I just read an article from the January 2021 issue of BBC History about a British family’s real-life experience in China during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 60s. It was so engrossing a read that prompted me to put pen to paper.
Kim Gordon’s live-to-tell childhood memories during the turbulent times in the country where he and his parents had believed to be a model communist haven as accounted in his diaries and letters put it on the same pedestal with Louise Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants and Anne Frank’s Diaries in the context of regarding political turbulences through the eyes of the tender age and the lasting impacts on the minds of the young.
Gordon’s writings are a prime example of historical records, which George Orwell called a reason to write in his “Why I Write.” In fact, reading Gordon’s account of his memories of forceful detainment in Peking gives me an association with reading one of Orwell’s war correspondence and his first-hand experience as a voluntary tramp in London to report the reality of homelessness and unemployment.
I think his writings deserve far higher recognition and broader readership in the publication of a memoir, for which I will read forthwith.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is about the power of words, spoken or written, awakening the spirits of the author, storyteller, characters, and readers, all adrift and luminous as the boundary between the real and the ideal collapses. It’s a polyphonic work of trauma narrative, cultural studies, social commentary, and philosophical memoir interwoven in multiple strands of a joint account.
The story evolves around Tookie, a doubting bibliophile who thinks books have everything you should know except what actually matters. Books are no more than a portal to mental escapade, a world of make-believe in the likeness of truth or reflected in the highest ether of reason and sentiment, which makes no defining impact on her checkered life as if it were her sentence from the judges of this world and the beyond. So much so that when Tookie finds that the newly deceased soul of a regular customer haunts the bookstore, she works at, she laments her fate of chaos that seems ever to stalk her small wish to live a quiet everyday life. Is it her sentence to live In perceptual existential malaise? And yet, Tookie ends up living daily life with a loving husband and daughter in a house of their own with a steady job as a bookstore attendant. Isn’t it what is considered an everyday life? So why can’t Tookie let the ghost alone when ghosts refuse to depart for the other until they finish their businesses in the world as part of their spiritual sentence?
I decided to read this book after reading a review from the NYT Book Review a couple of months ago because of Tookie for being exceptional wanting to be ordinary. I felt for her, which was valid until the middle of the book. But as Tookie became settled with her husband in their own house burgeoning as a knowledgeable employee at a local bookstore, she began to lose her fabulous, unique luster. Indeed, I was all high fives for her happiness that I felt deserving, but the further I progressed to pages, the more my heart parted with Tookie’s existential frustration, except the touching moments of love between her and her husband. Also, unlike the book’s general introduction as a ghost story, It is not a supernatural book that will fulfill your cravings for an intelligent horror story. Instead, it is an extended short story featuring a ghost as a fire-starter of narratives connected by bibliophilia. The author believes bibliotherapy is a recipe for the existential malady to quiet the anxious mind. There is no more enchanting than a book, electronic or bound. The lifeless words become alive as the reader awakens the book’s spirit by entering the world of make-believe through the labyrinth of stories leading to the secret garden of truths that the author has fruited.
Order tends toward disorder. Chaos stalks feeble efforts. Normal is not default, and sadness is nature. I see it all a gift of the fates that I have to grin and bear with stoic charm like a Sisyphus rolling up the boulder on a hill in Hades. So much so for the morning’s episode that shadows the remains of the day.
I had to cancel my counseling appointment for tomorrow at 7:00 pm due to training at my new prospective job after work. Should I have rescheduled it instead of canceling? Anyway, the counselor could have asked about such an option if she had been a caring and considerate licensed listener. Writing usually shows a person’s character, however brief it is, as proven by my text communication with her earlier today. Her response was curt and short with a timbre of haste, artful courtesy of an empty reply to her client. I know it because of my divine ability to look through people’s psyche by the mode of speech, writing, or twitching facial muscles. Depending on how you look at it, you can call it a blessing or cursing, but I call it nature. For what’s worth, my extrasensory perception tells me that it’s high time that I prepared a slow parting with her with the pain of disappointment and resentment for betrayal.
In retrospect, she has never provided me her feedback on my mental state since the onset of counseling sessions. Once I had asked her opinion, she was obliged to tell me reluctantly that I had traumas due to an unfavorable family environment, interacting with lots of missed lucky opportunities and debauched aspirations. Then was heard no more. My understanding of counseling is active communication with constructive feedback about the client’s mental state and what to do. However, she only listened, smiled, said goodbye, and continued. Although my heart is weeping for the loss of paid listener whom I could turn to for talks, sorrow will dissipate into the currents of time. Goodbye to you, Ms. A____. I may see and talk to you again, but my spirit will not welcome you again with all my heart and all my mind.
I always feel guilty about leaving Toro alone when I go to work. It would be best to add another feline companion, but the existential circumstance prevents it. Hence the flying tenants moved in. The new parakeets are Sera (Blue) and Pippi (Green), who demonstrate that the phrase “eats like a bird” should be part of the Woke movement of removal. They are also unknowingly clever and perceptive that I wonder if they are secretly enchanted humans serving their time for misdeeds till the spell is cast off.
Toro, aka the Curious Cat, also seems to know that Sera and Pippi are a joint force to be reckoned with, so to speak, but nevertheless shows undeterred attention to every move the duo takes with feline discreetness. Timid but curious, Toro wants to touch the moving feathers of parakeets whenever they come out of the cage for sauntering. But the birds show no fear but irritation against the unwanted friendship from the lonely feline. Poor Toro. I console him after Sera pecks his little nose with her dainty beak in protest against his pawed touch. However, my original purpose of making the birds friends with Toro is still valid because both Sera and Pippi do not altogether repulse Toro with wild shrieks of danger.
I hope the birds will be warm to Toro as time goes by till we move to a bigger and better place to live so that I can bring another cat to the family.
Twinkle, emerald dreaming, Love flocks in blue and green, Curiosity stalks love’s gathering, Loneliness emboldens attempting touch of love fluttering in longing.
Whether it is my animal zodiac sign of Tiger that is believed to be highly incompatible with anyone with that of monkey, let me just clarify that monkeys are my least favorite animals. However, that doesn’t mean that I should not feel strongly about the article from a recent issue of BBC Wildlife about the U.K.’s primate trade accompanied by the title photo of the baby marmoset named TikTok. Call it milk of human kindness. I cannot just leave the pages closed and forget about it as a piece of memory. The images and words still haunt me, which prompts an enduring reckoning, resulting in writing this essay.
The primate trade in the U.K. and here in the States evokes the human history of slavery. Under slavery, human lives were counted as chattel, and the families were continuously disintegrated because of volatile trade-offs. On the same token, keeping primates as pets seems no less different from colonialists or slave owners whose eyes were set upon the exotic physical attributes of the people they subordinated.
The article has also taken me to my brief research into the U.S. primate trade with the following facts: in 2012, 19 states, including California, where I live, had outright bans on private monkey ownership. The primates are considered a threat to wildlife and public safety and health because their habitats and nature are not agreeable to our environment despite our conventional knowledge of primates as the closest to our species lost in the evolution tree. Come to think of it, the idea of “Planet of Apes” has a point in reversing the directions of gaze from humans to apes, and vice versa, showing us why the two species could not cohabitate by confining them in the opposite environments.
We should not think of animals as live toys or ornaments that will satisfy our whimsical, capricious tastes. From pets to wildlife, animals are not our property but companions. I know it for sure when I feel a little heart of my cat Toro sleeping at my feet.