the mudpond

It's good to let things breathe in your imagination because often your initial response to it is not the best thought-through response. I savour little glimpses of life. Mine and those of people who turn me sideways and around. Friend or stranger. Even a child. (the world looks different from down there) Sometimes an author, photographer, artist. I let things saturate and incubate here. Hopefully, deeper meanings can percolate up and flower.

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A stray cat.


A Spring in My Step

Part four of a six-part series in a Worldview Meme.

What causes you to get out of bed with a "spring in your step"? (when you don't have something special to look forward to)

Only ONE thing.

And this would cause me to literally SPRING OUT OF BED: the alarm that failed to ring the waking hour.

But once out of bed, there are at least a couple of things that could put a jaunty spring to my step. Maybe even a gleam in my eye.

Citrus. Lemon, lime or orange.

In my morning sip, it’s delightfully uplifting. Brings out the zest in my spirit and the sparkle in my eyes.

In my morning shower and spritz, it's a clean and refreshing fragrance. Invigorating. It can increase my happiness levels by - oh, about 500% percent :)

In my lunch salad. Losing even 5 kilos will definitely lighten my frame enough to let me be-bop all the way to the work, all around the office, all day long ^-^

And then, there's my music of the moment.

Currently, it's the single Number 1 from the Goldfrapp album Supernature.

I think, if you play it loud enough through sufficiently bassy headphones, the pounding bass is enough to put a spring in the step of even the most jaded old grump. The last song that made me feel so irrepressibly bouncy was MJ's bomb track 'Rock With You' from his album Number One.

Oh, something that probably doesn't count as Bucko-Me-Uppo but would defintely evoke, at the end of a long day, a "how lovely is life" mindset would be: the sweet perfume of jasmine or tuber rose floating around me...

... and crisp clean sheets to fall asleep in, in a flush of contentment :)


Eyeballing A Stranger

Part three of a six-part series in a Worldview Meme.

What goes through your mind when you meet the eyes of someone you don't know? How do you act/react?

How I react to strangers depends on who they are: 1) the 'powerful' - mostly adults 2) everybody else.

But first, there are 'actually-powerful' and 'perceived-powerful' people - folks higher up in the line of authority and social hierarchy than I. They both have the potential to make my life miserable; they can cause me untold hardship and pain if they have a reason or mind to. At a mere whim or fancy, they can lift me up or kill my joy.

What goes through my mind and how I react to them are two different things.

I really have to apply a truth-grid mindset to balance the negative, baggage-related, therapy-needing emotional conditioning with positive, freedom-related, value-constructing, and authenticity-producing emotions, flowing from my beautiful and joyous worldview.

Heh! Just invoking a pathetic oppressed-trampled-victim mindset there :P

And then, there are 'projected' powerful people. The peacock-n-turkey types - perpetually puffed up in their own self and imagined importance.

What goes through my mind is, most times, exactly how I react to them. Depending on my mood and the prevailing circumstances this can range from amusement to annoyance, benevolence :) to humouring or disdain to contempt...

Haughty? Well, possibly... :)

And for everyone else, my default emotional response is a feeling of solidarity, of semi-belonging, of companionship. I am 'safe' with kids, I am not 'distant' to a poor person, I am a 'fellow and friend' of a misunderstood teenager, I am a co-griever with a bereaved and broken-hearted parent or spouse. This is the default, pre-cognitive response I STRIVE FOR.

The same, I suspect, is true of the majority of people I know: the meek or fierce, alike.

That said, what goes through my mind when I meet strangers (or preferably, before we meet), I have an algorithm that I try to uniformly apply … a very simple 'script':

If (stranger = powerful): Convert2regular-like-me (powerful stranger), returning Stranger-with-needs-and-pains-like-me;
For All Strangers-with-needs-and-pains-like-me: Do Add.Some.Value.2.them

This algorithm, of course, is a biblical worldview item -- God made us all alike in the basic aspects of human-heart experience. It is only unrelieved pain and unmet needs and betrayed trust that cause us to develop into 'arrogants' and 'elites' and 'calloused, powerful monarchs'…

And that, my dear reader, is the/my peacock-n-turkey version of Her Royal Highness, The Empress Baggie's very spontaneous and unpretensious way of eyeballing a stranger:

The Queen looks at those folks right smack in their eyes and smiles. Most often the smile is returned. It's so pleasant and rewarding.


Giving The Noodles A Break

Part two of a six-part series on a Worldview Meme

What is your mood and mindset when performing mundane and/or repetitive everyday tasks?

My mood varies. Today's comforting ritual could be tomorrow's joyless drudge. A routine that feels fulfilling today may not matter a hill of beans the next. It's just the occasionally-out-of-whack hormonal system.

At some level, I resent having to cook and clean, replenish the pantry, use the bathroom, trim my nails ... etc. So I have to constantly watch my mood and invoke my mindset to interpret these activities more favorably.

At default, the mood is that of mild annoyance, at having to divert precious time away from the fun and novel stuff in my life - blogging is one :) Applying mindset as a correction, I can change my mood to neutral-plus-five-percent gratitude with trace levels of residual-grudging. LOL! Okay, okay, so the mindset correction simply places those events into my larger worldview.

No-brainer tasks help me stay healthy for the fun and novel stuff. They 'ground' me firmly to practical necessities. They also allow time-space for ideas to percolate and grow in the background (which takes time cos I'm a little slow on the take), whereas if I didn't do some of this purely reflexive stuff, my germs of ideas will be doomed to never bloom.

So if it's something that involves order/value-creation (cooking, cleaning, filing) or value-delivery (going with mom to the wet market... ugh! ick!), I try to invoke the 'excellence' mindset. teehee :D But I try to do a quality piece of goodness-work (not perfection or OCD level, lah), but something that I won't later look back on and say: "I wish I would have smiled a bit and done that less grudgingly".

But there are a few mundane tasks I actually and positively enjoy as rituals, but mainly for closure reasons.

I LOVE doing the laundry. I love putting them out to dry and folding them after sniffing deeply their sun-toasted warmth. It somehow FEELS GOOD to see the empty basket and the lines bowing a little under the weight of an assortment of linen, inner/outer wear of all shapes, sizes, textures and colors. When it is ALL DONE, when everything is put away in its proper place and the line relaxes back to its taut state, I feel a deep satisfaction settle in. "It's all good", I tell myself.

And I LOVE washing dishes. I love doing this because it is a task that has a concrete closure point. When it is done, it is DONE. The sink is empty. I have literally washed my hands off a messy task.

Closure is wonderful because it lets me move on to the next thing - unencumbered. Without closure, I feel hobbled, unable to devote my fullest attention and resources to the next thing on the conveyor belt of daily life. Everyday mindless tasks give me a strong sense of accomplishment. They give me the kind of closure I NEVER CAN GET in the vast majority of my brain-n-energy-draining 'main projects' in life.

Many of my files are ALWAYS still 'OPEN', for someone might come up with a pushback that forces me to RE-OPEN the case. These are matters with implications, consequences and ramifications that reach so far out and deep, that closure often becomes an elusive or endless and sometime hopeless endeavor.

Like, my 'Culture & Society' file remains perpetually open because the world changes so fast there. Like, as close as we come to finally owning the car we've been FOREVER paying off, and then, in a blink and a snit, we trade in our 'freedom' for a spanking, brand new car. In place of closure and freedom from one debt, we pick up a whopping, grand new debt - to pay from scratch again.

In an age of endless consumption that keeps us chained to the millstone of debt - probably even to the grave - it is the routine, mindless stuff that helps us stay healthy, happy and sane.

Give the noodles a break, I say :)


Mindset & Philosophy for Everyday Life

Part one of a six-part series on a Worldview Meme

What is your constant mindset and philosophy for everyday life?
(when not having a bad day)

In most of my waking moments I am most conscious of being in the companionship of God. He is -- invisible, of course -- a non-judgmental observer of my life. No weird 'mystical' aspect to this, generally. Just a quiet understanding of that reality.

We are in constant 'conversation'. I ask Him for insight. I share my observations, expressing always, my confusion or disappointment. It is a very, very warm and accepting, and constructive companionship.

I find that He constructively seeks my growth and development. Never harsh or abusive when I fail or when I am stubborn and despite the countless missed chances and resisted graces. Not even when I have my many tiny moments of micro-malice.

This makes my daily life exceptionally 'safe' and supportive. I am, accordingly, NEVER alone. I am always with a Wise Friend and (true) parent.

A spiritual expression of my philosophy for everyday life would be that I attempt to:
~ honor Him and what He loves (as He has honored me with His companionship and a life of significance)
~ please Him with true growth of heart, love and integrity.
~ enjoy Him and all His blessings (and difficulties) that present themselves to me each particular day.

Otherwise, I try (perhaps struggle is more apt!) to add a slice of value to everyone whom I come in contact with that day, wherever feasible.
~ be it in doing a good job...
~ encouraging others - whose mindset I almost certainly - and by necessity - impact by my words and actions, both casually and carelessly.
~ exhibiting non-demanding behavior,
~ being empathetic to those in suffering,
and/or being appreciative to those who add some value to MY life that day.

I think, I hope this philosophy might afford me the best of two approaches:
~ goal-oriented -- to maximize the value given and/or received that day;
~ life/warmth-oriented -- to ensure that my interactions are 'fuzzily human' and not just 'machine-level efficient'.

The balance of warmth and efficiency is important to me. I would forever be a machine, if it were only 'goal-oriented', and I would be forever miserable if ubiquitous-warmth always precluded tangible/visible achievement.

Uhm... okay, all these, I try... and I try... to do in my everyday life. As you might imagine, I don't always succeed.


Contagious Thinks

THAT MEME. I should never have done it.

Why did I bite when I'd always ignored memes which to me, always seem too much effort for fluff? Because it bit me. Randomness coupled with minimum effort requirement. Nothing could be more alluring to an idle and lazy mind. Mine, that is.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Randomness by itself never has a snowball's chance in hell with me. Da Ma Cai will never get a sen of my hard-earned ringgit.

But bundle it up with minimum effort, twiddling thumbs and time to kill, what's to lose? On the contrary, when synapses simply refuse to fire up the neural network, it's a blog post.

But I really should have known better.

As if the first one were a virus, three days ago, another one popped up in my mailbox. This one was long. It came bearing questions that require unpacking. Me being me, long and seemingly innocuous questions always trigger a mouse-click. And here's the catch :

Memes are contagious ideas, all competing for a share of our mind in a kind of Darwinian selection.

Ah so. A survival of the fittest of ideas. I certainly have seen how that applies to other people's blogs. And I can certainly see, how it is now insinuating itself into mine. Sigh

A friend recently started re-thinking his worldview and chose to share his responses with friends, in meme fashion.

Well, of course, being far from lazy or idle this past week, had I felt so inclined, I could have done such navel-gazing the web way. But then, I never obsess about my navel - not any more, anyway - since my belly went under covers the day my dress size got promoted.

So why did I bite? How did it manage to bite me?

You see, my genes betray me. I'm a sucker for reciprocity. It'll be the death of my anonymity, layer by layer - one day.

Anyway, having expended much think-time and effort on this meme, I might as well blog it - for whatever it's worth. Who knows, it might be contagious enough to reward me with little glimpses of other people’s worldviews.


There are six questions to which I will post my personal responses; one per post, in the coming days. One by one, because the depth of thought my friend attached to each response, was well… contagious.

1. What is your constant mindset and philosophy for everyday life? (when not having a bad day)

2. What is your mood and mindset when performing mundane and/or repetitive everyday tasks?

3. What goes through your mind when you meet the eyes of someone you don't know? How do you act/react?

4. What causes you to get out of bed with a "spring in your step"? (when you don't have something special to look forward to)

5. Are there any people that cause you unease for no apparent offense performed? How do you deal with this?

6. What goes through your mind and how do you react to a perceived indirect insult during a casual conversation?

If this meme interests you, feel free to pick it up for your own blog. Alternatively, you are most welcome to do it with me in the comment box. I'd be most honored :)


Activism - How To Conduct Yourself

AS ANYONE WHO has encountered the challenge of getting things done would tell you, in business as in real life, you don't bring about sustained, meaningful change by edict. As a leader, you need to persuade, enthuse, and engage people in sufficient numbers to change behaviours, laws or processes. In business-speak, it's called Change Management.

And activism is Change Management writ large.

One of the gurus on this subject is John Kotter. In his book Leading Change he describes an effective process to getting people to do different things or things differently.

Seasoned and accomplished environmental activist Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada has writen a wonderful primer called How to Be an Activist that essentially uses Kotter's process.

Here are her hints for how to conduct yourself as an activist:

1. Refuse to be intimidated. If you are told that a subject is too technical or scientific for you to understand, don't believe it.

2. Be creative! Every campaign and issue has its own dynamic.

3. Don't take no for an answer. Be persistent, the squeaky wheel.

4. Ask lots of questions. Get to the bottom of issues. Do your homework.

5. Use the telephone. It is a great research tool.

6. Be unfailingly polite. Being persistent is not the same thing as being rude.

7. Leave no stone unturned. Ask people for help.

8. Give public credit and thanks.

9. You can accomplish anything, if you don't care who gets the credit.

10. Remember that politics is also personal. Watch out for burn-out. You'll need the support of friends and family. Build love into your campaigns.

This may seem simple and obvious. It is, and it works - if Elizabeth May's reputation is anything to go by. The main reason you don't see huge changes being wrought every day is human nature. And often times, change has to begin with the activist, before he can himself become a real change agent.

As Michael Moore's unfortunate speech at the Oscars so effectivley illustrated, sometimes how you do things is as important as what you do to bring about needed change.


Catching Flies With Honey

"Think twice before trying to take us on because we will fight back.
I will fight back."

Put that way, Peter Tan's
warning gives rise to at least two perceptions. One: Abled people are attacking the disabled. Two: Activists, disabled or abled and the entire disabled community are odd and angry.

Peter, prominent paraplegic blogger and "current pro-tem President of a rights-based association for people with disabilities" is ANGRY. You'd have to be real stupid to have to think twice about that. He's FURIOUS. LIVID. OUTRAGED.

And I would be the last person to dispute that.

But I wonder what exactly it is he's actually angry about. And why. Who is taking him on, for what? But for now, I'd just like to keep a sharp focus on his fury rather than the 'what' and 'why' of it.


In that strong warning, Peter, who has "worked with NGOs for people with disabilities for the past fifteen years" does not sound like he cares how anyone feels about it. About the disabled and/or actvists looking odd and angry, I mean.


If I may just think about it, aloud, here...

If Peter's mission is to change people's attitudes, then unfortunately he MUST care about what society at large (comprising mostly the able-bodied taxpayers who 'fund' those toilets ) thinks. He must change our perceptions for the sake of the disabled community. Thus he must make sure that his words -- letters, reports, interviews (to the authorities, sponsors, institutions, charitable and caring public and the media) -- are always rational, to the point, and preferably concerned or disappointed rather than outraged.


We all know that anger tends to put people on the defensive whereas concern and a rational argument can usually get a decent hearing. So, for the sake of the disabled, Peter Tan MUST be heard. The thing is, he will be heard most clearly NOT when he is shouting loudest and issuing warnings, BUT when he is communicating in such a way that people are willing to listen.

Oh. I believe I've just stumbled upon the 'why' of his anger.

These rights are in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Disabilities and is recognised by governments that are signatories to it. As I have often pointed out, these are rights, not privileges."

As a reaction to the lack of disabled-friendly access, the not-so-barrier-free environment -- do pardon that clunky sentence showing my ignorance, but you understand don't you, that I really coudn't hear anything above all that angry yelling -- very strong feelings (not actions, mind you) are understandable and entirely justified.

Perhaps it's his inability to deal with his anger in a constructive manner (the frustration) that leads him to create a raw dichotomy between oppressors and oppressed people. It's probably the same inability to manage his anger that has been a great hindrance (the futility-induced rage) to the advancement of the rights of the whatever association (if you heard him name it, please tell me) he represents, I think.

Over time (mind you, fifteen years is a long, long time to be unsuccessful), people tend to deal with their anger in different ways. Some take to protesting, some to screaming, hatred, and sarcasm. Others disconnect from society and surround themselves with only like-minded people, seeing society as a large conspiracy against the disabled.

Well, we all know how Peter Tan deals with it. We've heard that IT WORKS.

Now, I don't really think this does much to move society towards being more compassionate.

I sincerely believe Peter Tan needs a different approach. He needs to think twice before challenging someone, for instance, to dive into the pool so he can actually experience the same disability, sitting in a wheelchair. It's guaranteed NOT to engender compassion.

Perhaps Peter could TRY to READ/LISTEN CAREFULLY to what people are really saying. He could try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor. It might make it easier for him to continue in activism and to avoid self-righteous fundamentalism. All this would make it possible to interact positively and constructively with others. Which will make him a real and more effective agent for social change.

"As someone who would have to consider making provisions for the handicapped or underpriviledged, I would rather I act on my own sense of responsibility, not charity, than to be thrust with some rule that artificially specifies how I should make those provisions."
- Whatever said here -

Forgive the animal cliché but, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". It is human nature to care more about pleasing a friend who has been wronged than an adversary. The reader of your blog is only human.

Persuade and convince, Peter. Don't alienate.

Related: Illumining, Stand Up But Don't Lose It

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