Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Tallest Tree

I was shifting through my email this morning when I come across with this old email from one of my friends. The story is about choices and how we make them. The story goes like this. One day, a wise man called out his apprentice. He showed him the forest and ordered him to go into the forest and seek out the tallest tree, uproot it and bring it back to him. The young man wandered into the forest looking for that tallest tree. He looked far and wide and searched carefully until it was sunset. He came out the forest empty handed and the wise man asked his young apprentice: “Where is the tallest tree?” To which the young man replied: “I didn’t found it, sir.” “How come?” was the quick inquiry of the wise man. “Sir, I can’t make up my mind as to which is the tallest of them all and the forest is just too big for me to search in just a day, I need more time to look for it.” was the young man’s sorry excuse. “Very well, if that is the case, you go look for it tomorrow then.” The old man decided. At day break, the young man immediately went to the forest to search the elusive tallest tree and before long, sometime after noon, he came back carrying a tree, the supposed “tallest” tree. The master asks, “How did you find the tallest tree.” The young man hesitated to answer into the query but he eventually replied, “I learned my lesson yesterday, I could go on and on forever looking for that “tallest” tree and may never even find it, because from my vantage point, every tall tree looks the same. So I decided to choose the “tallest” tree that I find yesterday and bring it back to you, Sir.” The master smiled. The moral of the story is simple. Practicality rules and never asks for the most perfect of all outcomes since it would only waste your time. However, I wish to venture and ask, what if on his retreat from the forest, the young man “discovered” and even taller tree, would he throw away the first and choose the “taller” tree? Or would he just stick to the one tree that he believed to be the tallest? What if he did in fact chose the latter, what would hinder him from choosing an even taller tree once he spotted one over the course of his return trip? Practicality dictates that one has to drop the last and choose the best. However, that is not only a very tedious process but also what if the decision is not just merely choosing the “tallest” tree, but rather one that involves another or several human beings? Would one forsake the current choice in favor of a better choice and hope that in this trial and error process, one would be able to settle down with the right one? Or would one rather stick it out and look for the “best” choice, hoping that the right one would “show up” eventually in one’s lifetime? How do we even “know” that the choice we made is the best of them all, if one hasn’t looked through all the possible choices? Is it possible or even practical to looked for all the choices and decide? How does one know that the current choice one had is already the best? Is it only after one forsaken it in favor of a lesser alternative? I remember the lyrics of a song and it goes like this, “Oh its sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.” Oh yeah, where is the right one? Definitely, it’s not in the forest. And is there really a right one? Or is the right one simply myth?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

MID – AUTUMN FESTIVAL

Today is the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is the day of the traditional Mid – Autumn festival. The festival is actually a full moon festival since every 15th day of the lunar month coincides with the full moon. What makes this full moon festival different from the 11 other full moons is that according to widely held belief, today’s full moon is the most perfect and brightest of them all. Modern day Mid – Autumn festival is unequivocally identified with the mooncake and the dice game but the festival is not the food or the parlor game. The true meaning of the festivity is about reunions or establishing that lost connections that have existed between friends and relatives as well. And for some, it is a time to establish that connection to that special someone whom one is destined to be with. The Mid – Autumn festival has its origins in the prevailing circumstances of a medieval Chinese agrarian society. Around that time, with the improvement of farming technology, surplus labor exists. Many young men would leave their parents, siblings, wife and kids behind to go to the nearby town or a distant city to work for the local magnate or for some aristocrat hoping to earn extra cash for the family. And every year, they return home days before the festival to participate in the autumn harvesting season. Naturally enough, it was a scene of joy and a cause for celebration when somebody gone for several months would be back home bringing bounties with him. Family, relatives, friends and neighbors all come out to greet the returning son and party. It was like thanksgiving cum reunion party; for today, we party and tomorrow we can expect a bountiful harvest. Amid the rancorous celebrations, there are also some who felt sorrow and sadness on the occasion. For when their husband, or son, or relative or friend failed to appear on the appointed day and news about them are forthcoming due to the backward technology then, those people dear to him would felt a shivering incompleteness, which was made more pungent by the celebratory atmosphere around. And so they look up to the full moon, hoping to send a message through it across time and space. Hoping that their love ones are also looking at the moon from the other side far away from home. The poet Li Po summed it up pretty well. “I raised my cup and toast to thee while admiring the beauty that is the moon and I wish that thou would be doing the same, thousands of miles away.” Well, with modern communications, we don’t need the moon to send our longing for one another and reestablish that connection. But what about those sublime connections? The connections that we all subconsciously felt but haven’t had, could we call or email them? We can only look up to the moon and hoped that someone out there is also looking at it at the same time and somehow connect us through across the distance.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

When I’m 80…………

I was talking to a friend a day or two before and in our conversation, I told her a story that actually happened sometime ago. I received a call from an 80 – year old guy looking for my mom. Naturally, I passed the phone to my mom thinking probably he was a relative or an old acquaintance from the mainland. After the conversation, I ask her who he is and to my surprise, he was actually some distant grand uncle of mine. My mother told me that he called to thank her mother, my maternal grandmother, who happened to be dead way before my mother got married. I was quite confused about what she said and she explained further to me that he wanted to thank my grandma for supporting his bid in courting my grand aunt. Well, he eventually married her as the story goes but unfortunately my grand aunt died of childbirth complications. I had to say that I admire the guy. After all this years, he still love my grand aunt to the extent of calling up to thank my grandma through her daughter. He is a guy who is in his twilight years and looking forward for a peaceful departure and he wanted to say his goodbyes and thank you’s before he depart. He is looking for peace, probably closure, and probably make amends. The entire episode made me think back then as it was now on what would I be doing when I turn 80. Would I pick up the phone and call up every person I know and say what I needed to say? Or should I just keep my mouth shut and bring all my regrets, hopes, and passions to my grave and bury it there? Or if I do going to pick up the phone and call by the time I’m 80, what would I say? Funny to be thinking about it when you’re not yet 80 but I was thinking it already. I think probably I’m going to say: “You know what? I had a crush on you when we were studying however I was young and shy and I was sitting by the window and you were sitting near the door at the other end of the room and we never manage to really talk.” Or I could say: “You know what? I was going to court you when we were studying but then again your father or your brother looks like a mass murderer and actually scared me to bits.” Or maybe I could say: “You know what? I love you but somehow I fail to tell you that when I was a lot younger for reasons that I could no longer remember by now. We could end up together and things could turn out different.” Or “You seemed to be a nice and decent person but somehow we never get to be close, I wish that we get to chat more often and get to know each other better. Who knows we could have been the best of friends?” Or “You’ve been good to me so far, friend and I never did get to thank you even once in my lifetime. Well, thank you.” Or “We were not that close before and there is some sort of animosity between us. I don’t know what I did or what I’d said before to cause this rift between us. I couldn’t remember anymore. And if I do wronged you before, I would like to apologize for it and hoped that you have in your heart to forgive me after all this years.” Or “I never fulfilled my promise to you and it seems that I would never do.” Or “I never hold up my end of the deal and I’m just terribly sorry after so many years.” After which, I would probably end the phone conversation with: “Well, that was in the past already. What is in the past is past………….” Then again, why should I wait till 80 to make the phone call? I can just pick up the phone and call the people that I wanted to talk to and say the things I wanted to say. Never mind that people would think that I’m crazy or that I’m sick somehow, I think they would appreciate it. After all, it’s not everyday that they get to hear something like this. Then again, maybe something are best left unsaid at least until I’m 80 when everything is already moot and academic. When emotions had all but died down, when tensions are gone and everything is futile and passion has become as dry as the flesh that clings to my decaying body by that time. Perhaps, I’ll wait till 80 to make the call like what the old guy did. To say my thank you’s, to make amends, to tell them what I think and to cap it all with my farewell. That is of course if I am still alive by then and if I do, would the other party survive till then? That is another question to ponder.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Wise Guy Speaks

After several weeks of dilly-dallying, I finally opened and started reading the book I’ve purchased. The book is titled “ Strategy Safari, A guided tour through the wilds of Strategic Management” written by the management legend, Henry Mintzberg. The book talks about the “evolution” of corporate strategy as well as the various schools of thoughts regarding strategy formulation. Mintzberg pointed out that strategy formulation process cannot be adequately describe by just one school of thought but rather strategy formulation process is sum total of all the school of thoughts combine. Anyway, I just started reading the book and haven’t gotten to the juicy part yet to really assess the idea behind the P655.00 book. Instead, what I find amusing is the poem that the author uses to point out the state of corporate planning in the real world. The poem is written by John Godfrey Saxe and is titled, “ The Blind Men and The Elephant”.

The Blind Men and The Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind)
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to brawl:
“God bless me but the Elephant
Is very like a wall.”

The second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What we have here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see” quote he, “The Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt around the knee,
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resemble most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed long and loud,
Each of his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Moral
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Point well made, John Godfrey Saxe. However, a wise guy like me couldn’t help but ask how could the six blind men of Indostan “know” what a wall, a spear, a fan, a snake, a tree, or even a rope looks like? I mean to a blind man, a wooden palisade, a brick wall, or any rampart or tall obstacle could qualify as a “wall”. The presumption of the poem is that these blind men “knew” already and they try to correlate the elephant to what they’ve experienced before. To them, a wall is the brick wall that perfect sighted individuals knew. Ok, granted that these blind men were able to know by feeling the objects they mentioned before but I can’t help but wonder, how could they “feel” a snake? Wouldn’t the snake kill them before they get to know what bit them? Of course, one could reason that they “feel’ a dead snake before but if that is the case, wouldn’t they mistook it for a rope or a vine instead? Funny, I can’t help but laugh at my own triviality however; my point here is that even though Lord Saxe’s poetry is interesting, one cannot discount critical thinking while reading. Another point in the poem I’d like to question. Wouldn’t it be practical for those debating blind men to just move around and “see” what the other see and thus end all the nuisance debates? After all, they’re blind but not lame, nor limp nor crippled. They did come all the way from Indostan to “see” the Elephant right? The morals of this blog that I’m writing are that, One; it pays to be a critical thinker, who might find something to laugh at and come out being a wise guy. Two, never argue with a blind man or for that matter, any close minded person who doesn’t want to “see” the truth or any person who wouldn’t want to move around and “see” the entire truth on what an elephant looks like because it is an argument one cannot win. And third, always look around and “see” and don’t be blind even if one could be wrong in order to “know” what an elephant looks like. As for me, I haven’t seen an elephant in its entirety yet. Have you?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11

It has been 4 years since that fateful day and though I didn’t lose anybody on that terrible event, part of me did die that day. My faith died. My faith isn’t strong to begin with, being a late convert. I grew up in a family that belongs to another belief and I took up the faith because I am in a society wherein the faith is systematically being fed to you. The institutions that I go to, my friends, and just everybody else supported the faith. But somehow, I had questions but I never dare question it. September 11 is just but the last straw on top of the past tragedies that I experienced. Somehow, I was convinced that faith is just a magic word to strengthen man’s resolve in face of odds. It is also the same faith that is the cause of this great tragedy. I soon realize that by accepting the faith, one has to also accept the belief system, the ethical – moral principle that comes with it, and along with the cultural super structure that sprang out of it. It is the clash of these entire system that led to the terrible event, for men believe that they are upholding the truth and the righteousness of their belief but little did they know that the truth they came to believe cannot be proven nor is more closer to the true or more righteous than the other faith that it has came into conflict with. The historian in me has allowed me to see through the fa├žade of the faith and pierce through its veil to reveal the real nature of faith whatever form it assumes. Faith is not simply about appeasement of our spiritual turmoil but rather a form of control. It is a means of unifying our varying minds to the assumed one universal truth. If that truth is real and universal and the other “truth” is false and is the work of evil. It is the conflict of these so-called truths rather than the misunderstanding of the differences that led to September 11. Men are by nature judgmental to the extent of being self – righteous even though they aren’t righteous at all and he will pursue this righteousness even if it is wrong to the very end. Men could be hardheaded and close-minded whenever he chose to be. I had since resolved not to believe in the faith anymore. I decided to stay out of the system and see it with a different perspective and look at the other ideas and faith with an open mind. I did this not because I wanted to understand the other “truths” but rather I learn from my “mistake and folly” of believing in propaganda and closing my mind. I had since learned to take ideas and truths in strides with an open mind but at same time remain skeptical to the propaganda that comes attach to it. I resolve to “free” myself from the chains that bound me and live beyond the control of those malevolent propagandists and become the master of my own fate. I wish others would take my heed………….. I have since regarded the event with an objective coolness but I still hated the perpetuators from both sides of such dastard and cowardly act. Only cowards would hide behind the veil of faith to cover their real motive of dominance of men’s minds and commit such acts in their name… Men are not by nature good as Confucius claims nor is he sinful, as the Christians and their brethrens would suggests. Neither is he evil. Rather, men are weak and close – minded, for he couldn’t overcome nor willing to struggle past his short comings, his emotions, his own creation that he impose upon himself, the system in which he born into, his own mediocrity, and his own limitations. What a pity.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a current management fad wherein a corporation assesses all the activities it performs, be it directly or indirectly related to its value offering by placing a monetary value to it and determine from it whether or not, the cost of the activity commensurate with the value that activity adds to the overall offering and from which a decision could be made on whether or not to have a third party perform the said activity at a cost commensurate to the value that activity portends to add. The trend in the corporate world right now is to outsource the expensive administrative work that doesn’t add much value to the offering as well as some of the low value – adding manufacturing work to low cost third party contractors. That is in the corporate world. However, I noticed lately that outsourcing doesn’t only happen in the corporate world. Modern life as we call it is actually an “outsourced” life. We practically outsourced all the menial activities, both important and unimportant ones to a third party and for what? So we could gain the valuable free time for other more important activities. Or was it? We hire maids to relieve us of the household chores. Nothing really wrong about it though except that we tend to get lazy and become dependent on them. We dine outside regularly because we would like to avoid cooking our food and worry about washing the dishes afterwards. Dining out has become an intricate part of our daily living to the extent that we celebrate every event both major and minor ones in our lives inside a restaurant. What happen to a good, cozy, homemade meal with a few friends and family? We hire wet nurses to take care of our young ones so we wouldn’t be burden with raising our kids. Wasn’t it the burden, part and parcel of raising our young ones? Wasn’t it, a “process” to gain intimacy and closeness with our young ones? Wasn’t it our chance to mold our young ones into the person we wanted them to be? We hire tutors to oversee our children’s homework. What about values and wisdom? Could a tutor inculcate that into our children? Homework is not just simply answering assignments but also a chance for us to teach them something outside of their formal education. It is also an opportunity for us to instill discipline and inspire them to better themselves through constant learning. We buy toys and computer games for our kids and let them play about it and amuse themselves with it. We did this to the extent that we pamper them in order to buy their cooperation and good behavior. What happen to playing with them and enjoy each other’s company? What happen to discipline? And while we’re at it, what about values and principles? Are we going to let game makers and TV producers shape them for our kids? We buy gifts for our love ones only on anniversaries and birthdays. What about the rest of the day in a year? Do we conveniently substitute that kiss and hug for gifts on occasions? So many things in our lives that we outsourced that very few were left for us to enjoy. And what we do with all the free time we get from outsourcing our lives? We work in order to earn the money to pay for the services being outsourced to the third party. Isn’t life ironic?