Monday, July 26, 2010

First Light

Singpore  Flyer - Photo by Vanilla

I watched the break of dawn in an unusual way two days ago.

I was high up in the air just before dawn and watched the world woke up under my feet. To be more precise, I was at the height of 165 m (541 ft or 42 stories) on board the Singapore Flyer on 24 July at about 5 A.M.
"First Light"

I was there for the "First Light" event. It was organized by the Arts House of Singapore in partnership with the Singapore Flyer to celebrate community bonding and racial harmony. That was the first time such an event was held and the response for this arts and culture festival was an overwhelming one. (In case you are not from around here, Singapore is a multi-racial country where inter-racial ties are well fostered.)

I woke up before 3 A.M. just to be at that event. If I was insane, I was not alone. There were a couple of thousand others there crowding around the Singapore Flyer at that unearthly time of the day. There was no sign of sleepiness as the long queue of people moved on patiently to board the world's tallest Ferris Wheel.

The special "First Light" flights started at 4.30 in the morning, way before the usual first flight at 8.30 A.M.

After the ride - Photo by Vanilla

The Singapore Flyer

If you are familiar with the iconic London Eye, it is not difficult to imagine the Singapore Flyer. It is a similar observation wheel, except that it is 30m taller. It was launched in 2008 as the largest Giant Observation Wheel in the world and it still is.

Its status was supposed to be overtaken by the Great Berlin Wheel (175m) in 2009 but the project has been stalled due financial obstacles. However, if the Beijing Great Wheel is completed later this year as planned, it will be the tallest at 208m, that is, if there is no further delay (see news).

Singapore is a tiny island (710 sq km or 274.2 sq mi) with a relatively flat terrain. Atop this giant wheel, one gets to see a large part this island state. At a viewing span of about 45km (28 miles), neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia come within view too.

From the cabin, I could see the newly completed Marina Bay Sands standing tall and bright right across the water ways.
The dawn of the day

It was a refreshing experience witnessing the first appearance of light at such a height. There was no spectacular sunrise that day but a gradual brightening of the sky. It was as if someone was gently turning on the skylight with a dimmer switch.

Actually, just days before, I was not confident that I could take this ride as planned. The Singapore Flyer was struck by lightning on Sunday (18 Jul) and it was shut down. Fortunately, it came alive again three days later. Then, the weathermen started to give warnings on heavy downpour over the next few days, again, threatening my hope to take the ride.

I was just so glad that the Flyer was fixed in time and the weathermen were wrong (as usual).

When I wrote about the Flyer in Jan 2009 (see related post below), I was hoping to ride on it while it was still the tallest wheel in the world. One and a half years later, my wish came through. To add significance to my virgin ride: it was free and it came with both day and night views. 

The views from the top was definitely breathtaking. Nothing before my eyes was unfamiliar except that I was looking at them from a new angle.

Day break - Photo by Vanilla

I do not mean to sound cheesy but I think we often forget that there are many ways to view the same thing. One need not wake up at 3 A.M. to catch the first light (like me) just to be reminded of this simple fact of life.

In Perspective of Life, I wrote about how routine can consume us and make us lose sight of things. As a result, we may magnify little problems unnecessarily and spend precious energy paying attention to less important matters.

In Mistakes in Dealing with Mistakes, I shared that many things that bother us today really won't matter much 10 years from now. However, loss of perspectives often jumble up our priorities and we spend much time fussing over trivialities.

Top view of sleepy Singapore - Photo by Vanilla

One more reason

The Singapore Flyer states in their official website that there are nine reasons to visit the giant wheel:-
  1. It’s the world’s largest observation wheel.
  2. It’s the only place to see Singapore’s magnificent cityscape.
  3. You’ll get to feast on famous local dishes.
  4. You’ll get a taste of our gourmet capital.
  5. You’ll get to indulge in Singapore’s national pastime.
  6. You’ll experience urban nature.
  7. You’ll be able to fly – “for real”.
  8. Your toes will be tickled by fishes.
  9. For some good Feng Shui.
I have just one more to add,

- You'll be reminded to see life from a different perspective.

Related post:
The Night The Flyer Went To Sleep


"I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning." ~Andy Warhol~

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Picture Blog #12 : The Amazing Water-Ink Painting

Photo by Vanilla

Water is a familiar and essential substance which most would not relate to art.

In this picture blog, water is part of an art form known as 'water-ink painting' (水影画). Instead of conventional canvas, drawing is done on the surface of water. A controlled amount of ink is dropped on water creating circular blotches of different sizes. Lines are then drawn by separating the colored blotches, creating images on the 'water canvas'.

This is a very new art form invented by Chinese artist, Huang Zhulin (黄珠琳). Since his debut earlier this year, his drawing has stunned many.

Photo by Vanilla

I am thoroughly fascinated by the endless possibility given by nature where much can be done with simple things around us. Many a times, we are just too quick to dismiss nondescript resources and miss out opportunities to make a difference.

Planet Earth in itself is a master piece and Mother Nature has given us plenty of room to create. Each of us is a miracle with a great potential. However, with every excuse we give to ourselves, we cap a little of our given potential.

Are you guilty of constantly telling yourself, "I can't because..."? Somehow, you would creatively come up with 'reasons' to complete the sentence.

Imagine, if only you would use the same creativity to complete a different sentence, "I will become ... if I...", you will be amazed at the great difference the little twist can make.

Blue & White Porcelain by Zhulin

Take a look at Zhulin's amazing drawings (videos) of "Blue and White Porcelain" (青花瓷) and 'Dun Huang' (敦煌). Don't forget, just like his drawings, you are carrying endless possibilities.

Be inspired.

You might also want to read:

Not-So-Common Sense?
Get Your Daily Motivation
Monday Blues - No More

Happiness is a Choice

Erasing The Past?

“You see things; and you say, 'Why?'
But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'”
~George Bernard Shaw~(Irish playwright
, 1856-1950)

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Monday, July 12, 2010

I Want Not to Know My Future

Photo by Vanilla

The last 2010 World Cup match between Spain and the Netherlands will take place in two hours' time.

I am a soccer idiot. I am not about to write a critique on any of the matches and I am unable to say who will bring back the trophy. However, I do know that this World Cup has many unexpected outcomes, sending many strong teams home with their heads bowing low.

It is never easy to predict the outcome of soccer matches with absolute certainty (for that matter, any type of matches). That is one reason why
people would gamble with their own perception of the most likely outcome.

Can animals predict outcome?

In the midst of this once-in-every-four-year excitement, one octopus named Paul has been coolly predicting the outcomes of matches involving Germany. He has stunned the world with his impressive record of 100% accuracy. This 8-legged mollusk has just one more prediction to go before he hits pure gold. For the grand final, he has predicted that Spain will beat the Netherlands. (Watch Paul's video predicting the final match)

Besides Paul, soccer fans also look to other animals for their match prediction. Mani, a parakeet from Singapore has done a fairly good job alongside Paul and he has since become rather famous too. Mani has a different view from Paul for the final as he has picked the Netherlands. (Watch Mani's video predicting the final match)

It seems that the 2010 World Cup has somehow also turned into Paul v Mani. We shall know the verdict in a moment.

Photo by Vanilla

Obsessed to know the unknown

Mani's owner, a fortune-teller has claimed that his business has improved. People come to him to find out about their lives. Besides soccer matches, they want to know about their future wealth and health too.

Unknown is always fascinating and sometimes, disturbing.

Have you ever wanted to know about your future? If you have a predicting device which will tell you what is coming up, would you be glad to have it? It appears to be a fascinating thought initially but I am more inclined to think that it is a scary idea.

People can be obsessed with wanting to know the unknown because essentially, they do not like uncertainties. They want to know if the rest of their lives would be fine and they want to see if there is anything they can do to negate predicted bad outcomes.

Photo by Vanilla

Living with dying in mind?

We all know that our days are numbered but no one knows the exact number. There is nothing wrong with living with dying in mind. However, we must not live pessimistically just because the end is inevitable. Neither do we want to live in a death-defying manner.

I said in 'Coffin Academy - Dying to Live' that, when we are alive, we rarely give a thought to the things we can undo and improve while we still have the chance. Such thoughts may not come until perhaps, a near-death experience.

It does not have to be that way.

Photo of Oscar

What if we know our expiry date?

You would say, 'that is not possible'.

Are you being rational or are you merely being defensive because it is something you would rather not know?

In a nursing home at Rhode Island, a resident cat named Oscar is said to be able to do just that, ie. he predicts death.

Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2005. He was a normal cat with the usual feline attitude. He would decide who to go to but never spend much time with anyone, unless he is in his last hours.

No one can explain why. Somehow, Oscar would curl up in bed with a the patient and give the most needed companionship to this usually lonely person. It is as if that were his way to say goodbye.

The nursing home has since learned that Oscar's persistent appearance with a particular patient is a signal to them that his final hours are approaching.

Book by David Dosa

After reading Oscar's story, I was amazed and frightened by his unusual gift. On one hand, I am deeply touched by the compassion shown. On the other, I am greatly disturbed by the possibility of death prediction.

Watch this video for Oscar's story. You may also want to read "Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat" written by David Dosa, a doctor with the nursing home.

Photo by Vanilla

Putting future in our own hands

I have not come across anyone who is dying to know when he would die (pun intended). For that matter, I hardly know anyone who wants to find out much about his future. For me, I want to know none of those.

Life is unpredictable and I cannot write my autobiography in advance. However, no one says that I cannot visualize how this 'book' might look like. Our future begins now. Instead of allowing our past to rule the future, we can be the architect of our own future by drawing the blueprints today. Peter Drucker has said it well, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.

Who would you rather be?

Update: Spain brought back the 2010 World Cup trophy! Paul's right.

“My interest is in the future
because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”
~ Charles F. Kettering~
(American engineer, 1876-1958)

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Not-So-Common Sense?

Photo By Vanilla

Is there something wrong with your commonsense? Read on.

I wrote several articles on happiness, motivation and lifelong learning. Many found resonance with my thoughts but some said I merely made commonsense statements.

I could not agree more. Indeed, I merely made commonsense statements.

Photo By Vanilla

What is commonsense any way?

Thanks to our survival instinct, commonsense may come naturally and intuitively. For eg. you would cup your ears when it gets too noisy. You do not need to go to school to learn that. Somehow, you just know not to test the depth of a river with both feet.

Otherwise, commonsense is a set of understanding that most people can agree to. Their agreement is usually drawn from their common knowledge and experience gathered in life.

A commonsensical matter is not something we need to conduct a research on before forming an opinion or making a judgment.
For eg. we would commonly agree to the fact that 'wars are bad'.

Photo By Vanilla

Is commonsense really common?

Voltaire (French Philosopher, Writer 1694-1778) once said "Common sense is not so common" and that is so true.

The thing about commonsense is that, many know what it is but few are conscious in applying it.
In Lifelong Learning - My Way, I said "Lifelong learning is a commitment". Think about it, who doesn't know that?

Think again. How many people do exactly that?

While we can agree that wars are bad but why do we have no lack of similar events since time immemorial?

Photo By Vanilla

Why is commonsense not so common?

You have commonsense. Perhaps, I should put it this way, "You believe that you have commonsense." Given that belief, you tend to instinctively dismiss or belittle anything you perceive as commonsense.

For eg, if I say "Happiness depends on your positive emotions", you would probably go, "who doesn't know that?" Such a response blocks your senses and you cease to give the matter a further thought.

Sometimes, we avoid or fear commonsense. We give ourselves reasons, justifications but mostly excuses to distinguish ourselves out of given circumstances.

For eg. we know it is commonsense to eat well and exercise regularly to stay healthy. For those who do exactly the opposite, they are not lacking of commonsense. They merely have more excuses than others.

Commonsense is also often discarded because people succumb to greed and lust. That is one main reason why we never cease to have wars even though our commonsense tells us that they are bad.

Photo By Vanilla

Commonsense means wisdom?

Not really, but there would be no wisdom without commonsense. Look at it this way: Knowledge + Commonsense = Wisdom.

Since commonsense is rarely common, the lack of wisdom in many people is only to be expected.

In Perspective of Life, I shared that life would be less of a routine if we would simply do some of things differently. I was obviously stating the obvious, no?
If it is so, why are there so many people lamenting about their lackluster lives?

There you go, I may be merely making commonsense statements but that is necessary. Very often, our commonsense needs to be woken up before it can be blended with our knowledge to give us some wisdom.

Once again, everything I say here is commonsense. Hold on to your prejudices and give it a thought. Your commonsense may be in a slumber. Wake it up.

You might also want to read:
Get Your Daily Motivation
Monday Blues - No More

Happiness is a Choice

Erasing The Past?

"Common sense is instinct. And enough of it is genius."
~Josh Billings~

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