July 31, 2017: Substandard
Paul practiced everyday. He knew the old adage as well as anyone: “Practice makes perfect.” He practiced before he practiced, and then he practiced some more. Over and over again. Paul practiced until he couldn’t practice anymore, which perplexed Paul and troubled him deeply. The more one practices, the closer he gets to perfect, then the more he wants to practice! So, Paul was confused by his lack of want. This did not stop Paul from practicing more, though he struggled to find meaning in continuous repetition. On Performance Day, he performed better than anyone else, until the final section, however. The prompt deviated off script and Paul was on his heels. His performance in the final section was substandard, and he did not win the competition. After all that practice, he thought he would be devastated. Years later, Paul looked back with wisdom. It was all so clear. Paul repeated tasks, but he did not deliberately seek to excel. He did not have fun practicing.
“People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it.”
July 29, 2017: Pest
Puo sat upright on his desk chair, staring down at blank pages with a pen in one hand, his other hand rested on his head while his legs bounced up and down in a frantic pace. About 40 minutes had passed and the pages were still blank. It was common for Puo to feel anxious before writing, but this time was different. In the past his anxiety had served as a perverse kind of motivator to get to work, but on this particular evening it was like an insidious pest, taking over his body one faculty at a time. Suddenly, Puo dropped his pen, lifted his head up and exhaled loudly. He closed his eyes, placed his hands on his thighs and breathed in and out in a consistent, melodic rhythm. He stayed that way for another 40 minutes. Puo then opened his eyes, picked his pen up, and began to write the story he needed to write if he were to write anything else in his life ahead.
July 27, 2017: Hidden
“I’ve lost my mind,” I thought to myself as I stood in the middle of the sidewalk like a frozen ice sculpture on a warm day, slowly dripping away. “Where did it go?!” I screamed like a madman who has indeed lost his mind. I threw my arms up towards the sky but kept my gaze straight head, as if I were creating a goal post in the air. “I must find it!” It was quite a distressing scenario for a young man, who, by any sane persons account, was one who is generally far more in control of his senses, impulses and reflexes than most others. But I am the only one in the world who knows what lays behind what the world sees with their own eyes. All I knew at that moment was that I couldn’t find my lost mind, though it lay right before my eyes, hidden in plain view, just a few steps ahead on the barren sidewalk.
July 23, 2017: Harmonize
The following is an abridged excerpt from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Constance Garnett translation, Part 4 Chapter 5).
A conversation is taking place between Raskolnikov and Sonia. Raskolnikov is trying to understand how Sonia has maintained both sanity and goodness despite having committed great sin.
“But you are a great sinner, that’s true,” he added almost solemnly…
“Tell me,” he went on almost in a frenzy, “how this shame and degradation can exist in you side by side with other, opposite, holy feelings? It would be better, a thousand times better and wiser to leap into the water and end it all!”
“But what would become of them?” Sonia asked faintly, gazing at him with eyes of anguish, but not seeming surprised at his suggestion.
Raskolnikov looked strangely at her. He read it all in her face; so she must have had that thought already, perhaps many times…
He was still confronted by the question, how could she have remained so long in that position without going out of her mind, since she could not bring herself to jump into the water?…
He began looking more intently at her.
“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.
Sonia did not speak, he stood beside her waiting for an answer.
“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcible, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.
“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.
“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.
Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.
“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.
“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.
July 21, 2017: Gate
“Open Sesame” … “Open Sesame!” … “Open Sesame, Please??” Little Talia stood at the big gate, longing to get to the other side. She looked at the gate up and down, peeped through the slits inbetween the massive logs of redwood that made up the gate, and banged on the door. Her “Aha!” moment came when she suddenly remembered the tale her teacher read to her at school yesterday. She stood confidently in front of the gate to command her Open Sesame’s, but to no avail. Talia realized there was no shortcut and no magic formula to cross to the other side. She had to go the long way. She had to get to work.
July 19, 2017: Disastrous
I took the risk, certain that the outcome would change my life. Heads would bring fame and fortune, tales would bring sorrow and suffering. The maestro tossed the coin. It was in the air for an eternal 5 seconds before it landed — heads. Little did I know, my life took a disastrous turn. Fame and fortune brought with it all the sorrow and suffering I was fearful of. That turn led me into a dark tunnel, yet there was light on the other side. In the end, I looked back on my tortuous journey, grateful for every turn.
July 16, 2017: Savor
On a beautiful summer afternoon, Liam slept in a dark cell underground. The air was stale and humid. The only audible sounds, besides the slow dripping of water from the top of the cave onto the muddy floor, were footsteps overhead from above ground. Liam was alone underground, only accompanied once every other day by a dreadful guard who would check in on Liam to hurl insults at him, throw at least a blow or kick, and toss him his rations of stale bread and moldy cheese. It had been three years. Liam knew it was summer now by the temperature of the underground cave and by the cadence of the footsteps above. He pictured young children playing tag, young men wrestling with one another and young women strolling around the lake where he learned how to swim.
Liam had to do what he did that led him to this jail cell, he had no other choice, he thought. He also had to be punished. He knew that. He knew that he had to suffer because he could no longer enjoy the world. Down there, trapped in the worst condition, Liam knew he had to savor his suffering. It was his only path to redemption.
July 15, 2017: Moxie
Red had the moxie. You can feel it all around. Look into Red’s eyes, and you get some kind of shiver. Green had the mojo. One look at green and your limbic system is sure to overdrive. Yellow, though, was able to slip right through the facade. She looked back at Red and Green, who were fading away from times gone by.
July 14, 2017: Tailor
“It’s a head spinner alright, but it doesn’t fit you,” Mr. Miago blurted out as he read that morning’s The Local Daily. I was standing on the opposite end of the small room, close by the front entrance and right in front of the three-fold mirror. Measuring tape was hanging from the panel edges, long ones, wide ones and narrow ones. Tape that had sized up strangers, travelers, young children, bachelors and bachelorettes, family, friends, and neighbors. I turned towards Mr. Miago while turning my head to the mirror to check out my side view. Then I spun around to check out my opposite side view. It fit so well! I thought. She would be so impressed, I just knew it. Swept off her feet, I tell you! “But Mr. Miago, it fits like a glove!” Mr. Miago’s head was still buried in his paper. “She definitely won’t say no, this time,” I said. Mr. Miago finally looked up from his morning reading, set the paper down, slowly got up and started walking towards me. “Come, take another look. Your head’s been buried in the Daily all morning, you haven’t even checked me out!”
Mr. Miago stood just a few inches from me and looked right into my eyes as he said, “Kiddo, I know the dimensions, but that doesn’t mean it fits you. I see it in your eyes. She doesn’t care about a dashing sear-sucker suit if the body in it is a sucker! Show her the good man that you really are, and nothing could fit better.”
July 13, 2017: Bumble
It was 8:00pm in October when Seya walked out of her SoHo home. Her mind was stuck on what happened an hour ago. It was not easy to make sense of what had transpired. For the first time in too long, Seya sensed that her dream was within reach, but for what reason? She didn’t know. She worked hard, but not hard enough, she thought. Seya began to take longer and faster slides. She was in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, but she was in a hurry. Step by step her heart beat faster. The light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter in Seya’s mind, yet she turned her attention left, right, up and down to meet the darkness of the tunnel walls. Her long strides lost their rhythm and she bumbled down the block. By that time it was 8:20pm and the dark night began to supplant the setting sun.