Thursday, August 27, 2009


Life is too often, hence unoriginally, compared to a journey, though I am sure that people are a lot happier at the end of a trip than when they reach the end of their life. Also no one can pick the starting and ending points of their metaphorical journey.

Still, between departure and arrival there's plenty of different terrains. The road could be anything between a slick expressway and a rugged narrow path twisting among stunted, thorny bushes. However, especially troublesome to me are the crossroads.

Decisions are always tough since one can never be sure of what lying ahead. With hindsight, it's really tempting to pat oneself in the back when things go well or regret one's own choice when the going gets rough. Either way I would say it's not the right attitude to take.

So far I have faced a few crossroads, the most recent ones being quitting a good job, rejecting another good job to accept a position which was poorer paid but of a totally different nature, then becoming an entrepreneur. It hasn't been all roses to follow the path I had chosen, but I had a blast spending several months to travel, gained some insight about a new line of work (then quickly got tired of it), and got to be on the employer's side of a business which opened my eyes to quite a novel view.

I admit that I've got my knees skinned and my arms pricked since at my crossroads I veered from highways to follow dirt trails, but at the same time I have immensely enjoyed the scenery. Never once did I feel compelled to revisit my decisions, for on this journey of life I am more interested in accumulating experiences than in the more popular sorts of achievement. It's my journey and my own life, after all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Shadow That Lurks

I had just finished watching the episode Broken Souls of the fascinating British TV series Foyle's War, and sat very still for a long while.

Who would have thought that Dr Novak, a very kind psychiatrist who had gone a long way out of his way to protect his patient, could commit murder? He was a Jew whose family in Poland had been killed in a Nazi concentration camp. While still stunned by the enormity of his loss, he ran into a German POW and in a flare of rage mortally struck the captured soldier on the head with a rock.

Is there also a sinister shadow lurking inside me, unbeknown to me, waiting for the right moment to strike? What I find the most disturbing is the fortuitousness of the circumstances that led to the good doctor's fatal action. He had gone to see a Bing Crosby movie, but the print of that film had not arrived so they had shown something else including a newsreel about the camp where his family had perished. Unable to continue watching, he had left for a walk and encountered the German POW on whom he fatefully unleashed his rage.

If the print for that movie had come on time, then Dr Novak would not have committed murder. With a dark shadow lurking inside a man, all it takes is a ridiculous, chancy circumstance for tragedy to happen. It's scary, and it also reminds me not to rush into judging others.

By the way, if you haven't seen Foyle's War, I would cordially recommend it. Here's a link to its official website:

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Father's Mandolin

I had always thought that there had been barely any love in me for my late father until one day at a concert I saw a mandolin. My father had had one, though it had been dark yellow in color and the one on the stage was deep brown.

It had been there, my father's mandolin, since as long as I could remember. Its pear-shaped body was kept in a blue gig bag with white pipings and hung on a wall when my father was not plucking its four pairs of strings with a small amber plectrum. He used to do quick, crispy trills which made the upbeat tunes even more cheerful.

Still the cheerful trills were not attractive enough for me to pick up the mandolin when I grew a bit older. I fell in love with the harmonic sound of chords, which led me straight to the piano in our nearby church. I can still remember the thrill when for the very first time I hit the middle C, E and G keys simultaneously. An indescribable joy flooded my whole little body, and my father's mandolin trills were immediately pushed back to the dusty corner of my abandoned interests.

During my father's long years of absence, his mandolin was languishing desolately on the wall. I once took it down and attempted to do a trill, but soon returned it to its lonely place after failing to make even a decent sound from it.

When my father came back, I was already a headstrong young man with my own values and convictions which often clashed with his, so we were just silently drifting apart. For lack of access to a piano I had switched to playing guitar, which could still give me my chords. My father picked up his mandolin once in a while, but the trills he made did not sound so cheerful any more. One day he suddenly gave the mandolin to a visitor who was expressing a keen interest in it. I felt a mild regret but quickly dismissed it from my mind.

My father died of cancer nearly ten years ago. I had all forgotten about his mandolin until one day I went to a concert. The man on stage was playing a cheerful tune with trills, and I felt humidity creeping into my eyes.

I have a mandolin hanging on a wall in my bedroom now.