Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Lonely Soul

Yes, I must have been a lonely soul in my past lives.

Maybe I was an only child. Growing up around grown-ups too busy to spare five minutes, a hug or a kiss. My only playmates were myself, and my imagination. As I walked the path of life, there was nobody to share my happiness, and everybody was too busy to offer comfort when I was down. Long was my shadow. Alone.

Or perhaps, I was a fugitive in a hostile world, where a wrong word at a wrong time to a wrong person could lead to a wrong end. My distance from others was my protection; my silence, my defense. Every face was greeted with cynicism. At no times, I could let my guard down to let anybody get close, and nobody would let me get close to them. Caution, was my only companion.

Or it could be that I was a lone survivor of an extinct tribe. Living in a foreign land where no one knew my language. The only purpose of my mother tongue was to converse with myself in my mind. Never out loud.

Or perhaps I was Robinson Crusoe in my previous life. Deserted.

Yes indeed, I must have been a lonely soul in my past lives. I like to smile.

Every face I meet, with a smile I will greet. A smile, triggered not by calls of courtesy or etiquette, constructed not by forceful twitching of facial mechanism, drawn by no conscious effort, but sprouts from a seed buried within me. When the seed is watered by radiance emanating from the company of another being, it grows. It blossoms into a smile beaming with happiness, just as when a void is finally filled, a thirst finally quenched, or a yearning satisfied at last. Joy.

Yes, I like to smile.

But, due to perhaps the heavier burden of life, or the fatigue brought by it, I feel the seed is buried deeper and deeper within me, and further and further apart, its blossoms scatter. Tired. Maybe.

Yet, I like to smile. Still.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Guess What?

It just hit me that, in the tone of my last two posts (this and this), I had missed the zenness that was spilt all over the place from one of the oldest joke around:-

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it wanted to get on the other side!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Putting Something Into Nothing

I have been feeling Zenny since my last post. So I thought I'd give my worldly and lowly 2 cents worth of reflection regarding the Zenness of my last post, which is also my first post - about Zen, in this post.

Please bear in mind that if the journey to enlightenment is a million steps to the west, I'm now at 2 steps to the east, lying on my hammock between two coconut trees, enjoying and admiring the glorious view of the west, while having a sip from my glass of cocktail with a tiny umbrella for inspiration.

So dwell into my words at your own risk. Any bad injuries, physical or emotional, caused by the clumsiness of my words, their un-enlightening nature, their path to noway; you being more lost than before you were lost; you could not find your way back to the proper functioning mind of yours; you bearing physical harm by proclaiming as a Master of Zen through "enlightenment" by my words to others, and hence earn the wrath of your jealous friends, are all none of my business.


Buddha achieved his enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

Buddhism believes all of us can become a Budha through enlightenment by not looking externally from us, but within us. Through practices, of which meditation is one of many ways, we'll be able to achieve this.

At times, our perception of the true nature of things or events are distorted by our worldly emotions, thus causing us to be confused and unhappy about the state of things or events.

In essence, this is what the senior disciple was trying to convey with his words:

Our body is the tree of Bodhi; our mind, a reflective mirror. We must clean the mirror of our mind diligently to rid it of any dust of worldly thought.


A tree, which is not a tree, is a tree; a mirror, which is not a mirror, is a mirror. When there is no thoughts rippling in your mind as you encounter with things and events, how would it takes on any forms, worldly or un-worldly, when there is none of it?


Bodhi is no tree; the reflection, shone not from a mirror. When all is only Nothingness, upon what will the dust gather?

If I see a person smiling a me, hatred might arise because I might be having a bad day, "What the hell is so happy about today that you have to smile like a fool in front of me?" Without worldly emotions colouring my vision of things or events, I'll be happy to see a person smiling at me, which is a person smiling at me, and I'll smile back. And, in the true sense of Zen, we would need no suppression of our worldly emotions to be able to smile back, because the natural reaction to meeting happiness IS becoming happy.

If I fill a glass with water up to its halfway mark, I will neither say it's half full, nor half empty. I'll say it's a BLOODY GLASS OF WATER, and drink it. Why else would I get a glass of water?

A glass of water, is a glass of water. If I look at the glass of water, and keep trying to figure out whether it's half full or half empty, I'd already by affected by my worldly emotion of the moment - half empty when I'm feeling negative, or half full when I'm feeling optimistic - and I'll remain thirsty. My hand will also be tired for holding the glass too long.


With me so far? Good. 'Cause I'm lost in my own Zenniness, and feeling a little bit of dizziness.

And if you ARE enlightened, in any sorts of way, to whatever degree, by the above craps, please let me know, I'll seriously consider publishing a book on my Zenniness.

Happy Zenning!


Thursday, March 19, 2009


Zen stands not upon words. Zen is about intuition.

I hope I can let the wisdom shine through the clumsiness of my words in this anecdote. The first time I read this anecdote, which has one of my favourite Zen quotes, my eyes were wet at the conclusion, deeply touched by the revelation.


The Master was getting old. As such, he wished to select a suitable candidate from his group of disciples to teach all he knew.

One day, he gathered his disciples and announced his planned retirement. Along with his knowledge, he would pass on his leadership of the movement to the one disciple who could best capture the meaning of Zen in words.

One of his senior disciples, who commanded the respect of his fellow disciples with his vast knowledge, wrote his grasp of Zen on a wall:

Our body is the tree of Bodhi; our mind, a reflective mirror. We must clean the mirror of our mind diligently to rid it of any dust of worldly thoughts.

That elicited praises and admiration from other disciples. Not quite, the Master thought. In fact, it wasn't close. The Master conveyed his opinion to the disciple in private.

Meanwhile, another disciple who was of lower rank learned about the proverb. On the same wall, he wrote his thought.

When the Master read the junior disciple's words, he summoned him to his room and taught him everything he knew.

On the wall, next to the first proverb, were these words:

Bodhi is no tree; the reflection, shone not from a mirror. When all is only Nothingness, upon what will the dust gather?


I recently came across zenBananas (zen stuff and stories) during my Entrecard escapade. It inspired me to share in this blog my encounters with Zen and my enlightenment from it, however dim it is from whatever that has managed to slip through the thick skull of mine.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Can You Tell Me?

It was a cold winter night. Freezing. Last night's blizzard was evident by the thick blanket of snow covering the roads and the roofs. Dark heavy clouds hanging low above the roofs and the biting wind warned of yet another imminent storm. Still, there were people hurrying up and down the street, with their heads buried deep within their coats, who were all too eager to get to their destination and out of the cold.

"Sir, matches for 50 cents?" the little girl's voice trembling in the cold, as she approached a gentleman walking passed her.

In their hurried pace, nobody seemed to notice the little girl, crouching besides the street. Those who saw her would just smile and continue on their journey. Some shook their heads.

"These are special matches, ma'am. See its bigger head? And its special kind of red? It lasts longer. And it gives out more heat too. You can fry an egg with just one stick, ma'am?" for those who were willing to stop and listen, the little girl would give her very best to reduce her stock level.

Smell of delicious food was drifting out from a house nearby. Hmm ... garlic bread, glazed ham, roast turkey, honey ducklings, baked potatoes, and ..., the little girl's nose twitched as she drew in a deep breath, ... and cranberry chicken stew. She curled the corner of her lips smugly at her sharp sense of smell. Her stomach was starting to growl in protest.

After some futile sales technique, the girl was starting to give in to the cold, and the boredom. She took a match out and struck it against the wall. As she warmed her little hands with the small fire, she suddenly noticed on the cold damp wall images of freshly-baked bread, beside the juicy roasted beef tenderloin, medium. They looked so real that she could almost smell the aroma of the hot bread mixing deliciously with the still-sizzling tender beef. But the saliva-inducing picture was all too brief with the short match. And her saliva dropping right from her mouth onto the flame didn't help either.

Sensing something magical with the matches, she struck another one. A fireplace, red Christmas stockings, and warm rug appeared. She could see the fire dancing in the fireplace. She felt warm just by looking at the picture. Before she could reach out and touch the Christmas stockings, the wind blew out the flame.

Damn, she cursed.

Another match struck. This time, she carefully protected the flame with her free hand. Christmas tree; gifts wrapped with colorful shinning wrapper; color balls, Christmas lighting, plastic snowflakes, angel figurines, and Christmas star that decorated plentifully on the tree were the images of the moment. As the images roll around the room, she quickly struck another match before the first match ran out. Best to think ahead, she thought. But the wind had other idea. Another blow from the wind, the flame went out.

Darn. The little girl stomped her feet, fretting.

She frowned, her fingers rubbing her chin thoughtfully. Five seconds later, she snapped her finger. A cheeky smile crept onto her face.

She put her hand into her pocket, felt for her intended object, took it out, and gave it a good flick with her thumb. Walla! A perfect bright flame jumped out from the lighter.

Take that, you shitty wind, she snorted.

Just as the flame were lighting up the darkness, she closed her eyes quickly and made a wish.

She smiled as she watched the images on the wall - a villa by the beach; beautiful sunshine; fine white sand; girls with bikini and perfectly-tanned skin walking around; people lying on mattress under the shades of big umbrella scattered all over the beach; summer music from radios filled the bustling paradise; children splashing water in the crystal clear water; blue sky, no cloud, sunglasses and ice cream everywhere. Ahhh ... she gave a satisfying grin.

As she was basking in the imaginary sunshine, she noticed a familiar figure walking towards her. Clad in a two-piece, with wrinkled skin one layer on top another for protection, and her back hunched, the figure approached her slowly.

"Grandma!" the little girl cried out. Stretching out her hand, the one that's not holding the lighter, she reached for her grandma's hand and held it affectionately. Tears in her eyes, "I miss you, Grandma," she murmured gently.


The girl rubbed her reddened cheek with her hand, grimaced. She looked at her grandma through teary eyes.

"You little rascal. What the hell are you doing here? Your parents are worried sick about you," the old lady blasted.

"I'm sorry, Grandma. I was bored to death in the house. There's no good show on TV, and I'm tired with all the old games on Playstation, and, and ..." the little girl sobbed in apologies, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry, dear. Did it hurt?" Grandma caressed the little girl's face softly, feeling regret for her overreaction.

"C'mon, child. Let's get you home," she bent over to adjust the little girl's Armani overcoat, gave it a nice pat, and took the Dupont lighter from the little girl. The old lady then adjusted her own Prada fur coat. With one hand holding her LV handbag, she held the little girl hand with the other. And the little girl skipped happily in her red Gucci boots towards their house of 9-room, 2-kitchen, 3-bathroom, 4-garage (that housed a Mercedes, a BMW, a Ferrari, and a lowly Rolls Royce limousine), with a 10-acre-garden, and a heated swimming pool; all attended by 3 butlers.

Moral of the story?

Well ... I'm not so sure. But whatever it could be, I'm sure it'll be better than the original Little Match Girl.

I read a lot of bedtimes stories for the kids. Although we have the book on Little Match Girl, I have never read it to them. Apart from "If the going tough, follow your dead relative that appears at the end of the light to the other side of the world. Or, the best way to die is being frozen to death, painless. That's how you can go with a smile," I can never think of a better conclusion to tell the kids after the story, so that they can go to sleep with a warm and happy feeling.

What actually is the moral of the Little Match Girl story anyway?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Want To Die

Not now. When my time comes - preferably in about 40-50 more years, assuming I still have my health, and my bank account have his - I want to die a happy man.

I'm just wondering what I need to do to be a happy-dying man.

But first, I need to determine the working model of life in this department. I gave my good-for-nothing-useful mind a good nothing-better-to-do churn, and it threw out two assumption, actually two and a half. For simplicity sake, we'll assume there are only two emotions in life, happiness and sadness. Every other emotions lie within the spectrum of these two extremes.

Glass of water

Life is like a glass of water. Happiness, is like sugar added to the water, it sweetens the drink; sadness is like salt. For this argument, the sweeter the water, the better. Of course, the amount of water will increase with time, otherwise, the water will taste so sweet, it'll become bitter. And, of course, we can't live without salt. But these are already two totally different stories.

If my life is to end at this very moment, before I close my eyes for the last time, I would take a sip from my glass. If it tastes sweet, I would go with a smile and die happy. If it tastes salty, I'll be wearing a grimace to go. My glass of water tasting as salty as it is right now, I would have to make sure that every spoon into my water of life from now on is sugar, to sweeten out the saltiness. It seems a lot of hard work.

Magnetic Drawing Board (Magna Doodle)

Our day will start with a blank page every day. If we feel happy, we'll be drawing happy things onto the board; if we feel sad, sad things. If I am to die when I am halfway filling up the drawing board with sunshine, satisfying coffee, smooth traffic, smiling faces, etc, I'll die a happy man. I don't want to die when I am halfway drawing the logo of my credit card on top of its outstanding amount, my foot stepping onto dog shit, my dwindling bank account's figure, tree falling onto my car or anything that drives my happiness away. The good thing about this assumption is that, if I do end the day with sadness all over the board, I'll get a fresh blank page the next morning to prepare for my moment.

So, that's the two models of life. The other half? Well, it's another version of the magnetic drawing board with a refreshing rate at every moment, instead of every day. If right at the moment I exhale my last breath, I have a smile on my face, then I'll die a happy man. It doesn't matter if 5 seconds before that, I was drowned with sorrow.

It does seem that the magnetic drawing board way of life is simpler and happier. It's much more achievable too.

On a day when I don't want to die, and couldn't be more keen on living, that's my lively thought on my death.

So, how do you like to die?


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Words Of Tonnes

It has always puzzled me how much words mean to my kids, seven and nine years old.

"You're fat!" - Well, that's not true, none of you are.

"You're lazy!" - At times, both of you are.

"You're stupid!" - Ditto.

"I'm gonna to take your pencil when you're not around!" - Huh, hollow threat.

"Don't you dare! I'm gonna to take two of your pencils when you're not around!" - Well, points deducted for originality.

"Oh Yeah! I'm gonna throw your favourite shirt into the dust bin!" - Now, that I would like to see - no, not you throwing the shirt, your mother's reaction after you've thrown the shirt.

Usually at this stage, both kids would have been shaken by the other's verbal punches so much that their voices would have been raised to the near-window-shattering level. I would have just let the window crack to experience the awesomeness of the moment. But my wife, would step in like a wrestling match referee and put her hand in the middle of them and segregate them, "You! To the bedroom! You! To the study room!" She would blow her whistle like a football match referee too if the pandemonium does not cease immediately. And if one of them is clearly in the wrong, a red card will be shown.

The kids get irritated by words easily. Too easily (I guess, much like some adults too). Words are words, if they are not true, it won't do a thing to hurt you, unless you let them (of course, that's a big task even for adults). That's what I always tell the kids. It doesn't matter how stupid others are saying about you, if you're smart, no spoken words can make you less clever. Son, smart IS clever. And you still won't be able to climb the wall even if I say you're Spiderman, loudly, and repeatedly. Would you? Their silence in chewing up the truth of my words gives a perceived understanding of my wisdom, until the next round of shouting match.

So, before I could truly instil my wisdom into their deceivingly feeble minds, and before I could uncover the reason words have gained such significance in their reasoning, I guess I just have to accept that words do mean tonnes in the kids' world. But if that's the case, what's the reason behind lying to their parents?

My wife will usually bring snacks for the kids when she fetches them from school. The other day, she brought something that's not my little boy favourite. He protested, but my wife insisted he finish it, since he was hungry anyway. After they had reached home, he gave the empty snack container to his mother and told her he's finished his food.

The next day, under the car seats, my wife found a pile of food that my little boy claimed to have eaten. Furious, she questioned the boy. After some denials, and some further questioning, he admitted to the crime.

When my wife told me about this, instead of anger, I felt totally defeated, deflated and sunk. Unlike other mischief, I didn't see the humour of this.

To become parents whom our kids could turn to in any situation is always our major objective in raising our kids. This incident had knocked a hole onto our ship of parenting which has at its mast a flag bearing "The Most Understanding Parents". I know how Titanic failed to finished her maiden voyage; but I have little ideas as to why my little boy would resort to lying to avoid doing something he doesn't like, not to mention the stupidity of it - if you want to make the food disappear - throw it anyway outside the car! But that's a totally different issue.

I'm prepared to face lies, half-truth, or half-lie when the kids start stepping into their teenage years (which I still hope would not happen). But at seven?

What's startled me more than this is the afterthought: was that the first time? This was a big blow to my confidence in our parenting. Had we set the sail on a wrong course? Were we sailing towards north when we wanted to head west? Were we too optimistic? Did we underestimate the problem? Is this part of the voyage?

I'm probably adding the wrong one and one to get to two, but if words carry that much weighs in the kids' world, won't that mean lying to us was a contemptuous flick at his respect and love to us? I know my assumption is probably overblown, but at the moments when he spoke lies to us, what's his attitude towards us? What's on his mind? Did he think this is too small to be of importance? Does it matter how important is the subject of his lie?

That's more questions than I can handle for one post with a deflated spirit. Now I need to go sit at the corner, face the wall and do some serious rethinking.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The String No More

I never knew the existence of the little girl. Our paths had never crossed.

The only string that connected us was the fact that she was studying in the same grade at the same school with my 9-years-old daughter. Seated in different classes, they had never known each other either.

News of her falling into a coma was her first splash into my mind, sending ripples of shock and sadness; shocked by the unpredictability; saddened by the suffering. Her perennial headache turned out to be a trick by a tumour in her brain. The trick turned life-threatening by robbing her consciousness. In the span of three days, it turned fatal. Three days - never long enough for bidding farewell to such a young life. Farewell should never be bid to such a young life, one would have thought. Yet again, another painful reality served up by life, with a notice of death.

Knowledge of the little girl letting go of her end of the string left me shaken holding my end. Sadness clogged my throat, sorrow welled up in my eyes. My heart was wrenched. But by what? I'm not so sure. Compassion for the premature end of a young life? Sympathy for the grief-stricken parents? Apprehension to life's frailty? Fear of being dealt the same fate? Not sure. But at that moment, with all its impermanence, I couldn't feel a weaker grip on life.

Dear Little Girl, though I had never known you, I hope after releasing the string of life, you are now holding the hands of angels. Roaming and enjoying yourself at the playground in heaven. And when your wings are firm enough for traveling on your own, come back. Visit your loved ones, especially your parents. Come back, subtly remind them of your footsteps in their path of the past. Warm their hearts, chase away their fear, make them strong with your memories. Somehow, let them know you're doing fine. I can not imagine what they are going through, and how they are feeling, but I'm sure they miss you, a lot.

Take care, Little Girl.



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