Friday, 11 December 2015

My gift to you this Christmas

I’ve never really questioned the purpose of celebrating Christmas. Yes, I know it isn’t the actual day of the birth of Christ. But you know, it’s one of the things that you don’t actually question because you were brought up to do them. It was only until I found out that Sheldon Cooper doesn’t celebrate Christmas that it got me thinking. (Yes, Big Bang Theory gets me thinking, and laughing, all the time!)

For those who have not heard about the origin of Christmas, here’s a short summary for you. In Ancient Rome, the few days leading up to the 25th of December were celebrated in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. This weeklong holiday, known as Saturnalia, was commemorated with hedonistic acts and lawlessness. (Just imagine the movie “The Purge”; lasting for a week, instead of 24-hours.) As a result, properties were damaged, people were hurt and women were raped. To put an end to this pagan celebration, the Roman church decided to commemorate the 25th of December as the birth of Jesus Christ. As Christianity was burgeoning as a religion, people largely accepted the Church’s decision. It became popular even in the neighbouring regions, and after more than a millennium, it is what it is today.

What we - Christians or not - celebrate annually is actually a political tool used by the Roman Church back in Ancient Rome. It isn’t the actual birthday of Christ. It isn’t a day mandated by God to commemorate. It isn’t, in fact, in any way, Christian. (Well, probably apart from its name – “Christ’s mass”.) Is there a point, then, to celebrate it?

I say, yes, yes, and yes! Christmas is the day that families put aside their busy schedules to come together for a meal. Christmas is the day that people remember, write cards and give gifts to friends and loved ones that they haven’t talked to in awhile. Christmas is the day that people look forward to and give thanks amidst a trying period. And finally (and closest to my heart), Christmas is the day that people think about Christ and His life on earth. Whether you’re a Christian or not, and regardless of the origin of Christmas, I’m pretty confident that at least a notion of Christ pops into your mind during Christmas. There are plays and musicals about His birth. Christmas choirs sing carols and hymns, worshipping the Lord. People exchange gifts, exuberating the Christmas spirit of giving, and reflecting the love of the Son.

Christmas brings out the kindness in people. Christmas brings people together. Christmas draws creation to its creator. Because of these, I say, it is worth celebrating, regardless.

This Christmas, whether or not it has a religious significance for you, give generously, let your loved ones know how much they mean to you, and catch up with those you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Pamper your loved ones with a collection from the series of JORD wood watches. I've partnered with JORD to giveaway e-gift cards worth US$25 each to my readers! (FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE.) All you have to do is to click HERE, fill up the form and wait for an e-mail with the gift card code. This is my gift to you this Christmas. Be blessed, and be a blessing to others.

Merry Christmas!

Photo shoot with my best friend, in Christmas colours.
(P.s. Our friendship keeps us warm amidst the chill in the (8°C) morning air!)


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why I don't condone the Syrian airstrikes

It probably isn’t difficult to guess my political position by now – yes, I’m Conservative. Centre-right, albeit more towards the centre. Yet, I find it hard to swallow the Conservative Party’s decision to conduct airstrikes in Syria. No, I’m not a “terrorist sympathiser”, neither am I a Corbyn sympathiser. I hate terrorism to the gut; I hate how religion is being abused, how it creates stigmatism, and how lives are being taken so lightly. And that is precisely why I do not condone spending 508 grand to fuel the violent war that ISIS is trying to wage.

We declare war on terrorism. But terrorism is not just ISIS. Terrorism is not just radicalised human beings whom we ought to get rid of. Terrorism is an idea. You can’t kill an idea with bombs and bullets. In fact, you can’t kill it at all. What you can do, though, is to contain it. Not with threats of violence but by showing the world how absurd it is, by dwindling its support, and ultimately, making it crumble away. 

The aim of Islamic terrorism is jihad. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as a holy war fought against people who are a threat to Islam. It also defines war as an armed fighting between two or more groups. When the Conservative Party reciprocates to ISIS’ call for a violent war, it is precisely fulfilling ISIS’ raison d'ĂȘtre. A violent war cannot be waged if there is only one party involved. They are terrorists. They are suicide bombers. They are ever ready to put their lives, and the lives of their people, on the line. That is what they are “called” to do. But you’re politicians. You’re the government. You’re not called to fight this war, and neither are your people, nor your soldiers. You’re called to protect your people. You think you’re doing so, but you’re just fighting a losing battle. As Jessica Stern aptly points out, it is a huge paradox. “The more we fight it, the more its appeal grows.” You’re giving the enemies of the West an idea that they can relate to. Radicalised citizens are springing up all around the world. In Europe, in America, in Asia; everywhere.

In a propaganda video that ISIS reportedly released, they declared that your numbers only increase them in faith. They said that they are counting your banners, awaiting the fulfilment of their prophecy, that it would reach 80 in number. Why are you being so obedient? Why are you playing into their hands?

Of course, you shouldn’t be sitting back and doing nothing. But there are things you can do apart from taking revenge. There are things you can do with the 508 grand, apart from conducting the airstrikes. Among all the things that UNILAD has suggested, you could also, instead, fight this war against terrorism with investments in education. Win the hearts of young people, against the forces of terrorism. You could fight this war by investing in the lives of local Syrian people. Win their hearts with care and concern. Show them that you’re practising the democracy that you preach, that the tactics you adopt are different, that you’re not merely a party involved in the holy war. You could fight this war by sending more aid to the victims of terrorism, and to their families. It is support and comfort that heals, not revenge.

As French journalist, Nicolas Henin (who was held captive by ISIS), puts it, “The winner of this war will not be the party that has the newest, the most expensive or the most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to win over the people on its side.” Frankly speaking, I don’t have the answers to how you could win people over. But all I know is that violence and revenge is not the way.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

My great #throwback with a twist

2001. The recess bell has sounded but Mrs. Tan is still going on and on, scribbling on the chalkboard. I hate it when the teacher ignores the recess bell. We’ve only got half an hour, and I need to get my Pokemon eraser today! It takes about 10 minutes to get to the start of the queue. At this rate, I’m not going to have any time left to eat! Ugh.

2002. It feels great to no longer be a Primary 1 student. Mom has also finally come to her senses. She agreed to let me go to my best friend’s home after school! I can’t wait to see her kittens, watch the whole series of Hamataro and buy my favourite Roller Coaster Potato Rings from the snack van. She said that it would come by her home at 4p.m. every day without fail. I saved up 70 cents from lunch, just so that I could buy it!

2003. I am so relieved that I’m in the same class as my best friend! They said that they would assign us to different classes according to our grades. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be with her anymore! We met another 5 amazing girls. Every recess break is like an amazing race. The 7 of us would split up into the 7 different queues to buy food and drinks from different stalls. I’m always queuing for the fish ball noodles. They told us not to share our food with one another because of the SARS outbreak. But who cares. Best friends do things together!!

2004. Our clique is drifting apart. Who should I stick with? Anyway, our form teacher said that she would be assigning us with a new sitting arrangement next week! I can’t wait to find out whom I’ll be sitting beside. Oh, how I wish I’d get to sit beside my eye candy. That would absolutely be a dream come true!

2005. All of us were split up. I’m in a new class with almost no one that I know. Thank God for this guy who has been in the same class as me since Primary 1. It’s getting difficult to hang out with my girl friends especially when our recess breaks are at different timings. Oh well, I’ll try my best to find them whenever I can, and we can watch the boys play football as usual!

2006. Being a senior of the school feels absolutely liberating. My form teacher made me walk bare-footed as I disobeyed her and wore ankle socks to school, again. She thought I would feel humiliated but guess what, I’m loving it! I can’t believe this is my last year in Primary school. I loved every bit of it and I’m so reluctant to graduate. Oh yes, that reminds me, I should start adding everyone on Friendster so that we can keep in contact.

2007. THANK GOD I managed to appeal into my dream secondary school. It feels slightly odd to be in an all-girls school but I guess it would be fun. Should I try out for the fencing team, netball team, choir, dance club, or cheerleading squad? Ah, I don’t know. I made a new friend and she introduced me to a Taiwanese boy band. Absolutely. In. Love. Right. Now.

2008. Being in an all-girls school is SO MUCH FUN. I’ve gotten used to changing into our P.E. shirts in class and shouting across the room for sanitary pads. I haven’t gotten used to the prefects, though. They need to stop asking me to lengthen my skirt, pull up my socks, pin up my hair, blah blah blah. Macs and Island Creamery are also our new favourite hangouts. My (new) best friend and I would go there almost every day after school to “study”. 

2009. Physics class is the most boring thing ever. What on earth was I thinking when I chose to do Physics?! The old couple exercising at the playground outside seems even more entertaining than my Physics teacher. I can’t wait for classes to end. Sports Day is in 2 weeks and the cheerleading team is gearing up its training. In my school, no one really cares about the track events. It’s all about the cheerleading showdown! I wonder how I can enjoy 5 hours of cheer training every day but I can’t even stand a single hour in Physics class.

2010. "A" Math class seems to be taking forever to end. 10 more agonising minutes and we will be rushing out of class to catch SHINEE’s comeback stage on Music Bank! Pfft. I need to stop my infatuation with Korean boy bands and start getting down to studying for my O Levels. The principal actually threatened to make me drop "A" Math if I were to fail one more time – can you believe it?!

2011. I made it. I never thought I would make it in life – by life, I mean “do well in your studies”. I made it to the scholarship programme!!! I heard that Junior College really isn’t a joke. No more time for fooling around. I’m here to study. I’m here to study.

2012. So much for studying. I AM ATTACHED. I know, I know, worst year, period, ever, period, to get attached, period. A Levels. Is screwing up my A Levels worth it? Wait, who says I can’t have both. Yeah, we can study hard, together.

2013. Damn. I should’ve studied harder for my A Levels. But at least I’m loving the army life right now. I fired a machine gun today. How cool is that?!?!

2014. I am finally achieving my dream of studying abroad! MANCHESTER. With the love of my life. What more can I ask for? I can’t believe I got to watch Ronaldo play live. And we’ve travelled to London, Lake District, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin. What’s next on the bucket list?!

2015. Santorini. Santorini. Santorini. Ever since my birthday trip, I haven’t been able to take my mind off the beautiful Greek island. It was so surreal. I wanna go back. I wanna go back.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 11:20p.m.
A significant proportion of my time is spent reminiscing and living in the past. It starts from as early as I can remember (when I was a little kid, chasing sheep in Switzerland) to just a month ago (Santorini, oh, beautiful Santorini). I think about how wonderful it would be to relive those moments. To once again cross paths with the people I (still) think about. Am I the only one like this? I look across at my partner, embracing the moment, embracing now – holding the X-box controller in his hand, punching his fist in the air as he celebrates his Fifa goal with our flat mates. Here I am, stuck in my own reverie, as always. Writing about the past, about my experiences, writing this. People have said that I’m anti-social. I try to avoid socials to the best of my ability, and I would rather walk home alone than have to engage in small talks with a random schoolmate on the bus. I tell them that I’m introverted. I tell them that it’s not a bad thing – introverts think before they speak, appreciate alone time and prioritise quality over quantity. I tell them that it grows with age. I convinced myself of that.

Yet, now and then, I feel like I’m missing the point. Am I? I keep dreaming about the past, and about how great it is, that I end up not living in the present. I keep thinking of the people whom I no longer talk to, and how it would be nice to be friends again, but have I even crossed their minds? Why, oh why, am I regressing into my own social circle, which consists of me, my cup of tea and the computer screen, journaling about the past when this moment, too, will become a figment of the past? A past that would eventually, if sustained at this rate, consist of no one but myself?

I don’t know.

Let me just shut the computer and watch Big Bang Theory with the rest of them.
© Melody Sim | All rights reserved.