Friday, September 29

The simple joys of life!

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Part of columnist’s personal collection of books, DVDs and music at home – his greatest joy in life.

AS we all age and as the world progresses around us, we seldom have time to just stand still, pause and reflect on our own lives – only at times of crisis or during threats to our mortality do we ask ourselves: what am I living for?

Personally, I have found that with the tangled relationships and the oft-times complicated turns and twists of our daily lives, my answer is simple living. It allows one to focus on the things that are truly important to one, rather than wasting one’s energy on things that do not bring any benefit or add value to one’s life.

Simple living allows us to maintain a constantly low stress level, which benefits our physical and mental health and thus, our well-being overall.

How do I do that? There are, for me, seven vital considerations – I would not list them as ‘commandments’, but they are essential to my daily living in which I find comfort, joy and immense pleasure in.

You are, of course, free to make your own personal list. Here are mine, not listed in any order of priority.

I class reading, movies and music into one category by itself because it entails a common desire to be entertained and to acquire knowledge, and it involves both sight and sound and renders pleasure to our mind, body and soul.

This is very much an acquired taste or habit, and I feel blessed that my parents were largely responsible for my lifelong love for all these three interests. I also understand and empathise with many people whom I know who do not have the slightest interest in any one or all three of these ‘hobbies’ or pastimes.

Next comes the much wider and more essential part of life – which everyone certainly must partake in order to survive – but that much overused phrase ‘eat to live, or to live to eat’ comes into play. I would say most of us ‘live to eat’ in that we do seek out and find the best culinary delights to satisfy our daily consumption each day.

The majority of us enjoy our food (and drinks) and will not hesitate to travel some distance to seek them out nor spare any reasonable expense. A few of this majority would go one step further and try to learn how to do it for themselves – that is to cook their own favourite foods so that they can tweak the recipes to further enhance, or to make it more malleable to their palate.

At the other extreme end would be the ultimate food connoisseur who wishes to ‘spread the word’ and introduce his favourite foods to as many people as possible. I certainly do take my hat off to these foodies and influencers of taste, and wish them all the best.

Then there is that famous quote: “Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind and fills your life with stories to tell.”

I know that most of us love to travel and within our own means will try and see as many places on Earth as possible – even return, again and again, to our favourite ones over time.

It is true that this is something we can only do when we are young, fit and can afford to.

Many of us are lucky enough to either have family members or friends who reside in foreign lands to enable us to visit them occasionally; yet others find ways and means to ‘tie-in’ trips with business in order to save on airfares and so forth.

But travel really opens one’s eyes to how the other folks live – and if we happen to visit places where climates and environments are hugely different, we can return home and say to ourselves: “How blessed are we that we live in a country that is summer all year long!”

My fourth essential to a good and simple life is lasting friendships. We started making friends outside family members from as young as two, when we had learned the skills to communicate; in school from around seven till 19, we would have made more friends within our class, year and elsewhere if we had been active in extracurricular activities or had led active student lives.

After higher education and at our workplaces, we continue to develop friendships.

I would reckon that over a lifetime of, say five decades, even an introvert would have made at least ‘100 friends’ – for extroverts, the sky is the limit.

The big difference in friendships is in the simple word ‘lasting’.

Not many friendships do. The ones that last through time and the many trials and tribulations as most of our friendships in reality do go through are what are called the ‘keepers’.

One would be lucky to have a dozen or so; extremely blessed if that number goes to the three digits!

Good friends, true ones, are like rare precious stones – they stay with you till the very end.

Many of us would indeed prioritise and likely place my fifth position joy as their No 1 – that is faith.

Regardless what faith you belong to – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and others – I find comfort, joy and have a total belief in my faith.

I am Christian, although that revelation and awakening came late in life (at age 38), I am saved as a born-again Anglican worshiping at Tabuan Jaya Anglican Church in Kuching.

I consider myself as someone who has seen the light and indeed, have gone through the rigours and essential ‘training’ of a believer.

I have actually undertaken within my church what is termed as a ‘Discipleship Training’ course of one year and do consider myself an ‘active’ Christian (versus say someone who goes to church only at Easter and Christmas).

It is not judgmental, but just a qualifier.

I have to say that a person with faith in God is at peace with himself and the world, and feels completely fulfilled and ‘saved’.

That feeling of emptiness or wanting is forever gone. If you’re still in the wilderness seeking something out there, look for HIM. Don’t wait till tomorrow.

Without family, one will always be in search of something to fulfil and complete his life.

Without family, there would be little joy around the house; without family, there would be lacking the warmth and camaraderie during social occasions or at important events like births, weddings and funerals.

Family counts most. Friends you make on your own as you grow up and mature, and your interests change. With family, you are forever stuck with them all, whether you like it or not.

Many families are not cohesive; some are at loggerheads – and usually, it is over money, inheritance and decisions on how to look after elders and the sick.

Clashes of personalities are bound to appear.

I can say without hesitation that I am really blessed with a family that is close-knit and in complete harmony with one another. Although we are all spread out throughout most parts of the world, from the UK to Europe to Singapore, we are as one in our mutual and common aspirations and we work actively to build an even tighter and closer-knit entity, aided nowadays by the wonders of smartphones, Zoom, the Internet and emails, and WhatsApp.

Finally we come to the last joy, the final one, which for me is the most important: ‘looking out for No 1’, which in the simplest term to describe is look after your own health and ensure that you keep a balanced diet, take some exercise, keep your medical check-ups appointments and most of all, do not let yourself be a burden to your children and relatives.

Maintain an active lifestyle, stay connected with friends and socialise with them as much as possible; keep yourself updated with the latest news, medical breakthroughs; and be sure to take your meds regularly.

Don’t be a grumpy old man; do not repeat yourselves too often; keep your mind active by reading, watching and listening; and if you are blessed with grandchildren, stay in regular contact with them, play with them, love them with all your heart – there’s not much time left to do all that .

Be blessed and stay healthy. God bless you.

Postscript on last Saturday – Aug 12, 2023 column:

Firstly my sincere apology to Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai: I had mistakenly stated that he was from the Housing Commission; in fact he was a highly decorated member of the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), where he had spent 37 years and retired in a very senior position.

I had also inadvertently left out a few names, which I had meant to include in my roll-call of honour. Here they are, with my belated apologies:

  • Tuan Mohd Tuah Jais – retired Sarawak Tourism Board senior management, hugely responsible for the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) success in 1998; 
  • Shamsuddin Ahmad – senior management professional in a technical field; 
  • Dr Akbar Ibrahim – educationalist, lecturer in a senior position in education; 
  • Bong Ban Shin – (reputed) senior advisor in a US Government security agency;
  • Dearly departed (Rest in Peace);
  • (Late) Angking Embah – lawyer, barrister at law in Miri, and;
  • (Late) Dr Hsiung Kwo Mowe – medical doctor, migrated to Scotland.