Philosophical Muse : Hall of Mirrors

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I was inspired to write this post by the Wordpress Weekly Challenge titled “Worlds Colliding”.

The challenge was to share a story when we switched personas in the face of a situation or event. We wear different masks under different circumstances.

I had participated in the challenge but then it got me thinking. Instead of an anecdote, another thought came to mind – a mental musing about this subject matter told from a philosophical angle.

There are many facets / facades / masks / fronts that we put up depending on the situation that comes our way.

Take me for example.

I usually tend to be contemplative by my lonesome, toying with questions that come to mind about a lot of subject matters. But this is a sight usually shown to the person who has the most intimate connection with me. The closest person. Or those within my circle of trust.

Ironically, most people see me as a gangster due to my serious look. A couple of friends who know me a little more see my crazy, ridiculous and bombastic side. And those who know me all too well and very deeply – knows how deep the rabbit hole goes and finds the rabbit at the bottom of that hole with a broken foot trying to recover from its injuries.

When I contemplated about the many sides of me, I thought about a hall of mirrors.

You know those hall mirrors in funfairs / theme parks / circus that distort your image as you walk pass em?

The thing is, we are sort of like that hall. Our personas that are perceived by the world outside of our own are the images on those mirrors.
We have many appearances of us depending on which situation we face, which mirror we stand in front of.

People tend to only see the reflection on that mirror. Very few actually see the real person, the real you, that is standing before that mirror. Most do not bother looking past the illusion. They point and laugh and jeer at the image. They make judgements about you before realising that what they see isn’t the real you.

But then comes a beautiful part of the story.

It’s when someone opens their eyes. They step forward to touch the illusion. And they realise that it isn’t real. They turn to look around. Surrounded by a world of mirrors with varying images, they keep searching, reaching out and touching to verify.

Until their hand comes upon you, comes into contact with you.

They feel the warmth of your soul, not the cold exterior of glass. They start to reach up to your face and then look you deep in the eyes. They look within to connect to your soul, to you.
They know you, the real you. And am happy to have found you.

Every person is a mystery with a story to tell. The older the person gets, with more experiences in below their belt, the more mirrors they tend to put up.

In the end of the day, it’s about the person who is able to reach out and touch the real you amongst all the mirror images. The ones who make the effort to get to know you deeper, looking past the surface, past the illusion, at the real you.

They are the ones we should treasure.

Philosophical Muse : Travel Muse Part 2 – A Return To A New Familiarity

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And thus I return back to my home, having finished attending a training course.

It has been quite a journey, however short it may have been.
Every journey changes you, moulds you and transforms you to be the person that you will ultimately be to date.

It isn’t about going to distant foreign grounds (which in itself has its own charm of the thrill of the unknown) but rather, meeting with new people and seeing things that are different.

And once you return home, the journey has transformed you in such a way that home isn’t the same home that you left upon the embarkation of the journey.
It feels different, and somewhat foreign (not as foreign of course as the stranger land from which you’ve returned from but different).
And yet melded into this mix is the sense of familiarity and tinges of nostalgia as well.

Because home was where you planted yourself. The roots of connection stem from your soul into the very floor you walk upon under your roof. And over time your soul sprout leaves and branches of comfort.
But when you’ve gone to distance places and return, you bring back with you new seeds to be planted to add on to your little forest world, making it all the more vibrant.

There was a saying in one of the Hong Kong Ip Man films that mentioned something along the lines of “men should venture out to foreign lands during their lives”.

It’s kind of true. To open one’s mind and see the world from a different perspective.

Just like knowledge, your perception of the world around you is only as good as the amount of input you put into yourself. You read ABC books as a child, and as you grew older, you supplement that with different varieties of reading material. Every new knowledge paints a new colour to your world and occasionally, dot it with questions and curiosities that may further push you to explore for more answers.

I guess that’s how our forefathers progressed the human race. Exploration to the unknown, breaking pass the barriers that held them.

If it weren’t for new experiences, we might be living in a world today that we deem as flat instead of round. We might not realise that there are many other humans out there of different colour, race, creed, beliefs and practices.

But not only is it a teacher in the ways of mind expansion. But it is also a humbler of the soul and controller of the ego.
It becomes a humbling experience when you think you’ve been a master of your homelands, only to find out that out there are those with greater talents and skills than yourself.

The magic isn’t to be intimidated by these strangers but to learn from them. And share your knowledge and experiences with them as well. Make the world filled with variety.

I think humans were made to reunite after being separated. We scatter throughout the face of this earth to explore and later reunite and share and expand humanity’s knowledge base.

I used to live in a small shell of a world. But the more I was given a chance to explore out, the more I saw and realised and opened so many more doors. Dead-ends got broken down and new paths revealed. What seemed a hopeless turn turned out to be an avenue and path to more possibilites.

Exploration changes the world you perceive. Yes, it’s a cliche notion that has been said time and again probably not just on my blog alone, but in many other blogs as well mediums of information sharing.

But it is regardless always a good reminder to any readers passing by. That the world is indeed an oyster of experiences waiting to be discovered. And that the world we all know is just a tip of the iceberg.

And once you travel out, explore, and return you always feel the place you once knew has changed somewhat.

Oh, the world you once knew is not gone…just all the more colourful and vibrant.

As always I quote T.S Eliot :

” We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. “

Philosophical Muse : Decency For The Honest Worker

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Yesterday on my way back home I saw an ex-colleague of mine walking back from work at 1 a.m. in the morning.

I was shocked, but above that felt so sorry for him.

He was tired looking, exhausted. It reminded me of how I was when I was in the same hell hole that I escaped from just several months back. My dad who was with me told me not to comment.

“Life is like that,” he says.

That is one of the major flaws of the Asian mentality that I could never understand. Is suffering and pain such a part of our culture that we embrace it so much?

“It builds character,”

Yes it does. But there’s a difference between suffering as you fight your way out of circumstances and suffering that shouldn’t even happen in the first place.

In the case of my colleague, and me as well when I was working in the same place, it was the latter. The complications and dire situation the company finds itself in now is the result of piss poor management. Of taking on more than they can chew. Of trying to cut corners and stretch people thin in the hopes of making as much profit as possible.

It doesn’t help that the man wielding the whip himself has tantrums and anger fits and takes it out on his workers. A slave driver would be the best way to describe such a person. But even then when I think about it, it would give a bad name to slave drivers.

I’m very glad I was out of there before crap really hit the fan as it has now. Everyone is drowning in the proverbial cesspool and many have no way out of it.

The scary thing is that many companies in my country practice this sort of nasty thing. Yes it happens everywhere in the world, but such horrid working practices shouldn’t even be the subject of comparison of which is worse.

It’s sad to imagine that even at this day and age, we still don’t have the normal human decency to treat our workers fairly and properly. The people upstairs seek power and profit at the cost of blood of those below them.

Those in power take advantage of those who have no leverage to fight back. These people – mostly fresh grads, new additions to the workforce, or those that don’t have any other options – do not speak or fight back for fear of losing their opportunities. Their resumes are important. They tolerate such barbarous acts upon their persons just to have those all important words in their CV’s. To gain ‘experience’.

But is it really worth it? Is there any meaning to such mindless suffering that reaches a point where people start going into depressions and mental breakdowns. They start falling sick due to poor diets and a body overloaded with hormones imbalanced from all the stress. All for peanuts – pay that isn’t even enough to satisfy basic needs at times.

We’ve heard news of people working to death. Of people pulling all-nighters and collapsing.

It really got me thinking, what has the world come to?

I myself have been through some crap, and at a point, even nearly lost my own life. I was in the ICU from a complication that was the result of being overworked. From that moment on, I told myself that I would never allow myself to be in this situation again. My life was more important than any job could possibly pay me. When you face Death in the face, you tend to look at Life differently once you’re given another chance.

I’m not saying that such experiences makes me a natural born badass or whatnot.

I’m saying that we shouldn’t even be in this situation in the first place. More than anything I don’t want anything of this sort happening to anybody. Nobody should have to live in suffering from the malpractices of those they entrust.

The human body isn’t designed to be worked to such limits, especially not under such conditions continuously.

The thing is, most people who start off as workers are idealistic people, seeking to pursue a dream or meaning to their lives. People fresh out of school or studies who have a positive vibe and energy to want to make a difference. Who want to make a mark of their own. And that is a beautiful thing. Such enthusiasm is needed for change, to evolve our society for the better.

But when power creeps into the veins of those entrenched in their seats on top, the greed and selfishness overwhelms them and blinds them from the vision of humanity as a whole. They want to keep that power, want to control others to follow in their vision, however flawed it may be.

In a company or organisation, the management / boss / CEO / man or woman on top is the person we as workers look up to. We work on our tasks to ensure the gears of the business move. The company / organisation is like the body, the person on top the brain, and the workers the individual organs and cells that keep the body alive. If the top messes up everything goes down the drain. The brain has the power to command and control.

As we have to care for our bodies, so does the boss have to care for his / her workers.

I believe there has to be a line where we can’t cross where human decency is concerned. The blood and time of any individual on this earth isn’t worth a bunch of printed papers that has supposed value on them.

Money was meant to be a tool for trade, not a dagger that is driven into the souls of honest hardworking people.

Veterans of the workforce usually tend to go either two ways. Fight for the rights and justice of their fellow kin or just grow numb and not care at all. I’m glad to see that these days, judging by the voices everywhere, many are choosing the former instead of the latter.

It’s scary when you see some grow numb and indifferent to all the malpractices that happen. How can one allow such a thing to happen? To have someone lose their soul and humanity? To grow numb and turn their back on the quintessential concept of being a human and having care and compassion for others?

What we need I feel are not bosses, but leaders. We’ve seen it many times in social media. Those posts of comparisons between leaders and bosses. Or of videos of ridiculous bosses badgering the innocent honest workers who are so bewildered at the absurdity of the boss’s demands. There’s a reason why such media posts are so prevalent these days.

The workers have a disease plaguing them and social media serves as their voice to speak out where real voices can’t. And it’s a voice calling out for help or demanding justice.

I come from the creative industry, having been involved with studios doing animation and VFX. So I’m used to working in teams. I’ve never been a team leader but I’ve seen real leaders, and I mean real proper leaders, in action. These are the people that, even with all the pressures from their higher ups, still try to maintain the balance between duty and love for their team members.

They understand the craft and what it takes to do such a job. They not only fight for deadlines, but also for their team members when the higher ups are being very unreasonable. They teach their juniors and guide them while at the same time, juggling their own duties.

These are the qualities that are needed for leaders of an organisation or company. The dedication to the task and job at hand, the integrity and sense of responsibility, the compassion and care towards their team members.

It’s a good reference point and benchmark, an education that I will never get in school.

I saw an organisation gone wrong and how it was collapsing like sand to dust, greed of the higher ups resulting in a very heavy price to pay. Mass exodus of its resigning workers when the situation of the project is at its most critical. Too much to handle with too little hands on deck. Hatred and frustration from workers who were idealistic, hardworking and honest are thrown at the company. Word of mouth spread, telling outsiders and potential staff to avoid the company like the plague that it is. Those who haven’t left the company did their tasks half-hearted with no care anymore.

In contrast to it, I have also seen an organisation done right but had went bankrupt due to economic forces. Despite its collapse, many who worked there were still loyal to its cause. The workers were sad and some until today, still feel it, including me. Most of us are hoping for a return of such a company or another that adopts the same humane values.

But you can see the difference. You can’t win a person’s heart by force and sheer power. You can only inspire them with care, compassion, respect and example. Loyalty comes to the one who practices righteous deeds and values.

The day the good company went bankrupt was a sad day for me. When you’ve tasted heaven, most of anything else seem rather dull. My father has told me that life goes on, and that I can’t dwell in the past. I have to change my mindset and keep adapting to any new environment. If the new environment is worse that before, I have to sink down to that level and deal with it.

It’s true. But I look at things in another way.

I’ve seen what a organisation / company built upon beautiful pillars of good humanistic principals and philosophies could offer. That environment and atmosphere that makes you want to get up and not feel terrible going to work. Workers were happy and they were willing to give their all for the vision and mission of the company.

It sets a standard, a bar we have to work towards. It’s about decency towards honest hardworking people, the ones who work with ideals in their heart to be their best and pursue their goals and dreams. We can’t allow those in power who abuse others for the sake of profits to continue.

Every new generation comes with it a promise of change. And that change must be a change for the better. We have to strive for improvements. Evolution works that way. Take what is useful and necessary and discard that which is not.

The thing is life is a struggle of improvement. We struggle to better ourselves day by day. If not for you, then do it for the next generation. Cause really, at the end of the day, we leave a legacy behind when we leave this world.

We are in an age where information is flowing freely. We have an abundance of great inventions and innovations that mankind has produced. We have freedoms and peace. All thanks to our forefathers who have sacrificed so much in their fight to give us what we have today.

The question is, what kind of legacy do we leave for the next generation?