From A – Z: Eileen’s 26 Thoughts by the End of 2016


Some four months ago I started the project of “26 thoughts before turning 26”, which didn’t really work out – I ended up finishing 8, which is not totally out of expectation. I’m the kind of person who couldn’t really concentrate on one thing, especially when there’s no pressure on me. Now as this year is approaching its end, I suddenly want to pick it up again. And just in case I won’t be writing anything by the end of 2017, I decide to make it super short and concise – reader-friendly, if there is any reader at all – but still sufficient to convey whatever I have in mind right now, about the year that is gonna be gone next week.


A – Anger

I don’t think this word would come to mind naturally if it’s not for Martha Nussbaum’s book (yes, I love her books, not less than those of Virginia – not really comparable though). However, it’s not in the least my intention to discuss her brilliant writing, but still, there’s one thing that I should learn – and there’s so much to learn – to be forward looking; there’s nothing beneficial about anger; learn to get rid of it, not through forgiveness though, but unconditional love and generosity.


B – Beauty

I made an entry about this one in August:

Virginia Woolf writes in Jacob’s Room, beauty and stupidity go hand in hand with each other. In that case, how I wish I could be stupid, more and more stupid for the rest of my life. I’m aware that I’m pretty shallow, but I didn’t expect it’s gone to a even higher level, without my consciousness before. Then I said silently to myself, I wish for beauty; I wish for beauty; I wish for beauty. Then I realised yes, I am extremely shallow, but I’m pretty okay with it and I do wish for beauty, maybe more than anything else at this moment. For I feel beauty to be more real than anything else in this world, at least I could perceive it the moment I stand in front the mirror. Well, that might be an illusion. In that case, I wish I could indulge myself in that illusion forever. The most ridiculous saying I’ve ever heard regarding beauty is that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, which might be most deceptive consolation. Nobody, I believe seeks for the kind of beauty to satisfy a single person, let alone even that single person might not exist at all. I have to clarify here that all I’m talking about is physical beauty, not including everything people tend to embrace such as moral virtues and intelligence. I’ve been refuted for so many times with people coming up with the same example: Do you consider a person beautiful if s/he is incredibly wicked/ evil/ amoral … ? So … let me propose a question in return: Does physical beauty prevent people from gaining other virtues? After all, all I’ve been talking about is that I embrace physical beauty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to discard everything else in the mean time. And from my shallow perspective, those who say that they don’t care about physical beauty at all, they are either extremely beautiful – which means that they don’t have to care – or they are merely lying. Then if beauty and stupid really go hand in hand with each other, people ask, do you really wish to be more and more stupid in exchange for beauty? Hmm … Well … I might appear to be like Dory in Wilde’s play – who sells his soul in exchange for maintaining young – if I say yes. However, that’s still extremely attractive to me … Let me see … …

It reads rather silly to me right now. But still I’m so superficial a person that I could never get the sense of beauty out of my mind. And still, I do think nobody wishes for beauty any less than I do, except for those who are really beautiful, in which case they don’t really have to.


C – Care

What do people mean when they say they care about you? Well, it’s a context-oriented expression, I guess.


D – Desire

… we should not have.

The above sentence should actually follow its first half, which bring Memory here:

Memories are already desires;

But desires we should not have.


E – Envy

… and jealousy are what we should not have. However it’s human to be envious and jealous sometimes. Maybe do without envy first.


F – Friends

… are the greatest!


G – Generosity

… is a great virtue, about which I have so much to learn.


H – Happiness

People wish for each other’s happiness, and if their wishes are sincere, how I wish all these wishes would come true. And how I wish there are people who are wishing for my happiness, just as I wish for many people’s happiness.


I – Interest(ing)

… is really just a light-hearted word.


J – Joy

… seems to be a much lighter word than happiness.


K – Knowledge

There are things that people do not say, yet they know.


L – Love

All acuteness of a relationship is rubbed away by this. The truth is more like this: life – say 4 days out of 7 – becomes automatic; but on the 5th day a bead of sensation (between husband and wife) forms which is all the fuller and more sensitive because of the automatic customary unconscious days on either side. That is to say the year is marked by moments of great intensity. Hardy’s “moments of vision.” How can a relationship endure for any length of time except under these conditions? – Virginia Woolf

And yes, I guess this is what Virginia means by “such [are] the conditions of our love.”


M – Madness

Madness is an intriguing subject. I’ve been impressed by so many great people with madness who wrote really really good stuff in their life of madness. Foucault might have argued it otherwise – which dissociates the relation between brilliance and madness – and I don’t have any insights or even opinions on that, but the subject itself seems of great interest to me.


N – Nothingness

People never know when things would happen – expected and unexpected – everything ends up in nothingness.

In a way, life is kind of pathetic – “we perish each alone”.


O – Old

I would refer back to this entry titled “Aging”:

“It’s an awkward age, too old to hope, too young to despair.”

When I first read the sentence in Doomsday Hotel by Wong Bik-wan, my favourite Hong Kong writer, I was standing on the MTR among the crowds of commuters – mostly half asleep. I was not much better. Sometimes the kind of state made me really desperate. I mean Hong Kong is an amazing city of numerous fantastic views, but apart from that, the daily routine might as well drive people crazy. Never the less, I suppose I was not that desperate. At least as I read the sentence, I didn’t think I’ve come to that age; at least I was planning for my further studies in New Zealand. I know I’d soon be embarking on the new journey; I know I’d escape. And I did.

But … did I? What is escape after all? Or am I trapped in “the city” – not any city – but “the city”, in the poem by C. P. Cavafy?

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,

find another city better than this one.

Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong

and my heart lies buried like something dead.

How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?

Wherever I turn, wherever I look,

I see the black ruins of my life, here,

where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.

This city will always pursue you.

You’ll walk the same streets, grow old

in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.

You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:

there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.

Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

(The City by C.P. Cavafy, Translated by Edmund Keeley)

And above all … nothing stops people from ageing. A few days ago when I suddenly realised I’d be 26 in a few weeks time, I thought the quotation again. I think it’s the age for me now – for whatever reasons – I just do. I once heard about others talking about the signs of youth and ageing, and one of them is particularly interesting to me: One of the indications of youth is that one views everything as extremely significant. Then I realised I’d already become old, so old that I didn’t remember the point when I turned old. Every time I say “it doesn’t matter” (and I really mean it), the feeling intensifies. Nothing matters. When life lost the sense of ceremonious sublimation, I suppose it’s an indication of ageing.

People become old so quickly nowadays. It’s a severe punishment – by the past. I know the punishment is still gonna accumulate – until the very moment before our death – when the past becomes everything we have eventually, like Lester Turnham did in the last scene of American Beauty:

“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

I believe I will; and so will everybody.


P – Pleasure

… is a delightful luxury.


Q – Quirky

People needs some courage to be a quirky, yet I appreciate the boldness.


R – Reminiscence

… is probably an early sign of aging.


S – Solitude

I would refer back to this entry:

“Why do precisely these objects which we behold make a world?”

Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

Well … here comes the question: What is this “we”? Who is the “we” referring to? Plural forms often indicate company, but aren’t people still isolated when they are seemingly perfectly accompanied, attached with each other? Solitude is the permanent, if not perfect, form of existence. And in a way, death is the best approach in maintaining solitude.


T – Time

… can do everything.


U – Uniqueness

… is in the eye of the beholder.


V – Virginia Woolf

I adore this woman – her beauty, talent, intelligence, even snobbishness – and I feel so lucky to be able to do my research on her works. After all, there aren’t so many three years in everyone’s life. And it’ll make me a slightly smarter person, I wish.


W – Wisdom

… is a precious, yet rare quality.


X – X’mas

… is a most meaningful day.


Y – Yesterday

… today is always yesterday for tomorrow, and there’s never yesterday once more.


Z – Zeitgeist

I don’t whether people should actually identify with this, let alone follow its norms. It depends, I guess.