Monday, July 13, 2009

Farmer's Wisdom

He who drives his spade into the ground but then looks up and is distracted by his neighbours' vast green fields, what benefit can he gain?

As he stares at the beauty of the unattainable, his determination fades away and his strong hands go slack. Resting his hands on the top of the spade, he places his head on it and begins to daydream. He wishes it was his, the beautiful cultivated fields, the rolling hills...he does not even bother to look down at his little square of red dust with weeds sticking out everywhere.

"Why do I work?" he says to himself in bitterness. "It would be better that I did not try. My neighbours' prosperity taunts me. His riches goad and irritate me more than gnats and thorns."

He knew, however, that if he did not sow his seeds, he would die of hunger that winter. So he did so all that planting season: breaking the hard ground, plowing it with a faraway mind, sowing with only one hand (why should he use both, it was pointless to work so hard for an outcome he had lost interest in) and wiping away the tears of injustice which fell to the ground.

When he was exhausted with his labours, he would sit outside in his plot of land and think about the neighbour whose ostentatious display he had to endure everyday. In his dreams, he owned the land next door, and someone else -someone unimportant and nameless- was plowing and cursing the little, barren ground he had.

He began to lose his interest in the little things of life that had once brought him joy. The eternal originality of the morning sun. The flowers opening their buds. The alert eyes of the sparrow, ever-scanning for danger, ready to take flight at the slightest rustle. The pride he had felt at finally earning enough to own land, the grand plans he had for expanding it; all withered into insignificance and mockery when he saw the size of his neighbour's estate.


It is harvesttime.

At first, he thinks its another bitter trick life has played on him, that his crop is sickly and frail rather than lush and green.

But one shoot sprouts up, and another, and another...

He does not connect the dots until one morning his sour countenance turns to astonishment and disbelief as his eyes take in the burst of golden rays before him. His plot, his little despised return to labour, was a waving, freeform field of gold.

Little did he know he had been planting wheat, the food of kings and princes, robust enough to feed a man for three days on one meal. He tried to remember where he had gotten the seeds from, but he couldn't remember. The early days of setting up were a blur. Was it from the seller in the market who gave him a special deal, seeing as he was a man of few means? Was it the stranger who had pressed the bag into his hand as a token of gratitude when he had saved him from a ditch? All he knew was that it was from years or decades ago, and that the little bag of seeds were what first inspired him to quit his profession and till the land.

With the sudden realisation of his good fortune, he experienced the agony of regret. Why had he not cultivated the land as he should have? Why did he let his eye and mind wander from task? Why did he...?

He stopped. Had he known he would have received a more bountiful harvest at the end of it, he would have sown more diligently. He would have laboured harder, slept less, envied not, hoped more. He knew that in his actions he deserved almost nothing, and yet he had received so much more than he deserved.

He looked up and thanked the Lord of the rains, the sparrows, the grass and the sky. Few farmers are atheists or nonreligious in one way or another - they know too well that in hard times, faith is the only thing you can cling to. And their beliefs have sustained them through so many rough seasons, growing stronger in each lean time.

He took a last glance at the neighbouring fields, but this time with different eyes. Yes, it was beautiful and perfect. But his harvest was his personal miracle, and he would not change it for the world. His neighbour had attained his lands by grace. And now, even when he sowed with envy, with his bitterness, with laziness and disappointment and failure and frustration - even so, he had received his reward. By grace alone his imperfect sowing was turned into a harvest of beauty and wholeness.

- I tell stories to unearth wisdom that I know is within me, somewhere. Beneath beauty is truth, and shining through all truth is God. That is not a story. -

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Little Updates and a Wisp of Shame

The little Updates:

1. For those who know and those who don't...I'm out of pre-u already. Finished in May. Getting IB results next Monday. *Teeth chattering (with fear, not cold)*

2. Subsequent to finishing school, which had been a martini and a tap dance away from complete pandemonium (that didn't make sense did it? It wasn't meant to. I don't.), I came back and spent time with father and mother and frequently with sister, in Singapore. I slept and ate and had irregular hours. I went to the Science Centre and marveled at Da Vinci. I ate Sushi Hi-Tea Buffet at Kui-shin Bo it was AMAZING I WANT MORE.

3. I got a new camera. It's quite pretty. I guess there are no more excuses not to put up pictures of my ho-hum life.

4. Against all expectations, I have gotten into university! I will be leaving in late August to California, United States; the land of beautiful people and expensive plastics. It rather scares me.

5. I hope to be tanned when I come home. Not like "WAH you spend too much time in the sun la don't look Chinese anymore" but hot and more importantly, intentional. I also hope to learn ballroom dancing.

6. I have attended UWC gatherings, old secondary friends gatherings, parents' friends gatherings, old primary friends gatherings and church friends gatherings since returning. I think attending and organising gatherings is all we oversea-ish back for holidays people do in Malaysia. I want to do something more important.

7. To that end, I am involved in a few (small) things now with another few upcoming :

a) planning trip with my closest friends whom I've known for 7 years now

b) trying to obtain a fly-on-the-wall invitation to watch my favorite filmmaker at work

c) attending the Malaysian Student Leaders Summit, where people of influence dispense their wisdom on stage while people of no influence at the present (people like me) dispense our foolishness in giggles and whispers among the audience. Kidding though. We actually pay a lot of attention, and ask insightful questions. Probably better questions than the often-pandering mass media does.

d) participating in a US colleges/universities application seminar in KL. Though I'd probably only be able to tell the attendees what not to do. Oh well, at least that's different:) Should I prepare for it? I feel like people who made it into the most famous places worked so hard to get there. Preparation by way of SAT books, reading up about admission statistics, internet resources, essay checkers, mother boil special ginseng on day of SAT...ok maybe not that much but yes, they have put in the due diligence.

While I put undue diligence into improving my Freecell statistics, using internet resources to find the perfect prom dress (the task is more difficult than choosing which unis to apply to I KID YOU NOT), flipping through my SAT books the night before the exam and choosing universities not based solely on their rankings (I admit I still have some kiasuness, I'm Malaysian) but on my biased, probably totally unfounded impressions of the place.

Yes, I totally deserve what I got.

Which is happiness, freedom from the menial slavery to public opinion, shock and awe (you're turning down X University for Y College?!?) and the exhilaration of embarking on a new adventure, to a place where I know absolutely no one.

I think my tendency to want to do things no one has ever done before, or at least do it differently from the people I know, is going to lead me down strange paths in the future. I don't fear hard. I fear boring and predictable.

So yes, its more likely that at 30 I will be a Tibetan school teacher teaching fourth grade geometry and drinking yak milk from my own herd, while being an underground spy for the Global Freedom Network, than it is for me to be a corporate sales executive.

At least I hope so, even if the final truth is less glamorous than my fantasies, I hope it will swing more kooky and less cubicle-y.

e) Holidaying with family in Sabah. It's my first time to East Malaysia, not counting the time I went on an ASEAN trip to Brunei.

f) Organising/facilitating a camp for Orang Asli youth to raise their awareness of opportunities for education and work beyond their immediate horizons. It's a UWC Malaysia initiative.

Anyway I think that's all for now. Sounds like a lot? Not really. I still find it hard to fill my day with activities.

And the wisp of shame? Well, that's about not updating for months. But then again, its only a wisp, because I know I've been living and that's more important:)