The Elderly Should Not Work

The elderly should not work for one simple reason because they are human.

I live in Singapore and it is one of the developed countries which is coping with an increasing elderly population and a shrinking younger generation like South Korea and Japan. So, like other similar countries, we have policies and campaigns that attempt to alleviate such a problem such as increasing the retirement age and encouraging the elderly to rejoin the workforce. All of us understood the threat of an increasing elderly population and a shrinking younger generation but I believe that not many of us ever thought about the inhumane way we attempt to solve it.

I am using the term inhumane loosely to mean heartless and unempathetic.

Firstly, let me ask you a question, do you want to work until you die or do you want to enjoy your golden years doing things that you love and be happy? I would want to be in the situation of the latter and I expected that to be the same for everyone, however, what I saw was the opposite.

It was an early morning and I was at the food court having quite a heavy breakfast. I sat there eating away when a commotion started at a nearby table involving the cleaners. Being the curious guy I am, I turned and looked. It turned out to be just a normal conversation happening between the elderly who happened to be the cleaners. Normally, I would shrug it off as a common occurrence as a majority of cleaners and helpers in Singapore are from the older generation, however, I continued to observe them. One of them is an elderly man which I am guessing is about 65 years old, he moved from table to table slowly clearing plates and wiping tables. Then, I realised that I am looking at more than just a normal cleaner but instead, an aged human being with a life of his own. If I had shrugged my curiosity off, I would not have been able to look past the exterior of this elderly man as a cleaner to discover something more. That elderly man is not a cleaner. He might be a husband, a father, a grandfather and a man who had worked hard to provide for his family. This goes the same for the other elderly cleaners and helpers out there. They are more than just that. All of them had worked hard for decades. So I began to wonder is it not the time for them to retire and enjoy their golden age?

For an elderly man who had worked hard during his younger years to still be working past his retirement age just to survive on a daily basis is inhumane. It is even more so when the government encourages it. You might say that working is a choice made by the elderly themselves and no one can force them to but have you ever thought that working might be the better of two evils: working to have food versus being hungry?

It is okay if the elderly enjoy working casually but it is inhumane if an elderly has to work just because he is unable to have food on his table on a daily basis. I believe that it should be a right for retirees to spend the rest of their golden years doing whatever they like free of responsibilities. We are so used to the sight of elderly working that it did not bother us anymore. It should not be accepted as normal that our elderly have to go out to work and that mindset needs to be changed.

Sometimes policies and campaigns made are for the benefit of the entire nation and that includes the ones used to manage an increasing ageing population, however, sometimes we just need more empathy. We need to empathise with the elderly and understand that they are human beings and that living is not just about working but instead, there is a higher purpose. They should be free during their golden years to pursue that purpose.

I am not well-versed in policy-making but I am sure that if we stick to the current track, there might no longer be a retirement age. Statistics and economic growth should instead be pushed aside and acting humanely should be prioritised.

This is a hard problem which calls for excellent solutions. No one ever wants to work until the grave and it is up to us to change that. We need to start thinking now.


Life Is Counted in Memories Not Years

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Life Is Counted In Memories Not Years

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The title was taken from an engraving on a gravestone when I went to visit the cemetery recently.

“Life is counted in memories not years” is a wonderful quote and I completely agree with it.

Sometimes we forget that the memories that we form from our experiences in life are much more important than the number of years that we have lived so far.

Imagine waking up as an 80-year-old with cracking bones and sore muscles thinking about whether you have truly lived life. You tried to recall all the experiences and memories that you had when you were younger but realised that it did not amount to much. You began to realise that most of the years that you have lived are empty years without any wonderful memories. Those empty years are instead filled with routine work and so much procrastination, chasing after something material that never lasts. You feel deep regret because you know that you should have used your younger years better by experiencing and exploring life. Now, when you finally realised that living a long time does not matter, it is already too late.

I have always found value in memories over many other things and when I saw that engraving on that gravestone, it brought me new found motivation to learn and explore the world as much as I can. I have this ultimate dream that when it is time for me to die, I would want to be on my deathbed with a wealth of beautiful memories that I can tell my children and grandchildren and pass knowing that I have truly lived life.


Questions for the Dead

Death is that one journey that nobody has ever returned from and most of us are afraid of it because of how little true information that we have. There is no catalogue of the places we can see in the hereafter, there are no brochures or websites that we can browse through to get an idea of the place and there are no travel guides that we can ask.

Recently, I paid a visit to the cemetery to clean and pay my respects to my late grandfather, late grandmother and my late cousin whom just passed away recently. In Singapore, Muslim graves are made out of concrete rectangular boxes giving neat rows and columns. Each empty grave will be cleared of dirt before the body is placed in. Once the body has been placed in, dirt will be used to fill the rest of the grave. Due to the nature of the graves being pre-dug and pre-built, there would be empty graves emptied of its dirt beside the filled ones. This was the case for my late cousin’s grave.

I stood there, looking at his grave and at the empty one beside it with a ladder sticking out. I began to wonder how it would be like to be lying in that empty grave. The feeling of claustrophobia, intense fear of what is to come and the thought that there is never a way out.

In Islam, we were taught that the soul will be placed back into the body once it has been successfully buried and it will exist there till the end of times in a realm called the Alam Barzakh. So, I began to think about the many questions that would want to ask my late cousin and to at least have an idea of death before I truly die.

I would want to ask questions like:

What did you feel when you realised that you are dead?

What is the reality in that realm?

How are you being treated?

How do the angels Munkar & Nakir look like?

What will you be doing till the end of time?

Being a Muslim, most of these questions have already been answered but think about it, wouldn’t interviewing a person’s experience be so much more wonderful?

I spend a lot of my free time thinking about life and how I can make mine better. However, sometimes, I would think about death. Thinking about death has made me accept the fact that death will happen to anyone at any time and prepare myself that a sudden death of a loved one will not give me a tight slap of reality.

Death is inevitable no matter what faith or beliefs that we have. It also does not matter if we believe in a hereafter or the existence of the soul, death will still come to us and only then can we truly understand the nature of it.

Prioritise Parents

Are your parents your first priority?

Before I begin, in this article I would be referencing to certain Islamic sources but I assure you that even Non-Muslims will be able to relate and understand.

Today was Friday and like every other Friday, Muslims are required to attend the Friday Prayers at the mosque and like every other, there would be a Friday Sermon followed by the Friday Prayers itself. The topic of the Friday Sermon was Developing Humbleness Through Acts of Rituals and the thing that made me emotional was a part telling us about the weakness of every human being:

“The Prophet s.a.w. said in a hadith: “Whoever is not grateful to people, is not grateful to Allah.” [Hadith narrated by Ahmad] This hadith hence serves as a reminder to us that we are weak and are in constant need of others in order to live comfortably. It also reminds us that we were once helpless and weak, but Allah has blessed us with a family and parents who showered us with their love. They took care of us, attended to us and raised us. So let us not forget to always make du’a for them after our every prayer: “O Allah, please forgive my sins and the sins of my parents, and have mercy upon them, like how they were towards me when they were nurturing me during my childhood.””

That last line was like a hard kick to the face.

We are nothing without our parents. From a small baby being just a few seconds old until we have grown up into an adult, we need our parents every step of the way. When we were hungry, they were they ones who cooked or bought for us food. When we were sick, they were the ones who took care of us until we healed. When we were sad and feeling down, they were the ones who showed care and compassion when no one else would. They were the ones who groomed us to become who we are today. We cannot be where we are today without their help and therefore, how could we even consider finding them annoying or a nuisance?

Your parents had their whole life planned out until you arrived which then, you became their plan. They sacrificed everything for you, their wealth, their careers, and even their friends just to nurture and spend time with you. They always have you in mind, thinking about whether you are eating well, whether you are comfortable and whether you are well taken care of.

You are the world to your parents and you have and will always be their first priority.

Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, that you are not prioritising them over everything else?

Our parents do not deserve a child that does not love them back, that is rude to them and that does not think that they are worth the time. They deserve better.

Therefore, I urge all of us, to understand that our parents never had it easy raising us. They never stopped worrying about us. For all that they did for us, all the sacrifices they made, all we have to do is to show them that they are our utmost priority and that they are worth a whole lot to us. Love them and cherish them.

The Analogy of Painting on Life

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Analogy of Painting on Life

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A painting especially masterpieces created by wonderful and talented artists take months and even years to complete. However, as much time as they take to be produced, masterpieces are never a wasted investment.

All of that hard work and effort was not gone to waste as the product is this beautiful and gorgeous piece of artwork that captures the eyes of everyone. Say, for example, the popular Mona Lisa painted by the highly talented Leonardo da Vinci where it took about a decade to complete. da Vinci was said to have continuously refined it till circa 1516.

Just like the masterpieces created from the continuous effort of artists, your life is your masterpiece. However, the first stroke was put on the canvas of life when you were still very young. Every single moment and experiences from then on will contribute a stroke on that canvas. However, some strokes will not be as good as others which will affect the whole quality of your masterpiece. Therefore, you try to fix it by putting in effort into more good strokes and the cycle repeats. Over time, you begin to see a picture on your canvas of life, a blooming, and every growing picture. This process will forever continue until you achieve what you deemed as Success. The final result of all those strokes represents everything that had happened in your life, everything encompassing from the good and the bad.

However, just like how a giant splash of paint can ruin a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, your life can be ruined too by a miscalculated decision. Therefore, do know that whatever you do will contribute to that final masterpiece on your canvas of life and it is completely within your control on what the final painting would be.


We Are All Human

Recently, I watched a video made from a compilation of clips of American soldiers returning home to visit their loved ones. They were reunited beautifully through embrace and teary kisses. It was amazing and beautiful to see the soldiers and their loved ones so happy. Their faces were lit with intense joy and happiness which I think one can only understand if they experienced it themselves. Emotions welled up in me and after a brief moment, I realised why.

These people, soldiers of the American army, they returned to their loved ones after working for long periods overseas in dangerous and hostile places. They returned to see their loved ones and being glad that their loved ones are safe. We expect these soldiers – tasked to serve and protect their nation, trained to survive in harsh conditions and some, if not all, had killed people – to have crude and emotionless hearts, however, the video showed that they are still able to show so much love. It is for this very reason that I felt emotional. It shows that at the very heart of war, there are human beings with human hearts and human emotions.

The thought begged me to rethink about everything we had assumed about our enemies. Maybe they are not enemies at all. Maybe, they are just people wanting to keep their families and loved ones safe, people who just wants to safeguard whatever and whoever they treasure just like us.

If we strip the loyalty of these soldiers, if we strip their nationalities and race, if we strip every single ideology that they seemed to be upholding, we can see the true reason why they are fighting. It is not for democracy nor communism, it is not for their country, it is not for the cruel and dishonest leader of their nation but it is for their loved ones. It is to see their loved ones safe with the chance to grow up normally and become wonderful adults who are beneficial to society.

Take a look at your so-called ‘enemies’. Do you think that they are doing it for a power-hungry leader? Do you think that they are doing it for their own personal glory? Do you think that they even want to fight? No, but the situation forces them to. These people are human beings with human hearts and human emotions. It is inborn to protect your loved ones, to fight just to see your loved ones safe at the end of the day. These people are just like you and I. When someone threatens to harm your loved ones and invade your livelihood, you will definitely stand and fight.

Therefore, we need to realise that we are not at all different. It just so happens that our ‘leaders” interests were in conflict and they had decided that going to war would be a highly viable solution.

We need to recognise that in war, there are human beings with human hearts and human emotions and these human beings are the ones mostly affected by the conflict. Our ‘enemies’ also want to go home to visit their loved ones and embrace them with tears in their eyes just like us.

Therefore, I suggest that all of us rethink about everything that we know about who our enemies are, about what we were told about our enemies and why are they even our enemies. You will soon realise that our enemies are just like us and at the very core of every war is because someone started to threaten the safety of another’s loved ones. If we understand that, I am very sure that that empathetic approach will solve so many of our problems.

Reflecting On Yourself

One of my most favourite activity is to sit and ponder, not really meditation but just to put everything aside, sit down and reflect on everything that has happened in my life. It is especially uplifting and soothing when I do it right after my afternoon shower, to have only the whirring of the fan and the quiet of the evening to accompany me. Whenever I sit down and think, there are always a few things that I would reflect on. They are my accomplishments, my future and my life. I will think about the tasks that I have completed and whether they played a part in achieving any one of my goals. With regards to my future, I will think about how far will I go if I stayed on my current path and I can say that it has helped me to stay focused. I will also think about my life as a whole whether I have hurt anyone, whether I had done the right thing and whether the decisions that I have made were the best ones. By reflecting, it helps me to re-evaluate myself and through the mistakes or failures, I learn.

To have the time to sit down and think is a luxury especially in our current era full of distractions. Therefore, I really do cherish and appreciate the time I have to think.

In all the time I had spent reflecting. I have learnt a lot about myself. I was also able to get some closure on the mistakes I had done in the past and accept and learn from them.

It might not be easy to just start thinking and pondering the first time but I promise you that the more you do it, the easier it will be. You will start to understand how important it is to have time for yourself to just reflect and once the benefits come, you will not take it for granted.