The Flame That Keeps Burning

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If you don’t count endless rants posted on my Facebook account since 2006, my first ever-published piece is “Ini Kan Buku Komunis?” in Ingat65. Ingat65 is a digital storytelling movement publishing stories about Indonesian hazy history of 1965 told through the words of the younger generations, using as publishing platform.

To my surprise, the essay received positive responses from the blog’s readers. I received many messages that reflect how some aspects of the story resonate with their own experiences or shared sentiment about 1965 tragedy. The topic itself is still a very delicate subject of discussion, the many layers of truths are yet to be unwrapped and Indonesia society in general is not prepared to discuss it openly.

There were of course feedback(s) that were less positive and dwell mostly on the controversy of my opinions and where I see myself standing in the whole debacle. I took these responses thankful and with care translating it into a determination to polish my writing skills further. Challenging myself to find more effective ways to deliver the message to readers, especially those with less sophisticated comprehension capacity or those who don’t share the same frequency. I do realize however, I cannot make everybody happy with my writing. It is not the purpose of my writings.

It brings me to realization why I write in the first place. My younger self kept a series of diary throughout school years, the ones with a lock which did little to almost none preventing anybody from reading it if they want to. The content was as vague as the event-less days at school, to detailed thrilling episodes like teen crush or heartbreaks retold in words or sketches. Rereading them now, I chuckled during that episode when the younger me thought whole world was crumbling and crying herself silly over a lost love or a failed test! (Ah, what have I done all these years to naivety? When did I start to be so bitter?) These are honest reflection of what was happening around me, then. It was my way of trying to comprehend how the world works, and how I should respond to it. These thoughts, and those on my Facebook wall, were never publicly available of course.

Writing requires sincerity and act of conscience. It is a reproduction of the storm in your head or the clear reflection of your mind. Writing helps me digest my own thoughts and follow the stream of thought that often gushes down too quickly before I can even realize its presence. It is not for everyone and not everyone is ready to put his/her thoughts out there. Once it’s out there, it’s not yours anymore.

I also sketch, a habit I take during my training as architect (a profession highly respect but I decided I would be much happier not to be one). Often, sketching by pen or pencil on paper allows me to communicate with myself (Yea, call me nuts, but when you are in limbo try to listen to your self to find a way out. It helps). Writing by hand, or sketching, allows you to take a moment to pause before letting your mind take control of what comes next. The moment the tip of your pen touches that unspoiled paper, a dot appears, a split second of pause, a moment of silence and intense focus, before all hell in your head breaks loose. It’s a powerful act of fighting the angels and demons in your head.

I never really realized about the snowball effect of a shared idea. When one shares his/her idea to let’s say 5 people, the idea itself will develop and eventually returned enhanced and richer that the initial form. Nobody will earn the right as the origin of an idea, because by the time it returns after a full cycle, everyone involved will have facilitated it into substantial and polished form. Ironically, so many books have influenced me heavily in my entire 30-something years of living. To give some examples look at Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, or Ayn Rand’s works like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shugged, or Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage, The Winner Stands Alone and the ever-so-enlightening The Alchemist. How do books to some extent influence one’s mind and of life’s choices? What are books if not a collection of ideas worth sharing?

Today is Indonesia’s National Book Day. A momentum usually passes by or even forgotten, as we do not really realize the importance of books in steering our life’s course. The date is chosen to commemorate the establishment of National Library of Indonesia in 1980. Ironically, the institution lately has published controversial statement about its stance on much the police and military’s senseless act of banning and confiscating “leftist” books. Today, we must not let this momentum pass by. I celebrate today by writing this piece, and publishing my writing in English, by choice, in The Book Project. Writing has been carrying messages of human civilization through the ages. Books have been pushing these messages further, carrying what was once a spark of fire allowing it to spread and evolving into flame. Will it burn us down? It’s ours to decide. But you cannot put down the flame that keeps burning.

Thank you for reading! Please hit the green heart and help share to spread the ideas that resonates mostly with you or the ones that connects with other people’s experiences and interests. Keep the ball rolling :)