Category Archives: Notebook

NOTEBOOK 10: ALL LIVING ARE KINDS OF RELATIONSHP

NOTEBOOK 10: ALL LIVING ARE KINDS OF RELATIONSHP

I was sipping my piccolo latte at Express Lab reading a small booklet by Krishnamurthi Foundation of America. Decades ago I formed K.I.C.K. (Krishnamurthi Information Centre,Klang), with the intention of encouraging Malaysians to read his work. There was some initial interest, but that fire could not be sustained for long. I owe my intellectual debt to two people, both dead and still much alive: the Buddha and J. Krishnamurthi. I have not read both for a long time. In fact I found people who read too many were often entangled by quotes that had no meaning in them. In a living teaching, you always feel it inside you. The Noble Eightfold Path was the art of balancing your faculties to face the changing self and world, with your awareness of “what is”. It is important to learn that all living is relationship of one kind or another, happiness, sad etc. To relate well is to be able to tell your story, good or bad, sad or happy. And you like to share your stories with your listeners, but they may like to hear your sad side, or your gossips more than your positive tales. In Malaysia, the dominant may not like to listen to the narratives of the suppressed. The Japanese are not keen to listen to past hurt and grouses of the Chinese and other Asians. Americans can only relate if they are in a superior dominant status. All these negativity are due to fear. They hold the relationship with wrong expectation and hope. Even in dyad relationship, each partner has different story to narrate, and often it is difficult to verbalise them. The mirror of relationship is thus a reflection and discovery of oneself. In other words, relationship is self knowledge, according to my understanding. In a difficult relationship even with old buddies, we need to attune ourselves and balance the changing conditions. We don’t have much time to be diplomatic and nice. We need to select and again choice must be made.

NOTEBOOK 9: THE LITERARY ROAD TO NOWHERE

NOTEBOOK 9: THE LITERARY ROAD TO NOWHERE

 

My second poetry book will soon be published after some hiccups.  The publishers simply refuse to look at poetry manuscripts, for there are no market sales at all for that genre.  Even if authors were to pay for their own publication first, the interest in displaying those books in their shelves was lacking. Without connections, Malaysian writers in English, have no prospect of printing or selling their books in their home country, unless authors double as merchants.  For my first book, I could sell a hundred or more in my clinic, but with retirement, that task becomes more difficult. Fortunately, I do not have to depend on writers’ income for a living.

It is a fact that Malaysians do not read much at all, and the standard of English is declining to the point of no return.  My second poetry book will be my last print in that genre. Despite this, I have to consider writing in other genre, or give up creative writing completely.  How do Malaysian writers help to improve proficiency in the language if we remain passive? The problem is simply too big for me.  I could only do my best before the onset of dementia. How do I code switch to another genre, and in a language simple enough for our young ones to read and understand?

I ask myself to name the most important element in each genre. Plot is the essence of fiction; audience is important in drama; message is my elixir in poetry; clarity is sine quo non in the fourth genre. All creative writing requires all these elements, plus the flow, imagery, forms and skills. Maybe non-fiction will be my choice, even though I hardly read books on that, except in my MA English programme.  For a beginner, the guides of experts do help; in brevity the five Rs: namely, reading, research, reflection, reality and review.  In a digital world, that genre could be learned without incurring much financial expenses.  A mixed genre, poetry with non-fiction, would be an appeal. I require friends in the web community for help and feedbacks. Bless me in my retiring years ahead. Thank you.

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THE BUDDHIST MIDDLE PATH TO CHILDREN :NOTEBOOK NO 8

Recently we brought our grandchildren to a Buddhist Dharma class, the primary 1 asked, “what is Middle Path?“ It is a simple fundamental question that defies replies that can be understood by young children. Most adults will reply, it is about avoiding both extreme, the Four Noble Truth or Eight Noble Path. It is heuristic, almost automatic association. They are certainly not wrong in stating that, but these replies are really hard to understand, and further explanation begets more and more confusion. For instance, if we persist in pursuing the queries, what are the extremes (polar), the replies go into circular thoughts, or we get words substitution, such as neither optimistic or pessimistic, but realistic or truth. It is easy to get lost in too many words, and Zen masters will warn against over dependence on words. Not infrequently, we find creativity at the extreme or edge; it is in the extreme that the Middle Path is re-discovered. We read stories of saints (Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng) who attained instant enlightenment, without the gradual processes.
The Pali word, anta, is translated as extreme, which means away from the middle, radical. This is the circularity that we can be caught within. I recalled that the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw once explained that the word be translated as “parts”, and as lay believers, thinking and acting in “parts” had tendencies to err into extremes. Even the popular word, “holistic”, are, in reality, a bigger division of parts, in a wider context. My understanding is, due to one’s limitation, the “parts” render us fallible, and we need to be more humble to listen and to learn. It is thus not possible to be “whole”, without being holy. It is not the seeking of perfection and absolute answers, but simply to be aware that in a changing world, holistic is also relative and referential. If the Buddha taught that all conditioned things were impermanent, then how could the teaching or imparting of dharma, remained same? Nevertheless, all such discussions are too confusing for the child.
The “Middle Path” was also explained as balance, as in a see-saw, except it might be more multifactorial. So what are we to “balance”? Do we mean balance the five faculties, the three divisions of morality, concentration and wisdom? When faith and energy are in excess, one might become a religious zealot, and turned into a terrorist. It had to be mindfully balanced with right focusing of thinking and understanding. Do we balance secular responsibility with spiritual commitment? Or, do we balance “time” with “events”, that is quantity and quality time with work, family and children, and leisure? These musings are all “parts , and need to be integrated into a more systematic way of living. The art is learning to place each part rightly at the appropriate time and event. The dharma is just a tool to assist such right placing with minimal effort. Again, it will be difficult for children to understand such forum. Is the Middle Path about balancing good faith, feeling and thinking in the Triple Gem? To put it plainly, do good, refrain from being naughty, show love and kindness to others. I think these themes are easy and appropriate to teach young children, in songs, drawing, and daily actions. We need to write more dharma stories that are relevant with time, culture and society, and with child psychology and development in mind. Child pedagogy is never an easy task. I will be grateful to receive suggestions, even from other faith.

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NOTEBOOK 7

‘NOMAD: FROM ISLAM TO AMERICA. A PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATION” Hirsi Ali, Ayaan (2010) Simon & Schuster, UK.

I was reluctant to read this book initially when it was passed to me. I was reading other books and did not wish to be interrupted. My friend purchased this book at “Times”, a local book shop. He said he was surprised it was not banned, despite the Islamic phobia and war drum beating in the media. Malaysia still has press freedom, and the target readers for the book are presumably non-Muslims.

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris wrote their reviews in the book cover, and these names do sound the bell. I think these authors are all atheists, including the authoress, whereas I am an apatheist. (A neologism meaning spiritual atheist, and who don’t bother what other people believe or don’t). Whatever labels we may attach to our belief system, it depends on our understanding of the word, “religion” (re, meaning repeated, or start afresh; ligare, meaning set of doctrines that bind the believer, or contemplation). In other words, atheists can also be tied to their own doctrine or philosophies, and they have their own faith too. Let us assume we are capable to start afresh, and the author is metaphorically dead (Barthes), we proceed to discuss the text in the dynamics of our own living in a Muslim world, where Malay politicians are constantly beating racial octanes and yet the others be reminded that their religion is one of peace and compassion (the root meaning of his word means passion or grief with the others; how do one listen while Baca aloud!).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is lucky enough to escape from Somalia, but uncertain whether she is a new prisoner in her adopted country, for she lives in constant fear of being killed by her own people/faith, and she has body guards all the time. She may have overcome the obstacles of family integration in “money, sex and violence”, but this triple suppression is present in all societies, in more or lesser extent and in varying contents.Her first few chapters are her own auto-biography (her nomadic lives and flight from Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Holland, and finally America), and her relationships with her father (an intellectual “radical opposition” returned to old faith), mother and siblings. There is no doubt she is a woman of great courage and wisdom to choose her own marital partner (she is sent by her father to marry a stranger in Canada, and she escapes on her passage) and life. Her book also aspires to rescue the suppressed women in her native land and elsewhere. I am uncertain whether the woman folks elsewhere will agree with her narration about the sexual and domestic violence, and the genital excision, for Somalia is perhaps more tribal. Indeed many of our privileged people here are obsessed with sex, money and power and religious and gender supremacies are just pretexts. Even Hilary Clinton and western liberal feminists cannot share her sentiments openly. Her book is an open invitation for western government and NGOs to help, but her suggestions are not easy to follow without creating further chaos.
Let us explore some of her “remedies”. She advises reverse evangelization. This may be possible in western countries in secular schools or NGOs, whereas in our world, it will be chaos. The Muslims can convert the other into their faith but it will be apostasy (punishable by death) for them to embrace another religion. The heads will be missing not just cheeks and tongue. Even Germaine Greer, Australian feminists, is diplomatic enough to comment it is “tricky” on cultural issues. Any evolution or revolution has to work within, not outside. They fight and kill each other due to differences of interpretation, despite holding the same Holy book. May be western countries can educate their children in secular schools and NGOs. Education alone is not a sure fortress against extremism. The free welfare and social services require more creative thinking and invitation of religious leaders, foreign instead of home grown, require caution. Regarding self radicalization, American and western countries are not without blame, in the de-stabilization of regimes in the Middle East and other Muslim World. Neoliberalism has its merit, and, it’s idiocy to praise diversity without insight of its danger. They often insert their noses into wrong rabbit holes. Mindsets are resistant to change, when the conditioning begins early and the rituals are re-enforced in daily prayers. This applies to other religion too. To change the other without changing our old habits of thought are equally ineffective. If we persist in looking at differences or tolerate what cannot be tolerated, there will be more clash of civilization. We need to have more shared similarities, shared destiny and wealth, and they are easier said than done. So what will you do? Some may choose to migrate to another land and to find the same scenario. The Muslims world occupies a quarter of the world population and their numbers multiply at a faster rate. Critics often point out that Nazism erupted because the church and liberals tolerated all this quietly and passively before the onslaught. Yet today the Americans and western countries are tolerating the budding of militarism in the East because they have imaginary allies and enemies. The division of humanity into polar opposite camps, with political and military hegemony, are not without danger.

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Yesterday was my second anniversary of using Word Press, without paying any fees. I thank them for that. In another two months, when I retire fully, I shall have no income at all, except some dividends from EPF, shares, and saving. In this country, it is difficult to earn a living as a writer, and poets are passé, liked street photographers in yester years. I shall write a few random thoughts for this anniversary.

President Barrack Obama visits Malaysia today. Uncertain whether such a visit is to be interpreted as a blessing or curse. People lined the streets to welcome him, so are protesters. The American government is notorious for destabilizing countries, and even their president lied about WMD. The administration is uncertain which is more important: sovereignty or human rights violations. The logic depends on which side the US fancies, and their skewed view of history, so long as it stays in perpetual supremacy, for instance, Ukraine and Russia, China and Japan controversies, they don’t keep promises.(Potsdam Declaration, for instance) The US is too powerful and it’s best for other countries to adopt a kind of ambivalence towards them: love their education, science and technology, but hate its double or triple standards.

Hong Kong residents show unnecessary vehemence towards mainland Chinese for pissing in public places, despite they are also Chinese, with or without Anglo-Saxon DNAs, and they depend on the mainlanders for tourism and trade. They bite the fingers that milk them. Some of the city Chinese get their wealth too fast, and their attiudes are bad, but HK residents do not meet the good Chinese who have no money to visit them. I am not defending people who piss in public places. I remembered some years back when I visited Hong Kong. I purchased a few books from a local bookshop. The shop keeper would not allow me to use their toilet despite being a purchaser, and the public toilet facilities were too few and far apart, and the notices were hardly visible for visitors. Had I not paid the bill, I would throw the books back to them . There are always two sides of the story; they are prejudicial towards their own kind. I hope they can learn from Singapore, or even Malaysia, where clean toilets are seen everywhere for free. Urgency is natural and physiological, and fancy, the HK shop owners don’t reckon this as human rights violations.

I have been reading Lee Kuan Yew’s “One Man’s View of the World”. I think it will be wise for every Malaysian and Singaporean to read the two relevant chapters on their countries. To paraphrase his view, the dominant political ideology in Malaysia will not change much, not even with the improbable chance of the opposition forming the next government. Of course, gerrymandering and cheating is not new in a democracy. Don’t bet on the wrong horse, for they are donkeys. The minds of the dominant are, and will always be racial, on both government and opposition. Any negotiation is marriage of convenience. Despite the curse of our education system, Singapore needs to acknowledge that we are producing talents for them. What happens to their own talents, despite their better system? They either stay or leave, like all other talents, even the Malays in Malaysia. I think both education systems are stressful; either under performing or over performing in terms of teaching or learning, and one system is racial whereas the other is merit based.

Both Malaysia and Singapore reckon they are multicultural. Indeed so, but it is not a diversity as claimed; the cultural differences and separation are obvious. How do different culture identify, or how to reconcile such differences? Is it shared destiny? Shared interest? In Malaysia, home is not shared, but temporary abode for some. In Singapore, in order to maintain its status as an advanced first world, the heart-landers have to open their minds, be cosmopolitan enough, less grumpy, but not to be confused with views of some neo-liberal. Singapore needs to open up more discourses and debate on this issue, for capital and talents flow in and out in a globalized world. I think it is not wise to enforce national identity from top to bottom, best to reverse the formula. Fancy Singapore cannot keep its own talent, what certainty they have over the imported ones, even for a change of heart in the second or third generations. I think these are the angst felt by the mentor, and he is physically run down as shown in his recent picture. How would Singaporeans identity themselves, without the hyphens? Language such as creole (Singlish), kiasu (fear of losing) is more prominent than elsewhere, but can national unity bond on that? May be a common destiny of survival to stay on as a nation, especially an advanced first world. Despite all the faith and optimism, the Chinese in Malaysia need to explore their own identification? They cannot identity with China. The young Chinese in China have no memory of their ancestors seeking help from overseas Chinese. The Malaysian Chinese is a separate class now, and they have to review their language and dialects in a changing world, locally and internationally. Often they fracture their own families and unknowingly harming the bonding with their children and spouses. Their cost saving on better education for their children are often not balance in a wholesome way. Malaysian Chinese spend excessive time harping on the wrong topics. Don’t fear about the new laws; they only amputate the limbs of their own kind or converts, and, if they so desired, what can others do, except pay for their social services. This is a globalised world, the talents move out, and leave the mediocre and the seniors to compete. How would you like your children to be?

I hope those ranting will encourage Malaysians of all races to read more widely. Advance to a First World together or slip into Third World? We take pride riding on the slippery board.

NOTEBOOK 5: THE ACT OF LOOKING

MH 370 has not been found for sixteen days. I have been alerted to be careful of the tenses and vocabulary used, for it involves sensitivities. The Chinese language has no tenses, and any translation has to be careful too, for it may be read and misunderstood by people all over the world in a web blog interaction.

The act of looking is a psycho-social act. How the images and news are presented or represented will be interpreted differently by different cultures and religion or even by the same person differently at different times. The same signifier may signify differently, as viewers are socially and politically constructed. If national security is involved, we may attempt not to reveal all. Or if there are lapses of security, we may choose a non-witty way of reporting. We are not devoid of such people around. In fact our system churns out too many of such transcendent talents. Apart from images we may also chose what to listen or ignore. Code switching is a matter of habits. In attempting to theorize, the bomoh and his team put on their psychodrama (sado-comedy), and the parody invites world attention. Unfortunately, the projected images are not cost effective, both financially and politically. We waste precious time deliberating on Hamlet’s famous line, or misread the words of the jesters. We are obsessed over petty and sexual issues, and crisis management are beyond the spinal reflexes. To date, we have yet to find the plane. The satellites, with god-eye view, are not able to clearly pinpoint the whereabouts. Our own security and cameras also have their limitations, and we may opt to turn blind at times. We chose not to subscribe to some radar systems, for we are saving the money to buy sonar for non-submersibles. Knowledge of science and technologies cost money, and devoid of such membership, we lost the power to relate and share information with the super powers. Marxism writes about lumpen proletariat, but capitalism also produces lumpen bourgeoisie and intellectuals at varsity factories. The people are curious about what has happened to this country. The reply is pushed around. If they care to look at their own Lacanian mirror image, they are taller and fatter than real. We never explore our colonial and post-colonial history, and the dominant mind set prohibit discussion. Hopefully history can be rewritten (not new in local context). We can afford to skip many great names, an illusion that may allow us to feel comfortable and inter connected.

Let us pray together with all relatives, and hope for best possible outcome.

P/S
Most likely the missing plane dived into the Indian Oceans, The debris found near Perth could be from MH 370. We need the patience to wait for the proof. The PM and the Press had declared the “death” news, ahead of all governments. From the start, they have shown insufficient sensitivities to relatives of passengers. I have no friends there. I could be in that ill fated plane.

ANOTHER YEAR AHEAD

 

2014 will be another turning point in my life. I shall retire fully before mid year, unless there is a change of decision by the young doctors to take over. My terms are simple. He is trustworthy enough to take care of my patients. Willing to employ my nurse, who has been working for me for 33 years.  There is no good will money. All they have to pay me are the stock in hand, and a small token sum for my old equipment and furniture, and they can pay me in installments. For   a couple of years no doctors appear keen to accept such generous terms. I thought I had to close without offering continuous care to my clients. Today a doctor changes his mind. Perhaps he found out the operating cost was not as cheap as he had expected. Though my practice has never been busy, I enjoy a good lifestyle, without charging too much, and have time to read and write. Most of my poems were written in my clinic hours in between seeing patients. Young people read a lot without understanding about quantity and quality time. There is no separate time. It is also not about multi tasking. It is more about getting in and out of focus, positioning and re positioning, placing and replacing priorities and options, progressing and regressing in change at opportune time. In short, it is the yin and yang, with their conditionality.

In making my EXIT, I have to find another door, or no door at all, to enter. I am now in between nudity and nakedness. My family has a wardrobe of clothes for me to wear – grand parenting roles. It is a challenging work. I can feel the freedom or lack of freedom there. My friends joked that chasing dolls could be more fun than chasing scooters. The dysfunction has to bow down low in order to stand erect in other functional ways.

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