Thursday, January 2, 2020

That Trees Do Cry

That Trees Do Cry

It could not have been less obvious. Even the foreign workers working nearby would have realised
something was amiss. A building that was closed and of little significance to them whatsoever, and yet, there was this constant stream of people - individuals, couples and families - that trickled in like wandering spirits, lingering about quietly in as much as a whisper, drifting in and out of the silent stairways, and loitering before bolted doors and unlit windows.

Hitherto they took their cameras out now and again to steal a shot here and there without getting in
each other's way. The respectful silence that permeated the air betrayed the mutual understanding that each one has for the privy of the other's need to be alone to dwell in his or her own timeless place of memorable fondness and youth.

I brought my 10 year old son along just to relive the little moments that we once had here. I vividly
remember one rare breakfast of sandwiches and coffee in the cafe by the fountain in the inner
courtyard five years ago. I couldn't remember what we chatted about, but I remember we had a
magazine and he was reading something aloud to me. I remember feeling very proud as the elderly lady at the next table beamed an approving smile at the proficiency of this young reader.

However the strongest piece of thread that binds me still to this place can be found on the parapet of the main stairways. Here it was, and still is in my eyes, the memorable resting place that me and my siblings sat with Enid Blyton's books in our hands. We loved this spot and would sit here for a while before adjourning home.

I had wanted so much to share this feeling with my son. That I did sitting there with him for a while and we had pictures taken for good measure. However, what happened next, swept me off my feet in the most enchanting way.

'Daddy... look! A slide.' I looked up and saw him sliding down the smooth terra cotta tiles. 'That was
exactly what I and my brother and sisters did too,' I smiled.

Never in my wildest dream that out of my babe's mouth comes a distant voice from my past and so miraculous a gift of vision that only he, my son, could ever have presented me so dearly.

We left shortly after and walked slowly round to the side of the red-brick building for one last time.
Surprisingly, there were still some books lining the window sill inside. They looked forlorn and sad against the algae-stainted pane, leaning out as if to take a last glimpse of us old faithfuls.

It seemed goodbyes were hard even from the inside too. Long gone were the noises of the children and the incessant steps that greeted the arrival and departure of the library visitors. Anguish draped heavy like a burial cloth.

As I walked to my favourite Sea Beam tree at the end-corner of the building, I wondered if I, amongst the thousands of old faithfuls, had done enough to help conserve this place of our youth.

A carpet of tiny flowers greeted me under the Sea Beam tree. Some fell on my head. As I stooped to pick
up some, I found a dying caterpillar lying motionless amongst the fallen flowers. It must have fallen from the high canopy too.

I looked up to see my son who by then was riding happily about in the carpark on his scooter. Will he and his generation ever know that trees do cry when a caterpillar dies? I sincerely hope so, and understand why dad and others alike are so sad today.

- Joseph Lai, 3 April 2004

In its place - a gaping hole of an entrance to the 350m Fort Canning Tunnel. A very short tunnel for a cherished place of memories and growing up for Singapore Merdeka Generation especially. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Cross Island Line on Pale Blue Dot

Recall the number of minutes of travelling time we were told can be cut on the upcoming Cross Island (MRT) Line through our precious forest that we are willing to risk and then read Carl Sagan's reflection below. Would you not be laughing and crying at the same time?

Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles), Earth appears as a tiny dot within deep space: the blueish-white speck almost halfway up the brown band on the right.

Pale Blue Dot
- by Carl Sagan 1994

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

The house is burning down, Nero, and you are fiddling away?! Hahahaha. 

Read also: Celebrating Our Rain Forest in SG50.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Eternity of a Dream

One cool December morn I woke feeling the wind blowing the frosty sea in my heart and painterly chased the fleeting clouds over the lee of my dreams.

The real journey does happen in your mind and I have a little notebook for a conspirator to listen to all my secret longings. Can you feel my heart beating upon the canvas pouch? I do. I really do.