Circuit Breaker – Round Two!

With the end of our 2nd week of the circuit breaker yesterday, our Prime Minister announced the extension of our circuit breaker (aka semi lockdown) till 1 June 2020 – Round Two! Actually when the government announced the need for a circuit breaker earlier, I kind of imagined myself in a war, where our movements are restricted and we would have “curfews” to observe. Of course, a real war is definitely more serious but here, we are dealing with an invisible war where the enemy (aka COVID-19 virus) cannot be seen.

So to me, we should take it seriously like in a physical war. To be honest, I’m just thankful we are still able to head out to buy food and head to the park for exercise any time we want, albeit with a mask and ensuring we are far away from others. If we were in a real war, who knows whether we would have food, and our movements will certainly be more restricted.

This war against COVID-19 has certainly been unprecedented. Even SIA said this is the biggest challenge since its existence. Many people have lost their jobs within these four months of crisis as we stop movements of people and even as other countries stop movements of people into our country too. The circuit breakers have resulted in many non-essential shops closing. Closure = no money. With Singapore being such an open economy, it was simply unimaginable that our government made a move to close off our grounds to foreigners. But it was important to get the health of the country back again. The maxim – “Health is wealth” has never been so real.

Interestingly, COVID-19 has brought out the worst and the best of people. In a crisis, we see ourselves stripped to the barest. It is sobering. We also see what are truly essential in our lives – healthcare (Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies), supermarkets, food (not cakes, chocolates, bubble tea!), government services (e.g. social assistance, security), transport, sanitation and hygiene services, optical shops (surprisingly), hardware stores (for DIY repairs, screws etc), telecommunications and IT.

What’s surprising is that these things are actually not essential: school, tuition, shopping centres, clothes shops, furniture shops, electronics stores, hairdressing (shocking!!).

Puts things into perspective, doesn’t COVID-19? Things that we always think we need are really not so much of a need in the end when it comes to survival.

Let’s just say COVID-19 is a wake-up call to many of us.. and certainly an eventful way to start 2020.

When church leaders fall

Church leaders… we expect them to be like Christ. To love. All the time. To smile. To be friendly. And yes, in the Bible, it says that teachers in the church will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). So there is a level of standards expected.

However in 2019, two pieces of news which showed the “failure” of church leaders gripped me – Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson renouncing their faith publicly. The former used to write how he “kissed dating goodbye”, which was at one point of our time, religiously followed in our youth ministry and was the senior pastor of a church in US. The latter was a prominent worship leader who has written many worship songs we now sing.

Also this year, the picture of a visibly leaner Kong Hee who used to be the senior pastor of City Harvest Church, being released from jail also saddened me.

I ask myself why do I feel so bad about these church leaders falling away? I’ve read responses online. Some people are disappointed. Some feel betrayed. Then I realise many times, we place too much trust and “faith” in leaders and what they espouse, we fail to see our God. We trust in men, not in our Lord Almighty. We trust in their books but not the Bible.

We should never hold our leaders on the pedestal. The only one on the throne is God. Our leaders are human. Instead, we should pray for them. Humans can fail.. and when our leaders fail, do we choose to judge or should we as fellow brothers and sisters, lift them up in prayers and also ask the Lord to heal them, including those who have been hurt because of them?

I’m not advocating for church leaders to not be held accountable because they are “human”. But I’m focusing on the response that we should have as members of the church. May our souls be loving, merciful and gentle, should our church leaders “fail”.

Review of Black Mirror “Be Right Back”- Besides your CPF money, think about how you should manage your digital identity after you die

Watching dystopian “Black Mirror” often leaves me disconcerted. The episodes are intense and to me, emotionally draining. I often find myself imagining myself to be in the key character’s position as they unravel in the mis-steps of technology usage. I can imagine it so well because it talks about the perils of social media, biometrics, mobile phones – all of which are so pervasive in our everyday lives.

DR and I were just talking about the next type of entertainment little E will probably see in her future. Instead of TVs, it may be more common to see holographic shows – TV shows in 3D in all our homes. Well, holographic technology is not something new (we saw this in Everland, Seoul when we were there 4 years ago) but it could be more ubiquitous and take over 55-inch television sets in future.

So back to “Black Mirror”. Because it’s so emotionally draining, I’m quite selective about the episodes I watch. The first episode which Sarah introduced to me was quite a classic (“Nosedive”) but seriously, watching “Black Mirror” during maternity leave isn’t exactly the best idea because it’s just too unsettling and you know, having a new baby is actually already unsettling… anyway, I digress again! 🤣

Okay, now I’m officially back to talking about Black Mirror Season 2’s first episode – “Be Right Back”. It talks about a woman who attempts to reconnect with her late husband. To cope with her grief, the woman decided to try a service which allows people to “talk” to those who are no longer physically around. It first started with her chatting with a “bot”, which through machine learning using large amounts of data from her late husband’s digital footprint (social media, mobile phone content, videos) was able to re-create his husband’s quips and even actual voice. It eventually escalated into her getting a human-like bot, so that her late husband could do things like a normal “human”, albeit using this same technology.

At the end of it, she realises that her “husband” is just a shadow of her actual late husband, as it had no personality, relying merely on machine learning of social media content, with no intimate knowledge of other aspects of their lives. I’m not sure if technology will become so super sophisticated because current machine learning technologies that I’ve seen still requires a fair bit of human intervention to correct it (e.g. Google Translate).

Nonetheless, this episode makes me wonder about how we are going to manage our digital identities after we die as well. For example, what will happen to our Facebook account? Will we still look like we are “alive” and “around” because it exists in the digital sphere? I’m not sure if I would want that after I pass on. Or do I allow it to be “online”, just so that my loved ones can remember me? This is something that we need to think and talk about with her loved ones, besides thinking about who we should nominate for our CPF monies.

At the end of it, I also realise, we are humans. Technology will never be able to fully satisfy our need to connect with real human beings, to cope with one of the most intense emotions – grief.

Goodbye, 8 Days (print)

I feel poignant holding the last print issue of 8 Days in my hands. Started reading 8 Days when I was 11 and bought it faithfully every week (almost!) till today. 8 Days isn’t just any usual magazine because my family and I practically grew up together with it, reading their drama synopses, entertainment news, food reviews and whatnots.

My little one may never know how it is like to look forward to a magazine to hit newsstands, and thumb through the colourful pages for entertainment news when you finally have the copy in your hands. Because Instagram. Sigh.

I suppose my tingle of sadness came also from the hope that 8 Days could continue in print, being the last (few) stalwarts of print magazines that could sell relatively well. But I guess we have to embrace being digital because this is the future of communications.

If not now, then when? Eventually, they will go digital. In the meantime, thank you, 8 Days print, for accompanying my childhood, teenage years and young adulthood for the past 20 years!

Things that I’ve learnt in school that’s actually useful for work/life

When I was younger, I would wonder what the heck was algebra. Why would I need to know “toa cah soh” (for the uninitiated, it’s a Singlish way to make us remember trigonometry formulas)? As I grew older, I realise there were some things that I learnt in school that were actually useful and essential for work and in daily life.

So if you think you want to focus your energies on learning important things that are useful, you may want to make reference to this post! But here’s a disclaimer — these things are what I personally find useful for life and my job in general.

Primary school

– Mathematics – Percentages (to know proportion, how significant are certain changes and not just rely on absolute numbers)

– English – how to write numbers in words (to write cheques)

Secondary school

– English – Summary skills (you will have to read tons of information for work and condense the critical information for your bosses or clients)

– Social studies – Cross-referencing skills (to know how to differentiate fake news, to not be easily swayed by popular opinions but know that every message has an agenda)

– Mathematics – Probability (to know whether to take a risk on a certain decision or whether you should buy certain insurance)

Junior college

– Economics – Demand & Supply concept, Return of Investment

University

– Communications fundamentals – know how to communicate to different stakeholders. Tailor your message to different audience through different medium. One topic that would be useful at work is “strategic ambiguity” :p

The world we face tomorrow 

I recently had a talk with my colleague about her kindergarten-going daughter who whispered in my colleague’s ears that she has a boyfriend in class. We were amused at how this young girl was so upfront about it, and I quipped, “Thankfully, she said she likes a boy. If she said she likes a girl, you would be in a much difficult position!”

“Actually, I will be okay if she likes a girl. But if my son tells me he likes another man, I don’t think I can take it well.”

“Are you serious? So you will be fine if your daughter has a girlfriend?”

“Yup, I can understand if she likes a girl. It can be quite normal. I will support her. But for a man, I am not so sure. Unless, he is the ‘man’ of the relationship, then I think I can accept it.

Our conversation was cut short by me having to leave the train for my stop, but it made me think hard about the world our future generation will confront. Increasingly, many places are legalising gay marriages, with the most recent being Taiwan. 

Having been brought up to understand that the norm in marriage is between a man and a woman, I was stumped. If my peer can be so open about it now, I can only imagine that marriages can be so different in future and how if one were to speak up against gay marriages, one could possibly end up being prosecuted.

The more I thought about it, the more I feel this wave is unstoppable. My future generation will see that norm marriages can be between two men or two women, apart from between a man and woman. How will I explain to them about this other “norm” of gay marriages, and that they should not go into it because it is a sin to God? It’s like telling them to stop spamming Harry Potter movies (to the extent that you love it more than your life or God) but the rest of the class is doing it or endorsing it. Ok, this may be a bad example but I can’t think of any better ones now at 12.30am.

Then, I realise, it’s not about telling our future generation what they should or should not do. I remember someone related to me an incident that happened many years back where children in church were made to throw away their Pokemon-related items in front of everyone. I am not sure of the thought processes, but this person shared with me that she felt scarred by this incident. It left her disillusioned as a child in her faith. This sharing showed me that renouncing something that a child likes very much in their lives, something that is a norm to all other children, without helping them to understand properly or helping them see in their hearts why they had to do so, can have a reverse effect. 

Hence, before I share with my future generation the do’s and don’ts, I must first ensure that they fully understand God’s sacrificial, merciful and unconditional love for us, His purpose and His character. Which I myself must live out. In doing so, I want to teach them to love, fear and honour our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then, will they dare to make a stand in their beliefs, for God, before men.

Having said all these, I am assuming perfect conditions in life, ceteris paribus. That my child can listen, that I can teach well, that my child has a strong will, that … etc. But we all know life is not like that. I am not sure of my own abilities to bring across these points to my child eventually… I can only trust that God will give me wisdom to teach and my future generation to have the will and strength to face the issues of tomorrow. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:33-34

When the worship song that you sing does not resonate with your heart

There are good days when your heart is bursting of joy, gladness and thanksgiving. On such days, oh, you worship with all your strength and conviction. 

But there are times your heart just feels accused and lousy. And when the worship song you sing is about loving God with every inch of your soul, and loving Him beyond everything else, deep in your heart, you feel that it is not true. That was what happened one Sunday morning – I felt like a hypocrite singing that I love the Lord with all my being when I know there are still things I care a lot about, things that I am unwilling to let God take over like my emotions, my fears. The struggle of sin was real.I felt accused. 

But that moment, I knew I needed to tune myself to God’s word. Romans 8:1-2 came to mind. God promised that He has and will set us free from the sin and death – I need the Holy Spirit to help me. So at that moment, I prayed to the Lord. I told God I needed the Holy Spirit to help me, to help me relinquish the control I wanted to have, and to help my heart yield to Him.

Then, I worshipped our Lord, knowing that I can stand before the Lord in the righteousness of Christ. 

Previous Older Entries