Sunday, November 07, 2010

Don't work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

(as reposted by Red Lebrun and others who came along this like my friend Venice and shared it by posting it on her facebook wall)

Written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.


What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.


The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.


I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.


The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.

You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

saw this from Ellen's status at gmail. and i agree so much to all that it states.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Living Truly Free

i can't describe the scenery from deep within my soul,
as great painters do.
i can't reach the highest and lowest range of tones,
as great singers do.
Barely at all, with my writing,
am i able to truly express what's been bothering my soul.

Hiding behind all pretenses.
Repressing all truth.
Fear of discovery.
Fear of being found.

I walk emptily into the world,
constantly searching for my path.
Walking each dark and lonely road,
stumped and questioning myself and the Universe still.

Along these paths,
i met countless different people.
I am truly grateful,
For they made my journey worthwhile.

Yet a voice within my soul
remains unheard.
A Love still unrequited...
A Being Caged in its open home - Myself.

My Heart remains close...
Hoping to break free yet hiding within.
My Soul Caged in my Physical Body
Staring at the sky hoping to soar free.

A Love in my Heart,
So Great and So Selfish,
It breaks my Being,
Shattering all over...
Over and over again...

Craving for attention
Craving for truth
Craving for discovery
Craving to be set free...

Even my love is unrequited.
A never-ending cycle.
repressed, unanswered.
Locked In.

I will always be incomplete,
constantly searching,
Banging each door of "opportunity"
Walking each path of "chance".

My Eyes and My Heart are Clouded and Blinded.
Grasping for an answer,
Clawing on empty space,
Creating a gap.

Hanging on to dear life,
Teetering atop highest expectations...
Falling on and on within the deep abyss of Uncertainty.
Losing oneself, enveloping oneself with the numbing darkness.

empty. Barren.
withered. dying.
Floating. aimless.
Dark. Lost.

Grating at the very doors that locks it in:
Constant Paranoia and Fear
Rejection, Expulsion,
Being an outcast and ending up alone.

We are Foolish!
Foolish for Lying to Ourselves!
Complicating our lives
With the intricate web of deception...
How Foolish and Dumb of us!

I envy those who live out their True Selves.
Risking it all - loneliness, rejection and more.
Their Hearts, Souls and Beings shatter, as Reality would have it.
Yet they Remain True to Themselves.
Broken yet True.
Instead of Perfect yet Deceptive.
Bonded to Reality,
They are not free from the hardships of Life
and the suffering of Living it,
But free from any lies.
Each one of us carries a scar -
a Scar we are afraid to show.
A scar we keep hidden.
The beauty of their Scarred Life Is that they don't hide it at all.
No life is perfect.
But it becomes perfect once we see Ourselves and Become Our Own.

Broken up in pieces,
i've done my best to mend myself.
Still hoping that one day,
i'll find my courage to no longer deny -
my Heart that loves truly
my Soul that lives freely
my Mind that rests peacefully
my Being that radiates brightly and completely.
No longer denying what and who I am
Who I Truly Am.

No more hiding
No more excuses
No more keeping safe.
No more denial...

To express what is truly in my heart.
To express what i really want to say.
To express the Truth.
To express the Depth and Beauty of our Soul and Being.
To Manifest the Timeless Wonder of the Beauty and Reality of all Souls.
And to finally rediscover and reclaim our Lost Humanity.
Lost Through Countless Lifetimes of Repression.
Found Through continued struggle for Release.

Be Free, Little One.
Don't Cry anymore because of Bitterness.
Cry because of Love, Joy and Humility...
Because you've been set free to be your Own.

Soar and Fly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

there's beauty in working late at night.
quiet and solitude.
concentration and relaxation, in a way.

there's also beauty in working at home.
A little laid back, but not completely so.
Freedom, yet still adhering to certain personal work goals for the day.

and now, back to work. :) one more to go, and back to la-la land. :D
(with "Notting Hill" in the background, after X-Men 2 and some few other movies at HBO and Star Movies) Poor Diane. She had a bad dream a while ago. I am glad she is able to go back to sleep. :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

you say that my feelings right now are pretty much mixed up - sad, sort of happy and relaxed, and neutral (i guess more on bordering towards some sadness).

what i plan to do tonight is to either watch movies/dvd series or actually finish a book (of whatever type - novel, comics that i have bought in thailand, or whatever else i have at home). i also find that i think i really need to finish burning aunt michelle a copy of the classical music i like. i seem to be finding it in myself somewhat lost and empty, listless, yet also somewhat content. content in the matter that i get to spend time with family. so relaxed is my schedule. though i am also thinking of other stuff - trips, stuff to save for now and buy later, things that i have to buy and thinking if i have enough funds to purchase such stuff, and paying for monthly pledges that i have made(will that leave me enough spending money for the next 15 days?) i think i do have enough, but why am i anxious and a little worried that i may not have enough and have to get some from my savings? i know i am holding myself back on that, but saving is not a bad thing at all. but why do i feel this way? i am not denying myself of any basic need, and i am deciding to spend wisely on stuff that i only do really need... i guess the very fact that i am afraid to touch the money lest i squander it on other things makes me anxious before i do anything at all - even in just making sure that i deposit the money. bah... i should not worry. i am aware of where i want to spend it, what i want to save it for, why i want to save it. i do end up splurging on some little thing, but i do know i also make and keep an effort to keep to what i can only spend on. there is no need to worry - i haven't done anything. and paying for what needs to be paid is my responsibility. so, there, done. :D

sadness and neutrality comes in to certain life events the last couple of days - chest x-ray results (2) of which gave me some scare. the first gave a little uncertainty, the second still needs to be interpreted by another doctor. to live life more and to take the risks i do want to take came into mind yesterday. but neutrality comes in because i don't want to overdo stuff - as i get rash, impulsive, emotional and all others.... to live doesn't mean that i go running off doing all the things i want (well, partly it is - to do things that i want, i plan to do, i dream to do), but a big chunk of it is actually living each moment of my life fully - with a happy, content heart, mind and soul - whatever comes my way. understanding and accepting life, and moving on, learning more, by "living" more - happy and content through these things. these words and thoughts come so easily. but i believe that each day, i find simple moments like these have become part of my day each day. i want to do more and to be more, but i am also happy(content) on where i am right now. of course, there is also that part which still yearns out, and so may seem discontented, but i tell myself that that is what will be and i will not force it. i will work towards it in my own pace, and the pieces will just fall into place. maybe that is really what is in store, or probably there is something much more to that, much different, yet equally meaningful. so many paths that i can see before me, but i can only choose one at a time. Dear me... i do hope that all of us will see that in our lives, so that we don't give up on ourselves, and persevere on forward...

but for now, i can only see Now clearer than Tomorrow. I don't really know what will come Tomorrow, and i cannot do anything about Yesterday anymore. i remember Yesterday clearly, yet nothing can change it; it changes us when we learn from it and accept it - it makes us who we were, who we are and who we will be. it makes us "us". it makes you "you", and it makes me "me". Not knowing it doesn't change things, knowing and understanding doesn't change anything else at all, except change us "inside" and therefore how we perceive life Now, how we decide to live life, and how we will perceive a Tomorrow for ourselves. There is no tangible changes, yet we know and feel them. We just do, and we feel happy, content, and complete, just as we are, just as things are. it is as if part of the missing pieces in the puzzle of our life have appeared or made itself visible and filled the spot where it had been missing from all along, giving our life more meaning, more color, more breadth and depth, and in a way, a wholeness/completeness that comes from being incomplete. And later on we realize that this comes from finally seeing, understanding and accepting that we don't lack anything at all, that we're not missing anything anymore, and that things are meant they are because we are the way we are - we are good and it has never left us. Don't you think so?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

it has already been three months into the new year. each day passes by so fast... and this is only the first time i've written since the year started. though i find myself somewhat troubled.... troubled by my own mental well-being...

i've been thinking a lot again lately. not something i expected. though that's one thing i've learned the past years - do not expect anything. same intensity as before, but i guess i'm more stronger and aware now, so it doesn't gripe me in fear too much anymore. It still can, but i can pry it loose most of the time.

recently, an opportunity for serious growth and self-reflection came my way, when a really close friend sent me the following statement: "when you are always conscious of how people might perceive you... you are actually thinking more about yourself than about them." this shook things up a lot in me. you can say i was caught truly unaware. how i felt - i felt challenged, lost, and a lot more insecure. there was so much truth in it, but it also felt like an attack to my Being. It's ironic in that way, as it was ironic how the words "authenticity", "self-conscious", "Being" seemed to have had two or more meanings. There were two ways that i had to see it from - from my point of view as My Own Being and from the point of view of my friend.

On my side, i found the truth in it because i am aware of my thoughts and feelings as they arise. i do feel self-conscious a lot, especially right afterwards talking with people. after being out there, i suddenly get a shock and realize that i might have said something wrong, that i was too forward or rash, that i was too "whatever" that i would worry about how i will end up looking. I am selfish being this way, and i feel guilty of being selfish. Of course, the very statement above also made me feel that i might have been a fake. This startled me a lot, that i felt dejected and listless, afraid and anxious, speechless and paralyzed. Has my 28 years of existence been a lie? Am i just who i think i am based on how i see people see me? So am i just projecting what they want to see me to be? Have i been living a lie? I asked so many questions of myself. I can't get it out of my head.

It troubled me so much, affected me, not just because there is the truth in it, but also because i was also trying to prove my existence - that i was real, that the life i have been living so far is true and real. I know that all this time, all i've said(and not said), done(and have not done), and experienced(and, you guessed it, have not experienced), are true, and i have been there when those things happened, aware but blind to it, up to the point that i am aware and facing it face to face, unable to run away anymore. When i speak my mind with really good friends, i convey these thoughts and feelings as i draw them from my heart, mind and soul. i have been true to myself and truly myself most times - in times when i can be alone, when i am with really good friends, and even with strangers. But i have to admit that on the other times, i work within the limits of "societal norms". I admit that i don't want things to get harder when things are already hard. I still have to live, work and function in this world with others, to coexist even if i am a usually antisocial and introverted person. I am still part of this world, even if at some point, i have to put on some cloak to hide some parts of myself so that i can fit in a little and be a good and respecting citizen. I do not want to destroy any thing - i want to help. I contribute. and part of this interwoven network and interconnected world. Only showing a fraction of my self... I am not fake, but yes, maybe i am a coward...

But, "living" my life so far, have i already done anything? Probably this is where my friend is coming from - her side, also the side that the Universe with Endless Possibilities present. Her statement also brought me back and helped me find myself once more - I am not lost, and I am not alone. I am here, now. And thanks to another friend, i am reminded of it all. Through another point of view, a much wider and broader one, Authenticity and Self-conscious somehow takes a somewhat different meaning. Authenticity in the sense that i live out more of myself in all that i do - speech, doing, Being - compared to the fraction i express and show to the world before. To not be afraid to shake things up a little in the world in the society with my ideas, my opinions, with My Presence. Taking rein and control of what i do, and doing more more aggressively. Rather, it is taking charge of myself rather than leaving it to the Heavens. It works that way - but at times, the Heavens do also wait for that very Action to roll the ball again so that we can progress to the next chapter(s) of our lives. To not be afraid anymore, and just be me. To Shine with my own Being, with my own Light. Just as we are all ought to be doing - radiating our Inner Light, so that others may find their Light and shine as well. To let go of the "self-conscious" that limits the Light to shine through, that controls what should have been long expressed, that shrinks away from the light of One's Being, that looks up on others and that sees only our own flaws, inhibiting our own confidence, our own Power, our Voice, and ultimately our Being.

We have grown to choking ourselves in our self-conscious ways because we don't want to offend society and to not make a disgrace out of ourselves - society has conditioned us to this, but we also played a passive role in letting it become a habit and a holding power in us. We blame others for being silent, yet we are ourselves guilty of being silent because we are afraid to rock the boat, limiting the change and improvement that will benefit one and all from coming into Being. WE chose not to speak up partly out of fear, and partly because we felt it was not our place nor within our power to do so. We are afraid to be casualties of a just cause, especially if we are not misguided at all. We fall back right into the same cage, the same rut. In the end, we disgrace ourselves for not being able to Live Fully, for not being able to just fully Be, for limiting ourselves from all that we can be. Degrading ourselves to be just less of what We already are - beautifully perfect and imperfect. Our perfect imperfection makes us unique and makes us who we are individually.

We don't find empowerment outside - just support - because empowerment comes from within. We hold the Key to ourselves, we hold the answers to our Life, We are our Life. All that matters now is, "Will i take charge? Will I use my Voice? Will I use my Life? Will I live my Life? Will I be I?" It is a challenge - will we heed the siren call and take it head on? Seriously, I still have to make my choice. And so do you.