Honest and Authentic

I think that no word can be a policy because if you dissect any word and try to shove the pieces into all kinds of shaped boxes, there will be at least one bad fit. It is dangerous to categorize exceptions because if they can be completely generalized, they would be part of the rule. That is why it is important to recognize what a word means to you. You don’t have to have a sweeping, all-encompassing definition. If you have only the traffic signal point you in one direction without the following roads to plod your feet across, you are already getting somewhere.

For me, honesty is foremost to understand and accept myself because only then can I handle external situations with honesty. I lash out and hurt others when I feel inner dissatisfaction. It’s all pettiness in my case but generally, the magnitude of people’s external hatred depends on how they have been marginalized. Dealing with your own dissatisfaction is honesty. Dealing with other people’s dissatisfaction is empathy. Dealing with the marginalized is something that history tries to achieve.

Honesty is more than just telling the truth. Truth is an abstract ideal because what seems like a universal truth for me may not be a universal truth for  you. A quote from Cloud Atlas, one of my favourite books, is that “truth is singular” and “its versions are mistruths”. Even though it seems contradictory to my opinions, I feel like it speaks about the bare truth, or the bare ideal. When truth is stripped from the different perspectives that clothe it, it becomes universal for it is something we all inherently believe as “good,” regardless of whether we value it. The character who speaks of this, therefore, intends to softly, but sternly chide her interviewer, reminding him how futile it is to reassure her that her version of truth is all that matters when he knows of her imminent execution. Truth is abstract, bare or not. Its versions are tangential rather than centripetal because truth has no universally accepted core. Honesty is more personal than truth.

A word more important than honesty is authenticity. Honesty takes courage, but authenticity takes confidence, complete acceptance, a bit of naivety, and yet another spoonful of courage. Authenticity absorbs honesty and allows others to view you as an individual when their lives involve thousands of individuals and people tend to sort and group together things with great numbers.

Day 3 of Daily Post

Progress and Expectations

Progress is always moving forward with either your feet or mind. It is therefore perpetual as long as you believe it.

It’s one thing to know that the same pain can also bring tenderness, but progress is when you change it to strength and use it to move on.

It’s one thing to accept that both old tears and smiles are true. It’s another thing to recognize that there is at least another person out in the world who believes in and yearns for the same future as you do. Progress is when you make your heart understand both principles in order to look forward to tomorrow.

I do not expect much. Next year, I only hope that I have continued this every single day because I know that the result would be a detailed chronology that personally defines for me the true meaning of progress.

Day 2 of the Daily Post

The Power to Sweeten Cores

I have always organized the food on my plate into a scale from worst to best. It is a difficult task when a dish is an amalgamation of many seasonings and miscellaneous chopped up ingredients, mixed with other dishes that are equally complicated, but I do it every time. I always end up eating everything on my plate, but I like forming expectations of what will go into my mouth, especially when I prefer to satisfy my inner spontaneity by more stimulating means. For me, eating is not an adventure but rather a carefully planned process that I always enjoy because I save the best for last. In regards to the bizarre aesthetics of food placement, the corner of the plate is the spotlight and I must love whatever I put there.

It distresses me when the only item on my to-eat list is an apple. The structure of an apple prevents me from carrying out my usual routine because even the best apples have bitter cores. I could slice the apple, thereby equally distributing the bitterness, but why lessen the intensity of the best when the juicy sweetness can be enjoyed on its own? I could also make slices around the apple starting from the peel to the core, but once in pieces, the juicy parts are indistinguishable from the parts nearer to the core.

The only magical ability I would want is the ability to sweeten an apple’s core. Indeed, that would make me a magical being. When the most experienced farmers, armed with genetic engineering, try to produce the sweetest variation of an apple, they can only alter the tartness of the peel or the sweetness of the apple’s flesh, but never the core. Indeed, my power would completely transform the fundamentals of an apple because the core is the beginning of an apple’s creation. If I had this power, the colour, texture and size of the apple would not matter because I would know for certain that the core would be good. Insides matter. This certainty would be my little piece of control in this volatile, constantly shifting environment and my rock I would hold onto in order for me to appreciate serendipity as it drifts, bubbles and crashes around me in waves.

Day 1 of the Daily Post

Grains of Sand: TIME January 21 2013 words

Monolithic: Massive, formed by one single block of stone

-No dictatorship is as monolithically malevolent as it might seem from the outside.

Pachyderm: A large mammal with thick skin e.g. elephants, rhinos

-Some of the white pachyderms now reside in Naypyidaw.

Parlay: to turn a gain from a previous into a greater amount by gambling

-After the success Pom Wonderful has had juicing high-antioxidant pomegranates, a new generation of entrepreneurs is aiming to parlay the health benefits of other fringe crops into million dollar super fruit empire.

Capitulate: surrender

Either Iran will capitulate to US demands or the US will go to war with Iran.

Abjure: solemnly renounce

-Washington has chose to abjure military action and contain its regime.

Presage: forebode

-In this, they match the inept Democrats of the 1980s, who were convinced that the election of Ronald Reagan presaged the onset of American fascism.

Farcical: laughably inept

Mint (v.): make (a coin) by stamping metal

-The darkness was neon in the farcical but sort of serious suggestion, supported by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman among others, that the President mint a 1 trillion platinum coin and place it in the Treasury, thus eliminating the need to raise the debt ceiling.

Noxious: harmful

-Krugman said this was silly but benign as opposed to the Republicans’ silly but noxious efforts to hold the nation’s economy hostage.

Lassitude: lack of energy, weariness

-But there is smugness and lassitude to the party right now, an absence of creative policy thinking, a tendency to defend corroded industrial age welfare programs.

Lacuna: gap, missing space

-Coburn was close to Obama when they were both senators. Not so much lately- a lacuna I’ll lay on the president, who seems as antisocial when it comes to politicians post election as he was before.

Candour: open and honest, frank

-His chief asset may be a candour in the best Jersey tradition of say-what-you-mean bluntness.

Byzantine: complex, intricate or characterized by devious, surreptitious manner of operation

-Some countries that have restricted international adoption did so to try to fix an often byzantine process rife with mismanagement, fraud, and systemic corruption.

Moratorium: temporary prohibition of an activity

-They were hopeful: Kyrgyzstan had lifted the moratorium on adoptions and was beginning to the process of approving the long pending cases.

 

Grains of Sand: TIME January 2013 words

Sequester: A general cut in government spending

Draconian: noun. (regarding laws) excessively severe/harsh

-And the so-called sequester– a collection of draconian spending cuts that were due to take effect Jan. 1- was delayed for at least 60 days.

Suboptimal: Less than ideal

Harrowing: Vexing, torturous

-But the result was a suboptimal deal that pushed the hardest decisions down the road and set the stage for an even more harrowing standoff between the two sides in the next Congress.

Partisan: Prejudiced in favour of a particular clause

-Obama’s second term is shaping up to be full of nonstop, overt partisan warfare, in part because the U.S. has seen exactly that for the past four years.

Obstructionism: Deliberately delaying or impeding the process of legal, legislative or other procedures

-Of course, Democrats have practiced this brand of obstructionism in the past.

Intransigence: Stubborn, refusing to compromise

Quorum: The minimum number of members of an assembly that must be present to make a meeting valid.

-He also made recess appointments of three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board after Republican intransigence left the board without a quorum.

Dogmatic: Arrogantly asserting unproved principles

Prerogative: An exclusive right or priviledge  to an individual or class

-It’s true that Obama is less dogmatic about Executive prerogatives than Bush, whose separation-of-powers doctrine often seemed to boil down to Because I Said So.

Corral: Gather together

-Thanks to exhaustive medical, philanthropic and political teamwork, the virus has been routed, corralled into only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria

Inoculation: taking a vaccine as a precaution against contracting a disease

-In 2003 the disease seemed near its end until clerics in northern Nigeria halted inoculations on the basis of rumors about sterility and HIV contamination.

Disparity: Great difference

-The disparity in funding partly reflects the disparity in need.

Snafu: A confused or chaotic state

-It’s 8a.m. on a Wednesday, and Tammi is on the phone, trying to untangle an insurance snafu.

Purview: Scope of influence or concern

Unequivocally: Apparently, unambiguously

-While the right to have an abortion is federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what circumstances is the purview of states. And at the state level, abortion-rights-activists are unequivocally losing.

Grains of Sand: TIME December 2012 Words

Pariah: an outcast

-North Korea successfully launched a long-range satellite into orbit on Dec. 12 heightening concerns about the pariah state’s growing ability to threaten its neighbours.

Conclave: a private meeting, secret assembly, gathering of a group

Dissident: disagreeing especially with an established religion or political system

-The huddled conclave (Syrian opposition with Western Diplomats) was boosted by Barack Obama’s announcement of support for the SNC (Syrian National Coalition), an umbrella group compromising exiled dissidents that had already won formal recognition from France, the UK and Gulf states.

Imprimatur: approval

-Despite securing the imprimatur of world leaders, the SNC faces its biggest challenge in winning credibility at home.

Furlough: A leave of absence from duty granted especially to a soldier

-Employees at personnel-heavy federal agencies like the FBI and TSA get furlough notices.

Derail: To cause to run off the rails

Junket: A social affair or an excursion/trip/journey

-But the vineyard junket derailed Stavridis’ shot at becoming Navy’s top officer.

Spate: a large number/amount or a sudden strong outburst

-The spate of generals acting like caesars has led Defense Secretary to order Army General to investigate whether top officers get too many perks.

Tether: To fasten or restrain or the limit of one’s strength or resources

-The left must ask itself why it is tethered to a philosophy that insists that…

Benign: Gentle, kindly

-He sits in a simple office lit by the sparkle in his eyes, which dance with the alert intelligence required to cast events in a benign light.

Duplicitous: deceitful

-The thing to understand, el-Haddad insists, is that the Brotherhood is not duplicitous but rather dazed and confused.

Caliphate: ruled by a successor of Muhammad as spiritual and temporal (secular) head of Islam

-They want to form the caliphate state, Mohammed says, wincing.

Decentralize: to delegate power from central authority to regional and local authorities

-It was decentralized by design so it could withstand security blows from the regime, whether horizontal or vertical within the organization itself.

Devolve: to fall or to be passed, in this case: to degenerate through a gradual change

-He regards the Brotherhood as intellectually exhausted, its pragmatism devolved to worldly ambition.

Profane: secular

-The sacred and the profane coexist with no evident dissonance in a luxury mall where loudspeakers carry the noon call to prayer past a Pinkberry and a store window displaying boxer shorts that read NIBBLE MY NUTS.

Affluent: having a lot of money

Phalanxes: A mass arrangement of people/animal/things or an organized body of persons

-The street, in the affluent neighbourhood of Heliopolis, was a battleground on Dec. 9 when phalanxes of well-trained Brotherhood toughs were ordered i, chanting “Morsi!” in cadence. 

Stigma: a mark of shame or discredit

-And never has the social stigma of marijuana use been milder.

Incremental: increasing gradually by degrees or additions

-The very process of regulating a newly legal dope trade, however, has the potential to turn an incremental development into a very big deal.

-It must have seemed, once upon a time, that a few casinos in the Nevada desert were but an incremental step in a society life with illegal gambling.

Launder: in this case, to transfer (by illegally obtaining money) through an outside party to conceal the true source

-HSBC just agreed to a 1.9 billion settlement over money laundering

Deprecate: to pray against evil, to seek to avert, to express disapproval, or to play down

-The 55- year-old single father laughs easily and talks self-deprecating stories about his role in  making our financial system safer.

Solvent: able to pay all legal debts (non-scientifically)

-In some ways, LIBOR is a measure of banks’ trust in one another’s solvency

mea culpa: a formal acknowledgement of a personal fault or error

-Unlike others, he was brave enough to make a public mea culpa and also fight back when it seemed the Obama Administration wanted to return to the status quo.

*All examples are direct quotes from TIME December 24th edition. All definitions are from Merriam Webster.

Ripples: Nail Fascination

Waves have more high points than low points. Funny how everything travels in waves… Or maybe it’s just inevitable that highs and lows alternate with each other. Is it about balance?

My fascination travels in waves. After I first applied the glossy pink colour on my nails, my hands would remain immobile for hours until they started itching from inside. Impractical, yes, but I get so annoyed when my nail polish has a little chip. For a few days after, I would constantly find my eyes wandering to my nails; I would spread my fingers out under the light and smooth my finger across the glossy coat. Little by little, I could feel my fascination with my nails drain away. Fascination isn’t really something I can control because if I could, I would force myself to stare at my nails for another half an hour. Even surfers have to work with waves; there’s nothing you can really do about it. Gradually, that little imprint on my third nail made when I pressed another nail into wet nail polish didn’t matter so much anymore.

The interest returns when my nails start chipping. It can hardly be called an interest but I suppose hoping that my nail polish will wear off soon counts. Once one finger is normal again, however, the rest seems insignificant. The nail polish is no longer a part of my life.

I know it’s stupid to talk about something as trivial as nail polish but I wonder if it relates to the other things I do in life. If I treat my responsibilities the way I treat my nails, I don’t think I’ll get anywhere in life. Right now, I don’t know which is better: to try to control the waves or to work with them. Even if I figure that out, I have no idea how to translate this metaphor into my actual life.

Ripples: Intelligence’s Optimum Point

Quote 1: Ignorance is bliss.

Quote 2: There’s nothing to fear except fear itself.

If intelligence could ever be fit into a single line scale, fear would be coloured in the middle.

The common notion is that fear is a wall that prevents us from various things such as being ourselves or expressing our emotions. I disagree because for one, I would not call that fear. Perhaps using the word cowardice is a stretch; pressure is a better word. The point is, that cursed wall is something much less profound than fear.

Going back to the idea of intelligence expressed through a scale, the two ends would be devoid of fear. On the low end, they say “ignorance is bliss”: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more accurate quote. Not knowing does not quite have the negative connotation that ignorance does but generally speaking, ignorant people dare to take risks partially because of their blissful unawareness of the consequences. Rising in the scale, knowledge increases. When knowledge increases, your view of the world is widened; therefore, you are aware of your role in society. This is when fear comes to play: knowledge leads to fear of the unknown because the more you know, the more you don’t know. Is fear so bad? Looking at the scale, the middle-high  area is where most people desire to be at and that area is precisely where fear is the most concentrated. Therefore, fear isn’t a block. Fear is something that protects us from ourselves, and from outside sources.

What about the upper area of the scale? I guess it could be either a bloated sense of intelligence or actual genius. When a sense of intelligence floats to higher than the optimum point, then fear disappears; this time, not because of ignorance, but as a result of you feeling higher than fear itself. On both ends, lack of fear is dangerous because it eliminates the barrier that alerts your common sense.

I don’t know where the optimum point is but there’s this one point that intelligence reaches its maximum while fear is still present. With all intelligence, there’s arrogance present that is concealed for most cases. Arrogance is fine if only in little concentrations but there’s a point where it overrides your other senses and that is the optimum point of intelligence.

Come to think of it, for a society where intelligence does not solely measure your outcome in life, our school systems encourage high intelligence too often. Those rare preaches of community service hardly makes up for the students who are stressed about their grades and constantly comparing them to others hoping to surpass theirs.

Grains of Sand: Night Circus Words

Coalescence: The union of diverse things into one body or form or group; the growing together of parts ~wordwebnet.com

-Each element of the circus blends together in a wonderful coalescence.

Exsanguinate: Excessive blood loss, bleeding to death, can refer to the process done to animals after hunting to ensure death.

-Trespassers shall be exsanguinated

Incandescent: Emitting light as a result of being heated ~Google definitions

-Seven, and the fire is soaked in a colour like incandescent wine.

Travesty: A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something ~Dictionary.com

-Someone else remarks that it would be a travesty to dye over such a colour, a shocking red might righter than their mother’s auburn.

Ostensible: Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so~ Dictionary.com

-The purpose is ostensibly to lull them to sleep, but they stay awake, watching the lights and the costumes and the stripes on the tents around them, strangely alert for being only a few hours old.

 

Sea Glass: November 10 2012

Besides intelligence, I don’t think there’s anything I value more than kindness. Actually, I only add the ‘besides intelligence’ part because what I value in others doesn’t always coincide with what I strive to become. I value intelligence in myself. I believe somebody once told me that the best thing I can be is a nice and intelligent person. Unfortunately, that just happens to be the hardest thing one can ever strive to be. Maybe I value kindness so much is to compensate for how much I value intelligence in myself. So I met this girl over the Literature course I took over summer and she’s one of those people I consider ‘tonic’. It must take a lot to stay this kind and genuine in this poisonous teenage society where maintaining your own character is a greater feat than achieving good grades. I wish there were more people like that at my school but of course, my stupid Grade 6 self was blinded by the shining name and lavish environment and as a result, I am stuck in a snobbish school that assumes everyone attending is rich. I’m not.