Stranger in a Strange Land

Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by sagely martians under the canyons of the bone-dry red planet who returns to planet Earth to find himself a Stranger in a Strange Land; and even more strangely, heralded and feted by hippie-mobs intent on proclaiming him as a Messiah possessing otherworldly and more-than-natural abilities.

Regrettably, I never had the benefit of instruction from sage-like alien mentors, and am quite sure my bearing(s) is more jurassic than messianic, and possess (of dubious-world-origins but decidedly) less-than-the-next-man capabilities; but like V.M. Smith, I find myself a bewildered stranger in my own strange homeland.

I have not ventured into the heart of this city-state of Spore for a number of years now; to me, a new shopping & entertainment mall is the sprawling waterside complex, VivoCity at HarbourFront, which I visited after its opening in 2006. In the ensuing years hence, there have apparently been many more scintillating and electrifying parthenons and edifices built in worship of our modern shiny elusive gods and goddesses (ION Orchard, Iluma, The Flyer…).

I think the tourists and foreigners who fly in once a year just for the fast and furious exhilaration of the F1 races and who partake most heartily of the dazzling delights this bejeweled city has to offer, probably feel more at home in this glittering glazed gotham, than a born-and-bred but clueless rustic misanthrope.

my water-brother Michael Smith, what is one to do… I don’t think I grok anymore…
So very parched…


7 thoughts on “Stranger in a Strange Land

  1. This post or something similar had been expected for some time. I can relate but disagree with the “Sigh…” This “clueless rustic misanthrope” celebrates your uniqueness and hopes that you do not “grok”.

  2. Greetings keeper-of-daily-fractal-legacies, my fellow water-brother…

    Yes, if one does not ‘grok’ this apparent-world and so, avoid being awashed within its heaving briny secular seas; he retains his individual self and perhaps even preserves a chance to truly ‘grok’ his true-self and the true-reality, beyond the flickering shadowy Forms on the cave-wall.

    While restraining ourselves from foolishly trying to quench our inner-thirst by drinking from the brine of the sentient seas, and choosing to drink only from pure living waters, is surely a wise and prudent thing;
    the temptations of Mammon’s sweet cordials and colourful cocktails, especially when everyone around seems happily intoxicated by them, leaves one with a rather dry lump in the throat…

    just a little sigh,

  3. ah, this bring back some memories of Singapore – Orchard road, hawker food. I stopped over a few days many moons ago during my 3-month roaming about Asia. Couple nights slept on a bunk bed outside the balcony of a guest house (the price would have been more expensive inside the room :-) ).

    Don, such anguish. coming from trader who daily contributes to the on going of the free market.
    A Neo (Matrix) of the financial world?

    A thought. Someone I know told me a few days ago that he feels lonely, he goes about daily activities but inside feels a sense of drifting. He feels lonely because friends and family members don’t get/grok what he goes through, so he stopped talking to them about “these things”. Then I asked him (in a way asking myself).
    Is it possible that a person feels lonely because he holds on too tight certain thoughts that he is different from others?
    But if we let go of these thoughts, what would be of our individuality? Then what is individuality?
    Can we laugh/play in the world without being consumed by it? Wouldn’t a person who has nothing-to-do (tying back to Thomas Merton’s musing) just hang around Orchard road, enjoy the international food, drink all the liquors and not being intoxicated by it all? Because if there is nothing-to-do then one can do everything, right? :-).

    Just a thought. :-)

  4. roamingwind,

    What you said and Merton’s “there was never anything to be done from the very beginning” speaks of that finely-tipped but unknowable balance between the various dualities we face everyday: one and many, abstinence-asceticism and intoxication-greed, limit and unlimited.

    But herein lies the crux: only the ‘true’ or ‘enlightened’ man is fully able to partake of and “do everything” without having them leave their mark on him; and without reacting in one of two ways — being intoxicated by the world, or recoiling away from the world.

    Alas, all other lesser men (like myself), find ourselves doing that continuous jig-and-dance of going towards and coming back.
    That small still and yet moving point is most elusive indeed.
    [As Merton said:
    “Yet mere stopping is not arriving. To stop is to stay a million miles from it and to do nothing is to miss it by the whole width of the universe. As for arriving, when you arrive you are ruined.”

    There is a world of difference between feeling lonely and being alone.
    One may be surrounded by a multitude on a busy thoroughfare or even amongst close family and friends, yet is still unable to stave off that dreaded loneliness;
    and another may be marooned (or set free, depending on your perspective) on a tiny island miles and miles away from the nearest human and yet delight in the company of this and that before his eyes, under his feet or within his mind/spirit.

    Hope you enjoyed your brief sojourn in Spore.
    But while Spore may be tiny, it is really much more than that 2-mile strip of malls from Orchard Rd to City Hall; or even the 3-mile circle of bustling downtown.
    For example, the tourist-trap that is the current Chinatown, a misnomer if there ever was one: with almost all of the Chinese who make up 75% of the population living in the suburban heartlands, the real chinatowns are elsewhere.
    Peel off the glossy veneer, step out of the city, and you just may taste the real Singapore…with a cup of hearty and frothy teh tarik and for only 50 US-cents, sitting in an air-cooled kopi tiam.

    So, not really anguished lah… (in our famous colloquial Singlish).
    Any anguish has been reconciled long ago.


    [And actually, oftentimes I do feel like a disembodied brain-in-a-vat (Caution: Pic may not be suitable viewing for all) in an illusory matrix world.
    The Matrix movie was an amusing and fun ride, like Philosophy 101 and ticking off a check-list as the Wachowski brothers throw philosophical concepts one after another at the viewer.
    The main imagery for the movie was based on Hilary Putnam’s Brain-In-Vat (BIV) thought experiment, extending on Descarte’s ‘evil daemon’ from the latter’s Theory of Other Minds.

    Time now for me to plunge back into the matrix of the markets, with their streaming and multicoloured blips and lines:
    All right, I’m ready to go. Plug me in, Tank.

  5. Pingback: Pink Martini « Autumnal dust…

  6. Don, agree with you that there is a difference between what is said and what can be done by us mere mortals. For myself, nowadays when I feel/see that I recoil from something I try to examine myself why that is so. It’s not easy (at least for me);
    howevr normally it turns out to be I still hold onto certain thoughts/concepts about myself.

    Before when I was just a happy going person I had a lot of friends to hang around with. Then I got into the Zen temple, and gradually the friends started to drop, I felt lonely/alone (but then I have Buddhism :-) ). The last few years I take Buddhism less seriously (however still serious about my path), I find that I move about among people with much less uneasiness.

    I enjoyed the Soledad song a lot, my wife (who knows how to
    play the piano) walked out from the room exclaiming such nice piano playing. btw, yesterday, for whatever reason she went out an buy K’s Freedom From the Known. She said I rub off on her. I said “no, don’t blame it on me” :-)

  7. roamingwind,

    Yes, it is certainly not easy; and definitely there is a difference between what is said/written and what can be done. After all, for all his wisdom, someone like Merton did spend most of his life set apart/sheltered in a Cistercian cloister, away from the vicissitudes of an inclusive secular life.
    Who is to say the life of a secluded contemplative, asceticisms and all, may not be the easier one…

    Glad you like the La Soledad song. I thought it particularly fitting for our prior thoughts on duality and loneliness/solitude, with the song exhibiting its own bipolar behaviour: starting with seeming quietude and serenity, before allowing the seas of passions raging deep within to surface !

    A better half who shares your interests and even follows your reading/material/genre… You are a fortunate man!


    [Some further thoughts on solitude:
    Those who really like their solitude, cannot like it too much.

    在地鐵站 或美術館

    Too Much
    I like the moments when I am alone
    but I cannot like it too much
    At the train station or the art museum
    aloneness, like sleep
    feeds and preserves us
    With a neverending falleness
    Needing music, its warmth sustains

    – by the modern Taiwanese poet, 鴻鴻/閻鴻亞 (an excerpt)


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