Saturday, February 28, 2009
Are you frowning already? Don't be. This is a very special moment to be cherished. As in many occasions, we are now connected. My thoughts are now entering your mind letter by letter, word by word and sentence by sentence.
Don't yawn just yet.
Take some times to marvel at the technology that gives us cheap phone calls, let us explore any place on earth, makes us an expert in any topic, enables us to diagnose any symptom, renders redundant the paper headed by "news" and allows my thoughts to travel a varying distances in space and traverse the different spectra of time from the rotten mind of mine to the bored mind of yours with just two clicks of the mouse - mine to "publish", yours to land here.
So, you're listening to the past-me rambling. Where's the present-me? Probably playing sport with my kids at the park, or enjoying ice cream with them, or chatting with my wife over a cup of coffee or tea, or having a pleasant dinner with my family in a nice restaurant, or watching some favourite comedies or movies on TV, or having a sound sleep snoring in my bed, or maybe, like you, having nothing better to do, sitting in front of the computer letting your thoughts from, you know, the past-you occupy territories in my imagination.
There isn't any better place to be, I'm sure you would agree, than sitting right where you are, or I am, and without exuding so much of a single drop of sweat, go to hundreds different places around the world and visit thoughts from hundreds different people with different backgrounds who grew up in different eras by different kinds of upbringing within different societies under different cultures. By the same reasoning in reverse, if I were to ask about the scenery outside your window, I would likely get answers as diverse as freezing blizzard to torrential tropical rain, monotonous white to luscious greens, woody forest to concrete jungle, tree-lined avenue to other high-rise units' windows, bright blue sky to dark cool night, bright sunlight to soft moonshine, or maybe you just don't have a window.
Don't go just yet! I'm about done.
So, what do you have outside your window? Don't answer. Actually, I don't care. If you're reading this, you're probably in a comfortable position regardless of the weather outside. But are you enjoying this moment with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine? Wait! I don't care either, as long as you're still reading.
And everywhere ...
What? We have passed 450 words already? Good. Have I driven my point across?
Yes, of course this post has a point for delivery. Didn't you read the title?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
They were sitting at the back of the passenger van, on a summer holidays trip with a group of university mates. After a tiring fun-filled day, it was getting dark. It would be another hour before they could lay down their tired bodies to recuperate for another day. But, to him, it was an hour too soon, and he didn't want another day to arrive, as he caressed her soft hand.
He had been exploring boundaries within their friendship ever since he sensed his longing feeling for her. It's more than a crush. Her sporadic subtle hints convinced him so. Or were those his whimsical thoughts? Being younger than her, he's hesitant in making a bold declaration, until that night.
As they dragged their exhaustion onto the van for the trip back to their motel, their friends conveniently left the two back seats vacant. They were just happy to ignore all the teasing glances and walked towards the vacant seats.
It was after dinner. The air was cooling into the summer night. His body was tired, but his heart was undulating with emotions. He took out his walkman, tentatively offered one earbud to her. To his delight, she accepted. He put on the other one, hands shaking slightly with excitement. He pressed Play, hoping the music would have a calming effect on his racing heart. But the bumpy road had other ideas. Well, at least she didn't mind the ensuing intimate physical contacts of their shoulders, he was pleased. Finally, the bumpy road did him a favour. On one tiny bump, their hands touched. He seized his moments.
It was the softest hand he'd ever held. In fact, it was the first time he's holding a girl's hand with a gentle, romantic touch. This would be his first love.
At that magical moment, darkness painted the inside of the van with colors. The stars of the night were winking at them, blessing them. The summer breeze was not just cooling, they were harmonizing to the song playing from the walkman. Our song, he declared fondly to himself. Even the loud snores from one of the passengers sounded romantic.
That marked the start of what seemed to be a trip to heaven for him. They were finally a couple; holding hands openly everywhere they go; sharing drinks, food, and loving gazes.
The last day of the trip marked the end of an enjoyable trip for the group of friends. It also marked the abrupt end of their brief romantic relationship.
There were too many obstacles, too many problems she could foresee, she said. Disappointed, he was, but not upset. Neither did he appeal for another chance. Too proud, perhaps. The few days of loving feeling was never strong enough to slit a cut that deep, he explained to himself, amazed by his readiness and calmness in accepting her decision. It was good while it lasted, he conceded.
They were still friends. They still got together. He still tried to cross over the boundaries in subtle ways, testing waters, hoping she’d change her mind. But the boundaries were never crossed again.
After university, they went their separate ways. Both got married, at different time, to different people, at different places.
As time passed, those few days of romances were slowly buried under the sand of time, along with their song. On rare occasions when he caught the song being played on radio, his mind would trigger off a warm fuzzy feeling and plunge him into deep sentimental thoughts. It had become a fond memory of his youthful days.
The song would have stayed in his memory's wilderness too, had he not chanced upon her in their hometown many years after that. They had coffee, they talked - about old times, old friends, careers, families, kids, schools, etc. They had a good time catching up, filling gaps in between.
After waving goodbye, on his way home, he couldn't stop humming that romantic tune, their song. For the first time, after many years wandering in his oblivion, the song was recalled into his memory voluntarily. Sitting in front of his computer, still humming, he turned to YouTube for some sweet reminiscences. Lyrics of chorus, that's always the title of the song, he thought, shaking his head, smiling - after all these years, he had never bothered himself to find out the song's title. As he was keying in the words of the chorus into the search box, something that had never crossed his mind as anything meaningful, something that was so blatantly ironic, suddenly flashed before his eyes. His fingers hovered above the keyboard, paused. Eyes widened, he stared at what he'd just typed, in disbelief. After a long while, he chuckled, in amazement, and hit Enter ...
Friday, February 20, 2009
That's my two kids, 9 and 7 years old, performing their daily ritual. I've come to believe that it must be some sorts of chants they learned during pregnancy to get revenge on us for bringing them into this world. And we thought we'd done them a favour and bragged smugly about it. If you're lucky, you would get to enjoy an ensuing Coyote and Road Runner Show (all chasing and no physical contacts). If the warfare escalated to a DEFCON 1, you'd have a Tom and Jerry Show. Oh, how they would fight. But I've learnt not to be agitated by it, until a certain limit, and accept it - much like I accept that however close a couple is, there are still secrets best left untold; as friendly as your parents are, there'll be moments when you wish they would just shut up; as tightly held as you think your brotherhood or sisterhood is, there are still things not meant to be shared. So, brothers and sisters at their ages tend to fight - that's human, that's growing up, that's life, no problem.
So, kids' bickering I can withstand, with a smile too. Sometimes, it's the object of contention that bemused me. In the above jumbled up arguments, it's a sweet, a 5 cents sweet. I understand we should not always use an adult's value judgment to assess things in the kid's world. But, a fight that nearly turned into a Jet Li's Invisible Kicks vs Michelle Yeoh's Weng-Choon Fists over a 5 cents sweet, which they get to enjoy often whenever their parents is in a good mood?
But it is exactly this kind of absurdly-out-of-proportion-to-us-adults-basis that prompted our primary-3 daughter to jump with joy when we finally decided to give her a weekly allowance - 50 cents, to go with her snack box. By my calculation, if I got 20 cents as allowance back in my primary school years, which allowed me to buy a bowl of noodle and a glass of drink, and taking in the inflation rates over the 30-odd years, her joy was way overrated. But then again, she's measuring it against the yardstick of kid's world. Still, her overjoyed outburst caught me a little bit by surprise.
I was thrown into more surprises the other day, not long after we started giving her allowances, when she secretly told me ... well, this is another kid's wonder ...
When one of the kids comes to you and says, "Baba, Baba, come here, I want to tell you something, but you cannot tell Di-di (little brother), (or Jie-jie (elder sister), whichever case applies) hor ...", you're sure to find the other sibling right within a earshot away. Kids ...
Anyway, in the kid's most secretive way of telling a secret, my daughter pulled my ear towards her and whispered to me that she would use her weekly allowance of 50 cents to buy a 30 cents snack for her younger brother on the coming Wednesday. Sure enough, the boy didn't hear about the secret, but, as usual, knew that a secret was being told, and was hopping mad for not being told the secret. The kind of surprise brought by the learned secret put a smile on my face the whole day. I was so pleased I thought I couldn't have smiled any wider.
But I was wrong.
On Wednesday, my daughter kept her promise. She gave the snack to her younger brother, bundled in a self-made gift wrapper. I was again surprised by her thoughtfulness. And, of course, I was caught by another surprise (this just shows how presumptuous I was regarding kids' value judgment) when the little boy couldn't stop giggling and yelling with joy over the kind of present that takes him less than 30 seconds to gobble up.
The biggest surprise of all?
After my full-of-surprises daughter had given my full-of-surprises son her gift, she gave him a hug and said, "Happy Birthday!"
Moments later, after the gift was unwrapped, and the jumping and yelling of joy came to a halt, another surprise - "This is the bestest birthday ever!" my little boy trumpeted with a big smile.
Ahh ... kids. What would you do without them, when you're not spanking them for their hair-pulling maddening mischief.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Well, this is it.
Dada, Da, Da Da-Dum!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything is satisfactual
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day,
.. 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 - GO!
OK. That's enough celebration.
Now, to the 101st post!
* By the way, did you READ the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah words, or SING to the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah lyric?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Painted faces, grown men's butts, and, of course, Sophie Marceau - that's how I remember Braveheart. It is not the kind of movie I would choose to watch on a lazy afternoon, and shroud my evening with a heavy mood.
Luckily, I chanced upon it on TV on a Saturday night, when I could go straight into bed with whatever emotion stirred up by the somber ending, and start the morning after with my heart refreshed. Once I was in, I was glued to the TV to the very end. However, this post is not about how good the movie is. Neither is it about my weekend.
Halfway through the movie, amid the battle cries, it suddenly dawned on me - while the rest of us, who have searched high and low for our elusive purpose in life, Mel Gibson's character had it easy in finding his. Convenient. Growing up in an oppressive environment, the people he met, the treatment he received, the suffering he went through from loses of loved ones, and other hardship in his early life didn't give him much luxury to ponder about where he would go with his life. He was thrown onto his path. Fate pushed him. Vengeance shoved him. Adversity did not allow him to look back. The harder he was pressed, the tighter he held to his sense of purpose - freedom of Scotland.
His conviction to his purpose was strong. It made him brave - going where no Scots had gone, and doing what no Scots had dared. Fate made him strong; either that or his suicidal desire to join his dead beloved wife did. And Sophie Marceau was to me what Michelle Pfeiffer was in Ladyhawke. There's a lot of Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon in Mel Gibso's portrayal of William Wallace. Their butts were white. So were their legs. I'm being delirious.
While the accuracy of the story is contentious, in real life, I suspect there is truth in how we sense our purpose in life based on our experiences during our formative years.
Poverty during childhood yields desire for better livelihood. Broken family fosters yearning for a loving bond. Loses of loved one to sickness nurtures ambition to cure all diseases. Injustice felt cultivates aspiration to fight for justice, or join a secret society gang. As we strive towards fulfilling what was deprived during our younger years, we find satisfaction in achieving them. We feel happy in doing what we're doing. We rejoice in finding the purpose in our life. Yipee doo. But WAIT!
Fulfillment of some shortcomings during our younger years? Is that really the purpose in life? No doubt, it brings satisfaction as it fulfills a void left in yesteryears, but is that it? What if I had a perfect childhood? What then is my purpose in life if I had no desire for anything? Charity? Art? Fishing? Sports? Writing?
Although I don't have a perfect childhood, I do blame my parents for doing too good a job and not giving me a clearer sense of purpose in life. Perhaps the environment had made me so; perhaps I was brought up this way; perhaps I am just the way I am, I really have no strong desire for anything that I don't have. Perhaps I'm just plain lazy. Perhaps my parents should have taken away my allowances so that I have a stronger desire to work hard for money. Perhaps they should have forced me to walk to school instead of drive me to school, so that I would find satisfaction in driving, and maybe be a taxi driver. Perhaps they should have starved me more, so that I would have a better appreciation of food, and be a chef. Again, I'm being delirious.
If purpose in life is not something thrown at us by fate, are we then born with it? Do we seek from within us? Is there a difference between purpose IN life and purpose OF life? DO WE NEED A PURPOSE IN LIFE? Or maybe, like the movie, it matters not that we know death awaits us at the end of our lives, regardless of whether we find our purpose in it, we just have to make it interesting and enticing enough for us to see through it? Seize the day? Maybe, my purpose in life IS to find a purpose in life?If you think we can find answers to a question with such depth and width in a 757-words post, you're probably more delirious than I am.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
"A What?? Hahahahaha ..."
"I'm sorry. Couldn't help it. Got tissue? Thanks."
"You want to do a what again?"
A book review.
"Hahahahaha ... WaaaHahahahaha ... I'm sorry. Thousand apologies. Haaa ..."
"When was the last time you read a book before this one?"
Err ... about ten, twenty years ago?
"Right. After that many years, having finished ONE book, you want to do a review?"
Yeah. Well, not exactly a review, more some thoughts on the book.
"So you want to tell your 'thoughts' on the book to the world?"
Well, my world is not that big. 20 regulars? 15 max.
"Right ... Actually, what made you pick up reading again? Your new-found interest in writing?"
Err ... Yeah.
"Okay. Okay. Let's hear it. Start with a short intro?"
I remember coming across the book at Tesco's book section a few months ago. It has an eye-catching title. Not thick. No big words. The kind of book that endears to me. As I'm wandering around the book store today, it catches my eyes again.
"The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his house ...", "The class met on Tuesdays.", "Kissing him good-bye earned you extra credit.", "A funeral was held in lieu of graduation.", "Although no final exam was given ... The paper is presented here.", "The last class of my old professor's life had only one student. I was the student." are the kinds of statement that capture my imagination.
Since Chinese New Year break is coming up, I'm thinking of kindling my interest in reading with the spare times, and a thin book.
Heck, why not?
I pick up the book and pay for it. My first novel after ten, twenty years.
Tuesdays with Morrie - It's about a man who learned that his old college professor, his mentor who he had not seen for twenty years, was fighting a terminal illness from a tv show. They relived the teacher-student relationship towards the last few months of the professor's life. Their classes were held on Tuesdays. They were Tuesday people. He wrote about the professor, their relationship, their interactions towards the last few months of the professor's life, and about life, death, and everything in between that were discussed during the classes. It ended at the graduation, the professor's funeral, on a Tuesday. A teacher to the last. The book is his thesis from those classes.
"The book doesn't reveal too many new thoughts about life to you, does it? Since you dwell on that kind of subject often. You certainly didn't exhibit those can't-put-the-book-down-once-started kind of interest."
"So, nothing much on the story."
It's a true story, I googled it. Mr Albom couldn't twist the facts for the sake of making it interesting, right? Still, I thought the funeral falling on a Tuesday is too coincidental to be true. Don't you think?
"Well, in a lot of ways, life is like a book."
"So, your 'thoughts' on the book?"
The style of presentation.
"The style of presentation? Wait ... is that why I'm talking in quotes and you're not?"
Yeah. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Isn't it?
"Right. It does transform the conversation to another level of imagination, doesn't it? Makes it ethereal. Adds a tinge of echoes to the exchanges."
"And the flashbacks interspersed between the chapters?"
Yeah. That too. But I couldn't figure out why the flashbacks are in present tense though.
"Maybe it's because the flashbacks resurfaced in his mind when he was writing while listening to the recorded conversation between him and old Morrie, like it's happening right before his eyes."
"So, another ten years before another book?"
Nope. I'm going to read it again. Slower, this time. Then I was thinking of picking up his next book - The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Interesting title. Not thick. Doesn't seem to have big words. Curious to see Mr Mitch Albom's creativity when he's not restricted by facts.
"Well. Alrighty-then. Couldn't wait for your next 'Review'."
Title: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom
First Published: 1997