Thursday, January 23, 2014

Squash, Descartes, and Musical Washing Machines

I'm listening to Cantus Eatnemen Vuelie by Frode Fjellheim which Frozen introduced to Bryant and Bryant introduced to us during Accapella jamming last night. It's terribly pretty... transcendent and chant-y with bits of hymn stuck into it. Then there's a section where the choir goes especially loud and your heart beats in time with the song. I imagine angels singing these songs and that makes me very glad.

Dear Lord, today was one of those lazy days. I got up at about 10 and padded around room checking my phone aimlessly. Then I tried to finish figuring out the Wax Argument in Descartes' Meditation 2. I typed out very briefly what seemed more like a summary than an actually argument reconstruction, but I'm adequately pleased with it. I'm actually enjoyed Descartes slightly more than I expected.

When I go for Father Garcia's talks, he always talks about Cartesian logic "I think therefore I am", and condemns it as relativist and warns us not to think down that line. It's odd cause Prof Cathay Liu tells me to try as best I can to think in the head of the philosophers we study... and the problem with me is I like to be obedient (yes I'm gross and boring that way) and when two smart people say different things to me I become confused.

Descartes, all things considered, thought, seems like a pretty swell guy. He's got this whole "personal touch" thing going in his Meditations and Discourse, where he talks about travelling too much and "eventually becoming a stranger in one's own country", and his loves:"oratory and poetry". Unlike a large majority of his fellow thinkers, he sometimes says exceedingly endearing things like

"... I want to stop here, so that by the length of my meditation this new knowledge may be more deeply impressed upon my memory". - Meditations 2

(I imagine him earnestly pursing his lips, cross legged, breathing deeply in to assimilate his new thoughts, trying to let them impress upon and diffuse into his being.)


"Be that as it may..." - Repeatedly throughout the Meditations

Dear Lord, I wonder what you made of Descartes and his deep yearning for knowledge. How much he wanted to get to know you better, he sent all his Meditations to Priests and Catholic people to vet and check. His intellectual fervour is something I admire :)

After my rendezvous with Descartes, I went downstairs to have lunch and listen to President Perry tell us about Yale-NUS and field some questions from the students... some of which were really interesting. Perry talked about how important it was it remember the different between "distinguishing ourselves from NUS" and being an "elite school", VERSUS being "elitist". He warned us against being prideful and exhorted us to improve relations with NUS. I thought that was a pretty timely reminder for me. Sometimes, when I meet my people from NUS, I feel more "special", in an odd, awful way, just because there's the word "Yale" in front of the name of my school. It's pathetic that I need to draw confidence and self-worth for a name, Lord. Please don't let me continue this thoughts.

It was darling Anshuman who reminded me to go listen to Perry, and after that we went for a nice, sweaty squash session where Anshuman taught me how to pick up difficult serves.

"Wait for the ball, Amanda. Don't rush for it. Since you're already waiting and not immediately volleying it, might as well wait a little longer so you can take a nice aim and shoot. You can practically pick up any ball if you wait long enough. It's true."

And he proceeded to demonstrate hitting a ball that was bouncing very minimally off the ground. Somehow, that display really sticks in my head and through the whole game, I actively attempted to wait for the ball instead of blindly rushing toward it. Anshuman is a very logical player and a wonderful coach. I had a brilliant time playing with him.

It unfortunately could only be a quick round, cause I had to rush off to a talk held at Yusuf Ishak House by Brother Justin Yip who talked about the exact thing I was reading about yesterday... Pope Francis and his message that the Catholic Church is not so much about rules and punishment and boring doctrines and sleepy masses.


The Catholic Church is about love. It's about a love so deep and so terrifying that we cannot fathom with our measly minds. It's about a Titanic-esque love, a love that makes your heart want to break and burst at the same time as Celine Dion sings "every night in my dreams..." and the blue, endless waves crash and a tiny old lady in her white nightdress stands on the rungs of a boat.

Love in the big things and in the small things. I asked Brother why the Church History was so important and he said something that made quite pretty sense.

"When I counsel married couples who are only a few years into their marriage and they tell me they don't feel love for each other any longer, I always tell them this:

Love, it stands the test of time."

Sometimes, love is in the small things too. (credits to Arundhati Roy one of my favie authors of all time). Like walking through the random back fields of U-town and looking for carts that the NUS students make with Maggie after the talk. Like coming back from a tough frisbee training to find lovely smiles in the Common Lounge and a hot pot of homemade (by the cooking trio Nia Carmie and Vangey) stir-fried soba and mushroom sauce. Like laughter in Carmen's room on a late Wednesday night watching Vangey's video about an extremely talented washing machine.

Eternal life, indeed belongs to those who live in the present.
(Credits to Carmie and Wittgenstein)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Crownless Again Shall Be King 

I'm back!

Yesterday was such a tiring day that I practically fell asleep while typing. I literally sat at my computer and typed with my eyes flickering shut like a dying firefly.

I had a wonderfully relaxing day today. I woke up at about 8.30am and rolled around in bed before getting up to brew some green tea to fill my tummy. It was so, so warm it shot straight down like a arrow unto it's mark, exploding in my stomach in delicious, delicious warmth. I had a bowl of cereal while poring over this week's Catholic News in our living room Suite. Somehow, the cold air added unto the quiet of the morning, and the hot tea and cold milk and crunchy Banana Nut Crunch and the languid air of sleepiness made me emotional.

I got weepy over an article about my hero, Pope Francis.
I was flipping through the pages and then I began reading Archbishop William Goh's message to Catechists, where he made Aragorn-like exhortations.

"Let us draw strength from his contagious joy! The joy that comes from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Christ is with us! Courage be upon us!"

"Either we evangelise the world or we will be secularised! In this spiritual warfare, there is no neutrality. Jesus says clearly, 'Whosoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not father with me, scatters.' (Mark 12:30)"

There I was at the table, giggling at Archie's glorious words and imagining him on a horse riding up and down the rows of soldiers while we waiting to storm the Black Gates of Mordor, shouting "COURAGE BE UPON US!" in his slightly singlish-y accent and bobbing white hair.

It's a very important reminder for me though. Sometimes, I forget how tough the fight will be. It's only the second week of school and temptations galore in the form of sloth (can't make myself get up in the morning, can't find motivation or discipline to do work), gluttony (so much excess of food), envy (being jealous of people), pride (thinking I'm better/ prettier/ smarter than others), vanity (caring excessively about how I look, priding myself not for my actions and kindness but for how I look)... they get the better of me. It's so easy to slip. It's so easy to fall in this bloody spiritual warfare.

When I read about Pope Francis and his exploits though, I feel as though he makes everything seem simpler. That sometimes life is hard only because we choose to make it hard. On his birthday, this big guy, 77 years of age, famous and all, he basically goes out to his front porch and beckons these homeless fellows in to celebrate his big day with him.

Simple, really. So why did it bring tears to my eyes? Why was I leaking like a tap this morning when I read his article? This man inspires people because he is simple. There is something about simplicity and direct kindness that strikes deep in our hearts. It moves a part of our soul that we sometimes forget exists. And in that movement we feel alive. Like darling Jon Foreman The Wise says "and I wonder why, why would I wait till I die to come alive?"

Why indeed? Why wait till I die to come alive? To feel ALIVE and burn, burn, burn, for the love of Christ and from Christ's unconditional, love for us? Everyday, I, am reminded, I must choose my fate.

I kept rereading the poem Bilbo read for Aragorn over and over again trying to stick it in my head because it is, in Vangey's words, PERF.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.
The old who is strong does not wither, 
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be wakened, 
A light from the shadows shall spring. 
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king. 

After a nice dinner of Vangey's delicious scrambled eggs and tortilla wraps with stolen kailan from downstairs and stir-fried sardines with the sweetness chopped onions and garlic, poor Alvin Pang had to compete with the immensity of Tolkien's poetry. Sorry Alvin... my heart was too full.

Speaking of choosing fates, it is Catholic Awareness Week 2014. I was mending a lonely booth at the Central Library yesterday. I spent a nice hour reading all the pamphlets and posters-pin-ups and learning so much. We're not supposed to approach anyone to tell them about Catholic Student Society because apparently that will upset the religious freedom act thingum in Singapore. I don't know yet how I feel about this rule.

Although I had no patrons in my hour-long shift, I was thinking about how our conversations might go.

Visitor: So why do you believe in God? 

Me: He's been in my life since I was 11, and I've seen him work miracles in my life. I've seen him work miracles in others. I meet him every week at mass. He changed my life... no... he SAVED my life cuz now I don't have to die and die and die for the crap I get up to in life. His blameless son already did all the dying that had to be done for me. He taught me to be vulnerable, to love and be loved. He changed my relationship with my mother. 

So why would I wait till I die to come alive?

I would say. I was so excited to tell people, but no one came. In a way I was relieved because it's scary to actually say these things to a real visitor and not recite them in my own head. Another wise friend, Sara Bareilles says though "I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say and let the words fall out?" Nothing too catastrophic, I gather.

Courage, indeed, be upon us.

Thank God :)
It was a pretty swell day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Second Week of School

So Cara texted me randomly. 
She screen-shotted a page from my older posts. My old blogposts when I was 11. 

I typed. like this!!!!!! like seriosly, omg. I was like, SO BAD AT SPELLING!!!!!!

And I put. Like. Fullstops. Like everywhere. 

And added extremly redundant spaces!!!

To add emphasis on my words.!!!

It is mortifying to read them. I cringed so much I nearly had a face-cramp. They were absolutely hilarious though. It's good to know how much I've changed since I was 11. Though I'll give it to myself... I didn't have the spelling, but I did have spirit. 

Reading Qing's blog (and speaking of Qing's blog, it is AWESOME.) has gotten me in the mood of blogging again. It feels odd to blog without something to say though. I think I'll just lapse back into my usual diary style cuz that seems to be the only thing that works for me now.

Dear Lord,

It's been a wonderful two days. Thank you so much. I've been having a gorgeous week, it's like you blessings abound and tip over the edge, making mea burbling pool of contentment and joy. Although there was a point on Friday I felt really awful and down, but I attribute it comfortably to women-ly emotional coasters, insecurity, and general tiredness. Thank you God for blessing me with Loopy who (amazingly) was up at an inhuman hour doing who-knows-what... and she listened as a sobbed down the phone like a hungry baby at midnight.

Thank you Lord for giving the boys a fantastic basketball game on Saturday. It was a great great game against Yusuf Ishak House, and the boys played really really hard. They sprinted across the court in what seemed to me like seconds, pushing themselves to win. I loved Subhas's technique of leading and also his sportsmanship. It's inspiring.

Oh wow, there's so much more to thank you for Lord. The wonderful dinner with Tara and John Reid at my place, and then we went off to a playground, where I heard poetry from them...