who to blame for the time?

On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty-three

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,

stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!

My hasting days fly on with full career,

But my late spring no bud or blossom shew’th.

Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,

That I to manhood am arrived so near,

And inward ripeness doth much less appear,

That some more timely-happy spirits indu’th.

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,

It shall be still in strictest measure even

To that same lot, however mean or high,

Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven.

All is, if I have grace to use it so,

As ever in my great Task-master’s eye.

 

Last week I attended my first honor thesis workshop. One professor at the workshop mentioned that, writing is a practice. It’s like cross-country running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. But once you stop doing that, you are going to lose the ability. He told me that during his grad-school days, he used to start with writing a short review for a sonnet each day. “If I want to teach a course on Sonnets, I am prepared!” he said cheerfully. Indeed, he is a professor in French and Comparative Literature, and as a Poli-Sci major I probably found myself a bit lost amongst a group of humanities and arts majors. But I do agree that writing should be impulsive and continuous.

I have always liked John Milton, particularly his “Paradise Lost”, because he was able to describe Satan in a positive light. I thought, what harder job can there be, than to justify for Satan. From time to time, I remember his words, better to lead in hell, than to submit in heaven. And that even if humans (Adam and Eve) are expelled from Heaven, they carry heaven within them nonetheless. I would not regret taking the fruit of wisdom. Freedom and happiness do not come together. If taking the fruit means to lose happiness, but to live freely hereafter, sounds like a good deal to me.

To go back to the sonnet, I realize that my 22 years old, as compared to my 21 years old, is much more about the disenchantment with reality and myself. Last year was tough, but I had the intuition that I was doing the correct things. Now I am not sure anymore. And very soon I will be 23 years old. Will I also lament, that time passed by too fast, and that I have no fruits to symbolize my 23 years on this planet? Probably. I cannot continue telling myself that everything will be fine. 人活在世上总得自己对得起自己.

 

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

By John Milton

 

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he retuning chide;

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

In the last line, Milton reflects that he has a place in God’s world despite his disability. This Sonnet was numbered 19, but in its first published version, Milton’s 1673 poems, it was numbered 16. Its more well-known title is “On his Blindness”, which was assigned by Thomas Newton in his assemble of Milton’s poems.

I find it particularly interesting, that when Milton writes about the “talents”, he is referring to the parable of the talents from the New Testaments. The parable of talents appears in both Matthew and Luke, eluding to the utilization of personal abilities. A master decided to travel across the sea, leaving behind his goods to his servants. Upon his return, the master assesses the management of his goods by the two servants.

The first and second servants explain that they have put their talents into work, resulting in doubling the value of the property they received. Both of them were rewarded:

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

The third servant, however, had decided to “play it safe”, and buried his talent underground. In turn, he was punished by his master:

“Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew, 25:24-30)

It seems that here Milton is talking about his lack of talent to read foreign languages (although I don’t see how this could be important talent, considering that Milton is such a great English poet). Moreover, the last sentence, “They also serve who stands and wait.” seems to refer to people who due to disability can not actively contribute based on his talent. Nevertheless, Milton seems to argue here, that standing and waiting are enough? so intentions are more important than actions?

 

 

 

Goodbye to dear friends

Yesterday we had a farewell party to send off my dear friends Luciana and Simon, who are the first two people I met in I-house.

Summer in I-house seems to be more exciting than semesters; every night people had different things to do. I visited museums, had ice creams, watched movies, watched baseball games (plus fireworks), visited Silicon Valley, with my group of friends. At the same time, I was taking 5 classes, twice the workload recommended to summer students. Nonetheless, I believe what I learnt from my summer friends are much more than what I learnt in class, although the classes themselves were very enriching and of course I made some friends in my summer cohort as well. We had Budapest food in Mission St, at a small restaurant called “Paprika” (which was actually owned by a Czech), had house parties, and numerous project hangouts as well.

It feels kind of surreal to write about my summer 2018 in November 2018; human memories have the potential to be selective: we remember the happiness and forget the pain. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of summer, but to be honest I don’t remember much of that now. Maybe it’s because I am making plans to visit Luciana in Sao Paulo next March, I haven’t been traveling since December 2017, so it’s a good time to utilize my last days in college and to see/experience more of the world.

As to Germany, I do sincerely believe that one day I will be there, one way or another. I love the German language and culture, and as previous posts from last summer showed I struggled to figure out where German fit in my identity. Although I haven’t finished my German studies major yet, I do think that as a 22 year-old, I spent a serious chunk of my time immersing in it. For better or for worse, I am no longer who I was without German.

That’s my long Spiel to persuade myself that seemingly random parts of a puzzle will find their ways to fit together.

I guess the more I hangout with my friends the more I realize how small and limited my worldview is, and how shallow my understanding of friendship. I could never imagine not seeing someone for more than 3 months and somehow still call each other “great friends”. In a world of scarcity, both of time and resources, probably I have to give in and accept that some relationships are transcending. It is not a lesson that I want to learn at 22 years old.

Steinbeck

“Great writing has been a staff to lean on, a mother to consult, a wisdom to pick up stumbling folly, a strength in weakness and a courage to support sick cowardice. And how any negative or despairing approach can pretend to be literature I do not know. It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth, and a few remnants of fossilized jaw bones, a few teeth in strata of limestone would be the only mark our species would have left on the earth. Now this I must say and say right here and so sharply and so memorably that it will not be forgotten in the rather terrible and disheartening tilings which are to come in this book; so that although East of Eden is not Eden, it is not insuperably far away.”

Rilke

Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours) (1905)[edit]

  • Lösch mir die Augen aus: ich kann dich sehn,
    wirf mir die Ohren zu: ich kann dich hören,
    und ohne Füße kann ich zu dir gehen,
    und ohne Mund noch kann ich dich beschwören.
    Brich mir die Arme ab, ich fasse dich
    mit meinem Herzen wie mit einer Hand,
    halt mir das Herz zu, und mein Hirn wird schlagen,
    und wirfst du in mein Hirn den Brand,
    so werd ich dich auf meinem Blute tragen.
    • Extinguish my sight, and I can still see you;
      plug up my ears, and I can still hear;
      even without feet I can walk toward you,
      and without mouth I can still implore.
      Break off my arms, and I will hold you
      with my heart as if it were a hand;
      strangle my heart, and my brain will still throb;
      and should you set fire to my brain,
      I still can carry you with my blood.

      • Translated by Annemarie S. Kidder
  • Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug,
    um jede Stunde zu weihen.
    Ich bin auf der Welt zu gering und doch nicht klein genug,
    um vor dir zu sein wie ein Ding,
    dunkel und klug.
    Ich will meinen Willen und will meinen Willen begleiten
    die Wege zur Tat;
    und will in stillen, irgendwie zörgernden Zeiten,
    wenn etwas naht,
    unter den Wissenden sein
    oder allein.

    • I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
      to make every hour holy.
      I am too small in the world, and yet not tiny enough
      just to stand before you like a thing,
      dark and shrewd.
      I want my will, and I want to be with my will
      as it moves towards deed;
      and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
      when something is approaching,
      I want to be with those who are wise
      or else alone.

September has coming closely to its end. Lots of things that happened or associated with this unnecessarily troublesome month seemed to also come to its end. To be honest I didn’t find this month quite inspiring. I found myself trapped in a rabbithole that I thought, in the beginning, is quite fun. Now it’s no longer that fun. But in any cases.

I finished reading Allen Ginsburg’s “Kaddish” for the fourth time. As always, his words are instilled with magic that somehow makes English sound less like English. Did he speak Hebrew? I suppose he did, only that could explain the curious mix of sacredness and degeneration. Paul Celan writes in a similar way. In times of stress and turbulence, they, with the Russians, always give me a weird sense of calm.

Speaking of the Russians, I haven’t progressed a bit in other Dostoevsky books. When Paris Review writes that Dostoevsky is for summer, I should have taken notice. Summer was a better time than the present, in which time seemed to be infinitely prolonged, and sufferings also cruelly maximized. My 23 units are driving me to the edge of insanity, or at least constant headaches. I had a dream of falling down a cliff. The second I jumped off was scary, but in falling lies relief. Only if I could look into the downward spiral in multiple spheres of my life and find me… but alas, that self is long gone.

I question loyalty.  “Habe Mut, dein eigenes Verstandes zu bedlinen!” It’s easier to say than done. Adorno says that we were not born with Rationality and that was Kant’s biggest pitfall. I raised them in a conversation to ask for help. But it’s hard to receive help if it’s even harder to describe the issue. My 22th birthday is coming close, and I realize, that day must be spent with me, only me. I needed time to check with myself. What to do when choices do not align with results? I am for Kant, and rationality should still exist in me.

Sometimes when I look into the mirror I couldn’t recognize myself. I became half; I was degraded. I. Vielleicht suche ich Zustimmung des Selbst.

Man hat nur Angst, wenn man mit sich selber nicht einig ist.
– Hermann Hesse, Demian

Genau. That’s what I should be doing.

Lip Balms

This blog post is about lip balms.

I really want to write something, the urge to write is like a crazy bee crashing into everything in my head; And then my lips felt dry (they always do), so I decided to put on some lip balm. And then I was like, let me write about lip balms, what it was like to own different lip balms.

Scroll down to the end to find my favorite;

Obviously this post will not cover all lip balms I have tried; and since it’s a recommendation post I will only cover lip balms I like(d). All picture courtesy to Google.

Blame “modern corporation”

eos-crystal-peach-open

I discovered this lip-balm when I was accompanying a friend of mine on her shopping trip in target. It was at downtown Berkeley and I remembered seeing the advertisement of this lip balm popped up during my youtube videos. I found the idea of a “clear” lip balm really interesting and gave it a try.

The reason it reminds me of “modern corporation” is because I realized that I had no need of lip balms before that target trip. But I don’t want to blame Target. Standing in front of the shelves, it was my youtube ads that drove me to buy it. It seem like modern corporations operate in a different way. They don’t satisfy demands, but create them.

I was very disappointed. It’s nothing special, and it tastes like coconut (my lips don’t like coconuts; or any type of nut-scents anyways)

My Dad’s random display of (quite useless) love

m_598c747dea3f367c330344fc

One night last winter, I was chilling at home, watching soap dramas. My Dad, who recently returned from a business trip, pulled out this little thing and told me that he bought it “because the packaging is cute”; I don’t understand how he could fall for this trap when he’s a businessman himself. Anyways, I tried. It was too oily, but smelled really good. Apparently the beauty counter lady also told him that I could use it on my dry fingertips. (One would wonder how that conversation went).

My dad is a very quiet person. I carry this lip balm with me so I can think about him.

It was a very random display of fatherly love, and possibly in a wrong way. I hope my dad didn’t think of me when purchasing this lip balm. I am neither pink, nor cute.

the Invisible

avene lip blam

I tend to really like Avene products since I have sensitive skin. However, this lip balm specifically is very weird. First of all it’s over-priced. Secondly I personally don’t like lip balms without scents (which contradicts somehow to my previous comment of coconut flavor; and actually is good for me since scents are generally bad for sensitive skins). Nonetheless I used up one of these last winter. It does take forever to finish so maybe that’s a good thing.

Avene products always remind me of those invisible commonalities in life like showering, eating, sleeping, using bathrooms; one would suffer without them, but until one loses access to them, they seem to be more of a daily burden than enjoyment.

LOVE!! 

love balm

This is awesome. The only lip balm (cream?oil?) that actually delivers moisture. The only drawback is that it takes days to get your lips perfectly moisturized, but once they become baby lips it’s hard to dry them out again (with the help of “love balm” of course).

I also use it on my skin, especially during winter, when Berkeley gets extremely dry. It’s smell is also not so aggressive. This is my current favorite. Its design is hideous (in my opinion), but quite functional.

“The Second Sermon on the Warpland” by Gwendolyn Brooks

Better Blackness

A perfect poem for any New Year’s Day and for all who count themselves among “the last of the loud.”

THE SECOND SERMON ON THE WARPLAND

 1.

This is the urgency:  Live!

and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.

 2.

Salve salvage in the spin.

Endorse the splendor splashes;

stylize the flawed utility;

prop a malign or failing light–

but know the whirlwind is our commonwealth.

Not the easy man, who rides above them all,

not the jumbo brigand,

not the pet bird of poets, that sweetest sonnet,

shall straddle the whirlwind.

Nevertheless, live.

 3.

All about are the cold places,

all about are the pushmen and jeopardy, theft–

all about are the stormers and scramblers, but

what must our Season be, which starts from Fear?

Live and go out.

Define and

medicate the whirlwind.

 4.

The time

cracks into furious flower.  Lifts its face

all unashamed. …

View original post 104 more words

Ha! Take this Vicente!

At today’s dinner, I was challenged to re-publicize my blog. I closed it (set it to private mode) for an entire semester because of several reasons: 1) I was rather busy 2) my life was a mess (and I am not and will not be a honest blogger) 3) My favorite blogger stopped writing and escaped to Brazil. No names will be mentioned but I was very sad.

Anyways, apparently my friend Vicente opened his blog, so there’s no more excuse for me to close my blog. I mean, when a phD student tells you he has time for blogging, an undergrad cannot be a whining chick. Who can have worse school-life balance than PhDs?

Thankfully, I do have my journals to help me keep track of my whereabouts. I took classes, moved into I-house, met new people, learned how to swear in multiple languages, fell in love with kombucha and fish dinners… But I realize that my readers would be more interested in the sad parts of my summer. Never mind, I love the cynical readers, I myself one of them. And so tragedies will be played.

I need to clarify, however, these are annoying occurrences in an undergrad’s daily life. In other words, if you’re over 21, still reading this post, with your popcorn, waiting for some Schadenfreude, you’re simply pathetic. But it’s not like I can climb out of your screen to snatch off that mouse of yours and pour the popcorn into your face. And if I learnt anything this summer, it’s that life only gets easier, when I start to make fun of myself. So, let me raise glass to a not so easy summer, and an even harder Senior year; here are a few things I managed to screw up in the past three months:

  • I could not speak German.

Now this is either an identity crisis or a total blown up hypocrisy. It seems like I was encountering some middle age crisis with my German ability. I loved the German language and the culture grown out of it. My entire independent research and learning experience are structured around the German world. All of a sudden I couldn’t speak it.

And it hurts.

Of course there was some personal reasons involved. However, the more I got trapped in the no-German zone, the more I saw how ignorant I was. I started with Franz Kafka, and like a blind bull majored in German Studies, learned about German and EU politics, wrote about German history, only to find out that not only did I still know nothing about Germany, I also knew nothing about what’s happening outside of Germany. And I am a college senior. How did I allow all of this happen? You could see a downward spiral. The more disappointed I was towards myself, the less I could face my past self that is so committed in a proved lost cause.

I am getting better at this. The first step is to recognize that it is not ok to not practice speaking German. The second step is to do something about it. Simply the actions counted and made me happier. This paragraph is especially difficult to write, since I am still having issue. But at least my readers will know about it, and that’s the third step: make myself a clown out of it. In the end it’s hardly the biggest blow in my academic career. (if I even have one)  What I learned in and out of German classes still stayed with me. This Summer I was forced to look at German from a different perspective, but I’m glad that I didn’t give it up. I hope things make sense, but it’s complicated, you’re tired of reading this, so let’s move on.

  • I forgot to pickup my passport at the Chinese Embassy

At mid June, I sent my passport into the Chinese Embassy in SF, because it’s running on expiration. I was told that I needed a new passport, which should arrive in one and a half month.

One afternoon in early August I received a phone call from San Francisco. Interestingly, it didn’t say “Chinese Embassy” on the screen so I continued my afternoon nap. The same number called for a second time, and a third time. I became rather grumpy and hang up. It was later when I checked my email did I realize:” oh no! I just hang up on the Chinese Embassy!”

I did get my passport back. However, I was assigned a different date to pick it up. The lesson in this story is probably: don’t take unnecessary afternoon naps.

  • I lost my purse in SF.

The way I see this is, I am glad that I only lost my first purse after such a long time living in the US. I thought I would lose it on my first day. It happened on my way back from the SF Chinese Embassy. Now every time we’re in SF, Luciana asks me to check if my wallet is still there. Thanks Luciana =)

  • I lost my glasses. (and found them very much later)

One could only lose so many things. Seriously? After I went broke for 36 hours, my glasses decided to runaway from home. Not to mention that summer classes started when I realized that my glasses were gone. “At some point I would love to see the board.” I wrote in my journals. Turned out I forgot them in my friend’s car. When I found them, however, I have already gone blind for three months in a row. (Maybe this explained that “B” in political science class!) Moral of the story? Always have a backup pair of glasses!

  • I overstretched my ankle.

And as if this summer couldn’t have gotten worse… I decided to text, while walking down stairs! Millennial believe in our ability in multi-tasking. However, it is one thing to believe, another thing to execute. I fell down four consecutive stairs and for the love of God couldn’t stop crying. My ankle was a volcano exploding. Mind you, I twisted my ankle several times before, never had it hurt this bad. At the hospital, the doctor told me to stop being sad and wear an ankle bracelet for a week. “Then we’ll decide if you can take the bracelet off. but the bones look fine.”

I received my first ankle bracelet of my life and sent a picture of it to my brothers for condolence. They told me it was quite normal on basketball courts. “But we have never worn those bracelets, you’re such a chicken.” =( I didn’t even receive proper care, from my own brothers!

Of course there are many other things that I screwed up. But I would rather keep them to myself. In one of the many magical dinner I had at I-house, I asked the question:” what would I be like when I’m 28?” I couldn’t imagine it. All I could say is, I probably will mess up every step of my life, given my limited intelligence. But hopefully, as the wisest man always says, “it all works out in the end.”

At least it did this summer.

 

The Flea by John Donne

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,
    Yet this enjoys before it woo,
    And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
    And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, nay more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
    Though use make you apt to kill me,
    Let not to that, self-murder added be,
    And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now;
    ’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:
    Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,
    Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.