Saturday, 20 January 2018

The brevity of life and its enduring purpose.

A car crash took away three loved ones, her parents and brother.

Ms Yeo was on a holiday with family in Arizona and a tragic road accident, when the car swerved off to the opposite lane (which then collided into an oncoming van), resulted in the lost of four lives; that is, three from Ms Yeo's side and the driver of the van, who was from Spain. 

Altogether, five people were injured, including Ms Yeo, who had undergone surgery of her spine and is now in stable condition. 

Ms Yeo is a first-year undergraduate from NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Commnication and Information.

While a life is a life, regardless of background and status, one of the lost was Ms Yeo's brother, Justin, who was a SAF scholar. He was then studying in University of Berkeley and his family went over to join him for a end-year holiday. 

What's more, Justin was "among the top A level graduates in Dunman High School in 2013, and received a SAF Merit Scholarship in 2015." 

He had also invented an app "that lets users easily notify friends when they have reached their intended destination, without having to send out text messages." 

Further, Justin "recently joined an entrepreneurship fraternity" and his future was undoubtedly bright before the tragedy happened last Friday.

It is also reported that Ms Yeo's father was a renovation contractor but he had to cease working due to a stroke, and her mother, an administrative worker, became the sole breadwinner. 

Lesson? I note that friends of Justin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have declined to comment, citing respect for Ms Yeo's privacy. 

Personally, I can't imagine the emotional pain Ms Yeo has to go through during such time. The loss is not only sudden and unexpected, it is also personal and immeasurable. It reports that her relatives have travelled over to be by her side. 

On my part, any commentary I have is strictly related to my own life, and nothing more. 

Such event tends to compel you to do some soul-searching, and it is timely for me considering that I have come to the end of one year and soon, the beginning of another. 

Whether I admit it or not, or whether I am conscious of it or not, such tragedy forces me to think about the meaning of my own life. It forces me to question the many assumptions upon which I have defined what is meaningful to and for me in my own mortal journey. 

While I have nothing to say about the tragedy, fully respecting Ms Yeo's privacy, and hoping for her recovery and praying for resilience, I have much to say about how I have been living my life thus far. 

For indeed, an unexamined life is not worth living. 

But what is scarier still is to examine your own life, and then walk away not knowing what's wrong with it (or worse, being lulled into a delusion that you are good as you are). 

I guess Socrates would have been even more appalled by that than to live an unexamined life. 

For one is about ignorance, and the other is about self-deception. And nothing is more lamentable than to spend your whole life pursuing a misguided belief (because you think is right).

So, for starters, I hope to spend the remainder of the year re-examining the automatic assumptions I have ridden upon that I thought have given my life meaning. 

Three areas come to mind.

1) Work. This has to be a means to an end, and the end is not just restricted to providing for the family, paying the bills. 

Since work will occupy a major part of my life, the time spent ought to justify the person I am becoming or will become at the end of the day. 

Not everyone loves his/her job, and most does it to pay the bills. But, a reexamination in this area will compel me to see beyond the paying of bills.

I admit that I may not have the same passion daily for my work, but at least, I must sustain the passion to trust that what I am doing is making a difference in the life of another, however small. 

Be it a doctor, an engineer or a cleaner, our commitment to the work may result in a life saved, a sturdier bridge or a safe and clean floor. 

Either ways, we are making a difference. In other words. between saving a life and maintaining a clean environment, the difference is always felt. 

And the meaning I get from my work should make me reach out beyond myself to touch lives. This brings me to the second area.

2) Self. This again has to be a means to an end. The last thing I want to become at the end of the day is to allow myself to be an end in itself by making use of other people to serve that end. 

And instead of making a difference in other people's life, I demand that they first make a difference in mine. 

Everything then becomes transactional whereby I am obsessed with the cost of the sacrifice at the expense of the priceless transformation such a selfless sacrifice promises.

Living a meaningful life therefore requires me to reexamine what makes me happy, that is, to live to serve myself or others. If it is the former, then the happiness is empty and very much self-deceiving. If the latter, the happiness is enduring and deeply fulfilling. This brings me to my last lesson. 


3) Relationship. Ultimately, you become a better person not by focusing on yourself, but on others. And concerning building relationship, this has to be an end in itself.

Now, I am not advocating self-neglect here, but self-denial (when it counts). And I understand that I can never deepen a relationship or advance it by always looking to be no. 1 (unless of course, I am involved in a relationship of one - myself).

I think the greatest threat to a marriage after some years is to think that you deserve better. 

A marriage can withstand a lot if both parties are prepared to work at it for the long haul. But it is internally doomed when one feels that the other spouse is just not good enough, not compatible anymore, or not looking after one's interest. 

When the self becomes the end in itself, the world becomes a resource mine (so to speak) to be exploited and extracted for one's personal expansion or enrichment. 

Sooner or later, a life like that leaves a trail of barrenness and destruction behind.

But when a life moves out of itself, committing to being a means to serve another, the land he leaves behind is always lush, fertile and fruitful where everything he plants through love, hope and faithfulness grows into abundance and that will always be his enduring legacy. Cheerz.

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