Archive for the 'Equally good stuff' Category

A philosophical discourse

December.26. 2016

I had a discussion with someone a while back about reality.

The person said, “Reality doesn’t exist. It’s different for everyone. How do you know what my reality is?”

He’s got a point.

Everyone’s reality is different.

But at the end of the day, if you go into a bank and hand the teller a $10 note and tell the teller that it’s a $100 note because that’s your reality, he might have a hard time believing you.

The simple truth is, reality does exist.

There is an absolute reality out there.

It’s just that we interpret it differently, according to our personal experiences and biases. But just because we have different takes on it doesn’t make it less real.

A $10 note is a $10 note is a $10 note.

Nothing anyone can say will ever change that fact.


Sorry seems to be the easiest word

July.13. 2016

The Chilcot report came out last week, and it was interesting to see Tony Blair’s response.

In a statement, he takes full responsibility and ‘apologizes sincerely’ for taking the nation to war.

It reminds me of an incident a few years back in another country.

It was a case involving a few men who attacked another man. They bludgeoned him with every weapon they could find and beat his body into a pulp.

There was a huge outcry and the men were caught.

In front of the judge, the men were very contrite. One of them said to the judge, “Sorry Sir, we won’t do it again.”

Yes, sure.

That’s what Mr. Blair forgot to add, he won’t do it again.

Got come got go

July.7. 2016

Every human relationship is a transaction. An old Chinese saying sums it up perfectly, “Got come, got go.”

This means if something comes in, something has to go out too.

If you give me something, I must return in kind.

This may sound like a calculative and cynical approach to life. Is this the only reason for relationships, so that we can take advantage of one another?

But let me give a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you have a good friend (or so you think), and every birthday (his) you send him a gift but when it comes time for your birthday, he conveniently forgets it.

How long do you think will you keep on sending him those gifts?

Or you have another friend, (again so you think) and one day, you need his help with a certain problem but at that critical moment (for you) he is nowhere to be found.

Will you still call him a friend after that?

In my business, people are extremely touchy about supporting each other.

The operative phrase is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

So if they give a concert, be sure to show your face because if you don’t, don’t expect them to show up at yours either.

(In the event that you still expect them to come to your concert even if you don’t show up at theirs, you’re either an egomaniac or a fool. What makes you so special that people should come and support you if you don’t support them?)

Blogging thrives on this ‘got come got go’ mentality.

If someone comes to your blog and post comments, be sure to return the favor, otherwise don’t expect them to be back.

I had a few people who used to come to this blog and post comments. At first I made valiant efforts to visit their blogs and return the favors too. But there is only so much of their cute kids that I could take and need to know so I stopped going after a short while and sure enough they stopped coming to my blogs too.

Which is perfectly fine with me.

This leads to a corollary to the law.

To be sustainable, the ‘come’ has to match the ‘go.’

If the ‘go’ comes at great cost to you, the ‘come’ may not be worth the effort.

In other words, if the required investment in time and effort is too great, then sometimes, it’s better to dispense with the return altogether.

So why is this good to know?

It puts you in the driver’s seat. You get to decide how much ‘come’ you want in your life.

First, despite what you may think, you’re not that special. Ultimately, the only person people care about is themselves, otherwise known as ‘Number 1.”

If you want people to care about you, start caring for them first.

And weigh the effort versus the return.

If it costs too much to perform the ‘go’, then forget about it. But don’t feel bad if you don’t receive the ‘come’ one day.

A beautiful moment

May.27. 2016

I just saw the news today. Our great President at the site of the world’s first atomic bomb detonation in a populated area.

Very touching, very moving, very beautiful.

Now how about the Prime Minister of that country going to Nanking next and acknowledging the bloodbath that took place there a few years before that horrific event.

Because horrific events will set off other horrific events.

I think they call that karma. I prefer to think of it as part of the inner workings of the universe.

If you want to do dastardly deeds onto other people, expect dastardly deeds to be done unto you.

No point whining about it.

The perversity of human nature or how to be a fool

March.19. 2016

Years ago, in one of my primary school textbooks, there was a story about a man and his camel.

The two were sleeping in the desert. It was a particularly cold night. The man was in a tent, the camel outside.

After a while, the camel said to the man, “Master, it’s very cold out here, can I stick my feet into the tent?”

The master, being a kind man, said, “Yes of course.”

The camel put his feet in the tent. Then after a while, he said, “Master, my legs are cold, can I put them into the tent?”

The master again said, “Yes of course” and the camel put his legs into the tent.

Well, you know the rest of the story. The camel ended up sleeping in the cozy tent while the master was left out in the cold.

Now, you can read this as a fable of human kindness or you can read it as an allegory of the perversity of human nature—the more you give some people, the more they want from you.

And if you expect them to be grateful, you’d be very much mistaken because the perversity of human nature is such that it includes zero gratitude for any kindness received.

Not only will they be ungrateful, in the end they will usurp your place and kick you out into the cold.

The perversity of human nature.

The kinder you are to some people, the less they appreciate and respect you.

To be kind to them the first time is to be a good human being, to be kind a second time is to be a fool.

How to become a virtuoso of life

July.30. 2015

My life has been defined by one mission, achieving virtuosity in life.

Virtuosity to me simply means mastery, understanding what it takes to do something easily and effortlessly.

The key word here is effortless.

Effortless does not mean without effort, it means not having to exert more effort than you have to.

For example, when I play guitar, there is absolutely no effort involved at all.

I simply pick up the guitar and the fingers are moving about on the strings by themselves. I am like an observer watching them do their thing.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no effort in my fingers.

It just means that the effort is so minimal it seems effortless.

How did I develop this effortless touch?

From years of playing.

Years of experience have taught me exactly how much force to exert to pluck the strings and that’s exactly what I do.

I exert the energy required and not one ounce more.

My search for virtuosity led me to identify the basic components that must be present before virtuosity can occur

The discovery became the basis for my first book, the Art of Virtuosity.

In that book, I listed the necessary conditions for virtuosity to occur.

These are lightness of touch, looseness of body, fluidity of movement, rhythm, economy and release.

They are universal principles of virtuosity, present in all manifestations of virtuosity.

Take painting for instance.

A good painter is defined as someone who has mastered a light, fluid, rhythmic and economical touch in his brush strokes.

Have you ever seen a master painter with a heavy clumsy touch?

Or for that matter, a martial artist?

Or an athlete?

Even in boxing, a pugilistic art based on brute force, consider Mohammed Ali’s famous line, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Look at any virtuoso and you will see the same qualities in their movements.

In life, I’ve found the same conditions and attributes to be true.

In life, to achieve mastery, one must also move lightly, fluidly with grace and rhythm, and with economy.

These are all necessary conditions if you want to live an effortless life.

Next, some ideas on how to achieve effortlessness in life.

The paradox of paradise

January.1. 2015

Every religion seems to have its own vision of the afterlife, of paradise, but they seem to tell more about the people who came up with the visions than the afterlife itself.

For example, people who are downtrodden dream of a paradise where they will be free. Case in point, the spirituals of the old South.

People who are poor, for them paradise is a place where they will attain a position higher than the rich. Case in point, the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.

And people who are beset with problems in their present life dream of a trouble-free and carefree paradise where they don’t have to work, where all they do is laze around serenaded by angels playing harps. That seems to be the definition for the rest of us.

So what does this say about those who dream of 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise? Clearly, lust is no barrier to paradise too

Somewhere in the Philippines, on some mountain, is a paradise on earth—filled with beautifully manicured gardens and pretty maidens presided over by the Son of God himself.

But who takes care of the gardens? Surely not the Son of God, he’s too busy consorting with the maidens.

I can just imagine some guy arriving at the paradise on earth to be greeted by the Son of God.

“Welcome to paradise, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is you’re in paradise, the bad news is you’re the gardener.”

The paradox of paradise. It can’t feel much like paradise if your job is to slave over the gardens.

Or some pretty maiden arriving at the afterlife to be greeted by another keeper of paradise.

“Welcome to paradise, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is you’re in paradise and the bad news is your job is to service some scruffy guy who has just laid down his life for the cause.”

Our concepts of paradise are so banal my local parish priest constantly makes jokes about it.

My favorite is this one.

Three guys arrived in heaven to be greeted by St Peter.

The first one came up and St Peter asked him. “So were you ever unfaithful to your wife?”

The man was full of remorse as he said, “Yes, but only three times.”

St Peter said, “Because you were unfaithful three times, you only get a compact car to drive in heaven.”

The second guy came up and St Peter asked him the same question and he answered, “Only two times, St Peter.”

“Okay,” St Peter said. “Two times, you get to have a medium sized car to drive in heaven.”

The third one came up and when asked the same question, he said proudly, “Not even once, I was a faithful husband all my life.”

St Peter said, “Well done my son, you get to drive a luxury car in heaven.”

Two weeks later, the first two guys met the guy with the luxury car at a stoplight in heaven and they noticed he was crying.

So they asked him, “Why are you crying? You should be happy, you have a luxury car to drive.”

He said, “I just saw my wife, she’s on a skateboard.”


December.4. 2014

You may have experienced this before.

You’re going through life perfectly happy, content with the way things are going, and then one day, something happens, and you experience a seismic shift in perception, and something you have never seen before suddenly becomes very clear to you.

Perhaps it has to do with a particular problem in life.

Or a deep philosophical issue.

(Or a guitar technique that’s been troubling you.)

When that moment occurs, it’s almost as if you’ve broken through a barrier.

One minute you’re on one side, the next, you’re on the other.

Now the amazing thing is, before the shift occurs, you have absolutely no idea what lies on the other side or that the barrier even exists.

But once it occurs, it’s as if it’s the most natural thing to have happened.

This is the greatest irony of life, the ultimate catch-22.

In order to get to the other side of the barrier, you’ll have to know it exists, but to know it exists, you’ll have to get to the other side first.

The only way, I’ve found, to break the cycle is to experience that life changing moment, that seismic event that alters your perceptions dramatically.

It happened to St Paul on his way to Damascus. (Yes, I know this is a mythical event but it does illustrate the point).

And it happened to me a few years back when I was involved in a minor mishap on the road.

And I’ve seen it happen to my students a few times.

I believe a particular group of religious adherents might call this moment ‘being born again,’ and that’s perhaps a good way to describe the experience. (This, however, does not imply in any way that I agree or disagree with the appropriateness of those terms to describe that particular experience.)

How to beat your flock into submission

October.31. 2014

Despots throughout history have understood the power of God to establish their legitimacy.

It’s uncanny, almost without exception, every ancient ruler was clued in onto this secret.

From the Egyptian pharaohs to ancient Chinese emperors to the later Aztec civilization, every despot worth his salt had claimed a direct connection to God, some even to the point of calling themselves “Sons of God.”

God is a handy tool.

Because if you have God on your side (or better still if you are God himself) no one will dare to question your authority.

It’s either obey me or suffer eternal damnation. (Yes, I know I’m simplifying things here. For ancient rulers, it was more about a mandate from heaven than any punishment in the afterlife.)

But as with every good racket, others soon began to discover the secret and of course, they too wanted in on the action.

And that’s how the phenomenon of “religious leaders” was born.

But these “religious leaders” were really political leaders operating under the cover of religion. What they wanted was political domination, not spiritual authority.

And they were smart; they took the idea one step further.

If God is so potent a tool, why not just dispense with the political angle altogether and go straight to God?

This was how one of the most bizarre episodes in religious history occurred, the Spanish inquisition. During those dark ages, the so-called leaders of the church assumed even greater power than their political leaders, the kings and emperors.

But those were the bad old days, you say, these days, we’re too smart and educated to be conned and subjugated like that. We can see through any would-be religious imposter.

But you would be wrong.

Everywhere in the world, it seems, religious fundamentalism is on the rise, dominated by a small number of clergymen, operating under the same self-righteous sense of infallibility and tolerating no dissent from anyone.

And seemingly smart and educated people all over the world are being hoodwinked by their propaganda, some to the point of giving up their lives.

Anyone who wants to study the methods of religious powermongers would have to study David Koresh, perhaps the greatest religious imposter who ever lived. (And yes, he too claimed to be God.)

I used to think that Koresh ruled over his flock through the sheer force of his charm and charisma, but after watching some TV documentaries, I’ve began to understand that his real weapon was fear. He instilled the fear of eternal damnation into his flock and from then, it was anything goes for him.

Truly, God as a tool to control and manipulate people is second to none.

It is more powerful than any army, more powerful than any ideology, more powerful than all the weapons in the arsenals of all the nations on earth.

Because you’re dealing with people’s souls and fears, mostly the fear of eternal damnation.

Because if a leader claims to have God on his side, any dissent against him automatically becomes a dissent against God, and who would dare risk the wrath of God by doing that.

The easy way to achieving your heart’s desires

June.22. 2014

There’s an energy out there, and it’s completely free and available to anyone who wants it.

Harness it and it will give you anything you want.

And the truly amazing thing is, this energy never runs dry, the more you use of it, the more you have of it.

What is this miracle energy?

Here’re a few clues.

Think of something you love doing.

Like perhaps playing the guitar. The guitar is your passion. You can’t stop playing it. Every spare chance you have, you’re holding it in your hands, playing it.

Under those circumstance, you’re soon a pretty awesome player, there’s no way you won’t be good with all that practice.

Or perhaps you’ve started a business, perhaps a food outlet.

You pour your heart into your business.

First thing in the morning you’re working on it, last thing at night, you’re working on it. The passion you have in what you’re doing is manifested in your offerings – the best food in town.

People have palettes, they can tell when something tastes good and when it doesn’t, they can tell when a dish has been cooked with love and passion, and when it’s quickly thrown together from some cheap recipe.

Soon word gets around and you’re thriving – you’ve accomplished your goal of succeeding in your business.

Or perhaps you love gardening and you spend all your time tending to your plants – watering them, feeding them, making sure they get your constant attention.

Under these conditions, your plants grow and thrive. There’s no way they will not thrive with all the love and care you lavish upon them.

People compliment you on your ‘green thumb; but you know better, it has nothing to do with a green thumb, it’s the love and energy you pour into your plants.

I can give more examples but I guess by now you’ve gotten my point.

To understand better how this energy works, turn the examples around.

So perhaps you don’t really enjoy playing the guitar, you’re only doing it because your parents think you should play an instrument. So everyday, you put it the requisite amount of time and you can’t wait for it to be over and done with, so you can go back to your other more ‘enjoyable’ pursuits.

Do you think you will become a good player under those circumstances?

The same is true of running a business and tending to your plants. (I can attest to the latter. Every plant I’ve had inevitably dies due to lack of attention. Luckily, I have a good excuse – I don’t have a ‘green thumb.’)

There’s an easy way and a hard way to achieving your dreams.

I prefer the easy way.

And nothing is easier than finding this limitless source of energy and harnessing it to achieve your heart’s desires.