Allegory of the Spider

I hate spiders. I don’t know if it’s a societal influence or a personal preference, but spiders seem to be a part of an earthly species meant to creep people. I normally kill the extra creepy-crawlers immediately. However, one special spider brought me to a strange moment of enlightenment.

The spider was a white spider–an oversized version of the dead albino spiders I found between my blinds–and it clung itself between the popcorn ceiling and the powder-white wall. There was no hope for me to fling a book at it, so I reluctantly sat at my desk and pretended it wasn’t there. No matter how long I pretended to ignore that the strange spider was, in fact, nestled into the awkward junction between my wall and ceiling, I felt uncomfortable. I wanted it dead; death meant no more thinking about it dislodging from the space and landing on me to bite me.

But as I reached for a nearby book, I realized the spider wasn’t that different from humans. Sure, it had 8 legs with the ability to make intricate webs of fate, but the spider was still a living organism. I thought, “If I’m so superior to this spider, why am I scared of it?” It wasn’t like the spider was dangerous. It was just a spider.

I looked at the spider, lowering the book in my hand, as the faces of every so-called minority flashed through my mind. I was no different from supremacists and racists and those white women who shouldered their purses in the presence of a black man. You would think that killing another person or thing was for self-preservation–really, we’re just evolved cave people–but in today’s world, is it about protecting our bodies or preserving a bunch of lies and phony ideals?

Bigots act so high and mighty, putting their ideals on a pedestal, yet they try to purge others who are different. Groups of people try to look all-important, hanging folks with helping hands, twisting politics with “lawful” townspeople, and packing into restaurants with apathetic stares to minorities. Suddenly placed individually into a diverse crowd, they fake their hatred in guises of silence and feigned sympathy, or risk the full rebuttal of this country’s history of racism and indoctrination.

And they kill people because they are scared of the truth. Why else would anyone be adamant about taking another person’s life? Animals kill to survive and so do racist “humans”.

So was I really that different, or am I just like other humans? Was I so superior to that 8-legged creature that it needed to die for being born a spider? Did it need to die just for me to feel comfortable?

The spider remained in the crevice of the wall, and the next morning, it disappeared. I don’t know where it went, but I learned a valuable lesson from the little critter I will be forever grateful to learn.

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Life as a Machine: The Pride Gear

Something I thought I could do so easily was throw away my pride. I have so much pride in everything that I do. Whether it’s thinking it or saying it, I have too much pride. Now, like a super hero trying to get stronger, I have to throw it away so I can grow and get better at everything that I do.

Pride is one of those things that can stick to the bottom of your skills and talents until it gums up the elevator lifting to improvement. It’s a gear inside my body that is slowly rusting, and the rusting is becoming contagious. I will lose this gear somehow so I can become a better machine. I may believe that the pride gear is something that can distinguish between people and machine, but in reality, it doesn’t work for anyone. The pride gear will trip anyone until land at the bottom.

Life as a Machine: Support Systems

I’ve done many things on my own. I learned how to read by myself. I taught myself how to operate a sewing machine. I got good grades in high school and I took all the tests I needed to take to get into college. But sometimes, I don’t give credit to the support systems surrounding me.

The JET Program interview I had last week put my independence in perspective. Without them, there would’ve been things I couldn’t do. I spent four weeks before my interview doing mock interviews with friends, colleagues, peers, and mentors. Although I did my part by being me and coming up with some type of answer, it was them who taught me how to break down questions and realize how to make my personality shine through some tough questions.

The night before the interview, I donned a semi-formal dress for a banquet and tried to forget about the next day. Still, I couldn’t help but bring it up. “I’m so nervous,” I professed to friends and mentors while my hands shivered with excitement. They were the people who told me wholeheartedly not to worry, that I would do fine, and no matter, just be myself. When my mother and my aunt drove up with me to LA, they adjusted my collar before hugging me and saying, “Good luck!” I went in, smiling.

It warms my heart to discover such a system–one that isn’t cold or heart-breaking–exists. You can trust that no matter what happens, what they said is a gift in itself because you can pull it out whenever I feel small. The difficulty I face has always been about trusting my decisions and stepping forward with an unwavering resolve. I’ve become better at handling it, but finding people who care for me unconditionally means the world to me.

I am thankful that whatever happens in the future, I am happy to know that my support systems are there for me. Even if they break down, I am strong enough to stand by myself.

Life as a Machine: Real Politiks

I wish I took more risks. Sometimes, I want to grab my jacket and run for the outdoors, but then my brain starts turning gears, and I’m left with so many questions. “What’re you going to do at the park? What if it gets hot? Do you have enough cash?” I can’t just leap into a decision unless it’s a safe one. The safe decision can mean saving money or keeping my gas tank at the same spot or simply going to a party. But no, I forgot how to have fun unless it’s from the comfort of my own home.

I took some risks a few years ago. I hurt some people in doing so, but I just didn’t care. I ran for student government at my college on a whim, and even though I was a starving student, I spent every cent on my name to beat out my opponent. I lost the rat race, but I didn’t regret it. It was a different type of opportunity I put out there, one that opened my eyes.

How laughable it is to believe in someone you don’t know and you don’t get a bad vibe from them, yet, they still know how to drive a blade into your back. The student government president was that person for me. During the whole campaign, he was civil but he really thought I was nobody. My opponent, his baby frat bro, was more important even though I dedicated a year of service to his presidency. I learned how shady fraternities and sororities could be once they had an ounce of power. I broke a few rules, but he broke the thread of trust I held for him or greek life.

On the night they announced the winners, I didn’t cry when I saw the numbers. I lost, not fair and square, but lost because I didn’t have a white sorority backing me. He came up to me as the numbers sunk in. When I looked him in the eye, there was nothing there. Whatever he said, it was just him saying something to fill in the gaps. Everything changed. I changed. And I cried at that moment. My frustration was greater than my control, and I walked away.

The biggest risk for me, being a machine and all, was returning to his office and finishing the rest of the semester under his cabinet. Not only that, but I came back for a second year under his cabinet and created a new position just for myself. Now that I think back on it, he was a moron. He may have played his precious greek privilege card, but his weakness was all too apparent to me that day. Without his fraternity, he wouldn’t be anything. He couldn’t say what he really wanted to say to me. He just let me play his character flaws like a harp. Anyone with a strong personality could easily get their way with him. I knew that the moment I met him after the campaign.

So I squeezed out every ounce of weaknesses I could from him. The problem with real politiks is that the machine is underestimated, especially when the machine is hidden within a sweet and sugary package. He may have handed the campaign to my opponent, but at the end of the day, he let the machines take over his space like a toilet.

It’s a big gamble once you enter the game, too. I knew that, but I still did it. I’m glad I did. I got my foot in the door, and now, the gap is strong than the door holding me back. There are even more risks I have to make. Right now, I’ll just settle for allowing other machines to put their feet into the door. Once I get the courage to unhinge the stupid door, I’ll be the risk taker I need to be.

My Life as a Machine: Facelift

I had the most frightening yet interesting dream last night. I dreamed that when I looked in the mirror one night, my face had these big blisters and boils on my skin. I freaked out like it was a pimple dilemma–“Maybe if I put something on it, tomorrow morning it’ll be gone”–and I proceeded to washing my face and going to bed. The next morning, the exact opposite happened. The blisters were huge! It felt like the blue blisters were alive. I poked one of the blisters on my forehead, and it suddenly burst open. Everything underneath the blister, including some white liquid, came out, and before I knew it, my face was sloughing off!

I panicked as everything began to slide off my face. I was so scared, my heart pounding in my ears, as I brought my hands to the skin of my face and tried to keep it from coming off. Fortunately, I managed to save my skin from completely disconnecting from my chin and I placed it back properly on my face. Even though the blisters were gone and my face looked somewhat normal, the feeling of worms and dirt underneath the skin didn’t dissipate.

But the most amazing part of the dream happened. In most dreams with frightening experiences, I freak out and cause myself to wake up. This time, I didn’t wake up. I remember coaxing my heart to slow and myself to think. “Ok, calm down. You just need to find your brother and he’ll take you to the doctor.” I found my older brother, collected the sloughed derma and liquid together, and made a plan to go to the hospital.

Somehow, during the dream state, I stood back from myself and realized where I was: my face was fine, my body was wrapped in warm blankets, and my room was still dirty. I congratulated myself as I tried to shake off the dream. Although I panicked, I calmed myself down, thought rationally, and followed a sound plan with the help of someone else. I did something that I don’t normally do in dreams, and sometimes, in waking life.

I slowed down.

My Life as a Machine: Real Friends

I always think I have friends, people who can stand with you through anything. But when school is over and the break comes up, I’m alone again. I’m not afraid of being alone right now. I’m only afraid of having no one to turn to at the end of the day.

Most of my life, I have been alone. I can lend my lonely childhood to the ignorance of other children. I knew I was different, I just didn’t know why. It didn’t matter what I did. There was no fitting in for me, and when I tried to force myself into the box, I was shaken out of it like a kitten being shooed from its former shelter. Nobody told me it was because I was a machine. Nobody said it was ok to be different. The only person who believed I was special was my father, but he turned out to be a different type of machine. He was a master to himself and himself only.

I remember reflecting on why I didn’t have friends. I thought that speaking like a machine was enough. It wasn’t. I thought it was this or that, and it wasn’t anything. The rest of the world–even the world of machines–didn’t accept me because I was too different. Now that I look back, they were scared of me. I mean, why strike when it wasn’t provoked? Out of fear.

And now that I think about it, a part of me wished I took a hold of their fear and ran it down their throats. I have a vindictive nature, but my conscience wouldn’t allow me the satisfaction. In those times, I felt like I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But if it weren’t for the sheep’s clothing, people and machines wouldn’t have felt the need to walk over me. When I accepted the wolf in me, people didn’t dare put a careless limb in front of my path.

But maybe it’s that wolf side of me that hasn’t made friends. I can still feel the divide–like I’m too different again–between me and my “friends”. I’m not really a wolf, though. I only take on the qualities so people can’t step on me again. It’s not that I’ve built my entire personality or persona on being this incontrovertible machine. I have a soul.

It’s just that I wonder who my real friends are.

My Life as a Machine: The Word “Perfect”

“Perfect”. I hate that word. Any time I hear that word used in a serious context, my entire being becomes focused on the word. Even reading it in the Bible–“get closer to perfect”–is laughable. There’s not such thing as “perfect” in this world.  Why would the Bible say that? Of all places, the Bible should know not to suggest something impossible.

I hate “perfect”. It means that there is an ultimate comparison out there, and that means there’s another place for people and machines to worry about, to hang themselves out for death towards, to brag to others about. There’s nothing great about being “perfect” or striving for “perfect”.  There’s only getting better, improving oneself. It’s something that animals aren’t gifted with besides getting food, building shelter, or self defense. And people have such a hard time just bettering themselves, let alone, becoming “perfect”.

Since I don’t believe in that whimsical word “perfect”, I don’t believe in perfectly straight lines. I’m happy just scraping a pencil in something resembling a line versus using a level to draw a tiny straight pencil line. I hate grids. I hate it all. It’s because of this reason that I have a deflection from mathematics. It’s just too straightforward and cold, and I hate that too.

I suppose that’s why I hate “perfection” as well. There’s nothing fun  or interesting. If you’re perfect, you know everything, you can do anything, and you don’t need anyone. You just are flawless.

My Life as a Machine: Slowness

I knew nothing of the Slow movement. I simply knew little whispers hear and there–“Hey, did you know multi-tasking makes you less efficient?”–but I didn’t think anything of it. Then, when my friend handed me Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness, I dove into the movement with adamant.

Who knew being Slow was great? I mean, as a machine, being Slow sucks, but everyone expects you to be Slow, so no worries. As a person, being Slow means not conforming. Ironically, both people and machines alike have the innate nature to try to be fast and efficient. For people, it’s being part of society and adapting to everyone else. For machines, it’s formatting your life for people because people make the world go round (or so we’re all taught).

But I started taking it seriously. Being Slow isn’t nothing to be ashamed about. Actually, being Slow can make a person or machine more effective, more creative, and less stressed. I started practicing it in Slow, deliberate ways. Instead of speeding to class, I drove leisurely at the speed limit. Whenever I had the urge to wolf down my food without any reason to be in a hurry, I told myself, “Yo, it’s just food. It’s not going to run away.” I would automatically slow down, relax, and allow my brain to register a sated stomach. I’ve felt myself become calmer in most facets of my life, and I feel like my life is a little more peaceful.

It does takes some coaxing, but it’s worth it in the end. Now, if people could learn that the Fast culture is the hair-pulling culture–and that we machines exist because we’re meant to exist, not to serve them–the world could be a beautiful place.

My Life as a Machine: Ugly People

“Bland people are forced, by the nature of circumstance, to supplement.” (AdBusters, July/August 2009)

It was never a factor of whether physically ugly people were interesting for me. As a machine, caring about someone’s physical features–whether they’re ugly or beautiful–is simply fleeting. There’s only this superficial attention to it because machines are labeled machines by physical looks. For me, ugliness normally emanates from within the person, and it decays any beauty on the surface. For some reason, I was sensitive to such ugliness. I felt more ugly faces before me than pretty ones, though they could easily acquire a contract with Wilhemina.

I think the interesting type of people are those with model-perfect looks and treat themselves almost as lowly as an untouchable. They are the people that I feel the most nervous around some days; they make me uncomfortable because they remind me of my former self. Have you ever felt ugly even though you were aware you weren’t? I did, and as a machine, it’s pretty frequent to endure such  a feeling.  After all, machines don’t fit in this world–so says the people’s society–and therefore, machines cannot be beautiful, inside nor out.

I wish I could shake these people with plastic Barbie and Ken faces, peel off the layer of barbed wire, and tell them that they are beautiful for as long as they believed in themselves. It’s normally the low self esteem that ails such beautiful people, sometimes turning them into Ugly or into monsters or into wallflowers.

But what of the physically unattractive people? What do they feel? (Do they feel? is what people would say.) I am interested in ugly people because they rise above what wasn’t given to them (good physical looks) and move people with what’s inside of them. Besides, with money and cosmetics, being ugly physically is becoming obsolete. Having a great personality is becoming more and more rare, like a 1960’s CPU. Let’s face it; being ugly on the outside isn’t easy, but being ugly on the inside is unbearable. Change from within is harder to do than change on the outside.

My Life as a Machine: Blood-Suckers

I thought that people were just these beings on earth who weaseled their way into playing the superiority card. In reality, people are blood-suckers. Like vampires, they swoop down on the horde of others and feed off of each other. They make the world go round, and at the same time, kill the earth with their bare teeth before wondering whom deserves the blame. Then, they turn around and point the finger at the machines and other people with machine innards because they want a scapegoat.

Ironically, the same people the people accuse are the machines that helped build their empires in the first place.

I’ve met such people, the Blood-Suckers, and I hope that I don’t ever imitate such greedy, selfish behavior. As a machine, it was taught to me to never boast, feel pride, and to remember my place in the world. Even taking your own life wasn’t an option because the Blood-Suckers would think badly of the dead me.

I always laughed at how the Blood Suckers wanted to control everything. It wasn’t their need or destiny to do so, yet, they have imposed their faults and their impossible will onto the backs of machines. How did this happen?

I met a machine with the components of a Blood Sucker. I felt irritation and anger seep into my bones as I rushed to get a person to answer his stupid question. “Will there be food at the tonight’s screening?” he huffed, his voice carrying throughout the small, quiet office. I felt eyes peer at him from behind cubicles and customers alike. I couldn’t find it in myself to cringe. Instead, I answered other patrons’ questions.

“We had food for the first screening, but not for tonight,” answered my co-worker calmly, trying to abate her voice from rising out of annoyance.

“Yeah, I was just checking, just in case I needed to spend my food plan,” replied the chubby machine. “Where’s the closest place to park?”

As my co-worker began to answer with “PS4”, the broken machine interrupted, bursting, “There’s no PS4. There’s PS2.”

I wanted to grab the kid by the collar and turn him outside for his terse and rude language. I only caught snippets of the conversation, but there was a PS4 and he wasn’t listening. I merely helped the other customers as they continued their conversation. Finally, once he and the other customers left, I rolled my eyes and faced my friend who was patiently waiting for my shift to end.

He smiled, showing his perfectly white teeth against his evenly tanned skin, before replying, “What’s his problem? Jeez, calm down.” He was a machine as well, and the understanding of seeing a stupid machine make a big deal about food when his meal plan was readily available for such commodities made very little sense. We shrugged it off once the clock hit 12:15pm and I skirted around the office to leave.

I wonder if other machines are that ridiculous, and I just don’t have the honor to sit through such obscenities. If so, I am deeply worried about the state of the future. After all, I’m only one machine with a story to tell.

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