Happy New Year. May 2018 be your best year so far.
Recently, I have created a new WordPress blogsite called Jimmy’s evergreen glen and glade. Thank you for reading and following my posts here so far. In future, I will be posting more often in my new blogsite, though I may still post here on environmental issues from time to time.
My new website introduces who I am and what I do for a living; namely writing, editing, photography and video-storytelling.
You are welcome to drop by and read and subscribe to my new blogsite, where I share my life stories, reviews on workshops, and so on.
And if you would like to get free tips on basic writing and editing English, do check out my new Facebook group “Write Better with Jimmy Tan“.
National Geographic has published an online photo gallery of the Ringling Bros Circus. I don’t remember following Ringling Bros Circus but I vaguely recalled having watched some circus shows on TV when I was younger. In today’s rising consciousness about animal welfare, changing lifestyles and perceptions and so on, it is perhaps understandable that circuses aren’t generally as popular as they were during their heyday.
One vivid memory I had about circuses though is the book I read when I was in primary school called “Mr Galliano’s Circus” written by Enid Blyton. I remember I was struggling with learning English in Primary 1 or 2, and did not score well in English tests or exams, partly because I wasn’t well read at a young age. When I stumbled upon “Mr Galliano’s Circus” in the school library, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the language level was just right for me at that point in time, and I believe it marked a turning point for me to develop a love for reading story books, thanks to the intriguing premise of the story about a boy called Jimmy (the name sounds familiar) who embarked on an adventure when he got to travel with the circus with his parents.
I googled about the book and found it interesting that a reviewer wrote the following
“But Mr Galliano’s Circus is also quite subversive. An ordinary family gives up their comfortable suburban life and joins the circus. Ultimately this is a book about freedom and escaping the rat race.”
For all the controversies surrounding circuses, I have to admit that circuses at that point in history probably would have developed from a different set of cultures, values and circumstances than that in the kind of modern societies in which I live. Back in those days, animals from the wild were seen as mysterious and taming wild animals was a wonder for people who grew up all their lives in urban concrete jungles to watch, and the circus life was seen as a source of entertainment and an escapade from the mainstream societal system that didn’t have iPads, YouTube and MTVs for instant entertainment.
As much as I empathised with the wild animals such as lions and elephants that had to bear the ignominy and inconveniences of being confined in unnatural cages and subjugated to perform circus tricks, I have to understand that the people who grew up being involved in circus life didn’t know much better at that time, and through a rising consciousness about how we are all interconnected, we begin to understand a bit better about ourselves and others, and we begin to make positive changes and learn to make adjustments to create a better, more humane and equitable world…
In a computer RPG (Role Playing Game) game such as Ultima, the character is always in the middle of the screen. It may appear to be moving when we press the direction arrow keys to move it around to explore the virtual world, but it is the landscape that is moving while the character remains stationary.
In a way, each of us is like the character. The scenery around us may change as we move from place to place going about our lives, but in a deeper reality, we remain stationary – only the circumstances around us change, and we feel compelled to react or respond to changing circumstances.
Maybe therein lies the secret of remaining grounded in inner peace and stability? Maybe what we need to do isn’t so much as to remain unperturbed and emotionless, but to observe with equanimity our thoughts and emotions that rise and ebb with each changing circumstance.
On my way cycling to Waterway Point via the Northeast riverine PCN (Park Connector Network), I thought to myself it was one of the most scenic and enjoyable places to cycle. The nature scenery, the breeze, the relatively few people compared to the usually crowded East Coast Parkway.
But when I reached Waterway Point, my mood changed. The buildings in the vicinity looked rather opulent and soulless – they looked more like an extravagant display of affluence and grandeur at the expense of the migrant construction workers’ blood, sweat and tears who built those buildings. They reminded me of the Babylonian Hanging Gardens – once a symbol of material success and status, now a relic of a fallen kingdom that has been reduced to ruins. Maybe Singapore would be destined to such a fate if the relentless quest for materialism, capitalism and mass consumerism continues unabated, unchecked and unchallenged.
“There’s certainly no quick and easy answers for how to address the violent injustice that’s just come to the forefront of our awareness, or the whole spectrum of violent injustice against the dark / the feminine / the other that the recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile belong to…
… and also I do sense that the collective efforts of many individuals taking deep self-responsibility and doing their own shadow integration work is one key piece of the puzzle that can lead our world to healing.
Because there’s not a single one of us alive who’s blameless in this.
As humans, we’re all implicated in the cycle of pain and violence that surrounds us, and until we meet our own internal violence, shamelessly and fearlessly, we just unconsciously perpetuate it in our personal and collective lives.
My strongest encouragement and my best wishes for you to do just that.”
Yes, come to think of it, there is a deeper layer beneath the surface of violent injustice in this world, and doing shadow integration work can “lead our world to healing”. To me, the root cause is as ancient as the proverbial two trees in the garden in some mystical traditions, whether it be esoteric or gnostic Christianity, or kabbalah, or Buddhism, or as Thich Nhat Hanh’s words put it – “we are here to awake from the illusion of separateness”, which I interpret as the illusion that we are separate from the Source, or Divine Love, or our Higher Self, and consequently the illusion that we are all separate from our true self and from one another in this world.
I learned from some resources that the two trees may symbolise two systems of thoughts, for the intricate network of the branches and roots of the trees resembles the complex network of neural pathways in the brain. The tree of knowledge of good and evil, to me, is a mindset that thinks we are separate from the Divine, causing us to lose sight of our true identity as Divine Love, and mistaking our actions or any outward things to determine if we are good or bad. Some fundamentalist religions, including evangelical christianity, went further and suggested that humans were so-called inherently evil or “originally sinful”, and this destructive mindset only fuels a sense of self-loathing and self-hatred, from which violent injustice arises – both towards oneself and towards others.
Healing comes, in my opinion, when we return to the Source of who we are, knowing intuitively and experientially, that we are t’shuvah – made in the image of Divine Love, born with the power to do good or bad, and these actions don’t change our true identity as a Beloved child of the Universe or Source or Divine Love. I love the story of the Africantribe that demonstrates this truth or principle of how a person who had done something hurtful and wrong can be held up in truth and love by his brothers and sisters “to reconnect him with his true Nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected: “I AM GOOD” (or more specifically, “I am Love”).”
Whether the story of the tribe is historically true, as discussed in the above link, I believe it underlines the ancient and timeless truth that we are essentially Love, and the tree of life, or the system of thought that says we are One with Divine Love and with one another, frees us to be our true self, and to love and heal ourselves and one another from the inside out, as it is a transformation of the mind from within the heart and soul.
In fact, at this point of my understanding of how the world functions, I would venture to take one step further and surmise that as human civilisations move away from the Motherland or the birthplace of humanity, there is a risk of them losing sight of their original root or true identity, except perhaps in indigenous societies that retain their ancient way of life and cultures, such as the Aboriginals in Oceania, the tribes in Asia and South America and the native North American tribes. I believe much of the western civilisation (as well as other non-indigenous societies that have adopted a “modern”, urbanised way of life) have lost sight of the roots they had in Africa as their ancestors moved out from Africa to settle in Europe and other places thousands of years ago.
Somewhere along the way, the white Europeans started to think they were separate from their true self and from others, and started to hate themselves and others. The modern legal and criminal justice system probably came from the white people, which stems from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For instance, the western christianity teaches retributive justice through the concept of a literal hell as a place for punishment and the penal substitutionary theory that presupposes an angry God in the sky demanding a blood sacrifice to appease his wrath. So, the more legalistic the white Europeans became, the more they ended up hating themselves and others for not measuring up to their own perceived standards. When they lost sight of their true identity as Love, they became blinded by the illusion of separateness and sought to define their worth and identity by outward achievements and power and status. Hence, that is probably the reason the early European imperialists started competing with one another and went to other continents to invade and conquer the lands and the native peoples of Africa, Asia and America, destroying peoples, culture and the natural environment as a result, simply to prove they were so-called superior.
So in a nutshell, I see white supremacy (or any other kind of supremacy), capitalism and patriarchy as a manifestation of having lost sight of our true identity of Divine Love, and consequently, having internalised self-hatred and self-loathing. (At this point, I want to say that this malady affects everyone, not only the white Europeans, but because European colonialism and imperialism has such a huge impact around the globe, I want to use this example to make a point.) Hence, through integrative shadow work, I believe the systemic violence and injustice in this world can be addressed when each of us returns to the Source, as often as possible, whenever we forget or lose sight of who we originally are, and rediscovers and remembers all over again that we are in essence Divine Love, thereby experiencing a deep transformation from within, and awake and continue to awake from “the illusion of separateness”. I believe the result will be a deep, lasting peace and unity, which we can experience individually and collectively.
Why would people, especially in the comfy privileged world, want to scare themselves out of the wits by watching thrillers or horror movies and throwing money at the movie makers who are probably just out to make profits off people’s discomfort?
I suppose the more privilege and comfort people have, the more they feel bored and disconnected with themselves and with Nature, so they get restless and start imagining things or try to silence the discomfort by seeking stimulating happenings just to get a thrill out of it – anything to distract themselves from themselves.
Conversely, if we are busy trying to deal with oppression and stay alive and well, or if we practise being connected to who we really are and to the Universe, we will see no need for any kind of outward excitement to occupy ourselves or keep ourselves preoccupied – we simply live and be our highest self.
I have read the article “Let’s Kill Off ‘Expat'”, and it is kind of refreshing to read about how a white person has become socially and racially aware to the point that she readily admits and acknowledges her own white privilege and is willing to do something about it by raising awareness and encouraging others to not perpetuate white privilegeness or to not contribute to the institutional racism that is often associated with the word “expat”.
It reminds me of a similar article “Why are White People Expats when the Rest of Us are Immigrants”, in which Mawuna advocates his readers to call white people immigrants like everyone else, instead of expats. Like he said, “the political deconstruction of this outdated worldview must continue”. Yes, I think either we all use expats to describe highly skilled or highly paid workers regardless of their skin colours or races or nationalities, or we don’t use the term at all in our endeavour to promote the universal truth that we all are equal.
If I declare “I am”, then I am also declaring “I am not” at the same time.
If I say that I am something, then I am also saying that I am not something else. This is duality as I understand it. But there is also non-duality. I would like to propose that there is a tension and balance between duality and non-duality.
For example, from a dualistic perspective, I can choose to say that I am a Chinese by race, which is one of the artificial social constructs we often use in a societal system to label ourselves and others. So, if I say I am a Chinese, that means I am also saying that I am not a non-Chinese; that is, I am not Malay, Indian, and so on. Similarly, from the same perspective, if I say that I am a male, by virtue of the fact that I am born with masculine characteristics, I am also saying that I am not a female, or androgynous for that matter, if I were to subscribe to cis-genderism. For some reasons, I was born in this human body that is considered “male” and recognised by the society as “Chinese”, which I have no control over. Whether this social identity is considered “privileged” depends on whether I was born into a society that is patriarchal, or a society that is dominated by a certain majority race, and so on.
At the same time, from a non-dualistic perspective, I can say that I am neither this nor that. That is to say, I am – in essence – neither Chinese nor non-Chinese, and I am neither male nor female. This is because before I came into existence as a human being on planet earth in this time and space, I am that which is raceless, genderless, timeless and formless, who came from an unknown, mysterious realm.
I suppose the challenge for me is: how do I balance between the two “polarities” as I try to make sense of my existence on this earthly realm? How do I consciously use my multifaceted identities to effect change and make the world a better, more humane and more equitable place?
Cycling is itself political, and it would be futile to separate cycling from politics. The act of cycling itself is a political statement. Whenever we choose to ride a bicycle, we are challenging the status quo of the power structure in the society that favours the rich, powerful and privileged people who predominantly drive cars. We are subverting the classist system that treats cars as status symbols. We are helping to reduce the impacts of environmental degradation caused by pollutive motor vehicles run on fossil fuels. By switching from travelling by motor vehicles to bicycles, we are also easing traffic congestion on the roads. Last but not least, cycling empowers the marginalised and disadvantaged, and restores equality to them.
Then again, I am coming to realise that the moment I become more actively involved in politics, I begin to experience pushback in the form of repression and dissenting voices from some people. For example, last night when I shared a photo of a fellow countryman riding a bicycle in Love Cycling SG Facebook group and commented that he was living by example, the group admin deleted the photo. I decided to post a question in the group to ask the admin why the photo was removed. The admin deleted that post as well without explanation. This gave me the impression that the admin wasn’t interested in dialogues and was unwilling to be held accountable for their actions. I decided to post one final time to call them out for being discriminatory.
I also decided to leave the group with my dignity intact (remembering the importance about being true to myself and not succumb to groupism). I am in the process of working through my thoughts and emotions based on the responses to my post by articulating them in this blog:
If I didn’t challenge the admin like this and let things slide, the discrimination would continue. The fact that photos of ruling party members riding bicycles are allowed but not other party members shows this group is indeed partisan and discriminatory. It smacks of hypocrisy.
This episode underlines a fear-based climate and controlling culture that inhibits free speech and expression of our fundamental human rights. It keeps people repressed, small-minded and immature. I refuse to allow myself to be intimidated or humiliated or talked down at. I am hurt and disgusted by their treatment. I need strong and forceful language to speak my cause. The fact that admin initially refused to respond to my post shows they were not willing to be accountable for their actions. It reminds me of the same way a former prime minister depended on his lawyer to defend him when another politician confronted him directly in the law court.
I chose to leave the group with my dignity intact. If anyone is inspired, it is to encourage them that they too can stand their ground and let their voices be heard for the sake of justice and equality.
So the admin finally replied, saying the photo was linked to SDP Facebook page, and was deemed “political”.
Firstly, why didn’t he clarify earlier? He could have chosen to reply my question in my earlier post instead of removing it without explanation. Why wait until I challenged his action publicly and called out on the apparent discrimination and lack of transparency and accountability?
Secondly, does the link itself denote a infringement of the rules regarding “no political statements”? If so, then I would say it is double standard on the part of the admin because they have allowed photos of politicians from the ruling party to be posted in the past. In any case, the reason the link of SDP Facebook page was shown together with the photo I posted is because the photo doesn’t belong to me, and when I shared it via Facebook, the link was automatically shown. If I were to save the photo in my computer and upload it onto the Facebook group, I would have to acknowledge the source, and SDP Facebook page would still need to be mentioned.
The point I want to make is that the link of SDP Facebook page alone doesn’t necessarily constitute an infringement of the rules, or else the rules would have applied to all other political parties in the past.
In reality, cycling and politics invariably overlap because it is through politics that policies are formed and mindsets are shaped to influence the cycling culture in Singapore, for better or for worse, depending on how we live by example through our cycling activities and conversations, as well as our interactions with pedestrians and motorists.
At this point, I am glad to have removed myself from the group as it might not be worthwhile getting into a debate with them, and this blog can serve as a platform for my voice to be heard. At the very least, I am glad the status quo in that group is being challenged and political awareness about justice and equality is being increased, I believe.
Yes, awakening is a process, so it is natural and understandable that we no longer are driven by what drives the world, such as status, achievements, and so on, as we embark on an ongoing journey of discovering our outer purpose. I decided to google to find out what he meant by inner and outer purpose, and I learnt from this article that our inner purpose is Being whereas our outer purpose is Doing, and I agree somewhat with this statement: “Outer purpose can change over time and is unique for every person. Inner purpose can shed light on your outer purpose”.
I believe our part is to focus on and rest in our inner purpose of being who we really are – the eternal, authentic, timeless, magnificent divine self – and embrace and love ourselves for who we really are, and we will naturally be living and aligning ourselves with our outer purpose in the here and now. For some reasons, this adage somehow came to mind – “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Maybe it sums up the primary purpose of life – to live in the present moment with wide open wonder and awake to and relish the everyday miracles of breathing the fresh air, enjoying the trees and flowers, and the rest are secondary.
“So many of us are trying to be somebody, accomplish something…. But sometimes we get to a point where we give up on all of that… because achieving and obtaining things… feels kind of pointless after a while.
So we start letting go of things we don’t even like… people who don’t totally love us… stuff we just don’t care about…. Then we end up creating space for ourself… space to feel… and be… whatever we want….
And that’s when we wake up. We wake up to this blissful, tranquil, higher consciousness… which is really just our self…. our real, honest, perfectly imperfect self…. And we find out we were there all along….
When we reconnect with our honest self, then we automatically feel so much love for life and everyone…. Because we’re not miserable anymore. We realize how miserable it was to live a fake life… and that’s something we can’t ever go back to.”
– Elizabeth Dahl Kingery
Yes, the societal notions of “somebody” and “accomplish something” are based on subjective opinions of other people regarding what they deem as important in life, but we are all here to live our soul purpose and create our own meaning, and so we can choose not to subscribe to societal expectations of us. Indeed, achieving and obtaining things feels pointless after a while because the statuses, titles, material possessions and so on are impermanent and are subject to change or decay over time, and do not add to or define who we are in our true essence. Thus, it is truly liberating to see through the illusion of material success, artificial identities, social constructs and separateness to realise our “real, honest, perfectly imperfect self” is there within us all along, and realise that regardless of what we do in life, where we were born, and which gender we are considered to belong to, and so on, we are all equal and we are all one.