Monday, March 31, 2008

ThE pROpoSiTIoNs

  • To be human is to be religious.
  • To be religious is to be mindful.
  • To be mindful is to pay attention.
  • To pay attention is to sanctify existence.

  • Rituals are one way in which attention is paid.
  • Rituals arise from the stages and ages of life.
  • Rituals transform the ordinary into the holy.

  • Rituals may be public, private, or secret.
  • Rituals may be spontaneous or arranged.
  • Rituals are in constant evolution and reformation.

  • Rituals create sacred time.
  • Sacred time is the dwelling place of the Eternal.
  • Haste and ambition are the adversaries of sacred time.

Is this so?

(from From Beginning To End: The Rituals Of Our Lives by Robert Fulghum)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

WhaT bEComEs Of thE bROkEn-hEaRteD?

I went for a ballet performance last night – Giselle. It was held in a park, partly atop a smallish hill. The place was green, and huge, and packed with people. Like hundreds of people having picnic. Hundreds of people having their picnic while enjoying the ballet.

It was so beautiful. To dance amidst the park, amidst the trees, together with the setting sun, and then under a clear sky sprinkled with stars.

In the story, Giselle dies of a broken heart, betrayed by the man she loves. My very good friend who was with me at the ballet asked, “Can someone really die of a broken heart?”

And her question set me thinking. For all of us who have lost something before – be it an object or a person or a pet or whatever it is that we cherish dearly – there is no denying that moment (or two, or weeks or months or years) of sadness. That feeling of the rug pulled out from under your feet. That instant of disbelief.

At least, that’s what happens to me when I lose something close to my heart. My first feeling is that of unbalance. I remember when I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8 or 9, someone said something to me that really hurt. That someone was a key figure in my life then. And when that someone lost their trust in me, my 8-year-old world crashed around me. That was the first time in my life I felt my heart, when I actually felt my heart hurt. The only way I can describe it is my heart thumped 2-3 inches below where it normally is. And the thud hurt. A lot.

But I am digressing.

Can someone really die of a broken heart? Yes, they can. I was there before. I know.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Friendship, is something that is so beautiful, so personal, so intricate. I just met up with a friend whom I had not seen in the last 5 years, and it was as if the time just melted away. We easily picked up our conversation where we left off. No pleasantries needed, just a quick update on our family and off we were. Trying to summarise all that happened in the 5 years was tough. How do you condense 5 years of life and living into a mere hour or two? But we knew each other enough to be able to fill in the gaps. We felt comfortable enough sharing secrets we don’t even reveal to our family.

This is the kind of friendship that I would say stands the passing of time. This is the kind of friendship that loves and accepts the other for who he or she is. This is the kind of friendship where a good night’s sleep wipes the slate clean again.

This is the kind of friend I want to be. Let me, will you?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LOsT iN my MiNd

My mind has been feeling a little disoriented lately. There seem to be some chunks of time that I am missing. Occasions when I am sure I was physically present, but yet have no recollection of the things that happened then. And I’m quite sure I wasn’t day-dreaming or night-dreaming, for even in those, I can remember bits and pieces of the dreams, albeit in a hazy fuzzy way.

It’s like my memories have become disjointed, some portions have been stolen. Like how you watch a DVD and sometimes the player skips certain scenes, leaving you a little bewildered. And the only way I have any handle on those “missing time” is through patching together the stories told by those around me.

I have always said to her that losing my mind is a scary thing, and knowing that I am losing my mind is even worst.

But I guess she’s right.

When I am losing my mind, I probably wouldn’t know that I am losing my mind.

tHe LOnG mArCH

Human mortality, has been on my mind a lot the last two weeks. For in my dreams, I meet those who have gone before, I see those who are near death’s door. And all I can do is to feel helpless.

There are all these great sayings and philosophies and psychologies on death and dying. Which is weird as the very reason the books and theories have any kind of reality is because the writer has not yet died. Any experience can only be limited to the dying part, the part that we see, the part that we cry, the part that we try so hard to hang onto. But the death itself remains a mystery.

The fragility of life is humiliating. The resilience of life is humbling. I haven’t figured out whether life is too short, or life is too long. Just like how I am unable to decide whether the glass is half full, or the glass is half empty.

One thing I do know though, that we are all of us, whether rich or poor, whether yellow or brown or white, whether father or mother or sister or brother…

… we are all marching towards certain death.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

ThiS bLOg of MInE

My mentor in university once told me, “There are pieces of writing that you write for people to read. And then there are pieces of writing that should only be for your own reading.”

That there is a public and a private side to writing was new to me at that time. Writing wasn’t just a tool. It was my lifeline to the outside world, my main means of communicating with others.

In my naïveté, and misguided hopes of becoming famous, my writings were entirely public. I wanted everyone to be able to read my works. Secretly, I was waiting for the opportunity to be talent-spotted by some eminent writer or publisher. That never happened, obviously.

But learning that writing could be private or public changed the balance for me. I started to look at my writings anew. It’s like being able to sort the seed from the husk, and I no longer carried the burden of trying to impress people with my voluminous and discombobulated writing.

I began to separate my writings into that which I wanted others to read, and others that I was contented to let stew in my own mind. And in some strange way, my writing took on a sharper edge. I also wrote a lot more. And I thought I was all sorted out with my diary that held my secrets, and my notebook that followed me everywhere.

Until this phenomenon of blogging caught up with me. Which has created this whole new dimension of writing that is neither public nor private, neither fantasy nor grounded in reality, neither here nor there.

So how much of this is me or not-me? I’ll let you readers decide.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


As I grow older, I find myself developing a keener interest in my past. Not just my immediate past in the sense of what my baby-world or growing-up years were like. Rather, it’s this desire to learn about my ancestry, about those who came before me, about the human race that preceded the land before time.

I wonder if Alex Haley woke up one day and felt this same yearning grip his soul. This need to trace his roots. This need to reach far back into the past. This need to know what configuration of humanity transpired to make him.

Being a 2nd generation immigrant, there isn’t much that anchors me. Neither the country of my birth because we do not share a history; nor the country of my forefathers because our pasts are disjointed. When I see people brimming with passion and patriotism for their country, I’m always curious how that feels. Is it a tie that binds even tighter and deeper than the most perfect of relationships?

I do not belong because I am a daughter of the earth?

Thursday, March 20, 2008





Tuesday, March 18, 2008

THe scRoLL ReADs...

There is really nothing you must be.
And there is nothing you must do.
There is really nothing you must have.
And there is nothing you must know.
There is really nothing you must become.
However, it helps to understand that fire burns,
and when it rains, the earth gets wet...

(from a Japanese Zen master, quoted in "It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It" by Robert Fulghum)

Monday, March 17, 2008


Since I stopped working, I have been introduced to the wonders of MSN Messaging, Skype and Facebook. Quite amazing tools, I must say, as they possess the power to transcend time and distance. As my friend remarked when we were having a video-call online, “It’s almost as if I never left!

If you’ve noticed, there is this very interesting feature that allows you to “hide” and yet still be able to see what is going on. When I’m really bored, I would go into Facebook and check out friends of my friends (who may be strangers to me) to see what they are like/ what they are up to. It doesn’t actually serve any real purpose, just snooping around to waste time. The Internet is fast becoming the lifeline that connects us all. Don’t want to speak with a friend? Just block her from your list. Feel like avoiding someone? Just appear offline and pretend you are invisible. Or, simply surf around and get a 411 on anyone who catches your fancy.

Anonymity online offers us both power as well as vulnerabilities. Read like an open book? Just remember not to judge a book by its cover!

The blood of the voyeur runs in me.

oCcaM'S RaZOr

The rain is so light that the merest whisper of wind creates whorls of miniature tornadoes. It brings me much comfort to be able to sit here by my window and observe the world outside. I like to look at the cars going by, the people sauntering on the sidewalks, and attempt to be a meteorologist studying the skies.

Not that I have a scientific way of reading the cloud patterns and barometric pressure and wind-chill factor. I go more by what my gut is telling me, how the wind feels on my skin, which way the little pinwheel is spinning. Oh well, if you must know, my secret mantra is “Red sky in the morning, fisherman’s warning. Red sky at night, fisherman’s delight.

It’s as simple as that, I swear. Remember what Occam said?

“One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

tRYiNg To DeFiNE...

Peace. When the silence inside you is no longer scary nor hungry.

Monday, March 10, 2008

aLl ThiNGs oLd

My digital sports watch has gone nutty. It now beeps every time it gets to half-past the hour. So it beeps at 12.30, 1.30, 2.30, 3.30…. you get the drift… 24 beeps a day. I wonder why it’s doing that. The last time I used it was when I went jogging and put the stopwatch on. I mean, I wasn’t even trying to fiddle with the alarm setup. I guess it’s no surprise that I much prefer analog watches (the sports watch being my only concession to “digitalise” my time).

Just like how I prefer analog cameras. I enjoy the single-mindedness in which you need to load in the film without wasting any exposures. Turning the counter every time you had snapped something to check how many photos were left. The excitement of going to the photo-shop to pick up the photos that have been developed.

And I still faithfully buy CDs. Can’t quite get the hang of mp3. Never owned an iPod. I like to listen to music loud and with surround-sound effect. I have a mini-hi-fi in my room, and that keeps me happy. Although I’m increasingly relying on “borrowing” mp3s from my friends to load onto my mobile phone so I have some company on my long trips out.

When it comes to technology stuff, I guess I’m a bit of a Luddite. Not that I am anti-technology. No, I fully appreciate the modern conveniences like microwave ovens and washing machines. Inertia probably, like if my old ways of doing things still work, why should I bother to change?

After all, Cinderella was supposed to leave by the stroke of midnight, or her carriage will turn into a pumpkin. And when the clock strikes one, the mouse ran down.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

An Ode tO dEliRiuM

Delirium is smart, she is clever, she is funny, she is mad. Delirium has traveled along the utterly cold and lonely journey into a deranged mind. Delirium knows what darkness means.

Delirium has a past that is unknown. Delirium has one blue eye and one green eye. Delirium has wild orange hair. Delirium is so different, so special.

Delirium is a walking contradiction. Delirium is both young and old. Delirium is both mad and sane. Delirium knows and yet doesn’t know.

Unless you have been lost in the deep black cavernous hole of your own mind, you will not be able to understand the depth of despair that a person can sink into.

I met Delirium in the tunnel of darkness, and she held onto my hand so that I wouldn’t be lost.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

nAme, CLaiM & oWn

Responsibility is the current topic of interest for this week. Been reading a couple of books on taking responsibility, for ourselves. That we are all responsible for our own lives. That we are responsible for the choices we make. That we are responsible for who we are and what we become.

Responsibility, is a scary concept. It sounds so grown up, so adult. By taking responsibility of our lives, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Not fate, not destiny, not life, but we who are responsible for the way we live.

When I was a very young student, my teacher banned talking during classes. But we loved to chatter, so my friends and I devised this ingenious way of communicating with one another by writing on our erasers and passing them around. When our teacher caught us, we’d all look very innocent and deny that the eraser belongs to us. Or sometimes, one of us would say it belongs to so-and-so, an unsuspecting classmate whom we didn’t like.

Even though I have grown up now, I suspect there is still some residual habit of putting the blame on someone else when things wrong. It’s not my fault, it’s the stupid client who is too dense to understand the report I wrote. No, it’s not me, I am very sure I switched off the lights when I left the room just now.

Indignant, we cannot bear to be wrong. From the moral high-ground on which I stand, it is your fault, or maybe hers, or perhaps his.

Don’t look at me. The buck stops here.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Warren Buffet, the world’s top billionaire, net worth of $62 billion. That’s like probably enough to feed 620 generations of people (well, people like me anyway). I always wonder what it is like to lead a life as a billionaire (or millionaire for that matter). The way I agonise over buying a $50 dress is probably equivalent to them paying $5 million for a car or something.

Yet everyday, I still see the blind lady sitting outside the train station punching her keyboard and singing to earn that couple of dollars. In the underground, musicians, jugglers, artists, they still struggle to sell their art for a pittance. I suppose, just $100 bucks would go a long way for them. Imagine how many $100 bucks can be generated from $62 billion?

It’s hard not to get jealous. It’s difficult not to be envious. Of the immense wealth these people have. Of course, most of them slogged hard their entire lives to build such a fortune, and I have great respect for these self-made billionaires. I am just overwhelmed by the figures. 1,125 of the world’s richest command up to $4.4 trillion amongst themselves. I don’t even know what a trillion is, and I suspect my calculator will not be able to fit all the numbers on its small screen.

I’m not complaining. I am quite contented earning my $6 per hour. But sometimes, just sometimes, I dream of a utopian world where everyone has equal rights AND equal wealth. Money has this tendency to be divisive, to group people into different clusters, to acknowledge that one is superior to the other just because they have more money.

There's this very poignant Chinese phrase to describe playing the lottery (or any form of betting), which roughly translates into "purchase of a hope".

Please Mr. God, I'm here to buy some hope.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

LeaKy TaP

Heart-wrenching. Some songs, some books, some movies, have the ability to wring tears from your heart. The tunes, the words, the scenes, they reach out and they touch that most tender part of your heart.

I’m a hopeless sentimentalist. I get choked up listening to songs, reading books, watching movies. It’s so easy for me to lose myself in the moment. And sometimes, it takes a long while before I find my way out.

I remember one of the things I learnt in literature class is this technique called “suspension of belief”. It was almost a no-brainer for me. I mean, I live my life in a constant state of suspension of belief. I’m always dreaming, building castles in the air, playing the role of the beautiful princess waiting for her prince on a black stallion, in search of that happily ever after.

Crying is a cathartic experience for me. Or perhaps, I’m just a grown-up cry-baby.

Caution: fragile. Stand this side up.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


A little child was in the playground today. With a lot of effort, his mother managed to coax him to climb to the top of the slide. He crouched there in the hidey-hole, terrified, trying to be brave by holding his tears in.

Meanwhile, mummy was kneeling at the end of the slide, explaining that all he had to do was sit down and slide. I could almost see the question marks that lighted up in his little head. Unable to understand why mummy seems so far away. Unable to grasp the idea of sliding down a slide. Scared of this bright yellow thing, snaking its way down, separating him from mummy.

I must salute the mother’s patience. She explained again and again to the little boy how a slide worked, and that sliding down a slide is a very fun thing to do. She cajoled, she tempted, she bribed, she pleaded.

For a good while. Before the boy inched his way out, sat on the top of the slide, and contemplated whether to believe mummy or his gut instinct. The need for love triumphed and he let go of his hands and slid right into mummy’s embrace.

Sometimes you just have to let go and trust that life will keep you safe.

gAMes wE pLAy

Musical Chairs. I dreaded playing it at parties when I was young. I could never decide if I wanted to win bad enough to keep grabbing a seat when the music stops. And the intense pressure from everyone watching when it gets to the last few. So I tend to give up in the early stages of the game. Just continue standing and pretend I couldn’t be fast enough to sit down.

The other game I was very bad at (and probably still very bad at now) is Catch. Where someone is elected IT and will be blindfolded, and the objective of the game is to tag your friends so that they become IT. I could never catch anyone. When I’m blindfolded, my entire system becomes very disoriented. I can’t distinguish whether the shuffling feet and the giggles come from my right or left or front or back.

And I hated games where there is a forfeit involved. Like Passing The Box. You pass the box round quickly and if you’re the one holding it when the music stops, you get a forfeit. Most often you’ll be made to dance or sing or pretend to be some bizarre animal. It embarrassed me no end.

They should ban these games where you are singled out to be ridiculed. Bad enough that you have to be blindfolded and your hair all messed up. They expect you to go round honking like a big fat elephant with a big fat trunk?

Oh, imagine the indignity!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

BirD & wORm

Come night, and I feel more awake than I do in the day. There’s something special about sitting alone, late into the night, thinking, writing. The air turns cool. The noises of the day quiet down. Humanity is able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

At night, the ideas come trotting out easier. It’s almost as if everything that happened through the day gets sifted through my subconscious. And in the night, the answers, the learnings, the experiences, they settle into me.

In the night, the world seems different. Kinder, less harsh. Blemishes are hidden. You do not see the filth, the hunger, the bad people. Darkness confers an uneasy similitude to the world. Grudges are erased. Fights are forgotten.

They say, the early bird gets the worm. I think I’ll pass on the worm, thanks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008