Shall I Compare Thee to a (Ordinary) Christmas Day?

“A stegosaurus in the forest munching on some hay,
Lay down to snooze in a bed of ooze and sadly passed away.
Her body changed and rearranged as she sank beneath the soil,
And over time she turned to slime and then she turned to oil.”

~ Tom Chapin

 
That’s not a blog entry-opening ‘inspirational quote’ line. That’s a verse from Tom Chapin’s ‘R-E-C-Y-C-L-E’ song that wrapped up my Christmas Caroling session at work this year.

Yes, this year’s Carol was no church choir. If anything it would’ve passed more as a heartfelt effort at indoor rain dance gathering. And a sweetly politically correct one at that. With everyone sitting in a circle creating impromptu ethnic tunes to ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ using all the traditional forms of percussion and tambourine you can name, and at one point resting to hum the second verse of ‘Silent Night’ (because you don’t just make people say ‘Jesus’ in a non-Christian-majority multicultural setting), the only thing missing was for someone to go dancing around a center-piece bonfire.

But then again, hardly anything about this year’s Christmas was a lot traditional. Apart from the rain-dance of a Christmas Carol, the distance from Home and thus the absence of Family presence, there was this year’s tree.

xmastree (2)

If you have been in a country that hugely celebrates the Chinese New Year festivity, this tree would probably remind you more of angpaos than Christmas stockings. And any random small convenience shop owner could walk in to my school library and confidently say they’ve got a better (read: more seasonally appropriate) tree than ours. But I beam at the sight of it the same way that the woman who’s responsible for this one would.

Nah, I still beam brighter than that. Maybe ’cause hers costs $4.2 million.

 
At the two high school boys who were too cool to admit that they’d rather cut out strips of green paper crepes, fold paper cranes, and crumple up cotton ball pieces into fake snow falls, than slack off on their Macs during study periods. At their insistence on keeping ‘Jingle Bells Rock’ on repeat on account it was pretty much the only Christmas Carol they were familiar with, while rejoicing in the spirit of making fun of my origami skills.

 
And the days leading up to December 25 were far from the touch of fraternity. For they were spent in intentional isolation for a self-service wish-fulfilling uninterrupted reading time in the little town of Ubud; cafe-hopping, round-town push-biking, used books shop raging, Julie Otzuka’s ‘When the Emperor Was Divine‘ and Anita Desai’s ‘Diamond Dust‘-demolishing, organic meal feasting, and meditational paddyfield strolling, while being shortly interluded by a lively and mind-opening encounter with a couple of South African and French legal experts who managed to get me all fired up about their TED talk-material Integrative Law Movement.

 
And yet as I sat in a half-occupied hall waiting for Christmas Eve’s midnight mass to begin, I couldn’t help to smile in the overcoming of a sudden heart-warming joy at the thought of it all.

When I had found myself one night earlier in December quietly crying on my bed in a somewhat fetal position – having just been hit by the notion that I wouldn’t have the same ‘perfect’ traditional endless-company Christmas I had last year – it didn’t occur to me that this year’s would awaken me to a whole new way of music-experiencing in the midst of a non-traditional Caroling where music was made from nothing but simple technology, communal energy and natural synergy.

That it would re-energize me with at least a half year’s worth of inspiration for more creativity and humanity-changing action-taking through a friendly lone bookpacking trip.

Or that it would see to it that I know and understand, that nothing in life is a consolation prize, when you put love and the joy in people’s hearts before a perfect display of pride.

 
That same night in the hall, as I wondered how those several days – despite their resulting in deep contentment and satisfaction – have honored the meaning of the very season I was celebrating (as I hadn’t exactly been participating in the traditional giving and sharing practice as my popular culture has been dictating for years), and started further wondering what it even is that I was celebrating, the Pastor’s sermon answered me with a story.

Of an ordinary day, in an ordinary place, when an ordinary family welcomed the birth of a child. A child who grew in an ordinary time, under ordinary circumstances, among ordinary people. A child who, despite his ordinary upbringing, became a man of extraordinary presence, extraordinary actions, and extraordinary love.

He then reminded us of another story, of a hundred over other similar stories. Of the hundred over people who sat at the congregation that night. Of our own births, of our own ordinary circumstances, and of our own innate capacity to become Extraordinary.

Of the underlying message that Christmas, is the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus as much as it is of ours. It is the remembrance of the beginning of his extraordinary power as much as it is of ours.

 
The realization of which, both brought my body comforting warmth and trembling silence. At the thought of what a whole year’s worth of retreating into a reflective and restorative solitary has brought for me this year, the dawning of a slightly more refined self, with a slightly more refined mind and a refined heart; a new birth.

But also, at the sudden overwhelming realization of what that carries; the weight of my presence, the immense value of its mere existence. But most importantly, at the current absence of its substantial worth to the world, the remaining abundance still of its extraordinary capacity.

 
Some have said and believed that December this year marks the ending of an existence, an era, a something. I’m not sure about an ending, and I don’t know that much about the universe. But I believe in beginnings, and I know only as much as I have seen. And what I have seen, is a birth of mine own. And apparently, in our no longer ordinary circumstances, that counts for something. So I guess, I’ll be damned if I don’t make it the only thing it’s meant to be; Extraordinary.

 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Beginning =)

Tya

 

“Ar-Ee-Cee… Why-Cee-El-Eeee.. That’s the waaay… It’s supposed to beee.. The Earth recycleeees.. And so do weee.. Ar-Ee-Ceee! Why-Cee-El-Eeeeeee…!!”

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Off the Camera: On Experiencing Life in HD

“Can any of you recall a time when you were confronted with a scene of such spectacular beauty?
That it took you outside of yourself into a place of great serenity, maybe a rainbow, a mountain range, a valley, a sea, anything…

 

 
 
So one day I went to a beach and watched the day turn into night. The sunset wasn’t the best part.

 
 
In the evening of Saturday last week after my weekly session with Matthew, my ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver dropped me off at the Dhyana Pura beach in Seminyak.

 
With my loyal backpack and sandals, and a piece of peanut butter ball in an over-sized paper bag I’d picked up from a nearby organic restaurant, I situated myself on the best seat in the house;

an empty spot right in the face of the 5.30 PM sun, warmly surrounded by vendors, romance-seeking couples, vacationing families, and men with their dogs and Frisbees.

 
A little past 6 PM, I watched as the sun gradually lowered itself down into, what as far as my eyes could see is, the end of the Bali sea.
Its rays at first blinding my eyes and turning all that was in front of it into shadows; but then slowly and gracefully, extracting a trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights and reluctant gradating blue darkness all at the same time.

 
And for a moment just right before it disappears, you’d almost swear that you could see, just below the sun, a transparent formation of exotic gates, statues and palace-like buildings – like a defined outline of an ethereal city –

which may have been the clouds, but what I choose to believe to be the glimpse of a neighboring universe discreetly revealing its existence.

 
 
And just when I thought I’d seen all that the sunset had to offer, the beach started to clear off.

The romance-achieving couples walked away hand-in-hand, the vendors retired carrying away their bags, the vacationing families wrapped up their last poses and packed up their cameras.

 
I picked up my bag and sandals, and walked towards the shore. And once the gurgling ocean waters have reached my toes, I stopped and buried my feet in the sand like how my father used to teach me to do when I was small.

 
 
I stood there and followed with my eyes the trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple rays of light that was further radiating from the arc where the sun had just taken its bow, freshly dyeing the sky and uncovering the layers of heaven above all at the same time.

 
I dipped my hand into the silk-surfaced water and watched the waves diving in, their white foams gently swaying in and cradling against my open palm. The whitest of whites. The clearest of little tiny bubbles.

 
I looked around at the two men who were still throw-catching their Frisbee, at two other friends waiting for the water to rise and lift up their surfboards, and a boy who was half-swimming half-splashing just a few feet away from where I was a witness to it all.

 
I looked back towards the ocean. At tides vibrantly crashing into the shore, water eagerly creeping up towards dry land, dropping off fizzing white foams and quickly running back into the sea as tadpole-shaped glimmering tiny particles on orchestrated spot lights.

 
Everything moved in the sharpest of motions, with a glistening touch of the faintest yellow golden glow.

 
 
All, a part of what the sun had set to arise: This Life, live, in HD.

 
 
And that Life, ever so unconditionally, basked me in a sudden overwhelming embrace of its beautiful serenity and gravitated me to my knees.

 
I reached towards the seams between the beach and its sea, and grabbed a handful of sand just to let them slip off right through my fingers again.

I swept in and around a few more handfuls, letting the surface of my skin rejoice in the finely-textured carpet of velvety pixie dust beneath me with a dance.

I observed carefully as little lumps of moistened grains took shape, the way each one fell and merged itself back into earth, in a most elegant display of obedience, phasing from a lighter to a darker shade of gray.

 
 
The grayest of gray. The whitest of white. The most yellow-orange-pink-purple of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights. The finest of fine texture. The most luminous of glow. The most visible of the smallest particles.

 
 
Suddenly in those moments I was gone. My ego, the self that knew I was me, was carried off.

The sweetest momentary absence of the soul.

 
I became but a small atom that made up only an insignificant portion of the entire universe.

 
One with the world.

 
 
As the sky grew dimmer and the watch lights lit on, I gave my hand to the smooth oscillations of the ocean and let it memorize all that I’d been shown.

In lifted spirit I turned around and made my way back towards the entrance to civilization, lightly stomping each step on the solid bed of sand that had been a 60-minute home.

 
Thinking back to the wandering visitors who had dropped by for a little more than a shiny backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot, or some kind of an I-have-a-life digital proof,

“They’ve got it all wrong.”

 
 
Off-the-camera, is Life, as the universe has meant it to be. Unbuffered. Unpixalated. The highest of resolution. The best quality of experience.

 
Came not with the tool to prove it, but with the eyes for us to see it. And the power to let go of what we make it to be, and embrace what simply is.

 
 
Tya

 

 
 

“… Have you ever wondered why that happened? The reason that happened is that somehow, for some reason, at that instant, you accepted the universe exactly as it was.”

~ Srikumar Rao

Pacification by Paddy Fields, Desensitization of Dogs: A Postcard from Segara Beach, Bali

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

~ Seth Godin

 
 
“I divide my friends into two categories,” a college senior of mine once said. “The ones that dread and complain about their jobs, and the ones that enjoy and love what they do for a living.”

 
I have at different times found myself in both (my senior’s) classifications. So if I were to ever find myself sitting on the mid-parting fence, the choice should be obvious. But here’s the thing about this kind of twenty-something dilemma.

 
On one hand, the job I dread and eats me up from the inside comes with the convenience of organized training and orders I’d only have to follow, the comfort of a high-rise office building in the business district of Jakarta metropolis, the confidence from wearing figure-flattering skirts and high heels and carrying a smartphone and a black leather planner, and last but definitely not least, the security of a bank account that remains on stand-by to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and occasional exotic holiday.

On the other hand, the job I love and wake up looking forward to in the morning, is teaching. And we all know what that comes with, a lot of compromises. Mostly in terms of finance and convenience.

 
And for a single, independence-striving twenty-something that has known little of lifestyle beyond the boundaries of luxury and walks around with big dreams of entrepreneurship and parenthood, that love does post a concern.

 
So I spent months exploring both options, at the same time stalling my decision-making in fear of committing to either option that just couldn’t seem to fulfill my ideal.

Whenever I came close to sealing a deal with the corporate, I cursed myself for giving in, selling out. And whenever I found myself magnetically pulled by the possibility of going back to teaching, I cursed myself for being such an old soul, for knowing better, for being so clear about what my calling is, this early in life.

 
 
Oh, Ignorance, thou art bliss.

 
 
The cold shower came one afternoon during a job selection process at the last local corporate agency I applied to, when the company’s owner concluded to me, in a way, that I appealed more as a personality than a corporate figure. It was the ultimate confirmation, once and for all, that the corporate isn’t where I belong.

But the afternoon I spent scrolling through teaching job online ads and suddenly found myself caught in a kind of rush of involuntary flow of energy of natural excitement, was the ultimate set-in-stone, once and for all, that not only that this Love is undeniable; it is unavoidable, and most importantly soul essential.

 
So when a job offer came from a school in Bali, I packed up my stuff within a few days and left Jakarta to land on the side of the fence I should’ve been back on a long time ago.

 
And as it always has been, Love never fails.

 
The fact that I have a job that wakes no urge in me to distract myself by checking my phone, personal email or Facebook is the way it should be.
The fact that I work in a library building literally bordered by green paddy fields that stretch just behind the Sanur beach is just a bonus pacifying compensation for some of the convenience I’m lacking.

 

the scenic official morning greeter at work

 

Banjar Tangtu paddy fields cum lunch time view from the teachers’ lounge

The fact that I have been fortunate enough to become a part of a culture so abundant of humility and kindness is a grace.
The fact that I find myself living in a place with such wonderful energy that I feel an effortless synchronization to is a peaceful luxury.

The fact that there are so many street dogs wandering around that I can’t always run away from is the accidental blessing of fear reduction in disguise.
And the fact that I’m writing this sitting at a beach with sand on my feet, the sea breeze blowing through my hair and the sound of crashing waves to my ears while waiting for the sun to set, well, that’s just living the dream.

 

Oh, Moon, thou art full and bright.

 
The only catch is that I still haven’t come here for a vacation. I still have to put myself on a monk diet and manual laundry duty in order to stay healthy and have enough to save up, and spare plenty of time in the weekend to keep myself on my toes for my work’s sake.

But for now, it’s all enough for a life that I don’t need to escape from.

 
 
Oh, Enlightening, thou art Bliss.

 
 
I have also decided to dedicate Saturdays to go, see and write.

So, till next weekend,

 
Tya