From my life in Singapore, my *book aside, the conventional wisdom is old is wise, people who have high social status is wise, people who have accumulated wealth is wise, people who worked for all the above mentioned are wise. People who have religion and goes to churches, temples and mosques are wise and ethical.
People who are rich and brand conscious are looked up upon.
Wisdom seem so relative and social values seem so superficial that most assess you by your family backgrounds, professions, the 5Cs (cars, credit cards, condominiums, country club and cash) as well as the types of friends you have.
Few really dig deeper into such superficialities that intrigued the curiosities and self-esteemed more than the quality and ethical worth of these high-flyers.
It is something that I have grown to deal with, albeit with much weariness after some time as well as not having my own private sanctuary to heal and recuperate from most hypocrisies.
Even being at home and facing my parents have a different set of comprehension and communication problems that only the same family members share. I do not share such problems with friends and most times when I perceived them to be of the typical kiasi, kiasu and kiabo mentality, I would rather feed on their egos and esteemed, without being superficial or hypocritical (normally I will tell them you are better off than me; but deep down I say to myself I can live without them and I am better off not being friends with you).
I mentioned in my book that though I had learn most things myself and understand the behaviour and cultures of others, I had never wanted to tell them the difference or to make them more liberal. I can only pitched the book that way and write it to allow others to understand me better. I believe I achieve none but happy that I managed to get it published and shared it with the her.
My mother, a baby-boomer generation with no education is very ignorant of most things but the culture with its conventional wisdom overwhelms my intellectual virtues. I can accept that and did not bother to further explain myself most times because I did that and most have short memories. In addition, with no wealth and influential friends, there isn’t much that others will look up to me. Being respected (having a deep admiration), to me, is not about wealth, social status or the 5Cs. It is also not about having confidence to express yourself in songs and poems. To a lesser extend it is also not about the inborn beauty that one possessed. After encountering with Aristotle ethics, I had associate wisdom with the sophia that Aristotle preached. The wisdom (or sophia) that involves both intellectual virtues and moral ones.
My encounter with Buddhism during my teenage years provides me with the value of compassion to at least respect (due regard for) others as a human being, regardless of race, language and religion.
My outlook of my life changes according to my exposure of western philosophy and liberal arts. My personality, perhaps due to my single parent family background, made me take things easy but also having the ambition and self motivation to achieve things that I aimed for in my life. I had my disappointments as well as my triumphs (though not rewarding in the sense of recognition and prestige – I did have a GESS school colors award). I do meet many obstacles and challenges in life and also having the adventurous attitude to experiment with substances. And my smoking habits is something that most in society frown upon, however most of my former girlfriends graciously put up with it.
One thing that I definitely take pride in is that making mistakes and learning from them is not to be ashamed of when I accept them and admit honestly to others. The prize of all these life lessons is wisdom and with the hard work of self study, the knowledge acquired through reading complement those life lessons that my parents cannot offer me. Understanding that the mistakes I made made me a better person through acceptance of them and to those that I concede my defeats I continue to thread through life with dignity and integrity.
Now that I understand that life is a journey that I constantly arrives at different destinations, it makes me poignant and occasionally bittersweet to revisit each destination and also to explore the uncertain future. Most of all, it gives me great courage and finesse to discover and continue to learn, by myself and also with the wealth of knowledge of the family.
It will be a pleasure and a great honor to taste the fruits of a heritage and distinguished culture. It will also be gratifying and enriching to go through the setbacks and hard challenges with the family.
The sun does not shine on just one family-tree but the sun always rises from the east; the dawn will be where the laughters and euphorias are.
*my book is a result of my experiences and life encounters.