Stops and interruptions

I was holding a thick paperback of Borges’s collection of non-fictions on a train going to Boni, reading portions of some short articles when the ride is not too bumpy straining my eyes that have gone more fragile as the days go by, or during every stop. There is something about these short stops and interruptions that affects how I read a piece of literature. Because I very rarely find time to stay in one place for longer than an hour, except during my classes in grad school that stretch for three hours, I consider my time spent on these train coaches my only reading time. I take no heed of the population density inside these trains, have gone oblivious to the human stench, and have learned to keep my ears shut from trivial conversations that interest me no more.

To me, reading is an act of aggression, a war waged against a repressive environment that does its best to keep one from that intimate contact with the written language. I find it very ironic that while I teach reading Literature, I have always been at a lack of time to let the ideas I read simmer, reflect on their implications to my understanding, and in worst cases, read. And so, I have to set aside the limitations posed by my economics, academics, and the personal to somehow still find time to sit on a bench, or stand while one hand is holding a cold metal railing, and the other a book, and read as if books are as illicit as a cap of E. Assuming that the unlawfulness of books gives its reader a sense of power (diabolical or divine, it does not matter).

The stops and the interruptions at first functioned as wide, perilous voids I needed to cross in order to get  to the opposite end that promises understanding and multi-layered meanings, but, as in all other things that began as a debility, getting used to these stops and interruptions allowed me to use them to my advantage. Each of these I spend looking at the horizon, or at close-ups of people who are, like me, packed like sardines inside a nearly dilapidated train coach. These long shots and close-ups are observations, mental accounts of humanity in various contexts that are reflected, nuanced, critiqued, pitied, adored, laughed at, pilloried, worshipped, lambasted, but generally, celebrated in Literature, allowing me to get so close to what it’s like being human.

There is no such thing as a ‘perfect reading experience’, only experiences that give a book, that is, if it is truly great, as many intimations as the souls drinking it.

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The commonplace and the routine

When one is confronted with the commonplace and the routine, he is also faced with a blandness so trivial it discourages him from writing. Boredom dominates our existence. Only in movies does life exhibit that ‘life-likeness’; in reality life is predictable and trite.

It is not to say, however, that I have altogether stopped writing these days. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true, I am writing like a deranged man meeting impossible deadlines. Grad school eats a big chunk of my time, writing term papers, proposals, and reports. But these are texts I myself find very uninteresting to read.

The irony of my situations sticks as hard as greenish phlegm on the walls of my lungs in rainy seasons. While I tell my students to write whenever they find time to pencil their thoughts into any surface, I cannot find time to sit and meditate like a member of the bourgeois, de-synchronize myself from the neurotic pace of everything, think about existentialist ideas I pretend I have in latency, and have these reflected in a readable medium.

I have none of these luxuries.

Last night, as we are wont to do recently, we lay next to each other in a single bed, exchanging stories, laughing at each other’s jokes, talking about our past and our future, waiting for sleep to visit us. These sweeping moments are my welcome excuse from the commonplace and the routine. These sweeping moments we spend together, in tight embrace, are just a few of those very few things that I look forward to at the end of the day. Although I do not have the luxury of time that will allow me to linger on the intangibles or be saddled by the frivolity of some of my pursuits, I find myself unable to negotiate these few hours before midnight and have it exchanged for something else, because the holding of each other’s hand, hearing each other’s hushed breathing, looking at each other’s eyes, make me forget even for a sweeping moment how commonplace and routine all else are.

A proclivity for the mundane

One is often left to wonder what has become of our world today. We are all parts of a system that goads us to look at the ‘bigger picture’ but often we end up nitpicking about the most banausic of topics and non-issue. Most of the time, our nonchalance in the face of most events occurring before us is rivaled only by our passion for the least germane aspects of the issue at hand. What is worse is that more often than not, the issues we chose to get ourselves involved in are those that matter to no one, not even to us, but which we chose to get involved in still because in this age not being a part of a fight, not being a member of an advocacy group, not being driven by something, not having an opinion on something are tantamount to letting go to waste the freedom we are supposed to be enjoying, for not doing so is an unforgivable ingratitude.

And so we’ll fill any space imaginable with all the refuse our minds happen to contain. The internet has become an open dump site for all the trash we cannot afford to bleed into our reality, but, as is inevitable, this bloody business we are a part of is hemorrhaging freely into the material world, all for the sake of the ‘freedom (of speech)’ which we all feel we’re entitled to. It’s not whether what we say is inspired by some noble motive or that it’s a product of careful thinking, the more pressing question for us is whether we have something to say right at this moment. And there is where the peril lies.

This is how we cope with the gnawing insignificance the world is making all of us feel, but which none of us will whole-heartedly admit; this is a very human response to something as dehumanizing as living in this point of our present. It is perfectly human.

When we’re confronted with the uncertain, we talk endlessly, in gibberish, to drown any suspicion that this reality is a mirage. And so, to remind us of our corporeality, we talk, using a language only we can decipher. And the others, yes, they’re our conspirators. Of course, they also talk using a language, theirs, but certainly not our language. And, we talk, mimetically. What is interesting, however, is that there is a semblance of comprehension, a constructed reality existing in a vacuum, a phantasm perhaps, deluding us into thinking that communication has occurred when in fact what has only transpired is a useless exchange of meaningless but intelligent-sounding, grammatically correct, syntactically appropriate arrangement of words we all refer to as our opinion. Verbalizing this is the be-all and end-all of talk. After all, this is a time of unbridled liberty, where one man’s rubbish is as significant and as worthy of our precious little time as the other man’s puke.

Slew

My absence here for the past days, unlike the not a few times I went on a hiatus before, was not because of some complications I’ve gotten myself entangled into but because I found it more and more difficult to secure even a mere thirty minutes to reflect and write my thoughts down. My weekdays are jam-packed with responsibilities at work and my studies; my Saturdays, woefully, are barely spared.

Fortunately, however, because of some levels of criminality in me that I have successfully kept in latency, in between breaks (or classes), I’d clandestinely let go of my unexpressed resentment, happiness, frustrations, ennui, and sadness on pieces of papers that I always keep. I think that by writing them down I am purging myself of excess emotions that do nothing but keep me from accomplishing my tasks, or violence that I would, in very rare cases, manifest, although not completely because I am a good citizen of the state.

Silence, in addition to rest, has also become impossibly elusive; in fact, it is beginning to have that illicit feeling to it whenever I get hold of it in especially rare and fleeting cases, such as when I am sitting on a toilet bowl or when I am beginning to sleep and having REM. Either the metro drowns me in ceaseless, diaphanous noise, or I hear the monotonous sound of my voice, which can be very irritating at times, but quite often, as among narcissists of my kind, I’d find myself listening to its cadence, quality, and idiosyncrasy with furtive conceit. It was a mistake choosing to live on this part of the planet, but I’d be more mistaken if I think that there was a choice to begin with.

What makes this generation of young people unique (and superior) is that we think that noise is a given, that it is necessary in the unobstructed marching of time. We survive despite it, and even thrive in it. It is a surprise that we have not all gone mad, that we’re able to take hold of and keep our sanity quite impeccably. Silence is an underrated, if not a forgotten, virtue (?) of this generation. The more we talk (and hear ourselves talk) the more we think we are intelligent and that we matter.

I talk endlessly, and , on these days, seldom write.

Cynic

My long absence from my blog allowed me time to reflect about the entire idea of cynicism, and why people in this part of the world are so adept at cloaking their mistrust of their fellows by feigning happiness and careless abandon. Now I have a clearer understanding why the guy seated next to me on a train straddles his backpack in front of him, choosing to look ridiculous than having his possession snatched from him by me or that guy with a suspect stare standing right in front of him, clutching the bacteria-strewn stainless bar.

My optimism about anything and everything that this city stands for has been totally demolished, confronting me with a cold reality of my insignificance and of everyone else’s who lives in this place. I want to spray sharp invectives at the first, second, third, and so on person I meet every time I leave my room darkened by the shadow of gloom of the building beside it.

It used to be easier to steer myself away from this cynicism before, but as I age, I found it more and more difficult to keep myself unconsumed by it, unscathed by it.

I’m back to writing now.

But I am not the same man.

This night I lost my bed

I arrived in my room at 10 this evening and found that my bed is missing. My heartless broker removed my old bed without replacing it as she promised me. So while I am typing this post, I am on the floor, thinking how miserable life is, trying my best to contain the resentment I feel for her.

I sent her several messages earlier this evening asking her to show me the Meralco bills where she based the approximately 4000 pesos I pay for electric bill every month. 4000 pesos, that’s how much I spend for electricity alone living in a very small room that has in it a less-than-a-horsepower air-con, a small lamp, and a laptop. This shoebox of a room which I only get to occupy from 11 in the evening until six the following morning costs a fortune, an amount that scandalizes anyone who knows that I am an impecunious working student.

But I do not want to feel contempt, sulk, and think that I am the most pitiful twenty-something in the world this evening. Instead I shall sleep my soundest sleep on the floor tonight and be thankful for the beautiful view outside, the cool air coming from my overworked air-con, and the beautiful song playing.

I am tired, and to feed on this bad feeling about my situation and contempt for that woman is a luxury I can hardly afford.

Dear John,

It’s been a long while since the last time I wrote you. It’s nice to be reminded sometimes that amidst the many uncontrollable things that have left you confused, distraught, unable to know what to do next, you have consistently managed to continue and to not give up easily, at least not without exhausting every possible measure. In those times that you’ve given up, and there were many of them, do not think that they made you less of a man, please. Not that doing the opposite have made you more of a man. In the end, it’s not how much of a man you have become that will be the ultimate measure of your humanity but how these have left you richer in experience and insight about life, your life in particular.

I know that you’re far from being satisfied in terms of what you have achieved at your age, I remember, you have never been satisfied. And satisfaction has never been your goal. It was something else. You remain the oddest I know because you do not know, until now, why you’re working this hard, for what, much less for whom.

You’ve been telling yourself to slowdown, but you have postponed countless of times that moment when, finally, you’d press the button that will slow things down, that will drag you mid-air, end this exhilarating feeling of free fall, and to at last allow youself to appreciate the details and be amazed again with the seemingly commonplace. I envy how seamlessly you have projected that carefree, the-hell-I-care attitude toward everything. You are too good at concealing your fears, in fact, you’re too good at this that you have convinced your own self to sincerely believe in these delusive concoctions your mind have carefully made up. I have believed them myself.

It is apparent that you were already burned out a long time ago, what has kept you going remains an enigma to somebody like me who’s observing you from a distance. I wonder what has kept you standing all these times when I have been anticipating that any time soon you’d just drop dead, like a solitary log, in the middle of a busy street, alone and an unknown. But you have held yourself standing, a feat worth commending, though it’s obvious that you will eventually, some time soon, probably tomorrow, succumb to this gnawing tiredness that has been consuming your entrails.

You remind me of the extent of resilience the human spirit is capable of and how your existence is a mockery of this extent, because you and your kind have proved that this extent extends to point infinity.

My friend, this is a simple piece of advice: you’re young, competent, good at anything you do, capable, the world will not disappear the moment you decide to press that release button. I assure you that you’ll find more meaning from all these, from life in general, the moment you close your eyes and begin listening to your own heart beat.

Get some sleep tonight.

A friend