Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: December 2020

The end of the year. In 2020, more ephemeral than a dream within a dream.  §

This is the time of year when, for more than twenty years, I’ve lost myself in reflection about the passage of time, the year behind, and the year ahead.

This year, I am unable to do anything but hang on, moment by moment.

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Cherished memories are among the most tragic things known to mankind, more evocative of the nature of being than anything else I can think of.

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The trouble with western rationalism in general is that it imagines that metaphor is metaphorical.

In the small hours of the morning, when push comes to shove, it’s just you and heaven. That’s it.  §

Sitting, waiting for the storm to begin, exhausted and without the energy to eat.

This is a tonight thing, but it is also a life thing. Because a storm is blowing in from heaven for each and every one of us, eventually, and for everyone that we love.

It’s difficult to square that with living life. You don’t want to simply sit and wait, exhausted and without the energy to eat. But you also don’t want to do what so many now do, which is to pretend that time doesn’t exist, that all things are stable and eternal, that no good things must end—and then be shocked to misbehavior and fragmentation when they do.

I don’t quite know how to live and never have, but I suspect that no one else does either. It’s not the sort of thing that can be known or understood; it’s the sort of thing that can only be done, and in a way that will be done whether you like it or not.

You don’t live life so much as life lives you.

When you’re young, this isn’t what they tell you. The playbill that you got at the start of the show was full of quotes from parents and teachers and guidance counselors telling you about the importance of all of your choices.

But in fact, the choices hardly matter in the grand scheme of things. Be a doctor, be a hobo, be a millionaire, be poor, it’s all the same in the end, and the feelings are all the same in the end.

It’s not about the choices, it really is all about… I don’t know what. I was going to say character, but that’s not quite it. It’s not at all about how you live or the choices you make. It’s about how you are through the hanging-on that you do.

The nights are long and many of them are alone and really quite frightening when all is said and done. There’s no way around that; that’s life.

This is why it takes decades to raise a human—because even if you do it right, these are not the sorts of things that can or should be “taught” all at once.

The most troubling thing is that it’s everyone’s fault. Everyone’s.  §

Here’s a roundabout journey.

We were watching holiday films, as one tends to do with kids, and we needed something short. We’d run out of things that are still available on simple streaming services (now there are a hundred of them snapping up all the classics, it’s worse than cable) so we ended up watching a recording of “You’re a Good Skate, Charlie Brown” that I happen to have on a flash drive.

That led us to O Mio Babbino Caro, an aria that my daughter mistook for Silent Night at first, so I showed her a YouTube video of Charlotte Church singing it. Of course Charlotte was 13 years old when she sang this at the royal variety show and that got my daughter talking.

Next thing you know, we’re watching Charlotte Church singing Just Wave Hello, the official “global anthem” from the millennial celebrations at the end of 1999.

And as we watched it, the whole thing got more and more to my head. Global anthem. It’s a beautiful song, really, very alluring. But even more than that, I hadn’t thought about the millennial celebration in decades.

I am absolutely floored by just how far we’ve fallen. I remember it because I was in my mid twenties then, reaching into “real adulthood” and thus able to take it all in more or less properly. What strikes me?

  • There was so much hope for what the next epoch would bring.

  • There was so much optimism. The cold war was over. Classical liberalism had won. It was all The Enlightenment and fun TV from here on out.

  • The world really felt united. It was an “us,” a “we,” not just in the United States, but everywhere. The whole world tuned in and sang along with Charlotte. We were partying like it was 1999 and we knew we were all in it together.

  • Everyone spoke in these terms, from people on the street to the world’s leaders.

If you’d told me that by 2020 we’d be rioting in the streets, seeking to reimpose segregation in the United States, in a cold war with China, beaten back by terrorism and our own follies, and busy falling into authoritarianism ourselves in the midst of a crumbling West and a crumbling global order, I’d have said:

“How the fuck did we fuck up so incredibly badly? We have it all! All we have to do is keep eating McDonald’s, keep going to work, and keep watching TV!”

It’s honestly depressing. And also somehow edifying to think back to that time. For a moment, we really did come together as a planet, for a few short years in the ’90s.

Everyone wants to think we’re so superior now, morally, to who we were then. We’re not. We took progress and turned it into priggishness and petty conflict, and we seem determined to drive these until the end of the road.

Stupid humanity. At least we got a global anthem out of it. Not that anybody remembers. It may as well have been a thousand years ago.

It all disappears and then you have it hanging around in your head all the time.  §

They’re right when they say that the reason creativity goes as you age is because everything is held closely. The control stands in for the tsunami.

It’s not seeking, not finding, not a journey; it’s just a flash in the sea of forever.  §

Out there somewhere ahead, you can see the end of the road.

Just faintly. Just on the horizon. Maybe it’s a mirage. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s the threshold between here and there, now and then, the denoument.

On one side and the other, a blur. Time, stationary, as you rush past it. You try to see colors but really it’s all moving too fast; it blends to gray; pure motion.

The road vibrates a little.

Out there, somewhere ahead, you can see the end of it.

Just faintly. Just on the horizon. Maybe it’s a mirage. Maybe it’s not.