Friday, August 15, 2008

Life's Kaleidoscope

"Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus"

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been feeling somewhat dissatisfied over the fact that I have not been posting here everyday. Somehow the hours just slip away and from wake-up to shut-eye, I am in another world so different to the one I experience when I sit down to compose a post. Perhaps I am finding these two worlds impossible to straddle. Perhaps it is silly to even try!

Life here is unnervingly different to what I am used to. Crime, particularly robbery and theft, is rampant. At least three out of five people I meet have been robbed, most more than once and almost all in broad daylight in the midst of terrified onlookers.

On the weekend, my nephew, a strapping young man of nineteen, was hit on the head with a helmet by two young men not much older than him. They had lured him to assist an elderly man who had been dealt a similar blow earlier and who was lying on the ground groaning from pain and shock. All this to relieve him and my nephew of their mobile phones! My nephew was able to make a quick getaway despite his injury. The elderly gentleman, however, was not as fortunate. The last we heard, he was still recovering in hospital from shock. Two other teenage boys who had witnessed the entire event felt powerless to help.

It was this same nephew’s older sister who had been twice robbed a couple of years ago by a couple of motorcycle snatch thieves. In the second incident, my daughter, here on holiday, was with her and was threatened with a knife to part with her handbag. She did and so escaped physical harm. To think that the incident happened at the front gate of our house!

A few days ago, I was told of the recent murders of two people who are relatives of close friends and just the other day, my eighteen year old niece described the loss of five friends in road accidents last year. I am told this country, Malaysia, has one of the highest, if not the highest, road fatality rates in the world.

All of this happens against the backdrop of incessant rumbles – allegations of corruption within the government and its racially discriminatory practices. Prominent political figures seem to be prone to notoriety relating to crimes ranging from bribery to murder.

You can see why I feel this world is so vastly different to the comparatively peaceful and placid world I inhabit in Brisbane and frequently in front of the screen of my laptop. But to leave you with the impression that this is the sum total of life here would be unfair and untruthful. In the middle of this festering wound of Malaysian society, I have met so many caring souls, several of whom volunteer their services for the hidden faces of this same society – the poor and the marginalized.

Take, for instance, a family friend who dropped in to visit my mother and my brother, Joe, (who is very slowly recovering from a surgery that left him bedridden for several months). A retired teacher, she now volunteers at an orphanage. A significant part of her time is spent tracing or submitting applications for birth certificates for the abandoned children.

Or there’s the sister of an ex-classmate who works at a school for children with learning difficulties. And another family friend works as a volunteer fundraiser for the homeless. And so it goes on. These people and their services leave me with just as, if not more, powerful and empowering impressions than do the callous acts of others.

It is as if I am being offered a choice of views of heaven and hell. It only requires a slight adjustment of attention to bring heaven into view. And it takes an equally small adjustment to bring up the horrors of hell on the screen of my mind!

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world".

Albert Schopenhauer

These are but some of the images of life’s kaleidoscope. So vast and varied is its imagery, I could easily find myself lost in a sliver of it, convinced that it is all there is and that my entire world is ensconced within. So tantalizing and compelling are its local dramas, I could easily forget the infinite other dramas happening simultaneously and involving people and things so far removed from my current field of view! Yet, even the slightest turn of the kaleidoscope reconfigures the entire life-scape before me and for such magic I am abundantly grateful!


  1. Hi Lucy - I hope all is well.
    This post reminds me of thoughts that were going through my head only the other night - how selective we seem to be about our experiences. It is a mystery (to me) as to which experiences are given to us in our short life - and you are right - they are the narrowest sliver of reality, compared to the universal soul which encompasses all experience. Yet we may consider ourselves wise & experienced - despite de-selecting poverty, famine natural catastrophies. We may consider ourselves open-minded. Are we really that open, or still ruled by the pleasure principal?
    We certainly have much to give thanks for.

  2. Tim, lovely to hear from you! How have you been?

    I have been well, really wonderful to tell the truth, mainly because I seem to appreciate things more and find more things to appreciate!

    I suppose one of the trickiest things for us to do is to acknowledge that even though something is painful or ugly or horrible, it still has its place in this world of infinite and all possibilities. Why? Because it is! There is no other reason. The less quarrel we have with things, the easier it will be for us to keep our focus on the underlying presence and goodness of all, and not just some, things.

    Do you see it this way too?

  3. Yes, we acknowledge to some extent, by a faint recognition, that a lot of experiences we witness in others are what we would not choose for ourselves.
    At the same time, we retreat into our comfort zone out of fear - which prevents us from accepting the reality of these experiences & trying to understand them from the heart, which would lead us to feel our way into the higher reality - that in truth - all experiences are happening to the one.
    As if our relative, judgemental opinions are what seal us off from the honesty of our initial reaction - allowing ourselves to be dismissive, flippant in our haste to escape from the unpleasant truth, that - yes - painful, ugly and horrible experiences do exist.
    We have imbued them with negative connotations out of fear - although the reality, for the people concerned, is far more than a simple word can convey.
    They may be affected emotionally, physically or mentally - or maybe all three - possibly for a considerable duration - and are in need of our empathy and our love - not turning our backs.

    How would we ever be educated about love, about generosity of spirit - if there were no unfortunates - no tragedies - none who were desperately in need?

    But these are all measured in human terms - all part of the Perfect Plan.

    Nevertheless - our responsibilty is as human beings still - human beings who choose to reflect and channel their higher aspirations - and reveal their true origins.

    How have I been?
    I haven't defined it yet, but still playful, naughty, dreadfully lazy - but full of hope, dreams & thanks that there are places like this, people like you.

  4. Tim. your response is a post in itself. I do hope many read it. Thank you for always commenting in such a considered way, while still allowing for humorous breaks and ticklish puns :-)

    I am so pleased to hear that you remain playful, naughty and filled with hopes, dreams and thanks! What else, for goodness sake, would we want our mental/emotional map to show???

    As for laziness, I don't believe there is such a thing at all. On the other hand, there is interest and disinterest, enthusiasm and lack of...but laziness...doesn't exist in my vocabulary :-)