[ The V.I. HomePage | Back to the V.I. Literary Archives Menu ]
MEANING IN LIFE -
How often is it that we find ourselves bemoaning our every imperfection. How we agonise over every blemish, be it in the mind, the body or the soul. Every passing day seems to bring more failures and frustrations. Thus it is in our constant concentration on our faults and not mending them because we deem them irreversible but rather despairing over them, that we find ourselves not being able to utilise our every ability to the fullest. In our constant preoccupation with faults (and who doesn't have them to some measure), we forget our virtues and leave them to rust and rot. Isn't it so very often that we find multitudes of mediocre people who have never realised their full potential?
More than even this serious fault in people's attitude towards imperfection is the fact that the majority of the human population of the earth fail to realise the importance of imperfection and the role it holds in our lives. Few manage to see through the inconvenience of not being perfect to realise its advantages. Indeed, it may be the very essence of life as we know it.
The very fact that imperfection exists elicits a challenge to each and every one of us to continually seek to better ourselves in all aspects of our lives. It is this challenge that helps us to set our goals in life for what goal in life isn't to see, in the long run, that some imperfection may be ironed out of your and other people's lives. The money that most people seek, is it not to iron out the imperfection of not having? The fame that people seek, is it not to iron out their imperfections in the eyes of the world so that people can laud over their perfection? The vanities that people seek to put on, is it not to cover the imperfections of their appearance? Thus, it is not only in the noble goals of life but also in every ignoble and lowly one too, that we seek perfection. It is at once clear how imperfection has put purpose and challenge into our lives.
Not only this, but imperfection has taught us to value perfection. In the broad sense of usage of these two words, this may be applied to every value that we have learnt to hold. That which we do not have and have lived without are the qualities that we begin to hold dear. This is not necessarily applied only to lucre, and hence conjures up a picture of covetousness, but also to such basic qualities as human rights, the equal rights of women, peace and, increasingly so, a clean environment.
Throughout the history of mankind and, much more so, of late, the lesson has been learnt again and again in many ways. The war torn years of the early twentieth century which plunged the world into much bloodshed and turmoil taught much of the world how to value peace. Except for those nations which seem to hold their rights to a piece of land or their philosophies dearer than the lives of their peoples, most nations are anxious to pursue peace to the end. Human and women's rights were valued as society began to restructure from a feudal system of separate classes of people where slaves and women amount to no more than a level above animals to one of equal rights as individuals.
Of late, our preoccupation has turned to cleaning up our environment. Only in these last few years when the unpleasant fact that our resources are finite and exhaustible impressed itself upon us have we begun to hold precious the simple delights of nature and her constant supply of food and materials through a cycle that we have only been able to disturb, unknowingly, through our speedily increasing knowledge of science. It is evident in today's advertising that people's concern about the environment is increasing. Advertisement in products has taken a turn as they speak of bio-degradable products, non-polluting products, products that, one way or another, contribute to the preservation of the supreme pleasure of tasting, smelling, and seeing nature. Thus imperfection has served the purpose of increasing our sensitivity towards such values that we have not had before or those that we stand the risk of losing.
At this point, perhaps it is worthwhile to consider what if all was perfect. Eternal life, nirvana, heaven, the great hunting ground in the sky and what have you, all conjure up a vision never ending and infinitely plentiful, a state of total contentment and perfection. Think for one moment, if you believe in these, what.you would do there. Living there would not be life as we know it here. If we were as we are, up there, then life would have no purpose, challenge nor any of the qualities that we know, life being forever and constantly unchanging. Thus unknowingly, the greatest imperfection in our lives, death, that has made our present existence finite, serves the supreme purpose of putting meaning into our lives. Meaning, without which we would live like vegetables, or constantly reproducing bacteria.
So think again, as you cry over your imperfections, what a privilege and gift is it to have them in your life. You owe to them the significance of living and giving your fullest potential to yourself, and to the world.
AN A - Z GLOSSARY
A is for Arithmetic: Sometimes known as maths, this subject doesn't seem to be popular with most Victorians during ordinary class lessons. But when examination results come out, the V.I. scores 100% passes. Try proving that one plus one is eleven.
MY OWN STORY
As I look at the dark blue sky
On the night I felt so blue
I saw a Distant Star
Up there -
feeling neglected, perhaps
to its very core
in God's profound
At closer proximity
I realise, yes
that star is me
the seas run dry
till the moon deserts the sky
till the tropic sun grows cold
I will be alone
I will never
an inconspicuous star
It is madness
It is I
I am a born Leo
I am the King
I am the Man
I am the greatest
Iftikhar Achmad Fadzli, U6 Bio-Maths 1
And in that night of oblivion
What was there -
piles from sitting
on the hard, hard chairs?
"Who will ever care."
"Excuse me (please)………"
What do you care …………
… What did anyone care?
till the whirling,
with the music
and that night,
as with all other nights,
sank into its own oblivion
and was hated
till the next night.
"MOUNT KINABALU, HERE I COME!"
I was pleasantly surprised when my father told me that my brother and I would be going to Sabah during the second term holidays to attempt climbing Mount Kinabalu. My brother and I were going with a group of teachers from the Specialist Teachers' Training Institute, Cheras. The group was to consist of forty-three, including three lecturers who would lead the group. We were the youngest in the group with the exception of one member of the group, Elaine, who at thirteen, was a year younger than my brother. The very fact that Elaine was going to try to climb that mountain did put my brother and me in a rather awkward position for if she made it up to the top while we didn't, well..... one up for Womens' Lib, and 'boo' to two sturdy Victorians.
We were naturally excited over this unexpected vacation bonus and set about gathering information to ensure we would make it successfully to Low's Peak (13,455 ft.), the highest of Mt. Kinabalu's many peaks. We were told that the climb would be quite strenuous for those uninitiated in mountain climbing. Stamina was essential and to build this up we were advised to run around the V.I. field for a distance of three to four miles daily. I did this for about a month but my brother did only half that distance in half that period, and somehow or other, that was training enough for him to drag himself to the top of Low's Peak eventually.
Next we had a long list of items to acquire. The essential items were:-A rain coat - it is very common for it to rain in the mornings there.
Warm clothing - like pullovers, woolen socks and gloves to keep warm as one approached the summit.
A torchlight - for the final ascent in darkness - that is, at 3.00 a.m.
A whistle - for use as a means of signalling.
A haversack - for items that are to be carried up the mountain.
The trip cost us each about $650/- inclusive of an air fare of $528/-. Of course one cannot ask for more than a comfortable treatment with such a low expenditure. The cost could be reduced by crossing the South China Sea by ship.
The Park Headquarters is situated on the southern boundary of the Kinabalu National Park and lies 57 miles from Kota Kinabalu, 22 miles by paved roads and 35 miles by rough gravel and dirt roads. We reached the Park H.Q. by army trucks by way of Kota Belud. The journey took nearly eight hours. We finally got to the Park H.Q. which is 5,121 feet above sea-level. All of us got down to stretch our legs and the first thing I saw was Mount Kinabalu. It was simply enormous. As it was a clear day, I could see all the peaks very clearly, among them Donkey's Ears, St. John's Peak (13,440 ft.), Tunku Abdul Rahman Peak (12,912 ft.), and Kinabalu South. Low's Peak, the highest. could not be seen. That's gigantic and you wonder if you will make it up there. You really begin to doubt it.
I was completely enraptured by the peak. I felt as though I belonged there. The cool, clean air was so refreshing, quite a change from the dusty air of Kuala Lumpur. The quiet and the peacefulness strikes you at once. It is quite difficult for one to believe that such a sanctuary exists in this world. Here you and nature are one.......... and the peak a gigantic sentinel looking down and guarding you. Dark, mysterious, mystical, yet not losing her sophistication, she seems to be a sleeping giant quite content in her slumber. I now know why the Kadazans say that she is the resting place for their ancestors' souls. Aki Nabalu, the name given by the Kadazans means 'the revered place for the dead.' The more you look at this sleeping giant, the more you come to like her. To me, the mountain seemed very real, almost alive and I did come to like the mountain very much.
The climb was in two parts. On the first day, those attempting to climb the mountain usually go as far up as 11,000 ft. where they spend the night in some huts there and at 2.30 a.m. the following morning, they continue to the summit. For us, it was no different. The night before we started, we slept early after having checked our knapsack to make sure that we took only the bare essentials knowing full well that the higher we climbed the heavier the pack would become, and even a camera or so it seemed, could be a burden. To make things easier, we were organised into 10 groups of four or five. This made it easier for us to bring our own food and to keep track of each other. A whistle was an essential item as it provided a means of signalling. 3 blasts meant one was in trouble; two meant carry on and one meant stop.
The next morning, we were up early. Some members of the group hired porters to carry their packs for the two-day trip. The charge was $151- per day and the maximum load was 20 pounds per porter. The porters usually go as far as Panar Laban. However, if you wanted to get to Sayat-Sayat in the first day, it involved an additional charge. Most porters are women, and their ages vary from 13 to 50 years.
The hike up was quite an experience. We started at 8.30 a.m. The first two hours were pleasant going as we were still enthusiastic, in high spirits and full of energy. As a matter of fact, we were outpacing the guiders and porters. At 6,500 ft. we stopped for a rest. All this time and for quite some time to come, Mount Kinabalu was not visible. Stops for rest were becoming more frequent now and I came to look forward to these short periods of rest. My pack was beginning to seem heavier.
About 15 miles before reaching Carson's Camp, we stopped for a lunch of bread and baked beans. At Carson's Camp, we rested once again, only 1,200 ft. up but 2 miles walking distance to Panar Laban. From now on, it became very tiring. You are going up and up and it is as bad as, in fact worse than, climbing a never ending flight of stairs. Now, I was looking more eagerly for stops. The hike up became a drudgery. We were mechanical in our motions. It was walking up and up, trudging would be the better word. I remember thinking to myself, "Why am I here? I want to give up. I could be better off at home!" I began to feel that it was utterly useless moving on as the end never seemed to be in sight.
Finally, we arrived at Panar Laban - 10,860 ft. Now for a rest. Oh, no! I wanted to cry out when we were told that my group was among 3 or 4 that were supposed to go 200 ft. more to the other Panar Laban huts. That was the longest 200 ft. in my life. Reached it at last. I climbed into my bunk and slept - time 3.30 p.m.. The ordeal was over. We slept till 7.00 p.m. when we had dinner. My group ate some bread and some tinned food. We had not brought any rice as we had thought that the altitude would make cooking of rice impossible but other groups did and they managed to cook and rice. After dinner, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and promptly fell asleep through sheer exhaustion.
The following morning we got up at 2.30 a.m. We had breakfast which consisted of biscuits and some hot Milo. I decided to bring along some hot Milo in my water-bottle but after half an hour, it had become cold. Our torchlights proved to be invaluable at this stage. I also brought along some apples and chocolate to munch on the way should the pangs of hunger strike. We waited for the group which had spent the night in the lower hut to join us before setting off at 3.00 a.m. It was dark and cold. Progress was slow. The path was slippery as it had rained the previous night. Time dragged on, 3.30, ….4.30, …. At 5.30 a.m. we came to the rocky portion where we had to use the ropes. Going up was easy. However, a slip could mean death. We realized this while descending. At night we couldn't see anything but a few feet just ahead of us. Sometimes the incline was as steep as 70 degrees.
We got to the Sayat-Sayat huts (12,560 ft.) at approximately 6.00 a.m. and had only 1,000 ft. more to go. The peak was in sight and it seemed deceivingly near. We proceeded. At the most, you could walk for only ten minutes before having to catch your breath to regain some strength. You start to pant owing to the low oxygen content of the air at this height. Here, I paused to look around during one of my rests and I felt really small and insignificant. The sun was just peeping over the horizon and although it was 6.30 a.m. I could see clearly around me. Here you get to feel the greatness of nature. This huge mass of rock is thrust 13,000 ft. into the atmosphere by a fantastic geological unheaval 1,000,000 years ago and you wonder at the tremendous force that caused this. Think of the Himalayas and Kinabalu is nothing. Nature can be awesome. There stood I, a small speck on this mountain like a grain of sand in the desert.
Finally, half an hour later, I reached the top. My fingers went numb. The most difficult bit was the last few feet. Just 20 ft. more and you've made it. That's the feeling you get. At the peak there was a flag and a book in which you sign your name. I could hardly hold the pen with my partially frozen fingers but managed to sign it. There is a fantastic view up there. I looked down Low's Gully, a drop of two to three thousand feet. I felt a bit giddy doing so. You get an exhilarating feeling being on the highest peak in Southeast Asia. So now I can safely say, I know what it feels like to be on top of Southeast Asia!
Coming down was relatively easy compared with going up and we did it in half the time. As you go down, you wonder how you made it up. Now I can sit back and say that it was a memorable climb and that, if given the chance, I would not hesitate going up again.
THE FUTURE - WHAT FUTURE?? Anonymous
Sixth Form life is almost over. In little less than half a year I shall be joining the ever growing, ever demanding ranks of one of the most unenviable social groups in our multi-structured society - that of the school leaver. This is the time when decisions are made and plans are carried out, one is told.
"Step up, young man, show your colours, assert yourself!" Things of the past. Anachronisms in a modern, contemporary context.
Anyone can tell you that the world ages exponentially, not arithmetically. It all has to do with the population and education. For every intelligent being that leaves this "world" to join the ranks and files of the work force, hundreds, maybe even more, are churned out by the super-efficient machinery of mass education - so where does that leave one? A single name amongst a myriad of other names with not even the comforting thought that that name is unique. One may be intelligent, so what? There must be at least a million souls just as smart and many, many more even more so.
Just try applying to any firm, university, college or government department asking for a chance to brighten your future and what do you get? A stereotyped form asking your name, address, sex and almost everything under the sun, all to be filled in triplicate. "Dear sir, it is with much regret that I have to inform you…." Even rejection slips are stereotyped.
Where does it all end? Is there an end? Does one merely sit down and let the world simply float by? Of course not! One has to live, but the question is how?
"Get up young man, go out into the world, the world is your oyster, make something of it." Wise words, good advice; but what is really needed is the opportunity. Unless one is born really intelligent it's a struggle uphill all the way. Everywhere one turns one sees faces… people…. competition. What a fate to be caught in a rat race, reduced to a crawling, snivelling multitude of back stabbers and cheats, where an honest person is just about as rare as can be. The wise pundits say, "Step out of it…. don't be involved." Sure, and stay wrapped up like a cloistered monk till the day that you die.
Let's face it. That's life. For all its faults, lies, traps and pitfalls it is still life and I, as a living being, have been schooled to uphold its ways - at whatever the cost. What do I gain out of it? Perhaps only the experience. As one "Peanuts" character once said, "It all seems so…. futile!" Ah, despondency…. what a catching disease you are. What does one's bank account or conscience matter when one is six feet under? After the initial tears and messages of farewell, who cares?
Ten years…… twenty years…… my future…… your future…… what future?
Last update on 02 July 2000.
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng