Cool runnings

April 5, 2015

2015 is starting to feel like silk. Everything is going down just the way I planned it. Right down to the smallest detail. Everything is just the way it should be – the weather, workers, dogs, even those who seem to hate me….it’s all there splayed out like a smooth stretch of road. Everything is exactly the way it should be.

Everything is just perfect…it’s like that intensely spiritual moment when a race car driver finds that mythical line that allows him to be at one with his machine – he’s tearing down at full speed. Feeling the surge of the forward glide. There is absolutely no resistance…no vibration…the cylinders are all purring. The faint reassuring whiff of octane. In that moment when the holy trinity of road, machine and man are fused. The man whose at the wheel just knows. He can go faster and further than anyone else. There is no need to look at the rearview mirror….there’s no one tailgating. They’re all too far back – no one even comes close…..it’s just him…..his machine…..and the road that seems to run forever.

It doesn’t happen often as farming is usually stocked with loads of unexpected twist and turns…..but when it does, it’s just incredibly satisfying, edifying and nourishing….to know deep down. You’ve done it right the first time! There is no need to sit down there and mull over the past. It’s right the first time! No need to go back to rework that which didn’t turn out the way you planned it – it’s right the first time.

I know it’s too early to say this is how it will be for the rest of the year. I know….but it’s been so awfully long since things went my way. So I am going to relish every moment for what it’s worth.

Good or bad?

April 4, 2015

Early this morning a school girl who has a habit of wandering my lands and singing Chinese folk songs woke me up….demanding to know whether I am a good or evil man.

The girl complained her brain has been hurting for three days despite consuming Panadol like lemon drops. I asked what might be the cause of this persistent headache. The girl replied, it had started just around the time after she had overheard a couple of villagers in the kopitiam arguing whether the man who lived on the hill all by himself was a good or evil man…she was so distraught and confused thereafter.

So now the girl demanded to know, ‘are you a good or evil man?’ I told her in a calm voice. There is no good or bad man in this world….they are both two sides of the same coin…an illusion….a division created by foolish people who simply insist on seeing the world in terms of black and white. I went on to share with this girl. In truth, there are only words, actions and thinking we can live with or choose to live apart from.

Thereafter the girl’s headache promptly disappeared and she skipped happily away.

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‘The vast majority of humans much prefer to see the affairs of other men in terms of black and white…good or evil, right or wrong, ethical or morally flawed – it’s one way of making sense of the complication of the human condition. A lazy man’s way of connecting the dots at best I reckon. As this simplistic comparative calculus misleads terribly.

Experience informs me time and again, even good men are often capable of evil thoughts, actions and deeds and I imagine the same holds true of men who we all consider evil as well. They too are capable of magnanimous deeds.

I believe the truth is to be found somewhere in the no man’s land of greyness – that overarching domain of fact and myth, reality and make belief that seems to go on and on like the perpetual horizon. That at least is how I have always seen the tussle between good and evil.

In truth. When it comes to the imprecise science of human accounting. There are only actions, deeds and thinking we are able to live with. Or simply cannot and have to walk away from.

When a man makes a decision to walk away from that which he once believed with all his heart and mind. It can never be a happy enterprise. It has to be a very sad affair – a personal trajedy of sorts. He will probably use the lover’s abbreviation of unrequited love…disappointed…to best describe his feelings and in a sense it’s not so different from a man who decides to leave his one and only love. Something dies in this man…something is reborn again..the man is reincarnated into someone else.

That is for me whenever I come across a man who everyone says is the personification of evil. There is always a tinge of lingering sadness about this character. Because I know once upon a time, this was probably a good hearted man who believed in goodness wholeheartedly….only the cost associated with being good might have been too costly. Good was no good. Things just didn’t come around in the way it’s supposed too and that man always found himself having to pick himself up after an epic fall. So eventually, he turned his back on that one thing he ever believed in…..the man said to himself…from today onwards…I am going to be a different man from the man I used to be. To put it another way, that good man assassinated his goodness as surely as he held a thing which he loved with all his heart beneath the waterline and watched the life seep out of it, till it was so dead – he betrayed everything which he once believed in with all his heart.

Many years ago when I first turned the wheel as a planter. I received an invitation from a wealthy landowner for tea. He was a man who was so powerful that even governments feared him. During our meeting when the great man asked me what I wanted most out of life – I replied, to do good! Upon hearing my reply, the great man summoned me to come closer and after peering deep into my eyes like a shaman studying the hidden mysteries of chicken entrails, he began to weep uncontrollably like a baby…he was inconsolable…our meeting was cut short unexpectedly.

I did not understand why for many years. But now I do…he saw it all, the before, during and after of my entire life. Yes in that one brief moment, he saw it all unfurling like some terrible creature gnawing its way out from flesh and bone into tje world.

Hence the human tragedy – there are no good or bad men….only words, actions and deeds we can live in peace and harmony with or choose to live without.

The great planter saw it all….the before, during and after.’

Join me or perish?

April 3, 2015

This morning during breakfast in the kopitiam I proposed to the elders of the village my intention to venture into prawn farming. I know what some of them were thinking as they listened to me….’finally, his true colours are showing, he is muscling into our turf’….’Adolf Hitler is planning to invade Poland!’…..’this only confirms our suspicion all along this man has a pathological imperialistic bent!’

I spoke plainly to the elders. I told them their current way of prawn farming was at best hit and miss – that it’s not only economically unsustainable, but since so much antibiotics and chemicals are used it’s an ecological dead end.

I told them I plan to farm tiger prawns exclusively for the Singapore market – that I will use the latest scientific breeding methods which I myself will pioneer….I will do the same as I did in optimising oil palm yield on hilly land.

My proposal was cold shouldered.

I feel sad as my sincere intentions to better the lot of community has been rebuffed.

Can you all see so clearly how I have been victimised…discriminated….and vilified again. How is it possible for anyone to blame me for what I am about to do!

I will have to conduct my research elsewhere…..to be continued.

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I much prefer people to like and respect than to fear me. It wasn’t as if I didn’t put in the effort to be liked and respected. In the beginning, I was a nice guy. You know the sort of guy whose easy going and didn’t take himself too seriously.

The problem as I saw it was Mr Nice Guy didn’t seem to get very far in life. That’s how it is in the plantation business. Some people just saw me as easy meat…they started to take bites out of me.

I can’t say precisely when I transformed into a hard, implacable and ruthless man who everyone feared. Even if I did remember. It’s unlikely that I want to recount this to anyone….there are some things which I prefer to keep to myself and take to the grave ….no, I don’t ever want to go back there to that moonless night when they came for me so many years ago. It’s a door that I never want to open again.

All I know now is no one ever dares take a bite out of me any longer. It’s as if they all seem to know – this is where the line is….thereafter anything can happen. So it’s best to just stay within the line. No. No one. Absolutely no dares to take a bite out of me any longer.

These days I eat all by myself. I rarely ever sit in a group and on those rare occasions when I do, everyone just keeps quiet. Most people still greet me like they used too – only I can always sense their fear and I am mindful to keep these social encounters brief and pleasent. On the rare occasions when one tends to overstay, it’s not uncommon for me to sense their trepidation and curiosity whenever their minds turn to the incident on that moonless night – it’s as if they want to know whether it’s true…..what I did to those men….on that moonless night so many years ago.

I always leave before curiosity takes hold of them. Always.

I guess it’s easy to talk about being a good man….it’s so easy.

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It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the opinions expressed by other people. That is the elemental right of every individual who has a functioning brain. But it is all together another thing to believe – only you or the clique you belong to see the world clearer than anyone else or only your point of view matters. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are saying.

Learn to respect the opinion of others even if they differ from yours. Above all overcome your pride and pettiness and wherever possible open your mind to the idea – those who see the world differently from you may teach you something new about youtself and how you make sense of the world.

If we don’t want to be trapped in obsolete ideologies, old ways of doing things and run the risk of going around in ever decreasing circles. Then we would all have to learn to discard the old and useless, keep that which is good and develop new ways of going forward.

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‘This hardly requires any elaboration. Things are always changing. What is good before may not be so good today or tomorrow. The conditions that made success possible before may not exist today and even if they do it’s unlikely that past performance can ever be a reliable indicator of future performance.