Values

As a Chinese Christian growing up, I had my fair share of values being drilled into me. Be it unconditional obedience and respect for elders or to show kindness to my fellow human beings, I am well-acquainted with these teachings that have been highly recommended by many to enlist as my core beliefs. Of those, the most prominent are generosity and humility.

Firstly, generosity-a value so prized it has become part of my holistic education package. The service domain under this co-curricular achievement system ignites passion in the hearts of all youth, sparks student-initiated fund raising events at every school. Six hours of community service a year is a must, not a should. The idea of being generous with our time, effort and money is held in such high regards that schools have only come short of threatening students into it. The multitude of awards and guarantees of higher education institution recruitments beg the question, is it generosity or pretentious flaunts of possessing generosity that society wants to uphold? Generosity means giving something I want to keep to another who needs it. Does anyone need half-hearted and unwilling hands? Does anyone need clicking tongues of sympathy and eyes that gleam with superiority? Smiles that threaten to collapse once backs are turned? While I do believe in generosity, I also believe many of us are taking and not giving, using the needy as our stepping stones to success. Competition was used as an incentive in character building but its rocky foundation has proven to collapse character. As the term itself suggests, character requires building, generosity requires us to have love and empathy, it is unlike sympathy and ambition and takes culture, not lure.

Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost.

– Matthew 9:17, the Bible

Chinese humility is infamous for its sincerity, or lack thereof. Loud claims of gratitude towards the Goddess of luck mask undercurrents of internal pride and smugness that one has done better than the other. Mothers pretend to sigh at their children’s mediocrity while vying for them to reign superior in academics, sports, even height and weight. This virtue is essential to being well-liked, popularity is less likely gained by individuals who acknowledge their outstanding strengths than those who merely smile shyly upon hearing praise. I myself took a few years to learn to graciously accept compliments with sincere thanks instead of dodging them like bullets, carefully manoeuvring the conversation away from these perceived minefields. Let us pause to teach ourselves to take pride in our achievements without feeling superior and to take equal pride were the same success reached by others.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

– C.S. Lewis, the Screwtape Letters

All in all, as many probably are, I am enough to recognise values and yet not beautiful enough to constantly uphold them in true form. However, it is the thought that counts and by His grace, I believe what is meant to come will come. Amen.

Inspired by a school essay assignment question πŸ™‚ No idea how everyone would receive it but here goes nothing. 

Beauty is Internal

I once had a problem of picking at my looks until they become pockmarked with scars of unhealthy self criticism. To my lopsided eyes (they really are lopsided), everyone’s appearance is a work of art at first glance. Some are kindergarten craft projects adorned with uneven patches of glitter and balls of dried glue, others painted with confident, clean strokes of an experienced, steady brush. Meanwhile, I am the remnants of a foiled piece sulking in the recycling bin. Eventually, I learned to notice and appreciate the unique and beautiful details in my own appearance, though self esteem issues occasionally resurface. However, a certain mechanism of my brain remained, the power to warp faces and nudge them into molds that match the impression I have of their personality.

Internal beauty is not a foreign concept, and yet we tune out at its mention because after all the fuss, statistics still show that better looking people are better paid and get away with more nonsense than the less aesthetically blessed. Numbers do not lie. Plastic surgery prevails and thrives, blades break skin and shovel into flesh in search of the gold this lucrative industry offers. The reflections in society’s mirrors scream of beauty that is external, or lack thereof.

I learnt in descriptive writing that ‘perfectly arched brows frame doe-like eyes with luscious lashes’ could just as easily have been ‘brows painstakingly plucked to perfection arch snobbishly above unnaturally large eyes with pretentious eyelash extentions’ depending on the author’s portrayal of a character. These descriptions dance around in the shadows in our minds, undetected by consciousness and all comes tumbling out when summoned by ink on paper. Beauty is internal because the human mind is able to assign meaning to visual receptions based on conclusions we have made about the subject. 

Our brains still trust body language and first impressions because internal and external sync up to a certain extent. While my right eye may not earn a double eyelid from being kind, both eyes can gain dark saggy bags from exhaustion. Some may argue that the external could be faked, and yet the simple action of smiling makes us happier against our will. A sloppy person maybe learn and become more meticulous as one develops the habit of applying makeup, which requires patience and precision. While the external may be changed, the internal cannot help but evolve to match the surface. Beauty is internal because the external is a projection of what’s within.

I look into the depths of my soul and we are back at square one. My soul is a foiled piece sulking in the recycling bin. My flaws glow luminous between the dark clouds of this depressing reminder that I am a human being, not Jesus Christ and thus my internal does not glitter gold nor explode with immaculate light.

Just my personal opinion πŸ™‚ Hopefully the ending effectively conveys my message that even though beauty is internal, everyone has their own flaws and both internal and external beauty deserve to be shielded from judgemental scrutiny. I am hypocritical and fail to refrain from judgement myself but oh wells. Explored the topic as writing practice out of fear of losing the ability to write. Sorry for the brief hiatus, I was literally at a loss for words in response to the events in my life. Feel free to critique, add on to what I wrote or point out and opposing argument πŸ™‚

Loneliness

Last post of February and before Lent starts!

Have you ever felt lonely? Not being alone in the physical sense but a detached aloofness as if no one understood.  I believe most of us have experienced loneliness in one of its many different forms. I myself am well acquainted with a cold, empty feeling in my gut, often manifesting as a hunger that no amount of food can satiate. After all, research suggests that hunger is the body’s way of telling me that I should seek out company as eating has remained a social activity throughout evolution. (funfact)

It is an easy choice dismissing loneliness as merely a nagging negative thought, or an emotion one should not feel. However, everyone’s feelings should be valid and research has shown loneliness to negatively impact mental health. It not only causes increased levels of stress and depression, but also decreased memory and learning. Loneliness can also affect physical health by disrupting sleeping patterns, leading to more daytime fatigue and a weaker immune system. These effects barely constitute the tip of the iceberg of problems brought about by loneliness.

What if I were to tell you now that we create our own loneliness? We are the ones painstakingly building the invisible walls that keep emotions in and care from others out. Perhaps this is our way of avoiding judgement, our attempt to fit into a community of seemingly perfect, happy people; perhaps this is how some of us, as children of Asian families, were brought up, to be stoic, silent, to be seen and never heard.

Though C.S. Lewis wrote in the preface of his book Surprised by Joy, ‘a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receing from one (often more) of those present the reply, β€œWhat! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.”’, I believe this is highly dependant on the audience one can reach out to. Opening up to people can allow us to relate to others, and others to us, forging connectedness. On the other hand, multiple attempts to connect with the same community may simply be a waste of time. Apart from that, reaching out to an unsuitable crowd could lead one to feel increased isolation when there is no indication of understanding post-sharing. Instead, one could widen social circles to include relatable people from diverse walks of life, whose paths we may not normally intersect. However, this does not totally eradicate loneliness as occasional pangs of the disconcerting disengagement will still hit as one stands among a crowd of one’s own peers, none of whom one can understand or be understood by.

Humans, as highly intellectual beings, cannot help being aware of the infinite spectrum of experiences which divides us, being aware of how no one can completely understand another. This awareness is the reason loneliness is an inevitable feeling. However, there will be different people who can understand certain fragments of our lives better than others and in those people we can seek solace and comfort.
Loneliness may cause us to think we want to disappear when all we really want is to be found. Sure, it is easy to urge others to emerge from these illusive havens and seek out others instead of waiting for others to find them but I do understand how tiring it can be and how futile our efforts can seem and I am here to tell you that you, if you relate to this post, you are not alone.


I edited the original post to say how I truly felt instead of my approved speech which did end badly. Today happened to be an emotionally eventful day, leading to trembling as I was delivering my speech, perhaps causing my audience to believe I was overly emotional and agitated over a taboo topic. It definitely left me feeling very vulnerable and not getting the highest number of votes futher egged on my insecurities as there could only be two explanations for the voting results. Either no one bothered hearing any of the speeches and voted based on reputation, leaving me to sigh at the heart I poured into this, or I simply was not good enough. I’m not sure which is worse and I really do want to disappear now. Oops!


Life update: Attended my first Ash Wednesday mass, hopefully we will see a Lent  2017 blogpost soon πŸ˜‰ I have also identified my confirmation sponsor πŸ™‚

White Cloud Falls, Kubah National Park, 17 Dec 2016

 

Once a term luxury to be home where mountains are in abundance. Most relaxed hike ever. Gentle crunch of the trail, exhilarating rush of current, fascinating ways rocks stack — simple joys in nature πŸ™‚ not forgetting quality time spent with fambam, or the shaky feeling and subsequent very slow pace at less stable trails or my screaming at every suspicious living thing! Of course all the photos turning out exceptionally good added to the satisfaction of this trip. Instagram story camera takes good quality photos.

Favourite Bible quotes will be out on (probably 31 Dec) because I want it to be a 2016 compilation. Meanwhile, drafting Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis Reflection. Quite new to this so I don’t really know how regularly I can keep this up yet!