C is for

Coasts

I’ve always been a huge fan of any and every kind of water body Nature has fashioned. Honestly, they all beguile me in some way. Rivers, streams, lakes, the vast and unending ocean. There’s something about watching the stillness of a lake or the roar of the sea and feeling home, though the two are perhaps in opposition. Which is why I have formed a habit of road tripping along coastal routes. My very first road trip was in California, where I took Pacific Highway 101 to explore every turn of the Big Sur coast. With the road plastered to the side of the continent, it was one of the most amazing experiences circling the coast with something as small and large as a car.

BigSur

Big Sur (photo taken by my dear friend Irene)

12apostles

12 Apostles

Addicted to road tripping, I planned another such trip when I went with my family to Melbourne last year. We drove along the Great Ocean Road, saw the 12 Apostles and witnessed an untamed corner of the universe. The way the waves crash so unrelentingly on the shore can be terrifying actually. It would have been unmerciful to a tiny human being; it would have carried us away to our deaths. And yet there was some sort of beauty in its terror. I can’t help but marvel at how so much beauty can be contained in raw power, and how much this power shows off just how finite we are. They are two sides of the same coin: terror and beauty. Is that a lesson to be learnt on how the most worthy things in life are often the most difficult? That to behold beauty, we have to stand in the wild? That the most dazzling things to experience could be running barefoot in a space unmarred by the dirty paws of humans? Or maybe we should stop extrapolating and just stay in the moment and see it for what it is.

Hm. Perhaps I will gain more insight into this sentiment with my next coastal road trip planned. Driving along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland would be such a different experience (every coast is different), but also the same (because every coast is also the same). I will let you know.

Curiosity

Curiosity is so so important. It really underscores a lot of things in life, I believe. It is the one thing that kids have and educational institutions destroy. I’ve always been kinda known as a nerd, because I like and excel in school. But as Natalie Portman says, I do not like studying; I like learning. There’s a distinct difference, and I feel sad for those who can’t tell. And as someone else so wisely says, I will not let schooling get in the way of my education. This is especially so in the Singaporean education system where merit is so often measured, and so often based on memorisation and examinations. It can really take the joy out of learning for children and teenagers, when schools should in fact nurture that flame! I hope I will be able to do that if and when I become a parent.

And as they also say, learning is a lifelong venture. I hope we never give up on it, even though the pursuit of knowledge can often be overshadowed in today’s age of entertainment. We are the generation of entertainment, which is why mobile game apps can become insanely popular overnight, why bad reality television is a thing that still exists, why celebrity culture gets eaten up like the last piece of meat on a plate. I hope I will be able to keep learning even after it stops being the priority in my life after graduating from college, to put myself in a position where I will always be bettering myself in terms of skills and wisdom, and also to be open to lessons from others.

As we grow older, we tend to think we have learnt all the lessons there are to be learnt. But I think it is a folly of the young to believe yourself to be omniscient. The only thing we can know is that we know nothing, right Aristotle? I will try to keep the humility that comes with realising that you still have so much to learn, even when I gain in life. I hope you do so too.

Captain America

Oh my gosh, guys. Are you kidding. Of course C is for Captain America. Is it still on in theatres for everyone here, because go watch it. And after you’re done with that, go watch it again.

Captain America is my favourite superhero. (I’ve even got the toy plushie to prove it.) The reason why I love him is because he is so black and white. In an age of moral ambiguity and anti-heroes, Cap is old-fashioned. He just wants to do good. He is a hero in the very original sense of the word. But he doesn’t want to be a hero; he just wants to be a good guy. I LOVE IT. I mean, his weapon is a SHIELD. Not something threatening but something protective. How great is that. There’s something very pure and untainted about Captain America, and relocating him in a more complex time of 2010s in the Marvel universe is so fantastic, cos he is so out of time but his values are so needed. Which is exactly what the movie sequel is about. And so much of why I love it too.

Captain America 2 combines very contemporary fears (of surveillance, of targeted weaponry, of dangerous political alliances, of the state being the enemy) with (SPOILER ALERT) an old enemy. It shows that we are not so different from the 1940s after all. The same enemies exist, but also the same ways of trying to be good. I think that really says something about our society today, and why we should all try to be like Cap. Not in the kicking-ass sense, but in how we can step up and just try to do good in all areas of our lives. It’s not about the getting there; it’s about the trying. Striving is the important thing.

Of course, it does help that Cap looks like Chris Evans.

Co-pilot

Last but most certainly not least. I think it would be very inauthentic of me to leave out something that has been a huge part of my life in 2014 so far. Is it very cheesy if I start off with: you never really know who’s going to be important in your life so always keep in mind potentiality? Three years ago, I met my good friend’s boyfriend’s good friend, just as one out of a bunch of guys I didn’t think much about. Three years later… you fill in the blanks.

The most amazing thing so far has been how much we just get each other. And what’s what I wanna talk about here. How rare is it to share a connection with someone so inexplicably? Really, really connect? As if you are made up of the same unique electric signals. That you were programmed in the same way. That that person knew what you were thinking even before you thought it. How crazy is that. And so much of it is because of how similarly we build our vocabulary, how we take in things from popular consciousness and make them a part of our own. So I guess I have found someone who builds their world the same way I do, and now all I want is to start building a whole new world together with them.

There’s a word for this connection: drift compatibility, which is not actually a real thing but something that was created by the film Pacific Rim. Basically in the film, the human race was attacked by aliens and to combat them, we built monstrous robots-soldiers. But because of how mega these robots are, they require two pilots to be plugged into the same neural consciousness (the drift) so that they can move as one. For people to become co-pilots, they need to be drift compatible, so that they can be comfortable in each other’s minds and act in concert. (There’s something very great about how to save the world, this movie highlights empathy as the most important feature, instead of machismo like so many actions flicks, but that’s for another post.) So, you know, it is tough to find someone with whom you can be drift compatible, but, when you do, you can save the world.

It’s always about people, isn’t it. It’s always about understanding, relating, connecting with someone else. As Celine articulates so beautifully in Before Sunrise, “I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.”

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