À la recherche du temps perdu

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Category: The Everyday

Karenin’s Smile

Was reading the passage about Tereza and Karenin, where Milan Kundera wrote that our love for animals was our link to paradise, where everything was pure, including love. Then I was suddenly reminded of an early episode in my life and was seized by an enormous remorse. The remorse was so great I could not believe I had buried it in my heart among all the other insignificant memories. It concerned the first guinea pig we had. I was probably seven or eight. We were so excited by this little creature we kept grabbing it and throwing the poor thing about with our gloved hands, laughing and screaming all the while. The same evening it was dead. My mother just dumped it together with the other household garbage, its lifeless body out-stretched and half visible through the white garbage bag. We could have at least given it a decent burial, but instead it was just there, cramped together with the leftover of our dinner, its white belly pressed against the plastic film. The worst part of the remorse was that I could not recall my feeling remorse for killing a life. The next guinea pig lived a long life with us, if that was any kind of consolation.

2016: 我的 turtledove

開始失去時間感,直至臉書開始出現年尾回顧:有人寫年度電影年度書籍,號外四十週年特刊有以社會時事藝術文學等界別整合一種集體回憶,這才想起自己每年總要做一次,卻又有感這年彷彿無事可記,未免有點悵惘。昨夜無眠翻看Home Alone 2,竟見到Donald Trump 驀忽間在螢幕上閃現,背上一陣涼意,馬上想起那天在Things 忙着準備傍晚一個演出時接到下任美國總統選舉結果的日月天地錯置的感覺,世上最驚慄荒誕的黑色喜劇。2016年又怎麼會沒事可記,每天我們都被數以百計的突發事件新聞資訊轟炸感官記憶,為了盛載更多我們只有把錄影帶回帶又回帶,新舊記憶彼此重疊到失去輪廓和温度。片尾麥哥里高堅送了一只鴿子裝飾給公園裡的餵鴿女人,說他永不會忘記她時,我竟然哭了:因為我已經跟那久經人情世故的餵鴿女人一樣,不再相信永恆的記憶和思念了(畢竟我連這一年發生的事都記不起)。但又浪漫的想:只要我仍手持那一只turtledove ,就仍能跟我的回憶接軌吧。

承接2015年尾的棚仔花生騷,2016年迎來了很多的思想衝擊。那種派對高潮後的失落、無法避免的熱情冷卻或前路茫茫之感,加上開始質疑自己的私慾和動機、對社會運動的本質的缺乏經驗和理解,無力感和精神肉體上的疲憊等等,導致了一段長時間的低潮。二月中發生了一件事,受到了一些刺激和傷害,自此好幾個月沒有再踏足棚仔,也沒有再參與任何事務。花了很久調整心態,從新定位自己的角色,也算是從某種創傷復原。其間,隊友們也各自經歷人生上的重大事件,叫我明白在拯救世界前我們都應學會照顧自己和身邊的人。一方面又怕被人覺得自己半途而廢或根本只是抽水,在種種自責和愧疚下,誠遑誠恐的來到了12月27日--棚仔花生騷的一週年。太多的愧疚讓我完全忘記一年前的熱血澎湃,也忘了要叫當時的朋友們一同出來聚舊,只是靜悄悄的來到了關注組搞的市集,當是支持一下。結果遇上幾個花生騷的朋友們,跟布販們和關注組再度接觸,我覺得我終於也可以放下了,甚麼不滿不平也已沒所謂了,我已經找到了心安的歸處。這麼一看,這一年也算是來了一個full circle了。

這一年繼續思考很多關於社區和藝術的問題。最爆的莫過於阿珏跟HKWalls 的罵戰,直接間接令我也得失了朋友,但又因此認識了一些新人新事,都是長知識的過程。身份的曖昧和矛盾隨着這種種討論、團隊價值觀的分歧和落差和突然出現的身份讓人尷尬的鄰居變得越益舉步為艱。縱使腦裡有很多計劃實驗很想試行,但總因各種阻力未能成行,為此我又學會了等待和接受,但也因為種種無力和無所事事,令我開始覺得這個地方根本是個咩事都做唔到的地方,並重新祈盼遠行。

也是因為旅行的問題,跟認識很久的朋友鬧翻。這只是一再證明了我跟她們的價值取向很不同,是次事件只是一個引爆的導火線。然而我們都確切感受到很深的震憾與傷害,我有點驚訝冷漠如我竟然仍能如此失戀。最近的我對朋友有了另一番理解:朋友不再是一群固定的約會班底,而是周期性的,隨着個人的成長和生活圈子移動而不斷交替的。當中不涉及忠誠的問題--又或者是比較傾向忠於自己,找一些不一定要經常見面、不需要永遠在身邊,但在一起的時候彼此都是完完全全的為對方而存在並相互理解尊重學習的那種可遇不可求的知己。又或者我只是進一步把自己邊沿化了--經過一年間跟不同「界別」(其實咪又係文化界,文化界是最鍾意搞小圈子的界別)人士的接觸,各種不明文的界定各種圈子的規條和作法令我感到很累很狹隘,也發現了自己從來不願從屬任何圈子的本性。不願埋堆又懶得爭,心血來潮可以很用心去做,轉頭卻又可以放下一切從新上路,這樣一個人還是做一個浪子比較好吧。

撇除那不愉快事件,那一趟沖繩之旅實在太美好,讓我有一種近乎思鄉的感覺。我覺得我可以日本為家,但又不甘為一朵花放棄整個森林。同樣的花心本性基本上應用於旅居以外的所有的人生領域。

如是想起擱了兩年多的日本遊記;在下一趟旅程之前,實在需要好好整理一下。另外寫了兩年多的小說仍是膠着狀態,我自覺自己沒有那個才能,說不好真的如多年前也斯老師所說的我是比較適合做編輯?只是不理會出版與否、是否選擇寫作一途,也覺得有必要將之完成,算是對自己一個交代,也是在記憶喪失之前的一場寧靜的抵抗。一只麥哥里高堅的turtledove。(雖然都不敢把它當New Year’s Resolution,因為不能保證它不會成為之後每一年的New Year’s Resolution⋯⋯)

正如記憶的喪失,情感的喪失(差點想寫缺失)也讓我很苦惱。或者我需要的不是一個人(其實我要喜歡一個人很容易,今年也出現了幾個感覺不錯的人,但那不也說明了其實是誰也沒所謂,於我而言愛情再沒有非誰不可?愛情所產生的依存症很讓人生畏,而我非常喜歡這個自由自主的自己),而是一種狀態。私人的感情如是,對於這城市和世情也開始變得麻木的話,可以在哪找出路,到現在仍是未知。快樂的源頭在於自己,究竟是獨善其身,還是積極回應抗衝崩壞中的世界?現在想到的只是在英國正式脫歐前快點出發,而每週二晚的法文課也是現時唯一令我感到一種純綷的快樂的時刻,縱使現今這個世代,不論逃到哪兒都是問題一大堆,而我們永遠無法迴避生而為人的原罪和責任。我只希望接觸世界能讓我消除自身的偏隘與無知,令自己更加認識理解這些責任。

展望明年的我,應該也是順從我一貫任由命運和機遇主宰的放任政策,相信自己一路走來所種下的種子結下的緣,隨遇而安,見步行步吧。

關於聖誕、婚姻、愛和自由等的事

馬上想起那些忘掉了聖誕的真締是愛的荷李活聖誕檔期爛片橋段(始作俑者應該是Charles Dickens的A Christmas Carol,不過此文非藝評,暫此作罷)。

朋友選在平安夜那天結婚,收到邀請時驚喜交集,因為自覺我們不算深交,只是因為一年多前的棚仔強拆事件而認識,他獨立的精神讓我欽佩、他對人文的關懷讓我知道他不是另一個自我膨脹的學者神棍。但最讓人驚訝的還是這個何時何刻都以言論以行動以生活方式反對任何形式的建制、不用八達通不用智能電話、主張獨立自主的程度到每次出臉書post都要得罪人的,怎麼想都不可能結婚的人竟然會結婚?

剛剛又看到了他的新臉書post,解釋了為何他這個應該不會結婚的人還是選擇了這條路。早前他和他的伴侶前往倫敦唸書生活,伴侶因為其華裔單身女性身份被當地官員無埋扣留留難了五句鐘,全因世間對於婚姻、年齡和性別的偏見和歧視。他因為希望保護所愛的人,便決定結婚了。就是那麼簡單,卻那麼簡潔有力擲地有聲。對我而言,世上沒有一個更好的結婚的理由了。不是時間到了、要生小孩、要抽居屋等等我們常聽到的不是理由的理由。就只是因為愛,和要保護所愛的人。

他說他知道此舉會讓一些朋友很失望並拒絕出席他的婚禮,而他也非常明白。我相信他依然追求爭取一個更公平自由的世界,包括讓無法結婚的人和選擇單身的人免受歧視,活得自由自主。他這一個舉動更讓我為之感動:一個能為愛而放棄原則的人,他所說的愛、自由與平等是有血有肉的,不是紙上談兵。

除此以外,為了貫徹他的理念,婚禮一切從簡:不幫趁財團、支持環保、禮服是價值幾英鎊的二手貨、酒水食物拍片影相化妝整頭司儀全由朋友親手包辦不用wedding planner、人情全數捐給深水埗明哥的北河同行等等等等,都不用多講了。

就因為這一個快閃婚禮,我過了一個很久沒有過的快樂聖誕,並(很老套很荷李活聖誕檔爛片的)重新發現了關於聖誕、婚姻、愛和自由等的真締。祝賀的話不多說了,因為懂得愛和婚姻為何物的人,一定會過得很幸福。

陌生人

最近常常想着一個人。這事情很讓人苦惱:因為我根本不認識那個人,這思念究竟從何而來,又有甚麼真實可言呢?由是你想起那些莫明奇妙的法國電影,那些忽然戀上陌生人的故事。於是你明白這事從來都無法解說,但也因為無可憑藉,所以也會隨時煙消雲散,餘下半個未完的夢。而能夠成真的,都不浪漫。

邊沿

我發現自己總是靠在邊沿,即使身在事件中央,我仍然維持着一個若即若離的距離,從不輕易讓自己屬於任何一方。距離讓我安心,使我冷眼看清一切,免於掉進狹獈,讓我明白何謂真正的獨立和自由,還有孤獨。

On charity & compassion

I have just received a Whatsapp message from a friend asking me to support her cause by sponsoring a fundraising walkathon for children with heart diseases and disorders. My first voluntary reaction,  I am honest to say, was irritation.

I do not profess to be a particularly kind or sympathetic person, but I know my reasons for my aversion against such appeals to donation, and I want to relate them here, since the incident has started off a chain of internal reasoning.

Firstly, I have nothing against charitable acts. I myself have kept a sponsored child in Laos through World Vision for 10 years. Sometimes I contribute a few coins on flag selling day. I work in charity organisations and have a deep respect for people in the field. I do believe that in a world of dysfunctional politics and unchecked neoliberalism, only kindness to one another can save humanity.

But what made me irritated was that this friend of mine, who is years my senior and runs a quite well-to-do structure marketing firm, should ask me, who, at 33 and still earning less than 150K per month, to support her charitable cause.

Now poverty is not an excuse for being uncharitable. But it is a fact I have less resources I can devote to charity, than a CEO earning four or five times my salary. And with that I have to be careful and only choose the causes most important to me. Of course I am happy someone is doing something for children with heart diseases and disorders, but please do not put that moral obligation on me and take it for granted that I will support because I work in a charity and look like a charitable person. At the very least, explain to me why it is important, convince me as to why I should join in the cause, instead of just sending me a Whatsapp message asking me for money.

Which reminds me of a recent article I read about western travellers asking for travel money on the streets from locals in Asian countries. The writer of the article, an Southeast Asian living in Hong Kong, criticised vehemently the insensibility and immorality of this practice. Her point is basically that historically most Asian countries have been, and probably still are, victims of western imperialism and colonialism, and it is utterly immoral that western travellers should ask money from Asians to fulfill their own selfish romantic dreams of travelling the world. If you want to do it, use your own money. Nobody is obliged to fulfill your dreams. If travelling does not make you more considerate and take you out of your Euro-centric mindset, then it is better you go back to your own country and not travel at all.

But I digress. What I want to say is that being kind and sympathetic and righteous (which apparently my friend thinks I am) does not mean that one is obliged to answer all charitable causes, and that if one refuses ones necessarily becomes a stingy, cold-hearted person. What I want to say is that, if you ask for money, ask someone with more resources and who are too busy keeping their million dollar jobs and are only too happy to support charities the easy way – giving money that they can easily spare in exchange for a clear conscience.

Do not mistake me here, I have no problem with the easy way – my sponsored child is one such gesture – a monthly donation (sent through auto-pay so you can even totally forget about it), perhaps a letter every two months if you feel like it, the greatest moral satisfaction at the least cost (and you enjoy charity tax deduction too). I share news and messages on certain issues and causes through Facebook and I sign online petitions, sometimes not having read through everything before I click. When it is easy, more people are likely to support a charity or a cause. Sad or not, it is in our lazy human instinct to prefer the easy over the difficult.

With me, charity, or compassion for that matter, is not the total sum of money you donate (to whatever cause) or the readiness to give money (to whatever cause). It is understanding the problems of the world, feeling keenly about them, and seeking the best solutions to them. There are both an intellectual and a passionate side to it. It is action, a way of life. So as there are ways of life, there are definitely distinctions between how one feels, thinks and acts regarding different causes.

Through a cash donation I support World Vision, dedicated to the wellbeing and education of children around the world, because I believe in the importance in education in the betterment of the world, and I believe that this organisation is one of the most christian of christian charities: always humble and ready to serve the least among us. I work in charities and non-profits in the arts not just for the petty wages that barely sustain me but because as a cultural practitioner, I strongly believe in the role of art and culture in human society. Instead of making a lot of money in some “immaterial” fields then giving the money to charities, I much prefer to engage in “material” fields and do “concrete” work. Because to me, money making businesses are much less material/concrete than the “conceptual” world of art and culture. Money is just a meaningless number, a means often mistaken as the ends;  but art is invaluable, and is the ends itself. Then occasionally, with what is left of my time and resources, I involve myself in direct actions and social interventions, concerning issues of human rights, civic rights such as freedom of expression, preservation of cultural heritage – all these, including the aforementioned, are the core values that make up my whole belief system. My charity and compassion may be limited, but are consistent and true to my beliefs.

I hope my friend who sees this will not be offended: it is not a criticism of your cause. I simply mean that with all due respect, yours is a charitable act. Just that it is not mine. And if I were to give support, I cannot do it unthinkingly and then feel good about doing a good deed. Hong Kong people are champions of charity donations, and we are too used to solving problems just by a simple click and think that we are charitable when we do not even understand what is at stake. But not me, I cannot afford this kind of indiscriminate compassion.

Quote from Jean-Paul Satre’s “Nausea”

The best thing would be to write down everything that happens from day to day. To keep a diary in order to understand. To neglect no nuances or little details, even if they seem unimportant, and above all to classify them. I must say how I see this table, the street, people, my packet of tobacco, since these are the things which have changed. I must fix the exact extent and nature of this change.

…… That’s what I must avoid: I mustn’t put strangeness where there’s nothing. I think that is the danger of keeping a diary: you exaggerate everything, you are on the look-out, and you continually stretch the truth. On the other hand, it is certain that from one moment to the next – and precisely in connexion with this box or any other object – I may recapture this impression of the day before yesterday. I must always be prepared, or else it might slip through my fingers again. I must never – * anything but note down carefully and in the greatest detail everything that happens.

—- Nausea, Jean-Paul Satre, p.9

Quotes from The Left Hand of Darkness

“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, “the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. No Handdara, no Yomesh, no hearthgods, nothing. But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion…. Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable – the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?”

“That we shall die.”

“Yes. There’s really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer…. The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

—- Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, chapter 5

停頓的必要

太久太久沒有停下來,讓累積糾結的情緒沉澱梳理。都說面書不是一個好東西,日復日以洗版式速度消費資訊和情感,讓人幾乎忘記照顧自己和他人更細膩深刻情感的需要。就連網誌,也因為有了面書這麼一個提供即時情緒發洩的渠道而失去了大部份的功能--然而面書那種為呃Like(甚或是嬲等其他新增感情符號)而存在的發表無論如何也只能流於一種能被即時消費的,或是嘩眾取寵,或是廣告行銷式的,有點濫情也有點俗不可耐,往往極度自我中心,而又少不免流於表面的文創作品。而最近的我對這種自我中心又極度敏感潔癖,去到一個連表達自己也覺得是罪孽的地步。但是2016年的頭兩個月乃多事之冬,在不停追看轉發post的同時,已經太多複雜情緒屯積下來未及處理,來到這個臨界點,開始每天不知為何總是煩躁不安,所有的人都看不順眼,所有的事都提不起興趣,有點憂鬱怠惰像患了創傷後遺症。我想我們都患了創傷後遺症,自從雨傘運動之後,甚或更早。我們的悲傷和憤怒還未收拾,每天仍有不住的即時新聞在我們眼前的屏幕上快速往上滑過,在未癒的傷口灑上一把一把鹽巴。我們都很怕停下來,覺得一旦停下來,就要錯過一些事件,就要把連僅餘的都失去了。儘管我們其實已經太累,已經無力再不住隔着屏幕追擊理論,對着屏幕處理這麼多沒有落單的情緒。當友人指出我很容易便被外物影響牽扯情緒,當對某些人事埋藏多時的不滿情緒一下子爆發之際,我知道這已是我的界限了。不得不停下來,直面自己各種仍未釋懷的感情糾結。今早的一段(又是隔着手機屏幕的)對話,久違的友人親切的慰問喚醒了我照顧自己和他人更細膩深刻情感的需要。生而為人,我們窮一生學習如何跟自己這些複雜的情緒共處。如何在接受和捨棄自我之間找到平衡,並仔細面對紀錄這些掙扎,皆因這都是存在之證明。之為停頓的必要。

New Year Reading: Madam Bovary

‘Whereas a man, surely, should know about everything; excel in a multitude of activities, introduce you to passion in all its force, to life in all its grace, initiate you into all mysteries! But this one had nothing to teach; knew nothing, wanted nothing. He thought she was happy; and she hated him for that placid immobility, that stolid serenity of his, for that very happiness which she herself brought him.’ (Part One, chapter 7)

‘Emma used sometimes to tuck the red border of his undervest inside his waistcoat, or straighten his cravat, or throw away a shabby pair of gloves that he was about to put on. She did these things not, as he imagined, for his sake, but for her own, in an outburst of egoism, a nervous irritation. And sometimes she told him what she had been reading – a passage in a novel, a new play, or a bit of society gossip retailed in her paper. Charles was someone to talk to, after all – an ever-open ear, an ever-ready approbation. She confided quite enough in her greyhound! She would have confided in the logs in the fireplace, or the pendulum of the clock.

And all the time, deep within her, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a shipwrecked sailor she scanned her solitude with desperate eyes for the sight of a white sail far off on the misty horizon. She had no idea what that chance would be, what wind would waft it to her, where it would set her ashore, whether it was a launch or a three-decker, laden with anguish or filled to the portholes with happiness. But every morning when she woke she hoped to find it there. She listened to every sound, started out of bed, and was surprised when nothing came. Then at sunset, sadder every day, she longed for the morrow.’ (Part One, chapter 9)