To a candle put off (the funny guy with the sad eyes)

Dead Poets Society

Like any other morning, I woke up earlier than my alarm this morning, a little perplexed by a dream I had. I remembered it vaguely; it involved a chasing scene I suspected having a correlation with The Walking Dead I’d been watching back-to-back the day before. I checked on my Facebook timeline on my smartphone only to find shocking news: Robin Williams is dead. I prepared my coffee, black and strong.

I don’t know Robin Williams in person, but I know he had done something very important in my life. That small highlight on my life timeline was when I was still teaching at the English Language Education program at a university in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I used “Dead Poets Society” as one of my teaching materials in my Drama class. We played the movie in our language lab several times, and I encouraged my students to rent the dvd from a local rental to further study the movie. I gave them topics they could choose from, such as character analysis, plot analysis, and symbolism, to be developed into an academic essay. It was 2001 or 2002, I don’t remember exactly; it was when the Internet was not as advanced and widely accessible as today, but it was the time when we, teachers, started to wonder why these younger generations seemed to develop impatience toward reading novels, textbooks, or any other longer materials.  I used films because films were definitely part of my students’ reality. Back to Mr. Williams, his portrayal of John Keating (easily a reference to the short-lived Brit Romantic poet John Keats) was bigger than life. Like little Todd, I was inspired. My Drama class students got inspired. They began to explore materials, both online and offline. They read. They quoted. They put down their ideas on paper. They learned from crosses and yellow marker highlights I made on their paper. They wrote essays they were proud of. I was proud of them. I learned one important thing from their initial laziness: TEACHERS SHOULD DEVELOP MATERIALS USING TOOLS THAT ARE CLOSE TO THEIR STUDENTS’ REALITY.

I went to work as I was supposed to, no longer as a teacher, of course. I threw jokes around my colleagues like I habitually do. I went to meet a travel blogger from New Zealand whom we hosted. We talked about how the Balinese lead their lives, about life twists, a book called The Journey of Souls, and Bali coffee. We didn’t talk about Robin Williams, but shortly after the meeting, I was suddenly reminded of depression, the silent killer: my own, years ago; a few family members’; a dear friend’s. We live a relatively happy life on the surface, but what goes on beneath is sometimes a wolf — conditioned, but not tamed.

Now, before you say that Robin Williams had done nothing to my life (that everything I felt was just an emotional outburst), think about the movies you remember he was in. How many of them gave you chills and touched your humanity? I think that exactly how he contributed to life: by choosing to be part of those moments when a fictional character is able to move something inside of the audiences. Through those movies, Robin Williams had made a decision after a decision to be an agent that helped us see how to be a better person. His portrayal of John Keating in DPS did that to me. 

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Like Neil in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams decided to leave the life he led. The funny guy with the sad eyes. I am sure that, like Neil’s, his death — and despite my own limitation in understanding such a fatal decision could have been made by someone whose existence had inspired many — will spark flames in others’ lives to carry on and contribute to life.

So I started to write again, starting with this one. I continue weighing a decision after a decision. Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for your contribution to life.

Religiofragilisticexpiaridiculous

I remember a time when I was in high school. It was a state-owned school, one of the best in town (people said). But sadly, I never thought that my high school period was the high moment in my life. Of course, I was that shy, ugly teenage girl, then :), but what bothered me most was how some people – friends and teachers – acted and said something foolishly in the name of religion. How could you ever think of finding a date when the first thing they’d ask you was your religious belief, especially when you happen to belong to the minority? Some even thought the greeting card you sent them in their religious occasion was tainted with some dark ideas behind it, just because you don’t share their belief. What a sweet moment, indeed…

Good if you can understand this, because I can’t. It’s all too familiar to me, I can feel it in my stomach.

Wanted: deus ex machina

I don’t believe in the word toleration, though I can’t help tolerating others’ behaviors and actions at times. Living in a culture where you should have one of the five officially approved religions written on your national ID, I’ve learned also to acknowledge lies and hypocrisy. No need to say how much they irritate me – yes, I am that nice girl. Besides, it doesn’t help to be radical in this country when it comes to not having any religious belief, trust me. It’s not worth it.

It was a fine Sunday morning. I took Olga to her Sunday school (she is in a prep to receive her first holy communion). The night before she told me that next week there would a recollection and all parents were invited. I wonder if I could skip, I asked her half-jokingly. That good girl of mine said no. She then asked if I still remembered how to say prayers. I remembered, at least, The Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary.

“Do you still pray at all, mom?” she asked me one night. I told her that I didn’t want to burden God. He must have been swamped in work, answering prayers, I said. She laughed, but I could read concern on her face. “But what if,” she further asked. “What if you were on an airplane and it’s about to crash, wouldn’t you pray?” I would. Also in situations like when my loved ones are seriously ill. I would so… absurdly… inconsistently… pray. Hoping for a miracle to work.

Other than those extremes, I’d rather work things out by myself, or at least, by help of others (human beings). That’s why I hate how things work in the mainstream Hollywood movies. The deus ex machina mentality that they inherently possess. Things aren’t always that sweet, honey!

What I can accept about religion and its practices is that it is an effort in search for comfort and peace of mind. Like using drugs, nail biting, and sometimes, telling lies and being hypocritical. The recollection next Sunday? I’ll think up of something.

Blablabla has troutslapped you: *ouch!*(?)

We are surrounded by kitsch, even more today than before. And by kitsch, I mean it in a narrow way, in the degraded sense of it. Kitsch, at its best, has the appearance of an art, and is typically produced in mass. It’s relatively cheap – in any sense it may have. It supplies the needs of humans who are increasingly distanced from the much more complicated, thus more risky, personal touches and relations.

Even human beings in flesh and blood have developed the culture of kitsch – they are like those plastic flowers on the vase you can almost always immediately find in restaurants and hotel lobbies. Remember the bowler hat lady in The Unbearable Lightness of Being? What she complains about in that fancy Prague restaurant? Oh, you may just take me as a remnant of the past, an acute dreamer (being an Aquarian as I am!), dreaming of old beauties.

But take this as an example. Look at those various applications you can add to your Facebook page. Friends sending each other virtual gifts, mass poking each other, even kissing each other and brewing tea virtually. And those long, pictorial messages on your wall – chain messages – start to replace personal messages. I miss that personalized hey-agnes-how-you-doin’ kind of thing to fill my wall.

People get even more busy with themselves today. We seem to communicate in the same room, laugh at the same joke, entertain each other. But what of that if at the end of the day, each of us walks listlessly to our own darker room, alone and deserted?

Please don’t give me kitsch for the time being. I started to get bored. Hug me for real!

Mary Poppinish: eh?


I smile a lot. Way too much, perhaps, but certainly much more than, say, 5 years ago. Yesterday a student of mine made a presentation about the smile therapy. Still another, about having a positive attitude towards life (of course!) There was nothing new there, obviously, it was just a confirmation that what goes on inside affects you physically. Am I saying that I look younger than my age? Hell, yes! Hahaha (see… I laughed again! Damn!) But there’s a flip side to the matter. I don’t believe you can really have a positive attitude without having been tested through the dark tunnel. There’s no shortcut to it as they hopelessly try to prove in those “how to” books. Don’t try to persuade me into seeing the sunshine when I voluntarily give myself to misery. This reminds me of a few years back when I was so occupied with negating any hint of positivism, not to mention refusing a good friend’s offer of comfort. I was that unhappy.

I can’t say that I’ve acquired true happiness as much as I can’t say that I’m not happy (but what is “true” anyway?). It’s some kind of content, which I can’t properly describe because I still find myself feeling sad and angry quite often. I remember watching a pretty lousy Hong Kong movie. What it’s about is not really important (yes, because it’s lousy), but one of the characters says something like “one can only be a god if one has been through a fatal illness”. I was just connecting the dots between that statement and the state of content, the state of not wanting more than one can realistically have. But who wants to be a god, anyway? Well, if the idea of being one includes making out and having great sex regularly, who doesn’t?

I still curse a lot. I still feel unhappy at times. It’s just that everything made of glass around me is safe(r) now. What do you see on my face, pal? By the way, I stole this from a friend of a friend’s “about me” section on Facebook:

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in
you.

 

there is no other way.

and there never was.

-Bukowski

Just information, Mary Poppins is one of the worst musicals I’ve ever seen!