New Friend

On National Day yesterday, I had a chat with a young man I met online through a social media app. It was a pleasant surprise that we managed to hit it off quite comfortably, so much so he proposed meeting for a quick cup of coffee at close to midnight. It did prompt me to think about whether or not people would still bother to make friends and keep them in this day and age when everything is short-lived and fleeting. A part of me did wish that when you meet new friends like that, people would still want to keep them.

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Too Large For Words

So it happened. A disaster, both tragic and unexpected, in the form of the quake that hit Sabah and the climbers at Mount Kinabalu last week, happened. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the quake, Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike. As an educator, my heart went out to the parents, teachers and students involved in that horrific experience. It would take a person all the boldness and courage and faith in the world, to move past an experience that shattering, and keep living. I cannot imagine how everyone directly involved must feel. I worry for how Singaporean public would try to wrap their heads around this letting a group of Primary School students trek overseas and whether or not the trip is justified, whether or not the experience is worth it, whether or not … we could have foreseen what would happen. These parents, students and teachers put their faith in a school learning expedition, because they believed in an education that was bigger, and better, and beyond the classroom. I pray they do not lose hope in that ideal after this. I pray that the school leaders have the wisdom to counsel, to support, to love their teachers and students more than ever. I pray that the parents and families will learn to trust and love and live again. I pray that the teaching fraternity, all of us out there, will band together and stand up for what we believe in.

Everyone has been sharing the articles and news on social media since a few days ago. My fingers wane at the prospect of sharing an article like those being circulated. What happened seems too large for words to describe or contain, too sensitive for it to be conveyed via online text. Should I appear apathetic and distant and say nothing when I share the article? Or should I engage in what has transpired, and undermine the severity of emotion underpinning it? There just seems to be no straightforward, correct way to mourn with the relatives of the deceased, our teaching fraternity, and our nation.

Perhaps that is the way mourning is: always out of place. May God uphold us.

Porridge for Breakfast

bowl

We have a guest among us these few days, here to share with us the good news from the Lord and the joy of life. Amidst the madness of marking during this exam season, I was blessed with the chance to eat at the same table and partake in the same conversation as Reverend J Tong and my family. This morning we were scheduled to have breakfast with him. I must admit that before this morning’s breakfast my heart was hardened to the idea of spending hours chatting. The prospect seemed almost idle and dishonourable to me – to be spending time in casual conversation, when there is a pile of work at home beckoning for your attention, just because we have a special guest from abroad with us over the weekend. I was not looking particularly forward to breakfast, and no bowl of fish porridge could warm my heart up to the idea.

The magic happened at the dining table having  the bowls of porridge laboriously cooked over the stove for hours that we young people may eat as a family with a servant of the Lord. Our conversation was indeed casual – it scraped the surface of his family, our aspirations and very briefly, our professions, as well as dreams of our relationships.

When he visited last year, his sharing always stir up some greater aspiration in me, like many other youths I am certain. He was always able to live out a sense of Joy in everything, no matter the circumstance. Coming to Singapore, his schedule is packed with meetings, sharing and teaching sessions, with little personal time to rest and recuperate from the jet lag. Yet there is always a certain charm and exuberance he lives out from within him when he interacts with the brothers and sisters, a glisten in his eye that reflects a sense of eternal joy and hope in the world that he lives and the life that he is living.

His thoughts and principles were also equally intriguing and profound. As a psychologist, he knew more than just what we would read from textbooks and encyclopaedias. His thoughts were always lateral and different from what we are used to in a typical Singaporean person. He had the wisdom and joy from the Lord to accompany him in all his journeys. I have always envied at secretly marvelled at the wisdom and joy he could live his life based on. In fact, his principles and sharing have caused me to re-look at the reasons and basis to the way I lead my life, the values I guard so closely in my heart for the past twenty-seven years, and re-evaluate assumptions I have always held confidently dear to my heart.

The call for reconfiguration is necessary and refreshing, however unsettling it may be at the beginning. A simple way of looking from his perspective is in education, a child’s purpose is to learn, and the most basic testimony of the degree of learning that has taken place in a child is by formal modes of assessment to determine how much my child has learnt, to quantify it knowledge and skill. We would always look at the numbers and data, average it to find the cumulative grade for the year, and measure that against the rest of his peers or the national average, whichever you choose. The bottomline is, isn’t there another way to measure how much a child has learned? What about common or general knowledge, the soft skills in communication, problem-solving and team work? What about the ability to articulate the essence of morality and social values? What if a child did not use the given route to reach the same end point – would we be big-hearted and open-minded enough to embrace the wisdom in the child for being – different?

There seems to be examples all around us speaking of this ‘difference in thought’. I just finished watching X-Men: The Last Stand on Channel 5, and no prizes for guessing how the homosapiens reacted when they discovered they lived among mutants – people who were genetically different than they were. What about Divergent – a movie that speaks volumes about how their modes of thinking is so distinct from the others, they cannot be controlled or managed. I see it in education all the time, especially when not all of our students fit the classical way of rote learning in school.

In church, I sometimes wonder to what extent the Bible imposes expectations and regulations on us. Are we not suppose to be yoked together with a non-Christian? Are we suppose to shun those who come to church for the wrong reasons, perhaps to look for a partner or a look for some fun? Should we judge our friends because they proclaim an alternative sexual orientation or condemn those who behave in a certain way? I wonder if we are unnecessarily conservative at times, and this was a time I found myself thinking about the root of these principles.

‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.’ (1 Corinthians 10:23)

There are many things that we can do and we can proceed to embrace, but when we allow ourselves to be protected by the rules and expectations in our church community, I don’t think we are building ourselves up adequately.

Another example is that of offering. As the offering bag pass, an old man drops a twenty dollar bill in the bag. A young lady sitting two seats from him whispers a kind admonishment saying, “Dear Sir, you do not need to offer your money because you are not a Christian”. She proceeds to kick up a fuss because she felt concerned that a pagan’s salary would be used in the kingdom of God, and isn’t offering for Christians? The twenty dollars that was offered help to pay for the lunch of twenty of the little children in the church kindergarten, and the expenditure was used beautifully. Without that twenty dollars, it would have been hard for that church to make ends meet that week. Couldn’t it be possible that God used a non-believing man to help sustain His kingdom’s work? Our God is perfectly capable of creating his own resources, and we should not let our assumptions and expectations hinder that possibility for God to work wonders.

Mum always said it is important to look for a Christian partner. I have grown up all my life believing and expecting to date and marry only a good Christian man. In my mind my heart blocks out any man who is not a Christian as a potential partner because well, it is “unbiblical”. I realised how wrong it is, and this is a guise for many other assumptions we may be making unaware. Although there are plenty of reasons why it is advisable not to, why do we cut off all possible relationships (friendships, even!) with men who may be our potential partner because they are not Christian?

I think it may be a way for us to prevent ourselves from slipping. We are afraid of making mistakes, of falling below the grade, that we install plenty of rules and regulations to help keep our act together. If we have these rules institutionalised to follow, it makes following God easier. But I question that now – would it actually hinder the work of God? If we were truly His children with the Holy Spirit living within us, capable of prayerfully following God’s counsel, do we need the harsh conventional rules and regulations imposed upon us?

God gave Adam and Eve the choice – and they chose to sin. God could have easily taken that choice away so Adam and Eve would have to be given the burden of a task to make a choice – and risk making a wrong choice. But that wouldn’t be loving us and giving us the freedom in our spirit to make our own choices. It cannot truly be a choice be no choice was being made, can it. Similarly, you cannot have someone love you unless the person is free to love another, but chooses to love you instead. That choice, I think, is key to human relationships and life, and we should not shy away from the possibility or the risk of danger.

Tomorrow – there is more food for thought. Let me keep these questions and emotions in my mind where it belongs for now.

Restlessness

4340091-Restlessness

I googled “restlessness” for apt images related to my current status and settled on this discomforting photograph of an empty bed, sheets unfolded and creases intact. Whether it is a scene of a person’s bed before, during and after sleep we cannot tell. We only know as much as the fact that it is in media res, it is at a point of incompletion, it mirrors the yet to be.

They say the three year mark is the point where one wavers the most in their career. You either choose to stay, or choose to leave. We are at our most volatile, because we crave for more – more excitement, more drama, more adrenaline rushes and challenges. We crave for differentiation and change, we crave for new things to anticipate, we run away from stagnation, from the mechanics of routine, and we try not to remain in the same place at one time.

This restlessness is hard to put in words. But I shall try.

I do not know what God has in store for me at this present moment of my life. I am twenty-seven years old this year, and yet I have no clue what God wants or what I want to do with my life. I am beginning to feel boredom in the routine of things we do. Do not get me wrong, I still love being in the classroom and interacting with my students. I find all that meaningful and valuable time spent. I glow when I see the students grow. Yet I feel weary at the writing of reports, the meetings, the presentations, the emails and the office politics.

I have been urged to consider moving ahead in the leadership track in education. I have been encouraged to think about my professional development. I have been blessed to be looked upon rather favourably by the leaders in the school, and hence given opportunities to attend workshops and developmental courses. But when I stop to consider what I want for myself, I cringe in confusion. I don’t think I want to pursue further study in Literature or in teaching Literature. I could – but at this point I have not gathered enough experience to make an informed decision about my interest and capacity for it. I could take on CELTA to earn myself an added qualification from BC, but the teaching of English Language does not fuel my soul and interest. I have had moments where I thought of going to childhood or preschool education, or special education, this (more of) idealism stemming from my inspirational mum, who had an undeniable passion for those two areas in education.

I am in charge of the career guidance programme in my school and yet I remain so tentative and unsure about my own future and career progression.

Recently I surfed around some websites and found a specific area of interest – children’s literature. For some reason, this specialisation calls out to me more than others. It seems like an intersection of some of my favourite areas of interest – Literature, childhood and sociology. If I was keen, I might be able to make it through the applications and interviews to get a postgraduate scholarship, enough to finance most if not all of my further study. If the application failed, I may still likely be able to secure a study loan at the very least. The catch? Children’s Literature seems like a rare breed and I have only read of courses overseas in the UK or US. Thinking of a year abroad to pursue a Masters degree is even more imminent a decision to make.

I also want to carve out some time to well, be available. The elusive new friend I met at the end of last year still creeps into my mind at times and I wonder when God will allow Mister Shao to come into my life. Perhaps I am not yet ready, and my heart and soul is not yet settled in the Lord.

Restlessness? What better word than to describe my current state of being?

 

 

Chin Up… ?

Most of the time the entries I begin typing do not make it to the public blogsphere. By the time I am halfway through my posts, I either A, lose focus, B, have received sufficient therapeutic release, or C, think they are too negative and unconstructive to be shared. (Which may be the outcome of this post too.) They eventually end up as drafts or in the dumps and forgotten forever.

Disappointment 

Just in the past two days, I have received 5 emails from one of my bosses with a list of to-dos. This may have come at a bad time when there were other pressing matters I had on my mind to settle, and the onslaught of emailing what was required of us to do, but it did not sit well with me.

I thought of what I expected a boss to be, and these are some qualities I want to make sure I meet should I end up taking on roles with higher authority in future.

A mentor who nurtures

A leader is not just someone who delegates or gives directives. It is easier to give instructions than to develop and groom your team – the difference being the former does not require a personal investment or interest, while the latter demands your consideration and your time. You cannot ‘groom’ people under you if you do not first care for them and seek to understand them. But sometimes just a genuine concern for your staff can lift them up and drive them to work heartily.

A leader by example

You may not be a charismatic speaker or a highly-influential head of the pack, but if you lead by example, you gain respect among your team. We always speak fondly of bosses who would grind their teeth with you, take on the excess of the load, or just simply not shirk responsibilities. On the other hand, bosses whose intention is mainly to relief their own responsibilities is hardly deserving of one’s respect. Moreover, a leader cannot lead if you did not experience what your team is going through – you cannot relate to the challenges, and you surely cannot guide the team to greater heights without that shared understanding and support.

I am reaching my limits of annoyance because all I see are directives and forwarded emails. There is no evidence of one supporting the team or understanding the task at hand when all one does is email. Furthermore, if bosses do not experience the dirt for themselves, they can not begin to understand the amount of time and effort the task requires.

A person who thinks with his heart and mind

You need to plan and delegate and plan even more. But as a leader, you need to understand that your team members is your resource and your strength – and you must envision plans with your intellect and your compassion. You must understand that your men needs to be encouraged and supported: One may have the ability, but not the heart to do a task. Similarly, one may have the passion in a certain task but lacks the support and experience to do it well with confidence. You need to string all those multiple complexities together and paint a better picture with it. Delegating irresponsibly without keeping in mind your team’s strengths, interests and welfare, is an act of long-term suicide. If you fail to do that, your team may just feel undervalued and annoyed at your perceived incompetency.

Adopt a positive mindset 

That being said, I am trying very hard to adopt a positive mindset towards the excess trimmings of my work and not be bogged down by other inefficiencies and disappointments. A colleague at work reminded me that when we put things in perspective by constantly reminding ourselves that we work for God and not for man, many other things fall more sensibly into place.

I may not see eye to eye with people I work with or work under, but it does not mean that I challenge every rule I am introduced and grumble at every setback I face. When my bosses throw unreasonable and inconvenient demands at me, one response we can have is to cringe and complain and growl in angst and frustration (which I must admit has been my reaction all along), and another (which may make less sense to some) is to suck it up and do what we were allotted.

I hope that this intense period is a time to build up our resilience – and this period ends soon.

 

Tonight I Just Feel Lonely

Tonight I just feel lonely.

Mum had some guests over for dinner so I made spontaneous plans to meet a friend for movie and dinner. Watching “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” again was surprisingly satisfying – the motifs enhanced, the thrill still very real. Then our dinner conversation drifted to our personal future plans – which stirred up these weird sensations in my stomach.

She has been persistent about my signing up for a “prestigious” dating agency, or for me to go out there and “socialise”. It is not the first time and usually when people raise the idea I brush it away quite expertly. I do believe that God is sovereign and in His time, I will meet someone, and I tell them that unflinchingly, I do not need to spend time or money searching for someone because the idea of “seeking out” a partner seems like a path dangerously wrought with land mines. A partner should first and foremost be a friend, and if two people could be attracted to each other only after one meeting, the questions of what you are drawn to and what the attraction is based on closely precede. It was not so easy to explain this idea in person though, and for a good ten minutes, I was stumbling over my words, a somewhat tenuous but desperate attempt to explain my reasoning, and yet staying very firm to what I believed.

Then she said something that stunned me – because it rang horrifyingly but potentially true – what if, what if I grow old without getting married, without ever experiencing love, and end up like a number of my colleagues at work – single, hard hard workers, who are so alone and narrow-minded and frigid in their thought it scares me. They could possibly be a startling reflection of who I may become in the future. I gasped at the horrendous possibility, and my heart sank at the plausibility of the scenario: twenty years from now, living alone, working alone, and (I can’t go on).

For the whole drive home questions plagued my mind, and strange feelings, almost akin to despair, tugged at my emotions back and forth. I do not usually give in to my feelings in this way, but all of a sudden, I realised that this desperation, this desire for a life companion, is normal and is real. I have had friends talking openly about their fears and hopes in the past, why was it that I could never quite relate to their honest thoughts in the same way? I may have been running away from an idea of “love” for some time, fearing that I could not, or did not know how to accept, respond to and reciprocate that emotion. Given that I don’t exactly have a pair of happy parents to model what true love is since my parents’ divorce, I guess I do find myself wondering how a relationship is actually suppose to work.

There are also these little moments in time when I question my own worth. Am I good enough for a person to spend the rest of his life with, really? Am I nice enough? I find myself thinking sometimes. I also think I do not trust easily. I act like an open book sometimes but the truth is I am extremely selective about what I choose to reveal and how much, and I swing back and forth between hot and coldness. Today, I am just feeling cold.

I turn to the only person I can trust to share all these feelings and thoughts with. Someone who could best understand my apprehensions and fears, my hopes and dreams, and my confusions and conflicting emotions. We were suppose to meet before the new year, but given the busyness of the pre-new-year season, she had to postpone it. Gosh it is awfully selfish of me to feel disappointed, but the truth is, I am. It feels like someone tried to lift but dropped a heavy rock back into my heart (ha).

It is silly. I have begun germinating this dream to live on my own with an adopted dog as a best friend to accompany me through life. I have even began reading up on breeds of dogs and HDB rules on keeping animals as pets. But everyone I share this dream with says it is way too sad a dream to be pursuing.

I have honestly no clue. What should I do to get out of this rut?

Don’t Know Where To Go

About two weeks ago I went to Changi Airport to send a friend off. He had come at the beginning of the year and was assigned to work with me. At first a little aloof, we soon warmed up to become friends. It was comfortable working with him and exchanging different opinions. He was also sweet, giving little gifts like a birthday and teachers’ day card, and graciously accepting mine as well. Being able to work well and honestly with someone is something I have learnt not to take for granted. He was a blessing in 2013, and may we go on to bless others as well.

As I sat in the car after, air-con at full blast, staring at the iconic Singapore Changi Airport control tower from down below, watching the number on the clock switch, it suddenly all fell into place: I had no idea what I wanted to do, nor where I wanted to go. I had planned to find a quiet spot in the airport to do some reading and writing, I had brought my novella, my school readings (just in case), my journal, and had even spent hours debating whether I should have packed along my laptop, cable and hard disk (just in case). I was such a person – one who could not really figure out what she wanted, and hence was better off preparing for anything and everything.

Wherever the tides would take me, that would have been my motto. I would do what my heart felt like doing. Well, it turned out that that morning, I had no idea what my heart felt like doing. Maybe it did not feel like doing anything. So I sat there in the car, thinking about where to go and what to do the entire rest of the day, and wondering what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in my life.

In the past, it was easy to sweep away the residue that accompanied the difficult questions and say, Let’s just wait and seeMy priority to teach became my verbal promise to whoever asked about “my future plans” and a weak excuse for my indecision. That really meant that I need not make any effort to get what I wanted, heck, I was too lazy to even decide what I wanted to do. Making decisions require effort, and the actions that are required to follow after can persuade one to run in the opposite direction. But at this moment, I had a few options presented me and they all require me to make some kind of effort.

Further study? I need to do some research, plan some budget, speak to some people, fill up lots of paperwork and apply for the courses. Some of my colleagues and friends have done that – I look at them juggle the workload and I think them mad. But secretly I applaud them for their desire to translate their dream into reality.

A managerial position? I need to do some soul-searching, set some objectives and clearly defined goals, then work towards equipping myself if I prayerfully want to contribute in that area. This scares me because I do not see any like-minded colleagues working with me, in fact, the opposite is true, and the politicking is stifling. But if God calls you to play a particular role, there is nothing shunworthy about it, is there.

Just a teacher, more and more effective? I really enjoy interacting with the students and teaching them. But can I stretch myself in this aspect in this school?

Transfer? There are just so many reasons shouting against it, but I am dying of curiosity to see how other schools are like and if I would enjoy it better there.

Stay? Can I stay and be a more resilient and effective worker, able to contribute to the students and the school?

On a less serious note, a last option would be to focus on finding a partner and settling down. Ha ha ha. Decisions, decisions, decisions, aye.

Messages

I gained two distinct messages from the trip.

Set higher standards. God will not compromise His plans for you and so shouldn’t you.

The last guy I had a ‘crush’ on had a whirlwind of problems. Mister Shao need not and should not be perfect, but to say that his spiritual life was a roller coaster up and down is an understatement. :/ I had forgotten what it should be like: having like-minded people to engage in edifying conversations. I had forgotten what it felt like to have quality, uplifting fellowship with others, and how much I actually desire it. I had forgotten that it is not enough that someone craves spiritual intimacy with God, or attends church every week or prays every day. Mister Shao needs to live out his faith through his speech and actions, his advice and prayers. Will he be able to lead others in prayer? Will he be able to give out sound biblical advice when others are confused or troubled? I think these things will determine how ready a man is to lead another in a relationship. And I know that God will not compromise on His plans for me and go, “aye, she’s running out of time. How about let’s match these two together, they will do.” So why should I allow myself?

Get your act together. Your expectations slacken because your relationship with God has grown distant.

Obviously if the quality of expectations I set for a Mister Shao are in question, then it reflects my spiritual relationship with God as well. If I am resting in His abundant grace, (1) I would not think that Mister spiritual-life-was-a-roller-coaster-is-an-understatement-guy is acceptable. That, would be settlingAnd (2), I would be so joyful being busy with other things – serving in church, at work, socialising with friends in healthy activities – not trying desperately to get my act together and stand on my own two feet, not constantly asking myself what I need to do to get my life in order. The fact that I am trying to get my life in order and exercise some spiritual discipline, shows just how slack I have become. The only way to understand the will of God, is to know Him through His word. Please, get your act together, hoshao.

 

Re-evaluating the reasons for our social conventions

The recent uproar brought about by the Ashley Madison website in Singapore did more than unsettle me. Quietly I have been following the news and threads on the dialogue between local netizens, the Government, MDA and Ashley Madison, and I have been reeling back in fear at the various reactions and responses exchanged by all parties. All along we have exalted the family unit as an integral and critical backbone of our Asian society, claiming ownership of strong “traditions” and “moral values”.

This episode only seemed to be unveiled some sort of truth for us – that our society is changing, and being “traditional” and “conventional” no longer holds the same degree of appeal or honour as it used to for the older generations. With this, I believe, comes the need to re-evaluate the reasons for the social conventions and beliefs we claim to hold on to. Do we really have the same convictions? What exactly is it, to be moral, anymore? 

When I shared the news of Ashley Madison to a few of my friends in the workplace, I was surprised (more shocked) that I would actually find people who disagreed with the campaign to block the website in Singapore. What made me more uncomfortable were the reasons cited, and I give my personal take on them below.

It is ‘none of my business’. If people want to sign up for it, why would we bother? 

The fact that we are all living in the same community is reason why it should be your business to care. If this website threatens the home of a friend, a relative or your own marriage, would you live in quiet acceptance of its presence? Furthermore, passively agreeing to welcome this site does make you complicit in its movement – you are passively agreeing to the values it upholds.

Maybe it will help keep families together.

Seriously? What about the families that it breaks apart because of it? How would that come into play?

If I need to hook up with someone else other than my wife or husband to keep me sane and thus “keep my marriage together”, I am not keeping my marriage together. I am probably not even in a marriage anymore. That is, unless your idea of marriage is a legal contract between two persons, which is a really depressing definition of a marriage (and definitely not worth spending tens of thousands on for your wedding). If marriage to you, like to me, is a commitment – physical, emotional and spiritual – to a person you promise to love for the rest of your life – there should not even be any room to negotiate for a any brief, casual encounters with someone else.

Anyway, it is just a matter of time before AM comes into Singapore.

True, even with the MDA ban, people can bypass the ban by using a VPN or logging in from another country. The website is up and running, and there is a network of interested parties building. It is just a matter of finding inconvenient to increasingly convenient channels of bypassing the ban and getting what we want (if that is what you are looking for). But why does this make it OK for them to be in Singapore again? Again, passively accepting this is equivalent to saying you are in favour of the concept and values it is founded on.

People should have freedom to do what they want. Those who values commitment and family will stay away from the site. And those who do not, would have committed adultery with or without AM anyway. Blame the people, not the tool. 

It is said that “AM is not the cause of infidelity” and uses this as reason not to block Ashley Madison in Singapore. True, even Noel Biderman, CEO and founder, said that Ashley Madison ‘“does not aggressively promote extra-marital affairs,” and is merely a platform that “cannibalises” an already existing behaviour pattern.’ There are plenty of extra-marital affairs and broken relationships among us and our family unit is definitely not as stable as we may ideally think it to be. But do we say “OK” to the opening of more channels that encourage infidelity because of what we tout as “freedom”? Why do we make things easier for the Wrong to succeed, when it is already difficult enough to do the Right sometimes?

If it comes down to having to make a choice between laying claim to personal freedom and having my government make a stand on what values we want to preserve and champion (despite an ever-growing number of ideologies that run against it), I would choose hands down the latter. Same logic goes to working in school for me. If you asked me which was more important: protecting my personal voice and freedom, or having school leaders that protect and guard the same values that we hold dear and our community is built on (like resilience, and good character, and confidence), I would definitely want a school with leaders who knew how to safeguard our values and convictions, because those strands make us us. 

I may be an old-fashioned conservative, but I find the self-centred view of wanting freedom (and not restricting our choices) extremely wanton and selfish.

Yes, ultimately it boils down to a fundamentally values dialogue.

Yes, it is all about the values and conventions. Ashley Madison and its varied supporters obviously proclaim a different set of values than what we do (or what we are used to).

I personally cannot get past the idea that AM openly claims to reach out to married partners who are looking for brief, casual encounters with another. People justify this as a need which marriage partners are sometimes unable to satisfy – sometimes sexual, sometimes emotional – which explains the warped idea that extra-marital affairs can help keep families together. It pains me to think that what is central to this line of persuasion is that you are the most important person in your life. If you cannot be satisfied, you have the right to look for contentment elsewhere. After all, you may be doing your family a favour.

The images on the website – to “shhh” and keep it a secret – is disturbing. Is it not common sense that when you need to hide something from someone, there is a high possibility that you are doing something wrong? Why does the company choose to feature such images?

AM capitalises on the needs of married persons and their possible weakness towards infidelity, as clients in the running of this website. Yet its founder, supporters and members, do not seem to think that this business concept is very wrong. It is a profit-driven business based on the weaknesses of others – and it justifies itself by apathetically ignoring the issue the morality, and rendering it irrelevant because of the potentially good things it does (like keep families together and satisfy individual needs and … everyone is doing it anyway!)

Not only does it seem to imply that it is reasonable to have an extra-marital affair, it also conversely seems to suggest that a marriage without it will be challenging and impossible. But since when were we told that relationships, marriages and building a family was easy? If commitment was so easy, it would not be called “commitment”.

Take the opportunity to ask some important questions.

Ashley Madison aside, this episode does spur me on to want to ask some important questions like:

Why do we hold on to those values like we did in the past?
Are they still relevant for us today?
How do we know what is right and wrong anymore?

Can we expect to impose our values and ideologies on others in the same community? 

Because honestly, Ashley Madison is going to be just one of those things that digs up our dirty laundry. Once this AM episode cools off and citizens come to accept its place (or lack thereof) in the society, something else is going to come along and jolt us into a string of questions again.

We all join this dialogue with different perspectives and ideas of what values are, how important they are, and why we should or should not fight for them. The Government claims that the site holds a “flagrant disregard for family values and public morality” – laying claim to protect the traditional Asian family values they want (or believe) Singaporeans embody. It is the conservative Asian society they want to preserve, and for many fairly good reasons, political, social, economical. I am not sure how many people actually spoke up against sites like AM because they believe in the transient nature of morality – that there are certain values that time has no bearing on.

There is a certain, definite right and wrong, good and evil, that I believe in, and that is dictated in the Bible. The principles and teachings of the Bible does not change through time – so just like God teaches us to value our loved ones and honour them, to honour the marital vows that were made before the Lord – I believe that those are right things which do not change just because social principles and conventions have shifted somewhat.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

I believe there is a conscience placed in each of us that gently nudges us to do right and to shy away from wrongdoing. This is how we know that it is wrong to kill a man, betray one’s trust, rob a bank, or turn a blind eye to someone in desperate need. Our conscience may become suppressed into insensitivity and apathy over time, but there is a conscience at work. If we don’t feel good about those extra-marital affairs and feel a need to hide from our partners, we are doing wrong.

The next question is, can we expect to impose our values on the rest of our community, even if out of altruism and goodwill, we believe strongly that it is for the benefit of the people? I believe there is a necessity to stand up for what you know is right, and speak up against what you know is wrong. Of course, not everyone will agree, and some would take much offence at how grandly I appear to boast of my “Christian” moral goodness and integrity when I probably fall short in so many other ways.

Not everyone may understand or appreciate the reasons for your beliefs and convictions, or share your views in morality, but that does not mean that you are wrong to speak up for what you believe in. The Government, MDA, AM, and other bodies speak up about this issue from various points of view. I contribute to the pool of debate as well by speaking up from a personal point of view, and that includes beliefs grounded in my Christian faith.

I cannot condone or accept what Ashley Madison stands for (and of course AM will not the be only thing I frown upon with much disdain), and I want to share a piece of my thoughts if you would read it. In the same way, I hope people reading and exchanging in these dialogue would be able to respect and honour the views of individuals as well – individuals governed by their own set of values, beliefs and convictions.

 

Sickly Service

The most dreaded virus I find my body most susceptible to is the flu. I hate it each time I get the flu, when the waste-paper bins are filled with mushy white tissue paper, the mug you drink out of reeks of illness, and there is hardly enough water left in the jar because your body practically craves water like it is air. 

This morning I debated between spending money going to the doctor’s for an MC, or to just head down to school to clock in 4 hours. The headache told me that I should not risk going to school looking like a measled animal whimpering and sniffing and carrying boxes of tissue around, so I headed down to the doctor’s. I queued outside fifteen minutes before the clinic opened at nine o’clock, only to be told when it finally opened that the doctor would only arrive later. “He looks at the CCTV and sees how many patients there are.” The nurse explained to another patient, who inquired when the doctor would arrive. what?? is that how private gps work nowadays? 

The doctor finally showed up at around nine forty-five, and as the first patient I had a two-minute consultation with him before I paid close to fifty dollars for the consultation and medication, and left in five minutes before ten. 

The experience left me feeling ever more sore. I decided to visit this clinic because the other clinic usually met a waiting time of two hours. But I felt indignant that for this clinic, the doctor’s schedules seemed to revolve around him than his patients. He asked all the relevant questions and prescribed all the appropriate medication, but I did not feel that I had just visited a doctor – I felt that I had just paid close to fifty dollars for an MC, period. 

Teaching, just like being a general practitioner, has to be more than just a profit-driven business, right? I did not feel like a patient, but a customer, who just completed a quick transaction. So I decided that I will go back to my usual GP even if I have to wait for an hour or so more, simply because she cares for every single person – young or old – who walks in through her doors, and treats them with patience and heart.