a letter to my eight year old self

January 22nd, 2017

dear eight year old lokman,

you have no idea what is awaiting you. most of it will be good. things will get better. life will get better. trust me. im the older you.

not everything will get better, of course. but many things will get easier. things won’t always be as difficult. and even then, there is honor and strength in overcoming difficulties. believe, for you will build up a small body of work you can and should be proud of. trust yourself, even when others don’t always understand you.

you will find shelter in the thoughts, feelings, voices and imagination of others – not necessarily those physically close to you, and this will frustrate you for a while, but you will find it in those from the past, long gone or from far away, preserved in books, songs, movies, and you will find it in those of the future, through this thing called the internet that will change your life for the better.

you will love the library, where you can freely roam, freely explore, what you like, what you don’t like. you are eight, but you will soon start branching out from the children’s section to the adult section. you initially will have no clue what most of these books are about, but don’t for a second let others tell you you are “not ready” or “too young” to read them. it will come. have patience. the library is your friend.

at home, you will have comics, and computer games. you will love these too, but because they are at home, they are not as free. at some point, you will get a bad grade and mum will tell you you can no longer play computer games freely. at some point, your mum will threaten to burn your comics, and you will haul all of your comics in plastic bags to your locker in elementary school. forgive your mum. later when you have left home, you can read all the comics you want, play all the computer games you want. your love for them is true; you will keep reading them as far as the future where i’m writing from. it’s curious though: people ask whether you still read comics, play video games. but people don’t ask whether you still watch movies or read books, do they? again, trust yourself.

don’t think less of yourself, even when others might. at some point, you will go to university, and you will decide to study “china studies”, even though everyone else will try to convince you not to study it. you will learn how to read and write chinese. learning a language is not just that, it is getting access to a whole new world of books, movies, songs, even friends. at some point, you will travel to a far away country called taiwan, you will set foot in this bookstore called eslite, and you will be amazed, amazed that there is this vast universe of books that you never had access to before, and you will be touched, touched that there is a place where people care so much about books that they can treasure, cherish and sustain a bookstore like this. however, learning chinese won’t be easy. not because the language is difficult, even though it is, but because many others will convince you not to study it. be prepared for opposition. stay strong, trust that you know what is right for yourself. you write your own story; don’t let others write it.

but don’t only trust yourself. you will find allies. you will find friends. there will be this amazing thing called the internet. you will not only build websites, but also communities. you will build a home, not just for yourself, but for many others like you around the world, who otherwise wouldn’t have a home, and it will be one of the best things you will do. but also don’t be afraid to let go of it when the time comes.

lokman, your life is your story to write. and it’s gonna be awesome.

love,
the thirty nine year old lokman

six year old self

Posted in books, censorship, culture, freedom, language, life-as-fiction, music


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book and sword : gratitude and revenge

is the first novel written by Jin Yong. The protagonist is Chan Ka Lok, who is the leader of the Red Flower Society. The book title refers to Ka Lok being famous for being well-versed in culture and martial arts, but also for having to make a difficult ethical decision. My father named me and my brother after him.

The subtitle is from a poem Desiderata