Sunday, May 15, 2022

WHAT THE BUDDHA SAYS... (reprise)


BETTER BE NUDIST THAN BUDDHIST!

Why so? Simply because the Buddha represents the Awakened Soul incarnate in human form. The Buddha is nobody's personal name, it denotes an enlightened state of consciousness that is now available to all souls in physical bodies - thanks to the brilliant accomplishment of Prince Siddhartha 2,500 years ago, who left a privileged existence within a royal palace and the creature comforts of home in quest of truth and deeper wisdom.

It's utterly pointless to be a Buddhist. Might as well strip off your clothes and become a Nudist. At least you would have nothing to hide!

This Vesak Day, in honor of Siddhartha's enlightenment quest, I beseech all who consider themselves Buddhists to forsake their text-book Buddhism - and go straight for Buddhahood instead. You can attain enlightenment at the snap of a finger, in the blink of an eye, in a single heartbeat. Being enlightened simply means you become aware of your own robotism, your own mechanical behavior, your own cultural and social programming... and therefore are able to successfully transcend it.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL BUDDHAS (AND BUDDHAS-TO-BE) ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!

P.S. To all Archontized Pseudo-Humans still serving a control-freak totalitarian globalist agenda, I wish you an unexpected attack of candor and a wholly cleansing “We Suck” Day.

[First posted 19 May 2010]


CONDITION CRITICAL BUT NOT SIRIUS ~ Cosmic Fact and Fiction by ANTARES

I can't believe this cosmic joke
I tried to break the news, 
It broke... (from ‘Mary Malone of Moscow' by Dr Strangely Strange)


If I didn't find it all so hideously funny, I'd die of exasperation and grief. What am I talking about? That four letter word, LIFE? Correct.

I'll tell you another joke. A funny thing happened to me on the way to Eternity. I got caught up in Time.

Entangled in History. Of course, in retrospect, I could honestly declare I did it deliberately, in full consciousness, of my own volition. Well, it sounded like an amusing digression at the time. The whole universe was abuzz with gossip about this bright bluegreen watery world called Gaia, Tellus, or Earth: third planet from Sol, a small star orbiting Sirius in the remote reaches of Galaxy 13, locally called the Milky Way. The food and sex were unutterably addictive - that's what all the guidebooks said.

Having been on assignment here for nearly 260,000 spins around the Sun, or 10 Galactic Years, I can confirm that. Now, 10 Galactic Years doesn't sound that long. But bear in mind it took only 5 Cosmic Days to get Earth's ecosystem tooled up and ready to receive the Zoo Program. And only in the last 11 minutes of the 6th Cosmic Day was the part simian creature called Homo saps released from the undersea labs and distributed over the land masses. Don't ask me how many Earth Years one Cosmic Day represents, I'm running low on zeroes.

Before I carry on (as I'm wont to do), let me explain a few important developments that have made this true life account possible. My dear friend Drunvalo Melchizedek recently arrived from the 13th Dimension with some really Mind Blowing Info (if you have access to the internet, key in "Drunvalo Melchizedek" for a summary of the exciting news from Headquarters). He revealed that our planet was digitized and frequency enhanced back in 1972, and that the experiment worked beyond everyone's wildest expectations. And so, in 1987, it was possible to announce the Harmonic Convergence, and the beginning of a new era of glasnost and perestroika (da, da, Gorby is part of the mission, even if he won't publicly admit it). After which it was no holds barred on previously classified information. You mean you didn't know there was an embargo on any intelligence that might cause the inhabitants of Earth to question the status quo?

Indeed there was, but the lid has been lifted at last. Who laid on this embargo, you might ask?

Your wicked stepfather did. Hold it a second, you say. You don't have a wicked stepfather, your mum and dad are alive and well and still happily married and living in Setapak. Listen, we're speaking metaphorically here. I personally know a few stepfathers who happen to be real sweeties. So let's not get too literal. That doesn't help when we're discussing really BIG issues.

Your real father, if the truth be known, was an Angel. More than that: he was an Archangel, one of the Elohim (that's Hebrew for "Sons of God"). These days we'd call him a Sirian (not Assyrian, mind you, but remember there are interesting clues to be found therein). A real wizard with gene splicing, your Father contributed his DNA to a long and tedious experiment involving a particularly receptive female specimen of modified primate, with whom he felt a passionate bond beyond the bounds of scientific duty. This superseded earlier humanoid breeding experiments conducted by the ruling council of Elohim, collectively called Yahweh. The results of these earlier attempts didn't survive very long because they lacked a sense of humor, which only comes from compassion.

Anyway, it gets rather technical, and I shall leave the sordid details to other storytellers. Suffice to say, it was a tricky and unauthorized experiment in hybridization that led to your Father's vilification for simply granting humanity the precious gift of Fire – Intellect, and its dangerous by products, Language, Reason, Self Awareness, Poetry, Humor, Free Will. Your mythologies have recorded this momentous event as the Promethean Revolt, the Eating of the Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, the Expulsion from the Garden, and the Departure of the Gods. If you were brought up on christian dogma, you may recall that the blame was put entirely on the Serpent and the overly adventurous feminine spirit of Eve, the Temptress, Mother of Evolution.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ring, we have Darwin's Evolutionists. Having split open the atom and found virtually nothing inside apart from some Strange and Fascinating Qualities, a few Quirks and Quarks, but no bearded patriarch icon, no uncanny likeness of Ayatollah Khomeini, John Paul II, or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh aka Osho or even Sun Myung Moon... they had to assume that all previous theories were based entirely on superstition - and therefore classifiable as Mystical Hogwash fit only for the backyard bonfire. Our unknown Father was renamed Hap Hazard, or Pure Chance, or Mr Random Factor.

It was very convenient to have a dad named Random Factor: his mad brother Max managed to make a killing in the cosmetics industry - making up for (or covering up) the fact that humanity was just an illegitimate Child of Fortune after all, a regular Ugly Duckling.

So what became of our real Father? What kind of Daddy was he? Nobody knows for sure, because he has yet to complete his memoirs and get them published. However, speculation is rife that the Elohim are by and large a quiet, contemplative breed - quite unaccustomed to the gooey melodrama of a hydrocarbon protein existence. It's possible that our Father might have regarded the experience of being immersed in a flesh and blood scenario as somewhat odious, and would thus have been inclined to remain aloof from it all, content to take a peek into the nursery from time to time. And if the situation warranted, he might occasionally expend some energy rearranging the furniture, so as to prevent the infant humanity from banging its head on sharp objects (like flaming tektites).

In any case the child didn’t seem too badly off in the day-to-day care of the hired help, those hardy hide-bound hench-humanoids from the planet Nibiru. Which, alas, led to the first instance of child molestation – but we won’t venture into this psychic quagmire just yet. A remarkably racy race, us humans.

You see, the idea of sexual reproduction was perfectly fine for zoomorphs – but for a highly intelligent and geometrically precise species to be so intimately involved in the messy viviparous process was altogether a different kettle of fish.

Eons ago, the Elohim weren’t at all an individualized race. They were a group intelligence emanating from the pineal gland of the Great One like rays of pure focused will. They knew no gender and lived only in Light – and therefore were unfamiliar with tactile sensations, sensuality, sexuality – and all their attendant pains and pleasures. Their encounter and entanglement with Earth’s carnal karma was for the most part a bewildering but immensely educational process, which is still unfolding just beyond the threshold of our perception. Little wonder, then, that over the eons, watching our microbic human cosmodrama unfold has become a favorite pastime of the Elohim, who have indeed grown pretty protective of their dense-bodied runt, the human being, formerly called the Adama (“clay-formed entity”).


Where does the wicked stepfather come in? Ah... this is how official history begins. With a systematic fudging of the books, a laborious tampering with the records, conducted by grim-souled clerics working under the orders of a new CEO – some whizkid flown in from Rigel Kent, Orion, who seemed to have an instinctive grasp of primate politics.

Some say there was protracted debate in the High Council of the Intergalactic Confederation as to the wisdom of allowing such an unpredictable turn of events to manifest. Others aver that the whole episode was unforeseen and unpreventable: an invasion from Deep Space, no less. Ships suddenly appearing over the horizon of Business-as-Usual, flying the Jolly Roger. Will we ever get a full account? Whoever organized the cover-up did a damn good job. Crystal data banks deactivated, cellular memory files erased, deleted, or grossly distorted. Collective amnesia. Total News Blackout in the War Zone. Direct all enquiries to the Information Retrieval Department. Fill in forms XYZ/123/Q/ABC. In triplicate, please.

This is the Martian Inquisition. Identification papers will be issued to all new arrivals. Gene encodement procedures to be strictly observed. Put it down in black and white. Now, let’s ignore the Grey areas. Reticulate and gridify all internodes. Seal the portals. Sign and deliver on command. By Order.

With the altering of our DNA circuitry, it was relatively easy for the new “owners” of Planet Earth to claim exclusive sovereignty and exercise parochial jurisdiction over the proliferating tribes of humans.

And so the Dark Lords – to employ an archaic term – declared themselves our legal Guardians and Trustees to our Further Evolution. They set up monolithic Institutions, established Priesthoods, introduced the Guild System, spurred the invention of Barbed Wire. Crime was identified and duly Punished. Judgement was passed and Decrees proclaimed. Statutes and statuary lined the public walkways.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t entirely a “bad’” thing, this sinister twist in the plot. It gave us the dynamic flux of Duality.  We became obsessed with concepts of Good and Evil, entered into the not-so-merry-go-round of vicious and virtuous circles. And, of course, it was invariably THEM that were Evil. WE were always the Goody-Two-Shoes.

Perhaps it’s time to stop calling our stepfather “wicked.” The fact that he has never learned to trust his children is his problem.

Perhaps the horror of history was our collective crucifixion on the cross of Materialism. The dense and claustrophobic spacetime continuum in which our immediate past has been lived is now at the point of revealing itself as a mandala of kaleidoscopic meaning and metamorphic beauty.

Our stepfather wasn’t really all that wicked. He was merely terrified of losing control.

Now, you may be wondering, where is the humor in all this?

Sit back for a moment and contemplate your perspective of reality. What are you doing “for a living”? Are you succeeding at your chic “lifestyle”? How often do you feel confused, helpless, caught in a permanent double-bind? Are you perpetually looking back over your shoulders, fearful that any moment you may be struck down by disaster, disease and/or death? Is that why you succumbed and bought “life insurance” last year? Is the Inland Revenue Department or your bank manager sending you messages in red ink? Are you worried about your performance at work, at play, and in bed? Have the trees in your garden been felled for a new access road?

Surely, surely these are matters of grave consequence. Why waste precious time time tuning into weird stations when you can keep that dial set at 99.3 FM? Time (reverb FX) Highway (reverb FX) Radio (digital delay)!

Hey, the laugh is on you. Everything is perfectly okay. Stay tuned, folks. We’ll be right back after this commercial break, with an exclusive interview, transmitted live from Andromeda, with....

The Man Who Sired Humanity! (Cool funky theme music.)


© Antares, 1996-2004-2020-2022

[Originally published in Journal One, May 1996. First posted 11 March 2020, reposted 4 November 2020]

Friday, May 13, 2022

Flesh of the Ancestors (reprise)

Halus in 1999 (photo: Colin Nicholas)

I can relate to the French painter Gauguin who took a libidinal shine to the native girls of Tahiti. There is something irresistible about bronze, rubbery, supple, brown skin - and the edenic innocence that flashes in their shy smiles. Pagan eyes that turn prudish at puberty, because their mothers keep yelling "Malu!" ("Shame!") when they skinny-dip with ripening bosoms and pubes. Contact with "civilization" taught them to feel ashamed of their own simplicity, made them into "primitives" living below the poverty line. 

And yet, seeing a bunch of Orang Asli kids play like otters in the river is nothing less than a glimpse of paradise. You can't stay cynical or depressed in such an environment. The verdant landscape itself is balm for the eyes, as much as the sparkling waters are a treat for the senses. The Orang Asli soul is bonded with the land, the living earth, nature itself. 

In mythic terms they regard their wild habitats as the petrified flesh of their ancestors. Just as Native Americans once revered the buffalo as a benevolent manifestation of Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit), a parental sacrifice to feed the children, the Temuan view each species of flora and fauna as a gift from heaven, as food, medicine, friend, or shelter. 

The younger ones have all but forgotten, born as they were into homes with TV sets bombarding all and sundry with images of a Brave New World, where ancient wisdom and traditional ways are dismissed as irrelevancies or mere superstition. 

But the older ones know there is no separation between the land and life itself. To destroy nature is to murder the Life Force that sustains all existence - and therefore it is viewed as the ultimate wrongdoing, akin to forgetting one's roots and turning one's back on all that is considered divine. 

Well, that's a very general overview of the Temuan mythos, which applies to just about every indigenous culture you can name - at least the ones that haven't been completely assimilated and subsumed by industrial society. However, admiring their resilience of spirit, their innocence, and their wealth of hand-me-down knowledge is one thing. Living with them at close quarters is quite another. They can certainly drive an essentially middle-class, former urbanite like myself round the bend with exasperation. 

There seems to be a testosterone-related problem with the males: as soon as they turn 18, a sullen surliness bordering on xenophobia grips them. The modest wages they earn cutting grass on road verges or gathering bamboo for the Chinese towkays are mostly spent getting totally pissed at the local bar; and then they fall off their motorbikes and the rest of their hard-earned pay goes into repairing them. If they happen to be married with kids, their wives quickly turn into nags - because it's not uncommon that their husbands will stagger home late at night stinking of cheap plonk, without any food for the family. 

Apparently, this happens wherever indigenous "dreamtime" cultures collide with industrial "machinetime" societies. Anthropologists generally agree that the trauma of "culture shock" so disorientates the tribal folk they become dispirited - and therefore attempt to regain their spirits by imbibing vast amounts of the bottled variety. But as long as our tribal folk have the forest to return to, they have a chance of eventually regaining their psychic equilibrium. My chief contractor on the Bamboo Palace project, Yam Kokok, really enjoyed the process of gathering about 3,000 bertam leaves to weave into roofing material for Anoora's hut. First he built a cozy lean-to while his wife began lining bamboo tubes with fragrant leaves, before stuffing them with rice to boil on a woodfire. The widow Lumoh had packed some salted fish and bottles of clear spring water. They were all set for a long day's work, cutting the thorny bertam leaves and carefully weaving them into attap. 

Yam Kokok's grandson and nephews all came along to help and I could see that the six days they spent "camping out" in the forest reminded them of the good old days - even though every evening I'd pick them up in my van and chauffeur them back to the village and some home comforts. The forest is the Orang Asli's briar patch; their racial memory of being sustained by Mother Nature goes back thousands of generations. Chop down the trees and replant the land with cash crops like rubber and oil palm - and the Orang Asli become rootless, disconnected from their own past, insecure about their future and therefore apathetic. 

True, some of the younger generation have adapted quite well to video games and factory jobs; a handful of Semai and Semelai have even made it all the way through university, and have become academics and doctors (though I know of no such examples from the Temuan tribe). It's easy to demonize the Jabatan Orang Asli (Aboriginal Affairs Department or JAKOA) but it's really just a case of horribly misaligned worldviews. JAKOA officers, mostly urbanized Malays, scorn their own humble ancestry and sincerely believe they can persuade the Orang Asli to join the mainstream Malay community. 

Their strategy is two-pronged: first, systematically convert the jungle into plantations, so the Orang Asli can't hide in the past; and then convert these diehard animists into pious little Muslims. I've long advocated that JAKOA (instituted in 1954 during the Emergency years) be dismantled, as it serves little real purpose today except to breed the most loathsome varieties of bureaucratic ineptitude and corruption. 

Think about it: how would you like being treated as a minor all your life and have some government agency manage your affairs as if you were severely retarded? If everybody else who enjoys Malaysian citizenship is free to live without an official guardian, why must our first peoples endure such an ignominy? The argument that Orang Asli need a "protector" because they are still largely illiterate and can't cope with the demands of the modern world is a totally spurious one. 

First of all, after more than fifty years under the JAKOA's thumb, the Orang Asli have gained little ground in mastering left-brained activities like learning to manipulate alphanumeric symbols. The question is: why not capitalize on their strengths instead? Most Orang Asli are physically agile, imaginative, fun-loving, and possess incredible stamina: in areas like sports and the arts, they would certainly be champs. Well, some descendants of African slaves in America have made their mark as athletes, musicians, actors, and dancers: would you think of Charlie Mingus, Michael Jordan, B.B. King, Eddie Murphy, Tina Turner, Ludacris, or Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as handicapped or backward?

What keeps the Orang Asli insulated from the outside world is the Jabatan Orang Asli's feudal mentality. That and the noxious effects of a patriarchal bias the Orang Asli got infected with along the way. Traditionally, the menfolk have been the hunters and womenfolk, the gatherers and nurturers. In Kampung Pertak, there are quite a few unmarried mothers - girls of 17 who got knocked up after some smooth-talking fellow handed them a Guinness at an all-night wedding party. With so many kids bawling and crawling around the house, 12-year-old girls are often forced to look after their younger siblings while both parents are out working. By the time they reach 15 or 16, many end up as mothers themselves, which gives them little time or opportunity to grow mentally. 

So we have generation after generation of Orang Asli kids raised by completely ignorant mothers with little on their minds apart from neighborhood gossip and a bleak view of marital life. All this would change if teenaged dating was accepted as something perfectly natural. When I first asked my mother-in-law if I could take Anoora down to town and buy her a meal, I was told we would have to be engaged before she would allow it. 

In other words, the relationship between men and women is always a sexual one; post-pubescent boys and girls simply cannot be friends and go out together. They end up getting married very young, prompted by hormonal surges, and never really have the chance to interact with a variety of friends, of different ages and genders, and therefore lack the means of acquiring communication skills and a broader perspective on things.

Most families in the past slept together in one large room with no partitions - or only very thin ones, at best. Obviously, sex was something carried out under cover of darkness, furtively, quietly (so as not to wake the kids), almost involuntarily - and never became an artform, or developed any degree of kinkiness, as it has in the cities. 

I witnessed what happened when a young friend of mixed parentage from the big city started dating a village beauty from Pertak. On their very first secret rendezvous, she had asked if he was going to marry her (that's what he reported). Soon, the whole village was bristling with resentment at the urban Romeo. Even little children, no more than 8 or 9 years old, would taunt him as he drove past; the men in the village became more and more hostile, sabotaging his vehicle wherever he parked it, glaring at him with hands on their parangs. Posses of grandmothers and babes-in-arm would confront him at his rented lodgings in the village, demanding to know where he was hiding the girl. 

They gave him no peace until he buckled under the pressure and married the girl in a tribal ceremony. Now the girl in question has had several lovers, and at 18 gave birth unexpectedly to a baby girl while trying to move her bowels, thinking it was one huge stomach upset she was experiencing. As to be expected, she's a lot more savvy and sophisticated than the other girls in the village. She could certainly learn to cope with life in the city, and has actually expressed a desire to someday get a job in KL. 

Now, is there any correlation between an active sex life and intellectual curiosity? Remember that biblical myth about the forbidden fruit? Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll (or hip-hop or techno-rave, if you prefer) are definitely evolutionary triggers - that's why the patriarchy everywhere is so determined to outlaw them. What would happen to the Orang Asli if their youth got into sex, drugs and rock'n'roll in a big way? 

Soon, they'd become pretty much the same as you and me, don't you think? And maybe that will prompt cityfolks to adopt more of the Orang Asli lifestyle - to reconnect with the earth, with Mother Nature, fresh air and sunshine. Sort of a cultural exchange: they become more experienced like us, and we become more innocent like them. Perhaps that's how things will ultimately balance out, and paradise will be regained on earth. 

NEWSFLASH: Tanah Tujuh: Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos will be launched by Silverfish Books during the Kuala Lumpur International Literary Festival, 28-30 March 2007!

[First posted 29 January 2007]

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

MORE THAN A MERE FESTIVAL (repost)

Opening Ceremony and Welcome Party, 12 July 2007

RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL (13-15 JULY 2007): the 10th edition of Sarawak’s best and biggest gawai*

It gets harder and harder to review Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival without sounding like someone who’s had a lobotomy and can’t stop grinning like an imbecile. Especially when this was the great 10th anniversary reunion we’d been anticipating since the end of last year’s bash.

So I’ll start from the bottom of the scale of joy with the unmistakable pong of dogshit as I checked into my room at the Santubong Resort, which houses the performers and media guests every year. Then I noticed the dogs and their handlers stationed around Cell Blocks 8 and 9 (which accentuated the penitentiary architecture of this remotely-located 3-star hotel all the more). I found out later the dogs were part of a bomb-sniffing team imported from the Philippines for the occasion. The Sarawak Tourism Board was taking no chances. A 55-man security team from Miri was on hand to scan festival-goers at the entrance with metal detectors. Sign of the paranoid times…

But the moment the music begins the untameable magic of Santubong kicks in… and petty discomforts like the clammy heat and long queues for the shuttles fade from memory. How many sweet and sweaty bodies were counted on Saturday night alone, grooving to the music? 9,000…11,000? I don’t know, but from where I stood near the stage it was certainly the hugest crowd I’ve seen since the festival’s quiet start in 1998.


On the bill were 19 of the hottest acts drawn from the previous nine years: Black Umfolosi, the ever-popular gumboot-dancing a capella group from Zimbabwe made their third appearance – and, once again, had the crowd waving their hands and singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in perfect unison. Gets a tad tiresome for the jaded ones like me – but it’s soulful stuff, I admit.

Black Umfolosi strut their stuff on the first night of the festival

Also on their third round were Shooglenifty – the Edinburgh-based “acidcroft” band that’s been cranking out their own brand of funky Celtic fusion since 1990 and has acquired a laid-back sophistication along with an iconic mystique. Core members Angus Grant (fiddle), Garry Finlayson (banjo), Malcolm Crosbie (guitar), and James MacIntosh (drums) were a joy to behold in action; Luke Plumb, their 28-year-old mandolin player from Tasmania, combined teen appeal with prodigious technique, and new bassist Quee MacArthur was rock solid (though I found myself missing their former bassist Conrad Ivitsky’s syncopative agility).

Shooglenifty rides again at the Rainforest World Music Festival!

The third band to have played three times at the RWMF was Inka Marka – a South American group based in Melbourne. As usual, their mellifluous voices blended with panpipes, charango, and flute to conjure the uplifting poignancy of the Andes.

The Tuvan throat-singers of Huun Huur Tu teamed up once again with Russian techno-trance band Malerija to effect a molecular shift amongst the tranced-out crowd. The first time they performed in 2003 there was a full moon which magnified the general euphoria.

From Madagascar we had Tarika Be, featuring the alluring sisters Hanitra (pronounced “Anch”) and Noro, with an instrumentalist named Njaka in tow, whose sensitivity as a musician was remarkable for one so young.

Hanitra’s songs of freedom, courage, and nonconformity – and her irresistibly sexy stage image – were in stark contrast to her demure and prayerful solo performance on the small stage, accompanied only by the delicate lyricism of Njaka’s valihy (a bamboo zither originally from Borneo, which has strong genetic and cultural links to Madagascar).

Throughout the three days the general atmosphere was one of jubilation and joy. There was one outbreak of drunken aggro, promptly managed by the security crew, but the greatest annoyance by far were several loudmouthed sons-of-lumberjacks who insisted on jabbering inanely near the stage during quiet moments. However, even the intrusive foreground noise (compounded by the moans and sighs of tabla-player Siar Hachimi’s all-girls fan club) couldn’t deter Ensemble Kaboul from delivering a superb and heartfelt performance.

Khaled Arman, master of the rebab (which he plays like a sitar) engages with Siar Hachimi on tabla

Mas Y Mas captured in action on 13/07/07 by Antares

Arguably the biggest hit this year were Mas Y Mas – an entire Latin Afro-Cuban orchestra compressed into an ebullient trio from Nottingham, U.K. Featuring a spritely Wayne D. Evans on a hundred-year-old doublebass, Richard Kensington on percussion, and the incredibly talented Rikki Thomas-Martinez on guitar and lead vocals, Mas Y Mas (which means “more and more”) are indeed well-named. Every time they played - on stage or at their Latin Rhythms workshop - people kept demanding more and more of their infectious music and wit. Mas Y Mas first played at the RWMF in 2004 and instantly fell in love with Malaysia. Certainly it’s been a love reciprocated.

The Doghouse Skiffle Group from Hull went down pretty well too, considering the trio specializes in tongue-in-cheek cowboy tunes. Keith Cheesman held it together with his chunky rhythm guitar, Alan Harman did smirking chimp impersonations while thumping his one-string tea-chest bass, and Garry Pullen mesmerized the crowd with Hopalong Cassidy poses, Texan boots, and whimsical kazoo and washboard solos. Their audacious cover of the Beatles’ A Day in the Life (introduced as “an old English folksong”) qualifies them as past masters of their craft.

At their first appearance two years ago the Foghorn Stringband from Oregon got the crowd square-dancing under the stars. As traditional American country bands go, Foghorn plays as tight as it gets – but after three numbers their songs start sounding pretty much the same. From Peninsular Malaysia we had the Aseana Percussion Unit which features gifted homegrown percussionists like Kamrul Bahri Hussin and Kirubakaran. The group’s colourful exuberance and its muhibbah repertoire of crowd-pleasing numbers carried it through – but they were conspicuously lacking in emotional depth and musical substance.

Khac Chi
, a versatile, Vancouver-based husband-and-wife act from Vietnam, are in a class of their own in terms of sheer musical skill and entertainment value. They travel with a portable museum of traditional and homemade instruments – mostly bamboo, with a few constructed by Chi himself from rubber honkers.

Bich and Chi have perfected a workshop routine with high amusement and amazement quotients

Also from Vancouver was the venerable multi-instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch (who proposed the idea of the RWMF ten years ago and served as festival director for the first few years). Randy’s presence as “proud daddy” added to the celebratory atmosphere - while his astonishing prowess on an exotic array of ethnic instruments was an education in itself. His inspired but all-too-brief performance - brilliantly backed by Johari Morshidi and Ainal Johari on percussion - encapsulated the essence of what “world music” is all about.

Randy Raine-Reusch & Tabuh Pak Ainal improvise on dulcimer, djembe and Malay drums

Sarawak was represented by sape virtuoso Jerry Kamit; a dynamic father-and-son percussion act called Tabuh Pak Ainal (named after Johari Morshidi’s precocious 16-year-old son Ainal, who began performing at 7); and the 30-member Kelapang Kelabit Bamboo Band (whose early set I unfortunately missed).

Mah Meri ceremonies and rituals are a rare and spectacular visual feast

However, I was very glad I caught the Mah Meri of Carey Island in action. Theirs was a visually spectacular act, rarely seen outside the confines of tribal tradition, and I was impressed by how impeccably they presented themselves before such a huge crowd of strangers. Another great opening act I witnessed was the item by Anak Adi’ Rurum – a beautiful bunch of Kelabit youngsters under the tutelage of Nikki Lugun whose sincerity and passion to preserve a fading culture brought an unexpected tear to the eye.

Tammorra, a rousing Sicilian group with impressive vocal power and musicality, was a very welcome rerun. As was Shannon from Poland – a big hit in 2005 with their virile Celtic folkrock sound. However, this time around, the band had evolved in a different direction with a major change of personnel: Marcin Drabik had joined them on electric violin with a flamboyance reminiscent of Jean-Luc Ponty on steroids, and band leader Marcin Ruminski’s delectable fiancée Maria Namyslowska was featured on keyboards and vocals, contributing not only a feminine element but also fresh musical ideas. Not everybody was pleased with the new Shannon sound – but I found it ecstatic, triumphal, adventurous, and even more danceable.

As is often the case, the real finale happened spontaneously after the festival – when Enrique Sanchez (Inka Marka) and Rikki Thomas-Martinez (Mas Y Mas) began singing romantic Latin duets at the poolside and Garry Finlayson (Shooglenifty) whipped out his banjo and proceeded to play some exquisitely epiphanic riffs. Soon the Foghorn fellows began insinuating their prudish 4/4 beats into the mix - but just as I was on the verge of wandering off to bed, a few members of Black Umfolosi jumped in with their Zulu chants and transformed the cowpokes into true-blue world musicians. I finally dragged myself from that festive scene with the trill of magpies serenading the dawn.

EPILOGUE

The Sarawak Tourism Board has done such a great job with the Rainforest World Music Festival it has now become a famous fruit-bearing tree whose seeds are being planted in other gardens. Indeed, Penang just hosted its first world music festival from July 20-22 with RWMF artistic director Yeoh Jun Lin leading the team. And rightly so, for Ms Yeoh herself was originally a product of Penang.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SARAWAK TOURISM BOARD
VIDEO CLIPS © ANTARES/MAGICK RIVER

[More video clips will be added as I finish editing and compressing. Bookmark this blogpost and return over the next few days for more great moments from RWMF 2007!]
*This review first published @ kakiseni.com
First posted 26 July 2007, reposted 11 October 2020

Sunday, May 8, 2022

EARTH PRAYER (revisited)


This prayer was channeled 28 October 2003 specifically for the Harmonic Concordance of 8-9 November 2003...


Great Mother Earth... Gracious Embodiment of Gaia:
I embrace your beauty and bounty with all my heart!
With profound gratitude and sublime joy,
I sing your praises with every breath -
You are the Divine Matrix of Life,
The Sacred Being that knows no death!
You are beyond struggle and strife,
The promise of Paradise regained;
Vision of glory, power, and love reclaimed!


Great Mother Earth... Gracious Embodiment of Gaia:
Your blessings are infinite and rainbow-hued!
For our sake you have known pain and sorrow -
You have been pillaged, plundered and raped -
But the sins of yesterday will not stain tomorrow!
Your children are all awakening now to truth:
We solemnly vow to honor you
And your many-splendored biosphere,
As we plant on your lips true love's first kiss.

Gaia by Sabrine Moles
Great Mother Earth... Gracious Embodiment of Gaia:
O Sleeping Beauty... Awake and Ascend
In peace, harmony, and perfection!
Peace, Harmony, and Perfection!
Peace, Harmony, and Perfection!

Great Mother Earth... you are our Home!
Great Mother Earth... we have Come Home!
Great Mother Earth... My Beloved Home...
Om Sweet Home
Om Sweet Home
Hommmmmmmmme
Is where the Heart is!
Hommmmmmmmme
Is where the Heart is!
And so it is.
So it is.

28 October 2003






[First posted 2 December 2010. Reposted 29 August 2014, 24 May 2015 & 
24 March 2020]



From Dragon Slayer to Dragon Rider ~ The Spiral of Conscious Evolution


Midgard Serpent by Alicia Smith

Mystics (and more often these days scientists too) speak of the planet as a living, breathing organism - a macro form of ourselves, actually. Gaia-Sophia, Pachamama, Lady Melina, Mother Earth are some of the names we call her. Just like us her body is a complex nexus of electrical circuitry and magnetic fields. Mountainous areas have long been regarded as sacred, with many serving as geodetic chakras where leylines or dragon paths converge.

Mount Meru as the electromagnetic axis of the world
During the last evolutionary cycle, Mount Meru (located in the Transhimalayan mountain range formed when tectonic plates collided) marked the spiritual axis of the planet. It was said to be where the head of the World Snake (or the Midgard Serpent of Nordic mythology) was located.

Then some 60 years ago (shortly before China invaded Tibet) the World Snake began to migrate, making its way slowly towards the Andes where its head now rests. The World Snake symbolizes the planetary kundalini or activated energy field; and all along its body you will find power spots and sacred sites. Often the serpent's body also marks the meeting of tectonic plates.

Earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and flashfloods are signs of the World Snake moving. When it moves volcanoes erupt, the ground shakes, and our daily routines are enormously disrupted (and, yes, death may be considered an abrupt termination of our everyday reality). Sometimes entire cities and continents are destroyed. And we are reminded to take heed of the fact that our physical existence is precarious and never totally predictable. Indeed, we build our towns and cities on the back of a sleeping giant whose slumber can last decades, centuries, millennia... lulling us into the complacency of busyness-as-usual.

In the past humans have sought to slay the dragon in a quest to obtain fame and fortune (for where dragons sleep it is believed great treasure can be found). The dragon or World Snake represents the elemental, primordial reality from which all life as we know it emerged. We cannot kill it without ultimately killing ourselves.

When we awaken to the cellular knowing that the planet (and ultimately the galaxy and the whole universe) is an extension of our physical and metaphysical selves, and that life itself is fractal and holographic in nature, we will spontaneously become empathetic and compassionate and begin to resonate and consciously navigate with elegance and gracefulness, with masterful restraint and gentle wisdom.

Lord Vishnu relishing his own Dream of the Universe

We will opt to learn how to ride the dragon, rather than foolishly attempt to kill it. We will get good at surfing the electromagnetic waves. And we can begin to do so by becoming conscious, individually and as a species, of the cosmic context of our being; by paying constant attention to the bigger picture and looking up every now and then from our rice bowl (or plate of quinoa) and remembering we are indeed unique parts of a magnificent Wholeness, born from the active imagination of Vishnu, the Dreaming God.

Many of us will revel in the Cosmic Dream, losing ourselves time and again in the illusion of separation, entranced by the shadow-play of Maya. And some of us will identify with the Dreamer instead of the Dream, the Eternal rather than the Ephemeral. So that when the Dream is over, we can yawn and rub our eyes and put the kettle on and enjoy a hearty breakfast before imagining another universe.

Antares
26 April 2015

SONG OF THE DRAGON

[Originally posted 10 January 2017, reposted 6 August 2019]


Thursday, May 5, 2022

YOU MAY QUOTE ME (reprise)

One of the greatest compliments, I think, is to be quoted by others. However, it's a pleasure one doesn't easily come by. When was the last time YOU were quoted? At least I can report with a measure of pride that the most recent occasion was when I received a signed copy of Dean Johns's Even Madder About Malaysia (SIRD, 2009) and discovered that he had quoted me on the back cover blurb. It was such a thrill I thought to myself, why wait for others to quote you? Why not quote myself? So here's a random selection of original quotes culled from various emails and essays written over the years, covering a wide range of topics. And, of course, you're quite welcome to quote me anytime you like!

Over the past decades I have learnt to accept occasional bouts of depression and spiritual paralysis as a way of compensating for my arrogant and megalomanic tendencies during periods when I'm functioning at peak. I'm glad to report that in the last 10 years or so I've been able to minimize my downtime to no more than a few minutes - or a few hours under extreme circumstances - whenever that ancient sense of futility rears its world-weary head and threatens to derail me from fulfilling my true destiny and potential – which is to reclaim the throne of my personal Ithaca by drawing the magical bow of Odysseus or the Pendragon’s sword from the stone, thereby restoring the balance and harmony of all worlds.

I define heaven as limitless abundance and infinite possibilities for all beings - which is why I accept all viewpoints and terminologies without feeling the need to intervene or censor. One-third of humanity constitutes what Drunvalo Melchizedek calls "the moderns" - a mutation of the Adamic human especially in the last 500 years into skin-encapsulated, ego-driven "individuals" with acute cosmological myopia and an insatiable lust for the trappings of material success. These are the anthropocentric apologists and defenders of the status quo, who have internalized Darwinian them-or-us notions of survival, and haven't yet released primordial trauma loops or scarcity conditioning in their genetic encoding. But they'll get "there" - sooner or later. Everyone does, eventually. There are no "losers" in the cosmic dance of eternal transmutation. Each of us is Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu all rolled into one. And we’re all Buddha and Jesus too. The Educated Mind is, essentially, a self-exploring alphanumeric symbol processing system - a software program that took on a life of its own, like Pinocchio. How real is it? Real enough, so that a heap of words strung together in sentences, and edited into a book, can shift your entire life around - or at least make you smile, frown, weep, laugh, seethe with rage, whoop with joy, look at everything with new eyes. The Book, indeed, can fuck up an entire species - make people dumber than sheep, mistrust their neighbors, question their own worthiness, discourage them from thinking beyond the confines of dogma, even justify genocide as in pogroms, crusades and jihads.

The REAL action is going on INSIDE of us, on the molecular and genetic levels. The whole story is about bloodlines and how the original divine DNA was literally stolen and mucked around with by a renegade bunch of reptoids with aberrant notions of dominion over other lifeforms. This has led to such a confusion and profusion of genetics coming into the planetary mix, not a single species now has any of its primordial genetics intact. However, the original Golden Thread Prime Genetic of Immortality is hidden within all the other programs and when you locate it and allow it to reactivate and reinstate itself as sovereign and supreme, as it actually is, since it derives directly from Prime Creator Source, then your multiple selves begin to line up correctly and can be wholly reintegrated on the atomic, molecular, cellular, AND soulular levels - and that's what is meant by the word INTEGRITY. And only with Molecular Integrity restored can we experience REALITY/ROYALTY beyond the holographic hell loosely called The Matrix. Freedom IS the destination, as Martin Luther King declared, so let freedom ring clear as a bell - but clarity comes from purity of feeling, beyond the distortion of fear and hate programming. Institutionalized education is definitely among the biggest scams of all - but every state deems it NECESSARY, in fact COMPELS ATTENDANCE by introducing Truancy Acts, thereby coercing all children of a certain age to turn themselves in for social formatting, so they can grow up as Happy Slaves. A great deal of confusion stems from using the word EGO to define the unique sense of identity we call INDIVIDUALITY. It was fairly inevitable for the Self to experiment with self-fragmentation so that it could explore the myriad possibilities presented by INDIVIDUALIZATION. Up to a certain point, the acute sense of INDIVIDUALITY can pose new problems: alienation, isolation, anomie, which ultimately results in the overly individualistic self becoming carcinogenic (antisocial, vandalistic, competitive, criminal). However, now that we have nifty new concepts like the Hologram Universe and FRACTALS to play around with, it's possible for us to view self as a perfect microcosm of Self ("My Father and I are One"). This way we can restore the integrity of the EGO's sense of purpose - and its awareness of the Whole, the Original Core Self, so that it consciously and willingly cooperates with Macrocosmic Self as it continues to explore, experiment, and experience the infinite permutations of its Divine Selfhood. Ego, ergo sum.

[First posted 20 February 2009]

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WHAT MY DADDY TAUGHT ME (repost)

Mr Lee Hong Wah in 1951
My father was no socialist, nor was he by any stretch of the imagination a capitalist, though his own dad was a self-made man of means  - a registered dentist who, through skill, dedication and a healthy sense of humor, pulled himself up by the bootstraps and died a wealthy, popular and respected human being.

Indeed, my dad was no subscriber to any acquired or inherited belief system and proudly described himself as a freethinker. Too often, being a freethinker is confused with being an atheist and my dad was no believer, though I strongly suspect he saw himself as an incarnation of Eros, son of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

And so every First of May when he marked another solar orbit, my dad would quip that the whole world was united in celebrating his advent on earth, even if they believed they were only paying tribute to the Dignity of Labor. As an aside, it has always struck me as the ultimate irony that in Nazi Germany, every forced labor camp displayed the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work sets you free") at its entrance. But this is about my dad and the valuable life lessons I have learned from him.

1. If you have to drive, be the best driver you possibly can.

Dad teaching me to swim when I was 4
My earliest childhood memories of traveling by road to holiday destinations with my dad at the wheel and me sitting at the back are all pleasant. His confidence and competence as a driver made everyone feel safe and relaxed. I don't recall a single incident in which his driving put his passengers in any danger, although he did recall one major accident that happened before I was born, when the steering wheel jammed and his car ended up in a shallow ravine, luckily with nobody hurt, just a little shaken. As I grew older my dad was fond of offering me advice on the finer points of driving. He taught me to be constantly aware of the sound the engine made, and to shift gears only at the correct rev, so as to maximize on momentum and extend clutch life (there were no automatic shifts then). 

On long-distance drives, he would remind me to keep changing my visual focus, to let my eyes refocus momentarily on the dashboard, then sweep across the horizon, glance at the rear mirror, side mirrors, and so on - which ensured that the eyes were kept exercised and alert, and to enhance peripheral vision, the best guarantee of being able to anticipate hazards ahead as well as approaching from the rear and from either side. At night he would remind me to dip the headlights whenever I saw the beam of another vehicle coming from the opposite direction; and also when approaching another vehicle from behind so as not to annoy the other driver with the glare of the high beams.

Dad, me & Uncle Kong Beng in Port Dickson @ 1956
Apart from simple courtesy, he added, being a well-mannered and considerate driver contributed to road safety. He would point out examples of good and bad driving, a clear indication being how often the brakes were engaged: competent drivers would slow down at bends by lifting the foot gently off the accelerator or shifting to a lower gear if the bend was acute, while nervous and incompetent drivers would overuse the brakes, even on gentle bends, a practice that could result in the wheels skidding on slippery or sandy patches of road. He showed me how to gently accelerate in the middle of negotiating a sharp bend, to gain traction - a technique known to all race car drivers. I realize now that his subtle coaching has made me a far more conscious and considerate road user, the best insurance against unnecessary accidents. He taught me that keeping calm at all times was preferable to being easily panicked, reminding me that quick reflexes and sound judgment served to minimize the consequences of any mishap. These lessons in good driving can be applied in every circumstance, not just on the road - if you experience life as a journey.

2. Never be in a hurry, even if you're running late.

Mr & Mrs Lee Hong Wah @ 1964
I remember my dad as a man who took his time dressing and grooming himself. He showed me different ways of tying a neat necktie knot (assuming I would someday have a silk tie collection as impressive as his). He would apply grease to his hair and meticulously comb it till he was satisfied with the results. In this one respect, I broke free of his tutelage first by maintaining a crew cut, then by letting my hair grow long, because I disliked the feel of vaseline on my hands.

He recounted in vivid detail how his own practice of never being in a hurry actually saved his life at the beginning of the Japanese Occupation. After the victorious Japanese Army took over the day-to-day administration of Malaya, a directive was circulated to every government office, instructing all civil servants to assemble at a specified location at a specific time on a specific date. Attendance was mandatory, the directive emphasized. 

On the appointed morning, my dad as usual took his time dressing and combing his hair, and when he glanced at his watch, he realized he was running late. Instead of panicking or getting stressed out, he opted to have his morning coffee first before making his way unhurriedly to the assembly point. When he arrived, almost 30 minutes late, he found the venue deserted. He hung around for a few minutes, but nobody else showed up, so he shrugged and went home to a hearty breakfast, then decided to take a nap. The next day he learned that everyone who showed up punctually had been herded like cattle into lorries and carted to the train station, where they were compelled to board a waiting train and transported directly to a remote region of Thailand where they found themselves part of a massive chain-gang forced to build the Burma-Siam railway (better known as the Death Railway). In later years it was reported that only a third of those thus recruited into slave labor survived the ordeal.

3. It's courage, not cowardice, that wins the day.

Wedding Day @ 1938
Dad was not a particularly macho type, although undeniably an alpha male in his own subtle manner. He wasn't one to carouse with the lads and indulge in arm wrestling, drinking binges, and the like. In other words, his was never a competitive ego, although he was undoubtedly an extraordinarily self-assured, confident man. He chose to be charming and gentlemanly, mainly to impress the ladies, not other men. But when push came to shove, he was no coward either. As a youth he met a kungfu master from Shangtung and decided to learn the basics of self-defence, learning the art of swordplay and nunchaku (wooden sticks linked together with a short chain). Later he acquired a double-barreled shotgun, a .22 long-range rifle, and a Browning pistol. He did attempt a few times to get me interested in learning how to use firearms and even let me try out his rifle and pistol in a forested area where no one was likely to get hurt. Occasionally he would join some friends on a flying fox shoot but after accompanying him once on such an expedition, I decided shooting animals for sport was not to my taste and stayed home. In any case I never once saw my dad lose his temper and get involved in any brawls. A natural diplomat, he invariably chose to disarm potential threats and neutralize tense situations by speaking quietly and reasonably - whether to policemen or other enraged road users. 

The Lees in 1958
The only time I can recall his actually picking up his .22 rifle and using it to resolve a dispute was when a relative found herself in trouble: as a naïve teenager she was seduced by an older man and persuaded to elope with him from Batu Pahat to Johore Baru (where my parents resided after 1971). She found, to her horror, that her smooth-talking boyfriend was actually a pimp and had every intention of living off her body. After being kept prisoner for days in a cheap hotel, she managed to escape his clutches and miraculously found her way to my parents' house, where she broke down in tears and explained the danger she was in. My dad assured her she was safe in his house and undertook to protect her from harm. Somehow the crime syndicate that had abducted her discovered her whereabouts and within hours, a car was spotted, slowly cruising up and down the street in front of my parents' house. At one point, someone actually got out and stood at the front gate, shouting threats. My dad rose to the occasion by emerging from the house, rifle in hand, and proceeded without a word to take aim. The gangster dashed back inside the car and sped off, never to return.

Thinking back on how my dad taught me by example never to cringe before bullies, I recall he was always prepared for defensive action. He made it a practice to have some sort of weapon close at hand at all times. He once owned a steel blade concealed in a walking stick, which he kept on the floor behind the driver's seat. On the floor beside the bed he always kept a short wooden staff made from a guava tree. Though only 2 feet long, it could effectively break the arm of any machete-wielding would-be assailant. This was the only defensive weapon I salvaged from the old homestead before the property was sold. Not once have I known my dad to be an aggressor, but he had lived through enough hard times to be constantly wary of unforeseen aggression from others. 

Mum & Dad on vacation, 1983
After I experienced being robbed at knife point one Chinese New Year in my hometown while out on a date with my future wife, I realized my dad was right to maintain his guard, even though he was never one to succumb to fear or paranoia. The few occasions when I found myself facing physical harm, my dad's influence stood me in good stead. One such incident occurred the same day I bought myself a new Casio watch and went to the movies with my wife. I parked the car in a back alley, locked it and turned around to find a junkie brandishing a switchblade at me and demanding my watch and wallet. My wife was a few feet away and she happened to be carrying an umbrella. I quietly told her to toss me the umbrella and start walking quickly towards the main road, which she did. The umbrella was hardly the ideal defensive weapon but it had a sharp metal point. I began to circle around the junkie, ready for action, and was relieved when he chickened out and started running away. So we proceeded to buy tickets and watch the movie. Afterwards, we stopped at a coffeeshop and ordered supper. Halfway through the meal. my wife spotted the same junkie at the counter buying cigarettes and quietly mentioned it. I got up and walked towards the guy who instantly took flight, forgetting his cigarettes. The absolute panic on his face is indeed a cherished memory. I'm pretty sure this incident happened during a particular phase of my urban life when I took to imagining myself an undercover cop by encasing my wallet in a plastic sleeve emblazoned with the Royal Malaysian Police insignia. This $1 investment served to cure me of acute fear and loathing of law enforcement officers, as well as their criminal counterparts.

4. Life can be black and white or full color - it's how we choose to see the world that makes all the difference.

On his way to a bypass operation
in Melbourne. August 1981
My dad was a health inspector and served in this capacity his whole life until his retirement. Back in the 1960s his monthly salary was around $600 and though the value of local currency back then was at least 10 times that of today, we could hardly be classified rich. Yet my father was able to provide comfortably at all times for the whole family. We could afford to engage two housemaids and a gardener - at least until I was old enough to make myself between-meal snacks and wipe my own bum. Every few years we would trade in our car for something bigger and better. When my mother returned to work, first as a schoolteacher and then as a radiographer, we were a two-car family - and my brothers would ride around on their own motorbikes and scooters, later cars.

One day, as a teenager, I found an envelope in my dad's briefcase containing hundreds of dollars. I asked him why he was carrying around so much cash and he sat me down and explained that sometimes, on his rounds as a health inspector, he would find himself in a quandary. For instance, he might have found the wet market to be less than hygienic, with cockroaches hiding in dark crevices and rats scurrying around in gutters. His duty was to issue summonses to all the stall owners, even close down the operations till they renovated the premises. However, he would opt to speak to each stall owner, listing the breaches of health regulations, and asking them to choose between cleaning up their act within a specific period or paying a hefty fine. Invariably they would agree to voluntarily renovate the premises, thereby avoiding prosecution.

Newspapers were a lifelong habit
Once I accompanied him on his rounds and I remember how he would enter a coffeeshop and order a coffee, and the owner would come by and have a friendly chat with him He would then casually remark that a formal inspection was due in a month, and that he would be much happier if he could issue a clean bill of health on the premises. He might hint that the toilet seriously needed a makeover, or that the kitchen could do with a new coat of paint, and then continue on his rounds. In this way he negotiated a fine line between doing his job well and remaining a decent human being. This explained why every Chinese New Year many gift hampers would be delivered to our residence, some with a sealed envelope tucked among the assorted goodies, expressions of sincere appreciation from various businesses grateful to be dealing with such a kind and approachable public servant.

As his youngest son, I had the privilege of walking into any cinema on a complimentary pass and after a while, all the ushers knew me and simply waved me straight in. Riding around town on my bicycle, I would stop and buy roasted chestnuts or fried noodles - and almost invariably, would be given an extra large serving or even waved off without having to pay. I was proud that my father was such a popular figure around town, but as I grew older I began to occasionally mull over the moral ambiguity of my dad's conduct. On the one hand, I was convinced that corruption was not something to be accepted as normal practice; and yet, on the pragmatic level, I couldn't think of any way my father's approach to doing his job was harming anyone. He was charismatic and personable by nature and, throughout his long career, appeared to be immensely well-loved by the townsfolk. He would never ask for money in exchange for looking the other way; his modus operandi was to carry out his official duties with a light hand and an understanding heart, and people liked that very much. So he got the job done without ever having to abuse his power or browbeat anyone.

Between two daughters-in-law in Pangkor Resort, August 1997
Civil servants were often transferred from town to town, to ensure they never became too complacent or corrupt. And yet my father was somehow able to remain in Batu Pahat his entire career without once getting transferred elsewhere. One day I asked him how he was able to avoid the inconvenience of being uprooted and he took great delight and revealing to me that he understood how the system worked. He made it a point to gain the friendship and trust of every medical officer who took over as his immediate boss in the government hierarchy, by organizing and hosting an annual dinner party in Singapore to which his colleagues and bosses were invited. They would eat and drink to their heart's content and be entertained by charming hostesses and generally have such a great time they couldn't possibly allow my dad to be transferred out of Batu Pahat. Sure, it cost him a tidy sum each year - but he reckoned it was a reasonable price to pay for being left in peace to do exactly as he pleased.

They all loved my dad!
Whatever extra cash he happened to earn on the side enabled him to express his intrinsic generosity of spirit. In his last years, he would occasionally reveal some long-kept secret in a moment of openness. One day, years after my mother had succumbed to ill health, he brought out a precious photo album containing black-and-white photos of dozens of young women he had befriended and romanced over the years. He would point to a photo of a vivacious young woman and explain that this was a pig farmer's daughter he had met on his inspection rounds and become friendly with. He would reminisce about how he sponsored her tuition so she would have a chance to get better educated. Then he would add, she often wrote to him while she was studying in Taiwan, thanking him for his encouragement and help, and asking his blessings for her marriage to a young man she had met over there. I believe I was the only one he confided in, perhaps because he sensed that I was the least likely to be shocked or judgmental about his shadow life.

True, my dad had a soft spot for females but he was once known to be generous to a young man hired to paint the house. As a widower his sense of loneliness was assuaged by the daily chats he had with this young housepainter who soon took on the role of his gofer, helping him pay utility bills and helping get his TV or video player repaired when he began to find these mundane tasks too tiresome. My brother Mike who was sharing the family home with dad often grumbled about how my dad was being taken advantage of by this garrulous and always cheerful housepainter turned personal assistant to my father - and, to be sure, Mike's paranoia was borne out when my dad was persuaded to invest a few thousand in a karaoke bar which turned out to be operated by the young man's underworld acquaintances. Needless to say, my dad never saw any monetary return on this venture - and the young chap abruptly stopped popping around for a chat after he got what he wanted - but I had the feeling my dad wasn't at all upset, so grateful was he for a bit of human companionship, albeit shortlived and, ultimately, exploitative and illusory.

Dad's first & only visit to the High Hut in 1998
My dad was a true Taurean, always down to earth and practical, and he had little interest in intellectual or metaphysical pursuits. The only reading he did was newspapers and popular science magazines (he liked picking up ideas for home-improvement projects like rigging up a toe-operated pulley system so he could turn off the bedroom light without getting out of bed). In his youth he played saxophone and drums in a ragtime combo, rode a huge BSA motorbike, cherished a pet cockatoo - trained to perch on his bedstand and turn around whenever it needed to poop, so the mess would land on a newspaper spread out on the floor (sadly, when war broke out in 1942 the bird was donated to the Johore Baru Zoo and when it was all over he went to reclaim it but nobody knew what had happened to his beloved cockatoo). 

Last photo with my dad, April 2004
There are countless anecdotes about his life I failed to record and that are now lost in the mists of forgetfulness. My dad followed his own personal code of ethics and I don't believe he ever consciously harmed or hurt anyone - apart from my mum who wasn't too pleased that other women found him attractive; but why blame him for the genetic legacy that made him almost a Chinese version of Rudolph Valentino? Nor did he, to my knowledge, have any enemies. He was regarded with deep fondness and respect by all his relatives, on his as well as my mother's side, and every female companion I brought home over the years to meet my parents invariably found him utterly charming and lovable.

As I attain increasing maturity I am inclined to cherish more profoundly what my father taught me, despite our outward differences and dissimilar lifepaths. He showed me that there are no straight lines or perfect circles in nature, nor does life entertain moral judgments over absolute rights and absolute wrongs as decreed by mortal minds obsessed with control and power over others. He was living proof that it's far more worthwhile to aspire to simply being a good human than to worry about being a sinner or pretend to be a saint. 

Dad with my daughter Moon at her sister's
wedding. He died on the morning of
14 October 2004 while being sponged by nurses,
one day after his 11th great-grandchild,
Hana, arrived
Celebrating his life on the 106th anniversary of his birth, I have come to value the ordinary every bit as much as I have always leaned towards the extraordinary. If my memory serves me right I was 5 or 6 when I asked my father, out of the blue, is Heaven real? Of course it's real, he answered without a moment's hesitation, even though he wasn't in any way religious. I pressed on: what is Heaven like, can we do anything we like, must we brush our teeth? 

There was a twinkle in his eye as he responded: "Well, you can do almost anything you like, as long as you don't make others sad, or harm them. And, no, you don't have to wear pajamas or brush your teeth, unless you want to, because your teeth won't decay in Heaven."

[First posted 1 May 2017, reposted 1 May 2019 & 1 May 2020]