“We mortals are, in general, like tortoises: we value and classify ourselves according to our shells…” –Rizal

“We mortals are, in general, like tortoises: we value and classify ourselves according to our shells…” (p.6) was used to introduce an elabrate description of a high-society home boasting of religious art, Chinese lamps, “half-European” interior structures, chandeliers, a grand piano, to name a few.

What a clever metaphor to describe the blending of cultures in the Philippines during the late 19th century.

This begins my Noli Me Tangere posts of notes with the intention of summarizing everything afterwards.

Chp. 1

“I will see you again a long time from now”

The new version of this old song shows how songs can age like fine wine. The original is a solid piece but this new version displays a depth and maturity. We experience this maturity in the way time is drawn out while maintaining a sense of tension.

Got to listen to this right after the holidays. I had a chance to spend time with family and friends in the east coast. As I said good-bye to loved ones and my amazing pal, a Norwegian elkhound, I looked to 2016; one of many goals is to reread old journal entries to remember things better and proceed a little wiser.

Thanks for reading. Smile at the great perhaps of 2016!

“My old clothes don’t fit like they once did So they hang like ghosts of the people I have been”

This is an awesome line from Death Cab’s song called “You Can Do Better Than Me.”

I’ve been slipping through the years
My old clothes don’t fit like they once did
So they hang like ghosts of the people I’ve been

I think this song is supposed to be happy in a self-deprecating kind of way but then it can actually be a super sad song about settling with someone out of fear. These two poles make this song good.

“that first year in Europe when I was so ignorant and so confident that every splinter of luck made me feel like a roaring champion.” –Hunter S. Thompson

The Rum Diary glistens with phrases like this the way water does in the sea. Thompson does a great job of writing dramatic character profiles. This one is about Yeamon:

“Yeamon was familiar too, but not quite as close–more like a memory of somebody I’d known in some other place and then lost track of. He was probably twenty-four or -five and he reminded me vaguely of myself at that age–not exactly the way I was, but the way I might have seen myself if I’d stopped to think about it. Listening to him, I realized how long it had been since I’d felt like I had the world by the balls, how many quick birthdays had gone by since that first year in Europe when I was so ignorant and so confident that every splinter of luck made me feel like a roaring champion.”

This paragraph is a reflection on youth and the past, making time stand still for a second. If this scene were in a movie, Yeamon would be talking and Paul Kemp would wash all the sound out so the camera just focuses on Yeamon talking animatedly with Sala, finishing a sentence by slapping Sala on the back.

Dignity, restraint, and emptiness in Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

A backpacker passing through San Francisco spoke with me about books while we were on a bus. In a later correspondence, my acquaintance wrote about The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I found the book and loved it because Ishiguro’s work stretches one’s understanding of the word “dignity.” Complex and delicate, the novel brings you into the mindset of a secondhand Nazi sympathizer. Throughout the drive around the English countryside, we slowly realize that Stevens was a butler working for a “great” man mislead by Germans. Various parts of the novel show us that the winners of the war are just as guilty of the same prejudices that Nazis were known for. I say this largely because of conversations regarding class, individual choice, and Ishiguro’s display of actions that question our morals. The writing leaves a lot of important things unsaid, a very smart way to drive home the emptiness felt by characters.

remainsoftheday

For example (spoiler), shouldn’t Stevens have dropped his responsibilities as a butler so that he can hear his father’s last words? The immediate conclusion is no: Stevens was right in carrying on with his duties as a butler during an important, political event. His father, who was also a butler, would have been proud of him for maintaining his composure in a clearly difficult time. In order to truly understand this part of the book, we have to look to his father’s great moment as a butler (bringing two, drunk houseguests back to their senses) and his father’s favorite anecdote of a butler in India ridding the house of a tiger. When we remember these two stories, the immediate conclusion to this chapter shows that there is thoughtfulness to Stevens. We see why he simply carried on. To us, dignity means having a job that allows us to care for those we love. To Stevens, caring for his father is best expressed by carrying on with his duties. This is a great example of how Ishiguro leaves things unsaid to display the hollowness and regret that Stevens will inevitably realize.

Sacrifice has a lot to do with dignity in this piece. In addition to missing out on spending precious last moments with his father, Stevens reflects about “loyalty intelligently bestowed.” He believes that the great affairs of the world should be left to those who are most qualified: the likes of Lord Darlington, the man he serves and a man mislead by the Nazis. His occupation as a butler precedes everything else in his life, including free thought. This is made sadder when we read the part about him secretly reading from the library. Stevens is embarrassed when Miss Kenton catches him reading. It’s almost as if reading is a luxury that he allows himself to have and he covers for it by saying to himself that it allows him to develop his command of language so that he may do his job a bit better. We see Stevens wanting to be more but the only way he can do it is in the confines of his role as a butler.

His self limitation delivered a pang when he realized his love for Miss Kenton/Mrs.Benn. As he caught up with her at the end of the novel, we realize that Stevens missed out on what could have been because he could not see himself and Miss Kenton beyond their roles at the Darlington estate. It’s important to note that Ishiguro does not use words to confirm Stevens’ feelings. It’s as if the book cannot physically allow itself to state such a thing and the physical lack of words on a page represents the restraint that Stevens has on himself. The lack of words to describe his feelings for Miss Kent also seems to reflect the emptiness that Stevens feels at the end of the novel.

What now for Stevens? He cries in the presence of a stranger, a retired butler:

“Lord Darlington wasn’t a bad man. He wasn’t a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes. His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship’s wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really–one has to ask oneself–what dignity is there in that?” (p. 211)

The last words of the novel were Stevens thinking about developing his skill in banter. He saw a group of strangers carrying on a conversation and it’s implied that he wants this for himself. Perhaps there’s hope for a new start. His want for banter is a sign that he wants to be able to express and connect with others. However, he says that his desire to be better with speech is so that he may serve the new owner of Darlington Hall. Despite the slight uplift, Stevens still confines himself to his role as butler and we wonder how much change he can maintain.