Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Goat Paths

If there would only be another race on this wide earth, another tribe, another person even, who would share in my joy of the underrated things: of the music of peasants, of the ecstacy of labour, of a pristine world seen from the goat paths...

What I revel in, the world will never deign to tread.
Sometimes in the midst of my joy I would feel loneliness, but not enough. And the world watches this idiot dancing and singing to himself on the sidewalk, as if he is in the village dance hall, with all his friends and family at his side

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Horse and the Crane

"Och över denna
vida sanka mark
flög Tranan
med avmätta vingslag.
Och marken var fast som en hed
och dundrade.
Och Tranans ben
tunna som förkolnade halmstrån.
Och Häst'n:
stor och svart
och stingslig och oskyldig
som bara Månlidhästen."
"And over this
wide watery land
flew the Crane
with measured wing-strokes
And the ground was solid as a moor
and thundered.
And the Crane’s legs
thin as charred straw
And the Horse
big and black
and tetchy and innocent
like no-one but the Horse of Månliden."

Monday, October 15, 2012

For the Helpless and the Pariahs

In the previous two posts I wrote about the worst and best feelings in the world. This third installment is about giving help for those who cannot help themselves and those who have become ostracised by the people around them. The link may seem unclear, but it will become obvious later.

The helpless

1 In my earliest days with the Army I had a buddy. We were all fresh out of school and were being introduced to the tough guy's ways, but buddy did not submit to those values and suffered for it. Eventually we just found it strange when he wept over confinement weekends or extra push-ups or other trivial distractions of the same streak. He talked to me about his feelings often. Perhaps he came to me because I was the only one around who seemed fit for talking as the others shunned him. I often thought of abandoning buddy also, because I found his concerns trivial and felt that he was holding me back. I struggled with this thought for seven months, until finally he got himself transferred to a happier place. These days I see him around in school occasionally.

(To be honest now, I think many of the values they put me through in my formation were merely secondary [read: bullshit]. They seemed to suggest the purpose of our training was for pride and our reward is to strut around the square with a red thingimmabob on our heads that tells the whole world how good we are. Counterproposal: the training is its own reward. Take note, my dear guy juniors.)

2 In my earliest days with GENUS I had another buddy. We were in the workshop together and he had difficulty picking up the guitar. He stuck with me often, with what little help and support I had to offer. For the time that he played in the ensemble, we were paired up. When he asked the others for help, they told me to do it. Then after a few months, just as the army buddy did, he faded away from the ensemble. He still buys tickets from me, one lonely ticket every semester.

They were the helpless people who came to me looking for help, and I must have disappointed them often: I who understood only strength, and not weakness.

The pariahs

The pariahs are people who have distanced themselves from a particular social circle and whose behaviour has invited derision.

3 The pariah in my course comes from China, and is a hardworking fellow, taking up two majors and an unreasonable work schedule. Lately the local clique brought it up to me that he wore the same clothes for four days in a row, and people were falling sick when they sat around him. I played with talking behind his back for awhile, until I told a friend about it and he reprimanded me.
Strictly speaking, he reprimanded the local clique's actions, but I was complicit in it and so was reprimanded by extension.

I have made peace with him. At least I hope there has always been peace between us. I am shedding that parasitic tendency to avoid talking to him, like what the other locals are doing. This little incident brings me to the other pariah case.

4 I have known the ensemble pariah from the earliest days there. At that time, we played in the same section. He was one of the better ones on the instrument. He had strange mannerisms and was always very self-absorbed. Later on he joined another group in addition to the ensemble, and he grew distant. And as he grew distant, so the derision started and the folks talked behind his back i.e. without him ever knowing. They have been ruminating delightfully on ensemble pariah rumours to this day. I watched as a few influential members of the group turned the ensemble and my juniors against him. I sat and ate with those people. I laughed with their jokes. I went sick to the core.

I realised I was turned against him against my will. I had become guilty too in excluding him from the group, I who used to know him so well, just to get in my friends' good books. I am ashamed, I really am.

For the weak ones, I was not determined to help them enough. For the rejects of my social circles, I rejected them also, out of cowardice.

I am now really appreciative of the difficulties for one to avoid committing the sin of omission. The things you are called to do that you neglect, they are so easy to miss... the sacrifices that you have to make, they are so real... Here are perhaps the real tests that God throws at me for my university life. I have always thought that the schoolwork was suspiciously enjoyable.

Time to sleep. I hope that next time I don't treat this space like a confession box.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Best Feeling in the World

Last night I wrote about the worst feeling in the world. Today, let me write about the best one.

The best feeling in the world is overwork. The ideal amount of overwork one requires in order to reach ecstasy is an idea which is easily understandable by relating to the ideal amount of alcohol one requires in order to become happily tipsy.

The ecstasy comes when the work absorbs the worker in his entirety, inundates him and dissolves away his worldly worries, his self-awareness and his doubts. It is when every fibre of muscle and every neuron in the body are fired up, are turned on, are gathered in a concerted effort, each one not for itself, but for a purpose greater than itself. It is in this coherent display of power that one feels the most alive; the same exertion that in the same person may be interpreted as suffering.

Pure suffering, pure joy, in the same exertion.

The best feeling in the world is to lose oneself, to forget about the fact that one exists in this world or any other; to lose all concern about oneself, because there is no self.

Cactus Thieves

Two years ago I was at Taman Mas Kuning. There at one of the houses (Taman Mas Kuning is uptown West Coast) the owners reared cactus by the fence. When I walked past there were two workers on leave who were idling around also, and a piece of pear cactus was sticking out through a gap. I heard one of them say to the other that pear cactus were very valuable, and one could start a neat crop from a single stem. So they cut it off and took it away. I watched them as they did it, but when they looked back at me, I shrank away. I was ashamed of myself for days. It was the worst feeling in the world, the feeling one gets to see wrongdoing without doing anything about it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Grammar Experiments

1a. Referring to couples in the singular third person
1b. Referring to close friends and relatives in singular second person

I call this the familial singular. In usage, the desired effect is to give an impression as close as possible to lolcats. In principle, the purpose of the familial singular (third person) is to indicate closeness in the couple, to the extent that they behave as a single person in all settings, and the purpose of the familial singular (second person) is to reinstate the formal-informal second person distinction which we can still see in French and German but has long been considered archaic in English. For example, it has become the usual practice to use the word Dadmom to refer to my parents; we wonder aloud to each other, whenever my siblings and I meet, that Dadmom is going to be home soon. Also when I greet my siblings I say How is you! because informal.

In the French language, the informal second person is used to address God in prayers. In English the equivalent is thou, which in the modern age sounds more snooty than familiar, and too aloof to be fitting for someone with whom your relationship has to be personal. O Lord, You is seated at the right hand of the Father, receives our prayer.
2. Pronouncing words with voiced consonants only

Diz iz juz vor zounding zdupid. I do diz onny wen bored, or wen my zizder veelz lige a lav.
Alternatifely, chanchink all te consonants to harter ones can pe tone put toes not vork so vell.
3. Shortening long vowels for emphasis

Vowels are usually lengthened for emphasis, because louder and longer sounds command more attention. But what if you want to inspire surprise? What if you want the superlative to be less of a long and violent earthquake, but more of a sharp intake of breath, followed by a lingering feeling of being let down?

I call this the dimunitive superlative. For example, the dimunitive superlative for manly is muhn. When I tell someone You're the muhn! I mean to say that he is the manliest, but it sounds more sarcastic.
4. Using French grammar in English

See this article.

5. Discarding the future tense

An American Economics professor, in an uncharacteristic case of sticking his nose into a field he has no business in, has said that using the present tense for the future makes Finns more frugal and forward-looking than, say, people from France, who use a future tense. I would love to stop and wax lyrical about the honest and hardworking Finnish nation whom I have had the pleasure of staying with the whole summer, but now the more important question is What if English uses it?

Tomorrow, I am going for guitar practice at school. Afterwards some of us have dinner at Hwang's at UTown. Next Sunday, our concert takes place at UCC Theater, with tickets selling at $14 a seat. This actually sounds normal. Let's try it again.

Ah! I have forgotten my assignment is due soon! I die! Tomorrow I have four labs in a row and six vivas. I never come back to see my family again! O cruel fate, my grades deprove! Eventually the world comes to an end; it is my only solace.

Time to sleep.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker, who composed the Celtic Mass and a bunch of other things, is holding workshops at Saint Mary of the Angels. On Friday I skipped school mass to attend it. He was a stout guy with a propensity towards talking too much nonsense. We sang and we laughed and we cried. Then I sang one for my late grandfather.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Den Förtrollade Barnaföderskan

Det ståndar en lind allt sunnan under by
~ Allt under den linden så grön ~
Där ståndar en jungfru, hon borstar sitt hår
~ I riden så varligt genom lunden med henne ~

Hon trolovade så granner en man
Den unge herr Olof, det hette han

Liten Elin hon spörjer sin svärmoder om råd
"Huru länge skall kvinnan med barnet gå?"

"I fyrtio veckor på åttonde år
så länge ska du med det barnet gå!"

De klädde på Elin en silkessärk
Hon gick uppå loftet med så mycken värk

Herr Olof han spörjer kär systeren sin
"Ack, ville du nu hjälpe allra kärestan min?"

Systeren gångar till brudekiste
Så gör hon två vaxdockor, allt med stor liste

Så sveper hon dem uti vitan lin
Hon bär dem i loftet för moderen sin

"Ack, kära min moder, låte fara eders harm
I tage eders gossebarn uti eders arm!"

"Jag haver förtrollat båd himmel och jord
förutom det ställe där brudkisten stod!"

Så breder de kisten med silketyg blå
där föder liten Elin de sönerna två

Det gjorde herr Olofs moder stor nöd
~ Allt under den linden så grön ~
Så snart blev hon utav den harmen död
~ I riden så varligt genom lunden med henne ~

A third interpretation is done by Ale Möller, Lena Willemark and Per Gudmundsson, but the video is unavailable.