let’s talk about death

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Content Warning: I talk about some pretty morbid topics, not because I necessarily want to but because it’s become important to process some recent events.

Last week, after an already incredibly emotional series of events, as I was waiting to board my plane to London, I found out that Eric Judge, my fraternity brother and someone I always respected and looked up to had passed away. If you have read my post about pain, then you’ll know exactly what my body and mind went through at that point. I had to find a space, sit down and try to calm myself before I got onto the plane, because I had lost someone I cared about and the realization that I would never see them again hit me. This time last year, my paternal grandfather passed away of old age, and I remember feeling a reeling sense of shock. Now, my body knew what death of a close one was and immediately reacted emotionally.

Eric was one of the first people I met in my fraternity as I began my education process and immediately I knew he would play an important role in my understanding of Lambda Chi Alpha. Yes, he was known as the frequent caps player and the teacher of all things beer related, but he was also a brother in the most expansive form of the word. He would celebrate everyone who joined the organization, and he would shut down anyone who spoke poorly of another brother without regard for their dignity. It’s weird to speak praises about those who have passed only after they left, especially knowing that he was in Chicago and I only spent one other occasion with him before his incident. I wish I could have told him all of this – how I respected him and how my time in the US was made that much more special because of him. I will remember him dearly. Eric, this is my way of processing your death. I tried speaking to friends and family, but it helped little knowing that I had lost someone I cared for. My friends mean the world to me and it’s horrible that the cosmos wouldn’t give us any more times to celebrate our lives.

Eric’s death made me all the more resilient in speaking my truth to others. I am no longer ashamed of being honest and spontaneous in my expression to those I care about. It’s naive for me to claim that as we get older, death will be a more commonplace occurrence because so will marriage, birth and all kinds of other celebration. I am entering a portion of my life where the innocence of living is eroding and I have to choose how I interpret the things that happen around me.

There is a part two to this post, one that I feel I must write although I’m not sure how to write it. As if Eric’s death wasn’t enough to dampen my mood, as I landed in London I saw on the news that there was another terrorist incident in northern London. The cities I plan to visit – Berlin, Brussels, Paris – are also no longer strangers to acts of terrorism. I am literally living in a time and place where the concept of chaos is close and familiar and I have to adapt to the fact that I have to choose daily to live my best possible life. I have to also choose more than ever to be cautious, alert and smart about things around me.

But there’s this weird what-if question that remains. What if I do die? I know, I know – the human psyche is afraid of the question. It’s one of my biggest fears in life – my mortality. It’s very much why I continue to do the legacy work that I do. I feel like I should start thinking about it though, not to give the enemy any upper-hand in mental victory, but to give it the intellectual space it needs to provide insight. I immediately thought of my family and my close friends, the ones who actually do care for me the same way I cared about Eric and maybe even more. I immediately thought of the same pain crashing through them and felt awful myself. I want my life to speak for itself, my values and my character to continue beyond my existence. I want my conversations to have lasting impacts on the people I had them with. I want people to keep believing in a community that supports itself and is resilient.

Ironically, even considering the impact of my death made me so much more committed to fighting to live and to fight the forces that threaten my or any of my loved ones’ existences. There’s so much more work that needs to be done on this planet and no one should be able to steal that opportunity from us. I also recognize that the issue is so complex because of the politics involved. Terrorism only seems real because it happens in cities with people of actual power, but attacks happen in other parts of the world including Syria and Iraq, by countries like the US and UK. People all over the world are dying because it seems easy to detonate a bomb. Death is becoming a stranger topic until it hits someone close.

That has to stop. This desensitization to death has to stop. We need to feel emotionally connected to every aspect of the human condition and that means recognizing that it’s completely wrong that people have to die for acts they were never responsible for. I am carrying and will continue to carry this pain. I have a few ideas of how to move towards addressing these problems and am making efforts towards them, but I hope everyone who reads this recognizes they have that power to change their perspective on death in the world.

this is a perspective shift.

make a difference.

i know nothing

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I haven’t told a story in a while. I feel like I have words lodged here and there, attempting to come together like colors form a picture. The mind gets clear when I can write, when I can put down the emotions and the sensations in a form that exceeds itself. So write I will, and perhaps I can understand then.

____

This story starts with a man not too different from me. Eazy was at his regular spot, on the roof of the building he lived in. He had his notebook in his hand, a Moleskine that was gifted to him by his ex-girlfriend, and that he ironically had never used till she broke up with him.

‘Never could understand what was so special about these’ he said, running his hand over the page. ‘I could just as easily write on a notebook from the C-Store.’

The landscape in front of him always had a way of inspiring him. It was Toronto, 2016. Young and bold. This was going to be his break , his big entrance into the world of literary stardom. He had already traveled enough and he was ready to summarize the world in a singular expression. No longer would he be subject to the whims of a system, he thought.

‘It’s time to tell my own story’ he mumbled under his breath.

He uncapped his pen, and moved the top to the page.

‘He…’

He continued staring at the page. Where are my words, he thought. The sensation was a tightness in his brain, blinding his ideas and stuttering his thoughts.

‘He… lived an exceptional life’

Eazy stared at the words he had just wrote. It was only his first line and he already felt unhappy with his work. There was a different story he was trying to tell, and yet, he didn’t know how to say it.

“Eazy, are you there?” he heard someone call out.

He turned around to see the silhouette of a long-haired woman walk towards him.

‘God, she’s always been beautiful’ he thought as he continued sitting.

‘Hey Tina’ he replied. ‘Of course you’d know where I’d be’

‘Everytime Eazy’ she said , as she sat next to him. ‘How’s that story coming along?’ she asked as she peered over into his notebook.

His hands quickly covered the one line he had written. ‘It’s not done…not yet at least’ he mumbled.

‘I saw the one line you wrote’ Tina said as she laughed, ‘It’s not your best work’

‘You’re a great friend, you know, Tina.’ Eazy retorted. He continued staring at his Moleskine for a while more before turning back to her. ‘I’m having problems figuring out what I really want to tell. There’s a story that needs to come out , but it just isn’t.’ he said.

‘Talk to me Eazy, I’m here’ Tina said, placing her hand on his. Eazy turned to her and smiled.

‘Well, alright. Tell me something, Tina. What do you think is a universal theme in all stories you’ve read or seen?’ he started.

Tina stared out into horizon, thinking. ‘It’s about good vs. evil’ she said. ‘It’s always some good guy fighting a bad guy, and saving the day’

‘That’s exactly what I thought as well. Yet it didn’t make sense.’ Eazy replied.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well think about this. In this world, is the fight really against evil people?’

Tina stared back at him for a while. ‘Of course. There’s ISIS, there’s North Korea, heck, there’s disgusting people in this very neighborhood. What on earth are you saying if you’re insinuating that there aren’t bad people out there?’

‘I’m not saying anything like that. There’s absolutely no denying that there are incorrigible people out there. But I’m a writer, and as a writer, it’s impossible for me to see someone as good or bad. ‘

Tina pulled her hand away from his.

‘Listen to what I have to say. Just hear me out. I don’t think you can ever claim someone to be good or bad without recognizing the limitations to the label. You’re talking about a person at a specific point in time, detached from his past and his future . What if he turns evil at some point in his life? Does that mean he was never good? Being good had nothing to do with him becoming evil, yet for all sakes and purposes, the label is stripped from him because his evil is his legacy. What would have kept him from evil? Good? I doubt it.’

‘So you’re saying that evil people are naturally bound for their futures? That they’re destined for evil?’  Tina probed.

‘No, no. But that’s an interesting idea’ he said, as he scribbled the thought onto his palm. ‘What I think I’m trying to say is that there’s a bigger thematic war going on, in both the literary world and ours. One that actually makes more sense. That’s where I’m stuck.’

‘I hear you’ Tina said. She turned back towards the horizon, and Eazy did too. He heard her take a deep breath and sigh heavily. It was funny how Tina was here all this while. She had been supportive of his writing from the beginning, the one and only. If anything, she was the reason why he was back on the roof.

‘Look at that skyline, huh?’ she muttered. ‘Sometimes, this is what I need to take on the day.’

‘Hope!’ Eazy shouted.

‘What?’ Tina said, as she turned towards him.

‘The thematic battle. It’s between Hope and Despair. Both are forces, dynamic and unstable , unlike good and evil.  But more importantly, they are both pure, sincere and absolutely consuming. That’s the bigger battle in our lives. We have to continue hoping, because the loss of hope, the start of despair, is when we have truly lost.’

‘We have to keep believing.’ Tina smiled. ‘I like it.’

‘I like it too. And I think I know just the story to write.’ Eazy said , smiling back as he grabbed her hand and held tightly onto it.

Their eyes locked onto each other, and they continued smiling. Tina turned her head back to the horizon and paused for a while before finally, with hope in her voice, uttered ‘Tell me the story, Eazy’

And that he did.

____

hooah.

an unyielding truth – say something, i’m giving up on you

As you all know, when I can’t express what I feel , I write out a story to describe it

Here goes.

___

Ginger had walked into the Last Resort Saloon. There were few faces inside the musty outlet – old stooges who sat on stools by lonely tables and a drunken narcoleptic at the bar.  He walked to the corner of the granite bar and climbed onto the shaky stool.

The bar was the only thing that stood out in the whole saloon – its finish was new and deliberate. Ginger placed his elbows firmly on it and whistled to the barmaid.The buxotic babe straddled over and leaned onto the counter.

“Whatcha having, honey?” she slurred.

Ginger’s eyes shifted onto the nametag on the barmaid’s left tit.  He raised his eyebrow quizzically.

“The name’s Goddess, Goddess Tanary. ‘Ma parents gave it to me as a kid and I reckoned it was a name that people would remember. Now are you gonna keep on staring at my tits or are you gonna order something, honey?”

Ginger briefly glanced back up at the barmaid’s face before looking beyond her to the bar. He pointed his finger at a bottle on the top shelf, right at the side.

“The Macallan 55? Honey, you better have enough to pay” she said

Ginger just nodded his head, and continued to take out a cigarette to light. As he started smoking, the barmaid poured the Macallan into a chilled whiskey glass. Everyone knew, you only drank this straight.

She pushed the glass over to him and proceeded to turn away from him before she stopped.

“I don’t normally ask people this,but I can’t help it with you, honey. What’s your story?” she turned back and questioned.

Ginger put his nose into the mouth of the glass and inhaled deeply the whiskey fumes. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander for a bit. The sip came next, he felt the gold liquid flow down his throat and burn a bit inside.

“I’m heading beyond the Saloon” he said nonchalantly.

“You’re another one of them dreamers then?” the barmaid replied. She grabbed her own stool and sat across him.

“They call me Ginger ” he said.

“You hair is black.” the barmaid almost immediately retorted.

“The name’s still Ginger. I’m looking for the ultimate experience”

“Beyond the Saloon is the place for you then. If you’re here, you’re probably ready to let everything else go. This is where the most hopeless of dreamers come”

“That’s my anthem. I realised it just today- that I was bored, that sitting and sipping coffee with people I couldn’t care less about wasn’t my song, and that I must get lost to find something new”

“You’re all fools, honey. Follow me” the barmaid said, and walked to the door exiting to a back-room. She opened it, and let the Dreamer walk in.

“Take a look at that window. What do you see?” the barmaid pointed to a small window at the end of the room.

Ginger walked over and peered in.

“They’re all lost. So many of them, just walking around, just aimless and lost” he said, nails piercing into the wood framing the window.

“They were all dreamers. They still are, but look what happens when you cross the Saloon”

“Is there nothing to discover?” Ginger asked, still irked by the realization.

“They’re discovering something new every second. They’ve put themselves into a world that they’re finally happy with, but they’re no longer part of this one. It’s their ultimate experience”

“That can’t be. There must be more to this world, more to our existence. The Saloon was the marker of all that was safe, is there nothing beyond it?”

“There’s only what you want to see. Honey, you sure you still want to go?”

“I have to , now. I drank the Macallan. ”

“That you did. Let’s get onto it then”

“I want to say something though. I thought about it abit. I don’t mind crossing the Saloon now. What this world has to  offer is too little for me. The conversations bore me to sleep, the excitements are limited to giggles that slither away quickly, we are but random metrics on a larger graph.I would rather make my own world”

“You’d rather be God. That’s why your kind cross the Saloon anyway. And that’s why I’m the Goddess. It’s time” the barmaid said for the final time. She grabbed a knife hidden in her apron pocket, and quickly plunged it into the gut of the Dreamer.

The Dreamer whelped, and sunk straight onto the floor, immediately unconscious. The barmaid walked over to the window and waited.

A figure formed outside the window, on the other side. Slowly it gathered, and finally the barmaid was staring back at Ginger.

“You’re free now. Go , go and dream wild and endless dreams.”

She walked back to the granite bar. The next dreamer would come soon. His moment of last resort would be hers.

___

geronimo.

i think best when i’m drunk

It’s all over now

so let me write 10 random things here –  because they float in my mind like incessant rats pecking at the edges of my sanity. these things are part of a whole, these things all make me feel cold.

  1. this is an exciting process. my mind goes numb again, i sleep late and wake up early. i skip breakfast, i drink to tone down the ringing noise, i let my ideas just run off onto paper and then into reality. i’ve had such highs before, and I know i must run the race to make best use of them. Yet, the day will come – when I die once again. everything will have a game-end – and this time I will be the cost.
  2. partnerships are tricky business. there’s a line you have to draw between being a friend, and being in business. but honesty has always been our key- and I’m a clinical liar with anyone else.so let’s keep this torch lighted- let’s not let metaphorical illusions get in our way. let’s fight , because I’m a warrior at heart.
  3. my body is dying. the heat load i’ve taken upon myself , together with the fitness regime I must endure to get back to shape and the emotional stability I must portray have taken its toll. geronimo, i sleep and wake up in a wink – and my body carries the pain for me.
  4. i’m glad my life is become so fulfilling. i’ve met new people (celebrities, experts, activists) and as I stand at this point – I know I’ve become 10x better than the person I was 3 months ago. God has shown favour on me. This is high intensity- high impact.
  5. Where I used to be afraid I was losing friends to time and travel, I’ve begun to treasure the few that I care about.  To me , I’m utterly loyal to those who believe in me and vengeful on those who try me. It’s not Christian , yes. Moving forward, I think I’m pretty happy with the posse that I’ve managed to discover, and am glad for the nights out I have with these individuals.
  6. Where the heart used to yearn for a relationship and a romance with someone , now lies a romance with life and God. Yes, I still go for random dates and meet with old flames but I’m happy that I’ve become satisfied with a pace that is God-driven and confident in a future that will unravel on itself. Boy, am I looking forward to college also.
  7. my music playlist is a lot more interesting now. as is my hidden finds. catalogue. as is my good reads. catalogue. as is my business ideas. sheet that i carry in my wallet. lists are great. they help me keep track of the fascinating things I encounter along the way.
  8. leadership is a lot more dynamic now. am i a good leader? I hope to be. I hope to inspire, to overcome, to take charge. yet, more importantly I want to groom, I want to unleash potential, I want to explode people to new heights. Mentoring is an investment – it’s not as easy as speaking words. Having over 90 people looking to you in total for a say or instruction is a hefty thought for someone who hasn’t entered university or work yet.
  9. I’m a purveyor of good things – talent, awards and skills. When I ORD , i don’t just hope to take a picture of all that I’ve collected in my time here in army – but a picture of the lessons I’ve learnt and the abilities I’ve gained. I don’t know how to capture it.
  10. i will have a hotel in my name called the rovik. this is my ambition speaking. and it’s proven to be a force not to be reckoned with.

there, my mind is a lot clearer now. i can stop drinking now.

to the rest – check out our facebook page here http://facebook.com/thehiddengood  – LIKE AND SHARE PEOPLE. I DEPEND ON YOU.

to the sleepers in the day,

rovik.

geronimo.

give us clean hands; a generation that seeks

i’m very happy now. in fact this is the happiest i’ve been for a long time.

i don’t know, but I like where I am now. God has brought me here- he is the only one that has provided me joy and peace that surpasses understanding. Through the people I’ve met, the conversations I’ve shared, and the experiences made I’ve seen God work mightily in my life, and I’m grateful for this point.

This is the high point of my journey – and I will remember God’s grace so that when I am in the valley I will remember it’s the same God who’s walking with me.

and I’m especially happy…

but pictures speak louder than words.

rovik.

 

rovik. writes about The Hidden Good – Singapore Unveiled.

first things first- by the end of this article I hope you share this post or our FB page. why? read on.

so most of you should know that I’m working on another crazy idea. and i’m really excited about this one.

it started off as a conversation between Leon, a great buddy of mine, Qin En and me in the MRT. We were all standing near the “Reserved Seat” in the MRT with a train packed to the rims, yet nobody was sitting on it. There was this sense of fear that if someone who did not belong to the required category of elderly, handicapped and pregnant sat there, they would be immediately shunned and cast to the dark hallways of STOMP.

there was a sense of fear in our society to live in peace and pleasantness with one another.

and we realised that as much as the shaming of bad acts in Singapore is done in STOMP and forms a part of our social consciousness, there’s a lack of the celebrating of the good in our society to counter that. where’s the other side of the story? does it not exist?

we all know it does. we’ve encountered amazing people who would go a step out from their comfort zone to help someone else in their society – who would do simple acts of goodwill simply because they can and will. yet it’s hidden in our community – hiding in the shadows of the critics who only like to point fingers and yell targets at people.

we aim to uncover that hidden good. we aim to show Singapore what it is, and has the potential to be.

through our videos, we expose the real side of Singapore by instigating responses, breaking down barriers and creating avenues for interaction. we’re ruthless – this is not a school project nor is it an attempt at getting short term KPIs. we’re here to prove a point, and we’re ready to put Singaporeans in the position to show what they’ve got.

there may be disappointments in how they react, but based on our filming experience and our encounters – the vast majority of Singaporeans will do and have done good in our videos. we’ll show both sides – but the point is the same – would you now take up the mindset that you too can be that guy?

once the hidden good is unveiled , our society can grow. we can look past our disappointments and struggles, and seek to build a common future. because we know we can trust the guy next to us to have our back.

we’ll be posting up updates and launching in April but keep up with our teasers and sneak peeks.

our FB is https://www.facebook.com/thehiddengood

our twitter is @thehiddengood.

SHARE! yes , please share because we want to reach as many people as we can with this message and get them involved.

if you can act, take professional videos, handle online tools or just want to be a part of our team just contact us .

the rest, share our message. we’re a mishmash of people from all over Singapore with very little in common other than the fact that we’re from the same country. we’re not necessarily nationalists – we just believe in the human ability .

and that’s the whole point.

p.s. remember to SHARE!