Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about the next 50 years of Singapore lately. And I sat that afternoon at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre having my packed lunch, and I wondered how much will remain 50 years from now.
Singapore as a country that is constantly changing. The Singapore in the 90s will be very different from the Singapore, now, and it will be different again 10 years from now. We, as a country is the best example of the evolutionary principle. We got strong, remain strong through constant self imposed change. Long before things need to be replaced, we’ve already replaced them.
Anyway, while I sat down to have my lunch, I looked at the Esplanade Bridge, it was build in 1997. That means the bridge is 18 years old. And will it still stands 50 years from now? Will the building, One Raffles Place still stands? Will the CBD still looks like the CBD 50 years down the road?
I will be 89 then, your mum 87, Ian will be 60? And Wayne, a ripe young, 57! So many things will happen that has yet to happen.
During my time, my generation of Singaporeans grow up listening to rather staid stories about how we were founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, and the fable of how a prince lost his way in a storm and saw a Lion (there was never a record of that magnificent beast in Singapore!) and named our island ‘Singapura’, we also hear a lot of our pioneering generations’ struggles, racial riots, world war 2, and other stories that will probably become tales and fables 50 years from now.
More importantly, boys, tell stories of your own, there will be many more challenges ahead, many more social events, there might be another world war, there might be other calamities, there may be other social political unrest, revolutions, and other events, these are stories that will make up your life. Tell these stories to your kiddos, tell them like how I tell you, because our heritage will be passed on from mouth to mouth, stories we tell our kids are the stories of our nation.
I hope you pick up your dad’s interest in writing. Long before there is such convenience as iPads, and other forms of ‘writing’, it is a pen and paper world, for your dad, it still is, no this is not about penmanship, this is about writing, and writing carefully.
This is important because when we say something, wrong, we can quickly say another thing to correct the error, and in a conversation, which is usually fluid, and interactive, micro corrections and errors are made all the time, perceptions and opinions tested, exchanged and argued. White lies and jokes and shared, which is the staple of an open, casual, cordial banter.
Whereas for words, written, is another story altogether. When written down, what a person say can last a long time, and used over and over again, for different context and for different agenda. Sometimes the original reason for what was written, is no longer applicable, the written phrase has long outlived its purpose, it will still be used for other context and conversation.
I’m not so concerned with what is written ‘right’, I’m more concerned with what is written wrongly, it can be costly, it can come back and bite you in the near future.
I think I picked up this habit of writing carefully when I was working in the banking side. Inter-department feud happens all the time and emails are basically e-missiles you send to your fellow colleagues from the offending department to defend your stand. So you have to write your emails carefully and word it in such a manner that you don’t get the blame, and your butt is covered.
Sometimes is can be a complain case from customers and the relevant department would want to find out what went wrong, more often than not, they could be trying to find an un-noticing victim to shift the blame to. Well, that’s some of the realities of your dad’ s work. It is a chair-borne commando’s life.
So the gist of it is, I sometimes will drop whatever I’m doing to write an email, taking up to the entire morning, word them carefully, cover all grounds, all possible arguments, loop holes are covered. At the same time shifting the problem back, making sure that my department gets out of any potential melee relatively unscathed. There are things in the email conversations that are not consistent and that is where your dad zoom in bite that poor bloke and pin him/her to the fault. It is a bureaucratic minefield and while you lay your mines and others lay theirs, the last thing you want is to be killed by your own mines!
It perhaps trained me to think and write, in a responsible manner, a readable manner, avoiding blind side bias, and sometimes plain sighted ones! Things that I’m not so sure about, I’ll try to avoid putting them in word, things that I have a certain authority in, I’ll still have my disclaimer, simply because you can never know enough to know everything. And everyone’s perspective and experience is unique and different, so we can never be so sure.
In a conversation, that’s pretty much fine, in a friendly banter, our mutually unique experiences rubs off one another, be very careful, writing things down, it may seem innocent now, but may turn out to hurt other very much later.
Remember, what is written is recorded, you may write a secret dirty little journal that you think may never see the light of day, and think that others may never know about, can be leaked. When it does, you better be prepared for the consequences!
We will almost never know who we are going to have as our spouse. It is difficult because it is as much a ‘software’ issue as it is a ‘hardware’ issue.
We are talking about endowment, mental, psychological, spiritual endowment, the ‘software’ aspect, and the boobs, height, looks, appearance, the beauty, the ‘drool’ factor-the hardware aspect.
We are visual creatures,a and admittedly, we will be attracted to physically beautiful people, that’s how the superstars of Hollywood earn their dollars. In short, we like beautiful people.
Herein lies the problem, they may look beautiful, but we want the whole package, we also want them to be beautiful people, a software issue, simply because we can never know who a person is inside.
But, we still need to settle down with a spouse. so here are some simple criteria for you boys, when you look for a wife, when you become men.
1-She takes care of her parents/elders
Well, at your average age of courtship, perhaps you will still be needing a a lot of TLC from your parents, it’s a given, but if this girl can dish out as much love as her parents give her, then you might have found yourself a gem.
If she shows respect and consideration to her elders, this is a girl with a good heart.
2- She can cook
Again, she might be too young to actually cook something of a dinner, but she is comfortable in the kitchen, she helps her mum, her aunts with the chores, she should be able to pick up the fundamentals later. In short, she is exposed to the domestic affairs in the house.
Remember, the best way to a man’s heart is his stomach, and the best girl will know the quickest fastest way there to her man’s heart.
3- She saves
As the saying goes, ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’, well what does that makes the husband/boyfriend then? It is alright to spend, but if she scrimps and save to buy a Michael Kors bag, buys Prada, does nice nails, and make every attempt to make herself beautiful with material things, then you might want to be vigilant. She cares more about herself than about you, or the relationship. Besides, a well manicured nails hints that the girl cannot do housework, simply because she would risk damaging her well groomed keratin. She spends too much to look too beautifully groomed to get to the housework.
If she saves for her school fees, if she saves for her own expenses, chances are she can save for the family the next time you are going to start one. How she spends her money will tell you how she saves her money.
4-She has physically active lifestyle
No, I’m not talking about super athletes, well if you are one, or you found one, good for you, but please read my point 5. Being physically active doesn’t mean her gym, or yoga membership, that only shows you what she spends on. More importantly, she keeps fit, jogs, cycles, swim, the usual basic exercise. Nothing fancy, because sometime you simply have no time for fancy Zumba classes in a posh gym. And you still need to exercise, so? She is not afraid to pick up a good ‘ol trainers and go for a simple jog.
Not only that, being interested in sports and exercise helps anyone thinks better, builds better health. Heck, just don’t look for a woman who is sedentary, looks pretty, but smokes, drinks and party all night. I can live with a woman who drinks and party in her life, but smoking? It crosses my line. Period. If you got a girl who smokes, chance are you smoke too, and your dad find out your girl smoke, I’ll know you do too.
5-She treats men as her peer
Yes, many women don’t understand men, as much as men do not understand women. As much as there are Male Chauvinist Pigs, there’s the female version, The Feminist. Stay away from The Feminist as they will treat men like they are of a different breed. They are not difficult to spot. For matters about men they don’t understand, they have an expression of exasperation, roll her eyes, and exclaim with a sigh ‘Men!‘. Oh yes, men does that and simply replace it with ‘Women!’
If they don’t understand men, instead competes with men, it makes gender harmony difficult. Men are inherently competitive, we love to compete, that’s right, with other men. It is not that we cannot compete with women or vice versa, but we are looking for a spouse, not a competitor. If we compete all the time as spouse, with our spouse, then the marriage has gaps to close up.
This point is important, because if your wife treats you like peer, she will be a valuable team player. She will help you as much as she can, because if you win, the team wins. If she has a ‘that’s not my department’ attitude, then she cannot learn, she cannot cross train to take over your role if you are down. She thinks big picture, not just herself, but herself in a larger context. As your team player, she will not be afraid to speak up against you, for the betterment of the team. She will not allow her bias to get better of her, and simply write you off as ‘Men!’
A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move. “Sensei,”the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sense replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.
This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.” Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament.
He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.
“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”
The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
Moral: Sometimes we feel that we have certain weaknesses and we blame our creator, the circumstances or ourselves for it but we never know that our weaknesses can become our strengths one day. Each of us is special and important, so never think you have any weakness, never think of pride or pain, just live your life to its fullest and extract the best out of it!
Nothing on Earth travels in a straight line, everything has a curvature, even a seemingly ‘straight’ line. Take any given ‘straight’ line, magnify it 500x, and you’ll see features and landscape that ebb and flow like any other terrain, magnify it yet another 500x, your straight lines will vanish into microscopic images.
Point in case, my eldest son asked me a very, very good question.
Son: “The Earth is round right?”
Me: “Yes, of course.”
Son: Why don’t the people staying at the lower parts of the earth feels as if they are upside down?” (While I’m sure there is a perfectly sound, scientific explanation for that, but it struck me as a pretty darn good question!)
Life is always delusional, and it will always be a horizon. we can see the horizon as a straight line, but we all know by now, beyond that ‘straight’ line, is the curve of the Earth.
When you think Aikido, it is precisely that, a straight curve line. It is grounded in a spherical nature because that is ultimately, how thing, in nature is, a curve, a circle. Sometimes, the circle is small,very, very small, sometimes it is very big, as in 365 days orbit-ally big. Some times even larger, many lifetimes larger.
So we need to see things in a bigger light. Aikido, to many, appears on the surface as a straight line, we look at the technicalities of it, the effectiveness, and the this-versus-that argument, well that is all straight line talk. Aikido is a curve ball no one can see coming, and yet it has no secrets, all you need to do is endure the travel of the curve, and the teachings will always reveal itself, just round the curve.
Coney Island is Singapore’s latest island open to public. How ironic it sounds as Singapore by itself is an island too!
I made a visit myself on the second day of opening and found it a haven island, left rustic the way it is. The beach was the thing that took my breath away. Of course the beach is not white sandy beach, Maldives equivalent, but it was good enough for me, there is the sea, sand and shore. There is very minimal human presence such as a BBQ pit, signage (Singaporeans loves signage!) or lighting. It was kept this way by the NParks . Kudos to them for doing a great job!
So I had to bring you both there, and since the exams is over, and you boys are raring for a road trip, we borrowed our neighbor’s (its great to have great neighbors!) adult bikes and off we go!
Lorong Halus Way
We took the Lorong Halus way as it is the one closer to our house, we just have to cross the bridge linking Punggol to Lorong Halus wetland. From there is was a vehicular road and I took the lead, Ian following, Wayne the third and your mother covering the back. I can hear the constant yell from your mother to tell the both of you to ‘KEEP LEFT!!!’
We used the East entrance to enter and cycled the inner trail, the one closer to the beach, so that I can show you boys how the beach looked like.
There were threats and news of Sand-flies, and people falling victim to these insects, thankfully, we didn’t encounter any of those! We continue to take the trail and Ian you, having your mountain bike, surely finds no trouble handling the terrain, your little brother Wayne, with his little BMX, took the trail with gusto, falling innumerable times, getting up, and falling down and getting up again.
We cycled a little further to the heading towards the west side of the island and we could see clearly another larger island, Pulau Ubin. We can clearly see the jetty used by Outward Bound Singapore and was wondering to ourselves if the distance was actually swim-able. Which all of us agreed, it is!
We carried on with our cycling, and both Ian and I have to slow down and stop occasionally so that your gritty little brother could catch up. We found the sign for Coney Island and your mother asked a Malay couple cycling behind us to help us with the pictures, and we in turn helped them snapped theirs. It’s always nice to be nice to other people.
We left the Island via the West entrance and was feeling hungry, we didn’t settle for the usual palate at Punggol Settlement, and we decided to brave on and cycle further up, towards SengKang, and finally ended up at Seletar Mall to have our meal. thankfully, although the dark clouds loomed, rain didn’t happened as we cycled back, the same way we came, and by the end of everything we realized that we have clocked over 20km of cycling in total! The amazing things is, having being bitten by the cycling bug, you boys pounced on the idea of a night cycling, which your mum and I think, you both will be too tired to continue, so we told you both to sleep, when we reached home, which was about 6pm? and if you both can wake up by 10pm, we can go. And of course, without having to mention it, you both slept like a log! through the night!
I was never a person who believes in festivities, much less a ‘Happy New Year!’ which in reality, just another day, another number on a calendar. Well, me, pragmatic to the core. Or so I thought, until I saw the movie New Year’s Eve.
All things end, before any new beginnings can start.
I can still remember vividly catching this film with your mum, in December 2011, at Shaw Orchard. We were on a date, and we wanted to catch a movie, not to sure what to catch we looked at the posters and I felt that New Year’s Eve is a safe bet, as it has Robert De Niro, and other star-studded casts, Hilary Swank, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, etc, etc.
The film was so good, it changed my mind about New Year’s Day. It still does. In fact, I just caught it again with Ian for 2016’s New Year’s Day movie, when they showed this movie on TV.
So what’s so good about the movie?
Well, the movie was set at 2010’s New Year Eve’s celebration at New York, and what happened to a bunch of really hot, good looking people on the turn of midnight. There are many many events happening, all weaved into the movie. I like it because, all these seemingly independent events, comes together eventually at the end of everything.
It tells a story about all these people, who internally have some emotional knots, unsettled business, some of them want to crawl into their abode, and let the New Year pass, somehow they were dragged out of their negativity and the larger scheme of things caught them and changed them.
It is also about regret. All of us has it, we want things to be better, but we cannot changed the past, we have to look forward, but our past drags us down, we cannot shake it off, when an event like the New Year comes along, it metaphorically tugs at us to let go of those bad vibes, leave them in the old year. Let the regret stays there.
More importantly, it is about taking a chance to take action. The New Year motivates us to take a chance. Take a chance with people whom has hurt us before, give them another chance to change. The New Year gives us courage to charge forward, some in foolhardiness, others with gusto.
How it has changed me?
Like I said it, I’m not a big believer of ‘New Year’ when everything is still the same, people die, plane crash, sun rise, moon set. The dreary daily mundane things goes on.
After watching the movie, I felt that there is a meaning for festivities, especially for something as big as the New Year. Celebrating it (or not) gives our lives meaning, texture, an event.
Like it or not, it will come, like Christmas, Like the impending Chinese New Year. These events, are larger than us, and calls for a celebration no matter what.
No matter what, meant that we have to look beyond our troubles, woes, warts and all. We have to look up, we are forced to, by these events, to look back, and reflect. There is no hole you can dig that is deep enough for you to escape any celebrations. Your birthdays are a celebration. Yay!
We have to celebrate
No matter how bad life is, how terrible a condition we find ourselves in, we will celebrate, invent a season for celebration. Because we humans live and thrive on joy, happiness, and all that irony. I read that even in the darkest days of the Sarajevo Siege back in the early 1990s, the folks would find any form of reason for celebrate. One resident even called for a celebration, and the reason for the celebration? Losing 10 deutschmarks.
All things end, before any new beginnings can start. The New Year is a time where we can find our closures, make peace and move on. The year may be bad, but having a calendar meant that no matter how bad, it will end. It has to, the sun will set, a year will end. We really need to take stock of our efforts and time, and look into the future, the New Year. It can also be a dreary thing, looking in petrification what bad things is going to happen. But like I said it, we humans live on hopes and dreams, not doom and fear.
Stay positive, the New Year is here
So sons, when you think that life is bad, and you want to skip a celebration, think of it deeper. An event is something abstract, you cannot hold it, nor touch it, yet it will come and everybody will celebrate like crazy, forget all their troubles and hatred for once, drop everything and celebrate! If you have nothing much to celebrate everyday, then these are dates on a calendar you can mark, to celebrate, lose yourself, and let the large scheme of the New Year Celebrations take over you for once!