May 21, 2008


This article was originally published in the Singapore Daily 18 May 2008 at 3:22 pm


Pain, both physical and spiritual, is often seen as synonymous, with either “dexterity” and “toughness.” It’s interesting to note; after Ah Thiol had been run over nice and proper by the blogomotive (the train) after her impersonation of McCarthy’s, “reign of terror,” in Parliament during the S377A debate.

She referred to the tumult as a parliamentarian in Apollonian terms describing it as a baptism of fire. Lan Chaiu lah!

You know what? I never even thought anyone could romanticize the whole idea of “sati” (bride-burning) cum flagellation and even make it sound like a visit to a Banyan tree spa.

Nice thought if only you can abide it. Or you’re still staying with mummy and haven’t really experienced life beyond the satisfaction of a battery operated dildo.

Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find growth in tragedy (except perhaps the bacteria variety when the yellow puss oozes out). In fact, the dull truth is that pain of any kind is tautological.

The only thing suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering.

Pain really teaches one nothing except that when a hammer falls on your big toe; you have every right to hop around like a Red Indian with his pants on fire – I should know. Just a few hours ago, I got “buang” (thrown off) nice and proper down a ravine, on the new mountain bike trail in Pulau Ubin; result; my mountain bike is totaled. My arm is fractured possibly in 3 or more places.

So much for pain being a teacher, friend and Counselleri.

Here, as I stand before the prow of the sampan unfurling towards the mainland. I am reminded no one, not Buddha, Jesus Christ or even the Dalai Lama can possibly have the sagacity, the intelligence, the endurance, or any other capacity of a “survivor” which would allow him to learn very much from the same pain that’s coursing through my body right now – not the type that proves anything at least. Or even the variety that allows one to learn anything from it!

Pain is pain.

I remember being told by my Kendo master once, real willpower does not requiring proving; one doesn’t need to win; walk through hot burning coals or even endure the extremities which the elements, people and conditions may spew out.

REAL sacrifice, REAL pain and REAL courage has to be very simple. For one it’s an idea that even has to be gutted out from the for King and Country narrative where we usually associate with chivalry and even uncommon acts of valor. I don’t doubt for one moment; it takes either exceptional courage or simply a lack of imagination to charge up against a machine gun battery; or to even hardened oneself to the prospects of gut wrenching muscle cramps, if one decides to stake a claim on the upper reaches of Everest.

Only my point is all these acts despite their seeming radiance of bravery, courage and chivalry; all have a definitive start and cut off date. One can lower the rifle and go back home to family and friends when the ink has dried on the peace treaty; one cannot climb beyond the limits imposed by mountain peaks; all there is, is to make for base camp, where perhaps, we can even contemplate the smallness of our courage over hot chocolate; here pain doesn’t possess the terror of litany; it even lacks the one requisite quality which sharpens it further; heightening the sense of hopeless and terror: the power of continuity.

My feel is real pain. The one that’s most acute and most heart felt resides in the ordinariness of life. Here it’s even woven intimately into the folds of everydayness even, reflected in the wan of people as they walk around as best they can. Sometimes even the act of waking up every morning and just going to work can be an extraordinary act of courage.

Here the type of pain, I am talking about takes it’s cue from chronic back pain; it’s always there, mixed with the past, present and future; always omnipresent, always lingering around; seeping into every minute, hour, day and week. It’s ceaseless, endless and there lies it true terror.

Somewhere in its unceasing pathos, it even threatens all prospects of driving away redemption; the courage of a parent with an autistic child to even harbor the dream his son or daughter would one day be able to live a normal and independent life; the silent caretaker who toils to give balm to the sick; knowing full well death will always win on the final throw; the father who skips lunch; so that his children can have an extra scoop of ice cream, because; he didn’t quite cut it into the $2.2 million club as much as make it to the $2.20 per hour fraternity; the manager who struggles to do the ‘right’ thing, even if it means he has to put his reputation on the line; to find the courage to fight the big bad whatever that threatens tries to take whenever is good out of him; the embattled Christian who tries to hold on to his faith; despite knowing full well there will always be fools and knaves in any church to loosen his grip on his faith; the lone blogger who continues to think and write; despite the stat counter telling him; “hey buddy what are you trying to prove here? You the statistical nothing against us!”

I salute you all; you are the true $2.2 million superman, every single one of you; the others; they’re just a bunch of cheap pirates.

In the litany that confront us all in this never ending story of pain, we don’t see our pain as much as we try to seek it out in others; to even witness it, if we can. In the way devotees seek out miracles which have the capacity to edify and exalt. It could even be said; when others see us carry our pain with grace and dignity, with even a smile; perhaps here even in this simple act it’s magically transformed into an art form; one which even allows the rest of us the permission to accept ourselves for who we were really are; just humans trying our very best to make the best of the journey called life; that I feel is the real lesson from my fall.

You see I have to believe LKY is dead wrong. Only because what I have just shared with all of you has to be ‘an admirable sentiment’ no matter how one slices it.

Darkness 2008 (This has to be a very short one, I am afraid. My Sampan has arrived at the jetty. I see Harphoon and the Chronicler waiting for me. It’s time to smile. After all the good fight certainly doesn’t need another sour puss)

[The Brotherhood Press 2008]


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