Tuesday, 12 June 2012


I remember the Skyline, I remember the Night,
I remember Holding those Hands, in the Silent Candlelight.
We thought it would be for a Moment, but the Magic endured Years.
We shared Happiness and Heartaches, both - Sorrow, Joy and Tears.
There was a time the Stars danced for us; those were the times for Wishes.
There was a time of Romance; those times of Silence and of Kisses.
The wishes were Make-believe, but the Joy was nonetheless Real.
It didn’t seem to matter then, for that Moment in Time, was Sealed.

I remember the White of snow, on that winter’s Christmas night.
I remember your curious Radiance, your Youthfulness, and your Light.
For those were the Traits that drew me in; and those traits kept me Sound;
A Strength my Soul drew blindly from, when I was a King without a Crown.
There was a time for Candlelight Wishes; those were the times of Song.
There was a time for Goodbyes, Bidding yet Knowing – ‘not before long’.
With Music comes Memories, Words bound with meaning to their Scenes;
Those Deeds would live on forever - in Time or in Thought, in Life or in Dreams.

I’ll remember your Growth; and I’ll remember your Strength.
I’ll remember my Presence that once touched you - to however an Extent
There was a time for Us; perhaps, those are now times of Old.
There was a time of You and Me; perhaps, that is now just a story to be Told.
So here we are at the Crossroads, Two Lives with Little left to Share.
I thought my hands could hold a Lifetime; I felt my Heart had strength to bear.
I remember your Beauty - your Soul, your Smile, your Heart.
I remember, I remember; but soon, I have to Forget.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Boston Homecoming

18th July - 5th August 2011 | Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The setting sun fell gently on the water's surface, as sail-boats glided serenely across the Charles River, with the familiar skyline forming the iconic Boston backdrop that I had grown so used to on my weekly weekend-walks. A cool evening breeze caressing my face gently grounded the reality of the situation - that I was back in Boston once again, and memories of all that I loved were a reality once again. Still one of my favourite cities in the world, and while some might argue that the city is not much for sight-seeing, no other place outside of Singapore feels as much like home - despite being away from her for a good three years.

In The Eagles words from their ballad "The Sad Cafe": Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever changed at all. And indeed, Boston was exactly the way I remembered it to be, where muscle memory instantly sank in within the first couple of days, and I was able to find my way around by foot to all the familiar haunts almost entirely based on some sort of intuition or a sense of subconsciousness. Regardless, there is / was still very much to love about the place...

The cool-summer climate set the tone and the backdrop for much that I loved to do in Boston - weekend walks across the river to the downtown area. Following the Freedom Trail from Downtown to Quincy market, to arrive at the all too familiar square and see identical performances by the same performers from 3 years ago. Hunting for the sweetest deals on pre-owned games, where often times the journey to the nearest Gamestop was as rewarding as the destination - as perhaps all I wanted was some sort of self-justification to validate a weekend walk when I could have been sleeping or gaming it away.

Ice-cream - lots of ice-cream - accentuated by a new Pinkberry yogurt fad in town provided the perfect partner for a mid-summer's night stroll back home; too cheesy cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory that has a level of sinfulness only found in American dining; and of course the seafood: where Clam Chowder and Lobster is the order of the day, and the freshness of the Lobsters and the creaminess of the Clam Chowder found in Boston still ranks at the top of my list for these choices, and warranted returning visits to the local seafood chains. 

But more than the physical or the gastronomical, Boston does something for me on an almost spiritual level as well. Thriving with creativity, Boston left me creatively inspired the last time after the 9-week duration, and this time around, it was hardly any different, but perhaps even more so invigorated. Perhaps the turbulent events after the last trip left me desolate and depressed enough that I hadn't been able to fully piece the pieces of that inspired-soul back together over the years; even though it has definitely been mended - but perhaps it was never complete (which might be a good or bad thing, since an incomplete soul probably has a better tendency towards introspection and reflection). Being back in Boston probably helped to put the finishing touches to that mending process, and the added insight and experience that I had gained over the years in between the visits probably allowed me to gain a bit of an even more deeply rooted wave of inspiration that fuels my soul and my mind with possibilties.

As nothing but the sound of my rhythmic footsteps rang through the evening air as I walked across the bridge, one step at a time, breathing in sync to the walking and eyes fixed towards the tall tower in a distance, I felt that I was taking one step onto familiarity, and another into the future, all at the same time. 

Photo Album:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Road to Rome : The Joy of Nothingness

31st May 2011 | Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Waters of the fountain behind trickled slowly, from the sprout into the pool; as the sound of water on water provided the perfect background piece for the sunset-sky. A truly wondrous place, these plazas; with road-side artists peddling their wares and their works, alfresco cafes fringing the borders of the plazas, and an occasional horse-carriage going by - to give the plaza an icing-on-the-old-world-cake finish.

And yet, none of this mattered as much as the main ingredient: people - lots of people. While Europeans in general are probably quite fond of people-watching, Italians are noted to be at the top of the list, and judging from the number of people gathered around a 4pm weekday afternoon, I guess I had no choice but to agree.

Couples sharing intimate words staring deep into one another's eyes, as aged-pairs catch a breath and appreciate the years between them in the silent pants, as office-workers unwind over a cuppa at the bordering cafes after a days' worth of work, while wide-eyed tourists (like ourselves) try their best to fit in and pretend that we understood what the fuss was all about.

As I stared deep into space, my mind wandering, while the corner of my eye caught her in her bright yellow-dress wandering off towards the horse-carrige, I started to understand the lure of it all. More so than really watching people for comparison and inspiration, I think the whole thing fed a slightly more innate need for community, one that allows you to sit amongst the crowd, and yet not necessarily having to say a single word to anyone; an ironic sense of community-meeting-privacy - to just be amongst people for the very sake of it, and  yet keeping your own little private space in your own little world at wherever you chose to settle yourself into.

But more so than the sense of community, I was pleasantly surprised and probably enlightened on their perception of time. While sitting around watching people and watching the sunset on a normal weekday would probably be considered a waste of time in ever-so-efficient and fast-paced Singapore, where there is so much more to do,  places to go, and appointments to keep; where the days are packed with moving from activity to activity - I think we have probably lost sight of what it feels like to just sit and let time roll by, the feeling of owning time, rather than letting time own you - and perhaps, to enjoy the simpler things in life, the joy of nothingness and freedom, the little pockets of respite, the rest-stops along the day's journey.

I looked at my watch and signalled to her that we were moving on - to the Pantheon, to the Spanish Steps, to the Vatican, to the Coliseum, to the rest of Rome - and we were on a schedule. But I knew that as important as it was for us to make the time for these sights, it was equally important for a vacation to allow us to bake the time to savour the restful-perfection in between.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Boston Chapters: Sunrise

The smell of the night still lingered in the air, slowly thinning as we made our way down the unusually deserted roads, as I was blindly following the crowd of three a little bit of a distance ahead of the rest of us. We didn't talk much, never did; and being travelling companions with a common goal did nothing much to bridge that disconnect, save for a silent acknowledge of one another's presence.

Fatigue probably played a large factor to the unwillingness to converse as well, as the mind-set of maximizing the time left on foreign shores - which had me making the decision to take the last bus out, only to arrive at 4 in the morning with nowhere to go but a nearby MacDonald's to wait the time out - probably left my body more dry than high; partially from the lack of sleep, but perhaps more so from the boredom of waiting.

And yet, there I was, searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; hoping to find a rare glimpse of beauty in the ordinary, to find the worth in the while for all the physical fatigue... 

The first step onto the bridge proper had me lifting up my head, seeing it stretch far into the distance, across the strait, with its suspension cords stretching towards the heavens, into the darkness above. Step by step, we walked down the bridge, going further and further into the thinning darkness.

A pinkish glow started to crawl along the sky - slowly but surely engulfing the darkness. The rattling of wheels and the distinct sound of bicycle bells rang behind us, as the bridge started to awaken with activity. Voices and shouts heard in the distance ahead, as step by step, we had come to the quarter-mark of the bridge. 

The ground beneath our feet shook more than slightly - a consequence of the high speed vehicles zooming by under our feet, with the sound of the roaring engines to accompany the sensation. More and more violently the earth beneath us shook, and the frequency of passing engine roars increased exponentially.

Just as we reached the halfway mark, I heard exclamations coming from the group ahead of us, as they started pointing towards the direction in which the water below us ran towards - eastwards. A thin ray of light shot vertically upwards from behind one of the buildings; and in almost an instant, spread out into a fan-like shape that stretched out in multiple directions. I stared intently, waiting for the visual climax.

A round golden silhouette peaked its head above a building, as I instinctively brought my hands to shield my eyes, unable to bear the intensity of the light. The great ball of light climbed confidently up the morning sky, assured of its dominance over the city, as its golden glory carassed  the faces of buildings near and far, having them respond with a golden glow off their reflective surfaces. The city had awoken to yet another sunrise.

I had found my pot of gold, in all its blinding glory - the glimpse of the sunrise in the Big Apple, probably a sight that millions wake up to every morning and see nothing out of the ordinary in - but yet, for one on foreign lands, it probably bore the significance of the start of the last chapter of the journey, as we headed towards our final weeks on this land.

The sunlight fell on my face, as I took in the air to smell the morning...

Monday, 25 April 2011

Facilitator 2.0

Deep breath, door slowly grasping the handle, a firm downward push, and a forward thrust.

A room full of eyes turned towards me, as I walked in confidently, making my way across the room, ignoring all of which, and brushing it aside with a casual "Good Morning".

A sureness in my stride, and a sense of command clenched within my fist along with the handles of my laptop bag, as I took my time to take my place, and proceeded to set up for class in my own time, as a presumably uneasy silence rang through the air; yet hardly rattling my disposition. 

They say that life comes full circle, and I was sorely reminded of this fact when two familiar faces stepped into the door with a sheepish grin, and a hardly-embarrassed and joyous "Hello." The irony of life – of having two students that I taught in my very first class in my very first semester stepping into my very first class for the new academic year.

It was great to have an anchor or two of familiar faces to latch on to in a totally alien class; but more than that, they served as two totems and one solid juxtaposition against my past - from a time that I had trouble digging up and virtually re-living - until the familiarity of sitting down in the same room with them jolted something probably now deeply swept into my subconscious.

I used to consider my words very carefully, and my actions even more so. The slightest hint of a tangential point that quickly and unexpectedly went south would cause an obvious flush, and have the class gushing at my shyness; my physical being unable to mask my mental thoughts - that was a different time. A time of self-consciousness and self-awareness; rooted by a deep sense of uncertainty - the uncertainty of the lack of the ability to anticipate, driven by a greater general lack of experience and knowledge of the approach towards the juggle between being an authority and being a friend. Awkward, perhaps; but cautious, even more so.

That was of a different time - one where interaction was a lot more of an effort, always conscious of what to say, how much I was saying, how much I was revealing; and yet always cautious of how much I shouldn't be saying, how far I was going, and what impression I was leaving...

"You've changed Jeremy", said one of the familiar faces, "I still remember the time when you..."  

I looked him in my eye and retorted calmly, "Two years is a long time."

And indeed it has been, with the clocking of one-year in full time, on top of the first year in part time, I believe that I have a much firmer grasp of the ropes in a classroom environment now - being able to see without looking, hearing words without focusing, and reading thoughts without asking; there is probably still much to learn, but at the same time, I have probably learnt much. Confident and in control, experience has taught me the basics of rapport, connection and communication. 

And yet, some things don't change at all. The persistent mantra of:  "9 to 4.30, I'm your Facilitator, after 4.30, we're friends," holds true to today even, and perhaps even more so, with the increased time spent with the students, and the greater involvement in their academic life. Talk becomes more casual, laughter flies all around, jokes dart in all directions, and the (ahem) occasional swear word comes to light, bringing to mind the second mantra of: "I'm simply here to impart my knowledge to you, not here to be your damn Role Model."

Re-visiting a question I had no simple answer for during my interview, I sordidly recall my stern interviewer's countenance when she asked, ""You look really young. Is respect important to you? How would you get your students to respect you?"

To be honest, I still haven't found the exact answer to this question, and I never might; but I probably never have to, as over the years, I think I've learnt to shift between the planes of a facilitator and a friend with ease, being able to transcend the planes in a split-second; and sometimes blending the two. Somehow, somewhat; I've learnt that respect doesn't necessarily come from knowledge or achievement, but sometimes, it is simply established with a tinge of connection.

A recent inside joke had me challenging my minions: "Wouldn't it be ironically funny if despite all the abuse and sarcasm I put you guys through, somehow I could still get an award this?"

Well... guess what happened?

- Welcome to Facilitator 2.0 -

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Malleability of Time

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Shuffling noises could still be heard through my semi-conscious state - some of feet, and perhaps running water. The light streaming in had me move a little right-ward, hoping to avoid the sun for just that little longer, knowing that my time was almost up; the final moments I had to catch a few more winks before the dreadful vibration would be felt in my pocket, telling me that: "It's time."

That was then, and that was when I was subjected to the hours of an OPC (off-peak car), which translates to having your car stationary from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. Being the semi-snob that I am and refusing to take the hour-long bus-ride and potentially letting my would-be students make inane jokes about my drooling state, I opted to go through a routine that required me to wake up at 5.30am everyday so that I can get to the carpark before 7am, with enough time to catch a few winks before my class at 9. Conversely, I had to  tarry on after class till at least 7pm before I could start on my way home.

Case in point: The malleability of Time. In Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Time, Dali paints a surrealistic painting of melting clocks. While common interpretations have come to describe the meaning of the painting on the meaninglessness and relativity of Time, my first impression when I saw the painting was how "soft" and "flexible" time is to a person.

In the case of waking up early to make it to school before 7am is simply a matter of adjusting my body clock (and maybe a bit of the lifestyle) in exchange for saving a couple of hundred bucks a month, which on a more abstract level, comes down to re-shuffling the time schedules, allocating time meant for sleep to travelling instead, and then time meant for travelling to sleep.

A minute and common point in basic altering of one's lifestyle or rescheduling one's time perhaps, but the bigger point is how malleable can be. Ironically, time is so fixed - to the number of hours we each get a day - and yet so malleable, in which we can entirely decide how we want to spend it - use it to put in the hours in an office for a paycheck, dedicate it to honing a skill in music or sports (or games), letting it tick by in the comfort of a loved one, or simply just kill it by staring into space and letting it disappear in the void.

It is quite ironic really, when I see the youth of my students who are so desparate to find ways to kill their time, lamenting about their life and just finding ways to fast-forward it to grow up faster; and yet, as I grow older, I've grown a lot more cautious about how my time is spent, becoming increasingly particular about efficiency, and wishing I had more time in my hands, especially from that which I wasted in my youth.

In the end, Time is perhaps the only resource a person can be said to possess entirely, and one has the total freedom of how he or she would want to spend it - but the bigger dilemma is making the time count. Often, people forget just how malleable time is, allocating a "proper time" to certain things, like when it is to sleep, or to eat, or work, and are too willing to let their time and their life run on rails.

Especially true in the natural order when running too long in the rat race, where most are content to sink into a Work-Eat-Relax-Sleep routine for 5 out of 7 days of their lives, and often put everything else that can be done to a simple rhetorical question of "where to find the time?" And in the blink of an eye, days, months or even years pass by, with you wondering where all the time went and how your life passed by without you really knowing - probably lost in the the sea of consumerism and meaningless indulgence.

For me personally, I need the occasional all-nighter or meaningful vacation to remind myself just exactly how long a night is, or just how much can be done in the span of a day - to realign my perspective of Time. But more than that, I think it is important to find Meaning - first in Life, and then naturally in Time.

I always tell people that I will probably only live till 40 due to my vampiric lifestyle and bad habits. Part of it is in jest perhaps, and maybe part of it has a ring of truth; but the larger part of it is often to remind myself to make my days and years count. Perhaps with the constant scarcity looming overhead, I will be more cautious of how I want to spend my time, how to get the most out of it, drive me towards thinking a bit harder about realising what I want in life, and I want to achieve by the end of it - especially if it could be just 10 years or so away.

So, if you could only live till 40, how would you spend your Time?


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Myth of Sisyphus

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king punished for cheating the gods and escaping death. When he was eventually caught, he was being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, bearing its full weight; and when it got to the top of the hill, the Sisyphus had to watch the rock roll back down the hill, and start the process all over - and this was to go on for all eternity. 

The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. As a result when Sisyphus was condemned to his punishment, Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration with the boulder rolling away from Sisyphus when he neared the top of the hill.

Metaphorically, the Myth of Sisyphus has been used to talk about many things - the ceaseless and endless toil of the Sisyphus as a parallel to the things that we do or work on on a daily basis - nothing more than rather meaningless and menial tasks that amount to nothing much at the end of our lives, leading to the greater points of the absurdity of life in general - the full knowledge of this meaninglessness, and yet the continual push to pursue it.

More than this though, the main question that occured to me in this tale are the thoughts and motivations that run through Sisyphus' mind each time he sees the boulder roll down the slope, as he pursues it, only to start the process again, knowing the full extent of where it is heading and how it is going to turn out...


As the news came to me that I would be required to fill the nominal role and go outfield for this round's annual reservist, after a (too) good 10-year span, my mind ran amok as something in me just snapped, or perhaps, kick-started; a feeling of helpless and hopeless desperation, as my mind ran wild with every possible possibility I could conjure to escape this fate; constantly generating, analysing and dissecting each idea that popped into my head - a feeling that I hadn't felt for the longest time, perhaps as long as when I finally left the gloom of the army behind, and went on to lead a much happier life.

At the same time though, it seemed to have revive a certain kind of drive in me, one fuelled by aggression and determination, that runs on the mantra of "no matter the cost", in getting things done or getting my way in things.  A sharp contrast to 10-years of relative comfort, and perhaps in retrospect, complacency - one that only comes from safety and comfort from a good life, one you don't fully realise how good it is until it is starkly juxtaposed against having to endure the grime, the dirt, the discomfort, the sweat, the heat, the hunger, the fatigue, or perhaps above all - as with Sisyphus, the meaninglessness of the entire task.

10 years is a long time, but not long enough to even come close to remotely forgetting how dreadful an outfield experience is, and how disruptive it is to life as I've come to know it. 10 years is a long time when it comes to trying to muster the mental and physical fortitude that one was able to conjure at will when one was required to flex it and just bite the bullet - perhaps too many teeth have dropped over the decade to make for a pretty weak bite these days. And yet, 10 years is a long time for someone to grow mentally and emotionally.

What was knee-jerk reaction to think like the Escapist that I was from many years back, slowly faded into a more calm spirit of Acceptance; one that only comes with a certain degree of maturity, I believe. It is not one that is made out of back-pressed-against-the-wall circumstances - as there were still some desperate measures that lingered at the back of my mind throughout the whole mental thought process that I contemplated till days before - but rather, one that was consciously made from weighing all the options and considering all the circumstances carefully; one that I can proudly say was not a selfish one, as perhaps, unlike those that were made when I was much younger; when the repercussions didn't matter, and the ends self-convincingly justified the means.

Someone once said that "God does not give you a burden more than you are able to bear", and in that light, I think that I've been shown mercy in this respect. The entire experience was eased in quite progressively, as the time spent outfield was approximately 24-hours on the first week, and doubling to 48-hours on the final mission - with an additional blessing of the exemption from some of the worst that I have mentally psyched myself up for, through some sort of mysterious benevolence and unique circumstances.

Upon reflection, though I still hate the outfield experience with every fibre in my being, I think suddenly being displaced and disrupted from life as one knows it does something to one's way of seeing things. An attained and validated sense of maturity comes to mind, but perhaps more importantly, is the revival of a certain drive and aggression that has been lost from me for the longest time, one perhaps I have a better channel for at this stage of life than I did in my youth. However, the underlying lesson from all of this is one of mind rather than matter.

As the French philosopher, Albert Camus argues, in the case of Sisyphus, acknowledging the truth will conquer it; Sisyphus, just like the absurd man, keeps pushing. Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance. Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well.

The bottomline: It is all a matter of Perspective. The very (absurd) act of contemplating and thereby fully acknowledging the meaningless or dreadful tasks presented to one, is probably the first step one must take towards eventually overcoming it, if not physically or circumstantially, then at least, mentally. With that, a state of Acceptance should naturally follow, and eventually, "all will be well".

Some parts of this post were taken from Wikipedia.org and http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/hell/camus.html