Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Spiritual Value of Blogging

The Spiritual Value of Blogging

I'm blogging a bit less these days because I'm trying to give priority to my work which occupies most of my waking hours. This could also be a good thing because I get to let some of my blogging ideas which are always floating in my head more time to incubate. Sometimes they emerge with more energy and clarity.

Most of the time my mind is subconsciously preoccupied with a few pet ideas. The real purpose of my blog is to allow these ideas to work themselves out in writing. It's a bit like solving a mathematical problem with pencil and paper--what I call "writhink". Looking back at my old entries, I can see how some of my favourite themes have evolved and developed over time.

I treat blogging a bit like playing speed chess. I try to allocate a small chunk of time everyday in between my more important tasks to blog. Sometimes I feel I could write on and on on certain pet topics of mine but I have to cut them short. Time flies when you are writing; if you are not cautious, you could be spending half a day blogging on one topic. One could always let the topic evolve over a few entries, over time.

Blogging is a spontaneous and informal thing--like writing an e-mail. If it is too formal, then it's no longer fun--there's too much pressure trying to get it perfect. Never before has so much bad writing been churned out for the reading masses! But that's the charm of blogging. A lot of people find it difficult to write because they try too hard to get that first sentence perfect. There's no need to: writing and editing are two separate and independent tasks. You get stuck when you mentally try to do the two at the same time. Write freely first; edit later. With blogging, you just write and forget about editing. Even better!

Blogging has helped me identify many weaknesses in my writing. My blog is nothing more than an exercise book--a place for me to scrawl my thoughts; I have no wish for it to be anything more than that. Once an entry has been written and published, it's purpose is served. Unlike writing a private journal, publishing your thoughts on the Net gives it a sense of completeness--it's already public and you can't retrieve it back. (Well, actually you can always come back and delete your entry but someone could have read it already--the meme has already spread).

Blogging is like a public confession. You unburden your mind; you accept its reality and consequences and you move on. That's the spiritual value of blogging.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Owning the Masterpieces of the World

Owning the Masterpieces of the World

There are three classical music composers whose works I admire very much even when I was a kid: Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. The Musik Klasik and Konsert Klasik programs on the local FM radio were my favourite programs. At that time, those were my main sources of classical music. I even recorded many of those hour-long programs on cassette tapes. These days, there are so many classical radio stations on the Internet for one to choose from.

The good thing about music masterpieces is that, unlike painting, it is accessible to anyone. You can buy an affordable recording of say, the Eroica Symphony by Beethoven and you'll get to listen note-for-note, exactly what the great master himself created from his mind, and perhaps even experience the same kind of pleasure that the audience felt during its premier performance in Vienna in 1805.

With masterpiece paintings, you have to settle for photographic images of the original, which often pale in comparison with the real thing. Even if you were to go to the Louvre to view the Mona Lisa, you can only enjoy it for a brief moment--you can't bring it home with you. There's only one copy in the world.

That's the good thing about music--it can be reproduced for the masses. Anyone can own these works of art. Collecting classical music can be such a wonderful hobby: all the masterpieces by these great composers are available in the stores and you can own the complete collection of their works if you choose to do so. Anyone can be a connoisseur--It is not a privilege of the rich. In that sense, music is like literature--works by Homer or Shakespeare are available as cheaply as those by Stephen King or Michael Crichton. Imagine holding a CD of one of the masterpieces of the world--at the price of less than what you would typically spend on a Saturday evening out, clubbing with friends.

It wasn't always so. During Beethoven's time, you needed to have someone to play the music live to be able to enjoy it. Only the aristocrats could afford it. Thanks to Thomas Alva Edison and Emile Berliner, anyone can now have his own private orchestra in his living room. And Gutenberg's invention made it possible for anyone to have access to the greatest literary works in the world.

All the masterpieces of the world--enough to last us a couple of lifetimes--are there for us to enjoy. What most of us lack is not money--but time and inclination. Like what I often say, the good things in life don't cost a lot of money. But then again, maybe I'm just the type who's easily contented with life...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Money Game

The Money Game

I met my old friend Anton in Jakarta last Friday. Anton is Indonesian Chinese but grew up from a humble background in the Karet area--a pocket of shabby dwellings in the middle of Jakarta's Golden Triangle. Whenever we meet up, he'll bring me to one of those delightful warungs which you never knew existed, sandwiched somewhere in the middle of these urban kampungs.

Anton had lost my telephone and e-mail contact but the other day he chanced upon my name in the guest register of one my clients; so he tried calling my former office and was lucky that I happened to be there. We decided to catch up over a wonderful lunch of nasi ulam with gorengan kambing somewhere in Karet.

Anton formerly worked as an engineer with a prominent local IT company but was brave enough to resign from his job to start up his own IT business. His is a story of persistence and perseverance. Over the last four years that he has been out there in the business jungle, his company has suffered enormous trials and tribulations.

Being of a trusting nature, he had the misfortune of being taken advantage of by his business partners on a number of occassions. But each time he managed to salvage whatever he could to begin anew. So far he has not achieved spectacular success yet. But with the experience and lessons that he has gained the hard way coupled with his indomitable spirit, I'm sure he'll find his pot of gold someday.

Business partnerships are like marriages--many begin with a great deal of hope and optimism but end in bitterness and anger. The closest of friends could end up as enemies. Whenever money is involved, the true nature of a person is revealed.

All of us work so hard for our money. In the process of doing so we develop a strong attachment towards it. So much of our happiness seems to be tied to money. Some people hit such depths of despair when they lose their entire fortune that they prefer to take their own life. Such is the power of attachment to money.

The businessman has to think about money everyday because the purpose of doing business is to make money. Every thought, consideration and action is tied to money; when this happens, it is very easy to be totally consumed by its apparent importance.

To treat money as evil is being unnecessarily negative. On the other hand, to consider money as the most important thing in one's life is not only negative but also dangerous. Those who do so would not hesitate to choose money over friends. Their value system has been grossly distorted.

I do business too, so I have to treat money as important--but only as a measure of how well my business is doing. Money is a metric, a score that one keeps to keep track of progress. Again, I have to resort to my favourite analogy, football, to illustrate my point. When you play football, you want to score as many goals as possible--it is never enough. Goals are fun and you celebrate extravagantly whenever you score. But when you walk out of the pitch, what matters is that you have won the match and you have thoroughly enjoyed the game.

That's how I see my work: as long as I chalk up wins--even 1-0 victories (like what Chelsea is so good at doing)--I'm happy. I'll get my 3-points and move up the league table. Sometimes when it is a 6-0 drubbing, it is a bonus. We strikers will always try to score as many goals as possible--that is a given. But ultimately you play to win, irrespective of the number of goals you end up scoring.

Making money should not be something that's so heavily-laden with emotion. Why should there be so much pride, pain, pleasure, good and evil associated with it? It is just a set of numbers displayed on the scoreboard. It shouldn't consume us to the point where we completely lose sight of what's really important in life--friends, family and the community that we live in.

So by all means play the game in the best possible spirit--playing it well and playing to win. But most important of all, we must remember, it's a game that we play to enjoy.