A Love of Reading

Reading has opened up my life considerably. I started reading at a very late age (five or six?). Before then I was effectively illiterate, while my siblings seem to have had earlier persuits into the literary world. And when I did start being able to read words by myself, I didn’t read for leisure until I was ten or so, even then I read for leisure maybe one book a year.

My first read-for-leisure books were the “The Three Investigators” series. From ten to twelve, I read three books in the series; I do not recall having read any other book during those years.

I stopped reading books for leisure after that. In secondary school (my early teenage years) I was really into soccer magazines, and later on computer magazines (both of which I have since abandoned).

My school then implemented this reading program where we were all required to read either a book or Newsweek magazine from Mondays to Wednesdays. Mother-tongue (mandarin for me) reading was done on Thursday and Friday.

The mandarin reading times were torture. Reading it was like reading a painting, almost impossible. And it didn’t help too that the chinese book was thick and heavy, so most of us would just tear the book into little parts and share! Failure to have a book was punishment by standing up for the whole reading period.

It was in upper-secondary (15 or 16-years-old) that my love for reading really blossomed. I took home from the library my very first self-help book, called Talking to Ducks, as well as a book on the types of joys, of which title I have forgotten. I was from then on hooked on non-fiction books, especially those on psychology and self-help.

My language has certainly improved, and so has my general knowledge.

Did you know that “congruent joy” is a joy you feel for no reason at all? It just comes like that, and is one of the most profound joys around. Did you know that most of what we are are due to what we are thinking?

Did you know that an atom’s ‘spin’ is not really spin as we normally know it? Have you heard of Schrodinger’s Cat? About the crazy mental experiments he puts it through? Do you know that most of us are using only 10% or less of our brain?

Well, you can find it all at your local library! Or you can simply buy the books (things I buy: books, food, clothes — in that order!). It’ll help you grow, I guarantee it!

A Butterfly’s Dream

From The Chuang Tzu, Chapter 2

Chuang Tzu dreamed that he was a butterfly.
All day long, he floated on the breeze
Without a thought of who he was or where he was going.

When he awoke, Chuang Tzu became confused.
“Am I a Man’, he thought, “who dreamed that I was a butterfly?
Or am I butterfly, dreaming that I am a man?
Perhaps my whole waking life is but a moment in a butterfly’s dream!.
This is a story of transformation”

Life is but a dream, albeit a complicated one.

Are you awake?

I was at my friend’s house some time back. He was at his computer surfing the net. I noticed that his computer was making very little noise. It was silent in fact. I was curious by this, as I had a computer at home that made this loud buzzing noise that I just couldn’t stand.

I listened intently, but couldn’t hear a whisper out of his computer. I decided to go get myself a glass of water, as I was feeling thirsty, and pondered about the silence as I did this. When I went back to his room, his computer suddenly seemed louder than it had been. Now I could hear the fans whirring inside the computer, and it was pretty loud too. Why hadn’t I noticed this before?

I realised that I had been getting too used to it. I had grown so used to the sound that even when I tried to listen for it, I couldn’t. I needed to take a step out of the room before I could hear it. Do you realise that once you grow accustomed to something, you tend to forget about it? Sometimes we get to used to life, that we forget we’re actually living it.

We forget we’re alive, that it took a miracle to get us here, and that everything around us is actually there. We get jaded. Did you notice that you have a computer? Did you notice that you have a painting on the wall, or a window, or a bed to sleep on? Have you woken up to the things in life? If not, you should.

Three Sides to Every Story

I have a niece who is five this year. I found she possesses many characteristics of girls much older than her; just looking at her reminded me of a girl I was quite close to during a stint I had in Junior College. I liked this girl (almost romantically) for while, but slowly some of her habits started to annoy me, though I didn’t know why. Now I know. After observing more little children, I realised that these were signs of immaturity.

Some would call it innocence.

I saw a man who was playing an organ along a corridor of shops, in the hope of receiving donations. He looked like he might have been able to do other forms of work, yet again, maybe he did not. I do not think he had a license to play in public for donations (the government in Singapore requires a license for street-basking). Some people who saw him, pitied him and donated out of stupidity and blindness.

Some would call it generosity and goodwill.

In America, it is common to find Dandelions in many places. In Singapore, where they are less common, they are considered by many as flowers, and beautiful. However, in many other countries they are considered by many as harmful weeds. Some insist they are weeds.

Others insist they are beautiful flowers.

Watch out before you jump to conclusions, all you’ll get is exercise.

There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.

Why Habits are So Hard to Break

Habits are things we do continually, over and over again, simply because to not do them, would make us uncomfortable. It might be physical or mental. To rid these uncomfortable feelings we carry out our habit. Take for example the (relatively) safe and good habit or brushing one’s teeth.

If one has done so consistently everyday, without fail, one would get into the habit of teeth brushing. To not brush would often lead to guilty feelings; we might feel that our mouth is simply unclean, or any other reason we might come out with, so that we will be forced back to brush.

How about ‘bad’ habits? Smoking? Alcohol? perhaps even shoplifting or other socially-frowned upon activities? What about them?

The thing about these activities is that though we know that they are not good in the eyes of many people, they ease our tension, the uncomfortable feeling that builds up from not having the habit done; we do not really realise that it is the habit itself that is creating that feeling.

Another important thing is that we often have this feeling/mentality of “I can quit anytime I want”. Of course, this is often to the contrary. We often cannot quit anytime we want. It may seem easy, but when it comes down to quiting, it’s harder than we thought.

When we fail to quit, especially when we so expected to, we sort of give up even trying to break it, making the habit even more difficult to break; and it doesn’t help that almost all of us have a habit of accumulating bad habits!What can we do then? Well, we can harness the power of habits.

Much ado about habits

If habits are so difficult to break, why not create more good habits? If we have 5 bad habits, and 3 good habits, we have a “-2” on the habits score. If we accumulate more good habits, we can have an infinite amount of good habits, and 5 bad habits, depending on whether you take the effort to break the bad ones, of course (and I assume you didn’t). This would lead to a “infinity-5” habit score!

So accumulate good habits, and don’t bother so much about your bad ones. Just let them be, and they may go away, or they may not; but remember, out of sight, out of mind. Do not think about your bad habits and they will slowly creep out of your life and be taken over by the good ones you have decided to bring into your life.

So what good habit are you going to sow today?