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)

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