Two questions: negative capability

From a rumination while drinking beer on a hot afternoon:

It often comes rather late to an artist, writer, or to anyone who sees himself to be either or both, that the decision to be any (or both) is a disconcerting choice. In the end, consumers of an artistic production matter less because the production of a piece of art or writing anchors less on what the reader thinks than the artist’s. After all, the reader has long considered him dead, so might as well return the favor and do a piece of art or write as if the reader is as dead.

This graphic story by Linda Barry aptly captures this problem.

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My reflection in the the mirror

Since moving to this new house, I have been using the kitchen as my study area instead of my room upstairs. My bedroom feels too big, drab, stuffy, dark, and I have better internet connection here; the router (or however you call it) is directly an arm’s length from where I am seated now.

Tonight, for the first time, I noticed my countenance (such fancy word!) reflected in the glass window in front of me. I’ve gained weight since I arrived here. I consume on average 3000 calories every day and I hardly visit the gym because of my tight schedule in school and my homework that pile up faster than I can get rid of them. If not for the regular push-ups and ab crunches I do every 15 minutes, then for sure all those definitions I worked hard to achieve will give way to the flabs that take minimal effort to gain.

I also have grown my hair long since I cannot afford to part with my 15 dollars to pay the barber. This is the longest time I have gone without a haircut. I look odd; my head feels heavy. My unusually curly, more correctly, kinky, hair is beginning to take charge and dictate on me the rules of its daily upkeep. I spend more than ten agonizing minutes each day styling it and making sure it stays in this position during most part of the day.

I have also been growing mustache in order to look, I don’t know, sleek. And seriously mature. It’s itchy but I feel relieved it has not led to a pimple break-out so far. I suppose spring here helps. The air is dry so my skin remains dry the whole day; there’s much less dust hence the pores of my face are not clogged. The result, a much clearer skin.

I also want to add that diet may also play a crucial role. Vegetable and fruits are a staple in every meal.

I sounded vain in the previous three paragraphs or so. But it’s the fault of the glass window before me. I would never have been conscious had the table been placed somewhere. Now, it’s the table.

Man is one of the few creatures on this planet conscious of his existence and how this existence render changed and never-the-same-again everything and everyone around him.

This awareness, by the way, also changes him.

On laughing

I’m in the first semester of my second year in grad school. I do not  know whether this is doing me any good or I am ending up more confused than when I entered. I know that I am going somewhere, I should; I do not know, though, whether this somewhere is a place I want to be in hereupon. At so many points in the classes I am taking this semester  I would catch myself participating in esoteric discussions about topics I am clueless or talking about concerns of very little significance in my life. I even had moments in complete trance where I talked at length in class but had no idea what the words that come out from my mouth meant.

It’s funny.

I guess my then-unrealized sense of humor is now put into very good use these days. When people feel lost, they gather themselves together by laughing out loud at the cruel world before them. I just lost my compass, but I could only laugh at everything.

I am happier nowadays.

Is the world any better after 25 years?

No one can claim a more privileged spot under the sun anymore. Each of us is assigned a unique number that corresponds to nothing but happenstance, devoid of any divine plan we all are wont in deluding our pathetic selves that we have. And this interesting thing  I found in http://www.bbc.co.uk, by now has long lost its novelty, only shows how insignificant we all are.

I’m the 4,914,589,331st alive person on the planet, this number changes depending on the number of mortality and births at the moment. Not very special I must say.

I was told that I could expect to live up to a not so ripe age of 64 years and six months. My heartfelt thanks go to BBC for reminding me of my inevitable demise and conditioning my mind into thinking that it’s 64.5 years and tata. And more thanks, this time to fate, because I happened to be born to poor Filipino parents. Had I been a Japanese I could have expected to live up to 82.7 years, too senile for me (I am not an ageist!), but not too young as in the Central African Republic (45.9 years); I still want to get a PhD. before I reach that age and have those initials affixed to my name on my tombstone (or not anymore because it’s tasteless).

I expect to stand before my God, at most, when I’m in my 50s, though. Extending my life after those years, for me, is already overstaying my welcome.

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.

To you who was not ‘informed’

It was a rainy morning when you found yourself at the corner of two normally busy streets. Thinking it was your lucky day because of the unusual absence of heavy traffic, save for a body of water that separated you from the other side of the street, unsuspectingly, you maneuvered your car and crossed the divide that separated you and the other end of the street. And lo! Your car, like a flimsy paper boat, got carried by the raging flood which for you at first appeared nothing but an over-sized puddle, or at least a more forgiving flood. Floods, you realized, although very late, are never forgiving. So you had to have yourself subjected to such shame, thin little boys pushing your car to the salvation afforded by dry concrete.

A nearby team of an overeager TV reporter and his crew ran to you and asked you some perfunctory questions. Thinking rudeness will save you face, you responded to his every question with as much ire you could muster, forgetting that you were being taped by his equally overeager cameraman.

The following evening, you saw yourself on TV, not looking very intelligent, shouting “I was not informed!”. The next morning, portion of that newscast was uploaded on Youtube by some unscrupulous netizen. An hour after the upload, the whole world mercilessly called you names from something as riling as ‘stupid,’ ‘in want of simple commonsense,’ to something as inane as ‘in dire need of bra’. Your friends came to your rescue, giving you encouraging words, supporting you, retorting sarcastically that all of a sudden ‘everyone is informed‘.

From this writer’s point of view, you and your friends are missing the point. It is not your supposed stupidity (or not being informed) that led to the lambasting of your person on Youtube by anonymous individuals. People who have viewed your videos would have, in most cases, felt more pity than derision, would have even ignored that senseless video had you not unleashed your crassness on TV. It’s plain and simple. You were base.

And shouting ‘I was not informed’ in a city as pitiless as Manila, that you were not told it was a raging flood rather than an innocent-looking, little ephemeral stream you thought it was, is, in my humblest of opinions, rather juvenile.