During this Christmas and New Year season, it is appropriate to reflect on some wise sayings by some wise men (and women).
My fellow blogger and friend Chun See once quoted Shirley MacLaine (US movie actress, 1934-?): "Fear makes strangers of people who should be friends". Chun See also likes to quote song lyrics, e.g. from Andy Williams' song, May Each Day - "May you make friends with each one you meet" in my blog entry here.
I will return Chun See his favours by quoting him a few more good ones:
"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend".
- William Blake, English engraver, illustrator, & poet (1757 - 1827)
"He hasn't an enemy in the world - but all his friends hate him".
- Eddie Cantor, US comedian & singer (1892 - 1964)
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
- Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)
In addition, when ushering in the New Year, we usually sing Auld Lang Syne. I have always been wondering what the song title means. Frankly, I also find the lyrics "Should all acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind" quite a weird and even bad thing to say to your acquaintances. The song seems to be persuading us to forget our friends in the New Year, although I am pretty sure that this is not what is really meant.
So I googled for information about this song. Below is what I found and extracted from a 4 Jan 2006 entry of JustJane's blog about the same subject:
What way better to begin the year than to sing this confusing if not contradicting lyric? Should we remember or forget them? Perhaps this is a case by case basis. It is kind of phrased like a question so maybe we should remember what is worth remembering and don't waste time on those you care to forget.
Also, we sing this every year but everyone gives me a puzzled look when I ask them what the phrase "Auld Lang Syne" means. I looked it up and found it is a very old Scottish song from the 1700s that loosely translated, means "for times gone by".
It is pertinent to cite here two recent incidents about making friends and enemies; and about forgiving and forgetting.
Date: 20 Dec 2006 (Wed)
Venue: East Coast Park
Persons involved: A colleague/skater (whom I shall call CS in short, and I don't mean his height) and a middle-aged couple (whom I shall call M for the man and W for the woman).
CS has just changed into his in-line skates while sitting in his car. The car door was still ajar and the adjacent few car park lots were empty. Before CS could move out on his skates and close his car door, a Volvo car came along and parked in the adjacent lot, coming very close to CS car's open door. W in the front passenger seat could not get out of the car so she wound down the window.
W: Would you mind moving away so that I could get out?
CS: Can you please give me some time? You see, I am a learner skater and I move quite slowly on skates. Anyway, there are so many other lots available, I don't understand why you must park right next to my car.
W: This is a public carpark you know? I can park anywhere I like. Since you don't know how to skate, Why can't you go elsewhere to learn your skating?
CS: I will skate anywhere I want, including this carpark which is public for skaters as well, you xxx [word deleted, meaning 'donkey' or 'backside']
W: WHAT DID YOU SAY?
CS: I SAID XXX.
M (speaking for the first time): That is too much. Apologise to her or I will call my lawyer to sue you.
CS (after much thought and deliberation): Okay..., I am sorry.
W: Sorry for what?
CS: Sorry for calling you an XXX [with wilful emphasis on the last word].
W (even angrier): WHAT?
CS: [Repeated the same answer in defiance.]
W (extremely angry): Your eyes are twitching!
CS: My eyes twitch even when I am not angry. You want to see a letter from my doctor?
W: Okay next time don't do it again.
CS: Do it again? Please lah, I hope I won't ever meet you again.
At this point another colleague intervened and a disastrous Third World War was narrowly adverted. As fate would have it, it turned out that later that evening, CS really bumped into (and I don't mean it literally) the couple again on the cycling track. (CS was skating while the couple was training for the marathon.) At MGC's persuasion, CS shook hands with M and waved and smiled to W. All unpleasant exchanges that happened earlier that evening were forgiven and forgotten by everyone involved (except me). Like MGC, I admire CS for having the humility, courage, magnanimity and initiative to make up with the couple. Well done, CS.
Date: 21 Dec 2006 (Thu)
Venue: Maxwell Food Centre
Persons involved: Three colleagues (including MGC), another middle-aged couple (I shall call the man M1) and I
It was lunchtime at the food centre. As it was very crowded, we requested to share a table with the middle-aged couple. I noticed that the man was drinking coffee in an antique-looking cup. It smelled very fragrant.
I: Excuse me, may I know which stall did you order the coffee from?
M1: Oh it's from this stall just behind us. I tell you, his coffee is good. Other stalls' coffee cannot make it one.
(Convinced, I ordered a cup of coffee. It was indeed very good.)
M1: Do all of you work around here?
I: No we work in Science Park. How about you?
M1: Me? I am retired.
MGC: Retired? Just being curious, in your opinion what is the ideal age for retirement?
M1: I am a retired civil servant aged 57 who left service several years ago. You should not be thinking about retirement if you don't have a total of S$2 million in retirement savings for husband-and-wife.
I (slurping my 60-cents rickshaw noodles): I think it all depends on what standard of living you want. If your lifestyle is very simple
M1: I was with NPB.
I: NPB? Do you know Chun See?
M1: Of course I know him. I was his boss for a number of years.
I: Good. Then you can join us at yesterday.sg.
With that, I asked for his name card. I look forward to the start of a new friendship with my new-found friend.
I hope that the two real stories that I related above managed to warm your heart a little this holiday season. Please find it in your heart to forgive anyone (including me) for all the wrong things he/she might have said or done that could have offended you.
Incidentally, the young man (my elder son) was born today 15 years ago at around 9 pm. As he was delivered in Mt Elizabeth Hospital, the gynaecologist must have abandoned his Christmas dinner and braved the massive Orchard Road jams just to rush down to deliver my boy. A big thank you to Mr Teoh S H. And thank God for blessing me with a healthy and brilliant child, an invaluable Christmas present which I will treasure and love forever. (This does not mean that I treasure my younger son any less. He is worthy of a separate blog entry which is no less inspiring. I will certainly blog about it, maybe at his next birthday in October.)
I remember carrying my elder son for the first time in my arms when he was a newborn. The feeling as a first-time father is simply ecstatic. It is very difficult to describe in words but those of you who have had the same experience will know what I mean.
Before I forget, here's wishing a very Happy Birthday to the young man.
My gratefulness also goes out to my dear 干女儿 (blogo god-daughter) Elaine who gave me a very meaningful and thoughtful Christmas present. I will blog about it when I am done with it. (Maybe by Christmas next year? Haha.) As Elaine's birthday comes in 5 days' time, I also wish her a very Happy Birthday. Have an enjoyable Bangkok trip too.
Last but not least, I wish one and all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.