lørdag, december 13, 2008

Dictionary of Commonly Misunderstood Words (I)

[Currently reading Karl Sabbagh's The Riemann Hypothesis]
[Currently listening to
MGMT's Electric Feel]

Inspired by Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I have decided to embark on a new personal writing project. I am currently in the phase of experimenting with different genres as well as writing styles. An online friend once told me that I am condemned to writing awful love stories and poetry because my tendency is to think and not to feel, so this time I am going to challenge myself by writing a love story. (In case you are wondering, no, I don't believe in love at first sight, but I believe in infatuation/lust at first sight.) In this project I am adopting Kundera's style - characters are mainly vehicles for conveying ideas. The bulk will be dedicated to constructing a lexicon of misunderstood words between the two main characters. There is also the possibility that this project will eventually fall apart as I might give up the idea of completing the story and end up writing short pieces on the different interpretations of various words instead.

* * *

The first time Roald turned around and accidentally caught a glimpse of Carla - her unobtrusive solitary shadow almost unnoticeable amid the crowded rows of wooden pews - she was veiled by the iridescence of moonlight streaming in through the french windows decorated with frescoes that hearkened back to the church's medieval past. Heretofore he had not been aware of her quiet existence; heretofore he had been kneeling down, with his back facing her, his lips murmuring a clandestine series of communication to his Lord, so engrossed in praying before his crucified saviour, that he had been completely unaware of the wordless company of this stranger, whose eyes were now staring at Christ in unwavering concentration.

With his gaze transfixed on her, he suddenly felt an overwhelmingly enigmatic feeling rushing over him - an emotion so utterly strong that it transcends all description - and he was unspeakably moved by the unexpected sight of her lonely figure in this empty church, abandoned by the city at this late hour and by the picture of her watching Christ intently. To meet her was his destiny, ordained by his Lord who governed this world, and it was at this moment that he felt a gentle push on his body in her direction. Through the labyrinth of pews, he finally stood in front of her, amazed and bashful, as she slowly raised her head to take a long look at him.

And this was how she was introduced to him - framed in the frail moonlight, through the arrangement of a superior being.


Roald thought he knew the reason why Carla was there in the church that night. Like him, she must have been there to relish in the soothing omnipresence of the Lord, to rejoice in His infinite power - power which He no doubt had used to bring them together, across the obstacles of oceans and landscapes. How else could their fortuitous meeting be understood? How could a mortal explanation ever suffice? In a church out of an incalculable number of churches in the world, on a night out of so many nights in the many years of one's life, she had appeared beautifully in front of him in the correct place at the most opportune moment, arousing within him a most irresistible torrent of feelings, propelling him uncontrollably towards her. Their lives had converged inevitably from two wildly disparate beginnings. In the unpredictability of the events that unfold over the span of one's lifetime there is undeniably an invisible hand directing the sequence of things, and he felt contentment in the assurance that he was destined to love her. It was a fate from which he had no escape, and he found meaning in such an interpretation of their story - he had fulfilled his purpose by spending his life with her, and who else could possibly share a love holier than theirs?

But Carla did not visit the church that night to bask herself in God's eternal grace, as Roald so mistakenly believed. Indeed, this was only one of the many misunderstandings that arose between her and Roald in the course of their romance. Throughout their lives they had each built up entirely dissimilar banks of vocabulary, shaped unavoidably by their own experiences in life - each word had come to hold a different gem of meaning for them, and the word 'God' was definitely no exception. No, Carla did not go to the church that night because she wanted to grow closer to God. She went there in a blasphemous and childish attempt to affront God's dignity. Patiently allow me to explain before you hasten to view her behaviour with derision.

While Roald found meaning in the belief that their love was a product of God's wonderful design, Carla was instinctively repulsed by such a revolting suggestion. She could never really comprehend why religious believers held the bizarre perspective that having been created in God's loving image endowed their lives with rich meaning. For if it were truly God's blueprints that had given birth to us, surely that must render useless our ardent search for deeper meaning, and certainly that would not enrich our existence with any remote value, for we would be merely nothing but cute playthings, the dispensable products of someone's unreasonable whims, our lives fully dictated nonchalantly by a temperamental being. The word 'God' did not hold any promise of salvation or of hope or of meaning - it held the connotation of the cruel nullification of the quest for purpose, it rendered void all her philosophical reflections, it murdered her spirit. The concept of God offended her tremendously, and that night she impulsively decided to spend some time sitting in a church, petulantly wishing to frustrate God - if He indeed existed - with the outrageous presence of an infidel in His worshipping grounds.

When she pushed open the door, she was immediately greeted by the hilarious sight of a pious man who was kneeling down in front of Jesus Christ and mumbling incoherently to himself. She chose to sit down by the french windows, her austere features dimly illuminated by the white moonlight, as she stared contemptuously at the cross onto which Christ was nailed. When the praying man was ready to leave, her expressionless face intruded his line of vision; and, before she knew it, he was standing breathlessly right in front of her, at a complete loss of words. She made up her mind at that very instant that she would love him with all her heart. That would be the greatest punishment to which she could sentence God - to have one of His devout followers falling irredeemably in love with someone who stubbornly denied Him. That Roald was the one out of so many believers in the world to have befriended her that night in the church was sheer chance. They had met despite the improbability - two people from incredibly distant parts of the world had come together through a chain of coincidences - and what could be more beautiful than such an unrehearsed accident?

Roald's idea that their meeting was a result of God's intention injured her greatly (though she never told him so), and ever since then she had gone back more frequently to the church where she first met Roald, sometimes alone, sometimes with him. As they sat quietly side by side on a wooden pew, as one of them was praying with silent happiness, the other was secretly condemning Him. It did not occur to her that perhaps her intimacy with Roald was actually a tool used by God to mock her - while she obstinately denied Him, He had sent His follower into her life, from whom she derived her comfort and her joy.

4 kommentarer:

Anonym sagde ...

What is the next word on the list?

Miao sagde ...


Cayden Liu Weixian sagde ...

Are you putting yourself in your story?

Nevermind. Maybe I have finally gone HSP.

Miao sagde ...

Nope, I'm not putting myself in the story.