Saturday, 27 September 2008


"Is there a difference between a man who thinks honesty is the best policy and an honest man?"
- C. S. Lewis

Sure, an honest man is honest by habit and not by cost-benefit calculation.

"It is, thus, always important to keep in mind that professional [personal] ethics depends mainly on constant vigilance, on sustained discretion and prudence, and on wisdom, rather than on certain set rules. It is true here as elsewhere that character is destiny."
- Machan

Audio Candy:
Belle And Sebastian - Piazza, New York Catcher

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Character Is Destiny

I was reading up about the US Presidential Elections a few days ago and getting some background information on John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin when I read that John McCain wrote a book with Mark Salter titled Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember. The title fascinated me, so I read more about and found out that it's "a collection of biographies about individuals from the past and present who, in the authors' view, exemplify the best qualities of character. The book is divided into seven parts with further divisions of a characteristic and a person who is seen to exemplify it."

In McCain's words from the book's introduction:

It is your character, and your character alone, that will make your life happy or unhappy. That is all that really passes for destiny. And you choose it. No one else can give it to you or deny it to you. No rival can steal it from you. And no friend can give it to you. Others can encourage you to make the right choices or discourage you. But you choose.

Part One: HONOUR

HONESTY - Thomas More
RESPECT - Gandhi
LOYALTY - Sir Ernest Shackleton
DIGNITY - Viktor Frankl


IDEALISM - Sojourner Truth
RIGHTEOUSNESS - Roméo Dallaire
DILIGENCE - Winston Churchill
RESPONSIBILITY - Lord Nelson and His Lieutenants

Part Three: STRENGTH

COURAGE - Edith Cavell
SELF-CONTROL - George Washington
CONFIDENCE - Elizabeth I
RESILIENCE - Abraham Lincoln
INDUSTRY - Eric Hoffer
HOPEFULNESS - John Winthrop


FAITH - Christian Guard at Hua Lo Prison
COMPASSION - Maximillian Kolbe
MERCY - Mother Antonia
TOLERANCE - The Four Chaplains
FORGIVENESS - Nelson Mandela
GENEROSITY - Oseola McCarty


FAIRNESS - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
HUMILITY - Dwight D. Eisenhower
GRATITUDE - Tecumseh
HUMOUR - Mark Twain
COURTESY - Aung San Suu Kyi


ASPIRATION - Ferdinand Magellan
DISCERNMENT - Leonardo da Vinci
CURIOSITY - Charles Darwin
ENTHUSIASM - Theodore Roosevelt
EXCELLENCE - Wilma Rudolph

Part Seven: LOVE


"Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence."
- Henry Louis Mencken

Audio Candy:
Lifehouse - Simon

Friday, 19 September 2008

Geek Is Sleek

International Economics classes are turning out to be the most enjoyable classes this term. I'm relatively somewhat more jaded this year compared to last in terms of school (but I think I'm still enjoying school much more than most people are), but vestiges of last semester's Political Science classes are there in International Economics. We've got a really passionate professor and typical strong Economist in the form of Leung Hing-Man and I really like it that he encourages discussion in class about real-world economic scenarios. It also helps that he's idealistically for the free market in a stubborn, opinionated way, so there will always be plenty of argument to go around.

He also said that he doesn't believe in grading for class participation, because if the class does not participate in discussion, he sees it such that he has failed to invoke passion in us rather than failure on our individual part to be actively involved. Aww.

Audio Candy:
Damien Rice - Amie

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Over Your Shoulder You Have To Watch Heaven Fall Into Hell

For the longest time, I stared at the curious painting on the wall. This must be what alone feels like, because others will never see the deceptively innocuous painting the way I did. We're often told to shun clichés because the weight of their typicality bears down on those who are aware, but in this one I saw a reflective contradiction - a sort of lunatic calm - that was so personal it was bursting at the seams, like a picture that paints a thousand words that will never be said, can never be said. As was aptly stated by Luis Barragán, art is made by the alone for the alone, and in that brief instant I think I caught fire. Or something along those lines, one of those sensations you can't quite put a finger to. So I abruptly turned away, somewhat clumsily I suppose, stuck in that weird rarefaction you get when you're overwhelmed by something so insignificant it almost doesn't exist, and started to walk.


Then I stopped, and so did my heart for a moment, as I looked up and saw you standing there with that half-slanted posture that reeked of an unwelcome familiarity of confidence. Or perhaps the situation seemed unpleasant of sorts due to the awkward abruptness. I might've been less ambivalent and a little more self-assured if it wasn't here and now. We were a few feet apart; close enough to a feel a tension that would've been crushing even if we were worlds from each other, in that gray corridor that suddenly seemed too wide it was stifling. With the sun's rays like accusatory fingers piercing through the high windows, I suddenly felt as if I had somehow willed you out of that painting.

"Whoa, hey. It's been some time."

Maybe we're the way we are because life is lived according to the idealistic clichés we unwittingly create and trap ourselves in. Sometimes it really seems like our realities reflect art more than art reflects reality.

"Yeah, seriously," you said, with a controlled chuckle. "I feel as if I'd have to endure another lifetime or two before someone we both distantly know would finally introduce you to me again."

"Yup I suppose. Never thought it'd be so soon, to be honest," I replied, coupled with a nervous smile. For some bizarre reason I was sure I felt the deep reverberation of the unspoken words that resounded between us in our intertwined thoughts. Remember the playground next to 513? / I've always wondered what it feels like to be consciously suffering a stroke. / Here's to the both of us for however long this will last. / I'd wanna be seated exactly beside where the next star will land. I think you were the first. / Toa Payoh chwee kway owns Clementi's hands down. / I'll light a candle and say a prayer for you!

"Always quite the cynic, aren't you?"

I returned a restrained nod, as I relaxed a little. There was much we would have died to say if we still existed in our little utopia, but we've both blasted off in our little rockets and those words will be buried six feet deep. At least, right now, I'm finally sure that's how it will be. A few feet apart was all that separated us physically, but we were as far asunder as lightyears in dimensions that aren't even parallel. But at least the distance apart will guarantee a myriad of twinkling stars in between, if a silver lining was ever needed for something that had already ended.

"I've to be on my way. It's nice to see you again," I said, and you replied, "well, that was strange and good all the same. Good bye."

I'm not colour blind; I know the world is black and white, and you can't convince someone that the grass is green in a world without colours. I guess while I thought it'd be easier than this, I've definitely moved on to what I hope would be a better place somewhere in my mind and it suddenly felt as if the cracks on my vine-ridden wall have been filled up, and you're no longer perched at the top with your legs swinging freely around. Walking away wasn't even necessary, as we were both never really right there beside that fateful painting. A sense of finality came before it was even called for.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A Contemporary Polity Of Mind

Tip-toeing on a string with balloons I never asked for
The dishes are served though there's no menu
And yet all I can think of is if that's it
Like I'm in some dream where everyone speaks Hebrew
The outlines will be drawn to force the picture to fit
Hoping that the maturity of night will sober the day
Ceasing the labels and finally we'll sway
Back to the times when poems still rhymed
And the songs that we sung rang in unison
There is a shadow that belongs to no one
Who stalks the streets that have no name
And I don't want this to get to my head either
For hearts may flutter for reasons that never cross
In a moment when shrivelled blessings are counted
So the time is whiled away in scholarly clothes
As the eager are woefully kept on their toes

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Buried Somewhere Deep Beneath My Skin


This is the quiet backstage chorus of disillusionment when I look at the MSN nicks of my SMU friends. It is somewhat sad that the system, which isn't inherently a bad one, hasn't worked out the way it really should for most people.

Life is much bigger than this, so keep the faith.

"In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
- Warren Buffet

Audio Candy:
The Darkness - One Way Ticket

Sunday, 7 September 2008

We Will Always Be A Light

Live in the moment, because the way I see it, there is no better way.

The universe, or whatever limits we wish to impose on the metaphysical world around us, is a storm of infinite possibilities and the beauty of our existence is that we ourselves bring form to an otherwise incoherent mass simply by impinging on it through our very being of finitude and flaws.

Pick up a sport, do a dance, join an event, make a difference. Love somebody and expect nothing back. Live in the moment and embrace it for all its worth so that there is no room for regret. Etch a memory that you'd otherwise regret not having.

Oceans won't freeze
So loosen your heart
In this love

I like to think back about those times spent watching the thousands of faceless people walk by - essentially the same anonymous crowd but only in different places - and materialise faces for them by pondering about the lives of others, of the lenses with which others see reality through, and the histories they have had to enjoy and endure all the same to shape and colour them.

“It is the mind which creates the world around us, and even though we stand side by side in the same meadow, my eyes will never see what is beheld by yours, my heart will never stir to the emotions with which yours is touched.”
- George Gissing

Perhaps there's an innate calling for humans to want to bridge that gap with those that matter so that lives can intertwine into an explosion of chemistry, so that it can come as close as possible to living in the same personal sphere.

Audio Candy:
Stars - Ageless Beauty

Monday, 1 September 2008

Mr Brightside

I fight cynicism. It's too easy. It's really boring. It's much harder to be positive and see the wonder of everything.

Everyone could do with a little positivity, or reduction of cognitive dissonance if you're skeptical. It might be a little deluded to the realist, but it keeps you focused on the flat ocean after the storm.

I guess I'm blessed to know the importance behind the game plan of life, and even realise that there's one that fits me, and how it's not important enough to be entirely depended upon.

Perhaps I could be seen as one of those who're just waiting to be fatally proven wrong when fate deals me with a death blow of sorts. Well, hit me if you can. :]

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
- Oscar Wilde

Audio Candy:
Coldplay - Viva La Vida