Written on a Thursday in June, from Kafka to Milena: “i think there is one idiosyncrasy that we share, Milena: we are so shy and anxious that almost every letter is different, almost every one… Lagi
the days you let me hang around your solitary capsule,
and all the times you check up on me despite my protective bubble,
as we talked to one another,
cautiously, conscientiously, compassionately…
i am keen of having plenty of those delicate moments.
and, for the times when those moments are scarce, i want to learn to like you like you
Selection from Adrianne Rich’s Introduction for On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978:
“As I write this, in North America 1978, the struggle to constitutionalize the equal rights of women finds itself facing many of the same opponents that the fight for the ballot confronted:
powerful industrial interests, desiring to keep a cheap labor pool of women or threatened by women’s economic independence;
the networks of communication which draw advertising revenue from those interests;
the erasure of women’s political and historic past which makes each new generation of feminists appear as an abnormal excrescence on the face of time;
trivialization of the issue itself, sometimes even by its advocates when they fail to connect it with the deeper issues on which twentieth-century women are engaged in out particular moment of feminist history.”
“The entire history of women’s struggle for self-determination has been muffled in silence over and over. One serious cultural obstacle encountered by any feminist writer is that each feminist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past, contextual present. This is one of the ways in which women’s work and thinking has been made to seem sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own.
In fact, we do have a long feminist tradition, both oral and written, a tradition which has built on itself over and over, recovering essential elements even when those have been strangled or wiped out.
[…] So also is each contemporary feminist theorist attacked or dismissed ad feminam, as if her politics were simply an outburst of personal bitterness or rage.”
“Woman’s culture, on the other hand, is active: women have been the truly active people in all cultures, without whom human society would long ago have perished, though our activity has most often been on behalf of men and children. Today women are talking to each other, recovering an oral culture, telling our life-stories, reading aloud to one another the books that have moved and healed us, analyzing the language that has lied about us, reading our own words aloud to each other. But to name and found a culture of our own means a real break from the passivity of the twentieth-century Western mind. It is the deadly “radical passivity of men” (Daly’s phrase) that has given us an essentially passive-voiced dominant culture, whose artifacts are the kind that lead to a deepening passivity and submission: “Pop” art; television; pornography.
To question everything. To remember what it has been forbidden even to mention. To come together telling our stories, to look afresh at, and then to describe for ourselves, the frescoes of the Ice Age, the nudes of “high art”, the Minoan seals and figurines, the moon-landscape embossed with the booted print of a male foot, the microscopic virus, the scarred and tortured body of the planet Earth. To do this kind of work takes a capacity for constant active presence, a naturalist’s attention to minute phenomena, for reading between the lines, watching closely for symbolic arrangements, decoding difficult and complex messages left for us by women of the past. It is work, in short, that is opposed by, and stands in opposition to, the entire twentieth-century white male capitalist culture.”
“How shall we ever make the world intelligent on our movement? I do not think the answer lies in trying to render feminism easy, popular and instantly gratifying. To conjure with the passive culture and adapt to its rules is to degrade and deny the fullness of our meaning and intention.”
“In a world dominated by violent and passive-aggressive men, and by male institutions dispensing violence, it is extraordinary to note how often women are represented as the perpetrators of violence, most of all when we are simply fighting in self-defense or for our children, or when we collectively attempt to change the institutions that are making war on us and on our children.
In reality, the feminist movement could be said to be trying to visualize and make way for a world in which abortion would not be necessary; a world free from poverty and rape, in which young girls would grow up with intelligent regard for and knowledge of their bodies and respect for their mind, in which the socialization of women into heterosexual romance and marriage would no longer be the primary lesson of culture; in which single women could raise children with a less crushing cost to themselves, in which female creativity might or might not choose to express itself in motherhood. Yet, when radical feminists and lesbian/feminists begin to speak of such a world, when we begin to sketch the conditions of a life we have collectively envisioned, the first charge we are likely to hear is a charge of violence: that we are “man-haters”.”
“It is also crucial that we understand lesbian/ feminism in the deepest, most radical sense: as that love for ourselves and other women, that commitment to the freedom of all of us, which transcends the category of “sexual preference” and the issue of civil rights, to become a politics of asking women’s questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women—not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every aspect of the culture.”
While reading Kartini’s Complete Works as compiled by Joost Coté, I realized that Kartini was a part of the high waves of feminism back in her days. As she began her correspondence with Stella Zeehandelaar, many women around the world started to make connections. Just as Adrianne Rich pointed out in this introduction, the women movement, has always been built on strong connections with one another. The documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” gave a lovely review for this. The women movement in the U.S started a group of women began to talk with one another. Through shared experiences, we revolt. We dream of a “new world”. Moreover, as it has always been, then the movement expanded to engage also men. Kartini pointed out herself, it was not the men we fight against. It’s the absurd culture of male chauvinism, which is not only oppressing women, but also men. And I have seen it myself how men are becoming more and more inspired to share this value. Although some of the challenges of women’s movement mentioned in this book, which was written in 1978, still feel real… I believe that it is in our hands to decide to fight against the passive culture which asks us to accept things as they are. To not question why the talks about abortion often resorts to a depiction of heartless mothers and just that, to not question why the rate of female infanticide in certain countries are so high, to not question if ever there is a way we can improve our “equality” game in all corridors of life.
P.S. I’m keeping this series as an idea of journaling from books that moved me to keep me away from loosing sight of what i consider important. Because sometimes life throws a fit and my mind easily become clouded.
Towards the end of the rite of little prince and his fox (The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupéry):
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, it is so,” said the fox.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on a letter he sent to Natalie Paley:
Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.
From Alain de Botton’s State Anxiety:
Perhaps we could define love, at once in its familial, sexual and worldly forms, as a kind of respect, a sensitivity by one person to another’s existence. To be shown love is to feel ourselves the object of concern. Our presence is noted, our name is registered, our views are listened to, our failings are treated with indulgence and our minds are ministered to. And under such care, we flourish.
Anaïs Nin’s November 1941 diary entry:
Where the myth fails, human love begins.
Then we love a human being – not our dream, but a human being with flaws.
From one of Adrianne Rich’s selected proses “On Secrets, Lies, and Silence”:
An honorable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.
It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.
Clark & Lois Lane in Smallvile:
“Lois, sometimes you can see things that I can’t. And when you walked away I thought because you couldn’t bring yourself to be the one to stand in between me and my destiny.”
“Well, here’s the thing about that: I can be loud, and at times I’m a little bossy. So someone might wonder why a person of your God-like caliber would be with a woman who is so imperfect. Well, don’t take this the wrong way but you come with some baggage of your own and it has made me a better person. Just like being with me will make you a greater man and a superhero.”
April to Frank in the movie Revolutionary Road (2008):
If being crazy means living life as if it matters,
I don’t care if we’re completely insane.”
A piece of wisdom my mom told me once:
Anybody is just as good. But do yourself a favor, choose someone with whom you can grow compatibly in the long run.
The other day, while talking about how marriage is often seen as a “life trophy” – something we sort of crossed off our “bucketlist”, one of my best friends asked me, “Is marriage an ultimate goal for you?” My immediate answer to her was, “No.” I don’t think it is my ultimate goal nor will it ever be. But, I am open to the possibility of having a partner for life and I consider being married or in a committed relationship as a personal achievement. Should I pledge such allegiance to another person someday, that means I have overcome a lot of personal fears and found a great recipe for building a life which collaborates two perspectives with just the right amount of shared dependency without completely loosing both party’s personal autonomy.
I actually have known it for quite sometime now that whilst I feel comfortable alone, having a partner is kinda ideal for me. I’d like that. A full partnership between man and woman where he can see and respect who I am as a person and likewise i to him. That means owning up to each of our own responsibility to find peace within ourselves without loosing the sense that we can find comfort and support from the other when things seem to be too much. However, I do realize that this idea of a partnership might not be compatible with just any men*. Sure, some men like the idea of an independent women, but we are raised in a society which encourages them to annex their independent women still. Most of the time i found them liking the idea, but not so much the real presence of such women. I’ve long accepted that it will take me quite a while (if ever) to meet someone who is willing to explore this “partnership project” as two conscious people. Not to mention i employ such tedious, tenacious method as mating behavior which adds to layers and layers of filters before i can comfortably let myself “fall in love” – which is quite an elusive, mystical idea for me.
At times, this costs me a lot in a world that glorifies casual dating**, where being single and actually enjoying it is often misunderstood. A world where there is only one way to like a person, i.e. to date or not to date them. A world where most interpersonal relations are considered “investments” – every interaction has to yield personal gain. We are led to believe that there is always a better choice just one swipe away should the current option fail to “meet our standards” – as if humans are disposable. “Something better will come along.” And just the same we become more self-conscious of cracking these codes to be the “right person” – it raises our anxiety of becoming our authentic selves. “Ten Things To Make Him Chooses You.”
For most people, thinking meticulously about this might sound uneventful or even absurd, but I know myself pretty well. I am quite a devoted person and I do not take things lightly. There is always a brush of intensity in the things I engage in. This applies as well to how i deal with my relationships, be it familial, platonic, or romantic one. I approach all of them with a rather strong filial affection and I live by a well-thought-out principles based on quite a stubborn trust. For me, should I make the decision to take a partner, there will be no turning back.
That is why, although I admit it can be pretty lonely at times and I don’t know if indeed I will meet such a person I’d take as a partner, i have decided I won’t trade my principles for temporary cure. It wouldn’t be fair to the other person, it wouldn’t be fair to me.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
– The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
*i believe the definitive operationalization of the idea is a fluid concept. as i grow older (and hopefully wiser) this might change. and when i meet the person, of course he will have an influence on how to define the partnership. well, he has come along way too to understand what he wants and what he can bring into the relationship. In fact, that is exactly what comes with the partnership: a willingness to talk about things.
**in this world, having to think your feelings are sometimes considered “being difficult” and unfashionable. well, i don’t see the wrong in thoroughly knowing what we want and what inherently (and possibly sub/unconsciously) drives us. not only that extends to treating the other person with care and respect (i find the rules of today’s dating game are rather hurtful and disrespectful), if anything, it feels sort of liberating.
the rumination of being interpersonally dependent and becoming internally independent* be like:
The attentions of others might be said to matter to us principally because we are afflicted by a congenital uncertainty as to our own value – as a result of which what others think of us comes to play a determining role in how we are able to view ourselves. Our sense of identity is held captive by the judgements of those we live among. If they are amused by our jokes, we grow confident of our power to amuse. If they praise us, we develop an impression of high merit. And if they avoid our gaze as we enter a room or look impatient after we have revealed our occupation, we may fall into feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.
We would, in an ideal world, be more impermeable. We would be unshaken whether we were ignored or noticed, praised or jeered at. If someone fallaciously complimented us, we would not be unduly seduced. And if we had carried out a fair appraisal of ourselves and decided upon our value, another person’s suggestion of our irrelevance would not wound us. We would know our worth. Instead, we appear to hold within ourselves a range of divergent views as to our characters. We have evidence of both cleverness and stupidity, humour and dullness, importance and superfluity. And in such wavering conditions, it typically falls to the attitude of society to settle the question of our significance. Neglect highlights our latent negative self-assessments, while a smile or compliment as rapidly brings out the converse. We seem beholden to the affections of others to endure ourselves.
Our ‘ego’, or self-conception could be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring the helium of external love to remain inflated and vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect. There is something sobering and absurd in the extent to which we are cheered by attention and damage by disregard. Our mood may blacken because a colleague has greeted us absent-mindedly and our calls have been left unanswered. And we are capable of finding life worth living just because someone has remembered our name and sent us a fruit basket.
-State Anxiety (Alain de Botton)
* perhaps the state could also be being internally independent and becoming interpersonally dependent. i do believe in finding the balance of the two
I wrote this when i was 23.
About to turn 29 and the same questions still linger.
Ironic. I thought by now i would already know all the answers to these existential dilemmas. However, it is a little comforting to know that i might have found the answers in my younger days.
I kept on questioning,
what is my mission here on earth.
What is it that I am set to do that the Universe has been keeping me alive up to this day.
Why does the story of the world captivated my thoughts
and I just can’t stop thinking about the people.
The episodic melancholy worrying about humanity;
love, care, empathy, compassion, peace
over matters like race, ethnic, sex, gender, money, religion, country, intellect, sexuality, psychological state;
all things.. without borders.
What card should I play out next?
Should I jump into the next mission offered on the table? Any mission?
What should be my next move?
Should I wait or should I charge right away? Before I lost the momentum?
I need inspiration.
The so-called enlightenment.
I need to be brave.
To seek for the answers.
Will I ever be that bold?
Do I have what it takes?
Am I smart enough?
Am I capable enough?
Can I stand the pressure?
Can I stand the hearthache?
How tough will I be facing the challenge?
How much will I sacrifice?
Do I have the guts to bite the bullet?
I kept on questioning.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve found the answers.
But life always comes back with more questions.
The questions are never ending, but my time here will end someday. Who knows when.
Pardon my dilemma. My romanticism.
Don’t pity me. I am enjoying this.
To get lost in this very thought,
to seek (and sometimes find) the answers within my day to day life. Within you. And You.
The Universe holds the key to all of our wonders. To the question lingers in the depth of your soul.
I truly believe that.
And I hope,
when the Universe offers us the opportunity to walk on the path leading to the key,
we are brave enough to take the chance.
We may never reach the end of the path the way we wanted,
but I guess, it will be okay. Maybe we are not destined to ‘complete’. Maybe we just have to live. Maybe it is our mission. To live.
We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.
(Kathy, Never Let Me Go)
I thought you should be reassured again.
Remember when I told you that you didn’t break my heart?
I meant every word. Please take them as they are.
The only thing you broke is my trust and with that i renounced my allegiance to you.
Let me tell you something about trust. My kind of trust.
It is a stubborn thing.
I trusted you at the beginning and that enabled me to put up with your narcissistic sense of self for far too long.
I had your back all the while hoping you can be that genuinely good person I see resides within you.
He is still there and I do believe you are a good person,
I’ve told you so many times.
But I think you yourself know very well what your challenges are to let that person be a permanent part of your external behavior.
Facing those challenges, luckily you always have social support. You very well know you do.
That is your strength and, ironically, also your weakness.
I hope you are always blessed and be reminded so.
I value the friendship we once had and I am not saying I am a saint.
I too have my share of fault in your eyes, I must have.
Hey, we are human. We err.
That’s the rule of the game. Plain and simple.
I just… you know, have no intention of putting any more trust in you.
And what is a friendship without trust?
You know very well too how I lack the ability to stand small talk and orchestrated interactions.
I’ve told you. Trust is a stubborn thing.
And once broken my kind of trust is hard to win back.
Oh you can try alright, but let me warn you I won’t reimburse your frustration.
Now, you might feel a little furious when you read this. I know how you are.
You might even want to defend yourself,
That is fine.
Just mind this.
This is just me telling you to enjoy that narration in your head telling you that I am a wounded person in need of some time to heal.
That some day I will come around.
Embrace it if that brings you peace.
Just know that you are actually being granted a free pass for screwing up with my mind and violating my trust.
Moreover, for treating me as if I am weak and unworthy of a certain level of respect.
I might sound angry, but believe me I am not vengeful. Never was, never will.
You actually provided me with some meaningful learning experiences.
In a stinky kind of way. Still, I thank you for that.
I do wish you well for your future endeavor. I’ve told you so.
Please take my words as they are.
And hey, please be okay with me not wanting to be an intimate part of it. ;)
P.S. I actually don’t care whether you read this or not. I wrote this for my own sake. But if you do read it, i think you should be strong enough to handle it :”>
of all the things that we can ever be,
i want us to stay friends in all walks of life
“love is not cruel
we are cruel
love is not a game
we have made a game
out of love”
-rupi kaur in “milk and honey”
Once in a while we meet a person or two who seem to understand.
They listen to our little rants,
they laugh at our most inappropriate jokes,
they appreciate our obsessive and excessive overthinking,
they willingly adapt to our idiosyncrasy, those little habits which tick others don’t seem to bother them,
and for once it feels good to be ourselves.
If anything, it feels amazing. Of all the numerous strangers we meet, there is at least this one person who has the patience to accept us just as we are.
The lines exchanged between cups of coffee gradually carry greater weight as we let ourselves enthralled by them,
they charm us with a sense of liberation to present ourselves more than just culmination of ideas.
they comfort us with a humbling sensation of allowing ourselves a chance to be understood.
With them, conversing does not feel so much as a level of a game you have to conquer.
They fill us with the hope of establishing that meaningful connection,
The dream we dismissed some time ago.
And we try to fight our inherent drive to repel them.
We build the inner dialogue with our overthinking selves.
This time, maybe it is not such a bad idea to invite them closer.
This time, maybe it will not be such a waste of time and effort to attach ourselves to them.
With them, opening up does not feel so much as leveling up to face a difficult game level.
This time, maybe we should not give in to our insecurities, trust issues, and anxiety.
May we gather the courage we thought we are not equipped with.
at the end of the day,
we want to be able to look them in the eyes and ask a rather simple question.
It is the only remaining question standing between them and our unmasked soul,
the very essence of ourselves which might not heal should they hurt us.
Insufferably, we pity ourselves when we still feel the need to protect ourselves and doubt them,
“If I were to let you in,
can I trust you?”
And we wait by the high doors of our last defense line,
nervously hoping they have the patience to once again smile at us and serenely convince us.
A support group member in the movie adaptation of Rent:
“I’m used to relying on intellect, but I try to open up to what I don’t know.”
Alain de Botton in Essays in Love #1:
“I realized that a more complex lesson needed to be drawn, one that could play with the incompatibilities of love, juggling the need for wisdom with its likely impotence, juggling the idiocy of infatuation with its inevitability. Love had to be appreciated without flight into dogmatic optimism or pessimism, without constructing a philosophy of one’s fears, or a morality of one’s disappointments. Love taught the analytic mind a certain humility, the lesson that however hard it struggled to reach immobile certainties (numbering its conclusions and embedding them in neat series), analysis could never be anything but flawed—and therefore never stray far from the ironic.”
Alain de Botton in Essays in Love #2:
“The longing is that the lover admires us stripped of our external assets, appreciating the essence of our being, ready to repeat the unconditional love said to exist between the parent and child. The real self is what one can freely choose to be, and if a birthmark arises on our forehead or age withers us or recession bankrupts us, then we must be excused or accidents that have damaged what is only our surface. And even if we are beautiful and rich, then we do not wish to be loved on account of these things, for they may fail us, and with them, love. I would prefer you to compliment on my brain than on my face, but if you must, then I would rather you comment on my smile (motor and muscle-controlled) than on my nose (static and tissue-based). The desire is that I be loved even if I lost everything: leaving nothing but “me,” this mysterious “me” taken to be the self at its weakest, most vulnerable point. Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test. Do you love me stripped of everything that might be lost, for only the things I will have forever?”
The song played towards the end of the movie “Serendipity” (Northen Sky by Nick Drake):
“Would you love me for my money;
would you love me for my head;
would you love me through the winter;
would you love me ‘til I’m dead?
Oh if you would and you could,
Come blow your horn on high.”
Simone de Beauvoir in “Woman in Love”, a chapter in The Second Sex #1:
“Men might be passionate lovers at certain moments of their existence, but there is not one who could be defined as “a man in love”; in their most violent passions, they never abandon themselves completely; even if they fall on their knees before their mistresses, they still wish to possess them, annex them; at the heart of their lives, they remain sovereign subjects; the woman they love is merely one value among others; they want to integrate her into their existence, not submerge their entire existence in her. By contrast, love for the woman is a total abdication for the benefit of a master.”
From Sylvia Plath’s Mad Girl’s Love Song:
“I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head)”
Simone de Beauvoir in “Woman in Love”, a chapter in The Second Sex #2:
“The day when it will possible for woman to love in her strength and not in her weakness,
not to escape from herself but to find herself,
not out of resignation but to affirm herself,
love will become for her as for man the source of life and not a mortal danger.”
Mandy Len Catron in her 2015 TED Talk in SFU “A Better Way To Talk About Love”:
“So if love is a collaborative work of art, then love is an aesthetic experience. Love is unpredictable, love is creative, love requires communication and discipline, it is frustrating and emotionally demanding. And love involves both joy and pain. Ultimately, each experience of love is different.“
“This version of love is not about winning or losing someone’s affection. Instead, it requires that you trust your partner and talk about things when trusting feels difficult, which sounds so simple, but is actually a kind of revolutionary, radical act. This is because you get to stop thinking about yourself and what you’re gaining or losing in your relationship, and you get to start thinking about what you have to offer. This version of love allows us to say things like, “Hey, we’re not very good collaborators. Maybe this isn’t for us.” Or, “That relationship was shorter than I had planned, but it was still kind of beautiful.”
“The beautiful thing about the collaborative work of art is that it will not paint or draw or sculpt itself. This version of love allows us to decide what it looks like.“
“Watch carefully the magic that occurs when you give a person just enough comfort to be themselves.”
Sometime ago, I found myself so fed up with the thought that people think they know me. I struggled in accepting various interpretations they had upon me as a proxy of my behaviors and moreover to accommodate that to my own mental representation of myself. I felt the need to stand up for myself and rebelled against any wrongful convictions casted on me. I still do, a little bit, to be honest. I wish I could take them on a tour to the realms of my covert behavior precedents and they could see for themselves how unfair it was all seemed to me. But what good would that do to myself? Would it be enough just to be able to explain myself to people? Would there be a satisfactory means and end to do so*?
After a decent period of soul searching, I decided that thought was not going to bother me anymore. I accept the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinions of me and sometimes I have very little to say in helping them making a well-informed one. It was not an easy nor smooth process to grasp that idea, but in the end I gained the internal independence to be myself as I see fit and let others make sense of that in their own unique ways. In honor of my favorite humans who sat with me during my darkest hours to provide me comfort and encouragement, I am still open to listen to what people have to say about me. Fortunately, I am now equipped with a better censor to detect a smarter and more creative angle of observation in absorbing them appropriately.
*at some point, I was very much tempted to borrow Descriptive Psychology’s conceptual behavior parameter in order to earn myself a benefit of a doubt from people. But I’m not sure the formula <Behavior> = <I, W, K, K – H, P, A, PC,S> would entice them. #canthelpbeinggeeky