Daily Prompt : Compromise

We’re not children,

We don’t need to fight over petty matters,

It shouldn’t matter who has the last witty retort,

In fact there’s no need for a retort

Nor for the cause of such.

Let’s be the grown ups that we are.



Daily Prompt: Compromise


Self-made Prisons: Thoughts on Dostoevsky’s The House of the Dead

house-of-the-dead    I just finished reading Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead or Prison Life in Siberia, and as I was reading about the different people he met in prison — the ones he liked, disliked, tried to avoid — I couldn’t help feeling life itself is like a prison. This feeling was made stronger after a friend complained about the shamelessness of a former colleague who had lied about his condition to the employer. He said he couldn’t stand working at the same place as this unscrupulous person. So I said to my friend, “I told you this is like prison. You can’t choose your prison mates!” ūüôā
The main character, Alexander Petrovich, a noble, observed the peasants in the same prison he was in and said, “…you’ll never know what is at the bottom of the man’s mind or heart. You may think you know something about him, but it is all optical illusion, nothing more.” Isn’t this true of people, in general? It is truly impossible to know one person fully. How many times have you been surprised or shocked by something done by a person you think you know inside out, something so out of character?
Petrovich also said this of Suchiloff, the man who volunteered himself to serve the former, “It is indeed difficult to know a man, even after having lived long years with him.”
In our lifetime we sometimes have to live, study or work with people we do not like. It is stressful to always try to be polite with them, which we still do because it is what we were taught to do since we were kids. Be nice. Be polite. Be courteous. Perhaps we can learn from the main character, Alexander Petrovich, how to deal with the oppressiveness of a “prison,” surrounded by people with whom we are not comfortable: “I soon understood that work alone could save me, by fortifying my health and my body, whereas incessant restlessness of mind, nervous irritation, and the close air of the barracks would ruin them completely. I should go out vigorous and full of elasticity. I did not deceive myself, work and movement were very useful to me.”

Sometimes we create our own prisons. If we are aware that we put ourselves there, then we can get ourselves out of that prison. Unless we are too afraid of freedom, just like some convicts in Dostoevsky’s time “…poor devils who commit crimes in order to be sent to hard labour, and thus to escape the liberty which is much more painful than confinement….”
Why do some people stay in an unhealthy relationship for decades, for example? Could it be being in “prison” where their role is set is less painful? Or the person they are with, no matter how vile, is predictable and therefore not as petrifying as the uncertainty that freedom brings?
I think each of us has his own “prison.” Some have luxurious “prisons” — they have a materially rich and luxurious environment, but inwardly they are tortured by their own demons. Others probably have even worse than the barracks in Siberia in the 19th century — economically poor, uneducated, unemployed living in squalor among those who want to be forgotten by society. And there are those who have just enough — neither too much nor too little — but they get bored easily, so they create their own “prisons” and for some time their minds are “occupied” as to how to get out of it, and they may or may not admit to being responsible for creating it.
The House of the Dead, like all the other novels by Dostoevsky that I have read, leads the reader to think and re-think ideas or previously held ideas about humanity — individually and as a group. One critic of Dostoevsky berated his endless psychologizing and philosophizing, but to me, these are exactly what made his novels achieve greatness. His characters are people that readers get to know deeply, and with whom we can relate because underneath all the masks worn and personality and experience of each one, is a real human being, and no matter how vile a character may be, because we get to know him, then we understand and have compassion.
I know I’ve said this before in this blog: the more Dostoevsky works I read, the more I admire the man, the more grateful I am for his words.

(The House of the Dead by Fedor Dostoieffsky with an Introduction by Julius Bramont)



Some goodbyes are sweet —¬†
You smile and hug and kiss 
And say the word, believing
That you’ll be better people¬†
When you see each other again. 

Some goodbyes are bitter —
You turn your back 
Perhaps with tears 
Or with a frown, hoping 
You’ll never have to see each other again.¬†

Some goodbyes are not meant to be —
You think it is over 
That the last chapter has been written
And another one cannot be added. 
But then a sequel is started. 

‚Ä®Some goodbyes are inevitable —¬†
You hate to part 
You know you shouldn’t¬†
But you’re not characters in a book¬†
Or lovers in a rom-com….

These goodbyes leave you feeling cold and empty 
Like a house stripped 
Of every furniture, curtain and picture,
Of every sign of being lived in, 
And all that’s left is a hollow sound¬†

And the echo of one’s sigh¬†
And the memories of a voice…

Such is the goodbye that, in my ear,
You gently whispered
As you kissed away 
A tear on my cheek 
And softly,

Left me
For good. 


“Love is so short, forgetting is so long..” is a line from one of my favorite¬†Neruda poems, “Tonight I can Write.” I think it’s a beautifully sad poem that captures not only the¬†pain one feels at the thought that love has gone, but also the courage to imagine that the person one has loved so passionately will eventually move on.

Tonight I can Write by Pablo Neruda:

Click here for the English and Spanish versions.
Click here to listen to Andy Garcia’s reading of the poem.



Love on a Gloomy Day

dead leaf final

Beauty in the eyes of love

It’s cold and cloudy¬†in Jimei again. I’ve already said this several times this week: This weather is depressing.

But luckily, there are people who can see the sun behind the clouds. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Yesterday, I was walking with a young friend, who was gushing about a guy¬†she’s in love with. She thought I was a mind reader because I knew exactly how she’s feeling and what went¬†on in her head whenever he failed to reply to her text messages right away. Sigh.

She was very happy and kept smiling. She said she even noticed herself smiling while walking alone even though it was raining.

Been there, done that.

But I’m happy and excited for her. I don’t plan on telling¬†her to be ready for the heartaches. Anti-climactic. (But you, dear readers, who I’m sure are older than my friend, ¬†if you’re suffering from a broken heart, might be able to help yourself recover by reading this article on the science of a broken heart — a good read.)

My young friend’s¬†happiness and excitement makes me think that falling (romantically) in love is perhaps the most effective cure for pessimism.¬† To one who one is in love, even a single dead¬†leaf looks beautiful.

Perhaps it is better for us to always feel like we are madly in love because, then, everything can be beautiful; every little thing can make us smile.

Of course, that is not possible (or is it?)

I guess we are all entitled to falling madly, stupidly in love once in our boring lives.

I wonder if there is such a thing as falling smartly in love?


On Age, Music and Chemicals in the Brain


A few days ago, I came across this interesting post on serotonin and dopamine and was reminded of it yesterday as I was listening to the songs of Barry Manilow. (OK. Please. Just be patient with me. I do have a point I want to share.)

When I was younger (“…so much younger than today…”) whenever I heard Barry Manilow’s songs, I would sing along until I cried (Yeah, I was that disgustingly dramatic.)¬†I would think of the guys that I liked but didn’t even know I existed, or the guys that I liked but were not free, or the only one that broke my heart to pieces. (Who would not cry listening to “Even Now” and “Somewhere down the Road”???)

Now that I’m in my 40’s and in a stable, loving relationship with my husband of 10 years, and together raising a child, I feel absolutely nothing when I hear the songs that used to make me cry and later make me smile. When I listened to those same songs yesterday, there was not even a sigh. Nada. It seemed like that part of my mind or my heart just disappeared!

My husband thinks it’s just because I’m over that time¬†in my life. Well,¬†I have been over that period in my life for years now. But I used to have fond memories of that time. Now, even that fondness is gone.

So I wonder if those chemicals in my brain are up to something, or I am just getting old or already old.

Do old songs still make you cry or smile or angry? Do they have any effect on you at all? 


Neruda’s “If You Forget Me”: A Lesson in Loving


Centennial Park, Iligan, Philippines

Whether Pablo Neruda wrote this poem for his country, Chile, or for his wife, Matilde Urrutia does not make much difference to me. I like the kind of love portrayed in this poem. I like the tone of the speaker as he warns his lover …

“If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing. ”¬†

It is not the sound of a desperate, pathetic lover who begs or promises to continue  to wait even though the other has moved on.

It shows a speaker who thinks and is not controlled by silly emotions, a speaker/lover who demands reciprocity in a relationship.For truly, if one can be, and is reasonable, one will demand reciprocity in a relationship.

(Even God demands, commands love and faithfulness!)

“If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.”

Who wants to be forgotten by the one person you cannot forget? Of course, trying to forget someone is easier said than done. The more you try to forget, the more you will be reminded. This¬†is perhaps the speaker’s way of saying, “Don’t think ¬†I will be pining for you. I will forget you before you can completely forget me!”

“If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land. 

“…and my roots will set off/ to seek another land.”¬†This is how it should be. One should be brave in seeking and starting a new life and not waste time and energy on someone who has forgotten.


Though the poem begins with a kind of warning, a threat as to what the speaker can do should his lover forget him, it ends with a promise, an enticement as to what he can give if his lover remains true to him,

“…ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.”¬†


  • Click here for the English version of the poem
  • Click here for ¬†the Spanish version (Si Tu Mi Olvidas)
  • Click here to listen to¬†Madonna read the English version of the poem.


On Forgiveness and Second Chances


I have often wondered what Jesus meant when he said one should forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-35). I don’t think anyone will take that literally (like 490 times), but I guess it means many, many times.

If God could forgive the world for what the world did to His Son (unlike Leonardo diCaprio’s character in The Revenant), then how could we, mere mortals, not forgive our fellow mortals?

But that’s just it. We are not God. We can try to forgive one person many, many times, but in the end the other gift that God gave us –reason, logic — would teach us to protect ourselves from being fooled, cheated or hurt again.

My question then is, is it immoral to refuse to give someone who has betrayed you,  lied to you, hurt you,  for the nth time, a chance for the nth time?

In the parable, the king sounded like a businessman, a moneylender who was compassionate enough to cancel a slave’s debt and actually “let him go”, after the latter begged the king to give him time to pay the debt.

Say for instance, the parable ended there, and the slave did not beat up a fellow slave who had owed him, would the king have trusted the same slave again? Would he have lent him money again? I don’t think so.

My point then is, yes, we can forgive people for the many times they betrayed our trust,for the many times they hurt us. But I think only a fool would give the same amount of trust to traitors/wrongdoers.

To me, forgiveness means accepting the fact that one was wronged, and not wishing the wrongdoer any ill, and actually sincerely wishing him well. But it does not necessarily mean giving him a second chance. Rather, it means letting him go his own way. Alone. Peacefully.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”