Minutes of Life

Since August 23rd, the day when my dear friend Dicky passed away , I have been trying very hard to think why I felt so moved by his sudden departure.

As time goes by, I find the reason for my deep grief. Dicky always took time to greet me, here in my weblog or through emails. He dropped me a line or two, posted comments on my blog or sent emails. Such a ‘little thing’ I realize now is important in every relationship. Dicky showed me the true meaning of ‘care’. Email, SMS, a buzz on Yahoo messenger, comments on weblog, are meaningful in nurturing friendship.

Life goes on. Yesterday my family and I went to Geneva, a city nearby Dekalb where we live. My wife went to a shoe store looking for pairs of winter shoes for the kids and her (summer is nearing its end, fall is just a few weeks away and soon we will have that cold winter again ). Meanwhile, I indulged myself in a movie and CD store, one block away from that shoe store.

America is a heaven for book lovers (and students for sure). Here, we can buy cheap used books online or at used book stores. There is a famous store in Chicago that only sells used books. It’s called Powell Book Store, and it is so huge.

I guess, the same is true for movie and CD lovers (well, I am not talking about pirated DVDs or CDs for which Indonesia earns its notoriety). Here, I may find (original) used DVDs or CDs as cheap as four dollars, sometime less. Although used, these DVDs/ CDs are still in a very good shape. The pages of used books, in my experience of buying them online, are usually still crispy, just like new.

In that store in Geneva, I bought a CD of R.E.M, the used one. Why would I spend 25 dollars or more, while I could have it for only five or six dollars? Perhaps the cover and box of a CD consume a substantial part of its production cost. Well, who needs the cover or the box these days? Insert the CD into your laptop, burn or store it in iTunes, and forget the cover and the box.

It’s The Best of R.E.M.: In Time (1998-2003). It’s quite an old CD though. I looked for it because when I was in Jakarta two weeks ago, I watched the R.E.M. live show on TV. If I remember it correctly, it was on Star TV, right after one of the Rockstar Supernova shows. Both were great shows, I enjoyed them.

In the CD I just bought, I found all songs played by R.E.M. in that particular live show: including Losing My Religion, Electrolyte, and Everybody Hurts. The band provided the story about the creative process of each song: how they wrote it, how long did it take to produce it etc. I was amazed to find out how easy it was for them to create Losing My Religion, the greatest song of R.E.M. (he…he…in this particular case, I am glad that I have the cover of the CD).

This is what Peter Buck of R.E.M. wrote about Losing My Religion : “the music was written in five minutes; the first time the band played it, it fell into place perfectly. Michael had lyrics within the hour, and while playing the song for the third or fourth time, I found myself incredibly moved to hear the vocals in conjunction with the music…if only all songwriting was this easy!” (For a student like myself: if only all paper writing is that easy….he…he).

Perhaps, when they created that song, they were in an atmosphere about which Malcolm Gladwell was talking in his book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. It’s all already in the air (or in their heads), the band lassoed it, thanks to the good chemistry among the members of the band. As a comparison, another R.E.M.’s good song, Electrolyte, took one year to be finished. Started to write the song in 1995, the band was only able to finalize it in 1996.

Five minutes changed everything for R.E.M., from a band in the minor league into one of the greatest on the world stage. Only five minutes. Strangely enough, when I read the story of that song, my memory came back to my dear friend, Dicky. He seemed to treasure every minute of his life. He passed away after Subuh prayer, and on that very day he was also fasting (he had his ‘sahur’, performed Subuh prayer, then went back to sleep and he’s gone).

Paulo Coelho, in The Alchemist that I read about two years ago, says that there is no such thing as ‘coincidence’ in our universe. Everything is well connected and well designed.

We had lunch at an oriental restaurant today. In oriental restaurants, the cashier will give costumers fortune cookies when they are ready to check out.

I did not eat the fortune cookies we got from the restaurant until a while ago, just before I decided to write this post. As usual, I found a piece of paper slipped in the fortune cookies with a message written on it. I rarely read what the paper in fortune cookies says, but this time I did. It says: “His existence contributes positively to mankind.” On the flip side of the paper, there is a Chinese word “li-wu”, which means ‘gift’. It’s not a coincidence that I got the fortune cookies with such a message, or was it?

Once again, my mind came back to him. Dicky was a gift in that his sudden but beautiful departure has taught those who know him one thing: always treasure every single minute of our life, in every way we can. Dicky did it, although frankly I am not sure I can.


7 Tanggapan to “Minutes of Life”

  1. abgaduh Says:

    In an odd way, yes, Dicky’s passing moved me as well — even if I’ve only known him for, I think, a total of three comments on my and your blog. I don’t even know him personally.

    I still couldn’t figure out why. Perhaps it’s just this impression when I saw his picture on his blog: “He seems like a nice guy”… The mystery lingers on.

  2. Handoyo Says:

    inspiring story lip, thanks

  3. mutiara Says:

    salam kenal Pak Philips,

    Pertama tahu tentang kepergian Dicky adalah dari Mbak Dina, saya langsung mutusin keluar dari IALF (di situ gak boleh aktifin handphone) dan nelfon kesana-sini dengan panik buat konfirmasi. Satu hal yang gak biasa kulakukan untuk orang yang cuma selewat saya kenal.

    Hmmm…mungkin ini gak penting, tapi waktu ngobrol (termasuk pas terakhir) Dicky sering nyebut nama Bapak…kayaknya Bapak bener2 berarti buat dia…saya dapat kesan begitu. “Mas Philips dari CSIS tahu gak, Mut? aku banyak dinasehatin ama dia…” trus ntar dia bisa ngulangn kalimat yang sama saat nelpon di kesempatan yang berbeda. Tentu aja tahu siapa Pak Philips karena dulu beberapa kali saya pakai tulisannya as reference (trims ya, Pak), dan dia akan tambah semangat cerita tentang dukungan Bapak untuk dia.

    Kemarin akhirnya dapet kontak dengan keluarganya, dapet alamat makam dan rumahnya. Insya Allah, secepatnya saya ingin kesana…apalagi saya ngerasa masi utang ngobrol ma dia. Waktu itu saya bener2 janji mau ngobrol ma dia keesokan harinya, tapi pas dia nelpon gak keterima…

    Di hari kepergian DIcky, di bis dalam perjalanan pulang saya nonton berita korupsilah, perang libanonlah…kayaknya memang dia pergi ke tempat yang lebih tenang… Allah terlalu sayang sama Dicky..saya pikir begitu…

    Semoga Dicky beristirahat dengan tenang.
    Trims ya, Pak.

  4. the writer Says:

    hi philips,
    I also believe nothing is coincidence,
    life its a secret plot.. :))
    may your friend Dicky, rest in peace..

  5. James Says:

    I love you :D

  6. philips vermonte Says:

    Bung James, are you a friend of Dicky?

  7. Ari PL Says:

    Hi Philips….?
    Ini gua kapan pulang ke Indonesia….?

    Ari PL

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