Thursday, August 25, 2005

Facing the Blank Page

Facing the Blank Page

Time to blog again at last! It makes me very happy to be able to find time to blog. Blogging is a "sharpening the saw" activity which I consider essential to my mental health. When I started my blog, my main intention was to use it as an avenue to practice my writing. The only way to beat writer's block is to treat writing as an activity that is as natural as eating or sleeping. It shouldn't be a big deal.

Everyone has a right to write. Let us not be deterred by our poor command of the language nor our inability to express ourselves clearly. The way we write reflects the way we think. Not only that, writing actually aids the thinking process. For instance, we can only do mathematics mentally up to a certain point; at some stage we have to write down all the symbols and equations on paper so that we can analyze them visually. Through writing, thoughts are "physicalized".

Analytical people are used to listing down all the pros and cons on paper before making any important decisions. Once things are put into writing, they become clear; one's thoughts are not muddled anymore because they have been transformed from the intangible world of the mind into the realm of physical space and time. Thoughts, when written down, are sequenced and spatially grouped into sentences, paragraphs and chapter, allowing us to see inter-relationships better. As a result, we are able to weigh things more objectively and put things in its proper perspective.

Writing and reading--the two "R"s--are very basic and essential skills which we learn eversince we were old enough to be sent to the nursery school. Isn't it surprising that many of us don't even bother to indulge in either of these activities anymore? We would rather spend laborious hours at the driving range perfecting our golf swing than to squeeze in half-an-hour a day polishing up our writing skill. Why is that so?

I don't know. Maybe writing seems such a dull activity. But I do know that the inability to write well is a major handicap to many people in the working world. There are many who could speak very well, even in front of large audiences but they freeze up mentally when faced with a blank sheet of paper.

I love opening up my "blank paper" --the w.bloggar front-end, and challenge myself to fill it up with words. You simply start by typing in some nonsensical words...the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog...and suddenly thoughts start pouring in and before you knew it, you've already finished your few hundred word posting for the day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Life's Most Basic Pleasures

Life's Most Basic Pleasures

"We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarily, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens...The diversity of the phenomena of Nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment"

- Johannes Kepler

Isn't Monday a great day? It's the start of a brand new week and there's always a sense of urgency on the first day. I always get lots of e-mails on Monday. Almost half the day will be spent replying to them, not to mention attending to that other type of communication that's gaining equal if not even more importance: SMS.

Finally all the noise of the day has subsided and I'm safe and sound in my cluttered little room in Subang Jaya, ready to blog and do a checkpoint before I go to bed.

I'm sure, we all have been asked this question before: What is it that makes you want to get out of bed every morning?

Well, I'd rather remain in bed but I have to go to work and make a living.

I'll be in serious trouble if I don't go to work. I'll lose my job.

I have no choice.

These are some of the typical answers. Perhaps once in a while, you'll hear that highly motivated salesman who'll tell you that he wakes up every morning with a great sense of anticipation that he's one day closer to his million dollar deal.

For me, I don't belong to either extreme. My personal motivation is simple: It's the thought that I will be a better person today compared to who I was yesterday.

It gives me a thrill everytime to know that I wake up everyday richer in life's experiences. But how can I be so sure that I'm "richer"? To me this is something inevitable: We have accumulated another day of data to be extracted and analyzed. What was it that we did right yesterday? What mistakes have we made? What can we learn from them? So we will act today with more information and knowledge compared to yesterday. Every experience is a learning experience. Even the mundane ones.

Some people tell me that they don't learn anything from their job anymore. It's so boring and routine. I already know everything that needs to be known to do my job.

But how is that possible? Why must we allow ourselves to degenerate into such a state? We can always stretch our boundaries if we choose to, can't we? There's always something to learn. Don't tell me you know everything about the industry that you are working in. You might be an expert in your narrow little field, but why should you be contented with that? Even if you are completely disinterested in the work that you are doing, there are other areas that you can pursue. For example: How well do you know God?

Well, maybe you are not interested in that either. That's OK. Then ask yourself: how well do you know your colleague sitting in the next cubicle? What can you learn from him or her? Or your spouse? Or your children? Do you know them as well as you should? We can learn so much from the people around us because they are "interactive books".

There's always something to learn in life. Today we hear leaders preach about life-long learning because we are living in such a competitive world. We must be constantly acquiring new skillsets to survive. But I don't like to look at it from such an economic angle. Learning to me ranks together with the other basic biological functions such as eating (and defecating), sleeping and mating.

I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: to live is to learn. Period. Have I learned anything new today? You bet. Will I learn something new tomorrow? Definitely.

What's so great about learning? Of what use is it?

Let me answer that with another question: Of what use is eating, sleeping or mating?

I don't really care. It's simply pleasurable.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Exquisite Beauty of Temptation

The Exquisite Beauty of Temptation

I read Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters when I was a schoolboy, in 1983. This classic of popular science which also won the American National Book Award for Science in 1979 is a layman's account of the world of quantum physics. The book cemented my growing desire to pursue a career in the sciences. There were many other books along the same lines that I managed to read in subsequent years but Gary Zukav's "Wu Li Masters" and Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics remained my bible throughout those exhilirating years. That was more than 20 years ago...

Then in 1999 when I was working in Singapore, I picked up a book from the MPH bookstore called The Seat of the Soul, written by a strangely famliar author: Gary Zukav! To my surprise, this new book of his wasn't about quantum physics or any of the new sciences; it's about spirituality--a subject that has also became close to my heart.

Like what it did to me as a schoolboy, once again, reading Zukav's writing elevated me to greater heights of understanding--now not only at an intellectual level but also at a spiritual one. I loved the book so much that I followed up by listening to an audio version of it, read by the author himself. That was six years ago...

Cut to the present: For the last three days, while commuting between Subang Jaya and KL for my training, I have been listening to The Seat of the Soul again. And what a wonderful experience it was! I found myself nodding in agreement with everything that Zukav wrote in the book: every word, every sentence now rang with crystal clarity. And I marvelled at his eloquence---he managed to express everything that I knew to be true in my heart and mind, things that I had since learned and verified through personal experience, with such beauty and honesty.

Let me share Zukav's take on "temptation", which I thought was spot on:

What is temptation?
Temptation is the Universe's compassionate way of allowing you to run through what would be a harmful negative karmic dynamic if you were to allow it to become physically manifest. It is the energy through which your soul is given the gracious opportunity to have a dry run at a life lesson, at a situation that, if you can see clearly, can be removed and healed within the confines of your private world of energy and not spill into a larger energy field of other souls. Temptation is a dress rehearsal for a karmic experience of negativity.

The entire dynamic of temptation is the compassionate way of allowing you to see your potential pitfalls, and cleanse yourself before you can affect the lives of others. It is a form of decoy in which the negativity is compassionately drawn from you, if you can see that before you create karma. As you respond to the decoy, you cleanse yourself by becoming aware and not having to actually live through the experience. You cleanse yourself without creating karma and interaction with other souls. How exquisite is temptation.

How exquisite indeed is temptation!