Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lightning and Thunder, and a Bit of Home

Once again, Summer has come to it's abrupt death.

It was only months ago we witnessed the coming of spring. The blooming flowers, amidst the bluish marble sky, and the sounds of birds chirping in unison. All this, came together as part of an age old rite. This rite was witnessed from the days of yore, where our earliest ancestors left the comforts of their dwellings, to envelope themselves in lush greenish pastures. It meant for them with the coming of the sun - life: the reaping of the harvest, and the fulfillment of the promise of months upon months of persistence and perseverance. However, the summer was never marked to be just the fulfillment of their temporal dietary needs. They knew that the summer, and whatever life it brings with it, must and will eventually come to an end. Thousands of years before Newton developed his First Law, men understood that everything that has a beginning, must have an end. However, there are many ends to conceive, especially one which determines future survival. They, our first ancestors, knew that eventually everything will come full circle, and the cycle shall begin yet again. With this knowledge, they stored their surplus harvest in storehouses organized through the formation of complex social structures which form the basis of society we know today. They too, began looking for new lands to till, with the coming of the next summer in mind. Men learned that to survive, not just for herself, but for each of her own, one has to bear the hardships dealt to them by life, and soldier on.

Today, our daily struggles involve far more than just worrying about the next harvest. Many of us have issues of our own. I've heard stories of how people struggle to find work; friends who are under incredible pressure to fulfill the social expectations laid upon them by their parents to get a good job for themselves after the financial investments they have put into their college education; some of us have personal problems - struggles with our own identity, with our love lives. Myself, well, I just do not know where I am going with my life and I can't seem to get around doing something about it.

Some would describe this coming of Fall as a transition marked by depression. The leaves wither and die, the birds migrate to warmer climates, and the Vancouver sky is shrouded in mist and fog, and the land is covered in icy snow. I concede more often than not, I'll be one of the first people to say that I wish summer was here again!

But last night, I heard the sound of thunder roaring through the night sky. Given that I have been a victim of a lightning strike in my teenage years, I was never fond of the coming of a thunderstorm. But it was different last night, as I watched the momentary flashes of light. I guess it was because as I closed my eyes, and heard the raging roar of nature, it reminded me a little of home. Being so far away from home, and held present in a foreign land, these brief moments of internalization actually served as a source of comfort - that even amidst the strangeness of where I am, I still could witness something I always saw back home, back to where I was most familiar with.

So what of the change of the seasons then? I believe that it is not so much what the seasons hold. The seasons, as our ancestors knew, will come and go. Eventually, it was what the transition of the seasons meant for each of ourselves. As each of us reflect upon the challenges of our lives, it is pretty easy to channel all those problems unto the natural setting we see before us. However, if we are to remain strong and resilient like our forefathers were, even amidst the most torrid of nature's rage, couldn't we persuade ourselves that summer would eventually come? That our problems regardless of whether it is summer or fall will always be there, and that all we need to do the lessen the burdens laid upon our souls is to take that first step and work towards the betterment of ourselves. Even if we were to fall short, at least we tried, but failed, but the whole experience has made each of us stronger and wiser. Failure, will not just be an end itself, but rather a rejuvenation of the self, when summer comes again. For this is the rite, the rite which all men had been through. It is up to us to decide for ourselves if we are to appreciate these rites beyond the passing of the seasons.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Them and us

I was having dinner with a couple of friends last night when we inevitably broached on the topic of the hostage crisis occurring off the coast of Somalia, where a U.S Citizen was held hostage by four pirates. So what inevitably happen was that a US Destroyer was deployed to the area and negotiations began to free the captive.

So we began like mocking what was obviously a mismatch - four Somali Pirates against a US Destroyer the size of a football field armed to the teeth against AK-47 wielding former fishermen. But the humor slowly began to evaporate, as we began talking about how we should deal with the situation. One of my friends, an American (he doesn't know I have a blog so I'm at liberty to quote him) thought that " we ought to teach this people a lesson, they just wouldn't learn". In reply, my other friend added to the litany of disdain for 'this people' - " we should just blast down right out of the water!" Well, given that I was in a social situation which required me to go with the flow, I simply just nodded my head and somewhat agreed with them. But, I felt disturbed.

Then I got off and began surfing the net and my regular trawling through the HuffingtonPost and I came across an article about the hostage crisis, and since we were just talking about it,I wanted to find out what were the latest developments. Like most major news sites, the Huffpost side also encourages readers comments on the various issues, and so with every article, you would usually see a whole diversity of views. But it being the HuffingtonPost, there is a certain left-wing bias in the commentary. Which made it even more surprising when I went through the comments to realize an avalanche of views of the 'nuke them' and 'kill them all' variety.

So I turned on the news and LIVE on CNN it was Breaking NEWS coverage of the hostage drama. They were doing interviews with various 'piracy experts', former hostage negotiators, the usual fare u get on 24 hour network television. But most striking was the personalization of the hostage victim - his picture was flashed on the screen and every few moments the anchor reminded us who he was and where he came from. I'm not American, but I did identify with him and I can imagine Americans or people in the Western world seeing him as the atypical everyday guy who works an honest living, just like many of us. For me, he reminded me of my dad.

Then the reality, that this individual who is one of us, is now taken captive by savage pirates. These pirates who have no morals, no ethics, who are greedy money grabbing crooks, who totally deserve to face the full force of the American Navy for their intolerable actions of barbarity.

But who exactly are these pirates? I wonder.

I recalled what my friend said earlier at the pub, " They just never learn." I guess for he, like many others, these pirates have been arbitrarily categorized as part of 'the other' - a club which includes Jihadist, Terrorist, Gun wielding psychopaths.

But consider this, Pirates were not made overnight. Unlike Al Qaeda, they don't plan to put an end to 'Western Civilization'. They don't fly planes into buildings or plant IEDs along the streets of Baghdad. They have no nuclear ambitions and unlike the ever-lovable Kim Jung IL, they sure don't have the means to launch missiles to threaten their neighbors.

They are individuals who just seek a means of survival, albeit adhering to a means which we deem to be unlawful and unethical. But we should begin by asking ourselves, why aren't they adhering to the basic universal principles which you and I here in the 'civilized world' adhere to?

Firstly, Somalia has not much of a government in place. The last time a government was in place, it was an Islamic government, so the Ethiopians with the urging of the 'Civilized World' decided to run them out. Without a semblance of any authority, there isn't any judiciary, much less a system of justice which form the basis for law enforcement. Without a semblance of law and order, we have ourselves a situation where people just simply take the law into their own hands.

Secondly, Greed. Well, Greed's bad, just look at all those Wall Street Bankers our governments are bailing out, from which comes debt which you and I, the younger generation would have to bear in future, mind you! So yes, these Somali Pirates are greedy - for using brute force to comissorate what does not belong to them, as such they deserve their fate along with the rest of their kind. How I love the masculinity expressed in those words.

But beneath all this rhetoric is another side of the story, which I do not claim to be the truth, rather something we should consider before we 'nuke those bastards'. Many of these pirates were former fishermen, their livelihoods depressed because of the insurgence of international trawling companies into their traditional waters. Because of the absence of the means of their traditional mode of making a living, coupled with the non-existence of law enforcement, we have ourselves the creation of a sub-culture where piracy is seen to be an honorable means of making a living.

This is not to say what they are doing is right, or my denial of their actions to be wrong. But I think the last decade - the futility of the Wars in Iraq, the unprecedented violation of human rights by governments of 'civilized nations' utilizing the scourge of terrorism to push for unfetted powers over their citizens have taught us between right and wrong, there are always shades of grey.

Everyone Im sure, hopes for a peaceful end to this crisis, and that the victim would be safely reunited with his family and his loved ones. For him, we pray.

But at the same time, we have to be aware that if we allow the specter of the moment to drive our actions and press for retaliation that doesn't merit the situation, those arbitrary categorizations that were enacted in the pub would not just be arbitrary categorization. We might just, as we did in the past, spawn new coastal communities of jihadis bound on destruction.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Giovanni Francesco Anerio's Requiem Mass (Introitus) - In memory of 奶奶

This is part of the Introit of Anerio's Requiem Mass. Under the traditional Latin Rite of the Mass, Requiem masses are introduced with a prayer to God that goes as such (Courtesy of Wikipedia as usual):

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

And in English:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer; to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

And to grandma, it's been so long and yet we all miss you dearly, in pace requiescat..

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reversal of Roles

Sometimes you just wonder, why our parents always do their best to make things pure and simple, and to portray the world as a this really nice place - full of joy and happiness. But only for us to realize, as we grow, that things are far from simple. Yes, I never quite understood why? Until not long ago, I still held onto the notion that I'll be a lot better off if they had just unveil to me life's realities at a much earlier age.

But now I understand.

As most of you know, my brother Greg just entered junior college and he is taking up this new subject called Knowledge Enquiry - it is almost akin to a introductory philosophy course in College. Anyways, he is sorta finding the subject tough to cope with, because the course introduces several abstract concepts that require lotsa brain work and the most dreaded part of being a student of humanities - reading. So Greg, knowing that I'm pretty into Philo asked me a few questions about some thinkers he needed to read up for his class.

First, he asked about Hegal and his dialectics, along with why is it so significant in our understanding of current events.

So I did explain to him about thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis and how eventually culminates in the end of history.

But then, the next part of the question was hard to answer, not because I did not know the answer, but I did not know how I should put across the answer in such a way I would not confuse my little brother. I wanted to tell him how Hegal's ideas formed the basis for Imperialism, Colonialism, Cold War Theory, Bush Doctrine, Manichean World View. But I just felt disturbed having to educate my brother on how the world is so artfully complicated and yes fucked up. Yes, I was suffering from major dissonance, because here was a kid I taught time tables and Alphabets, now I'm telling him that more than a hundred million people died because of this framework many of our fellow men had choose to blindly adopt and adhere to.

So, without thinking much, I watered down my explanation to the extend I sounded convoluted, not just to keep things simple, but to be able to answer to my conscience. But, alas, like how I somehow always knew there was something more than meets the eye when mum goes around in circles rationalizing a bad situation, my brother perceived the self-imposed censorship I slapped on myself.

He smiled, and he asked me, good v bad, them and us, just like how they justified the invasion of Iraq.

I was awe-struck, but I should have known. Because just as my mum had tried dancing around the real spot of trouble she was in years ago, so was I today. But she did, and I did it, because as she loved me, and I as I was concerned that I would crush that perfect world I pre-supposed my brother still believed in. But I also should have known, that like me, he also knew that things were far from simple, and that the idle world which we all once possessed, had long passed into memory.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Playing life's game

Yes, as it comes, it goes, and we herald a new school week, with the reading break all but behind us.
I did hold myself to certain expectations - that I'll dedicate this week to catching up with the back log of readings. That, rather unsurprisingly, I have failed to attain, but anyhow, it is all but behind us now. The ever constant urge to procrastinate, the extra hour in bed, or the frequent excursions I took to lala land, just proved too hard to transcend. But even that is all but behind us now. With the old week deceased, comes the promises of the new. Although it presents itself as a Herculean task, but I guess I must at least make the effort. It is never what we get out of it, but rather the memory of the effort, the knowledge that we have tried. The memories of the ends will just evaporate with time. But effort, well, we will acknowledge it, for it is not just purely substantive, but it holds us and defines us as the individuals we are.

We are all dealt a hand, which holds what life has bestowed on us, that is beyond our control. Some perpetually the pair of As, others well two odd number cards. But in essence, the hand we are dealt, how we are to play it is solely determined by us. So when the flop and the river cards are dealt, we may find ourselves doomed by destiny's hand. We can be foolhardy and take a bet with destiny, which by pure chance, we may triumph over destiny's sway. But we may also be beaten, and capitulate to her dictates. We can fold and live to fight another day, but never should we fold and give up on life itself. Rather take the bet if you must, fall hard and rise again. Or fold, if your temperament demands of you, and go at it again some other day. Whichever way, we will win some and loss some, those are the ends. But the memory of playing destiny's game with a poker face, will be cast upon eternity.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Summer Itinerary

Just a slight alteration for Summer 2009 due in part to Mum making a huge din about the shortness of my length of stay in Singapore

So instead of being back from June 14 to July 4, I'll be in Singapore from June 14 to July 24. Yay! Oh ya instead of departing from LA, I'll be departing from San Fran instead.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Japanese Finance Minister in a drunken stupor at G8 Press Conference

Rachel Maddow totally rocks!

"I dun speak Japanese, but I do speak hammer, and that dude is hammered!"

Oh btw, that drunk dude, Shoichi Nakagawa, he lost his job adding to the already escalating unemployment rate in Japan.