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Thứ Năm, 12 tháng 8, 2010

1. I realized I had the wrong key only when I was all by myself. I had waived goodbye to my friend a few minutes before with the assumption that I would get into the house with no trouble. No phone, no laptop, no book, no mp3. But it was a warm spring night with faint fragrant from grass and leaves and tender wind. I wasn’t worried much about safety because here in this small town people don’t usually stop to whistle or bother a girl sitting alone in the dark.

So I decided to sit at the doorstep and induce myself in isolation. It was an ideal isolation I haven’t found myself in for quite a long time. Firmly believed that my friend would be back in about 2 hours, I chose to wait, and meanwhile, tried to contemplate and was curious to see what would turn up in my head when I wasn’t distracted by any kind of media. In other words, when I was totally alone and disconnected from the world.

2. I have been trying to put my life in a forward direction. I set out goals, purposes. I build up dreams. I establish daily, weekly, monthly tasks. I outline “to-do list” every few days. I have resolution in the beginning of a year and summation by the end of that year. I try to do something for a reason, or have a reason for everything I do. I try to live in such a way that if being stopped any moment, I can tell what direction I am going, and why I am doing what I am doing.

Therefore, I live mostly for the past and the future. I live with yearning, desire, and nostalgia for what I can no longer have, as well as dream, hope and expectation about what I want but not yet have. Needless to say, I am quite proud of constructing my own life. I am happy not only with choosing the path I go, but also with my determination to choose and stay on that path. The present, important as it is, is always used for something that either has already happened or hasn’t happened yet.

Time is a linear and my life is a linear, too. Every moment has its name, for example, there will never be another moment called 2:02 AM Saturday, May 01, 2010 again. Everyday is unique. I will never be 5 again, or 20 again. Each day, each year has its own mission to accomplish. People save time, kill time, buy time. Time passes, time flies, time flows. I put myself in a race against time, with the final end named Death, referees are nice things like fulfilling career and loving family, audiences are people around me.

Time doesn’t stop. My life doesn’t stop (or at least not yet). But tonight, when I was sitting alone, having nothing to do, to watch, to listen or to keep track of time, time has stopped. I tried to enjoy the present. I tried to appreciate the beauty of each passing moment.

3. But it was extremely difficult. I couldn’t find myself at ease. I couldn’t concentrate on any thoughts. My mind went round and round like a roller coaster. My body was tense. I told myself again that now I can only relax and focus when my laptop with a working Internet connection is beside me. I need to be connected, not with one or two individuals, but with the world. Whenever my laptop is broken, I can’t do anything else due to over-anxiety. The first thing I do when I open my eyes is to start it, and the last thing I do before I close my eyes is to shut it down. I am really by myself only when I sleep.

Suddenly I recognized that when I have to face myself, I am just lost. I am so used to turning out that turning in is awkward. To talk to oneself, just for oneself, is not easy. There was something like a whole completely dark abyss I floated in. Thick darkness confused and frightened me. I am no longer disturbed by quietness, but Im still easily troubled by disconnection. Quietness can make one feel lonely, but a lack of contact with the world, no matter how that world is faraway, is devastating.
As I had nothing to turn to but myself, I panicked.

4. Great intellectuals often work in isolation. The Taoist influence on Vietnamese culture colours the great minds’ desire to retreat to the forests or high mountains as a noble, heroic and romantic thing to do. I was wondering how they could think when they were all alone, and I could only think freely and clearly when I was fully connected, though virtually. Such a vast difference!

I believe that people don’t want what they posses in abundance. Maybe someday I will need complete isolation too, but today, I knew that I needed the feeling of being included and connected to function normally. Loneliness is what we, people of 21st century, have too much, and unlike people of 10th or 15th century, we find ways to connect, not to isolate ourselves.

And time has stopped. When you’re alone on a high mountain, days and nights are just parts of an
endless cycle. Like myself tonight, sound of cars passing by, people walking and laughing, were just parts of an indefinite cycle. None was much different from the others, they were all the same, repeated times and times again.

I saw clouds flying by. I felt the cold wind slipped in the air. I heard the night become quieter and quieter. I became increasingly cold and sleepy. But I had no idea how much time had passed. The only clue was the city bus, I saw it passing by 3 times, and the last one must be before 11.20. But that was all I knew. I sat there, watching my feet and cars turning at the intersection, but cars can’t be used to count time. I tried to enjoy the moment but it was hard.

5. Time stops in eternity. Life in heaven, or Nirvana, for example, continues on forever. It doesn’t make sense to keep track of time up there, since tomorrow and the day after will be just the same.

But I once heard every moment contains eternity in it. So if one can reach for a moment, one can obtain eternity.

But to fully grasp a moment, one must content with oneself. To really enjoy the present, one must not expect anything, must not look forward to anything, must not look back either. One must accept everything that moment brings, and go with the flow. That is surely a kind of Buddhist philosophy I've picked up, but it only dawned on me tonight. I guess I have understood a tiny fraction of those simple statements. Tonight I learnt to appreciate it, because I recognized how hard it is to enjoy the moment I found myself in, how hard it is to calmly look into myself, and to embrace whatever I had. To loose oneself, to break free of one’s shelf, to melt one’s little own world, is a life-time task.

But once I gave up hope that my friend would come back, once I was totally prepared to spend a night outside, I could relax. I did fall asleep in the cold wind on a dirty couch at the doorstep.

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