“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

The Buddha – The One Who has Awaken

From ancient times the symbol of the mother has always occupied a centre piece of man’s consciousness – the giver of life; the nourisher; the teacher and so many other things that man finds calming – so man has always worshipped her. And so it is not unusual for most of us to transpose this metaphor of the Madonna to the idea of country. We refer to her as the motherland. 

For the motherland it is not unusual for a man to do anything – many have died to defend her honor. Even more have sacrificed in a multitude of ways to glorify her.

But what happens when the mother does not behave like the mother? What happens when all she seems to do is to take, take and take from her children? What happens when her indifference even pains the child?

When this happens there can only be disharmony and discord in the household –  child will be distant from the mother. As he passes from childhood through puberty and into manhood he sees more instances of his mothers causal indifference along with inequities and he can only wonder how unworthy and cruel she is to have brought him, the child, man, father, grandfather and citizen into this hell on earth.

The End

Darkness 2012

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Farmer: Where am I? Where is this place? Have I died and gone to hell? 

Tree: Shsssss farmer, you are safe and sound in a place where I love you. It was just a dream. A bad dream. You are now awake.

This excerpt has been extracted from the Chapter: The Way of the Farmer, Page 21 – The Brotherhood Press 2012 / This messaged has been intercepted and relayed by the Tiberian Class Deep space battlecruisers –  KDD Excelsior and KDD Nanking.  

Can money buy us happiness?

February 28, 2012

Can money buy happiness? Well, if we are going to give this question a decent crack, it may first be necessary to framed a supplementary question: would you use your washing machine as a concrete mixer? The answer has to be no, in the same vein whenever people ask, can money buy happiness? What they usually fail to understand from the onset is – why would any sane person even try to use money to buy happiness? Hence, money has no correlation with happiness anymore than scratching my guli’s on a hot day has anything to do with global warming.

Bear in mind, I am not saying that if you’re just walking in Orchard Road and minding your own business and a million dollars fell from the sky – that wouldn’t make you happiest – I am sure you would be jumping for joy – but that isn’t the type of happiness, I am referring too.

True happiness is a choice. We can choose to be never satisfied or we can take refuge in the idea we are not as bad as others who may have to struggle like a hamster perpetually turning the wheel of life – but either way you decide to cut it, money is very important, so jugular even that if I had to rate the relative importance of money – it would probably occupy the third quadrant just after health and wisdom. My reasons for placing such a high weighting on money is because money these days is synonymous with liberty and self emancipation. Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but at least it allows you to be miserable under your own terms by crying your eyes out in the Presidential suite of the four seasons rather than squatting over a monsoon drain where shit water flows in some squatter colony. Which one of the two versions of grief would you prefer? I rest my case.

Having said that having money is bliss, it can also be a curse, if one is not mindful of its corrosive effects – as wealth allows us to experience the “best” that life has to offer Once we’ve had the opportunity to drink the finest cellared wines, fly first class, dine on beluga caviar with lashings of champagne, and watch a Beyonce concert in a private box, sharing a char kuey teow with a friend on a sunny day in East Coast Park just doesn’t seem to have the same awe inspiring “wow” factor any longer. Indeed when we allow money to overreach like some evil weed to take over and color other aspects of our life’s – then what invariably happens is it ultimately undermines our ability to savor life’s little pleasures – so while money doesn’t buy you happiness, it can very definitely make you a very sad and miserable person.

Neither do I see the wisdom of confusing wealth with unbridled materialism. As even the poor can very easily aspire and be fixated on accumulating icons of power and influence. I once cured my secretary’s chronic depression by buying her a Louis Vuitton handbag as I didn’t see the logic for her to pop mind bending pills (hence the adage, those who think money can’t buy happiness simply don’t know where to shop) – so who is to say that being materialistic is wrong or even bad for the soul? Where I believe materialism takes a wrong turn is when people form an unhealthy relationship with their possessions to such an extent whereby they confuse their identity with their possessions – when this happens, then materialism becomes a method of appropriating one’s character as we will continually invest our self worth and sense of importance in the properties we own or the cars we choose to drive – but providing the line is kept crystal clear – I really don’t see how buying a Rolex watch for your better half or giving her money to buy a couture dress for a special occasion can possibly turn her into a greedy monster.

Experienced has informed me when we as men do this for women, it usually makes us and them happiest and that is really the only thing that matters to me –the rest is mere polemics.

Darkness 2012

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“When you are really wealthy and influential, you should amble around in bata slippers sporting a faded white shirt with three holes. The first hole will convey to others, you may perhaps be a man who doesn’t care very much about his appearance. The second hole is to conclude that you really don’t care and the third is to confirm the fact, you can afford not to care. This is real power. The highest expression of the word confidence – beware of the man who wears the shirt with three holes. Now gentlemen, find out everything there is to find out about this man – dig and drill very quietly – we are not dealing with a lightweight here. You see Gentlemen, I happen to know this aspect of warcraft from the inside out, as I am the man who only has the confidence to wear a shirt with one hole.”

(A secret conversation with the Guilds in Naypyidaw six months ago in sector 17 (real world) – The Brotherhood Press 2012 – intercepted by the deep space heavy lift cruiser KDD Puteri Gunung Ledang III)

Ralph Emerson – Nature

February 27, 2012

I have always been fascinated by trees. When I was a child, it was not unusual for me to spend the whole day looking at trees. I would often scale them with my eye and trace their lines looking for some hidden symmetry. At times, I told my friends interesting stories that I had gleaned from my daily watching of trees – I told them how each branch, leaf and strata differed from another level by a ratio of 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34. By age 13, I could name any tree by just looking at it’s silhouette. Even won many competitions for being able to name and draw trees. But soon, the world lost interest in trees and one day the world knocked on my door and told me that it was time to give up my childish ways – so I dutifully packed all my notes that I had written through the years about my one and only love, trees and consigned them to never seeing them again. But trees are not ordinary things that a man can just set casually aside. They have a way of calling out to those who look at them in the way I do. And so my lovely trees came to me every night. The dream would always be the same, a man walking with his dog sorrounded by gentle swaying palms – there was no color in this dream – no lines – only the gentle sound of rustling leaves. One day I decided to open this old shoe box again and I realized my love of trees had never really diminished and so I worked hard to be a land owner. All I ever wanted in life is to be close to nature. To be part of it in the way a man immerses himself in water. To transform his being into a vessel where he is sorrounded by a sea of green – to work the land and feel the honesty of his muscles as he churns the good earth, to plant and see my seeds germinate, to reap a good harvest. I thank the my friends, the trees in the moment of my youth for showing me this way – the way of the farmer. Thank you trees for being my friend. 

Darkness 2012

Generally known for his leadership in the movement of Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a gifted lecturer, essayist and poet. He provided inspiration for the transcendentalists of the 1800’s, and even the ones who keep the spirit of transcendentalism alive today. Such followers were Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Nature, one of his more famous works, was based on his beliefs about religion, philosophy, and literature. He believed that if man would become one with nature, he would find true happiness with himself. 

An Excerpt from

NATURE

Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball-I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me-I am part or particle of God.The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances-master or servant, is then a trifle, and a disturbance. I am a lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I have something more connate and dear than in the streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

WATER

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted
It is not broken-hearted
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

 

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Farmer: Where am I? I am afraid.

Trees: Shsss farmer. You are home.

This post does not carry a designated e-prom code – it has been sent from the personal message capsule of Darkness 2012 of the Brotherhood under the codex entitled – The Way of the Farmer.

Are you one of those people who feel guilty about sleeping a full eight hours? Well before I became a farmer that was exactly how I felt – fortunately, it didn’t take me very long to discard many of my toxic urban habits, not that I had anything resembling a choice.

Working daily alongside mother nature I’ve grown accustomed to certain non-negotiable house rules – one of them is I (and probably you and those who claim they can get by with four hours) need eight hours sleep EVERYDAY, if we going to continue to be effective and lead a purpose driven life.

In the past I had it backwards, I used to justify my sleep deprived regimen by arguing that life is short and since I am not getting any younger, I should make each day count by staying awake as long as possible, that simply means sleeping less. But this happy picture of making the best of life misleads. Firstly, since I was always sleep deprived, I found it difficult to will my body, mind and spirit to do the things that I really wanted to do – that sort of deficit is well and fine in an urban setting as I can always crawl underneath my table and catch up on some shut eye – or paint my eyelids white with tippex and put two black dots and snooze during one of those boring meetings.

This was what I tried to do when I first transitioned from a city slicker to a farmer – I tried to negotiate a way to sleep less and yet deliver more everyday and mother nature just chucked it right out of the window with a resolute No! And when I tried harder all I really did was wear myself right down to the bone.

Fact is sleep is rest and rest is your body’s way of regaining strength, replenishing energy and repairing itself.

One should never ever feel guilty about cultivating a habit of sleeping 8 hours or more a day anymore than we should feel guilty about waiting nine months for a new life to come into this world. This is the way of the land. And only a fool fights that which can crush him like an ant – a bloody fool!

Darkness 2012

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Farmer: Why have you stopped fruiting tree?

Tree: I need rest.

Farmer: How long do you need to rest tree?

Tree: As long as it takes.

It is not unusual for an oil palm tree to suddenly stop fruiting during the course of it’s lifespan. This is a phenomenon that many scientist and agronomist have tried to get a handle on as it affects yield. They have tried a variety of methods from tissue culturing to even mimicking mother nature to fool the biological clock of the tree – but despite their best attempts nothing seems to be able to hoodwink mothernature – she is resolute and her resolve is immovable suggesting that when the time comes to sleep, there is nothing a man can do.

When the palm is spent, it will rest and it will have absolutely no guilt in declaring to the whole wide world, “I am going to sleep now! When I have slept enough, I will begin to produce again. Please do not disturb me.”

As humans there is much to be learnt from this Tao of the land. The greatest lesson being, we should never feel abashed or guilty about sleeping eight hours a day. Neither should we be coy or apologetic when it comes to saying to others, “I am going to sleep now!”

When we do this, we are walking in faith with mothernature. We are not fighting her with caffeine or stimulating our minds artificially to remain awake. We are turning our inner eye towards that land of milk and honey that nature has provisioned for us – this gift that goes back further than ANY religion in the world, is there for the taking, it is FREE and anyone can do it, it matters little what your creed, religion or race may even be – all you have to do is surrender ourselves to the healing power of eight hours of sleep.

When we weave this habit into our daily routine, it will not take us very long to realize that many of the things that have gone wrong with our lives will begin to right themselves magically – thoughts will acquire speed, deeds will be measured and controlled and we seem to be able to accomplish more and even feel great without ever feeling stressed, frustrated and sapped – this should not be a surprise, as this is what happens when a man’s daily habits is in perfect harmony with meridians of nature. He is not only a humbled supplicant before the truth – but a child of the earth – a new creation – one where he will always be highly favored and greatly blessed by almighty power of mother earth. And this he can feel in every single cell of his body that shouts out, “I am alive!”

This is what I have learnt from the way of the land. My name is Darkness, a humble apprentice of the land.

This excerpt has been extracted from the Chapter: The Tao of the Farmer – The Brotherhood Press 2012

What would you say, if you only had one sentence before you had to pass on in life? I am sure it wouldn’t be, make sure the gas is turned off! Or, don’t forget to pick up my poh chim (bolster) from the dry cleaners. I mean if we really only had one sentence before we depart this world. It will probably be couched in terms of love for those who we truly cherish. We have a deep desire to comfort them and close the circle the best we can.

Yet what confounds me is – why do most of us have such a big problem with saying, “I love you.” We don’t mind sending a card. A SMS will be better. A twitter betterest perhaps? My point is we will do anything while we are still alive to avoid saying, “I love you,” to our loved ones – some people say its not our fault. They say the main problem lies with the fact that word “love” has been evacuated of all meaning these days. Its a cliche.

If that is why it is so difficult to say, I love you to those who are deserving of our affection and care? Then a cliche would be every reason why we would have absolutely no problems with saying, I love you. It’s after all just a cliche. Or maybe we don’t see it as just a cliche, thats why we seem to find so difficult to commit ourselves to the easy. To the perceptive reader, I hope by now you’re internally persuaded by the paradox; the irony even in the way, we (especially men) do our utmost to find ever more inventive ways to sidetrack away from saying, I love you.

One reason is because we fear commitment. And the highest form of commitment is to love and be loved in return. We fear because commitment means running the risk of getting hurt or disappointed. Or worse failing to meet up with the expectations of our better half. So we settle for “I like you” instead. 

Have you ever asked yourself one simple question: how did we mindfuck ourselves to one painted corner where we (this goes out to the guys) are even prepared to do anything to weasel out from saying, I love you. Might it have something to do with our upbringing. I for example have never ever heard my father say, I love you. Not that he had much reason too. My point is that could be one reason why we have so much difficulty in saying, I love you, as it’s due to the failings of our parents – they didn’t say I love you, so I don’t know how to say it now – well they didn’t teach you, get in bed and take off your panties! But you don’t seem to have any problems stringing out those words did you? If you happen to have kids, the cost of not being able to say, I love you has to be higher, as what you’re doing when you don’t choose to say, I love you is that, you’re inadvertently scripting them to feel just as uncomfortable as you are with saying, I love you.

Is there a conclusion to this piece? No! You see these are just some of the things, I meditate over whenever I work in my plantation. I need to respect you. I think this is one instance where I can only give you the facts, you connect the dots and do the rest – this is a two way thing, you have to do your part. 

Now again please, what would your last words be just before you depart this world?

Darkness 2012

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Tree: Farmer, do you really love me?

Farmer: Yes, I love you very much tree more than I can express with words.

Tree: But how can I be assured of your love wise farmer?

Farmer: You can never be assured tree, that is why, whenever we see each other, I have to always say to you, I love you.

The Way of the Farmer – The Tao of the land – The Brotherhood Press 2012
(Readers please note due to overwhelming demand from the Westphalian chapters for the analects of The Way of the Farmer – The Brotherhood Press will be rolling excerpts at the end of every post – the e-book version will be rolled out on 25/11//12)

My Reading List this week

February 26, 2012

One of the most frequently asked questions that usually finds it’s way into my inbox (and invariably ends up rotting) has to be: what do you usually read? Can you please share with us all your blog surfing history?

So here goes.

1 If you talk regularly to God, that’s called praying. But if God talks to you. You’re most probably a crackpot. And every year there are plenty of cracko’s that make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Click on the link and find out why.

la-ca-william-gibson-20120212,0,7119369.story William Gibson is an academic who I happen to hold in very high regard. Not only has Gibson been relentless in making sure he and his team remain in the leading edge of internet developments – but in the years, many of their predictions about the internet has even developed a cult following amongst Brotherhood Press readers, especially those who belong to the Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Find out more abt his latest book.

poker-lessons-from-richelieu?page=show I found myself re-reading this excellent write up again and again. And everytime I did so. I discovered a new level of nuanced that escaped me in the last reading. This is really one of the most fascinating write up’s about one of the most colorful characters who set the cadence of power & politics in 16th century Europe. Cardinal Richelieu has always been depicted as the manipulative schemer set against the backdrop of the three musketeers – this well research essay puts a new spin to the characterization of Richelieu. Fascinating read and if you read nothing else here. Do try this.

 dickey-text Burka’s and Bikini’s, do they go together? This write up is by Nat Geo. Generally I don’t think much about their editorial range. But in this essay, they seemed to have written it without their signature, “where I am thin, I hope the pics make up for the lack.” This essay explores the social and political complexities of having to integrate new migrants and locals in a small French village – it is very pertinent to what is currently happening in Singapore. And when I read it, I found many of the themes mirrored many of the concerns and anxieties faced by Singaporeans.

12149 Robert Frank is a serious author who writes very serious books that only very serious people would usually buy. That could be one reason why I prefer to read his books for free in netland – now if you really want to know why technocrats and politicians say and do the things they do – this insightful book review really gives away too much and in my view, its just as good as reading the book. I read many book reviews mainly from the New York Book review, but this has to rate as one of the best ever for its precision and candor.

carlos_fraenkel_brazil_teaching_philosophy.php This is an article that everyone from the lowest and highest should read in MOE. When they do so, I suspect that they will probably come away with the lingering feeling that what we usually offer our students in our schools is really something just slightly higher than very little to better prepare the new generation for a brave new world – it’s really a je refuse write up about the value of philosophy and how it can be demystified to allow many who otherwise view the liberal arts as a arty and farty indolent past time – great for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy

Darkness 2012

Through the years, I’ve written a lot of essays and just bunged them out like messages in a bottle into the vast expanse of the digital sea. Most of them just die a natural death after the readers have had their fill (as it should be). Then again there are others (for some inexplicable reason) that just seem to grow from strength to strength; they show no signs of decaying and its not unusual for me to even get at least 6 or 7 comments everyday even years after writing these essays which I have long forgotten – one reason I suspect why readers return time and again to certain essays is because those themes resonate with their worldview – they know something is wrong, but they can’t pin point it. And this naturally leaves them straggling with the incomprehensible. Hence those feelings of estrangement sharpens and even persist. 

If I had to point to one persistent contradiction of our times. It would probably be found in our much vaunted and loathed scholar system – for decades Singapore has attempted to “nurture nature,” through the scholar program, a institutionalized process of winnowing the “losers” from the “winners.” This method of pursuing excellence appears to be make sense in theory. But practice, it seems a different story entirely. 

This I suspect may have something to do the unfolding events of the Singaporean collective consciousness. The recent round of questions: why foreigners are granted scholarships instead of prioritizing Singaporeans is just one of a list of questions that frames poignantly our love and hate relationship with the scholar program. This coupled with the recent revelation how two scholar itchy monkeys were fraternizing with Cecilia the spitting Cobra in exchange for lucrative IT contracts only serve to amplify many of our concerns and suspicions that all may not be well with the state inspired zoo keeping to perpetuate our elusive path to towards the pursuit of excellence. 

I am not for one moment saying Singapore’s scholarship program is busted. But what cannot be denied is, it is certainly not as self confident as it used to be – neither can it lay claim to be the gold standard of the pursuit of excellence any longer as more and more people begin to discover new pathways to defining organizational and personal success beyond the narrow confines of the scholar program. 

Yesterday, I received a note from the Brotherhood press, it simply read, “Your article, why can’t our Singaporean Scholars beat the Jews by winning a Nobel Prize? Scored over 100,000 (I suspect this figure could be much higher as we really post virtually everywhere! And I mean this in the literal sense!) hits in PBK, Ekunaba, SLF 1 & 16. Maybe you should rerun it one more time?”

OK, I’ll go with the flow this time. Enjoy

Darkness 2012

P.S: As many of you may already know – I don’t usually open the comment section for post. But ONLY for the run of this piece, the comment box will be active. So if you have any comments, do feel free to post.

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WHY CAN’T OUR SINGAPOREAN SCHOLARS BEAT THE JEWS BY WINNING A NOBEL PRIZE?
 
I AM sure we have all seen it too often. Usually it happens, when we follow behind as the guy in front walks up to receive the gold medal. Or after reading a seminal thesis that just leaves us all wondering, “why didn’t I think of cutting it that way?”

You know who I am talking about don’t you? Nope, not our elite homegrown Singaporean Scholars – I am referring to another bunch of elites! You know the likes of  Einstein, Marx and Freud. Who are these elites?

The Jews of course! Have you ever wondered why those Jews are so darn smart? They even make our scholars look like a bunch of intellectual paraplegics? What do those Jews really have? What’s behind their mojo, that gives them that advantage that allows them to run circles around our scholars, not every time, but all the time?

Do you really want to know their secret for success?

Before we dive in lets face it, most of us half believe and don’t, that Jews are really smart people, its one of those bag statements like: why did the chicken cross the road? Or how many monkeys can you fit into a mini? Those statements that belongs to the half way house of reality and implausibility – cut to the chase: are Jews really smarter than our scholars? Mmmmh, that’s a tough nut to crack isn’t it? After all don’t we have a scholarship program? Doesn’t our government regularly cull the crème de la crème and put them through the paces to produce “winners?” Don’t we even have a “nurture nature” program where we use the metaphor of “guppies” and “whales” to hopefully produce really smart people?

Pray tell then, why aren’t our scholars smarter than the Jews?

Now you may think this is some flippant weekend muse, but think again. I am asking a perfectly valid question. After all millions are spent every year on sustaining the scholarship program – many of these scholars after finishing their academic tenure are integrated into the various institutions with the hope of ensuring peak individual and organizational performance. So the scholarship program even affects those who aren’t directly scholars. How do these scholars really measure up when compared to the Jews?

Do the Jews have a comparative advantage because they’re simply more of them and less of us? After all, we all know our paltry population is hardly the stuff of critical mass. There’s only 3 point so-so million of us hardly even a drop in the sea of humans so hey what do you expect? It’s a numbers game you don’t really expect us to win. Right? Nope, in fact, I did some research and came up with some startling figures which suggest, the cerebral fitness of Jews has absolutely nothing to do with numerical superiority. Consider this: out of 25.2% of Nobel Prize Winners in the last 25 years have been Jews. Even though they comprise less then a quarter of one percent of the world’s population!

OK maybe they have some sort of natural advantage that our scholars don’t have – maybe a big fat clue lies in the old country where those Jews came from. When God was still prancing around earth turning wine to water, parting oceans, wasting whole communities with lighting rods and mega floods? Maybe the Jews have a “divine advantage.” I mean how the hell, do you expect our scholars to compete against God! (no wonder people keep on saying the brotherhood is unreasonable!) Don’t believe me? Even the Bible affirms this:

“Surely this is a wise an understanding race of people…” (Deu 4.6).

There you go directly from the big man upstairs. So it’s a done deal, let’s all pack our bags and go back home –we just got the shorter end of the stick and you know the rest of the story.

Hold on a second. I hear someone hollering, “The Jews are smarter than our scholars because of their glorious heritage?” Mmmmh sounds credible, especially when you consider in down town Jerusalem, anything less than 2,000 years is still considered modern.

I mean you can’t even sit, stand or lean on anything in the state of Israel without some pesky Rabbi poking you with his walking stick and reminding you, “hey, hey, careful that’s where Jesus sat! Hey, careful there! That’s where John the Baptist lost his head etc.” No doubt about it those Jews definitely have a long and rich heritage that harks back to a glorious past, maybe there’s some truth to it all. There must be something in their heritage that gives them all a competitive advantage. You can hardly blame our scholars. What do we have to compare with the glorious Jewish heritage? OK, we have one confused Merlion who vomits water along with a few trinkets of the past, hardly the stuff that makes the hair at the back of ones head stand up when we summon the word – heritage.

But hold on a second that’s the distant history of the Jews – it doesn’t really count does it? I mean if we really look at the recent history of Jews, weren’t everyone either trying to kill, drown or maim them in the dark ages? Weren’t they like dying off so fast, even Henry IV was forced to pass a charter, circa 1090, which banned Jew bashing: “If anyone shall wound a Jew, he shall pay one pound of gold ….his eyes will be put out and his right hand cut off.” I mean if people are trying to set you on fire or strangle you to death half the time what kind of competitive advantage can it really produce? And in the 20th century, didn’t this chap who threw a party in Munich, circa 1933 called the Nazi Party even pass the Nuremberg Act to discriminate against them? – didn’t he pack 6 million Jews off? So what kind of heritage are we talking here unless you believe regularly breathing in poison gas or surviving on a diet of twigs and insects is some secret diet that produces really smart people!

What’s happening here! Can someone please tell me: why our scholars aren’t as smart as those darn Jews?

Did someone say social conditioning? Oh you mean evolution? That makes sense, for instance, we all know in Singapore. The Hainanese community excels in the culinary field. They make the best chicken rice and kaya spread in the whole island only because most of them came here during the age of empire tagging along as house servants on the tail coats of their colonial masters – besides how can any food cognoscenti not know the Teo Chew’s serve up the best congee only because they originate from a delta where the soil was alluvial, hardly as even ideal rice farming conditions. Hence perfecting congee, the art of “more out of less” along with salting and pickling to tie then through the long winters – makes perfect sense. Right?

Social evolution…there could be something to this….mmmh.

According to M. Arkin’s “Aspects of Jewish Economic History” -one possible reason why the Jews are so smart is because they used to monopolize, the money lending trade which not only required a higher degree of skill once associates with farming or any of the traditional trades. So naturally, as time passed, those Jews started developing and honing their killer instincts, like business acumen, social skills: cultivating connections, winning over trust (or maybe bullying the competition, remember Shylock’s “pound of flesh”). So it’s fair to say, they may even have developed aggression, street wiseness and a competitive spirit that adds up to what we all term – smartness.

Hey but hold on a second, something doesn’t add up here! There’s a big deficit! If those Jews were so smart and developed razor sharp killer instincts how did they fail to see the likes of Adolf Hitler and his storm troopers marching with gongs and drums towards them? How did the Nazi’s manage to kill over 6 million Jews without even so much as a fight? If they’ve really so full of testosterone and street smart to suggest they could sniff out trouble like a blood hound, why did so many Jews step into those gas chambers masquerading as communal showers? Hey I mean, if it was me or you, we would probably ask – where’s the good morning towel? Where’s the mini sized Lux soap? Where’s the 200 thread count Robinson bath robe? Where is my bunny anti slip shower slippers? Nope it just doesn’t add up.

So the social evolution theory goes straight out of the window – what about genetics? Are the Jews genetically superior? Maybe our scholars can’t compete because our genetic pool just isn’t big enough? Do the Jews have a smart helix that allows them to carve a competitive advantage? There’s even a recent controversial paper published by the Journal of Ashkenazi Intelligence stating that genetic selection is the main reason why the Ashkenazi Jews typically produce a disproportionably large number of doctors, lawyers, professors, and Nobel Prize winners. But let’s put a scale on it, Ashkenazi Jews are minorities within minorities even within the broader Jewish population – less than even 2.7%! That’s like saying everyone that lives along a street in Singapore is super smart, hardly a statistical obelisk, that points to anything except a big fat nothing! Nope, again we can safely chuck out that theory. The Jews aren’t any smarter because of their genetic aristocracy anymore than kangaroo’s jump around because have pockets instead of breast.

However I need to be careful here, I don’t doubt for one moment there are plenty of refereed and even academic journals which seem to suggest otherwise, though I hasten to add, none of them goes beyond the polemics of even providing footnotes, let alone anything resembling an axiomatic ‘truth.’ Prove me wrong if you believe otherwise. I darkness challenge you! There’s absolutely no empirical proof suggesting Jews are genetically smarter!

To say that the Jews have a history of emphasizing scholarship is indeed true to even suggest that’s the reason why they are so smart is like saying the Sistine chapel is a Bible comic. I don’t doubt for one moment most children in Jewish households are comparatively more conscious of the importance of education but it still doesn’t go very far to answer why Jews are smarter than our scholars.

One reason according to S. Nuland, author of “How We Die” lies in the values and world view of Jews. For one unlike our scholars Jews don’t even expect to be treated fairly, let alone to be given such a thing as a level playing field to even suggest they have a privilege to state sponsored scholarship programs – it just doesn’t exist, not even in the state of Israel!

This “consciousness of disadvantage”, Nuland suggest promotes the whole idea of ‘portability” that’s why education is seen to be so important in the Jewish community (if you need to hightail what’s really important is in your head!) and probably evolved into the province of what we call today the Jewish academic aristocracy – it stands to reason, unlike our homegrown scholars who are often sold the idea of “stability and permanence.” The Jewish worldview is nothing short of a reversal of the whole notion of ‘permanence’ and instead reinforces how ‘instability’ and ‘chaos’ will always feature as an indelible feature of work, life and play – so according to anthropologist. Jews develop nomadic survival traits – they stay in ghettos in the same way dessert folk walk in single file to hide their numbers – they travel light, make do with the barest of necessities and develop skills like how to shift their weight and walk slightly off centre when carrying heavy loads, that way, they can walk longer without suffering any kinetic loss. Even more efficient that modern military backpacks! You learn these things when people regularly hunt you down for no other reason because you are a Jew! People get smart when you marginalize them – they get real smart when you start to erase their history – they put it all in their heads! So they develop photographic memories – unlike our scholars who expect to return to a cushy job along with all the predictability associated with promotion. Jews are often schooled in the “impermanence” of life. In the most authoritative book of Jewish law, the Shulchan Arukh, Jewish children are told the only thing that remains true is the covenant between them and God, the rest is pretty much the stuff of shifting sands and roller coasters. As a reminding that life offers nothing except the guarantee of impermanence during the first meal of the Sabbath, bread is dipped in salt, the Jewish symbol of the great preserver – Jews know they can be expelled at the slightest provocation, hence they develop techniques, skills and tricks which our scholars never ever need to develop, because they are feted and chaperone around the system like crippled mandarins – stuff like how to cut 400 crystal designs which they keep in their head, never ever once having to write them down even today! Stuff like how to table a diamond with the cool headedness that comes from putting the cutting tool it and with a pray hit it with one stroke to either increase its value a thousand fold or reduce to nothingness – they learn to take risk, manage it even to even feel perfectly comfortable in an environment of constant change and uncertainty, unlike our scholars, who plan as if the world revolves only around them! Owing them all a living – is it such a wonder, there is not fight!

Perhaps the single most important reason why I believe (personally) Jews are smarter than our local scholars is – they’re no such thing as elitism in their culture. The word, ‘elite’ doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, and in the Talmud, Jewish children are always reminded of the need to remain humble and to remember they are a community of one and everyone in the community is important.

I think its time for our scholars to stop wasting our time and money and really learn a thing or two from the Jews – after all we all know they are smartest people on this planet! And that incidentally is a fact!

(This has been brought to you by Aurora your friendly brotherhood controller – By Darkness, Cerebus, Scholarboy: Can someone tell me why our scholars aren’t as smart as Jews/ Socio –Political  – 2007 / Extended Piece (EP 400394B – The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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“I know what I am abt to say sounds contrite. But I really don’t know how to put it across except perhaps to say, when I write something or anything. I never really bother with how many hits I gets. When I first started blogging, I have to admit, the number of hits and visitors was really something that I got very excited over – but I think in the long journey of life, Agnes. We all eventually learn to discard what is meaningless and only hold on to those things that we believe to be enduring. The thing that really endures in the act of writing is to be true to yourself – most people will say that counts for zero when you may just have your sis and gold fish login in – but I don’t see it that way. I’ve done many things in my life with specifically that same spirit, even sailing around the world solo in a little plastic boat. No garlands, no ticker parade, but at least the effort you put into it endures, that is the only things that really matters – to be true to oneself –  and I believe this state of mind requires the writer to be in a perpetual state of self exile. The writer is always the man who is peering into darkened interiors, but this he does, as an exile or emigre of sorts – that is to say, he is always looking in from the outside, very much like a man looking through a pane of glass. He is there yet somewhere else, part and yet very much apart. There is always a separation. And I realized very early on cultivating this state of estrangement or diaspora was a very essential part of disciplining the mind to write- so from there, I gradually came to the realization it pays absolutely naught to regard your stat counter like some deity or God that deserves to be worshipped every day. If I did that then what would probably happen is before I even write anything – I would probably have to ask myself – will this or that appeal to my readership? For some that is well and fine. But for me, I don’t think those are the terms on which I want to write anything, unless I am paid big money to write. But who is dumb enough to pay a hack like me to write Agnes? (laughter) This Agnes, I understand comes across as a bit Zen and may even be hard for a Westerner or even a modern Asian who has marinated himself in Western culture to understand – but to me as a farmer, a student of the wisdom of the land, this is the only way I want to write. I think in life, we have to be selfish sometimes and when it comes to writing, I am perhaps the most selfish of them all, as I write for myself and no one else.”

(A recent interview conducted between Darkness 2012 and Agnes Piorer scheduled for release in the Confederation of Gamers Meet to be held in Buenos Aries – The Brotherhood Press 2012)

 

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a technophobe. In fact, I happen to love technology and even believe we are perhaps the only generation in humankind who have benefitted the most from the digital revolution.

I do however believe, many of us may not realize yet, the wisdom of delineating our relationship with technology – this could be one reason why I am always two minded about the benefits of technology – it’s hard not to pessimitic about the advent of the digital age, when all the digital revolution seems to deliver (to me at least) is mass hearing impairment whenever I see droves of people hermetically cocooned in their world of ipod’s and ipad’s? You be the judge yourself.

Neither can I take comfort from the idea, quality time these days has been so evacuated of it’s intrinsic worth and meaning whenever I see people twittering or sending a few SMS’s whenever they are with their loved one’s. To paraphrase, they are together, yet apart, there and yet somewhere else.

Einstein once rued, the sum of his fears was when technology preceeds humanity – have we reached that end point in human history. You be the judge.

Whatever your conclusions, this should at least prompt all of us to ask. What then is the solution to our frittering brains? If I had to point to one antidote for the ills of our age – it is probably to return back to the age of the book. I am not referring to Kindle or ipad. I mean real books that we need to chop down trees and kill Orang Utans to produce– the paper book that doesn’t beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos till your brain is like Bugis terminal.

One reason why I am a big fan of real books and the lost art of reading is – it is the ONLY way I really know to create an opportunity for deep spirited concentration and sharpening the mind. I would have you all know reading these days isn’t just reading – that may well be true in the age of candles and beeswax, but in the digital age, reading is nothing short an act of resistance in a landscape of ceaseless distraction…. It requires us to do many things that we are not accustomed to doing and may probably never be able to do (if we continue to shackle ourselves to technology without ever once audit the cost), as so many of us have already been appropriated by the technological revolution without even realizing how corrosive this transaction really is – for starters when you begin to read a book. You’re acutely aware you need to fight the urge to look up or succumb to some excuse that would allow you to do something else beside reading – to put it another way, when we return to real books, we return to a time of reckoning where we are compelled to get to know ourselves all over again. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each sentence in its moment, to bear the beauty of the prose and to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.

That’s why we need book. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep spirited engagements. Most humans don’t want to settle for nanobites; they want whole meals to nourish the intellect and set their mind free.

Pick up a book today and start reclaiming back what the digital age has stolen from you – trust me when you sit down and finish the first chapter without ever getting up to go to the fridge or to respond to that SMS, you will know exact why I used the word “reclaim.”

Darkness 2012

“I like bookshops. I like them so much that sometimes I can spend the whole day in a bookshop or library. In the old days when there used to be second hand book shops, I used to enjoy the whole experience of hunting for books, it was just a delightful mix of serendipity and epiphany, like being able to discover a first edition leather bound Dorian Grey and turning to a page that says, “To my one and only love, James.” And realizing that bastard flogged it off it to second hand book shop. It is those sort of little things that really draw me to real books. But the biggest thing that continues to attract me about books is, I cannot think of a better way for a man to learn how to be all alone with a book. In this age, when everyone has an attention span of a housefly and all they seem to do is shift their interest perpetually from this or that without every settling down – it is very seductive to see a woman in a public place just stilling her mind as she journeys through the power of the written word. There she is magnificent, calm and still, a lotus on a calm lake sorrounded by a lingering mist. And all around her there is chaos and turmoil – this is control, this is power, this is the individual radiating out and touching me.”

(Extracted from a thread recently in Ekunaba – this post has been proudly brought to you by the Brotherhood Press and has been transmitted by the newly commissioned Dimitri Class space station KDD Yah Ah Loy and the hospital deep space vessel KDD Bunga Raya.)

 

We teach our children to try and try and never, ever give up. We teach them to be courteous, to be full of wonder, to expect hard work to pay off, and to search for literal and figurative greatness in everything they choose to do.

But some day, when our kids grow up, we might also consider doing them an invaluable favor by teaching them how to manage their bosses. Why? After working with the most inventive people in the world for what I can only describe as too long, I discovered the value of managing bosses is probably one of the most important life skills to cultivate.

Most of us have a natural aversion to managing our bosses – we don’t mind managing ourselves, others and even teams. But when it comes to managing our bosses, most people consider it beneath them and for some reason synonomous with apple polishing or simply playing the role of the ‘yes’ man to get ahead. I don’t deny those skills may be part of the genre of managing your bosses. But I am referring to a very specific skill where you manage your bosses to make sure you are always one step ahead.

Why is there a need to stay one step ahead? Simple, all bosses are users. If they don’t know how to use and manipulate people, then they are probably not very successful bosses. Don’t believe me? Show of hands time: How many of you out there have been on the receiving end of “what took you so long?” – “I need this by tomorrow!” I can go on and on, but if you really take the trouble to think about it, there could really be far more serious issues.

For example. I used to know a friend who worked everyday till nine. And sometimes on weekends, he even had the bad habit of taking his work back home. One day I asked this man why did he subject himself to this sort of grief? Was it worth it? He replied, it will just be for a short while. Well as it turned out, he has been working till nine every work day for the last ten years! Another friend seems to perpetually shuttling from one place to another. He is never in Singapore. And even when he is with his family, he never ever seems to be get off the work train. Again I asked, “why do you seem to be travelling so much?” Again the familiar reply, “it will just be for a short while.” Well, the last time I checked, he was either catching some shut eye on a plane or hacking away on his computer in some terminal somewhere in the anywhereland.

This is where we should press the “pause” button and ask ourselves, how did it go so wrong for these people? The short answer is they never saw the wisdom of managing their bosses.

Managing your bosses can mean many things to many people. Some like to come up with ten bullet points. My method is far more simpler – what I do is work very hard to make sure my bosses weaknesses are my strenghts. If for example, he or she doesn’t have an eye for detail – then I will read the reports and red flag those areas that I know he or she hasn’t really picked up on – if he or she is weak in number, then I will probably spend a lot of time going through the excel spreadsheet with a fine toothcomb. The goal is NEVER to replicate the strenghts of your bosses and ONLY work to shore up his or her weak points – if you become a facsimile of your boss, then it’s only a matter of time before you will find a pink slip in your inbox. By positioning yourself strategically where you are able to add value to your bosses by augmenting his or her weaknesses – it’s really only a matter of time before your position will shift gradually from co- worker to counsellari (valued advisor and unofficial mentor).

One word of warning, don’t make it too obvious, let him or her do all the work – make it hard for him or her to even get close and personal with you – but once you find yourself in the inner circle quickly create a daily habit of spending at least half an hour everyday going through the main to do list with your bosses – as time passes your bossea will find you indispensable and that is really the moment when you can ask for anything and it will never be refused. Never.

Need I say…just make sure your bosses NEVER read the Brotherhood Press! You’re good to go!

Darkness 2012

“Let me be crystal clear. In two years time, I want to leave this place. But before I do so, I think it you should be the new VP and not fuck face. So my mission for this two years is to make you look good and make him look bad. Now in exchange for this. All I want to do is go back after putting in 8 hours of work. I don’t want to spend one extra minute here. You see I have a lot of studying to do as I want to be a businessman one day.”

“That’s new, what are you planning to do?”

“First, I want to make my money by buying firms that go bust and then break them up and sell them for a profit. That should get me the dosh. Then I want to buy land and be a farmer.”

“What if I say you can’t go back after five?”

“Then what I will have to do is take over your job.”

“Tell me you’re kidding me?”

“Of course, I am.”

(8 years ago in a factory somewhere in Boon Lay – The Brotherhood Press 2012)

visions-germania

In 1937 Hitler’s architect Albert Speer was given the task of transforming Berlin from the sprawling metropolis that it was into Germania, the gleaming new capital of a Greater German ‘World Empire’, the centrepiece of the civilised world.

It was a humongous undertaking that’s hard, if not impossible to wrap one’s head around even today. But what’s interesting about this mother of all building projects is it allows us a rare peek into the mind of Adolf Hitler – many people like to refer to Hitler as a aberration of history; they conveniently label him a “mad genius.” As if by doing so, they are able to explain many of his manias along the evil things he and his merry men once committed in the name of the thousand year Reich. I don’t buy that simplistic explanation for one moment. As I have done alot of research on Hitler and one thing that I can assure you all, he was certainly not “mad” or “crazy” in the clinical sense. Neither was he a fluke of history as many have suggested – Hitler was anything but diffused and blur; he was perhaps one of the most focussed politicians of the 20th century.

One clue that may hold an account of Hitler’s worldview may be found in his deep seated inferiority complex that was brought about during the moment of his youth when he was denied access to the prestigious Vienna Academy of Arts.

I have always wondered what would have happened, if Hitler was allowed to paint one church spire after another as a student painter – would he still have committed all those atrocities that we associate with Nazism today. A very difficult question to answer; one that even suggest the complexity of man’s root of consciousness is perhaps one of the hardest things to understand, let alone try to account for.

In this respect, Germania gives us all a rare peek into the mind of a very destructive genius.

Darkness 2012

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“Life is short. Besides, it is very expensive to learn from the school of hard knocks – if you go out into the world and make mistake after mistake with the goal of accumulating pearls of wisdom. You will probably end up in a wheelchair or the morgue! A better way to learn is to look carefully at the mistakes made by others and to even study WHY along with HOW, very much in the way aircrash investigator sieves through charred remains of twisted metal and burnt co-axial wires to understand the anatomy of disaster – when you do this; you will find that many of the mistakes these losers made, we can all also make – granted the scale is different, but they are nonetheless cut from the same cloth. I have for instance learnt alot from the Shah of Iran, Idi Amin and even Slobodan Milošević – I do not consider these people mad. Not at all. And I understand why whenever their names are mentioned people so often feel the need to distance themselves from these characters. But for me when you call a person mad, that’s really just code for, “I don’t understand him. And I don’t even want to expand energy to seek to understand.” So if you take that attitude, then in the long run what is likely to happen is you will end up making the same mistakes those crazies made. So from the Shah of Iran, I have learnt the value of leading a simple life, instead of Bruno Magli, I am very happy to go around in my military boots. I am also happy to live a very Spartan life as I dont want to provoke jealousy around those who I work with, so I am mindful about keeping an ultra low profile. Many things can be learnt from great losers. So many things. From Adolf Hitler, I’ve learnt that I may have wasted my life going to university – if I were to start life again – I will probably be a pastor of a mega church, as I really cannot visualize a better way to finance my dream to be Bob the Builder – really, it is such a waste that I’ve gone into plantations. When all I could do is work one day out of seven and still manage to come out smelling like roses after ripping off so many people – it is really a pity, a travesty even.”

(Extracted recently from a thread in Phi Beta Kappa – The Brotherhood Press 2012)

I always knew politicians and big corporations were doing stuff to our heads – but I didn’t really have anything tangible, it was just a fleeting thought in the way the breeze blows ever so gently. It was just a suspicion lurking in one corner of my mind. At times, I would hear and see something and automatically a train of thoughts would emerge provoking either happiness or sadness, ease or disgust etc. In the very beginning, I questioned the origins of these thoughts, then I peered deeper into it’s darkened interiors to see the manner in which, these thoughts influenced my responses, behavior and emotion. Eventually I followed these thoughts very much like one of those cloak and dagger secret agents, always mindful that they could either be friend or foe, careful never to attach myself to them or to confuse the many images they produced, as the part of the real “i” – I became a witness of myself – I became the very raw material of experiment. In the course of my long journey to self consciousness and spiritual and mental freedom, this documentary was perhaps one of the most important touchstones that allowed me to use it as a reference point to build further on the whole idea of personhood.

I hope this excellent documentary gives you the key to open the many closed doors in your life.  I hope you will be patient and allow it bring transformation change to your life. It’s a 20 parter, so it’s long, very long. But worth every minute of it.

I am Darkness, the humble servant of the truth.

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“Most people want to change this or that, replace that with this, put that there instead of what we have now. All I want to do is understand myself better. If I can just do that and I understand really simple things like why I get irritated, angry or just feel depressed for no apparent reason – then I believe it is possible to change the world. Because if you are really so cluttered and messed up from the itself, then how is the good, better and best part of you supposed to work itself out from you into your family, friends and the broader world. I think, if we are really serious about this whole idea of feeding the world. We need to first work on many of our assumptions. We may even need to continue to interogate them to see whether they are consistent with what we want to do. But remember the first step to this journey is to know yourself.”

(Thread in Ekunaba)

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world-europe-17108367

This is what I call top drawer investigative journalism, instead of what we usually get from our beloved daily rag (that is only good for wrapping fish with). Those fucks in ST should really get over the YSL saga and stop stalking him and his poor family day and night. As for Sumiko Tan, I hope JAWS gets her when she next dips her boney arse into the sea. Trust me Aunty Sumiko, you are so pangang toasted!

Besides we all know YSL is probably somewhere in North Korea undergoing xtreme make over along with plastic surgery and will be reincarnated as Chen Show Mao. Pleeeeeeeeeeease lah! Do not ask me to comment on rumors, you know I never do that. But if you want to buy an Ouji board or consult a reincarnation of Nostradamus that can be easilky arranged. But I digress.

Coming back to Greece. As some of you know, I recommended a strong buy on National Bank of Greece at USD$3.50 about a year and a bit ago – now if you people averaged all the way on the downside (as I strongly recommended), you would probably be looking at a return of investment of 88%!

The $64 million question (sounds like petrol money these days) is do you ride NBG? Or sell? That’s really your choice. As for me, I am holding on for the long term – I mean 10 to 15 years, unless of course Mount Olympus explodes or a meteorite is headed for down town Athens. I happen to believe, NBG is so totalled that it really cannot be any worse than what it has already gone through. My policy is simple, buy when everyone sells and sell when everyone buys! I

However for those serious investors (I know many of you read my blog just to see how low, I’ve gone in life hahahahaha to you all! You people even stopped sending me whisky! Where was my quart of double malt last year! Where is it!) who are interested to hold for the long term do check out the link as I am sure you will all find it very interesting along with lending plenty of credence to why I keep saying, NEVER trust anyone these days, trust only the FACTS.

Darkness 2012

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“Look there is no strategy to investing in equities. Anyone who tells you they have a golden equation is either a con man or someone who has lost so much money in the stock market, they need to hold public seminars to recoup their losses. The only reliable way I know how to make money out of the casino of the world which I call the stock market is to buy when everyone is selling their dog, mother-in-laws dentures along with everything they own. If you see alot of people sleeping in their cars and cooking in parks, that just means – buy!buy! and buy till it hurts! And when they get back into the market and the press and politicians tell you the happy days are back and it’s safe to get into equities along with the claptrap: we living in a golden age, then you know it is the beginning of some new age of urination technique and that’s really your cue to sell! Sell! and Sell! Life is very simple. I keep telling people this, but you know what, no one seems to believe me except you guys.”

Excerpt of a thread in Phi Beta Kappa

Listening is seldom considered a vital life skill unlike speaking well, memorizing or even the ability to do mental arithmetic. This could be one reason why for most of us (including moir), it remains such an underappreciated skill set – that probably means, if we audit our skill sets, listening is probably one of our most undeveloped aspects of our character.

Is it a wonder then, most of us don’t even listen very well when we listen to others – if we take the trouble to step out from our own skin and watch the way we listen to others – what you might find is we seldom listen to understand. Rather when we listen, it is merely a process to reaffirm what is already there in our heads. In other words, we practice selective deafness and frequently cherry picked facts based on our previous experience, beliefs and biases.  

When I first started the journey to be a farmer – I realized many of the problems I encountered was due to my inability to listen deeply – that’s code for failing to understand the importance of listening deeply as a critical step in making an emotional connection with the thing that you desire to understand – it could be your better half, your boss or subordinate or even just a troubled teen who seems to be a free spirit. 

My point is whenever we fail to practice deep listening in our day to day conversations – what invariably happens is we fail to make vital connections that would have otherwise allowed us to understand people and events better. For me whenever I try to listen deeply, I am constantly aware of the need to prepare myself mentally first – I tell myself that I should first discard all preconceived ideas that I’ve either heard or read about that person. The second thing that I do to help me get into right attitude for listening is to switch off my phone and this I do very visibly to send out a very clear message to the person seated before me that he or she has my total and complete attention.

The goal is to develop one’s ability to focus fully on the moment and not be distracted by anything else.  It is a discipline in being present, and allows one not only to listen to what is being said, but more importantly, what is being communicated.

Try it out and I guarantee you results almost on the word go! If you are not happy, I can even come back and complain to me. I will listen. I will listen deeply.

Darkness 2012

Villager (crowd in tow): As you can see Devil, we have tried everything and yet our trees don’t seem to be fruiting. Has a cursed being put on our lands?

Darkness: Why do you all not listen to your trees?

Villager 2: What hocus pocus is this Devil?

Darkness: Your trees have been telling you for a whole season what they need – yet all of you choose to remain deaf. The leaves are yellowing at the tips, this speaks of a lack of magnesium – the fronts are crinkled at the top, she is telling you that boron is needed. As for the good earth, she too is screaming out at the top of her lungs, can you all not hear her, there are no earthworms. You have all been using too much herbicide. As for the fruits, they too are screaming so loud that I am going deaf, they are all pear shaped and this can only mean you have all been using the wrong manure. This tree is screaming for potash, yet what I see here is chicken dung and yet you all say, you have all been listening to your trees. Headman step forward! Am I right?

Headman: The Devil is right. He communicates with that other world. He is not of this world. The Devil is right. Please Devil forgive those idiots. We do not mean any disrespect. Be kind intercessor. Another thing before we take our leave, can you tell us all when the sun will scorch the earth?

Darkness: Headman teach your villagers how listen to the good earth. Now I do not mind that all of you call me the Devil. I am sure you all have good reasons to do so. But I think next time when you all come to my land to seek advice, you should at least bring better gifts for me. I am after all the Devil. Surely he deserves as much as that fellow up there who doesnt seem to be listening to all of you? So where is my seven bags of dog food? Do you realize my dogs have been speaking to me!

Villagers chorus: He speaks to his dogs! Oh my God!

Darkness: When will the men from the village work on the storm drains so that we may all have water? Are you all listening to me? 

(Excerpt of a conversation extracted from the Chapter of the Suriman Tales very recently – The Brotherhood Press 2012)

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As you progress on the long road known as the journey of life – you will all eventually reach the realization, succeeding in life is not so much about uploading the seven habits of highly effective people as it remains the unpleasant business of dealing successfully with the seven habits of highly INEFFECTIVE people.

There is no point in being highly effective, if you are constrained by the reality of the conditions that surround you – to put it another way, what is the use of a thorough bred Italian sports car, if all you really have is a country dirt track? It is not good. You may even have the fastest car in the world and arguably the best driver, but without a stretch of decent race track, it’s no good.

The way of the farmer has led me to this unpleasant realization. I call it unpleasant because that is precisely what it is – it is an unpleasant business to correct people and this is why many leaders themselves don’t want to get involved in the dirty business. Hence, they prefer to outsource it to either human resources (aka human remains) or to lawyers. But correcting people is something that is unavoidable if one is serious about the business of consistently getting high performance from those who you work with. And it is sad that so little has been written about this to guide business men or leaders who may have to from time to time enforce discipline and make sure good practices part of their business process. Even a kid who is studying in middle school may have to learn the art of correction to deal with a school bully or someone who regularly borrows his notes without bothering the reciprocate the favor – so this is really a life skill that applies to all – yet so little has been written about this.

The way of the farmer is never to be rude to the person who you are correcting. Before setting to correct a person – it is necessary to ask: do you have a rapport with that person that allows you to internally persuade him? Does he respect you? If you don’t, then find someone who he respects and go and see him and let that person do all the talking.

Recently while entertaining a business delegation from Burma. I took them to a Chinese restaurant – the chili fried rice was supposed to be the signature dish of this establishment. Unfortunately, what came out from the kitchen was subpar. This is a problem. A very big problem, as we were expecting another 9 dishes and if this simple one couldn’t even be whipped up to the standard, then you can more or less forget the rest. So what I did was walk into the kitchen and showed them all how to cook fried rice. It was a simple gesture. One that was performed without too much fuss and it seemed to any observer all this man was probably doing was trying to show off to his guest and the kitchen staff: what a great cook he was. But beneath the surface of what appeared to be Chinese opera, there is a far more serious message, one which I am sure will be picked up by the perceptive reader.

To correct a man, one should ALWAYS do it first as a friend and then proceed as a brother and finish it off as a father. This way the man who is corrected will feel as if you care for him so much that he can do nothing except respond kindly to you.  

Darkness 2012

In studying Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” I found one piece of advice to be particularly valuable when it comes to dealing with the seven habits of highly ineffective people:

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

This principle has borne fruit throughout history. Those leaders in war who were regarded as sharing the dangers and sacrifices of the troops were particularly loved and respected by their troops. Some took this behavior to extremes; others simply made a point of showing solidarity with the rank and file.

Before getting carried away with this notion, let us read the next passage and understand both in proper context:

“If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.”

Any bloody fool can read something and even laminate it – but to execute this is not so easy. The Tao of the Land has taught me how to do this: one must never force his will ontu others – remember a child, a wife or even a subordinate is not a cow or goat. So never correct a person when you have not bothered to correct yourself first – you must first be free from anger. The worst thing you can do is a correct another man when you, yourself are angry! It is like a farmer jumping up and down when he sees all his fruits refuse to ripen – he is wasting his time, as there is no such thing as fast ripening fruit. If this man continues to force his way either he or the tree will have to go. It is a silly enterprise.

The way of the land is to first seek to understand. To spend time observing the shape of the clouds, watching the flight of birds and a hundred other things and when the time is right, proceed with the correction. But even when you do this be so gentle that the correction is not even perceived as a correction by others. Above all do it with true brotherly love and this way there will never be any bitterness only the brotherhood of man.

Research and study this well.

Extracted from the daily log of Darkness – entry 204 – The Suriman Tales 2012

 

 

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results.

And this should prompt us all to ask – what is the one thing that we normally do over and over again? If I had to look deep into my inner being, that “thing” would be worrying – we all worry. And if we didn’t than we wouldn’t be humans. But what’s so unsettling about worrying is, it grows to become part of our character. To paraphrase, the more we worry. The more we are reinforcing the habit of worrying.

So we worry about 101 things that may or may not happen – we worry about our well being as we age. We worry about whether our kids will be able to lead better life’s than us. We worry about our jobs and worry even more about whether we can even sustain our monthly payments to the bank.

But what does this cycle of worrying all add up too? Usually, it ends up as a big fat nothing!

Don’t believe me – then reflect back on your own past experience. In fact studies conducted by MIT recently suggest, we (modern man) on average worry about stuff that usually only have a 20% chance of happening – in other words, out of the 10 things we usually use brain juice to worry about only 2 usually pan out – and even then, its usually not as bad as what we have imagined.

And this should lead us all to ask further: where did we actually learn to worry? To understand this, we must first be able to step out from our own skin and look at ourselves – when we do this, what we will see is, our tendency to worry stems mostly from our habitual mindset. Many of us have been programmed to think in a specific way or respond to stimuli -my point is the habit of worrying is an acquired taste, it doesn’t or shouldn’t come naturally to us – and many things that we consider benign, normal and even ordinary can have the effect of programming us all to think in a particular way – a kid who has been streamed to be technician may feel that he’s not good for anything beyond being a grease monkey etc. That is the type of shitty programming, I am referring too. The variety that disables, instead of empowering – and all this is drummed into us from a very young age. We may not be aware of it even when we all read this essay. But if we still our minds and replay back many of the images that make up our childhood and awakening as an adult, what we will discover is many of our FEARS encountered in the PAST have been responsible for shaping our responses to situations.

A girl for example who has failed in love in her PAST, may feel when everything is going well in a wholesome relationship that “this is not meant to last, something is going to come along and fuck it all up. I just know, that’s going to happen. The rookie who failed in a paper in university and had to re-sit it again may feel even years after as a salaried man insecured about his prospects of succeeding in the corporate world.

I remember one incident, where I interviewed a 47 year old engineer who kept apologizing for failing thermodynamics 23 years ago! His “lack” even showed in the way this man carried himself throughout the entire interview. Everyone was conscious of this and probably asking themselves, “why is this man so hung up over his college grades!” Everyone was conscious that he was conscious – everyone, except this poor man – it was interesting for me to watch how this one solitary failure in his life had been magnified till it was the only picture in his life, squeezing out all else along with narrowing the field of possibilities, it had disable every aspect of this man’s character, till it was impossible for him to project himself confidently. No guesses what happened to him – he didn’t get the job. The real tragedy was no one really cared about that one failure and if he could just put it behind him and not WORRY that someone would have picked on it and made it a big deal, he would have landed the job.

This just goes to show you, how destructive FEAR can be and how it can even be habitualized into the daily practise of WORRYING about things that will never ever happen – to deal with this problem, we need to be FIRST mindful of our habitual modes of thinking. KNOWING is 50% of the problem solved –the rest is reclaiming the rest of youself and that is something that only you can answer.

Darkness 2012

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“Gentlemen, we are at 15,000 ft above sea level. Outside this tent is death. Yes, he is there waiting for everyone of us! Inside here, we have a man with a broken leg and three men who are just using up all their energy trying to find out who did that and why etc. Now ordinarily this is not an issue. But at 16,000 feet, this is another cup of tea. Now I do not want to hear how this man broke his leg or even who is to be blamed or should be put against a wall and shot. When we get back to base camp, there will be plenty of time for a post mortem. Neither do I want to spent the rest of this evening trying to crack my head, how we are going to rappel Scholarboy down with only 50 meters of rope, when we actually need 200 meters to get that job done. Those things Gentlemen are in the distant PAST and the FUTURE. Those considerations Gentlemen might as well be a million miles away on the surface of the moon. We need to think about NOW now, the PRESENT, not what JDAM’s mom and pop had for dinner when they made love and conceived him or whether that may have anything to do with the size of his guli’s. Now we need to sleep Gentlemen. And sleeping is something that doesn’t come naturally at 16,000 ft. So Gentlemen, if you all don’t mind, can you all please shaddup and strip down as we do not have anymore propane and we all need to build a human pyramid and somehow find a way to sleep. Tomorrow will come and whatever it decides to throws at us I am certain we will be able to cross that bridge when we come to it. But for now, we must sleep.”

Pumori Expedition 2005 – The Brotherhood Press 2012.

Tree: I love you farmer.

Darkness: I love you too tree.

Tree: Tell us wise farmer, are you the Devil as the villagers say?

Darkness: No.

Tree: Might you then be a God?

Darkness: No.

Tree: What about an angel?

Darkness: No.

Tree: What are you then?

Darkness: I am the awaken.

The Suriman Tales – The Brotherhood Press 2012

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Dobermann to master: “Hey farmer! Hey loser, I am talking to you don’t walk away from me! I guard your sorry arse 24/7 and I want some respect! You know canine rights like human rights! It’s Sunday boss. And Sunday is the day we usually go for a trek and a spot of fishing. Besides, I need sex farmer. I need to perpetuate my species lineage, so where’s the girlfriend you promised me? And another thing, don’t go mix my food with goat feed, don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing here farmer – feeding me shit, that’s what you’re doing farmer, trying to ekk out the most from a little cheap skate. Just you remember, I am watching you! Do you hear me farmer?”

For the past 20 years Singapore policymakers have relentlessly embraced globalization as the ONE and ONLY organizational principle to deliver the good life for most Singaporeans and residents. The cult of globalization has become so powerful that it has even permeated the ground water of how we usually define personal and organizational success – it has even colored the parlance of officialdom, catch phrases such as “faster, fasterer and fasterest,” along with the regarding the pursuit of GDP as the gold standard to measure the well being of a nation has become so pervasive. This logic has even been used to render sensible everything from unmitigated immigration, paying out sky high ministerial salaries – to even forcing many of us to reconcile ourselves with the idea income inequality along with leaving everything from housing to employment opportunities to the vagaries of the free market is a necessary cost, that has to be paid –  if we are to enjoy the fruits of utopia brought for by globalization.

But this happy picture misleads. As while palpably true, globalization has been responsible for promoting economic development – it has also been responsible for the rich getting richer, while the poor continue to get poorer. To understand why globalization has been responsible for income inequality along with widening the GINI coefficient – along with sharpening the divide between the have’s and the have not’s, requires one to renounce the idea the poor are exploited by the forces of globalization. In truth, there is no evil man like one of those James Bond movies where the baddie is stroking a cat while he plots to enslave the poor – the poor are not so much exploited as neglected and forgotten as they command no intrinsic value in a globalized world. Neither is the lamentable state of Income inequality the result of policymakers pursuing macro economic apartheid as it remains the sad case: the poor stay poor as they have very little to offer that the rich are willing pay, want or need. As a result, income, job opportunities and career advancement for the poor can only diminish inversely to the bludgeoning wealth of the rich, who are best positioned to reap the benefits of globalization as traditional national borders continue to melt away – hence highly skilled people whether they are in Mumbai, Shanghai or New York race ahead while the poor stay poor as they watch helplessly.

Hence for most people, especially the poor, the “benefits” of globalization is not a reality, but a mirage. The belief that globalization is promoting mass emancipation for the poor is also delusive. The set pieces that makes possible the engine of globalization have few incentives to equip the poor as stakeholders to reap the rewards of global interconnectivity and market convergence. Neither do I buy into the simplistic pipe dream that when the rich get richer then what will eventually happen is the surpluses will percolate downwards and magically find their way into the pockets of the poor – this is bullshit, as if you’re mobile, high educated and savvy in the ways of the world, why the hell would you even put your money in one time zone  – rich people never do that, wonder no more why tax havens such as off shore accounts exist. Neither can enrichment courses or upgrading of skills directed specifically at the poor be able to augment the deficits to redress the widening income gap. If you happen to be bus driver, janitor or someone who just clears up plates, then in what way does retraining put you in a better position to reap the rewards offered by a globalized community. You cannot. As for automation, that’s another dead end as I can argue while it makes perfect sense to robotize a chocolate plant in Munich, but pursuing the same strategy for lets say a small mom & pop biscuit factory in Boon Lay will just ramp up the production cost in the long term due to the heavy initial capital investment. Fact is technology is very unevenly diffused even in globalized economy – hence the poor will get poorer as time goes by.

To exacerbate the already acute income divide between the rich and the poor – globalization is also responsible for what I can only term as heightening and sharpening the clash of cultures between the have’s and the have not’s – as while the aperture of opportunities for self emancipation for the poor remains constricted; the same cannot be said about the free and uninterrupted flow of information in a globalized world as the global media and entertainment industry continues to drench the poor with images of mass consumerism and how glorious it is to be rich without providing the means to satisfy what the poor yearn for, a better tomorrow.

And in this simple recount unbeknown to many of us, we have the gunpowder, ball and the flint await the terrible explosion called the clash of the cultures.

Darkness 2012 (this essay has been written with inputs from the ASDF, the think tank of the Brotherhood)

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“In the age of reason. A sad chapter transpired in our history. Brother turned against Brother. At one end, you had the Brahmins of the Brotherhood, they had everything; power, wealth and influence. On the other side, we had the peasants, many who had fought the Ascension Wars, only to return home to Primus and to find themselves, powerless, displaced and marginalized. I remembered watching this terrible event unfold even before it transpired in the game – there I was in a cafe, simulating the terrible events that would descend upon us. I wanted to prevent it. But no matter how many times I tried to resolve the equation, the outcome would always be the same – brother would turn against brother. Eventually brother did turn against brother. I was powerless. I was sad. I felt very much like a father watching his son die of a slow and debilitating disease, while I worked frantically to find a cure. I must have gone through 90 or perhaps more pages of equations. But time and again. I failed. Today, I see the same thing happening in Singapore. If the truth be known, what we are witnessing is not, the internet versus PAP, it’s a culture clash. And its inexorable. And again I am powerless. And again I am sad.”

(Excerpt of a conversation in Liberation Square in Primus Aldentes Prime – The Brotherhood Press 2012)

Don’t usually watch movies, but I made a rare exception this time. As Aiboh and her friends visited my plantation recently and one of the things they insisted on bringing along was a nifty collection of DVD’s complete with a portable player .

To cut a long story short I watched it with my usual blend of sardonic “here comes another boutique arty farty movie” – well I was wrong! Dead wrong! The plot starts off at roughly the pace of a motorized wheelchair. But that’s deceptive. And before you can tear away, one is plunged into a deeply multi-layered and disturbing series of themes, which includes some pretty heavy questions like: what is life? Can we live a life under our own terms? What’s the cost of doing so?

In summary, ‘The Secrets in Their Eyes’ is a movie that allows the audience to reflect deeply on the whole idea of the randomness of existence. Along with maybe revivifying the idea: to make great movies these days – one doesn’t need to rely on heart tugging scores or loads of CGI. This is a movie succeeds on the basis of the power of old fashioned story telling.

I don’t want to give away the plot. So I’ve stop here – after watching this movie. I found myself asking one question: why don’t we usually get to watch these great movies? Why don’t cinemas even screen them? One reason has to do with the power and politics of the movie industry – one of the greatest travesties of the movie business is only the big production houses who usually feature millionaire actors such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney et al make it to the mainstream, as only they have the established platform, dosh, influence and distribution channels to influence what we all eventually see.

That’s sad as what that means is great movies produced by independent art houses never ever get the publicity they deserve. But thanks to Aiboh and her friends, this one made it through.

Darkness 2012

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“It is really only a matter of time before bloggers one will be able to produce their own movies at roughly the cost of buying a bicycle – with improvements in technology and software, this is really where I see blogging going in the next five to ten years. Already, we have successfully developed so many tools to further the idea of scientific farming, GPS technology is one – with this capability, you can snap a photo of a tree and it will automatically input the location that can be forwarded to some office thousands of miles away for experts to better plan calendar manuring, disease prevention and yield improvements. In the mapping side, we are experimenting with LAURA – low attitude unmanned remote aircraft. This is basically a RC toy fitted with some really nifty tech kit, like programable flight control along with auto return capabilities. But the thing that makes LAURA such a great tool is that it can stay up for nearly 48 hours without having to refuel. This eye in the sky can be used to assist us in terra forming and identifying areas that may need more attention which we could never ever do even with a fixed aircraft or helicopter as it comes complete with a very impressive list of electronic eyes, ranging from infared to spectral imaging. The best thing is all these innovations have been developed not by corporations, but by gamers who have worked tirelessly in very small teams throughout the world – my friends, it is a matter of strategic priority for us to find ever more inventive ways to transfer whatever we have learnt in our previous vocation to help the world feed itself – we will reach there my friends and this is really where the ASDF can play a meaningful role alongside our channel partners.”

(Conversation extracted from Senate House [Headquarters of the ASDF] in Primus Aldentes Prime – The Brotherhood Press 2012) 

As I wondered about the values that I would attribute to Nature and how my personal environmental ethics would be like, I was somewhat befuddled and did not know where to begin. My past journal entries became a starting point for my introspection.
On Dec 27, 2010, after traipsing through Brunei’s rainforest and floating atop Vietnam’s saltwater bay, I wrote an entry for my online journal:
For moments like this, some people wait a lifetime.
I remember that one time when I stood on the top of the mountain in Brunei. In the distance, the emerald green sea of trees merged with the sapphire waters. The air was so achingly clean, so unfamiliarly refreshing.
I had felt small but not powerless, insignificant yet content. It was a commune with Nature.
At that instance, everything faded into obscurity. Nothing mattered – not money, not work, not studies. Nothing mattered except for the complete awareness of something powerful, deeply ancient and omniscient.
I felt loved simply because I wasn’t judged or evaluated or appraised. I didn’t feel like I’m an individual. I felt as though I was part of the greater cosmos; a mere speck but nevertheless, a part.
In Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, the same feeling revisited.
Bobbing within the bay of serene waters, surrounded by natural monuments… One could simply hear the alluring whispers of Nature. The tapestry of stars weaving throughout the void above – individually pretty, collectively impressive – delighted.
The sense of self disintegrated and merged with the beauty beyond.
Even in Singapore, within the forests of Ubin or atop the tidebreakers of East Coast, one may enjoy the same feelings. Even within the soulless concrete jungles, one may turn one’s face skywards and revel in a cloudy panorama.
Each commune with Nature is profound and enlightening. Each time is different and yet, enchantingly similar.
On October 29, 2010, I was frustrated with the lack of breakthroughs in my art. I took some time off, went out and saw the clouds:
Am taken aback by the spools of cotton wefting across the azure skies.
Clouds are beautiful. They were, are and will be continue to be beautiful. But today’s clouds, they are special.
They stretch endlessly across the skies, little pristine patches of white against a dainty china blue. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Once, when I was feeling frustrated with drawing, someone told me to look at clouds and be dazzled by them. “The clouds that God painted.” Today, as I am immersing myself in these fluffy joys, I recall this friend’s words.
A sea of patchy whiteness unfolds forward and backward endlessly.
It seems to be a good way to meditate, to look at the skies above and feel their ancient wisdom flowing through every fiber. Nothing matters, not to these clouds.
They float along, peacefully, serenely. They want for nothing.
In the greater context of life, many things we feel are important may actually only appear to be important. Cloudy steps.
There’s no need for a resolute approach/ intellectual rigour when viewing clouds.
Simply look at them, appreciate their beauty and step away from the mindless races.

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