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How Can You Even Make Sense of “Forever”?

Oftentimes I find the concept of “eternity” difficult to comprehend. Suppose you’re a painter, with what colors do you paint eternity? Suppose you’re a songwriter, in what chords, what progressions, what tonality do you compose?

It’s just over midnight when I decide to have a short walk before sleeping. I find all the boys are sound asleep except one.

“That your wife?”

“Uh, no, sir,” he replies while swiftly tucking a photograph of a beautiful young lady inside his pocket.

“You’re a lucky guy.”

“I guess so.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“Eight years.”

“Wow. That’s quite a long time.”

“Not without our ups and downs.” He chuckles nervously.

“Have some trouble sleepin’ in the dirt?”

“No, sarge, it’s just I don’t feel like sleeping already.”

I sat down next to him. It was full moon and I could see his weary face clearly. There’s a momentary silence as his mind begins to wander.

“I really miss her,” he says, out of nowhere. Then another silence follows.

“Do you think the war will soon be over, sir?”

“I don’t know.” I know that sort of answer would not give him relief but I honestly don’t know. Personally, I’m tired of this war.

His face becomes solemn. “When I go back to Jakarta, I will propose to her.”

“I’ll cut your throat if you don’t invite me.”

He chuckles again. This young man has a contagious kind of jolly and warm chuckle which immediately lifts your mood up.

“Tell me, do you believe in heaven and hell, private?”

“Yeah, I do. What of it, sir?” He turns his head towards me, interested in my unexpected question.

“I never get it.” I pause for a moment. “It’s funny, though, how temporary our lives here on Earth seem to be.” He looks intently at me, waiting to hear my next sentences.

“This war makes me think again, deep inside. I’ve seen plenty of deaths already. A grenade falls, bang! You’re dead. Just weeks ago we’re hit by an ambush. We were eating! There was this man, he hadn’t even finished sayin’ his prayer yet.”

“It’s horrible,” he says. He looks upset. Now he turns his head back, looking to the darkness in front of us. The darkness seems to stare back, as if mocking our complete inability in knowing when the war will be over.

“Sarge, what if this war won’t be over? What if… this war continues forever?”

“Oh, you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, kid. What’s ‘forever’? What do you mean by that?”

“Uh, like, forever, sir.”

“I can’t make sense of ‘forever’. Guess that’s why I have trouble believin’ in heaven and hell.”

“I too, sir, have a difficulty in making sense of it. But dare I say to you, it might help if you look at it from another perspective.”

“Another perspective?”

“Yeah. I mean, ‘forever’ is almost crazy, right? You have this stretch of time,” he stretches his arms wide open, “and it has no beginning and no end. But then again, if you think about it, there is no time there.”

He is silent for a while, trying to find a way to communicate his idea. “Oh, now I’m blabbering.”

“No, no. Please continue.”

“Are you sure? My friends would be bored whenever I start to talk about things like this.” He chuckles again.

“Yeah.”

“Right. So you have this concept of a place where there is no time. How can a man make sense of a place without time? It’s very puzzling! We’re so used to the concept of time. All our lives, we cannot escape from time.

“But I try to approach it from the other direction. In my attempt to make sense of the ‘forever’, I’d think first of the ‘never’. The two are somewhat similar, in a sense that they’re both timeless. There is no time also in the ‘never’. I’d ponder about things that hasn’t happened yet, and extrapolate it so that it would never happen. Like, what if we’d never land on Mars, or… or, what if I would never marry her. Well, that knocks my brain!”

We look again into the darkness. Sometimes I have the feeling that I would never see peace again. This war has been going for three years I almost forget my previous life. Experiencing so many horrors sets a new normal in my mind.

“And then I’d compare those images of ’never’ with images of ‘ever’: the image of me living in Mars, for example. Or, the image of my wedding day. Well, even though ‘ever’ isn’t exactly the same as ‘forever’, but it helps, you know.”

Now it’s me who chuckle. “Funny. I compare the images of war and peace side by side. I can vividly imagine this war going on and on and on, but it just no longer makes sense to me that we can have eternal peace. Guess I’ve been here for too long.”

“Uh, in our original context of heaven and hell, it does make sense, sir. If I’m asked to imagine a place where there is torture forever, I cannot do that. But if I am to picture a place where no one can ever see Peace and Love, well, I can do that. Same goes for the opposite.”

The darkness in front of us is pitch black. It is a terrible thing to have no light at all. I get up, quietly thanking in my downtrodden heart for the full moon above us.

“It’s a helpful technique, sarge,” says he, with a cordial smile on his face.

“It is. Go to sleep, private, it’s almost one.”

“Yes, sir.”

As I walk back, I’m reminded of a story my grandmother used to tell me when I was a little boy. It was about a really bad man who never did any good during his life. He stole, he beat people up, he lied, he cheated. As the story goes, one day he was arrested and sentenced to death. No one would even dare to think that he could be forgiven. But on his last day on Earth, he said to the man beside him, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And as the story goes, that criminal be with him in paradise.

All of a sudden, the ‘never’ becomes ‘forever’.

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An Interesting Session of Virtual Voyage

+ Hey Saf, I’ve got nothing to do and I’m bored to death. Shite. For ocean’s sake, what should I do?
– Um, try to be active on social media, maybe?
+ Social media? Seriously?! (laughing cynically)

But I tried it anyway.

It was fun at the beginning, but somehow later on I sense that my mood was declining each time I embark on this ‘virtual voyage’. Despite this, I continued to surf the free water of social media anyway, until on one breezy evening I stumbled upon an interesting thing at The Guardian website and I began to notice the slight similarity of the problems discussed there with my own declining mood issue, especially on the Envy and Pride departments.

Like I have asserted on the opening line, my virtual voyage on the social media began several months ago. No, no, not that I haven’t used social media before, it’s just that I rarely use them. But, owing to my friend’s suggestion, and owing to lack of things to do at the dock, I decided to be far more active on social media. Well, so what? They’re fun to fiddle around with, aren’t they?

No, they’re not. Uh, yes, at the beginning of each time I logged on, yes it was fun. It was fun seeing what my friends are doing and what they’re thinking on Facebook news feed and on Twitter timeline and on LinkedIn and on what else and on what else. But as I continued to scroll down, I felt more and more anxious seeing photos and updates of my friends’ recent vacations, new jobs, new gadgets, new whatever. Insecurity, yeah. I humbly admit that to you, dear courteous reader, that at that moment I was feeling insecure with myself and envious of my friends’ life. Great.

So I tried to solve my trouble by posting photos of my recent vacation. Yeah!

“Yeah what, Mard?”, you might ask. Well, dear courteous reader, as soon as I finished uploading those photos―and just so you know, they’re not very great―’the Like count’ began to increment. Oh, how I was very satisfied with the amount of likes and the comments made by my friends. I patted myself on the shoulder and said, “Well done, Mard!” (no, of course I didn’t say that, but you get my point). Well, after that I had yet another vacation and again I uploaded a bunch of photos―this time they’re better than the previous ones but still, not exceptionally great. The likes and the comments are great, though, so I was proud with myself again. “Well done, Mard!”

Nevertheless, during my regular sitting-beneath-the-night-sky session, I felt weird about my pride. I asked myself, “Have I really achieved something by posting those photos?” The answer came swift and precise: nope. So that night I felt sorry for myself for being proud without achieving anything. I went back to my room and decided not to ever overuse social media again.

It’s not that social media is bad, but maybe I couldn’t handle it more responsibly at that moment. I mean, what’s the point of being active on social media if it makes you anxious? I believe that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and many other social media was conceived and developed with the good intention of connecting people. After all, that’s why they’re called social media, not private media. What’s the use of Facebook or Twitter if it’s being used to flaunt your feathers only? What’s the use of Instagram if each time you log on to it you feel miserable?

No, it’s not wrong to upload your photos, it’s not wrong to scroll down the timeline, but from my silly virtual voyage I think it is safe to conclude that one should be considerate when using social media. And yeah, sure, I much prefer real voyage to a virtual one.

Enjoy responsibly

Heineken advertising slogan

On Penalty Shootout and the Underlying Garment of Faith (part III)

Eu acredito! (I believe!)

Brazilian supporters

 

Dear courteous reader, I am sorry if this starts to annoy you. I thought there would be no part three, but what can I say? Watching the drama of yesterday’s penalty shootout sent shivers down my spine, bringing me back to the memories of my own penalty shootouts. Well, for your convenience, I promise I’ll make this one a tad shorter than the second part.

The referee blew the whistle. It was the end of 120 minutes of nerve-racking conflict between two equal sides. Everyone knew what it meant: the dreaded penalty shootout―a lottery contest to determine the winner and the loser. The horror of failing to qualify was plainly written in the Brazilian players’ faces. Captain Thiago Silva covered his face as he couldn’t bear to look at the massive yellow crowd in front of him. Poor him! I don’t need to explain how great the pressure was on the players. It might take another sixty years before Brazil would host the World Cup again. Every Brazilians were dreaming, dreaming of winning the World Cup in their own land, and now that dream hung heavily on the shoulders of the penalty takers.

The scoreline read 2-2. Up stepped Neymar, Brazil’s fifth penalty taker. He knew if he missed this one, that dream would be very likely to shatter to pieces. A nation’s dream, Ladies and Gentlemen! Imagine the suspense, listen to his heart thumping as he walked from the halfway line forward. He put the ball on the white spot. His complexion changed. Just a minute ago he was agitated and uneasy. Now, though, he seemed very composed and so sure that he would score. He looked intently at the goal and made up his mind. He ran forward. He swung his leg…

It is never easy for me to fully believe in something. I don’t know why―maybe it’s in my DNA―I always open some rooms to suspicion. This doesn’t help me at all when I am searching for that Hand in darkness. No, don’t misunderstand me, I do believe in Him, but it just feels agonizingly hard for me to surrender completely to a God that I don’t know really well. There’s always the doubt that there is nothing at all up there. I have asked numerous times for a conclusive proof to settle this once and for all―call me Thomas if you’d like―but nothing has been given yet.

Things get rough when I am having a navigational problem. As you have probably known, my ship had been struck by a heavy storm. Even without a storm the voyage itself is already frightening me a lot, and now what happened? A heavy storm, Ladies and Gentlemen!―as if the wave itself is not enough. It is not surprising, really, that I then looked for the Hand. Sadly, though, I don’t know Him well enough. It was very hard to be assured when one doesn’t know Him well.

It is frustrating to realize that no matter how hard I tried to suppress it, doubt always manage to arrive (rather on time, unfortunately). The result is predictable: I become afraid. Although fear is a normal thing during situation like this, sometimes―if it is allowed to grow larger―it can impair one’s ability to fight back.

The Brazilians are not the only ones dreaming. I am dreaming too. Without any offense to His omnipotence, I think I won’t get there with doubt still lingering inside me.

My friend once asked me on how to take a penalty―I had a pretty good record on penalties. Straight out, I answered: “Well, first of all you have to ask yourself whether you’re ready or not to take it. If you’re not ready, don’t take it. If you’re ready, take it. At this stage it is okay to have some doubts in your heart, but once you step up to take it you have to be 100% blindly sure that you will score. This won’t make your leg stronger, but somehow it will condition your mind to give its best. That’s the art of penalty taking, to achieve a state of mind where doubt no longer exist.”

When I watched yesterday’s penalty shootout I can understand how it was like to be in Neymar’s shoe at that moment. Somehow I could relate his tension with my own tension, and zap! It occurred to me that maybe living is―to some extent―similar to penalty taking: let no doubt take away the goal, the dream.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Katharina von Schlegel

P.S.: After Chile’s last taker of the shootout failed to score, Brazilians in São Paulo lit up fireworks to celebrate the thrilling victory. I hope one day Jakarta would be doing the same.

P.P.S.: I apologize yet again, dear courteous reader, for I can’t keep my promise. This post is longer than the second part.

Resep, Euy! — Sebuah Rangkuman Perjalanan Mencari Damai di Mahameru

Tepat dua tahun yang lalu saya membuat tulisan ini di Facebook saya, dan mendapat respon positif dari pembacanya (walaupun kata “positif” di sini agak subjektif). Dalam rangka mengusahakan produktifitas di tengah-tengah kegabutan yang sedang saya alami ini, maka saya akan menulis ulang—ralat: menyalin, apa yang ada dalam tulisan itu. Untuk kalian yang sok sibuk, ini executive summary-nya: saya naik gunung, terus turun lagi.

Oke saya ga tau harus mulai dari mana, tapi yaudah lah ya.

Jadi ceritanya gini. Saya baru pulang nonton bola, jam 5 pagi, naik motor sendirian di jalan depan Kebon Binatang. Jalanan sepi dan gelap. Terus entah kenapa males ngoper dari gear 2 ke gear 3, jadinya motor berjalan pelan-pelan saja. Ga penting, maaf.

Teringat satu minggu yang lalu, tepat di detik ini, saya sedang berada di titik tertinggi di Pulau Jawa. Mungkin perlu saya beberkan dulu motivasi saya ikutan perjalanan kali ini. Saya ingin mencapai di puncak paling tinggi di Pulau Jawa. Saya tidak ingin melihat Ranu Kumbolo yang terkenal itu atau awan-awan yang menggantung. Saya sudah baca novel 5 cm dari jaman SMA, saya kurang suka, bahasanya hiperbolik. Dalam bayangan saya pasti Semeru nggak segitu indahnya seperti yang digambarkan di buku itu. Jadi tujuan saya murni cuma menaklukkan pulau ini dengan berdiri di titik tertingginya. Siapa berani melawan orang tertinggi?

Setelah dipersiapkan selama berminggu-minggu, akhirnya petualangan dimulai. Kamis, 14 Juni 2012, setengah tiga sore, 15 manusia muda berangkat dari Kampus Ganesha menuju Stasiun Bandung dengan dua angkot Sadang Serang-Caringin carteran. Sampai di stasiun, langsung berjalan menuju gerbong 1 ekonomi KA Malabar. Di titik ini carrier masih terasa ringan.

Tapi dimulai dari titik itu bermunculan banyak hal baru yang tidak akan muncul kalau saya memilih untuk menghabiskan liburan akhir semester ini dengan main FM di kosan atau nonton Euro di himpunan. Mulai dari Satpam Hastari sampai “barang sengketa”, akhirnya para pendaki edan ini sampai juga di Kota Malang. Di Tumpang, kami menyewa satu jeep untuk sampai ke Ranu Pane. Ya, cuma satu untuk 15 orang plus Mas Yudhi. Gila memang. Biarpun seru, tapi tolong jangan diulangi lagi. SMAW bukan Tuhan, bro. Untungnya satu setengah jam penuh tawa kemudian kami tiba di Ranu Pane. Dari sini kami benar-benar keluar dari peradaban. Tanpa sinyal, tanpa suplai listrik dari PLN, tanpa WC duduk yang nyaman. Dan dari sini semuanya ditempuh dengan kaki.

500 meter kemudian, semua orang mendadak membenci Yoga ketika dia tiba-tiba berbelok ke kiri—kurang lebih begitu kata Rayvan, tapi seperti biasa, Rayvan suka menggeneralisir. Perjalanan naik turun—jauh lebih banyak naiknya—terus dilalui, sampai kira-kira lima jam kemudian para pejuang akhirnya mencapai Ranu Kumbolo dengan Vicky membawa kambing, Sadis membawa sebungkus LA Menthol, dan Rayvan membawa kaki keram. Di titik ini jangan tanya carrier terasa beratnya seperti apa, bayangin aja, Ibu Dapur Nyoman sampai marah karena banyak asap rokok padahal ga ada yang merokok. Bingung kan. Tapi sudah jadi aturan tak tertulis kalau hanya ada dua orang yang tidak boleh dilawan, Pimpro Opick dan Ibu-Dapur-Nyoman-kalau-lagi-masak. FYI, beribu maaf, saya tidak bisa mengingat apa saja menu makan yang dihidangkan, karena yang terlintas di pikiran saya hanya bagaimana mendapatkan nasi putih sebanyak-banyaknya.

Hari ketiga, setelah sarapan dengan nasi gigih, kami mulai berangkat melanjutkan perjalanan. Belum apa-apa kami sudah dihadapkan dengan Tanjakan Cinta, yang konon katanya saat kita mendaki tidak boleh menoleh ke belakang jika ingin mendapat jodoh. Dengan inklinasi kurang lebih 60 derajat, carrier ini serasa ingin ditinggal di Ranu Kumbolo saja. Tapi kaleng Guinness ini harus sampai di Mahameru, jadi: sikat Lae! Tidak sampai setengah menanjak, tepat di belakang saya Bob batuk-batuk kayak udah mau muntah, dan saya menoleh ke belakang. Jadi kalau saya ga dapat jodoh, ini semua salah Bob. Setelah Tanjakan Cinta berhasil dilewati, terlihat padang rumput yang luas, penuh bunga-bunga gunung. Dan disinilah pose Ikhsan bersama kumpulan bunga lavender yang tersohor itu diambil, Oro-oro Ombo.

Sekitar pukul 3 sore kami tiba di Kalimati, pos yang tepat berada di kaki gunung. Dengan tubuh yang sudah kelelahan, saya membuat kesalahan ketika perjalanan dari Ranu Kumbolo ke Kalimati: berjanji mengambil air di sumber air gunung. Jarak tempuh dari kamp cukup jauh dan medan yang dilalui sangat berbahaya. Tetapi disini saya menyaksikan mukjizat: sementara saya hanya bermodalkan tiga botol air minum 1,5 liter, Erpinus berangkat dengan membawa jerigen! Sudah sampai di sumber air, dia boker pula. Kurang strong apa lagi coba. Belakangan kami diberitahu bahwa sumber air itu merupakan tempat yang biasa dikunjungi harimau, macan tutul, dan hewan-hewan gunung yang ingin minum. Lucu aja sih ngebayangin sang gelandang pengangkut air Erpinus lagi enak-enaknya boker terus ada macan tutul nongol. Dan di Kalimati ini pula Rangga diresmikan sebagai Pembantu Umum, Randi boker tiga kali, dan untuk pertama kalinya saya tidak bisa menghabiskan tiga piring nasi.

Tepat tengah malam, kami bergerak. This is it chaps, summit attack! Dipimpin oleh Izar, barisan cahaya dari headlight dan senter kami perlahan menyusur punggung gunung Semeru. Medan yang ditempuh kali ini jauh lebih berat dari hari-hari sebelumnya. Sampai di Arcopodo, carrier yang saya bawa akhirnya saya percayakan pada Ikhsan yang terus-menerus dengan tanpa hentinya merengek untuk membawakannya. Pendakian kembali dilanjutkan. Lewat Arcopodo, medan yang kami hadapi lebih gila lagi. Jalur sempit berpasir dengan kemiringan yang cukup curam ditambah angin malam yang dingin sudah menanti. Counterpain Suselo cukup berguna disini.

Tapi belum apa-apa si Ikhsan kembali menyerahkan carrier pusaka tim kepada saya. Si Ikhsan ini memang lemah. Baiklah Nak, kalau itu memang maumu, akan kutunjukkan seperti apa jiwa laki: bukan pengecut! Pendakian kembali dilanjutkan. Semakin tinggi semakin banyak batu-batu yang tergeletak di jalur pendakian dan dapat menggelinding kapan saja. Kaki semakin berat untuk melangkah; pasir di bawah seperti memaksa para pendaki untuk turun, tidak boleh mencapai puncak. Dalam kondisi ini semua merasa lelah dan tertekan. Dan di tengah sunyinya malam dan riuh-pikuknya suara Agri memberi petunjuk jalur, akhirnya Rayvan mengucapkan kata-katanya yang terkenal itu: “Diam kamu, Agri!”

Tiga perempat perjalanan, giliran Yoga yang merengek minta membawakan carrier. Baiklah Nak, kalau itu memang maumu. Pendakian pun dilanjutkan. Biarpun tanpa carrier, kaki semakin lama semakin terasa berat untuk mendaki. Ini soal tekad dan kemauan.

Akhirnya sekitar pukul setengah enam saya sampai di puncak Mahameru. Dan semua kekonyolan dari Bandung terbawa naik lalu lenyap disini. “Siapa kamu hingga berani-beraninya mencoba menaklukkanku?” kata Semeru.

 

Hahaha, benar juga. Perasaan pertama yang muncul bukanlah euforia kemenangan dan tawa lebar seperti yang awalnya saya bayangkan. Hanya tamparan keras, bahwa ternyata kita sedemikian kecilnya dan Tuhan begitu besarnya. “Maafkan kesombongan saya.”

“Belajarlah, Anak Muda, belajarlah,” balasnya.

Benar kesan saya dulu waktu SMA, Semeru bukan tempat yang segitu indahnya seperti yang digambarkan di buku itu. Tapi ada banyak pelajaran diatas sana: belajar menjadi pecinta alam, bukan cuma penikmat alam; belajar menerima diri sendiri dan diri sahabat; belajar arti kehidupan yang—kalau kata Soe Hok Gie—tak satu setan pun tahu. Dan semua pelajaran itu terbungkus dalam bentuk-bentuk yang aneh, seperti “satu juta meter kubik per detik”, nasi gigih, serta—tentu saja—Pevita. Resep, euy! Haha.

A Sailor Knows Good Music Can Calm Storms

“Captain!”

“What is it, sailor?”

“Why does the ship jerk violently like this? I can’t sleep, Captain!”

“Why, there’s a heavy storm outside.”

“A storm? Oh great. Why on Earth do we have to enter stormy waters? Why did YOU turn the ship to stormy waters?”

But the good old Captain just smiled. He paused for a moment and then laughed cheerfully, saying, “It was your request, son, remember? You’ve always wanted a thrilling voyage.”

Dear courteous reader, while I was working in the storehouse earlier this morning I found an old piece of music which I instantly liked very much. I grabbed my guitar and sang along to the tune. For your convenience―no, it’s for your inconvenience haha―I have recorded a video. Pardon the quality, we don’t have fancy cameras out here. No copyrights infringement intended, I just wanted to know how to upload a video to YouTube.