Procrastinative Introspective

The smells of Armor-All and WD-40 intermingle in his shirt, as he has spent the sunlight wiping through his elements (plastic, metal, wood) in an attempt to sanctify the moist, muddy and sunlit profanity that is his sanctuary. The fumes mix into the air he has been breathing the whole time, giving him hallucinations of a timeless day, where one tells by feel whether or not it is the opportune moment to stop something and begin another; nothing tells him to stop, so he continues, each little rearrangement in the room becoming more and more therapeutic. He has, as the Easterners would like to call it, reached a state of void: no other thoughts bother him save the one right in front of him–first purple, then red, then down an autochthonous, now deceptive rainbow. This work is almost play, and as such, he delights in it, intoxicated by the colors and chemicals all around, aesthesizing him.

Little by little, however, as the void begins to wear thin, reality begins to sink in once again, the way it always does right before our stories end. Thoughts of reality begin to creep in alongside:

ihavetofinishthechores
ihavetomakesuremybrainisprepared
ihavetostayuptonight
ihavetowakeupearly
ihavetostopstaring
ihavetostopreading
ihavetostopwriting
ihavetostopthinkingofotherthings
ihavetostartpreparingmypiece
ihavetostartpreparingmypeace
ihavetofinishmywork
IHAVETOFINISHMYWORK

The moon is at its peak when it dawns on him that he has not started work.

Divine Mistakes

So intensely she sharpens them.
A warrior destined for battle.

Six wooden allies of escalating
darkness lie brave on the floor.

In scribbles, she salutes her life
of speech. Yet soon, with five pudgy fingers

she’ll learn–wedged between syllable and sense,
is the spell of what breaks and is broken.

This is child’s divine act of courage:
the first word misspelled.

–“Pencils”, Dinah Roma

Reminds me of Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” talk. Especially the last stanza.

Creativity, after all, is nothing short of divine, one of those few and far between spiritual experiences that can coax the most stoic and boring agnostic into at least entertaining the possibility of a/God/s out there.

The problem with the world today is that it tries to give a specific term to every concept floating around us. This becomes problematic because our vocabularies have such a hard time keeping up. Therefore, we have people claiming to be agnostics and atheists, when in fact they’re only after, say, the oh-so-fallible-yet-oh-so-absolute churches  or the oh-so-rigidly-prescribed-yet-oh-so-powerful-when-done-on-a-personal-level prayers. Combine this with any listener’s penchant for labeling people around them with whatever prior experience they have had with the term (never mind how much or how little), and you have a recipe for a miscommunicative disaster that is all the more disastrous in the sense that it simultaneously implodes inside the so-called atheist/agnostic and the listener, with each tumultuous implosion building up inside each person until their combined energy manifests itself in some sort of interpersonal explosion.

After all, who would not want to believe in creativity?

Folksy Talesy, Bruno Bettelheim, and Truth

Been reading Bruno Bettellheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales lately. It amuses me in the sense that it reinforces my preference for using fairy tales and other folk narratives as selections in my classes, especially with the younger children.

True enough, there is a power in folk literature that I cannot define, only readily observe. I have this habit of asking students who have just taken my exams about them. Consider the following exchanges, which always start with a “So, how was the exam?” from me:

4th yr HS: “Sir, ang hirap ng (insert test section here)!”

1st yr HS: “OK lang Sir.”

Grade 3: “Sir ang ganda ng story! I want more stories like that one!” (referring to the attached reading selection)

Either these stories are indeed so much more powerful than we expect, or the kids are hungrier than ever for stories that do not, as the book claims, “dumb down” their elements because they are under the premise that “children’s literature” should not only comprise children’s-level diction, but children’s level plots as well.

Another thing that strikes me as funny every time I go teach a folk tale is that for some reason, I often get so enthusiastic (sometimes, even nitpick-y) about our discussions, to the point when at the last “So, any questions?” before we end any the topic, one or two students will raise their hands and ask, “Sir, is this story true?” Can’t blame them for that, really, as characters like William Tell and Arachne (yes, strangely enough, even Arachne; must be because I used the story to teach about Greek and Latin roots in scientific terms) will really be so much more “colorful” and “3D” (things the older folk didn’t really give too much of a damn about back then) in their heads if they were real.

I, forever the student of magical realism, am loathe to say “No, they are not true,” outright. I find it a surreal moment of inspiration, in fact, when I gave them the answer I now give them every time, whether grade school or high school:

“It’s not really important whether it’s true or not, what’s more important is what lessons we can learn from it.”

Let that sink in for a moment, if it hasn’t already done so. Nowadays, it’s something I tend to teach to every grade level I get, with the high school kids getting an extra “This is because there is a school of thought that imagination comes from our experiences with the things and people around us” to spice things up.

Teaching people to look at everything as a learning experience. Now THAT’S a subject that I could teach forever.

S/He

(for Rem and the rest of IV-Tolkien, as well as every student who has ever gone through this)

He smoothes his short skirt down and adjusts his bra while on his way to the school canteen. He never knew that bra straps could be so itchy on the shoulders, which he leans slightly back because there is nothing in his chest, save, perhaps, for his thumping heart, keeping it in place. At least the skirt feels much, much better, much “freer” than the pants he wears to school everyday. Still, he has to smooth it down every so often, to keep it from hiking up his thighs too much.

He takes a sideward glance at his classmate, who is looking very laid back in her football jersey and baggy pants. This assignment was waaay too easy for the girls: dressing up in guy’s clothes is a normal thing in our society. Not so much for the guy who opts, or is opted, to wear a girl’s clothes, a sentiment immediately affirmed when one of the younger students points an accusing finger, complete with an accusatory wail:

“Hahaha, bakla o!”

He is in no way a homosexual, however. Yes, he has doubted this, asked this to himself before, but he is never more sure of where he stands in the game of genders than he is at this very moment. Ironic, then, that the higher he holds his head up, the more gay he looks. “Pride” comes to his mind, along with thoughts of the sheer amount of ridicule these people have to go through everyday, just so they can live their lives.

We asked for it, he concedes to himself.

What were they thinking, being all a-jitter with anticipation for the activity? Was the chance to laugh at each other’s awkwardness worth being so awkward yourself? It was inevitable in any case, he muses. It was a class endeavor, a culmination for their week of lectures on Feminism and gendering, with a footnote to Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice” in all its wild-woman, crossdressing babaylan glory.

It is at that moment, as well, when he understands: seeing the perceived roles of men and women in society outside of the pockmarked, chalk-marked blackboard’s lectures, seeing that while sex is biological while gender is anything but, and seeing that sometimes the clothes might just make the man as much as everything else does.

He understands, and it is all that matters.