Dogs of different destinies

Two news stories on dogs today generated strong but completely different feelings in me.

The first one, published in a local paper, was about the ‘dog meat festival’ which took place yesterday in a city called Yulin in Guangxi, China. Animal rights activists who went to city to protest and to buy the dogs to rescue them were mocked by many onlookers and cursed by the vendors, the latter under the protection of the policemen.

The second news story was about the 2014 world’s ugliest dog contest which was held on Friday in California. According to the official website of the organiser, the contest aims to spread the message that no matter the dogs’ physical detractions, they are loving companions, and to raise awareness for adoption of dogs, since a good number of the contestant dogs have been rescued from shelters and puppy mills. This year’s winner, a Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix called Peanut, is a good example. Peanut’s toothy grin and bulging eyeballs were the results of burns received as a puppy. Holly Chandler, his owner  plans to donate the prize money to pay for the veterinary bills of animals in need so that others might have the same opportunities as Peanut. She also hopes to use Peanut's fame to raise awareness for abused animals. 

It seems that, compared with the rest of the world, the civilisation of China still has a long way to go.


Moments of the Now

It must be sacrilegious, the sounds of my footsteps announcing my clumsy arrival.

This is the feeling I have as I descend from Quarry Gap to Tai Tam Reservoir every morning during the past two weeks. Treading on the trail traversing woods, streams and undergrowth of exquisite serenity, I feel like an intruder. I am not the only creature interfering with the silence and stillness - there are the birds, insects and reptiles, too, but they are doing a much better job, blending perfectly with the setting and orchestrating with the elements to add to the charm and sacredness.

Sometimes I would just hold my steps so as to let my Being become one with the silence and stillness. And those are the moments when I can truly appreciate the peace and joy of the Now.


Glitter in the gutter

Here's another lizard I saw during a another morning walk.

This one was less composed than the one I saw yesterday. It was in a gutter when spotted by me. Noticing me, it made a desperate attempt to seek shelter. The best bet would have been to scurry into the foliage on the side, but the steep walls of the gutter made it a daunting, and risky, task, so the poor thing just made one frantic dash forward after another, but still it could not get rid of me.

After following it with a sense of wicked fun for some distance, I decided to spare it of the fright and misery and walked away.


"I am invisible"

One can be forgiven for not noticing anything special in this photo of a piece of ground. But if you look really carefully, you will see a lizard there.

See the enlarged image below for confirmation.

It was what I saw during my morning walk today. I was surprised that the whole time I was standing quite close to the lizard, it did not make any attempt to run off. Except slightly cocking its head a couple of times to dart a glance at me, it just lay very still there.

Maybe it was satisfied with the job that the camouflage did, which, in fact, was a pretty good one.


Building a cross and a mausoleum

I had two strange dreams recently.

In the first one, a man, whose face I cannot remember, was working with me to assemble a cross using a few pieces of glass.

In the second one, I had just finished building a mausoleum for myself. It was huge, the measurement going something like 4 metres by 8 metres.

These dreams seem to have highly symbolic and spiritual meanings and I have been wondering what message they are meant to reveal. I realise that they do synchronise with my life in these few weeks, in which a change of rhythm and routine due to my medical leave enables me to look into my life and confront the challenges and absurdity. I can see clearly how it is a life dominated by my ego and the fear and negativity it engenders. With the help of some reading and reflection, I am beginning to experiment with some ways to strengthen my self-awareness and connect with my inner being as well as the infinite being which is God. 

I can see how a massive mausoleum is exactly what I need to bury that big, monstrous ego.


Ten things I learned from a six-week medical leave

  1. Good health is the most important thing in life. Even if you have all the time in the world, if you are immobile, in pain or short of vigour, you do not get to enjoy it.
  2. It is good to retreat from our routine life and have a taste of something different. The change of pace, style and perspective can be eye-opening.
  3. An excellent way to start a day is to take a long walk, ideally up in the mountains. It does not necessarily take much time - I leave home at 0730 and get back at 1000 after doing an 8-km walk - but still it is a luxury that is beyond most of us who have to work full-time.
  4. Siesta is another healthy and pleasurable thing to do but is equally out of reach of the working population.
  5. Things do not fall apart in my office during my absence. I wonder how many people can say that they are indispensable.
  6. A simple and rewarding life does not cost much.
  7. A life requiring medical help is another story, especially if you do not have insurance coverage.
  8. When the constraints and pressure from time are removed, life is so much more enjoyable.
  9. It follows that if we can buy time with money, that should always be a good deal.
  10. Whatever situation you find yourself in, learn to accept and move on.


What I experienced and learned from the biking accident

The accident was not a life-changing event. It brought physical pain but not trauma. It deformed my shoulder but did not ruin my life. It was, nonetheless, quite a remarkable experience. After all, it was the first time I have ever had an operation, spent some nights in a hospital and had medical leave for a couple of weeks. And the experience gave me some revelations and insights that I would otherwise be quite blind to in my routine daily life.

You can never be too careful when biking - Especially on the first few days, I tried to figure out how and why it had gone wrong. Haven’t I been coasting along the same cycling trail for years? Haven’t I been swerving to avoid manhole covers a million times? Haven’t I been biking on rainy days much worse than this one? Why did the bike just skid out of control this wretched time? And why was the injury so bad when the speed was not so high? Slowly, I began to see that I probably shouldn’t just put it down to sheer rotten luck. I should have been more wary of the danger of going biking when the ground is slippery, and the possibility of losing control when the thin tyre is in contact with the rim of the manhole cover on a wet day. The fact that an accident did not take place during the million times before is no guarantee that it will not happen. This is a costly but priceless lesson to learn.

There is a marked difference between public and private medical services - This is like stating the obvious, but the difference in my experiences was very pronounced. I must doubly emphasise that I do not have a single bad word to say about the service of all those who served me when and after the ambulance took me to the public hospital. They did their best and many of them were nice and kind, but the manpower of the public system is such that the medical staff do not have the time to communicate sufficiently with the patients. The unspoken message seems to be: “You can get whatever treatment we can provide here, but please do not ask questions because we do not have time for them.” 

The service in the private system, which I was privileged to enjoy thanks to insurance coverage, is an entirely different story. Comparatively speaking, everything in the private hospital was first class, from the comfort and privacy of my room with a good view of the Victoria Park and the Victoria Harbour to the meal to be ordered from an a-la-carte menu. Of course, this has everything to do with money. Just for an indication, the expense of all diagnosis and a day’s stay at a public hospital cost me less than taking one single X-ray photo at the private hospital. 

Many people are very kind, and they will demonstrate it when the opportunities arise - When the accident put me in the situation where I could do with some help here and then, it gave me the opportunity to experience, and be overwhelmed and moved by, the kindness of others. Examples of such kindness abound, and it did not necessarily come from friends and relatives, such as my mother-in-law preparing three boxes of cooked food so that I did not have to cook for myself while resting at home. There was also this heart-warming experience when I went to the hospital for physiotherapy on a rainy day. I was trying to open my umbrella when one of the two girls standing in front of me turned back and asked: “Can I help you open it?” I realised then that she had thoughtfully noticed how this man with one hand in a brace was fumbling with the umbrella. 

Without a doubt, the accident was unfortunate, but, like so many other things in life, it could, taken in a proper way, be an eye-opening experience and a blessing in disguise.


New lease of life

For the first time since I fractured the clavicle on my right shoulder during a biking accident two weeks ago, I do not feel being at the mercy of the combined influences of the trauma, the operation, the pain and the medicine. Recovery is still a long way away, but the feeling of being robust and in control is back. These last few days of rest have helped nurture a new perspective and I feel refreshed and renewed. Suffering, handled in the right way, does take you a bit closer to God. It is indeed a blessing in disguise.

So I would like to take this opportunity to resurrect my writing career - updating this blog which has been deserted for years.

And I am taking a small step first. Anyhow, Mobility of the shoulder is still fairly limited. It is unnecessary and unwise to apply too much pressure yet.