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Crippled by Your Own Fears June 4, 2011

Posted by Nemuu in Stuff I Wride.
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FailWhen I was about five, there was a little funfair held near my house. I went there one night with my mom and my four sisters. I don’t really remember much of what happened that night; whether we went on any rides or if we bought anything. I only remember one game we played that night: a diagonally upright board with little obstacles or whatnot on it. You threw marbles and looked where they landed – some spots gave you points, others could put you back to zero. We had only four marbles for a round, so after my three older sisters had each thrown a marble and scored some points, my mom offered the last marble to me. I looked at the little ball lying on her palm and I knew this was it – this was the deciding marble. This was the marble that could make or break the game. We could either walk away with a fluffy soft toy, or leave with nothing.

I guess as a kid it must have seemed like life and death. The pressure was too much for me to handle: a 50% chance of losing. Maybe even less; I don’t remember how many zero point spaces there were. All I know is I started crying like a baby and insisting that I didn’t want to throw the stupid marble. So instead it went to my little sister. What’s ironic is that we got a cute little palm-sized puppy toy – that I got to keep. Even as a kid, I was already of failure.

The problem with fear sometimes is that it keeps us from trying. We’re so afraid that we don’t try – because at least if we never try, we can still hold on to the belief that we just might have succeeded. ‘I could have if I’d tried’ is easier to deal with than ‘I tried and found that I could not’. We all want to believe there’s so much more behind the person in the mirror; that secretly there’s a light inside of us just waiting to shine and that the only thing holding it back is us, rather than our lack of talent. Nobody wants to know for sure that they’re just not good enough.

Why are we so afraid of failing anyway? Society today has created its own image of success: it doesn’t always have to do with being rich and famous. Sometimes it’s about how much you’ve accomplished in life, how many people you’ve helped or how much goodwill you’ve done. They can be good things or bad thing – but always, always, it has to be something big. As long as you haven’t earned a lot of money or saved a lot of lives, then you’re not a success story. You haven’t lived a life that’s exactly ‘worth living’. Ask any man on the street – nobody’s going to interpret success as ‘leading a very normal, very average life’.

But a lack of success isn’t always failure, and perhaps that is the reason why some of us are willing to settle for the ordinary. Because then, at least, we wouldn’t have invested all our effort, time and money on a failed venture. We’re not the rich and the famous, but we have a family and a stable income… You can’t call us failures.

The problem is, when you’d rather stay with Safe than risk a shot at success, you’re blocking out your own light. You’re preventing the world from witnessing what a bright, beautiful star you truly are. Imagine what great poetry or art could have been produced if some people weren’t so afraid of failing. Maybe the world would be simply overflowing with beautiful paintings and sculptures. Maybe we’d have found a cure for cancer. Maybe we could have saved some animals from extinction. Maybe we could have saved a life- ten- a hundred. Maybe I could have gotten a bigger soft toy. Maybe.

Bottom line is, stop thinking you can do so much more if you just take the first of that thousand and one steps – and start doing it.

When One Death means the End of the World May 23, 2011

Posted by Nemuu in Stuff I Wride.
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Earth

The issue of our dying Earth has been talked about so many times over and over again that we’re practically sick of hearing about it. Although a relatively new phenomenon that began only in the late ‘90s, being born earlier in that decade only means that I grew up with it; it was a part of my childhood. As a kid, green living became ingrained in my young and impressionable mind as the right way to go. Like how you learned what was right and what was wrong when you were so very young: Patience, Integrity etc. etc. … those were the good guys. The bad guys had names like Stealing and Punching and yes, Pollution.

But for all the talking that’s been going on in the last 20 years, how much have we actually achieved? Forget about the steps and actions we have (or haven’t) taken. We’re heading straight to the basics: do we really know how much damage we’re inflicting on Mother Earth and what we really can do to stop her deteriorating health?

Paper versus computer: killing trees or polluting the air? (Think power stations and tonnes of coal-burning.) Would it be better to watch the news on television or read about it in the papers? Or perhaps read it online? Styrofoam that releases harmful gases into the air when broken or non-biodegradable plastic? Is anybody else about as confused as I am at this point? I mean, I know what’s bad – but which is worse?

And despite all the information that’s been passed down to us, how many are actually doing anything to help – on a daily basis rather than respecting Earth Hour once a year? So how much hope do we really have of saving the Earth anyway?

You might think this ridiculous, but because we’ve grown up hearing so much about how our planet is dying, most – if not all – of us have actually become largely desensitised without even realising it. “Hey, when I was a kid, the Earth was dying then, too. Now I’m almost an adult, but the Earth hasn’t died yet. By the time I’m old and wrinkled, I guarantee you: the Earth will still be ‘dying’.” Face it. We all think this way on a subconscious level. No one actually thinks this planet will be gone tomorrow – so a lot of people just brush it off as ‘The Future Generation’s Problem’.

Sure, some of us try not to waste paper; reuse, reduce, recycle. We switch off the lights when we leave the room. We turn on the fans instead of the air-conditioning. We do good things for the planet. But sometimes, we slip up too. You just unwrapped a sweet and you’ve looked everywhere around you but you can’t find a single dustbin anywhere to throw this measly, pathetic piece of wrapping. Most people wouldn’t think twice about littering – you can’t be expected to hold on to rubbish for hours till you find a bin. Can you? (I admit I sometimes have a nasty habit of pocketing my trash, but then I’ll forget to throw it away when I’m standing next to a bin.)

But Gaia’s failing health – can it possibly be slowed down, stopped and eventually reversed? Thanks to advances in medical research, we can now expect to live longer, fight off numerous disease-triggered deaths, experience higher infant mortality rates etc. etc. The land space needed to house these 6-billion-over people alone is going to require some massive killing of rainforests. And once they’ve found a place to stay, they’re going to need and use up electricity – watts and watts and kilowatts of it. Then, as quality of life improves, they’re going to want to drive around in fancy sports cars and increase their carbon footprint. Okay, I know I’m generalising, but surely everyone knows how the devil tempts.

Personally, I don’t really think we can go back to the old days of ‘green and sunshine’. So what if everyone took public buses? (Like that’s ever going to happen.) Buses pollute the air, too. Less pollution isn’t the same as no pollution. And we’re always going to need books and toilet paper. And light. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the computer and Internet and mobile phones and basically every single thing we have right now.

I’m not saying there’s no point in going green. I’m all for ‘saving the Earth’, but the people of today – we’re not doing nearly enough.

General Knowledge (or lack thereof) May 13, 2011

Posted by Nemuu in Stuff I Wride.
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the Scorpio constellation (right) and the Milky Way

If there’s one thing our generation craves, it’s being heard. From weather reports to political support, sports to religion – basically anything and everything under the sun (and moon) – if we’ve got something to say about it, we’ll make sure we get our say if it’s the last thing we do. The popularity of social outlets and networking sites Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, etc. etc. (the list goes on) is clear testament of this craving to let our voices be heard. The problem is, how much of what we’re saying is actually worth saying at all?

To demonstrate my point, let me begin with an example: the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11th this year. With a magnitude of 9.0, accompanied by tsunamis and followed by the Fukushima nuclear accidents, Japan became the highlight and focal point of every news media in the world for weeks. Obviously, it could never escape the attention of our Babbling Generation.

One teenager’s comment that struck out to me the most went something along the lines of ‘Japan is being punished for the atrocities they committed during World War Two’. Stop and think for a moment. Does that sound about right to you?

Personally, I think Singapore’s social studies programmes seem to have been implemented successfully. As young as ten years of age, we’re taught of how the Japanese army invaded the country. We’ve heard countless stories of how they massacred our forefathers. We’ve heard tales of their brutality and their mercilessness. But does that make all of Japan responsible?

A few years ago, a group of Japanese tourists came down to Singapore for a visit. One of the places of interest they went to was the Kranji War Memorial, where hundreds of our dead ancestors, killed in battle or simply at wartime, lie. When this group of tourists heard about the war crimes their soldiers had done unto our own forefathers, they cried. Yes, they cried. History as Singaporeans know it is a far cry from history as the Japanese know it. Local children have read of the Sook Ching massacre, of starvation and abuse. But the Japanese know a different tale: one of air raids every other day; of the bodies of fathers and brothers coming back, dead or wounded; of being the one country in the world to have been hit by atomic bombs, and two at that.

It’s amazing what one-sided stories can make you think and say, isn’t it?

Basically, what we all need to know is this: get your facts straight before you start shooting your mouth off. The uninformed will always appear as fools to the knowledgeable. To assume that we know everything when we’ve only heard one side of the story is unforgivable.

Imagine this: We’re on Earth, right? Earth plus the sun and the other 7 planets make a solar system. Our solar system is one of billions in the Milky Way Galaxy. This galaxy is only one of billions (scientists still don’t know the right estimate to exactly how many billions) in the universe. There’s only one universe, and let’s hope it stays at that. So, bottom line: one universe with hundreds or thousands of billions of galaxies, with our galaxy itself having billions of solar systems and then our solar system has 8 planets and we’re only on one of them.

Linking back to the issue of knowledge: What we know about anything can only be as much as how big the Earth is in the entire universe. It’s half past noon, I’m in the office typing away at my computer in my own little cubicle. I can hear chatter all around, so I know most of my colleagues aren’t too busy with their work. I assume they can’t wait for their lunch break. Now, what I don’t know is this: What’s the guy in the next cubicle doing on his computer? Is he doing his work, surfing the net, watching a video or composing a song? What’s going on outside the office? Is there an accident on the road? Is the canteen downstairs packed? (Hang on. I probably know this answer.) Is there anyone inside my house? What’s happening over at my old school? What’s happening in the world; did another terrorist just die? It’s 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Anything could be happening at this moment: a life could just be beginning somewhere, a life-altering decision made, a life ending.

So you see, there’s so much that we really don’t know. Scary, right?