Sunday, May 29, 2005

Reminiscence

Nostalgia.

Historicity.

Companionship.

Timelessness.

And a place to soak in the pleasure of quiet contemplation.

"For scholarly contemplation use only".- The Orchid Garden of Kuala Lumpur.
(courtesy of fellow blogger and camera crew,Aronil)

The other side of Kuala Lumpur that we may have overlooked nevertheless, has never lost touch of its splendour, majesty and rich historical significance.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Old Gramophone Spin

Rummaging through some old lovey-dovey tunes- nice enough to be played over and over again on a cold, rainy night- of course, never without a good book in hand and a cup of steaming hot tea.

I believe in you and me (The Preacher's Wife OST)- Whitney Houston
A woman's declaration of faith towards the man she loves, now how can that man not be any way moved?

I finally found someone (The Mirror has Two Faces OST)- Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams
My all-time favourite. My perfect wedding song, only that perhaps I would hear it being played in someone else's wedding first...hmm..what a killjoy.

Home- Michael Buble
A reminiscent of what Norah Jones might have written. Made me think of home more, and of going back to where the heart is too.

And spinning at the corner of my mind...

Lagenda- Sheila Majid
Legendary, even so with the voice beneath it.

Plus, all that jazz that I save my money for. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dissecting Calvin and Hobbes (or at least, an attempt to)


Bill Watterson's idea of ending a remarkable comic marks a new adventure of exploration of his characters.

While I do not claim to be an expert or (shamefully) an ardent fan of Calvin and Hobbes, I have certainly been very priviledged to have grown up (perhaps with 'distorted' perspectives!) with this ingenious, beloved comic.

As per above, I marvel at how Bill Watterson could lay his sketching pencil and paper to rest, yet not signify the end of the comic itself. We may not see another brand new strip of Calvin's mischief ever, yet; the subconcious, semi-reality world of Calvin and Hobbes does not cease to exist. Calvin would still be jumping down the roof and ruining his mother's favourite rose bushes, Hobbes would still be in his philosophical nature, and Calvin's dad would still be giving his son all the wrong information about Life!

Which gets my attention to the question Descartes once asked-" How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream?" What if my life too, is a comic strip which an outside element or being reads for pleasure in the papers every morning? Alas, then the world that I have been living in is no more than a confinement of space in the comic strip that I am in!

Had not been for the thinkers who have painstakingly rationalised the makeup of Reality, I must say; we would have still been trapped in a matrix, so to speak. Not that because we are, but we thought we are; and the pursuit of Truth comes to a dead end, simply because we thought that there is simply no truth since we are only imaginery beings anyway. Descartes doubted everything in this world, insisting that he must begin with 'zero'. And the only thing that he was certain was that he doubted. When he doubted, he had to be thinking, and because he was thinking; he must be a thinking being. And it proved his existence!

And anyone would think that just about anyone could come up with "I think, therefore I am" simply without bothering to make perfect sense of the profundity beneath it. *Gulp*

So, did Calvin think that Hobbes was Real? Bill Watterson never confirmed the nature of reality of Hobbes. Hobbes may have appeared to come to life only to Calvin or that Calvin's imagination was 'reeled' into the strip itself, depicting a live tiger at times; depending on the modes of his imagination, which were then transmitted to our interpretation of Hobbes.

I particularly enjoy this 'blurred' parallels of Hobbes' personality which, Bill Watterson may have created to tone down Calvin's impulsiveness. And has anyone even thought that the character of Calvin was actually a mirror to the name Hobbes? The philosopher Thomas Hobbes (in which the name was taken from and christened upon a stuffed tiger but seemed to have enjoyed more popularity than the man himself) had a famous saying from Leviathan- that the state of nature of a human life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short"— Calvin is somewhat solitary, at times nasty, perhaps poor and brutish; and definitely short! The nature of Calvin himself- a defiant kid against His Creator; who simply enjoyed challenging the idea of a Creator through his showing of 'authority' and 'supremacy' over objects (basically claiming to a weed that it is at his mercy to be given water)and through his fondness of creating several alter-egos for himself; seemed to be a humourous contradiction to John Calvin's God-fearing nature in the first place.

What is actually in the mind of Bill Watterson when he confronts issues of intellectual matters, Existence and of a Supreme Being without being too technical is simply fascinating, if not brilliant; I must say. One may read Calvin and Hobbes for pure intelligent humour but, dissect the comic and a world of philosophical influences begins to unravel itself! One then, must simply take Calvin and Hobbes beyond face value- that Calvin was not just a smart Alec who never failed to create troubles and blamed his stuffed toy tiger for them, every time he needed justification to his trouble-making antics.

My salute to Mr. Bill Watterson; among millions of others who have been purely delighted by Calvin and Hobbes- indeed, a diamond which is now buried does not necessarily mean that it will lose its shine.

P/S- Leon, do not worry that you will not be able to withstand baby Christian's curiousity over many things in life in the near future for Calvin's dad seemed to be surviving even with his no-knowledge on many things, but worry that you will be thrashed with several consensus and "Why- my- Dad- is- so- unpopular" polls every now and then. My prayers and well-wishes are with you both. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Methodology of Moral Terrorism.

The word 'terrorism' seems to have found its way to bizarre stardom, having given meaty 'roles' to play in the deliverence of propaganda-filled speeches; in which; it is more often than not; used as a reckless synonym to anything which is arabic-sounding or Muslim-looking; or plainly injected to mean anything which involves brute force and covetedness.

I cannot help thinking that perhaps, there will even come a day when the popularity of the suffix -ism as a descriptive word will be taken over by 'terrorism'.

Simply by adding any word prior to it would do the trick. Marina Mahathir seemed to have sent her message across quite effectively by conjuring the term "moral terrorism" to denote a sense of moral wrong in imposing one's religion to another through the authority and political means in a country.

She was referring of course, to a particular nation of great power; wherby a certain leader has used his personal beliefs through his faith, to resolve certain legislative issues; that involved people who did not share the same beliefs as he did. "Using authority and political power to confine people to act within the certain boundaries of a religion is not only morally wrong, but also a form of moral terrorism"(as paraphrased) , this prolific writer stated.

To a short yet certain extent, I do agree with her. The "short and certain extent", however; requires much clarification and even improvisation to be made on my part.

Part of my struggle with Christianity belonged to the disposition that Christians were an awfully inconsiderate lot when it came to sharing their faith to others. As if it were a hard hit on the head, I was again reminded on how this struggle used to pull me away from even listening to the Gospel, when a non-Christian friend lodged her complaint to me recently; just as I was about to use the 'Colombo method' to put a pebble in her shoe, so to speak.

The problem with Christians sharing their faith to others is but one- being too quick to give half-baked answers without having an equal interest to listen. Thus, we find that our best intentions for our loved ones are often miscontrued too easily, as arrogance and imperialistic in nature.

Perhaps, it is not being miscontrued after all. Perhaps, we are indeed arrogant. And too quick to wanting to give macro-answers, which actually turned out to be myopic and weak.

Greg Koukl said curtly that "we would be lucky to even save our own faith, let alone share our faith with others". Such is the ending for those who perceive that they have a higher understanding of a truth and knowledge than the rest, therefore rendering themselves as "qualified" to speak of this truth and knowledge to others, and expect that their audience would have high regards on their so-called knowledge.

The luckier ones would perhaps get some boost of confidence if positive responses are gained. However; greater the height, greater the fall. The desire to gain knowledge has thus become a tool to gain higher authority, power and appraisal.

Even the pursuit of knowledge; has become corrupted and a temptation to evil.

It must come to our realisation that holding precious knowledge on Christ does not necessarily mean for us to think that we are 'exclusively right' and therefore, deserved to be listened to and agreed upon easily. Nor does holding precious knowledge on Christ yet, being willing to see the views of non-believers; means that our faith in Christ is diluted in form.

The medium to break communication barriers and the perception that Christianity imposes its doctrines and standards on others, lies in the humility of Christ's followers. If we were to preach the Gospel in a manner which is viewed as obnoxious and seemingly self-righteous, we are only creating a hostile environment that is preventing an engaging interfaith conversation from taking place.

The same application works in a Christian environment. How do we expect fellow Christians to learn from one another when the so-called admonishment come with a sense of competitiveness to be "doctrinally right"?

Let's not even talk about "triple-tiger-strikes" when it comes to sharing our faith, when we do not even learn to practise humility.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Peripheral.

Once upon a time, a friendly reader came into this portal and thought that it was an activist organisation in the making.

Another thought this writer ought to have a heavy dosage of optimism to keep her nerves intact in case of a nervous breakdown, given the underlying pessimistic tones surrounding this portal.

Thanks for the constructive evaluations- this writer has no idea; til now; that the consequences of ideas one has, is not merely an art of conveyance of a message of which; one intends for her readers, but doubles as a mirror to reflect one's personality; despite her inclination to be hidden behind the cloak of anonimity.

Nevertheless, it is a joy-write.

Praise be unto the Lord for this priviledge.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Kingdom Reigns.

I have high regards for Ridley Scott as a commendable director, considering his success in capturing the essence of heroism and righteousness in Maximus from the movie Gladiator. What I like about his directorial efforts in Gladiator and now, Kingdom of Heaven is his ability to make his viewers see the vulnerability of the characters in war, through an interplay with light and sound- either in silence or with the haunting voice of a female vocalist in the background; to bring out a rather surreal and dramatic effect; otherwise passed off as merely gory scenes necessarily inserted for Hollywood suspense.

In Gladiator, Commodus, the young and weak emperor of the Roman Empire asked his sister, “What is Rome?” His sister replied, “It is an idea”. In contrast, one cannot say the same about the Kingdom of God, even as seen from the eyes of Muslims or Christians in the movie Kingdom of Heaven.


"I must say your plastic surgeon did a good job on your nose, what did you say his name was?"


A quick search in Wikipedia would lead you to the historicity of the Crusades, a seemingly endless war of claim over the Holy Land of Jerusalem by both Muslims and Chrisitians in the medieval times. Though the movie was heavily fictionalized to suit the tastes of ardent epic movie-goers, there are nonetheless, fragments of the significant past being pieced together, here and there.

In case you have yet to watch the movie and at the same time has zero tolerance towards spoilers, this would be pretty much a warning to you to stop reading. Writing about the Kingdom of Heaven without making references to some of the scenes from the movie seems to be too tall an order to even an experienced writer, I supposed.

Nevertheless, one can’t help but to be further intrigued by how a powerful message can be sent across through the portrayal of characters by both sides of Islam and Christianity in the movie. In one sense, one can even say that Ridley Scott made the movie in such a way that it does not lean in favour towards one religion, but rather, created a win-win situation for both. On the other hand, one can also say that what was the initial common cause of the war between the Muslims and the Christians at the time, was dissolved- at least for a short period of time, with the divergence on the part of Balian of Ibelin’s visionary to see the Kingdom of God as not so much of a visible and physical Kingdom, established on a piece of land; but rather, a Kingdom established in the hearts and minds of God-fearing men- thus making the Christians victorious in this round of battle.

In history, Balian of Ibelin did surrender the land of Jerusalem to Saladin through peaceful negotiations with the much-revered Muslim warrior King and King Saladin did offer the services of his physician to the King while they were at war but not to the leper King as portrayed in the movie; rather; to Richard of Lionheart; the King of England who pursued efforts of claiming the Holy Land thereafter. Despite the discrepancies in the historicity revolving the Crusades, what is being emphasized here is actually the virtues of righteousness displayed by both sides. Therefore, it is highly possible that the theme that Ridley Scott has in mind for his viewers is not a religiously-charged one, but one that is of what is virtuous and morally right.

I find that the cause of pursuit by the Christians in the movie were comparatively more subtle than the Muslims- there were more scenes portraying Muslims as outwardly zealous to Islam, through constant mass prayers and the chants of Allah-hu-Akbar throughout the movie, thus making the cause of the Christians in fighting for Holy Land a seemingly politically one instead. I do not recall Balian or any of the Christian characters in the movie proclaiming that the cause of this war is “For Christ” and there was an even slight disappointment in Balian’s subdued and uninspiring pre-war speech to his fellow knights, perhaps also due to lack of clarity in proclaiming Christ as the chief end to their case of defense against the Muslims.

However, a friend pointed out that the contrasts were not necessarily superficially construed as “less zealous” per se. Islam is portrayed as a religion of victory and for victory, and this was seen through the portrayal of King Saladin himself- a mighty, strong and valiant warrior. Islamic doctrines are footed on the basis that it must be incorporated as a whole, unified system and the identity of Islam is revealed outwardly through the culture and the way of life of its believers. Therefore, a war for a political cause is deemed unIslamic, unless justified in the name of Allah. Thus, it is only natural that Muslims see the establishment of their Kingdom of Heaven lies physically in the form of the Holy Land and victory of Allah lies in the capturing of that land.

On the other hand, viewers may come across Christianity as the more feeble religion, even more so, when the ailing King himself was a leper- a castaway; had not he been born into royalty. I especially like the portrayal of such a feeble-looking King riding out to meet King Saladin in hopes that a peaceful resolution would come between them, despite of His ailing condition. He was rotting away, yet the dignity and courage that he displayed reminded me of how much the cause that he was fighting for was defending the lives of his people rather than the mere possession of Jerusalem- and how his inward expression of the Kingdom of God would later influence Balian to see that ultimately, their Kingdom of Heaven has never been robbed by the Muslims; for the Kingdom of Heaven is in the hearts and minds of men.

Therefore, even though Jerusalem was eventually surrendered to Muslims, the Christians rejoiced for now they knew where their Kingdom of Heaven actually belonged. Thus, the Muslims may have won the battle, but they have lost the war- for the war was not in essence, fought for the possession of the Holy Land but rather, for the establishment of the Kingdom of God through the transformation of the hearts of men to Christ.

Of course, the ultimate question is, can this war be justified as “God’s will” as loudly proclaimed by both Muslims and Christians in the movie? We will never know for sure. However, what is certain is this-


"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”- Rev 11:15.
-Picture courtesy of wan loong

With that, we are assured that all shall come to pass as we await for the second coming of our Lord and shall one day, see the Kingdom of God in its full manifestation in the form of new heavens and earth.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

At play.

The first chords of the piano struck- more of a whisper, beckoning to the ear to listen closely to the moves that the hands of the pianist made.

He needed no orchestra, no- the sounds of his piano was sufficient to contain the silence of a musical hall, soaking in its richness of emotions being displayed while the music was at play. Each note was already held out distinctively from each other, yet when put together in harmony; the chords seemed to have drawn so much strength from each note, it was as though a splash of colour has just been added to an already striking black-and-white portrait.

The effects thereafter, were just as astoundingly magnificent- and as well-arrayed as the arrangement of the music itself. A lone hand at play evoked feelings of solitude and loneliness. while a slow transition of chords was made perfect company for a walk in the words on a cool evening- "just like being made for the classic romantic movies", so to speak. I for one, cannot think of a better accompaniment to a good book in hand for an evening well-spent.

The music softens, as the piano slowly 'descended' to nothing more than a dying whisper. Yet, rarely did the listener leave unmoved.

He left with much pleasure; and the tune pretty much in his head.

Such is the might of the hands of a pianist, when his masterpiece is at play.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Onward, Women.

Flipping through a purchase-wise over-rated women magazine, one can't help but to have that longing to look as beautiful as the women featured in the glossy pages. If Fantasy were to be symbolically represented by a doe-eyed woman with flowing tresses of silky hair and rose-red lips; then Reality would be at its palest in comparison- plain, colourless and downright monotonous.

However, most women would reckon themselves as 'plain' and 'monotonous', although they should not be confused with being 'ugly' and 'unattractive'. It is with this perception that women have upon themselves that causes them to be easily overwhelmed by their insecurities, especially when they come face-to-face with another whose beauty is equivalent to the sparkle of a diamond, sitting next to a pale pink amethyst, which in my humble opinion; is actually quite a pretty stone, but definitely lacking behind when it comes to shine and sparkle.

Thus, women seek ways to 'improve' their looks and even 'hide' what is being looked at as 'defects' on their faces, by virtually wiping any vanity products that promises 'miraculous' results off the shelves, lining up outside a designer store for 2 days straight just to have that bag which is touted as a 'must-have' of the season or going under the knife to make significant facial alterations so that they too can have the eyes of Miss Lopez and the nose of Miss Kidman. All these with the hopes, if not to look like a sought-after supermodel; to at least boost one's morale and confidence when given a second glance upon walking in the streets; even if they cost them the GDP of a country.

Now, buying vanity products to enhance one's beauty is not the subject of dispute here. Neither am I trying to refute women that don't mind paying through their noses to buy designer products. What baffles me most, is when intelligent women actually buy the Idea of a Woman, defined recklessly by the media, whose primary intentions are of profit-generating ones. Thus, we find ourselves being confined to a stereotypical definition of an empowered woman- one who has the high-flying career, the well-tailored power suit, the black sedan and the in-season make-up.

Yet, the essence of an advanced and empowered woman is not dictated by outward appearance, but rather a consistent pattern of consciousness and effort to recognise strengths and feminity for the upholding of a society. Our ignorance towards exploitation of women workforce, discrimination against women in education and employment, the vulnerability of women towards AIDS and the acts of disarming a country's defence through the raping of women during wars only signify how we are advancing backwardly- which negatives the whole idea of women empowerment.

The downfall of the advancement of women begins exponentially when women who are given opportunities to education and knowledge make hoo-hahs over the latest anti-wrinkle cream in the market but keep mum when other women are being sold into sex slavery in other countries.

If we were really sincere in empowering ourselves, we ought to start thinking critically on issues that affect us- being women in the first place.

The question is, are we even thinking?

( Coincidently, a ministrial meeting on the advancement of women would be held from the 7th-10th of May in Putrajaya- should be noteworthy to observe where women today are heading)