user-manual-1I keep getting this feeling that there is a very particular point in time — like on an 18th birthday or graduation day — when everyone is giving a manual on how to live life on Earth. Everyone except, of course, me.

My brain tells me that it is a ridiculous thing. But wouldn’t it be funny if God (or whatever higher authority you believe in, if any) really did subconsciously program each human being with a set of rules of how to appropriately function in society from start to end… except me. A real cosmic joke.

I am reading Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy. It is a tad trying to like the protagonist. This is a man that seems to live in a perpetual state of greener-pastures-on-the-other-side. I am sure (or at least I hope!) that as the story unfolds, this particular part of his being will slowly dissipate.

For me, during my lows, I am pretty much the exact opposite. Whenever my moods swings down, I begin to ask a lot of questions regarding the purpose of doing anything in life. During my lows, there are no greener pastures; or rather, there might be green pastures, but all my mind’s eyes can see is a thousand years into the future where said pastures look exactly like barren wastelands.

Why do we work? Is it just to earn money or because we need something to keep ourselves occupied lest we drive ourselves insane? If the former, why earn that money? Is it to survive or so that you can fill your life with (ultimately) meaningless indulgences? If the latter, why do we constrain ourselves to working these particular hours on these particular days? What do we do with our personal lives? We eat, sleep, shop, fill our lives with hobbies — but to what purpose? What difference would all that make in the grand scheme of things when you are old and grey?

Question after answerless question going round and round my head; leading from one to another to another like an intangible daisy chain; boiling in there without a steam vent in sight. How do people live never knowing — for some: never caring — why they’re here. How does everyone stand that feeling of absolute insignificance when cast against a backdrop of tens of thousands of years of history and greatness that very, very few would ever live up to?

I really need to stop here. It’s riling me up and I have gone so far off topic that I have completely forgotten what I was originally going to right about.

night readingI like night flights.

There I am, sitting in a brightly lit airplane cabin before take-off, reading my book as I wait for all the passengers to board and settle down and for the crew to prep for take-off.

As I sit there reading, a flight attendant comes up and turns the overhead light on for me even though I did not ask for it and I don’t need it yet.

All-in-all, the whole thing only takes but a few seconds, and yet this is my favourite part of the flight.

There is something incredibly comforting in the act — similar to how it felt when your parents tucked you in as a child. Each and every time, it gives me a flashback to being a child and a parent providing extra light to prevent eye-strain (usually accompanied with nagging if said parent was my mother).

The flight attendants are not required by law to turn it on; it is not something they have to do if they don’t feel like it. And yet many do. It is an act of pure, simple consideration for another human being.

Nowadays, I am too old for my parents to coddle me so. In fact, more often than not, I am the one turning the lights on for them instead of the other way around (longer arms).

In my flight yesterday — for the first time in a long time — no flight attendant came to turn my overhead light on before the pilot turned down the cabin lights for take-off. I was plunged into the cold darkness feeling entire bereft without my stolen moment of childlike serenity.

If you are a flight attendant, please make sure your passengers’ overhead lights are on if they are reading… who knows? One of them might be a twenty-something girl who is just trying to grab a small slice of times past.

MPH Bookstore is having a Warehouse Sale (Jalan Section 13/4 for all you PJ people).

Best freakin’ book sale I have ever been to. I was expecting a small sale with a bunch of crappy books no one reads that they were trying to get rid of or types of books that I personally don’t dive into (cookbooks? no thanks!) So you can imagine my most pleasuable surprise when I found that they were actually selling a lot of books that looks really interesting.

I spent over RM 150 on 10 books. Which is actually a real steal seeing how I have been spending about RM 120 a month on books alone since I moved to Kuala Lumpur.

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What did I buy? Let’s see…

There’s One Day The Soldiers Came by Charles London which is a book about the children of war.

There is Tony Parson’s Man and Boy. This has been one book that I’ve wanted to read but not so badly that I am willing to shell our over RM 30 for. Apparently I am willing spend about half that though.

There is Freakonomics. That damn Shock Doctrine book has ignited an interest in economics in me. I never realized just how entangled economics was with everyday life until then… and ever since then, I find I have been more open to discovering more about the subject.

The Catcher in the Rye. I always got to have at least one ‘classic’ everytime I buy a bulk of books. Besides, I have never read it. For some reason, whenever I think Catcher in the Rye, my mind immediately brings up To Kill a Mockingbird. Odd.

The Odyssey of Homer. In all honesty, I don’t know how I am going to finish reading this. I mean, come on! The Odyssey is pretty heavy reading. But I’m (wo)man enought to admit a vice: I am really superficial when it comes to books and their covers and this edition had a really nice cover. I have The Illiad at home (my mom’s), but I have a tendency to overlook it because the cover is so… ick, plus the paper and ink it uses isn’t that great. (That’s one of the reasons I don’t read that many Malaysia-printed books — they have a tendency to use really thick, white paper… it’s like buying a freakin’ textbook!)

I got Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong. How could a book that delves into the study of why we believe right is right and wrong is wrong and what foundations we lay those beliefs upon not interest me?

Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female. My chick-lit dose.

There is Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future. Which isn’t really all that great sounding if you are a firm believer that ‘the car of the future’ has already been created but is hidden away by governments and large corporations so that they can make their millions on oil.

I bought Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust. Stories of various Holocaust survivors. Have any of you ever heard about Eli Harlan? He is a science fiction writer whose works I have never read and am not really that interested in reading. I am, however, impressed with his attitude. He has a couple of YouTube videos that I love like the one about paying writers (which can be applied to just about anyone whose source of income comes from their intellectual property — which, in Malaysia, is worth less than shit anyway). But to get back to point, there is this other YouTube video where he talks about how college students today, though educated, don’t actually know anything about the world anymore. Anyway, I realized after hearing this rant how little I myself know about the Holocaust. I’ve read Anne Frank, but that story kind of… hangs. You don’t actually read into what happens in the camps.

And lastly is Egonomics which is about the upside and downside of ego in business.

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So there we go. 10 books. And I still have to get through my current ones. At the moment, for before-sleep reading, I am reading Empress by Karen Miller (it’s a fantasy book) and for LRT-reading, I am slowly (said with emphasis because I often find I have to re-read paragraphs) making my way through Karl Marx’s Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto.

I was really self-conscious about reading the manifesto in public. I mean, I don’t want people to look at me with looks that say, “You’re a communist?!” But then I thought, “Fuck them all. They probably know as little about communism as I do, but at least I’m open to finding out.” Though to be honest, I don’t think I’ve learned all that much other than the fact that I am really not communist material.

Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too,
And the daft sun-assaulter, he
That frighted thee so oft, is fled or dead:
Save only me
(Nor is it sad to thee!)–
Save only me
There is none left to mourn thee in the fields.

The gray grass is scarce dappled with the snow;
Its two banks have no shut upon the river;
But it is long ago–
It seems forever–
Since first I saw thee glance,
With all thy dazzling other ones,
In airy dalliance,
Precipitate in love,
Tossed, tangled, whirled and whiled above,
Like a limp rose-wreath in a fairy dance.

When that was, the soft mist
Of my regret hung not on all the land,
And I was glad for thee,
And glad for me, I wist.

Thou didst not know, who tottered, wandering on high,
That fate had made thee for the pleasure of the wind,
With those great careless wings,
Nor yet, did I.

And there were other things:
It seemed God let thee flutter from His gentle clasp,
Then fearful He had let thee win
Too far beyond Him to be gathered in,
Snatched thee, o’ereager, with ungentle grasp.

Ah! I remember me
How once conspiracy was rife
Against my life–
The languor of it and the dreaming fond;
Surging, the grasses dizzied me of thought,
The breeze three odors brought,
And a gem-flower waves in a wand!

Then I was distraught
And could not speak,
Sidelong, full on my cheek,
What should that reckless zephyr flight
But the wild touch of thy dye-dusty wing!

I found that wing broken today!
For thou art dead, I said,
And the strange birds say.
I found it with the withered leaves
Under the eaves

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I was ready to skim through this poem, disregarding it as yet another mushy love poem. (I like very few poems with great declarations of love.)

… And then I got to the fourth stanza, which held in it a sense of impending doom. So, I read on with more interest and sure enough, doom there was.

My favourite is the fifth stanza. I love how it humanizes God. I mean, imagine it. Two very good, kind people and very much in love with one another. Suddenly, one is taken away tragically and suddenly, leaving the other one bereft. I don’t know about you, but if I was the one left living, I’d be asking “Why, God? Did you really mean to take them or was it some sort of cosmic accident?”

And I *really* don’t get the part about “The breeze three odors brought / And a gem-flower waves in a wand!”

And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?

In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.

And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?

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I am trying to find an audiobook of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet here in Malaysia.

I very much doubt it would be a mere task of strolling into a random bookstore and spotting it on the shelves; but I am willing to put a pretty penny on the fact this is one book that would sound as good spoken (by the right person, using the right intonations) as it looks in writing.

I wonder if they let you listen to audiobooks before purchasing them so you know if you like how it sounds.

My heart beats faster. For some reason, my heart aches as though I just lost a best friend. I feel like I could burst into tears any moment now even though I have absolutely no reason to.

It takes conscious effort to maintain my breathing in its rhythm – as though I would forget to take a breath if I did not concentrate on it. It just feels… off.

It feels like someone is peering over my shoulder – constant paranoia. Very uncomfortable. Makes the skin at the back of my neck crawl.

I get the nagging feeling something really, really, really bad is about to happen soon.

There are days I wish I were not me. Today is one. Nothing to do but plug on and hope it goes away soon.

Anyone else here ever suffer from anxiety or similar disorders?

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