Sundays and So-so Writers

Like Ophelia Dimalanta's feelings about Mondays, I have the same lingering feelings about Sundays.

Today is the last Sunday of the first month of the mystical year, one ending in 7 with all its connotations, its promises for a happy future, and its hold on all of us exiles in this land of the exiled.

It is late afternoon here, and the thick gray clouds create an overcast on the Waikiki waters, the spray starting two hours ago dampening the spirit of the promenaders on Ala Moana Road.

I remember the healing stones enshrined near the police station, the stones the giver of healing energies to the Tahitian healers who came by these islands long time ago but the memory is afresh.

I would not have known this shrine and its energies were it not for the healer Virgilio Apostol, an Ilokano American born in Los Angeles but has since taken on a path less travelled, following Gregory Speck and all those wise men and women and healers and magi and mystics who were so at home in their wayfaring aloneness, in their empowering solitude, in their attunement to the power of the universe to make us whole.

The Waikiki area is a mystery to me, and I do not go there.

There is that feeling of being lost, of being alone, of being disoriented that overwhelm me whenever I go there and I do not stay long enough to warm my feet with the warm sand and warm sea and warm surf. Last December, I tried to come to terms with that writerly feeling, and notebook and a good book in tow, I tried savoring my solitude amidst the crowd, gay and joyful, the children shrieking as if tickled by the salty wind tickling the blades of fronds, those luxuriant coconut tree leaves that jut out of castrated, flowerless, tall, and proud trees of the same name. Yes, in Waikiki as in all of Hawai`is public places, coconut trees are not permitted to become real coconut trees, their flowers nipped as soon as they jut out of their stalks.

The first time I came to Hawai`i many years ago, I had observed this, and curious of the kind of arboreal abortion that seemed to be common among all those tall, proud, and even phallic trees on the Alawai River, I asked my sister that one final question about the ontology of coconut trees: How come that they do not bear fruits?

My sister, a resident of the place for more than two decades, looked at me quizzically, unable to fathom perhaps why an elder brother like me, with a sufficient university education, cannot understand that in the interest of tourists who come to this place to splurge with their surging desire to make it here on an R & R and make that experience as some kind of a trophy for surviving a menial, 9-5 routine in the Mainland, those trees have to be rendered capon.

They sway with the wind still, the trees. And they retained the grace in their delicate dancing with the wind. But now, those rites of dancing for fecundity and fruitfulness have now rites to non-being, to the negation of their being coconut-bearing coconut trees.

I looked at my sister while she expertly navigated the three-lane Alawai Road that follows the contour of the Alawai River with its fresh water fish and green grasses on its banks. I looked at her quizzically as well, mentally telling her that I do not understand why the being and becoming of coconut trees have to be denied of coconut trees. I could not say that in words, subtly phrased or brutally expressed. I could be suspected of going bonkers.

I think about this experience now, and I think about the role of writers on Sundays, on days when we need to sit down and look at the blank screen and think of something meaningful to write, something relevant, something ennobling.

Unlike the castrated coconut trees, a writer cannot afford to offer himself or herself in this ritual sacrifice for and on behalf of tourists, even if these tourists are bringing in the cash. For a writer's role is to write and write well, write with urgency and seriousness, write with dignity and self-respect, write with freedom but with responsibility.

For a writer cannot be a despot with language--he simply cannot.

For the very act of writing, while it commences with a private solitary act in that sacred private moment when the writer catches the word to create a world, the fact that language can never be his private property renders his or her very act a public one, finally.

For a writer shares language with others, and as such, he or she has the duty to respect the collective character and integrity of that language that mediates his or her understanding of the people, of the world, of the universe.

It is in this light that no writer is ever given the right to tinker with language at will, subverting it without at the same time acknowledging his social and public responsibility. The talent of the writer is used in the search for the creative means through which the mediation of significant because ennobling human experience is made possible by language.

So on this Sunday, I tinker with language, coax it, and pray that I will make it through this moment of not being able to seize the sanctity of this late hour that the quietude in the campus proclaims.

Sundays are meant for prayers, and in my writing this, I hope I have done my prayers.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa
Jan 29/07

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