On Being Good

I just read a parable on being good in a Buddhist text (given to me by my wonderful fiancée, called The Teaching of Buddha) that I thought too good not to share:

Once there was a rich widow who had a reputation for kindness, modesty and courtesy. She had a housemaid who was wise and diligent.

One day, the maid thought: “My mistress has a very good reputation; I wonder whether she is good by nature, or is good because of her surroundings. I will try her and find out.”

The following morning the maid did not appear before her mistress until nearly noon. The mistress was vexed and scolded her impatiently. The maid replied:

“If I am lazy for only a day or two, you ought not to become impatient.” Then the mistress became angry.

The next day, the maid got up late again. This made the mistress very angry and she struck the maid with a stick. This incident became widely known and the rich widow lost her good reputation.

Many people are like this woman. While their surroundings are satisfactory they are kind, modest and quiet, but it is questionable if they will behave likewise when the conditions change and become unsatisfactory.

It is only when a person maintains a pure and peaceful mind and continues to act with goodness when unpleasant words enter his ears, when others show ill-will toward him or when he lacks sufficient food, clothes, and shelter, that we may call him good.

This story reminded me of the many times the fiancée herself has been at the end of a snide remark or been snapped at due to me (1) not having enough sleep; (2) not having enough to eat; or (3) both. So sorry! I really do wish I could carry my  friendly and gentle disposition (as my primary school teacher would say) with me all the time, even through trying and stressful times.

Taking stock of life

I’ve been facing a sort of existential crisis recently, and I think it started with my reading of Between the Monster and the Saint by Richard Holloway, which talked about the humanistic movement and what it meant to be human (not much, it seems).

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, reading it any time and every time I had some time to spare, and it had such an impact on me that for the days I read it and the weeks that followed, I couldn’t help by seriously think about what my life meant (not much, it seems).

There was once I was in a bus on my way to work when a dialogue popped into my head from out of nowhere. It was a short little thing, and it went like this:

Oldish man says to young man: “you want to know how significant you are? Think about your life, what you’re doing now and what you’ll do down the road… Think of all the achievements you’ll have. Pretty big, huh? Now, zoom forward a hundred years. Tell me what you see. Zoom forward another hundred years. Yes, my son, that’s how significant you are!”

Though, depending on your disposition, you could well see yourself being hailed as a conquering hero a couple of hundred years on after you die, while this dialogue played in my head, thoughts like that were furthest from my mind, and it was really the opposite that I had been thinking about.

What that young man was thinking, I thought to myself, as he zoomed through the years were about the marks he had left — little acts of vandalism; snide remarks; academic achievements; career-making software development — and how they slowly faded from view as the years went on. After a couple of hundred years, he couldn’t imagine himself having the slightest impact at all, and this thought of insignificance made him bow his head in shame.

These kinds of thoughts haven’t been uncommon to me of late. Occasionally, droning through the most routine of tasks, I’d take pause and think about what the **** I was doing. And it’s been only too often that I’d be reading some technical material and suddenly think about whether or not the author thought about life and whether it was worth living. Perhaps optimised database design leads to 42?

Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps

Not too sure what’ s been keeping me from updating more often. Perhaps  a little due to work pressures; perhaps a little due to sloth; perhaps a little due to whatever makes people not do what they wish they did.

Life’s been crazy of late. Crazy good somewhat; crazy bad somewhat. Not too sure what type of crazy but definitely crazy. So many things going on at the same time.

Perhaps after this crisis of sorts life will be better. But then again, perhaps not. Who knows.

Still Exhausted

I’m still feeling the after-effects of last week’s (and the week before’s) hectic work schedule. Still haven’t had the chance to really catch up on sleep, even during the last weekend (the fiancee and I had a trip to Malaysia on Saturday, for which we woke up early to avoid the jam; this was followed by the first of two 2XU Compression Runs on Sunday, a very decent 12km run that left me hurting like mad).

I’ll probably need a few days worth of sleep in order to fully recover — I’ve read before that the lethargy associated with chronic sleep deprivation will take more than a night or two of extreme sleep to recover from. I’m just hoping that these past two week’s isn’t really considered chronic, and that over the next few nights I’ll be able to get back to my usual 100%.

Work’s been letting up a little lately; finally managed to find some time to slow down. Still, I’ve got grand plans for improving the current business processes — you cannot believe how inefficient things are as they stand. The amount of automatable manual work that I’m currently doing is staggering.

The future looks promising.

Why I don’t speed

Today while I was driving home from the fiancée’s, I was overtaken by a Kia Picanto. For those who do not know, the Kia Picanto is a relatively small car, and one that generally doesn’t (cannot, and is not recommended to) go very fast.

I had half the mind to increase my speed, which was a not-so-slow 90-100 km/h. But then I thought better about it and decided not to, and I let the Kia zoom ahead of me and into the night.

Then I started thinking about why I didn’t try to catch up when I certainly had a pretty strong inclination too (perhaps due to my occasionally pretty competitive nature). Then I realised that it was because I was already travelling at what is touted to be the most efficient speed for most cars — 90 km/h, and that going faster (or slower) than this speed would be less efficient and fuel-wasting.

And so that’s why I don’t speed.

I couldn’t help thinking how lame this was… was it really true?

When I got back, I called the fiancée and told her I sped home at 140 km/h. Pretty much the first thing she replied me was an unbelieving “yeah right”, which was followed closely by a “you wouldn’t do that — you’ll won’t want to waste fuel”.

And that’s when I realised that yes, yes it was; it really is true that I don’t speed because of that.

And that just got me thinking: what would I do if I wasn’t shackled down by a lack of resources (finances, really) and an inherent desire not to waste?