Yesterday*, I finally finished “To Kill a Mockingbird” while reading on train in a journey from Novena to Boon Lay after meeting up with Budi, the quintessential handsome of EL ITB 2007.
Have you ever thought that ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ could be interchangeable when you change your perspective?
Conversation with Budi
Budi and I were walking from Sommerset to Novena. We discussed lots of things, mostly about love, career, and the meaning of life. Before that, he once said that I’m thinking too much about life. But yesterday, he was also showing his interest to reveal the mystery of life. He said he figured out that money and joy aren’t the stuffs we’re looking for. Up to some point, life still feels tasteless even when you could afford tasteful foods. So, that’s why he thought he need a concrete purpose, something where the milestones could be seen vividly.
We also discussed about ups and downs that we have encountered in life. We both have the same view that pain is a part of completeness in life. We once opted to pursue love, but learned about suffering instead. And only when we have felt the bitterness of life, we could then feel the sweetness that it brings. And through the event that tormented us, we found the “power up” item to make us stronger.
Ancient philosophers on earth also had been looking for the purpose of life. And some of them believe that suffering and pain are the things that make our lives full. Many people with tremendous creativity suffered from prolonged misery in their lives. It gave them solitude and independent thinking framework that paved their ways to be great.
So, it may look so gloomy back then. But those sufferings were there for a reason: to escort us to here and now. And on other people, it is very difficult to give a just judgment. Everyone has been fighting their own battles since they were born. Once we know the reason why someone does something, we could understand and find the good in him/her.
It often becomes so difficult to repair things that have been broken. Courage is needed to start the fixing. All we need to do is to forgive ourselves, and then move on to make things better in the future.
And, in a peculiar way, it turned out what we were talking about is so aligned with the books that I’ve been carrying for the last 11 months.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” -Miss Maudie
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” -Atticus Finch
But of course, understanding why someone does something bad doesn’t mean that we approve evildoing. In my personal belief, I have some criteria of right and wrong together with the law of cause and effect. Some people I know, they don’t be firm enough to have this criteria. They just believe in cause-effect that makes the world rotates.
Now, I am going to talk a little bit about the book itself. This book was not a kind of book that’s engaging myself. Unlike that kind of book, I didn’t feel sad when I reached the beginning of the end. I felt happy instead, because I was struggling to finish this book. And I don’t regret the suffering and the time I took to read this book. Because without this pain, I wouldn’t be getting the whole picture of the book like the possible reason why this one and only work by Harper Lee was awarded by Pulitzer Prize and most likely would become timeless reading despite of some controversy in it.
This book has given me a good narrative of a quintessential father with good character (or in my religion referred to as akhlaqul karimah). I see the reflection of my struggling to train myself containing my temper since I was kid. (And, honestly, I want to grow up to be a father like Atticus. He’s more like a feminine gentleman to me. To good to be true indeed, but worth to become an imaginable objective.) And although it’s a bit weird to have a children who is wise enough to see from a complex point of view, the absurd children’s point of view was there to give light color to its deep reflection theme.
Personal Contemplation on Life Purpose and Interpersonal Awareness
For me, I could never stop thinking about life and beyond. When I was kid, I was so perfectionist that I threatened my parents by saying that I would commit suicide whenever I felt disappointed with situation in life. Although I didn’t really have the balls to do it (I once thought I was ‘darah biru’ and immune to metal when I took that kitchen knife. I used to mildly headbutt the wall because I was afraid to become swelled LOL), the argumentation took place in there.
“I had never asked to be born in this world, what’s the problem if I kill myself?”
By this question, I started my journey in discovering the meaning of life. I started to ponder about how my parents view this life. To think about birth and dead, and what’s beyond that? What does eternity mean? I questioned everything. Many are them are not so important for most people.
When I was about 11, I got my sense of consciousness as a social creature. I started to notice that I have thoughts, feeling, and consciousness. At the same time, I was amazed by the idea that everyone has them too. Each person in this world is just the same as me. They have their independent thoughts, feelings, and consciousness. I was very very amazed by this idea. And since then, my curiosity to study human behavior kicked in. It was also driven by the advice that my mom got from her High School Teacher
“Treat other people just in the way you want to be treated!”
Until this moment, I felt like God granted my prayer. Somehow I gained so many chances to get to wear somebody else’s shoes. Many people have shared with me their battles, giving me a new point of view. Some of them have the same religious belief, some of them don’t (including atheist, agnostics, and even anti-mainstream school of thought of other religion). I have known some of them for years, some for days, and some even just a stranger I met on train or plane. From pedicab driver, university professor, to government official. From young kids who felt bullied to those old people who have realized their times are coming. From the perspective of a righteous man to the perspective of man who feels he have lost himself. I gained so broad spectrum of point of view.
I could start building my wall of gratitude by seeing other people’s life stories. This wall would defend me from the negative energy that brings me despair, loneliness, and worthless feeling and suck up my self-efficacy, and self-confidence. This wall is also equipped by so many windows, so I could learn to accept things instead of complaining. Through this wall, I also learned to think twice before saying things and act. Along the way, I also managed to train myself to not hate the person who has done bad stuffs. And, more importantly, I learned to forgive myself.
Well, there are so many things I am yet to learn. I want to train myself to give in, so anyone wouldn’t be able to defeat me. I want to humble myself into a level where no one could belittle me anymore.
As for the pursuit of life’s meaning, I finally found the place to search for it. It gives me serenity to finally know where to search for it. And I’m so grateful because I see many friends are still looking for it. They don’t even know where to search to search the meaning of life. At least for me I could erase the first “to search” term. :p
But yeah, everyone has their own way.
*Sebenernya ada beberapa hal di kepala yang pengen ditulis seperti: kemarin-kemarin dateng ke seminar radar, terus tentang arsitektur pendidikan, dan tentunya beberapa cerita tentang riset. tapi bisa nyelesaiin ni aja udah bersyukur sih.