Let Me Play

By nature I am a city dweller; I like crowded streets. As introverted as I am, I find crowded streets comforting – you can reap the benefits of togetherness without actually socializing. One of my favorite cities in China was Hong Kong, where the cliché “people mountain people sea” was originated, a perfect place for people watching.

To do that, you can take a tram, the old-fashioned two-story kind with no air-conditioning but wide-open windows. Make sure you have the front seat of the upper deck. If the seat is not available, wait for the next tram. With a paper-sack of roasted chestnuts in hand, you can spend a Sunday morning riding high up, overlooking the busiest streets, while the tram slowly staggering from one end of the Island to the other end.

There’re all kinds of business going on along both sides of the thoroughfare, and netlike bystreets extending from the main road into back alleys, as if a lifelong dream got sidetracked to every other direction.

People from all walks of life were on the streets. Real estate agents in suits on a Sunday, hurrying around to showcase tiny apartments. High-strung parents escorting sleepy kids to extracurricular activities. Construction or delivery workers streaming into Jockey Clubs to place their bets on a horse.

Career women shopping for high fashion to sharpen their competitive edges for corporate ladder climb. Middle-aged men queuing outside toy stores for limited edition of comic hero figures. Retirees on their way to attend direct sales seminar for newly discovered formula that cures all disease. And domestic helpers from Southeast Asia gathering around city squares to exchange tidbits and gossips …

Now I don’t have the proximity to crowded streets. Except for occasional dog walkers, no one goes outdoors in town. People mountain people sea are to be found online only.

It’s been 80 days since I started on WordPress for people watching. I thought blogging was dead but it is not yet. Plenty of people are still performing the act. There are poets, musicians, photographers, travelers, cartoonists, foodies, preachers, comedians, fashion designers, network developers, art collectors, dream weavers, animal lovers, spiritual gurus …

Everybody plays a character or two. You could be Snow White or Prince Charming, Cinderella or Unicorn, the Beauty or the Beast. Friends practice acupuncture or chiropractic on each other, to help reduce hidden stress or relieve that chronic pain. Every corner you turn, there is Don Quixote, who recalls the old saying you can be anything you want to be, and decides to start anew and live that dream.

A select few really dream big – a bestseller is in the making; a blockbuster will come on the heels; a Nobel Prize would not be something entirely unimaginable on the horizon … You are no longer just people on Hong Kong streets, going about their mundane courses running of the mill.

I heard someone at the height of his escapade say, “The best part of blogging is, when I die, my digital profile will live on. Is there a better way to achieve immortality?”

I was about to reply, “The minute you’re dead, instantly your website would look like your headstone.” Fortunately I got hold of myself. Sometimes the best we could do for someone, is to help them live in their dreams.

The notion of death comes up naturally, with coronavirus looming every minute in the news. Before this, death was the least of my worries. Now watching people fighting over toilet papers, suddenly you realize we are animals facing imminent slaughter, fish gasping for air in the net, fugitives getting caught and thrown back into a primitive state of being. The sense of impermanence has never been so acute, although it feels somewhat surreal.

Despite all the dramas in the news, I haven’t actually done anything to prepare. All my stock is running low. The innate tendency to be a watcher makes me procrastinate about everything until it’s too late. Would it eventually cost my life?

As I contemplate the reality of my nonentity, the Chinese idiom story 滥竽充数 comes to mind –

Once upon a time, there was a king who enjoyed having a large group of musicians playing a wind instrument called Yu. And there was a guy named Nanguo who didn’t know how to play, but somehow he managed to have a position in the group. Every time the orchestra performed, Nanguo would put on an act, making believe he’s playing, without producing a real sound. After the king died, the prince inherited the throne. But the new king loved listening to solo. So Nanguo had to flee the palace overnight.

I can relate to him! Before coronavirus made its fame, life used to be like a group play. Where one could do all the empty talks without making a real sound. Where we put up endless flotillas of bubbles to create the illusion we’re game. Where you filled every moment with activities making believe you live a full life. It can be so convincing until death comes. You then suddenly feel like being washed ashore all alone to a foreign land. All things familiar and well invested would appear to be just irrelevant on that other shore. The hopes and dreams you hold on with such single-minded passion would be hot-air balloons deflated.

Once all the makeshift identities are stripped away at the time of death – the greatest judge of all time I am destined to face, how would I do the solo play, with no knowledge of who I truly am?  With or without coronavirus, there is no place on earth where death cannot catch me so unprepared.

chick7 (4)

 

28 Comments

  1. Now Dot, although I am not one for “I told you so’s!” I’d be remiss if I at least didn’t scold you lightly for not heeding our long-ago conversation about “stocking up.” Way back on March the 2nd it was on my site. And you promising to head out to the supermarket? That very day in fact? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    So If you have to crumple old newspapers for your toilet paper now? (what a terrible vision that is?) I will feel empathy towards you but? — Or is it Butt? — I’ll send you some via courier anyways. Lol! Loved your post as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know I’ve been warned, thanks to your good deeds of writing all those thoughtful posts. I wanted to confess I didn’t go to the markets as promised, but since I have this unfortunate habit of procrastination, I didn’t do that. Thanks for the offer of sending it via courier, now I feel far less anxious knowing that when all those old newspapers are used up, I could take you up on the offer and have some FedEx or UPS packages coming my way … Thanks in advance for that 🐢

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You bet Dot no problem. And if your worried — no paper trail too! Unless the roll unwinds prematurely that is. Take care of yourself!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. On the other hand, Dot, you could be one of the few survivors – blogging into space awaiting a reply.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Survival would be nice only if the world could continue to have you painting all things worth reflecting upon, Graham.

      Like

  3. When you compose your work Dot, do you know where each piece will end and work backwards from there? Or do your musings just naturally move from daydreaming about people watching into contemplation of life, death, and deep cultural observation? I know I’ve said it before, but your writing has a natural flow from one idea to the other, so much that it feels like a conversation, or a class even. You would make a wonderful English teacher.
    As a side note, I thought I was the only one who hadn’t ‘prepared’. Everyone around me is in panic mode, and I’m just drifting through my life as usual. I live alone, so that pack of paper I bought a few weeks ago is still going strong, and there’s no shortage of fresh foods around. Your metaphor about ‘fish gasping for air in the net’ is particularly apt though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are not alone Tom, I am the never-get-serious-enough type too. I can never plan the ending ahead and then work backwards. At most I just have some faint idea to start with, then I go with the flow making detours … it’s about the journey not the destination I guess 🐾 The idea would grow clearer by itself during the ramble, or it might land on something self-contradictory to the initial. Writing is my way to learn, a painstaking process for me. Can never imagine myself to be a teacher. Happy to know you have enough good foods to nibble, at the end of the day it’s what matters in our primitive state of being 🐚🐿🐌

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like that you call it a ramble, even though clarity is one of the most distinctive features of your work, as I see it 😋

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I quite enjoy your writing. Just wanted to tell you this. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate you drop in to tell me this, Olga. Best wishes to you too ☘️

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Dot! This was a thought provoking post, I could visualize every thing as the tram took me away down the streets. I have so many memories of the mountain of people and sea of people. I’m a wee bit tall and not so wide so I fit nicely in that sea of people so homogenous they all looked like one extended family. I could see over the sea’s head to the end of any street. I drifted along in the currents, beaten awake by some grand mother’s cane for my rudeness to block her way. People watching could captivate me through several meals before my stomach forced its way into my consciousness. I miss it too. Here was my favorite line of a hundred favorite lines in your post. “Sometimes the best we could do for someone, is to help them live in their dreams.” This is the kindest act and one I live to accomplish. Kitty and Chick look well. Don’t worry about the toilet paper. It will be useless after all the sewer lines are plugged and no one can flush their toilet. But clever folks will be safe from that malady and you are most clever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t believe that in the so-called ‘gourmet paradise’ you could possibly forsake your meals for people watching. Where else would you find a better place to watch people while eating! But I really appreciate the vivid description about how you journeyed through the rude awakening from the granny’s cane and staff. It gives me a belly-laugh so intensive and extensive that I can forsake my 10k run today and just snack to my heart’s content to compensate all the calories burned … BTW, when it comes to ‘helping someone live in their dreams”, you are the master 🍄🐢🐙

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, it is my fault when the delicious food is in front of me, I cannot see any people. However, not all is lost. I can sit by the window with my Pu erh tea ☕️ and allow all of the people to seep into my thoughts. I was the Barbarian in a gentleman’s clothes. Curious of this spectacle, many curious people would sit with me and tell me their stories and I would answer their questions. We would be friends for a day, an hour, an evening, forever. My favorite part of life was learning about others.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought you meant all the people watching made you forget about eating. Turns out what you meant is all the eating made your stomach protruding and forcing you into mindfulness?!? Now you know you could never overestimate my capability to understand a sentence properly. I am not that clever evidently. Would’ve been in a better situation feeling more reassured and confident if only I could have stocked up more toilet paper … Anyway, I really admire your ability to strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere any topics. Hopefully you didn’t mean that all the dangerously long-lived good warrior tales you’ve been telling us were actually from those curious people surrounding your dining table by the window? In my mind I have such a fantasy about you firmly established being a wisely experienced and steely heroic warrior who has been through so much fire and flames and still come out tall and not wide – I simply can’t afford any truth be told otherwise 🐞

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh Dot, as a dear Dragon your prescience is faultless. You got it right. People watching captivated me and eating was indeed delayed. When I went to the restaurant my hunger commanded all my synapses and focused them on my noodles and vege sides. Ah, fresh lemongrass, rice, carefully prepared, tuna sliced just so. There was much more, but if I continue, I’ll have a Lion’s appetite revisit me. Yes indeed, that full stomach is the true path to mindfulness or waking naps. And tho my real job was to talk to people and learn where evil lurked so I could hunt them with my pack and cure them of their long and terrible lives wasted in evil doing, My inner self loved how magnificently ordinary people can live and hide in plain sight. They all taught me many things about the true travails of humans. I travelled in many places and even lived with remote people of the forests and mountains. In each place, I learned how we are all the same and how we are all vastly different. In Germany, I probed the hearts and minds of old veterans and found them to be worth my respect. And so my warrior tales are my life revisited and also my characters are the refinement in amalgam of many Noble men and women who gave all of their life and energy into a noble cause of people not governments or courts or money. Nowhere did I see more suffering than in Africa where human nor beast is spared and yet the people live simple lives made infinitely dangerous by the need for nourishing food, clean water, adequate shelter, education, and medicine while their governments live like Roman Emperors consuming souls and Mother Earth like an aphrodisiac to sustain an old and misused libido. To silence the screams, I write about them and let them win this time. And I do sometimes doubt my closest friends, counted on half of one hand, who say that I am still tall and not wide and I should eat more. It could be that experience and wisdom demands roomier clothes and the skinny jeans are long gone to the charity bins. But, I can still do sporting activities and things with the stamina younger men pray for. Living according to the Tao Te Ching laid down by the ancient master, Lao Tzu makes life a little more peaceful and provides good energy for strenuous things, or is it the brown rice? Oh, well, the results are the same.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ahh, now the image in my fantasy has grown even taller and still not too wide, just about the right size of an enormously admirable commander of hunger and synapses in a gentleman’s clothing but with a Lion King’s bearing and appetite. Yet it doesn’t mean such a hunter for evil and gatherer of truth has to be a savage meat-eater – not at all, his diet turns out to be so mindfully decorated with lemongrass and tuna slice – such delicacy and beauty of a Beast with a loving inner self in plain sight! Merely the imagery is sufficient to awestrike and overcome me with a sense of majesty … And the stories about the forests and mountains you have visited and the tribes and seas of people you have talked to make me feel so inadequate about my vastly different life which never gives anything into a noble cause but only takes everything to fulfill an everlasting crave … But I have to accept the reality that not all people (let alone INFJs) are created equal, only a select few like you are destined to be admired by the extraordinarily ordinary people such as me. Your writing may have powerfully silenced the screams of suffering souls, however, after reading it I can’t help but have to pronounce what might embarrassingly sound like a scream, with all the force my limited vocabulary could manage to muster – you are my hero! Your half handful friends are right, you should eat more, so that you would always have stamina for strenuous activities making the world a better place for people like me 🥗🥞🥧

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Oh you do enthrall my imagination Dot. I bring to mind the vast black holes at the center of nearly every galaxy in the universe. We often misunderstand these vast creatures that hide themselves from our view with only the event horizon visible and only then because of the massive shift of energy at the edge. But here we have discovered the secret to the universe. It is the black hole that takes in all matter in every physical state and when enough matter is gathered and converted to raw energy, the black hole releases it in a laser like stream that crosses the universe and then at the end of that stream we see the creation of new stars, planets, and all the building blocks of the universe born anew. Yes, they are the mothers of the universe. All life eventually flows through them. And there you are Dot, collecting, internalizing, growing with every wisdom earned. What you then share with us is that laser beam of insights, knowledge, and wisdom we thirst for, are renewed by. I am the water goat whose spirit animal is the Air Dragon. Odd maybe, but this is probably the reason why my life is the way it is. The goat blames the dragon and the dragon just laughs. Then they both go do something fun together. But know this; without the expressed beauty of life and creativity in others, the goat and dragon would lead a boring life, no pictures on the wall, no gonzo memories to laugh about when safely older and more willing to spend time in the easy chair. What a beautiful balance in the midst of chaos.

                Liked by 1 person

  6. ” All things familiar and well invested would appear to be just irrelevant on that other shore.” Well, these meditations are what make you such a great writer. It’s not the language that lifts you up, it’s your profound thinking. In the face of coronavirus, and the possibility the Zombie apocalypse is actually upon us, I haven’t written anything ’cause I’ve been overwhelmed with the thought: “So, have I just frittered my life away in an endless series of frivolities?”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You never appeared to be that much frivolous in my eyes, to be honest. You just put on the play to deflect the attention and lighten the load. Behind all the ‘smokes’, you are the most serious type. Writing is your Zen practice, I can just tell. And you have something truly special and most beguiling when it comes to your random walks in the intelligent universe … I look forward to read whatever you are going to write whenever you feel up to writing 🧸

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much.

        Like

  7. Timothy Price

    I can relate to Nanguo from when I pretended to play trombone in middle school and high school. I’m opposite. I don’t like big crowds. Out here social distancing is easy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It looks actually cool to me imagining you pretended to play a trombone. I often feel curious how that guy would feel – the guy who plays a cymbal or a triangle in a school band … He must be quite a Zen master 🐞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Timothy Price

        I’ve had the same thoughts. I remember one symphony we attended, the cymbal player looked like he was sleeping, but he would wake up and crash the cymbals right on que. It was both amazing and anticipation over him crashing his cymbals on time was very entertaining. I would get completely lost playing cymbals or triangle. I wanted to be a drummer in middle school, but so did all the other kids in band class. I was given the option to play the trombone or take a hike. I took up the trombone. In high school, before I dropped out, I was a drum major leading the marching band. I was a much better drum major than trombone player.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. With that good look of yours (since I’ve watched David Byrne in “True Stories”, I know you must look a lot like that back then, judging by the fact he looks a lot like you now), and with the coolness playing drum major leading a marching band, you must have been in the dreams of all the girls in your high school, can’t believe you still dropped out of it!! 🐸

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          1. Timothy Price

            You can’t imagine how much I hated high school. I started working with an artisan woodworker in the summer between my sophomore and junior year when I was 15 years old. Schools were very crowded in the mid-70s, so not much learning was taking place. I learned more geometry and algebra in the first few months building furniture than I had learned in 3 years of middle school and two years in high school. I transferred to night school my junior year, and worked full-time. I dropped out when I was 16, and enrolled in the university. I took music classes for a semester, then went to work building cabinets and countertops for a couple of years, before I went back to the university and got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. One really great thing about the USA is you can’t drop out of public school and still go on to the university if your ACT or SAT scores are high enough.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That explains it all 🐧 I was about to call you genius, since I thought you had to be a genius to write those genius lyrics of yours as a high school dropout. But now since I know you’ve got such a worldly education including but not limited to master degrees, I’ll tone down a bit and just label you as ‘gifted’!! Once can sense you truly have a brilliant mind in everything you do 🦉

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Timothy Price

                Thanks, Dot. Laurie calls me a genius handyman. I’ve been trying to retire as a handyman, but Laurie said one never gets to retire from being a handyman.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. She’s right. Marrying a genius handyman is every woman’s dream. No man in his right mind should ever stop supporting his wife’s dream.

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