Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's cooking

Worked on a story dialoguing with (hopefully) an old, pre-WWII story by Nick Joaquin. Quite well-received during workshop, but because everything in it stands for something else (as does everything in the original), things need to be clarified--a constant struggle I have with all my first drafts (therefore, I always benefit from incisive readings shared by other people. Thank you, dear beta-readers, you know who you are.)

Because this is an attempt to dialogue with canon, this is a meditation on nation, I've been trying to grapple with ways of thinking about the nation, without succumbing to the trite explanations of ours being a damaged colonial culture. There are academic treatises that have been written on this, but I am looking for new ways of re-imagining what can be re-imagined, re-stating the obvious in a different way, maybe; mostly I am trying to figure out what I believe in. It's the first time I've tried this 'dialogue-with-canon'; it's a very very interesting experience, craft-wise, and it makes me see better one way by which fiction can "interpret the world" (see, Annie Dillard: Living by Fiction).


In the course of trawling the web, I came across this article on narcissism and self-esteem approaches in nursery school that may foster narcissism instead of 'healthy' self-esteem in pre-school children. Ex: Activities that end with the teacher asking the students, "What did you like most about..." instead of, "What interested me most about this activity was..."

This made me recall a recent article making the rounds on Facebook, on how the popular instruction to the young to "follow your passions" and the school's emphasis on honing them in useful skills do not always translate into meaningful work/a fulfilled life, because the young are not used to identifying a problem to which they can apply their passions and skills.

In the most meaningful job I ever worked at, my boss told me that it was easy to find young, talented lawyers, who were educated at the very best schools around the world--but difficult to find people who could spot the law-and-development issues (the weaknesses) in existing legal systems. One of the things we were tasked with was to try to help these lawyers (mostly lawyers with backgrounds in banking and finance) become better at identifying these issues and creating solutions that would strengthen not only the country's financial systems, but quality of life and basic rights.  We sort of struggled at this task for a variety of reasons, and often asked ourselves, whether this kind of attention (and interest) (like virtue), could be taught.


And so, my head, full of high-falutin' theory and readings on nation and narcissism, felt very heavy by mid-afternoon. Decided to make atsarang ampalaya (picked bitter gourd) following a recipe for pickled papaya, and will be off in a little bit to make a peach refrigerator cake. Tomorrow, will take care of the delicate mustasa (mustard greens), most probably by pickling it. Today also was the day I had my first taste of fennel. :)


Pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Nothing quite like it to remind you the world is bigger than what's inside your head.

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