LINK April Issue
English Society A.A.H.K.U.S.U. Session 2013-2014
►► Interview with Dr Dirk Noël, Head of School of English ►► Introduction of our session ►► Creative Writings 1 And more...
Table of Contents 4 5
English Society Up-close Introduction of Executive Committee Members
9 Revisiting the Past 18 The Interview Review of Past Events
What we think
Interview with Dr NoĂŤl, Head of School of English
about the theme
Creative Writings Writings from talented writers
The Recommendations Artworks of solitude
52 The Poet 53 Subscription Offer (Magazines International) Poem Cloze
Cover photo: Loneliness, Hans Thoma, 1880
Editorial Foreword ‘There is pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar.’ - Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Canto IV I am glad this issue is not as solitary as I imagined it to be—and I owe this to the many talented writers in HKU, who contributed many creative works to this issue. Perhaps also it has something to do with the theme—solitude. I believe there is an impulse to be left alone in each of us, perhaps for self-discovery, for the mere pleasure of being alone, or for avoiding the potentially treacherous interactions between people. The Byronic hero, Childe Harold, also seems to find joy in solitude. I, too, wish to be alone most of the time because no repose comes better than being able to enjoy nature, music and books alone, immersed in our own world of fantasies. Imagine being alone in a small cottage, surrounded by verdant vegetation, listening to the chanting of creatures and immersing completely in the embrace of nature—this is the bliss of solitude. However, juxtaposed with this desire is another desire to be accepted by society, to be among the crowd, no matter how our temperaments are. Even introverts wish to be included, exiles to be returned to their homelands. To quote John Donne, ‘No man is an island’. After all, humans are social animals, and it is inevitable that, in certain circumstances, such desires emerge. Nonetheless, solitude remains an important theme not only in literature, but in our lives as well, and takes on different forms—from physical separation to mental isolation between people. I hope you will find this issue fascinating in exploring the different facets of solitude. Editor, Timothy Chan
If you have any comments or enquiries, please write to the editor, Timothy Chan, at email@example.com 4
Introduction English Society Up-close Introduction of Executive Committee Members Eric Kwan
Chairperson I like to laugh and smile despite the circumstances. And a bright character has been my companion and led me through countless obstacles and hardships. I loved watching cartoons when I was young, especially Doraemon. I still like to carry this part of my childhood with me, so I can be a kidult and never need to grow up. However, no matter how optimistic one is, the reality will still wipe the smile off his face once a while. I find turning to my supportive friends the best therapy. I am talkative so I love friends who listen to me and who talk a lot too. Jocelyn Li External Vice-Chairperson Acting Academic Secretary I have small hands and my eye-circles are bigger than my eyes. I like grandpa cardigans and long hair. My ideal weekend consists of staying in bed, watching cartoons on my Macbook all day long, and eating McDonalds’. I like to drink tea at coffee shops. I am not good at expressing myself verbally, but I do like to write. I like to finish a book at one sitting. My favourites are novels about the loves and sufferings that are no longer applicable in today’s world, and modern poetry. I am either borderline-arrogant or deeply insecure – there is no in-between. I don’t believe in no-win situations. I am content with my own company. I have a wicked talent of making everyone believe I feel at home at anyplace and with anyone, even when I am not. I am terrified of ghosts. And ghosts of bad memories and ghosts of dreams that will never be realized. I am proud of being able to constantly prove people wrong about how they perceive me. I want to backpack through Europe. I have no concrete goals for my future, but for now, I am looking for my place in the world; a destination.
Internal Vice-Chairperson When my restless soul is entrapped by the craziness and turmoil of life, determination and passion are the only two things that can anchor me back down. I never cease to believe the power of invincible perseverance and a devoted heart, for in these lie the difference between the impossible and the possible. Also, an advocate for love and equality, I share my passion and zeal to the coldest hearts and places. But one gets tired running every day-therefore, I draw my strength from my loving friends, cats (3 adorable ones) and family. They are the ones that keep me going and to never give up. P.S. good food, a page-turning book or American TV shows are just as comforting. Quiet, simple-minded, light-hearted, nerdy, baby-faced, etc. are the â€œfirst impressionsâ€? I have got as a freshman in HKU. Being a Gemini, I am not as introverted as what others expected. I have immense curiosity towards life and the things around me regardless of their tininess and triviality. I always have a strong craving for exploration, which may just be as simple as wandering and taking a closer look at my surroundings. Having participated in a multitude of activities since secondary school, by joining English Society and voluntary service schemes on top of studying, I am continuing my hectic yet fruitful life in my freshman year.
Though Gemini appears to be a rolling stone, I am a perfectionist striving for excellence. Whilst sometimes I am an excessively careful and slow worker, prudence is my key to success. To combat the overwhelming self-generated stress, country music and the piano are always my companions.
Listening to music while reading under the sun with good food on the side is my perfect way to spend an afternoon. Being the youngest in my family, I grew up in a pleasantly loving environment, which may be the reason why I often tend to shun the idea of growing up. Like many other freshmen, I am still on the path of discovering myself further, hoping to unveil abilities and characteristics inside me that would otherwise be left unknown. Iâ€™m a secretly emotional person; I tend to think a lot more than I do speak. Yet I also enjoy the accompaniment of my friends; they are what make my school life complete. I like to eat, shop, travel and basically anything that has to do with enjoying life. I also like to play the piano and watch Youtube videos or movies to pass time.
This really is a difficult task – to describe and introduce myself. While I am trying to let people know more about me, I should first know more about myself. Very often, we watch films embedded with the theme of self-realization or self-discovery. More often is that I wish to be recorded silently, secretly, invisibly, so I am allowed to scrutinize myself from the camera’s point of view afterwards. Someone asked me a few years ago, “Why people like to take photos?” Now I know: “We take photos because visual images are something substantial, something people are able to get hold of, something that can last for a long period of time, something that could store memories.” Forgetful, the adjective I would use to introduce myself. So forgetful that I have to share, and need something substantial to keep myself reminded and reassured.
Cynthia Tang “Color my life with chaos of trouble” - This is the favourite quote of Summer from the movie 500 Days of Summer, and so do I. Though troubles can be problematic, they leave indelible traces in life. I may not be special to anyone, but I would like to use my youth in exchange for a special and remarkable life.
In pursuit of happiness, freedom and peace, I do not like being constrained. My dream, or my future plan, is to bring my backpack and camera to the outside world and embark on my own adventure. They say I am a protector, a strong and independent woman, but little do they know that sometimes I wish to be protected as well. I wish I had a shoulder to cry on.
A fervent opera and animal lover, I am an introvert who prefers being alone most of the time. Becoming an ExCo of a student society, on the other hand, proves that I am the extrovert in an introvert village. To be among the crowd can be challenging for me, but it’s a breakthrough that I have to undergo. However, I am very often misunderstood as cold and unfeeling, perhaps because of my often sombre face. I tend to believe (and some have told me), though, that under this veil is a warm-hearted and affectionate soul. My interests include playing the piano, watching ‘vintage’ British comedies like Monty Python, petting my hamster (if I still have one) and sometimes singing opera (or more like exploring the complicated techniques involved). There is no better solace than finding and doing what you love in your life.
“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” - Dalai Lama XIV I am an optimistic person who loves laughing all the time. Once I start laughing, it is difficult for me to stop. Therefore, my friends always say that I am just like a child. Being optimistic makes my life more fruitful and meaningful. If emotions can be so arbitrary, why don’t I choose to smile every day? Hurdles arise every day. It is better to overcome those obstacles with joy. No matter what the worst result is, just enjoy the process and not to remember the failure. I love staying with my friends. I like the feeling of being with a large group of people. I feel warm when chatting with my friends. I am a person who fears loneliness. I am an animal lover. I love playing with my cutie (my little doggie). All the troubles will disappear while I am playing with my cutie. I hope I can adopt lots of pets in the future. Also, I love singing karaoke, shopping and eating chocolate especially. Chocolate can make me feel happiness and sweetness in this hectic life. I hope I can just be a carefree child forever.
Programme Secretary Same as our beloved Editor, I am an animal lover (anything fluffy and cute will do). For me, music is always the best invention of all times, (well, I do have preferences towards the types of music, Timothy, not that I hate operas, they are just not my favorite). People usually sing when they are having a shower, but I do not, I perform. I may seem a little timid when you first meet me. But I can guarantee that you have made a huge mistake if you wanted a quiet friend. Fantasies make my dull life wonderful, fairy tales save me from this lousy world. Most importantly, my adorable friends and laughter are my source of energy. I’m currently working on one of my greatest goal in my entire life - losing weight. Have you guys got any advice for me?
I regard myself as a person with low self-esteem. Though I really hate comparison, I compare myself to others, and always end up denying myself. I am active on the surface, yet passive inside. I manage to shoulder a little bit more responsibility and have a taste for new things to open my eyes and narrow the gap between the present and the ideal self. I have dreams, but those are tiny and short-sighted ones. I am always searching for my goal in life. I do not really like sharing my things with others, but I am a good listener. I keep secret, but I am not responsive. I fancy eating so much that spending an afternoon on the Internet looking for a restaurant for dinner becomes the best activity at leisure for me. If eating would not make me gain weight, I would definitely take it as my future career.
Revisiting the Past Review of Past Events Inauguration Ceremony 27 November 2013
2 1: Reception table 2: Our ExCo taking a photo after the ceremony 3: Three sessions of ExCo taking a photo together
The Inauguration Ceremony of English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S.U., Session 2013-2014 was held on the evening of 27th November 2013. We were honoured to have Professor Adam Jaworski from School of English as a guest speaker. Joining us also were 30 societies from different universities, as well as many members of English Society. Not only did the ceremony mark the official commencement of the cabinet this year, it also signified the progress of English Society over the years. 9
Introduction Before the ceremony, a cocktail session was organised so that guests and our Executive Committee Members (ExCo) could exchange ideas and be acquainted with each other. The ceremony started with Professor Adam Jaworski giving us an inspirational speech about the importance of education. Speaking next was Ms Kathy Lam, chairperson of English Society last year, followed by Mr Eric Kwan, chairperson of this year. All of their speeches inspired confidence and enthusiasm in our hearts. After the ceremony was a refreshment session in which our ExCo and guests could further exchange ideas while enjoying the delightful food. 4: Our ExCo greeting Prof. Jaworski 5: Prof. Jaworski 6: Many guests attended our ceremony 7: Prof. Jaworski and us
Annual Bazaar ‘Union Jack’ 10-28 February 2014
1 & 2: There were plenty of products in our bazaar 3: The design of our bazaar was based on the theme ‘Union Jack’. British elements like the tartan pattern were used 4: The large teddy bear attracted much attention
We started off with an entire week of preparation work, which included designing, crafting, promoting, packing and re-packing. Everything was meticulously arranged and assembled so that customers would be attracted to our booth. However, this one tough week of preparation seemed like a trifle when compared to the actual bazaar, which lasted for 3 weeks. It was 3 weeks of trial to our physical, as well as mental, capabilities. Every day we got to school early, sometimes as early as 8:30, to transfer products from our society room to the bazaar locations. Although equipped with a large cart, it took us monstrous strength and effort to get it moving, especially with products dangling dangerously on the cart. It was equally frustrating and exhausting to station at booth, as we had to come up with new methods (although most of the time we stuck to the simple method of shouting!) to attract customers. Fatigue encircled us like flies and many of us grew sick. Yet we all had the conviction to raise funds for our Society and restlessly contributed to the bazaar.
The bazaar happily ended on 28th February, and we had a celebration meal to commemorate our efforts over the last 3 weeks. Money was not the only thing we earned, but also skills in cooperation and managing business. Most important of all, our relationships strengthened profoundly and it was an event that would never fade from our memories! 6
5: A picture of us and the banner for Annual Bazaar 6: Taken after the celebration meal
Welfare Week 24-28 February 2014 Welfare Week was held in the third week of our bazaar. Welfare packs containing myriads of products, such as stationery, snacks, magazines, cosmetic products, coupons etc. were distributed to members of English Society. Special Offers unique to different days, which included cake pops, cookies and peanut butter & jelly bars, were also distributed. Although the quota of welfare packs per day was huge, they ran out quite quickly, sometimes within an hour.
1 & 2: Design of the welfare packs 3: Filming the promotion video 4: Taken on the last day of Welfare Week
English Festival 1. Book Fair 17-21 March 2014
English Festival is a series of events, under the theme Shakespeare in Love, held to arouse studentsâ€™ interests towards learning English. The events include: Book Fair, Film Appreciation, Academic Talk and Academic Dialogue.
Book Fair (Theme: Shakespeare and Love) was held with the goal to promote reading among students by providing an outlet in which books with a discount (20% off) were sold. Similar to bazaar (even with the same location), Book Fair was held with much effort from our ExCo, as we had to transport boxes of books from society room to Union Building. Many of us have purchased one or two books to support Book Fair, as well as to stimulate ourselves intellectually.
1: Books on love 3: Plays by Shakespeare 2: Poster for Book Fair 4: Reading corner
Successfully held in Global Lounge, English Festival the film Shakespeare in Love was screened in a 2. Film Appreciation nice atmosphere, especially with the cinemalike environment in Global Lounge. Though 17 March 2014 encountering some technical problems in the beginning, they were solved quickly. The film filled the room with romance and excitement, as Shakespeare’s secret love life was revealed (mostly fictitiously) to the enthusiastic audience. Many joined the event midway after being attracted by the stunning visual and sound effects of the film.
4 1: Group photo after Film Appreciation 2: During the film 3: The ‘cinema’ 3 4: Poster of the film
English Festival 3. Academic Talk 25 March 2014 Under the scorching heat of late March, the Academic Talk was held successfully with the theme Shakespeare and Love. We were honoured to have Professor Jason Gleckman among us to share with us the important theme— love—in Shakespearean works. The talk was conducted like a lecture (we were given lecture notes as well), but with the erudition of Prof. Gleckman, it was very enlightening and fun. Our talk, being held in Happy Park, attracted many passersby, who then joined us in exploring love in Shakespeare’s works. Preparation work, on the other hand, was not as much fun as the talk. After spending three hours the previous night to set up the backdrop, we were all fatigued. It was proceeded, the next day, by another three hours of hard manual labour under the sweltering heat. We were all sweating by the time the talk began. However, the ordeal witnessed our seamless collaboration and unwavering determination.
1: Our Talk attracted many people 2: Prof. Gleckman and Jocelyn Li 3: Prof. Gleckman 4: Group photo
English Festival 4. Academic Dialogue 27 March 2014
The Dialogue (Theme: Drama, Shakespeare and Love) started off with the excerpts from Mr Hardy Tsoi’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet. The excerpts demonstrated how love is portrayed in Shakespeare’s plays, such as the pilgrim scene in Romeo and Juliet and the willow 1 scene from Twelfth Night. Our guests, Mr Hardy Tsoi, Artistic Director of Hong Kong Theatre Works, and Ms Miriam Lau, lecturer of Hong Kong Community College, Polytechnic University, then began to explain these excerpts, such as the imagery, metaphor and the meter involved. For example, the meter and rhyme scheme in the pilgrim scene were compared to those of a sonnet, thus pointing out how Shakespeare has 2 adopted the sonnet form in conversations between Romeo and Juliet. After some introduction, Mr Tsoi let some audience perform Shakespeare on stage. They were all very enthusiastic and performed the excerpts with much precision and passion. Mr Tsoi and Ms Lau then moved on to talk about the essence of dramas: Dramas are special because everything is compressed into a few hours within a small stage. It is therefore difficult for writers to express themselves with such constraints. However, Shakespeare definitely did a good job in tackling the difficulties. The Dialogue ended with Mr Tsoi concluding the tragicomedic form of drama, a form Twelfth Night can be said to belong to. 1: Mr Hardy Tsoi and Ms Miriam Lau 2: Two enthusiastic participants 3: Group photo
Interview with Dr Noël, Head of School of English Dr Noël is the new Head of School of English. We were very honoured to have a chance to talk with him about English, his interests and his views on the theme ‘solitude’. Dr Noël=N
T: Why have you chosen to study linguistics rather than other aspects of English, like literature? D: I embarked on a mixed language and literature degree course like the one we offer here. I decided to study, not just English, but Germanic languages and literatures back in Belgium. The basis of that decision was that I was interested in literature and in reading. But then I found that when I got to university I didn’t really enjoy talking about literature all that much and writing about it, mainly because the kind of discourse literary scholars tend to produce about literature isn’t the kind of discourse I have an aptitude for; whereas I did find that, not only did I have great interest in all aspects of language, but I have also found that the kind of discourse linguists tend to produce agree with me more than the kind of discourse literary scholars produce. So it’s a mixture of intellectual interests and a certain aptitude for certain kind of research and the kind of discourse that kind of research entails. T: Why did you choose to become a professor in the first place? D: It’s kind of the natural result of being interested in doing research—if you are interested in finding out about things about a certain topic or area, it’s difficult to earn a living just doing research. There are not many jobs around that are pure research. But in fact I was, for quite a long time, a full-time researcher and I became a professor quite late. I tried to be just a researcher for as long as possible, but at a certain point, as you become more experienced, you become more expensive because of your seniority. But all research is paid for by grants—government money—and these grants are usually limited in size. If you become more expensive, they can’t pay you anymore with that grant money. For that reason, they only employ young people who are fairly new to the job do not have much experience, and are therefore cheaper. So at a certain point I couldn’t simply stay a researcher anymore and I had to look for something else—but of course something that would still give me the opportunity to keep doing research, and the only alternative was to become a professor. Especially in universities like HKU, it is possible to combine both [teaching and research]. 18
Introduction J: So it’s another experience being a professor? Do you find that interesting? D: It’s quite a different activity which requires different skills, and it’s another challenge. But I like thinking about what to do with students and how it’s best to teach them and to get across what you think they need to know about a certain area, and need to be able to do in a certain domain. I now think it’s better not to be just a researcher, because I found that, if you have 100% of the time available to you to do research, you are not necessarily more productive. In fact, I found that I became more productive as a researcher after I came to Hong Kong. J: Have your students ever inspired you to do certain research, or have they helped in your research in any way? D: Yes, as it happens, I am using corpora as a source of data and one of the courses that I have been teaching is a course called “English corpus linguistics”. In this course, students do a research project and it happened once, perhaps more than once, that students gave me ideas about where to look for certain things. So I can say that my students have inspired me in my research, and in fact helped to better my research. J: So there are advantages to being a professor in terms of research? D: Research and teaching are not separated. Some of my courses are very much research-based. There is a link between what I research and what I teach. For example, my English construction grammar course is centred around my own research, so there is an exchange from my research to my teaching—the exchange in the other direction has happened as well, as I just explained, in that students have given me ideas about how to research and look for certain things. T: Is there any particular area in linguistics that you are interested in? D: I am very much a grammarian. I am interested in language structure, grammatical constructions, but I am interested in these constructions to the extent that they do something for us, the language users. So I don’t tend to separate form from function, but I always try to look at them in combination—so I am interested in the meaning of grammar, the semantics of grammar. J: Why is linguistics described as a science? D: The word science has a broad meaning and a narrow meaning. There 19
Introduction is the science that goes on in the faculty of science, like biology, chemistry. But science can also refer to whatever is studied in universities—you can call the study of literature a science as well. […] Science can just be another word for scholarly research, and in that sense linguistics research is science. In fact, that’s something I discuss in my “English as a language of science” course. T: Is there any book related to the theme ‘solitude’ you can suggest to your readers? D: There is a book which I have recently read called Stoner by John Williams, which is a book about a literature professor in an American university. One of the impressions I got while reading the book was that he was a lonely man, even though he had students, a wife and a child. And that loneliness didn’t necessarily make him an unhappy man—solitude is not necessarily something you suffer from, or suffer under. Loneliness is something you can enjoy. I suppose both teaching and researching are lonely activities because even though you have contact with your students, there’s many of them, but you are alone in your role as teacher. And research as well is very often, in my kind of research, not teamwork. It’s something you do on your own behind your computer. Even if it’s joint research the part you are doing yourself is a solitary activity. But that’s not bad—you are in this job because that’s what you enjoy doing. If you don’t appreciate it this aspect of it, then you are unhappy in your job. But that is not my situation. So this book is a book I can recommend to your readership—it’s about universities, it’s about students as well as teachers—but of course it’s from the perspective of a professor, and this alternative perspective might be interesting to your readers. J: Especially since young people in general don’t really appreciate solitude. They have to be in a group to feel secure. D: And people who do enjoy solitude, or are perceived to be solitary creatures, are often stigmatised by the more social group members, which is rather unfortunate and sometimes cruel. T: Many writers are solitary so that they can think about what they want to write. And they like it as well. D: Yes. One of the Dutch writers I have been reading stated somewhere at some point that loneliness, or solitude, is a pre-requisite for creativity. This doesn’t just include artistic creativity—all kinds of creativity in fact. As a researcher, you also need creativity, and I agree that a fair amount of solitude is a pre-requisite for that. 20
Solitude entails many complex human emotions- some enjoy it as if it were a lost treasure, while some despise it as if it were a curse. Before we explore any creative writings, let us now see what our ExCo think about solitude.
olitude is a necessity.
Loneliness, seclusion and isolation- this is how people think about solitude. To me, you don’t need to be a monk or a hermit to find solitude. Everyone can enjoy being solitary. I like hanging out with my friends, being with loved ones and socializing with new faces. I find my companies important in life. But still, one feels overloaded being in the crowd all day. Solitude is then a time to unwind and find peace. It is only when I am alone that I can reach into myself and find my soul. Solitude is when what you think, what you do and what you say follow your heart. We sometimes perceive solitude as a bad thing; we are rarely proud when we are alone. But do remember, solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. We all need periods of solitude.
he funny thing about loneliness is that, contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with solitude. But when we are so often swept into the waves of people floating in and out of our lives, we become used to an environment which never stops talking, and once we reach dry shore the feeling of bereavement accompanied by solitude leave us dehydrated, thirsty for company and terrified of the new emptiness made by the erosion of having company. As one gets used to the presence of others, solitude gradually evolves from a luxury to a trial, something shameful, something to be avoided at all costs. When I was younger it was my dream to travel around the world alone and to live in a small, cosy apartment with a single bed. The idea of not having someone to hold your hand while wandering in foreign lands, amongst groups which would at best judge and at worst pity the solitary traveller that you are – is now unimaginable. I think, in an ideal universe, solitude is meant to be a peace of mind provided by yourself, by being by yourself. Thus is the original beauty of solitude, praised in the songs and poems of past ages. Yet solitude is commonly associated with ostracization and failure. The beauty of solitude is tainted by diplomatic obligations, the need to establish social connections in order to make a better life for oneself, to seek gains by a toast of champagne and a night of mingling and laughing with hoards of strangers at jokes you pretend to understand. So we abandon the novel by your bed – the spine of which has not even been cracked –and we pretend to be confident, competent, extroverted adults who could do no wrong. And our smiles must never waver when we pretend to have known the dozens of fellow suit-clad children all our lives. The worst kind of loneliness has nothing to do with solitude. - Jocelyn Li 22
o me, solitude is a lost art.
The world nowadays is a giant connected spider-web network. It is almost impossible to be in an isolated solitary state. Although I enjoy the companion of my friends and family, and the convenience brought by the various communicative tools, I do think it necessary to step back and be alone. It is only when we are solitary that we face our truest selves and embark on a journey of soulsearching. It is only when we are alone that we can get lost in our deepest thoughts and find the beauty in life. We get to loosen up the strings that bound us from being who we really are and speak what we really want to say; we can reflect on what we have done and learn from it. When I fall into a chaotic state of mind or have too many things to do, therefore not knowing what to start with, solitude is always the best solution. I will disconnect myself from all the social networks, put on my earphones and play some mellow music. I isolate myself from the outside world and immerse myself in my own thoughts and emotions. In the end, I can always untangle the troubles that I have. Being alone does not always mean you are lonely. It is just the entrance to your heart and the exit from the craziness in life. -Vivian Tam
olitude is always linked with the negative state of loneliness and isolation. I’ll further define it with sounds. Silent solitude happens to those who view themselves as outcast and invisible in people’s eyes. They can’t find their places in the community, or are stigmatized as “outgroups”. However, this isn’t the worst case as long as they get a way to hide. Crowded hallways are the loneliest places under the “noisiness” category. Yes, you’re perceived as an in-group member, but you struggle to find a room for yourself. You give in eventually, and start to take part in a masquerade so as to fit in with your so-called friends. Sadly, your attempts are so unnoticeable that nobody has ever recognized it. Your voice is always drowned by the noise from the crowd. Such solitude turns out to be misery instead of any hope. On the contrary, solitude can be rather positive. It allows you to stay relaxed. Put away your mobile phone, plug a pair of headphones into ears, rest on a couch, and soak yourself with the soothing music - you will be mesmerized by the tranquility of being alone. Such calmness in mind is the ideal gateway to reflect upon yourself, and to tidy up your thoughts. Only by zooming out from the scene can you see a clear picture of your life. Have you ever thought of doing something different? Solitude can make you follow your intuition. You can savour every tiny bit of your life only when you’re on your own. Fancy an adventure in Disneyland alone? Go for it! What you encounter will be far more different from what you have expected. As a wanderer, being a solitary isn’t really a big deal. - Yolanda Yau
n a world that is constantly emphasizing on the idea of unity and harmony, it is not difficult to understand why people tend to shy away from the idea of solitude, as it’s normally regarded as something negative, abandoned and undesirable. But is it really as bad as it sounds? When we think about solitude, we should actually be quite accustomed to the whole idea of “being alone”. There’s no one who looks exactly like us, or been on the same path as we have, nor is there anyone who thinks exactly like us in the slightest way. This unique individuality that we are blessed to have should certainly not be something we should feel ashamed of. Solitude is also inevitable; we all have our own stories, and as intimate as we are with our family and friends, it is impossible for them to be there with us all along the way. We all are solitary in terms of our own experiences, which are what proudly set us apart from the others. Blindly conforming to the majority would only make you a copy-and-paste machine. It is only by pursuing solitude that would enable individuals to bloom and soar. Dare to be different, dare to be solitary. “If you follow the crowd, you will go no further than the crowd. But if you walk alone, and find your own way, you will likely find yourself in places no one has ever been.” - Albert Einstein - Heidi Pang
eart Without A Home I regard solitude as a loneliness of the heart. It does not necessarily refer to the lack of companions, but the lack of a reader of the soul--a person who is able to understand you even when you do not understand yourself. This wish might sound outrageous, and it sounds even like what I am craving is actually a mirror image of myself, which is never possible. Solitude is not as simple as a physical state of isolation. Spending time alone is like living inside a closed-dome with directionless floating intentions, agendas, consciousness and unconsciousness. Voices are deflected back to oneself, one may feel securely guarded inside her thoughts but at the same time one may also be aware of the hollowness inside the confined space. The fact is that no one, but only you, could be able to grasp and interpret those discrete mental abstractions. This is solitude, the bottomless loneliness in decoding yourselves. Sometimes, this exhaustion is so overwhelming that I would suggest myself to be a rebel instead. -April Soo
y teachers used to describe me as “energetic and full of confidence”. I am somewhat an extrovert. Socializing is not a tough task for me, but I never fancy doing so. I am comfortable with staying alone at a corner rather than mingling with strangers. Why do I have to bother coming up with new topics continuously when I can simply be my own companion? Solitude does not make me look bizarre. It is, on the other hand, the best time for me to subside and idle. It is a state without the complexity of relationships. It is especially painful and solitary when a person is neglected in crowd. You are experiencing solitude when people around you believe you are capable of managing tasks solitarily, thus paying no attention on you, even if you are undergoing breakdowns. You are not alone. Physically you are surrounded by friends, but deep down you are the only pillar of your soul. To me, it is indeed the most pathetic state of solitude. - Cynthia Tang 24
Feature “The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude” - Voltaire. o me, solitude is a creepy word. As I am vivacious and talkative, I can’t bear being alone in a remote place and doing nothing. I believe that I can’t survive if I stay alone forever in my life. I like living in a populous environment. I enjoy staying with many people and chatting happily with each other. Therefore, solitude is definitely a terrible word for me.
Nonetheless, I think it is hard to find solitude in nowadays world. Even though I am alone in a place, I won’t feel solitary because of smartphone: my phone stays with me so that I can keep in touch with my friends through Facebook or Whatsapp. Therefore, being solitary is not an easy job now. Mike Dolan said “Finding solitude in the concrete jungle is powerful and peaceful.” Therefore, if you can find solitude, I will congratulate you. Even though I dislike the feeling of solitude, I do encourage you not to be afraid to sit awhile and think alone of our lives in this hectic world. It is worthy to ponder our past and ruminate on our future. After some thinking, we can discover the meaningfulness of our lives. So, please enjoy your time of solitude!
hen we ask someone, ‘What do you think about solitude?’ they would often relate solitude to not being in a relationship, but it is way more than that. I do not fear or hate it; sometimes I may even wish that I could be alone, away from reality. ‘It’s easy to stand in the crowd. It takes courage to stand alone.’ - Mahatma Gandhi. This is one of the most precise quotes that I have ever agreed on, as solitude is a lesson that we will need to learn throughout our lives. You do not need ‘100 truths about solitude’ to figure out what solitude is. I used to fear solitude, but as we grow up, you may encounter solitude more. I do love being around people, but somehow it is kind of tiring. Bear in mind solitude provides you a perfect time for self-reflection. This is when you can finally be yourself as there’s no need to impress others by wearing different masks. -Audrey Kam
olitude is when you are surrounded by many people, but a sense of loneliness still resides at the bottom of your heart.
“Being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.” - Charles Bukowski, Women I eat alone, study alone, work alone, travel alone, and watch a movie alone. It sometimes feels good to have total privacy without others’ intervention. It feels good when I am not required to keep my ears open to listen to others’ words. It feels good when I am left with some spaces for meditation. I sometimes feel good, but I never feel right without company in life. Sometimes solitude means independence and liberation. Yet, sometimes it means loneliness and isolation. The sense of solitude is particularly strong when I lose something that I used to have. It happened when the tattered doll I had been sleeping with me for ten years was thrown away. That emptiness I got when I woke up from a nightmare without the doll besides me was horribly intense. Since it had become a little part that completed my life, I was left desolate the moment it vanished. Breaking a habit, something I do even without knowing it, gives me the unparalleled feeling of solitude at the bottom of my heart. -Alice Hui 25
Creative Writings Contributed by many talented writers, this section displays the many ideas on the theme solitude. Let the journey into solitude begin.
Under Fog-bound Wings Jacinto Alyssa Carla
The pencil scritch-scritch-scratched as it glided across the paper. The almost much too pudgy fingers that held it moved with surprising grace and finesse, almost like a series fluid kata. The fog after rain Swallowing the mountains whole A birdâ€™s distant cry The scritching stopped but its final sounds hung in the humid air like the last echoes of a funeral lament. Two brows furrowed and crooked teeth bit down onto the lower lip. There was noticeable slump in the figure and out heaved a heavy sigh. Itâ€™s no good. Got to start over. Why is it so hard? Furious scratch-scratch-scratching followed. When was the last time I heard a broken record? The needle too sharp and the record bearing the scars of the continued abuse. But it was needed to play yes? No lovely notes would come out without a little pressure. Pressure. Pressure. Pleasure? No certainly not. The lead hung just a smidge above the paper- a new line, a fresh start. This was the hardest part, starting again. What to do? Swift swipes onto the paper. Scratch-scratchity-scritch-scratch The fog lingers
Feature Indeed it has. Lingering like the souls of the dead with unfinished business, or so they say. Funny that the fog kind of resembles a jumbled mass of ghosts on days like this. A shake of the head just to hear the faint rustling of hair. It’s much too quiet despite the “company” I am graced with today. The fog lingers Scritch-scratch-scritchity-scratch Its silence choking the air Sounds a little better I think. Heh. Sounds. Silence. Get it? Binary opposites. Opposites repel rather than attract. The magnet says so doesn’t it? Or was it the other way around? I can’t remember. Oh well. Paradoxical...but is it so bad? A twinge of muscle pulls both corners upwards in an almost unnoticeable smile. A secret that most do not know. The fog lingers Its silence choking the air Finishing and not lingering is the mark of an individual. Finality separates us from the indecisive sheep. Fog-bound as we are, flight is possible yes? One only has to make a move. Scritchy-scritchity-scratch-scratch-SCRATCH! A dramatic flourish marks the long-awaited end of the performance. The dwindling morning dew and the peeking beams of the first light of the late morning rouses the figure from the stiff perch on the bench. Arms stretched out and palms open upwards as if to catch the new day. For the moment the notebook lay forgotten on the wooden surface. It was time to move on. The fog lingers Its silence choking the air Wings held skywards
Five Past Three Mathew Chan
My watch is clicking—it’s five past three. Amplifiers are firing pop on a spree. The air is escalating; the guests are pacing; glasses are swirling; the cake is melting. Jittery girls straighten their dresses. Courageous boys soften their manners. One step it takes to make some lifelong friends. One step it takes to meet the fated other. My watch is clicking—it’s five past three. My mind is burning in the summer heat. Knowing this is all but a hallucination I lie on my bed, letting my mind go free. It’s Sunday, and it’s five past three.
Disillusionment of Solitude Mathew Chan
Devoid of noises, devoid of faces, in the darkness you stand, unaccompanied. Free from stress, free from races, you widen your arms, you inhale the tranquil air. Yet your nerves tense, and your ego trembles. For though we desire, never could we stop the inertia of our soul. 28
I dreamt of streams and breezes of spring, But waking, saw the cold, cold winter’s sting. Ravens were resting on my snow-pale house, And nested under my bed a dark portentous mouse. With none the coughing wind came visit me By night, when all had slept, and whispered blithely, ‘You shall on this wintry road tread alone, On which no beasts nor birds had gone, With one to love but none who love, Until the sun ascends and shines above.’ Without a sound or sign it left, While I, in consternation, lay bereft. The fireplace grew dim, cold the abode; I turned to find the fated road, At whose end was promised light, And trod until my house was out of sight. The snow! they plummeted like stones, On the road, on my trunk and tore my bones; I cast my eyes to glance behind, To see my fading steps and snow entwined; When on my left a flow’r to me appeared. I hurried there with anxious steps and found it smeared With mud and lying in the bitter field, Pale and fragile, yet did not to winter yield; I held it tightly to my heart’s embrace— No such beauty had e’er appeared before my face! In my secret pocket I hid my dear, And quickened my steps in horrid fear;
Feature Would my love, against the hate of snow, To strong-willed Fate its life bestow? Against my gusty, obscuring haze, My heart in flames set ablaze, I neared my journeyâ€™s end; Ah! what numberless bends Have I trod and wept upon, With weary eyes and complexion wan? A soft glow appeared before my eyes, Above the fields, and below the skies; I hurried like the wintry gale, Onward! Onward! Along the only trail! Into my body the rock-hard leaves crashed, The jagged branches lashed, Until I tripped and fell upon the rugged ground Prostrate, and swooned, alone ice-bound. I woke to see a frozen stream in front, A silver moon flickered up alone, dormant In the tranquil night and in the frigid stream; The icy water glowed agleam. I lay crippled in my silent slumber And on the snow alone my wilted flower. The promised sun had never risen; The snow again had on my forsaken tracks fallen.
Solitude As a Bliss and As a Curse
that range from reminiscences, plans of the future, reflection on the present, purpose of the lives of people and of the system of nature, wondering about almost everything and nothing at the same time or simply connected to memories of misery or of felicity. In times such as these it might not be very infrequent to feel a tear tickling down the cheek or a smile endeavouring to stretch apart the crevices of the mouth. Other people prefer solitude because they simply find the humans despicable (misanthropy) and some avoid people because of religious reasons (hermits). Solitude might be one of the most cherished ability of mankind, to someone who meditates. Moving to the other side of the coin, a person residing in a hole does so for none of the above mentioned reasons. Solitary confinement is the deprivation of someone’s freedom for different reasons, including being a threat to other people or being a victim of threat by other people. Juveniles as young as thirteen have also been and are still victims of this treatment for reasons ranging from extreme problems to “failure to attend school” and “for their own protection.” Solitary confinement often has detrimental psychological and mental affects and is often uncalled for. Moving beyond that scope, solitude is one of the finest things man has in life. If for a moment man
Solitude is the name we give to the desirable time that we spend with no one but ourselves. But, there is also another face of solitude, that which resides in the obnoxious darkness, detachment, sentimental and emotional agony and anything that could possibly lead to the withering of one’s character or faculties- that which we know as solitary confinement or as it is more commonly pronounced, “the hole.” In either case, solitude might last for minutes or decades and it may lead to reforms or quite the contrary consequences. Solitude is not merely a form of physical separation but it has deeper and more intrinsic connotations. It is sought, for a motivation lies in the very prospect of its attainment. At some point in life, we are almost all ready to pay any price to earn some moments that we can spend with only ourselves; sometimes we all just want to evade the circle of human beings for none of us lacks the propensity to hurt or disparage each other. The motivation of avoiding human contact, presence and communication leaves us all by ourselves in the state we are currently talking about. Life takes an entirely different standpoint from this state and a room opens for self exploration. These moments lead to our mind’s pondering on a variety of subjects 31
Feature were to be robbed of this essential asset, many of us would be at the same stages in life; it is in fact the time we spend in solitude that molds our character and distinguishes us from the rest. Solitude is just another name we give to the priceless companion that we have in ourselves. For when the party is all over and after the last round of wine has been served, we all long for some moments of peaceful solitude.
“” Junah Kim
Solitude once asked me, “Why are you not talking?” I looked up and saw people talking to each other. But I heard nothing. And I felt nothing. The void of my silent picture pressured me to speak in silence. “I have no reason to speak.” “Of course you have,” Solitude retorted with disbelief. “Everyone has something to say because that something burns your heart and strangles your throat until it is mistranslated into spoken words.” “That is why I do not want to speak,” I replied. “I see no reason to manifest my feelings into words. No one needs to listen to what I have to say.” Solitude breathed in a smirk before continuing, “Who knows? Language is a powerful tool that you can use to simply express the thoughts you drown yourself in life. Why conceal them when you have a chance to understand each other?” I hid my doubt as I wiped my mouth with a napkin. “No one understands anyone. You only have yourself to truly understand who you are and what you are going through.” Solitude smiled at my unexpected gratitude. “Is that why you are here with me?” “Yes, at least I do not have to speak for you to understand me.”
‘Donne’s poem is a stony grey that pretends’ Chloe Lam
Donne’s poem is a stony grey that pretends To be warm: the same color as my warmth, feigning coldness, and The stiff wet drops on my crepe dress as I stared – Into the blank stare of your eyes in monochrome – In the back row. The same grey as the things I never said: - Glancing over at you, secretly agreeing with the “U R important” on a stranger’s vest. And now, the color of that etched inscription “Dearly Beloved.” But the cold formality of my words when I said goodnight - Not knowing it meant good(bye forever, To)night – And the stubborn insistence not to look back. Things I noticed, things I kept: - the shade of your arm reaching over in the dark - your sweatpants in the laundry - the scratch marks on movie stubs - your pencil doodles of me - the overlapping of our shadows on granite - the polite reciprocation I produced when you last said good night Not knowing Until, What the stale taste of iron on your lips proved That last time: Donne was wrong; My firmness is but a stagnant grey In the dust of this first song.
Matryoshka Tiffany Lam
The strong techno music continued to pump exhilaration into my heart. Iridescent lights flashed in the obscure room. Excited young men and women were shaking their bodies on the sticky dance floor. I enjoyed carousing in the club, I enjoyed consuming the intoxicating alcohol, I enjoyed dancing in the spotlight, I enjoyed being the center of attention, I enjoyed…
I enjoyed searching for concrete proofs of my existence.
Red. Black. Beat. Gossip. Margarita. Bloody Mary. Fragrance. Shisha. Skin. Lips… The acute pain in my head brought me back to reality. Alone, I was lying in my single bed, with no warmth but my body heat that was trapped in the thin blanket. The room was cold and silent as always. What happened in the previous night was again like a reverie. The alcohol in my body was corroding the realistic illusions in my aching head. Yet, the same thing could fill up the gaps in my soul. How could I be realistic and resist the bliss? Since some time I wore make-up and make effort in upgrading my clothing style, trying to look pretty and preppy every day. Then I became much socialized that I had usually been, and made a lot of new friends in university. When my friends first observed my metamorphosis, they were pleasantly shocked, but later, they started to give comments such as “have you lost yourself?”. I didn’t care, as the outcome was nice. Who wouldn’t want to have a bunch of friends, especially popular ones? Also, I had had Aaron, Billy, Carlos, Dickson, Eric, Fred, Gary… and had Timothy. Clandestinely, I was occupied but available so there were plenty of guys around waiting for a vacancy beside me (Although some were… rather disgusting). There was nothing to be unhappy of. There shouldn’t have been. It was strange, I felt lonely despite that seventy billion people existed in my world, thirteen billion people lived in my country, eight million people were in my city, thousands of pedestrians appeared in my daily routine, hundreds of my peers attended my college, tens of the people were my friends and few of the people were my family members. Was it greed, or hollowness that devoured the satisfaction that should have been occupying my heart?
On that cloudy day I met Barbara. She was obviously an introvert, judged from her modest look and how she simply nodded to me when I asked her to be my project group mate. She did not speak much in tutorials, but whenever 35
Feature she spoke, she could make good points laconically. So I believed she would make some positive impact on my GPA. That course was totally a trap, as the teachings were hard to understand and a lot of reading was required (I disliked the idea of pumping a sea of words into my head). The project required us to form into groups of two and analyze a particular story picked from a given list. I didn’t know any of them so I let Barbara choose. She seemed to be an enthusiastic reader, as she knew many of the works and described to me what they were about. I found that book called “Princess Matryoshka” quite interesting (best apple among the bad ones), so we had decided to work on that. Barbara said she had the book and had already read it thrice, so she could lend it to me. Thrice. I couldn’t even imagine reading that hundred-and-eighty-page book once. Still, the sense of responsibility as a student urged me to flip over the pack of sheets. The most efficient way of reading a book was reading the beginning and the end of it. So I tried to closely read the first chapter. Two pages of words had been printed in my mind, and I started to lose focus… My hand automatically searched for the phone in my bag. The screen showed three notifications from Whatsapp and two from Snapchat. I eagerly unlocked the phone and checked my Whatsapp. Two of them were group messages that do not involve me at all. The remaining one was from Timothy, saying he was not free in the evening to have dinner with me. I then checked Snapchat. I was probably not the only one receiving a picture of the serene sky and a snapshot of Rachel’s afternoon tea. Despite having checked all unread messages, I went back to Whatsapp and scrolled down the list of conversations. I reread the conversations between Timothy and I from the very beginning (Our relationship had a month of history). He was very enthusiastic back then. But when I scrolled down, I found that he had gradually become quiet, while I gradually become more talkative (and admittedly, slightly annoying at times)… I was so bored that I, perhaps desperately, messaged some friends to ask whether they could visit me in Chi Wah Learning Commons. I was so obsessed. I was so obsessed with the phone that I forgot I was supposed to read the book. Okay, so according to the parts I had read and Wikipedia, the story was basically a fairy tale about a cheerful princess trying to become an elegant lady, but suddenly realized she was like a stranger to herself. One line I remembered in particular is “Have I grown up, or have I just buried myself in a set of Matryoshka dolls that make me seem like a grown-up? Perhaps the latter, as I feel like my genuine self is isolated from light.” Somehow, something in my heart echoed with the statement… “Have you finished reading the book?” Barbara asked me in the tutorial. “Um… no. I have just read the first few chapters.” I replied with a slight sense of embarrassment. “Somehow I didn’t really understand what was going on in the book so I could hardly focus on it.” 36
Feature She stared at me for a while, perhaps scornfully. “Try to feel the story.” She muttered. “What do you mean?” “Don’t simply take the literal meanings, but try to feel what is beyond the words.” “This is bullshit.” I thought. “This is deconstruction.” Creepy enough, she seemed to know my reaction to her statement, perhaps from my unconscious expression. For a month, we met in Main Library weekly to discuss and work on the project. “When you read, you see yourself.” Barbara once suggested. Barbara’s words often struck me, as they sounded quite philosophical and extraterrestrial. (I wondered if she would appear on “Humans of HKU” one day.) “The thinking process that goes on in your mind when you’re reading is what you don’t usually explore about yourself.” It was not too hard to understand, but I simply disliked reading. “When you write, you can also see yourself, as your words directly reflect the deepest thoughts in your mind. So how the Princess enjoys reading and writing may be an escape from loneliness and vainness.” “Actually,” surprisingly I gained enthusiasm in the discussion, “why would the Princess be so bothered by loneliness? She is often surrounded by people.” “I read from a sociology book that the genes of inherited collectivism in human beings make them fear solitude. Solitude makes you an easier victim of attack, and it is still quite true in the modern world. Yet when you are safe and sound, solitude shouldn’t give you fear, but serenity. This is exactly a theme of the story.” Perhaps, extroverts were more vulnerable to solitude? Somehow I became truly interested in the book. I spent a Saturday on “Princess Matryoshka” and was able to pay full attention to the words until I read the ending. My phone was isolated and no sense of loneliness bothered me. Even I myself was shocked at how I could truly read a book, and even unexpectedly, thoughts derived from reading the story lingered in my mind after the book was closed and placed out of sight. I felt like something in me had been triggered… Covertly, Barbie or the book seemed to have injected some influences into my soul. During the long break on a hectic Thursday, I felt uncomfortable as my cell phone ran out of battery in the early afternoon. Normally, I could barely bear the boredom, but then an unknown voice in my head persuaded me to take a mental rest. I sat in a comfortable corner in Chi Wah Learning Commons and gazed at the beautiful sky. With no phone in hand and no companion to chat with, I thought I would have fallen asleep, but without realizing, I had become lost in thoughts… 37
Feature What solitude could make people become was perhaps similar to what philosophy could drive people into. All of a sudden, there was a big bang in my brain! I felt a fluid of thoughts rushing through my nerves… I was not one, but like a set of Matryoshka dolls that embraced the coexistence of external and internal dolls. I was an extrovert and an introvert. I could choose to be the former when I entered an environment for socializing, and the later when I was in solitude. Such flexibility should help me better cope with the environment and maximize comfort! And maybe… I had never been alone! When I was being alone, I almost forgot about the one person who had always been with me – myself! I constantly thought of Timothy and my other friends, yet I had been neglecting Jennifer, forgetting that she was also a friend, the closest friend of mine! If my brain was the home of my soul, then my face and head were with me, my hair was with me, my limbs were with me, my torso was with me, my heart was with me; what I stood on, what surrounded me, particles and cells around were with me, my memories were with me, and my ability of imagination was with me! I existed with the world and had the ability to create an imaginary world of my own! So did it mean there was not such a thing called “solitude”? Perhaps... Having striking thoughts like a philosopher (perhaps not the good ones?) or a lunatic, I couldn’t help laughing to myself soundlessly. Finally, Barbara had indeed rescued my GPA by helping me get an A- for the course (The group project was given an A+, terrific!)! But her influence on me was way beyond that. After the realization, I didn’t have obvious external changes. I continued to look pretty, continued to socialize and slightly differently, held my cell phone and visited clubs less often, met up more with my real friends, and stayed as a loyal, devoted girlfriend of Timothy (Our relationship even got better as he thought I had some positive change in attitude and had given him more personal spaces. Also, he felt triumphant that I finally deemed him but not the phone my boyfriend.). The most significant change was that solitude didn’t drive me to anxiety or fear anymore. After all, whether it was soothing or horrifying was upon my choice of how to look at it and option of how to deal with it. Solitude, or Jennifer, had become a mirror of my inner self, a resort that could give me rest when I was exhausted in the external world, and an enjoyable moment in which I could weave my thoughts into a stunning canvas.
This is it. Serenity. Let sheer silence bring out the treasures in my mind…
*The story is a fictional work. Any resemblance to the living or dead is purely coincidental.
Did it hurt, baby? I never knew You hid those bruises So very well With makeup with sweaters With all kinds of ideas “Oh I did this myself”, You’d explain month and year.
Abi R.M Law
Hey. Hey you, it’s me. I know I’ve been gone awhile, How have you been? You don’t look so good I wonder why that is I’ve missed you, you know, and that dimple on your chin.
You couldn’t survive alone Not without me You know what they say Living comes with a fee
Darling don’t look so sad I’m back now you see I don’t understand Are you ignoring me?
I had to follow you You left so quick You were there in red Then gone, without a kiss
Baby I’m sorry Is it about that night? I’m sorry I got angry Please let me make it right.
It took me time to find you You weren’t easy to trace I know you needed me You need to be save
I know, I know I shouldn’t Have thrown you against the wall But I was drunk, baby Forgive me, once more.
Now you’re running, running Running so fast Slow down baby Or my patience won’t last
I thought you loved me You always came back And I’d promise never again, But I’d always have a knack Of lashing, of lashing Again and again I never meant to but Anger was my friend.
I need you, I want you, Come back to me Now I’m screaming, screaming Can’t you hear me? Suddenly the water It swallows, it swallows It swallows me whole A pair of hands Closing around my sick throat And in that moment, that moment In clarity I see That it was solitude You craved And never, never, me.
They say you hurt those Whom you love the most I showed you my love Without knowing the cost Of you weeping, weeping, Weeping non-stop I never knew it hurt Till I heard your bone pop 39
Solitude isâ€Ś Elizabeth Lee
Solitude is the old lady in her rocking chair, watching the world go by outside her window; unseen, unnoticed. Solitude is the mother without a child, who wanders aimlessly to avoid returning to an empty house haunted by memories. Solitude is the young man who waits in vain for his beloved, red rose in hand. Solitude is the woman who speaks in a foreign tongue, not understood, not acknowledged. Solitude is the girl in a wheelchair, watching forlornly as her able-bodied friends chase one another in a game of tag. Solitude is the man sitting by the lake, fishing pole in hand, his faithful dog at his feet. Solitude is the girl with a book and a latte, alone at a coffee shop, lost in a world of damsels and dwarves, mystery and magic. Solitude is the boy who sees fairies dance in the leaves and dragons among the clouds. Solitude is the cat stretching on the stone wall, in a patch of morning sunlight. Solitude is the whisper of the wind, the stirring of the trees, the song of the birds. Solitude is the old lady in her rocking chair, watching the world of solitude through her window; unseen, unnoticed.
another chord, another pattern; then another; then another.
He has lain there, tossing and turning, for many hours. He sighs with impatience and frustration. He does not know why sleep evades him, has evaded him, for so long. He cannot remember the last time his slumber was peaceful.
He opens his mouth and sings. His voice is pure and clear as the night air and the lonely breeze that ripples through it.
His music is about brothers; about parents and children; about lovers; about friendship. He sings of joy and sorrow; fulfillment and emptiness; exuberance and depression; greetings and farewells.
Outside the window, the stars glitter. Cold balls of fire twinkling in a fathomless darkness. Cold. Proud. Distant.
His voice floats through the still night. All lights are out, except for his. All souls are dreaming, except for his. All voices are silent, except his.
He gives up the notion of sleep and gets out of bed. He trudges to the balcony. The night breeze billows over his face, crisp and cold, forcing any remaining lethargy from his system. He takes a deep breath, lets the freshness fill his lungs. The coldness is refreshing, somehow comforting at the same time. A rebellion against the convention of sleep at such an hour. An embrace of his wakefulness.
Alone amidst the darkened windows, the sleeping people, the soundless neighborhood, he plays on. Like the lonely lighthouse that sits on a cragged rock, he shines on, a single beacon of sound and life. Almost invisible, almost soundless, amid the darkness and silence.
He picks up his guitar and strums a chord. The instrument is out of tune, so, patiently, he tunes it. Adjusts each string with precision. Ensures the accuracy of each note. When he finishes, he plays each string and makes minute adjustments.
Along, under the stars, he sings of hope and solitude. No one hears how he gives voice to the deepest sensitivities of his soul. No one witnesses his admittance of his greatest dreams. No one, but the cold, uncaring stars, glittering in the fathomless darkness.
When at last he deems the guitar to be in tune, he plays a simple chord progression. It transforms into 41
The rush of a speeding car. The rustle of starched curtains against a wall. He remains asleep, untouchable as cut marble in your single bed and you dare not press yourself closer against him to muffle the world outside. For a moment, a shiver of fear grips you, and you are suddenly terrified that he will wake and see you for who you are, small, freezing, desperately clinging onto an indifferent near-stranger’s bare shoulder. Your fingers have a mind of their own. They find themselves hovering against his chest, rock-hard, alive, here. Tentatively you press your fingertips against the breadth, the slight up-down, updown, waiting for the hitch of his breath and him to roll to his side to press his nose against your collarbone, the way your breath hitched the first day he smiled that bleary smile of his and you finally found someone you wanted to wake up to. But obviously you would rather throw yourself in front of a speeding car than tell him about it. And his breath doesn’t hitch the way yours did. So you dare not shift from your mildly uncomfortable position of being trapped between his immobile arm and the wall, but it actually feels like there are two walls and you are squeezed between them, confined, suffocating, and the loneliness is unbearable even though right next to you is breathing deeply, unaware of the hot turbulence enclosing you, separating you from him. It’s been, what, almost two year you’ve been together, but in the dark and half hidden by bed sheets he could have been anyone. He could have been your own shadow. In this age when a relationship is rarely more than a game of ‘I bet I can care less than you do’, you will never admit that yes, you dare not show that you love him more than he loves you, because you refuse to lose the game and you refuse to be vulnerable to loneliness, refuse to injure yourself in this process which is supposed to leave you unscathed and victorious in this trivial game. So you stop yourself from burying your face into the crook of his neck, and you vaguely think to yourself that you’ve never known the exact rhythm of his heartbeat. There are tens of thousands of words in this world to describe emotions, but essentially it all strips down to love and fear. He sleeps, untouchable, and you are no longer sure if your love cancels out your fear, or if your fear overrides your love. Does your desire to wake up next to him every morning surpass your fear of waking up alone, your fear of losing the game? The shadows on the wall are playing tricks on your mind again. 42
Finding Solitude in Hustle and Bustle
the amount of strange look you will be given). Cell phone stores selling latest smart phones, restaurants promoting exquisite cuisines, fashion outlets tempting you to buy their “wardrobenecessary” haute couture… We very rarely challenge their claimed necessity in our lives. We stay static until we are TOLD that they are necessary. And we chase after them. What’s the fundamental question? The question is not on whether we are able to chase after the trend. The fundamental question should be: What we need for ourselves actually? And that’s a hard question, and may lead to a long period of brain drain. So many people simply choose to ignore it.
Undoubtedly, Hong Kong is a hectic city. Cars go by and people run pass. These are the only scenes on our streets. Think further. On the Internet, knowledge is being exchanged and lives are being shared at this very second, of which you are reading this article. How miraculous is that? Fascinated shall we by this very idea that the world is actually running, even if we are not participating nor contributing. How cool is that! We seldom allow ourselves to contemplate, or simply to query the mechanisms of our world. We seldom explore the rationale behind, nor attempt to do so. We seldom allow ourselves even for ourselves. How ridiculous is that? (At this very moment, I am writing for my friend. This very moment I am writing the article isn’t about myself either.) Why would that happen? Aren’t we believers of human savagery?
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engaged in it.” Henry Ford once said, obviously without thinking it through. People all engaged in thinking, but the perspective they take varies. For example, I decided not to follow trends but to think deeper on what I actually need. That’s one way of thinking. Another, my friend Tim per se, (no relation to the Timothy in English Society) may decide, after weighting the efforts involved, to follow the trend instead of doing hard thinking. I will incline to say that Tim did some thinking, but the perceived value he based on is different from mine.
The root of all is our negligence on ourselves. Incentives and treats are always prevalent in our lives, shiny and beautifully decorated they are. Just stop for a second on your way across the traffic lights on Pedder Street. I am sure you will be amazed by the amount of luxurious outlets you will be surrounded by (as well as 43
Feature I also found Henry Ford possessing a hidden agenda. He is tempting people to believe hard thinking is tough. Do remember Henry Ford is in a business reliant on trends (Selling of cars). He may lose his job if all thinks instead of following the trend. This reminds me of the scene casually found on any of our buses on morning or in evening peak hours. People read the papers or concentrate on their smartphones early in the morning and late at night. People are so absorbed by their surroundings, the news on the web, and othersâ€™ cuisine on Facebook, they do not pay attention to themselves. There are only two types of people which dedicate this limited period of commuting to their own. One would be people like me who contemplate during the ride. The other would be those who are enjoying a nap, complimented with some occasional snores, on the bus. This morning, I saw a ray of sunshine reflected by the exterior of the Jardine house. I was so happy that I chased after the ray of sunshine. I saw it jumping over from the circular windows of the Jardine House, to the glass panels of Mandarin Oriental, then it lands on the Jockey Club adjacent to City Hall. What an active ray of sunshine, I thought to myself. And I deviated from the journey to discover myself.
Yeah. It is quite hard after all. 44
Confession and inspiration from a nameless fiddler
and so on of every note you play, and every phrase you conjunct. You know you cannot rely anyone else to cover up your mistakes for you know, unlike Raymond Wong playing in an orchestra, nobody else is playing the same part as yours. You are responsible for all the flaws you make, and the only way to prevent that is to practise harder and aim at perfection. At times I make self reflections when making comparison between playing in an orchestra and as a soloist: I seldom treat the orchestral excerpts seriously like I do with solo pieces because “it sounds the same even if I made a little mistake... or if I don’t even play it!” However, when I go back to the practice room with J.S. Bach’s Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin resting on the As a music lover (I dare not to call music stand, I dedicate every bit of my myself a musician for my incapability), effort to polish the notes and phrases I the experience of playing in music play. What attributes to such difference ensemble is a lot more enjoyable than is probably that when I play solely on any other forms, as I can share the joy my own, I can spend every second on of music making with other players. It nowhere but listening to myself - from also motivates me to meet new people my own playing to my heart. Moreover, and build solid friendships. Still, I at orchestra rehearsals, often more spend a considerable amount of time attention is paid to what others did practising solo pieces, with the door wrong instead of what oneself actually shut, phone turned silent, and allow did wrong. After all, it is always easier only my instrument and pencil on my to point out the mistakes of others than hands. one’s own mistakes. Contrary to what less musically- When one remains in the state inclined people think, playing an of solitude, nothing but the voice of unaccompanied piece of music is oneself would be heard. It is often less never boring. You will never think of comfortable to be entirely on your own, anything starting with ‘bore’ when you but some well-spent solo time would pay full attention to the intonation, make yourself better with the absence articulation, dynamic, and so forth of external distractions. 45
Photo provided by the author
Shadow Preethi Viswanathan
Do you feel you’re the only one? And there’s nobody to stand by you, none? Have you lost the power to fight? Do you want yourself out of sight? There were days when the sun didn’t shine, There were nights without end, Through candle light and moonlight, Did you turn back to find your eternal friend? When everyone was lost in themselves, There was someone who cared about you, There was someone who listened to everything you said. When you thought you were alone, There was someone who needed you, There was someone who grew up with you, There was someone who aged with you. Relationships fade away, Seasons keep turning, The tides of change sweep past, Time leaves scars. There’s someone in this hostile world that won’t hurt you. The only one who is true. You can’t find a better friend even of you tried, Your shadow followed you throughout your life.
The Recommendations Books
Many writers and artists over the centuries have expressed solitude through different mediums. In this section, we recommend different artworks on the theme ‘solitude’. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
After a difficult divorce, the mentality of Gilbert was left in shattered pieces for she was left alone and had lost the sense of direction in life. Therefore, she embarked on a solitary soulsearching journey around the world. In Italy, she found “Eat” through the appreciation of life and the commodity that it provides; in India, “Pray” was procured as she found tranquility in the spiritual life; and at last, “Love”, was felt and expressed as she found the lost piece of her heart in a Brazilian business man. The book is not only a fascinating memoir, but can also serve as a therapy for the many lost and lonely souls in the city. Vivian Tam
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck (1937)
Set in the city of Soledad (which also means ‘solitude’ in Spanish), this fiction depicts the loneliness in each character and their failure to realise their dreams. All characters are solitary in the sense that they are not connected with each other: each has his own dream and desire, yet they are left desolate in the end. Candy, an old man in the story, loses his dog to his companions and becomes taciturn and desolate; George and Lennie, the main protagonists, though being extremely optimistic in the beginning, meet their ill-fated ends; Curley, being in higher social hierarchy, is alone as well since he does not have a close relationship with his wife. This book is short and does not take one long time to read, but it leaves readers with a heavy heart, especially its ending. Timothy Chan
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (1967)
There is no better portrayal of solitude than this exquisite novel about the Buendía family. While the narration is surreal, the characters are developed meticulously, each with his or her own sorrow and solitude—some isolate themselves as they become obsessed with inventing novel objects, some become aloof after war, and some become alienated by their family members. Not only is there a physical alienation, there is a mental and more sophisticated sense of solitude. Timothy Chan 47
All By Myself, Eric Carmen (1975)
This song explores solitude in a wide sense. While it may hint at breaking up, it also explores the solitude in friendship and the loss of juvenescence. The repetitive chorus ‘Don’t wanna live all by myself anymore…all by myself’ emphasises the persona’s detestation of being lonely. With Rachmaninoff’s mournful tune in Piano Concerto No.2, which Carmen incorporated in the song, the feeling of solitude is further accentuated. Timothy Chan
Learn to Be Lonely, Minnie Driver (Original soundtrack from The Phantom of the Opera, 2004)
There is solitude in each of us. This song encapsulates this idea and presents it cynically in a parent-to-child monologue. Indeed, the experience of being lonely is inevitable in the course of life, and to learn it, to accustom oneself to it, may prove to be valuable. Timothy Chan
Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton (1962)
This song focuses on the solitude of a soldier fighting far away from home, without loved ones around him. Released in 1962, the song is one of the many anti-war songs which sprung from the Vietnam War. The loneliness of the persona could be felt with Vinton’s tender voice as well as the simple yet beautifully written lyrics. Timothy Chan
Wake Up Alone, Amy Winehouse (2006)
Sung by the late Amy Winehouse, loneliness which comes from obsessive love is expressed through her husky and jazzy voice. The use of words is contradictory as some evoke movement and some evoke stillness, illustrating the instability and angst that comes with being alone. She attempted to numb the emotional drainage of being alone by alcohol and work but failed, further depicting the pervasive influence of loneliness. This is a song that people who have fallen in love would relate to. Vivian Tam 48
Films American Beauty (1999)
It is exactly an irony, if not sarcasm, to find a movie entitled as “Beauty” but you can hardly seek clues of beauty throughout the 120 minutes. At least we can rarely see genuine happiness and joy in the two families of Lester and Frank. Every cast member shows sense of solitude which they cannot utter truly in front of others. There is an intricate relationship between solitude and “American Beauty”, the best-reviewed American film in 1999. Lester is a typical office man who grouses about his miserable life and family. He has a harsh employer, fierce competitor and dull environment amid routine working. While he comes back home, his wife loves wealth and her flowery garden more than him. His daughter doesn’t communicate with him much. It is stunning to see his indifferent attitude to his wife’s infidelity. He lets all men devoting their life to modern world question: is bustle working their mere task? What else are their priorities? Jane shows an enormous contrast with Angela. She is a quiescent girl, but having lots of individual thoughts deep inside her heart. Paradoxically, Angela loves flaunting and flouting. Jane possesses everything that children would like to have, say like dream house and room, but smile never steals across her face. Do pals always share similar personalities? Angela has a seducing outfit enough to make Lester feel distraught. She pretends to be provocative and arrogant because she has a low self-esteem and stays solitarily without family love. Ricky is unluckily forced to be an isolating man living under father’s violence and a voiceless world. If I were him, I would not surrender for cannabis and drug despite mental obstacles. It is awkward to see his own sufferings while he has been comforting both Lester and Jane .Reality varies largely from imagination though. Similarly, solitude will not last forever, rather it depends on how you view your mental states are. “Beauty” has taught us a meaningful lesson instead. They are perhaps stuff that we do not often pay heed to. Yet, when things accumulate, they can influence tons and change our life. Solitude does not only mean alone and individualism, but also mental plights. They even need more attention in the midst of our hectic life. Nicole KaHsuan Choi 49
Feature Amélie (2001)
The power of solitude and inner world is depicted in Amélie, a movie of a French woman who is used to living in solitude but attempts to make the best out of the constraints of her mind by creativity and fascination in all possible realities. She plans and executes subtle schemes to help the people around her and herself, including Nino Quincampoix, a stranger whose box of childhood memorabilia was found to be hidden in her apartment. Together with enchanting imagery, the movie introduces the viewers to a refreshing and magical way to look at solitude. Vivian Tam
Into the Wild (2007)
Based on a book of the same name, Into the Wild portrays a character, similar to Lord Byron’s Solitude, prefers nature to crowd as he sees only hypocrisy and hatred in humans. He then begins a journey of self-discovery literally into the wild, across North America, while encountering different people and natural hazards. Unlike a normal survival film, this film emphasises on the enjoyment of being alone, to be among nature and the avoidance of human civilisation. Timothy Chan
Taxi Driver (1976)
A close examination on the effects war exerts on people, Taxi Driver portrays solitude with immense pathos. While no war scene is portrayed, one could easily fathom why Travis, brilliantly played by Robert de Niro, shuns people and becomes extremely uncommunicative. The famous mirror scene in which Travis threatens an invisible enemy with ‘you talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking…’ is particularly memorable as the fear of people has driven him entirely insane. With the skilful techniques Martin Scorsese pours in the film, this film should not be missed. Timothy Chan 50
Daffodils, William Wordsworth
Being one of the most popular and clichéd poems in English literature, it is the quintessential poem on the subject of solitude. The first line ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ reveals the theme quite overtly; the narrator then goes on to describe the beauty of the daffodils and how he enjoys being with them—’A poet could not but be gay/ In such a jocund company.’ While the persona does not seem to deny human companions, he acknowledges that wealth has no meaning to him, if one has communication with nature, or what he describes as ‘the bliss of solitude’.
None But the Lonely Heart (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Originally a German poem by the great Romantic writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, it was translated into English with different variations. Many famous composers, like Tchaikovsky, have composed songs for this text. The original lyrics is more related to unrequited love, while the English song version relates to solitude in a more general sense. The lyrics is simple yet powerful, expressing the painful solitude experienced by the poet. ‘Alone and parted/ Far from joy and gladness...’
Ode to Solitude, Alexander Pope
Though being an ‘ode’, this poem lacks the usual connotation of any ode. While it starts with describing the joy and carefreeness of being a hermit, the diction in the last stanza reflects a certain gloomy mood: ‘Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;/ Thus unlamented let me die’. This oxymoronic parallels may represent the uncertainties in the persona’s mind. Being alienated from society, in the end, may not be as comforting as one may think.
Solitude, Lord Byron
A poem on the subject of solitude, Lord Byron compares the two different forms of solitude—one to ‘to hold/ Converse with Nature’s charms, and view her stores unrolled’ and the other to ‘roam alone…with none who bless us, none whom we can bless’. Being alone, as the former one describes, does not always imply grief and loneliness. To be among the ‘the shock of men’, however, does not guarantee joy or intimacy if there are no connections between people. This is contrary to the conception that solitude means having no companions. 51
Below is a poem with some missing words. Use your imagination and fill in the blanks with your own words. Create your own poem! Selected entries will be displayed in our LINK: October Issue!
Title:__________________ Name:________________ _______, and the world _______* with you; _______, and you ______* alone; For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own. _______, and the hills will _______; _________, it is _______ on the air; The echoes bound to a joyful sound, But shrink from voicing care. __________, and men will _______ you; _________, and they ________; They want full measure of all your _______, But they do not need your ______. Be _______, and your friends are ________; Be ______, and you _______ them all,â€” There are none to decline your ________, But alone you must drink ______.
________, and your halls are _______; ______, and the world goes by. Succeed and give, and it helps you live, But no man can help you die. There is room in the halls of _______ For a large and ________, But one by one we must all file on To submit, please scan or take a photo of this page and send it to Through the ____________. firstname.lastname@example.org
Repeat the previous word where * is marked 52
Originial poem: Solitude, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox