notebook pages & camera stills / by Tina Xu

London / Dover / Calais / Paris / Barcelona

FROM MY JOURNAL I'm not crazy. I've learned too much history to accept today's hegemonic ideals as the Good, True, Fair and Just. I object to your means because I object to how you define the ends.

I know how to be in ecstatic peace, and so your threats lose their teeth. What I value most is the feeling of being utterly alive. This isn't a cheap adrenaline trick, like riding a rollercoaster or having sex, but marveling at the way light falls over the city, the graceful sweeping shadows, the ways in which we are all interconnected. These days, I swear I can almost taste the sky like a ripening fruit. I am addicted to my own sense of wonder, my own sense of discovery.

Sometimes I discover ideas sometimes people, sometimes places -- in all of it I am discovering myself, the ridges of my soul; I am the sum of each layered exposure of the light and shadow I have taken into me. I am curating the museum of the self with as much love as I can muster.


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SACRE-COEUR Just bought mom a Mère Therèse (Mother Theresa) rosary. I strive to emulate goodness, but without an organized religion as my backbone--just a fervent and passionate love of humanity. Religion is about collective moral refinement, yet I do that best through individual reflection.

Hunchback of Notre Dame playing on loop. Churchgoers: "I ask for wealth / I ask for fame / I ask for glory to shine on my name / I ask for love I can possess / I ask for god and his angels to bless me..." Esmeralda: "I ask for nothing, I can get by / But I know so many less lucky than I."

I keep thinking of that quote from my sociology class on dissidents: a man who has communicated with his god has the strength of his god -- somehow, faith unlocks this immense ability in us to be brave, take risks, persevere. I see it all around me.

A cathedral as a grand crystallization of an era's hopes, ideals, tastes and abilities. When we look back on our time, we will see the grand crystallization of our era in skyscrapers named after corporations. Not places of religious worship, but places of international trade and commerce. Glass and steel -- functional, sleek, efficient, straining toward the heavens, our challenge to the gods. 

A CAFE NEAR ARC DU TRIOMPHE Bourgeois comforts. How to feel about them? Classy cafés with candles and glass jugs of water? Well-groomed young adults conversing in hushed tones? // A prerequisite to "peacefully living your life" is an orderly society -- tolerant of different lifestyles and with clear routes of ascension through hard work. Viable recourses to manifest one's personality through passions and pursuits.


LA SAGRADA FAMILIA I'm striving to minimize the amount of ego in my life.

BOOKSHOP "The old painter Wang-Fo and his disciple were wandering along the roads of the Kingdom of Han. They made slow progress because Wang-Fo would stop at night to watch the stars, and during the day to watch dragonflies. They hardly carried any luggage because Wang-Fo loved the image of things, and not the things themselves, and no object in the world seemed to him worth buying except brushes, pots of laquer and China ink, and rolls of silk and rice paper." Oriental Tales

Struggling for the "ethics of the free spirit" -- it's some sense of together-boundedness that pulls me back from the brink of a fringe relationship with society, like that of a reclusive monk, writer or artist.

FT ARTICLE "People with university degrees tend to dislike their jobs more than people without them. As we march to the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it is harder to enjoy the view from the top."

BUS TO GATWICK AIRPORT One lifetime is not enough for all the love a human can hold. I measure my life by the moments that transcend verbal expression. Bloodscreams. Heartshouts. Incandescent details. The soft edge of a cloud.