It happened to me when I was still staying with my mum, back in Woodlands. I think I was already in my National Service. probably 19 years old. I can’t specifically recall what was it that triggered this epiphany, but it goes like a kind of dream.
The problem with words is that words are very poor messengers of life. Like this episode, I can’t tell you if it was a dream, or what.
It happened when I was asleep at night.
I usually tell people it is some kind of a message. But it was more than that, the feeling hits me in the depths of my soul.
It simply said that ‘We are all here on borrowed time.’
That’s the crux of the ‘message’ I got. What I knew was when I woke up, I felt the severity and seriousness of the message. And saw the world in a different way.
We are indeed living on borrowed time.
When it’s time for payback, we go, just like that. Everyday, every minute, every moment is time on loan to us, we don’t really own this life we live. We have it, and the next moment, we will not have it anymore.
It changed my life, and until now I’m still messed up trying to figure out the whole idea of what happened that night. The fact that I’m still alive means that I have a little bit more borrowed time to try and figure what that was all about.
The Scarcity of Death
It does darken my personality sometimes as I think about the scarcity of the whole idea of death, I will probably never get to finish what I wanted to do, and I might expire before my endeavour sees fruition. So why start?
Thinking about it, also spur me to do things, because there is somewhat a mentality of urgency, I have to get things done, before I die. Then the other side hit me, why start?
I’m kind of glad that I got that ‘message’. Since 19, I’ve gotten my life’s perspective right. Stayed happy, worked hard, I got a good sense of what is right and wrong, and somehow did what is mostly right, and stayed away from the wrong. When I want to die, I have to die right.
And I know now since we are on borrowed time, this life is a one way ticket with no return trip. I have to look forward, and when I die, I damn well be doing the things I love. I want to die with a smile on my face.
That doesn’t mean that I am always trippy high, not worried about anything in the world. I don’t try to cheat Death. I don’t fear Death, I won;t say I know Death, but I think I know Death a little better than the people around me. Sometimes thinking about it puts me in a dark place, and I can stay there thinking about death and the dark energy it brings. Sometimes, I’m bright and I want to be bright until I die.
It’s not here…yet…
As I grow older, moving into more borrowed time, I can get a sense of Death, and it is not here yet. But it is also not far away.
Your mum told me one day you made this remark: “Friends are like drugs, some are good for you when you are not feeling well, but having too much of that will be bad, and makes you addicted to them.“
I think you’ve hit the nail right spot on the head.
This applies to many things in life, but for you I know where you are coming from. Friends and the social life are a big melting pot for you in school. You get to work with people you like, and don’t like. Sometimes, the teachers will assign you to a team where there are ‘enemies’. You don’t always get the sunny side of the deal.
Drugs are good when you need them, and you have to stop taking them when you no longer need to consume them, and instead keep them handy in the event that you have to take them again. If you continue to use them longer than necessary, you grow dependent on these drugs. They will have an influence over your life, and soon after that, you will grow to depend on them, whether you like it or not.
And drugs changes you, and if you are not careful, you’ll turn into someone you don’t like.
Friends: Boon or Bane?
In my formative years, friends are a boon, as I do not have a strong family base. I started working young and depended a lot on my colleagues, who turned into friends for support. Friends taught me a lot, and I was thankful I mixed a a good bunch of guys. I owe a lot to who I am to the friends I know.
For your mum, she was the opposite, the family bond was strong, even until now. She has no allegiance to friends or groups, she is still very close to her parents, and there is always a time for family gathering and parties. These are precedence and priorities that I sometimes are at odds with.
Friends fade way
People always have their own agenda. We taught you this early, as we have been through many of these ‘cycles’. From young, we have a group of fun friends, close and tight. Good people whom we thought will be great to age along with. Truth to be told, everybody grows up, grows old, and grows away. Those who stays are families. That is for me; your mum, you, and your little brother.
As you are now in your final years in Primary School, most of the friends you know now will go into separate Secondary Schools next year. All of you will go forth and pursue the calling and destiny of your choice.
It is good to stay close, but being close to a certain level where you have a void, is no good. There are friends toxic to you right now, will also part. Fighting them, dealing with them now, only to face the reality that they will too go their own ways, leaves you with a kind of withdrawal symptoms.
I’m glad you have a metaphor like that, at this age. You’ll learn to distance yourself and have a healthy perspective over things. Never get too engrossed ‘fighting’ that undesirable character in school. I know you have a certain classmate, who is constantly at odds with you, picking on you. He irritates you, but he too will go his way. And when that happens? What happens to your epic ‘Me against Him’ story?
More important thing in life
Drugs are important too, for our lives, you know that. So use them well, and learn about their properties, their side effects. When to take them, what kind of ailments specific drugs can fix.
Friends are like that too, you need to learn about them and be useful to them, and make sure they are useful to you. Have an independent mind, at the same time, use friends to give you the right support and opinion. But never get too dependent on those opinions.
I think I’ve caused quite a ruckus at my office. You see, the place I worked is in a kind of Service Office, that means a lot of people uses a lot of shared resources. Think of it as a hostel, and you have to share the kitchen, toilet, office equipment and chairs.
That is where I think I became infamous.
Our office unit is located just outside the female toilet. and from where I’m seated, I can see who is going in and out of the ladies. Well, it is not that I want to, but the toilet entrance, is in my line of sight.
So I was on the phone one day and I caught a glimpse of a man, who made a quick knock on the ladies toilet sliding door, opened it and went right it. He wasn’t the office cleaner, he was, at that point in time, unidentified. And for me, an intruder.
My lady colleague also saw from the corner of her eye, and since she wasn’t on the phone, she went in to check it out; and at the same time, had the audacity to use one of the 2 cubicles there. That person, a man, no doubt was in the other cubicle.
The man got out of the toilet, before my colleague was done with her business, and before I was done with my phone call. He was just a about 10 seconds off. I hung up and went after him.
Face off with the Perpetrator
I caught up with him at the office reception, and first asked him, then told him.
Asked: “Did you use the female toilet?”
Told: ” You are not supposed to use the ladies!”
One of the Service Office staff manager came over and clarified what happened. (I felt it was more like in the perpetrator’s defence.)
The Perp explained that the male toilet’s 2 cubicles are both occupied….
Told: “Please use the toilets in nearby shopping centre! I faced this problem many times, and I always head for a shopping centre toilet a bare 3 minutes walk! You are not allowed to use the female toilet!”
I was instinctively pissed, the Perp actually have a reason AND excuse for using the ladies.
My female colleague caught up and asked him the same thing, that was right after I stomped off, making that scene. I wouldn’t want to tell her account, but what I got from her was the Perp wasn’t apologetic at all.
That was the story for the day.
I went back home unsettled and decided to pursue the matter on the Service Office’s Facebook private group page:
The Perp, after being confronted, wrote me an email:
I wouldn’t want to tell you much about the response I got from the Facebook group, but one lady, who is the staff of the Service Office, admitted that she also used the Male toilet ‘in a rush’. Well, that is certainly a ‘WOW’. That is certainly new age, hippie, uber feminism!
Scathing in my reply, I challenged her to use the Gents when she is out at the food centre, shopping arcade, and perhaps she ought to do a social experiment and get guys to use public Ladies toilet, and time how soon the police can get to the scene and arrest that man.
Female toilet is for the female.
Boys, remember this. Under no circumstances should you wander into the ladies. You boys are no longer ‘babies’. There are legal consequences if you do that. Granted that even if you have a ‘medical condition‘, you both shouldn’t even consider using the Ladies, when there is always a choice to do your business somewhere else. And in Singapore, you can always do your business in the right gender segregated toilet.
What “pisses” (pun intended) me off
Of course I reflected on the matter, and wondered what made me got up in arms over the whole matter, without deliberation. I guess I was brought up in a place that really is meritocratic. I don’t care who the hell you are, even if you are the Pope, you still use the Gents. Rules are rules, when the rules are broken, I will speak up, and face whoever breaks the rules.
Like I said, the female toilet is for the ladies. Call me a Gentleman, or a Chauvinist Pig, the ladies stays in the ladies, the men, in the Gents. For that Perp to use the Ladies, he has effectively hijacked the ENTIRE ladies for his own self-centred use. That means while he is in there, would the ladies be comfortable? My lady colleague who went is, is sure as hell not comfortable, but knowing her temperament, she went in to make a point. Unfortunately, her point was well received at all.
What pissed me off was also the ‘self entitled’ mentality. The explanation, and behavior suggests that the Perp thought nothing wrong about it. He can even justified with a ‘medical detail’ which wasn’t even detail to begin with. A simple, empathetic, genuine ‘Sorry‘ would have been great. But what I got was a weak excuse and a nonchalant attitude.
You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period.
He probably would have gotten away with it, and thought it was ‘no big deal’ until he was confronted by a short, angry Chinese man.
Alright, perhaps, it wasn’t even my problem to begin with, but as I age, I grew into a pretty much don’t give a rat’s ass attitude about who the ‘bleep’ you are. You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period. Is this the start of civic mindedness for me? I don’t think so, I just do not like people to get away with wanton disregard for gender sensitive signage.
Well, if a guy uses the Ladies, and not longer after that, a hidden camera is found in the ladies, where will the finger naturally point? As a matter of decency and privacy, if the man using the Ladies, made some ‘noise‘ while there are ladies in there, how would the ladies feel? And vice versa? If the ladies adjust her undergarment at the toilet sink and the man walks out of the cubicle, wouldn’t that be embarrassing for the modesty of the ladies? So boys, please don’t be stupid. Next time, when you both grow up, got into a very senior position in business or even in your community, please respect the sign. It is there for a reason.
Many years back, I recalled that the doshu (can’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd) mentioned that the translation got it wrong. Aikido’s kanji is 合気道, which literally means ‘The Way of Harmony”. The Doshu says that the ‘Ai’ in Aikido is actually Love, not Harmony. So Aikido is The Way of Love.
Things kind of happen to me in a serendipitous manner. I had a friend who recently mentioned that she has been in the same company for 40 years, and she didn’t love her job, but grew to love her job. I’ve just finished watching, in admiration (again) how Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Millan), does his things. and in one of the episodes, he said, “That is why I love my job!” coupled with a million dollar smile on his face. He does what he does because he is good at it? Or is it because he love what he does so well, he became good at it. Chicken or Egg, huh. He has his bad times, and he certainly shine bright in his best moments.
‘O’ sensei made it very simple for us
You go to work because you have to make a living. Most of the time we do what we have to do because we have to do it. This is a problem, the pragmatic, objective, Cause and Effect attitude. We do what we do, not because we love what we do, that is usually further down the list.
So what about Aikido? Do you do Aikido because you love Aikido? Do you really fell in love with Aikido the moment you saw it? Even if you do there, will be times you feel less lovey dovey about Aikido. And frankly for me, I did Aikido, because Steven Seagal made it look so cool. No, I didn’t fell in love with Aikido, I grew to love it.
That is the antidote!
‘O’sensei, never sold Aikido, people bought it, and he never forced anyone to stay in Aikido, you stay because you stayed, and of course, you are very much empowered to leave, if you so deem fit. That is why Aikido is so paradoxically addictive. You don’t get addicted to Aikido so that you can win medal. Aikido is like a bad lover, damn it if you love, and damn it if you don’t. and frankly dear, nobody gives a damn.
Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.
So you have to learn to love, or rather, let the love you have in you flower. The love is always there, Aikido gives you the pace and time and space for your love to flower. There is no rush, no pushing of agenda. No competition to push you to the limit, no time limit; when the class ends, you can always come back another day. Aikido does not end in a win, nor in a defeat. you are only defeated when you give up. And when you decide to come back again, you can simply pick up where you left off and continue the journey, no one will scrutinize you, no one will criticize you, it is a very mature, automatic and accepting art, you call the shots to your own development.
So it gives you time to love, to feel, to affect people, and to feel the effect of people on you. Things that makes love, love.
Not the mushy kind of love, as it requires discipline, sometime, we turn up at the dojo, not feeling the training, and the love, and yet we have to do it. It sometimes feels like an empty shell, you are not your best, love is the furthest thing you are feeling. Frustration creep in, and anger and all that. Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.
Love is only love when you are disciplined, Love, lacking discipline, becomes lust, becomes desire, becomes attraction, all these will lead to the loss of your centre, and unbalance you. Then urgency sets in, anxiety creeps in, anger and impatience set in, love gets edged out. Slowly, with quiet discipline, you have to win your love back from all those belligerents.
Aikido teaches us love, and love, in the most difficult times. Even when we do not love our jobs, our partners, but with discipline, we have to continue to love, and let the love grows on us. Only then can we excel, do our best, in our own way, dominate our lives and not let the opinion of others dominate us.
Love is universal, the expression is universal, the feeling is universal, but the interpretations and judgments and the opinions is what clouds us. Dive into our Aikido training.
Be a brother to your brother and leave the parenting to us.
As you are now growing up, and being the elder brother, you will invariably boss your little 弟弟 around. It’s quite natural, since he is the younger, naughtier , more irritating one. You being the older one has a larger responsibility of taking care of him, helping him and chaperoning him. That is fine, until you start to do our job.
Don’t parent him.
Leave that to us, we are the parents to both of you, we are your judge, jury and executioner. Not you, not your 弟弟. He may get on your nerve many times, but don’t take matters into your own hands and scold him the way we do.
You are his peer, his brother, leave the scolding to us.
Wayne looks up to you
Truth to be told, your little brother looks up to you, he doesn’t says it out, but we all look up to out elder siblings. So you need to be a brother to him, so that you can continue to bond with him. Be the elder brother he can learn and emulate from.
While we as your parents are guilty of passing some bad parenting tips to you, that you are doing to your brother, right now I’m telling you, consciously, stop. Enjoy your brotherhood with him. Bond with him, sometimes even cover for his mistakes. I know saying that will cause some resentment, but that’s what elder siblings do.
Your mum, the elder sister.
Your mum covered for her younger brother as well. They were both playing on their mother’s bed and the little brother, jumping on the bed, broke it. They were terrified of course, and tried to pushed the broken bed frame back, and make it looked as if it wasn’t. It was a crack and any more weight on it will fracture it again.
So your mum, orchestrated with her little brother to make it look as if she broke it. When her mother was in, the sister purposely sat on the broken part, and sure enough, it crack, and your mum made a dramatic effect, pretending to be shocked that the bed broke under her weight. Her mum, was shocked but thought nothing about it, since the bed was already quite old. and it is a matter of time. She never knew the bed was broken by her son, and her eldest daughter covered for the younger boy.
These are the things siblings does for each other.
Back against each other
I’ve told the both of you many times, after both your parents are long dead and gone, it will be the both you, back against each other, facing the big bad world. That is really all there is, we are not a big family, right now you have your parents to back you both up, you mum, she has her parents. Me? I’m pretty much on my own, my only source of backup is your mum, my wife. Yes, I have my parents, and my elder brother, but they are an whole bunch of sordid stories on their own.
So whatever the problems, you boys must be able to talk to each other, help each other, lookout for each other, cover for each other. That must be unconditionally done. Always find a way to talk it out, no matter the differences. Sure next time, perhaps the both of you will be married, start your own family, have wives to confide to, like how I confide to your mum, as my wife. But when it comes to brotherhood, that is another whole different level of your life.
Ian, you are a good 3.5 years older, and you have seen your baby brother grow up, held him, and in the hospital’s nursery, remarked that your 弟弟 is the smallest baby! You have held him, protect him, cajoled him. Continue to do that, and he will have to rely on you for these memories, you need to provide that reference for him. You have also experience more things in life, last year, we went to Perth and Star Cruises was because you have been on these trips, but your 弟弟 hadn’t. He wanted to do those things you have done in the photographs, when he wasn’t around yet. He will always be your little 弟弟.
Big brother looking out for you
safe in my arms
who is taller?
I also want
You both will have to bear witness to a lot of other things, unique to both of you. we as your parents, can never be a sibling to the both of you. You both goes to school together, and faced the tough school environment together. We are not there, we cannot protect you both, so there is only the both of you, and we trust that you both can look out for each other.
So learn to live with each other, warts and all, this is what brothers is about, it is not about who is the boss.