The Spirit Molecule

Focus, speed, memory, productivity, alertness. Most of what the world values nowadays seldom relate to what we once used to. The doubling rate of technological innovation makes it inevitable that we will soon co-exist with a new kind of Being, be it Artificial intelligence, or genetically modified humans. With the values we now uphold, it is very easy for us to simply forget our ancestral values. With the voluntary prohibition imposed by the government on the consumption of psychedelia, we may conceive it as another testament to our “voluntary running away” from our past. Yes, we once used to live in a time where psychedelia is commonly used, for thousands of years, in rituals and spiritual occasions. Cluttered by today’s scientific and materialistic views, the spiritual views we once held dearly are in danger of extinction. One may argue, it is time that we dispose of all the irrational spiritual nonsense we once had, and finally live in a rational world. However, I do not believe it is so wise, since, maybe what our ancestors knew, what they were exposed to, and what they have learned, especially from these special compounds (DMT and psilocybin) hold immense and profound wisdom that directly wrestles with the forces that underlie the very nature of life itself. To further explore the role of psychedelics in the world, and why it might be important to society, let us first understand what they are and how we have coexisted with them in the past. Psychedelics are a class of drugs that have the ability to bring human consciousness on a trip to an altered state of consciousness , a psychedelic experience. They include LSD, DMT, Marijuana, psilocybin, and mescaline. For this piece, however, I would like to solely focus on DMT in particular, given its’ interesting capabilities, history and influence. DMT stands for Dimethyltryptamine, a molecule many have regarded as “the spirit molecule”. DMT is commonly extracted from plants for consumption, however, the molecule itself may actually be found in almost all living things, including plants, mammals, and even humans. One of the things temporary science have discovered, is that DMT is produced within humans, and its function still mysterious. Why would we produce them ? Why is it found in almost all living creatures on Earth? These are complicated questions that still require further study. However, a midst of the mysteries, we do know that DMT was consumed quite regularly in the past, in spiritual occasions and so on. When finally studied by scientists in the early 2000s, where patients were given DMT as experimentation, we then realized the capability of the molecule. Patients were struck in awe as they were injected with these molecules. They felt as if they were embracing for something, and then… they were catapulted forward to a journey of mysticism and surrealism. Impossible colors, doors, figures, Gods, and the universe. It may literally be a gateway to a dimension we may never have conceived of. The exposure to these experiences, have also been recorded to eradicate heavy cocaine and heroin addicts. The drug had a long-term effect on these individuals, with no rational explanations. This is quite fascinating, since who knew that an effective way to get people off these harmful drugs, is to give them another drug. Graham Hancock has suggested that these life-transformative effects may have been related to the individuals’ encounter with Mother Ayahuasca. As Hancock had discussed in his 2010 banned Ted talk, his encounter with Mother Ayahuasca made him stop marijuana after She guided him through a realm of hell and suffering. These experiences tell its users, what must be done in their lives, to live properly, the importance of living properly, and what may happen if they don’t. Quite surprisingly, these experiences also helped eliminate people’s fear of death (long-term effect), after these were given to cancer patients. It will shed a new light on life, and give you fresh new pairs of lenses in which through it, you perceive the world. This includes, your views on reality after the death of the flesh. Perhaps, there is a possibility that the soul endures after the death of the flesh. We far often think ourselves as a “machine”, that dies once it stops working. But, what if, we are the signals that transmit, and may only be physically perceived through its manifestation in a tv-set. The TV dies, but the signal doesn’t. This concept of a life after death had been echoed throughout different cultures in antiquity, and reflected in their artwork. Its parallel similarity with people’s description of their DMT trips, is quite uncanny, and suggests a real relationship between what our ancestors knew, and the experiences we may get through DMT. So far, there is a high probability that you are really skeptical about this. Really? A chemical gateway to another dimension ? Life after death ?! Even, if you give a speck of accountability to this information, your gut may still have a negative response to the idea of using psychedelics. You don’t like it, since drugs are dangerous and bad, especially ones that can alter consciousness ! This is an extremely common response, given that we all grew up in a culture that despises the usage of drugs, Indonesia being one of the biggest countries to have the strictest of laws in regard of drug trade and usage. But, that statement in itself isn’t wholly true. Society doesn’t really frown upon drugs , in fact, there is blatant evidence that we encourage it. Graham Hancock pointed this out in his ted talk, that given our supposedly defensive position against drugs, drugs such as alcohol are still legal to consume. Alcohol has the capacity to alter your consciousness in a way that encourages a risk-free attitude towards your behavior, and has no respect for the future of its users. It is a leading cause of car accidents, bar fights and many types of diseases, such as liver damage. Its harmful nature is evident, however does not stop us from putting them on shelves for people to consume. Adderall, Ritalin and Dexedrine, stimulants or speed that stimulates focus and grit, all consciousness altering, available at our disposal. Caffeine, another common drug that people consume daily for a kick in the rear-end for productive work throughout the day. DMT and psychedelics in general, on the other hand, are illegal for its consciousness-altering nature, which is quite ironic, given that the other drugs that are legal are not only consciousness-altering as well, but some even self-destructive. An examination of how the laws are governed surrounding drug use, would lead one to finally understand the shift in values within the very structures underlying society. The legalization of certain types of drugs reflects what our current society values. Speed and stimulants, a trusty buddy to trigger efficiency and productivity. Coffee, another stimulant to wake you up and quickly buzz. Then, you have alcohol, a drug that helps you unwind, escape from the daily grind, and live consequence free. Psychedelics, on the other hand, is a Stage 4 danger to be dismissed at all causes. “They have the ability to alter consciousness !” How ironic is it, that all the other “consciousness-altering” drugs are deemed “okay” to consume, whilst psychedelics are not. As I have mentioned before, “they” prioritize values that produces maximal gain, not spiritual liberation. DMT is a gateway to further explore one’s own consciousness. It was used in spiritual rituals back in ancient times. Heck, the Amazonians used to give newborns a tablespoon of Ayahuasca due to the primary importance they believed the drug possesses. Again, it brings the individual to encounter the realm of mystic figures. It holds ancestral knowledge and wisdom, and a guide to proper living. This is reflective of how spirituality is viewed in today’s modern scientific society that has now tried to completely shut down the concept of proper living , groundedness and love. I am not trying to argue for the legalization of these types of drugs, since I also know the severity it may bring if these drugs are abused and not treated with full respect. However, I am pointing out the current state of what society today values, through our drug laws. We risk losing our ancestral knowledge and wisdom. We risk losing our individual sovereignty to explore our own consciousness. We also risk losing our grasps on what’s truly important in life. Maybe, it’s not so much coffee-filled days of paperwork and innovation, maybe it’s not a Friday night of alcoholic intoxication, maybe it’s the acknowledgement of the importance of our lives and actions in the world. And to lose that, is a crime against humanity, since not only are you letting today’s values clutter the importance of proper living , and deem it spiritual mumbo jumbo, but you are also disrespecting what could potentially be the true nature of reality itself. Who knows what happens after death, who knows whether there is a God or not, but I do know that whatever happens, the guide to life these spiritual journeys provide leads to proper living, which would overall enhance and improve our experience on this planet. And to lose that, is a sorrowful loss.

Keeping the Indonesian Culture Alive

Literally meaning “ a peanut that forgets its shell”, the Indonesian proverb “kacang lupa kulitnya” reminds us that no matter how far we go, we should always remember our origins. Being the largest archipelago along with 4th most populated country in the world, it is no surprise that Indonesia is culturally diverse. With the increasing trend of globalisation that shows no sign of stopping, the slow erosion or diffusion of culture is inevitably a threat that the government has tirelessly strived to prevent. Below are some attempts that the government has made to maintain the longevity and livelihood of the Indonesian heritage: Redistribution of budget for the cultural sector In 2018, the government provided 1 trillion Rupiah exclusively for the cultural sector. This is contrary to the usual where allocation is shared between the Ministry of Education and Culture’s department. The money has mostly gone to the revitalization of museums. 119 museums across Indonesia are now nationally recognized, with almost a total of 30,000 collections being accessible online through the ministry’s official website. The allocation has also prioritised to preserving culture in hopes of being able to register them under UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. So far, Indonesia already has 9 heritage accredited by UNESCO which includes batik, keris, wayang, angklung and saman dance. Pinisi, the art of boatbuilding that originated in South Sulawesi, has also recently made the list in 2017 while Pencak Silat is still being reviewed. Strategic Expansion of Market for Tourist The government has set a target of reaching 20 million foreign tourists in 2019. In 2018, Indonesia only reached 15.8 million foreign tourists, reflecting a 12% increase from 2017 where numbers only hit 14 million. According to the data published by BPK(The Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia) so far, it seems like things are going positive given that there has been another 11% increase in the number of tourists in January 2019, from 1.09 million to 1.21 million, compared to that of January 2018. In an attempt to accomplish the goal, Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya, has highlighted three strategies:Border Tourism, Tourism Hub and Low-Cost Terminal. These strategies were laid out to attract tourists from neighbouring countries while also allowing more layovers in Indonesia. Through layovers, the market for tourism in Indonesia is expected to rise given that more tourists would be inclined to extend their trip to include Indonesia as a destination. Additionally, the government has also relaxed the visa requirements by allowing residents from 169 countries, previously 84, to travel visa-free to Indonesia. Though one might argue that bringing more tourists to Indonesia will diminish its culture, it also enforces the practice of it. Gendeng Beleq, a traditional dance originating from Lombok, is an example of a cultural heritage that would not otherwise be practised anymore if it weren’t marketed as a tourist attraction. Now performed to welcome tourists, Gendeng Beleq used to only be performed on rare occasions such as when the local custom had won a war. Advertising of Usage of Local Dialects Indonesia ranks as the second country with the highest number of languages after Papua New Guinea. On average, Indonesians speak at least 2 languages with Bahasa Indonesia as a mother tongue followed by a local dialect. Out of the 668 recognized dialects in Indonesia, 11 of them were declared extinct in 2018. To prevent further declaration of extinction, the government has incorporated the use of local dialects into the education system. In Papua, the use of local dialects as the language of instruction has been enforced by the curriculum in a number of schools. Appreciation of Local Films Another effective way to showcase Indonesia’s culture is through film. Through local movies, Indonesian culture and stories are authentically portrayed as they are crafted through Indonesian perspectives. The inclusion of local sceneries can also help promote Indonesia as a tourism destination. Following the release of Laskar Pelangi, a local movie shot fully in Indonesia, there was a reported increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Bangka Belitung, the main setting of the movie. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of tourists arrival in total had increased from 223 thousand to 301 thousand. As of 2011, 97% of the movies played in cinemas are imported. By the end of July 2018, the number went down to 60% - almost half of the movies played are now local. In fact, the total number of views on local films has risen from 16.2 million to 50 million since 2015. Local films have also seem to be getting more international recognition given that more of them have been included in international festivals. For the first time in 2016, an Indonesian movie, titled Prenjak, was awarded during the Cannes Film Festival – specifically the Leica Cine Discovery Prize. Celebration of National Dishes A large part of culture is most often its food. When one thinks of home, it would not be surprising if a specific dish comes to mind rather than a person or a place. In 2018, the Tourism Ministry set five national dishes to promote Indonesian cuisine: Soto, Rendang, Sate, Nasi Goreng and Gado-Gado. In 2017, CNN published “World's 50 best foods” that ranked Rendang in first place with Nasi Goreng coming second. In attempt to upkeep Indonesia's reign over the world's best-loved cuisines, the ministry of tourism had also set 100 Indonesian restaurants from across the world as ambassadors of the “Wonderful Indonesia” tourism program. These restaurants are required to serve at least two out of the five national dishes. 17 of these 100 restaurants are located in Melbourne, including Ayam Penyet Ria and Pondok Rempah that are both located in the CBD area. The government can come up with a thousand new laws in hopes of preserving Indonesian heritage but it would be of no use unless we all take part. It comes down to us - the future generation of Indonesians – to preserve our heritage. Celebrating one’s heritage doesn’t have to require a big effort. It can be choosing to go for an Indonesian meal once in a while, reading Indonesian literature or participating in an Indonesian festival. A lot of these can be easily incorporated into one’s daily life. To reflect, when was the last time you made a conscious effort to connect with your heritage?

The Janusian Way

The People’s Broadcast is airing as we eat our dinner. They are currently live broadcasting Queen Solar’s craft landing on our planet. It’s only been a few cycles since we sent our distress signal but she promptly responded to it. “Queen Majel was a great queen,” my great-great-great-great grandmother (I call her Grandma Ahn) begins. She’s still full of fire as if she’s not many centu-eons old. “She takes care of us. Doesn’t go around telling other planets about our Fountain. For one day she’s out of the picture...” she clicks her tongue, “... and her daughter ruins everything.” “Queen Solar didn’t let the space pirates escape with the Water at least,” I say after chewing my food. “But she destroyed the Fountain, Qi. Are you not going to have your Christening? Nobody has aged past 21 eons. Do you want your generation to die?” I flatten my food against the plate. Grandma Ahn and I are always on opposite sides of many spectrums. Her generation always thinks their way is the correct one just because they found the Fountain. At my lack of answer, Grandma Ahn shakes her head. “You kids know nothing.” My fist clenches at that, but I stay silent throughout the remainder of the dinner. *** With the Christening in four deca-cycles, my schoolmates are all talking about how we would be the first generation in milleneons to turn 22. I usually spend my cycles alone, but one cycle, a classmate—Flora—invited me to a gathering at her family’s unit. I only attended at first to find out more about Queen Solar’s efforts to rectify her mistakes. I learn she’s gone to geographers to search for another Fountain; to historians and spiritual leaders to figure out how to enchant water sources; to her team of scientists to scientifically re-create the Water’s properties... “What do you think about the whole thing, Qi?” Flora asked at one point. I didn’t know we’re supposed to share, so I froze. Thankfully, Flora understood. She had a warm smile. “It’s okay. Talk to us when you want to. It doesn’t have to be now. Just remember this is a safe space. We’re all going through the same thing and nobody is going to judge.” *** Little Hal became a hero by accident. Literally. The young boy was playing around in the field when a small Pyrolian attacked him. Pyrolians are not dangerous. They’re defensive creatures who primarily guard the Fountain. However, now that the Fountain is destroyed, it’s probably lost and purposeless. By the time the toddler’s parents found him and rushed him to the healing centre, he was half-conscious losing consciousness. My mom who works there told me the Pyrolian gave Hal a deep cut spanning from his wrist to his shoulders. Getting hurt is a rare occurrence for Janusians. Everybody holds off their reckless desires until they’re 21. After the Christening, everyone can be as impulsive as they want. They can’t die, so there’s no consequences. “Thank god Queen Solar was there,” mom says as she types up her report. “Don’t say that to Grandma Ahn, she hates her,” I interject. My mom nudges me as her eyes dart to the door with high alert. “Don’t say that. She might hear you.” We both chuckle. “Anyway, Hal lost a lot of blood and the Queen suggested this procedure called a ‘blood transfusion’. We got Hal’s grandmother to do it and he’s good as new.” But he’s better than new. During a full body exam, Queen Solar’s scientist found traces of the Water in Hal’s blood. The royal advisor, Rigel, announces the findings on the Broadcast. “Because of Little Hal, now we know that the Water can be transferred from one Janusian to another, but it has to be done through blood transfusion.” “Are you saying…” the host’s eyebrows knit. “The Christening can go on.” “No, no. I mean... some of us will have to give up our immortality?” “Well, we’re searching for a way so that won’t be necessary.” My holo-comm buzzes with messages from my share group. Grandma Ahn sees it and tosses the device to the ground. *** Four cycles before the Christening and Advisor Rigel comes on another broadcast. Grandma Ahn watches nervously, hoping the advisor bears good news. But from Rigel’s sullen expression, that doesn’t seem to be the case. “We have done extensive research, but… we’re afraid the only way to do the Christening is through blood transfusions.” I feel Grandma Ahn tensing next to me. “The Queen, the advisor, everyone have tried their best,” Elder Banyan, another guest, chimes in. “Nothing lasts forever, but I think this is a good thing. We’ve become blinded by the Fountain of Youth and the pleasures of being immortal. We forget the importance of being good examples for our next generation. Just yester-cycle a fight broke out between two Janusians in front of the Consulate. That’s not who we are. I know this is not easy for you, my fellow Janusians, but I implore everyone to consider th—” The holo-vision cuts off. “This is a bunch of nonsense!” Grandma Ahn’s voice thunders in the room. Everybody freezes. “This is the best they can come up with?” “What’s wrong with it, Grandma Ahn? The Queen tried finding a solution and she did.” “But that’s not the solution we need. Giving up our immortality? You can’t make us do that. We need to carry on our legacy. ” She huffs in anger. “What do you mean you need to carry on your legacy?” I furrow my eyebrows. “Don’t you trust my generation?” Grandma Ahn raises her hand to slap my face, but I back myself away. I scoff, “You’re afraid kids my age don’t understand the Janusian values, but we’re more Janusian than you are. Being Janusian is about community. We want our community to grow, we want to share and pass on knowledge—that’s why you all became immortals in the first place. Now, the Christening becomes nothing but compulsory ritual, you forget the real reason why you do it in the first place. And you have the audacity to mock my generation instead of educating us.” My next words are venomous. “If immortality will turn me into a mindless zealot like you, then I’d rather die.” I storm out of the house and make my way to Flora’s. I’m ready to share. But I never reached her unit. As I cross the road, a weight of tonnes of force was suddenly slammed against my side and not a second later, everything turned black. *** I wake up with an excruciating pain to my head. Our dual sunlight leak through the blinds, making the sterile white room even brighter than it has any right to be. I blink a few times as I slowly rise up from my bed and realise that I’m at the health centre. I look around and find my mother and father rising from their seats to go to my sides. “What happened?” “You got hit by a loading transpod. You were in a coma for the whole deca-cycle.” “I told you to look both ways before you cross. You could’ve died! That thing was carrying neo-nucleo sludge,” my mom chimes in. I see a tube connecting my wrist and a bag of blue liquid. “I got a blood transfusion?” They both look at each other; Mom’s eyebrows knitting, and Dad’s eyes brimming with tears. “Yes,” they answer. “Who’s the donor?” My mom passes me a book. On top of it is a note that reads: Share to the world my mistakes, so there will be no other me.

When Should Heritage Be Discarded?

Heritage is one of the most powerful dictators of our behavior. It provides us identity, morality, and grounds for sympathy. In dictating our behavior, sometimes one part of our heritage contradicts the other, and we are forced to choose. Japanese Americans in WW2 who chose to fight as Americans decided that the American national heritage takes precedence over their Japanese ethnic heritage. Indonesians chose to put aside their heritage as former ethnic enemies when we declared the end of our status as a conquered colony. The shared heritage of Christian values and Roman legal system allowed Europe to form a union. Heritage passed down from past conflicts such as that of India and Pakistan could trigger a nuclear war. The cycle of ignoring or emphasizing different parts of our heritage is a constant one. The question is, how do we decide which one is which? Initially, let’s understand heritage from the perspective of evolutionary science. Take the parallel between our heritage to our genes, and our behavior to our physical body. Both our genes and heritage are inherited from our parents, which we fuse, alter, and pass on to our children. Our behavior determines our survivability and passing on of our heritage just as our physical body determines our survivability and passing of our genes. As evolutionary beings, natural selection dictates that we discard genes that hold us back and pass on those that benefit us. The same applies to heritage. When civilization moves forward, we downplay or ignore heritage that we consider no longer relevant, and amplify heritage that we consider forward-thinking. Having established the parallel, the second point would be assessing and deciding which heritage to downplay and which to amplify. To do this, we would have to remove the sentimental value associated with heritage and observe it based on its macro products. For example, religion is a powerful tool to legitimize authority, enforce social norms and unite people beyond tribal or ethnic groups. Cultural cuisines maximize nutritional intake based on ingredients available in the region. Even heritage that does not seem to benefit the survival of the species must be relevant to our survival at the point of its creation. Things we dread today such as human sacrifice, slavery, and racism had benefits to our ancestors. They helped establish a social hierarchy that allows the formation of a cruel yet cohesive society. A cohesive society however cruel, is always more favorable for the survival of our species to no society at all. It is why so many historical societies had barbaric customs from our perspective. We despise these ideas now, and try to distance ourselves from it. We figured out that it’s better for our species to increase the turnover of the social order rather than preserve them at the expense of the suffering of others. This enables more members of society to contribute in an intellectual capacity and further civilization. It is no coincidence that feminism became widely supported and accepted along with the rise of industrially manufactured consumer products that lowers the amount of work needed at home and increases the need for capital income of the family. The process of the transformation is akin to the market process of determining the equilibrium price between demand and supply, driven by an invisible hand rather than by conscious collective thought. Societies with the right idea would advance and grow dominant, and those with the opposite would become subservient. One of the various examples would be the reversal of dominance between European and Middle Eastern schools of thought. When Europe grew more religious, they discard Greco-Roman science and philosophy, branding them as heretical. Meanwhile, in the Muslim world, these knowledge was embraced. The period became the dark age in Europe, but the Golden Age of Islam. One of the most obvious inheritances was the use of Arabic numerals worldwide. But when the Renaissance came along, the role reversed once more and the world became West-dominated. Understanding the process, then we should turn to the issue of speed. Change happens in an exponentially faster rate nowadays. The factors that determine them are the diversity of ideas and the presence of a catalyst. Therefore societies that are more rational and less dominated by an institution would be faster to recognize the need to discard and reinvent. The catalysts of change are often crisis and conflict. The world wars had opened the path to the rise of republicanism in Europe, decolonization of Asia and Africa, as well as other nationalist movements. The losing side in a war does not always lose their heritage however. Often they are reinterpreted and became accepted widely by the winning side. The ideas of Zen Buddhism became widely known in the US after WW2 when it was reinterpreted from the focus of preserving social in Japan to a spiritual alternative to rigid Christian morality. In practice, the process is closer to the thesis-antithesis Hegelian pendulum. Heritage with irrelevant parts could be transformed into a different interpretation that is relevant and useful for economic benefits like tourist-attracting cremation ritual in Bali. It used to be more gruesome when it was customary for widows to join the pyre of their deceased husbands. Once it was transformed into a tourist attraction, this part of the tradition ceases to be practiced. Irrelevant institutions could also be repurposed for highlighting national identity such in the case of modern constitutional royals whose throne is a disguise of the republic in practice. Reinterpretation and repurposing of old traditions and institutions are however not the biggest issues of the process. The biggest issue of the process is that the catalyzing conflict is often violent and bring with it casualties. Even reasonably peaceful ones such as the civil rights movement resulted in the death of the freedom riders. In more violent revolutions, such as China’s cultural revolutions, the toll numbers in millions. Conflict is inevitable, but the damage could be minimized by scaling it down. Through making the issue better recognized by both sides in a manner that is rational and civilized, the cost of conflict could be lowered. This is hard to achieve because naturally we are not accustomed to talk about conflicting perceptions in a civilized manner, especially about inherited ideas and perceptions that form our identity. We either don’t talk about it at all, or blindly defend our point and detaching completely fromform the rationale. Our heritage brings with it our value and esteem, and therefore it is really hard to admit its shortcomings. However, the alternative to communicating and challenging them is violent and damaging, and might even trigger a planet-wide suicide by nuclear war. Our heritage means so much to us. It dictates how we live, our esteem, and our values. Sometimes we have to ignore or reinterpret them to continue the survival of our species, and the process is often by violent conflict. We must acknowledge that our heritage is only a tool for advancing civilization and therefore subject to reform. Learning to talk about conflicts in civility and reason is key to prevent the conflict from escalating to the point of irreversible damage.

Mixed Roots in Transient Times

The fabric of the dress was soft to the touch, light in the wind, and always had a certain joyfulness about it. The bright rainbow colours interwove to form flowers fluttering in the wind. The sabrina neckline paired with a blue cardigan and buttons down the back finished the look. It was quaint, simple, and belonged to my mother. I often imagine her twirling in it in her high school years, laughing with friends and dancing to ABBA. I decided to wear it to a family gathering in Jakarta, thinking it was a great occasion to show off the dress. My eyes locked with one of my aunties from across the room - she's serving lontong and sayur lodeh for everyone, and I soon moved to the front of the queue. "Apa kabar?" I asked. "Great! How are you?" She answered back in English. Peeved, I attempted to switch back into Indonesian, "baik sekali, gimana Tante Wisma and Irma?". Blankly, she smiles, "they're great - happy to see you here!" At this point, my bachelor’s degree majoring in Indonesian Studies, the year I spent living in Yogyakarta, and my constant (failed) attempts to add sambal to my KFC over the last 10 years felt redundant. I can't even convince my aunty to believe that I am one of them. All my life, I've always felt more Indonesian, but my skin colour, accent, and appearance say otherwise. At first glance, you'd think I'm just your average Australian: bule, with brown hair and hazel eyes. I often find myself saying, “Ibuku dari Indonesia” (my mother is Indonesian) to legitimise myself - I am one of you! I am Indonesian! But when I say, “Bapakku dari Serbia” (my father is Serbian), I am not. I am ‘exotic’, ‘interesting’, ‘unique. In other words, not Indonesian. Explaining this third culture experience has all become very well-versed for me now. This familiar, bittersweet feeling sits painfully on my shoulders as I maneuver through the squints and uncomfortable glances pinned at me. I do understand why myself and other mixed-race kids are looked upon with interest. Somehow our parents went against the cultural expectation of marrying within their race and religion and looked past the unfamiliarities of other cultures. To be a product of such dual cultures, I find myself in limbo, 'othered' by each culture, trying to navigate the social norms of each community. I can still vividly remember my very first visit to Indonesia as a five year old: walking out of Soekarno-Hatta Airport and being overwhelmed by the smell of burnt rubbish and harsh humidity - I loved it, sparking my curiosity with the country. Fast forward to my twenty-year-old self going on exchange to Yogyakarta and embracing university life and nongkrong terus. One particular student commented that my mixed background was like gado-gado, a traditional Indonesian salad of slightly boiled, blanched or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, fried tofu, and tempeh with a peanut sauce dressing. Tantalising. I’d laugh, say that I love eating myself *ba-dum-tisk* and move on to other topics. There’s just something about Indonesia that has always made it feel like a home away from home. Language makes for a great tool to hide the fact that I'm not completely Indonesian, but does include some challenges. My thick Australian accent are not quite able to capture the rolled "r"s prevalent in bahasa Indonesia, nor does my lisp aid in this plight. Sometimes I can only catch every other word my Gojek (Indonesia’s version of Uber, but for motorbikes) driver says. I hide my lack of knowledge with expressions like sih, kok and kan to sound like a local. And just when I feel like I have the culture slightly under control, an ibu-ibu (Indonesian aunty) throws me a question in Javanese (a major dialect of Indonesia) and I'm back in unknown waters. Now, this is not to say I haven’t been interested in my Serbian background - I’ve just never had the chance to fully embrace it. I haven’t been there since I was 3 years old, and my vocabulary doesn't extend far beyond "kako ci" (how are you) and "lakcu notch" (goodnight). I never quite fit in going to Serbian Sunday school, confused by the little idiosyncrasies the other Serb kids my age threw around. I’m a splitting image of my dad, but only a splinter of his heritage. And so, ensues a conflict – in heart, belonging, and being. I will confess: there is a genuine worry in my heart that I won't be able to pass on this heritage to my own children (especially given I'm not even sure what to make of my own background). I almost feel like no matter what I do, it will never be enough. My first language was English and I grew up in Australia; one year’s worth of study in Indonesia is little in comparison to my mother’s entire childhood and young adult years there. Her background is a door into a world I so badly want to grasp, but I consistently struggle to find the key to unlock it. No matter how many times I’ll silently shout to my aunty, ‘I am one of you, ACCEPT ME’, nothing I do will change her mind. I’ve learnt it’s not my place to convince her but rather know that I’ve done what I can to bring myself closer to my culture with the best intentions at heart. It’s okay to not be one hundred percent into sambal (I only like a little bit of it!). It’s okay to not perfectly understand Jakarta slang. It’s okay to be somewhere in the middle, because my Indonesian experience is just one piece of this bigger jigsaw puzzle I’m trying to piece together. I’ve realised that the pieces of my heritage and self that aren’t meant to necessarily fit perfectly. They’re instead made to co-exist with one another, somehow achieving harmony. This midi dress once owned by my mother, whilst plain at first glance, speaks volumes. It may be tattered, worn through laughs and potentially tears, from the last 30 years, but it’s a symbol of what can transcend time. Culture doesn’t need to remain static – it’s a tapestry of experiences, people you meet, and the books you read. And so I'll continue to wear this midi dress, passing it on to my own daughter one day, knowing that heritage is hers to shape, hers to keep.

Who Remembers Your Name

Legacy, what is a legacy? We have all had that thought at some point in our lives. We stop whatever we are doing at that moment, gaze out the window into the bustling sounds of the city muted behind glass panels and wonder to ourselves to what end is this struggle for? It is human to long for the knowledge that we matter, that we fulfil some purpose larger than ourselves for the benefit of whomever it may concern, in the hopes that our deeds will carry on long after we are gone. And after what appears to be a few minutes of existential dread we shrug our shoulders, bringing us back to the present moment, and carry on about our day. Repeat ad nauseam. The question of our own legacy is a question that many of us have yet to answer for ourselves, and ultimately many of us tend to avoid it entirely, not because we do not care, but because we do not know how to resolve it. This is the very question that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the artistic genius behind the award-winning musical Hamilton, intended to address. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda endeavoured to tell the tale of how a bastard and orphan, staring at death’s door before he was even 10 years old, managed to become one of America’s Founding Fathers. Instead of shying away from the idea of a legacy, Hamilton embraced it to its full extent. Hamilton—both the show and the man himself—eases the ultimate question into our minds; how will we be remembered when we are gone? Who will tell our stories? It is an abnormality, in no negative sense, to persist in some form over time and outlive yourself. Even the people who transcended normalcy and live a life a little bit more interesting than the average person are as easily lost to time as the rest of us. One would need to accomplish some spectacular feat, be it in technological breakthroughs, social innovation, fighting for some grandiose cause, to capture the eyes of history. And even then, they too will succumb and fade given time. Hamilton was obsessed with leaving behind his legacy, and for a time it was his sole driving motivation to carry on living. Early in his life, he experienced first-hand how fleeting and cheap life is in the face of this brutally unforgiving world. His father left him and his mother to their fates before he was even ten years of age, taking with him everything that they needed to survive. Not long afterwards both he and his mother fell gravely ill; a predicament which his mother did not survive. Yet he braved on, working for and saving whatever money and knowledge he can get his hands on, which helped set him sailing towards mainland America into the heart of the Revolution in 1776. He dove head-first into the war for independence, desperate for recognition in the battlefield. It wasn’t even enough for him as he was appointed as George Washington’s aide; he wanted to be on the frontlines with troops to command, and he was willing to die for a chance at glory. He begged to be deployed in the frontlines multiple times over for a reckless strive for acclamation; something that put him at odds with Washington himself on one occasion. However, as Hamilton forged close relationships with the people he would cherish the most in his life as the war dragged on, his drive for greatness remained, but the motivation behind it changed ever so drastically. In 1780, he met his wife Elizabeth Schuyler, and in what seemed to be an instantaneous moment, he had found his family once more. After the war, he was suddenly faced with the realisation that he, and millions of other people, were caught in the afterbirth of a nation. And now with a family by his side, he yet again braved on with the hopes of laying a strong enough foundation for the generations who will one day be in his shoes. He involved himself with the drafting and ultimately the signing of the Constitution, he wrote 51 of the 85 essays defending the Constitution to the public, he designed a financial plan which propelled his country from financial crisis, he did whatever he could to strengthen the pillars upon which his nation and its people rested. In the end, he witnessed death finally caught up to him after so many years during the duel with his once close friend Aaron Burr. And he watched with a satisfied smile on his face. It is easy to perhaps see Hamilton’s story in an idealised light; after all, it isn’t every day that one would be among many directly involved with the formation of an entire society and way of life. However, it is important to note that in spite of his grand tale, he was not so different than any of us in more ways than one. He fought to survive and escape squalor and death, as any of us would have done. He fought in pursuit of something that he believed would make his life just a little bit better, as any of us would have done. He lived in dedication for himself, his country, and the family he loved dearly with the hopes that he would return to them the support that they have given him, as any of us would have done. And that is precisely the point. As Hamilton laid on his bed dying after having lost a duel against his once close friend, he harboured no vengeance against him, he did not lament of his early death. He held his family close to him; his children, and his wife Eliza, and wished for them to carry on and live their lives to the fullest. Leaving behind a legacy, in all its romanticised definition, for a sense of validation should not be the end goal of our lives. If there is anything to be taken away from the life of Alexander Hamilton, it is the realisation that the notions of leaving behind a legacy is all but a distraction to the greater prize obscured behind it: a life well lived. If you can look into yourself, to the smiling faces of your friends and family, and to those people who you cherish and care about and say to yourself that you’re satisfied, then being remembered is merely an added bonus. The dreams you’re striving for, the lasting relationships you’ve forged, they are all part of what makes a fulfilling life. A life well lived can only, in turn, resonate deeply in everyone whose lives you’ve touched, and you will find that when your time comes, you will be secure in the knowledge that you’ve done all you can and all you’ve wanted, as Hamilton did in his final moments. The truth is that there is no guarantee that the memory of you as a person will persist after you’re gone, and you have no control over who gets to remember you either. But the impact you’ve made on the lives of the people you care about will carry on with them, and the hope they will bring to the people important to them will live on in turn. Eliza lived another 50 years, and with the help of the people whose lives Hamilton touched, she established the first private orphanage in New York. She helped raise hundreds of children and pass on to them the hope that her husband had given her many years before. This is the message that Hamilton wanted to show the world. A reminder that you should not shy away from the idea of forging your own legacy. But you can only accomplish such a goal when you are living a life created by yourself, for yourself. Legacy is a consequence of a life well lived.