Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Defence of Fantasy

"Distant flickering, greener scenery.
This weather's bringing it all back again.
Great adventures, faces and condensation.
I'm going outside to take it all in."

"You say too late to start, got your heart in a headlock,
I don't believe any of it.
You say too late to start, with your heart in a headlock,
You know you're better than this.
"

Headlock (2006) by Imogen Heap


I'm writing this post in reaction to a great number of people who opined that my love of the genre of speculative fiction - particularly fantasy and science fiction - is, how do you say, misplaced? I am tired of people ridiculing me for it. I am sick of people looking at me like I'm some immature moron yet to outgrow his fairytales. I am disgusted with how some people can declare in a sneering and arrogant tone about how they "don't have time for fantasy" or "too old for such nonsense" right after they ask me about the sort of books I read. I have had intentions, in the past, of participating in a few reading circles only to find out that they are too sophisticated for fantasy and science fiction, and that they only read serious and starkly realistic fictions that make them feel smart. Right here and now, I intend to change that. I intend to defend my favourite pastime as intelligently as I'm able to and to show everyone just how wrong these people really are.

My interest in speculative fiction and all its associated genres in literature came up lately in a conversation I had with a friend of mine and we had a polite disagreement over it, specifically over its relevance to our lives on a practical level. I can't remember what she said verbatim but the gist of it is this,

"I prefer reading things which helps me understand this world. Fantasy has no relevance to our daily lives."

My reply went something like this,

"It depends on the quality of the author's work. I agree that there are a lot of rubbish in the genre but there are many great books which relates very well to our real world, our ethics, morals and philosophies. They aren't always apparent, but they are certainly worth the dig - and they can certainly be applied to the real world."

To which she answered,

"I don't see any elves running around in the real world - do you?"

That about sums up the entire problem here - a superficial stance on a medium thought to be superficial itself. A great number of people (fantasy fans, non-fans and anti-fans included) shows a dismissive reluctance in examining the themes making up the core of a fantasy or science fiction novel, mostly due to the perceived frivolity of these books. I mean, if it doesn't take itself seriously, why should we, right? There can't possibly be anything important or meaningful behind all those magic, dragons and bullshit, right?

If that's what you've been thinking all this while, you are about to be proven wrong. By me.

Take for example Madam Ursula K. LeGuin, one of my favourite authors, who has written many of the most well-known fantasy and science fiction novels since the 1960's, and have practically won every single speculative fiction award there is to be won. What elevates her work from the rest of the rabbles are her sly explorations of sociological and anthropological ideas through her writings, cleverly disguising scholarly ideas in flashy fantastic elements. Take a look at her short science fiction story, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas which tells of a utopian city and society which is learned, cultured and durably happy - perfect in every way except for the secret of the city. The good fortune of the city of Omelas depends on the suffering of one child kept in filth, darkness and misery. It discusses the ethical issue of the many directly reaping the benefits from the suffering of just one person, more concisely known as scapegoating. Another high fantasy book also speaks of the same psychomyth; The Holy Bible. Yes, from a wholly secular viewpoint, the Bible is undoubtedly a work of speculative fiction (albeit one which is very dry and unreadable, in my opinion). In fact, I put my copy of the Bible on the same shelf as my fantasy books.

A factual and "serious" literary example of the same would be pioneering American philosopher and psychologist James Wilson's article, A Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life, which sounds about as interesting as toenail clippings.

Here's where fantasy - or even fiction in general - really beats non-fiction. When you read from a non-fiction work, you will often fall into the trap of assured acceptance of whatever you're reading is authoritative; the proverbial last word on the subject. It tells you stuff and you either agree with it or you don't (often the former if you're the impressionable type). Very passive style of reading, I think. Good fantasy or science fiction novels present you with idealogies and dilemmas set in motion in a hypothetical world, and they are almost always presented in an indirect, non-authoritative fashion - allowing the readers room to wrap their minds around the concepts and to draw their own conclusions from what they read. The difference is a bit like telling a child that stealing is wrong versus asking a child whether stealing is wrong or not. Faux-objectivity versus practical subjectivity, and I'm a proponent of the latter because I believe that nothing is free from context. Non-fiction and realistic fiction works deaden creativity. Speculative fiction fosters creativity and adaptivity. Another good example by LeGuin (I'll talk about other authors soon, I promise) is The Dispossessed, which is set in two contrasting worlds a colony on the moon called Anarres, and its neighboring planet Urras. The colony is an experiment in total socialization, with no private property, no class or rank, with even names of the new-born chosen by computer. This experiment in idealistic anarchy contrasts with the capitalistic older society of Urras, which is based on wealth and class. LeGuin did not, to her credit, show her preference for either world but instead, gave us an impartial comparison of the two.

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin.

I'm not saying that there are no fantasy or science fiction novel which shows obvious author bias towards a particular ideal. I'm just saying that the apparent puerility of the genre is more conducive to a reader to question the represented ideals, eschewing thoughtless and blind acceptance we often employ in the face of purported "facts". The polar attitudes towards religious texts such as the Bible is evidential of that. It's either the Word of God (in which case a reader dares not question its contents) or a Work of Literature (thus inviting readers to draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions about it). I myself often liken the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to Prometheus of Greek mythology who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to men, and thus, deserves reverence. Likewise, I also often look at the Old Testament God as the archetypal Dark Lord found in most fantasy novels. Hey, the shoe fits...

Speaking of religion, the topic frequently emerge in speculative fiction due in part to its inherent sensitive nature. Fantasy and science fiction is often used as a proxy in debating religious opinions to distance the sensibilities of those involved from criticism or perceived attacks. The Narnia novels by C. S. Lewis, renowned Christian apologist and writer, are basically children stories with an overt Christian flavour starring talking animals and God Himself in the guise of a huge lion called Aslan. In the last book of the series, The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis even criticised a controversial element of the religion in writing. He openly supports soteriological incluvism in that book over the widely accepted exclusivism nature of Christianity. I'm with Lewis on this.

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The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis.

The Screwtape Letters (also by Lewis) is also another good fantasy satire with a religious subject matter. It details a series of letters written by Screwtape, a senior demon in a bureaucratic position in Satan's service writing to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter, on the foibles of humans and the weaknesses by which they can be led astray onto the path of damnation. I really enjoyed the thoughtful witticism of Screwtape as he describes the many failings of mankind with frightful accuracy, many of which I found myself in complete agreement with.

A bit of a trivia this; The Screwtape Letters is dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien, the undisputed father of modern fantasy an author of the celebrated Lord of the Rings trilogy which originated (read; gave birth to) many of the contemporary cliches and character templates found in third rate fantasy novels which, I feel, bogged down the genre as a whole and created the reputation that fantasy is derivative, unimaginative and childish. Tolkien was also the guy who converted C. S. Lewis to Christianity, if you don't already know that.

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The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

Lest it be said that I'm under-representing other authors who also writes about religion in fantasy, I also recommend the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, a staunch detractor of C. S. Lewis and organised religions. In his books, he cleverly subverted the Christian mythology, indirectly portraying Lucifer (or his surrogate in the books, Lord Asriel) as a revolutionary trying to overthrow a tyrant with the intentions of turning the Kingdom of Heaven into a Republic of Heaven, while at the same time, implying something about victors *coughGodcough* writing the history books. The central themes are about Free Will, and Freedom Through Knowledge. The third and last book of the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, dealt amply with these themes, particularly the latter. Pullman, as reflected in his writings, believes that the Fall of Man - after disobeying God and eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - is one of the best things to happen to mankind (I believe the same, by the way). Pullman also drew a beautiful allegory of the Fall, likening it to a child growing out of infantile obeisance into a thinking, rational adult.

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The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.

Even R. A. Salvatore's pulpy sword-and-sorcery Dark Elf Trilogy (arguably the best of the mostly crappy Drizzt Do'Urden books), had something to say about God(s) Without versus God(s) Within, and about how Religion Should Agree with Man instead of Man Having to Agree with Religion. For example, I call myself a Buddhist because many of my personal beliefs are coincidentally similar to Buddhist teachings - not because I do what is dictated by Buddhist teachings. This one's for my friend and everybody who thinks that elves has no relevance to real life. Take that, hah!

Moving on from religion and religiousity, I like to share with you my favourite speculative fiction novel from the classic canon, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, a story about a handsome young man lamenting that he will one day grow old and that his physical beauty will fade with age - who wishes that his portrait would age instead of him. Miraculously, he got what he wished for and he plunged into a series of debauched acts. His portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin being displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging. The premise on its own is intriguing enough, even without the sly commentary of late Victorian societal hypocrisy, and the themes of homoeroticism and of sensual gratification (or as Lord Henry Wotton, one of my favourite characters in fiction, put it; "a new kind of hedonism").

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

And while you're at it, check out also Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter - a darkly beautiful fantasy/steampunk hybrid novel which subverted popular fantasy tropes and archetypes (dragons, for example, are giant mechanical, part-cybernetic monsters built in factories and are used as jet fighters). The book simultaneously criticises the commercial exploitation of Tolkien's legacy by shitty fantasy writer wannabes while exploring an amalgam of themes as diverse as Child Slavery, Adolescence, Nihilism and (my personal favourite) Existence Without Ultimate Destiny. Reading this book was a life-changing experience for me, though I may just be in a receptive frame of mind when I read it - so I don't guarantee the same for everyone else who picks it up.

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The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

There is no shortage of truly original fantasy novels that discusses important themes, issues and philosophical ideas beneath the gilding of fantasy and whimsy and if I have to go on describing such books in length, I'm afraid that I will never finish this article. But now, just let me point out to everyone that of all the titles I have mentioned so far, only ONE contains the Tolkienesque elves which my friend chided me about at the start of this essay. I meant you to know that the genre of speculative fiction is a genuinely inventive one if you look in the right places, and that the greatest specimens which belong to it reflects this in both form and substance. That's why I always enjoyed hunting for good fantasy novels - it's gives me a real high every time I lucked out and managed to dust off a volume of pure gold from the speculative fiction shelves.

It really ticks me off when people make unfounded assumptions of fantasy without actually giving it a try. It's these people who are shallow, not the genre of books they so wrongly accuse of shallowness. Their ability to think is so severely myopic that they find it quite impossible to see past the obvious. Maybe that's why non-fiction or factual books are more suitable for them - their thought processes are simply too primitive to handle complex metaphors.

I often explain my abhorrence of non-fiction and realistic fiction works like so,

"We already live in the real world - why do we have to read about it?"

Fantasy and science fiction novels are the raw imagination and creativity of the human mind made ink and paper. Whole worlds, the natural laws governing them and the societies which they are home for are pieced together whole cloth using nothing but artistic brainpower. Reading them is escapism, yes, but why must it be such an embarrassing thing to indulge in, really? The telling of a great story lies at the core of human civilisation and we had, for ages and ages past in great Homeric fashion, used Lies to tell the Truth. Speculative fiction is part of that legacy, a contemporary manifestation of that glorious tradition which I believe and feel, is very worthy of celebration.

And it's just an added bonus that they are such rip-roaring fun to read.



Addendum: If you're interested in more original speculative fiction novels with an intellectual turn, you might want to check out these other titles I couldn't find the time to include in this post,
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore. I know this is a graphic novel (i.e. comic book) but I find this a better read than a lot of books I know. It deconstructs the superhero concept, examining what costume vigilantes would be like in a credible, real world, and asks a very important question, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Who watches the watchmen? You might want to look into it, seeing that the movie's coming out soon.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert. This celebrated science fiction novel explores the themes of Religion in Politics, the Meaning of Humanity, Manipulation of Religion to Secure Power and Human Control over Ecology. In the Dune universe, there is also a resource found only on the planet Dune, the spice melange, on which the economy and power structure of the entire interstellar empire is dependent on (essentially a galactic analogue to our petroleum). It also offers an interesting take of the concepts of ancestral memory passed on through genetic memory, and of prescience.
  • The Earthsea Cycle of novels by Ursula K. LeGuin follows the story of Ged, a young wizard's journey and growth to greatness. Sounds contrived, eh? What set it apart from its contemporaries is that the protagonist has red-brown skin, a pioneering breakaway from the white hero stereotype of the genre. From even its superficial characterisation, LeGuin have managed to make firm statements about Racial Stereotypy through the books. Before the series ended, she tore through the themes of Reincarnation versus Afterlife, Gender Differences, and Being versus Doing, amongst a sundry of other topics through 5 books. Ged is also suppose to be a deconstructionistic take of the ancient and wise wizard archetype; LeGuin herself said that she often wondered how such Gandalf-esque characters come to attain their status. Of course LeGuin being LeGuin, she went one step further and explore the subsequent loss of Ged's magical abilities at the height of his power. The Earthsea books are, in my opinion, some of the finest reads in the fantasy genre.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke answers the important question which have baffled historians for decades; "How would the Napoleanic War be fought if England had magicians on her side?"



P.S. If anyone wants more literary recommendations from me, you can ask me in the comments section below this post. Give me your preferences and I will try to prescribe suitable titles for you to the best of my knowledge. Also, if you know any good fantasy books, let me know, okay?

P.P.S. This post took me almost two whole weeks to write - mainly because I needed to finish reading a couple of the works I mentioned here. That and all the looking up I had to do through my library.




Defender of fantasy,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Midweek Gasp for Air

Hello? Anyone here? I've been spending the last week trying to write a post - and by "trying" I mean opening the post editor everyday and realising after writing two words that there were other matters of life and death (mostly death) which I required my attention a lot more urgently than my blog. I am currently stuck with another 3 more weeks of the Surgery Posting from Hell - and with Satan himself as His Royal Unholiness the Infernal Head of Department. Imagine spending everyday exposed to the danger of being stuck in the same room as an old guy that's about a head taller than you are who hollers right in your face, calling you a "bloody fool", "donkey", "stupid" or other such colourful names, over every tiniest mistake, every minuscule slip of the tongue you make (in your grasp of surgical concepts and even more often, your grammar).

So far, all 4 groups currently in posted in Surgery have been banned from the wards till further notice after a particularly nasty episode of shouting on the Prof's part in front of the patients. Actually, he can be quite funny when his laserz aren't turned on you but not many people can truly escape his rages. I, along with a few others, have yet to perform any piece of stupidity worthy of him personally sending us out of the class or ward but that didn't stop us from being covered under the ban as well (apparently, it's our fault too for not making sure that every member of our group is completely perfect at History Taking and at General and Systemic Examination of Patient). In my opinion, the standard at which we were performing would no doubt receive much kudos from the lecturers back in Manipal, India. It's a whole new ballpark here. Oh, even when it was him who banned us from the wards, we're still considered absent from class. Good luck making up for the 90% minimum attendance now.

I can tell you that I have never been this stressed out in my life - not even when I faced that two major University Exams back in India (I pretty much studied one night before each paper and yes, I'm allowed to brag about it). And the less I say about my borderline suicidal behaviour when it came to the SPM and my A-Levels, the better (2 hours before each paper, by the way). Now, I'm studying everyday (yes! believe it!) just to avoid being roasted alive by the Prof. That guy certainly put me in a religious mood - I pray fervently everyday now.

I am happy to report that I still managed to do a bit of leisure reading these days. I finished The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie just last week and I'm halfway through John Crowley's Little, Big and occasionally thumbing a short story from an anthology of H. P. Lovecraft cosmic horror tales I bought in Chennai. Tomorrow, I'm looking to catch the movie adaptation of Max Payne at the cineplex with Shaki and whoever else who wants to tag along. Viva la vida, people.

Before I sign off, let me just say this to all the girl readers I have,

If you don't know how to wear high heels; don't. Not even for balls or proms or any swanky wingdings. There's a reason why people had to go through months at a finishing school just to learn how to do it; and that reason is so they don't walk like friggin' velociraptors in the damn stilletos. Yes, high heels give the optical illusion of a longer, slimmer leg, a smaller foot, and a greater overall height - not to mention altering the wearer's posture and gait, flexing the calf muscles, and making the bust and buttocks more prominent - but that's not happening when you're stumbling around like you have brain cancer.

I also have some beef about girls wearing bareback dresses and blouses, but failing to correct their postures for these sort of clothes. Why on God's green earth are you ladies hunching your shoulders and backs for? To push your boobs together so they'd look bigger? To make up for a non-existent cleavage? What? It's just going to make your back look enormous and FAT, you know. All I could see are acres and acres of man-type back. Totally not sexy, girls.

We need a revival of finishing schools to stop girls from failing at sexiness.

That is all. I needed that off my chest. I will write you guys again this weekend.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Weekending in Mudtown

"Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless."

Bill Watterson


I'd like to write a post about my first impressions of the Malacca campus of my college (where the rest of my course is slated to take place in) but I couldn't scrape together enough time to edit the pictures, or to even frame my thoughts for that matter, for it. Well, there's a first impression for you; all the hardships I have endured in India for the past one and a half years are piffles compared to what I got on my hands here. I say this for the benefit of my readers who happen to be my juniors - who aren't here yet and still opine that India is the absolute last word in grueling, life-sucking scholastic slavery. You guys will be begging to go back to India, I'm telling you.

Okay, I don't have much time here so I'll just briefly write about my little recent trip to KL. If I can somehow, miraculously, find a bit of spare time somewhere down this week, I'll do a piece on my Malacca campus. Whenever I'm pressed for time, blogging and writing are the firsts of my hobbies to suffer. Watching movies comes in at a close second. Reading... well, I'd sooner compromise my studies than quit reading novels. Man got to have a bit of life.

And I still have tonnes of travelogues to write (which I'll start on as soon as I can squeeze a spare minute in this week to reply the comments in the last post - which I will, by the way, I promise).

I took a bus down to KL last Thursday and for the first time in years, I did not drive there. I made a personal commitment to the green movement - y'know, tree-hugging shit like reducing my dependence on fossil fuels, rejecting the use of plastic bags whenever I can (I am pleased to say I only accepted one this entire month for a stack of books I bought from Borders which I couldn't fit into my messenger bag) and turning off whichever power switches I happen to come across which were switched on for no purpose. I'm quite sick of people being apathetic about this - knowing perfectly well what is the right thing to do but refusing to do it because he or she thinks that one single person making an effort will not make a difference. These are the same people who would drive past a dying man on the highway thinking that someone else will help, that it's someone else's problem. Global Oil Depletion is coming people, and in our lifetime too, so look sharp and shape up.

I arrived in the Garden at Midvalley at about 11:00 am, did a round of book-shopping and then met up with one Penny (or one Yen, whichever one's doing better at the currency exchange market at the moment) for lunch,

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Yes, I'm reeeaaally dark. I've heard that over a million times now so if you've got nothing else to say, kindly shut up.

Penny wrote me a year ago but I can't seem to recall why now - but anyway we had some sort of an e-mail correspondence established since then, albeit one which is irregular at best. My bad, this; I am simply too fickle to keep up with any form of regular communication. I am that guy who, on occasion, don't even bother to read the SMS'es I receive on my phone, so you can see just what Penny got herself into, the poor thing.

The meet was arranged for a convenient collision with my book-shopping day because to be honest, I don't like going up to KL all that much - nasty, overpopulated, crime-stricken piece of real estate filled with the rudest drivers in Malaysia that it is.

Funny thing is, I wasn't only meeting Penny slash Yen for lunch. I was also meeting her mother.

Let it never be said again that I am an antisocial misanthrope with a hermit complex.

Now, a bit of blurb for Penny; She isn't a blogger, as many of you might have surmised and I'm pretty sure she don't read this page all that much either. She's 17 years old this year - my sister's age - and had just cleared her SPM trials with a report card full of glowing A1's. From what I can gather from our occasional chats, she's really good with the piano. Like really, really good. She teaches, and participated in some huge ass competitions and concerts (and probably won them too), and hold some degree or certificate which says she can kick your nuts musically with both hands tied behind her back (Master's degree? Doctorate? Order of Merlin First Class?). Okay, I admit it - a lot of things about the classical music world just sail right over my head and make loud splashing noises in the vast ocean of my ignorance behind me. Having written all that down, I'm still not sure how we got about being friends and actually meeting for lunch that day. This is pretty weird and I will personally investigate further on this.

I did, however, ended talking to Penny's mom a lot more than I did to her. If you're reading this, Penny, thank your mom again for me for footing the bill for lunch. I never did get a good look at the prices in the menu at the Crystal Jade but I have this impression that they appeared more like readouts from a rocket's speedometer than anything else. Ouch, but classy.

Keep me posted, Penny. Good luck for the SPM and take good care in Aussie - I know you're leaving soon. You'd make a great music therapist, I'm sure. If I'm ever in Melbourne, I would most definitely take up on your offer to show me around.

Anyway, right after lunch, I caught an LRT to the KLCC,

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The twin giant jagung, as a friend of mine described them.

So I watched a movie there, and bought a few more books, but I don't think anyone want to hear about that. Besides the usual boring crap I do, I also met up with my classmates, Nickson and Sanjeev.

Sanjeev isn't from around here, by the way,

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As evidenced by this damning photograph of tourist cam-foolery.

Sanjeev's is a Seychellois, which is foreignish for "some bloke from Seychelles". Seychelles is a an archipelago country of like over a hundred little islands northeast of Madagascar (which you might or might not have introduced to you in a computer-animated movie starring a sorry excuse for a lion voiced by Ben Stiller). He speaks French, English and Seychellois Creole, which is a nativized French-based pidgin, and has several important Malay words in his vocabulary like "nasi lemak" and "jualan murah". He is also very possibly a genius.

Nickson was playing host to Sanjeev during the Raya hols, alternatively taking him back to his grandmother's house in Bentong and showing him around KL.

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There's another picture of this where Sanjeev and I were captured in very embarrassing poses, which is why I'm not showing it to any of you.

Instead of going to my aunt's place as planned, I changed my mind and went to stay in Nickson's place in Cheras that night.

And we decided to spend the next day visiting almost every mall in and near the Bukit Bintang area including Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang, The Pavillion, Lot 10, Starhill and Times Square, all of which (excepting Lot 10) I have never been in before,

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That's one heckuva doorway.

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Inside The Pavillion.

We had a taste of JCO's doughnuts in The Pavillion and I have to say its grossly overrated. Considering that JCO's stuff is priced higher, you'd think they would taste better - but no. Nickson agreed with me on that point and we deliberated over 7 doughnuts, including the plain glazed one which came with my drink, to arrive at that conclusion.

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Mediocrity.

It could be just me but I felt that Big Apple outlets (the one in Malacca included) are generally better lit and cheerier (not to mention cleaner too). JCO tried too hard to create that faux-classy Starbucks ambience and ended up with something akin to a glorified sleep clinic on their hands. Honestly, I can't see why people are so crazy about it.

After our little day trip, Sanjeev is officially sick of malls and we had Nickson drove both of us back to Malacca the morning after. Good ol' Nickson. You got to love a guy who stayed awake at the wheel while all his passengers are snoring in the backseat.



Sick of malls too,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Colour of Love is not Green

"In jealousy there is more of self-love than love."

Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

I have, in my past, experienced great relationship distress handling the issue of jealousy. I have pointed out that jealousy - especially unreasonable, unfounded, irrational jealousy - is a pernicious element of a partnership, one which poisons everything good and worth celebrating in it. The oft used rebuttal and defense to that opinion of mine is this,

"I'm only jealous because I love you. You should worry if I'm not jealous anymore."

That's a patently ridiculous assertion, one which holds absolutely no water but does indeed, carry a whole cartload of manure.

To understand my contempt for that argument, we must first explore the meaning of love - that question which have remained more or less unanswerable ('Love is God' notwithstanding and irrelevant) since the days when Love became a virtue all those centuries ago. I have always answered that this way,

"Love is what remains after you strip off everything that isn't Love."

That's a bit of a cop-out on my part and is indeed, partly inspired by that Bible quote mentioned in that movie adapted from Nicholas Spark's novel, A Walk to Remember - you know, the one that went, "Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous. Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offense and is not resentful..." and so it goes. I think that there is never any book big enough to list everything that Love is and is not - it either means Love is just too big to encompass in words or it simply exists in too many different forms to define.

Jealousy isn't and isn't part of Love. I simply refuse to recognise something so petty and negative to be in association with something so contrarily noble and positive. You can say that being in Love allows you a position to be more susceptible to - or rather, give you more opportunities to indulge in jealousy. But you can't say that you're jealous because you love. That's a logical fallacy. It's like saying that you trip and fell down because you were walking on the street. Absurd, yes. You trip and fell down because you're an oaf. You're jealous because you're either possessive, suspicious or plagued by personal inferiority issues. Love has no hand in it.

I understand how it feels to be jealous, with or without good reasons, in my past but never once have I blamed Love for it. Nowadays, I am optimistic enough to say that my propensity to give in to jealousy have been greatly reduced, eliminated even. This happened in part because I have came to accept that being in a relationship does not mean that I "own" the person I love in any sense of the word at all, whether physically or abstractly. Anyone who claim ownership of their lovers are engaging in a very subtle form of slavery which, I feel, reduces disrespects the humanity, personality and autonomy of the people they claim to love. Like, just because Phoebe's my girlfriend, it doesn't mean I can stop her from meeting whoever she wants, wearing whatever she wants or getting that geisha tattoo she kept telling me about. I only have the option of leaving her if I find her doing something too disagreeable for me.

Trust, I always felt, is essential to a relationship. If you spend all your time having to be suspicious of your lover, how much time then are you left with to love and to enjoy being in love with her or him? I have had a terrible experience with an eternally suspicious girlfriend a couple of years ago who had absolutely no trust me at all - even after I made the utterly stupid promise, ostensibly on my own volition as she often insisted but was actually a product of passive-aggressivism, to never ever go out with another girl alone for any reason. In one instance, I walked another female classmate home (by her polite request) because the guy who usually did it wasn't present, because I thought it was okay because I was going to walk the same way anyway to my own apartment and because it was a neighbourhood well known for snatch-thieves and muggers (my ex-girlfriend herself experienced a snatch-theft on one occasion while I was beaten and mugged in another). Let me be clear here that what I did was morally right, which any gentleman would have done without being asked - and I actually had to explain myself and placate her for my doing the right thing. That was utterly ridiculous and I did not know why I even stood for such bollocks back then. The absolute tipping point was when she accused me of oogling at another classmate in med school when I wasn't. Her conviction that I did was pathologically delusional - borderline Othello Syndrome, even - and we had one of our biggest rows over it. I would not say that her insane jealous nature was solely the reason which drove me to ultimately dump her ass, but yes, I must say it made up a big part of my motivation to do so.

Excuse my arrogance but I must say this; I may be less than ideal in a lot of aspects as the best boyfriend one can have, but when it comes to spousal fidelity, I was (and still am, I am happy to report) utterly flawless. I do not take well to suspicions upon my character.

Havelock Ellis once refer to jealousy as, in his own words, "that dragon which slays love under the pretense of keeping it alive." When I remember how my ex once said that she's only jealous because she loves me, I really see how accurately Mr Ellis had nailed it.

I honestly think that an ever-present fear of arousing jealousy in one's lover has a real effect against living one's life naturally. Say hypothetically, I want to meet a friend who just happens to be woman. Unsurprisingly, girlfriend would quite normally react to that with jealousy. To avoid ever meeting any member of the opposite sex in a thoroughly platonic social context and on a wholly intellectual level just because I want to avoid making my girlfriend unhappy is unrealistic, and the girlfriend who allows her boyfriend to make that sacrifice for her is in truth, paving her own way to a lot of misery. "Sacrifice" is no doubt a glorious and honorable act for a person to do for his or her lover but it often have quite predictable consequences. The party who "sacrificed" will grow resentful, often subconsciously, because his or her freedom is bruised and over time, this can culminate into a real hatred of one's situation. Love often died by this arrow. Yes, I believe Love is finite and is able to die though I am not so cynical as to suppose that Love cannot outlast our lifetimes. I do, however, have great loathing for people who insist that if something did not last, it wasn't Love to being with. I find such people to be in dire need of a good round of whoopass.

"I can't help feeling jealous."

That's the unapology I often hear for jealousy. I'll concede that it's not an easy emotion to dodge or to get out of, but thinking that way just means that you aren't going to do anything whatsoever about it. I'll also concede that there are situations in which jealousy is justified, like if your girlfriend or boyfriend treats someone else visibly better than she does you, or if he or she flirts shamelessly with other people without any regards for your feelings - but let's face it, jealousy is more often irrational and pointlessly destructive, and it puts your lover in a difficult situation which makes him or her unhappy. It is born from a mix of delusions of loss and of perceived intrusions into your "property" - or as de la Rochefoucauld bluntly described, "more of self-love than love."

I am in a long distance relationship now and I know that distance has a way of amplifying one's insecurities and suspicions a thousand times over. Jealousy is almost certainly inevitable. Still, tell me - does it mean that a person in a long distance relationship must limit his or her social activities just to prophylactically and temporarily salve these little cuts and bruises? Or must the problem be torn out root and branch from its source once and for all? Freedom to live one's life within reason is something which we all must agree to be something righteous. When has it been wrong to do the right thing?

"You can either have love or Life. You can't have both."

I have contemplated this and it often depresses me to do so. It depresses me that Love has been reduced to a negativistic value, instead of the creative, nurturing ideal it is known to be. The only way I can make any sense of this is if I assume that the person who said it have confused Love with abject possession. Love grows on the fertile soil of Life. Without Life, there can be no Love. Anyone who is in a relationship and believes in that sadomasochistic bullshit about how one must choose between the two will think that it is okay to hijack someone's Life in the name of love. Two person in the same relationship who are of the same mind on this are in for much, much misery. I'd know - I have been in one.

This post is getting too long and even though I'd like to go on, I must stop before it becomes incoherent. I am not sure myself whether this is an objective discourse on jealousy, a rant or a lament - but I do hope that I can start a proper discussion here about this. I want to hear your opinions and, if it's not too much, your own personal experiences with that green monstrosity.

Sorry for being boring. It's your turn to talk.



Has a greater meaning of Love in mind,
k0k s3n w4i