Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A matter of (personal) faith

I was surprised the local channel was covering the news US evangelist Franklin Graham, was coming to Hong Kong to hold events. Today he was giving a press conference and handing out school supplies to a poor area in Hong Kong. I'm sure many of friends will be going to these events being devout Christians.

I'm quite ambivalent towards the topic of evangelism. It's good to talk about your faith to other people whether they are atheist or believe in a different religion. It gives them an idea how your religion works, since I always believe ignorance leads to hate and discrimination. If convert you them to your religion, the better.

Yet I start to draw the line when people start to 'impose' their religious views on people who don't want to hear about it. Some people are happy not believing in God or a particular religion, which is fine by me. They are plenty of good people in the world who are not Christian, Muslim or any other religion who are living content lives and performing good deeds.

There are also people who start to take their religious doctrine a little too seriously or distort the views of the Bible. If you start to say you view on something is based on the fact "It is in the Bible", I think you are on mushy foundations. I remember one former friend (Dora Tai) would not have pre-marital sex on the basis "It is in the Bible." If she said that her relationship with her boyfriend would be better if they did not engage in any nookie before the big day, I would accept her views and moved on. However just because "It is in the Bible" is bordering on blind contempt for me. I'm sure many young ladies in Hong Kong feel the same way, that pre-marital sex is bad because "It is in the Bible".

Before people start to write in and say I'm a Bible basher who hates all Christians and has no basis on his views regarding Christianity, let me just iterate I'm a Christian - Protestant/Anglican to be more precise. I do believe there is one God and Jesus Christ came to die for our sins. I must admit I have not been to church for quite a while - nearly four years - because of my schedule but primarily because of my depression and my faith have not been compatible.

Yet I don't believe the Bible is totally the word of God - it is interpretation of his word from his disciples which have been distorted over many millennia. Think of the game 'Chinese Whispers' and you know why I think that. I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe animals have no souls (one fact sprung on me by Dora and one I absolutely don't believe). I do believe live is precious and I would not give my permission to an abortion but I do believe it is a woman's right to choose. I don't believe in euthanasia but I believe it is right for a person to choose whether or not he/she should die. I do not believe in imposing my religious views on other people, which is why I abhor when conservative politicians who use the Bible as their basis for their political stance start to implement these views on their constituents, whether or not they believe in that religion.

For those who believe the Bible as the only word, I like to give you a scene from one of my favourite shows of all time "The West Wing" (Season 2, Episode 3 - The Midterms). In this scene, the President meets a religious radio show host:
President Josiah Bartlet: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Josiah Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
President Josiah Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

I don't mind if you are religious or not. Just don't impose your views on me. They are YOUR views, not mine. I still believe faith is personal and cannot be passed on.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Two types of headaches

I had my first migraine this week... or I think I did. I had a stomach ache, dyspepsia in nature, starting on Sunday but it progressed to a headache on Monday. The stomach ache and headache got so bad, I missed most of classes on Monday and Tuesday. I still don't think it was a migraine but it doesn't fit any other type of headache.

What was even worse was losing my phone on the minibus on Tuesday after attending my follow-up with my psychiatrist. I'm pissed off at myself at losing a relatively new phone (given to me by my mother), since I'm usually careful with these things. Nine times out of ten when I leave public transport I will check my seat in case I have left something. This time it didn't happen, probably due to my headache.

I'm more pissed off nobody has returned the phone and has already chucked out the SIM card. The person in question has probably used the phone for him/herself or sold my MotoL6i off. I'm probably naive in thinking or have an idealistic view people will return things that have been lost but this never is the case in Hong Kong. This just probably reinforces my pessimistic view of Hong Kong people being greedy. This situation may occur in other countries but probably less so.

So if you try to call me in the next few days, now you know why I'm not picking up.

Steve McClaren should be hung by his knob and eggs thrown at him. He couldn't even qualify after been giving a lifeline.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ten years on

On 19th November 1997, I attempted suicide for the first time.

It was two days before the House Music Competition at my boarding school. I was in charge of coordinating our (miserable) effort. I was getting frustrated by the group not co-operating with me and not putting some effort into our entry. I burst into tears as I usually do and stormed off, with the sarcastic jeers of the rest of the house in the background. After contemplating for such a long time and with nobody coming to see how I was doing, I decided to ask a friend to slash my wrists. Fortunately that friend had the common sense not to heed to my request and retrieved our housemaster to talk some sense into me. Now is the tenth anniversary of the day I effectively mark as the beginning of my depression and I'm sort of in a reflective mood.

The past ten years have been like a rollercoaster ride with my depression, usually with more descents than elevations. Since my initial episode I have never fully recovered my ability to enjoy anything , not to the level which other normal people enjoy activities or other aspects of life. Most of the time I am a miserable bastard, having changed from an idealistic, kind person to a cynical, sarcastic gremlin who has no faith in the human race. My depression, growing up and living in Hong Kong has brought me to where I am in life.

I remember watching Stephen Fry's excellent documentary about bipolar affective disorder, "The Secret Life of a Manic-Depressive" where the comedian was asked how many depressive and manic episodes he had. Since I am in a reflective mood, I have been doing the same. In the past ten years, I have attempted suicide about four times - slashing wrists, slashing wrists, paracetamol overdose and slashing wrists. I have been hospitalized three times for severe depression with suicidal ideation - December 2003, June 2004 and April 2006. I have seen many people for my depression - two doctors (with many trainees attending), two counsellors and two clinical psychologists. I'm currently on my fourth type of antidepressants and have been on the maximum dose for each regimen. I have gained a few valuable friends through this experience but lost more people who couldn't handle the situation.

The inevitable question I should be asking myself is how do I feel after ten years with depression? I know I have to live with depression with the rest of my life and maintain constant vigilance for relapses/episodes. I know I have to change my way of thinking to avoid entering another depressive state. I know my prognosis is poorer with an early age of onset, an episode almost every year and different drug regimens.

Most of the time, I wish I never had depression. It has taken four years out of my life and lost me a lot of "friends". Yet there is a small part of me which is thankful for having depression. I know what it is like to be a patient and some part of society that is stigmatized, along with other people like different ethnic races and the elderly. I have learned to think more broadly and be more open-minded. I know which people do genuinely care about me and which people don't give a shit about me.

I don't usually celebrate special occasions such as as birthdays, Valentine's Day and holidays. I may make an exception for having survived ten years of depression.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Human nature

A friend currently doing her medical internship recently wrote in her blog about her fear of losing her empathy after a few months into her job. Demands from patients, senior doctors, nurses and herself plus the lack of patience has lead to a 'mean' streak from her. Even though I don't know what she is going through, I can imagine nearly every intern goes through this experience. However she is far better off than most as she has acknowledge the fact and has a willingness to change.

I think I wrote about this before but I'll mention it again. Human beings are not designed to be nice or kind or generous. The role of a living being is to survive, reproduce and ensure our genes are passed on. (On a side note, I don't think it necessary to evolve. The role of evolution aids our survival but it is just a circumstance of our interaction with the environment.)

Being nice does not fit into the equation. There is no benefit from being nice. We are nice to our family members because they roughly have the same genetic make-up as you and we want to ensure their DNA is passed on. This is probably why we are nice to our children but shitty to our parents once we get to the breeding stage. I don't why we are nicer to our friends than to our colleagues or strangers as it makes no behavioural sense but I have postulated a theory. We like our friends as they possess characteristics we like. Most of these traits probably are genetic and we want to ensure those characteristics are passed on.

Being nice to strangers or people we don't like is just natural. It is the same in the animal kingdom and it is the same in the human world. In essence animals are psychopaths. We are only nice if it serves our purposes, mostly because you don't want to be ridiculed for being nasty. I'll give you the example of charities. In my opinion charity work should be its own reward and you shouldn't derive any other benefit from it, not even compensation of the time, money or effort you've put into it. When people and especially celebrities start to publicize charities, especially their own, you start to wonder if there are ulterior motives.

I have no problems with people or celebrities highlighting charities to raise funds or awareness. I accept people are more likely to donate to a charity if a celebrity is linked to it but its not a particularly good way to get money. You want people to genuinely care about the charity concerned. You start to wonder if the celebrity involved gets more benefit out of the deal, since he/she probably has set up the charity despite there being hundreds of charities doing the same job plus adding his/her name on it.

There are people who I think do charity work to massage their own egos. They feel good in an unusual way when doing volunteer work. I remember talking to one honorary professor who was supposed to help me deal with repeating a year. Yet all I got out of him was the charity work he does in his spare time, which really had no relevance to me at all. I think that also applied to one of my friends Kevin when he started to publicize his charity work. I think it was partially massage his ego and make him feel good in the weird sort of sense. He really didn't need to publicize but he did and I really question it.

Being nice is probably the next evolutionary step for humans. We should break free from our genetic bond and start to dictate our own future & purpose. Otherwise just surviving and reproducing doesn't seem like a lofty goal I want to aim for.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For fallen soldiers

Today is Remembrance Day in UK and Veterans' Day in USA. Both holidays celebrate the same idea, to remember soldiers who have fought and died in various wars around the world.

This kind of remembrance is difficult in Hong Kong for various reasons. Hong Kong has not been in a major war since World War II, so my and my parents' generation cannot begin to imagine what war is really like. This lack of awareness is further enhanced by the fact Hong Kong has no military forces. This little special administrative region depends entirely on the People's Liberation Army for protection. Hong Kong people cannot enlist into the army, air force or navy and know what it is like to fight in a war.

Whatever your views of war and fighting, you must have an appreciation for the soldiers who do the dirty words. Few will begrudge people who decide to join up and fight for his/her country... except for that little weird American family/cult who picket military funerals with placards saying the soldiers' deaths are God's punishment on liberating homosexuals. That is an exception. Soldiers just carry out their orders - "It's not to reason why but to do or die." Some question this proverb but it is extremely useful. If we started to reason why for every decision in every war, we would doubt every decision made by our leaders.

Wars are not fought between two countries. Wars are fought between two men - the leaders. There is never a referundum or vote to decide whether or not to go to war. The population entrust their leaders with the decision whether or not to go to war and sometime it doesn't work. There have only been two occasions in my recollection and my opinion where war has been really necessary. The first was World War II but we only found out on the true extent afterwards of Hitler's terror. The second occasion was the first Gulf War after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. All other wars were just to gain control or power and otherwise were unnecessary. This includes the current fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As you sitting there reading this entry, just remember there have been people who sacrificed their lives for you to be able to do that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Eye of the beholder

I know it is rude, crass and possibly chauvinistic for people to comment about appearance but I'm going to write about it anyway. Lately I have noticed how hot, beautiful, sexy or all of the above some of the people I knew have become. You don't notice this in your teenage years when everybody is growing and maturing but once you are in the prime of your life at the mid-twenties, you wish you taken more notice of them. I've put some pictures of SOME of those people I've been noticing. Before the bleeding conservatives and feminine activists start shouting and saying I'm displaying pornography or reducing these people to their appearance, I like to say I'm complimenting them on their appearance the only way I know how (a guy's perspective), I have total respect for them and I know they have great personalities, a intelligent brain and other attributes which would guys should be attracted to. There are others girls I know who are just as attractive but I don't they don't have good photos up on the web.

Yet that phrase - "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is true. There are certain people I find attractive that other people don't whilst the opposite is true. I cannot think of any babes I like which others would not touch at this moment in time. Yet there are a few examples I can think of women I don't want to touch. Angelina Jolie is one. I know a lot of guys will think I'm crazy but I think they should hear me out. I prefer her with light brown hair rather than the dark brown or black she normally sports. Plus its her character which bugs me the most - you know deep down she's a whore. Another lady I'm not too amoured too is Halle Berry. I just don't like her hair (what is it with me and women's hair?) - it's too short.

There are other things what makes a woman sexy apart from her appearance: her behaviour, what is she wearing (or not wearing) and her personality. I know Beyonce Knowles is very attractive and stunning. I most likely would like to have sex with her but wouldn't like her to be my girlfriend. I know that sounds weird but I just feel her character wouldn't be faithful to her boyfriend. I'm probably wrong and if I get to know her she might seem a nice woman but that is the impression I get from her.

Yet that is how guys assess gals; on their appearance. We want to be attracted to gals with a great personality, a wonderful sense of humour or kind generosity but we cannot see that straight away. If there was a rating meter over each girl displaying those statistics, life would be so much easier and fairer. Unfortunately the only way guys can assess girls is their face, tits and arse. I don't want to but evolution and genetics has engineered the male species that way. Human behaviour and thinking has lead to the belief attractive people are kind, intelligent and all the other positive features you can think of, which is utter horsecrap and loose stoolwater of the worst kind.

I know we should transcend our DNA and be attracted to the opposite sex in other ways apart from the appearance but that will take time and a lot of education.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More grieving

I knew there was something wrong. A few of my friends changed their Facebook status to 'being shocked' or 'in grieving' but I didn't know what had happened. Only this morning did I assemble the pieces together. When I went down to Starbucks for breakfast and read the South China Morning Post did I know what had happened. Somebody I knew and I had been in the same class with died in a diving accident yesterday. I heard the news yesterday but I didn't realize it was this person until I saw the article in the newspaper today.

It certainly is a tragedy, for her, her family and her friends. I prayed to God that He could find a place for her by his side and comfort her family and friends. I didn't know her that well but knew her well enough to know she was a nice girl, although a bit feisty at times (and I'm saying that in a nice way). Hopefully she has found her way to heaven.

She was only 27 years old. She's the second person I know who has died young. The other jumped off a mountain whilst on a skiing holiday. It's always a tragedy when somebody dies but when that person is somebody you know and who is young, it seems more so. Naturally (and perhaps it is a bit selfish) you start to examine your own existence and you start to notice you should cherish each day, since it can be your last. The Grim Reaper doesn't discriminate between the old and the young - he takes who he pleases.

Another thought that goes through people's mind is "Why?" "Why did you have to take her when she was so young and had her whole life before her?" Many religious people would say it was her time or something along those lines but for those non-believers they don't have the answer and unfortunately nobody does. We all like to die in our elder years pain-free but we don't live in an ideal world. This is a fact of life - some of us will die old but some of us will die young.

Although I didn't know her that well I'm dedicating this entry to her...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Funeral arrangements

I'm surprised how well my mother is handling my grandmother's (her mother) death. Naturally she was quite overcome with grief on the day she died but since then life has essentially returned to normal. All that is different the arranging of the funeral in a few weeks time - finding a place to have the funeral and findings clothes for the funeral. In a Christian-based society, one would normal have a service in a church and everyone would be dressed in black. In Hong Kong society, everybody is dressed in white with the clothes thrown away afterwards.

Some other traditions are not generally observed nowadays. In days gone by, the funeral would take place overnight with nobody allowed to leave the body of the deceased. Nowadays this custom has been consigned to history books. I'm sure the burning of paper effigies such as a house, car, money, etc. will still be adhered to since everybody likes to burn stuff.

I remember one of our psychiatry professors Dr. Jonathan Ko saying funeral arrangements are generally for the living and not for the dead. I find this mostly true. The dead won't know about your funeral arrangements and even if they did, I think they would be upset that so much time, effort and money would be spent on their funeral in such a melancholic way. For the living the funeral is their proper way to say goodbye. Societal views play a part in the equation, since nobody wants to hold a cheap funeral.

I already know what my funeral arrangements will be like. I know for sure I want my organs donated, no matter what my; family say and if they are in reasonable shape and fucntion. I would rather spend an eternity in hell rather than not help somebody have a new heart, liver or lungs. I want to be cremated in a cheap but at least presentable wooden box - it's going to be burnt so why waste money on something extravagant? Nobody can wear black at my funeral. I want people to remember the good times with me (if any) rather than be saddened at my loss. I remember watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when they hold a funeral for the supposedly dead Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer) and it was a celebration with food and music. That is what I want at my funeral - lots of booze and naked chicks (naked hunks for the ladies). I want half of my ashes thrown of the Palace Pier in Brighton (if that is possible) and the other half thrown over the Emirates Stadium. I find this ironic now, since I'm a hardcore Gooner but have never been to Highbury or Emirates and have only seen Arsenal play in the fresh at Wembley.

I don't know why people are afraid of death. Like the old saying goes, "The only certainties in life are death and taxes" (unless you live in Brunei where taxes are not a certainty). If I died today I wouldn't be disappointed. There are two reasons why people are afraid of death. Firstly is the pain associated. People are afraid of the pain more than the death itself. People always want to die in their sleep or without pain. Secondly is the completeness of life. People do not want to die without achieving anything or fulfilling the ambitions or goals.

In general people are not afraid of death itself but the associations and consequences.