Good Music Is Hard To Find

In the world there are plenty of songs that will make you laugh, cry, smile or tear.

There are plenty of songs that will make her laugh, cry, smile or tear too.

But there are only a few in the world that will make you do all at once.

And fewer still, that can make the both do all at once, together.

Knowing/Being/Ending

There will be a time when a problem arises and you find that everything you have in your arsenal is useless.

Nothing works against it. Not time, not experience, not money, not desire, not effort. Not knowledge. Your world thus ends here. Your knowing and your being.

Everything for naught.

Those who won’t listen have their own problems. Those who will dispense advice – but can you rely on them all the time?

What will you do next?

25 hours

Disconnected. Everything in the glass has been poured away. Emptied. The phone is just a phone now. No 25-hours connectivity.

Multi-tasking is just a dream. Like the vapours that arise from forested areas which you, as an urbanite, don’t see anymore. We only do one task at one time and pile them up on top of one another. A lot of single-tasking at once. But we make it sound as if we are that capable.

Thus removing all the outlets, thus pouring away the water, will more pressure be built up elsewhere? Hopefully. Lessen quantity and more will still appear. Quantity in quality. The empty glass will be full.

Out of my tap flows mountain water

Many mornings ago, I realise that there is a mountain spring flowing out of my tap.

When I turned on the tap, like I did this morning, the water was extremely cold and refreshing.

I imagine that it had sat in the tanks above our flat for a whole night, chilled by the fall in temperature. Cooled by the morning dew. And the sun had not yet touched it. I haven’t been to the Swiss Alps or the mountain springs. But I can imagine that that is how a spring should have felt. Cold and refreshing to the touch. Uplifting. Even though it flows out of a man-made device and even though the water is artificially brought to us, it still has the touch of Nature.

We live in a country called Singapore. It’s a small island when you compare it to the countries that surround us – Malaysia and Indonesia being the closest. We have been continually reminded by our government that we do not have any natural resources. No oil, huge swathes of land to grow plantations or anything else. We only have our people. This has been burnt into our national language for over 40 years.

I think the national language (I don’t know what else to call it) obfuscates what is really there in front of us. It covers up a lot of things. And alienates us from the nature of things. We do have the mountain spring in our taps.

It is true, isn’t it. Where does the water in our reservoirs come from? From the rain that falls from clouds too heavy to stay up. From clouds that wandered into our little island as they visit countries all over world. Water from the mountain springs that evaporated. From the Swiss Alps. Drops from the Himalayas. From Lake Baikal.

Every time I turn on the tap, I just have to feel the coldness of the water and I am reminded of the springs, glacier floes and mountain ranges. And I am grateful for it.

In the morning, buns and tea

What is morning? It is the beginning of the day. It also signals the ending. It can be night, day, afternoon, evening or even twilight. As long as it begins.

For me, it is when I open my eyes from the snatches of temporary death, from dreams of another life.

Morning is a time when I say thanks for being able to wake up to another day. It may be a day that I am not looking forward to, like Monday, Tuesday or Saturday, depending on what happens in those days (it’s not Monday’s fault for being Monday). I give thanks for being able to see my family again for yet one more day. For being on Earth, for having my friends, colleagues and acquaintances around — actually they are all the same because they are a part of me, but some parts are further than others, like my toes which I barely look at. Morning is gratitude.

Morning is also a time when the smell of steamed buns fills the household. There are buns with different fillings — either vegetables or red bean paste, because those two are my favourites. It is a familiar smell of old, probably of times gone by. Of buns that are hand-made and sold to blue-collared workers toiling in the hot sun, not white-collared in an air-conditioned office. Of the workers relishing the generous fillings inside. Just simple vegetables and red beans. None of those fanciful stuff like bird’s nest or foie gras.

Of roads filled not with cars but rickshaws, of towkways speaking in different dialects, ladies in cheongsams (and men too), of stray dogs wandering the streets. Also of black coffee, darker than black, that is meant to knock you awake. Good medicine is always bitter, goes an old Chinese saying.

Morning is the smell of strong tea that appears in the air when I, in my daily morning ritual, unseal the glass sarcophagus to retrieve an interred tea bag full of dead tea leaves which are marked with a No. 2 for their strength. I don’t know how far the numbers go but one day, I would like to find out from the retailer. It is a wonderful smell, the tea leaves.

Morning is also a time for meditation, for quiet sitting so that I can listen to what my mind speaks. And also, so that I can hear my mind when it is quiet — both my mind and the surroundings. Sometimes I’ll sit for five minutes, sometimes 20.

Morning is a time of love. For me to learn to love myself first so that I can start loving others, if I have yet not begun. For me to get to know myself so that I can know others. For me, so you.

Morning is a time of rituals. Of doing everything attentively and being in the present. So that I know the teapot is made by Luzerne (or something like that), that the cup is made in Japan, the tea is packed in UK, the buns were bought last night from a shop in Geylang.

That a mynah’s shadow is cast against the ground in the morning sun. Unseen but there.

That the world will end. Death will come to all. But I will be happy.

And you ask me why do I wake so early.

Of girls and tea

Ephemeral is the steam rising from a cup of hot tea, going to where my eyes cannot follow.

It rushes into a nothingness as far as my senses can perceive, like the fleeting beauty of a girl I met on the bus today. She was all the more beautiful, radiant, because I know she will alight at a bus stop and her existence, winked out immediately. She was also the girl I met the day before, the day before yesterday, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. On a bus, on a plane, in a foreign airport, for a drink, for a date, for a while, for a relationship, for a dream of a relationship, for a nightmare of a relationship. She is the girl for good, the girl for bad, the girl for everything. Thinking further, I think she is the girl in me, the boy in me, and also me, while at the same time she is not. Would it be that she is who I want to be if I was a girl? It’s slightly disturbing but maybe not. Still, she is the girl of girls, the beauty of beauty, an existence to be stamped out and relighted, relighted and stamped out throughout time. She’ll die many deaths and live many lives throughout Time. After I die, she would live on in others’ eyes.

When the bus arrives at my destination, I would have forgotten about her, just like how I forgotten about where tea goes to as steam when I finish my pot of tea. I would like to think that the steam is another side of tea, the side which I’m not normally acquainted with as I can’t drink it, can’t grasp it, can’t taste it, going somewhere else. It could be nowhere else too, since I think it’s a place beyond my senses.

Yet there are reminders as each morning I repeat to make a pot of tea, to take a bus to work.

On another bus on another day, I would see another girl and think about how ephemeral her beauty is, how fleeting the pretty.

Ephemeral the steam
from a cup of hot tea
going to where the eyes cannot.

Fleeting the beauty
of a lady passenger on a bus
heading to where I am not

Repetitive life is
looped thoughts are
when you cannot detect it.

And so he realised too late, too late, the crow beckons and everything is in vain, in vain!

But alas! In the two hundred and eighty-seventh year of his Continuation, he realised that everything up to that point had been in vain.

What were those sacrifices for if not a better life for everyone? All those sacrifices, down the drain because in the end, no one remained.

Crowned a Lord, a King, a ruler of state but no state to rule over. Called a father but no children to parent. A husband but no wife, a son but no father. A life. No meaning.

Where does he seek meaning then, the stateless ruler wondered, standing among other kings like himself.

Kings without states, fathers without children, husbands without wives, wives without husbands, sons without fathers. Lives without.

Meandering without meaning.