The Power of Stories

“The truly unique feature of our language is…the ability to transit information about things that do not exist at all. As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched, or smelled.”
– Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Once upon a time, we were not the only human species that roamed the earth. We had our bigger, stronger brothers and sisters that fall under the Homo Neanderthal species, we also had our smaller brothers and sisters in the eastern part of Indonesia, Flores. But in the end, it is only our species, Homo Sapiens, that survived the test of time until today.


“The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.”
-Yuval Noah Harari

It is our species’ unique ability to tell stories that left us as the only human species in the world.

According to the Replacement theory of human existence, Homo Sapiens beat all other human species in the classic story story of survival of the fittest, simply because we are the only one that has the ability to tell stories.

Such is the power of stories that it unites us in a shared narrative and provides us with a shared experience without ever having to meet the people we are sharing it with.

We are all connected to each other through one sort of narrative or another. Some of the most powerful stories in human history is the story of a higher being or religion. Throughout history, we have seen the power of this shared story of beliefs both in good and bad ways. The story of heaven and hell in the afterlife has led people to forego food, sexual desires and even kill others.

People used to have to meet one another to pass on the stories orally. As humanity develops and written language is found, we put our stories down on tree balks, rock tablets, papers, and shared our stories through these mediums. In today’s digital world, sharing stories has never been easier. With a single click of a button, you can share your story with someone on the other side of the globe.

A homeless man in Philadelphia, U.S, gave his last USD 20 to a stranded couple so they can buy gas. The couple was so touched and inspired that they decided to share the story that connects them with this man through a digital platform called GoFundMe. Soon enough, the story connected them with 14,000 more people around the world who then put together over USD 400,000 to get this homeless man off the street.

As we established the power of stories, the next question would be: How do we make our stories stand out and gain the attention of those we are intending?

Every day, we are living through a sea of stories –be it our own stories, stories of those around us, and when we turn to our phones or other blue screens in our lives, stories of billions of others. With the immense size of stories out there, what would draw people to your stories? What do they need to find in your story that would make them want to share it to their circle of friends and families?

First of all, a story needs to fulfill one (or more) of these purposes:
1. Informational
Does your story offer new information that is important to your audience? If so, they may want to share this information to others in their circle that may need the same information.

2. Entertaining
Are you making your audience laugh? Or smile? Or even cry? If your audience can emotionally connect to your story, they are likely to share it with those around them.

3. Enlightening
Are you offering a new perspective on something? Or a fresh look on something seemingly mundane? If your story enlightens your audience, they too would want to enlighten those around them

Better yet, does your story serve more than one of the three main purposes?

Everyone has a story. Thus, everyone is a storyteller by nature. But how to tell your stories to connect with others and for your stories to make an impact on the lives of others, is a craft that needs to be practiced.

So go out and tell your story! Share it with your friends, share it with your family and share it with us too!


[1]Replacement Theory is the opposing view of Interbreeding Theory. According to this theory, Sapiens and other humans had different anatomies, and most likely different mating habits and body odors. Thus, there would be little to no sexual interest to interbreed with other human species.


Logging threatens Indonesia’s biodiversity

A tenth of the world’s tropical rainforests lie in Indonesia, but their fragile and diverse ecosystems are under threat.

It is estimated that 60% of the total forest cover has been destroyed over the past century, with the bulk of the damage done since the 1970s.

In the 1980s, forest degradation took place at a rate of one million hectares a year, while the 1990s saw annual degradation reaching 1.7 million hectares.
“Our deforestation rate at the moment is 2.4 million hectares per year,” Togu Manurung from Forest Watch Indonesia said.

This ranks the depletion of Indonesia’s rainforests as the fastest in the world.
Destructive logging
According to Indro Sugiarto, a researcher at the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL), the largest contributor to the current rate of deforestation is illegal logging. “So far, illegal logging is responsible
for some 75% of the damage done to Indonesia’s forests,” he said during a press conference.

“I think we have to stop blaming it all on just the illegal logging and start realising that both legal and illegal logging are responsible for our environmental destruction”

While Togu Manurung of Forest Watch Indonesia and Ade Fadli of Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) agree with Sugiarto, they also point out that legal logging has also played an undeniable part in the forests’

“Over cutting has been a regular practice for the legal loggers,” Togu Manurung told Aljazeera.
Fadli said that over-cutting activities have left the forest devastated and no longer able to perform its environmental role.
“I think we have to stop blaming it all on just the illegal logging and start realising that both legal and illegal logging are responsible for our environmental destruction. Therefore both should be referred to as ‘destructive logging’,” Fadli said.

Across the border rich in a variety of commercial woods, Indonesia’s forests have long been the focus of many big business ventures. Deep in the forests of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua islands, the wood is illicitly harvested and the timber cut into long planks that are bought by traders in Malaysia and Singapore. After being further cut, sanded, moulded and grooved, the timber is then sold around the world? as flooring in China and Japan, office stationery in Europe and furniture in the United States.

In a recent press conference, President Megawati blamed the rise in destructive logging on the increasing demand for timber on the international market, the increasing use of wooden furniture and the rapid expansion of the wood processing industry.

Koes Saparjadi, a forest ministry official, said that Kalimantan alone loses at least 1000 truckloads of illegal logs every week or about 10,000 cubic metres in the last two months. “Those trucks are certainly carrying logs from our national parks, including Betung Kerihun National Park on the border of Indonesia and Malaysia. The trucks easily pass through our country’s check points to Malaysia,” Saparjadi told reporters.

He said the illegal logs were mainly those locally known as Meranti logs
or lawn wood and estimated losses to the Indonesian economy of one billion rupiah ($117,000) per week. According to official data from Indonesia’s forest ministry, Indonesia is losing 51 million cubic metres of timber a year through illegal logging, or an estimated 31 trillion rupiah ($3.5 billion).
Multinational agreements
The increasing freight of illegal logs across Indonesia’s borders has forced the government to approach neighbouring countries with proposed multilateral agreements to safeguard its natural resources.
“It has become an issue that is not only of concern but also threatens our lives”
Emil Salim, Former environment minister Koes Saparyadi of the forestry ministry said that officials would soon leave for South Korea to talk about a possible agreement to prevent illegal Indonesian timber from entering South Korea.

Last year, the government signed an agreement with Malaysia whose plywood industry relies primarily on illegal Indonesian logs.
In addition, other agreements were signed with the United Kingdom and the European Union to boost efforts to protect the forests and curb illegal logging activities.

After green activists blasted President Megawati for failing to even mention environmental issues in her last annual report, she recently announced that her administration had drawn up a comprehensive environmental programme. It includes plans for the eradication of illegal logging, fighting forest fires, as well as rehabilitation, conservation and restructuring in the legal forestry sector. Environmental Effects “What is overlooked by the market is the benefit that people get from the forest, as an absorber of CO2, a natural air filter, as water catchment and on dwellings,” Manurung said.

The loss of Indonesia’s forests has contributed to a number of natural disasters that have plagued the country over the past few years including this year’s prolonged drought and deadly landslides. “The prolonged dry season would not have caused such atrocity if we had had a more balanced ecosystem,” Djaelanik of Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said.

“This is inevitably associated with the way of thinking about economic development,” Manurung said, adding that people exploit natural resources to an extreme degree for commercial benefit, without being aware of the urgent need to preserve them.

Emil Salim, an environmentalist and former Indonesian environment minister, said that the only way to halt the march to disaster is “to change our vision of development accordingly”.

“We are now aware that we have lost something. Only now do we see the severely damaged natural resources as a constraint. It has become an issue that is not only of concern but also threatens our lives,” Salim said.

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Refugees Describe Capsizing

The wooden fishing boat carrying Afghan refugee Bahrem Khan and about 420 other Muslim asylum seekers began taking on water just a day after leaving a port on Indonesia’s Sumatra island last week. Within 10 minutes, the overloaded vessel capsized, trapping as many as 200 people inside the hull.

Khan, 45, was lucky enough to make it into the open water. “We didn’t have anything” to hold onto, he said today, but he and three other men found a small wooden plank bobbing in the waves and “spent the whole night trying to balance” themselves on it. Khan was rescued; four of his brothers, who were on the boat with him, are presumed drowned.

U.N. officials said 44 survivors were pulled from the water. Many had been clinging to pieces of wood for 20 hours. According to accounts from the scene, one survivor was an 8-year-old boy who lost 21 relatives.

The sinking highlights the perilous journey that thousands of people from the Middle East and Central Asia take every year in hopes of reaching Australia, a nation with strict immigration laws that nevertheless is regarded as an economic promised land.

After making their way to Malaysia, which does not require Muslims to obtain entry visas, they cross to neighboring Indonesia, where smugglers place them on leaky, unseaworthy vessels that often lack emergency radios and enough life jackets.

Khan left his home in Afghanistan two months ago after he was fired from his government job by officials of the ruling Taliban militia on grounds that he was not sufficiently loyal. Desperate to feed his wife and six children, he and four of his brothers set out from Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border, on a stealthy and meandering journey, with dreams of landing a job in Australia.

They traveled by land to Pakistan. Then they flew to Thailand. Then they drove to Malaysia and hopped a ferry to Indonesia.

Some survivors of Friday’s catastrophe said they paid $4,000 for the journey. It was supposed to take them to Australian territorial waters, which begin 220 miles south of Indonesia’s main island, Java.

“When we first saw the boat, we knew that we’d been tricked,” said another survivor, Musa Qiyes, 41, a native of Iraq. “It was a boat with the capacity for 100 people, but there were around 400 of us.”

Khan worried about the boat’s condition, but boarded anyway. “I have six kids to feed,” he said today. “I really didn’t have any other choice than to take the risk.”

The survivors said the boat, which set out from Sumatra’s Lampung province, began leaking a day into the journey. The vessel’s water pump was broken, they said.

“An engineer tried to repair the water pump but failed,” Qiyes said. “We then tried to get the water out of the boat with dishes, but water kept coming in and weighing the boat down.” Finally, she said, “the boat cracked.” After that, it quickly sank.

In April 2000, up to 350 asylum seekers traveling from Indonesia were feared drowned off northern Australia, although their deaths were never confirmed. And last December, boats carrying as many as 163 people sank in bad weather en route to Australia’s Ashmore Island, according to unconfirmed reports.

Although Indonesia has a coast guard, it has few boats and no helicopters. The main hope for surviving a sinking is rescue by passing fishing boats.

The Indonesian government has refused to sign a U.N. agreement to accept refugees, forcing those who land in the archipelago to lodge asylum applications with the U.N. refugee agency or try their luck traveling to Australia. The U.N. asylum applications can take months to process, leading some to give up and get on boats.

“I had been on the U.N. refugee list for six months, but there was no sign whatsoever from them,” said Qiyes. She and the other survivors were brought to a refugee camp run by the International Organization for Migration in Bogor, 36 miles south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

U.N. officials have blamed the processing delays on a host of factors, including a shortage of staff members to handle the applications and the reluctance of other nations to accept the refugees. Some Western governments say many of the refugees do not qualify for asylum because they are not fleeing political persecution.

Although several large people-smuggling syndicates are believed to operate in Indonesia, the authorities have failed to crack down on them aggressively, despite pressure from Australia and other neighboring countries.

The Australian government recently tried to crack down by refusing to allow ships carrying refugees to land on its territory, instead transferring them to neighboring Pacific island states for processing. In August, Australia generated international criticism when it refused to take in more than 400 mainly Afghan migrants rescued by a Norwegian freighter near Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

Refugees who land in Australia are held in camps while their asylum petitions are processed.

An Afghan survivor of the capsized fishing boat, center, is helped into a refugee camp in Bogor, Indonesia. U.N. officials said only 44 of the approximately 420 passengers on the overcrowded vessel appear to have survived.Passengers from the capsized vessel rest at an Indonesian refugee camp. The 44 survivors spent hours in the water before being rescued by fishermen.

You are a Woman

You are a woman

but above all, you are also a person

don’t let anyone forget that.

You should not be defined less than who you are as a fellow human being

You are a woman

Your body looks like one

You have breasts, a vagina and a uterus

they are all yours and yours alone

Take care of them and don’t let anyone tell you how they should look like, take advantage of it, use you for it or govern it for you.

They’re yours to take care of, protect and enjoy.

Everyone has different bodies.

It’s ok.

Respect others as you respect yours.

You don’t have to look like everyone else

You are a woman

you consist more than your boobs, vagina and uterus

You have a brain

use it.

you have a heart.

use it.

be critical, have empathy, and fight.

I love you.



“Pilihlah untuk bahagia”

Kalau hidup ini memang serangkaian pilihan ganda,

tidakkah pilihan bahagia ini harusnya ditiadakan untuk mereka yang bangsat?

Katanya lagi,

“Maafkan dirimu sendiri dan melihatlah ke depan.”

Aku tidak bisa memaafkan diriku.

Karena aku tidak salah apa-apa.

Aku hanya pulang sekolah

tanpa pikiran apa-apa

Aku tidak dapat melihat ke depan

Aku bahkan tidak bisa menutup mata

Kalian rusak tubuhku dengan birahi

kalian koyak jiwaku dengan alasan…



Apakah kalian bisa memaafkan diri kalian dan memilih untuk bahagia?

Harusnya pilihan itu tak lagi ada untuk kalian.

Ketika aku ditemukan di pinggir jalan

Mereka yang menolongku sibuk berbisik

Kasian ya anak ini….pergaulannya salah sih…

Ah, rok sekolahnya kurang panjang sih…

Di kitab manakah ada tertulis bahwa panjang rok seorang perempuan menentukan haknya untuk berjalan dengan aman?

Doa ibu mana yang memberikan anaknya hak untuk mengambil pilihan hidup anak orang lain?


Sayang napasku telah kau putus.

Hingga ku tak lagi mampu mengendus.

Tapi harapku belum pupus

Ku harap tititmu segera putus.


In memory of Yuyun

Di tahun 2016, seorang anak perempuan berusia 13 tahun, diperkosa 14 orang kakak kelasnya yang kemudian membuang tubuhnya ke dalam jurang. Korban ditemukan beberapa hari kemudian dalam keadaan tanpa nyawa dengan tulang pinggang yang patah dan luka-luka. 

Selama kasus berlangsung, keluarga korban terpaksa pindah dari kediamannya karena tidak nyaman dengan perlakukan para keluarga pelaku.  

The case itself was infuriating.  Especially the comments and how it was reported. The fact that the family had to move was even MORE infuriating. In what world can the family of the perpetrators have the guts and the gully to bully the family who just lost their daughter because of your failure to raise you sons?

My fury of her death is shared by many and has led to the review of our Child Protection Law. 




Maybe we invented metaphors as a response to pain. Maybe metaphors were invented to give shape to the opaque, deep-down pain that evades both sense and senses_t1a8361

Of Reading Glasses and Hair Dyes: How I Embrace My 40 – Like a 40yo

On the night I turned 40, my best friend and I were out having drinks. She had turned the big age a year before and had spent the night convincing me that I must be needing reading glasses now that I had officially turned 40.

It was all just a joke until the bill came. She shook her head when she saw the bill: “I forgot my glasses.” I laughed and grabbed the bill, but soon realized that it was no longer funny.

I pulled out my credit card and admitted: “I can’t see a bloody thing. I’ll check it when I get home.”

And just like that – my very existence started to depend on whether or not I can find my reading glasses.

I have been wearing it for over six months now, and every day my glasses would get to the office by a rideshare service, costing me a good Rp 25,000 a day – which is infuriating. Of course the only reason this has to happen is because of that other thing that happens when you’re older: I always forget to bring them with me.

I come from a place where there are only two types of people my age: one believes that hitting 40 means they’re ancient and they deserve all the utmost respect and pity and all that jazz; the other believes that 40 is the new 20 with more money.

I don’t belong to either group. I believe that I am 40 and deserve it. When I look back and think about my last 40 years, it does feel like 40 years. I don’t begrudge the no-bikini wisdom, because I have lived in them in my 20s. I don’t miss the all-night dancing and chatting with friends, because I have had enough hangover and raccoon eyes in my 20s and early 30s that I will continue to bear till the day I die.

In short, I am ok with being 40 – or at least I think I am with most of the things that happens when you’re 40.

Here are just some of them:

  1. Any interaction with strangers would start with them calling you “Tante” (auntie) or “Ibu” (Mam). I hate this. There is no other way I can explain this deep seeded dislike other than the fact that the words “Tante” and “Ibu” conjure up a mental image of a middle aged woman with a 2-meter high teased hair.
  1. Let’s just say that I am never a big fan of having my pictures taken from the side. My whole family was just not blessed with great chin and neck genes. My late grandmother – bless her soul – found her neck such a big source of contention that she puts “a man with long neck” as one of her requirements to marry. She did end up marrying a 7-feet tall man with long neck who was pretty much the Asian version of James Dean. Her theory was that this would be an improvement of the family’s gene, the result being the necks and chins of her children and their subsequent generation would be the median of hers and her husband’s. But as two generations of us women in the family have learned, it doesn’t work that way. Genes can’t exactly be averaged out. It was more like picking out a lottery ticket. So here I am, with my double chin that in my younger years looked like a cute chicken goblet but now as I grow older looks more like a hemorrhoid chicken butt.
  1. If you are now still in your 20s and feeling like you spend most of your time in the waxing parlor, here is something you can look forward to. When I hit 40, I realized that what was waxed or pulled or threaded, just don’t grow back quite as furiously as before. I love this part of maturing up!
  1. Exercising becomes a mean of survival. I am sure I am not the only person who has spends the majority of her life vowing to exercise and stay fit. I have periods of time when I was fit and longer periods of time when I was slacking off. I work as a videographer and this means carrying at least 20 pounds on a single work day is considered light. Last year I was shooting in a beautiful untouched beach that requires you to walk down a steep hill through thick layers of trees to get to it. I took my shoes off and placed my bags on the sand, relishing the clear blue sky and the ocean wind on my face, all the while thinking whether or not I’d remembered to put on sunblock that morning so I would not spend the next 48 hours looking like a wrinkled lobster. This thought soon dissipated when the local boys ran up the hill shouting: “Up! Up! The tide is coming!” I grabbed my bags and tried to run up the hill with them. Three minutes in, I ran out of breath. My knees gave, and I waved Rp 50,000 bills to the boys, shouting: “Come and bring my bags up!”  I made it up safely with my bags and three teenage boys. The whole adventure cost me Rp 150,000, but I learned two things that day:  exercising is important as a means of survival and I am grateful that I am at the age when I can spend Rp 150,000 without blinking to save my life.
  1. Blessed is the one who invented hair coloring. Hair coloring may not feel like a big thing nowadays but it was a groundbreaking invention and I think stays as one of the most vital one in the history of maturing up. Historically people have been coloring their hair since the days of the Gaul in Ancient Rome. It was also used by the Egyptian, and the Phoenicians had been known to splurge with gold dust to change the color of their hair. In my teenage years, I had shown up at the breakfast table with blue hair, maroon hair, purple and green. I actually never liked the color green but at that age, I guess I did everything to channel my rebellious steam out of my system. Today, subdued natural hair coloring is in my unwritten monthly shopping list. I don’t invest much time anymore thinking whether it is a feminist thing to do to hide my grey hair or not. For me, the very word “feminism” has had its meaning evolved through time. I now believe that beyond all the theories, it is about me feeling good about myself. It is about me looking at myself in the mirror and smile instead of feeling miserable to please others or fulfill anyone else’s fantasy of what a woman should look like or a feminist should be like.
  1. You will no longer be able to identify with anyone in the magazine or in the shop windows. Simply because no one models a mannequin after a 40-something year old woman. I know this might come across as bitterness but it isn’t. It all comes down to decades of dressing up every morning and living through waves of fashion crazes (and surviving it!) hopefully without much proof of damage in the reputation and self- dignity department. I am now a master of compensatory dressing with shopping failure rate of 60 percent. I am a pro.
  1. I love reading. I can’t quite stress that enough. I love reading obituaries and spend hours making up stories about the person who died based on the design of their death announcement, how her or his kids’ names are listed and all the basic information you found in an obituary in your newspapers. (Yes, I grew up with newspapers). I don’t do it quite as much anymore now maybe because there are less to imagine and any strain of imagination in this direction soon ends with elaborate and excessive planning on how I would like mine to look like.
  1. Did I tell you I love reading? Not just obituaries, but everything, really. I read every sign on the road when I drive. I read the thank-you page at the end of every book I have read. I read the small writings on the box of everything I buy. Except that now, I can’t do any of that without my reading glasses. And this, is making me sad.

So what do I tell my children about growing old?  I tell my girls every day to get to know and love themselves. I think they’re perfect, but I am their mother and I know I am most likely biased. I understand that they have insecurities and there are parts of their body that they are not crazy about. But whatever that might be, get to know it and make peace with it. The sooner you make peace with it, the easier life would be and the happier you would be as well.

Dianthus Saputra has been struggling with her relationship with glasses since she was 10. She used to wear her glasses to sleep because otherwise her dreams will be blurry. This resulted in many casualties on the glasses side until she decided to get a LASIK. And a few years later began yet another rocky relationship with her now near-sighted glasses.


As published on Feb 21, 2018