Friday, June 27, 2008

Life Is A Box Of Chocolates... Or Is It?

I recently had a brief dialogue with someone who doesn't believe in the concept of destiny. As someone who believes that everything happens for a reason, one would think that it is only intuitive for me to scream bloody murder at him until gray matter oozes out of his ears. However, I sat there intrigued with his argument. How can one deny the concept of destiny?

His argument reminded me greatly of Neo's answer in The Matrix as he himself declared that he doesn't believe in fate. He said that he likes to think that everything is up to him and that his future is entirely in his hands -- that he basically has complete control over it.

Valid argument, yes.

Then he mentioned that God's best gift to man was free will. And because of free will, we are given the freedom to choose whatever path we wish to take. I felt my ears perk up at the mention of God's name.

I asked, "So, you believe in God?"

"Of course," he answered. I just had to make sure. These days, one can never know.

"Isn't it that God already has a plan for us? Well, at least that's how we are taught," I rebutted. "Where does it fit in that we are in total control of our lives if He already knows what will happen to us in the end?"

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that God was pretty damn generous to grant us all free will. But this is how I see it: God gave us free will so that we can make our own choices and perhaps even to make our own mistakes to learn from. And even if He has given us this much power over our lives, He is still pretty involved in steering us towards the right direction. I like thinking that we embark on a journey towards our destinies -- it's just that our adventures vary depending on which roads and turns we take.

Believing in destiny doesn't mean that we have to leave everything up to God or the Universe (whichever we believe in). And it doesn't mean that we can simply sit by the beach sipping a cocktail while we wait for the sky to drop destiny on our laps. Life still goes on. We are still the sculptors of our own life statues -- but I cannot deny the existence of a greater master that guides us on the creation of our works of art.

My concept of destiny is largely intertwined with my belief in God and His masterplan. I feel that I will have a difficult time coping with disappointments and failures if not for it. Whenever I stumble, I pick myself up with the thought that it must have happened for a reason. It must have happened to pave for something bigger and better to come through. The idea makes me plow forward with heart and spirit.

I do respect his preference for not believing in destiny. But I think that to a certain extent, he believes in it -- just not in the conventional sense. And it's not wrong at all. God did give us free will to exercise and for this power, we thank Him everyday.

Forrest Gump teaches us that "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get." However, even though we may not know what we're going to get, surely, someone with a plan has handpicked all those chocolates to put in our boxes. They are all carefully tailored just for us.

And it's our job to find out why.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Be In Peace...

My nightmare from last year has reached its materialization stage. My grandmother has one foot out the door... the other one is still being held onto by life support.

The universe gave her a second chance in life. However, it wasn't as long as we wanted it to be. I know she held on as long as she could, but I guess the end is inevitable. I just pray that she be delivered from pain and suffering. Lola, I love you. We all do.

I will see you on the other side. One day, I promise. In the meantime, please watch over us from heaven.

I'm flying back home tomorrow to be with my family and to join them in mourning. Please pray for me. For her. For all of us.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Some Kosher Love

In my entire life, Israel only represented two things in my mind: Jesus-land and a warzone (a bit on the extreme ends of the spectrum, don't you think?). When I was told by my company that I was going to get sent to Tel Aviv for four weeks, I didn't know how to take the news. As a Catholic, I was glad that I was given an opportunity to go to the Holy Land. On the other hand, as a human being that watches CNN and the BBC quite frequently, I was practically convinced that I would never make it back to Singapore in one piece.

In the interest of keeping my job, I sucked it up and packed up my bags with the bare minimum as I heard that airport security gives the word scrutiny new meaning. And I also made it a point to stop watching any international news channel. They were simply giving me the heebie jeebies. I flew twelve grueling hours to Istanbul and another two hours to Tel Aviv. I was beyond knackered, but my nervousness remained.

Prior to leaving Singapore, I had at least four million people bidding me farewell and "please take care of yourself" comments. They were harboring the same fears as I. I'm guessing we all watched the same channels on cable TV.

However, isn't it that the best surprises usually come by when there aren't any expectations?

I never expected to fall in love with Israel the moment that I stepped out of the Ben Gurion airport. The weather was gorgeous and the thirty minute ride into Tel Aviv had me mesmerized -- let's face it, I didn't expect Israel to be that beautiful and I solely blame it on the media. The media does not give Israel the credit it deserves. It only shows of the war, poverty and unrests that are present in the country. But what about everything else? Sure, admittedly, Israel has more socio-political problems than a teen-ager has zits, but its positive attributes definitely outweigh its negative ones. Seriously, who would've thought that great wine could be manufactured in the midst of a desert? Move over Napa Valley...

As for safety -- pffft! I never dreamed in a million years that I would say this: I felt safer in Tel Aviv than I did in central London. For twenty five nights, I pranced around the city at night with my colleagues without any lingering fears or doubts. We ate (very) good food, we drank merrily by the seaside, we enjoyed the local scene and we befriended the people. During the weekends, we rode camels, had long car rides through the desert, soaked in the Dead Sea, toured the Old City of Jerusalem and followed Jesus' path of agony at the Via Dolorosa (a bit of culture doesn't hurt anyone, no?). During the week days, well, we had to work. Not much to say about that unfortunately.

Nonetheless, it was an experience worth gold. But more importantly, it was a lesson worth learning -- to never judge a country based on what you hear about it. Do not attribute suckage towards a place that you haven't been to because you haven't earned the right to bash it yet until you've seen it with your very own eyes (just a personal philosophy).

I envy the patriotism that inhabits the Israelis (which was best illustrated during the celebration of the country's 60th Independence Day). And I envy the heart of the Jews even more. Israel is a melting pot of Jews from all over the world in their desire to "be with their people." As simple as that. They want to be with their people, plain and simple. I find it ironic... where I come from, more people are itching to escape their lives in my native land than otherwise (and not to be a hypocrite, technically, I'm one of those people).

As I stick another thumb tack onto my map of places I have been to, I know that Israel will remain as one of my favorites for the mere fact that the journey has taught me more than I ever expected to learn. And it reminded me once again that God created such a beautiful place for us to live in.

And also, kosher food isn't that bad... :P

I'm not a fussy traveller, but I really wouldn't want to travel on this everyday...