On Storytelling

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

― Philip Pullman

A colleague today — all at once a mentee, mentor, and equal — said something in passing today.

“You know what we need? We need to have a story; we don’t have one right now,” she said, lamenting our organization’s ongoing battle to effectively pass on both triumphs and hard-learnt lessons to future generations of our leaders. Her statement wasn’t untrue. It also wasn’t anything mindblowingly special with or without context — it wasn’t a novel idea, and surely many other organizations of all kinds have struggled to understand, internalize, and brand their narrative.

It struck me, however, like a bolt of lightning (as most things I agree with but forget tend to do to me upon remembering).

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of walruses and carpenters; a non-coherent personal reflection on 2016

Photo from Alice-in-Wonderland.net

Something I try — but very often fail — to do during year-end holidays is to reflect on my Gregorian calendar year and write resolutions for the upcoming one. I last published a reflection for 2015, but failed (for whatever reason) to create goals for 2016. Continue Reading…

tasting 2015 twice

So I have this blog, right, and when I so craftily titled it, I found the name “Tasting Life Twice,” which comes from French-Cuban literatus Anais Nin in the quote as follows:

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

It’s a beautiful, romantic concept — perfect for the blog of a conceptual romantic. Perfect for someone who still thinks studying abroad is about scurrying after professors in robes at architecturally aged institutions with notebook in hand, not a frat boy’s international clubbing dream. Perfect for someone who excitedly signs up for everything that can be signed up for because they believe in the mission or some vague idea of mentorship, leadership, and servitude — not someone who decidedly utilizes the word “no” both to others and to themselves.

Perfect — in an imperfect world.

With respect to the above, I find it oddly fitting — dare I say even romantic — that my annual resolution check-in blog post be titled in reflection of the blog’s original intentions. Perhaps the better word is “ironic,” not romantic, seeing as the number of times I blogged in 2015 can be counted on one hand.

Still, there is some merit in sitting back and analyzing the past 12 months as I prepare for another year of who-knows-what. This is my 2015 reflection. Continue Reading…

Open, Close: Doors as a Binary of Opportunity

Something I’d never considered about that adage that goes “when one door closes, another door opens” — that if doors are opening, you must close some of the old ones by yourself.

A door serves two purposes: the first to gain entry, the second to deny it when necessary. Too many open doors makes for a very weak home — too few, a very strong prison.

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On Unpreparedness and Confronting History

Today, I used a vacation day from work to spend some time with myself and get back into academic/travel planning gear. I visited two bookstores for birthday cards, a travel guide to Tokyo (yes, I’ve played around in Tokyo quite a bit but I don’t think many quite understand how vast an expanse it is), grabbed lunch with the cat (food trucks! eat local blah blah blah) and then popped on over to Boston’s gorgeous and unnecessarily (or perhaps necessarily) large Museum of Fine Arts — or the MFA for short.

I had gone with the intention of seeing the Hokusai ukiyo-e prints — I had tried to see them while on a semester abroad in Tokyo, but the collection of ~500 prints was currently in transport to Boston for the exhibition I saw today.

For one reason or another, a considerably large handful of “special exhibition” galleries/wings/what have you were featuring Japanese art; the more I read, the more I realized how connected the Boston MFA was to the preservation of Japanese history and culture.

Two exhibits stood out to me: the Hokusai show (of course), and a special exhibit on photography taken after the 3/11 tsunami.

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The Right People at the Right Time

What I’m coming to realize is that while there is striking diversity in the people I closely talk to, cherish and call friends, there also exist marked similarities in rather specific areas.

Either I’m not very good at making new friends, or I’ve been blessed with the people I need most in my short life on Earth — and I like to think it’s the latter.

The Problem with Preconception: Lessons in Academic Elitism

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a guest lecture on gender binaries as seen in anime/Japanese pop media.

To put it frankly, I sat through 90 minute of something I hadn’t expected. And that isn’t to say I’m unaccustomed to gender lectures — in fact, I was rather more prepared for an intense seminar on “the hard stuff;” perhaps something on ecchi/hentai themes, female body identity in Japan, or something of the sort. I fully expected to feel highly uncomfortable and indignant, and to be fueled by a spirit of women’s rights.

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ceci n’est pas le texte

In the days of late I have been experiencing several struggles in the literary department: first, the deep longing for interesting books to read while knowing I lack the time to read all of them; second, finding the resolve to throw my money at Amazon’s Kindle books only to find that the iPhone app does not allow for digital purchases; third, being displeased by the backlit, tiny display of the Kindle iPhone app; and four, interrogating proper Kindle-owning friends only to learn that some models don’t have that backlit-less paper feel, and that some do display advertisements.

I myself am known to have a rather over-romanticised, perhaps overly keen view of academics and literature. I ask “why” to the point of frustrating my question-victims, and at times my online research and “reading” proves less useful than experiencing life firsthand. I have paid overweight fees for my baggage simply due to carting around too many books.

And yet, I can’t stop buying them. And as for the books I’ve purchased digitally and love, I certainly have plans to purchase physical copies in the future.

It’s not feasible to have that many books and travel/move so much.

The Kindle (and other e-readers) are so convenient.

Purchasing that many books will get expensive quickly — not only at initial purchase, but in maintenance, storage, and transport.

I don’t know if it’s an addiction or not, but books — proper books — really are like old friends. My tagline, “we write to taste life twice, in the moment and retrospect,” is furthered when considering books. Having physical documentation allows you to experience life again, not just to taste it. The feel of premium paper and the texture of a book’s spine add another sense to the remarkable experience that is reading, and that is what I cannot give up.

Books are not simply printed text. There is a deep satisfaction in turning a page; a sense of completion that cannot be paralleled by a swipe of a finger or tap of a button. Books have a smell, a feel, a particular look, and sound — the combination of these four senses offers the utmost gratification in gathering knowledge.

A mystifying emotional bond is created upon finishing a great book. I know some who mourn the end of the tale, but unlike other emotional bonds (eg, relationships), you may end a book with the satisfaction of being able to pick it up once more and experience it all over again.

Books are also not people — once published, they are constant. Why else have literary classics lasted through centuries of differing cultures and ideologies? How have they retained their status as heralded favorites? It is their consistency and familiarity that remains.

Perhaps it is their timelessness that draws me to hard copies and not abstract bits of data. I will always prefer paper pages to digital swipes.