Discontentment with the cookie cutter mold, the status quo

I think I’m still trying to find myself. I’m made up of contradictions; I’m pretty self-aware and reflective, yet I find it difficult to tell people who I really am. I’m confident, but if I look hard enough, I realise that I’m not fundamentally so. I think I’m very capable; am I more successful than the people around me? But then again (imposter syndrome), I feel like I’m kidding myself looking at how much I’ve accomplished. I just am, I suppose. I think this title is an issue that has become very significant to me since I entered university and matured/learnt stuff about the world. I’m no longer 100% content with the normal, but I’m not sure how much of the normal I wish to/can change.

This discontentment is complex, lots of trigger points. I’m currently on the ‘normal route’ that people around me undergo. I’ve followed the fairly obvious path all the way up till now. Go to a good primary school, went through all the affiliated schools thereafter. After I finish university, people around me are expected to start a career (with the few jobs that arts students usually take up: teaching/government ministry/marketing in a private firm), get married, buy a house, settle down. But. I (really) don’t want to? It’s a trap: buying a house here = needing to get a stable job to pay off the huge mortgage (ref to an old post in Oct ’17). Do I want to be trapped to the people here? Family/new family? I think I could do all that’s ‘expected’, but will I feel joyful (rather than happy), fulfilled? I think I could delude myself and create a reality where I can say yes, but is that reality really real?

This discontentment runs so deep that it seems almost unbearable? I’m discontented with stuff like climate change/treatment of exploited people, but, I don’t do enough? It’s just a vague feeling of being disgusted with how things are, I suppose. (Haha, yes, indeed sometimes I wish I could be as happy as others and can see ‘how far humanity has progressed indeed!’, but I guess I’m simply not made for that.) The discontent makes me question my future/faith (stuff I’ve written about here before and therefore I shall not repeat).

Perhaps I shall write with a little more focus now. So today I attended a wedding. It was a, triggering one, to say the least. I don’t know why, but I was quite agitated throughout it and it was not at all enjoyable. 1) First, the concept of beauty. The bride’s mom commented about my looks: ‘you’re pretty, should put on some make up, don’t lose/gain weight, you will get prettier, but there will come a time when you will deteriorate and thereafter you won’t be as pretty anymore’/comments about how the venue/bride/wedding dress is pretty pretty pretty. I was SO TRIGGERED. Is it a girl thing? To aspire to be beautiful? I don’t think I’m particularly pretty nor ugly and I don’t like thinking about my face/weight (I dress like everyone else to blend in. To an extent, I wish this was the Middle East where it’s normal to wear burqas and no one can see you. I’ll be quite happy to wear one, minus the heat). I wish society wasn’t so visual. What happened to vanity being a sin??? Aspiring towards happiness/spirituality rather than worshipping a person’s body??? 2) All the judgments about ‘the price of the venue, price of the dress’. GOSH. Is it an old people thing to comment so much? I don’t want get married if there is so much nonsense/judgement and talking. Reminds me why I am a fairly private person. 3) Weddings trends (everything is the same…), the RIDICULOUS cost of weddings (can’t the money be used for something better? Ok tbh I don’t understand Christians/people sometimes. Older people (Christians) especially, since I expect them to be much more educated/aware than I am. This is veering off weddings, but more towards disrupting the status quo issue). I don’t get HOW it’s acceptable to easily spend more than 10k on the venue/dress itself (I suppose it’s the selfish and careless way of spending money conflicting with faith) and continue talking about praising God/being spiritual/godly WHATEVER. Yes, omg, I admit I’m a super flawed person as well and it’s not like I tithe very much/ give a lot of money to the poor/ super compassionate. But. I suppose I just cannot understand how consumerism has become so normalised, especially consumerism at the expense of someone else (which is contradictory to people’s beliefs/humanity). It makes me sick, but hey, at least spending buys people happiness right :’) (no sarcasm; indeed throwing parties can bring people together and make people happy, haha apparently just not me). SO. Can we be consumerist and Christian? Perhaps this should be explored in another post (vows of poverty and stuff).

Hahaha after writing this it seems that I should not do all these ‘normal’ things. But I hate standing out too. Doing normal things = easy and I’ll hate myself doing it/shooting myself in the foot since I’ve written this post. I wonder how my future will be like, will I indeed be able to break away from this normality I am disgusted with? I’ve no idea.

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Holding on to the past: going cashless

The holidays are indeed a time for thinking and that I’m immensely grateful for. It’s been quite hectic, falling slightly sick because of the (social and work) stress, but generally I think I’m/I’ll be ok. I was also once again thinking about the purpose of this site: I wanted to create a platform where my friends can check in on me (I’m not much of a photographer; i.e. Instagram, nor do I like to tell everyone how I am; i.e. facebook) without speaking to me personally. And also because it’s really tedious to repeat myself – which unfortunately I am doing a lot lately. I suppose it’s because I don’t like to write about my day-to-day life here. I don’t want this blog to be too personal – haha I used to be quite concerned that people may find out who I am/ try to stalk me and stumble across this site/ judge me based on what I write without ever meeting and talking to me. Do you get tired of repeating your life/having ‘normal conversations’ – how is your job, school, your boy/girlfriend/family? But. I have been a little bored by my thoughts as of late as well; nothing new/interesting (I think this is a crappy post, but I’m just going to write it anyway).

I was watching Moving Upstream, by Wall Street Journal about China’s cashless payment revolution and thought about how Singapore (universities) want to be cashless. I personally don’t use internet banking (I actually have a passbook which my mom updates – well, she does for the whole family HAHA), I don’t use debit cards, don’t have a credit card. But I suppose the main reason is that, well, I don’t spend much money in the first place.

A comment made in the video; China is way ahead of the West in this aspect, and that it’s not making much headway in Western societies because people still have a fixed mindset about privacy and data collection. Why indeed, are people so afraid of being tracked/having their data mined? I’ll draw a very short table about the pros/cons of going cashless and the bigger issue behind it (there’s too much information out there about this situation):

Benefits Consequences

Cashless = less waste (printing money, time spent in queues waiting for people to get their cash our/giving back change, miscalculations due to human error, etc.)

What if your phone dies/what is there is some digital problem/fraud (but then again, forgery already happens with regular bills; the cash system is not faultless)

Cashless society = exclude certain people? homeless, beggars, poor people, old people; people who MAY not be as tech savvy
Convenience? Can tell you what you need/what interests you. Targeted marketing which saves you time

Data mining can be manipulative, and the person may be unconscious of it. Manipulation can be for good or bad

Framing this situation: ‘why do we hold on to the past’?

I’m thinking about this question in relation to other things as well: why are we so keen on preventing (climate) change? I think ‘past = good’ is a normative idea, perhaps because we know what the past was like and we associate stability with goodness? I’m thinking about what I learnt when I was a child: China did not progress because they thought themselves to be better than everyone else; after creating gunpowder, they closed themselves from the rest of the world while everyone else connected and progressed collaboratively. I think a ‘cashless society’ is indeed a nice one (once the kinks are ironed out, and I do believe that they could be. I don’t think cashless, as we know it, will last forever, but I can see it in the near-ish future). Resisting ‘cashlessness’ = causing those societies to be more, ‘backward’, in the near future (i.e. in the next, 50 years? When we’ll still be alive to care).

I wonder why are the Chinese people less concerned about privacy, as compared to the Westerners (quoted in the video). Are they really less concerned? Less educated about it? Government propaganda/enforcement? Is it really an ‘Eastern’ concept: the collective over the individual, more faith in the government as compared to the West? Is it a Western historical fear: data collected was misused in the past (in reference to this video: Why Arabs are considered White/ Nazis taking census data to search out Jews/immigrants. Has data not been misused in China?)

Equus

I miss writing. I miss reading properly. I do not really like working – is it because I’m doing something that I do not like? I don’t entirely think so, since I feel ambivalent about working. It’s nice sometimes, but at the same time it distracts me from doing other nice things too (like reading/writing). I work because it’s good for me though, I know I’ll go crazy if I were idle.

Image result for equus peter shaffer book

I recently picked up Equus by Peter Shaffer. I heard of it quite some time back, a particular idea was introduced to me via that book: something about ‘a psychiatrist not wanting to treat his mental patient because upon treatment the patient will lose his spark and become like everyone else’. That wasn’t the exact idea presented in the book, I think. But it’s somewhat similar. The notion of passion is indeed a theme. I’ll throw in some random quotes: “Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.”

I really recommend this play, btw. I wish I had the ‘lit spirit’ to analyse it; the setting, action, movement, blocking, diction, etc. But now, I suppose I read only for ideas.

  • Theme about worship/religion

I really like the Dysart (the doctor)’s final monologue: (the doctor will cure the boy’s madness; his love, no, his idolisation of horses) and “when that’s done, I’ll set him on a nice mini-scooter and send him puttering off into the Normal world where animals are treated properly: made extinct, or put into servitude, or tethered all their lives in dim light, just to feed it! I’ll give him (the mental boy) the good Normal world where we’re tethered beside them (the horses) – blinking our nights away in a non-stop drench of cathode-ray over our shrivelling heads!”

Lovely stuff. Haha. Words indeed are so powerful. It makes me think of all the things I’ve already thought about and perhaps have written about – what is our relationship with nature meant to be like? And my love for being sad/ill.  Hmm it’s crazy to want to be sick. I’d a conversation with O sometime back, and I was considering happiness and sadness. Quoting Tolstoy: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – In the same way, happiness is all the same. Happiness is limited, at least in my experience, while sadness is beautifully unlimited. Like there is a limit to how cold temperature can get, but unlimited in heat. Happiness is simply the absence of sadness. I like sadness and bad things because. Pain is addictive, I suppose. Sadness is a powerful thing, it has, meaning? It can be used for something. It gives, motivation? Perhaps this stuff doesn’t entirely make sense (stream of consciousness, and this is ineloquent, unrefined), but I suppose during those times when I was sad were also the best times of my life.

(Also about whether or not worship is destructive; perhaps I’ll write about my own experience in another post).

  • Deviance

Linking back to what I learnt the last semester. We look for the source of deviance in many things: the individual (psychology, physiology, chemistry, biology, etc). The community – in how they brought up the individual, the social construct, etc. Is it the parent’s fault or the child’s (discussed in Equus). But: “The Devil isn’t made by what Mommy says, or what Daddy says. The Devil is there.” Indeed. What about a supernatural explanation for deviance?

  • Psychology

Minds, thought, stuff with the brain, fascinate me. ‘Can you think complex thoughts without language’? (long ago discussions I had, first being introduced to this idea by my JC lit teacher). Personal takeaway from this video: language is a mere function. We can still experience the sweet smell of a rose even if we didn’t know its name or that there was such a phrase as ‘sweet smell’. Language is created by humans to express things; if there were no words and we needed to express it, we’ll use a form of language.

This play reminded me of the agency of patients and how scary it may be to be a psychiatrist. Patients can play mind games, lie, cheat. I wonder how doctors take it, treat it? (Thinking of scary, devious ‘mental’ people like Ted Bundy. Hmm).

Food: culture and politics (The controversy over Foie Gras)

I stumbled across this interesting case about the foie gras ban in California some years back. I’ll just summarise the things I learnt and my thoughts.

Yes, ban it No, don’t ban it

Foie gras farming is inhumane. Just look at the pictures/videos. Yes, there are some farms which are better than others, but still these points are a reality.

  • FORCE FEEDING the ducks/geese with metal tubes shoved down their throats
  • Some die from overfeeding? Their livers are ‘diseased’?
  • They’re dirty and living in terrible conditions (factory farming in general?)
  • They’re too overweight and fat to run away/retaliate when they’re eaten alive by rats in the factory farm (why are there rats in the factories in the first place?)

That’s a biased viewpoint.

  • Force feeding isn’t a bad thing. These animals do not have a gag reflex
  • It can be done calmly, the animals don’t panic and it’s basically not harmful for them; emotionally, mentally (hmm how can we know this?)
  • These birds gorge themselves on food before a migratory flight; it’s not inherently bad for them

But this site

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ingrid-newkirk/5-big-fat-lies-about-fatt_b_6482104.htm just basically overturned everything which those in favour claim:

  • The ducks do have gag reflexes? They do vomit (there are graphic pictures) and choke to death on their vomit
  • Besides, (this was the viewpoint of a vet) even though they don’t gag, they don’t like it.
  • The ducks which have less gag reflexes are those that swallow whole fishes, but those aren’t the species that we farm
  • Ducks don’t gorge themselves until they’re unable to fly/walk…
 
 

Will it lead to a slippery slope, of banning all food (meat) production in the future? Is some foie gras farming more humane than other meat production? How far should we ban this (factory farming) practice. What exactly are we banning again?

Yes, there are different ‘levels’ of farming animals. Some are better and some are worse. We need to work with the system and create laws that promote ‘humane’ farming rather than outright banning.

But. Is that (banning all meat production) necessarily a bad thing?

(Personally I’m not sure how any meat production is ‘better for the animal’; ‘more comfortable than if they would be in the wild’, etc, but. Couldn’t you make their lives even more comfortable if you treat them as pets rather than food? Or why not just leave them be (impractical to look after all animals like we do with pets; feeding them and stuff) – ok I’m totally not eloquent here and there are many other documentaries talking about why you should/not eat meat).

We were called to look after the earth. I think we can look after it by (leaving it alone); we need not feed animals, they can hunt and look after themselves?

 
 

Industry and money that can be generated!! (tbh I think this is a terrible argument. Just because something can make money isn’t a good enough reason. There are alternatives?)

 

This act takes away the freedom of people – the chefs who like to use this ingredient, and the people who like this food. (Haha this was the argument used by some people, since ‘THIS IS AMERICA (California), THE LAND OF THE FREE’)

Other thoughts  

Can you love an animal but farm it for food? In the same why can we love our (cleaners/any other undesirable job) but (exploit them) by making them do jobs which they may not want to do? Does anyone actually want to clean shit for a living/ does anyone actually want to be a cleaner (yes? If the circumstance is right?). I’m not talking about working for the right pay because. Money can be a tricky thing (e.g. is buying organs from poor people for $10k alright?/ is it alright to pay someone lots of money to be a surrogate mother?)

Do we have a right to ignore what we don’t like to know (how the things we consumed are produced)?

Food and culture is another issue:

What about the ‘authenticity of food’, we’ll take away French culture if we ban foie gras? A bill was passed in France, declaring that foie gras is ‘part of the cultural and gastronomic patrimony, protected in France’. I also remember this interesting article I read but can’t seem to find the link for. I think it was written by a Singaporean vegan; basically the main problem about going vegan for her, was losing her culture. Almost all cultures around the world eat meat (?), and sometimes it’s impossible to get that exact same taste without utilising meat. This is an article which discusses something similar: https://mediadiversified.org/2018/01/24/giving-up-the-food-of-my-family-life-as-a-vegan-in-diaspora/  Personally, I’m not big on culture. Just because ‘it was done in the past’ doesn’t mean that we should continue to do it. I’m not a sentimental person, so I’m cool with not keeping food culture.

Sources:

Documentary by Munchies, VICE news https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjQWwhxz5rQ

Audio discussion; Office Hours. This is a little bit more about how a DeSoucey did her sociological work about this case http://files.thesocietypages.org/downloads/OH108_DeSoucey.mp3?_ga=1.267936845.2106610009.1470668076

Book; Contested Tastes, by Desoucey: Chapter 1 is free here: http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10708.pdf; this is the full book, if you’re a uni student and your school has access: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/52193

Afterworlds, and Missions

I’ve been thinking so much about faith, but ironically I won’t say that I’m at my best state. I think I just have been really stressed out and hence am not doing so well (haha ironic, since exams are over). But I’m not going to write too much about my introspection because this is not the purpose of this blog. This blog was meant to be about sharing ideas/helping people, and myself, think more.

Related image

First, good book! I’ve been reading Scott Westerfield’s Afterworlds. I’m still halfway through, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit. He was introduced to me by John Green (he’s quite a few videos recommending books) and I first read the Uglies series. Good ideas, but I didn’t quite like the writing style. After a while it got really tedious to read/nothing fresh anymore/it got too complicated and confusing but without any substance/essence/good stuff (this is the reason why I dislike the Maze Runner series). ANYWAY, about Afterworlds: it’s basically told in the alternating perspectives of Darcy Patel, a 17 year old writer who wrote Afterworlds, and the Afterworlds text itself. Darcy’s perspective tells the story of the publishing business (lots of networking, pleasing people, the anxiety of writing/creating art) and everyday life; relationships, living in a new place, family, other thoughts surrounding writing books like ‘cultural appropriation’, YA themes in books. It’s things that I’ve not known/thought about before and is sufficiently engaging. The story of Afterworlds (written by Darcy, i.e. the one in the book, not Scott’s Afterworlds which is ‘both’ books) is about the afterlife and a girl called Lizzie who is able to live in both the real world and also in the alternate dimension where ghosts live. It’s also YA romance (which I think is lame lol); between Lizzie and a ‘Hindu (made believe) death god’.

Other thoughts; religion again. New thoughts, I suppose, after I attended a class (?) last weekend. It was about missions and church history. I’ll just spew some thoughts I had:

  • I haven’t really thought about the rise and fall of Christianity (church history); persecutions helped spread, emperors could dictate your religion (no longer about accepting a certain religion, but rather that you’re born into it, as part of your citizenship/heritage. Which is true now), how religion is inherently tied up in class/politics/gender (who can lead/who is more powerful or not) issues (here, it’s upper-middle class, Chinese, wealthy, educated, etc). There is no one strategy to spread beliefs/religion (duh. And I think I haven’t really thought about why we should spread Christianity in the first place? I think I lack conviction. Which is quite dangerous)
  • Also about missions: we’d a session in CF about doing missions (inherently tied up with notions about voluntourism/marketplace ministry; i.e. staying or going when we’re doing missions. The CF session was about realising we’ve lots of opportunities where we are, since the places people usually go for missions = those are the places where our international students come from. So why should we go overseas to reach out to people who are coming here?)
  • It got me thinking about migrant workers/the communities churches usually reach out to. My church has a congregation of Indian migrant workers, but they remain rather detached from the main congregation (we don’t speak the same language, they come in the evenings due to their work schedules as well). We aim to minister to them so that they can 1) strengthen their faith here, 2) build community while they’re here, and 3) they can start/contribute to churches when they return to their homes, bringing back what they’ve learnt.
  • Migrant communities. I’m thinking about Chinese churches in Singapore – do they/why don’t they reach out to the mainland Chinese workers? We share the same language, and it’s difficult to bring Christianity into China (state sanctioned Christianity only allowed; which may be rather political?) I wonder what the state of Singapore’s Chinese churches…
  • Lots of other smaller thought bubbles, but I’ll write about it another time. Things like, how I don’t know much about the other populations in Singapore. We’re really so diverse! Like I wrote about in my last post; I want to know more about the ‘other side of Singapore’; not to mention the many other races, religions and stuff here. I wish I were more extroverted and could find out more about these things, but I’m simply not. And it’s not a simple solution of ‘JUST BE MORE EXTROVERTED AND TALK TO PEOPLE!!’; other things (e.g. time to think and digest information) will be compromised.

Hope this stuff inspired some thought.

Who is your faith for?

(Yourself? Others – and if ‘others’, who are these others? God?)

This is a long standing topic/thought that has been exposed to me since I was young: ‘does Christianity exclude certain people’? I remember being in youth group and they would ask us to think of people that we think the gospel cannot reach: most commonly people would think of the elderly, uneducated, those who have done ‘too many bad things’/hopeless, un-saveable people (unrepentant people)? I remember my church founder as well, he asked where the taxi drivers, the hawkers, the cleaners were? Why were they not coming into our church? How can mothers be carrying the bible and the helpers carrying their babies; it should be the other way around?

Does Christianity have a class divide in Singapore? Last Sunday, the speaker was sharing his experience; in the 70s, he came to know Christ and shared the gospel with 2 of his friends. He was English educated, spoke English, Mandarin and Hokkien; his first friend was Mandarin educated and spoke Mandarin and Hokkien, while the other was not educated and spoke only Hokkien. His 2 friends joined a Chinese church and eventually the uneducated Hokkien friend gave up his faith – he had to work to support his family and could not understand what was going on in the church.

Generally, I think churches are fairly homogenous. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – alternate Sunday services at the Novena chapel at conducted in Tagalog (mostly Filipino congregation), my church is made up of mostly highly educated, ‘successful’ people, but we do have many other ethnic congregations (we don’t mix/much). There are as many churches as there are ‘different congregations’: there are Hokkien churches (there’s an elderly woman in ION who always shouts ‘thank Jesus’ in Hokkien as she tries to sell people tissue), Nepalese, Korean, Indian ones, for the old, young, in-betweens, migrant populations, etc. They meet specific needs of the different groups.

But yes, I wonder about Christianity as a whole. Which people are most likely to become Christian (rich, educated people? In my university paper, I suggested that Buddhism/Taoism is a majority religion in Singapore and some people questioned this, fairly obvious (?), fact – too many people practising Christianity/atheism in university which confounds their perception?). I think knowing this is important so that we know if Christianity is becoming/is exclusive. If it is, doesn’t it contradict what it should be and therefore we should change it?

I guess this thought has become stronger because of ‘where I am currently’ (the mental space I am currently occupying):

  • Since I was in primary school, I always thought it cool to get to know the ‘other side’ of Singapore (i.e. the side I am not currently on; all my opposites). But I never had the chance? Yes, I did have friends who took drugs, weren’t really intelligent, partied a lot (both in ‘upper’ and ‘lower class’ clubs), (my neighbourhood!!! Haha it’s so obvious to see ‘the other side’ in my neighbourhood – drinking, homelessness, cannot afford to pay rent/need to borrow money, etc.), but I suppose because I don’t enjoy these activities/don’t engage in them, I never really got to see how life was like in those circles.
  • I was pondering about who God is (to us humans). Our attitude/perception of God shows in our prayer: do we treat God like a genie, asking Him for stuff? Like an ‘aunt agony’; complaining about life, etc. What is the point of prayer too; how did we come to pray in these certain ways that we do? (I was wondering how meaningful/is it right, to pray for our friends, ourselves. I think I generally take life as it is and accept my circumstance pretty well; I don’t blame God or whatever forces out there, and that affects the way I pray too).
  • I’ve had a disinterest in studying lately. Which is something I’m afraid of. But I was thinking about this in relation to ‘who is Christianity for’: Singapore’s Christianity focuses quite a bit on studying; ‘bible STUDY’, group DISCUSSIONS. But, that’s not what Christianity should be about? Application is more important? Focusing on studying excludes those who do not like/not good at studying?

Mercy killing/animals and zoos

So. My mom was telling me about Inuka, the only polar bear to be born in the tropics. They put him down down to “humane reasons”. I found it ironic that polar bears are allowed to be killed before their time is up/euthanasised but humans are not? Part of the whole pro life pro choice debate. Do I think we should be allowed to kill ourselves before our time? Honestly, I wish we could (so many lives that feel meaningless to me, so much pointless living/suffering) but I’m not sure if that’s a sin or not (and if I am keen to renounce sin, I should be on the side of what is not sin).

Made me think about the inequality of lives too. Why are some animals more important than others? Why should there be such a huge fuss about inuka anyway? (People eat animals, isn’t inuka just another animal?) and then again reflecting about my own life, while I do not eat meat, I am ok with killing insects, I have killed people inadvertently (cf the Bible references about murdering as soon as you think badly of someone, and not to mention the whole capitalist system which is complicit in enslaving so many people/killing people indirectly, or directly).

The debate about zoos as well. Is it good to have zoos? For education, to protect endangered animals, or a prison for animals? Why don’t we go to safaris and see animals in their natural habitat instead?