This week I threw away a good number of books. When I say "good number" I actually mean the entire library of books that once was my intellectual pride. Interesting note: Up to the 18th century, the size of one's library measures their wealth and status in the society. Elizabeth Bennet in Austen's Pride and Prejudice sees Mr. Darcy in a different light, away from his snobbish and prideful mannerism after a visit to his humble abode (really, a mansion fit for a prince), witnessing for herself the manicured garden and symmetrical architectural structure. What impresses her most is his library! Because books hitherto to that era were expensive due to the laborious and expensive process, not everyone can have a personal enclave of hard leather bound words-filled papers. It wasn't until the industrial revolution that print books became widely accessible, which accrues for the readership growth since - and mostly targeted at the women population.
As a bibliomaniac, you can imagine the strong resistance met existentially on the ruthless decision to part with those amazing titles. But I did.
Prior to clearing the shelves of books (and other stuff) covering a wall in my room, I had to mentally psyche myself for the big "throw-out". I really subscribe to the Minimalists who had recently intervened, circumventing my destiny to become the hoarder I was meant to be. In a world so populated with wants, confusing with the true nature of NEEDS, I have over the years accumulated junk that would make a karang-guni man so very happy. And happy that person should be. I walked past the recycling bin where I left my piles of accumulated memories later and it was gone, as if they had never been there at all.
In a light-conversation a while back with two friends, we related shared aversion over the hassle of de-cluttering a pile of necessarily unneeded "stuff", and I was surprised to realise that one of the reasons we are reluctant to free up living space possibly stems from later regrets of throwing it away, in addition to sentimental attachments. That feeling sucks! According to one of them, the enormous sense of irate targets inward - part regret, part unnecessary expenditure (again!). The situation really is rather ironic, isn't it?
The mantra I repeated in my head all the time I was clearing the shelves were: have I read this in the last 90 days, and will I need it in the next 90 days? Each time I hesitated to let go of a book, I assured myself that I now have a Kindle.
I guess the idea of parting with something you once held valuable can actually be parted without nostalgia if one chooses to liberate themselves by recognising the true necessities in life. What do you really need? I must admit, it became somewhat unbearable, fishing out Stella Kon's Emerald of Emily Hill, then freeing it into the bin again. Because I have read it, know it, and will remember the narrative of how we overcome the adversities attached to our heritage, I can without second thoughts, part with it, keeping the story as I interpreted it with more added personal relation.
The art of letting go is my bold attempt at living minimally. It doesn't mean I don't miss it. It simply means that I can live without it. Thereby, be sufficient away from the cluttered commercials and influenced lifestyles by brands and organisations. Then again, minimalism is a branded way of life, isn't it? I beg your pardon!
Being minimalistic is an art, a philosophy, an introspective journey one gains into one's identity. It is not a branded way of life as fashion is. It doesn't mean to throw away all things. It simply means asking yourself what you need. It is about asking if you can live without it. It is about assessing if it is a want or a need. You need to eat. But do you really need to have a sumptuous spread of seafood? Can you survive with just bread and butter, something less extravagant?
As I was clearing the shelves, the one thing I cannot depart my soul with, naturally, are my music scores. Music is an essential core that is foundation to my sanity. I retain those magical pages of musical language because I can see myself referring to in the future for calming with my piano.
After watching a video on how to make one-pot pasta (see video below), I decided to channel my inner chef and whip up dinner for my partner.
What I love about this dish is its simplicity. It only requires very few easy-to-find ingredients. Couple the ingredients you see below with white wine, a good amount of olive oil, and salt-&-pepper to taste, and you will find yourself indulging in a delicious hearty Martha Stewart time-tested dish in no time.
To adapt to taste, I have intentionally left out the chilli and basil, replacing instead with spinach. My doctor mentioned that I need more iron and nothing beats spinach as a source of that vital mineral.
You will find the key ingredient that really brings out the creamy rich flavour of the sauce to be none other than onion! Believed to have first been grown in Iran and West Pakistan, this yummy root vegetable is not only low in calorie, but also rich in vitamin C. Together with garlic, another one of my all-time favourites, they are highly anti-inflammatory and abundant in antioxidant. More importantly, for renal patients, this complementary main course companion is sodium and cholesterol free!
You will also find that I have included button mushrooms into this good ole' tasty dish. Mushrooms. Another classic vegetarian element that will turn any meal exciting.
The word mushroom is derived from the French word for fungi and moulds. Approximately 1650, a melon grower near Paris discovered these little clusters growing on his growth fertiliser. After many successful tastings, he decided to cultivate this new exotic delicacy commercially, and lo and behold, it became an exclusive Parisian high society food. It was so well received that it was termed "Parisian Mushroom" by other cultures.
Of course, this is but one account of this amazing goodness.
So anyway, as I've mentioned above, beautifully put all the ingredients into a pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients and calibrate the olive oil, salt&pepper, and white wine to your preference.
And voila! You now have an elegant plate of one-pot pasta. The flavours: DIVINE!
“And I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference”
Alas, we have been born into a world where making choices is an everyday chore: the arduous process of picking an outfit, the seismic decision on where to satisfy one’s appetite, white or black, this or that, coffee or tea… the list goes on. Along the lines engraved on our palms are times where we must make pivotal decisions that will alter our destiny, inevitably, and that will make all the difference before our eventual destination.
Two roads diverged in a yellow road, which road shall we take, at times we ask. At the age of 18, we track on the road less travelled, filled with the innocence of life, naivete, I’d say, we want to change the world, as did the generations before us. At the age of 21, we may be economically better off, we want to travel the world and experience different cultures, not necessarily knowing tomorrow, we live on the edge. Trod on, nevertheless. One year to hitting the 30s, the world has whizzed me by and I’m afraid I’d have to settle down and really consider “the next big thing” in my fragile little life.
No longer do I feel as energetic as I did, hopping from tiles to tiles as a child. No longer do I feel the adrenaline of rollercoasters. No longer do I feel the excitement of the sun rising from the east. Instead, all I feel are my feet weighed down like 29 KG dumb bells on each side. I palpitate and feel light-headed from theme parks. I feel nothing as the day gains a new fresh page. Because I know the words that society pens down for me, will be the same the page before. It seems like my book only has three chapters: youth and innocence, adulthood, death.
For a long time, the immortal lines from Robert Frost has been lost in my subconscious, and only recently did it resurface to remind me of my purpose and calling –
I think somewhere along the lines on my palm, I had unknowingly settled down for something far from my dreams and fantasies. I was swayed by the mechanism of society and lost my vision. I no longer dream of flying and drifting like pores off a plant. I dare not! I dream of concrete housing, of a tall large tree too rooted in the ground. It would take much determination, courage, and strength, to uproot this tree.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and I shall be telling this with a sigh, I took the one most traveled by.
Out from the indignant gut bellowed these words:
“We are raindrops that form
the Atlantic to Pacific, the Southern to the Indian,
Comparably insignificant as a single drop of tear
To the army of waters.”
Against the tides, swept by the undercurrents of cunning, life-sapping politics, no individual is powerful against the titans of sheer gallant subterfuge.
Melvin vacillates between writing and teaching in his free-time. He is working on his book aimed to be published in 2019. Currently a contributing writer for ELEMENT Magazine, he began writing for luxury media before working at SPH Magazines. He also has a corporate job at a non-profit international think-tank organization because he knows that writing cannot be his means to an end - not in Singapore anyway.