An advisory on Morality from John Donne

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptises a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Rant: Better Writing

The internet, being what it is, makes it extremely difficult to find good pieces of reading. There is almost a celebration of stupidity (think 9gag.com) in the name of humour. (In its defence, there are some memes on the site that are genuinely funny. For the most part, though, I stand with what I said.)

A reliable source of good pieces to read that I frequent is The Browser. It’s tag line, Writing Worth Reading, is spot on. Most times, when I drop in for my daily dose, there manages to be something that piques my interest. Though there is a tendency for me to gravitate towards philosophy, religion, writing and science, some of the literature there on other topics are sufficiently interesting to warrant the occasional click.

Interviews with writers are something of a special interest for me. I admire their often swift wit, and more than anything, their way with words.

/BEGIN RANT
Now and again, I wonder unhappily if it was the fault of our education system that has caused our apparent inability to string words together quite as beautifully or wittily. Our writing look like starched uniforms. Rigid, utilitarian, and a product of officialdom. Did we not get enough practice? Or worse, have we been practicing with the wrong end in mind?

English Language Teachers
‘Structure your paragraphs properly!’
‘Where’s your topic sentence?’
‘Don’t begin your sentences with But!’
‘Be precise! Say what you mean!’

My replies, respectively
Fine.’ (This one is fair enough, I suppose; considering my pepper-shaker punctuation, and a tendency to compose run-on sentences, especially when under the pressure of a examination timer, you get what i mean. Fine, I concede this.)

‘My topic sentence? I merely put in a break so that the reader would not be faced down by a monstrosity of a paragraph. Ever flipped onto a page of text that had no breaks and consequently had an overwhelming urge to just toss it? That’s what I’m trying to avoid.  My topic sentence is in the last paragraph. If you, a teacher of the language cannot see that, I do not know who can.’

‘But it makes a strong topic sentence, especially in counterpoint!’

‘Perhaps my being imprecise is the whole point. Some points have to be purposefully made vague to create an air of ambiguity. Where’s the fun in being precise about something like pole dancing, for example? Why get technical when the mind is completely able to fathom images of pole dancers without further prodding. Why limit them to what you write?’

Words have texture. Words convey a multitude of meanings beyond their dictionary definitions. Lust without texture is simply sexual desire. It should then follow that a string of words would have the same effect. It is infinitely frustrating that today I have to ‘edit out’ writing that is taught at school just so that the right timbre is conveyed.

And so I will keep on trying.
/END RANT

This was mostly a rant. The remainder of it, a recommendation to visit The Browser. If you feel you have wasted some minutes you will never get back, well, too bad. It is what it is.

[+ve] Reckless

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View from within

Driving along Mountbatten Road today, a plane flew by overhead. The midday sun casted a silhouette of a C-130 Hercules on the ground ahead of me. The sound was all to familiar to me because, for four years, I studied in a school situated near an air base.

I then thought, why not pay the school a visit? And so I did.

Memories that have laid stagnant for years played back in technicolour. In our uniforms, we sat in class just chatting and wondering where to go after school. We plotted on how to play pranks on classmates. The way we collectively agreed that the school vice-principal was being a jerk.

Happy. Reckless.

[+ve] Love is an asymptote

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credit: .craig (flickr)

So Abby and I were chatting, (on Whatsapp) and off on a irrelevant (but always fun) tangent again over her lunch.

At some point, I mentioned the oft-heard cliche: One doesn’t know true love until it’s gone.

‘That’s so SAAAD’ she replied.

Yeah, I thought. That is sad.

But perhaps I would like to retract what I said. Perhaps what I meant to say was, one will never know true love, period.

True love is an asymptote. It’s that line that an exponential curve approaches but never reaches. And if you think that too is sad, I beg to differ.

There is a certain beauty in never being able to know true love, but to always be approaching it. The same way lingerie tantalises, true love being always just out of reach might just be what keeps the flame alight. It is what will keep love songs playing, florists in business, and people in love.

The things we do for love are silly in many ways. Indeed, some might ask, why reach for something one can never achieve? Where’s the point in that? The point, I think, is in the pursuit. The joys are unforgettable, the despair often near-insurmountable. That in itself is what makes it exquisite.

And that’s not even the point.

If everything we did needed to have ‘a point’, we’d be a mighty boring race. That, I assert, we are not. Some things we must do just because.

BurnAware: The Free Optical Media Burner

Ever needed to burn a CD quickly, only to realise that the media burner that came with your PC/Mac was inadequate (it often is)?

A quick Google search turns up dozens of options that promise to be quick and easy and free and.. You get the idea.

For such purposes, I recommend BurnAware. The download is a nifty 4.4MB, and installation is quick. After installation, the memory footprint tiny too.

Upon opening the program, one is greeted with a welcoming, simple menu that looks a little like this:

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You click on what you want to burn, drag and drop the files, and the program does the heavy lifting.

Oh, and its free too! This little piece of software saved my a couple of times from having to submit projects late (people tend not to have decent media burning software installed, Nero, Roxio and the other giants are.. well.. giants that take up too much hard drive space and memory). Hopefully this helps!

[+ve] Wireless@SG does not suck

The trip to Genting was nothing if not a demonstration of how crippled one feels without the internet.

Wireless@SG, the free wi-fi service provided by various telcos, is neither especially quick nor particularly stable (it does disconnect periodically, only to come back after a little tantrum). It is, however, practically everywhere. Also, clocking in at an average of 50kB/s, it really is no slouch.

I used to whine about it a little, saying how slow, or unstable it is. Not any more. The only places that one could get barely useable wi-fi for free was at Starbucks or at MacDonald’s. The speeds are dismal in comparison, and the stability of Wireless@SG would send Genting wi-fi packing.

Being back in Singapore again, I appreciate what used to be a quotidian detail of life.

Thus, while I will not go as far as to bestow the honor of rocking my socks to Wireless@SG, I will say this: Wireless@SG does not suck.