actuality.log


All entries tagged 'social commentary'

Friday, December the 3rd, 2010

This is manifestly par for the course, but I recently found myself starting to retreat into my head again in an attempt to process a wide range of feelings. That isn’t to say these are particularly hurtful or negative feelings—you know, about relationships and intimacy and insecurity—just that they’re very intense and demand some attention.

While retreating into a shell often works out (perhaps after some turmoil), there are times when I concede that I just can’t do it alone. I lack the life-experience and a certain width in my world-view to truly grasp and work through the happenings around me. So, on occasion, I do the next obvious thing: turn to the people I’m close to and try talking to them about it. Unfortunately this hurts just as often as it helps.

Therefore, I’ve found myself trying something different these past weeks: turning to popular culture to see current society’s take on affairs. I figured maybe I’ll then realise I’m not so special. Maybe my experiences aren’t actually so out of the norm. Maybe all the ecstasy and turmoil I supposedly go through every day are just regular moments in an average person’s life.

This has led me to voraciously consume a lot of media: the quirky wit of Woody Allen’s movies, the blatant awkwardness of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the pithy realism of Marc Maron’s comedy, the intellectual frankness of Noam Chomsky’s writing. (Why is it that older Jewish guys seem to have a monopoly on neurotic, egocentric cynicism?) And maybe I’m cherry-picking my sources, but their observations seem to suggest that what I’m going through isn’t so abnormal. It is just that life isn’t always easy, and expects some degree of openness to change; not everyone has this. Honesty and intimacy in relationships doesn’t come for free; not everyone is willing to put in the effort. People know that they should pay attention to their heads, but listen only to their hearts at important moments. In short, it is clear that life isn’t perfect.

All I need to realise, I suppose, is that being happy comes when you decide to look beyond the imperfections and appreciate life for what it is.

Wednesday, November the 25th, 2009

One of my very first memories is from kindergarten. To this day, I vividly remember the pattern on the gate I was railing against with my tiny palms as I wailed for my mommy to come back and get me. The place wasn’t very far from our home at the time—probably half a block away—but it felt really far away. Being cooped up in there had this really isolating feeling, like there was no escape. And even if you could get away, there was no point in trying.

My next memory from kindergarten is falling for my class-teacher at the time. For the life of me I can’t remember her name, but I can’t forget the sweet smile on her adorable face as I presented to her today’s little trinket. Each day, my tiny hands would painfully fashion for her a necklace or a pendant or some other trifle out of multi-coloured clay, hoping today would be the day I finally won her over.

But that’s a story for another day. For the purposes of today’s tale, I need you to imagine how isolating and unfun my kindergarten experience might have been.

It’s a common sight whenever I am out. Groups of teeny-tiny tots excitedly hobbling around and being prammed about town by their kindergarten teachers. Their cute little faces all smiling and wide-eyed; their brightly coloured clothes easily keeping them in view; their fluorescent name tags having printed on them big, bold contact info, should they still manage to wander off.

Sun or rain or snow, it doesn’t matter. Spend a couple of days in Oslo and this is a sight you’re guaranteed to run into. And it’s not just kiddies from school. The number of people pushing their (freakishly huge) prams around as they go about their days is just astounding. The Scandinavian trait of spending so much of their time outdoors is passed onto their kids when they are really young. And I think this is a very good thing.

Seeing the spring in the step of the tots leads me to believe it would’ve been pretty cool to go to kindergarten here. Spending all my time singing and playing and being carted around town sounds a hell of a lot more fun than wasting my days on those fucking pre-alphabet squiggles. I think I wouldn’t have felt so isolated, and actually realised how many fun and colourful things there were going on outside.

At least, I wouldn’t have been bored out of my mind.

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Monday, August the 10th, 2009

So here’s what I just realised: I’m in an unfulfilling relationship. It took me a long time to arrive at that conclusion, and, quite frankly, I’m still not certain whether I can clearly articulate what the problem is. But here’s me trying.

I’ve come to realise over the course of my existence that happiness and sadness, levels of prosperity or contentment and a host of other things are just states of being. As hard as society has tried to condition me into thinking otherwise, I firmly believe that none of these states are inherently better or worse than any of the others. They’re all little more than strokes in the rich canvas of life; some cheerful and colourful, others deep and morose. And as with any masterpiece that isn’t doused with pretty pastel shades, a life needn’t be filled with joy and contentment for it to be meaningful, moving or even beautiful.

I don’t see why more people don’t see this. Why is there a constant quest for happiness and prosperity and popularity? What’s wrong with knowing fully well who you are and what you have—and being fine with everything, including how you feel about it?

Now, I’m generally a very negative person. (But you already knew that.) I don’t see it as a problem, and I don’t want to fight to change it. And this brings us back to what I was trying to say in the first place. I’m in a relationship where I’m never allowed to be morose without incident. I can’t be bitter or sarcastic, nor can I say mean things about the world which I feel has denied me so much. I can’t peacefully sit in a corner and mope, nor can I hold conversations where I repeatedly bring up past mistakes or revisit bad memories.

But guess what, all that stuff—the queasy feeling that comes in my tummy from all that stuff—feels right to me. I don’t want to constantly talk only about positive things. I don’t want to plan for and “fix” any of these things in the future. I don’t even want to fucking smile sometimes. I just want to be who I be, and not have the conversation topic turn toward the one thing I dread the most: Women and their insecurities. How she doesn’t feel adequate. How she’s not pretty enough to satiate me anymore. How she’s not a wonderful enough aspect of my life to make me cheery.

A man can’t just be melancholic anymore and have it be nothing to do with another.

Thursday, November the 27th, 2008

I wish I could be a little less self-centred and show some compassion toward the folks reeling after yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Bombay. But they’re not whom I am concerned about, it’s the rest of us I’m losing sleep over. I just hope that the people (government) don’t succumb to their understandably fear- and outrage-filled emotions and do anything rash. The last thing we need is the hasty passing of rules that invade civil liberties, amplify the fear-mongering allowing for few to profit from it, inconvenience and financially burden millions of regular people hoping to snare an errant handful, or start any unnecessary wars with anyone.

“No ma’am, you may not take that bottle of milk on the plane to feed your baby. No, it doesn’t matter that he’s already a little bit cranky. He just has to man up and deal with it like everybody else.”

Sound queasily familiar?

I am not what one would consider worldly, and I don’t claim to have any of the answers, but I think a valid approach to curb terrorism is to understand and reshape the sort of environment that leads people into thinking that blowing up buildings is the only way to have their voices heard.

People need to calm down and think about that a little.

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Sunday, November the 16th, 2008

I am uncertain as to whether this entry has a central point. I’m writing it at few A.M. as a myriad of barely-discernable thoughts from my disturbed sleep just before hastily evanesce. The bed in my new flat isn’t to blame (it’s actually quite comfortable), it’s my nose that’s choosing to be difficult; it appears to be completely blocked, and I am not a happy mouth-breather.

Let me begin with my take on the U.S. political scene, since I followed it religiously (still do) for quite some time, but haven’t talked about it since the presidential election. Like many other people, I’m glad the contest was won by an intelligent man who speaks in complete, coherent sentences; I really am. But I’m not as optimistic as many others regarding the amount of substantive improvements he (or anyone else) can effect. Stylistically, things have already begun to get a lot better, but in realistic terms, how possible is it (for anyone) to break the hold of the corporate interests who make all the rules? I guess only time can answer that question. One can hope, but I amn’t one to.

While we’re on the topic, there is something I need to get off my chest. On the surface, the success of this man rides on the civil rights struggles of the past—the sacrifices of the likes of Martin Luther King. But unlike the Jesse Jacksons and the Al Sharptons or even the Michelle Obamas of the world, Barack Obama doesn’t share their history. He’s probably read about it in books or talked to people around him, but he isn’t a descendant of slaves. He’s the son of a foreigner who happened to impregnate a white woman while in the U.S. to study (and chose to leave her shortly after). If anything, his success answers one question that always nags me in the back of my mind: How well integrated and how far can a first-generation in-country born child of an immigrant go? Pretty far, apparently.

I don’t mean anything racist or negative by this observation, I just wonder why this distinction isn’t made clearer in the media. Especially when they show images of swarms of 106 year-old black ladies crying out in joy that one of them made it. He isn’t really one of you, is he? You guys had it a lot harder. Skin-colour apart, he’s got more in common with the sons and daughters of Mexicans (and Chinese people and Indians and … ) who’ve recently arrived there. I guess what I am trying to say is, he’s had his struggles too, they’re just not yours.

I’ll stop now. It turns out this entry did have something of a theme. I just didn’t plan on it being this one.

Tuesday, October the 21st, 2008

Oh right-wing talk radio, you must be so proud.

Monday, June the 30th, 2008

Nuzzling into this soft orange couch with my warm glass of cocoa this lazy Friday afternoon, I look around to see a nearly-deserted research facility. The clear glass walls and brilliant sunlight spotlight the lonely chairs and abandoned computers. Out of habit, I casually glance at my watch and that’s when it becomes apparent what is remarkable about this serene picture: It’s just past 1 in the afternoon, and everyone’s gone for the day.

There are a slew of things about life here that put it in stark contrast with that in the U.S., but it is this that I find most striking: The work-life balance in this part of the world leans rather heavily toward life.

Which is nice.

Wednesday, March the 12th, 2008

I wonder why people ask you how you are when they aren’t really interested in an honest answer. Perhaps it’s just a means of initiating casual conversation, but even I can think of a dozen other ways of achieving that without creating an opportunity to open up that can of worms. Whatever their rationale though, I wish people would ponder for an instant whether they’re ready for an actual answer before they fire that question my way—I’m sick and tired of having to argue my case.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers, but I almost revel in my perennial state of misery. By design and circumstance, being miserable is what I perceive as normalcy—it’s a fundamental part of who I am. Judging from the way I only want what I can’t have, and drop things the instant they come within my grasp, it’s almost as if I were striving to maintain my misery.

This however is exactly the sort of thing that’s too complicated to explain when confronted by someone’s casual “How are you?” Just what am I supposed to say to that? I’m miserable as usual? I’m miserable and wretched as expected, but I am perfectly fine with that? I’m sure you don’t want to know?

What?

Wednesday, February the 6th, 2008

The obvious question: Do I even want to immigrate to this country?

Tuesday, January the 8th, 2008

This might seem strange coming from someone who claims to be a scientist, but I’m fairly convinced that there is no such thing as objective reality. After numerous conversations with people around, I’m beginning to realise that everyone’s perception of reality is just that—it’s simply their own. No amount of arguing or attempts at homogenising their outlooks can change that; everybody just lives in the world they concoct for themselves.

Normalcy, morality, sanity, … are just figments of our imaginations. They’re illusions concocted by a dominant few who arrive at a vaguely consistent view of the world, and attempt to impose their perspectives on the masses.

I’ve been analysing some of my more-bitter tirades over these past weeks, and I now see what I’d been wrestling with: I don’t enjoy being told how I ought to perceive my life. I just want to be allowed to perceive my life.

Wednesday, December the 12th, 2007

Hobble into a room with a cast on your leg, and everyone will eagerly await your tales of drunken rock-climbing. Hobble into a room because your mind is just too disoriented to process your senses, and no one will feel comfortable talking to you about your misfiring brain.

Not even you.

I’m not sure why this is, but while most people deem it acceptable to talk about and seek help for physical issues bothering them, there’s a huge stigma against bringing up problems of the mind. Perhaps, it’s because unlike obvious physical abnormalities, much of our craziness can be hidden from life’s casual observers; and people don’t see the need to talk about things that can be swept under the rug.

But screw social norms, you know I’m going to.

Can you imagine how scary it is to have your mind and eyes wake up, but not the rest of your body? When you feel awake, but paralysed as you lie there in the harsh realisation that the rest of you often functions independent of your mind. What if you’re prone to sleeping on your tummy, and you occasionally find your mind waking up, only to realise it can’t turn your head to prevent you from choking on your pillow because your body is still asleep?

Do you then shut your eyes real tight and hope that it’s just a nightmare? Can you even tell the difference? What if your memory is just a blur and you can’t always clearly tell if something you’re recalling is an event you really experienced, a dream you had, or just something you were thinking about? When desperately devoid of feeling, you concoct something and convince yourself it’s real.

And if you can’t tell the difference, is there any?

It’s ironic that the authenticity of your experiences is really a moot concern, as failing memory is one of the first signs of a faulty brain, aside from spotty hallucinations and spooky convulsions, of course. If you can’t even remember clearly over a few weeks into the past, why would you care if what you’re recollecting is real?

Alas, another thing that’s easily affected is speech patterns. Slurred, incoherent ramblings soon replace any expressive flair you might have possessed—further evidencing your dulling senses and intellect to the world. And worse, reducing the likelihood you’re going to coherently talk about what you’re going through with anyone.

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