Monday, November 28, 2005

Sorry seems to be the hardest word?

Well, that is according to some, but I don't think so.

Last Saturday, while hanging out with the guys, I went into one rather meaningful discussion with Stripey. We sometimes chat about more cerebral stuff whenever Stripey gets in the mood (I think he's into grown-up and marriage mode - something the rest of us juveniles should seriously give some thought too).

We talked about that important precursor to marriage - the proposal. I think the proposal as we know it nowadays is a modern construct. That means to say that, like the concept of dating, it really is a recent phenomenon (Yes, dating is modern too!). In the past, the proposal took the form of a suitor seeking the permission of the parents of his intended partner to marry (cultural and periodic differences aside, I think this is mostly true). The suitor - oh if you insist - the groom, does not ask the bride directly.

Nowadays, this would be somewhat unromantic. The proposal has morphed to become something more elaborate, something worth remembering... a kind of story that you tell your friends and your children about. In other words, it has to be romantic.

Therein lies the problem with the proposal - the romantic aspect of it. Because the proposal is a romantic occasion (or meant to be so, given today's expectations), it needs to be 'perfect'. The proposal event (I was about to call it 'ceremony') becomes something of a Kodak moment - it cannot be ruined by a rejection.

But you ask - isn't a proposal just something of a question? Surely the proposee reserves the right of refusal. Certainly so - there is no law or doctrine that dictates that a proposal must be accepted. However, there is a certain expectation that she (he?) accepts the proposal - a kind of emotional blackmail takes place whenever one proposes. It is almost as if a 'No' is going to ruin all the effort, all the romance, embarass the suitor in front of the audience he chose to witness the spectacle.

The more spectacular the proposal, the greater the compulsion to say 'Yes I do'. Ironic what a little romance can do to screw you up.

Oh yes, to get more to the point of what I'm leading up to, the proposal is somewhat similar to this other regular occasion. While the proposal has changed from a simple affair to the elaborate set-up it now is, the apology has been much reduced in pomp.

There are cultures where the apology is a truly elaborate affair for the sorry one: Saharan Bedouins require the apologiser to sit in camel dung and recite the Koran; South American pygmies demand that apologies be written out in the apologiser's blood; and when seeking forgiveness in medieval Turkey, one is required to postrate himself before Allah and tremble in reverential awe.

Yup, I made all that up. :) The thing I'm trying to get at is that the apology these days are really too simple: "I am sorry". 'Sorry' is too easy to say - you don't have to mean it, you don't have to be sincere. The Japanese say 'Sorry' like it is a punctuation. 'Sorry' has become a polite word, uttered to make utterances sound polite and sincere.

There's really nothing wrong with saying 'Sorry' and meaning it - I'm always appreciative when one is sincerely sorrowful (incidentally, the words 'sorry' and 'sorrow' have the same root). However, the bone I have with this issue is that the culture in which we all live in now assume that uttering 'Sorry' puts a finality to the issue. It is as if uttering 'sorry' means that all is forgiven, and all should be truly well and forgotten.

That is not so. Depending on the severity of the issue, whether one can forgive or not is hard to say. Despite time, I've not been able to forgive a particular person for a painful past hurt. My feel is that most of us are internally like this too - we may say our bygones and move on, but the memory of the hurt sticks, and it occasionally digs into one's consciousness and causes new pain.

And for the apologist? Culture dictates that the only obligation he has to the wronged person is the common courtesy of saying 'Sorry'. Sure, he may do more to atone for his perceived sin, but the very fact that it was commited in the first instance is testament to the fact that he has no perception of the pain or hurt he can cause. Where an apology isn't accepted, it is now common to label the wronged party as being unkind, being unforgiving. We are conditioned to see that person as reveling in the fact of himself being wronged.

I know my statements are not entirely fair (I apologise, but I don't care if you do accept that apology). There are people who sincerely mean to apologise, and there are those who find it easy to forgive. Life is so much easier to live if we have short memories - there's little history to dwell upon and wallow in.

Perhaps, as apologisers, we should all understand what we are apologising for. As forgivers, we should seek to forget as much as possible. The word 'Sorry' has no meaning at all - don't say it. Do it.


On that note, my dear, I am sorry for what I have done. However, I hope you are sorry too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Aspect of Expectations

Human beings are such selfish creatures.

(Author note: Before I go further, these comments don't apply to you, foccacia... views expressed here are born of the active imagination of a stilted mind)


There're so many ways for a person to be selfish, one of which, ironically, is through the setting of expectations.

The ironic bit is that some expectations are born out of good intentions. Supposing that I want you to improve, to perform at a higher level than the one you are at now. What I will do is to set some expectations of where I want to see you at, and thereby, you have something to work towards. It is a kind of win-win situation: I have standards which I want to see in you, and you know where I expect you to be.

However, an expectation, as I have learnt the hard way, is a double edged sword. Much as it serves to set a bar, it also sets a limitation. The expectation may be beyond what my abilities can achieve. The expectation may require too drastic a change in me. What then? It becomes something unattainable. The expectation becomes that little seed, when sown in such lethal ways, which blossom into the bloom of failure known as disappointment.

I don't think we expect people to change - we change our expectations knowing full well that people can't change. So many little hurts, disappointments, and broken promises litter the trash heap of junked expectations. We don't help build people by telling them what we expect of them: we are bringing them down.

Think about it: isn't the expectation a way of saying that you're inadequate now? Won't expectations hobble any dreams, perhaps lower the lofty heights that the 'expectee' might achieve? An unattainable expectation may serve to discourage, while an attainable expectation might mean undermining one's abilities - expectations, after all, aren't made with the expectee's interests at heart.

Therein lies the problem with an expectation - it is selfish. It is a creation of the expector, with little or no consultation from the expectee. Even in the instance where the expectee's opinions are sought, the expectee's views and critique invariably shapes the expector's expectations, whether or not the expectee liked it or not.

In other words, he has been judged even before the formal process (if there's ever such a thing) of expectation setting is concluded.

The question then, is: should we expect anything at all then, knowing that we open ourselves to the possiblity of disappointment, knowing that we limit the achievements we hope to see?

One can only hope (have faith; it is far better this way).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

Perhaps it is much better to throw in the towel, quit trying and admit that "YES! I'm not strong enough. I don't deserve YOU!". But having accepted the lifeline, I acceot that there is an opportunity to change how you feel.

Perhaps you will be impatient, you won't wait. That is fair - I shouldn't be the reason why you're being held back.

Perhaps I'm fundamentally unchangeable. This means that no matter how hard I try, I cannot pass off being something I am not.

Perhaps you've seen me for who I really am: insecure, weak, defective. I am not all these. I am sometimes these and I am sometimes something else. Are you sure you really know me?

Perhaps you will give me a shot at redemption. I wanted to traverse the course with you since the beginning, and you gave me the assurance that you wanted to do the same. Why can't we work together on it now?

Perhaps I shouldn't wonder - what good comes of asking what if? Live life with no regrets, and perhaps 'perhaps' will no longer be a word muttered this often.

I don't have the conviction now. I'll prove to you that there is one.

A fork in the middle of the road

Qn: What do you do when you come to a fork in the road of Life?

Ans: Look for a spoon.


Well, it isn't funny, of course, but it seems like a large part of my last 2 years of existence have followed that principle: screw the fork in the road, I'll sit on my ass and chew on it.

Not any more.

Life does not wait for one to idle. It does not wait for one to think things through and sit on one's rear end. Life takes the approach of a relentless assault onwards. It forces you to make decisions, and when you don't make those damn decisions (like... left road or right road) it'll take the (likely) unfavourable one for you.

So here I am, led unwillingly along the path of Life, standing at the cusp of no return. The signs that led me along this road were obvious and loud; on my part, I was blind and ignorant, a show of blatant disregard for the obvious. Now I face a difficult task ahead: I have to change or lose that which is so important to me. There is no alternative.


So, how is it possible to change one's nature? It certainly does not happen overnight, and it does not happen without a fundamental re-wiring of one's internal psyche. My only recourse is to pray about it (God answers prayers). It's not a coward's way out - it really is the best antidote to salve the pain.

Try. I always try. "Do. Or do not. There is no try." so said Yoda.

So right you are.