Writing Up for People

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.” E.B. White

Enter a child’s headspace and you will find a perpetually unfolding space for stories and beauty. Children are driven by wonder and endless curiosities. Yet children’s books rarely capture this spirit. They downsize big ideas—in E.B. White’s words: “writing down to children”—even though kids are the most inquisitive creatures who happily swallow mind-stretching topics and swing from one discipline to another like a natural interdisciplinary student.

Recently, we are seeing a reemergence of children’s stories that, like children themselves, galvanize on little mundane things in life, like mornings, a blue bird, or a city’s soundscape. I call them ‘children’s stories for adults’ for its quality that transcends age and time. Working as modernized and simplified fables, these children’s stories for adults mark the realization that adults, too, are still little children inside. Continue reading “Writing Up for People”

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Who’s technology and what’s us?

As we expand our technological capabilities, our spiritual and creative beings are expanded and stretched, too. When years ago we could trace our influences to the immediate surroundings, now we are shaped and molded by bits and code sent from a great distance on the Internet. When decades ago we define our identity mainly through our racial backgrounds, now we define our identities through quirky likings and interests we pick up from various digital niches. The internet has elevated us on to a new experience where the physical bodies couldn’t possibly reach. Instead of having a physical travel, we travel in our minds, diving into the rabbit hole, to the depths of the internet that illuminates unknown corners within ourselves. And this is the intimate marriage we have with technology: a relationship of comfort, domestication, and tyranny.

We drool over the technologies that smoothen edges in our life, which becomes an easy commoditizing motive for any entrepreneurial moves. Technology that makes our life easier is a good start, but is deeply misleading. Whenever we see a chic advertisement of the latest tech product, we’re persuaded that what’s useful is fashionable, and what’s fashionable is useful. But I personally believe that there’s a great spiritual potential in technology that goes beyond the promise of ease and efficiency.

Continue reading “Who’s technology and what’s us?”

On Nietzsche’s God is Dead

Nietzsche’s God is Dead is perhaps the single most provocative statement that permeates common understanding and makes every young and modern atheist drool like Pavlov’s dogs. Used in pop cultures like worn out concert tees enduring ages of torments and misunderstandings, this statement sparks debates or ends discussions when done by folks who are unfamiliar with the context.

In Nietzsche’s 1882 collection The Gay Science, he proclaimed God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?” after seeing that god and religion had been killed by science. The post-enlightenment era saw the dawn of a new thinking where humans get to decide who they are and what their purpose is. At least, that was how scientific explorations put us in perspective against the unbiased, vast universe. Yet humans, small and fragile, lose meanings altogether, falling into a dark existential crisis where the purpose of life feels so distant and detached to our everyday life. And while juggling between the ambitious scientific pursuits and the quiet pull of the solitary minds, we feel the heavy agony of finding meaning unto life without a meaningful death. Continue reading “On Nietzsche’s God is Dead”

Oh darkness my old friend

Apparently, melancholy was a dark fluid circling through our body. At least that was what the Greeks think. Besides melancholy, there was also joy, lethargy and sensitivity, and anger. The inherent dogma, that sadness is a hormonal imbalance in the body, persists throughout the modern age under various clinical depression names. Despite this truth, we are reluctant to admit sadness in our life, assuming it as the enemy in today’s obsession to a “fulfilling life”.

Just a few days ago, while lounging on a chic-tropical terrace of a Peruvian restaurant in the middle of Ubud, as the sunlight made its dramatic come down against the palm trees, the slow drag of sadness came unto me. Indeed there is something about afternoons that’s distinctively melancholic. I refused to look at my phone since noising out sadness gives more sadness. So as the sadness sits there in front of me, I thought, what should I do? And it occurred to me that we are never taught how to embrace sadness. Should I think, should I feel? That’s the first question. Then, should I stay silent or do something? Should I listen or should I speak? I froze on what to do. All while sadness sips black bitter tea next to me. Continue reading “Oh darkness my old friend”

Got thinking paralysis? Write with a pen

Aah, the oldie-goodie of writing on a piece of paper with pen. It brings me back the memories of being a student, jabbing essays after essays, exams after exams on paper, for two hours or so. The wrist gets tired. But the flow you’re getting pushes you all the way to the end of your essay, fast. It’s a bit more unimaginable now to think of pulling out an essay, handwritten, on a topic you may not love, within just two hours. I’d get nervous! So cheers to that Flow. Because this ecstatic flow isn’t something that comes by as easily now that we have the more convenient option of a laptop, delete, and move.

People are coming up with questions such as how can I write faster. Because you know, now we have to write content for the web. The more the merrier. Forget thoroughly researched a topic. All you need is a solid idea and an authoritative tone and an article published once a week. Continue reading “Got thinking paralysis? Write with a pen”

The kind of creative loneliness. And, daydreaming

I had never noticed myself as an actual loner until I was in college. I had lunch by myself, organized trips to classes on my own, finished my essays in my bedroom. My best friend has always been one, or two, or three. But I rarely, so rarely ever feel alone.

I was one of those invisible students in your class. I retreated to books, my desk, or my own dreams during the short breaks. Even when in conversations with my ladies, I was usually being the slowest one because my mind was always halfway to Neptune.

Ok, let me step back a little bit. I did feel alone during my 17 years living in Jakarta, feeling slightly isolated and not understood. Rebecca Solnit built a fort with her books, a world where she allows herself to live and breathe freely. I did, too. With books, comics, movies, whatever.  Continue reading “The kind of creative loneliness. And, daydreaming”

Should we walk?

If the city is a language spoken by walkers, then a post pedestrian city not only has fallen silent but risks becoming a dead language. Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

Should we walk? Ask no one in Jakarta, ever. The answer will be replied with a gasp, a jolt, a furious face, a standing applause of some sort as if walking is a rare activity we do. But isn’t it?

For most of my life (that is, from a baby till high school), walking is an act reserved only to those who can’t obtain a car or a motorbike. It’s savage, dirty, tiring, sweaty. To walk from my home to a nearby mini market under the sun is to waste your time while laughing at yourself really. So I practically never walked from point A to point B all the way until high school.

That is, until I went to San Francisco and spent hundreds of hours on the streets that it becomes an extension of my home.  Continue reading “Should we walk?”