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In the world, no one will feel that they themselves are bad people. Even if a person commits murder, or sells drugs, there is always a reason to justify the act.

Since there are already no immoral acts, forgiving people with kind intentions is easy. A friend did this to you with the kindest intention. If it goes wry, your friend has the kindest intention and shouldn't be blamed. How can you? Their intentions are good.

But the law judges the act as itself. When there is good intention in murdering someone--euthanasia for instance--murder is still being committed. Sentencing is a different matter.

When a person does something with kind intentions, the act is still being committed. There is still fault in the person and they should take responsibility for it.

The Non-Judgmental Morality

We live in a cynical and confusing world. People say there is no black or white, only gray areas, only different sides.

Increasingly I'm getting discontented with the generalization people say. Is there really no wrong or right?

Suppose your friend is in an affair with a married man. Let's establish that
1. You shouldn't judge your friend,
2. you should be supportive.

But being supportive doesn't mean you say things like "as long as you guys love each other, it's fine" because it's morally wrong. You hurt the man's family, his wife, his children, and who is to say the man wouldn't cheat on your friend in the future? People whose partners have cheated would understand the pain; children whose parent has cheated would suffer.

Being supportive just means not judging. But you should still caution your friend that adultery is morally wrong. Take a moral stand when giving advice, but don't judge. That's what being supportive means.

Historic Revisionists

Historic revisionists are people who, when reminiscing the past, paint a completely different picture of what the past is.

For example, on a birthday, a man gives his girl friend a bouquet of baby's breath and she is happy with the surprise. But years later, when they argue one day, she says, "You are a shitty boyfriend. For one of my birthdays, you gave me wilted cauliflower."

Such people are scary because they can revise the past to suit their needs. When they say, "How do I know that you didn't do this then," what they are really saying is "I know but I don't care enough about you to remember it this way."

Lady Macbeth: Opinions as Weapons

The age-old question: does Lady Macbeth influence Macbeth in any way to kill the king and crown himself? Or is she faultless?

I finally figured this out recently. Lady Macbeth is culpable. The act is done by Macbeth, no doubt, but she instigates and inveigles upon him.

Opinions have weight.
Opinions are made of words and words have power.

Say, a homophobic social worker advises a teenager that being gay is wrong. And the next day, the teenager kills herself. Whose fault is it?

The teenager chooses to commit an action, but shouldn't the social worker take some responsiblity in producing the action?

Religions work by opinions. It's the opinion of the ecclesiastical few that starts wars.

Hitler isn't the one to kill 6 million Jews. It's his opinion which influenced the nazi soldiers.

To shirk off all responsibilities when giving irresponsible opinions, even if one's intention is kind and to be supportive, is wrong. The person who gives opinions isn't spotless.
The fable of the kind Frog ferrying the Scorpion across the pond.

"Why do you sting me? Now we will both sink."

"Because it's my nature."

The fable is not a tale about acceptance because we pity the Frog but at the same time, we don't blame the Scorpion. When a pedophile pleads, "It's not my fault, it's my nature," we cannot accept that and allow him to keep hurting innocent people.

"It is my nature" is a juvenile defense. People can change and should change if they know they hurt others physically or emotionally, intentionally or not.

The fable is about the recognition of nature, and trying to change it. Maybe in the process, both will sink and drown. But at least the Scorpion has tried.
What do the good guys do in Richard III to prevent him from becoming king?

They do nothing. I tell my students, everyone knows Richard is evil, but they do nothing to stop him from getting the crown, from killing little boys, his nephews, and his brothers, from marrying his deceased brother's wife, the former queen.

The good guys are as culpable as Richard for not doing anything. In a sense, although Richard represents pure evil, the true evil, not necessarily worse than Richards, is inactivity and lassitude.

Which is why I try to speak up. The operative word here is "try" because I'm a coward and in situations of life and death, I'll probably cave. But I try.

Thoughts on Dirty Old Men

At the pool, an old man in his 50s with dry shriveled brown skin flipped and turned and did push-ups on the deck chair! to attract the attention of a young hot boy beside him.

Today, on the train, I saw a boyish secondary schoolboy. He had perfect fair skin, tall with perfect bone structure and perfect posture. Smooth all over--he was wearing his PE shorts--and his arms were as thick as his body. And of course I was attracted to this jailbait.

The only thing that differentiated the dirty old man at the pool and me was that I controlled myself. I glanced at the boy twice or thrice and returned to my book.

But who is to say that the dirty old man was wrong? He was going after what he wanted.

As I grow older, my desire changes. I'm beginning to like guys my age. Of course, now and then, when a young boy comes along, I am stirred. Isn't it evolution that tells us to like the healthiest body? But in general, I find myself attracted to people in the late 20s and 30s now.

Desire is fluid and can change. I wonder why some people don't.



What I miss most about loving is the hurting because you know you love only when you hurt. The kind of hurt so bad that you scrunch up your face and cry into the pillow in the dark. The pain that doesn't allow you to breathe.

But these days, I fear I can never feel that way again. People said I've mellowed but in fact, I don't feel anymore.

Letter to a Beautiful Boy

You're so beautiful that I had at first thought you were Korean. Because you had fair, unblemished skin and Singapore's weather just wouldn't allow that to happen. I soon realized my mistake. Koreans are perfect but they look the same, with the same eyes as if they were carved in stone, soulless.
You're different; you're perfect in a different way, you're a beautiful bloom, caught in a moment, never to be seen again after this summer. Your forehead protrudes slightly, lined by dark but thin eyebrows, framing your exquisite face. Your forehead and sharp nose have beautiful contours, which deepen your eyes, giving you a side profile as immaculate as your front view. I'd imagine you to be photogenic. Your eyes are the shape of teardrops, slightly uplifted at the ends and your lips are tulip-pink against a landscape of snowiness of your skin. Your skin, white porcelain skin, so clean it looks like it has been scrubbed countlessly or you just step out of a hot spring. The fairness of you glows with good health and the monotone color runs throughout your body and face until it reaches your ears which are the color of blush. It is impossible that such good skin could withstand the heat of Singapore but I now know the reason why. It's because you're an impossibility, beauty like yours is impossible to describe and I have to resort to cliches.
You wore a white tee with an Olympic logo, blue jeans folded up at the ankles and a pair of gladiator sandals. When you saw me reading in the queue, you whipped out your book too. I tried to peep at what you were reading - a book with blue cover. I'm curious that way.
Later, on the flight, you changed your white tee to a gray one and put on an unbuttoned red checkered shirt. Even when you removed your cap from time to time, your "cap hair," running this way and that or flat, was perfect.
You chose the aisle seat, just 3 to 4 rows ahead of me. Did you choose the seat for the same reason as mine, that my legs are long and I need to stretch them out? You are tall, like me, taller than me and I am already 6 feet.
Sometimes you leaned out of your seat, towards the aisle - did you look behind? Because that is how I usually sit too.
When you read, your right hand stretched out to your eye level, and your left hugged yourself on your right shoulder.
Later, during the transit at Taipei airport, did you sit across from me intentionally?
And much later, when we were collecting our bags on the belt, did you know I was frantically searching for you in the crowd? Where were you? I looked everywhere, frantic even. But there were you. Just across from me, at the other side of the belt. How did I miss that?
And when you took your bag before me and left, I thought that was it. That was goodbye. But at the airport, I had an intense craving for bak chor mee after 2 weeks in Korea and was looking for a food court at the basement. And you suddenly walked by, on your way to take a bus. I coughed to make you notice me, but you didn't see me.
If you read this, don't look for me. We already have a beautiful story to tell with a beautiful ending. I saw an impossible beauty for a moment, a beauty that survives against all odds, a peach ripe in winter, a rainbow on a clear blue sky.

The Illusion of Travels

My Chinese teacher once told me that people need to travel because Singapore is so small and it makes the heart small. At night, she hiked a Japanese mountain in the clouds and caught the dawn. When the sun came, the land emerged and stretched itself to as far as the eye could see. A world without end. Seeing this expansive space belittled her and enlarged her heart. She said, we travel to become better people.
But as I grow older, I know this is not true. I know petty travelers and I know people who travel to show off or to escape boredom. I know villagers who never travel before in their lives and are one of the most generous people.

If you cocoon yourself and always see things from your perspective, then traveling will give you nothing.

In other words, traveling will give you a thousand lives only if you erase yourself, see from other perspectives and become someone new at each destination. We do not have a single self, we are multitude.