Maximum

Panic overruled diagnosis
Science invites chaos
Testimony scars visions

What a being
Without knowing how
The earth spills

Everything that shines
Every worm bites
Every dice turns

Every word freezes
When you slither
Front and back

Momentarily
The trees speak
Anguish sends storm

Curiosity creates litmus
Acids intensify mimes
Air reminisces rains

Taints and fevers
Covering the veins
Simmering the pride

The pendulum sways
Knocking the hues
Of the imminent

Were you needed
Before
or ever?

Century

Indifferent spelling
Wasteful
Signs
Breaking white
Noise

Withdrawing
The blinds
Seen from
The tame
Eyes

Old age
Is old
No matter
What
They feel

Twenty one
Is forgotten
While
News
Is forever

Right now,
Absence
Makes
Everything
Sound

As if
We are
Complete
When we
Triumph

Over
The hills
That were
Never
There

When we
Were
Born
In a different
Era

In a different
Volume
And
Space
And crowd.

Cardboards

Truth is like an old man,
whom you’ve seen before,
with his ragged, filthy clothes,
Often alone, at the side street,
sitting on cardboards
and surrounded by plastics and sheets.

You feel like you want to help him,
but you can’t decide, instead
you pray someone else will,
As a way to redeem your conscience,
As a way to soothe your soul,
You close your eyes
while you try to breathe normally
and bite the tears,
The pain is gone but only temporary;

You see other people do the same,
You curse and condemn them,
You forget your own doings,
You forget your own ignorance.

Your conscience directs you and you depend on it,
But your heart is screaming out loud,
You lie to yourself, you become a mask,
A hideous one who pitifully cries
and scorns no one but itself.

The old man walks away
as he picks up
his cardboards
and coins,
You see his back, you stop crying,
You follow the old man with weak
but careful steps.

You finally approach the old man,
and the old man stays silent,
You speak to him with an awkward laugh,
asking ‘how do you do?’
The man remains quiet, and doesn’t show any move,
You talk to him until you are out of breath,
with polite gestures and random jest,
which you try to make them appear
as real as possible.

You laugh again, with sweats,
when the old man doesn’t say anything,
You murmur ‘sorry if I’ve offended you
in any way, I only wanted to talk’,
And every now and then,
the alley dims and blinks
thriftily, ruefully,
like a slow heartbeat.

You feel strange and you grow scared,
You don’t know what this fear is,
Yet you don’t move an inch to get away,
While the old man seems to drown
His head in his dreams of the sea.

You want to say something again but your mouth is dry,
You feel constrained as the crowd is getting bigger,
You cry ‘help’ desperately as you kneel down
and grab anything that is near.
You feel a rough feeling in your hand.
It’s something nostalgic
that belongs to the old man,
You don’t know what happened,
But –

The old man has fled,
leaving only the cardboards,
and scribbles written on them,
where they appear absurd
to the massive crowd
that forgets to see
the truth –

like the old man.

Premature Lights

The crowd was so sure that I wouldn’t find you there no matter how desperate I am or how long I’d look for you. If I’d ever noticed you there, it was done intentionally as to avoid ordinary people like me approaching you. It was the crowd with him or him in another planet. Yet, even the sight of your shadow would overwhelm my existence. I’d run, I’d persisted, I’d fallen and I’d gone in circles with ideas of seeing you and listening to your voice, in which, would slowly be torn by pieces. It was a loss cause that I’d find difficult to embrace.

I was afraid, you see – I wasn’t expecting to discover personal things about you and would still admire your artistry after that, or even gain the curiosity of interacting with you. Initially, it would be fine to imagine the philanthropy work that you’ve done was due to your own sentiments and thoughts. It would be simply satisfying to hear you argue against the oppression being acted upon the forgotten nations that was denied by the majority. I didn’t want to dream more than that but someday just became a hopeful day to me. A little too hopeful, unfortunately.

I was cold and had been cold plenty of times, before in various ways. You don’t know this but your presence had helped to ease those unwanted feelings. Your words were warm, so soothing that I thought you’d understand the pains of the restless group. Your tone was indiscriminating in which I felt safe. Your stance was firm but not imperfect. I liked that it was unapologetic, yet empathetic. I grew keener to know your approaches to things in general and things in particular the more I witnessed your skilful and elegant performance.

That’s where it went wrong, I suppose. Loving the idea of ideas of the embodiment of an individual. I so always forget that characters are backed up by beliefs and actions that are demonstrated in different circumstances. I kept focusing on, instead, the richness of the language that was elevated by the privileged experience. I believed that was an advantage that only added to your greatness, not arrogance. I gave far too much praise for the apparent figure whom I failed to claim that his traits were beyond my knowledge. Far too obsessed in my own thought…

I respected you not as a person, but as someone above that.

That was the careless mistake.

You were amazing, yes (and probably still is) but I shouldn’t have decided to put things and things together as if I knew what I was doing. I was simply creating my own globe that included you as someone pragmatic, yet sensitive, intelligent beyond words and gentle by nature – a truly idealistic role model.

Perhaps, you did have those values and perhaps you were that person (who I am to judge, anyway?) but most likely, it was unlike my imagined reality that heightened those abilities and strengths.

I thought I was at least, mildly aware that I was merely longing and not seeing a person. Even if I didn’t see you as a star, you were glowing to me, brighter than the so-called stars. I should’ve stopped myself then, should’ve taken a step back where the imaginary globe would cease by time and I could’ve just admired what I’d seen and not gone deeper if not for my undamped and daunted curiosity.

As the world spun, I started to wonder if I was wrong and then I didn’t mind that I was. ‘Nobody’s perfect’ became a chant in my mind. As I tried to understand your philosophy, I found out more things again (when I should’ve stopped, again) and I didn’t know that my heart was breaking. Your words were as impressive as I hoped to be, but your views were confusing as they contradicted to the nature of who you were supposed to be in my mind. Opposing opinions was not the problem. What shocked me the most, however, was the discrepancy that can be figured out by anyone – not by the qualification of your education or superficial intellect, but by the heart and mind of a human being. Your words sent warnings to the victims. Not out of comfort, but of prejudice.

Still, I believed.

Still, I hoped.

Still, I waited.

But eventually, I had to ask myself: What happened?

That incident revealed your position that I desperately wanted to believe it was not your true nature. So I thought about it again and I managed to console myself that it might be true. No one can know the whole truth anyway. Little basis, but I was clinging to it.

Yet, I didn’t like the feeling that I couldn’t explain. What was it, the truth that I couldn’t comprehend, or the truth that might be true or false? The truth that I was looking in the wrong directions, looking at the wrong lights? Was there even something there, in the beginning?

It was disheartening to try and see the cracks. I realized I was disappointed, perhaps not in you but more in myself. The start of all of this. The self-proclaimed impartial attitude towards people. The severe compliments to logic. The endless appraisal to the one portrayed in the media based on a small prism. The eagerness that overlooked the signs.

The crowd probably didn’t know what they were doing. You certainly had no idea what I was feeling and that I was there. In any case, in any way, I was grateful for the stop. Still mended by the tunes of nature, I do sincerely hope for…the best of you. For the people who are beginning to seek for whatever light that they’re searching for, I hope that you’ll go through things that might break and hurt you, and that you’ll be able to rise in spite of all that.

Better be oblivious, than be fazed by the faux.

Better be truthful, than be crushed by lies.

Better be yourself, than be others.

A Quarter for a Change

Maybe it just wasn’t easy as I thought,
And it’s alright. At least I didn’t stop
Calling people for random purposes,
Or celebrating others’ happiness,
Just to get a feel,

A sense of wonder, thank you God
For looking beyond the embarrassment
Of those silly antics and desperations,
I do wish I’d live and not lie,
Or simply cry than smile,

After all, I was born with a word,
Not a stone, not an automaton,
Yet I choose to forget,
That art flows freely
And is also eerily wild –

A beauty without a comparison,
A diligent thought beneath the line,
A crumbled piece somewhere,
A living memory in the middle,
An unspoken word from time to time.

Oh, so much conflict behind the ears!
Dear self, please take a look
At things besides your faults,
What isn’t there is still up
For a change, maybe from here or a mile?

Finding the Heart of Passion – Part 2

One thing that gradually occurred to me during my uni years was that, being lost was a mandatory state in every semester.

Sometimes I wouldn’t even notice that I was feeling lost. There was no specific time or place when it happened, it just did. A reasonable explanation for this, is perhaps, the weariness that was caused by the exhaustion due to the assignments (no surprise) and keeping up with the lectures/tutorials. They seemed to be consuming my energy so much that all that was left was the need to rest, eat, nap and sleep.

That could be it, but I knew I shouldn’t blame uni all the time it was more than that. It was a cycle I’d become accustomed to and it was quite a destructing one.

Some people would say the condition is similar to having a writer’s block and I don’t disagree totally. It did feel like having a mental block and a few times, I’d just stop doing what I was doing since it wasn’t doing anything except building more doubts and negative thoughts. Thirty minutes later, I found myself continuing doing what I was doing before that i.e. facing the laptop and getting on with whatever assignment I had at that time.

Strange, how the mind and body work.

Despite the complaints that I had and still have with the uni life, the schedule or the assignments, I do feel appreciative towards those times where I was feeling lost and uncertain. I’d say I started questioning things when I was in high school but the sixth-form was when I dug deeper about things and then uni officially made me a ‘deep’ person, however unflattering it sounds (since I’m the one saying it, it’s a different story if somebody else says it. And uh, you know what, never mind).

The doubts might have tortured me, because no one really likes not knowing what to do or being uncertain about the existence of life, but they helped to steer some things to a better light and made them clearer. That is, if you treat doubts as challenges or ways to understand meanings beyond words and actions in order to make sense of your life. At least, that’s how I’ve come to see and accept.

I think it was during my first year that the doubt was becoming more intense. I’d find myself in this kind of situation (extracts from one of my journals):

13/10
I don’t really listen to what the lecturer is saying and most of the time just think about other stuff and also ‘what am I doing here for?’

25/10
Feeling unsure of what is it that we’re supposed to do, asking yourself the same question, walking on the same path all over again, pacing here and there, back and forth – constant doubt.

So, constant doubt – why is it happening? How did it happen?

I suppose this happens to everyone, at some point.

And it is happening to me now.

So you can see, the big questions that had appeared during my sixth form days were entering my life again and this time, with more emphasis on the choices that I would consciously make for myself. (Hey, guess what? It wasn’t uni, it was life! Okay, glad that’s settled now)

The things that I love, the things that I hope to be, the things that I don’t need, the things that undermine and motivate me – the growing independence eventually raises these issues that I’d have to confront at some point in my life.

And it’s really hard.

The fact that I haven’t gone into specific details about those experiences probably shows this.

I can tell you for certain though, that humanities/liberal arts are the core of my interests if you’re talking about academic interests. They’re the ideal subjects that I hope would and should receive more attention especially in my country.

Sociology, Literature, Philosophy and History – taking classes for these modules is one of the best things that happened to me. Modern education does have its demerits, which I would love to talk about next time, but I think what attracts me the most from them is the knowledge that has been seeded in each of them.

Sure, some scholars or professors might have written works for other reasons than spreading ideas/theories and elevating people’s minds into understanding the society and societal issues. But the energy, the effort and the sincerity – some things you can just feel and I was entranced by this phenomenon. I suppose I was having some kind of realisation, that I want to do what those individuals that I’ve learned, studied from and about, did. To me, it would be fulfilling to do something that benefits others and myself.

The passion for learning is basically the reason why I opt to study in a university. Even if I’m not a student anymore now, I don’t think I could stop doing research and reading from trivial to crucial topics.

To tell you the truth, I’m still clueless, afraid and anxious about life: what’s going to happen and what’s going to change. What have I actually changed from 4/5 years ago then? Maybe, I’m just more relaxed and not so caught up in things and one would argue that this could be a symptom of becoming mature, I don’t know.

I’m not sure if I’m going to do a part 3, maybe. It’s so hard to write stuff about yourself and honestly, I think I’ve been all over the place. Hope there’s something good somewhere here, though.

I’ll share a quote that I find comforting in going through stuff in life which may be a bit harsh (or even unrelated to the stuff that I’ve been talking about) to some:

“These are problems [murders, terrorist acts in the name of religion and secularism etc], they’re not going to go away. Welcome to the world, welcome to planet earth” – Hamza Yusuf

I mean, who wouldn’t feel comforted knowing that there are issues/problems all around the world, solvable and unsolvable. At least I know I’m not crazy and at least I have some things I’ve grown fond in life despite the struggle to keep up with the society’s standards.

On a more optimistic note:

“To find yourself, think for yourself” – Socrates

 

Cheers!

Those Artists

I’m drawn to people
who think a lot
and put salient effort
in describing their journey,
whether in words,
pictures, paintings, melodies
and thoughts.
 

Those people
who may not call themselves
as artists,
but they are
the ones
who create art,

 
I feel deeply
connected to them
as they share their stories
that some
may have glanced,
passed by,
and not noticed
their struggles,
pains,
uncertainties,
and
their restless hearts.

 
Those street artists,
they have it hard,
they’d rather crawl
than die
a millionaire forever,
unscathed.

Grant Acceptance

Often at night, I would sing a song,
Imagining myself before a great audience,
In the silent auditorium; just how I’d prefer,
Just how it has been all this while,
It’s the same here and everywhere,
Except, the audience now
is nowhere to be seen.

Often at dusk, I would sing a verse,
Picturing myself in a busy café,
Where people like me would gather,
Sharing their sorrows and lost identities,
And though they might not listen,
They’d appreciate my voice, all the same.

Often at dawn, I would hum a chorus,
Believing in better days and wistful woes,
To the new homes and kindred spirits,
Hoping one or two would cry, whether in tears or laughter,
We would watch the sunrise together,
And I would hug them and say, ‘it’s okay’.

Often in the dark, I would cry,
Dreaming of wondrous adventures at the peak,
Along with friendly strangers met by strange fate.
And I would improvise the learned tunes,
As a way to show my gratitude, debt and ties
To those who are listening and those who stay.

Often in somewhere bleak, I would pause,
Thinking about memories of the past,
How ancient solitude and chaos are,
How little we have always been,
And I wonder if our voices are scarce
Because we are afraid to die.

Often I would forget, that I was nothing
But a paper human, scribed and written
With a choice of heart.

Finding the Heart of Passion – Part 1

“What do you really want to do?”

A good lecturer of mine asked me this question when I was consulting to him about my desire to pursue my Masters and several other options (I’m still thinking of academic career, nonetheless). I couldn’t reply straightaway and I just thought, ‘whoa, I haven’t heard that question from a teacher/educator for a while.’ Or at least it feels like it.

Within probably seconds, I tried recalling back what was it exactly that I liked and wanted to do in the future. I almost went back as far as the early childhood but luckily I stopped at high school. Not that I was totally sure about my goals and future plans at that time, but I think it’s a good sign that some of my interests have remained since then. Fast-forwarding to the sixth form and then uni, I thanked my flashbacks for assuring me. However, my skeptical side suddenly whispered to me: Wait a minute, are you sure this is what you want to do? Are you even really good at it? Don’t you think you have to be realistic? Do you think you can survive by choosing this?

I didn’t imagine it would be this hard to answer a simple question.

But I couldn’t make my lecturer wait any longer or let my eyes wander to his bookshelf for a long time so I started stammering some typical nervous words.

“Um, well, I like History and I like Social Science in general too so I’m not really sure…yet what I really want to do but – but, I’m open to learning things – anything related to those things, so yeah…”

Oh God, I’m so going to criticize myself later on. Wasn’t there any way to express your uncertainty in a much more poised way? You’ve graduated and you’re still so clumsy with words? What about all those essays you’ve done, eh? Okay, stop now, you self-conscious human being.

Like the super supportive lecturer he was, he nodded to that and said:

“Good, that’s good”

After that, my lecturer went on talking about his past experience as a student and while I was still beating myself up internally, I did catch some useful things that he shared.

He stressed that:

1. If I decide to do Masters, it would be wise to do so if only I have the intention of doing PhD.

2. I should have some specific idea of what I want to do since it’d be easier for him to give me further tips and advice & for me to find a good uni.

3. Try to reach out to people e.g. who have gone through the state I’m in.

4. Just continue researching about the field I’m interested in, fellowships, opportunities etc.

He was such a nice fellow that I feel I don’t deserve his advice. (Mostly, because of the late essays I’ve submitted to him.) He gave a lot of suggestions as well – practical ones – which I really appreciate and need at the moment, especially with the current society (budget, budget and budget). Of all things though, the one thing that remains in my mind even up till now, is the no.2.

I thought I knew myself pretty well, I definitely know which food I like and dislike but four and a half years is quite a long time – and a lot of things happened in that period. Good stuff, CONFUSING stuff, weird and random stuff. There’s always the bad stuff, of course, but nothing that doesn’t teach me more about life. So, with all these stuff going on, I didn’t realize how much I’ve changed in terms of my mind and my perspective. I realized that I took the thought of my ‘present self’ for granted.

Interestingly, a friend has told me that I basically have a good sense of self and that I’m lucky because I seem to know where I’m going.

Wellllll.

I spent some time afterwards thinking about the question that triggered back to the memory of childhood (I couldn’t stop myself. Childhood is precious) and moments where I found myself enjoying doing the things that I loved, my passion. Eventually, I was grateful that I gave that reply to my lecturer. It was true that I was still searching for something more and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

History was not even one my choices when I began my first year in the uni. (It was either Literature or Sociology initially) I’ve taken history before in the sixth form, and it was pretty torturing mainly because I had no idea what I was doing. I believe I managed to survive and pass because of a substitute teacher who turned out to be the best history teacher, past year papers and the less/no expectation that I was even going to pass the subject. Basically, it was like gambling back then and I was confident that I didn’t want to go through that anymore AGAIN.

Things, however, weren’t that predictable though.

What happened was that I…had what you call a change of heart. I gained my interest, or actually, renewed my interest in history somehow after taking Literature and Sociology classes. During my second year, I changed my major to History.

(There were a lot more happening before that but this is the simplest version I can tell, for now. It’s one of those memorable moments and to some extent, a life-changing decision story that I’m hoping to save for another day.)

Let’s just say I had a new understanding and a new perspective on the subject that I forgot about the horrifying experience during the sixth form because that memory became a new one. It wasn’t an excruciating memory anymore, it changed to a now-I-knew-why-I-didn’t-enjoy-history-memory-because-I-never-understood-it. Simple.

Despite that, I wouldn’t say I didn’t suffer anymore after changing my major. I was quite insecure in the beginning of my History major days, feeling that I was still a newbie history nerd and the books, ohmygod, the books. It really took a while to get used reading them. It was, however, more bearable because I actually found myself enjoying being a History major.

To start off, I like that the idea that the past shapes the present is being explained in so many ways. The more I read about the things that I wouldn’t have dared to before, the more I realize it makes so much sense to me. It filled some of the missing spots that I didn’t know were missing. History was a challenge that I didn’t know I would accept because of the misunderstanding/lack of understanding I had of what it was.

It’s ruthless, but it’s also profound. Like the realization I had when I took Sociology and Philosophy courses (‘Why did I just discover this stuff?’), it appeared like a riveting light bulb that glows pervasively in a good amount of space. The passion and the respect I have for this subject kept on increasing as I got to learn more about it.

Remembering all this is truthfully a bit difficult because it forces me to seriously consider my real passion which would and should help me to take another step in the world. The reluctance, I think, is because of the idea that I have to choose just one thing and forget about the others that I equally love.

Though it may be inaccurate to think so but there’s the dilemma, I suppose.

The Social Sciences/Humanities area is something that I hold close to my heart. My thirst and curiosity in knowledge is much largely owed to them. Unfortunately, the times that I had enjoyed misusing back in the younger days had made me miss the chance to learn their pre-requisites. So I guess I’m very much on the side of ‘I’m still learning’ than ‘I know what I want to do and I want to do it’.

[To be continued]

90°

 

Because sometimes I like to rant about injustice and such through poetry.


 
What a thought to be mended,
There was something else in the bin,
Yet it was unattended.
 
Limited coercion,
Unfair play,
Access denied.

Content was the shoemaker,
Seeing the fascinated looks of
Everyone but –
 
Others outside the window,
Still was borrowed,
Still was untreated,

Still was madness
Performed orderly,
Leaving no debts behind.
 
Yet, he believed in all his might
Those formal letters
That were never signed
 
Just like the front pane
That yells beloved
But sells taints.
 
Unfortunate were the metres,
Measured by lenient laws
And lost in the empty smiles.
 
What a pitiful premise,
Yet his eyes shine,
Seeing value for the first time.