Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Blog

I am starting a new blog to mark my 20th year. This blog will continue to hold the writings and reflections of my years from 14 to 19. How time flies!

My new site is www.janielletheseeker.blogspot.com :)

Check out my travel journal at www.janiellethewanderlust.blogspot.com for updates on where I'm backpacking next!

~ J a n i e ll e

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kindred Souls

I love it when I meet people of the like heart and mind. It is a priceless moment. It is like seeing another lighthouse shining brightly amidst the cold, black fog all around me. And I thank God with all my heart for allowing me to cross paths with such individuals. It is a blessing beyond measure. To have a friend you can trust, a friend you can be honest with. To find a man or woman of integrity, of wit and heart. To meet someone who values people, who loves learning, who appreciates life. Man, it’s a one in a million chance.

And I am so thankful to be able to say in all my nineteen years, I have found a few precious handful of such one-in-a-million individuals. Kindred souls. Ah, kindred souls! I can name less than five, I daresay. But the smaller the handful, the more precious and the more amazing it is for me to be given the chance to meet them on the intersection of life. Ahh. There are no words to describe the joy in my heart when I know that I’m not alone.

You see, the kind of person that you are will always attract the same kind. So what kind of a friend are you? What kind of a character are you? What kind of people do you surround yourself with?
My dad always tells me, ‘You cannot soar like an eagle if you hang around turkeys for too long.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with turkeys. It’s just that you might miss out on soaring, and rising above the mediocre. And tell me, who wants to miss out on that?

~ j a n i e ll e

Monday, April 2, 2012

The David Helfgott Story

by Janielle Beh on Monday, April 2, 2012 at 9:05am ·

I'm reading the autobiography of Gillian Helfgott, wife to the pianist David Helfgott. This man had been through the most terrible of emotional and psychological upheavals. Because of the conflicted relationship with his father, his dreams of becoming a concert pianist were shattered. Later on, beset with psychological issues and emotional trauma, he was transferred from one psychiatric ward to another. Along the way, there were people who cared for him and showed him love and kindness. But there were also just as great a handful of insensitive and self-centered individuals who abused David's childlike and sincere trust in them.

By the time he was past his forties, David Helfgott was a hopeless heap of confusion, emotional pain and mentally imbalanced. His perception of the world was 'fogged up' and he behaved eccentrically. Although he used to be a music prodigy, and still had a great affinity with the piano, his broken relationship with his father and his family, the hurtful experience of rejection and spite, had affected him so deeply that his mental perception of the world became 'foggy' and unclear. People who didn't know him would write him off as mentally unstable and physically imbalanced, with appalling manners.

Then Gillian came along, and found herself captivated by David's naivety and sincerity. He had no sense of personal space at all. David would touch people and give them hugs and kisses and talk about whatever happened to be in his stream of consciousness. He couldn't pick up on a lot of things that most 'ordinary' people would detect easily. But Gillian began to like David, and she soon committed herself to caring for him.

This is a very meaningful and insightful excerpt from Gillian's story of her life with David Helfgott in her book, Love You to Bits and Pieces:

His passion for music is inexplicable, because it is absolute. It is not merely an inclination, but an obsession. He doesn't just play because it is his vocation; he plays because when he is at the piano he is ecstatic, and playing for others is especially gratifying. This passion for music is a divine gift. 'I was put on earth to play, darling, to play,' he would say. And what right do I, or anyone, have to tamper with David's passion?

Yes, one could teach him the value of money and how to spend it with care. One could force him to perform a mass of routine daily tasks. One could give him enough medication that shops and crowded streets would not bother him. In short, one COULD make him into a regular member of society, but then his time would be taken up with doing all the little tasks that regular members of society do,, and he'd be robbed of his passion to play, each and every day of his life. It wouldn't be difficult to try and 'adapt' him to some arbitrary standard of normality, but then David would no longer be David and, by destroying the individual, one would risk destroying his magic.

One day at Riccardo's, after David finished an extremely passionate rendition of a Beethoven Sonata, a woman came to my table and, in a condescending tone, said, 'I do hope you treat David as if he is normal.'

'I trust I never bring him down to that level,' I replied. I will always fight for David's right to STAY EXTRAORDINARY and do whatever's necessary to protect him from any pressures to conform.'

Even Supermodels Grow Old

by Janielle Beh on Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:57pm ·

I once saw a beautiful lady walking pass me. She was tall and fair, and she had the air of a model about her. Her eyes were bright and immediately engaging, and she strutted past me with her head held high. All that aside, the thing that struck me most were the unmistakable wrinkles on her face. She was no longer the youthful beauty she had once been. I could see that she still went to great lengths to preserve the beauty of her youth, and she still had the outward confidence of a model. But the passing of age was clearly an inevitable influence.

It struck me then that people ACTUALLY grow old. I mean, when you're at my age, still young, the idea of growing old actually doesn't come across very often. You often forget this simple, unavoidable fact of life. Gotta admit, it's a rather unpleasant thought.

People nowadays worship the hollywood stars and the perfection of the girls on glossy magazines. But we often forget that those are MERELY externals. What are these people like in reality? Without the make up, without the brushstrokes of photoshop editing, without the heels and accessories, without their grammy awards and accolades? Who is the person within?

I am always interested in the person, the true individual beneath the surface layer. That's why it never fails to irk me when I see people 'hang out' or get drunk together, but never talk about the things that matter to them. You never get to know people truly if you just focus on the externals and on the trivialities of life. I mean, that's unavoidable, but you also need to delve into the other more vital half of the person and talk about the things that the person cares about.

What do people have to show for apart from their looks? I know, its inevitable that the world looks for good looks. And I am not against that. I am not against make up or looking good. I'm merely saying, if you take all that away, can people still see something more worthwhile and beautiful in you? In your personality, your character, your attitude, your words and actions?

Of course, I'm also not saying that people with good looks have no equally admirable character and values. But without a doubt, one's looks will affect how they behave towards others and how they interact. It is unfortunate how society works. Why is it that the media churns out countless magazines on beauty and fashion and gossip, but seldom do you find anything on the lives of inspirational people who may not even care to use make up or buy the latest clothing? Why is our society so depraved of the things that actually truly matter to people as people? Not supermodels or movie stars?

Why is it that the people who are notoriously famous are those who've most probably done a sex scene or succumbed to drugs? I'm making generalizations here, unavoidably. But you get my point. That's the general direction our generation is heading in. And its so bloody pathetic.

I can't believe young people nowadays are so uninformed and ignorant about issues in our generation that truly matter. All they know is the latest pop song, the trendiest fads, the hunkiest actor. I honestly don't give a damn about any of this. I mean, in what way does any of this enrich my life?

What young people deem as entertainment these days is just so shallow and utterly predictable. Surface-level stuff. Ultimately inconsequential. I'm not vehemently against any of this. I'm just saying, where's the balance? Where's the priority? Where's the heart in all this?

A Memory Before Time

by Janielle Beh on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 5:49pm ·

There, the colours of reality were fading into a sort of murky grey. The shapes of her surroundings became indistinguishable. The once meaningful sounds began to fade into a soft, rippling murmur. Was this the end?

Still, she could feel warmth in her bones. Someone was holding her hand. A warm and strong and gentle grip. There, it was her lifeline. But were these the last moments ushering in the end?

Her heart continued to beat. She could feel the stillness of the air. Her body held no weight. The world outside no longer mattered. With a settling peace in her heart, she closed her eyes. Still beating, still alive.

The hand that held hers gave her a soft squeeze, as if to communicate that it would never let go as long as she held on. Now that the pain had subsided, she willed herself to think of one good memory from the past. She wanted to let go with thankfulness in her heart.

A beautiful, rippling sound seeped into her consciousness. It sounded like a waterfall cascading in a myriad of different melodies, converging all at once, and yet affecting an other-worldly harmonious chorus of pure tones. The music began to swirl gently in the soundscape of her mind. Ah, a symphony of the heavens. It must be ushering in the end.

No, wait. No, this is a memory. A real memory. The music continued to play. It was a glorious, soaring melody. Not the despairing, lugubrious requiem of death, but a song heralding the effervescent exuberance of Life.

It took the dying girl a moment to gather that this was actually her very first of all memories. A memory that existed before the beginning of Time. A memory that surpassed the temporal and rendered the notion of minutes, hours and days inconsequential.

The Heart of Music

by Janielle Beh on Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 7:45am ·

You've heard people play without emotion before. All they do is churn out notes, even so quite perfectly, but then you know in your heart that that is all it is: notes.

How do we play in a way that transcends the notation on the page? There must be a reason that only human beings play and compose and improvise music. No other creature on the planet quite does it like we do. It is because you and I have a greater capacity to 'connect' with music. It is an indescribable force that has the power to creep into our souls, and even more exhilarating, flow OUT from ourselves and enable us to connect with others in a whole different level. We have the heart and soul and emotional breadth to make music come alive. That is what it is. Music isn't just notes on a page or recordings or pop stars prancing about on the stage. Take that all away, and what is the essence and heart of it all?

I have been thinking a lot lately on my approach to music, and I deeply regret that for the most part of my musical journey, I have suppressed my natural musical expression. It is waiting to burst out in flow and nuance and musical zest. Why oh why have I not allowed it to come through except for the few rare occasions? I believe with regret that it is half because I sometimes cannot be bothered to go through the deeper musical process, which can at first seem like it will require too much of me. And I know, it is a pity. I don't know, sometimes I'm just tired and out of it. So I convince myself that just churning out notes will suffice to please my teacher, or the audience. But myself? No, often I feel terrible. Like I've let down myself, and I've let down the music. Like I've let down Chopin, I've let down all the great composers. And I don't feel inspired or happy at all. It is a terrible, terrible disgrace.

I was inspired to write this because just yesterday, I've had a sort of wake up call in my piano lesson. I suddenly felt a genuine regret for taking the true essence of music for granted!

I realized that the reason my playing often reverts to just the bland production of notes and meaningless sounds is because I am sometimes 'unsure' of expressing my musical self. What if my teacher or the audience doesn't like the way I play it? What if it's too overly expressive, what if I interpret it wrongly? Beset with these doubts, I often decide to ignore my musical impulses and take the 'safe' route of playing the music as it is on the score. Ahh but how utterly, devastatingly bland and boring does it sound when I take the easy route!

What makes music come alive in us, through us? It is the instant when we allow the original moment of creative impulse & intent to AFFECT our present state of being. I get quite annoyed when people turn the beautiful abstract quality of music into intellectual jargon. That's when music is reduced to the suffocating state of mere notes and rules and theoretical formula. As much as all that is 'necessary', you've got to remember that the purpose of music is not to confuddle and befuddle intellectual minds or to impress anyone in particular. I see music as the voice and expression of the unspoken thoughts and feelings of the heart and mind, and soul. If you degrade music to notes on a page, if you just play them without putting your heart into it, your thoughts into the musical story, then it is meaningless sound. It might sound pleasant or you might say that one has technical finesse, but what is the point of all that if the music itself is devoid of the person's heart and emotion?

I think I'm beginning to sound like a hopeless Romantic enthusiast here. But really, without the heart and soul and human feeling and touch, how can music powerfully affect others and especially those who play it?

When I play for my teacher, nothing ever escapes his astute listening and observation. He tells me that he points things out to me (pretty much every single thing that lacks my heart, conscious thought and musical expression) not because he wants to be pedantic, but because he does it for the sake of music, for the great composer who wrote it. And I understand now. I realize all this while I've been missing out because I've skimmed over things, I've mishandled the music, I've been so careless and mindless about practicing. To my loss, I have missed many great opportunities to touch the music with my heart and feel it's song and story.

Music is a matter of the heart. You cannot play truly good music that can powerfully affect others and yourself if your heart is not in it. I've seen many people with technical prowess producing music with technical flair and accuracy, but I can hear it in the sound and see it on their faces that on the inside, nothing really meaningful is happening. I will admit that I do that as well, minus the 'technical flair'. Haha, it is a pity. I wish I would be more sensitive and HEARTFELT and genuine. Yes I think I've thought and mused and written enough, now I've got to actually make the change.

~ j a n i e ll e

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