Friday, May 11, 2007


"Remember how I used to think people that want to turn back time are cowards? Now I know that there is no way anyone can be brave enough to not want that."

Me, in an SMS to someone left behind

One of my favourite children reads by far is T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, a whimsical interpretation of King Arthur’s childhood (when he was a weedy lad called Wart), and his education by the wizard Merlyn1. What made the strongest impression on me then was the rather difficult (yet exciting) concept of living backwards in time, a curious affliction of Merlyn’s.

For the sake of discussion, let us imagine that time is a straight road. All of us would walk along it, seeing every event in the Past clearly while not having the slightest clue of what lays ahead. It’s as if we are all walking backwards into the Future. Merlyn, as imagined by White, walks backwards from the opposite direction, seeing everything that happens in the Future, while being totally ignorant of what happened in the Past.

In short, the first time Wart met Merlyn in his cottage in the forest, is the last time Merlyn ever saw of the boy.

That was one of the saddest chapters I’ve ever read in a child’s storybook. It felt so wrong that an event so important and painful for one person should suffer indifference from the other.

Regret has new face. Again.

The night before last, I bought a large carton of the Activ Peach & Apricot & Soya drink, and downed every single drop in the brief period of time I took to watch the 22nd episode of season 3 of House. I then spent the rest of the night (till the next morning) making at least a dozen rounds between lying on my bed and perching on the can. I probably shat enough fluid to fertilise all the gardens in Manipal for a year.

And I swore I would never drink that stuff again.

sgsgsgvi2 copy

A week from now, I’ll probably start craving for it once more. I’ll buy another carton with the optimistic disposition and confidence that the toilet drama would not suffer me with a repeat.

Herein lies the biggest Flaw in my Character and the biggest problem in my Life.

What I am fond of - I would always, always love with great passion. I would then inevitably OD2 on it, and go through the mandatory period of Regret and Never, Ever Again. Then the day would come when the sky is blue, the birds are singing and the planets are aligned in perfect harmony – and I would think, “Heck, that was worth it,” and do it all over.

It’s as if I can never learn from Experience. It’s as if instead of continuously walking backwards towards the Future like everyone else is, I kept stopping in my stride, and walk back to certain spots in Time where3 the scenery is good. It does not matter that there are also massive cow shits lying there. Once I got far enough into the Future till I can’t see them anymore, I’d think they have disappeared – and walk right back there only to step in them again.

I think the reason I kept doing that is I never quite appreciate the Present as much as I should. Only after I’ve left it behind and it had become the Past, I’d want to go back there. Deep inside my mind somewhere, there is a small man in the Records Department actively tossing all the bad documents into the furnace, and editing the good ones to make them sound better.

In short, there’s a fucking Minitrue4 inside my fucking skull fucking up my brain.

crow feather
A reminder.

In the physical reality of Time (if there’s such a thing), we are compelled to walk regardless how our muscles ache and our minds protest. We can send our ghosts back in time, but we are not quite really there. I have sent too much of myself back in the Past, leaving nothing more than a flimsy paper effigy of myself in the Present, and living everyday and every scene as a series of badly taken photographs. Ultimately I would rue that, and would yearn later to go back to a Present which is already too far behind.

Still, there are times – little bursts of brief moments – when all of me would converge to when and where I am exactly5. One of these moments happened today when I was walking home at 3.00 pm from class, and I spotted something black and glistening on the ground. It was a feather shed from the wing of a crow.

I know I was truly, completely there when I ran its powdery edge across my palm and when I admired its complex yet orderly symmetry. I wanted to share what I’ve found with someone – anyone – but I could think of no one to whom I can do so without him or her thinking that I have finally but completely lost the last of my marbles. Suddenly, my loneliness became a very frightening thing.

Many people wish that they can walk to the Future while facing it, so they can always know what’s coming to them. Try really walking backwards and you’ll know why. It’s scary to decide where to turn or head to when you can’t tell what you might go bump with. That’s the same reason why the Future is such an object of apprehension; it’s the unknowable, hidden at the back of our heads.

Some of us wish instead that there is some way to go completely back in time to certain junctions in our lives, and pick the Other Turn. All of us have been here before; it goes by the unfortunate name of Regret.

We want the impossible. We spend our whole sorry lives trying to squint blearily over our shoulders to the Future in front which we cannot see, and running futilely to the Past behind which we cannot reach, when all we should do is look to our Right, and hold the hands of those walking beside us.

Why did I not know this earlier?

Travelling alone,
k0k s3n w4i

1 Such was White’s spelling of Merlin. I know not why.
Overdose. I’m sure everyone knows that but sometimes, there are those precious few that have not watch enough television or surf enough of the internet to still be unaware.
Or more appropriately; when.
Read George Orwell’s 1984 (one of the best work of literature ever written) to find out what’s that. Stop ignoring the classics.
Sorry, am I confusing you?


Zzzyun said...

aikz i'm also like u sometimes, the fact tat i'll repeat mistakes, thinking that it won't happen that way again next time..

i won't say it's my biggest flaw (i hav others!) but i think this is natural. just plain human nature to rewrite the past with our own mind, huh?

anyway, everyone wants to turn back time somehow. to do smtg better or to change smtg, hoping that it'll never happen. *sigh*

Jen said...

i loved the sword in the stone! brilliant stuff. and yes, that bit about merlyn meeting wart for the last time hit me hard. it was such a simple, sad concept.

we'll always have those nagging "what if's" and "it could have been's" when we think about how we could have handled past events. and i think it makes looking toward the future a daunting task for we fear the unknown and fear of a repeat. i agree, going through it alone, makes it all the more unbearable.

but hey, i say whatever happens, happens. i dont overanalyse how i live in the present, but i sure as heck dont let bits of the past get in the way. they're merely roadsigns pointing towards where not to go.

no harm in revisiting what has been once in awhile. just as long as we dont keep looking backwards too often as we walk on. bumping into a wall isnt a pretty sight (and i mean that both literally and figuratively) ;)

baby sa said...

it's quite a normal phenomenon which everyone wants to turn back time and correct some mistakes.
sometimes, I could sit there and think "if only by I didn't say that to him..." or "if only I didn't meet him"...
after a few secs, I realized I could never turn back time.What had done is done.
as long as we're still alive, we'll non stop making mistakes.
life's like this.

michellesy the 1984 fan said...

When one comes to a point where the road diverges, what would you do?

Would you take the road less travelled, without a pang of doubt or a backwards glance?

Or would you go down the well-trodden path, but with many a sigh and a deep-seated yearning for what you left behind?

I think you took the road less travelled. And never veered from the path even once.

Love may set you on a course, but it's faithfulness that wears tracks deep into the road.

I'll wager you trod and re-trod that same path so often, it's taken on more than a little of you as well.

ps: Loved how you frame the conundrum of Time: Past, Present and Future. Perplexing stuff this -it's fair done my head in. Maybe I should pick up a copy of Sword in the Stone, O Recommender of Books Most Excellent =P

pps: No, you're not confusing me. I think I understand what you mean when you say you met all of you at the same point in the road. During that one moment, it's as though you feel more alive than you know how. Everything, everything seems right and the whole world is at peace with you and itself. I wish I could experience more of these moments.

pps: 1984 is good shite. However, it shouldn't be read too often. Because it will give one nightmares. Take it from me: 1984 OD = Weird funky dreamscapes

ppps: Am I right in assuming that when you said you should have been living in the Present then, you're actually referring to the Past?

k0k s3n w4i said...

We are all a lil' stupid when it comes to certain things; especially when it is of matters of the heart (or stomach) and not of the mind.

*high five Jen for being a fellow SitS reader*
Aren't you the happy-go-lucky sort? I'm always envious of folks like you - It's so very nice to live right.
Here's to not meeting walls so solid we can't knock it down with our hindquarters. Cheers.

@baby sa
Life's a series of errors, I agree. - C'est la vie and all that. That's the best thing we can do and think if we can't change what's over and done. Thanks for the reminder.

Bachelor Girl's hit ditty; "Buses and Train" would pretty much sum up my answer to you ;)
tSitS is certainly a decent read - most children books are. It does not matter how absurd or unbelievable the stuff written in them is. that's their charm.
As for the Past, which was once Present... I could not have been there enough. Maybe that's why I kept going back.
P.S. one of the last bit in 1984, the way the bastards at Miniluv made Winston said "Do it to Julia [instead of me]!" when they threatened him with his greatest fear. That damn near broke my heart, it did.