March 10, 2014
It is very natural for all of us to believe life will just go right on in the way we have always known it – that I imagine is why so many of us (including myself) don’t seem to have any qualms about taking for granted – those who we love and love us in return will always be around…and this is really the only reason why we much prefer to hold on to memories of past wrongs along with many resentments whenever we see those who have always been in our lives…..but, if from time to time, we remind ourselves – life is fleeting and everything can really change in the blink of an eye…then we would realise that it is really a blessing to be able to see those who have always been with us.
Our hearts will be soft and all our hurtful memories of the distant past will just melt away and there will only be love.
‘Not very long ago. I came across a middle aged man and woman who claimed to have come all the way from China. They were siblings and had made the long journey from Xiamen to my kampung to pay their respects to their dearly departed father – they showed me a sepia photo of a young man dressed in the uniform of a Kuo Ming Tang footsoldier and pleaded with me to help them locate their father’s grave.
I took the siblings to the Kuan Yin temple, but as hard as the seventy something curator tried to recall. Even he could not recall of ever hearing or knowing such a person – so we wandered the local cemetary in search of this person who onced turned the wheel of life in these parts….but no luck. Then it occured to me maybe the oldest person in my village…a 90 year old seamstress could shed more light into this mystery.
When the old woman was shown the photograph an expression of familiarity flited over her wrinkled features and she began to recount the story of Ah Keong, the village drunk who once did odd jobs and eventually died in a shed not very far from my lands….the old woman mentioned since no one claimed the body…Ah Keong was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the lower section of my lands where there was once a durian orchard. When I drove the siblings to my lands, the lady mentioned to her brother that this only served to reconfirm her long standing opinion that their father was a good for nothing fellow and that she considered the trip they had made a great mistake. When I heard this. I pulled the car to the shoulder and asked both of the siblings to get out. The man turned to me and mentioned that his sister was angry as their mothers life back in China was very hard as their father had not bothered to even return home once…he went on to mention his father had even lied to all their relatives in China, he was a wealthy landowner and now to know the truth he was just an odd job labourer and a drunkard was simply too much of a disappointment for both of them…I told the siblings, their father was a honorable man. He did not return back to China as he would probably be arrested and sent to the firing squad and the reason why he had boasted he was doing well was so that they would not have cause to worry about him unneccesarily and if he took to the bottle it was because he was heart broken in not being able to see their mother or to even be there when they were growing up in China.
I went to tell the siblings before they judged their father, they should at least have the courtesy to remember he did not have many of the opportunities they had. I went on to tell them, in the 70s, it was not easy to travel back to China as the communist threat was very real and they should at least try to understand things for what they are instead of allowing their past hurts to get the better of them.
When I told them this, the siblings began to weep openly. Eventually the man turned to me and asked, ‘how do you know these things?’
I merely looked out into the vast expanse of the countryside and told them, theirs is a story as old as the hills and I am merely sharing with them the truth as it happened…when the siblings heard this, the woman turned pleadingly to me and asked, ‘how could I be so sure that my version is the truth?’ I told them both it is my duty as the keeper of the wheel of life to know this sad tale…as their father’s story is a very familiar story in kampung life. When the siblings heard this, they began to wail out…father….father…that evening the wheel of life came full circle for tbe siblings. The rains followed thereafter.’
March 8, 2014
The idea of home is a very powerful idea that has to appeal to every human being. As home is a sanctuary where we all know if the world gets too nutty, we can always return back home shut the door on the world and everything will just be better – home is a womb where we all know, we will always be nourished and cared for by those who love us.
So powerful is this idea of home…every year millions of Chinese make the pilgrimage back home for Chinese New Year to be reunited with their loved ones – even all Jews aspire one day to return to the wailing wall in Jerusalem where the rabbi would greet them with the words, ‘you have arrived home.’
The idea of home is even shared by animals – salmon will brave the strong currents of the river and to swim all the way back to their natal spawning ground. Birds do the same, as one season gives way to another, they’re all perched on a telegraph line waiting in the September morn to begin their treacherous marathon across the Pacific to the lands whence they came from.
Yes, the idea of home has to be very powerful….so when a man cannot return home for whatever reasons, he will feel very sad as if a part body has been severed – it is as if we have left his heart at home and whatever is left is just an empty shell – from time to time, this man will walk around in a daze as this feeling of desolation threatens to overwhelm him, like a man who walks in the hot sun and feels thirsty, he yearns for a cool drink…but as soon as the idea comes into his head, he pushes it away…..as he knows, it’s a mirage…all this man can do is to put one foot in front of another….and that is how it is for me.
There are many moments when I am just alone like a desolate island in an emerald sea of green – it’s just me and my palms…the man and his land….but when I reflect deeper on the idea of home. I soon realise this harsh place knows me more intimately than most people do. It has watched me transform through the years, first as a clumsy city slicker to a farmer who knows the ways of the land like the lines in the palm of his hands….yes, this place has carved through the chastening passage of time. It’s listened to me…the ravings of a mad man perhaps….but it has listened patiently….and silent, it’s witnessed the depths of my sorrow. No matter what happenit today, tomorrow or the weskit, month or year after….I now understand it will always be there for me, staring down at me and assuring me that everything will be okay – I’m safe and this is the only place I want to be in the whole wide world….I am home.
‘Last night, I painted my face with camouflage paint. I went out with only a commando knife – it’s been dry…very dry and I know the hogs make their way down from the highlands every night in the cover of darkness to drink in the creek at the lower section of my lands….a sliver of fresh water still runs there this time of the year. I layed still in the reeds lying like a log beneath the waterline…I didn’t have to wait long…soon the reeds began to rustle…I shut my eyes tight and listened…they were so close, I could even smell them and feel their heat radiating from the sweaty bodies. As soon as the pack settled down I waited….I held my breathe…it lasted an eternity…but they were still too far….then a large hog came my way and the very moment it dipped its snout to take a drink. I sprang out. Wrestled it down. Turned it on it’s back and thrust the dagger deep and hard to find it’s heart – I don’t remember much…except maybe the naked blade glinting momentarily in the pale moonlight…after that I laid so very still as life began to drain out from the beast…the blood was warm. After that all my remember was my hands moving swiftly…quartering…slicing…through sinew, bone and tendons….I wrapped the meat in banana leaf, tied it up with a string made up of dry reeds like the way the tribes men taught me and lugged it on my hip to spread the load…it was a long walk back to the house and somewhere between two palms…I decided to take the short cut…I remembered saying to myself, what if someone sees me…but the string was cutting into my flesh…it was heavier than I thought it would be…or maybe I just couldn’t care. I remember stopping to wash my hands in a stream, they were sticky, but the image that rose out from the waters and confronted me suddenly startled me. For a moment, I couldn’t recognise who it was…I didn’t even know whether it was human…or could it be some creature in the night…there I laid on the thick dry grass as confusion swelled. My heart rate was racing. At that moment a meteor streaked across the night sky lighting up the neat row of palms and I knew…I was home….there was nothing to fear any longer…no one saw me this time…there will be no talk in the village this time about my unusual nocturnal jaunts…everything will be alright…I have finally made it home.’
March 7, 2014
When I write as I often do about the importance of cultivating daily calmness. Many people seem to agree with me. But what often surprises me is these people usually say this is something they would do when they have the time or during retirement. Usually, I find these replies very odd. As to me, these people need calmness in their lives TODAY and not in some distant future.
I guess when someone decides to postpone the whole idea of living a life in calmness – what they’re actually saying in not so many words is – they don’t ever see themselves having either the time or opportunity TODAY of ever enjoying this relaxed, nourishing and healing state of mind – that is to say many of these people see calmness as a luxury….and that could well supply an explanation why so many ppl believe this is something they can only do in their retirement years or during an expensive holiday.
But when I share with many of these ppl that all it takes to enjoy this healing state of mind is to reflect daily on the phrase,
‘We can only hope to control what is happening between our ears….everything else is out of our control.’
We do this…when someone rubs us the wrong way…disappoints us…or just wants to press our hot buttons to make us jump…or maybe they just want us to sweat it out….feel fearful….or that we don’t even know why they do and say the hurtful things, they do..
As I said, the journey of a thousand begins with only this phrase that is like a skeleton key that unlocks a door to daily calmness.
‘We can only hope to control what is happening between our ears…everything else is out of our control.’
‘When I begin my day. I always have this image in my head that I only have this amount of memory space in my head. I always see it as a series of energy bars like how your mobile phone tells you how much battery you have left.
So I am always mindful of what I allow into my head. For example if I read and listen only to propaganda everyday without bothering to interogate the facts along with finding out the motives of the spin doctors. Then I will be brainwashed to think (if I can still think la) only in a certain way.
It is the same, if I sit down in the kopitiam and just listen to ppl who talk endlessly about TOTO or football as if this is the beginning and end of all that life has to offer – then don’t be surprise, if that is all I ever think about.
The point that I am trying to illustrate here is can you all see how fickle and impressionable the mind is – and this underlines the importance of guarding our brains like a fortress….to culrivate the ability to see the world as it is and not what others say or claim it is – to even have your own thoughts about the many objects that interest you…..but to do this well and consistently.I think it is first important not to jump up and down, or to even get too excited….rather the best way to accomplish this, is to be always in the embrace of calmness….so calm that nothing can ever unruffle you or make you nervous…..and this I reckon has to be a very powerful state of mind to be in….like the nothingness in an eye of a raging storm…perfectly calm and still.’
When we fail. It simply means what we hope for did not materialise in the way we see it in our mind’s eye. Often the failures we experience can beat us up and leave us feeling so defeated and demoralised that it can even disable us permanently.
That is why it is so important for us to change the way we have all been traditionally brought up to regard failures – as the end of the world to just a means to an end – and to move away from the traditional notion that our failures can either make or break us. If possible we should allow our failures to carve and shape us to make us wiser and better people.
“In my opinion, the basic qualifications of a good leader is someone who should be publicly humiliated at least twice, he should witness a thing that he once loved with all his heart destroyed before him, labelled a mad man once, ex-communcated from his church, serve at least a three year prison sentence for a crime he was wrongly convicted of – have his elemental rights denied and incarcerated at least once, experienced at least three attempts on his life, one where he was seriously wounded, be sued and bankrupted at least twice, have his good name dragged in the mud, be bankrupted again in the second half of his life just for good measure, have his wife turn his back on him once, found himself all alone as a drunkard in some back alley wondering about the philosophical question – why was I born into this world, at least once in his lifetime.
If we had more leaders in both the public and private sector who have this type of life history, then I think we will not have so much problems with leaders these days complaining that no one understands, listens or respects them.
The point I am trying to make is, traditionally we have been scripted to measure a man’s worth only by his successes. But that in my experience is a very flawed way of accurately assessing a person – as when a man experiences a string of uninterrupted successes, then at some point, he is bound to have such an overinflated view of himself that he probably believes he’s a superman.
It is very easy for a man to be lulled into this sort of delusion of grandeur, that is why these days, you have so many leaders who don’t seem embarrass at all to tell everyone they are the best in the world – and the worst part is when a man comes to believe in this sort of nonsense, he will never be able to empathize with the sorrows of his fellow man. Neither will he give others a second chance either, as since this man has only known success, he is really not so different from a man who only knows white….he does not know what is the meaning of black.
And this brings me back to my point I am trying to make here – for a man to be whole and complete, it really not so different from embodying the duality of Yin and Yang – he must first experience the agony of defeat to truly appreciate the thrill of victory – he must taste bitterness to appreciate sweetness, experience war to value to peace, know the sorrow of being abandoned before he can value the idea of belonging and so on and so forth.
To put it another way, the world must beat him up and this man must be a man who once rolled with the punches and sucked it all in – only then will he be the whole and complete man.
A man who does not know this, is a child. And a man who is a leader who does not know this, is in my opinion a man who can only inflict misery on others.’
March 6, 2014
To me, this means life will just get that much harder. As since I am a planter who turns the wheel of life outside Singapore, it simply means whenever I repatriate money home, I get to send back less and my family has to make do with less.
But as a father, this means I probably have to do one of the saddest things I ever need to do in my life.
As one day I would have to sit my sons down for a man to man talk and explain to them why it doesn’t pay for them to find a job, marry a girl and settle down in Singapore any longer – not if the goal is to live a financially liberated life. I would tell them the bare facts as I see it – if they want to own a reasonable priced home, drive a car and enjoy a higher quality of life without incurring life long crippling debt and busting their nuts 24/7 along with getting all sorts of stress related ailments, then, they really should consider settling down elsewhere.
That is all this really means to me. As for what politicians and the nation destroying press have to say, it is not important to me as I do not care for their hype and spin doctoring….I have long since considered them optional to my well being and much prefer to depend on my own planning.
I think every responsible father needs to do this before it is too late.
‘The super duper high cost of living in Singapore today is not a surprise. Not at all! This observation was first registered in the social political blogoland as far back as ten to twelve years ago.
At that period of time many bloggers had already highlighted many of the problems the average Singaporean faces today. Many of these articles were very well researched and written with what I can only describe as great dedication – the looming class divide brought forth by income inequality, natives being marginalized in the workplace as a result of mindlessly pursuing a laissez faire policy of globalization, the helium high cost of living that keeps outstripping wage rises along with the unsustainable pass the buck PAP culture would ultimately corrode all other aspects of life as we know it in Singapore. All these things were already discussed in blogoland many many years ago.
So I and others who shared this dystopian view of Singapore had plenty of time to plan our escape.
As far back as ten years ago when I warned many people that life in Singapore will grow harder with each passing year. Many people labelled me a trouble maker. But with the passing of each year when more and more of my friends who once held high paying jobs fell by the wayside and became insurance salesmen, tuition teachers and taxi drivers. I realized my worst fears had proven true and it was conceivable that I could even be right. What you need to understand is, when the whole world sees only white and all you can see is a black world, then you are really not so different from one of those characters in those Hong Kong ghost movies who always sees ghost while others are oblivious to them – and I guess that is the same with me. I had to go thru a lot personal struggle to even keep my beliefs intact and today when I look back, I think, I haven’t done badly for myself. At least I am not turning life as a taxi driver or security guard like so many of my friends.
If I have any regrets. It is that I didn’t shout my message louder. In truth, I was afraid. No….correction…I was a coward. As I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and attract unwanted attention. So I just shared my world view with those in my bicycle team and all of us managed to escape the meat grinder. But you have to understand it wasn’t that clear cut at that time – as what I planned to do was at best experimental and since I couldn’t be 100% sure that it was even the right thing to do or that it would even be able to produce a happier life – I didn’t feel that I had the right to shout my message out.
I think if there is anything that keeps me awake these days thru out the desolation of night, it is this idea that I could have brought out more people…much more. I am so sorry…please forgive me.’
March 6, 2014
I am not a big fan of multi-tasking. By this, I mean. If I can call a person up and speak to them directly. I much prefer to do that, instead of twittering or SMSing.
Neither do I try to take on so many task that I resemble a man who is juggling hand grenades – I don’t for example drive and talk on my cellphone. If I drive. I only think about driving safely and very little else. And if I get upset while driving and I can sense that I am distracted, it’s not unusual for me to just pull over for a cuppa to compose my mind before resuming.
When we make a commitment to approach one task at a time and dedicate ALL of ourselves to just starting and completing it as perfectly as possible – instead of trying to do everything with a scattered brain. Then you will find not only will you be a happier person…you will also be more effective…and most importantly you will derive so much more pleasure from just doing a good job.
“In the course of managing myself and others. I have discovered people generally fall into two categories.
The first will try to do everything and usually they will get very little done or do it so badly, they frequently need to go back and do it all over again or worse still, they will just forget and end up irritating themselves and letting down a whole lot of people – as since they have taken on so many task simultaneously, they have just forgotten to do the things they once promised.
These people are very disorganised and usually when I come across them, I will pop two Panadol before I even talk to them or give them two slaps to wake them up from their nervous trance.
The reason why I feel the need to frequently take such drastic actions (fortunately such actions are socially acceptable in the kampung setting, as one can claim, this person is being possessed by the spirit of confusion) is because even when I am talking to them, most of the time, they are not even there as they are constantly SMSing or taking phone calls etc or their attention is elsewhere – and these are also the same people who feel stressed up all the time. The very ones who always seem to wonder why have they have accomplished so very little and who are constantly baffled as to why they is there so much that has not be done.
Then there is the man who only takes on one task at a time and no more….this man cares very little what productivity experts have to say….he cares even less about this nonsense called multi tasking….faster, fasterest et al…. to this man, when he approaches a task, it is really ONLY one task and no more. There is a zen quality to his thoughts and actions. They are well planned, focussed and all designed to achieve maximum results within the shortest possible time just like a ninja assassin – it is only after that task has been fully completed that another task will come into existence. Before that no other task exist, except that one task which he has set his mind to do perfectly.
When a man cultivates this attitude of approaching one task at a time – then everything will fall into it’s rightful place very nicely. As he is in perfect harmony with the laws of heaven and earth. As this is the natural way for man to approach the whole business of work. If we were really meant to multi task, then mother nature would have provisioned us two heads, ten mouths and twenty hands and we would be born with wheels instead of limbs.’
March 5, 2014
It is not easy for most of us to “unlearn” the poison of fast is best – that’s because most of us have been brainwashed since youth to believe – being the fastest pays out the highest rewards and dividends – being the fastest to get your work done in office, means you will get that promotion. Being fast as a student means, you can upload more stuff into your head to help you ace that end of the year paper etc.
But what really happens when YOU become so fixated with going fast that you no longer see the need to question this pace of life? Or for that matter interrogate whether this might actually be the best way to approach a task?
For me, before I approach ANY task – it’s not unusual for me to spend an excruciatingly long time thinking whether it pays to get it done fast or slowly.
To paraphrase, I recognize some task should be done speedily, like sex or administering CPR to someone who has just keeled over and starting to turn blue. Then again, I don’t believe EVERY task should only be approached with speed being the only consideration in mind – that’s because some task simply require the investment of thinking, care and time and that simply means, it pays to approach them slowly – being able to differentiate which task we should go slow or fast is definitely one of the most valuable life skills to cultivate – as nothing is worse than barreling ahead like a bullet train just because everyone seems to be doing the same. I really don’t see any compelling reason to be fast just for the sake of fast, fasterer and fasterest, not when the final destination leads to the edge of a cliff.
Slow on the other hand allows us to get into the grove at our own time and pace, it gives us time to be comfortable with each step required to perform the task….to get the job done perfectly.
“Yesterday as I drove past the small plot of land of the Singaporean couple. I saw husband and wife talking to a huckster. Hardly had I pulled over, the husband ran towards me and shouted out excitedly, ‘the rains have come! We are fertilising now!’ I lit my plastic China pipe and put one hand into my bush jacket to assume the authoritative carriage of a landowner. Standing very close to this couple was a confidence trickster who specialises in selling counterfeit fertiliser. He shifted nervously.
When I asked the man why he believed the rains had finally come – he mentioned, it rained last night. He turned to the con man and went on to say, according to the expert, it will rain again and it was a good time to start fertilising – I clucked my tongue and exclaimed, ‘is that so….’ I went on to ask the couple how much had they paid for the fertiliser. They told me excitedly, they had invested a large part of their savings from their last harvest as they had been offered a huge discount by the ‘expert’ who was incidently their church member. Again I exclaimed, ‘is that so….’ I then turned to the the con man and asked him to give me all the money in an authoritative tone – he complied. The couple looked confused. I darted a stern look at them that said, ‘shaddap!’ After that I told the ‘expert’, you may go now! He protested – I took off one of my shoes and held in my hand and narrowed my eyes and flared my nostrils. He made tracks.
Such is the power of the shoe of the bush jacketed landowner in the kampung – it is like a magic boomerang that can always find the mark…so the con man promptly drove away. Before he left, he warned the couple that I was a violent man who had been kicked out of the church for blasphemy…I threatened to loose my magic shoe…he picked up speed.
Thereafter I explained to this couple. The fertiliser they just bought was counterfeit. And even if it was real, this is not the right time to begin fertilising. I dug up one of the plants and showed them that during the dry spell the ground had cracked and so many of the roots had been severed. And had they broadcast expensive fertiliser, it would have been wasted….they should wait.
Wait…..wait…..wait…..I was so angry….so so angry….above all they should proceed slowly….slow down….what is the rush….slow down.’
Whenever I face ANY challenge. I always say to myself again and again, ‘I have a good brain and I can trust it 100% and that is all it takes to make things better.’ I try not to allow my worries to overwhelm me and that simply means I need to be always mindful of remaining cool and in control.
I believe very strongly, if we can all just make a conscious effort to sit down and look at many of our problems in the way we approach the business of unravelling a messy knot – then given time and perseverance, the problem should resolve itself..even if it doesn’t it’s hardly the end of the world.
“If I am someone who cannot control himself and has a habit of breaking out in tongues uncontrollably whenever I am stressed…and I can’t even stop myself from babbling even if I want too – then I think that’s a problem. If I have a habit of taking off my clothes and running around the Padang with a bra over my head when I feel sad – that I think is a bigger problem. If I am blind and all my hands and limbs are chopped off and I can’t even scratch an itch on my nose without the help of a caregiver, then I think that’s a really big big problem. If I have another head growing out from my arse and it’s arguing with the head that I already have, then that is a very very big problem……other than that, I happen to believe all other problems I am facing or may face in the foreseeable future is really not much of a problem. They can all be managed.
Whenever I face problems I always comfort myself in this way – I say things like, I am not an ex Nazi death camp commandant on the run in Argentina, the state execution arm of Israel, Mossad is not hunting me 24/7. Men with no necks are not going to rappel down black helicopters when I am sleeping. If anyone wants to fix me, they’re may hurt me financially, but that’s hardly going to make a dent on the quality of my life – as I really don’t live a high maintenance lifestyle. Not at all. I sleep on a military camp bed. I am allergic to air conditioning, it makes my nose run like a leaky tap. Even if you ask me to downgrade to a concrete floor that is hardly a problem as that is how I regularly sleep in the field. Even if you drag my name thru mud that is not a problem either, as 7 out of 10 people in my kampung already believe I am the devil. Besides if things really get dangerous – I can probably strike a deal or talk my way out of it. So when I use this as a yardstick to compare my problems….they all somehow or rather assume a sense of scale and I feel much confident about making it over to the other side. Fear I reckon can only have dominion over you when you feed it by worrying endlessly about 99% of the things that will probably never ever happen.’
If you don’t want to end up as a taxi driver and want to be rich, please consider being a businessman in the Ukraine
March 3, 2014
Allow me to speak plainly gentlemen. First thing first, the women must all go away and leave only the men folk. As what I have to share with all of you is only for you. If they hear this, their brain will explode like a hand grenade. So ask them to go!
Are they all gone? Please check that they are not hiding behind the furniture (they have a habit of doing this).
Now listen very carefully to what I have to say. As this is an opportunity that does not come very often. Maybe once or twice in a life time. If it goes, it’s gone forever!
The Ukraine is fucked! With the passing of everyday given the men and materiel invested in the region it is likely to get more fucked up. The risk adverse expat community have begun to make a beeline to leave en masse. They will leave everything behind that if you all didn’t know means the start up cost for a business is as low as it gets. Law and order is also likely to break down. The discipline in the uniform services is fast going to the dogs and civil war will break out very soon…in a few more days armed militia will be roaming the streets….it will be like the day after the atomic bomb was dropped….just like the wild wild west.
Perfect opportunities for the businessman to make a lot of money. I am sorry, but my gut feel tells me this opportunity is really too good to pass up….so you must all excuse me. I must now make preparations to make my way to the Ukraine asap. As usual, we will find each other in the usual way. Hopefully when we see each other we will not argue about Maggi instant noddles.
As Confucius once said – the man who gets in first just after the shit hits the fan, gets to sell home cleaning products at any asking price. So let us all make tracks!
The winds have been begun to change direction. Early this morning. I could sense a slight and imperceptible shift….it as thought the stylus has skipped a track…soon I noticed the birds were momentarily confused….this is how it is when the winds die down and suddenly change direction…they( the birds) will fly around erratically during this hour of hesitation, as if they are disorientated – along with this, the temp has begun to climb ever so slightly and the breeze from the South carries with it’s usual faint hint of cloves and peppercorns.
This change in the wind direction will also mean the haze will hit Singapore soon. Only this time, I fear it will be much worse than last year. As so much of Sumatra has been under the grip of a prolonged dry spell, so it is fair to say a confluence of natural events makes for ideal haze producing conditions.
I wonder is there anyone at the ground level monitoring the situation to get right down to the root of the problem? I know there are many people who are sitting around their computers looking at real time satellite images in their air conditioned cubicles. But is there a team currently in the field who are experienced in the plantations way of doing things to make sense of the situation and relay intelligence to the decision makers.
Or are we all going to sit down and watch a rerun of the blame game where by now we know the script by heart – where one side will demand names only for the other to insist that black is white….while the matter goes ding dong bell like some pin ball machine till the haze fizzles out….only to repeat this stupid yearly ritual again – it seems to me this is the world’s longest running episode of ground hog day….I wonder is it only me who thinks this way? I do wonder sometimes….really I do.
“To me threats are not framed only in terms of outward military aggression. In this day and age. They have to cover a wider ambit. As when we consider what is a clear and present danger in the context of a threat. To me, it is simply defined as an untenable condition where life becomes intolerable for the populace. That is it. End of story. No Da Vinci code there lah!
So if you have all the fancy aeroplanes, submarines and drones that can do everything to interdict a conventional threat, but it cannot even deal effectively with a man made condition that diminishes the quality of life for the populace and even threatens to make it difficult to live a normal life without having to wear scuba diving breathing apparatus just to get by. Then by my definition, you do not have a credible means of protecting what you own. All you have is the illusion of being able to protect what you own.
Perhaps I am not clear. Permit me to illustrate what I mean by way of an analogy. My neighbour was once upon a time a very inconsiderate man who had the selfish habit of damming up the only creek that runs thru his lands and mine and others during the dry season and opening his water locks during the wet season.
This creates countless problems for me and others downstream. As during the dry season, he can stop the flow of water to my lands while he irrigates his fields and in the wet season the lower section of my lands are always submerged in water, as he has no problem pumping excess water to my side.
When other farmers try to phone him to reason with him, this inconsiderate daughter fucker will say – it is out of my control….whereupon he would raise his hands up into the air and look pleadingly to the heavens, as if seeking some divine answer.
So one day I conducted my private covert black operations to right what I and many perceived to be an untenable situation – I made sure this useless landowner doesn’t get any discounted fertiliser from the village supplier as I have specified, I will only buy from you…. providing you do not sell to him at a friendship price and whenever I see thieves stealing his crops I simply pretend that I never saw them…and continue whistling as I walk around happily….when the thieves see this…who is to say what is in their minds?
So one day this inconsiderate good for nothing of a farmer confronted me when I was dinning in the only seafood restaurant of the village and accused me of deploying gangster tactics. He said, I had secretly trespassed his lands to conduct illegal surveys with the deliberate intention of flooding his lands….that I had even seduced his accounts clerk so that I could get valuable intelligence of his monthly tonnage of his yield to hit him where it really hurts…his wallet….and that he had proof in the form of a photograph taken from a mobile phone camera of his night watchman of me and my dog sabotaging the mechanism of his water locks….along with CCTV spools breaking into his office…I told him, then what are you waiting for…go ahead and sue me! What is stopping you from going to the police? I even offered to drive him there.
When he realised I was not afraid, he threatened me that he would report my misdeeds to the village elders as my methods were unbecoming of a responsible landowner. I simply looked up pleadingly at the heavens and murmured something to the effect ‘this matter is out of my hands….I so want to be good and not evil, but it seems conditions force me to be evil…so all I can really do is leave it entirely to the wisdom of heaven…or hell…..which ever has a stronger pull lah!’ When some of the villagers heard of my lamentations, some exclaimed alamak! Others pengsan – they all rebuked this man and said, look what you have done….you have made the devil more evil…as evil begets evil…why are you causing trouble here! It is well known, we have all been trying to rehabilitate this evil soul from his wayward ways…now all you are doing is undoing all our efforts and soon he will be so evil that even we would be imperilled. Even the monks and adherents of the Kuan Yin temple threatened to put a curse on this fellow. As for the moral development society in my village they had begun to burn 7 day incense sticks outside the gates of my land to contain my evil – as what I had done was to turn the entire community against this man by fashioning the belief that his actions would ultimately imperil them.
So great was the pressure from village community after that, this good for nothing had no choice but to dismantled all his water locks and now the water at the creek takes it’s natural course and everyone is so relieved as they would often be heard saying in the kopitiam in the village…now evil will no longer have a hold on the man who lives on the hill and we will all be safer for it.
The moral of the story is what you not prepared to defend….you do not own. All you really have is the illusion of ownership. Every serious man knows this….you could even say this is the first discipline of the farmer.’
March 3, 2014
In life, if we once wronged others. Then, it means, those who we once trespassed have suffered because of us – and we should take responsibility for those wrongs once commited and make every possible effort to right them.
We commit ourselves to this, not because it is the right thing to do. As what is right or wrong can so often be rationalize away with clever words. Or worst still forgiven, excused away, wiped clean by mumbo jumbo such as leaving it to God. (He will do absolutely nothing lah. But trust me, the pastor will gladly relieve you of 10% of your salary every month la…that is all there is to that con job. No need to think so much…that is it.)
The only reason why we make the effort to own up to our responsibility and right these wrongs which we once commited is because these are words, deeds and thoughts that we do not even wish onto ourselves or our loved ones – if we ourselves cringe from suffering, grief and sadness…and wish only to live happy lives where we never have cause to feel sadness or regret….then it should not be too difficult to understand WHY others too, wish for precisely the same as us – as to be wronged, no matter how long ago or small is STILL suffering, grief and sadness that was once cruelly felt….a open wound that once bleed.
When we make an effort to face our responsibilities squarely with a clear and honest heart and mend those wrongs which we were once responsible for – ONLY then can we close that dark chapter and gainfully move on with a light heart.
If we do not make the effort to take responsibility for our actions, then we will just have to settle for that other great lie that we are some how magically rendered free, forgiven or that through the chastening passage of time…that matter has somehow managed to settle itself. But since the lies we regularly tell ourselves, no matter how well crafted they may be, can NEVER have the power to lift the weight of guilt from our heavy hearts….we can still feel this heavy weight bearing down on us daily and we will NEVER be free.
Our hearts will always feel heavy…tinged with regret and pain. This is how life is to the honourable man…there may well be variations as to how this theme might be played out. But I do not believe the rough outline can depart very far from what I have just shared. Anything less is just a bullshit of a paper mâché life, once lived by a half person who does not understand the phrase, taking responsibility for ones words and actions.
“There is a man who has just started to turn the wheel of life as a farmer very near to my lands. This man once worked as an accountant in Singapore for twenty over years and only returned to the kampung after his father passed away and bequeathed the small family plot to him. Either that. Or it might have something to do with getting retrenched from the bank he used to work for, not being able to land a job and not wanting to turn the wheel of life as a taxi driver. I am just guessing. I never asked. Besides it’s none of my business.
When I heard this man wanted to put his lands up for sale. As he once mentioned in passing to others in the village kopitiam, ‘I do not know how to farm…as I have worked all my life in Singapore as a bean counter…look at my hands…they are smooth.’ That very night, I secretly paid a visit to his mother and told the blind woman, ‘tell your son only fools sell something as precious as land. Keep the land and I’ll teach him the ancient craft of farming. Tell him not to go back to Singapore. He will not regret it…and it is well known to all, my word is good.’ That night the old woman spoke to his son.
From time to time, I would tell this man, do this….do that…do you see this…it means, this or that will happen…take this and throw that away…this is good to go..that you can throw away. etc. So man who knew nothing about farming was slowly carved into the new man who turned the wheel slowly at first and soon it began to gather speed.
When brigands once wiped out his harvest and he told me that he wanted to throw in the towel. I gave him a bunch of my arrows fletched by my own hand. I told him, put this on your trees…he asked me, ‘would this stop the stealing.’ I merely replied, ‘I hope so.’
When the ‘ang mui’ (the vermillion gate) knocked on this man’s door one night and demanded protection money again he came, this time frantically, I told him to calm down and invited these men for tea. During the meeting I sat on the chair to the West while this man took the chair to the East. I poured him tea first and when the fish was served I mentioned, ‘be careful, this fish has many bones’ and they all smiled, nodded and ate quietly thereafter – although everyone that day understood without a shadow of doubt what this meant in the language of the old country, except this one man…all that mattered to me was no one harried either him or his family any longer.
Last week, this man came over and we walked the length of my lands. We talked of many things and when we came to the hairpin that would lead us back to the house on the hill – he asked, ‘why have you been so kind to me, I understand from my mother you were not in good terms with my father.’ I merely mentioned, ‘You and my father…we SHOULD have been in good terms. He was a honourable man, but when his father was alive, I lacked the wisdom to see it then.’*
*During my early days in the plantation business. I had many enemies. These were very serious men who no qualms pouring petrol over me and setting it alight. Most of them I reckoned were imaginary. But it was hard to say, as those were dark days where I was always in darkness. They were extraordinary times, the time in my life, I much prefer to refer too as the period of perpetual lightning and thunder when everything was like the wild wild West and decisions made were often rash and ill conceived. A period in my life when I would often turn away from and much rather forget. I did not share all this with this man – as I felt the season had truly passed and it was pointless to reopen old wounds.
As I saw him to his jeep that evening. He introduced to his wife and I carried his new born baby and that was whmm this man shared with me, he had finally decided to stay and work the land as a farmer….as now he had the confidence to do so. I knew at that moment, heaven was smiling on me….I was very happy. As I was the man who once wronged the father of this man and I was happy that I could right that wrong now – it is not perfect, but I want so much to believe the accounts are now squared.
Many people talk about right and wrong. But I do not believe they really know what it really takes to right a wrong – how much of a man is needed for that effort. No! I do not believe they know. As it is one of the most difficult things in life to do – to mend a wrong – as a man would have to stand naked before the cleansing power of the truth and bear the many cruel realities that rain down on him like a thousand arrows. I believe, if men know how the past can haunt them, then they will know why the only way to live is to strive to be good.’
The day when the one and only love of Shah Jahan passed away. He looked out of the window and after a very long time. The Emperor of the known world murmured to himself, ‘I see nothing there.’
Twenty one years later when the last jewel was set into the newly completed Taj Mahal…Shah Jahan opened his window and after a very long time. The Emperor of the known world murmured to himself, ‘I see nothing there.’
“To be envied by so many for what he owns. And yet to be irrevocably at one with the abyss of loneliness. No one can possibly understand the paradox. No one will even believe it….how ironical that a thing that should not exist…can be so real. Experienced only by the man who walks all alone by himself in an emerald sea of eternity and from time chuckles like some mad man….as only this man knows what it means to be able to hold one blade of grass and to see his entire life there…the beginning…the middle…right to the very end…the life of the man of all seasons.”
February 27, 2014
I have been having the same dream again…and seems again. I am dinning all alone in the only seafood restaraunt in my village. I am sitting in my favourite table. The one where I can see everyone, but half hidden in the shadows by a screen.
There is another table in the far distance. There is a group of businessmen there. They’re drinking. At the head of the table is a landowner who once poisoned all my trees. We are supposed to keep to a truce, so I do my part and eat quietly without looking up…I want to keep to the truce…then suddenly I sense they are all talking about me…laughing at me….I can feel anger swelling in me.
The laughter grows louder and louder…my anger is full blown now. I walk into the kitchen. I pick up a cleaver run my fingers along the edge….it’s sharp, but not sharp enough to do the job well. I pick up another one…this time its razor sharp.
I walk right up to the table and they’re all laughing. One of the bodyguards try to stand up. He pushes me. I slash him across the jugular. I know he is done for – the other is readying himself. He reaches for his gun. I look him deep in his eyes and tell him in a calm voice to think about his wife and children. I tell him don’t fight me please as I have no quarrel with your clan. He looks at me momentarily and runs away and drops his revolver. Then suddenly its just me and this man. The whole room suddenly becomes small. Darkness closes in. For a moment, I wonder to myself – how could this happen, it was large and bright just a while ago, but it soon passes.
The man is scared now. He tries to run scrambling on all fours. He slips. I grab hold him by his hair. He is screaming. I drag him to the middle of the room and cut his throat. Slowly and deeply. He tries to struggle but my hold on him is like an iron vice. I can hear his blood gurgling. He raised his hands. I cut his fingers and his hands. I pick them off the floor slowly and put them on the plate and I sit beside this man and dip one of his fingers in soya sauce and eat it. He looks at me with his eyes wide open…it is a look of disbelief. I whisper to him that I will do the same to his wife, children and their children and I want him to know this before he goes to the other side.
I tell him. I will throw them off the balcony one by one as they scream on their way down – but before I do so, I would explain the reason why it has to be this way and there can no other way. As I am a man who does not like to be humoured and I can never forgive….never…never ever.
Then I light a cigarette lean back into the chair and for some curious reason I decide to pour myself a drink. I remember feeling a wave of intense satisfaction sweeping over me. But it doesn’t last long, as that’s when I see myself in the mirror – and at that moment…I am suddenly filled with unspeakable horror. I wake up covered in cold sweat.
I have been having the same dreams again and again….what does it mean. I don’t understand. Really I don’t.
“I believe, I am good. You see, it is not unusual for stray dogs and women to come to me. They want to be with me and that is all there is to it. There is no mystery there, but to others, I am certain, it will always be a matter of intense speculation.
Some of these women are very rich. They reveal their intentions to be with me quite openly. But since I am by nature a very reserved person. I always tell them, please do not have fantasies regarding me – as you do not know me. Let us just be friends. But I am really not in a position to consider commitment. When I consider how often I have been in this position – I can only say they must be attracted to me, as they all see me as a good man.
I don’t want to be evil. Really I don’t. That is why I believe, it is best when people do not humor me…perhaps from time to time, they would do well to consider what is the best way to bring out the best in this man….I feel, if people can only do that, their lives will be immeasurably enhanced and that would make me very happy. As to be perfectly honest. I feel very sorry for those who do not seem to treat this as a matter of upmost importance.
Remember always, I am a good man.’
February 27, 2014
Only in the kampung are all things possible including the impossible. Now we just need the Singaporean version and hopefully he can work his way up and kick out the kill joy PAP!
February 26, 2014
Many people have suggested many things that we would do well to have with us all the time – a pen to write down our thoughts, a notebook to file the many twist and turns of what we have done and may plan to do in the future, a watch to keep us bound to the discipline of keeping time, a condom should we get lucky (or in my case unlucky when it rains and I need to waterproof the barrel of my shotgun), a rabbit’s foot or protection amulet to stave off malevolent spirits, the names and addresses of friends should we need help…so on and so forth.
But the most important thing we should all aspire to own has to be in my opinion first and foremost ourselves…to just be present in the moment and not allow even one quarter of our mind to be invaded by the distant past or future…to just be in the moment…to have all of ourselves in the way a man gathers all the marbles in the palm of his hands…to be so completely in control of our thoughts that we have become one with the Dao of the world.
This is true power. And that is all you need, the rest will always just be stuff. People who do not know this will always diffuse their lives in the way one drops a red dye into a glass of water only to disappear. They will search for meaning in their meaningless lives by going to meaningless places to hear meaningless sermons from charlatans who just want 10% of their salary. They will search for happiness in the company of friends and in shopping malls above all they will always fear solitude….as they search everywhere for answers to their questions…except themselves.
“There was one time when I was in the city and I found myself standing before an green oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. So I rang the door bell and an elegant lady appeared – I asked this woman in an authoritative bearing of a landowner whether she would allow me to rest my tired soul in her beautiful garden. She looked at me in a very peculiar way and so I must have taken it as a yes and proceeded to sit on a stone bench beneath the shade of a sprawling Mango tree.
After a considerable length of time watching me from her balcony, she summoned the servants to serve tea and proceeded to sit next to me. She asked me where I was from…as in her words…you are definitely not of the city. I told her, I live amongst trees and I was grateful for her kindness for allowing me to sit quietly beside my friends. I went on to tell the lady of the mansion with the blue mango tree, there was no need for her to try to make conversation and she should just be herself. As nothing would give me more pleasure than to sit quietly beside her.
From time to time, birds would perch on the Mango tree. One particular bird caught the lady’s eye, she looked curiously at it and asked..why are it’s feathers such an odd shade of red – I looked up and agreed with her, ‘yes, she certainly looks different from all others.’ I went on to recount to the lady of the mansion, the ochre winds that I had once seen in the deepest bowels of Africa…a relentless wind that even blotted out the sun for weeks. A wind which was once considered so evil. A mad sultan declared war on it and marched out to meet it at the edge of the Sahara with fluttering silk banners, war elephants and a hundred thousand soldiers. A wind seasoned sailors in the Coite de Noire called the wind of blood – the Harmattan, the Ormugh, while others in the Niger simply called the Iskham – as when it rained, it turned the skies blood red…I told her that is why the feathers of that finch were stained a curry powder patina….it has travelled very far. She looked amazed and when it was time to take my leave. I thanked the lady, she told me I was most welcome to pay a visit again. But for some strange reason her voice seemed strained. So I looked at her expectantly as she began to explain, she felt compelled for my sake to inform me that it may not be a good idea to do what I did today, as my behaviour may be construed as peculiar to city folk. I turned to her looked deep into her eyes and asked, do you consider me peculiar madam? The lady looked down and replied, ‘No, I think you are a very calm man…slightly unusual, but very nice….it is only some of my friends who do not know you will think different.’ I merely said, then that is all that really matters madam….as for friends…they are not here…’ She looked up at the peculiar bird again perched on the Mango tree…this time instead of frowning she smiled and gave me a blue mango.’
I do not fear the drought. Not at all. All I need to do is enable plan B. It is really as simple as that……
February 25, 2014
It is very natural to feel jealousy. If you are not jealous of others at times, you’re probably not part of the human species. You must go and check your family tree, your father and mother could be aliens from another planet.
I am not kidding!
Jealousy is a very powerful and primal force. It can often overcome us suddenly….usually we are overwhelmed by feelings of jealousy without us even realising HOW or WHY….suddenly we feel it swelling inside us…it is as if a sacred part of who we are is suddenly appropriated by a dark force within us…we get all defensive….we tense up and get angry and of course…we suffer….
Like I said, usually jealously takes hold when we least expect it – just a few days ago, when I was having dinner with a newbie farmer and his wife who had just moved here from Singapore. I was suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of jealously when his wife served us steamboat……as the carefully prepared dishes were placed on the table one after another…I was mindful of my feelings of jealously swelling…soon I began asking myself….why does this man eat so well? While I have to always make do with card board military grub? How lucky he is to have a loving wife who dotes on his every wimp and fancy…this is a man who can enjoy a thousand pleasures…while poor me has only my dogs to keep me company…and iPad porn…why can’t I have a loving wife like him….soon I turned skywards and wondered why heaven has not been fair to me….why have I been victimised….singled out for suffering…. this went on throughout the course of dinner.
The only reason why I felt it is necessary to share this is merely to illustrate the corrosive power of jealously.
Till of course….I admitted quite candidly to my host, ‘I feel so jealous of your life because it is so much more comfortable than my threadbare Spartan existence.’ Through the years, I have observed, this is the only way for one to deal effectively with jealously….to see it for what it is…to confront it head on…as since it’s power is invisible, once it is seen, it’s hold on the mind will begin to diminish.
The first step to defusing our jealous state of mind before it takes hold of our lives and destroys everything in it’s path – is we have to see it for what it is….and not run away from it. Or try to hide or deny it. As when you recognise, you are jealous, you have acknowledged a thing for what it is – it’s now transparent…..like a bomb with its casing removed….all the wires stand before you….now you can proceed to defuse it.
But if you do not even see it, then it is like an alcoholic who doesn’t even believe he has a drinking problem…so it becomes incredibly difficult to manage it. It is like one of those stealth fighters…not there…but there…and everywhere it seems.
So recognize it, acknowledge jealousy.
Then understand it – as jealously is really just another way of saying, you would like to have the same things or qualities as the person you are jealous of. So it is perfectly natural to feel threatened, scared, angry, anxious along with feelings that you may not be good enough. Only understand these feelings are wholly irrational and often it is created in our minds based on the raw material of bad experiences from the past, they have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.
Once we acknowledge this. Suddenly we all become less self-centered. We no longer think the world revolves around us and soon our mind begins to see the bigger picture and our role in it.
As when I admitted my jealously to my host – he turned to me with a surprised expression and confided, ‘I too am very jealous of you. As you are wise beyond your years and it is widely acknowledged by all that you are a very serious man.’
As the dinner went on. I began to feel happy for my friend. Happy that although he was new to farming. At least, he had his wife to stand beside him and that I knew would hold him in good stead. Soon my feelings jealously subsided as a larger picture began to form almost before me…one where I realised, I was genuinely happy for him…happy to be here enjoying this meal with his family…and happy that I could be happy.
‘Jealousy is a very powerful and natural primal instinct. It isn’t something you can just get rid of immediately or rationalise away – that is why I do not understand when people say, ‘don’t compare.’ ‘don’t be jealous.’ How not to compare? Do you mean if a man is driving a Mercedes and I pull up next to him in a whacked up bone shaker, I am supposed to magically wish his car away? So to me this way of managing jealously is really nonsensical.
But when you acknowledge that you are jealous. Then within that very moment of admission, the spell of jealously loses it’s hold on you – in that instantly, it’s power is greatly diminished – it is really like switching on the lights to a room when it’s pitch dark. Suddenly everything is clear as day!
Suddenly you understand it’s irrational. And this will allow you to move on to the next stage where you might even ask yourself, how did this fellow get to drive such a big car? What would I have to learn to enable me to drive such a big car one day? And when you begin to see the world thru this new lens, then you will live in the PRESENT, instead of feeling self pity, regret and hurt – as jealously is really all about the past. The wrongs that others have inflicted upon you. Moving beyond jealousy is a life skill that you need to learn with practice, and trust me. As you begin learn to acknowledge it, you will thru time be more comfortable in your own skin and as time goes by you will hopefully see the world clearly without the slightest trace illusion – one where you will arrive at a place of wisdom and simply understand, no one gives a shit how much you have in your bank account or how much land you own. All they really care is whether you treat them with respect, dignity and love….and that’s it – people who do not know will always feel angry without truly knowing why….they will suffer…and suffering leads to darkness.’
February 24, 2014
Building trust in myself as a competent farmer is something that I’ve always struggle with. As what I really lacked when I first started commercial farming was confidence in my decisions…I wasn’t sure…and that to me is just another way of saying…I don’t trust myself.
Fortunately, with the passing of each season I got much better at getting it right on the first call and so it became much easier to trust myself.
Trust that I could (most of the time, at least) make a good quality judgement call…and get it right the first time….trust that I could just roll a clump of dirt in between my index finger and thumb, bring it to my nostrils and say to myself, ‘There is no mystery here!’
Trust is so very important…NOT WITH OTHERS, BUT WITH YOURSELF FIRST.
I am not just talking about the skills to make good decisions that you will not come to regret later. But sometimes, trust that you can see a thing through from beginning to end is equally important – it may be trying to slim down by making a promise to yourself that you will not eat food that makes you fat and ugly any longer – or just trying to keep to a simple promise you once made to yourself that you would watch less TV and cut down on your smoking and drinking.
Why is trust in yourself so jugular…important. Because if like me during the first few early years when I first became a farmer – Life can be a grind when you just can’t trust yourself – you can’t even trust yourself to see a thing thru from beginning to end – and very often my lack of knowledge corroded my confidence and this just meant I kept breaking promises to myself again and again. It’s like if another person constantly cheats on you or never seem to keep their word – as time goes by, it’s natural not to trust that person anymore. The same holds true of the promises you make to yourself.
Learning to trust yourself is arguably the most important thing you can ever do. Trust in your brain….trust that, if you promise yourself to do something, you will nit procrastinate…trust that you will work hard to build trust in yourself.
You could even say, this is the first principle of living a purpose driven life
‘Farming is all about observation. That I imagine is why it’s not unusual at all to see a farmer perched on his fence staring out into the yonder for hours. That could be why so many people think that I am mad as well. As whenever I do this in Singapore….people think, he’s a very odd man…I think, I’ll call the police…as over there no one really bothers to just stand so very still and really look…I don’t mean just look, but really look….at the clouds, birds etc etc. To even feel the gentle caress of the breeze…to pick up the slight hint of the salt in the air…no one really stops and just looks. They’re all too busy trying to get to where they need to be etc etc.
But farming is all about observation….every morning at a certain time, I will open a hatch in my kitchen. Sit down on the floor with a mug of coffee and just study the way the light falls on the tiles. I know of at least 23 pantheons of yellow…each tone can tell me a tome about how the weather is going to unfurl, it is more accurate than a weather satellite…these days, I notice the light is different….I have never seen such colors before…it’s not the usual bright corn yellowish light that I am used too…but much closer to an amber vinegar copper tone…so I know from just this, the dry spell is going to last much longer than what the weatherman says…I just know deep in the marrow of my bones…it will be dry thru to March….bone dry…this is going to be a season that will test my mettle I reckon.
Everything that I once went thru was meant to prepare me for this season…no, I can’t rely on my tabula data any longer…I must throw them away…I must assume, past performance is no longer a reliable indicator of what is going to happen…I must make the assumption, she will go the other way, do that other thing that I least expect….many people will go bankrupt this year….if I can make it to the other side or maybe I will get lucky and she’ll spit me out like a seed then I stand to gain from the carnage, from now on…it’s a game of cerebral fitness…as it will only rain a few days in the following weeks….I have to make everyday count….every arrow must find its mark….if I do this. I may just be able to slip by and find a sunny patch…after all the price of palm is going up, because no one has any fruit..as it has not rained at all…so the farmer who can produce fruit will win. He will prosper and grow…while the others perish.
I must believe this is possible…above all I must trust myself that I can pull this off. I must.”
February 22, 2014
A series of small steps all add up to huge distances. This might seem so obvious that it hardly requires any explanation, but I don’t feel most people really understand this – don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they’re stupid…only I feel, they have not really experimented with this idea enough to feel really confident about using it to improve their lives.
Today I visited a newbie couple from Sengkang Singapore. They’re new settlers and as a general rule I always make it a point to touch base and see whether they might need any help. They’re planning to grow organic veggies for the up scale market. From what the husband shared with me, they seem to know how to go about it. So it came as a surprise when the husband told me when we were having a smoke outside his verandah, he planned to put up the parameter fencing in four days. I said sardonically, ‘Oh really…’ He replied, ‘there is nothing to it.’
Two days past uneventfully, on the third his wife called and informed me frantically her husband was hospitalized for sun stroke.
I asked what happened. Apparently, one day while working in the field, he just became so exhausted that he keeled over. She asked me whether I could help him out with the fencing…as it seemed harder than it seemed and she was concerned – I said certainly.
After he recovered as promised, I went over to work with her husband on the fencing. While he was panting and sweating putting up the fence post. I sat beneath the shade and just read a book. After a while, he turned to me and asked, ‘I thought you were going to help me?’ I replied, ‘are you blind. Can’t you see I am helping. My job is to call the ambulance when you pengsan again!’ He looked at me with a puzzled expression, then I took a sledge hammer hit the ground real hard and it bounced right back like concrete…boing! I told him thereafter, the ground is hard like armoured plated steel as it hasn’t rained for the last two months and it makes far more sense not fight nature and to use this opportunity when the grass is short and frizzled to survey the fence line and mark out the position for the post and get all the stuff ready like nut and bolts, wires etc. As when the rains come in a few days it will soften up the ground quite nicely. This way, I told him work will proceed faster with less effort, as we are going with the flow of nature…..small steps…smaller the better.
‘How does one go about eating an elephant? Cut it up into tiny pieces….seems obvious enough rite? But when you look at how most people approach the whole subject of work. Most of the time, they want to make 10 changes all at once. Personally I just feel these people think it’s a macho thing to take a big chunk and see whether they can eat it without choking. But trying to do so much at one time simply means they’re setting themselves up for a fall…and even if they can somehow manage to pull that feat off, they’re unlikely to get quality results…besides they will probably be so worn down to the bone that instead of enjoying that whole experience of seeing a thing thru from beginning to end, all they have done is demoralize themselves along with burning up all the enthusiasm they might have had for that enterprise.
Recently, I read this story about this graduate who started a Bak Kut Teh outlet…now less than a year into his first enterprise, he goes and tries to eat an elephant by starting another outlet even before the first shop has stabilised..then he complains to everyone that it all crashed and burnt because he couldn’t native workers and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of his kitchen hands dipped his hands into the till. Now you tell me – is the problem manpower related? Or is it closer to failure to manage growth intelligently by taking on too much at one time.
My point is not even McDonalds or for that matter Bill Gates did one thousandth of what this fellow tried to do, that is start another outlet within 5 months into business! – they all took things slowly and incrementally build up both their technical and managerial core competencies by taking really small steps…first by getting things to work in a garage where over night pizza went to die and getting by with loads of superglue and duct tape. That’s what smart people do – they grow organically. They don’t put their enterprise on steroids and they certainly never buy into that nonsense Rome was built in one day.
The way I see it, if you set yourself very small, realistic and achievable goals by taking small steps, you’re well on your way to reaping long-term pay outs that will give you the confidence to grow from strength to strength organically – so if you’re new to driving a taxi, just drive safety, better still put a big sign that reads, ‘please don’t talk to me. I cannot multi task! That is why I am driving you!’ and just focus of getting yourself and your passengers to the destination safely. Just do that till you’re really good at it and everything else will take care of itself. Same goes when you’re trying to make small changes to your diet and activity levels — after a year, you’ll be way fitter than before. Rather than going on a crash starvation diet only to look good for two weeks and after that your body starts to malfunction and you end up fatter than before you started to change the way you look.
This is especially true of farming. As I have seen many new farmers who try to take on too much in one season, only to end up going round and round in ever decreasing circles. While the wise planter just focusses on one thing, knows it so well that he even becomes a subject matter expert on it and builds up the rest of his core competencies incrementally with this, do one thing at a time attitude, in the way a samurai sword is layered. End result: he becomes wise in the way of the land.
The best part is when you commit yourself to just doing one thing at a time and most importantly being kind to yourself – you’re more likely to enjoy the whole experience and since it’s such an incredibly edifying feeling that you derive from it – you will want to do it again and again.
February 21, 2014
Today while lunching all by my lonesome in the only Chinese seafood restaurant in my kampung. A group of Christians approached me and recounted to me in a very excitable and urgent manner – there is great moral battle being waged back home in Singapore.
This woman who wore a big stainless steel crucifix went on to tell me, it was my moral duty as a believer to do the right thing and to support their cause against what they all saw as the erosion of moral values in Singapore. The husband of the woman shared with me, their cause would be greatly enhanced if I could lend them their support.
I asked all of them – ‘why are you all getting so worked up lah? Where is the moral battle?’ I asked the woman, ‘has the the bum buddies petitioned the Pope to fuck her husbands or sons backside?’ I then turned to the man and asked him in an authoritative tone of a landowner – ‘Has your asshole been violated without your consent by the bum buddies brigade?’ ‘Do you feel that there is a clear and present danger to your asshole from the homosexual community?’ I turned to the woman and asked of her, ‘do you see the need to buy steel plated underwear for your husband to protect him from been fucked in the ass by the gay zombies?’
After my round of enquiries – a few women in the group pretended to pengsan and proceeded to faint – I commanded them to rise in the name of the spirit (tiger beer 5% alcohol spirit lah) in the booming voice and boing, boing, boing and boing…they all rose – this time the husband of the flustered woman began to call me all sorts of names…I was uncouth…rude….unbecoming of a gentlemen…and they would report my bad behaviour to the church elders for follow up action and that they went on to mention. They had obviously made a serious error of judgement by approaching me.
I told them all, what a man decides to do with his dicky dally is really his own business and providing he draws the curtains and does whatever he feels he needs to do with humans, animals or inanimate objects with or without batteries in a private setting is really none of my business, theirs or for that matter their pastor. I went on to stress their pastor may have misread the good book….either that or someone from the bum buddies brigade has been pressurizing lately to fuck his asshole and that may be why he has an axe to grind with them, but even then I told them…they have no right to force their views down the throat of others….where is the love for your fellow man I asked.
By then all of them were so shocked by my response them all left dumbfounded. Maybe they have seen the light? And hopefully stars as well.