Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Two Fools.

In this world, there are some fools living amongst us. On both sides of the theist/atheist divide, they reside foolhardy. For now, I have two fools in mind here.
The first fool is the fool who says in his heart “this is no god”. His faith is on reason and reason alone. For him, reason is the alpha and omega of all things. He feverishly digs the existential foxhole with his bare hands of reason to the exclusion of everything else. He refuses to explore the values of myths, wonders and marvels of religious tradition 
past and present as revealing the essence of our nature, our hopes and our yearnings. He refuses to see beyond reason to the heart of humanity, one which seeks far more than what reason can ever hope to offer.
He is the one who shouts out at the self-glorifying summit of science to proclaim to the world that the basis and means of all discoveries to the origin and meaning of life is reason and reason alone. Nothing else explains it better, or more credibly or convincingly. No reality exists apart from what reason can unearth. The unseen is therefore the figment of one’s febrile imagination while all that is seen is by virtue of reason’s exploits. There are just no fairies in the bottom of the garden.
While the late notorious atheist-turned-theist Professor Antony Flew proclaimed, “I am open to omnipotence,” this first group of fools nevertheless choose to remain open only to reason and reason only.
And while Professor Flew declared this: “In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” this same group denounces that statement as misguided reason disguised as mindless faith.  
So, for this reason, religion for them is neither the cradle of civilization nor her nurturer. Instead, she is the orphan child waiting in vain for adoption as potential adoptive parents walk on by convinced that there is nothing of value for them to stop and consider.
Alas, this group takes self-ignorance to a whole new level of daily application and servings. To them, religion, philosophy and art are all dead. Their incarnation in whatever institutionalized and aesthetic forms over the ages only serve to perpetuate the illusion, and dead they have always been.
To them, ethics is a mental calisthenics of personal preferences and choices; just so long as no harm is done to others (as for harm to oneself…this personal advice reign 
supreme: “Bugger off, my house, my rules”). 
There is, I suspect, more than personal hubris in this class of halfwits. Their ceaseless inspiration comes from something far deeper than the arrogance they unabashedly project to one and all.
Maybe, if one had paid more attention, one would have noticed that the force of their mull-headedness is betrayed by that chilling tingle in their spine, that familiar quivering in their lips, and that tics-like squinting in their eyes as they confront their own 
mortality. And it is the indignant resistance to the possibility that they may be wrong, and for that matter, dead wrong, that ironically breathes more fire into the bowels of their endless rebellion. Go figure…
Let’s just hope that at some point in their life, they will take the time to wander out of their own inscrutable fortress of self-smugness to discover that there has always been a much larger picture to the world they operate in and the universe they quietly marvel at.
And to have but a glimpse of that 
whole picture, or eternity uncovered, so as to be deeply enlightened and forever transformed by the beauty beyond reason, one is required to courageously venture beyond the boundaries of science and into the realm of faith and hope.
For isn't that why we are called homo sapiens, the "wise human" – and not homo ignoramus?
Let go for the second group…
The second group representing the other side of idiocy is the fool who claims that faith and faith alone defines the world and universe. To some extent, they are on the right track.
However, even when they are on the right track, believing that our existential uniqueness goes beyond reason and into the realm of faith and hope, they are still fools no less. Why?
Because they are right for the wrong reasons. And because the fool in them makes sure that they conduct themselves in a way that only a fool would conduct 
This group is usually the self-defining religious purveyors of the faith, that is, pulpit firebrands and prosperity preachers hankering after fame, fortune and adoration on a worldwide scale.
The hallmark of this peculiar group of nincompoops is again arrogance and obstinacy. This is ironically the common bond shared between the first and the second fools here. Two sides of the same coin - so to speak. And ignorance and obstinacy are their trademark which, when unraveled, is nothing more than self-conceited knowledge.
For what could be more foolish than to know that you are right (that is, subscribing to faith and hope as an inseparable part of reality) and then go about screwing that up by rubbishing reason altogether and ignoring good counsel and appeal of common sense?
It is not hard to identify someone who epitomizes that kind of wrongness in his trekking to be right. We have the religious stage-performers who strut their controversial messages every Sunday to a mindless chorus of mass adulation.
They no doubt believe the original Redeemer and even got their theology correct at first instance. But then, along the way, the right and narrow road gets a little too familiar to them, and they couldn’t resist the temptation to spruce things up just that tad bit to make what is already original even more original (so to speak) only to wow the sight-and-wonders crowd.
They are what Galatians 3:3 would classify as the foolishness of beginning in the Spirit and then finishing by means of the flesh, human effort and human understanding.
Here are some examples as a sour foretaste of this second class of inanity.
They turn bloody Calvary into a 
self-glamorizing carnival, make the nailing to self less about their Savior and more about themselves, and steal the limelight from under the Redeemer’s nose by showcasing their scriptural creativity (if not shameless audacity) over the pulpit under the veneer of charisma, originality, and popularity. It is more about the twisting of the word than the expounding of it.
Worse still, they gradually, and even unknowingly, claim full ownership of sanctified materials in the Book authored 
by their Redeemer through self-serving alterations which I’d call ala carte religiosity. The obvious may be staring at them in their faces, but they will never be the first to wink. Somehow, stubbornness is the prize of such self-serving religiosity.
To them, nothing in theology is unanswerable - the answers however come in neat, pre-canned, and well-packaged answers in either 5 simple, easy-to-follow steps or 12 cut-and-dry lessons. They have effectively embodied the mind of their creator, and even boast to become one themselves.
If knowing the truth sets them free, then this particular class of simpletons is indeed set free, but free only to do what they wilt and doing what they wilt is, to them, the whole of the law, that is, a law 
unto thyself as a self-referential measure.
And what about the so-called fruits of their delusion?
Well, it comes in various forms: Belief without repentance, love without discipline, faith without works, earthly hope without eternal perspective, material success without sacrifice, and prosperity without bearing one’s cross or counting the cost.

Alas, I will leave this class of fool to their own devices and hopefully, with enough idiocy, imbecility and inanity sloshing around and colliding at breakneck speed in the self-centered universe of 
their own making, they might just come to their senses and, who knows, make a decisive switch to being right for the right reasons this time…and thereafter return to the narrow road they first started with, that is, the way, will and walk of the faith emboldened by reason, and not relying on human effort and the works of the flesh. Cheerz.

* Image taken from The Visitorium

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A father's timeless love.

On her 16th birthday, Ms Bailey Sellers, the youngest of four siblings, noticed something wrong with her father. It was the Christmas of 2012 and he slept through for most of his favourite day of the year. 

Bailey's father was later diagnosed to have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was 55 years old at that time.

After that devastating news, Bailey dropped out of high school, and took care of her father full time. When the load became too heavy, her mother too stayed home to take care of him. 

However, a year later, Michael Sellers passed away when Bailey was only 16 (turning 17 that year). But that was not the end of their father-daughter's bond.

A few months after her father's passing, on Bailey's 17th birthday, she received a special gift. It's from her father. It's his posthumous love gift for her, that is, it came in a bouquet of flower and a note that reads:-

"Happy birthday. You'll receive these until you're 21. Love, Dad."

Apparently, Michael had before his demise set up an arrangement with a flower delivery service to send his daughter a bouquet and a note every birthday until she is 21.

Sharing about these loving annual deliveries, Bailey said: "Everyone knows I hate my birthday. I don't want to celebrate it. It's just a reminder he's not there anymore. And at the same time, I can't wait because I get those flowers."

The truth is that Bailey didn't want her 21st birthday to come because, as promised, that will be her father's last love gift to her. 

But when it came last Friday, which was two days before her 21st birthday, she "brought the flowers inside and couldn't make it through a sentence of the note before she lost it." 

It reports that "while the previous years' flowers usually had short greetings, this time a handwritten note with butterfly stickers was attached. Her mother read the rest of the letter, with the whole family crying."

Here is what Bailey's father wrote:-

"This is my last love letter to you until we meet again. I do not want you to shed another tear for me my baby girl for I am in a better place. You are and will always be the most precious jewel I was given. It is your 21st birthday and I want you to always respect your momma and stay true to yourself. Be happy and live life to the fullest. I will still be with you through every milestone, just look around and there I will be. I love you Boo Boo and Happy Birthday!!! Daddy."

Lesson? Erm...full disclosure? 

I actually cried this morning when I read that letter. Being a father of three, with two young daughters, I shed silent tears. 

They said grown, adult men don't cry. I somehow believe that. 

You see, if you protect your heart from the hurts of love, wrap it up airtight from the wounds of devotion, and lock it away somewhere where the pain of fatherly sacrifice cannot touch it, you have no reason to shed any tears. Your heart is well insulated.

But alas. a father's heart is not that fortunate to be so protected, wrapped up and locked away. 

Every morning, the privilege of being a father is that you get to see the sleeping, peaceful faces of your children. 

You get to be there for all their milestones in life. You get to share their disappointments, growth, tears and joys, and they yours. 

At the end of the day, you get to watch them sleep with that same reassuring peace they started with in the morning under your care, nurture and love. 

The relationship between a father and his child cuts deep into the father's heart. In fact, they are so connected by a spiritual bond that one's pain is felt a thousand times by another. For fathers, you dread the day you walk her down the aisle and give her away. 

So, I know viscerally and intimately where Michael is coming from and how his heart must have ached so much penning those words to Bailey, and also every greeting card he wrote to her until his baby's 21st birthday. 

I feel that Michael's message from a place of eternal rest is so applicable to me. It is so heartwarming for me. 

It speaks about a love that never dies. It lives on with such undying devotion. It is eternal. This father's heart will go on for a lifetime even if Michael is not around for all of Bailey's birthdays. 

It is the same message I want my daughters (and son) to know. 

I would want her to respect her mother cos she is the first love of my life, and a love that transformed me for good. My heart would never be strong and resilient without hers beating in mine. 

And I would also want my daughter to stay true to herself. Don't pretend to be what you are not my dearest. You don't need to prove to others or get their approval. 

I want my daughter to know that she is always my angel, the precious jewel God has given, and I will always love her because this love cannot be shaken by circumstances external to us. 

In fact, the circumstances, however intimidating, are there as building blocks to strengthen our love even more, and not break or threaten the bond.

And I wish that she will always be happy and live life to the fullest. 

In this world, it takes so little to be happy. We tend to forget that. We run around empty looking for it when the truth is that happiness has never left us. 

It is in fact in the touch of another, the sweet words of encouragement, the embrace of passion, the joy of a walk together on an ordinary day, and the growth we build up through overcoming in hope, faith and love.

Mind you, not one of those things I have written about require any herculean effort on a father's part to achieve, or at all. He doesn't need to build up his career or cash balances for most of his lifetime to buy them. They are free, priceless and forever. They are readily expressible.

In other words, they are simple acts, deeply felt, and quietly transforming. They are eternal too. 

In any event, what is a lifetime to a father anyway. It may just come sooner than he could ever wish against. 

Lastly, of all the above, my daughter needs to know this: "I will still be with you through every milestone, just look around and there I will be."

Indeed, fathers have never left. We are always there. The memories we form with our child can never be extinguished. A father's love stays with his children for their lifetime. It watches over them and his heart still aches when their hearts ache, and leaps for joy when theirs leap.

But whatever happens, the greatest gift of fatherhood is that we hold our baby's heart in our hands when we first carry them in our arms. 

From thereon, our hearts are already intertwined, joined as one. It's unbreakable, inseparable. And it is an overcoming love that lasts forever. Cheerz.

Everybody, Somebody, Nobody.

When Prince Harry went on his knee to propose to Meghan Markle with a yellow gold ring just after a roast chicken dinner at Kensington Palace, she did not wait for her Prince to finish the sentence before she said yes to him. 

She thought the occasion to be "so sweet and natural and very romantic." 

On the ring, she said: "he designed it, it's incredible. Yeah, make sure it stays on that finger."

What was the Prince's response? 

He said he was "over the moon, jumping up and down."

But I am not so much writing about that this morning, or how they met, or what is their favourite colour. I am going off tangent here to write about the views of the world, or more appropriately, the world's judgment. 

You see, not everyone is celebrating though. One part of the world is not. Here is why. 

Meghan is born in LA, not home ground U.K. She is older than him; that breaks the tradition. What's worse is that she's biracial. FYI, Meghan has an African-American mother and a white father. That's unprecedented?

And the one that takes the cake is that Meghan is a divorcee. 

Now putting Prince Charles' dalliance with Camilla aside, the world is not happy that she is not only not pure breed, pure pedigree, and pure blood, but she was once betrothed to another man. 

That I guess permanently marred the image of a fairy-tale princess for the world. 

Then, here's another news. 

Oxford, the English city once home to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has removed her Freedom of the City Award for her "inaction" in the face of oppression of the Rohingya. 

This is what the city council said in a statement:-

"When Aung San Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City in 1997, it was because she reflected Oxford's values of tolerance and internationalism. Today, we have taken the unprecedented step of stripping her of the city's highest honour because of her inaction in the face of the oppression of the minority Rohingya population."

It should be noted that Oxford also removed portraits of Suu Kyi from its wall in September. 

FYI, her husband, Michael Aris, was a lecturer in Oxford and the couple lived and raised their two sons in the city.

Lesson? Just one.

There is a certain cold resoluteness in the way the world judges you. If you are a nobody, nobody cares. And because you are a nobody, you are a nobody to them. 

Everybody is looking for somebody and obviously, nobody is just not somebody.

Curiously, everybody adores a somebody because somehow a somebody makes everybody somebody. It's called living your life vicariously through that somebody. 

There is another truth here about nobody, everybody and somebody.

At the risk of sounding trite, everybody exists in the majority. They are the faceless crowd, the hidden stats, the background protest, the masses clamouring for blood, and the ringside spectators expecting a good show for their money's worth. 

They will not settle for less. 

In other words, everybody expects somebody to make everybody feel that they are somebody deep inside. 

There is of course a positive side to that. We all draw our inspiration from our personal heroes or role models. It is our springboard to achieve greater things for ourselves and possibly becoming an inspiration to others. 

But there is also an insidious dark side. It is also a very volatile side. 

Unfortunately, this volatile dark side also explains why somebody has to fit the expectations of everybody for it is trite to say that somebody is somebody because he or she meets the high standards set by everybody. 

So this brings me to Prince Harry who is clearly a somebody in the eyes of everybody. And this also brings me to Meghan, who is, well, a nobody by the standards of everybody. 

What's worse is that this nobody is going to marry the somebody and she doesn't even fit the basic expectation of everybody. 

She is of a different country, different pedigree, different status and different class. Mind you, she is...the "D" word. 

Here you can forget about what MLK once said about judging people not by their colour or creed, but the content of their character. 

And this also brings me to Suu Kyi, the once freedom fighter for everybody. She has been denounced by everybody because of her "inaction". 

Before, she was handsdown somebody. But now, she is a handsoff nobody. Because she has fallen short of the standards set by everybody, she is no longer everybody's somebody. 

(I caveat that this post is not to dissect what Suu Kyi did or didn't do. She has her own demons to fight with, just as everyone has their own. It is nevertheless about the volatility, or even futility, of being in everybody's good books).

So, there you have it, my lesson for the day. 

It's about everybody wanting to be somebody because nobody is just not that somebody everybody wants to be. 

But here's the last truth about nobody, everybody and somebody as I end. 

The reality of it all is that everybody is just not somebody however much everybody wishes they are. 

You see, they can wish that they are somebody but it will not happen as long as they remain as everybody. 

As everybody, they will never understand the struggles, the pain, the loneliness, the regrets, the fallibility, the mistakes, the shame, the determination, and the undying hope of somebody. 

As everybody, they will never understand the sacrifices somebody makes, the blood, toil and sweat they expend to get to where they are, and the disappointment in somebody's life. 

And as everybody, they will never understand the truth that it was not the choice of somebody to become somebody. They just do what they love with passion and perseverance, and they are not looking for fame, fortune or recognition in their struggles to be what everybody wants them to be, that is, somebody. 

If given a choice, I sincerely believe that that somebody rather remain as nobody because they know deep inside that they can never meet up to the standards of everybody, and they never desired to in the first place. 

As a nobody's somebody, somebody enjoys full rest, assurance, peace, mutual understanding, and the joy of just being yourself. 

For somebody also know that they are only human, and they are bound to make mistakes. What distinguishes them however is that they never give up. 

However, as everybody's somebody, somebody will seldom find rest, approval and understanding for they will be judged endlessly by everybody for everything they do and say.

Now, the scary thing here is that in the end, what everybody so desperately wants to be, that is, somebody, is in fact no more than everybody trying desperately to deny what they truly are inside, that is, a nobody. 

So, the sad reality is that everybody is made up of countless nobodies who don't have the courage to step out of being everybody, but instead take cowardice comfort in numbers so that they can avoid the struggles and sacrifices that a nobody takes to become somebody in his or her own rights. Cheerz.