Sunday, December 17, 2006

'You've Got To Find What You Love,' Jobs Says

This is the text of Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO Of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

The link is copied for personal reference.


Stanford Report, June 14, 2005

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Aceh's Path of Reconstruction

On 12 December 2006, the world witnessed a new province being born. Aceh, the once tsunami-devastated island, has gone through an unprecendented election that saw it's former rebel leader heading for victory.

"The polls, consolidating a peace accord after nearly three decades of war, were hailed by UN chief Kofi Annan as 'historic' and by the European Union." So the news reported.

While one may not be impressed by what Aceh has now, after the natural disaster has chosen it's path to cross the island, upon pausing and settling down the mind, one cannot help but feel awed by the gigantic hands of nature and aura of historical brilliance when viewing such an event.

It is an event that can be leveled with such events as the return of Hongkong to China, or the birth of a new millienium. To put it simply, one's time in this world is limited, but the significance of one's existence is entirely marked by the events one has gone through.

Though we cannot choose when do we enter this world, or leave, for that matter, we can in our own limited time span, come to experience and feel what the world has for us. To be emotional about them, to feel for fellow humans and to sensitize one's personal issues as well as secular occurences; this is what is all about as a human. Living, and breathing dynamically.

In his famous writing 'Rissho Ankoku Ron' (〈〈立正安國論〉〉), Nichiren Daishonin explained the significance of the relationship between one's individual existence and the world-at-large:

"Emperors and kings have their foundation in the state and bring peace and order to the age; ministers and commoners hold possession of their fields and gardens and supply the needs of the world. But if marauders come from other regions to invade the nation, or if revolt breaks out within the domain and people’s lands are seized and plundered, how can there be anything but terror and confusion? If the nation is destroyed and families are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety? If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?"

One may have a short lifespan in this strife-filled world. However, the true purpose of one's life, or mission as we normally call it, is only found in the midst of one's struggle to fight one's way out for a better living. This series of continuous struggles must be translated into realising a deeper relationship between one's individual presence on this planet Earth, and the environment one lives in. It is only by then can one truly calls forth the innate wealthspring of wisdom and compassion, thereby leading a rewarding and purposeful life as one yearns and desires.

As Aceh moves from a military backdrop, one filled with violence and uncertainties, to one that has order and law, the people there have actually grown and developed over the years the secret desire to want a better life. Interviewed by news reporters, they all unanimously casted their hope on their future leader as one who can lead them out of confusion and poverty, and into stability and prosperity, regardless of their previous backgrounds. A simple desire cherished by nameless masses from all around the world - peace and happiness. They are all born into this world supposed to be endowed with these. However, reality is cruel and they have had to struggle to keep their heads above the raging waves just to enjoy a moment of tranquility and peacefulness.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president of Soka Gakkai, expounded the theroy of transition of civilisations - from a militaristic civilisation the world has witnessed, humanity will progress and enter the civilisation of economy, which we are currently living in. However the ideal one will be a civilisation of humanism, where a flowering of human elements take centrestage, and a 'healthy race between the various developed countries in developing and cultivating capable leaders for the betterment of the world', as echoed by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda over the many years till present.

Aceh has a long way to go, and I pray for her people to be strong, wise and blessed with fortune. They have gone through so much and it is their time to enjoy a lasting moment of peace and happiness. It's about time they rise above their tragic ashes and, like a lotus flower, blossoms fiercely under the clear, blue sky.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

For The Record II

10 Dec - Augusto Pinochet died in Santiago's Military Hosptial on this day. The ex-strongman, who evaded years of efforts to bring him to justice in hundreds of cases arising from his 1973-1990 regime, died after suffering a heart attack. Incidentally and ironically, this day also marks the 'International Human Rights Day'.

11 Dec - After three decades of war, polls were finally opened in Indonesia's Aceh province for local elections. The tsunami-ravaged province, after experiencing all human and natural turbulences, is set to take on a more difficult route of heading towards peace. Former separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are participating for the first time following a Finnish-brokered peace deal in August last year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mao Zedong In Retrospection

An off today allowed me to make a trip to Hougang community library.

It was located in the Hougang Mall, which has four levels of shopping outlets for one to stroll through the human crowd and make his/ her shopping activites.

As usual, an entry into the library would always compel me to walk toward the 'magazines' section, where I would be inevitably moved to search for the 'Mingpao Monthly' magazine (《明報月刊》). It is a monthly Chinese magazine published by the 'Mingpao Corp', which was almost single-handedly started by the renowned journalist cum author 'Jin Yong' [查良鏞(金庸)]. It's first publication was in 1966, and coming into its 'thirty-eight' anniversary, it has become not only a well-known monthly publication for the Hongkong people; it has evolved and emerged as a 'journalistic conscience' publication for people all around the world to read and be submerged in.

I managed to pick up a few recent edtions, after getting hold only of last year's editions for several times. "It is quite of a good fortune", I thought to myself. In the 'September' edtion, there was an article written by a mainland author. The title, 'Is Mao Zedong a tyrant or a great man?' caught my eyes.

For many times, in my own limited mind, I have thought Mao as 'a man who struggled to uplift China, battling the internal rivals as well as external enemies. Though sometimes he had faltered and slipped, the dire situations and cruel disasters were more of a natural cause and not a calculated human error'. This more or less summed up my initial impression for this man, though in my much younger days I have overheard my late father discussing and perhaps even arguing with my uncles about the achievements and errors of this elusive yet controversial man.

The author in the magzine started out with a direct listing of Mao's doings and deeds. He questioned the conventional trend adopted widely and conveniently by many of Mao's greatness, calling him the 'liberator' of China, which saw him freeing the country from the claws of 'conservative mindsets', 'capitalistic castes' and 'agricultural poverty'. As argued by the many 'adoring fans' of Mao, they have classifed the mistakes and errors made by Mao an 'understanding problem' (認識问题). This simplified explanation for Mao's mistakes, to the author alone, is certainly insufficient to answer to a list of Mao's deliberated actions that led to the deaths of several top government officials, some of them his 'close comrades'. This was in addition to the thousands and millions of deaths he directly and indirectly led or caused, which for his many still surviving supporters they would not accord this piece of historical responsibility onto his shoulders.

However, the author does not think so. In a single question he posed a thought-provocating question for readers to ponder over: even if one has a great ambition, does one think he/ she is entitled to possessing the right and power of sending milions of innocent youths to the ruthless plains of war and suffering? Even if one has some personal dysfunctioned human characteristics, does he/ she need to make thousands and millions of common people his sacrifices for his wrongly ideology? This clear-cut presentation of 'common sense', which is sadly ignored in the tides of human histroy, more often than not carries the torch of truth human kind has yearned and searched for through the thousands of years.

In a nutshell, as Dr.Daisaku Ikeda said, a leader, in all sense, MUST set his eyes on the happiness of the common people. The masses, a.k.a. 'common people', has been the largest group of victims since mankind has known the thrills and enjoyments of controlling, savaging on and even sacrificing nameless, faceless commoners. Time and again, this tragic event has been repeating itself, not just in some remote, separated areas far from our civilised world, but in all around the world, this tragedy has never stopped surfacing and appearing, tormenting and tearing the lives of the countless common masses.

The world has not stopped spinning, from time without beginning, and will not be so till time without ending. Humans born into this Saha world, supposedly the lowest of all world systems as expounded in the Buddhist scriptures, must come to realise that they have the power to stop this repeated cycle of insane suffering, pain and miseries. They must realise that they themselves are endowed with a gigantic fountain of towering enlightenment, totally possessing the full capabilities of overcoming this seemingly insurmountable mountain of tragic hurdle. The day they bring forth this wealth of inner power that exists for millions of aeons, which thereby washing away the deep-seated and firmly-rooted seeds of violence, deception, manipulation and selfish sacrifices, will be the day humankind comes to a full liberation of total freedom and self-commandment. That day, as Dr.Daisaku Ikeda prays fervently to come, is also one which he throws himself totally in creating it. Into that endless fight against all devilish elements that tore the earth of the world apart, Dr. Daisaku knows that day will come.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

China, India & The Tripod World System

President Hu made a landmark visit to India on Nov 20.

China and India - two of the great Spiritual countries which have inherited more than three thousand years of human intellectual and wisdom consciousness, have finally met and shook hands with each other.

For the past 50 years, both sides have been plagued by their own karmic turbulence. Social, economic, political and even environmental unrests have almost torn the two countries, from their own within, apart.

"When the people of the country is wise, the country will prosper", so goes the old wise saying of the ancient peoples.

Against the current political background of our international arena, this is even more true. More so than ever before, humanity urgently yearns for a wise leader to lead them out of the almost-never-ending miseries. Year after year, decade after decade, human kind suffers under the despicable and ruthless handling of the countless leaders, political or religious alike, and give away their most precious possession - their lives - in a simple word 'go'. Soldiers lost their lives in meaningless wars; brainwashed religious followers committed suicides in the name of their god. Such is the insanity of our present human trend - crystal-like wisdom and desire for living on and better gives way to unquenchable hatred and undying wrath.

Undeniably, the names of these leaders go down in history as devilish functions scathing the face of this Earth, and of humanity's.

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International, expounded the theory of the 'three-point world system'. It is based on the novel 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms', where then there were three kingdoms: Wei (魏), Han (漢), and Wu (吳). The lead character in this great novel, 'Zhu GeLiang' (諸葛亮字孔明), was thrice invited by warlord Liu Bei (劉備) to assist him in conquering the Kingdom of Shu. It was only on the third visit that Zhu agreed to Liu's request. That promise marked the life of Zhu, and the eternally shining example of a disciple's unforgiving gratitude toward his mentor of life.

Incidentally, it was also in that last visit by Liu that Zhu presented a plan for the acomplishment of Liu's desire. A plan that would even be applicable on today's political and socio-economic arenas - in order to secure lasting peace for all worlds under heaven (天下), one must have an alternate and opposing force strong enough to withstand the powers from other external sources. Simply said, a singular force controlling the world would not help in generating well-being and happiness for the people. One must see that there're two or three forces in the world, all strong enough to hold up to each other. Only this will allow the people living under the hands of these forces to be happy and well.

It was with such a macro-cosmic magnitude of world view that Zhu impressed Liu. True to his words, Zhu was never a tyrant or dictator. All he ever wanted was to fulfill his mentor's dreams and desires, and a simple promise he made when Liu was still in his hut. That burning light of a disciple's heart shone to the very last moment of Zhu's life.

The trip of President Hu to India holds such a magnificent significance. The world must never see one single dictating power controlling and deciding which direction humanity should take.

With the uprising of the two gigantic economies of India and China, the world would see an improvement one yearns so long for; a tripod-stand world system which all three powers rely on each other. One falls and all other will fall and fail in their individual missions as well.

With these three pillars, the U.S., China and India, holding up the shelters for humanity, the daily prayer of Dr.Daisaku comes a step closer in taking a concrete image of what 'world peace' comes to be seen. As promised in their joint statements, China and India will work together peacefully, for the sake of humanity and the world.

It is a world system the U.S. may not wish to see, but certainly one beneficial to all human beings on this planet. The echoed fortune brought forth by this system will be unimaginably large, and Dr.Daisaku will, as I firmly believe, witness the coming of age of this humanity's long-yearned desire.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Mighty Heart

The title of this post is borrowed from one book of the same title.

It is written by Ms Mariane Pearl, the wife of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street journalist who was abducted and brutally murdered in Karachi, Pakistan in early 2002.

Daniel Pearl, or better known as 'Danny', was born on 10 October 1963 in Princeton, New Jersey. He was raised in Encino, Los Angeles, by his father working as a Professor in UCLA, and Iraqi Jew mother. The former, who received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel, is a Jewish-American scientist, while his wife, who is a Jew also, is on the other hand born in Iraq. The fate of this two persons, with different yet similar background, crossed and interwined, and finally weaved a beautiful web of human conviction and perseverance with the loss of their beloved son.

In 1990 Daniel started his career in the Wall Street Journal's Atlanta bureau, where during one of his assignment in Paris, he met his woman in life, Mariane Pearl, whom herself is a freelance journalist. They got married in 1999.

On 23 January 2002, on his way to an interview with a supposed terrorist leader, Daniel was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. This group claimed that Daniel was a CIA agent and sent the United States a range of demands, including the freeing of all Pakistani terror detainees, and the release of a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government. The message read:

"We give you one more day if America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan."

Mariane Pearl, who was nine months pregnant, pleaded the captors to no avail. Nine days later Daniel was decapitated. It was only till 16 May that his body, cut into ten pieces and buried in a shallow grave in the outskirts of Karachi, was recovered.

10 days after this grisly recovery, Adam was born into this grief-filled world, amidst the confusion and his mother's greivances.

In the words of mastermind, Pakistan-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh said he had kidnapped Daniel to "strike a blow at the United States and embarrass the Pakistani government.", while another said Daniel was targeted "because he was a Jew working against Islam".

One year later Mariane wrote the book, revealing intimately the life facade of her slain husband unkown to the rest of the world. Always smiling and radiating a glow of quiet strength and inner determination, she stood up silently yet indomitably against all those who planned to topple and demolish her. In order to feel what her husband had gone through during the captive period, and as incredibly strenous as it could be, two days prior to her baby's delivery she unhooked the phone and laid down alone, forcing herself to 'imagine everything that happened; to force to see it all'. As she gained a deeper insight into what Daniel could have felt then durng the captive period, she became physically weak; however at the same time her admiration for him grew and strengthened.

Upon successfully confronting Daniel's pain Mariane came to this conclusion of "nothing more could happen that I did not have the courage to deal with." Armed with this enlightened conviction she stepped into a Paris hospital ward alone, and only with the help of midwives, embraced the birth of Adam with full loving courage.

Watching her son Adam grows and learns his first word and walk, she said "That's when I miss Danny the most. And, of course, that is what Danny misses. He would have been such a great father. It is painful and cruel, because no matter what you do, he's not there. But that is my battle, my war. I am forever making sure that hope wins out, over despair."

From the death of her husband, a new life is born into this world. More so is the life of courage, the life of conviction and the life of mightiness, all rising from the depths of a single entity of life. For anyone who wishes to stand up alone, against all odds and fighting his or her way out, there is no greater force in this world that can deter him or her. While the violence can be ravaging and devastating, the pen is always mightier.

Just as Mariane put it, while journalism can be worthwhile, on occasion "it can be worth dying for."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Letter to Norwegian Nobel Committee

Attached is a long letter I wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Committe in the early hours of today (15/11/2006) together with a few amendments and additions. Something I have contemplated for a very long time, but didn't take any concrete action in fulfilling it. I pray it is read with open minds and hearts.


I wish to make some comments regarding the winners of the Nobel prizes for the present and past years, across the board for some of the fields your organisation has looked into, e.g. Literature, Peace, Economics.

While the Peace Prize is awarded to person(s) or institutions with much deserve or breadth in working for the world, the same cannot be said for other prizes, which include the Literature.

Allow me to quote what your good organisation said regarding the works of Orhan Pamuk, winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." Or perhaps last year's winner Harold Pinter, "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."

These words, in the very least, do not stir a slightest ripple in any reader's heart. Most to most they cause some reactions within the minds of some intellects, who by and large, live in their own intellectual world, elusive and perhaps even oblivious to what is happening around the world.

What exactly does your good org. means when it says 'discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing cultures'? Or 'the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed room'? How would one be able to grasp the words made by your org's panel if there seems to a hint of 'word-play' here? Something along the line of 'I speak of what I think; regardless of your understanding'.

Perhaps this is what exactly happens to all our fields - the humanity's fields. From Economics to Physics to Literature to Peace, everything is lost in this wilderness and emptiness. No longer can human beings connect themselves with these mundane elements anymore; they have become distant and unfamiliar to them for a long time. Thus we see human beings unable to act and behave peacefully, because peace has left their minds and hearts, and transferred to other mediums like Hollywood shows, fictional books, or at best, news journals reporting faraway genocides and bombings.

We also see human beings unable to derive genuine happiness from books anymore. As much as they would like to emulate their forefathers gaining a deep insight into life, and the realisation of 'How to live as a human being, and living it to the fullest', they find their efforts becoming futile and their paths lost. The reason is identical with the above: no longer can Literature, or books in general, carry the torch of truth, words of courage and the light of enlightenment to lead anyone out of today's miseries anymore. Whatever 'new symbols' or 'precipice' found or discovered certainly hold no value at all in providing the slightest hint of how one should face this turbulent world.

In a nutshell and sad to say, the Nobel Prize for Literature has lost its original spirit and true value. This is simply because not many are, apart from the small group of intellects, able to derive any concrete ideals from within the pages and between the lines and transform these ideals into actual, tangible actions for undertaking the gigantic task of 'living one's life correctly in this incorrect society and confused era.'

May I propose to you one name - Daisaku Ikeda. He is one who fuses his own life-force, together with his unsurpassed wisdom, to weave a monumental web of connectedness with the Eastern and Western intellects for over 30 years. Since the first dialogue with British historian Arnold Toynbee in 1974, he has relentlessly, without resting for even a single day, fought with his might in 1) reverting the trend and tide of humanity, from toward self-destruction to self-mastery; 2) building a just society whereby societal elements like economics, sciences, and all other fields including finances, agricultures and even environmental protection, come under one Single umbrella he calls 'human happiness'. In short, he gives new lives and directions to the seemingly lost societies around the world; 3) giving hope and courage to humanity without ever losing sight of his primal objective - to eliminate sufferings from the face of Earth. With a long visual perspective stretching over the next few centuries, nuclear disarmament and even abolitions of armies are found in his agenda. This bold yet firm determination is coupled with his patient yet all-encompassing wellspring of wisdom and compassion in replacing these negative cultures of violence with positive, dynamic ones such as human-intellect exchanges, cross-cultural collaborations and a rennaissance of education for the sake of human happiness. Such a breadth and scope can't be matched by anyone in this world presently.

Therefore, I urge your good organisation to 1) re-examine the basis and evaluations you have been holding on for the past decades or even century; 2) to re-consider, based on the revised evaluation and requirements for awarding a winner, taking into account the true values one has created and impacted on this world, and more importantly on humanity-at-large. It is only by re-setting one's eyes on the most fundamental objective of our lives - to live life to the fullest by drawing forth one's greatest innate potential for the welfare of fellow human beings, and working with other complimenting elements in building a truly peaceful world, that one's true purpose in this world is fulfilled.

I wish your good organisation's prizes to be a fresh source of hope, courage and direction for the entire humanity for the next millennium to come, with the evey announcement you will be making in all future instances. Thank you for reading this long mail.


Monday, November 13, 2006

For The Record

12 Nov - The UN reports that its humanitarian chief Jan Egeland may be meeting with senior leaders of Uganda's notorious rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), possibly including elusive supremo Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted men. Joseph, together with four other top LRA commanders, were wanted by the International Criminal Court for horrific atrocities committed during their brutal two-decades war in northern Uganda.

As above - UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meets with Myanmar detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung, a Nobel Peace Laureate, is now 61 and has been serving 'house arrest' for the past 17 years. During an election in 1990, she and her National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, with only a refusal of acceptance from the military-run Myanmar government, the junta. Apart from a live-in maid, her only visitor was a doctor who would attend to her medically in a once-a-month session.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One Moment's Decision & The Invisible Hand Of Fate

It was a day where I am not tied down with many tasks; a time when I can do something which I have not done for quite a while - visiting a library and getting lost in the world of a favourable book.

I was engrossed in reading the book 'A Dialogue on Philosophies of the Orient', a dialgoue compilation between the world-renowned Buddhist scholar Lokesh Chandra and Daisaku Ikeda, a world-honored peace activist and humanist, when rain began to fall.

From about 1 p.m. till 4 p.m., the rain forbade me to leave the Ang Mo Kio library. I took it as a divine encouragement for me to continue this breath-taking journey of walking into this gigantic, boundless and magnificent spiritual palace constructed by these two great men.

The topics were wide-ranging, encompassing and in-depth. From the significance of the Lotus Sutra's title to the history of the flow of Buddhism, from the inner, unseeen yet overflowing struggles of the great Mahatma Gandhi's mind to the very moment of Lord Shakymuni's enlightenment, these two men spoke freely, without hesitation, with no reservation.

It was recorded that when Lord Shakymuni defeated evil and gained his enlightenment, the sky was also receiving it's first streak of light from the sun. In that very moment, the darkest hour from the night, engulfing the entire sky, was dispelled and pushed back by the victorious rays. It was in that historical moment that humanity, for the very first time, understood that they have the power to transform their own fates and lives. It was in that enlightenment that Man, for the very first time, realised that they were endowed with all the possiblities to achieve what had been seen impossbile initially.

That enlightenment marked the first step for all human beings in allowing to empower themselves and elevate their lives out of darkness and miseries.

Upon seeing Lord Shakymuni breaking through his old, deluded self to become an enlightened being, 'Brahma', the Lord of Creation, appeared from the sky and urged Lord Shakymuni to speak out his enlightenment to the world. It was only on the third attempt that Lord Shakymuni agreed to his request. Then, from that moment onwards, his enlightenment was not his own possession anymore. Everything that flowed out from his enlightened consciousness slowly yet steadily formed a gigantic spiritual mountain of what we know today - a world religion for humanity.

The rain poured its heart out with its downpour. At about 5 p.m. plus, it gave way to some light from the grayish sky, and I seized the chance in walking through the rain. "Another thing I haven't done for quite a while too!", I thought to myself. Though the ground was wet and people were mostly going under the shelters, I walked the Ang Mo Kio centre with a sense of lightness - it's been a while since I walked through a crowd and have a good, detailed look at them. Most of the time, I realised I was always on a 'decided' move from a place to another, always going for a specific desinated place. So seldom is the chance for anyone now, against this hasty-paced of economic and social background, to walk freely and unhurriedly through the crowd we call 'the common masses'. "Time stops for no one", or so we say.

By then the rain had completely stopped, and I was enjoying the fresh air of an after-downpour when I decided to take a train. In the train I was struggling between going for the town to have my dinner, or alighting at Bishan station to head for it's library. Underneath that layer of consciouness I knew instinctively I would be tempted to spend my time at town by wandering around. A simpler yet wiser choice would be to step out of the train and head for the library. I was gald I made the right choice. In my heart I congratulated myself for winning a small but important battle.

The significance of this simple decision became instantly clear the moment I stepped out of the station's gate - I saw a friend whom I had known for a long time, but never actually spoken with. I approached her, and as much as with the little memory of me, we began our first conversation right at the bus-stop outside the train station. It was a short contact, but nevertheless I had wanted to learn as much as I wish to share. This, I believe, is in it's minimum a genuine human should do - to be truthful to your friends, and the friendship that binds you both together.

With a fresh sense of happiness, I headed for the library after we departed there. In my heart I wish her all the best in achieving and accomplishing all that she prays and hopes for.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Blind And The Elephant

Some people have their 'feathers' ruffled when the list for this year's Mediacorp's Star Award was revealed.

Their idol Chen Wei Lian got one nomination - Top 20 Male artistes.

Others cannot accept the fact that he, a newcomer, or 'no'-comer, can make it into the list.

Chen's supporters immediately retorted, that others who were from the 1st Superstar competition and acted in just one show, could make it into the list as well.

And so it began a war of words, on and off line. On and off print. On and off.

The funny part is: I was vividly reminded of the story of five blind men who went searching for the image of 'elephant'. Each touched on a small part of an elephant, and began describing what they feel and touch. The description got heated up and later developed into a, as one might have known, war of words. Simply because not only they couldn't see the elephant itself, they failed to see where the other four blind men are coming from and talking about. Yes, it's a humour, but certainly a dark one. Or what we normally call it in Mandarin - '黑色幽默'.

These two groups are exactly like these five blind men. Just that the supporters for Chen aren't out searching for the face of 'elephant', but 'justice' for their idol. In their minds, they have firmly believed that Chen is more than capable enough to secure one Star Award this year, regardless his short cameo apperance, and another hotly contested and debated title - Regional Most Outstanding Male Artiste (Singapore) in the just-over Global Chinese Music Award that took place here.

To them, he probably is the trunk of the elephant - cool, smooth and yet sharp.

The other group who disagrees strongly is speaking against his capability - notwithstanding his sight limitation - that he didn't show much of his acting talent, and though he sings well, there has not been many contributions like other artistes as Stephanie Sun, who makes impacts locally as well as internationally with her talents and album sales.

To this group, Chen is probably the tail of the elephant - thin in nature, soft and not much of an impression.

The truth is far from them altogether: they fail to understand one simple formula, which has been used explicitly and never discreetly, in wielding and chalking up viewership, and that is - the media industry, in this case the sole owner or main player otherwise known as 'The Mediacorp', is not concerned with who wins what title. All that matters to them, the planners who present proposals in securing that all-time important revenue mark, is that whoever wins whatever title, he or she must make sure there is a business spin-off. This effect must then be translated and transformed into concrete cash.

And thus behind every plan to come up with every title, there has been long hours of thorough and in-depth discussions and exchanges of ideas. These words of exchange would subsequently be penned down, analysed, formulated and later proposed to the management for the final hammer-pounding. The end result is the list where we see who's there and who's not. Then, with enough media promotion and attention-generation, the public is moulded into thinking they have the power to decide who should be the champion, or the deserving person. This is the first step toward success in spinning that revenue.

The rest is history: whoever wins has a stake in the company called Mediacorp. He/ she has the unwritten privilege in attending any or all important functions hosted by the company, and main time slot given to him/ her in performing for promoting his/ her album. It's a win-win situation, where both parties win in getting their shares of the pie we call 'media'.

The sole loser in this commercial unerstanding is the masses. And a very naive one. They are the ones who unwittingly pour out their monies in every and all ways, thinking they are supporting a 'superstar idol'. They believe that if Jay Chou of Taiwan can reach that height of success, 'Rain' of Korea can surmount that summit of fame, and Italian blind singer Andrea Bocelli can secure international fame with his deep, resounding voice, then Chen Wei Lian can do it too.

Supposedly we have 100 singers being churned out into the music scene every year. Not even half can have their music companies sustain their support in producing a second album. For those who are able and fortunate enough to have a second album produced, their value is being watched and scrutinised closely - with each consecutive album's sales sliding down, the promotion fees is relatively sliced. Therein lies the 'diminishing appearance' we see over the decades - talented singers who cut albums, but slowly fade out of the music scene quietly. This is why.

Of the fewer-than-half group of aspiring artistes, the number is again halved - those who can cut a second album AND venture out into other fields like advertising, hosting, acting...etc, and those who cannot. The rationale behind this analysis is whether this artiste is an 'overall', wholesome one, who beside the company's promotion, is able to generate some media coverage on his/ her own with the innate talents. Naturally, more exposure means more coverage, which in turn will lead to higher sales and profits. Or is he/ she simply someone with a good voice and not much of a talent in other areas, which again means this artiste will rely heavily on the company's promotion, and that in turn means higher promotion fees. This is not a very good piece of news after all.

Thus we now have a group of about 25, from the original hundred, left. Amongst this group who can sing and act/ host/ do adverts/ co-produce album(s), only a handful are leading the trend in the music industry. That is to say, only those few elites are the ones setting the trend in which direction the music will flow to in the coming year. The rest? They are mere followers who try to piggyback, hitchride or bandwagon-jumping in getting that miserable amount of money we call 'profit'. Chen certainly does not belong to the first group of 'elite singers'. In fact, none, apart from Stephanie Sun has that commanding power in establishing where the music will flow, or how to evolve into a singer of the next generation. Jay Chou and Jolin Cai are two artistes, male and female respectively, who have that capability also. Apart from them no other artistes come close in achieving what they have possessed yet. Chen is a million miles from them.

Media plays the masses, like many times before, and in the many times coming. Humanity must awaken and be enlightened in understanding that it is for the masses that media exists. They are present here to serve the common people. They are endowed with the holy torch of fire in lighting up the dark roads ahead. Where they fail to do so, all eyes are shut, and all men blinded. Where the light of fire fails to reach, darkness takes over and men is misled into fantasized lands of misery. Such blindness is far worse than a simple group of die-hard fans supporting blindly a blind singer.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Took Leng How

I missed out Huang Na's case in my first post.

Took Leng How was executed at dawn, 6 a.m., at Changi Prison on 03/11/2006 (Friday). By and large, this is not a case of 'international interest'. A murderer served with 'due justice' is just another murderer amongst the hundreds or even thousands arrested every day all around the world.

The victim, a six year old girl, is of similar identity: a victim for a murder case, happened everyday in all around the world. If such case is risen on a much larger scale, where we call 'war', there are easily thousands of millions of 'Huang Nas' who lost their lives in those senseless, mindless conflicts, throughout the history of mankind.

Of course, for those who killed one, they are termed a 'murderer'; for others who started a large-scale war, they are 'heros' and 'victors'. The distorted perception of the world is truly a fearful weapon - it's like a miror that bends and breaks up the truth into pieces, and presents it in a totally different appearance to the world.

Took Leng How was born on 16 Dec 1981. He died on 3 Nov 2006. In such a short lifespan of 24 years, he witnessed and experienced first hand all the sentiments found in this world - happiness when marrying his Indonesian-Chinese wife, excitement for welcoming their child, fear in the course of his escape to Malaysia, worry for his arrest during his hiding, emptiness when surrendering himself, sad in seeing his distraught parents and grevious wife; hopelessness when receiving the verdict. All was swelling up in his life in that short timespan, from escape to arrest, ready to swallow up and savour him. It did in the end.

Whether one believes in him or otherwise is no longer an issue. With the hanging of Took Leng How on that fateful day, all was buried with his departure from this sadness-filled world. The question lies in: how do you feel when one is being executed? At the end of the day, who comes or leaves this world is never our concern. The real question one ought to ask oneself is what exactly an emotion are you harbouring when facing birth, and death. That lies the very core we are carrying all this while, living and breathing our very lives on this blue planet we call 'Earth'.

I Do Not Agree.

I don't agree with Saddam's death penalty. "No one has the power to take away another person's life."

This has been instilled, driven and pounded into me when I was still searching for my direction in life. As a youth, nothing beats stronger in your heart than a passionate cry. All the more so if that is a cry for World Peace and respect for that inner high sanctity of a human life. That, for all I know, has taken the form of a phrase quoted above.

I do not agree with what Saddam has done. However the US has done their part by keeping him alive when he had been captured days, weeks or even months before the announcement to the world. The sun has its dark-spots, and so has politics its very filthy side. The retaining of this war-hardened yet worn-out man, and waiting for the right timing to announce to the world, is nothing short of a shameful way for treating a war criminal.

When all cameras pointed to that one dirt hole where Saddam was so-called 'hurled out alive', the world exclaimed for victory. Of course the US government would want that to be their victory.

When the news for his death sentence was flashed across the CNA channel's news-strip, I couldn't help but felt for the man. What he has done may be condemnable, but to end his life in the name of 'justice' is all but a foolish move. "An eye for an eye would make the world goes blind", so said the great Mahatma Gandhi.

Incidentally I recalled the grevious atrocity committed by Nalini, one of the 26 assassins found guilty of killing Rajiv Gandhi, India's Prime Minister on 28 Jan 1998. It was Sonia Gandhi who strongly endorsed Nalini’s mercy petition to have her death sentence converted to life imprisonment, which amounts to 14 years in prison. Reason? She delivered a daughter Arithra in prison, whose father Murugan was also one of those convicted for the same sentence. Sonia accepted Nalini's petition that by proceeding with the death penalty, she would make Arithra an orphan. In addition she exchanged private letters with the killers, always monitoring what they have learnt in prison, and how was their study progress. How magnanimous that acceptance and action was! To not forget about what had happened, but looking forward and considering for your enemies' welfare, and forgave them for what they have inflicted on you. What greatness lies beneath that gentle Italian body now covered with Indian Sari!

I do not believe in killing someone to seek revenge. It's almost a similar torture for the perpetrator as much as for the victim to struggle to live on - retaining the killer's life and to serve a life imprisonment; to allow the aggressor to live on and come to face with his own guilt and pain. That road less traveled is more worthy in walking on, and coming to terms with one's own devil. Ultimately we all WILL come to realise we don't live forever, and will die someday. That simple thought would revert many many hatred and grudges buried deep in our hearts over the long course of time.

The World Is Changing

Today (06/11/2006) @ 0010 hrs, I decided to log on into this long-neglected blog site and refresh my determination to start again this inner journey of mine - toward self-fulfillment and realisation of my mission on this planet, in this lifetime.

Thus I decided to pen down recent events that took place and having a significant impact on the invisible flow the World has chosen, and the direction humanity may have desired.

For the sake of future references and restropection here are the events:

Sept 19 (Tues): Thaksin pushed out from his seat in a bloodless coup.

Oct 1 (Sun): Retired army chief Gen. Surayud Chulanont appointed as Thailand's interim President.

Oct 9 (Mon): North Korea's nuclear testing a 'success'; declared to World.

Nov 3 (Thurs): Taiwan President's wife reportedly indicted on corruption and forgery charges.

Nov 6 (Sun): Alleged 'war criminal' Saddam Hussein and half-brother convicted to death sentence. World applauds 'justice' for him.