I bet you all don’t know what a banger is….no. It’s not that other banger. I am referring to the banger that one uses to form a sharp crease line on trousers.

Linen pants

January 6, 2017

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Linen pants generally don’t ever exist in the formal wear wardrobe of city men – that’s because it got a bad rep as a super casual poolside and lounging weekend material. But to cloistered community of planters. Linen will always be King. No planter worth his salt will ever be seen dead in cotton, wool mix or for that matter even any other high end material…..only linen will do.

I suspect that’s because every planter knows intimately how tremendously finicky it is to grow, harvest and twill flax fibers into linen – the best linen in grown between the tiny sliver of land between the South of France and Amsterdam – the planting cycle is short, 100 days from March to July covering an area no more than 800 hectares. Hence good linen, especially Provenance linen is pricey.

There is also a functional dimension of linen that appeals to planters. Linen is 30 per cent stronger than cotton, its chief advantage is its particularly well suited for the hot tropics as it wicks sweat, breathes and due to the open weave, it’s very airy.

On the aesthetics – while a new cotton pants will feel smoother and silkier to the touch, linen really only starts coming into its own after about three to five years of wear – don’t expect your new linen pants to look perfect when they’re new. Usually they tend to be dull and quite scratchy.

However with regular wear and wash cycles – linen will be softer and shinier and look better, whereas cotton does the opposite. Flax fibres don’t stretch a great deal – so great care is needed in the fitting and cutting.

Linen is exceptionally durable and even resistant to damage from abrasion, which generally speaking is a good thing when one is romping around in the field.

The other difference between cotton and linen is the latter seldom ever holds it’s shape for more than a few hours – to wear linen is to embrace the beauty of crumpleness…roughness…impermanence even – that may well be why linen pants don’t ever feature in corporate settings. But it’s shabby wabi sabi feel is certainly a very attractive trait that only planters seem to appreciate.

The only downside about linen is my dogs like to bury their noses into my crotch – I wonder why? What do they see with their noses, could it be they can conjure up distant images of bright sunlit morns in July or maybe Robbins dipping their wings as they swoop low along the fields of bronzed flak plants….it’s so sad to me, it’s a different species lah!

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‘The essence of Wabi-sabi can be boiled down to a few philosophies – the first is passing thru this planet as delicately as possible like perhaps how the wind flits ever so gently across the hills and valleys – it is to be the opposite of loud, brash and full frontal.

It doesn’t happen all at once. Just like linen acquiring a sheen only after years of wear….it all takes time to come along….to be real that is. To not try too hard to be perfect, too well kept and above all cultivating the wisdom to appreciate the beauty of all manner of things.

In other words, the wabi in the sabi tells us to stop our mad fixation with staying young forever, success, wealth, status, prestige, power and ceaseless consumption and instead enjoy life as it really is.

Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things simply be. As even at the most austere level of existence. When we don’t interfere too much with things such as the environment – that can only produce beautiful living.

The Sabi in the Wabi speaks about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get when we give things and people the permission to simply be real and not kitsch.

As to be real, it is to be like linen – as not only does linen have the courtesy to crumple after a few hours of wear and at times even appear slightly shabby. But it is precisely this irregularity as opposed to symmetry…this almost delicate imbalance between impermanence and timelessness that makes linen so beautiful.

In reality nothing in the universe is completely perfect or completely still; it is only in the minds of men that such fakery exist. Because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except maybe to people who don’t care very much for linen.’

Living a simple life

January 5, 2017

Someone asked me recently why don’t you ever come out at night and drink with us? After all how much fun is it to be alone all the time?

I told this person…that’s the best part of staying in when the sun goes down.

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When one seems to know everyone except who one really is – then one can only be shaky all the time. Shaky people will grab on to virtually anything to steady themselves. If they speak to others who they feel has a pleasant and educated accent – then they will go back and watch a lot of American sitcoms on Youtube and soon they too will have a DIY foreign accent. No need to even study abroad. Automatic, they will make it up as they go along. Twanging away like a broken harmonica some more.

If they mix with others with fashionable hairstyles all the time. They too will end up watching Korean drama’s like descendants of the sun and soon they too will be sporting the latest super high maintenance hair fashions along with looking in the mirror one million times a day.

And when shaky people see others with new and shiny cars. They too will end up buying a new car even if that is the last thing they can afford and even if they have to borrow money from their mom and dad to fill the tank and even even even if they have to get by with 3 minute maggi noodles to pay off their monthly installments.

Shaky people will always do all these things – as they all have a deep yearning to fill a void deep within them.

Sometimes it so very painful for me to come across shaky people.

And when a man is shaky it is very difficult for him to remained focus on anything long enough to see it to it’s logical end – everything that he starts will run out of petrol mid way – it will be abandoned on the first sign of trouble – as his attention span is as short as a house fly – as since his mind is always restless. It is always looking outwards to fill the void deep within him.

There is nothing inside….hence the search for fulfillment.

All this shakiness can only lead to unnecessary suffering and cancer of the wallet.

As for the man who knows himself – nothing can shake him. It is not possible. He’s rock steady like a mountain. I call this category of men the assassin creed. As these are very focussed individuals who can do many many things in this world.

Because they see the world very clearly without the slightest aberration of illusions.

In business one would do well to be mindful of such men – as they can pretend for years to be still like a lifeless rock only to suddenly spring to life and strike mercilessly like a cobra.

Research and study this well.

People who know me well will probably tell you I am an awfully odd sort of person. Perhaps even bordering on the incredibly simple Simon stupid.

As firstly, I am not a very big fan of banks. Not enough at least to ever consider paying interest on a loan.

My policy is very simple.

If I don’t have the money. I don’t buy it. Not even if I need it now. I will save up for it. Don’t even care whether it goes up during the in between period.

Don’t like credit cards either. Never ever use it. Not even if I don’t have any other choice.

I reckon I am quite a simple sort of fellow – maybe an old economy sort of chap who others will probably have very little difficulty believing still lives in the age of flying boats, Imperial leather, paraffin lamps, mosquito nets, linen shirts and everything that is from a bygone age.

To some measure of degree this attitude is very much the preserve of the planter’s worldview – a way of life that has hardly changed at all. As if it’s not beholden to anything that is remotely embedded with a microchip or even requires batteries for it to hum happily to life.

It’s a very old way of seeing the world that I am always acutely conscious of whenever I find myself feeling lost as I so often do in cityscape.

So much so whenever I find myself in the company of people whose only preoccupation seems to be showing off how rich they are to people who hardly know or care – I can’t help but feel they’re poorer than beggars…..as since the banks literally own the next twenty five of their lives or the next five years when it comes to their spanking cars….it’s hard if not impossible to believe these erudite lot can actually be better off that a beggar holding out his desperate coconut half before the charity of the world.

At least the beggar owes no one a cent….the same cannot be said for a single one of these city folk….they’re up to their necks in debt.

The world I reckon has gone stark raving mad! Especially when the debt ridden believe whole heartedly…they’re well off.

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‘If you really take the trouble to observe people around you very carefully. You will notice. Most do what others do only because they believe if so many people seem to be doing that thing. Then it has to be the right thing to do.

Others buy a house on a thirty year loan. They do the same. Others listen to some peculiar chap on TV saying, buying a house is the best investment they will ever make in life. They do the same. That sort of bovine attitude towards life unfortunately also guarantees should others decide to do and U turn and drive in the opposite direction of the traffic at 120 kmh – they are likely to do the same as well.

I think if there is one compelling reason why it’s absolutely necessary for one to step outside the so called wisdom of the crowd – it’s simply because there is no such thing as the wisdom of the crowd…..only perhaps the perpetual stupidity and gullibility of the crowd. If anything there is only the man who is separated from the world and thinks deeply about things.’

Q: What do you think is the most significant change that Trump will institute that is likely to affect Singapore and her relationship with the rest of the world?

A: I don’t know whether it is Trump per se who is responsible for changing the status quo – the reason why I say this is because Mr Trump if you think long and hard about it has changed nothing whatsoever simply because he is yet to assume the office of President – having said that the US and the world has certainly embarked on change in earnest. In the UK you already have Brexit. The same trend seems to be reflected in lesser degrees in both Italy, France and to some extent many of the Nordic countries.

But the question is what exactly has been changed – very often we hear politicians lamenting there are worrisome trends of nativitism and isolationism, but what are they really saying?

And to understand what has really changed – I think it’s important to go right back into history to 1979 when the neo liberals in America hatched Pax Americana in the form of Reaganomics by successfully selling to the rest of the world – their conception of the super duper wealth creating machine that seem to last forever.

Now if you ask me in precise terms what is currently going thru a revisionism – then I will say that particular aspect of the market economy is going thru historical change. That is to say many people no longer believe it is the purveyor of the good life. It may benefit some people, but most fall short. As a consequence many countries are rejecting it because their population are all giving it the thumbs down en masse – but to ascribe all this impetus for change to Trump is very misleading. As the process predates even Trump. So far Trump has not even passed a single directive thru either congress or the senate so how can you say he has changed anything. If anything he just rode on this wave of negative sentiment.

Q: But how will all this relate to Singapore?

A: I think the TPP will be hit as consequence. As it’s always seen as an extension of the neo liberal formulae to grow the wealth of a nation.

Q: Do you think the TPP is well and truly dead under Trump?

A: No. I think it’s just delayed. Eventually it will be tabled for ratification in congress – albeit with cosmetic changes that suggest it could be anything other than the TPP.

Q: You mean to say change occured even before Trump stepped into the picture?

A: Yes. Brexit in my opinion is simply a watershed – but the pressure has been building up for years. As many people all round the world have been steadily marginalized by globalization – you have to understand since 2007 – wages have been steadily declining if not remaining the same while the cost of living has been ratcheting up. So if you take the case of the US – you don’t have a middle class any longer – not one at least that is significant enough to buttress the mass discontentment that has been underscored by Trump.

And one reason is because so much of how corporate America grows it’s wealth requires the emasculation of the American middle class – they keep cannibalising the middle class to feed this wonder machine and it’s abit like Phileas Fog last run for the tape when he strips every last timber on the boat to feed the furnace just to reach Portsmouth.

And since that formulae of wealth creation only benefits a select class of elites at the very top of the food chain – and since it’s essentially an economic theory that requires the systematic destruction of the idea of dignity of labor by destroying the unions – we are simply witnessing a backlash from the disullioned masses.

Q: But can Trump make good on his promises? Can he remake America into a great nation again?

A: When you ask whether he can remake America into a great nation again. What you’re actually asking in a round about way is American influence in the world increasing or declining?

Truth is the US sphere of influence has been steadily declining in virtually every single hemisphere in the last fifteen years. Including it’s own backyard – Obama recently reversed it’s position on Cuba – but what many people remain unaware of is this change in policy has more to do with the rest of South America going it’s own way. As it no longer shares the US position of boycotting Cuba any longer. The same holds true for the Middle East as well – The US has hammered out detente with Iran, but the main reason why that’s has more to do with US limits regionally. Hence it’s a form of capitulation rather than what the US would have liked to do, specifically to balance the power of Shiites against the growing insurgencies that is led predominantly by the Sunni’s in the form of Hezbollah in Beirut to the West Bank and also to placate the Kurds and Iraqi’s – so these to me are signs of an empire that reached a point where it can no longer reliably exert command and control any longer.

One sees the same sad story being played out nearer home with regards to the disputed SCS – Singapore the reliable proxy of the US shouts out to the rest of ASEAN, charge! And when she looks back, no one seems to be following. They all seem to be pretending they didn’t hear the order to charge against China. So that to me is a pithy summary of where the US actually is these days.

Q: How much is Singapore’s destiny linked to US global influence?

A: Singapore is a reliable proxy of the US, so if the US is a dog, Singapore is like a tick lah. That means if the dog is happy so is the tick. If the dog dies – Singapore also die lah.

Q: You have always been highly critical of global free trade specifically in the form of globalization – can you see Trump reversing many of the corrosive aspects of globalization?

A: I am not against free trade. I would appreciate it if you don’t put words in my mouth. I regret to inform you that I am not only aware of the methods of the guild, but I even wrote their book. On record. I am and have always been a red blooded capitalist.

But what I am against is the systematic evisceration of whole communities in the name of the profit motive. This is where I feel free trade has nothing whatsoever to do with free trade – it’s a bloody oxymoron. I don’t necessary ascribe the blame to firms either – because the rule book was thrown summarily at them in dicta – as per, join us or perish, so they are simply reacting to the economic forces. If I blame anyone it is perhaps the intelligentsia in the US who were responsible for promulgating this corrosive economic theory that is called free trade and has nothing whatsoever to do with free trade.

Nowadays you notice – you don’t hear about Michael Porter, Gary Hamel, Paul Krugman or for that matter even Alan Greenspan – they have all conveniently disappeared. Neither do you hear about the ultra neo liberals in both the Republican and Democratic Party either. Again they are all hiding under a rock – and the reason why you don’t hear anything from them is because when Trump won as he did – it’s really a mother of Oh dear! moments for all these conceited intellectuals.

But my point is this was all foreseeable.

I think if America stands any chance of being great again the burden of proof is not on Trump’s shoulders as much as the community of thinkers who created this mess where the world currently finds itself – they have to first jettison their security blanket denial syndrome and come to terms with the awlful reality – while it’s conceivable there was certainly wealth creation to some degree, many of their economic logic has also created a new under class of very angry and marginalized people thru out the world who once subscribed to American economic theory.

My point is you cannot be the world’s most powerful economist, influential columnist, business guru and when so many people give you the thumbs down – you just dismiss them all as crazies or decide to say “it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me.” By every known definition, the community of thinkers have some measure of responsibility to prescribe a solution to this problem that the world finds itself in right now.

To me the solution can never emerge from the likes of Trump – all he can do is make promises that he will eventually break and the nett result of that would be unimaginably cataclysmic.

My feel is too many people are still stuck in this timeline – they haven’t really played out the various permutations of what is likely to happen when Trump fails to deliver the great back to Americans.

Q: How urgent do you see a need for the Americans to lead the world out of this crisis where so many people are disillusioned with the present economic policy?

A: In polite terms I would probably describe it as a pressing need. In not so polite terms – if the Americans don’t come out with a solution – then the Chinese will provably step in and do it for them.

Q: Do the Chinese have that latitude of influence and power?

A: I think so. You know recently I read for the first time since the Silk Road – goods are going to be freighted by rail from a China to the UK. This sort of news rarely ever gets much mention – but it’s implications are startling – only because it involves not only physical rail tracks and logistics. But just think of how many countries the train carrying these goods have to go thru – consider the sheer quantity of paperwork that requires harmonization along with agreements between China and those transit countries. I think when you see it from that perspective – it will have far reaching implications on an economy like Singapore that is so dependent on seafaring transportation of goods.

The people who run ports and related services in Singapore will have plenty of sleepless nights.

Q: Trump has signaled on numerous occasions he plans to take a stronger position on China. How will this affect trade?

A: That is a very strange statement. As China is so invested in the US economy – China owns more than $1.24 trillion in bills, notes, and bonds or about 30% of the over $4 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by foreign countries. In total, China owns about 10% of publicly held U.S. debt. I mean with that kind of war chest – I really don’t think Trump has much room to get tough on China. I could be wrong – but in the long run it makes far more sense for the US to engage rather than antagonize China. I don’t see any payouts in the latter strategy, none whatsoever considering how much US debt China is underwriting.

Even if you want to get tough – there has to be logic. I see none here.

Q: Obama mentioned recently Russian hacks into the US has been responsible for Hillary Clinton’s election defeat – he has promised to retaliate – do you see this as affecting Asia in any way?

A: Again this is yet another very strange statement. I don’t know who Obama’s target audience is – but they can’t be very well read or informed folks – as it is a fact, the US has been regularly engaged in this sort of clandestine activities, in many cases it is both well documented and factual. Not only just interfering with elections in other countries, but in many cases they are also involved in covert operations to engineer regime change and modulating governments deploying everything ranging from assassinations to funding an outright coup d’état – so now Obama is saying, he’s the guy wearing the white hat and we all supposed suspend disbelief and somehow regard him as pure as spring snow? Are you kidding me?

It’s so stupid that I don’t wish to comment on his nonsense.

Q: How will the cosy relationship between Putin and Trump affect Asia?

A: It certainly looks cosy. I will give you that. But I don’t know whether it’s really cosy cosy, you know what I mean – I really don’t have enough intel to comment on this question.

Q: What do you see as the biggest and immediate challenge for a newly minted President Trump?

A: You really want to know? I think it’s who will be the First Lady – would it be his current wife or maybe his daughter. They both can’t sit on each other on the same chair otherwise people will think it’s a sicko incest family so one has to bow out.

Q: Seriously, please. May I remind you the guilds would greatly appreciate your candor.

A: I think the price of oil and the current slide of commodity prices would be two aspects of the global economy that will require immediate attention – only because these two dimensions of trade command a disproportionate influence over the growing concerns of jobs and upward mobility. Many countries are in the doldrums because of either one or both being at all time lows – as a result the world economy is starved of liquidity that is why the volume in global trade is slowing down and getting smaller – and since these two factors have a direct impact on liquidity, it will affect everything from consumption patterns to housing prices – its very hard for me to see how global trade can possibly improve unless oil prices are put on some kind of stabilizing regimen that only the US and their allies can accomplish thru OPEC or perhaps the IMF. As for commodity prices that’s a far more tricky issue to sort out – nonetheless it too requires US leadership and vision.

As for domestic politics in the US. That will also be the first on Trump’s to do list. The question for me – is whether Trump is able to hammer out a coherent new deal to convince firms that he has a workable plan – I think getting their buy in is key because he has a lot of plans and not all of them are kooky in my humble opinion – his idea of revivifying manufacturing in America might sound naïve. But it’s actually doable. Maybe not for all categories of industries and goods – but for some, it’s certainly possible to reconstitute them back in the US again without incurring big cost penalties – because what many economist have not factored in is the moral aspects of consumer behavior – for example, I like Persian rugs. But if I know that twelve year old Abdul is chained to loom to work in some badly ventilated basement in Pakistan and paid twenty cents a hour while he goes blind. I don’t want it. Because every time I step on that rug. I am riven by guilt. It’s the same shark fin soup. I like it – but if I am conjuring all sorts of images of baby sharks getting killed. Dowan lah. I stick to Campell soup.

Look here. I am not saying the average American doesn’t step on ants or that they’re perfect – but I do believe very strongly many Americans have suffered first hand from seeing jobs pack up and disappearing like a traveling circus elsewhere – so if I am an American and I want to buy a boot, but I know that doing so is going to put so and so in Ohio out of a job and they probably have to live in a car. I rather pay premium – you know what I am talking about is not an abstraction. Increasingly the mantra the lowest cost wins the day is very gradually losing it’s moral appeal. Most people don’t ever register this subtle shift. As for economist they cannot, as that very idea is anathema to them – but I do.

Besides China is no longer as cost competitive as it used to be. To be perfectly frank I think the Chinese planners are all internally convinced it’s a matter of strategic precondition to migrate ASAP from being just low cost build to blueprint manufacturers to higher value added goods – they can’t do the same thing as Singapore and just rubber stamp FDI’s and hope that the whole world just stays the same. Only to wake up one day and tell their population – hey we are takers. PM of Singapore can do that. But if Xi ever does that. If that ever happens in China – there will be a revolution.

I think they are not only mindful of the cost pressures, but increasingly pollution and the constraints of their demographics will at some point force them to migrate upstream technologically.

You know in certain coastal manufacturing hubs in China – they are actually importing foreign labor from Vietnam to do work that the natives don’t want to do or want to do but they demand higher pay.

My point is don’t think China is like Singapore – it cannot ever be like Singapore.

As China is slowly losing it’s cost competitiveness as a manufacturing hub – maybe not now. But certainly in the foreseeable future and based on historical trek record, the Chinese planners are quite good at identifying industrial sectors where they might stand the highest chance of prospering. They’re not like Philip Yeo who spends billions filling a tank with guppies only for them to remain guppies forever only to disappear into a cupboard never to be seen again – conversely I happen to have a lot of respect for the Chinese equivalent of the EDB. As they are a very very serious outfit. rail is an excellent example. Not only have they been able to acquire core competence in this field within a relatively short time. But they have also been able to leverage on economies of scale to good effect to give the Japs a run for their money – all this technological shifts would I imagine transform China not just as a money bag man. But into a nation that is able to synthesize new products for the world.

The outcome may well be a perversion of sorts – where we might actually see the US and China collaborating closely to be the supermarket to the brave new world.

You never know. We live in very interesting times it seems.

Q: You mentioned earlier Trump can only promise, but he will not be able to deliver. Now let us assume he has the power to deliver. What would he need to do to make America great again?

A: When and why was America great? A simple question but one that I find few can answer satisfactorily – now if you ask me was America great because it used to make cars and a lot of things that consumers will buy. I say probably. But that was not the reason why America was great – that is the fruits of being great.

If you look at America, it really only became great after WW2. From 1950 to 1979 – that was the period when American industrial output was at it highest. That was also the period when patent per capita was at it’s most prolific. That was also when new enterprises were most vigorous. But where did it all come from?

The middle class.

In this period I mentioned the middle class was at it’s peak. After 1980 when Reagan took office – the middle class started to regress and has since slowly and steadily disappeared in the US.

The middle class is like organic matter in the field. Every country needs it to grow. Look at Africa. Why is it riven in perpetual debt, poverty and borderline starvation despite years and years of aid? Because it doesn’t have a middle class.

Both Indonesia and India languished in the economic wilderness for years. Why? Again they didn’t have a middle class. And when you ask how so many Americans can vote for Trump. Again it is because there is no middle class to speak of in America any longer.

The middle class is the happy zone – that is why China wants to grow it. As that is where entrepreneurs traditionally emerge from. That is also where upward mobility and risk taking is at it’s most vigorous as they very hopeful.

The short answer is Trump needs to reclaim the territory that the middle class has lost in America – the problem is that’s easier said than done.

Planned Replanting

January 3, 2017

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The land I imagine will always be a she and never a he. To the man who knows her well it seems righter than right to regard her in such a way – like all women, she is vain and wants only to be seen only under her own terms – she is always trying to show off her best features and hide her less desirable side…..that is quite normal….and a gentlemen would do well to look the other way or pretend too.

But shyness can at times be problematic for a farmer – I need to know what her weak points are….so after the deluge we have been having for the past few days I trekked down early this morning to check her out.

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From the looks of it – the drainage needs some minor landscaping to prevent brackish water from pooling.

This land is scheduled for replanting some time in May / June….if the weather behaves. If the weather is nutty, I have to play by ear. I need to raise the water table and dig trenches all the way to the Northern edge.

I don’t see anything major here – will go down tomorrow early in the morning to check how it’s coping with the next round of rains – seems to look OK.

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‘One reliable way to die very fast in the kampung is to go around and point out the less desirable aspects of a farmer’s land – one can die very quickly and reliably that way.

As it’s not unusual for a farmer to have very deep spirited and passionate connection with the mistress….the land.

Take my first plot of land for instance. She’s the sort of girl where one will probably describe her in polite terms as, having a clear and beautiful complexion – which really is just code for very forgettable lah. As nothing else is happening in those other areas that usually pique the interest of men along with their other unmentionable body parts.

There is plenty not happening with her lah, even with batteries included, so much so, after ten negative points, one may even proceed to compile another twenty points and thereafter another and yet another. As not only is she pear shaped, but her rear end is as big a bus – she’s prone to flooding in the rainy season and to the front, she simply too steep that makes her a flat chested airport case, hardly the sort of girl that is likely to set a man’s heart on fire.

But give ANY land a good and fair run – and in all likelihood – one will eventually fall in love with her. As the relationship between man and land goes back a very very long way….it is an ancient union that modern man sadly has forgotten….how close a man’s soul is tied to the bosom of the land.

When one works on the land – she is will slowly dial up her charm. She will whisper to the farmer, I will make your heart ache for me when we are separated. As I will love you so much that you will see my beauty in every blade of grass – so much so when we are separated by even the briefest moments you will be able to taste our separation like blood on your lips.

Yes the land can do this and much more to a man….any man.

Even if in the very beginning – all that one can see is a dumpty one metric tonne internal beauty with a flower stuck behind her ear….but as time goes by, one can only fall in love with her.

Even if others may be callous and cruel in their depiction of her – the farmer will come to say….look at me! Do not listen to them. You are very beautiful and I love you with all my heart….do not complicate your already complicated life…that is all that matters. I do not care very much for what others may think and say….they can all go and die lah!

Whenever the land for reason known only to herself and no one else doesn’t produce or chooses to be difficult – and that is bound to happen from time to time. Even then the farmer will never curse her. Instead he will always make excuses for her when she throws a tantrum and such is his love for her – he will only choose to see her good side and remember the good times. He will say to himself – She can’t help it…the moon affects her. She is beholden to the winds and rains…what to do?

The moral of the story is it’s not important how a woman looks outwardly. What’s important for a man is to have the patience to discover the beauty of a woman’s heart.

All other things in this world will never last….they are just eye cnady – they will come and they will also go with the chastening passage of time and there is no end to this merry go round philosophy. As in the world there will always be something or someone better than what one already has..appearance wise at least – only the capacity of man to fashion true beauty from his mind can endure for eternity.

It takes a certain intelligence, patience and consistency for a man to know how to seek out beauty in seeming ordinariness.’

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‘The Lookout’

January 1, 2017

Man’s elemental state is to be alone. One day when we all look back on our lives and see the road we have all travelled, in spite of those who came in and out of lives, we were alone the whole way. I don’t mean to say we weren’t surrounded by people – but essentially, we were all lone travelers more or less.

Many things can be said about being alone – for one it’s not the same as loneliness. To be part of this truism – one has to first cultivate a deep spirited self-respect for oneself – as really I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you’re always having to look like a child in the hearts and minds of others to feel complete and whole.

That is the first lesson being alone imparts to all….respect for the most important person the needs it most…yourself.

It all starts from there. Something cannot come out from nothing.

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The art of saying Good Bye

December 31, 2016

No matter how acrimonious a relationship may be in private life or in the full public view of business….when one has decided to say good bye.

It’s best to do so with the spirit that simply says – I wish you well. I bear no grudges…and you have my word. I will do everything to keep the peace.

It doesn’t matter how the other side regards you or decides to react to such a move – what is important is you are able to convey in very clear and unambiguous terms your sincerity to keep to your word.

Even should one be humiliated in this process – it must absolutely be done.

As when one walks in…it is thru the front door and when one departs it should be thru that same portal and never by the back door.

What others may say thereafter about your final curtain act is of no consequence – you did it after all for yourself and not them – that’s the way….the only way to close a chapter. Even an acrimonious one…with a smile.

As the end is not really the end…it is simply a punctuation mark somewhere along the line in the endless circle of time.

It’s really just the beginning.

————————————————————–

‘We stood there, looking at each other, saying nothing. But it was the kind of nothing that meant everything. In his eyes, there were a thousand stories tracing across darkness like a meteor shower…each momentarily gasping at life as if to say, look at me! Only to disappear into the folds of a thick velvety darkness that seem to extinguish everything….leaving not even a trace of what had happened and I could feel something inside me break….as I knew then and there. He meant every word the night before when he had whispered, ‘forgive me…I must go and be a farmer..I shall see you in my next life.’

The curious thing was I never got around to asking him – whether he actually believed in reincarnation. Or maybe I don’t have too. We spoke about it. Reincarnation that is. Not directly.

There was one time when he shared a story about how he was always bumping into this girl. Or maybe it was the other way round.

It began innocently enough. They would meet mostly in the MRT which probably doesn’t seem improbable given how tiny Singapore is – but it seemed they even met in park connectors as well. Usually in between East Coast Park and Changi village. And it seemed even when they were determined not to meet by each changing their routine…they found out about that later when they sat down for coffee – they were still brought together. By what exactly he didn’t say…only he did mention by that time, a quiet understanding had formed between these two strangers where whenever one would chance on another – they wouldn’t have to go thru the ritual of mutual embarrassment of having to freeze and look at each other with that OMG expression plastered over their two horrified faces. Instead they both settled for a sort of detente – like two cats turning the same corner only to lock gaze and eventually move on.

Instead each settled on the idea – it was just chance…it had to be…Singapore is after all just a very small place. That was their mantra whenever it happened.

On one occasion the girl actually stopped and confronted him – maybe she had enough or maybe she was just curious – why are you following me? She threatened to report him to the police. Even insinuated that he was some closet pervert.

But I am sure even she didn’t believe that – he was always impeccably well dressed. Hardly the sort to fit that moniker. Or maybe the bough had just burst and both had both probably exhausted all attempts at trying to find ever more inventive ways to avoid each other. Or maybe they had both given up on the idea that it might all have been just the roll of the dice of chance and serendipity….something else was at work…something that neither could possibly understand.

Anyway to cut a long story short – they sat for coffee at Han’s just outside Bugis library. What each hoped for in this one encounter was never quite explained – perhaps they were both filled with a mix of curiosity and trepidation to really know what’s actually furiously and mysteriously at work. Then again since none of them could really quite understand what accounted for this strange series of accidental encounters to ask whether it might have been something else besides magnetism like how both objects are brought together. No resolution was reached.

Anyway to cut a long story short – they both settled on an agreement of sorts where he would take only this or that train at this time and place while she would do the same in the hope that they would never meet again.

I think it was more important for her than him – as she was engaged to this guy, while he was already married with three kids.

For a while, he mentioned it worked. Till one day when they met again in Moscow terminal. Not any terminal, but one of those places apparently that’s like a millionth to one. Followed by three million to one Helsinki, five million to one Narita and I think one hundred million to one back in Moscow again. Till she finally confronted him again with the same ‘why are you following me…again?’ line.

By then I guess he had given the matter some thought – anyone would and his only explanation was they were somehow linked together by some karmic force in their last life. I don’t want to come across as metaphysical or even religious – because that wasn’t how he recounted it. But he did mention a book once penned by a bizarre Japanese author – Mishima who wrote an equally bizarre novel – the sea of fertility where the narrative was along such lines.

Can you imagine. They’re at a terminal on the other side of the world – and he’s reading chunks of that book to this girl. As if to tell her no matter what they each did to avoid the other – they would always come together and that it would continue to happen whether they liked it or not. That it’s even conceivable they may not quite understand how or why it should happen – but since it’s happening….it’s best to just let it run it’s course and not try to fight it.

Because whatever it was that impelled one towards the other was infinitely larger than both of them.

The girl listened of course. She might have believed it was all hocus pocus – but she stayed and listened. At that point I think they both reached an understanding that it was futile for one to try to avoid the other…..it was after all something they both couldn’t quite wrap their heads around. The implausibility of it all. Nonetheless, she read that book that he mentioned along with the others that came thereafter.

I think that finally broke the spell – neither he or she saw the other again. Not even when he or probably she wanted to see the other. Later on he mentioned. Walking the same routes he would normally chance on her like some 18th century flaneur to find that mythical line where their lives would intersect again…but try as hard as he did….he never saw her again. As for her…she probably did the same.

After all how many men do you know reads chunks of Mishima aloud at airports to bleary eyed women who think they’ve been followed around half way across by perculiar men?

Latter on when I asked him what was behind it all. He merely quipped. Maybe I owed her a moment of understanding in my last life…that was the same look I saw in his eyes that day when we held hands without ever saying a word to each other on the way to Changi airport – I will find you thru the infinity of the ocean of time…it has no dominion over me!

It’s been six coming to seven years since he left Singapore to be a farmer – believe it or not. I do still see him from time to time in the MRT. Just flashes. An image on the window, a passing blur….but it’s never for very long. Just enough like running your fingers over a tongue of a candle – but it’s never him…never.

I wonder whether it’s the same with him?’

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He’s an idiot….loose canon…unknown quantity. So they all say. He lacks the cool headedness and temperament to excel in the job. Again so they all say.

It seems….they all say it again and again that I suspect at some point – even if it weren’t all true, it would probably seem factual enough to pass as the truth.

I am reminded that’s how it is with the truth – it’s a fragile and crumbly thing – that’s to say if a lie is repeated time and again, it will be magically transformed into the truth.

That I imagine was why when the rest of the planters asked me in an exasperated tone approaching anger and incomprehensibility as to why I don’t seem to share their fears and anxieties concerning Mr Trump….and one of them even asked,

‘Tell us all one thing about the man that we do not already know about him?’

I could only say, he’s brand new….he comes into the most powerful office in the world without any baggages. Neither is he encrusted with old thinking to suggest all we might ever expect from him is to perpetuate the status quo.

That I feel has to count for something approaching the very rare and valuable in the cloistered corridors of power and politics in America.

As while the ‘expert’ can only see one or perhaps two ways to approach a problem – and even if the expert fails. He’s really only likely to fail traditionally or classically….the amateur doesn’t seem to be afflicted by the same thinking. Paradoxically in the mind of the amateur – everything is possible.

That I feel is what Mr Trump brings to the table. It may well be a forlorn dream, but nonetheless it’s a form of hope that the world desperately needs and genuinely craves for….the promise that tomorrow can be better than today.

For what it’s worth….I hope President Trump succeeds.

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‘At some point in a dangerous game involving sudden death – one would probably have to press the pause button and ask, what’s it all for? Where is all this going?

That’s really what I feel the game of global Realpolitik needs – I wouldn’t exactly call it a Nixon and Mao moment. But it wouldn’t really be far from it either. As what’s the alternative?

That America, Russia and China continue their ‘anything you can do…I can do better’ game – if it just involves them. Then I say play on man. The problem is that same game also sucks in other nations as well – forcing them all to play that corrosive game even if that’s the last thing they can afford to do!

Who wins? Besides the defense industries and people who sell body bags, caskets and headstones? If we are talking about loose change here – then it would hardly be an issue….but billions are involved. In some cases it eats right down to the bone of the GDP of smaller countries – money that could be better spent of alleviating poverty, health and providing the masses with further opportunities for social mobility.

Where is it all going? I mean even organized crime has the wisdom not to play this sort of destructive game – rival gamgs would probably sit down over a bottle of whisky and talk things over to find a better way to resolve differences without having to drive the other to a corner where they are likely to turn vicious….only because that’s what desperate people do!

That’s where I hope Mr Trump can come right in – to simply sit down with Putin before a fireside to ask, ‘what’s your beef?’ And for the other to probably do the same as well.

I guess many people would probably see this as naive and even an uninformed move….but I ask what is the alternative?

Surely it can’t be playing the same mad game all over again – that’s just insanity!’

The tale of the infinite man

December 30, 2016

The infinite man hid nothing from her. He flung opened all his doors….even the one’s that he hid from the world in darkened corners….everything that was his life was right before her like a luscious tapestry.

As she reached out to touch a flower on the tapestry of his life. Miss D cringed momentarily. Then as if impelled by an undercurrent she could no longer deny, not even to with all her powers of refrain. She ran her finger along the rich folds of the flower.

She felt a small tinge that radiated and swelled deep within her – a delirious sunburst….only to realize later that her finger had been pricked by the thorns of the flower.

How is that possible she asked the infinite man.

He merely smiled knowingly and kissed her hand.

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‘In the fields she saw the way I worked alongside the farmhands. I told her, I am like Levin. Her eyes sparkled with understanding as she exclaimed, Tolstoy….Anna Karenina.

I noticed she had a dog eared copy of the Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Neruda. She could tell, I knew his work intimately. In the evenings when the sun dipped over the brow of the distant blue mountains. I told her in a whispering hush – the great poet wrote only in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope. She asked me why he the great poet who believed so much in hope never ever once used that word. I told her the story of Tentativa del hombre infinite and explained to her as in the novel El habitante y su esperanza, hope need not be expressed….not at all, it merely is….One day when the sun was like a disc of fire, she saw the farmhands chewing on sugarcane…I told her, chew only the narrow sections…it’s sweetest there….she asked, is it true…the rumours… that I once fought in the Ascension wars in Nicaragua…I merely told her I don’t remember that man who once stood on a rock promontory with a rifle slung on his back….I only remember the aching beauty of the Cordillera de Los Morbeilles set against the crimson sunset….I told her, I counted only six…though everyone said there were eight..she undertood…as that was what Neruda’s infinite man had once exclaimed just before a duel in the Ascuncion chapel in Leon. She wondered whether it was true that the Chinaman sugarcane planter once did same for the hand of a third generation Matizto’s landowner’s daughter in Managua….I told her it was very hard to tell.

On the fifth day when I told her how the swiftlets would fly ever so higher and in tighter circles as they instinctively knew it was time for the wind to shift the other way and they were preparing for their long marathon flight across the straits… she asked about the man who once wore flared ridding breeches, mirror polished knee high boots and always sported a shouldered holstered revolver…the Chinaman Cocoa planter…I told her, he must have been enamoured with Idi Amin, she laughed and mentioned…Uganda..I shouted ‘Uluru!’ She asked what is that, I merely mentioned that’s what the Matabili tribesmen would shout out when they spotted a tiger in the brushes….she said explain…. I looked her in the eye this time and told her… I counted only six…though everyone said there was eight….it was what Neruda’s main protoganist had mentioned just before he was betrayed in Santiago. She undertstood and looked down and shame swept across her face.

On the sixth day when I told her the Mai’a in Southern Sudan believe two cardamoms went put into hot tea could stop time dead in it’s tracks and the mythical door of secrets would swing open – it all spilled out…the beans…the girl told me slowly, she was actually sent by my enemies to find out about my plans…..there was no interest free loan…it was all an elaborate lie designed to entice me into an elaborate trap.

And at the end of it all, she merely expressed in a tone of abject resignation… I counted only six….though everyone said there was eight…after she finished, she looked up to me pleadingly and realized then and there…. I knew it all along…from her expression I realized it could only have been the face of Neruda’s infinite man looking back at her.’

I will be very honest. I have never read a single post or watched a single vid produced by Amos Yee. I don’t support nor condemn him. Neither do I support those who support, condemn or remain indifferent to his world view.

Truth is. I simply don’t know what he’s all about. All I know about Amos is he always seems to end up on the wrong side of the law in Singapore.

Amos is currently petitioning the US for asylum.

I hope he discovers his calling in life when he is in the US. After all his counter part Alvin Tan was reincarnated as a porno star in the US – I am very happy for him….if he is happy doing what he is doing. But even then it has to be a very big ‘if’. After all when Alvin was doing all those outrages things when he was in straight jacketed Singapore. I guess he must have felt like a captive all his life who steps out for the very first time beyond his 12 by 8 cell – imagine suddenly he comes into pure unalloyed freedom – imagine all that power pulsating thru his veins. While this man was in his cell, there were only two worlds for him – the world of the cage, and the world outside the cage. Now he is free. He feels he can do anything in this new found land called freedom. He goes on a rampage He’s wilder than wild.

Yet I don’t for one moment believe he can be entirely satisfied…not with freedom at least – for there is no third world that is neither the world of the cage nor the world outside the cage – and since those who put so much faith in external freedom secretly yearns to discover this alternate third world within the universe called freedom……they can only be crushed by the reality….that world does not exist – that is the paradox of searching for freedom outside the self in the external world, it can at times be such an anti climax and even heart breaking.

As true freedom can only exist within the self.

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‘America is not an easy country to live in – it just seems that way because so much of what we all know about America is derived from movies, magazines and books. Unfortunately, there remains a big gap between reality and fiction.

Although the US is known world wide as the land of the free – it is without a shadow of doubt, the highest expression of the land of the fee.

As only the rich can enjoy freedom in America. If one is poor or doesn’t have any life skills that the market is willing to pay for. Then life in America can well be very hellish and miserable.

Worst still. If one is under the delusional belief being controversial can some how lead to fame and fortune – then one can only be sorely disappointed in the US. As since there are so many weird, outspoken and full frontal people in the US and some of them even make it to be Presidents – it is very hard for one to stand out of the crowd unless one is exceptionally good at that game.

This I feel must be the greatest irony for people like Alvin Tan and now Amos Yee – when the former was around in Singapore and Malaysia – doing what he did. I guess he always felt a deep satisfying rush whenever he could punch a hole thru the boundaries of what many considered normal and acceptable.

Imagine all that power going up to a persons head faster than even alcohol!

But I am sure after spending two and coming to three years very soon in the US doing what he does and realizing absolutely no one there even gives two shits about what he’s trying to prove to the world. Not enough at least to vote with wallets. Not enough to never take a second look. As it takes a helluva lot to shock the shit out of Americans…they’re the quintessential drama mama society – that I feel must come as a sad shock to even Alvin himself….the very idea that he’s so ordinary, normal even to qualify as perhaps just another Joe in America – tell me what is there to do after one realizes the game is over?

Where does one go after the road runs out?

Except maybe try one’s best to acquire some life skills by fitting night school somewhere between work, work and more work. To eventually hold down a nine to five job. Learn to say yes and no sir and hold one’s tongue. Avoid eye contact with the boss. Lease or put a down payment on a flat, pay the bills on time, shop for groceries on a weekend when they have ten percent off, learn to flip an omelette, sew a button, clear the sink of gunk, get by with superglue and duct tape, settle down with a girl and be like everyone else in America.

Yes be like everyone else in America….I think that’s the real irony of freedom and the trying to find that unquantifiable quantity in a place like America – it’s not really so different from anywhere else, not even Africa or where I am staying right now smack the middle of the wild where I don’t even see a human or car for months on end…I guess what I am trying to say is the realities of life will ultimately push right thru like how the Himalayans grows at least two inches skywards every ten years…it’s a powerful force – no one can possibly escape it’s hypnotic gyre…try as hard as you may…but like some invisible force it will always force a man into it’s mould.

That’s the dao of life.

That I imagine is what most people don’t ever care to know or even bother to think about when they’re young…everything eventually finds it’s equilibrium like water tumbling down a river with the fullness of vigor only to give all of it’s life force and grow so limp as it discovers something larger than itself…the infinity of the sea.

That really is how I see the chastening passage of time on the human soul – like I said, when one is young – these things no one ever bothers to think about – we all think we can live forever and life will always be like yesterday. But eventually when dreams give way to acceptance slowly the realities of life will begin to sink in and it can be very very sad and at times even heartbreaking….especially when one doesn’t know how the game is played – because you can’t come back home any longer…for better or worse like the Americans say, ‘that’s life folks!’

The empty mind

December 29, 2016

A man came to me a few days ago and asked – why have you withdrawn from village life to live like a hermit?

I merely told him, I have discovered something far more interesting besides the politics of village life.

He stepped forward and asked in a heightened voice, so finally you have meet a girl?….a nice one I imagine.

I half smiled as I continued hauling rocks on the wheel barrow as I was working on a section of road and replied, no…no girl.

Then what is it? I want to know. The man took another step forward.

I did not reply him and smiled and continued working.

————————————————————–

‘The empty mind is not empty. Not at all. The only reason why most people assume it’s empty, is because they regard emptiness and nothingness as one of the same reality.

In reality emptiness is form – it is like a well manicured lawn, it only looks empty, but if you happen to have some rudimentary knowledge on agriculture then you might probably realize someone has carefully pulled out the weeds, trimmed the grass and even made sure the edges are all squared and tidy – but to the untrained eye it can only look empty.

In the same way when the mind is emptied – then it too has been meticulously weeded, tended and cared for in such a way where it is completely free from all nonsense that is so often churned out by the world.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a recluse or even hermit – I just believe very strong there must be a clear line between individual and world.

As if world fills the mind so completely. Then it can only squeeze out the individual – having too much of the world in one’s life is not the same as living full of life – it just means you’ve been invaded – you can no longer distinguish where you stand in relation to the world. Not clearly at least and it this blurring that is the reason why so many remained trapped in a self destructive vicious cycle. Where instead of growing meaningfully, they regress.

It just means you have left the back door to your mind so wide open that ten Amos Yee’s can around 24/7 in your head, spouting loads of happy nonsense that subtracts rather than adds value to your life.

If one is not mindful of how all pervasive the reach of the world can be – then the mind can only be so filled with the clutter of so many voices that it can only lead us astray and take us further away from who we are all meant to be.

This is what happens when the mind is the opposite of empty – it’s becomes like City Hall interchange one hour after five in the afternoon. All sorts of people are walking in and out of our minds – they are interrupting our natural rhythm of thoughts and even coloring the way we feel about others and ourselves to such a point where the mind is so thinned out that we all reduced to the sum of the parts of this ceaseless cacophony.

There is no centre….no anchor….no line where we can say this is where it all begins or ends….only chaos.

But in the empty mind – it is like a secret garden where one is perfectly comfortable with the company of the self. There is no need to prove anything to anyone here. That’s childish. No urgency even to win or to show off that you are better than the next person. No need even to sign up for competitive mind games that only consume your bandwidth which could otherwise be diverted to more productive endeavors. These things are very childish in this sacred place – all that is pure nonsense in the domain of the empty mind….as there is really only you and the marvelous wholeness of uncluttered emptiness.

Here in the empty mind all manner of things and thoughts can only acquire super clarity and sharpness and above all the truth….as a consequence one can only be in a state of profound peace.

Emptiness is not nothing…it is a form.’

The art of playing dead

December 29, 2016

Never try to be larger than life even when you are larger than life – as to do so will only invite attention and eventually trouble. Where possible pretend to be small and if possible insignificant to the point where no one pays you a second look.

When others insult you or try to put you down – smile and slink away…do not fall into the trap of reacting. Instead play dead.

Playing dead is incredibly easy. All you need to do is let it all slide. Go on…it’s so easy. Just let go and whoosh…Doing so removes all incentives for those who may not be happy with you to do what they do….in life while you certainly do not have the power to control what others may think or do.

You certainly have all the power within the four corners of your being to choose whether you want to participate or not.

Playing dead is most diplomatically way of saying – I am just going to do my thing and not bother too much about you.

Giving in or playing dead is not weakness – it is highest form of self control and the supreme acme of the art of war.

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‘In the ancient martial discipline of Hon Kuen – there is a hidden chapter known as the book of the floating world that reaches to the heavens (fei siong tien). It’s better known in Hong Kong Kung Fu movie land as the drunken master style.

It is the only chapter in Hon Kuen that does not seem to contain any manner of instructions as to how the exponent should stand, fight or for that matter even defend himself – instead there is only a cryptic phrase…..give yourself completely to the way of the floating world. Do not resist it’s pull of a thousand contradictions…give yourself completely and without reservation to this force….

So perplexing is this one chapter. Most students turn frantically to the next page half expecting either a continuation of what appears to be an unfinished entry or perhaps they even expect to find a detailed explanation of what this means – only to discover a missing page….and that is the kernel of the lesson in the book of the floating world….yes, that is the lesson.

One expects…and in that expectation one is completely defeated by the unknown.

No…I don’t expect you to get it the first time. But I assure you. As you sit, reflect and observe all things around you – there is certainly a very powerful lesson there.*

Many things can be said about this one chapter in the great book of Hon Kuen – then again many things are better left unsaid.

Research and study this well. As it applies to all things in life.

*Some time back ago. A char siew pau woman approached me with a compliant concerning her wayward husband. When this woman asked of me whether I could have a word with her husband – as he has not been fulfilling his duties as the man of the house and since he does not seem to listen to her. This woman is at her wits end and believes I could perhaps influence him. I asked of her – do you know why he does not listen?

The woman looked dumbfounded. I went on to share with her – the reason why you can’t get your message across is because you don’t know how to play dead and give in.

She protested loudly, ‘you are asking me to give in?’ That was when I told her, ‘yes…either that or continue to jump up and down like a mad woman – as whether you like it or not, your methods of persuasion don’t seem to be working very well. Coming to think of it – how can it possibly work when all you seem to do whenever you see your husband is to give him an earful. Even before his feet touches the floor in the morning – you are at it. When he comes back after a hard day in the field, you’re at it again….tell me…do you want me to teach you how to play dead?

The woman nodded her head vigorously that was when I asked of her to put three hot chili’s in her mouth every morning and in the evening when her husband returns.

Thereafter I told her – say what you need to say only when your man is well rested and has had his fill…above all do the unexpected and not what you would normally do….you will find that he will be more receptive to your message and he will eventually come around very nicely.

Before the woman left – I told her….playing dead is not a weakness. Do not be fooled by mere appearances – it is both strength and wisdom….two in one.

Shortly thereafter I heard her husband finally came around.’

Someone asked me this recently.

The short answer is why be afraid of reading fake news from abroad. When there are already so many foreigners in Singapore – what sort of logic might that be to attempt to categorize local news as real and foreign generated news as fake?

Besides even with the media hankering over fake news and heralding the advent of the post truth era – everyone seems to be discounting one reality: Fake news is hardly new.

Truth is fake news has been around since news first assumed the mantle of the reliable purveyor of the truth and nothing but the truth – when the first commercial printing press was invented.

From the word go, news sensationalized, titillated, formented prejudices and served only the specious ends of those who wanted to stay in power.

This process of embellishing the truth, eliding details and only forwarding a sanitized version of the truth was known as propaganda.

Propaganda was the first recorded attempt by officialdom to pass off fake news as the real thing.

Those who rue the passing of the age of real news don’t seem to realize the only reason why real news is NEVER going to come back is simply because it never ever existed in the first place – as the primary drivers of commentaries on every conceivable subject of interest in this planet is NEVER a reflection of the the majority views of the population. Rather it has always served only the hidden agenda of the elites who want to hold on to the reins of power – this they all do by filtering information and massaging it as a means to achieve their ends.

If there ever existed such a thing as real news – it probably has to come out from the individuals brain.

As for the rest, it’s always been faker than fake.

That at least is how I see it.

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‘People ONLY believe just because they have unfettered access to so many channels of news in the form of newspapers, radio, TV channels and the WWW, they will get an infinity of different opinions that will allow them to make an informed decision.

Then usually much to their surprise and disgust – they discover things are just the opposite or so far from their known understanding that frequently it provokes a deep sense of dissonance that can only infuriate them – that’s because a failing common to most people is to wrongly assume there is such a thing as objective journalism.

It’s only when people start to drill deeper behind the scenes that they will eventually discover much to their consternation: oh dear, you mean he or they owns that rag? I see that’s the historical profile of that journalist? You mean to say so-so is a major advertiser in that TV station? He what? He knows so and so? etc etc.

Eventually one invariably reaches a point of, I wouldn’t exactly call it understanding…maybe reconciliation that there can be no such thing as objective journalism.

It’s a myth – as we do to nearly live in a world where everyone works for someone or is at least accountable to some higher power to varying levels of degrees. That there may even be vested interest and governing philosophies determining what is right, wrong or round and square etc etc.

Hence with maybe the possible exception of reportage like who died, football results, and stock market tabulations. Apart from that the phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms – the only possible truth is journalist may still believe in that idea just as how cripples have to believe limbs are necessary only because they’re all have no choice but to go around in kinetically efficient wheelchairs – but even they at some point have to recognize their own conceit when they come before a flight of stairs.

The truth about the truth is one merely has the opportunity to seek out the truth – and even then, that power resides in one’s ability to remain discerning, perceptive and wise in the face of an ocean of lies – to always question everything at least three times and another for good measure. To always suspend judgement and take with a pinch of salt, even if it comes across as lucid and reasonable and above all to think deeply about things. It’s not something that you can just go out and buy in NTUC – as all that happens in between one’s ears. That’s really where the truth lies…..as for the rest it’s just lies and more lies.

That’s why most people prefer lies….it’s easy…cheap and convenient. As for the truth it will always be a time consuming, expensive and at times risky business.’

When a man works with his hands. He has to first trust himself completely and that can only mean – he’s actually working on himself.

As to work confidently, one requires a clear picture of how to go about the task. Only when one has a clear line sight between form and function can one begin to understand the nuanced interrelation of the sum of the parts to perform – the ability to proceed from theory to reality produces an intensely edifying feeling of peace of mind.

It doesn’t matter what the task is – could well be mending a fence, building a road from rocks, whipping up a meal, digging a hole or even working on shoes during the quiet evening in the plantation……I work alone. Usually in the penumbra of silence. Only the sound of tools and instruments and the rhythmic sound of breathe punctuates the emptiness – there is nothing in my mind whenever I work. Nothing specific at least. Nothing that I can actually call theory, formulation or even a hypothesis….it’s all cut and dried long before work began – except maybe a deeply immersive mood where one is in the groove of the doing – the really important thing is to transform one’s work into a thinking thing with the power of the empty mind – rather than just putting stuff together without even bothering to ask why?

This involves taking responsibility, learning about how stuff actually work and getting slightly better with each doing. Rather than proceeding unthinkingly like some monkey trained to picked coconuts – to always be curious and inquisitive about one’s work.

This way even the seemingly simple act of digging a hole isn’t the mere application of muscle and sinews….it’s something much more profound and deeper than just the idea of mere work.

As work is magically transformed from a dead to living thing.

Emptiness is not the same as nothingness – it is a form.

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‘Many people have asked me how do I relate the idea of zen with work – usually I tell them, it’s not so different from driving a car – it’s an inside out thing and not the other way round – that’s to say. I begin first by accepting the idea – while I cannot control things that are happening around me. Such as crazy drivers who drive at 120 km per hour in the opposite direction or how when it rains that anecdotally render roads slippery.

I do however have 100% control how I choose to drive my car – I can respond to emergencies by taking evasive action etc etc.

My point is as you focus on becoming more peaceful with where you are and what you can do – rather than thinning yourself out on what the other driver should be doing or why he’s driving in the crazy way he’s driving – you will begin to find peace there and then.

Just focus on what you can control…as the rest you cannot hope to ever control.

That sets you in the right frame of mind to drive at the highest quality.

That’s really how I see the concept of the empty mind – it’s not the idea where you’re evacuated of all consciousness and closing your eyes and the car is driving itself while you’re happily spaced out. Not at all. Rather it’s a highly focuses and alert state of mind where you’re first and foremost elementally empty of all extraneous thoughts about what happened in the distant past and what would happen in the future – instead so much of your being is where it should rightfully be, in the present of nowness – that it’s impossible not to drive well.

I think for one to work well – it follows the same philosophy of the empty mind.’

A very very nervous 2017

December 28, 2016

It seems my neighbor is so worried about what President Trump will do once he’s in control of the all the levers of power. That his wife has informed me – he can hardly sleep these days without disturbing her in bed.

She has even told me, her husband plans to be a prepper next year. And he has been researching on plans to construct a nuclear hideout – as he believes world war 3 will break out sometime in the middle of 2017.

Recently when the neighbor berated me for being apathetic as he summarized – I don’t seem very concerned at all – I told him, but I am…..I am very concerned about my salt intake.

He was flabbergasted.

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‘2017 is likely to be a very nervous year. There is so many things to be anxious about – has the world tilted ever so slightly from it axis? Is that why we have been experiencing round after round of crazy weather? Will I still be able to enjoy my cup of coffee every morning next year? As I hear the Robusta bean harvest has been badly affected in S.America –it seems a deficit is forming. There could also be an increase for oils and butter as well, because processing has declined due to erratic dairy yields.

What about Trump? Is he a racist? Will he be the one to close the door shut on America? And what about China and Russia will they both gang up to create mayhem?

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg – it seems we are proceeding into a new year where the only certainty is there will be more uncertainty.

The world has never been so nervous before….will 2017 be the year when mankind all but destroys itself…will it be the end of the world as we know it?

I don’t know and to be quite frank, I don’t really care enough to lose sleep over those concerns – the great lie of this world is there are often many things we urgently feel we should be part of…only because others seem to show interest in it.

When in fact, we don’t really have to sign up for the deal at all – to me it makes far more sense to worry about mundane stuff – like making sure I cut my veggies without being too distracted so that I don’t hurt myself…or being able to sew a button properly so that I don’t need to throw out clothes that can be fixed…..to trying to reduce my salt intake. Those seem to me like realer threats.

Reducing all the complications of the world to the point where one can tell the difference between what’s important and frivolous I reckon is key to keeping one sane and healthy in an increasingly crazy world.

As for the rest it matters very little to me.’

Simplifying life

December 27, 2016

In the first half of a man’s life. It seems he is content to always take, take and take. At times he takes so much, he doesn’t even know what to do with it – wherever his eyes rest upon, it’s as thought, he must take it. When someone pays this man a compliment, he takes it all in like a thirsty giraffe, savoring ever drop and even comes back for more. When a girl smiles at him invitingly, he takes as well and even sometimes goes out of his way just to take more. Even when others flatter him and it’s not real – it seems he will also take it. Soon this man who seems to always take, take and take reaches a stage in life when he finds himself in a frightful warehouse filled to the bursting to the seams with useless stuff. Some of them are perched so precariously one on top of the others, it even threatens to fall down and break his head.

In the second half of a man’s life – you will find he is always throwing away stuff from this warehouse that is filled with useless things. It seems at times, he even throws out valuable and precious things that most people aspire to own – when someone offers him something new and perhaps, even if it’s better than what he already has…the chances are this man will say, ‘thank you, but I don’t really have a need for it.’ At times you will even find that he throws out offers of companionship and even prefers to be all alone by himself. And what is most curious about this man in the second half of his life – he even seems to throw out the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and much prefers to remain in the shadows as one of the many faceless.

It seems this man in the second half of his life has nothing of value in his simple life. Yet ironically he seems to have everything. While the man in the first half of life, seems to have everything, yet he has nothing.

How very strange……

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‘At some point in the second half of your life when you find yourself throwing away all the clutter that you have managed to accumulate like some Karang Guni man (junkyard merchant) – it’s conceivable – you will also throw out some relationships that you feel adds zero to your overall quality of life – you will be inclined to talk less and be less opinionated or even feel the need to defend your position vigorously…you want to win? OK lah….you win! – instead you will find yourself cultivating silence in all things that you choose to do and think – that may at first look like a form of withdrawal from all worldly affairs. But I don’t think that is so – if anything that state of mind is simply what you are left with after throwing out that which can give you no value in life.

At some point in life….it’s just conceivable, when you see something beautiful like a flower. You will not reach out greedily to pluck it in the name of mine one! Rather you will sit quietly beside this flower and simply feast your eyes on it’s beauty….it’s not longer about the act of possessing. Rather it is all about the art of appreciating without having to take…..the warehouse is very empty.’

The value of face

December 26, 2016

Some people feel that I paid too heavy a price for peace with my business rivals – they say, you have no face now!

But I always ask of them – why do you fear peace more than war?…Tell me please – how much are you prepared to pay for peace? How far are you prepared to go for it.

Usually they can never answer my question satisfactorily as they’re too caught up with the idea of face….I suspect that’s because none of them have ever borne witness to the white knuckle terror of war….I on the other hand know this hell very well in my last life in Africa.

As for face… That is a meaningless commodity to me….what is important is I know who I am deep down in the marrow of my bones….no one can ever take that away from me!

That is all I need to win!

The rest is just nonsense.

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‘I can’t help but feel, it’s very sad when a man seems to be able to dream one dream….it goes something like this.

A man is dining in the restaurant all by himself. There is nothing unusual about this. As this man is always alone. A assassin walks in – he bears a pistol, the other diners stream out hastily. A few scream. But most run as fast as they can – but this one man remains.

As the gun man approaches his table – the man puts down his cutlery calmly, wipes his mouth with his napkin and straightens his bushjacket. He seems to know the time has come. Nothing seems to surprise him. As he has probably replayed this scene in his mind eye a thousand times – he knows it so well that he even tries to calm down the nervous gun man, as he struggles with the safety by asking him in a calm voice – to proceed slowly….and please don’t make a mess.

When the gun is leveled at this man – he does not cringe. Neither does he show any resistance. Instead looks directly into the barrel and simply express to this lone gunman or maybe himself or perhaps even to providence – today is a very good day to die.

Remember me always.’

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Humility

December 25, 2016

What is humility? What is it, at it’s core?

Humility is, in a sense a deep spirited understanding that you have an ego and it is conceivable that it may not always be your loyal servant to further your life goals. Rather at times your ego can very well lead your astray and even be your worst enemy.

Without this keen understanding there can be no such thing as genuine humility…it cannot come about – only the seeming appearance of a humble man who is simply using it as a mask to hide his bloated pride and arrogance.

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Finally Peace….

December 24, 2016

This morning I went to a prearranged breakfast meeting with rival landowners – when I arrived. I was shown to a seat facing the east….in the language of the old country. This signifies my lowly status. Nonetheless I took my seat without complain.

When the food was served. I ate from a separate bowl from the others on the table, that signifies – my status as a ronin. Again I ate without complain.

When one of the landowners noticed my tea had not been touched. He gestured that I should drink – again I did not take insult and drank from my cup.

That was when I told the rest of the landowners on the table that I have come here to pay my respect before I take my leave for good – my cup was filled as the leader amongst them gestured, drink.

Again I drank as the others talked and ignored me – after a while when I was given permission to take my leave.

I got up from the table. A single chopstick dropped on the floor – it made an unusual sound like steel finding something equally hard.

Someone on the table exclaimed…your chopstick?

I ignored him. As the rest of the landowners exchanged looks of quiet understanding on how politics is conducted in accordance to the ancient ways of the old country – when a waiter was about to pick it up. He was stopped abruptly with the words, leave it…he has no further use for it.

They all rose from their seats one by one.

I looked at them all, smiled and nodded curtly and walked into my new life.

It was a very beautiful morning.

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3,000 years ago somewhere in China

‘Kwai Loong the greatest swordsman who ever lived was shown to his chair for a banquet with the Warlord of Yuen – despite being the East facing seat. The great swordsman did not take insult and humbly took his seat.

When the food was served. Kwai Loong dined on earthen ware while the warlord and his generals picked away on porcelain cutlery. Again the great swordsman did not complain or take insult and humbly ate his share.

During dinner when the warlord of Yuen asked Kwai Loomg whether the great swordsman had considered the standing offer of the kingdom of Yuen to join the ranks – the great swordsman said that would not be possible as he had retired as a hired swordsman…and all he wished for was to tend his small veggie plot and live the rest of his life quietly.

After delivering the message, Kwai Loong asked permission to take his leave – instead the warlord of Yuen filled his cup and said, drink….after a while. The warlord excused him.

As Kwai loong rose from his seat – his sword fell out it’s scabbard with a clang…one of the generals exclaimed ‘your sword’. Kwai Loong did not respond. When the general was about to pick it up. He was abruptly stopped by the warlord who rose up from his seat as if to say something. The guards at the fringe of the room stiffened taking one step forward….Kwai Loong scanned them all with knowing eyes – then as if struck by a rare moment of epiphany – the warlord’s shoulders sank as he realized the finality of the great swordsman’s decision and said it a voice of sadness and resignation. ‘Leave it…he has no further use for it.

As Kwai Loong walked thru the vermillion gate into the world – he realized it was the most beautiful day in his life – he felt some how lighter as if a huge burden had been lifted from his soul…and that was not unusual. Not at all. As that was the first of many days to come when Kwai Loong the great swordsman was not carrying his trusted sword.’