man on a journey

Having just returned from a multi-city trip, I was filled with inspiration and new perspectives to life. I climbed 509 stone steps to the top of a Cathedral; I walked over 430 steps to see a Buddhist monastery. And of all things that got me writing here, it wasn’t the view – it was a man I met on one excursion.

I stepped out of the Jade Emperor Hall, which took another 69 steps or so to get to after reaching the main monastery ground. A Caucasian man, breathing heavily, appeared at the steps. He was in his sixties, and had come alone. He held his camera  precariously as he took his last step and walked towards the Hall. For a moment I stopped and observed.

His movement was slow; his right hand was shaking vigorously, and he had a slight hunch as he made his way forward. He packed his point & shoot camera into his pocket and smiled briefly. Parkinson’s, I first noted. Then it came to me that there in the advanced stages of the disease, dementia might occur. It all hit me with a bunch of questions, and a strange surge of emotions brought me close to tears

His hands were shaking, but his determination wasn’t. He had walked so far up the hill to see this religious compound. What about the local people? How much has tradition died out in the country, that it has only become a place where foreigners visit?

Some day he might not remember, but his photos would give him an impression that he had been there; or maybe not. But he still chose to take a shot. See if before he could no longer. What about us – what about the rest of us who choose to sit and whine about wishing to do something, but never get down to it?

I watched him for awhile. He looked up at the religious statues, and I wondered what went through his mind. I quietly hoped that all would be well for him, and took my leave.

This man on a journey got me to realise that if there was so much I wished to do, I had to do it without procrastination. While we all have this resolve, we don’t seem to keep it in mind long enough. Let’s try…

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just when you thought your words wouldn’t kill

A cacophony, many voices, but nothing in focus.
A nudge, then silence.
“I asked you a question! Seriously, are you deaf?!” A resonating exclamation, then an outbreak of laughter.
She raised her head, a ghost of a smile slowly creeping up her face, sadly, solemnly, silently. “Yes, I have hearing disabilities in my left ear.” She paused, “Sorry and what was your question again?”

Just when you thought your words wouldn’t kill – you broke someone all over again.

I may be hyper-sensitive, but how often have we said something that apparently meant so little to us but hurt someone else so deeply? Insensitivity – that’s it. I say this because I’ve once too often encountered such incidents, one of which was the occasion above. I am blessed to be all good & well in most aspects – many of us are – and this makes us forget those who aren’t.

Despite the restless crowd, he tried to explain some complex graphs on the presentation deck: “This blue line represents x, the black line below represents y, and this … I don’t know what colour this is, this fuzzy funny looking coloured line represents z”. A shout-out came from the audience “It’s the green line you’re talking about, right? What, are you colour-blind?”
Without hesitation, he answered, “Yes I am. So I can’t see the colour. I’m sorry for not having described it better.”

Again.

Why should they have to apologise for what had not been their fault? I don’t think chose to suffer. I am in no way supporting self-pity or self-victimisation. I just wonder how little we care about the feelings of others. A slight migraine could make my blood boil – what amounts of frustration will one feel when one’s hearing is partially affected, or when vision isn’t entirely clear the way we see it?

I wondered how I might react if I were ever diagnosed with a terminal illness. Will I have the courage to embark on treatment, or might I avoid the endless needles and side-effects of various medications? Many muster much strength to face their conditions, some manage to laugh it off, several live to encourage others, and the least we could do is to accommodate, understand and maybe help.

Curb your impatience for once – repeating a question or giving a little more explanation won’t cost you a thing.

When it was all over, she shook her head, slightly bemused as she told me, “They asked me if I was deaf. Everyone always does. How do I explain that I used to be able to hear everything they did? How do I tell them about the dreams I had to give up when I found out I had lost my hearing? Maybe I would’ve been a different person if things hadn’t turned out that way.”

Just when you thought your words wouldn’t kill. Think again. 

this cannot stop me from writing

I have been advised once too often against my current attitude and hobbies.
I appear moody, cynical and serious at most times.
I indulge in History studies, writing, craftwork and the idea of sharing knowledge.

Time and again, I was reminded of how people around me would not appreciate the “unexciting” nature of my preferences coupled by my temperaments.

Over the past months I have began to give this advice some thought. I start to doubt my interests, I question my inclinations, and I have been cast into a realm of angst & frustrations.

I started writing here because of an encounter at work one day. I sat in a room listening to a medical expert sharing his research, I related it to the upsides from his research (i.e. improving quality of life for the elderly etc) and I realised how clueless everyone was about this knowledge he had amassed overtime. How much information and research has each individual done, and how much has been kept in the dark? How much were we losing when we knew zilch about these?

This sad little part in me began to question my lack of accomplishment over the years. I doubted my career options, I queried my pastimes. I haven’t been able to attain the riches of a top-ranking corporate professional, yet I haven’t either been brave enough to give up my current lifestyle to volunteer for a positive cause. I am no expert in History, medical studies, technology or anything in fact i.e. nothing achieved, nothing done.

It got worse when I realised how everyone was busy with their own lives that we were further silo-ed at work. We cared little for the world around us if it didn’t have a direct impact to our livelihood. People around me stopped reading because it took too much time to run through extensive texts that might not have any relevance to them. No-one seemed to care about the past because the future was bleak and they had to catch up with their competing colleagues in present times.

But this cannot stop me from writing.

While sadness and dejection lingers, I still wish to believe (even if idealistically) that History studies gives us insights of the past that shapes our understanding of the world today –it can give us new & useful perspectives that many have neglected or would not have conceived in modern society. I continue to insist that with every little effort we make in writing and sharing knowledge, it will hit the right chord somewhere and bring about a positive change.

I cannot in my tiny capacity change the world, and I cannot stop false information from spreading online. But I wish to share whatever I know in whatever aspects I can. And it all stems from a question I ask myself daily – why the ignorance about terminal illnesses? Why did I know so little, too little, to do anything for someone I cared for? Is there just another me out there who will live to regret, because so little has been known, and shared across available sources?

My insatiable thirst for knowledge cannot redeem what is lost, my frustrations ever-amplified and I am no noble person – I only hope that with more information shared, comes more knowledge that can inspire/help/keep people thinking and hopefully bring some positive outcome.

unsolved mystery: the history of st vitus’ dance

I’ve been back to reading about the dancing plague and how we still don’t know too well about it. I’m not even sure how many people out there know about this, but I’ve been intrigued since I learnt about it.

Doing no justice to the phenomena and in brief, the dancing plague was a situation where groups of people danced uncontrollably down the streets, sometimes for days, likely in a trance of hallucinations or unconsciousness, and forms a social influence which results in larger throngs of people following suit. Apparently the dancing plague was later attributed to Sydenham chorea, or of mass hysteria.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, and in no way am I challenging scientific reasoning; I merely wish to seek an explanation from anyone who might know more about this – if chorea does not spread by air, how did one’s suffering of it result in groups of people doing just the same?

One explanation was that music was played when an outbreak occurred and those unaffected would join the procession as per a usual dance. Possible, indeed… or some have suggested a stress-relieving process for the masses that danced, but which overdid it and resulted in hallucinations. I’m not so convinced with this, though. More scientifically, some have theorized ergotism, tarantism and more, causing mass hallucinations. Possible too…

I chanced upon the concept of dancing mania when I was reading about mass hysteria and it has caught my attention all this while. Confined to the earlier centuries, this form of epidemic hysteria may have passed over, but the very concept should be emphasized – the power of words, starting from idea generation, should not be underestimated. How words & ideas have shaped mindsets & identities, even spurred nations at war, this seemingly intangible epidemic should be given due attention nonetheless. Are we looking into all these plausible epidemics that we have neglected for centuries? Has our constant development resulted in our neglect of the basics?

We have been asking constantly how to move on, yet sometimes we lose sight of the what and whys of our persistent thirst for more…

We could keep going, with Tourette syndrome,  Tanganyika laughter epidemic, fainting epidemics, idea-seeding and more, but let’s just keep it to this for now.