“Sharing tales of those we've lost is how we keep from really losing them.” ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

I haven't done a collection post in a while. These were my favorite posts in the last 3 years. Some were picked because they had the most visits/clicks. Others were just me being totally subjective.

I’m fascinated how my voice changed through the years. In May 2010, I went on a meditation retreat for the first time and that brought my writing engines completely down. I couldn’t write for a very long time.

In August 2011, I said, “Well, why not?” – Then wrote every day for 62 days just to see if I still got it. Or if I could just fake it a little. Turned out that I didn't really lose my voice. It just broke. And whatever broke when I learned to shut up, took more than 2 years to mend. I don't know if it should be mended completely. I mean, my brokenness is my battle scar. I don't mind bearing any scar that'll remind me to forgive and yield what is and always will be part of me.

Yet, in August 2012, I felt that if I didn’t write, I didn’t have any other excuse to exist. That writing was the only bargaining chip I had left to ward off - or at least, stall my progressing brokenness. Writing was a guarding routine. A creation. A witness.

I’ve been writing in that voice since. Haven't you heard?

Hover on the links to activate jinx see the gist of the posts.

2010
2011
2012 
Others: From 2009 posts. From 2007-2008 posts.

And I think we're done here.


A guitar used to be an instrument played by a single musician.

Not like this.

Or...Oh my. (They must have been a joy to babysit as kids.)

Or…Oh. Forget I said guitar.

As I was saying. There is no such thing as a too many renditions of a good song.

And that, the more you love/hate, the less excuse you have to give less than your bestest best. Even if it’s offered to the public for free. There’s no such thing as cheap freedom, see?

"Virtually all acts of greatness are the acts of an ensemble" ~ @keithyamashita

"I know you are not Muslims, but that is shameful!"

It was an hour before dusk, on the first day of Ramadhan. Superstitious Muslims believe that dusk is the witching hour; when the buffer between the worlds thin. Magical beings are then allowed to pass through. Even in Jeddah. Especially near the crossroad.

We were shopping for iftar. Inheriting gait from our mother, we scuttled rather than walked. We moved faster than the traffic along our side, where vistas of congested cars, food fumes and hypoglycemia mangled on each other. We controlled our breaths by not talking and held hands for cues instead.

The man yelled from his car in English. He yelled with the kind of certainty that is typical in an empty stomach. It was enough for him to deem us foreigners and kafirs for my uncovered hair and our interlaced hands.

My brother did not miss a beat. He tapped my arm to excuse himself before releasing. Then he dove into the middle of the road, squeezing between crawling cars and straight to the caller's window. In full-fledged Makkawi Arabic, he said, "Did you just commit murder?"

The man's face crumbled but my brother did not spare him. The canons that protected his cinematography in a country where cinema is outlawed, fired from his mouth in rapid vehemence. And, just like in the movies, he left dramatically before the onset of apologies.

He groused about it until sahoor, but his hand, whenever he clasped mine, was always warm.

“It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story” ~ Native American Proverb

I haven't lived in Saudi for nearly 12 years. I’m embarrassed to be the one writing these posts. Who am I to speak about a country I have not lived in for so long?

I have traveled back a few times. Sometimes even tried to make it permanent. The longest, though, was barely two years. Things just happened and I had to go. I would like to believe that I don't have problems with Saudi. A chunk of my sanity depends on a lot of people there, and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have kept the citizenship, wouldn't have felt so guilty for leaving, wouldn't have...

Well. Anyway.

Memories change over time and – in spite of my obsessive journaling – so have mine. I'm writing these memories not to preserve them, but because I can't avoid them anymore. These are the themes that mar the space between the words, and the themes that fuel the conversations in my world.

I do apologize for my subjectivity. Prolonged absence has stored my memories in slots of tenderness. Not only that we remember better when we’re happy but people also treat you kindlier when they know that you won’t be around for long. They can sense that whatever they say will never fail to impress you; for your eyes are sore with their absence.

If it’s any consolation, I’m writing based on first-hand experiences. Saudi is the quintessential landscape within me. My Holy Grail. It seems a waste not to write from a place so deeply woven into my voice, from the harshest curse to the softest purr.

Economics aside, every time I visited Saudi, my sensors drowned in kaleidoscopic implosions. I could mine from every one of those implosions thousands of written words, dozens of stories. (If only I weren’t so embarrassed.) Like in every society, Saudi is never as straightforward as Halal/Haram, or any less complex and enriching as a bowl of ma’soob.

People and events don’t function like mathematical equations. The variables are countless with each person, every given situation. What works for me, may not apply for my cousins. What works for Jeddawis, might fit the standards of blasphemy in Bon Temps.

Maybe each of us is laden with a unique voice. Or maybe we just haven’t heard enough stories to find the one that relates to us. I only impose that the point to stories is not to judge one another’s experiences.

You have your stories. See if you could find yourself in some of mine.

“‘The doer is merely a fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything.” ~ Nietzsche

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a reliable, luxurious and screaming-legitimacy kind of car.

But if you overfill it with non-Arab-looking folks, take it for a carpool at night around Jeddah’s ghettos, you might understand why Batman prefers to patrol from the rooftops of Gotham than on the Batmobile.

To be fair, we were asking for it. And not just because it was such a flashy car. The way our friends got out, a mile apart from one another. The way my hair was not covered. The way Jay drove at such an hour. We were only relieved that our friends were spared from questioning before the cops finally flashed their high-beams behind us.

I heard Jay say, "My wife," in his cheekiest tone. The car's magnificence seemed to have injected his answers with confidence, regardless to truthiness. “No, of course we don’t have our legal papers. The mu'amalah (permit) takes forever for Saudis to marry outside the citizenship. Would you like to speak with her?”

My social life is actually one of the things that I miss most about living in Jeddah. I’m sure distance has had some effect on rose-tinting my opinion. Though whenever I was there, I hung out with male friends as regularly as with the female, as regularly as I cared to do so in Jakarta. Regardless to citizenship or driving distance.

Saudi is not singular in its treatment to citizens based on race, sex or tribe. On the daily level, life is always much less dramatic, and so much blurrier than any journalistic segment. Authorities do not arrest and question people at random. There has to be glaring causes of suspicion for that.

And even with glaring causes of suspicion, with the help of fancy attitude and a comfortable tone of voice, one might still get away unscathed.

I smiled when I gave my ID to the cop standing by the driver's window. "We lost track of time," I said. “Dropped-off our friends – wanted to spare them the cab fare. With this car, could you blame us? Are you sure you've got everything you need? Would you like to see my father's business card as well? Some gum?”

And they let us go.

“Don't Panic.” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

“What isn't romantic about us?”

I twiddled my big toes on his dashboard as reply. Our 4-months relationship was made of stock clichés. My parents did not allow us to marry. I was Saudi, Tamo wasn’t. We snuck out. We had the pluck to go out for a drive, then park on the Jeddah Corniche at 11:32 pm. The weather was gorgeous and smelled of armpits. I was 23, pissed and he was broke.

These things, to deranged poets like him, were romantic.

Of course, romantics are also the most reckless. Puberty in Saudi is celebrated with cautionary tales about couples caught in seclusion and getting publicly defamed ever after. And there is no safe-word.

Not long after we parked, a police car flashed its high-beams behind us. An officer came to Tamo's side, asked him to come out of the car. They chatted for the longest 132 seconds of my life. 

When he came back, Tamo’s face was professional. It was the first time that I saw Doctor Tamo's I'm-Sorry-We-Did-Our-Best-But-You're-Still-Screwed face.

“Cover your hair. Stay calm. We'll tell them that you're my fiancée and your name is Hannah.”
”Are we...”
”No. Not yet. They just want us to tag along.”

They lead us to a quiet residential area. When the cars parked, two officers came out. One took Tamo out for a walk. The other stuck his head into the window, across mine.

“What's you're name?”
”Hannah. And we weren't doing anything wrong. Just talking. I swear. My parents know about him. I swear. You can call my daddy to confirm that. And if we meant to do anything wrong, we wouldn't have gone to the beach. Not that we would gone anywhere else. No, that's not what I meant! I mean, I'm going home right this minute. I promise. I'm never, ever going to do this ever again.”
”Why are you talking so fast?”
”I'm terrified. Isn't it obvious? I've never talked to a cop before. I swear. I didn't mean any harm. Neither of us. We were just talking!”
”What’s your name again?”
”Al…Hannah!”

I honestly don't remember what I said. I might have sworn more than breathed. I do remember, though, seeing my cop stifle a smile. All that police training did not go to waste. And that he had seen through me since the first time I said “Hannah.”

When they gave us leave, I asked Tamo how his interrogation went. He said, "We talked about cars. You and your cop took so long; my cop ran out of ideas and I ran out of excuses. So we talked about cars."

That’s it. No lashing. No public embarrassment. Not even a tweet. Nothing. None of the romantic-horror news in Saudi was based on me. I swear. And you probably won't hear it from another source, either. This isn’t the kind of thing that the mainstream media would care to tell you about Saudi.

That even the Saudi police force isn't immune to reckless, albeit heartfelt, romantic clichés.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. ~ Paul Tillich

We can’t explain ourselves all the time.

For one, there are no words that could explain better what our actions could not. Even if we tried explaining it in tidbits, it won’t be the whole picture. The supremacy of time and seasons is just something that we have to obey and accept.

The more we understand, the less we are able to share it with anyone. 

If lucky, we might meet someone with similar experiences, and from them the best companionship is a nod of recognition.

Otherwise, when the divide has been cleared, the others won’t matter as much. That is why we try so hard to understand, in spite of time, rejection and failure. We are trying to develop a resiliency of faith in ourselves and actions.

And when understanding has evolved into faith, disregardful to endings and judgments, we know that we’ve done our work in the world.

And know we have been happy.

“There are times when silence has the loudest voice” - Leroy Brownlow

Start Herein

If we spoke quietly, our audience would be forced to lower their tones too. And if we stayed quiet despite the noise, the quiet will spread. Because even the Unquiet needs a loud audience to stay loud. Simply because speaking loudly fills one's ears with deafening ring.

So long that one of us is quiet enough, even the loudest and most chaotic will one day run out of voice and find wisdom in hushing up.

What happens then?

For one, we'll hear better. Then respond more efficiently, and get to have more time to do things we actually like. With the people we really like.

For another, it gets easier to look out for ourselves and each other. Like steroids for awareness, for our minds and feelings.

Just from hushing, see?

(Heard in a hotel in Dubai - Last Eid)

Hotel Staff : Yes, Sir, how may I help you?
Saudi Patron: Don't call me "sir". That is name for Kaffir. I am Muslim. Call me "Hajji."
Hotel Staff : Yes, Hajji, how may I help you?
Saudi Patron: Where is bar?

*giggles* .

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I only have only an hour left of my life left today.

I planned to go to bed in a timely fashion, like a respectable woman, within the hour. An hour means that I have only half an hour to draft few hundred words and another half to edit, tweak and publish.

Once the hour passes and I leave for bed, this December 1st isn’t going to repeat itself ever again. I dread meeting the day when I find myself wondering how I have spent my only chance of going through December 1st – or February 24th, or May 18th!

It’s a terrible feeling. To stutter instead of saying it with dignity that I have done a day, a year or ten-thousand hours, the justice it deserved. How does time make itself pass like that? And what’s with the cruel inevitability?

What’s more, I blush to admit that one of the best parts of this year’s December 1st – or what I can remember of it – was when a man told me to shut up.

***

Daniel tweeted a question about hotels in Banda Aceh, on behalf of a friend. He wanted it to be clean, air-conditioned, near downtown and with internet access.

My reply was, “Your friend's a 3rd world nomad photographer and is still counting on free WiFi? #USBmodemAwarenessCampaign #cheeky #AskingForIt”

That’s when he told me to “oh shut up :)” and made me :) too.

***

I was flattered. You can only feign public offense with those whom you trust. And it is so easy to trust strangers, isn’t it?

A well-delivered flattery can be disarming. I felt recklessly freed. I felt that I could tell Daniel everything and hear from him anything. As if I had the clearest conscience and nothing in the world could burden me with shame.

Freedom is a state of mind, after all. For me, the definition of social freedom is to able to love anything and to forgive anyone. To be free of wants and aversions. To be free of grudges and expectations. That is practical freedom.

I wondered if I could love Daniel like that because I don’t know him well enough. I don’t know how he sounds when he entertains a splitting hangover on Sunday morning. I don’t know how he picks his nose. I don’t know if he wears fresh underwear, or if he refuses to shower on Thursdays. I don’t know details that shrink the glories of unfamiliarity in a hairy 40-something, blue-eyed Caucasian in board shorts, squeezing his way through the streets of Ubud on a beaten Vespa.

I wondered if I had known Daniel better it would be as easy to love and forgive him. And if I could still love humanity in its unfamiliar distance, why can’t I love humans intimately?

Can't the seed of love and forgiveness for strangers viral through hurts and petty whims? Can that kind of love transcend above sibling rivalries, murky squabbles and the dregs of chores? And if mere love and forgiveness could do all that, then how in the world..?

I can't go into that right now. My time is too short. I must prepare for bed; for my contact lenses are starting to unpeel my irides.

Nevertheless, if anybody asked how my Saturday night - December 1st went, I shan’t be ashamed to admit that Daniel has planted a seed of love and forgiveness, by telling me to shut up.

In memory of the friends we've lost  to AIDS

Image has unrelated with post. Sorry. Feeling incontextually cheeky. Besides, a picture of an outhouse wouldn't explain anything either. Would it?
I'm bowel shy. Thus I don't have a phone.
When I go, I have to take the phone with me for two reasons:
  1. To distract me
  2. To distract the folks who might be passing around the bathroom from any sound effects by camouflaging it in the phone’s music in full volume.

It just happened that things got unusually complicated this time. My phone slipped into the bathtub. I tried drying and reviving it with no avail. My precious Smartphone. The phone my little brother gave as pelangkah (overstepping) gift for getting married before me two years ago.

When I told him about it, the Timekeeper lassoed the parental high horse. "Let it be a lesson for you to never take your phone to the bathroom with you."

I took offense. "You, of all people, should know how mean you sound."

***

It started when I was little. The Timekeeper, as one of the people who helped raise me, has had his fair share of my shit flying his way.

Or in this case, rickshawing his way.

One night, we were at my aunt’s and I needed to go. I couldn't. The idea of having to go in a traditional outhouse knotted me up. My parents found me curled up at a corner, soaked in cold sweat. They figured out what's wrong and – smearing horror on humiliation – they announced it to the world in roaring laughter.

Then they hailed a rickshaw and took me to the Timekeeper's house, few blocks away from my aunt's. Like all private toilets, this one also represented its owner's hygienic habits: sterile and shiny with obsessive cleanliness.

There, forever traumatized, I went.

***

Back to the present. I was probably tired and haven't gotten the publishing orgasm for too long. Hence, his comment won my master a generous overflow of pettiness.

I swore, "See if I'm ever going to use the phone ever again!"

Of course, I'm still as communication-overloaded as any attention-whoring blogger hipster. Being connected through the internet from three other gadgets (iPod, iPad, laptop) doesn’t exactly pass this as a CCE (Communication Constipation Emergency).

It has been nearly four days since the death of my phone, rest its jingles in peace. I am happy to announce that I haven't followed suit. The passing of a phone – great-great-grandinvention of Mr. Graham Bell, mothergadget of alarms and beeps and notifications, step-sister to insanity – feels uncanny, but not critically.

It shames me to admit that I haven't taken advantage of the golden hush well enough. Except in fixing my sleep, which was single-handedly devastated by the writing marathon. (Which I won, of course. Titus! To not be able to poop AND lose that challenge?) I was hoping that some magic might follow the absence of a phone. Like winning another ridiculous challenge or something.

Maybe it's too early to say. Or maybe I won't say. Not over the phone, at least. I look forward to knowing how long I could hold out without a phone. (My record is 10 zombified days.)

In the meantime, I need to publish this post. Now. As distracted and rushed as it seems. Before anything else falls victim to my unpublished pettiness.

The more faithfully you listen to the voices within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. ~ Dag Hammarskjold

Sometimes, while listening to the Brothers Karamazov, particularly the parts concerning Father Zossima, I have to stop the audiobook and give myself some room to weep.

I wondered if the Timekeeper had Dostoyevsky’s eloquence, he would have said the same things instead of showing them by example. I wondered if Dostoyevsky had actually met a version of the Timekeeper in his own time. I wondered if – this being his final work – the character Father Zossima embodied Dostoyevsky’s final will for his children’s children.

On the result of multiplicated desires:

What follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder; for they have been given rights, but have not been shown the means of satisfying their wants.

On joyless isolation in worldly objects:

For how can a man shake off his habits? What can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? He is isolated, and what concern has he with the rest of humanity? They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less.

On the distortions of having more:

Interpreting freedom as the multiplication and rapid satisfaction of desires, men distort their own nature, for many senseless and foolish desires and habits and ridiculous fancies are fostered in them. They live only for mutual envy, for luxury and ostentation. To have dinners, visits, carriages, rank and slaves to wait on one is looked upon as a necessity, for which life, honor and human feeling are sacrificed, and men even commit suicide if they are unable to satisfy it.

~ Book V, Chapter III of the Brothers Karamazov

As the Lord was about to exhale, His adjutants lamented, "Won't it be a waste? Giving man that bit of freedom would make him vain and not for a bit."
And the Lord said, "It's alright. Variety can be beautiful too."
And the Lord gave man language, the ability to give names and meanings to His other works. And all that man could name and give meaning to, became putty in his mind and hands.
Some men remembered the conversation between the Lord and His Angels. Some others forgot.
The ones who remembered got lost and found themselves in places where names and meanings have no value. In the lands of the unnamed, where His throne rests, is the ultimate freedom: Meaninglessness.
The ones who forgot, the ones who never got lost, remained at names and meanings until they lost their tongues. Eventually, they too lost their tongues. Eventually, everyone remembered. And that too was alright.
Whether remembered or forgotten, the Lord waited in the Unnamed Lands. Void of meaning. Only Being.





I'm breaking the thirty-thousand word barrier with my NaNoWriMo project and I'm drying up. Hopelessly drying up.

Few years ago, this is the word count around which I run out of English words to write. I'm writing my current novel in Indonesian; because I thought I might have more words with my mother tongue than English. Turns out that it isn't true. I'm just as dried up in Indonesian as I am in English, and switching between the languages wouldn't help either.

Then I read this tip by Deb Olin Unferth, from one of the pep-talks from last year's NaNoWriMo (Yes, from last year. Yes, I'm that desperate):

"Keep in mind the initial image that you had of your book. Writers often say that they were struck with an early image or tiny scene that filled them inexplicably with emotion and inspired them to create a story around it."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then looking at the energy and urgency caught in "Le Baiser" by Robert Doisnaeau twenty times could churn at least twenty thousand words more, couldn't it?

"Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely legitimate.” ~ Robert Doisneau

Easy.

PS. Come on, my little brown muse. Give it. Don't let me strangle you for it.
PPS. I think I just cracked the mystery of the origin of Arabic slang for kiss boos بوس,.
PPPS. Write from where it hurts the most. Always.

“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.” ~ Nadia Scrieva
I met four of my ex-boyfriends by coincidence in one week.
I don't know how it happened. I had been trying to meet Ex-Boyfriend No.3 for months with no avail. Then that week came, and I met him and three others.
No, I didn't check with the astrologers to figure out what in the stars happened to allow that to happen. It just so happened that with every one of them there was a message; something important I had been wondering about and I needed a sign. And they were the ones who, one by one, answered the questions that I have been wondering about.
(And they heard what they needed to hear through me too, I think.)
For instance, the married ex-boyfriend taught me how to fix the house. The one who came all the way from Dubai gave me a story that - on the internet - turned slightly viral. The one I had been hoping to see, Ex-Boyfriend No.3,  actually showed me what happens when you insist on seeing someone before the meeting is due: Nothing.
The last one, by contrast, wrapped me with understanding. That, when it is time to meet, the Universe will cancel every flight, slow or accelerate processes, and simply rearrange all the stars and cars in its belly, to make that meeting happen.
Likewise, there is nothing you could do, not a wish or prayer or organizational genius could allow a meeting to bloom if the Universe does not yet deem it time to ripen and fall.
(No matter how hateful is your absence.)







“Journeys end in lovers meeting.” ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
I'm a witch. I don't know what else to call the amalgamation of characteristics that has been appearing since for the last few years.
I need to call it something to accept it. I need to accept that I'll never work for profit. That I can't have a calculated income or apply for insurance. That I have to stop expecting things and only facilitate for them to happen on their own. Obeying the supremacy of time and seasons.
(And the Lord who commands and reigns over all beings and times.)
Witchy things are considered outdated and wrong. Who cares about the stars and demons when you have twitter and supersmartphones?
Then again, every time I mention it, everyone turns superstitious. (You, too, are still reading, I see.) It's a pliable icebreaker, even with the most rigid rationalist. Unlike religion and politics, it's safe; nobody will be offended. And it's as delicious as a dirty pleasure.
You know? Maybe I'm not a witch. Maybe I'm just a good guesser because I listen well. Maybe the witchy thing is just a ruse. A ruse that will allow you to start talking about yourself. Because you need someone to listen. Because you needed your burden to be shared. And I just happened to be the stranger who'll love you anyway. Whatever you say. I'll listen. I won't mind.
I'm just a witch, after all.






“His dress told her nothing, but his face told her things which she was glad to know.” ~ A.A. Milne, Once on a Time
Our biological design is meant to hold a certain form for only few periods at time, before deconstructing again into tiny-tiny atoms.
The same goes, I guess, for memories, words, bones and stories. Everything we sense and remember and understand are meant to pass on. To flow from one container to another.
I'm romantic about death. I hope to be buried rather than cremated, one day. (It seems environmentally friendlier.) Either way, my bones and memories would turn to dust and even tinier things. So I wondered if it's possible for atoms of my bones and memories to dilute in the water that's going into grains of rice. And if it's possible for someone who consumes that rice to remember how my bones held me up on my journeys. How my memories were filled with stories.
(And how much I have loved you.)
And then I wonder again, if the person who ate the rice that held my atoms would, after that meal, feel joy for the rice, the farmers, the waters and the land that has cycled and reached him in that wholesome meal. I wonder if my atoms would touch his. If they do, I hope the good ones would make him pass through the day better. And if they don't, I hope someone else has had better memories to pass on to him.
(And would inspire him to love his girl, as much as I have always loved you.)





“The voice of beauty speaks softly; it creeps only into the most fully awakened souls.” ~ Nietzsche

The voices in our heads are the autopilots of our decisions. All decisions are emotional, a marketer would say.

Sure, you might manage a story of 300 words once a year without knowing the voices in our heads. But to write 2000 words everyday, a story every day, will take a bit more courage. It will take a bit of self-excavation through the crooks and crevices of the convoluted noise in our heads.

If you are not accustomed to seeing demons and spirits and goblins, you would not know how to react when you do see them. Similarly, if you are not accustomed to the voices in your head, it is more important to stay cool and listen to all until you can differentiate between them.

So listen. Listen carefully. The voices in our heads have been living there for years of abandonment. They’re cold and scared and vicious. They might have been affecting our behaviors without us knowing. They might be harder to woo and control and understand than we care to admit. That's okay.

Knowing the voices in your head is always a good thing. It will take a while of getting used to. Don't fear. Acknowledge them, but keep writing. The only way they could hurt us is by letting them take over our courage to write, move, and call that bloody repairman to come and bomb the house.

  • Read

And not just tweets, if you please.

One way of differentiating between demons is to see a lot of them. One way of hearing a lot of voices in your head is by reading.

Reading is an intimate activity between the reader and the voices that have been living in other people's heads. If those people have managed to listen to the voice in their heads and come out of it just fine, with some practice, so can you.

“All forms of madness, bizarre habits, awkwardness in society, general clumsiness, are justified in the person who creates good art.” ~ Roman Payne

  • Don't lie

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. ~ Steinbeck

Our lives are fantastic as it is. None of us need to make up lies to make up a good story. If you have a good ear for a good story, it will tell itself wonderfully without you lying.

Besides, lying would ruin your relationship with your story. And if you are not convinced, neither would be your readers.

Even genres of fantasy, such as horror and fairytales, were once based on someone's true experiences. The supernatural part of those stories came from processes of rewrite. It’s cool if you want to rewrite, but this is not what you're doing while Nanowrimo-ing.

  • Write intimately. (Intimate is fast.)

In consequence to the law of Thou Shan’t Lie, writing becomes a terrible process of self-discovery.

Imagine telling these stories in whispers, spooned with that special someone right before bed. You’re telling the best parts. You’re leaving out boring details, save for those most necessary. You want to finish before lights out but you’re also indulging deliciously with every loving syllable.

There is no such thing as objective writing. As long as that piece was written by a human being, it will carry fragments of that person's histories and bruises. Everything you write will (and should) project you and your secrets.

Get used to it.

The thing that sets apart narcissistic verbal diarrhea from epic memoirs - like "The Liars Club" or “On Writing” - is the treatment of those secrets (edited by Johnnie Walker). No matter how many people have read those books, you can’t miss the sound of intimacy in the way a good story unfolds itself. 

Besides, at this stage, the Nanowrimo stage of your writing career, you don't worry about treatment. And you don’t want to start a nasty drinking habit when you haven't fully drafted out the story you want to tell, either.

Stories are the shortest distance between God and man. ~ Yiddish Proverb

Good stories do not always need multi-layered plots and heroic scenes. Romeo and Juliet follows a formula basic as "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl die." Shawshank Redemption's formula was "Boy gets in trouble, boy gets spoon, boy gets out."

Good stories that slip snugly into the treasury of classical immortality photographs the soul. And the soul is always photogenic, regardless to settings and plot.

Good stories are relatable. They are propped up by events and characters we care about. Good stories are the details of daily experiences: choices and conflicts, motivations and emotions but with endings.

Good stories transcends. It honors man and his struggles. It gives away freebies of gratitude and relief.

Ultimately, good stories disregard its authors and readers. It will shine through grammatical errors and editorial disasters. It will reach the very person who it needs to hear it: You.

Some of my friends are doing the Nanowrimo this year.

I’m in denial to all the Nanowrimo years that I didn’t win due to excessive lying and build up of excuses. But the one time that I did manage to write fifty-thousand incoherent words in a month (and barely survived) got my bald head on the lifestyle page of Jakarta Post.

It is possible that I might be enrolled again this year. Though with possibly forty-one thousand words left to pick, I’d rather save the possible embarrassment from losing by claiming it “a tentative project” until I reach the thirty-nine-thousand-and-nine-hundred-and-ninety-ninth word. IF I were doing it at all.

I’m not a sore loser. I’m just neurotically competitive. There is a difference!

"It is foolish to guard against misfortunes from the external world and leave the inner mind uncontrolled.” ~ Buddha

I had the slightest window to shower.

The master's annual Eid sermons and prayers were renown for their brief simplicity. He did not like to indulge in what nature was more efficient in doing. He also knew that the bulk of change in the conscience of man did not lay in public performances.

Indeed, he had a very long day ahead of him. A very long week, actually, filled with an influx of villagers who have worked abroad and were home for Eid. And with them, the master exchanged blessings. And for them the house was opened, allowing them to fill the house with noise and children and curiosity. Touching everything with their thoughts and words and fingers. Thus, for a whole week, at least, I was pent up in my room to avoid the nemesis of hermiticism.

Hence, that one small window of calm. When everyone's attention was averted to the Timekeeper and Eid ceremonies. It was the only chance for me to slip in and out of my room without getting ambushed with chitchat and stares. After a few years of miserably spending the week cooped up in my room in past Eid seasons, I had counted on that small window of calm to take my one final break from being eternally constipated and shower.

I stripped and stepped into the shower. Naked and soaped, I remembered that I was also facing a window of doom. If I had known about this small window, would not a lot of other people - more destitute and desperate for more important resources than showering - knew about it too?

It was the golden hour of loot. I've heard stories of thieves squeezing into the tightness of that window, pushing on desperation and murdering anybody found behind the unlucky windows they have cracked open.

I turned facing the shower door. Naked and wet, I thought, if I was going to share that window of calm with anyone I might as well try to get a full view.

That was when I saw it.

Looming taller and wider than the shower door, it stood behind me, blocking my view of everything else behind it. Its thick fur and stocky figure overfilled the shower stall. Its cookie-monster eyes rotated insanely, never meeting mine, offering subordination in its language. Naked and wet, I nearly slipped off my feet laughing.

Did the master send you? To protect the house?

And the master’s servant genderuwo's massive head stilled for a moment in humble and silent acquiescence.

Prologue: Arabic Literature

I romanticize the idea that it is possible to teach the love of reading and learning. Or at least raise enough guilt to motivate the want to make better use of current technologies. Even if we’ve lost so many battles, the next one could be the one that counts. Always.

Chapter One: Why Audiobooks

  • Because this is one of the oldest ways of learning. People used to sit around the fire after dinner passing each other stories.
  • Oral tradition is more prevalent in places where literacy have been suppressed for late printing or censorship.
  • Audiobooks are easy to go through. Listening takes less effort for the brain to process than reading.

TIP: Do something more boring than listening to stay awake through the reading. Do something monotonous or repetitive, like commuting, laundry, etc. Since the brain craves efficiency, you might manage to fill that efficiently sleeping part of your brain with stories.

Chapter Two: Why Sex

  • Why else? Sex sells. It's fun. It’s a basic need. There will always be someone in the world interested in it. That is easy marketing for the audiobook format.
  • Good sex education can go a long way in fixing a lot of things. Anybody who can have some should at least have them well-done.
  • If they don't, here's one way of fixing that problem without risking embarrassment.

Chapter Three: Where Are the Arabic Sex Books in the Public Domain?

(Funny that I'm asking that question in English.)

If you know where the Arabic sex books are hiding in the public domain, please tell me. I have the time and interest to read and record them. Then fix the Arab world's problems one punta coition at a time.

Epilogue: Remember the Proof Listening Janitor?

Between information superfluity on the internet and the undercurrent bullshit of the social seas, the one thing that centers my scattered mini-universe is when I shut up and work.

When I have worked so hard that I can’t talk anymore, it is when I know that I have been happy.

I would have been happy if I felt like I’ve done this beat laptop, and every person who has given his time in researching, designing, manufacturing, selling, connecting it to the internet, to Librivox and the millions of hands that delivered Nafzawi’s writings to me, some justice.

Because all of their big kindnesses can only be repaid by passing it on in one project, one tweet, one kiss at a time.

Click to go to page

The Perfumed Garden, by Sheikh Nafzawi. Translated by Richard Burton. Read by Alia Makki who is very excited about her inaugural solo audiobook recording. YAY!

[Notes: Project ran between August 4th until October 30th, 2012. That includes one Ramadhan, two Eids, one trip to Bali, thirty-four blog posts, at least five rolls of funny organic cigarettes, countless kretek cigarettes and cups of coffee, three kilograms of sugar dispersed evenly on the hips, complicated yoga asanas and unmentionable times of masturbation suppressed giggles.]

Please make time to tell me what you thought about my reading. Did I bore you? Did I enunciate clearly enough? I would like to do more solo recordings and I’m only going to be a newbie for a limited time only, so this is your chance to criticize my performance before I turn too snobby for feedback.

I’m just kidding. Feedback is the stuff that keeps my spirit of volunteerism live and running, man. Any feedback would be awesome.

I wish you an enjoyable read. And thank you for listening.

PS. Chapter Six is the one with the funky position names.

There is a guardian watching after every letter in every Good Word. ~ Timekeeper

I fall in love every time I write a new story. It is one of my terrible writing habits. And it is one heck of a potent source of power.

Love that is as profit-oriented as that can never be consumed. It has to be a zipless fuck. A fuckless love. Because fucking is too messy. Nowadays, the cost is always too high. The young ones might not understand this, but every fuck costs lots of risks and hail marys. And the older we are, the less risks we want to spend our time on hail-marying.

Yes, grown ups want to fuck too. Very badly. It shows in our gestures and grins and disgustingly intimate conversations. But we can't afford it. We can't afford everything else that comes along the choice to fuck.

Being older meant that we come a baggageful of plans. We did not plan on having these plans; they just sprouted and imposed themselves on us. Every day. For instance, he believes that if he was good enough, God will unite him with his wife, rest her soul, in the afterlife. I believed that if I kept my legs closed, I could write about the experience in a public blog and not suffer through the misery of not posting for another day. That was the plan.

Unfortunately, our plans came with a set of habits. A set of habits that we stuck with. We sure did stick with them. We cursed through every moment that brought such ridiculously fuckless plans and habits. But we did.

***

Like everything else that turns out with plans, this too surprised us. Mostly because we didn't plan on making a habit of being friends for such a long time. Relationships just happen on their own too. You don't get an internet identity because you wanted to end up in a foreign place twelve years later, at the airport asking the only friend left for you in the world (whom you have met as that foresaid internet identity) if he would like to hang out with you for a day.

You do not spend years living in an exotic country because you want to develop an insatiable taste for tomatoes available only in his dusty kitchen, either.

And you definitely did not learn an intellectual language to lose this argument: "I'm a greasy man. Detergent removes grease! What's wrong with you, woman?"

No. Things just happened. That's the way the world works: Plans and habits form whether or not you want to fuck. And every time we do something in the world, planned or incidental, we can only hope that it is going to return to us kindly. We can only hope that we are braced with enough habits to bear through massive tests of character with residues of our identity in tact.

We spent a whole day alone together in the privacy of his home, in our shorts and t-shirts, and separate beds. Through our meals and giggles, we kept our eyes lowered. The subject laid itself on our eyelids so heavily that we only sighed and cut more tomatoes when silence wrung between us for too long.

And besides, we, the older ones, have developed habits so strict that they come to us in crude, undeniable forms. They came to me fully-armored, whispering angrily, from the moment I laid foot in that house until the airport gates closed behind me in the next morning: "Who are you? You don't belong here. Leaveleaveleaveleave..."

***

I feel like I’m breaking new rules every time I write. I promised I would not exploit my private life. I promised I would not divulge on sex. I promised a lot of things to guard my writing voice.

I've broken most of them by the end of this post. Soon I won't have anymore rules left to write with, and I'll need to make up new rules. Or a new habit. I don't know if I should care anymore. Things just happened. Even this post just happened to come on its own - Finally! - after a thousand rewrites.

I fell in love with him every time I rewrote this. I don’t mind that habit. I'm proud of him, and hope he will forgive me eventually for writing about us like this. About the rules we that we broke to test our friendship. And to test the plans that we have duly observed. And the habits that served and protected our identity.

Maybe some of these broken rules have some truth in my writings, and strum words that reverberate with someone’s tune.

"The feeling is less like an ending than just another starting point." ~ Chuck Palahniuk

"Do you love me? I don't love you. Sorry."

For honest credibility's sake, they had to look in each other's eyes when they said it. They repeated it to each other for the longest time. Once a year, at least. They wagered that they were going to be the last people on earth to repeat that sentence, and they would still not love each other.

So for the longest time, they were also the last people on earth, because everyone else had died from that disease called love. Everybody else got married and suffered all kinds of heartache. Had children who made their hearts ache. And loved their friends and parents and suffered so many heart attacks.

As if the love for one's self could suffice. As if the more they loved the more was got. This was worse, people who loved, they loved all the more because they knew it was non-refundable. The value was in its finality. Once you have loved someone, they had every power to destroy you, at least all the parts that you have reserved for allowing them to live in your heart.

And there was the kind of heartache from every kind of love. Love of food, love of country, god, ideas...oh the foolishness of man! If only they could love themselves a little better. If only they weren't so narcissistic to think that their simpering seeds and obnoxious offspring, springing from every imaginable place in germinal hyperactivity, spreading all over Earth like warts, was enough.

If only they could realize how deeply loved they are, each and every one of them, instead of posing like heroic saviors for every cause on Earth. That even Earth does not care for them. And the Universe is none the wiser with or without their love.

Which is why our hero and heroine never loved. And they have lived so long because they never loved. And soon after there was nobody left alive on Earth, they kept pushing it and to see where it might lead them. And to see who was going to mouth at the throes of death that same longing of recognition. Because love remembers. And even though they have loved nobody, a lot of people have loved them. And those who loved them have also been loved and remembered by a lot more others. And that was why, at the very end, when they were the last people who lived on Earth, the memories of everyone who have died loving someone or something was passed onto them, because the living's job was to remember.

(Even if there were people around them, they didn't see the others. They couldn't. The selfish are blessed with chronic unawareness.)

And so, the two most selfish people on Earth met every now and then just to reaffirm to each other of their lack of love for one another. And one day they met with the knowledge that they were dying. Their grey eyes aged and cold from watching all the people who have died for love. Indeed, they were the last people on Earth because they never loved.

They were the richest, because they never wanted, hence they never shopped superfluously. Also because they had the whole world divided between them and nobody to show it off to. Who'd want any more? What more could they have asked? They were the very healthy and fit because they had all the attention on their own biceps and abs. Smart and serious and sunny. There was nobody else beside them.

And they have kept it on for mere spite.

Then came that day, when they were tired, and it was the last winter of their lives. (They knew it. Selfish people always knew that they're at the edge of the world and everything is in superlatives every year.)

The fire was low and smoke was high. They held each other for warmth. By a mere look at first. Then broken sentences. "Do you remember when...? Not even if he...Do you think...?" A brush of skin. Then all three together: Look and skin and sentence. And then the fire got high and smoke low and a clarity passed between them. Something old and remembered and have filled the lives of so many and ended the lives of everyone. Something that was as sudden as it was undeniably real. Touchable. Theory. Fact. True. All. True.

And they didn't need to say it. Everything had already been said. And all that will be said has been said many times over. And saying it a hundred million times again shall not change a streak of paint or a micro digit of the millionth nth.

Inevitable as death.

“I love you.”

“I do I do  I do  I do  I do...”

Once they said it, they couldn't stop themselves anymore. A look became a stare. A touch became an embrace. And so on and so forth. And love grew, grew, grew within them. Choking their organs and blood flow, making them stupid and sick and slothful. They quickly grew wrinkled and excitable and unreasonable.

Then everything lit up around them. And everybody came back to life and cheered for them in a ghostly wedding and attended their graduate and graded and guarded parties and funerals. Everybody was there. Since they started loving each other they had to love everybody else too.

Once they said it, they couldn't stop themselves anymore. They loved everybody with obedience. They loved everybody with obligation. The more they loved, the less they remembered. Soon they forgot who they were. Soon everyone became somebody else's copy.

Once they said it, they couldn't stop themselves anymore. Until Somebody New came into the family. Then they either became like that Somebody New, or the other way around. Eventually everybody who loved somebody had to love everybody and everything that everybody did.

Once they said it, they couldn't stop themselves anymore. One love demanded his entire bands and tribes involved in that one love too.  They loved everybody because they had to. Because from this body he took money every month. From that body they were born. On the shoulder of one of those bodies their bodies were going to be raised. And so on and so forth until they had to love everyone and everyone loved everybody and that was that.

Hence, like when everyone else who have died before them, they too died out of love. Out of too much love. And everything more than just love. And everything that love brought along in a suitcase or a contract or a diseases or a set of children and series of hopes.

Love that lit their world. Love that ruined them. Love that made their ruin bearable. Love that made their unbearable ruin repeatable many times over. Till the end of time. Forever and always.

“There is nowhere morning does not go.” ― Leah Hager Cohen

Over breakfast, the Timekeeper started telling me a disgusting story about pigs and poop. I flipped, "I'm still eating, man!"

He laughed. "You ought to have a stronger stomach than that. I don't get sick from stories." A thoughtful pause. "I do get sick if someone got sick, though."

Then he remembered the night Ila's mother passed away. Ila’s Mother was the Timekeeper's step mother, the one who raised him after his own departed when he was younger. He was with her that night. She awoke with a fever and was vomiting blood. Her body couldn't take it and she died.

"How could someone die from vomiting blood, man?"

"She didn't just die from something she ate. She died from an illness in her lungs. Only, she never knew about it until she started vomiting blood, which was a few nights before she passed away."

And that resettled the air between us back to its snug storytelling mood. A life loved and productive to its last moments, oblivious to worry of illness, almost always promises a happy ending story. Death comes in many forms. This was one of the better ones.

When she awoke that night, she asked for milk. Since it was the Timekeeper who was on watch, he was the one prepared it for her. And she sipped it all with a straw.

Then the fever cooled, and it bloomed in beads of perspiration on her brow. The Timekeeper began to wipe her face, but she said, "Leave it, child."

Then she fell into deep sleep. And then some.

"It's one of the signs of a good death." And he said it in a heartbreaking sweetness that children reserve for the memory of lost embraces.

"Did you cry?"

He grinned. I shook my head laughing. How could I forget? One who sees both worlds is never lonely even in grief.

The hospital wanted to keep its reputation. Hence, when Ila's Mother's family requested to carry her body home that very night, the release process was fast. Fast is intimate.

They didn’t even bother casketing her. The men who loved her carried her body closely in their arms. They traveled through the night. They held her on their crisscrossing laps, inside a hired pick-up tub. The Timekeeper held her waist.

And it might have been the cold, or maybe as a private joke between them. That her post-mortem bladder relaxed, releasing its liquid memories into his living embrace.

Reading for Librivox

The process from recording to publishing in Librivox's catalogue is kinda long. 

An hour of recording, took me nearly 5 hours of editing. I don't know if this is normal or if I'm just that much of a noob. So between re-read, editing and meticulous perfectionism that is almost paralyzing, I get to procrastinate. And when I procrastinate, I wonder, “Why would anyone bother?”

Actually, why would 5000 any ones bother? Since, you know,

Over 5000 readers have completed at least one section, 272 readers have each completed over 100 sections, and 17 readers have each completed more than 1000 sections. [Source]

(No wonder English is becoming the common language of the literate.)

Behind every one of those thousands of books and recordings is a Proof Listener. Someone who listens to the first recording, notes the mistakes and survives the burps and farts accidentally unedited out from the original recordings.

A Proof Listener is someone with a saintly strain in their genes, if you ask me.

For, if reading for Librivox provides the instant gratification of being able to speak forever uninterrupted, then what do Proof Listeners get? And if, in the long run, the reader's voice gets immortalized in the public domain, unless he is a Dedicated Proof Listener (which is, by the way, very flattering to have), the rest of the Proof Listeners don't get that much credit.

Hence, it is my suspicion that if audiobook readers carry the threat of spreading about their deranged obsession with their own voices, Proof Listeners are God’s way of guarding the general public from that sort of insanity. Listeners who enjoy listening to the voices of narcissistic people talking to themselves endlessly. Listeners who, in one way or another, share a passionate ardor for literature in spite of their social and educational backgrounds.

Like this Proof Listener

Someone to read for

“Between Ennui and Ecstasy unwinds our whole experience of time.” ― Emil Cioran

Come

You know that feeling?

For a second, everything is blurred in jarring, pleasant blankness. Thoughts muted. Senses peaked. Conscious but void of identity. You are nobody. You are the world. The world is you. And it's is okay. And you understand everything and nothing. And that doesn’t matter. This is just how everything in the world works.

All that brouhaha with not a hint of kink, in a room full of fellow meditators. Or on a yoga mat, exiting a long practice. Or on the prayer rug, after the closing salams.

English and Arabic use the same words for both sexual orgasm and religious ecstasy. Probably because it feels the same. And it looks the same from the outside. The methods might differ, but the experience is basically the same.

Beata Ludovica Albertoni by BerniniThat’s pretty cool for a hermit with anti-social tendencies. And for anyone who would think that ecstasy is only available is for those who are sexually fulfilled.

(Compared to sex, asanas and sports might sound as fun as masturbation. I'm not complaining, though. Cheap, careless sex can do worse damage than masturbation.)

(Oh, quit smirking. I'm trying to say something here.)

Catch

I might be pushing the no-sex tab a bit far. But it I’ve been indulging in too much talk. And I need to strengthen my faith in the solitary nature of fluent work.

Qusai nags about practice. Practice that builds momentum. The goal to physical exertion is to calm the mind. The calm might lead to orgasm/ecstasy/rainbows.

Yoga isn't just a physical exercise. Meditation isn't just "not thinking". Repetition builds fluency. Fluency leads to easier immersion in work. You don’t talk when you’re immersed. And when you don’t talk, there’s a better chance to reach the calm. The calm might lead to ecstasy. Ecstasy needs a build up. Build up takes is repetition. Nothing happens just from a single stroke.

First that moment of jarring blank. Then orgasm or ecstasy. Then the happy, floating afterglow. It looks tedious and impractical, but the afterglow is always awesome.

If ecstasy justifies the past, then afterglow is for things to come.

The ecstasies have the same effect, however it arrived. A systematic restart. And like all restarts, it's only a button's press then it's gone. But, the afterglow that follows. Ah. That.

Cohere

Remember when the afterglow lasted all day? Everything we touched and did felt prettier and smoother. Like we are loved through and through. Like we can handle it all. A renewal of faith. A glimpse of God.

And what in the world is beyond us with a spark like that in our souls?

Muslim Note: I like to think that the positions in a Muslim prayer is a meditation designed for build up. A build up for the calm to arrive at the very end. When the person, the prayer and the universe come at the tip of a finger, testifying Unity (شهادة).

You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it. ― Neil Gaiman
Writing has been bugging me.
On one hand, I feel like I have these ideas and I want to talk about them not in the form of stories. Maybe I've been too busy playing poker online that I'm not allowing these ideas the time it needs to ferment into stories.
On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been blogging a little too much for my own creative good. Blogging has been the only form of writing I know, man. What if there are stories waiting to be told in the unbloggable form? What if blogging has been confining my writing in a sure comfort zone?
What if all I needed to do is write a few more words; let the canvas expand and watch it ferment longer? What if all I need to  is die a little more for the sake of the goddamn muses?
Where do these questions come from? Is this what they call artistic growth?
If only there is a distinct Career Development Plan for writers. Imagine having set milestones for writing: “After XKK words, you will move on to this form or that. Follow obediently; success & satisfaction guaranteed.”  (There is such a thing as mid-career writer, though. What is that anyway? Does it come between obscure tweeter and Stephen King?)
Say that there is such a thing as a career development for us creatives, maybe this is how the process goes:
  • Write short, bloggable stories.
  • Build a portfolio: Win competitions and get published on other people’s places (such as "&"?)
  • Whore around, get rejected and ignored a lot. (Yes, this has to be part of the plan.)
  • Then, if one is really that obtuse to persevere this far, one might finally figure out know how to weave 10’000 words in a cohesive piece of prose without dodging rotten tomatoes.
  • Eventually learn how to weave 10’001 words the next day.
  • And 10’002 words the next-next day, etc.
Well?
It looks like a plan. It looks like a mouthful of a long plan. And I only got until Tuesday. But it makes sense. Looks doable. I could innocently experiment with form and still have something to appease my obsession with Achievements.
Besides, what else is there left to do when you have an itch of a writing bug haunting you around?
On another note, I found it fun, really fun to have someone talking with me about writing while writing. Even if we're just trying out words and doubts on each other. For this reminder and the warm sense of community, I thank you, Saad.

(PS. Something like a bad habit is telling me that I’m ditching the plan and reverting straight back to telling bloggable stories as soon as I hit the publish button on this post. Dammit.)





There is this ridiculous show on NGC, Doomsday Preppers. In one of the episodes, a family moved hundreds of kilometers away from their home to get away from the beach in case the planet veers off its axial position.

Who plants these ideas in these people’s heads?

I remember something about the major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions causing Earth to tilt a little off its usual axis. Also, if I remember correctly, the planet has been tilting on and off it's axis a few times. It swings at a 2° range within the last 5 million years, I think?

That reminded me of the global warming and freezing thing.

In the case of global warming, every one is right as far as the beginning. Global warming begins with the sun. It has, though, very little to do with what we eat.

How I see it, in bullet points, global warming is like this:

  • Sometimes Earth leans a little too close to the sun, or a solar eruption happens. Both might effect Earth’s internal temperature.
  • When Earth’s temperature raise, the pressure of the planet's magmic core also raises.
  • When the planet's core grows too hot, volcanic eruptions ease the planet's heat.
  • A string of massive geological action occurring within a short period of time is basically the planet’s way of managing its temperature. The Earth acting like a pressure pot.
  • When the magmic core of the planet releases its pressure, the planet cools from within.

From outside, the volcanic ashes that spreads in the atmosphere cover the Earth from the sun's heat and radiation. The ashes make like an umbrella. It might or might not increase global warming. If it does raise the global temperature, then the string of geological action continues within a few years of each other. If it doesn't and the planet has released enough of its internal heat and pressure, Earth will then enter a period of global cooling.

Historical Worldwide Climate and Weather

That is just one half of the story. I don’t know why the volcanoes erupt when it is freezing. It is probably more complicated than how I described it. You might have more fun reading Historical Worldwide Climate and Weather than my ramblings.

The underline is that all these are normal occurrences by planetary standards. The tilting planet, the moving on and off axis, the comets whizzing and solar eruptions. They have been happening a lot. As often as global cooling and warming.

We just have really short memories compared to the planets and sun and galaxies. And I'm fine with that. There's very little that we can do about it. There is very little we can do to make better or worse global temperature on the galactic scale. Very little we can do, for instance, to keep the moon from veering off its orbit.

And if you're going to watch a show called Doomsday Preppers and start feeling rather anxious, remember that the dying part isn't the worst part of it yet.

"The coming death no longer seemed an evil, for it gave them an hour of slumber before it came. Hunger and thirst and cold—these were evils, but not death."
~ Honore Balzac

For, as far as the planet's geological and galactic positioning managerial staff are concerned, our lives and deaths and arguments and causes were never part of their grand design. Therefore, we might as well concern ourselves with things that we can directly and personally influence, instead.

Like vasectomy?

I release an involuntary snort every time I hear someone placing bets on the absolute goodness of charity organizations. (Like, come on, man, think about it a little. There is always a catch.)

...and on the idea of bringing more children to the world. (Because there are seven billion of us here. And because every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans. And they look like this and this.)

...and hipsters complaining about boredom. (I hope something bad happens to you so that you remember how boredom is actually too much of a good thing.)

...and the distortion between need and want. (You have between two, five or six needs to maintain your well-being. It does not include 192 bottles of nail polish.)

...and fanaticism. (Shouldn't we be over that by now? Nothing lasts. Especially feelings.)

...my writings. (Yea. I snort at my writings. A lot. Especially when I'm so stuck that I revert to mere bullet points. I’ll probably delete this post someday. Can’t snort all the time, can I?)

“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It was Eid. Gates were open and guests were expected even if the owners were not home.

The boy strolled in like a parading trooper. His family waited at the front of the house. The boy called for master of the house. He called over and again, growing bolder and louder by the turn. It wasn't polite, but there was no stopping a three years old on a mission.

When his voice was at that perfect pitch, Uncle Pi appeared. And the boy screamed with all his might: "EEEEEW! BLIIIIIIND!"

Who could blame a blind old man for traumatizing a three years old? It's not that Uncle Pi chose to be blind, or that he had anywhere else to go. His job was to guard the house. Even on Eid morning. Come screaming child or none.

It's a communal house that he lived in. You would be surprised how little a man needs. A row of tiles, layered with a mat, on the hallway. Just enough for him and his ashtray to share. And he sits there every day. If he was not too busy smoking his precious kretek, then he'll multitask it with a stare.

And you wonder how it is that the man doesn't kill himself out of boredom. We are at an digital information age, after all. Since he is even blinder than ever. Where would he want to go? With whom would he have to digitally socialize?

Stop. Rephrase that.

You know for sure that he has plenty enough to live for. Guarding the house, for one. And there are plenty of important daily engagements he must keep. For instance, there are his prayers to keep him busy five times a day. Assuming that he does observe.

Oh, of course he observes. What else is there to do? And the rice and water that he prepares for the house's inhabitants. Do the math. With twenty people to feed, keeping the rice stocked is a lot to do.

You have no doubt that sharing a communal house keeps anyone's ears filled. Blind or not. And you would like to believe with all your heart that, when everyone's gone, he isn't lonely. He would sigh in relief instead. And he would not dread the silence.

On nights like those, when the people are gone, you would see him sitting on the terrace. Elevated on a plastic chair instead of his usual mat. You would greet him as loud as the boy did, though kindly. You smile, of course, because he could hear that. Then announce the food you have brought just as loudly, "Eat, man."

You would assume, that when he is alone there, it would come to him like a whimsical tune. And the thought would tinkle louder into a grin. Since everyone has had their meals, he could eat everything left behind. That a full stomach turns even the thinnest mats into the softest beds.

You would assume plenty about a man who lives in blind poverty. Even if all your assumptions were wrong, you choose your thoughts. You would hold on to the giggles that almost choked you when he met your brother decades ago. You would hold on to the thought that he isn't bored, lonely or unloved. And that it remains bright inside of him.

You would hold on to the belief that there is plenty to live for, even for Uncle Pi.

“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?” ~ Stalin

The Ceiba tree was taller than all the houses and people and animals that surrounded it. Nowadays it's rare to see a tree surviving that height without getting logged. This one did. Maybe because it's located in the middle of a graveyard and nobody wanted to catch a bitter ghost evicted from its trunk into their cupboard or something.

Anyway, a Ceiba tree grows to about 70-90 meters tall. I wondered how old it must be. I thought how the bigger a thing is in size, the longer it takes to grow into that size. Sequoia trees reach bout a hundred meters, and live up to a few thousand years. An elephant lives about seventy. Whales live long too.

Then I thought about the planet and how big and old it is. And of the mountains and the stars and how old they must be. And I remembered a popular hadith that mentioned that the first man was 60 cubits (or 30 meters) in height, and that he lived to about a thousand. And the people of his time lived a long time too.

Then the Deluge came, and God was disappointed in man and cut short their lives down to 120 years or so. Or maybe, because there were only very few people left after the deluge, so they had to inbreed.

Then again, according to the Bible, the Deluge was the last of the total wipeout antics that God did on the planet. If that was so, then everyone left on Earth today are the result of those inbred people!

I thought how, after the deluge, there were more people populating the planet and the harder a fight it was to survive. And the survivors who lived on strained resources gave birth to children with mutated genes. For example, children whose mothers lived on meager diet while carrying them in pregnancy had the tendency to hoard calories and become obese, shortening their life expectancy.

I kept wondering and thinking about a lot of other things. Until finally dusk came and I had to quit staring at the big old tree and go home. Its long old shadow still following me.

 
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