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April 2007 Archives

Whom, not What

Carol said,

make a difference…. God’s idea, or yours? if God’s, you get whatever you need to make it happen. if yours, you know what will result…

I grew up with Carol, and it is so apt that so many years later she’d tell me to grow up.

I’ve been a Christian for some time, and my worldview reflects it. I’m not apologetic that the way I see the world is shaped by my beliefs. But the problem with me is that at some point my relationship with a living God has been substituted with a set of beliefs. It’s like the husband who stops paying attention to his wife because he knows what she’s going to say. It reeks of death.

This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8

A Priest, a Rabbi and a Duck

On the train I saw a young, relatively attractive woman reading Jane’s Defence Weekly, a military magazine, while sitting beside a sleeping monk.

Very surreal.

The Polaroid of Marty Mcfly

Tolkien had it down pat when he created Frodo, the quintessential archetype of the overladen worker. Frodo was burdened by a ring - a small innocuous object that couldn’t have weighed more than a gold coin. And so it is to those around, left scratching their heads wondering why employee x, stay-home-mums and school teachers complain as much as they do.

You really won’t know how heavy the ring is unless you’ve carried it.

Work has risen to a fevered pitch and I find myself working on the clock, off the clock, and pretty much any clock I can get. Even while patting Anne to sleep during her numerous nightly tantrums I devote spare processing cycles to work.

It takes a lot to produce good work, and even more to make its production look effortless. The catch-22 is that should you succeed, the people around you actually believe that it’s easy. The fact that you even had time to blog about it at 5 in the morning confirms their belief.

“It’s just a friggin’ ring. What so hard about that?”

Continue reading The Polaroid of Marty Mcfly »

Analogies

Dear Prime Minister,

I absolutely hate it when you compare our home country to a company. We have invested more than just our money. If Singapore were really Singapore Inc, things would be vastly different.

Not many CEOs can lose $1.5 billion on an error in judgement and keep their jobs. You can’t charge employees a fee for coming to work. The list goes on. Maybe the more enthusiastic readers can list these discrepancies in the comments.

I offer an alternative analogy.

The national football team is probably the strongest collection of Singaporean football players we can muster on local soil. It’s hard to put together another team of Singaporeans that can beat them. They’ve also enjoyed some measure of international success, most notably winning the Tiger Cup (Go Lions!). But for the most part, they are players in our local S-League. Should we pay them what other top football players in the world get? Should Daniel Bennett be paid 2/3 of what David Beckham receives?

My analogy is flawed, of course. While our football players are free to prove themselves in England, Spain or Italy, our politicians can’t quite jump into the driver’s seat at the White House. The assumption the Government is making is that all ministers would have been the top dogs in whatever industries they went into.

That’s a really big assumption. Even our international friends find the salary range ridiculous.

Note that I’m talking only about political appointments. Permanent Secretaries manage the operational aspects of government agencies, a task that rivals the running a medium to large corporation. I expect different things from the political leaders I elect (or who walkovered whichever constituency I belong).

I expect ideological leadership more than operational leadership. We already have the civil servants for that. I still don’t understand why we need 3 Prime Ministers. Or why some receive pensions while drawing full pay.

When I came back from the States, I realised that I am ideologically lost as a citizen of Singapore. But if Singapore is our country when she asks us what we can do for her, and becomes Singapore Inc the company when we ask what she can do for us, I am ideologically doomed here.

This is Sparta.

Reaching Deep Down

It’s so hard to stop yourself from laughing out loud when the vendor tells you that he needs to “go into his back end” for an online demonstration.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Anne readingThe kiddo turns 2. We never thought we’d survive 2 weeks, let alone 2 years, but by the grace of God here we are in a very different place from 2 years ago.

Now instead of night feeds, it is the denial of night feeds. And the endless fascination the journey brings - yesterday while Faith and I were discussing whether or not to go to Suntec City, she just walked up and said “hey, wanna go to Suntec.”

It wasn’t a question.

They call it the “terrible twos”. It’s always terrible. But it’s also always amazing, filled with laughter and more joy than any of us ever deserves.

Ooops

To the two sweetest girls in my life, sleep tight. When you wake up, I’ll be home. It’ll be a surprise - for me too. I had miscalculated the date.

It feels like I found a million dollars in my pocket.

Reverse

It is odd having just left New York only to see her again on the inflight entertainment on the outbound flight. The usual touristy reaction “I was just there” silently escapes my lips, and I finish up the viewing of “The Devil Wears Prada”.

I then realise that the while I traversed her streets as an observer and outsider, my sister lives and works there. I had introduced her to Tucson years ago as you would a teenager to the Queen. and while I now leave the shores of the United States, the teenager I brought has become a woman, a New Yorker.

It feels odd to be on the opposite end of reciprocity. Min showed me around - the eating places, the subway system, the sights, the physical locations of places I had only known from the silver screen. It was as if what I now stood where I had only seen through a window, and my sister lived on the other side.

It isn’t easy letting go of the fact that not everything lies contained with the island confines of Singapore. To think that a few generations ago, before the advent of human flight, the idea of the global village would be ludicrous, and many, many lives were closely knit within a small physical space manageable by one’s conscious mind. Where everything was in view and all activities within earshot. Not a million miles away with poor substitutes like email and IM.

But like every good older brother, our younger sisters can only soar when you let them have free rein of the air. To have spent the week flying under her wing, rather than her under mine, was a humbling experience whose taste I imagine myself having to get accustomed to. The arrows of the young will fly further and straighter than mine. I need only to show them how to flex the bow.

Milk Chocolate

Photo of kid on subway, New York CityDear New York,

your children are beautiful. They’re all bundled up to keep warm in the last few days of winter. Many of them are dressed in jackets that have seen more winters than they have. But they don’t care; they snuggle up close to you, and they’re happy.

They remind us of things we’ve forgotten: that it doesn’t take too much to be happy. Designer clothes, dream jobs, lots of money. I fear that we’ve added these prerequisites to happiness on our children back in Singapore. Many of them carry schoolbags larger than themselves, have “structured” playtimes and participate in sports that their parents think will give them an edge, rather than games they enjoy.

I’m sure I’m stereotyping the Singaporean child here, and the many younger parents are making conscious moves to create some semblance of a childhood for their children.

Keep them warm.

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