Sunday, 9 October 2016

One thought to rule them all.

Today's paper (5 October) is about an outrage of modesty. A driver, who rented a room in a flat, "lifted the blanket of his housemate who was sleeping and took a photo of her topless." The driver was jailed for 12 weeks after pleading guilty. This was not his first offence of insulting a woman's modesty.

When the woman woke up to find the shirtless driver over her bed, she screamed and he tried to stop her from calling the police. When the police checked his handphone, they found 70 obscene films in it.

In another report, a man, suffering from a "delusional disorder of the jealous subtype" repeatedly stabbed his wife because he suspected she was having an affair. CJ however reduced his sentence from 9 years to 7.5 years in an appeal because it was essentially a "one-off incident which was out of character."

Still there's another a case yesterday when a young man took up-skirt video of a lady going up the escalator. He was arrested and jailed for it. What the police found in his room was numerous such videos where he took together with the faces of his victims. He would then file them in his private catalogue by ranking them in order of appearance and beauty.

Lesson? Just one. It's about one thought. You see, if you have one ring to rule them all, then in life, for most people, it is one thought that rules them all.

It is said that an average person can have four thousand thoughts a day, but not all of them are useful and rational. While most thoughts fly us by, harmless and frivolous, for the mentally sick and obsessed, one thought often reigns undisputed in their mind. It takes precedent over all other thoughts.

There is a case of an Ethiopian schoolgirl called Bira who was obsessed with the thought of eating the wall of her hut. She couldn't stop thinking about it. This one thought dominated her every waking moment. It is reported that by the time she was 17, she had "eaten eight square metres of the wall, that is, more than half a ton of mud bricks."

Another victim from Brazil called Marcus had OCD and it was focused on the shape of his eye-sockets. He just can't resist touching them with his fingers. Before long, Marcus prodded himself blind.

I can go on with other examples of how one thought rules in the mind of a suicidal person, a self-mutilator, a rapist, a murderer, a religious fanatic, an abuser, and a compulsive masturbator, but you get the point.

Indeed, the mind can make heaven out of hell, and hell out of heaven.

The late David Foster Wallace, a brilliant author and university professor, gave this advice to his graduating class in 2005: "...think of the old cliché about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expressed a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. They shoot the terrible master."

David took his life by hanging himself in the patio of his home in 2008. His reason? The obsession of one thought centering around the smothering pretension of keeping up with grandiosity, that is, "the constant need to be and be seen as a superstar." For him, it was "a false sort of smart" - an inauthentic living that he could bear no longer.

Epictetus once said, "Men are disturbed not by things, but by their opinion about them." And a rapist is disturbed by the opinion of lust. A murderer, by hate. A suicide victim, by hopelessness. And a self-mutilator, by self-loathing.

While the mentally sick needs immediate help, the clinically well needs to take back control. He or she needs to exercise effective autonomy - for in most circumstances, there is no robber of one's free will.

Let me end with this. I don't see a man's action, whether good or bad, in isolation. He may claim to be the captain of his ship and the master of his fate, but all it takes at times is one obsessed thought and it will capsize his ship and reverse his fate in the blind conspiracy of the ripe time and circumstances.

Gandhi was once asked what he would do if he was given the gift of omnipotence. He said he would give it away, instantly. I guess given the right time and circumstances, that is, omnipotence, even the best of us will come under the most severe testing. Gandhi knew that intimately.

I sincerely believe that if you give flirting a chance, it will bloom into adultery. If you give lust some space, it will soon lord over a territory. And if you give hate a room, it will stock up a murderous inventory.

Thus never say never for the most unrepentant of sinners, and the most celebrated of heroes.

So, if the first cut is the deepest, then the first thought is the most devious. If left unchecked, it grows into a weed garden that swallows the whole forest.

Yet, in all circumstances, we are still the master of our fate provided we live consciously, purposefully, and intentionally. Cheerz.

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