Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Count on Me, Singapore

National Day Rally 2016

We all held our collective breaths when we heard that PM Lee had fainted delivering the National Day Rally speech. There was this odd mix of silence as the future suddenly became so much more uncertain, amidst the cacophony of social media gone crazy as everyone scoured every avenue to find out what happened, and whether he was ok.

We never got to see whether PM Lee fainted, but the video of the moments just before circulated minutes after we received news. The image of PM Lee holding tight to the rostrum - shaking - and then leaning to one side drove Faith and me to tears. How heavy the burden this one man bore.

If Singapore were a family, and former PM Lee Kuan Yew our founding father, PM Lee finds his place as our eldest brother. He was always known to be a little stiff, but in recent years he revealed a much more human side through his photography on Instagram, always signed off “Photo by me”.

That his body fell short of the mammoth task of delivering the National Day Rally speech — essentially the summary of the past year and the vision for the country’s future, with segments in 3 languages no less — felt like an emotional blow we really were’t ready for. We had only just lost Lee Kuan Yew. I wasn’t sure we built up the emotional reserves for another.

What happened last night was a necessary reminder for us to remember our individual mortality. Nation-building is a responsibility of every citizen. The song “Count on me, Singapore” takes on new meaning. You and I are Singapore, and we need to be committed to build each other up even if we come from different races, different religions, or hold different political views. We build each other up that we may prosper as a nation to leave a legacy for future generations.

13

We managed to sneak in a quiet dinner, before coming home to what was now THREE sick kids (up from one in the morning).

Happy anniversary, sweetest wife. There’s no one I’d rather have on the team. For better, for worse, till death.

Our Work and Our Worth

Faith’s no-pay leave is coming to an end, and there’s been some pressure from people close to us to have her go back to her job. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of emotions for her as she struggles with what her self-identity is, and how self-worth is affected by what society, close friends and family think.

Many of us harbour a bias that the spouse that works for money is the main contributor to the family. We use words like “breadwinner” to bestow some level of honour, while “homemaker” is viewed in a humbler, even derogatory light.

I’ve experienced what Faith’s work day is like. There are thousands of moving parts, many of which society would classify as “menial”. When you consciously unpack each task, you’ll realise how much they demand of you - to be meticulously detailed (“Mummy, where’s the Chinese homework book I left on the table?”); constantly aware (“We need to inform the bus driver that Caleb isn’t takin the bus next Tuesday because…”); and most of all, emotionally draining (“Kids, I need you to focus on the task at hand right now even though you’re tired from a day at school”). And how much wisdom it requires to know when to help, and when to let the kids try and possibly fail, which also means building them up through the tears and emotion that come after.

The purpose of a family is in the growth of its members for service unto God and fellow man. We can romanticise the role of the breadwinner all we want, but at the end of the month, we take home our pay to see the basic needs of our family and hopefully afford a few creature comforts. It is in that light I see my job as a means of supporting our central duty of developing each member in our family.

Faith mans the frontline everyday. I’m privileged to get a slice of the action by her side. We make command decisions together - the best ones are made in united prayer.

So it might mean that I help out with the kids at night whenever I can. It gives Faith a chance to decompress from the gruelling work of carrying the three little munchkins emotionally; and to rest her feet from buzzing back and forth schools, activity centres and home.

There is a beautiful partnership when I choose to serve my wife. I look at her sleeping, tired out, and it gives me great joy to tend to her needs and buy her a little time of her own. She is the jewel of my house, and the work of her hands weaves divine glory in the lives of our children, and its grace reflects unto me.

Blessed is the one

Blessed is the one who does not … sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the way of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.”

The full verse in Psalm 1 actually addresses three groups of people. Blessed is the one who does not:

When studying this portion of scripture in my youth, we often paid more attention not to fall into the first two groups. It seemed easier then, to be part of a group of people doing wicked or sinful things, than to be in a group of mockers. We’d imagine how a group of mockers would congregate in the market square, loudly putting down others as they walked past. Others who were different: foreigners, poor people…people who didn’t fit into what the mainstream crowd deemed acceptable.

Mass mockery just didn’t seem that prevalent back then.

How things have changed.

The democratization of media (a smartypants way of saying everyone can now communicate with everybody else) in the last two decades has made mocking others a global pastime. Social media is rife with “social commentary”, all egging us on to agree with them on how stupid or incompetent someone else must be, how unfashionably clothed, or how morally suspect.

These posts - and I’m guilty of having written quite a number of them myself - often start off in earnest as a response to do something to address an ongoing social issue. At best, they are attempts to raise awareness, at worst, they are an exercise in ego-boosting. Look, how smart I am! How eloquent! They fall between these two ends of the spectrum, carrying their respective amounts of mockery.

In the many years I’ve been involved in blogging, I’ve always held to the belief that the democratization of media is good. People should be able to express their ideas, and an open exchange of ideas inherently has some self-moderating properties. But now I find myself exhausted from the amount of talk out there. The volume and intensity of discourse in current affairs far outweighs the expertise of the participants. And sadly, real commitment to issues hasn’t risen much.

Real commitment. The sort that brings one to spend years trying to cobble a solution. We’ve all read blogs, tweets and status updates on how the poor are treated, how the disadvantaged in society need help, but we don’t see a corresponding rise in people dedicating their lives towards eradicating the problem, or tending to those they profess to be outraged on behalf of.

Blessed is the man who does not sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the way of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.

Don’t be the loud cawing online crowd. Don’t be the silent majority. Be the silent minority. The ones who meditate day and night on what is right before God. The ones who work ceaselessly behind the scenes, that the work of their hands might prosper those whom they mean to help.

Smoke

Marina Bay iLightI took a walk with Faith down the Marina Bay area a few days ago, and the place was packed with activity as part of the i light Marina Bay festival. All the installations were set up and eager student inventors waited for sunset to show the crowd the fruits of their labour, that the audience may be awed at their creativity and ingenuity. A short distance away, a group of fitness enthusiasts followed the lead of a yoga instructor, contorting their bodies as far as their tendons would allow. Our senses were tantalised by wafts of roast meats that emanated from the young chefs searing expensive wagyu at the temporary Pasarbella setup.

It was hard not to marvel at the smorgasbord laid out in the middle of the business district on a weekday night, but an odd sense of melancholy came over me.

Everything just felt so…cosmopolitan, so dynamic, so vibrant, manufactured, foreign, so…blah. We’re often reminded that Singapore needs to adapt to the winds of change, and I appreciate that we’ve been able to do that better than most, but I miss who we were before all this.

I miss the masak-masak and the visits to Emporium; I miss football at the void deck, or how neighbours used to be. Even now my childhood habitat of Rochor Centre is about to be demolished. I feel like I’ve had my roots erased, and all I have left are vague memories and a bunch of photographs.

Maybe every generation goes through this sense of loss; but can we survive seeing all our memories dissolve into nothingness at such unprecendented speed?