Karma, If Only

I wish karma exists, if only. Or perhaps, it does.

I have recently learned that my mother-in-law in Indonesia has developed some sort of breathing problem. Upon diagnosis, it has been concluded that it was due to her being a passive smoker in the office when back then, people were allowed to smoke in the office.

That got me thinking. If those smokers back then were to be aware that their action has a consequence to others in the future, would they still want the do the same thing?

I would never know. Because I still believe that human beings are self-centered. We create problems and expect the future generation to solve them.

Like plastic usage. Fossil fuel. Space junks.

And yes, noise pollution adds stress to people. I used to have neighbors who were inconsiderate, disturbing my sleep so much so that I was sleep deprived for a prolonged period of time.

Does karma exist?

I wish.

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Working From Home, I Wish It Could Stay That Way

Prior to the pandemic, I must confess that I was a traditional manager. I wanted to see my team in the workplace within the same area. There were perks in this working style. First, I got to build rapport with the team. More importantly so, I got to see if anyone in my team was struggling. By walking the ground, you could detect when a team member is under stress and need help. So yes, I miss that.

Working from home has changed my perspective. I am really enjoying the flexibility while being able to live my life the way I want. Answer the door for home delivery. Bake sourdough bread. Dine in the neighborhood, which is way cheaper than having a meal at the CBD. Eliminate time waste due to traveling. Look after the dog. And many more.

I enjoy working from home so much that I wish I could stay that way.

In reality though, in my line of work with the financial industry, once we put the pandemic behind, I reckon I would need to be more present in the office, which is a bummer.

I envy those who are able to work from home. Like streamers. They can earn a living by being in front of a webcam at home. Some play games in front of an online audience. Other sings. Some make videos on all sorts of things like cooking or sport/esport. If I could restart my career, I would definitely explore how I could earn a living without working in an office.

Because face it, working in an office is boring.

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Musing Over Galatians 5:16-25

To be frank, I am not a devout Catholic.  Yes, I go to Church almost every Sunday and attend every Day of Obligation that falls on a weekday if I can.  In between the weekly Masses, I seldom think about spirituality and divinity.  Sure, I say a little prayer of thanks before my meals.  Most of the time, I am distracted by so many things out there.  I do not even have time for self-reflection.  How then would I have time to listen to the divine whisper?  Like in this very moment, I would rather play some video games, or join my family and watch TV.  Where is my self-control?  Temptation is everywhere.

Last Sunday was the Pentecost Sunday.  It is a day of Solemnity according to my faith.  A celebration of the descend of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and over a hundred others thousands of years ago.  The same fire that spreads to all corners of the world today.  Some describe Pentecost as the birthday of the Church.  To my surprise, the second reading during last week’s Mass has left a deep impression upon me, as though the passage talks to me.  A Biblical passage that was written many years ago and yet, still relevant today.  Regardless of your tradition or faith, I urge you to take a look, with an open mind.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.  But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

If you read the above passage with an open mind, you would see a list of negative attributes alongside with another list of positive attributes.  It does not matter where you come from, you should – I hope – agree that our world can be a better place if more of us are on that positive list, rather than on the negative list.  Yet, if you look around, you may see people being selfish or in anger.  If you look inside and be totally honest, you may even see more of those negative attributes lying within.  Why is it so?

The answer lies in the desire of flesh.  Our body naturally desires to lean towards those negative states.  If we let our bodies go on an autopilot, we will be consumed by those desires.  Temptation as some may observe.  It seems so right, yet so wrong.  Opposition of such negative desires takes great effort and it has to come before our Spirit bears fruit.  We cannot love others if we do not first cast away selfishness.  We cannot attain the state of joy and peace if we are overwhelm by envy and jealousy.

Perhaps, the path to holiness is that the next time our bodies desire us to do something, we should pause and ask ourselves: Is this what the Spirit desires?  Fighting off our bodily desire is hard.  But the good news my friends is that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

A Time For Thanksgiving

I am not an American.  My version of thanksgiving as such.

I am thankful for this country where I call home.  She may be tiny; her citizens may have plenty of complaints (myself included); but Singapore is still one of the few miracles in our modern world that continues to draw people of different origins to visit and to contribute.

I am thankful to still have a job, continue to be productive.  I am thankful that after 16 years of working, I have found a place whereby everyone around me – local and overseas – are friendly and professional.  Not a single one gets on my nerve, and certainly – to my best knowledge – no one wants me dead.  That is rare and can definitely be classified as a miracle in its own right.  I am thankful that my strengths are leveraged and recognized, and my weaknesses are known and played down.  There is no point asking me to mix a cocktail when I make the best instantly brewed coffee in the world.

I am thankful to have friends whom we are constantly in touch, doing things together.  Be it as dinner or movie, online gaming or simply catching up.  I am thankful that some place their trust in me and brainstorm with me how best to tackle their current situations.  I am thankful that when my car battery went flat, I can call upon someone to jump start my car engine, and when I feel hungry but lazy to drive out, someone would pick me up and let me decide where to eat.

I am thankful to have a group of friends who after all these years, still stick to each other and continue learning Spanish.  I confess that I dread Tuesdays because I sucks in Spanish.  And every lesson reminds that I should have studied more, making me feel more and more inadequate.  But two hours of solid laughter and fun reminds me that learning should be fun and we should learn at our own pace.  I am thankful to have a teacher who is extremely encouraging and motivating, despite – perhaps – knowing at heart that I am a gone case.

I am thankful that my family – in-law and out-law – loves me for who I am, without bothering too much on what I do.  I have two beautiful nieces and one commanding nephew.  They remind me the deep meaning of life and through their eyes, I sense a glimpse of what heavenly happiness is.

I am thankful of my wonderful wife.  She who makes breakfast for me every morning (except some weekends when I have to order McDonald’s breakfast online for the two of us while she is still sleeping), she who does our laundry and irons my casual clothes, she who never gives up on learning to cook better (and in return, I have to wash a mountain full of plates).  As I said to her time and time again: Don’t worry baby, I will eat whatever you cook.  And I will like almost anything that gets out of the kitchen (except that tomato and cheese snack).

I am thankful that some of you still read what I write here.  And I have a website to call my digital home.

Last by not the least, I am thankful of God’s blessing.  Through Him from whom all good things come.

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What Does Corpus Christi Mean To Me?

Try this out the next time you and your partner have an argument: Hold his or her hands while you argue.  I first heard about this idea from Wedding Encounter years ago.  Holding someone’s hands or even hugging that someone while trying to be mad at him or her is, believe it or not, very hard to do.  There is something special about physical touches.  And that extends beyond the scenarios of confrontation.  Couples, siblings, parents and their children – those who are in constantly physical contact grow to be more like each other.  Yes, there is this ‘couple-look’ when two people from different family backgrounds become similar in gesture and look.  It is as though the regular act of touching someone facilitates an exchange of positive characteristics between the two.  I am not suggesting that you should all of a sudden go out and hug everyone you see.  We have to be mindful about something called cultural norm.  When I was working in Malaysia, I found that the people in general are a lot warmer.  Guys and girls, they like to hug each other.  Or perhaps I was blessed with warm people around me.  What I know is that I do enjoy getting hugged once in a while.

To me, this idea can be elevated to a spiritual level.  How so?  While it is easy to have physical contact with our loved ones, how do we have physical contact with God in today’s world?  We could say, God is everywhere and similar to love, we cannot see God but we know God exists.  Well and good.  But can we touch something we cannot see?

Catholics faith has quite a few mysteries.  The transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is one.  The bread would taste the same after the transubstantiation.  So would the wine.  But during the Eucharistic celebration, the bread and mine is made holy.  If we believe that the bread does become the Body of Christ, the act of consuming the bread – to me – is a powerful physical contact with divinity.  Now, what do I get out of this?  To be more like Jesus would be a good start.

Last weekend, Catholics around the world have celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, or in English, the Body of Christ.  In our Church, we have a guest priest to deliver the sermon.  He seems old and he has a caring voice.  I wish he could speak louder because the kids at the back of the Church were yelling non-stop.  Once in a while, I come cross good sermons.  Recently, I have started this habit of writing down a good sermon for my future reference.  And for sharing too, because I reckon some of you may be able to benefit from it.

The story started with the priest being assigned to India.  In his spare time, he looked after the honey bees.  Every day, he took out the honeycombs, cleaned them up, and removed the moth eggs if any.  According to him, the honeycombs can be eaten away by the moths if left unattended.  One day, while he was meticulously cleaning the honeycombs, he felt something knocking at his knees.  Because bees do sting, he carefully put down the honeycomb before finding out what it was.  It was a lamb.  Since then, every day at the same hour, the lamb would come up to the priest and they would play with each other.  This went on for quite some time.  It was soon known to the community that our priest has a new friend – a lamb.

One Easter morning, the priest did a round of making sure that everything was in order.  Inside the kitchen and from a distance, he saw a meat dish with a decoration that resembled a sheep.  His heart sank.  As he approached the kitchen table, he saw balls of cottons surrounding the dish.  The priest smiled to the cook and said, “You nearly got me there.  I thought it was a mutton dish!”  The cook replied, “Father, it is your lamb.  We do not want to tell you because we know that you would not let us.”

It was meant to be a day of celebration but the priest could not help but feeling down.  The mutton dish was delicious, judging by how delighted the dinners looked.  The priest could not bring himself to eat that dish.  I can only speculate the conflicts on his mind back then.  Towards the end of the meal, the priest took the last piece of mutton.  He ate it with gratitude and reverence.  At that point, he realized that he would not have felt the same had he not had a special bonding with the lamb.  The relationship he had with the lamb has triggered this sense of gratitude and reverence.

The question back to us is: When we receive Holy Communion, are we filled with gratitude and reverence?  This is an important question because how we receive the Body of Christ says everything about our relationship with God.  Think about it.