Cairo

August 21, 2017: Lurch

A city of 20 million can hardly be a quiet refuge. Pick your flavor and chances are that your appetite will be satiated as soon as it appears. Pick your poison but be careful, chances are that you can overdose by no fault of your own. The magic of 20 million is no guarantee, however. It requires a certain kind of chaos. A loud chaos that lurches forward then stalls before it is picked up again, all before you can snap your fingers. Yet still, within there exists a refuge. Straight through the middle of this ancient and historic city lies the largest river in the world. A river that has sustained life for thousands upon thousands of years. Take a felucca, float to the middle, observe 10 million on one side and 10 million on the other, then close your eyes and take a deep breathe. The magic of chaos needs its smooth sustenance.

 

 

A Symphony of Flames

August 3, 2017: Symphony 

Sabrina slowly stepped into a small, quiet cave. All she could hear were echoes of drops dripping onto a puddle on the muddy cave floor. All she could see was darkness surrounding a faint, flickering light that seemed to be coming from deeper within the cave. Sabrina apprehensively stepped further towards the light. She was a curious person, and it was curiosity that led her into the cave in the first place. Something was always on her mind, racing or pacing. The mystery of the nothingness of caves caught Sabrina’s imagination, and so she stepped into the cave, and stepped forth. She turned a corner in pursuit of this mysterious light. By now, the echoes of the drops she heard had bounced back before making it far enough into the deeper tunnels of the cave. It was now complete silence, and the light was getting stronger.

Sabrina turned another corner and her jaw dropped at what she saw. Eyes wide open, hands to her sides and feet planted on the ground like steel anchors, Sabrina gazed in wonder at a symphony of flames burning from the cave walls. She was now in a smaller side-cave that burned with natural light in the heart of darkness. Each flame burned with a kind of stoicism that erected Sabrina’s spine and humbled her senses. Together, the flames burned in symphony: One light, one beauty, deep within a dark, silent cave. Sabrina remained in place for hours, it seemed. At least long enough for all her thoughts–racing and pacing–to succumb to the harmony of the symphony.

 

 

San Francisco

August 2, 2017: Foggy

The crisp air flooded his face with refreshing sensation. Just ahead lay his imagination, where his hopes and fears merge in thick entanglement. Stance wide, collar up and hands in jacket pockets, he closed his eyes and took a deep breathe. He inhaled scents of fresh eucalyptus and he exhaled in exaltation. The details blurred into a foggy essence, cooling his sensations, mellowing his nerves, and lifting his spirits.


Practice

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.”

 

 

Pest Control

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.

 

Distress

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.

 

Raskolnikov and Sonia

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.

 

Shortcuts

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.

 

Heads and Tales

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.

 

Redemption

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.