Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Long Time Coming  §

© 2012 Aron Hsiao

It’s been months since my last post. At the time of my last post, it was months since the post before that. It’s hard to speculate on the reason for this. It’s some combination of:

  • Loss of ideas
  • Loss of self
  • Loss of time
  • Loss of interest

In any case, it’s time for an entry simply because it’s time.

— § —

The verdict is in. This is not a nice place. Having family here is enough to justify almost anything in the world, and offering my growing daughter the opportunity to commune just a bit with nature is also important, but if anything, I think less of the area than I did when I was younger.

This place and its people exemplify everything that is wrong with America, every regrettable “ism.” Provincialism, ethnocentrism, orientalism, consumerism, individualism, anti-intellectualism, jingoism, racism, and no doubt several “isms” that I can’t quite recall right now.

It is also a place of willful, studied naiveté whose sole purpose is to provide an alibi for all of the above, and a place of almost complete cultural and personal uniformity.

If life in New York is a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes or a melting pot of unique individuals and experiences, life here is an afternoon spent at the insurance agent’s office: drab, unidimensional, without verve or play, overserious while at the same time somehow lacking credibility, and most of all, just plain not so amazingly cool. It is one of those places for which caricatures like Edward Scissorhand were made, only dripping with self-important and holier-than-thou faithful, discourse, culture, and practice.

— § —

Today’s local talk radio story was about what they described the “controversy” about Mormon baptisms for the dead, particularly dead Jews. The representative said that the problem was that the Mormon position had been misunderstood, and that once it was explained by him, acting in an official capacity, others might have an easier time accepting the practice.

He then proceeded to address Jewish families and the “controversy” entirely by quoting from the New Testament and from Mormon scripture that no other faiths embrace or use, explaining that it’s all a misunderstanding and that it’s really important that Mormons do this, since otherwise their relatives will be damned. It’s nothing at all to do with enlarging church membership roles, which is apparently an important point that needs to be made.

— § —

When I imagine the mornings and early afternoons that I used to spend with my daughter every day, the walk to meet mommy as she came home on the subway, and all of the things that we could be doing together now, at this age, in New York if we were still there living that life and that routine, the move feels like a disastrous mistake.

— § —

When I see my daughter interacting with her grandparents and aunts with delight on her face, or roaming freely about the backyard playing with ants and foliage and snowflakes without having to worry about pavement or traffic, the move feels justified and sensible.

— § —

We continue, nearly six months on, to cope with “move stuff.” The latest is a letter from New York City attempting to fine us for having let our auto insurance lapse and/or having an unregistered car with no plates in the city. Of course, we didn’t let the insurance lapse, and we don’t have an unregistered car sitting with no plates in the city; we just registered in a new state and got plates and an insurance the policy there. Unfortunately, NYC seems not to have accounted for this possibility. I’m still trying to wind my way through the bureaucracy and figure out what we need to do now to satisfy them, in case we should ever want to go back.

— § —

Not that there’s any real possibility of that, a fact that I continue to have trouble facing.

And yet, I suspect that until I face it and accept it, I will continue to struggle to find myself here and to be productive here in the same way that I was there.

My subconscious self cannot continue to imagine this to be some kind of vacation or temporary state of affairs that I can simply “wait out” and that has nothing to do with “who and what I actually am.”

— § —

But so far I suspect that there are deep parts of me that haven’t come to terms with this yet, not least because I can’t seem to grasp or take the measure of myself and who I am and what I am and what I ought to be doing much of the time since we got here, and in every metric or facet of daily life I seem caught or suspended between two states, neither one thing nor the other.

— § —

We are keeping goldfish. They are, happily, quite hardy.

— § —

I am not at home on this blog. That is one reason I don’t post. I haven’t felt at home on a blog since, probably, the 2007 edition, which I probably would have kept on Graymatter except that hosts hate it with a passion because it’s all Perl scripts that generate static pages and are called either through forms or as scripts.

I think the issue is that the world of technology has already passed me by. I imagine blog posts to be static things, just like my words. It’s a bit of the divine authoritarianism that Eco likes to mention. If they become “dynamic” to me, as they have in the HTML5+AJAX era, then there is little sense in writing them, and no transparent user interface to write them in.

Time was that books were written by writing in books. Then, later, when I came of age, blogs were written by writing in blogs. But now, everything is written by using a nicely rendered backend that bears no resemblance to what the experience of the text will actually be “for everyone else.”

But of course, to be a good writer, you have to experience your text like everyone else—not like the “special case that you are,” an identity that blogging engines today simply can’t seem to shake for blog owners.

— § —

It has been spring break. I had anticipated a spring break of “catching up,” checking off dozens of things that currently litter my to-do list and beating back some of the wildfire that has been pursuing me more and more doggedly for weeks or even months now.

Instead, I didn’t manage to check anything off of the list, despite having been incredibly busy over the break and essentially running myself ragged.

Now tomorrow I go back to class for the second half of the semester. I am not at all ready.

— § —

For the first several months of my daughter’s life, I kept a diary reflecting on many of the little thoughts, feelings, incidents, and facts of our day-to-day life, so that someday she would be able to read what I’d written as a young father and experience, probably for purely sentimental reasons, her entrance into the world through my eyes.

Today her grandmother asked me whether I was still doing this.

I had, reluctantly, to admit that I wasn’t. Life became complicated and for some time I didn’t have the motivation, as I almost didn’t want to ever have to suggest to her that things were as difficult as they were. Then, we ended up in the incredibly strenuous family and work routines that we live now and it just seems as if that kind of recording doesn’t fit anywhere.

But it makes me sad to think about the fact that this isn’t happening, and that a lot of these little memories and anecdotes are being lost forever.

I won’t quote “that scene” in Blade Runner here, though there is a very large part of me that is tempted to do so.

— § —

I am not managing to get any work on my Ph.D. done.

This is the most terrifying and disappointing and frustrating thing in my life right now.

It’s also the thing that makes me feel the most lonely, the must full of regrets, the most desperate, the most manic, and the most ADD. (Assuming that ‘ADD’ can be used as the name of a feeling or phenomenological state.)

Now we race toward the end of the semester. With it comes an end to my viability as Ph.D. candidate, since the thought of continuing to pay maintenance of was and is a sticking point in very important relationships in my life.

It will be a bit like dying, I suspect.

— § —

And of course, with the end of the semester also comes a birth.

II.

Also a dragon.