Aphorisms to Live By

On the eve of the New Year, I posted on my Facebook the following:

"I got up this morning reflecting to myself the following 12 lessons I have learnt and relearnt in the last 12 months:
  1. Have time for things that count which are usually beyond counting. 
  2. Always live with positive Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy. 
  3. Peace starts with me and it begins with a smile. 
  4. Prayer is not instructing God, it is simply reporting for duty. 
  5. You can decide to do the right thing each and every time.
  6. No matter how you feel, just Get up, Dress up and Show up, for the best is just ahead of you. 
  7. Earn your self-respect for no one owes it to you. 
  8. Work smart while working hard. 
  9. You can forgive everyone and everything for it will release you from self-destruction. 
  10. Envy is a waste of energy, you already have all you need. 
  11. Attune to the idea that what others think of you is none of your business. 
  12. Realize that there is a poverty that only riches can generate, and a wealth only generosity can create. 
Together, they spell HAPPY NEW YEAR!"


I am gratified that the post has since been reposted and shared by my friends on FB and emails. I am glad they resonate with many.

In regard to #1, one of the things that count is friendship. The values inherent in friendship including loyalty, faithfulness, and empathy are truly precious.

In December, my wife and I chose to spend our vacation in Japan simply to reconnect with Japanese friends. My friend was a scientist in Canada when we met more 34 years ago. We became fast friends and when they returned to Japan 32 years ago, we kept in touch by snail mail.

Unfortunately, we lost touch because we were on the move. Our efforts to find each other were futile till about 4 months ago when he found me on Facebook. Though we had not seen each other for 32 years, we were able to pick up where we left off without missing a beat. “It’s a miracle that you could visit us after all these years,” he said when he welcomed us with his wife beside him at the Haneda Airport. We spent the next 8 days together with great joy.

With Japanese friends

Just two days ago, 115 of us gathered at the NUSS Guild House for a Reunion of the cohort of VCF of the then University of Singapore between 1971-75. I graduated from law 45 years ago and I have not met some of my classmates and friends from different faculties since I graduated. It was most nostalgic to be able to gather again and to sing the good old songs we used to sing as students of the 60s and 70s. We rekindled our friendship that was forged though our many student activities as members of VCF. Many agreed that the night spent together was one of the best evenings of nostalgia and fun since graduation between 40 and 45 years ago.

In regard to #3, my friend Nutan Shah sent me the following personal story which I am pleased to share:

“Ah, the power of a smile!

A smile has different meanings to different adults. Those who are afraid perhaps feel vulnerable, weak, fear further consequences, see no meaning in acknowledging a stranger, have misconceptions about the person they are looking at…

But those who smile boldly, perhaps even make eye contact, seem to get a rush of endorphin and serotonin, feel a sense of gratitude towards humankind. Simple courtesy, in a sense, as simple as an instant expression and does not necessarily imply that one will be placed in any vulnerable position after that instance.

For me, it is that rush of feeling good, so that for just a few seconds one can forget everything and 'chill'. It’s a kind of "I see you" thing.

Once in a shoe shop with no long queues or no rush of customers, I walked up to the cashier with my purchases and greeted her with a warm smile. The cashier refused to make eye contact or smile or even answer back. Instead she grabbed the purchases and started packing them. The synapses in my brain fired off in milliseconds and I could have reacted in one of two ways. I could be upset by her behaviour or I could engage her. I chose the latter.

“I bet you wear comfortable footwear as you have to stand for so long behind the till and it must get rather tiring, hey?" I piped out with a careful smile being thoughtful that it is not misunderstood as being cheeky. At that, the cashier said, "Yeah, and it gets so boring when there are no customers.

"Well, I can't promise you a song and dance unless I pay half price for those shoes!" I said. The cashier laughed.

Aha! I thought. We have made some progress.

I then exclaimed, “And if you can do a 2 for 1 deal, you will think you are watching X factor".

The cashier was instantly transformed into a beautiful person doubling over in laughter. There is power in a smile. There are health benefits and even a sense of security when you are armed with a winsome smile. You never know who you may have to team up with.

Yes, indeed, a smile is truly a global language. So next time we type a smiley on whatsapp, and smile, we know in that instant that we are, after all, human. The smile is the most natural human response only human can make without a thought.”

So, go ahead and smile. If you do, you will soon find that the world will soon be smiling with you!

Photo via Wikimedia.org

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