Morning Train


She should have caught the first-morning train to the city instead of debauching her first cigarette of the day upon her arrival on the platform. She knew smoking as the first thing in the morning wasn’t the most salubrious thing to do, but she had to. It was her way of relieving her mind of its cares, anesthetizing her strains of everyday life for the moment of her sybaritic indulgence, which was the only hedonistic practice Julie insisted on keeping because no other things were permitted to her, literally, apart from all the virtuous and sensuous delights of all human creatures that denied her access. That’s probably a pathetically lame excuse for smoking, and the militantly health-conscious, priggish, and principled public would love to lambast her and her smoking habit not because they really care about her health but because they just do it since anti-smoking is now the ethos of this ostensibly egalitarian era, the zeitgeist of New Social Totalitarianism that dictates Social Science Model Behaviors. And although Julie was never a forceful character, she was a free spirit with proud individuality, declaiming against the mob psychology that was grounded on suitably fashionable stance for demotic mores. She defied it in her own way, in her own solipsistic way.

The act of smoking could be conceived as one of the most highly advanced forms of humankind ever since the dawn of civilization when Prometheus, an ingenious and recalcitrant Titan, a fashioned man out of clay and water, and then stole sacred fire for mankind to kindle civilization. In this regard, manipulating fire in the ritualistic process of lighting a cigarette and emitting smoke from it can be regarded as a sacred ritualistic performance to pay homage to the benefactor of civilization. Also, Ahura Mazda, a lord of heaven and light and the only true god of the prototype of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Zarathustra, aka Zoroaster by the Greeks, was manifested in the form of Sacred Fire, symbolizing Purity, Illumination, Warmth, Enlightenment, and the Zeal. And there were also the Vestal Virgins, the ancient Roman priestesses who kept the celestial fire of Hestia, the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and domesticity.

Like the tortured thinker Kierkegaard anguishing over his existential conflicts caught between actions and religion, Julie was wretched in this world of collapsed grand narratives, fake news, volatile subjective opinions, hypocritical truths, and inflated egos, all fallen apart and adrift on a sea of the postmodernist detritus. What are am I in now? Is humankind really progressing for betterment or gearing up for its own destruction?

According to the ancient Greek peasant/poet Hesiod, known for didactic elements in his poems, there are Five Ages of Mankind: the first one is a “Golden Age,” governed by the Titans, the first generation of Greek mythology, where no words for sickness, war, and discord existed. You see, the Titans were alright for humans although their own children raised war against their parents, even castrating Uranos, the first ruler of the universe, the sky, Titan of Titans; the second one is a “Silver Age,” a reign of Zeus and the Olympians who were very much like us in temperament and characters with the exception of supernatural endowments of immortality, talents, and beauty (but not in the case of Hephaestus, the lame and ugly god of fire and blacksmith, and the husband of Aphrodite). Humans lived only 100 years, most of which was suspended in childhood, consequently making them sophomoric, childish, and disputatious; then came a “Bronze Age,” chockablock with warriors and more warriors spending their time in the office of war and conflict; the next “Heroic Age” was a modified version of Bronze Age in the sense that the characters of war were tinctured with noble and epic elements as in the case of Homer’s “Trojan War” in which Hector, a Trojan prince and the greatest warrior and Achilles, the Greek version of Hector, Odyssey, the timeless voyager, and Aeneas, a Trojan refuge who later founded Rome, the ancestor of the feral brothers Romulus and Remus; and the last and the lasting one is the “Iron Age,” in which we all live now. Hesiod might have foreseen where we are now in his poet’s eye; it’s a world of vehement contenders vying for the sponsorship and the possession of the beautiful, the powerful, the fortunate,… THE FITTEST. It’s a world of social Spencerism that yoked Darwinian evolutionism into philosophy to champion eugenics. And what will be the next age be like? Julie was curious, but then she was soon past caring because she wouldn’t live to tell anyway.

All of the aforesaid musing triggered by her smoking kept her occupied while waiting for the next train to the city. Julie looked around her at the station that began to be full of another batch of commuters, more men than women at a glance. Funny, Julie thought. Are there more men working in the city than women in this town? Or is it because there are just more men than women in this town? Anyway, the men looked just average without distinguishing outward appearances. Julie knew that beauty was only skin deep, but being a highly aesthetically person, she could not help but observe physiognomies of whoever she saw in view. As a matter of fact, even the intellectual like Francis Bacon also took a person’s physiognomy into consideration that he even rationalized phrenology, a divinity by shapes of skulls. And then there was Karl Lagerfeld who realized that the look was what others made interested in your soul.

Woe betides anyone who would disagree with this dictum of our time, for she or he would be a downright hypocrite! The human faculty is instinctive, sentient, and physical. Beauty is an essential objective of intelligence that calls a beholder’s attention to the other elements of its possessor in the sense that the poster of a movie gathers spectators to the doors of the movie theater.

Moreover, Julie could see what others could not see or decided to ignore because it’s regarded as a trifle. Her sense, sensitivity, and sensibility were extraordinary to the point of exquisite uncanniness. Then, she jeered at the thought and dismissed it as hocus-pocus, all jumbled up with meaningless bits of harebrained abracadabra in a shambolic array of grim masks that languished with faint tweaking in the left corners of their lips. That was another way of visceral escapism she sometimes took to bring herself to a different place from the rabble that seemed to belittle her nondescript exotic existence that didn’t fit their circle, their legion of the beauty. That’s the existential issues Julie had to face every day – an acute sense of isolation, an unquenchable feeling of rejection, and a sentient awareness of her aloneness… To escape from the excessively dour, namby-pamby sentimentality, Julie looked at the magnificently rustic beauty of mountains and hills outside the moving windows of the train and fell into a reverie of the 19th century Wild West where she as a Pony Express Rider was riding on a rapid mustang across the land to deliver a Letter of Hope to a final station in the city.


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Stephanie Suh

I write stuff of my interest that does not interest anyone in my blog. No grammarians, no copy editors, no marketers, no cynics are welcome.

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