Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Goodbyes make me quiet

Dear readers, both known and those I don't know (though you should drop me a line sometime),

I am sorry if you have checked this blog lately and seen a screen with the same old post still at the top. I personally know the "Arghhhh" feeling that you get for 0.05 seconds before you navigate to a different screen.

Truth is, I have been living. And living vicariously. This past week and a bit more has been so full of events, feelings, changes that I cannot make sense of it all yet. Like an amateur painting with many layers of acrylic paint that at first overwhelms with its intensity and chaos, but only draws you deeper to explore the myriad meanings within. Only so much more.

I wonder how many times I've closed my eyes (or just thought in my head) how blessed I am and whispered a prayer of thanks to God that right now my life is, for lack of a better word, perfect. And I don't mean perfect in the sense of having lots of money, unparalleled beauty and brains or glory or millions of friends. Perfection by my standards. Contentment. Success that I never dared to wish for because I know I don't deserve it.

And something else has developed in my life that I can't explain here but which amazes me each time I think of it. I thought my life was full and whole as it was. And it is, definitely, because of the beautiful people who surround me in Hong Kong, and those whose voices ring in my mind even if they are over the sea somewhere a quarter across the world.

Only now, my life is illuminated. I wouldn't say transformed. I am still the same person. But there is a sweeter, more painful edge to everything. There is a timeline, though I do not know its length. I hope, I dread, I dive into an unfamiliar world where time stands still and surface pleasures ripple deep into the marrow and spine.

And then there is the pain of parting. Tears of the eyes are nothing compared with that bit of your heart someone tears away when they let go of your embrace. Knowing you may not see them again in this lifetime. The sweetness and lightness of your memories and laughter bite you in the back, bringing stinging drops to your eyes when you realise how short life is and how ephemeral all our friendships are.

There is hope still. That one will meet again. And faith. That they will not change but for the better when you see them again. That one's heart is steadfast and true. And love. Which binds all things together, and cannot be broken.

And the sun will shine again to warm your cold heart.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And so it goes

Nearly the end of the year now. School year I mean. Funny how this place can subtly take over your whole life. It is self-sufficient. You have everything you need to survive; food, drinks, sleep, work, friends...

You almost feel like no other place exists for you outside these few square kilometers. I don't even know if we occupy a few square kilometers.

But very soon, in a few days, the gates will be unlocked and you will not be asked to come back before 9pm. Half the people you know know you may never see again in your life. The imprints on your heart and memories in your mind are all you have of them. And then you wish things could go back to what they were, yes, those hectic crazy times. Because life was normal then, all was well in the bubble.

I feel the tension as the college draws its breath in anticipation for the bubble's bursting.


A tightrope. Maybe that's one way to describe it. Walking on a tightrope blindfolded. Or parachuting above a canyon. A little bit of uncertainty and a little bit of curiousity and a lot of excitement, visible or otherwise.

And who knows enough to tell you what's truly right? Free from bias, prejudice, personal experience - just the truth, uncompromising and ultimately freeing?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Here In My Home

Serendipity. This is what I found, right after reading Jo's post. (May 5) lamenting that there are no patriotic songs for Malaysians.

I actually like this quite a lot. The song itself is ok, but the music video concept of letting the artistes do whatever comes naturally, and the concept of malaysianartistesforunity.info is cool.

Before we can move forward, we need to know who we are, as a country. Never underestimate the power of public opinion and mass media to change mindsets and send waves of change sweeping the people.

In Uganda, when they realised how big a problem AIDS was in the 1990s (prevalence rate, which is the rate that the disease was found among the total population was 15%), "the government adopted a policy of openness about the disease in efforts to cut it down. President Museveni made AIDS an issue of national importance,and toured the country speaking openly about HIV/AIDS. Civil society responded and many individual people, community groups, religious organisations and NGOs took action. The issue was discussed on radio programme, humourous but factually accurate magazines were written for young people and pop stars sang songs about the infection." (Geofile Online, January 2006-Jane Davies)

The result? "By 2001, HIV prevalence appeared to have decreased to 5%."

Of course I'm not equating Malaysia's social problems with AIDs. But don't you think that the disease of racism, and to a larger extent religious intolerance and corruption, should be considered morally repugnant "diseases" and the decimation of such be made a national priority? You may think I'm talking about utopia here, but I believe that when individuals come together to act, we can make a difference. There have been decades of slow change, some setbacks, in our road toward unity. Still there are powerful forces that threaten to squash us now, most of them coming from those who claim they love this country.

But there's indications that a new phase is here for Malaysia. What with the benchmark victory of Pakatan Rakyat in the general elections, new levels of political and social enthusiasm as well as nation-building patriotism in our young people, change will come. It must.

I'm excited for this country. I'm excited to see what God is going to do here. Christians have a responsibility to the state as well, as God has put us here for a reason and told us to respect the leaders of our nations. Don't get me wrong, we should not be emphasising secular politics in church (goodness knows there's usually enough politics in it already). But the church is not just a religious institution. It is the living, pulsing, fiery and undefeatable family of God on this earth, and we have power. Through God's favour and grace, we have power as the church to impact our country.

Who wants to emigrate now? Our country -Malaysia,; the place where all young, reasonably intelligent and resourceful young people used to be desperate to leave - is where things are going to happen. And we will be there to make it and witness it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kepada Pencuci Kaki Saya

This afternoon, I dreamt that three mischievous imps were in Hong Kong with me and we had a wonderful birthday bash together.

When I woke up I wondered why I had dreamt that. Was it because I missed my infernal persecutors so much? (Stockholm syndrome!!) Was it because I missed home? Was I wishing that the two parts of my life, both very dear to me (Ipoh, Hong Kong) could meld together as one?

It was only later that I realised why:

it's LEE AI LING'S birthday! (By the way, I really did dream that...)

Dear Linggi, happy 19th! Finally, you've caught up with the rest of us (except Limp)! Here's a tribute to you:

19 Things that are quintessentially Ai Ling

19. Keen spotter of absurdities-->especially human--> especially mine.
18. Responsible in work and relationships, but sooo hard to catch when she's back home!
17. Connects with people easily and accepts them as they are.
16. Non-sports person (like me!)
15. Very slanted large handwriting
14. Weirdly always get multiple-choice questions right in exams, when everyone else gets them wrong.

13. Sloppy dressing but still looks good, dammit! (Used to, but dresses very fashionably now)
12. Her sixth finger (also known as her cellphone).
11. Really tasty desserts:) which are either completely decadent (chocolatebrowniescakesdrool) or very healthy with bran and fruits and nuts and all that good stuff.
10. Having loooong conversations on the phone which are usually brought to a sudden stop with "Hey, I gotta go my Chinese drama is starting bye...beep".
9. Making incredibly accurate predictions about people's actions and motivations.
8. Acting unsentimental and tyrannical when actually her heart is a marshmallow:).
7. An ability to talk to almost anyone (except a very few people who drive her up the wall).
6. Not succumbing to petty meanness, even when others around her do it. (This is very very Ai Ling)
5. Needs A LOT of sleep. Even more than me. Sleeping at 11 during the SPM period?!!
4. Honesty, with keen insight into what people really mean and not just what they say; and at the same time uses a lot of tact.
3. Sunshine and green and earth-loving and cute drawings:)
2. The ability to watch the same movie over and over again (how can she stand it?!).
1. A wonderful, unique, simply irreplaceable friend.

Ling, thank you for these 5 great years through thick and thin, good and bad, euphoria and depression, glory and humiliation and standing with us all that time. You form part of my brightest memories of MGS and of my adolescent years and in many ways made me the person I am today (feel really ancient now sighsighsigh). On this special day I just want to remind you that though we are thousands of miles apart now, you are still very close to my heart and only a call or an email away. Yes, that was a gentle reminder to keep in touch:P Which is of course what we all have to work hard to achieve. And though I (and the other 2) don't know every single detail about your daily life as we used to, I know the essence of you - the Ailingness - will not change: except to become more beautiful, radiant and closer to God as time goes by.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Turn my something normal into something beautiful

The title is part of the lyrics in Jars of Clay's "Something Beautiful". And I hope what I have to share with you guys will resonate, for it is what I believe and hope for always -that my something normal can be transformed by Him into something beautiful.

What Is Love?

What is love if not sacrifice,

Not some measure of unselfishness-

And yet we feel that love is exclusive

guard our affections and the affections

we think to have -

a child with it's teddy bear.

What does it take to give up

that mindset of sparingness

of stinginess

of always having to be the only beloved?

Is it not enough to see hands and feet, drilled for you-

a head, thorn-stabbed for you;

a side, pierced for you?

What does it feel like

to kneel at the foot of the cross and weep?

Amazed at the boundless love

That did the impossible

for you

and at the same time,

for everyone who has ever lived.

The wonder!

His grace is by no means divided, apportioned

to each follower, like birthday cake

But is offered fresh, whole, unlimited

to all who believe.

What would it mean for us to grasp the truth,

(the essential truth)

that we love not to receive.

It is love

to throw away the accounts book,

to stop keeping tabs on kindnesses,

to willingly forget that hurtful remark.

That only by loving without conditions,

loving when it hurts,

loving when ignored,

loving when less favoured,

loving when it goes unseen and unappreciated-

Can we come close to reflecting His love

to a broken person

to a broken world

that needs

to know Him.

-T. P.

Paradox of Choice

If you've ever wondered why with all the choice and innovations we have today, we are still unhappy....
Watch this.

Definitely something good to think about, unless you should be studying for your exams, like me.


Friday, May 2, 2008

What I can never tell

Do you have a friend who's really nice to you, is extremely intelligent but always declares him/herself the opposite, often talks about the myriad difficulties in his life but doesn't neglect to mention how everyone is being so supportive, offers you help with your work when you're struggling...

But somehow, you always feel inferior and anxious beside him? Somehow, their flawed brilliance makes you uncomfortable even as you try to be a good friend. Even through all their ups and downs, the soap opera that is their life and the amount of time they spend on leisure activities: they still end up doing better than you in the things that matter. Things that are seen, that determine your position in the community and affect your future: like grades. And positions of leadership. Like it or not, these things matter, though the extent of their importance can be argued.

People really have no problem with helping others when they see it as a valid case. When you get the feeling that someone really wants to get out of the problem they're entangled in. And somehow they change the situation or survive it, the crisis passes and the world is (more or less) right again. But others...I don't know, maybe it comes with living in an internal landscape of intense passions. Colours are sharper, more defined...things are more likely to be taken to extremes. I, on the other hand, am a good friend of the middle line, never moving more than 0.5 to the right or the left. An advocate of balance. I'd be a great Taoist if God hadn't called me first.

But to get back to the subject...the cards are all in their hands. They understand their own situation the best, as they've analysed it thoroughly. And they're also incredibly self-aware: almost as if they were a creature they had invented themselves. And I don't even know what I feel about things sometimes! Yet I bumble on, pretty happily. So what is keeping them from thinking of solutions to their problem and moving on?

I know you're going through a tough time, and whenever you need a listening ear, I'll be here. But in a way I know it doesn't really matter. My ear, her ear, stranger's ear...doesn't make a difference, does it? I listen to the monologue of the director and actor in a one-man show.

The curtain draws up again, and I wonder how much joy is really in that smile of yours. Keep talking, keep acting, and maybe you'll find the script actually represents reality. And when you get that Academy Award, don't forget to credit me in your cast of extras.