Thursday, October 30, 2008

cONsuMeRism & Me

It’s funny. I often declare that I am against consumerism or any dealings that promote consumerism. Yet I enjoy shopping too much to stop myself from mega-buying-sprees.

This enjoyment of shopping is a relatively recent occurrence. When I stopped working full-time, in fact. For while I was working, I had no time to indulge in frivolous buying. And probably I was too much of a miser then to figure out ways of pampering myself. But once I stopped working, I found the energy, and the means, to spend.

And spending is very catching, whether for self or others.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


It’s very pretty outside my window now. The wind is whipping through the trees, sending hundreds of flower petals swirling. In a place where there are no seasons, this is almost like autumn. I would like to go out and dance among the flowers and leaves.

Autumn is a time for reflection. Before the cold of winter comes round and we are forced to hibernate our actions and our thoughts. After the heat of summer has gone and we are drawn to contemplate our successes and our failures.

Yes, I think I would really like to go and play with the flowers.

A siMpLe ThiNG

I spent a lovely long weekend in Bangkok with a good friend. We went shopping, eating, more shopping, more eating. We sat and admired the view from her room, drinks in hand, chatting away. And I realized, this is one of those simple things in life that make me happy.

The ordinariness of daily life, when shared together with a friend, adds colour and depth to the experiences.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

tHE tReE FalLs

I remember there was a time in university when I felt very disheartened. For some unknown reason, I began to tire of the lessons that I once loved. I no longer felt motivated to quench the thirst for knowledge that I once had. There were days when the world felt bleary, dank, messed-up. Like “I-got-off-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed-the-cat-ate-my-socks-I’m-having-a-bad-hair-day” kind of messed-up, only worse.

It got to the point when I couldn’t take in what my lecturers were saying anymore. I didn’t understand what went on in classes. It got to the point when I started to question my own existence. I didn’t understand what meaning there was to my life. It got to the point when I could see no point.

Objective reality felt too far away from me. The world with its ontological premises alienated me. Linguistic relativism left big gaping question marks for me. Too much linguistics and philosophy does that to me, I suppose.

If a tree falls down in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Monday, October 27, 2008

ReViSiTInG mR. D

When I first met Mr. D, it was with open arms that I welcomed him. He entered my life without guile, and I took comfort in someone who understood me so completely. More than a friend, I found in him a mate for my soul.

There are times in our lives when we do things without thinking, when intuition or sixth sense takes over. I think befriending Mr. D happened during one of these times. Without needing to say anything, we connected at some deep metaphysical level.

I completely embraced Mr. D as my soul-mate, even when you told me otherwise. I followed Mr. D into his world, even as you are holding onto my hand trying to stop me. I wanted, or maybe I needed, to have Mr. D by my side.

You could see, though, that Mr. D was bad for me.

As the song goes, “Millions of eyes can see, yet why am I so blind?”

Friday, October 24, 2008


I am an analog watch/ clock type of person. I like to watch the second-hand moving the minute-hand moving the hour-hand. I like that you need to check the skies to tell whether it's day-time or night-time. My first watch was a Mickey Mouse one, and I remember being fascinated by Mickey swiveling his hands around the watch face. With Mickey pointing his fingers guiding me, I slowly learnt how to tell the time.

Digital watches by comparison felt cold. There wasn’t Mickey there to help me tell the time. The only interesting thing about digital watches was when they read 12:34, for that is a magical time for me. Yet for all of its magic, I was often confused when hours ran beyond 12. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to understand what 21:40 hours meant.

The other thing about analog watches, they are really helpful in doing mental sums.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Betrayal, is something I abhor/ despise/ cannot condone, whether in myself or others. Being betrayed is probably the nastiest thing that can happen to a person. Being betrayed is like someone leading your soul to the slaughter, snuffing out the light that is you.

Betrayal, rocks your world. It crashes everything around you, all that you have ever believed in. It breaks you, as a person, into a million million shards.

Yet betrayal, if you survive it, also empowers you. It rocks your world, so that you can see from a new perspective. It crashes your beliefs, so that you can re-evaluate your value system. It breaks you, so that you can build your life again with only the pieces that matter.

As in all things, betrayal can only be tempered with time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


People come into our lives for different reasons. Some teach us things to do. Some teach us things to not do. But I like to believe, every one comes into our lives to teach us something.

I have had many idols in my life, from teenage crushes to school teachers to bosses to Hollywood stars. Each of them touched me in a different way. I will always be grateful to the teacher who told me I could write. I will always be in debt to the boss who gave me many opportunities. From these people I learnt strength and fortitude and resilience. I learnt how to be giving, when not to give.

And I hope, in some small way, I leave some lessons behind.

mE & YoU

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, I am basically a selfish person. Or perhaps, self-centred is a better description. I like to believe that the world revolves around me, my needs, my expectations, my whims, my fancies.

But I suppose life has taught me otherwise. That the world does not revolve around me. In fact, truth be told, sometimes it seems as if the world doesn’t really care about me, my needs, my expectations, my whims, my fancies.

This is one of the hardest lessons growing up. To learn that there is not just me, but that there is you too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Since coming out to work freelance, I have discovered something. And that is how lonely it can get. Without the familiarity of colleagues and peers, work feels lonely. I get through the days on my own, and that feels lonely. Even worse, I can be out where there are lots of people, and I still feel lonely.

It must have been many years ago when someone told me, “You can be alone without being lonely.” Aloneness is a state of being. Loneliness is a state of mind. And perhaps, neither one presupposes the other. But when you are alone and loneliness hits you, that can be debilitating.

When you think about it, isn’t life very much like this? Aren’t we alone in our own life? Only I get to live my life, and only I can be responsible for my own life. We are alone and we are lonely by turns.

For in the end, it is just me, myself, and I.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ThiS is HoME, TRuLy

I am always in awe of those who display a patriotic loyalty to their home country. It is very touching, in a gut-wrenching-heart-seizing kind of way. Because I have never had such feelings myself.

For where is home, really? Where is home when the place that you are born and the place that you are bred are different? Where is home when your time is divided between the two places? Where is home when you have bits of yourself in one and not the other, bits of yourself in the other but not in one?

My only claim to my birth country is a piece of paper stating that I was born there, and a passport that allows me to leave that country. I neither speak nor understand the national language. I was never educated in my birth country, although I grew up there.

If home is where I have a shelter over my head and a bed to sleep on, I have two shelters and two beds. If home is where the heart is, I don’t know where my heart is.

No, I really don’t.

Friday, October 17, 2008

tHE LitTle AduLT

When I was little, I couldn’t wait to grow up. The world of adults seemed so much more exciting than my tiny one. Adults could go out at any time, and stay out late. Adults could watch horror movies, and not be frightened. Adults could have conversations with one another, intelligent or otherwise. I was impatient to be an adult.

Now that I’m an adult, I kind of miss being little. I miss the innocence and the wide-eyed wonder with which I used to perceive the world. I miss being carefree, not having to worry about bills and responsibilities. I miss being loved, the way you love little children by tucking them into bed and patting them to sleep.

Life is a hell of a thing to happen to a person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Ever since I started the series of procedures for the viral infection on my feet, I have been hung up on the issue of pain. And pain tolerance.

It is often said that our body forgets pain easily. It is also often said that we each have different pain thresholds. Perhaps, it can even be said that no two pains are ever alike. For pain is an acquired knowledge accumulated over time and experience. No one (I hope) purposely puts us in pain to teach us about pain.

Pain is individuated. Something uncomfortable happens to us, and we learn to use the word “pain” to describe that uncomfortable feeling. I don’t know why some people cringe at the slightest pain while some people never bat an eyelid even when it seems very painful. I read stories of how people are battered, broken, and yet still survive horrific accidents, and I am speechless. Is it because my pain tolerance is really low, or have I mistakenly used ‘pain’ to describe what is merely ‘discomfort’?

It’s good that our body forgets pain easily. It’s bad that our body forgets pain easily.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LoViNG iNSidE & oUt

'Fynn, you can love better than any people that ever was, and so can I, can't I? But Mister God is different. You see, Fynn, people can only love outside and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can love you right inside, and Mister God can kiss you right inside, so it's different. Mister God ain't like us; we are a little bit like Mister God, but not much yet.'

(from Mister God, This Is Anna by Fynn)


The Facebook phenomenon has been sweeping across town with a vengeance. I must admit, though, that I haven’t yet quite figured out the purpose of Facebook; beyond throwing chickens and water bombs and getting SuperPoked.

I am, however, amazed at the number of “long lost” friends I encounter. People I had known a long time ago but who at various stages stepped out of my life, I see them on Facebook. And it is always a pleasant surprise to “read” that they are now happily settled with kids, or working in some exotic location, or just generally to know they are well.

Social networking aside, Facebook can actually be quite voyeuristic!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The concept of time is fascinating. In fact, there is a whole area of philosophy dedicated to the study of time. I remember being in my undergraduate class feeling bewildered, having to choose between being an A-theorist of time or a B-theorist of time. I remember feeling lost, having to take sides between whether time is tensed or time is un-tensed. I remember feeling confused, with the debates on time travel and what is the most logical way of explaining time travel.

I remember being caught up in the fact that English is a tensed language which influences the way I look at time. But I also remember being caught up in the fact that Chinese is a tense-less language which also influences the way I look at time.

Time is contagious. We are all getting old.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Come October every year, I feel a little melancholic. Perhaps because it is the last quarter of the year, and I can’t help but reflect on how the year has been. Perhaps because it is near my birthday, and I can’t help but reflect on what my life has been.

It is interesting how in a span of a few years, or months, or even days sometimes, how much we can change. Two years ago I was almost a completely different person than who I am now.

Where I only saw darkness before, I now see shafts of light coming through.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ShaREd cONsciouSNesS

I am fascinated by the idea of a shared consciousness. I was reading somewhere (or was it from TV?) that at the moment we have a particular thought, there are at least six other people in this world who are having that exact same thought. Amazing, isn’t it?

I wonder what is in our shared consciousness. With whom do I share this consciousness with? How do the things in our shared consciousness get there in the first place? What are the beliefs or values that unify us one being to another?

If there is shared consciousness, is there also shared unconsciousness?


My mum has been busy filling out lucky draw forms from our milk cartons. The grand prize is a car, which would be really cool. But as my mum is filling out the forms, she keeps saying that some people are really lucky when it comes to things like that while others are just plain luckless. I think my family belongs to the luckless group. How else do you explain that even in those “sure-win” lucky dips, we’ll end up with the least of the prizes like tissue packs or pens.

I began pondering the issue of luck. Some people do seem born with a silver (gold?) spoon in their mouth. Things in life tend to go smoothly for them, and there isn’t a lot of drama that upsets their lives. On the other hand, some people seem to have all the bad luck. Their lives consist of more falls than victories, and it is an uphill task even for mundane survival. I wonder if they remembered to thank their lucky stars?

It’s not about luck. I suffered my fair share of sleepless nights too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I have never done bungee jumping. Yet through dramatizations by various friends, I have some inkling of what happens during a bungee jump, albeit limited. Language gives us knowledge, allows us a tool with which to exchange information and thoughts. I hear people tell me about their experience of bungee jumping, and I feel almost as if I were in their place.

It is very interesting, this phenomenon of experiencing and not-experiencing. Without experience of something, is a person able to objectively think about it? Would my empathy with you be sufficient fodder for my thoughts? Or would such rationalizations be so far short of the actual experience that they are a waste of time and effort?

Is there still an experience when there isn’t an actual experience of that thing?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008



dEAth & GRieF

I was doing a short hospital attachment the other day, and while I was hanging around the nurses’ station, one of the first pieces of news that came was that a patient had died. And suddenly, there was a lot of shuffling as the doctors tried to determine the cause of death and the nurses tried to deal with the grief-stricken family and everyone doing our level best to not disturb the other patients.

Death is one of those things that changes your life forever. Yet it is so inevitable. In some strange indescribable way, death leaves its mark on us even long after the incident. I remember my grandmother dying, and how sad I felt at her funeral. And many many years after her death, I still have periodic bouts of sadness that grip me. And it’s the same with other people I know who have died. That same attack of grieving that happens, sometimes long after they have been laid to rest.

Psychologists tell us there are five stages of grief, and that each of us goes through the stages at different paces. Some of us recover faster. Some of us take a longer time. But death, never fails to impact.

I wonder which is worse. Being cut off from someone knowing that he or she has died? Or being cut off from someone knowing that he or she is not dead?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

tO Be yOUNg AgaiN

I was watching one of those Funniest Home Videos’ clips just now and couldn’t stop laughing at this adorable little boy. He’s probably five or six, and he was dancing his heart out at a Christmas jingle that was playing in the background. Even though he wasn’t very coordinated nor graceful, and he even fell a couple of times, it was great fun watching him dance.

I think what struck me the most was how un-self-conscious he was. His sole purpose was to entertain, both himself and the audience, and I must say he did a mighty good job. It is always interesting to see how awkward we become when we grow up. Hugging your dad or getting a goodnight kiss from your mother becomes embarrassing over the years.

Ah, the wild abandon of youth!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

sANdra oR SaRah?

I remember being in secret friendship groups when I was in primary school. From the storybook world of Nancy Drew and Famous Five and Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, my friends and I would create our own versions of superheroes who went about solving mysteries. Admission was mostly exclusive, but I suppose other groups would have their own cliques as well.

It was fun, to hang out and explore our school surroundings, hoping to come up against some exotic mystery or other. We even had special code names that we’d use only when we were at group meetings. I think I was either Sarah or Sandra.

It was serious, when we shared secrets with one another. Like taking a leap of faith. Secrets of secret crushes, secrets of family affairs, secrets of dreams and desires and fears. Dismissal from the group was immediate if you spilled the beans.

Secrets, are dangerous things.

Friday, October 3, 2008

iN GraCE We REcEivE

Sometimes, things go wrong and we look for someone to blame. Sometimes, things go wrong and we blame ourselves. However, when things go right, it is often difficult to praise ourselves or others. For a long time, I have been puzzling over this reticence to accept credit for the good one has done.

Sure, our cultural heritage prides itself on humility. But sometimes, I wonder if the refusal to accept commendations graciously is also another form of hypocrisy. Self-castigation cannot be a life-long motivator for action. Instead of focusing on the stick, perhaps we need to learn how to appreciate the carrot.

So next time, when someone says “Well done!”, remember to say “Thank you.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

PaiN Is pAIn nO MoRe

I recently attended a talk by a motivational speaker who shared with us her rocky and unhappy childhood, and how she overcame her past to become a successful business entrepreneur and celebrity. It is a familiar story retold in its many forms and styles, with an almost Cinderella-like quality – poor and abused protagonist finds a fairy godmother who changes her life forever.

The morals are always the same. Do not be contented with your lot in life but seek to continually improve yourself. However tough your life situation is, never give up. It is in adversity that you find strength. It is possible to overcome any challenge so long as you put your heart to it. Bad things happen to enable you to grow.

As my ballet teacher likes to say, “Once you can accept the pain, then the pain is pain no more.”