With everything that will be going on in October, how in the world am I going to pull off another month of posting daily?

The Whine List

  1. Travel between Jatibarang and Ubud takes a good couple of days, aboard half-a-dozen means of transportation, and plentiful of swings between moving-vehicle-hopping and stiffly-confined-to-single-positions. Click to enlarge route of peregrination
  2. I'm carrying (amongst many others) a smartphone, handycam, netbook + modem, blanket, pillow, yoga mat, tea-sets, 2 pairs of shoes and 7 dresses.
    • No, I don't know how they will all come together in a couple of trunks, then be expected to leave and arrive at their points of destination safely chaperoned by yours truly, the manicured and harebrained mallrat.
    • Yes, this mallrat realizes that she is overpacked for a week-long trip, but she can't travel with just three T-shirts and a pair of Levi's anymore. No, by patrons of the Nouveau Maquillé, sirree.
  3. I'll be working as Writer Liaison. according to the book, that means working based on shifts that are not based on rosters, but Writers' needs. Which means, flexible on-call hours.

Which brings our attention to this blog's posting frequency. Or the kind of insanity that I'm musing to put myself through for another month. Whichever comes first.

Main Course

Okay, THAT trail of thought grew too long. I haven't finished packing and I'm sleepy and the first ride out of town is in eight hours from now, and I need ALL my senses functioning when I travel alone, so existential anxieties MUST WAIT.

In the meantime, we can go straight to desert:

Desert

If point 1, 2 and 3 were cooked together, added with choppy smartphone photography makes it a valid excuse to accept invitation to follow my peregrination on both of my microblogging accounts: @Angsar (Indonenglish) and @Hning (Arabenglish).

Yea, I said both; because research has proved that there never was a such a case of overdosing on the Narcissism of Hning. Hehe.

I'll see you soon, again and again.

We get feeble and sickly in character when we feel keenly, and can not do the thing we feel.--Robertson

It's always a brain trip to see festivity, integrity and public irony in orgy.

Distraction

When writing and reading are puffed up to a scale of a 5-day festival, in one of the most expensive places in Bali, the simplicity of being in the company of written word erodes under the abrasion of pricy admissions, faux-celebrity, and travel frenzy.

The good news is that, as far as my experience goes, that's the worst of it. It gets better from there. I think.

Desire

Much like Christmas and Pilgrimage and Rock concerts, when you surround yourself with people sharing the same passion, and in this case a craft both revered and solitary, you either

  • lose the sense of being the ONLY ONE in the whole wide world who is taken in reverence and near-crazy, or
  • gather the energy to postpone feeling depressed until some actual reading and writing occurs, or
  • take home whatever is offered from being in the same place with so many crazies as yourself and squeeze some creative juice out of it.

Detachment

All will be well, you see, if the people gathered around the festival of writers and readers manage to write and read whether or not they gather to celebrate the book-hysteria. The sooner they get to it is the better.

For the Hajji returning from Meccah, the groupie limping home at dawn, and even saints after neural-denting ecstasies, post-party blues entangle us all. Sometimes with even worse feelings than if the boohaha had never happened, lest we fight it off with positive action. Even a little. Even for a minute. Even if for just a cup.

Dénouement

It's just the thing to expect from a place so weird that it would pay such a vivacious homage to writing and reading, two of the most solitary human behaviors. A place that, as often as I have been there, has never failed feeding my imagination with sublime joys and lasting friendships.

Fuel for everyday awesomeness.

 If only I could stop myself from telling you about the boy I'm going to stalk while in Ubud.

For once, it's nice to know that so many written words has not killed the two very hot scientists giving the lecture. The lecture, by the way, would appeal to SciFiFans and literature fiends alike. No, I'M NOT LOOKING AT YOU, NESSIE.

Now, I haven't seen enough TED presentations to judge whether it is just the intellectual porn that made it watchable, or if TED is usually that good. And I insist upon taking a moment to understand this. Let's see:

  1. This is a lecture about books.
  2. I'm a blogger who'd go for voluntary servitude in return for smelling authors.
  3. I'd read books aloud just to taste the drawl of letters in my tongue
  4. I have called myself a wordwhore
  5. ….(sad crickets chirping in denial)…

Yeah. Enjoy the show.









PS. More about Ubud and this year's UWRF coming soon. Unless I stumble upon similarly awesome TED stuff and postpone life again for a while.

Damnation

The brilliancy in this list of writers' bio depressed me with awful sense of failure.

To illustrate that, the following conversation looped in my head under every unpronounceable writer's name:

ANNOUNCER'S VOICE: "Shall this depression evolve through the stages of grief? Will the writer of this blog finally indulge in envy, anger, rebellion and then actively seek fame and glory?"

EX-BOYFRIEND'S VOICE: Aye...and about time too. Don't say I didn't tell you so.

DYING CONCIENCE'S VOICE: "AWAY, YE EVIL EGOMANIACAL VANITIES. YOU'VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF A JUNOT DIAZ BEFORE!"

Disenchantment

It's a job hazard. Hearing voices and getting depressed while reading about unfamiliar and alive writers, is a daily risk for everyone who dares to try anchor their thoughts in writing.

You know it, I know it. There is no such thing as a jubilantly happy writer no matter how successful. And we know how lack of jubilation fuels creativity, because there is nothing like occasional shots of bitter envy sadness to keep us writing.

No marketable writer's bio in the world would mention -- that in order to become half-as-good a writer -- they breathed in irony, risked hernia and sanity (as each has to entertain as many saints as demons for as long as they write) and hoped that by the end of the day even loyalists like Colson would not quit reading by the second paragraph.

Nobody writes well, or delves too deeply in the unknown lands of creativity, for sheer fame and glory. Enduring the brutality of writing as a practice was the lesser evil for those who mean it.

Denotation

Problem is, nobody would want to attend a gathering of depressed people who like to distract themselves by reading and writing about what made them so depressed in the first place, either.

So they airbrushed the muses, glazed the bios and called it a festival.

I love freebies. While honestly trying not to be intentionally-distracted, I found this gorgeous songstress and solo guitarist, whose music you are legally permitted to download for free. This instant. Right now.

PS. Feel free to send me your audio pleasure.

What are the top 3 primary things that you are attached to in your life? - Asked by @Rohily, on Formspring

1. That God and Devil are in the details; there's good and bad in everything.
"لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ" (Q.)

2. That none of this will last. If it is good, it will pass. And if it's bad, it will pass too.
"وَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ" (Q.)

3. Everyone is doing his/her best. Everyone wants to be good. Nobody wants to be called a loser or a meanie. It's just the methods that vary. Not the goals or intentions.
"لا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا " (Q.)
"إنما الأعمال بالنيات ، وإنما لكل امرى ما نوى" (HS)

Which is in FIVE minutes. Damn Indonesian time zone.

Where did the last 23 hours and 55 minutes go? How did I become such a horrendous procrastinator? It's not like I have a job or a life or a nagging boyfriend and children with colic. It's not like the Timekeeper suddenly decided to marry me off to the first bidder (alive) and I've to plan my escape from the continent.

No! None of that!

And actually, I've planned to run my life in fulfilling this very purpose! I've braved 30 years of doubts and sneers and eloping just to HAVE THIS ONE MORE POST PUBLISHED! What if this was to be my very last chance? What if I die tomorrow? No, what if the electricity cut and I get stuck in internetless darkness this  VERY MINUTE?!!

(God how I love the convenience of All-CAPS when writing at a rush. Don't you?)

It isn't like I'm out of embarrassing, funny or uplifting stories to tell, is it?! Oh mother of all inspirations! BUT I HAVEN'T EVEN STARTED ABOUT THE…

 

(pip)

Post has been sent.

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.”

― George MacDonald

A man was obliged to pay a certain sum of denarius in Zakat, in the early days of Al-Islam. It was only about 2.5% of his wealth, but it still seemed like a huge amount when 2.5% is multiplied by 100, 1000, 10'000 dinars.

He asked the Prophet's Companion Fulan, wondering if he might be allowed discounts. The Companion told him that his due was actually more than the calculated amount. Then he asked another Companion. And another. The last one threw his hands in the air, "THERE IS NO ANSWER GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!  Go seek the Caliph's advice."

He found the Caliph Umar bin Al-Khattab at his usual hour to receive audience. The Caliph listened quietly as the man recited the history of his Zakat problems, the discontent that in all the learned men he met, none had given him a satisfactory answer to what duty he was due, and that as subject of his judicial territory, Caliph's word would be the last.

The Caliph emphatically rephrased the man's words, "Ye have went to this, this and that Companion asking them the same question concerning Zakat and none of the answers have satisfied ye?"

"Yes, and it is only in desperation that I seek justice from al-Farouk (The sword drawn between right and wrong)."

The Caliph's face brightened, then started towards the private part of his house, saying "Ruwaydan. Ruwaydan."

Wait a minute. Wait a little.

The man beamed with hopefulness. Al-Farouk has a solution. And from the looks of things, the man was going to get the silver bullet to all of his Zakat issues.

The Caliph resurfaced from inside the house with his famous sword, unsheathed and drawn, in his hand. He said, "Ye have questioned God's rights in yer wealth. Ye have questioned the counsel of learned men. Ye shall not question either evermore, once the sword speaketh its word."

And the sword swung. And the head rolled off. And the Farouk delivered its unquestioning duty as servant of God and man.

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it. ~ Anthony J. D'Angelo There is honor in wives who carry their domestic burdens in silence. There is honor in men who bring the food home. There is honor in the nurse who nurses, the sweeper who sweeps, the teacher who teaches and so on and so forth.

In fact, whether or not it is followed by acknowledgement, it seems to me that honor is available for anyone who performs their duties efficiently, quietly and gratefully for the chance to serve.

The more duty performed is the more heroic an honor, no?

Hence, wouldn't it be dishonorable if one complains about their duties? Would it not be even more dishonorable to complain about the negligent government, the delayed flight, the inattentive boyfriend and other things that one has no business of and cannot make better or change?

Besides, what difference would complaining have made?

"The past is never dead, it is not even past." ~ Faulkner

Every year, about a month after the chaos of Lebaran has passed, the Timekeeper commemorates the passing of loved ones in a ceremony called "Haul" - cryptic Arabic for Annuum.

For the occasion, he clears his stock of cookies, piled throughout the year and sorts them in small goodie-bags, later to be given out to those who attend the ceremony.

Tonight, as we sat sorting through a bottomless pile of Danish cookies, he told us of a year when he was short on supplies, and he went to his father's resting place to consult.

"I'm out of cookies, sir," said the Timekeeper.
His father raised an eyebrow, waved a dismissive arm, and said the typical thing: "Are you making excuses, son?"
"That year," the Timekeeper said, "was the year when everyone received a goodie-bag."

I sniggered under my breath at the end of the story. How convenient would it be if the dead could be consulted, seen and be sending cookies?

Also, how comforting it must be if true and that death is merely a rite.

"Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, or repressed. But you have to keep searching for your body's deeper need, the need for genuine love. Every time you are able to go beyond the body's superficial desires for love, you are bringing your body home and moving toward integration and unity." ~ Henri Nouwen

She unwounded from screaming bloody murder to whimpering snivels. Straddling her back, my elbow pressed her deltoid and my knee heavy on her gluteal aponeurosis. I was almost done and she almost forgave every one of my faults if only I would got off her back.

"Why do you always massage with vengeance?" Mother rolled to her side, throwing me off balance into the bed. "Why does it have to hurt so much EVERYWHERE you touch?"

I said, "That's just you being more aware of its presence, Ma. Even if I don't massage, it's there. You just got used to ignoring it. All I did was poke it alive."

"By shooting more pain?"

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. All I'm doing is just help your body be more aware of that. The good news is that, once we are aware of your pain, we can have it flushed."

"Flush? That's a nice word to call 'irrepressible, loud and ungraceful retching'. Isn't there a prettier way?"

"Sorry, ma, sickness is sickness; it's always unpleasant. Besides, I would be sick instead if I did not release your negative Lom. Lom, by the way, is the Thai word for human energy, chi, electricity, calories etc."

"How would you know about Lom?"

"Oh well, the Universe had her odd ways of giving clues when I was prepared to follow. Enough questions, Mama. Time to sleep. Don't you feel better?"

She looked within her and sniveled again. Deeper. The floods of fresh Lom washed her with something cool and calm and - inevitably, as all memories come - sad. "I wish you had known of your gift when my mama was ill."

"No, Mama; that's the devil's talk. Gramma had the best treatment available for her. Whether doctors, tabibs, xifus or hodun witches, we are mere messengers. Illness is from God; only God heals, and death is but the ultimate absence of all illness."

I felt her creases smoothen. There were no more intrusive thoughts or feelings jagged between us. With enough explanation, faith can sometimes be allowed to take over, and stand guard as we sleep.


* It should go without saying that massage is a technique and I'm not just recklessly inflicting pain. Apply what you read with discretion.

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." ~ William Shakespeare

Once upon a time, in ancient Japan, there was a pair of daughter and mother in-laws who shared the same kitchen and used to fight about everything every day.

The fights got so bruising that the daughter in law wished for the older woman's death. She did not want to bear the wrath of her husband and be accused of murder though, so she went to the Wise Witch of the Mountain for solution.

The Wise Witch paid close attention to her story, sympathized with the daughter in-law and gave her a pot of poisonous lotion to lather on her mother in law daily for a whole month.

"How can I lather it on her? She would bite my hands off."

"Feign that you are giving her a massage," said the Witch. "Do it daily. The poison will take effect inconspicuously. Nobody will notice your intent, but she will be dead within the month."

Happily, the daughter in-law did as she was bid. Every evening that followed, the two embittered women set their hackles aside; allowing the younger to give and the older to receive massage.

Within the week, the older woman's nagging vehemence subsided, and the daughter in-law celebrated her approaching reign upon the kitchen.

By the second week, their relationship became so amicable that the changes began to affect the daughter's mind too.

On the third week, the daughter returned to the Wise Witch and cried miserably at her feet. "Please, give me the antidote to your poison," she said. "Ever since I started massaging her old body, I have become fond and cannot bear the thought of losing my dear mother in-law."

The Wise Witch of the Mountain shook her head sadly. "There is no remedy for kindness, child. The that thing which you apply on her is an ordinary lotion. It was the exchange of physical contact, which you gave and she graciously accepted in a massage, that healed between you what words could not."

During an Ebola epidemic, there was a nurse who took care of the sick and dying. Ebola kills 9 out of every 10 people infected. Infection is almost too easy, with a very messy onset: one dies with innards juiced and leaking out of every orifice in pus and blood.

The nurse could have left while she was still healthy. Yet, having had Ebola up to her knees and elbows, she thought how unlikely that she might not already be infected, and merely was in the incubation period of the disease. Hence she decided to spend what is left of her time on Earth in service. She held the dying, cleaned and buried their remains, did her job. She served until the last villager died and was buried.

Then she prepared for her own death. She set clean covers for her bed, put on her cleanest outfit and laid down in waiting.

It just didn't come. She laid there for days, and Ebola just ignored her.

I'm sure that the nurse had her precautions against the disease. But what are the chances that she could be the only one to survive when the entire village caught the disease?

I hold on to this story when I have to touch anyone skin to skin and take in as much of their pain until it hurts me. I hold on to this story when I concentrate all my intentions in wishing a loved one better in everything.

That disease chooses it targets. And when the time comes, no back up plan or immunisation shot can keep it at bay. Whereas when it is not time yet, no matter how deep you delve in Ebola county, no matter how bloody you retch after a massage, ain't nothing will kill ya.

Because, as the old war veterans used to say, every bullet is made with its target's name on it, as every germ has its designated host. And, as much precautions as we can take, it is only against our own feelings and thoughts that we have the better chance to win at a fight.

We had been waiting for more than an hour in the shala when the secretary told us that the teacher was not coming.

Disappointed, we tried making up for a wasted yogaless evening by exchanging other yoga teachers' addresses. When that was done, I suggested extending the conversation over coffee.

Only one of the students, a pretty 30-something Canadian, took bait. We crossed the street, entered a crowded coffee shop and sipped on cappuccinos, conversing about our practices and credentials.

She told me about was Thai masseuse and a Yoga teacher from out of town, came all the way here to train. And I asked her the one question that I shy asking about teaching.

"Does teaching take you away from your own practice?"

She said,

"Teachers don't teach. Their role is to make themselves an exemplar of practice. That's what makes teachers worthy of their their students' time: to train hard and become powerful in their practice, so that when the student comes they can answer, 'Yes, it is difficult, but it will get easier. Yes, it seems pointless, but it does not matter because practice is faith.' So that when it is your turn to teach, you must offer it not torn with lonesome aches, but hot…"

- she sucked a passionate breath,

"- HOT, I tell you, with belief in what you do and say. That is why they pay teachers. That is why we seek teachers too. Anything else can be taught on YouTube, in books and DVDs. But the embodiment of belief and practice can only be shared in the glimpses of those hourly classes or rarer day-long workshops, and if you cannot convey that strength and confidence and faith from the first 5 minutes, then there is nothing else that you can teach to anyone."

I stared at her throughout the monologue. There were hints of enviable crazy in every word. No matter. I asked, and this was the answer I wanted.

There is a tradition by the Prophet that the Angels bless every step taken by the student to and fro the sake of learning. Perhaps, that was how the Angels found the yoga students from out of town, and the Angels wanted to assure them with blessings upon the path which these two have been introduced, whether or not there were ordained teachers and classrooms certify their learning.

I always saw it as a treat when Qusay posts on his blog. Can you hear it too, that something?First Day of School

"I saw this kid sitting on his mother’s lap in a crowded car in an old Chevrolet Caprice at a traffic light. Today is the first day of school after the summer vacation in Saudi, and you can tell he was not excited at all, he kept looking at me, and I kept looking at him, both probably wishing we could exchange our lives for a day."

O laborum, Dulce lenimen. ~ Horace On her blog, Triesti quoted the closing monologue from the lesbian wedding episode on Grey's Anatomy,

If you are willing to stand up in front of your friends and family and God and commit yourself to another human being, to give yourself in that kind of partnership, for better or worse, in sickness and health — honey, that is a marriage, that is real, and that's all that matters.

My question is, if marriage is a promise we make to another human being, and God is be expected to attend, bless and congratulate the parties involved, would God still be there when the relationship dulls and the husband loses his job and the wife is demented and the unmarried teenager is pregnant?

Hence, if He would condescend attending all of that, would He also attend when we make promises to readers and dishes and the expired driver's licenses? Would His presence make a difference on the boring part of the promises we have made?

What Difference Would It Make?

Unfortunately, aside from being the prodder that parents and muftis and advertisers poke us with, the idea of a God has made things more complicated than simple. And it's a shame, because I'm pretty sure that He didn't send us here just to celebrate the happy events, when we have friends and family to show for, then bail out when things turn sour like the rest of them.

In fact, if He does exist, He would be the first to attend "the worse" and "in sickness" part of our deals. And it is for that kind of attendance, (recognizable when the work is so familiar that it flows smooth and it doesn't matter whom we're showing for,) that makes doing the dishes (again) worthwhile and that's all that matters.

For, it is through commitments that are repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly kept, especially when things suck, that His presence is the sweetest and humanity can achieve its very best.

Or worst.

Jed, Marsono, Mark, Captain, Surprised Birthday Girl. Photo by A.Iksan, Meulaboh, 10-Sep-2007.

I am the result of kindness by so many people. Please know that it is your kindness that has kept me up so far, and that - for failing to return it - I am still trying to pass it on. Thank you for having been around.


Jed, if you're reading this, for the love of smiling girls and everything pretty, what in the world was the Captain's name, man?

My mom's here, under the same roof. I'm brain-freezing. It's been good; the Timekeeper makes excellent referee. I'm just too brain-frozen to write. What if I bleed?

So here is something originally posted in '08, with a compulsive touch of the '11.


"To those we love best we say the least." – Philippine proverb.  When Ammu sneezed, she gusted.

Ammu sneezed in continuous bouts, in bitter chains triggered by the need to cleanse in a exploding bursts. She sneezed in the mornings, when her bodily fluids were readjusting from fetal to vertical. She sneezed in the evenings, when darkness pushed in with the finality of sleep.

She sneezed hardest and most persistent when frustration stuck in her nasal passage and her sinuses bloated with discomfort. She sneezed until her face turned red, her eyes filled with tears, and her ears twanged in a dizzying ring.

One morning, Ammu's ever so often sneezing bouts coincided with Appu's ever so rare visits. Appu, who is Ammu's only daughter, hardly has been home, especially since Ammu's explosive sneezes launched her to study sneeziology.

On this very rare morning, Appu quietly decided to take on the mucous hail that sheathed Ammu face and hair, in a way no child should ever transgress without the elders' permission. She sat in front of our wheezing, sneezing Ammu, then - to our horror - she pressed both of her thumbs an inch behind Ammu's hairline, unplugging the sneezes that fed on Ammu's soul.

Right when we thought the Ammu's spittle might soak Apu's hair and shiny foreigner's clothes, Ammu seemed to have forgotten how to sneeze.  They sat in a puddle of mucous and tears and shaken-dust that slowly submerged into where all sneezes are forgotten, and the air around them calmed with antihistaminic glow.

"Look what you've done," Ammu scolded in between hollow breaths of half-sneeze and half-relief, "I lost my sneeze."

We haven't seen Appu again since that morning, and Ammu refuses to hear of her. But once in a while, when she thinks that she's alone with an approaching sneeze, she would follow the trace of fingers that Appu had left behind her hairline, to press and pass on the longing for our missing sister, into the forgiving earth.

====

"Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean."  - Maya Angelou

Whatever happens, please let me pick own nose. - Alia Makki

The human body loses its ability to hold water with age. Newborn babies hold 75% water in their bodies (most forgetful of humans), septuagenarians only 50% (most defined personalities). Naturally, the lesser water a body holds, is the less flexible it becomes, the harder for the muscles to learn new tricks.

The good news is that, muscles that are used most often are usually the last that will lose flexibility.

If I may choose, I'd rather lose the flexibility to pick my nose the last. Whether it is with your forefinger or pinky, you know how great it feels to pick your nose expertly? How easy it is to breathe and smoke with a clean nostril? And how pleasurable it is to go digging for that illusive booger and … well.

What more is that I can only be an expert picker-of-my-own-nose by dedicating so many hours to it. Yes, I want to learn photoshop, painting, capoeira and singing. But if I spend time on learning those things, I'm going to have to sacrifice precious nose-picking practice hours. When and how am I going to be a nose-picking expert if I keep wasting my time with mediocrity?

So when a foulmouthed, overslept morning finds me crawling from under a crushing mountain of failures, I tell myself that, out of the remaining 9973 hours designated for yoga nose-picking, that could be the very hour that my pinky will remember how to pick the perfect booger in a single, sliding motion.

So that I when lose the rest of my water, and my muscles freeze in forgetful rigor mortis, it's going to be buried with a soft nostril, damp with its last boogerless breath.

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it. - John D. Rockefeller At the beginning, Aziz looked like he was one of the lucky ones. The kind who inspires young strapping men to leave home and try their luck abroad.

He got what everyone would have wanted; a pair of elderly masters who were wealthy and generous and included him in their will. When the masters passed away, they left Aziz with half a million more to take home.

With his inheritance, Aziz bought a house, opened a shop and sent his children to fancy schools. He kept his shop well-stocked, his wife the village fashion-icon, and his children driving the latest cars.

The only thing that Aziz did not buy was a lifelong education, something that would have helped him handle a buck. Something that 1-in-3 lottery winners try to tell when nobody listens anymore. Something that NGO influx did to Aceh and Haiti's economy. With his inheritance gone, Aziz put his house, shop and cars on the market. The children slowly arrive home, seeing their mother last year's dress.

If I fail at delivering subtly, I'm trying to tell you two things.

  1. Charity is vicious. Apply with discretion.
  2. Nobody, whether wealthy or poor, gobbles an oversized cake without choking on it.

Compassion is a luxury. - Seno Gumira

Can you teach a man to be kind to others in need?

If it were a homeless refugee, his children are hungry, while everyone else is sick and dying, it would not be realistic to expect compassion as one of his top fortes.

Maybe we can't teach compassion to a grown man even if we secured all of his needs. That's just too many layers of negative experiences to unlearn in order for compassion to stick.

We might, though, have a better chance in saving his son.

Say that the poor man's son was adopted by a upper-middleclass family, took him into an FDA-approved home, fed him well, played smart games with him and encouraged his learning according to his natural aptitudes.

Say that his adoptive parents are open to every kind of sexuality, showered him with enough love and none of the abuse, sheltered him from body image insecurities and peer-to-peer bullying, applied everything that doctor Spock advised and then some.

Say that the boy grows into a fine young man, married his true love, secured his job and the future of his children, and a mortgage fully paid. Occasionally, he'll go to his home country, inject himself with enough schadenfruede to remember to be grateful for all the goodness that he's had and then maybe, if he is naturally athletic, ages gracefully and can afford comfortable retirement and botox, is when we see glimpses of the compassionate man in him.

Alternately, we can celebrate compassion when it occurs and still understand and forgive the man who fails to respond compassionately to the needs of others; knowing that nobody could go through life unscratched.

1.

"Can't you lunch here?" My mother shifted uncomfortably. "It seems safer."

I shook my head. In her honor, we have already had lunch with mother yesterday and I was craving for a hookah, something that no proper Southeastern domestic household could properly serve.

Besides, what my mother never seems to understand, it is generally safer to be in public with a friend of the opposite sex than elsewhere.

When I got into his car, the loud smell of Albaik made me swoon. "I see you've done your shopping."

He grinned. "My mother demanded it when she knew that I was coming home tonight. Pardon the unpleasantness. I told her that it isn't healthy. It's only a short trip from here to the sweet smell of hookah."

2.

I tiptoed in my shoes. Every bit of femininity in me repulsed. "Are all bachelor pads normally as chaotic as yours?"

He heard the impatience in my voice, and laughed from under the struggling bed. Pulling himself from there, he shuffled about the room, picking up recognizable items and throwing them into an open bag.

It was out of necessity - by stupidly losing track of time - that we braved the mutual embarrassment of watching his underwear fly into the travel bag. The hookah had taken longer than we anticipated. He had not packed and it was getting late and the route was convenient from my house to the airport. And there was no way that he would leave me toasting by myself in the car with a pile of roasted birds as my only defense against circulating two-legged hounds.

"Try to be comfortable," he shuffled into the bathroom. "I won't be long."

3.

I sank into a sofa, forcing my vision toward the only window in the room. Evening was falling, for as far as I could guess. The windows in Saudi were always curtained, glazed, tinted and tightly shut. Whatever happens within a private territory remains there for all eternity. For better or for worse.

I tightened my abaya around me, not wanting to touch it with anything traumatizing or dead. The room smelled masculine, but not unpleasant. I have known this man for a long time. And I remembered that he was an observing Muslim, which made it safe to bet on the level of his disciplined cleanliness and, if I may, his efficient packing.

The shuffling had stopped. A zipper groaned and I heard him call. "Would you like a drink?"

4.

He stood in front of an open fridge, holding a sweating glass of clear liquid. His travel bag curled neatly and shut. His eyes constantly scanning the room. I guzzled the water, remarked on the rosy aftertaste and, replacing the empty glass, asked if he were ready to go.

He gave me one hard look, then quickly dropped it to study the lines in his hands. Then he started shuffling again. He closed the fridge, picked up his bag, checked his travel documents, took a final scan and lead both of us out of the room.

"I hope we haven't forgotten anything."

5.

When we got into the car, the smell of 200-riyals worth of unventilated Albaik over-powered us with thoughts of our mothers, separate dinners, and a 20000 lb. bird to catch. Only food as unhealthy and delicious as Albaik could raise that much guilt and pleasure at a sniff.

Rolling down the window at my side, it came to me with sad relief how the car's windows were untinted. After a few deep breaths, I felt the strain that made him pack so hurriedly melt. "What just happened?"

And his gaze held me long and steady. "Nothing you can't blog about."

“A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.” ~ Erma Bombeck

Prologue

The Machine Stops is a dystopian novella about people surrounded with constant comforts that they have nothing to do outside their cells. They lack first-hand experiences, so they only discuss what others before them have seen and done and created. They exist to read and exchange those secondhand ideas through a screen, by means of many buttons, spending most of their lives physically apart from other living beings.

It was written in 1909, by E. M. Forster.

Post

I had recently re-discovered the magical world of Skype. For about 15 minutes, smoothly-streaming audiovisual affection were exchanged with friends on the other side of the world. Since it's a new thing for everyone involved, there were a lot of smiling, waving into the camera and awkward silences of not knowing what else to say, followed by an abrupt "Okay, gotta go, I'm falling asleep."

For me, that exemplifies most of the adventures we have online.

Gtalk, email, twitter, facebook, tumblr, blogs and so much more. The abundance of communication tools has stripped us from having actual quality in the things we say to each other. Out of the hundreds of followers and online friends, how many meaningful conversation have we exchanged? How many meaningful conversations do we need to exchange in a lifetime anyway?

The only way I can understand the world is through reflecting my own discoveries in it. But who wants to go through discoveries all the time? Why not let life discover what we can do to her instead?

Partus

Of course, there is an app to cease the flow of communication and allow for ideas to ferment, relationships to strengthen with absence, and quietude to fill the hollows with understanding.

It's the button on our machines that says OFF.



Update:

"I think what's really important is thinking about how we can simultaneously maintain a sense of wonder and a sense of criticality about the tools that we use and the ways in which we relate to the world."









me: Look at this disgustingly happy woman. She travels and eats gelato and wears pretty stuff. While I'm the big-ideas-daily-practice advocate and I'm going to die blogging and nothing else to show for.

NerdDude: We all feel the same way about our own lives.

me: What? Min jidd, ya NerdDude?

NerdDude: Well, I could be generalizing.

me: To gallows with politically-correctness! Do you really think we are waking up with the "Wasting my life away" chorus looping in our heads?

NerdDude: Okay. Let me qualify that statement and limit its scope to my personal experiences.

me: Just say it already!

NerdDude: I think the same way about my life.

me: ヽ(´ー`)人(´∇`)人(`Д´)ノ (´ー`)y-~~

Happiness is the longing for repetition. ~ Kundera

"Go home" has its own word in Indonesian, Pulang. One verb. What does that say about the Indonesian language? What is it that makes pulang so important that they gave its own verb? I mean, I understand why eat, sleep and laugh are important verbs, but why pulang? Where are they returning to? A place, a woman, an 11:36:02? Or was it just a freak linguivolutionary glitch: that this whole life is a return-trip?

Throw me a sentence that has the word return in it, and find me soaked in nostalgia. How quickly I jumped at the theme, fingers and knuckles warm with words. And how dangerous; for it must be important that humans are allowed to press the Universal Reverse button.

Do you want to do this again? Re-Turn. Turn back. No, wait. Aren't we going around in circles? Doesn't matter. We're recyclable. Our ideas, flesh and heartbreaks are recyclable. The world is round so wherever we're going we're going to end up back in square one, you know?

Return to root: New month, dying season. I blog, you read. We happy. I birthday, you sing. We happy. We remember, we forget, we happy. Amen.

 
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