Go with a smile!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dreams part 2

It was Valentine’s day when I was in secondary school. For various reasons it was a day that I would remember for a long time.

1. My life had just taken a turn for the better. The previous few months had seen their share of turmoil, but I had only begun to pull myself out of it. I no longer believed in the old, superstitious, dogmatic ways of thinking, and I decided to use my reasoning to help my way out of whatever was troubling me. It would be simplistic to say that it was positive thinking, but it was part of it all. It was as though something had turned on in my head, and I found a way out of the rut that I was in.

Suddenly when I was no longer distracted by my petty troubles I saw more clearly what the situation was. I was in a place with an incredible amount of opportunities. I had my life ahead of me. When you are 15, so many wonderful things await you, so much of life you had yet to live, so much yet to be discovered. You only understand what could have been possible when you are looking back, because you see some possibilities you couldn’t have seen at that time. Yet at that time the world was seemingly a more open place, because there were some possibilities that you couldn’t have known were dead ends.

2. Not very long before that day, I had bought a David Bowie “greatest hits” called ChangesBowie, which had a collage of all his album covers on the cover. Listening to his stuff for the first time nearly blew my mind, although I had to sort through all the wonderful ideas he brought to his music one by one. It hadn’t all sunk in at that point. But there was a song which resonated with me at that point, which was really relevant to my life: Golden Years. "Don't let me hear you say life's getting you nowhere /... look at that sky, life's begun / nights are warm and days are young".

Funnily enough, it was written in 1976: I would later read in his biography that 1976 was his best year artistically (he produced his masterpiece, “Station to Station”) and his worst year in terms of his personal life, when his cocaine addiction was threatening to ruin everything. So there is a bitter edge to those lyrics that I hadn’t fully understood at that time. But that is so typical of a teenager to wholly embrace something new without understand the hidden double edge.

But I think, inwardly he would have recognised something: that in spite of all his problems, he still had that wonderful gift of music. So to call that his golden years is both ironic and unironic. And it is a statement, an acknowledgement, written by a 30 year old person who's seeing the first flush of youth fading away: these are your most exciting and productive years, as well as your most hellish and tumultous years. This is the central paradox of youth.

On that night, I was supposed to have attended a play, but on my way there I stopped by at a newly opened “megastore” and spent some time browsing through the stacks of CDs. OK, the stuff was quite pricey, but they had a greater range that most other music stores at that point in time, even though barely 2 years later, another megastore (Tower Records, now gone) would open and basically kill them. I was looking at the Bowie CDs and seeing the very evocative covers, wondered what other musical treasures awaited therein. I have almost all of his major albums from the 70s now*, and have been rarely disappointed with what I’ve heard.

But this was to be the beginning of a love affair with rock music that would take hold of me over the next few years. 1 year later, I would quit my less happy classical musical education, and my new music teachers would be the cassettes / CDs I bought by scrimping and saving from a schoolboy’s pocket money.

3. Most people, like myself, would in the early years of their adolescence yearn for a life together with a kind, caring and (but of course) sexy girlfriend. Yes, it was any other Valentine’s day, even though it was on a weekend. For some reason I saw people getting out of the MRT, and many of them were walking in pairs, holding roses. It was a secret club that I was eventually to be part of. (I’m still waiting actually). But I imagined that I would find that person, and she would sweep my heart away.

I still retain that optimism. I still think the best is ahead of me. I promised myself that I would not get involved with a woman who wasn’t a wild eyed romantic at heart, who didn’t understand the finer points of the seductive arts, who when I looked at her upon waking up in the morning, didn’t set my heart pumping like crazy. No way was I going to get trapped in a cycle where we just ended up squabbling over the mundane things in life. I was to go out with such a woman, or nobody at all.

After that drama production, I went to a park that was nearer my primary school, which had reminded me of a happier time in the past. There were some couples strolling there. I sat on the bench in the darkness for a while, wondering if something like that would ever take place. It did, once. Much of what happened during that most emotionally intense month of my life, you can draw a line back to the heady daydreams I was having at this point in my life.

If there is at all any hope of my getting attached, I will have to judge that a relationship with that special someone is faithful to these ideals. She doesn’t need to be pretty or stunningly clever, but she needs some sense of what it’s all about.

You realise that none of this would have been possible until I got my head out of my own ass first. That’s why it’s related to point 1.

4. Dreams and God
I realised this: the dreams that you dream are more real than reality. They are the stars by which you orientate your life. What is happening at present can only tell you so much, but what you aspire to, what you dream of, that is the thing that ultimately shapes your destiny.

This is connected to all other things. If you want to believe that life is worth living, that there’s something out there greater than yourself, which you whole heartedly believe in, that gives you reason to live. It is faith, it makes things possible, it heals you, it makes the pain go away. Faith is nothing less and nothing more than the organising principle of your life. God is that by which you govern your life. That’s why God is greater than you are.

Believe that there’s something out there that will make your dreams come true. Believe that there is a heaven above us. Therefore, through the power of dreams, I found God, I started understanding what it means.

But you have to find God in the right places. Your faith must be grounded in something more concrete, there must be something in your life that will buttress your belief in that something wonderful. You have to find that more concrete manifestation. Is it that somebody wonderful in your life? Is it your being part of a great job? Where is your place in this world? How can you hang that carrot in front of you and urge yourself on to keep on going when you’re going to take so many blows in this world?

What is that wonderful elixir of life, that thing that spurs you on? What is that magical mojo? I have described the various parts of it. But that is the way that it is. Even though you laboriously describe small portions of God, you must experience it in its totality.

5. Drama
After all I’ve talked about, the main event of that evening seems to be an anticlimax. It is. It’s the one thing that would play a smaller part compared to the other 4 points. But it was still inspiring all the same, and it still provided me with some of my happier moments.

There were 2 plays that night. One of them was a comedy, a pretty good spoof of Monty Python style. I liked it, but it was the second one that stuck in my mind. That was a play where there were 4 women who were wasting their lives away playing mahjong, because it was an anaesthetic that distracted them away from the heartbreak of their lives. Every woman has problems, but is envious of one of the other woman, who in turn has a problem that the other three do not fully appreciate. A could have been envying B for having a good career, but B’s husband could have been unfaithful behind B’s back – and so on.

My eyes were opened to some of the tricks that were used: the audience, with the eyes of God, knows what is in store for the characters in the play. But the character herself is oblivious to the fate. This was dramatic irony. It was such a wonderfully elegant structure, a quartet of dramatic ironies. And the essence of tragedy: the person is doomed from the start, but you still have to sit there and watch her fate unfold. 2 very useful devices that I would learn for myself and use.

And the author was 16 years old! It was astonishing. There was such tension between the spoken and the unseen. It was gripping. I learnt a lot. My eyes were opened.

2 years later, was the next edition of this drama production. I was to write a play of my own, and it got staged. It wasn’t as great as “Mahjong” but it was the wonderful fulfilment of a promise that I made to myself.

So it was on that wonderful Valentine’s day, more than 15 years ago, that all those threads of my life – the pulling back from the brink, the music, the notions of romantic love, of God, and the theatre stage – all those threads conspicuously got woven into one magical tapestry that is not easily entangled from one another. You could even call it my version of June 16 1904. (All the events that made up James Joyce’s “Ulysses” took place on that one special day). Much of what went through my mind on that day still informs the way I live my life today, even though at various points in my life, I forgot parts of what it was all about. All of the 5 aspects, I had acted upon them at some point or other in my life.

I would say that was the beginning of the idealistic phase of my life, the phase that lasted around 9 years before it ended here. I suppose it is a tad dramatic to say that the end of a relationship produced a change in personality. There were other factors involved. I think that it is quite boring to have the same personality and attitudes throughout your life. I will also say that something might come and shake up your beliefs, and it is entirely your decision, after that, to decide whether you're going to be a more emotional person, or a more rational one. For me, I felt that I had to become less emotional for a while to regain my bearings, and after that, I started work and it just didn't make much sense to be more emotional and less rational. It wasn't as though I was surrounded by artsy people or anything.

* "Man Who Sold the World", "Hunky Dory", "Ziggy Stardust", "Aladdin Sane", "Diamond Dogs", "Station to Station", "Low", "Heroes", Lodger" and "Scary Monsters".


Post a Comment