Merdeka Unplugged (2)

55 years of Independence
Wonderful memories
Unfortunately too
Our share of atrocities

Some milestones reached
Other rights breached
Never is easy
Embracing one’s history

Yet here we stand
Hesitant and uncertain
What the future entails
But still together
Still intertwined

All said
And all done
Whatever the right
No matter the wrong
This is the only domicile
To which we can ever belong
Happy Merdeka everyone!

Merdeka Unplugged (1)

Random thoughts on the road less traveled to commemorating Merdeka 2012:

Fact: As idiotic it may seem, I didn’t know until today that Merdeka derives from the Sanskrit word Maharddhika meaning “rich, prosperous and powerful”.  One simple expression that conjures up a very potent image.

Reality: Yet, when I look at my country today, if I ignore the propaganda and the half-truths, I ask myself “Are we truly rich, prosperous and powerful?”.  A simple 4 point checklist on some of the most pressing issues:

  • the right to equal opportunity education,
  • the right to own affordable homes,
  • the right to earn a decent wage, taking into account the actual increasingly high cost of living;
  • the right to security;

shows quite the contrary.

Lessons from the Past

Famous Last Words: “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” – (William Faulkner, author).

(*Note: All pictures from Google Images and their respective owners)

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 (5)

30 years before Athens staged what is commonly known as the Modern Olympic games,Llandudno, a seaside resort town in Wales organized its own Olympics – not once but twice!

A BBC news report earlier this year highlights what and how that happened.

But,  it was not forgotten when this year’s edition of the Summer Games came along. The town was graced by the passing of the Olympic torch on its way to London on 29 May 2012.

In pictures: Llandudno’s 1866 Olympics remembered.

Strange, but illuminating, heartwarming and even spiritual, if you look at it that way.

Source: BBC News

 

 

 

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

 

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