Life = GOD!

Being exposed to many subjects during my education (Science, Arts, and Business), I finally figure out what is wrong with all these three streams. During my high school years I was a Science person, and now in my tertiary study I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in Arts, with a breadth subject in Business. Thus, confronted with many different ideologies and theories, I conclude that there is something really wrong with life and these educations. Well, at least, some parts of them.

The problem with SCIENCE.
Most of you will agree with me: science is a stream of education that focuses on facts, researches, proofs, and in absolute, indisputable truths. Science bombards us with a series of theories that we need to memorise and just ‘take it as it is’. We are forced to swallow the gospel that anything that can be verified trough scientific means are the only reality. It may even hinder our critical thinking as we just take things for granted. Thus, it disables us to have faith. Even in psychology, you may even argue that “There is no such thing as love.” Believe it or not, most people do not even believe that they have a ‘consciousness’, or ‘being’, the one you may call your ‘heart and soul’ – yourself.

In one sentence, I believe that: Science tries so hard to make definitions out of life, and misses life altogether.

The problem with ARTS.
When I first entered this degree, I thought that Arts subjects will enable us to look at life in a different perspective. Yes, it does look life at a different point of view, but even in a more complicated ways. Let me say this: Arts complicates the already complicated things. It even complicates the simple things. In this area, you are propelled with critical thinking, that everything is TRUE, if you have reasons to back you up. To some extent this critical thinking is good, we ARE required to give reasonings to things that happened, and actively make judgments and take actions out of it. However, they think TOO MUCH that I believe they forget that the most important thing is the action. But the next crucial thing is: Arts takes too much time in critical thinking and in the end it comes to the end that ALL THINGS ARE THE TRUTH, if only you have reasons to support you. Thus, this JUSTIFIES all people’s actions – as long as the MOTIVES are logical.

Put it in one sentence: Arts pushes itself so hard to critically think and reflect about life, and in the end misses life altogether.

The problem with BUSINESS.
Business is the stream that may be seen as ‘advantageous’. Well, we make money out of it. But let me put it this way: Business take the two above streams (Science and Arts), exploit them, and turn them into money-making machines. Well, it takes the benefits out of the two subjects and somehow is pretty reasonable (we all need money to survive this world), but let’s say this: business makes people actively CONSUME things – either products or services. They make people assume that these so-called ‘things’ (products, services, etc) are the ‘life’.

So in one sentence: Business exploits life, and in the end it misses life altogether.

Maybe this is why I tend to go with Hospitality, because at least it provides people with satisfaction and it strives to provide the best quality of service towards others, and give them the unforgettable moments that may last a lifetime. Because I guess the most important thing in life (aside from God), is loving others, right? If we can impact other people’s lives, wouldn’t it be great? ;)

I am not saying that these educations, Science, Arts, and Business, are bad. They are good. They are all good. But if we mistook it as the center of our lives – we will miss LIFE.

But hey – what is life?

Dictionary defines it as: (1) the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. or (2) the period between the birth and death of a living thing.

Thus, what is the most important thing in LIFE?

Christians will say that the most important thing in life is God, and the need to tell others about salvation and such. Others will argue that it is LIFE itself, to do whatever you want to do, to think whatever you want to think – to enjoy every single thing that is pleasurable to human beings. Another will state that it is love, because life without love is no life at all. And there are many other views regarding this. I believe this is a tough question, which may not have its concrete answers until now.

So let’s take to the opposite of life: DEATH.

Death is an easy task, life is a difficult one. Death is the end, life is the beginning. People used to say these things but what is death? Death is the period when we stop living, that’s for sure. And until we come to this phase, what will you want to achieve in your  life? Laying there in your deathbed, will you remember all those achievements that you have got, all those theories you made, all those technology inventions that you may have introduced to the world? I believe the thing that matter when you have reached this phase is: the people. Keep aside Christianity for a moment, the people matter. How many people have you brought to the Lord? How many people will be standing there in front of your coffin, saying how much your life has impacted theirs? How many people, with tears in their eyes and smile on their faces, saying, “thank you, for living your life”?

I walked into my Arts subject tutorial today and I saw so many people thinking and keep thinking and just thinking – reflecting on the globalisation that is happening and what the past has said about that, what the present is doing to that, and what the future prospects of the world if we continue progressing this way. Well, it may be essential (I say, “maybe”), but somehow I just believe that all these thinkers, (including me), have missed life in one point or another.

This is the problem with life:
People are too busy filling their lives with all other things other than life itself and misses life altogether. I do not say that all these people (from science, arts, business – all those politicians, scientists, artists, doctors, poets, and blah) miss life. But most people try so hard to focus on all these little insignificant details (compared to love, people, family, friendship, and of course – GOD) that they are missing life. It is a common cliche to “live our lives to the fullest”. But a few have defined what is a “full life”. A lot of people talk about this, a lot of people make this their lives’ motto; a few are actually living it.

In the end I want to draw on Jesus. I believe that I will be INSANE if I do not know Him. In some ways, Christianity keeps me in a sane level. When we are confronted with many beliefs, ideologies, ideas, principles, or doctrines, we may think of all these endless possible thoughts, and may end up overloaded (like what I did today). But when I reflect on Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible, I know that I have clear boundaries about the things that I need to do and not to do. The things that I can do and not do. The things that should be done and not be done. About life. About what is important in life. About everything we need to know about life. Life is God. Without God, there will be no life. He is the provider of life, and we live for Him. How grateful I am to have Jesus in my life!

Conclusively, Science tries so hard to make definitions out of life, Arts pushes itself so hard to critically think and reflect about life, Business exploits life, and in the end they miss life altogether. Why do we make things so complicated? Make it simple: Life is about you and me. Life is about the people – the love and interaction between humans. Life does not need much definition; life does not need to be critically thought all the time so that you miss out the actions; life does not need to be exploited. Life needs love. And love is God (or in the Bible, God is love – vice versa). Well, formulaically, life = GOD! It is as simple as that ;)

This is my personal reflection (this is so ironic, I just said that in Arts we all do critical thinking so much but I end up practicing it… But hey I just said TO SOME EXTENT is good… Or did not I mention it…?) after I went home from my incredibly exploited thinking Arts tutorial. I was so stressed and had gone insane a little bit until I saw my sister at home, smiling and living her life – making me realise that those thinkings are not life. It is until I see my housemate’s baby girl’s smile, that I believe that life is simple. Humans are just complicating the simple things. We are curious creatures, that’s for sure. But be curious about life! Most people ARE NOT!

In the context of apologising for posting this cheesy reflection, I want to share this incredible song. It is titled, “Thank you for giving to the Lord.” And this is what exactly I want people to say when I have finished the life that God has given to me ;)


“The Last Lecture”

I am not going to blog at midnight. I just – won’t. But sitting here doing the exact opposite thing of what you’re thinking, …yeah that’s what I’m doing right now.

To make this simple and straight, I went to QBD bookshop earlier today and I found one book that really inspires me today. It was titled, “The Last Lecture”, by Randy Pausch. I paused and I took the book, read the synopsis, and then I looked at the price. It was nearly $30 and there was no way that I’m going to buy that book. So I did what I do best, I read a couple of pages there and went home to google it later on.

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch did happen, because it was really his last lecture. Pausch died in July 2008, as a Computer Science Professor of Carnegie Mellon University. But no, he was more than that. He was an imagineer, a motivator, a father, a teacher: a person who lived a full life. He titled this lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” I was so amazed by this lecture that I actually youtube-d it and watched the entire 1-hour++ lecture. Should I say that it was good? It was a lot better than that.

I went to Borders to look up for the book but there was no stock in store. So I did some online shopping (free delivery service, and the lady in Borders was really nice, she gave me a 10% discount for online shopping), and I am now expecting the book to arrive within 2-3 weeks time.

Somehow the book has a resemblance with the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

“A lot of professors give talks titled ‘The Last Lecture’. Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy? When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humour, inspiration, and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.”
– The Last Lecture synopsis

I haven’t read the book myself (remember, it is still going to be shipped from somewhere), but I guess the lecture is worth watching. Some of the videos below are also that good. In fact, they did make me cry (ah such a sentimental person…) But they were good. Someday your time will come, and mine’s too. And some people may think that they can cheat and beat the ‘grim ripper’. But when the time’s up, time’s up. In his lecture, he said something like, “It is not the bad things that we have done that we’ll regret. It’s the things that we haven’t done.” Which is true. My favourite line of his will be, “We do not beat the grim ripper by living longer. We beat them by living well. By living a full life.” And that’s just what we all need to hear.

Here I Stand

One of my Senior High teachers that I highly respect tagged me in one of his notes today. It was a graduation speech, brought by an American student on the day of her Senior High Graduation. It was just six months ago that I brought the Senior High graduation speech myself. I bet no one remembers that by now but this speech, titled “Here I Stand”, is more than just a mere speech. It has passion, dreams, knowledge, understanding, and most of all, it has ‘herself’ in it.

In some ways I was just like her. Those of you who know me when I was in High School maybe will say the same. During our Senior High we learned how to study, how to take notes, how to achieve good scores, how to be the best of the class. I admit that I enjoy being the top of the class in some of my subjects, but, what’s the use of it? It’s barely six months and I almost forgot about them all. These things were what ‘they’ expected. What the world expected. To learn how to be a robot, and mastering the art of ‘slave’ perfection to the education system that’s happening now.

We learn how to excel in studies. But never for the purpose in the learning itself.

“I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it.”
-Erica Goldson, an extract from her speech.

It is indeed ironic that back in High School we studied because we wanted to achieve good grades. Why good grades? Because those grades determined which ‘university’ that we can get into. Now in university we study to get even higher grades. And why is that? Because those higher grades determine our workplace later on. And the cycle continues. I really want to say that I have overcome this system and live on my own standards, achieve my own dreams, and pursue my own passion. I haven’t.

I’m trying to, but I am just not there yet. Somehow these standards that the world build and set up for us are so strong that it needs magic to break the wall down. Maybe that’s why I love Disney so much. Because magic happens, and Disney knows what humans need the most – love.

This speech is a good reminder why I am here, in the University of Melbourne, taking Bachelor of Arts, doing double major in Psychology and Media and Communication instead of taking Bachelor of Biomedicine. This is the time when you reflect on yourself, and ask yourself why do you want to pursue internships, part-time jobs, read more books, and expand your knowledge. This is when you regain your forgotten reason, why do you want to work in Disney company later on. This is why you are here, trying to prove to the world that you can do it – pursuing your dreams instead of following the path that ‘they’ expect you to go. This is me, and I’m loving every decision that I’ve made. I gotta go on.

So here I stand, giving an appreciation to the student, Erica Goldson, that reminds me why I am here today.
Here I stand, giving thanks to the teachers that support me and inspire me.
Here I stand, giving gratitude to my parents, sisters, and friends – who love me and encourage me to do what I ‘want’ to do, not what I ‘can’ do.
Here I stand, looking up the blue sky above, thanking God for the opportunity He has given me, and His protection and encouragement along the way. ‘Cos everything is from Him, and for Him.

Coxsackie-Athens Valedictorian Speech 2010
Here I Stand
Erica Goldson

“There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!”

TV: My Heroine Without an ‘e’

I love to watch TV. Don’t believe it? Ask my family. Still don’t? Ask my housemates. I really do love to watch TV that I literally will sit in front of it for around 3 hours per day. Oh no. This is not good.

I have told myself so many times that I need to quit watching and do other ‘useful’ stuffs. The thing is, when I already sitting on the sofa, with blankets on, I will be stuck there for another 2 hours at least, or if I’m lucky my sister will start telling me to go upstairs ;p. Hahah, I guess I love movies too much ;p.

Some of you may have noticed the category “Play, Pause, Stop, Rewind” that I have here in my blog. Those are all my movies’ summaries, and I guess that proves how much time I’ve spent on watching all those movies ;p. Enjoying life, eh? Hmm, maybe a little bit too much.

During my high school years my favourite hobby was something that I named “DVD marathon”, which was the turning of my room into a home theater (lights off, AC on, blanket on, snacks on, drinks on, and TV: ON). I could watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy without a pause, and then Pirates trilogy, yada yada yada.. until 3 am in the morning (of course, this was done during the holidays). Addictive as it is, she (the TV) was my heroine. or not. I would say she is my heroin. ‘Cause she makes me to grab the remote and turn her on again and again and again…

So, the question is: how will you (myself) quit watching TV? (err rephrase: to decrease the time spent on watching TV in a proper amount? ;p) I used to lose track of time and suddenly, it’s 9 pm!! (confession: I was watching Wall-E and Shrek 4 before this ;p). So, the 3-4 hours that I spent watching can be used to do something else! e.g. do the subject readings (not), read the Bible (yes!), do the assignments (not…), find a job (yes…?), quality time with God (a big yes!), quality time with my sis (a big yes as well but she says our quality time is ‘overlimit’ already ;( haha), and many other useful things! And have I told you that facebook-ing is another heroin as well???? And I guess in some parts facebook is even worse. I use it to ‘search’ for the ‘latest news’ a.k.a gossips there. Not good.

Okay, here’s the deal: Starting from now, Marcella Purnama, you will only be allowed to watch 1 movie per day (equals to 1 hour and 30 mins to 2 hours in leisure time), period. Phew, I hope I can manage to do this one. I need to bring back my TV’s dignity! ;p Let her be my heroine again, who comforts me when I’ve got too many assessments or makes me relaxed and fills me with refreshment when I need one, instead of my addictive poison! ;p