The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: cynicism

Meandering road

I surround myself with beauty
to distract myself from grief
and throw myself to the reckless wind
to let myself feel alive
yet I myself know that to be a lie
for floating myself amidst these currents
that I myself have no control was
to delude myself
that somehow I have gotten over

you

        left us behind
you left us with all this hurt
you took off without a warning
you didn’t say goodbye.
But there is no more you anymore, is there?
We’re left behind
We’re left with all this hurt
We’re sitting around here
We didn’t get to say goodbye

Dérive, you told me, was a concept originated in Paris
where people criss crossed, crossed people and streets,
where there is opportunity, crisis
unplanned journeys across the cityscape,
getting over delusions that somehow
we have control amidst these currents
when we are really just floating lies to each other
to feel alive recklessly,
throwing grief at beauty
to come to the solemn reckoning that
in the end there is only just

me.

 

[1 month]

Wrap up, Start Over

The year of 2013 was momentous: I wrapped up a milestone in my life where I graduated from university, and was thus to embark on my next, into working life.

Instead, I boarded a ride into an extended period of self-doubt and uncertainty, as I failed to get a full-time paying job.

I learnt to challenge the notion of success and succeeding, and what it takes to succeed. I came to the conclusion that it is not so dependent on how skilled a person is, as it is knowing people and finding channels in which to succeed.

I lost the will to write for a while.

I found a reason to write again.

My year was peppered with moments of anxiety and helplessness, and as moments becomes days, and days turn to weeks, I was cast afloat. Perseverance struggled against despair, attrition reared its ugly face and slowly wore down the smiles, leaving behind a numb sombreness.

When one is steeped for so long in the cesspool of the unpleasant, one learn to be inured to its sting. But in learning to deaden the nerves that feel the unpleasant, so do the nerves that feel the pleasant and joy die out too, for they are the same thing. I have had not a reason to smile, but so did I not grimace as well, as I meandered the course, hoping, no that word is too strong, waiting for the happenstance that something better comes along for me to latch on to, to break this autopilot.

Because it is very tiring not to feel anything. The wilful denial of reacting to anything is exhausting — I’ve held my hand up to keep emotions at bay, and now my arms begin to tire.

Dare I even hope for hope this coming year?

Happy new year, everyone.

The Big Apple everyone wants a slice of

How did “New York City” come to be known as the “Big Apple”? Brain Pickings mentions that the book, Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?explains:

There’s an old American expression “to bet a big apple” and it means to be very certain of what you’re talking about. Then about a hundred years ago the “big apple” started to be applied to horse racing in New York, perhaps because it was the most important center for horse races or because of the value of the prizes. From there the expression grew even wider until it came to describe the city itself, especially during an age when it was one of the most exciting, fast-moving and glamorous places on Earth.

After a time, advertisers started using the words and even the image of a large, glossy, unblemished apple because they realized it was a good way to encourage people to visit the city. It’s true too: New York is like the biggest apple in the world, the shiny object that everybody wants a slice of.

– Philip Gooden, author

Whenever I think of “Big Apple”, two cartons come to mind. The first is this:

While the cartoon doesn’t specify itself to be New York City, but somehow wrecking balls, skyscrapers, theatre, and talent agencies bring New York City to mind. One Froggy Evening (1955) sings of building dreams and of making it big, and of dreams and hopes dashed by an uncooperative frog.

This was probably my first impression of what a big city like New York City would be like, and somehow I likened ragtime and jazz with the city as well. The frog in question, Michael J. Frog, stuck with me for the longest time, even though I didn’t know its name until when I moved to New York City, and I suddenly remembered this frog, whereby I searched up the cartoon and lo! Memories of what I envisioned the city to be, what it represented, and now that I’m in it, how the same exact pitfalls are applying to me.

The next cartoon, of course, is Rhapsody in Blue. Drawn in the iconic style of Al Hirschfeld, I first heard this song in middle school when my music teacher played it in class (on her Playstation 2 which she brought to class, for its DVD playing capabilities, but I suspect mostly to show off her PS2, which was expensive at the time).

My favourite part of the song is when the trumpet fanfare first comes up, since I was a trumpet player myself, but the flutter blare of the trumpets was just so exciting. On one of my first proper internships in the city, where I had to commute on the trains and all that, I played Rhapsody in Blue on the train ride on my first day at work, and it got me very hyped up for the rest of the day.

The song is set in the 30’s Depression era, of a period where dreams and joblessness are rife. Today, we’re coming to the end of 2013, and I still feel like we’re in the throes of the Depression. What with articles everywhere touting us to be in the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, it’s hard not to look at the video and feel blue. But unlike the characters in the video, who miraculously get the life they want, for the rest of us stuck on this side of reality, we can only slog on.

In Search Of The Day Til We Get A Slice

I have been blinded by the sparkles
that bounces off of the Big Apple
that comes from the shining gems and ‘scrapers
of those who have made it
while we the many have to remain content
with the sights we get from lights above,
dreaming of the day that we, too, get a slice

To learn that
the crunch of the bite
are the sounds of those trodden underfoot;
the sheen of red
is painted with the blood of those sacrificed;
in payment for a slice.

Finding a reason to write again

Every day, I think of updating, and then the thought hits me, “Why bother?” Why indeed? I created this blog in an attempt to increase my online profile, that I may become more hireable. It has been nearly six months since I’ve graduated, and I’ve yet to find permanent employment.

I am in despair, honestly. I am losing the will to write.

That spiralling fall, first a slow tumble that leads into a plummet. The lurching feeling constantly gnaws away at your stomach, a most unpleasant feeling of unease. That freefall, that pitfall — never a moment of respite and without the solace of knowing if it will end or not; so much worse than  a clean, quick splat.

But after a while, the numbness sets in, and no, you don’t stop feeling the attrition, but you get so used to it being there, you learn to ignore its presence, even as it eats away at you.

The hardest part is not feeling the rage, whenever you look at friends around you being on whatever path they’re on. Maybe they hate their jobs, maybe their lives are listless, but to your lenses fogged up by pain and sorrow, everything else seems cheerier than your own situation, wilfully so.

I am stuck: will writing help unwind me?

I am definitely at a low point in my life, and as I age, each low is a sink much lower than the previous. I have overcome the previous; will I succumb this time? Or emerge victorious, and look back upon this period with un-fond laughter?

I have so many things I wish to write, I have so many tabs on my browser opened with things I want to fill this blog with. Let this post be the key to let them all come in, once again.

Empty tanks

2013-07-22-amd_corpse_run_13_07_22[1]Comic taken from Corpse Run Comics

It has come to the point where I am adrift, and am asking myself what am I doing. I feel like I’m at an impasse — neither going forward, nor does returning look favourable.

I am afraid:

…of the future — I can’t even see what lies ahead any more, where previously I had mapped out a life for myself. Having no success starting in that path, that vision eludes me more every day.

…of the present — How much longer can I keep this up? Waking up today, knowing that nothing has changed for the better, makes me afraid to wake up tomorrow, that tomorrow will be just as it is today.

..of the past — I look back, and see people I’ll have to face should I fail to succeed. How can I even send an email to my mother when I still have yet to accomplish anything I had set out to do?

I had a purpose, and it is still there. Is it keeping me strong, or am I merely hunkering down, to be whittled away slowly? This purpose of mine fuels me with so much fear and uncertainty that on certain days, I feel as if my heart is going to just give in.

Thoughts from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

charliefinCome with me, and you’ll be
in a world of pure imagination.
Take a look, and you’ll see
into your imagination.

Hope I may, cross my heart,
to fulfil my wildest expectations.
But I seem, yet to be,
only failing expectations.

Everyone has left me far behind
All I have are words to keep
“Anything you want to, do it.
There’s nothing to it.”

There is no life I know
to compare with pure imagination.
Living there, you’ll be free
if you truly wish to be.

100 words

Making every word count is hard when you are on a deadline. No time for adjectives, no time for descriptions. Each word will be so vital, that deleting one causes everything to destabilize. When you have 100 words to live, what will you say?

Perhaps you would speak of your fears, having to live in fear of running out of words to say. Perhaps you would bemoan having to cut the excesses in your life; writing meagerly.

I, however, will celebrate the opportunity of being given the chance to say 100 words, and when I run out, I exit happy.

[100 words, 100th post]

All’s well that ends well

It is 5.45am.

Waking up was a non-traumatic affair; I slid out of bed easily, groggily perhaps, but without a fuss. Stumbling a little, I made my way to the kitchen and flooded the room with light. A pot on the stove, a hiss, three clicks and the roar of gas ignited as it rushes past the pilot flame and through the burner. Breakfast is being made.

I am preparing to go to work — today is the first day of my internship, and I am fairly excited. Fairly excited at having to wake up so early in the morning every day and perform the Rituals of the Working Man. Fairly excited at having found my way back to Path of Routine and Normalcy, as you did in the past with school and your previous internships.

After all, this internship validates my ability to stay in this country.

But I know that this isn’t normalcy, only the verisimilitude of it. This false routine does not change the fact that I am still without a job, and that I have not achieved what I came to this country for. Right now, I am merely pretending.

The inky blackness of night yields to a farmer’s blue of dawn.

What comes next? Oh yes, coffee, shower, change of clothes, go to work. The normal progression of things. Oh, and don’t get deported on the way out.

Steel me to strength, steal my fears away.

淋雨 To be caught in the rain

emoroad

所谓:望子成龙,望女成凤。但当长了翅膀,想起发的龙望的路往往会辜负对他戴希望的人,那如何呢?

在窝里受得一辈子的气,火气十足,是别离的时候了。

“我得向外飞。” 子儿说。

“为何?” 长辈问着,“危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。”

“不行。我不能。”

“那你能去哪里?”

“去西取经:经验、精宴。哪里都比这好。”

“取经?取惊还差不多吧。崇洋媚外,你迟早会回来。”

而非听劝告,放下了一生的友情,放下了一生的便利,他身无长处地往外走。子儿默默地说,“你瞧着。无论你有多么的不信,是胜是亡,由我双腿创我自己的路,是我的选择。” 连伞都不带的他就那样踏出了门,相信他身上燃烧的火将会带他出路途的黑暗。

未成龙的子儿无法独立地飞,只好搭乘飞机,造个西游记。但他没想象路途遥远行程当中淋的雨会是那么的湿。

起初滴的雨,偶尔几滴,算得了什么?心胸已抛了铅,放步如筋斗云,毛毛雨的湿,心怀戴的三昧真火让他暖着,干着。

但不久毛雨变大雨,之前从天上飘落的水花成一刺一刺的箭,泼了下来。走了一半,望不清头,看不见尾。是否迷了路?本是盔甲的衣,被雨淋湿,沾到了皮。让雨刺了皮,刺了心。渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰,掘出了他的虚荣和骄傲。

“这值得吗?” 子儿开始想,长辈播下的疑问的种被雨淋了,开始萌芽。“我还能继续吗?”

路途所见,妖,精,魔,怪不在外,都在内。心里的战场上,已经拼杀过的心魔散落满地。

自疑精他挥着剑,“最初的乐观都是蠢!”

自责王加入了战场, “如果你当初没那么任性,也不会落到现在这下场。”

绝望怪轻轻的唱着,唱着,“从空想造成的意愿始终是空。”

战斗还进行中,在外的我不停地淋雨。

(note: This is another one of those “If you can’t read Chinese, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the nuances of the language” pieces. There are footnotes at the end to help with some of that.)

-Translation-

As they say: May the sons become dragons, may the daughters become phoenixes. But when they are ready to spread their wings to take flight, and that their journeys will inevitably disappoint those who heaped hopes on them, what then?

After a lifetime of antagonism, with a heart full of burning anger/passion, it is time to leave.

“I have to leave this place,” the son says.

“Why?” asked the elder, “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?”1

“That’s impossible. And I can’t.”2

“Then where can you go?”

“To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.3 Any place is better than this.”

“Sutras? More like shock.4 Fawner of all things foreign, you will return eventually.”

Unheeding of advice, leaving behind a lifetime of friends, a lifetime of convenience, with the barest of necessities he departed. Silently, he said, “Hark, no matter your lack of confidence, even if I were to triumph or die, with my feet I carve this journey of my own choice.” And like that, without even taking an umbrella, he stepped out, believing that the fire that burns inside him will light him through the darkness of his journey.

The son who is yet to be a dragon is unable to fly on his own, thus he takes an aeroplane on his journey to the West. But what he did not envision was how wet the rain on his journey would be.

At first, the rain was imperceptible — the occasional raindrops, what does it matter? With a heart free of lead and each step on a Somersault Cloud, the wetness of the fine drizzle was stayed by the True Samadhi Fire5 carried within, keeping him warm and dry.

Before long, the drizzle turned into a downpour. The water flowers that drifted down from the heavens earlier turned into piercing arrows, pouring down in torrents. Halfway into the journey, the sight of the beginning is lost, the sight of the goal is lost; is the way lost? The clothing sticks to the skin, becoming armour no longer, and has let the rain pierce the skin, the heart. Slowly, pieces of sharp arrowheads erode the confidence to ash6, leaving behind conceit and pride.

“Is this all worth it?” the son begins to wonder, and the seeds of doubt planted by the elder, watered by the rain, begin to germinate. “Can I still carry on?”

The imps, spirits, demons and monsters encountered along the journey are from within, not without. The battle is in the mind, and the slain demons are scattered everywhere.

The Spirit of Self Doubt hefted its blade, “The optimism you held in the beginning was folly.”

The Demon King of Self-Blame joins the fray. “Were you not so obstinate, you would not have landed yourself in this quarry.”

The Monster of Despair sang softly, softly, “All ambition borne of fantasy is but emptiness.”

And as the battle rages on, I stand on the outside, being drenched in the rain.

-Footnotes-

1: “危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。” “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?” — There is stylistic repetition using the ‘not’ character in the Chinese text, 不, which is lost in translation. A stylistic translation would go: “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks not-safety, not-stability, not-contentment, not-fortune. Not-about not-go?” 不如不走 in the last part also uses the ‘not’ character, but translates as “How about you don’t go?”

2: “不行。我不能。” “That’s impossible. And I can’t.” — Similarly, it continues the usage of the ‘not’ character in response. A stylistic translation would go: “Not-possible. I am not-able.”

3: “去西取经:经验,精宴。” “To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.” — This is a play on and repetition of sounds. The romanisation would be “Qù xī qǔ jīng: jīng yàn, jīng yàn.” The sound for sutra shares the same sound as the first character of experience, and the first character of the compound word, exquisite (jīng). The purpose for highlighting this repetition become apparent in the next point.

4: “取经?取惊还差不多吧。” “Sutras? More like shock.” — A pun on the sound for sutra 经 (jīng), which is the same sound as shock 惊 (jīng).

5: Somersault Cloud and True Samadhi Fire is an artefact and a weapon in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West.

6: 渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰 Slowly, sharp arrowheads turn confidence to ash — This phrase is a brutal repetition of the sound “jian,” varying only its tones. The romanisation goes: “jiàn jiàn jiān jiān de jiàn jiān bǎ zì xìn huà chéng huī.” This utilises the sharp sounds of “j” to evoke the imagery of piercing.

The most blessed man in the world

blessedman

The world’s most blessed man lives in New York.

He also happens to be homeless.

“Rugger” the blessed homeless man was about to cross the street. The traffic light turned yellow.

“You will be safe,” whispers a voice to him.

“The light shines brightly on you,” whispers another.

“Stop bothering me,” Rugger mutters to himself, swatting his hands at the air in an attempt to chase the voices away. A couple of passersby walked hurriedly away from him.

A car in the distance was trying to beat the red light, and sped up.  It dashed past the light, and harmlessly passed behind Rugger, who was still slowly crossing the road. The pedestrian light turned green.

There is a long line already at the soup kitchen, as the volunteers at dish out lunch. He approaches the front, and receives a sandwich. “Sorry, that was the last one. We’re out. You’ll have to go elsewhere for food,” said the volunteer to the person after Rugger. That person curses. Rugger eats his sandwich and readies himself for the day.

Rugger calls the steps of a church along Lexington his home.  Every day, he wakes up, and is immediately filled with a sense of un-direction – there is nothing pressing in his world that he has to do. Sure, he has to eat, and probably hustle for change, but they can be done sooner as later. Apparently it was already lunch time, but what does time mean to a person who has nothing to do?

Rugger looks around to be in his fifties; who can tell? Every day passes him by just like the day before, and the day before that, and tomorrow, and the day after. Rugger might have been called “John” or “Adam” once, but he doesn’t remember. Heck, he doesn’t even know why he’s called “Rugger.”

But unbeknownst to him, he is the world most blessed. He has perfect health, maybe not-so-perfect hygiene, but he has not fallen sick in years, and suffers not even from a toothache or acne.

“SICK AND HOMELESS. ANY HELP GOES A LONG WAY. GOD BLESS.” Rugger’s cardboard reads simply; some of his peers claimed to be down-and-out war veterans, or needing change to get out of town and back home when they’ve never even seen the light of war or have a home to go back to. Why bother to spin such fancy tales? It’s not like people are actually reading the signs closely. He gets just about as much change as anyone else, even with his minimal effort cardboard signs. Rugger falls asleep.

Sometimes, he wishes he would never wake up from when he goes to sleep. But even with sleeping out in on the steps, or on benches, even in the dead of winter, Rugger always wakes up the next day with nary a frostbite.

Waiting for coins to fall from above is not a solitary affair for Rugger – he is swamped by voices he keeps hearing even as a quarter occasionally drops into his cup.

“Favoured one, rest easy. Your journey will be smooth-sailing,” another whisper.

“Nothing will touch you.”

“No harm shall come to you.”

“Just let me sleep, you buggers,” uttered Rugger.

And in this vein, Rugger sits, having to endure these whispers of endearing protection.

He needed to take a leak. He got up, to a corner and peed at a scaffolding. He heard people yelling at him from the construction workers above. He ignored them, as they were gesticulating wildly at him. He was done, and left, and a bucket containing mixed cement fell at the spot he was at a couple seconds ago. It landed with a loud KRNK. Rugger did not even notice it, for he was slowly ambling back to his spot.

“You are destined for greatness, O blessed one,” says a voice to Rugger.

“Oh yeah?” said Rugger to no one in particular. “What’s so great about this?”

“You live! That is life’s greatest blessing!”

“What kind of blessing is this when every day is lived without purpose? I wake up, I eat, I sit, I shit. And then I go back to sleep and wake up to the same thing again next morning. You say I’m blessed, but I don’t see it.”

“Blessings are not seen with the eyes, they are felt by the mind. When you only look around you, you cannot see, because you do not know what you are supposed to see, yet you will keep casting your sights in the wrong direction hoping to catch a glimpse.”

“Whatever, you’re a whole lot of crap.” And with that, Rugger went back to sleep, for tomorrow to start itself anew.