Category Archives: Contemplation

Time

For some people, life is a competition with time. Perhaps because time is considered an enemy, for time eventually will lead us to death.

Some of them think they can trick it by moving slowly. Stagnancy stretches the day, making it seem longer. Meaning might be lost on the way, but who cares, for it is less important than convenience. They hide in routines and let the time be veiled by comfort.

Others think moving fast will beat time. They believe that the meaning of life is scattered in the pieces of the so-called accomplishments, and by achieving them, they acquire the full meaning of life. They believe at the end of the day, satisfaction will override time,

Both, in fact, will arrive in the end feeling exhausted. Rushing is exhausting, stagnancy is exhausting—both drain the soul in different ways, but with the same result nonetheless.

Meaning lies in time. Each second bears a meaning of its own, if only one knew. Time is not something to compete with—it is something to embrace, even if it carries death with it. Living with the thought of avoiding death is a useless life.

Only those who understand death know the truth about living.

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Numbers

We live in the world where everything is measured by numbers. Intangibles have to be transformed into tangibles that can be represented by certain numbers.

In society today, if we do not measure, we do not comprehend. Those that cannot be translated into something measurable seem to loose their place in society, not because of their insignificance, but because of our lack of understanding on how and where to place them.

Universities measure the quality of their students by numbers that result from various test, believed to signify students academic capabilities. People’s stability are measured by numbers in their bank statement. Our health is measured by digits stated in our medical lab report. The food that savors our life, which involves the complicated concept of taste starting from delicacies touching our taste buds and ending in chemicals released by our brain, is measured in calories. A painting is measured by numbers in a price tag. Earthquake is measured in richter.

Representing everything with numbers is an act of human to simplify matters so that comprehension can be equal. However, problems arise when this way of communication is considered to represent the whole meaning. We sometimes forget that numbers are representation of something being measured, but not the essence of that being measured.

Integrity, personality, and attitude come next after GPA or other numbers representing academic achievement.

Happiness becomes a mere vague desire as compared to digits in bank statement or value of assets

Balance of body, mind and soul is less flashy than cholesterol indicator.

The sensation of taste is nulled and replaced by the so-called health pills that supply the needs for calories.

Vulgarity wins over complex beauty.

Appreciation of a painting comes from interpretation of numbers instead of from what is whispered behind each stroke. 

The words of a shaky mother earth are lost in messy graphs, and all numbers associated with the event (numbers of casualties, financial destruction, etc).

These obsessive behavior to measure have caused reductions of meaning and hide connections between all things. We crave for meaning and understanding of life, but no clue on where to search them and how to find them, because all we see are numbers. These numbers should have been enough, that’s what we have been told and believed, but apparently they are not. No matter how much we can brag about our accomplishment in terms of number, like the huge amount of our assets, the low cholesterol level that signifies our health, the number of high-rated paintings that are lining on walls in our house, there is a huge spot in our life that is still missing. In fact, the spot is getting wider and wider until it stains the sense of accomplishing all those numbers, and in the end we realize we have nothing but numbers, literally.

Afterwards, there comes the task of unveiling each layer of those numbers, until we see the connection between what we are looking for, which is what we think we lack of, and what has always been there, in ourselves and in all things.

After that, numbers do not seem to matter although they still exist. And there is only peace and a simple thanks to what lies beneath.

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Imperfection vs Compassion

God does not create different kinds of paths because He is imperfect, nor because those He created are incomplete, but because He is compassionate. He creates human in many different ways, not even two are identical, because He is infinite and His creative power is unlimited. He, the compassionate, ensures that we, human, will find our own path back to Him, hence, He creates many paths that we can follow – our souls respond to paths that are meant for our souls.

The path we choose is the truth for us, but it does not exclude the existence of other truths beyond ours – our minds are limited, His is unlimited. Respecting other paths is not a denial of the truth of our path, nor is it a betrayal of our path, but it reflects our humility in front of His Greatness, that He is beyond our perception.

Claiming the truth for ourselves and bordering it according to our belief and perception is an act of vanity, for we try to shape Him instead of letting Him shapes us – we pretend to be God without knowing His will upon us.

When our hearts have finally been subdued to His Absolute Will and Love, we will not question the existence of other paths than ours, because we have seen His presence everywhere and have realized that there is not a single path which is not His path, for He is all.

Later, we will realize that the path we thought we have chosen is not actually our choice – again, it was an act of vanity because we did not understand, an innocent ignorance. He has chosen it for us, for He knows us very well and understands our need.

(Praise Allah, the all-compassionate, the most merciful – Jan 2012)

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The So-called Personal Obsession(s)

There are so many things that I have been obsessed with throughout my life. I sometime think of them as plain white rooms with doors, packed next to each other to form a big maze, like the one used in laboratory experiment. An innocent mouse wanders around the rooms trying to find an escape only to find later that the door leads to another almost-identical room.

I would really like to think myself as that mouse, a mere victim of circumstances that is not spared by life, but I am not that gullible. In my case, I’m guilty as charged because the rooms in my maze are my own creations, usually built with one purpose only, which is to distract me from the real activity that I should really be doing. This act of avoidance comes from either laziness, in which I prefer to slump on the couch and watch television forever, or cowardice in facing the unknown. So far, the later dominates and plays a major role in my creative process of inventing obsessions.

Once, I was obsessed with dancing. I took two private lessons per week that costed me a fortune, and went as far as sacrificing my lunch hour at work, plus another two extra hours each time to sneak out/in from/to the office and to catch up eating in front of my computer. After doing that for months and getting more and more tortured by the almost-silent whisper of my conscience, I finally admitted that I was just scared of the possibility of being confronted by my own thought about resigning from the job. At that time, the work load in the office was not the usual high and that could actually give me time to contemplate and think about the priority in my life. To that, my brain responded by transmitting pulses that made my body craved for dancing.

The other one that happened recently was my obsession with books. Whenever I saw online booktore ad, I would visit the store and it rarely resulted in empty shopping bag. Real bookstore was no less a culprit – the texture of those yellowish papers of hardcover novels and the feel of it at the tip of my fingers was just too much to resist. Of course, there is no harm in buying excessive books, except that my cash was tight and I already had books enough to keep me reading for a year. Still, I always found excuses to delay reading them and chosed to buy more.

Finally, after rearranging my books, I found out that I had unknowingly bought three titles twice, and only then did I start to think seriously. Or at least, pretended to, since deep down I have always known the problem all along. It was just a funny ‘co-incidence’ that this compulsive behavior started after I quited my job to concentrate on becoming a writer. It was even funnier that after I had all the times in the world, I did not have time to read, and most importantly, the root of all this, to write.

After I gathered all my remaining guts to admit my fear of facing this new and unknown world of writing, I suddenly lost interest in buying books and started to read whatever was in my bookshelf. I probably still need extra guts to actually gather myself to write, but at least I know that I’m going that way. After all, they say when a problem is acknowledged, ninety percent of it is solved, and I choose to believe it.

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Untitled

-Untitled-

In ignorance,
Love vaporizes
Replaced by specles of dust

In emptiness,
sweet turns to sour
And bitter cannot be distinguished
For it becomes the tongue

In silence,
Thirst is excruciating
More eternal than death

-jakarta, 02/12/11-

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The Magic of Words

Words are magical.

I was reading a letter that I had created for a friend a while ago when that realization just suddenly came to me. I was struck by the fact that there were so many words on the letter that I never imagined I could have written, words that do not seem to register in my head. Also, I had not expected to have certain impression when I re-read it again, but I did.

A single word obviously can speak for itself since in it contains the whole meaning and emotion. Having said that, a word is actually no different than symbol. The strength upon which a symbol imposes strictly depends on the message that life wants to deliver at the present moment. Thus, when we read a word, it may carry the burden similar to what was carried by a bleeding saint dragging a big and heavy cross on his shoulders, but on other circumstances the same word may just be as light as a flying dust from a long unworn pillow.

I used to think that the weight of a word was determined by the writer. But I believe now that I was wrong. Just like when an impression imposed by a word to a reader depends on what life intends to deliver at that moment, the same thing goes to the process of writing the word down.

The fact that a word is chosen and not the other is more the work of the universe than the author. The author is just a writer, not the real composer. The writer may come up with a framework of a story or article, but the process of filling it in depends more on the ability to open up oneself to receive inspiration, which is a manifestation of universal intellect. A writer is merely a transitory point with the single responsibility of jotting down what comes.

In that sense, the universe is an unspoken story that wants to be told. And words are created just for that. And when words are carrying that purpose, they are no longer a collection of alphabets but have transformed into beings. They are alive.

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Personal Legend / Passion / Misi Hidup

Paulo Coelho menyebutnya dengan Personal Legend.
Rene Suhardono menggunakan kata Passion.
Banyak orang menamakannya Misi Hidup.

Saya memakai ketiga istilah itu bergantian, karena menurut saya ketiga hal tersebut sama-sama membawa kita hingga tiba pada pertanyaan mendasar: apa tujuan kita ada di dunia ini atau apa maknanya menjadi seorang manusia di muka bumi ini.

Saya pernah menjadi orang yang tercenung saat menerima pertanyaan tersebut bertahun-tahun yang lalu. Saat itu, saya punya kehidupan yang bisa dikatakan mapan dengan pekerjaan tetap di perusahaan multinasional. Yang mengganggu saya hanya satu: kenapa rasanya ada yang ‘tidak beres’? Ada ruang kosong di hati saya yang sedemikian gelisah, seolah-olah kehidupan yang saya jalani itu adalah sebuah ilusi.

Saya lalu mencoba bertanya ke diri sendiri, apakah saya sanggup menjalani rutinitas yang sama hari-demi-hari selama berpuluh tahun ke depan hingga mencapai usia pensiun (bangun jam 5 pagi, berangkat ke kantor jam 5.30, tiba di rumah pukul 18.30, main dengan anak hingga jam 21.00, lalu tidur)?

Pertanyaan itu langsung membuat saya bergidik. Dan reaksi itu langsung membawa saya ke pertanyaan inti: kalau begitu, untuk apa saya melakukan semua itu? Kalau saya tidak bisa menemukan makna dalam apa yang saya kerjakan, apakah saya melakukannya demi selembar slip gaji setiap bulan? Berarti, itukah makna hidup saya, selembar slip gaji setiap bulan?

Jangan salah sangka dengan pernyataan saya di atas. Pertanyaan retoris itu bukan dimaksudkan untuk merendahkan atau menghina mereka yang statusnya pekerja dengan mengatakan bahwa makna hidup mereka hanyalah senilai slip gaji per bulan. Tidak ada yang salah dengan sebuah pekerjaan atau profesi. Sebuah profesi hanyalah bentuk ekspresi, dan sebuah ekspresi tergantung dari orang-orang yang berekspresi. Jadi kalau seseorang tidak bisa menemukan makna dalam sebuah profesi, itu disebabkan karena orang tersebut TIDAK BISA memberikan makna atas profesi tersebut. Dan inilah masalah saya: tidak bisa memberikan makna pada pekerjaan rutin yang saya lakukan.

Pertanyaannya, kenapa tidak bisa?

Saya menemukan jawabannya di buku Paulo Coelho berjudul The Alchemist. Menurut Paulo, setiap orang diciptakan ke dunia dengan ‘Personal Legend’ masing-masing. Bila diterjemahkan secara bebas, Personal Legend atau Legenda Pribadi adalah sebuah misi khusus yang harus dijalankan oleh kita di dunia, yang untuk itulah sebenarnya Tuhan mengirim kita. Dalam lubuk hati yang terdalam, seorang manusia tahu apa misi hidupnya ini, namun karena manusia sudah terdistorsi oleh hal-hal eksternal (keinginan orang lain, ekspektasi lingkungan, ego, dsb), keinginan itu terkubur dalam-dalam.

Dalam The Alchemist yang berformat novel tersebut, Paulo menyatakan bahwa walaupun pada awalnya kita belum sadar atau mencoba mengabaikan suara hati yang meneriakkan Legenda Pribadi kita, pada satu titik jiwa kita akan berteriak dan mencoba menggugah kesadaran kita akan keberadaannya. Saat itulah kita akan mengalami pemberontakan jiwa — sebuah perang batin antara teriakan hati dengan kekuatan logika pikiran.

Dan, bila kita memilih untuk mengubur Legenda Pribadi itu, kita akan berubah menjadi manusia-manusia penuh kepahitan hidup, yang tidak bisa menemukan kebahagiaan sejati.

Seorang teman pernah bertanya, bagaimana menentukan apakah kita sudah menemukan Passion itu atau belum? Apakah pekerjaan yang dilakukannya adalah passion-nya atau bukan?

Saya meminta teman tersebut untuk membayangkan dirinya melakukan pekerjaan tersebut bertahun-tahun ke depan… hingga ajal menjemput. Adakah penyesalan? Apakah dia bisa merasakan cinta akan terekspresikan dalam apa yang dia kerjakan itu? Mampukah dia mencurahkan segalanya untuk apa yang dia lakukan, baik emosi, pikiran, perasaan?

Saya percaya bahwa Personal Legend atau Passion atau Misi Hidup tak lain dan tak bukan adalah ekspresi cinta dalam sebuah lakon di muka bumi, yang bisa dilihat baik secara vertikal maupun horisontal.

Dalam tingkatan yang tertinggi, sebuah Misi Hidup bisa membawa kita pada kesadaran akan keberadaan Tuhan bersama kita, karena dalam wujudnya yang paling murni sebuah cinta merupakan manifestasi kehadiran Tuhan lewat sifat pengasih dan penyayang (hubungan vertikal).

Dalam tingkatan di bawahnya, kesadaran itu akan terekspresikan dalam kehidupan lewat pekerjaan, lewat orang-orang yang disayangi, lewat alam, dan dalam setiap aktivitas kita di bumi (hubungan horisontal).

Jadi Personal Legend atau Passion atau Misi Hidup, menurut saya, bisa diartikan secara luas hingga menyangkut seluruh aspek kehidupan manusia, yang tentunya unik untuk setiap orang. Ada yang di antara kita mempunyai misi hidup membesarkan anak-anak di rumah tangga, ada yang menaungi anak jalanan, ada yang mengobati orang sakit, ada yang menjadi pengusaha, ada yang membangun sistem di sebuah korporasi, dan lain sebagainya. Apapun itu, selama cinta eksis di dalam apa yang kita kerjakan, dan kita sadar bahwa semua adalah manifestasi dari sifat Maha Pengasih dan Maha Penyayang, maka kita sudah ada di jalan menuju kebahagiaan sejati.

No regret.

And will always be grateful for being human, until the last drop of blood or the last breath of life.

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