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A strange thing happened.

It’s Friday the 13th today. Not that I’m superstitious about this. But just seems appropriate to mention.

So I had coffee at 3pm to stay awake and as a result, I was TOO awake by 7plus and had a huge craving for beer. Got it at Kok Sen with Amelia—last minute plans. And so on the bus home I was knocked out and slept through most of it. Just about at the Marymount stretch I was up but still drowsy, looking out the bus window.

Then I saw stuff coming out of an old man’s mouth—looked like white, watery foam from where I was—and he just about collapsed onto the ground from a sitting position. He was at the busstop one stop from opposite Whitley. I was still too drowsy to be fully in control of my mind and body so for some unknown reason, I whispered “oh my god”, pressed the bell (the bus was just moving off) and leapt off the bus.

I was urgently questioning the man before I became fully conscious and lucid. Raised voice, heart pounding, asking him sternly if he was all right and what happened to him.

It turned out to be a false alarm anyway. Called the police and everything only to see the old man stand up and hobble onto the next bus, leaving me, and some people at the busstop, bewildered. Lady told me he was probably drunk.

(Old man high as fuck, foaming in mouth and shit)

And so this episode has me now in some existential crisis. Like how is it this is my reaction, unconscious. And that I am completely ready, prepared, to break up. Completely ready to find myself, to throw myself in hot water and discover the stuff I’m made of. Once again, here I am. You can never plan anything in your life. And at the end of it, you always return to yourself. There is no one else who can be there for you. Just you, always waiting. And you will be anything when the time comes. A steel core, if need be, because no matter what anyone else promises you, only you can be strong for yourself, make the decision you need to make and take the step into the fire.

I feel so alone in this world. And yet, so empowered because of that.

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – Deconstructed:

The disclaimer is that this is my (humble) interpretation. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a definite source explaining what Leonard Cohen was trying to say with this song. Apparently, it’s free for all to interpret. And this is not the best-written thing because I was just trying to grab what’s left of my eureka moment and the train commute already took half the magic.

Also, very important: everyone knows that this is not a religious song. Cohen was using biblical elements as metaphor. So this is not a religious discussion, thank you.

I really love the tone of this song. It like came out of a man drinking himself to oblivion—a very intellectual, very heartbroken man who can wield metaphor in such a state.

This first stanza stumped me like an inside joke. I think this is his veiled introduction explaining the song’s context. “Secret chord” is love. We all know God is all about love. Here, he is speaking to his partner in first person. She is the pragmatist and he, the romantic, in this love affair. “You don’t really care for music, do ya?” “It (love) goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall (in love) and the major lift (the honeymoon period).” Very nice use of pun – the minor fall compared to the major lift. The king falling in (and out of) love, playing the secret chord and not knowing that he’s “composing” this via his romantic (mis)adventures—literally, also, “praising the Lord” in the act of loving another.

I definitely think “proof” refers to his love but I can’t concretely understand the meaning behind this sentence. The next two lines describe the seduction. “She tied you to a kitchen chair – describes her taming of him; “She broke your throne” – renders him powerless; “and she cut your hair” – using Samson and Delilah to illustrate her breaking his strength. “And from your lips she drew the hallelujah” – but despite this, she still took his breath away and hallelujah in the name of her perfection. It’s his defeat in his love for her.

If the “marble arch” is the same place as the “here” described in the first 3 lines then it should be symbolic of how she has conquered and claimed this territory, his territory (he, alone, was there first). This, obviously, is not a relationship of equals. With him being the romantic, she holds the power over him and therefore “your (her) flag on the marble arch”. And “love (for him) is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah” speaks of the sweetness (hallelujah – still praise) of his love in the bitterness (cold and broken) of his defeat.

This part is boring, just, first 3 lines – they used to have emotional intimacy; next 3 lines – they used to have physical intimacy (but it’s an interesting way to put it).

I feel some regret at the cynicism of this line “but all I’ve ever learned from love, was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you” – ending it (or withdrawing) when you sense the other party withdrawing. (So you don’t end up being the fool holding on to nothing.) The result is not an enlightened person (“not somebody who has seen the light”), but one who is still flawed, maybe even more flawed because of resentment, calling out in pain.

I think “name” refers to love. She might be trying to say he never actually loved her anyway, that he “don’t even know the name”. But it doesn’t matter what it was, because whatever it was he felt for her, it was honest in passion (“blaze of light in every word”).

In the last stanza, perhaps with the reflection in the previous one, he tries to account for his flawed, mortal passion – “did my best, but it wasn’t much”, “couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch”. (“Feel” being a higher quality than “touch”, which he doesn’t want to presume he’s capable of.) Ultimately, he approaches with complete honesty and with the bitterness ebbing, seems to achieve a sense of closure, signifying his submission/acceptance in the face of futility and giving love its due admiration in spite of everything – “And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah”.

Very fancy breakup song.

Books read:
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, Stephen Dubner
Bounce by Matthew Syed

Reading:
Quirkology by Richard Wiseman

Istanbul:

“In Istanbul it’s the “vvvvoooooot” – sirens of the boats, the “chck” from the chimney, waves of the Bosphorus hitting the quays along with the seagulls and old-fashioned little boats – “putu putu putu” kind of thing.

These are the things that immediately, if I close my eyes and you give it to me in another corner of the world, make Istanbul suddenly appear in my mind’s eye.”

– Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul

turning point, when?

“But if your desire to travel and see the world tops everything else, then it’s time to take that next step. There will always be a reason not to do it. There will never be that perfect time. There will always be an excuse. If you’re waiting for every single thing if your life to fall into place, you’ll be waiting forever, and before long, it will be too late.

With all the questions you ask yourself and all the things you consider, it really only comes down to one big question. It’s something I wrote in the very first article for this RTW Wednesday column: If you decide to bypass the trip and go on the path that you are on, would you regret your decision 5, 10, 20 years down the road?”

Should You Go on a RTW Trip?

in medias res,

If I die in medias res, is this what I want to be doing?

No.

First of all, I don’t want to be here. I know you hear this from 1,563 other 20-year-olds every day. I may be no different from them but I’m determined to do things differently.

In a little more than a year from now, I want to be bathing orphaned chimpanzees rescued from forests destroyed by man, or hearing Bhutanese natives tell their life stories. I want to be taking silly perspective shots on Bolivian salt plains, or kicking up a soccer dust storm with baby elephants. Trek through Iceland, polish up 3 whole pizzas in Naples, walk the streets of San Marino, live in India wearing a sari, chase the northern lights, see Macchu Picchu. And more.

The choices I make now will define me and I refuse to be defined by fear and hesitation. I refuse to grow up making excuses for the person I was 5, 10, 15 years ago. Refuse to be bitter and narrow-minded because I did not meet enough people, hear enough stories, walk in enough shoes—live, enough.

I need to find my story, outside, and I can’t wait for courage to happen. If nothing else, this year and a half in advertising has taught me that nothing is impossible and impossible is nothing. If I need to live, I can find it in myself to do what it takes.

This is a promise to my 25-year-old self, a little more than a year from now. Please kick me if I don’t do this.

Books read:
Snoop, Sam Gosling

death:

I find it hard to grasp how someone can be so alive one moment and dead the next. Death steals in, from time to time, and leaves you feeling cold and shaken. He lingers for a while and when he’s gone, he’s completely absent until the next time he comes and he consumes everything like exploding paint in an enclosed room.

To think a person you know will never again talk, or walk, or laugh, just wiped off save for traces that will be hidden under a layer of dust, after a while. And other more lasting traces in the memory of loved ones, but always taking up less and less space until it becomes a picture kept in a tin box stowed away in some private, personal cupboard. The one you only unlock in private, pensive moments, once in a while.

I can’t understand death, the way I stare into black sky or behind closed lids and try to imagine my body surrounded by endless space—I can’t understand the vastness of space. But death sits on you like a dead weight, still until it lifts.

Why Regret is important:

I have a theory that we don’t want to be happy. At every point, we have a choice between what could potentially make us happy and the other. And time and again, we choose the lesser path, and then make excuses for why we couldn’t take the better route.

We are such complex creatures.

The irony is that regret makes life easier to live. Regret kills us, but it also keeps us alive. Regret gives us hope—it is the possibility that if things were different, our lives could have been better, happier. It is the possibility of a happiness that exists safely in the realm of imagination where it can’t be destroyed by reality. In truth, there is no happiness.

In Before Sunset, the unrealized future with Jesse gives Celine hope that in an alternate storyline, she could have found happiness. If they had met six months later at that train station as planned, they would have killed that dream. Because they would have fallen into a relationship, spent a magical few months wrapped up in each other’s world, held together by liminality, and then reach a plateau where he gets tired of the very things he loved about her and she would despise him for god knows what and they will basically spiral into the dumps. At this point, they would have no escape—they would not know a ‘could-have’ to escape to.

True story: there was a documentary where this man paid a prostitute a small fortune to film her life for three days, hoping that at the end of this, she wouldn’t have to prostitute herself anymore. That money could have bought her a farm back home and provide enough for her to live comfortably with her husband and kids. A year later, he found her to be exactly where they parted, the money squandered away. And her answer to that was, “That’s just life.”

If Romeo and Juliet didn’t die, it would not have been a love story. It would have been a true story of life. Tragedy is the reason love even exists.

We are fucked up and we need to believe that that is not the only ending. That there is another way our story could be written.

Ps. Joyce—I love the random things that come out of our conversations.

Books read:
1984, George Orwell
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan
Till We Have Faces Again, CS Lewis
One Day, David Nicolls (blah)

Incomplete:
Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher
God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (almost!)
Other Colours, Orhan Pamuk
Snoop, Sam Gosling