Aram Harijan

Much ado about nothing

Month: January, 2013

You must understand, Mr. Adamson, that to go to sleep is the single most profoundly fearful event for a child.

You cannot remember, Mr. Adamson, except by what you assume to be true by your observations of the world and of the human life that once you were an infant.

And when you were but an infant, and not Mr. Adamson, every day would come to an end and, in the evenings, you would feel the rein on your consciousness slip.

You couldn’t be certain, as little a baby boy, of what would happen if you let go of that leash, to let your mind slip, to let darkness take over your eyes – your daily visions because you did not understand that to go to sleep is to wake up in the morning continue. And not knowing, that sleep is just a natural part of the diurnal cycle to which we are subject having been products of Darwinian evolution on a planet – that which itself is regulated by 24 hour cycles with a single central star – you fell asleep every night with a fear of losing your consciousness that fear, not unlike, of death.

You were absolutely scared to go to sleep and you cried, but you cannot stop sleep just as you cannot stop time. So you fell asleep crying, and you dreamt only to awake suddenly, and miraculously, your life began all over again.

It’s only when you have spent thousands of nights of such tiny little mini-deaths, as an infant and a child, that you begin to recognize that it really is alright to go let go of your consciousness every night because, in the sum of your existence, you now have experienced those thousands of mornings in which you have experienced little tiny mini-rebirths.

You began to know and assume, you see, that tomorrow you would wake up and continue the narration of this thing called life. And when you did, you began to believe an implicit warranty given to you by an unknowable, unshakable force – a god of sorts.

And ten thousand nights have passed since those days, and you have forgotten what it was like to be a child fearful of this thing we simply call sleep because you have taken for granted those waking moments you first believed to be miracles given you by a higher power.

Today, you say you do not want to wake up, Mr. Adamson, because you drank last night and you are tired this morning. And you want to remain in a state of rest and sleep. And while you still lay in bed, hugging hangover between your arms like a pillow, you wish to remain in a state of limbo.

You must think, Mr. Adamson, there is a choice you must make. To wake or not to wake. You must remember what it is that you have forgotten. And invariably, you will come to the conclusions as I have, that we must find whatever it is that brought us here in the first place.



Once – so the story goes – a wild flower bloomed in a nameless field. With promiscuous innocence of softness, it sang the brilliance of luminous time.

By happenchance, a vagabond visited this wilderness and rested from the tender distance. Amidst the early autumn grass turning brown and bending from age, he laid his soul bare. Unwitnessing the flower, he slept.

As the daylight fell and the evening glowed, the poet once came to. Over the head, his awakening eyes caught this modest flower hiding its secret shapes and colors into the folds of its petals.

In the sighing whisper of his breath the petals ruffled, and a glimpse of red embarrassment dripped life into the eyes of this traveller so far away from his forgotten homeland.

The youth of his days rushed back, and the face of a girl who once confided the secrets of her life returned to him as a waking dream. The twilight was azure in his eyes, and the vision was a rapture of this flower pressed between the forgotten memories bound with time drained of dear life.

Against the backdrop of the spinning heavens, the falling consciousness spent the night where home rested under the skirt of this girl-flower awaiting in the void and back.

In the gentle dawn, the flower wilted and dropped its petals one-by-one. They fell on his forehead and bid him conscious to this new day.

The dreams of past vanished with the receding night sky, and the man saw what had happened to the flower which had brought him so much love and joy. Somberly, he knelt and bowed his head next to the withered remains of the flower past and sang a foreign prayer to the west wind blowing onward his way home.

Standing, a wholesome warmth stirred in his heart, and taking the pregnant belly of the flower stem with him, he called his journey forth with the rose of Sharon.

Melancholy New Year

I just got off the phone with someone from my past.

It’s an elderly Chinese-American woman who lives with her husband out in the country in North Carolina. I met them during my medical school years when I would visit the town in which they lived and worked for the past thirty years or so. I would follow a family doctor there around and at a certain point, he introduced me to the lonely Chinese Americans who made a vibrant living running a Chinese restaurant. The husband used to take me go fishing early in the morning before both of us had to go to work – him to the restaurant and me to the hospital.

As I have been away from the States for months now, I haven’t talked to her a while, and today while I was checking my email, she had called me on my Google Voice number. So I answered the phone, and we talked.

I told her that I was in Korea.

It was hard to explain to her what it was that I was doing back in my homecountry. It wasn’t as if I had a lucrative job offer. It wasn’t as if I was a board certified doctor. She just assumed that, because I had a license to practice in Korea, I must be working at a hospital in Korea getting the foreign-doctor treatment. She was happy in her assumption, and I did not have the heart to tell the truth of my situation, which is vagabond-like at best and non-productive at worst.

When I asked her how her husband is doing, she gave me the bad news, which was that the man had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.¬†And more than anything the cruelty of irony stung me.

He was a man, in whose youth, who swam across the Hong Kong channel in the cold winter waters to escape the communist China. In Hong Kong, he met his current wife. As refugees, they were granted asylum, and that’s how they ended up moving to United States.

They were not educated people, and all they knew to do was hard work. And they really worked hard. The husband, I watched many times in the back of the restaurant. I never saw his hands resting; he worked the woks so fast that I could never take a picture of him where his hands were not in a motion-blur, when I used to take pictures of everyone and everything back in those days. He was always moving around, wondering what it was that he needed to do in the next moment. A to-go order. Or a pan that’s near-empty among the buffet trays. He never sat down except to eat his meals in the quiet moments between lunch and dinner rush hours. And now that I remember him, there was something in his complaints about having heavy feet that was maybe the first clues as to his current health problems.

A hard-working man, did he loved to work. I never saw someone who looked so good doing something as simple as cooking the mundane Chinese food. He must have been in his late fifties, and his forearm was wreathed with strands of muscle from the years of labor he had burned in front of the kitchen fire.

And now… this man no longer worked but was retired, by the ailing body, early into the winter of life. And, too, he no longer goes fishing.

Getting off the phone, we both wished each other a happy new year.

So here I sit in front of my desk in a ski-condo up in the mountains. The new year has come and gone by, like Gangnam Style on the Billboard, and I look at the prospect for the time ahead and also for this transitioning point in which I am wondering what it is that I am trying to do with my life. I wonder… is that what life has in store for me? Some cruel irony behind the mystery of existence? To find the thing I enjoy the most and to have it taken away?

And I know the truth, which is that life does unto us a thing and we find ourselves in a prison of chrysalis. It is a transformation, and it is scary because we cannot know what happens after this and we do not have a choice in whether it happens to us or not. Time keeps flowing like the running river, and we are powerless against the changes brought about – both from within and without.

And another truth – a more personal one – is that already life has taken away from me just as it has taken away from the man. Narcolepsy had taken away the dreams of my twenties, and as I am entering the middle of my thirties, I am having to find myself anew in a state of waxing and waning consciousness. I am but living the life of a Chinese man with Parkinsons in another shade of blue.

Perhaps it is the song of life, the harsh winds of change, the winter-come against the summer-past, that stings us bitterly. I know already that 2013 is going to be a hard year. Because for all the want of life my soul bears, I am seeing stagnant spoils of time encroaching upon the self and on those I love.

F you, 2013.