Clarity

September 27, 2010

Recently there had been many developments in my life that threatens to obscure, and for what it is, there has been many; I crashed my car last month in the slippery slopes at the foothills of genting – it is now declared a total loss, but if there were any blessings it was a volvo – I wasn’t at all hurt; the taxman wants money for not declaring income between 2001~05 (I was in Brazil) – my company just started mandatory deductions on my salary (but I’m scrambling for proof); some yet-to-be-verifiable news has started to emerge that may jeopardize my company’s operations in Malaysia, and I may need to fly soon for emergency meetings and damage control; and the one I love has slowly started to lose her mind, and there is nothing much I can do, for she has to overcome her own demons.

My troubles are many, and they assail me all at once; but they are not more than most people’s. I was asked if I thrived in adversity – no, I do not.  I trust that a correct path will naturally appear, but I do not wait for it to come – you should seek it.  There will be an infinite permutations of scenarios and actions going through your mind, sometimes permeating like a slow disease, and you must be mature, patient and confident enough to weed through those that are trivial, conjectures merely a product of doubt and fear. You must not be reactionary, for there is nothing worse than to run from an extreme event to another extreme choice made, often in the opposite direction. In clarity, undisturbed by exterior pressures, a pendulum settles to rest midpoint, personifying the eightfold way.

  • Right understanding,
  • Right thought,
  • Right speech,
  • Right action,
  • Right livelihood,
  • Right effort,
  • Right mindfulness and
  • Right concentration.

Lastly, you must have the strength of conviction that no matter how grey something is- a decision or a choice made, an action or a reaction, an emotion felt or incurred- that you have done something to remain true to your beliefs.

Kiva.org

September 24, 2010

Tien Phong Hoang Chau group- My first loan

I have never felt comfortable with the usual in-your-face charity; people who assault you at food courts bearing name tags and certificates and folders of people they claim they represent; unprofessional NGOs who never publish their books to an equally undiscerning public;  a general mistrust that any money given will be misused. I pick up beggars and offer them dinner sometimes, a sandwich or a bowl of noodles.  Once a year I would make some token donation to some retirement home to offset my taxes, or to give away used clothes. My efforts fall somewhere between apathy and numbness.  

My biggest attempt at charity wasn’t charity, but disaster relief; during the asian tsunami of 04/05, when I was coincidentally out of work, I spent 4 unfruitful months at the Singapore YMCA as technical advisor, finally quitting when I found out that their real agenda was some opportunistic mission to spread “the word”.  I was sidelined when I voiced out my dissent. I once volunteered at the JB spastic children’s school, where I worked on a project that took me all over JB taking and assembling photos of road signs, then pasting the photos on placards, but how effective it was I could not know looking into eyes lost somewhere faraway. 

As I started going to places like India for business trips, the sense of helplessness returned. One would get mobbed by dirty & scrawny little streetkids, and if you relent, more and more would show up from the cracks in the pavement – the sensible thing would be that if you can’t help them all, you shouldn’t even start. I started looking for Indian charities to donate to, but felt less compelled when I realised how little impact it was when all you did was to shove food in someone’s mouth.      

I remember when Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel peace prize a few years back I bought his book to find out who he was. His Grameen bank was founded in Bangladesh out of his own pocket (20 something bucks) to finance micro-loans to healthy and willing but otherwise the hardcore poor, a bank whose operating model was so simple that deliquency rates were even lower than normal banks! It’s not charity when all you do is help others help themselves, whole levels of society benefits because of the multiplier effect. 

I hereby pledge that everytime I get solicited for money on the streets, I would refuse, go home, get online, and make a micro-loan of USD25 to a willing entrepreneur.

To Andy and Lindsay Wood

Sorry my little darlings, my wayward farangs, my comrades in arms,

I have been busy being unproductive in god-knows-what, stressed recently because i am assailed by a windfall of choices in the jobfront, dwindling savings, and my sudden decision to get hooked on nicotine replacement gum.

School should be starting soon for the hairy monster, i am struck just now, at this very moment, by nostalgia.  The heavy, artery clogging chilli omelette at the cafe in boston i use to go, where i’m surrounded by artsy fartsies, pseudo intellectuals, bohemians, chain smokers, fairies.. also drinking endless cups of coffee – that diluted american kind.  I would sit there apprehensive of what the world would be like for me ten years on.

Akward situations I catch myself in? 12 years of unrelenting substance abuse?  ballooning weight, cholesterol problems, ureic acid levels, high free radical count?

What me worry?