Catfish and Mandala Reaction

Recently I finished a book titled Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham. The basic premise of the novel is of a Vietnamese American man who was born in Vietnam, but later moved to the United States as a young boy as a war refugee with his family. In a journey of self-discovery, he bikes up the Seattle from San Jose, CA and afterward he takes a boat to Japan. Finally after leaving the island nation he arrives at his destination of Vietnam the place he had to flee as a child because of the war.

This novel is very personal which surprised me because he details not only his journey biking through Vietnam but also his journey of surviving in the states. He has to deal with the personal issues of being trapped between the land of his birth, and his adoptive nation. In America, the people are quick to remind him of his English accent, and his ethnic background. He must endure the racist ideology that because he is not white or black he is not American. It was this struggle of identity and his family trauma that forced him to quit his career, and leave to Asia. Yet when he arrived at the place of his birth he saw the scars of a nation that was once was at war. He saw the corruption in the streets, the prostitution at night, and the animosity towards the Việt Kiều (Vietnamese who live aboard). The author came across many war veterans and tourists who sought to understand this historic country. As he continued his travels he had a hard time understanding what made Vietnam so special. He began to understand the local people a lot more as his time there prolonged. The hatred towards him was not because he was American, but because they were jealous. That they were getting closer to the white man, to culture, education, and a way of life that was beyond daily drinking, and vice.

At the end he recognizes that he is Vietnamese, and comes to terms with his ancestry, and the war that forced him to leave his original home. Yet he realizes that through all the pain, and sacrifice he has a new home and it isn’t as bad as he thought it was and as more immigrants come in the coming decades he should offer a welcoming hand. The issues and anxieties he faces are going to be the same ones that others will face when they travel to America.

Final Thoughts:

This novel is what I consider a light read. It flows fairly well, and it’s really not that long in length. I wouldn’t recommend it per say, but it does have it’s placed. If you’re an immigrant or your family has ancestry whom are non-Caucasian I do recommend this book because many of the themes are universal towards the immigrant story. The other value I find with this novel is that you get a fairly decent insight into the country that is Vietnam. Granted the novel is a bit dated being written in the 1990’s and much has changed I presume, but you learn simple facts such as the national icon of the nation being a prostitute and other small details. These types of details can give you an insight that can’t easily be found in a history book.

Personal Insight:

I came across this book because I had previously read The Woman Warrior which is a novel with similar themes, but in a different writing style. I don’t usually come across too many Asian-American literature novels that specifically deal with the immigrant experience The Joy Luck Club is most probably the most famous in recent decades but beyond that novel there isn’t many with the same type of exposure. So I decided to give the novel a shot, and I don’t regret it.

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Does true romantic love truly exist?

Logically anything we feel is a just a chemical reaction in our brain. How can signals in our brain create meaning? That I do not know. My intuition is that attraction is at first physical, and later if the personality comes a long that is just an added bonus. There has to be a reason people have affairs, and often divorce. I am not utterly convinced that marriage is a natural state for human beings. Even though we like to impose such moral codes on society we often see that with temptation that for most it means nothing. We romanticize the ideal of love, and perhaps we twisted it so much we don’t even know how to define it. Perhaps romantic love does exist, but perhaps it isn’t suppose to last forever and only for a small periods of time. Or are we confusing passion and lust with love? Yet even the most “stable” relationships after decades of stability have ended abruptly. Have we sent generations of young people chasing something that only exists in our minds? We have shed too many tears for something that is merely an idea. Humans can grow to love anything. I agree there is a difference between compassionate love, and the love of passion. If you have experience with love it is often said that that there are no words to describe it, and you are lost in the moment, but once it is taken away it is like a knife striking the heart.

Love and pain are two sides of the same coin. One doesn’t exist without the other. Another perspective is to think of the idea of “love” as a practical method of ensuring that the species reproduces. We love our partner, our world, our offspring, and we wish to protect it. If we did not have such feelings our species would have died away a long time ago. For all the torture we want to believe in this emotion, and feel it again it tears us apart, but it is a drug we keep coming back to. When I was younger and much more naive about the world it was an idea I use to believe in. I thought that you could bond with someone in such a deep way, but as a grew older I began to see that truth. It was just all a lie as such ideals are so often easily shattered. So the question remains is “love” just a reproductive tool we assign meaning to or is it something that we can truly say exists outside the laws of nature. I have to go with the former. Since at least in my experience humans are good at assigning meaning when there is none. A humans nightmare is an existence without meaning. Anything we feel, believe, and fear we assign a meaning a feeling. We hide behind our symbols, history, literature, mathematics, and logic. We are as clueless as we were before. Authors, and musicians time and time again have suffered and thought about the same themes repeatedly. The cycle is persistent, and it is never ending. The world will end as it began. How many times have we lived the same existence made the same mistakes experienced the same fears and desires. How many times have we cried to sleep searching asking the ultimate question “why”?

Life is pain that is a truth that any human no matter where they were born or when will say it an inescapable truth. My opinion is that the challenge is how we learn to live with pain. Learn to live with no hope no salvation to live in a world that the only thing that is guaranteed is death. Either 50 years from now or tomorrow night. So go experience love, and pain and suck it all in, but don’t be blind to something that exists beyond your mind. There is no scientific law, or magic rules. There is only the experience of living without fear, be angry, cry, yell, laugh, and love. Even all those great people who you read in the history books will become meaningless. Something will replace everything we knew someday. Money, power, and glory are all traps. Hold onto your principles firmly understand why you choose to believe in what you believe in. Cherish them, love them, and protect them. Most importantly use them to guide you in life, and forge your own path. Remember love does exist but only in our minds.

Public Information

            You know what I love about the internet these days. It’s that it has become a social hub for human interaction. The best thing about it is that people are perhaps even more open or mischievous then they are in real life. People are more willing to lie about the truth. About who they are because they have a need to impress or just feel insecure about themselves. While others have a false sense of security and are open to reveal things that perhaps they would only usually confide only with their close friends in a face to face conversation.  When I started on Facebook first started up I was pretty much addicted I checked it everyday and left it on for a couple of hours each day. Uploaded pictures and filled out the profile info. Now years later I only check perhaps once a week and for only 30 seconds mainly because I still have close High school friends I keep in contact with. Most of the time all though those “friends” that I have just spam my  feed with status updates and pictures. Oh the pictures. I have this one person who’s more in the category of people “I know but not my close friend” but not in the “acquaintance category” somewhere in the middle of those two categories. Trying not to reveal any of this persons personal info out of courtesy but let’s be honest if your uploading or typing certain things its public(something I can’t stress enough to people). Sharing = public(even though many do not seem to understand that). Well this person upload pictures like no other and yes I know it’s easy now but  this person uploads like no other. I mean every time I log on for 30 seconds there it is. These are not pictures of just the face or vacation. It’s like night life, house parties, and a lot of stuff that many professional would deem unacceptable. I mean there’s lots of suggestive pictures along with the booze and who knows what else. Here I am thinking “does this person realize that companies and others people check this site.” Heck people can also hack personal information and get this stuff  and just expose all of it for no reason at all. At the same time its college life and many people tend to not think beyond the next day. Heck that is just my opinion on the matter.
            Now moving along I want to share some YouTube(like how now YouTube is a word recognized by spell-check) comments I found on the web recently. Like I mentioned before (you post it its public). The subject matter is about cheating during exams. Here are some anecdotes that were posted. Again people really do have a false security when they are on the internet. First one up:
Take photos of the notes with iPhone, turn down brightness, organize notes into folders by topic/subject, take wall seat second from back to avoid suspicion and rest phone on lap shielding eyes with non-writing hand “resting” your head. The dudes sitting next to me don’t even notice.
So he or she misspelled organize but yet again I can’t criticize because I have horrible grammar. I still wonder why I blog. Perhaps I still believe I can improve. The iPhone cheat is pretty common nothing new, my High School teacher would tell you to put your phone on the ground face down. Now you may ask what if the you didn’t have a phone. I often wondered that myself but everyone had a cell phone. When I went to college the teachers didn’t have same policy but if you got caught man you were SCREWED. Well if you cheat anytime you are screwed unless your an athlete who brings in the money or a rich boy.
Next up:
 I had many a male teacher in high school, and was lucky enough to have large breasts. I would simply write my answers on a tiny piece of paper and come the day of the test I would wear a shirt I could see down. I would place the tiny cheat sheet between them. I never got caught because really how would a teacher explain that? “Oh, I was looking down her shirt and caught her cheating.”??? I don’t think so… XD
            I  like this one. I am not a women so this would ever cross my mind but this one is pretty smart. What is funny about this is that women complain about being objectified as sex objects and yet here is an example of some girl using it to her advantage because it’s true the teacher can’t be caught looking at a student sexually. I sometimes wonder why women don’t run the world especially good looking women. Men tend to think with their pants. I’ll have to admit I do also sometimes. Hot women can get away with a lot, but women in general should. Perhaps that’s the fear of men, if women are in control they will never lose it.
Next story:
Unlike my friends who taped their answers on their legs so when they crossed them they would see the answer I would just write my answer on a little piece of cheat sheet, then copy it on the table so I can cover it with my test and throw the cheat paper away. Afterwards I just erase my pencil and if it’s pen I use wet tissues for removing make-up.
            This one I have seen with my own eyes. I was in my calculus class(boy do I have some stories for that class). I had this guy sit next to me and write equation and examples on his desk in pencil. All our desks were connection in a circular fashion around  white board where the teacher wrote. Now it got even worse this student once asked me during the example to give him my note sheet for some money. I refused I don’t sell out (I didn’t even end up doing well on the exam anyways). I don’t know if this student ended up passing the class but knowing college curves he most probably did.
            I actually enjoyed during this type of social commentary. Basically if you cheat make sure you know what you are doing and are aware of the consequences of cheating. Yeah I am not going to tell anyone to not cheat because we all cheat in our own way. Asking for a friends notes after he or she took the test or perhaps borrowing previous exams. So it’s just down to what method who choose and whether how socially acceptable it is.