Podcast: Natsume Soseki – Kokoro

Transcription:

“I am a lonely man,” Sensei said. “And so I am glad that you come to see me. But I am also a melancholy man, and so I asked you why you should wish to visit me so often.”

Natsume Soseki, “Kokoro”

If you are familiar with the first season of the Radio of Resistance, you will also notice the familiarity of this quote, which I used to the full extent in 2 or even 3 episodes. I did mention the admiration for how simple the words used here. I did mention how great an impact it is to me, and maybe to other readers like me, who are also affected by the melancholy of the changing seasons. But I never once mention the sadness and loneliness of this simplistic phrase, in consideration of its context and the foreshadowing conclusion of human’s peculiarity with the death of a man.

So here I am alone again. I am using this chance to explore Kokoro. The heart of thing. The heart of human. The heart of darkness, and of light, too. Choose the meaning that most befitting for you, and let the journey begin.

Hi, I am Thanh Dinh, and I will be your host for this episode of the Radio of Resistance. In this week’s discussion, the highlight is on everything that beauty cascades on, and also, everything that darkness casts its eyes on. The heart of thing, Kokoro. Trigger warning, there will be discussion of suicidal events and acts. Please tread with caution.

And now, if you’re ready for another emotional rollercoaster, welcome back.

“A man capable of love, or I should say rather a man who was by nature incapable of not loving; but a man who could not wholeheartedly accept the love of another – such a one was Sensei.”

Natsume Soseki, Kokoro

Sensei. The one who was always alone and later on, readers find out that he had been carrying on his life as an atonement for another’s death. The cause of the climax and the end of the climax. Such a one was Sensei. You will see how important Sensei is through the first glance at the chapters’ title, which in turn are: Sensei and I, as chapter one, and then, Sensei and His Testament, as the final chapter. Sensei is the conflict and the resolve itself and through him, we slowly learn what really lies at the heart of thing in Soseki’s eyes. And thus, it will be fair to say that Sensei is among those characters that can hardly leave you with forgetfulness. Yes, such a one is Sensei.

If somebody asks me, Since the incident, has Sensei ever truly live?, I would find it hard to answer. Not because the question is difficult in its complexity, but because the answer is simple to the point that it hurts to even utter the word.


Since the incident, has Sensei ever truly live? I wondered out loud, the book covering my eyes. She contemplated the question. Not that she knew the book then. I had to summarize the content for her. And contemplating further for a while later, she said:

He had never really live before, and after the incident, he is even less of a person than he was.

Why? I asked.

Because he is, at his heart, a melancholy man.

“Yes, you did. A person who has been in love himself would have been more tolerant and would have felt warmer towards the couple. But-but do you know that there is guilt also in loving? I wonder if you understand me.”

Natsume Soseki, Kokoro

Let’s talk about the incident. I hope I can give the description of the incident its true honor in truthfulness, as did Sensei in his testament for the protagonist.

Where to begin? Should I start when Sensei was still a rich person and with mother and father died, being betrayed by his uncle and ridden off the heritance? Should I start when Sensei’s heart, filled with doubt and suspicion, began to take vengeance on the whole human race and closed itself in the four walls of distrust? Should I start later on, when the painful love Sensei had for Ojosan was stopped by his own distrust towards human? Or should I start from the end, where the innocent – and yet, cruel due to its innocence – remark indirectly caused the suicide of his friend – the only friend he adored?

There is so much to say about Sensei, from the life he had been leading before the incident, or the suicide of his friend, to the life he has been leading after. The constant moral teetering at his heart, torn between the promise to bring happiness to Ojosan and the guilt in loving Ojosan so much that he was blinded by jealousy and caused the death of his friend.

Have you ever imagined, then, the guilt in loving one so? The guilt in a love that from the moment it begins, it has born at its heart the seeds of distrust and the shadow of someone’s death. The guilt in knowing that no matter what you try to undercompensate or overcompensate, you will never be able to fill in the existence of another life. The guilt in jealousy, betrayal to one’s belief, and most important of all, betrayal to a life we hold dear.

And yet, such a one is Sensei. He carries on loving Ojosan, no matter what. He treats her with utmost kindness and gentleness, because her existence is the only pure beauty left in his life. He savors every moment of his life by Ojosan’s side, knowing that she knows his heart is not there. All the while, at the heart of thing, he know that he will only live on as the symbol of atonement for his friend’s death.

But how can one atone for another life?

I recall the conversation I had with a friend not long ago. You may have heard it from the previous episodes. He said he had wanted to die a long time ago.

And what would you do, then? I asked

I don’t know, he said.

Will I be enough of a reason for you to live? I asked

I don’t know, he said, and then later on, But you have been kind enough to me.

And me being kind enough is still not a reason for you to live?

I don’t know, he said again, I had been wanting my own end for a long time.

If I had known what could save a life, I thought to myself then, I would stay up with you all night. I guess that is also the guilt in loving. In thinking that I, somehow, could not use love to conquer the darkness seeded deep in my friend’s heart. In not knowing what would be enough. In the notion that nothing will ever be enough to fill the heart of thing.

But back to Sensei.

“I do not want your admiration now, because I do not want your insults in the future. I bear with my loneliness now in order to avoid greater loneliness in the years ahead. You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves.”

Natsume Soseki, Kokoro

I am reminded of Jean Paul-Satre’s famous work of existentialism, “Nausea.” The idea of not owning up to anyone or anything, and not owing to anyone or anything either. Not wanting admiration, and not wanting to hear insults either. The notion of existentialism is symbolized in Sensei by his statement, a modern age so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves. The constant fear of actions and the consequences of those actions later on. The constant fear of regrets having done the deeds and not having done the deeds. The constant fear of our own freedom, independence, and egotistical selves.

One of my favorite fictional character said, There is no one universal way for everyone to be happy.

Sensei lives. He breaths and his heart beats with a calm, reassuring rhythm. In the sense that a person needs to breath and his heart needs to beat to live, then Sensei is living in the bare minimum sense of the word.

And yet, Sensei never truly lives. In the sense that a person needs to be happy to be alive and to fill his life with some meaning, then Sensei never meets that high requirement. And the purgatory he puts himself in does not help either.

I guess one could say that his whole life’s meaning is to protect Ojosan’s innocence and the beauty within it. But his notion of Ojosan’s happiness does not coincide with Ojosan’s defintion of happiness. Ojosan simply wants him to be happy. To have him laughing and talking energetically with his heart racing as he was when his friend was still alive. To turn everything back to zero and rewrite a few endings; cut a thing here, drop a thing there. And in his death, as he reaches for his own conclusion, he just further worsen the life of his wife, Ojosan. Thus, he is, indeed, once again caused more guilts by his loving and his egotistical self.

We often talk about the person that got away. So much that we never think about the ones that stay. Even if we mention the ones who stay, we never mention the pain left behind by the loss of a life. We never mention the empty chair at the dinner tables, the missing laughters amidst a long conversation, the soft touch of a hand, the voice, the figure, the shadow. Our life on earth is never really gone: it just disappears. And as the cycle goes on, the life that’s been loved and lived will return to us, once in a while, in the shape of a teardrop, mourning for the things that had been and the things that never will be.

I don’t know who I should grief for in Kokoro. The sensei who had spent all his life with a yearning passion to trust and love, yet incapable anyway? The Ojosan who had, voluntarily or involuntarily, become the symbol of beauty and sadness, but never happiness? Or the protagonist, wanting to escape the loneliness by confiding in a figure who is even lonelier than the fickle youth that he is experiencing? I keep imagining the three figures standing in the darkness, back to each other, head hanging low, and none of them can see the people standing just next to them. They only need to reach out their hands and there will be a human warmth comes to them, rescues them, and brings them out of the darkness. And what force it is, what stake is there, that makes them refuse reaching out?

Is it true that there is so much guilt in loving? I don’t know the definite answer to that question. Perhaps I’m too young to know the guilt. Perhaps my soul is too old and weary for even trying to love. Perhaps I’m just fortunate. I had never been subjected to the fear of losing someone I love to someone I treasure. The looming fear of being lonely. The overwhelming power of jealousy and the darker side, the grittier side of love that human had spent decades to bury.

Such a love is what Sensei had held on to live, day by day, month by month, year by year. Such a love is something Ojosan does not need, and yet, had to receive anyway. Such a love is what painted the cold, piercing beauty of a man’s loneliness. Should we judge Sensei’s decision? Who has the right to? Should we feel sad for Ojosan? Who are we to pity her? I turned of my Kindle and left it on my bed side, then stared at the dark space of the dimly lit room for a while. I observed the shadows on the wall, and said to her:

Perhaps I am too young.

What triggers this? She said in her sleepy tone. Her I-don’t-want-another-shitty-conversation tone.

I am scared of loneliness. I don’t understand the beauty in purity and perfection. I yearn for human touch. I long for a saving hand.

And?

And I just realized how truly alone we are. How we cannot be saved by no one else but ourselves. How we refuse to let ourselves go.

Listen, honey, she sat up on the bed, turned towards me, and looked me in the eyes, wherever my eyes are, Let’s picture loneliness as something like blood. It flows within our body. It is the cause of our living; and no matter how troublesome it is, we can’t drain it all, or we will die. It will lay dormant in our body: nobody’s ever mentioned it, we take it for granted, we live with it, we use it as some shitty reasons for the way we progress through life.

And?

And do you hate having it in your system?

I don’t.

See? Loneliness is the same. It comes at you at the best of time, worst of time, whatever. But it will always be the one friend you can depend upon. Like blood. Like the living force. Loneliness is the only thing that will never betray you for who you are.

And what about love?

She was silent, and then, in the gentlest voice, with the gentlest touch, she whispered:

Life is all about love.

Even loneliness?

Yes.

Even if we can’t save ourselves?

Especially then.

And I think she’s right. Life is always about love. A love that’s not only just giving, but also taking. A love that’s a little bit like loneliness, beautiful in it’s piercing way. A love that comes to us when we can’t save ourselves.

So count on love. And loneliness. Count on being alive. Count on reaching your hands out and receiving the help that you need. Maybe you are at the worst of time, maybe you are at the best of time, and your heart is busting at the seam with sadness and loneliness, it’s okay. Like the blood that is flowing through our system, it will pass. This is what it meant to be alive. If you need someone to listen, call your close friends and family. If you have neither and are feeling desperate, my inbox always welcome you. If you need help, ask for it, no matter how hard it is. You have the right to be happy and receive happiness.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Albert Camus – The Plague

Transcription:

Hi, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. It’s been a long time and it’s always good to be here, back home, where the resistance is on. Thank you so much for bearing with my irresponsibility and the unfrequent upload schedule. You are what make this resistance what it is today, and for you, the resistance will always be here.

This week’s theme might be a little too true and thus, a little too much to bear. Please kindly proceed with caution. Yeah, I know, as if depression and suicide in the last episode are still not enough. Please do forgive me: for I love dancing around on the edge of life and death. Though I am no angel, or demon, or anything in between, I still hope against all hopes that somewhere out there, you are listening to the rhythm of the heartbeats.

So, Albert Camus’s “The Plague.” From the very beginning of the book, I had to put it down a few times and told myself to leave it there for good. There’s no torture like reading a book that speaks of the current events and yet, you have to push yourself through because you find within the pains a glimmer of hope.

“The Plague” – the name itself is the summary of the whole book and somewhere within it, our current daily life. There’s the fear and the fear-mongering. There’s the vanishing act of hope. There’s the desolation and destitution of the answer-less search for meaning and for a cure.

And there’s human, as always, standing against something much larger, stronger than them, without knowing if we even have one percent chance of winning.

Men and women either consume each other rapidly in what is called the act of love, or else enter into a long-lasting, shared routine. Often there is no middle between these two extremes. That, too, is original. In Oran, as elsewhere, for want of time and thought, people have to love one another without knowing it.

. Albert Camus, The Plague .

For want of time and thought. The single sentence that foreshadows the gruesome development of the story later on, when the want of time and thought grows beyond the simple statement of “Love thy neighbor,” and the gods we treasure and worship cannot do anything more than lifting his fingers to count the blessing.

But what can blessing do in the time of the plague? It clearly cannot blur the pains and yearning of separation. It also cannot do much more than being words spoken in the hope of calming the feverish mind and the hundreds of corpses being buried each day. And as with love, though it is true that a blessing can cure a broken soul, you will have a better bargain not believing in it.

For want of time and thought. Because what else do we, as human, want from one another? We want to live, of course, but sometimes, and almost always, living is an extension of loving. You can’t severe an arm or a leg without feeling hurt and you can’t go on living without needing love.

And the plague comes in at just the right time to destroy it all.

And war is certainly too stupid, but that doesn’t prevent it from lasting. Stupidity always carries doggedly on, as people would notice if they were not always thinking about themselves. In this respect, the citizens of Oran were like the rest of the world, they thought about themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they did not believe in pestilence. A pestilence does not have human dimensions, so people tell themselves that it is unreal, that it is a bad dream which will end. But it does not always end and, from one bad dream to the next, it is people who end, humanists first of all because they have not prepared themselves.

. Albert Camus, The Plague .

Now I know that the quote above is unusually long, but with “The Plague” as well as all of Camus’s works, I find it hard to separate sentences from sentences.

Back to the quote. There is so much to unpack here: above the line, below the line, and between the line. I can’t help but think about the start of the pandemic. I guess we are all humanists in a way. I remember the people who rejected wearing a mask, the people who hosted stupid parties that ended up in death and breathless corpses, the people who sneezed into a baby’s face because his parent told them to wear a mask in public.

Those people, do they believe that human is actually stronger than a pandemic and thus, than death itself? And as they lie on the hospital bed, losing what they refer to as “the gift of G-d,” I wonder what they think. Will it be regret? Will it be the stubborn surrender? Will it be the memories of a life that is now losing right before their eyes?

Bad dreams don’t end. In this context, the town of Oran is submerged in a spiral of bad dreams. They started with a death rat and they spiraling down the staircase of death. As Camust points out, they believe they are above it all. Above the situation that is harvesting human in bulks. Above the lymp node and the pains before their last breath. Above the dying children and the separation without end. Above life. Above death.

That is what a humanist is about. It’s not that they are selfish, no, far from it. It’s the strong belief that somehow, the invisible G-d had built them to last. And through many decades of wars and plagues, they are the chosen one. The top of the food chain and thus, they don’t end.

And yes, though their belief is strong, though they can fight one bad dream to the next, bad dreams don’t end. Even if they are no longer here, that they had reached their own conclusion, their own ending, the bad dreams will continue on. They will outlive us, be it humanist and whatnot.

The Radio of Resistance is dearly in need of your love to survive. If you feel generous and want to support the podcast, you can donate via https://paypal.me/bipolarpsyche. You don’t know how much it means to me and how appreciative it is, even if it’s just a $1 donation. If you want to reach out, my email is always open at tpdinh@tasteofsmallthings.com. Any donations above $15 will receive a free complimentary tarot reading session. For updates on my other works, which include novels and poems, you can follow me on Instagram at bipolar_psyche, or my Facebook page, The Bipolar Psyche’s Books. Additionally, I am selling merch, which includes T-shirt, hoodies, and mugs at https://thebipolarpsychestee.com

I wonder if we are really that strong. The strength we muster to kill each other in wars and the strength we muster to carry on, day after day, at our wit’s end, watching each other died in the plague. Just like Dr. Rieux, death takes a toll on us, be it the living or the dying. And slowly but surely, we start to see death as something insignificant. A black number on white papers. A nameless grave in a nameless cemetary. A blow of the fuse. A statistics.

And it’s hard to find compassion if all you see is just a statistics. Numbers are colder than corpses because they never carry the warmth of a life within them and thus, as humanists, we think we stand above them.

But no one can stand above death. What we are trying to do is just closing our eyes in the hope that this time, G-d will make the bad dreams end.

I guess in this particular case, as in all other cases, we are not much of a person. We stand above nothing and we are below a lot of other things. We cling onto our belief so that we can be stronger, so that we can wake up every morning and be thankful that we are still alive. As in all other cases, life had been downgraded so much that only in the plague – in the pandemic as we are – life can be something on our mind: a tiny prayer and an amazing grace at the dining table.

But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has fought a war, one hardly knows any more what a dead person is. And if a dead man has no significance unless one has seen him dead, a hundred million bodies spread through history are just a mist drifting through the imagination.

. Albert Camus, The Plague .

I learned about various wars within the near decades when I was still an undergraduate student. It was just a whim when I take my first history course. The motivation at that time was but a simple one: from whence we come and to where we will be. The first course I took was the history of the Holocaust. Then later on, the Cold War and of course, the Vietnam War. I often think how strange it is: though we have the historian, the archeologist, and the chronicle writers to write down the bloody lessons from the wars we have been through and the wars we have not yet, we always come down to another attrition war somewhere along the road.

Perhaps it is true when Camus raises his voice here: if a dead man has no significance unless one has seen him dead, a hundred million bodies spread through history are just a mist drifting through the imagination. What we see, what we learn, what we gleam from the various lessons and with them, death, are just numbers on paper. A statistic. And that take us back from the point before: statistics speak no truth. They seem pretty on paper, sure, and if one tries harder, they could have some meaning to the materialistic world.

But will they, the statistics, the numbers, the math, mean anything more than just cold, hard fact to us? And if they do, why are we burdened with the beauty of a sunset or the sadness of a hundred sunsets? Why are we burdened with the suffering of one death and the multitude of destitute of a hundred deaths? You see, there are so many why at the core of it – the core of being human. And there’s no other time to see it as clear as it is right now, amidst the pandemic. And it is just as true in what my favorite Vietnamese song composer said, When the pain is at its highest, the love grows immense.

“And when it comes down to it, you realize that no one is really capable of thinking of anyone else, even in the worst misfortune. Because thinking about someone really means thinking about that person minute by minute, not being distracted by anything – not housework, not a fly passing, not meals, not an urge to scratch oneself. But there are always flies and itches. This is why life is hard to live. And these people know that very well.”

. Albert Camus, The Plague .

Is it true that no one is really capable of thinking of anyone else? Let’s not taking it in the metaphorical way, the “I miss you” texts kind of way, or the phony “You are always on my mind” sort of songs. Let’s dig deep into the most literal way, the constant suffering way, the desperation way.

The way we are now. Thinking of someone, somewhere out there, maybe sitting by a windows, looking at empty chairs and empty table, on a constant basis without a minute of rest, of breathing, of thinking about us.

If you try that just now, even if for a brief moment, you will find it to be the hardest thing on Earth. And you will notice also that no matter hard it is, thinking about our loved ones will always be at the core of our existence, thus, our life is always in a constant search for the little lights of happiness in the dark night of sufferings. Each of the step you take, you stray further away from the person you once were and one little light faded away.

The child has grown, the dream is gone.

All you have got left to do is keep striving forward. And I hope one of these days, when you find your little lights, when you see the dream again, when living comes to you not as a choice but an obvious action, you will come back here, refute me, and smile. After all, you don’t know how strong you are, just by waking up every morning and live throughout the rest of the day.

Well, don’t worry, I am always here to remind you of it. This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Charles Bukowski – The Last Night of the Earth

Transcription:

That we were perishable, perhaps didn’t occur to

Him

Or

That greater gods might be

Watching.

begging, Charles Bukowski

One can never have enough of Charles Bukowski’s books on the shelves, just as one might live in oblivion never knowing that we are perishable.

Hi, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. I never seem to be capable of sticking to my posting schedule. Forgive me for I am, as you are, perishable, and I take that notion liberally.

That we were perishable. There is much to talk about it. There is nothing to talk about it. For the longest of time, we have taken that fact for granted, although we do not know what to do with it. Should we place it down on this baked earth after the rain and walk away? Or should we just bring it with us on the journey, constantly looking at it, keep being reminded about how we will never become anything greater than who we are?

That we were perishable. Take a moment to think about it. Like the beggar in a video I mentioned in the last couple episodes, we are all in a rat’s race, and Charles Bukowski knows where the race ends.

That we were perishable, or that greater gods might be watching. I enjoy the hidden notion behind the regular, smaller, decapitalized “g” in all of Charles Bukowski’s poems, just as much as I enjoyed the “G-d” in Leonard Cohen’s. In a moment’s notice, the notion that greater gods might be watching does not seem that horrendous or filled with guilt. After all, aren’t the greater gods the same as the mortal men on the last night of Earth? And though you choose to worship them, though to you they are “G-d,” one of these days, the fact will catch to you that they will die along with the humans they created. Or not created, depends on your religion.

Whatever you believe in, that is your one true God.

In “The Last Night of the Earth,” Charles Bukowski spoonfeeds us the mortality of men. The best of us and more often than not, the worst of us. The masks we wear and the masks we tear down, depends on the weather and depends on who is in our hearts.

Each person is only given so many

Evenings

And each wasted evening is

A gross violation against the

Natural course of

Your only

Life;

The Last night of the Earth, Charles Bukowski

It’s not a surprise to know Charles Bukowski spent most of his living life staying at home. I suspect if we could, we will also choose to spent our life not wasting our limited evenings. I wonder who among us will have enough power to determine which will be the wasted evenings and which will be the not-wasted ones. We don’t need amazing ones, thank you, just simply the not-wasted ones.

I remember Ed Sheeran’s song, “Supermarket Flower.” A life’s been loved is a life that’s been lived. And just like that, the memories of my mother and my sister flood into my mind like the torrent of rain in that far away evening when I waited before the school gate for my mother to pick me up. One of these nights, undoubtedly, it will be my mother’s last night of the the Earth. One of these nights, these memories might be burnt down to ashes, and as the ashes flow out to the ocean, as my mother wants to, I will remember these not-wasted evenings.


The evenings she took me to the supermarket on her motorcycle. No matter how tired she was, she never once forgot that task.

Or the evenings where she cooked dinner and I stood besides her, listening to her homemade recipes, her stories that day, and what happened to the stupid cat that kept begging her for cuddles.

Or even the sadder evenings, where we sat in silence. My mother at the head of the bed and me by the foot of the bed, simply staring at the empty spaces in the room. A hollow void inside our hearts keep bleeding out words of hate and revenge.

Thinking back on those not-wasted evenings, I realize one thing: that putting things against time, the notion of right and wrong is frivolous. Whimsy, even. Like a little child’s crying because he couldn’t get his favorite toys.

The more we spend time on Earth, the more we realize how meaningless right and wrong are. What could be done has been done. What we think could not be done, has also been done. And the wars will properly outlive us all, just as our right to disagree.


Within that small hemisphere, what could right and wrong possibly mean to us?

The Radio of Resistance is dearly in need of your love to survive. If you feel generous and want to support the podcast, you can donate via https://paypal.me/bipolarpsyche. You don’t know how much it means to me and how appreciative it is, even if it’s just a $1 donation. If you want to reach out, my email is always open at tpdinh@tasteofsmallthings.com. Any donations above $15 will receive a free complimentary tarot reading session. For updates on my other works, which include novels and poems, you can follow me on Instagram at bipolar_psyche, or my Facebook page, The Bipolar Psyche’s Books. Additionally, I am selling merch, which includes T-shirt, hoodies, and mugs at https://thebipolarpsychestee.com

I read the news about Beirut, and I am reminded of a verse in The Carpenters’s song.

Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice.

Bless the beasts and the children, for the world can never be, the world they see.

Bless the beasts and the children, the carpenters

I saw the face of the children, covered in blood and wounds and the wars’ gruesome death, and I thought to myself, What is the right and wrong in the event? And had they seen the children’s faces – the same ones that I see, that they see, on the street, laughing, running, living – would they do it again?

I had seen the faces of the Vietnam soldiers dying in the war, their corpses hanging from a tree or dismembered. I had also seen the face of the U.S. soldiers after the war, broken and void of any semblance of a smile. Their eyes vacant with hollow souls of the death.

After the war, you are not the same person you thought you could still maintain. And if luck is not on your side, you are not even a person. What, then, could be so valuable for the winning sides and the losing sides to grip so firmly on the attrition wars and pile corpses upon corpses? And do they know which corpses belong to which sides? In death’s eyes, we are all on the same side.

Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Vietnamese author who inspired me and other budding Vietnamese authors, had put it in a simple statement, The poor people never choose the war. The children in the Beirut aftermath covered in blood and dust never choose the war. The mothers and fathers grieving on the breaking ground for the smallest cries of their children surely do not choose the war.

I often wonder in my spare time on the last nights of Earth. Who choose the war? What is in their mind? What do they want to achieve? And why is there a right to turn the right to disagree into something larger? Something like death and corpses hanging from a tree and dismembered comrades.

Counting on one hand, I see the Rwanda Genocide, and recently, the Rohinga ethnic cleansing, I wonder about what we have learned from history. I thought spending thousands of years indulging ourselves in the blood bath of the enemy story, the us versus them story, and the human story, we can finally let go of the mindset of winning and losing. The saying often goes, The winners take it all, or to put it in this, The winners are the one writing the history.

Then, what did the winners actually learn? To be on the right side of history? To be the one worshipped and adored? And on the road leading to the right side of history, do they see the tears on the motherless children and childless parents? Do they hear the cry of their comrades and their enemies, just barely breathing, barely human, barely existing on the edge of their conscience?

“you come here to win, don’t

You?”

“I come here not to

Lose.”

The flashing of the odds, charles bukowski

It is so important to win. It is ingrained in our DNA. It’s the fight-or-flight system, the run for your life system, the get rich or die trying system. It is so, so very important to us that we forget sometimes, “not to lose” is enough. On Charles Bukowski’s racetrack, when 20 years are being lost after three days, it is just as important not to lose.

I say, I know that you’re there,

So don’t be

Sad.

Then I put him back,

But he’s singing a little

In there, I haven’t quite let him

Die

And we sleep together like

That

With our

Secret pact

And it’s nice enough to

Make a man

Weep, but I don’t

Weep, do

You?

The Blue Bird, Charles Bukowski

I often wonder, when the winners go to sleep, where will they end up? And did they kill the blue birds? Did they quiet the birds down, strangle them, and kill them softly the way they kill the dreams they had once when they were a child?

I recently had the honor to read Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story on a man’s melancholy with a river in Tokyo, his hometown. The melancholy growing inside a man’s heart that is nice enough to make a man weep. And in contrast to Bukowski, who quiet down the blue birds and sleep beside them in a secret pact, Akutagawa turns that sadness into the shape of the river, the smell of it , the sound of it, the breeze across it in the spring’s cherry blossom storms, the snow piling up on both sides of the riverbank in the cold winter that only the large cities have.

Despite the differences in the approach to the term “melancholy,” the meaning within Charles Bukowski’s blue birds and Akutagawa’s river sadness stay the same.

The thing is, when will the melancholy ever leave?

It sure follows Charles Bukowski to his sleepless night, singing his favorite classical music with its sweet dreary voice. And it sure follow Akutagawa to his suicide later on, as the cherry blossom petals were storming Tokyo with its vibrant and festive beauty by the riverside.

It’s like one of The National’s song, Sorrow found me when I was young.

I know of a man. Sorrow also found him when he was young. He lived in Tokyo all his life, and he was thirty years old. I wonder if he lived near Akutagawa’s river, or if he had something that resembled Akutagwa’s river. His own pills of melancholy. His own version of a sadness that will never leave. A wooden porch. A tilted old roof. An alley filled with old candy stores. Whatever that had stuck with him throughout his childhood and turned into his heart when he reached adulthood.

He told me many stories. The stories when he was bullied as a child. The stories when he couldn’t get any job as an adult. The stories that he hated living on a job from day to day. And the stories about how he would commit suicide later on in life if he had the opportunity.

I listened to him, and I think of the authors that cannot survive melancholy. Like Hemingway and Kawabata. I thought about the heroic sides of living and the heroic side of dying. I thought about the blue nights in Tokyo when I had the chance to see a train station filled with people rushing towards nowhere, with food on one hand and a briefcase on the other. I thought about him. I wondered what can save a life. I thought that if I had known it, I would have stayed up with him all night, talking about Akutagwa’s river and Bukowski’s blue birds. I would have done anything to keep his blue birds singing, to have them sleeping besides him, to let them live.

The next morning, he did not reply to my text. I guess like all beautiful things, sorrow got him, too.

And what’s the moral of the story? I’m sorry, but I didn’t tell this story just to dissect it. There’s no morality in living and in dying. I just want to let you, and everyone out there, who has food on one hand and the briefcase on the other, to keep on living. Don’t kill your blue birds. Let them sing.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Yasunari Kawabata – Snow Country

Transcription:

Shall I come back again?

Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight

Are You Lonesome Tonight, Elvis Presley

Never has there been anything scarier than the solitude of being alive, of being human. The legend of the old day has spoken that when the first man stepped into the galaxy and took a proper look at Earth, he had said, There are no other species as lonely, as sad, as desolate, as human, and he wept.

As the words in Elvis Presley’s song, perhaps we are all lonesome tonight. And what else is there to do but to wander into this episode on the furthest edge of human loneliness in Yasunari Kawabata’s “Snow Country”?

Hi, this is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

I am so sorry for the missing episode, or episodes. I am having trouble managing my time and most important of all, managing my financials. But we will get to that later. First of all, I do hope you, my audience, accept my apology.

So back to Yasunari Kawabata’s “Snow Country.”

I am no strangers to the unique strangeness in Japanese Literature. Or perhaps, during my exploring trip, I have spent far too many hours on reading the loneliness out of thin air. From Kenzaburo Oe to Yasunari Kawabata and Dazai Osamu, none of the authors comes across as anything less than despair and sufferings.

I am drawn to humans, to being alive. And by that, I mean I am more drawn to despair and sufferings than happiness. And there’s no excuse for that.

Because being human hurts. It hurts so bad that some are dying and others are wounded. The wounds keep piling upon wounds and before you notice, you are not anything, not even laughters.

It’s the same for Komako and Yoko. I doubt that it is the same for Shimamura. And more than them – the world beyond their little universe – I doubt that it is the same for anyone who steps out into space, takes a good look at Earth, and weeps.

Like the Little Prince.

“People are delicate, aren’t they?” Komako had said that morning. “Broken into a pulp, they say, skull and bones and all. And a bear could fall from a higher ledge and not be hurt in the least.” There had been another accident up among the rocks, and she had pointed out the mountain on which it had happened.

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

People are delicate. Putting that in the context, where Komako is sitting by the window sill in Shimamura’s room as the sun sets, people is ever more delicate and fragile. The child-like Komako, who, in Shimamura’s eyes, still maintains the innocent of a girl, exclaims the philosophical statement that other geishas feel reluctant to make.

Komako, who had held onto the love for the one man she ever felt in love with for all those years, just to watch him walk out of her life once and for all, is like the Little Prince who had finally grown up. I remember the Little Prince said that one must be sad to watch a sun set, and there was a day he had watched in 42 times, just by moving his chair little by little.

So what is at stake here when Komako, sitting by the window sill, refusing to go home yet exclaiming that she is going hom, did nothing more than just watching the sun set.

Yes, a bear could have fallen from a higher ledge and not be hurt in the least. Yes, a human body can also bear a certain amount of force, and the more we put it to test, the more strength we have to hold on to when we are out in space. Yes, the sun set scene is always sad, and people will always be gone before you even know that the night has come and you must go home.

Yes, people are delicate.

The sadness is not in the sunset. No. The sadness is the soft eyes of the young girl Komako, who is turning into a woman. The sadness is in the thick eyelashes falling over her eyes that make them look like they are only half-open. The sadness is the beauty of Komako cascades over Shimamura, a beauty that is so high and mighty that it amounts almost to loneliness.

“You didn’t grow a mustache after all.”

“You did tell me to grow a mustache, didn’t you?”

“It’s alright. I knew you wouldn’t. You always shave yourself nice and blue.”

“And you always look as if you’d just shaved when you wash away that powder.”

“Isn’t your face a little fatter, though? You were very funny asleep, all round and plump with your white skin and no mustache.”

“Sweet and gentle?”

“But unreliable.”

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

What’s the point of such nifty and petty memories? What’s the point in having conversations which you know right from the start where it will end? What’s the point in loving a man whose only love is for the ideal of love itself?

Perhaps, like Shimamura had said, it was all just a waste of time. And though Komako did not feel that way, though for all it takes, these petty and nifty conversations are all that Komako relied on as the music teacher’s son wasted away on his death bed, to Shimamura, what is it but a waste of time.

In her heart, Komako knows very well that Shimamura will never love her back. I remember the scene where Komako told Shimamura that she would write down the things she like. Besides dancing and singing and learning to play music, she wrote Shimamura, Shimamura, Shimamura, times and times again.

The little details. The name she had tried to forget but could not afford to. The man from Tokyo who promised her to shave his beard but never did. Yes, all was sweet and gentle. And yes, all was unreliable.

The setting never strays too far from the inn’s room, where the encounters between Shimamura and Komako happen. The enclosing room is like a cage. And Komako’s happiness is but a butterfly trapped within the cage itself. Perhaps, knowing this, she always tells Shimamura that she is going home, that she will not come by because she had to tend to the inn’s guests, that she will never see him to the train station again.

And here she is, always coming back, always fly back into the trap, always a caged butterfly.

What else is there to know about Komako, about Shimamura, about love? Coming back after a brief break of the episode.

The Radio of Resistance is dearly in need of your love to survive. If you feel generous and want to support the podcast, you can donate via https://paypal.me/bipolarpsyche. You don’t know how much it means to me and how appreciative it is, even if it’s just a $1 donation. If you want to reach out, my email is always open at tpdinh@tasteofsmallthings.com. Any donations above $15 will receive a free complimentary tarot reading session. For updates on my other works, which include novels and poems, you can follow me on Instagram at bipolar_psyche, or my Facebook page, The Bipolar Psyche’s Books. Additionally, I am selling merch, which includes T-shirt, hoodies, and mugs at https://thebipolarpsychestee.com

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“You have plenty of money, and you’re not much of a person. You don’t understand at all.”

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

You know, this is a fun fact about me. I used to wish I can stand on a mountain of money and scream out, Money can’t buy you happiness. And thus, I guess that’s why I am particular drawn to the quote above.

What can define us as a person? The money we had in a bank? The materialistic world we build for ourselves? The selfless and the selfish?

Or the love?

My favorite song composer once said – and bear in mind that I am paraphrasing – There are the loves that once we bid them goodbye, they were, to us at that moment, nothing more than a loving relationship. Things will change. We move on. And life happens. Until we are old and tired, and we look back on them, they have grown into something larger. Something akin to the lost of a lifetime.

I guess that’s the moment we realize, like Komako, the little geisha in the snow country, that we do have a lot of money – a mountain of it in fact –  but are we much of a person?

Do we feel pain the way a person feel pain? Do we find happiness the way a person finds his happiness? What is a person, and are we reaching it yet?

A beggar on the street said, We are all in a rat’s race. But going where? After all, we all end up at the same destination.

I beg to differ. Of course, we will all reach the same ending. Some of us more glorious than the others. Some die a hero and some live a hero. But we are not in a rat’s race. We are only on the way to build a person.

Be it a selfless person or a selfish person, we are on our way to build it, so that when the moment comes – when our endings arrive – we are a little bit more than a fool standing on the mountain of money and screams “Money can’t buy you happiness.”

“What of it? Tokyo people are complicated. They live in such noise and confusion that their feelings are broken to little bits.”

“Everything is broken to little bits.”

“Even life, before long… Shall we go to the cemetery?”

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

The commotion of a large city is always, and forever will be, the loneliest place on Earth. It is where you find people who are neither sick nor well. They are simply there. Barely existing, barely breathing, barely living, and barely dying. They are in the middle of nowhere. They just float on the life the way a dying fish floats in the river, trying to catch on the last gasp of breathe.

And before long, you will forget that you are no longer breathing. Despite having your feelings broken to little pieces, do you care? Do you not? You can’t find an answer. And plus, what is it all for? What are you fighting for? Why are you still here, barely hanging from the branch of a dying tree?

Living is painful, and there’s no argument about that.

So despite having your feelings broken into pieces – despite your life being broken into little pieces before long – continue to live on. You are not the only person in the rat’s race. And besides, a little pain reminds you of everything. A life that’s been loved. A life that’s been lost. A love that is no more than the lost of a lifetime.

And you will live on. You will outlive the broken little pieces, just like how Komako outlives her love for Shimamura:

“A woman by herself can always get by.”

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

Yes. After all, only women are capable of really loving. I am not saying that only women are capable of feeling the pain of the living. If you have listened to me for long enough, I am all for equality. What I am saying is right there at the surface. Only women are capable of really loving. From my mother who had sacrifice her life for far too long and far too much, to Komako who never will become a nurse again, only women are capable of really loving.

It is a curse disguides as a blessing.

“A bee walked a little and collapsed, walked a little and collapsed. It was a quiet death that came with the change of seasons. Looking closely, however, Shimamura could see that the legs and feelers were trembling in the struggle to live.”

“Snow Country,” Yasunari Kawabata

The Earth will outlive us all, be it animals, insects, or humans. But the little bee doesn’t care about who is outliving who. It only cares that it yearns for life. And the bee’s yearning for the living is too strong that even knowing that the slightest changes in the seasons will kill it, the bee still tries his best. His legs and feelers are trembling amidst the harsh winter of the snow country. His wings are heavy and can’t lift himself up amidst the snow storm.

And yet, he lives on.

So live on. That’s the most important thing. Like my therapist once said, There are so many things, so many routes and options you can go if you live on. But once you are dead, it’s all over. You can’t start a life over. You can only move on.

Live and let live.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Voice of the Void

Welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. First, thank you for being here, for your presence, for being alive, and for following through with the resistance. Second, will we take Mahattan, and then, take on Berlin? Yes, my dearest audience, that we will do in this season of the Radio of resistance. Though we will leave Leonard Cohen behind, he will still remain here in the verses and the lines. If you ask me why, I can only say, Leonard Cohen is the essential force behind the radio due his will to fight and his will to command the resistance, to let every one of the hook besides himself. And thus, he will be a guest on every season of this podcast, from here on out.

So the trailer. What are we going to talk about? What are the stories, the authors, the books, and everything else?

Well, let me tell you a little story.

The other day, as I was dining out with my mother and my friend, I overheard the conversation from the table next to us. You will have to forgive me: The tables at that specific restaurant are only separated by a wooden, see-through windows. And to me, conversations, the ordinary kind, the kind that people have over meals, coffee, and a cigarette, are so precious and pretty.

And like a sad, desolate flower blooms in the harshest winter, the conversation from the next table flowed into me.

I don’t have any feelings left for him. Just like that, the story began.

I don’t have any feelings left for him, she said, Not even the slightest sadness, the slightest worry, the treacherous tears. Nothing.

So you let him go? The other woman said.

What else can I do, the woman continued, When the core of the relationship, the two people that built the foundation for it, don’t care about each other any more?

Have you talked things through with him?

What will it help? She put the chopsticks down, I guess things are just like that. Love caught you and bounded your hands and legs. And when love has had enough of you, it will cut the rope.

So you are free to live for yourself now?

She smiled. I don’t feel any hesitation in her voice. Neither do I feel a tiny shred of happiness. And she said:

You see, it’s not about being free. It’s all about I don’t have any feeling left for him.

The conversation finished. They paid the bills and went out.

I guess you all will wonder, Why this story? Why begin Season 2 with separation and loneliness instead? Why a conversation and not something else? And I guess a song or a quote would do well, of course. And I will be honest with you, I had wanted to use some verses from Eminem’s repertoire.

But the conversation just sticks with me. And by stick with me, I mean it in a literal sense. I always think about conversation like sticky notes. The kind you would put on the fridge to remind you of something, some place, someone. Some memories you made along the way and now that you look back, they are nothing but bittersweet, invisible cloaks of clouds that you can’t touch nor see again.

And I keep reading this sticky note again and again, about the emptiness of a separation, about how the phrase “I don’t have any feelings left for him” was paired with a monotonous voice, void of sadness and desolation. Just a simple statement. A simple fact. A simple of matter where love lets people go, after robbing them off their hearts and their souls.

 And thus, “Voice” will be an important theme for this season.

We use our voice a lot everyday. Sweet voice for the one we hate. Hurtful voice for the one we love. And empty, hollow voice for the pain that is greater than what we care to admit; because once we admit it, we will no longer be the same human.

After all, what use do we have if we are not the same human? And what use do we have if we just stand still there and let the waves crush us? Would the waves cradle us and lull us to a peaceful sleep deep under the ocean, with the waning moon watching over us, like the child we once were?

We will walk through the anger of Eminem’s voice, the loneliness of the snow country in Yasunari Kawabata’s, the walk to the graveyard of regrets and painful solitude in Natsume Soseki’s. And in between them, there will be voices of those we never heard of, those we have heard but we never care more, and those that stay as sticky notes on our fridge.

I don’t know if this can be considered a trailer. I don’t even know if my voice will rise up to match yours. And don’t ever think that your voices don’t matter. In fact, I would love to hear from you. Send me your stories, your conversations, your sadness and fear. Whatever that you want the ocean to wash away, send it to me. My email stays the same, tpdinh@tasteofsmallthings.com.

And while you are at it, if you consider my voice worth a chance to survive the material world, I am urgently in need of donations to maintain the podcast and my work-life balance. If you want to follow my other journey, learning tarot and writing novels, you can be a monthly patron at https://patreon.com/bipolar_psyche. If you don’t want a monthly commitment, you can also dnate at at paypal.me/bipolarpsyche. Send me a message if you donate more than $15 please, so I can do a free tarot reading session for you as a sincere thank you gift from the bottom of my heart.

So, season 2. Let the voice rise up.

I am Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Of Love and Other Demons

Transcription

Hello, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance, where your mind refuses logic and your imagination takes fly.

Truthfully, I wanted to discuss Albert Camus’s “The Myth of Sisyphus” – Oh, there will be so many things to discuss, so many things to say about Albert Camus and Sisyphus that there’s almost nothing to discuss at all. But I took a turn, a change of phrase, a step down the memory lane, perhaps, and I pulled out Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Of Love and Other Demons” instead.

So, why “Of Love and Other Demons”? I’ve come across other works, whose brilliance and happiness shine brighter than this thin paperback book that I am holding dearly in my hands right now. I’ve finished “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” then moving on to “A Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” and stopping at “Love in the Time of Cholera.” I love them all, and one of these days, once I’m more mature, I will pull out “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to  talk about it, as well as my hopeless love for the man who suggested the book to me.

But today, let’s just make do with “Of Love and Other Demons.” The book that made me cried myself to sleep. The book that lulls me in the darkness of those winter sleepless nights. The book that plants in my soul a seed of belief. Of hope. Of love’s weakness and its strength in the most desperate of time.

So let’s talk about “Of Love and Other Demons.”

In the forewords, the author, Mr. Marquez, talks about his inspiration for the novel. About a little girl who died from being bitten by a dog. After being buried, her hair keeps growing until it reaches her tip of her toes. Looking at her golden hair in the crystal casket, Mr. Marquez thinks back about a girl he used to know. He imagines the girl in the crystal casket is the same girl in his memory of his little hometown, where everyone knows everyone.

Thus, the story begins.

I don’t know if the girl in Mr. Marquez’s memory suffers the same misery and hopeless fate as the heroine in “Of Love and Other Demons.” Born as an unloved child, who got rejected by both her Mother and Father; the only love she received was the warm circle of the housekeepers when they gathered around the fiery stoves and sang her to sleep; the only language she ever spoke was the rhyme of the housekeepers’ native songs and lullabies; and the only hope given to her was the love from a man, whose hollow cries and bloody hands still echoed across the centuries.

“This was when she asked him whether it was true that love conquered all, as the songs said. ‘It is true’, he replied, ‘but you would do well not to believe it.”

Of Love and Other Demons, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

How we wish that love can conquer all. How we hope that in the most pivotal moment of the battle, either against life or alongside it, love will show itself and lull us to a peaceful rest in its bosom. How we think, naively, that simply by believing in love, it will save us from ourselves.

After all, what else can be scarier, bleaker, and more of a monster than ourselves, who, at any moment, always find an opportunity to shred us down to little pieces?

And though it is true – blessed are the souls that believe in it, that love can conquer all, as in all the songs, the rhymes, the fairy tales, and the poems we read since we were still a child – we have stopped believing in it.

We have grown up. We have outgrown the little child inside us. We abandoned him or her by the roadside, and the child was standing there as we walked away – perhaps the child is still standing there by now – with a hope that we will come back one day, pick him or her up. And despite his hopeful look, his sparkling eyes, his wildly beating heart as he listens to every single footstep of other adults walking by, leaving their own inner child behind, he never know that no matter how long and arduous he waits, we can’t turn back.

The child is still waiting. He does not know about our cruelty. He does not know the fights we face. He does not know that by the time we come back to him, somehow, some days, we will never be the one he expects us to be. And yes, love can conquer all – let’s believe in it one last time – but can it lead us back to the abandoned child by the roadside?

The foreshadowing of the quote, brilliantly placed to show not only the bitter regrets of the father and the last bit of grudging love the heroine holds for her father, lets us know the weaker side of love. The side that love rarely shows anyone, not even to the believer. The side that no poems, no stories, no songs can speak of. The unfathomable abyss that we stare at, reach our hands out, and jump down.

It tells us about the priest, whose love and struggle with the inner demons that fight against his one true God can’t save the little girl.

It tells us about the pains and the sufferings the little girl bears before the altar, still hope against hope that this time, love can save her and her lover.

It tells us about the cries of the sea and sky as the priest, with his bare hands and bloody fingers, try to tear down the cement wall, forever on and on, just to see his lover’s face for the final time. And it tells us that:

“What is essential, therefore, is not that you no longer believe, but that God continues to believe in you.”

Of Love and Other Demons, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Recently I’ve been questioning about the leap of faith. What is it, really? What does God want from us when He wants us to take the leap of faith? And what if we refuse to take the leap of faith? What if, in that desperate moment, when all we are hanging on is just this thin, threadbare strand of hair, we choose to let Him go?

In all of those desperate moments, when faith is a luxury – a privilege, even – will God continue to believe in us, in our ability to stare at the abyss, and instead of jumping down, we choose to leap over it?

Like a poem Mr. Cohen once brilliantly wrote. You should try to believe in God sometimes, and see for yourself if God wants you to believe in Him.

I often wonder, If God continues to believe in the priest and the heroine in “Of Love and Other Demons,” why does He make them suffer a fate that is far worse than the cry we left behind after the finale of Romeo and Juliette? While Romeo can die in Juliette’s arms, the priest is still standing there, on the other side of the wall. With his bare hands, he continues to scratch hopelessly at the cement surface, thinking that his lover is still alive. And he only needs to cross through this cemented wall – he only need to tear this wall down – he can save the girl he love.

Does God believe in him then?

Till this day, I don’t have a certain answer. After all, it is a fictitious story of two fictional characters. I find that Mr. Marquez’s tales always challenge my belief in love and its power, for his novels shows the weaker and darker side of love more often than not. Like in the novella, “A Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” where the heroine keeps writing letters to her lover, who had rejected her and sent her back home on the wedding day because she was no longer a virgin, only to meet him decades later, as he confesses in tears that he loved her and he love her still.

I guess God did believe in her then. Even though as she stands at the altar, no longer a virgin in everyone’s eyes, her love is still the purest thing in God’s eyes. And with tender love, God brings her fated traveller back to her, holding her in his arm, crying over the letters he kept through the years, saying he cannot forget her.

Or perhaps, not only God, but love also believes in her, in him, in both of them. And thus, despite the darker side of it, love still remains as the most beautiful thing in the bleak and horrendous death of the novella.

Then should we believe in them? In God and in love?

I can’t answer that question for you. All I can say is, it depends. But there is one thing I know: we have to believe in something – either it is a higher being, an invisible force of feeling, or simply just the sound of life, of the clattering dishes in the cupboard, the mingling voices in the café, the tears, the laughters – we have to find something to believe in.

Because only then, we can continue to live. Because only then, we can confidently stare at the abyss, let it stare back at us, and still choose to leap over it – to take the leap of faith, in the end.

I remember the story of the Japanese author, Kenji Miyazawa, the short novella “Night on the Galactic Railroad.” I wonder how all the stories for children look different to us when we grow up. How from “The Little Prince” to “Night on the Galactic Railroad,” children can teach us so much about living and loving. How we cry over Campanella, Giovanni, and The Little Prince, because we had abandoned that child inside us on the roadside far too soon.

But back to “Night on the Galactic Railroad.”

To reach the truest happiness, one must make their way through many sorrows.

Night on Galactic Railroad, Miyazawa Kenji.

Looking at the trains passing by, I can’t stop thinking about Campanella and Giovanni. About their loneliness. About their one true God. And though Campanella takes his leap of faith, to end up as a small child in his mother’s gentle embrace again, to finish his journey on the Galactic Railroad, he had reached his truest happiness through many sorrows.

And though Giovanni returns from the journey with an immense loneliness, at least, he lives on. I bet Giovanni will continue to move through many other sorrows besides losing his companion. And I bet Giovanni, as he grows up and moves on, he will never find solace for the void in his heart – the void that Campanella left behind as he got off the train at the sunflower field.

The child has grown. And by growing up, the child has to sacrifice so, so many things. Perhaps that’s the reason why both The Little Prince and Campanella choose to remain a child forever.

There’s no shame in it, just as well as there’s no shame in choosing to live on, to abandone the child inside us, to grow up, and to suffer many sorrows. No one can ever judge between Campanella and Giovanni, who will prevail as the more courageous one, or the righteous one.

I guess what I am trying to say is, There is no shame in choosing, in deciding the path we walk on. As long as you are making a decision, you are already the stronger one. No matter what decision you make, you are always the stronger one.

So go out there, walk straight on. Accept that what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you. And that’s okay. There is still an immense ocean to cross, a vast road filled with thorns. This won’t be the last time you suffer, but that’s just a side of it. You can choose to look at that side, or like Leonard Cohen and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you can also choose to look at the other side. Listen to the hummingbird, listen to the sound of life clattering about you, listen to the sound of dishes rattling in the cupboard, smell the scent of freshly washed clothes.

You see, that’s the new anti-depression. Believe in it, because all this time, that anti-depression has always believe in you.

Thank you for making it to this point of the podcast. As you might, or might not, have known, I am doing poems and novel reading sessions on my Patreon account, https://patreon.com/bipolar_psyche. Your donation, no matter how small, is urgently needed and will contribute greatly to the maintenance and the continuation of this podcast series. With as much as $3, you can get access to my monthly poems reading session, and with as much as $9, you can get access to my weekly novel reading session and monthly livestream where I talk about my life and work. So please get to my Patreon account and become a Patron today to get access to Patron-only content.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Charles Bukowski – You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense

Hi, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. I am your host, Thanh Dinh, who had overcome the weary of sleepless nights, walked across tideless ocean, and crossed barren, cold, cruel bosom of the deserts to come back to you with another episode.

Because I made a promise to you that the resistance will be back. And it will be stronger than ever. And the me who have been so very tired of broken promises and the impossibility of dreams just have to will myself back to the resistance, no matter what.

So, within the week that I had been gone, the world had been on fire. Not that I had anything to do with it, because I believe I will never have that big of an importance on anything, anyone, or any matter, really.

No. It’s never one person. It’s all of us.

Before I get into Charles Bukowski and Arthur Rimbaud, I would like to have a few words about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. If the content might offend you in any ways, feel free to quit the episode now, or fast forward to the part about Charles Bukowski. But if the content is what you come here for, as with any other episode of the Resistance, feel free to stay.

Sometimes after George Floyd’s death, I came upon a series of art to raise awareness about Black Lives Matter, which contained the last words by African American victims who were killed by police force.

You know, I often thought words alone hardly have any power with it. It’s the back story. It’s the emotion. The history. The lives after the words were said and the lives that were lived before them.

And this series of Black Lives Matter art hits it right there: the highest power of words. The strongest power of meaning. That the people who were shot, the people who were killed, the people who said those last words, once lived a life like us.

They go to the grocery store like us. They sometimes stop at their usual coffee store like us while wondering whether they should order the store’s new drinks like us. They often – maybe far too often – forget to air out the laundry like us. They might not like cleaning their room, after all, cleaning does not always bring joy like how Marie Kondo teaches us.

And suddenly, on a normal night, while our life moves on, their lives end.

They ends with simple words. Like “Don’t shoot.” Or “You shot me.” Or “I don’t have a gun.”

Or “I can’t breathe.”

They are college students. Football players. Passerby. If you force me to point out something – anything – in common between them, dear sir and madam, there’s only one. It’s the color of their skin.

I used to take a Psychology 101 course in college. My professor posits that the minority often faces prejudiction and discrimination because the proportion of the people in their community who commit the crimes to the proportion of their whole community is, in the eyes of the normal community, or the majority community, disproportionally large. And thus, they are far more likely face stigma, stereotype, prejudiction, and discrimination.

Like a black dot on a white paper. If the paper is large enough, you can hardly see the black dot. But if the paper is too thin, too small, the black dot is all you can see.

Seeing the series of the Black Live Matters art, I wonder what the police officers see in the victims’ eyes. Is it the black dot? Is it the white paper? Is it a human, belong to a minority community, which, unfortunately, had been subjected to a history of racism, brutality, injustice, and discrimination?

I was handy with a rifle

My father’s .303

We fought for something final

Not the right to disagree.

Happens to the Heart, Leonard Cohen

We fought many wars. We’ve been to many battles. We’ve seen blood shed and lives being lost. There are two comrades eating food ration by our side this morning, and now there are only us.

And yet, we still maintain the right to disagree.

We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.

Charles Bukowski

I won’t be dancing around who Charles Bukowski was, just like how later on, I won’t dance around who Arthur Rimbaud was. After all, as Mr. Bukowski puts it, those are trivialities, and I dont’ want to be eaten up but them.

Just like how in the world outside, people always let the trivialities eat them up real sweet.

I wonder until when we will realize that, no matter what our skin color is, no matter what sins we commit, no matter what good deeds we ever do, it won’t save us from dying. I wonder if we will be horrified by that thought once we realize it. Or just like me, you will feel a sense of relief. A sense of nothing ever matter anymore. A sense of all is well.

A sense of because we are going to the end, this, too, shall pass.

Right when I realized that thought, I went up and hugged my mother. My mother shall pass. She will pass before me. Her burdern will also end before mine, and for that, I should be glad. She held my hands in hers and asked me what’s wrong with her gentle smile, and though within that moment, nothing was wrong, this was forever ingrained in my heart.

That we are all dying. That one of these days, I will continue to fight this battle alone, without my mother – my strongest comrade and commander. That it is true, as with all battles, there might be two of us this morning, but there will always be only me this evening. And I must go on.

And for God’s sake, can we foresake the right to disagreement?

You know I’m damned! I’m drunk, crazy, livid,

Whatever! But please, go to bed:

Righteous?!

I don’t want anything to do with your torpid thoughts.

The Righteous Man…, Arthur Rimbaud

It’s hard to find any better storytelling in poetry better than Arthur Rimbaud’s. It’s even harder to find any better satire in poetry than Arthur Rimbaud’s. But I will leave it at that, because I believe that in my audience, there has forever and always been an Arthur Rimbaud, and I don’t want my Arthur Rimbaud to blur out yours.

And we will leave it at that to go back to Mr. Rimbaud’s Righteous Man. A person who is damned. Who you can called a drunkard, crazy, livid, or whatever. But never Righteous. A person who demands to be free of your torpid thoughts and standards. He demands to be living, to not be framed by words, to not be treated as a dead definition. To be free.

And I wonder how many of us had, once in our lives, thought like that. I don’t want to be righteous. Call me anything you like. Use your torpid thoughts and dead definitions against me, I don’t mind. I have grown to weary of choosing side, and I don’t know if your side is a better bargain because staying this long in the battle, we both know there’s no wrong or right. So I will stay here. I will fight for something final. And stop calling me righteous, I don’t want to be a hero.

[…] the courage it took to get out of bed each

morning

to face the same things

over and over

was enormous.

the freeway life, Charles Bukowski

This is coming from the author who declared that life in America is a curious thing. I guess life everywhere, as it happens, is a curious thing. The lines above are the ending lines after the description of the incident where Mr. Bukowski had to deal with his car keep on being broken on the freeway. The courage to get out of bed each morning, of course, relates less to his car than to living the freeway life.

The life of knowing your gasoline tank breaks but have no one to call and the people behind keep pushing you out of their way. The life where all you can depend upon is some service done by some strangers whom you rarely have a chance to get to know better. And after all, why should you know them better? Perhaps after knowing you better, they will stop fixing your car. The life of thinking everything has finally gone back to normal, then God turns around and notices that he had been far too easy on you this time so he decides to pull another 90 on the freeway and break your car again.

Yest, that kind of life. The courage it took to get out of bed each morning to face the same things over and over – to face that kind of life over and over – was enormous.

And curiously enough, we all share that kind of life.

No less beautifully, and with no fear of the grave,

Let him believe in open endings, Dreams

Or endless Promenades through nights of Truth,

And may he call you to his soul and sickly limbs,

O Sister of charity, O mystery, O Death!

Sisters of Charity, Arthur Rimbaud

Where Bukowski treats life as a burden, Rimbaud treats life, and death, as an acceptance of the truth. Yes, we’ve been living. Yes, the result of the living is the dead. Yes, I have no question about that. And when the time calls for me, I will return to the home where I once was, no less beautifully, and with no fear of the grave.

It is fair to say, if you have made it this far into the podcast, that I am Charles Bukowski, and I long to be Arthur Rimbaud. I am living the freeway life, I know that we are all going to die, and to me, life is a curious thing. I muster the enormous courage required of me to wake up in the morning and face the same thing, over and over again.

But while living as Bukowski in disguise, I long for the one of these days, where I can see beauty of flowers in the eyes of the young Arthur Rimbaud. The disgust he showed for the torpid thoughts of humanity. The rebel he held against the ugly dead definition. I yearn to have the same youthful heart that holds passion and desire near and dear. A heart that fear nothing of the death and nothing of the living. A heart that finds within it the strength to believe there is beauty beneath the grotesque surface that life shows to it.

And though to me, Charles Bukowski will always has his reasons, after all, to him, “nothing matters and we know nothing matters and that matters …,” his poems sometimes are too pessimistic. And I think that we will fare better in this business call “Life” if we allow ourselves to enjoy Rimbaud’s flowers and sea-bearer here and there. And if you ask what do I mean with that, it’s easy.

You can find enough poison and strong liquor in Charles Bukowski’s works, and for that, you can only find relief in Arthur Rimbaud’s beautiful verses.

Don’t live the Bukowski life. Live the Rimbaud life. A life where no dead definition and humanity’s torpid thoughts can define you. A life where you are your own rebel.

Whether in Babylon or Bayonne –

Let them ramble, let them range

Over paper like low moans:

Graze the poem: make it strange.

On the subject of flowers: Remark, addressed to the poet, Arthur Rimbaud

I also think it is strange that I should end this episode with a quote from Rimbaud’s critique on another poet’s work. But I don’t want you to focus on the clever word play and the fiery emotion Rimbaud had put in the long remark. I only want to focus on how Rimbaud had ended the poem, and how I want to end my podcast with it. No matter where you are, physically, emotionally, literally, metaphorically, be a rebel. Let your poems ramble, let them range. Graze your poems, make them strange.

And yes, indeed, it takes an enormouse strength to get out of bed each morning to face the same thing over and over again. But there are more to living the freeway life than facing the same thing each and every morning. There are more to living that just existing and breathing.

For example, within this very moment of chaos and unrest, you can leave your freeway life. You can step out of the dark. You can leave your broken car behind and join the mass of people who are fighting for a cause higher that you.

Like Arthur Rimbaud, you can be a rebel. And there is no better time than now to be a rebel.

For all of you who had made it to the end of the episode, thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. If you want to support the podcast, which is dearly in need of support, please become a Patron on my Patreon, which is linked in the podcast description. If there is an author you want to share with me, or if you just want someone to talk, send me an email at the address in the podcast description. For more of my works, which include a poetry collection, short proses, and novels, you can check out my blog at tasteofsmallthings.com.

Once again, thank you for your patience. This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Anna Gavalda – The Cracks In Our Armor

Transcribe:

“It was so I wouldn’t get so attached, but even now it’s the same as with everything, at the end of the day I got screwed all the same.”

My Dog Is Dying, Anna Gavalda

Hi, and welcome back to the weekly podcast against depression, Radio of Resistance. First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the somewhat lackluster episode last week, where I straight out just read a chapter from my novel without generating any new content. So for that, this week, I will be diving into a new author.

Anna Gavalda – there’s so much to talk about her, there’s almost nothing to talk about her. The Kindle Store almost has no English translation of her works. The Audible store is even worse. What can I say about the very first French author that I read and love so deeply, so passionately? The very first French author that introduced me to the romantic and the subtle sadness of humanity within French literature?

Of course, to some other, well-established readers, the first French novels they read must be Proust, or Albert Camus, or Guy De Maupassant. Who am I, then, amidst the well-established readers, to go on and say that I understand, that I have the right to claim a love for French literature with my limited knowledge regarding the above authors?

But I don’t really care about the nameless and the name. All I know is that the first French novel I read as a child is “35 kilograms of hope” by Anna Gavalda, and it brought me down to the little tears and the little sadness that later on, go on to console my solitude and depression. What seemingly to be a novel aims towards children, even after so many years, still has a strong effect on me. The kind of effect that “The Little Prince” would have on any adults.

And the kind of effect that speaks for my love for Anna Gavalda.

I have always thought that French literature was the kind of literature that lingered. Like an addiction. You try to run from it, hide from it, push it away. Yet in your most desperate moment, when it’s just you and you alone in your dark hole, there it is, the French literature that you avoided, coming to you, consoling you, tucking you in a blanket made of dreams and faint hopes.

I remembered at the time I was munching on Anna Gavalda’s “35 kilograms of hope,” there was very few of her works in Vietnam. It was about – what – 10 years ago maybe? Or even longer. I went to the bookstore, searching in vain for her name, and was quite proud of myself when I collected her only other book at the bookstore at the moment, “I wish someone was waiting for me somewhere.”

There were stories to cry for and stories to remember. The story I remembered from that short story collection by Anna Gavalda was a piece about a truck driver who, in the foggy morning and a hurry to get to where he needed to be, made the wrong turn and thus, caused a series of accidents on the highway.

That night, he went home and saw the accidents on the news. Mortified by what he had done, he told his wife that he was going to confess. And his wife’s reply, which is forever engraved in my mind, was, “What would your confession be helping anyone?”

Yes, because he was a father of two, or three, children at the time. He was the main source of income in the house. And even if he was going to confess, there’s no saving what he had done. The people he had accidentally killed won’t be miraculously resurrected. The mistakes he had done won’t be miraculously fixed in patches and bandages of an apology.

Indeed, what would his confession be helping anyone?

And that, unfortunately, is the burden that both the victim and the perpetrator have to bear.

Recently, I have been watching the documentary series, “I Am A Killer,” on Netflix. There is this one episode that lingers with me. Of course, with so heavy a topic, every episode is supposed to linger on everyone’s mind. But this one episode is different. This one episode is about a perpetrator who, not so surprisingly, is also a victim. A murderer who had beaten his grandmother, the only person accepted him after his term in prison, with a baseball bat, and refused to admit his crime for almost 20 years.

The guilt. The sorrow. The lingering pain. The suffering souls. Everything everything.

And as the interviewed man cried on tape, I hear Anna Gavalda’s story all over again:

“You know, it’s good that he confessed. But what can his confession do? What can his apology do? It certainly cannot bring his grandmother back. It certainly cannot amend what he had done.”

20 years. The one he blamed the murder on had already died. His grandmother, if you believe in the spiritual world, might have been born into another life. Outside the prison wall, everything just keeps on moving on its wheels. And here he is, the perpetrator, the victim of the abuse from the adults who should be protecting him as a child, had finally gathered enough courage to step out of his coward self and said, “Yes, I did it. I killed her. I had beaten her to dead. Over some crack cocaine.”

And how much courage – how much strength – does a human need, indeed, to admit on tape, to himself and to the world, the horrendous crime he had done?

Obviously, it won’t amend anything. On a more realistic note, it might have been adding some more salt to the wounds, both inside the victims’ family’s heart and the perpetrator’s.

But the remaining ringing note as the confession comes to an end is a difference being made. A sort of distorted peace. A calmness within the soul of a man who had wished for things to be different, but his wish was not stronger than the crack cocaine. A smile. A tear. An acceptance.

And that is where the ending of Anna Gavalda’s story lies. An acceptance.

The man had caused a series of accidents. Many lives had been lost due to his carelessness. And his late apology and confession might not be helping anyone, but there will remain an acceptance.

You know, the saying always goes, Forgive and forget. I had lived by it. Tried to believe in it even. And after so many years, I finally realize how heavy a toll it is on the soul of both the victim and the perpetrator. You don’t always have to forgive and forget. You can be forgiving without forgeting. You can be forgeting without forgiving. And at the end of the day, you can simply accept that the thing happened. Whatever the thing was, it happened. You can’t change it, you can’t amend it, you can’t let it go.

The only thing you are capable to do is accept it.

And perhaps, sometimes, accepting it is not so bad at all.

So, “The Cracks in Our Armor.” I had wanted to talk about Anna Gavalda’s “Life, Only Better,” but as life would have it, I left the book in Canada and I only have a copy of “The Cracks in Our Armor” with me on my Kindle. So I will start the discussion with a strong encouragement: If you have a copy of “Life, Only Better,” good for you. If you don’t, then what are you waiting for? Go and buy it right now! Links in the description and all that stuff.

Just kidding, there’s no link whatsoever in this week’s episode except a link to my blog and my email, as usual. The book is on Amazon, or in your nearest bookstore, wherever you feel more comfortable. But please do get it. I don’t normally recommend people to purchase the books I read because who knows, different tastes. But for Anna Gavalda, she is a different case.

The case where her books are truly the gifts that keep on giving.

So go on and get a copy of “Life, Only Better.” With all my heart, I hope the book will bring you the same kind of gentle miracle it had brought me.

But back to our main topic, “The Cracks in Our Armor.”

With the first short story in this collection, I felt that it was somewhat lackluster. The usual strong and brutal female image – in contrast to every feminine values that society has for women. The life wisdom. The loss. The giving. The lesson. All of it had grown to be so familiar to me, perhaps, and I had thought Ms. Gavalda’s magic had lost its appeal on me.

But I was wrong.

“You think so? But you are just as responsible as he is for the situation, and surely even more so, because I expect you’ve tried to leave him already, haven’t you?”

“Two hundred times.”

“So you went back, two hundred times, too.”

“Yes.”

The Cracks in Our Armor, Anna Gavalda

Leaving him. Getting yourself addicted to something else instead of a hopeless love. Making yourself busy. All of it is for the sake of returning back to his side. Two hundred times.

“I’m afraid to leave him. I’m afraid of solitude. I’m afraid I’ll regret it, and miss him. I’m afraid I’ll never live so fully again.”

The Cracks in Our Armor, Anna Gavalda

I remembered I once had a love like that. No one was at fault. I just refused to let go, and he just refused to hang on. After all, both him and I, we were too afraid of the loneliness, the solitude, the regret, the loss – whatever you want to call it – that we would be leaving behind when we let go of each other’s hand.

My therapist says that there is a chance I believe I do not deserve better. And I refuse to believe in what she believes. Don’t get me wrong, she is a kind, gentle soul and by far, the best therapist I had.

Nevertheless, it was, and never will be, because I believe I do not deserve better. It is, rather, the fear of losing what we already had.

My favorite song composer, Trịnh Công Sơn, in an interview about loss and death, has put it better in words: “I don’t fear death itself. I fear losing everything I have ever had in this life. That is the most devastating thing in death.”

I won’t say that the cracks in our armor will be equal to what Trịnh Công Sơn feared in death. But if there is one universal fear, I think it is what Trịnh Công Sơn has put into verses and beautiful songs: The fear of losing everything.

“If I had known I loved him that much, I would have loved him even more.”

The Cracks in Our Armor, Anna Gavalda

Indeed, if only we had known better. If the protagonist had known better, she would have loved her suicidal husband more. If the husband had known better, perhaps it would save him from being suicidal. If Mathilde had known better, she might have been able to leave at the 201th time, and not turning back. If only, and if only.

The gripping fear of it – of knowing afterward, that if only things had been different, if only we had chosen a different path – grasps onto our heartstring, pulls on it, tears it apart, and seeing it broken, the fear laughs. Because it had won the war.

But that’s not everything.

Sure, the fear of losing everything is this big and other-worldly thing we might not have the chance to overcome. And even if we do have the chance, who are we to say that we will not choose the opposite direction? Yes, sir, I know I could have done better. No, sir, I prefer to immerse in this sorrow.

Because when the sorrow is at its highest, the love is at deepest.

For example, the protagonist in the short story whose quote I used to start this week’s podcast with. He had the chance to leave the dog by the roadside. He had the chance to keep on living in the house with his wife, who was obssessed with sorrow and cleaning. He had the chance to leave. There are many chances and choices. Even after he had adopted the dog, he still refuses to get attached to him by not giving him the name.

But we are far too familiar with the stories of the nameless and the name. And who are we to judge if the choices made are the right ones or the wrong ones.

It is, after all, always a matter of choices. And the choices we made are the cracks in our armor. And like all the other antiques, or like the golden-plated cracks in the Japanese porcelain arts, the cracks in our armor are what make us beautiful.

So wherever you are, whatever you do, no matter what situation and shithole you are in, make the choices. Don’t give up. Keep pushing. You don’t have the right to rid the ones who love you of someone they love. And it might be cruel to you right now to hear this, but let the fear slips in. Let your armor cracks. Do you know what that’s called?

That’s called living.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Jose Saramago – All the Names

Transcribe:

I was always working steady
But I never called it art
I got my shit together
Meeting Christ and reading Marx

Hello, and welcome to the Radio of Resistance. I am your host, Thanh Dinh. And from the inability to have a more refreshing, welcoming opening line, I, as you may or may not have noticed, used the same pattern from the previous episode.

And to the keen ears, Yes, it’s Leonard Cohen’s song, “Happens to the Heart,” from his most recent posthumous album, “Thanks for the Dance.”

I should really dissect the album, giving how much I am obsessed with it. But as it happens, I spend too little time on talking about Mr. Cohen on his episode. After all, did I ever want to?

But don’t let the quotes fool you. And after today’s episode, you might see that the above quotes work extremely well for this week’s talk on Jose Saramago’s All the Names.

So, All the Names. Among the literary professional readers and watchers, the title brings about a somewhat foggy memory. The name of the author is certainly familiar, yes. But the title, the title sounds strange. Among the casual readers, perhaps there is a better chance of recognizing it. Something along the line of, Yeah, of course I had read that, while you try to push Jose Saramago’s more notable work, “Blindness,” under the blanket.

To those who have never read it, the book is indeed about all the names, all the lives, and standing in the middle of it is Senhor Jose, who is always workind steady but never call it arts. The Senhor Jose who defy the rules and the system. The Senhor Jose whose name is never remembered. The Senhor Jose who has lived through more than 2/3 of his life, if he is unlucky, or ½ of his life, if he is lucky than most of us, and decided that, Oh, it is time to leave or live and die this way.

To those who have read it, I’m sorry if the above description doesn’t fit with your impression of the book. After all, who am I to judge? Is the book a hit? Was it ever? So is it a flop? Sir, if it was a flop, Jose Saramago will not bear the title of Nobel Prize Winner for Literature.

Despite Milan Kundera’s warning, Must a book always about its author, I still maintain my right to suspect that, Yes, indeed, All the Names carry a more personal note to Mr. Jose Saramago than his otherwise more famous works. Perhaps because the character’s name is also Jose. Perhaps because the internal dialogues of Senhor Jose reviews too much about a life of rebellion. Or, perhaps because Senhor Jose is far more relatable to a human beings. A fictional character, with a will to live, and not only live in its essential sense, but he takes living up a further extend.


A revolve against the absurd. A revolve against the routine daily tasks of a clerk, who has never been put up for a promotion despite all the efforts he had committed to it. A revolve to die and a revolve to be reborn.

Yes, in answering the question of whether to leave or to live and die this way, he chose to leave.

I often figure it to be a strange coincidence, when Mr. Jose builds within his novel “All the Name” a world of ceiling-high shelves, separated only by the world of the living and the darker world of the dying. A world where perfection is achieved; from a perfect hierarchy of clerks and Registrar, to the perfect, symmetrical physical settings of that perfect hierarchy. A world where the only way out is simple: to disobey. To revolve. To fight. To take down the absolute power of the force that is ruling us. To strip off each and every layer of that power, and see for the first time in our lives, who we really are.

Often times, who we really are will not match who we want to be. And almost always, who we really are will never come close to who the world perceives us to be.

And that is totally alright. As my mother, and her ancestors, says, The world won’t pay you a dime when you die. That is true with Senhor Jose. Though he did receive salary from the Central Registry of Birth and Death, he finds, as he sees himself for the first time through the thin sheet of the unknown woman, who he really is far more expensive than the Central Registry of Birth and Death can ever afford.

To the point that Senhor Jose follows the Adrianne’s thread at the expense of his health. To the point of catching the flu and take a day off from his perfect attendance record. To the point of seeing himself in the mirror and says:

“It doesn’t even look like me, he thought, and yet he had probably never looked more like himself.”

And thus, of course, is everything that matters.

In an internal dialogue with himself, Senhor Jose said,

“That seems absurd to me, It is absurd, but it’s about time I did something absurd in my life.”

Now, this would be the perfect time to bring my limited knowledge of existentialism and my one-sided passion for Albert Camus and his school of philosophy to burst out of the cage and present itself here in the form of a quote or a short analysis. Something along the line of, Yes, the absurd is the inspiration of all.

And indeed it is. The passion to live, knowing that living means suffering, is absurd passion. The passion to define gods – all kind of gods, from all religion – to be the purest of being, and yet begging them for humanity’s desires, is an absurd passion.

And who is to say that Senhor Jose, who knows that he can’t beat the system, yet keeps on cheating it, trampling upon it, resisting it to be who he really is at the age of 50, is not an absurd one?

My beloved, the only actor who can make me cry with a shrug of his shoulders, a turn of his head, a slow blink, said: It is hard to live and at the same time, be safe.

He said the word safe as his lips curled up into a drowsy smile, with a tiniest glaze formed up on his eyes, and the voice – the gentlest of voice – broke a little. Yes, sir, I said safe in its most literal and metaphorical senses. No, sir, I am not lonely.

Unlike Senhor Jose, who chose to venture out in the night, defeated the system, and followed his own Adrianne’s thread to leave the jail of the Central Registry, my unknown lover chose to stay. He chose to live and die this way.

You know, I used to feel lonely, he said, I know what lonely meant. And after a while, just like everything else, you got used to it.

I never know of a sadder phrase. After a while, just like everything else, you got used to it. To accomodate. To compromise. To live and at the same time, be safe.

I never meant to put it in a way that my beloved is a coward. And if you think so, you will be wrong in so many ways. No, he was, and forever will be, a fighter. A fighter who tried to beat the system and failed. A fighter who, in spite of failing, got up and tried again. A fighter who has been to many wars, who sees his effort rolling down the slope, takes a breath and walks down, starting his journey all over again.

He is a little bit like Sisyphus. There will be no tragedy like the life of Sisyphus. And there will be no heroes who are as strong as him.

So guess what? I am reaching the point where, just like many previous episodes, I will say that, There’s no wrong choice.

Whether it’s Senhor Jose who chose to leave, my beloved actor who chose to live and die this way, or Sisyphus who takes on his torment without any complaint – the torment of seeing his hopes die – there are none of us who can be other worldly enough to say who is wrong and who is right.

As Albert Camus said, One must imagines that Sisyphus is happy.

And more often than not, I would like to imagine that Thành Lộc is happy. That in his solitude – I don’t call it loneliness, because people always connect that word with some sad innuendoes and connotation – in his solitude, Thành Lộc, like Sisyphus, finds in him a hero, fighting against gods’ punishment, and be happy in the fight.

Talking about Thành Lộc requires talking about his acting. Of course, to many of my listeners, the name does not ring any bells, not even the slightest chime. But Thành Lộc constitutes my childhood and even more, a cathedral of arts whose influence is everywhere in my stories. I have watched many of his dramas, and if God allows it, I hope to watch many, many more.

But the only scene ingrained in my mind is forever of the first drama I watched 10 years ago in the theater. An ending scene of a male prostitute, who, due to his love for the one he considers his brother, his family, agrees to seduce another man. As the male prostitute gives the other character what he wants, he says, And this will be the end of my debt to you. A breaking of the voice. A shrug of the shoulders. A pair of eyes, glistening, drowning in sadness and darkness. A hope that dies too quickly. A love story that hasn’t even find a glimmer of chance to bloom yet.

And the male prostitute walks away. The small shoulders under the dim lighting of the ending scene shakes a little when his lover says, Wait.

What else do you want, the male prostitute says.

Anh thương em.

To my listeners who have never heard a word of Vietnamese before, I long to have the opportunity to translate to you how heartbroken those words meant.

Contrary to many translations, “thương” does not simply signify love. “Thương” is when you consider the other person pititful, but that person does not want your pity. “Thương” is when you love the other person like any other ordinary people will love, but the fall is too hard and the wounds are too deep. “Thương” is when you have never done anything wrong, and one day love, just like any other days, decide to betray you.

Anh thương em. Because I know I hurt you far too deep and there will be no recovery from that. Anh thương em. Because I want, so ardently, to say that it was never my intention to hurt you. Anh thương em. Because I know my words mean nothing to you, but somewhere in my broken heart, ridden with blood and open scars, I want you to stay.

Anh thương em, because I know that no matter what I do, you will leave anyways.

And the moment the back of the prostitute was shone upon by the dim light of the theatre, the light which was slowly fading away as he bowed his head, a shaking hand on the door, a hand in his pants’ pocket – in that precise moment, seeing the disappearing broad shoulders, I finally understood what solitude truly means.

You know, my dear listeners, this is quite a depressing and personal episode. I guess when we are in our own world of solitude and despair, we turn to whatever that can keep us going. From the clacking of the pots and pans, to the sound of the wind hitting the wind chime on a summer night. The suffering of humans in the consistency of living, breathing, and waking up every day, it will not ends. So like how Albert Camus refers to the case of Sisyphus. One must imagine one is happy.

To conclude this episode, I will read to you the song that inspired one of my novel. A Vietnamese song, of course, because my love for my country never ends. Here is a recital of Dù Tình Yêu Đã Mất – And Even If Love Was Lost:

And even if love was lost,

I beg for your passionate kiss once only,

Like how we were in the old days, drowned with the memories

Of separating days, as I watch you leave.

And even if love was lost,

I beg to hold onto the agony,

Watching you leave, knowing in my heart,

That we will be apart, forever be apart.

You, embracing another stranger, you have forgotten

Our promises. Leaving me nothing besides sufferings.

And even if our torn love was lost,

Never to be returned,

I still wish for you to be happy with someone who will love you,

Forever love you,

As I have loved you.

And my life is filled with sorrow,

A life of toil, traveling light across the strange countries,

You, embracing another stranger, you have forgotten

Our promises. Leaving me nothing besides sufferings.

And I still love you, as I have always loved you.

For updates, stories, and poems, you can follow my Facebook page, The Bipolar Psyche’s Books, or follow my blog at tasteofsmallthings.com. If you have a story to tell – it doesn’t need to be amazing, awe-inspiring, or anything – please kindly submit it to the email address in the podcast’s description.

Thank you for listening. This is Thanh Dinh. And you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

Podcast: Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Transcribe:

“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”

How many of you, my dearest listeners, recognize that memorable quote, from somewhere, spoken by someone, and taken too literally by some of you, or all of you for that matter?

Hi, this is Thanh Dinh, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. Another boring episode, perhaps, where we continue to defend ourselves and defy against the boredom of death and solitude.

But enough with that, let’s get it on. The show, I mean.

So, Milan Kundera, and his most celebrated work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. What’s in it for us, and what’s in it for this episode?

As you may, or may not, have figured it out, I will not go too deep into analyzing the Kundera’s beautiful work. That would be too subjective of me, and would strip you off the right to create a personal, unique meaning of the work for yourself.

I will only go into the specific quotes that impressed me while I lie awake in the sleepless night, drunk on Clonazepam and can’t figure out whether I’m dreaming, or I’m living.

“Tereza’s mother never stopped reminding her that being a mother meant sacrificing everything. Her words had the ring of truth, backed as they were by the experience of a woman who had lost everything because of her child. Tereza would listen and believe that being a mother was the highest value in life and that being a mother was a great sacrifice. If a mother was Sacrifice personified, then a daughter was Guilt, with no possibility of redress.”

Yes, who would have thought that I would start this week’s episode with such a heavy quotes. The previous episode on Leonard Cohen was filled with love. Broken love, of course, but love nonetheless.

But don’t let the quote fool you. This week’s episode, too, will also be about love. Not the exact kind of love that one should see so often in popular movie, but then again, it is love, nonetheless.

So indeed, Milan Kundera is right. Being a mother meant sacrificing everything. And the ring of truth will forever make a home in our hearts. And based on what Milan Kundera write, when the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.

And I, also, am backed up by my experience of watching, from the innocence of age, how my mother had to struggle and lose everything, so that I can be a survivor. A useless survivor, you may find, but a survivor, nonetheless.

I remember listening to Kundera’s work, and the narrator said:

“But when the strong were too weak to hurt the weak, the weak had to be strong enough to leave.”

I thought about my mother, and all the other mothers, who had far too often in their life encounter the strong. Not the strong that will protect them from the storms, the hurricane, the tsunami, and all those disasters, metaphorically or literally. But the strong which had destroyed them, their freedom, their happiness. Their everything.

Should the strong should be regarded as such, when they exert their strength not on saving the weak, but on hurting the weak instead? And why is the strong supposed to hurt the weak? Who sets the rules? And who will be the judges for when such rules are violated.

Yes, the weak had to be strong enough to leave. That is true, of course, forever without a doubt. But the weak has another kind of strength. And it will be opposite to Kundera’s statement.

The weak has the strength to stay.

I remember reading Alice Munro’s short stories collection, Runaway, in which the wife of the famous poet wrote in her letter to the female protagonist, in which she apologized for mistaking her freedom for her happiness.

Did the husband abuse her? Yes. Did she have the chance to run away? Of course. Not only did she have the chance, she was on the bus, ready at any moment to start a new life.

And yet, she chose to stay.

As my friend said, it is simply a matter of choice. And not only the female protagonist, we, too, are surrounded by choices.

The choices where the strong doesn’t have to be strong, the weak doesn’t have to be weak, and nothing will forever be ingrained with some fucked-up absolute value by us, who always think that we know better.

I want to stress again how freedom is not always equal to happiness.

You will find that instead of happiness, freedom will sometimes equal to the worst of us. The evil in us. The darkness in us. The emptiness abyss that begs us to jump down with its alluring siren songs and illusions.

Natsume Soseki once wrote in his famous work, “You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.”

And quite agreed on that himself, Milan Kundera said in his work, “Happiness is the longing for repetition.”

But there is no repetition. Life is a show, and as a show, it must go on. On the worst day of a bursting summer, or on the longing nightmare of a winter night, we wish, Oh, him who has not once return to us in our haunting sleeplessness, let the moment repeat.

The moment we met. The moment Tereza weakened Tomas’s soul with love and not jealousy. The moment Ophelia lain her love bare in Hamlet’s hands. The moment lovers are just lovers, and not having to be define as something that goes against us.

My dearest friend once said, If you have read the Bible in its entirety, you will, fervently, want to burn it all.

I didn’t know how to reply to him at that time, seeing him so depressed and stressed out by the hometown that is too far deep into the hole of violence, not of its free will.

I wonder if God wants him to believe in Him or not, but being as I am now, I would tell him. That we are surrounded by the immense solitude of our freedom. That under the privilege and power of freedom, we have the right to choose. That perhaps under that freeing influence, reading the entirety of the Bible does not necessarily equal to burning it.

My words will always have a different meaning to him, no matter what I say. But my dearest friend, without an ocean and a pandemic separating us, I would rather be the wrong one in our conversation.

You know, only one of us is real, it certainly isn’t me.

Moving on from the somewhat personal conversation that, taking advantage of the anonymity of the podcast, I have imposed on my friend and on you, let’s talk about the beauty of Ophelia.

Since the very beginning of laying my eyes on Ophelia, I have always considered her as the symbol of the weak. The core of feminine. The foolish heart that had spoken, and unfortunate for her, the mind refused to interrupt.

Rimbaud, in the work that excellently portrayed the final strength of Ophelia, wrote:

Because a breath carried strange sounds

To your restless soul, twisting your long hair,

Your heart listened to Nature’s song

In grumbling trees and nocturnal sighs,

Because deafening voices of wild seas

Broke your infant breast, too human and too soft;

Because one April morning, a pale, handsome knight,

A poor fool, sat silent at your feet!

I hope the authority will not banned this episode for its lengthy quotes from beautiful works of writers who, once upon a time, shared the suffering of living on this very earth, shone upon by the blazing flame of the sun and the serene beauty of moonlight.

But then, how else can we talk about Ophelia without mentioning Rimbaud’s words of worshipping her?

The weakest of the weak, the strongest of the strong, Ophelia, burdened with the illusions of death and love, is, in Rimbaud’s eyes, the proof of what strength really is.

No, she did not survive. She did not even have enough physical and emotional strength to revenge her father’s death, to which her lover is the cause. And yet, the ever innocent, melancholy, betrayed by illusions Ophelia, “the restless soul” wandering about in the night, is the freeing heart that is cradled by Mother Nature.

Only Ophelia knows the beauty of the soft breeze of the night, the gentle sound of the flower petal cracked open by the first light of dawn, the nocturnal cacophony Mother Nature sings to bless her, Ophelia, the purest of soul.

And thus, all the vengeance that Hamlet, and any of us bear within ourselves, seems so small. In the world of the dramatic vengeance journey, where Hamlet represents the thirst to find what it means to be, or not to be, Ophelia bares her soul in front of him, ever the Goddess of Grace and Forgiveness that, by the crack of the eyelid, Hamlet failed to appreciate.

There is, always, a longing Ophelia in our heart. The crazy Ophelia. The disillusioned Ophelia. The wounded Ophelia and the weeping Ophelia, who cradles our heart with the utmost care.

And thus, as we lay sleepless on our soft mattress made of wounds and battles, we have survived, may we have, in our heart, the strength to listen to our inner Ophelia.

Or better yet, may we have the strength to let our hearts speak and the strength to subdue the voice of our mind.

I remember the time I started writing “Strong,” obviously the title needs some care and attention, but let’s not let that trifling matter disturb us from moving on. I once wrote in the first chapter:

He looks at me; his brows furrow impatiently. His gaze stops at my eyes for a little bit longer than normal – the kind of normal no one wants but has to cope with anyways – then he smiles. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to. I wanted to tell him that, but I didn’t. And as years go by, I am less afraid of what I have done than what I didn’t do.

Can a kiss heal anything, though?

He reaches out to the window panes and opens them. Outside, the stars are fading away, just like whatever we have in this room, this very moment.

You know, I heard a story.

What story?

That the stars that we see right now, they are already dead.

So?

Don’t you think it’s lonely? People only see them when they died shining. What about when they are suffering? What about when they are happy? Or when they have an exciting story to share but the only living being there is just rocks and dirt?

But we appreciate their beauty, though, right? Like right now, we can see that they are very beautiful.

I sit up, push him over, and lie down on his stomach. Somehow, my body is all heavy, and I just want to sleep forever on his warm belly. Amidst the drowsiness and the border of dreams, I hear him talking to me, ever so soft, ever so gentle. My darling, darling, darling –

Honey, it’s not about us. It’s all about them.

Honey, feel it? This is warmth. This is a heartbeat. This is living.

Honey, have you ever realized what a marvelous coincidence it was when we are the only living things in this vast universe of dying stars?

Honey, humans are beautiful.

But honey, oh, honey, humans are extremely lonely.

And honey, if God really does love us as what they say in the bible, how can he make humans such lonesome creatures?

Honey, honey, honey –

Honey, do forgive me. I tried, I failed.

The first chapter, as you may have guessed from the above excerpt, didn’t end on a positive note. Do forgive me, I tried, I failed. But please trust that despite the unwelcoming first chapter, the continuation from that bad note is a journey of magic and happiness.

What I meant to say, borrowing words and phrases from works of famous authors and the beauty of Ophelia, is that, humans are extremely lonely.

I once heard a story. The satellite on Mars sings Happy Birthday to itself. I remember, after hearing that story, my heart was squeezed into dried-up tears, which tasted like sadness mixed with bitterness.

The stars we see are, perhaps, all dying. And the satellite on Mars will forever be there by itself, celebrating a birthday no one will ever know. And perhaps sadness will forever be the ruling queen.

But all of that, all of the sad facts and the depressing stories, does not stop us from living.

That’s why, at the end of the day, do realize that how strong you are just simply by waking up in the morning.

To conclude this week’s episode, here are some favorite verses from the song I’m listening to recently. Of course, it’s Leonard Cohen again, and I doubt that you will hear a lot him on this season of the podcast:

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine.

May we all find a love that gives us shelter from the anger and the tiredness. The love that warms us. The love that forgive us and let us off the hook. Be it another human’s love, or the love that we find, one day, blooming in our heart, may we all find that love, and may we always be on the better side of the treaty.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.