Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Which way is up?

A lot has been said in speculation over why Minister Tan Chuan-Jin was nominated by PM Lee to take over the role of Speaker of the House.

Well-liked by many, the general sentiment is that he has been a very down-to-earth minister, often seen with his constituents or hanging out with sportspeople representing our country in international competitions. This move came as a surprise to almost all of us, and quite a number of armchair pundits have mooted that it amounted to a demotion, and that he must have fallen out of favour at some point in time.

Some things have changed from the days where every Singaporean child had to grow up to be a doctor, lawyer, or architect (we all know the architect was a reluctant compromise for our parents). The education system offers many more pathways than before, but change that needs to happen within us has clearly not taken place.

We are obsessed with status ladders and assume that climbing it is the universal purpose of life. We don’t understand why DPM Tharman isn’t the next Prime Minister and conjure conjectures of conspiracy theories. It could very well be that he doesn’t want the job and reckons he serves better in his more specialised role.

We’ve applied the same lens to Minister Tan. It’s amazing how we try to figure out where the rungs on our imaginary ladder are. People have pulled out the salary scale to compare if the Speaker of the House makes as much as a full cabinet minister in a bid to determine if this move was lateral or downward.

This is something I too grapple with in my own life. Am I moving up? Am I stagnating? Where is my career headed? Faith, who has spent the last few years of her life as a homemaker has it even tougher because the ladder as we know it doesn’t exist in her world. Well-meaning friends and relatives often coax her to go back to work because corporate work gives one a “sense of value”.

How sad our lives must be, that we are so easily taken in by this race that causes us to perpetually feel inadequate, to continually assess our own worth against that of others, and to push others down in order that we may hold our own heads high. We place these cares of the world on our shoulders, and a lot of it ultimately amounts to nothing. The admiration (or jealously, really) of our peers means nothing at the end of the day when we dial it in and meet God.

I’m still learning how to step back from this all-consuming tunnel vision and allow God to show me a glimpse of the larger picture. His plans for us often seems counter-intuitive, and His paths aren’t the ones we would choose. I’m discovering that He is more interested in what we are than where we are, and to take the time to reflect on how I can spend the little time I have left to serve something more tangible and lasting than the satiation of my own ego.

Chuan-Jin’s move might not make sense to us if we only look at it as “up, good, down, bad”. But I believe this is a man who will serve with his utmost wherever he is. I thank God for the person that God has made him, and pray that we all will find the path that leads to eternal value.