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Category Archives: Learning

What More

What More
What more do atoms bind
than the eyes which do find
objects, an infinite fold,
their stories all untold?

Of what more do lips speak
than mountain spring and river creek,
than star fires all aglow,
than northern winds all ablow?

And what more, oh, what more,
of thumb and fingers four,
of their industry which doth make,
of their gall, their will to take?

Tell me then, what more of sun’s fire,
without man to ever tire?
What more of planets great
without soul, beauty its to create?

If it is only through nature that we be,
then why speak any more of humanity?

 

 

I wrote this poem in response to something someone said in my class. He claimed that we are just nature, that the things we make are all just a part of nature, and that in the end, we and the things we create are nothing but nature. Indeed I have been cited to claim that a TV is as much a part of nature as we are, like how a beaver’s dam or an ant’s hill are part of nature, but I do think that there is more to man than just nature. Man is animal, but man is also more, just as a square is also a rectangle, but something more. A sun is powerful, but what is its power without man to admire it or to enjoy it? Suns are powerful, but a sun cannot imagine, cannot create worlds that do not exist, cannot do all the things that our minds can do nor feel all the things that our hearts can feel. Man is a part of and yet apart from the universe. It is our gift from the universe to recreate it in our minds as something unique. We are gifted with a world that, while based on one world, is all our own. Our existence is made richer than anything else in the universe because we have the ability to perpetually enrich it with the universe.

It is through nature that we be, and it is through our humanity that we become.

 
 

Guilt

Before class today I took my usual morning pit stop at the restroom and found something out of the ordinary lying next to the sink: an iPhone. Now it wasn’t strange in the sense that its existence confounded me greatly – in fact it’s something that nowadays is almost frighteningly ordinary – but it’s not everyday that one finds a phone lying next to the sink in some public restroom, let alone the iPhone that people seem to covet and guard so desperately. Of course my first instinct is to pick it up – I mean who wouldn’t grab what looked like a brand spanking new iPhone if it was left so temptingly unattended in a public place? I looked around to make sure that the owner wasn’t still around, and when I realized that no one was in the room, the first thought that popped into my head was this: Take it, it’s yours now. In the seconds that followed, all of the amazing possibilities of getting a free iPhone were flying through my head at lightning speed. A free iPhone? I could sell it and make money. Though if I had an iPhone for myself I could do enjoy all the stuff that people with smart phones love: convenient internet, games, apps… My joy was increasing exponentially.

But it all came to an abrupt halt as I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Were these really my first thoughts? How many times have I heard my friends complain about having lost their phones and the trouble they went through afterwards? Was I really like that stranger that took my friend’s phone all the way to Baltimore (located through a rather neat app), never to be heard from again? It was very well within my power to find the owner of this phone, yet my first instincts were to satisfy my own desires? I feel that I try my hardest to live up to the principles that I espouse, yet in a fleeting moment I came to see that I wasn’t as principled as I would have liked to imagine, and I was left feeling so terribly ashamed of myself. I got into contact with the owner’s mother and I plan on meeting up with the guy at some point today or tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m left with a little piece of guilt tumbling around inside my pocket. Is this what human nature is really like? Those moments of intense greed, as short lived as they were, are those what lies at the heart of our supposed “humanity”?

The devil really lives somewhere inside all of us, that much is certain. And in a first-world society, he rarely declares his presence, for fear that he might bring harm to his vessel. But I think that there’s a danger to that. We spend so long suppressing our inner devils out of fear of consequence that we sometimes forget that he’s there and that he will always be there. And in those moments when it becomes really easy to be bad, when the consequences have all but disappeared, what is left to reign over him and his desires, so tempered and amplified in the shadows, but our own atrophied willpower? The rules of first-world life, as good as they are in regulating our behavior in the grand scheme, make us weak. What happens when the rules aren’t there anymore, or when we enter territory where the rules aren’t certain? What happens when little stands in the way between our starved devils, now rendered voracious, and the rest of the world? I used to think that the better part of our humanity would have survived, but now I’m not so sure.

 

Lisa

“She looks like a Jenny,” Jimmy says.

“You look like a Jimmy!” Jenny retorts.

“I think she looks like a Shirley!” No one registers that Lisa has said anything.

“What do I look like?” asks Anna.

“You look like an Anna!” Again no one responds to Lisa’s claim.

“You look like an Angela,” Jenny says with finality. All the guys nod in approval.

“Shit, that’s so weird: I was just thinking that!” Tommy says, looking for Jenny’s reaction eagerly, “Isn’t that so weird?”

Jenny ignores him. “You look like a Tommy. And you look like a Franklin.”

Tommy and Franklin look at one another and nod approvingly. They take turns saying,  “Yeah definitely; you’re definitely right.”

Lisa pipes up, “What do I look like?” Again no one responds, the others continuing their conversation. Lisa adjusts herself in her chair, coughs a bit, and starts playing with her phone.

I want to tell her that she looks like a Lisa.

 

Little Book Blurbs: Friendlihana

9/1/12

Thoughts: I like working at Benihana. It’s a relatively relaxing job. People are nice.Well at least the staff. Can’t really speak for the politeness of the clientele, though most people are decent.

It’s an interesting chapter in my life. My parents are happy that I have a job, even it’s just at a restaurant. I suppose it’s a nice introduction to the world.

I’ve really been sheltered my entire life. I mean, I cook and clean and have had my fair share of responsibility.But I grew up in a place where people aspired to be doctors and lawyers and astrophysicists. B’s were considered bad, A’s were good enough, C’s were for the lazy and the stupid. Harvard and Princeton and Yale were attainable goals for just about everyone.

But life isn’t like that. Life is a place where people go to whatever college they can, where they make life changing mistakes, where happiness can be anything from being a soap actress to having a family and a dog. Life is complicated. People are complicated. I think I’ve spent too long ignoring this simple and plain truth.

Some of these people are really struggling. They live the only way they can, striving towards some far off happiness. But they do so with a smile on their face. They do so all the while treating people with respect and kindness, rarely ever showing the weight of their burdens. I can see it though. In their eyes there is much strife and uncertainty. But there is also bravery hidden there in their eyes. There are stalwart spirits here, and it is that sort of spirit that I both respect and admire.

I have my own dreams that I want to pursue. And luckily I was born gifted with the talent and intelligence to pursue those distant dreams. What I lack is spirit. I lack that fire of life, the spark that shines so brightly in the eyes of my fellow coworkers. I certainly have many things that I could team them. But I honestly believe that they have more to offer to me than I to them. I’ve spent quite a long time looking for something – what it was, I didn’t know. But I think, while wandering alone in the dark forest of my life, I’ve come across a Virgil of sorts. I expect the journey to be harrowing, but it is only on such a journey that true enlightenment can be attained, the elixir found, and the world be cured of its ills, the world being my soul.

Benihana is just a stepping stone to a much larger, scarier, and fantastic place. It’s time to be acquainted with this world’s denizens and all of their terrible and beautiful aspects.

 

Ode to the Mysterious Liquid

10/9/12

I am again in the NYU computer lab, my makeshift workshop on my daily sojourn in the city. I had luckily nabbed this computer from a girl who was getting up almost as soon as I had arrived – I was thankful that I didn’t have to stand on the sidelines of the room, waiting, hoping that someone would get up soon. The girl rose from her chair, quickly stuffing her things back into her bag. I made my way towards the computer as the girl put on her jacket and left, noticing that she had left a rather large water bottle next to her computer. It had clearly been repurposed – I was positive that Trader Joe’s Mountain Spring water was not peach colored. I thought about stopping her and asking if the bottle was hers, but she was gone almost immediately; I shrugged and sat down – I was fairly certain that very few people in the world had the absence of mind to forget their gigantic bottle of peach colored liquid (though someone, evidently, had).

I had sat down to write about the strange liquid when my musing was suddenly interrupted by alarms and flashing lights – apparently or perhaps hypothetically, the library was on fire. I looked about to see if anyone else was alarmed only to see that everyone was doing exactly the same thing. I lingered at the computer that I had just so deftly acquired, not wanting to give up my spot – everyone else in the room seemed to be feeling the same way. It’s funny how people are so much like sheep sometimes, no one willing to move a muscle until someone else did. I myself felt like a sheep, sitting there, head swiveling about like everyone else’s. My father had always warned me about the notion of crowd mentality, and I, no longer wanting to be a sheep waiting for someone else to do something, decided that it was my responsibility to make the first move.

I did so sheepishly, getting up from my chair and donning my jacket, but kneeling back into my chair, swiveling about with my stomach pressed against the back of the seat, looking around to see if I had inspired anyone else to move. No one had gotten up, though a few people had remained in their chairs as they put on their jackets and went on swiveling their heads. I let a few moments pass before I stood up, exiting out of my online accounts, setting my bag over my shoulder and leaving quietly: I was not particularly fond of the idea, in the case of an actual fire, of being trapped in a burning library, nor, in the event of an hypothetical fire, of being told by an angry security guard to get the hell out of the building. I exited the building, watching people descend the stairs into the bowels of the building that was supposedly on fire, intent on doing their homework or watching Youtube videos even if the world was burning around them.

I crossed the street in the usual procedure of fire alarms. People slowly gathered on the sidewalk opposite the library, chatting away with whomever they had been with or busying themselves with their phones. I found myself next to a girl who was doing the latter. She was quite skinny, and had styled herself in a fashion that made it obvious that she was aware of this fact. She had a short bob haircut, her blond, slightly brown hair framing her boyish yet feminine charms. She wore a dark brown leather jacket with a red scarf tied around her neck, her tight, beige, almost cream orange colored jeans stuffed neatly into black combat boots. It’s funny how you can pay so much attention to the people around you and yet not be noticed by them; she didn’t once look up from her phone to register that I was standing right next to her, probably not even aware of the fact that I was wearing a similar colored leather jacket, or that I was Asian, or that I even existed.

I wonder if people recognized me? I certainly recognized a few faces because I had observed them before on some sidewalk or at some computer or walking in some hallway, each leaving a mark on my memory. I was almost certain that none of these faces recognized mine. There was one man in particular who had sat at a computer adjacent to mine on more than one occasion. I always recognized him because he seemed to be perpetually dressed in a velvety purple jacket, his long blond hair in conjunction with his peculiar attire always reminding my very distinctly of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. Wonka didn’t recognize me as he passed by me in the crowd.

The alarms soon ended, prompting the sheep (which included myself) to begin herding themselves back to their work. The quiet murmur that had permeated the crowd when it had stood across the street of the library waiting for the drill to be over quickly swelled into a symphony of voices, each conversation competing with the next into an ever louder hum as we all filed our way back towards our destinations and occupations. I laughed audibly and couldn’t help a smile at the minute element of humanity that was playing out before everyone’s eyes and ears, yet had remained unseen and unheard by most of them; this behavior certainly attracted more than one strange glance.

I quickly made my way back to my computer, hoping to reclaim my spot next to the mysteriously delicious looking liquid. I was oddly relieved to find this particular spot unoccupied, my strange, inanimate friend waiting patiently for my return. I felt somewhat sad, looking at the lost bottle, that no one, including myself, had decided to take the poor liquid with them, leaving someone’s forgotten trash to burn, actually or hypothetically, with the rest of the building. And so here I sit, writing about the lonely bottle that everyone had failed to take notice of, deciding to take the time to immortalize it in writing. Even if the lonely peach colored liquid had been ignored by the rest of the world, I would take my time to remember its face.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Life is Research, Writing

 

Writing Exercise 5

Write one to two paragraphs about something physical. It can be an action, a thing, a gesture – anything at all, as long as it’s physical.

Everyone was talking in the back of the restaurant, the rain falling as the employees huddled underneath the over hanging roof to smoke their cigarettes and complain about their work. I was the only one who was silent, my attention drawn to a little cigarette butt caught in the cracks of the pavement. Water filled the little crevice, the butt trying desperately to float up to the top, but continually pushed back down by a steady stream of drops trickling from the edge of the roof.

Drip. Drip. Drip. The poor cigarette butt tried in vain to remain afloat, getting only a gasp of air every half second. I considered stepping in, putting my foot in the way of the drops, allowing the cigarette butt an escape from its water torture. Drip. Drip. Drip. I let the butt drown. 

 

College Application Essay

Last week I accessed my Google drive for the first time and found a bunch of things from my past: old labs, data sheets, little blurbs I had written in high school, and – perhaps most interestingly of all – my college application essay. It was an open response essay which meant that you could write whatever you wished. It’s an interesting little peek at who I used to be – it made me realize that I haven’t really changed all that much, at least in style. I also find it funny to read again because it’s pretty clear to me where my mother’s criticisms about having a more concrete, show-offy essay started to cramp my style – can you spot where?

Into the Blue

Color is a product of waves existing within the visible light spectrum. All colors fall within the range of low frequency red and high frequency violet. From a realistic perspective, that is all color is, nothing more, nothing less. Yet this view, this definition of color, limits its potential. With a little imagination and a touch of personal perspective, color can become a symbol for a whole world of meaning. In this manner, specific colors can reflect all the objects, ideas, and emotions that a person associates with them. Yet, of all the different hues and colors in the world, there lies a single color that is special to a person, a single color that a person associates himself with the most. In an attempt to understand a little more about myself, I sought the one color that holds that special meaning. I found, after analyzing myself and my life so far, that that color was blue.

When I think of the color blue, the first thing I imagine is a peaceful stretch of ocean. Its flow is calm and steady: nothing can disturb its relaxed waters. The blue of the water is simple, yet refined, holding a certain level of mystery within its deep color. Reflecting upon myself, I realize how well I match the cool, calm, and collected nature of that ocean. The blue of that ocean holds a profound sense of rationality, tranquility, and thought that truly characterizes my mind and personality. These characteristics make me somewhat quiet and reserved because I am constantly thinking about something or other, yet I find that I am still quite personable and always willing to have a conversation about anything.

Looking at blue from a more personal perspective, I realized that blue has been—and still is—a major part of my life. It has been present at many significant experiences and in many cherished objects in my life. Not to say that other colors were not present at those occasions or on those objects: it is simply that blue seems to be the significant color at many important times of my life.

When I think about where blue shows up in my life, I realize that it has been with me in just about everything. Blue was present in the waters of the pool that almost drowned me when I was a toddler. Ironically enough, blue was the color of the pool in which I overcame that trauma with the aid of my family and it is the color of my pool that I swim in everyday during the summer. Blue was the color of the old, crowded van that took the six members of my family on numerous road trips, and, even though it broke down a lot and was not the most reliable machine, we considered it our second home. That van holds years of family bonding and echoes the countless laughs that have been let loose from within. Blue was the color of my uniform when I started Catholic school. I was terrified of the nuns and it was the first time I had been separated from my mother, but luckily my older siblings were always there whenever I needed someone. Blue was the color of my favorite lunch bag in middle school. I was relatively new to Edison and I did not know anyone, but it was at lunch that I met many of my best friends that are still with me today. Blue was the color of my passport when I first visited my ancestral homeland of the Philippines and got acquainted with my family’s roots. That trip was the last time I saw my grandfather alive, and I treasure those memories with him. Blue was the color of a backdrop that was used by my Odyssey of the Mind team when we placed first at the regional and state tournaments and had the privilege of competing at the 2007 World Finals. Though we only got twentieth place out of fifty-nine, it was an experience that I will never forget. Blue was the color of the pen set I bought for my dad at the NASA Ames gift shop. To me, those pens are a reminder of the opportunity that was given to me to work for NASA and all the life lessons I gained by seizing that opportunity. Blue was the color of the sky as I looked out the window of the plane on my way back from California. It was the first time I had navigated an airport and traveled alone, and it was at that moment that I realized how independent I had become.

Each of these memories holds a special significance that has made a specific imprint upon my life. The color blue helps me to recall those memories and remember what those events really mean to me. To put it simply, blue does for me what madeleines did for Proust: it opens up a rich world of powerful memories and cognition.

Blue is a color. Color is a product of waves within the visible light spectrum. To some, that is all the color blue is and all that it will ever be. But for me, blue has become something beyond its definition. It has come to symbolize the values and memories I most appreciate and cherish; it has come to symbolize me. And as ironic as it may sound, I truly am happy to be blue.