Archive for July, 2012


* writers note: this is simply a section of writing a produced half written to myself a week ago. I could have adapted it for the blogosphere audience but decided to leave it as it is because any delays might become permanent as I tend to procrastinate such administrative edit-like practices. It also introduces a few ideas that I don’t conclude. I’ll get to them another time.*

This morning I am fasting until supper time, I sit now in the cafeteria area at st. Andrews village where we are staying and holding school for the Vietnamese kids. They are not what I expected at all – I thought that they would be poor kids taken out of poverty like the one’s I spent the first half of the year working with, they showed up last Sunday with Galaxy tablets and iPhones, gouchi bags and DC shoes and so my perspective changed – welcome to first world missions. Most of these kids are from high class families in Vietnam, one of the kids that I am personally responsible for as an example has a father who owns a hotel on the beach front of Ha Long – the biggest tourist destination in Vietnam. He showed my a picture on a post card:

image

There is a range though, Andrew (I’ll call the youngest kid Andrew as a code name) doesn’t seem to be as well off as the rest of them. He uses a cheap little Nokia cell phone, his parents may have sent him off with it as opposed to a more expensive phone, but I doubt it. He is a total technogeek. All of these kids are, but about 30% of them are in deep, not daring a trip to the bathroom without their tech in hand. Andrew is a fascinating little 11 year old though. I’ll get back to him but first I must mention Douglass (another code name). Doug is also an 11 year old but this is a troubled kid. A friend of mine also ministering as a missionary here is convinced he’ll be a ganglord with a baseball bat leaning over a disloyal worker in a basement one day later in life if he carries on on this path we’ve intersected him on. He seems to lack a conscience and is totally self involved – meaning that he will do all that he can get away with. He erupts into a vicious grin once in a while after he has just teased some other kid or somehow managed to inflict pain upon someone else. A few times I have arrived and found him grinning next to some kid with a sad expression. Doug laughs as he explains to me in broken English that “hahaha, no nothing happen ha ha *insert Vietnamese shouting and pointing in a mocking fashion towards the sad kid* ha ha, nothing happen”. We’ll continue to try and show this kid love and discipline.

*Writers note: these are all great kids though and let it be known that I grew very fond of them all and am eager to watch their progress through life. Many of them have really great potential and I was privileged to be a part of their journey in reaching it.*

Journal 2012-06-12
I spent time in the Buddhist tooth relic temple today in Chinatown. This was the first Buddhist temple I’ve ever been to. I was politely asked to remove my hat as I approached the inner doors by a guide lady. She couldn’t speak English but the hand gestures were clear enough and she smiled with her eyes when I removed my hat and stuffed it into my back pocket.

I took many photos, it was difficult to do so though because of the strange lighting. Most of the temple is dark with bad lighting of the overwhelming- red and gold in the architecture and statues of the 100 Buddhas around each of the 20 or so larger Buddhas. Then there is a very large Buddha guarded on either side by golden guard statues with angry expressions and angry weapons in their hands. This big Buddha is completely gold in colour with a hand raised as if to bless those in the room and a smirk to rival any other. There are lights shining brightly onto this Buddha from all directions reflecting off of the statues gold with the effect that any attempt at amateur photography yields only an overexposed blur. I’m sure they do this on purpose.

I had a long conversation with a serving lady in the temple who has been a Buddhist for about 15 years. She tried a few Japanese religions before becoming a Buddhist. She said that she had been searching for happiness and truth (in her own words) and truth (which was implied – being the foundational aspect of Buddhism – the search for and ascent unto pure truth). She said that she had found all of this in Buddhism and that she had a sharper and quicker mind since becoming a Buddhist. I smirked inside as she begrudgingly and slowly attempted to put this idea of her quicker mind into words.

Half way through our conversation she stopped and stepped aside to help a young man in a trendy blue v-neck and a backpack to a little red card which he then wrote the names of his family on (5 Mandarin symbols). He took the card and placed it amidst flowers at the base of a little glass lantern and she instructed him in placing it upon a table where it joined 25 other lanterns – “he is acquiring a blessing for his family” said my guide lady friend as she returned to me, having observed that I waited for her and for this little ceremony to be completed. As I enquired more of her and her religion she invited me to study more on the topics I asked about. I told her that I had been searching for the same things as her – “peace, happiness and truth but that I had found it in Jesus Christ” and that I believed there was some truth in Buddhism but it wasn’t all true, as opposed to Jesus’ teachings. The conversation continued and she invited me to the library upstairs where they keep literature and the teachings of the Buddhas. There is also a monk scholar there who she recommended I speak to. I hope to take her up on this suggestion. I would like to hear what a fully fledged Buddhist has to say on matters of truth and spirituality.

**Writer’s note: What follows are some thoughts directly transcribed from one of my favourite moleskin notebooks that I carry around and record my thoughts, questions and ideas in and in italics are my current thoughts on the transcription. These are mostly curiosities that may or may not end up as longer posts in the future. I have a stack of molskins, the following excerpts are only about 30% of one of them. I hope to use more of them with more finesse later.

I am curious: what was the attitude of the early christians and general educated public (pre-Athenasias) toward the scriptures (before the canon was constructed)?

I realise that a rational belief doesn’t quite cut it for tough situations. A purely rational belief doesn’t go far enough, only a belief coupled with faith goes far enough to bring relief and peace when we run into trouble too big for us.
** I have been slowly reading through Romans, and chapter 7 specifically from the message version comes to mind with regard to the comment above.

Why is it that I continue to go to church at all? To continue to be encouraged to believe.
** A friend of mine TUE and I call ourselves and others like us coffee-shop christians. The kind of christian that often doesn’t feel comfortable in a normal Sunday church service. I realise that church serves (among a few others) the following purposes:
– fellowship: being in contact with other believers who can support and understand your world view.
– edification: being put into contact with good solid teachings on the fundamentals and complexities of the christian faith.
– service: being in a community that helps to put you to work practicing your faith so as to have a well rounded faith – practical and theoretical for the sake of a respectable (and not hypocritical) pursuit of truth.
– preaching: a place to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard or grasped it so that they might begin their own pursuit of it.

What this year has taught me (2011):
– I am smart; I enjoy teaching; I like robots; I miss fighting; I like assignments not tests; faith > belief; I can do this romantic relationship thing.
** I doubted for a long time whether I was actually capable of maintaining a mature and good romantic relationship. 9 months with theillustratedwriter.blogspot.com have taught me that I can.

On post FINAL DESIGN dissatisfaction: one has to learn to focus on the things that one has done right. You can’t; and it’s too easy to focus on the mistakes. Even though there are so many things that are/were correct.
** A note on human nature I think. Surely this must be adopted into any successful human philosophy – obtaining the ability to consider the mistakes and dwell on the successes instead of the opposite. Does Christianity preach this? I think so – the concept of the grace of God deals with this.

Below are my notes from the planning for the predating outing on which I hoped to impress the illustrator:

image

** it worked

How to write music? What way works for me? Do I start with guitar or words?
** I must still discover the answers to this. I only have one song with both lyrics and words. The words came after the music. A lot of acoustic guitar (as opposed to electric) and practice with singing this year (2012) has helped a lot.

Humility = accepting other people’s flaws.
** Not one’s own.

On challenging people to improve upon a flaw: this is good but making them feel bad is not alright. Maybe it is? But how do we/I balance this art? Show acceptance? How?
** This is a question that should come up for any leader. Part of the answer may be found in Hebrews 12 with regard to discipline being painful for the moment but reaping the final result of righteousness.

Humility, shyness and fear. How are they related? Shyness – there is pride in this too.

Should we be careful to have less regard for people as well as more regard for God. Are these directly inproportional?

So what if you gain the whole world (like professorship and academics) but/and lose your soul? Do I follow Wilke or Ingles or Jesus?

Some thoughts on meaning in life:
Ravi:
– Wonderment
– people/friends/family

Frankl:
– love of a person
– hope for a future something
– an activity to keep one occupied
(All of these are items based in the future)

** CS Lewis: Don’t be too concerned with the future or the past because neither exist such that one may be lead astray from reality based truth. What about time transcendent truths (those which are based in the future but we know them to be true now) like Frankl’s hope and Ravi’s wonderment? These become present tense. Hope of a future something is only edifying then when it is an assured hope. Christianity calls faith “the assurance of what is hoped for”.

The role of relationship? A helper. Someone to pursue life with.
**A partner in the pursuit of all life has to offer.

Notes from Thesis work in Mechanical Engineering final year:

image

The end of the world: should we fear it as christian?
** I am still unsure of the answer to this. We should be nervous but confident. When the day comes we will be in awe. Neither/both fearful and full of joy. Our Lord and saviour will be returning – but we will face judgement in the face of his glorious and frightening perfection. Judgement founded on grace toward us who have come to him in need though. So awe rather than fear I think.

Ahh wow, Singapore – this city gets me, it understand me. It provides a 24 hour Starbucks 10 meters away from a pristine and perfect subway. It has clear and clean walkways for pedestrians and cyclists. It has the beauty of high rise buildings with their lights, blue tinted windows and gun-metal grey architecturally alluring angular walls, reaching for the sky in pure prideful self indulgence (buildings are tall here because they can be, that is all) and an atmosphere of forestry due to the beautiful green grasses, South East Asian trees and the many twisting lakes and rivers winding through the bright streets and shining cars and busses. This is what strikes me most and first about this country compared to South Africa, nothing is dusty. I haven’t seen dust in my 3 days here so far – everything is clean and nothing is any less than its true colour. Everything seems to be bright. The gray roads even seem to shimmer like silver and the sidewalks like precious stones.

image

Singapore city (c) JSB

Thud thud thud, went the sound of my feet as I took my first run through this concrete jungle this morning. I woke up early enough to take a 30 minute run and be back at st. Andrews village before breakfast. My brand new New Balance running shoes were perfect for the occasion, new like everything else in Singapore. This city is a shopping mall. Actually it’s like some grand city creator opted away from the cheaper brands and walked straight into the designer city chop, picked Singapore in it’s expensive packaging off of the top shelf and payed for it with a Platinum Credit card. Unwrapped it from it’s pricey plastic wrapper and placed it in the ocean for the amusement of the Chinese, Indonesian and other South East Asian people. This city is fresh like a Samsung Galaxy S3 right out of the box, comes with its batteries pre charged and like an Asus Transformer: Primed to go.

I run out through the automated booms unnecessarily guarding st. Andrews village from one of the safest places on earth. I take a left through a group of Asian school kids making their way to school for morning classes. I keep my pace up, measuring my stride by my breathing, not growing tired simply because of how entertained my mind is at the people, streets, buildings, grasses and Singapore river which has now come up beside me as I move through the streets. I am amused, I am very amused. 1.3 gadgets per person as I get to a bridge girded by purple flowers, I have never seen such a technology integrated culture before. I am reminded as I join the runners walkway next to the river of two nights before when in my jet lag I took a walk to an all night Chinese diner through dark alley ways and obscure corners in the shadow of the government housing apartment skyscrapers with my eight thousand rand tablet loosely in my hand, not a fear in the world. My South African nerves took a few minutes to calm and then the safety of this world sunk in. Thud thud thud, the feel of my feet hitting the perfect pavement still reverberating through my body as I pass old Chinese men and women stretching in Tai Chi stances against the railings by the river. I make a mental note: “stop to stretch in a tai chi fashion when you’re too tired Jeremy, that’ll be cool”.

“I should probably turn back” I think to myself, 07:55, I read the time on the watch of a 5 foot tall Chinese lady runner because I can’t understand her Mandarin when I point to my wrist in the global sign language of the developed world, noting that 25 minutes have passed and I’m getting quite far from my base. I don’t want to stop though, this is too good. A perfect running experience, the pain of the air straining through my lungs and the developing stiffness in my calves are a dull backdrop to the sights, sounds, smell, atmosphere of where I am. Dull like the streets of Pretoria – a whole nother world, more than a world away.

Soon I’m in the city, and an hour later I’m finally back at st. Andrews village. Having gotten lost in the city and circled around with the help of locals until I finally found myself in a familiar area and on my way back to Patong Pasir, my Singaporian home suburb.

“Glorious” I sms to a friend back home in South Africa. That run was glorious. This city is almost perfect. Only three days in and I am enthralled with what I have seen.

%d bloggers like this: