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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Learn to be grateful

The Security Guard's Wife

Today I am uploading pictures of a comic that I saw on Facebook. It's probably a part of a larger series, but this will have to suffice for now. The comic is called, "My Husband, Mr. Security". It's in the Malay language.

Translation: A story adapted from a novel.

Translation: The story begins in a small town. My husband and I live in a small town. We rent a village house at RM250 a month (about USD60 a month) as we cannot afford to buy a house of our own.

Translation: My husband works as a security guard in a factory in the city. His salary is only RM900 a month. If he works overtime, he can get an extra hundred or two hundred.

Translation: As my husband's salary is not enough, I lighten his burden by selling nasi lemak in front of our house.


Translation: Sometimes the rent gets stuck. Wife: "Just now, the Landlord came by to ask for the rent. He said we haven't paid for three months..." Husband: "Oh, man."

Translation: With the cost of living so high, sometimes we run out of money. Wife: "Rice is finished, oh husband!" Husband: "Oh, really. I don't even have a single cent now."

Translation: The neighbours all have Astro (cable TV), sometimes we feel shy to see them. We don't have Astro, and even our TV is not flat.

Translation: Other people all have cars, but maybe it's not our luck yet.

Translation: That's life, full of challenges.

Translation: But I am proud even though my husband is only a security guard. Because this is our real life. Moral of story: Let's not be influenced with the dramas that are only full of fantasy with fancy titles. The End.

The search for meaning

Viktor Frankl was one of the survivors of Auschwitz. Out of his experiences, he wrote a book called, "Man's Search for Meaning". In the book, he wrote about how upon arrival at the camp, the majority of arrivals were sent to the gas chambers, and a small minority sent to the barracks. At the barracks, they had to remove everything and their hair was shaved. They were truly deprived of everything in life. Those that lost the will to live, often died. Yet those who found meaning in life, often survived. It was often the loss of hope that led to dying. 

Viktor became convinced that man needs to have meaning in life, and that even when a man is in the worst of situations, he can still shape his own reaction and attitude towards the situation. Even in the bleakest of situations, there is meaning. 

Like the security guard's wife, there is always meaning. When we are short of cash, it's easy to become a philosopher. And it's a good time to start practising delayed gratification. 

In the book on Jack Ma by his secretary, Chen Wei, he spoke about a time when the staff were too demotivated. Jack Ma, ever the irrepressible entrepreneur, broke up the gloomy atmosphere by asking a very interesting question to his employees. "What would all of you do if you have 5 million yuan?" They began with simple wishes, and as the hour went on, they became more and more enthusiastic. Their dreams became bigger and bigger. After an hour was up, Jack Ma said, "All your dreams will come true if you get back to work! Let's work!" Some people protested that they had only used up 3 million yuan in their fantasies...

I recently read the book "The Greatest Gift" by Andrew Bienkowski and Mary Akers. Andrew told the story of how his grandfather chose to starve to death, so that the family, which had been exiled from Poland to Siberia, could live on. The grandfather Dziadek chose to be buried without clothes, so that his clothes could be sold and food bought for them to eat. They buried him in a simple grave. Sometime later Andrew's grandmother, Babcia , had a dream in which her husband told her to wake up and go to the strawberry patch with their grandson (Andrew). She hurried there and, to their surprise, found a calf which had been killed by wolves, but whose body was intact. A short while later, the family went to make a proper burial, but to their dismay, they found that grandfather's body had been dug up and eaten by the wolves. In their dismay, they began to wonder whether the wolves who ate their grandfather's body had also been the same ones to give them the calf. And so they began to see life as cyclical, in which the grandfather had fed the wolves, and the wolves had fed his family in turn.

It's about being grateful, even though everything is falling apart. Even though you feel that life is down, down, down in the doldrums. There is still hope.

Only with hope do we keep ourselves going. And with hope we can face the future, even though it is uncertain.

Be a human being

In his book, Andrew Bienkowski also mentioned about the phrase "human being". He said that we are called "human beings" and not "human doings". And so, we should learn what it means to "be". Everything we need to know is with us. We need to learn how to "be", after getting indoctrinated that we should be doing something with our lives.

In always trying to "do" something, we find ourselves unhappy with our lives. There is no end to doing, and there is no knowing whether what we do is right. But if we choose to just "be", we can be still, because even in the stillness we are still being.

Exist for a purpose, and enjoy the simple things in life. The sunrise, the sunset. The good conversation with a friend. The happy smiles of those who walk past us. The laughter of children. The beauty of trees. The complexity of life.

Simple things can give us joy. When I read Viktor Frankl's book, there was a story of a woman, in her 30's, who had two children. One child had died. Another child was disabled. She was sad. He told her to imagine herself at the end of her life, at age 80. If she had no child, and life was easy for her, what would she think that her obituary would say? She said, after deep reflection, that it would be a disaster. She imagined that she went through life only for pleasure and enjoyment, and she had an easy life by marrying a rich man. At the age of 80 she thought that she would be sorely disappointed with life. Then he asked her to imagine again, herself at 80, but having spent the years raising her disabled son. She reflected deeply again, and said that she would find life meaningful, because she would be giving her son the best opportunity that he could ever have in life, despite his being crippled. She realised that she would not have as much wealth, and she would have to endure hardship, but she thought that it would be worth it.

Just be. Just accept. And live for the future.

Quit comparing

There are people whose lives revolve around material things, i.e. what they have. They always compare themselves with others. They always speak in terms of possessions, never realizing that possessions quickly perish, and many of them lose their value. 

My wife often complains that her mobile phone is too hot, and it's not good enough for photos. I always wonder whether the phone is good enough, not whether it is the best. We need to realise that in life, we have limited resources, and investing what little resources we have on upgrading to the latest mobile phone -- unless absolutely necessary -- is quite a waste. Because it becomes outdated as soon as you've bought it, and its specifications will become yesterday's specs. 

At the end of life, the number one regret of most people is having not lived their own dreams. Many dying people regret that they lived their lives around the values of others. What others say is good, became their goal. What others aspire to, became their aspirations. And they had never lived for themselves, nor had they ever been true to their own dreams. 

When a man or woman passes away, most of them hope that their peers will remember them fondly. "He was the kindest man you ever knew..." "He was there when we needed him, and we are ever so grateful to him..." "His deeds will live on in our hearts and minds..."

Most people don't want to be remembered as, "He had the greatest collection of ____  that you could ever imagine." Or "She managed to spend so much money collecting ____ bags ... what a woman!"

And yet we live our lives as though possessions are the most important things of all. 

We need to learn to be grateful, and simple living sometimes means giving up our comforts for the benefit of others. 

My friend was sacked from his high government position earlier this year. Today he is alive and well, despite the sacking, and he is working on new things. He is happy to be alive and well, despite the fact that he had lost his job. And so he's working on his textbook. That's real gratitude. That's the right attitude. 

Learn to be grateful. You'll be grateful that you did. Because grateful people are more easily contented with what they have. But this doesn't mean, aiming lower in life. On the contrary, accepting less does not mean striving for less. Just imagine that you're dirt poor and you're aiming for goal. Whatever comes, is a real bonus. You have everything to gain, and nothing to lose. 

Life becomes better when you are grateful, not because life improves in any way, but because your view of life becomes stabilized. You have a new frame of reference. And you can spread this point of view to others, infecting them with positivity.

Be grateful, because it will help you live longer. Haven't you noticed that many of the old people who live to the age of 90 something are often grateful for what they have in life? They never dwell on what they don't have. Neither should you.

Thanks for Reading

Here are some other pieces from me.