MOMENTS IN 2016

‘Tis the season of the year.  It’s Christmas and year-end again.

Time seems to have slipped away so super fast this year.  9 months have passed since I last wrote on this blog.   Before I go on,  if you are following my blog, you may want to note that I have started an account of the same name as this blog on Instagram, since late March.  While I had been quiet on the blogsphere, I share on Instagram. 🙂

2016 surely is going to be a year to be remembered, both good and not so good sides.

Hubby and I moved twice this year – first to a temporary accommodation in a friend’s home for 6 months, in Marine Parade, and finally settled down nicely in our new home in the city fringe, after going through much cracking of our heads in the design and all the hassles in the renovations.  With more than 35% reduction in terms of floor area, home now is a small, cozy 4-room flat which is much easier to manage in terms of housekeeping and cleaning.  I also like the convenience now, in terms of location and transportation.  Never had I live this near to the city before! 🙂  However, there are still issues with high-rise littering from extremely inconsiderate and uncultured neighbours upstairs which seem so hard to resolve, even  after repeatedly reporting the issues to the authorities.  Sometimes I wonder what the priorities of the authorities are and if  they are actually keen in helping the residents!

Just as I thought I could be thankful that my mum who had been suffering from cancer had lived another year as year-end approaches, she passed on last month, kind of sudden, although we were mentally prepared that her days were numbered.  My mum has lived to a ripe old age, and despite being a cancer patient for over 2 years, she had been strong and positive,  and able to live an almost normal life, keeping up with her routines as much as possible.  My two late grandmas died of cancer too.  I find it so hard to forget how they had to be bedridden and suffering in pain in the final months of their lives.  So I am thankful to God that my mum did not have to go through this.  That’s my only consolation now.

This year-end I have been blessed with opportunities to attend a few special performances, with compliments of organisations like Embassy of Japan in Singapore, WAttention Singapore and Popular Bookstore.  That somehow cheered up my year-end.

The Graduate Singers

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One Asia Joint Concert was one unique performance that brought together musicians from Japan and ASEAN (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore)

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Liang Wen Fu “我等到天开始亮了“ Music Showcase at BookFest 10th Anniversary

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Last Saturday, I finally went down to the Christmas Wonderland at the Gardens by the Bay.  “Finally” because I was actually not sure whether or not to go to this Iluminarie display again this year since it is expected to be more or less the same as the previous years.  Moreover, there is now a charge of S$8 per person for the entrance fees.  My good old friend from Malaysia was visiting, and so I thought that’s one good place to take her to and be soaked up in the Christmas mood.  Indeed, the mood was great and we enjoyed ourselves.

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So it does snow in Singapore!  And it’s quite a heavy one! 😀

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Here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas!

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TRICKS TO HAPPINESS

WRITTEN BY DS
Here is another long overdue “inspired by Sumiko Tan” blog entry.
In her 13 Nov 2011 article, she declared that she was truly happy!  Well, that’s really something to cheer about.  Although her happiness was about the absence of pain, I wonder if it was her statement that she has found love and have a job she liked being the main reasons?   Of course having a job she liked is very important, but we all know that this previously arguably Singapore’s most famous single damsel had this same job all the time and still had been musing on the lack of happiness so I suppose that narrows down the reason to that she has “found love”!  Wow, it is still hard to believe that she ‘made’ it to the married club (not that she wasn’t good but that she was lucky to find someone this late) but what a change for the better.  Just as well then, to get inspiration for a follow-up on my two previous entries “Multiply and Replenish the Earth” and “Pursuit of Happiness”.
Sumiko’s articles should be more than enough for those wanting to read more about singlehood and married life so there isn’t more for an amateur/novice like me to add here. I had bought a book “Singled Out” by Bella DePaulo to read more about singlehood (but haven’t read it yet as so many books and so little time to read!) but not sure when I read it, it would mean much now.  But I suppose Bella must have a treasure of truths in the book to learn from.  With more prominence on the subject of happiness in Singapore recently, I think Sumiko makes a good case study on this subject.  Seems that “all we need is love” is not too far-fetched?  And the quote by John Lennon on making happiness the number one priority in life (“the key to life”) sounds even more convincing. Just as well that the author of Ecclesiastes 3:12 (in the Bible) mentioned that “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live”.
Ok, that was a narrow and specific aspect of happiness.  So, what should we do to achieve real happiness?  In Buddhism, it is believed that the root cause of all sufferings,  ie unhappiness, is desire or craving.  Get rid of it and you get rid of unhappiness.  Sounds easy, except that having your desires or wishes granted is the basis of happiness, so getting rid of desires is tantamount to getting rid of happiness, so that isn’t really a solution technically, as it means getting rid of the problem is the solution to the problem!  I mean we can’t say the solution to a sickness is to not to have a sickness, right?
The apparent straightforward solution may appear to be just to do the things that make you happy and get rid of the things that make you unhappy, but again this is easier said than done as many things in life are beyond our control.  I suppose nobody has a concrete solution to this difficult challenge in life, and I would venture just two points on the subject. As alluded above, there are many things in life that are beyond our control, and I think one of the root causes of unhappiness is trying to control them. And the second cause is worrying too much over them.  Worrying in life, is an absolutely useless human emotion as it doesn’t achieved anything at all, but somehow just too many people are unable to avoid this trap.  No wonder Jesus himself had to advise us in Luke 12:22 to “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear”.  Again, easier said than done, but I really agree that giving up worrying will give us happiness, and to go along with it, to let “whatever will be, will be” (ie Que Sera Sera).  These shall be my 2 tricks of happiness (before that, presumably we are already doing what we like and doing what is right in our lives). Why are they tricks?  Because they are so hard for the mind to accept, so might as well trick it !  And then go forth and rejoice 🙂

WHEN IS THE BIRTH OF A SOUL

WRITTEN BY DS
The word “SOUL” could mean many things.  The soul that I am referring here is the non-physical part or entity of the human body.  It could also be a spirit if you want to give it a little more ‘form’ !  Do humans have souls?  Well, if you believe that there is an immortal part of a human being, then you have to believe that there is a non-physical entity that lives on after the mortal physical body is dead.  And that is the soul I mean, the immortal part.  If you don’t believe the immortal component, and instead believe that everything in a human dies together with the physical body, then there is no soul to talk about, in this context.
What is a soul then?  It has got to be something that only human beings have.  In other words, animals don’t have souls.  So, it can’t be intelligence as animals do have intelligence.  It can’t even be consciousness or self-awareness (see mirror test in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test ) as animals have been tested to have these human attributes as well.  As humans are the species with the best or most-developed brain, is it possible that the soul exists in the brain?  If so, the obvious implication is when does the human soul exist in a person (ie when is ensoulment)? At conception, the fusion of an ovum from a woman and a sperm from a man starts the development of a new human being.  The cell then multiplies to 2, then 4, 8, and so on until the trillion upon trillion of cells are completely built in a human being.  If the soul exists at conception, it would be a technical problem as the foetus is just one-celled at that stage, and if splits into a twin later, then the one soul at conception would have to be shared between two humans, which would sound really ridiculous!  But if it does not exist at conception, then it would be quite difficult to determine when it can start to exist, such as whether it is at 4 cells stage or at 8 or many trillions (this point is probably quite important when thinking about the moral issues of abortions).

Could we consider then, that the birth of a soul is at a different time as the birth of the physical body, meaning it isn’t at conception, nor at the embryonic stage and not even upon delivery?  A newly born baby would have a mental capacity and capability that are less than a grown-up animal so if we consider an animal as not having a soul, how could a baby have one then?  Using this measurement, ie mental capability, could I venture that a soul would get born once a baby human reaches a particular point in his or her life where his/her mental capacity reaches a level where he/she is distinctly different from an animal?  This birthdate would then be different from persons to persons, solely depending on the development of the brain, and once that threshold level is reached, an immortal soul would be born and lives on from that time onwards, even after physical death.  We probably will never know or understand when this threshold level can be reached to result in the birth of a soul, but I think this is not as problematic as determining the timing of the soul between conception and birth.  Of course, this is just speculation on my part, but I think it is still a possibility.  Otherwise, there would be a lot of soul-less souls (ie souls without personality or character) resulting from the many miscarriages, abortions, still births, frozen embryos outside the wombs, and even microscopic foetuses of a few days old that didn’t get attached to the uterus successfully.

I think we can liken this to the sudden appearance of a flame in a piece of hot charcoal.  A piece of charcoal can be red hot but yet not hot enough to produce a flame.  However, continuous fanning of the hot charcoal will eventually cause a flame to be ignited suddenly when it reaches a certain temperature.  This is exactly what I envision of a soul suddenly bursting into life in a baby when a certain level of personality, character, consciousness and many other mental levels or maturities are reached.  The soul would have to exist beyond the 3 dimensions of space we live in, and who knows if it could be the driver of the brain in the 4th dimension?

WOULD EVOLUTION EVENTUALLY TRIUMPH OVER CREATIONISM?

WRITTEN BY DS

There are lots of conflicts between science and Christianity, and it is really hard for most commoners like me to really know where the real truth lies.

Long ago, I had taken the stand that evolution is flawed, and the intelligent design or divine creation story in the first two chapters of Genesis in the Bible is the only basis for all lives on earth, as well as all the ‘heavenly stuffs’ like stars and galaxies in the universe beyond earth. Of course, we have long heard about the constant evolution of bacteria and viruses, and that isn’t too hard to accept as true because the Bible didn’t mention anything against that!

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So, the real difficulty of accepting evolution as the basis for all lives on earth is because it is in direct conflict with many parts of Genesis. For example, the one big contention is the six days of time that God took to create the earth and the universe. Of course, with compelling evidence today that the age of the universe and planet earth is in billions of years, not days, different interpretations of Genesis have to be sought. And bible scholars explain that the period of a day in Genesis may not be a 24-hour day, which is really convenient to bridge the gap. But again, with Einstein’s discovery that time is relative, not absolute, the day in Genesis could be really 24-hour durations to God, but billions of years to us, so maybe it was still a 24-hour day. So, which is true? Perhaps, you don’t care, but I do, since we really do need every part of the Bible to be true in order to have a strong faith in it, and conflicts like this weaken our faith and also become stumbling blocks to non-believers that can’t accept the story.

Now, this 24-hour day issue is actually quite small compared to the much bigger one on how human beings came into existence. In the Bible, it was simply described as God created man in His own image from the dust of the ground. Human evolution theory says that humans descended from the same ancestor as chimpanzees about 7 million years ago and it took a further few more millions years to evolve to our current form which came into being about 200,000 years ago. This is nothing close to the estimated 6000 years ago that Adam was created as described in the Bible from the ground. Of course, we believers tend to believe the Bible and just dismiss anything that didn’t agree with the Bible. And from history, most of the time the believers were wrong, and science was right. The most obvious were the ones proclaiming that the earth was flat and the earth was the centre of the universe where all other stars revolve around it! Of course, on hindsight, we all know now that the interpretation of the Bible was wrong. For example, the four corners of the earth, the ends of the earth, the pillars of earth, the earth cannot be moved, cannot to be interpreted literally or out of context. Bear in mind that the powerful church in the past was not so tolerant to science that went against the teachings of the Bible. Galileo Galilei who tried to use science to show that the earth revolved around the sun was sentenced to house arrest based on so-called heresy (ie beliefs that contradict religious teachings) in 1633. Charles Darwin kept his Origin of Species publication on evolution for about 20 years before he finally found the guts to publish it in 1859.

Notice that I didn’t say the Bible was wrong but the interpretation was wrong? I believe that if the Bible were interpreted correctly and science is also correct, they would both agree and not contradict. Science will always get clearer and more precise as it advances, but the Bible text will not change, so when the Bible text is used to put down science, I think the people ought to be a lot more careful in case the evidence becomes too compelling in the future, and the proponents of the wrong truth from the Bible will have to eat their words and retract. The case for insisting the earth was flat and at the centre of the universe, for example, is completely untenable in today’s understanding of science. The big claim by science that human beings evolved from the same ancestor as Chimpanzee may be laughed at by the church now, but I believe that based on advances in genetics in the near future, there would probably be compelling evidence in the future to irrefutably prove the fact, and then the church will have to twist its interpretation of the Bible again in order to make it agree with science, or else it risks being discarded as a total fallacy.

Why I tend to believe this event to unfold in future is because of the understanding of too many less-than-ideal designs in the natural world that makes it unlikely to be designed by God in His infinite wisdom. I will just quote two examples.

We all know that there is no life without death, meaning humans and many animals prey on other living creatures to survive. Of course, one can argue that humans can be vegetarians, but what about the many other species of animals, insects, birds, fish, etc? The fish food chain is probably the easiest to understand, as we all have heard about big fish eating smaller fish, literally. All fishes that are hatched from eggs start small, and every small fish is potential food for other bigger fish. So, if you ban fish from eating meat, they will either have to be overhauled in their design or disappear for good. Why I consider this as less-than-ideal is because plants are good designs as food as they don’t scream or fear death when eaten, but most other preys do. If God designed all preys from nothing, I think they should all behave like worms who probably don’t know anything about being eaten, and do not fear it. Then I would consider it a good design as prey-food. Or also, we could ask why God didn’t design all creatures to utilise energy directly from the sun, just like plants. Or God could even build mini nuclear processor in all creatures to turn matter into energy which is really very efficient based on E = mc2 formula!

The second case is if God created humans from nothing, then I think we should all have perfect genes that do not mutate. Genetics have to be an original design from God if we don’t consider that it came into existence from evolution. I suppose one can easily understand why our genes are less-than-ideal as there are so many genetically linked diseases, including many deadly cancers. A very simple example of an unfortunate human genetic mutation is the sickle-cell disease, a blood disorder that results in abnormal sickle-shaped red blood cells that don’t deliver oxygen very well in the human body. This disease is a result of just one wrong letter or code termed single nucleotide polymorphism (or SNP) in one codon (a 3-letter protein-encoding genetic code) in chromosome 11, ie from GAG to GTG (GAG generates glutamic acid and GTG generates valine).

Genetic mutations in the main cell DNA (nuclear DNA) do not happen easily in humans, but still it happens, and when it happens do we blame God if we say that He designed it? Even if we don’t involve all the unpleasant genetic diseases, there are also little nuisances like why do humans have A and B blood-type genes that make their blood different, complicating blood transfusion? And the people with O blood-type are actually people with A-blood type gene with one character lost/deleted, ie G or Guanine at position 261. Or why do 8% of the human genome are actually remains of retroviruses, ie non-functional DNA which were a result of retrovirus DNA being combined into human DNA thousands and millions years ago?

At this moment, the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, is God created the first human Adam from the ground, which Christians are using, including various other arguments such as Irreducible Complexity to counter the science of evolution. Of course, we don’t know which is right yet, and to me even if evolution turns out to be true in the future when compelling evidences are found, it doesn’t mean that there is no God and the Bible is flawed, but yet again Christians have missed the point, much like ancient claims of flat earth and the Sun revolving round the earth, that the Bible is not meant to be a source to contend with science, because God gave us the intelligence to ultimately discover His secrets through actual research. So, Christians have better pay more attention to science and see how the Bible fits real/true science, and not the other way round. Of course, certain complex scientific knowledge may not be right from the start and need to be corrected as it advances.

THE MAGIC OF 4D (4TH DIMENSION)

WRITTEN BY DS

Is there a fourth dimension? I am not talking about the 4th space-time dimension because time, even though is one dimension, isn’t the same as space.

Think of it, why should spatial dimensions stop at 3?

If you are a one-dimension being, you can only move forward and backward. In such a world, you will not know of the concept called left and right, because you would think that they don’t exist. The same situation exists for a creature in a two-dimensional world, who knows how to move forward, backward, right and left, but doesn’t know anything about up and down. Ask the creature in the 2D world to go up, and they will ask you to prove to them by showing them how. Well, you may think it is easy to show them, but convert yourself to a 2D creature, ie flatten yourself from head to toe, float into the 2D world, and then try to show them how to go up. You will suddenly find that you can’t go up or down anymore. The reason is because the up-down force or propulsion for moving up or down doesn’t exist in a 2D world (like a car that has no engine to fly). Also, in a 2D world your eyes will only allow you to look forward, so you can’t see anything upwards or downwards, thereby making the third dimension an imaginary one only.

2D creatures in Flatland, from the movie Flatlander
2D creatures at home, as in the Flatland movie. The internals of these creatures can be seen from the 3D world.

Click HERE for more information on Flatland movie.

Likewise, in our 3D world, we do not have the propulsion mechanism or force in the 4D direction, and our eyes can only see in 3D and therefore can’t imagine the 4th dimension. However, not all is lost though. It seems that we can use analogies between the 2D and 3D worlds pretty well to help us understand the 4D world.

First, the person in the 2D world, unfortunately, cannot get to the 3D world himself because he doesn’t have the propulsion ‘technology’ to jump! So he needs someone from the 3D world to pick him up. In other words, a 3D up-force is needed to lift the person up. When the person is lifted from the 2D world, he disappears from the 2D world because he is now floating above the 2D world. His friends in the 2D world can’t see him but he is actually just above them. Now when he speaks to them, they will get a shock because the sound is coming out of nowhere to his 2D friends. The amazing thing is hovering above the 2D world, this guy can actually see the top view of his friends which is actually the inside of their bodies! Next surprise is if he lands back into the 2D world after being flipped over, he is still in 2D but a mirror image of himself!

Now, apply the above scenario to someone going from 3D to 4D. First, someone in the 4D world must ‘pick’ him up. Then he literally disappears from the 3D world, much like the behaviour of spirits and ghosts. Then when he speak to his friends in the 3D world, they get a shock as the sound appears to come out of nowhere to them, even though he is just next to them in the invisible dimension. Now, the beauty of the next dimension would be mind-boggling because from the 4D world, he should be able to see everything in 3D at the same time, meaning front, back, top, bottom, left, right and even the inside of a 3D object. He could practically do surgery on the inside of his friends without touching the outside! That’s a little hard to imagine, but I think it would be close to imagine it as a pure 3D solid space that permeates everything inside that space. It is something like picturing the person inside your eye where you can turn him around in your eyes and look at him from all directions and then go inside him to look at him from inside-out. And that’s just imagining 4D vision, not 4D beings. The final surprise is if he lands back into the 3D world after being flipped over, he ends up in a mirror image of himself, changing from right-handed to left-handed, and his heart appearing on the right hand side! Wow, that would be cool, and it will surely mess up all the science/physics of the 3D world!

Does that sound far-fetched? Well, I don’t think so, since the spirit world almost definitely exists and the only way the spirits appear invisible to us must be due to the fourth dimension. And who knows whether there are even more dimensions after the fourth? Somebody that can see the inside of ghosts?