The Wise One And The Wise Guy

“Hey, urghhling!” Poe caught my attention yesterday. The American writer, Edgar Alan Poe is his eponym. He has not addressed me personally for quite some time. We lost touch for four decades and did not meet again until four years ago. Even after such a long absence, I was able to recognise him instantly and even from a distance. His gait has not changed, his arms still hardly swing when he walks. During our school days, we were equally lanky and thin. That may be why we were seated together in the last row of our class. A good mate, we got on really well. We were both less smart than most at the front rows. He was in the Red Cross, whereas I joined the Boy Scouts. The more our paths deviated, the more the girls who crossed our paths were different. Poe still has his trademark spectacles and thick black eyebrows, as recognisable as Martin Scorsese’s. Those thick black frames have come back in fashion with a vengeance after an absence of almost half a century. Now, Poe does not look so unique anymore, it is as if his trademark has been stolen by modern wannabes. He has been wearing the same style frames since he was seven, I recall. They not only accentuate his good looks and hide his somewhat narrow face, they also promote him as intellectual and honest. Amazing benefits from a modest pair of glasses, right? I have a sudden desire to acquire a pair, a visit to OPSM will have to happen soon. On second thoughts, they will not suit me. I do not possess his glittering, penetrating eyes that are paired with his baby-smooth face and innocent smile. Big thick black frames with matching thick black hair, he was a goody goody and a bookworm in school. Today, his big thick black frames are matched with thinning black hair, but he has lost that angelic appearance. Maybe it is the nature of a hotelier that has made him lose the aura of purity. It’s quite alright, he is sixty-one years old after all. He’d be happier to know he looks worldly and sophisticated instead of wise and “square”.

“Sometimes, we have to choose between right or kind.” Poe’s advice to me contained only nine words, but I was floored by it. We usually focus on what’s right or wrong. Be it in mathematics, morals, law, or knowledge, we strive to choose what is right. But, right or kind? Wrong or kind? The notion of kindness having precedence over right or wrong is refreshing. Kindness is not just a factor to consider but it is the strategic imperative? Kindness makes right or wrong irrelevant, it has become a veritable Mount Everest for man’s pursuit in life. There is much wisdom in Poe’s nine words. He is the wise one amongst my virtual friends. Well, they remain virtual until the next physical reunion. Kudos to them for trying to prove they are real though, the food pics that make me suddenly hungry and their alluring holiday pics they send often persuade me these robust and boisterous friends are not mere figments of my imagination. I’m thankful they do not try any harder. I read in a magazine that today’s tweeny boppers – the denarian – are sharing their dick pics to presumably prove their existence in the real world. Which begs the question, which is more real, the virtual world we live in or the dreary physical one? All these thoughts remind me of the concepts of vatta and nirodha in the Dhamma. Through the cycle of rebirths, the Buddha teaches us to refrain from the vatta, to achieve the ultimate pursuit, a rebirth into a formless realm where suffering and unhappiness are absent. Vatta is the unceasing pursuit of sankharas, bodily cravings, desires, wealth, power and so on. These may be attained usually with much struggle and stress but unfortunately, their common attribute is their impermanence. We cannot enjoy them forever, their very nature causes us pain and suffering, for they are packaged with their exact opposites, such as jealousy, wrath, hatred. Nirodha, the cessation of the sankaras, is the way to lead us to the ultimate goal, not kindness, neither right nor wrong but nirvana, in the realm of the formless. The modern denarian will be most displeased there though, they won’t have their dicks to share around.

“Urghhling, stop being the wise guy.” Someone shouted in the fray. I suspect it was Yap The Alloy, himself a self-confessed wise guy. He is called that because of his impeccable memory; it is never rusty. There was much commotion following Stan’s tiff with me. Well, it was a one-way rant, if truth be told. Yap The Alloy kept using that word, but he’s poor at spelling, writing it as trooth. The trooth and nothing but the trooth, he was adamant to get to the truth of the discussion. You see, two other friends, Stephen and Stan sided with another friend, Stevros, who took umbrage at a self-inflicted injury to his ego. I was talking about True Grits who do not let their teeth recede from anything in life that grits them. Like any well-trained bulldog, True Grits will sink their teeth into any issue and not let go until the problem is dealt with. They don’t resile or recede from trouble or loss. Stevros in a rage, accused me of attacking his receding teeth. “What? Receding teeth?” I have heard of receding gums and receding hairline. Tooth erosion also. But what is a receding tooth, Stevros?” I innocently asked. No one was aware of his poor dental hygiene until he highlighted it. And then, everyone belted out the chorus in perfect harmony.

“Don’t be a wise guy, urghhling.

Listen to the wise one, let’s sing.

Talk about dental health, don’t go mental about wealth.

Lie with an emoticon, life is happy and smooth.

It’s no con, tales about one’s tooth reveal the truth.”

The wise guy echoes what has been in my mind lately. “Emoticons are so vague and offer a convenient escape. When caught, just offer the excuse old men don’t know what they truly mean.” Emoticons have got me into trouble a few times. Unlike in the physical world where I am adept in reading body language and quick to discern mood changes from inflections of tone, in the virtual world, there are no hints to help me gauge the mood of the person. Apart from someone shouting loudly – in big capital letters – deciphering someone’s real intent or real emotions is virtually impossible in the virtual world. Using misleading emoticons can easily hide the person’s true emotions. The experience with Stevros The Greek was just such a case. His remarks were accompanied by laughing and winking emoticons and then suddenly, without any hint or warning, he blew his top. I call Stevros, “The Greek” because he’s all Greek to me, impossible to understand. One minute, jovial and talkative, in the next sentence, he is piling on bile and anger at me. Venting one’s spleen on old mates is incomprehensible at our age. We are sexagenarians, better we be sexy than reprehensible. Urghhling.


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