A Semi-Farewell to SNSes

It was not the first time I stopped using an SNS service but it was the first time I was aware of the real cause of my action.

No doubt it all reduced to my antisocial personality but this personality did not stop me from joining many SNSes. What really stopped me from using them was the disgust that I felt, and am still feeling, against the mass irrationality of the easily angered and misled mob and the impossibility of stopping their messages from reaching me.

This group of people — a very large group I should say, so large that this group in fact can represent the mainstream voices online — always impose the strictest moral standards on other people while readily excusing themselves for all mistakes. They laugh at disasters and chaos of nations they dislike or see as rivals, insult states, organizations or individuals because of rumours that they selectively believe, spread private information, call for violence, and accuse strangers without any attempt of seeking truth.

Once I tolerated them because I felt that I should not judge people, or I would become like them (oops still judging!). I tried to get my voice heard but I eventually gave up because in the ocean of irrationality my effort was just an insignificant droplet. I wanted to be more open to different opinions but the majority of those opinions were simply contradictory to either common sense or logical thinking.

The only way to maintain my sanity is not by arguing with these people but to distance myself from them. I should indulge myself in proper books, immerse myself in my work, engage myself in my numerous hobbies and build healthy friendship with people around me. I should technically be a hermit in this information era.

Of course I do not mean to completely severe my tie with SNSes (therefore ‘semi-‘ in the title). I will still use it to search for information and, if necessary, communicate with my friends — just that my involvement will be minimum.

Requiem

Is Mozart’s Requiem for optimists or pessimists? As a pessimist I love it; as a trying-to-be optimist I cannot refuse it.

Whenever I feel down I listen to it, but it never soothes me but makes my heart resonate with that dying soul. I seek no comfort in the beautiful melodies, nor do I lift my spirit up in that grand choir; I simply submerge, and indulge, myself in the sadness, thinking of the inevitable end of everything.

I believe in no god(s) or heaven, and I seek no refuge in Elysium or Paradise; my soul, if it ever exists, cannot be quieted by the vague promise of heaven.

Is it a contradiction that an atheist fall in love with religious music, or it is an evidence that music knows no boundaries among religions and races?

My awareness of the fact that my paragraphs above are incoherent brings this post to the end; yet wearily I am still struggling through the overwhelming helplessness even when I have stop thinking.

Loss of Memory

After 10 years I came to Parkway Parade in 2012. It was so different to what I remembered a decade ago — but what was in my memory? I could not remember so clearly. In fact, Parkway Parade in my memory had been so blurry that I doubted whether it was me who had been here at least twice a week during the period 1998 – 2002.

The sense of loss came to me as well as I visited the district in Swatou in 2010, the district where I lived from 1987 to 1998. I knew it had changed dramatically but I could not figure out how it was like in my blurry memory. It was like everything had been redefined, and my memory had been erased completely.

This happens not only to places but to people too. Sometimes I wonder where the person in front of me has come from and why I get to know him or her because that person has changed through the years and yet I cannot remember how he or she was like when we first met. Is it a punk played by life, or a cognitive phenomenon that is natural to common people?

No doubt I am very nostalgic but my memory keeps failing me.

I cannot remember clearly how Singapore looked like when I first came here fifteen years ago. I can only remember that the MRT system was still a new thing then, and people were generally happier. What has made Singapore so different now, I cannot tell, but she is different.

I cannot remember clearly the life in Chung Cheng High School (Main), but when I went back as an East Zone teacher I could sense the fall of my alma mater. Not that she was at a very high status when I was a student there, but she did fall, as far as my sense told me.

I do not know what has ruined Singaporeans’ happiness, nor can I come to understand why my alma mater has slipped through the years. My memory is not capable of recalling the past and obviously of comprehending the cause of changes. What it is capable of is just a deep feeling of loss.

The world changes fast, no matter how my inner self refuses to accept that. The world changes so fast that my memory cannot absorb the recent events before it needs to face new changes. People say that change is the only constant. I fully appreciate it, and do make myself adapt to new changes. But it is still something lost that I cannot retrieve any more, that saddens me much, that makes my past a worthless mess.

Why I am here is due to my many selves in the flow of river of passing currents, and those selves are all gone.

The Meaning of Photographs

One of my pupils, who graduated from our school 3 years ago and is going to Secondary 4 in the coming year, is now very sad because her iPhone cannot get recovered from iTunes backup and therefore has lost her 4355 photos — she does not have the habit of synchronizing her photos to either iCloud or other cloud storage but solely depends on her backups on a PC.

Of course no one wants to lose anything, or the storage service providers, either online or offline, would not exist. But we do not need to grieve so much that our precious sleep has to be sacrificed in mourning. As I told that pupil, nothing is eternal, and starting anew is actually easier than imagined.

‘Those photos are my memories! They capture those precious fun moments!’ She said.

No, they are photos, not memories. True memories exist not in photos but in hearts and minds. Photos capture those moments, yes, and help to remind you those moments. But if you need photos to remind you those moments, are those moments really precious? Are precious moments not preserved in your fond memory?

Fun moments normally will become sour and bitter in future. They are bad evidence of the past because, in future, either your life is no longer fun or your friends are no longer there to share your joy. Either way it is, is seeing those photos of the fun past not a torment?

I take photography as a form of visual arts. I take photos not because I want to preserve the moments, as I cannot do so by clicking the shutter button. I take photos because the sight is beautiful and it somehow expresses myself through colours and shadows. Beauty is temporary; everything decays. If the world remembers it, then it gains some kind of immortality in the collective memory of mankind, and I do not need a copy for myself. If the world does not, why should my own pride bring the photos to my grave?

Some of my colleagues see me as ‘full of negativities’ because I seem to see only weaknesses, stupidity, inhumanity and irrationality in the bureaucracy. That might be true, but only at work. In life, I can see beauty in every corner and find humour in every speech and action. My cameras, including my smart phones, are deployed to capture the beauty and humour in life, not because they are precious moments and ought to be preserved but the lifespan of photos are much longer than that brevity of bliss. The extra length of this lifespan enables the sight to be exposed to a larger audience with a hint of my personality. That is all.

Never attach too many ‘meanings’ to the photos. Photos are just a media, a platform, and will be gone, sooner or later, together with those ‘meanings’.

In fact, you have lost your childhood friends, your cuteness in kindergarten, your primary school works, the clean air, cheap food, youthful vigour, purity of innocence, ignorant optimism, and many other things when you grow up (and old). Losing some photos is no big deal.

Some Random Updates

One of my new year resolutions was to learn how to play ukulele. No doubt I tried to teach my self last year but it was an utter failure. So I enrolled myself in a ukulele course conducted by Tampines North Community Club and have now advanced quite considerably. At least I can tell my friends I am playing ukulele and not ‘playing with’ it. The trainer might be too young and too inexperienced, but thanks to my own diligence, I have improved a lot and practiced many new tricks on my own by following a few books — yes I did buy some ukulele books because that has become my passion.

Another new year resolution was to strive for full attendance this year. So far I have not taken any leave. Another 9 weeks awaits!

I ‘kena’ big scolding from boss, one in each term, in the past two terms. Term 3 is just over and I am more than relieved to realise that I did not commit any mistake in the term. Was I more careful or was the luck with me?

And I find myself more ambitious than ever. Thanks to the the teacher-in-charge’s constant absence from work, I took up the managing role for my CCA. Without him I could take some initiatives and really accomplished something. Everything is now planned ahead, instead of last-minutes; and I managed to secure the membership for next year. I don’t like to be a leader; but if my leader cannot do anything decent, I would better take over the job, because I am still answerable for the Club’s progress and sustainability.

I did not apply for any transfer, be it open posting or close posting, because I still cannot convince myself to leave my kids, and also because of the fact that every school is the same nowadays.

I feel that my teaching improves a bit this year. And if I were not to teach P6 next year, maybe I can do my master degree? But it would be by coursework. It would be perfect if I could do part-time master by research. Maybe that would be my most important decision next year.

As you can see from the previous paragraphs, I am now fully absorbed by my work. I like this state.

Lunar New Year

When I was very young, living in the village, I liked Lunar New Year more than any other festival. My mother made new clothes for me, using all new materials. My father came back from work in the Town and bought us nice food. They gave me a hongbao (red packet) containing 50 cents each year till we moved to the County.

Poverty could be seen all around the village, but the villagers were happy, as we didn’t see many floods or droughts, and the field usually provided us enough crops. We also had pork and poultry, which were scarce because we all raised our own pigs and chickens, and they were only meant for offering to ancestors, gods and fairies during festivals. Every family had at least two strings of firecrackers to burn. I can still vividly recall the sound and the smell when the whole village was immersed in the smoke and flying red paper strips.

On the new year’s eve, I bathed early, put on the new clothes my mother made for me, and waited for the most important dinner of the year to begin. My grandmother sat at the chief seat. My uncles, aunts and cousins sat freely around the huge table. Different from Northern China, we did not emphasise on the presence of fish dishes or dumplings. We did have fish, but the main item was the hotpot. The traditional hotpot we used was aesthetically beautiful and scientifically unhealthy: we used charcoal as fuel, the smoke after which combustion raised up and went through the short chimney at the centre of the hotpot, while soup and food were boiling in the pot around the hot chimney. The small windows of our old houses were all high up, leaving the room dangerous of carbon monoxide concentration. Yet no one ever died of that, and therefore no one ever thought of that.

I moved to the County when I was 4, and still went back the village during Lunar New Year, till I entered primary school.

Firecrackers were illegal in the County due to the density of buildings, but we could still hear them scattering around the neighbourhood. Pork and poultry were now very common in daily life, and the traditional hotpot had been replaced by a mini gas oven with a stainless steel pot.

There was more and more money in the hongbaos given by my parents, justifiable by inflation and the increment of my age, but I often paid the school fees with it. But I no longer longed for the new year to come.

I started to hate the crowd and noise during the festival. I hated the smell of cigarets when my relatives and my parents’ friends came to my house. I hated the faked smiles and insincere flatteries of the guests.

I started to spend the Lunar New Year week in the bookshops. I knew every single bookshop in the County. I knew their locations, specialties, rare items, discounted items, speed of restocking books, service attitudes and business hours. I would buy one or two books if I had enough money left after deducting the school fee from my hongbao, otherwise I would just read books in the bookshops.

The number of bookshops shrank dramatically with the widespread of the Internet. In 2003, I was at home during Lunar New Year, and I could only find two bookshops remaining.

I spent my Lunar New Year in Singapore from 1999 to 2002, went back to China in 2003 because I was waiting for my A Level results and there was no schooling. Then from 2004 till now I did not go back any more. I spent 14 Lunar New Years in Singapore. The number is overwhelming. But it is true that Lunar New Year means less and less to me. Most of time it is just an excuse to have a good rest and friend gatherings. Sometimes I cannot even have them.

2012, 2013

1.

What have I done in 2012? Essentially nothing but work. I made myself a better form teacher, met the cutest and best mannered P2 class so far in my teaching career, went over the obstacles and difficulties in ICT Club, volunteered myself to help my colleagues, pushed my Foundation Chinese pupils to G1 and G2, and by some luck made 10 out of 11 of my P4 pupils improve. Sounds great. But if that’s almost everything in my life, it does not sound great at all.

I wish I can teach better in 2013, make all my pupils improve, and make no mistakes. I wish I can also save enough money so that I can pursue my fulltime master and PhD studies either in 2014 or 2015.

2.

I have been a loner for another year. I watched majority of movies alone, went to restaurants alone, went around Singapore alone, walked and cycled alone, visited museums alone, shopped alone, played games alone, and I did not feel awkward. I think it is just in my genes. Or maybe it is so achieved by staying single for 9 years.

That 9 years might be extended into 10 years.

My parents have been pressing this issue for 3 or 4 years, but I really lacked the motivation.

Should I find a girlfriend and get married so as to please my parents, since I failed in convincing them otherwise?

Maybe I need to meet someone special, who can revive my ability to love and to be loved, who can convince me that marriage is nothing for me to fear, and who can accept me as who I am, regardless of all my shortcomings and weird habits.

Maybe that should be one of my 2013 resolutions?

3.

I did not make much progress in losing my weight. I have been more active, and more conscious in eating, than the previous year. But still I look like an inflated balloon. My blood pressure remains high.

So this same resolution shall be stated here again: lose at least 5kg in 2013. Eat even less. Continue cycling and walking. Go to gym. Do a basic checkup every 3 months. And hopefully I can achieve more than that.

4.

A ‘New Year’s Day’ is nothing but an arbitrary day in a calendar.

A year is determined by a revolution of the Earth around the Sun. Equinoxes and solstices are specific points on this revolution. Birthdays and anniversaries occur at the (almost) same point on each revolution. But the starting point of a year is purely arbitrary.

On this random and ordinary day, why should everything be so special?

That is why I do not really celebrate any festival.

Negative Emotions

I am experiencing a high volume of negative emotions now. I am angry, upset, overwhelmed, impulsive, regretting, disappointed and depressed. My usual tricks of deep breathing and self-distracting do not work. No music, movies or books can console me like how they did in the past. Only my conversation with ST calmed me for some hours.

The Chinese netizens are trying to pass around the so-called ‘positive energy’ (正能量) to counter the ‘negative energy’ (负能量) in the society, like apathy and coldheartedness, and in the individual mind, like procrastination and pessimism. I think I need that positive energy too.

I hope I can have a genuine smile on my face when I reach my China home in 18 hours, and can have a quiet hermitic fortnight while I seek my inner peace.

Suicide

Right after I wrote that bloody autistic post, I realised one of my Facebook friends committed suicide on 25 November. Such a shock.

He was born in 1994, 12 years younger than I. He was among the few younger PRC scholars whose tweets I followed, but I unfollowed him some months back because he kind of spammed my timeline with chatting tweets with others. He stayed in my Facebook contacts though.

On 20 March 2011 we met up. He bought my used HP netbook. That was the only time I saw him physically in person.

We did chat on Twitter, with all kinds of sarcastic jokes. I did not treat him as my junior but a cyber friend, because he was mature and capable. He was a tenor singer in the school choir, and he studied arts. He knew Japanese well and was interested in many languages. He scored A1 for both English and Higher Chinese in O-level.

From his tweets and statuses I could not understand why he killed himself. He always showed care and tenderness to friends, and he did not mention anything that upset him.

According to some of his friends, he wrote something on renren.com, which I did not use. These friends mentioned he was in a dilemma because his parents wanted him to become someone he did not like to be, while his teacher encouraged him to find his own path.

Some said he killed himself because he was a gay. Some said he was too stressed. But I think there must be some other subtle reasons, reasons so subtle that he chose to leave this world so quietly, that the first person who discovered his body was a patrolling security guard of his hostel, that he did not leave any message or will.

He called his friends but did not mention anything. His statuses showed he was still planning his trip in this December. Maybe only his friends on renren.com would have foreseen this, but sadly no one was able to stop him.

Listening to his recorded singing, I thought I was dreaming… If I woke up I might see his new status on Facebook again? But I knew it was real.

And I started to thank my 20-year-old self. 10 years ago I did have some impulsive ideas of killing myself. Maybe I was such a coward that I did not put them into practice. I could still recall the desperation and hopelessness back then. Even now I see my life empty and my world a void; but thanks to my strong heart and soul I could still find bliss occasionally in life.

Wish my young friend rest in peace.

[I did not mention any name in this post, and please do not link it to him if you know him… Let him be in peace. Thanks.]

Mood Swing of An Autistic Guy

‘All of life is an act of letting go, but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye,’ said Pi Patel.

It seems I let people and things go easily. Many times. Countless incidents.

I was at my peak of pessimism in 2002, and although I did recover in the following few years, the thought that nothing lasts interferes my decision.

‘If you let it go, you will lose it…’

‘So what?’

This dialogue has kept replaying.

I hold friendship dear. But out of fear that close friendship would turn ugly, I am too reserved to be enthusiastic enough for some of friends to see me as a good friend. And out of the same fear, I keep distance immediately when I feel too close with a friend.

I often see myself slightly autistic (or maybe not as slightly as I think). I do not know how to act in any social events or conversation. I know I can’t say certain things but I can’t find any substitution either; as a result I say nothing, or avoid such events or conversation completely.

Of course I can also be loud, happy and lively in a conversation when I am in the mood. But that is infrequent.

I think it is some kind of disease, which only I myself can cure. The problem is I do not have the courage to do it. I am still carrying the burden of that pessimism. I still can’t stand the thought of ‘what if such a close friend disappear in my life the next minute’.

Not just friends. Things too, like my online writing history in this post. I delete photos and messages without much thought. They are of no values to other people, and they will diminish one day. It is just a matter of time.

It will be a time when everything ends. It is just so painful. Maybe that is why so many people hold a certain religious belief. I am an anti-theist; and the only religion I like is the atheistic Buddhism, which teaches me the whole world is an illusion of senses and nothing but the cycle of karma lasts. Yet I do not consider myself a Buddhist, simply because I am science trained and I can’t stand the idealism (as compared with materialism).

Sometimes, like now, I hate myself for being so rational. Even a blog post like this, supposedly expressing my emotion and mood swing these few days, has become an emotionless description and a rational discussion.

So I shall come back to the point…

No I have no point here at all.

I let it go again…