Archive for October, 2009

25
Oct
09

As The Mind Speaks

There are two ways to write (actually there could be more but I only know two): structured and streams of consciousness. Structured means the writer already has the key points – the plot – in his/her mind, and all he/she has to do is fill in the gaps and make the necessary connections. Streams of consciousness, on the other hand, means writing in real time along with the thought process, narrating the thought even as it is forming in the writer’s mind. And with this the writer doesn’t know how the story will develop and especially how it will end. It just goes.

Right now I’m going with streams of consciousness because I don’t have much points in my head. Well I guess the points will just flow as the fingers hit the keys one by one, somehow independent from the conscious mind. I guess here’s one point: a seemingly empty mind can still speak. Now the question is, will it make sense? I guess that depends on what it is empty of. If the mind is empty of everything, it will not make sense if it speaks at all. But with a mind merely clear of distractions and prominent thoughts, one can reach into its deepest recesses and uncover buried treasures. Now the trick is to make sure the treasures don’t fall off on the way to the surface, otherwise it will only be very old dirt coming out of the elevator shaft.

Now what buried treasure could there be left in a mind that has already spoken quite a few times? Let’s see. Ah! How about this: I think the buried-treasure analogy can be augmented with a seed-tree metaphor. Bits of information (seeds) are planted in the brain and they grow into trees of wisdom that often intertwine with one another. This way there will be a renewable source of ideas.

Ah, ideas. One cannot easily force them to take form. Sometimes they start off as small and very fragile sparks that hover just above the floor of unconsciousness. Somehow they need to stay low for a while as they try to grow into steady flames able to withstand the winds of criticism at higher altitudes. Every once in a while an idea gets so refined that it attains the status of an ember where criticism can no longer douse it but fans it into a fire instead.

On the other hand, there are many ideas that should have been quickly extinguished with a single blow of reason. Sometimes, however, the mind itself acts as a barrier to protect these faulty ideas, nurturing them into powerful zombie-like ideologies that just wouldn’t die. These zombies even succeed in biting living human minds and turning them into zombies. Then one day the zombies become the majority, and those individuals who attempt to rise above them are in for some trouble.

Gah! I really find it disturbing when I let my mind wander into streams of consciousness mode and it ends up in an allegory of some controversial topic. I guess I’ll shut up now and try to dig another treasure next time. inner minds

16
Oct
09

Boundaries

I am an only child. Now while the first word that would probably come into your mind is spoiled, I’d say this situation significantly shaped my boundaries. I’ve lived all my life in a three-house compound along with my cousins and later on with my nephews and nieces. When I got lonely or bored or simply missed my relatives (I deeply adore them), I’d go downstairs, walk a few meters and knock on their doors. But the good thing about growing up with no siblings is that when I wanted – needed – solitude, I could easily get it. And perhaps it was because of this very arrangement that I had the chance to reflect a lot.

Now this is supposed to be the part where I go from a personal introduction to a more general issue. That’s how my boundaries are supposed to be. Unfortunately, I’m having a little drink tonight to ease my aching legs from yesterday’s run, and so my boundaries are just a little bit soft…er. So here it goes.

One thing I love about our fellowship with my nephews (they’re my crowd now because my age gap with them is very much closer than with their dads) is that while we are definitely very close, we respect one another’s boundaries. Since we now have cellphones and the internet, we text or chat to plan a house visit. We seldom do the knocking on the door thing anymore.

Nowadays it just seems rude to drive to your friend’s house without calling first. What if your friend is sleeping, making love to his wife, or simply enjoying his solitude with a book or a movie? Even if you are best friends – or lovers – I believe a little boundary is still appropriate – even necessary.

Ah, my boundaries have just snapped shut. Earlier I was talking about my nephews and then I just shifted to a slightly different topic. But I wanna talk about my nephews some more. Wait, let me get another drink….

…Ah, my nephews. My very cool nephews. Their dads – my older cousins – were the ones who taught me how to drink. Now I’m just returning the favor. And I hope one day they too will return the favor. They’re now in their early twenties and frankly, I enjoy interacting with them more than with their dads. (See, I’m not even afraid to say this because their dads don’t read my blog like they do.) And while their dads talk mostly about politics, my nephews talk about philosophy.

Okay, I guess that’s about as far as my boundaries will allow, sober or not. That’s because no matter how important you, my readers, are to me (even those I do not know), I happen to be a very private person. And as much as I am expressive of my innermost thoughts, my personal life is another thing, and it is open only to those whom I know personally.

I’ve read somewhere that most relationships fail not because of too much separateness but because of too much togetherness. This is definitely true not only with couples but also with friends. Although our teenage years are often marked with sleepovers, as we grow older we tend to keep our friends at a comfortable distance. Our fondness for them did not deteriorate – on the contrary, it just got fonder – but somehow we tend to value our privacy more.

And though we don’t see them as much as we did, this only makes every reunion special. inner minds

12
Oct
09

Time and Life

What is time? Does it exist beyond the beginning and end of our universe? From the point of view of the universe there was no time ‘before’ it expanded from a singularity and there will be no time ‘after’ it collapses back into a singularity (that is, if it collapses back). But what about from a hypothetical point of view ‘outside’ the universe? Is there ‘time beyond time’? Ah, things too heavy to ponder on a Monday evening. How about we set that aside for now and shift to something more within our purview. Let’s talk about life – and ‘time beyond life’.

About 14 billion years ago, time began along with the Big Bang. That means we never existed for 14 billion years as far as the universe is concerned. We were practically dead. But then we are born and we live. And at the end of our lives we will become exactly what we were for the past 14 billion years: non-existent. Or will we?

While the term universe is often confused with space, it actually means space and time or the totality of space and time from the Big Bang to whatever scenario the universe ends up to. The universe isn’t just the entire space at this very moment in time; it is the entire space for all the time it exists (note the present tense exists – the universe is present at every minute of its life). And so even after we die, as far as the universe is concerned we will always exist at a certain point in time and space. Points actually, one point for every infinitesimal fraction of every second of our lives.

But then the point is, as far as we are concerned we cease to exist after we die, unless there is indeed life after death. But if there is none, then those we leave behind – our surviving families, friends, and those whose lives we’ve touched – their memories of us will be the only witnesses to our existence. And after they too will all be gone, only the universe will have a record that we once lived.

And if the universe would one day cease to exist, I wonder if there is something beyond to observe all the events from the universe’s birth to its death, capturing the universe’s life and every life it supported – and how each of those lives struggled for survival, evolved, and lived; each joy and each suffering, each triumph and each defeat – immortalizing everything in a ‘time beyond time’. inner minds

01
Oct
09

What It Means To Be A Storyteller

Storytelling is one form of art that transcends medium. Whether in books, ballads, plays, or movies – even in sculptures, photographs or paintings – someone is telling a story. Someone is talking of life. Not Life on a grand scale but life in bits and pieces; seemingly mundane moments that give us glimpses of a bigger picture. Fleeting and ephemeral, once captured by an artist they are immortalized and frozen in time, lending themselves to be shared with other lives as well.

While different stories have vastly different scopes, the time it takes to tell a story somehow falls within a relatively narrow range. Most books have a few hundred pages and most movies last a few hours, but the stories they tell could either cover decades of world history – or a single eventful night in the lives of two people. And yet a beautifully told story is never a page too long, never a minute too short. It’s just as it should be.

Since storytelling time is limited, the story has to be compromised between breadth and depth. Naturally, epic tales cannot get too much into the individual lives of the characters, just as love stories seldom wander far beyond the interaction of a few people. But the storyteller somehow manages to piece the two together in perfect balance of breadth and depth, the former a background of the latter. And while not every second of the story can be told, the storyteller speeds up time and slows it down at just the right moments so that precious minutes are neither wasted nor skimped.

Imagine telling the story of a certain civilization and how it came about. If one were not to miss out a tiny detail, the story could not be finished within the listener’s lifetime, and so the trick is to secure only the salient points. On the other hand, a story that takes place within a shorter time than it takes to read it has to have something really interesting to sustain the reader’s attention. If every single moment, every spoken word is worthy of mention, telling the story will take just as long as the story itself. Now put every deep emotion, every unspoken thought, every subtle gesture, and there you have a story bigger than how it would have been in real life. inner minds




Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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