archived fragments

imported from fragmented.posterous.com

Month: November, 2012

when things do not make sense

I have a penchant for doing things that do not make sense. I do not do them deliberately, more like neccessary, because if I don’t do the things I believe in, I cannot breathe. 

As a designer I should have started a design blog instead of a blog with emo writing like this, it would have made a lot more sense trying to maximize my online capital, isn’t it? 

When I started connections.sg I wanted to keep it pure and away from any commercial influences, I got told countless times that it was a waste of time and it would make more sense to monetize it. 

I told a good friend a few years ago that I wanted to create my own reality, he was genuinely worried and asked me if I needed ‘help’. 

A lot of things I choose to do and want to do, they do not make sense. But by convention, it implies that since there are no monetary or obvious gains, why do it? 

For years I have been wondering the same question of other people. Politicians especially. When I see a good person who could have chosen to live his/her life in peace instead of having to play the dirty game of politics – I ask why. The people in question to me are not in it for power, but for something else extremely intangible. 

Why don’t people actually realise that there are a lot of things that we wouldn’t be enjoying right now if everyone in this world wanted to make sense. 

Would envisioning flying in the sky in a huge metal machine make sense? When people first dreamed of equal rights for all human beings, I am sure it was presposterous. When Rosa Parks indignantly decided not to give up her seat, did it make sense then?

As part of humanity we need to start to invest more in the well-being of other people, because that is the only way the world can sustain its evolution. We have always needed gigantic leaps of faith to move forward. Our progress was not possible because of calculated risks and logical reasoning. It was because there were people who wanted to do things that didn’t make sense.

I do not do things for tangible benefits, at least they are not tangible by society standards. How do you really measure emotional impact? Should we only do things which have measurable impact? If I deeply impact one single person’s life, does that make me less worthwhile than someone who goes on to impact a million people superficially? Who are we to decide? 

Basheer books, if you are in the creative industry in Singapore, you would have heard of them. They deliver books to you for you to browse, if you don’t like them you can return them without paying for it and there’s no time limit. Did it make sense? No. They have probably tons of damanged books but in return they receive loyalty from their customers, which in return probably brought them a lot more economic benefit than a typical bookstore would have received. When I tell this to outsiders of the industry, one of the first questions they ask – “How can people be trusted?”

BooksActually, they publish work of local authors without much profit, if any. It doesn’t make sense at all to most people. But when I was there last weekend, touching the covers of these books made my spine tingle. It left a deep imprint on my soul, how much had to go into these little printed books of words. 

It didn’t make sense, but it made me want to cry. Are my tears less precious than dollars and cents? By a mere touch of these books, recognizing all the blood, sweat and tears going into them, a memory in my consciousness now, the sudden awareness of the love for humanity.

Some things do not make sense at conception, some things may not make sense at all for the rest of linear time, but I sincerely believe we should be less caught up with whether they make sense and instead focus more on doing things we feel needed to be done.

I think that’s one of the greatest ways of self-expression, that you do things because you want to or needed do, in spite of and despite of. We could have modern-day Shakespeare among us but we wouldn’t have recognized him because these days, all we expect is for people to make sense. 

I have been so caught up in my professional work, that I have lost touch with that part of me. That part of me who loves the subtle intricacies of other people’s creations. I do not listen to new music anymore, I barely have time to discover new books, and don’t even talk to me about art. My life has been defined by the internet. Which I am utterly grateful for, but I forgot how much I had missed the physical connection of other people’s work until I experienced it once again. 

Each time I want to make something that doesn’t make sense, I am blessed right now, because of entities like BooksActually, I don’t feel all alone. When I touch the cover of one of their books I feel a sense of connection to the author, that he or she wrote that book painstakingly despite of and inspite of. That it doesn’t make economic sense to write at all, but what is it that is more important – numbers, or your sense of self? 

I find myself having to make similar choices lately. Increasingly. As though if I have to go through a series of tests – do I choose to remain true to myself, or do I want to make sense to other people? If I remain true to myself, am I being selfish?

But being true to myself is ultimately being true to you.

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owing a debt to the unlucky

“Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” – Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball

I haven’t always been the person most of you would know today. In the first two-thirds of my three-decade life I had been self-centered and quick to hurt people without much regard for their reactions.

I cannot really pinpoint exactly how and why along the way I transformed. It was probably the despair I felt very keenly back then, I was trying to find an incentive to be alive and I couldn’t find it on the trajectory I was going on.

Kindness is addictive. If only one opens herself/himself to experience it. I was lucky, despite my emotional immaturity I had a few people in my life who allowed me their grace even though I thought I didn’t deserve it. 

I was such a difficult person, I was brimming with negativity, I resented my circumstances but wouldn’t do much about it. But perhaps the key difference was that I still tried harder than the average would, despite all my complaints and misery I was still willing to try to do something, even though I was a wet blanket to myself, to everybody around me.

Someone saw that I guess. That little spark of fire which was almost invisible and thought to be non-existent. There have been so many times I was sick of myself, but there had been people who would extend their grace and tell me otherwise.

Time and time again I have been touched by people’s kindness and generousity, time and time again I feel compelled to extend my own grace to others, simply because I know exactly how powerful it is to be at a receiving end of an unexpected act of kindness. I remember all of those times I was in desperate desolation and someone showed me a door I thought to be closed, or a perspective I have never considered.

I remember all these people, every single one of them. I remember all the blog posts strangers have written – posts they probably think were deeply personal and nobody would care to read, but made a difference to the way I think and feel today. I especially remember the people who made a bet on me even though I really wouldn’t bet on myself. 

I owe a huge debt to these people which I could probably never repay in my lifetime, for every single moment of my joy and happiness that I experience now is only possible because they have once taken a chance of someone. Someone whom the rest of the world had given up on.

And that is why I am deeply obligated to the ones who have given up on themselves, or those who are thinking right now that they have nothing to live for or look forward to – I know only too well how it feels like to be in that position. 

I don’t forget. I can forget to do my laundry or eat my lunch, even some tasks on my to-do list for work, but I don’t forget the pain I used to feel. 

The memory of my pain propels me forward though it is the grace I have received in my life which truly drives me along the way. The recognition of other people who are like me but didn’t have the luck to have their breaks breaks my heart, every single day.

And so it is such, I owe a debt to the unlucky. I can only try to pay it forward in every little way possible, including little things like sharing my personal experiences on this blog. I think, and I hope I am right, if someone like me can experience what it feels like to be truly alive, perhaps one day, the one who sees no light in front of them now, can too.

I cannot count how many times in my life I thought it has gone pitch black but I waited it out. 

And I am glad I did, because the events for the past few years are very encouraging, especially on the macro level. That humanity is at her best when people are collectively working for the betterment of fellow humans. 

Slowly, due to the grace of others I have become a happier and better person. Generosity and kindness did not come to me because I am kind, but because I am selfish – for I selfishly want to find an incentive to live, I selfishly become happier when I make someone smile. 

Kindness is addictive, once I have experienced a tiny bit of it, I only want more. Knowing that I could have an impact on someone else’s well-being gives me a rush irreplacable by anything else. 

I am not a saint, I just want to be selfishly happy, and I am grateful to have found out that at least for me, happiness comes in the form of trying to light up the paths of others.