A journey back to your heritage always invokes a modicum of soul searching because the question of what brought you here, at this stage in life at this particular point in time, both demands and allows the unadulterated honesty associated with the benefits of hindsight. When you look at childhood from your prism as an adult it lends a measure of satisfaction that notwithstanding the notorious sarcastic laments of George Bernard Shaw, youth after all had neither been exactly, nor entirely wasted on the young.
The material represents a due diligence attempt to chronicle, via a series of seemingly random and incidental episodes narrated in the first-person, the evolutionary journey of my consciousness from the edge of the wilds of Mindanao* (Philippines) to the rough and tumble of the streets of Manhattan (New York City), with all the tedious yet not the least thrilling detours in-between. Random in the sense that I had to single out and focus on specific and discrete pivotal decision points which ushered in a definitely recognizable qualitative change in my perception of my unique attributes as an individual, on leaving such decision bifurcations.
It behooves to emphasize that any attempt to present or examine a slice of reality along the dimension of time, the present—the here and now—is the only valid starting point, i.e., coordinate zero on the time-axis. This stems from the requirement that the end points of the time-axis, i.e., the beginning and end of time, have to assume the value of infinity as coordinates. For this very reason it has become inevitable that life can only be properly viewed retrospectively. The locutions “before the beginning of time,” and “beyond the end of time,” denote points of reality which become tangible only with poetic license in the fertile and prolific realm of the imagination.
This argument alone, ipso facto, justified my taking the “Rubicon” piece as the starting point of the narratives. The here and now being the most fleeting point in all moments contained in that time continuum we call eternity, it became inevitable that the events as segments of memory have to be viewed in time frames of ample duration to fully elucidate the context within which the mindset undergirding any decision had evolved. The Rubicon episode defined the conscious abandonment of the ego identity directly derived from my formal education and training, in favor of what was construed to be the higher pursuit of nobler ideals.
In a broader context the three parts of the book represent three distinct non-sequential evolutionary phases of my consciousness. The Narratives represent the aspirational age of ambition, when the drive to transcend any given set of circumstances reigned supreme. The Poetry I deem to represent the seemingly unquenchable deliberative age of simultaneous inspiration, enlightenment, and illusion. It was at this stage that you pushed the envelope of the imagination in quest for a reason to go on, to latch on to a sustainable justification for being.
The Essays represent the age of rational resignation, or better yet, resigned rationalization, when you give in to the impulsive reflex to explain away the developments which you know affect your physical and spiritual well-being but they unfold far beyond your sphere of influence. You are effectively out of the arena. Your mission is no longer to do or die but simply to reason why, as an inconsequential observer of, to paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, both the “things that are” then ask why, and the “things that are not” then ask why not?
The impetus to write has been derived from a multitude of sources with varying degrees and dimensions of motivational impulses ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the most pedestrian level, has been the fact beyond dispute that the journey has been arduously long, and storiedly colorful, with a treasure trove of memories screaming to be told, for the simple reason that they are too effusive and effervescent to remain buried in the bowels of oblivion, at home amongst the unknown and the unknowable.
It all started in the desolate isolation of the evacuation camps of World War II, where I was born. Thence, trudging barefoot on at times literally improvised and ad hoc pathways through the underbrush, the journey proceeded through thick and thin, to bear witness to the magnificence of what the human mind is capable of conceiving and achieving. The gamut of wonders encompassed supersonic transport, particle accelerators, man’s round-trip journey to the moon, instantaneous internet communications, and Skype technology video teleconferencing, to name a select few.
In the recent couple of years, many a few times when I left home without my cell phone I felt helpless and deprived, like a fish out of the water. Considering that I did not experience the chance to use a telephone until the tender age of eighteen, it is one more eloquent testament to the human mind’s seemingly limitless ability to adopt, absorb, assimilate and adapt to and flourish with the ever accelerating developments in technology and stay comfortably acclimatized and snugly enculturated therein.
On the more mundane, egotistical level, it was propelled by the belated poignant realization, that in this, what I consider to be the twilight of my years, I have not done much to leave behind for posterity: not even children of my own to contribute to the perpetuation of my genetic DNA. Ever the believer that human events occur for a reason, I am resigned to concede that the absence of a bloodline progeny is prima facie evidence that my genes were not worth perpetuating, in the broader scheme of things. It probably could be construed as the equitable and just rewards for the abandonment of my professional commitments.
On an inferential level, regardless of the official version of suicide as allegedly arrived at on the ensuing inquest surrounding the demise of my brother-in-law, the late Manuel Bravante, I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was liquidated as a retribution for my unceremoniously abandoning the IPT program, if for no other reason than that he was available and I was not. In a very modest way, I offer the book as a token of my esteem, apologies, and gratitude to Manny, as I knew him, that he took the blows for me, and paid the ultimate measure of his devotion to principles and personal loyalty. At least I heard more than enough anecdotal circumstantial evidence to arrive at such a grim conclusion.
Admittedly, I do not have concrete evidence to prove a causal connection. In the movie “Ronin,” there is a line by Robert de Niro which seems most appropriate to my conclusion. To wit, “if there ever is any doubt, there never is any doubt.” It has been said of old that vengeance is a dish best served cold. What more could be a colder serving than liquidating a newly minted proud father by throwing him off the roof of a multiple-storey building while taking final examinations in graduate school? It was rather well known during my tenure in MSU Marawi that he and I were of kindred spirits and attitudes, respecting university politicking.
Furthermore, inherent to the controversial nature of my departure in 1974, there have been various versions of the narrative attempting to explain the method to the madness and wherefores of that event; none of them accurate and all of them necessarily derived from baseless conjectures fomenting wild speculations. With the publication of this book the definitive gospel narrative of that event shall have been available to the inquisitive public. Any further speculation on the matter should thenceforth be dismissed as no more than an attempt to deride and maliciously impugn the integrity of my judgment.
Finally, my endeavors would be less than forthcoming if I did not acknowledge the incidental inspiration which triggered to open the floodgates of narratives included in this work. I was a couple of chapters into Henryk Sienkiewicz’s In Desert and Wilderness, when I was awestruck and fascinated by the unique beauty he imbued his story with the perspective of a child telling an adult’s viewpoint. While I have been scheming to tell my story for a long time, that rare Sienkiewicz moment propelled me to write the “Jellyfish” narrative in chapter 6. I posted the piece in one of my blog sites followed by the “Fallout” piece in the same chapter.
To my pleasant surprise, the blog post elicited some encouraging comments from, among others, Ziba (Bastani), Sam (Prasad), and Larry (Goldstein), in that order of email arrival. To all three, I want to record herein my immeasurable gratitude for the encouragement. Both Sam and Larry I have known and worked with for a number of years as an IT consultant. I credited Larry with the singular misfortune to have saved me, in the winter of 1993 when I suffered a massive stroke, from becoming at best, a vegetable or at worst, a delectable if unwilling victual to fat and unappreciative nasty little earthworms.
Ziba, I have known since graduate school in my days in Kyoto University. She is probably the only person who had seen every bit of the narratives as they unfolded. Not as a witness to the unfolding of the events being narrated but as the one reader who was inundated with every version of the narratives as its state of incompleteness emerged from the cocoon in the cobwebs of my mind to distinct words and phrases grasping for a breath of life into a coherent fabric of a story. Theirs along with cheering on the sidelines from four of my lovely and lovable nieces: Chell, Yak, Gay, and Joy had made my dreams of telling the story, a reality ready for prime time.
I salute all of you:
May your glories multiply
As the stars up in the sky.
The rare occasioned somber sky
May not but serve to amplify
The happiness of days gone by,
And laurels of unyielding prime,
And promises of days that lie
Uncharted in the blue abyss
And daunting vagaries of Time!
Additionally, it behooves to pay a special tribute to Mana, my only older sister (Lalai to the rest of the clan older than her), not only for her valuable contributions, respecting accuracy of recollection, in my effort to put together the narratives but also, and more importantly, for her priceless assistance while I was living the life narrated herein. Without her help, no part of my life would have been worthy of telling in any manner, shape or form.
The saintly patience with which Krystyna, my lovely and lovingly devoted wife, endured the seemingly endless clicking of the keyboard even as she struggled to catch some sleep so she could go to work to support me and see the project to fruition deserves to be mentioned for the record. That the book is ready for the press is proof positive that her admonitions remained unheeded. To her, goes my endless gratitude.
To the rest of the family: Robert, Renata, Marek, and Nikki who deplore my writing style as inherently unreadable for being too erudite, but whose filial affectionate devotion only waxed more generous with the passage of time despite my perennial absence at family huddles because of the book, I commend you to the gods of prosperity and thank my lucky stars that I am part of your family, the House of Kaczmarski in St. James. In my defense let me remind you that you can only reveal to the world the essence of what you are. The insinuations of what you are not, the rest of the universe will eagerly supply sans your behest, nay against your ardent wishes.
Undoubtedly, some who were familiar with the events narrated herein and inclined to look deeper enough into the substance of the narratives are bound to find crimes of omission which may be hidden in the gaps and void interstices of the story. To them I pledge my intent to flesh those out into a coherent legible whole. Whether or not they will eventually see the light of day in print only time will tell. It all depends on the free emotional and intellectual energy at my disposal, not to mention the material wherewithal necessary to midwife their incarnation into prime time existence.
Ergo, if there is any financier out there ready willing and eager to underwrite the project, I implore you to contact my publisher post haste so we can get to work. I enjoin you therefore to look over whatever is offered here with guarded leisure. There might be more to follow. This might be the last of its breed. The most important thing is, may you have half as much fun reading it as I have had both living and writing about it.
With a song in my heart: regards & carpe diem,
Constancio S. Asumen. Jr.