Scribbles under a Full Moon
It is amazing how mankind has evolved in such a way that we are very dependent on sight as one of our five senses. For those of us who were born sighted, we use this faculty a great deal to filter our perception of the universe. And yet we are often reminded that all that you see may not often be the truth or actual reality (e.g. think of optical illusion puzzles or the slight of hand tricks that magicians are so adept at performing) and that there exists elements beyond the spectrum of light that we can perceive (e.g. ranging from what science tells us about UV light, gamma rays and the like, to the realms of the paranormal and the supernatural).
Like many Singaporeans, I began wearing spectacles from a young age, if I remember correctly when I was about 9 years old, thanks to the intensive schooling system. Although my eyesight worsened as I entered my teens, I was fortunate not to develop very high degrees of myopia (less than 400 degrees at my max) and astigmatism. In my twenties, I started wearing contact lenses which gave me greater mobility and flexibility; sadly at the same time, I was bound to the cycle of washing and storing my contact lenses daily plus buying endless bottles of contact lens solution and saline and countless packets of sterilizing tablets.
Around 2000, my sister, whose eyesight was always much worse then mine, had the miracle operation called Lasik done on her eyes. Then she recommended that I do the same, despite the high cost, the discomfort of having one’s pupils dilated with special eye-drops, and the scariness of having machines cut into one’s corneas and shave off microscopic layers to get the desired result. And voila! Crystal clear sight within hours! Able to see far vs. near with hardly any problem! No more contact lens & their paraphernalia to deal with! Can travel to places lightly!
At least for 10 years, until middle age and the effects of too much computer work started to hit. I was warned before the operation that Lasik was not a permanent solution as it would not be able to combat the aging process on the eyes. What I was not prepared for was the path that this aging process would take on my eyes.
When I was young, the concept that one’s eyesight dims as one ages did not have much meaning. I always thought it meant perhaps that the growth of cataracts would make the eyes look cloudy and cause one’s eyesight to deteriorate. Around 2008/9, I started becoming aware that my eyes were changing. It was harder to see as daylight faded and dusk approached. Driving at night became a little more dodgy as my night vision became not so sharp. In 2010, my sister arranged for me to see her friend, an opthamologist, just for a base check to start tracking the development of cataracts in my eyes. At that point in time, the opthamologist declared that I had only just a dusting of cataract clouding in one eye and to see him again in five years’ time for another check-up. However, as part of the 2010 check-up, he did put lenses over my eyes (like how an optometrist does when measuring people for their spectacles) to see if I needed reading glasses. There was one moment after he put a certain lens in the framework when suddenly, I swear, the world changed. I should have shouted then, “Hey! Who turned on the lights?”
Basically, a little bit of my previous myopia had returned. The opthamologist wrote out a prescription for spectacles for me to wear when driving and watching cinema/theatrical shows. I had two pairs made (the first pair was a mistake as I chose frames that were too thick and I found that my side vision was obscured when driving — alas, out of practice in choosing appropriate spectacles after 10 years of not using specs). Now, I feel much safer driving at night with the specs.
The return to using spectacles has been an extremely interesting experience. Because my eyes are now much older, I cannot transit between near and far sight with ease and must take off my specs in order to read small print: using these specs to read programmes, maps, books, etc. that are held in my hands is pretty useless as everything is out of focus. At the beginning of 2011, I did attend a short course on how to improve one’s eyesight naturally in which I learned many practical exercises on how to relieve various aspects of eyestrain. Unfortunately, I have not been persistent in practising these exercises and so my eyesight has not improved. Nevertheless I am comforted to know that there are methods out there that I can systematically practise, if I so choose, to manage the quality of how I sees, and that it is possible to halt or reverse the natural deterioration of this very important sense.
There are some comments that the instructor of this course said that were novel for me: the quality of our eyesight is actually not fixed. On some days when you are less tired, your eyesight is much better. Whereas when you are fatigued, your eyesight is worse. And actually, we do not need exactly 100% perfect vision to survive in this world.
Extrapolating these notions to how I have generally perceived the universe through my eyes over time: In my youth, I tended to see things in a very clear-cut, sharp fashion. Everything was clear and bright as I had the light of youth within me. Now in middle age, with less pep and verve, plus experience knocking out some of the clear-cut expectations of life, I’m now seeing the world (literally and metaphorically) in a soft-focused mode, like how old style Hollywood movies used to film their heroines. And actually now, life is still OK and in some ways better than before.
Quest for Solitude
I read two things lately that have struck me as significant.
The first is an online essay about the qualities of an introvert: apparently, introverts are quiet because their brains are hardwired to absorb a lot of information all at once and do not need the same degree of external stimulation as an extrovert, lest they become overwhelmed with all the sensory data they are picking up.
The other is the recent news that Volkswagen has begun a trial 2012 programme in which the company servers will stop delivering emails to selected employees ‘ Blackberries after office hours, allowing these executives to have better control of their work-life balance instead of being on call 24/7.
How do these two articles relate to me? I find comfort that there is a possible physical explanation for my introverted personality. I am what I am because I cannot go beyond the limits of what nature has given me. So why be pressured to be a social butterfly if I can’t be one in the first place? And part of the reason why I am a writer is because of this introverted side of me that allows me to reflect and articulate those thoughts into words on paper or on the screen.
The Volkswagen announcement illustrates another concern of mine. There are so many things (necessary and unnecessary) that one has to attend to in this modern day and age: Work is all-consuming, Family and Household Chores are always demanding, Friends need catching up with, Facebook and other online pursuits are calling… Whether you are an introverted personality or not, it is hard to find and spend quality Me-time to groom yourself, to sit and reflect and, if you are a writer, to write… It takes a mighty conscious effort to organise your schedule and switch off the outside world and focus inward.
During this past December, I spent two happy weeks not thinking of anything else except my writing and I completed two short stories. We will see in the next few months as the demands of 2012 grows whether I can continue this serendipitous streak of creativity… Think OHMM… Feel OHMM… Be OHMM…
‘Tis the Season…
In my younger days, I could stride into shops, battle for hours with the crowd to get the best deals and emerge happy and contented.
Gone are those times.
Last Sunday, I went looking for my last Christmas presents. I entered only one mall. One department store, two shops and two hours later, I had bought the necessary, but I was entirely drained out.
To recover, I found a cafe. I sat down, had a cup of green tea and pondered.
On one hand, I was sad: I had to admit I am no longer a spring chicken and I’ve lost my shopping stamina to search for bargains and withstand the frenzy of the crowds.
On the other hand, I wondered whether all my efforts had been worthwhile. Would the people whom I had shopped for really appreciate the gifts that I had bought them? Or would they just nod and smile pleasantly when receiving their presents and then later stuff the things unused into a cupboard to be re-gifted or sent to the Salvation Army later?
Such thoughts then led me to consider how materialistic all of us living in modern society are. Our actual needs aside, we are told by advertising that our lives will not be perfect unless we acquire XYZ, we help fuel the economy by buying what it says we need, we are given stuff that people think we need, we work towards achieving what we desire, we bury ourselves with things that we imagine we need.
When he was still alive, my father was a serial hoarder of junk. He inundated the entire house that my family was living in then with anything from car parts to cheap fourth-hand clothing from Sungei Road. I am not as bad as he. Nevertheless, I still collect certain things: for instance, books. I already possess more books than I will probably read in my lifetime, and I’m still buying and running out of space to store them, despite yearly attempts to cull my collection.
We could all probably exist happily with less. But whether we really desire to live with less and thereby reduce clutter, wastage and our carbon footprint — that is the key. So during this season of giving and gifting, I will mull over the following:
- Throughout history, there have been people, the religious/ascetic types, who have given up material comfort to live simply and focus their lives on meditation and other spiritual pursuits.
- Not long ago, I read online about medical studies in India being done an ancient yogi who is able to survive just on breathing and has not eaten or drunk anything for many years.
- A few years ago, I also read about some Western artist who decided to make a symbolic statement by giving/selling all his material possessions away and burning what he could not to restart life afresh with only the clothes on his back.
Perhaps these examples will inspire me to reduce, reuse, recycle more. Perhaps not… An iPad calls, even though I have two laptops and many notebooks to write on…
Merry Christmas, World…
The ‘F’ Word: Thoughts about Use and Abuse
On Thursday evenings, I have to send my mother to church. About 3 hours later, I have to pick her up. In the interim, I arrange meetings with other people or do stuff on my own (e.g. have dinner, do grocery shopping, sit at a fast food joint and read/mark assignments).
Not so long ago, I was quietly sitting by myself at Subway one such Thursday night, nursing an ice lemon tea and trying desperately to mark exam papers to meet a deadline.
Four young men, all friends in their late teens or early twenties, sat at the next table to eat their sandwiches. With typical exaggerated bravado of that testosterone-filled age group, the four were posturing and chatting away loudly about their respective activities and concerns.
I cannot remember the exact content of their discussion. The main thing that drew my attention to them was not so much the level of the noise they were making, but the words that were coming out, especially from one particular young man.
Practically in every other statement that this young man was making, the ‘f’ word in all its grammatical ramifications would pop out. Every 30 seconds or so, he would say the ‘f’ word as liberally as Singlish speakers can pepper their speech with ‘lahs’.
The prudish matron in me wanted to stand up, confront the young man about his public crudity and demand that he be more careful and courteous to others. Unfortunately, caution stepped in. What impact would a stranger really make on the future behaviour of this young man? So I did what most Singaporeans do: minded my own business.
However, the writer/presentation skills aspect of me was appalled by this young man’s mindless usage of one of the strongest words in the English vocabulary. Please understand: I am not against using the ‘f’ word: in fact, I do use it occasionally, and usually to release some kind of heightened emotion at a particularly vexing moment (and usually muttered to myself). If said so casually like the young man did, the word loses its potency with overuse.
I pitied the poor range of this young man’s vocabulary. Imagine when the occasion warrants genuine swearing, what sort of words could the young man use anymore? “F’… “F, F”… “F, F, F”??? How absolutely bland…
Then my imagination ran wild. If only the caregivers of this youth had exercised discipline when he was younger and literally scrubbed his mouth out with a toilet brush every time he uttered the ‘f’ word, perhaps he would have been instilled with better manners and a higher respect for using words appropriately.
Towards 2012 and beyond
It has been a long time since I have written on this blog. The demands of life has continually interfered with my good intentions to write publicly in this fashion. Nevertheless, as the new year approaches, let’s keep a new year’s resolution to maintain this blog properly with new entries weekly.
Other new year resolutions for 2012 (not necessary in priority order):
- I complete my first book of short stories, entitled Dark Things.
- I reach and maintain my ideal weight.
- I read widely and research deeply for my novels to come.
- I demote Cityville within the priorities of my life.
- I sleep by 11 pm and wake by 6 am.
- I write at least 2 hours a day.
- I control my snacking.
- I take proper care of my sinuses.
- I exercise every day in some form or another.
- I am nicer to everyone in my life.
- I manage my time better.
Hmm… Isn’t that a chunky list already? And I haven’t even reached the juicy bits as yet… How I am going to reach/keep/maintain these goals, and the many others not listed: I guess time will tell.
New year resolutions are a very interesting study of a person’s concerns, interests and aspirations in life–a key insight into his/her thinking. What speaks louder: the things that are on the list, or the things that aren’t? If you are reading this and don’t know me, I wonder what kind of impression I would leave on you and how you would be imagining what sort of person I am… Hmm…