although the discourse on chinese indonesians’ national identity has become a land of platitudes for me, discovering the vibrant world of old school chinese malay literature has been very exhilarating. all this time i thought… Lagi
what do you do with the bits and pieces of our moments?
do you collect them in a jar to keep you company when i’m off the radar?
do you know i label them?
so i could know which one to play on repeat when i miss you.
and i often miss you. quite terribly so.
People are the way they let us see them and,
likewise, they see us the way we let them see us.
Some people surprise us as they manage to pick up on some cues beyond the refined truth we present them.
Some people surprise us as they fail to see things for what it’s worth even as we give away ourselves a little bit.
We surprise people too.. more or less in similar fashion.
People are the way they let us see them and,
likewise, they see us the way we let them see us.
Some people look us in the eyes and immediately trust us with how they are behind their defense line.
Some people test us rigorously and stretch their boundaries one step at a time before they open their door and invite us in.
We drive people in and out the same way..
People are the way they let us see them and,
likewise, they see us the way we let them see us.
At times, we take it with a grain of salt.
Some other time we readily embrace it as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
We learn to be at peace with how people are. How we are, really.
And we learn to be versatile. In seeing people. In seeing us.
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 is frightened by the previous letter and even more so by the reply. It’s easy to see that you are not like this by nature, and I, perhaps even I am not like this by nature, but this has almost become my nature, passing only when I am desperate or, at most, angry, and needless to say: when I am afraid.
Sometimes I have the feeling that we’re in one room with two opposite doors and each of us holds the handle of one door, one of us flicks an eyelash and the other is already behind his door, and now the first one has but to utter a word and immediately the second one has closed his door behind him and can no longer be seen. He’s sure to open the door again for it’s a room which perhaps one cannot leave. If only the first one were not precisely like the second, if he were calm, if he would only pretend not to look at the other, if he slowly set the room in order as though it were a room like any other; but instead he does exactly the same as the other at his door, sometimes even both are behind the doors and the beautiful room is empty.”
somehow. this. got. me. welling. up.
the major life lessons i had in my late twenties revolved around finding myself and being my own person. this means getting to know myself, accepting myself, loving myself, standing up for myself and most of all… improving myself.
a couple of weeks ago i was reminded that back in my high-school years, i used to have only one dream: to be the best version of myself. As elusive as it may seem, i think that is indeed how i want to measure my life in years to come. Have I been the best version of myself? Have I tried my best to be the person that I am? Have I challenged myself enough to grow as a person?
although this might sound a bit egocentric as I put myself in the center of my life, well.. hey, this i found to be a great foundation to build an authentic and healthy relationship with others around me. as i evaluated some of my closest friendships, i found that those people whom i consider having a successful relationships with. they are the kind of person who are always on their way to better themselves. and that’s why our friendships work. we accept one another as the person that we are and respect our own pace and space to grow on our own. all the while we give priority to one another should we need extra support in dealing with the pain of growing up.
i hope to always be this lucky and motivated.
i want to be the best version of myself.
or at least die trying :)
the idea of you is a perilous circumstance
one that would instantly aligned itself with the idea of us
leaves me breathless
being struck senseless
standing there defenseless
getting cold feet
the idea of you is a perilous circumstance
one that propagates viciously, continuously evolving into the idea of us
beating around the bush
is it you, is it the idea of you
is it us, is it the idea of us
which sounds so right, feels so justified
the idea of you is, more or less, an idea of us.
an idea… still.
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)