True words do not sound beautiful;
beautiful sounding words are not true.
Wise men don’t need to debate;
men who need to debate are not wise.
Wise men are not scholars,
and scholars are not wise.
The Sage desires no possessions.
Since the things he does are for the people,
he has more than he needs.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has for himself.
The Way of Heaven nourishes by not forcing.
The Way of the Sage acts by not competing.
– Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching, 81 (道德經)
Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little. – Epicurus
I began writing these thoughts on 8th of June 2014 thinking about what topics I will inevitably write on the matters of repatriation, philanthropy, synchronicity and spirituality, and this strange moment in time where I currently have most of my conscious thoughts gathered together.
As the days go by and more time for reflection rather than rumination allow me to process life the past several weeks, I’m at another crossroads in life. Each time I try to sit down and write, I’m instead instinctively drawn to distract myself or focus on tasks that would be more noble to talk about when my mother or stepfather ask what I have been doing.
Alone in the world.
As of today, I will have been back in North America for 23 days–nearly two years of being being in an alternate universe known as Cambodia (or rather, a few different universes, considering it’s been many, many countries in the developing world since I disappeared in 2012). I could handle the malaria and dengue, the landmines and gunshots, the muggings and chaos on the streets, because it gave life meaning as I was there to directly experience the impact I made in the work I’ve done helping others. But the biggest challenge is finding that place I belong when in civilian life, where the world I come from is practically science fiction or a Hollywood movie, and people trivialize my life by whatever stereotypes they see on television and make funny assumptions.
There’s a trope in video games where all the fun of being a one-man army is ruined by needing to protect someone. Video games, an escapist form of entertainment by and large, usually have an archetypal male who has martial arts skills, an arsenal of guns, athletic build, and sheer determination to rise up to overcome impossible odds, being the hero we fantasize about being. Then the trope comes: the princess is no longer the one we are trying to save at the very end of the quest from the dragon, but instead is the president’s daughter whom we find near the halfway point of the game plot. She is vulnerable, a pain in the ass, argumentative, bossy, and now the freedom to handle anything with reckless abandon is now turned to babysitting a brat while surrounded by zombies. This is known as the escort mission trope, and that is how I have come to view what being in a relationship is like after my personal experiences and the fact I live a vagabond’s life, adventuring through dangerous spots.
Manila will never be my place. I have an apartment, my (few) friends, and a history but it will never be a home to me.
I’ve been back in the Philippines for two weeks now after my stint in Bangkok. A conversation this weekend that I had with a friend I last saw five years ago happened to be about one of my blog articles, or rather, the content in one that struck a chord with her: about being a failed Filipino. Arguably, her situation might be worse than mine, seeing she grew up in a Filipino family most of her life in the Philippines, and I spent but five years in Manila, in the international school bubble, speaking English, after having lived in America and Hong Kong.
[When I started writing this post, it will have been] less than two weeks before the third anniversary of my father’s death. It’s been an interesting ride, for those who have been following, especially those who saw posts of that time disappear upon eventual realization that there are some things better unsaid for others to judge and misconstrue. But with or without them, I have had the time to really see my own growth, and that’s the beauty of self-honest and blogging: I see it, and those who follow me do too.