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.


Orange Comfort

MY BELOVED IS gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices,
to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
Song of Solomon 6:2

I am missing someplace and the special people who are there, rather badly. For comfort, I sought the tranquility of a nearby plant nursery.

This lovely shrubby Orange Jasmine tree with its dense crown of dark, glossy pear-shaped leaflets and heavily fragrant flowers was simply begging to be noticed.

Murraya Paniculata
Posted by Hello

It was difficult to walk within 10 feet of this plant in flower and not be seduced by the enticing fragrance of the small orange-like blossoms, like the bees are. Likewise, birds will find the bright, decorative, red berries that follow later, irresistable.

Oh, and on the way home, I also picked up some Orange Oreos which are of course, not flowers. But they are oddly, also comforting.


Chill Out, My Fellow Bloggers

CAN YOU IMAGINE a society in which everyone records their innermost feelings and thoughts on a computer, and then proceeds to interact with others in the real world like a soulless automaton? I can, and the vision is nothing other than chilling.

This is nearly a year old. Nevertheless, still very relevant, I think.

Be not afraid
of the Roar of Silence.
There is no God of Blogs
to smite you.
Take a few days off.
You are not paid to do this.


Voyeurs, Us All

THE INTERESTING THING about blogs is how we are permitted to peer into other people’s lives. More interestingly, they are willing exhibitionists. I remember a time when reading someone else’s dairy would have been the ultimate intrusion, invasion even, of their privacy.

How many blogs do you read a day? How many would qualify one as a blog junkie? I reckon I
peek into the lives of 10 or so total strangers on a daily basis. Not enough to be considered a junkie, I think. But I digress.

These strangers permit us to peep through their blog-windows through which we see all kinds of things. Mostly, it’s a glimpse of a small part of their lives. Some share their political views. Others talk about work, faith, relationships or non-relationship.

For some people, a blog is used to expose thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears that the person can’t (or won’t) share with others in person.

"I can feel connected to others who are like minded.
When I can read what others think and deal with,
it validates some of my own struggles and thoughts."

And often, they bare all. Whether in graphic detail or shrouded in ambiguity that usually end up (paradoxically) revealing rather than concealing. When they do, it looks a bit like they are doing a nudie run from the shower to the bedroom

"I would die if my friends/family know I own this blog."

And I feel like a peeping tom.

This morning, I read one person tell of the heart break of being the number 2 wife, another shared the more intimate details of last night’s date, a third shared of a faith crisis, a fourth shared his anguish of losing a loved one, and another posted a digital photo of a rash, perhaps in hope of an online diagnosis. All that quite apart from the usual angstier-than-thou gang.

Today is only a so-so day. Some days it gets more graphic and 'entertaining'.

I wonder what makes people share such intimate details about their lives. What might be the impact of sharing such personal details in such a public way.

"I'm not sure I needed to know that."
... was one blogger’s response to an out-of-the-blue (Freudian?) slip on a funeral for a cherry.

At the same time, I wonder what makes people (including most of us) want to read about the personal crises, questioning faith and rashes of complete strangers?

"I find it compelling, as i jump from blog to blog...
of people i know... the ones of people i wish i knew ...
people i hope to never meet but i find very interesting to read about.
[…] So from blog to blog, you skim along. Looking at the occassional webcam,
catching a moment that someone never intended to show.
But they did put a lot of effort into showing it, didn't they?"

Everyday we're bombarded by people baring their all. And we barely raise an eyebrow. We are a voyeuristic society. We clamor for the inside world, to see the real lives of others, yet at the same time are becoming more and more numb to it all.

If it’s easier to be vulnerable to a computer than to a fellow human, would people eventually forget how to interact with each other altogether? What happens a few years from now when everyone has a blog, and use it as the only place in which they candidly express themselves?


Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN STATEMENT: "The Church in Rome and in various parts of the world, is invited to give filial thanks and make a fervent supplication to God to obtain for the new Roman Pontiff, who will be given the Petrine pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman, copious graces for his ministry for the good of the entire Church."

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC church enters into a new era today with the inauguration of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the new spiritual leader of a 2,000 year old faith. The mass for the solemn Inauguration of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI will be celebrated at 4pm (Malaysian time) this evening in St Peter's Square.

The open air Mass is expected to draw 500,000 pilgrims. Before celebrating the rite, during which cardinals will embrace the Pope and exchange the "Kiss of Peace", Benedict will visit the tomb of St Peter. During the ceremony, he will receive the Fisherman's Ring and the pallium - a narrow stole of white wool embroidered with six crosses.

After the mass, he will be driven around in a special vehicle - the Vatican announced it will be a different vehicle from the "popemobile" John Paul II used.

Benedict XVI
Posted by Hello

Let's join the religious and secular leaders in our country and the rest of the world, in celebrating the inauguration of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, a brilliant theologian, a humble servant of the Lord, a holy man who has promised to pursue peace, justice, and promote the value of life.

Viva il Papa!

Tune in to CNN or BBC to witness this historic moment.
Books, Essays & Articles by Pope Benedict XVI


Piss & Moan Club

Things just suck, people are stupid.

I'm such a perfectionist; failure is worse than death, less than stellar is terrible.

*SOB* *SOB* I'm better off dead.

Life never unfolds the way I want, I'm such a loser.

*SNIFF* Life shouldn't be this hard, What did I do to deserve this?

Feeling complete and total despair settling on your shoulders, even as you rise from bed each morning…

* SIGH* What a joyless, tedious, striving treadmill life is.

Oh wait... what about the desolation and emptiness that envelopes your soul when you slip in the bathroom...

WAAH!! what can possibly go right when you're down and out?

Doom and Gloom
Grim and Bleak
Wretched and miserable beyond description...
I'm old, broke and fat...
unlovely and unloved.
... Life is TRULY terrible

Aaahh... depression, isn't it grand?

Piss & Moan Club
Posted by Hello

Please, please, read this story.

It's a story to make you feel both truly pathetic and truly blessed

Life is so unfair...
... whinge... whine... moan...groan...

Snap out of it, will ya?


Who Are You?

I am the cook, housekeeper and mother of the nations.
Who am I?
I am Eve, a formation of God’s last creation,
wife to Adam and best known for eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
But still I am more…

I am Woman

Besides, I don't think Adam and Doris has the right ring to it" Posted by Hello

If someone asked you who you are, what would you say?

Maybe you'd say that you're the light of your parents’ lives, a pesky baby sister, a wonderful lover, stay-at-home mom, a wife, a career woman, a bitchy boss, a Sunday school teacher, a single parent, a great friend... yada... yada..

But what happens when those labels are removed?

Can you answer the question, "Who are you?" without giving yourself a label?


Viva il Papa!

This fly was ZZzzzzz when in the early hours of this new day (locally), white smoke puffs signaled and bells tolled in Vatican City.

Habemus Papam!

Joseph Ratzinger...
... aka Cardinal No,
… Pope Benedict XVI
… 264th successor to St Paul
and the first Germanic pope in 1,000 years delivered his first Urbi at Orbi ("for the city and for the world") papal blessing, to chants of Viva il Papa (long live the Pope) in St Peters Square.

Viva il Papa
Posted by Hello

The name Benedict comes from the Latin word for "blessing" and the last Pope bearing the name, Benedict XV, reigned during World War I. Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his first mass 3 a.m. ET in the Sistine Chapel, where he was elected less than 24 hours earlier.

As Rome and the Catholic world rejoices, world leaders extend their good wishes
here. You may post yours here.

I too, pray this "Pope of Blessings" will build on John Paul II's substantial work in reconciliation and peace. God's grace and blessings be upon you always, Papa.


Oh, To Be A Fly...

Amid fervent prayers of the faithful
... amid rife and intense speculation as to who is currently in the lead.
... amid bookmakers notching up odds on possible candidates.
... and amid the tussle between the progressives and the conservatives.

Who will be the next Pope?

Oh, to be a fly in the
Sistine Chapel, where at this very moment, 115 red-hatted Roman Catholic cardinals with their scarlet sashes and pectoral crosses are huddled in conclave, electing a new Pope.

I love
Rennaisance art.

Oh, to be a fly up above, around the ceiling of the Pope's personal chapel. Buzzing around
Michelangelo’s bunch of famed frescoes. 600 square yards of rennaisance art, every inch done by his own hand, showing the history of the world before the birth of Jesus.

Creation of Adam
Posted by Hello

Oh, to be a fly on the Creation of Adam, hovering over their excellencies, heads bowed and brows knitted over the "Eligo in summum pontificem" slips, casting their ballots, one by one, and counting... who will be the next pope?

Oh, to be a fly on the altar wall of Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo himself seems to question the goodness of man. In the Last Judgement where no one is smiling, and Christ’s terrifying figure the dominates the room. Where the dead at the lower left leave their graves and prepare to be judged. Or on the left side of the painting where the righteous, on Christ's right hand ascend to the glories of Heaven. Or on the other side where the wicked are hurled down to Hell where demons wait to torture them. Or with Charon, who waits below to ferry the wicked souls of the damned to Hell.

At the time of posting, Black Smoke, No Pope yet…

Oh, to be a
fly in the Sistine Chapel

*sigh* Toughy lucky, little fly.... they’ve
swept the bugs.

Guess I'll just have to settle for buzzing around my TV monitor and await a
white puff of smoke signalling Habemus Papam!

Take Care Not to be A Boiled Frog

WELL, THE RAINS are here again. There are signs of new life in the pond. The water lettuce is starting to sprout and the water lily has several leaves floating already and yesterday, had a flower on it. Today, there are honey bees buzzing and butterflies fluttering around.

It was raining outside when I was reading Christopher Brookmyre’s "Boiling A Frog" yesterday. Tiny froglets from the pond had jumped up onto the patio to stay out of the downpour. They were less than an inch long... and almst transparent. They were just so cute.

Food for thought...

It's been twenty days since I hopped onto the blogging scene。What a wonderful world blogosphere is. You can croak endlessly about anything and everything. And hop from subject to subject, and, unfettered by borders or rules, choose to ignore reason, rhyme or time.

A couple of days ago, I decided to venture out of the bullrushes here. A leap and *sproing* … I landed in a cacophonic community of every conceivable croak of every variation of decibel, pitch and every degree of articulation skill. It's just like a busy street bazaar. Not unlike our noisily delightful pasar malams. Conversations spill endlessly all over the place and there are plenty many choices. Everything is just a hop-skip-jump-click away: trivial and weighty matters, overviews and reviews, rants and raves, observations and nonsensical chatter.

Here, a frog can eat as many flies as it likes while reading every pondering, every lament, every hope, every dream, every despair, every trial and tribulation, every triumph and despair, every drama, obsession and fantasy that arrives in a ping.

Fame or notoriety or maybe even infamy may follow. Maybe one or may be even all three of them are desirable and to be sought after. The medium is the massage. The pleasant warmth of affirmation when your visitor stats spike, and incremental comments in your blog tell you, you are part of hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of people’s daily blog diet.

So now, I know how to get the word out, I can't be silenced anymore. LOL!! :D

Wait a minute.

After this, you might not so fancy finding yourself in other people's stories. With the proliferation of blogs, it's easy to see how so many people get caught up in the movie in their minds.

It's a potential
boiling frog scenario.

boiling frog
Posted by Hello

Losing touch with reality can lead to engaging in a kind of virtual anti-social behavior. This, as Jon Katz points out in Media Rants, is the dark side to the anonymity of on-line conversation. Precisely because people cannot be held accountable for their words, they are much more likely to be verbally abusive. It is far easier to attack someone and question personal motives when the social consequences of face-to-face verbal assaults are removed. The very vitriolic nature of some conversations tend to run counter to equality, and to the highly desirable but sometimes warped notion of freedom of speech. It can intimidate people into a spiral of silence.

We are what we blog. Absolutely.

Take care not to be a boiled frog in your own blog.


On Your Marks, Get Set...

IT'S BEEN A slow day, no bees a-buzzin'.

this one showed up. It fired up my synapses.

It's one of the most universally understood communication ever
. It’s how, when I do something stupid, I express my own light hearted regret, a wistfulness. The Japanese though, translates it to more than an annoyed grunt: “damned fool!".

I've had more than a couple of
d’oh moments this week. But thanks to him, I don’t feel like a damned fool. He embodies the possibility that, foolish and stupid as we are, we can still be saved, not as angels but as ourselves. We can be loved for being the losers we are.

A modern-day Job, a malodorous flop, a sly work-shy cowardly loser, Homer Simpson says it for us all --

Posted by Hello


That (taken) Life

In A Hole In One, a young unmarried woman blogs about her accidental and unwanted pregnancy. Unflinchingy honest, it is a moving and compelling story. The blog chronicles her innermost thoughts, feelings and circumstances surrounding her decision. Her anxieties, her fear, her sadness, her helplessness and uncertainty are palpable:

"... the trembling sadness, in my voice as I asked for abortion counseling. (Funny, I can't bear to type the word abortion. Abortion. I can say it before I can type it. Abortion. I must face that fact and use that word, with all of its emotionally charged connotations and meanings.)"

Her decision to terminate the four-week pregnancy is all the more painful and shattering because of The Irony.

"I am to be the godmother of my best friend's child. If their IVF is successful, the due date would be around the same time as mine would have been"

Her honest reflections crystallise a deep and profound sense of guilt, leaving little doubt that a decision to abort is rarely ever freely decided. It is a decision that asks many, many tough questions.

"Sometimes I entertain the possibility of keeping it. The entire process should be joyful, not so full of sadness and heaviness like it has been. Would that change, had my decision been different? I don't know. Perhaps I still have time to decide otherwise. But I suspect that if I decided to continue the pregnancy, I would be even more distracted and scared. In termination, the end result is certain. In continuation, there is no end result. It just keeps going, the changes, the surprises, the fear and uncertainty."

There is no end to the anguish of taking a life.

"Damn it, stop sobbing! The abortion was your idea"
Posted by Hello

Women who have had an abortion can also be afflicted by grief, guilt, and a tremendous sense of personal loss. Many carry the trauma for years afterwards. According to a close friend who went through it years ago: "The loss of a child by abortion can form a hole in one's heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill the emptiness."

Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, a book by Theresa Burke and David Reardon is filled with profound insights into the mind and emotions of those who have been wounded by this decision. Their grief remains largely hidden – forbidden really – from public view.

A dear friend confided the other day:

"Two decades later, and I’m a father. My children are perfectly formed with inquiring minds and a devilish sense of humour. They are at least as precious to me as children are to any dad capable of limitless love and affection. They love me, they tell me often. They adore their mother too. Our lives would be utterly bleak without their constant presence, their chirpiness and even their occasional tantrums. But how to reconcile this happiness with the reality that an unborn baby, no doubt also perfectly formed and capable of great things, was sacrificed because abortion was the most attractive option at that time?"


Duh! Me idiot again!!

There I was happily tinkering with Picasa2 and Hello and pleased as punch when all the pictures made it to the right places in the right proportions. Well, sort of.
Then lo and behold, I discovered, after all that republishing, I lost all the comments in A Vicious Cycle and Easier to Forgive or be Forgiven?
Bummer! :(

Little Touches to the Heart

IN THE MOOD for a small snack or a feast of 'small eats'? An authentic dim-sum brunch, artfully prepared, is one of life's great pleasures. The variety is numerous, the style novel.

Every other Sunday, my family and I troop down to a dim-sum palace to indulge in this grand Chinese smorgasboard of appetiser-like dishes served amid much clatter and chatter. Breakfast, lunch, brunch or tea, we go there for the ambience as much as for the food.

Inside, Chinese waitresses push steaming carts loaded with a variety of delicacies. The room bustles with the activity of roving carts wending their way among tables, calls for attention and clattering of plates.

Tiny trios of little delights cradled in small bamboo baskets arrive on these trundling pushcarts。

little bites, tiny delights
Posted by Hello

A spectacular assortment of delightful little 'touches to the heart’. You'll be spoilt for choice:

... Divinely delectable dumplings, succulent roast meats, soft buns hiding tasty fillings, petite savoury pastries, clams and stuffed shitakes bathed in lovely sauces...
and other scrumptious little bites ranging from springy meatballs to desserts of sweet and savoury puddings.

I always start with something traditionally Chinese – segments of yu-tiao or sesame cakes dunked in a bowl of sweet soya bean milk. The yu-tiao if not done well can be sad and soggy. Luckily, this joint rises above mediocrity. Its yu-tiao are long crunchy lengths of airy perfection and the sesame cakes, multi-layered and pillow-soft.

The classic har-gou is a must have. Its delicately thin translucent skin contrasts subtly with the sea-saltiness of the shrimp. An artistic variation comes wrapped in seaweed and topped with a dollop of salmon caviar. Oh, you simply must try the deep-fried seafood roll wrapped in seaweed as well. They look like cigars coated in flakes of batter. They burst with the light aromatics of coriander.

Their petite cha-sao-baos pits tender chunks of roast pork against white doughy covers for a touch of sweetness. For a bigger bite, try the da-bao. Another solid filler is the traditional Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf, a squat bundle of meaty flavoured sticky rice. It’s definitely the thing to go for if you haven't eaten for a week.

Oh, and do be sure to leave some room for the sou-bings (deep fried puffs). And wu-gok wears a crispy flaky shell hiding a moist filling of yam, pork and dried shrimp. Its radish cousin has a skin done to delicate perfection, each layer almost transparently thin and fragile to the touch.

My favourites are the Fried Buns with Leeks and Scallion Pancakes. The buns are finger-sandwich-size crimped pockets filled with leeks, chives, eggs, dried shrimp and dainty rice noodles. The pancakes arrive in two neat little triangular stacks. Each piece is so thin it’s hard to count exactly how many there are, but I savour the chewy pancakes accented by burst of scallion flavour, I just wish the stack never run out. These are really the scallion pancakes to compare others by.

Dan-tats are also a must. For dessert, I find the mango and melon soup - a cold dessert with a cloudlike sponge cake – a heavenly delight. Divinely delicious!

Remember though, good things come in tiny packages. A little touch-to-the-heart is an indulgence to savour every other week. A daily affair would simply be heart-stopping.


A Broader Bandwidth

FOR OVER A WEEK, I have been feeling the sort of buzzing in my head that comes from a thought circling and circling with nowhere to go; just like a bee in a jar.

I distinctly remember reading somewhere, a blog entry on feeling melancholic..... . Whereupon, I let loose my little cursor, my insect prosthesis, buzzing around the web to gather bits of information. But when I returned, that whimsy post had vanished.

Then, in the wake of two death watches and with no place to go, I decided to set the restless bee free in The Cruelest Month. Despite a shot of optimism, the bee stayed. Six entries later, it remained there, like a plane on a runway not knowing it’d been cleared for takeoff. It crawled on the stalk legs around the curved perimeters of the glass as if the world had shrunk to that jar. I tapped the glass, even laid the jar on its side. Cheeky butts, shake-your-booty, jiggle your tummy, that crazy bee stayed put. The buzzing persisted. By now, it’s no longer that one bee, there is a whole swarm of them.

ALRITE, BUZZzzz OFF, YOU LOT! Posted by Hello

:) ;P :D ~_~ ... and, here we go...

Snowflakes are miracles of beauty. Every crystal is a masterpiece of design and no one design is ever repeated. Everyone, like a snowflake, is unique. Or as Byron put it, "differently organized". "We each move within the constraints of our temperaments and live up only partially to its possibilities." says Dr Kay Redfield Jamison.

Melancholy is an aspect of a lifelong emotional disposition. The melancholic has a broader bandwith than the average person; a curse and sometimes a blessing. He (generic he) has a temperament that longs for heaven so that life on this earth always will be a disappointment. He has more accurate view of the world around him, than one who has a sunnier temperament.

He experiences things intensely, he feels acutely. He sees beauty in more things. Yet, when faced with any given challenge, he tends to go to his emotional default setting. His mystical and melancholic mood notices the world in poignant detail, and only hints at personal torments.
If I could explain
at length
the real causes
which have contributed
to increase
this perhaps
temperament of mine
this Melancholy
which hath made me a by-word
nobody would wonder
but this is impossible without doing much mischief

It is melancholics who know best how to read the world. Or rather, it is the world that yields itself to the melancholic’s scrutiny, as it does to no one else's.

"There is melancholy in the wind and sorrow in the grass", mourned award-winning American journalist, Charles Kuralt.

Well, as Eliot so astutely observed: “after such knowledge, what forgiveness?."

I have a friend who was a crazy bee. He stayed put in a marriage and even when his jar was tapped, he didn’t leave. He had to wait until the time was right for him, just as that bee was doing, for eventually, it will leave its captivity and roam free. Sometimes, the door is open wide, and we just buzz about, bounce into the glass walls around us, and wonde
r how we might reach the other side without stepping foot outside our comfort zone.

Your default position grows out of who you are and how
you think. When we are so tied up in negative patterns we may be strengthening our negative emotions without knowing we are doing so. When we are unaware, when we are sad, depressed, or unhappy, we are like bees trapped in a jar. They buzz around in restless patterns, with no way of escape. Yet we are not completely trapped. Our emotional problems and negative attitudes are in one way part of our learning process.

I personally find it more instructive to hear about life and living from such brilliant but wounded souls, than from those rise-and-shine types who eat properly, exercise regularly and go to bed early. When you are feeling miserable, the latter lot can only add to your misery when, with the best of intentions, they tell you to "snap out of it".


Tummy Talk: shake your booty!

NOT TOO LONG ago, bottom cracks were the new cleavage and, tops became so tiny they blatantly displayed a woman’s double delights. Then late last year, fashionistas told us hip-hugging jeans have headed north and too-tiny tops, south, and there is not a flash in between anymore.

I thought bellies and bottoms had gone back under wraps.

A jog over here told me, apparently not.

shake your booty! Posted by Hello

Tummy Talk:
Hips are swingin' and some men start to drool
And for dressing I've got a flair
Singing', hey jiggle, jiggle bellybutton in the middle
There's a jewel in the navel right there

This beautiful dance celebrates the belly. “It also provides a channel for women to express their beauty and sexiness."

Belly dancing is suitable for all ages and body types. Some of the moves are MEANT to make your fat jiggle. If you have:

... big boobs, floppy tummies, bottomless belly buttons, generous love handles, wide hips and fat arse with dimply orange butt cheeks.…

... it's a fun and sexy way to lose the jiggle. Just let your abs do those belly rolls.

Belly dancing is also a very good cardiovascular exercise. Good for your waist, for nice curves because it involves every major muscle group in your body. Breaking the mold of linear exercise - for example sit-ups – the circular motion is said to promote the circulation of blood, in turn enhancing flexibility. Frequent low-impact contraction of muscles is supposed to improve posture, burns calories and, in turn reduces stress and prevents disease. There are also mental health benefits: an improved sense of wellbeing, elevated body image and self-esteem.
Tummy Talk:
...hey jiggle, jigglebelly
button in the middle...

Uhmm... first, let me conquer the squeams


Easier to Forgive or be Forgiven?

WITTINGLY OR UNWITTINGLY, we have to see forgiveness in relation to justice, which is just as difficult to define as forgiveness?

Is it easier to forgive or be forgiven?

But first, my attempt to address (somewhat) some of the basic issues raised:

  • the validity of forgiveness lies in repentance.
  • Lewis Smedes' argument attempts "something that is too unnatural and demanding too much at one go from normal mortals"
  • forgiveness in relation to justice
  • forgiveness "foisted as an unconditional fast forward response in real life - even getting foisted upon criminals!"

The moral triumphs and failures of leaders carry a greater weight and volume than those of us, ordinary folk. The late Pope John Paul II - a spiritual leader whose influence will linger for generations - is widely perceived to embody and personify something utterly central to what Christianity is supposed to be. In his forgiveness of Mehmet Ali Agca, we see morality magnified. He is, you might say, a MODEL on forgiveness.

Posted by Hello

John John Paul II forgave Agca even as he was rushed off to the hospital that day in 1981- long before their meeting two and a half years later. We do not know that Agca was impenitent when they met in his prison cell.

"what we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me...
I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned,
and who has my complete trust."

We see Muslims ask forgiveness of one another during Hari Raya. As well, in Judaism, forgiveness is seen as one of the principal attributes of God that people are expected to emulate. Certainly, Christians see forgiveness as the absolute core of the religion. And, doubtless, Buddhists, Hindus and people of other faiths also see forgiveness as a much valued virtue.

And from a non-religious viewpoint, what virtues mesh with the ethic of sympathy? Forgiveness would definitely be an important candidate.

In Judaism, for example, certain offenses are seen as not being forgivable. A severe offense like murder would certainly qualify. Relatedly, Judaism teaches forgiveness is somewhat dependent on repentance, that only the actual person who was offended has the right to forgive. On Yom Kippur, the Jewish Holiday - Jews traditionally go around asking people for forgiveness before the holiday, because Judaism teaches that God cannot forgive you for things that you did to other people, UNLESS they forgive you first. So forgiveness is not really free as such.

Which is not to say Christianity offers forgiveness mechanistically or without thinking.

Forgiveness is not something that can be granted lightly, as if the wrong done were of little consequence. Damage has been done, someone has suffered physical injury, or just as likely an injury to the soul . . . ingratitude, the rejection or betrayal of love, angry words that rankle in the mind. The person who is determined to forgive has to swallow a bitter pill. He has to remain steadfast in his love, even when it has been spurned.

Something too is demanded of the person forgiven. Forgiveness involves two parties; the forgiver and the forgiven. An acknowledgement of the wrong that has been done and a genuine repentance is required.

When one party has the grace to offer forgiveness, a great onus is laid on the other party to respond. For to accept forgiveness means to confess one's guilt or share of guilt and to repent. We have to humble ourselves to be forgiven.

Do we have to see forgiveness in relation to justice, which is just as difficult to define as forgiveness?


A Vicious Cycle

WHILE TERRI'S STRUGGLE to live has ended, the bitter feud between her parents and husband rages on. This tragedy is so depressingly and dauntingly never-ending.
Hours after Terri Schiavo was "allowed to die", Michael Schiavo is reportedly in need of a feeding tube himself - well, apparently. Two days later, on America Online, a California woman threatened to kill him and Judge George Greer for their deadly decisions. There was a bitter divide over her funeral and burial. The judge granted Schiavo permission to have his wife cremated and her ashes buried in Pennsylvania.
Personally, I dislike everything in life involving the severance - in anger and unforgiveness - of attachments through which the medium of sympathy and understanding once flowed. If the dead could speak, I'd like to think that Terri is saying:

"I have gone beyond your small concerns.
I know now what you cannot know."

Despite the bitterly disputed outcome, who can possibly not agree that "Terri had a right to have her last and final moments on this earth be experienced in a spirit of love and not acrimony"?

a vicious cycle Posted by Hello

Now is definitely a time for words of reconciliation and of healing. It is time to break the vicious cycle. This can happen when we cease holding our breaths for what goes around to come around.

This unequalled lesson on forgiveness, though indisputably tough to follow, is nevertheless instructive and without doubt, an inspiration in seeking peace - for ourselves and the deceased.

Rest in peace, Terri Schiavo.

Orange Butt Cheeks

BEAUTY, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

It is equally not.

Media images determine in a large part what is accepted as beauty in our society. As feminist icon and author Germaine Greer says in her book 'The Whole Woman' (Knopf, 1999):

“Every woman knows that, regardless of all her achievements,
she is a failure if she is not beautiful."

And if you had even just a passing glance of The Sun yesterday morning, (or access its e-paper), you will surely know she was dead right. For even as you escape hairiness, you will fall foul of cellulite.

The Sun, April 8 2005. Outside Front Cover
Posted by Hello

Cellulite is subcutaneous fat, pure and simple. It keeps women warm and softens the body contours for a feminine physique. If fat builds up, it often dimples. Whether or not your fat dimples is hereditary. Some women have tight smooth fat, some women have softer fat.

Once upon a time, men and women adored dimply fat. It took 20th -century marketing tactics to render it disgusting. As a way of inducing people to buy products of uncertain efficacy, women in particular have been subtly but surely infected with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Among the perma-youth of stars who obsess about their imagined ugliness are Cher, Goldie Hawn, Demi Moore and Madonna. Sitting on top of this heap of distorted self-images is of course, Peter Pan.

Criminalising cellulite, manufacturers come up with Viagra-like cures to make a bundle out of women’s carefully cultivated disgust with their own bodies. A condition that practically all women "suffer from" is spoken of as unsightly and abnormal. Such tactics suggest, indeed make women feel that parts of their bodies are defective and should be worked on.

"You don’t have to live with it anymore."
"Go ahead, work your butt off."

What rubbish.

Dimply fat will only disappear if it is starved off; no amount of pounding or vibrating or massaging will transform riddled orange-peel butt cheeks into smooth peaches. Your cellulite is you and will be with you till death or liposuction.

Yet, even without media images and ads, people who are in good shape and have less fat on their bodies will be more attractive. Here's how you could deal with it:

a) spend the rest of your life eating right and staying in shape, or
b) spend the rest of your life not worrying about it.

But for God's sake don't spend the rest of your life trying to tell people what they should find attractive. If you want to be grossly overweight, be fat and accept that being fat is not synonymous with being attractive to 99% of the world. Neither is being deathly skinny. If you are fat and are trying desperately to lose weight but can't, my sympathies, and keep fighting. But if you don't want to be constrained by stereotypes and media representations of femininity, then tell them to eff off and believe in yourself. The only power it has over you is the power you give it.

Beauty, after all, is in The I of The Beholder.

What is cellulite?
What are the supposed "treatments" for cellulite?
How about liposuction?
What can be done about cellulite?


Optimism from Lawrence

ON APRIL FOOLS’ DAY, they announced his death. After battling lung, heart and kidney problems for a month, Europe’s longest reigning monarch finally passed on yesterday. His long reign was second only to Thailand’s Guiding Light.

After two (or three?) death watches, take an antidote to keep sadness at bay.

Mine’s from
D.H. Lawrence who was prone to alternating between blind optimism and bitter despair, when he turned towards nature as a source of hope and salvation:

For man, as for flower and beast and bird,
The supreme triumph is to be most vividly,
Most perfectly ALIVE


The Cruelest Month

TODAY IS APRIL 6, the 96th day of 2005. There are 269 days left in this year. A memorable quote from T.S. Elliot's Wasteland, comes to mind: "April is the cruelest month".

In the past weeks, we've engaged in an obsessive conversation about the definition and meaning of the end of life. Primed by the relentless media coverage of Terri Schiavo and the Pope, we seem to have acquired a taste for the gory details of infection and uremia, feeding tubes and EEGs.

We watched Terri finally die her prolonged and embattled death. We kept an eagle-eyed vigil over John Paul II, until he serenely succumbed, finally, to years of illness endured painfully and publicly.

April 3, the same day John Paul II returned to his father's house, is the 57th anniversary of one of the most tragic episodes in modern Korean history. That day in 1948, a cruel slaughter began that lasted several years. As many as 30,000 people were killed for their opposition to the then President Syngman Rhee's move to create a separate southern regime.

It was also the 23rd day of the cruelest month that The Bard of Avon – born in April, baptized in April - died in 1616. He influenced the English language more than any other writer in the world. He created over 2,000 new words and phrases including: schoolboy, shooting star, puppy-dog, football, bandit, partner, downstairs, upstairs, leapfrog, alligator, a mimic.

And on that cruel night, of April 14 in 1912, The Titanic, thought to be the fastest ship afloat and almost unsinkable, was on her maiden voyage in the North Atlantic Sea. She crashed into an iceberg and sank. More than 1,500 lives were lost.
And at 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, a shot rang out in Memphis, Tennessee. A great man who had spent thirteen years of his life dedicating himself to nonviolent protest lay sprawled with a gaping wound covering a large portion of his jaw and neck. Violence and controversy followed. In outrage of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, many blacks took to the streets across the country in a massive wave of riots.
25 years ago, on April 24, more than 130 people, mostly children, were killed when a U.S. Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crashed shortly after take-off from Saigon, when the city fell.
"April is the cruelest month,
Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,
Mixing memory and desire,
Stirring dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm,
Covering earth in forgetful snow,
Feeding a little life with dried tubers"

Melancholia also emerges in spring.

"The sun, the warmth, the flowers, the happy people...
Urrghh. I just wanna crawl into a hole"

Such a moment is perfect to be looking out the window with Fate’s Warning: “Another perfect day, and I will hide away” playing, wearing melancholy like a warm blanket.

It is happiness aching through the sadness.

In some parts of the world, April is springtime. A spring of renewal, a time of celebration. Celebrating Easter, Christians celebrate new life. Despite joy there is grief, for the Pope died on Easter Saturday.
Despite grief, there is joy.

Maybe Eliot was right. If cruelty is more beauty than you can bear and more pleasure than you can partake,
April is the cruelest month”.


POPE JOHN PAUL II: Papa has gone

AT 9.37PM (Vatican time) on April 2, 2005, Easter Saturday in the Year of the Eucharist, Christ opened the door to the 263rd successor to St Peter, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

A suffering servant of God who bore the full weight of the cross, he serenely abondoned himself to God's will.

The world pays tribute to him. You may reflect yours here.

For me, a light has gone out today.

We have lost a moral voice in this troubled world of ours.

Farewell, beloved Papa.


Life and Death

The one significant thing about the public dying of both Teri Schiavo and the Pope is the contradictions in the culture of life or death

Nowhere else is it better illustrated than in
Dylan Thomas' poems about death, often marked by deep analysis of religion.

Do not go gentle into that good night"is a passionate call for us to fight death while "And death shall have no dominion" expresses the christian belief of everlasting life

For Dylan Thomas, mortality and decay are an inescapable part of life, with its promise of new life, is tainted by death.

Here's one that "draws on the significance of the bread and wine from the Eucharist, to introduce the concept of eternal life through Christ. Just as the production of bread and wine involves the destruction of a living organism during harvesting, we are only granted redemption after the horror of the execution"


This bread I break was once the oat
This wine upon a foreign tree
Ploughed in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape's joy.
Once in this wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the wine
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun' pulled the wind down.
This flesh I break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein
Were oat and the grape
Born of the sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.

Papa at Christ's door

Friday morning: Suffering from blood poisoning , but fully conscious and extraordinarily serene.

Friday night: Suffering from kidney failure and shortness of breath, but still fully conscious.

On this Easter Saturday in the
Year of the Eucharist,
Our Holy Father,
Supreme Pontiff,
Vicar of Christ,
Bishop of Rome,
Shepherd of over a billion sheep,
halts at the threshold of death.

Our beloved Papa has received the sacramental
food for the journey.

He is
at Christ's door.

Sacred Heart of Jesus,
once in agony,
have mercy
on our dying Papa.

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