Thursday, May 4, 2017

Do you know what it means to be "royal"?



It's obvious that the feudal era is long past its sell-by date. Only a benighted handful continue to believe in the divine right of kings to behave as they will - regardless of the rights and wrongs of their actions and how their misbehavior ultimately burdens the citizens and increases the level of darkness and disease in the realm.

Small but powerful cabals of politically connected players have learnt how to get hereditary monarchs to do their bidding and in so doing, have effectively tainted and corrupted what might once have been a revered and dignified institution. In the case of Malaysia, bureaucrats and politicians gleefully imitate the indulgent lifestyles and extravagant habits of their own tribal chiefs and ceremonial rulers, surreptitiously misappropriating the sultans' traditional power and status.

Chinese pictographs are sophisticated symbols with multidimensional meanings. Take the pictogram for wang or king (left): three horizontal strokes connected by a single vertical stroke. The bottom line depicts ti, the earth; the middle line is ren, humanity; and the topmost line is tien, heaven. The single vertical axis serves as a pillar that separates heaven from earth while holding them together and uniting them, in order that humanity may flourish. Therein lies the essential meaning of kingship. If the axis is bent or infirm, heaven and earth will be out of alignment and the kingdom will collapse in disarray.

Most traditional monarchies have long been disconnected from their mystical and spiritual origins - either through excessive inbreeding, inauspicious crossbreeding, or through usurpation of the ancient quasi-divine Anunnaki bloodlines by atavistic terrestrial modified primates, infected with mind viruses that fuel their petty ego drives and turn them increasingly cruel and ruthless.

In the last few thousand years of imperialistic wars, brutal massacres and general mayhem, most of the authentic bearers of the original "golden thread" prime genetic (characterized by its high content of monoatomic gold, the elixir of longevity and immortality) have gone underground or mixed genes with the plebeians.

But in the modern era, a new form of meritocratic aristocracy has arisen from the ashes of the debauched and decadent royal bloodlines of antiquity. You will often find them in the ranks of movie stars, pop kings and queens, rock gods, best-selling authors, box-office filmmakers, weavers of fantastic dreams - outstanding individuals blessed with charisma and artistic talent, or endowed with inventive genius.

Emperor Marcus XII
Watching Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a live feed recently, I was struck by his resemblance to a young Roman emperor. Turning 33 this May, Zuckerberg exudes the confidence of a man twice his age - and who wouldn't be self-assured with an estimated net worth of nearly $64 billion?

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who gave the world a more efficient search engine, thereby facilitating easy access to information via the internet, come close to being as cash-rich as Zuckerberg. But they chose to dilute their personal stakes in the colossal corporation that grew out of their Stanford University dorm rooms, allowing sinister deep-state players convenient access to the massive databanks that constitute Google's primary resource.

Sergey Brin & Larry Page:
estimated combined net worth $75 billion
These youthful overachievers of the digital age may have no armies at their command - but they don't need them to wield enormous clout over the fate of the planet. Like Elon Musk who gave us PayPal, their visionary entrepreneurial skills have redefined what it means to be royalty in the 21st century.

Far more intelligent and street-savvy than all the monarchs of past ages put together, today's movers and shakers now find themselves in an unprecedented position to influence geopolitical trends. Given full authority to redesign and restructure the human-nature interface on a planetary scale, it's not impossible that they will embrace technology-assisted utopian ideals, and facilitate a quantum shift towards the realization of heaven on earth.

Unfortunately, the old guard stands in the way of rapid, radical change. The traditional keepers of the keys to earthly power, the warlords and usurers, are not quite ready to experience a monumental change of consciousness - and heart. They have yet to grasp the newfangled transformative idea of pronoia, which free-will astrologer-musician and poet Rob Brezsny has popularized as the antidote to paranoia. A pronoid human sees all of reality as a playground as well as a schoolhouse, set up to encourage and support our physical, mental and spiritual growth. The pronoid human experiences the entire universe as a benign conspiracy - a holographic construct that ultimately serves our own greatest good. Why so? Because each of us is a fractal of the whole, of the Unified Field of Consciousness, of All That Is (and Isn't).

Which makes us all divine humans, diabolical streak and all, entirely deserving of complete fulfillment, boundless joy, vitality, even immortality, should we so desire and deserve it. In short, the only authentic royalty is the sovereignty you reclaim for yourself, in the light of this initiation, when you awaken from your cultural trance and embrace your own eternal glory, power and kingdom (or queendom, if you happen to be a Freddie Mercury clone).













Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE AQUARIUS PROJECT ~ a 30-minute alchemical docu-poem on WATER

In September 2003 a friend tipped me off that Discovery Channel was looking for 30-minute documentary ideas from untested filmmakers. He suggested I submit a brief outline and try my chances. Winning entries would be granted a production team and a $25,000 budget to realize the project. I just re-read this proposal from 9 years ago and decided it was worth preserving as a blogpost. Even with a $250,000 budget I no longer have the stamina to do stuff like this. But if any young filmmaker who chances upon this would like to pick up on it....


Preliminary outline

We are watery creatures living on the surface of a watery planet and are subject to lunar influences that generate a subtle emotional tide in our interactions with our environment.

Water is one of the five elements that constitute life as we know it.

No one can agree on what the fifth element is: the Chinese consider metal as the fifth element while Hindus say it is akasha, the ether. Recently, there has even been a suggestion that the fifth element is LOVE. But everyone accepts that Fire, Air, Water, and Earth are the elemental constituents of all life on this planet.

Fire is associated with Energy, represented in the Tarot deck by Wands and in the modern deck by Clubs. Air is Communication, represented by the Sword of Intellect in the Tarot and Spades in the secular deck. Earth is Material Wealth, represented as Pentacles in the Tarot and Diamonds in the modern deck.

Water is Emotion, represented by Cups and by Hearts.

Some astrologers say that on the vernal equinox of March 20, 2001, we finally entered the Age of Aquarius, symbolized by the Water-Bearer. Yet scientists have recently warned that water shortages may be a potential cause of violent conflict in the 21st century.

Water – in all its forms and moods and guises – is the main character of my proposed ‘alchemical docu-poem.’ Water in its literal and metaphorical aspects, as the source of life and the spring of our emotions: water is a liquid analogy for the entire gamut of feelings we experience – from mirthful playfulness to unmitigated rage, from transcendental serenity to violent agitation and profound sorrow. A few years ago I wrote a polemical tract which succinctly summarizes the poetic perspective I intend to translate into moving images and sounds:

Humility means acknowledging how little we know about the universe; and humility comes from realizing that nature’s beauty and mystery are worth infinitely more than our perverse obsession with illusory fame and fortune. Being able to breathe clean, fresh air and admire the distant hills every day may not get us into the Guinness Book of World Records or the Who's Who of the Banana Republics ‑ but it will certainly get us closer to regaining heaven on earth. So stop midway through this frantic and futile feast of fools and look up at the ethereal clouds in the sky, and remember why we chose to be born on this exquisite and unique gem of a planet.  Was it to puff ourselves up with toadish pompousness and amass a hoard of dragon's gold we could never bequeath to our grandchildren? Because our grandchildren would be too busy turning into cockroaches, rats and other lifeforms that can survive or even thrive in ugly and polluted environments.

Or did we come here to experience the separation of matter from spirit, and to learn how they can be harmoniously fused again? For this lesson would teach us that the outer reflects the inner.

Where there is drought in the external reality, it means our souls are parched of feelings, love has dried up. Where there are landslides and flash floods, it means our integrity is decaying and our emotions are murky and raging out of control, bursting the banks of tranquility. And where the air is thick with greasy crud and black with factory soot, it means our thoughts are indecent (i.e., mechanical, pornographic) and our spirit is exhausted.


The Aquarius Project will address the issue of modern technology indirectly, by demonstrating the intimate relationship between murky emotions and contaminated waterways. Humans and human activities play a supporting rôle in the fluid narrative which will favor the non‑verbal over the verbal ‑ although a certain amount of language will be used to help shape the form and intent of the flow. The sad state of human emotions in an industrialized landscape is revealed in our clogged and polluted streams, many of which have undergone the indignity of being turned into drains and sewers.

Only when absolutely needed will a voiceover be used. However, text will feature as an aural and visual element in the narrative, which will alternate between linearity and non‑linearity. This could happen as bits of spoken dialog, as recitations, as song, or as direct interviews with the poet-documentator and others.

I envisage working independently with a digital videocam as well as with a professional crew to achieve a balance between the intimacy and immediacy of an experimental short feature and the technical polish and authority of a conventional documentary. As a musician, I look forward to creating part of the soundtrack for specific sequences, and using library music and live sound for others.

  
TENTATIVE CHECKLIST OF REQUIRED FOOTAGE:

  • Lots of generic water shots: cloud formations, dewdrops on leaves, cascading falls, ripples on lakes and ponds, reflections in puddles, slomo sequences of watery movement, torrential downpour, drizzle, dripping faucet, lawn sprinklers, bathroom showers, wet umbrellas, raincoats, flash floods, muddy rivulets, aquarium sequences, rolling breakers, shimmering seas, speedboat wakes, etc.
  • Whitewater rafters, kayakers, rubber‑tubers, waterskiers, fishermen, boaters, swimmers, kids in rivers, swimming pool sequences, bodysurfers, public urinals, sewage outlets, effluent pipes, drainpipes, monsoon drains, abandoned wells, gutters, stagnant ponds, poisoned streams, sanitation workers, laundrywomen, aquatic flora and fauna, pedestrians caught in thunderstorm, industrial carwash, glass & concrete urban gvs. 
  • Archival footage or stills of severe drought (Afghanistan), destructive floods (China, Bangladesh), famine (Biafra), pestilence (Kosovo, Cambodia), street riots (Indonesia), massacres (East Timor), massive catatastrophes (Kobe, Gujarat), destitution and suffering (Iraq, Sierra Leone), poverty and neglect (Chennai, Chow Kit).
  • General footage of industrial activity, environmental degradation, deforested hills, dust storms, physical and metaphysical desolation.
  • Celebrants and mourners: candid portraits of emoting humans (can either be original footage or culled from magazines, photo albums, libraries, etc.) 

My preferred approach to cooking is to select and prepare the ingredients, look up the recipes of a few tried‑and‑tested dishes ‑ and then leave it to inspiration (and the random factor) to integrate and synthesize the elements, trusting that my artistic instincts will unerringly guide me to making the right decisions. This could prove a chaotic and messy process, but having emerged from a commercial background where artistic self‑indulgence must always concede to entertaining, stimulating and captivating the audience ‑ and being, incidentally, a Capricornian with a hardwired sense of internal order ‑ I have full confidence that I can come up with an immensely watchable and memorable 26‑minute docu‑poem that's aesthetically more adventurous than the straightforward documentary, but still accessible to a mass audience.


I began using a box camera at the age of 6 or 7 and have been an avid photographer most of my life. In the 1970s I had the use of a Super 8 cinecamera and made several experimental home movies which, alas, have all succumbed to the ravages of climate and time. Although I have yet to own a digital videocam, I've handled them occasionally with wholly satisfactory results. I'd like to buy or borrow a decent digital videocam so that I can gather special footage unobtrusively and at my own leisure ‑ leaving the betacam sequences to more experienced professionals. As such, I'd like to be writer, co‑camera‑operator, editor and director on The Aquarius Project ‑ but would greatly appreciate the logistical support of a competent production house.

[First posted 10 August 2012]

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

PARALLEL LIVES REVISITED ~ AND HEALED! (repost)

MANY TIMES I’ve experimented with breathing exercises - only to find that, like Bill Clinton, I had trouble inhaling. Years ago when I was practising pranayama, a yogic breath control technique, I had to give up after a few weeks because my nostrils kept getting blocked.

Recently I came across a powerful Spherical Breathing Technique to activate the Light Body (taught by Drunvalo Melchizedek in his ‘Flower of Life’ Seminars): once again I was frustrated by the difficulty I had trying to breathe rhythmically. How was I ever going to master the didgeridoo - not to mention quickening my Merkaba vehicle of Ascension (by which means one may achieve full mobility through all the dimensions)?

And not too long ago a holistic healer friend had given me a deep massage, after which she had diagnosed a congestion in my diaphragm area possibly linked to a "past life" trauma. So you can understand why I was very keen to see if Pritamo* could help. She was staying at a mutual friend’s apartment, having just arrived from her native Italy via Pune, India - where she had trained for years at the Osho International Academy of Healing Arts.

Pritamo showed me a computer-generated leaflet listing the various therapies she was practising, and my attention was instantly drawn to a section headed: “HYPNOSIS FOR SELF-HEALING - a soft technique that induces deep relaxation, so that you can access your own unconscious.” Among the benefits of this particular therapy, Pritamo mentioned “exploring and healing past lives to improve this present life.”

Ha! This was precisely what I had been seeking for some time. Being the “new healer in town” Pritamo was only too willing to barter a 90-minute session for a fair report to anyone interested. Not that I minded paying the RM90 (US$25) fee, which I thought totally reasonable.

The next morning I showed up, prepared for anything. Pritamo said we would begin with a 45-minute Chakra Breathing exercise to open up and relax my cellular and etheric bodies. The vigorous process would also serve to clear my memory circuits of last week’s or last year’s debris. She put on a cassette and a quiet, authoritative voice requested that I focus attention on my Root Chakra while hyperventilating through the mouth.

"Don’t be inhibited," Pritamo advised, "and make as much noise as you like. Just keep your feet comfortably apart and grounded, freeing the rest of your body to move with the energy currents."

The dervish-like rhythms and calm, friendly voice guided me through each Chakra, as Pritamo accompanied me in the exercise. At the end of 45 minutes we had completed three Chakra Breathing cycles. I felt totally relaxed, even euphoric, open to and trusting of whatever would happen next.

After a short rest Pritamo settled me comfortably on a mattress, and proceeded to ease me into even deeper relaxation with her voice. In effect she guided me through a visualization wherein I “saw” myself lying peacefully in a pleasant meadow. Soon, she suggested, a beautiful, ethereal Guide will appear and beckon me to follow her on a journey down the corridors of incarnate time...

THROUGH A GOLDEN ARCHWAY we strolled, my Angelic Guide and I, along a paved path that stretched on indefinitely ahead. I could hear Pritamo’s gentle, accented voice, saying: “Keep walking until something appears, then pause and let the image form more clearly. Trust that it will have a special message for you, to help you accept and release whatever feelings arise.” Or something to that effect.

Without any effort the first image shifted into focus: I was looking at a very old and frustrated English gentleman, bent over in his rocking chair, experiencing the last moments of his life. A dull, heavy sensation hung over his chest: was it bronchial congestion? Or sheer heavy-heartedness, the fatigue of a soul worn out by struggle? I could feel his profound bitterness and pain, his terrible sense of despair and futility; above all, his sense of utter failure and isolation.

Details flitted in and out of my mind’s purview: he had been a swashbuckling, dashing Colonial Officer in British Malaya, a veritable Tuan in every respect. He had lived like a king and felt like a mythical hero. But then something had gone very wrong, and he found himself recalled to England in his prime: end of illustrious career, end of glorious freedom and unfettered adventure. He was treated with coldblooded, efficient formality and forced to retire with a handsome pension.

He could write his memoirs - and he did, but it left him dissatisfied and hollow. He had been so close to some incredible breakthrough... so very close to cracking the Mystery of the Ages and returning home in triumph, exalted and divine. His domestic life was a tragic farce. Friends and family had drifted further and further away - till at this final hour he felt completely bereft of warmth or hope or even the faintest memory of happiness. True, he had been a stalwart member of a Masonic Lodge - a lot of good that did him now. Nothing had value or meaning, nothing whatsoever, not even the prospect of oblivion.

My chest was heaving with the effort of dying. My angel gently put her hand in mine and led me further down the corridor of ghostly memories.

“Where are you now?” I heard Pritamo as from a great distance. “What do you see?”

“I’m a little girl of three or four. European, I think. Alone in a room, holding a toy. No one knows my thoughts. I am dying of a disease, I don’t know what. Asthma? Tuberculosis? There’s a light in my heart region. I feel totally calm and self-contained. Not sad, no self-pity. I know things other people don’t. I know I shall soon be free again, there’s great power and wisdom in my spirit self...”

My angelic guide and I move on, leaving the little girl with her dreamy thoughts and her very brief span on earth.

I see a white-haired, portly gentleman at the kitchen table, puffing on his pipe. Retired merchant, Italian, living somewhere in Greece. He has outlived his wife, and two of his five children. The others are living far abroad. He isn’t sad or afraid of death, which he knows is approaching very soon. He’s had a good life, good friends, good meals, and satisfactory family bonds. But somehow he feels cheated, disillusioned, abandoned by God. His private life as a mystic and scholar is known only to his colleagues in a secret fraternity. He has seen the group splinter into bitter factions, torn asunder by petty ambitions and betrayals. All the lofty principles of the ancient creed, the solemn oaths of loyal and faithful service to humanity... what a load of crap!

Is there hope for human beings on this earth? Probably not, but what the hell, que sera, sera and so on. Still, it’s very hurtful that life can play such dirty tricks on us benighted souls. What is left? Not much. A favorite pipe, dusty shelves of once so-precious books in a concealed library no one will inherit. Hello, Big G... where the hell are YOU?. He sighs and feels a black hole where his heart once was.

MY HEART! I can feel Pritamo’s energy soothing my etheric body as my chest convulses into a tight knot. Heart attack? Can’t breathe. A sour taste... no, a bilious, horrid, shattering sense of deep betrayal and broken dreams. I’m seated on my throne, clutching my belly in acute agony.

They have poisoned me. How? It can’t be... impossible! My queen, could she...? NO! Death, take me swiftly upon thy wings... I can see the carved pillars of my palace, barely a few years old, the patterns on the polished tiles. Pharaoh of the New Aeon, you have failed in your mission. What can save us now? Ha, I’m out of the crumpled fleshly body in my ka - my etheric double - floating above the earth, where my vision penetrates the future... please, 0 Great Ones, spare me this dreary sight! The darkness stretches before me without end: age upon age of tragedy and horror, a ceaseless nightmare of evil piled on evil. Massacres, famines, plagues, catastrophe... no light at the tunnel’s end! Spare me this accursed foresight... WHY? WHY?? WHY???

My ka has swooned with the impact of the ugly truth revealed: no Golden Dawn for humanity, not yet, not for a very, very, very long time. Hundreds, possibly thousands of years from now, perhaps... but two golden, shining beings have come to take me to a distant sanctuary, where my soul can heal. This place is not on planet Earth.

MY EYES SNAP OPEN in surprise. Pritamo waves her hands over my face, whispering that I should keep my eyes closed for a while longer - as my angelic guide takes me back along the corridor, past the events shown before, through the golden archway, and back into the green, sunny meadow where my physical body lies.

“Count after me,” Pritamo murmurs, “Ten-a, nine-a, eight-a, seven-a, six-a...” By the time I get to “one” she’s already up and out the door. “You take-a your time-a,” she says. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Thank you, Pritamo,” I say quietly, as we give each other a long, strong hug. The healing is accomplished. But it may take some time to filter through the molecular levels of my being.

-------
*The name Pritamo means 'Beloved.' Pritamo is a healer and therapist at the Osho Ashram in Pune, India.

NOTE: I prefer the term "parallel lives" to "past lives" since the linearity of time is essentially illusory. I'm more inclined to view "flashbacks" and "flashforwards" as crosstalk from different time-tracks occurring simultaneously and accessible from the core of one's being.

[First published in the New Straits Times, July 9, 1996, posted 14 April 2013]

Carnivorous predators and the food chain: enough to drive us into vegetarianism!



It's a dog-eat-dog world, some say, pointing at the primeval principle of kill-or-be-killed underlying all political and economic conflict. The smell of blood is all it takes to trigger a feeding frenzy among sharks. We see it around us, every single day, and so we become desensitized to the blood and gore of the abattoir (a word we borrowed from the French, because it sounds a lot more genteel than "slaughterhouse").

Few of us have had to hunt and kill and skin and gut and cook the meat we consume. We buy it from the supermarket, neatly wrapped in cellophane and kept fresh in the freezer. No protruding heads or feet to remind us what the animal looked like when it was alive. Often the meat comes in tidy, bloodless, machine-sliced fillets, ready to stick in the oven or frying pan.


That's the only way we can deal with the horror of being part of the food chain. When children become aware of what being a carnivore actually entails, many become horrified and vow to get off the bloody wheel by turning to vegetarianism.

Eating fruit and greens doesn't seem so hideous, perhaps because plants don't scream or bleed when chopped up. And, even if they do, their blood is green or colorless, and their screams are beyond our hearing range. Fruits and nuts, of course, are aesthetically the least offensive, since they grow off trees - and no matter how many fruits or nuts we consume, at least we're not harming the trees themselves.

I wish I could live on fruits and nuts - but that would require a monumental, almost fanatical, effort. And it's no fun being a fanatic about anything. Nevertheless, after an ayahuasca experience I had in July 2011, I'm beginning to feel more tolerant towards vegetarians.


Hishamuddin Hashim,
Teoh Beng Hock's  tormentor
It's not every day that I'm so vividly aware of being part of the food chain. In theory, it seems only natural that one species devours and consumes another. Animals whose flesh we find delicious usually feed off plants and grains. And because we humans consider ourselves "the crown of creation" with our access to technology, we are no longer prey to other species of carnivores - apart from our own.

Even so, we can still be killed by the tiniest lifeforms. A disease-carrying mosquito or flea, even a bunch of hostile bacteria - or something totally invisible, like a mutant strain of virus - can take us down, no problem.

Ku Nan the Barbarian
Those who have seen Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - will recall the spine-chilling last words of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: "The horror... the horror!"

That was exactly how I felt when I was granted a vision of what Malaysian politics looks like from the astral perspective. We live in a multi-tiered social hierarchy defined by genetic heredity (traditional aristocracy) and financial inheritance (the nouveau riche). Those not born into one of the nine royal bloodlines have to buy their perks and privileges with hard cash.

Everybody wants to scrabble up the status ladder - and those who have to start from scratch place their hopes on their progeny. So they invest every cent they can scrape together in "higher education" for their offspring - which they believe will grant them access to the upper tiers of society through membership in various professional guilds.

Strong egos dominate, exploit and oppress the weaker ones - that's the way the world works. That's how it has always worked and that's how it will forever be.


Mahathir Mohamad,
Tyrannosaurus rex
The battlecry of the French Revolution - Liberté, égalité, fraternité - sounds noble and stirring, but it can never happen. Liberty, equality and fraternity for all means no more slave labor. We would be forced to clean up after ourselves, do our own dishes, nobody to carry bricks on their broken backs to build our dream castles!

Can you imagine: who would risk their lives balancing on precarious scaffoldings, day in and day out, to construct a 100-story skyscraper, for a measly RM100 a day? Would you do it? Would you want your children to do it? Let those foreign workers from impoverished countries do the dirty and dangerous work!

Najib Razak, cold-blooded and vicious
But why are some countries "impoverished"? Do they not have their own natural resources? A cursory probe into the history of these "impoverished" lands will reveal the same age-old pattern: the extreme gulf between the haves and the have-nots is an artificial one, created by a feudal social structure wherein the privileged few live like gods, while those at the bottom have to be content with the most basic of necessities.


Apandi Ali,
High Priest of Iniquity
In between you will find the lower, middle and upper classes constantly pushing their way upwards, towards the top of the power pyramid, presided over by a complacent and corrupt priesthood whose function is to sanctify the status quo and assure everyone it's all part of God's plan.

Is there a way out of this endless loop of energy predation, this neverending nightmare of master-slave, victor-victim relationships?

Hishammuddin Hussein,
fang-and-claw politics
Yes, of course, there is. Twenty-five centuries ago, a young prince named Siddhartha Gautama walked out of his cushioned existence in his father's palace - after he was inadvertently exposed to the horrible sight of disease, decay, death and inescapable debt.

Prince Siddhartha realized he was living in an artificial bubble of comfort, insulated from the raw reality beyond the palace walls. Unable to enjoy his creature comforts, knowing they were merely transient, Siddhartha set off quietly to live like an ascetic. He learned to meditate from a variety of spiritual masters and eventually broke free from the robotism of physical embodiment.


In short, Siddhartha awakened from his cultural trance and was henceforth called Buddha - the Awakened One. The title "Buddha" (like "Christ" or "Christos") is not a personal name - it's a state of consciousness each of us must attain if we wish to gain true liberation from the wheel of life, death and rebirth - from the feeding frenzy of the biological food chain.

It's not enough to believe in or revere what Prince Siddhartha achieved. We have to become Buddha ourselves. And that's just a start on an inner journey back to where we began, as the Source of All Energy and Consciousness. But, once we attain our own enlightenment, we will never again wallow in the abysmal ignorance of automatism. Every word we utter, every thought we bear, and every action we take will be done consciously.


We may continue to devour the flesh of other species, but we shall do so with apologetic humility and gratitude - and, in so doing, we shall consciously bless the animal whose death now feeds our life and whose body now becomes part of our bodies. The soul of the animal, thus being acknowledged and blessed, will depart in peace and continue its adventure, perhaps in different embodiments, and it may even opt to experience being human.

Zahid Hamidi, ready to pounce
For the slayer and the slain are bound in a karmic knot, so that any human who kills and devours an animal is actually granting the soul of the animal entry into the human domain.

Personally, I would rejoice in the ability to live entirely off sunshine, fresh air and love. Occasionally, as a special treat, I would allow myself to be devoured and consumed - and to, in turn, consume and devour - but only as a ritual of sacred union performed with a lover in the celebratory spirit of tantra.



[First posted 26 July 2011, reposted 19 June 2014]


Monday, May 1, 2017

WHAT MY DADDY TAUGHT ME

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 101st 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."

1 May 2017