Sunday, November 12, 2006

Call a Plumber!

(excerpts from Aahn Brahm's interview with the Bangkok Post)

Making that distinction between the containers and the contents is the key to avoiding inter-religious strife, he says. So much conflict is instigated when others attack one's own containers - the symbols, texts, icons of one's religion. But one need not get upset if one can remember that they are just symbols, and focus on maintaining the contents, the teachings.

"When the Taliban destroyed the Bamyan Buddha statues, Buddhists did not allow themselves to seek revenge, because that would, in fact, mean the Taliban had succeeded not only in destroying the containers, but also the contents."

Similarly, he says, "A Muslim might say, 'I don't like those cartoons [referring to the controversy over offensive caricatures drawn of the Prophet Muhammad], but it's more important that we're friends. Forgiven.' Wouldn't it be wonderful if that happened?"

Following an incident where US soldiers allegedly flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet, Ajahn Brahm was asked what he would do if someone flushed a Buddhist holy book down a toilet.

"Call a plumber" was his reply.

Read the full article:,3353,0,0,1,0*

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Whither forgiveness...

... my contribution for the day on Malaysia Today

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Big Storm in Little Teacup...

... not all Singaporeans regard everything Mr. Lee Kuan Yew says or does these days as superior logic - and the furore he has raised in Malaysia is one of these split issues. Some people feel his reference to marginalised ethnic Chinese in Malaysia was unnecessarily provocative. I am one of those who believe that some of Mr. Lee's ideas have become outdated for today's Singapore, but on the current controversy, I am fully behind him.

What sparked off the controversy was Mr. Lee's comment that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the Republic was shaped by the way they treated their own ethnic Chinese minorities. By Seah Chiang Nee, 27th September 2006

Some choose to believe that MM Lee's remark was irresponsible, amongst a barrage of other things. Then, there is one who has spent a lifetime trying to best the bitter rival in MM Lee and loves nothing better than another chance to have go at him, regardless. Others think the good Minister has a hidden agenda. Young(er) Singaporeans like Chiang Nee thinks his views are archaic. But of all descriptions thrown his way, no one on either side of the Causeway has yet accused MM Lee of being a liar.

My view on this provocative issue is that MM Lee was merely stating the obvious. I am totally unaffected by the statement and I'm truly confounded by the intensity of ill-response generated towards it. I reason that it is because it has always been a truth, but rarely acknowledged. It has always been one of those things that people know but never speak of. Thus, MM Lee's statement comes as no surprise.

Chiang Nee is Singaporean. I'm Malaysian. We're both Chinese. And while anyone might think that my nationality by default makes me a victim implied by MM Lee's sweeping statement about my ethnicity, I am contrarily quite unbothered by it. Tomorrow morning, I wake up and continue with life in Malaysia as I have always known it. It doesn't look set for changes anytime soon. C'est la vie.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Allah is kind...

...merciful and forgiving plus 96 other ‘characteristics’. If our Allah can be all these, then why can’t we too since we too are his creation? When we say Allah is kind, to whom is He kind? When we say merciful, to whom is He merciful? And the same goes for forgiving as well. Who do we forgive if not those who transgress? We do not forgive our friends or those who have done us no wrong. It is our enemies we forgive. - By Raja Petra Kamaruddin in Malaysia Today, 21st September 2006


RPK was commenting on the Pope's quotation which drew worldwide condemnation, especially from the Muslim world. I say that because I am from a group of many who are not from the Muslim World but are not too keen on what happened either. Although for diversely different reasons, as a Catholic who staunchly believes in moderation and tolerance, I am against whatever reasons The Holy Father might have had to touch on a sensitive subject. The Muslims on the other hand, are likely to be unsure of exactly why and what it is that they are still angry about in spite of an apology already made.

Perhaps along the same vein with RPK's statement, this unfortunate event serves only to underscore the importance of sensitivities and awareness especially for others. We should not be unduly over-sensitive of our selves that we forget that there are others that we should empathize with.

Finally, what I feel should become everyone's golden rule; when in doubt, shut up and think first.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Theory of Moral Sentiments...

... "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it" - Adam Smith

Adam Smith; most renowned as the father of modern economics. His lesser-known talent is for philosophy, or so it would seem.

How soever, I do think that the start of this line is a bit of an anomaly. He implies that no matter how selfish a person is, there are exceptional times when he does something for the sheer pleasure of seeing someone else happy. But since the pleasure derived from seeing someone else happy is his alone, isn't that selfishly motivated to begin with?

Not to be mistaken, I am in agreement with Mr Smith on this view. I am merely of the inclination that no matter how altruistic, magnanimous or municifent one might be towards an end, there is always a motivating factor behind it. It may be something as simple as going out of the way to see someone else smile or something as complex as allowing one's welfare to be sacrificed in exchange for some one else's good. There is ALWAYS a motivation... and love is normally the biggest culprit.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The power of a single mind...

... over matters of unimaginable odds.

Early on, it looked as though the match would be a blowout for Agassi, who raced to a two-sets-to love lead. With an injection of cortisone propping up the ailing discs in his back, Agassi looked confident and surprisingly energetic, skipping to the sideline after an early break of serve. Throughout the match, he struck the ball cleanly and convincingly. Late in the match, after holding serve at a critical juncture, Agassi jumped up and down on court like his 4-year-old son Jaden Gil.

Agassi won the match, by the way. He beat the young Cypriot upstart, Marcos Baghdatis,
6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5. Also by the way, Baghdatis was merely 14 months old when Agassi started playing competitive tennis.

The U.S. Open Tennis Championship 2006 will be Andre Agassi's last trip to Flushing Meadows as a competitor. And for good reason. The man is 36 years old! Considering how 90% of the players in the Open Singles categories are below the age of 30, Agassi is ancient at 36.

And along with the age are the symptomatic signs that he has to deal with; fatigue from playing marathon 5-setters with kids a little more than half his age and a chronic back problem as a result of years of physical stress. Anyone lesser would have given up years ago. In fact, when Agassi went through his abyssmal slump to a career low of 141 in the ATP rankings back in 1997, it would have been perfectly expected for him to just lie down and give up. But no, not Andre...

It is said that a man by the name of Anthony Robbins motivated and nursed Andre back on his feet, turned him around and what was left is the indelible mark of a meteoric and unprecedented comeback that will be near impossible to replicate. A year later, he was back at No.6 in the world. And by then, he was already 28. People retire from competition at earlier ages in some sports.

So, that's the rise, the fall and the rise again of the great Andre Agassi. This year's U.S. Open will be his swan-song and no matter what stage of the competition he goes out, millions will be watching. When he waves his last goodbye on centre-court, millions wave back in tribute. And no doubt that millions will remember the moment for many years to come.

But enough about Andre.

My learning today is from Andre Agassi as an illustration of the power of an individual mind. I have never been to a Tony Robbins' UPW (Unleash the Power Within) Seminar and thus have never experienced what the fire-walking brou-ha-ha is all about. And if it is true that Tony did turn Agassi around, I would be in awe, not of Tony but of Agassi. Tony may have been the guide but there is no use of a road-map for a lost soul if he is not determined to find his way back. Simple as that sounds, Agassi is the embodiment of determination overcoming all odds including age and an ailing back, to RETURN to the pinnacle of success. Here's a rebel who's found his cause.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Deep thoughts...

... in philosophical repartee with Ell, commenting about myself being cynically-inclined but generally practical:

"Being practical does not mean that I am a doomsayer. I am a cynic by the most general of measures since the world preaches all about being happy and about a brighter side of life. I won't say I disagree with looking on brighter side of life... it's just that for someone to say "look on the bright side" means there was a side that was not so bright to begin with. I strive not to forget that not-so-bright side and (hopefully) learn from it."

Another point:

"At 38, I look back to when I was 28 and how I saw life differently then. At 38, I've become more stable, more confident and, for want of a better term, wiser than I was at 28. But then, at 28, I looked back at 18 and thought exactly the same thing!"

And yet we grow. I wonder what my perspective will be at 48...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sounding Board...

... or a convenient ragdoll for to be used and abused?

When W calls (which is not very often) and she starts off with "Busy?" (which is even rarer), I know that she is at wits' end. It is FREQUENTLY about her venting her frustration because of others being unreasonable but it is ALWAYS about the girls and the games that they play (literally and metaphorically).

On the one hand, I guess I could see it as a vote of confidence that she would think that I am able to help reason things out with or for her. And she will only call me when it is about things "of a larger magnitude" as opposed to frivolous gossip and whatever games she might be playing, metaphorically. So I do suppose that it does put me in a place where I don't mind being perceived as a stable voice of reason, even if by proxy. Head talking.

However. There is always a trace of resentment in me when this happens because I know that at all other times, I wouldn't really matter much to the scheme of things anyway. She will still continue to do what it is she does and without so much as a sniff at what other think or have to say. All she wants is for someone to nod a head in agreement. And it irks me that she takes it all for granted. Heart talking.

Just one of those things that I learn to balance everyday. I have always chanted the mantra, when the head and heart collide, let the heart have a say but ALWAYS let the head prevail.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jungle irony...

"... is there any justification in cutting down indigenous forests so that we can transplant non-indigenous flowering plants to create a botanic garden? is there any logic in substituting a NATURAL forest environment with an artificially created garden?

if an empty unused degraded piece of land were to be used to create this garden, then yes! there would be good justification in rehabilitating such land to create gardens for the benefit of the public..."

The land in question is currently not being used per se. And if degraded means undeveloped, then I guess that would also make it the case. But it's jungle. Primary or secondary is totally immaterial. And the debate is on Bukit Cahaya in Shah Alam and how there are plans underway to make what little bit of forest there is into a botanic garden.

The quote by the MNS member sums it up. How ironic is it to propose cutting down wild trees so that we can plant new ones in neater order? It perplexes me as to how such logic even comes about? My crass and under-educated guess: politics which beget power which, in turn, begets money.

Let's say that I'm a master guesser. Would it then be unfair to equate this botanic garden idea to money? The powers that be and the politicians in between the equation would likely dissuade me from that notion, I'm sure. But they don’t reveal why I should be swayed otherwise.

Does anyone in government think that we, the Rakyat, are as ignorant as our Neolithic ancestors? You can't throw some half-baked idea like that at the people and expect them to lap it all up. And while people who run our country seem to think of us as daft, let's not assume the same of them. If there is a justifiable reason to make this harebrained idea a truly marvelous one, why will they not share their knowledgeable insights with the very same people they're trying to con-vince? If they see something in it, why not sell the idea to us?

Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he had asked a consultant to submit a new plan to convert a bigger area of the park into a botanical garden by the end of the year to enable work on the first phase to begin next year. Quoted from Bernama, 19th August 2006.

The first plan by the consultant was for a forest conservation project. It got rejected. The good Minister then said he sent the proposal back to the un-named consultant (who, I'm guessing again, has expertise and interest in the field of forest conservation as opposed to, say, horticulture) for new plans of a botanical garden? What the fish is he thinking?!

"If possible, we want to turn the entire area into a botanical garden, not for forest conservation. Who wants to trek into the jungle?" he told reporters after launching his ministry's family day at the agriculture park on Saturday.

Ladies and gents, these are people we elected into government... It would thus be us that I should blame for such ridiculous incidences. And by the way, did he just think up the plan while he was touring the park, hence explaining the lack of any intelligible logic in the scheme?

He said the first phase of the project, which entailed upgrading and enhancement of the park, would be awarded to contractors through open tenders.

And my guess is that is their motivation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Biological Clock at 38 O'Clock...

... still continues to tick, I'm sure. But is it for to have kids? I don't think so.

Conversation started with Ming announcing her pregnancy. Happy as I was for her, the ensuing conversation inadvertently led to whether I had ever thought of having kids. My reply:

  • I have no maternal instincts whatsoever to begin with, so the clock can persistently tick all it wants, it doesn't make me feel any different
  • PLUS I have no affinity towards children in general; I can be asked to babysit or be a godparent but as long as kids go home with other people to where they rightly belong at the end of the day, I am truly fine with that kind of arrangement
  • PLUS I like my life the way it is; selfish as it is, living it on my own terms and filling it with the things that make me pleased and with doing things that only I want... and I don't particularly want it to change in any way
  • PLUS I now have a dog, although in shared custody... that IS like having a kid!
Ming and I are both monkeys of the same age. She too never thought of having kids. In fact, I always thought that she would remain serenely and confidently unmarried like some of us. Until she decided to bite the bullet earlier in the year. And although I would consider myself anything but old at 38, at the same time, I couldn't imagine myself getting pregnant at this age! Not that I have any means of getting pregnant without going to the bank!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Learning The Ways of the Jungle...

... In my attempt to start AND MAINTAIN a blog, I have promised myself that I would endeavour to learn something new everyday. And I will write on it. Noble? I hope so, and we shall see. But for now, let me find my way out of this bramble maze...