A Thought Nugget: The Perfection of Imperfection

You see a diamond. So perfect and pure, it reflects and refracts light in infinite directions that constantly shift with every slight movement. Colorless, it is indeed the picture of purity, of clarity, of order.

What happens when that diamond, in the process of its formation under high heat and pressure, is exposed to an impurity? The diamond is contaminated, the clarity is gone…and the crystal bursts with color. For, the Hope diamond itself, what the world has long called the most pristine diamond of all, was the product of an imperfection, a mineral deposit that transformed the once colorless gem into one of great depth and pigment.

It’s a great parallel to life, I think. Innocence is one thing, but wisdom only truly comes from experience; from little bits of imperfection here and there that add up to make you a more beautiful gem than you could’ve imagined– which is why I don’t yet claim to be at all wise; I’ve barely lived yet.

But these thoughts really did move me. Thinking that impurities can bring about even more beauty in a diamond than it already has gives me hope for the change in a corrupted spirit. Maybe the corruption can bring about change that will inevitably bring more wisdom than first was even conceived.

And, reading a book on Norse mythology recently, such thoughts were amplified in my mind. For it had said that, symbolically, the mind was air, and the spirit, smoke. Just think, the pristine air all on its own would have no essence without the smoke of the spirit.

I also remember that once, during my band trip to Indianapolis this year, the well-known conductor who was in charge of our clinic called my final note that hung in the air as the song came to a close– that single tone that sprung from the euphonium– the smoke that lingered after the flame of the song* had gone out.

It’s a pretty cool thing to think about.

*If you’re curious, the song we’d been playing was called Rest, by Frank Ticheli

A Thought Nugget: The Tragic Artists

Why is it that so many with great artistic expression live horrible lives? I just watched a movie on the life of Emily Dickinson, and as witty and wise as her poetry was, her life was just depressing. Repenting unrequited love of a man she barely knew, and who was unaware of her affections, she spent the rest of her life a hermit. She wasted away in her room, not living at all, but creating fantastic works of poetry all the while. It was the same with Van Gogh, who cut his own ear off in his life struggle full of masterpieces. And neither of them, nor other great people like Jane Austen, were even recognized for their work until after death! To think that they worked so hard, and did not even have the consolation of living to see the fruits of their efforts displayed to the world.

How ironic it is that people with such ugly lives create such beautiful works of art. But the irony itself is a bit of an artwork, both frustrating and beautiful at the same time. Life is so much more complicated than we  take it to be as we first enter it. 

I’m not sure whether I left anyone more or less certain about the world in writing this, but it is something to think about.

My Version of “This is what you must do…”

Being a fan of Walt Whitman, I thought it necessary to write my own version of his famous opening to Leaves of  Grass, as recomended in the post Walt Whitman’s Advice for a Kind and Authentic Life. He was a very philosophical man, and although I prefer the more poetic and fluid prose of European literature, I do really love Whitman’s inciteful meditations about life’s precious moments. 

Here’s the original opening…

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”

— Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass


Here’s mine…

This is what you shall do: Tred with your feet upon the Earth everyday as if time did not exist, living not for the past nor the future. Love the little things; the soft sprinkle of rain upon your head, the grass between your toes, the smells and stenches of home. Cherish what’s yours, and let go to what isn’t. Realize how significant your every action is with every passing day, but still be aware how insignificant you are in a world of seven billion others. Fight for what is right, but do not fight blindly, and have the courage to admit when you are wrong. Listen with open ears and heart, but stay true to yourself in the midst of the chaotic worlds of opinion and belief. You need not convince everyone to live the way you believe they should; only by living the life of your own ideals will you be able to prove to the world that that ideal is truly possible. 

— J.W. Grand, preface to the rest of her life

Looking on the Bright Side

I’m sorry; I’m bringing up that stinking Paris agreement AGAIN. I really didn’t mean to nag about this, but the leader of my country’s decision to pull out of it is really irritating me. Nonetheless, I’m an optimist, and so even though this may be a total case of denial and naivetey, I’ve got to at least give SOME hope, and if I can’t convince others I’d at least like to console myself slightly. Because, what if the total lunacy–ok I’ll tone it down, the irrational behaviors–of our president turn out to be what the world needs? What if one person’s stupidity is the rest of the world’s wake up call? Trust me, I’m not happy with what’s going on either. But what if the unbelievable nature of all that’s happened lately turns out to be what calls us all to action? Maybe we were starting to become stagnant and too comfortable, and a fool was what we needed to remind us what we’re supposed to be fighting for. Ya never know what’s in store for our crazy humankind.

We’re in a Bit of a Pickle

(I apologize for the seemingly irrelevant image set for this post; as I take all the pictures on my blog, I didn’t feel that compelled to take a picture of a pickle just for the occasion)

It’s true; we’re all in a bit of a pickle. Our beautiful Earth is in jeapardy of destruction by a force called Man, yet the little effort taken by individuals is crumbling as those who don’t believe in saving our planet perpetuate its demise. I admit, I do not like taking sides in politics. Especially in the realm of family gatherings, it is a sure path to destruction. In fact, holding blindly strong opinions in any case, especially with politics, is against my nature, as I tend to believe that it is important to see both sides of a situation versus joining forces with one side to contribute to the groupthink and therefore eventually lead the group to greater extremes of opinion and inevitable action. It is not wise to take sides blindly, and it is even worse to polarize group differences through the blind following of a group whose ideals may not really be completely ideal themselves. 

But I must take a stand in certain instances that are certainly unjust. Say, for instance, a certain president’s decision to pull out of an international agreement to help not only the survival of our species but the survival of all mother nature. Well, actually, when you really think about it, the Earth won’t die because of what we’ve done to Her. The planet has undergone much harsher climate changes in its natural cycles throughout its lifetime. But, without joining efforts to stop climate change, innocent lives of our species and many others will be sacrificed. And for what? More convenient living? A spoiled lifestyle? I guess I am beginning to sound a bit more opinionated than I intended, and I am sorry for that. I mean no offense, as everyone has their reasons, their excuses. But, how can we feel compelled to help people in need, feel sympathy for an individual picture of a poverty-stricken child, while turning our heads from clear indications–facts, actually–that state that such a fate, if not a worse one, may befall our entire human family if we don’t act now? We must all work together on this, yet we are moving backwards. Somehow, we must all join forces to stop the downward spiral of our planet before it’s too late. The least we can do is sacrifice a few conveniences for the sake of our entire planet’s wellbeing. Maybe don’t take that joy ride in your car that goes towards no specific destination, for example. People in poverty don’t have the luxury to contribute to this destruction like people in first world countries do, yet they feel climate change’s effects much more harshly than us, as they are unable to hide in artificial, concrete bubbles of conditioned air. We cannot let our material facade distract us from what’s really happening. We must all do the little, or lot, that we can to contribute to the safety of our mutual home. 

A Symbol of My New Beginings

Before…

…After
Well, on graduation day I did more than leave the law-enforced education system, and say goodbye to many dear friends; I also donated a part of me I’ve been forever attached to: my hair. I had wanted to donate it for the longest time, but as it too grew longer I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But this was the time that I’d been waiting for, a moment in which I not only got to do as I had planned but to also make it a sort of symbol if you will–I apologize for my cheesiness in advance—of the new life ahead of me, and the new person I will become. Yep, all my friends find it pretty weird too, but I warned you from the begining that I was far from normal. 

I hope that my hair goes to someone who truly needs it, and that this little symbolic change catalyzes a bigger and greater change in my life. Again, I apologize for the cheesiness. Can’t help it 🙂

I Would’ve Thrown My Cap…But We Weren’t Allowed

It’s true; after all those expectations raised by movies like High School Musical, not only was high school not quite as exciting, but we couldn’t even throw our caps at our graduation ceremony. apparently, cardboard pieces in cloth are too dangerous to throw in the air at the height of one of the greatest ceremonies of our lives.

Well, that’s ok. Because it was still an unreal ceremony. After way too many grad practices in which we woke up just as early as the average school day, on May 23 it all finally came together, tears and all. After nostalgic speeches and about three hundred thirty empty diplomas (we didn’t get the legal documents until a day later) we came to the turning of the tassel, and sang our spirit song “How Far I’ll Go.” Yep, it’s the song from Moana. But it was really fitting for the moment, considering the separate journeys we were each about to embark upon, and my impending trip around the world. And I got goosebumps. And I’ll admit, a bit teary-eyed. Because, as they were constantly reminding us throughout the day, this was the very last time we would all be there together, as Kalani’s class of 2017. The day after, we would go back to our normal lives, and look ahead at our bright futures, but that night was a night of remembrance, of recollection, of bitter-sweet celebration. And at the lei ceremony I laughed out of joy and sadness more than I had in my entire life, seeing all those that I love that came and all those that I knew would all too soon be gone from my life forever.

It’s really moments like these where you realize the preciousness of individual moments, and the inevitability of passing time as well as the change that comes with it. No matter how annoying it is to admit, one thing stands true; the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. But, wiping away tears of joy as well as sadness, I can firmly say that I don’t regret any of the memories and friends I have made, and vow to embrace the experiences to come.

A Poem Tribute to my Travels and T.S. Elliot

The golden, glowing egg has dropped

Beneath the bold horizon.

And a hundred declarations lay

Unsaid amid the silence.

We could hold hands beneath the stars

Chasing cars, tracing

The outlines of one another’s fingers

A touch that lingers,

Long after the light of dawn.
We could do this, but for one condition:

You’re nothing but an apparition.
The ghostly hand that rests in mine

Remains impalpable as air

And those amorous meditations

From love’s list of expectations

Remain distant from my cares.
No, the loving hand in mine is not

Of romantic contemplations.

Indeed, I’m not a girl of such mental conversations.

In such a world of idiotic memes

And shiny, cold, lifeless machines

I refuse to match time’s easy accommodations.
I wish they’d all just come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.
But no, we don’t talk of such things,

Instead remaining on topic with the earthly means

Of everyday life.

Nor, as we talk and we eat,

Do we think of those we do not meet;

Those who, with hungry stomachs and hungry eyes

would devour us with a wink.
We ignore our ties

To the people far beyond our known horizon

Who, as far as we know don’t exist

Beyond the cliff our consciousness lies in.

So here we are,

Talking and eating at our leisure

All the while, they suffer from a fever

Of literal or of figurative origin.
We are falling,

Plunging down a rabbit hole.

I’m Persephone, an innocent girl

Dragged below ground to the underworld.
I have indeed been in those fiery depths,

Seen stomachs bloated with negligence,

Seen houses of corrugated tin

Yes, I have been

In the depths of Tartarus.

Seen the men who, pushing impossible boulders

End up with that very rock back on their shoulders.

As miles stretch on under the relentless sun,

Shade reduced to a single, leafless tree.
Yet I’ve returned, free

From all those sufferings .

And I come back to our table

Willing and able

Seeing apparitions dance before me

As we talk and we eat, 

And again to our homes we retreat,

As if, while we fluff our

Pillows at night there don’t

Exist those who would do anything

To have that

One

Pillow, maybe that

Small bit of

Bread you

Left at the restaurant

In an attempt to watch your figure.

How do you figure

We would sleep at night

Fluffing our pillows,

Seeing these phantom faces of fire?
I tire.

And although there are many miles to go

I do sleep.

Because—

Although we cannot be Narcosis flowers

Staring at our own reflections for hours,

Although we cannot remain

Living lives void of compassionate refrain,

We still shall live.
For, I have seen the people of those fiery depths.

But I lied, their eyes don’t flame with hunger

—they burn with life.

Maybe those who live in Tartarus

Have Elysium hearts,

And it is ours that lay in need

Of betterment.
So no, the hand that now I hold

Is not the hand of a lover.

My hand lies in the earthen grasp

Of the world, and our earth mother.

Another Flashback into my Traveling Past…

This is another writing piece from a past trip that had encompassed my experience in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (for those of you who haven’t heard of either, it’s in West Africa ;))…

The country was almost impossible to pronounce; Burkina Faso, specifically the city of Ouagadougou. I stared at the complicated African names for a while before giving up and deciding that one of the citizens of the country would tell us. Us: my mom, my dad, and I, who were flying to Africa to give away my dad’s solar cooker invention to the masses there.

The drive to our hotel was excruciatingly hot. Ouagadougou, with its barren, dry ground and red dirt loomed ahead. Hardly a tree could be seen for miles around. There were at least twenty people trying to sell SIM cards on the street each time we stopped at a light. Through the open window of the car, I noticed the many fruit stands and tin roofed shops. The people baked in the hot, African sun, trying to make enough for their next meal.

Once we got into the hotel, we were practically in heaven. The air was cool, the rooms were beautifully decorated, waiters walked around, all heading towards a hotel restaurant where roses sat on vases on each table. 

It felt completely out of place.

Through the large window in the lobby that stretched from floor to ceiling, I could still see those skinny, hardworking, sweat drenched commoners. Their faces long and over worked, their bodies tired, their minds anywhere but where they physically were. I looked back at the rose at the center of our table, at the clean, crisp napkin on my lap, at the beautiful paintings that surrounded us. I looked at the tea cup in my hand, our table piled with food, the sheer silk table cloth under the elbows holding up my wondering face. We were truly in our own little material bubble, built by money, race, and status; that was made clear as I looked at those two completely opposing scenes

After spending a night at the heaven in hell, we woke up from the dreamland we were in and went out into the real Africa, with its heat and poverty.  My parents and I met Lassina, our solar oven distributor, at his office. They got down to business, talking of numbers, buyers, and prices. All the while, I sat beside my parents and spaced out, waiting for the heat to overtake me. Sweat was at a constant flow for all in the room; the fan did nothing to relieve any of us.

After the meeting, Lassina took us into his car, and we were driven to the homes that currently used our cooker. We stepped out of the shade of the car. There was no escape from the scorching sun’s wrath. We met families with bleating goats in their yards, their houses made of mud. I noticed their sweat drenched, ragged clothes. 

But then, I saw the baby that the mother cradled in her arms. I saw the smile widen on the people’s faces when they spoke to us, telling us how much these new devices had helped their lives. I felt what I had thought I wouldn’t be able to feel when seeing these people in their unfathomable everyday lives. I felt what it was like to put a smile on the faces of those otherwise suffering beings. Everything became clearer; I now knew why we were bringing our cookers to these poverty-stricken people. I now knew what it meant to be generous to people who otherwise have nothing.   

In the days afterward, though we were practically on the verge of heat stroke most of the time, all three of us enjoyed every moment that we shared with the people in Ouagadougou. Although we passed by their mud huts and were reminded of their hard, tiring lives, we also saw the children wave and smile as we passed them by. We saw both sides of the coin; even though the people did not have the same privileges and materials as we do, they still were able to find  happiness in the smallest things. My parents and I realized that happiness resides everywhere, in all kinds of manifestations. Its there in the deserts of Africa too, you only need to look for it.


     

While We’re on the Subject…

As I have introduced my philanthropic aspect, I might as well post a few of my past writing pieces that were inspired by my amazing traveling experiences. Here’s one that gives a brief introduction to my family, as well as our experience on a trip to Bangladesh, when we were funding the construction of rain catchment systems of my father’s design there…
I was born into a family of opposites that have fused into a single family. My father was a hippie in his younger years, and still acts like it with his refusal to cut his hair shorter than shoulder length, and his participation in any peace and environmental strikes that happen in Hawaii. My mother, on the other hand, grew up in an intellectually valuing Chinese family in Taiwan, following Buddhist traditions of spirituality. Somehow, this juxtaposed couple came to create me, the ultimate mixture of white and Asian, loud and modest, intellectual and daring. Together, we are a family of everything. 

What unites us most of all is our value in living lives of voluntary simplicity. With a 47 year old house, solar panels that produce the energy for almost everything in our home, and a car as old as me that was just repaired with a dusty second hand door last month, we strive for humble living conditions. The excess money that we make, by worldly standards but certainly not by American, is given away every year to foreign countries for their well being. We’ve distributed my father’s solar oven invention in Africa and India, and have also funded the building of rain catchment systems in Bangladesh, spending up to $150,000 in a year. Through this action, our whole family unit is one that values generosity of excess resources, so that we may share our earnings with those who need them most.

On one occasion, we decided to check up on the building of rain catchment units we’d funded.

We’d just arrived in Bangladesh the day before, and today we went to the country side. We had driven for three hours by car and taken a motorized canoe across the Ganga Delta to get to the muddy roads and never ending heat before us. But even so, before I could help it, the words escaped my lips. “It’s beautiful.” I whispered, looking through the windows, watching as the golden fields of flowers the color of the sun blurred as they passed us by. It was indeed beautiful, seeing the sun kissed skin of farmers in contrast to the bright greens and mirror-like silvers of lakes. 

However, once we arrived at the small villages across the river, it became a landscape of roads, poverty, and people. Houses were made of mud with tin roofs. Boys no older than myself and men that looked like grandfathers slaved away mixing cement to build the rain catchment systems that were their only hope for clean water. People with dirt smeared faces walked along the muddy path without shoes. No, once we got off the country road, it was not a pretty sight.

I thought about the visit ahead, how it seemed impossible that these people could possibly have any culture when the number one thing on their minds was to survive the hardships of their everyday life. I dreaded to see the faces elongated with misery, the backs hunched over and baking in the relentless heat, the ribs that became so defined by the hollowed stomachs that were never full. I didn’t want to be exposed to the ugly face of humanity. It was unfair that these people had such unfortunate lives, and yet I didn’t want to have to experience the heartache that I knew would come along with meeting the impoverished people.

We walked into their village, and the people all turned their dirtied heads and craned their caramel colored necks to catch a glimpse of us, the people of another color, from a far away land. My dad spoke, through a translator, to the people about the systems and our hopes that it benefits them greatly. I looked at the people, searching for pained, saddened features. Instead, I looked up to see them touching us, blessing us. They smiled with reverence and thanks toward a family who lived modestly in America, but who seemed like royalty to those before us. When we came to these people, they smiled at their first sight of light skin, light hair, and light eyes. They smiled at the fact that we were helping them with their only source of drinkable water. And they were smiling, despite the fact that they were in the midst of impoverished lives. The joy reached my lips as well, and they curved into a crescent of happiness. 

That’s when I realized that these people did have culture, and it was rich. I found that different cultures evoke different emotions for situations like this one; from a materialistically cultured American, the predicament of this poor state of being would be considered terrible, and so we’d cry for our sad lives. But what my family and I saw in the Bangladesh people was only happiness in becoming prosperous in one more minor change: acquiring fresh water from rain catchment systems provided by my family. Their culture was one of happiness in what you have, we realized, not of sadness in what you don’t. 

As we turned to depart, one dark woman with a kind, sun dried face said, “May Allah bless you all.” 

And to return her blessings, my mother smiled and replied, “And we too hope that the rains come for you, so you may drink water again.”

“Thank you.” Said all the villagers, and “thank you” I whispered, as I appreciated the wonderment of their presence.

And as if Allah himself had been listening to our hopes for these people, I looked up at the sky and lo and behold, “Hey!” I exclaimed. “It’s raining!” 

Bulbous, warm droplets of water exploded on our skin, and we watched as the people ran to the river to bathe as the rain fell, a natural shower over their heads. We saw the rain catchment systems swallowing their first mouthfuls of rainwater that would soon quench the thirst of hundreds.

This is when our minds bridged the gap between the cultural habits we’d learned throughout our lives and this new, awe inspiring aspect of a culture we hadn’t even began to comprehend. And I embraced it. I embraced this new, amazing happiness that was now allowed into my mind; I no longer had to feel sadness when I saw these poor villagers, but instead I was able to feel joy in knowing that they appreciate what they have. And I was also able to weave this new piece of culture into my own dynamic cultural identity; I was finally able to feel happiness in what I had and not need to want more. 

So that was the day that my cultural awareness spanned the globe, and my family and I were exposed to the joy we had created in our small contribution. I saw my life in a completely different light. To think that my perception of the world could change so drastically with as simple a characteristic of culture as the way you evoke emotions. We also realized that with simplicity, people can be happier than those with complicated lives and antidepressant pills. Simplicity, it now seemed, is the path to contentment. From this experience the three of us had our simplistic viewpoints strengthened to the point of solidity, for we now knew that we were not only bringing more help to the poor, but we were bringing more happiness to the world.
If you’d like, you can check out my article based on this piece that was published on Civil Beat at this 
url: http://www.civilbeat.org/2016/03/a-perspective-on-bangladesh/