The Forever Questions

The Forever Questions

A life without questions is one without life. It is in the questions that we look at the world around us with a sense that there is something more to life than what we understand. It is in the questions that we are humbled and thus open to life.

You don’t want a million answers as much as you want a few forever questions.

The questions are diamonds you hold in the light. Study a lifetime and you see different colors from the same jewel.

-Richard Bach

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Enterprise & the Creative Process – Learning from Art

Source: http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-wu-guanzhong-plateau.php

NOT TOO LONG THE SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM (SAM) presented An Unbroken Line: The Wu Guanzhong Donation Collection (April 9-August 16, 2009)  which showcased 114 works by one of China’s most respected artist, representing five decades of his creative oeuvre.  I had expected to see traditional Chinese ink landscape paintings from a Master but what struck me instead was a man unafraid of life and totally open to its expression, liberal yet respectful. Thus in the midst of steep Chinese tradition was that splash of colour – amazing – how did he do that? It was here that I saw a man of vision and understanding, Not only was he an artist in the truest sense of the word but also a bold thinker who expressed his deep views of life, art and creativity through essays.

Wu Guan Zhong saw Singapore as a unique place “…positioned between the east and the west with regards to ethics and quality of life; it is close to China, as it is close to the west; the virtues of both sides are concentrated in you.” It was in Singapore that he made a generous donation of 113 works to SAM.  His life was one devoted to the development of culture, arts and education. His is the highest valued donation presented to a public museum in Singapore. During the exhibition as I walked through his pictures and words, his thoughts on “Synthesis of Oil and Ink Practices”, particularly struck me. It said:

“[…] Oil and ink painting are like the two blades of a pair of scissors cutting out a new outfit. The two blades may not necessarily be of the same length, and the ways of using the scissors, exerting different strengths, for example, may also differ from time to time. Hence, when I feel that I have come to a deadlock in oil painting, I will choose to paint in ink. However, I will revert to oil when I feel that my dabbling in ink has come to a deadlock.”

Wu guanzhong 吳冠中 (1919-2010) Yixing, Jiangsu, China

Synthesis in the Creative Process – How We Can Learn to Work Together

Evident in Wu’s work is an innate tension that exist between different elements, for example, the art forms of oil and ink, Chinese and Western traditions, historical and contemporary expressions, notions of the individual and community etc.

However instead of chaos, these diverse elements are synthesized and become part of the creative force which he uses to build a work that becomes uplifting and beautiful. Wu is able to cross over areas and make connections that would have been daunting for most, and he does this in bold strokes which reflects strength of vision and faith. I made a note of the above quote from the exhibition because of the masterful insightfulness in which the creative process and its elements are explained.

In the above quote, Wu has provided a beautiful analogy of how different elements could and should work together to produce new realities. Art is a medium that expresses the spiritual through movement of lines and colours. Different mediums are necessary to express different thing, however, even then, there are limitations to each art form.

Wu’s insight is that new realities can be forged into existence when different elements, though limited in themselves, come together in an interplay of different strengths working to create an effect that each by itself, would have been incapable of achieving.

In the realm of ideas, this also holds true. No two persons think alike in form, style and structure but when they are able to come together, like two blades of a pair of scissors, they have a power to cut through old thinking and realities.

Cutting through Creative Impasse

From my personal experience, I have found that when a certain thought or idea comes to a deadlock, often it takes another person with a different view coming alongside with his “blade of thought” which makes the difference in cutting through a conceptual impasse. Two blades of thoughts in dynamic interplay much like blades of a pair of scissors, have the power to cut out new realities, that a person by himself, may never be able to do.

I’d like to think that Wu’s insight on the creative process explains well why working together is the best way to get to real solutions.  That is why the Kingdom of heaven that the Bible speaks of, and a reality that is to be established on earth, can only be “cut out” through the dynamics found in a body of different parts, yet moving in tandem, like blades of a pair of scissors. Each role, when it comes to a deadlock, finds a breakthrough through the thinking or action of another person. The beauty of this is that the “blades” need not be of the same length nor strength, just the will to work together in harmony for the same objective. Wonderful isn’t it?

To see more of Wu Guan Zhong’s works and that of other Chinese Masters, I’d recommend the website  chinaonlinemuseum

Do you Swing Inwards or Outwards?

Do you swing inwards or outwards?

Taken by iphone4s. Singapore, November 15, 2012 | Apps used ProHDR and PhotoToaster

On a stroll in my old Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, walking  through a small lane, I saw this quaint door, quiet and unassuming yet charming. It reminded me of this quote on doors and happiness, which I leave for you to ponder:

The door to happiness swings outward

Learning to Wait

Tunnel | photo by Ivy

As was then as it is now, it is always the poor and needy who suffer the brunt of an economic caste system which reflects the character and values of the king of this world. Those of us who have responded to God’s call to be His servants, the journey of learning begins with repentance. I fully agree to what a brother shared “Repentance is and will always be the foundation of Christianity.”

As followers of Christ, we repent for assuming we have the wisdom and understanding to undertake God’s work and to even solve the problems of the poor in “Third World” nations. Our mind is proud of our own ways, our conventional wisdom that produce results but when in fact, the difference between the way and how we see and do things is the difference between heaven and earth. The vastness and depth of His thoughts and wisdom is beyond our imagination. It is only with faith and patience, with a pure heart without personal agendas for success, fame, wealth or glory, that God may even begin to teach and show us His way to undertake the work He sends us to.

It is so important we take the position of learners in our doing so that we give room to God to teach us. We acknowledge heaven and know there is a God above and until His wisdom and understanding becomes our wisdom and understanding, we have nothing to offer the poor, the lost, those held captives in a socio-economic system – a glimpse of the loving reign and rule of Christ on earth.

The key is patience which is empowered by faith. The Bible speaks of those who wait upon the Lord. On the contrary, the world has no time to wait. Impatience in God’s people leads to the temptation to act, out of our own wisdom and strength. Our total dependence is on the Lord and an important part of that is also depending on His ‘kairos’ timing.

In context of our project experience, active waiting is one of the most painful things we have to do, it goes against every fiber in our flesh. To the world, this seems wasteful and so unnecessary. But yet when we submit and pour out our time unto His feet, it is a very very costly thing. But God sees. We learn to recognise His mind for the time and season of things and flow with that. We refrain from putting our timing to do God’s work.

God’s best work is the work He does in people. He is the Master Chef who knows what and when various ingredients should go into the mixing bowl to create His desired outcome, that Dish of His heart’s desire. His heart is for families and He well knows too that within each family, there are different sons and daughters each with their different temperaments, personalities and weaknesses. Some more teachable than others. Father knows best and for that reason, He is also long-suffering and patient. As His servants, that we must be also if we want to be part of His work. It is not enough just to follow His instructions, we have to follow His timing, even if it comes down to our last dollar.

The area of economics is where Mammon does his best work to enslave man. In the midst of globalization, God not only wants to open the sight of the blind and set the captives free, but also to establish His reign and rule here on earth. Deuteronomy 32 is our prayer. His works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. In His time, may the families of the earth ascribe greatness to Him.

Chronicles of a Starfish Community Explorer

DAY ONE 17.10.2009
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Ancient African Proverb

Waiting to Board my plane at the Hong Kong Airport
Waiting to Board my plane at the Hong Kong Airport
WELL, so my journey to join with other Starfish explorers from around the globe to meet at Charlotte, South Carolina from 20-22 October 2009 for three “dynamic days of building relationships and partnerships that could change the world” begins one early Saturday morning when I left my home to take an 11 am flight to Hong Kong.
Beginning of my 16,000 miles journey
Beginning of my 16,000 miles journey

What is significant so far is that this is my first voyage to the US on my own. Yup, never done that before. And my first maiden flight will land me in JFK International Airport at 10 pm New York time amidst cold blustery winds as I find my way to the shuttle bus that would take me the Ramada Plaza JFK Hotel.

I stepped out of customs after one hour of waiting in line and into the eager “arms” of about a dozen cab drivers that we had just warned about over the airport speakers minutes back not to take. Walking past them, I followed the sign to the AirTrain that should lead me to the hotel shuttle bus but the only trouble was it was outside and across the airport. No choice. Information counter was closed and I didn’t think I wanted to ask directions from those cab drivers either.

Angel from New York

CX 840 Cabin at night
CX 840 Cabin at night
A brisk walk into the cold, dark night and I was in the lift to the third floor of the AirTrain Station, empty except for a few people sitting on the benches. Not exactly a heart-warming sight. Walking simply by faith towards the benches and wondering what to do next, I saw a Chinese lady. She looked up and I smiled at her, with relief written all over my face I am sure.

I asked if she knew how I could get to the airport hotel. She didn’t but she was taking the AirTrain to another platform where she had parked her car and would be happy to give me a ride to the hotel if I went with her. In the train I gave her my business card and told her to call me if she was ever to be in Singapore in return for her kindness. A native from Qingdao, China, she has been working in New York for the past seven years but just started work near the airport a week ago, so she was not yet familiar with the place.

After a ten minutes train ride, we alighted and walked to a huge open air car park. The cold night had begun to drizzle as well. Finally in her car, she called her husband and asked for directions. He asked if her passenger was a man or woman. Woman of course! But I understand his concern. In less than ten minutes, I was in front of the airport hotel just a corner away. I was just so thankful for her help and told her that she must call me when she comes to my part of the world. Kelly is her name and she is the angel from New York that saved my night in a strange new place.

Meeting Ginnie Again
Meeting an old friend, faraway but always near.This trip brought me back into contact with my dear friend whom I had not met for the last 18 years, Ginnie Breen. She and I were in the same “Confucianism and Taoism” class at the National University of Singapore. Ginnie was an exchange student from Harvard and I found it highly interesting that a Westerner would take a rather esoteric class like this. So we became good friends in that year amidst her travels to Tibet, Indonesia and far flung places around Asia.

Now on 18 October, a Sunday morning in Ramada JFK International Airport Hotel, I was going to see Ginnie again, after 24 hours of flying and 18 years waiting. The weather in New York had turned much colder than expected with strong rains and winds coming in. The highlight in the news was about this boy who was thought to have gone missing in an air balloon, captivating the attention of the nation. However, this morning, the news and law enforcers are beginning to believe that this could be a hoax.

At 10.10 am, my sms beeped. “Shall I come up?” It’s Ginnie, she’s arrived! Oh, what do you do when you see a dear friend you have not seen in years? Give her the biggest and longest hug you can! We picked up on where our lives were, our kids, what we were doing and all the challenges and the joys faced. She has a daughter with autism and a documentary was made to highlight how important it is to recognize that every child has a voice, and has feelings. Sometimes the difficulty is being able to express them. Please watch “Autistic Poet.” It will touch you. Ginnie and her daughter are featured in this documentary produced by PBS.

So little time but we connected and it was a good feeling. She caught the 11.30 am shuttle bus ride with me to the airport so we could have a bit more time together. Precious. In the next hour she would be driving another hour to Newark Airport to catch a flight to Washington D.C. for business. Another big hug at the entrance to catch my flight to Charlotte. It will not be another 18 years Ginnie. I hope to see you again way before then.

Two Angels at Charlotte

Arriving at Charlotte by US Airways
Arriving at Charlotte by US Airways
This is a special trip from Day One, I knew it in my bones. Arriving at Charlotte Douglas International Airport at 3 pm, I bought myself a beef sandwich, drinks and Hershey chocolates to bring with me back to Heritage International Conference Centre. Arriving more than a day early, I had been warned that there would be no food there except for what has already been catered for the Expo. The last item was my emergency supply in case hunger pangs caught me by surprise.

Making my way to the baggage claim area, I let the sights of shops, restaurants and book stores sink into me. So this is America, this is Charlotte. Every face I walked by was new, I was a stranger in this land. I was in a world of my own when I heard a voice calling “Ivy, Ivy.” I looked around and standing right in front of me was Maureen Ngui in a red blouse and dark blue vest. Oh what an unexpected and heart warming sight!

Charles & Maureen Ngui
Charles & Maureen Ngui

My friends and fellow Singaporeans Charles and Maureen. I thought to myself “How amazing that I should meet them at Charlotte Airport.” I knew they had flown in a day earlier. As it was they had stayed overnight and decided to wait for me. So sweet!! Together we took the Carolinas Cab to the Heritage Centre where the Starfish Community Expo would be held from 20-22 Octpber 2009.

My room in Heritage International Hotel, Charlotte. Finally a place to rest my head and weary soles.
My room in Heritage International Hotel, Charlotte. Finally a place to rest my head and weary soles.
It’s 3.17 am Charlotte time, and I should be asleep by now. I’m still somewhere in between the US and Singapore time zones. Had a quick chat with Celia and Simon over Skype, my wonderful Singapore team members holding the fort while the other team members are in different places of the world. Kan Yuen left for Bougainville the same day I left for New York. It was their lunch time while it was suppose to be my bedtime. I’m so glad that Heritage Centre provides wireless connection. The journey continues…

Enterprise & the Creative Process – Learning from Art

Source: http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-wu-guanzhong-plateau.php

NOT TOO LONG THE SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM (SAM) presented An Unbroken Line: The Wu Guanzhong Donation Collection (April 9-August 16, 2009)  which showcased 114 works by one of China’s most respected artist, representing five decades of his creative oeuvre.  I had expected to see traditional Chinese ink landscape paintings from a Master but what struck me instead was a man unafraid of life and totally open to its expression, liberal yet respectful. Thus in the midst of steep Chinese tradition was that splash of colour – amazing – how did he do that? It was here that I saw a man of vision and understanding, Not only was he an artist in the truest sense of the word but also a bold thinker who expressed his deep views of life, art and creativity through essays.

Wu Guan Zhong saw Singapore as a unique place “…positioned between the east and the west with regards to ethics and quality of life; it is close to China, as it is close to the west; the virtues of both sides are concentrated in you.” It was in Singapore that he made a generous donation of 113 works to SAM.  His life was one devoted to the development of culture, arts and education. His is the highest valued donation presented to a public museum in Singapore. During the exhibition as I walked through his pictures and words, his thoughts on “Synthesis of Oil and Ink Practices”, particularly struck me. It said:

“[…] Oil and ink painting are like the two blades of a pair of scissors cutting out a new outfit. The two blades may not necessarily be of the same length, and the ways of using the scissors, exerting different strengths, for example, may also differ from time to time. Hence, when I feel that I have come to a deadlock in oil painting, I will choose to paint in ink. However, I will revert to oil when I feel that my dabbling in ink has come to a deadlock.”

Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中 (1919-2010), Yixing, Jiangsu, China

Synthesis in the Creative Process – How We Can Learn to Work Together

Evident in Wu’s work is an innate tension that exist between different elements, for example, the art forms of oil and ink, Chinese and Western traditions, historical and contemporary expressions, notions of the individual and community etc.

However instead of chaos, these diverse elements are synthesized and become part of the creative force which he uses to build a work that becomes uplifting and beautiful. Wu is able to cross over areas and make connections that would have been daunting for most, and he does this in bold strokes which reflects strength of vision and faith. I made a note of the above quote from the exhibition because of the masterful insightfulness in which the creative process and its elements are explained.

In the above quote, Wu has provided a beautiful analogy of how different elements could and should work together to produce new realities. Art is a medium that expresses the spiritual through movement of lines and colours. Different mediums are necessary to express different thing, however, even then, there are limitations to each art form.

Wu’s insight is that new realities can be forged into existence when different elements, though limited in themselves, come together in an interplay of different strengths working to create an effect that each by itself, would have been incapable of achieving.

In the realm of ideas, this also holds true. No two persons think alike in form, style and structure but when they are able to come together, like two blades of a pair of scissors, they have a power to cut through old thinking and realities.

Cutting through Creative Impasse

From my personal experience, I have found that when a certain thought or idea comes to a deadlock, often it takes another person with a different view coming alongside with his “blade of thought” which makes the difference in cutting through a conceptual impasse. Two blades of thoughts in dynamic interplay much like blades of a pair of scissors, have the power to cut out new realities, that a person by himself, may never be able to do.

I’d like to think that Wu’s insight on the creative process explains well why working together is the best way to get to real solutions.  That is why the Kingdom of heaven that the Bible speaks of, and a reality that is to be established on earth, can only be “cut out” through the dynamics found in a body of different parts, yet moving in tandem, like blades of a pair of scissors. Each role, when it comes to a deadlock, finds a breakthrough through the thinking or action of another person. The beauty of this is that the “blades” need not be of the same length nor strength, just the will to work together in harmony for the same objective. Wonderful isn’t it?

To see more of Wu Guan Zhong’s works and that of other Chinese Masters, I’d recommend the website  chinaonlinemuseum

[first draft June 2, 2009]

A Journal of Grace

THIS WORLD IS A TOUGH PLACE, so be kind. My grandfather from Sabah left behind a diary, a journal of his thoughts that I hold dear to my heart. It carries the observations of a man who lived ninety full years with his share of sorrows and heartbreak.

Yet the thing that I remember most of him was his gentleness and kindness towards others. When I think of that today, it touches my heart. He would never say a harsh word, and he was always thoughtful of others.

Having gone through a small measure of life myself, I know life is not perfect. Disappointments, failures and heartaches. How was it that my grandfather always held to the end, a compassion and love for people, when at the same time he knew the frailty of men and their weaknesses?

My comfort lies in knowing that my grandfather’s life reflected the nature and character of the God he loved. Such a loving, tender-hearted God who sees our follies and yet, loves us still. Patient, kind and long-suffering.

When in doubt, let’s give the other the benefit of grace.

Let The Rain Come

It’s still the boat
yet different,
a different view
not my boat … His

now it arises
like a little cloud
the size of a man’s fist
rising from the sea

across the pacific
a sinking island
please help us God
they cry

He hears
He knows
He feels
He’s there

two weeks, mid april
will the boat launch?
will love sail?
let it rise from our hearts

A threshold
A waiting
O Lord, let the rain come
let the rain come.