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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Looking Back

It’s so strange to see someone watching herself dance 75 years ago. The image of a 102-year-old woman juxtaposed with her youthful, beautiful, and vital self is unsettling, and makes you think thoughts that you often ignore.    

You could see through her eyes that she’s reliving it—she can hear the music and feel its rhythm, feel her feet as they strike the floor, feel the adrenaline rush of doing what she likes best and doing it good.
Someone once said not to fear growing old, because it is a privilege denied to many. That’s true, of course, but there are moments when one feels that growing old is the saddest thing that happens to us.
She’s remembering it all. It’s all in her head still. She was beautiful, she was lithe, and she was a really great dancer.
I guess that’s what our most precious possessions are—our memories. We are still 12 or 16 or 21 inside.

We’ll all grow old and die someday, but we pretend that we are immortal. We’ll see our loved ones grow old and die, or they’ll see us grow old and die, and everyone will suffer devastating loses that are too much for anybody to bear.
You’d think that that is enough for us to treat each other with compassion and love, but no. We go out of our way to be cruel and be simply mean to others, just because we can. We join clubs to be exclusive, then form a clique within that club to be even moreexclusive.
We have different religions that claims to spread love and peace, but the opposite is happening. We discriminate, or we simply kill people, who don’t worship the same gods we do. It’s a scary world out there, and the various religions with all their promises did not make the world a safer place for the billions of people out there.
At the end of the day, we are reduced to our memories of what we once were. So goddamn it, let’s all make memories that we can look back on, memories that can make us smile and say to ourselves, “Damn, I was an awesome, badass mofo.”

Didn’t mean to be so morbid, but as I said, this video of Miss Alice Barker made me think of things that we often ignore.

Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist — a master — and that is what Auguste Rodin was — can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is… and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…. and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…. no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired — but it does to them. Look at her!

Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Friday, April 3, 2015

There's Just No Easy Way

“How do you say, in polite English, ‘Punta muna ako sa kubeta; taeng-tae na ako!’  (I have to go the toilet; I’m about to shit myself!)?”
In a (Philippine) website that deals mostly in computer parts and peripherals, there was this thread about English grammar. Presumably, the thread starter (commonly referred to in internet forums as the TS), who was one of the regulars of the aforementioned site, has trouble expressing himself in grammatically correct English. As the site is quite popular, and the site members come from diverse backgrounds, many contributed to that thread, and competently answered the TS’ and other posters’ questions regarding English grammar. The “English” thread, suffice it to say, was one of the site’s most active threads.
Anyway, the question quoted above was just one of many. I stumbled across it one afternoon a few months ago. It appeared that the poster works for a firm run by Americans. During one particularly unforgettable meeting with his American supervisors, he found himself in a predicament that necessitated the above-quoted question.

He apparently never forgot the helplessness and despair he felt when the first “rumblings” of trouble started deep inside his bowels, and discovering to his horror that he couldn’t just very well blurt out “Sandali, taeng-tae na ako!” to the white faces around him in the conference table. He had to think of a way to let his needs known in a tactful and polite way—and in English, to boot. Ultimately, he managed to avoid being embarrassed—that is, he avoided soiling himself—through sheer will, I suppose.
Determined to never again experience the horror and helplessness he felt in such a situation, he posted his question in the “English” thread of the site mentioned above. Just in case he needed to extricate himself again, no doubt.
One poster suggested this one: “Please excuse me; I have to go the comfort room.” However, other posters pointed out, correctly, that Americans are not familiar with the term “comfort room,” as used by Filipinos to refer to toilet. “Toilet” would be the most obvious word, and was suggested instead, along with other words that bordered on being flowery (to convey politeness, presumably) and all saying the same thing, i. e., going to the toilet.
I posted my observation that a person, in such a situation, has more things to worry about than grammar; that he still managed to concern himself about what words to use while in such a dire predicament is a testament to his, well, sphincter control.
Others would just probably bolt for the door.
Besides, other people in the room would already have an inkling of what was going on, as such a condition is usually betrayed by malodorous emanations.  Bolting for the door then would be perfectly reasonable. Embarrassing, sure, but the alternative is horrifying.
My toes curl at the thought of me suffering that unhappy fate.

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