Restart

The clicking sound of a madman typing away his frustrations to an indifferent screen is a computer-age marvel. The madman knows this all too well.

In the real world, nobody listens. Nobody understands. So the madman pours his heart out on that computer. Miles away is probably a middle-aged Frenchman whose life is in crisis, as it is with all middle-aged men. This, the madman thinks, is his target audience: vulnerable and in search of a good dose of online literary drama. With the madman’s razor-sharp Search Engine Optimization skills and the occasional brilliance in his writing, Frenchman is bound to find the madman’s blog.

The madman, of course, has a reality other than virtual. By day, he teaches at a university and attends graduate school where most of it is done for show. He thinks life is better off spent travelling and eating and writing and reading. But nobody understands this. Which is why he blogs.

Thesis is what keeps the madman awake most of the nights. Tonight is one particular all-nighter with his computer. He wants to stop typing, but the deadline’s forcing him to stay in front of his stupid computer. The deadline, and all other things – like a girlfriend who has a PhD and thinks that a bachelor’s degree is short of a perfect mate or a world that weighs one’s worth based on diplomas. And so the madman goes on, typing like the madman that he is.

The keyboard has lost its backspace key. The computer screen stares back with character input growing by the second. The computer refuses to shut down. Like life, it does not concern itself of your bid to pause. The earth continues to circle the sun and the sun continues to shine in its glorious luster, so the madman must falter not. He has to keep going. And so he types, finishing a thesis whose value is nothing to him and everything to others.

It is already 3am, Eastern Standard Time. The madman forces himself to continue paragraphs and paragraphs of his thesis made of gold. The words no longer make sense. Silence fills the room. He stops typing.

There, in the growing still silence, he finally decides to click restart.*

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Hardwired to hope

In my former line of work — not so long ago since it was only yesterday when I submitted my resignation letter — I talked to a good number of people who were just about to face the end of life on earth as we know it.

There was an old man living on pension who had to take out a loan almost worth the cash value of his insurance policy in order to make ends meet. This withdrawal would cause his policy to cancel in due time, since a 5% interest was about to accrue.

There was a couple. The husband had terminal cancer and the wife was already looking into prepaying the funeral expenses. Such practicality.

There was a family. The daughter had to present his durable power of attorney papers as her mom had Dementia on a nursing home and in need of government assistance. The daughter’s husband was there just to agree on everything his wife said. The grandson was to be named beneficiary of the the grandma’s insurance policy. And the aunt, obviously a financial adviser herself, tried to parrot reassure the entire family of what I was explaining.

Working eight hours a day for six straight months to service clients of an insurance company made me think about the value of life. Or at least, the value that we humans place on our lives. Ultimately, insurability rating is determined by your age, the condition of your health (Do you have preexisting diseases?), the habits you have (Are you a smoker? How often do you drink alcohol?), your line of work (Does your job pose hazards that exclusively emanate from it? Extreme sports? Frequent travel? crazy boss?), etc.

Just how do we rate the value of our bodies? Just how do we think about our existence? Our bodies will eventually decay, but why do we take pains on preserving its health (feeding it, bathing it, intaking vitamins, etc.)?

Having witnessed snippets of the lives of people at their prime, I reckon it must be hard to be in their place. One reason I don’t drink alcohol is because I’m reserving my liver for old age or at least middle-age (read: mid-life crisis). I know life will be harder by then. Yet no matter how hard life is — old age, middle-age, youth — we all struggle to survive.

This will to survive, the ability to take up suffering graciously like it is what’s expected of us, is elemental to our humanity. We were designed to have hope within us. We were hardwired to believe in the best or at least believe in something that takes us above and beyond our suffering. The object of our hope differs, but we hope nonetheless.

So here I am: just resigned from a high-paying job to pursue what I really love doing.

Hoping for the best, I am.

“For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.”

A lady insecure

A force unknown—I wanted to believe it was God but I had no power to discern evil from the divine—cleared my vision and the world laid itself piece by piece before my eyes. I saw everything, stared in awe, and asked the unknown force a question: “What about me?”

She comes in pretty laces; he runs in swift motion. They glitter in gold, abound in talent, reason out with limitless intellectual prowess. They are rich in every sense of the word, owning both the material and the immaterial. They are grand, like full moon in the open starless sky. They challenge conventions, and they do it well. They are intimate with art, intimate with God, intimate with things that Philosophy says gives meaning in life.

They curse others, yet they are blessed. They travel the world and win more than they lose, and they are happy. Why them and not me? What about my efforts? What about my desires? What about me?

I am an ocean of insecurities, with bitter waters and chaotic tides.

The force unknown slowly formed into being. He was shiny and had good form. His eyes had a glaring stare. He had the body of Michelangelo’s painted Adam and the aroma of freshly picked lilacs. He looked at me in disgust and asked: “What about you?!”

Thereafter, I became certain it wasn’t God. The world he made me see was neither round nor flat but cylindrical. It was rotting of oxides and smelt of methane; God never made such a bad rotten world.*

Monsters

She is a monster. Find her in red lipstick and flowery wedges, yet be not deceived for her monstrosity is venom penetrating into your veins and sucking the life out of you. Find her in the school library surfing the Internet and doing her share of the research in class, but with much hate she does this task.

There is no task left undone that she does not complain about. There is no work that will not cause her to think she is queen. She marvels at each little accomplishment and, being the monster that she is, regards herself as the greatest. She won’t let time pass by without letting you know how better she is at things, which she is not.

She will crush your ego. You will hate yourself far more than anything. You will cry of self-pity. You will stare at ceilings and the open sky, not minding what day or time it is for to you it no longer matters; you are doomed one way or another. You will doubt yourself for the monster that she is will make certain this to be your fate.

People have always feared monsters. I pity them.

LSS Of The Week

Tis some really artistic stuff from some really talented people.

Generator 2nd Floor

And I could never tell as a kid
What that window door went to
Only told to stay away
I almost had an accident at age 6
When I found the key in the attic
And now the smell of these wood frames
Is the only sense I’ve left
So as you pull me from the bed
Tell me I look stunning and cadaverous

And since you are my friend
I would ask that you lower me down slow
And tell the man in the black cloak
He doesn’t need to trouble his good soul
With those latin conjugations
And if it’s all the same to them
You should tell your gathering friends
Please not to purse their faces grim
On such a lovely Sunday

Don’t fix my smile, life is long enough
We will put this flesh into the ground again

(end)

Song’s title is ‘Generator 2nd Floor’, performed by Freelance Whales.

If you’re one of those people who argue over a song’s meaning as if there is only one interpretation to a song or worse as if meaning is what constitutes a song (anti-folk, twee pop, C86  and a great many musical genres don’t capitalize on depth but actually emerged as a subversion of it), then I’m most probably not your friend. Or maybe you are, but I more or less secretly despise your taste. Of course I can go on and on with a discussion of how the very purpose of liberal arts education is to be able to empower individual minds to construct and attach their own subjective meaning to experience or in this case to a song, but I will not. I’ll tell you something, though. I believe it’s a corpse talking. Cute innocent corpse, it is. Beat that persona!

Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing The Cherry

I’m currently reading Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” and I am a few pages away from finishing the thing.

So let’s talk about the one I just finished — Jeanette Winterson’s “Sexing The Cherry” (Fret not! No spoilers here).

Winterson is best known among college students for her quintessential essay “Art and Imagination” where she expounds on the centrality of a person’s imaginative powers in seeing what is “real” and what is “art” especially at a time when social patterns are dominated by the money culture. With this in place, a thing is almost always assessed based merely on its monetary value and not on what it really is or what it really presents to humanity.

One of my personal favorites is her essay “Shafts of Sunlight” which brings a utilitarian perspective on the importance of poems and challenges the notion of poetry being an elitist form of art.

Judging from her previous works, “Sexing The Cherry” is not her best novel. It is, however, still communicative of the iconoclast that is Winterson.

To cut it short, I admire Winterson for:

(1) her peculiar language – good poetry, cryptic lines and anecdotes, witticisms and unique metaphors (who would have thought of “lycopodium powder” as the metric of an individual’s needs?);

(2) her ability to infuse literary structure on social issues – integrating gender politics (mostly of lesbian-feminism), environmentalism, liberalism of the youth, etc. in her writings;

(3) her irony – e.g. the subversion of organized religion through reductio ad absurdum simultaneous with the exaltation of the Divine, arguably a God (I mean, seriously, who does that?); and lastly,

(4) her deep belief in love as a redemptive feature of life, reflective in the characters of her book who come from two polar extremes — either they are filled with love or are totally empty of it.

Oh, additional news: Winterson’s first novel “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” was recently cited as part of the “20 Classic Works of Gay Literature” by the Los Angeles Times (http://topicfire.com/share/20-classic-works-of-gay-literature-15087856.html).

Choleric Love

Let me tell you how I love you now. No, I am not counting the ways the manner Elizabeth Barrett Browning did. I just have to tell you now. I know, I know. You’ve known about it for quite some time. But hear me! Because my love for you has mutated and is mutating and if it continues so in the hours to come, I will forget the memory of this love or what is left of it.

There will be no rhymes and old English lines the manner Edgar Allan Poe did, and hopefully no malapropisms the manner everyone does. I just have to tell you how I love you now.

Because now, it won’t matter.
My love for you disclosed, but it won’t matter.
Like most of the things I do, it won’t matter.

I love you, as a predator preys on its prey. I will foolishly run after you, chase you until my legs hurt and the sole of my feet blazes afire, waste my every energy just to have you.

I will force yourself to eat my flesh, too. Force you, as a master commands its servant.

I am to you as nicotine is to a chain-smoker. I shall cause your body to slowly degenerate, yet you will keep coming back for more.

I love you, as a baby caressing his dear mother’s breast, your milk supplying the needed nutrients of me. But as I love you, you will lose everything – milk and breast. You’ll be of no use to anyone.

Today, this is how I love you. I love you with the indignant judgment of the messiah over humanity’s evil, with the decisive blow of an abusive husband.

Incidentally it is this day when you will walk down the aisle in your brand new tuxedo, and my love for you continues to mutate.