“Bonfire” or “bone fire”: an unexpected emotional distress amid a jubilant celebration

When all I could see were the glittering faces of people standing in a circle around the bonfire, and all I could hear were the blasting music and the people chattering and laughing, it seemed a bit inauspicious that a painful feeling would cast over my mind.

When the clock hit nine in the evening, I packed my books and left for the Winter Carnival bonfire. Just a few minutes before nine, I had received three text messages from my friends, telling me either that they were on their way to the celebration or that they were there already. I was thrilled that we had something to look forward to on a Thursday night. During a regular school week, a Thursday evening is usually wrapped up in schoolwork.

One after another, we were able to find each other among the crowd gathered around the bonfire. My happiness grew tremendously once surrounded by friends, who have in many different ways made my college life all the more memorable. We joined the crowd in celebration. We moved around the circle, alternating between moving inwards for the warmth of the fire and then escaping towards the periphery, when the heat became intolerable. Our group grew bigger in number with time – friends’ friends called their friends. It is true with friends, “More people more fun!” Many group pictures were taken – with whose camera, it was hard to tell. But it was implicitly agreed upon that Facebook would resolve the confusion later. Meanwhile, the air was filled with the sound of music, joyous laughter, and people chattering. One could look around to see the glow from the fire accentuating the excitement on the faces of the people around it. Time went on and so did the fun.

But, alas, the beautiful night did not end all in happiness. It is not as if this has never happened to me before – that something I see triggers a flashback. But it shook me hard, when the sight, and more so the heat from the bonfire, suddenly reminded me of a dreadful image I had encountered recently. A freezing chill ran down my spine, and my heart felt heavy. All of my senses defied me. The exuberant feeling of joy escaped me in a blink of an eye. All I was left with was that heart-wrenching and vivid memory of a walking dead… As she took her final few steps before collapsing on the ground, she was on fire, and fire was all around her. The red flames, resembling the shape of a ferocious dragon, engulfed her from head to toe. Within few seconds, the merciless flames consumed her. From her red robes to her skin, skin to flesh, flesh to bones, and bones to ashes, the fire burned her. And just when life ebbed out, she uttered her parting words, “Freedom in Tibet. Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet.”

I would be doing a grave injustice to her suffering if I were to claim to feel the pain she has endured before her soul, like the smoke from her bones, left its burnt abode. Maybe the closest I have ever come to undergoing the excruciating agony she went through was when I burned my fingers during careless times and currently when I stood at a distance of about twenty feet away from the bonfire at the Winter Carnival. Even on a freezing winter night, the discomfort of standing for more than a few seconds in the inner circle around the fire was unbearable. A scorching heat penetrated through my winter jacket, and in the next second, a feverish feeling put me at unease. I had no choice but to frequently move in and then out in the crowd, to avoid the heat. I could only think feebly, “If standing more than twenty feet away from the fire hurts me this much, then how terribly painful it must have been for the Tibetan nun who set herself ablaze!” Yet the torment of being roasted alive is far beyond any of my lived experiences and thus beyond my imagination… But, alas, when she burned, the fire was on her robes, on her hair, on her skin, on her flesh, and on her bone, until it fully exhausted her.

All I can say now as a fellow human being, to Palden Choetso and others who have ignited their precious lives is: “As I did on this chilly night, we will remember you. Though your body disappeared in the ashes, your spirit will live through us.”

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Kyle XY versus Veronica Mars

 

What glues one to a particular TV show or a film, or any other forms of story telling, is a relatable or more importantly, a reliable narrator.  A narrator, usually the main character, has the crucial role of bearing a truthful (or seemingly) image. He or she has the longest screen time, meaning that he/she is under scrutiny for the longest period. The viewers carefully observe each and every action of the character and thereby convince themselves that there is virtually no boundary between the two worlds – story-world (character’s world) and the real world. Thus a reliable narrator transcends the screen to invite the loyal viewers into the story-world.

As in Kyle XY and Veronica Mars, without a doubt, one would choose to trust Veronica more than Kyle. Who would trust someone, who does not know who the heck he is? Who would trust someone who pretends not to know a word of human language, yet picks up hundreds in a day or few? Who would trust someone who claims to be alien to all the human emotions, but then risks his life for a girl (in a brotherly manner), whose mother takes him in? But does he even know what a mother is? Or does he know what the relationship is among the four people at his host home? His attempt at drawing us in into his world by mumbling few words from time to time – describing his inner world – catches us off guard. Whenever he speaks, I had the urge to shout out, “What the heck did you say?” – rebuffing in a pretentious way. If Kyle pretends (and he clearly fails) not to know human language, then I pretend not understand the words he speaks, even though they sound worldly.

Veronica on the other hand is not only a reliable, but also an admirable character. She not only exposes us to all-there-is-to-know about her life, but does it under a human mask. She is not some kind of weird alien, who does not have a belly button. She looks and acts (most of the time) just like a girl next door. But she is heroic for her bravery to face traumas and dramas of life at a young age. Thus, I say YAY to Veronica Mars and NAY to Kyle XY .

“Veronica Mars is a marshmallow.”

But she still is cool the way she is.

No LOSAR: how to explain it to the children?

Though there is many festivals around the year, LOSAR – LO is year, SAR is new and therefore LOSAR means new year in Tibetan – is the occasion that people look forward to, the most.  It is the time when the Tibetans gather together with family, friends and relatives for fifteen days. For the first three days, people usually stay at home or with their families. The first activity that a family do together is to going to the temples to receive blessings. They bring presents to offer to the temples and also bring available cashes to give to the people on the streets. At home, the celebration entails eating sumptuous foods, wearing new dresses, bestowing kids with lots of presents, and songs and dances around the clock. Then after the third day, it is the time for visiting and inviting friends and relatives for lunch or dinner. As a kid, I used to love visiting our relatives during Losar. It is like the night of Halloween here in the West. Here the kids go for a “Trick-or-Treat” and receive bucket full of candies. Back in Tibet, it is during Losar when the children are the richest. They get their pockets filled with candies and there is constant inflow of cash from the adult relatives.  For the children, it is the best time of the year for sure.

Tibetan Children in their new dresses during Losar

Now as an adult, I am not as excited as I used to be when the Losar comes. But I can image how it must be for the little kids, especially my own nieces and nephews. Few days back, I called home to see how things were.  My father gave me an anecdote on what my niece, who is eight,  said to him the day before. She came home running. She was at the market place where we own a small shop. There she heard people talking about not celebrating Losar for this year. She was very upset and she wanted to confirm it with my father. She asked him if what she heard was true. He had no option, but to tell her, “Since you have been a very good girl, we sure are having a good Losar at home.”

What I heard from my father made me imagine how hard it must be for the adults to explain to the little ones why the Tibetans have decided not to celebrate Losar this year.

Since 2009, there have been more than twenty people in Tibet who set themselves alive to protest against the Chinese rule. Therefore as a symbol of national solidarity and also mourning the lost lives, the Tibetans have widely agreed not to celebrate the Losar 2012 in a grand fashion.

But since it is very dangerous to talk openly about these issues inside Tibet, I wonder what kind of answers the Tibetan parents give to their children when they ask the same question, that my niece asked my father. I guess the common tactic is circumventing the question with a kiss on the cheek or a pat on the shoulder.

The Millennial Generation: Are we better or not?

It seems right to say that each new generation is much different from the previous. “Different” I think is a save adjective when talking about the millennial generation in comparison with the older generations. Better or worse, the comparative terms when applied to describe the 21st century youths, I feel uncomfortable. Maybe we the new generation is better adapted to the technological innovations and hence survive well within a highly progressive media culture, but that does not conclude that the millennial generation is smarter or better. We might be good at handling the new technologies but we may not be good enough to undo all the achievements of our forefathers that propelled us to where we are today.

In the reading, “The Next Great Generation”, the authors highly romanticized what they call the “specialness” (if there is one) of the millennial generation. They portray the millennial youths as having a positive out look on the life, confident, ambitious, over achievers, obedient to the authorities, team-oriented, intelligent, tech-savvy, family-oriented and intricately connected with the world and hence they are global citizens. As much as it is tempting to buy in the idea that we are the perfect generation – a generation that generates the best of human potentials – it is hard to ignore the fact that the authors exaggerate the best of the millennial generation to the point, where majority of the youth fall out of the picture. The authors did not address the fact that the diversity among people who are born into the millennial (also true in the previous generations) generation is so much so, that it cannot be contained on a few pages. The authors therefore tries to create a utopian 21st century where everyone has equal access to wealth – which determines who can gain access to education, technology,  internet and so forth – and share the same aspiration and goals.

I doubt that we can ever define the millennial generation in collective or generational terms. Even within a family, there is always an undefinable differences among the members. Smart parents maybe not give birth to a smart child. Or a smart child do not necessarily come from a family of doctors or engineers. A generation, thus, is too big a picture to paint with the colorful colors such as, “confident”, “intelligent”, “over-achievers”, “optimistic” and so on.