Amidst all the lilies

When I walked into that garden.
Amidst all the lilies,
Stood a bright, red rose.
And I was captivated.

Everytime I walked past her,
I stared at the way the bees buzzed around her.

Everytime I walked past her,
I stopped to admire her beautiful petals
Red and gold, glistening in the sun.
But every time I held her in my hands
I was left bleeding from her thorns

Sometimes I wonder if I was a fool,
Ignoring those thorns I so clearly saw,
Just to see those petals glisten in that way again.
But I always come back the same way,
Disillusioned by the beauty of us,
Alone with cuts in my hands

I guess I am a fool.
Time and time again I come to pick you up,
But every time I come back,
My hands heal a little faster,
My skin grows a little thicker,
And after every trip,
I get a little closer,
To never coming back.

The Little Prince

Now that finals are starting and classes are over, I have time to sit down with a book, read, and write. My friend recommended The Little Prince, a book many say should be read at least three times – once when you are young, again when you are an adult, and finally when you are old.

One of the first themes the story hits you with is the loss of (seemingly innocent) creativity and imagination as you grow old. In college, I am seeing this pattern unfold right in front of me, even happening within myself.

I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man–he is a mushroom!

“Sorry I can’t spend time with you, I have to study!” It feels that the older I get, the faster time passes. I remember when I used to think that the 4 years of high school lasted an eternity. Now 1 year of college has gone by like a breeze. It seems that competitive schools are a pipeline into the rat race for more money and status, things that allow us to put on a face of pride. But the loss of creativity the story presents isn’t the only thing adults lose as they grow older. What’s important isn’t some ability to arbitrarily imagine that this hat looking drawing is actually a boa that has swallowed an elephant (or something crazy like seeing dead people in a blotch of spilled ink.

little-prince-hatlittle-prince-boa-elephant

The sad reality is growing up and getting preoccupied with what we think are “matters of consequence.” Regardless of whatever these matters of consequence are: going to college so that you can make more money, befriending this person so you can get professional connections, reading a book so you can get something out of it, I think the problem lies in the very consequences you see in whatever activity you are getting yourself into. This actually relates a lot to the practice of zazen meditation in Buddhism. If you sit with the intention of getting enlightened, you will in fact never get enlightened. As we grow older, we stop doing things for what they areEverything becomes a matter of consequence.


The story’s idea of taming stuck with me because of how intimately it describes love and beauty.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing.
Because she is my rose.
“Only the children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. “They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry . . .”
Taming the fox, having patience and spending time with him, is what distinguishes him from all the other foxes in the world. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

It is difficult to put in words a review (if you suppose) of this book because there are still many metaphors and messages I don’t understand. For instance, why the snake speaks in riddles in Chapter 17:

“You move me to pity–you are so weak on this Earth made of granite,” the snake said. “I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet. I can–” “Oh! I understand you very well,” said the little prince. “But why do you always speak in riddles?” “I solve them all,” said the snake. And they were both silent.

This book was originally in French, and the English translation is written beautifully. Reading this story has left me with many questions — questions I know will unfold as I grow older. The Little Prince is worth reading, it’s also fairly short and would take 1-2 hours to read, so you should go check it out! Here’s a link to a free pdf.

That Kind of Man

Is this who I am?  Sometimes I catch myself acting differently around different types of people. This post is for me to look at when I’m too busy, caught up in life and need a reminder of why I’m here. This post is for me so I can hold myself to my degree of integrity. This post is for me to look at when I feel like I’m having conflicting identities.

This is for me…

I want to be the kind of man who is interesting, regardless of who I am with.

The kind of man who spends life finding value he can give to others.

The kind of man who is creative and confident in his imagination.

A man of kindness and affection.

The kind of man able to articulate his thoughts clearly through every medium: words, music, speech, art.

The kind of man who is not absent minded, intensely focused and aware of every moment.

The kind of man who builds an image of himself as someone motivated by learning difficult things.

The kind of man proud of having worked hard rather than being smart and talented.

The kind of man who not just experiences, but also puts into words and shares with other people.

The kind of man who looks for change.

The kind of man who sees the value in you before you need to say anything.

sam_shih

A best friend.

The kind of man with eyes that look into your soul and makes you want to tell stories about yourself.

The kind of man who won’t stroke your ego but will build you up.

A mentor.

The kind of man who sees the beauty of ideas before everybody else does.

The kind of man who is comfortable showing affection.

The kind of man who makes you think and feel…

The kind of man you notice when he’s in the room and the one you miss when he’s not.

Spontaneous.

The kind of man who acts out of love and passion.

The kind of man who is educated and talks about issues that matter to people.

The same person in work and play.

The person who makes you think about things you’ve never thought about before.

The kind of man who doesn’t need to tell people about starting, but shows up with progress.

The kind of man who never grows old because he is always changing things up in his life.

The kind of man who laughs at his mistakes.

The kind of man who wanders the path of questioning and failure, but never forgets to look at the beauty around him.

That

kind

of man.

work_for_a_cause

This post was inspired by a similar post Andrea made, thanks for making me think about myself in this manner.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

Bleeding

I’ve already become the person I’ve always wanted to be.

I’m driven by a cause, not for applause.

I’ve lived my life to express, not to impress.

I’ve put myself on a rocky path, and have become hypersensitive to action.

But along the way I think I lost my sensitivity to blood.

Every time you bleed I feel like I’m bleeding in a different color.

Sometimes I feel like I need to take a sip to bleed red.

I feel the need to listen to music to open my wounds.

But in the back of my mind I know

They might just be artificial wounds I’m cutting with this poison.

Because after these hours phase, I’m desperately trying to keep these wounds pulled open.

Before they stitch themselves back up and trap this blood inside my skin.

Sometimes it frightens me to think I need to cloak my self behind a Veil to be human.

I remember before, I wished to feel the happiness without the burn.

But this past week I wanted it to burn

So that I could bleed with you.

 

Warmth

Today’s the first day I’m back in college. I feel like throughout my life, as I’ve been growing older, most of the emotions I’ve been feeling have been difficult. Growing up is hard, as I have told many people. But being back here in my dorm, with my best friends in my room, I feel like I can take a break. Take a break not to enjoy the flowers, not to enjoy the snow falling outside, but to enjoy the warmness weighing down in my heart as I’m here with my friends. I’m present here. Four months ago, when I first met these people, we played awkward ice breaker games in a room trying to get to know each other.

After graduating high school and entering my first semester here at Swarthmore, I’ve been a pretty social person. I was extremely confident with large groups, but something that I struggled with was making close friends. I was scared at the beginning of college. I was scared that I would know many people superficially but not have any real friends. But right now, in my room, this warmness I’m feeling is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy that it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. I have found the people who, at any party, I am truly free and can tell them anything. I have found the people who I know also care about me.

Who would’ve thought that on the first day I’m back I would cry. Who would’ve thought that I would cry with the same person who brought me to tears at one of the first parties of the year. I remember at that party, I didn’t feel the need to go out to any fraternity house or go out to dance to loud music because being present with the people I care about was all that mattered to me.

This warmness is something that I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what it feels like to finally reconnect with a friend for over ten years, but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I have only known these people for 4 months, but I feel like I can spend forever with them. For somebody else to call me a best friend. For somebody else to care about me is something that I could only try to repay.

This warmness that is so heavy, so heavy in my heart it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. This warmness that is so heavy, this warmness that I have found tonight is something that I can only try to express with words.

This warmness in my heart is so heavy, I can hold you all in my embrace forever. But right now I’m not thinking of the future. I’m just cherishing this moment we’re sharing together.

Fall Break: How I’ve been, and What’s Next

It’s been about two months since college has started, and now that I’m on fall break I have time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, and (moving forward) also think about what I want now and why.

What I’ve Been Up To

I’ve been pretty lucky since the beginning of the school year – I didn’t face much of a social transition from high school to college. I feel that my strength of being sociable really gets a chance to shine here, since everybody lives on campus and there really isn’t anything stopping people from hanging out. Something that I will note though is that my schedule feels extremely cyclical. 4 classes on Tuesday and Thursday means I have only two days to finish the majority of my homework before it’s due by next class, and it can really feel like a drag knowing that these every week, these two days will always consist of heavy studying. Also, while I feel that the always-studying mentality at Swarthmore can be harmful for some, I feel that I’m feeding off the pressure quite well. In high school, I’d prioritize socializing over studying, so studying in a sense actually gives me a break from messing around all the time. I also enjoy the feeling of actually engaging my mind and challenging how long I can focus while studying.

One thing that I’ve picked up is always studying in different locations. I hear many people say that they can only study in one library, and I really don’t want to create an association between the amount of focus I have with a specific location on campus. The buzzing silence of McCabe’s basement also creeps me out, so I’d rather study in a lounge or common area. So one way I accomplish this is to segment the type of homework I do according to professors’ office hours and help clinic sessions. For example, on Tuesdays during my math professor’s office hours, I’ll just sit outside his office and do only math homework. The benefits to this are that first I don’t have to prioritize which assignments to do first, and second, if I need help, I can just take a couple of steps and walk into his office. Outside of office hours, I like to move around to different popular places to study so that I can interact with different crowds of people on campus.

Stress wise, I feel that I’ve adapted my work ethic efficiently and am pretty proud to be stress free. Since I’m putting in the time to thoroughly do my homework, I didn’t have to cram/study much to do well on midterms. I’m pretty happy to say that I haven’t procrastinated at all, and I’m confident that it won’t be a problem for me in the future. The consequence of this is actually quite a bit of free time, which can be a bit boring when everybody else is studying. Extracurricular wise, So far I’ve written an article for the Daily Gazette, dance ballet 2x a week, and work out 4 – 6x a week.

What I Want Now, and Why

  1. I want to get into a serious relationship. I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, and the reason isn’t because there’s some void in my life I want to fulfill to be content. I want to share the feeling of completeness with somebody, which I feel would push me to go on and do bigger things with our lives. I’m pretty happy with the type of person I’ve become right now, and the only thing (I can think of right now) that will round off that feeling is being in love. What’s important though is that this won’t make me complacent, in fact, it’s the opposite. What I mean by going on to do bigger things with my life is that experiencing the ideal sense of wholeness I have in my head right now will enable me to create and imagine bigger goals I probably can’t see right now. Also, it’s really nice to share your life with somebody you care about 🙂 One thing I’ll be cognizant of though is that I don’t get too caught up in this, or I might end up getting into something where it’s mainly physical attraction.
  2. I want to get better at freestyle rapping. I met a friend that’s pretty good at it, and tried it for the first time at a party. I want to get better at it because freestyle rapping taps different parts of your thinking: the way you speak, your attitude, rhyming, and rhythm that makes you speak your thoughts in such a new way. Also something really interesting is battle rap, where you mainly have an aggressive attitude to roast your opponent. In that video, it’s amazing to see how Dumbfounded weaves in his criticism on society while staying in character to denigrate Conceited.
  3. I want to get deeper in academia. Before I thought college was all about preparing for a job, but being exposed to research papers and books has showed me this whole new world of research and the unknown. Researching creative ways to develop faster algorithms, studying children to make a TV show like Blues Clues so captivating, this stuff is crazy! Like this is a whole new world that I’ve never been exposed to before, and I want to get in that world. From my cognitive science professor, I learned that I could build neural networks and train it to learn sentence structures, play chess, etc and I’m really drawn to this because unlike making a website or a mobile app, the results aren’t all charted out already. There aren’t meticulous tutorials to guide the way, and my thinking just might solve some important problems.
  4. I want to write more. Every time I read a good book, blog post, or op-ed, I wish that I could articulate myself as well as the author could, and I don’t think I’ve been taking advantage of Swarthmore’s liberal arts college curriculum as much as I could be. So next semester I’m going to take more writing courses, read more, and write more in my free time. I feel that if I were applying for a journalism or writing position, it would be so different from going to an interview for something like a software engineering position because in the latter, I would be walking in to show off my expertise in computer science. But in the writing situation, I would want to get the job to so that I could learn how to write better, and I would actually be comfortable expressing that I’m not that good at writing yet.
  5. I want to spend more on others. More time, more money. Sure I can buy myself new clothes and other things, but I’d rather spend it on things like a meal with an acquaintance or a train ticket to go visit a friend. Because for me, spending time with other people gives me more happiness and is what lasts. This gives me a different perspective on spending money, and I think it’s for the better.