Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Endless Potential

Photo courtesy of Sammy Liew
“Where are you headed next year?"


When you’re a senior in high school, it’s a given that everyone you come in contact with is going to ask you a variation of the Question within thirty seconds of saying “Hey.” So you’d better have a fast answer.

Jessica Darling from Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

I can identify with this actually, considering that I’m hearing the Question almost everywhere I go. As of yet, I usually just go, ‘National Service (yes, I got selected)’. Sometimes, the questioner laughs and I change the topic. Sometimes however, that’s not enough. I’m still working out the kinks to the perfect less-than-thirty-seconds answer.

But it’s getting increasingly difficult to remain nonchalant about this.

I realised this yesterday.

Then again, I get most of my epiphanies during English 2.

This is a chronological sequence of events.

I started the paper. I stopped after half an hour and day dreamed for 15 minutes. I continued the paper for another half an hour and day dreamed another 15 minutes. I had ONE HOUR for the literature component so I sat back and day dreamed for yet another 30 minutes. All in all, I wasted one hour out of a two and a half hour paper day dreaming.

But hey, at least I didn’t sleep!

While I was day dreaming, I was doodling loop-d-loops on my spare piece of paper. In pen, mind you. As it is, this was a risky thing because I only had 2 pieces of paper. So if I don’t have enough, I either have to shrink my writing to microscopic size OR whisper conspiratorially to the person behind me for paper.

But after I handed in my exam paper, I saw the loop-d-loops and they looked like a fancy string of zero’s.


I like the number zero; it holds endless potential to be anything.

Likewise, I’m at the crossroads and there’s just so much I want to do, to achieve. And you have everyone around us saying, nobody can predict the future, nobody can determine the outcome of your potential.

I’m dreaming big – as big as I can. The number ‘Zero’ for me represents just that, dreams and potential.

But the thing about zero is, on its own, it’s pretty much useless. The number zero alone is not even a significant figure. Only when it is paired with something else other than another zero will it be significant.

Stanley watched him write it over and over again.

Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero …

In a way, it made him sad. He couldn’t help but think that a hundred times zero was still nothing.

Holes by Louis Sachar

As the saying goes, passion without action is merely an emotion. The same here, dreams and potential without effort will remain just that – dreams.

We all have our zero’s, some have whole string of them, some have just one. But then again, are we putting other numbers into them to make that dream a reality?

0000 or 1000?

Big difference.

What are you going to do about your dream?

Don’t let those zero’s remain just that – zero’s.

P.S At the same time, this zero reminded me of my walk with God. About how me alone is just a string of zero’s. Only when God comes into the picture as a totally different number, will my life count for something. Well, the number may not be huge or prominent, but it’ll be significant. And that’s what counts.

P.S 2 If you were wondering, I managed to fit everything into one page in the exam. =)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Triple P's - Priorities, Principles, Perspective (Part 3)

But take heart.

And read what does happen when you take a stand for what is right.

In the fourth century there lived an Asiatic monk who had spent most of his life in a remote prayer community, raising vegetables for the cloister kitchen. When he was not tending his garden spot, he was fulfilling his vocation of study and prayer.

Then one day, this monk, named Telemachus, felt that God wanted him to go to Rome, the capital of the world - the busiest, wealthiest, biggest city in the world. Telemachus had no idea why he shoud go there, and he was terrified at the thought. But as he prayed, God's directive became clear.

How bewildered the little monk must have been as he set out on the long journey, on foot, over dusty roads westward, everything he owned on his back! Why was he going? He didn't know. What would he find there? He had no idea. But obediently, he went.

Telemachus arrived in Rome during the holiday festival. You may know that the Roman rulers kept the ghettos in those days by providing free bread and special entertainment called circuses. At the time Telemachus arrived, the city was also bustling with excitement over the recent Roman victory over the Goths. In the midst of this jubilant commotion, the monk looked for clues as to why God had brought him there, for he had no guidance, not even a superior in a religious order to contact.

Perhaps, he thought, it is not sheer coincidence that I have arrived at this festival time. Perhaps God has some special role for me to play.

So Telemachus let the crowds guide him, and the stream of humanity soon led him into the Coliseum, where the gladiator contests were to be staged. He could hear the cries of the animals in their caves beneath the floor of the great arena and the clamour of the contestants preparing to do battle.

The gladiators marched into the arena, saluted the emperor, and shouted, "We who are about to die salute thee." Telemachus shuddered. He had never heard of gladiator games before, but had a premonition of awful violence.

The crowd had come to cheer man who, for no reason other than amusement, would murder each other. Human lives were offered for entertainment. As the monk realized what was going to happen, he realized he could not sit still and watch such savagery. Neither could he leave and forget. He jumped to the top of the perimeter wall and cried, "In the name of Christ, forbear! Stop!"

The fighting began, of course. No one paid the slightest heed to the puny voice. So Telemachus pattered down the stone steps and leapt onto the sandy floor of the arena. He made a comic figure - a scrawny man in a monk's habit dashing back and forth between muscular, armed athletes. One gladiator sent him sprawling with a blow from his shield, directing him back to his seat. It was a rough gesture, though almost a kind one. The crowd roared.

But Telemachus refused to stop. He rushed into the way of those trying to fight, shouting again, "In the name of Christ, forbear!" The crowd began laughing and cheer him on, perhaps thinking him part of the entertainment.

Then his movement blocked the vision of one of the contestants; the gladiator saw a blow coming just in time. Furious now, the crowd began to cry for the interloper's blood. They started burying him under a hailstone of projectiles and stones.

"Run him through!" they screamed.

The gladiator he had blocked raised his sword and with a flash of steel struck Telemachus, slashing down across his chest and into his stomach. The little monk gasped once more, "In the name of Christ, forbear."

Then a strange thing occured. As the two gladiators and the crowd focused on the still form on the suddenly crimson sand, the arena fell deathly quiet. In the silence, someone in the top tier got up and walked out. Another followed. All over the arena, spectators began to leave, until the huge stadium was emptied.

There were other forces at work, of course, but that innocent figure lying in the pool of blood crystallized the opposition, and that was the last gladiatorial contest in the Roman Coliseum. Never again did men kill each other for the crowds' entertainment in the Roman arena.*

There are several versions to this story but the fact remains that Telemachus stood by his convictions and change ensured.

So now, how will you respond? Will you say, "Good story, but no big deal"? Or will you consider, what shall you live by?

It's your call now.

P.S And for us who know, it is not just about What Will Jesus Do but What Will You Do about What Will Jesus Do? I know, it's a mouthful and it won't into a wristband nicely. However, that's a more pertinent question to ask, isn't it?

*Taken from No Compromise, Day 49.

Triple P's - Priorities, Principles, Perspective (Part 2)

I've always liked war stories. No, I'm not a sadist but it's often interesting to see how people react in times of extreme opposition. And I'm particularly interested in the Japanese involvement during World War II. So anyway, I was just flipping through my books and I saw this excerpt which caught my attention.

'I love the story of the kamikaze pilot, who flew in World War II for the Japanese air force. He was interview by a newspaper reporter after returning from his fiftieth mission. The reporter asked the pilot if he wasn't a contradiction in terms. How can someone be a kamikaze pilot -whose mission is to fly to military bases and give up his life in the process - and still be alive after fifty missions?

"Well, it's like this", the pilot responded. "I was very involved. Not very committed, but very involved." '

That's the funny thing about us. We want the best of everything and yet, none of the strings attached. We want to eat the biggest bar of chocolate but we don't want to strive to shed the pounds after that. We want to have Jessica Alba's/(guys you fill in the blanks) body but we don't want to get up from the couch with our chips. We want money but not the work. We want the results without the studying. We want instant gratification but none of the responsibility.

We want to commit to nothing, but yet complain when we say our lives feel meaningless!

But here's the thing. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., 'If you haven't found something worth dying for, you aren't fit to be living'.

What are your principles in life? No, I'm not talking about your beliefs. I'm talking about your convictions. What the difference?

Belief is what you hold on to but conviction is what holds on to you.

It's the driving force behind your life. It's the reason for all your priorities you place. Your beliefs get you from one pit stop to another pit stop in life but your conviction is the fuel which drives the car through the journey.

And guess what? Your convictions, your principles (or the lack of them) not only impact you, but others as well.

Years ago, a boy grew up in a Jewish home, watching everything his father did. Evidently, his dad didn't realize the influence he had. They attended a synagogue until their family moved to another city and there was no synagogue nearby. Dad decided to just switch religious beliefs. He admitted it was only a way of meeting business contacts anyway. This father's failure to live by values outside of his own benefit led his son to question morality, ethics and his faith. As the boy grew, he believed religion was a 'crutch' for the masses. He wrote that money was behind anything meaningful in the world.

His name?

Karl Marx and he led millions of people into a destructive belief system during the 20th century.

Such a pity his father didn't have his own personal convictions about what to live for. As a result, his priorities were out of order and his actions inadvertedly caused a chain reaction. A chain reaction whose consequences we still see until today.

But take heart.

And read what does happen when you take a stand for what is right.