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The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

My quest for the eternal lightness

Where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns.

Welcome indeed to my Cabaret. Don’t you love farce? The wigs, feather bows and scarfs. The showers of applause while I make my entry. But there’ll come a time when no one is there to watch.

And I can picture it..for one last time, once again – all attention shall be turned to me. And the stone would read: Here lies an artist, no less. And one would say, “how fucked up. What a pity!”.

They say you can never hear the snow fall.

But weird things do happen when you have survived the night wearing only a round-neck T and gym shorts; listening to the heater cranking up every now and then, keeping you warm from the  -20 cold outside.

Once in a while, peculiarities do occur. And most often one can easily be led into believing that it’s one of those sacred moments when one is able to connect with nature in a mystical way which others cannot. I call it post-traumatic psychosonicauditory stress. I was bloody certain that it was the skittering sound of snow on the rooftop which woke me up that morning.

Despite the conviction on my face, no one was impressed. There are many things you can claim to have heard; groans in the shower as your roommate steps on the icy cold mosaic floor or chattering teeth underneath the old comforter. But falling snow is another thing.

Then again, if our ears have fallen deaf to so much shit around us, hearing the snow fall is of course, scandalous. We were handed a 200,000 korean won discount by our agent for letting us into the crappy room.

It was a day many never saw so much snow in a long time. In fact, all around the globe, the snow created havoc that day. I almost missed my flight. Yet, it was suppose to come so silently.

I rested the pair of Fischers on my shoulders and headed for the slope. For days, the thin layer of my twin-tip alpines, which separated me from the bright mass of snow underneath, have become the only connection to my consciousness. My soles, and feet were the only decisive strength which held my life in balance – quite literally. The cold was immaterial. The crowd was non-existent.

At some point, I think something irreversible has been unleashed into the core of my being. The Czech poet spoke of the desire to fall. There is fun in colliding into groups of people and rolling over the blanket of newly fallen powdery snow – most first time skiers can tell you that. There in the vast whiteness of YongPyong, I swooshed down in the fullness of Vertigo – unashamedly basking in its glory.

Weeks later I mustered enough courage to bare it all out in the verocious northern-winter cold. I walked barefoot down to the frozen sea, where a hole in the ice was sawn, and took a dip, then ran back and jumped into the hot tub and drank cold beer. I sat in the tub which was placed outside the house, until ice formed on my head, covering my hair. I sank into the hot water and melt the ice then sat up until the ice formed again.

 

This space has been left idle for months – a state of perfection by Nietzsche’s standard. Of course,  my life on the other hand is a far cry from such coveted perfection – but certainly not a sorry one at that. For those of you who asked – it’s been a long 8 months since moving to Singapore and I still find it hard to describe how I feel about working in the city-state.

But there’s no reason to complain.

No, I don’t have problems with food in Singapore – in fact, some can be surprisingly tasty – my favorite being Bak Kut Teh at Yangoon Road – which I personally prefer to the ones I find back home. Of course, there’s the whole re-adjustment to getting in earlier for work. And then there’s the all-important question of whether  ‘Am I attending any church’ – No. Why? Cause I’m contemplating embracing Islam?

Quite a bit of travel for work. Been to the Scandinavian region twice so far. The cold climate is probably the reason Finns develop the love for sauna – and they really like it hot (nothing lower than 80 deg C ). Here’s a real treat after a hard day’s work:  a couple of beer with your boss and colleagues, then head to the sauna for a ‘male bonding’ session in full Finnish style – bare nudity. A very humbling experience indeed – for the boss that is! Trust me, they take offence if you refuse the invitation. And after sauna, more beer.

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I work for a Finnish State-Owned Oil & Gas Company – under its Renewable Fuels Division. Workload is bearable, but I relish the opportunity I get to meet with environmental and social NGO’s, as well as government bodies who are stakeholders in our business. I learnt that doing things right is not sufficient – you have to communicate them, and communicate right you must. As I strive to deliver results I’m constantly challenged to engage constructively in our approach while keeping a balance between the sustainable progress vs poverty alleviation debate. Business ethics are constantly tested.  Like religious fanatics, NGO’s would sometimes turn to emotions rather than facts.

Holidays – I enjoyed Rome. Loud Italians, busy piazzas, quiet chapels, gelato, espresso, cheese, authentic home-made pasta, and of course – good wine. I’m no lover of paintings, but the visit to Sistine Chapel was most breathtaking, though a little too commercial now after Dan Brown’s mischievous expose. Felt good that I have finally taken the ‘lofty’ quest where ‘angels’ guided me to the path of illuminati ‘cross the city. Apart from Rome, I’ve also managed trips to Brussels, Estonia, HK and Paris.

So there you have it, a quick and brief update from me. Otherwise, I’ll be:

1. Looking forward to moving into my own place

2. Travelling to Indonesia for plantation visits

3. Snow skiing in Korea – if they get snow already in November

4.Hearing from Joel as he’s starting his Year 1 in SMI – it’s been 7 years already??!!!

5. Heading home for my brother’s wedding in February – which means my mum’s turning the heat on me to be next

The self-proclaimed decendant of god went to the desert and fasted for 40 days, and claimed (or rather it was claimed) that he conversed with the devil himself. I mean, afterall Woland in The Master and Margarita did say he was there through it all, just before Berlioz’s head was severed from his body, didn’t he? So maybe that was it. It was the fasting that sent the man into hallucination and perhaps even insanity which then later caused such an uproar in the city. So massive was the outcry that it sent a shudder down Caesar’s spine. Arrest him by no means. Arrested him they did.

Let’s admit it. No lesser men had fasted and insisted that they were one with the divine. Prophets we called them. So perhaps the minister have had a dream lately. And in that dream he too met Woland. And perhaps we believe the minister is about to go insane. And the whole city is going insane, or is it the case that the whole essence of the ‘soviet council’ of the state is such abomination that has invited the visit of the devil, and that the comrades in uniform are going berserk arresting everyone and putting them in the mental institution?

It was a great speech, to which my friend once proclaimed “Alhamdulillah”. Oh how we took to heart his resounding call:

“We cannot morally turn our backs on the fundamental responsibility of ensuring that all stakeholders in our society, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, have a place under the sun.”

“Only those who are capable, responsible and scrupulously honest should be allowed to serve in positions of leadership. Those who are inefficient, incompetent and, most importantly, corrupt should be held in absolute contempt. There must also be concrete anti-corruption measures and management practices based on efficiency, transparency and accountability. It is also very important that we have leaders who are earnest in maintaining unity, never resorting to religious or ethnic posturing to further their political careers at the expense of peace and security. Should they fail in this respect, they must be held accountable and answerable before the law.”

“It is only when citizens are also stakeholders will there be the widest sense of ownership of problems and challenges”

“You must take personal ownership over the wellbeing of the country. Do not succumb to indifference and apathy. Hold on to your ideals. Do not give way to cynicism and opportunism. Believe that you can make a difference. Channel your energies in a constructive manner to bring about positive changes around you.”

What has all that come to today???!!! AN APATHETIC I DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS!!!!!

Walking along the pavement, I zig-zagged across a couple of quiet lanes, leading away from the otherwise buzzing market place to the cozy little wine bar along a block of boring bank outlets. Bankers were clocking off and locking up for the day. Each were setting off towards different directions. They looked up, only for a moment, gestured a quick goodbye and hurried off in their vehicles. Not unlike most evenings, the bar was already feeling jazzy as I made my entry. And like most evenings, I was greeted by familiar faces, mostly of regulars who stopped by to chill out before heading home.

It’s seven and I was winding down. With the stirrings of complex tannin of oak and berries, the sting of inebriety, I was detached from the laughters and intense conversations beleaguering me. It was an alluring moment, the swinging between soberness and drunkenness, which is enough to keep me from regretting my existence.

I twirled the glass and inhaled. Then I pictured Joe. I have never known anyone by that name. Joe, after an intense session of love making, is lying on his partner’s bed. He is visualizing each of his partner’s movement in the shower as he listened in to the sound of changing rhythm of water rushing down onto the bathroom floor after coming in contact with the body. He could feel the erectile strength returning to his penis. He savored his thoughts. From the outset, it was the secrecy of the relationship that was appealing to him, as if it was the only truth he could live by. Joe had met his partner months ago when he was having martini at the hotel lounge. It was then, when the prostitute approached him that he suddenly felt the strength to be weak.

Back in the room, Joe suddenly thinks of his wife, who is like him, also lying on a bed alone. He throws on his clothes, left some money on the bed and headed for the door. It’s almost 4 in the morning. But he knew very well that he will come back again.

Another bottle of boujalaise would be just fine. Then it’s time for me to go, though it’s still way before midnight. Looking over to a mirror across the table, I examined my face and I began to wonder how long more before I should start with some facial work to keep the lines from being visible to others. I looked beyond the reddened epidermis which wraps over the essence of me, a superficial representation of me, beneath which a soul rests. That surface which I have come to be recognized, that which is constantly rejuvenated and maintained at its best, for all to see. And I thought about how much my face reveals the real me? It’s a thought that is intoxicating in itself. It was this thought that has aroused a sense of suspicion in me, and this suspicion was what gave birth to the character of Joe.

The room at the rear of our old house never failed to ignite a spark of excitement in me whenever a conversation on ‘your most memorable experience’ pops up. It was a room I shared with my older brother. We would play soccer in the room, toppling down the table fan and shattering a couple of window panes, oblivious to our mother’s screams from the adjoining kitchen. She’d hurl threats, yelling in our family dialect, “I’ll break your limbs and shove them up your asses if you both don’t stop your nonsense now!”

Once, in a frenzy attempt to replicate Norman Whiteside’s curling-shot freekick, my brother sent the ball towards the pendarfluor tube by the side wall. As pieces of the tube came crashing down, we were certain that we had unleashed a curse upon ourselves. The ball finally succumbed to our mother’s chopping knife. The lights were never replaced for the subsequent months as a reminder not to test mother’s patience again. We foretasted what it’ll feel like to be thrown into the dark where there’s gnawing of teeth. 

Stepping into a pitch black room at sundown was no real big deal. At least not until we were greeted by the smell of rotting corpse one night. We ransacked our room, with X-files like flashlights in search of a dead rat but reported negative from our search. The cat was let out of the bag the following day, when we had maggots falling off the ceiling. Feline – as it turned out, there were a couple of dead, decomposing kittens lying up on the ceiling, hidden above the ceiling board – and probably been dead for days. Even as the carcasses were removed, the maggots had already navigated through the entire ceiling floor and waited to fall off like autumn leaves.

We never slept in the room until we moved out years later.

I was reminded of this encounter today when I overheard my colleagues commenting on the political coup in my homestate. The usurpers were likened to carcasses that were rotting to its core.

Yet, I was just thinking, unlike usual, where the eternal recurrence of retelling this story was one laughable matter, I was thinking of the whole enactment of the two siblings stood watching maggots falling off the ceiling. That someone deliberately left the carcasses up on the ceiling. And the thought of being locked up in that room, with maggots falling off the ceiling; that’s so fucked up.