DIARY ENTRY #5

My focus this week has been to giving thought to the question over the role of writing as an activity in which we open up ourselves to those who read us. (This meditation came to life after researching Grigori Perelman’s life, reading Notes from Underground, Into the Wild, Sense and Sensibility, In Cold Blood, and the first hundred pages of A Little Life and The Bone Clocks; in coming close to these stories, all of which influenced me in some personal regard, I developed a sense of doubt over my intentions, my human intentions: that I tend to be to too hopeful and idealistic about my ideas, that perhaps I should keep my diary entries private; that I needed to shut up and stick to trying to be a better writer, and produce something of objective value, like a well composed piece of fiction, a worthy research paper, something of the sort, before pressing the ‘publish’ button; but the one line of thinking that was the most worrying, was that perhaps I was quickly becoming the sort of writer I despise; the writer who writes for attention.)

I think everyone who has written for a public, has wondered whether sharing their writing, be it personal or otherwise, is a pompous activity, that it serves no other good than filling up an emotional need for the writer. Another piece of doubt runs like this: only good writers should be allowed to write, and those of us who are inspired to write, amateurs, should keep quiet; that we should know better, than to write to pretend we are writers. We think these things to ourselves, as ghosts within us, haunting us, stopping us from doing what we love doing (much like in every other human activity, which we often stop ourselves from doing; dancing on the dance floor, self-consciously, albeit we look beautiful so doing). Funny thing is, we are seldom told these things by anyone in particular (we have all been criticized, sometimes bullied; but when has this stopped us from doing what we love, when has it kept us from taking a chance?) these doubts come to us, intimately. So, intimately, to me, blog writing about my life, so the thesis ran, was beginning to cross the line between being personal so as to offer something intimate and valuable to an audience, and being personal so as to fill up my need for attention, to fill up an emotional lack in me. I was anxious because this has never been the reason for my writing, at least, at the conscious level.

Then something happened that changed me, and that I would like to share as a piece of evidence as to why opening up to writing personally, can change ourselves in changing others. I had a person have the kindness and open heart to open up to me about her experience with a particular post in this blog, how it struck a chord in her in a positive way; it gave her insight into her own life, and more particularly, she said it gave her a sense of connectedness. (I felt lucky to have had such a beautiful person share this with me, something personal about her; it is sad, but in today’s culture, it is hard for a woman to open up to a man, to take the first step in making a connection, for, so the ignorant and inhuman discourse of gender relations goes, women cannot open up to men or approach men in something personal, emotional, sweet.) Not the reviews, not the academic writing, not the ‘formal’ pieces of writing, but the most personal pieces of writing, have been the ones that have been the most visited, and from which I have received the most comments. My goal has been to be authentic, and I feel I have been the most authentic in these pieces; my goal in these, has been for those who visit the blog, to listen to my nature. I open myself up as a means to connect with others; the way I know how to, is through my writing.

This is what I wanted to say when I first made a draft for this post: the greatest gift for a writer is to have a person take the time to read their writing. And the most precious gift for an introspect, for those of us who are called by some ‘shy’, ‘strange’, ‘awkward’, ‘silent’, etc., is to connect to others by the means that make sense to us, and to have others see the things that exist within us, that we find so hard to share in speech or in the venues of the extrovert, for opening up through the venues of the extrovert, are extremely difficult for us. At least for me. This is, and I will be naked about it, one of the main reasons why I choose to write. So yes, perhaps my original thesis was right, but not so in the manner I had originally articulated it, for it acquires a different color, a different sense, if understood in its proper context.

I know there are many of you like me out there, who understand me, who know how it feels to be mute, to not be able to be heard or understood in the manner of the extrovert, to stumble in our speech because so much is happening in our heads; to feeling misunderstood and to feeling strange for overthinking everything, everything we say and do, everything others say and do, everything within us and outside us; it may be something abstract or something concrete, but there is always something, something pulling us inward. People like me have a fundamentally different way of opening up to others, for the things that exist within us, are best expressed in other ways, not in speech or extroversions, but in our own idiosyncratic ways of connecting to the people we so long to connect with, even when we think we are complete failures at connecting with others in an extrover’s world. We were brought up in an extroverted world, and this can be an incredibly painful experience when growing up; at some point, however, we begin to feel comfortable in our bones, and begin to choose carefully who to allow in. My way of opening myself up, has been through the written letter.

(In Alias Grace, the remarkable show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name, Grace Marks, the protagonist and a woman in the patriarchal world of the 19th century, charged with murder, and under the analysis of a male therapist whom begins to take a peek into the wonders of womanhood, and more personally, whom begins to fall in love by the figure of Grace’s humanity, as a woman who has suffered enormously, says apropos the subject of this entry: ‘I would never judge a human creature, for feeling lonely’.)

The wonderful thing about blogs, is that you never know who may stumble upon your writing. My heart’s desire is to keep this connection open. Thank you, to whoever is taking the time to read me, it is truly a gift to have you take a walk with me; for an introvert, it is the same thing as being heard. With this in mind, and in thinking long and hard about continuing posting entries in regards to my personal life, my opinions about culture, my opinions in general, I have decided to keep doing it, for it has been a joy to share it, to connect with you.

 

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

(303), Emily Dickinson

 

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, is an excellent piece of sf that details man’s conquest of Mars, and the consequences of such invasion; particularly, how it brought about the demise of an entire species and its culture, and why horror, pain and loss, are the only products of the machinery of war.

Bradbury is capable of drawing up imagery and moods with few words and sentences, a style that is refreshing after having just read the fiction of authors of the likes of Dostoevsky, authors whose prose are both heavy and complex, extremely gratifying, but slower paced and needing of time to fully unpack its significance; I am still figuring out Notes from Underground, and I think I will never fully grasp what Dostoevsky wanted to say through it. Ray’s writing, on the other hand, arrives simple to the mind, it neatly unpacks different routes for the reader to take, and unravels the kind of deep meditations that sf can conjure. In the case of Chronicles, the American author explores the violent attraction of human nature for control, for normalization, for imperialism; in the existential end, the reader is burdened with facing up to mankind’s longing to surpass its limits, its longing to reach transcendence, however horrifying the method. To name a glaring example that stuck with me, Bradbury depicts the manner in which Earth’s military invades and neutralizes the Martians by spreading chickenpox onto them, and then by picking off the survivors with guns: in one such case, for instance, one human soldier falls in love with Martian culture, and defends the ruins and dignity of a once sophisticated and proud species in a shootout with troops from Earth. Spender, the rogue soldier, dies by the hands of a fellow man; but in so doing, I find him reaching his own form of transcendence, in his attempt to touch the heart of the troop’s Captain, in asking him to reflect on why they did so wrong in destroying the Martians. The Captain, having found the courage to follow Spender’s line of thinking, orders Spender’s death to be ‘clean’, for he sees in him something much more than betrayal.

Much could be said of the manner in which sf weaves critiques of mankind, its politics, its culture, its nature; and, most importantly, how it draws out these meditations by juxtaposing fiction with reality. In the landscapes of the nonlinear, namely sf’s ability to conjure entire worlds that reminisce our own, we are left to ponder the impact such scenarios might have on our lives. Ray Bradbury’s lessons are many, but I want to share my personal reading of the book: The Martian Chronicles is a reminder of the effects of war, but most importantly, of humankind’s capacity to deny itself the wonders of things we do not want to understand.

 

INTO THE WILD

Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, his reporting of the tragic story of Chris ‘Alex Supertramp’ McCandless, a young man who died while pursuing his dream of living off the land in the Alaskan bush, is a cautionary note of the dangers of doing things too hastily, of giving oneself fully to idealism, and believing too much in one’s power to tackle adversity.

Having read the way in which Chris starved to death after more than one hundred days in the bush, felt like a grave warning, given that I feel much identified with what was his spiritual pursuit of man’s encounter with nature. I have at times dreamt of escaping into the wild, as an attempt to ‘find myself’, as a means to find purity outside of society, but the dream comes crashing down the minute I think of what I would be leaving behind. I find respite in his final picture, which he took of himself in what could very well have been the final hours of his life, and as Krakauer opines, ‘He is smiling in the picture, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God’. Jon notes that in the final hours of death by starvation, the mind enters a state of clarity and rapture. I hope such was McCandless’ experience of his twilight.

Many have been critical of Chris’ downfall, which came about after two years of adventures hiking, a journey in which he crossed paths with marvelous people like a man late in his life, whom took Chris as the son he never had. McCandless notes in one of his last cryptic scribbles, ‘HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED’ (the uppercasing is his).

The tragedy of this story is thinking of what could have been of his immense spirit and idealism, had he not given himself fully to his hubris; of what he could have had discovered in sharing his spirit to others, those who loved him (his family comes to mind), and those who awaited behind the door of time (perhaps a significant other, with whom he could have had opened up the mysteries of his heart). Perhaps in his days out in the bush he came to bear the harsh truth we seldom want to accept, but that nature reminds us of; the truth we are so desperate to escape, even in our most paradoxical attempts at giving it meaning: we are extremely fragile beings.

To close, here is a quote that I wanted to share, this one in particular from the collection Krakauer curated for his book, because it resonated the most with my own experience with his writing. Its message, I think, is self-evidently true; ’tis an axiom of the heart:

There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times. 

ANNIE DILLARD,

HOLY THE FIRM 

 

GRIGORI PERELMAN

I want to share the curious and fascinating case of Grigori Perelman, the contemporary Russian mathematician who cracked the poincaré conjecture. He declined the ensuing Millenium Prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute (a million dollar prize), a Fields Medal (the equivalent to a Nobel in mathematics), and prestigious positions at universities worldwide. The manner in which he submitted his solution is another piece of wonder. Perelman put his solution on the internet for the public to see, instead of going through the official venue of submission to a peer reviewed journal. It seemed that he just wanted to be left alone, and that he did not want the glory, nor the recognition, nor the attention, nor the feeding of the ego, that seems to plague academics worldwide; that seems to have rotten to the core what higher learning ought to be (suffice it to say, soon after he posted his solution, which turned out to be correct, another group of mathematicians tried to take the credit for it, and in so doing, accused Perelman of plagiarism; this turned out to be false.)

This story, if anything, is an example of true counter culture, of humility at its most pure, ethereal form, of going against the status quo and the double standards of academia, of any institution that wrestles with its own self-importance and survival, of ego, of teaching us all a lesson without the protagonist in the story necessarily wanting to teach a lesson; so far I have been trying to answer this question, did Grigori do things this way out of a higher sense of himself, or did he do it because his values drove him to do so? The answer is the latter.

Of what little is known of Perelman, and of what I have managed to read so far after becoming fascinated by his story (cf. Masha Gessen’s Perfect Rigor), it seems to be that his love for mathematics, for the rush of living within mathematics, of reasoning, of having the proper influences and people to make him value in thought, action, and word, the values proper to discipline and the just, in the intellectual pursuit of the intrinsic value of using the mind, is what lies beneath Grigori’s genius and his subsequent actions in handling his historic achievement. It is not just talent, as Gessen suggests, but a series of other variables, that makes a mind reach its fullest potential, and for that mind, to know itself its own value and to produce the kind of revolutionary ideas that will push humankind forward, for its own sake; but the part he had to do to reach that plane, he did so without turning backward, in fully giving his existence to that pursuit and in honoring the highest values of that pursuit.

I am at awe at this man, and I feel particularly identified with him because I have always been embattled with the political side of knowledge and the institutions that regulate knowledge, with dealing with the obstacles and egos preventing knowledge to just be knowledge, to just be value by itself and for itself, for anyone and everyone who wants it, and not just another rat race in which to measure ones value to others, and make others smaller in diminishing the value of their ideas, cut them off from their path which is equally as valuable and potential in kind to those of the geniuses that have walked among us; for the constant guilt and betraying of integrity when having to be a political animal to sought the social prestige to be considered a proper teacher or academic, to be allowed the venues to think, to be deemed worthy of sharing to the world your own ideas, whether they be the stuff of genius, whether they be your own form of expression and connection to yourself, and therefore, to the world.

Grigori Perelman, I believe, thinks for himself; he needs not the recognition from others to know the beautiness of his pursuit or the way he chooses to live his life, for his love of the abstract, for the beautiness intrinsic to pure thinking: this is enough for his heart. This is the way I feel, too. I want to pursue my own voice, see where it leads, never sell off; I hope I can follow in Perelman’s footsteps. Having the luck to cross his path , proves to me people like Perelman exist, as once did people of the likes of Emily Dickinson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Socrates, and so many more, who pursued the beautiness of knowledge just for its beautiness, and without the necessity of recognition, for ego feeding. It can be done.

THE MARK OF CAIN

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is an epic on the themes of family and the mysteries of human nature. In it, I have found brilliant depictions of the workings of the mind and the weight of the past. It is joyous when characters in a novel speak to you almost as if they were alive and breathing. All of the characters spoke to me as teachers in some respect; Cathy, a narcissistic psychopath, reminded me how it feels when you stare evil in the eyes, its attractiveness and at once its bottomless sorrow; Samuel, an aging man with the depths of a philosopher and the sincerity of a loving father, brought back memories of people from my past who have taught me the lightness of genuine love, of how it feels to be protected and cared for by their warmth; Lee, a loyal servant with a fountain of everlasting commitment, gave me a glimpse into the soul of a human who has reached transcendence in the saintliness of his or her humility; Adam, a man tormented by his passions and the weight of his innermost search for freedom, felt the closest to my own spirit.

Steinbeck’s characters have unravelled in my mind in the form of a series of lessons about human nature, as different dimensions of the mystery of life. The thesis is this: we all bear the mark of Cain, yet we all have in us the choice of honoring that mark (to inflict pain in those who have hurt us), or of turning our heads away from it; to forgive our tormentors, and to search for freedom from the weight of our histories. It takes courage to break the chain of suffering; we have to see into our own sins to forgive those inflicted upon us. We have all sinned, we have all inflicted pain sevenfold, we have all wanted to find justice for our pains, however violent our revenge. As I read through the crossroads of these characters I saw my sins play in flashes of memories, an abyss made up of grudges and obsessions; but also my virtues, the times I have done good because of the redemptive love given to me by the Samuels and Lees of my life, who have taught me in their figure to look away from Cain’s legacy.

I will forever keep in my heart the scene wherein Adam, in a final confrontation with Cathy, finally liberates himself from the weight of her torment: ‘it doesn’t matter’, ‘it doesn’t matter’, says Adam as he turns his back on a screeching Cathy, whom realizes she has lost her control over him. What does not matter is whether he can redeem Cathy, albeit she is his love and passion; what does not matter is whether Cathy wants to change her evil nature; but more particularly, what does not matter is that Adam cannot change her with his love. Cathy is the only one who can look into her sins and stop lying to herself that her sorrow is her own making. He has let go of Cathy, and in so doing, Adam Trask realizes that one cannot redeem or love evil that does not want to turn away from itself, that does not want to see how its own brand of abuse, will not break the chain of its pain. I think, after reading Steinbeck’s genius study of human nature, that evil is born from its own hatred of itself. It faults others, but not itself, for continuing to inflict pain on others due to its own pain.

I wish I could have a conversation with Adam, back in his farm and his sons, and see how the light in his eyes is newborn; to share a glass of robust whiskey in Salinas Valley, as the midnight breeze and the starlight fills me up with hope.

DIARY ENTRY #4

There is a strange allure to Alaska. My fascination with the place dates back to White Fang. The symbolism of the lone wolf is precious to me, because it underscores an attachment to solitude and melancholy. Thinking of Alaska makes me feel part of something greater, spiritual, as if reaching its destination will lead me to something I need to understand, but cannot in my present context. It is a place I need to go to, a place to which I feel a special attachment to, albeit I know so little about it. Perhaps it is the call to the wild, the cold snowy weather, the landscape of a place unscathed, pure. This is why I am saving up my money and planning ahead so that I can go for a long period of time in 2018, maybe a month or two. I hope that one day I can share my own adventure in the Alaskan bush.

2017 was a difficult year. But the difficult parts of life are the ones that push us to become something entirely different to what we are. For a person educated in philosophy, the question for spirituality is a difficult one. What is spirituality? To my mind, spirituality is the search for something greater, it need not be transcendent, it just need be something which inspires connectivity to something else. To what, it really does not matter, as long as it matters to you. Which bring me to think that there must be something growing in me that is asking for that trip to Alaska, I cannot really put a name to it or describe it except for a yearn for peace. Maybe the hole in me that became so evident in 2017 was there from the very beginning, maybe I am starting to see that I need to understand the hole, not fill it up as I have felt in the past couple of difficult days. I want to be at peace, and something about the cold snowy weather, the symbolism of the lonely traveler, the romantic metaphor of the explorer trying to understand his struggle, makes me think that I am on the right track to finding out just what that hole really means.

For now, as I commented before, I have a flight ticket to Paris booked for the 14th of December. My ticket home is booked for the 5th of January, and something in my gut is telling me that this could very well be an important 3 weeks abroad. A rehearsal of sorts for the trip next year. This could be a spiritual trip if I wanted to make it so, or it could be a cultural trip full of fun and discovery. Maybe the two, we will have to see. I am torn between planning a schedule or just winging it. The allure of the latter is giving oneself to the moment, no attachment, no control; let life be life. The comfort of the former is also a good thing. But as I have been discovering about myself, I feel a deep need for discomfort, for finding myself at the center of the storm, and remaining calm on my own.

I am beginning to find that I feel thankful for 2017. I have grown so much stronger. Yet I feel so tired, burnout. I need peace to rebuild my heart, my mind, my body. And I must admit that something resembling conviction in myself is beginning to blossom in the broken foundations that I have sown this year. I promised to myself to seize life in one of my diary entires, to keep pushing forward by placing value on the things that do matter, and to keep pushing through by letting go of things that were hurting me; and in having let go of these things, in word and action, I have also in the past days embraced Yoga and meditation, cleaned up my diet, have stuck to sleeping in early, and started reading voraciously again. It is up to us to change our ways, and pave a road toward a meaningful existence. As my mother reminded me, there is little humans can achieve if they use their power of discipline and focus for the greater good; but first, she says, one needs to find peace within. Walk the walk to talk the talk.

It takes a little bit of focus, a little bit of discipline, a little bit of love in oneself and others, a little bit of thankfulness for the present (whichever that present may be), to begin to water the seeds of inner peace.

MOVING ON

I have not written in some time because I have been dealing with some emotional baggage. I want to try to unpack it in this post. I want to use writing for its therapeutic effect; to bare myself naked in writing and allow my expression to blossom into meaning.

First off, the transition from young manhood into full manhood is a difficult one. I have been struggling with making sense of my job and my career, and I have been struggling with making sense of my professional purpose. It seems to me that I have reached a point in which all of my preconceptions about life have vanished and turned into the full on realization that not all is what it seems, even my job and career. Similar to when you learn as a kid that you will die and that your loved ones will die too, realizing that your job is not the guarantor of meaning to your life, that your career will be a very hard road, and that if something, a job and pushing through a career is more frustrating and involves a lot more discipline than your education, is a pill that I am finding hard to swallow. A very good friend of mine spoke to me about his own experience with this: ‘you need to learn to locate yourself in the right context to see that it is not personal, a job is just a job; very few of us get the opportunity to make a living out of the things that make us intrinsically happy; you need to learn when to think with your head and when not to think with your heart, for always doing the latter will break you; and you also need to learn to be thankful for what you have; albeit things are not exactly as you imagined them they would be, there are always good and bad things in life, so you need to learn to be thankful for the good ones’. Words of wisdom, Fer.

So my impression of full manhood is that you need to learn how to stop taking everything personal and to focus on the few things that give meaning to life, and, also, to stop seeking for things that arrive randomly in life; like the one true love you dreamed of while growing up, or the one amazing professional project that you wished would just appear at your doorstep—I thought that I had found my one true love, as well as my one amazing professional project; but both have been been very far from being my one true love or my one amazing professional project; instead, they have been the hardest lessons in my life; I should be thankful for them. (Learning what you do not want out of life is perhaps the hardest of lessons when it comes to love; realizing that not matter how hard you try, a bad relationship is just bad, or that a job is not a place where people are looking out for your best interests.) These things do come along with life at some point, I guess… or I hope they do, at least in the form of healthy experiences that will help me to keep growing up, but I would rather not have them destroy me in order to grow; I really wish I have the maturity to not allow my next lessons to destroy me. (Perhaps by having already been destroyed so many times, I will not allow myself to be destroyed again.) We cannot obsess over finding them immediately and that should not be the goal. Perhaps the goal is to stop looking for them and be the best version of yourself in your life endeavors; maybe then you will be a healthy minded individual who will be able to be with your person when s/he comes along. Ditto with the one job opportunity you were seeking; perhaps in being the best version of yourself at your job, when the opportunity does come along, you will be prepared to seize it and not look back, and you will be ready to be thankful for pushing through so much stress for so long.

The picture I seem to be drawing is one of life as a long chain of lessons that become increasingly harder to learn; each rung the harder to climb. (I maybe exaggerating a bit with what I have been living in the past months, but as a person close to me told me, you need to allow yourself to express yourself and not be scared of what other people think of you; if writing is one of the things that makes you feel meaning, do so without regret or self-editing; so fuck it, I really have been in hell and I am really trying very fucking hard to climb out of it.) Maybe the harder lessons come later: when real things with real consequences that cannot be undone, come knocking at your door. These are not simply a broken heart or a shattered mind; you can heal a broken heart and a shattered mind. In the latter stages of my life I know that reality will hit me with real consequences—a death in the family, a death in my circle of friends, the deterioration of my own health… just to think of some—and these will be even harder to deal with. I just hope I will be prepared to be the best version of myself during such times.

I have decided to seize my life and move on. It sounds very abstract but I have been delaying the choices that I know I have to make; I need to become responsible for them and stop ignoring what is right in front of me. Which hurts. A lot. I thought that time could fix the things and people that are troubling me. But, this is another lesson, sometimes you just have to let them all go. Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to let go. I need to let go of the former image of who I was (the big ego that I had before having a proper job), the idea that I had of my former relationship (embracing the truth that that relationship broke me in more than one way), and the idea that things will just come to my doorstep (I need to actively seek meaning in my life). In sum, I need to start being responsible, caring and thankful of the real things that give meaning to my life: my family, the few friends that have never abandoned me, my mind and health. I want to rediscover the love and hope I once felt for the world; the innocence I felt when dreaming of my adventures in the world.

I was inspired by Jacob Bannon to make a ritual out of the feelings I have been experiencing. Perhaps in putting my struggles on paper, I will find the strength to fight even harder. Thank you, man.

‘I am still motivated; I am still angry; and I still want to shake things up’.

AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE

No words can describe the amount of pain being suffered in Mexico as of September 19th. This has been a surreal, tragic, senseless, painful experience for all the people who had to, and continue to, suffer through the impact of the earthquake. The quake is the second to hit Mexico in a very short time frame, which makes the experience all the more traumatic, all the more absurd. It happened, as if told in the pages of fiction, on the same day of another quake that destroyed lives, years ago. I can only speak for myself. My purpose in sharing this is to offer my own experience of the tragedy, and to give my love and prayers to everyone who faired worst than I did.

I was eating with a colleague at work when it hit. We immediately took to the evacuation zone, a garden close to the exit of the campus I work at, to wait for instructions. They never arrived and for good reason. Everyone, including security, was invested in trying to make sense of what was happening. It felt far stronger than the one that had previously hit. That experience, which had left me traumatized, only served as the baseline to measure just how much more terrible the second one was. My immediate thoughts were whether my family and friends were ok, whether the strength of the quake had been enough to cause serious damages to cause mortality, and just how lucky I was to have been in a safe place. The phone lines crashed, internet did too. I had the luck of contacting those closest to me in the ensuing minutes, except for my sister, who my parents could not get in contact with. She was at her school. Not knowing how she was crushed me inside, and I immediately started to panic. When we were dismissed from campus, I immediately ran toward the building my mother works in. (Luckily, she works close to my work place.) On the way out I stumbled on a friend, who told me that things were bad, that several places in the city had been hit hard by the quake, and that he was planning on going to one of such neighbourhoods to help. This only made me fear for the worst.

As I ran through what I can only describe as apocalyptic chaos—people on the streets filming the whole event, others with pale faces or crying, traffic as far as my eyes could see, radios on full volume detailing what was happening—I felt like I was experiencing absurdity. My jaw was locked, I had a terrible migraine, I was shaking, and I could only repeat in my head that I had to find my mother so that we could figure out how to get to my sister. I got to her after looking for her for a good 20 minutes in the area close to her work place. She was with one of her clients. We took a table on a nearby coffee shop, and discussed our options. The only thing we knew about my sister, was that she was at school and that nobody knew anything about the status of the school, or of the students at the school. That the bridge that connects my neighbourhood to the one her school was, was cut-out (we were told this by a group of people in the coffee shop). And that in all probability, if I didn’t go get her, we were not going to know anything until late into the night when communications were restored. At this point I called a friend who lives a 5 minute drive from my sister’s school, and told him that I was going to find the means to cross over the bridge so that I could go looking for my sister. I really didn’t fucking care if there was no bridge, I had to get to my sister. What ensued was a marathon run from my neighbourhood, through the swarms of agitated and scared people, the news that assaults were going on in the neighbourhood, and the uncertainty that laid ahead. I made it past the bridge and realized just how bad miscommunication and disinformation is. For all I knew, if I had believed what the people on the coffee shop told me about the bridge, I would had made the wrong choice of not going straight for my sister.

I made it to my friend’s house. Another friend who was with him drove me to her school. The cocktail of adrenaline, anxiety, and uncertainty was driving me crazy. The school was fine. I rushed inside and found that my sister was just fine. My soul was at peace. I took a picture of the both of us and sent it to my family. We were all fine. Somehow, we were part of the lucky ones who were unscathed. My friend drove us close to the bridge, and from there we took the walk home. I was extremely agitated because we were warned on the walk home through the bridge to watch out for human scum assaulting cars and people on the bridge. (How far gone must a person be to hurt people during tragedy?). No such thing happened to us. We made it through the bridge, and through the swarms of cars and people in the vicinity, and into my home. My family was there. We were all back together. I immediately crashed. But the feeling I felt of knowing that I had been given the most precious of gifts—the safety of my loved ones—is one that I will never forget, it is something I will forever be thankful for.

In the ensuing hours more and more news came on the effects of the quake. More and more developing stories of those who were hit the most. Honestly, I could not sleep last night, I just could not. I felt impotent. At a loss. I think we were all going through the motions of the sheer tragedy of knowing that so many people had lost their homes, their friends, their family. This hit me in the most personal of ways, as I know it did to all of us who were in it. It was a life and death experience, a crisis, a reminder of how fragile life is, of how on any given day things can just crash and burn and destroy lives, for no apparent fucking reason. What kept me from hitting full blown anxiety, were the messages and prayers from my friends in Mexico and abroad, and learning that there was a sense of solidarity for Mexico and its people: among us in Mexico, and those outside its borders. It reminded me of the close-knit bond we share as a species when tragedy hits us. I am proud to call myself a Mexican and a human. The people who have gone out of their ways to help others on the streets, on the web, on the phone lines, in hospitals, in shelters, in telling their daughters and their sons and their friends and their fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers that they love them and that they have their backs, both Mexican and foreign, all of you are a source of inspiration to me, to the rest of our species, for you are embodiments of the best in humanity.

Today, I am still suffering through the trauma, of what happened and of what is still happening. I am so fucking lucky to be alive, to be able even to talk about the whole situation from a place of safety, to have a home, to be able to say that my family and friends are ok. I am extremely lucky. There are people that are still caught under the weight of crushing concrete, injured people in hospitals, people who have lost their homes and have to spend the night in shelters, people fighting for their lives, people who have lost their family, their friends; so many have lost so very much, so many are fighting to survive, to make it through this senseless tragedy. The news of the children who lost their lives under the weight of their collapsed school, hit the closest to my experience of the earthquake. My sister had made it unscathed, but other children had died at their school. It is a fucking tragedy. If I could, and I know everyone feels this way, I would give anything to save the lives of those children. I so fucking wish I could give their parents, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends—everyone who knew them and loved them—an ounce of meaning, to comfort them, to had been able to protect them, or for them to have had the opportunity I had, the opportunity to be there for my sister.

I so fucking wish I could give everyone, parents, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends—everyone who knew and loved someone who was lost to this tragedy—an ounce of meaning, to comfort them, to had been able to protect them, or for them to have had the opportunity I had.

It just breaks my heart knowing others did not have the opportunity to be there for their loved ones. It is so fucking unfair.

My love and my prayers, to all of you, to everyone living through the effects of this tragedy.

DIARY ENTRY #3

Alright!

About two weeks without writing. So let’s get down to it.

I’m deep into Ph.D. applications. Wrote a writing sample on Judith Butler discussing Foucault and identity politics; numerous drafts of letters of intent (I’m still trying to figure out whether admission committees expect you to talk about yourself or just repeat your resumé on a page); did some research on faculty members; asked three of my former professors to hook me up with letters; and as of today started the grueling task of filling-in forms. I’m about to spend a couple hundred dollars on the applications alone… I guess part of life is trying to pursue one’s dreams whatever the cost. These are the schools (they all conduct research on continental philosophy, and focus on politics and aesthetics):

Penn State, Northwestern, Emory, University of Oregon, Stony Brook, Duquesne, and Concordia. So, if anyone who reads this has any info or feedback on these schools, I would greatly appreciate it!

I also started studying for the GRE. The maths section looks specially scary. But that’s part of life (remember that scene in which Al Pacino delivers his speech to a Football team in Any Given Sunday?). Speaking of football, I saw a documentary on the life of Stephen Gleason, Gleason. Look it up, you will cry for two hours straight, but for all the right reasons. On the movie front I also saw Goodnight Mommy, which turned out to be a more interesting take on body horror than I expected. That Harry Potter movie with animals (which turns out is pretty damn good). And revisited the infamous Saló. The burning of the eye-sockets continues. (And I’m waiting for It to come out in Mexico, heard good stuff about it, I might have to take on the mammoth novel.)

Got back into videogames. Ever heard of a game called Nioh? All of my samurai fantasies came true. It took me back to the glory days of Diablo. Looking forward to playing The Evil Within 2, hopefully its a return to form for the survival horror genre. Remember Resident Evil 2? What a game! I read it’s getting a remake. So excited.

I survived an earthquake, too. Scary, scary stuff. For a moment I thought I was a goner. We did learn our lesson after the earthquake in ’85. All my love and thanks to the civil engineers, architects, and construction workers who achieved the impossible. Thanks to you, I’m still alive.

Got back into boxing. My teacher is this small, wiery porfessional boxer, by the name of Ricardo Mercado, who, I swear, could punch through a concrete wall. Give it a shot: all your stress will vanish and will be replaced by self-esteem.

Just found out my childhood hero, the former professional skateboarder, Heath Kirchart, is still the coolest guy on planet Earth. Saw a small doc on the return of Bam Margera to skateboarding. For people who, like me, lived the 90s in their teens, this guy, along with Jackass and the CKY crew, bring back memories of finding out what it meant to be a confused, suburbian kid. Here’s to Bam making a comeback into skateboarding.

I have developed a new found interest that sparked in me after revisiting one of my favorite actions movies, John Wick: the culture of criminal tattoos. There are a couple of documentaries that are specially informative and interesting, one on the culture of tattoos in criminal Russia, particularly the mafia known as the Thief in Law, the other, on the Yakuza, the infamous Japanese mafia (in which members rock what is know as a body suit, they tattoo their whole bodies in Japanese iconography, which can take up to 2 years; talk about endurance). Testimony is particularly interesting in these. In the Yakuza documentary, a woman who was involved with the Japanese mafia, talks about the cleansing value of tattoos. Apparently in Japan tattoos are frowned upon on women, so there is an interesting contradiction going on in her decision to break the taboo. Wish I could talk to this woman and find out more about her story. I’m not looking into getting a tattoo, but it’s sure as shit interesting researching how a medium like the skin can convey so much power and meaning for particular cultures. Foucault would be mind fucked (anyone know if he ever wrote on tattoos?). Each criminal tattoo has its own meaning in the grammar of a language built explicitly to navigate the status-oriented criminal underworld. You can find more about them here. These are perfect examples of how imagery can convey so much power, even to the very point of life and death.

So now I’m looking to make a trip to eastern Europe in December. Any suggestions are welcome!

On the music front, I saw one of my best friends play a show with his band, Carrion Kids. A return by Los Sicóticos, they played a show alongside the legendary Fuzztones in Mexico last January. And heard the new National (I’m seeing them in Mexico in my birthday!). Their new album reminds me a lot of Kid A. The Misfits and The Smiths are the bands that I am yet to see before I die. (By a strange twist of fate I got to see Tool in Mexico a couple of years ago, the unthinkable, right?). But I think I’m fucked on that front. Morrissey doesn’t seem to be needing money, Danzig did, though. So there remains hope in me to see Morrissey and Marr play together on-stage.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to update my writing as much as I can in the upcoming weeks, plus drop a few diary entries.

Wish me luck on my applications (I’ll be finding out if I move back to the U.S. in February, which is motivating, yet scary; let’s just say the current political climate in the U.S. is not particularly the best for immigrants with dreams). Oh, and my veganism turned into pescatarianism: maybe one day I’ll live up to the hype.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LEFTOVERS AND SOME NOTES ON HEIDEGGER

In The Leftovers, we meet the chief of police of Mapleton New York, Kevin Garney. After an event of sheer absurdity, about 2% of the people in the world vanish into thin air, existential nausea abounds. In Mapleton and beyond, families and friends are torn apart, as well as the spirit and minds of the people left behind. The impossibility of what transpired during “the departure”, turns the world upside down, inasmuch as the event defied the laws of nature; everything is up for grabs, including the sense of the world. Out of the blue, a new cult that goes by the name of the Guilty Remnant (the G.R.), take to the streets. Members of the Remnant dress in pure white, chain-smoke, and don’t talk. Nothing can really be discerned about their behavior and what they represent, and perhaps that is what they want to be represented as: nothing. The Guilty Remnant seek to communicate, through their silence and inaction (a small wink in the direction of H. Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener), that the world ended. They don’t want people to forget the significance of “the departure”: that life makes no sense at all.

The nihilism of the G.R. plays a pivotal role in the Leftovers. They are the radical consequence of the post-apocalypse, a bunch of anarchists preaching that life is void of meaning, that everything embedded in it, culture, and all of its symbols and signifiers, became exhausted in “the departure”. They spread like a cancer on screen and, as we learn more about them, we experience their rage and feel sympathy for what these cult members have lost along the way. Kevin’s ex-wife is G.R. Laurie Garvey was a successful psychiatrist, an exemplary mother and wife. But something in her broke. Something that perhaps was already broken, but found a way to manifest itself through the philosophy of the Guilty Remnant. Laurie feels guilty for being broken, for being unable to give to her family what they need of her. What she needed was to give herself to nothingness.

Kevin’s own manifestation of the consequences of “the departure” is his increasing incapability to have a grasp on his mind. He sleepwalks. During his escapes, the chief shoots dogs with a bolt rifle, in the company of a man who could very well be a figment of his imagination. K. Garvey’s enigmatic companion tells him that “their dogs are no longer their dogs”. Perhaps John Doe has a greater grasp of what is happening. Kevin is incapable of denying that something is happening, as he, too, is incapable of letting go of Laurie’s madness. (Let alone come to grips with his own.) There is something broken in him, too. This “brokenness” leads him to undertake an odyssey to the “other side”, a place beyond death, a place embedded in the fabric of time. On the “other side” awaits a struggle to find sense. I won’t go into detail of the chief’s journey: you’ll have to take the ride for yourself.

But I will leave you with a few concepts to help you unpack Leftovers as the show progressesThe show’s thesis is that death can only be made sense of by confronting it with life. This is the tension represented by Kevin Garvey’s push to “come back home”, and Laurie Garvey’s push to “burn the house down”. (I purposely didn’t go into detail about the rest of the characters because I don’t want to ruin the narrative for you.) This thesis has shades of what the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, explored in his magnum opus, Being and Time; the simple yet perplexing thesis that being is time and that time is finite, that being authentic beings is the task of “coming to terms” with our mortality. We have to take a step back and embrace the freedom of “being-there”, of being beings thrown into the world, so as to take the reins of existence in authenticity: heed the calling of our conscience to turn away from inauthentic being. Kevin Garvey is Heidegger’s da-sein (roughly translated from German as “being-there”). The chief’s search for authenticity consists, as Simon Critchley neatly puts it in his analysis of Being and Time, “in understanding the call, in wanting to have a conscience”. And in making this choice, “to become resolute” in spite of his broken condition.