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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

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Opinion / Change Shouldn't Be The Only Constant

I have asked a good friend of mine to post an entry here. I'm a big fan of his blog but he wants to remain anonymous. God bless his soul.

I am privileged to be asked to write for a friend of mine. Thank you Mr Lim. It's ironical because I am not exactly going through the best of times in my life, and being in the pits makes me wonder if there is anything meaningful I can contribute here. Many major changes in my life, you understand, making me feel a bit disoriented. New job, new handphone, new church, new
everything. No new woman though, In fact, one just walked out on me yesterday. Now you see why it hasn't been easy. But let us not go there, shall we? Like what Rev. Lawrence Khong once said before, change seems to be the only constant nowadays. He wasn't the first person to have said it. Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Roman emperor cum Stoic philosopher, already said the same thing centuries ago. Don't ask me exactly when. I may be educated, but I am no scholar.

If what was said about change rings true centuries ago, how much more so today. If you ask me, modern society in all its fast-paced schizophrenic madness seems to be rushing its way into destruction. Information technology, and for that matter, every category of professional knowledge in general, is evolving and expanding at an exponential rate, causing many things to change overnight in a twinkle of an eye. 10 years ago, the blocks in my neighbourhood around Redhill were the newest. Now, my area is the second oldest. All around me, condominiums are springing up everywhere. My block, at present, in all her inferiority complex, is griping about how obsolete she is soon becoming, being left on the shelf, with no one to marry her. Believe me, concrete granite has feelings too.

Some modern changes are good and for the betterment of humankind in every sense. Some changes, sadly, are for the worse. In other instances, well, we seem to be changing just for the sake of changing. Take my new handphone,for instance. Sony Ericsson T630 Black. It's prettier, more sophisticated,has more functions, and even has a camera, but I don't know how to use
most of the functions. Of course, although these functions are quite complicated, with some effort and attitude, the skill to operate them can be learnt anytime, anywhere. But why bother? Why not keep things simple? I take a much longer time to message my friends using my new T630 compared to my old dinosaur Nokia 3310. Phones are meant for the convenience of verbal conversation after all. Does one really need so many electronic functions to handle modern life? There are some techno-geniuses, in other words, geeks and nerds, who will answer yes to the above question, but for me as a general user, I guess I am not so sure.

Laptops and palmtops and bartops. Sorry, a slip of the tongue. Let's try again.

Laptops and palmtops. In future, I predict that there will be thumb-tops, since they already have thumb-drives.

Handphones with MP3 players, cameras, video, video games, radio, internet and e-mail. Did I miss anything out? In future, I predict that handphones will also have MPEG 2 for DVD video quality, Microsoft Office and Winfax functions. Or are these already out in the market?

I am intrigued, almost overwhelmed, by how varieties in communication and media devices have increased by leaps and bounds over the recent decade. But so have the divorced rates. What went wrong?

We know that sophisticated communication devices are meant to enhance communication between people, but people with prettier handphones don't seem to be friendlier, more conversant, or more tolerant in social interaction. What then, is sophistication for? Ostentation?

You are right. I am the one with the "hao lian" T630. I am no better than those I criticise. Hey, give me a chance to explain, will ya. There are some good things about my T630. My bills will be cheaper because of free incoming calls and 700 free smses. They offered me some cheapo student plan thingie. And I got the phone for free. So it's all for saving money. Mind you, I still love my old Nokia 3310. But it's burning a big hole in my pocket, so I had to let it go. If you ask me, I hate sophistication unless it increases efficiency. If I can help it, I prefer things simple.

Or maybe I am too stupid for my intelligent T630.

In my opinion, we are changing so fast that we are losing track of things. Somehow, while doing our best to be on the ball, we lost the ball. We are slowly but surely losing a fixed reference point from which we can deduce if what we are changing for is worth it.

Our youth today need a reference point. You can bet on it. I was a teacher for 4 years and I have seen them. They get worse by the batch. For 7 months, I was an education officer in a Christian reformatory centre and I saw the worst of them, the teenage delinquents. From smoking to glue-sniffing, gang involvement, fights and computer games, everything. They are a unique bunch. Of course, they are full of energy like we used to be. But the difference with them is, their senses are bombarded and enticed by all sorts of exposure which we could not even imagine when we were their age. They are a product of our times, a reflection of our policies for change, for what we call technological advancement. Did they really change for the better? Are they really better than us now, after so much "progress"?

I hope I am wrong. Maybe I have seen too much of the worst side of life. Or I hope it's just cynicism eating me away.

I think our young need someone with a sense of history to tell them how some things were better in the past and, to be fair, how some things have improved today. I always believe that people without a sense of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. That is partly why I enjoyed Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It's his most political work. He based some of his plots from actual historical accounts, and painted the accounts so vividly that they stay in your mind. If you consider the fact that Japan, for a very long time, censored historical records of her brutalities against Asian countries like China and our very own Singapore, what Murakami did was ground-breaking and very brave.

My friendship with Mr Lim goes all the way back for almost 15 years. After living for more than a quarter of a century (ouch), you are kind of forced to acquire a more mature sense of who your friends are (or should be), and who aren't. Recently I deleted over a hundred names in my handphone directory as the majority of them are strangers and acquaintances who don't care about me, and vice-versa. After some evaluation and serious reflection, I also deleted my Friendster account because out of 40 people, only 3 or 4 care about me, and vice-versa. No offense to anyone here. I wouldn't say that I have little time left because I don't think I am dying soon (you never know though), but with less time left on Plant Earth it causes one to be more stringent in choosing the right companions to live for what is worth the long overhaul. For me, evaluating my history keeps me rooted to a reference point. It helps me listen deeply to the recurring patterns of the main themes of my life. There really is not much time to waste.

Thank you Mr Lim.

Mr S Tan

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