i thought this was really good, seriously . source - Adrian tan
Life and How to Survive It
I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband. My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.
On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable. Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.
And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.
Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.
The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning. You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.
The good news is that they’re wrong.
The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy. I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.
You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.
Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.
So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper. Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.
I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.
After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average. Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.
That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.
If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.
What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.
Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows. What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.
Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free. The most important is this: do not work. Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable. Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.
There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful. People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.
Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway. Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself. I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction - probably a sports journalist.
So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.
Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.
Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence. In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.
I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.
One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.
The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.
I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone. Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work - the only kind of work that I find palatable.
Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul. Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart. You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you. Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.
Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.
You’re going to have a busy life. Thank goodness there’s no life expectancy.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Sunday, May 4, 2008
the last day of my tripping. woke up early today and took a walk around flushing. bought some tuna sandwiches for lunch later. budget's really running tight, just left like a few dollars and pennies in my wallet, barely enough for a cup of coffee, dunkin donuts and a pack of smoke which i have to get before i leave nyc. DRY. i still got my citi as the last resort though. lady in shop was pretty hostile. period. got out of the motel at 12pm. took the subway all the way from main street back to rosevelt ave, transferred to E line to jamaica station and than the air train to JFK. the trip was smooth as it was a sunday. not crowded, thankfully. my flight back to singapore was SQ 25, 2105. 8 hrs free time to roam about in JFK. JFK was pretty messy with so many connecting terminals. took me awhile before i got to my departing terminal. exhausted yet excited to get back home. the sight of SIA plane gave me a sense of home after being so long away from home, alone. what an experience.
day 11 was the end of the east coast tour. the coach transferred most of the people in the tour back to logan international to take their flights back home. i got transferred back to nyc, flushing to continue my tour in NYC. it took me 5hrs from boston back to nyc. bid farewell to the guide and people in it. went back to the same motel which i was previously staying. ok, i am left with 500usd. i would try to maximise this sum of money before i'm declared penniless and make my way back home. i got an open air tix on my return trip. the 5 days spent in nyc were basically having simple meals, trying to roam as much places as possible in nyc with the subway rides and long walks around nyc. always make it a point to get back to flushing before 9 as it's pretty dangerous hanging arn nyc in the night. flushing was comparatively safe. visited most of the streetlifes in nyc; 'canale street', 'meatpacking streets', 'grand central station', 'brighton beach', 'roosevelt avenue' and 'arthur avenue'. p.s.- the kebab at meatpackng street was extremely delicious. noted. museums were pretty interesting as well; 'brooklyn museum of arts', 'historical society' and the 'jewish museum'. didn't catch any broadway shows as tixs were way too exp for me to watch. simple meals, long walks, new experience, fags and some booze. no worries. what's more to ask for.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
into the 10th day and i am almost finished with the whole of east coast. the city we are embarking on today would be boston, famous for their lobster as well as crab. went to the city of cambridge to visit some of the ivy leagues schs, harvard and MIT. harvard is a very nice campus, situated in the centre of the town. the campus is kind of scattered around the whole town of cambridge, and it doesn't seems to look like a school at all. a really nice and cozy place to study in nevertheless. today is a weekend so there weren't much students hanging around. most of them are probably mugging inside their dorms. after which, went to MIT. had quite a few army friends that are schooling over there. wen xian. have no way to contact them though. visiting these schools makes me envy the students that are studying there. really need to have a beautiful mind to enrol into such school. regret not studying well for my a levels last time. after the visits, went to the city of boston to take the boston harbour tour, enjoying the view and listening to the history of the city and the oldest battle ship “USS Constitution” by the guide on board. visited the quincey market and tried the lobster chowder. it was REALLY GOOD man! afterwhich, went to chinatown of boston to have a lobster feast. paid 25usd to try the infamous Boston lobster as well as another 5 dishes. nice.
Friday, April 18, 2008
tour the capitol of quebec today, a city that is surrounded by wall. had a walking tour in this historic city, visiting places such as chateau frontenac, place royal and the historic army camps of the canadian infantry regiment. the city was covered with snow and the view of the city from the top was really nice. afterwhich, took the coach to the US-border, entering into the city of boston. stop at the canadian duty free shop. bought 3 bottles of ice wine(200ml) which costs me 75usd, canadian tea, maple syrup and coffee. headed all the way back to the outskirt of boston and had a night stay in wyndham.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
whole body was aching after the run and workout last night. nevertheless, woke up early to continue the next part of the canada tour. travel to the city of montreal today, taking the thousand islands boat cruise. this was also where the thousand island dressing was originated from, by a well-known chef who was cooking for the king centuries ago. all the island are owned by super duper wealthy people who build houses on this tiny island that stretches throughout the whole lake, and comes only in summer for a break or getaway. utilities such as electricity and water are all run by pipes underground. could imagine how exp it is for the maintainance. the view was breathtaking and having my first cup of coffee on the deck overlooking the thousand island was just so relaxing. afterwhich, left montreal for ottawa, capitol of canada. visited the parliament house, centennial flame, montreal olympic stadium and st joseph oratory. 95% of the population in quebec and ottawa speaks french as their first language. people living in these states dislike people who speak english because of the english invading the french centuries ago. sovereignty in quebec took place back in 1995 with a 49.4% saying YES, a clear majority of french-speaking quebecers in favor of it. these were the facts told to us by our guide. transfer to quebec for a night stay. the houses in it are all european styles, similiar to the ones in paris. walk the streets of quebec after arriving in quebec. took another 2 sticks while strolling and had a pint in one of the bar at the alley. the bars and streets were really empty because of winter. simply too good to be true.
today's itinerary would be to travel up north to toronto. the guide first brought us to see the niagara fall in the day. it gets colder as we go northwards. blocks of snow can still be seen in the fall and the city. tony told us that it was still snowing in quebec. really looking forward to go there. kind of disappointed when he told us that we are unable to take the maid of the mist cruise because of the ice blocks. afterwhich, i paid 25usd for a set lunch steak at skylon rotating tower, overlooking the niagara fall from the top. went to the imax theatre to see the niagara documentary after lunch. embark on another 2hrs ride before we reach toronto. tour the financial district, city hall which has a nickname “Sky Eye”, ontario parliament building and toronto university. Visit the symbol of the city CN Tower* and take the high speed elevator to the observation deck and walk on the 'Glass Floor', which really feels like walking in the air. the pace of living over here is kinda slow and relax. shops closes at 5pm, people knocking off from work as early as 1630. i guess it is winter that makes people feel kind of lazy eh, but i like the pace. transferred to the outskirt of toronto and had a stay in radisson hotel. fitness center again. 4miles on the treadmill, 100 crunches and some doing of weights. the burgers kind of making me sick.
from pennsylvania to toronto took me like a 6hrs ride in the coach today. headed north all the way with a final stop at canada, stopping by hershey chocolate world and corning glass museum along the journey. the hershey factory was magnificent. had a 45mins tour inside the factory on how they produce their milk product followed by an hour buying their products. i spent 50usd in all, buying 15packs of hershey kisses, chocolate syrup, and 10 half pound of hershey bars. SUPER CHEAP, haa, but the load was kind of heavy. after which, went to corning glass museum to have an insight on how the different types of glass are made today. reach the border of toronto at around 7pm. cross the us-canada border to the niagara falls to see the night view of the fall. spectacular. the fall was so tall and big and the wind was so strong and it was just kind of magical and amazing. somehow, i prefer canada over US. i start to enjoy travelling alone as well. nice.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
felt great and refreshed after a long rest in the hotel last night. woke up early today to meet up my guide and begin my tour. today's first stop will be to philadelphia, visiting the independence hall, historic site of the signing of the delaration of independence back in the 1880s. the group size of the tour was about 30, mostly american born chinese families in it and some taiwanese. we were all assigned seating arrangements in the coach to avoid confusion. i happened to be assign next to sharon, who was travelling alone as well. kinda awkward at first, but we started having little chats through the journey. learnt that she was 22, indon-chinese who migrated to california and is currently sching in UCLA. i was kind of glad that at least i do have some kind of companionship for this 9 days of travelling, camera buddies we became later. after the stop at philadelphia, it took us another 3hrs to arrive in washington dc. visited the white house, capitol hill, as well as the holocaust museum in dc. there were like a total of 19 museum in all and all were free admission. we got like a 2hrs time to view any museum we want. the first one that came to my mind was the holocaust. i really had a great insight of the holocaust after that visit. i also saw the hope diamond (titanic)in the natural history museum. next were the infamous korean and vietnam war memorials in dc. i also went to the exact place where martin Luther king gave his 'i have a dream' speech. that was also the place in the 70s where the hippies were protesting against the vietnam war. the most rewarding part of the trip was to see the cherry trees opening their blossoms in dc. the guide told us that it was rare to see them blossom. i learnt later that the trees were actually gifts from japan to dc. had pizza for dinner and transferred to marriot hotel in Pennsylvania for a night there.
indepedence hall white house cherry trees. Lincoln's memorial
into the 4th day and i am kinda exhausted by all the travelling. got pick up at the motel by tony today and got a transfer to hilton hotel in new jersey. i will be out of nyc for the next 9 days and embarking on a long travelling journey all across the east coast and canada. i was really happy that they gave me like a 4 or 5 star hotel to start off with. nice room, nice bed, nice view, nothing much to ask more for. thankfully, today's programme was just a day rest after the transfer to hilton. reached the hotel at around 2pm after a 1.5hrs ride. watch tv, eat sandwiches and doze off till 6pm. went down to explore the hotel and found out they got a fitness center and internet cafe. bought a cup of coffee and took a stick at the cafeteria. afterwhich, went to the fitness center and run 3miles on the treadmill. bored bored bored. hopefully everything will be great tomorrow.
nice hilton bedroom view from the room.
today will be my last day in nyc before i head down to dc and canada. walk over to the agency in flushing two blocks away to join the tour for a day in NYC. the tour will be bringing me to empire state building observatory deck, manhattan cruise whereby i would be able to see the statue of liberty, madamme tussade wax museum, times sq, wall streets, ground zero, rockafella centre and the UN HQ. kind of pack this tour would be, but well, i guess it will sum up all the main attractions in nyc. the first stop was empire state building whereby i took a super fast elevator to 86 storey and view the whole skyline of nyc. took lotta of pics as well. the wind was freaking strong on top man, i was thinking without the grill bars at the side, it could easily blown anyone light off the building. after which, went over to the port to take the manhattan cruise. a 2.5hrs ride to see the skylines of manhattan and i guess it is one of the most impressive cruises i ever been to. the cruise features breathtaking views of manhattan, ellis island, statue of liberty, brooklyn bridge, manhattan bridge, united nations, and empire state building. always wanted to have a glimpse of statue of liberty and i am really glad that i have a chance to. some fast facts of it is that statue of liberty was actually a gift from the french people to the states as a token of mutual friendship. it signifies the welcoming of immigrants to a new life in this new land. afterwhich, went to the UN HQ and it was kinda cool as i saw demonstration outside the hq with regards to the tibetans crisis. freedom of speech eh? afterwhich, went to the infamous wall streets and took lotta of pictures as well. i'm glad it was kind of quiet as it was a weekend and NYSE are all close. nothing much to see in ground zero as there are many constructions undergoing and in fact, some buildings have been constructed on it already. the memorial hall for 9/11 is still undergoing construction, so can't able to view it. the tour ended at 8pm and transfer me back to my motel. heading down to dc and canada for the next couple of days for like a 8 days tour.
statue of liberty madamme tussade wax museum.
woke up at 8am today and had cup noodles for breakfast at the lounge in the motel. temp plunges down to a bitter cold of 2 degree today because of the showers and mist in the morning. it was freaking cold walking in the streets today. bought a pack of reds and smoke 3 fags while walking down to the subway station, hoping that it will keep me warm for awhile. it did worked. today itinerary was going to be shopping spree at the factory outlet in new jersey, outskirt of nyc. took 7 line all the way to times sq and took a 15 mins walk from there to port authority bus terminal. the terminal was huge but thankfully, the directions at the terminal was pretty clear. bought the roundabout tickets for like 10usd to jersey gardens from njtransit. boarded the 115 and it took me 1.25hrs for me to arrive there. i got lotta of discount vouchers after showing my passport to the helpdesk for authentication as a foreigner. the sales were kinda crazy. calvin klien, banana republics, levis and polo items going as low as 15.99usd. WAHAHAHAHAHAHA. i bought a polo shirt for 16usd, 3 levis jeans for 25usd each, calvin klein dark pants for 20usd, a shirt from banana republic for 25usd and a couples of t-shirts which have really cool design prints on it. help my sis to scout for the 'coach' handbags and bought her one for like 300usd. she pays for herself though. bought my mum a pair of nike sneakers for 40, my dad a bottle holder for running and a couple of t-shirts for my bro. spend close to 400usd in all.(excluding the coach handbag) had chinese rice and meat for lunch in the outlet. the serving was huge, guess i could skip dinner later prob. after which, boarded the bus back to nyc and next in line would be the infamous times square. when i arrive there, it was close to 6pm. it was a dazzling, dizzyling spectacle. broadways, numerous famous playhouses and the crowding sidewalks illuminated by billions of watts of electronic billboard power was just so spectacular. i would say a MILLION TIMES better than ORCHARD RD. HAA! i really enjoy the walk in times square, seeing the street performers, artists, people and policemen. everyone seems to be really happy over there. a cosmopolitan city indeed. all sort of nationality and people there were all being themselves, doing crazy performances and doesn't care what others think about them. NICE! the most rewarding part of the walk was a self portrait i got for myself by this street artist. i really like the portrait. spent 20usd on it with the frames. walk again later to the public library of nyc and had coffee there. stayed there and enjoy the manhattan panorama before heading back to flushing. great day indeed.
times sq. hilarious performance.
Monday, April 14, 2008
the long awaited back packing trip to east coast and canada has finally arrived. finally get to travel as a civilian after 2 yrs. spend the past couple of weeks doing up planning and itinerary for this trip. hopefully, this would be the best getaway i would ever get. went to the airport early to check-in today. bro and parents came as well. mum is pretty worried bout me traveling alone. boarded the 25hrs, SQ26 flight to JFK with a stopover at frankfurt. the flight was pretty decent, i requested for the seats at the emergency exit, so there was much more leg rest. reached jfk in the noon. thanks to CR invaluable travel guides and tips in getting around NYC, i managed to plan out all my itinerary for the first 3 days in nyc. took the air train in JFK to Jamaica station before transferring to E line of the subway to jackson hts and than 7 line to main streets, queens. everything turn out well as plan, thankfully. save up like 50usd if i would to take a cab to flushing instead. reach mains streets after 1.5hrs of travelling arn the subway. the subway system in ny pretty messy and confusing if travelling for the first time, but well, i guess if you really pay attention to the local and express services, it would be easy. i got lost once i arrived at main street. ask the cops and people there for directions to flushing grand motel and it took me another 25mins before i reach the motel. a sense of relief when i reach the motel. the motel was pretty decent and kind of worth it for the money i paid. accommodation in NYC is really expensive. learnt later that the most exp rental apartment in manhattan costs 20k/mth. flushing was also a chinatown as well as korean town. plenty of nice chi and korean food around. dropped my backpack and settle for lunch in burger king. took 7 line to lexington avn immediately and walk from there to central park. the park was just magnificent. nice view, green acres and a great park for cyclist and strollers. always wanted to visit central park and here i am, really excited. i stroll in the park for 3hrs, took lotta of pics and later made my way to metropolitan museum of the arts, which was situated in the center of central park. paid 15usd for entry and roam about the museum for 2hrs. the museum is huge with like two million objects and collections. i really like some of the gothic pieces in it. took lotta of pics in it as well. about 7pm when i finish the tour in the museum. really exhausted after the flight and all these travelling. took 7 line back to flushing. had burgers for dinner again. trying to save on food so that i can have the extra cash to travel around and sight see. reach the motel at around 2130 and knock out. really happy that everything turn out well as plan. looking forward to tomorrow's traveling.
me in central park(in courtesy of the park stollers) central park me and mao in metropolitian arts museum. one of the many art pieces i kinda like.