Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mother's Delight

In the randomnitudes of Tuesday night my inner hare heard the call of kin.

And it arrived, packed up in a song I've known since childhood. Mother's Delight by Altan seemed almost like a friend, almost human. At times four human friends, talking to me in different tongues. It was a medley of four reels that had been picked up by the band from everywhere. The eponymous Mother's Delight occupied the leading space, and an unnamed reel rolled on peacefully where it let off.

But the most illustrious in the medley would be Ormond Sound and Mike Hoban's Reel that shoved up the stage zealously two minutes into the music; These two reels seemed to say different things to me at different times, since on their own they are without words, only the raw emotions of flute, fiddle, bodhrán and guitar chorusing. Three years ago it manifested my anger towards my peers when I was unable to conform. Three months ago it was a musical embodiment of a girl I admired from afar.

The breeziness of the nameless reel stops, whereupon the accusing voices of flute and fiddle speak out in unison in quick and tireless syllables. The guitarist keeps his head low, taking it all in and plucks at the strings dilligently, and tension builds up in an increasingly accentuated and breathless staccato. The rhythm for the bodhrán does not seem to change, but it's become obvious to the ear and takes on the stance of an attentive spectator.

Ormond sound leaves the scene as abruptly as it entered: the flute and fiddle duo retreats from the center of the stage, and the guitarist promptly reasserts his dominance with full, forceful chords that strum earthy colours into an unearthy augment. Although the bodhrán has become indistinguishable from the rest of the music, it had in fact gone wild and blended perfectly, maybe possessing each of the other instruments. The wooden taps could be heard in the flute, the fiddle, the guitar, shoving all three down the catwalk.

In the inevitable end, as things are wont to happen in energetic Irish medleys, the other characters on stage fall away into silence without warning, leaving the bemused flautist to clean up the mess.

Yes, I've been reading the Pilgrimage, and I'm very much at home with it. The things they brand rituals may be what I've been doing for a very long time. I am sceptical about magic and its getting-tied-up-with Catholicism, though I wouldn't bring myself to ignore the dang brilliance in the RAM exercises, with their frank plainness and realism.

People who search for a higher reality are not being unrealistic. It's different from running away from reality, and more akin to hurling oneself bodily into it from an outside vantage point.

It's getting late.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Orbiting Thoughts

What shall I say... I've been living at home like a wretch. Mom likes to make a joke out of my chinese name 闽, which said that whenever within the premises of the 门 I don't get to be anything else than a 虫. As witty talk goes, it didn't much help. What helped was that I realised what was intangibly bricking me up at home, and broke out sometime.

A few days after dragging boots through Hillview I went out for a walk around my Hazel Park neighbourhood... and walked all the way to the Holy Bus Stop across the road from Courts. The bus stop which I stare at whenever I pass it. I used to feel like dying out of despair when someone wasn't there and dying out of embarrassment when she was. Since April I've stopped feeling the former; I'm not sure that it's the correct direction, but there I go.

Before my brain starts purring again I'd make a list of upcoming breakouts from mental prison.
Thursday: Yingshi's goodbye lunch, lecture at NTU by Hooft
Friday: 11am with Sean and Weiyi at Sean's house; going there on foot
Saturday and Sunday: Probably ruthless scheming.
Sunday afternoon: LIGHT programme 1245 hours at St. Mike's room wherever that is
Next week till Wednesday: Attatchment at ECE Department
Wednesday and Thursday: CCA Leaders workshop
Friday to Sunday: Flybynight with Yee Chien, Regina, Xiangjun
The Last Four Days of November: Nyeh hyeh hyeh hyeh hyeh
December: Attatchment to IBM

It is ironic that I often need the computer to really do stuff.

Another list of things in my brain
It's started purring reluctantly.

Number One: The Chalet
I feel obliged to blog the chalet as number one.
Arrived at Costa Sands in the first day wtih Lin Xi and Zhang Xiang where Jun Yan and Geok Han were waiting. Li Rao and Zhang Hao came later, and seven of us proceeded at night to haunt the Pasir Ris neighbourhood on bike.

I had no idea the peace you get in the wee hours until the bowels of the sleeping town was emptied of traffic. We went into Loyang and probed deep into the inaccessible realms until we reached the airport's back gate. There was a narrow pavement demarcating the border between the world of the ghastly nightime forest and that of dreary street lamplights. There was this place where no tall trees or buildings obstructed the Winter Hexagon to our left. There was the Changi Women's Prison, and a truly amazing residential area.

Number Two: Freedom
I don't feel angry at the people who tell me overtly or otherwise that they don't want to talk about religion. I feel sad.

One of my friends felt that it's restrictive and another steers off it like the plague, and possibly for the same reason. Why are you so afraid?

The word dogma makes me squirm inside. It is now close to a sacre, bundled up with blind faith, roteness, the stubbornness of old people, the fallability of ancient received wisdom.

If we try to understand dogma rather than fashionably stomping upon it I believe it will cease to become the "dogma" we hear often of. A dogma revealed, not blindly adhered to, is an attitude; like the respect for the animals who give you meat by not eating them with milk.

It's 1:50 AM, I'm not feeling open and tolerant now and if you sneer at this I might find a pretty big stick and consequently clobber.

Number Three: Death has made cowards of us all
That was what I read on a passage passing off as an advertisement by a Hospice Organisation.

If we know to live life, would we still need to be afraid about death?

I'll stop writing because brain is dying down.
Lord help me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Is Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism
by Douglas Rushkoff

I picked the book off the Religion shelf on the third floor of Jurong Regional Library, a place which has by now achieved an iconic significance. Did so with a dire determination to never leave the library until the book had been finished, because withering away in front of Wikipedia screens seems to me now a hell of boredom.

The Religion shelf and the Philosophy shelf are separated by a pillar, creating a void through which the book spines of the constituent literature confronted each other like trench soldiers. I wished they were closer together.

But before I waste precious space rambling about shelves, and before I get lured away again to waste precious time on YouTube watching the antics of Ryan Stiles and associate comedians, I must tell you that I am very impressed after reading this book: Impressed by the tenacity and character of the people, their sense of reality and justice, and their philosophy of living religion.

Rushkoff attributes the versatility, in the "evolution" of Judaism, to the Jewish spirit of open inquiry and discussion among all Jews. Religion to the Jews is not a closed book, it was an open one, and one with quite a lot of blank pages for every thinking person to fill in. This spirit of knowledge of inquiry permeates much of a truly Jewish life, even in praying, reading, discussing the scripture and eating with seemingly whimsical and arbitrary habits.***

However, Rushkoff comes worryingly close to dismissing religiousity from the Jewish religion, and at times favours the entrepreneural, creative Jew over the religious and faithful Jew. He seems to discard being religious as an unfortunate adjective untrue to Judaism, which should be expanded to become an idea, a way of life.

Many of the problems that Rushkoff deems pertinent to the preservation to the Jewish idea actually are also pertinent to Christianity. The onslaught of fundamentalism and New Age marketing appeal threatens to turn a complete religiousity into blind faith, or a façade behind which a mystic fetishism rules; Judaism is not the only religion here threatened by such things.

I'm wondering whether we, the Christians, could take a leaf off the Jewish book by reinvigorating our inquisitive, philosophical spirit that ferried the church across the Dark Ages, this enthusiasm and realism that is inevitably present in every real religion.

(On Rushkoff's Site)
(On Zeek.net) this one's better must read
(Something I think is equally important)

*** Jews are not allowed, say, to eat milk with meat, as it was a sign of respect to the animal sacrificed to not "cook the lamb in its mother's milk". If this is to be branded as superficial, it's only because the practicioners don't understand why they're doing this.

Ministry of Defence
Owing to my newfound and refreshing joy in going out I wasn't about to end the day by taking the bus straight home. For those who take service 176 regularly, you may have noticed some seriously breathtaking scenery towards the west; beautiful especially around 4pm. It was a large space, marked thinly with a few trees against a distant backdrop of a forest.

I dropped off there and walked into the field, for it was a thing I had wanted to do for around one year without realising it. Walked quite a bit into it, then realised that I have to take off my earphones in order to really immerse myself into anything. Along a line of trees that were almost befeft of leaves, sparrows receded and expanded territories amid vehement warcries. Further to the south, it was the mynahs that lubbed the ground.

The landscape rolled generally, but it seemed to conform to a flatness that chopped up slopes into terraces. Otherwise it was adulterated only by a network of drains that laced the grassland. There was a sign at the far end, right up the slope, which I went up to see for the sake of seeing.

The sign said various stuff that generally mean "No Trespassing", which was expected. But on the other side, things were much more interesting:

After reaching the outer premises of the Ministry of Defence, as it turned out to be when a service 177 bus whirred by ten mintues later, I diverted my course due north, down the slopes and towards the road running across the ministry. First the ground got a bit wet, and squished cheerfully under my feet; later it got quite intimidating, and I resigned to walking the bit of dry concrete along the drain, one foot on each edge.

It was lifting to witness the liveliness below the grass blades, where you'd find cicadas and communities of juvenile grasshoppers. Occasionally something would dash away from somewhere in front of me, though all I'd notice would be the rustling and a swinging leaf.

At the end of my journey I was attracted to a patch of forest that stood out. On a closer look there was a path, leading to another sign. The sign warned of a possible occurrence of a terrible pissed-off canine. There was another path leading along the barbed-wire fence, so I went in, out of a spirit of genuine curiosity and stupidity, or possibly the empirical evidence that there were no dogs around.

It turned out to be both a curious and stupid venture, because when you stopped the mosquitoes swarmed around you. The way out seemed to be nowhere, even if I knew somewhere along the fence it would, and should be clear. The path was sandwiched precariously between a forested slope and the fence, and at times I had to hold on to the fence for support. When I finally got out, the swarm followed for a short distance, as if reluctant to let go of such a scrumptious gift.

Felt quite stupid for a while, and left the place I now call Hillview Park, for dusk was coming and I needed dinner.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Infinite Boredom

Scribbled down in an academic briefing this January in my Orientation booklet, before everything else happened:

Two figures walked in the plain of Infinite Boredom.
After a while one of them said:
"Are we there yet?"
"There's nowhere to go."
"Then where are we going?"

They walked for another ten miles before he continued.
"Shall we talk?"
"Look. We're talking, aren't we?"
"I mean, talk about something."

Two miles of dust passed beneath their steps.
"There's nothing to talk about."

Three miles.
"I need rest."
"You can't rest. In fact you can't do anything."
"What can you do when you can't rest?"

Four miles, and twenty since the last sand dune.
"We're walking, aren't we?"
"No, we're not."
"Look, this is killing me."

A weak gale blew past after three days.
"You're already dead."
"Then this is Hell."

Long long pause.
"When will this end?"
"Till Kingdom Come."
"And when's that?"

The sun hung still in the sky, a lifeless disc.

Life in Hell, or rather, a sub-life on the plain of Infinite Boredom, is like an eternal lecture. You can't do anything, there is nothing to talk about, if at all there is. And you can't rest.

Three years later one of the figures tapped the other on the shoulder.