Learning the Meaning of Father’s Day from the Prousts

There is no man of literature that can describe the most humbling father-son relationship than French great novelist Marcel Proust and his father, Adrien Proust.

Two days before 26 November 1903, Adrien experienced a massive stroke attack while teaching in the medical school and eventually passed away, leaving his son so devastated. Of his father’s passing, Marcel wrote in a letter with a heightened feeling of being a failing son:

“Papa was a very sweet and simple man. I tried not to live up to his expectations for I am aware that I am always the dark spot in his life. To show him my affection, […] Other people have some sort of ambition to console them. I have none.”

At the time, Marcel was still in deep disappointment with himself because the novel he was working on, “Jean Santeuil” (an unfinished novel divided in three volumes which was never published during his lifetime).

With his father so hardworking and celebrated as an epidemiologist succeeding to combat cholera plague in Paris, Marcel saw himself as a shadow that never ever surpassed his father’s achievement and strong personality. He had developed a type of Inferiority Complex.

And the disappointment of Adrien was magnified when he learned Marcel failed to have a certain career.  Marcel was ‘only’ able to take up pens and write every night, living like  bat. Marcel’s younger brother, Robert, luckily (or sadly?) went on to study medicine, just like their father, which was quite a source of frustration to Marcel.

Adrien saw Robert’s academic and career attainment soared at medical school. Though he knew Marcel was not interested in attending medical school, as a father he suggested him to join a law firm.

But Marcel knew what he wanted. He write in one of his letters to his father:

“My dearest Papa,

I have kept hoping that I would be finally able to go on with the literary and philosophical studies for which I believe myself fit. As for a law office, I assure you I wouldn’t stick it out for three days.

I still believe that anything I do outside philosophy and literature would be just so much lost time…”

Despite the sibling rivalry, Robert showed full support of Marcel’s literary pursuit and even helped edit the elder brother’s manuscripts after Marcel’s untimely death.

Aren’t we all familiar with this situation as children?

We at times are in the unfortunate position of a child who still wants to devote him/herself to their father. Yet, s/he also has his/ her own stance in life, defending what s/he is,  what s/he wants to pursue in life, whom to marry, etc.

Seeing Marcel defend bravely his literary pursuit, I know that every child, including me, must never be afraid of expressing their minds or opinions even though often children are overshadowed by fathers.

So if you think you cannot make your father proud in HIS own perspective/ stand point, why not trying to make him proud in YOUR own way?

Marcel might be just a sickly, fragile son with little or no aptitude or knack for medicine or laws but I bet, should Adrien know how much Marcel his son is now admired for his literary achievement and how human race still celebrates his works and brilliance even after his death, the disappointed father might turn proud and accept Marcel as a whole human being. (*/)

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If Jakarta Sinks…

Asian Boss has asked several young Jakartans what they think of the recent discourse of moving the capital to a new city outside Java Island.

If I were one of them, I’d say:

“It should’ve done long time ago. It has always been a debate since the last administration but nothing occcured.

Moving the center of economic and administrative affairs from Jakarta (formerly called Batavia) to a new city in Borneo Island.actually not only involves shifts of physical positions but also shifts of paradigm in the mind of our policy makers.

For more than 70 years, Indonesia has been too Javacentric. Seriously. We have had almost all of our presidents from Javanese families. The first president is Soekarno or Kusno Sosordihardjo, which is a very Javanese name. Suharto is also a Javanese-born man. Our third is not a pure Javanese man but B. J. Habibie has a mother of Javanese nobility. Abdurrahman Wahid is totally from East Java. Megawati is Soekarno’s daughter, so she is Javanese to her core. And Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is from Pacitan, East Java. Even the current president Jokowi was born in Surakarta, Java. So we can tell how much the Javacentricism is in the core of our country. All is about Java.

Though I am a Javanese and muslim man myself (just like being a Christian, white male in the States), I in fact look forward to something bigger than this restricting and suffocating Javacentricism as I believe in the notion that openness to reform is the key to unlocking the nation’s biggest potential.

Jakarta and Javacentricism are getting less and less relevant as Indonesia is becoming a more developed country. And Jakarta is way too old and fragile to support a disgustingly rapid economic boom in the country. The impact of this slow response to the Jakarta’s incapability of becoming a representative capital is too bitter for us. We have been so tired and drained by the traffic jams, floodings, environmental issues, etc.

And no one seems inside a happy bubble, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that Jakarta is doomed once the nation gained its independence. I am not saying our independence is the culprit of the huge mess in Jakarta but Jakarta/ Batavia was clearly built by the Dutch. And our ‘organic’ way of city plan growth and changes is very wild, dissimilar in many ways possibly found from the Dutch’s ways of thinking and city planning, design and so on.

Not to mention the urbanization rate which has been soaring and the ill-planned urban landscape, Jakarta looks like an old lady getting raped by super selfish men.

But the current regime should learn from the past mistakes so they won’t create another Jakarta in Borneo.

I really think Jakarta’s role as an administrative center can be gradually removed; while its role as an economic center can be transferred to other big cities throughout Indonesia, such as Medan, Makassar, Jayapura, and other port cities. (*/)

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Foreign Language (Mis)Used as the Most Efficient Politeness Maker

My hometown is one of the least towns on earth you are likely to find scantily clad women on ads. We observe the Islamic laws and morals and ethics. Veiled women are everywhere to see.

The atmosphere of conservatism and orthodoxy is too prevalent to deny.

So of course it makes sense that I was horribly shocked to spot that disturbing sticker that says “FATHER FUCKER” (typed as is) on my way home.

Since when this kind of double profanity is allowed and considered legal in this ultra religious town in the time of Islamic lifestyle awakening?

I assume this is because hardly anyone understands well what this sticker really means.

When “MOTHER FUCKER” is already a horrendous sin because that means someone is a son who has sex with his own biological mother, then “FATHER FUCKER” refers to a son who has sex with his own biological father by becoming a powerful and authoritative top. While the first case would evidently of incest and adultery, the second is even way more complex. There is a nuance of incest, adultery, and same-sex intercourse.

Has the sticker shown us some emerging LBTQ campaign around the town? I jokingly think so.

But I seriously have given this a thought: these people in my pious hometown do assume that everything is good and permitted and thus polite and ethical as long as it is stated in other languages they do not speak and write. And since they can only speak Javanese and Indonesian, they then won’t mind and care if you screamed “FUCK YOU” in the middle of the crowd in the townsquare.

I have noticed this phenomenon since quite a long time. This is partly because they think foreign languages are cooler. So what is the problem of saying profanity when people around you have no idea what it is all about?

That might be the case. No worries because no one will really get the meaning.

But as shocking as I may feel the first time, I eventually come to terms with this ignorance.

Though people in this town may learn English in schools, but in reality only very very few of them really understand the meaning behind all wordings on ads they see every time.

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Jakarta as a Tranquil Ghost City Is Right around the Corner

Three more days to go to Eid here in Jakarta. And the holiday vibe is in the air for not only a week but five weeks!!!

How come?

So the countdown has started since the beginning of Ramadan. Everyone is looking forward to the big festivity which is a blend of secular celebration, consumerism at its most disgusting, and of course ceremonial religious observance here and there. That is four weeks.

And the other one week is the w-week. I have heard Eid el fitr has never gotten any bigger attention than in South East Asian countries. In Arabic countries, Eid el Fitr is way less popular than Eid el Adha, the day when muslims commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim and his dear son.

This w-week is just the ideal time when you tourists can roam Jakarta with much ease and less pollution to rip your lungs. This is the perfect week to explore any places in the capital after a riotous presidential election that has actually dampened because those politicians need to act as if they forgave each other. Which we will never find out the truth.

You may go climb the national monument in the nucleus of Jakarta if you wish to. Even if you will get caught in the act, I swear the response will not as swift as when you do it the other 51 week in a year.

But alas, you also have to deal with less convenience to find foods and drinks. Many establishments are going to be closed and stop operating for days.

And even if they are no muslims, still the distribution chains and most employees they hire are muslims. So chances are you have to be patiently awaiting until another week so the economy runs normally again. That means one week or two weeks after the Eid day.

For most of non muslims and muslims still staying and living in Jakarta during the massive temporary diaspora, it is quite a pain in the ass.

Life seems to be put in hold and concentrated mainly in public places such as airports and stations. Malls and restaurants are mostly closed and even if they open, they can only serve with limitations. You order foods you like but it turns out your favorite is not available just because the food distributor, the cook has not come to work just yet or some issues occur. All is caused by Eid holiday.

If you do not know what to do during the colossal recess, try taking photos of you lying down under the sun in the middle of Jakarta main roads which are nearly completely empty, free of maddening traffic we are always complaining about. That legendary, notorious traffic!!!

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My Life Purpose Is…

Many.

Am I too greedy?

But really, I want to achieve many things in life.

Researchers as quoted by NPR.org stated that living with a clear sense of purpose may help us live longer.

Living long is just a life full of cyclical events without having an ultimate goal. It can be larger than you or even as simple as your own welfare and well being.

Humans just have to live with an evident goal to arrive (or rather, they wish to arrive). Or else, they wander aimlessly on earth and live recklessly.

That said, I can hereby define my life goals as follows:

  • Helping others with yoga and healthy lifestyle: When the world population is aging faster than ever, I see some opportunities. Teaching yoga would benefit others a lot. And I believe so much in the benefits of yoga for well being and overall health because I have proven that myself.
  • Writing great, timeless stuff: All my childhood, teenagehood, and early adulthood were filled with literary fascination. Though no one in my nuclear and extended family had produced a literary work that sells out there, I want to write one. Sure I have been very much involved in some book projects before but none is sold under my own name. So I am looking forward to publishing one. Or more. Isn’t it great to spend the rest of my life writing not only books but also many other for posterity, that can give them a glimpse of the era when I am living on earth?

How about you? What is your life purpose?

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Funding Globetrotting Lifestyle for Non-Bourgeoisie Members of Society

woman raising her hands facing cityscape near body of water

Is globetrotting possible if you’re less priviliged? (Photo by Pexels.com)

Let’s be transparent. Do you think globetrotting is possible for everyone on earth regardless of their economic status?

No.

It is very sad to see that some people are still disillusioned by this misleading campaign from European backpackers and digital nomads.

Each of us has no equal access to globetrotting lifestyle. What I mean by this lifestyle is someone who leads a life and constantly travels around the world and – what irks most – still makes money. A lot of money even!

And the example is just before my eyes.

There sat a Caucasian guy, with a towering and slender figure. His iPhone is not new but still it’s an iPhone. It’s not an Android phone with some Chinese, less known brand.

And a girl with hijab sitting wistfully opposite him, waiting for a chance to ask a question in her mind.

She ‘interrogated’ him mercilessly,”Okay, so I want to live a life like you, too. I want to travel around the world. How can you do that? Tell me.”

She is in her early twenties and I couldn’t blame her for her naiveness.

The white guy in his Western coast accent paused a while.

He weighed and selected his words really carefully, as if he had been dealing with a hopeful, gleeful children inside a dream bubble. He didn’t want to prick that bubble and destroy her wishful thinking in a second.

But he really had to get the bitter truth across.

“Hmmm, actually that’s not an easy question. True that I have privilege to be thankful for: I was born and grew up in the United States; my family is quite well-off; I have a proper education. I feel so lucky for all of this….”

He was lost. But he didn’t give up easily. He continued consoling her.

“But having that said, I also made efforts to deserve this.” The guy still tried to convince her that this lifestyle is possible but there are caveats she ought to not ignore.

The guy took advantage of his being a native English speaker by taking an English teaching gig at a developing country. Though he seemed a bit hesitant about whether being a white person automatically justifies his or her validity to teach English (he is very critical about this superficial standard).

Living as an English teacher won’t make him rich. But in a developing country, liviing on a wage of an expatriate English teacher is still doable and noble even. One is well-fed and not looked down by the society. It’s totally a secure job if one is fond of teaching and language and has nothing else to be passionate about in life.

What is often forgotten, he said, about this lifestyle is that someone is prone to financial instability. As he put it, “You’ll also have to live in a modest manner, though you’re not downright poor either. And at times you’ll realize that in such lifestyle, life can be so ‘dynamic’, everchanging and flimsy.”

That did break her heart and hope. I took pity on the fervent girl.

So when I was reading some travel blog where I stumbled upon an article that boasts numerous ways to make money as a globe trotter, I was far from being impressed. It was written by an illustrious travel blogger I have never heard of before. Despite that, she seemed to be enjoying quite a success back in her homeland. On her private travel blog, she claimed her blog is one of the best travel blogs there are. The design looks professional; the wording is awesomely enchanting and clean and efficient; the quality of images is above average; accessibility is well thought. Every single detail is talentedly crafted, I observe. I appreciate her hard work.

Yet, her advice in the listicle offers an oversimplistic approach that may be misleading to most less critical young readers and hopefuls.

Not all of the advice is doable, such as teaching English as a second language (TESOL). First thing first, you cannot teach just because you speak English as a mother tongue. Teaching is not something everyone can do without proper training, certification, and other professional preparation. Being able to speak like a native even is not enough to pove that one is capable of teaching a class of foreign students.

Web designing, writing a travel blog, photography may be some other popular options to survive during the globe trotting journey. But sometimes you have to know the limit is.

But it’s worth trying still even if you think this lifestyle is not for you.

I have tried once and failed. Pretty much because I’m not a carefree person with less regular schedules and routines. I want some consistency in life and regularity helps me focus better with anything I do. I couldn’t focus on my art when I am still worrying about how I can survive the next month or the other month. This anxiety may emerge without apparent symptoms but I felt so haunted by it. And in the uncertain economy, stability of economy seems to be everyone is after. One way to get that stability back is by trading some of your freedom. (*/)

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Living Carless in Jakarta

architecture auto automobiles bridge

Life without a car in Jakarta? Feasible, if you know the tricks. Pexels.com

There are times when a relative told me to go home by car on Ied el-Fitr. I am bothered a bit because I am no car person. I have no willingness to spend my money (and have no substantial money to purchase one) for a private car.

A car especially on Ied is something you have to show off to the relatives back home that you have really gained and massed financial success in the capital.

But I am no fan of pretentious lifestyle. So I completely ditched the idea of driving a car. Plus, I have no money to get me one in CASH. This is important because I believe very very strongly that purchasing in cash is the most possible way to buy something at a cheaper cost. I also get stress-free. I don’t have to calculate or think how to pay installments from month to month.

Upon learning that the domestic car sales have slumped 17.8% this year, I can tell you more and more people think the same way like I do. Or at least they put off getting a new car for various reasons.

Living without a private car in Jakarta where cars are anywhere to find is possible. Seriously possible. And I am not alone in fact. Some people living in Jakarta without having a private vehicle at all.

And I am no kidding because I have been living such carless life for more than 9 years!

How is this possible for me?

First, I have a strong determination that I want to have a decent lifestyle here, meaning living a life not beyond my means.

Buying a car means another source of expenditure. A car is a liability instead of an asset, unless I drive my car every single day as an online driver.

But hell no! I am a writer. What I do is sitting almost all day long. And thus what makes sense is I should invest in having a properly ergonomic work station, a functional laptop that would last as long as possible, super fast internet connection so I can literally work anywhere. Mobility by any private vehicles ( be it a motorcycle or a car) is never on the top of my list.

Certainly I have to move from a place to another but I am not on the wheel all the time. And I have no urgency to be very very punctual. But even if I do, I can manage my time better as I am a childless bachelor. Furthermore, I have less stuff to bring (minimalism helps) along for work. Being a single man in Jakarta is very very easy as opposed to a man with a large family and responsibilities on the shoulders and mind.

Having a personal car also means I have to sacrifice my time to take care of it. I must regularly go to an authorized service center and get it overhauled. This is important as I have literally no knowledge of machinery or mechanics or such thing so imagining I must repair a car by myself is way too wild even in my dream.

Living here without a car is, however, made less feasible if one has built a family, no matter how small it is. Living with a spouse means one has at least can go together on a single ride. And that means the demand of getting a car is escalating. Everything is more practical – though not necessarily more economical – with a private car ready in a garage.

So when someone asks me if I should get a car now, I still clench my opinion firmly. Not for now!

Besides, seeing and drowning every single day in the massive deluge of Jakarta traffic, which some expats say “legendary”, is already overwhelming to me. I am still staying away from being part of the problem that is known to trigger climate change.

What do you think of not having a private car or motorbike in a big city like Jakarta? Is it even possible? Because I feel that that is so possible. (*/)

man walking on road under the sun

Walking in Jakarta may not be a pleasant experience but all you need is picking the right time to walk. (Photo source: Pexels.com)

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“The Happy Prince”: The Not-So-Happy Life of an Irish Literary Giant

When I watched “The Importance of Being Earnest” movie in my junior year as an English Literature undergraduate student back then in 2004, little did I know that the author whose name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Will Wilde was in fact a queer writer from Ireland. A prolific artist during his short-lived life, he was known for his literary works, from poets, plays, to prose (novels and short stories).

As Rupert Everett’s directorial debut, the biopic movie tells us the tragic end of life of the renowned author. Here he was depicted as sickly, old and broke. So pitiful to see such a celebrity and prominent figure living a horrible life far away from home. He passed away as a miserable man in the age of 46 in Paris after having lived a tumultuous period of life.

Born in a wealthy and famous family, Wilde was no stranger to worldly pleasure. He knew too well how to have fun. To show his hedonism, I remember his scene with scantily clad young men dancing, and him playing the piano joyfully and how he loved drinking liqor till drop.

Everett’s acting is raw and wild (without ‘e’). And I am not kidding by saying that. He had to appear stark naked and be forced to get his head clean shaven and bathed by an officer to visualize the downfall of Oscar Wilde after being accused of committing the crime of sodomy in his golden days.

In the country where LGBTQ issues have become incredibly hot, super sensitive topics, you cannot expect to watch this at the nearby XXI cinemas.The 105-minute movie contains some nudity – male nudity to be specific. Besides that, I’m also exposed to some profanity, drug use and sexual references. Some private parts of the male actors are also shocking if you’re a hardliner, puritan muslim.

As a Jakartan, I would probably say this is not the right time to watch this. But considering that Wilde’s fans would not mind being rebellious, anytime is the right time to watch the movie and celebrate the wild, free spirit of this Irish poet and playwright that the world of literature shall never forget.

This movie acts as a reminder that even though life can be really short, all you can do is live it to its fullest, no matter how sweet and bitter it can become. Just enjoy the ride.

Just like the swallow in his short story, Oscar Wilde has fulfilled his life calling, that is to do his best with the talents he had. (*/)

“The Happy Prince” based on my amateurish review holds an approval rating of 80%. (*/)

 

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Unstoppably Spreading the Love of Extensive Reading

I’ve been living in Japan for 37 years. Prior to that I had been teaching English in America for 5 years. I’ve been doing Extensive Reading (ER) for at least 35 years. And I’ve been teaching in my current university for 31 years, in charge of the reading program for probably 35 years. So what my doing is not a new fad.

How I came to this field is sort of strange and unique. In undergraduate days, my major was elementary education and early childhood education and my minor was learning disabilities. Basically I was trained to be a reading specialist.

But then when I got out of the undergraduate, in the mid 1970s teaching jobs were very difficult to find but I got a teaching job in a maximum security prison in Southern Illinois, as a reading teacher.

In this particular prison, they started sending me the Spanish speakers, most of whom were Mexican and Puerto Rican speakers and they were prisoners. They were sent to me because they couldn’t read. Well, of course they could not read because English is not their first language.

So I started out by buying EFL (English for Foreign Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) books. I split off one of my reading classes and started to work with these Spanish speakers. And that made me back to graduate school and I really enjoyed that.

Prison was also a very interesting place but I don’t want to spend the rest if my lfe teaching there even it’s my job.

As a young man, I was always longing to travel and teach and be a writer, which is also a priority. In 1982 I moved to Japan, started teaching in a conversation school for several years and eventually got hired by an institution.

Back in the mid 1980s, many American universities opened Japan campuses. So I started teaching at the University of Pittsburgh campus. And I got hired by my own school (Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Japan).

He is now enthusiastically helping teachers around the world believe that they can make a difference. That is why teachers become teachers. To open new worlds for students and extensive reading can do that!

(As told by Prof. Marc Helgesen himself)

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Teachers Who Changed My Life

It is May, which is the national education month in Indonesia. The second of May is celebrated as the national education day.

 

So I took time to ponder for a minute or two, trying to come up with the answer of the question:”Who are the teachers that changed your life?”

 

After some time, it’s hard for me to tell which teachers have the most impact on my life to date. All of them are influential in their own way. But I have to choose, here is the shortlist.

My parents

I may have hated my father and mother for teaching me mathematics until I shed tears. I flunked the math test and got an alarmingly low score in the academic report after I hid the answer sheet distributed earlier.

Mr. Subur Wardoyo

He introduced me to Oscar Wilde (the queer Irish versatile literary star), Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (that Jazz Age American writer), Ernest Hemingway (a drunken, sturdy built literary giant) and a lot more American writers I can aspire to. Mr Subur Wardoyo was just an amazing, easy-going, open-minded, the most liberal-viewed lecturer I had ever had on college. She taught me both in my undergraduate and graduate program. He is simply one of the best and this year we – my college pals and I – lost him. You’ll be really missed, pak Subur.

 

Mr. Sapardi Djoko Damono

Yes, that renowned Indonesian poet! He taught me Literary Sociology and I chose it as the topic of my thesis. I was a bit slow in the writing process. I almost gave up but a voice kept screaming inside my head:”You’ve gotta finish what you’ve already begun!!!” So I rekindled my spirit and made it. He made me realize that learning is not a sprint; instead it’s a marathon. A long long marathon.

 

Mr. Warsono

I still remember him teaching Writing III class in my junior year and how he instilled the passion of writing into me. And the soft-spoken lecturer was just legendary, thanks to his moustache and smooth cursive longhand on the blackboard. I guess one of the most anticipated classes in a whole year was his class. What made me even love him more is the fact that I managed to earn a great final score at the end of the sixth semester, which boosted my confidence and without him, I would never become the writer I am now.

 

Ms. Indri

She is my Math teacher in high school. So outspoken, so mean verbally, so un-ladylike. She kicked, she was foul-mouthed, she was just what she really is. No pretense.

 

She taught us math like she never cared about what we would speak behind her back in breaks. Who didn’t? She threw bits of chalk at us when we were too slow to submit our answer sheets. She smashed the eraser when a student stood frozen, unable to figure out the answer of a math problem written on the blackboard.

 

As an anti-math student, I hated her so much. But I had no choice but to deal with her like every other day. Math was a subject I never liked and she made me like it.

 

So I tried my best to survive in her class in fear of getting physically humiliated (being pinched for example) and boom!!! I hit my all-time highest math score: 8.

 

There were nights I could not go to bed early because I still could not believe I made it. I was stunned by my own math talent. I therefore realize that nothing is impossible if I study. I may not be a genius but I know I am not useless looser. I can work hard and stay focused and claim the results.

 

Though she looked so frightening, Ms. Indri sometimes threw us some jokes with a flat-faced facial expression that made you wonder whether she was in fury or just was being crazy.

 

Ms. Tri Alfa Inayati

I still remember, as a fourth grader of elementary school, I heard a compliment about my cursive longhand. “You should be ashamed. You’re a girl and your handwriting is less neat than Akhlis’,” she said to a girl in the class.

 

I felt sorry for hear. But my heart could not contain my joy upon overhearing this remark. Cruel to her. Flattering to me.

 

Since then I polished my longhand and had ever since been often designated the secretary of class.

 

I appreciate her for making me realize I was that rare species of boys in class with clear, tidy cursive longhand. I cannot thank her more. Because now I write like every day and make money off writing.

 

How about you? Do you have your own list of teachers who have changed your life? (*/)

 

 

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