Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Paths of Marriage & Renunciation

The Paths of Marriage & Renunciation

How delicious is the winning
Of a kiss at love's beginning,
When two mutual hearts are sighing
For the knot there's no untying

- Thomas Campbell

When a man and a woman are in love, they live in an exclusive world of their own. Suddenly there's so much beauty in the world. There's poetry everywhere. This flame of love and passion completely consume them and two souls find themselves bound together in a knot where "there's no untying".

This tying together of two souls should theoretically make them stronger, for each soul now has found completeness in merging itself with another. The weight of life's challenges is now supported by two--a pair of souls easily shields each other from the many vicissitudes of life.

So with the comfort and support that comes with a relationship, isn't it logical to assume that life would be a complete bliss for any couple in love?

Usually this is true in the beginning. Initially both sides temporarily forget their own personal egoes. Every action and decision is for the good of the whole, and not the part. As long as the individual ego is subsumed, a higher level or organization is allowed to take place. A new consciousness and intelligence takes hold. Happiness reigns.

Unfortunately the euphoria of love only lasts for a very short while. When the reality of everyday life begins to set in again, the ego, accustomed by habit and driven by samskaras slowly reasserts itself. From a bonding that promises selfless interdependence, the relationship degenerates into one of possession and control.

This is the point where a relationship faces its biggest challenge. You see, the ego is by nature insecure and fears a great many things that threatens its existence. In the act of giving a part of itself away to the whole, it fears that it is losing control over many things. It has to jostle for space and the right to assert itself again.

This is actually alright if there's sincerity on both sides to find some balance between personal and common interests. But the ego is more devious--it attempts to maximize all the advantages it can get without relinquishing any of its own. The ego is by definition, selfish and manipulative. The ego is the greatest enemy of love.

To love is to dissolve the ego, slowly. Love prompts you to drive your energy in the direction opposite that of your ego. Love is a spiritual impulse that seeks to propel the soul towards ultimate union with God. By learning how to accept someone in your life, you inch slowly towards that path of selflessness and turn oneself to face the beatifying grace that shines from God.

Marriage is a spiritual vocation, no lesser in sanctity and gravity than the path of renunciation, chosen by monks and priests. Both paths have their rewards and challenges. Both paths, if practised correctly, ultimately lead to God.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Pass & Move

Pass & Move

There's a sajak which I was quite fond of reading when I was a student: it's a prize-winning piece by a Hashim Jeffrey, published in a local daily in 1974 and anthologized in the same volume with another favourite cerpen of mine, Debu-Debu Kuala Lumpur. It's titled Sesekali Dalam Perjalanan Ini.

Here's an excerpt from the last two stanzas:
kalau kau menemuku di jalananmu
tak menyapa kerana tak kenal,
berterimakasihlah pada peradaban ini,
pembentuk hati masing-masing.

aku tak akan menyalahkan
atau berkecil hati,
aku juga tak akan menunggu
seperti waktu yang tak pernah menanti
hidup terlalu singkat untuk menunggu dan menanti

I won't attempt a translation here. What I like is the tone of the poem--It's cold, aloof but full of resolve.

The last few lines capture the simple wisdom of the poem: life is too short for us to wait around and take offence over small things. We simply move on.

Whenever we suffer any setback or rejection in life; there's no point in dwelling on it. It's done. Learn from it. Move on. Take comfort in the fact that you are a wiser person after the experience. It only hurts a lot when you give unnecessary weight to it.

Liverpool FC's legendary manager Bill Shankly had a simple "pass and move" football philosophy; the same principle applies to life too. Every experience in life is a transaction, a stepping stone for us to move on. You do whatever you can, influence the world around you positively and move on. Don't dwell on pain, expect pity nor wait for praise to come. Keep it simple. No big deal, no hassle, no fuss. Pass and move.

If you are within sight of the goal, shoot. If you are one or even five goals down, there's still only one way to continue playing: pass and move.

A football match is 90 minutes long. Even if you need to waste time to hold on to your slim 1-0 lead during the dying seconds of the game, you still need to keep the ball: you pass and move (preferable around the opponent's corner flag).

Nothing remains static. Life is also like a football match--the Almight Referee will ultimately blow the final whistle. What can you do in the meantime? You simply pass and move, because "hidup terlalu singkat untuk menunggu dan menanti".

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Positive Space

Positive Space

I've mentioned before that I see my blog as a simple exercise book. It is just a place for me to practice putting thoughts and ideas into writing. A place for conteng-conteng. Once it is written, it is done. No need to fuss about it anymore, unless there are glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes which I happen discover later on.

I've also written about the "spiritual" value of blogging--looking at it as a sacred act of commiting thoughts to public, through which they acquire a certain weight and seriousness. It doesn't really matter if anyone reads them; for as long as they published, they are in the public domain, and they can be accessible anytime. The very act itself carries with it some measure of personal responsibility.

But how can one conteng-conteng with "responsibility"? You see, I view writing as a very powerful way to reinforce certain qualities which I personally wish to cultivate. Which is why I don't have a habit of ranting very much (even though I do enjoy reading other people's rantings). I try to be positive all the time, simply because I want to be positive. If I write positive thoughts, I program them into my mind and after a while they become a mental habit.

Isn't it healthy to vent out one's frustration or anger through writing?

Sometimes. When anger has come to the point where it is already boiling, it has to be channelled out. If it is repressed, it often creates more damage, by finding an outlet in some other perverted form.

But venting and ranting is like vomitting. We vomit because the body wants to expel certain contents of the stomach which is causing discomfort. After vomitting, we usually feel much better. But one must ask: how did the discomfort arise in first place? Did we eat something wrong? Or is it due to our bad eating habit in general?

Tackling the root cause of the discomfort, I think, is more important than venting it. Venting/vomitting gives temporary relief, but it doesn't prevent it from happening again. We wouldn't want to stick a finger into our throat everytime we feel a certain discomfort in the stomach.

Anger, hatred and all negative emotions take time to build up--through the accumulation of many small irritants. If we are mentally aware of these buildups, we can prevent these negative emotional peaks from developing at a very early stage--an early warning system for the mind.

I've mentioned before, anger can be very seductive, even pleasurable. We can get addicted to being angry, because it makes us feel right. Having someone or something to blame and hate gives us a sense of purpose and reinforces our sense of self-righteousness.

Usually we can still achieve the same sense of purpose without being driven by anger. However being human, there will always be things that anger us, such as blatant acts of injustice, senseless violence, betrayal or treachery. Anger arises automatically. But do we really need to reinforce this anger in order to act? Probably not. Anger clouds the mind and drives us to act senselessly. We need to be wary of that.

Which is why one needs to be careful about venting too much because it reinforces and justifies our negative emotions.These emotions will inevitably arise; find out why they arise in first place; let them subside, then act on them. If you indulge and nurture them, it becomes a mental habit, which will then be very hard to erase.

Like what Dr Stephen Covey likes to say, there's a space between stimulus and response. If we control this space, we control our lives. And everytime I start a new blog entry, I'd stare into an empty page, and I'd see that page as my space between stimulus and response.

And I choose to insert something positive.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Forgotten Dreams

Forgotten Dreams

I'm looking forward to the first work-week of the year. After all the distractions of the holiday season and the grim end to the year, it is good to be able get things going again.

I prefer workdays in KL because the traffic pattern is more predictable and the malls and suburbs are very quiet during working hours. It'll be a hectic January for me, with some business travel expected. Despite the gloom over Christmas and New Year, I've been working consistently throughout.

The coming year will be filled with fresh challenges and hopefully new possibilities will also open up for me. Last year on this day, I woke up in the morning and walked to the Gambir station in Jakarta to purchase my train ticket for my trip to Yogjakarta and later paid homage to Chairil Anwar in front his bust at the Monas Park.

No such sentimentality this year. I have moved on to the next phase in my life: I'm not very sure what it is, but there's a lot for me to do and even more for me to learn. The first book I read last year was Pramoedya Ananta Toer's It's Not an All Night Fair (Bukan Pasar Malam). But driven by necessity, I've been reading a lot of work-related technical books since then. Hopefully this year I'll be able to find some time and space to indulge in some pleasure reading.

What should be on my reading list this year? There are so many good writers whom I have not read. There are a lot of books which will be quite fun to reread again, even thought it is a bit of a luxury to do so.

When I was a kid, I was so enthralled by the biography of Michelangelo by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy, that I subsequently read it again a few more times. Maybe someday I'll read it again and perhaps be able to capture back the forgotten dreams of a child...