Making Light of Things

April 2011 Archives

Onward, Singapore

My fellow Singaporeans,

Every generation is responsible for the time they are given, and they are held responsible by their children and their children’s children. The same questions will be asked of us: did we make things better for people around us? Did we conduct ourselves with honour, integrity and compassion? Did we leave behind a legacy future generations are proud and passionate to follow?

While the questions are the same, every generation is beset with unique challenges. I am heartened that in this short span of political campaigning, some of these challenges are brought to the forefront of our minds, and subject to open debate. It is easy to be caught up emotionally as politicians do what they have to: garner popularity, but I urge you to see beyond the euphoria, the anger and the goosebumps because the challenges that face us require our attention for the long haul.

Questions like how do we provide quality housing that is affordable to all; how do we imbibe skills, ideas and passion found in individuals located all around the globe and merge it with who we are as a people while maintaining the core of our identity; how do we cultivate authentic compassion and empathy for the less fortunate in a self-confessed meritocratic society?

These aren’t easy questions and only the most naive would believe that anyone is able to solve them upfront. The solutions to many of these require a bold first step and subsequent adjustments. It saddens me to equal degrees: to see opinionated people insisting that their solutions are perfect; and other opinionated people trying to string the decision-makers up to dry because the first stroke wasn’t perfect by their estimation.

The challenges before us require all our collective innovation and creativity. Voting for whom and what you believe in is a great beginning, but I hope polling day doesn’t spell the end of passionate discourse and decisive action. It is easier to watch candidates go at it, but much more effective if we all get in on making Singapore a definitively amazing place to live.

Volunteer with organisations for causes you believe in, show a little compassion the next time someone in need tries to sell you a packet of tissue paper (you don’t have to buy, but examine yourself for traces of scorn and eliminate that for a start), head to the nearest sports complex and teach the bunch of youngsters how to strike a football the right way.

There is so much we can and need to do.

One of the most memorable moments in television I’ve ever watched has got to be the episode in ER where Mark Greene dies. He speaks these last words to his daughter Rachel:

Mark: I was trying to figure out what I should have already told you, but I never have. Something important, something every father should impart to his daughter. I finally got it.

He pauses.

Mark: Generosity. Be generous. With your time. With your love. With your life.

Rachel: Okay.

Mark: I’m sorry, Rachel. I’m so tired.

Rachel: It’s okay.

Mark: Don’t cry for me.

Rachel: I won’t.

Mark: Be generous. Always.

From the “On the Beach” episode of ER

Be the change we need.


My sweetest Faith,

It’s been a while since I wrote you because it is easier to just hold you tight and tell you, but I often fear that these moments, gone unrecorded, will be swept away by time’s torrid tide. It’s probably fool’s gold to think that the ephemeral nature of the internet would provide a refuge where we can store our memories so that we can one day recollect them.

It’s almost ironic that the act of chronicling these moments means I miss the moments that pass while I write. Granted that I often pen these in the dead of night, but even the thought of not lying beside you and watching you sleep feels like such a waste of a good thing.

We only have so many of these in our lives, and however long God has planned for us to have with each other, it never seems enough. Again, we could spend it in futile fear that this heaven be taken away from us or choose to spend our moments wisely, deeply in love and in service of others.

The last few months of continually serving the youth has been tiring, but it is a good tiredness, like it is life well spent; and how sweet it is to have you as my helpmate and my companion. So very close that you are not just a part of who I am, but I am truly one with you, unable to differentiate where I end and you begin…

I am so blessed that the memories I write are a reflection of the greater relationship between our Christ and His bride, and I get to write them with you.

Sleep tight.

Viva La Revolucion!

It is probably a common affliction borne by the no-longer-youthful: we are often left wondering where time has gone.

When a friend pointed out that Les Mis put together a 25th anniversary concert, I was a little dumbstruck. It didn’t seem that long ago when I first watched Les Mis, became so absolutely smitten with Eponine and subsequently developed an unhealthy obsession with Broadway, and particulary Frank Wildhorn’s musicals Jekyll and Hyde as well as the amazing, amazing Scarlet Pimpernel.

To think it was the NBA All-Star halftime show at Madison Square Garden that started it all. Oh my, it was the 1998 NBA All-Star Game.

I consider myself a lifelong Les Mis fan, having purchased the original cast recording, the complete symphonic recording, the 10th year anniversary concert CD, and 2 copies of the concert DVD. As such, I am heavily invested in the Les Mis story, and like any fan worth their salt, we guard the telling of the story very jealously, scrutinising the new cast members chosen for the 25th anniversary milestone concert.

Let’s put it this way: we start off with the premise that there is no one who can ever replace the original cast. No one is going to come close to Colm Wilkinson as JVJ and to suggest Lea Salonga’s Eponine as substitutable is borderline heresy. You’ll often hear us old fogeys bemoaning the fact that there’ll never be another _, but it is important not to mistake our nostalgia for disrespect.

We accept that time truly waits for no man, and it is essential that the new generation of actors take over the esteemed mantle of perpetuating the story for their peers. The story should outlive one generation’s interpretation of it; the younger generation, having come of age, ought to own its telling, embracing it and improving upon it.

But that said, please send your very best - voices and talent worthy of the high bar laid down by an illustrious cast such as Michael Ball, Ruthie Henshall (oh I swoon), Anthony Warlow and Philip Quast. Apart from Lea, whom even time has touched, I do not know any of the cast of the 25th anniversary concert. I only hope they understand their role in all this and uphold the tradition proudly, not viewing it as just another show or a feather in their cap. To be the bearer of the story is not something anyone should take on frivolously or carelessly, for truly, as Yeats so succinctly put it, “[we] have spread my dreams under your feet, Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”.

While there is only one original cast, the Les Mis faithful often spend time considering over the what-could-have-beens: Warlow would have made a different Valjean. We could argue over who is the greater, but frankly, the story of Les Mis is greater than her actors.

The story of Les Mis is our story. It resonates within us because at some point in our lives, in some fashion, we are Les Miserablés, and we are searching for inspiration to rise above our circumstance and achieve something greater than ourselves.

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