Tag Archives: Miscellany

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img_0162All lawyers are educated, expensive mercenaries of fortune with a high chance of variable expediency in allegiance to whoever employs their burst of legal pep, or “intelligent drudgery,” so to speak. Lawyers know no fear but lots of hubris that can move heaven and earth because of their Napoleonic credo of “There’s no word for impossibility in my dictionary.” To Sally, it’s a real case of Sartre’s existentialism which dictates that “Experience precedes essence.” And yet, the images of gentlemanly lawyers in the characters of Atticus in To kill a mockingbird played by Gregory Peck and Kavanagh QC portrayed by John Thaw are hard to be disembarrassed from Sally’s abstract ideas of fine lawyers.

img_0164Sally’s position of legal assistant wears many hats: secretary, paralegal, accountant, receptionist, calendar person, and whipping girl paid to do a one-man show at a high price. You may yoke the concept of the position into that of a pricey maid, sort of an upgraded modern version of educated head maid you may see in TV period dramas, such as Upstairs and Downstairs, Berkeley Squares, and The Duchess of Duke Street. Accordingly, like a dutiful head maid in a manor house, docile Sally exerts all her efforts to fulfill incredibly hectic demands imposed upon her daily tasks with graceful patience and her very pretty smile.

img_0163“It’s all a mind game, a sort of mental Tetris in which I have to find out a way to accomplish my tasks without being jammed with constantly generating tile blocks to be upgraded to the next level. And I want to win in this game.” Surely, as consciousness is the foundation of the universe, marshaling self-discipline and courage to perform her tasks to the fullest extent possible is the sine qua non of her happy metier. After all, the nature of lawyering turns its practitioner into a professional inquisitor of wickedness of mankind as observed by Arthur Schopenhauer.

 

three philosophies

images-1Before calling it a day to say hello to a new tomorrow on a hard day’s night, to happen on this comic strip of my all-time favorite Peanuts seems almost too pat. Provident, even. It chimes the bells of my heart and soul that are dented with the shrapnel of existential vertigo in the most impressively elliptical way: that none other than simple tenets of life are needful to live a less stressful life.

As Sally elegantly puts: Life does not end at one fell swoop even if I stumble into an imbroglio of misadventures; any such mistakes or misdeeds betray that to err is human; and that I should not fall into the bottomless pit of worries and anxiousness, for tomorrows are always new with their own unknowns.

What Sally blithely professes strikes the chords of Logotheraphy, a 3rd Viennese school of psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl based on existential analysis focusing on ego qua meaningfulness, a purpose of living a meaningful life. With these simple but potent tenets of life in mind, I can say good-bye to this spent day with the alacrity of departure for nightly dreamscapes to rest myself.

Jonah’s Days

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Andy at the helm of the store during his training of Wendy

Andy’s culinary business has been doing very well since its opening three months ago and become one of Must-Go eateries through the digital grapevine of regular village chatters, peripatetic wayfarers, lunchtime workers, leisurely saunterers, and food critics incognita. With the growing popularity of the now famed hot dogs, french fries, and waffles of Andy’s, hiring a helping hand was unavoidable. So Andy posted a job on Solid. Com for a full-time attendant with benefits after a 3-month probation period and $13.00 per hour, which was really an excellent job opportunity for anyone looking for decent employment in this time of static unemployment situation and a growing number of homelessness all around the world.

img_0112The lucky winner of the happy opportunity was Rosetta whose honest-to-goodness character and sweet smile moved Andy’s robust stoical temperament at the interview. So Wendy came aboard as a new cute attendant at Andy’s, and she loved every minute of it, serving customers with care and smile, grilling sausages, flipping buns, frying french fries, and performing all other miscellaneous tasks given ad hoc by Andy or his wife Martha, who always religiously brings her homemade buns, sausages, and other condiments to the establishment every day and attends to customers in the morning until 11:00 AM.

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Andy chides Rosetta for misunderstanding customers’ orders.

But the halcyon days of the initiation to her new employment came to an end last week. Or it seemed so. Although Rosetta was intelligent, always eager to learn new things with her whole heart, she needed a certain period of time long enough to be proficient in her new trade. But Andy’s spartan way of inculcating a new set of know-hows and modus operendi of the attendant position in his new seemingly fumbling employee did not go hand in hand with Rosetta’s trait and temperament. Maybe he expected from Wendy a novelty effect, which is to say that every new role and responsibility needs to initially improve when such new doctrine is first instituted. Maybe that’s an universal tendency of every employer anticipating from his or her new employee, which is understandable. But then maybe it’s Andy’s short-sighted insight for Rosetta who would need enough time to be soaked into new knowledge until it became her secondary register and octave.

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“Man can be destroyed bit cannot be conquered,” is one of her favorite axioms.

Rosetta’s shyness and her introvert personality might appear a bit farouche at handling multi-tasks or adroit at communicating with vendors providing products to Andy’s due to her tendency to stay indoor, which makes her guarded against dealing with the outside the world in all aspects of everyday life. Nonetheless, Wendy’s willingness to work to the fullest extent possible, honesty, and kind nature should also be highly esteemed because finding a good person is harder than hiring a smart worker. Surely, employers run businesses, not charity organizations that provision their employees with bread unconditionally for free. But then they deal with people not with cyborgs they can discharge anytime at will. Therefore, it is best to advise employers to learn that there are more things in heaven and on earth that are dreamed of in their business stratagems and callous modus vivendi.

 

Fairy summoning in the Florentine Renaissance period

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A supernaturally pretty fairy deludes men’s hearts.

There are magical elements in religion, and there are religious facets to the practice of magic, as succinctly summed up by Sir Walter Raleigh: “The art of magic is the art of worshiping God.” That’s how I feel and what I see during my Dutiful Sunday Morning Masses, the ancient rite of the Church, a perennial panoply of syncretism with its splendid paraphernalia of prayers and the liturgical ceremony of rites and mechanical recitation of prayers; it is the melding of religions or beliefs of the similar elements but of different origins. Hence, to come upon an article in the recent issue of BBC History Magazine about an academic study by a certain British scholar of the existence of fairies in the context of regarding the validity of cultural and historical artifacts gave me an uncanny pleasure.

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The famous Dr. Faust, summoning Mephistopheles for his service

In fact, Religion (that is, Christianity) and Magic (in the forms of divination and sorcery) are not to be seen as polar opposites and antithetical systems of belief because they are interdisciplinary agencies of attempting to seeking and offering panacea to our dilemmas – physical, metaphysical – competing for a supremacy in propitiation. Such mysteriously syncretic elements of the two different agencies of beliefs became the academic subjects of intellectuals, such as Francis Bacon and John Aubrey who accepted the potentialities of physiognomy as an infallible guide to predict one’s character and argued for the validity of non-Christian practice based on certain intellectual bases therein. With this in mind, you would not be surprised to learn that fairy summoning rituals were all the rage in the Renaissance period (15th~17th centuries), indiscriminately practiced by all strata of society, learned or ignorant, rich or poor, Christian or pagan. The author of the article informed the reader that the early Renaissance idea of fairies was pretty nebulous and varied with a wide arc of wonder and trepidation, and that the dainty image of ever famous “Tinker-bell” was a Victorian construction of the whole fairy race.

Then, how did the “real” fairies look? Although there is no magisterial, definitive version of the physiognomy of a fairy, a collective description gleaned from various records boil down to it as a supernaturally attractive man/woman imperiling the souls of whomever it was summoned to, which is reminded of incubus/succubus, consecutively. Notwithstanding the dubious nature of fairies, the invocation of a fairies half way between angels and devils was widely used in hope to (1) acquire medical knowledge, such as whereabouts of herbs and their properties; (2) delight in the highest degree of sensual ecstasy; and (3) reveal the future and prevent from misfortune in advance. Be it as it may seem wholly pagan, the summon ritual was surprisingly required for God’s intervention because it included periods of purification through abstinence, fasting and prayer in preparation, all of which would testify to the sanctity of the performer ministering to the moral and ethical character. God willing, a fairy at request manifested to the summoner, but he should not come out of the circle he had drawn because it protected from sudden maleficence of the ambiguous fairy.

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Delphic Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel fresco by Michelangelo

In sum, the article was an elegant primer for a further interdisciplinary study of literature, religion, and folklore from the medieval times to the Reformation period and possible stretching to this date. The exemplary texts that spring to my mind are Religion and The Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas and Christopher Malowe’s version of the legend of Dr. Faust, both of which are excellent testaments to the contextualization of the esoteric knowledge on the grounds of intellectual bases into academic studies of social, cultural, and historical facets of different zeitgeists, which also serve as invaluable literary artifacts to epochal changes. But for all what is worth, this relation between religion and magic is commensal, exhibiting a mesmerizing consilience of gods and God, profane and holy, pagan and ecclesiastical, forbidden and disciplined, as superbly unfolded in the Sistine Chapel fresco, prodigiously expressed by Michelangelo.

 

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A travesty of some things

I’m thrilled to read good stuff- I mean a real good one!

Oscar Wilde, the wonderfully strange writer with a keen eye on the panoply of human behaviors, knew about voyeuristic streaks on human nature when he said thus: “One must keep a diary when traveling anywhere by train or coach to read something sensational.” Maybe that’s why people like to read the lives of others. Maybe that’s why the memoir, which I regard very much as a diary written backward in time, always bestride the bestselling list of nonfiction of The New York Times Book Review, which has become a formidably profitable genre of American literature. Admittedly, it’s awe-inspiring to read a success story of one whose hardscrabble background is a fortiori certifiable and renders a kind of feel-good sentiment with something of a vicarious experience to the reader sharing similar constraints of life in one way or another, or it may seem so. Frankly, any of the best-selling memoirs can hardly be less a modern version of Cinderella story than it seems to me, which is nothing but a proud exhibition of achievements by a select few (“The Chosen”) in the melee.

I might be cruel, only to be real. I am all the more respectful of anyone who has risen above biological/social inhibitions in his/her own fashion. But this topic of Triumph of Will over difficulties has become a literary fad, as though anyone who had rough and tough times in growing up somewhere in the backwater of downtrodden south or mid-western regions were suddenly in a zealous Olympic competition of writing the most heart-wrenching personal story on one cardinal condition: that the writer must have a very good career that provisions him/her with a nice place to live and loving, understanding significant other into the bargain. That is, unless a would-be writer of memoir is well-established in society, it’s not worth the writing of the story because after all, who’s gonna read your story if you still live among the melee with some ordinary, if not nondescript, job with meager income to barely get by despite your noble resilient spirit and evergreen hope to better yourself?

It’s all derivative of one model!

For example, the October 7, 2018 issue of The New York Times Review carries an elegant book review of “Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction”, a newest memoir of a certain popular illustrator-writer of children’s books named Jarrett Krosoczka, hailed as another survivor of economic and social determinism. The review presents the book as a courageous live-to-tell account of his childhood shadowed by his mother’s drug addiction and of his triumphant accomplishment as a successful artist who can presumably inspire many kids unfortunately mired in disadvantaged surroundings through no faults of their own. The spirit is commendable, but the gist is visceral. According to the elegant summary of the book, Krosoczka was better off than many other kids in his station because he had lumpish but loving grandparents who took care of him and encouraged his artistic inclinations, plus a cast of odd but good characters that complemented the other void of affectionate attention needed for a child. Back in our real nonfiction contemporary life, how many kids are fortunate to be endowed with the luck he had, and what if a kid struggling to escape from the plight with his intelligence and industry turned out to be just an ordinary adult still laboring to make the ends meet, while still secretly entertaining the thought of becoming somebody in his solitude? Would you think that his life is a failure? The memoir of this kind is more of a resume of individual experiences and achievements that, in a twist of irony, provokes a sort of catharsis in the reader as if he were watching a television drama that would made him feel like living in a holistic virtual reality.

In all fairness of my acerbic and arbitrary opinion on the review of the aforesaid memoir, it goes against the grain not to point out other popular memoirs perching on the best-selling list: Educated by Tara Westover is about her story of how she got away from her bohemian parents to immerse herself in scholarship; Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, another one by a Yale Law School Graduate recounting the struggles of the white working class struggles through the story of his own impoverished childhood; Heartland by Sarah Smarsh, a daughter of a poor wheat farmer in Kansas telling her poverty-stricken childhood into adolescence and the hard lives of the working class in the Mid-West; and finally, Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, revealing her errant childhood and her struggle to be away from the rabble that led her to a gainful literary success. And I suspect that there will be more memoirs to be published in future like new soppy television movies in production.

Am I being too acerbic? But that is how I feel.

As someone who regards Courage, Endeavor, and Resilience as great American drama in three acts, I am all for reading about someone who would continue his/her secret aspiration, while keeping the foot firmly grounded in reality, such as Laura Ingalles Wilder, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte, all of whom continued to tend their ordinary daily duties and responsibilities even after their literary success. To say it’s an anachronistic and antediluvian mode of thinking in the 21st century is to depreciate their literary geniuses and modus vivendi peculiar to the ethos of their times. However, the love of the writing must not corrupt into the worship of the hero. It’s the sense of the writer’s spirit that addresses the spirit of the reader, not the pageantry accolades of material successes that seem to be the bedrock of the memoir riding on the crest of popularity of rags-to-riches telltale revelations. We might live in an Orwellian world of reality prioritizing the ostentatious display of wealth or power, but we shall not devalue the truthfulness and value of ordinary life where the meaning of life depends upon whether or not we fulfill the demands placed upon our daily tasks however insignificant or trifle they may seem. For this reason, I don’t subscribe to the popularity of the best-selling Cinderella memoirs in which the sacredness of ordinariness in combination with the peculiar magic of literature is conspicuous by its absence.