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Thứ Bảy, 26 tháng 3, 2011


As I was cutting grape into small pieces and absent-mindedly considered whether I should mix guava juice in, it dawned on me why there are people out there who love cooking and make-up. Finally I began to understand the art and the joy of these two very feminine practices. It’s not necessary that cooking and makeup lovers must be feminine women or that they give in to the pressure to be so. In the end, you can love cooking and wearing makeup for other reasons rather than to be a stereotypically good woman.

I always like mixing things up. Little bit of this, little bit of that and see what the combination will be like. When I was young, I tried out every mixture I could think of. I have eaten rice with beer, noodle with a mix of Coke, sweet wine, soya sauce and something else I can’t remember. I know Im blessed with a stomach strong enough for me to indulge myself in those little crazy ideas I came up with. I remembered applying a recipe to mix soil and fertilizers from a newspaper, and killed a few of my grandfather’s plants before I succeeded eventually. Weird, as Im recalling them now, there seems to be a lot of failure. But since they don’t matter, I forget them all.

As I grow up, just like others, I enter the adult’s world and leave behind my curiosity, the thrill to try out new mix and the unique excitement in creating something new. They belong to childhood, when you’re not afraid of failure and no one laughs/looks awkward if you ask stupid questions. However, cooking and makeup allow adults such childish joy. It is the joy of being the creator of your own world, the self-fulfillment in front of your creation, no matter how messy and how terrible it is regardless of anyone’s approval. I have learnt to follow rules for too long, so long that I can no longer consciously recognize the rules I am conforming to. Until that moment...

How does it taste to add some milk, or some cinnamon powder, or some juice? Should I use condense milk or just regular milk? How much is enough? Just a tiny bit or a little more? Should I put in it now or later? How should the temperature be? The possibilities are endless. The result changes according to countless changes made during the process. Every outcome is unique. You will never get the exact same output twice. Each product is a means and an ends in itself. Every time you set out to cook, it is a new adventure. The destination is brand new and will never be repeated.

How does that sound to you? Exciting enough?
The same principle applies to makeup. The combination of colours brings about endless results. Even when the colours are the same, brushes play a big role. Small, large, puffy or pointed, long or short, old and new. How you apply colours is a big deal, too. The angle of your arms, the pressure under your finger, the surface of your skin, just to name a few. After that comes the weather, is it humid or dry, sunny or cloudy, and your mood, are you feeling high or low? Every time you sit in front of the mirror, the final product will be different. You are still you, but different in a different way. Fascinating enough?

When I cook, I should allow myself to experiment. I read recipes just enough to know the ingredients and the process. I never measure, why bother if it doesn’t turn out the way it’s supposed to be. There is no such thing as “supposed to be”. If it tastes well, excellent. If it doesn’t, fine, I won’t do the same thing next time. I haven’t learnt enough makeup techniques to be so confident with experimenting. After all, you need the rules first in order to get your freedom. Without rules, you can’t start creating in the first place. Or if you do, it’ll be inconceivable (imagine using eye shadow for lips and lipstick for cheeks)

Now it sounds like sociology. I know I’d always turn back to this big thing getting stuck in my mind. Rule and freedom, for example. A complete ruleless collective is not a free society; it is just a random group of people. A face which doesn’t conform to the most basic makeup rule, i.e. eye shadow for eyelid, lipstick for lips and blush for cheeks, is not an ugly face, it will suggest insanity. The degree of freedom and conformity is always relative. So next time when you think you are free to do whatever you want, think again!

But the unique satisfaction comes from the act of cooking and putting makeup on, which as I have said, doesn’t come from outside source, such as others’ approval and acceptance. Of course the result does, because a tasty dish and a beautiful face will be complimented and it’s a great source of self-fulfillment, but I mean the very process of mixing and experimenting, when no result has been achieved yet. Why? Have you ever done anything just for the sake of doing it, not for the outcome? I call it pure love.

The Hindu people believe that this world comes into being from Gods’ act of play. Not a willful creation in a Christian sense of a God. No, just a play of a child, does whatever s/he pleases at the moment, the fulfillment of the act in itself. No child plays to get something. S/he just plays because s/he likes doing it. It’s fun. That’s why in Hindu view, this world will eventually come to an end, sooner or later. But there should be no fuss about it, because it’s natural, and it’s fine, really. Because we are only one phase in a great cycle, one will fade for the other to come. So much contradiction to the anxiety in both the Maya myth of 2012 and the Christian Bible of the end of the world. We will come to an end, so what? That’s fine, people.

Certainly Hindu people strive for salvation, just like Christians or any religious people do. It’s just not an immediate action must be done in this life. To quote my professor, “if they can’t do it in this life, it doesn’t matter, there’s always be a next” (I did laugh when he said this). But it’s a play after all. This life is a fleeting moment. And why should I feel so great when I mix up banana and grapes and milk and guava juice?

Because for a moment, I was playing. And I felt like a creator in front of my own creation. I call it pure love.


p/s: For Giao: You once asked me about the possibilities of life, what if this, what if that. I have been thinking about it for a while. It's called the debate between contingency and agency, a forever ongoing debate among the humanities. We are always bounded to some conditions beyond our control, but at the same time, have space to work within these conditions. How much space, again, is a matter of contingency. This very question is one of the main reasons why people turn to religion. One, to explain the factors they can't control. Two, to try to control those factors. Contingency surely creates anxiety and reassurance is one reward religious folks enjoy which we don't have. Sociology most of the time don't have answer for question of the source, they can only study the result (e.g.. accept the fact about contingency and study the anxiety it creates in people). Religions will provide you with the answer. For instance, Hindu people will say you are born in this life as a result of all you have done in your previous life and for uncontrollable events, you can ask the gods for help.

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