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…!!”

From the Pipe-Dream Whisperer

“Nature is not a place to visit.

It is home.”

~ Gary Snyder

 
 
So says the bamboo-framed glass board in the bamboo-framed classroom. In blue ink.

The teacher in cargo shorts and light blue polo shirt. Who probably wrote it.

 
My mother’s voice through her uterine walls.

My Mother’s voice.

“… It is home.” In blue ink.

In blue vibrations of my amniotic sac.

 
The doctor-guest speaker, who carried a goodies-filled suitcase and didn’t want to be formal, sat with the six year-olds like a story-teller.

 
Four things.

 
The intelligence of my half-grown peanut-sized brain to pick up my mother’s troubled sighs.

The incredible resilience of my fluid airbag.

The indomitable beating of my little heart.

Of my young thumb-sized heart.

 
Look across the room. If you can get to just one person. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“… Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 
Slideshow.

Joint little hands around the world.

Unconscious hopeful emotions.

Joint little fingers clenched around the placentaic sense of my mother’s love.

Unconscious of hopeful emotions.

 
One person.

 
Oohs. Claps. Thank yous and smiles.

Door-less bamboo-framed classrooms. Pathway made of rocks.

Uncompromised trees. Irrepressible scent of manure. Non-soundproofed chirping of insects. Uncovered eyes of earth mounds.

 
The universe has demanded my attention.

My hope-unconscious attention.

 
But I’m not ready.

 
 
Not ready.

When the universe has demanded my presence.

My slimy, umbilical cord-ed, half-conscious presence.

 
“… It is time.” In blue vibrations of where-has-it-gone?

My mother’s voice. Through the lit end of a vigorously dilating tunnel.

 
Suddenly a person.

Reporting for life duty.

By the intelligence of my upside-down fist-sized brain. The resilience of my mother’s strands of fibromuscular tubular tract. The indomitable beating of our hearts. Our young novice hearts.

 
Not ready. Readied.

 
 
… Earth mounds. Pathway made of rocks. A Bali starling bird.

Suddenly a wasp.

A mustard yellow-bottomed wasp. Heedfully passing – fly walking? (two unused legs, upright-posture floating)

– on an invisible crossroad.

An unspoken mutual conception.

Because, one civilization.

 
The freedom-aspiring Bali starling birds. The rescue-campaigning orangutans. The attorney-seeking tarsiers.

The trees, hacked bloodless at their legs. The ocean, overfed with over-processed leftover diet plan. The fungi, single-handedly healing in their first-aid camp.

The fetuses that grow behind uterine walls. The little people that grow with little knowns. The humans that grow a memory loss. Of their mothers. Of their Mother.

 
 
… The universe has demanded my attention.

My palm-sweating, stomach-queasy, helplessly-conscious attention.

Of no more ‘them-and-us‘s.

 
“…It is time.”

My Mother’s voice.

 
Through the intelligence of a pipe-dream whisperer doctor. The indomitable spirit of an eager 14-year-old boy. The indomitable springtime spirit of joint little hands around the world. The gut-wrenching resilience of the mercilessly defiled ground which they – we – are standing on.

 
Hope. Regrown.

Because of one person.

Heart. Strong.

Because we are all that close.

Home. Common.

We’ve forgotten we belong. To live for.

 
 
Suddenly one queasy-stomached, belly-twisted person,

With an intelligent cantaloupe-sized brain. The most resilient-bodied of a Mother. An indomitable beating heart. An indomitable newborn fighting heart,

Readied.

Reporting for Life duty. Right here. At Home.

 
 
Tya

 
photoshd.wordpress.com

 
 

“The sun shines not on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”

~ John Muir

 
 
Written in response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight on November 26, 2012, a meeting with Dr. Alicia Kennedy from the Jane Goodall Institute Australia and Dr. Ating from Dr. Ating Foundation at Green School Bali on November 22, 2012, and the message of Jane Goodall on March, 2002.

“It’s Good like how Tiramisu is Supposed to be Good”

“Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 
 
My mom, a tiramisu enthusiast in her own right, brought home a tiramisu cake from a newly-found bakery in town yesterday. As I was taking a bite out of my mini slice, she said to me, “It’s good, right?”

 
In my mouth, I tasted the soft layers of kahlua-soaked lady fingers that harmonioulsy marry with sweet creamy smooth mascarpone cheese and bitter dark cocoa powder that finely spreads on my tongue.

 
There was nothing particularly special about the tiramisu. For a classic hand-tossed slice of the Italian dessert, it was, well, good like how tiramisu is supposed to be good.

 

 
 
But what was brought to my attention is this, why should this particular tiramisu surprise her as good in the first place? It tastes just like how a tiramisu is supposed to taste like. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

 
 
Back in August while I was going through a career switch exploration, I met with Mas Alex, the founder of a local human resources consultancy that a friend of mine had set me up with.
After spending a few days with him chatting through my selection process, I told him how incredibly taken I have been by the level of genuine commitment and sincere human touch they apply into their services.

 
Until then – I told him – so many times had I come across organizations that boast about their commitment to a meaningful client partnership, learning process, and goal-oriented development, yet have very little understanding of what each term truly means and commit to nothing more than getting their share of the work done and achieving ‘company target’.

Until then, so little had I seen a company with such a strong organizational identity and so much integrity in their adherence to the very values that they have set up to be the foundation of their work.

 
Daily Meaning, this small company that Mas Alex has created and has now captured every corner of my professional heart, was nothing of the former and all of the latter.

Yet when I shared my fascination with Mas Alex, he neither denied nor affirmed the special nature of his company’s character. Instead he said,

 

“Now let me ask you. What really surprises you so much about what we do here?

What you said about what we do here as a firm; making our clients close and informed partners in our work relationship, doing our homework in providing solutions that bring meaning and added value to the learning process, working with honest passion and adherence to our own company vision and mission, isn’t that what any organization is by right supposed to do anyway?

So why should it surprise you?”

 
 
I’ve been thinking about what he said since.

 
 
I thought about it over the slice of good tiramisu that my mother bought yesterday.

I think about it now whenever I find myself at first taken by what seem to be extraordinary actions of human beings only to soon realize that for so long and in so many ways, our lives have so many times been shortchanged. That something as natural and ordinary as doing something the way it’s supposed to be done becomes voluntary and glorified.

 
The kahlua-soaked lady fingers in my mom’s bought tiramisus are being shortchanged with instant coffee-soaked sponge cakes.

Genuinely tailored business services are being short-changed with impersonal instant formulaic approaches.

Children’s conversational quality time with parents is being short-changed with smartphones and tablets-accompanied silence.

Direct community involvement is being short-changed with sharing videos and liking statuses on Facebook.

 
Authentic food, service with a human touch, a fully-present pair of listening ears, and tangible acts of good will become extraordinary rarities and luxuries.

We come to forget that the actions we often perceive are extraordinary are often truly nothing more than what we’re just supposed to do as nothing more than people.

 

 
 
If I think about it now, when we watch in inspiration as a group of young designers take the initiative of constructing chairs to be placed at a busy bus stop in Kuala Lumpur, aren’t making use of our talents and helping our fellow citizens without being asked to just what we’re supposed to do as people?

 
When we read in admiration about Hollywood celebrities who take in adopted children into their homes and raise them as their own, isn’t channeling our abilities to provide a safe shelter, loving family and good life to those who need and equally deserve them just what we’re supposed to do as people?

 
When we follow in awe as leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa sacrifice so much comfort in their lives just so that the people around them could feel at least half of what they could have, aren’t sharing our blessings and preserving harmony in our society just what we’re supposed to do as people?

 
And if my mother thinks about it now, whenever she buys a tiramisu, shouldn’t it have been made by right to taste like one?

 
By right? With no short changes. With no surprises.

 
 
Tya