Monday, December 9, 2013

A picture of poverty

An artist paints a picture with colors. Through his picture, he wants you to see not only what he sees, but also how he sees it and how he feels about it. I've never been much of an artist, but writing has always been something I enjoy. I'm going to try to show you a picture through words. I'm going to try to show you a picture of poverty.

I know that as an 18-year-old student, my credibility as a blogger or as any kind of writer is effectively nil. That's why in painting this picture, I shall quote credible sources. So do not trust me, but trust the linked references when I say that 2.4 billion people worldwide make less than $2 (USD) a day. In ringgits, that's about 6 Ringgits. 34% of the world's population has an income of 6 ringgit per day. Suddenly your wallet seems quite full in comparison, no? Not surprisingly, Africa is home to some of the poorest countries in the world

It's easy to think that these people are poor because they're lazy. A person's success is directly proportional to their effort, right? If these people are suffering and poor, it's because they don't work hard, or they made bad decisions as a kid, and if all these poor people would just commit themselves to their work, that would solve everything,. Not true. If you're reading this, it means that you are among the 34.3% of the world's population that has access to internet. I say this because many of us grow up in conditions where many opportunities are open to us. By studying hard in school, we can get scholarships to enter into the college we want, and by working hard, we can climb the corporate ladder until we get to the top, and we're rather pleased with all our hard work.

People living in poverty do not have so many options. Consider the life of a child in Africa. 15 million African children have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS (page 112). Families live in starvation, with no clean source of water. 345 million people in Africa and 783 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. On top of that, 827 million people in developing countries do not have enough to eat. Children cannot go to school because they have to help their parents work for food and fetch water. Even the water that they do fetch tends to be contaminated, leading to diseases such as cholera. 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases each year. Not to mention other diseases like measles, malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS.

Imagine what life would be like for a family living under those conditions. The children do not have primary education and do not know how to read. Even the youngest of them spend several hours every day fetching water by foot with their mothers from the nearest source of water, which for some of them could be miles away. That water is even likely to be contaminated with disease. The fathers probably work as farmers, and everyday they struggle to get enough food to feed their families. The parents may even have to go for several days in a row without food, so that their children can eat. Everyone is terrified of getting sick; being malnourished with weakened bodies and no proper medical facilities, a disease may as well be a death sentence. Sadly, as of these 2006 statistics (page 116-117), 16 percent of all children born in sub-Saharan Africa die before the age of 5.

Perhaps now you are beginning to get an idea of the picture I am trying to paint. Poverty isn't just about not having enough money to buy nice things or sometimes getting a little hungry; people living in poverty tend to lose their sense of hope in life. Children do not see much in their future, and parents can do little as they watch their children starve.

At first, it may seem like the poverty in the world may be too much to overcome. Battling poverty may seem like a hopeless task. So many people in poverty and hunger. So many mouths yearning for food, so many children longing for a family. Is there any way to overcome it? The answer is, yes there is. Here comes the hope.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. - Helen Keller
Be the change that you want to see in the world. - Mohandas Gandhi
We can do no great things, only small things with great love. - Mother Theresa 
Another of his disciples... spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. - John 6:8-11, emphasis added.
When dealing with the issue of poverty, we need to remember that each one of us is able to effect change. A common story used to illustrate this point is the "parable of the starfish". A huge storm by the sea caused thousands of starfish to be washed up on the beach. After the storm subsided, the whole beach was covered with starfish, scattered on the sand. With no way to return to the water, the starfish were doomed to die under the heat of the sun. One man came and saw this, and he sat on the ground and wept for the thousands of starfish that would die, knowing that there was no way for him to save those thousands of starfish. However, another man came and saw the starfish, and he started picking them up and tossing them back into the ocean. He was not discouraged by the magnitude of the task. He knew that alone, he could not make a difference to the world. But to the few starfish that he did save, he made a world of difference.

Whether or not the world's battle against poverty is successful or not depends on what you, as an individual, choose to do. Will you sit in the sand and weep, or will you start rescuing starfish? If your friends, your family, or your community were to all unite in giving to the poor of the world, it can have a bigger effect than you would imagine. For example, according to World Vision President Mr. Richard Stearns, drilling a well to provide people with clean water costs $12,500 (USD) and can serve 500 people for twenty-five years. Mathematically, this means that 1 US Dollar or 3 Ringgit pays for one person's clean water for a whole year! If you have RM50 in your wallet, you have enough to pay for enough clean water for a baby until he turns 16.

So, what can you do to help? I'll outline two simple ways:

1. Give.
The easiest way to help would be with our money. We may be richer than we think, and at the end of the day, most of us probably have a dollar or two to spare. There are many international organizations which focus on linking people who want to give with people who need to receive. One such organization is World Vision, an organization that works to tackle the root causes of poverty by providing poor communities with a source of water, job skills, loans, medicine, etc. World Vision is, I think, well-known for its child sponsorship program. If you are willing to sponsor a child, World Vision links you to a child in need of help, and you will get to pay for this child's basic needs: food, water, medicine, and education. You can also donate to World Vision's various projects or pay for medicine for people in developing countries and other needs. In light of the overwhelming statistics that I've just shared, it may seem like giving a bit of money might not make much of a difference; but it does. It makes a huge difference to the person who received your gift. You may even have saved someone's life.

2. Speak.
Maybe you're like me. You're a student with a laptop that his parents bought, your on an allowance and have to buy your own food, and you don't actually have that much money on your own, although hopefully someday you'll make enough money to be able to sponsor a child. But for now, you can't realistically afford a hundred Ringgits a month for a long period of time. So what do you do when you can't give much money? Spread the word to those who can. Talk about it. Blog about it. Tweet, or Retweet, or share on Facebook. Help spread the awareness of global poverty. What's more, for people who can and have sponsored a child, you can talk to your friends about it. When you sponsor a child, you're not just helping that one child. In the big picture of things, you're also helping the sponsored children of those you influence. Perhaps from your one action, you will influence others to pick up the same tune, and they will in turn influence their peers, until the whole community is in on it. It's like the ripple effect.

Now my blog post comes to a close, and as always, just reading about it is not enough. In order for change to be effected, there must be a conscious decision to effect change. The question isn't whether or not you are able to do something to help the world's poor. The question is rather whether or not you want to do something. Even if you are only able to do a little, if you can only sponsor one child, or influence only one person to sponsor a child, you've effectively saved one child's life. That child's life could be in your hands. What are you going to do about it?


I've just finished reading The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision. This book taught me everything I now know about poverty, and was invaluable as a reference in writing this post. I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Calling in sick

Okay... Okay, so I've been trying recently to carefully think through what exactly I want to post before writing the post so that I can avoid getting too carried away, and I can stay on the topic. But this kind of causes my blog posts to be a little... stuffy. Inexpressive. I mean, I try to put the meaningfulness into the post, and I do hope it's in there somewhere, although I can't really be sure myself, but my posts may lack... emotion. Personality. Thingy.

So today, I'm going to type about why I didn't post anything last week. I was already drafting in my head how I would talk about laziness, and how it's all perhaps just in one's head, and how we can overcome laziness by trying really hard and how there's always a lesson for us in every challenge if we just look. All of that may be true, but if I had written it that way, it would probably have been awfully boring. So I'm-a just gonna be myself and write this thing and see how it turns out.

Why didn't I update my blog post last Sunday, like I said I would? Well, I could say that it was because I was sick. What's more, that would be the truth. I had a medium-level flu that weekend. Some fever, runny nose, sore throat. Now, usually I get all grumpy when I get sick, because I used to think that hey, I'm sick, and unless I act surly and grumpy no one will know. Basically being sick was a get-away-with-being-an-ol'-jerk-free card for me. But a lot has been changing recently, and I decided to do something new and take this sickness and turn it to my advantage. When I looked at myself, I really looked quite hilarious. My eyes were like, really really red, and my voice was like I was speaking through cotton, or something. Who cares if I look and sound horrible? I can either be grumpy about it, or laugh it off and be happy. It's just one of those small decisions that mean a lot.

But I really can't excuse myself from weekly blog-writing because of a little flu. I really suspect that my sickness was really an excuse for me to legalize my underlying laziness, which had really been building up for the past month or so. I really was becoming lazy and uncommitted to blogging, and it was merely happy coincidence that I got sick last week, allowing me to metaphorically "call in sick over a tummy-ache". I could have written my blog post last week even though I was sick, the fever wasn't really all that bad. But I didn't because I was lazy

I mean, really. I have this journal which I keep everyday, and everyone always asks me, "Oh, so it's a diary?" and after about five months of the same dialogue I decided to stop being nit-picky about the difference between a journal and a diary and I just say "Okay, yeah, sure, it's a diary-thingy. Whatever." Nevertheless, I am usually in the habit of updating my journal every night. Stuff I want to share goes up on the blog, and stuff that I need for my own personal instruction and improvement goes down in the journal. Now, I really love writing my journal. It's a habit that I picked up at Jeremiah School, and it just feels nice. It helps me make sense of the events of each individual day, and sometimes becomes useful for referring to past events. But recently, I just... stopped writing it. I started feeling that it was too much trouble. Like, "Hey, if I skip writing my journal tonight, I get to sleep earlier. Moar sleep sounds goood...." But I still do like journaling, and I don't like the idea of skipping it. Kind of like a guy who's hungry and thinks "I like sandwiches and I like making sandwiches, but I'm too lazy to make a sandwich right now so I'm just going to be hungry." 

What is the point of this post? I don't know. I didn't determine a point before I started writing. I just got in the car and drove where I felt like, without determining a destination beforehand. But now that I've come this far, I can look around at where I'm at, and either be upset about it, or content. I guess I'm mostly just writing this as a kind of self-rant. Ranting about myself. That's a pretty long post up there isn't it? I'd better pull over and park right now before I lose track of time and bore everyone. So, yeah, I've basically written a whole lot about how I've been a lazy bum this past week. Soooo, is there going to be a moral to this story or what? As the writer, I feel that it's my obligation to finish off with something for my readers to think about, kind of satisfy them, give them their time's worth. Understandable. It was very kind of you to take time of your schedule to come here and read my blog, so I owe you something in return. And I have just the thing right here.

It was about 10 months ago that I made a decision to be a better person. Friendlier, more sensitive to other people, that kind of thing. Generally, I tried being nicer to people around me. More cheerful, talkative, and so on and whatnot. I guess you could say I've been doing okay. Then when I got sick, I nearly fell back into my usual habit of letting the sickness make me surly. But I wanted to be a nicer person. I didn't let a sore throat stop me from talking to people, even though my voice sounded like some kind of Dracula, according to a friend of mine. However, when I got sick, I did stop journaling, even though it's been a big help for me in the past and is meant to help me be a better person too. But the sickness wasn't the direct cause in my lack of journaling. My resolve in that area had already been wavering for a while. All it needed was a little event, a little fever, a little headache, to trigger a bout of laziness and lack of commitment.

This is entirely optional, but perhaps at this point you should answer for yourself this question: what is your main goal in your life right now? Whatever your goal is, there will be times when you catch a "flu" - a problem will come up which may make it harder to reach your goal. Next question is, what are you going to do when you "catch the flu"? Will you allow that to weaken you? Will your commitment to your goal disappear? Will you stop journaling for the sake of half an hour more of sleep? Or is your resolve strong enough that you will pursue your goal despite a few setbacks? Will you be a red-eyed runny-nosed hoarse-voiced go-getter? As always, it's a conscious decision for you to make for yourself, and it can change everything. 

Even if you find that your resolve has weakened, it's never too late to renew your commitment to your goal. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go write about this blog post in my journal before I go to bed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Touch of the Master's Hand

I heard this song for the first time today at church. I thought it to be a very expressive and beautiful song... But I won't spoil it by trying to describe it myself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. God bless you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Sometimes, life gets tough. Perhaps not sometimes. For some people, maybe life gets tough pretty often. When life gets tough, it's quite normal for one to take a look around themselves and feel down about the way things have shaped out. That's totally fine, and I'm not suggesting that everyone should keep an infinitely positive attitude twenty-four-seven. There are sad feelings for sad times, and sad words for sad occasions. But one of the important factors that determines which direction our lives go after that, is what we choose to do after that.

Let me explain with a story.

I still remember the most common mistake I made after I passed my driving test. Back in the driving school, we always drove Kancils, really small cars which I had a little trouble getting comfortable in, because of my height. Because of the car's small size, I was never really worried about the car going off the lane and into the middle of the road. But after I passed, I didn't drive small cars anymore. I drove my sister's Proton Saga. The first few times driving it on the road - with my mom in the passenger seat, of course - I kept getting worried that my totally "big" car would veer a little to either side, and would either go off the road or scrape against the side of an oncoming car. So I was always checking both side mirrors so that I could get a view of my back wheel and whether it was too close to the white lines. The result of this is that my hands kept twitching the steering wheel to the left and right as I made constant minute adjustments to my car's position. If I felt the car was a little too close to the white line on the left, I would twitch the steering wheel right to get back in the middle. But whoops, now the car's too close to the right side! Twitch again. I kept fretting over the side mirrors. Eventually, my mom got tired of the zig-zaggy ride, and she told me that to stay in the middle of my lane, I just had to keep my eyes on the road ahead.

I don't know if this makes a whole lot of sense to other people, if they didn't experience the same problem I did when learning to drive. But now I just keep my eyes on the road ahead, and I don't have to actually check the distance between the lines on the road and my car. I just look ahead, drive, and I intuitively know that my car is, somehow, staying near the middle of my lane. 

Now, I'm not much good at coming up with philosophies, and I can't immediately link this to any Bible verses, but my point is this: If you fret yourself over every minute detail of your life as it is, it's going to get in the way of you having a smooth journey, because you'll just be worrying too much, more than you need to. But if you have a clear idea on where you want to go with your life, and what you want to become, keeping your eyes on that goal will help to keep you positive in the face of life's troubles, and it might even help you to figure the way out of the problem. Maybe - just maybe - when the problems of life start coming your way, they are a lot more easier to overcome when you have a goal to fight for. 

Pastor Mark Driscoll put it this way: "The 'want to' precedes the 'how to'." Or as other people would say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Naturally, I prefer Pastor Mark's version. Here's what it means. Nobody is perfect. That's a given. Some people want to improve themselves from where they are, and that's a good thing. These are the good people. But sometimes they're not sure how. "How can I become a better student?" "How can I be a better friend?" "How can I become a better child to my parents?" Well, the "want to" precedes the "how to". If you really want to change, then invest some energy and emotion not into the method of changing, but into the desire to change. When someone wants something really really badly, they'll naturally figure out some way to get it, right? My whole point here is that perhaps if you dare yourself invest the emotion to want to change, and set that as your goal, your journey towards your goal will go more smoothly, and the solutions to the obstacles will come intuitively.

Let me use an example from my own life. I tell people this all the time, although I don't think any of them ever listen, but I used to be quite a loner in secondary school. Any of my secondary school friends reading this will be saying, "Ha ha, ya think?" But what happened was, after secondary school, when I went to Jeremiah School, I decided that I didn't want to be a loner anymore. I decided that I wanted to be a friendlier person. At first, I really fretted over the "how to". Apparently that's a big thing with me. So I constantly bugged my friends and mentors there with questions like, "How do you know what to talk about with people?" "How do you start a conversation?" "How come you're so friendly all the time?" They were all very patient with my answers, and gave me some pointers. But they all said that mostly, I would just learn from talking with people more. And from there it unfolded. I wanted to be friendlier, and step by step I just started knowing intuitively what to do. Standing next to someone while doing laundry together? Walking next to someone on the way to the cafeteria? Strike up a conversation with them, don't sweat the small stuff, just throw yourself in there. And it worked. Learning what to say, how to say it, and everything else came over time.

One of my mentors back in JS and another friend in college (Giap Min) both shared with me that they used to be loners as well. But then they just ultimately made the decision that they didn't want to be loners anymore, and that they wanted to make more friends. So they just got out there and started talking to people, and today they're both really cool people, with the coolest stories of recovering from loneliness that I know. I'll bet they didn't need any step-by-step pointers, and they didn't Google "how to make more friends". They just set a goal - making more friends - and kept their eyes on it, and that's how they got out of their shell.

These stories are about people who became friendlier people. But if they had never determined a goal for themselves, would they ever have arrived at their destination? I think that all this is still as applicable to any other situation. If it doesn't actually provide a solution for the problem, having a goal will at least give us a reason not to give up. The value of hope is not to be underestimated. Writing a good closing is always difficult, so I'll just say this: No matter where you find yourself now, whether up against a wall or at the bottom of a well, things can and will get better, if you make it your goal to get better, and set your eyes on that goal. I'm not talking about effort here. Effort is good, but what a person needs to fuel that effort is hope. So, yeah, keep your eyes on the road ahead, and hopefully your journey will go smoother.

I hope you don't mind the little shout-out here, Giap Min, if you're reading this, but I wrote this with you in mind. I don't know if any of this helps, but even if all this is to you just another generic encouragement speech that doesn't actually improve anything, then know that I'm still a friend who wants to be a part of your life, and maybe then I can help. You can always talk to me about anything. :)

Well, at any rate, I'm glad I managed to keep to the Sunday blog post deadline, so yeah. Maybe more to come next week. See ya guys, thanks for tolerating me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Internet

I know that I said I wanted my blog to be about my thoughts and beliefs and all, and I was hoping to be able to effect change for the better in people's lives, yadda yadda yadda. But you know what, I'm an 18-year-old, and I have a blog, so the urge to occasionally post a simple rant/diary post pops up more frequently than I would like it to. Usually I don't post rants because I wonder if anyone would want to read them. But in today's particular case, I feel it's justified, because it also explains my absence.

I really should try to update my blog, like, you know, more regularly. As it is, my updates have been infrequent and far apart, unlike my friend Arthur's blog, which get updated a few times a week. Arthur, I'm impressed by how you are able to manage your time and how your love for your blog enables you to update it regularly. Thumbs up, man.

So I've been trying to adopt a once-a-week update system. Since Sunday is really the day of the week when I have the most free time, I thought maybe I could update my blog every Sunday. I would have the time to sit down and come up with something nice to write about, type it in, read it over, edit as necessary, and pray for the best. That would work. Except last Sunday I had a very minor flu, and decided to sleep it off. It was really nothing serious, I recovered from it in no time, but I didn't want to push myself because of my exams. So, no update last Sunday.

Now today is Sunday, so it would be a good time for me to update my blog now, Yes? No. Because I have no Internet today, hence the blog title. My apartment room here in Penang hasn't had internet since Wednesday. Right now I'm chilling in MacDonalds and leeching of their Wi-Fi here. All I bought was a tiny Sausage MacMuffin, and I've been sitting here slowly eating away at it for nearly half an hour now, so I can enjoy the interwebs. Shrewd? Nope, but probably Asian.

Anyway, on Wednesday, almost everyone's internet was cut off. Everyone in the hostel, that is. Everyone was, of course, frantic. In an effort to fix the internet in my apartment, I tried to press the reset button on the wireless transmitter. (Not, apparently, something that I should have done.) I didn't touch the main modem though, just the second half, the wireless transmitter thing with the antennae. Well, apparently most other people in the hostel got their internet back on Friday, but ours has still been out. One of my roommates said that he had a theory, that maybe someone in our apartment pressed the reset button and messed everything up, which is why we're the only ones still without internet. When I heard that, I was like, "whoops..." and I told him what I had done. Dang. Looks like I'm the reason why my 6 other roommates are going to have to wait until Monday for their interwebs. The INTI tech support guys will be coming on Monday to fix up the Wi-Fi, but my tech-savvy roommate says that it shouldn't be a very hard thing to fix, so hopefully things will be back to normal then.

That's pretty much it for my little diary entry of the day. But even the simplest of stories can have a helpful moral to them, if you know where to look. So the moral of my story of a bumbling college student who did something he shouldn't have done? "Never press the reset button on your internet modem, ever. Unless you really know what you're doing." That's my insight for the day. See you guys next week, maybe.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Testimony of a Life-Changing Event

It's been a bit of a busy time lately, preparing for exams and whatnot. I've really been wanting to update my blog for a while now, but I haven't really had the time. However, by God's providence, I had to look for my testimony of Jeremiah School. Jeremiah School is where I went for six weeks after my SPM, and I changed a lot there, and the following is (more-or-less) the testimony that I read to the Butterworth church on the last day of my six weeks there. Incidentally, this is the event which provides my current profile pic, with the nice shirt, the tie, and the microphone. It just so happened that I had to transfer my written testimony into a digital form anyway, for my mentors' report, so I thought it wouldn't harm to share it.


In a story, character transformation is the point where the main character changes for the better in his journey through life. Even in real life, we strive to change our lives for the better all the time. As Christians, we strive to live our lives as Jesus did.

Jeremiah School brought about my character transformation. It changed my life for the better. Today I can say for sure that I will never regret coming here.

Before I came to JS, I had been a broken and prideful person, but I never realised it. The two may seem incompatible, but they somehow had an abominable offspring in me. A year ago, I would never have used either of those words to describe myself. I was blind to my own brokenness, and I pridefully labelled myself as "humble" in my heart. I was blind to my own brokenness and pride. In my early secondary school years, I met people who hurt me and discouraged me regularly. They managed to convince me that I was quite incapable of doing anything well. By degrees my self-esteem rotted away without me realising it. I started isolating myself from others and became a very withdrawn person. I think this is when I started playing video games more; maybe because video games was one of the few things I knew I was good at. Lame. Eventually, without realising it, I tried to replace and hide my broken self-esteem with pride. I found fulfilment when other people saw me doing things well. This became a large snare for me in many things, especially when I played piano for worship in church.

Then when I was in my SPM year, my parents suggested that I go for JS. At that time, I was completely unaware of my fragmented emotional condition. But my sister had gone for JS before, and my parents thought it would be good for me to go too. I thought to myself, "I wouldn’t have anything better to do after SPM." So I agreed to go to HS. I did not know that the journey I had just begun would change my life.

I remember two meaningful events that happened early in JS, and these events laid the foundation for the rest of my growth in Jeremiah School. One morning, Uncle Alan, a speaker, came to teach us about meditating on Scripture. He taught us to ruminate over Bible verses and take their meaning personally. He then asked us to meditate on Isaiah 43:18-25. I will remember that passage all the days of my life. The passage spoke to me of God’s love, blessing and forgiveness. It was as if God had written those words just for me. This became the beginning of a new and intimate relationship between me and God.

Another turning point in my life began a few days later, when I was planning my Personal Development Plan with my mentor, Austin. Austin guided me in identifying what I wanted to improve in myself, what was hindering me from improving, and steps to become better at it. I knew what I wanted to become better at: I wanted to be more open towards the others in JS, because I had a lot of trouble with talking to other people back then. Through talking with Austin, I found out that my main obstacle was my fear of rejection and my fear of other people’s opinion. He asked me why I had this fear. Somehow I knew that this was related to my school years, even though I had never had a thought about it in the past. Suddenly the words and the pain just started flowing out of my mouth. I expressed what I had gone through and how I really felt and how my emotions were really affected by it. All the emotions I had hidden away all this time were brought into light. I’m sure I cried there in front of Austin. Fortunately no one else saw me. I remember what Austin told me: "You're still young, and you have a long life ahead of you. I believe that you have enough good sense not to make any mistakes that will affect the rest of your life." So why worry about what other people thought about me every waking moment of my life? Just try your best, and when you make social mistakes, don't beat yourself up over it, but learn from it and don't do it again. No harm done. I also learned to see more worth in myself, because God created me, and has a purpose for me and can use me for good. On that day I started a relationship and understanding with my emotional self.

Ever since God began a change in me through these two events, the rest of JS has been a wonderful experience of learning and growing together with the other students, with whom I have formed relationships and bonds that I greatly value. The other 23 students of JS formed a loving and caring community, and invited me to be a part of it. They encouraged me to open up to them, and they helped me with my brokenness. I also learned a lot from the mentors, who were always willing to talk with me, and they patiently answered any questions I had to ask. They also taught me to use the head God has given me to think over and solve my problems.

Sometimes people always say I'm so friendly and nice and etc. etc., but I wasn't always that way, and I'm sure that if it wasn't for the people I met at Jeremiah School, I'd still be an introvert, socially inept and fearful of other people. But God saw it fit to send me to Jeremiah School to meet all these amazing people, and patch me back together from all the broken pieces. Those whole six weeks played a big part in forming the person I am today, and defined my beliefs and values in life. These days I feel that it's the least I can do to keep an eye out for others in need of a friend, in need of someone to reach out to them, to get them to open up. I realise that not everyone gets the chance to meet people like the ones I met at JS, so I try to be that one friend to as many people as I can. For now, I believe that's the person God wants me to be. And if that's who God wants me to be, then of course that's the person I'm going to try my best to be. Regardless of what other people think of me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

You are worth more...

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
- Luke 12:6-7 (NIV).

Among Christians, the Holy Bible is also known as "God's word." We believe that the Bible has many authors but all of them were ultimately led by God to write those words down, and so the Bible is written, or inspired, by God, through men. When Christians read the Bible, they see it as God speaking to them through the Bible; the book is, after all, God's divine word. But I don't think God's word was reserved exclusively for Christians. God has something to say to everyone, especially non-Christians. I'm not especially trying to convert anyone to Christianity in an instant through this one verse - although I do pray that anyone who reads this will be turned closer towards God - and who knows, maybe God has something to say to you.

During His ministry, Jesus often spoke to large crowds at a time, teaching and encouraging them. On one such occasion, Jesus told them the above two quoted verses. The idea here is that God created the Earth and everything on it, the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move along the ground. And then He made "man". In His own image, He created them, male and female, to be special, to be put in charge of all the other creatures of the Earth (Genesis 1). But God didn't just poof up a planet and make us and then leave us alone to have at it. No, He watches over all His creation, all the time, lovingly and caringly. Sparrows are small and unimpressive birds, and yet we are told that God knows every one of them. How assuring it is to know that if God cares for even a sparrow, how much more so would He care for us! He knows the number of hairs on our head, the depths of our hearts, and His own plan for our life.

There may be some doubt or some insecurity as to whether God really watches over everyone. Is God's presence reserved only for really good Christians? What if I'm a non-believer, or if I haven't been a very good Christian lately? Well, think about this: Do sparrows read the Bible everyday? Do say their prayers every night and go to church on Sundays? Sarcasm aside, as surely as God created the sparrows and watches over them, so too will He watch over the people He created; of whom you are far from the least.

For you are worth more; more than many sparrows. Or as the Message version says it, you're worth more than a million canaries. Whenever everyone and everything around you just makes you feel hopeless and worthless, look up at the sky and see the sparrows, or indeed, any kind of bird that happens to be flying around there. Then remember how much you are worth to God, who created all the heavens and the earth, and yet watches over you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The responsibility of a child

As an 18-year-old college student who used to be an introvert until recently, I would be the first to admit that I'm no expert when it comes to the subject of relationships. But I'm starting to learn, and here's what I have learnt: the more you put into a relationship, the more you get out of it. It's a phrase that gets used often when discussing the subject of relationships, and I have discovered it to be true. Now, I'm still single, alright, so I'm not talking about romantic relationships here. But quite often, when we think that a relationship with a friend or a relative is at the bottom of a down curve, all it takes is a little effort on our part to get things going again.

Sure, a relationship is a double-sided thing, both sides of the relationship need to participate to make it work. But when you know that a relationship is slacking, whose going to be the first to pick up their end of the stick? It's easy to be selfish and to think, "They're friends with me, they should make more effort to spend time with me, listen to my problems, look out for my needs!" But don't you think that the other person might be thinking the exact same thing? Do they have any greater obligation than you to be a good friend to the other party? Otherwise, both sides of the relationship are just going to stop trying and things will never improve from there. A relationship that could have potentially been one full of trust and meaning would be lost forever, just like that. When it happens between friends, it's sad. When it happens between relatives, its tragic and could be devastating. Sometimes, all it takes is a little initiative from yourself, to make the other person feel like you care about them. It'll make you feel better, and they'll usually feel obliged to reciprocate. Things can only go uphill from there.

Some people are surrounded by a loving family and caring friends. Some may have only one but not the other, but for what they do have, it is crucial not to let it go to waste. Others may be surrounded by, as far as they're convinced, friends and family who as loving or caring as they wish they would be(and this may not necessarily be true). I am ashamed to admit that I fall into the third category. Having spent most of my life growing up with two sisters (and a third one these past few years), and me being the only guy, I haven't always been able to get along with them all that well. One of the things I used to whine to myself about back in those days was that "the other guys at school get to have brothers!" (Some people say the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but it seldom works when all the squeaking is done towards oneself. Not that asking my parents for a brother would have worked anyway. I was a right terror back in those days.) It took me a long time to realise that rather than constantly being at war with my sisters simply because they weren't my brothers wasn't going to make my life better. Instead, I decided I should try to get along with my sisters, because that might actually make my life easier.

So I started trying to live out my responsibilities as a member of the family. A lot of us learn all about this in school, in Moral class and "Sivik" class ("Civics" in Malay), but most of us dismiss it as a subject that you don't even need to pass to succeed in life. But these lessons are all useful, and I wish I'd picked up on them sooner. I started trying to be a good younger brother to my elder sister, a good big brother to my younger sisters, and a good son to my parents. I have heard that children play a crucial role in maintaining the happiness of the entire family. This would mean that any child in any family has a huge responsibility, whether or not they realise it. I have no evidence to show whether or not this is true, but it makes sense to me, and there is one thing I can say for sure: Whether or not it affected the rest of my family, I know that those times when I tried to be a better child of the family, I certainly felt a lot happier in their company.

In my opinion, it's reasonable to think that in a happy family, everyone is carrying out their responsibilities as a member. An orchestra sounds best when all play in tune, and a cart moves fastest when all horses pull in the same direction. For me, this meant I had to figure out what my proper responsibilities were as the only son. If memory serves, the whole process took months, and I think I've recorded some of it in my journal somewhere. But in the end, I figured I need to help my elder sister our in her duties as the Youth president at church, be a loving brother figure to both my younger sisters, especially the youngest one, and help my mom out around the house, by taking care of the youngest sister from time to time, for example. I don't know what the responsibilities of the other members of the family are. What I do know is, I know what my responsibilities to my family are, and I'm going to carry them out. I know my responsibilities as a child, and if I were to dismiss them, I would hardly have the (sense of) responsibility of a child.

Sometimes it's not that easy, though, to figure out one's responsibility towards a member of the family. For example, what am I supposed to do for my father? He's a great guy, working hard and enjoying his job as a doctor to raise our family, and he sent me to college to get an education and everything. What is there left that I can do for him? I've had a hard time figuring it out, and I still haven't figured it out yet. I actually asked him what he expects me to do for him, and all he said was "Study hard in college, don't get into trouble, be a good Christian." For some of us, that's all we need to do. Well, bar the Christian part for non-Christians. But one of the most basic responsibilities of a child is to do well in their studies so that they can secure a sustainable job and take care of their parents in later life. Fellow students, if you remember nothing from this blog post, remember at least this: You have to study hard and get a good job, and once you do, remember your parents. If you feel unmotivated or can't find a reason to study, think of your parents.
It's times like this that I realise how very, very young and inexperienced I am. I only know how it feels to be a son in a family, so I have limited advice and perspective when it comes to the roles of other family members. But one thing that I feel very strongly is that every family member's actions has a big impact on the whole family. The children are no exception. It is probably true to say that parents have the most influence in the family... but the children count too. If you're wondering what you, as a child, can do to make your family happier, start by changing the person you are most able to influence: yourself. Play your role in your family. The family will be happier, you will be happier, your life will be better. You should uphold your responsibility regardless of whether or not the other family members hold up theirs. Give it a try. Take the initiative and take up the responsibility of a child. It may have an indefinite effect on the happiness of your family.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blog reboot

So a lot has happened in this last month. About two months and one week ago, I wrote what I thought would be the last post in my blog ever. But then, last month I gained some insight on a subject which I thought was worth writing about. So after about two weeks of drafting, editing, and actually putting in some effort into what I was writing for my blog, my previous blog post was published on Thursday night. And you know what? This one was different. I actually felt excited when writing it, and when I finished, I actually really hoped that people would read it and benefit from it. Practically a first in all my days of blogging. It was then that I decided, you know what, maybe all hope is not lost and maybe there is still something in this whole blogging thing after all. Do try to read my previous blog post though, I'm very pleased about it.

At college yesterday I had the opportunity to chill with some of my classmates, who are all really nice people. We were all having fun chatting and studying for our exams and all, and I so happened to find out that one of my classmates, Giap Min (a.k.a. Sushi), had a blog as well. I know she's reading this right now, so: Hi Sushi, I read your blog. It's nice. Keep it up!
Also, a quick Google search revealed that another classmate of mine also has a blog. <At first I put his first name in this post, but not his full name. However, I think his blog was meant to be a secret, and some people might have been able to find it from here. If you're reading this, sorry man, this is the reason your blog might be less of a secret from a few people now!> . Yup, I found his blog on Google without his knowledge. Turns out I might have the ability to be a decent stalker, but I won't. I must use my powers for good, not evil.

Anyway, both of their blogs had one thing in common. Both of them used to have old blogs, but they made their current blog this year, starting afresh from post #1, as a symbol of starting a new life in college, so to speak. This intrigued me, and I wondered if I should make a new blog too. Not simply because of peer pressure or anything like that, but because I felt that I was about to start something new with my blog too, so why not make a brand new blog instead? After some thinking, I decided to stick to my old blog and just redecorate the whole thing to signify starting afresh. That way, my readers will easily be able to compare the old me and the new me by looking at older posts, and while my old self is not a person I am proud to be acquainted with, nevertheless, I have learned a lot from my past and others might too, so I shall be proud in my shame and not try to erase it from history. Also, it's less work compared to starting a new blog from scratch.

So what's new? I fleshed out a lot of the messy cluttering gadgets on the right sidebar. I loaded up a new background which in my opinion is a dozen times better than the old one, which was a wheat field with a moose standing in it. I replaced the old blog header picture with a new one of a leaf touching the surface of the water and creating a ripple. This is actually meant to be symbolic of what I hope to achieve with my blog. As stated in the blog description, one person's actions can lead to huge effects, oftentimes outside of their field of vision and without them realising it. This is known as the "ripple effect", and it's what I hope to achieve with my blog. Maybe my posts will have an effect on the people who read it, without my realising it. If I can make the world a better place, even slightly, by blogging, then who am I to say that I don't want to blog anymore? This is a huge contrast to my old vision of blogging two years ago, where I wrote whatever came to mind just for fun, and I put a moose as the blog header because I though the moose was a funny animal.

As part of the blog reboot, I was also considering changing the name of the blog to "The Ripple Effect", because that would fit in with the blog header picture and my blog's new goal, on top of just being pretty cool. But obviously, such a deep and meaningful phrase like "The Ripple Effect" would surely not have escaped the attention of a dozen other bloggers who also needed a nice blog title. Sure enough, a Google search revealed three other blogs titled "Ripple Effect" or something similar. One of them was about music, another was about education, and I have no idea what the last one was about. Oh well, so that name's already been taken. Such a shame, for it would have made the perfect title for my blog. Maybe if I had gotten my foot into the game half a dozen years ago, when blogging was starting to catch on, then I'd be able to have the blog title of my dreams. Oh well. As it is, my blog title currently remains unchanged, as does its web address. Which is just as well, because who knows when something or anything whatever else might happen, and I might feel like blogging about it, and the blog title still fits. "Everything" is a really big word.

Anyway, that's all for now, I guess. I'll try to blog more often and more meaningfully from now on. I'm a little excited about what I might be going to do with my blog from now on. Perhaps you are too. Well, maybe. I don't know how many people are still reading my blog. But even if only a handful of people ever read my blog, and only a fraction of those even gain anything from it, then so be it. If my blog has even a little potential to do something good, no matter how small the potential, then I'd be irresponsible not to maintain it. Therefore, maintain it I shall, and who knows what the future holds, other than God? I'm just gonna sign of here, and pray for the best. Whoever you are reading this, I hope to see you at my blog again soon, and thanks for reading. Smiley!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Giving up comfort

Different people sometimes have very different views and opinions about life. What life is about, what life is for, what you should do with your life. I was talking about this with a friend of mine while walking to dinner recently. His view of life is one that is held and even embraced by what I would consider to be a large majority of humans around the world, and yet his views were so different from mine. Even so, and quite unexpectedly, by having that conversation, I was able to learn a lot about myself and how I view life as a Christian. Never again will I belittle the significance of the act of initiating small talk on the way to dinner.

The conversation started normally enough, for a ragtag bunch of college students walking to dinner. We were talking about college life and what we were going to study that night and whatnot, and someone mentioned that college life was dull, with no excitement, and that college was just about studying all the time. The others seemed to agree, but I was astounded. INTI College, as a whole, seemed like quite a cheerful college to study in, to me. You know, friendly lecturers, cool classmates, interesting syllabi, and a couple of ping pong tables too. How could they possibly find college life dull? I asked one of them what he thought was an exciting life. He answered, half in jest, that an exciting life was about playing video games and killing virtual terrorists. Everyone laughed, because he was joking, after all. I used to be a video game junkie myself, so I understand where this is coming from. But jokes are often used as a cover for when you don't know what to really answer. So I pursued this train of thought.

I asked my friend a question: Which would you choose, a life of comfort where you don't have to work and everything just comes to you, or a life where you have to work? He answered that he would choose the life of comfort. For some reason, I just couldn't accept that. I have since realised, of course, that part of human nature just wants its comfort and doesn't want to get out there into the dangerous working world. But it didn't seem right to me. I didn't say anymore on the subject, but I had been given enough to think about that I was quite silent for the rest of the walk.

We didn't actually argue over any of this, but it gave me a lot to think about, and I argued it out within the confines of my own head for quite a while. Eventually I realised that I had been quite unfair in judging my friend in that way. There wasn't any actual conflict between us, but in my head there was, and I wanted to resolve it. I managed to do so by explaining to him the next day (also on the way to dinner) that because of my Christian lifestyle, I have a different worldview, and willingly give up my comfort for the sake of glorifying God.

Some of you may be Christians reading this, and you may disagree that being a Christian entails discomfort. Maybe you've learned the Prosperity Gospel. Maybe you're a young or new Christian, and have never thought about going out of the way of your comfort zone for Jesus. Now, I'm only 18, and far be it from me to try to act all holier-than-thou and give myself cred and fab by pulling out Bible verses. But I do have a few verses that at the very least support the idea that we are to risk our comfort for Jesus. For instance,
Luke 9:23: Then [Jesus] said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (NIV)
Based on my understanding, taking up one's cross gives the idea of going through difficulty, and willingly. For Jesus, taking up His cross meant dying by crucifixion on the cross He carried Himself, and so He died for our sins that we might live. Willingly.

Another possible Bible passage for this argument, possibly less in magnitude but still applicable, is Luke 18:18-23. The rich young ruler and Jesus. A young and rich Jewish leader asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. He had kept all the commandments in the Pentateuch since he was small. Jesus said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Jesus was asking a lot from this young man. He couldn't do it. He went away sad, for he was very rich. It wasn't enough for Jesus that the young ruler was a law-abiding Jew who kept all the commandments. Jesus wanted him to go out of his way and love those who were less fortunate than him; and in so doing, ultimately give up his riches, his security, his comfort.

Now, I'm not saying that all discomfort is right. Discomfort caused by unjust political oppression is not to be taken lightly. Nor are we to deprive ourselves for the empty purpose of lessening some emotional pain, in place of actually trying to resolve it. In the two passages I mentioned above, Jesus is talking about a very special act of giving up one's comfort. It is an act where we give up our personal comfort for the benefit of people other than ourselves, no matter how much it may inconvenience us. There is a very special word for giving up comfort in this way. It's called "sacrifice".

Now that the magic word has been introduced, hopefully the idea of giving up comfort no longer seems so unattractive to some of you. "Sacrifice". It's a word that we've heard many times, especially in context of what our parents have done for us, what friends are to do for us, and ultimately what Jesus has done for all of humankind. For each of us, our parents, whether biological or not, have sacrificed a lot of time, energy and comfort in working to sustain the family, giving us an education and bringing us up lovingly. Friends, especially those who are sincere and true, give up a lot for each other all the time, going the extra mile for one another.

On a much larger scope, Jesus allowed Himself to be led up the hill where he was murdered on the cross, so that the sins of all people on earth might be forgiven. We call that the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed his own life, so that we may have eternal life in heaven. This principle of sacrifice is not an easy one to live out, but it's one that I try hard to do everyday. I try my hardest to help out my friends, and not just when it's convenient for me, but even when it requires some sacrifice. I am still not able to sacrifice my comfort for my friends all the time, and sometimes I'm selfish. But I will try, all the time, not to make myself the most important person in my life. Everyone else becomes more important than myself. Life feels better that way. How I feel is, when you live to please yourself, you're working for someone who will never be satisfied. But when you live to help those whom you love, you're working for those who love you back, appreciate you, and give you significance.

I may be a bit "off-the-mark" on this next point. But I hope to some day be and have a family. I guess I make sacrifices for my future family, too. I study hard so that I will someday be able to be a good doctor, and sustain a family as well as help out patients who come to me when they're sick. This means that here in college, I don't fool around unnecessarily, and I have to give up video games and sometimes even sleep (although I don't advise losing sleep). I have a goal to reach, and I will sacrifice comfort today in order to reach it in the future. At the end of the day, I want to glorify God in my life, and I can do so through my job and my family. But I won't be able to get there without some sacrifice.

At the end of the day, humans are selfish and desire comfort for themselves. I am no exception, and no one is an exception, really. Because I'm human, all I can do is try always to be less selfish and more outward-looking, but if I'm not careful, that selfish little imp inside me will jump back out again and start trampling all over my life. Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant church, once said that sin is the self bending in on the self. It's a vicious cycle, fuelling a painful flame that is always hungry. But when we become less important in our eyes, and everyone else becomes more important, the cycle breaks. I truly think that life is better like that. Perhaps you disbelieve me? Why not give it a try, for a day, a week, or a month? You may be surprised by what you experience, putting others above yourself, and giving up comfort for their benefit.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How in the world did I get here?

I can't remember what caused it exactly, but a few weeks ago I was just messing around in the hostel at Penang, and I thought to myself, "I'm really not creative." I don't know what caused it, I just happened to think that thought to myself and continued on from there. I'm like that sometimes.

This blog, my blog, has been up for almost two years now. That's almost two years of boring people to death with my aimless and random blog posts. During these almost-two-years, I have also changed a lot. Nowadays I look back at things that I did when I was in Form 4 two years ago and I think to myself, "Now why in the world did I think doing that would be a good idea?"

And then I look at my blog, and I start thinking to myself.

Why in the world did I think starting a blog would be a good idea?

Now, I want to say this: Whenever I look back on my past mistakes and bad decisions, I do so with a light heart. What's done is done, regretting over all my little mistakes isn't going to make anything better, but by thinking back about all those little mistakes, I learn about myself, from myself, through myself. Wow, "chim". That's Chinese for "deep". But anyway, I'm not upset about all those decisions I made in the past. I am actually quite glad that I've had all these past experiences which have made me into who I am today, and from which I can learn much. I look upon my past with a kind of smirk. You know how sometimes people say, "Someday when we're older we'll look back on it, and we'll have a really great laugh"? That's the position I find myself in now. I did some silly childish things, and today they make memories which I choose not to condemn.

Okay, that was all a bit too chim now. But I wonder to myself, why did I start my blog in the first place? Well, okay, I know the answer to that question well enough. I actually answered it in my first-year-anniversary-blog post. Well, yes, I was young and foolish and had no idea what I was doing. I would never try doing something so major for such a minor reason again. However, while that does answer the question of how my blog came into existence, another question still remains. What do I do with my blog now? I mean, look at all those professional bloggers. They can post chim stuff all the time without having to feel awkward about it. And they do so with style. Intro here, bring up the topic of concern, build up and argument, and then wham! knock everyone off their feet with a solid rebuttal, and finally, a conclusion that leaves everyone with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Nah, I can't do anything like that. I'm a Science student, for goodness's sakes!

But how about all my creative writing? I have two theories as to how I was actually able to write good compositions in Secondary school. First possibility, when I was in Secondary school, I followed the theory of writing. The teachers taught us how to arrange our essays in such a way that it would form a well written composition, and because of that theory of writing, I was able to do reasonably well. I didn't actually have any writing talent, I was just taking in everything that the teachers taught us (for which I am forever grateful, and I would like to forward endless thanks to all of my teachers), and spewed it back out during the exam following the best traditions of secondary education.

The second possibility is that I'm tragically delusional, and all my writings especially the short stories are basically just pieces of cardboard with frosting on top. If you don't believe me, just try reading for yourself some of the short stories I posted on the blog. No, on second thought, don't. Some of them are such tragedies that I can't even look back on them with even a thought of a smile. Nope, not even the ones that are supposed to be funny.

Well, what did I expect when I created this blog? I'm a Science student. The few times when I do post blogs, I mostly make them for laughs, like junk food: Nice, but lacking any actual content at all, and proven to be bad for your health. Well, okay, I don't know about the last one, but your reading this from in front of a computer right? And computers emit radiation, so there.

I think the main reason why I'm writing all this is because I'm trying to bring myself to accept the fact that there's not much more I can do with this blog anymore. Yup, I had my high times and my low times, and I've been through a lot with this blog, and some posts have even raked in a pretty impressive page view count, in my opinion. But those days are long gone, and I've been trying to recreate my blog's success by trying to identify what made those few posts so widely-read and then repeating it in another post, but it doesn't work. Now some of you are sitting on the edge of your seat as you read this, thinking at me, "Hurry up and just say that your ending the blog, so that we can crack open the champagne and celebrate." Hah, not a chance. I'll be stuck with you guys for a while more, I think. I'll never officially put down the blog, because that would be like giving up and admitting defeat, something that I will never allow myself to do. But I am accepting that my blog isn't going to be much of a success here on out. Heck, what defines a successful blog anyway? For me, it's a few hundred followers and a thousand page views everyday, but does that actually mean anything? No, because I don't advertise on my blog, so I'm wouldn't get any money from all of that anyway. Kidding. But I might just swing by and annoy everyone with another cardboard blog post every now and again.

Until then, enjoy life and keep your heads up! I imagine for some of you that the world seems so much brighter after the end of my blog post. After, not during. Like, "I'm so glad it's finally over". Ha ha ha.

Oh, it's been a while since I did one of these quotes at the end of the post, but I think I'll bring one out today:

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your trust in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God." ~Psalm 42:5.

Yeah, that's nice.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Left 4 Dead 2: The power of Stringed Instruments


*watching my friends play Left 4 Dead 2*

Me: So this game is just about shooting zombies with guns?
Friend: Yeah, basically. *picks up new gun, shoots zombies*
Me: Aren't there any other weapons you can use, other than guns?
Friend: Um, look. Here's a guitar. *discards gun, picks up guitar*
Me: Oh.
Me (thinking to self): ("It's the power of music. He's going to strum the guitar and music notes are going to stream out the other end, killing zombies with the sheer power of music.")
Friend: *swings guitar, bashes a zombies head wide open*

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just dropping by...

Hey guys, I bet you're all kind of like wondering where I've been and all right? Well maybe not right. But I'm going to tell you where I've been whether you were wondering about it or not! So there.

I haven't been blogging for quite some time because I just recently entered into College last month. On the first day of April to be exact, and no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke. I'm in INTI College Penang taking the Cambridge A-levels course. The three sciences and mathematics. I don't exactly have what you would call a whole lot of free time these days, which is why I haven't been blogging much... and I probably won't be able to continue blogging regularly for a while too...

But Why am I here blogging this right now if I'm so busy, you may ask? Well, that's because I'm actually here on my assignment. Okay, well, not here on my assignment exactly. But you know, like, how you always log on to Facebook to discuss an assignment or homework with your friends over chat, but you end up scrolling through the newsfeed and reading your messages at the same time? Don't worry, I get it. That's pretty much what's happening here too. I was on blogger just a while ago working on an "assignment blog" for my Bio class. Yes, and assignment blog. For Bio. Our Bio teachers are really cool teachers. They were all like, "Okay, you guys are going to form groups of 5, and each of you choose a disease and make a blog about it. This will count towards your final marks." And I was all like, "Hey, I already got a blog and all, this will be a piece of cake!" So I got out my laptop, started on the blog, and, well, kind of strayed over here too in the process. But that's okay, because you guys are glad to see me again, right? Right?

Whatever. So, yeah, we only got the assignment yesterday and I've been working on it since - don't worry, not continuously... I didn't pull an all-nighter if that's what you're thinking - and right now, the assignment blog is 20% complete, approximately! We've settled on a design and layout for our blog, and we've gotten together and recorded an introductory video for all of us. Now we just have to fill it up with Bio stuff, and we're done!

So I was thinking, if you're curious to know what's got me so busy recently, or if you just want to see what our assignments are like in college, or if you want to find out what kind of people I'm working on this project with, or if you just want to hear my voice for the first time, then I'll just post the link to my assignment blog right here! yay

We are The INTI Bio Boys, and we will be blogging about Lung Cancer. Do drop by if you want to, and perhaps I'll be blogging back here again once this is all over.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Well. That's it then. (General Elections 2013)

Now, I know what you're thinking as you read this. Day after general elections 2013, scrawny Malaysian teenager who's too young to vote wakes up in the morning opens up his laptop only to be met with outcries of corruption and dirty trickery in the elections. What else does he do but run to his little pet blog which no one cares about and unload a kilometre-long rant about I'm-going-to-leave-this-country this, and the-government-is-noob that, and democracy-is-dead whatever else. And its written in a way that makes the people who read it feel upset and angry and want to pick up pitchforks and torches and storm the istana.

No offense to anyone, but I don't think storming the istana is going to really solve anything. In fact, I'm going to approach this highly-sensitive topic with such an attitude of calmness and peacefulness that some of you are going to hate me for it. At first I was actually going to just keep silent about the issue, not say anything about it. It's such a difficult thing to comment about, I mean no matter what you write, there are going to be people who strongly and violently disagree and may never visit your blog again just because of what you said. But I figured, what was the original reason I made my blog? To have a place to write down my thoughts on everything going around me. Not to accumulate page views.

To be honest, I never really paid close attention to any of the elections before this. I knew that BN had been holding on to the federal government all this time, but that was about it. This time round, however, with all the cries of Ubah going around and all, I decided to be a bit more serious for this elections. Learning about Parliament and the text-book concept of democracy and all. And I thought to myself, well, democracy is about the people choosing the government, and anyone the people thinks is suitable stands a chance to win, right? Well then, if the opposition wins this time round, that would be great. But not because I'm particularly opposed to the government, nor because the opposition appears to me to be the country's only hope. I merely thought it would be great for the opposition to win because it would at least prove that the concept of democracy is alive and well. I mean, the whole concept of democracy is that "the people can choose to change the government". So if the government hasn't changed up to now, the country has only been democratic by name alone. What I really hoped for these elections was that the government would be able to embrace the concept of democracy. To not be sore losers. To be willing to let the opposition win.

Rather naïve of me, wasn't it?

I don't know why, but I really didn't care about Ubah and all that. I really didn't mind if Najib continued to be the Prime Minister. But wait, didn't I just say I hoped the opposition would win? Well, yes, I did. But not because I thought they were better than the government. When you get right down to it, no government is perfect. If PR had won, did you think that all the country's problems would be solved? Snap your finger and click you heels and poof, we have a perfect country, well done Anwar? Not likely. In my opinion, both the opposition and the government have as much cause and ability to bring about the development that everyone wants. Whether or not they actually choose to do so is another matter, but in the matter of fulfilling promises, I'm not sure that the opposition would have been any better at it than the government. There's just no way to be sure. The opposition would undoubtedly have had its faults as well. This general elections, I wasn't looking for the perfect government. I was looking for the one that had the people's support. Because that's what democracy is about.

I woke up this morning knowing little about what had happened last night. I went to bed after BN had won majority. But I turned on my Facebook and saw blackout this, and bangla-foreign-workers that, and a whole lot of rants and anger and black profile pictures and whatever else. Not a great way to start your day, let me tell you that. I wasn't upset because opposition had lost. I hope I've made my reasons there clear. I was upset because the government hadn't upheld the concept of democracy. The people are the ones who choose the next government. Why aren't we allowed to exercise even that simple right that we have as citizens of this country? I don't care about political parties, but I do love the country, and the country is democratic. Take democracy away from our country, and what do we have left?

But all hope is not lost. As I continued scrolling along my Facebook, I came across many prayers to God to save this country from corruption. There was also the encouraging reminder that God is always in control. Then there was also a petition for UN to investigate the corruption in the GE13 in Malaysia. Our current government may have put themselves in a tougher position that they can handle on this one. To all the people who remain hopeful during this dark time, and to those who have been helping the spread the news about the petition, I say, good job! You bring light to us during this nationwide blackout.

I don't think I'll be wearing black or putting tape over my mouth any time soon though. Don't get me wrong, I see that people are against this corruption, and they aren't afraid to show it, and I think that's a great thing. People should be bold enough to speak up and object to the failure of the government to protect the concept of democracy during this general elections. But the government really won't be bothered much by it. How often has the government, or any government in the world for that matter, looked at a group of protestors and thought to themselves, "Hey, maybe they're right and I'm wrong, and I should go apologise to them now?" Not very many, unfortunately. Hate to be pessimistic, but that's just how it is. However, protests like these are still great ways for people to collectively voice out and let the government know that hey, we have feelings too, so you better watch it if you want to stay another five years. Either way, if this UN petition works out, the government won't be able to bribe their way out of this one.

As a closing note, I wish to reiterate that all hope is not lost! Democracy may have been killed in these general elections, but as long as the country remains at least democratic by name, democracy will keep coming back to life every time we're given the chance to vote during elections. And if the accusations of corruption in these elections are successfully proven, then the country will have to have elections again, or something like that, right? And when the next elections come by, we know who to vote for. To those of you who are reading this who support (or supported) the government this elections, please do not be blind to what is going on in our country. BN may or may not be capable of developing the country, but consider whether or not they deserve to have the privilege if these allegations are true. To those of you who support PR, you're probably really angry and upset over what's been going on, and I understand. Everyone understands. The petitions and signatures have been going out, and the matter will undoubtedly be looked into before long. So just sit tight, remain hopeful, and please, please, please don't pick up your pitchforks or do any pillaging of nearby villages. We know you're upset, but that's no excuse to disrupt the peace. You could wear black and participate in the silent protest, but don't lose hope, and don't lose tempers.

Also, to those who have been putting pure-black profile pictures on Facebook, again, it's great that you dislike corruption. But don't you think that everyone's mood is already bad enough without your highly discouraging profile pictures like that? Does your black profile picture represent the complete and utter dark hopelessness that you feel in your heart now? Don't be so emo lah! I saw something that really encouraged me. Among all the Facebook newsfeed of people changing their profile pictures to black, there was one guy who decided that black profile pictures were too mainstream. His new profile picture has one important distinguishing feature next to all the others: his picture was that of a black background, but with a light bulb in the center, providing light where there would have otherwise been nothing but total darkness. Yet another friend of mine had a black profile picture which was actually a photo of a black night sky, and there was a shooting star in the middle of it. There is still hope, there is still light in the darkness, as long as we keep on fighting. Come on, then! Do something to lift the moods of your Facebook friends!

If you wanted to know about the UN petition, you can find it by clicking right here. There's also a petition to the White House (here), but it's already got twice the number of signatures it needs, and in just less than a day. Amazing. This is what 1Malaysia is truly about; not uniting to defend the government, but uniting to defend the country. (Not sure what good the Whitehouse one will do now though.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who, me? Scared? Ha hah hah... ha hah... hah... hmm... (Genting Highlands Ghost House)

My church recently organized a camp for youths, held at Genting Highlands. Those who paid attention gained experiences and lessons that will lead them and guide them through life etc. etc. etc., but mostly everyone was just looking forward to the last day of camp when we would get to got to the Genting Highlands theme park.

Oh yes, the theme park was great. Unfortunately, we only had three and a half hours to spend there, so the campers were advised to stick to the indoor theme park. Me and a group of friends had a great time there, spending an illogical amount of money on lunch, watching busking magician shows and freezing our ears off in the snow house, which was all well and good. But the most exciting thing we did there, since we didn't get to sit on the roller coasters, was the visit to the Ghost House.

Unfortunately, no pics.

But the experience in itself impressed itself in my mind, so I don't think I'll need any pics to remember them anyway. I took on the dark and tentative walk through the Ghost House with one of my closest friends and two girls. I'm quite blur on how exactly we ended up with this arrangement. We were a group of eight, and when we bought the tickets they told us that we would only be allowed in four by four. The two girls immediately jumped in and said that me and my friend were to be their escorts. I mean, it's not that I object to being taken advantage of for my homely and protective nature. It's just that, as I stood before the entrance with the girls behind me and a dark unknown corridor with cryptic noises emanating from it in front of me, I wished I could have had more time to think whether or not I agreed in the first place.

But it wasn't really all that bad, at first. I mean, we had seen one of the ghosts walking around the plaza and handing out pamphlets when we were waiting to buy our tickets. After all, the plain reality is that the spooky noises are really just recordings. Along the corridor were windows and doors and such things through which we vengeful zombie murders taking place in front of our eyes, but it was really just a video of a couple of actors doing what they do best, being replayed on a cleverly-designed TV screen. The sound of gunfire and the spray of blood in the dark was really just a balloon popping and a fine jet of cold mist. The ghosts that jump out from corners and give chase down the long and dank corridors are just ordinary people like you and me who have been hired to scare people and they really won't and can't hurt you, and as part of their job they get to leave their haunt to hand around pamphlets to the people in the plaza downstairs.

All these realizations taking place in my head, plus the laser light gun they gave us for the journey, and the natural masculine inclination to appear macho in front of the girls, granted me an unusual kind of courage. I lead us through the haunted house, keeping cool and concentrated throughout the whole stretch of the walk. When the first ghost jumped out at me, I pointed my gun at him and laughed at his face. The whole thing was really amusing to me.

Can't say the same for the girls though.

My friend was protecting the girls from the back, and he did it well for the first half of the journey. But then the ghosts started chasing us. Then I had to keep yelling at him to stay at the back, stay at the back.

I once read that people sometimes confuse feelings of fear for infatuation, meaning that people fall in love with other people in scary situations. I'm compelled to disagree. When you're running away from ghosts in a dark corridor with people shouting at each other and balloons popping next to you and water being sprayed in your face, romantic intentions are not likely to be your main concern at that time.

I actually made my way through the ghost house with a steady and brisk pace, focusing on nothing but the lights we were supposed to shoot with our laser guns and thinking how to get the girls out of there as quickly as possible. I was only briefly aware of the constant thudding and bumping noises and the fake skeleton props. After the first zombie-murder-screen, from which I received a full share of blood water in my face, I crouched and continued walking like in Counterstrike whenever I saw another screen. When the ghosts started chasing, I blocked out all senses and focused on finding my way and leading us through the dark maze. When we got out the other end, I was cheerful. The girls hadn't burst into tears, thankfully, and my friend was shaken but he would recover. I actually applauded them for their bravery, and happily led them down from the Ghost House to go see a magic show and calm their nerves.

Yep, I was perfectly unaffected by the entire Ghost House.

Of course, when you're walking through a dark, unfamiliar corridor all alone three hours later, it's a different story.

Yeah, yeah. It wasn't until later that night that the effect of what I had been through finally caught up with me. I open a door into a dark room in my house, and the haunting atmosphere of the Ghost House replays in my mind. The insides of my ears replay all the noises I had ignored back then, and my memory's eyes saw the zombies...

So I turned on the lights. Okay, laugh at me. I deserve it, really.

Fear is a complex, useful, wonderful thing. It gives you an adrenaline rush today, and makes you roll up on the floor and cry tomorrow. It also scrambles all your other emotions, which can either sharpen your senses, or make you lose yourself and your mind. It's what helped humans outrun tigers in the days long gone, and it's the main lever used by corrupted politicians in today's world. But at the end of the day, it just feels pretty darn good.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Viewing Life as One Big Story

Not too long ago, I read a book titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller. Some may recognise the author by one of his other books, Blue Like Jazz, his memoirs which became a best-seller and was adapted into a movie. This book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, actually tells the story of how Don's view of life was changed as he worked with Steve and Ben to adapt his memoirs into a movie.
I am fully aware that the concept may sound a bit spectacular and unbelievable the way I put it, but it's true. As Don learns about the elements of a good story from Steve and Ben as they work on converting his memoirs into a movie, Don learns a lot and does a lot of reflecting, hence resulting in the creation of this book. The core of the message in the book is how Don learns to look at life as a story.
Some stories are good, while others are not so good. Sometimes you watch a movie or read a story book, and at the end of it you come away thinking "What was that all about?" and you forget all about the story by breakfast the next morning. On the other hand, some movies keep your eyes wide open throughout the whole two hours of it, or some books are so gripping that you lose track of time and accidentally pull off an all-nighter because you simply couldn't put the book down and go to sleep without seeing the end of the story. At last, when it's all over, you come away from the theatre/book thinking "That was amazing."
Don compares the elements of a good story to the elements of a good life. He writes of how to live a full and complete life, challenging yourself and taking on tasks that seem to great to accomplish. Basically, he write on how to live your life so that when it's over, people around you don't start looking at each other blankly and ask "What was that all about?"
So what makes a good story? "A good story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." Quoted from the book. It's quite as simple as that. Think of all the great epics and fantasy movies you've seen in your time. Sure, there are subplots and twists and clichés that make one story vary from another, but when you dig right down to the roots, you find that this is the driving force behind all good stories. A character. Who wants something. And overcomes conflict. To get it.
Every main character in every story has a goal, whether or not they realise it. Sometimes they only become consciously aware of what they are trying to achieve halfway through the story. And the story often revolves around the pain, and suffering that the character goes through, to be finally crowned with the triumphant victory of achieving his goal in the last chapter of the book. The story is set in motion by the existence of a goal which the character must achieve. This is closely tied together with real life. If you don't have a goal in your life, your story stagnates. You end up not doing anything. No one wants to watch a movie of a man who doesn't do anything. At the same time, you may set a goal in your life, for instance, losing weight (we can start small, no problem). You may never get down to doing it, in which case it wouldn't make a much better story than if you didn't even have a goal in the first place. To get the good story going in your life, you set a goal for yourself and force yourself to get started on it. Once the ball gets rolling, you keep rolling it until you cross the finish line, and then you have a story.
And that's just the first part of the book. In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Don focuses more on the relation between life and movies rather than literature. So what makes the difference between a good movie and a great movie? Here we delve into the depth of "memorable scenes", "goals with high stakes" and "pain and suffering" etc. etc. etc. I won't attempt to summarise the whole book in one blog post. The best thing to do would be to read the book yourself, because Don Miller himself can explain everything better than I ever could. To use a suitable cliché to end my talk of stories, once you read that book, you will never look at life the same way again.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Balance between mental/physical exhaustion/activity

When I've spent the day cracking books, reading and studying, or sitting behind a computer doing some work of some sort, I feel like I need to get outside and get some blood flowing. You know, "exercise". That thing people do to stay healthy by using bicycles and swimming pools and what not.

Conversely, when I've spent the day doing stuff, getting around, talking to people and things like that, I want to relax at home and read a good novel, or watch an interesting show on Discovery channel. I want to stay in the house and just "absorb", as I like to call it. Mental activity rather than physical.

When I think about it, it's kind of interesting how things balance out. When I've spent all day on a chair, forcing my brain to take in or dish out information, my body starts feeling sluggish, and I want to do some physical activity to clear the blood vessels. On the other hand, after tiring myself out by going from place to place and talking to different people (which drains me as I have recently discovered) I don't want to go anywhere anymore. I just want to rest and let my mind take in new information from my surroundings at it's own pace.
In other words, when I'm mentally exhausted, I want to occupy myself with physical activity, and when I'm physically exhausted, I want to occupy myself mental activity. Actually, the latter is the reason why I'm blogging right now. I don't know if that's how other people feel, but this occurred to me just a while ago, and I thought it's funny how it works out.

The phrase "getting away from a hectic lifestyle" does not mean bugging out on the couch with a coke, chips, and rented movie. Taking a brisk cycle with nature or reclining back to study a classic work of literature might seem a bit like "work", but it's all really in the mind. An ideal job is doing something you like, but with more deadlines. A hobby is doing something you like that might be considered work, except without deadlines. Personally, I wouldn't bug out on a couch with a bag of chips when I have free time unless the day has been a really nasty one, in any sense of the word "nasty". I don't know why I'm telling you this. Just felt like saying it. Now you know a bit more about me. Congrats.