Name: Michael Robert-David Kai Fung Yeh School: Diocesan Boys' School Primary Division Grade: Primary 5
Holding the scissors in her tight grip, she opened and closed the blades repeatedly snipping thin air. The lady thought, “What should I cut next?” She gazed around her, and spotted the tufts of grass on the rocky ground. Within minutes, the ground was bare, once each blade of grass had encountered the blade of the metal tool. In her newfound obsession, she started to snip her own clothing, because there was nothing left in her surroundings to cut. In the same way that she was willing to sacrifice her hair, she gave away her clothes to her ambition.
Naked and cold, she started to shiver, but all she could think of was cutting. Her grim determination made her desperate to find something more to cut. Suddenly she remembered the pile of scarf that she had knitted, had fallen to the bottom of the cliff, so she started to climb down to retrieve it.
In frantic anticipation to find her scarf, she couldn't hold back on cutting. On her way down, she cut her toenails, her remaining hair, her eyebrows and her eyelashes. When she reached the bottom, she spotted the scarf pile. She was so cold. She ran over and wrapped herself in the scarf instinctively. By the time her whole body was wrapped up snuggly, the scissors (seemingly on autopilot), started chomping again, and her scarf was soon shredded to pieces along with the hair that she knitted to it. Once again, she was cold and shivering.
She started looking around for shelter, wandering for hours and hours, but never ceasing to cut through the air with her scissors. The sound of the scissors gave her comfort just like the knitting needles once had. One addiction replaced another.
As she walked, she saw her own knitting needles lying on the ground. She looked at them, paused, and then tucked one behind each ear. She continued walking until she saw a river. She was extremely thirsty and sprinted to the river-bank to drink water. It was only then that she saw her reflection and how awful she looked. She realized her ambition was an escape from her loneliness and this ambition had driven her to obsession.
She started walking again, but now, she was not snipping the air with her scissors anymore. An hour later she came across an abandoned tent and thought of cutting it into thin, uniform strips, not for her ambition, but for her well-being. Then, with her perfect knitting skills, she used all the materials that she cut, and took the knitting needles from behind her ears, and knitted herself some clothes.
She stood by the river admiring the reflection of the new clothes she had created for herself. She tossed the scissors and needles into the river, and took a deep breath of the fresh cold air. Now a new woman, in her new clothes, she decided to find her family and friends that she hadn't seen for years.
Primary School (English Division) 1st Runner-up
Name: Tse Wang Chak Daryl School: St. Paul's Co-educational College Primary School Class: 6D
Martha sighed heavily. What was she supposed to do now? She picked up her scissors and began to snip her fingernails, realising they hadn't been cut for a very long time.
She'd been too busy to notice it.
Suddenly, a small blue nightingale, flew overhead. Martha dropped her scissors and gazed at its delicate, little feathers and heard its elegant, melodious song. Had there always been birds here?
She'd been too busy to notice it.
Under her feet, Martha became aware of something cool and soft. Wriggling her toes, she looked down and saw a carpet of fresh green grass. Had there always been grass here?
She'd been too busy to notice it.
An aromatic, sweet fragrance filled the air and Martha looked around to see where it was coming from. Behind her, there were several magnificent flower beds full of red roses, purple and pink orchids, yellow and white lilies and pale blue irises. They were gorgeous, beautiful and all in full bloom. Had there always been flowers in this garden?
Martha had been too busy to notice it.
The nightingale had landed on a branch of a small fruit tree. Martha saw that the tree was full of ripe peaches. Rising from her chair, she walked over to the tree and plucked one of them. It smelt delicious. Sinking her teeth into the flesh of the fruit, Martha's mouth was filled with the rich, sweet, succulent taste of the peach. When was the last time she appreciated the taste of nature's gifts?
She'd been too busy to notice it.
As Martha slowly wandered around the garden, the sun came out from behind the clouds. Rays of warm sunlight kissed Martha's skin and she lifted her face up to the sun drinking in its warmth. A cool, gentle breeze wafted through her hair. When was the last time she enjoyed the weather?
She'd been too busy to notice it.
Martha walked slowly back to her chair and sat down to think long and hard. A whole garden had sprung up around her. She could see, hear, smell, touch, and taste all the beauty and the wonders of nature. But in Martha's busy life, she hadn't noticed any of the gifts that life had offered her. She realised that this garden hadn't just 'sprung up'... It had been there the whole time! She had knitted and knitted and worked and worked to achieve what? Maybe she had gained fame, money, and power… but they were all lying at the bottom of a cliff! And yet, she felt richer now than she'd been in years.
“It's never too late to notice and appreciate what life has to offer,” Martha said to herself.
Primary School (English Division) 2nd Runner-up
Name: Lea Baczkowski School: Po On Commercial Association Wan Ho Kan Primary School Class: 5B
The Woman and the Tiger
Melissa held the large shears in her hands, still exhausted from the frantic knitting. She felt relieved to finish the intense knitting. Melissa looked at the shears, and felt the same rush of that intense feeling of determination. She found herself precisely snipping at her fingernails.
Melissa stopped, and thought, “The tips of my fingernails are still here.”
She snipped again, and she studied her shortened fingernails.
“Too long,” she thought. She snipped at her nails again.
Clip, clip, clip, went her shears. Chip, chip, chip, they went again.
She looked at her feet. “Huh, fingernails look like dry grass, thinking of which…”
She looked around, and saw uneven grass. “I hate messy grass.” she thought. She got off her chair, and started snipping until the grass was no more. She felt happy, but didn't feel content.
She found longer, and more uneven grass. She snipped and snipped. She kept snipping until the bottomless cliff was out of sight. The taller grass grew browner and longer. Melissa heard a sad growl. She looked to the noise's direction and saw a sad and hungry tiger in a net that was hanging in a tree. The tiger had eyes as black as ebony, and claws as sharp as titanium. Her teeth were ivory-white. She had dark, silver stripes and reddish-gold fur.
Melissa saw a pile of fat, dead rabbits underneath the net. She figured that it was the gold and silver tiger's breakfast and felt sorry for her. She decided to help her.
Melissa said to her (for she was able to speak to animals), “Sup girl, what's your name and what happened?” to which the tiger said, “Oh hey gal, my name's Ashley. Some hunters trapped me and interrupted my breakfast. Could you help cut me out of this net? It's getting uncomfortable.”
Melissa said, “Sure, I can, if you let me use the rabbits and help me gather spices to make some breakfast.”
“Okay, maybe we can work together.”
Melissa cut Ashley out of the net and made a fire with dried spices. Ashley used her claws to skin the rabbit fur and Melissa cooked the rabbits over the fire. It smelled delicious. Ashley and Melissa had a really good tuck-in.
Melissa thought it was wasteful to just leave good-quality rabbit fur, so she found some thin elephant tusks and used them and her hair to sew together the rabbit skins and made a light and comfortable cape-hoodie. Ashley said it was beautiful.
Melissa said to Ashley, “I think we should stick together, since we don't know what's out there.” Then Ashley said, “I think you should disconnect your shears, twist both in the opposite direction, then use some vines to connect them to a large tree branch.” Melissa did that and they continued on their adventure. Soon they reached a big well and Melissa gave Ashley some water and drank some water herself.
It was nearly nightfall. They watched the beautiful sunset for a bit, then Melissa gathered some thick leaves and made a teepee with a small fire inside and they went in for the night. In the morning, Melissa folded the teepee like an umbrella and tied it onto Ashley's back, put on her cape and set off for breakfast.
This was the beginning of an amazing friendship and adventure for Melissa and Ashley.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Cindy Chang School: Stamford American School HK Class: 5RGOS
When she didn't know what to cut, she decided to climb down the mountain. She broke the scissors in half and used the blades like climbing picks. The fog was thick and she couldn't see the ground. Suddenly, she lodged the blade into a rock and it was stuck.
She pulled with all of her might, but her hand was slippery with sweat and she fell. She closed her eyes tightly.
When she opened one eye, she saw that looking over her were five silhouetted faces. Then looking carefully, she saw that they each had beady eyes, double chins and flabby bellies. They were all on snapping pictures of her on their phones.
One of them shouted at her:
“I lost my game because of you! I'm going to lose so many subs!”
The boys all turned their backs and returned to their phones.
“Sorry about your submarines.” She said “My name is -”
“Quiet!” Snapped one of the boys, “A new match is starting!”
The boys all ignored her. Soon she was bored again. She started to look for something to do. She saw that her scissors were out of her reach. But as she looked up, she saw something else: her old knitting needles. They were embedded into a rock at the bottom of the mountain. As she approached them she felt as if she were approaching Excalibur.
She dried her hands against her dress and told herself I won't give up this time.
Gripping the needles as if her life depended on it, she gave the needles a great, big yank…
But like King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, the needles slid out effortlessly - like plucking a pair of feathers - and she tumbled backwards…
Again, she crashed into the ground. The boys kept focusing on their game.
She couldn't stop her hands from making little circles. Before she knew it, she was tugging grass from the ground and knitting it into a giant green scarf.
One of the boys looked at her for a second, but sighed and shook his head.
Then the black clouds came and smothered the sun. Suddenly one of the boys put on the face of an angry baby and said :
Another of the boys pointed and laughed at him, but then realised that he didn't have wifi either! A few seconds later, they each dropped their phone to the ground and began crying with fountains of tears.
Then they saw the knitting woman and they dried their eyes.
They were inspired by her determination. They decided to join her. Some of them went to collect grass, while the others found food to survive.
Soon, they all watched as the scarf reached into the sky like a giant dragon. It sliced the clouds in half and the sunlight returned like a spotlight upon them.
Helicopters were coming to rescue them.
The woman saw her scarf, waving in the wind.
And finally she said:
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Lee Hok Lam School: St. Joseph's Anglo-Chinese Primary School Class: 6A
Once I get on my selected life-cliff,
Trying hard to write my life path's stories and myths.
Finally, knowing to pick up the scissors to stop.
Feeling the breeze and the sound of the scissors on the top.
Realizing that even I have nothing left,
But feeling extraordinarily happy and giving it a rest.
Just when the sunlight gleams on a rock,
I hear, below the cliff comes a knock!
It is a man knitting like me in the past,
I again realize nothing we own at last.
He says he's my father's soul, “Let it go!”
It seems you've known what I've noticed, too.
When time comes, you'll have to cut it away.
The soul speaks, “Help the ones who still suffocate.”
Just in a blast, a rainbow appears.
My eyes are filled with tears.
Before my father's soul disappears in the dew,
I utter, “Father, I know what to do.”
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Katherine Liaw School: Singapore International School Hong Kong Grade: Primary 2
Lovey hopped onto her rainbow-coloured bicycle and headed home. There, she grabbed the colourful paper inside her secret box and cycled back to the cliff. She moved her scissors expertly, and cut the paper into heart shapes.
“SNIP! SNIP! SNIP!” her fingers went until all the hearts were finished.
Lovey thought and thought, and soon got on her bicycle to go back home again. She searched her home and stuffed all her torn clothes and bedsheets into her huge backpack, and returned to the cliff.
Lovey looked at the materials and started cutting them into more heart shapes.
“SNIP! SNIP! SNIP!” In no time, they were all cut up.
A wealthy-looking man named Andrew was walking past, and he peered at all the heart shapes made of the old materials. Staring at Lovey, he said, “Why make worthless hearts?”. He added, “Nobody wants them.”. Lovey kept silent, and ignored the arrogant man.
Lovey was puzzled. “Hmm…what else can I use...?” She felt despondent as she had used up all her materials. She began to twiddle her thumbs.
Suddenly, a powerful gale blew and forced Lovey to go backwards. She was pushed towards a forest, until she sat down.
When Lovey looked up, she couldn't believe her eyes. She burst out screaming, “Hurray!” Her loud voice echoed throughout the forest, shaking all the Yellow Birch, Black Cherry, Scarlet Oak and White Spruce trees, causing the colourful leaves to fall to the ground.
“YAY!” She had a spectacular idea. She dashed off to get her large scissors.
In Lovey's skilful hands, the scissors moved hurriedly, “SWOOSH, SWOOSH...”.
Looking at all the millions of leaves scattered on the ground, Lovey took a deep breath. “Ready, set, …go!” Lovey started cutting the multi-coloured leaves into heart shapes.
Lovey then lovingly bundled all the heart-shaped leaves in an old sack found in the forest, and carried them to the cliff.
This time, a little girl named Amanda passed by, looking excited. She went up to Lovey, saying, “Those hearts are so beautiful - like little diamonds.”. Lovey smiled, handing the girl some of her wonderful hearts. Lovey said to her, “These hearts look different outside, but they are the same inside.”. The girl nodded in agreement.
Without warning, a strong wind blew Lovey's scarf up. She tugged and tugged, until she got the whole long scarf back. After mixing all the heart creations and putting them into the enormous canvas bag, she sat down on the scarf. “Hurray!”, she screamed.
Lovey's loud voice echoed across the hills, blowing the scarf which then carried Lovey and her enormous bag of hearts into the sky, where she soared endlessly.
Lovey tossed the hearts all over the world to every country, large and small. People smiled with their own hearts warmed.
Soon, Lovie's bag was empty, and she flew back to the forest.
Lovey took a deep breath, picked up the scissors and looked at all the fallen leaves.
“SNIP! SNIP! SNIP!”
Love never ends.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Chan Nor Vien Bella School: S.K.H. Tsing Yi Estate Ho Chak Wan Primary School Class: 4B
Holding a pair of scissors, Emma was confused and had complicated feelings. She started walking towards the jungle. She saw two clumsy bears holding many apples in their arms and kept dropping them. Instinctively, Emma cut some blades of grass and started weaving a basket. It was certainly a good and fast attempt at a basket. Emma quickly put the basket in front of the bears while they were picking up the apples and then she hid behind a tree . When the bears raised their heads, they were surprised to see the basket.
Emma then walked to a rice field which was right next to the village she lived. A buffalo was working alone in the field. After the sunset, it stopped working and lay down under a tree.
"I am so tired, hungry and lonely." The buffalo said.
"Are you talking to me?" She asked in a quavering voice, as if unable to believe her ears.
"Yes. I used to have a treat after a day of hard work. I miss it." Emma rushed home and cut some berries in her backyard. She made a berry pie and ran back. The buffalo was delighted with Emma's return and the pie. They shared the pie and chatted under the starry sky.
On her way home, she saw two baby birds.
“Mummy is away to find food,” the birds whimpered. “Our nest was smashed up by naughty monkeys.”
Emma was not shocked anymore by talking birds. She cut some weeds and dry sticks to build a new nest. The birds jumped in the nest joyfully. Emma told them bedtime stories until they fell asleep.
The following day started out as a sunny and cheerful morning. Emma met a hairy dog.
“My hair is too long,” The dog grumbled. “It is blocking my sight.”
“Would you like a haircut?” Emma asked.
“Sure!” The dog answered.
In a few minutes, a lovely haircut was done. The dog was happy and energetic. “I am going to a party in the jungle. Would you like to join me?” The dog asked.
Soon they were at a picnic site. There Emma saw the animals that she had met. There were lots of party food and drinks. Emma took a drink next to a card saying “forgotten lemonade”. She took a sip and her vision became blurry immediately. She rubbed her eyes and could not believe what she saw. The bears became her parents. The buffalo became her husband. The birds became her children and the dog became the homeless man whom she often met. Suddenly, everything became clear in her mind. Emma realized that although there was nothing wrong to work hard, she had forgotten to stop at times to care for others. She looked up and saw a banner stating “Love is all around” which was the theme of the party. Everyone was celebrating love with joy and laughter.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Annette Che School: Diocesan Girls' Junior School Grade: Primary 5
One day, Gertrude found herself a homeless street person in the middle of the cold and blustery winter. She felt very guilty and regretful, because she had lost everything that was important to her, including her family, her job, her health, her physical appearance and her friends. While searching for food, she found a pair of scissors on the ground that reminded her of the knitting scissors that were instrumental in saving her life. She was in a somber mood that day, reflecting on everything she once had and had lost. She pondered: How was my life spiraled out of control? After that, she picked up the scissors from the ground and the thought of committing suicide crossed her mind. She held her scissors up and was about to put them through her heart. At that moment, a young man, named Romeo took the scissors out of her hand and told her that God would give her another chance to do what she loved doing and at the same time be able to know when to stop and let go. The man took her to his small but cozy home so that she could warm up and have some hot soup.
One day, the man told her that his school was in need of a knitting teacher, and he said that she was the most suitable person that he could find. She did not know how to politely decline, so she reluctantly agreed.
The next day, she went to the school and taught knitting. Students loved her because she had a lot of experience in knitting, and she made people interested in knitting. She felt very content, because after that day, she found out that teaching knitting, passing on her tips and teaching to the younger generation was very fun and meaningful.
Besides teaching, she also knitted a lot of scarves and socks for the people in need. She became the best knitter in town, even the best knitter in the country! She flew to lots of cities and countries to help people and to teach others about knitting. She also did loads of T.V. interviews. She became very famous because of her eccentric knitting pieces! Her PR assistant, Susie Shears had to give out more than one hundred of her best-selling designs and scarves to stop the paparazzi from getting into Gertrude's way.
She had everything she had lost before, and even more! She was a lot of people's idol. Gertrude was very busy at all times doing interviews and knitting the scarves she needed to make. Although, she had a lot of work, she was still very grateful because when she was about to commit suicide, Romeo came to save her, and she wanted to make it up to him. Then, she started to sell all of her scarves, socks and clothes to earn money and give half of it to charity and the other half to him.
Years and years passed by, she became old. Gertrude knew that she should not be greedy or selfish. Before she died, she passed on her passion of knitting and all her special knitting skills to Romeo. When she passed away, Romeo continued her passion and became the best male knitter in the world.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Christie Cheung School: Canadian International School Class: 6A
Stop and Smell the Flowers
The lady slumped on her chair as she picked up her scissors.
Snip, snip, snip.
She hummed, as she gazed around for things to cut. Her wandering eyes slowly landed onto her fingernails.
Snip, snip, snip.
The lady paused and looked at her nail. Feeling satisfied, she continued.
As she placed her scissors on her lap, she hurriedly glanced around. Her fingers were too itchy to snip. Her eyes continued to search as she saw nothing but a cliff edge and brown plains.
The lady's heart started to beat faster as she couldn't find anything that would satisfy her.
She started to cut at the hem of her skirt. She started to add more force as she couldn't cut past the tough fabric. Her frustration grew. She started to force the scissors.
Snap, snap sn-
The scissors had snapped in half!
Her blood began to boil. Rage quickly clouded the lady's mind, so she stood up, and threw her chair to the ground. She picked it up again and threw it with more power – it still refused to break.
As quickly as it came, the rage was replaced with sadness. She came to the realization that she was getting nowhere.
The lady slumped to the floor in defeat.
She looked up wearily, and saw a flower.
The lady approached it with caution as she tried to get a closer look. She felt the sudden urge to sniff it.
A sweet, sugary scent filled her nose.
Suddenly, the lady felt calm, and relaxed.
She felt her shoulders start to droop as she laid down on the ground.
“Stop and smell the flowers…” a voice whispered, as her eyes slowly closed, as she drifted off into a deep, deep slumber.
The thin, tall woman, Famille, with beautiful spiked golden short hair, started to walk home, mountain after mountain. Famille held the pair of scissors dangerously close to her face, snapping it loudly. The scissors started to make a beat. As she followed to dance along the beat, she didn't realize she was walking away from home. Having been hiking over a mountain, she continued to snap the pair of scissors, the imaginary music she created kept going, keeping her company.
Next, she found herself at a cliff's edge with one foot over the cliff, then her mind stopped, “Gosh, why am I nearly falling over the cliff again?” she stopped snapping the scissors and turned backward, she saw nothing but mountains , “I'll just walk my way back home, mountain after mountain.” she thought. But before she knew it, she was snapping the scissors to the rhythm again and got so blindly overtaken by the imaginary music that got her lost again.
A person must have thought Famille was weird because someone had poked her with a finger, she opened her eyes, her mind snapped back to the present.
Famille turned around to see a man looking at her.
“May I help you ma'am?” the man asked Famille, “You look…” he hesitated to justify the right word, “lost.”
“I…I…I'm not…” Famille looked around, surprised to see a man in the middle of the hills, but the dialogue seemed like a bucket of water pouring over her and had awaken her. She said, finally admitting to herself, “I mean……. I AM lost.”
“Where do you live?” the man asked.
“In the North-East edge of HorseTail Valley.”
“Oh! Then, just over two more hills and you should be home.” the man replied.
“Thank you,” said Famille gratefully, and she whispered to herself, “Famille, it's time to go home”.
After hiking over a hill, she started to feel tired, she found a nice patch of fern underneath a thick leafed tree to shelter her. She thought it was a perfect place to sleep, so there she slept.
In the morning, she woke up. Sunlight shone through the tree that sheltered Famille and dappled the patch of fern. Famille got up and cleaned herself. Then she looked around for her scissors, “Where are they?” she thought.
She knew she had to go home as she was starving. Then she gave up on her scissors and started to hike along the next hill. She was bored, without the scissors in her hand. She felt empty, and her fingers started to fidget, as if there wasn't any way to make her happy again. The loneliness was unbearable.
But gazing at the sky, Famille realized it was time to let go of her obsessions. A voice told her, “Look for a meaningful purpose in life.” A refreshing breeze blew away her worries and gave her strength. Before dusk, she arrived home. A new chapter was about to open for her.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Brogan Archer School: Hong Kong Adventist Academy Grade: Primary 6
Iris grabbed her scissors and cut off the chair legs of her wooden chair. “It's a great day for sledding, isn't it?” She hopped on the seat of her 'broken' chair. Holding up her scissors high, she gave the chat a slight push on the ground and went sliding down the cliff. Iris landed on the ground with a loud crash. Opening her eyes and gazing around the junkyard, “I wonder if my scarf is around this area.” Iris started wandering around, dragging the rest of the chair behind her. She ripped out every piece of garbage from the floor and displayed it in front of her face then cut it up into pieces. 'No! I can't find it!' A gleam caught Iris's eye. She shuffled over to the gleam and picked it up. 'Finally!' Iris stuffed her needles in her pocket and began looking for her scarf. She spotted a tree with something red stuck in one of its branches. Iris walked slowly toward the scarf and wrapped it around her neck. Suddenly, a wave of sand knocked Iris out cold.
Iris woke up in a big oak tree. “Where am I?' She stood up and turned around. Little elves surrounded her. 'All right, this is creepy.” Iris stared at one little elf, in particular, what she had thought was the elf leader. “YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND, DEAR PRISONER!” A deep voice bellowed in Iris's head. In fear, Iris pointed at the elves with her scissors. The little elves stood still, not moving a muscle. “Right, who dare to come into my head?” A little elf to the right tapped his foot on the wood below them and looked at his friend. Soon, the elves were all tapping their feet with linked arms. Iris became confused and snipped her scissors in their faces. “LOOK AT US! LOOK AT OUR DANCE!” Iris covered her ears as a brilliant idea fell into place. She grinned to herself and brought out her scarf and needles. Magically, a ball of yarn appeared in front of Iris. She began sewing and sewing. The elves became wrapped up in a huge scarf. “LET US OUT, FOOLISH GIRL!” Iris brought out her scissors again and cut the scarf. “Let's just hope they behave now.” Iris shot a challenging look at the elves and folded her arms being pleased. Iris made the elves line up and practice their marching. While the elves practiced, Iris began to use a copy machine in the corner to duplicate the yarn, scarf, and needles. When she had done it, Iris clapped her hands, ordering her slaves to line up.
A few days later, everything was ready! Iris nodded at her workers and one little elf pressed the button. The sewing machines turned on and the little elves bended their backs. The whole room was silent, busy with sewing elves. “The Iris Scarf is open!” Another bunch of elves collected the scarves and organized them in fancy boxes. Trucks drove away, carrying the scarves.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Max, Arron Dingwell School: German Swiss International School Grade: Primary 4
As soon as the lady figured out that she could also use the pair of scissors to continue to work, she looked around in search for something to cut. However, there was barely anything around her. She melancholy decided to walk back to her house, quietly cutting some of her short blonde hair that was left till she fell into sleep in her cinnamon-colored rocking chair.
The following morning when the sun rose, a weird and unfamiliar sound was heard. Without finishing her breakfast, she walked outside with huge curiosity with her pair of scissors. Following the sound, she led herself to a new route where she had never been before. After walking several miles, she looked up and glanced at the end of the mountain cliff where she had dropped all her knitting materials and knit balls. Suddenly, she saw something blew her mind. It was a small village downhill from far away. She was hysterical and took a big leap off the side of the hill, rolling herself down and landing in a humongous pile of hay. Her pair of scissors fell out of her hand. She picked them up struggling to find a way out of the hay. She eventually found her way out with the help of her scissors.
She continued walking and then reached somewhere made her mind go bonkers. It was a town full of people! It wasn't just an ordinary town. It was a town where there were many more houses and people. It was like her own house and herself being duplicated an infinite number of times but with many more colors. Since everyone looked like her, nobody had noticed she had arrived. She was also too shy to talk to the people who had similar looks but quite different personalities – very cheerful and contented. She searched for a while until something caught her attention. Grass. She had never seen anything so green and smooth in her life. She tested her scissors on the grass to see if the grass was able to be cut, and it worked! From that day, she started cutting little piles of grass to entire fields of grass. She could move with her body quickly on the ground like a worm. Crawling, cutting, crawling, cutting…
Everyone living in the village liked the way she was cutting the grass. There were various knit-like patterns. She was so addicted to cutting, that without warning, she cut open a new dimension under the grass and stumbled into it straight away. But this time, she found herself stuck in a pile of knit balls and the knit she made. She was so amazed and curled the knit around her cold body. Without knowing, she became as gleeful and gratified as the other people in town. While she was enjoying her moment, snowflakes sprinkled through the air. Winter had arrived!
She picked up some knit and went back home blissfully. She would never forget about this place ever.
Primary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Ma Oi Kiu Chelsi School: Malvern College Hong Kong
After a long period of climbing up the curved and rocky cliff, I tiredly pulled myself up and started knitting again. Knitting made me feel happy and relieved and it also reminded me of my grandma, who used to teach me how to knit clothes and scarves, while my mother was drinking and smoking at bars. My mother wasn't a loving person at all. As soon as she gave birth to me, she felt ashamed of me because I always cried a lot and took a lot of her spare time which she used to hang out with her friends or stay at the bar. So, she firmly decided to give up on me and put me up for adoption. As she was filling in some forms, my grandma suddenly walked into her room and saw me crying. Grandma claimed that she heard some miserable baby screams and walked wherever the mysterious crying lead to. She said that she was very surprised to see me because my mother had never mentioned anything about me. My grandma saw how miserable I was and decided to raise me instead of letting my mom give me to a random stranger. She happily carried me in her arms. She even claimed that it felt like she was carrying my mother again when she was a baby. My grandma was getting older and older, and at last she retired from her part-time job as a teacher. She was very sad and wanted to continue teaching children.
I finally turned five and was able to do everything properly. Every day, when I came back from school, my grandma would sit next to me and teach me new ways of knitting. At first, I thought of knitting as a fun hobby, but after years and years, it gradually became an addiction – knitting CONNECTED me to my grandma forever.
Memories flashed and flashed until I realized that I was knitting thin air, I was so focused that I couldn't even think of anything else but knitting. I slowly looked at my needles and I knew it was the time for my addiction to go. Without thinking too much, I threw away my grandma's precious needles down into the cliff. Instantly, I felt regretful and wanted to catch my grandma's precious needles before it was too late. But I stopped myself and stood still miserably wishing that the needles would rise. At that moment I felt truly regretful and gloomy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. After a period of silence, I dreadfully walked to the wooden chair which belonged to my pure-hearted aunt who took care of me after the death of my beloved grandmother. After sitting down for a while, I looked around my chair and saw the pair of scissors that could have saved my life if I could be SEPERATED from the scarf. I picked it up and started snapping my nails. I would become a world famous nail artist.
Before I watched the Last Knit, I believed passion and dedication were what we needed to succeed. However, the animation raised a question: what are “passion” and “dedication”? No doubt I could look up the words in the dictionary, but the animation invited me to explore these qualities. Now I understand better.
Before sunrise, a woman walked quietly towards a cliff. She selected a lofty vantage point facing the cliff, set up a chair and spread out her knitting yarn. Feeling satisfied, she smiled and started to create her scarf. As the sun rose, the knitter had created a long scarf. She reached down to a pair of scissors on the ground, getting ready to cut the yarn. However, she hesitated and decided to keep knitting. The faster her passionate and skillful fingers moved, the longer her masterpiece grew. The scarf piled up and hung off the edge of the cliff, and the growing weight started to pull the scarf and the knitter towards the edge of the cliff. The knitter realised there was a problem as she was battling to pull the scarf away from the cliff and keep herself from falling. At this decisive moment, she either could have pulled out her knitting needles and let go of her scarf, or she could have simply let the whole thing go. However, she did not. Instead, she decided to knit even faster, adding length to her scarf in order to counteract the speed of the scarf falling down the cliff. She knitted feverishly. To her amazement, the scarf flew up in the sky. She stared defiantly at it as if she was taming a wild beast. She might have thought that she was a victorious gladiator. Her passion was turned into obsession while her dedication was turned into compulsion.
Passion and dedication have long been considered as great qualities of successful people. Steve Jobs once said, “You have to be burning with an idea. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out.” Vincent Van Gogh also claimed, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” George Hegel, a German philosopher, even suggested, ““Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” It is universally true to say that passion is important when it comes to achieving dreams. When someone identifies his or her passion and aligns it with whatever he or she is doing, a magical synergy appears and effortlessly carries him or her to rarefied heights. Work or labour becomes joyful and pleasurable. Hours fly by, unnoticed. It is the same as the case of the knitter. Tiredness and fatigue took a back seat as she powered her way to greater achievement.
I was impressed by her perseverance empowered by her passion. She might be thinking those who succeed owe their success to perseverance or persistence and no one succeeds without making an effort. She was right at that point but did she hear what Helen Keller said, “We can do anything we want to do if we stick at it long enough?” Did she know the word “enough”? Perseverance can be turned into compulsion when we cannot tell enough is enough. After watching the video, I would rather believe that knowing when to let go is key to success. Successful people can distinguish the signs which tell them to stop. They do not reckon that letting go equals to giving up. She did not give up since she was taught giving-up is a negative, passive characteristic whereas perseverance is a positive, active virtue.
While the knitter was relentlessly knitting, the words, “Never, never, never give up” remarked by Winston Churchill probably echoed in her mind. She might also practise what Thomas Edison thought, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” The heroine is blinded by her misuse of passion and dedication and fails to notice that it is time to stop, without a thought of pausing. From her experience, I learnt what Walter Elliott believed, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” With this I agree very much. In search of dreams, success or perfection, we have to pause and take a break to reflect on and evaluate what we have achieved so far.
When we were young, we were taught whenever we encounter troubles, we must be sensible but not be blinded by emotions and personal feelings. We must have courage to face difficulties and accept what life brings to us. When there was a shortage of yarn, the heroine had fortitude to face up to the fact and thought of using her hair to solve the problem. She tided herself over her difficulty by providing determination to continue knitting. Nevertheless, the animation tells us that this is by no means a wise way to solve a problem. It is a shock to me when a person with high adversity quotient cannot overcome an obstacle and almost kills herself with her determination to solve problems. I am confused about the situation. Although her solution is not the best, why is it like committing suicide? Society emphasises emotional quotient and adversity quotient nowadays apart from intelligence quotient. People in modern society are often accused of lacking the ability to adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve their goals, or the ability to deal with adversities. Why does a person as resilient as the knitter eventually put herself in a worse situation? From this we should note that what we call passion and determination can lead to disastrous consequences, as a result of excessive pursuit of perfection.
Moderation is the best strategy. It is of prominent importance to know when we should reflect what we have achieved, and when we should let go or stop. There is a saying, “Moderation in all things.” The knitter did not work in moderation. She should have avoided any excess or extremes.
Secondary School (English Division) 1st Runner-up
Name: Tsui Ching Tung Rachel School: St. Paul's Co-educational College Class: 6G
A popular oriental belief that bears the principles of Buddhist philosophy opposes the attachment to any earthly possessions, be it fame, wealth or materialistic gains; it also encourages one to be mindful and present in the moment, and to appreciate one's surroundings and loved ones. However, I have always struggled to come to terms with such a seemingly impractical way of life; growing up in a family that constantly encourages me to pursue the best and most, while learning under a highly competitive education system in Hong Kong, I have always been taught to strive for the most achievements and build the most decorated curriculum vitae to contend for the optimal opportunities at renowned institutions. Much like the protagonist in 'The Last Knit', whose incessant knitting develops into a compulsive obsession that eventually endangers her life; to some degree, I could identify with her desperation to pursue more even when it cost her greatly. Opening in a bleak setting of a barren cliff and a wooden chair, the director effectively creates an ominous atmosphere of isolation, while also alluding to the simplicity of the most primitive question of humanity that challenges many: to let go or to hold on?
The protagonist embarks on an anguished frenzy to knit a scarf, from the decisive kick of the scarf from under her feet, the descent of the scarf beyond the cliff symbolises the initiation of an obsession that subsequently becomes uncontrollable. As the music quickens its pace, the woman's frantic hands increase in speed to knit more and it reaches a climax as the scarf drags the woman towards a dangerous proximity to the cliff. Yet, the woman peers over the cliff and decides to continue with her quest, as the music and rhythmic 'ticks' of the needles sound again. A similar theatrical pinnacle is reached as the woman realises that she is out of yarn, she once again carries on knitting, this time however, utilizing her own hair as material for the garment. The repetition of the rising and falling action of the background music and rhythm creates a nerve-wracking anticipation for the audience as the tension builds; more importantly, it symbolises the cyclical and damaging nature of obsession: growing interest and attachment to an object or the process, the temporary hesitation when contemplating whether to continue, then finally the determination to carry on.
As the scarf falls and begins to drag her in tow, the woman is unaware of, or even neglects the detrimental consequences of allowing herself to continue into the harmful plummet of compulsion. While it is open to interpretation for what the motif of the scarf can represent, I comprehended the scarf as an achievement that the one desperately grapples to complete, while the never-ending extension of the scarf parallels the reality that there seems to be an inexhaustible limit on how much one can possibly achieve. While one can be temporarily consumed by the boundless pursuit of success, one can also find themselves caught in circumstances that are subconsciously harmful. Likewise, I sometimes find myself inextricably confined to the pursuit of academic excellence, engrossed by the process of achieving the most, yet unknowingly overlooking the injurious consequences on my health, or even the deteriorating relationships between my family and me.
The ambiguity of the denouement poses the question of whether or not the woman was able to detach herself from addiction. In realisation that her empty needles continue the actions of knitting without thread, she adopts a decisive stance and tosses the needles over the cliff. The video comes to an end as the woman returns to her wooden chair, picks up the scissors and snipes at her fingernails. Her itch to pick up another object points to the possibility of initiating a new obsession, while the action that could potentially inflict physical harm signifies an escalation of danger. The chair can be interpreted as a symbol of the core values that ground us; the directorial choice of a plain wooden chair rather than an embezzled throne, is an embodiment of how one's most important principles should represent the bare and genuineness of humanity, instead of the decorated titles that one strives to achieve.
This video elucidates the harmful effects of becoming overly attached through the story of a woman who harms herself in the obsessive process of reaching her goal; yet I believe that the director does not want to offer complete criticism towards the protagonist's actions, as it is only realistic for one to grow fond of possessions and develop an aggression to pursue something to its finality. Therefore, I believe it provides insight into both perspectives in consideration of pursuing an objective; on one hand, it is beneficial to define targets for one to achieve, on the other hand, the devoted yet blind pursuit may impose physical and psychological shackles upon oneself to uphold. The art of non-attachment is indeed challenging to master, after all, we do live in a society that is driven by a capitalistic imperative, while I was a youngster, am still unfledged in the vast experiences of the world. I now understand that over the inexorable progression of time, one's materialistic possessions and achievements bear little to no significance on the grand scheme of events, therefore one should learn to strike a balance between pursuing success and examining the true value of such accomplishments.
To conclude, although we are situated in a society that advocates the survival of the fittest, and it is inevitable for one to lose hold on one's priorities and proportions when consumed by the addictive attainment of any goals. Hence, we should always return to our own simple 'wooden chair', to remind ourselves of the most primitive values that ground us. Though I have always found the saying of 'carpe diem' overused and extremely cliché, it is admittedly a respectable way of life that encourages one to seize the day and devote ourselves to the present and the loved ones around us.
Secondary School (English Division) 2nd Runner-up
Name: Stephanie Webb School: Harrow International School Hong Kong
Closer. And closer. And closer. The winding train of scarf inches towards the edge of the cliff. It is slowly making its way towards the inevitable fall. Like a snake slithering along the ground, it approaches the brink.
This is a result of hours and hours of obsessive knitting by the protagonist.
At the break of dawn, the knitter set her chair down on the edge of a cliff and worked away at the balls of wool placed before her. However, as the scarf became longer and longer, it began to trickle down over the edge, pulling her with it. Being unable to give up her precious creation, she resorted to knitting her own hair in, thinking it would buy her time. Unfortunately, as the scarf gained momentum, this physical attachment led to pull her into the abyss as well.
She eventually crawled her way back up, with her hair torn and dishevelled.
That's when her scissors caught her eye. She began clipping her nails with it, and then looking around for something else to cut. Hence her next obsession began.
This meaningful short film can be open to many interpretations, but I believe that it is essentially about having an addiction that takes control over you.
The knitter's obsession is manifested in her being unable to let go of her creation. There are three key instances when she could have parted ways with it, but she didn't.
The first chance she had was when she reached down for her scissors. In a swift motion, she extended her right hand, swooping down to pick them up, preparing to cut off her creation. However, her fingers only barely managed to skim the cool, hard surface of the scissors blade before she hesitated. Instead of picking up the scissors, she ended up grabbing another ball of wool, determined to continue.
The second chance she had was after she gave the scarf a gentle kick, and the long scarf began tumbling down the cliff. As its weight was pulling her down, she should have known that she was putting herself in danger by continuing knitting. She stared, almost in surprise, at the scarf gradually trailing down the cliff. However, the pace of her knitting not only didn't slow - it increased! It was as if her mind couldn't control her hands, she was unable to put the needles down. She was unable to stop.
Her third and possibly final chance before irreversible damage would be done was when she ran out of yarn. Then and there, she should have stopped. However, she did not. She was so determined and so obsessed that she decided to resort to the last thing she could - to using her hair as raw material.
The video could be a cautionary tale about drug addiction. The setting is of arid and empty span of land, atop a mountain cliff. This symbolises the isolation in the protagonist's life due to her addiction, as well as the danger she is subjecting herself to. The time it is set is also significant. She began knitting at dawn, when the sky was still dark. As time passed, so did the length of the scarf. This echoes the growth of her addiction. Her knitting her hair into the scarf symbolises her addiction became so bad that it began affecting her health. However, she still couldn't stop. It wasn't until she was on the verge of falling off the cliff, symbolising death, that she started struggling to reach for the scissors to end knitting the scarf, metaphorically ending her addiction. Later, she returned with her hair torn and shredded, reflecting the permanent damage of drugs. Despite this, she still continued a knitting motion, almost involuntarily, with the needles in her hands. This symbolises the urges addicts get after quitting. That's when she picked the scissors up and began her next addiction. Moreover, “needles” and “scissors” are slangs in drug use.
The film could also be interpreted as depicting work addiction. The scarf represents success, whether that be monetary success or fame or power. The knitter worked away, nearly leading to her own demise, in order to increase the length of the scarf. Again, the arid land represents the protagonist's isolated life, reflecting how she closed herself off from the rest of the world. The chair represents her initial balanced life. The further she strayed from the chair, the more obsessed she became with knitting, reflecting her growing addiction to work. In this interpretation, while it is acceptable to work hard to some extent, it is vital to keep a balanced life. The knitter was fine initially, creating a beautiful, long scarf while she stayed in her chair (representing balance). However, she did not know when to stop. She just kept on working to the point of no return.
This philosophy of “moderation in all things” is a common teaching in various religions and philosophies. Moderation is one of the “three jewels” or virtues in Taoism. The founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, repeatedly emphasised the significance of moderation. He said “those who know when it is enough will not perish”. This virtue is equally emphasised in Ancient Greece. Aristotle once said, “virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency”. This means people should learn to balance between two extremes in order to find true happiness. In Buddhism, Buddha teaches “the middle way”, a path between self-denial and materialistic self-indulgence. In Christianity, self-control is one of the nine “fruits of the Holy Spirit” which Christians should strive to attain.
In conclusion, I agree with this philosophy of moderation. I think that the key to leading a happy yet successful life is being able to strike a balance.The knitter in the video was not able to moderate her work, leading to physical and possibly mental damage. This is why we should learn how to live in moderation, never leaning too much towards one end of the spectrum.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Chloe Wong School: Chinese International School Class: YR9
The short film “The Last Knit” shows the destructive power and consequences of addiction through this fable about a gaunt, blonde-haired woman who becomes addicted to knitting a scarf that gets so long that it nearly kills her. Addiction comes in many forms. All forms of addiction are dangerous, even though they might not seem so at first. “The Last Knit” tells the story of a woman addicted to knitting, which is symbolic of our tendency to become obsessed with things that ultimately bring no real meaning to our lives. Addiction in its different shapes and forms is widely prevalent in modern society, often trapping us into a bubble.
The story starts out with a woman who seemingly enjoys knitting. The accompanying music starts off with a tranquil tone. We then realize that she is sitting in a barren landscape, surrounded by balls and balls of yarn. The music began getting darker and more frantic, and the tone of the story switched. The woman kept getting dragged down into an abyss by the weight of her scarf. However, she didn't seem bothered by it and kept on knitting. The constant clicking of the sticks had a rhythm to it, like a drum, which blended with the dark undertones of the music.
I became entranced with the clicking of the sticks, and I didn't even notice that the yarn was running out until she started getting closer and closer to the precipice. Even in the face of hypothetical death, she still could not stop. She used her hair as a last-ditch effort to keep knitting, but even that wasn't enough. The closer she got to the edge, the more frantic her knitting became. She could've stopped there, but she didn't. When she eventually ran out of material, she desperately reached out to the scissors. While she tried to get the scissors to cut her hair away from the yarn, she broke one of her knitting sticks in the process; the sticks led her to start knitting. She couldn't reach the scissors, and despite her desperate attempts to stay anchored, she plunged down the cliff. After the screen goes dark, we see that she climbed back up with chunks of her hair missing, and the scarf finally gone. She had finally let go. She threw her knitting needles off the cliff, and here we see her relief. She finally let go, or overcame her addiction. She turned around and picked up the scissors. Interestingly, the ending is open to interpretation as it is possible that she ends up developing another addiction with the scissors, or she truly has turned a new leaf and decided to experience other things in life that will give her joy.
The theme of addiction is the most prevalent in this short film. The causes and effects of addiction are metaphorically implied in this film with the start of the addiction being almost unnoticeable. The same happens in real life, where something new turns into a hobby, then turns into an obsession and finally emerges as an addiction.
The barren landscape shows the loneliness seen from the outside perspective when someone is suffering from an addiction. The lady looked perfectly content as she sat knitting by herself, but from the outside looking in, we see that she is completely alone, stuck in a desolate desert. People suffering from addiction usually feel alone, stuck in a bubble. Addiction can range from drugs to social media to gambling and to self-harm. These are the things that might offer short- lived happiness but ultimately offer little meaning. Through this, they lose touch with the world around them. Isolating themselves because they know their peers will jeer at them, fearing the judgement of their parents if they admit that they are struggling with an addiction - all of this prevents them from seeking help, and drives their to addiction.
Being addicted reflects the pressure that society gives to every single person to climb to the top. We all are pressured to earn as much money as possible, to achieve the highest social status, to compare ourselves to our peers and achieve more than them in life. But by chasing what others define as “life” you miss out on everything else that this world provides - the crunching of leaves under your boots, connecting with a stranger, or simply having a good laugh. It is impossible to conform to all societal standards, and the more we try, the more we fall down the rabbit hole, and get dragged down, because we feel that we will never be good enough. Many people develop habits to cope with the feeling of emptiness or imperfection that they feel, which again leads to addictions.
Millions of people struggle with their mental health. From anxiety to depression to being bipolar and many more. Any form of addiction will negatively affect one's mental health. In the short film, the knitter knows that she's falling, but refuses to cut herself off. Just like in real life, there are ways to get help for addiction, but we may fail to make that choice. At the end of the film, we see the woman start to cut things with the scissors. There are two ways we could interpret this. This could be the start of self-harm, starting with the cutting of fingernails, or a new addiction. Some might still be completely alone and turn to another form of addiction to cope. The lack of support and love in the world spirals some people into depression and addiction, but there are always people out there who will help you.
This short film effectively communicates the importance of dealing and identifying addiction before it's too late. The negative effects of addiction are shown throughout the film and can also be found in real life. We shouldn't shun people suffering from addiction and instead embrace them with love to help them live life to the fullest.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Kwok Valerie Tin Wing School: St Paul's Co-educational College Class: 1G
As Mason Cooley once said, “Lust and greed are more gullible than innocence.” When one is greedy, they are so blinded by their ambitions that reality and lies are no longer distinguishable. The short animated film directed by Laura Neuvonen, The Last Knit, focuses on a woman who is addicted to knitting. The whole film concentrates on her inability to stop knitting, a fitting metaphor for humans' ceaseless pursuits in life.
The themes in the short film are portrayed through the protagonist of the film who mirrors modern human beings' constant thirst for achievements. In the film, she knits feverishly, but we cannot see a clear reason. Who is she knitting for? Why is she knitting?Does she enjoy knitting? Despite having used up all her yarn, she does not appear to be satisfied, drawing parallels to humans' inaptitude to be satisfied with what one has achieved. By portraying the main character's obsession with knitting, Neuvonen successfully shows our incessant need to gain more in life. Ironically, although the scarf is the protagonist's achievement, it is precisely her scarf that drags her down. Literally, she is dragged down by her scarf; figuratively, her knitting restricts her from enjoying life. She shows no joy or pride upon her work. In fact, she doesn't even look at how much she has done, but only knows to keep working and working. In other words, humans' greed will lead to their doom.
The obstacles she encounters are also metaphors of what we encounter nowadays. Her lack of yarn reflects our lack of resources. Her action in the short film, where she refuses to leave her chair even if her scarf is dragging her down, is similar to how people desperately want to produce results in a mindless manner while staying in their comfort zones. She is only able to see things from her perspective, absolutely unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. The protagonist's attempat to use her own hair to continue knitting underscores our tendency to accomplish a task regardless of the means. This brings up the question of whether the end justifies the means, as the process to achieve is one that is tedious and painful. We rush our way through life, determined to do everything we can, to cram every 24 hours with activities. But we never stop to think, whether what we are doing is necessary. Because we don't stop and check the map carefully, we need to exert a lot of effort to reach a destination, despite there being an easier route that would take us to the same point in minutes. Is it worth it? Are we able to feel fulfilled once we accomplish what we have set out to do?
In The Last Knit, music is used to further emphasize the dullness of life. The music is a repetitive clicking noise, in rhythm to the character's knitting which signifies the monotonous routines of our lives. The viewers are drawn to the rhythm, but beneath the comfortable facade, we are aware of the inescapable routines of life. This is further conveyed through the scarf's colors; her scarf is very bland, with the same patterns and colours. She makes no effort to knit something special. As Vincent Van Gogh said, “ Normality is a paved road: it's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” Humans just want everything to be easy, comfortable and simple. Like the protagonist, we do not welcome change. Humans do not waste time to consider alternative choices. We do not think of ways to better ourselves.
When the short animation comes to an end, even though her knitting needles are gone, she still fidgets with her scissors. The repetitive music which stopped earlier has started again, meaning her need to do something has been aroused. We can see that, despite almost falling off a cliff and plummeting to her death, the character calmly sheers off to her nails. As long as she has something to entertain herself, she will be fine. It symbolises once again, our thirst for action,which, in some case, is extraneous.
In conclusion, the main character is an accurate mirror of our society and beliefs: keep looking for more, work hard and do everything you can. More achievement means you are better than everyone else. It raises the question of whether or not we are content with our achievements despite all our efforts. This film brings us a warning : stop looking for more than you need, or you will pay more than a scarf and hair.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Hailey Chow Hang Hei School: Sacred Heart Canossian College Class: 2F
Knitting, Knitting, there my master dwelling
Here I dance in your arms
Beneath the yellow sky
There I sing under your palms
Beneath the golden sky
Here I dwell yearslong
Beneath the shimmering sky
Looking up wishing for throng
Beneath the gilt sky
Tick tac, say the ringing days
Beneath the unchanging sky
I look at your troubled face
Beneath the cloudless sky
Doubtful you are, and puzzled
Above the sandy ground
You seem transfixed but work as hustled
Above the flat and dull ground
Oh dear, now I do worry
Above the misty ground
I see in your face odd fury
Above the evening ground
Stop! I cry aloud. Halt!
Above the desert ground
Yet you seem not to notice your faults
Above the rocky ground
Tears rolling, ringing, rocking
Face angered, anguished, agonized
Yet you continue, with care, concerned
Determined, dedicated, oh don't you fret
Battling, I bet, with your bold self
Resisting, I reckon, and rushed you on
What endless work will win you over?
When shall your scattered soul be recollected?
Once upon a year
You still held that fear
Trying to put down the act
Which then, is now a fact
I can no longer warn you
In tears, I see your will, what you do
Still dancing I am, and I am weak
In your arms, a weeping antique
Hear me now, for one last time
My words, at your ears there chime
Sorrowful this is, my friend
Yet this mournful addiction is hard to amend
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Cheng Pearl Tsoi Wun School: Diocesan Girls' School
As the woman knits her way through her spools of yarn, I sit there too, knitting my brow, first in confusion, and after that, a horror which is unending and tugs at my fingertips quietly, just like the woman's scarf.
What is so unnerving about The Last Knit? This can be attributed to its ambiguity, woven deep into the video through uncanny silences and a desolate setting. The woman knits atop a bare, empty cliff, where there is nothing except for the yellow rock and soil. The camera shot only offers a worm's eye view, and so we only see the cliff walls from below, but never how high the cliff itself is. There is no dialogue, and almost no sound, save for the quiet, diegetic clicking of the knitting needles and the occasional “whoosh” as the scarf slides off the cliff. Who is the woman? Why is she knitting? Where is this place? The vacuum left by mystery is filled with uneasiness, exacerbated by the clicking from the needles, which grows in intensity as the woman knits with whatever she can find until finally, the pitch turns into a frantic staccato sound that suggests urgency and borderline madness.
There is also the inhuman madness that the woman displays. At first, she seems normal enough. She is just an average woman who decides to find a quiet place to do her knitting, yet with the small kick of her foot, everything goes downhill. As the scarf slips down and starts to pull the woman with it, there is at first a spark of hesitation and surprise, and she tries to pull it back up to continue. But as she tries to stop it from sliding prove increasingly futile, a close-up shot reveals a furrowed brow and wide determined eyes, and the pace of knitting quickens. It is as if she had accepted a challenge: to stop the scarf from sliding off completely by knitting at a higher pace than which it slides. She goes over the edge, quite literally, in order to meet the challenge imposed. But when the yarn runs out, the woman turns to her hair. The scene turns to a horizontal, medium close-up shot as the woman struggles to reach the scissors. The strain of the weight of the scarf knitted with her hair is clearly seen as it occupies half the screen. The organic imagery from the shot alone generates unimaginable pain, yet the woman does not seem concerned at all. And as the video progresses and the woman turns to her fingers with the scissors, the same lack of concern is shown. As the woman picks up the pair of scissors and tentatively snips at her fingernails with it, her expression is not one of pain, but judging from the wide eyes and inquisitive look, curiosity and intrigue. As the video ends, not only do we question the woman's sanity in her relentless knitting, we are also unnerved by her apparent inability to react to the most basic of human feelings: pain.
But perhaps most vividly, the video is a reflection of ourselves. As the woman knits her scarf compulsively, obsessively, we too knit the fabric of our lives relentlessly and sometimes blindly. At a young age, we pick up the first threads of our dreams and become the tailors of our own fate. “I want good grades!” Aspirations and wants form the yarn of our lives, weaving itself into a beautiful piece of tapestry. Much like the scarf, a delicate shade of pink and mauve, a life with dreams and desires are a beauty to behold.
However, at some point down the road, our feet kicks the fabric. A few dazzling patterns on the tapestry makes us want even prettier, nicer ones, and this insatiable desire becomes the driving force behind our ever-furious knitting. So, as we gradually become more focused on creating the scarf of our lives, it skids down the precipice, generating a pull that only becomes stronger and stronger as the weight increases, slowly dragging us out of our chair. “I want good grades!” evolves into “I want to get into a good university!” It is because we believe that we can get more and more. Never satisfied, we become the slaves to the products of our imagination, letting it consume us in our relentless and blind pursuit.
But to what end? Tellingly, the video ends as the woman starts cutting her fingernails. Here comes another round of compulsiveness, and there is no knowing what happens to her after that. There is no end to her obsessive habits, and similarly, there is no end for relentless and blind pursuit, as our inability to be satisfied is a spiral that just goes down and down and down. But if there is to be an ultimate end to relentless and blind pursuit, that is at the cost of ourselves. From her previous frenzied knitting and delighted grin at snipping her fingernails, we can guess that she turns her scissors to other parts of her body afterwards, possibly injuring herself. Unwittingly, we are told in this video, we can start off knitting our lives with shimmering gossamer but end up with nothing but torn-up rags. That, perhaps, is the most unsettling horror of them all.
And I think for a moment about what would happen if the woman had stopped knitting. What if she stopped right after kicking the scarf aside with her foot off the cliff's edge? Would she have begun her descent into this madness?
Ultimately, there aren't any more “what ifs” for the woman, but there are certainly “what nexts” for all of us with two silver knitting needles in our hands. We are all there, sitting on our own precipice and weaving our own dreams and desires into amazing patterns, and it is for us to decide whether this will be our last knit, or a sustainable cycle of many, many more to come.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Reva Rajesh Shetty School: King George V School Class: Year 9
This almost 7-minute video by Laura Neuvonen with no dialogues captures the very problems and difficulties of life, conveying a very crucial message. How can a short film like this illustrate something so significant, you might ask? Well, let me tell you how I feel. This represents and teaches all of us a lesson, guiding viewers on the need to live a balanced life.
I personally believe that this film is about the life of a troubled being, who has lost something, or simply someone who has got caught up in something over the limits. I think that the knitting thread depicts a hobby, job or a scenario that we build a strong connection with overtime. People get so caught up in certain situations, because they are not content with their end products, or that they didn't get the joy that they should have received. Usually it is because something might be bothering them, they may tend to get caught up in short-term activity that is able to distract them from their actual problems. The chair represents our life, and how once we were distracted by something. It may pull us away from the important people who can help us. Instead we close ourselves even more, breaking away from the people which may give our life that essence that someone may long for. The cliff is the path that a person takes which leads one's life to go downhill, making it worse than their current situation. The knitter's hair portrays a solution to fix our problems as quickly as possible. What we don't realise, is that time is usually the best way to heal scars. This is why when the knitter attempts to fix the problem and keep her knitting going with some fast thinking. It backfires and drags her into an even bigger problem. The scissors, lastly are the real solution to our problems. Though it might be right to us, we don't see it as we are clouded with other doubts or boundaries. The end to our problems is the realisation that the solution is usually within our own hands.
This has taught me that we need to learn to accept changes and let go. This was shown when the knitter had the chance to cut the yarn and end her piece, but she continued making her scarf. This simple decision depicts the idea that sometimes people aren't ready to move on and do something else with life, as they think that they might not be able to cope with the new problems that a change will bring. It also can make us lose our sense of security and certainty as it may bring an influential change to our lives, which can feel very unknown to people. I think that as the knitter felt her work wasn't up to the standard she wanted, she continued to knit. Later we find that this action leads her into dealing with the big problem of the possibility of losing her piece and the possibility to die or get severely injured. This shows that sticking to our old life or habits may not go well for us, as it may throw problems at us due to the fact that we cannot always adapt to our old lifestyle. It also shows us that change is always for the better, and can be seen as a way for people to grow.
Another meaning that this film could be presenting is the idea of someone dealing with some type of addiction. Addictions are usually fueled by strong emotions, such as sadness, anger, stress, insecurity, hopelessness, etc. As these addictions link to both physical and mental reasons, it is very hard to battle these strong feelings inside one's mind. There are also certain objects that depict this message as well.The very setting of this film shows the idea of isolation and loneliness, which can happen when an addiction takes over and cuts you off from your usual life. At the end of the film, we see that the knitters' hair is cut, and that she no longer has the beautiful looks she had before. This represents how the addiction affects your life even after you have put an end to it.
This teaches us that there is a limit for everything, no matter what it is. When the knitter continues to knit and knit, she doesn't realise that she should stop, nor does she realise how long it actually becomes. Her harmless action of kicking the scarf forward led to a huge problem, which was the weight of the scarf pulling her down the hill. This shows us that no matter how healthy, or good something might be for us, it can lead to our downfall. One simple example of this is water. It is essential for humans, but having too much of it may lead to death.
The third and final lesson that I learnt from this animated film was that we need to learn to have self control. The knitter here has no sense of this valuable quality, as it is shown in her knitting. She never stopped until her very life is at stake. If we are not able to have self control in life, we will never be able to accomplish our goals, let alone thinking about anything else other then the object, job, etc we put in such high regard. As she had no self control regarding her passion, she never understood when to stop, and that solely led her to lose her work. This shows us that we need to stop being obsessed with matters before it is too late so we don't regret our decisions.
To sum this up, The Last Knit presents an unusual tale of circumstances getting out of control and enlightens us why it is crucial to set a boundary on our actions or decisions.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Choi Lok Yin School: St. Paul's Convent School (Secondary Section) Class: 5P
“The Last Knit” is a powerful animation that encapsulates universal experiences, habits, and the importance of letting go. Through this is a short yet impactful video, the cycle of getting caught up in repetitive daily tasks towards achieving an inexplicable goal is presented prominently, leaving a long-lasting afterimage in the viewer's mind.
The most eye-catching element of the animation is its sole character: an unnamed woman knitting alone by the edge of a cliff. This allows her to represent any given person, even the viewer. Obviously an avid knitter, she crafts a scarf with impeccable skill. The colour of the yarn is used to make the scarf a stark red contrast against the otherwise neutral and rather bleak background. In fact, the only bright colours are that of the scarf and the woman's dress. Red has connotations of passion, enthusiasm and youthful zest, conveying the woman's intense liking for knitting as she seems to engage in the activity fervently. Besides, with knitting being a stereotypically mindless and relaxing pastime, this may explain why the woman is so interested in it, possibly revelling in the monotony of each purl and knit as an escape from daily preoccupations. To add to this, the setting of the entire video is relatively vacant and open, symbolising the headspace that the woman is in while she is knitting. She is relaxed, carefree, and focused solely on the task at hand – knitting her scarf. Knitting, as an activity, requires relentless effort and concentration so as not to forget the number of each stitch. It stands for one's dreams, be it career-wise, an achievement, or even just completing a project. The barren, desolate clifftop represents the isolated and unsung dedication needed to achieve success. Hence, the woman actively chooses to knit on the edge of the cliff, bringing her yarn balls and wooden chair to an uninhabited location so she can knit in solitude, as suggested by the animation being completely void of dialogue.
However, this healthy interest quickly spirals out of control and into obsession. The woman contemplates finishing up her product, reaching for the scissors, but perfectionism and overambition overtake her and she picks up another ball of yarn instead, continuing with her project. With a small kick, the end of the scarf is sent dangling over the edge of the cliff. This creates a domino effect: the weight of the scarf pulls itself down into the abyss, dragging the woman, who refuses to let her work go, along with it. It is not until she is physically pulled out her chair, which symbolises a safe, controlled platform in which she is able to develop her talent, that she realises the extent of her problem, but she continues to knit anyway in hopes that she can out-knit the speed at which the scarf is falling. She becomes frantic and compulsive, knitting even more feverishly than before to prevent her hard work from slipping into the bottomless pit. To a certain extent, this works, but not before she runs out of yarn and resorts to using her hair as an extension. This is the embodiment of, quite literally, tethering oneself to their accomplishments to the point that neither are separable from the other. Due to her manic devotion for her scarf, she is in even more danger as she can no longer free herself when the scarf drags her over the edge. As a result, she uses her knitting needles, the reliable instruments that have enabled her to create her masterpiece, as the pick to stop herself from slipping. Ironically enough, they snap when she needs them the most, and she is sent tumbling over the edge. This shows that faith and complete trust cannot be placed on any single object alone; backup plans and careful consideration must be present in any scenario to prevent total devastation. The woman's fate shows exactly the converse.
Fortunately, the woman eventually climbs back up the cliff with choppy hair, suggesting that she has bitten it off by the lock of hair still in her mouth when she re-emerges. This is a vivid contrast between before she falls off, when she stows her knitting needles in her mouth in an attempt to grab the out-of-reach scissors, showing that she has learnt to let go of the scarf, and subsequently everything that has been burdening her despite her achievements, allowing her another chance at life. As she looks over the edge, she finds her hands subconsciously waving the knitting needles about, and, to prevent knitting from taking hold of her ever again, she throws them off the cliff, and they fall in slow motion into the white nothingness. This deliberate act of letting go is the long-awaited riddance of her responsibilities stemming originally from interest, and though there is a lingering stare as the needles fall, she lets out a sigh of relief.
Yet, as the animation draws to a close, the woman picks up the scissors and seems to want to snip at her fingers. This highlights her potentially addictive personality, being particularly susceptible to developing obsessive tendencies. Both the needles and the scissors are symbolically sharp and dangerous objects, inferring that if the woman remains in this secluded mindset as portrayed by the cliff, she may establish a fixation with yet another activity. It is up to her, and in turn the viewer, to identify this possibly vicious cycle of obsession and downfalls within oneself to break free and regain a sense of self.
To conclude, “The Last Knit” tells a cautionary tale of the dangers of being possessed by indecipherable idée fixes paired with an inability of recognising them and stepping back to see the bigger picture. It is the effort of acknowledging these compulsions, of accepting them and letting them go, and not material gains or superficial fulfilment, that is the ultimate act of self-love, and it is the only valid measure of one's self worth.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Lee Tsz Pui Gordon School: Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School Class: 11D
Have you ever thought to yourself: why am I doing this job that I don't like? Why am I constantly gaming even though I don't want to? These questions constantly float in our minds, yet often times, we yield. We say to ourselves, “No, you can do it.”, or “Get it out of your mind, you'll be fine.” We often attempt to confront ourselves with the issues that we encounter, the inner struggles that we experience, yet we constantly succumb towards the simple numbing phrase of “I'm okay”, that we forget that these issues are really there. Until we find these problems too big to grasp, or too much to ponder, that we realise that letting go is the best way. And that precisely is the essence of the Last Knit, to have freedom and autonomy over your own life.
The Last Knit, although seemingly simple and straightforward, holds a greatly significant and impactful message. Alike any other individual, the woman in the video has her own problems and issues to face in life. In the animation, she is shown to be knitting a scarf that is constantly lengthened and slowly approaches a cliff. In the process, as she continues to knit and runs out of yarn, she hesitates slightly, initially wants to pick up her scissors but later decides to take another ball of yarn, continuing to knit her scarf. As she continues to knit, she experiences increased difficulty trying to control the scarf as it becomes longer and extends down the cliff, almost falling down the cliff several times but trying her best to climb back up to her chair. She eventually knits her hair into her scarf, but inevitably falls down the cliff. Climbing back up, she decides to throw her needles down the cliff and picks up her scissors, her face full of relief.
In the animation, the scarf symbolizes the issues and burdens that we have in life, which unnoticeably exacerbates as time passes. We often become fully aware of the problem early on alike the women as her scarf becomes longer, but we decide to cope with it, convincing ourselves that we can stand it for a longer time, that it will solve itself. Yet as we continue forcing our way through these problems, we unconsciously become controlled by these issues and “coping” becomes a routine. We become used to living with our issues and become the ones infinitely knitting scarves, constantly trying to bypass or escape from our issues. We put in all we can to evade the problem, our hands knitting non-stop; right until it becomes too late, where we suddenly fall into an abyss, our immense problems dragging us into a place of misery and frustration. It is only at this point, that we realise that our problems are the ones thoroughly governing our own lives.
As we try to recover from our failures, we often become tempted to fall back into our previous routines, as we still feel mentally obliged to cope with our previous problems. However, once we realise that the burdens that we once had are no longer there, that there is no scarf to knit, we become empowered. Empowered to throw our past behind us, to truly pursue things that we desire, to be the leaders over our own lives. We become braver to confront ourselves, to tell ourselves what is right for us, to hurl the needles of our hearts down the cliff. And when we truly free ourselves from the chains that once shackled us, the issues that once controlled us, we realize truly how free and limitless we are. Without thoughts clouding our minds and expectations to be fulfilled, we no longer need to evade our problems. We are given the power to actively solve them, to put an end to what we think is wrong, and to move on towards something that we truly want to pursue and achieve. We are given full access towards our “scissors”, allowing us to actively tackle our own problems and correct our wrongdoings before consequences become imminent, enabling us to truly be the one in charge of ourselves. We should be the true owner of our own lives, not our problems.
We look back down at the cliff, recalling the petrifying moments as we plunged down the chasm, recalling all that we have lost and left behind. We look at ourselves, injured and bruised by the issues that once haunted us, and we wonder by ourselves: what if we didn't have to fall down the cliff? What if we could grasp onto our scissors, to cut our problems and struggles away from our lives in the first place, to decisively toss our needles away? We might wonder, can we truly eradicate a problem without experiencing its troubles? Fortunately, the answer is a definite yes. We can.
We as humans, are gifted with a special power - a power allowing us to consciously deal with our problems, to truly care, for yourself and one another. We are given the full potential and ability to uproot a problem, right when it is planted. However, whether you uproot the issue, is solely your choice. You are the one to decide for yourself; whether you want to live a life of freedom, dedicate your life towards escaping your problems or fall down a cliff too hard to climb back up on. You are the one to decide when, where and why the scarf is cut, or whether it exists at all. The power is yours.
So next time when a new problem sprouts in your life, remember that you have the power to eliminate it. Don't convince yourself that it's alright, learn to say no. Learn to say that you're not fine, that you need a change, that the problem has to be solved. And once you let go of all the problems in your hands and make changes for the better, you slowly realise, that life is a lot more than just knitting.
The Last Knit is a thought-provoking animation directed by Laura Neuvonen. Although it is only about 6-minute long and without any dialogue, the plot is readily comprehensible. It commences with the protagonist knitting a scarf on a chair atop the cliff. Soon, the scarf became perfectly gorgeous and of a suitable length. Being aware of it, she dithered yet chose to continue knitting. Inadvertently, she gave a slight kick to the scarf and part of the scarf was hanging over the cliff edge. Meanwhile, she knitted faster in a bid to compete with the pace of falling. She even made use of her own yellowish hair when all yarn had been used up. As the suspending scarf became bulkier, the protagonist, adhered to the scarf, fell from the cliff reluctantly. In the end, the protagonist climbed up the cliff with her hair cut and she settled on the chair leisurely.
This story mainly illustrates the greediness of human beings. The protagonist bent to grab the scissors and thought of finishing the scarf when the length was just right. Unfortunately, her covetous thought prevailed, and she got another yarn instead. There are always endless wants since new wishes arise when the old ones are fulfilled. We never seem to realize what we have and are seldom satisfied with them. It is ubiquitous that we want to ameliorate the quality of our lives, and to make our lives more convenient and comfortable. Considering this, we earn more and more money and look for fame and power in the meantime. Nonetheless, all these will erode our minds and gradually suffocate us. At times, we may be preoccupied and forget about things around us. For instance, the protagonist gave a gentle kick and part of the scarf fell from the cliff. This is a signal of hazard to remind us though we fail to notice the perilous circumstances when being too obsessed. Consequently, we cannot get out of it in time. On the contrary, if we cherish what we own and halt asking unceasingly for more, we will indeed see the bright side of the current situation and be contented with it.
Another pivotal idea brought up by the storyline is to let go of things wisely. Herman Hesse once said, 'Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.' The protagonist did not consider relinquishing her grip on the scarf notwithstanding the possibility of falling down the cliff. If she chose to let the scarf go at the beginning when she noticed that it was slipping, she could well preserve the rest of her precious yarn. On the other hand, if she chose to let the scarf go before she used her hair as knitting supplies, she could have rescued herself from the lethal situation at bay. While I was watching the film, I found the protagonist obstinate and quite absurd. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that when we are in a similar situation, we tend to behave the same as she did. We are often stuck in the past unpleasant experiences and can neither recover nor get over them. Or sometimes we may put so much effort into things that we can hardly give up, yet it turns out worse and we may lose even more eventually. It is of paramount importance that we learn to let go and move on with the other business.
I personally think that the animation demonstrated the entire life of a person. We are born with nothing, neither knowledge nor accomplishment. The protagonist endeavored to knit the scarf from zero. The scarf may symbolize the things we hope to take possession of, while the knitting action represents the way we approach them. Most people work laboriously to fight for materialistic life. However, at the end of the day, we bring nothing with us when we leave the world. Like the protagonist, she had lost her scarf, yet she enjoyed her simple life. Watching the sunset from the vantage point and cutting her nails added spices to her life. Sometimes, less is more.
I am deeply inspired by The Last Knit. It is not only the plot that matters but also the messages behind it. I would recommend it to all people who feel lost about the meaning of life, as well as those who are stuck in some impasse. Overall, it is a film worth seeing.
Secondary School (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Kaur Shruti School: YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College Tung Chung Class: 3A
Nowadays in this swift and speedy world, gobs of us are convinced by the mainstream media that money makes the world go around. Owning the latest equipment, receiving an enormous paycheck, and living in a luxurious house may seem the key to happiness. However, The Last Knit written by Laura Neuvonen taught us that the excessive attachment to an ambition could lead to a person's own quietus. This short animation has truly left an amelioration on millions of viewers.
Laura Neuvonen uses no dialogues in this short animation and captures more than 12 million views. In my view, short animations have a language of its own, thus not requiring any dialogues. Moreover, it can allow the viewers to feel more connected to the characters, by making relevance to their own lives. Due to her creation of a groundbreaking character, she was nominated for the Annecy International Animated Film Festival (2005).
The Last Knit conveys the avant-garde plot of a fanatical knitter who clandestinely slunk towards a precipitous cliff before daybreak. After delicately placed her chair in a good vantage and she began her masterpiece. As the sun rose midst the pulpy clouds, she began to shift into high gear, causing herself to produce an exquisite, red-coloured scarf. She hunched down to grab a pair of scissors to complete her masterpiece, yet she swithered and proceeded. The quicker her hands moved, the longer her scarf grew, all bundled up together. Hence, she gave it a benign kick to make room for her fabrication to extend, resulting it to fall off the cliff (unbeknownst to the knitter).
Being obstinate and adamant, she chose to thwart the speed and weight of the scarf, albeit struggling. Nevertheless, she ran out of yarn. She realized that she was far from her chair ergo, she couldn't reach the scissors. She was at a moment full of hopelessness and despair, completely blank. She thereupon added her long blonde hair into her wonderful creation since she thought she'd have enough time to pull her entire masterpiece from the cliff. Still she could do nothing. The cliff was drawing closer. She was in a mess and couldn't even let go of her own creation…
In my opinion, this is a cautionary tale about passion, balance and release. It's crucial to understand that there is a fine line between dedication and obsession and between loyalty and compulsion. However, in this short animation, the knitter became compulsive and obsessive. Due to the time and effort she spent, she became more skilful (the swift movements of her hands). As time passed, the more she effectuated, the more ambitious she became. She could have used the scissors to cut the thread when it was “good enough”, but her desire and fondness for her creation pushed her to pursue, leading to her own decease.
As a viewer, I believe the central theme is the depiction of our whole lifetime. In this animation, we can see that for the sake of making an exemplary future ahead of her, she can't stop knitting. Despite knowing the consequences of falling into the “abyss”, she wants to continue. Imagine if the woman is replaced from “knitting” to “working” in labour; the chair would represent her real self; the scarf would represent power, fame, control, wealth and achievements; the scissors would represent the perception for “adequate-ness”. We may work overtime and race against time every single day in order to gain money at our workplace; while the others may submerge themselves in academic to bring honour to their family. In contemplation of our future, we sway our sweat, and strive head. As there are reprisals from reality that makes us out of breath, we don't realize the “abyss” ahead.
I truly enjoyed every part of this short animation, especially the character. This distraught, practically lunatic woman caused me to sit on the edge of my seat as I awaited the unexpected twists and turns to come. The sparse setting and the dramatic facial expressions are the impeccable combination for this obsessive hobby.
I also appreciate the moral that we can learn from the ending. As viewers, we know that the knitter was addicted to knitting (her ambition). Towards the end, we could see that she lost a part of herself, and her addiction to 'knitting'. By picking up the scissors she realized that she would prevent all her losses if she snipped the thread. She learnt to appreciate the scissors and how there should be an end to everything. We, as viewers, can learn that we should let some things go for good. Simply put, we should keep a balance between our professional life as well as our personal life.
However, after putting on my critique lens, I wished that the writer could have changed the ending slightly. Playing with the scissors at the end, which may lead the viewers to think that the obstinate woman has a new mania for scissors. Therefore, I would suggest a flashback showing her hesitation to pick up the scissors previously with her “now” realization for not using the scissors.
To conclude, I would recommend this to everyone -- elders, adults, young adults, teenagers, and children. I think it's vital for them to realize that they may immerse themselves in their work or studies too much, thus neglecting the other important factors of their lives such as family, friends, travel, etc. To me, there's nothing more powerful and permanent than this short animation. I believe that this is an issue that should definitely be addressed, and this animation is the best medium to make an awareness. Therefore, I would rate this film 10 out of 10.
In the wooden chair she sits, her fingers move fast in an exact routine. A burgundy scarf, a pile of soft yarn extends from her knitting needles. The intricate latticework woven by the threads of (vanity and ambitions stoked with fervor and passion. And it was that blameless, tender kick which created room for her piling creation, and created the irrevocably dominated impacts that sealed her fate.
We, humans, have a propensity to run after our ambitions, and driven by enthusiasm, chase after an 'ideal life'. Most of us, have a ruled-by-the-clock lifestyle, we put work at first and work overtime for the sake of our life and dream. As students, hardly can we release the grip on ourselves amid the cut-throat competition and the much-sought-after flying colors in the public exam. We all hold a deep-rooted belief that only by keeping on pursuing and only when we never give up will success wave to us ahead.
But when she " weaves our hair in" to make up for the dearth of yarn, when we sacrifice a part of ourselves just to quench the unquenchable thirst, have we all considered our masterpieces might just vanish into the bottomless abyss ahead?
Addiction, a de facto perseverance, is when we failed to draw the proverbial line in the sand. It only leads to one ultimate destination- the last of our crowning point. During the decade prior to the 1930s, the stock market was booming, money was accumulated; the multicolored scarf was ever so long and gorgeous. It was in human nature to take advantage of these good times. However, in 1929, the once rich became poor overnight. Even when the prices of shares were escalating speedily, people still wished for the price to reach the 'pinnacle' and tried to maximize their return. When the Wall Street Crash swept by, prices of shares collapsed into the unfathomable abyss and shareholders who invested heavily were confronted with bankruptcy and a total loss.
They could always pick up the scissors and snip the yarn when the prices were still sky-high. But instead, they continued knitting. Eyeing too much on money, ambition or even a dream, they distanced themselves from 'hope' to retrieve their masterpieces -the scissor and from their grounded center- the chair.
I do not mean to discourage people from striving for their dreams or their sheer passion. But how could we strike a balance between passion and obsession? Whether passion is a driver or a destroyer of humanity hinges on the determination to snip the thread. Though passion makes work desirable, and this seems to enable us to achieve more, we may lose much more than what we can gain: our physical health, our emotional investment, and all other aspects of our lives often become only of peripheral importance. Perhaps before gently kicking the pile of yarn and continued knitting, we should ask ourselves, am I getting drawn into my passion too deeply once again? After all, we sacrifice health for wealth now, but we will have to lose wealth to restore health later on.
Now let's look at the bigger picture-the world, the human race. Aren't we the same as the woman who desires to make it bigger, better and even perfect? Over the past century, technology has inevitably advanced at a tremendous rate. You've probably noticed: atomic bombs, robotics, stem cell research, etc. have been shaping our world. However, where stakes fly high, have we ever reckoned at the cultural lag, the climate change and the consequences, which tag along in plenty? Will this masterpiece be the last that we knit?
Take the current breakthrough in gene therapy as an instance. While it is a wonderful new to the cancer patients, does it not ring a bell to those of us who keep an eye on scientific development? At the bottom of the abyss is the possibility of another fatal virus spreading out after dealing with cancer, not to mention the major concern about the technology boom, climate change, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires... Thanks to our shameless, ruthless exploitation of natural resources, in fact, we are already witnessing Mother Nature's wrath.
And what did we do to pull the masterpiece away from the cliff, to save the human race and the world? We knitted faster. We knitted like our lives depended on it and we remained stubborn and strong-willed. We knitted so feverishly that the scarf flew up in the sky and there was no way to halt, until the day we run out of yarn, and there is no pulling back.
Yes, technology is helping the society, the world is to progress and is helping us to reach the constellation. However, a balance must be struck to keep pushing technology forward and keeping Mother Earth and society intact. Otherwise, humanity's masterpiece will be the creation of its irreversible downfall.
Bertrand Russell, the Nobel Laureate has three passions governing his life, i.e. the longing for love and the search for knowledge, which led him up toward the heavens, but the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind brought him down to earth. Perhaps a passion is not all about knitting, she can always look around and discover the sun-kissed alpine sky, the feeble rustle of grass and the streaks of scarlet sift through the broken cloud. Apart from learning to appreciate the beauty of the scissors, most importantly, we have to stop and look around. Food suppression, the artificial shortage of essential resources, the world in demise… There is so much to do for the world with so little time and manpower.
So, may the advances in technology, spring from the benefit of the entire species in the spirit of cooperation and love. May the pursuit of our passion and ambition, rest on kindness and compassion. May we continue knitting in the right direction, as opposed to the abyss, but towards a world of compassion and humanity.
公開組（英文組） Open Section (English Division)
Open Section (English Division) Champion
Name: Lee Ho Cheung
This is all you have left.
A wooden chair, a pair of aluminum needles,
several yarn balls, a pair of scissors, an old
knitted dress covering your gaunt shape, a huge
knot of hair that keeps your scalp warm
against the sarcastic words blowing
from the abyss below.
A final check of your past,
you put down the chair and
rub your rough palms together for
the metallic sticks sitting on your laps.
They cling and clang – the song
that has enriched your long walk
as a soundtrack to a silent film.
You have made up your mind before arrival.
You will knit the finest and longest scarf.
Long enough to wrap yourself into
You believe in metamorphosis.
It will be a success this time, you tell yourself,
pulling a string of yarn
into the circular motions of the needles
to sing a familiar rhythmic tune
underneath the mysterious voice of the harp.
the sun is obscured
as the clock starts.
A scarlet snake of scarf lies across
the barren ground. Lifeless.
Yet it grows in length as the yarn balls
vanish one after another. These hairy
eggs seem to jointly hatch to
deliver a single presence.
You stop your batons for the first time
and stroke its coarse scales.
You wish that it would coil around you.
Lifeless still. You push it with a foot.
The newborn crawls over to the edge
and succumbs to the requests of the mist
two thousand feet below.
It comes alive.
The very piece of fabric that you have been
weaving so hard becomes deviant like a juvenile.
It moves away from its creator and there's little
that you can do about it. It goes over the cliff
and sinks lower
This tug of war is eventless
(if it's necessary at all),
and you are pulled off your chair.
Your first fall.
The clock doesn't stop.
You approach the edge
to see what you cannot do.
The clock doesn't stop.
You have decided to continue
You are pulled over the cliff this morning.
Your second fall.
Is it not expected? You hang from the edge
upside-down with the needles in hands
attached to the work that you have been
crafting. Letting go has never been part of you –
a part of you keeps on telling you
to continue at all cost;
another part of you doesn't exist.
You speed up,
your hands are powered by motors
and ambition and obsession
and a vision.
And then, there is the part against all odds –
you manage to climb back up to the surface,
head-down, using feet only.
It's the Time Stone at work,
rewinding the motion of
how you got dragged down.
Miraculous things happen
for the determined minds. Yes.
You don't see it every day.
You don't even see it as a miracle.
There leaves only one thing in your heart –
Death appears in the form
of the piercing gust.
The anaconda takes flight
and outlines the shape of Hades.
You look up
but not impressed.
Neither does he seem to acknowledge
your effort or skills though you are
expecting words of appreciation,
or at least,
a low-pitched “Well done”.
After all, you have cheated him.
The last yarn ball is weaved into
the veins of the floating god.
You fail to find any more materials
for your craft, nor does the flying entity
find any words to wake you.
The wind ceases.
The crimson work drops
to start another fight.
The very silk you produce for
your protective casing goes on to
escape from you. Or, is there somebody
wanting to take it so badly that they
lure it down the bottomless space?
Transformation is a luxury, especially
when you cannot even manipulate the
material that builds your chrysalis.
Caterpillars are designed to transform.
Within the amorphous mess in their
pupa stage, several imaginal discs are
left undigested to grow into the
distinctive body parts of a butterfly.
You believe that you are engineered
as well with these groups of cells inside you
to be unlocked when the time comes.
You are ready to melt yourself with
enzymes you release. All you need is
the escaping skin that fails you,
like you are solving a
problem with a solution which
grows into a problem itself.
I've got this.
I've got this.
You start to dissolve anyway.
Here is your logic:
You will build the cocoon at all cost,
even at the expense of the components
you save for your future limbs and organs.
It is like killing yourself to show
how much you miss your partner;
it is like breaking the laws
to show that you are civilized;
it is like weaving your hair into
the scarf which is to keep your body warm,
to keep yourself together.
People don't care about possessions
when their time is about to end. They say.
Not quite the case in real life.
They do care. You do.
You packed your gear for the cliff
after the funeral while you still had control.
Your third fall doesn't make you sacred
(Jesus's three falls while carrying the
cross were not at all biblically scripted);
your mouth's carrying a cross doesn't either;
your fighting a snake doesn't either.
Your pilgrimage leads only to
your being conjoint with that which
has turned against you.
You crawl back for the tool you save
for your rebirth after the process.
The scissors sit still to watch you in pain.
You take the cross apart and
move forward by sticking the needles
into the ground and pulling against
the force from the other end.
You do know why you need the scissors.
It is obvious.
You will grab them and fall with
the scarf so that the cocoon can
be formed at the bottom of the abyss.
And then, you will break the case open
to see the sky which is no longer
measured by its colour or capacity.
An inch away, a needle snaps and
you follow your elongated body
into the black hole.
You still make no sound –
that's the most sacred part.
Many years later, it was reported that
she climbed to the cliff after her cat
died the night before. She equipped herself
and arrived when the sun barely rose.
You told her that a long red scarf
freshly knitted could fish the dead
up from the abyss.
But you know the true story.
It was you who snapped the yarn
and dropped the strangled cat down the hill
and you convinced yourself that it was
all that you could do.
This is all you have left.
A wooden chair, a pair of scissors,
a new mirage of yourself having
returned from the edge
after losing a debate.
You have kept your willpower throughout
in spite of the changed destiny.
The scissors you save are the key
to the treasure box that no longer exists.
They ching and chang – the song
accompanies your final chapter
as the music someone chooses
for your funeral – you are not invited
and thus not consulted.
You have made up your mind before arrival
and now you have altered that mind.
You start to question about that finest and longest scarf
which has promised to change you.
Cocoons come in all shapes and textures.
What you believe in is metamorphosis,
not the process of it.
The metallic tool sings and urges
the clock to restart.
your desire for a new shell
camouflages the existing one.
Open Section (English Division) 1st Runner-up
Name: Liam Beale
On the Threads of a Rainbow
In the popular animation Last Knit, a woman stands alone on a mountain feverishly knitting a never-ending scarf - to the point at which it grows so long that its weight begins to pull her over the cliffside. It's a bit like Captain Ahab being dragged to his death in Moby Dick - the scarf becomes immaterial; At this point, she is dragged not only by the scarf but by obsession.
My first viewings were uncomfortable. I felt a great deal of sympathy for our lone knitter; Her story was more tragic and disturbing to me than the Greek legend of Sisyphus - who was punished by the gods to push a rock up a hill for all eternity - because unlike Sisyphus, she is a slave to some manic impulse that comes from within her nature. In this way, Last Knit said more to me about the futility of our compulsions than it does about art.
So when I ventured down into the comment section and saw that people were calling Last Knit 'Inspiring', I couldn't get my head around what they meant. But I know now that I was missing a part of the picture and that's what I'd like to share with you now - How I learned to take inspiration from Last Knit and why I now feel that the image of this lone knitter might hold an important lesson for those of us in Hong Kong.
It started with a single thread that I couldn't resist pulling upon -
It was a line from an article. It referred to Last Knit as:
'A metaphor for the life of the artist.'
That sentence frustrated me. I just couldn't let go of it. Not only because it's so cliche and grandiose, but because it wrongly implies that there is only one true model of art, whilst in reality, another 'art' exists and is also entirely valid - but this other art is hiding in the shadows of Last Knit - in its negative space.
Firstly, let's refer to the art of our manic knitter as nomadic art. By this, I mean that it is an art that is created purely for the satisfaction of the artist making it. It is art created for the intrinsic joy of the creative process, rather than any particular outcome. Consider the fact that the scarf being knitted cannot possibly be worn; not only because of its infinite length but because no other human beings seem to exist in this world. In this way, she is like Van Gogh, working away slavishly but never selling a painting, or William Wordsworth finding sublimity in the isolation of his famous boat voyage.
It is the art Oscar Wilde might have had in mind when he declared that: All art is quite useless.
Then there is the form of art absent from Last Knit - Let's call it Practical art. This is the art that can be delivered as a product - within a society - to an audience, to customers and consumers. It is visible, valuable, shareable. It is perhaps even useful.
This form of art, frankly, gets a bad rap and I'd like to be clear that my point here is not that it is inferior or somehow less artistic. This is art that entertains and sustains people. It generates conversation. Shakespeare wrote plays to win audience. The fact that he was celebrated in his time and did not wallow away in poverty does not detract from his work. We should also remember that even the greatest artists were human beings who lived with many of the same economic pressures and responsibilities as we face now.
So, my argument is not as simple as saying that practical art is not real art. The problem is that, in modern times, because practical art is easier to sort and deliver to the public, nomadic art is increasingly neglected and even smothered. I worry that because of this, the sublimity and colour of art will fade and that the way we think about art will become warped and narrow.
Before getting into it, I'd like to retell a joke (of sorts)
The devil and a friend of his were walking down the street when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up a piece of pure truth.
The friend turned to the devil,
“That man just picked up some truth! Aren't you going to stop him?”
“No.” the devil replied, “He will destroy it himself by organizing it."
In the same way, it is the organization and delivery of art that I worry about; because the only things that come to our attention are those that have been sorted by Google, Facebook, and Youtube. Within these algorithms, art is deemed successful only if it sustains attention, en masse and over time. This system does not benefit from challenging you, educating you or stimulating you - In some ways, it's the exact opposite: The algorithms are designed to keep you in a loop. To do this, they provide you with what is familiar, safe and undemanding.
And then there's some sleight of hand: We are led to believe that the clumsy metrics of the system - view counts, watch times, likes - are evidence of a work's quality.
This is why I say that our views towards art will inevitably become warped; you only need to look at the incentives offered to artists. It is no longer viable for an artist to dedicate themselves wholly to the cultivation and discovery of beauty. Nowadays, in order to survive, an artist must also be tactical - Not only as a personality outside their work, but the work they produce must be burdened and diluted with a certain cynicism; They must become part of the system and speak its language, rather than the language of their own heart.
An artist like our knitter, who is struck by an intense calling from within, but is unconcerned with metrics and appearance, becomes a tree falling in a forest with nobody around to hear it. But perhaps this is what people have found 'inspiring' about Last Knit. Many of us in the developed world - and particularly those of us in Hong Kong - feel a sort of cultural malnutrition. This feels odd to say because, on the one hand, we are practically drowning in media; but is this media 'culture'? Or is it merely 'content'?
Media have become active and accessible, but my feeling is that art that is truly pertinent or fresh - Art that pierces our defences, electrifies us and reaches us on a profoundly human level - is becoming increasingly distant. This is because Spontaneity and sublimity are doomed with any system. They are an anomaly - They are noise.
Let's pretend that there was a food delivery system, which could provide you with a steady influx of empty calories - But that was fundamentally incapable of providing us with some crucial nutrients. Although satisfied at first, we would gradually become deficient and weak. In the same sense, I worry that over years of unchallenging media, our imaginations will grow weak and colourless - and the tragedy is that the change is coming at a rate too gradual for us to defend against.
It makes me think of Charlie Chaplin's speech in The Great Dictator -
“We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.
Machinery that gives us abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical.
Our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much, and feel too little.
More than machinery, we need humanity.”
Chaplin warned against 'Machine men with machine minds and machine hearts'; yet as our lives become a matter of appeasing systems rather than directly reaching out to humans, there's a risk that we too will become machine-hearted.
And that's the message I'd like to leave you with.
Sublime and spontaneous art, like that shown in Last Knit, has a danger of slipping through the cracks of society and going completely unrewarded. If you find an artist who reaches you on that profound level - please - pause to consider how rare and special this is and also understand that this artist might have found themselves in a very bad position - not because of a lack of talent - but because their talent goes off the radar of our clumsy sorting systems.
Ask yourself -
What is the human cost of this art? What has this person sacrificed to lay it before me?
If they reach you as an individual, consider supporting them as an individual. Directly, financially, emotionally.
Support that spirit when you see it because it is tender, human.
Support it because it's where we will find excitement, nourishment...
And above all
Open Section (English Division) 2nd Runner-up
Name: Ng Yuen Chu Jenny
Congruence and Contradiction A glimpse into human nature through The Last Knit
A congruent silhouette yet with contradicting substance;
An invitation to one yet with an injunction to another;
A mark of success yet with a message of succumbence;
A right at present yet with a wrong thereafter;
And this is my perception of perception galore.
To say that perception works wonders would probably be an understatement – it is what helps some justify the unjustifiable for others; rationalises the irrational for others; and makes the possible impossible of others. And this fascinating realm of human conscience could not have been more prominent in The Last Knit, where the protagonist pushes the envelope as to how far our views of the world could bring us.
“There she is, sitting on the edge of the cliff in solitude, carefully nursing her beloved creation: a scarf. Quite remarkable it is, with intricately-woven strands of linen, carefully conjured criss-crosses, and seemingly interminable length. Some dub it the story of destiny, while some name it a narrative of disillusion.”
We have always been programmed, as a legacy of education and social ethos, amongst other factors, to devote ourselves to our hearts' desires. And this is perhaps what gives rise to our interests, goals and passions. We have all experienced moments when something intrinsically seduces us into what turns out to be an endless pursuit: a pursuit of what we deem to be our true calling. To some, this equates to destiny. And this path which we are conceived to trek in turn translates into success in many cases – look at the Wright Brothers, who converted their lifelong passion for flight into the invention of the first plane; look at Steven Hawking, who turned his love for Physics into some of the most ground-breaking theories to underpin the subject; and look no further than your parents, peers, or even yourself, who have managed to shape devotions into beacons that direct us in life. So powerful is destiny is that it can propel us into pursuing what outsiders would deem irrational, insane, impossible, no matter what it takes.
However, it is also this relentless craving for self-recognition and psychological contentment that often pushes us to no-man's land – cliffs that would drag us down the leagues of the unbeknownst that we are too absorbed in our own bubble to be aware of. Negligence of our loved ones, disregard for sincere but harsh opinions, superfluous thoughts of success which would never eventually be realised are all pitfalls that have claimed raging flames of passion. It is not difficult to see from The Last Knit that what we believe to be our most sincere companions on life's journey could ultimately place us in grave danger should we not have the sanity to break ourselves free from the entanglement of the voluptuous. The way destiny can without a trace morph into disillusion is simple - a fine thread is what separates affection from addiction.
“As the scarf elongated, so did it grow deeper into the canyon that belies it. But she did not cease, for what could only be seen were the balls of yarn still waiting. Her knitting increased in intensity, and along with the choreography in crescendo, her footsteps brought her unprecedentedly close to the periphery of the cliff.
Until it brought her down. So overwhelming was the weight of the scarf that despite her best efforts, she was left helpless by her own conjuring. It was then did she realise the pair of scissors that were only a few inches away were now no longer within grasp. Some proclaim it as the story of determination, while others dismiss it as a narrative of desperation.”
“Never give up”, in my humble opinion, is a cliche plagued by its overuse. And by this I am not belittling the value of perseverance - an unwavering spirit is a prerequisite for attaining any sort of achievement. What I am trying to argue is that sometimes we simply have to bow to the insurmountable. Of course, one may in turn point out that it is often the reluctance to surrender that has given rise to the anecdotes of the much admired. Albert Einstein for instance, had to rebuild his laboratory from scratch after a devastating fire rendered all but the tiniest morsels of his work to ashes. What comes thereafter, they say, is history. And then there is Jack Ma, the founder of internet heavyweight Alibaba, who grew up in humble beginnings where he could not even utter a coherent sentence in English. And then there are many other stories that can be used to refute my seemingly ignorant statement.
However, we have to be mindful that when all seems lost, there is the case where it really is all a nightmare, and that it can still be salvaged; and then there is the case where all really is lost. To put it in the most extreme of words, no one, for example, has escaped from the ever-conquering Grim Reaper. It is often the mentality of “this won't happen to me” that pushes us to the brink of collapse. We, by nature, are hard-wired to maximise returns, no matter what it takes, and to make no comprises in relinquishing what we perceive to be within our fingertips. We often do not admit defeat until the grave consequences comes hauntingly. And this is, in defence of all those who have valiantly failed in the battle against the inevitable, more than understandable – who would want to retreat when the chequered flag is within striking distance? Yet, it is frequently ignorance, over-optimism and reluctance to let go of the past and achievements that bring us to the precarious situation like that depicted in The Last Knit.
If I had taken anything from my high school economics classes, it would have to be the concept of sunken cost: a concept which states that events of the past should not affect the decision-making of the present.
“With all her might, she managed to claw herself back onto terra firma, albeit minus her possession. It was then did it dawn upon her that it was her very knitting needles that had rendered all her labour fruitless. Out of melancholy, she tossed them into the depths that lay beneath her feet. It was only then did she finally had a sense of relief. Some call it a story of defeat, while others dub it a narrative of defiance.”
Succumbing to defeat is never easy. We all loathe the indignation and disdain when we have to hoist the white flag. It is experiences like this that bestow upon us the chains of helplessness, dejection and worthlessness. And this is probably what she feels too: hours of spinning and weaving eventually leading to bare hands is never an easy pill to swallow. However, to me, everything is a matter of perspective, and defeat is of no exception. Think of it this way – by surrendering, you are plucking up the courage to own up to your shortcomings. And more crucially, you are also announcing your defiance to all that that had defined your failure. While it may seem ludicrous to put your hands in the air when all is not yet done and dusted, bear in mind that the term “pyrrhic victory” was coined for a reason. And it probably has to go with the many who have sacrificed so much that the tannins of the wine they had incubated would only be at its finest after their last breath.
Besides, defeat is something that has and will always play a significant part in our travels. Whatever our perspectives, it is irrefutable that no athlete, no matter how talented, fortunate, or invincible he may be, can outrun the likes of time and fate. Setbacks are something that all of us have to face as we indulge in our game with the spectres of the sundial. And it is not like all is lost when admitting defeat. Surely, you may be ridiculed by the likes of agony and regret, but it is also through pains do you reap the fruits of experience and courage. “Still I rise” are the words emblazoned on the helmet of five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, and it is this quote that sums up neatly the aforementioned – go onward and upward in life's earnest battle, and eventually you will rise.
Life is never easy, nor should it be. But it is also a journey that ought to be cherished. And if there was one thing that The Last Knit taught us travellers, it would be this: strive to be remembered for the legacy of our knitting, rather than for our last knit.
Life is like fire, when flames of passion and desire ignite,
Life is like ice, when avalanches of fate and damnation befall,
Embrace the symphonies of serenity and success,
Engrave the roars of pain and prejudice,
And this is my perception of The Last Knit galore.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Xu Lok Yi Joyce
“Let it go, let it go
When I rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand in the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway”
The catchy lyrics of “Let it Go” above, from the Disney movie “Frozen”, have reverberated in my mind since I watched the short animated film “The Last Knit”. The film depicts a thought-provoking fable that imparts wisdom and hard truth, using the scarf as the prominent motif. Echoing to the liberation of Elsa from “Frozen”, a character who dared to free herself by letting go of her past struggles and embracing her destiny as a powerful queen, the protagonist of “The Last Knit” took the bold step of letting go of her obsession i.e. a long scarf that she had been frantically knitting day and night. My heart was captured by the scene toward the end, in which the headstrong knitter bit off her own hair, which she had been using as yarn when her wool was depleted, before casting the needles over the edge of the cliff. With this act, she set herself free from the physical and emotional shackles that had been constraining her. Her bleak stare, followed by a sigh of relief, marked the opening of a new chapter in her life. Drawing on the film's lessons, I can glean some pearls of wisdom, which help us gain a deeper understanding of our own lives.
Pause for a moment. What are you hankering for the most in your life? Getting good grades? A top job? A luxurious mansion? Social status? The latest gadgets? Incredible wealth? Sometimes, we think we know what we want, but deep down, we are at a loss as to what we truly need to make us happy. The protagonist's scarf is a metaphor for obsession and widely accepted markers of success e.g. money, power, prestige, and beauty, that we, as human beings, often long for in this consumption-driven era, especially in Hong Kong, which is best known for its long working hours. One in five employees work an average of 55 hours per week according to a study by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. This illustrates a bitter truth: rest is a luxury while stress is the norm. In the process of pursuing these shallow pleasures and material possessions, we tend to stop at nothing to get what we want. Tormented by temptation and avarice, we become emotionally crippled with feelings of desperation, anguish, bitterness, and fear. The endless competition within a monotonous routine leads to self-destruction; burnt out and dehumanized by our own obsessions, we lose sight of our own identities and damage our relationships, eventually falling into the abyss – just like the protagonist, dragged down the cliff by the increased weight of her ever-growing scarf.
Notably, numerous empirical studies have shown a negative correlation between materialism and well-being. Preoccupied with the relentless pursuit of desires, you can never be satisfied, just as water cannot be held in a sieve. As we attain more possessions, wealth and status, we are deceived by an illusion of contentment; however, in turn we simply become more ambitious, anxious of losing what we have gained, which causes us to become greedier and more competitive until things spiral out of control. We then come to realize that the joy derived from these material items is transient, fuelling further possession, finding ourselves longing for something else and falling into the cycle of the Hedonic Treadmill. This phenomenon mirrors the dramatic scene whereby the protagonist lost control and was entangled in the scarf. This dragged her further toward the edge of the cliff, until she was forced to use part of herself – her own hair – as the yarn to save herself. This act reflects real-world human behavior, whereby we abandon our health, well-being and relationships, and even risk our own lives, to obtain the possessions or goals we crave.
The Bible says, “For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” Buddhism also teaches us that a fixation on desire will, in the end, create more pain and suffering. The art of “letting go”, as conveyed in the film, is often easier said than done. This is starkly demonstrated through the crushing ending of the critically acclaimed play “Death of a Salesman”, whereby Willy paid the tragic price of his life for being an obsessive workaholic. Instead, let's learn to find value in the process and pay attention to things around us that enrich our lives and make them worth living. In an infinite pool of possibilities, life is an ongoing cycle of changes and decisions. As life is limited and precious, we should challenge our enslavement to superficial wants and desires, maintaining a balance between our needs and wants. Just like the protagonist, you can choose to stop, preventing yourself from being dragged over the edge.
The memorable scene in which the protagonist continued her scarf-making instead of snipping off the fabric with the scissors resembles those moments when we are so preoccupied with our pleasures and burdens – the weight of the “wools” – that we tend to grow confused between our own needs and wants. We should however learn to let go of slave consciousness and regain our appreciation for the invaluable things around us that money cannot buy, such as family life, health, friendships and spiritual development. If grasping your hand tightly, you will keep what you caught, but if you are willing to spread your hand and share, you can gain so much more. If things don't work out the first time, take another shot. In doing so, you can experience the true joy and freedom of life. In my work in the philanthropy field, I am fortunate to have met a number of people who follow their inner calling to pursue the greater good, making impactful influences on different noble causes. For example, I met a secondary school principal who gave up his million-dollar annual salary to offer free one-on-one tutorial services to underprivileged students, and also a former Wall Street banker who quit his high-flying job to support thousands of children affected by Aids in Mainland China. These shining individuals forwent opulent lives and materialistic riches to follow their hearts and contribute real value in their lives.
Another lesson that I drew from the film is the importance of listening to our own inner voice and following our own drumbeat instead of being blinded by temptations and giving in to peer pressure and society's expectations of us. After all, we each understand who we are at the core of our being. We should take charge of our own happiness, embrace our emotions, and be conscious of the things we truly need rather than allowing our immediate wants and desires to dominate us. The protagonist's scissors symbolize our competing desire to cut ourselves off from the rat race to focus on our loved ones and personal wellbeing. It tells us to put down our own ego and open our hearts and minds to the beauty of what we have, enjoying the good times with things we truly love and people we love. Otherwise, we risk thrusting ourselves into the abyss, dragging our irreversible regrets and misfortunes with us. When the protagonist chose to grab for the scissors in the end, she replenished her spirit and embarked on a more fulfilling life, escaping the abyss.
Life is a beautiful gift, and we are each in charge of our destinies. We can escape the dangers of the cliff and break our chains, so that we are open to opportunities and enjoy life's precious moments as they unfold. The essence of life is not measured by wealth and material possessions, but by love and joy and those whose lives you touch and help. It is neither about the length nor beauty of the “scarf” we knit; but it is about our self-awareness and the quality of our unique relationships, which ensures we gain positive things in our lives and live it to the fullest. I would like to conclude with the famous quote from Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Will Mcveigh
The Last Knit and an Unravelling Society
The English language is a unique tapestry which has taken at liberty from the likes of French, Greek, Latin, and German. Within this language we find awkward, clumsy words like 'lackadaisical'; beautiful words including 'logolepsy'; complex words such as 'eccedentesiast'; and words that simply feel wonderful to utter, like the term 'zeitgeist'.
The zeitgeist is explained as the spirit or nature of a particular epoch - a certain climate which sets an era apart from all others preceding it. Laura Neuvonen's 'The Last Knit' is an allegory for a dissatisfied society. It's a depiction of our very own zeitgeist and our sacrifice of communication and relationships in the pursuit of ambitions and aspirations.
Picture this. The sun begins to rise, slowly creating an orange canopy. A woman moves confidently towards a cliff's edge. With her she carries the necessary tools of her trade - yarn, knitting needles, scissors, and a chair. As the sun slowly creeps across the sky to reveal its full might, the knitter already has much to be proud of for she has created a wonderfully intricate scarf. She works with an assuredness. A dexterity. A skillfulness born from practice and repetition. She pauses as she encounters her first quandary - should she be content with what she has and use the scissors to cut the scarf, or should she continue and create something more, something greater? She dismisses this fleeting hesitation and continues to knit with vigour. After all, why be content with what you have when a little more hard work can reap greater rewards?
The sun now reaches its zenith and the knitter's hard work appears to have paid off as she has created a magnificently long scarf - so long, in fact, that its length is now hindering her productivity. She needs space to work so fastidiously, so she carelessly flicks at the scarf with her foot. Unbeknownst to the knitter at the time, this action proves to be a harbinger of disaster. As is the case with many great ventures which meet with failure, the knitter's tunnel-vision and fixation on her goal hinder her ability to see the bigger picture and the ramifications that her actions will bring.
To the knitter, this nudge is the smallest of movements and immaterial in her quest for knitted magnificence. Yet, this nudge pushes the scarf off the edge of the cliff and ever so slowly begins to drag the knitter down with it. The knitter soon finds herself in a Frankenstein-esque battle with her own creation and she realises that, firstly, she cannot halt the scarf pulling her down, and, secondly, she has been dragged too far away from the scissors - she is no longer in control. Her pursuit for more results in the endeavour itself becoming the master of their relationship.
As her creation cruelly drags her ever-closer towards the edge she encounters another significant problem, that being that she has reached the end of her last ball of yarn. In a frantic effort to continue knitting (and not to plunge off of the edge of the cliff) she sacrifices part of herself for her success and begins to knit her auburn hair into the scarf. Her pace increases and she manically knits and knits - seemingly oblivious to the fact that her work is the very thing that is pulling her over the edge. The scarf, now boisterously flailing in the wind, takes on a life of its own. For so long she believed she was in control of the scarf, yet now the scarf is the thing that controls her. The knitter's final strands of hair are intertwined within the scarf. She has become part of her own creation and she has no way to sever the link. Now helpless, the woman is at the mercy of her scarf, the weight of which is too much to bear. She tumbles off the edge, lacking the power or stability to continue. Her obsession for more took her to the point of no return, before dragging her into the abyss.
The Last Knit is a fantastic portrayal of twenty-first century society, and, in particular, our inability to differentiate between obsession and ambition. At the beginning of the story we encounter a sane woman setting out in her pursuit of a passion of hers - knitting. As her successfulness increases, her persona changes. She becomes rash in her decision-making. She begins to struggle to keep control. Helpless and without anyone to turn to, she wrestles with a situation entirely of her own creation, yet by this point entirely out of her control. Fast forward further still, and we see the woman maniacal in her determination to keep going, to succeed, to make bigger and better. Even when the cost of the project becomes the physical and mental wellbeing of the woman, the task itself trumps all. Can we with clear-conscience say that we are not guilty of this? Think back, is there a time when school-work, deadlines, or self-imposed targets have meant the sacrifice of a dinner, a date, or the blissful freedom to do exactly what you want? Assuredly, the answer to this question is yes.
We can see this process, and the traits seen in the knitter, on a daily basis. From teachers, to lawyers, to restaurateurs, each individual has quantified their version of success and they fervently work towards their goals. Long hours, low pay, or few holidays are not enough to thwart those sufficiently driven to attain the success they perceive they need. The Last Knit paints a picture of a society which is reaching the point of no return, and, as with our knitter, we are at the edge of a proverbial cliff. We have not fallen yet, but we are in danger of falling off as we continually stretch to grab success.
Whilst successfulness is subjective, the scarf itself is a motif for success, be it power, riches, or respect. The scarf initially is quite manageable, yet it soon turns to dominate the woman and absorbs all her attention and effort. Instead of being satisfied with her scarf, she fervidly knits and knits as she wants to extend her creation. The idea of the scarf can be replaced by any number of aspects within our society - school grades, money, a promotion - and we do not have to look far to see how these too can become the scarf which pulls us off a cliff. The more she achieves, the greater her determination to achieve more, and the further away from the ability to halt her endeavours (the scissors) she becomes.
The idea of the fixation with maximising success is not avante-garde in itself, yet no other era has ever been so willing to sacrifice health and sanity in order to do so. It is ingrained in us at a young age that success is paramount to happiness, even if the road to success is miserable and self-destructive. It is becoming increasingly rare for us to step back and figure out 'why' we are doing something or the effects our actions may have, and that is the message we can take from The Last Knit.
As we grimly set upon our paths to success, it becomes increasingly easy to sacrifice relationships, be they familial, work-related, or romantic, as we aim to attain our self-defined version of successfulness. The absence of dialogue in The Last Knit is indicative of the world we find ourselves in. There was no scope for the woman to engage in discourse with another, nor did she vocalize her ever-increasing helplessness within the situation she had created. Goals, dreams, and targets drive us. Drive society. Competitiveness and success have become innate for many, and our protagonist is not free of the pressures of success and the desire for more. Satisfaction, along with relationships, are sacrificed in the hunt for the proverbial golden goose and the knitter suffers in miserable silence.
The film ends with the knitter reappearing, short patchy hair jutting out at obtuse angles taking the place of her once flowing, russet locks. She tentatively lifts the scissors, the one item that could have prevented her earlier failure, and begins to fixate on the process of opening and closing them. She looks around, before gingerly clipping her nails once, then twice. The repetitive motion of the scissors replaces that of her knitting needles. As the audience we wonder, has she learned her lesson? Or will our knitter meet a similar fate at the hands of the tool which could have once saved her?
The answer we will never know, yet if there is one thing history can tell us, it is that we exist in an era which places personal well-being behind success. Our zeitgeist is defined by the obsessive pursuit for success and reward, regardless of the effect on our bodies or minds or relationships. We are a society of flagellants. We are the knitters, and we keep going back for more.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Jonathan Lo
What is it that ultimately gives life meaning and purpose? To what do we give the privilege of occupying our time? What is it that we love? Is it our work, a hobby, or some other obsession? Finnish auteur Laura Neuvonen's award-winning animation The Last Knit explores this probing question with an uncanny story about a woman with an irresistible urge to knit. The setting is a flat, barren, and monochrome landscape, unremarkable in every way save the fact that it is located atop a cliff that overlooks a seemingly endless chasm. The protagonist, a woman wearing her auburn hair tied up in a bun comes to the edge of the cliff and brings with her a chair and some knitting supplies—needles for knitting, balls of yarn, and a pair of scissors. The plot is simple yet mesmerizing and profound. The woman begins to knit what first looks to be a scarf, but the audience soon realizes that it does not matter what she is knitting or for whom she is knitting, only that she is knitting.
The woman is knitting for the sake of knitting. She is singularly focused on her task-her mind is determined, her brow is furrowed in concentration, her hands move quickly and skillfully, her eyes transfixed on the work at hand. It is difficult to tell whether she is knitting out of interest, enjoyment or necessity (maybe all three?); what is clear is that she cannot stop. Knitting has become an addiction for her, an obsession-compulsive prison made of yarn. The scissors that have the power to break her habit are always within reach, but the temptation to keep knitting is just too strong—the rhythmic clickity-clack of the pair of metallic needles making contact, the monotonous yet comforting movement of her hands in familiar and graceful motion, the pleasure of seeing balls of yarn weaved into patterns of her own design—the sheer satisfaction of it all. In the words of T. S. Eliot's magi at the end of their journey: “Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.”
The woman continues working even though her scarf is of such a considerable length that it unfurls into the abyss and dangles over the cliff—still attached to her ever-knitting hands that will not let go. When the last ball of yarn is used up, the woman concocts an ingenious but desperate plan to keep knitting at any cost: she unties her long hair, which is the same colour as the yarn, and weaves it into the monstrosity that her growing scarf was gradually becoming. But the transformation is now complete—the woman is truly and fully immersed in her knitting; the hobby, such as it was, had become a dangerous, full-blown obsession. She is now part of her scarf, and the scarf part of her. She is one with her creature, which has taken on a life of its own and is now threatening to take her life as well, dragging her over the cliff and into the chasm. The woman, who resorted to sacrificing her own hair so she could continue knitting, comes face to face with the harrowing consequences of indulging, rather than restraining, her addiction: She was no longer in control of her life.
The story ends with the woman unexpectedly climbing back up the cliff to the safety of the plateau. She has finally let go of her precious scarf and along with it her long hair, both of which are now lost in the abyss; she now has a head of short red hair. The woman seems to experience symptoms of withdrawal at first, but at a moment of courage and with a flash of determination, she tosses what remains her needles over the cliff, finally overcoming her deadly addiction. She has finished her last knit. In the final scene of the animation, the woman is back in her chair overlooking the cliff, but all she has left are a pair of scissors. As the woman trims her nails, she is drawn to the way the scissors feel in her hand, as well as the rather pleasing sounds they make as her hands make the familiar cutting motions: snip, snip, snip, snip. The woman looks around mischievously for other objects to trim as the music plays and the credits start to roll. Could this be the start of a brand new obsession?
The Last Knit is about an odd-ball character in a bizarre plot set in a strange world, but there is something in the story that is unsettling in its familiarity—we have all been here before. We have all experienced, at some time or other, the joy of discovering a new activity we enjoy, the rush that comes from feeding our addictions with reckless abandon, and the cravings and the longings that eat us until we can indulge once again. Neuvonen's quirky animation is a cautionary tale about the power of addiction and the danger of allowing our obsessions to overtake our better judgment. In the story, the protagonist's habit seems fairly innocuous at first; how much harm can a little knitting cause after all? How much damage can a little bit drinking, or gambling, or drugs, or online gaming, or [INSERT YOUR FAVOURITE OBSESSION HERE!] do? As it turns out, a great deal. When the woman's hobby becomes an addiction, she loses her self-control and is willing to do anything to keep her habit alive, regardless of how irrational or self-destructive her actions might be. There is little logic or self-reflection in the realm of obsession; it is difficult to make good choices when our minds are clouded by the pangs of addiction. Left unchecked, our unbridled obsessions have the power to consume us and take us over the cliff. Although the story ends with the woman surviving the ordeal with her scarf and triumphant over her addiction, the ambivalent tone of the final sequence suggests that the she may not have learned her lesson. She cannot sit still. She must do something to amuse herself.
In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (Penguin, 1985), Neil Postman suggests that what threatened modern society most was not the Orwellian nightmare of a tyrannical power that threatened to deprive people of their freedoms, but Aldous Huxley's vision of a Brave New World, where human beings are reduced to a culture of triviality and narcissism. While George Orwell warned against the day that the truth would be hidden from the people, Huxley feared the day that truth simply did not matter to people anymore, a(the) people preoccupied with self-love and the pursuit of pleasure. In Brave New World Revisited (Harper & Brothers, 1958), Huxley quips that in the West, people who were most concerned with democracy and the fight against tyranny “failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.” (31) The woman in The Last Knit is certainly a victim to her knitting, a past-time that demands her undivided attention and consumes her resources; it distracts her from living her life, and threatens to amuse herself to death. Postman laments that “[w]hen a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk… then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” (158) When a population becomes addicted to entertainment and the desperate need to fill in the empty spaces with endless distractions, amusement becomes detriment to society and a hindrance to progress. In this regard, Neuvonen's film is also a perhaps a warning to relegate amusement and entertainment back to its rightful place and to restore a healthy balance to our lives for the sake of the greater good before it is too late.
What is it that ultimately gives life meaning and purpose? To what do we give the privilege of occupying our time? What is it that we love? The Last Knit is an inspirational film because it transports audience to the barren landscape of the woman, allowing us to identify with her feelings of existential ennui. It also places the viewer in her chair, inviting us to reconsider our own life choices and the things we depend on to fill the void. Sometimes the things we love end up hurting us; sometimes we are trapped because we are too stubborn to let go. Sometimes it is when things are hanging by a thread that true happiness is found by cutting ourselves free.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Stephanie Studzinski
Being Knitwise, or the Art of Untinking
Being knitwise is the act of preparing for the next stitch as if you would continue stitching endlessly. So it is with knitting and life; we must commit to the future—to carrying on and being prepared to make the next stitch even if at times we question the design or lose the pattern and can't see what our project will become—what we will become. Still, we continue to create the fabric of our lives with each successive action—each interlaced stitch becomes a signifier of whom we are as individuals and where our passions lead.
The Last Knit directed by Laura Neuvonen is a testament to persistence, the importance of passion and creative processes in our lives, and the power of shifting our perspectives. In it, a lone figure in a desert-like abyss chooses to knit on the edge of a precipice. The background is noticeably desolate and stretches endlessly from horizon to horizon, focusing our attention on the protagonist. It seems odd to choose a cliff to knit by. And why alone? How did she get there? None of these questions are answered, however, the landscape also calls to mind the poetry of John Donne: “No man is an island / Entire of itself / Every man is a piece of the continent / A part of the main.” Here, we find a woman who has staked out a piece of the continent for herself. She has chosen this isolated spot to pursue her passion, however, her focus is so narrow and intense that she could just as easily be sitting in a busy airport terminal and her experience would remain the same. She becomes fully immersed in her passion: knitting. When she starts knitting, the music begins and the atmosphere and pace of the film abruptly changes. A certain joie de vivre can be sensed along with a new awakening of purpose in the protagonist.
The fabric of our personal lives becomes richer and more varied the more time we spend immersing in our passions and creative practices. In these singular worlds, the life of the mind and our inner selves intertwine revealing and enhancing our true selves. This is easiest at the quiet moments spent alone—on mental precipices—when we are engaged in a creative activity and we can lose ourselves as the protagonist does in the rhythms of creation. The rhythmic clicking of her knitting needles signifies the steady ticking of a clock and the passage of time, however, the knitter remains oblivious to everything other than the act of knitting itself. Her eyes stare fixedly at the section of the scarf she actively knits.
For her, there is no atmosphere or background; there are only the essentials: knitting needles, balls of yarn, scissors, and her chair. The needles have what appear to be inlaid red rubies. Red is typically taken to symbolize fiery, intense passion, and rubies are rare and precious stones, making the needles all the more likely to be treasured possessions. It is also probably not a coincidence that her hair and the scarf she knits passionately are red. If we look at her even closer, we notice that she is wearing a knitted dress confirming that she has a history of knitting. In fact, knitting is clearly an important activity to her. She has invested a lot of time in it, and it holds a significant place in her life. But alas, this is her last knit as the title boldly declares.
At one point the knitter thinks the scarf may be complete, and she begins to grab the scissors, but reconsiders. She mulls it over, and we can feel the tension of the moment—between the creator and the created. This is a pivotal choice. However, she realizes the scarf is not yet finished so she picks up the pace, making the knitting fly over the cliff's edge. She so completely loses herself in the immersive process of creation that she is surprised to find that the raw materials have run out. As she sits thinking, her hair comes untucked, and which inspires her to use it. She even knits her own hair, revealing how much she is willing to give to her passion and how powerful the need to create can be. Much as Rapunzel allowed a suitor to climb up her hair in order to escape confinement in her tower, the knitter uses her hair to give her creation more life. Is this a rational choice? No. Certainly not. It is a choice informed by passion, dedication, self-sacrifice, and impulse.
Often our creations—our children—have lives of their own. Just as her previous knitting now has a new life as a dress that can be worn by herself and others and perhaps, even passed on as a family heirloom. Even as the knitter's scarf twists, overlaps, folds and is pulled away from her, it remains connected to her. Our creations can surprise us, and we in turn are often willing to make sacrifices because of our dedication to them. However, this film is also a reminder that while the things we create and the passions we possess can take on meaningful lives of their own, they can also devour us. The need to create can quickly transform a fulfilling hobby into an intense obsession. In the film, the knitter feels compelled to create and to continue creating regardless of the personal cost. In fact, her knitting pulls her over the literal edge, making one wonder: Are we our own worst enemies? Can the need to create be a destructive force?
We all drop a stitch from time to time, however, her knitting physically drags her off a cliff. She disappears. Gone. Yet, she emerges sometime later spitting out hair, implying that she chewed through it to save her own life. Here is a woman defined by determination. She almost sacrificed her life so that her knitting could become what she felt it had the potential to be. However, she fought against her creative passion and the consequences of it by using her knitting needles as rock climbing picks. They act as tools bringing destruction and rebirth to her life as she successfully crawls and drags herself back toward her chair, breaking a needle along the way.
She has saved herself, yet, she feels loss. Staring blankly off the cliff, she mimes the act of knitting with one whole needle, one broken needle and no yarn. Suddenly, as if woken up, she considers what she is doing doesn't make any sense. She throws the needles off the cliff—ready to redefine who she is and what she can create. However, she is not certain how to move forward. It is not long before she notices and picks up the scissors. The music begins again, and the film ends with the protagonist cutting her nails, and presumably, obsessively looking for other things to cut. It is hard not to be worried about her—if the last outburst of creative passion is anything to go by: It almost killed her. Now, all she has are scissors, reminding one of the old adage that 'to a man with a hammer, everything is a nail'. This is the principle of cognitive bias which means that when we are accustomed to using certain tools, we see the world as defined by them. This is not limited to physical implements, but it is a more visual way of showing that our lives are defined by the ways in which we see them, which is in turn shaped by what is perceived around us. Much of this is beyond our control, but then we can always choose to knit our hair or not. We can learn to see the significance of the patterns we follow in our lives and in ourselves.
If there is a lesson here, it is that we must be knitwise—prepared but flexible. Ready to learn about ourselves through the act of creation and self-exploration but be weary of the dangers of obsession and fixed perspectives. And perhaps most of all, we must be ready to 'tink' as knitters do. Tinking is the act of undoing your work to correct an irregularity in the pattern which you previously inserted by mistake. In life, we cannot return to our old stitches and alter them. But we have other options. We can reweave the very fabric of our being, change our own design and determine to shape ourselves into our better selves. This is the ultimate act of self-love: A commitment to becoming the best you that you can be. Only in this way can you knit a better tomorrow for yourself and others—because just as no one is an island, we are never one thread. We are knitted together.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Chan Lok Yan
'Tik tok,tik tok' I look up from the sketch book that I have been working on this whole day and take a glance at my watch which shows the time '9:00 p.m.' 'Oh, it has been this(so) late already!' I grimace and stretch myself with a yawn. Appreciating my work like a proud mother, I feel as contented and ambitious as ever about doing the work that I'm passionate about, just like how the protagonist felt in the noted short film 'The Last Knit' as she was knitting her gorgeous scarf.
Packed with profound lessons and surprising plot twists, the animation was a mind-blowing film about passion, balance and letting go. Chronicling the story of a knitter who was creating her masterpiece, the film went on as we viewers witnessed how the knitter slowly lost herself and sanity, how she played a gamble on her life for greater achievements, how she stumbled and struggled on the verge of death and finally lost part of herself in order to be free, leaving an indelible imprint on my mind.
Of course, unarguably, passion is an exceptional motivation which drives us forward and prompts us to try harder and hurdle all the barriers we encounter. Without which, we would only be walking corpses with hollow eyes and grieving expressions as our tremendous burden from work, jobs and life slowly weighs us down until our world is covered in a mist of unhappiness and hopelessness. As the famous writer Pearl S. Buck has once said, 'To find the joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.', we can chase after greatness with passion. Hey, just take a look at the scarf made by the knitter in the film, long, multicoloured and absolutely stunning. You will know that passion is what enables us to make our dreams come true. Then, passion must always be good...or is it?
There is only a fine line separating passion from obsession, devotion from compulsion. Being like an incandescent fire burning in the combustion engine in a diesel train, while passion can drive us forward in full speed; on the other hand, if we can't pull the trigger in time, it will propel us to the very edge and push us down the cliff to our damnation. In the film, the passion for knitting of the protagonist turned into ambition, followed by obsession and addiction. Watching the scene in which she hesitated to pick up the scissors and decided to continue knitting as she was consumed by her desire really did hit me hard as I was like seeing the reflection of my past self.
Being an architectural student who is so passionate about buildings, sketching, model building and 3D drawing pretty much occupied my entire mind. My passion was further fuelled after my assignment was chosen by the tutors as the second best one in class. It was a tipping point that I was slowly blinded by the boastful feeling of success and my ambition grew larger and larger. First, I wanted to have a good grade, then I wanted to be the best in class, afterwards, I wanted to win a competition... My desire was never gratified and I was always hungry for more. I remembered staying up till midnight in the studio. I remembered skipping meals to squeeze more time out of my day for work. I remembered cancelling dates with my family and friends and solely 'hanging out' with my schoolwork rather than my fellows. Every time when I wanted to take a break, a quiet whisper would echo in my mind,' Just hold on and you can grasp more'' You have been so hard all this time, you are just kidding about taking a step back, right? ' 'Look at the enchanting future of accomplishments ahead of you, there is no excuse for you to relax.'
At one moment, I was like on the top of a mountain, standing on tiptoe with my hands stretched out far, the stars dancing around my finger tips, almost in my palm. The next moment, I took a leap and just as I thought I could finally grasp what I wanted, the stars slipped through my fingers as I misjudged my location and...I..I fell. In 2018, I was found unconscious lying on my desk in the studio. I was diagnosed with extreme fatigue after being sent to the hospital.
Throughout the week I spent in the sickbed for recovery, I just thought about all my gains and losses, all my achievements and costs and I suddenly realised that my accomplishments could never compensate for my losses. Is it worth sacrificing your relationship, time and even your health for more prosperous fulfilment? No, it isn't. It is never worthwhile to knit your hair into your scarf even though your lovely creation is tumbling down the cliff. We have to distinguish passion from obsession. Most importantly, we should learn to be contented with the things we have instead of craving for more endlessly, feeding our desires and sitting on the sidelines while our greed transform into hungry beasts. We are never defined by our success and victories and the endless quest for attainments would only seal our fate into the reincarnation of pain and misery. The former British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone has once said, 'Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness.' We should all learn to appreciate our possessions and understand that sometimes, the milestones we reached are already good enough for us. Let's imagine that if the knitter in the film picked up the scissors to cut the yarn instead of carrying on knitting, she could have owned that beautiful scarf without putting herself into that dangerous situation.
Apart from learning to be satisfied with our current position, another important lesson that we should bear in mind is the art of letting go. It is very hard to gain something but it is definitely one hundred times more complicated to let go of something that you have been working on so hard. While the society glorifies the value of perseverance and it seems that quitters are nothing but cowards, it is perfectly okay to give up on things that are holding us back and dragging us down. Although it is absolutely painful to give up on our creation, it is sometimes necessary to do so. Giving up doesn't make you weak. Instead, it means that you are mature and courageous enough not to cling to a lost cause like the scarf falling gradually down the cliff and that you are intelligent and analytical enough to cut your losses instead of being blinded by emotion.
In economics, our devotion and efforts paid in the past are called 'sunk cost' which should not be considered at the current moment of decision making. What really matters is the cost that we are going to bear now or in the future. Emphasising on the value of today that can still be seized by us instead of indulging in the irrevocable cost we bore yesterday, I find this way of decision making very rational. The well-known physicist Michael Faraday definitely understood this. During his invention process, he once abandoned an idea that he had been developing for years as he finally realized that it was not working. After letting go of his original plan and starting everything over again, he finally invented the world-changing creation: transformer, reinforcing the importance of letting go.
Furthermore, letting go isn't necessarily equal to losses. You could only leave space for more after disposing the old. After biting off her hair which was attached to the scarf, the knitter finally climbed back onto the cliff. Looking around, she eventually figured out that there were more beautiful things in her life which deserved her attention apart from that scarf. It's not about what you are giving up but is instead about what you are inviting into your life. If you could not give up on your heavy bundle, how could you carry on and reach up?
'Tik tok,tik tok’ The ticking sound of my watch yanks me out of my ocean of thoughts and memories, reminding me that it's 9:15 already. Just as I am about to dive into my sketches again, I take a look at the window beside me and see that the sky is a silky fabric smeared in black, being illuminated by the city underneath which is dusted with small splashes of gold glitters like an artist has decided to improvise and pour out a jar of glitters as far as his eyes could see. It's breath-taking. It really is. The world is huge and there are more in my life apart from my work: my family, my friends, things I have never tried before… Thinking of this, I slowly close my book, put my stuff back into my backpack and finally leave for family dinner.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Yuen Sik Yin Stephen
A Modern Fable of Identity Alienation
This is a fable about obsession, and a journey in which the protagonist seeks meaning and redemption.
As the film director of this animation, Laura Neuvonen first presents us an existential opening which imbues a symbolic scene of Genesis. A desolated plateau neither man nor woman yet exists, and thus a world of oblivion – an absence of predestination. This represents a situation many of us are now facing in the modern society.
What is our ultimate goal in life?
Soon after the movie introduces us a lady – the only person we would see throughout the animation, who acts as a personification of our struggling self-image. Walking towards the cliff with her barely discernible silhouette at dawn, she brings with her only three things – a chair, a pair of knitting needles, and a ball of yarn. At last she finds herself a place to settle down. These three objects all have their respective connotations: the psychological desire to secure one's social identity and position, the sociocultural desire to produce self-value through labour, and the limited resources one can employ, for instance time and energy.
Although it might sound unimpressive, to “settle down” is a humble but reassuring idea for human-being. Despite working only as insignificant cogs in a gigantic and complex machinery we call “society”, we cannot help wanting to be useful, valuable, and above all, to be needed and loved by the others. But very often we are not quite sure how to get there, and what position and role we should play so as to better contribute to our desire for recognition. This unsettling urge brings us anxiety of proving we are indeed worthy. As sunlight rests gently on her face, this “lucky” lady seemingly finds her own position and resolves that “knitting” is the job, if not her providence, she could do best.
Her “life” begins as she labours.
In fact, “knitting” serves merely as a blank sheet for which one can substitute anything. It could be any goal or role you deem important – being a good mother, a perfect girlfriend, a powerful husband, a successful manager, a professional butler, a lovable son, or something much more lofty and ambitious such as saving a country, or even the planet Earth. It does not matter what your personal “knitting” is, because once we manage to create our stand and purpose of living, all adversities and hardships followed would be nothing but meaningful and legitimate. No longer do we conceive ourselves as wanderers loitering aimlessly in this vast and lonely world.
This is the beginning of hope. At the same time, it lies the danger of cognitive blindness.
With no doubt, hard-work and patience are two most fundamental qualities to success. They are widely considered equivalent not just to virtue per se, but also to the guarantee of fruitful rewards. This age-old notion is so deep-rooted in our mind that we don't even query. We run into the danger of being mistaken by this oversimplified relation, that the degree of toil and suffer, must and should, have a direct proportion with the outcome. As in the film, the lady's hands are so occupied that they have never stopped for even one second, as though for fear that "slackness" would diminish her identity. If she had lived in our real world, I bet she would have won the "best employee award".
Her pathological persistence reveals a sense of irrationality and addiction. Meanwhile, the bud of obsession is clearly growing in her heart.
I can still remember vividly, around three years ago, when my mum had just retired, she vented her frustration on me one day, telling me what sort of embarrassing questions she had been asked by some of her friends and ex-colleagues, “So now you stay at home all day long doing nothing ah? Wouldn't that bother you mei? What else can you do if not going to work and earning for yourself a bit ah?” It reminded me of G. Bernard Shaw. The Nobel Prize winning writer once stated in his famous essay “Socialism and Marriage” – “If a woman has been accustomed to go in chains all her life and to see other women doing the same, a proposal to take her chains off will horrify her. She will feel naked without them.” The ironic resonation here shines.
Having an identity may give a positive spin on our life, but we should always keep it in mind that we are not prisoners of any single identity, and it never defines and dictates who we are, and what we can achieve. This philosophy is not only applicable to workaholics but many mothers as well, especially those in Chinese society. It is a common belief that the lengthier a mum nags, the more expensive toys she is willing to buy, the more extra-curricular activities she assigns for her kids- only the deeper love and care she expresses. In this case, the identity of “mother” overrides other identities. They fail to understand that being a mother is hardly their sole living purpose. By the same token, their sons and daughters have multiple identities too than just being their children. There is always a delicate balance to strike.
Back to the story, our protagonist is made to believe “the more, the better”. Even though the length of her scarf has long been to excess for any practical use, the lady fails to appreciate it is high time to stop.
She keeps on knitting. She knits for the sake of knitting.
Whilst she is still submerging in her self-deluded bubble, feeling fairly satisfied, and the progress seems so promising to her, what she has overlooked is that her effort is leading her off-track to the abyss, as one end of the scarf is spreading out too far away and inevitably dangling at the fringe. That is a typical case study of lacking “Situation Awareness”. In some special occupations such as sea captain and aircraft pilot, this concept is constantly being emphasised. In short, it is the ability to know what is going on around you, and not to be deceived by scanty information and, most importantly, preconception.
Take it to a wider picture, we should also stop for a trifle from time to time, lift our eyes from our work, make full appraisal of our life, reflect on several fundamental questions such as “what I'm doing”, “why I'm doing this” and “where I'm headed for”, to see if there are something we have surprisingly overlooked or ignored.
What would a normal person do when he finds out the dangling scarf at the cliff is slowly dragging him down into the deep valley? The answer seems blindingly obvious, but not quite.
Professor Barbara Oakley argues that when we try to solve a problem, there are two modes for us to choose: “focused mode” and “diffused mode”. Most of us tend to over-use the former. But “being too focused” may jeopardise judgment, consolidate flawed presumption, confine our ability to think out of the box, and in worst case scenario, lead us to a totally wrong direction. Being in her “focused mode”, the lady is evidently way too obsessed with her work. Even after she has briefly glimpsed the falling scarf, the only possible solution she could think of is still very much framed within her mental loop, namely everything related to "knitting" and "knitting" alone. Subsequently, she wrongly believes that the problem arises because she has not done her job " well" and "fast" enough, that is why she decides to hasten her speed rather than pause and examine the problem thoroughly. When she finishes all her available yarn balls at hand, finding that the scarf is still falling, she goes so far as to risk her own life by knitting with her long hair. By then, she has tragically prioritised social identity before life, even though I still mildly suspect that the truth has already dawned on her and she probably knows she might have made some misjudgements. Perhaps due to self-defence mechanism, the lady cannot swallow her pride. And the decision eventually drags her down to the cliff.
Some reckon the ending is a rather optimistic and liberating one, as the scissor symbolises “letting go” and the lady finally regains her freedom from knitting. But I beg to differ as, I am afraid, the lady does not choose it with her own free will. She is in fact emancipated in quite a reluctant manner only because one of the needles is accidentally broken. Her body is freed, but by no means her soul. When I see her picking up the scissor, gazing at it with her hollow eyes, looking around, toying with it the same way she did with her needles at the start, it sends chills down my spine.
The sound of clipping seems eerily familiar, as if an ever-haunting spell to our protagonist. The lady is about to go from one extreme to another.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Janice Getzlaf
Too Much Love of What We Love
A woman named after her great-grandmother on her father's side, Loviisa, stands alone on a cliff top, already feeling a sense of triumph even before starting her pursuit. She is by herself, and to be perfectly frank, does not want any annoying distraction. She can indulge in her true passion in life – manipulating wool by alternating the knit and purl stitches using a pair of aluminum knitting needles.
Loviisa sits down on her simple chair to begin her complex mission. Very soon, an irrepressible sensation takes over, and she becomes mesmerized by the silky softness of the yarn, the rhythmic clicking of the size 8 needles, and the sheer deftness of her fingers. Her pursed lips show no movement, instead the words drifting determinedly through her mind:
“Loop yarn over right needle. Wrap yarn from front to back. Hold yarn taut. Loop around the needle. Pull loop through left needle. … Loop. Wrap. Hold. Loop. Wrap. Hold. … Now at the end. Slip off the needle. Hold scarf in left hand. Empty needle in right. AGAIN!”
The persistent Loviisa continues on this trajectory until, eventually, the scarf becomes so excruciatingly heavy that it begins its slow slippery descent over the raw edge of the cliff. In fact, Loviisa seems blissfully unaware that the scarf, a practical application in the art of knitting, no longer has any actual real value as it is simply now too cumbersome to wrap around any wearer's neck. The scarf slides away, dragging the woman off her secure perch, and away to her impending death …
Mercifully, the wool eventually runs out, affording Loviisa an opportunity to cease the incessant habit that has – and how onlookers would regard as senselessly - overtaken her soul, yanking her unceremoniously from a normal, routine life that should be filled with hugs, laughter, friends, peace, happy memories, and the love of a family.
But Loviisa's passion, coupled with ingenuity, has fortuitously allowed her to hastily devise a plan for her obsession: She will begin incorporating her very own golden tresses into her magnificent scarf!
The cold, mechanical knitting machine whirrs on in poor Laviisa's head: “Loop. Wrap. Hold. Loop. Wrap. Hold”, as she guides her lovely locks onto the needles. Her compulsion is so great, so powerful, and so all-encompassing that she faces her own demise once again and – to make a long story of a long scarf short – the poor woman tumbles over the edge of the severe cliff.
But Lady Luck is smiling down on Loviisa from behind a gentle, low-hanging cloud, and the gods, too, their eyes a-twinkle with benevolence, ensure she successfully claws her way safely back up and with no yarn to knit, she finally decides to toss them away, thus allowing her obsession to abate.
It would have been prudent for Loviisa to stop, and consider herself fortunate – even blessed – to have had the sheer willpower to throw her needles to a dark abyss, never to be handled again. She must have mustered immeasurable resolute to release the precious tools that contributed to the intoxicating pleasure of knitting a scarf.
However, so great is her need to keep her mind and hands active that Loviisa picks up a pair of scissors, and in no time, her innate need to do something – anything – takes over, leaving the viewers feeling uneasy about where this will now take the hapless Loviisa.
In her short animation, Finnish director Laura Neuvonen proves that she understands human nature all too well. She displays an uncanny insight into the all-too-prevalent issue of compulsive-obsessive behaviour that, in our real, un-animated version of the world – can come with horrendous consequences.
Why is it inherent in us human beings, - and there is seemingly no differentiation between young and old, men and women, wealthy and impoverished – to obsess, leaving us consumed, tormented and hounded by anything that could be described from significant to inconsequential? The answer certainly requires rigorous exploration by experts in the fields of psychology, neurology and cognitive behaviour therapy in systematic research and investigation. Nevertheless, the facts when dealing with obsessive behaviour point in the same direction: There are far too many incidents of obsessive, addictive behaviour that leave onlookers and loved ones alike – those keeping a watchful eye on the periphery – cringing in nail-biting anticipation of where it will all eventually lead.
The scourge of addiction and its fallout permeates our lives in numerous, unique ways. As in the case of Loviisa's benign activity of knitting, there are similar seemingly innocuous activities that can become the focal point of one's obsession. Those who bare witness to the small snippet of unrelenting compulsion in others might not ever conceive of how dangerously deep the preoccupation can run. They simply cannot fathom how far the lurking monster with its powerful tentacles can contort and writhe, incessantly driving away the gentle voice of reason.
Episodes of dogged obsessive can be witnessed daily – one need look no further than the newspaper to see how all-consuming tendencies wriggle their way into normal, everyday lives. These noteworthy tales of tragedy – in our vicinity and abroad - have drawn the attention of editors and journalists who trot out dramatic headlines to elicit shock and awe from readers. These stories can cause other less-obsessive-type observers to shake their heads in dismay, muttering to themselves 'How could this have happened?’
Here in Hong Kong, one evening, Mr Yu, 67, who secures a livelihood as a barber, ambles onto a double-decker bus, and finds a seat on the upper floor. In the middle of the ride, perplexed fellow passengers are shocked when Mr Yu takes out a gleaming pair of shears, and lops off the bounteous ponytail of the female passenger in the seat in front of him. The defenseless woman, visibly wracked with horror, musters the courage to ask Mr Yu why he would do such a thing. “Your hair was getting in my way.” was the retort from a man who could not stop himself. Mr Yu's shears are later confiscated by police, who are worried that Mr Yu may not be able to restrain himself. The misdeed was not planned, and Mr Yu, himself, cannot quite comprehend what overtook over him that night, except that he 'likes cutting hair’.
Another article announces that the average price of concert tickets worldwide is much higher than the previous figure. The writer explains that the increase in price has not deterred at least one avid fan. In the past year alone, Londoner Beth Paulie, has shelled out an extraordinary amount of money to watch the popular American singer Pink perform a total of twelve times. This ardent fan spent five years feverishly saving for the privilege of attending Pink's concerts, all of which took place over the span of a single year. Pink's upcoming 'Beautiful Trauma’ tour to Europe begins in June next year, setting Paulie into a fundraising frenzy involving procuring money from less-than-enthusiastic family members and disenchanted friends. Taking an extra job as a cocktail waitress at 'Satin's Whiskers’ has helped make Paulie's dream of being entertained by Pink live on stage more of a reality, regardless of the ten-fold price hike for one single adult ticket.
It is earlier this year, in April, in a small snow-swept, picturesque hamlet - a place where the flat, mid-western plains meet the Rocky Mountain Range in Canada, a trio of world-renowned mountaineers are making preparations for their momentous assent. These three have travelled across the world to climb a route that is known to be formidably challenging, with parts that are the most technically demanding in the world. With the spring conditions at the time rated as 'variable danger low to high’, the three set off early Tuesday, reach the summit, take pictures, and start their assent in the early afternoon. It is then that Parks Canada estimates that the three celebrated climbers are swept away by an avalanche deemed powerful enough to destroy a small building. The bereaved family and friends of the three adventurers later agree that each man lived for mountain climbing, and they lost their lies doing what they craved – scaling perilous peaks of a rocky ridge. All three climbers possessed the confidence, ability and stamina, built from countless missions throughout their lives. Ultimately, however, the driving desire to scale the formidable peak was irresistibly all encompassing, and the risk – although surely managed considerably – was not enough to stop the tragic final climb.
In her short animation, Laura Neuvonen has created a personality in Lovissa that viewers will appreciate, having possibly come across friends and loved ones who possess the similar trait of single-minded obsessiveness. The imaginative tale allows viewers to give pause, consider the proliferation of compulsive behavior round us, ponder over the deleterious effects it produces, and then ask the simple question: 'Why?’
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Lisa Baczkowski
It's never the last anything
“The Last Knit”. How do I describe it? Bizarre. Mesmerizing. Anticlimactic. I sat there with my kids, as the credits rolled and wondered along with them: What had we just watched? It was unlike any short films we had seen. The conclusion was totally unexpected. My 9-year old felt cheated out of a happy ending, or any type of ending that made sense. “Well how would you have liked it to end?” I asked.
“Maybe there were some orphans or helpless creatures in need at the bottom of the cliff that she helped with her knitting?” my daughter suggested.
Of course. A fairy-tale ending where problems are solved and everyone is happy. But that's not how it works in the real world, is it? Although my daughter was not exactly looking for a fairy-tale ending, she did expect the film to relay a moral of sorts, such as the value of helping others or selflessness.
But “The Last Knit” had just one character who interacted with no one but herself. She was truly self-absorbed in her task. It dominated her whole being. She appeared to live – and nearly die – for her knitting.
Who does that? What kind of person could be so passionate about knitting – except for, maybe, old grannies – as to allow it to become a nearly fatal obsession? Is the film really about knitting? Or is the act of knitting merely symbolic of anything that becomes an obsession in one's life?
Come to think of it, I could totally relate to allowing something to encompass my every waking moment and spare thought to the point that I would ignore daily duties and responsibilities: reading. Reading was my escape from the mundane. Books opened doors to worlds I hadn't even imagined existed.
The first time my mother took us to a public library, we thought we were in heaven. Mom merely saw it as a safe place to leave us for a few hours while shewas shopping at the wet market. I still have my first library card. I know the serial number by heart. Library cards are no longer issued these days; we use our HKIDs to borrow and reserve books instead. My kids are fascinated by my old, plastic, green-and-white card (the colours of rural resident card-holders) as if it were some sort of relic. To me, it was the key to a treasure trove of books. Books which shaped my mind and helped create a number of memories.
Like the time I forgot to pick up my little sister from kindergarten in the next village. I was so absorbed in the book I was reading, I lost track of the time. Until Mom reminded me. I leaped out of my chair and rushed to the bus stop, book still in hand. Even though I knew it was because I had been reading that I forgot about my sister, I was still reading as the bus took me to the next village. Running to the school, I saw that my little sister was not sitting in her usual spot outside the gate which was now closed. I was over an hour late picking her up. All the students had gone. Including my sister.
Recruiting some friends, I scoured the village, calling my sister's name. No response. A light rain steadily drizzled down. I kept my book under my shirt to keep it from getting wet. After an hour and a half of fruitlessly shouting my sister's, my friends received a call from home. No mobile phones in those days, unless you were a rich triad boss. Having waited an hour for me to show up, my 5-year-old sister had decided that she had had enough of it, got up, and walked 2.5km through the rain, all the way back home.
If I had bothered to look out the bus window on my way to pick her up, instead of reading, I probably would've seen her small figure, lugging her heavy school bag, trudging in the rain on the road home. Whenever we recall this story, my family always comment on my “absent-mindedness” and my sister's “dogged determination”. Neither description is entirely accurate. I simply allowed reading to dominate my life. And my sister just got fed up with waiting for me and decided to go home herself.
The experience did not drastically change my life or make me suddenly realize the negative side-effects of my devotion to reading. According to Alice Lin's 2012 review1 of The Last Knit, the film was about “letting go” in order to “free ourselves from bondage and restriction”. Lin's interpretation of the scissors was as a meaningful tool which allowed the protagonist to “wisely… cut off and let go of greed [so that] she can have a new and better life.”
I do not share Lin's take on the ending. From experience, being free of habits or dispositions is not that simple or straightforward. Personally, I see the scissors as the protagonists' next obsession. Did she really use the scissors to free herself of negative traits? Not from my perspective. The way she wielded those scissors and started trimming grass and fingernails, looking for other things to use her scissors on, it appeared that her new “project” was downsizing. Maria Kondo-style.
Similarly, my addiction to reading didn't just stop because of a conscious effort on my part. Rather, it was side-lined by a new interest: online communication. First ICQ. Then a HK-based communication platform known as IceRed. When IceRed was dismantled, I felt lost. Like a kite gone adrift when its string has been cut. Funnily enough, Lin compares letting go with “a kite that flies high into the sky once it is released.” For me, it is more like being anchorless. When Facebook was introduced, I became re-attached.
My interest, however, started to evolve. Remember Gameboy? How did a summer holiday that may have originally started as a past-time become an obsession with many kids of the 90s and early 2000s? I was one of those kids caught up in that craze. Books momentarily were forgotten as I worked to get over the gaming itch. Helping Mario to finally beat the Big Boss and save Princess Peach put the gaming fever into hibernation; and I promptly returned to my books.
With the introduction of social media games on Facebook and my first childbirth confinement, however, the gaming fever awoke with a vengeance. I was on Pet Society, Restaurant City and Happy Farm. As were the rest of my family members. Smartphones increased the intensity of our dedication to build up our Pets' status, our Restaurants' size and popularity, and ourFarms' productivity.
And then there were Angry Birds and Candy Crush. Knowing my predilection for such mindless games, I managed to avoid getting into either for a whole year. Once started though, it was hard to stop. And the levels were endless. Getting over Angry Birds was easier than Candy Crush. I dominated Candy Crush, always waiting for the next levels under construction to be opened. My mom and sisters complained that they would never catch up with me. They were even more upset when I promptly deleted my account; no fun beating me when I was already out of the game.
And that is how I interpret The Last Knit. Letting go of an addiction or a part of your life that encompasses your whole being does not necessarily lead to peace and tranquility. Somehow, you are compelled to fill the void that has been left. What you choose as a filler and how you manage it determine the outcome, if there is one at all.
Laura Neuvonen's The Last Knit is only the beginning of The Next Obsession.
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Chloe Sum Pui Wong
THIS IS HOW
Have you ever had the feeling of being trapped in an obsession where there seemed to be no way out, even when you realised that you had been harming yourself along the way? Or have you ever met someone who was preoccupied with a thought that no matter how hard you tried to talk them out of their situation, they remained immersed in their own cycle of 'naïve' perseverance?
I have had these experiences, and in a way, I believed that everybody – young or old, immature or experienced, would have at least, that one-thing that they dearly hold onto; whether that is something tangible: an object, like a 'scarf', designer goods, fortune etc.; or something intangible, like one's virtue, fame, recognition etc.; these obsessions would be toxic and detrimental when they begin to harm oneself.
Being immersed and 'trapped' in this 'knitting' cycle – this vicious cycle of obsession; the threads are like the continuous excuses we make, intertwining, connecting and building on as the 'platform' for our obsession. Where the needles are like the tools we use, measuring the time, effort and hard-work that we placed on the process. However, the more thread we use, the closer we are towards the edge of the cliff; and when we run out of excuses, we harm ourselves in return: just as the lady in the film did, using her hair as threads to continue her 'senseless' knitting project.
Interestingly, is this 'knitting' process always a nonsensical obsession?
People who view from the outside picture would look at this lady and perhaps say, 'don't go near her, she must be crazy… what a lunatic, why is she doing this… that is totally unreasonable and idiotic'; while some sympathetic ones might go, 'excuse me, would you please stop, you are hurting yourself'. Yet in both cases, to the lady or many of us, when the obsession became life, all we have in mind would most probably be, 'I have to do this, nothing would stop me.' And when others start to evaluate the situation and attempt to talk us through, we get rather defensive and would exclaim, 'please mind your own business if you do not understand…'
However, if we could be more open and empathetic in understanding the life-course or past experiences of each individual and the reasons why they got attached to such obsessions, the outcome and the level of acceptance might differ. For instance, if the lady was knitting as a sign of respect and tribute to her grandmother; or if she was knitting as a means to relieve her pain and distract herself from her recent chronic diagnosis that she iwas suffering from. The whole story line would be different and surely changed our responses and approaches: perhaps, from a skeptical and labelling perspective to a more understanding and supportive attitude.
Yet, having said so, even with a more holistic societal understanding of why one might become obsessed with certain things or events, it is essential that we love and value ourselves in the first place. This is easier said than done, but this is not as challenging as it seems. Sometimes we just have to stop and think. As human beings we are always trying to find something to do, to occupy our time: even after losing her 'knitting' project, her hair, her time etc., she sat down and soon after, she started to fidget with her fingers and scissors all over again.
I had fought my battles!
Being negatively absorbed in trying to get the 'perfect' hand-writing throughout my school years, I had spent hours writing the same piece of assignment, perfecting the circles and strokes when the focus should be in getting the correct answers as fast as you can. I struggled along the way: growing up listening to discouraging and mean comments from teachers and friends. There were times when I solely wanted to prove them wrong, that I pushed myself too hard which then, became a health threat. Thanks to my parents, I was able to positively take cues from my surroundings and take baby steps to let go of my 'harmful' perseverance.
Only by recognising that we are living with an 'obsession', would we be able to witness the ultimate moment of self-awakening. By allowing ourselves to 'freeze' at that very moment, stand by the cliff and take the moment of silence to reflect; could we then, distinguish what is best for ourselves and cut the threads before it starts to harm us even further and onto a no-return path.
Learning from my experiences, I would wisely position myself to overcome my future obsessions and assist others in conquering theirs; and this is how:
I believed that every individual is their own star. We, ourselves are the drivers of motivation! No matter where one is on their 'knitting' journey, along this path, everyone needs support, as I once needed it too. Positioning oneself in a prime position, instead of blaming the person and viewing the person as some 'crazy' lunatic; by having the inner capacity and patience to listen to their stories and reasons why the obsession was developed; we could then assist people of different life-courses to stay on the same page and be more understanding and empathetic.
People come and go in our lives; there would always be positive, negative and neutral energies around us. Slowly realising that we 'create' the problems with our own hands, we 'enter' or 'leave' our obsessions by our own desire; until the time, when we could manage to be our own positive drivers, it would then be time to develop and expand our capacity to offer a helping hand to those around us. By being the 'good' supporter – allowing time and space, with encouragement and understanding, for open and non-judgmental discussions.
Is this really the last knit?
At the end of the day, having something that we are obsessed with is almost as common as finding oxygen in air; as this is something that marks us as human beings in this time and age.
No one could ever let go of all obsessions in one go. After getting rid of an addiction, we naturally place our attention to a new interest and before we know it, we might start a new 'knitting' project. Knowing that everyone has 'something' that they hold onto, with which that 'something', that 'obsession' could be the very reason that push them towards the end of the cliff. This is how we should be empathetic to ourselves, and this is how we could position ourselves to assist the others and walk with them along their 'knitting' journey when time comes.
As a result, whether you are the person who is going on this 'knitting' journey or as someone who is living with this person with 'obsession', having empathy is the key.
We have to first love ourselves: Before we fall deep into the cliff, have a moment to ourselves, allow time for ourselves to think it through. Yet, fear not, if you are already on this 'knitting' journey, never force yourself to hit the brake, but at times, do stop and think, gently ask yourself if this is really what you should be doing. After all, you cannot stop yourself all of a sudden from your obsession, your addiction – simply give yourself the time to think it through, remember that there are clues along your journey, where supportive family or friends are just within your reach, to pull you out.
This is how, we value love, support and accompany throughout our life-course; This is how, we should have, or we should be the persons with empathy and patience; This is how, we should love, trust and value ourselves; This is how, our society could be a more understanding and supportive platform if we slow down and listen.
And this is how…
Open Section (English Division) Merit Prize
Name: Denise Richardson
I watched the Finnish animation The Last Knit several times. The first time, I shook my head and let out a silent, “Phew!” I puckered my lips, twisted my mouth, and raised my eyes. I had hoped to find an explanation written out on the ceiling. I found the fact that it didn't have any dialogue but rather irritating sound effects and edgy music, slightly off-putting. I watched it more intently the second and third times. The intended message started to reveal itself. When I finally had that, “aha” moment, the hidden message became crystal clear to me. This seven-minute animation is about greed and addiction.
When a person engages in repetitive pleasurable behaviors that they cannot stop doing, they are addicted to a substance or behavior.
When one thinks of addictions, one tends to think primarily of substance abuse, such as tobacco, drug, alcohol, and food addictions. Addictive behaviors such as gambling, online gambling, pornography, overeating, and addictions to dangerous adrenaline sports are equally as catastrophic.
Addictions provide opportunities for immediate reward or satisfaction. When a person sits down to have a drug and alcohol-fuelled binge, the brain registers satisfaction from a powerful surge of dopamine. Typically, tolerance increases. The person wants and needs more and more. They continue engaging in the behaviors despite the physical or psychological harm it causes them and their loved ones. This pursuit of pleasure dominates the individual's activities. They neglect other life goals, which creates harmful consequences. Addicts find themselves in a free fall situation jeopardizing work, school, and family relationships as well as careers, finances, and not the least, mental and physical health. Greed has set its ugly feet in cement.
What have we done as a collective society to exacerbate the problem of greed and addictions?
There is an adage that money is the root of all evil. Well, I tend to agree.
We have idealized rich people and the perks of rich, lavish lifestyles for centuries. We have brainwashed younger generations into believing that money equates to beauty, high fashion, expensive jewelry, fast cars, luxury yachts, and Hollywood mansions. Easy money, in the form of credit cards and loans, has added fuel to the epidemic. Forget saving up for a special purchase. “I want it, and I want it now!” is the mantra of today's generation. People want more and more. Enough is never enough!
The internet itself has done much to promote the agenda of the 'instant gratification' generation. Access to almost everything is available online. Online gambling, shopping, pornography, drugs, and food. On and on the list goes. Consumerism, in general, has done little to placate the white elephant in the room.
A woman or man may think that they will attract a better partner if they have just one more plastic surgery. A food addict will struggle with but will give in to just one more, sinfully, calorie-laden dessert. The inability to say “No” is the inner struggle of addicts. Sex tourism in countries such as The Netherlands and many southeast Asian countries promotes quick, inexpensive sexual encounters that sometimes lead to sex addiction and the dark abyss of child pornography. Behind destinations promoting their unique tourism product is the almighty dollar- money, and greed.
Every day in every corner of the Earth, people struggle with being able to admit to themselves when enough is enough. The real question is, can they stop their addictive behaviors or addictions to substances before it is too late?
If you walk into any casino in any country, you will see signs plastered all over the casinos notifying patrons that help is just one toll-free call away. What you won't see is the agony that the addict is feeling as he relentlessly slaps down, chip after chip, on the blackjack table slowing bleeding the money from his pocket and rendering him or her more and more incapable of taking care of his or her financial obligations. After all, money does not grow on trees. But perhaps in the eyes of a gambling addict, there is an imaginary forest of money trees out there somewhere.
Why are some members of society more susceptible than others of falling prey to addictions?
Some say family genes can cause addictions. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree scenario. Research has proven that certain individuals do not possess the necessary enzymes in their liver to metabolize alcohol, as seen in the Native American Native population where alcoholism is a ravaging demon wreaking havoc in every facet of their society.
Males also experience a higher rate of addiction, but it is not an exclusive club.
Sadly, the outward addiction is often the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, through therapies such as the world-renowned faith-based, twelve-step program, the addict will be able to say out loud, “I have a problem, and I need help. Enough is enough!”
Addicts must often confront unpleasant emotions, situations, and people instead of avoiding them. There is no get-out-of-jail free card. It takes work, lots of work, and lots of commitment, and dare I say divine intervention.
Eventually, if intervention is not successful, addictions induce a sense of hopelessness, feelings of failure, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies take deep root in the psyche of the addict. If intervention is not successful, a dangerous downward cycle begins. The worst-case scenario is, a person sees no end and cannot fathom having the ability to stop the dangerous cycle themselves. They believe suicide is the only answer.
We all know someone who has sadly lost their battles with addictions, if not personally, though pop culture. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson's death, due to substance abuse, had a profound effect on the world. Amy Winehouse, a British singer, at the height of her career, often sang about her addictions and wanting to go to rehab before her death. Whitney Houston 's death came as another shock to the world. Her daughter Christina's death eerily mirrored her mother just three years later. Both found in bathtubs, dying from overdoses. Recently, the Hollywood blockbuster, Bohemian Rhapsody, chronicles the unfortunate story and demise of Freddy Mercury, a talented individual who contributed much to the world pop and music scene but who lost his struggle with his addictions.
The character in The Last Knit desperately, in a last-ditch effort, incorporated her long, golden hair as she feverishly tried everything in her grasp to save herself before falling off the cliff.
During the last minute or so of the Last Knit, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering, will the character be given a second chance to live a life free from the shackles of greed? Will she reach out and ask God for help when her body jolts to the ground, or will she lose her battle with her addiction?
She was able to muster one last morsel of inner strength to stumble up the jagged cliff to her chair, where she collapsed in an exhaustive pile. She looked at the shiny knitting needles that shackled her and kept her bound and tied to what began as a simple pleasure, then became greed and eventually turned into an addiction and tossed them over the cliff. Then she wiped her hands clean, in a good riddance gesture, signifying her willingness and readiness to enter into recovery.
She lost her physical beauty. Her gorgeous hair sat entwined in a tangled heap at the bottom of the cliff. Moments later, she glanced down and saw her sparkly scissors sitting beside her. She slowly picked them up and stared at them. I'm sure the question that flashed through her mind was, “Why didn't I pick these scissors up and use them long before I lost almost everything?”
Well, she didn't lose everything, but she damn near did. There is no denying that she was centimeters away from death. The character was able to save herself by chewing off her golden locks, the very locks that bound her, and tied her to her addiction in the end.
I can't help but wonder, what was the underlying cause for her addiction? Was she a victim of abuse? Had she experienced some trauma? Did she struggle with a mental disorder such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Did her mother or father also suffer from addictions? Had she attempted to get in control of her addiction in the past? Had she made several sincere attempts and experienced relapses? One thing for sure is her uncanny Pinnochio-like nose reminded me of the deceit that no doubt becomes a fabric of and a by-product of her addiction.
It is my personal wish that anyone who is fighting with the demons of addiction, like the character in The Last Knit, can find the inner strength to ask for divine intervention so that they will find the necessary strength to climb up over any proverbial cliff, with the wisdom to know when, and the ability to say, “enough is enough!”
(在不影響原作內容的前提下，以上所有文章已進行校對及修正。) (All entries have been proofread and edited without alterations to the author's original meanings.)