The Devil Whispers

The devil drifts towards you as you stare blankly, wondering whether it is right. The devil pulls your ear by the lobe and whispers, telling you to go ahead and do it. He speaks of promises of no harm and sings promises of pleasure and enjoyment. He attempt to convince you with words dipped in honey and sprinkled with sugar. The devil whispers about how other people are doing it and you should do it too. He whispers doubts in your heart, making you question your every move.

You looked and began to hesitate. You tried to think about the possible consequences of doing it but the devil’s whispers cloud your judgement. It becomes harder to think clearly. The promises from the lips of the devil ring in your brain, the thoughts of pleasure and happiness fills your mind, slowly and steadily pushing you to commit the sin. However, for a brief moment, it seemed that you were able to think clearly, to think to pass the whispers of the devil but as quickly as you tried to walk away from it, the devil whispers again, reminding you of the great wonders that could happen.

Slowly but surely, your heart begins to be tainted with darkness, it begins to fill with the urge and your mind starts to wander. Your imagination starts to run wild, creating images of what it would be like to commit it. Soon after, you start to form excuses and tried to convince yourself that what you will be doing is right. You tried to convince yourself that nothing bad would happen. Slowly, you took a step forward, then followed by another. You walked towards the sin while at the same time, the devil began to speak louder in your ear, almost a raised voice. He sings of pleasure and happiness and you began to believe its sugar-coated words. Your mind starts to race and before long, you convinced yourself enough that you decided to do it anyway.

You did it. You committed the sin. Soon after, a sense of regret seems to creep on you like death dragging you down to your grave. You start feeling disgraced and destroyed; you felt defeated too. However, the good thing is, the whispers are gone. Your muddled mind starts to clear but like a flash, the realisation of what you have done comes smacking into your face. You looked in horror at what you have done. You fell to your knees, staring at your hands, hands that did the sin. You began to shiver as you cover your face with your hands, crying and gasping in horror. Tears began to stream down your cheeks leaving being salty streaks on your face. You felt defeated as you sat there in the outcome of your sins.

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Dirt & Flowers

Flowers are everywhere and they come in various different colours, structures and smells. Some are huge like the Rafflesia flower while others are small like the Ixora. Flowers can also be found on almost every continent on Earth, from the deep jungles of the Amazon to the harsh deserts of the Sahara. Also, dirt can be found everywhere on Earth and they are the same throughout. Though they might have different compositions but fundamentally, dirt is still dirt, made from countless silicon dioxide crystals.Therefore, have you ever thought about how amazing it is that so many beautiful flowers can grow from this same dirt?

The analogy that I have used above about dirt and flowers can also be used for human beings. I’m sure all of you know that each of us are different, unique in our own special way but why do we still compare ourselves to others, yearning and wishing to have someone else’s beauty, brains or brawn?I want to bring up a point that we should not compare ourselves to others but instead, we should take advantage of our own unique strengths.

Fundamentally, human beings are all the same, made of the same material, carbon. Like dirt, human beings from around the world do not deviate from this single fact. However, like flowers, all of us are different and beautiful in our own special way. Through both nature and nurture, we grow up to have different tastes and preferences and a multitude of different goals and aspirations. We become personalised, having our own thoughts, feelings and moral compass. Therefore, don’t you think that by comparing ourselves to others, it is counterproductive?

First, let us talk about why we compare ourselves to others. We compare due to unhappiness about our own current situation. We envisioned ourselves to be more beautiful, more wealthy and revered for having a high status in society. Therefore, we look up to these individuals that have such beauty, wealth and status. We yearn to be like them and to have what they have. However, unfortunately, we fail to recognise that these people that we idolise also have their own sets of unique problems where some have difficult problems such as drug addiction and broken families. However, because of their ability to portray themselves in a good light, we fail to see through the lies.

Now, let me ask you a question, would you take on that burden of drug addiction and family feuds in return for beauty, wealth and supposed status? Would you be able to shoulder that burden?

The point I am trying to make is that all of us are unique. All of us have our sets of strengths and weaknesses and our own sets of problems and burden to carry. It just so happens that our strengths are not beauty, wealth and status. If we want to compare ourselves with others, to be fair, we have to compare as a whole along with their problems. Everything comes as a package. No ease comes without suffering and no strengths come without weaknesses.

Therefore, I urge all of us to stop comparing ourselves to others and to appreciate and take advantage of our strengths. Learn and maximise your skill in your strength, for example, if you are good in speaking, learn and extend your knowledge in all areas of speaking from public speaking to stand-up comedy/improv.

We need to understand that we cannot have everything, no matter how hard we wish and pray. Like flowers, we are all unique individuals living and breathing on this same planet, walking around carrying our own sets of problems that are unique to ourselves. Do not be sad that you do not have what you want but be glad that you do not have the burden that they have. You are unique, take advantage of that.

Get Over It

We should never dwell in the past. The past is over and, instead, we should look forward to the future.

Just get over it. Get over that mistakes you have made, get over that failed relationship. There are so many people that dwell on their failures, they cry about it and think about it constantly that it even affects the way they perform daily! There are even some who get so demoralised and beaten by their failures that they just give up.

Think about it, are you not wasting time by bullying yourselves for failures that already had its consequences played out? Are you not wasting time questioning your capabilities, thinking about whether you are the right one for the job?

Here is the thing, it does not matter if you failed an interview or made your boss angry, it does not freaking matter whether you have failed or messed something up because you were performing your best at that point in time! What truly matter is that you get over it quickly and learn from it if there is any value. Put in your best effort the next time round. Know that the world is not going to end when you failed because failing is a part of being human. Recognise that you can always push past your failures!

Time is limited and I personally do not think there is enough time to waste on feeling regretful nor feeling demoralised, instead, just get over it quickly.

You’re Lucky

Think about it. Out of all the millions of other possible souls that could have been brought on this Earth, you were the one chosen to be born. Out of all the endless possibilities and infinite probabilities that would have had occurred, instead, that one combination of possibilities and probabilities that would lead to your existence happened. Even with all the possible dangers that could have happened during your mother’s pregnancy and childbirth that could have led to you being unborn, you were still brought into this world, alive and healthy. Even with all the dangers that exist from the moment you were born till you were a young adult: the possible car crashes, accidental homicide, fatal falls and plain heart failure, you still managed to get out alive and well.

Think about it, instead of rotting in a grave somewhere, you are alive and breathing. You’re lucky.

You can call it a chance or an act of God but either way, you are gifted, gifted with the gift of Life. You are gifted and possibly super lucky to be born a human being. You are given this gift of life allowing you to breathe the fresh and cool morning air, allowing you to hear the beating of your heart and allowing you to feel the sweat dripping from your forehead during the warm summer months. You are able to experience living in this world no matter how cruel it may be. That is a splendid gift.

Imagine the number of premature deaths that happened, the number of individuals who had hoped to live up to adulthood let alone teenagehood, but their lives were taken away all of a sudden due to war and terrorism. Imagine the number of embryos which were unable to enter this Earth because their mothers died during an attack or the number of children who died due to malnutrition. Imagine that.

Now, think about you. Think about your life. Is your life not better? Don’t you not appreciate this gift of life? You might think that your life is in the worst possible mess but remember this, you are gifted with this gift of life and a lot of dead people would beg you for it and you want to negate your existence from this world?

This life might not hold meaning to you except pain and suffering but know that so many other people would wish that they could feel the pain and suffering just to know that they are alive. You would not want to give up because as cliche as it is, this life will definitely turn for the better. Always know that even if you seemingly lost everything, your career, your family or your house, you still have that gift of life. If you appreciate that gift, it will help to propel you forward and before you know it, you will be on your feet much more successful than ever.

Therefore, I urge you, I urge you to think about it. You’re lucky, you just need to acknowledge it.

Advice To Your Past-Self

We are not the same person as we were a day ago or a moment ago. We had learnt from the mistakes and the experiences from then until now. We had become wiser and more intelligent. We learnt new things and picked up new skills. We also constantly change our thoughts and preferences over time.

I am sure we had made mistakes in the past that we regretted. Mistakes in retrospect that were so stupid and embarrassing that we wondered why we did it in the first place. The things that we said that now, seemed so idiotic and the feelings of others that we had hurt. There were also the moments of indecision that led to lost opportunities and failures that changed our lives. There were so many things that I would have done differently.

There were so many things that I would have done differently.

Therefore, I had a thought, what advice would you give to your past-self if you had the chance?

There are so many things that I would advise my past-self. Things that if I had done earlier, would have changed my life now.

First, I would have advised myself to be more confident and adventurous. In the past, I was not fond of trying out new things and always keep it on the safe side. You can say that I was in a bubble of my own. I was also not fond of meeting new people and was socially awkward, not knowing how to start a conversation or present myself to a crowd. I believe it is because of that that I missed out on a lot of opportunities like organising events and meeting creative people. The realisation that I needed to step up my adventurous and confidence game came when I was in National Service. It was during that period of time when I learnt that going out of the comfort zone is a common trait in successful people. They are always the first to try out new things and hold a wealth of experience. I also realised that being adventurous opens the mind and allows you to see the perspectives of others on life or on anything at all. Maybe, if I was more confident and adventurous in the past, I would have achieved so much more.

Also, I would have advised my past-self to be more proactive. I believe that I had so many missed opportunities in the past. Since I had been in positions of power, I could have done so many things that could have made the experiences in school and even in National Service much more fulfilling. If I had been more proactive, I would have experienced so many new things that would have given me a better foundation for life. Currently, being more proactive and have the initiative to do things I guess, is a lesson that I am still mastering.

However, even though I would have advised my past-self to be more confident, proactive and adventurous and so on and so forth, this does not mean that we should regret our past actions. It is just not worth it. Why? We will never know what will happen if we had been different at that point in time. For all I know, if I were to be more adventurous in the past, I would have failed my examinations and would not be where I am today. What I am trying to say is that all our past experiences and lessons learnt are for the benefit of our future-selves so that we will learn to appreciate the knowledge that we have gathered and understand the impact of those lessons for future decisions.

Therefore, it is important to recognise that our past should not be something to be forgotten but instead, something that we can learn from. We should appreciate that the past happened so that our future-selves can grow from it.

Love Your Parents

Love Your Parents

 

All of us are so preoccupied with our own lives; we go to school or work, we travel and explore, we celebrate our birthdays and went to our friends’ parties but we never took a moment to recognise that as we are growing up and discovering life, our parents are also getting older.

My mother has this condition where her hair will start to thin and new hair fails to grow. This causes her to have a growing bald spot from her hairline till the centre of her scalp. So, when I played around with her hair, I realised that her bald spot had become very obvious. It had never been so bad before and I was quite taken aback. Soon, I realised that it was another sign of her ageing. It was her birthday that day and she just turned 49. At that moment, the realisation of my parents’ mortality dawned on me.

I tried not to picture her old and frail in 20 years time, requiring assistance to move from point to point. I tried not to imagine her requiring help to put food into her mouth. I tried not to imagine her health failing and seeing, probably the darkest time in my life, fast approaching. However, it is something I need to prepare for. As dark as it may be, it is something that will eventually happen. It is something that I do not want to be caught completely off guard.

Every single birthday, every single year, as we turn 20, 21, or whatever age we may be, we also need to remember that our parents are turning 50, 51 or even older. We also need to remember that age is catching up with them and their health might also be steadily deteriorating. Unfortunately, It is one of the facts of life. One day, our parents will turn old and frail. They will become dependent and it is up to you to care for them and ensure that their welfare is taken care of. One day, their health will turn for the worse and you will have to face the inevitable scenario.

I suggest all of you to take a good look at your parents and see age catching up with them: their facial skin drooping and loosening, their hair falling, and their skin wrinkling.

Therefore, we need to realise that our time with them is finite and a majority of our time now should be spent with them. I am not saying that we should forgo our own lives and our own aspirations but instead, we should prioritise them first. If we have to choose between going for a last minute meeting or a dinner with them that had been planned for a while, we should choose the latter.

Do simple acts of kindness for them, be there for them, help ease their lives for them, for were they not there for you when you were small and powerless?

Love them, cherish them and know that whatever they did for you can never be repaid and every moment that passes, your darkest days are slowly approaching.

I try to be secular on this site, but there is an ayah from the Al-Quran that captures the idea of this whole article:

And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.

– Surah Al-Isra, Quran 17:23

 

The Human Struggle

The Human Struggle

 

All of us struggle. No matter where you are in life, no matter how rich, how successful or how educated you are, all of us struggle one way or another.

There are many different types of struggle in life. We have the struggle to survive, to put in effort into doing work, though some might be hard and laborious, just to get money for food, we have the struggle to be successful, to put in the effort to do well in school and we have the struggle to love, to put in effort into maintaining a strong relationship that would last, just to name a few.

However, I am sure all of us agree that we hate the struggle. We hate to constantly put in the effort and pushing ourselves through the pain, instead, we prefer a calm and peaceful life. Therefore, some of us struggle to get out of struggle, we work hard to get enough money to live comfortably, we do whatever we can so that we can live a struggle-less life but it is futile. Why? Life would be quite meaningless without the struggle.

Have you ever thought about the meaning of life? Have you ever wondered why do we even exist at all? I’m pretty sure these questions have crossed all of our minds whether we are a theist or an atheist because it is fundamental to understanding our existence. However, is there ever an ultimate meaning for life? In his famous book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Viktor E. Frankl said that,

“What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of a person’s life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

This is where the importance of struggle comes in. When we struggle, at that moment in time, we are focused on getting past that pain, to overcome that adversity that we are facing. We understand that it is a temporary phase in our lives and so we work hard in persevering through it. An example would be struggling to overcome the death of a loved one. It is painful at that moment in time and you would feel hopeless but this struggle gives you meaning in life. How? Viktor E. Frankl put it aptly referring to a patient who had lost his wife, “such a suffering (overcoming death of a loved one) has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering – to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.”

Instead of feeling depressed at the loss of a loved one, one could find meaning in it that he had made a sacrifice to put the burden of loss on himself instead of on his loved one. Such is the meaning of sacrifice, he had changed his perspective to find his suffering meaningful.

Suffering and the struggle to overcome it is never a pleasant experience, however, Man should not be concerned with gaining pleasure or to avoid pain but to see a meaning in his life. We need to know that struggling is a part of life and even through struggle can we find meaning.

To end, there is a quote from Viktor E. Frankl’s book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ that I would love to share,

“Ultimately, Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each Man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”