“Humanizing” Our Writing


“Easy reading is damn hard writing” Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Difficult reading is always a form of the writer’s ego to show off his credibility, which is not needed by the readers” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi

This post has been discussed in one of my classes in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. It turns out that I even fall in love with writing. “The more I read, the more easier how to understand my writing is. The more I discuss with open-minded people, the more I can feel what the magnificent use of writing is” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi, A Fulbright Scholar of English

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To those of you who love to write, putting your ideas into writing would seem to be easy to do, especially when you have gained a lot of experiences in writing and jotting down your ideas into a meaningful piece of text. However, sometimes, before writing something, please ask yourself these questions, “Why should I write? What is it for?”

The questions of “Where are my readers? Who are they?” are connected with “Why should I write? What is it for?” These four questions are actually connected with the essence of the purpose of why we write. This is where the process of humanizing writing starts. From a novice writer into an advanced one, readers are always involved in certain ways. Peter Elbow, a distinguish Professor of English in the United States has stated that someone may write well, even without a teacher. It does not mean that the person does not need a teacher. What it actually means is that the teacher is only a facilitator. The one who should write more is the person him or herself. Understanding grammar well is not enough if someone wants to write well for the readers, except for him or herself per se. If you could answer the two questions above, you will have a sense of to whom your writing will be intended. In other words, your writing will have a purpose. Eventually, your writing will likely be successful.

Therefore, writing something complicated by using an easier written expression, help the readers understand our writing well. Briefly, specific words are for specific readers. As Georges Gusdorf mentions in his book, Speaking (La Parole), translated by Paul T. Brockelman in 1965, p.44, “…language cannot justify anything and everything. It is up to each person to assure the responsibility for his own language by searching for the ‘right word’”. Words will work better if the words can work well in the mind of the readers. If the readers do not have the same meaning as what the writer perceive about the word, the use of the word will create chaos in the mind of the readers. Eventually, what happens is, your writing becomes useless and meaningless. You don’t want that happens, do you? Or, after you wrote something, and suddenly said, “That’s it! I am done!” Is that all? In fact, writing is more than that.

What about writing for public? Writing for a larger audience? If you are a native speaker of English, what about writing for second language speakers of English? The specific “form” of language is used for specific “purposes”; even English has its specific form that is known as English for Specific Purposes. Namely, there are several words that can only be used within the context of business. For instance, “The bank has set its interest rates”. The word “interest” here is not the same as it is found in, “She interests me”. Consequently, we need to adhere that the words we use in expressing our ideas should be properly chosen for the readers. If you speak or write something interesting in your mind, but your listeners or readers do not understand what you are saying, the communication turns into a deathly hollow. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee mentioned in his writing Why Billinguals are Smarter in New York Times, “Nobody ever doubt the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?” Then, the question is, “Will a writer’s work be read if the writer writes with words that people rarely use?”

To make it brief, it can be stated in this simple phrase, “Think deeply; write simply”. Whatever we write in our writings, always consider the readers. Making our thoughts easier is a lot more useful than making it complicated for people. In this digital world, writing has become a life-style. Readers are the people whom our writings will take us to the next level. Humanizing writing sounds a pretty good thing to do by everyone, if they are in need of being understood well in this enchanting world.

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“A student without having an ability to show his or her credibility in an appropriate occasions will look like never learning anything” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi 

Attending India Night 2012 in SIUE – “Sanskriti: One Nation Different Cultures”


The Symbol of God in India. The name of the God is Ganesha. Based on Hindu epistemology, Ganesha is the God of Knowledge and Cleverness. I saw this image when I came to the event. The students of SIUE created this image by using colored rice and the rice was put orderly on the table so that the guests can see it directly.

I went to this event on April 7, 2012, together with my host family, Joyce and John, and other friends. The event was started at 6:00 pm until 09:00 pm in Morris University Center of SIUE. I was invited to attend this event because it was something new to me. This event was organized and performed by Indian Students Association at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Besides, this event is such a great time for me to see and know how cultures of India look like. Although I have seen a lot of Bollywood movies that might be useful to watch how people of India represent their cultures through that movie, it does not mean that I have seen the culture directly. Since I was invited by my host family, then, of course, I decided to attend the event.

In this event, I saw many different kinds of cultural performances and cuisine from India. The foods served in India night were so delicious. The menu itself was various. Some of the foods served were Tandoori Butter  Naan, Butter Chicken, Aloo Mutte, Mango Lassi, Condiment Tray, Jeera Rice, Chicken Kebab, Carrot Halwa, and Mixed Salad. I took all these foods to my plate in order to know how the foods taste. Yes, after I ate, it tasted really good. I stopped eating the foods because I felt so full in my stomach. While I was eating the foods, Soorya Performing Arts from St. Louis played some of Indian musics. The musics made the atmosphere of the dinner felt nice. The atmosphere made me felt as if I was in India. I did not understand the lyrics, but the music itself was familiar in my ear. That was enjoyable enough. 🙂

From all activities performed in the event, there were three activities that I enjoyed watching. The activities were Fashion Show, Garba dance, and Classical Performance (semi classical and folk dance) choreographed by Smitha Rajan. For the Fashion Show, there were some wedding dresses performed by Indian Students. Some of the wedding dress were those from Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajashtani, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Christian, and Muslim. For the Garba dance, there were some SIUE students performing the compilation between modern and classic dance of India. This dance showed the image of happiness between young people of India. In the classical performance, there were three little cute girls performing the dance in such beautiful ways. To my mind, the dance showed how the God and Goddess in India, based on the mythology of Hinduism, were working together in keeping this earth in peace. The outfit of the three girls was cute, too.

Overall, my impression after attending and watching the India Night event was that India was such a huge nation in terms of its cultural tradition. Even though the event itself was only performing some of Indian cultures, attending the India Night 2012 was fascinating for me. Actually, there were still many more cultures of India that the students could perform, but considering that the event was conducted by students, the event was done well. At the very least, I knew that the event shaped my mind that each nation in the world has its own cultures. Such cultures make the world rich, especially in its diversity and multicultural perspectives. To keep and make the cultures last longer and be transformed from one generation to the next generation is a very crucial thing that the people of a nation, such as India, should do.

The world is simply beautiful by its diversity and colorful view – Syayid Sandi Sukandi, April 8, 2012

 

The Beauty I feel when I am being a Muslim (March 7, 2012)


Well, people may have different point of view in terms of how they believe in something, especially believing in something known as “God”. I was actually born from a family where my parents adore Islam and Allah SWT.  I am an Indonesian as well. Yes, what a big deal to be an Indonesian, right? Living in a country in which people all over the world view Indonesia as a Muslim country, but there is something I need to mention: we actually do not view our country as such. However, as an individual who is living and staying in Indonesia, as I can tell, what they say about Indonesia is correct. A lot of people in Indonesia are Muslims and they believe in Allah SWT. The major problem that causes such ‘dispute’ among cultural experts, political figures, or even scientists all-over the world in viewing Indonesia, especially those that are seen in the news, merely due to the multiculturalism that Indonesia has. I believe that you will agree with me that each child who is born into this earth would have his or her point of view when he or she is growing up as someone. Looking at the world around him or her will be the way the child learns or understands why such and such chaos might happen.

Now, I currently stay and live in the United States, pursuing my degree in English. The institution in which I am actively enrolling as a student is Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I can tell you, this is a nice and good university for me. Not only to study but also to live are things that make this campus interesting. I have not often traveled around the United States to see how beautiful or great other universities in the United States. However, I can tell one thing, feeling like being myself in a foreign country is such a huge thing to have. People always say, “be yourself”; however, sometimes, what I see and perceive is that some people tend to be someone else in order to feel secure within him or herself and with other people around him or her. This is not my principle. Wherever I go, I always be myself. That “myself” is being a Muslim. A friend of mine who is living in Indonesia asked me this questions: “Is that difficult to be a Muslim in the United States?”

Honestly, to answer such question is such a great task for me to do. The basic thing, I mean, for that answer, is to say, “no”. It is not difficult. I was just wondering why such question came to me as if I had a difficult times. Perhaps, what the person who was asking had in mind was that I will have terrible life in the United States. Then, I think, this post might be a way for me to write about this. I divide the view for this thing into two aspects. The aspects are before I came to the United States and while I am staying in the United States.

To be honest, when I was still in Indonesia or before I came to the United States, I viewed the United States as such a “huge and developed” country, or, roughly, an advanced one. Actually, I did not know the person who used this term before, but I am sure that this person might be an educated one. Then, I searched for information about the United States. Again and again, as I could also see as well as in my country, too; I often heard and read cases like racism, Muslims under-attack by some people, suicide, murders, or even so many other crimes that happened in the United States. I thought that that was what the news was meant to be. No wonder why I was a “little nervous” to come to the United States. I realize that I was a Muslim, but will the cops capture me as a terrorist while, in fact, I had nothing to do with that? There were many questions came over my head for several days before my departure to the United States. It was exactly at the end of August 2011, I flew from Narita to Los Angeles. That was indeed my first time flight for the international one. “What a great step!”, I said to myself.

Days and days passed so quickly. After living for several months in the United States, but, of course, in a small town, I had experienced having lots of types of foods, friendly faces of American students as well as faces of international students at SIUe, and welcoming faculty and staffs. At this stage, I did not feel so many problems with my religious identity as a Muslim, though I actually stay in an area in which many people are mostly Christian. In spite of having this difference, I honestly can tell that I do not have problems with any other personal matters. I could still do may five-times prayers a day and I could do Friday prayer with Muslim friends from other countries, like Turkey, the US,Nepal, and India. Then, if I relate this perspective with the question above, I would say, “There is a beauty I feel when I am being a Muslim”. Therefore, the answer of the question above is “no”. However, this is only in my perspective. Perspectives of other people might be different than mine anyway.

What about the beauty? What is that?

People here, especially the young ones, they get drunk by consuming alcohol, though not so many of them. Sometimes, they feel “cool” when they get drunk. For me, that never solves problems. That is just a matter of life-style. As a Muslim, I would not want to consume any alcoholic drink. And, until now, I am still fine. The sad part is that I do not have lost of “good friends” to have because of being “different with surroundings”. By avoiding consuming alcoholic drinks, I am saving myself and my money as well. I do not drive in the US; therefore, this would be a perfect one for me to stay healthy. Walking an hour a day is a good thing to do in order to avoid having the problem of heart attack. So, at this point, the beauty is like a king. I could control myself. It has been taught in Islam that I should control myself, not other stuffs control me over myself, especially over my mind.

Then, who does not like having sex? Sex is fun. Is that true? Well, that’s true. As a Muslim, it is “harram” or prohibited to have sex with opposite gender before getting married. I am sure I could see that there are a lot of sexy girls out there, wanting to be touched and grabbed their “pants”, but, that does not make me as a “man” if I do that. Feeling sexy is okay, but showing the sexiness to other people is another case. I have been taught in Islam that I may only touch a woman when I marry her. If I do not marry her, then, I am not allowed to touch her. To appreciate the prettiness of a girl is okay, but to possess that prettiness without good “way” is not acceptable in any way. There goes a reason of why Muslim women should wear hijjab or veil in order to cover their hair. Women are such beautiful creatures that God has created for men. Men have sexual desire to women. Therefore, if women could not control their appearances, or being sexy all the time, then, the problem that could happen is that the men will view women in the “sexual eyes”. No wonder why there are so many women become victims of raping. In Islam, this is bad because both will be equally guilty. At this point, the beauty that I feel when I am being a Muslim is that I have control over me. People may wear anything they want, but it is me who has responsibility to control things that I have seen. If the appearance that I have seen is beautiful, I would say, “Masya Allah” (Praise the Lord); if the appearance of a woman whom I have seen is bad, I would say, “Astaghfirullah” (Oh Allah, please forgive me). Meanwhile, if I have seen women who are almost “naked” in front of me, I would say, “Astaghfirullah” (the same as above) and “Naudzubillah” (Oh God, please forgive me). At last, who would want to be naked in public? They may want to do that, but as an educated person, I will never want to perform myself “naked” or even a half “naked” in public. When I am naked, the image of my body will be public consumption. This is the core of why women should wear hijjab. They are created in such a beautiful body. It is the times for women to be protected from sexual abuse. I think, Islam has this perspective, which is protecting women from such matters and protecting the men from doing such matters.

What about food? Well, this one is also controversial among other people in the US. I do not eat pork or pig. Eating meat that contains pork is a sin. Then, how if I eat something, due to my hungriness (no other foods to eat) and eat that food without knowing the ingredients of the foods? Let’s say, the food contained pork and I did not know that? If there are no other foods, (remember, no other foods), I can still eat it. If there are still many options of food, then, eating pork is a last choice and even become “harram”. Islam is making things easier for me. I could stay healthy, and in the same time, I could notice things that I want to eat with things that I may not eat. I am the king of my life. I would not easily follow what other people do just because those things look fun to eat. To me, this is a big discipline. Islam teaches me to have my own freedom.

All in all, as a Muslim, I would say that having good discipline and good responsibility in terms of things that I see, drink, or eat are the very basic things to do as a Muslim. For some people, it is hard. However, it is not as hard as they could imagine. The point is that I learn how to take control over myself. We cannot control other people, right? Therefore, controlling ourself will be a good thing to do before we control others. In fact, as Qur’an said, “every human is a leader, and every leader will have responsibility”. Isn’t that great?

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To my brothers, Robby and Rina, hope you grow better and better than I do. 🙂