Friday, October 08, 2004

The Pilgrimage of Work

The Pilgrimage of Work

I have allocated the next couple of days here in Jakarta to dwell in isolation so that I can finish up my remaining work. I face a bit of challenge maintaining my concentration in KL as there are so many distractions there.

No one likes work--especially tedious and boring work. Isn't life a lot better if we can make money without working? I for one would love to just laze around all day, sipping wine, reading my books while listening to my favourite classical music.

When you are self-employed and working from home, it is even more difficult to ensure that you put in a reasonable amount of work everyday. How do we make ourselves look at work positively? Let's start by examining the main reasons why people work: interest, fear and rewards.

I wouldn't say I am very passionate about my IT work. But most of the time, it is mildy interesting and quite OK. I should not complain. The good thing working as a vendor is that you get to meet with a lot of people. As a consultant, you also get to sample your customer's world without having to suffer the drudgery of spending years in the same dull environment. It's a bit like having many one-night stands versus a long term relationship. That constant promise of fresh experience helps to sustain interest a little bit.

Fear will always be there to drive us on--if we don't work, we can't pay our bills. So we don't have to worry about any lack of motivation in this aspect. The survival instinct is our fuel and propeller. Even when all our bills are paid, some of us still fear that we cannot keep up with the Joneses. Thank God I do not need that as motivation. I'm happy as long as my bills are paid.

Rewards come in many forms. The most tangible are monetary rewards. Prestige and position are also important to some people. Again I have no interest in that; I'll take my money, thank you.

But like what I've mentioned before in previous postings, the real reward of work is work itself. Even though work can sometimes be tough, tedious and boring--it is good for the soul. To use a cliche, it is the journey, not the destination that matters.

Work is like a pilgrimage: spiritual pilgrims go through numerous trials and overcome many dangers before they reach their sacred goal. In the process of doing so, the pilgrim undergoes a transformation that makes them gain certain spiritual insights (read Paulo Cuelho's The Pilgrimage).

In our regular working lives, we would call that "experience". Experience is but the mundane aspect of that transformation. We often see experience as "content" that is being accumulated over time--we know more because we have seen and heard more. But it is actually more than that.

As in a pilgrimage, our souls undergo a transformation when we put our hearts and minds into work. We always emerge a better person from every job we finish. Initially the ego drives us to acquire, accomplish and seek recognition. But at some point the soul will learn that only through selfless work does one really progress in life.

A river at its source will not know the way to the sea; but as it flows, the rocks it encounters along the way will "correct" its direction so that it ends up in sea.

The soul is like a river. Through the difficulties of work, the soul will ultimately finds its true direction and calling.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Greatest Happiness

The Greatest Happiness

I arrived yesterday morning in Jakarta on an AirAsia flight filled with home-going domestic maids. At the airport, the immigration officer asked me for ole-ole (gifts) but I simply gave him an ignorant smile. Luckily he did not give me any hassle after I showed him my return ticket.

I thought of trying out a different place to stay this time but finally decided to check into my usual hotel in Tanah Abang. It's a bit inconvenient when you are travelling on business and have to lug your computer notebook with you; you always have to worry about the safety of your valuables if you stay at the cheaper hotels. Petty thefts are unfortunately quite common here. Even in four or five-star hotels, you will still have to take the necessary precautions to secure your things.

We must always be prepared for the unfortunate event that our notebook gets stolen. Regular backups are very very important but make sure that you don't keep your backup CD in the same computer bag--or worse still in the CD slot! We must always adhere to the first rule of good disaster recovery planning: all backups must be stored "off-site".

Cyberspace is actually best place to store your data. I use my 1GB Gmail mailbox as a convenient Internet storage for backing up my most recent documents. It is especially convenient whenever I'm working from wireless hotspots across town back in KL--I just e-mail myself a copy.

Happiness is when you get to travel light: with nothing but a backpack filled with a change of clothes, basic toiletries and a paperback to keep you company. That was how I travelled earlier this year on my trips to Yogjakarta, Semarang and Solo. At every stop, you wash your clothes, and let it dry overnight.

The less we own, the happier we are. There's nothing wrong in striving for all the material wealth in the world and one should do one's utmost to succeed in life. But if after acquiring riches, we find that we cannot live life without them anymore, then we are nothing but handicapped people.

Acquiring material wealth is only half the battle in life; the real test of a person is whether he or she is equally capable of letting them go. He who succeeds in doing so earns the greatest happiness in life.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Games People Play

Games People Play

While enjoying a slow buffet breakfast at the hotel with today's edition of The Nation, I chanced upon an article by a columnist writing about men who choose to remain unmarried.

The columnist--a Gina, female I presume--has this theory that men who choose to remain uncommitted to marriage are actually doing that to increase their appeal to the opposite sex. She recounted how a friend of hers is suffering from a relationship with such a man and yet cannot seem be able to leave him. Being "unattainable" apparently has turned him into an attractive challenge for her.

She ended her article with a word of caution to such men: " careful. I believe many girls also know this trick".

Being one of those men who do not have any interest in marriage, I suppose I can speak with a little bit of "authority" on the subject.

Gina might be referring to men who are very young and have lots of time on their side or those who are already surrounded by hordes of lusty women waiting to tear their clothes off. But I'm not sure if those men consciously choose to be unattainable to increase their sex appeal; to me they are simply having too good time--there's no reason to commit to one person. At least not yet. It's as simple as that.

This is especially true for expatriate men in Bangkok and you don't even need to be young or good-looking to get your abundant share of female companionship. If Gina's theory is true, then married men must be even more attractive to women for they are the ultimate unattainables. No wonder my married expatriate friends are having such a good time here in Bangkok!

The fact is, there are more men who choose to get married than those who don't. Men--not unlike women--have a biological clock too. They are also susceptible to loneliness and the need to be loved; and at a certain point in their lives, they will feel that they need to settle down. The nesting instinct will definitely kick in.

Gina didn't mention about another category of men who also choose to remain unmarried--monks, priests and other types of spiritual celibates. This category is more difficult to understand: there must be something very appealing about the spiritual quest for them to be willing to forgo the pleasures of the flesh and the love and warmth of family life. It is an interesting subject worthy of another blog entry.

Yes, I do enjoy the freedom of my bachelorhood but I certainly don't belong to the category that Gina refers to: I don't have a harem filled with women who are mesmerized by the supposedly aphrodisiacal charms of my aloofness. (I must get her to introduce me to her friends :-))

Freedom is something that comes with a price and purpose. One must always be very careful not to abuse that freedom for it can easily veer into hedonistic selfishness and irresponsibility. Freedom is only meaningful if it is governed by self-discipline. Freedom must be used to pursue one's Personal Legend (to borrow Paulo Coelho's words).

It could well turn out one day that my Personal Legend is to be married to someone. Marriage can also be a spiritual practice to correct all the imperfections in one's soul. A tennis player cannot improve his game by only hitting balls at the wall--he needs a sparring partner. The problem begins when couples sometimes forget that they are both beginners and are supposed to be helping each other improve their game of tennis. (Even worse are those who can't even agree on what game they are actually playing!).

But one must not forget that there are also people who choose sports that do not necessarily require sparring partners--like high-jump, sprint, archery or bowling, to name a few. To improve in such sports, one must always have specific targets, or records that one needs to break. It is a more solitary task but it can be equally fun.

Whatever sport one chooses, the important thing is to continuously improve one's game. It is only through practice that we can we know our own imperfections and how much more we have to improve.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Secret to Happiness

The Secret to Happiness

I have a few days in Bangkok before I head for Jakarta again. Everytime I walk the streets of Bangkok, I remember why tourists like this city so much. There's a relaxed and friendly feel to the place. The ubiquitous sidewalk cafes and beer gardens make me want to grab a drink immediately. It is such a great pleasure lazing at one of these places with a Singha beer and alternate between writing in my journal and reading a book.

This trip is an easy one for me as I'm only here for a meeting. My real tough work remains in Jakarta. I'm meeting up with my old friend Randy for dinner later and maybe I'll catch the Liverpool-Chelsea match at one of these outdoor bars after that.

I'm blogging from an Internet cafe, so I'll try to be brief. On my way here by AirAsia, I was thinking of writing something about happiness today--my usual New Age rambling about pain and pleasure. After landing in Bangkok, I am immediately seized by a different mood: I no longer feel like writing about happiness because people here look so very happy--the subject is no longer relevant! So I'll spare my poor readers from my half-cooked pseudo-philosophical theories on happiness.

You see, there's no need for all that--the key to happiness is plain and simple: just point your browser to and book the next available flight to the Land of Smiles :-)