waxing philosophical

may 2013

listening to: norah jones radio.

the takeaway of this post: finals does crazy things to one’s sanity.

it’s funny how it’s “why,” and in the English language it is pronounced as “Y” — as if depicting two paths splitting off at a fork. Two possibilities to consider, and we wonder why we chose one path over the other. Why, indeed.

our life trajectory consists of a series of choices stringed together towards some purpose. this i believe. by no means are these choices arbitrary, merely one event falling after another in a trail of isolated occurrences. no — one thing leads to another, and the connections among our choices, the people we meet, and the events we encounter all propel us towards some sense of “I.” whether circular or linear, these connections are bound closely together.

we only begin to understand ourselves through these external experiences — how do I became aware of my own quiet and introspective character unless i can compare to the qualities i observe in another? if one is that, then i am this. without the physical appearance of a quality that manifests itself in varying degrees in different objects and people, how else are we to discern what that quality means, besides an intangible conception inside our minds? but even that conception depends upon the material reality before us — if i have never seen a chair before in my life, it would probably be difficult, if not impossible, to construct a mental image of a chair.

of course, all this is a digression from my original thought. that is, no one event is isolated. where do the series of our experiences and interactions lead us to? where are we going? it feels as if i am constantly headed for somewhere, but i’m not sure where.

cheesy hallmark cards and motivational speakers tell us, “focus on the journey, not the destination.”  okay. but why is it so hard to keep the destination out of my mind? i feel almost as if i am perpetually being tugged by an invisible thread towards something, somewhere. sometimes this thread is a heavy steel cable that pulls me with brute force; sometimes this thread is but a fine silken string that gently draws me toward that inexplicable, unforeseeable destination. sometimes this thread is a perfect line across which i move easily; sometimes this thread has so many snags that i am bound in its intricacies.

if it is Fate that drives us to that destination, wherever and whatever it is, then why are we given the capacity to make our own choices? and if we are not making our own choices, then why are we given the illusion that we alone are independently making decisions?

i don’t know. these questions make my head hurt.

on a breezy, warm day like today, when the blue sky is tinged with almost grey clouds and the chill of the wind escapes the warmth of the sun, i wonder about that “why” again. if the Y consists of two compatible paths, or of two contrasting ones. two divergent and even opposing forces. on a day like today, when the sky chooses to cast its bright azure eyes towards this world with cloudy tears that gently roll down to meet the rooftops over which students laboriously pore over books, in the hope that this diligence will lead them somewhere, someday — the “why” stands brazen and resilient between the sun and the wind.

travel musings, part one

there is something romantic about traveling across a foreign country. when one is suspended in time and space within a vehicle, the landscape beyond the glass windows slowly unfurls itself to the traveler. airplanes and boats impress us with the grandiose beauty of the sky and the sea; cars and trains reveal the vibrant scenes discovered at the ground.


i read once that the journeys we spend traveling from one place to another can in themselves be considered as definitive spaces. this idea intrigued me. we often consider the routes between a certain point A and point B as merely insignificant travel time, a commute towards a destination from an origin that lacks the quality of physical actualization that we attribute to the places to which we are traveling. these places are real. they are concrete entities that we can call a space, populated by the tangible: people, animals, buildings, flora. the process or very act of traveling is too abstract to constitute a space. travel, at its most intrinsic core, is not real.

by conceptualizing travel as a space, however, we can give it significance and an entirely new perspective on our own travel experiences. the hours spent on the subway to work, on a plane to an exotic getaway, or even while walking in transit to meet a friend — all these are spaces, with physical boundaries primarily defined by the fixed path taken to the next place.


travel is perhaps one of the most intimate spaces we can occupy. at the times we travel alone, we have only our own thoughts, and maybe our private interactions with music and the media, to explore in that space.

i’ll be posting more on what i’ve seen and learned while traveling for the past month.🙂


the view from the tortoise-shell glasses

Tortoise-shell glasses framed the deeply wrinkled face of the imposing man before me. It had been several weeks since I started my internship on Capitol Hill, and in my time there,  I had witnessed the imbalance between rhetoric and action that deeply troubled me. 

For all of the embellished, idealistic discourse on providing the North Korean refugees, the Iraqi war interpreters, and the Haitians the aid they sought in urgency, the legislation passed often fell far from the lofty rhetoric. My sense of pessimism grew in tandem with the increasing number of deaths in the Syrian civil war which had spiraled into a humanitarian disaster that spring of 2012. If the American political system couldn’t pull the trigger to help those suffering in Syria, who would?

As I sat before the eighty year-old founder and chairman of one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, I was nervous at the thought of walking away from yet another urgent problem that would remain unsolved. Given his deeply personal roots and business ties in the Gaza region, I was anxious to sit face-to-face with this man and listen to an intensely emotional story demanding assistance that could not be given.

Yet throughout the conversation, he looked directly into my eyes. Even with his awareness that I was an intern, he spoke to me and treated me as a fellow equal in the discussion. He did not treat me as an inanimate and extended arm of the machine of the American government that moved blindly in one body, but as a thinking human actor capable of producing a decision that could affect policy. I was moved by his deference towards me. 

In the short hour of our intimate conversation, I experienced a miniscule degree of the gargantuan weight that the United States bears in the world. Expectations for the American capacity to enact change were carried not only by ordinary students like myself, but also by influential leaders overseas. This multinational executive who was neither born nor raised in this country had looked up to American officials as a source of change. His humility reminded me that to him, while I did not necessarily wield power myself individually, I was connected to an institution that possessed the power to address his concerns. I realized in no way did he expect that the American government owed him an immediate solution to his grievances, nor did he behave in a manner that presumed he rightfully deserved the American government to act on his behalf. Instead, he expressed his gratitude to me for simply sitting with him to hear his concerns. He had reached out because he believed in the American government’s commitment overseas.

Having briefly seen America’s role in the world through the eyes of the executive with the tortoise-shell glasses, I began to see lawmaking in a new light. The executive with the tortoise-shell glasses and my experience in Washington taught me passion in the face of pessimism. Even in his old age, he patiently persisted in meeting with policymakers in the hope that some pathway could be forged towards the resolution in which he fervently believed. In the face of formidable challenges, the mere existence of potential for change can be an incredible power.

slow jams & jumbled thoughts after dark

listening to Snakehips – Fly High 002: SFTB Valentines Special

i’ve been meaning to write more lately, yet articulating my jumbled thoughts has been a thorny process. there are a myriad of events and topics that i want to write about, particularly personal ones. putting these thoughts into some tangible form, however, and further conveying them into a public space, are acts in which i am not entirely confident.

as i listen to this slow jams mix, i am reminded of one of my favorite pastimes in childhood. around bedtime, my mom would come into my room, tuck me in, and turn on the radio to 96.5 FM, assuring me that its “love songs after dark” program would lull me into serenity. i grew up listening to 90s r&b, falling for their soulful beats and smooth-crooning melodies, and even more, falling in love with the idea of romantic songs for lovers after dark. slow jams were mom-approved (a special endorsement from a tiger mom who typically would only let my sister and me listen to classical music and npr). slow jams were also nostalgic and hopelessly romantic.

these are qualities that i zealously guard in my own character. i am nostalgic and hopelessly romantic. i am a lover of slow jams. i started writing poems at age eight, maybe younger, and that marble composition book was my proudest achievement at the time and remains a prized possession. even at that age i was somewhat aware of the power of poetry, like music, to capture emotions in a way that simple conversations or long-form prose cannot. i suppose i grasped the importance then of the incredible intensity of emotions and the need to express them through abstract channels like poetry and music. i also guess i often feel things so intensely that i find the individual need to understand my own emotions.

one of the hardest emotions i have grappled with is love. the compassion i have for others can be overwhelming, and i have fought to temper that compassion from its full potential of possessive, unyielding infatuation. in the process, i have retreated significantly, but at a cost: it has become more difficult for me to openly and generously offer my love because it feels as if i am giving up a physical piece of myself that will be trampled on and hurt again.

a few recent events have made me question the way i have become reserved in my compassion and the rationale i have for protecting what i consider a sense of self. encountering individuals who bear their hearts openly and value the expressiveness of their affection has taught me to explore my jumbled thoughts about love. regardless of whether these thoughts are part of a mid-twenty-something’s crisis, i want to move forward in an action-oriented manner.

to love freely, to give and share pieces of myself without fearing the pain, to think creatively, to explore the depths of my passions and to discover new ones, to act courageously, to learn with and from others, to uphold values dear to me: these are acts i aspire to follow as a twenty-something still nostalgic for slow jams after dark.


Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

r&b, soul & jazz


stumbling upon unexpected finds


pilates & spin

cherry blossoms


philz mint mojitos

reading at cafes

farmers markets

wandering through old and new paths


11:52 pm.

a constant flutter of thoughts that writhes back and forth, tracing itself onto the imprint of self-awareness on the heart.

11:59 pm.

the heart is delicate but the hunger for expression and understanding is insatiable. that flutter of thoughts has grown to a raucous uproar. the mind seeks a fulfillment that makes enormous demands: to adventure, to possess wisdom, to create, to learn, to experience pleasure. this, the mind claims, is the profound sensation of living, towards the discovery of self.

rebellion lies close. the fires that lay siege to the stronghold are lit and compel the force to defeat inertia.

12:26 am.

an inextinguishable force.


We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist