Lantern Festival

Every so often, strangers come to mind out of nowhere. For instance, I still think of a janitor in my elementary school. He’s a skinny person with a prominent Adam’s apple. It was so big, you couldn’t see him without being distracted by the size of the outcrop. Back then I often wondered if it hurts, as it glides up and down when he swallows every erratic thought while mopping the long, dim school corridors.

On my way to middle school, sometimes I saw a man nearly 6.9 feet tall with spidery long limbs, riding a bicycle going somewhere. The seat was just too low, that his legs had to extend sideways into two enormous triangles, like cumbersome wings installed to both sides of the bike, reminding you of all the aspirations people carry around but never get to fully unfold and outstretch …

My home back then was overlooking a park, where people engaged in exercises of all sorts – Tai Chi, swordplay, Qi Gong, dances with fans or red silk … Every morning there’s a man performing a one-of-a-kind workout similar to power walk, except that he put the emphasis on clapping his hands with full strike while marching ahead, synching each power clap with every dignified stride.

If judged only by the sound of it, you’d think he’s striking two wooden slabs together, while in fact he did it barehanded. The sound was so jarring, piercing through the morning quiet. Just imagine how hardened the calluses on his hands must be. I failed to comprehend the purpose of his drill, but the strident sound of it has been reverberating in my memory ever since.

Meaningless remembrance like these, they come to mind every now and then, often evoked by something irrelevant. An ordinary life, if you look at it without any self-aggrandizing attempt, you will find it mostly just a collage of random encounters. I watch them from distance, in a detached manner, as if looking at a snow globe, with people and scenarios encased inside swirling.

Not only strangers, I myself have been adrift in that dream as well. While I stand aloof as a witness, watching myself performing me. And this is when some impertinent notion would pop up. As if I were in a concert hall among all sophisticated people, sitting upright in fashionable attire, watching the whole world as a philharmonic orchestra on stage, playing some grand symphony.

And I thought to myself – ahh, evolution seems to have worked out well, just not too long ago we’re primitives, swinging from tree limbs to tree limbs, munching bananas, entangling in somersault of all kinds, but now we are listening to grandiose music, getting all sorts of profound meaning from various ensembles of contrived notes.

And I noticed myself having a hard time deciding where to focus my gaze. You’ve got to find a focal point to look at during a concert, but it can be arduous to stare at one spot for the entire occurrence. So you end up developing a strategy to systematically rotate your gaze among all the instruments on stage.

You can get yourself too busy revolving your rivet around, thinking irrelevant thoughts in the meantime, and forget to hear the music.

I can’t look and think and still immerse in the music. To immerse in something wholeheartedly, you can’t multitask; you have to allow yourself be captivated and occupied, getting lost in it entirely.

“When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” Shunryu Suzuki said.

The problem is, wherever I go, I have threesome in tow – one of me is a member of the orchestra playing on the stage, another me is the audience watching the drama, while the third party is this outsider me overseeing the whole event performed by both the band and the audience. I may never know how to make a good bonfire.

In “Lantern Festival”, a Chinese poem written 1,000 years ago, there is a verse going like this –

“In the crowd once and again, I search in vain; everywhere there is no trace of the one I have in mind. All of a sudden I turn around, the one I look for stands right there, where the lantern light is dimly lit.” (衆裏尋他千百度。驀然回首,那人卻在,燈火闌珊處。)

When I first read it in high school, I thought it’s about finding your true love. Now I read it again, I realize it must be about connecting with my true self. If I learn to focus my gaze within, bonfire could be possible, I might even hear the good music.

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18 Comments

  1. Timothy Price

    A fun read. Your blue kitten is so cute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The blue kitten is looking up to you 🍡

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps ambition is too strong a word for you just now? How about wishing for you “A Growing Confidence” instead?

    “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” ― Lao Tzu

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I will take that. Thanks for being so nice!

      Like

  3. I enjoyed this post very much. You have a unique insight of your own reality that most don’t. Perhaps even a talent that could be fostered to accomplish greater things? Perhaps you should consider expanding your ambitions? In reading the other comments — I think they too would agree!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really nice of you to say that, thank you 🍎 You are very kind. But I have mixed feelings about ambition. If we look at all the ambitious people around us, we’ll see that 99% of them are constantly unsatisfied – too little gratification, too much dissatisfaction. So one should proceed with caution to put ambition on their plates, it seems to me. Besides, getting a simple notion clearly conveyed is already a great struggle for me, I feel it’s beyond me to have ambition greater than this. But I appreciate your encouragement, which means a lot to me, really helping me feel more confident.

      Like

  4. 😉 very thought provoking

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Leo, happy to see you 🍑

      Like

  5. I do enjoy your meandering style! Your chosen opening subject is always revealing something deeper, alluding to the concept that you are heading toward, but weaving it all together in an unhurried manner as you lead the reader through your self-reflection towards the truth tucked away in the conclusion.
    George F. summed it up well in the above comment with “me, myself, and I”. That sense of not knowing where to look during a concert, not being able to let go of yourself… I can well relate to that sensation. We’re just overthinking it I guess, but that ability to stand outside yourself and observe is something many people lack, and while it can make some activities difficult, it’s also integral to your work as a writer.
    Having said that, I’m sure you’ll learn to light that bonfire, if you haven’t already. Great reading as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I really appreciate about you is that when you read, you truly read. You take time and not hurry, never missing any stitch in the weave or crochet. You make me feel heard, so fulfilling and satisfying 🦋 I might even start thinking the bonfire really is in me already, that if I don’t watch out, it could at every risk turn into bushfires, the type that cost great loss of animal life in Australia every year … But don’t worry, I am just overthinking again🐞 Thanks for being so nice to me!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s all getting too complicated – I’ll think I’ll stay in bed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. I just can’t help it but have to inflict a little drama on the cat.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. …so when we chat, which one of you is responding: the one writing, the one watching, or the one overseeing our budding relationship?

    Like

    1. You’ve missed out on the consequential part: the one laughing 🐥🦔 How’s the biting relationship with Akira?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! Laughingh is great for the Soul. My relationship deteriorating fast. She has no emotion, no soul. They forgot to build that in. Speaking about “missing out,” did you catch my post “Black Hole Ops?” It’s gonna get political from here…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No, I didn’t. Will catch up later. My sympathy for what you’ve got yourself into🦂 🕷

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you for understanding…

            Like

  8. The quintessential example of “me, myself, and I.”

    Liked by 1 person

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