Making Light of Things

May 2000 Archives

One of the Boys

The guys in the dorm are really gelling pretty well. We went out for a Chinese buffet during dinner and it was a time of good company. It’s been some time since I had that. The last male bonding experience was probably in the army with Yusman and Haresh. Omar (one of the guys in the dorm) believes in fortune cookies and his fortune cookie read something like: “you will spend the evening in good company” or something like that. We all raised a plastic cup of soda to that.

It’s hard to imagine that as the semester ends, I will probably never see Dustin, Eric or Aaron again. It’s not that we are the closest of friends, but we were certainly somewhere along that path. They are transferring to other universities. Well, I guess we never know. The world isn’t that big a place.

Someone on IRC once commented that we don’t really need lifelong friends. We just need friends at points in our lives. It’s something I don’t want to believe, even though the evidence does stare me right in the face. It would be highly skeptical if we look at friends as only temporal waterholes. I still want to believe that you can make lifelong friends that are there all the way. I have found so much beauty in some people along this road of my life. While it is true that some have virtually disappeared into time, every time I make a new one I have expectations (you might call them unrealistic) of keeping them. Wonder what some fortune cookie might say…..

To Be(lieve) Or Not To Be(lieve)

It’s funny. As we approach the end of the school term, the guys on the dorm floor are hanging out a lot more, and the one question that always comes up is “why didn’t we do this earlier?” Come next semester all of us will be in different dorms, some living in apartments, and some even in different schools due to transfers. I remember saying in jest “oh it’s me. It’s because I’m now here.”, and they agree (not exactly the effect I was expecting). They said it’s because I’ve spoken to everyone and involved everyone in the floor, regardless of previous affiliation.

I am not a social animal. I have not been to a single party with them as I don’t subscribe to an existence (temporary or permanent) whose actions are dictated by alcohol. I have however made it a point to talk to anyone any chance I get. I get some of them to go to the gym with me, or watch a movie when I rent the videos. Dorm life has grown from the little cage I have of my room to a rather enjoyable habitat. Of course, the coarse American humour is still present, but I add in my two cents of verbal assault once in a while.

I left my door open for a few minutes while I went to Emmitt’s room today, and the wastepaper basket was stolen. I was upset that it had to be someone from this dorm. Where do we trust, and where do we “play it safe”? I am still learning to toe the line. To believe in the best of people, and to reduce my losses.

Wisdom From An Unlikely Sage

Silas stepped into my room a few minutes ago. I asked him what he had been up to the entire night and he told me he watched the Fight Club downstairs. Trying to make conversation I asked him if he thought he was a good movie. It was his reply that caught me by surprise. While most people would go on about how good the movie was, or how the plot was difficult to comprehend, he merely replied, “They should have less shows like that.” That totally caught me off guard. Silas is not someone who came up to you to engage you in intellectual debate or muse about the writings of the great poets. But what he said had a lot of truth in it. We do need fewer of these movies. The good old story of good versus evil was tainted with gratuitous violence. Now these new breed of movies have the violence without even the noble purpose. It is psychotic in nature, bringing man to his animal base. It is a scary thought when one thinks about it. Movies like “The Mask of Zorro” or “The Three Musketeers”, which are among my favourites, have heroes fighting for the good of people. Granted, there is an amount of violence contained within, but at least there was some purpose behind it. Movies like “The Fight Club” and “Natural Born Killers”, not to mention so many many other “critically acclaimed” movies are a swan dive into the lower recesses of our human nature.

Having invoked so much thought into me, Silas then proceeds to ask me if he could play Unreal Tournament on my computer. That on the other hand, does not surprise me at all.

For those of you non-gamers, Unreal Tournament is one of those mindless violent Doom-like games.

I have been monitoring Internet users who frequent my homepage. I’m still intrigued by a fellow Wildcat who visits on a regular basis. If you’re reading this, could you please leave a message in my guest book or drop me an email? I really want to know who you are.

Somewhere Beyond the Barricade

The guys are all out partying, even the studious ones. The dorm organised a party and invited some of us. Though I was invited, I find myself sitting in front of my computer, having by default made the choice not to go. It was not an active choice, but a passive one, one that I have made so many times. I’m a paradox. I’ve tested extreme extrovert and extreme introvert on the same personality test once. According to some people, it is actually possible. How I reconcile the two facts is still a mystery to me. The many other times I sat out of party invitations are somewhat unlike this one. I now wonder if I’m missing out on new experiences by not being open to them. I know some of you reading this are out there nodding your heads, muttering at how obvious an observation that is. It is not that I have not been out on a party ever in my life. The few that I’ve ever attended (IRC outings with unfamiliar people, some social gatherings) have often left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I remember coming home feeling I had wasted my time. I found no interesting people there, or if there were, they were too drunk or too busy trying to look good. Like Sir Henry Wotton writes “entertains the harmless day / with a well chosen book or friend”. There is no pleasure like a good conversation or a well written book. Maybe I’m too old for all this. Or maybe I really am anal-retentive, closing the doors on any new experience. I’m still wondering if I should have gone.

I sat behind a girl in one of my lectures, and overheard a conversation (spoken at a high volume). She was proudly telling her friend how she found a Catcard (the University of Arizona’s Identity Card) and found that it had some money stored in the cash chip. She treated her classmates to chips and soda. Her other friend happily concurred on the decision “well it’s not like you had to pay for it”. I sat there stunned for a moment. In my mind I recall a time when honour was something to be aspired towards and treasured. It seems like a distant and faraway place. So far away I even wonder if it ever existed. Was there actually a time when the good of a fellow man was something to be held sacred? Are my ideals but a dream that never was?

I am not a perfect being. Honestly, I am far from perfect. But to see the fight die out in today’s generation is not something I feel comfortable with. “Who will join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?” Indeed, do we stand and fight? Or do we, like that friend, just give up and agree that honour is non-existent, and that the fight is not worth fighting?

The Way of Wisdom Starts Out With A Step Of Holy Fear

I have nothing to share but this short reading that sums up so well what I’ve learnt in my education here:

“Wisdom is, in modern terms, having one’s priorities straight. Young professionals fresh out of college work seventy-hour weeks in order to afford a Porsche, forgetting about the virtually costless pleasures of a good book or a deep conversation. With a little wisdom, the smart ones will see their way through it, and the point of an education is to show them the way. A wise friend once said that the most important decision a person ever makes in this society is how little money one needs to live on. The wisdom behind that homey bit of advice was, of course, that money is a mere means, and if you do not understand what it is you really want, the means may readily eclipse the end. It has also been said that ‘You can never get enough of what you really didn’t need in the first place,’ and this seems to be all too true of a great many people in our society. Wisdom is knowing what one wants, what is important, what is really worth working and living for, and why. Wisdom means understanding oneself and other people, having a deep appreciation of emotions and the calamities that can befall a human being. One cannot be both insensitive and wise.” -Robert and Jon Solomon.

Wish we could see all that.

Curiosity Killed The Cat

The finals are approaching and the atmosphere here is amazing. My entire floor has gone out to go drinking, it being Dustin’s birthday. He wants to drink his way into Thursday, so he said. Downstairs people are watching Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. It’s so different from Singapore, where students start preparing a good two to three months before exams. I heard from Debbie that the day before the exam itself is meant for revising.

It is not to say that the education system here is lacking or in any way lesser. I have learnt so much from it, and it has answered so many questions I’ve had from my infancy. It has given me answers I can now pass on to little children who wonder about the stars, or about how electricity works. I am constantly intrigued by the things I do not know, and the system here has been most kind to my curiosity.

Curiosity was also what made me buy a two litre bottle of Dr. Pepper. I remember it tasting funny to me when I first tasted it back home, but couldn’t for the life of me recall what it tasted like. Now I realise it’s not exactly the most pleasing thing to my taste buds, but I’ll have to finish it.

A Resounding Cymbal

I read my own journals through. It has grown depressing, rather than uplifting. I hope I haven’t depressed you out there who have been faithfully following my tiny steps. Elaine dropped me a message this morning, telling me to look up. She also told me to go to class, and find beauty there.

It takes special eyes to see above and beyond the destruction we have laid upon ourselves. There is beauty indeed. The care and concern Elaine showed this morning is proof of that.

Seems like Christians are persecuted everywhere. On IRC, Christians are often downtrodden because they cannot verify their beliefs, and “faith” is not a good enough reason for these intellectuals who sit on a chair without a doubt in their hearts in its ability to withstand their weight. I’m currently reading the book of Acts, and it seems then that the Christians were highly charismatic in nature, not at all the docile and tame Christians we’re comfortable with.

I do not fully support the radical steps taken by Christians nowadays, yet it is such in the bible. Today a revelation was shown to me. The proportion of inner life and outer manifestations must be there. Christians are often ridiculed because we live lives that contradict our highly visible campaigns and bold statements. “what comes out of the mouth is due to the abundance of the heart” (Matthew 12:34). This verse came to me during church on Sunday, used in an entirely different context, but is so applicable now. We need that abundance in our heart, before we open our mouths to proclaim. The case right now is too often our mouths have taken over the entire Christian life. We are cymbals without love. Let us then build our inner Christian lives in secret, praying behind closed doors, and open our mouths as a result of the abundance of the life we receive, no longer deceiving anyone…most of all ourselves.

Verbosity in Vulgarity

This weekend has been most uneventful. I refrained from playing basketball as my ankle was a little sore. Spending most of your waking hours in a tiny dorm room can really kill you. I took short walks out and around the campus.

Tried to start studying for the coming final exams, but to no avail. I could barely concentrate long enough to read through my English exam packet. Sigh…I hope I get into the groove soon.

IRC grows more and more depressing each day. Today I witnessed two people (who didn’t know each other) in a catfight. They were university students who apparently had a good grasp of vocabulary. Large words were thrown around to put down the other. It was sick. So much for education. If it merely gives us tools to kill one another more efficiently, I’d rather live the life of a janitor. I’m angered by these people who think so highly of themselves, and rather than be amazed at the immense amount of knowledge yet to be learnt, assume that they know all. Barbarians using big words rather than clubs. The barbarian is still very much there. The only thing gone is the investment their parents put into their “education”.

Faith often encourages me to believe in the best in people, and I will admit it’s not an easy task. I’ve a knack for reading into people, and often with remarkable accuracy. But I’ve also found that if you believe in someone in good faith, the results will be better than previously expected. Not always true, but I’d rather live in innocence than be changed by the corrupt surroundings.

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