The Weirdest Dreams I’ve Ever Had

In 2003 I had two classmates in college I didn’t have much interaction with. I was in several group works with them, a boy and a girl, but we never clicked and made it more than a passing acquaintance. One night I dreamed of them telling me that they’re starting to date each other. The dream was so random, it was out of nowhere, and yet it felt so real. The next morning I met them in our morning class and without thinking I asked them, “Are you two dating?” To my surprise they said, “Yes, since last night. We haven’t told anyone about it. How did you know?” I was too dumbfounded to answer so I just told them that I knew it from a dream and left. Later on the girl approached me and asked me again how I knew, since they had been very cautious and secretive about their relationship (they came from different races, religions, socioeconomic status, and so on, and so forth). I only shrugged and told her the same answer; I knew it from a dream.

Was it a premonition? I wasn’t sure, but it was not the only experience I had with having a dream and seeing the realization of it. Back in 2013 I even had a dream about a former friend who wanted to cut ties with me, and the next day he did exactly that through a text message. What an annoying coincidence, ha-ha. The funny thing is it usually has something to do with the people around me, whom I know well or not. I have had thousands of dejavus during my 35 years of living and I never take them seriously. But whenever I had vivid dreams about other people, the next morning I quickly contacted them and asked them how they were doing.

I lived in Tokyo for a year from 2003 to 2004 and I’m still in touch with the people I befriended while studying there. A couple of months ago, I suddenly had a dream of a person from that period of life who told me excitingly that he’s getting a new job. The dream was so weird because I wasn’t even thinking of YSEP (that’s the name of our program) people or seeing the latest Facebook news feeds of any of them recently. So I messaged that friend and I asked him randomly whether he’s changing/getting a new job. I also straightly told him that I saw it in my dream. It was a very ridiculous way to start a text conversation, but I told him nevertheless because he had been a good friend to me back then. To my surprise he told me that he’s going to a seminary soon and is probably getting a new job in the new place. I was once again dumbfounded. Did I have a premonition again? We ended up talking about other things after that but I still had this weird feeling that it wouldn’t be the last random and manifested dream I’d be having.

Fast forward to about a week ago when I had another dream about that same person. In it I saw him being restless and kind of sad, and I was telling him not to worry. I told him that he wouldn’t feel lonely in the new place because our God would provide him with new friends. Friends are given and the best of them will be given by the best Provider. I texted him exactly the same sentences I told him in my dream (yes, the dream was so vivid and every time I had this kind of experience I’d remember the details of what I saw, said, and heard during the surreal experience). To my surprise the friend replied, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”

What is dream, what is reality, what is deepest wish and hope, and what is a mere fantasy? I’m not saying that I had premonitions, until now I’m not sure about what I had, but I’m glad that I was reminded through dreams to check whether the people who are now in my life, or once crossed their paths with me, are doing well. I like to hear that they’re getting a new job, that they’re embarking on a new career, that they’re having a newborn, and that they’re starting a new relationship. Regardless how absurd the dreams had been, I would never ignore them. I would think about them till I knew what I’d do with them. Through them I had been reaching out to old friends, giving encouragement, making their day. A simple thing like a random dream can be used as an excuse to exchange greetings and what’s going on lately in each other’s lives.

And whenever I had bad dreams about other people, I would be on my knees to pray that the bad things weren’t happening to them. My memory’s pretty good and it made me feel upset for a couple of days if I could still remember the bad images I saw in my dreams.

I’m sending all my love and prayer to those who did and still do cross their paths with me. I hope you all are safe and sound.

Movie Review: The Mummy

A half-naked woman was bending over an equally half-naked man, ready to slit open his abdomen with a dagger in order to make him god.

That was probably one of the most memorable scenes as it was displayed over and over again throughout the movie.

The woman, called Ahmanet, was the one who made the deal with Set, the god of death, to claim the throne which should have been inherited by her if her half-brother hadn’t been born. My question is, why didn’t she slit open her own body with the dagger to give Set the physical form? Ahmanet is a coward princess, through and through. Which way is more cowardly than killing someone while they’re asleep, i.e. her father, step-mother, and half-brother? A frontal combat will be more dignified. Some trivial facts, Set is the Egyptian god of storms, desert, chaos, evil, and war, and Anubis is the god of death. The scriptwriters perhaps intentionally overlooked these facts for story development purpose. But you can Google almost everything nowadays and knowing that the movie chose the wrong god to portray death is a bit annoying.

Ahmanet was then detained, mummified alive, buried in a place faraway from Egypt, and her name was erased from the history. After her resurrection, she was on the quest to find the dagger which would bring Set back to this world to take revenge on human kinds. No explanation was offered on what the human kinds did Set wrong that he was very vengeful toward them. She chose Nick (Tom Cruise) to be the body for Set because she locked eyes with him when Nick and his friends found her tomb. Ahmanet’s mummy was then determined to find the lost dagger and the story was then mixed with the stories of English crusader knights. The dagger was apparently disassembled and one of the crusader knights was buried with the ruby from the dagger. For what reason? No explanation was offered.

I had expected Tom Cruise to make the movie more interesting and believable than the previous franchise, and I was disappointed. In terms of stunts, he delivered the best he possibly could. It’s like seeing Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible on a different setting with different goals. He looked awesome riding his horse in the dessert, avoiding shots in a wrecked city, going thumb wheeling in a zero-gravity airplane, and driving through a forest. Tom Cruise delivered the actions like no other, and maybe he took on the role just for the sake of it. In terms of story lines and drama, this movie is like another million of Hollywood movies with similar or exactly the same theme. Tom Cruise didn’t upgrade the thrill or give the class the movie should have had, like what he always did in his other movies. He did well in the drama/romantic part when he had changed into a monster after killing Ahmanet. His farewell speech to Jenny character was melancholy, a little bit reminded me of the final scene he had with Renee Zellweger in the movie “Jerry Maguire”.

Russell Crowe was cast as Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde. I grew up reading the book Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I found it absurd to have this character added to the movie as a third party, a secret organization who wanted to detain Ahmanet’s mummy in order to contain and eventually destroy the evil she brought with her.  The original story of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was about ambiguity in a person’s personality and moral choices and how he sides with good and evil from time to time. In this movie Russell Crowe was mostly Dr Jekyll until one time he didn’t get his serum in time (the real story indeed talks about a serum to make the change from Dr Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, and vice versa), changed into Mr. Hyde, and started to fight with Tom Cruise. Russell Crowe is just awesome whenever he’s playing a father/authoritative figure (in Superman movies, for instance) , but in this movie he sucked in portraying a character with split personalities, one who’s willing to save the world and another who’s willing to destroy it.

Typical things for a movie like The Mummy are:

  1. The antagonist is sucking life out of his object by planting a kiss on the object’s mouth. Duh, as if there is no other way to gain energy from another person/object.
  2. Insects, e.g. spiders and bugs, and rats are the best to make us have goose bumps. Seeing them crawling over the surfaces on the movie was very disturbing. CGI or not, they looked pretty real to me.

One unexpected thing about this movie was the humor. Jenny character was all convinced that Nick character would put her above everything else, that he would sacrifice his life to save her by giving her the only parachute in the falling plane. Nick character’s answer was priceless, “I thought there’s another one (parachute).” So he never thought about saving only her. He also wanted to save himself, but unfortunately they’re lacking parachute and he got to die because the plane crashed. Moral of the story is, never think you’re as important to other people as they are to you. And another funny scene was when Nick was going to be split open by Ahmanet. He was lying on the altar with her on top of him and ready to stab him, and suddenly Jenny appeared from nowhere and caught them red-handed. The comic expression on the actors’ faces on this scene was enough to make me laugh.

The title of the movie should be The Mummy and The Lost Dagger, to differentiate it with The Mummy Trilogy, most notable for having Brendan Fraser and Dwayne Johnson in them. After Fast Furious 8, Transformers, and now The Mummy, I’ve become more convinced that Hollywood movies are starting to lose their appeal. Two out of 5 stars from me for The Mummy, merely because Tom Cruise was in it.

Movie Review: Transformers The Last Knight

And I hope it is the last installment of the franchise.

What can I say; people go watch Transformers for the cool fighting scenes of the Autobots, for Optimus Prime, and for Bumblebee. Moreover, people at my age or older go watch Transformers for a quick trip down the memory lane of childhood. We kind of grew up with the idea that some motor vehicles could change themselves into these gigantic, cool, and human-like robots. It’s an absurd idea, but an entertaining one for children.

Shall we discuss about Transformers starting from the 1st installment or Transformers which has Mark Wahlberg in it (Transformers 4 and 5)? I have no problem with Wahlberg. As the matter of fact I kind of idolized him when he was Marky Mark touring with his brother’s boy band group, the New Kids On The Block. But Wahlberg makes every movie he starred in typical him. I don’t think it’s a good sign when I watched him in Transformers and it was not any different with when I watched him in Four Brothers (2005). He conveyed the same go-to-hell attitude, a hot-shot stance, a quick-on-his-feet acting (I hardly saw him being still in his movies), and that makes him … BORING. Yep, Wahlberg is boring. And even his muscled body (I wouldn’t say well-toned body considering he’s not that tall) and six-pack abs he was “accidentally” showing off to Viviane character didn’t look appealing at all. Action-wise, many actors could perform the stunts like he did. Acting-wise, did he even act in it? I like Transformers 1-3 better with Shia Labeouf in them. He was awkward, sloppy, and clumsy, and those were the supposedly attitudes you have when you have a sudden encounter with vehicles turning into robots and have to deal with them on daily basis. I’m so glad he didn’t star in Transformers 4 and 5, because it would have made him that typical actor for typical cast and it would have hurt his career in a long run.

What else should I discuss about? Quintessa as the god who created Cybertron was not as powerful as I thought. She couldn’t stop the 12 knights who betrayed her and stole her staff. She still needed the help of her creation (Optimus Prime) to get the staff and suck earth (Unicron) dry in order to rebuild Cybertron. What good is a god without her own power to do what she wants when she wants it? Isn’t a god supposed to be omnipresent and possess other superpower abilities? At the end of the movie Quintessa transformed herself into an Asian-looking woman. Man, I was hoping she would have changed into one of the machines we have on earth. After all, she’s the creator of Autobots, wasn’t she?

The Izabella character showed off too much chest for a 14-year old, and she had it pointed out by one of the kids who got lost in the former area of the Battle of Chicago. “Wow, you’ve got a big heart,” said the white boy while looking at her chest. Seriously, Michael Bay and whoever wrote that line, that’s just ferocious. Izabella and the four kids were too insignificant that they might as well be wiped off the story line. The Viviane character was sassy, fierce, and unfortunately showing off too much of her chest. She would have been more believable as a professor if she had worn something more dignified. I’d rather hear her speaking in a very pleasant English accent than see the very low cut of her dress. But you know Michael Bay and his tendency to show off women’s skin as much as possible in his movies. I suppose that is one consistently irritating behavior of his.

Sir Anthony Hopkins as a member of the Witwiccan Order added the right charm for the movie, if not the best entertaining part of it. He and his Autobot, Cogman, provided the correct dose of adventure, humor, and sarcasm which were typically English. Hopkins’ acting was as always graceful and deep. It’s just sad that long after “Silence of The Lamb” he became just an add-on in a blockbuster movie like Transformers. But again, Transformers never promises enchanting story lines; at best it’s just a story of Autobots fighting with each other. Seeing Hopkins in Transformers was like seeing Charlize Theron in Fast and Furious 8. Is job opportunity in Hollywood nowadays too scarce for aging actors like them that they’re willing to take on these kinds of roles? I really wonder.

I won’t start discussing the story lines because the plots have many holes and many parts were not believable. It felt unfortunate to watch a movie which didn’t appreciate the intelligence of its viewers. I didn’t care less about Cade character being The Chosen One just because he was handed the talisman. The concept offered was too usual, too predictable, and too boring. The dialogues were full of the words “s&*t” and “b%$&h” which were easily uttered even by children. I wonder if the writers couldn’t find the correct synonyms for those two words. More of two hours of screen time was too long for me that I started noticing the grammatical errors in the dialogues, and I almost fell asleep during the fighting scene in the Stonehenge. Optimus Prime was as cool as always, but he didn’t appear on screen as much as I expected. I always loved seeing Bumblebee and I thought the cars shown here were much better than in FF8. What warmed my heart when I saw this movie were the scenic beauty of England with its green pastures and old castle, and London with its paved roads and elegance. They brought back such fond memories of our trip to UK 5 years ago.



Creative Writing Workshop di SMAK 1 BPK Penabur Jakarta

Sejak TK sampai dengan SMP saya bersekolah di Yayasan BPK Penabur di kota Bandung. Di akhir kelas 3 SMP, wali kelas saya waktu itu menyarankan saya untuk melanjutkan sekolah ke SMAK 1 BPK Penabur di Jakarta, karena SMA itu paling bagus di antara semua SMA di bawah Yayasan BPK Penabur, dan waktu itu mama saya sedang sekolah di Jakarta. Walaupun pada akhirnya saya memilih melanjutkan sekolah ke SMAN 3 Bandung, pada suatu waktu saya pernah berada di persimpangan pilihan di mana salah satu pilihannya adalah SMAK 1 BPK Penabur Jakarta. Waktu book launch buku Randomness Inside My Head tanggal 8 April lalu, salah seorang wakil kepala sekolah SMAK 1 ikut hadir. Singkat cerita saya diundang untuk menyelenggarakan workshop Creative Writing untuk siswa SMAK 1 kelas 10 dan 11 pada tanggal 9 Juni 2017.

Workshop dimulai pukul 8 pagi dengan presentasi tentang  definisi, bentuk, elemen Creative Writing dan cara menerbitkan buku (baik secara independen ataupun melalui penerbit) yang disampaikan dalam 45 menit. Setelah itu saya mengadakan Latihan 1 (membahas 4 elemen Creative Writing dalam cerita Prince Charming dari buku RIMH), dan Latihan 2 (siswa membentuk kelompok berisi 5-6 orang untuk menulis cerpen dalam waktu 30 menit).

Saya sangat mengagumi kreativitas siswa SMAK 1. Saya hanya memberikan 6 buah karakter fiksi dan mereka bisa mengembangkannya menjadi 3 buah cerita kriminal dan 3 buah cerita drama. Dalam 30 menit mereka bisa menulis cerpen di 1 lembar kertas B5 dengan bahasa Indonesia yang bagus. Dan walaupun cerita yang mereka buat banyak yang belum selesai ditulis, tapi siswa yang mempresentasikan setelah sesi kerja kelompok bisa menjelaskan secara lisan apa tujuan akhir dari cerita mereka (mengacu pada 4 elemen Creative Writing: Karakter – Lokasi – Plot – Tujuan).

Enam karakter fiksi yang saya berikan adalah sebagai berikut:


1. Mikayla yang sedang duduk di taman sekolah (KRIMINAL)

Pencerita di cerpen ini adalah sahabat Mikayla yang bercerita dari sudut pandang orang ke-3 (POV 3). Mikayla adalah siswa SMA dan suatu hari dia ditabrak mobil sampai dia lumpuh. Setelah kecelakaan itu, Mikayla mengalami depresi dan sehari-hari dia hanya duduk merenung di taman sekolah. Sampai pada akhirnya dia berniat untuk mencari tahu siapa pengemudi mobil yang telah menabraknya. Mikayla juga merasa bahwa sahabatnya (si pencerita) tidak bisa mengerti penderitaannya, sehingga pada akhir cerita dia membunuh si pengemudi mobil yang membuat dia lumpuh, sahabatnya, dan kemudian dirinya sendiri. Mikayla yang sedang duduk di taman sekolah sebelum dia bunuh diri adalah adegan terakhir dari cerpen yang dibuat oleh kelompok 1. Cerpen ini ringkas dan memiliki akhir yang tak terduga. Kisah tentang kecelakaan yang dialami dan akhir hidup Mikayla diceritakan dengan cepat oleh POV 3.

2. Pemadam kebakaran di depan sebuah ruko (KRIMINAL)

Kebetulan SMAK 1 BPK terletak dekat dengan stasiun pemadam kebakaran dan juga berseberangan dengan sebuah kompleks ruko, sehingga Kelompok 2 dengan kreatifnya menciptakan sosok seorang arsonis  (seorang yang dengan sengaja menciptakan kebakaran karena niat jahat) yang tinggal di ruko yang berseberangan dengan stasiun pemadam kebakaran. Setiap hari dia bisa melihat aktivitas para pemadam kebakaran dari jendela tempat tinggalnya. Cerpen ini menceritakan dengan detail kebiasaan sehari-hari dan kesenangan yang dirasakan oleh seorang arsonis pada saat melihat api dan mencium bau asap. Seandainya waktu latihan lebih panjang, plot di cerpen mereka bisa dikembangkan menjadi misalnya: si arsonis bertanggung jawab atas salah satu kebakaran yang baru dipadamkan oleh para petugas yang bekerja di seberang ruko tempat tinggalnya.

3. Seorang lelaki muda yang merokok sambil bersandar pada tiang infus (DRAMA)

Kelompok 3 membuat lelaki muda yang merokok itu bersandar pada tiang infus yang sedang dipakai untuk menyelamatkan pacarnya yang masuk rumah sakit. Cerpen dari kelompok ini adalah tentang sepasang kekasih dimana si wanita hamil di luar nikah dan mengalami keguguran. Yang membuat saya penasaran, si lelaki muda merokok karena lega atau karena frustasi sudah kehilangan jabang bayi? Anyway, kelompok ini menggunakan sudut pandang orang ke-1 (POV 1) secara bergantian, si lelaki dan kekasihnya. Walaupun penjabaran pikiran dan perasaan setiap tokoh jadi mendalam, tapi pendengar presentasi perlu menebak-nebak dulu siapa tokoh yang sedang mendapat giliran untuk bercerita.

4. Seorang wanita berpakaian serba biru (DRAMA)

Kelompok 4 mengambil lokasi sebuah kota di masa depan yang tertutup polusi dan hanya berwarna abu-abu. Penduduk kota tersebut juga punya mood yang sama dengan kotanya, sehingga pakaian mereka selalu berwarna gelap. Tersebutlah seorang lelaki yang mencoba mengubah kekelaman kotanya dengan menanam tanaman hijau dan bunga beraneka warna. Usahanya tidak kunjung membuahkan hasil walaupun dia selalu rajin menyiram dan merawat tanaman sekuat tenaganya. Suatu ketika dia melewati sebuah halte bis dan melihat seorang wanita berpakaian serba biru sedang mengamati bunga berwarna biru yang baru tumbuh di situ. Lelaki itu berhenti berjalan dan kemudian menghampiri si wanita berpakaian serba biru. Dia merasa takjub karena bunga di halte bis itu adalah bunga pertama yang dia lihat tumbuh di kotanya setelah sekian lama. Dia merasa kehadiran wanita itu adalah pertanda bahwa dia akan memiliki teman baru untuk membawa perubahan pada kotanya. Menurut saya cerpen yang mereka tulis ini sangat puitis. Waktu saya menciptakan karakter ini, saya sedang melihat anak saya yang memakai piyama biru. Saya mengagumi kemampuan kelompok ini dalam menciptakan cerita dengan elemen karakter – lokasi – plot – tujuan yang lengkap dan singkat, dan dengan pesan “harapan itu ada” yang begitu kuat.

5. Presiden dari negara termiskin di dunia (KRIMINAL)

Kelompok 5 adalah satu-satunya kelompok yang menulis cerpennya dalam bahasa Inggris (semoga mereka terinspirasi oleh buku saya, hehe). Cerpen yang mereka tulis dipenuhi dengan dialog cepat antara seorang wanita yang merupakan presiden dari negara termiskin di dunia dan panglima militernya. Lokasi yang mereka ambil adalah istana si presiden tanpa menggambarkan secara detail bagaimana penampakan sebuah istana. Hanya ada satu plot yang diceritakan, yaitu saat si presiden hendak menghalau rakyat miskin yang hendak memasuki istananya dengan cara menembakkan senjata pada orang-orang itu. Tanpa disangka, orang kepercayaan si presiden yang merupakan ajudan dan panglima militernya tidak menyetujui tindakan tersebut dan alih-alih menembak si presiden (tujuan akhir cerita). Cerpen ini punya potensi yang sangat besar untuk menjadi cerita panjang ataupun novel tentang menjadi presiden dan tentang pengkhianatan oleh orang terdekat.

6. Seorang dokter yang tidak menghentikan mobilnya saat dia melewati tempat kejadian kecelakaan lalu-lintas (DRAMA)

Kelompok ini satu-satunya yang memberi nama pada karakternya. Budiman Astuti adalah seorang dokter yang sedang dalam perjalanan ke pemakaman ibunya. Di jalan tol dia melihat ada kecelakaan terjadi antara sebuah truk dan sebuah mobil. Pikirannya sedang tertuju pada ibunya dan dia tidak merasa mesti menolong korban kecelakaan itu. Dia meyakini akan ada orang lain yang datang menolong para korban. Tujuannya hanya satu, bertemu ibunya sesegera mungkin. Karena pikirannya yang kalut, Budiman Astuti tidak menyadari kalau mobil Chevrolet pinknya berjalan melebihi batas kecepatan dan akhirnya mengalami kecelakaan juga. Saat dia membuka mata, dia melihat ibunya yang sedang menatapnya keheranan. “Apa yang kamu lakukan di sini?” tanya ibunya. “Di mana aku?” “Ini di pintu surga,” jawab ibunya. “Aku tadi sedang dalam perjalanan untuk menemuimu, Bu.” “Kamu sedang menemuiku sekarang.” Lalu siswa yang mempresentasikan cerpen itu menoleh ke saya dan berkata, “Mereka akhirnya bertemu, tapi bukan di pemakaman. Mereka bertemu di kematian.”

Dari 6 cerpen yang dibuat, cerpen ini jadi favorit saya. Pertama, karena mereka bisa menggali sifat karakter dokter Budiman Astuti yang tidak peduli pada orang lain (dia seorang dokter dan dia membiarkan korban kecelakaan yang terpapar di jalan tol) dan mudah kalut (kehilangan kendali atas mobilnya). Kedua, mereka menggambarkan detail lokasi di jalan tol sampai mobil yang si dokter pakai. Ketiga, mereka membuat plot twist yang sangat tidak terduga, dari sebuah perjalanan biasa seorang dokter menjadi perjalanannya menuju kematian. Keempat, mereka mencapai tujuan akhir dari cerpen itu dengan cara yang pahit-pahit-indah. Ending cerpen seperti ini sungguh merupakan gaya saya menulis dan bercerita. Oya dan kelima, kalimat penutup dari si presenter yang sukses bikin bulu kuduk saya merinding. Salah satu anggota dari Kelompok 6 pada akhir workshop mendatangi saya dan berkonsultasi tentang draft novel yang sedang dia garap bersama teman-temannya. Dari awal sampai akhir workshop saya melihat anak ini sangat antusias dan punya imajinasi yang bebas. Saya sungguh berharap karyanya akan segera terbit.

Tiga puluh dua orang siswa yang mengikuti workshop sangat atentif sepanjang workshop berlangsung; tidak ada satu orang pun yang mengobrol atau tertidur saat saya mempresentasikan materi yang padat. Para siswa bekerja cepat dalam kelompok dan juga tidak ragu-ragu untuk mempresentasikan hasil pekerjaan mereka. Sesi tanya-jawab di akhir penyampaian materi diisi dengan pertanyaan unik seperti:

  1. Mengapa bahasa dalam novel Indonesia akhir-akhir ini selalu campur-sari dengan bahasa Inggris?
  2. Mengapa karakter dalam novel kebanyakan stereotype laki-laki yang tampan, kaya, dingin bertemu dengan perempuan yang miskin, cantik, dan ceria?

Terhadap dua pertanyaan itu saya hanya menjawab: itu adalah tren. Pertanyaannya sekarang adalah kamu mau mengikuti tren atau menciptakan tren baru? Saya senang karena saya memiliki kesepahaman dengan beberapa penanya bahwa karakter adalah manusia seperti kita walaupun dia hidup di dunia rekaan pikiran kita. Tidak semua karakter tampan, kaya, dan pintar, karena semua karakter punya kekurangan seperti halnya dengan manusia biasa. Saya juga menekankan tentang mengembangkan plot yang unik yang menjadi ciri khas setiap penulis.

Saya sungguh bersyukur atas kesempatan mengajar workshop Creative Writing di sekolah ini. Di tengah-tengah gempuran bahasa Inggris dalam kehidupan kita sehari-hari, siswa SMAK 1 peserta workshop berhasil menuliskan cerita-cerita dalam bahasa Indonesia yang baku tapi luwes, tidak campur-aduk dengan bahasa Inggris seperti tren yang terjadi saat ini dalam buku-buku fiksi oleh para penulis orang Indonesia. Saya melihat hasil belajar bahasa Indonesia mereka yang tidak berbeda dengan hasil belajar saya 20 tahun lalu, dan saya berharap akan ada klub menulis di sekolah ini dalam waktu dekat untuk menemukan dan menyalurkan begitu banyak talenta terpendam.



Muttie, Wir Haben Dich Sehr Lieb

My mother is a very active woman. Even in her 60’s she’s still working as a lecturer in a university about two-hour drive from her home. Whenever she has the whim or is missing her four grandchildren, she will go to the nearest bus station and hop on to a bus heading to Bekasi. She is very vigorous, very lively, and in a relatively good health. So when the news broke last Monday afternoon, I couldn’t quite grasp the reality of it.

She had lost her close friend for the past thirty-five years due to brain hemorrhage. The late Aunt Nining was in her 50’s, was still working full time, and was writing her doctoral dissertation. Everything happened so fast, too fast if I might say. My mother told me about Aunt Nining passing away when she was on her way to bury her friend. I know that her heart broke and she has become more anxious about her health ever since. Light symptoms like breathing trouble and cold sweat would make her panic and go straight to hospital to have check-ups. The results came out relatively well and she was told to rest a lot, but stroke happened nevertheless.

On Monday afternoon my mother was admitted to the ER ward of the nearest hospital from her home. My father told me to calm down because he thought she’s just overworking herself. I did become calm, but my sister and her two babies drove right away to Bandung, about one hundred thirty kilometers from where she lives. On Tuesday morning I read the messages from my sister telling me that our mother indeed had stroke and her left body parts were affected. My husband took the day off and we went to get our car which was under repair before I headed to Bandung. He kept asking me whether I was calm enough to drive alone that long distance. I kept nodding my head and saying that I would be alright, but deep down I knew that I was crumbling. I wasn’t alright, I was too shocked. I knew nothing about stroke; I knew absolutely nothing about the medication and healing process from the attack. Lucky us; my sister went to med school and she has become our source of confidence in handling our mother’s treatment.

It was the longest one hundred thirty kilometers distance in my life. At some point I couldn’t hold back the tears and I was crying while I was speeding up. I told myself that I couldn’t cry; that I mustn’t cry. It would be unsafe for me if I trembled while going 120-140 km/hour, so I’d better focus on the road. Even with that kind of speed I arrived three hours after I left home. And the first questions my mother asked me when she saw me were, who took care of my kids and when I would drive back home. I got there at one PM, and she insisted I left as early as five PM. She was ill but she’s more worried about me driving recklessly because it would be late at night, I was alone, and I was in a complete mess, emotion-wise. She was also worried that my kids would be looking for me.

My sister is the mirroring image of my mother. In her I can see strength, perseverance, and endurance like no other. She carries her two young sons, one is 11 months old and the other is 2.5 years old, everywhere; to consult with the doctors, to undergo CT scan, to consult with our cousin who’s an internist, and to move our mother from that hell-hole of a hospital to a better place. She holds on to her principles very strongly: that this too shall pass and not to sweat on small stuffs. She doesn’t waste her time and energy being sad, or angry, or upset. She just looks ahead, moves forward, and gets everything done. My brother is also coming to be with us in this tough moment. I’m blessed to have both of them as my siblings.

We’re lucky that our mother was admitted right away and got proper and responsive treatment from the hospital staff. The doctors can communicate well with us and the nurses are very attentive. Our mother has started getting the physiotherapy since yesterday. The medication works and she’s in good spirit and she is very determined to heal faster. As I washed and fed her, I remembered how it was when I myself was sick. She always stood by her sick children and grandchildren. Her love and care surpass all. Even though she’s tired, she doesn’t give up or give in.

Just as she washed, fed, and put the clothes on our backs, we will do the same thing for her.

Just as she loves us, we will love her.

We’re praying for our mother’s full recovery.

Religion and Faith

Is religion the same thing as faith? This is a question that’s been lingering in my mind for some time. Through this writing I’d like to share the definitions of religion and faith in my mind frame, a frame which can be against or approved by other people. I’m not going to talk about literal definitions, or quote what other people say about them. Our opinions may differ one from another, and that’s a fact of life. Life indeed is filled with differences in personal backgrounds, mindsets, and our agreement to disagree with each other.

To me personally, religion is not the same thing with faith. Since I was a kid I knew what religion I’m following, a religion which was plastered to me ever since I was born. I kind of accepted that system because I thought that’s how things worked in my country, Indonesia. Long before a baby can talk, he or she already has a label and is segregated into group of people to which he or she belongs. I went to Christian schools from kindergarten to junior high, and it was in sync with the education at home and the religious activities upheld by my Christian family. At home, at school, and at church, I was surrounded by the knowledge of Christianity. I called it a mere knowledge because at that time reading the Bible was considered of the same value with reading textbooks from other subjects. I was told to memorize a part/a verse/a phrase/a book, I would undergo examinations to determine whether I’d remembered it well, I would be told if I passed or not, and I would be given rank relatively to what other students achieved in the subject of Religion. That’s what happened when Religion was one of the myriad of subjects taught at the schools I attended.

When I was in junior high, I started to learn The Apostles’ Creed which is cited every time the Sunday service is about to end. The Apostles’ Creed has the following sentences:

I believe in the Holy Spirit

Church of the Holy and Am

Communion of Saints

Remission of sins

Resurrection of body

And eternal life

And every time I read about “resurrection of body and eternal life” I had this fear that I was not allowed to take part in it.

Those junior high school years were the years of rebellion and search for personal identity. Amidst the flooding knowledge I had about Christianity, I began to search for the faith I was going to choose and follow. Who owns my life? Who placed me in this certain era with these certain people? What should I be doing as long as I live? Where will I go after I die? Birth to me is as mysterious as death. I didn’t have any power to decide when, where, and around who I was born, and I also can’t decide (within natural death context) when, where, and around who I will die someday. The time I’m spending on this earth is also full of mysteries, with events beyond my will and my power to control. Those questions became my foundation in search for my faith.

The questions I had as a teenager could be concluded into two:

  1. where did I come from,
  2. and where will I go after I die?

Ever since I chose my faith, reading the Bible was not a mere obligation to get good grade in the Religion subject. The grace of salvation had been working even before I decided whom to believe. Memorizing those books in the Bible for about nine years, more or less, had prepared my heart and my conscience to accept the eternal seeds of God’s Words (for every Word spread will not return in vain).

After I chose my faith, I was faced with the following question, to which group/doctrine in the Christianity did I belong to? At that point I started to see the underlying differences between religion and faith.

Faith is about a personal relationship between the Creator and me as His creation, with the degree of intimacy which is beyond words and impossible to be experienced by other people in the same way. Religion, on the other hand, is about a group of people, with their identical rituals and routines, and certain point of views towards other groups of people. Faith focuses on the Creator and what He wants from me as His creation. I see religion as a separator, a wall which says “this is me” and “that is not me”.

My parents are the members of Lutheran church (referring to the initial reformation by Martin Luther). Ever since I had Christian faith, I had entered, learned, and drawn conclusions from the other churches with their varying doctrines. I was very confused because of the varying interpretations of the Bible and the rituals to worship our God. It is undeniable that the Bible with the news of salvation it contains is the only written guide which was left by the faith of Christianity, existing for more than 2000 years. Human’s understanding can change, religious leader will be replaced, and it is very unwise to depend one’s faith on other human being who will die someday. At the end I chose to attend the church with reformed doctrine, because they aim to return the foundation of church according to the Bible. The texts in the Bible are studied not only by their translations, but also by the syntax of sentences from the original languages used to write them (Hebrew for The Old Testament, and Greek for the New Testament), in regards of the context of the time during which the texts were written. In the reformed doctrine I see the Bible acting as a mirror which tells me the reasons why I’m here, the characters I should possess as His creation, and the place I will go to after I die. If I stick to my narrow definition of a religion, most likely I’ll have a defensive attitude regarding my own group and the truth we believe in, and a very inconsiderate attitude toward other group and their perceived truth. To me personally, the truth lies in the Bible, the book which was written by the inspiration from the Holy Spirit to reveal mistake, to correct attitude, and to educate people in real truth. That is the truth I’m holding on to as a compass to my life.

After I draw a firm line between religion and faith I believe in, I’m never bothered by the groups of other religions which have the same labels or not with the group of religion stated in every identity card I have. I believe that salvation is only by grace; there is no good deed I do that I can use as a bribe to my Creator to make Him save me. Salvation is started by a realization that human is sinful and has lost his relationship with God. Even when human is idle and not doing anything particular, he can commit a sin through his mind. The realization that human cannot erase his sin through billions of good deeds will lead to the need for salvation for every human soul. To me personally, my salvation is by grace alone from my God, Jesus Christ. Ever since I was in high school up to now, people often ask me why Christians have three gods, why the gods of the Christians have descendant. To which I did and will always reply that I will still believe in my God who has granted me salvation and faith, regardless how many personalities He possesses. Faith and salvation are sometimes hard to explain by ratio and logic, but I know that I have to always use my ratio and logic as long as I live on this earth.

I have faith in two most important laws: 1) to love my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my understanding, and 2) to love other human being like I love myself. Love our Creator and always have a grateful heart for the time granted to us to live and make something out of this life, and to treat other people just as we want other people to treat us. These two laws are the basic foundations of my faith, not a group of people with every possible distortion they might cause because of their lack of learning and knowledge.

Happy Sunday to all brothers and sisters who share the same faith in Jesus Christ.

Agama dan Iman

Apakah agama sama dengan iman? Ini adalah sebuah pertanyaan yang sudah lama ada di benak saya untuk saya renungkan. Lewat tulisan ini saya hendak membagikan pengertian agama dan iman dalam konsep berpikir saya, sebuah konsep yang mungkin bertentangan dengan atau mungkin disetujui oleh orang lain. Saya tidak hendak berbicara mengenai pengertian secara literasi ataupun mengutip pemikiran orang lain. Pendapat kita mungkin berbeda dan itu tidak apa-apa. Hidup ini selalu diisi dengan perbedaan latar belakang, perbedaan isi kepala, dan kesetujuan untuk tidak setuju terhadap satu sama lain.

Bagi saya pribadi, agama tidaklah sama dengan iman. Sejak kecil saya tahu saya memeluk agama apa, yang artinya agama yang dilekatkan pada saya sejak saya kecil. Dulu saya berpikir memang begitulah sistem di negara Indonesia, bahkan sebelum seorang bayi bisa berbicara kepada dirinya sudah dilekatkan sebuah label, sebuah pengelompokan dimana dia menjadi anggotanya. Sejak taman kanak-kanak sampai SMP saya bersekolah di sekolah Kristen. Tentu saja ini sinkron dengan pendidikan di rumah dan kegiatan beribadah yang diterapkan di keluarga saya yang beragama Kristen. Di rumah, di sekolah, dan di gereja saya dikelilingi oleh pengetahuan agama Kristen. Saya bilang ini pengetahuan, karena di masa itu membaca Alkitab diperlakukan sama dengan membaca textbook pelajaran lain. Saya akan disuruh menghafalkan sebuah bagian, dites apakah hafal, diberi nilai dan peringkat untuk menentukan kelulusan dari mata pelajaran Agama.

Waktu SMP saya mulai belajar pengakuan Iman Rasuli yang diucapkan setiap kali menjelang akhir kebaktian hari Minggu, dimana pada bagian terakhirnya ada kalimat-kalimat berikut:

Aku percaya kepada Roh Kudus

Gereja yang kudus dan am

Persekutuan orang kudus

Pengampunan dosa

Kebangkitan tubuh

Dan hidup yang kekal

Dan setiap kali saya membaca bagian tentang “kebangkitan tubuh dan hidup yang kekal”, saya takut kalau saya tidak punya bagian di situ.

Tahun-tahun di SMP adalah tahun penuh pemberontakan dan pencarian jati diri. Di tengah kepungan pengetahuan tentang agama Kristen, saya mulai mencari iman apa yang hendak saya pilih dan ikuti. Siapa yang saya pikir memiliki hidup saya? Siapa yang menempatkan saya di jaman ini dengan orang-orang ini? Apa yang harus saya lakukan selama saya diberi waktu untuk hidup? Ke manakah saya akan pergi setelah saya mati? Peristiwa kelahiran bagi saya sama misteriusnya dengan peristiwa kematian. Saya tidak punya daya sama sekali untuk memutuskan kapan, di mana, dan di sekitar siapa saya lahir, demikian pula pada kematian yang natural saya kurang-lebih tidak bisa memutuskan kapan, di mana, dan di sekitar siapa saya mati. Waktu yang dijalani selama masa hidup juga sama misteriusnya, dengan begitu banyaknya kejadian yang di luar kehendak dan kendali diri saya. Berbekal pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut saya memulai pencarian akan iman saya.

Semua pertanyaan yang ada di benak remaja saya sebenarnya bisa dirangkum dalam dua pertanyaan saja:

  1. dari mana saya berasal, dan
  2. ke manakah saya akan pergi setelah saya mati.

Sejak saat saya mengetahui iman yang saya yakini, membaca Alkitab tidak lagi menjadi sebuah kewajiban demi mendapat nilai bagus. Anugerah keselamatan itu sudah bekerja sejak sebelum saya memutuskan siapa yang saya percaya. Menghafal kitab-kitab selama kurang lebih sembilan tahun ternyata sudah menggemburkan tanah hati nurani untuk menaburkan biji Firman Tuhan yang kekal adanya (karena setiap Firman yang ditabur, tidak akan kembali dengan sia-sia).

Setelah saya memilih iman saya, saya dibenturkan kepada pertanyaan lain, saya masuk kelompok/doktrin yang mana dalam agama? Di situlah saya mulai melihat perbedaan mendasar dari agama dan iman.

Iman bicara tentang hubungan pribadi antara Pencipta dan saya sebagai ciptaan-Nya, dengan sebuah kedekatan yang tidak bisa digambarkan dengan kata-kata dan mustahil dialami oleh tiap orang dengan cara yang sama. Agama bicara tentang kelompok manusia, ritual dan rutinitas yang seragam/diseragamkan, dan cara pandang yang berbeda terhadap kelompok lain. Iman berfokus pada Pencipta saya dan apa yang Dia mau dari saya sebagai ciptaan. Saya melihat agama seperti pemisah, sebuah tembok yang mengatakan “ini saya” dan “itu bukan saya”.

Orang tua saya adalah anggota gereja dengan konsep Lutheran (mengacu pada reformasi oleh Martin Luther). Selama saya memiliki iman Kristen, saya sudah masuk, mempelajari dan mengambil kesimpulan dari gereja-gereja dengan doktrin lain. Kepala ini dibuat pusing bukan kepalang karena interpretasi Alkitab dan cara beribadah yang begitu beragam. Tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa Alkitab dan berita keselamatan di dalamnya adalah satu-satunya pedoman tertulis yang ditinggalkan oleh iman kekristenan yang sudah ada selama lebih dari 2000 tahun. Pengertian manusia bisa berubah, pemimpin agama akan berganti, dan sungguh tidak bijak menggantungkan iman seseorang pada sosok manusia yang pada akhirnya akan mati. Pada akhirnya saya memilih gereja dengan doktrin reformasi (John Calvin) karena prinsip dasarnya yang kembali ke Alkitab. Alkitab dipelajari tidak hanya berdasarkan teks terjemahan, tapi juga menggali sintaks teks dari bahasa asli (Ibrani untuk Perjanjian Lama, dan Yunani untuk Perjanjian Baru), dengan melihat konteks penulisan pada jaman itu. Di doktrin reformasi saya melihat Alkitab sebagai cermin yang memberi tahu alasan saya ada di sini, karakter apa yang harus saya miliki sebagai ciptaan, dan ke mana saya akan pergi setelah saya mati. Kalau saya hanya berpatok pada agama, kemungkinan besar saya akan punya sikap ngotot tentang kelompok saya dan kebenaran yang kelompok saya anut. Bagi saya pribadi, kebenaran ada di dalam tulisan-tulisan di dalam Alkitab, yang ditulis karena pengilhaman Roh Kudus untuk menyatakan kesalahan, memperbaiki kelakuan, dan mendidik orang dalam kebenaran. Itulah kebenaran yang menjadi kompas hidup saya.

Setelah saya mengambil garis tegas antara agama dan iman yang saya percayai, sungguh saya tidak ambil pusing dengan kelompok-kelompok agama yang ada, yang berjudul sama ataupun berbeda dengan agama yang tertulis di setiap kartu identitas saya. Saya percaya keselamatan adalah anugerah, tidak ada satupun perbuatan baik yang saya lakukan yang bisa saya pakai sebagai sogokan untuk mencapainya. Keselamatan dimulai dengan suatu kesadaran kalau manusia berdosa dan sudah kehilangan hubungan dengan Tuhan. Bahkan saat manusia diam dan tidak melakukan apa-apa, dia bisa berdosa dengan pikirannya. Kesadaran kalau manusia tidak bisa membuat dosanya hilang dengan bermiliar-milar perbuatan baiklah yang membuat manusia sadar kalau dia perlu keselamatan. Buat saya pribadi, keselamatan saya adalah anugerah dari Tuhan Yesus Kristus. Sejak saya SMA sampai sekarang saya sering ditanya: mengapa Tuhan orang Kristen ada tiga, mengapa Tuhan orang Kristen beranak. Di saat seperti itu saya yang tahu kalau keselamatan dan iman saya adalah semata-mata pemberian, bisa berkata: berapapun kepribadian Tuhan yang saya yakini memiliki hidup saya, saya akan tetap mempercayainya. Iman dan keselamatan sering kali tidak bisa dijelaskan oleh nalar dan logika, tapi nalar dan logika harus saya pakai selama bersikap dalam hidup.

Saya mengimani dua hukum yang terutama: 1) kasihilah Tuhan Allah-mu dengan segenap hatimu, dengan segenap jiwamu, dan dengan segenap akal budimu, dan 2) kasihilah sesamamu manusia seperti engkau mengasihi dirimu sendiri. Kasihilah pencipta-Mu seperti ciptaan yang selalu bersyukur telah diberi kesempatan untuk hidup dan berkarya, dan perlakukanlah orang lain seperti dirimu ingin diperlakukan. Kedua hukum ini yang menjadi dasar iman saya, bukan kelompok manusia dengan segala distorsinya karena kekurangan belajar dan pengetahuan.

Selamat beribadah pada hari Minggu ini untuk saudara-saudara semua yang beriman kepada Yesus Kristus.