Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Diary Entry of the Old Man

[Part 1 of the "Diary Entries" series]

“I write so that you may live.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is deaf, the voices of all the lonely strangers unheard like the prayers of the hopeless, but I dare whisper your name in this muteness, this inconsolable silence, the sound of nothing, indifference unequaled, for though the days are unkind I find my refuge here, where grief is the only companion to be had, a cold shade to shelter the soul from the eternal warmth of the sun, and in this place of solace “never” is the longest word to escape my lips, endless as the days and nights of waiting, for you were gone long before I came here, like the footprints of a ghost.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is perpetually blind, unmoved by the grace of summer and the benediction of rain, its wounds like yours undone with the power of closed eyes, scars suddenly unremembered, forgetfulness having turned them invisible, folding back beneath the shadows of time, but somewhere in this landscape of monochrome and grey I can still see you, a bright but shapeless red neither here nor there, because memory is cruel, finding colors where there are none, stalking the spirit in its unguarded moments of solitude in a room as big as this heart.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is callous, its flesh pummeled by iron bars and machines that bore through it, pouring liquid concrete over its earthly skin, filling its holes and cracks so that it can never feel again, like you, once wrapped in your mortal layers of numbness, shielding you from whatever it is that makes the heart grow fonder, even while the world is set afire by men and women who weave sands into verses, sunshine into prose, the morning mist into music, all into little pockets of nostalgia, giving the past the justice that it deserves, but failing nonetheless, because you were born beautiful and you have had your eyes set on forever, a future so bright it blinds all memory.

“I am where you once were, and you are where I will soon be. This is a city where the chase is unforgiving, where what has been said is forbidden to overflow into what will be, because the rules of life are as fixed as our place beneath the stars, and though our feet may take us elsewhere we only really move around, closer and farther but never away, for here I now find myself in this city where you once were, and you are where I will soon be. The past. Moving around, closer and farther but never away.

“You are everyday — an empty seat in the crowded bus I have never taken, a corner in my mind where the light of the sun will never shine, a calendar stuck in a day by the end of a lifetime, a gift unwrapped by the grandchildren we will never have, a face with a thousand unsaid names, a floating cloud with the weight of a million cycles of rain on dreamy afternoons, a penny jammed in the coin slot of a telephone booth where a hundred calls and conversations have been made and a hundred or more will never be, a shoe lace waiting to be tied by the hands I will never hold, a smudge on the lips I will never kiss.

“If I make it seem that I am talking to you, it is surely because I am. But I am not a surgeon, and so I cannot replace your heart with mine to make you understand, even for a pulse, how it feels to live with a heavy heart. Then as now, you are the reflection of the sunset in my eyes, and they will not close in permanence until I have chased the sun, because you are the center of my everything in every day, the sum of all my desires, beyond measure, ruling my life from the distance of a thousand light years, maybe more, and across this vast emptiness between us my voice yearns to travel, breaking the rules of physics if need be, for the laws of science will have to end if the chambers of the heart are to be finally heard, revealed in their naked truths with neither shame nor arrogance to cloth them from the mercy of your gaze. Until then, you remain a reflection of the same repeating sunset in my eyes even if the sun is never the same as yesterday and the dusks long gone.

“You are January lost in July, or December spending time in May. I am Monday skipping the rest of the week in pursuit of Sunday. You are February with only thirteen days, a pocket watch with nothing more than a hand for every second. I am a dead and exploded ventricle in the heart of this city, and yet here I am, scavenging through the arteries of roads in search of your faintest traces, signs that you were once here, alive, breathing the same air as I do but only forty years too late.”

Part 1 | 2

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life in a Straightjacket

1. Everything is automated, instant, in a cycle, and dead.

2. Machines automate the elections and the cheating that goes with them. It’s automatic politics, like instant coffee. There are vending machines for coffee, too, for those who stay awake late into the night until sunrise, especially those living across different time zones where the sun is never the same. People converse across distances through mobile phones, the internet in general, social networks in particular, online chat rooms notwithstanding. One can be an instant friend online, or an instant enemy, maybe an instant stalker. Old friendships and old romances are rekindled, set ablaze in less than three minutes, which is about the same time it takes to “cook” instant noodles. Kaldereta in a tin can is instant, and preparing it consumes less time than boiling water or rekindling romance. So is canned Adobo, or Mechado.

3. Are we still beholden to nostalgia? Do we really intend to preserve the past? Or have we simply run-out of new concepts, new ideas, and new experiences? We must be dry. If that is so, the old — far and almost entirely disconnected from us — is that which is new to us, an ocean to quench our thirst. The old is the new. We were born estranged from the past, with only anthologies to steer us to their direction, and we yearn for it. A strange but oddly familiar creature, this remnant of the bygone years. Strange, because the past is not a duplicate of the present, and neither is the present a mirror-image of the past. Oddly familiar, because the past still somehow resembles the now, and the now has certain shades of its predecessor.

4. The limbs of the old colonizers are gone, in their place their shadows, formless — and therefore more dangerous — but real. Vintage is back. Retro has returned, and the oxymoron of an idiom prevails: The King is dead! Dead! Long live the King!

5. Our memory depends on machines, these automatons that, by themselves, only have the power to archive but never to reminisce. We upload photos online after we have edited them with our virtual tools, as though the pictures will always be flawed in their raw format. The camera is digital, and so are the images they capture, and therefore suitable for virtually filing images that are, in essence, defined by the “byte,” that smallest unit that can reduce everything into a mere “file size.” The result: a clutter of bytes, a clutter of our little corner of the universe. But we create specific photo albums in our bid to be more Apollonian than Dionysian — in other words, in our effort to put things in order, to forestall confusion amid chaos.

6. It is interesting when someone says “My hard drive, my USB, still has this so-and-so ‘memory’ left.” Its emptiness, the complete absence of stored data in the physical device, is its largest possible memory pool. Sixteen gigabytes in the device is sixteen gigabytes without anything in it. Put a file in it and its memory is decreased. Its limit, therefore, is its memory. But the human memory expands when more is in it. It grows as it is used.

7. The dead walk among us. The need to remember has turned into an urgent, prized task. It has become a task, no longer a natural function of the mind. We buy planners, even the pricey ones, or earn them as rewards from our eager consumption of overrated coffees, and we cherish these objects intended to remind us of what has been said in the past about the future, like trysts, or job interviews, possibly vacations to elsewhere, so that we can meet the “plan.” The planner assumes the role of a capricious trophy, a valuable possession, giving us hope or assurance that we will remember, that we will not forget, as though our lives depend on it. We have grown fearful of surprises, of things immediate and unplanned, because they ruin our schedule, our prearranged routine. We have become inclined to settle in the comfort of predetermined events. Those things unforeseen, knocking on our doors with urgent haste, are met with panic, anxiety, distress, sometimes violence. “How can this be?” the ignorant asks in his argot, stupefied. “It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t written. How then am I supposed to remember, and thus act accordingly, to something that previously did not exist?” And in such tragic affairs we are somehow brought back to our humanity, of our being human, humbled, such unguarded offensives against our desire for ludicrous certainty. Suddenly, we realize that something was amiss, or remiss, and in the back of our minds there is the lingering thought that our plans are very vulnerable, weak, perennially at the mercy of the unknown. But these moments are fleeting, these episodes are mere lucid intervals, and we return among the dead no sooner than we are able to regain what is left of our sensibilities.

6. The accidents in life are no longer immaculate. Spontaneity is a fossil looked upon with utter disdain. Surprises are to be frowned upon, are prohibited to rear their heads, or are not given the permission to take form. Our lives revolve on a planner. The ink on it is sacred. The paper is holy. What is written has been written, cast in papyrus worth seventeen or eighteen cups of coffee. Its fate cannot be undone. We want the power of control, and we want it now more than ever.

5. We set goals but we refuse to consider margins for error. Error is for the weak, we say. But whoever said that we are eternally strong to begin with? We are human, and, therefore, we are bound to err. There are the accidents, and there are the direct but unanticipated consequences of our will. There will be errors, and there must be margins for them. Only the brave ones are crazy enough to give error its due space. That is why people are sometimes strange. The strange ones are the living.

4. Everything is dogma. Even the refusal to subscribe to one is guilty of the same accusation. “I do not subscribe to a dogma because I am a freethinker” is dogma, an ignorant yet proud one at that. These days, hipster is mainstream while mainstream is overrated, and anything that is overrated is protested against by shying away from it, or by destroying it within us like vaccine is to virus, in sum by becoming hipster. It’s a cycle of dogmas in a continuous flux, like the seasons that come and go.

3. It implies, however, that there is recognition, that we are able to recognize that this is hipster, or mainstream, perhaps overrated, or whatever label we ascribe them, and it is precisely this capacity to recognize that impels us to move from one phase to another, forward or backward. Yet the dead walk among us. The dead recognizes nothing, hears but does not listen, touches and is touched but does not feel, sees but does not envision, and is necessarily trapped in his own quagmire, unable to recognize, unable to move, paralyzed as it were, turning instead to the lure of instant gratification, or anything that takes less than three minutes to satiate our inadequacies and inefficiencies, no matter how partial and temporary, resolving to pursue the automation of all things, reconfiguring the old so that it will somehow look as good as new, so that the only practical need for memory is to help us to mechanically retrieve the past instead of compelling us to reminisce like human beings.

2. This is life in a straightjacket — automated, instant, in a cycle, and dead.

1. And there is nothing inside of it.

0. Except a corpse.