Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Overseas Chinese as Cultural Chameleons in Suchen Christene Lim’s A Bit of Earth

When I was 14, my best friend’s father – a Swedish businessman in Davao del Norte – handed to me a book which greatly altered and expanded my view of the world. It was Sterling Seagrave’s Lords of the Rim: the Invisible Empire of the Overseas Chinese. Part economic analysis and part chronicle of fortune within the Pacific Rim, the book explores the waves of migration and the extraordinary course taken for centuries by Overseas Chinese, over 55 million of them, now dominating Southeast Asian economies through their “unusual ethnic solidarity, underground networks, political pragmatism, exceptional information, and adaptive capacities”. These qualities, according to Seagrave, enabled Chinese expatriates to build an “opaque and invisible” empire of conglomerates that now rule, financially and organizationally, all over the Pacific Rim.

Reflective of what I read almost 10 years ago, A Bit of Earth, as a historical novel, depicts the same intricate system of cultural, linguistic, and trade alliances an Overseas Chinese must tread his way through, cautiously and tenaciously, in order to survive and ultimately acquire wealth and power in a foreign soil. An offshore Chinese, like Wong Tuck Heng, was born out of China’s long and dark history of civil wars, corruption, disasters, and extreme tyranny. It is not surprising, consequently, that an instinct for survival and an aim for prosperity is central to China-born, first generation migrants of Malaya.

Overseas Chinese operate without “border, national government, or flag” – hence, to navigate their way through the tumultuous times during the onset of Western colonization, they are demanded to: 1.) adhere to hierarchal structure of families as they are the basic and most reliable economic and social units; 2.) form solidarity with clans, kongsis, secret societies, and organizations as they are vital for building financial linkages and social connections; 3.) maintain dual cultural and political allegiances depending on the more potent cultural force in the country; and 4.) employ cultural flexibility by adapting the ways, language, and useful practices of both the native population and the colonizing power.

By maintaining plural identities, both China-born and Straits Chinese act as “cultural chameleons” in order to ensure the survival and welfare of their own cultural group. However, what separates them is the degree of transculturation, which relies on the attachment over the patch of earth one roots on. In other words, the extent of hybridization for Straits Chinese, based on the novel, is more pronounced in their adoption of foreign language, customs, and even religion than China-born migrants, primarily because they are rooted on the land which gave them “identity, stability, and family” (275).

Nevertheless, nothing is fixed and complete, according to Stuart Hall, when it comes to cultural identity for diasporic cultures, only “constant positioning and repositioning in the politics of identity and in the politics of position” – such that Tuck Heng assured his son that the present identity assumed by their Baba side of the family is subject to constant change and is highly dependent on the present cultural force controlling their adopted nation. With this insight, we can only assume that Overseas Chinese nowadays, with the evident rise of China, are once again directing their gaze towards the land where, centuries ago, their ancestors planted their lives, hopes, dreams, and memories.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fifty Shades of Green: The Individual and his Identities in Lloyd Fernando’s Green is the Color

Green is the color primarily associated with nature; it is also the color that represents our natural state of existence — that is, as individuals belonging to the human race, unified by our common humanity. Green, as the representative color of universal human identity, is notably mentioned only towards the end of the novel when Siti Sara went out of the house one evening and sensed how “the color of the leaves differed from bush to tree and from tree to tree, in dazzling shades of green after the rain” (192). 

Shades of green in nature signify chromatic harmony despite the variation of shades or, to aptly demonstrate this in the novel, the shades of identities are exemplified in the characters of Dahlan, Sara, and Omar –  all Malaysian colonial subjects who acquired Western education which produced “dazzling shades” or ambivalent effects on their respective identities: Dahlan advocates against racial inequality for minority groups; Sara struggles with her individualism and attachment to her restrictive culture; and Omar embraces fundamentalist Islam and nativist ideology through an elimination of all “traces of colonial legacy”.

While the reference to color green appears to be a mere passive mention in the story, its symbolic quality is being emphasized pervasively through our historical reading of the text. The depiction of greenery sets the backdrop for tropical Malaysia where different shades of green are visibly painted on its multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual landscape. 

Malaysia, as a modernizing yet tradition-oriented society, grapples not only with sociocultural differences between racial groups but more significantly with economic disparity among them. Green, as a known representation for envy and resentment, characterizes Malaysia’s classic problem of racial, political, and socioeconomic divide: the dominant Malay group perceives themselves to be at an economic disadvantage in the agrarian countryside against the Chinese and Indian minority who prosper in urban centers, respectively for their handling of most commercial enterprises and constituting the country’s professional sector.

It is important to note how this racial strife in the country originally stemmed from British colonial policy that previously encouraged Chinese and Indian migration to supply the demand for labor in the country’s flourishing rubber and tin industry. Green, in this sense, becomes the symbol for money as the capitalist Britain, during its occupation of Malaya, concerns itself not with the promotion of cultural harmony among racial groups but merely for financial gains from its colonial activities. As such, racial conflict emerging from colonial policies dominated Malaysia’s postcolonial history after it gained independence in 1957.  

Referred in the novel as the “unsightly scab” in Malaysian history, these racial discords, which later erupted into a widespread racial riot in May 1969, provided the main backdrop for the story where multiracial characters representing their shades of identity are at odds not only with their inner selves but also with their distinctly cultural as well as universal human identity. What Lloyd Fernando tried to portray in the novel is how ultimately, the human identity, with love as one of its universal qualities, prevails over both sociocultural and personal identity.

Being green is embodied in the bold and “transgressive acts” of the main characters, Sara and Yun Ming as well as Dahlan and Gita, who are involved in interracial relationships. Green is the color associated with nature primarily because it does not discriminate but rather celebrates diversity through love in its varying shades of existence. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Society and the Isolated in Shahnon Ahmad’s Rope of Ash (Rentong)

It is not difficult to notice, as Filipinos, the striking similarities between Shahnon Ahmad’s idyllic portrayal of Malaysia’s countryside and the sceneries of Philippine rural life. In the novel Rope of Ash (Rentong), we are given familiar images of typical countryside life in a remote village of Banggul Derdap: farmers scattering across various square fields, village rice lands looking like a “large single lake”, and typical village meals consisting of sticky rice and grated coconut. It is from these rustic images that our appreciation and understanding of Malaysian village life are vivid and familiar.


But while these rural sceneries are reminiscent to Philippine countryside life, it is also easy to understand how we are able to relate with Malaysian rural values which put emphasis on the importance of kinship and sense of community among rural folks. In the Philippines, headmaster Pak Senik is represented by a well-respected Barangay Captain or Purok Chairman whose leadership is central in maintaining harmony in a village. Similar to Philippine provinces, the lives of families in Banggul Derdap are closely knit since villagers are “dependent and independent from each other” for their living and sustenance. Because of this, it is almost unimaginable for village residents to isolate themselves from the community that works towards unity, order, and harmony.
If negative values such as violence, jealousy, and ambition disrupt the idealized notion of harmonious coexistence among villagers, then the community – being a structured social and political unit – has the power to isolate and make an outcast out of those who initiate societal division and conflict. However, it is interesting to note how, in the novel, we are given the perspective of the isolated; that is, we are given insights on how, at times, the society misjudges an individual based on past deeds and subverted opinion that challenges the prevalent view of the village group. In the novel, the isolated becomes vulnerable to malicious rumor and prejudgment of character; for instance, we are drawn to relate to Pak Kasa and Semaun’s violent character as similar to the popular Filipino adage: kung ano ang puno ay siyang bunga.

With societal seclusion, the isolated Semaun is forced to shape his character based on the presumptions of society; hostility and violence becomes his recourse to defend his family and their traditional ideals. Predictably, an ambitious character, personified by Dogol, is able to exploit this ambivalent and already delicate relationship between the society and the isolated. However, through the notable leadership style of headmaster Pak Senik, whose patience and compassion has led Semaun’s family to subtly acquire utang na loob or debt of gratitude from his goodwill, we can see how the gap between the community and its outcast is eventually narrowed and restored. This happened when the violent call to destroy Semaun’s property by fire was, towards the end of the story, prevented – signifying that the rope to tie, to connect the isolated with society did not burn and turn into ashes. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Back to Poetry (#3 - UP Diliman Series)



Musings of a Lone Dew on a Sunny Day

I am a tear to this grass
which cups me kindly,

to fit the curve of its leaf
and delay my joining
the sun.

I am shriveling warm, but I glisten
ever more intensely:

swaying dragonflies
as I join the wind,

hovering its glimmer
above my green,

viewing flickers of grain
from its sandy loam home

gripping what is left of me --

so all that we become
are city lights of day.
4/11/2012, Fodboldbane


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walter Benjamin & Today's Fateful Walk

I took a long, leisurely walk after I finished my paper in CL 122 (Contemporary Literary Theory and Criticism 2). I felt weightless -- my body at least is; but hmm I realized it's harder to quantify the weight of our thoughts and feelings than gauge our physical weight. Ok it's tempting to concretize that idea here -- but I can hear Voltaire now, whispering: "let us work without theorizing, Sen" ~lol

And he's right.

Now, what I am supposed to write today is about my CL 122 paper, which gave me a lot of stress this semester. It's perhaps because I am still gauging this field I am entering now -- the world of literature and literary theories. Anyhow, the paper I wrote was grounded on Walter Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History and its relevance in viewing the Second World War history of the Philippines. It specifically talked about redeeming the silenced / hidden / forgotten narratives of Japanese POWs in the Philippines who wrote autobiographical novels after the war ended in 1945. 

Basically I argued in the paper that Philippine literary and historical texts construct dominant historical images and narratives about the war. This is because the country learned much of its history through the "barbaric" transmission of culture, history, and civilization from the victors of that historical struggle. (During WWII, the US emerged as victors.) Quite famously, from Benjamin's seventh thesis: There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
 
Now what is needed, I reasoned, was the necessary plurality of narratives from the subjects of "losing" states like Japan. This is where I saw the need to critically examine the autobiographical texts written by notable Japanese POWs such as Ooka Shohei, Tetsuro Ogawa, and Kiyoshi Osawa. I thought about qualifying them as "angels of history" for their narratives can potentially fracture the dominant historical images about Japanese soldiers and about the war in general found in our literary and historical texts.

Of course, I took caution with this stance, fully aware that this work might be used to obliterate the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in the country. But what surprised me while I was making the paper was that giving a new historicist reading of these texts not only affirmed those brutalities BUT it also gave us new ways of looking at war history in the Philippines. It gave us, in Benjamin's words, a "unique experience with the past" (XVI). For instance, my paper's conclusion was summarized this way:

By qualifying Kiyoshi Osawa as an “angel of history”, we were able to acquire the following historical understandings:
1.) Even before the war, there were already anti-imperialist sentiments and dissatisfaction with the imperial government as exhibited in the rebellious character of Osawa and his friend, the old “socialist” man named Watanabe Sensei.

2.) There was a harmonious existence between Japanese and Filipinos before the war as evident in the proliferation of Japanese businesses and the increasing number of immigrants in the country (30-40k Japanese immigrants by 1941, most of them settled in Manila, Baguio, and Davao)

3.) The war was not fought between all Filipinos and all Japanese; many in fact helped each other to survive the disastrous ordeal.

4.) Public sentiment during the early years of war was generally noncommittal and could have tilted either way depending on how well the Japanese army could win the hearts of Filipinos.

5.) There was a diminishing support for the Japanese army from Japanese civilians themselves because of the atrocities they committed in the country.

6.) The Japanese Imperial Army tried to salvage the severing relations between Japanese and the Filipino people by seeking advice from Osawa -- but it was too late.
It was good to ground the paper on Walter Benjamin's idea, I think.. because I was super surprised that when I presented the idea to my professor, she readily gave me a go signal to do it -- she never even questioned it, which shocked the hell out of me. While I was working on my paper, I found out why: it was too freaking ambitious! haha! (Perhaps it's worth an MA thesis to critically examine and unite the narratives of all the non-fiction works by Japanese POWs in the Philippines, diba? Hmm.)

While evaluating my capacity to write about the topic, I decided to reduce the paper by analyzing only ONE autobiographical novel -- it was Kiyoshi Osawa's A Japanese in the Philippines. I chose this book because I loved seeing the country through his eyes, especially that he migrated here in the 1920s at age 19. He's quite a personality, Mr. Osawa. I immensely enjoyed reading his wartime accounts and about his childhood in Gunma prefecture.

Although I wrote this stressful paper non-stop for only four days, I would say I'm proud of my work. But I cannot post it entirely here since it's 20 pages long. Hmm, I can only post the excerpt of the paper or else this blog will be dead boring -- more aptly, dead and boring. lol

Since I have always wanted to turn this blog as a "commoner's" place for philo and literary discussions, feel free to drop a message if you want to examine the longer version of the work. The introduction should do for now... kasi I plan to elaborate more on another understanding of Benjamin's Theses using the analysis I gathered from writing this paper.

So yeah, guess that's it for now.. off to Econ lib to finish my paper on Postcolonial Theory ~ agghhhh ~  fuck this life! ..oh but no, coz there are still things to smile about even while I was walking.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back to Poetry (#2 UP Diliman Series)



Shelving the Self

The usual space
that owns my weight
is weightless.
I left the seat
   
Empty —

for today’s play
is to have you

Miss me.


 5/10/2012, Bibliotek

Monday, October 1, 2012

English Language Teaching (ELT) and the Subjugation of the Filipino Mind

(Reaction/critique of T. Ruanni F. Tupas's A Century of Errors: English Language Teaching and a Political History of Philippine-American Relations which can be accessed on this site: http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/elcttr/A%20Century%20of%20Errors.pdf)

Reading a 32-page chronicle about savagery, deceit, and inherent malevolence of imperialism left me to ruminate about the conception of history as propaganda of the powerful. On his Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin wrote, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism; barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another”.

For imperial America, this “document of civilization” is written in English, to be enforced upon the hapless people of its colonies. As foreseen by Benjamin, the manner by which language is transmitted will, at all times, be tainted by barbarism; not only because the introduction of colonial language causes “psychological disturbance” to the colonial subject but also because the language itself is used as a tool for colonial and cultural amnesia. 

The Philippines is one painful product of American civilizing mission. Indeed, more than a century have passed since an American soldier shot a Filipino at San Juan Bridge, yet for those who remember, ghostly bullets of American atrocities still pierce into our national consciousness. For those who remember, it is in the renewed anguish every time we hear historical accounts of Filipino bodies being “piled so high that the Americans used them for breastworks” during the Philippine – American war. For those who forget, it is embedded in the nation’s suffering of cultural poverty and gathering of past cultural fragments to establish our national identity.

The colonial and neocolonial suffering of the Filipino, brought about by cultural and linguistic imperialism, is now a form of psychological disease on a national scale. The subjugation of Filipino minds, as Tupas contends, is sustained in the seemingly harmless domain of education research and English Language Teaching (ELT), both of which are influenced by colonial version of our history. However, we cannot be faulted for this national disorder of our psyche precisely because, following Benjamin’s thought, the colonial version of Philippine history is the “history written by the victors” who have long been mentally assaulting our system of thought for their own economic and cultural gains.

For a nation enduring its long colonial history, the Philippines is an epitome of a country suffering from colonial and cultural amnesia brought about by the barbaric transmission of language, history, and other imperialist “documents of civilization”. Because centuries of colonial assault on the Filipino result to “psychological disturbance” on a national scale, the restorative follows that a critical examination of the present Filipino psyche should be retraced. As can be noted, most approaches in psychotherapy require awareness and articulation of experience as a form of consciousness and healing. Using one’s own psychological account of colonial suffering is a step towards national therapy and sensemaking.

What Tupas failed to realize is that Bonifacio Sibayan’s retrospective essay (1991) was a form of personal reconstructive healing about the author’s confrontation of an alien language which totally altered his childhood psyche while growing up in a remote, non-English community of Bakun. Sibayan never denied the “struggle and frustrations, sometimes mixed with anger and resentment” that he endured when English was enforced as a colonial language at school. His way of coping with linguistic suffering was to forget the ordeal and shift his focus on the “many advantages derived… through education and love for books and learning”.

In other words, Sibayan dealt with his linguistic miseries in a rather “Filipino way” of coping – that is, transforming his resentment into disremembering and looking instead on the advantages of that misery which for him was “education, love for books, and learning”. This is not to say that his was the proper way to heal the mental trauma of colonialism (through which he was a mere victim), but his was an honest retrospection of internal healing; a manner by which we can view as contributive to our aim of constructing a national dialogue that will teach our people how to make sense of our colonial experience and collectively deal with our national trauma.

Both Sibayan and Gonzales (1996), in claiming that “linguistic imperialism is the thing of the past”, should be viewed as victims and not perpetrators of the very situation they deny or choose to forget. Tupas, on the other hand, in detailing “a century of errors” in our colonial education system, should be viewed as an enlightened imperial subject who, for the purpose of irony, chose to expose the savagery, deceit, and malevolence of the very colonial language he speaks and vows to speak up against.

 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Comparison of Colonial Experience: The Case of Philippines and Australia

(This is a reaction / critique of John Docker's The Neocolonial Assumption in University Teaching of English. Yes, I do have a summary of Docker's article. If interested, just email me so I could post it on the blog.) 

Like Australia, there is also a ruling anglocentric assumption in university teaching of English in the Philippines. The difference, however, is that our situation is much worse. This anglocentric assumption imposed upon us is twice sorrier than what Australia has actually experienced. Philippine history has been marred by centuries of colonial exploitations by major colonial powers, namely, Spain and the United States. Worse, in our long period of colonial and neocolonial history, Filipinos, unlike Australian settlers, are native inhabitants of the islands.  

Looking at Fanon’s “hierarchy of culture”, it can be inferred that during the Spanish colonial period, the Insulares who settled in the country can be compared to Australian settlers while native Filipinos can be likened to aborigines of Australia. When the Insulares came to the Philippines to establish Spanish colonial government, they do so by the “virtue of superiority” of metropolitan culture that is mainland Spain. However, because of their removal from Madre EspaƱa, these Insulares (also included in the group were hispanized Filipinos called Ilustrados) are forced into a “necessary inferiority before the metropolitan culture’s necessary superiority”.

What white colonial settlers in Australia have experienced must have also been felt by the Insulares and Ilustrados in the Philippines who, as John Docker aptly described, are “metropolitan-derived, but not metropolitan, both European and not European”. In the Philippines, both the Insulares and Ilustrados lived and behaved like Spaniards, mastering the language and identifying themselves with the Spanish metropolitan culture – since, according to Docker, they are always “striving to become what they cannot be”. This futile attempt by Insulares and Ilustrados to assimilate with Spain was evident during the Propaganda Movement when group Filipino reformists insisted on annexing the Philippines as part of Spain and asking for Philippine representation in the Spanish government. 

However, throughout the centuries of Spanish colonial period it was perhaps the native Filipinos suffered the worst “psychological disturbance” inflicted by Spanish colonizers. Native Filipinos or indios were looked down upon both by Insulares and Ilustrados, destroying their native culture and excluding them from government and education. Spanish, as a colonial language, can only be restrictedly learned by the affluent. 

(This is not to say that the inability for the population to master Spanish is something to lament about. What I am saying is that, at this present time, Filipinos are becoming more detached in learning our hybrid history during the Spanish occupation. We cannot even access the language of Filipino writers who all wrote in Spanish! It would have been interesting if common Filipinos could directly appreciate the original language used by Rizal or read Spanish texts about how the Philippines was portrayed by Spaniards.)

Once more, during the American occupation, we were again subjected to psychological disturbance when the Americans imposed English as a medium instruction in our educational system. True to Fanon’s insight, it was the still the elite and middle class Filipinos, many of whom are descendants of Spanish mestizos, who first acquired the English language. As a result, they held key positions in government and the academe. 

Because the American government was using the education as its neocolonialist tool, Filipinos have eventually acquired and incorporated English into its learning system. English assured our access to everything American – western films, books, culture, and products. This acquisition of colonial language became the very foundation of our undying colonial mentality or the start of our so-called “white love”.  

When it comes to the situation in the academe, Philippine learning institutions, like Australian universities, suffer too from forced imposition of canonical texts by American and English writers. But worse than Australia, Filipino students’ linguistic diversity hampers their learning because they have to at least learn three languages – the native, national (Tagalog), and colonial (English) languages both for academic and social survival. Also, English canonical texts contain Western themes and context that are irrelevant and inapplicable to the lives of common Filipinos such that, in school, for instance, students had to learn more about winter before they could appreciate Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. 

Indeed, the comparison between Australia and Philippines as postcolonial nations is established through Docker’s revelation that anglocentric assumptions produce detrimental effects to learners in the academe. But perhaps, it would be a meaningful gesture to inform Docker that anglocentric assumption is suffered in many places – native inhabitants suffer worse than colonial settlers; Filipinos in twice sorrier state than Australians. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Reading from Hell: A Reaction/Critique of Sangari's Politics of the Possible

(Still undecided if I should post my own summary and understanding of the "The Politics of the Possible" on this blog because of its "fantastically realistic" length. You can personally request a copy from me if you want.) 

I used to appreciate postmodernism until I read Kumkum Sangari, whom I am tempted to call the writer from hell. But if hell keeps such a critic, then there is a reason why she was placed there – that is to play devil’s advocate to postmodernism’s imperious role in the contemporary world order. While I was condemned to understand Sangari’s almost indecipherable language, postmodernism’s punishment was its blatant exposure as “another form of internalization of the international role of the West”.

Postmodernism appealed to me because my mind was naively framed into understanding postmodern concepts within the Euro-American sociocultural movement. Reading Kumkum Sangari however, made realize that postmodernism cannot contain the emergence the nonmimetic writings by postcolonial writers within its epistemological framework. The social, cultural, and historical formation of colonized subjects who gave rise to nonmimetic fiction is just too rich and distinct to be part of postmodern preoccupation.

Nonmimetic fiction is nonmimetic fiction. Postcolonial writers inhabit a distinctively rich historical placement that it is almost ironic and inconceivable to categorize nonmimetic, non-western texts into Western epistemological lens. Sangari could not have been more correct when she suggested that perhaps it might be a “meaningful gesture” for postmodernism not to reclassify nonmimetic writings into its epistemological preoccupation until the monologue of the self and other are replaced by a “genuinely dialogic and dialectic history that can account for the formation of different selves and construction of different epistemologies”. 

But the question is: is it possible to construct an epistemology that can genuinely articulate and confine the profundity of colonial experience?

In my view, the answer to this question lies in the very title of the article, The Politics of the Possible. Nonmimetic writing is a catalytic attempt to articulate the almost unimaginable havoc brought about by imperialism to the lives of people in colonized countries. In other words, the differentiation between what is real or marvelous cannot be ascertained in marvelous realism precisely because the effects of colonial experience are unthinkably real to indigenous subjects. 

For Sangari, marvelous realism is attached to both “the real and the possible”. For hybrid writers of nonmimetic fiction, the depiction of their simultaneous existence within the “national and international, political and cultural systems of colonialism and neocolonialism” can only be made sense by presenting what is unimaginable and real through nonmimetic narrative modes of writing. 

Indeed, marvelous realism becomes a space of possibilities for postcolonial writers. For them, it is possible to emphasize “qualitative differences”, especially in the concept of time, between postmodernism’s historical singularity and non-mimetic fiction’s richness in time quality. It is also possible to make sense and depict the brutalities and devastation caused by colonialism through non-Western narrative texts.  

It is possible to liberate themselves from the conventions of the West and convey their aspirations for national change through their fiction. Most importantly, it is highly possible for the postcolonial writers to produce a “genuinely dialogic and dialectic history and epistemology” that can articulate, account, and contain colonial experiences of indigenous subjects. 

However, the task in producing such epistemological framework should definitely come from among us and not from the West. For Sangari, her task was to point out the dangers of Western classification and give postmodernism hell. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unlearning Western Mathematics? Mind the Language First

(CRITIQUE / REACTION to Alan J. Bishop's "Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism" which I previously summarized on my previous blog post.)

By the end of his essay, Bishop poses a broader question to readers: should there not be more resistance to this cultural hegemony (by Western mathematics)? The answer, though full of cynicism, is that there really is nothing much that the world can do about it. When I think about Western mathematics, I think about how deeply ingrained it is in our logic and ways of thinking that it is almost impossible to make the subconscious be consciously aware about its existence and implication in our system of thought.

The values associated with Western mathematics – rationalism, objectism, power, and control – are all reflected on how the global society thinks and moves at this present time. For instance, the emphasis on superiority of reason is present in our standardized school system where people are measured and categorized based on their capacity to reason. Also, success, assessed based largely on materialism, judges people according to what they have at a computed price or value. Moreover, the drive to achieve infinite progress for human civilization through science, mathematics, and technology enables us to think that we can control both our social and physical environment.  

Indeed, there is virtually no escape from adopting and employing Western mathematics within the world system. Resisting something that is totally ingrained within us has deep consequences. The process of unlearning mathematics is almost unthinkably impossible for a global society that has largely been shaped and influenced by it. 

However, if, in his essay, Bishop is opening the question of resistance to gather ideas on how to repel cultural hegemony brought about by the imposition of Western mathematics on indigenous communities, then his very work has already provided a possible answer for such resistance. Creating awareness is a form of resistance. The process of unlearning cultural hegemony starts not by outright rejection of Western mathematics, but by inculcating "critical mindfulness" about its presence, impact, and implication in our society, in our ways of thinking.

The problem with Western mathematics’ cultural hegemony is that it dwells deeply within our subconscious both as a seemingly harmless and “culture-free” knowledge. As such, the initial step to combat its deceptively pervasive existence is to be conscious about it and to inform the subconscious about its effect to our ways of thinking. Teaching ethno-mathematics in schools, for instance, helps activate our remembrance of the indigenous concepts lost during the imposition and domination of colonial mathematics. As a mathematico-anthropological subject, ethno-mathematics can reconstruct cultural memories about our past logic and ways of thinking. It does not have to entirely push Western mathematics aside, but only to accommodate diverse mathematical methods from all over the world and gain appreciation of our rich cultural knowledge. 

While accommodating ethno-mathematics in the already well-established system of Western mathematics, it is also strategic to consider teaching Western mathematics using the indigenous language to contextualize the abstract concepts and learnings for students. One of the perils of teaching mathematics in colonial language is that it alienates learners from understanding abstract ideas being introduced in mathematical problems. The language itself splits the consciousness of learners who are trying to grasp analytical and situational concepts in mathematics that are contextually foreign and oftentimes irrelevant to their lives.

With this, I am talking about my bitter love affair with mathematics mainly from grade school up to high school. English, my third language, is the medium of instruction in textbooks and classroom instruction.  Specifically, my problems were comprehension and analysis of lengthy word problems, some of which are contextualized based on foreign situations. This process of linguistically filtering thoughts for a student is unimaginably agonizing because one has to overcome the barriers of language in order to comprehend and, in the process, become a “rational” being. 

In my case, I was only fortunate to have met a teacher who defied teaching instructions and never imposed English and Tagalog in teaching us mathematics. Instead, my mentor encouraged everyone to speak Bisaya, my native tongue, in order to clarify our thoughts and understand mathematical methods properly. Eventually, her technique worked. Although I still dreaded math subjects in university, I passed both calculus and statistics with satisfying marks. It would never have been possible without the support of a mentor who believed that understanding lies deeply in language and critical examination of what is being imposed on us.

Source:
Bishop, Alan J. 'Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism'. Race and Class 32(2), 1990 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Summary of Alan J. Bishop's "Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism"

Western mathematics, as part of western European culture that perpetuate imperialist goals, is seen as a secret weapon which maintains the imposition and domination of western cultural values on indigenous cultures around the world. Bishop used the term “secret weapon” to reveal how, even today, the belief that mathematics is a culturally neutral knowledge persists in contemporary schools.

This perception stems from the fact that universal validity of mathematical truths, which are abstractions from the real world, seemingly makes the knowledge as though it is neutral and context-free. To say, for instance, that a kilo of wild bananas harvested in Guinea Bissau equates to 2.20462 pounds is valid everywhere. However, it should be noted why kilo and pounds are used for standard measurement of mass and why the conversion from kilo to pound always equates to 2.20462.

The answer to these questions, according to Bishop, essentially points to an authority that determines the standardization of measurement and other mathematical ideas which, like any other ideas, are a product of cultural history and human construction. Mathematics, as Bishop argues, is a cultural product present not only in contemporary schools that uses standard Western mathematics but also in indigenous communities all over the world.

As shown in anthropological literature, alternative mathematical systems exist through the study of ethno-mathematics, defined as “a localized and specific set of mathematical ideas which may not aim to be as general or as systematized as ‘mainstream’ mathematics”. Through ethno-mathematics, we find out that different counting systems in the world exist; for instance, in Papua New Guinea, 600 various cycles of numbers and body-part counting system are documented (Lean, 1991). Also, even the conception of space differs from one culture to another; for instance, Menninger (1969) observed that in contrast to Euclidean geometry which relies on the object-oriented ideas of points, lines, planes, and solids, the Navajos perceive space as something that cannot be divided or objectified. Moreover, in contrast with western hierarchical classification matrix, people of Papua New Guinea adopt a linear form of classification resulting to a different logic and ways of relating to phenomena.

In the Philippines, a study on ethno-mathematics conducted by UP College of Baguio (1991) reveals the existence of algebra in the weaving patterns, gong music, and kinship system of the Kankana-ey in Mountain Province. These studies on ethno-mathematics provide us with better understanding of mathematics as a pan-cultural phenomenon. However, western mathematics, as part of western European culture, has succeeded in internationalizing and standardizing math for indigenous communities around the world for more than three hundred years.

With this, Bishop points to three major mediating agents in the cultural invasion of western mathematics in colonized countries: 1.) trade and commerce, 2.) administration and government, and 3.) education. The commercial field serves as the area where western currencies, measures, and units are employed and imposed on trade and business transactions. In the government, western numerical procedures are used for computation on tracking numbers of people and commodities. Most importantly, it is through education that western mathematical ideas and western culture are propagated. As Bishop views it, western mathematics is “abstract, irrelevant, and elitist” for indigenous students who are educated “away from their culture and away from their society”.

The adaptation of western mathematics by indigenous cultures has had and continues to have powerful implications in the indigenous culture when it comes to education, national development and continuation of cultural imperialism. The clusters of values associated by this system of knowledge have had tremendous impact their logic and ways of thinking. First, western mathematics embrace rationalism as its spirit which invigorates and drive human minds. Second, the value of objectism found in western mathematics forces indigenous cultures to decontextualize the way discrete objects are perceived and abstracted. Lastly, western mathematics emphasizes man’s power and control over his physical and social environment in contrast to other indigenous thinking.

Indeed, western mathematics has remained a powerful and useful tool for almost every country in the world. The mathematico-technological culture has rapidly grown and its implications are now being understood. As Bishop suggests, our responses to the domination of western mathematics should be that: 1.) we create interest in ethno-mathematics, 2.) produce greater awareness of one’s culture, and 3.) re-examine the history of western mathematics. In this way, even as the world has generally accepted western mathematics in its system, recognizing and understanding its implications on indigenous cultures is important for critical debate in education and resistance to cultural hegemony and imperialism.



Sources: 

Bishop, Alan J. 'Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism'. Race and Class 32(2), 1990

UP College of Baguio. The Algebra of the Weaving Patterns, Music, and Kinship System of the Kankana-ey of Mountain Province, 1996.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to Poetry (#1 - UP Diliman Series)


Strange, Stranger Gazes

In the library 
where books become walls
to people
whose looks resemble
their thoughts:
of finishing homework
and killing time,
of learning ahead
and spacing out.

In this place,
where silence and noise
become idle sounds,
my eyes are lost
among pages and spaces
you move around:
between the shelves,
behind the counter,
beside me.

But these walls keep
its rule of silence
my eyes have to defy.
I learn to speak
your language of gazes:
those tug of wars,
those hits and misses,
those stolen glances
that mock the silence
of this place.

In the library
where walls avenge
the foes of silence,
our gazes are muted
like words of pages 
housed in this place.
We do not belong here –
and words are blind
to the language of our eyes.

 09/10/2012, Sovesal

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Thinking about Thoughts

Language is dangerous. I say this because I am at awe with the realization about how language is used as a misleading tool for us to make sense of the world. There is no truth to the idea that language is what makes humans breathe with "understanding".

Pardon, what I am writing now is a product of raw thoughts converted into language so you can never expect consistency in what I say. See, this is what I want to demonstrate: right now, what I am doing is to make sense of an idea on how the use of language in reading, speaking, and writing is actually a dangerous task. I am doing this by ironically using language as a tool to clarify my idea. Even that, I still argue that this is a dangerous task.

For sure, philosophers might have thought about this idea that I am going to explore now. Well, of course they have, I recognize that. But I have to clarify that what I am about to write here stems from raw thinking; meaning I am thinking while I am typing and see if it makes sense. This thought-to-language-idea stems from me studying my own thoughts and how I make sense of them. It takes me back from what happened last week -- how my doctor cautioned me not to think too much otherwise my brain will send wrong signals to my body. Then I began to think more, thinking: how can I stop thinking? or more importantly, why I am always thinking excessively?

Instances of Thinking

The answer is that I find the truth in thinking -- in the raw forms of thought. I am in love with raw thoughts -- that's why I think a lot. I am in love with thought -- the truth, in its purest form. For instance, I love walking for hours in the morning because in that activity, I am able to foster my love for thoughts. I'll give a more concrete examples, when I walk, I look at nature.. I stop by and think whatever catches my eye. Two months ago, while jogging, I stopped by a small plant because the sun reflected the a shiny thread on it. It turned out that an orange spider was making its home. Until now, I am in love with that moment but until now, I cannot express it in words. This is a lame description of what I saw, of what I realized that day.

Another instance, I was passing by so many trees on the way to our dorm and I realized how nobody really touches these trees when they are living. We fail to realize that they, like us, are breathing too! They also have life but they can't talk, they are solitary, but they have life! I felt that it is so lonely to be a tree and just have a stationary life! But then again, the burden is on us, the people who can move because we have to wander, go somewhere, and find our home! I have already voiced this thought in poetry already when I wrote "Palm Trees" in 2011, but then I felt that the idea about trees and their existence with us is poorly articulated! Having so much time walking around UP and being able to pass by these solitary and stationary trees made me realize that, as a form of apology for grossly articulating my homage to them, I began patting them as I walk. Trees need warmth, I thought, so I slightly jump tap their leaves or lightly touch their branch.

Yes, I thought about those things -- those seemingly mundane occurrences in nature.  But I do not only think about trees and nature, I also think about dirt and trashes I see on the road while I walk. One time, I saw a trail of trash -- broken alcohol bottle, dog shit, biscuit wrapper, dead leaves -- and I wonder if there is a story behind them being there. I thought there must be a story behind these things why they are being dropped there. I thought -- the broken alcohol, the one who held it, surely something happened to him why he dropped it at that place. The dog, when it shat, it was mindless about the act but I wondered about what this lonely street dog ate! (Gross but it's lonely to think about: at night, where does it sleep? does the stray dog wake up and hopeful about the day ahead? About the biscuit wrapper, did a kid throw it and still felt hungry after?

Lastly, the dead leaves, even if lifeless, I thought of its fate -- its fate is to rot, even though the very act of its falling from the twig is, what is known us, freedom. As usual, I have written about dead leaves in an unfinished poem which remained unfinished because I could not fully articulate my thoughts -- the entire idea of what I am going to say -- in words. I talked about dead leaves "creeping for the color of the soil" -- leaves being in the state of decomposition and trying to blend with the soil's color and dying with it and becoming part of it.

Solitary, Dangerous Thoughts

Because of excessive thinking, people (like me) are already physically affected by mere thoughts. By that, I mean that thoughts breed loneliness because of the very reason of its existence. Thoughts are nebulous abstraction of how make sense of the world around us, of our existence, of our being here. The very nature of its existence cannot be "concretized" because they are raw and pure. They are solitary and not "graspable" by anyone or anything. I think about the sad lonely state of our ideas being "in the head" perhaps because I am an Atheist searching for the meaning of existence. I believe that people stick to the idea of having a "creator" lurking around the corner because the thought of someone being there for us is very comforting.

For many people, the thought that humans breathe upon their very thoughts that are solitary, unexplainable, and "unshareable" with other people is almost unimaginable. Being alone with thoughts can potentially kill, can destroy our very existence. It is more comforting for the religious to think that someone is there listening and knowing our thoughts. Comfort then becomes a refuge for many people -- it feeds their spirit. But I am not like many people. I am queer in my love for thoughts which others despise -- that's why they look for other people and share their views on things so the thought or idea won't be alone.

I am an atheist who has somehow resigned to the existentialist view on things: there is no meaning in our existence and it is us who create that meaning in our lifetime. Life is here and now. This is heaven and hell. When we die, we die like the leaves "creeping for the color of the soil". But why are human beings burdened by having thoughts? Why we? I still could not grasp that purpose. If I look at it in a rational manner, it is because through time, the human brain has acquired the mental capacity to fully grasp the things around us. That is why we have reached this level of civilization because humans fought with the loneliness of thoughts and, through time, created our preoccupation (and distraction) -- the technology. I could go and on with that discussion, but what if I will answer that purely from a philosophical perspective? Why are we given these lonely thoughts? If we look at it, these are the ones that somehow humanizes us because in it, we feel genuine sadness as well as love for mundane things that exist around us.

Dangers of Language

But is it useful to contemplate deeply, excessively, and fall in love with our raw thoughts? From my experience, no.. thinking does not do anything good for my physical health. But, in a way, I still marvel at the idea how pure our thoughts are and how language can subject it to danger. I am talking about the conversion of our thoughts. Thought brings about loneliness that we all avoid, either because we despise loneliness and our culture dictates that we aim for the "pursuit of happiness" OR being alone with mere thoughts naturally poses danger to our existence, to our physical health.

Because of the tendency for people to avoid being alone with thoughts, the natural mechanism is to convert it into language -- so that the thought will be free and it can interact with other ideas that will be useful to the existence of humanity. Language is an indispensable tool that made our existence, the human civilization, possible. I recognize that. I also recognize that using language is the only activity we can do to concretize our thoughts.. to give meaning to it.. to voice it out.. to let it free.

But then language itself is an obstacle and the word I will use to describe it is "dangerous" because of its very nature to be dynamic, to be fluid, to change. Earlier, I have established how thoughts in itself already present danger and uncomfortable feeling to those who possess them and love them (i.e. thinkers and writers suffer from mental illness precisely because they are alone with their thinking). I will argue that also the act of "freeing" thoughts through language is equally dangerous because it misleads our thinking, our decisions, then our actions, and our lives in general.

 1.) The act of converting thought to language

The first process that people naturally do to free their thoughts is to convert it into language. However, language is a limited tool because it cannot fully articulate an experience. We use language to voice out our thoughts through speaking. We also write to objectify thoughts through letters and words. Speaking poses more danger than writing because it is spontaneous. The conversion of thoughts to language is thought to be simultaneously existing with our thoughts. Conversion in speaking happens in a flash. Writing, on the other hand, takes time to complete.

I see the danger in speaking because contemplation is lacking. Remember, thoughts are already dangerous and when your thoughts become unexamined, they lose their true meaning. It is sad how society has somehow privileged the act of speaking than writing. In our daily lives, those people who interact well and who are "in control" of their thoughts and language appears to be the confident one, whereas the people who have a hard time gathering their thoughts are considered less. I am one of the people who is having a hard time with her thoughts while speaking. I feel like I am always in danger when I speak because I feel the need to ascertain my conversion of thoughts into language. I never noticed that, until in college, my good friends pointed how there are times that I am blabbering the things that I want to say. My mind is disoriented and I am too cautious with my conversion of thoughts into language.

On the other hand, we can look at writing as one of the activities that is closest to thought. But still danger lurks in writing because language, through letters, tries to make the thought "visible" or "graspable". The danger for the conversion of thought to writing lies in the fact that once thought is converted into language, it is now being objectified and becomes the subject of articulation. This is dangerous because the conversion itself is not what is really meant -- it is not the raw thought and we do not have the capacity for the conversion (earlier, I have established that how the thought is solitary and "unshareable" -- that is my basis for saying this sentence).

I have to say though that the closest way that language can articulate experience is through poetry. Poetry aims to create an experience out of words. That experience is capable of replicating raw thoughts that will imitate the original experience of the writer. But then the original thought lies on the writer, what we feel after reading a great poem is a poor replica of an experience. Some might argue that at least an experience is still created BUT it is very rare among us to be moved by an experience. The impact of a poem varies from person to person, depending on the level of concentration, level of understanding, the context, and the experiences that one has. The effect of a moving results to raw thoughts, that when we try to articulate more, we will doubly fail in misery.

2.) The act of concretizing language  

Because conversion is insufficient and unreliable, it can be said that speaking or writing the thoughts through language is misleading and unreal. For instance, most of us do not know what we do in life simply because language is incapable of making sense about what our thoughts wanted say. If what we try to say and write are unreal, the danger lies when these unreal "thoughts" are concretized into language. Concretization means that the thought is "released" through language by hearing the "thoughts", recording the "thoughts" and writing the "thoughts".

Once the illusion is created that the "thought" is free, people around us will now have the basis, on written or verbal record, about our supposed "idea". The assumption that what is written or heard is real can be dangerous because thoughts are subjected to influence. People around a person will take note of the "freed thought" on the assumption that it is the clear and right idea of a person. With this concretization lies the danger of influence because people will play with the idea through discourse and communication. Hence, the "fallacious" thought is being reinforced, played, and upheld!

3.) The role of influence and manipulation

Since thoughts are, by nature, unarticulated and unshareable, there is danger for it to be inconsistent through the process of converting it into language. Now, people around you who are misled that what you are speaking or writing are real can be the same people who can make you feel at loss. This is because they are misled by the conversion of language and we too are misled by other people's conversion of language. That is why misunderstanding is very prevalent in the society because our thoughts can never be fully realized or converted into language.

The danger of being miserably misled to take the wrong path lies in our articulation of thoughts. Once you articulate what you want, it does not always the thing that you really wanted... but then you concretize it and people assume that that is such. Then, they will try to feed your "thoughts" (the inconsistent once) with their own (which is also inconsistent!)

Love is in Thought

In my previous blog, I have articulated my thoughts on love and nature -- that love is imitative of nature in the sense that its existence is effortless. But now I realize that love resides in pure thought -- the raw ones, the real feeling -- that is free from language!

I guess I have to end my speculation about thoughts by quoting my previous essay about love -- simply because further discussion about thoughts and love require more intense love for thoughts, which I consider to be dangerous.

"I long to witness that moment when one actually reaches for the same wavelength -- without saying anything because words, in itself, do not have pure intentions, in the same way that raw thoughts and inner feelings have. The moment you convert feelings into words, it loses its natural form -- that is why we have poets who, with all their might, try to capture emotions in its purest form through poetry, but still couldn't quite make sense of an experience. 
This process makes writing more powerful than speaking because of internal communication and because of the time spent thinking about words closest to the thought. Composing words, as they are, is an attempt to physically manifest thoughts, but it is not the actual and pure thought you held deeply. Meanings are concealed in words and it is only through sensitivity that we can unlock its true intention and significance."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sharing a Poem Written for me by a Dear Friend

Will forever be thankful to a good friend of mine who was able to articulate my emotions and capture them into words.

[Untitled]

That fountain behind you knows
better than the two of us, gushing
on the edge of your shoulder
where I have always imagined
my head
leaning,
asleep.
Water gives in
to the pull
and it’s beautiful
with surrender, yielding
to greater law such as leaves,
rain, footsteps, teardrop. Lump
falling and rising in our throats, sigh
rising and falling in our chests,
making us familiar
strangers: how dare
we allow ourselves
to float and refuse
to land?


 - Roger Garcia

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Introduction to Postcolonial Theory: Departing from ‘Points of Departure’

The task of writing a reaction and summary to An Introduction to Postcolonial Theory has allowed me to go back and reflect on my initial impressions prior to enlisting CL 123 as a determinant subject for pursuing a graduate degree in comparative literature. It dawned on me that my understanding of postcolonial theory has always been leaning towards what is obvious and simplistic. Postcolonial to me then meant after the end of colonization in areas which are formerly under the colonial control of the West.

One cannot be faulted though for having such a simplistic view about what postcolonial theory is. After all, this literal understanding of what is postcolonial stems from derivation of words to acquire meaning; such that ‘post’ is understood as a prefix of ‘after’ and ‘colonial’ is characterized as ‘a territory under the complete control of a state’. In my view, the entire debate about the scope and definition began the moment ‘post’ was attached after the word ‘colonial’ to describe the study of colonial discourse.

 For one, the prefix ‘post’ directly entails a complete end of colonization which then implies that the period of European colonial control and domination is entirely over. However, as what the authors of the introductory reading emphasize, the “persistence of colonialism” is, up to now, still apparent through indirect economic, political, and cultural control of Western powers over its former colonies. In this sense, colonialism has not actually left us, but has merely evolved in a more deceptive form known as neocolonialism, a phase of imperialism that aims to globalize capitalism. As Gayatri Spivak puts it, “we live in a postcolonial neo colonial world”, which means that colonialism is still with us – fully present, ever-changing, and deceptively pervasive.

Although it is determined that the attachment of ‘post’ to ‘colonialism’ makes the definition of ‘postcolonial’ problematic, there is absence of an alternative term to describe the complexity of history and diversity of experiences in different areas which are subject to colonial control. It is a clear misfortune that there is a limit to what our language can actually define or describe. As such, it is quite understandable, in my view, that the term postcolonial is used to describe the entire study of colonial discourse, provided that if asked ‘when is the postcolonial?’ the answer should altogether include the “then” (colonial), “now” (postcolonial), and “not quite yet” (neo colonization). 

From what I understand in the introductory reading, the “in-betweenness” of the postcolonial period is exactly what characterizes it as an “anticipatory discourse” that incessantly searches to describe a condition that does not yet exist or has not yet come into being. With this, it is important to emphasize that the role of postcolonial discourse is for the “reflection and illumination” of colonial, postcolonial, and neocolonial subjects as well as their resistance against the dominant colonial forces in these historical periods. 

Moreover, it should be remembered that even with such broad periodization of postcolonial history, our understanding of postcolonial terminology can still remain problematic because some literary critics attempt to generalize the answers to when, where, who, and what is postcolonial. To generalize the complex and ambiguous experiences of colonial subjects is to miserably fail in seeing the different histories and conditions of colonization in various parts of the globe. The attempt to generally define and describe the colonial situation is impossible given the subjective experiences of colonial subjects and the complexity of their histories.

In attempting to know when is postcolonial, we are faced with the fact about the incompleteness and unevenness of postcolonial period. In attempting to locate the where is postcolonial, we are presented with the complexity in the shift from the idea of nation state to transnationalism. In attempting to answer who is the postcolonial, we are faced with “unsettling identities” of colonial subjects who are faced with the task of recovering and creating their own identities.

Lastly, in attempting to answer what is postcolonial, we are presented with the impossibility of defining an ever-changing term which, according to Spivak, is “never consistent with itself”. As long as colonialism continues to remain elusive, our understanding of what is postcolonial will remain to be uneven and incomplete. However, it is reassuring to know that the role of postcolonial discourse in the academe is to contribute in our understanding to reflect, recognize, and resist colonialism in all its mutated form.


Source: 

Childs, Peter; Williams, Patrick. Introduction To Post-Colonial Theory. London : Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1997.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seneca: On Love and Nature



(An excerpt of my rapid impulse to write spontaneously this morning, the complete and more polished work will be sent to the person whom I address this piece for.)


 On Love and Nature

No, I'm not feeling fine, I still carry the heavy pains of disappointment and fear. You know how I hate talking about feelings, primarily because I consider containing emotions, in the form of words and explication, as a futile exercise of the heart. 

But for now, out of necessity, I guess I have to elaborate what I feel (which is not my usual practice) -- because, as you claim, we do not read each other's thoughts and do not step on each other's shoes, hence we need to voice out all that we think. 

The Cycle of Flaws (and things better left unsaid)

So what happens when you found the slightest strength to raise your concern towards a disappointing behavior and yet the other person is as forceful as you are to continue denying the existence of his flaws? What do you do? At first you insist, then he argues, and you just let things pass. You sleep with disappointment for a long time and wait until the day comes when the entire situation again recurs. As a result, your annoyance resurfaces, and your disappointment increases as you contemplate that you should have distanced and even shielded yourself, even before, from someone's intentional or unintentional lapses.

I do not kid you when I said that there are things ought not to be explained -- especially by chatty reasoning and argumentations because, at the end of the day, nobody wins and we go back to our solitary selves pushing for our "rightness" on things. Sorry, but I will ask you that I may be allowed to be a bit philosophical in my explanation. I know I always fail at making my thoughts comprehensible, but I would appreciate if you will spend time on re-reading and reflecting on things I seldom talk to you about. 

You see, many people fail at understanding because they do not use their inner sensitivity to gauge the concealed meaning in words. Sometimes, they also do not enjoy walking in the shoes of the writer and thus lose interest to think harder, beyond words, for the sake of clarity and understanding. So here goes my attempt to be talkative.

Connection Beyond Words (and the metaphor of "soul")

I believe that people, if they are meant to form any kind of relationship, must share "connection" that is devoid of words and physical gestures. That shared connectedness must emanate from the fact that, by nature, they are destined to share each other's being. That is true for people you consider as friends, lovers, and others you held deeply within. Most of all, it is true for the person you are considering to be your "life partner". 

In our lifetime, I believe that it is merely by luck that we find these people who "share our soul" so to speak. I used the word "soul" as a metaphor because the understanding between two people transcends beyond our own humanity. Some years back, I remembered how I wrote about fate and love as something that "which, if at all, we rarely find in our lifetime". In that sense, I am lucky to find, for now, that one instance where I met a fateful "soul" who crossed inside and wholly understood my being.    

That fortunate "sharing of the soul" I only once experienced with a long time friend. Things might have been very different right now, but what makes me cling to the friendship is that until now, whenever I look back at my past, I never fail to say, "those were the best years of my life". Those were great times because even without words, someone could finish my thoughts and share my sorrow. Talking was not a requirement to know that the other person feels awfully ill inside and that it only requires the meeting of eyes before we burst into laughter. I have to truthfully say that, I have yet to feel an experience that would surpass the feeling of ultimate familiarity with other people's inner being. In those days, sharing of the soul was not about the exchange of words but of sharing experiences, pain, and incomprehensible laughter.   

Attaining the Ideal (and us)

I do not know if it's right to say that I also expect that level of "soul sharing" to also be present between us and demand that it becomes more profound in an intimate, loving relationships like ours. Thing is, I do not think we have quite achieved that higher level of connectedness. I always look for that when we're together, but it seems futile to hope that one day, you will be able to completely understand my inner being without so much words to waste. There are too many distractions we need to address day by day -- whether we're together or far away. 

But in all fairness to us too, I do not think we have spent much more time completely alone together and share ourselves wholly. Yet if we finally do, could I expect to achieve this meeting of the soul, this higher level of understanding between us? And what if we can't attain the ideal? What do I do? Runaway, just like I always do, from people who do not share my understanding of things? Or should I wait for the grace of time and expend my energy, to discover the art of learning more about someone in the metaphysical sense?

On All things Effortless (and the concept of "wavelength")

We can laugh about this, but my insistence on the unnatural idea of "effort" kicks into this conversation. My view that -- "things that are deemed to be natural should require the least amount of effort (or better yet, effortless)" -- is ultimately reflected at how we look at nature. In the natural course of things, a leaf falls into the ground not only because of the frailty of the twig that holds it, but also because it completely surrenders to gravity, nature, or love. One need not exert effort in shaking its branches to let it fall. It is part of the natural scheme of things that a leaf shall fall because it has to let go of itself, naturally. 

Now, translating this natural occurrence into human relationship is comparable to two human beings who have the "same wavelength", so to speak. Indeed, the term wavelength is a natural idea in physics, being "the distance between two points in the same phase in consecutive cycles of a wave". We can compare the idea of wavelength to human relationships where it is possible that two people, who may be separated by distance, to have mutual understanding about each other's being. Still, in all fairness to both of us, our similarities on how we perceive a good and proper life is mutually shared. But I daresay, that is not entire picture of a relationship. 

Sharing the same "wavelength of the soul" requires better understanding of each other -- without constant reprimand, without constant reminder, and without endless talks on how to actually feel the emotions of another person. In fact, this is reflective sometimes, on my annoyance whenever people say "I'm sorry to hear about what happened" towards another person. I feel that the phrase could mean separating yourself from what the other person feels and, in a way, you subconsciously feel better about your own situation. Instead of saying how sorry you are about one's condition, wouldn't it be more reassuring if you just sit by silently beside the person, without a single word spoken, and share his misery? I think this is the opposite essence of the mantra, "misery loves company" -- in that way at least, you are able to place yourself on how the other person actually feels. 

Losing Meaning in Words

How I long for people to just feel each other's presence! I long to witness that moment when one actually reaches for the same wavelength -- without saying anything because words, in itself, do not have pure intentions, in the same way that raw thoughts and inner feelings have. The moment you convert feelings into words, it loses its natural form -- that is why we have poets who, with all their might, try to capture emotions in its purest form through poetry, but still couldn't quite make sense of an experience. This process makes writing more powerful than speaking because of internal communication and because of the time spent thinking about words closest to the thought. Composing words, as they are, is an attempt to physically manifest thoughts, but it is not the actual and pure thought you held deeply. Meanings are concealed in words and it is only through sensitivity that we can unlock its true intention and significance.

Now, going back to the nature of "wavelengths", it may seem that I am only painting an ideal picture of what relationships should be. But why should I not when lifetime companionship is what is at stake here. You see, I only want to experience being with someone who holds a complete understanding of myself, in the same way as I hold a complete understanding about who he is. This understanding, I demand, should be devoid of words and lengthy explanation and thus require utmost sensitivity of feelings towards one another. It does not take constant reprimand and reminder to fully understand what the other person is feeling. One can gain complete understanding through sensitive observation and careful examination of our differences and similarities, as it is already given that both of us have different cultural orientation and life experiences that molded us to who we are now.
(Some very personal paragraphs are deleted.)

Letting Myself Fall (like a leaf)

You know, there is greater wisdom for people who insist that they are right but just keep to themselves and wait for their rightness to manifest in the future... there's greater wisdom in that, than those who argue in high pitch sounds about their correctness. You should care about what other people think because it means you are sensitive and you care how they might feel. (I caution you to separate this from voicing opinions on politics and social issues. These ideas are solely about thinking before you blurt out your words in whatever forms -- be it may in the form of jokes, serious opinion, or burst of anger.)

All of these can be attained by inner reflection and sensitivity, which someday, I hope we will both attain and eventually share. I know you might insist on its impossibility but experience, as well as important insights on nature, tells me that it's possible. I only insist on the natural meeting of both our soul and being -- because I believe that it is ONLY when I feel us sharing and meeting at the same wavelength that I can completely let myself go, like a leaf surrendering to the a bigger force of nature or love. If not, then I expect you to, one day, go back to these meaningless rants -- and understand beyond words -- why, in the long run, I did not let myself fall. 
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