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On Birthday, Bombings and Chumbawamba

20 Jul

I never paid much attention to my own birthdays. There is a question that I used to ask silently to myself, “What are birthdays but a mere passing of the years of your life?” That question stayed with me for a long time because I just simply never had it in me to underline the significance of my birthday to myself. I would attend some birthday parties, – and I even encouraged some birthday celebrations to be held for those remarkable souls I know; but it stops there. What I felt can may be summed up by a simple sentence : What have I done that is so significant to deserve a celebration ? None, nada, zilch.

Enter 12 July 2009. The night before, on my birthday eve, my wife took me out for a special dinner that she’s been planning for a quite some time. So I dragged my lazy bum out there, and deciding that I needed to appreciate what she did for me, I put on my batik shirt ( which I only wore once before in my whole life, by the way ), wore the best pair of shoes I have and went out for the night.

The dinner was great, mind you. I had probably one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my poor food repertoire of my life. Yet as I enjoyed it, my mind was always hard-wired to the fact that here I was, sitting demurely celebrating the best gift of my life, – which is my wife. See ? This was a typical method of mine in approaching birthdays. I counted all the blessings of my life and say a thankful prayer for them all. I just never happened to ponder, – let alone celebrate, my life per sé. It just never held a special significance for me.

Later on, we went to a dear friend’s place to have a game of scrabble. Little did I know that my wife had conspired with her and several other close friends to throw a surprise birthday shower for me. One by one they came unannounced, each with their own authentic ways to congratulate me on my first day of the new year. The hostess, for instance, has graciously given me a chance to go berserk in her personal library to pick books that I like as a birthday gift. Others bring their deliciously home-made delicacies that they know I like. One even had painstakingly gone his way to acquire a fresh bucket of real, live sunflowers for me. And as the night passed, I found myself slicing a birthday cake; thinking that on that very night, I must be the richest person in town to have wonderful friends like them.

The day after that, another beautiful soul braved the Jakarta traffic to come to my house and drop me a special birthday present, because she thought I deserved it. Her accompanying handwritten note reads as follows :

The pretty note

The pretty note

Happy Birthday, Fajar Jasmin

This small gift is nothing compared to the friendship I have received from you and your family. Still, I hope you would kindly accept this gift and I hope it can be of use for a great writer like you. Not much I can do to return all the kindness, but to pray for all the blessings to come upon your family.

Happy birthday to a very fine gentleman.

Happy birthday to a dear friend.

Happy birthday to a great brother.

My straw broke. That night, without anyone knowing, I shed some tear knowing that maybe I need to start to celebrate the life I have in me. To start relishing, – and cherishing, myself as a person. Not because I am a great man that have done many things in my life. Far from it, I need to start celebrating because no matter how severe my limitations may be, I can still refuse to buckle my knees to the pressure and inspire others.

You see, bad things do happen in our lives. Just recently, a terrible bombing incident hit the city I live in. As grievous as it is, I am taken aback by the fact that it is ultimately up to us to choose how we respond. It is up to us whether we will resort to unfruitful anger and blame game, or take it as a wake-up call to stand tall and do whatever we can to make sure that it won’t happen again.

So there you go. My birthday and the bombings. Two very different occasions that involve two very different emotional responses for me. Yet, they strike the same chord in my heart when I got reminded of the simple, but profound lines written not by Tolstoy or Dickens, but by Chumbawamba. So today, let us hold our chin up, defiant to whatever problems we have, and sing those lines with me :

I get knocked down, but I get up again;

You’re never gonna keep me down.

P.S. : Watch this space for an update for a link to the pics from my birthday celebration. Again, I’m lucky to have such friends.

UPDATE : Here is the link to my Pics Album of the Birthday Bash. Enjoy !

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INDONESIA 1.5 : My personal dream

22 Oct

Hold_Yourself_Together_by_genni

Some of you may already knew that I started a Facebook Group called Indonesia 1.5.  In this post I am going to share my philosophy behind it.

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You surely have heard of a well-known myth that human only uses 10 % of his brain, haven’t you ?  This is what inspired me.  Although recently this myth has been increasingly challenged, even the skeptics admit that at most of the time only 5 % of the brain neurons are active.

Now, translated into an equation this would look something like this :

1 h = 5 % of b,

where h = human being,

and b = brain

What I mused about is if we somehow to refuse to abide by the 5 % limit, and look to transcend it instead, we would end up being something more than just an ordinary human.  In fact, a logician will tell you that derived from the above equation, it then follows that :

7.5 % of b = 1.5 h

Now, of course real life is not mathematics.  Otherwise, the richest person in the world will be a mathematician and not Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.  However, if you look beyond it, you’ll get my point, which is : You will end up to be a better person than population on average, IF you constantly challenge yourself in thinking and doing something out of the box.  What better way, indeed, to do yourself a favor ?

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In fact, I believe that at least in Indonesia, this laziness to think is the demon that keeps a lot of potentially great minds on a leash.  Most of the people are very easy to surrender to difficult circumstances, – sometimes without even a second of brainstorming or pondering the alternatives.  I don’t know about you, but I’m saddened by thisNOT because I’m better than them, but because I believe that we could do a lot more if we’re willing to think.  Please be noticed that I refer to “thinking” as a deliberate activity that can be trained, not just your usual unconscious daily process.  A good authority on this would be Edward de Bono, – renowned for his Lateral Thinking.

Just how exactly I’m going to achieve such lofty goal ?  I could almost hear some of you skeptically ask that question… 🙂  Simple.  I am going to propose we do it by giving back to society in unusual methods.  In the process, I hope that we’re going to engage in a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, – and thus grow to be better persons.  Nothing easy, but start small, and before long, together we can move mountains.

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For those of you in Indonesia who shares the same opinion and would like to help the unfortunate part of society, you are very much welcome to join our humble group here.  Looking forward to see you…!! 🙂

On life’s destiny : answering a question

30 Sep

I pray that you don’t get bored by my recent posts about my Indonesia 1.5 group.  This is another one that is somehow related to it.  Bear with me, kind readers… 🙂

In my dream last night, my mother came to me and asked me, “Why do you plan to help other people when you haven’t done enough to help your own family ?”.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  My mom is a person with a heart of gold, and will only ask such questions in dreams.  But I digress.  This post is a quick attempt to tackle that question which I feel will sooner or later be actually asked by certain parties in my real life.

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I have no intention to bore you with repeating my trials and tribulations.  So first and foremost, let it be just said here that by living with HIV, I am already skating on thin ice,  – I might as well dance on it then.  That is what I personally believe.  That was the first thing that sparked the idea when I started this.

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Secondly, remember that classic saying that says that you must help yourself first before you help others ?  Guess what ?  I ask this question in response :  Why not challenge itWhy not turn it the other way around ?  What’s wrong with this :

Help others to help yourself ?

Have you ever considered it that way ?

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And thirdly, – I saw too many examples of great minds gone wasted.  I’m talking of a bright, intellectual man who died with a lot of riches as his only life achievement.  At one time, I notice that such man’s ( one of my friend’s father, – name of whom I can’t mention here ) burial was attended by 500 people.  Sadly, my friend admitted that most of them was only there because they wanted to be recognized as friends of the late successful businessman.

I can’t judge him of course, but in a sense, it sort of told me that it’s a classic portrayal of our society in our countryAchievements are almost always measured by what you have and acquired.  Whether it’s riches, intellects or something else is personal preference.  It’s very rare that you meet someone who measure how successful his life is by what he gives.  If you ask me, at the end of the day, I want to be that person.  I want it that when I die, there may be only 5 people beside my family who attends the ceremony, but they may well say with a smile that I made a difference in their lives.

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I guess that’s pretty much it.  Forgive these rather incoherent ramblings, but those are my thoughts when I started the group.  I could start one who discuss things I like the most, – or a writer group; but I chose to consciously started one that gives backFor I have difficulty in believing that life is all about what I gain.  I’m gonna leave you with that

Have a good day….

Photos of Indonesia 1.5 First Meeting

27 Sep

These photos are courtesy of Ardi Muswardi, enjoy…

I can’t help but commenting : Why do I always look bad in photos ? 😀

Indonesia 1.5 First Meeting

27 Sep

Tonight, – finally, the first meeting of my Facebook Group, – Indonesia 1.5 -, is finally held.  I have shared some of my idea behind it in my old blog here.

At the risk of being a little bit redundant, allow me to elaborate a bit on this group.  As mentioned in the first meeting agenda, the raison d’etre is :

To be a place of gathering for all who feel uncomfortable with the mainstream in daily life ( thus the term weirdos and misfits ).  To challenge the status quo by being the place where we could use our “strangeness” in positive ways.

While the group vision is :

To give back to society in fresh, unusual ways for the following reasons :

  • to make sure that the help we are giving reaches appropriate recipients.
  • to help us grow better in the process, because by forcing ourselves to think creatively ( in our ways of giving back ), surely we will learn a lot of useful things about ourselves and others.

Now this may sound lofty for some, I’m aware of that.  However, I strongly believe that this unrest I commonly have with the founding members ( I like to call the members who came to the first meeting that way ); is perfectly workable.  The key is planning to start small.

The first activity we’re going to do is very simple.  We are going to gather some books to be donated to some unfortunate women who suffer from domestic abuse.  In Jakarta, there are a place that we are aware of that offer a shelter for such women.  I am not able to share with you the location or even the name of the shelter for security reasons.  But we feel that we can offer them some token of relief in the form of some inspirational books or even just pure escapist novels written by Agatha Christie, – for example.  That’s the least we can do for them.

For the same security reasons, I don’t know how detailed will I be able to post some updates about this in the future.  But for those of you who’d like to help, please leave a comment, or ask to join our group or mailing list.

We’ll be waiting for you.  Being an agent of change is not easy, but it is started by small things like this one.

P.S. :  My deepest gratitude goes to all the members who came to the first meeting.  They are ( in no particular order ) Leonnie FM, Budi Putra, Ivan Lanin, Anna Simanungkalit, Dody Herlambang, Ardy Muswardi and Pico Seno.  Thank you all !  You’re such an encouragements to me.  I’m sorry that we didn’t start too smoothly 🙂