What if money didn’t matter?


How would you really enjoy spending your life?

If you say that getting the money is the most important thing… you’ll be doing things you don’t like doing, in order to go on living, that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid!

Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

I really like this video.

Really like it.

And yet real life isn’t that simple, is it. These chase-your-dreams sentiments all paint a one-sided, black-and-white picture; if you’re not chasing your dreams,  you’ve betrayed yourself and succumbed to society’s expectation.

Of course that’s part of the story. Too often we’re too afraid to do what we’d really love because we’re afraid of, or have been convinced by, what society says to us.  Too often we erect unnecessary barriers.

But that’s just part of the story. Here’s the other part: we make personal sacrifices for the things we think are worth it. We make personal sacrifices in our life choices for the people around us.

Sure, I can spend my life riding horses or writing poems and that would make me happy. But riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to buy a laptop or internet access or books or music or a camera or a motorbike or the luxury of travelling overseas.  And all those are things that would make me happy too.

More importantly. Riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to… help pay for my sister’s education. Help take care of my parents in their old age. Pay for my parents’ medical fees. Riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to… support my partner, buy my own home, start a family and give my children the best upbringing I can. And these are the things that, if I can’t do, would make me really upset with myself and take away all the pleasure from riding horses or writing poems. It’s difficult to enjoy even the thing you enjoy most if you’re worrying about where your next meal is going to come from, or worse, your loved ones’ next meal. Or whether your mum is going to live another few years or not, because you can’t afford treatment. Money may not be the most important, but it sure can buy a lot, including security and a peace of mind.

So make the call; where along the spectrum are you willing to stand, how much sacrifice are you willing to make? Opportunity costs between your day to day personal dreams and enjoyment and the other things that money can buy. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing the wrong things for the things that aren’t worth it.

If money didn’t matter?
Wildlife photographer, please. 

Of pink boys, the man box and gayness in Hebrew


Maybe my expectations of society have gotten too high– after all, it was just in my father’s generation where left-handers like him were forced to write with their rights hands. But with the super rapid pace of change that’s happening these days, one can always hope that all the changes I wish to see will happen within my lifetime…

Three things to share today.

1. Pink Boys: Gender is not binary!

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? is an article from The New York Times. I really agree with what it says, and wish everyone would read it and broaden their perspectives a little. Some excerpts:

“…gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.

It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities, but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality.”

 

“In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century.”

 

“These days, flouting gender conventions extends even to baby naming: first names that were once unambiguously masculine are now given to girls. The shift, however, almost never goes the other way. That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity. “There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. “When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?””

2. The manbox and why men must and should be liberated from its walls.

Tony Porter: A Call to Men, at TEDwomen

You can find the transcript helpfully typed out here at Shakesville as well. Excerpts below:

“I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you, you were playing like a girl?” Now, I expected him to say something like, “I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry,” something like that. No, the boy said to me, the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.”

And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?””

 

Well, just watch the video, it’s only 12 minutes long. And it speaks The Truth, a truth that you need to know!

3. Pretty girls, thorny religious plus gender plus lgbt themes all wrapped up in an exotic foreign language (everything sounds sexier in a foreign language, no?). What’s there not to like? 8D

The Secrets

The 20th Israel Film Festival (IFF) in Singapore is happening from 5th – 11th of September this year and Cathay will be screening this film. I definitely plan to catch it!

Synopsis: Two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women. Naomi’s quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past, they begin a risky journey into forbidden realm, opening up overwhelming new horizons. The girls soon find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.

Accolades
9 Nominations including:
Best Supporting Actress and Actor, Ophir Awards 2007
Best Feature, 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival

Prayers for Bobby


Touching story. Real people, real lives.

From the description, “The true story of a mother’s struggle to reconcile the tension between her deeply held religious beliefs and the suicide of her gay son. Mary Griffith came from a religious family and raised her four children to believe in God and live a Christian life. Their conservative Presbyterian church was the center of family life for every family member except Mary’s husband, Bob. When 17-year-old Bobby confided to older brother Ed that he was gay, the family’s life changed. Mary convinced Bobby to pray that God would cure him and to seek solace in church activities. Bobby did it all, but the church’s hatred of homosexuality and the obvious pain his gayness was causing his family led him increasingly to loathe himself. Excerpts from a diary he kept, family photos, and letters written by Mary to her dead son make the book intense reading for both high-school and public library patrons.”

Give it a watch if you have the time!

Will it take the death of someone close to you for you to consider that you may be wrong?

Oranges are not the only fruit


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a three-part BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in an English Pentecostal community.

I plan to read the book, but in the meantime, I found the TV series on youtube, so I watched that first. It’s a great show, give it a watch if you have the time. On youtube it’s uploaded as 6 parts of about 7 minutes for each of the 3 episode. There’s a part missing though, so if you can access the video via other means, maybe you could try that too. For example, I’ve just realized that the esplanade library carries the video cassettes! …not sure how I would watch video cassettes though haha, maybe the esplanade has a multimedia room you can use. Nonetheless, the missing part didn’t make the show any less enjoyable to watch.

Some thoughts:

It made me think, once again, about how flexible the human mind is.
I mean, how easily we can twist words to mean what we want them to mean. How words can mean anything.  How easily we can delude ourselves, how easily we can truly believe what is not true. How easily we can think, with all our heart, that we’re doing the right thing.

Can you blame the mother in the show, as unpleasant as she is? Can you fault her for treating the main character, Jess, in that way? It may not be your idea of love (it may be, in fact, your idea of hate) but I do think she does love Jess, and every horrible thing she did, she thought it was for the best. No, she knew it was for the best.

This is how humans are. We can operate separate from the ‘truth’. It doesn’t matter so much what is out there as what we think is out there, how we perceive what is out there.

And that’s the problem I have with ‘faith’. Knowing how susceptible we are to such thinking, to being able to have unwavering belief in your own thoughts, positions and actions, shouldn’t we be guarding against such thinking rather than encouraging it? Guarding against ‘having faith’?

Because isn’t such type of thinking the essence of faith?

To have complete trust in something. To believe in god without evidence. To… just believe. Just have faith. With all your heart.

People are capable of being blind enough as it is. Don’t tie blindfolds over your eyes and tell me that’s a GOOD thing. The more blindfolds you tie, the more you trust without EVIDENCE or PROOF, the better and more PREFERABLE that is? Seriously?
—-
The show had me crying. Because the worst thing was… knowing that this isn’t merely fiction. Knowing that this isn’t merely history. Knowing that this isn’t merely abstract ideas, or something happening far away.

This is real. This is now. This is here. This is me, and those are my friends.

Please don’t pretend that the church’s position has ‘progressed’, that your position has progressed and is better and more reasonable than historical positions. Does it really matter what words you use? Whether you call it a ‘demon in you’ or an ‘illness’ or a  ‘disorder’ or a ‘result of the fallen world’ or an ‘abomination’ or even just simply a ‘sin’?

You change the words, but the final meaning is the same. The church’s idea of ‘progress’ is ‘accepting’ new evidence but without letting it change the bottom line. So you have to change your interpretation a little. That’s not a problem. As long as you keep the bottom line the same.

I don’t remember if I’ve said it out loud on this blog yet, but… my girlfriend of three years broke up with me–yes, you guessed it– for religious reasons. You could say this blog is born from that incident.

During that break-up period, she showed me two different cases from two different Christian books she was reading– about homosexuals having had demons successfully cast out of them.

…how do you think that makes me feel? To know that the person you love thinks that the only reason why you love her and why she loves you is because of a demon?

…so when we enjoyed each others’ company, simply sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze and talking; a demon at work?
…so when we celebrated anniversaries or valentine’s days, exchanging heartfelt gifts; a demon pulling the strings?
…when we went out for dinner; a demon ordering dessert?
…when we said ‘I love you’ countless times, cheered each other on through tests, exams and school work, listened to each others’ problems and worries… all through a demon’s mouth and ears?

I understand a little more now why people can be so cruel, why the mother in the show can behave so hard-heartedly towards her daughter. That’s not her daughter, it’s a demon. The devil’s limb, as she says.

How people could have burnt women at the stake: they’re not women, they’re witches. The cries you hear aren’t the cries of a women in pain, they are the cries of evil knowing it has lost the battle. When someone cries and screams while having a demon cast out, that’s the sound of the demon, in pain.

What does ‘demon’ even mean, anyway? The idea of ‘ALL GOOD’ and ‘ALL BAD’ is really an incoherent one to me. It can’t exist in more than the abstract. If this thing you call a ‘demon’ can feel pain, shouldn’t we have compassion for it too?

I can’t wait to read the book.

BBC Horizon: Out of control?


“Science series. People like to think they are in control of their lives – of what they feel and think. But scientists are now discovering this is often simply an illusion”

More about the subconscious than free will or being in control, but still an interesting watch.

For an awesome lesson on how much we don’t notice (ie out much is filtered out and summarized and simplified for us so we can function everyday), watch this awesome ad.

Free Will: Articles and Some Thoughts


I came across this special issue by the Chronicle of Higher Education dealing with the question “Is Free Will an Illusion?” It features 6 short essays on the topic. Pretty interesting, give it a read!

I’ve been vaguely fascinated by the topic of free will for some time. I found myself, through my own random musings, being lead more in the direction of determinism, or denying free will, which at first alarmed me because such a position felt so counter-intuitive; surely most people would reject such a position as ridiculous. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found, upon reading up more on the subject, that this was actually a pretty common position amongst those who have explored these issues!

My thoughts on free will started from thinking about religion and belief. To me, free will was religion’s ‘trump card’, the reason why suffering exists, why God cannot simply pluck us out of disasters, and essentially why I’m going to hell: because I choose to reject God.

I argued that no one chooses that. No one would ever say, “Yes, I know God is my Creator, I know he is Truth and I know the consequence of rejecting Him. But in accordance to my right to free will, I can choose to reject Him, and I do.” No body chooses to reject the truth.

I’ve heard some arguments from the religious about why God doesn’t just reveal himself to all that run as such: If God were to do that then people would be forced to believe in Him, but God wants us to come to Him of our own free will.

So… knowledge eliminates free will but ignorance allows it??

When you say, “I don’t believe in God.”, it hardly feels like a choice. Given my background, the way I approach problems, all that I know and I that I’ve read up till today… couldchoose to say instead, “I believe in God.’? No. The reason why I don’t believe in God is that the concept doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t believe in God, at least not right now knowing and having experienced all that I have. Just take the case of those who deconvert– they certainly didn’t choose to lose their faith, and often times they really, really, really want to keep believing, but found that they couldn’t do it anymore.

I also wondered about when a decision counts as a choice.

If you’re ignorant and have no knowledge–say you’re given three blank doors with no clues as to which contains the prize– is it an exercise of free will when you pick one?

Or when you’re in possession of a lot of information about two different options– say you have to pick between two types of medical procedures– is it an exercise of free will when you weigh all the pros and cons and pick which one you think is best? But given the information that you had, and coming to the conclusion of which looked like the better option, could you have not picked that option?

Maybe free will and true choice only exist when there are no right or wrong implications to the choice, that is, when it is a subjective choice. For example, choosing between vanilla or chocolate ice-cream. Seems I could easily choose one or the other freely. But then again… that’s determined by some sort of internal bias– chocolate tastes better to me, or I’ve subconsciously come to prefer chocolate because there’s a subconscious, cultural implication that vanilla is for girls and sissies. If you hate durian or classical music, can you really choose to love them?

All just preliminary thoughts on a very complex issue. Hope to continue reading more and thinking more about it. :) :)

Although I’m not sure I fully support his dating analogy, the basic message is the same: it’s not a choice and no one chooses to reject God.

For the Bible Tells Me So


“For the Bible Tells Me So is a 2007 American documentary film directed by Daniel G. Karslake about homosexuality and its perceived conflict with religion, as well as various interpretations of what the Bible says about same-sex sexuality.

It includes lengthy interview segments with several sets of religious parents (including former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and his wife, Jane, and the parents of Bishop V. Gene Robinson) regarding their personal experiences raising homosexual children, and also interviews with those (adult) children.” (From Wikipedia)

Here’s the Trailer:

and you can watch the full movie on Veoh here.

It was good, but not as impactful as I was expecting, given the awards and great reviews it had. But still good. I suppose it depends on the audience– it’s strongest message is the usual about not rejecting, abusing or discriminating against gays, which is of course a great message.

But for me it doesn’t stress enough on the how (ie what is considered ‘not rejecting, exactly?) and the why. What I mean is, if its mainly the extreme negative views and reactions that are being shown, it’s easy for someone with moderate views to dissociate themselves from it, while still holding on to their essentially anti-gay position. It would be easy for them to counter what’s shown with something like, ‘Well of course I wouldn’t throw bricks/scrawl hate messages/send hate letters etc. that’s wrong. but so is homosexuality. I wouldn’t reject the person, but I reject the lifestyle.’ So for me, it doesn’t focus enough on why that sort of attitude is not enough. It doesn’t go deep enough, detailed enough into the journeys of the individuals, of how they came to reconcile their sexuality with christianity, why they didn’t stick with some moderate middle ground.

Frankly, I think that ‘middle ground’ is incoherent. I think that that annoying phrase of ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’ is not possible to truly put into practice in the case of homosexuality because homosexuality is usually experienced as a pretty integral part of one’s identity.

When you say you ‘hate the lies but love the liar’, the liar is not going to feel aggrieved or offended if he is a normal, average person who thinks lying is wrong. He’s likely to ‘hate’ lying as well. He probably doesn’t see it as either an intergral or instrinsic  part of himself. When he admits that he is a liar, he is admitting that he had lied; he is admitting to the action of lying. And if he hates lying, he’ll hate it when he lies.

When you try to do the same thing for homosexuality, it doesn’t work because homosexuals experience it as being part of their identity. Saying “I hate homosexuality but I love you” would be like saying to a man, “I hate men, but I love you.” or “I hate Chinese, but I still love you.” Which would be incoherent. (Unless you tweak the meaning to ‘Usually I hate men, but I find that I love you.’, which significantly deviates from the original mantra in meaning.) Furthermore, I am homosexual no matter what I do or don’t do, so from the individuals point of view, I really can’t afford to hate it. There’s no escape from it, unlike lying; I’d have to hate myself constantly if I hate homosexuality.

The phrase (and tone/body language of the people who utter it) seem to imply that denouncing homosexuality is merely idealogy– in practice, they are still going to treat you with all the rights and respect and love due to any other human being; they’re not condeming you as a person, just the concept of homosexuality.

That, to me is incoherent and untrue as well. As long as you hold the belief that homosexuality is morally wrong, you will inevitably be hurting me with your belief. It will hurt when I know you do not support or approve of my relationships. It will hurt when I know you would prefer it very much if I were straight. It will hurt me when you support causes that will deny me my rights to living a normal happy life in the eyes of society and the law and when you refuse to support causes that are helping to fight for those rights. And if you are a friend or family member, all this will hurt a million times more.

So honestly? No matter how awesome a person you are, how non-judgemnetal and accepting and warm… I am still finding hard to not be offended when you tell me you think homosexuality is an abomination. I do think it’s as deep a personal insult as it can get.