Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Memories Of Sister Feng (冯姐)

I do not know why I thought of her today. Perhaps my submerged feelings was invoked by the death news of a Taiwanese female artiste, whom I do not know her personally at all; I received the news of her passing, due to a car accident earlier, from the papers this morning.

At the age of 28, and judging from the photos she had taken, one can tell that this artiste was a vibrant and bright girl, who was accompanied and taken care of by a good many friends around her. In this entertainment circle where genuine friendship is hard to come by, she's certainly blessed with it. More than this, she had wanted to be a singer right from the start; just that her career path took a turn and she was moulded into a drama actress first. Nevertheless, as a lady who was trained in piano and violin, and on the course of learning 'erhu' (a two-stringed musical instrument) and drum, she was well determined to enter the musical scene as a music producer. This dream alone can never be fulfilled anymore.

Probably the thought on the fragility of life affected me a little. My mind wandered off and finally, after much activity, rested on this old lady sister Feng. To speak the truth I do not really know whether this was her real surname, or was there supposed to be another address for her. However, judging from this particular address made by my mother to her, and taken in account of her age and seniority in life, my mother could really be addressing her as 'sister Feng', which would naturally be adopting her surname in the addressing.

Sister Feng bore a petite frame; she was probably only about 1.5 m tall. Due to her advanced age of 80 odd, her back was already slightly bent. I knew her through my mother, whom both had taken faith in the Nichiren's Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai International. In the year 1998, I shifted out from my house and resided at my grandmother's. I was staying at one ground-floor unit, and hers was two storeys above mine. As different from other units, all ground level units came with a back door, which would allow anyone who wishes to dry their clothes to do so at the backyard.

Incidentally her kitchen windows are also directly above my backdoor, and if I would to step out of it or stand at the backyard, she would have a clear view of me from above.

Though our distance was near, I didn't really seize the chance to talk to her - I was facing quite a load of problems then, or so I thought. Staying by myself then I had in fact wished for a minimal contact with anyone, lest wanting to deal with a 80 year-old woman who was a friend of my mother, though at the back of my mind I was quite certain she would have been very friendly and kind toward me had there been a chance for us to talk.

Thus in the span of two years plus staying there, I had purposely come to avoid her. Staying alone by herself, if she was to hang or collect her clothes at her kitchen windows, I would try not to step out or made any visual contact with her. If I sensed that she was making her way down the stairs I would also make conscious effort not to bump into her.

If one is to ask me why now, and as objectively as I can toward myself, I will say it was because of her kindness and gentleness she had, particularly toward me. As the son of her friend in faith, she would have welcomed me in all possible ways, even though at that time she would probably have heard a little of my tussle with my family. Without bearing any pre-conceived notions and judgment, she would just perceive and receive me the way I am. In a time when you wished to be alone and shut yourself off from the rest of the world, nothing could be more disturbing than a friendly smile. Nothing could be more irritating than a gentle embrace.

It was in that condition that I chose to reject her out of my life, an old lady who was not married, had no children and was staying by herself. As much and far as I portrayed my unwillingness to have contact with her in anyway, she had not even once displayed any sign of displeasure, impatience or even disappointment toward me. For all that I could remember and recall she was always living in her own rightful manner, never belittling, never grumbling. Petite as she could be she was always doing the household chores all by herself.

There were certainly times I failed in avoiding her. In a small vicinity and neighbourhood like ours, one could never really retreated into one's own shell and be totally cut off from the world outside. For every encounter I had with her she would always greet me in a warm and gentle way, followed by a short conversation. Topics from my work, my recent condition, to trivial matters like my food or lodging, she would inquire them all with a genuine concern and open sincerity. In my confused mind then, I had perhaps detected her sincerity and warmth, and appreciation had probably sunk into me as well. However, upon returning back into my old, shallow and petty self, this appreciation would also be swift in dissipating away, leaving only negligible traces behind.

Among the many days I spent there, there was a particular sight which I could never forget. It wasn't of any special incident or nature, but just a very normal scenario that took place in a very normal day - I was hanging my clothes at the backyard, and raising my head I saw her peeping out from her windows at me. I smiled to her and said a few words worthy of a short exchange, and continued with my chore. However, though time and space have all changed, and today I'm no longer staying there, I had not being able to forget her eyes. It was only when I recollect my memories of her that I realised that when I looked up, I was in fact looking straight into her eyes. Looking at me from above and through those glasses I could remember that her eyes were filled with warmth, concern and even with a small tinge of curiosity. She had probably wanted to see if I could manage the chore well, and if not offer to help. Till this day I could never, never forget those eyes.

I did have a conversation with her before, where she invited me to her house. Chatting up with me she slowly began to move from one topic to the next, very much excited about the things she was sharing with me. Matters ranged from current affairs to buddhism, from politicians to her mentor Ikeda Sensei, from her conviction in faith to her optimistic outlook in life. That was one of the days where my spirit was uplifted and strengthened. Her strength in faith and sharpness in sights in fact had raised my life condition, surprising even myself. That was one day which I could not forget either, as far as I am to live.

About a couple of years after I shifted out of my grandmother's house, I received the news of her death. When the funeral was over, I was told that months before her death her house has had been broken into, which had her possession stolen but, as fortunate as it might sound, she was not present then and thus had suffered no physical harm. That loss had affected her in some ways. Coupled with this was that sometime in that same period she had her leg injured also, which hindered her mobility a little. However perhaps the hardest blow would be the departure of her adopted daughter, whom she had taken over from someone else and single-handedly raised her by herself, had decided to get marry and leave her side for good.

What were Sister Feng's final thoughts when she left this world? What had she wanted to say to those she cherished and loved? What were her unfulfilled dreams and unaccomplished aspirations? I will forever not know of them, for the rest of my life and till the last moment I have in this world! How harsh the tricks of fate and life have played and plagued on her! And how strong she must've resisted them all, fighting and fending them off with all her might! In all of my limited span of mind I will never ever forget the petite frame I saw when I walked past her house, with her sitting in front of and chanting toward the Gohonzon. I will never forget her strength of faith, her immovable conviction in the Gohonzon and in her mentor, her optimism, cheerfulness and courage in facing the trying times in life, and her gentle affection she once had for one lost soul, which has now finally gone back on track.

冯姐, I miss you.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mentor's Life & Disciple's Heart

A mentor - someone who patiently guides and advises an inexperienced soul. In the realm of 'life', nothing is more precious than to have a 'Mentor of Life'.

It is as good as having a guidebook that teaches one on the subject of 'How to live a life fully as a human being?', just that it's more - it's in the form of flesh and blood, speaking to you directly, without any hesitation or pretension. Watching over the ones who seek out and learn, the mentor gives his all, sometimes training like a strict father and other times embracing like a gentle, benevolent mother. Slowly but surely the mentor moulds the young minds and youthful hearts, wishing them all that one day these young, budding recipients will all be great achievers in life, rising to a height greater than his own.

We all may seem to know where we are heading on this planet, in this world. In the limited scope of our minds we believe we know what we should strife and live for, and using the given amount of time we exhausted on matters we hold dear to our hearts and soul.

From fame, fortune, mundane emotions, secular status, sentimental relationships to trivial attention and petty issues or calculations, these intangible yet existing elements have all influenced or swayed our lives in certain ways and at certain times before, altering the courses of our lives, or even deciding the destination without much of our realisation. Sad to say, for those who have sunk too deep into the muddy pond of earthly desires, their lives have been dominated and controlled by these elements, their souls inevitably enslaved by them.

Nichiren, the thirteen-century Buddhist sage, said in his letter "The Three Kinds of Treasures", "The real meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world lay in his behavior as a human being. How profound! The wise may be called humans, but the thoughtless are no more than animals." Indeed, if there is ever a single matter for us mortals to learn from the great saints and sages, it would have to be the topic of 'how to behave and carry out actions that befit our identities as a human being.'

Furthering and extending the significance of this understanding, one must begin to ponder over the question 'what exactly are we here for?' In the novel "Sophie's World", the character Sophie received a mail in her mailbox, carrying the two famous questions "Who are you?" and "Where does the world come from?" In embarking on the journey of searching for the answers she has, unknown to even herself, come to gain an answer for the third, unwritten and the most important question of all - "for what purpose am I here, in this world?", thereby fulfilling the linkage between her own existence and the world.

It is in this dramatic unfolding of a human's journey and life that a mentor of life must appear. He who carries with him a blazing torch of wisdom and justice, walking into the dark channels and alleys of this already-confused world and bringing with him the enlightened rays long yearned by humanity, he stands alone against all evil forces lurking at all corners of this world that constantly feed on the lives of the innocent and deluded.

My mentor, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, has shown me that to live as a human being through and through, one must begin by polishing his character first. This is foremost in almost all human endeavours of all fields. Without the necessary foundation in one's life, the monuments of perseverance, devotion and commitment can never be built and erected on it.

Upon laying down this foundation, one must then proceed to undertake a more challenging task of developing a sense of courage and justice. "Justice has its own anger, and dignity wears its own crown', so says Victor Hugo. Nothing can be truer than these words. To live courageously, without fear or prejudice! How beautiful can a human life be if he is to carry this flame of justice and courage constantly burning in his chest.

It is only when these humanistic elements are firmly installed in one's heart that one can proceed to turn his gaze from the tangible material to the intangible but more important matters. For the very first time, one will be able to open his eyes to presence of injustice, partiality, discrimination, falsehoods and deceptions that have been locking the throat of humanity for aeons since.

It is only then that one begins to understand that in order to gain the 'happiness' he yearns so deeply and strongly, he must first ultimately rise up to fight for peace in this world, and happiness of all fellow human beings. It is only then that, for the very first time, he establishes a connection between his individual life and the community around him, in the society he lives in, and lastly the world-at-large, something he has never done or felt before. It is in Buddhism that this state is referred to as 'the larger self'.

Embracing this enlightened identity, one will inevitably come to realise that in facing this confused condition, this suffering-filled world, this 'amateur of life' fervently requires a mentor to guide him through. In this unspoken, quiet and yet revolutionising drama of life, a relationship is forged - a Mentor-Disciple relationship. It is as infinite as the Universe, and more encompassing than the ocean.

In short, it surpasses even life and death; it has within itself eternity endowed.

Though the distance is far, and both the mentor and disciple are separated physically, there's not a single day that this disciple does not reached and sought out his mentor's words and thoughts. Through this constant feeding of life's nourishment the disciple begins to understand how one should stand up against all devilish functions that torment the lives of humanity, and how one should confront them, courageously and victoriously. It is in this realm of courage and conviction that the mentor will smile to his disciple, and the disciple smiling and waving back with pride and gratitude. The world of mentor and disciple is truly indeed a grand, beautifully touching and moving drama of a human-to-human emotions and pulsating sentiments.

One who has a mentor is truly a fortunate person!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Mixture of Reality & Virtual Entertainment

When one surfs the Internet, one inevitably often comes across undesirable sites, many of which contain pornographic contents.

If he or she is open-minded enough to take a look at them, the alarming thing is not so much of what are performed and shown, but who are the ones involving and participating in them. The 'actors', or 'actresses' to be more specific, are more often than not only of young, teenage years of 18 or 19.

Due to the local laws of the sites being established at, and the international laws set against child porno, many sites declared theirs as 'child prostitution/ abuse free'. Thus their main selling point would have to be those young actresses, whose minimal age of engaging and performing the sexual acts is fixed at 18.

Someone commented that if the 90's is the age of the porn, then the 21st Century is the age of the sexless, where the mixture and fusion of the porn and the general masses have blurred the lines and confused the boundaries altogether.

Indeed, if one is to take a look at the actresses, one would be amazed, if not terrified, by how innocent, plain and simple, or even common-looking, they could be. No longer are the porn actresses, or what some refer as 'porn stars', seem to be what they used to be - heavy make-up pounded onto their faces, disproportional sizes of their anatomical parts, outrageous and out-of-the-sky story lines, and certainly highly exaggerated sexual acts which few humans could engage in. The porn actresses of our modern day speak of and rely on one main factor - fresh, young girls found on the streets, their names unseen and unheard of. Before the porn stars of the yesteryears could retreat from the centrestage with little dignity, this current trend had swept in and flooded the main stream of the world of porn with declarations of the finest, youngest and the sweetest 'Lolita' presented, coupled with their daredevil, daring sexual stunts that would even pale and shame the porn actresses of the past.

Ariel Levy, a female author, recently published a book titled 'Female Chauvinist Pigs - Women & The Rise of Raunch Culture'. In it, she explored the phenomena of how our modern day has evolved from the age of 'male chauvinism' to this current 'female' one. While the female gender, commonly referred to as the 'weaker sex', was used to be subjected to unfair, high-handed and partial treatments from their male counterparts, possibly in all fields of society, the rise of "females' rights" led to and shaped the females' liberation movement of the present day. This in turn influenced the current young female generation, whom are born in and exposed to the era of Internet, to integrate the widely popular 'pop cultures' into their lives, marked significantly by the beliefs and definitions they adopted for issues like 'virginity', 'sex' and 'shame'.

Therefore, just a decade ago, 'virginity' which was highly regarded as sacred is no longer treasured; 'sex', a huge taboo not to be discussed or seen openly is no longer considered as such; and when only the porn stars or street walkers were once dressed provocatively to seduce and titillate for the sake of livelihood, the ladies of our present day dressed even more daringly to just make a point that 'shame' isn't in their vocab dictionary.

As Ariel pointed out, while the porn stars of yesterday led a life only known to themselves and not the public, personalities like 'Jenna Jameson', the 'queen of porn', walked straight into the general masses and created a sensation in the mainstream media. Seizing the attention of the curious onlookers as much as the media reporters, personalities like Jenna are now regarded as 'celebrities', donning the front covers of men's magazines, appearing on the red-carpet of events like VH-1 award ceremony, or even writing a book which sells on Amazon. Something unheard of and unseen in all of porn's history. The age of Porn has certainly arrived at our doorsteps much earlier than we can even imagine.

It is on this platform that innocence is lost, virtues are rewritten and boundaries forgotten. For all one knows, the girl living at one's very next door may, with due respect, be the next porn queen of our modern era.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Eyes Of Journalist & The Face Of Journalism

When we wake up in the morning, we open our eyes and face the world. Unknown to all of us, the hands of journalists, though unseen, are actually constantly feeding us with information. In this age of technology, their invisible hands weave a substantial and tangible web of conscience and consciousness.

Regardless of whether one accepts or rejects this 'web', it is very much evident and present around all of us in our daily lives - the video clips of terrorism on TV, the reports of massacres in the papers, the untold sufferings of the war victims aired from the radio, short message news-clips sent to cellphones...and the list goes on. Time passes on and history is written anew everyday.

However, as one receives more and more of these human elements of emotions and living episodes, the lesser one feels and sensitizes about them. As much as he or she tries to be passionate, excited or even compassionate about them, the feelings is somewhat lost along the trail of time and tide. Why is that so?

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda speaks of the problem "moral numbing" in his 2002 peace proposal entitled "The Humanism of the Middle Way: Dawn of Global Civilization". He elaborated by saying this, "I am deeply concerned by the dehumanizing nature of aerial bombardment. While one side experiences virtually no casualties, the other is devastated to an unknown, yet clearly enormous, degree. One cannot but fear the extent to which this approach provokes numbed insensitivity to the human experience of living and dying, pushing the spiritual dimension far out of sight...With modern warfare and state-of-the-art weapons, there is no opportunity to see or even imagine how the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, like their Russian counterparts of the past, might have run in a futile effort to escape destruction. Do we still possess enough imagination, enough sensitivity to life, to appreciate in some measure what von Seeckt meant by a 'miserable defeat of the human spirit'?"

True to his words, against this background of terrorism and counter-attack in the name of defence, the world indeed has 'grown alarmingly accustomed' to the news reports made on TV, Internet, radio or even via short messages through cellphones. Instead of possessing the ability to capture the words and translate them into vivid images, outlining the features of the war-worn faces of the men and women, and colouring the emotional snapshots with their inner pool of human sentiments, humans are now lost trying to figure out how they should respond to those traumatic news of war, tragedies of nature or the tumultuous change of events happening in the world, in the blink of an eye. Too fast is the pace of our modern day's society to want to progress, and too many hedonistic indulgences have been erected for the sake of humans' entertainment. In the whirlpool of enjoyments and thrills, human beings somehow have lost touch with their inner conscientious voices, a common language spoken amongst all fellow human beings.

This manifestation of 'moral numbing' is all the more enhanced by the stance journalism took - the objectivity adopted when reporting a piece of news. Thus, as Peace Scholar Randall Forsberg puts it definitively, "The nature of television news, where people report about murders and then turn to the weather, has contributed to this. There's an underlying numbing in the way that we relate to the world every day, even before you get to wartime situations." As pieces of news of all sorts of natures are being jumbled up and presented to the world in a 30 mins' segment, reducing the entire presentation to 'one of the many programmes' the channel or station is offering, all human dramas and episodes of all sentiments are minimised to just mere tell-tales, in the name of viewership and TV ratings. What could be more tragic - the fact about the sufferings of the people living in a war-torn country, or that the world cares less about the sufferings of their fellow human beings?

While a journalist's eyes are supposedly trained to be sharp, sensitive and penetrative, their faces are required by rules to be emotionless and blank. Thus we see a world divided by two elements - one side excercising logic, the other resting on emotions. So long as journalism keeps hiding away their humane, emotional and sensitive side, the world will forever not be in tune with the pain and strain evoked by the sufferings befalling on its own human kind. And the two sides of objectivity and subjectivity, marked by logic and emotion and engaged in a constant struggle with one another, will never come to rest and reconcile, forever unable to complete the face of a human man once torn apart by ideologies and dogmatic differences.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The World of Technology, Sports and Politics

My office has seen another breaking down of computer.

It's not the first of case, and neither it'll be the last. Reason of my confidence is that there are in fact two types of models in our office 'initially' - the Pentium 3 IBM and the Pentium 4 IBM. The former is white in colour while the latter, a more stylishly-designed black, and till date there are still people using the black-coloured, faulty models. In a word, there certainly will have more reports of breaking down of computers in the near future.

One look and anyone will be able to tell the latter is more desirable in possessing it. Thus when a few of us were allotted with it, we were all of course accepting it with no complaint at all.

The problem began with the stylish black Pentium 4 hanging and stalling halfway through the usage. It's everybody's nightmare when this happens - one literally needs to save any and all documents every half a minute to ensure no important keyed data is lost. Any missing action in saving the file results in losing the entire document. Certainly not a favourable condition to be used at all.

Thus our site technical assistants were alerted and informed. The replies were not as surprising as I thought : these IBM computers indeed were having, and giving, problems. They have received numerous complaints against these nice-looking but thoroughly poor-functioning computers ever since they decided to buy the lot and introduce them into the organisation. Therefore, as mentioned above, the word 'initially' explains why there are two models to begin with, but as time passes, we now in fact have three models - the latest being a more sleek-looking, smaller-sized HP comps. And everyone is certainly more than happy to own a 15" LCD monitor, because one suddenly finds the working desk appearing larger than before - the space taken up by the bulky CRT monitor is finally freed by the thin LCD monitor.

A closer examination, or should I say a further observation, led me to realise why we are facing this problem oddly presented by this international brand IBM, which is one world-acclaimed computer-manufacturing company. 'Lenovo', China's top PC maker, has actually acquired IBM's personal computing division for $1.25 billion in cash and equity in December 2004. With the rising to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world, China is seen by all to be the next most favourable arena for any interested party in expanding their businesses to enter and play. The end result? A drop in the IBM's quality of their products. Ironically, we consumers seem to be ones contributing to this phenomena, demanding for a higher churn-out of the latest products in the ever-shortening period of time. With the progress in technology, we don't seem to ask for quality anymore; rather, we seek a faster evolution of all products we desire - Version I this year, next year probably version III. The following year version VI perhaps, with extra freebies and goodies thrown in? In the ever fiercely-fought market, quality has indeed taken a back seat.

Against this background of the ever evolution, perhaps one should really consider IBM and Lenovo being ultimately wise to increase and expand their production on the expense of the decrement of their quality - any spoiled computer can be replaced with a new one, thus leading on to a fresh sales figure. With such a gigantic market like China, losing one dissatisfied customer is easily overwhelmed and replaced by tens of thousands of innocent, first-time buyers in a blink of an eye. As much as consumers wishing to raise the banner of "Consumers' Rights" higher, we can never offer a concrete rebuttal to the theory of 'replacement of product is better than ever-lasting'. In the business-minded minds of the businessmen, this certainly proves to be a strategy much more worthy of investment than any other.

Moving away from the realm of computing and onto the printed media, one will be able to see two different pieces of news sharing an almost similar size on the front page of the US papers - David Beckham signing a 127 million pounds deal to leave Real Madrid for Los Angeles Galaxy, a soccer team in the US league, and the announcement by President George Bush intending to increase the troops in Iraq by another 21,500 soldiers more.

As distant as these three elements of computers, soccer and politics are, one common ground remains unchanged: the world has evolved into a state where things aren't as what they seemed from external anymore. In this age of fast-food and high-speed, no longer needed is the virtue of long-lasting; no longer yearned is the beauty of human spirit and struggles, and no longer desired is the glowing light of compassion and forgiveness. Manufacturers make calculations based on easy profits and not long-term benefits; sportsmen made headlines with their transfer fees, probably some rumours and possibly some other scandals, and not hardships and victories; and politicians made decisions not by their heart and soul anymore, but by their ego and wilful emotions. In a nutshell, the facades of these mundane manifestations are no longer true by their exteriors - they have been unknowingly distorted by the respective individuals for a larger gain and faster return.

As much as I am disappointed by these trends, I congratulate myself quietly in knowing that I still do care, and yes, I am still able to read through the mundane elements of untrue facts with a clear sound mind, before they flood me over with their skillful yet tricky presentations.

Friday, January 12, 2007

New Year's Gosho

The following letter (or 'Gosho as it is known) is always read in the beginning of a new year. It's spirit lies in awakening the gratitude that is long covered with the dust and dirt in our lives, and the humanism that is somewhat lost along the journey we undertake in this lifetime, on this planet Earth. May you enjoy reading it too.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I HAVE received a hundred slabs of steamed rice cake and a basket of fruit. New Year’s Day marks the first day, the first month, the beginning of the year, and the start of spring. A person who celebrates this day will accumulate virtue and be loved by all, just as the moon becomes full gradually, moving from west to east, and as the sun shines more brightly, traveling from east to west.

First of all, as to the question of where exactly hell and the Buddha exist, one sutra states that hell exists underground, and another sutra says that the Buddha is in the west. Closer examination, however, reveals that both exist in our five-foot body. This must be true because hell is in the heart of a person who inwardly despises his father and disregards his mother. It is like the lotus seed, which contains both blossom and fruit. In the same way, the Buddha dwells within our hearts. For example, flint has the potential to produce fire, and gems have intrinsic value. We ordinary people can see neither our own eyelashes, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance. Likewise, we do not see that the Buddha exists in our own hearts. You may question how it is that the Buddha can reside within us when our bodies, originating from our parents’ sperm and blood, are the source of the three poisons and the seat of carnal desires. But repeated consideration assures us of the truth of this matter. The pure lotus flower blooms out of the muddy pond, the fragrant sandalwood grows from the soil, the graceful cherry blossoms come forth from trees, the beautiful Yang Kuei-fei was born of a woman of low station, and the moon rises from behind the mountains to shed light on them. Misfortune comes from one’s mouth and ruins one, but fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect.

The sincerity of making offerings to the Lotus Sutra at the beginning of the New Year is like cherry blossoms blooming from trees, a lotus unfolding in a pond, sandalwood leaves unfurling on the Snow Mountains, or the moon beginning to rise. Now Japan, in becoming an enemy of the Lotus Sutra, has invited misfortune from a thousand miles away. In light of this, it is clear that those who now believe in the Lotus Sutra will gather fortune from ten thousand miles away. The shadow is cast by the form, and just as the shadow follows the form, misfortune will befall the country whose people are hostile to the Lotus Sutra. The believers in the Lotus Sutra, on the other hand, are like the sandalwood with its fragrance. I will write you again.

Nichiren

The fifth day of the first month
Reply to the wife of Omosu

A New Year's Reflection

New year's day has gone passed us, unknowingly to many, for eleven days already.

"How time flies!" one would exclaim. True to these words, time slips past our hands like running water or moving sand, constantly sliding and never able to grasp it.

Many people do not list out their resolutions anymore. They have come to realise that either it is too tall an order for them to achieve all or some of those listed out, or simply they are living out their existences on a day-by-day basis, monotonous and sometimes even meaningless. It cannot be denied that it is indeed a sign or symptom of 'mental desertification' for the 21st century humankind, living in this high-speed, fast-paced technological age.

In the spirit of welcoming a new year, I renew my inner determination to strive for the targets I have set forth for earlier on. Targets, something which are always tempting and desirable, are perhaps one main driving force behind the survival of humanity. We are born a 'hunter', not a prey. Even by our physical bearing, where our eyes are ingeniously crafted to be together and high on our head, we are destined to be the hunter since day one to venture out into the wild for targets and kills. It is of this exact ability and driving force that propelled our forefathers to survive in their world of animalism, through the long journey of the natural selection and evolution to arrive at this modern day of science and logic.

Nature returns to it's original breadth, flowers restores it's fragrance for blossoming, and the seasons retraces it's path of cycle. Everything has been given a new lease of life. How wondrous can life on this planet Earth be. With a renewed sense of gratitude, I pray for the world to be a better place.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Saddam's Hanging & The World's Cheering

The title can be read in two ways: 'Saddam's hanging and the world IS cheering' (for his death), and 'Saddam's hanging & the world'S cheering' (for a brand new year).

Both titles, with one minor difference, tell two totally different stories miles apart from one another - one is the world cheering for a human's death, while the other is for the birth of a new year. In a short time span of two days, life and death met and the world was engulfed in euphoria.

I have spoken on Saddam in my earlier post, and I also have objected on Took Leng How's death penalty.

In the event of Saddam's hanging in the final hours of 2006, I again wish to reiterate my stance - I do not believe taking away another person's life will come to mend, amend or alter any existing or potential conflicts. The emotional wounds of all who have suffered under Mr. Saddam's tyrannical hard handed rulings may, if they ever wish to, sore a little lesser. However, no one can ever confidently declare that their sufferings are really over just with the hanging of this man. In fact, for those who live in rage and hatred toward Saddam, their regret might be added one layer more - they couldn't lay their hands on this man anymore. And so hatred is now mixed and bred with pain of regret.

As the world welcomes a brand new year of 2007 with cheers and wishes, I ponder quietly who would come to remember this man named 'Saddam' and branded a 'tyrant'. A man who, as reported in going all out to crash his enemies, is also the one who did not fudge when facing death. When the time was up, he didn't accept the hood for cover-sake. Instead he faced the invited witnessing group with his face fully uncovered, as he did in facing the world with his entire being, right to his final breath. Regardless of his strengths and weaknesses, his right and wrong doings, he had lived a life according to his wish; he lived by his own conviction. That, to many, is never a simple thing to achieve, and for Saddam he had done it his own way.

The world may now have another reason for cheering out loud: Saddam was hanged. However the people in Iraq are still facing turbulence and confusion, miseries and suffering. Would the cheerful notes the world is singing be translated into concrete actions in alleviating the suffering of the Iraqis? Would the tolling of the Roman bells eliminate the painful memories of the war victims all around the world? And would the snow flakes mankind is spraying on one another be able to rewrite a dark, hopeless episode into a flurry-white, bright future of hope? As we enter a new year, a new chapter in human history, I ponder quietly.

Post Script: I do not agree to Saddam's hanging; all the more I denounce the uploading and sharing of video clip for the unfortunate event. To take away someone's life is one matter; to film and play it, showing the man transiting through the realms of life and death over and over again is totally quite another. That act of filming and uploading it onto the net is as much an atrocity as Saddam's wrongdoings. Two wrongs simply don't make one right.

For The Record III

The world has entered another new year - 2007. While the final days of 2006 was again met with thunderstorms, floods and earthquakes not unfamilar to mankind, 2007 begins with a mixture of hopeful developments and a few tragic incidents.

Jan 1, 2007 - An Indonesian passenger plane, Adam Air Flight KI-574, carrying 102 people disappeared in stormy weather Monday after sending out two distress signals. The Boeing 737 was carrying 96 passengers and 6 crews, of which 11 were children.

31 Dec, 2006 - 8 bomb blasts hit Bangkok on New Year's Eve, with 2 just before midnight. Three were killed and at least thirty injured.

30 Dec 2006 - Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity at dawn on Saturday. A dramatic, violent end for a leader who ruled Iraq by fear for three decades before he was toppled by a U.S. invasion four years ago.

29 Dec, 2006 - A crowded Indonesian ferry, carrying nearly 640 passengers, breaks apart and sinks in the Java Sea during a violent storm. At least 400 are still missing.

23 Dec 2006 - Days of heavy rain touch off floods that kill more than 100 people and displace over 400,000 on northwestern Sumatra island.