Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

The fact that you don’t remember doesn’t mean it isn’t important.  §

So this has been my view two or sometimes three (or even more) nights every week for four years now. I don’t even think of coming to the dojang as “a thing” any longer—I don’t notice it at all unless we don’t go.

Which we haven’t for a little while because of end-of-year school stuff and then the Utah state taekwondo championships tournament.


© Aron Hsiao / 2019

When we’re away for a while, I notice it.

— § —

Thing is, I’m probably more comfortable here than I am almost anywhere else. The people are decent people, and I consider them to be my friends. The place is clean. The environment is generally wonderful for kids.

And there’s no work here. Or if there is, it’s limited to tablet-work.

At home?

I live in an old home that I also work in.

Home is where there is:

  • pollution and decay

  • environmental danger

  • long hours of work

  • bills to pay and schedules to meet

I didn’t have any notion when we started bringing the kids here that it would turn into such a life-changing thing, or that our dojang would become the place in the world where I’m most able to relax.

I doubt they have any idea either. I wonder what they’d think.

— § —

School ends in a couple of weeks.

There is still snow on the mountains.

Is that typical? I can’t remember. Maybe I’ve never bothered to notice. For all the musing we do about the shortness of life and the things we’ll miss when we’re gone, there are a great many details with which we never manage to acquaint ourselves.

But that’s a digression. Summer is here and winter is still here as well. Of course the boundary is more a matter of imagination than reality, like every boundary everywhere. Post-structuralism (though I hesitate to say “post-structuralists”) figured all of this out years ago.

But we don’t like to realize that because we don’t like thinking about what it means for our own lives and the way in which we imagine birth and death to be separated by a vast gulf in whose presumption of durability we invest rather a great deal.

— § —

It was late at night, and I somehow stumbled across the video section at The Atlantic.


© Aron Hsiao / 2016

I watched a short film about a family that makes wasabi in Japan.

I watched a short film about a the everyday life of a woman decades after losing her son to a rare disease when he was very young.

I watched a short film about the grown son of a Buddhist monk struggling to find his own path in life.

I watched and watched and watched these beguiling little films until the wee hours of the morning, every one of them a labor of love.

They seduce me so because I have the same impulse, if not the same aptitude and output. So many years carrying cameras everywhere. So many years tapping out little posts like this one into the ether.

Nobody to see them but—perhaps someday, if they’re interested—my own offspring.

Yet I can’t think of anything in my life more important.

— § —

You’d imagine that after all these years, and given my background in tech, I’d have found a good way to make posts while on the go. For example, while at the dojang thinking about a handful of independent shorts I’d recently viewed.

Yes and no.

I was an early smartphone adopter and an early tablet adopter, but I’m still looking for the grail workflow that will let me post my thoughts with blissful transparency, as though I were thinking things directly onto the page.

Maybe that’ll finally be in next year’s feature set.

— § —

They say that every day is decision day, and that’s true, but the truth of the statement doesn’t do much to make life easier, or to make decisions any better.

All the wisdom in the world will get you nowhere unless it’s your own wisdom. Most of the time, even that’s not enough; we’re compelled by forces we barely understand to gradually assemble and live in selves we can often barely tolerate.

Then, the marketers turn up after the fact and tell us that if only we’d read the book, we’d be millionaires who’d never hurt anyone by now, and since there’s still time to get the book, we can live the dream the next time around.

Young people fall for this all the time. They fail to realize that the people who love them don’t particularly want them to pursue “self-improvement” so much as kind and generous participation and learning—mere everyday growth, not in pursuit of achievement but rather in pursuit of little smiles and nostalgia-inspiring moments.


© Aron Hsiao / 2016

I still fall for it sometimes myself. I start reading something and it seems so plausible that I spend the night reading all of it. I go to sleep in an ecstasy of triumph at having figured life out.

The next morning, it’s only after coffee and a couple hours’ delay that I realize I wasted another evening trying to “improve” myself when in fact I ought to have spent it living.

— § —

The problem with spending time living is that it brings one closer to dying.

I think under the surface of it all, people imagine that if you can claim to not have properly begun yet, someone will give you extra time at the other end of things, so it’s in your best interest to delay as long as possible until you’re really ready to make a splash.

I’m not sure whether people would be twice as interesting or not interesting at all if things worked that way, but they don’t so it’s all academic anyway.

— § —

Taekwondo class is almost over. I’m supposed to be doing it too, tonight, after the kids. But I’m so worn out most Wednesdays that I just don’t. Problem is, I’m more and more “so worn out” at the end of every day. It’s not going to get any better, because I’m not going to get any younger.

It seems so incredibly implausible at 5:00, when I just want to go to bed already, to contemplate waiting through kids’ classes for an hour and a half and then producing an hour of intense physical explosion from 7:30 until 8:30 myself. When we head out the door, I honestly imagine most Wednesdays that if I tried it, I’d have a heart attack somewhere around 7:45.

But now here it is 7:25 and I’m prepping to head home—with that same old dread about all the things that await there. Now I’d rather stay here, heart attack or no.

Didn’t bring my uniform, though. One of those decisions that gets made every day. Only a few thousand of those left in my life, when you do the math.

— § —

Life is so short.

So very, very short.

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