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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Hendrick’s with Hobbes

In Drunken Philosophy, life, Of Power on November 30, 2014 at 2:56 am

#Ferguson #RayRice #JianGhomeshi #whyistayed #whyileft #BigEarsTeddy

Hendrick's With HobbesHashtags violent enough to descend Hobbes to my apartment door, in the “all of everything” that is New York. He didn’t show up uninvited – I don’t appreciate these surprises as they disrupt my creative flow and derail my work cycle. Rather, he’s been on my mind. His theory of the natural condition of mankind has been deeply ingrained in me, even before the POLS250 days. Political theory – a subject dense enough to have induced anxiety attacks of former classmates, is not the average cup of tea, or your usual Saturday night delight. Hendrick’s is served.

Between #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, the world as it is, glitters with more abundance than ever. Yet, stripped away of material excess, the State of Nature remains a “war of all against all,” in which human beings continue to constantly seek to destroy each other in an increasingly incessant pursuit of power. Life in the State of Nature remains “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In the increasingly interconnected world, every platform amplifies, every echo resounds, every wall reflects, every Retweet further perpetuates. Noise levels have become assaulting; silence is harder to hear. Impressed, Tom was, of my modern recount of Leviathan. He noticed the tattoo above my left heel; Chapter XIII was my favourite, I told him.

At my piano, I entertained him with some twelve tone ideas I had been engrossed in for a brass quintet reading at Juilliard. Perhaps a wild mistake for a man who didn’t live long enough to even experience Bach, but it was the precise prerequisite to tolerate any tinkering on a gravely out-of-tune piano. He took to the Hendrick’s. Well… given the options, I, too, prefer music of his era. Sorry, Jon, but you know this about me.

Tom served me a top-up, and inquired about the concert-program-turned-coaster beneath my glass. Fragile Freedom, he noted. Yes, now that was music to his ears. Having conceived his masterpiece during the English Civil War, arguing for Social Contract and an absolute Sovereign, he took serious intrigue with the Velvet Revolution and the transformation it had ignited. In times of war, freedom is fought for with blood, tears, and lives on the line; freedom is a dream, elusive and fragile. In times of peace, freedom is a blessing, yet bruised by irony, its existence seems more fragile, because we didn’t fight to secure it. If freedom in our lives cease to exist, it’s because we have failed to own it.

I told Tom about the woman at the street corner (see Worth) only a week ago. As life would have it, I met her only 5 minutes after having left the Fragile Freedom concert. Our acquaintanceship literally formed on concrete, where she was drowning in a sea of feelings – feelings strong enough to have halted my kinetic march home on a very cold night; feelings that I remember to be as destructive as they were debilitating. Feelings, the very essence of what makes us humans; the most primal and deeply rooted are fear and desire.

At the most primitive level, fear is instilled in us to trigger retreat from life-threatening danger. This type of fear saves us; its value and utility lie within self-preservation. However, a continual state of fear paralyzes us, and fear-induced-paralysis feeds the demon. I know this from experience. Abuse is the name of a monster whose initial attack is an assault, where our blood is but an appetizer. What feeds it, and what strengthens it, is the target’s submission, the ultimate relinquish of one’s power. If after the first attack, you didn’t run for your life, then the alchemy of fear clearly didn’t serve you. It didn’t serve S, nor is it serving Janay Rice. With only a glance of the news, Tom was tickled to see that his theories remain relevant to this day, that even in 2014, we still live in a Hobbesian world.

Out of the crucible of fear, are endless narratives of #WhyIStayed. These voices aren’t limited to romantic relationships, domestic partnerships, or any relationship of a sexual nature. The monster’s desires go beyond carnal appetite; their lifeblood runs on power – and thus, it feeds on every type of relationship.

Another drink. Tom noted the photo next to the Hendrick’s, and asked me about the beautiful girl in pink. Can you blame him? “She’s engaged to an amazing man,” I said. “But why is she crying right now?” Touché, I forget that the dead can hear beyond our mortal ears, and that even with the sonic assault of my out-of-tune keys, Tom was able to register the sounds of her tears.

“She, too, is battling with a monster.”

“Tell me more…”

“You know the story. The very foundation of the Leviathan, and of your life’s work. Every man for himself. She signed a contract with a monster who clearly cares nothing of her welfare or time; she is not valued for even a fraction of her worth, let-alone well-being, but exploited for results, an experience any high-performer could relate to, as most have attracted and/or experienced some form of such abuse in their trajectory. Abusing the contract, the monster reigns sovereign, which actually, defines him as a tyrant.”

You know how this is going to end.”

“I don’t assume that I do. Although I hope, as I have asked her, to reclaim her self. To own herself. The possibility for an alternate ending, for a counterstrike, exists as long as she hasn’t completely relinquished her power.”

I use the word “target” because “victim” carries with it too much negative connotation. It is not to deny the power dynamic, but “victim” denotes the battle is over, whereas “target” is a status of a fluid nature. I refuse to further strip away one’s dignity by word-painting them into a position of even less power. Words matter. The monster is after power; fearlessness is its kryptonite. Targets can win this battle, but only by fearlessly owning themselves.

“…fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow of the bone; … this past, this endless struggle to achieve and reveal and confirm a human identity, human authority, yet contains, for all its horror, something very beautiful. I do not mean to be sentimental about suffering – enough is certainly as good as a feast – but people who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are… He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakable.” James Baldwin

Unshakable starts with knowing your worth. He who thinks we live in a time of peace is under grand illusion, for so many of us aren’t even at peace with our selves. The only freedom that’s antifragile, is the one fought for, by exercising supreme authority over your self, owning your self. Owning your difference, your narrative, your time, your choices, your mistakes, and your power.

For Tom, sovereignty is the soul of the Leviathan. I say, sovereignty is the soul of antifragile freedom.


P.S. Di, the copy of Antifragile, which our photo is propped on, is yours. I remember your traveling style to be with overweight suitcases, nude pumps on feet, and a hard-cover book on hand – all signs of an inexperienced tourist, really, but as facts would have it, you jet through 60+ countries on a regular basis, so I don’t feel too badly about this contribution to the weight you carry.

P.P.S. M, Hendrick’s and rosewater go very well together – better than Hennessy and Guru, the way we had once experimented in our undergrad days. I mixed in the bottle you had brought back from the Middle East. Tom was a fan. 

P.P.P.S. Jon, having said what I said, I am nonetheless grateful for the limitations that push creative growth 🙂 I hope cocktails are being served with the readings, and not after the readings. I’m aware that this may read rather suggestively.



In life, Restart on November 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

worthThis isn’t a pity-blog. I write, with sub-zero intention to ask for sympathy, which in my books is the poorest form of begging. I write, because what I’m about to say, is clearly not something we hear enough. The power to be, the freedom to be, are the branches of the same tree, that’s rooted deeply in responsibility.

21h30, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, a night where it was too cold to sit at a concrete street corner. I was walking home, briskly, in my own zone, as usual, because my jungle education has trained me that a prolonged, or even an establishment of eye-contact with a stranger could mean trouble. On the streets, I oscillate between the observer and the oblivious, depending on mood, distractions, immediate environment, company… Most of the time, I’m focused on my audiobook. Most of the time, I don’t give a second glance to street-dwellers; I don’t give to encourage begging. Perhaps that makes me heartless, but I believe any fully able-bodied being can, and therefore should, contribute to their society by taking care of themselves, so to reduce the amount of #firstworldproblems, which by definition and existence, is somewhat of a privileged thing.

I walked past such a street-dweller last night. Caught my eye because she was too beautiful; she didn’t belong. If this had been a scene in a movie, the casting director must have been high. But it’s real life. Whether she belonged or not, she was there. In real life, as we do in movies, we all look for that one thing we identify with – the parallel; the relevance; the relate-able elements. As I walked past her, my shadows merged with her existence. My bones felt a familiar chill. The echos of my footsteps became increasingly uncomfortable for the next block, until I turned around, and there I was, at her end of the street corner.

How life imitates art.

What unfolded was almost a modern rendition of Bernard-Marie Koltès’ “The Night Just Before the Forests.” A long monologue I had studied tirelessly, rehearsed endlessly, and performed in no less than a dozen ways. The ways of being had long been adapted to heart; my acting coach hit this one on the bullseye. Every character I play stays with me, in some form or fragment. She said I was strong enough to play the part written for a man. She saw more in me than I cared to believe.

I reached out to her, the beautiful, crying, woman partially out of instinct, and partially conditioned by training. As I do with most tasks in life, being an artist, after all. It’s unbelievable how much you feel safe to reveal to a stranger, who are never so unforgiving as those who claim to love you. I listened to her as she shared her stories, told her that at least she had the spine and dignity to remain sitting up, while sunk below my lowest points, I was completely horizontal on concrete…only about a year ago. She had just run away from an abusive husband. Her second marriage.

S: “I don’t know if I just attract abusive men, or if all men are the same.”

X: “I would say it’s both.”

I shared a lot of my past that I don’t care to relive. I don’t have the answers to all the questions she posed me. But I know with concrete certainty, that under no circumstance, should we bleed our own worth in the name of someone else’s pain. Not even in hell, would our worth be traded below battered spirits and marked bodies.

S: “It’s happened before… we just had dinner, and we both made a list – a list to work on…but when we got home…”

X: “Have you reported it to anyone?”

S: “No. Everybody loves him. No one believes me.”

Why did I even ask? Have I reported to anyone? I did, that first time, when I was 9. No one believed me. I stayed at home, pretending to be sick for the whole week… 16 years and 28 countries later, the matrix of danger have only grown richer. Rich enough to see patterns; rich enough to see that life, is a battlefield; rich enough to know that my acting coach was right, that to survive, you have to be no less than a warrior.

I gave her a number of support lines, resources, therapy-related things I had gathered during my darker times. I told her that help is there… counseling is there… but perhaps the most direct way of help, is simply sheltering her for the night.

We stayed at that corner until she ran out of the crumbled (but clean) Starbucks napkins I had (out of slight embarrassment) offered her; until I could no longer feel my legs.

S: “I don’t know what to do. I want to just run away, to leave, from everything. Or should I go back and deal with it?

X: “You have to deal with it… Nothing resolves itself. But you don’t have to deal with it right away, or right now. Do it when you’re ready…”

There are different ways to go about healing. For a while, I spent 5 hours of my Tuesday evenings deep in BK, with a group I didn’t feel the slightest sense of belonging. I choose to spend my life differently now. But I remember the scars as I do with the burns. I use it to fuel my art now. I use it to light up inside.

Worth begins with self-care. Love and light are the two essentials, without which life would be a path of decay. Those who dare diminish your worth is criminal. If you allow it, you are the accomplice. Never too late to walk away. Never too late to start a new journey. Never too late to start loving yourself.


*Shh…Don’t Wake Me

In life on December 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” ~ Lewis Carroll

One of my best friends recently advised me to not “dwell on the impossible”… the only problem is, I don’t believe in the impossible… Can someone please tell me what that is?

From the moment I could make sense of things, I’ve always dreamed of and fantasized about the impossible and the improbable. When others asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’ve responded with long lists of mythological creatures and faeries before eventually making it to a mermaid, and other more probable things…

I probably over-dosed on mythologies, fairytales, fantasies, even science-fiction… and as the silly child, I believed all to be true. I drew my own faeries, created my own myths, and even invented a coded language with my friends. Despite being a city girl, I’ve spent much time in beautiful gardens, and I would let my imagination run wild as I chase after and dialogue with flower fairies ( I was a bit crazy, or just wildly imaginative, and with time, as my friends and most people grew out of the silliness, I seemed to have gotten more struck by its intensity.

My imagination is my most prized possession, and my art feeds on it. Thank goodness my career allows me to indulge in these fantasies, because as actress, “impossible activities” is just part of the many exercises that form our training… The Meisner technique demands the actors to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances, and this is where my weaknesses in the “Starbucks world” transform into real strengths…

I am excited by what might be, not what is, which I find so boring, and passé. The very existence of what “is” leaves no room for creation; it’s the unknown that captivates me, pushes me, and drives me. I’m a dreamer, if you can’t tell by now. I dream all the time, unconsciously at night, and consciously by day. But I’ve served my time in the “Starbucks world,” and conditioned by it, I still have trouble letting go, but that’s far from impossible.

Despite where we may be in our minds, ultimately, we all live in the Starbucks world, it is what it is. But sometimes, a little fantasy goes a long way. If you ever reminisced of your childhood, you know what I mean. You know the feeling that you miss. Because you, too, no matter how battered by life you may be, you once believed in fantasy…

Sometimes, imagination is the only cure to everything you find dull. When I was last wandering the streets of the Starbucks world, my instincts led me to a tattoo shop. Scribed in Tibetan, inked in my skin, is the word “fantasy”. So if ever I lose my way, I’ll never be really lost…I’ll always have something to hold onto, I’ll always believe. 

Even when I’m awake, I’m dreaming… so either dream with me, or pass me by, but whatever you do, don’t wake me…


Give me rain, I’ll show you dance.

In life, Love, XX & XY on December 18, 2011 at 1:57 am

Rain On Me

It’s been 8 months since I’ve written for myself; the kind of writing that is indulging. I admit, I’ve been bottling up, and now? Now I’ve ran out of bottles…

8 months have passed, and perhaps the biggest change is that I’ve learned to genuinely feel again. Silly, because I’ve always felt, certainly, I’ve felt deeply since my very first memory, and I have an impeccable memory. I remember everything, even the moments I’d rather have not lived; it’s a blessing and a curse.

Through with the generalities, the problem – my problem(s) – with being so acutely and intensely sensitive, is that it’s actually tormenting to live, and exponentially worse to love. You see, I have a tendency to fall for the wrong people, and when I do, I give and love so intensely that I get blinded, derailed, and there’s no one there to catch me. Did I mention I fall for the wrong men? Legitimacy is so overrated.

I gave myself into love and into madness. Yet I never gave myself a chance to be loved. The moment someone confesses serious feelings for me is the moment I fly away, you can almost count on that. I’m a free spirit that will not be caged. If you want to keep me, don’t date me. That’s what I always say I’ve always said.

But that’s changed…

I’m in love. It’s scary for me to say this, because I’m going out of my comfort zone – and as a performing artist and trained actress, that’s a pretty big zone – if I could figuratively pinpoint a place where I feel I’m at, I would say Siberia… Yeah… I’m that far out of my world. But don’t judge just yet, because I have a vague idea of how ridiculous this equation is… chasing dreams in NYC + in love = Siberia. Under the circumstances, I can forgive you for not believing me, but really, I’ve always excelled at math…

Maybe Siberia has rainbows and butterflies, too, you know. But I’m really not trying to make it sound like Venice or Vienna or any other romantic, exotic, happening place. I say Siberia because, well, I hate to repeat myself, but I fall for the wrong men. Okay, so things haven’t changed completely…but enough.

Enough to make me feel, for the first time in my life, intoxicated in love. Only weeks ago, did I experience one of the deepest pains of loss. In darkness and isolation, I was mourning, yet when he spoke, his presence was like a ray of sunshine that penetrated right through me… he was like air, lifting me out of darkness, and making me breathe again.  I felt my world was a 2D black and white image compared to the kaleidoscope of colours that I see through him. I felt so much I’ve never felt before, and I wanted to feel more… I suddenly realized that when I gave myself into love before, I gave up what I deserved.

And perhaps by being in love this time, I’m doing it again, and perhaps I wouldn’t even come out whole, but even then, even with all the pain and hurt that is inevitable, I am surrendering myself, with reckless abandonment. Because it’s worth the trip; it’s the only trip that ever really matters.

So rain down on me, pour it all out on me. Some people stay idle to wait for the storm to pass, but I dance with every raindrop that falls. I’ll even throw away my umbrella, so that I could be completely free to embrace all that there is, so that I could catch it all. I won’t run towards shelter, or hide under a bridge… I will dance with the rain, to the rhythm of the storm, let passion decide each turn and the wind choreograph each twirl. I will captivate love, the way you’ve had it captivate me, and I will be ever-electrifying.


Moving On

In life on February 9, 2011 at 7:01 am

Where am I these days? You ask.
It’s really hard to say. Do you mean geographically? Because that changes quite often. I like to say that I am where I am needed – because that’s the truth, but it’s only a partial truth, because I am really where work requires me to be. Yet even when I’m stationary, I’m not. Unless I’m playing the piano, my heart is somewhere my mind isn’t, and my body is somewhere even further from the two. They always seem to be in separate places, unfolding their own ways. I am only one when I’m playing the piano, where I surrender my everything to music. Every other moment in my life, I am divided – not by choice, it’s just the way I’ve become.

I’ve also become more and more free – free from attachment, and I like it this way. Have I considered settling down? Certainly. I’ve considered it and the answer is no, thank you.

One of the qualities that I don’t like about myself is my weakness in saying no. But that’s changing, as I’m learning. In the process, I may piss off certain people…that’s okay though, I’ll make new friends.

My high school best friend is getting married in 10 days, and a friend said that “we are all looking for our ‘Azams'”. There is indeed truth in this statement, but I don’t feel longing… I am not sad or depressed because I haven’t found my “Azam”, instead, I am happy – the fact that I may meet him as I move on with life excites me. When I am not moving, I feel imprisoned; complacency is the death of me.

Yet I’m not the type to never look back, either. I don’t burn my bridges, and I do miss the people and places where I’ve left…that’s why I do re-visit “the past”. Call me sentimental if you wish, you can even call me something that pleases your ego, because you won’t have another opportunity to make that mistake.

Prompted by a recent event, I realized that once I’ve left a place, I’ve really left. This place is Toronto. Observations and experiences that same day mounted to something quite hurtful. The problem is with me though, as I still hold dear some of the friendships and relationships I once had. Surrounded by the same people, I am not who I once was, and you just don’t get it.

Because I care, I carry too much of the past with me, and it might be better to let go and move on. I may be tempted to look back from time to time – but I’ll save myself the journey. The math is simple – if I don’t go back, I could be twice as far in the direction of my dreams. If I don’t go back, maybe my mind, body, and heart will eventually arrive in one place.



Fresh Innocence

In Family on February 2, 2011 at 12:34 am

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve had lots to do. We’ve all heard that one before – but no really, I have. January came and left just like that – wasn’t it supposed to be a quiet month after the holidays? Yet the holidays live on – by the time I finish this post, it will be New Year’s Eve for the year of the Hare.

I get a re-start. Lucky me.

For the 5th year in a row, it’s a new year without family. Although deep in my heart, I want to spend it in Toronto with a lady who is very special to me, it is likely that I’ll be working through the night in the music studio instead. FML, or rather, FJB.

A lot of people have rebellious natures, but I was stupid enough to act on mine. A lot of people have dreams, too, but I actually actively chase them – some people call it courageous, others call it daring, a few call it unrealistic, and pessimists have called it worse things. I don’t care, it’s the only way I’d live.

But there are prices to pay and there are consequences of choosing such a path – I became so caught up in my work, deadlines, and the “fight”, that I let the important bits of life slip on by. When it’s good, I feel on top of the world, but when it’s bad, I feel that life is running me. I can’t cave and withdraw now though – there is no fallback if I don’t look out for myself. There is so much build up, I can almost see the light. This year is critical.

Qui ne risque rien, n’a rien. Some go for the big fish, I have my eyes on the shark.

It flatters me immensely to think that someone would call me “Supergirl” – ever since I could remember, I idolized superman over any other being in this world. My fan-photo is proof. I believed in him then just as how my brother (DJ) believes in the tooth fairy now.

I don’t know if DJ really believes in the tooth fairy, or that he just believes in everything I say – something that touches me deeply, but the money under the pillow certainly helps the tale.

DJ recently lost another tooth, so he put it under his pillow, as he did with previous teeth that had fallen. The next day:

DJ: (in a sad tone) Mommy, you’re right, the tooth fairy must be too busy getting ready for the New Year, that she forgot to come 😦
Mom: (thinking: oh shoot, I forgot about it!) Er…yeah, it’s a very busy time of the year, so why don’t you go back to sleep and give the tooth fairy some more time?
DJ: Okay. *falls back to sleep

30 minutes (or so) later…

DJ: omg look! It’s a 50!!!
Oh really? A 50? That’s generous!
DJ: It’s New Years, of course she’d give me extra! (in Pinyin: dou guo nian le, hai bu duo gei diar ma!!)


I laugh at DJ, but I admire his innocence. It’s something we lose with time, so it is so endearing to see him this way.

But who am I kidding? I still believe in superheroes, they just go by names other than Clark Kent.

P.S. If you are Clark Kent, you should get to know me 😉