Random: The Young Socialite

And so as I think, as things go, I go back to one thing, of which I always think: the world of social interaction that is all around me. Fire, rabid and furious, harrowing and to be feared! Well, maybe. Social interaction, in part because it happens to be a part I observe more than take part in. In part because it is an integral, seemingly non-scientific type of occurrence in this overly natural world. Volatile, ever malleable, unpredictable, swift. It is such a curious little thing to be playing with, to throw around in your hands like a lump of plasticine, pinching and stretching, to test its limits; to fling it at the wall, to test its strength; to freeze it and burn it and smash it, to drive it beyond ashes. Continue reading


Random: On the Fine Line

I intend this post to be just my brief reflection on the particular line in friendship that is a popular theme in many a modern short romance novel. The line that is between ‘friendship’ and a very special relationship. We have all heard of that line before, and possibly if not likely ways to avoid crossing it. Beyond Friendship is very dangerous and somehow not recommended, it seems. So I wish to explore the area near this line.

A necessity leading up to my discourse is a disclaimer: the friendship we talk of here is the kind Aristotle phrases as one in which the parties seek the good of the other party; one which exists purely for the sake of each other; one which is developed in spending time with each other. (compare/contrast with the friendships of advantage and passion, if I’m not wrong).

I have previously made a very simple reiteration of a good way of conveying the line across, it is this: friendship is time to get to do something, but the special relationship is time to get to know the other party – this definition works in part only though. As a result we could use this definition in part. Which is not to say a special relationship cannot also be a friendship. It is possible but there is great overshadowing of the friend element and more of the bf/gf element here. I am often curious about the symptoms of approaching the line (and therefore antisymptoms that indicate the line will never be reached). I’ll start here. Continue reading

My Sabbatical: A personal update I

I’m on a long sabbatical. From academic subjects, from school activities, from stress, and so on. At least, in part. My school gives all the Y4s (the final year in some if not most secondary schools here) a semester-long break from intense studying and a hectic schedule by squeezing our 2-years’ worth of content from Y3-Y4 into 1.5 years, and pushing our final exams earlier back to July. That’s over and in the past, regardless the result, leaving us to concentrate on three things they highlighted: Choice, Identity and Relationships. Sounds exciting, no? They let us choose international courses (exchange programmes), work attachments, and local courses (beatboxing and other cool stuff), and I already went for my work attachment leaving plenty of time to plan my own activities. Truly it is a blessing to have this opportunity. I’ve used the time in a number of ways including improving my baking, improving my fitness (nature reserve hikes, exercise park trips, etc.) and other pursuits (some of which have failed). The fitness venture is ongoing as I have more or less successfully raised my maximum pull-up count from 4 (a ‘D’ grade for my age) to 7 (an ‘A’ grade). Will continue to improve.

A plateful of mint-lavender shortbread (cookies?).

A plateful of mint-lavender shortbread (cookies?).

So what else am I planning? It’s already past the mid-way line of the 11-week sabbatical, and so far I’ve been rather accomplished, let alone the few goals I haven’t really gotten to doing, like learning Greek (it’s still Greek to me) and (consistently) writing a little fiction I’ve been on forever.

Choices… ever so vast, robust, and uncategorizable. There are indeed places where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ do not suffice; the amoral, opinion-based, or preference-based kinds of choices. Decisions that some people take on their own, others search for the wisdom and counsel of men and/or God. Personally, I do not regret the choices I have made because they are sometimes  necessary, sometimes reasonable, sometimes a leap of faith. My choice to partially isolate myself from the social tangle, to take a step back and perform self-critique, was necessary. My choice to spend myself in the pursuit of higher knowledge and things the world would disregard and call foolish was reasonable, and perhaps utterly important to me. My choice to be open to the possibility of joining an arduous trip to two remote villages in another part of this world (hence the fitness training intesified with hikes and such) was a leap of faith.

Identity. I find many word bloggers are largely of some particular kind. Not to generalise (inductively) but to conclude (deductively), that it is indeed like this. That people are driven to reflect and look inward often can be scrutinised from the poems, the posts about their passions and interests and hatreds, their observations, and so on. Their worldview, character, values are apparent all at once, or maybe slowly. I have come to know what kind of a person I am, given the reduced boundaries on my life now – with the time to focus on different things, what have I chosen to focus on? Choice reflects identity, identity impacts choice. Some choices change identity, especially a repeated deviation from what one usually chooses. These two are so close. I hate going in-depth about my own identity, where many of us can get slightly squirmy. But I for one am learning more about me. And that is important. To learn anything best you ought to learn about yourself first. Temet nosces.

Relationships. The final highlight of the sabbatical. Close to my heart too. What do we have to say about this? It permeates culture and bone. The world revolves around relationships, and the whole world is involved in relationships. Some relationships involve the world. But the prominent ones in our lives are less large-scale. Oh, how shattering, how beautiful! How broken, how pristine, how fragile, how delicate! To reflect is to be aware the next time I delve into this world of interact-connect. To avoid devastation, is a hardly-walked and narrow path. To soar is to have realised how, in the very first place, one should relate to relationships. The meta-relationships, indeed. And personally, I have faith that another more important relationship of all relationships, once mended, is the ultimate catalyst for the healing, building, strengthening of the rest. It is the relationship marked by love and sacrifice. One I will have to learn from.

Relationships change our identities much more powerfully than do choices. Our relationships and our choices are stronger as mutual forces, an unstable equilibrium, constantly morphing and tugging at each other. The triangle as a whole is a grand level of action, energy, unpredictability, like a triple-carbon 60-degree angle. We all learn control in different ways, but as for me, I learnt to take my hands off it. I submit and acknowledge, “I don’t know anything about how to do things right. Help me, Lord.”

I dread the returning to studying more intensively for just one exam everyone’s gotta sit for. National, in fact. But meanwhile, let’s just (in turn) sit back, dive deeper, look back, take another path, search for treasure, look forward. A time and season for everything. This season will soon pass for me but I trust a plan for greater things lie ahead.

A Study in Romance, part two

I wish not this ‘second part’ to be very long because the point which I now expound upon is itself not very long. It is simply this (from part one):

“…if mystery and excitement are at the very least high points in a fluctuating heart, they are at the most components of love sustained for a period of time, though not indefinitely.”

Here, I would say my focus is still on the timeline that can be tagged onto love, leading one to ask, where romance belongs. That is thus equivalent as asking where feelings of mystery and excitement belong (the definition of romance was given in part one). 

What then? Remembering two things, though: first, excitement can be expressed towards the present and the future; mystery can be computed in the ‘what’ sense and the ‘how’ sense. This gives some dimension to the placement of romance in the Grand Scheme of Relationships.

First, mystery: I think this is easier. What and how. The former has a greater extent of uncertainty and the latter a greater extent of curiosity. The former involves more unknown compared to the latter. I would say the degree of mystery obtained from the former dissipates at a rather exponential rate as time progresses from the inception of a relationship to the end (either the intentional cessation of the relationship or the unforeseen cessation of life). As more events occur, the mystery of what can happens becomes ‘what happened’, and even though we could direct our mystery at every single event in the future pertaining to the relationship, the tendency is to focus on more significant milestones. Either less stirring mysteries do not occur to us as worth time wondering about, or excitement results in the larger mysteries consuming the smaller ones in our mind. Such as the proposal or a child consuming the prospect of having a candlelit dinner. Thus as we experience more, our mysteries deplete rapidly. As for the latter, they dissipate less quickly because ‘how’ is a more prevalent question than ‘why’ over the course of time. At the start with a lot of unexperienced future ahead, ‘what’ dominates our thoughts of those ‘big events’ of our hopes and dreams. The ‘how’ mystery is projected less far ahead, but more towards less major, more certain and impending events.

Secondly, excitement. As with mystery, excitement directed towards events more prominent in nature and further away in the future very rapidly is lost on the parties, while excitement about something happening, something about to happen, or something that has just happened is what we know as the ecstasy of living in this moment. So it follows the same general downward trend, but because excitement itself is generally closer to the present than a sense of mystery, so it endures and is much more obvious further down the timeline, where mystery is way less important.

This ought to tell us that romance fades as the mystery of the relationship, the person, the future are each uncovered with the passing of time. As a result the excitement tied to the mystery also disappears. What is then crucial to sustain romance is excitement about less prominent, more imminent events. That is what I concur to be the draw of life; the vigor that keeps us from calling a day mundane, or a night wasted.

Returning to the second point: mystery (and thus excitement) can be spontaneously or even gradually created on a very wishful and fantastical basis. It is erroneous to mistake imagination for mystery, as the former often skims the surface of reality without taking root. That is where we find a very wild, forward-looking, perhaps pretentious and short-term romance evoked. This is where we also see Venn diagrams overlap with ‘infatuation’ – which is 99% fantasy. Romance can incorrectly cross the line if it was in the first place built like a castle in the air; or, if it sustains itself on fantasy of the future. This is romance at its weakest and most indefensible.

At this point, before continuing to what romance as a force to be reckoned is, I thought it would be terrible to substantiate my ‘study’ on no observation but my mere thinking. I would like to think my thinking is part deliberate observation and part result of much influence from my observations. Still: I cannot say the ‘observations’ I here list are specific ones, like some scientific study. Since it is deliberate but not intentionally guided, most of the applications arise from trends. 

They are not new, but I bring them up because they do serve my definition of ‘romance’ in connection with ‘dating’. Couples obsess over physical contact; they are very immersed in the moment; they are immersed in each other; they often look so cheery; they are inseparable. I know it’s common sense. Still. Is this true love, we ask ourselves? No, in the light of the definition of romance, no. Furthermore, by exploring the function of mystery and excitement, can we say for sure that a relationship will last with romance alone? No, but last for a short time it might. Till the elements upholding this ‘feeling of mystery and excitement’ are weary and do not shimmer as brightly as before. They still can and often do, but with the same glory as before? Difficult.

Still, to conclude, I ask: How would we look like, then, with this romance? The key, then, is how pertinent the mundane is as a source of mystery and excitement. That feeling can be derived from our attitude to (something) tells us the mundane means different to different people. If a relationship is to consist of mostly this, where do we find romance? In the mundane, and it must be searched for, rather than simply found; it is not as easy as before, because we do not find it prominent in our deepest dreams and plans for the future. Yes! Romance can stay if you ask it to – if you both ask it to.  


A Study in Romance, part one

I’ve written on dating and courtship before, so in a sense I’ve (topical) experience (or at the very least sufficient background and knowledge) on the more general subject of ‘romance’. Now, I find it queer that I should be very adhesive to this particular word (rather than the ubiquitous ‘love’), and with a definition now in place:

Romance (n.): ‘a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love’.

Queer, isn’t it? Well, at least the way I see it, the only queer part of the description is ‘mystery’. I immediately do understand the ‘excitement’ part, since romance is most closely linked to dating, which is also part of the series on Experimentation. Well no, this is not a Wikipedia article but it does make sense to do a little classification of our terms before I share my ‘study’.

Of Love, the variations and impostors include Romance, Infatuation, Obsession, Greed, Unconditional Love, Unrequited Love, etc.

Of the agents and proponents of Love, we have: Dating, Sex (and its impure distortions), Courtship, Marriage, Sacrifice, Speech, etc.

I would say the components of Love are too many to be listing down here, so I’ll skip that for now.

Now, why a study in romance? My first inklings of such an informal and personal study arises from my observations of couples whenever I go out. More accurately, unmarried, dating/engaged couples – bf/gf. That sort of thing. Now, what is there really to observe? (They are more than ubiquitous, after all). I would say we can deduce some functions of romance from there. Of course some aspects of dating must also be brought in.

“The study has brought forth these arguments:”

Firstly, if dating must be linked to anything, it is necessarily and foremostly romance. Why so? A revisit of the definition of romance reveals three key words: feeling (yes, this word is crucial), excitement and mystery.

That ‘feeling’ is described as ‘associated’ to love implies the separation of love from the category of ‘feelings’. Romance is the correct word to be used. I will derive several things from herein.

That the feelings involved include excitement necessarily reflects the approach to dating (which is the agent of romance, which is a sector of love), usually from both sides. It does not necessarily reflect the stage of progression into/duration of the relationship, though it possibly can.

Mystery is more often related to the stage of progression/duration of the relationship. The degree of mystery can often be the indicator for such.

Secondly, if mystery and excitement are at the very least high points in a fluctuating heart, they are at the most components of love sustained for a period of time, though not indefinitely.

On the first point, now. Of excitement and mystery, it necessarily follows that we ask what these emotions are directed at, rather than associated with. Excited and mystified by what or whom? A person? Relationships? Mutual and/or co-operative gain? Or love? My focus would tend towards ‘relationships’ and ‘people’ because they are the key factors in bringing about romance. 

Excitement seemed to be derived, as I watched couples, from the physical intimacy the relationship brought. There was, undoubtedly, a euphoric or positive feeling attributed to this. This is some type of present excitement (as compared to anticipation or ‘future excitement’, no?). Speaking of anticipation, excitement is more generally derived from the fulfillment of a certain expectation or hope, perhaps created in the past. {{short interlude: the avid linguist is intrigued by the simplicity of this concept as presented in German. The reflexive verb ‘sich freuen’ by itself is roughly ‘make oneself happy’ but is not complete without the preposition afterwards, of which there are two options creating two very different meanings: ‘sich freuen auf’ is ‘look forward to’ while ‘sich freuen über’ is ‘excited about’. More here.}} It is not surprising that up to this point fulfillment of expectation brings excitement. I mean, in the Grand Scheme of Relationships, some things (like tough times) are expected but don’t bring excitement. 

Mystery is, then, a strong emotion related to the ‘future excitement’ I mentioned, in a sense. We could, for one, encounter mystery at what event can take place in the future; we can also be mystified by how a (plausible) event in the future will turn out like. Marriage is a good example of the first; sex is a stronger example for the second (especially as the relationship tends towards marriage). 

From these two points, we can take the present and the future to indicate a rough gauge on what romance means for the (1) attitude to the relationship, and (2) the progress of the relationship. First, romance is an attitude of curiosity, uncertainty and anticipation. Whether solving your romance ‘mystery’ involves knowing more about what it means to be in a relationship, to ‘fall in love’, to hold hands, to know someone better than yourself… you are satiating curiosity. Uncertainty is both a response to mystery and a cause for excitement. Great involvement of the unplanned future and what can happen. Anticipation is pure excitement at what is more or less part of a plan for the future. More excitement is derived from the ‘how’ mystery and what the (future) experience will be like.


I hereby conclude part one of my study in romance. I will try to elaborate more on my very curt ‘second point’ in part two. After which I can draw a cohesive meaning from all the observations and inferences, or perhaps state my stand.