Crisis

The best way to evaluate “friends” is during a time of crisis.

A common English adage that speaks much wisdom is still useful and relevant today:

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Beauty in Melancholy

The Divine Hand has deemed it fit for a man with such melancholic disposition as William Cowper to pen such beautiful and God-praising hymns as the following:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Belukar

An example of the type of “Belukar” we had at our place.

That’s the Malay word for bushes or thicket. Back in the late 80’s, the area opposite my house was a forest. We had two playgrounds – one directly in front of my house, and another just next to the first, towards the newly constructed low-cost single-storey terrace houses (that were unoccupied or still under construction at that time).

My neighbours (4 boys) and I would frequently play at the playground – all manner of games that were only limited to our imagination at that time. But one stood out, until now. It was to go under the big hole (a drain) that would bring you out into the “belukar”. Coming out the other side, one would have to crawl out from the bushes (lalang) and up to the dirt road that leads back to the playground area.

We played war games, hide N’ seek, cops and robbers, and just plain exploration. I remember our brave (or foolhardy) neighbour “J” would tell us that he had gone into the drain and through to the other side. We would dare each other to do that. It was dark (obviously) yet dry (not the monsoon season yet). Our petite frame allowed two person to squeeze through it at the same time (with much effort and patience, of course). But it was fun. It became our “short cut” or “special hiding place” when a new boy would “join” us in our regular play times.

Looking back, this was pure fun. Childhood experience that we cannot easily find in the metropolitan residence in Klang Valley today. Our parents told us nothing about bacteria and all manner of diseases that could have latched onto our being then. But in all honesty, we did not tell our parents anything about playing at the “belukar”. They just assumed we had the common sense to avoid danger.

Perhaps this is what makes the divide between the generations great.

The Narrative

In a post-modern world, the truth has become relative. Absolute truth’s existence is vehemently denied, especially in ‘intellectual’ quarters. No longer are people satisfied with ‘a’ singular take on matters; people crave for different viewpoints. This is clearly seen in the proliferation of information in the last five centuries and it has not stopped since. The Internet is the latest vehicle that enables this on a global and instantaneous scale.

What are the side effects?

Truth is determined by the most popular “narrative” that is accepted by people at large. People do not care about objective truth – they care about the populist truth propped up by “likes”, “shares” and “trending” measures. The evidence is plenty: even mainstream newspaper in Malaysia that prided itself in its journalistic integrity resembles tabloids with each passing day. The modern term is “click-bait journalism”.

Sad to say that irl (in-real-life) this is also true. Whoever CONTROLS the narrative of a particular matter or event, determines the “truth” to the general public. Viewed from this angle, it does not matter how strong your eye-witness accounts are; it matters how many people are ‘talking’ about it.

In the classic “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee, we see this modern-issue captured perfectly in the much accused and speculated character of Boo Radley. From a cannibal to a silent serial killer, to a weird dangerous neighbour, Boo has been the object of ridicule, nightmares, and threats in the neighbourhood. But at the end of the whole epic drama between the Ewells and Tom Robinson, we see for a fact that this much-maligned character, Boo, is the hero who selflessly comes out of his world, to save Jem. Does Boo Radley get the exoneration he deserves? No. He goes back to live in his world – away from the eyes and wiles of the world.

No wonder the greatest chunk of businesses lies in marketing. Perception trumps everything else in a relativistic world. That is sad. The division is getting wider between the narrative-peddlers and the truth-seekers. The latter is beginning to withdraw back to their own worlds, leaving behind a sinister world of mud-slinging and grand-pontifications.

Gaming Nostalgia

One of my early (1980’s-90’s) favourite genre in games

I had an awesome childhood filled with computer games. Although I had an enforced 1 hour “outdoor” game session daily (i.e. Monday to Saturday), the rest of my free time was spent on my dad’s computer. We started out with an IBM clone PC (personal computer) and worked up to a 286 computer and more.

Beat’em up games were plenty in those days. I enjoyed them more at the arcade centers – which were hard to find in my hometown, but plenteous in Port Dickson, Seremban and Kuala Lumpur. This video shows the wide range that was available. I remember many of them FONDLY.

Cool Breeze

It was below 10 Celsius at 7 in the morning. Parisians apparently do not start early, as scarcely were there people on the streets at that time. Having the cool winds slowly brushing against me was strangely refreshing. I expected it to be painful – it was supposed to be too cold for me. Instead, it blew away the troubles of yesterday.

A good change that was necessary, even though it was only for a short time.

Walking along the Seine, the wind reassured me of God’s grace in comforting His saints, flawed though they are. It was breathtaking to take in the whole panoramic view at the center of Paris – on the right, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, and to the left, the eminent Louvre. Traffic began to slowly build up as Parisians began to head towards work.

In an alley away from the main road, a restaurant was already getting ready to welcome customers. Warm yellow lights were all lit, broom sweeping yesterday’s rubbish and counters wiped and checked by the lone worker – probably the owner.

Turn to another alley and a self-service launderette filled the area with a low-hum. There was no one using the facilities, but the lights and heaters were switched on, inviting any would-be user in that cold early morning.

The foreign city forced me to look around. To look at the forest, and not only at trees. When the wind blows, it is hard to see its effect when you stand so close to the single tree. But stand far enough – like a stranger in a foreign place, and you will see the trees swaying, the forest coming alive, breathing in and out, like a living human being. You can even hear the breathing of the forest; the work of the wind.

Fresh breeze comforts. Assures us that God’s mercies are new every morning. Unlike sinners, God is the maker of winds, the swayer of forests. Feeling refreshed by the Seine breeze, I headed back to my room for breakfast.