Circuses and our evolving consciousness

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.
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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.
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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.
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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…

Water pollution issue in Singapore

This is the original, unedited letter I emailed to Straits Time forum. It was published online on 8 September 2016, entitled “Don’t overlook rubbish in less-frequented areas“.

It has been said that Singapore is not so much a “clean” city as it is a “cleaned” city. I agree. On 23 August 2016, I saw lots of rubbish floating in the river next to Braddell bus depot. It must have been washed into the river from drains flowing through Bishan and Toa Payoh after a storm.
Polluted river canal
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

I highlighted the water pollution issue to PUB via OneService app, and three days later, I saw some workers cleaning up the river at Potong Pasir from the rubbish that we, as a society, have been littering or disposing of.

River cleaning
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

On 7 September, I revisited the river at Potong Pasir and noticed that the rubbish has reappeared after a pre-dawn downpour.

Polluted river
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

I think we tend to focus on having clean-looking waters in the more frequented areas such as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang Basin where residents and visitors hang out, but the less frequented areas are often neglected. Also, I doubt that the otters living in Kallang Basin would want to swim upstream back to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park when there is rubbish floating in Kallang River that flows through the high-density populated areas.

We must realise that everything that we throw indiscriminately in the drains will end up in the rivers that flow towards the sea. But we are so preoccupied with our own lives that we fail to see the impacts of our inconsiderate actions. It is usually when a storm occurs that all these accumulated rubbish in the drains are washed into the rivers that we notice the full impact of our actions – unsightly flotsam, stinking water and eutrophication caused by algal bloom, all of which affect aquatic life negatively.

Are we going to continue to ignore the root of the pollution problem in our country and shirk our responsibility in keeping the environment clean by distracting ourselves through our consumeristic lifestyles and not caring about how we dispose of rubbish in public places? Are we only concerned with keeping up an image of living in a supposedly “green and clean city” by focusing only on the appearance of the more frequented areas and neglecting the less frequented areas? When we do not think about how our actions affect the animals, plants and the environment, our actions will ultimately affect ourselves adversely because we are all interconnected in the ecosystem.

Two days after my letter was published in ST Forum Online, I noticed the river at Potong Pasir appeared to have been cleaned up by the national water agency PUB (Public Utilities Board) as it looked cleaner, but this morning (13 September), I noticed the water pollution has recurred, as the river had floating rubbish and debris, presumably washed into the river from nearby drains after a storm had occurred the day before.

“Water in the Kallang River flows into the Marina Reservoir.”

(From PUB says water pollution at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park “not likely to be kerosene”)

Enough is enough – something has to be done to deal with the persistent water pollution problem at its roots. We are all complicit in this violation against the environment, and ultimately against ourselves.

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Stubby squids and other mysteries

A National Geographic article shared by a colleague invites readers to watch a video of a googly-eyed sea creature that cracked up scientists. The purple stubby squid is intriguing indeed. I googled about it and found another video of this “muppet” swimming on the ocean floor.
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 The cartoon-like eyes of the squid make me wonder… who came up with the idea that big round eyes make for cute, cartoon-like creatures? Before the discovery of this squid with cartoon eyes, one would probably have thought that big round eyes are the invention of human cartoonists and muppeteers, which are often featured in cartoons ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dragonball to Sesame Street. But Mother Nature surprised us through this discovery, as if to proclaim that such big-eyed cartoon characters have always existed all along since time immemorial in real life – in the form of stubby squids and the like, way way WAY before such cartoons came on the scene through the invention of media like televisions and comic books in the modern world.
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Perhaps another mystery is… how did human beings conceive of big round eyes of a stubby squid when they first drew cute cartoon characters, long before they had ever seen such creatures in real life? Are we human beings an extension of the Universe such that we are all interconnected with all other living beings, and by some telepathy or mysterious soul imprints and mystical connections, we intuitively create works of art resembling some other creatures without knowing of their existence or seeing them before?
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Maybe there is something deeply profound in the imaginations of human beings, which may be a key to unravel the ancient mysteries such as pyramids, crop circles, UFOs, and so on…
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Meanwhile, life goes on… in a world where students are often told by the education system to not daydream and study hard so that they can work in a rank-and-file capitalistic system and live a nondescript life, while the mysteries of life continue to stay hidden in the deep recesses of human consciousness, unexplored and unexplained.

A visit to Lentor-Tagore forest 

Having been reading on Facebook about the impending development of Lentor area that will result in the destruction of forest and two natural streams, I decided to check out the area this afternoon in search of the elusive streams. 

But it turned out that I was a bit too late because when I arrived at Yio Chu Kang road via Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, I saw that the entrance to the forest, where the streams were supposed to be, has been fenced off, and a portion of the forest behind a bus stop along Yio Chu Kang road has already been cleared. 

I decided to cycle around Lentor private housing estate, hoping to find another way to Lentor forest. The nearest I could get to the forest is via a canal near the junction of Lentor avenue and Seletar Expressway (SLE).

From the end of the canal, I could see heavy machinery clearing the forest. I found a path through the forest fringe that led me closer to the clearing. 

I decided not to venture too close to the clearing and turned back. I later circled round the area via Springleaf nature park in the north to the other side of the forest, hoping to find an entrance to the forest from Tagore Industrial Avenue. 

I managed to find a small entrance along the avenue, and walked some distance along the fringe of the Tagore forest. I came to the point where forest clearing was taking place in the south beside a stagnant-looking water body. 

Is that part of a natural stream? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to trespass the construction site, and decided to hike in another part of the forest. I followed a track through Tagore forest that led me to SLE in the north. 

Apart from some wildlife such as a wild boar, a jungle rooster and munias, I didn’t see much in this area. There seems no signs of any natural streams. I suppose they are only found in the part of the Lentor forest that has been fenced off, which I wasn’t able to access. (Or maybe there is another entrance to Lentor forest that leads to the streams that I am unaware of, as I am unfamiliar with the area.)

I decided to call it a day, as evening was approaching. I cycled via Teachers’ Estate back to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, and took a lift up to the highest floor of a HDB block, and snapped some sunset pictures, showing an aerial view of the remaining forest next to Teachers’ Estate.

#BLM & #CLM: Being part of an oppressed group and standing in solidarity

#BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter

I have come to realise that just as Black people, or darker-skinned people in general, are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to race and ethnicity, cyclists are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to the mode of transport or travel.

This realisation came to me recently while I was mulling over activism on social issues, particularly issues on anti-Black racism and anti-cyclist sentiments that have persisted for many years.

For a start, what do #BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter have in common?

On the surface, both of these liberation movements seem unrelated and disparate because one has to do with race and the other has to do with the mode of transport or travel. But I would venture to say that both the Black community and cycling community have been subject to systemic oppression and inexplicable hatred from others for the longest time.

For the Black community, the age-old enemies have always been “micro-aggressions, white privilege and white supremacy“. Through centuries of white Euro-centric media propaganda as well as colorist traditions and mindsets in various parts of the world that favour white skin or fair skin over dark skin, the most sacred spaces in Black people are “often filled with stories of trauma, internalized racism and the struggle of self-love“.

Black Lives Matter Black Friday
Over the years, many of our Black brothers and sisters, though they were unarmed and innocent, have been subject to police brutality especially in USA. (Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, for the cycling community, the enemies are usually prejudice, ignorance and classism. On pavements or sidewalks, cyclists are often unwelcome as they are seen as a menace or nuisance by many pedestrians. On roads, cyclists are also regularly harassed or bullied by many motorists who drive cars, taxis, buses or trucks.

cyclistslivesmatter
Cyclists often face hatred and resentment from motorists who do not care about sharing roads with those on bicycles (Source: Cyclists Lives Matter Facebook page)

Both the oppressed groups – the Black community and the cycling community – often feel like they don’t really belong to the societal system because they don’t fit into the perceived norms. They are also often subject to unfair or negative stereotypes.

For example, whenever the issue of anti-Black racism or police brutality on unarmed Black people is brought up on social media or discussion threads, someone would attempt to derail the conversation by mentioning some negative stereotypes such as Black-on-Black crime instead of acknowledging that the problem of racial discrimination and institutional oppression does exist. The irony is that Black-on-Black crime is a direct result of White supremacy and internalised racism. If not for White supremacy, would Black people (or people of colour in general) be struggling with internalised hatred towards themselves and towards one another?

Similarly, whenever the issue of anti-cyclist sentiments is brought up on social media or forums, someone would attempt to deflect from the issue by talking about errant cyclists who knock down pedestrians on sidewalks or who flout traffic rules on roads. While there will always be a handful of rude or inconsiderate cyclists who give the majority of cyclists a bad name, it doesn’t detract from the reality that cyclists in general are discriminated and not given equal space, whether on pavements or on roads.

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Standing in solidarity with the oppressed as one humanity, and as one family of brothers and sisters (Source: http://www.seattleglobalist.com)

Contrary to negative colonialist views of Black people, Africans and African Americans in general are some of the most amazingly warm, humane and hospitable people in their own right. They have contributed to many important inventions and shaped the American culture, and they excel in art, sports, music and entertainment, to name a few. Without Black musicians, for example, there would be no rap, R&B, rock and roll, and soul music as we know and hear them today.

Similarly, cyclists are changing the world for the better in a number of ways. They take up less space and help ease traffic congestion on roads. They are environmentally friendly, as compared to motorists driving greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicles. Many of them also advocate a healthy lifestyle.

It is time for the world to acknowledge that Black lives do matter and cyclists’ lives do matter. It is also time for the world to stop subscribing to negative stereotypes of Black or darker skinned people as well as of cyclists and stop harming or killing them, and start appreciating them for who they are and how they contribute to the betterment of the world in their own ways and start standing in solidarity with them.

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Communicating with stones and crystals

I learn from kids rather than sophisticated and educated adults

Yes, kids who are free from societal programming can teach us much more than sophisticated and educated adults as they are still fresh from (I believe) a higher realm, having arrived on the earthly plane barely a few years ago, and they are naturally intuitive and curious about everything as they explore the new world with wide-opened wonder and awe, and express their innate nature of love uninhibitedly. It is also interesting to learn about how he listened to the crystals to form a crystal grid in which the crystals work together and charge one another to send healing energy to the world. I googled to find out more about listening to crystals speaking, and came across this informative post in a forum that says:

“Native Americans call rocks The Stone People, and also make reference to The Plant People, and The Animal People, etc. The differing vibrational qualities of each thing is the way it “talks.” And the effect of each vibrational quality is what heals us, and what we call, its “medicinal value.” Many people are also familiar with how the Animal People communicate with us (animal spirit guides, totems, power animals, etc.). They teach us by their examples, and show us how to nurture certain qualities they possess, that we also possess within ourselves. This is their communication, how they “talk” to us, and humans have had this dialogue with The Animal People for a very long time. …”

 

 

 

My feedback on the concept master plan to develop the Green Corridor in Singapore

A news article that was published yesterday features proposals for the Green Corridor (aka Rail Corridor) in Singapore.
In the same vein, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) website that is dedicated to the Rail Corridor says:
“The Rail Corridor is a very unique public space differentiated from other community spaces in Singapore. The Rail Corridor connects homes, work places and schools. It encourages a spirit of discovery and exploration, and provides a common space for shared experiences across a diverse segment of our population. There is great potential in fostering social-bonding and community-building activities along the Corridor.”

The above news article also says:

“The public is invited to give feedback at the exhibition and online at http://ura.sg/railrfp from now until the end of next March.”

So, I decided to submit my feedback to URA via their website with regard to the concept master plan to develop the Green Corridor, as follows:

It seems the plan is only to commercialise Tanjong Pagar railway station, so hopefully the rest of the green corridor will be spared (and I understand nothing is set in stone as the plan will be fine-tuned based on public feedback). I also don’t wish to see the green corridor becoming another east coast park, but at the rate it is currently being used and will be more frequently used in future, it is inevitable that some degradation of the muddy track will result, such as compaction and erosion of soil. Bukit Timah nature reserve was closed to public for the time being (except on weekends) for renovation for that reason, so if paving is going to be done carefully, such as using gravel (or something equivalent) instead of concrete to emulate the cycling trails in Pulau Ubin, that allows infiltration of rainwater into the porous surface, I would say it will likely serve the dual purpose of protecting the environment and making the trail more user friendly.
Green Corridor, Singapore
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

The night lighting can be solar powered, and have motion sensors. So, if there is nobody in the area, there isn’t any need for the lights to turn on. This will help conserve energy. Solar panels can be built throughout the Green Corridor to harness more of the solar energy for nearby buildings.

Natural vegetation, as far as possible, should be left as they are – like in the case of Sungei Buloh wetland reserve. It is fine to enhance the zen tranquility of gardens or urban parks, but not the rainforests etc because the latter already have their own natural serenity.

One concern many nature lovers have is that the Green Corridor will lose its quiet ambience and natural feel, especially when it becomes too popular and crowded in future. For example, if the corridor becomes too user-friendly to the extent that it becomes a bicycle expressway, it will somewhat lose its rustic charm. Similarly, if we are going to build plaza spaces, cafes and amphitheatres, it is likely to disturb the quietness of the surroundings, and people will no longer find the Green Corridor attractive as a sanctuary to get away from urban stress and commercialisation.
Mountain Bike Track
© Photographer: Haslinda | Agency: Dreamstime.com

So, maybe one way to prevent the green corridor from being too inviting for bicycles and becoming overcrowded is to have a holistic development of cycling infrastructure in Singapore, such as by developing the green corridor in tandem with the cycling infrastructure elsewhere. For example, if dedicated bike lanes are made available along the roads nearby, then cyclists can choose to take these alternative routes to their destinations instead of solely depending on the green corridor to use as a bicycle “expressway”.

Similarly, let’s seek to find a balance by not over-developing the Green Corridor in order to minimise noise level and any form of commercialisation and artificiality, in order to retain the original spirit of rustic charm and healing balm of Nature.

Green Corridor, Singapore
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Education on Nature conservation is always good because no amount of penalty and fines are going to stop people from littering or destroying the environment or poaching the wildlife unless people are armed with the understanding on the importance of their interrelationships with Nature, and how any harm done to the environment will ultimately affect themselves. People need to be guided from within instead of having to be controlled by laws and regulations from outside authorities. We as a human species have never lost our inner wisdom and affiliation to Nature – we simply have forgotten who we really are in the quest for development, and we only need to reconnect ourselves with Nature and remember our true identity, and then we will be able to act responsibly based on that revelation.

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Cameron Highlands notes (an exploration of Nature conservation theology)


Having spent a couple of days in the cool and green Cameron highlands in Malaysia, which happens to bear some ominous signs of increasing development and air pollution from the traffic and from the surrounding regions (specifically the temporary haze from the forest peat fires in Sumatra), and especially after taking part in a tour of a tea plantation and mossy forest that is soul expanding, thought provoking and spirit connecting, I felt a need to type a blog and try to make sense and articulate some of my thoughts while taking a long, sleepy bus ride back to Singapore on the third day.

No (as I would like to clarify to myself), this is not a diary or journal for the sake of romantising Nature or academic meandering (as much as there is sometimes an inclination for me to do so). This blog is neither for development nor against development in an absolute sense. It also isn’t really about modern civilization versus ancient civilization. If anything, it is about bridging the gap between these two (if that were possible at all). Ultimately, it is an attempt to put together seemingly raw unfiltered thoughts, like raw apple cider vinegar, hoping to find a coherent message or two from the mishmash of ideas.

The natives or the original inhabitants of Malaysia who have sought to modernize Cameron highlands, or Malaysia in general, appear to have lost sight of the natural beauty and heritage of their lands. Why? Because in their quest to develop the economy and build infrastructure, they are trying to generate more income at the expense of the environment, the wildlife and the remnants of the indigenous people (eg Orang Asli) who retain their ancient self-sustainable lifestyle and culture.

It takes the outsiders such as the westerners to bring the message of nature conservation to the Malays, to remind them to save their own land and culture. The strange thing is that these westerners do not speak their native language; rather the Malays were taught to speak the English language.

Through colonisation, the Malays became westernized and sought to be modernized and ended up destroying their own environment and culture. Now, westerners – many of whom used to colonise Southeast Asia – are telling the Malays (or more specifically, the government and large corporations) to conserve their own heritage of nature and culture.

Can anything be more paradoxical than that?
One question may arise at this point: why is it considered strange that the westerners do not speak the language of the local Malays? Wouldn’t that be expected of foreign colonialists?

Yes, but I believe there is a significance to this self-evident fact. For example, isn’t there a passage in the bible that says “you shall be ruled over by people whose language is foreign to you”? Doesn’t it sound like the experience of the indigenous people in Malaysia when they were colonised by westerners for a period of time?

Similarly, isn’t there a passage that says “because you have rejected the gospel, it shall be preached to the Gentiles and and those who did not seek me shall find me”? Wasn’t it the case whereby the inhabitants of Malaysia refused to listen to their own native prophets and continued to destroy the environment in the name of development, and the good news of nature conservation is preached to the foreigners, who in turn shall bring back the gospel to the inhabitants of Malaysia, not in their native tongue but in the foreign English language? By rejecting their own and risking doom and destruction to their land, the message of salvation comes from outside their land.

Once again, how paradoxical can it be?

Now, who is the messiah? Who are the prophets? What is the gospel in this context?

I venture to say in this context that the messiah is our true self that defies time and space, and any form of outward identification, such as nationality, gender, race, language or religion. The prophets are the voices of the ancient spirit that reminds people of who they really are and warns the people who are oppressing the less privileged and destroying the environment. The gospel is the good news of our true identity and the call for us to reconnect to Nature, thereby reconnecting to our own soul and humanity.

We are all connected?

Haze over the region –

Are we all connected?

Hell yea, you betcha.

“Economic development,” you say.

How about environmental destruction?

Isn’t there a price

not only we pay

but also future generations?

But nay, as always,

we prefer short term gains.

“From swamp to city,”

You say to us,

As if that’s success.

No way. “How so?”

If one suffers, then

all suffer together, right?

We are all connected;

We can isolate ourselves

and live in bubbles –

work, family, entertainment, etc

At the end, nothing…

Nothing really matters, yea?

Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard? | Jon Jandai | TEDxDoiSuthep

I enjoy and resonate with Jon Jandai’s message very much as I also support the carefree, Nature-based way of life. I noted that in his farming village, people work only 2 hours a day, and 2 months a year during the planting season and harvesting season. I totally agree with him that when people have time to be with themselves, they can understand themselves and can see what they want in life, such as happiness, love and enjoyment of life, and they also see a lot of beauty in their life, which they can express in many ways, such as making handicrafts.

I am happy for him to have chosen to go back to the countryside and live life freely like when he was a kid, and it is awesome that his sustainable way of farming rice and more than 15 varieties of vegetables and growing fish in two fish ponds can produce more than enough food to feed his family and to sell, and it took him only 3 months of working 2 hours a day to build an earthly house.

Indeed, such sustainable, nature-based lifestyle gives us a lot of freedom to do what we want in life and time to be with ourselves and connect with ourselves and one another. I like how he learn to spend time to go back to himself during times of sickness and learn to heal his own body the natural way too where possible, such as using water and earth to heal himself.

I agree with him that true civilisation is where food, house, clothes and medicine are easily available and accessible for everyone, as compared to the so-called modern society where these things are hard to get, and it is no surprise that he considers this era the “most uncivilised era on planet earth”. I also like how he chooses to focus on living easy and light, and not be concerned about what others think of him because he considers himself normal and those who follows the system are abnormal.

Interestingly, his video message is similar to a recent video message by Ralph Smart which I listened to yesterday morning, in which he said that creativity comes when we relax and do nothing.

Like Ralph Smart said, “sometimes, doing nothing is the most productive thing in the world.” Yes, I agree that meditation, for example, enables us to become more creative, and I noted that he also shared how simplicity has helped him become his greatest version because the more simple he becomes, the more creative he becomes.