Archives for the ‘Esoteric Minutiae’ Category

Good Deeds Indeed

Be Good

Be Good

Growing up, all the adults around me used to say, “Be good.” And when I asked why, some simply replied, “Because it’s important” with no further explanation.

Then one day, one of the more knowing adults, a teacher, told me how if I did good deeds, good things would happen to me.

So one Saturday, when I was 12 years old, I decided to test my teacher’s assertion. Not so much to see if she was telling the truth (since many of the same adults also told me lies), but rather that my heart told me I was onto something important.

In Search of Good

The experiment went as follows. I decided to “be good” for the entire day and keep a tally of my good deeds.

On my way to the library, I met an old lady waiting to cross the road. With naive enthusiasm, I grabbed her frail arm and said, “I’ll help you cross the road.”

Afterwards, as I beamed with pride at my obvious first good deed of the day, I noticed a bewildered look on the old lady’s face. “What’s the matter?” I asked, “Can I help?” To which she replied, “I didn’t want to cross the road. Now I need help to get back to the other side.”

By the time I returned the old lady to the other side of the road, I’d learned an important lesson. A deed is only good if the recipient benefitted from my help, regardless of my best intentions.

Full of youthful gusto, I went about the rest of my day doing good deeds, starting with handing in a purse I found on my way to the shops to the nearest store to give the person who lost it the best chance of finding it again. This taught me my second lesson of the day. Good deeds are rarely done in isolation and I needed to trust others to do the right thing for my good deeds to work.

When eventually I got to the library, I was disappointed to find the last copy of the novel I wanted had just been taken out minutes before my arrival. “Never mind,” I told myself. “I’ll just have to wait a bit longer.” Then, as I was leaving the library, one of the librarians called me back to say that luckily, someone else had just returned a copy and would I like to borrow it?

Of course I did! I smiled to myself as I clutched my treasure of a book. Perhaps good deeds did happen to people who do good, I mused.

Be the Change You Want to See

By the end of the day, I was convinced. For each good thing I did that day, I was rewarded by something good happening to me. It didn’t matter how big or small my good deed was nor how big or small my reward was. The fact that the numbers tallied up was what made the difference to me.

I stopped keeping count after running the same experiment on several more occasions as it seemed simpler to do good whenever I could. It’s not always easy, but it makes sense to me.

It’s true what the adults say. What you focus on, you get more of. And what goes around comes around.

Zombie Test

Welcome to the City of London

The Inhumane Condition

The risk with working in London, or in any large cosmopolitan city in the 21st century for that matter, is that we sometimes lose touch with our own humanity.

The Stress Test

For instance, how was your journey from your home to your desk this morning? What do you remember of it? And what of the people you spent your 45-minute commute with?

For many people, it’s a case of tune-out-the-outside-world until you make it to your desk. Avoid eye contact and social interaction at all cost.

For some, this zombiefied way of living continues from waking until it’s time to go to bed. Again. And again. And again.

A Different World

Now imagine a world where we greet one another with a polite smile when we board a train. A world where we offer those more in need than ourselves a seat instead of shoving aside the young, the old and the needy before squeezing into a seat ourselves.

The cynics out there will complain that no such place can exist where mankind, womankind and childrenkind tread.

Live Dangerously

What if you could change the world one seat at a time by gifting it to those who truly need it? After all, it only takes one living person to awake a carriage full of zombies.

A Christmas Message

Merry Christmas

“This too will pass”

As Claire Rayner once said, “When things are spectacularly dreadful; when things are absolutely appalling; when everything is superb and wonderful and marvellous and happy – say these four words to yourself. ‘This too will pass’. They will give you a sense of perspective and help you also make sense of what is good and be stoical about what is bad.”

To some, Christmas is a time for celebration. To others, Christmas may be a curiosity. Whatever Christmas means to you, it too will pass. Here’s wishing you a fun and restful holiday with the people you love.

A Question of Why

When we’re sixty…

“When you get older, time speeds up,” an old lady once confided in me as I fed the ducks by the pond.

Not long after, an elderly gentleman with whom I shared a bench at the playground said, “When you’re my age, you’ll have less time to do the stuff you want to do.”

While this phenomenon of time speeding up with one’s age has yet to be scientifically proven, I don’t want to take any chances.

I’ve learned enough life lessons and made many more mistakes besides over the years to leave my life to chance alone.

When I was young, I’d happily bumble along life’s well-trodden path like Frodo before the ring.

Now that I’m older, I’ve distilled my beliefs into a list of 3 guiding principles and devise strategies guided by them.

1. Have fun
Life’s too short to be taken too seriously. Let your hair down. Dance like no one can see you. Sing like you’re in the shower. Play brings people together and enables us to do impossible things.

2. Dream, believe and achieve – together
This is really three principles rolled into one. I first came across it as the motto of one of my favourite local primary schools. It inspired me back then and inspires me still.

3. Do things with heart
See a world where there’s enough to go around. Give freely whenever I can. Operate by a gift economy instead of only trade. What’s more, give generously to those who share my values and principles to co-create a better world.

Why do you do what you do?

Live Long and Prosper


Curiouser and Curiouser

The concept of a Peace Day, while applaudable, is a curiosity to me. If we’re to believe that we’re at what is probably the height of civilisation in the history of humankind, why then do we need a special day to encourage us to make peace with one another?

Begin with a Dream to Make Believe

The reality is that peace remains elusive, be it personal or world peace, much like contentment and humility. The good news is that there are plenty of us trying to make peace instead of war. May El-Khalil shares the story of how she turned her passion for running from tragedy into inspiration to all those around her. Check out her Ted talk here.

Make Peace Every Day

So how about we each of us make peace part of our every daily routine? Who will you choose to make peace with right now? Later on today? And tomorrow? To achieve world peace requires a lot less effort when each of us does our bit. Happy Peace Day!

Staying Alive

Beautiful Day

“Isn’t it a beautiful day to be alive?” I remark to my friend Thoughtful Jim. It seems dreary summer weather in Britain has become the exception instead of the norm.

To which Jim replies, “Every day is a beautiful day to be alive.”

As usual, Thoughtful Jim’s made a good point.

If every day is indeed a beautiful day to be alive, why then do some days feel more like a rat race running off stale cheese than the time of our life?

We spend so much time rushing about, being busy, that we can’t stand still long enough to admire life’s beauty, let alone acknowledge it.

Instead of worrying what has been or what may come to pass, better that we pause long enough to smell the roses and enjoy the beauty which surrounds us.

Every day is a beautiful day to be alive.

It’s Not You, It’s Me


Where’s the milk?

It’s a beautiful summer Sunday morning. You’re looking forward to breakfast. You open the fridge and discover there’s no milk. Your eyes continue to scan the other shelves in case it has been misplaced. Like the shelves before you, you mind goes blank with silent rage.

The Blame Game

Then all the clamourous voices in your head complain as reality sinks in.

“Who’s drunk all the milk without replacing it? How can this have happened? I was having a great day and now it’s spoilt for good… Who’s to blame?!?”

Perhaps you keep your cool better than I do. May be you even stay cool for longer. One thing’s for certain. Everyone’s got something that makes them tick and go “Boom!”

What’s the one thing that drives you mad about a certain someone? What if the only thing you could change is yourself in a Boom situation?

Missing Me

By going from Denial, Blame, Justification, Shame and Obligation, we can all eventually arrive at Responsibility where the Good Life happens.

How can you transform a situation by taking responsibility and applying The Responsibility Model before all hell breaks loose on account of a bit of missing milk?

The Missing Piece

Gingerbread Being

Becoming Whole

In Chinese, there’s a saying “Learn to become a whole person”. Growing up, this is the single phrase that sticks most in my memory.

“So-and-so doesn’t know how to behave like a whole person,” I’d overhear one auntie tell my mother, implying that someone hasn’t done the “right” thing.

“You’ll understand, when you become a whole person,” my teachers would say to many an enigma I stumbled upon.

“It’s important to learn to become whole, little one,” my father would remark, whenever I stamped my feet, impatient to make sense of the game of life.

I can’t help but remember fondly Shel Silverstein’s story of “The Missing Piece“.

Now that I’m grown up, I continue to ask myself: Why whole? How do we know which pieces are missing? How can they be obtained? How long does it take to become whole? What does it really mean to become a whole person anyway?

Race for Life

The older I get, the more I’ve come to value my physical and mental well-being. Whenever I get stuck in a reinforcing loop of negative thinking and feeling, the quickest way to break free and think fresh is to go for a walk. Better still, I go for a run.

Why run?

This morning, as I get ready to set off on my first 5K charity run after giving birth to a bouncing baby girl in December 2012, my friend Thoughtful Jim gives me a gentle nudge.

“Remember, you are not running for yourself,” says Jim, in his usual quiet voice.

Exercise With Heart

“Who am I running for then?” I snap back. Perhaps defiantly. More like petulantly. Most definitely selfishly.

Jim remains silent to give me time to reflect.

I feel my blood pressure rise as I psych myself up to beat my fellow runners. Raising money for charity is all well and good. Why shouldn’t I also use the opportunity to beat my PB?

When I see the swell of crowds gathering on the hilltop where we are to race, I remember.

That we are gathered here today to promote awareness of cancer sufferers past, present and future. That we are gathered here to prevent cancer by keeping fit ourselves. And that the race of life can be best enjoyed when run in the company of our friends.


Happy Father’s Day

Unconditional Acceptance

Strange But Not Surprising

Just as there’s no definitive job description for “Mother”, “Mum” or “Ma” (or whatever you call your mother or mother figure), there isn’t one for “Father”, “Dad” or “Da” either.

Love No Matter What

To me, “Father” means gentle, kind, patient, loving, responsible, lead-by-example, team player, always learning and makes things better. After watching an inspiring Ted talk by Andrew Solomon, I have added to my list “accepting”.

According to Andrew Solomon, a father or parent not only loves their child unconditionally, they unconditionally accept who their child is. They accept who their child has chosen to be. They accept who their child has become.

The Transformative Power of Love

Now that I’m a parent, I realise acceptance is a big ask of a parent, perhaps even more than unconditional love, because it demands we forego judging our children.

So how do we stop judging our children when we spend so much time and effort judging what’s good and bad for them when they’re little (and may be even long after they need us to make decisions on their behalf)?

The answer lies in what defines a father. By being gentler, kinder and more patient with ourselves, we don’t just become better parents, it’s a chance to change who we are and become a better person.