In three days it will be a month since I last wrote something here. Usually, I reason by saying there was just no time to write but everyone who does write knows this is a lie. Truth be told, I’ve been gone because I’ve been on a mission to find myself. Aren’t we all? At all times, too? But seriously, I’ve realized that so many things are said online everyday but while everything is said, nothing is as well. This hit me sometime last month so I went on temporary sabbatical to get my thoughts in order and figure out (beyond the writing woes) what really matters to me.
Having my aunt around was a blessing. Often it’s people who know us best who tend to remind us of who we are when we are most in need to face ourselves and ask the tough questions. Feeling lost and overwhelmed are things I’ve talked about before. They’re obvious insecurities that constantly haunt me and sometimes hiding becomes a niche. We grow accustomed to the dark and allow even our hearts to harden. Thankfully there are people who really know us down to our core and are able to reacquaint us with ourselves.
To begin with, we did a lot of exploring in this last visit of hers. Here is a photo I took of her at a museum in Singapore that opened on the same day we arrived. On display are several artifacts of interest–including vats and pots commonly seen in our own museums at home –but what really took me by surprise were the exhibits on the Silk Road and this one on Genghis Khan. The former is obvious because the fascination with the Middle East and China has been a constant since it was introduced by National Geographic at an early age. Genghis Khan’s life, on the other hand, really surprised me. This photo shows my aunt next to a quote of his. This greets you as soon as you walk in and there’s also a sharp smell of horse hair that is familiar to me but odd to have in such a confined space. Those black and white “tassels” made of horse hair were known as spirit banners among the Mongols. Genghis Khan had both black and white made from the hair of his best horses to use during war and peace respectively. These spirit banners would be placed under the Eternal Blue Sky and it would collect power from the wind, the sun and the sky. It would guide the warrior’s actions and inspire his dreams such that he is motivated to pursue his own destiny. This was about creating one’s own life in the world and in death, this banner was said to have contained the warrior’s spirit thus leaving a mark upon future generations. Khan’s life was also fascinating to discover. Temujin had an incredible vision and he was never one to settle. Now more than ever I want to pick up Jack Weatherford’s book on the subject just because we know only what we’re told in school: that Genghis Khan was a Mongolian warrior/leader who won many battles. I’m not sure how the part about forgetting your roots fits in with the exhibit since he practically belonged to a culture whose tribes clashed often enough to make him outlaw it…but it is apt nonetheless. And the idea of Spirit Banners really made me curious to learn more. There was also an ensemble performing live Mongolian music which I was too lazy to record. If I had I would have more things to say other than, “it was great.” I did tell my aunt though, that, in the event of my sudden demise, this would be the kind of music I would like to leave this earth with. The way Mongolians pay homage to the sky is truly evident in their music. Listening to it leaves one longing for deep blue skies and rolling hills…but mostly it’s infinity, a great expanse where your soul is allowed to grow as wide as you will it to. Unfortunately for the living, I find that this music reminds us of just how tiny our rib cages are made to support our infinite hearts.
But anyway, I’d like to finish this book first. I bought this on a whim and have not put it down since except to scribble notes about the accounts. There’s so much history packed in this volume that it is quite a mouthful to digest all at once. It takes time and some serious stewing to understand all of what Bernstein tries to communicate. So far, I’ve learned about ChinaBounder, Ludovico and Paul Rycaut’s accounts regarding harems in the Ottoman empire. There’s so much to be gleaned from this thin volume and already my pen is busy taking note of the next few books to read. I like that this is the first history book I’ve read that explicitly puts sex at the center of the East/West historical relationship. These histories are often about power and while they do tend to talk sex and give form to desire, they allocate only a small set of facts and analyses as if to say that the ties that bind the East and the West cannot be sexual. But isn’t desire and fantasy that which made the West curious about the East? Bernstein answers these questions articulately and he really does put a lot of material where his mouth is.
I may not finish in time because I only have twenty days to produce final requirements for my course. It’s a bit daunting but it helped me a lot to be reminded about what i really want to do with my life. Now I know that this is just a stepping stone to get to greater things and I can stop feeling direction-less because really, I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do.
I’ve just always been afraid of my own light, afraid to come into my own.