely to stop living for them; to stop worrying so much about what others think.

Two years ago, my mother died, I posted about the experience at the time: Between Funerals. When our parents die, we realise we’ll probably be next. Sometimes I believe in an afterlife, sometimes I think there is just nothing. Wandering around a cemetery, I realise I am alive but at any moment such being may cease.

Jikia Cemetery

Book Review “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle

A Year in Provence

This is a famous book, it tells of an Englishman who fell in love with Provence and moved to a small village in Luberon. As the title suggests; the book covers a year from January to December.

The Luberon sounded different in spring. Birds who had been ducking all winter came out of hiding now the hunters were gone, and their song replaced gunfire.

Mayle moved to France in the late eighties. The book is a drily amusing look at getting an old farmhouse renovated, when the French workers have a “mañanamañana” attitude, a sharp contrast to the anglo-saxon work ethic. Each month has its own essence, the cold Mistral blows through the pages, making its presence felt, especially in the winter and spring months. The locals are colourfully painted with their tall tales of how to cook fox. The book will appeal to foodies with Provençal dishes lovingly described from the aperitif to make a trou (hole) in the stomach, to the last sliver of bread to mop up the  dregs of olive oil at the end.

The whining about the slow pace of the renovations, I found a little tedious and I’m no gastronome. If I want culinary inspiration, I go to the YouTube channel Laura in the Kitchen, where a personable Italian-American shows how to make delicious food simply and quickly.

My six years in France (1991 to 1997) were spent mostly in Brie (just east of Paris) with the final six months in Corsica, which was heavenly if you didn’t have to work for a living. Unlike Peter Mayle, I was in no position to play Lord of the Manor, I had no minions working in my vineyard. The book was a bestseller and inspired many affluent middle class Brits to invest in French property.

My rating : three out of five


Book Review “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore

“It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”

This is a strange and at times surreal story. We have two parallel stories running on alternate chapters. In one the protagonist is Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old runaway who seeks a kind of sanctuary in a private library, where he meets the friendly Oshima, who is not what he seems and the more aloof Miss Saeki. In the other plotline we meet Nakata, a simple old man who can talk to cats, as a child he was victim of an incident on a mushroom foraging trip, after which he lost the ability to read. The two plotlines don’t converge until the last quarter of the novel. The characters in the book are fascinating and strange. There are elements of magic realism with ghosts and leeches and sardines raining down from the sky. Murakami is an afficionado of Western Culture and tells us much about Haydn and Beethoven, for example, as the story unravels.

The book has many riddles, some strange dreams and odd happenings. Murakami suggests the book should be read several times to understand its meaning. The solutions may be different for different readers, what happens is definitely open to many interpretations.

The “Kafka on the Shore” refers to a painting in the library and a song sung by a teenage Miss Saeki that was a big hit in Japan. The writer Kafka shares with Murakami a strange view of our individual existence.

Murakami is to Western literature what Studio Ghibli is to Disney, strange, enthralling, exotic and a little unsettling.

“For a 15 year old who doesn’t even shave yet, you’re sure carrying a lot of (emotional) baggage around” remarks Oshima to Kafka

My rating 4.5 out of 5

I also reviewed: Book Review: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami


Book review : “The Falls” by Ian Rankin

The Falls
The Falls by Ian Rankin

The Falls” is the 12th Inspector Rebus novel. DI John Rebus is a gritty maverick in the Edinburgh Police Force, who plays by his own rules. His new boss Gill Templer, had a brief romantic relationship with Rebus and their professional relationship is prickly to say the least.

Rebus likes his alcohol and is averse to seeing a doctor. He is also tenacious with a case, even when it seems hopeless.

The evidence he’d taken home, the notes pinned to his wall – he couldn’t fool himself, it didn’t amount to evidence at all. It was a jumble of coincidence and speculation, a thin gossamer pattern created from the air, the merest flutter of breath beginning to snap its tensed threads.


“The Falls” of the title refer to some waterfalls in the countryside outside Edinburgh and the neighbouring village. The daughter of a Private Banker, Philippa Balfour, an Edinburgh student, who lives near The Falls has gone missing and Rebus and his team are looking into the disappearance. A strange carved wooden doll is discovered in a bespoke tiny coffin at The Falls of the title. The coffin is reminiscent of some similar relics found at Arthur’s Seat in the early 19th century.

The story fills us in on the history of Edinburgh bodysnatchers and murderers Burke and Hare from the 19th century and the anatomist to whom they supplied bodies. There is an online role playing game, which Siobahn, Rebus’s sidekick plays as she thinks the Quizmaster could well have something to do with Philippa Balfour’s disappearance.

There are some cliffhangers and a tense climax to the story. If you watch the TV series this book is very different to the episode of the same name. In the TV Series the lovely Nathalie Dormer plays Philippa Balfour, in the book she barely appears.

Screenshot from 2018-06-20 14:17:54
Natalie Dormer playing Philippa Balfour (left) with Inspector Rebus (Ken Stott)

This is a typical Rebus novel, he goes out on a limb and his unorthodox methods draw conflict with his superiors. There are interesting descriptions of Edinburgh, its pubs and its macabre history. There are also some interesting female characters in the police force Siobahn Clarke, Ellen Wylie and Gill Templer.

My review of another Rebus novel: Book Review “The Black Book” by Ian Rankin

My rating 4 out of 5

Book Review: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

The story follows a typical Murakami-esque guy whose group of friends suddenly inexplicably gave him the cold shoulder and, sixteen years later, he’s finally pushed by his girlfriend to visit them one by one and get to the bottom of things. As an adolescent Tsukuru was part of a group of five friends, who were seemingly inseparable, but then he went away to university in Tokyo leaving the group in Nagoya. When he returned they no longer wanted anything to do with him, no explanations were offered and Tsukuru was too depressed to ask. Tsukuru sees himself as colorless in that the other four had names derived from colours but he didn’t, his name is a homophone for “To make or build”.

Tsuruku laments: I have no sense of self. I have no personality, no brilliant color. I have nothing to offer. That’s always been my problem. I feel like an empty vessel. I have a shape, I guess, as a container, but there’s nothing inside.

Murakami writes like a modern Japanese Kafka, appreciating the bizarre nature of the world. A slow soak in a bath of music (Liszt and Elvis this time), colour, friendship, loneliness, philosophy, train stations, creation and death. Murakami is a genius at writing with emotions swirling beneath the text.

My rating : 4 out of 5

Weekly Photo Challenge: All time favourites

It seems the organisers of the Weekly Photo Challenge on WordPress are stopping…they have asked us for our All-Time Favorites (click on the link for other interpretations)

Here are a few of mine:

The smartphone generation intrigues me, I have taken many photos of people using their smartphones like:

Please Die
Please Die
no smartphone, no
No smartphone, no comment

I also love the sea, unfortunately the sea is on the other side of Georgia.

Old men and the sea
The Old Men and the Sea (Qobuleti, Adjara, Georgia)
High jump
High Jump into the sea at Qobuleti

and I like taking photos of my diecast model car collection outside

1969 VW Karmann Ghia Convertible MBX
1969 VW Karmann Ghia

This week my favourite photo was of a pair of laughing doves making a nest. The male fetches the material and the female arranges them into a nest.

Laughing dove nesting
laughing doves making a nest

I hope you like these photos, feel free to comment below.