Who really wants to live, work and play in a ‘smart’ nation where everything is just a digital tap away. Want to take care of the dry cleaning tap away….want the best char kueh teoh, tap away….want a prescriptive cure for erectile dysfunction tap away….want instant friends tap away….if only it is possible to tap away for a way to live reasonably and affordably in the worlds most expensive city.
No such luck lah…it seems.
May have to join Singapore’s first sports millionaire Fandi Ahmad to find out the app for that.
‘I guess what Fandi Ahmad meant when he said, there is no kampung’s left in Singapore and everything is just too expensive and he much prefers to retire across the Straits – is that he yearns to return back to the simple and uncluttered way of life.
You know back to the analog period when life was slower and much more predictable and even stable….I can well understand that crie de couer. As since I’ve lived in Singapore before and now turn the wheel of life in a real life kampung. I consider myself imminently qualified to speak about this subject.
Because if you were to ask me about what I really think about where Singapore is heading by positioning itself as the world’s most expensive city to live in where everyone is under happy (whatever that means….along with right sizing??) and now this initiative to remake Singapore as a smart city, it will always be somewhat closer to a dystopian future than salvation….to me.
You know what’s the greatest paradox of the digital age….it continues to hold out the unfulfilled promise – life will get better….technology will free us from the mundane, we would have more free time to spend with our families and to do the things we really want to do under our own terms…..we will be more empowered….will be in position to make informed decisions etc etc.
But in truth with each upward progressions of Moore’s law – life actually becomes that much harder. Workers end up staying longer in the office. They’re expected to do more with less and that whole idea of individual emancipation fritters away unnoticed – as these days everyone is trying so hard to keep their head above the financial waterline and staying connected 24/7 that they don’t even realize…they no longer have any control over their lives any longer or for that matter have that elemental right to disconnect themselves any longer.
I realize this may sound like another rehashed technophobic rant. But it isn’t – as what I mean to say is money and connectivity is really just a means to an end for me…for it to acquire the agency of power to improve quality of life it needs to be put in the correct scale…it needs to be respectful of the individuals space…his right to privacy by provisioning a means for him to actualize a way to live, work and play under his own terms….in certain cases it even needs to go offline to remain relevant and coherent.
That’s to say for me, technology is never an end by itself and what this really means is there will be some things which I much prefer to be untouched by the metallic claws of technology.
For example. I don’t for example care very much for SMS’s…much prefer an old fashion conversation…face to face over coffee or a meal is even better. The gold standard. Some of my best business deals are only cut this way….offline where I can detect the worth of a man in his voice the slightest perfidy in the way he carries himself….to me these things will never ever change…they’re timeless.
I am not saying SMSing is necessarily evil…. All I am saying is, if one is not mindful of it’s many inherent shortfall like facebooking, tweetering or clicking on Potemkin village sites like Singaporedaily and five stars and the moon, without ever bothering to ask so much as even once ‘what’s their goal?’ – there is a tendency for technology to debase rather than add any real value to peoples lives – as the understated reason why so many people much prefer to SMS than have a real conversation is because they don’t ever need to invest one molecule of themselves emotionally…it’s a primitive way to communicate via proxy, on the cheap or with grunts. As it makes possible the whole idea bovine communication by allowing someone to experience something at a personal level vicariously – like watching a porno flick and jerking off. And if you must know, that is why people these days have the confidence to type out, I love you finished off with a smiley icon. But when it comes to actually verbalizing it in flesh and bone, they don’t nearly have what it takes to say they really mean – that to me is a summary of the pithy pathos of what I term debasing…chelating or reducing humanity, as that sort of transaction subtracts rather than adds.
So if you mean to sell me the idea SMSing culture is the best thing since sliced bread or having a conversation with a robot over the phone is tagged as gainful human progress…then in my book. I just call it, what I believe it really is….making progress by going backwards.
I remember one particular day back home in Singapore many years ago. There I was standing on a train platform feeling like Will Smith in that movie – I am Legend. As when I looked around me. All I could see were rivers of humanity going around in a hermetically sealed ipod bubble. I remembered experiencing that rare moment of stepping outside myself and saying to myself – if this is going to be the lietmotif that presages the advent of the glorious digital revolution where everyone looks like a spaced out zombies, as if they are all suffering from mass hearing impairment or where whole masses of people are just playing Tetris on their smart phones instead of making eye contact, talking and wearing that expression, ‘it’s such a beautiful day.’ – then that’s not the place I want to call home.
I Dowan lah!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regard technology as perdition. I think it’s nifty to get pics of people I love and care about from back home in one press of a button.
But I also happen to believe very strongly – when everyone thinks something is good, then it certainly raises the possibility, no one is thinking really hard about the repercussions or wider rammifications either. They’re just going with the flow without out processing the information to derive at the collaborated truth.
Not too long ago while traveling out station with a friend to visit a plantation. Mid way, he started to get all flustered and agitated. The reason.
He had forgotten to bring along his mobile phone. I had to spend a whole hour assuring this friend that everything is going to be alright. It’s not the end of the world.
When we finally reached Telugu Estate since it was ringed by high limestone mountains. There was no digital coverage. Communication in the estate has hardly changed since the period of the colonial planters.
During the time we spent in Telugu estate. I could sense a profound change in my friend. The color of his skin returned. Gone was his sickly grey parlor. He even slept deeper and sounder despite just being kitted out with a ceiling fan and a mosquito net. His appetite improved and all in all he was a much more enjoyable and relaxed person to be with. Gone was his nervous tic along with his bad temper and nervous disposition.
One week after our trip. I came across my friend again and asked him why he had not answered his cell phone the night before. He recounted to me in the tone of a man who knew a good thing – these days he only accepts calls from one in the afternoon to three as he no longer sees the need to be connected all the time.
I was happy. As my real reason for inviting him to Telugu estate was because his wife has been telling me, ‘my husband is turning into a man who I don’t love any longer.’
I am sure there is an instructive moral somewhere to be uncovered in this story….only one may have to be rather stupid and slow like moir, when everyone else is smart and fast to truly understand it.’
November 26, 2014
Farming is intrinsically uncertain. No two seasons are ever the same. Even if they seem the same. There will always be a hint of uncertainty waiting in the wings – will El Niño come this January? Will my crops be wiped out by disease? What’s the price of oil palm going to be like next year? Will I have be able to make enough next year to cover expenses or will I go into the red?
When one is confronted, day in and day out with uncertainty. Then it’s only natural for one to arrive at some point of reckoning where one can either try to beacon out the murk or learn to live in peace with uncertainty and not knowing.
To me, life as a whole is much more interesting not knowing what lurks around the corner than to take comfort in answers may well be wrong. Mind you. That doesn’t mean I am not aware of the possibilities along with the various permutations of having to live in uncertainty. I have percentile answers like 60% El Niño is going to hit somewhere around December….. and possibly even a basket of beliefs concerning how certain things are going to pan out and even different gradations of beliefs of uncertainties about so many things.
My point is thru the years I’ve learnt to be comfortable with the whole idea of uncertainty – to even live as peacefully as I can with the idea of not being absolutely sure, such as whether it means anything to ask why I was born in this timeline and not just around the dawn of mankind when one monkey learnt he could get ahead in life by using a dinosaur bone to whack another monkey over the head….to put it another way. I don’t mind not knowing the answer. I no longer feel frightened not knowing things, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell…life that is.
‘Farming is one of those strange professions where in the first year, one starts off with twenty colorful Gantt charts that tells you what you should do every month of the year. From January to December. By the second year. You will inevitably reach a point of realization when you realize your are either so faraway from your goal or that it means little or nothing for you to try to intercept destiny thru scientific planning.
I am not saying I don’t believe in planning for the future. Or that I am so cavalier about the whole idea of the future like a hippie. No! What I am saying is, when a man pits his wits and sinews against something really Godzilla big like Mother Nature and he does it long enough. At some point he will end up being so brow beaten and thrown around like a rag doll that he can only eventually experience a rare moment of epiphany – and that man will be humbled.
To me that is not such a bad thing. No….it is not.
In once heard a story recounted to me in a tavern by a sailor in the Coite de Noire of a mad sultan who marched with banners, elephants and pikemen in full battle armor to declare war on the Harmattan – the red ochre dust wind that sweeps across the lenght and breadth of Africa in August – the evil red wind, sailors called the sea of blood.
I did not understand the moral of the story till many years later when one day I noticed in the far horizon to the east of my lands a mysterious disease was ravaging palms. I remembered declaring war on this scrounge. I cursed it. I swore that I would crush it….break it’s bone. When the menace came my way. I fought it like a deranged man shoveling coal into the furnace. I meant to burn down the whole house. I dug trenches, drained the swamps, worked feverishly till my hands bleed. Till my farmhands would look at me with that curious expression that one would cast on only the forsaken and mad.
But despite my best efforts the disease ravaged my trees.
I remembered walking my lands and crying. I cried like a baby. As I could not understand. I cursed the maker for his wanton callousness and ineptitude and somewhere between the distance that separated two palms….it came to me….I am humbled.
Thereafter the menace disappeared with the rains.
Many years later I came across a Singaporean couple who put up their orchid orchard for sale. Apparently they had a horrendous first harvest and the man had thrown in the towel.
I sat with him in the verandah. I had by then come to wealth and so had the habit to carrying myself as a landowner who could never be denied. That evening while sitting on a rocking chair and nursing a cerut. I recounted in a sonorous tone to the defeated man the story of the mad sultan….I told him that what he had experienced was a blessing and never a curse. As the land had imparted an important lesson early on in his career as a farmer in and that things can only get better after this. That he should perservere one more time…
The man agreed to stay on grudgingly and eventually he prospered.
This is wisdom. The variety that the proud and arrogant and righteous do not know of….but will all eventually come to know of. Many men may have read about this. But few I imagine know of how it is like to be the mad sultan…..I know all these things….the before, during and after….to be humbled….so very humbled.’
November 25, 2014
My network of spies in the kampung have informed me a group of landowners have formed a cartel. Since they own vast tracts of land upstream. They intend to deny moir precious water during the coming dry season. To put it another way, they mean to drive me out of business!
Today I ventured into enemy territory with my two wheel wonder weapon – the bicycle. I surveyed the entire length of the river. As the rainy season this year has changed the topology of the river to such a extent rendering most of the datum maps useless. My conclusions are as follows – if they proceed with this plan…..I will be bone dry during the dry season.
I know what I need to do. After this I will go to my batman cave (I will post a video of my bat cave, it is hidden deep in the jungle in a lagoon) change into superhero suit and dismantle their dams and levies in the cover of darkness. It will be very easy for me. As since I have 5% body fat and I am super duper fit, while these fat cat towkays are beleaguered with 99% body fat and type II diabetes. It’s like a bunch of cavemen facing off with the Roman army. How the hell are they going to stop me?
Most of the landowners in my kampung like to say that I am a troublemaker. But who is the one who created optimum conditions for me to be destructive and uncooperative? Who huh huh? I am blameless. A victim of society. I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
The waters of life will flow…..trust me.
November 25, 2014
It is natural and even healthy for society to venerate certain professions and vocations, while eschewing others to the garbage heap. My point is what happens when the range of admired professions becomes so narrow squeezing out the field of possibilities for upward mobility.
In America, if one were to ask youths who would you like to become most….it would probably be Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet. In Hong Kong, Li Ka Shing. Even in Malaysia it would probably be Robert Kouk or Vincent Tan. But in Singapore, everyone aspires to be a scholars, senior government officials; and this in my view is not only unhealthy, but since the idea of public service has thru the years become synonymous with the good life – this can only narrow the field of possibilities further along with diminishing the path of aspirations.
This blinkered definition of personal and organizational success not only corrodes the status of other professionals and vocations but it also militates against the whole idea of a nation carving out competitive advantage globally. When one considers the percipitious changes that coursing thru out the political, economic, social and cultural tapestry of the globe and how it may offer infinite opportunities for upward mobility….I can’t but help feel this attitude is a self inflicted travesty that will one day cost Singapore and Singaporeans dearly.
‘The idea of the self made man will always pose a danger to the whole idea of government and officialdom since the very rationale for the archetype is premised on the disparaging notion – governments and what they have to offer to better the lives of people is at best optional and at worst a solvent.
It is doubtful whether the likes of average Muthu’s, Ah Kau’s or Ahmad’s hitting it rich with an illegal gold or diamond mine somewhere in the god forsaken domain of Africa or creating a vast cattle empire somewhere in the Amazonian will ever qualify as suitable material for hero worship in Singapore. As the very idea of the frontier man who relies on nothing but his strength and wits to conquer and tame the wild to eventually amass great wealth will I believe always represent a threat to the whole idea of government and officialdom.
Of course there will always be those who believe this entire conceptualization of the rugged individual is much closer to mythology than reality – I say this only because even in our own cloistered community – I have frequently been derided for glorifying what many of my critics consider as mere outliers. As I don’t seem to pay much heed to the anecdotal evidence that the vast majority of those from privileged backgrounds end up in society’s top slots, while the majority of those who start out poor will never escape poverty.
I do however concede these charges leveled against me do contain some measure of truth – that I have elided many of the feral aspects of what it takes for one to succeed in the frontier. That I may have even wax lyrical the whole idea to such an extent that they whole idea of the rugged individual along with his courage and invincibility and infallibility may even be closer to a sentiment than anything resembling a collaborated truth. But that is only because the separation between advocates for and against the rugged individual often break down along political lines. Those on the left in our community, will of course dismiss the idea of the rugged individual as romanticism taking comfort in the belief socio-economic factors, lineage and where one was raised and high schooled in will alway play a preponderant role as being the great determiner of whether a person succeeds or fail and thus look for ways in which the government can attempt to step in and level the playing field.
But to this erudite group who continue to view me as some new age Hitler and Stalin and would prefer to insist in charming terms that what I propagate is at best delectable rubbish. Even they cannot deny not a single one of them ventured out into the frontier to prove my theories wrong! Not a single man!
While those who hail from the right have absolutely no qualms whatsoever in believing what I choose to write about the glorious life of the frontier man.
This group and what they believe in hardly requires any elaboration. And for the sake of brevity and peace I would much prefer to talk about this matter in another forum at another time for fear of committing violence to the idea should I try to avail myself of the charges leveled on me by the left.
What I am prepared to concede by way of commonality if not agreement to the left in our community is this – despite the sheen of the rugged individual. He is far from a perfect man. For the wilderness is by it’s very nature and condition a harsh and unforgiving place. And without a doubt, this dark side along with all it’s undesirable aspects certainly colors the attitude of the frontier man.
Some will of course say…there he goes again making all sorts of clever excuses to justify what his clique has done to amass riches in Africa and the Amazonian. No! But I will say this. Manhood for the Genteel Patriarch and Heroic Artisan is infinitely more stable than life can ever hope to be in either the darkest belly of Africa or militia infested wheat fields of Honduras. And those who may have chosen not to go and have stayed back do not have the right to judge those who have elected to go out to the blue waters of this world to seek their El Derado. As once a man had established the largest of estate or profession of choice in Singapore, he can of course feel assured of his manliness. But the manhood of the frontier man never once came with that same assurance – since his fortune was inextricably fused to the caprice of what may come his way beyond his control. The frontier man constantly had to prove and earn his manhood along with his rightful place in the community, knowing all the while that at any moment it could all be taken away by the many vagaries that comes his way in the wilderness. This constant need to prove one’s manliness day in and day out created a sense of anxiety and insecurity that we still see today ravaging our own community, dividing brother against brother.
My only hope is that it will all come to an end.’
November 25, 2014
Around the time when shit the size of a jumbo jet was hitting fan fast and furious in the Crimea. I advised many of my readers who were serious about striking it rich to go and prospect for business in the Ukraine.
I have always been a firm believer in the notion, crisis = opportunity i.e buy ultra low – and the lowest point in the economic bell curve is usually when the political, economic, social and cultural attributions of a locale is riven by war, sectarian divide or when no one in their right mind wants to touch it with a barge pole.
Seven men took my advice. They went there with two cents and the loose idea to prospect for business in the Ukraine – today they’re millionaires.
As a Chinese firm bought over their land concessions for 7,000% profit (tax free).
Fortune will always favor the man who is courageous enough to go where angels fear to tread.
‘In 2008, UAE brought 324 hectares (1.25 square miles) of land in Pakistan. A year later, South Korea bought nearly twice that amount in Sudan. This week, China announced the biggest land lease ever: 3 million hectares (11,500 square miles) of Ukrainian land. Or put more simply: 1/20th of all Ukraine.
I don’t need to be Nostradamus to tell you where all this is going.
We are constantly told….the road to prosperity is to brain out the next new thing to pique the interest of the public. Presumably so that they can vote for us with their wallets. As a consequence, a whole generation of men and women spend their time these days trying to invent the next ipad or facebook platform. A few succeed. But most fail. What’s even worse is we have manufactured on an industrial scale, a human being who is addicted to familiarity, risk adverse and can only function in an conditioned environment. To put it another way, a sort of half man who cannot bear uncertainty, strife and hard physical work. The anti-thesis of the frontier uber man – the super man.
I have always believed in the simple idea, the rugged individual is capable of accomplishing anything he puts his mind too – to me, the quientessential frontier man is a much more reliable being to produce the good life for himself and his family when compared to half man that I have just described.
Unfortunately these days that sort of man is frowned upon in polite circles. In very much the same way Cortés who conquered the Aztec Empire and Pizarro who led the conquest of the Incan Empire are considered pariahs today.
They are frowned up as many would have us all believe the age of exploration and conquest is well and truly over and the only ladder for one to get up in life is to join the rest of humanity in the rat race.
But I have never believed in that stupid idea. Never so much as once. My life is the very living personification of my unfailing conviction in the rugged individual.
As I have always believed steadfastly in the notion – the age of exploration has never been more present in this timeline when compared to all other periods in human history.
Not many men know of this. The irony is not many choose too. They much prefer to play it safe by sticking to yellow brick road – to do what most people do…to work, live and play by some rule book that keeps them running and panting in perpetuity in that dreaded hamster wheel – they choose to call life.
But for those few who believe in the indestructibility of this idea of the rugged individual and what he is capable of accomplishing with so very little and who have ventured beyond the tried and tested path to discover the road that they can call their own – they all know, what I have said to be true…the age of exploration is very much alive. It is not dead!
And I will alway count myself privileged to be in the company of such men.’
November 23, 2014
I wonder how long this fellow will last? Let me put it another way, how is it possible to stop people from thinking the things they do?
‘Women wear make up. Men role play and they project countless images of how they want to be seen by others. There is, for example, the “nice” man who is always congenial and polite. “Such a nice man,” people say. “He never gets embroiled in controversy or scandals.” But the paper mâché facade always covers its opposite expression. Inside, such a person is full of rage that he dares not acknowledge or show. It’s for the same reason some men put up a tough macho exterior to hide a very small man.
But whatever the man who resides inside the man. All men have one universal man inside them. It’s the man who can’t abide a bully. The man who like to believe in the childish idea of fair and square….because if the world wasn’t tilted that way….then it would be simply hard if not impossible for this man to live in.
We speak about doing the right thing. We speak about it all the time. We write even more about this. So let me ask you a moral question, let us say that I could put you into a time machine and transport you back to the period of 1942 somewhere in the Warsaw. You suddenly find yourself in a store. A stationary shop. You have to be the proprietor because you’re behind the counter and the key in your lapel opens the safe behind you. It’s a stationary shop somewhere near the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw…maybe Linbek….or Kharkov. It’s just after lunch.
Suddenly you see a girl running in the streets. She’s Jewish. You just know from that frightened animal like expression on her face. She runs into your store and pleads with you to hide her…..soon soldiers fill the streets.
What would you do?
What should you do?
What is the right thing to do?
That is the dilemma that I constantly find myself confronted with. To be or not to me. To stay well within the line and bite my tongue so hard to remain quiet or to cross it, knowing full well that if one should do so, it may never end well or happily. Or that there may never be any promise of redemption.
The dilemma of the universal man in all men.’
November 19, 2014
Yesterday I asked the leader of a group of businessmen who tried to cheat me on a land deal one year ago to help me mend a broken relationship with only one man – who I believe attempted to cheat me.
What I have done here is to feign that I am not aware that at least eight people are involved in trying to cheat me….and the impression given to this elder is that to the best of my knowledge, this matter involves only one person.
This is to give the rest a face saving way out of this impasse that has continued for over a year. This strategy is designed to divide them and to give them the necessary incentive to put the all the blame on this one scapegoat.
The question now is do these people know that I know that the rest of the seven are involved? Or do they really believe that I only believe this plot involves only one person and no more?
This is vital…jugular even.I need to be able to answer this question 100%. Because my goal is to convey to these bent businessmen in the clearest possible manner that I know exactly who is involved, but since I have only singled out one scapegoat in the group to the lay the blame on. My hope is this will simplify the process of reconciliation immeasurably for all concerned.
But if they do not know….I know the role played by the others and along with the measure of their culpability. Then they may interpret this as a sign of stupidity and possibly cowardice and this latest move is likely to embolden them to do this again and this whole plan may backfire.
It is a very very delicate matter, that involves a mix diplomacy, brinkmanship and strategy.
The problem is I do not know what they think…..I only have three more days to decide whether to go ahead with this or to pull out.
One I sit down on the chair to the east, break a pair of chopstick and put them over a tea cup….in the language of the old country….I have crossed the point of no return.
I must remain calm. As this matter is making me very anxious.
‘In my view, it is not necessary for people who have wronged me to apologize. That expectation is akin to wishful thinking. Of course, if they do so, that’s really the gold standard and it will definitely make my job of burying the hatchet much easier.
But for most the time. Even when seemingly reasonable people wrong – they rarely ever offer an open apology. Some are even worse. They do ridiculous things like leaving it beneath the feet of Mr 10% or take cold comfort in the idea – time will heal and make things right.
Truth is. Time really only makes things worse. As when broken fellowship is not mended within a reasonable time – both sides will eventually grow more distanced….positions will begin to harden….and attitudes will fossilize to such a point where all hope of reconciliation will gradually become so faint that no one will even take the initiative to make the first peaceful overtures – that’s because apologizing is never easy. As having to say, I am sorry places the apologist in a default position where he or she will always be vulnerable and stands to lose much more than remaining stoically silent.
Hence most people will simply never offer you an apology even if you deserve one. To me it’s not an ego issue. As much as a strategic disadvantage to do so. Truth is apologizing confers absolutely no bargaining power to the apologist and effectively renders the balance of power in favor of the aggrieved party.
That’s why it’s so important to make it easy for the other side to come to the negotiating table.
After all if like me, you have already made your point loud and clear – that you are not happy with what transpired….you consider it an insult….and effrontery and if like me you have waged a Cold War lasting one entire year where everyone who has wronged you can feel your coldness along with your seething anger….then the point has already been successful made and it’s time to move right on.
Knowing WHEN and HOW to bury the hatchet is the highest acme of leadership. As when a man is able to do just this – it simply means he is able to step back and appreciate the larger scheme of things that enables him to put his private grievances and hurt beneath the idea of the common good.’
November 18, 2014
During breakfast. An elder of the village came over to sit with me. We spoke about many things. Then it rolled out quite unexpectedly….he told me not to fight with everyone. He mentioned it was important to keep the peace in the village – that no man is an island and though one may aspire to great wealth…what is the point, if one doesn’t have any friends.
He did not offer an apology concerning the group of businessmen who tried to cheat me over a land deal one year ago.
It is very hard to know what this all means…..is this a peace offering? If it is, then why does this elder not mention about those men who tried to cheat me…..where is my apology? Or is this as good as it gets. Am I supposed to move on based on just this?
I don’t understand. Really I don’t.
Many years after Africa in a bistro somewhere along Old Crompton street London.
“I must find out his pain. I must know his story. I must find out how did he see right through into my heart of hearts? One cannot after all read about pain – it has to be felt.”
She had studied the man when he taken her to a cafe – she noticed the proprietor spoke in a French Provence vernacular reserved for only either family or friends. They knew each other well it seems. So well that they even occupied a horse shoe seat just behind a hidden corner of the counter. Maybe they knew each other from another age thought the 41 year woman.
As they spoke, her eyes wandered across the many picture frames behind the counter – most of them hung clumsily and listlessly like old emptied wine bottles left out just to gather dust – in one corner she could just make out a black and white picture of the man. Her eye was naturally drawn to this one – as most of the picture collage the French speaking man hung behind the counter were happy color photos – this one was sombre in black and white and printed on low quality chemical film paper; the year zero woman could tell, the nitrates had began to eat at the extreme edges. A failing common to cheap chemical film paper when it fails to stabilize properly. She reckoned the photo was processed in some third world country, she was right – the typeface Kampala was faintly written with a crayon – the year zero woman had after all once dabbled in photography, she was after all an artist in her own right. And that evening, her mission was to find the pain of this man who had allowed him the insight to see her pain in marvelous completion. Through her 50mm no aberration multi coated practiced eyes – the year zero woman began to peer deeply at the photo.
“I must find it…his pain…I know it’s there. On the way here, we spoke about birds. And I remember…he told me the swifts in July are usually reddish stained from the Ochre winds that blew across the Ivory Coast. She knew the man had once sought his fortune there…perhaps this was where he got the money to buy land from?”
This image depicted the man wearing a bush jacket walking with a AK-47 slung clumsily across his back on a dusty country road – the man looked pensive, with his head turned to the camera. As if someone had shouted out his name behind him suddenly when the photo was snapped. In the foreground there was a line of Africans, mostly women and children, some with carts and a couple of scampering goats – they had fear in their eyes; they seemed to be fleeing from something that was on the left side of the photo – the side that the photograph did not capture. In the background, not too far from the man, a pillar of black smoke rose from a burnt out tank – the pillar of smoke scarred across the steely skies. The year zero woman zoomed in on the image of the man again. She realized, she had made a mistake. Someone didn’t call out when photo was snapped. The man had deliberately stopped and looked back. She noticed his arms had a languor about them like an athlete spent after a sprint. A smudge ran across his cheeks. At that very moment – the year zero woman noticed the same expression that she had seen in the man’s eyes that evening when he had suddenly appeared before her from nowhere – she saw the same aching bittersweet expression of a man who had made peace with a good thing that had come to an end. There was even a hint of defiance in those eyes – but amid it all, the charred tank, the scared expressions of scampering natives, eyes that conveyed a complete understanding to the year zero woman – she was looking at the name and face of a man who simply bore the tragic expression of knowing what it means to LOVE a thing with all your heart and to suddenly LOSE it all.
“Maybe the man had stopped on the dusty road and looked back at beloved farm when they had razed it to the ground.”
She began to reflect – from the horse shoe seat where the year zero woman sat – she had a clear view right through into the kitchen. She could make out the lean V cut shape of the man. He had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to cook. His hands moved swifly, precisely and purposefully. He flashed her a smile. It said, “Wait till you taste this.” She flashed him back, “I can’t wait to try it!” And she returned to the image of the lone man again in the photo – as the year zero woman began to look at the image one more time – She couldn’t but help wonder whether perhaps this same man who was simply a farmer at heart; whose only goal it seems in life is to happily plant row after row of palms – this man who she now saw in the present. This man who was now cooking for her. As the year zero woman looked on at the man. She understood. Not completely, but, she understood nonetheless – a least a part of how the man had seen right through into her most private thoughts.
From that moment, the year zero woman was now reincarnated into the one minute twenty seconds woman – like the start button of a stopwatched being clicked – she had begun to live that other yet to be written chapter of her life. Till then she had merely existed, but now she was living – as that evening as the five minute and ten seconds woman looked out at the man she insisted on calling the gentleman planter – she realized only a man who had suffered as much as her could possibly have understood how she felt – only such a soul could ever love her. As to love the by now ten minute fifteen second woman – the mythical lover had to mirror the same shattered dreams and all this, the twelve minute one second had seen in the faint black and white image of the man walking with his head turn ever slightly on the dusty road to Kampala.
The 41 year old woman had once fleetingly heard rumors that the man had once gone to Africa to seek his fortune. It seems he started a make shift goldmine with a chieftain and even tried his luck at growing figs – but lost it all when civil war broke out. Or maybe he didn’t – maybe this was where he made his money from?
In another photo, this time one much more recent. The man now sported a mustache. The proprietor of the cafe was making a funny face and had his arm around the man who was standing beside a Chinese woman. In the background the woman could just make out the faint outline of the Singapore skyline. In the foreground, a comical pram with three toddlers- the man is this picture looked proud like a father. He was wearing office clothes. Smiling. They were all happy.
These images only fueled Chan Sim’s growing curiosity about the man. Who had by now began taking off his jacket, rolling back the sleeves of his tight turtleneck to even cook alongside the proprietor. Who had even insisted that he stay and do a tandem for the evening crowd. The man had flashed a “up to you?” to the 41 year old woman on bar stool on the only kitchen table top in a Nouve cuisine restaurant in Old Crompton street where diners and chefs were only separated by five millimeters of tempered glass – the man and the proprietor cooked for the guest who streamed in that night; when he cooked for the diners; he choose only the menu’s that made it possible for him to serve up amuse-gueules to the 41 year old woman. The culinary art – where a little goes a long way – from time to time, the man would sit across the 41 year old woman as she took his creations – creations that he had with tender loving care that made passionate love to her taste buds, suffusing them with endless streams of perpetual orgasm of the gastronomical order of Nirvana. With no added MSG. From time to time, the man would sit and they would simply talk over Pinot. Somewhere between the dance of whipping up dishes for the diners, serving up delightful amuse-gueules to the 41 year old woman and simply sitting down and chatting.
The 41 year old woman could make out the precise nature of the man. He was trim and fit like an athlete – his hands moved with a practiced ease like a professional. From time to time when he worked, he would look up at her as if saying, “watch this!” Or, “tell me what you think about this when it melts in your mouth.” The 41 year old woman knew that the man moved well in the kitchen; she knew this was a form of seduction. A form and shape that she had never seen before. but nonetheless, it was a form of seduction.
The 41 year old woman wasn’t just a dumbo rich man’s daughter – she knew that the man who streamed in an out of her life that evening when she sat on the only barstool in the designer Nouve cuisine restaurant was a highly skilled seducer. She may even have suspected that destiny had nothing whatsoever to play with their chance meeting. It could well have been planned by this man who could cook for an entire restaurant, fashion dishes for her and still be able to hold an engaging conversation all at the same time – that evening as the 41 year old woman looked deeply into the eyes of the farmer – she did not even care to be known as the 41 year woman any longer – by her fourth amuse-gueules, third glass of Pinot and conversations ranged from the humorous, playful to serious – the 41 year old woman no longer saw herself as the 41 year old woman who she was – she had been reincarnated as simply a woman. A woman who had somehow managed to step back into a time machine to a distant age somewhere in her happy past – where she only saw the world in terms of bright and bold splashes, colors that just popped up. This she was able to do that evening with the full knowledge that the man who she knew as the gentlemen planter was none other than the mythical lover.
November 16, 2014
Truth be known. The account of a man is never linear. It doesn’t nearly half read anything like a book. Anybody who tells you…you can summarize the life of a man by just reading or listening about him is either naive or simply hasn’t lived before. Rather the account for me will always be a disjunctive mishmash closer to a drunkard ambling haphazardly in the dark.
To say, a man was born here, went to that school, rowed for that house as an undergraduate, worked for that corporation and eventually turned the wheel of life as the owner of that enterprise, once stood for this and vehemently disapproved of that, married that woman fathered this child and finally breathe his last over there…..says as much as the back of a chewing wrapper says about the mysteries of the known and unknown universe……absolutely nothing about the man.
As so much of what makes up this man’s life resides in the everyday detailing of his thoughts. In the darkened interiors of his mind where he ploughs thru the sea of his thoughts like some dark mysterious ship carrying contraband secreted somewhere deep in its belly….leaving nothing except a white frothy wake in darkness.
So little is known of this man and his life.
‘To my understanding there is no such thing as a good or bad person.
Only words, thoughts and deeds that we can either live with or rather do without.
I once witnessed a man who everyone considered good man knock out a woman with a heavy skillet during an argument in the kitchen. Thereafter this man who everyone considered good looked at me dumbfounded and in a rare moment of epiphany. He blurted out to me wearing a dumbfounded expression – ‘I have never done this before.’ I guess what my friend was trying to say in a round about way was this.
Everyman has a limit…you, I, they, we all have this imaginary line somewhere in our head, if it’s crosses, the shackles that holds us down just snaps. If you have never done what this man did – it doesn’t mean you are good anymore than living in a cave makes you a geologist. It just means you are fortunate enough never to have crossed that line.
There was this time when a couple of brigands fell a log and blocked the road deep in the plantation to ambush me. They were out to rob me of the proceeds of my harvest. It was early days then and I was struggling to make ends met with loads of superglue, ductape and pot luck. The last thing I need is this shit. I had worked real hard for whole the whole season for this money and when I saw them brandishing their parangs and screaming at me. I wrapped industrial ductape over my hand and parang as tightly as I could and walked right out of my car like Robocop. As I meant to hack every man down as hard as I can. I am not stupid. I know how this is going to go down. One against four. But my point is I no longer gave a two shit…..I’ve had enough of pesky villagers…had it up to my neck with all the curve balls Mother Nature had been throwing my way the whole season. I don’t care what’s going to happen the day after…whether I end up dead or having to face the hangman. That’s somewhere in the distant future. There and then I just wanted to kill all of those sister fuckers. To paraphrase….. I’ve crossed that line of no return somewhere in my head.
Fortunately those brigands just exchanged, ‘this chap is not worth it’ looks and they got in their car and drove away.
The only reason why I’ve never told or written this down is because I don’t ever want anyone to think that I am capable of doing those sort of things.
When I reflect on this now. I realized how true that statement is – there is no such thing as a good or bad person….there’s only words, actions and deeds that we can either live with or choose to walk away from. I guess what I am trying to say is none of us really know ourselves before we actually cross beyond that point of no return. Or maybe we have, but by some miracle that involves a combination of patience and sagacity, we just managed to pull whatever that’s still left of ourselves back and put it all back together again.
Walking away….it’s a thing that every man is forced to do at least a dozen times or more in his life time. Be it saying no to a evil boss that’s hellbent on grinding you down to dust. Or just packing all that you can manage fit in a haversack and just walking right out of the door. Because you know that’s really the only thing you can do before the situation overwhelms you. Doesn’t matter where you decide to go. Doesn’t even matter whether you can reach the other side safely or that it will all work out better than where you are right now….all you know is, you have to go. Because if you don’t, that line is going to be crossed and since, you never ever want your loved ones to see that side of you – you walk away.
You walk like a man who is just obsessed with only one thought – to put one foot in front of the other, to put as much distance away from you from the thing that will change you to be the person that you never want to be.
That to me is how is seemingly good people become bad and that’s probably how bad people become good as well.
By walking away from who they once were into that new man that can either produce good or bad actions, words and deeds.’
November 15, 2014
Take it one day at a time. Small steps….very small and just breathe. As you’re in the third world. No! Not that third world where kids are begging in the streets….the other third world….the one that only exist in your mind.
‘Most people don’t see the world and the things in them like I do. No…they don’t. They may say they do, but they don’t. That’s because they all lack the requisite weirdness that I have and they don’t.
Weird people see things others don’t see….it’s a vampire thing – they can even make connections in time and space often intersecting moments of profound epiphany.
Take the case of a bird. Yes an ordinary bird in a cage that is suddenly set free.
Suddenly, this once ‘freedom’ deprived bird steps into the wider world that only birds that have never been caged know of. He’s freeeeeeeee!
But hold on…. here comes the kicker…. While he caged, there were two worlds in the known understanding of this bird – the world in the cage, and the world beyond the cage. Now that he is suddenly set free. Though he flies till his wings are sore. Chirps till his voice is hoarse. Yet in this seemingly new found freedom…the bird is suddenly assaulted by an acute sense of estrangement….it’s as if the world that is has suddenly given way to some unfurling ugliness that now has the agency of power to disturb him. That’s because this bird that is now free suddenly finds himself in no man’s land….like a soldier wandering in the fog….not knowing where he should go or do. As where he is….is not a place of sweet repose or even a secret garden. Or for that matter a place he wants to be in….it’s suddenly an desolate, cold and dangerous place.
As since there is no third world that is neither the world of the cage nor the world outside the cage. This bird suddenly finds himself in a strange land craving to return back to the world of his cage.
The man who steps outside his discomfort zone into the land where the only thing that is certain is the promise of more uncertainty…..is this same bird who has only known two definable worlds. But now finds himself walking in a strange land that suddenly disturbs him.
The man in a land called uncertainty. Not many men know about this other ‘third world.’ But I happen to be a honorary citizen of that world. I reckon.’
November 14, 2014
“A man who ventures into the business world is not so different from a young tree. The first discipline he learns is that – to grow straight and true, he must listen only to his inner voice. That is the only way to grow strong and straight.
Do not for one moment delude yourself this is easy. As when a man…any man takes a position and plants a flag on a hill. He will make enemies.
But without this discipline there is no way to find the mark – if you bend to listen to other people all the time, you will grow crooked and weak. You will fall to the ground with the first strong wind. And then you will be like a weed, growing wild in all directions, diffusing your precious energy running along the ground deliriously until someone pulls you out by the roots and throws you away like rubbish…….keep your goal clear…..never be distracted!
Above all never commit the grave mistake of taking yourself too seriously… laugh at yourself from time to time….laugh at the many ironies life throws at you. You will encounter many as a man who runs his own enterprise. Enjoy the journey. As one day when you complete the journey and arrive that is really all you will ever remember – the little moments of laughter that made it all worthwhile that once came your way.”
November 14, 2014
In life. We fashion our own reality and. We live in that understanding of reality.
Even if one day someone who loves you decides to give you the boot. It’s probably because they believe deep down in their hearts – they can lead a more meaningful and happier life without you. Whether that is true or not is immaterial.
What is important for you to understand how reality determines the way one lives is – they have successfully conceived and believed in this version of reality and they have made a conscious decision to move on without you.
No amount of jumping and screaming can ever change their reality. And in all fairness there were probably valid reasons that led them to form that sort of conclusion.
It is like the ‘reality’ of how some of my business rivals have come to see me. They see me as a dangerous man who needs to be neutralized…taken a peg down…taught a lesson etc etc. And they fashion this ‘reality’ into their unabridged version of reality by cultivating the company of like minded fools and knaves who are similarly wary of my motives. So this reality has become their lives and their lives are dedicated to destroying me in every way possible.
No amount of jumping and screaming can ever change their reality. And in all fairness there were probably valid reasons that led them to form that sort of conclusion.
In the same way, when a story raptures the public consciousness and goes viral, it’s usually because people believe the narrative is significant in some way to their own lives…it resonates with them…..they can relate to the trials of the main protagonist. As since it mirrors the reality of their own struggles…it becomes their understanding of reality and eventually they too will come to live in it.
No amount of jumping and screaming can ever change their reality. And in all fairness there were probably valid reasons that led them to form that sort of conclusion.
‘It is very common for the vast majority of people to fashion their own version of reality and to even live in it. That ‘reality’ that guides their awareness of themselves and their known world may have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with evidential and anecdotal reality. But my point is it doesn’t stop them from believing it’s real.
To me this is quite normal to suggest this pathology is part and parcel of the human condition. As what humans can conceive….they will believe and that will eventually become their reality.
This is the same reason why when two divorcee’s come together they will eventually fashion a world where all men can only be cruel as they are probably optional. It’s also the same psychology why two Christians will have absolutely no compunction in pitying a non believer not realizing that it’s both patronizing and an attempt to appropriate another’s brain. It may also be the same reason why some people believe just because they can make do with $1 kopi, others shouldn’t have any problems doing the same. Discounting of course the patrimony of the entire transaction.
What we believe….eventually becomes our reality…and ultimately our world.
Tell what is your understanding of reality?’
November 13, 2014
Whenever I look at some of my old videos. I can’t help but feel I am looking at the life and times of Idi Amin or Adolf Hitler – that’s because when one is cut off from mainstream society and living with tribesmen high in the mountains for months and possibly years….it’s very easy to become deluded. Easier still to fashion the truth and to even believe in it. As since one is will always be a sort of god to primitive people, it’s all too easy for one to buy into the belief…..this is the world. This is reality….
I must really make the effort to go back home to Singapore, take a bus, sit on a train, eat a bowl of mee pok….then it will all come back again very nicely. It is so long and faraway. So very far that I cannot even remember what mee pok taste like. I remember it only faintly….but I cannot be sure any longer.
I must really make an effort go back home! We should all make an effort to return. Even if it is for just a short period. As so many of us are spread out thru out the world in either plantations or mining enterprises in far flung corners of the god saken world where angels fear to tread and there is only work, work and work. So thru the years many of us have forgotten about the idea of home. Some of us have even begun to fashion our own temples of illusion by building grand buildings right smack in the middle of nowhere….perhaps we have all even come to believe like the game we once played…..home no longer exist.
We must all make the return trip. Sit down together. Eat our food like civilized men. Talk gently to each other.
Many years ago in South America after Africa…..
‘Along the 249 and a half mile dust road between Cuiaba and Santos del Norte in the part of Brazil where angels fear to tread, there are no fewer than three provincial land registries.
Only the land office in the makeshift township of Guaranta overlooked the Madiera rivers and it was here, the Chinaman decided to register his land claim – just two months ago, Guaranta did not exist – it like the many cowboy towns along the meandering Madeira sprung right out of the ground like wild mushrooms just around the period of the Great Amazon land rush – when Brazil’s military dictatorship pursued the infamous land reform policy of ‘integrar para nao entregar’ – a free for all where settlers were given title to the land they worked.
It was just around the end of the harvest season in Guaranta – a period when fleets of pickups, yellow and green John Deere’s tractors hauling cane and soy from the Amazonian interior had ceased rumbling and now they were all splayed out like the drunks and spent prostitutes. Running parallel to the zinc roofed container township on the only boulevard known as Ignacio da Silva. A great Madeira ran fast and deep – on the quay river barges belonging to ADM, Cargill and Bunge laden with golden soy rested indolently like rust colored hippo’s cooling their heels – the sight of these strange rusting behemoths must have reminded the Chinaman of Africa. As he had paused to light a cigarillo and leaned on the railings to watch them before entering the land registry. It struck the man just then that this was first time in his long treacherous 1,600 mile journey starting from Argentina to Brazil southern ports that he had ever paused….he wondered to himself why had he paused – why had he suddenly come to a stop in the way a raging river suddenly loses it’s vigor as it discovers the infinity of the sea – he hadn’t done so till then.
The Chinaman had not paused. Not even when he had heard rumors of a large swathes of new lands opening up in Santarem in a bar down south in Beuno Aries and had decided to travel all the way to brigand infested jungles to stake his claim before a frenzied land grab ensued. Neither did he pause when he came across a band of brigands after driving his stake on a piece of land that overlooked a bend shaped like a shoulder of a woman on the Madeira Rivers – the man only remembered narrowing his eyes at these menacing marauders when they had told him…the land he had staked had already been taken by a rich landowner….he did not even pause when one of the trigger happy grileiros leveled his lupara at him…the Chinaman just blew the man’s head off….and told them…he would be back to put their boss in a coffin…he did not pause as it felt right…just like Africa…this the man reckoned was after all the way politics was conducted deep in the Amazon…or for that matter anywhere else where men carried guns like cowboys – the man did not pause…not even when he came across a wandering priest preaching to Panara Indians deep in the Amazon who suddenly turned to him, read from chapter five of Matthew and asked whether he would like to confess his sins with the words…
‘Bem aventurados os que tem fome e sede de justica, pois servo satisfeitos.’
He did not pause. The Chinaman merely got up and walked away. All the while wondering with each step how long could such a fool in his silly frock last in grileiros infested lands who roamed a godless sky – maybe a week….maybe a month….he did not pause….only when he was leaning against the railings by the harbor overlooking the Madeira that day did he pause…there was something he needed to do – though it escaped him just then…something important…then suddenly as if remembering. The Chinaman took out a dog eared color postcard which he had always carried in his breast pocket long before he even boarded the sardine tub in the coite de noire which eventually berthed in Santiago….the man looked at it again as he had always done during the hour just before the sun would slip over the mountains in Africa. He knew all the buildings framed against the clean cool paraffin skyline by heart and even those which he didn’t quite know such as the white half lion and fish in the foreground which was vomiting water – he claimed to know it, as a creature which had eaten something that didn’t agree with it – then he tore it up in two and threw it into the dark waters of the Madeira.
It was a picture of a distant dreamy place that he had always wanted to try his luck in..to met the right girl, settle down, forget his past, get an ordinary nine to five job, grow fat and to just lead an ordinary life…it was Singapore.’
That was the only time the Chinaman ever paused…that day as the sun died ever so slowly somewhere along the Madeira…..’
November 13, 2014
This afternoon I shot an owl that has been flying regularly into my birdhouse and gobbling my birds at night. I am not proud of this kill. As I happen to be very fond of birds….even owls…they are truly magnificent creatures. It was a very cold and calculating business.
I took it out real close, at around 20 meters (2.5 palms away). I kept the sun squarely behind me to remain invisible, that allowed me to sneak up real close without being spotted. Owls are nocturnal. But they do sometimes appear late in the afternoon. It’s not easy to sneak up on a owl. As they have radar hearing. But they can be fooled. As since their left ear is slightly higher position than the right – so a sound coming from below the Owl’s line of sight will be louder in the right ear. This allows an owl to create a mental image of the space where the sound source is located.
Providing one moves only when the wind picks up and rustles the fronds of the palms and remains so very still like a rock when the wind dies….one is invisible to the owl. It took me a whole hour just to get into the perfect kill zone starting from 130 meters. Aimed on the first pin along the upper spine line of the side profile of the owl, but compensated for the field tipped arrow to fall exactly two inches below the line of fire.
Surgical kill. Nothing personal…it’s strictly business. Like I said, I don’t feel good about this.
I have many business rivals. Some of them are vicious and they would like nothing better than to see me packing up and disappearing like a traveling circus. But despite their best efforts to combine their resources to boot me out…..they don’t seem to be very successful.
I on the otherhand despite my pocket battleship Bismark size seem to be very successful in piquing their high blood pressure and triggering heart attacks.
My business strategy is simple: where they are strong and numerous….I will avoid them. Where they are few and weak and do not dare to go….there is where I sow the seeds of their downfall by systematically destroying their capacity to exert command and control. To weaken their chain of command till it becomes impossible for them to read the terrain and prevailing sentiments accurately.
One reason for my business rivals lack of success simply boils down to difference in lifestyle and attitudes. I cycle. They don’t. They’re all cursed with 99.9% body fat. I have 5%. They have zero hand and eye coordination. I have perfect pitch. They like to throw dinners where everyone goes just for a free meal. I get invited to eat because people like to hear stories of my travels.
Under normal circumstances being an avid cyclist doesn’t confer one a competitive advantage. But since the bicycle to me is not just a mode of transportation. As it is a magic carpet to connect with my community. Thru the years, I have managed to successfully fashion the humble two wheeler into a very effective propaganda chariot. As since this machine can go where cars can never go – It allows me to reach deep and silently into the inner sanctum of the kampung heartlands. Since cycling is a much more sociable form of transport. One can stop often and chit chat with the many kampung folk. When one is hermetically sealed in a big and expensive car, it is very difficult to make this sort of deep spirited connection spontaneously – but when one is ridding a humble bicycle which doesn’t come with any trappings of wealth or status, it makes it far easier for kampung folk to take to man – their guard is lowered.
I find with the bicycle it is not only possible for me to cover a larger constituency but it’s also a great way of soliciting camaraderie amongst young and old since many would often offer me a cool drink, invite me into their huts for a meal or just stop to chat.
The war of the hearts and minds is ultimately a long drawn out battle of attrition.
We will win!
‘We live today in an increasingly fault finding, cynical and jaded society. It’s a pathology where most people these days are increasingly mistrustful of figures of authority.
That to me is perfectly natural because if you look at what has transpired socially and economically in the last ten to fifteen years – it’s a really a litany of broken promises and what I can only described as unfulfilled aspirations. The public these days no longer trust big corporations to act in their best interest, not after the debacle of the last financial crisis. Neither do they trust politicians either, as they have been let down time and time again by empty promises and self serving policies.
So what we have these days is a chronic lack of trust quotient for traditional figures of authority. Leaders no longer command the priori respect they once did. If they think they still do. They are seriously misinformed and possibly delusional. To me this is not necessarily a bad thing – as it’s conceivable the public consciousness is finally growing a brain. Either that or they’re becoming so open minded, their brains are spilling out.
Paradoxically in an effort to deal with society’s terminal skepticism, leaders these days seem to be reinforcing failure instead of leveraging on their imagination to reinventing themselves. This they do by putting their faith in the wonder weapon of hype and spin. So these days, we have a curious situation where it’s not unusual to come across leaders who much prefer using mind boggling adjectives like ‘right sizing,’ instead of ‘down sizing.’ Or ‘better calibrate’ to ‘better managed.’ Etc etc etc.
But the irony is even with this additional sophistication of hype and spin leaders don’t nearly increase their credibility quotient as much as ending up being labelled as phoney’s and flake’s. And when that happens it’s very natural for people to tune out….go the other way….or simply switch off. As since the message comes across as trite, processed, kitsch and two dimensional. There is really no basis no to even forge common ground let alone reach out to make a deep spirited connection.
That’s why the public these days are gravitating towards the authentic. They want real things….real experiences…real stories and most importantly real leaders who they can really trust. And this means leaders these days need to be mindful in the way they communicate to the general public.
I mean these days if you say something, it’s probably going to be challenged in the public square whether you like it or not. You could for example tell everyone that a degree is not necessary to be successful. But you certainly can’t prevent many from asking – why then do you send your kids to university instead of steering them to be a machinist or plumber? Others who may suffer from terminal askance may even go as far as to lampoon that idea by saying, talking about the glorious life of the tradesman without ever once discussing the preponderant role of unions and how they have reliably and single handedly elevated the status of tradesmen is like talking about baking cakes without ever once discussing eggs.
So my point is leaders these days aren’t nearly living in the age of the ideal quorum as they are in an increasingly suspicious and mistrustful world – where most people would not even give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re honest and genuine.
This just underscores the importance a creating an authentic persona. I am not saying for one moment that projection of self is real or that it may even bear the slightest resemblance to one’s character. All I am saying is leaders these days are increasingly challenged to find their own personal niche branding to win the battle of the hearts and minds.
I have found the best way to accomplish this is by just stripping it right down to the chassis – after all if everyone out there is resorting to endless hype and spin and I do the same…then how can I possibly differentiate myself from the competition to race ahead of the pack? To just strive to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s a very good place to start I reckon because no one can ever be you…it’s you and it’s as authentic as it can get …only understand this! It all comes with the imperfection of warts and all….but one thing is assured…it’s definitely you!
The perverse result of being authentic could well be: one actually means what one says…..one will actually have to deliver what one promises…..and it’s conceivable one may even have to stand and be challenged by others on what once said or did instead of just throwing out smoke and mirrors all the time – that to me is really what leadership is all about. If one believes otherwise….then one would do well to step aside.’
November 7, 2014
There is a quiet man who lives not very far from where I turn the wheel of life. He came here just around the same time as me, very little is known about him, other than the fact, he once worked as a banker in Singapore. These days, he runs a small, but highly profitable mushroom farm that caters for the lucrative Dubai market.
The quiet time doesn’t venture out into the village very often and on the rare occasions when he shows up to stock up on sundries. He goes about his business quietly and discreetly.
From time to time during the afternoon just before the sun slips over the mountain ranges. The quiet man can be seen leaning on my fence line lost in thoughts as he looks out at the birds flying around my bird house. Like me I reckon he likes birds as well. Most of the time, we just smile and wave at each other from a distance where I can just about make out his reserved features. Never ever once exchanging a word. It’s been like this for over four years.
At other times the quiet man leaves a basket of mushrooms at my gate….the quiet man never leaves a note.
The quiet man is always alone. All by himself.
One day when I saw him walking my lands. I smiled and waved to him. The quiet man look visibly distraught, but nonetheless waved back.
Soon rumors started circulating in the kampung grapevine that only the quiet man is permitted to roam freely in the land of the devil. When the matter was brought up to me a few times by others who asked, why can’t we enter your lands….what is so special about the quiet man that you even accord him such privileges. I merely told these Kay Poh fucks that…it is my land to do as I please.
One evening while the quiet man was strolling on my lands, he asked me in a stammering voice whether I would like to visit his mushroom farm to see some of his new crops. He mentioned he has plans to start an enterprise back home and would really value my inputs concerning this new business proposal. After that the quiet mention, we could enjoy a meal together and some fine cognac that he has been saving for such a moment.
I shook the hands of the the quiet man for the very first time in four years….it mentioned…it would be a rare privilege.
‘Let me tell you this: if you meet a man of few words, who much prefers his own company to others, no matter what he tells you or write, it’s not because he’s trying to find himself in solitude or he’s trying to fashion a temple of contentment thru some great exploration of loneliness.
That’s all bullshit!
Let me tell it as it is. It’s because once upon a time somewhere in this quiet man’s life – he tried his very best to make things work in that world that he has now shut away from himself like a man who takes all of who he once was, puts it all in shoe box and slips it underneath his bed…and that has to be an incredibly sad thing…to watch yourself die and to know that from this point onwards…you are nothing more than a shell of a man….damaged goods….because no matter what you say of this quiet man. Even you cannot deny he must have once tried so bloody hard to hold it all together that he probably gave it his all….but somewhere in that great personal battle, maybe a combination of people and circumstances probably hurt and disappointed him so much this that he simply had to run away like a wounded animal and hide in the jungle.
So when one comes across these quiet souls…..one must always be very gentle, quiet and never force the moment…..and providing one respects their space, dignity and give them the benefit of good light….one day it will all come together very nicely and the quiet man will begin to regain his faith in himself, humanity and the world that he once turned away from.
The greatest gift one man can give to another man is botherhood. Do not ask of me how I know about such things. I just know.’
November 6, 2014
There is a common road that runs thru my lands that leads to other lands. Many farmers use this road. Recently, a few of them have complained it is getting terribly uneven, worn down and even slightly dangerous to transverse at certain sections especially during the rainy season. On one occasion one section of this windy road even collapsed into a ravine rendering it impossible to transverse.
One day the farmers who regularly use this road gathered at the edge of where part of this road collapsed into the ravine to discuss what to do next. When they spotted me walking my lands, one of them asked me, do you know what happened to this road…it used to be so good, but now it seems to be impassable….something must have happened. Another quipped, it was never like this before….even in the past when we had heavier rains, it was always even and smooth. Then they all asked, do you happen to know the person who used to maintain this road?
I told them all, that person USED to be me and I did it all alone with the sweat of my brow for four years without a single offer of help or gratitude from any of them. Thereafter I walked briskly away.
Sometimes people don’t notice the good things others do for them until they stop doing them.
‘It requires a certain dexterity of mind, intelligence and effort for one to be able to feel gratitude. That is because, modern living blunts our senses and makes us all slothful to the very idea of how fragile man is and how badly conceived he is to thrive in the frontier. If the idea of a great architect in the sky really existed at all – I would have a coat of fur like a wolf, fangs that can sink effortlessly into flesh and bone and eyes that can see in the dark. That to me is the ideal shape and form that I would much prefer to my paper mâché body.
No. I don’t imagine these thoughts have ever crossed your mind before. These are rumminations that only afflicts a man somewhere around two hundred days in the jungle. No! These thoughts can never permeate your hermetically bubbled existence. But that’s only because you don’t know the frontier like I do. You may have experienced it vicariously in the movies….read about in books….or even roughed it out a few days in a camp site. It’s not an indictment on humanity. Rather it’s the way it is when one grows accustomed to the regularity of modern living. Being able to turn a faucet to run one’s hand in a stream of water without ever having to ration it…..switching on a light without having to worry about whether you are using too much batteries….being able to just let your hair down without ever fearing and probably ten thousand other things that one regularly takes for granted in Singapore are all things which will always be alien to the attitude of the frontier man.
No! You’ve never looked at yourself naked before a mirror before. Or felt the assault on your own mortality wondering to yourself how feeble and weak you are against what lurks in the jungle. Or yearn to be that creature with a mane of fur, fangs and fiery eyes that can see thru darkness….to want it… No! A crie de couer. To desire to be that creature.
No! You’ve have never had too…..you were never ever pushed to that point of no return when your mind gives itself to such dark thoughts…..and that is why you should be grateful….so very grateful.’
Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take,take, take, take, take, take, take, take, Take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take ……wonder who Jover Chew learnt this from.
‘In life there are a few enduring truism….one of them what monkey see….monkey will do. This is why in life one must learn to give and take.’
November 5, 2014
I once knew a very unhappy girl who liked to find fault with everyone in the village. One day she walked all the way to the house on the hill in the dead of night. When this girl saw me, she blurted out in a distressed tone, ‘I am sick and tired of everyone in the village calling me an ugly duckling…….I want you to transform me into a beautiful woman…..I know you can do this by just bitting me….as you are devil.’
I looked at this girl who was panting and beet root flustered. As she assumed a limp form and turned her head to one side to offer me a bite at her neck. Though I did not ask, I surmised she had got into a nasty cat fight. Again. Or perhaps someone teased her about her looks. Again.
After offering her a cool drink, the girl asked….is this a magic potion to lessen the pain of the bite. I did not answer her and simply gestured her to breathe properly instead of panting and swallowing her words breathlessly.
I went on to tell this distressed girl, it is very clear to me nothing I have to say will ever change her mind and so she must prepare herself to join the ranks of the undead. But before I could sink my fangs into her. I first needed some assurance. She first needed to purify her blood. As I didn’t want to get blood poisoning. I went on to add – this is not the movies….this one you also dunno meh?
To purify herself. All she had to do was to come here every afternoon for a whole entire week and sit down on this bench and breathe slowly and deeply. Before she left, I gave my word on the seventh day. She would be transformed into a beauty in one bite.
Everyday this girl came. Sat on the bench beneath the shade of a sprawling palm and breathe slowly and deeply….the more she breathe. The less she looked like a shifty eyed scared animal. The less she fidgeted around, shrilled like a witch or threw a tantrum and so gradually she was transformed into the woman who she was meant to be.
On the sixth day. The girl told me after great deliberation. She had changed her mind and no longer wanted me to bite her. She went on to add, after thinking about the matter. She had now reached the irrevocable conclusion, it would be better for her to remain in the land of the living. As her problems now did not seem to big. Besides her outlook in life had since taken a turn for the better and she believes she is already beautiful.
Naturally I feigned disappointment and licked my lips with an air of missed opportunity.
It must be magic….so all the villagers said.
(This is a true story)
“We live today in a very funny world. Where everyone from bent pastors and crooked politicians are trying to sell us the next best thing since sliced bread for a fee.
So twisted is our modern world. If I told you, you would come across as 25% or 50% more attractive providing you are prepared to spend X or Y on this or that beauty treatment. You would probably have very little problem believing me. As we have all been conditioned to believe that nothing ever comes for free.
But if I said to you, all this can come to you for free by just being mindful of how you breathe…….that by just being mindful of this one thing that you regularly perform unthinkingly minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year by year has the power to transform your life completely…to make you a more attractive person….to keep your mind clear and open, enabling you to think about who you are and what and why you’re doing and thinking the things you do. But primarily, if you are mindful of your breathing and breathe in the right way, you’ll come across as a happier, calmer and more confident person who has a better posture, ability to focus better and enjoys what life has to offer more…..you would probably never believe me.
That is why, you owe it to yourself to at try this just once….breathe.
November 4, 2014
There are some images that are stuck permanently in my head since childhood like chewing gum on a hot pavement. I reckon, there is no way to erase them from my inner consciousness. And it’s not unusual for me to come across them from time to time. Most of the time when serendipity and opportunity intercepts and these images just appear before me again……it’s like chancing over old friends.
Well maybe not old friends that we know of. Maybe it’s just a familiar face one sees regularly or keeps bumping into from time to time….compelling one to ask whether perhaps fate or providence has woven this person into our life story.
When I first came across them as a child. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Coming to think of it….I still don’t.
Some things will always be mysterious. But nonetheless fun…