Category Archives: Spirituality

Imaginations (1)

A once in a while thing of all things big and small:

“If only she could manage to remember everything until tomorrow….

‘That’s how it is with children too,’ continued Ariel. ‘They’re the ones who come into the world first. The grown-ups always come limping after. Limping more and more the older they get.’

Cecilia thought that what Ariel was saying was so wise she wanted to write it all down in her Chinese notebook, so as not to forget it. But she didn’t dare do it while the angel was watching. She said, ‘But Adam and Eve were grown up.’

Ariel shook his head.

‘They became grown-up. That was the great mistake. When God created Adam and Eve they were inquisitive little children who climbed trees and played around in the big garden he had just made. There was no point in owning a big garden if there were no children to play in it.’

‘Is that true?’

‘I’ve told you, angels don’t tell lies.’

‘Tell me more, then!’

‘So they were tempted by the serpent to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and then they began to grow. The more they ate, the more they grew. That’s how they were gradually driven out of their childhood paradise. The little rogues were so hungry for knowledge that, in the end, they ate themselves out of Paradise.’

Cecilia gaped, and Ariel looked down at her with an indulgent look.

‘But of course you’ve heard all this before,’ he said.

She shook her head.

‘I’ve heard that Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise, but nobody told me that it was from their childhood paradise.’

‘You might have been able to guess some of it yourself. But humans understand only in part. You see everything through a glass, darkly.’

(Through A Glass, Darkly – Jostein Gaarder)

(Google Images, may be subject to copyright)

Promises Renewed

Getting married is one thing. Staying married is another. Check out what our friendly neighbourhood search engine threw up when fed the word “marriage” into its search box:

  • Marriage made in heaven;
  • Marriage made in hell;
  • Marriage of convenience;
  • Marriage of inconvenience (true! – click here);
  • Marriage made in Hollywood;
  • Marriage with a liar;
  • Marriage at a young age;
  • Marriage and divorce,

and just about another zillion variations from Google on the one same word: “marriage”.  No easy business this marriage thing. Ask my wife and she’ll probably give you some startling insights into our wedded life! We’re still a work in progress … or digress as the case may be!

All of which, makes this old tune by Billy Joel even more significant:

Just the Way You Are

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you.

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

Listening to the song now – 30 years after it first hit the charts, throws a different light on the depth of its lyrics. Put another way, these words remind me of my own promises of marriage to my wife. It’s kind of a renewal of vows put into a song, like how it goes here:

I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times, I’ll take you just the way you are

And, I’d like to believe  those Google statistics will change a bit if we all took a step back, look at what drew us to our spouses in the first place and believed in each other again.

(note: all images are from Google and their respective owners and may be subject to copyright)

A Different Kind of Olympics (6)

The Problem of Pain

Just like the Games of yesteryear, London 2012 has thrown up its own share of drama and upsets over the course of two weeks of competition.  Along with it, came the pain and the tears.

Sports hurts,  as the Daily Telegraph calls it.

Growing up in the 70’s, a time when we were probably still unsullied, these three guys below provided me and my brothers with a barrel load of laughs every time they came on. “Happy hurts” – is the word that comes to me now, where pinching, banging and gouging on one another like they did was  excruciatingly funny – until we started practicing on each other – which was not funny at all, especially when father found out what we’d been up to!

(Picture source: http://www.heritagesquare.org)

As time went on and innocence was lost, other kinds of hurts began to emerge. The personal, family, communal and global types; pains that hit too close to home; that are self inflicted, or done by others, to others and that gnaw at the back of my mind, thoughts and within my being.

Last month, a 60 something wife who had had her leg amputated below the knee in a hit and run accident poured out the pain she was going through seeing her husband suffer from a chronic illness;

I heard how another who at 75, was trying to make her life meaningful by reaching out in small ways to others, even though she herself was riddled by health problems;

Yesterday, thirty something Intan, who lives nearby, came round to thank us for some donations that had been collected for her. She’s suffering from cancer, has 4 children growing up, the youngest being just 1 year old. Yet, in spite of her obvious pain and seriousness of  the illness, she was putting on a brave front and trying to be cheerful.

Pain – all around me, within me, outside of me.  At the Olympics, in school, at homes, workplaces, churches, on the byways and highways, in the country, and in the world. Pain – anywhere and everywhere.

Yet – I am constantly being bombarded on how to avoid it. It’s as if by avoiding it, I can be happy, contented and secure.  How can I, possibly? Because everything I have come to know points in the opposite.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C. S. Lewis.

In a macabre way maybe – I think we need pain – so as to remain human. Remove pain and we remove our capacity to love.  Remove our capacity to love, and what becomes of us??

In a sense, like the Olympians and the women in the story above, all of us are also running a race. The race of our lives. Many of us may be running like South Africa’s blade runner – Oscar Pistorius, below:

courtesy of fastcodesign.com

handicapped, hurt and seemingly unwanted and unneeded.

Yet, the athletes in London are ample proof  there is no gain if there is no pain.  By persevering and going through the pain barrier they proved worthy champions – hence, even when they lost, dropped the barbells and crept in last – they were winners, and deserving of the standing ovations the crowds at the stadiums accorded them.

The women who wept tears for another and continued reaching out from the pain that was tormenting their own selves are signposts too as to how to live our lives – by remaining true to the tasks at hand and responding as best as they could with what they had -with an abundance of love, as the ancient Greek writer Sophocles reminds us:

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”  

The apostle, Paul seems to have been a fan of the Olympics too! In many of his writings, he alludes to life as to a race that had been run.  Reading his words and in between the lines, he paints a vivid picture of the urgency of the race that he urges his readers to run.

Unlike the Olympics though, this is a race where no medals will be handed out at the tape – rather only a deep fulfillment that we have indeed  “…fought the good fight, … finished the race… and kept the faith” – c.f. 2 Timothy 4:7 .

A Different Kind of Olympics (4)

Human trafficking and the Olympics.

What has one got to do with the other? – was my first thought when reading this piece of news from Zenit, the non-profit international news agency.

Plenty – it seems, as explained here:

“The world’s media is presently covered with images of athletes whose talents and bodies have received immense care, support and specialized attention,” said James Parker, the Catholic Executive Coordinator for the 2012 Games and Chair of “More Than Gold’s” five social justice programs. 

He goes on to add:

“The Christian community would be failing the Games as a whole, and failing the global family we seek to celebrate and draw together, if we did not draw serious attention to the plight of thousands of people whose talents and bodies are objectified and trafficked across the globe. This is not, as some might believe, someone else’s problem. It is everyone’s problem.”

Read the full article here.

As a young volunteer quoted: “….many of those who have visited are not aware of how great the problem of human trafficking is. “No one seems to know about this, and they just don’t realize that it is happening in just about every locality,” she said. 

Creating Awareness:

  • Just what is human trafficking?
  • What’s the difference between trafficking and smuggling?
  • Isn’t this just another illegal immigrant issue?
  • 80% of victims are women; 50% children.
  • Human Trafficking generates $32 billion internationally annually, making it one of the top 3 international crimes, along with trafficking of drugs and guns.

This site will explain all these questions and statistics in detail.

Finally, a few famous last words, from John F. Kennedy:

“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life”.

40 years after, those words have been prophetic. That makes what James Parker and others like him are doing so much more crucial in the kind of world we are creating.

A Different Kind of Olympics (3)

In Part 3, Rev. Bosco Peters reflects on what he says is  “Olympics religion”  from his ecumenical website in New Zealand.

And, here’s a “3 Takes on Religion” snippet:

  • “God has no religion.” – Gandhi.
  • “I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.”– Kahlil Gibran.
  • “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein.

Just what the world needs today, I think, in the light of the terrible damage done in the name of religion.

A Different Kind of Olympics (2)

The second installment of another kind of Olympics…far from the madding crowds: Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist at St Francis of Assisi Friary, Stratford, the closest Catholic parish to the Olympics village.

Source: EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).

For the curious: “What is perpetual adoration?” FAQ here.

Synonym (noun): Adoration, latria; simply means “The worship given to God alone”.

 

A Different Kind of Olympics (1)

Watching the 2012 London Olympics unfold on TV,  a rather careless thought struck me: “Is there another face of the Olympic story that’s waiting to be told?”

Here is Part 1 of  some interesting alternative takes.

“The greatness of the human spirit” – from Mercator.Net

 

St. Anne’s Feast & Novena Day 4

Day 4

Theme: Telling the story of Jesus to and by our children (Catechetics)

The celebrant, Fr. Mark, used a video clip by RSA.org based on a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, to drive home the message of the understanding the true meaning of education, and linked it to how catechetics needs to be taught, or rather “caught” as one La Salle religious brother reminded me a long time ago.

The full video below:

I thought it was insightful.  We spend a lot of time and money on educating our children. How much time and effort are we devoting to their holistic personal growth?

The signs of the times point to a culture that is rapidly changing known and accepted values. Issues that would have been kept behind closed doors a decade or two ago are being openly bandied and promoted through the use of social media communication means. Our children have easy access to them.

As Fr. Mark pointed out, these changing paradigms are exactly why we, parents, teachers, religious and priests need to keep up with the changing times. We need to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Which reminds me of another story by another priest in another homily:

A stranger walks up and knocks on your door. You, the parent, answer. He asks if he could spend some time alone with your 5 year old kid. He wants to “chat”. What would you say? Most definitely, you would be shocked at such a question and immediately tell him to leave.

The priest continued, “If you said NO to that man’s request, why then do you parents continuously allow total strangers into your homes 24 hours a day and give them complete access to your children?? You are wondering, when, where, how did you ever do that?

Your satellite TV channel. Those are the complete strangers, with all kinds of motives and reasons, wanting access to your kids. 24 hours a day. And you let them in!”

Think its too tough? Maybe, but the alternative is even worse!

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” – Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Another kind of history (1)

Somewhat contrary to what many students would say today, I have always liked history. I also like archaeological sites, museums, golden oldies and such “ancient” things. Exactly why I haven’t the faintest idea. Maybe I had good history teachers. Maybe I went to school when knowing your history was considered important. Maybe it were those late 1950’s National Geographic magazines that I discovered in my father’s bookcase. Maybe I’m just getting old!

Nonetheless, as I turned 50 today, I had this sudden urge to delve into the past to see what, if anything at all, happened on 26 October.  Thanks to Google, I did manage to find quite a few bits of trivia on my birthdate. Some of it nice, others sad and others raise even more questions.  Below is my Top 10 list of events that in one way or other have colored this day in history, with my thoughts in brackets in blue, and in chronological order:

  • October 26, 1861: The Pony Express officially ceased operations.  (I wonder what the gentlemen who began the original ‘fast mail service’ then would say if they were to see what the industry has morphed into today?  Just 30 years ago, when I was I was in secondary school, I had absolutely no use of Pos Laju, Pos Ekspres, and etc. yet today I use them regularly.  BTW: what has happened to the humble aerogramme?!)
  • October 26, 1863: The Football Association forms in England, standardizing soccer.  (More than a hundred years later and with the cooperation of the Football League, the FA would help Britain conquer the world again – this time through world of football and its products such as the FA Cup, Road to Wembley and BPL. When once I had to argue with my mother as to whether to watch the single miserable 3 month delayed (true!!) Star Soccer featured game or the Hindi/Tamil movies that RTM telecast simultaneously on RTM 1 and 2 on Saturdays, now I have unlimited “live” access to at least 3 EPL games on one Saturday, not counting the early and Sunday kickoffs!  But – they say too much of a good thing may be bad.  I think I’m beginning to believe it now.) 
  • October 26, 1951: The Conservative Party led by Winston Churchill has won the general elections in Britain. (Although just 6 years earlier, he had been unceremoniously defeated at the polls – and that too after leading Britain from being almost obliterated to victory in WWII. What’s that they say – ‘You can’t keep a good man down?’  Looking at the world today and the type of leaders it has spawned, where are they? – the colosal figures, who in all truth, despite their warts and faults, almost always could be counted upon to come through for the common good?)
  • October 26, 1959:  The first photographs of the far side of the moon are seen on Earth when the Soviet satellite, Lunik III transmits them back through radio signals. (A little less than 20 years later, the rock group Pink Floyd would release its standout ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album – which happens to be my favorite PF record, and one which has given me many, many hours of listening pleasure. Many younger people would not agree with me, but they don’t make ’em like they used to anymore, do they?)
  • October 26, 1965: The Beatles receive MBE’s at Buckingham Palace. (I finally watched “Estet” – the 2010 Mamat Khalid movie – where David Arumugam’s character – Uncle Aru, in one scene, mutters to himself : ‘Orang mau nyanyi tadak peluang nyanyi, orang tak boleh nyanyi boleh jadi penyanyi, kita hari-hari duduk sini susun kacang! How true! Isn’t it almost criminal how we give away our best talents to other countries who snap them up in glee at our expense?)
  • October 26, 1970: The political comic strip Doonesbury appears in newspapers for the first time. Newspaper editors were confused – was it to appear in the funny pages or editorial section? (Taking a look at our own MSM [mainstream newspapers], I am asking the same question today – just looking at the front page headlines, I can’t help thinking but they’re a joke! Basic common sense will tell that at the rate they are falling and failing, these MSM’s will one day have to close shop due to the sheer popularity of the Internet and alternative sources of information. But for some strange reason, those in charge of these MSM’s fail to see it.  Maybe they’re doing democracy in Malaysia a big favor actually! )
  • October 26, 1979:  The President of Korea, Park Chung Hee and five others are killed by his own Intelligence chief. (While we have been thankfully free from such violent attacks on national leaders, unfortunately Malaysia has become synonymous for character assassinations – especially in the political scene, one in particular that has been running almost non-stop for 13 years now. Once, we were role models for newly independent countries. We had dignity and status, even though we may not have been as materially developed as now. Morally and ethically though, we seem to have gone in reverse. Isn’t it enough already or are we content to free fall into an abyss that we may not be able to come out of quickly enough?)  
  • October 26, 1984: Surgeons give a 14 day old girl, known only as Baby Fae, the heart of a young baboon.  She survived only for 20 days after the operation but it was still considered a breakthrough in heart transplants. (I remember this story quite well – I was 23 then and had just moved away from home a few months before.  Back then, we had no choice but to rely on our good old MSM for the daily updates!  I read about and in a sense journeyed with Baby Fae for awhile as she fought her battle. I wondered what her parents were going through. Today however, this biblical verse comes to mind – ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ – [Ezekiel: 36:26]. If only we would listen to God’s voice, irrespective of our individual faiths and beliefs – I can’t help but thinking ‘wouldn’t this world be a better place’? )
  • October 26, 2007: Apple’s OS X “Leopard” version is released. (We sort of knew already that Steve Jobs was on borrowed time, but that he would die so quickly earlier this month still came as a shock. He did however, in the three and half years he had, manage to come up with the mother of all smartphones – the iconic iPhone and an actual functioning tablet – the iPad.  He may not have been the friendliest person to have around you, or the best manager, but I ask myself – how am I using the ‘borrowed’ time I have left?)
  • October 26, 2009: Yahoo!! discontinues its free web hosting service Geocities, ten years after purchasing it from its creators. (Remember good old Geocities back in the 90’s? Everyone who wanted a free domain and hosting – this was the best and cheapest solution. Sadly, it has gone the way of the dinosaur in a very short time – as new technologies evolve and change the world as we know it.  How about me, and us?  The failure to embrace change will only make us go the way  of the dinosaur, dodo and just a couple of years ago, Geocities too. This prayer, which one priest gave me a long time ago helps put things into perspective for me: ‘God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’).

So, enough said I think of history for now, lest it gets boring!  It’s amazing what a few clicks on the keyboard and the help of a certain Mr. Google can throw up. I think, if we personalize things as they happen, as in this short history of my birthdate, maybe it would help us reflect a bit more about ourselves, and help us understand how to live and what is really important in our lives. It may not be what we think they are!

Below, for the uninitiated, an introduction to Pink Floyd, and for the already inducted, a sure sweet trip down memory lane and something to ponder about from one man who dared to dream: 

“You see things as they are and you say, ‘Why?’ but I dream things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?'”  – Robert F. Kennedy

 

Let there be light!

 

“He who bears light in his heart shall see no darkness in his life”

– from the Tirukkural,  a collection of 1330 rhymingTamil couplets or aphorisms   celebrated by Tamil speaking people.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own” – Ben Sweetland, author of many self-help and motivational books who’s probably best remembered for his “Grow Rich While You Sleep” bestseller.

Happy Divali all! May the light you bear continue to shine forth, illuminating lives and paths especially whenever and wherever darkness threatens to overwhelm.