thoughts, reflection, Uncategorized

How expectation is equal to reality 

Expectations — It’s one of the many things we get less fond of and less attached to as we grow older. We don’t blame ourselves for this. Instead, we blame letdowns, grief, and scars we’ve lost count of.
“Reality hits hard,” we say with resignation and acceptance, but without any trace of defeat. Our armor, we believe, is actually at its strongest at this point. This armor protects us from our head to our toes. But its thickest layer lies in our heart, which repeats everyday: “I’ve built a defense mechanism within my veins. I don’t hold on to expectations, and so I don’t worry. My blood flows freely, and I’m happy.” 

Our self-defense against expectations and our hostility towards it stem from too much trust in ourselves and too little trust in the world. Though we gain a lot of good things from such a defense mechanism, we also lose a few that are far more important than what we gain.

Too little trust in the workings of the world means being less receptive to their charm and enchantment. It means closing ourselves to that innocent, special kind of optimism that lives only through ideas we often see in fairytales: glittery magic and sparkling wisdom. When magic and wisdom start to sound ridiculous and impractical, that’s the time we have to tap and bring out the child in us. 

We were young when we first fell in love with wonder. Though we can never re-create the feeling that tickled us when we first learned how to tie our shoelaces by ourselves, we can re-create–as adults–the excitement that showed on our little faces when we tied our shoelaces the second time around, the third, the fourth, and the fifth. 

When we let the child in us speak and do the work, we break the rope we tied around expectation. We allow it to breathe and we allow it to be the gateway to our future reality. Every expectation becomes magic our mind crafted; every expectation becomes wisdom our heart has set for ourselves. This brave take on expectations becomes the very motivation that pushes us to believe that we can break the barrier between expectations and reality. 

We learn that it’s not “expectations versus reality.” It is, rather, “expectations equal reality” all along and in every step of the way. 

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The truth about being less cynical

There’s a lot you need in life. But trust me when I tell you that you don’t need someone who will promise you happiness. You need someone who will make you feel less cynical.

She will never tell you to see the good in everything each day, but she will tell you that the good rests in the depths of the darkest color, and that it’s up to you to paint it white.

She will never tell you to smile everyday, but she will tell you to reserve that smile for what hurts the most.

She will never tell you that the glass if half-full, but she will tell you that glass inevitably shatters, and what shatters always makes the weak heart stronger, and so makes it just half-empty.

She will never tell you that being on cloud nine is the best feeling, but she will tell you that falling from the sky and landing hard on the highest mountain is.

She will never tell you that the ideal exists, but she will tell you that you are there — the imperfection in all its glory.

She will never tell you that destiny exists, but she will tell you that you are there — the most powerful force of imagined reality’s captivating touch, the best and closest thing to non-existent fate.

She will never make you believe in promises about happiness, but she will always make you believe in the tragic wonder of living in spite of life itself.

No, you don’t need someone who will give you false hopes about happiness. You need someone who will tell you the truth about being less cynical.

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Midnight’s Free Verse

The night catches me
Without warning.
The tiny drops fall
Without my mind knowing why or how.

Words.
These words are all I have.
Never mind the lights.
Never mind the breeze.

The ripples come and go.
They just come and go.
The night catches me without warning.
And I embrace it.

It breaks the leaves of beauty, the flowers of harmony. But it is what it is.
And so I just smile.
And so I just laugh.

And so I just live.

In the end
At the beginning
In the middle
I wish upon the littlest star.

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A note to a song

I listened to you a few days ago. It wasn’t the first time I got lost in your melody and found my way back in your rhythm. But in the middle of traffic on that scorching late morning, you flew me to a breezy place. You took me to a new world of thought.

You’re more than just lyrical love. I listened to you long and hard, and beneath your flowery words, I saw pictures of what could be and of what should be.

It’s pretty funny that, out of all the pieces, you’re the one who reminds me that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing one over many. Your highs and your lows tell me that a picture is never worth a thousand words for the one who’s in it, for the one who smiled for it. Rather, it is worth a thousand feelings captured in a single word.

I can’t thank you enough for sharing with me your poetic smoothness and your unbreakable voice. I can’t thank you enough for helping me realize that there’s an incredible reason why people get their feet swept off the ground. It’s not just for love and for show. It’s for life.

With you, there’s never a goodbye. There’s only a pattern of new and better hellos and a series of more hits and less misses.

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How the superhumans belittle themselves in the right way

I’ll pretend for a minute that I’m in a big room where all the things I wish to have are neatly lined up. There are other people in this dream come true room. As I can tell from their grins and awestruck eyes, they are just as excited and surprised as I am to see everything that could possibly make life great lined up perfectly in one room.

I look to my left, and I see stacks of envelopes. I look closely and make out the words on some of them: winning lotto number, life like Angeline Jolie’s, scholarship at Harvard University, spiritual balance, lifetime supply of Ferrero Rocher.

I gaze around the room again, laugh, and say out loud, “Wow! Everything I want is literally within my reach!”

A bell rings after a few seconds, and almost immediately, people start to grab things. I see a brand new treadmill not far from where I’m standing, and like a cheetah, I run towards it. I’m inches away from it now — my hands ready to put a mark on it and my mouth ready to yell at the other cheetahs, “This treadmill is mine!”

But to my surprise, a sort of invisible block stops my hungry fingers from touching the treadmill. And much to my disgust, a girl who looks just about my age throws herself at it and shouts to no one in particular, “Mine!”

I look around the room. Almost everything is gone and taken. I see a young boy pick up what seems like the last untouched envelope. He jumps to victory and heads out the door like a real champion.

A bell rings again, a probable sign that it’s all over. I leave the room empty-handed, brokenhearted, and jealous.

Scenes like this one are, I think, pretty much a drama and a nightmare. A drama queen is someone who acts as if things are worse than they really are. In almost every person, there’s a little drama queen. Some passionately display their drama queen ways, while others suppress or hide these ways. I’m in between the two extremes. On some days, for example, I make a big fuss over not getting what I want. On other days, I go to the other side of the fence and pretend to keep my calm.

Dramas get a little too out of hand sometimes, so much so that they become nightmares. My short narration about the so-called dream come true room shows this. To see in my sleeping and waking hours whatever or whoever left me empty-handed, brokenhearted, and jealous would be one of the worst nightmares that could happen to me.

One of the cold hard facts that many of us find hard to take and be at peace with is that we, put simply, can’t have it all — some people are showered with what we want but don’t or can’t have. I know this is a petty problem, if not a pseudo one, for those who have mastered the art of being comfortable and happy with oneself: skin, bones, and all. People who have found their inner self have mastered this art. They are neither drama queens nor pretenders. I have such high respect for them because, first, they are a handful in an age where competition is a prime motivation and where another person’s life or lifestyle is a top benchmark. Second, they exude that beautiful, fresh aura of perfect confidence, quiet resignation, and genuine satisfaction. Third, this aura is their very persona.

It’s very hard to be like these people. I think this is one reason why I consider them a superhuman bunch. I sometimes wonder how they do it — how they find it ridiculous to compete with others, how they never equate the latest and the trendiest with the best and the brightest, or how they walk with their head held high day in and day out.

I wonder how or why the wild cheetah never possessed their soul and took control of their body. Before I know it, a theory pops in mind and a Eureka moment gets to me.

I came across Ray Bradbury’s short story, A Sound of Thunder, a couple of weeks ago. It was a great read because it touched on time travelling, a topic that never fails to amaze me.

In the story, three hunters and two Safari heads go back in time to kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex, otherwise called The Tyrant Lizard. Mr. Travis, the leader of the group, tells Eckels (a first timer in time travelling) not to step out of the Path or the anti-gravity metal that hovers inches above land. Time Safari, Inc. built the Path, Mr. Travis explains, so that hunters from the future don’t change the “world of the past in any way” or in a way not sanctioned by the government. Changing the past would alter the future. To illustrate this, Mr. Travis makes use of the butterfly effect:

“…The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations…so until we do know for certain whether our messing around in Time can make a big roar or a little rustle in history, we’re being careful.”

In the course of the hunters’ mission, Eckels sees the dinosaur and goes hysterical. He does not help the others kill the T-Rex, and he steps off the Path. This makes Mr. Travis very angry, and he even threatens to leave behind the terrified Eckels.

Mr. Travis orders Eckels to retrieve the bullets from the dinosaur’s dead body, and after this, all hunters — including Eckels — hop on the time machine and go back to the future (or where they came from). Upon arriving in the year 2055, Eckels notices something off, something different. He learns that the way English words are spelled changed. He starts to realize the gravity of his seemingly little mistake, and as if things couldn’t get any worse, he sees a dead butterfly on the sole of his boot. It is a butterfly he accidentally stepped on and killed in another era. He later discovers that Keith lost the presidential election to Deutscher, a dictator.

What exactly does this story have to do with the superhuman bunch, or the people who get less credit than they deserve? This is my theory: They knowingly or unknowingly apply the tenets of the butterfly effect in their lives. And in so doing, they are able to always see greatness in the littlest things. Every decision matters and every move counts. This is why they don’t give in to rash and idiotic decisions. For the superhumans, every bit of their everything is influential, and they don’t have to be the president of a country, the superstar of the decade, or the writer of the best-selling novel to believe in this.

I might be wrong in saying that people who are comfortable in their own skin take the butterfly effect to heart. But even if I’m wrong, the belief that the smallest of things can lead to huge consequences is one of the perfect solutions for people like me, or people whose cheetah self refuses to die.

There will come a time when I will fully understand that I’m a drop of water in the ocean. The ripples I create will amount to something I can lose count of. The pool of these ripples will in turn make a gigantic and beautiful wave — somewhere, somehow, someday.

It will be the butterfly effect at its finest.

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The Metaphorical Shrug

Sometimes, I come across things and ideas that make me rethink.

Couch potatoes in the traditional sense, for example, are fast becoming a rare breed. This is not because more people are settling for an active lifestyle, but because more people are finding it convenient to be glued to handy gadgets rather than to stationary TVs (even smart TVs).

With the thought of couch potatoes disappearing from the face of the earth comes the horrifying image of the things I grew up to love walking on the road to eventual extinction.

The chance is slim in my lifetime, but I ask and tell myself: “What if the paperback industry loses and the sort of technology that is more advanced wins yet again?”

“What if companies that manufacture dolls and stuffed toys go bankrupt? Little girls today would rather see Barbie on an app than see her in real life. If and when such bankruptcy happens, the sort of technology that is more advanced wins yet again.”

These questions are at best rhetorical and at worst useless and impractical. I brush off the image of Barbie dolls and stuffed toys going on a mega sale for the last time ever and the thought of construction workers demolishing Fully Booked. I brush off all these, go back to earth and to my daily routine and tasks, and shrug.

I don’t shrug to show uncertainty, and this reminds me of how Ayn Rand’s novel called “Atlas Shrugged” made me rethink about the act or meaning of shrugging.

The novel is more than a thousand-page long, but the symbolism behind the title of the book appeared only once — in a conversation between Hank Rearden and Francisco d’Anconia:

“Mr. Rearden,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling, but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders — what would you tell him to do?”

“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

Rand’s philosophy is embedded in her fictional works, and it would be near illogical (if not stupid) to even make a direct, obvious connection between Atlas Shrugged, couch potatoes, paperback industries, and doll manufacturers. It would also be overly presumptuous to think that I, at this stage of my life, could do the symbolic shrug as pictured in the novel.

But then again, the human mind is wired in such a way that it always finds links and associations. I see dots linking my literal shrug and the metaphorical shrug in Rand’s novel.

Again, the literal shrug, as I’d like to call it, is not a sign of uncertainty. It is my way of saying that I’d feel a pang of loss and frustration if, for example, paperback books were to be completely wiped out from the world.

In all honesty, this hypothetical situation shows that I probably have some kind of longing for “old” things to stay, some kind of wishful thinking that technology would stop improving every minute of everyday. This boils down to the battle between a good old book and Wattpad — the battle between “old” and “new”, or between “so yesterday” and “so today.”

And this is just about the time when the metaphorical shrug comes to my rescue.

Ayn Rand originally had “The Strike” as a title for the book. The novel reveals how it is like to live in a world where innovators, inventors, industrialists and other so-called Prime Movers mysteriously disappear and go on strike. It shows a “picture of the world with its motor cut off”, or a picture of the world when Atlas shrugs.

It is a world where economy, man, reason, and hope tumble and fall. This dystopia and the titan’s act of shrugging remind me that “the book vs. the iPad” debate is only a jigsaw piece in a big puzzle. Admitting or accepting this does not mean downplaying the importance of choosing one over another, or of striking a balance between the two. Rather, it means that there must be something more consequential, something more “tragic” than the hypothetical situation where actual Barbie dolls get phased out and their virtual counterparts take over.

The metaphorical shrug reminds me that while the advancement of today’s technology comes with disadvantages, risks, and an almost unquenchable thirst for a simpler, more laid-back and private life, the advancement’s merits and influence remain phenomenal.

If someone asks me, “What would make you more annoyed and angry — the unbelievably speedy progress of technology (and consequently, the immediate pile up of disadvantages and risks that come with this progress) or the disintegration and annihilation of technology’s present and future state? I’d answer, “The breakdown of technology would make me more annoyed, angry, and hopeless. I’d give all angles of technology a big tight hug. Turning back to pre-2000s technology is not an option because, like millions out there, I’ve already become a witness to what today’s technology can bring and create.”

I hope that Atlas never shrugs on me or anyone who has grown a little too dependent¬† on “tech” — a word that is now less technical for probably half of the world population.

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Leap of Faith

I wrote this short piece more than a year ago. Today, I’m removing one word, making it all new and making it the piece that describes not what I felt when I wrote it for the first time, but what I’m feeling now:

When you fall, you don’t take a chance. You take a leap of faith. Chance presents you with probabilities, while a leap of faith gives you the butterflies in your stomach.

Somewhere along the way, you release these butterflies. You set them free. And you, with a new spirit and with a new zest for life, fall all over again. And over and over again.

As if by instinct, you freeze one fall. You stop at mid-air. Your eyes twinkle and your whole being lights up–because now you realize that the fall is no longer what it is. At this beautiful but frightful moment, your feet are now as firm as they could be on the ground.

You’re no longer falling. You’re now standing by love. You’re now standing up for love.

You ask yourself a question. That one question.

You answer, “Leap of faith.”

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