Monday, August 27, 2007

Mostly on Writing and Calling

I appeared on TV for the first time last Friday, on NTV7's The Breakfast Show. MPH has a segment on the show, during which they promote local authors, books etc. Last week's promo was on this year's MPH Search for Young Malaysian Writers, and I was invited along with other young writers to be part of a mini-interview.

It was a live show, so I won't know how I looked on TV until I get the DVD from MPH!

That's the make-up artist dusted foundation (is it even called foundation? My knowledge of make-up: nearly nil) on my face and laced my lips with petroleum jelly. I did not wash off any of it until the evening, prior to the Engelbert Humperdinck concert (more on that to come).

Yve Von, Jia Hui, Frederick and I were interviewed by Sharifah Aleya. Many will recognise her from the Yasmin Ahmad movies, but I will always remember her as (if I'm not mistaken) Thomas More's daughter in The Actors' Studio's performance of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons on their 15th Anniversary. I was in Form Five then, I think.

And then on Sunday, I appeared (albeit recycled) in The Star again, this time in Star Mag. You can read the promo article here.

Aleya said at the start of the interview, "Perhaps we can call you authors now."

That night (or the next night, I can't quite remember), I dreamt I was writing something and my ballpoint pen ran out of ink. Then my rollerball followed suit, but fortunately there was a spare cartridge/stick of rollerball ink.

And then Aleya's words came back to me. As I think about it, I'd say I'm a writer; not an author yet, but on my way.

I'm a photographer, not quite an artist yet, but I'm on my way. And for this I will always be indebted to my art teacher, Mr Apollo Hui (affectionately Uncle Hui) for teaching me art (specifically watercolour painting) the traditional way, in the very spartan setting of his wife's provision shop (kedai runcit). I'm thankful I learnt art before picking up photography, because I might've turned into some graphics junkie otherwise (like a lot of the uber-digital photographers out there).

I'm a learning disciple, still stumbling, nowhere near perfect yet... but I'm on my way!

The more I think about it, the more I believe I am being slowly but surely called by God. Somehow it feels like everything is building up and the path before me is taking shape. I can see glimpses of it here and there and things are making sense, but not so much sense that it is clear; only just enough sense (or non-sense!) that I know these things are not random coincidences.

Aleya, upon finding out my age, asked if age has anything to do with me winning the competition.

(Jia Hui, runner-up last year is now 18; Yve Von, who took part in 2005, is also 18; Frederick, 2005, is 14... yes 14!)

I said no. And because I couldn't think of anything else to say, I shook my head and said "No" again. In retrospect, I should have answered:

"Age does have something to do with it. I wouldn't have written what I wrote, a few years ago. And I was nowhere near as good as these other young writers at their age... I'm a late bloomer!"

God, in this, has a sense of humour.

He delays my finest moments in Secondary School to my final year.

He delays my completion of Grade 8 Piano until after I listen to so much classical music that I am sufficiently inspired (the MPO concerts really changed the way I perceive and appreciate music).

He finally shows me the significance of the doughnut metaphor in the Christian life I used to listen to a lot of the Donut Man (Robert C. Evans of Integrity Music) when I was younger, and the famous 'Donut Song' goes like this:

Life without Jesus, is like a donut [the American spelling]
Like a donut, like a donut
Life without Jesus, is like a donut
'Cause there's a hole in the middle of your heart.

And so the Donut Man's message was that Jesus comes to fill the hole in our heart, to meet our needs. And I think that is God's message to me: to fill the holes in the world around me. Not all the holes, but the ones he calls me to.

In considering the way Biology textbooks are structured, I see two trends when it comes to the final chapter(s). Books on general Biology will discuss matters of ecology while books on cell and cell-based Biology will discuss cancer. I am convinced that these are the present frontiers in biological (and maybe even, as a whole, scientific) research.

Those who have known me long enough will know that I was always determined to be a doctor, and many were surprised that I chose the path I now walk. But as I think about it, it's not very much different. Perhaps God is calling me to one frontier rather than the other. And among my peers, I know there are far fewer future ecologists than there are doctors.

In my own way, I try to challenge my friends who are studying Biochemistry and Ecology especially (for these are the ones in 3rd College), to consider these frontiers and make our lives count for something more than just the ordinary and routine.

To me, these are the holes. And this is my burden: to be a Christian ecologist, because most Christians don't really care about the environment, and those who do are outnumbered. And because even the atheists are lamenting the lack of expertise in general.

I don't really know the significance of all this. I probably won't live long enough to see what becomes of the earth, whether good or bad. I just know that I enjoy studying God's creation and it feels as if many paths I'd walked in years past are converging here; many threads are beginning to come together.

So I walk.

* * * * *

The MPO celebrates their 10th Season this year (2007/2008 Season). Mum, Sara and I attended the Birthday Concert on 22nd August (there was also a performance on the 21st). It was a suitably festive, albeit short, concert, with a Liszt-like conductor (minus the height), cupcakes (I left mine for days and now mould is growing on it; still not throwing it away as I'd like to see it under the microscope :-P), balloons, flags and a fun repertoire.

I remember when I first heard of the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) years ago and saw photos of it. I used to think it was a gigantic hall, nothing like the small chamber-like venue it really is. In many ways, I'm glad it's not some gigantic hall, because there aren't many concert halls with intimate acoustics, and the MPO's Chamber Concerts are some of its best, especially for people who like to hear individual instruments and experience the innovative art that is music.

In addition, I never quite knew where it was. I always knew it was in KLCC, but I suppose I expected it to be a little more conspicuous, though it was probably because I never actually ventured out of Suria KLCC (the shopping complex) into the Towers area proper.

Then somehow, in January 2003, I saw an ad in the papers (the regular DFP ads in The Star that I never quite noticed) and I remembered the DFP as the place where a trumpeter performed when I was in Form 2. I remembered that I wanted to attend that concert; I can't recall who the trumpeter was, but I think he was the brother of some jazz legend.

Anyway, the Contemporary Chamber Concert was priced at RM10 and they were playing Strauss's Emperor Waltz along with a few other pieces. So I asked Ming-Shien if he wanted to join me (apparently he'd been there several times; his father was a subscriber or something) and he agreed.

Had I known better, it was probably the worst kind of concert with which to begin my MPO adventures. I thought 'contemporary' meant mainstream contemporary. Little did I know that in the classical world, 'comtemporary' means postmodern (i.e. beyond Stravinsky and Shostakovich and on into Schoenberg, Cage etc.). Horrible, horrible music which makes no sense. But two things won us over: the sound of instruments we'd only read and heard of, now heard for real and heard up-close, and a humorously written concert programme. I still love their programmes, written by the resident organist Marc Rochester.

The rest is history, and the MPO has become so much a part of my life that on the day of the Birthday Concert, I didn't have to give my name when collecting the tickets; the Box Office staffworker who attended me (Liyana, her name I think) recognised me and immediately produced my tickets! ;-)


mich said...

u were on the breakfast show?i didnt watch it over-slept..usually i watch la...hehe...btw...nice pics taken =)

nakedwriter said...

Late-bloomer? :)

I love Mulan. "The flower that blooms last is the most beeeeeeeeeautiful of all..."

Ai Ling told me about this. Heh. You take the most wonderful shots. Keep well...