Manichean Aesthetics – Everywhere

So I was reading this secondary reading on Manichean Asthetics for my South Asian Literature course. If you are not sure what the term means, Manichean dichotomy is basically a theory that views the world in binaries, possibly without grey areas. Like for instance: light versus dark, good versus bad.

The article applies the notion to colonialism, pointing out the series of double binds that the colonized are placed in due to the effect of colonization. One of the most crucial ones is probably the “savage” versus “vacant imitator” dichotomy. Basically, if the colonized chooses to stay by their own indigenous culture and reject colonial ideas, they are considered backward and savage. If they choose to accept and assimilate into colonial culture, they are considered “vacant imitators” who blindly follow others. Oh boy, is there nothing right a person can do.

Reading it I feel like like this form of unpleasant double bind is everywhere. Let me give you some examples:

  • A girl who is very picky is considered choosy and hard to please.
  • A girl who is easy going is considered “too easy a game”.

(I am not making the above up, I heard it from adult males, like seriously.)

Then more stuff comes along.

  • If you tell your partner something he did to upset you, you run the risk of offending him – especially if he thinks it is something unimportant therefore trivial – and he may in turn be upset by how “petty” you are.
  • If you don’t tell your partner about the annoying little thing he once did, chances are he may do it again and you will be upset again and it is not gonna sit well in the long run.

You see??

Being a human is really tough.

I have more examples:

  • If your angry mom scolds you and you try to justify and explain yourself, (some, mainly Asian) moms will see it as you being “disrespectful” and talking back to the authority.
  • If your angry mom scolds you and you stay silent – no that’s not a sign of your docility – it means you are being silently rebellious and “do you think being silent means you are not in hot soup?”

Bah. Double binds everywhere. More double binds:

  • If you tell your friends everything about you, it makes you very vulnerable if the day comes that you should fall out.
  • If you don’t tell your friends everything about you, it can come across as being not as sincere making it hard for you all to bond.

This one is easy, just tell them things you are comfortable with sharing. A quick survey with my classmates and friends all agree that everyone has a different threshold for sharing and need for privacy. Meaning, if they don’t want to tell you something, it is PERFECTLY normal. Really, it doesn’t mean they treasure you any less or place less importance on you.

I really like reading this article on Manichean Aesthetics. It is really thought provoking and though I think I am applying stuff all wrongly, it is still fun.

I need to stop with South Asian Literature and move on to Psychoanalysis. My Psycho-A is so dead.

We Can Be

[We Can Be]

We can be blind, eyes open but unseeing.
We can be deaf, aware but not heeding.
A little part of us is biased,
A little more afraid, we realized,
things don’t always go as we say.

Far too often, I witness without seeing,
blinded by my own doubts and perhaps even —
anxieties.
Too worried to ask, far too afraid to have my
deepest doubts proven. Right.

We can be writers, each portraying our own
Characters,
fashioned after people we think we know.
We can imagine too much, and know too little.
We can be far too creative and way too unrealistic.

We need to wake up earlier,
look out of our own world more often, and for once,
not fantasize but understand.
Bleak skies, black diamonds, queen of hearts
A scene of dark, sinful black.

Far too often, we stare at crows and wonder,
“Thou ugly beasts! Foulest creatures!”
And even more common is for us to forget,
that the crow had never wanted to be black.
We can be darker than the darkest shade of crow feathers.

Woman Work by Maya Angelou

Woman Work

I‘ve got the children to tend

The clothes to mend

The floor to mop

The food to shop

Then the chicken to fry

The baby to dry

I got company to feed

The garden to weed

I’ve got shirts to press

The tots to dress

The can to be cut

I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick

And the cotton to pick.


Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.


Storm, blow me from here

With your fiercest wind

Let me float across the sky

‘Til I can rest again.


Fall gently, snowflakes

Cover me with white

Cold icy kisses and

Let me rest tonight.


Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone

Star shine, moon glow

You’re all that I can call my own. 

Close

Close

So close to opening, so close to accepting.
So close to trusting, so close to believing.
A tiny step, a baby step,
reaching shakily for support.
I thought I could trust again.

Too close to liking, too close to relying.
Too close to realizing that I was too close to hurting.
Hasty steps back,
I am withdrawn again.
The opening door closed again.

I am now more wary,
I am now more jaded,
I am now more doubtful,
I am now more cold as they like to call me.
But remember, I was that close to embracing,
But before that I was hurt again.

If I Could Name My Pain

If I Could Name My Pain
If I could put a name to my pain,
and compare its beauty to the stark white skies
and the blue phantoms of the sea,
I would.
If I could portend my fate before all is too late, 
and unwind time over and over to relive the moment
where we fell together like two particles in the universe,
I would.
If somehow the sky is red and the earth is sqaure,
and that we could unknowingly fall off its edge,
but I would assume that the universe is limited and
I would find you.
If somehow fate has other plans for us,
and if destiny are to tear us apart,
and we are robbed of our “happily-ever-after”,
I would seek you, hold you, and rewrite the tale.
If somehow I should be forced to leave you,
and if our frail human minds deteriorate with the passing of time,
and if you have already forgotten me like how I will never forget you,
I would be in pain, yet I would rest in peace too.

Parting (Part I)

It had been almost half a year before he saw her again, sitting in the shade of a deep blue patio umbrella outside the cafe they used to visit together, absorbed in the book before her.

Her expression was serene and the gentle breeze caused a flutter in her hazel brown hair that flowed out from under the beanie she wore on her head; her long cream skirt swirled about her crossed legs.

The book must have been interesting– she barely looked up when he sat down in the chair opposite her, dragging the chair back noisily to alert her to his presence. Then he waited, his drink in hand, for her to look up and see him.

After what seemed like a hundred heartbeats, she slowly looked up from the page she was engrossed in and their eyes met.

Cool grey into warm brown; in the reflection of her eyes, he seemed to see a shine in his own that he had not seen for so long. For a very brief moment, no one spoke; it seemed as if the silence between them was so precious and so fragile that speech could break it irreversibly.

“Oh!” She said at long last, her tone rather neutral for greeting someone that was once so dear to her.

She had spoken first, and she would always be the first to do things, be it the one to initiate their going out together or their breakup, she had always been the one to say things first.

“So…”he began, his voice unsure and wavering, “So…how have you been?”

The normality of the question struck him: he had wanted to see her so badly for the past few months since they broke up, there were so many things that he wanted to tell her, so many things he wanted to ask her, and yet when he finally saw her, the first question that left his lips was so incredibly…lame.

It seemed, to his general relief that she did not seem to find the question lame as he did, but pondered it at great length, as if he had asked her a very difficult question that required deep thought.

At last, she spoke.

“Well, you know, the usual. Exams, taking care of my brother, reading some of the books I like. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

He nodded and sipped on his drink slowly, meditatively, savoring her words and her voice in his mind as he ran through what she had just said. She on the other hand, stared calmly past his head, as though there was something that was so interesting that she could not tear her eyes away from it.

The silence slowly turned awkward, and the ice coffee that he had turned from sipping into gulping for the sake of doing something was now chilling his stomach. Then she returned her gaze to him.

“So, how have you been?” she finally asked.

Missing you, his head screamed. Thinking about you in all of my waking moments and dreaming of you in my sleep. And wondering over and over again how we ended that way.

The voices in his head tuned out as he looked up from his coffee to reply, “The usual too. Nothing particularly interesting.”

She nodded too, and for the tiniest fraction of a moment he thought he saw something that flickered across her face that could have been relief, but he blinked, and her expressionless mask was back in place.

“I haven’t been seeing you around here much, ” he decided to probe, “do you still come here for coffee often?”

At his question, she smiled. It didn’t seem to be a happy smile, and there was something remotely sad about the way that the smile did not quite reach her eyes.

“Oh no,” she said softly, “Today is the first time…in a very long time. I was…rather busy.”

Her words brought a uncomfortable lump to his throat as the word “busy” rang resoundingly in his ahead, setting off several alarm bells. Who was she busy with? What was she busy with? Had she found…someone else?

“Have you found someone?” he blurted before he could stop himself.

She looked up in mild surprise at the undisguised anxiety in his voice before slipping back into her calm self. “Nope, not really.” she answered.

He almost breathed a sigh of relief as his heart rate slowly returned to normal.

She had returned to her book and for a while, he sat there peacefully, watching her as she read. He realized then that she seemed to have lost some weight, and that she looked paler than before. Had their break up affected her as much as it affected him? If so, why then did she initiate it?

“You have lost quite some weight,” he ventured to ask, “have you been sleeping and eating well?”

She looked up instantly, like his words had alarmed her. There seemed to be a trace of uncertainty in her eyes…and something else that he could not quite put a finger on.

“No,” she chuckled, for some reason he did not know, “I couldn’t sleep or eat well for a while.”

At her words, his heart started to pump painfully fast again, and blood seemed to roar in his ears as his ribs expanded and contracted painfully with each strained breath he took.

“W-why did you break up with me then?”he could not help but blurt once more.

She barely flinched at the accusatory tone in his voice; it was as though she had somehow anticipated the question.

“I didn’t see any future for us…”she returned steadily, holding his gaze with her warm brown eyes, “I didn’t know where our relationship would be heading.”

At her words, he felt the dam of his anger flood break, and before he knew it, he had stood up in such a fast movement that he had knocked over his chair.

“Didn’t know where we were heading?!? Oh the brilliancy of it all!” he mocked, his voice laced with venom and hurt as he continued to lash out at the impassive figure before him, “Couldn’t see our future together so you broke up with me? Why didn’t I think of that?”

He breathed hard through his nose, his chest rising and falling as he drew in deep lungfuls of breath. When he had calmed down a little, he looked at her. She was still staring at him as if he had not just caused a commotion with his shouting, even though he felt there was much more under her facade of eerie calm.

“Do you know how much p-pain I was in? Do you even know what you have done to me? I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t listen to the songs we had listened to because it would hurt, so much. I turned whenever I heard my name called, hoping against hope that it was you…but it was not. It never was. How could you have been able to let go so easily when it nearly broke me to let go?” Only at the very end did his voice break.

For a while, there was silence, punctuated by the chirping of the nearby sparrows foraging for food.

He looked up at her, and saw that her brown eyes shone too brightly, and the surface seemed to ripple as she looked at him intently. She’s crying, he thought, his heart twisting again, I made her cry.

But the tears didn’t fall. She seemed to have been a changed person since they were last together, and she seemed to have mastered the arts of not letting her tears fall.

“I am sorry,” she whispered, her voice rough with restrained emotions. “I really am.”

“Can’t we get back together?” he asked, his voice almost bordering on desperation, “Is there no chance at all? I miss you, come back to me.”

At his words she turned away from him, her gaze sweeping till they rest on the sparrows by the sidewalk. The pair of birds chirruped happily as they pecked at the small piece of bread lying on the ground.

“We can’t…” her voice seemed to tremble a little. “I can’t…we can’t. I am sorry.”

His heart shattered a bit more, both at her tremulous voice and at her answering negative.

“D-don’t you love me anymore?” he asked uncertainly, almost begging for her to hold onto him.

She turned to look at him, her face pale and her eyes still shining.

“I did…” she affirmed in past tense, “But no, I don’t love you anymore.”

With that, she stood up hastily and left, leaving her book behind with him and his weakly drumming heart.

He didn’t see how her tears fall unbidden the moment she turned to walk away from him, he didn’t hear her apologize to him over and over again under her breath as her figure shrank in the distance. He was too entrapped in his own pain.

He slowly reached for her book and turned to its cover page.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, the cover read.

—End of Part (I)—

Last Verse of Grief

Last Verse of Grief
[Original Poem on Live & Dictate]

For years now, I have walked
Aimlessly, in the dark, dingy abyss
that you and I called “home”.
I stumbled, tripped and fell
There were no hands to hold me up.

I grieved, oh,  how I grieved.

Ever sat by the window and wondered
for hours at an end,
that if things would have been better
if I had not been me?
I had no answers for it. Just guesses.

I grieved, still, I grieved.

Every sunset I spent,
Watching silhouettes of the birds
against the dimming, fiery sky; returning home
As the last inch of sun fell with my heart
I turned and questioned, “Where is my home?”

The grief of mine, it knew no bounds.

The same creaking window, the same dimming sky,
The ever changing birds, the ever ticking time
washed away the last remnants of a childhood
that I rather not remember.
I looked back on me and think, “That’s not me.”

Oh, but the grief, it escalates as I seem to fall back in time.

But no. I am me no longer,
I have grown up, grown stronger.
No one can hurt me now.
The memories to me feel like I was watching
the painful, horror-filled life of someone else.

I have to reconcile with myself.

So this is the last verse,
The very last verse of grief,
of unspeakable, immense, unimaginable pain
that had almost driven me insane.
But my wounds close, as this last verse falls.

My last verse of grief, dedicated to a once-grieving me.

To This Day by Shane Koyczan

Today I found the most inspirational poem ever, and I urge everyone of you to listen to it, the audio one with fantastic animation. I fell in love with this guy and his voice, and his courage to speak up, his courage to care.

Poem is taken from http://tothisdayproject.com/listen, please do take a moment to check it out and support!

The animation can be found here: http://www.upworthy.com/bullies-called-him-pork-chop-he-took-that-pain-with-him-and-then-cooked-it-into?g=3

It is a really amazing animation with a really flawless voice over, and I promise that you will not waste your 7minutes 37 seconds listening and watching it!

Like Shane Koyczan’s page here: https://www.facebook.com/ShaneKoyczanPoetry?c=upworthy

To This Day by Shane Koyczan

To This Day
When I was a kid
I used to think that pork chops and karate chops
were the same thing
I thought they were both pork chops
and because my grandmother thought it was cute
and because they were my favourite
she let me keep doing it

not really a big deal

one day
before I realized fat kids are not designed to climb trees
I fell out of a tree
and bruised the right side of my body

I didn’t want to tell my grandmother about it
because I was afraid I’d get in trouble
for playing somewhere that I shouldn’t have been

a few days later the gym teacher noticed the bruise
and I got sent to the principal’s office
from there I was sent to another small room
with a really nice lady
who asked me all kinds of questions
about my life at home

I saw no reason to lie
as far as I was concerned
life was pretty good
I told her “whenever I’m sad
my grandmother gives me karate chops”

this led to a full scale investigation
and I was removed from the house for three days
until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises

news of this silly little story quickly spread through the school
and I earned my first nickname

pork chop

to this day
I hate pork chops

I’m not the only kid
who grew up this way
surrounded by people who used to say
that rhyme about sticks and stones
as if broken bones
hurt more than the names we got called
and we got called them all
so we grew up believing no one
would ever fall in love with us
that we’d be lonely forever
that we’d never meet someone
to make us feel like the sun
was something they built for us
in their tool shed
so broken heart strings bled the blues
as we tried to empty ourselves
so we would feel nothing
don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone
that an ingrown life
is something surgeons can cut away
that there’s no way for it to metastasize

it does

she was eight years old
our first day of grade three
when she got called ugly
we both got moved to the back of the class
so we would stop get bombarded by spit balls
but the school halls were a battleground
where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day
we used to stay inside for recess
because outside was worse
outside we’d have to rehearse running away
or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there
in grade five they taped a sign to her desk
that read beware of dog

to this day
despite a loving husband
she doesn’t think she’s beautiful
because of a birthmark
that takes up a little less than half of her face
kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer
that someone tried to erase
but couldn’t quite get the job done
and they’ll never understand
that she’s raising two kids
whose definition of beauty
begins with the word mom
because they see her heart
before they see her skin
that she’s only ever always been amazing

he
was a broken branch
grafted onto a different family tree
adopted
but not because his parents opted for a different destiny
he was three when he became a mixed drink
of one part left alone
and two parts tragedy
started therapy in 8th grade
had a personality made up of tests and pills
lived like the uphills were mountains
and the downhills were cliffs
four fifths suicidal
a tidal wave of anti depressants
and an adolescence of being called popper
one part because of the pills
and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty
he tried to kill himself in grade ten
when a kid who still had his mom and dad
had the audacity to tell him “get over it” as if depression
is something that can be remedied
by any of the contents found in a first aid kit

to this day
he is a stick on TNT lit from both ends
could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends
in the moments before it’s about to fall
and despite an army of friends
who all call him an inspiration
he remains a conversation piece between people
who can’t understand
sometimes becoming drug free
has less to do with addiction
and more to do with sanity

we weren’t the only kids who grew up this way
to this day
kids are still being called names
the classics were
hey stupid
hey spaz
seems like each school has an arsenal of names
getting updated every year
and if a kid breaks in a school
and no one around chooses to hear
do they make a sound?
are they just the background noise
of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
when people say things like
kids can be cruel?
every school was a big top circus tent
and the pecking order went
from acrobats to lion tamers
from clowns to carnies
all of these were miles ahead of who we were
we were freaks
lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
oddities
juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
but at night
while the others slept
we kept walking the tightrope
it was practice
and yeah
some of us fell

but I want to tell them
that all of this shit
is just debris
leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought
we used to be
and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you built a cast around your broken heart
and signed it yourself
you signed it
“they were wrong”
because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a click
maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything
maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth
to show and tell but never told
because how can you hold your ground
if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it
you have to believe that they were wrong

they have to be wrong

why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
fuck off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

of course
they did

but our lives will only ever always
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty.

Not Caring

Not Caring
(Original Poem on Live & Dictate)

Sometimes you ask me how I am,
And I want to tell you the truth,
but then the words die on my tongue
when I realized that you didn’t care anyway.

You asked me if I was all right, if I felt fine,
I wanted to tell you that I hurt and that I miss you
But I looked into your averted eyes,
and realized that you never cared anyway.

Sometimes I want to tell you
about the many things in my life that I want
You, to be part of.
But then I delete all the lines that I typed,
and each word that I wrote
because I know you were not interested anyway.

You ask me how was life for me now,
And I wanted to shout that I missed you,
And that I hurt without you in my life,
And that I am incomplete without you,
But those words never leave my throat,
For you asked but never listened,
Before walking away.