Sunday, 12 April 2015

I flushed before I'm done.

I was in the High Court this week. I was waiting for my turn for a Pre-trial Conference. I then felt a squeeze in my bladder and headed to a nearby loo. After daring a peek at my new crew-cut hairstyle with a tinge of ruefulness, I rushed to the cubicle at the extreme right and let it go. It was a relief I relished but only for a moment. And here's the rub. Before I finished, I flushed. Yes, you heard it right...I flushed. And I saw the imagery of a cascading waterfall battling with a limpy lone loo.

Then it hit me like a gale of ammonia: Why did I flush even before I finish the job? Why can't I just wait? Altogether, I had to flush twice for a single slivery stream into the urinal. Two flushes for one flash in the pants? I then zipped up, washed up and went out of the toilet musing about the first impatient flush. Was there even a need for me to do it? Am I at the core an impatient person?

Maybe I am. Maybe this is one of the signs of this modern hurry, quick fix, get-it-done generation. I recall Shakespeare once said, "How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degree?" Indeed, for me, what pee did ever pass but by the last squirt. And I have unconsciously manifested the impatient double-flush syndrome.

I guess my life is dictated by the passing hands of a clock. Every minute has to count for something. Every minute that lies idle is a minute that lies wasted. And it is irredeemable, irreversible and also intolerable. The pressure to perform, to meet deadlines, to outdo, to excel, to outwit, and to stay ahead is relentless and it has seeped into every aspects of my life: in my office, in my work, in my children's academic track, in my spiritual growth, in my existential yearnings, and in my toilet habits.

I believe this is my unconscious programming in this fast paced society and the pee-feedback tells it best. Let me phrase it with a dash of prefixes of "dis-" to prove my point. I could not wait for the discharge to be fully dispensed. I was in disquietude. On a subconscious level, I just wanted to disrupt the watery discard in a disagreeable manner. I could have desisted but I was defeated by my disability to do so. Why? Because I am seeped or immersed in a results-centered, grades-hungry, quick-fix culture. This culture breeds impatience, instant gratification, overindulgence, materialism and greed.

I guess I will always be running after the clock, trying to play catch up with it. I have sadly signed up to be part of the nuts and bolts, cogs and wheels of this serpentine system they call market-driven competition. No one wants to be left behind. Everyone wants to be ahead. I am indoctrinated to make a splash, make it big, make it last, make it loud and make it count. Worldly successes are always about having more and flaunting it all.

People love a good rag-to-riches story and they dream of one day fulfilling the great American dream. And nowadays, looking at the runaway success of Alibaba, it may as well be the great China dream. The insidious effect of all this is that it is making me into a product of my culture where impatience rules.

It rules in retail therapy where it is believed that a credit-fueled shopping spree is the answer to life's meaninglessness. It rules in pharmaceutical quick-fix where any mental low-point is readily solved with popping the right mixture of pills. It also rules in our own meritocratic grades-first society where we pile up heaps of tuitions and enrichment programs in the hope of cloning the perfect child. However such quick-fixes deal with the symptoms and not the causes.

The finding of meaning cannot be resolved with a one-off hedonistic binge. Our mental illnesses have to be dealt with in the context that they present themselves and not by electrochemical neural disruption. And the academic track is not about piling up the assessments but by firing up the imagination. Henry Miller, an American writer, once said, "In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest." Maybe in the long run, the "easiest difficult way" is to be true to myself and not throw myself into the piranhas-infested waters of catching up with the Joneses. Being true therefore is being authentic. Authenticity is what makes for a sober wise man (or woman) who knows his/her boundaries and does not artificially stretch it to places of disquieting discontentment just because everyone is doing it and going for it.

In the end, I want to realize my true potential and not the phony ones where I find myself doing the things that in the long run brings more personal anguish and emptiness. Two American professors wrote about this in a rather feisty way: "We have phony rich people (with interest-only mortgaged and piles of debt), phony beauty (with plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures), phony celebrities (via reality TV and You Tube), phony genius students (with grade inflation), phony national economy (with $11 trillions in government debt), phony feelings of being special among children (with parenting and education focused on self-esteem above all else) and phony friends (with the social networking explosion)."

So, I am back where I first started double-flush dilemma. Maybe everything is symbolic. My rushing to flush before it's done. My anxiety for my children's academic results. My undue worry about their future. My impatience while driving in a traffic jam. My vain hope of a big break. My disillusionment that comes after a disappointment in the faith. And the list goes on.

Here is a thought. If I am caught in a rat-race of worldly success, then whatever place I end up in, whether first place or its runner's up, I am no more enlightened than a rat. That metaphor morbidly implies more than it casually expresses.

I guess the solution is a personal one. It is a long disciplined process, not a short cut. It is also a journey of keeping hope alive, treasuring what's truly important, being true to myself, and being contented with what I have by learning to enjoy it and not frantically thinking of ways to possess more of it.

And in the end, I want to do the toilet challenge again. I want to take my time, this time. I don't want to be neurotic about it. I want to witness the last drop before I flush. And I want to flush knowing that I am all done because you don't get a second chance in life, and you don't need two flushes when one will do just fine. Cheerz.

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