The Joy of Learning

I guess thus far into this paltry existence of mine, if there is one nugget of wisdom I would want to impart to anyone going through any phase of life, it would be this: develop the joy of learning.

Life is always going to be full of ups and downs, highs and lows, full of surprises and changes. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are born, we will all experience this crazy thing called life. And there are times where there will be challenges, whether big or small; in these times we have to adapt and overcome or fail and hopefully learn from it.

And I’ve realised that life is all about learning and being open to new things and experiences. If you’re not open to learning, then you’re not open to life.

If you don’t learn, then you’re stagnant – you don’t improve, you don’t learn from your mistakes, you don’t grow and develop, you don’t expand your horizons.

If your entire world remains in a static field of suspended status quo, then I suppose you could be forgiven for not needing or attempting to learn and advance yourself or the knowledge pool of the world.

I imagine there are people who go through life growing physically, but not mentally or emotionally. People who pander to their base instincts their whole life without learning a single thing, leaving the world almost the same as they left it, zero contribution with a little waste. Seems like a big waste. But hey, as long as they were happy, right?

How does happiness weigh into the equation?

Are people who enjoy learning happy? Are happy people constantly learning? It’s not something easy to put into a statistic or graph.

Redefining the ‘American Dream’ for the Age of Automation ...

Maybe not that hard, but it’s still a stretch to derive happiness purely from income level. You could say that those who are constantly learning or better at learning excel in academia and therefore excel at life (make more money), as the graph suggests, but I think that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Firstly, let me put it out there that just because you enjoy learning doesn’t mean you’re good at it. And just because you’re good at learning doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at applying whatever you’ve learned.

However, I would posit that those who enjoy learning or are good at learning tend to have a better outlook on life and a better chance at obtaining what it is they seek to achieve, simply because this attitude lends itself to curiosity and creativity, being open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

And if you’re not trying to achieve lofty goals, then at the very least you will have fun while you’re learning about this world and the things in this life. Why do I say that?

Because learning is the process of engaging and applying yourself to something. And if you develop a joy of learning, anything is possible!

You enjoy learning new languages so you can speak with your fellow human beings; you enjoy learning new recipes to spice up your meals; you enjoy learning new things about your friends and family so you get to know each other deeper and engage in more meaningful conversation (especially about the weather, oh boy!).

Learning can be as simple as picking up a new piece of trivia: did you know that Geoff the Robot on the Late Late show with Craig Ferguson was designed and built by Grant Imahara?

Grant Imahara Panel at Supanova 2014 – Capsule Computers
RIP Mr. Imahara

Think of it this way: learning is the avenue by which you perceive the world around you. You see with your eyes and hear with your ears, but you learn with all your senses. If you enjoy learning things, you will experience things in new and wonderful ways. Well, sometimes they may end up being dull or downright unpleasant, but at least now you know!

So yes, there is a risk to learning – you may uncover undesirable knowledge, knowledge that will haunt you until the day you die. But in the end, at least you can rest peacefully knowing that you knew the truth.

The X-Files - X-Files Wiki - David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson

My point is, no matter your lot in life, where you’re at or what you do, learn to enjoy the learning process. Always be open to learning new things, and relish the journey of learning. Never be afraid to ask or to try something just because you think you’ll look stupid.

Life is too short for that.

Learn first, ask more questions later.

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Aly’s Stomping Pirouette

This was just a random comment from a friend about my sister-in-law Aly’s amusing signature spinning stomping dance move.

Somehow this friend had a dream that a spider crawled onto her face while she slept, and when she was rudely awakened she stomping pirouetted the crap out of it. Or…something to that effect.

I have no idea what kind of drugs these people are on.

I, for one, stick purely to Vicodin.

Use Vicodin, approved by 0.0% of doctors for people who do not require Vicodin.

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Sam Marks Books – If Cats Disappeared From The World Review

Sam Marks Books (but not with an actual pen)

Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.

Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.

Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.

That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.

Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.

As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”

Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.

If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.

This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.

The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.

And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.

Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.

If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?

Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?

Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?

But of course, there is a cost.

What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?

In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.

And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?

  1. His imaginary friend, Aloha
  2. His cat, Cabbage
    Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
  3. His ex-girlfriend
  4. His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
  5. His parents

This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.

Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.

Nobita and Hiron : Welcome to the Cat Kingdom by ...
Yes…let’s not talk, shall we?

He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.

And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.

He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.

Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.

And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.

If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.

If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.

It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.

A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.

So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.

Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.

As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.

Sam Marks Books is a book review and merely expresses the opinions of the author. It does not lay claim to any intellectual property of If Cats Disappeared From The World. All rights of the novel belong to the author.

Ok thanks bye.

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Taste of the Master

Any of you guys out there like plants and growing stuff?

Well, I do.

And as I was happily dousing my usual green amigos one day, it occurred to me…

Now nobody I know goes around intentionally sneezing or spitting on their plants, but it occurred to me that since water and the nutrients contained therein are the most precious gift to plants, how would they feel about our stray fluids?

Okay, maybe stray fluids is not the best choice of phrase.

But you get what I mean…right?

It’s probably as close as we get to petting our green amigos, right?

Wait, do any of you caress your plants?

No judgment.

Now that I think about it, that title is probably going to associate me with some strange things out there on the internet. I admit I’m curious, but not curious enough to punch that into a Google search.

Maybe DuckDuckGo.

Wak
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Being Eccentric

I guess most people would describe me with the word “eccentric”. Perhaps “quirky” if they were trying to be nice. People try to be nice a lot, at least to your face.

Top 10 Eccentric Movie Characters - YouTube

So I imagine the terms “eccentric” and “crazy” are thrown around a lot when I’m beyond earshot. I’m writing this not because I’m at all fazed or bothered by what other people think, but more to explore the notion of eccentricity.

What is the definition of being “eccentric”?

Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern.

So basically being a deviant, an outlier, someone who doesn’t conform to the norm, who doesn’t fit in or get along.

Strange, weird, bizarre, deviant, erratic, peculiar. Here are a few other fun terms that tie into the eccentric status.

There are many facets to being an eccentric. It’s like depression – you have to tick a few of the boxes to be a confirmed eccentric. Thankfully, being depressed isn’t one of them, although that is commonly attributed to eccentricity.

So what are the steps to being labelled eccentric?

  1. Keeping to yourself; enjoying your own company
  2. Acting the way you like, usually in an anti-social manner
  3. Liking the natural state of things
  4. Having an atypical belief system
  5. Doing weird activities (but within the legal system, for the most part)

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Numero Uno: Eccentrics Keep To Themselves

Why? Because it’s easier.

Life is simpler when you don’t have to accommodate others, when you can do things you want, when you want, the way you want it.

People who like to go off on their own and do their own thing are thought to be a little off, right? Off with the fairies, they say. Hiking through the lonely hills, drifting upon a solitary sea.

But is there a problem with enjoying your own space, having a dose of me-time?

Yes, humans are social creatures and no man is an island and all that, but that doesn’t mean you need to be surrounded by yammering yahoos all day long.

The extremes are the hermits, those who shun the company of fellow human beings and retreat to nature, far from the madding crowd. Perhaps you would go a little loopy being in solitary confinement all by yourself. But then again, you have the company of nature and her flora and fauna. Fresh air does wonders to you, you know?

So in short, an eccentric person would tend to be a lone ranger, a singularity, an isolated entity, that curious person who would rather read a book or take a walk than browse Netflix or sip cocktails at parties.

Funnily enough, considering his name is Solo, Han was rarely ever alone.

Point the Second: Anti-social Actions

People expect those labelled as eccentric to act out in certain ways, often in crude or brutish ways, with snappy temperaments and lengthy lectures about irrelevant things.

I don’t think those people are eccentric, they’re just ill-mannered.

Eccentric people will push other people away, or keep them at arm’s length (actually that’s barely social distancing – definitely several arm lengths). This is because of point the first – eccentric people value their own space and time and want to keep it sacred.

And that means prioritising it over other things, like other people or activities that they feel are meaningless.

That indicates that eccentric people have a mind of their own. They are not bound by social obligation, not influenced by peer pressure, not swayed by public opinion, not brainwashed by herd mentality. They are not afraid to have their own thoughts, and sometimes not afraid to express them as they see fit.

Eccentric people act however they like, which sounds like a bad thing. I’m imagining poo flinging and public music making. However if no one is getting hurt or inconvenienced, I see no harm in letting eccentric people have their own way.

Eccentric people will do what they like, when they like, how they like. And the dangerous part is they don’t care what other people think. They’ll walk their dog in the middle of the night; they’ll talk to themselves out loud and makes amusing (at least to them) sounds.

The eccentric do things their way, which society regards as bad, because they are not team players. They don’t fit into the hierarchical work structure; they do their jobs a funny way. And yes, they’re not the best at communication or at adhering to society’s rules and regulations.

They’re the rebels, the mavericks, the loose cannons. The eccentric won’t rule the earth, and they certainly won’t stop anyone who is gearing to try.

第三 : Natural State of Mind

Progress is about conquering and going beyond the natural state of things, right? So returning to nature is bad; it is a step backwards and is undesirable.

And so we slave our days away to pave over this dirty, uncomfortable natural world. We build glass houses and gaudy rocket ships to pierce the heavens and pollute the earth, our home and place of birth and living.

The eccentric tend to gravitate toward nature and a simpler way of doing things, a tranquil uncomplicated way of living. Eccentric folk don’t want to participate in the rat race – they’ll work, but only as a means to an end.

Eccentric folk tend to shy away from socialising, as they are content with their existing company, even if it’s largely their own. They avoid the “vulgar masses”, the mindless herds of sheep and cattle suffering from FOMO.

Nature is the perfect example of contentment. Nature does not need to strive – it grows and it thrives, it withers and it dies. The cycle repeats, and yet the pattern is always unique, always changing and adapting, while always staying the same.

Being at one with nature and going back to your roots is eccentric; it is only something monks and hippies do. Environmentalists lobby for a cleaner, greener earth, but they just want to make sure their pristine mansion doesn’t sink because some dipshit clogged the sewers with their plastic waste. They all want to care for the cute turtle and otter, but a lot of it feels like attention-grabbing.

Eccentric people don’t care for that – they just feel nature has all the best things to offer, and offers it without having to sign up and download the latest app or investing some ridiculous amount of money every month.

Those eccentric folk like tending to animals and plants and romping through the jungle and over the hills. And the best part is all of this can be done without even saying a word. Perhaps that’s the appeal of pets (although we talk to them all the same).

As mentioned, eccentrics appear to be weaker in communication, but that’s just because they appreciate the power of the spoken word, and they treasure silence.

Is silence the natural state? Mother nature is a noisy bitch, but her cries and her vibrations resonate within us. They are a part of us, like purring is a part of a household cat. They are instinctive noises, guttural earthen sounds, that our brain processes differently from speech.

And so eccentric people glide back to their roots, back to nature or as close as they can get. They go out in search of their homeland, where they belong. They go with the flow, they’re in no rush.

Nombor Empat: Losing Your Religion

Having an atypical belief system isn’t just about the afterlife and top tier principles; it permeates into every aspect of life.

Eccentric people believe in…well, whatever they want to believe in. Not what society says they should believe. Or it might be their own interpretation of whatever the prevailing belief system is.

Those eccentric folk believe that life is what you make of it, and so they give up subscribing to the American Dream and create their own dreams. They try new and different things, they’re open to new experiences, although they don’t seem to be hard up about trying everything under the sun. They don’t need to.

Having your own belief system means you’re not measured on the same scale as everyone else. At least from a societal ranking perspective. And so those eccentric folks don’t compare as much, don’t go around judging other people. They live life a lot easier and they accept things quicker and move on, going with the flow.

Of course having your own belief system means you don’t congregate with all the others and perform the same rituals as all the others, which makes you a bit of an outcast. But that doesn’t mean you don’t respect the other belief systems, or incorporate their principles into your own playbook.

Eccentric people don’t necessarily shun others and their belief structures; they just pick and choose what they deem worthy, and discard the rest. They think for themselves and form their own theories and values from their knowledge and experiences.

Religion tells you what to think and what to believe; eccentric people make up what they want to believe. Hell, a lot of these religions were started by so-called “eccentric” people.

I mean, if you met the Prophet Mohamad or Jesus on the streets, you might find the way they act and the things they say more than a little bizarre, right? Is it because they spoke in riddles and stories, or were they stark raving mad? They appeared to have their wits (and followers) about them, so their countenance and values (as well as their marketing) were certainly on point. I mean, so many people ended up liking what they said, so they must have had some merit, right? Right?

다섯 번째 : Hare-brained Hobbies

Finally, those labelled as eccentric tend to partake in strange pastimes and irregular relaxations. Their idea of fun seems a little skewed.

These activities tend to be lesser known hobbies, involving smaller groups of people. Yes, I suppose Magic: the Gathering makes the cut, but that one is really just a pay-to-win ever-expanding card game. It’s kind of a cult.

Eccentric people tend to delve into activities that meet the previous four criteria: they can do it alone or in small groups, it’s not complicated and they can do it the way they like, or whatever the natural way of doing it is, and they don’t need to proselytise in the process!

I mean, by and large these activities aren’t necessarily truly deviant; would you consider Christian an eccentric person? Perhaps eccentricity does lend itself to certain fetishes, but for the most part I feel the eccentric label is reserved for a different type of wacky crowd. Let’s keep BDSM locked up in a cage, yeah?

So what are examples of eccentric activities?

Well, there’s no exhaustive list, but generally things that most people would find strange or disturbing or downright distasteful.

Admiring bugs and plants? Running ultra-marathons? Cribbage?

Drawing stickmen? Eating uncooked and unseasoned vegetables? Travelling to the frigid wastelands of the tallest parts of the world?

Playing with stray cats and dogs? Volunteering at a soup kitchen? Learning axe throwing?

Woodworking? Picking seashells on the beach? Listening to Vegetarian Grindcore Metal?

Hint: I may or may not partake in some of these activities. I’m not saying which ones though.

Essentially, any activity that doesn’t conform with society’s idea of a normal, conventional hobby is passed off as eccentric. People fear what they don’t know and can’t understand, and eccentric people are a big part of that.

So now that we have a rough idea of what classifies as eccentric, where do you fall on the scale?

So what do you do if you tick all these boxes?

Keep on living, my friend, keep on living to the fullest.

To be fair, if you were truly eccentric, you wouldn’t be taking anyone else’s advice anyway. But here’s hoping this little essay made you think a little more, and maybe it brightened your day (or night, for those nocturnal eccentrics out there) knowing that there are others out there like you, fellow eccentrics.

Stay eccentric, my friend, and never change. Unless you want to change. Then do whatever you like, weirdo.

Personally, I’ve always been a little eccentric (if I do say so myself). I acknowledge it’s probably not an attractive quality and might hinder me from getting that promotion or that luscious mate, but as long as I have my freedom I couldn’t care less.

My belief is that as long as you are truly happy and content, and nobody is getting harmed to maintain that status quo, then why should you change? Certainly not for the approval of others, or for some short term gain. We eccentrics see the bigger picture, we plan for the long term, while on the other hand we don’t care about the future and don’t let what tomorrow holds worry us. Like a wise man once said:

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

So don’t worry, be happy.

And now I’ve got that blasted song stuck in my head. Wonderful.

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Malaysia Says No To Domestic Abuse

Do you know someone who is the victim of abuse? Or are you personally the target of verbal, physical or emotional abuse by another person?

Malaysia was shocked by news that Sugu, the husband in the online cooking sensation Sugu Pavithra couple, was arrested and charged with domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is no stranger to us – it has been happening since there were humans, and it is nefariously difficult to detect and resolve, often because all parties involve choose to remain silent.

But why do we remain silent?

Stand up for yourself or for someone you know who is a victim of abuse! Silence and inaction is not the solution to this problem. It’s not just going to go away.

Domestic violence is a pattern and a developed behaviour. It is not going to get better or go away on its own. Someone has to do something.

Seek help or look out for your friends and family who you believe are suffering abuse.

Malaysia and the world says no to domestic abuse and violence.

It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, male or female, able or disabled – there is no reason you or anyone else should be subject to constant violence or harm.

We stand with Ms. Pavithra and all the other anonymous victims of violence who have suffered in silence.

That’s not how we treat our fellow Malaysians, or fellow human beings.

Say no to domestic abuse by addressing the issue. Don’t avoid it, and don’t fear it.

#QueenPavithra #End #DomesticAbuse

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Korean Phrase Time: Shoot!

It’s Korean phrase time with Samtoki!

So today’s phrase is pronounced:

  1. 내 – Nay
  2. 가 – Ga
  3. 쏠 – Sol
  4. 게 – Gay

If you’ve been brushing up on your 한국어, then you’ll recall that 내가 means “I” in Korean.

And from the verb 쏘다 (ssoda), which means “to shoot” (pew pew), this Korean phrase 내가 쏠게 means “I will pay” or “my shout”. You can say this at the end of a date if you want to impress your companion and settle the bill, or just want to treat your friends.

It’s a bit more of a slang phrase then the typical formal speech, so try it out to extra impress your Korean friends!

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If Cats Disappeared From The World

Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.

Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.

If Cats Disappeared From The World – Review – Bright Star ...

Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.

That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.

Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.

As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”

Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.

If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.

This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.

The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.

And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.

Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.

If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?

Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?

Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?

But of course, there is a cost.

What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?

In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.

And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?

  1. His imaginary friend, Aloha
  2. His cat, Cabbage
    Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
  3. His ex-girlfriend
  4. His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
  5. His parents

This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.

Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.

Nobita and Hiron : Welcome to the Cat Kingdom by ...
Yes…let’s not talk, shall we?

He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.

And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.

He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.

Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.

And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.

If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.

If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.

It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.

A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.

So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.

Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.

As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.

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Spiciness – Nature’s Tool or Just Masochism?

Spiciness is a most curious trait in our world. Certain plants and herbs have the ability to mildly harm or stimulate our senses, not enough to maim or kill us, but enough to make us uncomfortable…and wonder if we should be eating it in the first place.

Chillis and spices are a strange and wonderful bunch that are used in almost every culture, but what could their purpose be?

At the end of the day, are chillis a form of drug – something to stimulate and enhance the senses? Or are they therapeutic?

Do they play a role in selective propagation? Only the animals like birds that are unaffected by spiciness will happily eat the spicy fruit and seed and carry them far away?

Or…are we just being masochists?

Nature certainly works and strange and mysterious ways.

There is an interesting Thai saying that goes:

“A crow holds the chilli in its mouth.”

I’m not entirely sure of its meaning, and how it would translate into English. What do you think it means?

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