The Victorian 1969 - Part II

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    When I consider
     birth and life and death
       I wonder why I'm here.

    When I consider
     my nothingness in the Infinite
       I wonder why I'm made.

    When I ponder over
     the things Man feels and says and does,
        Love, Affection and Beauty
          of thoughts and noble deeds,
            and passions that wage
               and tear his soul. . . . 
    I wonder why
      such qualities were given to my Race.

    When all around me
      I see
         the deformities of human flesh
           the violations of guarded passions
              the dying of what was once hailed
                the noble 
                   and the beautiful 

    I see
       Whiteness stained
         pollution of the sacred.

    Then it dawns…
      I'm not here to be polluted,
        not made for desecration,
          what I have
            is not for abuse.
    When I recall
     that there was a way
       that seemed right to a man
          and the end thereof was death . . . .

    and I ponder on
        I can understand only to some degree
           yet cannot comprehend fully,
    I know
      Man is a little higher than the beasts
       a little lower than the angels.

    When I consider
     how in the darkness of earth's journey
       someone placed a lighted candle
         in my trembling hands
            to succour my distress,
    how then can I think it foolish....
      to cling to this dear light
         to love the one who placed it here?

    And so.......  though sore opposed,
     tempted to succumb.......
       I still find the strength
          even to be alone - holding my opinion
            against the way of the crowd.



Lean back, relax, watch the fluttering curtains and feel the soft caress of the midnight breeze on your cheek, let the mellowness and beauty of the still night envelop you in all its loveliness and majesty…. The symbolic crash of the opening chords, the brilliant rush into the exposition of the symphony, the meticulous articulation of the long, bony fingers of the virtuoso in a rippling concerto cadenza, the intense frown of concentration on the brow of the violin maestro as he surges through a pizzicato passage, the sweet, bird-like trill of the piccolo, the metallic tom-tom of the timpani, the nostalgic faraway call of the French Horn, the delicate chime-like ring of the lament of the trombone, the clicking of the castanets, the firefly darting of the white tip of the conductor's baton, until the very, very last note has died away from a forte-fortissimo to nothingness…. you sit through them all, completely entranced and enmeshed in the vice-like grip of the fierce, compelling, intoxicating and passionate music. You shed a silent tear and whisper grateful, humble thanks to God for such priceless, irreplaceable blessings.

Music is a long-accepted form of entertainment, pleasure and education; music is an expression, a way of living, life itself; music is the food of love; the symbol of our hopes, aspirations, dreams, which may soar as high as the skies or plunge into the abyssmal depths of the seas, the despair, agonies of parting, the sadness and gloom of the dying, and death. What better time is there to speak of music than now, when this world of ours, throbbing with life, sees science, technology and civilisation scaling new peaks and conquering former insurmountables, when Man has begun a take-over of the once inaccessible moon, when babies are born in test-tubes, when computerization threatens to replace man, when extinction of the human race by new gas and chemical warfare is not impossible, when the first strains of sweet melodies have soared in the skies above in the dizzy and rapturous heights reached by the Apollo 11 spacecraft?

Appreciate the values of music. Listen, and allow your emotions free rein and your imagination unlimited scope and discover the hidden depths that music can penetrate. You begin to understand the necessity of aestheticism which provides a release valve from the pent-up feelings of a mad whirlwind, the relentless and disastrous rushing of today's world. You delve into the hearts of composers and musicians long dead and gone. Their memories linger with their immortal melodies still affecting us as much as our ancestors. You strengthen the bonds, ripe with age, between this modern generation and that of our forefathers, you understand what you can do to music and what it can do for you. You realise the parallelism of history, great events and music.

Man and his Music are related closely. "Music is the idealization of the natural language of our emotions." It is more than Nature; it is "Nature's essence." The appeal of music is universal; one's response to it is also universal, and could hardly be more strongly felt. True, music appeals more to some than to others; certain types of music arouse more feelings, than others, but the 'right' music and the appropriate time have the desired effect. It has the power to stir human and animal feelings, to calm and comfort, to excite and exhilarate, to crush and drown.

Then compare the music of Bach, Handel and Scailatti to that of Beethoven, Schubert, Weber, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Debussy, Ravel, Britten, Kabalevsky, and so on. The colourful, ornamental, theatrical, polyphonic Baroque period of Bach and his contemporaries seeks to arouse musical feelings by its fineness in artistry and delicacy. Beethoven finds it difficult to control his intensity of feelings in his compositions and his tremendous bravura passages with interspersed pianissimo effects provide a convenient insight into his fiery and unpredictable character. This musical genius was the creator of masterpieces which are today still considered as among the finest of all ages. The Romantic composers also sought to express their feelings in music - Schumann composed such pieces as Soaring and Whims, which reflected the depth of his love and the height of his Passion for Clara Wieck, and his music is full of jumps and leaps and bounds. Ravel and Debussy, with their maxim - "to name an object is to sacrifice three-quarters of that enjoyment which comes from guessing bit by bit", established the school of Impressionism, where allusive vagueness and atmospheric sensations were used to create musical interest. Chopin, in his fierce nationalistic pride, composed Polonaises and Mazurkas in honour of his native land and so did Bela Bartok, the Hungarian composer whose music has a definite folk song lilt. But, unlike the harmonious blendings so skillfully contrived by these classical composers, contemporary writers have only succeeded in creating discordant harmonies and melodies, which do not merge or enrich each other, but collide, rebound and clamour for recognition.

This is a trip into the fairyland of music, where a myriad of songs, operas, symphonies, concertos, overtures, sonatas, waltzes, suites, string quartets, oratorios, cantatas, nocturnes, études, preludes and others await you. "Let no such man be trusted" was said of the man who has no music in his ears. Are you so deaf that you cannot hear, so blind, oh so very blind that you cannot see? So very cold that you cannot, absolutely cannot feel?



Allen Ginsberg is considered the most controversial of living poets and, certainly, he is among the most celebrated. An eccentric anomaly, Ginsberg has been called 'a poet, a mystic, a homosexual, a psychedelic proselyte, a revolutionary, a bearded prophet of doom for what he considers society's sick values.' Controversy surrounds Ginsberg and people tend to be divided in their opinion as to whether he is a great poet but both fan and foe agree that Ginsberg, in the words of American critic, Robert Hazel, 'stands alone in the curious dignity of his works.'

Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926. When he entered Columbia University at the age of seventeen, he began to experiment with new ways of writing, largely influenced by novelists William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. At the same time he was also experimenting with drugs and sexual freedom. Owing to his close association with addicts, prostitutes and thieves, he was expelled and later committed to a mental institution for eight months. After his release, his life was a series of ups and downs, finally landing up in bohemian North Beach, San Francisco, with his lover, Peter Orlovsky, whom he openly identified as his 'wife'. There he began to write poetry in earnest in the company of such fellow poets as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac.

Ginsberg became most prominent among the Beat poets and was recognised as a 'co-founder of the Beat Generation'. Today, while his fellow compatriots have faded into the background of literary history, Ginsberg remains upon the scene as controversial as ever.

Described and rhapsodised as 'great', 'mad', 'strange', 'angelic', 'tragic', and 'apocalyptic' and reviled as 'degenerate', 'blasphemous', 'incoherent', 'pretentious', and 'exhibitionistic' because of his uninhibited expression, Ginsberg's poetic works have undergone numerous changes since the time he first began to write seriously. In 1956, his first collection of poems was published under the title "Hocol". It was received with mixed feelings. Critics denounced him for his 'childish obscenity' and 'frantic defiance', while others hailed his works as a literary milestone of historic proportions'. Themes ranged from psychic and physical degradation to the search for love and solace. During this time, too, he resorted to drugs 'to open up an awareness of the supernatural'; that 'the area of consciousness' could be widened through the use of LSD and other such catalysts'. Recently his poems have shown more concern and a deepening interest in immediate physical experiences and with political realities like the Vietnam War. Ginsberg believes "the message is: Widen the area of consciousness," saying in a recent interview that "we are all blocked off from our own perceptions… Everybody has momentary breakthroughs of consciousness…. The world that opens up seems strange, familiar but forgotten."

He said, "By poetry I mean the imagining of what has been lost and what can be found, the imagining of who we are and the slow realisation of it. First come prophetic images from the unconscious…. and then the gradual realisation that such an image isn't merely an 'image' but an articulation of what one actually sees and experiences."

Reading beat poetry is quite an experience - a novel change from, say, Wordsworth, Elliot or Mckuen. Nothing can rival the first surges of disgust that one feels on first reading beat poetry. One has to keep an open mind, for even though a beat poem may consist of only one word "frau" repeated many times ('Pain through Friction' by Ernest Jandl) it is supposed to propound some message, though heaven knows what! Allen Ginsberg is no different. His poetry is repulsive, vulgar and crude, his message difficult to comprehend. These seem to be the common characteristics of beat poetry. For instance, in a poem entitled 'Who be kind to' he says -

   Be kind to yourself, it is the only one and perishable 
   of many on the planet, thou art that... 
   one that wishes a tongue to kiss your armpit.

In another poem, The Reply, he likens dog barks to "the sound of vomit in the air." Such expressions immediately arouse feelings of distaste and repulsion in the reader. Other lines which I shall refrain from quoting are far worse. Four-lettered words are generously strewn around and Ginsberg is not the only one resorting to such techniques for his contemporaries like Ferlinghetti commonly utilise such flagrant expressions. Beat poetry on the whole is uninhibited, very raw, coarse and simply 'disgusting.'

In spite of this vulgarity (which I have to admit is a very personal condemnation because others may appreciate Ginsberg more than I do) Ginsberg has been praised as a "Poet first and last" with a "a strong capacity to keep growing". Admittedly there are some very inspiring lines where he uses images that are very topical, very much of our society and of our time.

   "Be kind to this place, which is your present 
   habitation, with derrick and radar tower and 
   flower in the ancient brook -" (Who be kind to) 
   "In Russia the young poets rise
   to kiss the soul of revolution
   in Vietnam the body is burned 
   to show the truth of only the 
   body in Kremlin and White House 
   the schemers draw back
   weeping from their scheme". (The Change)

But these few extracts of good modern poetry are rare and tend to be overwhelmed by the coarseness and vulgarity of the remaining verses. Such is beat poetry!



The world never ceases to laugh. She laughs through wars, famines, floods and the greatest of human plights. She chuckles cynically in the face of imminent calamities, and when the tempests do rage, she suffers herself a self-defeating yet self-forgiving silence that is no less frolicsome. At the abatement, however, she emerges afresh, holding her sides and laughing her eyes out. In the seizure of this mania, her memories of the Destructor are short-lived; and when swept along in the heart of this tornado, she no longer looks back at the days of the dark storms, only optimistically and prospectively at the future. In short, she is able to live through the worst of times.

All seems well until she begins to laugh at herself. Obsessed with hilarity, she becomes possessed with the notion that laughter can pull her through everything. This induces a conceited sense of superiority. When someone errs, he becomes a target of derision; similarly, the crowd considers a joke the shortcomings of the less fortunate. Everything and everyone become laughable; the world turns into a great gas bag issuing fun and frolic.

In the lilt of this frenzy, a child enters the scene. It is not long before he discovers that he has no part in this slapstick comedy. True, he is engulfed in their merry gambols, but he finds no ground. For the world and his self are in diametric opposition: he is held no merrier than the "weeping philosopher" in the company of these jesting baffoons. Such is his mould that he laughs not with them. But his fibre is unique and alien; so he stands alone. But no man being always an island, he has to yield, sometimes at least. In submission, he has to bridge the mainland for the company that he needs but does not comprehend. To please this company, he has to force himself to see farce in solemnity. The world stands united against him; a staged comedy - yet he has to applaud. Only by pretence can he earn his citizenship.

Hypocrisy dissolves rapidly the dignity of a man: he feels his own confidence ebbing away. Finally, no longer able to bear this schizophrenic self, he must find the skin that is truly his. He must seek out the quintessence of mirth and the essence of gravity. There has to be a medial compromising track between the two extremes. If he finds it, he may integrate the two and live. So begins his quest.

He asks the common man, "You labour the day out and yet derive immense joy at its end. What is the goal, the ultimate objective that cools your head when it is afire? What cheers you when you are down?" To this comes the ingenuous reply, "I know not - neither do I care. Why should I? I'm happy." Whereupon he concludes on the first ingredient of mirth - Ignorance. Ignorance is bliss, they say. If this implies reverting to the puerility of a child, he would not have it - it is not in his veins. He wants elevation, not degradation.

So he goes to the master of mirth himself - the performing clown. He who is able to tear the sides of the world in with laughter must surely possess that elixir. But again, he is met with disappointment for the clown says to him, "Joy is no more my company than it is yours. I feel a tinge of it when I get laughs - but what joy is there when the world laughs at you more than it does with you? Yet I have to put on these external shows for the world pays me accordingly." Whereupon he discovers the second element of mirth - pretence. If you do not have it, pretend you do.

At length he sights the 'golden fleece' or rather he senses the first inkling of its presence. Thus illumined, he realises that he had earlier blinded himself with a false preconception. He had sought the eternal light as a solid, tangible whole: you either have it or you do not. Now he knows that it has to be reached in mounting degrees. It is like ascending an infinite flight of stairs - a climb which probably does not end within this lifetime. He had merely taken a few steps and felt his initial tinges of Joy. The Greater Happiness lies beyond the Horizon.

Paradoxically, he finds also that Joy can be as simple as it is profound. Its profundity lies in its most enigmatic and unblemished form; its simplicity finds stark expression in the mere ticklish sensations one experiences occasionally. But most enlightening of all, he is now able to perceive the closely-knit kinship of Joy and Grief: though they stand apart, yet they are strangely intertwined. Tears are shed on the happiest occasions; the most joyful moments are often the most solemn ones. As someone said, "If the heart is not hollowed out by Grief, where is there room for Joy?"

Perhaps he belongs to the world after all.



In the annals of student history, the year 1968 would undoubtedly become memorable as the year of student unrest, the year that had witnessed the rise of student power, of student agitations and activism. Today students are recognised as a power to be reckoned with. The student movement in Indonesia caused President Soekarno and the communists to be overthrown and, in France, the students shook the seemingly impregnable foundation of the old order of President de Gaulle and caused the French economy to collapse. To understand their actions, one must examine their roles in our modern society.

The educators and authorities, especially in Malaysia, emphasise the often repeated cliché, "The role of the student is to STUDY", as the most important role of students in society. By study here, I certainly hope that they do not merely mean the process of reading, cogitating and reproducing what have been absorbed for the sake of good results at examinations. It is far, far more than that.

To put it succinctly, a student has to be a contributing and creating individual who has a series of responsibilities and obligations to himself and society. It is his duty to cultivate the following objectives: -

  1. To develop the ability to think, to criticise, to examine and to decide.
  2. To accept the challenge of ideals and values beyond oneself and to apply these ideas and values in everyday life.
  3. To respect the dignity of the individual human being and to realise that no man is ever good enough to seek to make another in his own image.
  4. To accept a feeling of social consciousness and responsibility for the welfare of one's fellow men, beginning with the next student.
  5. To determine, to apply thought, ideas, tolerance and social consciousness within the student community and society at large in major decisions and daily details.

These are to help the development of the student as a man and a responsible citizen of society when he finishes his studies.

But today students, especially University students, feel that they are mature enough to take an active part in the affairs of their society. After all, the future society is for the Youth and not for the old order. Thus students are clamouring for a greater voice in matters affecting their development and society. They have devised their own concept on what the contemporary roles of students in society are.

The International Student Committee put forward two distinct roles of the student in society. Firstly, the old traditional concept of the 'Student as such' which limits the student's role to his immediate environment. This involves student welfare, student study facilities, recreational facilities, rights and represensation. The latter day concept is the 'Student as an integral member of society,' which tends to identify the student as a citizen with all the rights and responsibilities (accruing) to any member of society.

The latter is most important, for today it is felt that the student in a developing country is in no position to isolate himself from the mainstream of society and concentrate on mere welfare needs, but rather must involve himself in the sociopolitical upliftment of society, for the future society is his. Therefore, students should have a greater say and participation in determining policies and programmes.

Realising their roles in society and their rights as members of society, students began to demand their right of a voice in society. Firstly, they attacked matters nearer to their environment, that is, their academic structure. They demanded representation in the University, to make known their views, their grievances and to let the authorities know of the types of subjects they wished to take up, as well as the amount of freedom for their development. The students were attempting to have more actual control over their social life and academic experiences. It usually starts with a peaceful demonstration ending in chaos, with scenes of students fighting the police. This leads to another demonstration against the brutality of the police. Thus communication breaks down between the youth and the established order. Strikes, sit-ins and even violence will subsequently follow until an agreement is reached. Even if the students are forced to yield to the old established order, they have accomplished their aim. They have drawn public attention to their problems. Such incidents can be seen in the recent student demonstrations in France, America and Japan. There are even cases where the students occupied the University grounds.

In politics, students attempt to organise themselves into groups of activists pressing for political change. An excellent example is the student movement in Indonesia, as shown in the recent political upheaval. Their actions influenced and stimulated the public, making them aware of the adverse political situation and perhaps instilling them with courage. In fact, today, no government can survive in Indonesia for long without the support of the students. Students are taking a more active role in politics, than in any period of their history. In America, the students held demonstrations against the government's policy in the Vietnam war and the Middle East crisis. Even in the recent American presidential election campaign, thousands of students campaigned for Senator Eugene McCarthy, marching from state to state. Such incidents indicate that the young are conscious of their environment and are growingly concerned over their government and how it should work.

As students are regarded as having definite responsibilities towards their society, so can society in turn be regarded as having definite responsibilities towards its students. The students are its members, hence it must nourish them to ensure their healthy growth, for today's students are tomorrow's leaders. The values they will one day preach will be the values they have learned today. Thus if our society is to survive, youthful resources must be tapped, youthful enthusiasm and idealism must be aroused. The basic concern of society must then be to equip the students for their responsibilities in their future social life. Society must also create in them a sense of national identity, based on non-discrimination of any group and respect for all groups, a sense of participation in the common national endeavour and make the students feel that they have a definite place in the community they live in and that their particular contribution is appreciated.

However, when society fails to fulfil its functions and subdues student participation, the students experience frustration at being left out and they will show it in the various forms of rebellion such as demonstrations, strikes, and riots. They even alienate themselves from society and seek other forms of identification such as yogaism and hippism.

Thus society must cultivate a new outlook concerning students, acknowledging them as an important sector of society, with a definite role to perform for the betterment of the community. In practice this would mean more intimate integration of student power into community life, making the democratic process more meaningful to the students by allowing them to participate in it more fully, more positively and more creatively. A society that neglects its students and their roles in society will have to suffer adverse consequences in the future.

Today, there is a growing awareness that society has neglected its students, in its progress into the space age. Students are generally better informed than those a hundred years before, and they demand their membership in society. They demand their rights, freedom and representation in policies affecting them and their society. Such agitations have spread like cancer throughout the world, and we can envisage more student demonstrations and rebellions in the future.



    She had blundered
    And I was born
    Born to join the ranks of the illegitimate,
    Born unwanted, unloved, uncared for,
    Born a victim of ridicule and scorn,
    Born bearing a curse
    Thou shalt pay the price for HER sin -
    That promiscuous act.

    In the warmth of her womb I lay, protected.
    Suddenly and brutally I was thrust out.
    Out into this cold, cruel world,
    A world whose hands bore me no welcome,
    Only blood-thirsty hands waiting to tear my life
    A world whose eyes despised the very sight of me,
    Prejudice-blinded eyes which saw
    In an innocent babe
    The guilt of her parents.

    I grew up
    In a home which was not home at all,
    A mere roof and four grey walls.
    I lived
    A life which was not life at all
    Food, clothing and a shelter
    Are mere ingredients
    Of a superficial life.

    May I ask humbly
    For just a bit more.

    Give me a chance, I cried,
    Give me a place in society I pleaded,
    But they remained deaf to my plea,
    An outcast I was doomed to be.
    Let me taste that sweet fruit called LOVE,
    Let the juice quench this my thirst,
    But they flatly denied me that request
    So love was to remain a total stranger to me.

    Why? Why? Why?
    What wrong have I done
    To deserve such merciless torture,
    To suffer such painful injustice.
    Did not the world denounce injustice
    As primitive in our modern civilization?
    But those questions only drifted away
    Unnoticed, unanswered.

    Tossed by the remote tides of a remote world,
    Battered by a barrage of cruel insults,
    Squeezed of my last hope in life,
    Till there remained in me;
    A dried up vegetable
    Left to rot away
    Left to be disposed of - like dirt
    So they say must be the fate of me -
    A product of sin and dirt - be doomed.

    Against an enemy so massive so powerful?
    That would be a fatal step.
    Slam the door of my mind,
    Build up a mental barrier,
    That no storm of life can batter nor break
    And then -
    To escape to the world of my own
    To soar to the skies of make-believe,
    But alas!
    Only to plunge back into the deep sea of reality

    Every channel of escape was clogged up
    Except one:
    The channel that led to the grave
    And I was tempted to take that.

    And then it happened
    A gentle tap at my bolted door,
    I didn't respond.
    But still it continued,
    That gentle tap from a persistent caller
    The Creator Himself.
    I yielded a little, leaving the door
    Slightly ajar.
    Through it flowed the sweet juices
    Of love, kindness, understanding
    Relishing my parched mind.

    A new being emerged - transformed
    And I was born again!



Pain and suffering together form a constant part of our lives. Man has been subjected to various forms of suffering since the dawn of time, and he still is today. If we envisage life as one that should be free from any kind of suffering and pain, then we are not being realistic enough and, indeed, we would be missing the whole point of what life really is. Pain and suffering must exist in our lives, for going onward through suffering is the only way to gain practical acquaintance with the full colour, flavour, poetry, passion and variety of life. Dr. Hans Selye of the University of Montreal was not far from the truth when he said, "Stress (including pain and suffering) is part of Life. It is a natural byproduct of all our activities; there is no more justification for avoiding stress than for shunning food, exercise or love."

Regarding this problem of pain and suffering, there are people who do not really understand what pain and suffering means. They are of the opinion that a "good" life is one that is devoid of suffering and as such they even doubt God at times. They say, "If God exists, why can't He make conditions easy for Man?" Others come to have dualist ideas - that both good and evil forces are at work in the Universe. But then, we should bear in mind that the way whereby Man judges is very different from that of God, so that our concept of what is good in Life is also different from God's concept. God may think that it is necessary for us to have pain and suffering in order to live a really meaningful life. In any case, too much comfort, too much order, too much pleasure and a total lack of anxiety will dehumanize people. We should not be surprised if someone who lives in a state entirely free from pain and suffering, cries out: "I don't want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin." Yes, it should be made known that pain and suffering are valuable and essential to Mankind.

Indeed if "goodness" is that for which Man was intended, learning through suffering and insecurity is necessary or, at least, valuable. Most religions proclaim that living in a suffering world would enable one to be made perfect. They also assert that growth in goodness is a costly process, necessitating pain and sacrifice. It is only through pain and suffering that we are able to understand some of the mysteries of life; to mature and develop the powers of sympathy with the misfortunes of others. In other words, we may say that pain and suffering are responsible for lifting Man to greater heights of nobility, to the all important understanding of Man himself. If we can only understand one another, much of the chaos and wars that occur in our present world would have been avoided.

Truly, if Man has to grow in goodness, he must live in a world of "becoming", a world of birth and reproduction and death. The Buddha was right in asserting that these conditions of mortality or "becoming" inevitably involve suffering. Suffering should be acceptable as a means to a greater good and we should believe that in the end, every suffering soul would have achieved the state of divine goodness.

There is yet another reason why pain and suffering are essential for Mankind. Everyone of us has to work towards the fulfilment of our ambition, in the process of which we are bound to encounter hardships and difficulties. Now, we have to endure all these pain and sufferings, if we are to achieve our goals. We have to learn to cope with suffering. In any case, the existence of pain and suffering will make us more determined in the pursuit of our ambition and this, of course, is a good state of affairs. It stimulates our desire for self-advancement, which is very important. At this point, it should be noted that "willingness to be insecure is the ultimate security."

The person who is able to face and use creatively even the most chaotic and destructive situation is secure against unhappiness. To put it in other words, one must learn to take knocks. He who dares to look his destiny steadfastly in the face, to measure his strength with Life's difficulties, to give up what does not count in his life and to, seek with zeal, that which will contribute to his self-fulfilment: that man has already ceased to be miserable. An ingrained capacity to bear up under strain and stress becomes a living and attractive virtue when it is regarded not as willingness to die manfully but as the determination to live decently. We should also know that battles are seldom won by running away, no more than hockey goals are scored by back checking. There will be discouragement. In fact, it is generally true that Life seldom gives us any more than just that degree of encouragement which suffices to keep us at a reasonably full exertion of our powers. Thus, everyone who is trying to accomplish something should know that one cannot make the most of one's life if one tries to avoid pain and suffering - there is no free pass that will admit us to a full life.

The people who have made their ways from obscurity to Who's Who are those who have been through pain and suffering. To quote a few examples: Byron, despite his club-foot, learned to dance perfectly; the stuttering Demosthenes became a perfect orator and Beethoven, losing his hearing, fought his way to incomparable music. Adversity, implying pain and suffering, therefore is valuable as well as essential for Mankind. Quoting Jeremy Taylor (the adventurous son of a barber who became chaplain to King Charles I and later a bishop), "No man is more miserable than he that hath no adversity." Milton expresses more or less the same ideas in Aeropagita: "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary."

Closely associated with the above is the fact that pain and suffering can stimulate our creativeness and this creativeness in us is profitable in the sense that it leads to a fuller development of our being. Many poets and artists have affirmed that in order to realise their creative powers, it was necessary to suffer.

Pain and suffering, thus, are valuable and essential to Mankind: they enable us to be "made perfect"; urge us to exhibit noble ideas, to understand human nature and also to strengthen our character, they provide us with the basis for self-advancement, for success and for happiness; also they promote to a certain extent, creativity in our being. To all purposes and intents therefore, pain and suffering are good for Mankind. As such, we should bear in mind that a life of ease lived by he who is slow in thought and sluggish in action is shabby and worthless. We should know that effort and struggle with difficulties are as natural to a man as nibbling in the ground is to a gopher. It pays very much to always remember Roosevelt's principles: "I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease but the doctrine of the strenuous life; the life of toil and effort; of labour and strive; to preach that highest form of success which comes not to the man who desires easy peace but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who, out of these, wins the splendid ultimate triumph."

"Comfort," says Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet, "is a stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest and then becomes a host, and then a master." We should be alert to unmask its nature before we learn to love it too greatly. In the final analysis, we should still maintain that pain and suffering are not only valuable but also essential to Mankind. Indeed, Life is full of conflict and all conflict is beneficial, to an extent. We have to struggle to keep ourselves alive. And remembering that Jesus Christ (one of the greatest of the great teachers of this world) through pain and suffering, sacrificed himself for Mankind, we should duly accept wholeheartedly the very idea of pain and suffering in our lives.



    Great muscles flexing breaking the bonds,
    The cruel chains of slavery.
    Once more the Prince of his domain
    Ruling over vast hills and plains
    Almighty in his glory.

    A sound of thunder so loud cried he
    And all his hordes like waves of the sea
    All black shining cohorts brave and true
    Striving to cleanse their homeland -
    Of a life-long enmity.

    A cry of triumph, the lion's roar
    As he drove his foes from Gold Coast's shore
    The slave traders shall prosper no more
    Crushed forever.
    Victory, glory to the king
    Of whom the poets sing

    Then . . .

    He felt the coldness of the floor
    As he woke to reality
    The pain of hunger still persists
    The thirst for blood is still unquenched
    For this once proud monarch
    Now in chains.

VI The V.I. Web Page

Created on 14 June 2000.
Last update on 14 June 2000.

PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng