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Although the aim of The Analekta (1957-1967) was to publish specialised essays in the various arts disciplines taught at the V.I. in its day, the 1963 and 1964 issues introduced a General Section in which was printed literary articles of the kind that would normally be printed in its sister publication, The Victorian. Below are the articles from The Analekta of 1963.
IDLE THOUGHTS AT THE NATIONAL CEMETERY,
SERENITY AND CONFUSION
In my eyes
Yet in the moon's pale veils
I know but a pain
Yet my sorrow it endeth
O God, let me sing;
Often, as often I hear
Tis cold than ever before
In the land of six lived a giant cute, A man of significance, none would dispute, Broad of Breadth but shallow of Breath. That cute giant, which no tailor would suit. Once there was a jolly south paw Who could never with his right hand pour A jug of milk Into a bag of silk Without wetting his right-hind paw. In the land of six, there lived a handsome Singh Alone and unmatched that poor thing, But now a Kaur Has joined our core That unhappy sikh a duet can now sing. In upper first lived Oedipus In lower first lived "eat-him-first" Thus no beau can dare His breaking heart to bare In fear of being swallowed up first.
SCIENCE AND PHIILOSOPHY
In this decade and in the years to come, Science is going to play a role which would expand and dominate human culture and civilization in a way comparable to that played by Christianity in Medieval Europe. Thus, a careful consideration of what Science can do to our lives will be of permanent interest.
A simple working understanding of Science and Philosophy will help us to discuss the subject more fully.
Suppose we take Science to be that branch of human activity engaged in the investigation of natural phenomena by a method of experimentation and clarification - better known to many as the scientific method; and Philosophy? Philosophy is a different proposition altogether. Some have preferred to put Philosophy in this situation instead of defining what Philosophy is. They say that in the beginning in the investigation of natural phenomena, Man uses his speculative powers and thinks. He formulates ideas and theories purely through the power of though. His ideas about that phenomena is his philosophy of that phenomena. However, because of his innate curiosity, and the discovery of new methods of investigation, and the demand of others for more substantial evidence than that of the logic of the human mind, he begins to make certain investigations to uncover the motives and recover and discover evidence essential towards proving his case. This is the department of Science. After this, we are again in the realm of Philosophy.
In less technical language, we can say that Philosophy comes before Science and that Philosophy will succeed from scientific discovery. How is this so, you might ask?
A simple illustration would perhaps cast in surer lines the statement. This, however is not a catalogue of precedence but a relation of ideas .
Before the advent of modem astronomy, Man had speculated about the wonders of the universe. Gods and Goddesses inhabited them; the souls of men flew to them; these were celestial abodes. The past has left us the Orion, the Snake, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and the Man in the Moon. Myths explained these natural phenomena as part of the great mysterious powers. They were put there for various reasons and they obeyed certain laws because this was the will of the Gods.
Thus was natural phenomena related to the Gods. But modern astronomy has reduced these beautiful myths of Gods and Goddesses to the basement storeroom. Modem astronomy, mathematics and physics has given empirical evidence that the Universe operates according to physical laws.
The Philosopher then steps in.
Philosophy will determine man's attitude towards these new discoveries. Philosophy will dictate how he utilises this information. Philosophy will tell him to either use this knowledge for his own selfish good or perhaps with the view that there may be some greater law or power which he must not disrupt for the good of the whole universe.
A more direct and better understood problem would be Atomic energy. The scientist unlocks and opens the door to a source of power so enormous as to be frightening. How man makes use of this knowledge is again determined by philosophy. For good or for bad? (Philosophers often disagree on what is good and what is bad). How far would we jeopardise the future of mankind by nuclear bomb tests and how far would we jeopardise the future of freedom if these bombs were not developed and tested? This is the philosophical problem facing us now. This is the task of philosophy after science has presented the facts. Science is to Philosophy what evidence is to the Judge in a court of law.
From here, we can proceed to develop our discussion more fully. There is no doubt that science is going to influence philosophy more and more in the future. The subject is fantastically huge and we must limit ourselves to a few simple but important facets of human life.
Philosophy is not a mouldy, dry-as-dust kind of activity reserved for grey beards and old men to toy with. The way you vote, the church or place of worship you go (or don't go to), the friends you mix around with, the films you like, and the clothes you wear are all the results of the workings of your philosophies of life. A man may be an atheist (sometimes he is called a free non-thinker) because he is an empirical thinker. He is not going to believe in God until he sees Him. Another may choose to become a Buddhist and not a Christian because of certain convictions again.
A man who believes that the world was made for him to enjoy and that it owes him a living. would most naturally be found among those who go the round of "ale houses" and make merry on hay which others have cut.
A "conservative" would never be expected to choose a loud Hawaaian shirt; and if he feels that the old order is as good as ever, he would never vote for radicals.
This is how philosophy pervades human life and activity. It is not only in books that one reads of philosophy; it can be studied in the chapters of life. It is not the plaything of only old men retired from life. So live those who are narrow-minded and those who are not so narrow in mind.
There is no doubt that modern civilization has been greatly influenced by discoveries in science. (You may note my careful use of "discoveries in science" and not "discoveries by/of science"). This is one of the problems Science presents Mankind and human civilization as a whole.
Scientific discoveries have revolutionised not only our way of living but also our way of thinking. But Science has too much awed our civilization. We have edified it, put it upon an altar and raised an-ordered priesthood to nourish it. Man has little changed from his divine king-worshipping days. He has merely replaced the object of worship. Often, too often has the idol turned into a tyrant, a monster dictating and twisting the life of mankind into warped shapes, hideous and ugly. Yes, Science has become a God. Instead of being the masters, the men of Science have subjugated themselves; they love to prostrate not only themselves but the whole of mankind to this new God. Their missionary zeal is as frightening as that of many a religious order.
We have recognised the use of the Monarchy as a tool of constitutional government. It is not an idol claiming divinity anymore. Must we wait for more revolutions to take place in our attitude and philosophy toward Science, revolutions just as bloody and trying as those which changed the dictatorships of kings to the myth that they are today - symbols of the constitution.
We need a balanced outlook and attitude towards Science, a calm critical philosophy in place of stupid frenzied nauseating awe. Science can raise Mankind to greater levels of civilization. Science can do many things, but it cannot do everything. We must remember that whatever we attribute to science is the product of the human mind. It did not come about by itself but was examined and discovered. Science must be a tool, a method by which we unlock the treasure chests of nature and creation. Like all tools, they must be manipulated by us.
Like so many human problems, it can be boiled down to EDUCATION. Education, too has been attacked by "scientific" thought. Some well-known contemporary thinkers have advocated a system based on Science. The reason that Man must be educated to fit into his surroundings, and Science, they argue, is the surrounding of modern Man. Therefore, they say, let us not be lost amidst this "new jungle" but let us learn to adopt ourselves to it.
These thinkers are right to some extent when they say that man needs to be educated to fit into society, an environment, but they have perhaps forgotten that a characteristic of man has been his ability to change and adapt his surroundings to fit him. Furthermore, whatever Man has bothered with has always had a bearing on human life. Human life is the reason why we study Geography or Agriculture; Humanity is why we indulge in music and literature; Man is the reason why we are concerned with natural phenomena. As Government is for Man, so is Science for Humanity. If we appreciate this point, there is little danger - of our falling into the slavehood of Science.
Again education, a good general education, can do more than a million articles such as this. Teach the young to understand themselves more fully, educate them in the humanities, guide them in the appreciation of the Fine Arts and teach them to handle the new tool of Science. With understanding and appreciation of all the other sections of civilisation, he can then place Science in its proper context. A balanced outlook can then be taken to be inevitable. He can think with some degree of coherence and rationality. He can then form a Philosophy of Life which will not only enrich and beautify his own life, but also add to the sum total of living - human civilization.
ONCE I HAD A DREAM...
Once I had a dream
Then did my aims
Of all the hopes
THE WORLD IS GREY AND DULL...
The world is Grey and Dull My mouth is full so full of gall. Like ash in spit Like spite in deed It splits my heart And mind and me. O cry! O cry! But why O why? you lie, In vain you lie And when we die; A tangled, thorny, A spiteful skeleton-plant you leave behind. As well as blotched marks, in the dust of time. Yes cry! and cry! Yet why O why? Do we lie and die?
A VERY SHORT STORY
For some reason there is a pleasure in recording the odd things in life, and odd indeed is it to see at least five lunatics in the Federal capital stealing away the public gaze. There is a squaw moving around the centre of the city. There is one who spends her time making love to a lamp-post. There is one who does shadow boxing on pillars of buildings. There are a few Indian "fakirs". But this one was a new addition. A scorching sun and a busy day, the city was at its zenith of activity. A compact mass of moving men, women and children, gaily clad in costumes depicting their cultural traits, was feuding against a speeding line of traffic. Our friend stood out from this moving mass, not so much by his aloofness than his appearance. He had his shirt on his head like an untidy turban and carried a school bag. His bareness revealed to advantage his well-built body. But his eyes shone with too much brightness. By its strength, his lunacy was proved beyond doubt.
But, being a lunatic, no more could reason force him to allow his strength to be exploited. He was free as no one is. For he no longer is useful. He might have been once, but that is passed and gone.
He was free and he was alone; this man still in his youthful years. Blankly he looked at the scorching sun towering above him. He symbolised something. Misfortune? No, not misfortune. Tears filled his eyes. But they were neither of sorrow nor of grief. What are these to him? They were tears of protection. Nature alone was his friend.
For full five minutes he gazed at the sun - blankly, expressionless and still. Then his haggard face brightened up. With a loud cry he threw up his bag, kicked it, took four strides across the road and sent it up again with a flying kick any footballer would be proud to own. Now he stood over his bag and with loud triumphant cries drummed his massive chest. Then he did yoga. When he had exhausted himself, he covered his head with his bags and began to meditate.
Other than the reactive scattering out of reach when the lunatic ran, the crowd was little affected. No one near him took any notice of him, for fear it might incur unlooked-for troubles. At least they fear it would. It was not anybody's business anyway. No one would think of meddling with the affairs of an insane where actions are not dictated by reason. The natural outcast must somehow continue to exist of his own. The unstableness of mind must inevitably be guided only by the unstable luck. But many looked from a safe distance.
The silent meditation took a vocal form now. He was throwing abuses to the wind with his muffled voice. A policeman smiled. He was human. And most human beings smiled, some laughed. The rest went about their businesses.
"Now, your mother... ! I have you in my bag." And he took the bag from his head and performed a war-dance. "No, no you can't escape, you can't." He slung his bag over his shoulder and dashed across the road.
There was a piercing cry. At once the crowd gathered. In the middle of the human ring was a pool of blood and a cut body. For a minute the hooting of cars was deafening. The senses came back to the drivers. Minutes later the police arrived and began questioning the spectators. None knew what car did it. And the lunatic, he was still busy with his affairs. "You can't escape, no you shall be caught." A police bent over him and asked, "what can't escape?" The lunatic looked at him and smiled. And a while later he was dead. It was nobody's fault but ...
THE FISHERS' DEPARTURE
The smouldering sun burns its last dying fires
Here are Grecian heroes of modern times
The fleet boats await their sturdy masters,
I saw in you Perfection's seed,
WHAT'S PURITY ABSOLUTE?
When from the muddy waters spring The fresh and fragrant lotus flowers; When from the darkness songs doth ring And the smiling sun shines thro' showers; When rainbows appear in the grey, The saddest hours of the day, Of evils what is there to fear? When charm and beauty have their stings, And limes in sweet weather still're sour, When there're germs in the coolest springs, And clownish talk in serious hours, When pythons lurk in holy caves, And Man's progress doth morals brave, What blessings can come from the clear?
There was a gentle breeze outside but the heat beat up to scorch the eyes and choke the breath. However, it was always cool and shadowed inside the shop of Towkay Sin Chong.
Here the air was sweet with the distilled essence of myriads of flowers. For four generations the ancestors of the Towkay had peddled perfumes here. You couldn't pay more anywhere in the East or buy better.
The old hunchback turned his head with difficulty to look at the beautiful American lady. "You wish to buy my best perfume, modom? But different perfumes are made for different purposes. My most expensive perfume is sold to those who are fat and old. Hmm, by what token shall we judge the best?"
The small man beside her replied, "My wife wants the best - anything you suggest to be the best. It does not matter how much it costs, Shirley, if you want it."
The Towkay searched along the ranks of bottles. "Fragrant ... Fragrant... Ah! Here," He picked up an elegant black bottle. "This is the one. This is for the modom. So rare and strange - among the most expensive in the world."
The lady took it. Uncorking it, she took a sniff. "It's lovely... very lovely." She murmured. Then she frowned a little. "And yet, there's something queer.. sort of strange and cruel."
"The birth of the perfume was attended with both love and cruelty. It is called in English 'Fragrant Flames'. It is made only in the village of Utas in the mountains of Sayang, where the secret of the process has been kept for four hundred years. It has a long history but the modom will have but little time. . . "
Holding the black bottle in her hand she said, half to herself, "Fragrant Flames... I would like to know more about this. We've plenty of time. Please tell us your story."
Towkay Sin Chong beamed. He beckoned them to be seated. "Here we will not be disturbed. We will take coffee." He nodded to me, "Please see that we are not disturbed."
I bowed and moved up to the counter.
The Towkay placed the perfume and three cups of coffee on the table.
"The modom has by chance been through the district of Ribu? Perhaps to see the orchids of Chava?"
"Oh, no. We've not been out of Kuala Lumpur yet."
"You must go. You must drive to Utas and see the making of "Fragrant Flames." The way is hard, but the effort is worth it. You will have to drive over the hot stones of the Sayang. When you reach Utas you can see the perfume gardens.
"However, I feel that modom will go after listening to my story. My story goes back to 1555 when the finest perfumes in the East were made in the Church of Utas."
In the year 1555 there was a young monk by the name of Lopez, living in the community of the Church. This Church was built by the Portuguese. This young monk was twenty years of age, tall, fair and handsome. He worked in the perfume-gardens, gathering flowers.
Lopez fell in love with a village girl called Wan Fatimah. They met frequently. For many nights, Lopez managed to get away from the sleeping Church. But one night, he was seen by a brother monk.
On the next night they were at the rendezvous again, sensing nothing, until the abbot and several brother monks, carrying torches, stood before them.
Fatimah was tried as a witch. Lopez was accused of breaking his vows before God. She was sentenced to be burnt at the stake; and he, to be excommunicated, flogged and driven out of the Church. On the day of the burning he was to be placed near the stake so that he could watch the death of the witch ...
- The Towkay's voice sank to a whisper. This was his big scene -
At the first sign of dawn, the crowd began to gather. To the slow throbbing of drums the monks brought Fatimah, weak with terror, to bind her to the pillar. Lopez, with arms bound and flanked by two stout soldiers stood some yards away.
The drums stopped. No one breathed.
A trumpet split the silence. The executioner circled the pillar, putting fire to it. Flames of yellow and red leapt up. A cloud of smoke rose.
A sudden golden fountain flared up suddenly and the main pyre was alight. She screamed once ... twice ... and the flames covered her. The writhing figure and gasping face were gone.
Lopez tore his arms from their bonds and leapt into the heart of the fire. The flames surrounded him but he did not burn. He took a piece of burning branch and hurled it at the judges. But it flew too high and went over the walls of the Church. The force of his throw took him out of the fire and a guard sprang in and slashed at him. He staggered back into the blaze and clasped the charred body of his Fatimah. As he touched her the flames engulfed him.
- The Towkay stood miming the story, hugging the imaginary charred body against his concave chest -
"No one knew that the church was on fire until a vast concussion shook the building as one of the tanks for the making of the perfume exploded. The whole church was ablaze. They tried to put the fire out but in vain. The Abbot summoned the monks to prayers. They prayed for a storm of rain to quench the fire.
There was a little silence. I clapped softly. The Towkay sipped his coffee slowly.
The American spoke, "I've seen a place burn down like that. The godowns at Port Swettenham. Once a place gets started, there's nothing to do, but to let it burn out."
Shirley broke in, "All right, all right, let the old man proceed with his story."
The hunchback sipped his coffee again before answering -
By evening the fire was dying. The people of Utas saw that the trays for making the perfumes were alight with a strange blue flame. A peasant collected a cartful of ash from the stake and sprinkled it on the trays. The blue flames flickered and died away.
A man noticed that a strange fragrance was rising from the trays that had been sprinkled with the ash. Now this man was a dealer in perfumes; - his name was Chen Tham. In curiosity he had the liquid drained and when he had distilled it, he found that he had captured a new elemental perfume. He named it the "Fragrant Flames."
He sold them for large sums of money and soon his patrons demanded more. For many years he could not reproduce it. He tried violet, wood-ash sandal-wood but he could not recapture its fragrance. He even went to the extent of secretly buying corpses from the graveyard
One day, another woman was tried as a witch. He contrived to collect the ashes from the pyre. He added the ashes to his perfume. This time the strange fragrance enticed the air again.
He had found the secret that the perfume could only be made with the ashes of a woman who had been burnt alive ....
He went on, "The price is rather high, due to its rarity. You know, ashes of women burnt alive are not easy to come by nowadays."
"It is true in the year of making, a girl disappears in the mountains of Sayang, but then. . . " He shrugged...... "Girls disappear every year in the world... "
His voice died away and he stood up to signify that the story had ended. They followed him to the counter. He opened the bottle and handed it to the lady.
She held it in her cupped hands and smilingly she said, "It's there. I can feel it ... but it's lovely ... oh! so lovely." She looked satisfied. "How many bottles have you got?"
Towkay Sin Chong looked thoughtful. "I have only five bottles left. It's five years since the last making. It is truly expensive - three hundred dollars a bottle."
She looked at her husband. He squeezed her shoulder. "It doesn't matter how much it costs, Shirley. Just as long as you want it, honey."
"Thanks, sweetheart," she breathed.
I packed the bottles and took the fifteen hundred dollars. The Towkay bowed and the door closed behind them ...
He peered down under the counter. "We're getting pretty short of "Fragrant Flames" now. You'd better make a new batch ... As it is, it was FIVE WEEKS since the last making."
How I wish I were a bird,
Last update on 26 December 1999.