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Sunday, April 29, 2012

he Knows

Hmm, what can I say. It’s been quite a week, chasing work to be done, looking at work plans for the month ahead, uncertainties creeping into the office plus the recent nationwide event, its been a lot to take in, both in the heart and the brain.

I admit, I’m tired.

I’ve been asked a few times whether I like or enjoy my work. I usually end up saying the same thing that go along the lines of, “Well, its a good place for me to start and its a pretty good experience. So yeah, it’s a good job.”

Where I work, I believe that the work I do does bring value to the company. I know for certain that the kind of work I do promotes an attitude of efficiency and cost saving. However, my colleague who’s a decade older said something that’s also rather true. He said when comparing the cost savings that our section contributes compared to the engineering departments, it truly looks like peanuts.

That gives us a problem. Since its there on paper that in terms of Ringgit our contribution is small, what incentive is there for others to really work with and for us? I appreciate the fact that in recent times, engineering has been supportive to an extent with some of the works we’ve initiated, but again at the end of it, in terms of money, the contribution still isn’t that great.

That said, there’s still a fair bit of work to do, and there are new things coming up that are going to keep me pretty busy. Unfortunately, things are being rushed, also the public and school holiday schedules aren’t helping us, or me at least. There’s also the fact that there are certain job uncertainties for my section and it has a few people on edge, including myself. There’s already one person who’s leaving after the first week of May. While my future will probably only be decided in July, uneasy feelings affect the way that I approach my work. Logically after all, what incentive is there to strive for the targets the department has set for my section when it won’t matter come middle of the year?

I’m not going into work every day with a moody feeling although I have all these things in front of me, but it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t affected me at all.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and I caught up for a very short while with Beatrice on Skype. She asked me how my week was, and I pretty much said everything in the last paragraphs, though in a summarised way and the first thing she said to me was:

‘Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’

I’m not so sure why, maybe I was a bit indifferent in the morning, so I just replied, “haha, that was fast,” as if to tease her a little bit as a walking bible, but honestly, that’s what I like about Beatrice, she can always bring her faith into any conversation, and I have a lot of respect for that.

Thinking about it now though, as much I didn’t really want to hear it then, I know its true. There’s been more than one situation in my life where certain things haven’t gone me way, but have worked out for the better in the long term.

It actually brings me back to bible, a short passage that I think complements Romans 8:28, it goes like this:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. they do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” – Matthew 6:26-34.

I take comfort in the fact God knows what I need and that when I prioritise my relationship with Him above my needs, He will definitely see to them. God, help me to put You first, in everything.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

anders Breivik

A smart man, a ruthless man, a madman. That’s a terrifying combination as any and one that comes right out of a murder story. Characters like those might make a good read in a novel for some, but that all goes out the window when you meet a person like that in real life.

It’s been about eight months since the Norwegian tragedy and we have arrived at the point where, Anders Breivik is telling his story, unashamedly, without any remorse, without any regret. 

Watching a latest short video on CNN about Breivik’s ongoing case, it’s quite incredible, how calm he is. There was no guilt on his face, calm and relaxed and even had the audacity to raise a fist salute before proceedings began. On his own accord, he admitted to planning worse acts, and how he would be willing to do it all over again if he could. Its a big wonder how a man that killed so many children at point blank range with guns can testify that way.

News portals have said a fair bit about his manifesto and his membership of the so called ‘Knights Templar’. It is apparent he had an ideology of his own and firmly believed in it. It all centred around his disdain for multiculturalism and it brought him all the way to a place where he would find it in himself to take lives to achieve his goal, even those of children who never knew him or wronged him in any way.

In his recent testimonies, reporters have been picking up on the fact he claims to have played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a practice ground for his acts, which was very coincidental to me because I mentioned that in my last entry about this incident way back then (which you can read here), although in a different context. In addition to that, in the midst of many years of planning, he testified that he took a year’s sabbatical, spending most of that time playing World of Warcraft (WoW). I also watched a short video (here) on CNN explaining how Breivik had detailed in his manifesto how he would have a specific song playing on his iPod while engaged in his hour-long shooting spree on Otoeya island.

Digital entertainment portal IGN wrote an article about Breivik’s relationship with games since it appeared rather prominently in the media lately. It was mainly to show that there seems to be hype over nothing where once again the public or the media seem to be nodding their heads over the suggestion that video games make violent criminals out of their players. In several ways, the article is justified because I’ve played Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) myself and I haven’t killed a single man ever, and the same probably goes to the many that play WoW out there. At the same time, its interesting to note IGN’s article does not go all the way to say that video games had zero influence on this man.

Now, what am I getting at here?

Part of the article mentioned a solid fact, that any child would know that playing a mechanical game (in this case, MW2) is a far stretch as a training ground for real life combat (which is what Breivik claims he used it for). Here’s the thing, I don’t think he was using it as a virtual training ground for physical simulation or tactical planning, but as part of mental preparation.

You see, those of you like me who have played through MW2 would know there is a mission, called ‘No Russian’ where you play as an undercover agent in a terrorist organisation. The catch is, in this mission, in order to gain the trust of the terrorist leader, you have to participate in a mass killing of civilians at an airport, which in terms of gameplay is not hard at all, because as you know, civilians are unarmed. There is an option in the game for players to skip this mission altogether without affecting the game’s campaign progress, but then you can choose not to either. The inclusion of this mission in the campaign has garnered fiery online debate in the past. 

I’m not slowly using a roundabout method to lead back to the theory that violent games produce killers but what I am saying is that I believe Breivik probably used this part of the game to prepare himself for what he was going to do, maybe repetitively. The game itself didn’t choose him, but he chose to play that game.

Thinking logically, its actually would be very difficult to associate video games with Breivik’s violent killings, it was probably more of his obsession with his manifesto. Then again, who knows really? There’re plenty of things you could point to.

The bigger picture of what I’m trying to paint here is that we choose our beliefs that determines our actions just as Breivik chose his. Each and everyone of us chooses to believe what we believe in, but the problem is that its usually determined by the people around us that influence us or the things we watch and read.

While it isn’t wise to point at movies and video games as the reason for killers, it would be foolhardy not to consider the mental impact they can have on a person. Personally, I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a single game having a detrimental influence on somebody, but in Anders Breivik’s case, I see it as whole bunch of influences from different mediums that he’s accumulated in the making of his own world view. I think each medium probably had some role somewhere. 

Anders Breivik’s defence lawyer has indicated that Breivik has created his own reality and that’s only possible when a personal decision has been made to believe a certain way. Tracking backwards, there needs to be some sort of heavy influence for someone to turn away from the norm and believe in an extremism or to believe a completely different reality.

I suppose there came a point in Anders Breivik’s life when things got so low, he just lost it and began plotting his violent agenda. He couldn’t face up to it in real life and so he created his own reality, solving nothing in the real world and ended up a murderer. Worse yet, he doesn’t even realise he is a murderer.

Thinking about the man Anders Breivik is and observing the many cynics in society, its frightening to see some of the kinds of people humans can become. The good thing is that whether or not we turn into someone like that is within our control. It brings me back to a saying I’ve heard before, “Be careful with your ears what you hear and with your eyes what you see.” While it may seem a simple childish notion to the well-learned society of today, its very sound advice.  

So then, what sort of influences should we choose, not just to keep sane in an insane world, but to live life to the fullest? What should our ears choose to hear, what should we put our eyes to? Here’s a simple bible verse I believe addresses that very concern, a short part of a letter by a man named Paul:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Phillipians 4:8-10

Friday, April 13, 2012

doing Nothing

Events always trigger a reaction, a response. Its a natural thing, especially if you’re human. When something happens, we always either talk about, or do something about if (if we feel like it). Its either that or we just worry about it (even if it has nothing to do with us to begin with).

I noticed a few people, including myself that weren’t really in a great place recently for a variety of reasons and of course I wanted to get out of that and was wishing the same for my friends too.

I guess I tried, though to a small extent to help my friends a little, to try to talk or maybe just do something. Sometimes a little can go a long way right?

It didn’t really work and things just stayed the way they were, for my friends, for myself. That’s when I guess I started to stress about it a little, worrying when there wasn’t much I could do anyway.

Like I said, I couldn’t do anything so I did nothing, just going through the week like I usually would (to the extent I almost forgot Wednesday was a public holiday, lol).

Not long after, I’d find out that things somehow just worked out for my friends. I didn’t do anything, but they had other people around them that did, which was great. Even for me, I didn’t expect or anticipate it, but my parents made a random decision to come down on Wednesday and we had a good time, which I think I needed.

I guess this week I learnt that, there’re many problems you can face in life, and we can try our best to face them head on and solve it, but there’re many things out of our control as well that we just can’t handle. Sometimes, its not about doing things all the time, but allowing a little space for things to even themselves out.

It comes to mind that in the bible it does say, obedience is better than sacrifice. Being a Christian, its hardly about going out of your way to help people than it is to be someone who’s just faithful in your everyday walk with God, and to trust Him for things to work out for you and the people you care about.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

reverent Awe

At about 5.35 I sent out a last e-mail before clicking out of the office and rushed to my car. I arrived home, quickly ironed a shirt and my slacks before rushing to church. It was good Friday and I was playing drums for the night. We went through a last rehearsal before taking our places before the service began.

Up until that point, everything seemed to be such a blur. For me at least, the last couple of weeks have been quite a drag. Its not that I’ve been coming home late from work at 10.00 p.m. but its just the way things are going that have got me mentally tired and almost always looking at the clock each day waiting to punch out. 

I wasn’t even supposed to be playing this week, but I ended up volunteering myself. That’s not very smart for someone scheduled to play every week after anyhow, but that’s me I guess, not very smart.

Even before then as I knew Easter was approaching, I didn’t seem to care much about it to be honest. I was thinking along the lines of, “Oh, church will probably do something… yeah.. guess I’ll go”

Driving to church on Friday, I was probably thinking more about getting there on time for the final practice rather than commemorating a significant moment in history. Needless to say, I was just caught up in my own life, the daily routines seemed to fill 100% of my brain.

The practice went on all right I think.. and well, we had time before the service started so I was free for about 10 minutes or so I think.

I took a seat and that’s when things sort of changed (for me at least). As I sat there quietly, trying to remember Easter’s significance, I changed from an attitude of indifference to reverence. I guess I recalled how much I’ve just sort of put God second best in recent times, as more of an afterthought instead of being the centre and how faithful He’s been to me in spite of that. That brings me to the more important point, which is God gave Jesus Christ up to be a sacrifice for people who didn’t even know Him, people who couldn’t care less about him, even for the people who hated him.

I guess I was in a moment of realisation of how much God loves you and me. Although there’s plenty in me that’s prideful, selfish, greedy, yet God still chose to love me through an incredibly painful act of love. It can be easy to think Jesus dying isn’t such a big deal because He’s the son of God after all, how painful can it be? He rose again too didn’t he? To put it bluntly, it wouldn’t be hard to ridicule Jesus by comparing his death and resurrection to re-spawning in a video game. What’s the big deal?

That’s when we’ve forgotten Jesus was a human being that would’ve experienced pain the same way as any other human, but he suffered the most out of all of us. How many people could go through being punished to death for doing nothing wrong, being relentlessly flogged by nails, having your head fitted with a crown of spikes, not to mention being forced to carry that wooden plank that you know you’re going to die on? Adding insult to injury, your hands and feet aren’t even going to be tied in place, they’d be nailed down just like another piece of wood. I personally cannot imagine a person volunteering to go through all that for the sake of a good man (or let me be secular for a moment, for a really really hot girl), what more for the greedy man in me?

When Jesus was resurrected from death, it showed that death couldn’t hold Him down. Sin, which leads to death had no mastery over him, which shows that Jesus conquered sin, and through that, conquered death and that victory over sin is a gift given freely to all of us that are willing to take it.

That’s the extent of His love, not only did He go through an incredibly torturous process, the end result was something he was willing to share without a price.

I think remembering all that in that time before and during the service, I just wanted to thank God so much and repent for my indifference. So when I got home tonight, I just took the time to pray, to ask for forgiveness and to thank Him for the incredibly loving, powerful and merciful God that He is. I guess now, I’ve remembered why there’s simply no one that can compare to Jesus Christ.


P/S – If you’re a Christian, and you feel you haven’t really grasped the whole Easter for yourself, you should read this. Its something that really resonated with me after I read it.