Monday, December 12, 2005

Graph Paper Nostalgia [Draft]

“ . . . [B]ut then he came back, oh, how my knees trembled, he asked me to forgive him and gave me a locket with a picture of the Kremlin on it, his most treasured possession.”

The Joke, Milan Kundera.

I had a dream last night—a brief but surprisingly tranquil dream that I have not had for a long time already. The dream brought me back to school in which I studied when I was fifteen. I just knew instinctively it was that particular classroom. I was in a classroom playfully changing my seats. I suspect I knew even in the dream that I wasn’t supposed to be changing seats. Coordinates should never fall out of place. Perhaps that explains the pleasure of the dream. Perhaps the pleasure I felt after the dream was also the pleasure of simplicity—how something as simple as changing one’s seat in a classroom could be fun.

I woke up with a lingering sense of serenity. It lingers, but all that was left was, within a few seconds, the residue of something that has never existed. It was inevitable. The simplicity and peacefulness of one’s childhood is always a retrospective affect. When I woke up, I felt like I was fifteen again. Yet, I suspect I could hardly have felt that way when I was that age since I could not have look at the same time in retrospect.

I was denied my nostalgia once I realized that I could never have felt that way.

What I can remember if my life is fighting. The arena gets larger as the years past. As a fifteen-year-old, I was fighting against a school that I found oppressive. Girls' skirt length, boys' hair length. A bodily control. Later, I found myself having to fight an education system—not merely a school. Yet later, I find myself fighting in a larger arena. There is, it seems, no way I could retrieve memories of peace, of simplicity, of serenity. They don’t exist. I have always been a coordinate in a sheet of graph paper. I shift, but I remain a coordinate. The further I shift, the larger the graph paper gets.

Of course, I could dream of getting back to point (0,0). The center. That’s where the graph would seem to be the smallest. Even then, it would only be a dream.

When I awoke from the dream, perhaps I was brought back to the center for a brief moment. The feeling—whatever it was—soon gave way to sadness. Perhaps it was because I realized that I could not get back to point zero. More likely, it was because I realized also that point zero is not where I wish to go either. Otherwise, I could at least be nostalgic for it.

Yet, the further I get from point zero, the more insignificant I become. The difficulty of defining the battle, of defining my fight, becomes overwhelming. If I were to be conquered, it would not be because of my weakness but because of my speechlessness. To just vaguely articulate the reasons for the battle, it seems as though I have to have PhDs in Law, in politics, in philosophy, in history, in sociology, in culture, in theory…

Even then, it will not be enough. I have to harness everything together. Even then, who in the world would comprehend?

Even if I could say, I could not be understood.

I cannot tear the graph paper apart. It is no longer a two-dimensional graph I am on, but a multi-dimensional one. I’m an unfathomable coordinate. I cannot be nostalgic without falling prey to brilliant tactics in psychological warfare.

I try explaining myself by means of a hyperbole. Even then…


Anonymous Parkaboy said...

Even then, it will not be enough. I have to harness everything together. Even then, who in the world would comprehend?

My own solution to this conundrum was to realise that comprehension and completion as ends to themselves were less important than... life and sharing and cooperation. Battles may be right for you, but then again, they may not.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Molly Meek said...

There's that as well, Parkaboy. But before one could share, one has to have something of his/her own. Before one could cooperate with others, one has to be able to be himself/herself. Battles are not right, but when you get embroiled in one...

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Parkaboy said...

Fair dues. Though I'm not sure it's a question of being oneself "before" cooperating with others, since I think it's also through cooperating with others that one becomes oneself. Provided the terms of cooperation give you latitude for that... I can see why in Singapore they may well not, since they didn't for me, and I battled too and thought that battling was maybe a destiny of sorts. Leaving Singapore changed that. It's always an option.

1:37 AM  
Blogger Molly Meek said...

One wishes one has that option. Never mind, this is meant to be a semi-fictional piece anyway... :)

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Luddite said...

There is no doubt that this is one of the worst places to be for pre-uni 'education'. If I knew then (during my pre-uni days) what I know now I would surely have rebelled more explicitly and been kicked out of school (which really may not have been so bad a thing as it would have brought forward my impending departure) I hated it but the difference is that when you're 12 to 15 or so, you abhor it, but deep inside you, your conscience tells you it's the only way, that it is a necessary suffering. And so you endure it. Perhaps something even deeper inside us told us that something was not right..perhaps on a subconscious level.

As I'm doing uni overseas, I haven't got a clear picture about what life in uni in singapore is like. Is it any better? Can you finally walk around with some semblance of dignity? Are you still treated like dogs?

1:20 AM  
Blogger Molly Meek said...

Oh Luddite, think about where the uni is situated. Out of the country? Hehe...

Probably its considerably better in the uni. After all, the social engineering program should have done is work and been completed by the time one turns 18 (for the guys, there's a bonus of two more years of training). And there are so many foreign students in the campus, and one criteria for uni ramkings is how well it attracts foreign students, it makes no sense to continue the pre-uni system.

But, Sg being as Sg, there are some issues such as academic freedom and all. Take a look at Mykel's blog:

1:39 AM  
Blogger Green Ogre said...

I think that half the fun comes in the constant struggling and redefining of oneself.

And you win some, you lose some.

There's nothing wrong with nostalgia. It's nice to go back to a place which hasn't changed to only find how much you have changed. I think Mandela said something to that effect.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Molly Meek said...

Greenie, nostalgia is this sweet little thing. No harm, nothing wrong. But the point here is that it's impossible. Nostalgia Interrupted. That's the sad thing.

Also the problem is you can't redefine a self that you have been denied. How to prune a plant or cultivate bonsai when you had only the seeds and even those are taken from you? (You are just a coordinate.)

6:26 PM  

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