Saturday, 31 May 2014

Three Denials God grants me

I dreamed that one day,

An angel came to me.

God sent him my way.
To grant 3 denials for free.

I scratched my head,

In squinting bewilderment.

"Don't you mean 3 wishes," I asked.

Hoping that God was mistaken.

The angel shook his head.

"No son 3 denials," he said.

Then he threw me the look,

As if I was a fish on the hook.

So I asked, 
"Why deny me what God should be giving to me?"

The angel smiled, and said,

"There is a time to give.

And there's a time to take.

A time to submit.

A time to remit.

This is the time my son.

For you to give up.

The things you hold dear.

So you can live up."

That was all the angel said.

As I stood there, hesitate.

What do you have in mind, my angel friend.

He then held me by the hand.

And asked me to search my heart.

I went all silent, still before him.

Wondering what denial can I bring.

Then, a thought came just as swift.

It was something my heart has sieved.

"Pride?" I said, "I desire to free.

Please take it away from me."

The angel ticked off the first denial.

And waited for my next desire.

"It is impatience then, my second denial."
“Very well," the angel said.
"Your heart's a good advisor."

In that strange moment, I felt 

Inexplicably, it felt lighter.

I felt my heart had room for more.

As I mine my soul for debris, dross, and all.

Then came my last denial.

I had to make it count.

My heart's on fire.

As I kept still, without a sound.

"Envy!" I shouted. I let it go.

I caught the angel's eyes, closed.

"Envy it is, you've picked them well.
Today's the change others will live to tell."

And with that, the angel left. 

My head spinning but my heart's 
at rest.

I now see why denials are best.

For wishes are just wishes,

But denial puts you to the test.


* Image from ""

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What makes a Saint and a good Samaritan?

What makes a saint a saint? I recently read about the canonization of two previous popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Dignitaries and dictators like Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk attended the ceremony together with more than 90 foreign delegates. Of course, the event was not without a few hiccups. It was met with some protests.
The election of
 Pope John XXIII was challenged because he was one miracle short of sainthood. You see, according to protocol, after the candidate's demise, there must be at least two miracles attributed to the evocation of his name. But Pope John XXIII only had one.  As for Pope John Paul II, he was accused of turning a blind eye to the Catholic priest sex scandals. The controversy shadowed his papal authority and leadership for years and
 even persisted after his death. However, it did not stop Pope Francis from proceeding with the ceremony. This led me to the question, "Who is a saint?" or "Who qualifies as one?"
My thoughts drifted to the good Samaritan story in the Bible. This parable is familiar to us. The victim of a robbery was left for dead when a Priest and a Levite passed him by without helping. Then came the hero of the story, an outcast, a Samaritan. He tended to his wounds, pouring oil and wine on it, put him on his 
donkey, and paid for his recuperation in an Inn. Now, is that the definition of a saint? Well, the spirit of it clearly is.
Applying this parable to my life, I can't say that I have been a good Samaritan all the time. Sometimes, I felt like the Priest or the Levite as I conveniently passed a chance to do good because I was too busy or did not want to bring attention to myself. At other times, I played the part of the good Samaritan because people I know were watching. I guess all of us desire to be
known as the good Samaritan to our friends and not the hypocritical Priest or Levite.
But let's add a twist to the parable here. What if the Levite or the Priest were rushing to a burning synagogue nearby to save two dozens children trapped inside and they therefore had no time to stop for the victim? Does it make them less of a saint? Or what if they came to the victim's aid because members of their temple were watching, what can we say about their heart then? Consider another twist. What if the Priest or the Levite felt guilty after
 walking away and later promised themselves that they would help the next time round, would that qualify them as saints by genuine repentance?
My point? I think at most times, we are all three rolled into one, that is, Samaritan, Priest and Levite. Being a Samaritan at all times is a tall order for us and not being one when the opportunity avails itself does not mean that we will never become one in the near future. It is really a lifetime trial of net results (between Samaritan and Priest/Levite) that ultimately
When the late Nelson Mandela was praised for being saint-like, he quickly dismissed it and said that he was not a saint. Unless a saint means a sinner who keeps on trying, then he is not a saint, so said the great leader. This is another way of looking at it. Here is a man who knows himself. He knows the limits of his abilities. He knows the weakness of human nature. He has no illusions about it. Fame, power and wealth are not the real thing.
 They are like beauty that fades, metal that rusts, and stocks that lose value. 
The point about Mandela's admission is that saints do exist and if anything, he comes closest to one. Hands down. But it is not in the embodiment of perfection that makes up sainthood. I think the revolutionary leader had another thing in mind. Sainthood to him is not about an unblemished life. It is not about keeping up with a surrealistic image that the North Korean leaders, for example, 
would desperately want their desolated people to believe in. That false image is their leader's mythical birth, their larger-than-life persona and their deity-like leadership. All of which, we all know are nothing but the vain mirages of power. 
I believe Mandela's life shows that if you seek it, you will surely find saints living among you. But your search in high and prominent places will mostly result in disappointment. You see, the life of a saint is largely hidden from the public glare. It is seldom 
televised, entombed in awards or written about in books. Of course, we know about great humanitarians like Gandhi, Lincoln and King because of the publicity they have received in all the multi-media forms, especially posthumously. 
But these are but merely incidental to their struggles in life. In other words, what we see or know about are the fruits of their labor and not so much their decades-long struggles before they were even known. As such, their
 sweat, agony and perseverance were largely hidden from the limelight.  My point is that many saints may never have the same publicity as great leaders like Gandhi and Mother Teresa and they may very well leave this world largely unknown.
So if there is a GPS system to navigate you around the terrains to identify saints living among us,
 it would be in the unlikeliest of places. So, if you are looking for a saint, try these places for size:-
1) In a home, where a mother wakes up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for her children without fail, and goes about her day caring for them in the most routine and mundane way, and keeping up the spirits even in the toughest of times, in sickness and in health, in disappointments and in personal pain, and in all her humanity, consistently following through till her very last
 breath. That's a saint in my book.
2) On one's knees, where a man proposes to another, and keeps his promises to her, never failing to love her in the worst of times, even when there is every worldly reason to leave her for another, and he gives himself selflessly to her notwithstanding his flaws and shortcomings, and in all this, when he grows old with her, he progressively discovers that he loves her even more deeply than the first time he proposed to her. Now that's a
saint for me. 
3) Beside a hospital bed, when a son is holding his father's hands, with tears in his eyes, he whispers these words to him, "I am sorry dad. I am so sorry," and makes a promise to his dying father that he is back for good, and thereafter, in repentance and humility, he lives his life the best way he knows how to honor the memory of his father. That's another saint for the record.
4) At a nondescript place, where
 a lady confronts the man who had taken her youth away from her, subjected her to pain, disappointments and even shame over the years, and with a quiet resolve in her heart, and a spirit of forgiveness, she hugs the man who himself is welling up with tears, and says in a resolute voice, "I forgive you." That's a saint, anytime, anywhere.
5) And finally, to a place where a man, who has every reason to give up on life, and who has lost everything he once held dear,
clinging on only to the breath that he has under his nose, he slowly, painstakingly, and with dogged determination, picks himself up from the rubble of life and mend himself up, one broken piece at a time, regardless of how long it takes, and now lives a normal life, fully contented, and is uplifted by the littlest things in life, like a smile, a hug, a pat on the back, and a simple word of encouragement. Now that’s a saint for me, for all time. Cheerz

Monday, 26 May 2014

Chance or Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life: either by chance or by miracles. Only two. This binary option is not done for convenience. It is not done so as to simplify life. No. The way I see it, there are no other options. There is no middle ground because chances and miracles are mutually exclusive. The prevalence of one would necessarily exclude the other.
A life lived by chance does not
 and cannot allow for miracles - period. And a life lived by miracles cannot and will not attribute it to chance. This is somewhat in line with the great thinker Einstein's famous quote, "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle."
At this juncture, one may be bursting at the seam with these questions, "How about the jackpot, lottery, Russian roulette? Surely, the turn of a pair of dice
 cannot be the deliberate work of a miracle maker? Where does he find the time? Surely they all happen by pure chance right? If not so, do we then have a divine croupier up there pre-determining the fate of every mortal gamble on earth? And who is he rigging it for, his votaries or just for his own amusement?"
Now, the questions are rhetorical I know. It's just not that subtle. But the point about a world 
predicated on miracles is that a miracle is self-actualizing and self-perpetuating. And every state that comes after that (and every state thereafter) is attributable solely to the birth of that one miracle  and no other. Let me explain.
Imagine a cosmic canvass all rolled out before the miracle maker. He then put his divine color palette to work by painting out an event and scripting the minutest consequences to follow from that event ad infinitum. He continues to
 do so until he fills it all up, leaving no canvass space untouched, that is, pre-crafting one grand beginning and allowing that mother-lode of all beginnings to give birth to the beginnings of many beginnings. 
In this way, each consequence arising from every single miracle (event) is accounted for; leaving no stones unturned, even for numbers that were predestined to appear on the face of a pair of dice after they have stopped spinning in the future.
 Then, the miracle maker rolls up the canvass with diligence, making sure it is rolled up air tight. And this brings us to the genesis of all miracle whereby the miracle maker starts the big bang of the grand unraveling. That is, the beginning of time and humanity; that one elemental event that birth everything big and small.
This un-rolling takes place in human time and space and it proceeds with calculated grace. 
Each event comes up at its own time and the consequences following it show up as self-initializing. All details, however inconsequential, unfold in the way that they should unfold including the spinning of a pair of dice, the evaporation of a droplet, the trajectory of a strayed bullet, the cracking of dawn, the wisp-like curvature of an escaping poison fume, the sinuous mutation of a chromosome, and the winking of an eye intend on murder. All of them happening at their own time 
in various past, present and future, either simultaneously, separately, concurrently, or divergently. Up to our present time, the canvass is still unfolding, and the events first scripted by the miracle maker on the canvas each takes their turn to become the manifold realities as specifically planned. There is really no room for chances here.
However incomprehensible this is to the human mind, a life based on miracles would be unraveled in this way. I guess the philosopher David Hume would
 roll in his grave if he came to know of such a canvassed possibility (pun unintended). But to a believer of miracles, an atheist's claim that he understands how it all works based on nature-aided randomness, and nothing more, would seem even more ludicrous. I guess one man's reality is another man's absurdity.
Now, how about a life lived to endorse chance in everything? What can be said about him? Well for him, the possibility of a
 world of miracles, more so to the lamest aspect involving the belief that the miracle maker had a painstaking hand in crafting the minutest variations in nature to account for the emergence of about 400,000 different species of beetles, is as remote a chance as trying to hit, with a medieval bow and arrow, a target no bigger than a pin's head that is perched on a pin of another pin and placed as far off as the most distant edge of the expanding universe. I know it's a mouthful here but simply put, miracles to an 
atheist is nature-defying and there is nothing more absolute than nature and her empirical laws operating in this world. So god has no part to play here. Neither does his magical miracle wand.
To such a life, chances and randomness rule everything; even the genesis of life as we have come to know. It is therefore a life that does not defer at all to the god hypothesis. And if one would to rewind the universe's clock back to the very start, what eventually turns up
 today may very well be different from what is seen today. Humanity may not happen. The world as we know it may be completely different. Life may not even exist. The earth may be as lifeless as Mars or anyone of Jupiter's 63 known moons. This is how a world of randomness and chances work, that is, a minutest variation by the decimals to such a daunting complexity like the emergence of our universe(s) would unavoidably produce results that differ greatly from
 one another.
But while such a life may make sense in the interim, at least to a certain extent, the herculean struggle lies with coming up with an explanation for the origin of this universe. A life of chance would be hard pressed to argue against the ex nihilo conundrum in this nagging refrain of “what started it all?” or “who started it all?”
 Personally, solving this great mystery by offering a chance-ruled world as the all-encompassing explanation is a little way off for me.
Considering that what we know is just the tip of the iceberg of what we don't know (being the whole iceberg under the water), I guess the odds would be slightly better when one attempts to shoot an arrow at a pin's target placed at the other end of the expanding universe as compared to
conveniently reducing it all to pure random luck as the ultimate explanation. Hyperbolically speaking, of course. And if I may be forgiven for being so X-file-ishly portentous to declare this, "The truth is (still) out there."
So, we have returned to Einstein's quote about miracles. Of course, the great discoverer of the most powerful equation of all time did not endorse a supernatural entity with that quote. But I can safely wager that between the two options, that is, a life by chance and a life of
 miracles, the life that hints to something far greater than pure and isolated chance is to me a better and safer bet for now. Cheerz.

* Image from "".

Saturday, 24 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Hours Past

X-Men: Days of Future and Die cast (erm...b'cos the casts die so many times it makes dying look really cool). 

I went to watch it last night and it was thoroughly entertaining. In my book, the stars of the movie are the perpetually pissed Wolf-man (Hugh Jackman), the eternally blue Smurfette with jaundiced eyes (Jennifer Lawrence), and the I-am-not-a-crook Richard Nixon. No joke...he was in fact the savior of the movie. He makes Watergate look like a mere parking ticket violation.

The young and chiseled face Magneto could have been in my book if he had not been so environmentally insensitive when he ripped apart the entire old Yankee stadium and elevated it as a protective high wall surrounding himself. It's an overkill and a waste of his powers. If he had done that to our new Kallang Stadium with its retractable roof, I am sure our government would not only lock him up for multiple life-sentences and whoop-ass him in an a-la Michael-Fay fashion with no clemency. Our government would also have sued and bankrupted him for every joules of energy left in him (I guess this is one client our indefatigable M Ravi would decline any legal representation).

But then, back to the story. It is really an old rehashing. There is nothing new here. I would not tell you the ending because it is so predictable. Ultimately, when they all grow old, they die...regardless of whether they are XY-Men or XX-Women (save for Hugh Jackman of course...that chappie could have his brain grounded into mince meat or curry powder and he would still wake up the next morning fully exposed and looking impeccable in the mirror...sorry insider's joke).

If you want to have a feel of the plot, think of Back to the Future where Marty McFly went back to the past to match-make his parents so as to ensure his future existence and then replace "parents" with the younger (no less predictable) version of Professor X and Magneto. It's really a marriage made in mind-bending hell. And combine that with the plot of Inception where layers after layers of your consciousness is torn apart in time-stopping wonderland and maybe mix it up with The Terminator Part II where the Arnie-like Wolverine return to the 70s to carry out a Chinese-New-Year-ish reunion of all the young X-men characters, in particular, Mystique, Beast and Toad.

All in all, I guess the plot-line differs little from the movie Austin Powers: The Spy who shagged me where Dr Evil invented a time machine and returned to the 60s to steal Austin Powers' mojo. Of course, the mojo here is really mystique whose amazing shape-shifting skills would downrightly put to shame most of our young brides clumsily performing under sweat and curses wardrobe changes between wedding dinner dishes.

But the really cool bit is one particular segment where quicksilver (think of a young flash with a planet-full of redundant testosterone to spare) broke into Pentagon to free Magneto. This is no spoiler because you’d just have to see for yourself the hilarious motion effects and how he realigned the objects in the room to his impish advantage.  Imagine a young steve jobs, an old tom jones and an underfed gremlin and you roughly get what I mean.

Jokes aside now, let’s dial into something more serious. It’s about the younger Charles (or Professor X). There was a part where he entered into a god-like sphere called Cerebro. It’s kind of like his own mini-Cineplex with a cool helmet and many fun buttons to press. The point about this part is not the searching and locating of humans and mutants. It is about how the young Charles overcame his own fears and pain caused by the screams and sufferings that tormented his mind when he surveyed and connected with the consciousness of the world. As their consciousness crossed, the old Charles advised the young Charles how he could draw strength and hope from the screams and sufferings of the world. He advised him to focus on the hope of humanity and not the dread.

To be honest, this part reminds me about God.  I can see him seated in a cerebro-like throne connecting to each and everyone of us.  He hears our pain and our screams. He knows intimately how we feel and how we are crying out for love, hope and peace. He occasionally makes his holographic appearances here and there to plant anonymous but serendipitous tips to nudge us in the right direction. He whispers into our ears words of encouragement and emboldens our hearts with little reminders of the hope he has planned for us. 

In the end, no matter how we feel, he knows our pain and is watching over us. So, in a sense, if the X in X’mas represents the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, then I guess the X in X-Men reminds us that we all belong to Christ in one suffering, one atonement, and one ultimate resurrection.

Okay, I have said enough. I will end here with a cliffhanger, sort of. If you’re observant enough, you will notice a segment of the movie where the young Magneto told the young Charles that he was locked up in the Pentagon not because he tried to kill President Kennedy. On the contrary, he was trying to bend the bullet away from the President to save him. But he was arrested before he could do so. His reason? Because he was one of us. Yes…apparently the beloved President Kennedy was a mutant (That actually explains a lot). I wonder what was his powers…mind-controlling rhetoric and charisma? If that’s the case, what does it make President Obama? A mutant? (That actually explains even more). Cheerz.