Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The pursuit of peace

I think mundane every-day history, revealed that we are a very unrestful race. From Buddha's journey to find nirvana - the state of everlasting peace and serenity - to Judeo-Christian doctrine to find peace amongst ourselves and in God, this illustrious quality in life have always been overshadowed by the more positive, more active pursuit of happyness.

Happyness - a state of elation, fulfillment and satisfaction. It is a state where one seeks to be happy, to perform actions to then achieve that state. Like a good panadol, the effects are immediately felt, no matter long difficult the journey it took to get there.

However there is always a sense of uneasiness. How long will happiness last? And like the musical Wicked reminds us, at what cost? What whose cost did we pay or others near and dear have to pay for this?

Ultimately life will always throw a wrench in our plans, and happiness and sadness come and go. Perhaps active states are not what we look for, but a state of being still in the midst of rushing water. It is not the same as relenting to one's fate, but to do what we can and accept whatever the consequences that occur that are out of our power to control.

I have given what I could to A job, and if the rewards are still not justified by industry standards, then that is out of my control. Instead of vexing over say, the lost of my memory (an entirely senior moment) that cost my team time and money, we can choose to be let the mistake go and learn from it. To find peace with myself is to learn how to let go all recognition and blame, to understand to some extend we are responsible and the rest was all up to the incalculable odds of probability.

Peace to me, are the little things in life - the mundane mistress of the everyday the gives us strength to take it 1 day at a time. It is an especially elusive mistress because our everyday is filled with distractions that clouds her presence and like a perfectly concealed optical illusion, we only see because we are in the right frame of mind.

A friend once told me she felt being successful in life is to be a peace. It might seem odd - but not anymore now after more thought because all the money and power cannot trade in for a good night's sleep. It is far more difficult than happiness and it is also no surprise we often relate happiness and peace, the twins of what we really want in life.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A lesson in the vocabulary of Empathy

These couple of days, I find myself being on the other end of a listening ear - career troubles, personal woes, insecurities and the like. It struck me how far I've come along, to be able to just listen and take in everything when just a week ago, I was doing everything but.

I have been accused of not being able to listen, and more so not being able to understand. I think this habit of judging is masked under the excuse of problem solving, when in fact I find it comfortable to judge from afar and dissociate myself from the situation. When it comes to problems that need solving, such an attitude is at an advantage. However, when it comes to putting myself in other people's shoes, all I could do was to critique how the colour of the socks goes wrongly with the shoes.

I think yesterday and today, I took a different step - I have decided to be more aware of what the person's trying to tell me. A good friend of mine told me, that people often know the answers for the questions they ask, and when they reach out, they really are just looking to you to understand and in their moment of weakness, lean on you.

It's true, and on hindsight, my friends often have decided their course of action and my "advice" is affirming and supportive - and while I may not agree, ultimately it's something that I keep in private. It is their time to speak, and so I've learn that keeping silent about my own opinions about their course of action is not essential, it is mandatory. It is the same, when I seek others for help - the last thing I want is a break down of 10 other ways I could have managed the situation better. I seek for comfort and understanding - a friendly hug and a warm smile to tell me everything is going to be okay.

It's the vocabulary of empathy that I need to build - amongst my linguistically ones, because ultimately people communicate with each other with more than just words.

I've chosen to act differently today - to share my stories when someone is sharing with me how hard it is to work-study a degree at the same time. I've chosen to show support and belief in a friend who feels that his career is going nowhere because of a glass ceiling. I've chosen to be thankful that they confided in me, and not take that trust and betray it by instilling my opinions of them which may hinder their spiritual recovery. I've chosen to be kind - and it took me a long way to finally realise what it means to listen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our culture is novelty.

When I just broke up, my aim in life is suddenly stunted because plans we used to make together, are now made apart. The loss is as painful as the knowledge that it is necessary to abandon the path once forged together. Like my very wise driving instructor used to tell me, "our basic instinct is to survive, to give up - now that's something we have to learn."

So give up I have, and moving on I shall. And in true Yoda fashion, I pledge to write again and while finding a topic to comment upon, an article about the frequent SMRT breakdowns struck me.

Mr Desmond Kuek, President and Group Chief Executive Officer of SMRT, added: “We apologise for the rail incidents over the past week. Our transport professionals are giving their all to make your journey a better one. The SMRT team will stay focused on safety and reliability improvements as we work to renew Singapore’s ageing rail network to the benefit of our commuters."


Honestly, it's such a joke to call our rail network ageing when it's barely 40 years old. I don't know SMRT's definition of old, but I'm pretty sure we can all agree that 40 years in public transportation years is hardly a prick in the fabric. I am of course not here to find fault (hahaha geddit) with SMRT, but that phrase struck me about Singapore and our obsession with The New.

Even our Chinese phonetic translation of the Malay word Singapura - Singapore, has 新, which pretty much means new.

Our history is riddled with renewal and more specifically, the expulsion of what came before for what is coming. The British and the indigenous community, Raffles's schemes to establish a British trading port by out-manoeuvring the Malay royalty's influence. The current history (of you know who and what) also echoes of such patterns of supersucession and our people are immigrants embracing change of a better life.

This current hipster movement, to cherish the old through the commodification of items past their practical use - to memorialise childhoods that no longer apply to your own children is both a symptom and a cause of our own approach to cope with a culture who never knew how to cope with anything but being "new".

We see the old in contempt, our children chase the latest gadgets, our cars have an expiry date of 10 years, employment restructuring takes place a every 15 years, a rail network is considered old at 40.

We are a nation who are not obsessed with the new, because it suggests that we are shifting from the old to the new. Truth is, new is all we ever knew. We don't know how to cope with the old. What do you do with old bits of history? CHIJMES. What do you do with old memories? Who needs them? In our school textbooks, heritage is taught as a  duty, to keep the old as something inherently valuable and as a culture where new is all we ever know, we cannot resonate with such a concept. We were never taught why it was valuable because that would raise awkward questions about how some things are done...If you get my drift.

Our solution to old things is to demolish, refurbish and gentrify. We wipe the slate because there is so little resistance and start anew. I think there is also a sense of arrogance because we measure time and chart changes within our lifespan, I don't think we stopped to consider that some things will exist beyond us. We also find a constant need for the "new and improved" - and we are intolerant to quirks that old things bring.

What does it say about how we treat our old? What does it say about how we maintain relationships once they are past their due? What kind of stories will our children hear, and in turn tell their own children?