I’m near the end of our second week in Taiwan. In the middle of last week I felt unwell and homesick. It is strange that when I was younger I wished my travels wouldn’t end, and now I’m fighting against my own primal instincts so I can continue the journey.
I used to be able to sleep in the worst of backpackers’ inns and travel overnight on buses. These days I don’t feel fully at ease except when I’m home. I don’t really know what happened along the way. Maybe I overdosed on the instability I’ve experienced in my life and it is both therapeutic and comforting to go back to the exact same conditions. I face a dilemma: my physical and mental health requires routine, but my spiritual and emotional health requires discovery (and it took a lot of self-examination to come to this realisation, the fact that I am not as one-dimensional as I thought). Managing my overall health is like walking on a tightrope.
In the middle of last week I came across an article about inequality in Singapore, and it filled me with a lot of sadness. I struggled terribly in the system even with middle class economic privilege, it has caused me so many emotional scars that I’m still having nightmares over it till today — I can’t imagine what it’s like to be struggling with both basic needs and the ruthlessness of the system. These feelings don’t allow me to recuperate in peace or live my life in isolation. I am always haunted by the unfairness of the system and the guilt of my own privilege. I feel like I should be doing more but my health doesn’t allow me to. My nervous system has gotten to a point where every little trigger can potentially cause me to spend days if not weeks in pain. I feel useless and powerless.
I tweeted about it and received a beautiful response in return. I would like to believe that it is better to focus on what I can do versus what I cannot do. That we all have different roles in this world and not everyone can and should be a tireless activist. I try to comfort myself by telling myself I am trying to recover so I can be in a better position to contribute. I wondered if Van Gogh felt useless painting everyday.
I am trying to defy a system that measures people in absolute terms, and yet I can’t escape from this conditioning myself.
How long will my recovery take? Will I ever recover? How does one negate a lifetime of self-abuse and negative thought patterns? Is observing myself and life frivolous? Is art and philosophy frivolous? Is self-examination frivolous? How do monastics feel looking at the state of this world? How can one ever live freely or even strive to be free while witnessing the entrapment of many others? How does one maximise their own privilege effectively to equalise the playing field for others?
I try to rationalise and think in logic, but regardless of the answers I come up with, I can’t escape the weight of the questions and the density of my feelings.
I can only continually try to expand the space I hold for these questions. Maybe with time and hope I will be able to exist with them.