Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lost Kairos

‘Let me just throw you a word. And you come up with a whole article about it.’

I get really scared when someone tells me this. This explains why I never take the option in English exam which goes, ‘Blue’ or ‘Water’ or ‘Sand’. Or any of the one word questions for the matter. I take too long to think of what to write. But that’s the problem with competitions. They give you one word and you’re supposed to come up with a masterpiece THAT MAKES SENSE.

And the word I got was LOST.

What shall I talk about? Should I talk about lost hope? What about lost love? Or maybe if I was feeling creative, how about the TV series Lost? But then again, lost hope sounds like a movie, lost love sounds like a teenage romance and I’ve never watched a single episode of Lost. So, where does that leave me?

And I got it. I’m going to share with you my Lost Kairos.

Now, you may probably be wondering, what in the world is Kairos? Don’t worry, I have asked many people what they thought about it and some have remarked, ‘Is it a new ice cream brand? A new fast food chain? A new shoe company?’ Well, I’ll put your minds at rest. Kairos is the Greek word for opportunity.

To put it simply, I’m here to tell you about lost opportunities. I’m sure all of us have plenty of them. Whether in our school, in our workplace, in life, we have too many of these missed opportunities. As for me, if I were able to write down all those lost opportunities into a book, I’d have a literary work of a genius published by now. So, what kind of opportunities have we lost really?

We have lost the opportunity to love someone more. We have lost the opportunity to extend a helping hand. We have lost the opportunity to give a piece of meaningful advice. We have lost the opportunity to make the best out of time. And sometimes, when we reflect upon all those lost opportunities, we wish we could erase time. And there goes that wonderful cliché, ‘If only… If only’.

Honestly, I just experienced a missed opportunity. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say ‘If only’. It certainly didn’t help when I recalled what I read in a book about a certain statue…

Picture this with me. You’re in ancient Greece now, in Athens to be precise. There are statues everywhere. Some of them look beautiful and you might be thinking it would suit your furniture at home. Some of them look hideously ugly and you wouldn’t take it with you even if you were paid. But one of them draws your attention. It is called ‘Kairos – Opportunity’. It is a statue of a person who had long, flowing hair in front of its face – but it was completely bald in the back. Weird… But guess what? That statue really exists in Athens.

Alright, let’s return from our mental fieldtrip. You might be wondering, what did that statue signify? Well, opportunity has one characteristic. You can grab it when it’s coming toward you, but you could never get hold of it once it had passed.

Imagine how that makes us feel when we’ve just missed an opportunity in life. There’s no second chance. No turning back. And thinking about all those morbid thoughts, it is easy to see why I felt depressed. But then again, I realised one thing.

A missed opportunity delivers us the opportunity to learn from experience. Let me repeat that again – a missed opportunity delivers us the opportunity to learn from experience.

Now, what do I mean by that? Well, whenever we lose an opportunity to do something, whatever it is, we are presented with to choices. One, we sit and glare at our foolishness and hence, miss even more opportunities. Two, we give ourselves a little shake, pick ourselves up and move on. Sure we make mistakes, but hey, that’s life. That’s why I admire Thomas Edison for saying and I quote, ‘I didn’t fail 1000 times. I just found out 1000 ways that a light bulb does not work!’ He could have said 1000 times before, ‘Shoot! I missed the opportunity to make this thing light up! You know what? That’s it! I’m going back to retire now.’ But he didn’t. He made those ‘missed opportunities’ into an opportunity to persevere.

So, no matter what situation we are in, always remember it’s up to us to see it in whatever light we want. After all, the Chinese character for ‘Crisis’ is danger and opportunity. In everywhere situation when we feel like it’s just too much for us to bear it, we can always succumb to the danger of giving up or seize the opportunity to press on.

I for one refuse to by the kind of person to sit and glare at my problems. I refuse to wallow in self-pity about my missed opportunity. I want to get up and learn from that experience. I’d rather one opportunity and walk away wiser than two opportunities just because I prefer to sulk.

To end, allow me to quote a conversation from Tuesdays with Morrie. Mitch Albom tells his professor Morrie, ‘Why do people always say “Oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I was sixty five.” Morrie smiles. “You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found the meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.”

Exactly. Lost opportunities doesn’t mean the end of the world. Lost opportunities don’t lead to unsatisfied lives, unfulfilled lives, lives that haven’t found meaning. No, lost opportunities only mean the end of the world if we’re unable to pick ourselves up and LEARN.

I’ve recovered from my lost opportunity. Though it still hurts at times, I learn to pick myself up and to move on. And that, my friend is seizing an opportunity in itself. So, what shall it be then? Do you let another opportunity slip past? Or you grab it and better yourself? I’ve made my decision, what about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ride Home

“Curse this blasted rain.”

Standing in the downpour, stranded in the middle of nowhere with no umbrella, it’s clear why I was in a bad mood. I knew I forgot something as soon as I stepped out of the house. But because I was in a hurry to return my library book (2 weeks overdue, no less) I promptly left my house without my phone, wallet and a coat. All I had was 2 ten dollar bills to pay the fine. Well, I would return soon anyway.

I only have one problem – I have a lousy sense of direction. I can’t direct myself out of a paper bag even if the world’s best GPS system was given to me. So it’s no surprise to find out I was hopelessly lost.

“How in the world could you get lost?” Tze Quan version A was sitting on my right shoulder.

“Because I told her to turn right but noooooo, you said turn left and voila! We’re in this mess!” Tze Quan version B was stamping her foot impatiently on my left shoulder.

“It’s the left turn doofus. Remember? On the way to the library, we passed Burger King. And we turned right. So now, we have to turn left! Simple!”

“It was MACDONALDS!!! Retard!”

“Shut up dur-brain. Burger King.”


“Burger King”


“BURGER KING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Because they really weren’t helping, I kicked them both out of my head. Tze Quan version C climbs on top of my head and taps it.

“You know, living on the streets isn’t so bad. You can always go checking in dustbins for food. People like to throw stuff away after just one bite anyway.”

Sigh. This really isn’t helping. How in the world am I going to go home? This is really embarrassing.


Startled from arguing with my alter egos, I look up. The most horrible egg-yolk coloured car parked beside me. A man and a lady were in the front. The lady was driving. She smiled, “Need a lift lassie?”

Shoot. What do I say?

“Say yes dumbo! It’s a miracle, never mind the ugly car” Tze Quan version A.

“No no no! Rape cases! Murder! Don’t do it!!!” Tze Quan version B.

“Well, it beats living on the streets” Tze Quan version C.

There was an awkward pause…

“Gee, thanks!” TZE QUAN says.

When I was in the car, I noticed that the man slumped in the car was sleeping. I admit I was a little peeved when he didn’t even bother to open an eye to see who’s in the car. The car was giving a off a rather weird smell too but he seems oblivious to it. At least he won’t be pulling a fast one considering he’s unconscious.

“So, where’re you headed lassie?” The lady was beautiful, in a hard way. Her bright yellow hair was all set into a permanent bob and it looked glued to her head. I bet if I threw a rock at it, it would bounce off. She was wearing a blinding gold chain and I could see from the edge of my eye she had a gold ring on her finger. Her clothes were tasteful, showcasing her ability to dress and dress well. All in all, she looked like a very powerful woman.

I gave her my address and wished she’d stop calling me lassie. It unnerves me.

“Thank you ma’am for helping me out”.

“Oh it’s a pleasure lassie. It’s not everyday I meet a pretty face in need.”

“Well, I really appreciate it. I’ve no idea what would happen if you didn’t come along!”

“Oh, it’s nothing. My husband and I were just going for a ride anyway. He’s sleeping now though. Had a long night yesterday”.

I see. That would explain his comatose position. Sort of.

“Number 61 right?”

I nod my head and offer a big, big smile. Stepping out of the car, I thanked the lady and made my way back to the house. Breathing a sigh of relief and promising myself never to leave home without my phone again. I was pretty sure that was the last time I would see the lady and I was glad of it. Somehow, she scared me.

Two days later....

I was lazing at home channel surfing. As usual, there was nothing particularly interesting on. Oh well, I might as well give the news a try.

“A very good evening to you all. There has finally been a breakthrough in the serial murder case which has gripped the nation. Adele Renee Smith, prime suspect for the murder of 6 high-profile politicians has been arrested. When she was arrested, she was driving a bright yellow car, slightly resembling an egg-yolk, apparently heading out for a ‘ride’. However, when the boot of her car was opened, the body of one of her victims was found decomposing there. At this point of time, the identity of the body is still unknown but it is suspected to be Mr. Theodore Daniels, Miss Smith’s current lover.

Miss Smith who has been married four times is charged with the murder of her three ex husbands and two of her lovers. Her fourth and most recent husband – Mr. Pierre Troboyzkoy has been reported missing and is largely suspected that Miss Smith has also done away with him.

If the public can provide any information regarding the whereabouts of Mr. Troboyzkoy, please contact your nearest police station. Your cooperation is very much appreciated. Thank you and good night.”

The room turned cold. Thoughts started running through my mind. The picture flashed on the TV screen was identical to the lady who sent me home two days ago. The man slumped in the front seat never stirred even though his wife and I were talking and there was a foul smell in the car. In fact, he was so still I doubt his chest was even moving. The car was an egg-yolk yellow. She said she was heading for a ride.

The room spun and everything went black. My last conscious thought was, “Thank God for keeping me safe”.

2 years later…

“A very good evening to you all. Miss Adele Renee Smith has been charged of 6 first-degree murder charges which carry the death penalty. The police would like to thank the public for helping with the investigation. However, even after 2 years of searching, the body of Mr. Pierre Troboyzkoy has yet to be found.”

I had just returned from the library and was lazing at home channel surfing. I gave the news a try.

Whatever happened to the man in the car remains a mystery till today.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Worldwide Heating a.k.a GLOBAL WARMING

If I can make a dollar for every occasion the issue ‘Global Warming’ pops up, I’d be a billionaire by now – Me.

Yes, by the tender age of seventeen, I’ve listened to countless campaigns about global warming, read countless articles about global warming, written countless essays about global warming and moaned countless times about the monotony of global warming. And as fate would have it, I’m facing the daunting task of writing yet another essay on (yes, you guessed it) GLOBAL WARMING.

Now, for the sake of those who were living under a rock for the past decade, global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-twentieth century and its projected continuation. In English, it means the hot weather everyone’s been experiencing way before we’re born. Global warming can be explained using scientific jargon (and I’ve come across a lot of those when I searched ‘Global Warming’ on Google) but considering this is an English essay, I’ll spare you. We know global warming to be a critical issue the environment is facing. And we want to do something about it – unless you’re a fat lazy slob who thinks global warming is a new brand of ice cream.

Since I have a profound dislike for the bombardment of scientific explanation in English lesson essays, I’ll describe the effects of global warming to you in such a way that you’ll walk away educated and no headaches. I solemnly promise. So here goes.

The most obvious effect of global warming is the rise in temperature. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the last century. Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that global surface temperature will probably rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century. Never mind if those figures boggle you. What is important is that you understand that the earth is getting significantly warmer.

Now, the rise in temperature is largely due to the emission of greenhouse gases. The common misconception is that greenhouse gases are BAD and they were a result of human industrial activities. However, did you know that naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C, without which Earth would be uninhabitable? Greenhouse gases are NECESSARY for survival or we’d all freeze to death and they have been around since the earth was created. The problem arises when human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since the mid-1700s. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the main cause of global warming.

But I digress. I was talking about the effects of global warming and shall now promptly return on track. Since global warming is attributed to greenhouse gases and greenhouse is attributed to carbon dioxide, the effect of global warming is synonymous with the effect of increased production of carbon dioxide. And while we may talk about all the common effects of global warming such as falling grain yields, climatic changes and whatnots, there is one little know effect. Global warming results in ocean acidification. Yes, I’m totally serious about this. According to Mark Z. Jacobson, author of Journal of Geophysical Journal, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans. Carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean reacts with water to form carbonic acid, resulting in ocean acidification. Since organisms and ecosystems are adapted to a narrow range of pH, this raises extinction concerns, that could disrupt food webs and impact human societies that depend on marine ecosystem services.

Well then, moving on to a more popular global warming effect – the rising sea level. With increasing average global temperature, the water in the oceans expands in volume, and additional water enters them which had previously been locked up on land in glaciers, for example, the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets. In fact, scientists have estimated that sea levels could rise up to seven meters. What makes the current sea level rise so much more threatening than earlier ones is the worldwide increase of humans and their preferences for living in and developing coastal areas. Nearly 75 percent of Americans, for example, live on or within 50 miles of the coast. Island countries like Japan and Philippians are in danger of being submerged and this would pose environmental refugee problems.

So then, the big question remains. As any Sherlock Holmes worth his buttons will tell you, you need to determine the cause to pursue rectification. We know that global warming is largely due to increased production of greenhouse gases. Therefore, what do we as individuals do about it?

Simple really. Take small steps. Car pool or take public transport to reduce the number of vehicles emitting carbon dioxide. Reduce, reuse and recycle as by recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Buy energy-efficient products. Use less hot water and air-conditioning. Breathe out less to reduce amount of carbon dioxide in to the air.

I’m joking about the last one. But everything else above will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and hence, help our earth to recover. I may be one but I am still ONE. And because I am ONE, I will not refuse to do the ONE thing I can do. After all, we have only one earth, ours to make and ours to keep.

Written by Tuen Tze Quan

Copyright reserved

Or at least until my essay reaches my teacher's hands

P.S See Sarah-Ann, you have made me so guilty for neglecting my blog that I post up homework. Hahahahaha! If you don't see read and acknowledge this by Monday, I'm taking this postscript down.