Sunday, December 2, 2018

The privilege of having words

Terry Border: Bent Objects 

You'd imagine that the word is something we all have, in this day and age of widespread literacy.

Our curriculum expects it from us. It is a foundation we have to master before we can build our castles of knowledge on top of it. I suppose I've always surrounded myself with people who have splendid handling of the written and spoken word - in all languages that they are proficient in.

I've pursued art and music like a new language. The grammar become brushstrokes and mediums, the vocabulary in motifs and keys. However, like any new language, it doesn't just change the way you sound and write on paper, it restructures your thinking. Anthropologists and social linguistics have spilled ink extensively on the subject. However, we don't understand the practical implications for someone who doesn't think in the written word. We are tourists in the minds of those who do not hold ideas and thoughts the same way we do.

We look at a painting or listen to a piece of impenetrable music and ask what is the artist/musician trying to tell us? They might as well come from another planet and speak to us in Martian.

Side note, do watch The Arrival if you haven't caught it, about how language changes how we conceive time and space.

What is the point of writing all of this?

I believe we need to expand our appreciation of other individuals who think differently from us. Like linguists, we should embrace the system of other formats of "languages" that may not immediately be immediately apparent to us.

As someone who has taken the written word for granted, I've recently met someone who have taught me to be patient that the written word may not always be immediately available to them. It's like asking me to run 46km, when I've barely ran 4.6km in my life. Compassion for those who think differently from me. To learn to express myself in more ways than just text, or to understand someone's intention from a hug or through their doodles.

I've gained a new found appreciation for ways of expression - the spaces in between words. The pauses in between phrases. Communication is beyond just what we say, but how we say it. It is sculptural and spatial, it is the foreshortening in a painting to give the illusion of depth in a two dimensional painting. Words draw images in our mind, but our minds have always imagined before we had the words to express them. Previously in my work as a teacher, I've always thought that students who did not have the words to express their ideas, was a product of the lack in our education system. However, recently I'm considering that perhaps the real lack in our education system is the deficiency in our imagination to conceive beyond the written word.

As a result, for those who do not think the same way, face profound difficulties in how they interact with others. If we do not insist that someone from Japan speaks fluent English, then we similarly cannot insist that someone communicates with us on our terms. I believe communication can happen in more than one dimension and we must embrace all of them to have a more understanding and sympathetic society. It's like watching the world in black and white transfer into a field of high-definition virtual reality. It becomes much more interesting and much more exciting to live in.

Lest our understanding be stunted, I'm re-imagining how we approach the ways we communicate with someone.

Sometimes, a big hug echoes in the heart louder than any word.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The kanchiong spider speaks: Learning to be patient

People who know me, know that I'm quite an antsy spider - I get things done, and I want it done now. It is partly what makes me a results-producing person who is loved by bosses and sometimes hated by co-workers (spoil market).

I have this tick within me that I need to scratch and if I don't scratch it, it needs to be externalised in sometimes very unhealthy ways. I will either be passive aggressive, or be slow burning, or just have a bad attitude. I will scoff and brush away things and make judgement that it is a waste of my time and write off the person/project forever.

My ex-bosses have told me that I run at a million miles and while I can cope with many things on my plate, I need to slow down for others to catch up.

So let them catch up they say.

Yet, this incredibly feeling of being a pariah, of being absolutely lonely in my pedestal of being hyper-efficient and effective, is not a way to live. It alienates when I should be collaborating. As someone who really communicates well - I lack the patience to spend more time with myself to reflect.

I guess it's a level of intellectual superiority - that because I can, I should. However true power is the ability to withhold the very same power. In Javanese/Balinese shadow puppetry - or what is called "Wayang" - the monsters are often portrayed in a wild and uncontrollable manner while the hero is someone who is almost refined and unassuming but in complete control of the situation.

I think I need to learn how to be patient with others. My anxiety to fix things - people, problems and situations - drives unnecessary pressure in both my persona life and the workplace. I'm not talking about being stressed, but rather giving undue stress to others. I don't give others the benefit of the doubt enough, I don't find out what the hold-up might be, and I am not forgiving of weakness.

There are self-defined signs of a person's weakness and I judge too quickly because of it. Just because I can understand many things easily, doesn't mean that I understand everything that life has thrown at me. I need to give others a chance to be allowed their point of view - they may not necessarily tell me - but they'll demonstrate it in their actions in due time.

I think this stems from a deep-seated fear of failure. That somehow, if things don't get fixed, or completed, I have therefore showed that I'm a fraud, and someone who is not as cool or smart as I am said to be. Impatience of this nature - to get everything right the first time - is going to be the ruin of many things. It has cost me both time and money as well as relationships in the past and friends who are brave enough who have called me out on it reigned me back temporarily.

There is no well-defined timetable or project Gantt chart of when things must happen in life. Everything happens in its own time and place - and sometimes it's the marrying up of the perfect circumstances often than not, that makes things happen.

As much as I accuse control-freaks of being disruptive, being impatient is also equally destructive. I think these recent months have really taught me many things both in my personal and professional life. In a big organisation - things happen in their own time. In my personal relationships - things have to be allowed to happen/breathe so that both parties respect each others' standards for themselves. It's a small step but I have to calm the fuck down starting today.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Flirting: an apology to all men

I've been back to the dating scene recently with a clean mind. Now at 29, I think dating holds a very different meaning, and the dynamics have humbled me.

It prompted this self-reflection, and while they say admission is the first step to self-improvement, I also want to capsulate this as a reminder-to-future-self.

After being in a largely unhappy relationship for 2 years - with little intimacy and emotional/intellectual engagement - I felt starved. Attention was empty and kisses were hollow throughout my previous relationship. My mistake, that I needed to be more honest with myself in the past. As much as I encourage my friends to leave unhappy relationships, I did not hold such courage myself until fate intervened on my behalf because I was too afraid. Strangely it took for someone to cheat to gain back my self-confidence. That, and champagne with a very-exceptional Macallan shot offered by a good friend.

I think that emotional and physical deficiency pushed me to almost flirt outrageously, it's a cry for help, a sign that I didn't recognise until very recently. It wasn't that I needed the guys to flirt back with me, what I needed was a wake up call. It doesn't help that YouTube videos on "50 ways to flirt with a guy" catalysed and almost made it permissible. I forgot, being a cultural geographer, local traditions apply to what were US-centric discourses. In any case, it could have been a disaster if not for a very strong wake up call yesterday.

I am human and I failed. But like any other, we need to move on from our failures and learn how to fail better.

Essentially it got me thinking about flirting - so much discourse on flirting is around "getting the guy". I am starting to toy with the idea that perhaps flirting - being the definition,

"behave as though sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions." -

I can come across as being disingenious - especially in the early stages of getting to know someone because I make promises I may not be able keep. What does it say about my character, as a person? I think being able to show your sexual side is okay - in fact I almost encourage it within women because we are brought up to fear our bodies (whole thesis on this somewhere in my dropbox). So taking a step back, looking at my throw-away comments, is antithesis to my values and beliefs and does not reflect the person I truly am. Perhaps those that respond to my flirts, are also equally disingenious and superficial and I fear that history repeats itself. We reap what we sow.

We should not abandon flirting altogether - I still find that extremely endearing and fun - but to use it at the opportune time when a sexy playful comment can be followed up with actual promises of things to come. It is this complex layering of being in a serious committment coupled with keeping things light to make life slightly more interesting.

At 29, the dating experience has changed. Perhaps it's time to cast aside my old skin and be more mature. After all, the very act of insanity is doing something over and over again but expecting a different outcome isn't it? So ultimately, if I want a partner in life with a certain character, I should therefore exhibit those myself.

For reservations: my witty double-entendres and puns for that special someone ;)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Do you dislike reading?

Apologies for this long hiatus, life has been crazy since July last year and my mind hasn't had time to unwind and simply process what is around me.

Recently, I've been informed by my manager that I need to slow down my pace of work - lest everyone is unable to catch up and is panting for their breath. I ran too fast, and because of that, people often resort to just asking me the "are we there yet questions" since I am already ahead, instead of taking in what's happening around them.

Communication is key, and the key of mine may not fit the lock of someone, and I began to turn to my fount of wisdom on how to cope with this situation - philosophy. I turned to Machiavelli, and then Foucault to (re-)understand on a fundamental level, how I need to shift my perspective. I start to wander in my thoughts, how do people seek answers or formulate and ask pressing questions that act like sign posts?

My go-to friends are books, textual and visual understandings and conversations with dead authors or artists. When I recommend books to people to the questions they seek, I thought it might invoke a different perspective that may bring them some measure of peace, they give me the oddest look.

Granted that reading is often a privilege that is bound to social class and economic wealth, furthermore profoundly and dense texts is pretty much scholar-ivory tower type stuff. However people I speak to fundamentally hate reading - my boyfriend included.

I think this distaste comes from eating steamed broccolo at a very young age and forever hating that vegetable. It was how books were introduced to our lives. The meaning they gave to our formative years that have some people absolutely hating it, and others like me who can dive into it for hours. For some, books present themselves as pain and long arduous boring lessons and the 40page bound pieces of paper is a very visceral and subconscious reminder of that. It may even perhaps be a symbol of one's failure to cope with the educational system, especially individuals who have not benefitted from the institutions they were in. That is perhaps why some people prefer TED videos and podcasts for their personal development as those were mediums of enjoyment and given that learning was just a happy by-product of this. I have friends who read for pleasure but not for development, and we have JK Rowling and Roald Dahl to thank for making reading so much better for all of us.

I was told by teachers that once you have mastered a subject, the only way to get better at it was to teach it to others. Depending on dispositions, those ones being fed information can feel handicapped, or feel empowered. We should be careful how carelessly disseminating or communicating certain ideas from an unequal axis of informational power can ironically make someone even more impotent. It is the chick that never leaves the nest, the larvae that refuses to discard its cocoon. There are benefits in taking hours to finish a book when a video can summarise everything in 15minutes. It is efficient but not effective. It is the same comparison when you listen to a speech vs having a offstage conversation with the speaker afterwards. The latter takes longer, because your mind is processing ideas and thoughts while the former is a passive exercise. I promise that you will feel more empowered when you engage the author as you read rather than having it dished to you in very little time that we don't have time to react or even think it through before agreeing. Books are an imprint of a person's ideas and thoughts at any one point in their life, so what we  have are timeless conversations with people who have lived before us. In some ways, relevant or not, they remain immortal to us

Seek to challenge the boundaries of your mind, one way or another at any level. To move faster in life, we sometimes have to hit the pause button and enter into this literary limbo to recalibrate. Lest we spend time wandering the forests when sometimes taking a few moments to check the GPS can in turn take us where we want in a shorter time.