In Ways that Matter

March 29, 2011 0 Comments

His dad called.

Shit, what was wrong? Papa doesn't call for fun.

A missed call. Worry laced his every thought. Did something happen? An ominous feeling clawed down his spine and he felt goosebumps on his forearms.

He called back. His dad didn't pick up.

Cosmic humour? For goodness sake, he's my dad. We aren't Romeo & Juliet, role-playing in some movie about star-crossed lovers perpetually brushing against, yet somehow failing to see, each other.

He waited, impatiently.

"Ah 孩子, how's your injury. Remember to apply some medicine on the wound, sleep early and drink lots of water."

In ways that matter, he matters.

Much thanks, Papa, for the concern.


Remembering : Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

by Marianne Williamson

Soaring Birds


Wisdom, Along with Mosquito Bites

March 24, 2011 0 Comments

Jason was really fed up with his studies.

Molecules. Ions. Radicals. Molecular ions. Polyatomic ions/ anions/ cations/ carbanions/ carbocations.

He wished to study something less divorced from reality. Something more relevant to life, to living, to being alive. Not reams of textbook knowledge. Whoever needs to know the different ways - inductive, mesomeric, orbital hybridisation effects etc - in which a charged particle stabilise itself?

He knew that he could do well if he simply put in more effort. More hours, greater patience, increased tenderness to the subject material.

But, he didn't know if he could find it within himself to pay attention to such stuff again.

He was, once, concerned with academic excellence. No, not concerned, but obsessed. Good isn't enough. Best is barely sufficient.

Yet, as he grew older, he intuited a greater awareness in the meaning of life: studying isn't the focal point at which the world revolves about. Knowledge isn't the alpha and omega of life.
At a family getaway in Malaysia - it was a lovely event, the family had a private fireworks display, awesome flares of light - he had the opportunity to speak to his cousin.

They were talking about spiritually - faith, religion and Christ. 'You know, when I was in secondary school, my friend just died along the track. I realised that there is more to life than just studying. If you were to die tomorrow, would you still be toiling through your notes now?'

'Having said that, we must put in our best efforts for all we do. We must be living testimonials for God, to glorify his presence.'

He wasn't a particularly religious person. Spiritual, perhaps, but not religious. He couldn't help sensing, though, that this was the answer he was unconsciously seeking.


By Piccinini

Am taking a module on bioethics this semester.

After being ignored by some local artists, I decided to do my final research paper on the works of Piccinini, an Australian artist concerned with the ramifications of genetic engineering.

(Sucks right, life seems to revolve about essays nowadays.)

Was reluctant to sit down and research, but once I started, I couldn't cease. Reams of fascinating materials call out to me, stimulating and engaging.

Really awesome works. The humanity in these artworks - regardless of how grotesque some of them may appear - cry out for empathy.

He's cute, but I wouldn't want to be his dad.

Fairly normal, not that disgusting, right?

A wise, kindly appearance.

And I've no idea that it's a mother-to-be!

Are there any creatures sprouting on your back now too?

A modern exploration of the Madonna-and-Child motif.

They look really sweet....

If not for the fingers fanning out to form a fish tail. And the prominent lactating glands.

In biotechnology, we augment physical attributes - increased muscle strength, intelligence, longevity, viral immunity and the list runs on. What happen if the effects aren't what we desired? Instead of longer and stronger legs, we get two more pairs of limbs. What do we do then?

The nonjudgmental acceptance of unsightly creatures by their fellow human beings in this work suggest the redemptive influence of the spirit.

Perhaps, in biotechnology, we are barking up the wrong tree.


A Critical Summary of Bioethics: From Humans to Transhuman, then Posthuman

March 18, 2011 , 0 Comments

This article was originally written for  WP2201E From Humans To Posthumans.

In A Moral Vision for Transhumanism, Hopkins (2008) suggests reasons which power the transhumanist movement. This ideology stems from the desire to breach physical limits so that we may magnify our capacity for improvement, resolve existential suffering and hence, address the human condition. Also, this movement seeks to allow us to realize our imagination. To become genuine transhumans, our characters must be transformed in tandem with our bodies. This, Hopkins further claims, allows us to seek truth and goodness. Technological advances can part the veils of existential mystery so that we may see “truth” and discover whether it is worth pursuing.

Hopkins’s argument, while coherent, rests uneasily on the assumption that a definitive ‘perfection’ – “truth”, “good” – can be achieved (p. 3,5). However, ‘perfection’ is a psychological construct, a subjective state that varies not only between individuals, but even during phases of an individual’s life. It changes according to socio–cultural and political environments too. Hogle (2005), an anthropologist of science, affirms that “expectations of what it takes to sustain life changes in various […] contexts and across time periods (p.712).” Chasing after ‘perfection’ is akin to pursuing elusive phantoms; we do not know what we collectively want as a species and thus, the movement seems to float towards a vague, rose –tinted vision.

This ideology, Hopkins optimistically asserts, evolves from a desire to reach perfection and enlightenment (p. 5).While it certainly accounts for the motivations of some transhumanists, it is neither the sole nor primary reason. Venture capitalists may want to profit, money-wise, from the technology; governments may legislate the science according to the political calendar; researchers, according to Flannery in Biotechnology & Bioengineering (1998), may be probing due to “emotional as well as intellectual satisfaction” (p. 465). This myriad of reasons sustaining the biotechnology revolution cannot be carelessly encapsulated under the umbrella term of knowing the “truth” and pursuing the “good”.

In what seems like an attempt to assuage critics, Hopkins recognizes in the subsequent section that transhumanism may not necessarily lead to the betterment of mankind – some might become “bodhisattvas” and others, “superhuman warlords”. This stance, contradictory to his pro–transhumanist inclinations, is only fleetingly addressed – a customary olive branch to placate the movement’s opponents – before he conveniently continues to share his confidence in transhumanism.

By beginning his exposition with general information on transhumanism, Hopkins gives lay readers insights into this movement. His mild, pedagogical tone inspires interest before he attempts to excite with his personal moral vision and ends with a dramatic rhetoric. Lest his optimism eclipse the sobriety of bioethics, there must be an understanding that caution should temper the technological breakthroughs and that transhumanism is a journey towards growth – and not an eventual destination.


35 Inspirational Quotes by Mother Teresa

March 14, 2011 , 0 Comments

1) Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

2) Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

3) Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.

4) Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.

5) I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.

6) I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

7) If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

8) If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

9) If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

10) Intense love does not measure, it just gives.

11) Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.

12) Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.

13) Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given.

14) Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.

15) Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.

16) Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

17) Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.

18) Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.

19) Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.

20) One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.

21) Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.

22) Peace begins with a smile.

23) Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

24) The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.

25) The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.

26) The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

27) The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.

28) The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.

29) There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

30) There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things that we could use.

31) We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.

32) We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

33) We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.

34) We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.

35) Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.


Parading facades

March 10, 2011 0 Comments

Kelvin sensed that something was wrong.

Albert had said that he knew Gewen well. 'Hmm, Gewen's really quite a secretive person. But I think I know him well enough.' What Albert knew about Gewen, however, wasn't congruent with what Kelvin knew.

When Kelvin mentioned this in passing to Gewen, the latter replied, 'you probably know me better than he knows me.' As they chatted over the phone - really, Kelvin was just looking for an excuse to avoid his lab reports, not ideas for a psych thesis or anything - Kelvin realised that he paradoxically knew more about Albert than Gewen did.

It was all very disconcerting, considering that he had just known Albert and that he wasn't really all that close with Gewen too. He really didn't know both of them well; he just knew them better than they knew each other.

Shouldn't they - Albert and Gewen - know each other better? They were ex-classmates after all.
The mysteries of human relations. What we think we know, aren't really what we know.
Time isn't an apt measure of a friendship's warmth.
When he mentioned this dichotomy to his cousin in a Bali-inspired cottage, he heard an answer that resonated.

'Maybe you're both right. He knows the social front that your other friend presents to the world. And you know his more well-hidden nature. Probably, you two are talking about different aspects. That's why you felt confused.'
The different selves. The superficial facade and the inner disposition. Two sides of a coin, but still its faces.


Bits and Pieces

March 06, 2011 , 0 Comments

Random event in which KF wasn't part of - like, seriously - :

(Does he sound sufficiently like a himbo?)

He cycled casually along the streets in an unfamiliar estate. Silvers of wind were brushing tenderly against him. Who wouldn't like cycling? Is this how birds feel when they're coursing on currents of air?

From the corner of his vision, KF spied a long queue winding through pillars and advert stands. Interesting.

Ever ready for a good bargain - after all, he is a Singaporean - he slowed his cycling speed. Maybe a new cafe's offering heavily discounted lunch? He wondered idly, and hoped.

To his mortification, people were queuing to see the doctors at a polyclinic, not for some sale or anything. Choichoichoi, so paiseh, he wouldn't want to see a doctor, would he? Hahaha!
Just the other day, he was really excited over the post-Christmas sale offered by Giordano. He had pulled his younger, way cooler, brother towards the shop. 'Wah, cheap leh.' Excitement blazed in Kah Fai's eyes, even more brightly how the sun had shone that morning.

His brother threw him a dirty look, sniffed and walked faster, further ahead. Aww. The excitement was extinguished with a 'pop' sound.


The importance of history

March 03, 2011 0 Comments

History skirts over contentious issues.

The victors re-create ways of interpreting past.

Chronicles are tainted with perspectives, exaggerations.

Dominic knew the importance of understanding history but did not really do anything to improve his woeful lack of knowledge in this discipline. Arts - literature, music, theater - fascinated him more. In Singapore, after all, there really wasn't much need for the heavily repackaged national history endorsed by the government.

Outside Singapore, however, was a different matter. In Vietnam, he felt this frustrating communication barrier - invisible but oppressive - with the locals. It felt like a tool was missing from his mental workbench. One which he reached out, almost without awareness, to use but - alas! - only to find that it had rusted from disuse.

Vietnamese locals, naturally, painted a picture of the war different from, say, American troops. Make no mistake, the war was bloody and it was, to him, pointless. Many years down the road, in Dec 2010, the mention of the war stirs discomfort- sometimes even outright anger - in veterans and their family.

Dominic wished he knew more history - more facts - so that he might piece together the disparate bits and understand the world and her people more.

Understanding must rest on knowing. And such comprehension engenders empathy. Respect arises from empathy. A cyclic loop.

He must really pay more attention to history, hmm.