Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Have we lost our values?

Friends reprimand me whenever I say that I’m old. Based on the current average human life span, I know I’m only at the halfway mark but recently, I can’t help but notice the gap between me and the youths widening. Some of their behaviour and thinking are so different from mine that it makes me wonder if I’m ageing at an accelerated speed.

I belong to the old camp and take a no-nonsense stand when it comes to handling kids but over the years, through my exposure and interaction with them in my voluntary work, I learn to understand their culture. I would consider myself quite adaptable to their ‘modern’ mentality by now. Even if I do not agree with some of their behaviours, I can keep mum about it and accept them as they are. My principle is, as long as the behaviour is not harmful, I am ok with it. Kids will outgrow their idiosyncrasies eventually.

There is one trend among youths which I find very disturbing and really cannot condone, and that is the habit of hurling verbal abuses or mouthing of all kinds of vulgarities. No, I’m not talking about our kids in cdac. They do spout some vulgar words sometimes but this post is not about them. We have fairly well-behaved kids at our centre ^_^.

Earlier this week, I was so stun when I read a post made by XX, one of our top local bloggers. She launched an ugly avalanche of accusations and vulgarities at LZB, a celebrity granny blogger. I found her long post of insults totally merciless. The girl must have lost her mind to write something so nasty and vulgar about a 69-year-old blogger.

This young blogger posted a couple of weeks ago a list of seven bloggers whom she considers the most disgusting in S’pore. She has always been a controversial blogger so such posts from her will not raise an eyebrow. In fact, to make it even more controversial, she included herself in that list. Her main attack was Steven L who honestly, is really disgusting but LZB was also in her hit list. XX’s comments about them obviously cannot be pleasant and when the old lady read her rude and crude comments, naturally she got upset and posted her reaction on her own blog. She claimed it was the saddest day of her life and then went on to express her disappoint at the attack and said some things which also were not that nice (she made some assumptions about the upbringing of XX) but nothing vulgar.

That post from LZB really got XX hot and furious and she retaliated immediately with that subsequent abusive post. I really got a rude shock when I read it. But thank goodness, she deleted it from her blog. I believe someone must have advised her to do that because it will definitely affect her future as a celebrity blogger and TV host/presenter. LZB is also an artiste under the stable of director Jack N. XX couldn’t be so stupid as to risk offending an influential director. Come to think of it, she was quite stupid to have posted it and let me read it…hehe!

XX loves to write controversial stuff because her readers love to read them. The original post was obviously her ploy to ruffle up the local blogging scene and start a crossfire of words among the bloggers. Why? To increase blog hits lah. She is a full-time blogger and the more readers she gets, the more she gets paid. Her first post alone received a thousand over comments from readers. It not only drew readers to her blog, it up the hits of the other bloggers too. It was a good ploy but unfortunately, she insulted an old lady who could not handle the game. XX ended up being the victim of her own game.

I’m quite eager to agree with LZB that XX’s behaviour has something to do with her upbringing. I mean which parent will allow their kids to have a total disregard for basic human values like courtesy, respect, responsibility and integrity, hurling foul-mouthed abuses and vulgarities at everyone and anyone? It’s not that occasional swearing of one or two words. I’m talking about the use of a whole dictionary of vulgarities in public. My dad would have killed me if I dare use such language.

What is truly disturbing is that XX does this quite often and yet the readers don’t seem to mind. Readers don’t find it offensive at all and a lot of them also left comments using the same set of vocabulary. Has this become a norm for our youths today? If it has, I will say the same words as LZB, “This is the saddest day of my life.”

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Talking about comfort zones…

I’ve been talking about comfort zones…and dancing is definitely not within mine. My amygdala always tells me that I got two left feet and a stiff-like-a-log body so no way for me to be able to shake and boogie like the youths today. I’m so amazed that the youngsters are able to pick up dance moves, whether breakdance, hip-hop, lindy hop or indian dance, all in a jiffy and without any awkwardness.

My generation will agree with me that we’re less expressive than the youths today especially when it comes to such performing arts. Kids today not only can sing and dance, they enjoy performing it in front of an audience. Why? They are able to stretch their comfort zones wider than us I guess.

Me and several volunteers brought the cdac kids to a dance session organised by the YMCA youths last Saturday. I thought it was a rare opportunity for the kids to learn something different and yet have fun. Most of the kids did have fun just prancing around while they were taught three dances in one short afternoon. But one of our boys who was forced out of his comfort zone cried big time when a female volunteer wanted to partner him. What a shame! No one could pacify him, even when I tried to change his partner to one of our male volunteers. So I just let him sit on the floor and cry lor!

Here are some pictures and video I took at the event. I felt the youth leaders from YMCA were real spontaneous in leading the kids. They even gave two performances at the end and let the kids know that all of them were also shy when they first started learning how to dance. But over time, they’ve become more confident and even have the courage to perform in front of an audience. Everyone can become a superstar. What a great learning and sharing experience by the youths, for the youths!

Hindi Dance

Hip-hop - I think this was the youths’ favourite

One of the performances by the YMCA youths

Monday, July 23, 2007

Trapped in my own mental conditioning

Thanks to a project that I am currently handling, I’ve been forced to put aside my usual readings and research a little on neuroscience; the human brain, the amygdala and comfort zone.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped, small little component in our brain that works like a gatekeeper shutting out change and unfamiliar situations; it confines us to our comfort zone. Researchers say that when we step out of our comfort zone, it creates fear in us. The more stress and fear we develop, the greater the amount of neurotransmitters the amygdala will release to freeze us and stop us from stepping out.

Highly successful people have been known to step out of their comfort zones routinely to achieve what they want. If we dare to go against the amygdala, it results in the release of adrenaline or epinephrine hormones that will enable us to achieve feats which have been regarded as super human effort, such as lifting a car with our bare hands! Really? Can meh? Well, some researchers say the comfort zone is just a false mental conditioning that gives us an unfounded sense of security.

You people know I’ve been wanting to make a change to my career, my life but I don’t seem to be making much progress in this. Life has not changed much in the last six months and I am still running my design business as a going concern. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been so used to my lifestyle and am actually happy to stay where I am. I seem to be giving myself a lot of excuses to avoid the change. Is my amygdala preventing me from stepping out of my comfort zone or my cognitive dissonance playing tricks on me?

Is there really an invisible gatekeeper turning away propositions for me to change or is this mental conditioning self-imposed? If I really want to see major changes in my life, I have to ignore the neurotransmitters and stimulate the release of my adrenaline hormones. Friends, if you do see this ostrich’s head stuck in the hole on the ground, can you kindly yank it out? Just don’t yank out my feathers as well, that can be quite painful.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Walking in the Garden of Souls

Do you crave for a world where there’s no trouble but only peace, no hurt, anger or hatred and no one ever becomes ill, grows old or dies? Here’s a piece of good news, there is such a place and all of us will get to live there…when we pass on from our human lives into the hereafter, at least according to George Anderson in his book ‘Walking in the Garden of Souls’.

The author is a medium and his job for the past few decades has been to communicate messages from people whom have passed on in life to their loved ones. Yes, he can see and hear the souls. When he was young, he hated at being different from the rest of the people around him because he was ridiculed for the things he saw and heard. Family members and friends even thought he had mental problems. As he was growing up, he tried to suppress this special ‘skill’ of his and chose to ignore the messages. But through his journey in life and after many extraordinary encounters, he began to understand the value of the messages and the impact they made on life here. He eventually accepted it as his assignment for this life.

George Anderson thinks we were once a much more spiritual planet thousands of years ago but because of education, we became too wise for our own good. We gained in knowledge, only to lose heavily in the purity of our souls. We discarded things which we could not understand and embraced anything that would distract us from the discomfort of hopelessness. But things are beginning to change. We are starting to shed our arrogance and realise that we are not the centre of the universe. There is now a growing need for spiritual fulfilment. We’re finally listening to voices around us and more importantly, we’re beginning to listen to our hearts.

The author says life is like a garden. What is planted by us will bloom for us in a life to come. We come to this earth with our fears, shortcomings, impatience and intolerance to learn how to create a garden on the earth. We are here to cultivate this garden that will feed our spiritual needs as well as the needs of others on the earth. And through our experiences in life, we tend this garden with the only tools that will work for us…love and hope.

The highlight of this book may be those interesting conversations he had with the souls, especially with some of the famous people in history but I won’t share them here. However, I do want to share what the author learnt from the souls. We all think that the moment people die, we lose them forever, just because we can’t see them anymore. George Anderson says that the souls or our loved ones never leave us. They are always beside us and can hear us and know exactly what we do. Nothing escapes the notice of the souls. In fact, by their caring nature, they are trying their best to help us. They know it’s a tough journey in life because they themselves have been through it. But our struggles will pay off when we complete our tasks here and our loved ones will be waiting for us to join them when we return to the Garden.

What I truly like about this book is the peace and hope it gives. Many people cannot come to terms with the tragedies and suffering that they experience in life. The pain and despair they felt often left a lasting, sometimes permanent impact on the rest of their lives. The writer understands that it is never easy to accept things we can no longer change in life but he keeps reiterating that there is always a reason why things happen. The souls through their messages want us to understand that these circumstances are part of the spiritual education for them as well as for us who are still alive.

“…we think dying is losing something. It is quite the opposite – dying here (after our work is done) is gaining everything. There is a reason for everything good and bad that happens here but we benefit from everything here when we ourselves return to the hereafter.”

Whichever way a person dies, whether by illness, accident, murder or suicide, no one will be punished, and no one will end up on the dark side because of the mistakes they made in their lifetime. Everyone who passes into the hereafter will have a chance to review their life and for whatever wrong or mistakes made, must reconcile and understand what they had done and work hard towards peace and true self-understanding so as to continue forward to the Infinite Light. Death is not the end but the gateway to the reward we will all earn in a magnificent existence.

“One day, each of us will find our way to that world, and find ourselves walking in the Garden of Souls. Until then, tend your garden – in happiness, in peace and in hope.”

My Afterthoughts
I personally do know of a family who lost their only son in a car accident about two years ago. Until today, both parents are still grieving the lost. Both of them were so full of life and energy before the tragedy but now, they seemed to have lost their drive and purpose in life. They aged so much ever since the death of their son. The wife must have cried until there were no more tears to be shed when she visited their son’s grave almost everyday. After so many months, the father is still wondering if he has a case in suing the bus driver for crashing into his son’s car. I do hope they can quickly find the peace within to forgive and move on with their lives.

ps: I want to thank a great friend for sending me this book. Great choice pal! I know who is the first person you want to meet in the hereafter. But its not time for you to return to the Garden as yet. You’ve still got some work to do in the garden here. Persevere and you’ll be rewarded. Make good use of the shit in the garden and remember, gardeners need to rest too.

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