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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Glory days

"And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days"

-Bruce Springsteen

I was about to begin a series of posts on the most beautiful songs in my world when Richard the Lionheart enquired:

"Ask yourself whether you 'write for a living' or you 'live to write'".

Much as I like good old rock and roll, I wasn't about to deny Richard.

Blame it on my post-colonial mentality, if you like.

God save the King.

I wish I can tell you I live to write.

I wish I can tell you I write for myself. That I write because I have something to say. That I write in search of self-discovery and amazing adventures. I wish I can tell you that I worship words, wisdom and wit. I wish I can say "I write, therefore I am".

But I can't.

And I certainly don't write for a living.

So why do I write?

In the place of a real answer, I offer you a story.

When I was 9, I took part in a story-telling competition in school. My first time telling a story. My first time in front of a big crowd. On that fateful day, I launched into the story and halfway through, to my horror, I realized that I did not introduce myself. So, I stopped.

And introduced myself.

In the middle of the story.

My friends told me I came in last.

No kidding.

(If only the judges had seen Annie Hall, they would have recognized my genius.)

3 years later. Another story-telling competition. I was nominated again to take part. Apparently, everybody forgot my humiliation.

But I didn't.

So I worked hard. Tape recorders, mirrors and mother. My weapons in this war against the tyranny of shame.

The day came. I introduced myself. And I told a beloved Chinese story involving a dying old man, his quarrelsome sons and a bunch of chopsticks.

I whispered, I raised my voice, I changed my pitch for each character. I executed every word as I have done in my rehearsals. I was consumed, with belief and with passion.

Until that day, I never knew how the time between "Thank you" and hearing the applause could be so long and yet so rewarding. I never knew how it was like for strange people to come to you and pat you on the back, one after another. I never knew how it was like for the Tiger Woods of storytelling, the champion of champions, to come and humbly lay his crown before you.

And I never knew how deafening and rewarding applause can be. Or how by some strange form of magic, the applause and the heart beat as one.

I gave my all in that competition. And I received so much more.

I miss the passion. I miss the adoration. I miss the glory days.

Perhaps, that is why I write.


At 10/13/2004 01:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your story reminds me of my own experience when I was a kid. I also went for a story telling competition as my dad was one of the organiser. I don't remember the story but similar to what you felt, i was nervous and in my mind I was trying to remember the story instead of expressing what the writer waqnts to convey.

I look forward to tell my story to my children and grandchildren. But first, what am I doing now to have glorious stories to tell. Would my life be like Aragon of the Lord of the Ring or Mr Frodo?

At 10/13/2004 05:54:00 PM, Blogger isaiah_sg said...

You will choose your own path.
I wish you strength of mind, lightness of spirt, and good friends, in your journey.

At 10/16/2004 12:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you're at least aware that you're headed toward your glory days through writing. In some ways I have also forgotten what it felt like being on stage and presenting and then the applause... last i remember, it was sometime in primary school. Strangely enough, I've developed a fear of receiving no glory that I attribute to an incident with my dad while I was rehearsing a story (Goldilocks and the three bears). This was when I was 5. Suffice to say the episode was unpleasant and also recorded in one of the tapes used for the rehearsal. But I digress... This entry has got me refecting about my own 'glory', or rather the absence of it. WHile I have neither storytelling or writing flair, I do feel the 'glory' when I've taught a good lesson. So there...

At 10/18/2004 12:59:00 PM, Blogger isaiah_sg said...

hello my not so anonymous friend,

thanks for posting.

a friend said she felt i was more keen on the "glory" rather than the whole learning process when she read my blog entry. that may be true but i think personal satisfaction is so important as well.

I'm glad you find it so fulfilling to teach, which is a most worthy profession.

Stay true to your calling.

- isaiah


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