Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back at the Beginning

"Welcome to the Lord's table," said Pastor Linda as she presided over Communion in church last Sunday (5 July). I have sat through many a Communion service, but on that Sunday the invitation felt warmer and more immediate than anything I'd heard in a long while.

Maybe it was the irony of it all, for I have been anywhere but near the Lord, and thus to be welcome at his table felt bitterly unreal. The bread should have choked me, and the wine finish me off by poisoning. But none of that happened.

I moved back into college that day, for the third consecutive year. I'm staying in the very same room that welcomed me into the University of Malaya in June 2007. Dad and Kevin helped me carry my things to my room, while Mum and Sara waited with Ah Kong downstairs.

It was Ah Kong's first time stepping into my college, I think, and it felt like my first time too. Just the week before, I was busy with the Orientation as a member of the Student Council, but on that Sunday it felt as if I were checking in on a clean slate, a blank draft.

I miss the girls who saw me through my first and second years.

* * *

At the KL Gate, after Council duty handing out maps of the campus to the newcomers.

My parents gave me the bicycle for my 21st birthday, but an accident in early August last year kept me out of bicycle action for a few months. I started riding again earlier this year, but this is the first photograph of me and my new friend. Thanks, Tim!

(And no, Ai Wei, I still don't have a name for the bike!)

Sometimes the road less travelled is the only road to travel.

Thanks, Jon. And thanks, Joy.

Just because.

Life can be sweet in spite of the bitterness of working with some people, in spite of the pain that comes from loving the society in which we live while wondering if it knows what on earth it is doing to itself.

Father, forgive us.

Life is colourful!

Sirap bandung. The drink that started it all.

It was good to be reminded at lunch, just before returning to college.

Freeloading. (Was this what the votes were worth?)

I brought back a leftover fish from the dissection exercise, and got the guys at Sahur (my college's 'mamak' café) to fry it for supper.

And then there was Amos's Milicks ais, which became, much to his amusement, Horlicks topped off with Milo powder.

Jia Hua hiding behind Li Ern's legacy. It was nice to see that old clipboard at the first PKV meeting of the year!

* * *

The other day, talking to Fang Hai, Kuhan and Jon, we realised that Michael Jackson was really the epitome of, and perhaps the closest a pop star would ever get, to the word 'artist'.

As I mull over his life (and death), I think one of the reasons why he was such a big hit was that he created a space in which all kinds of people from all walks of life could participate. His was a stage on which just about anyone could dance.

I remember what some people said, that he did a better job of bringing people together than any politician or government has in recent history (maybe even in all of history).

As I enter my third year here, the path I have chosen to walk seems more and more to be forking into two linked yet distinct destinies: to be an environmental activist, or to be a research zoologist? Easiest answer: why not do both?

I've noticed that, with all the international hype about conservation and climate change, it's easy for ecology students to be pigeon-holed. We're the 'green people', the tree huggers, turtle cuddlers, whatever.

But the thing is, I never set out to convert the world into little green men and women. At times I think my idea of a 'green' society is not what the world wants. Everyone's talking about energy-efficient cars; I say we should walk more! Forget about biodegradable plastic bags; just say 'no' at the cashier's counter.

The joke is told of the Americans who realised conventional pens could not work in outer space (zero gravity) and therefore spent billions inventing a pen that could. The Russians, being more backward and poor, used pencils instead. Go figure.

Moral of the story: the best solutions for planet Earth are not expensive or 'hi-tech'. They are in fact the oldest ways, the most traditional and conventional practices; they way forward is the way of common sense, not Al Gore sense or whatever. But many don't have this common sense.

So, back to the dilemma. I set out to do this because I love biology, because the natural world fascinates me, because I've always been spellbound by God's creation in all its diversity and splendour. One doesn't need a degree in Ecology and Biodiversity in order to be an effective catalyst for environmental change; a passionate lawyer, accountant or musician could do just as well, if not better.

It would be great if I can be an eminent zoologist as well as a leading activist. But at this point in time, it appears I only have enough energy for one or the other.

Thing is, sometimes I think I've gotten confused with the picture others have of me. Many think I like politics; on the strength of their support and votes, I'm here in the Student Council, though I do not feel the part at all. Many think I am an environmentalism nut: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

I'm not going to fall into that trap of becoming an environmental activist just because people think I fit the role, or because society thinks it's important, or because that's all the rage now. I'm going to focus on the actual learning and the work that began when Adam named the animals, and which continues today in the post-Darwinian matrix.

It's called passion. It's the stuff you see in Billie Jean, in Bad, in Thriller, in Black or White, in Beat It. It's almost impossible to pin down, but when it's in the room, everything else just fades to shadowy shades of grey.

1 comment:

Adrian Benjamin Lim said...

the benjamin dilemma...haih...

u're gifted in so many ways...but u can only be truly passionate for a few things or just one thing

Do wat u do best la..be the odd one..be the special one...be the creative one...be the favourite one(my mom always says that ebnjamin means favourite, dunno whether it's true or not..)

For me I'm passionate in football...crazy..i feel it's useless at times coz it doesn't sem to benefit the world/people...lolz...