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)
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)
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!
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:
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 .
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.”
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.
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.
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”.
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
Don't ever change yourself to impress someone, cause they should be impressed that you don't change to please others -- When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, always remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test --- Unknown