E-mail Exchange

Been following your blog dear, somehow must say I half-envy you for being so introspective. Yet on the other hand, it seems so far from the daily hustle and bustle I face. Especially with the complicated human relationships I see at work every day…sigh. Really not easy to manage people’s expectations. You remember the chinese term bu4 bu4 wei2 ying2? Something like having to ‘watch your step…every step of the way’ i.e. being extremely cautious. I feel a lot like this now….have to watch what I do, what I say…and of course my back.

Ok lah, no more grumbling…will tell you more when you’re back. Good luck with the exams/papers!

I haven’t been as introspective as I have been these few months for several years *wry*. For me it usually takes a big nudge (e.g. a personal crisis) to prod me into pausing and taking stock of myself. It’s been a very fruitful half a year so far, and my journey’s taken me way beyond the specific problems I encountered earlier this year. The relative quiet and solitude I can enjoy in Toronto, and the freedom to use my time as I want is conducive for leading a more contemplative kind of life…at least for someone who naturally gravitates towards company and activities as I am. :P I’m aware that life will be very different once I start work, and get married and have kids. Won’t have the luxury of time as I do now… which is all the more reason why I’m trying to try and practice this discipline and habit now when it’s easier. I certainly hope to continue it in future!

I can imagine how it is at your work, the way you describe it. And to a large extent, that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? For me, it is very easy to get caught up in just reacting to the environment, getting swept up in the waves, and becoming less trusting and more bitter without even realizing it. I always do. And it takes something big to shake me out of my blind ‘existing’ to make myself more critically conscious of what the purpose of my life is. Often, in periods of greater clarity as I find myself in now, I’m half-afraid that I will lose this clarity and get sucked in again. *ha ha* Which is why I’m trying to be more disciplined in my prayer life and self-reflection. Catching myself before I get too lost would always be easier and better in some ways than waiting for a very painful experience to remind me with a whallop that I’m off-track. Or even worse… the possibility that I may become so unself-aware that I would be too blind and self-righteous to reflect and change.

I believe there is a way to find inner peace in a world like ours, even though it is so full of selfish competition, distrust, jealousy, lust and greed. I find the seeds of those emotions within myself too, when I dare to be honest. This peace can’t come from the external world… it is regardless of what kind of people I encounter, how unjustly I may be treated, or how welcome or hated I am. Even deeper than becoming detached from the world, I think there must be a way to love the people in it too. Very hard… I’m definitely not there yet. *grin* But compassion that is neither pity nor sympathy… that’s something I hope someday I will learn.

步步为营. It must be tiring for you. I know you must be doing well… and as such, you will encounter even more ‘landmines’. For how can your success and ability not evoke envy or jealousy? :) And in a place where everyone tries to hide their insecurities, it must be very easy for one wrong word or action to bring forth anger and bitterness, even if these are above all defence mechanisms. With so many things to be careful of, how could it be possible for you to guard every angle? Must be stressful! There is never a guarantee.

I hope, somehow, you will find a way to improve your situation for yourself too, and find some much needed peace and freedom! With such a hectic life it won’t be easy to find time to spend with your own thoughts, and to be introspective. But that’s always been your natural strength…the ability to be inwardly quiet, to be focused, and to draw strength from yourself. I’m sure it’d be a lot easier for you than it has been for me to be quiet! :P ha ha.

Hadn’t intended to write such a long email. *sheepish look* Don’t worry about replying or reciprocating in length if you don’t have the time. Find time for yourself, ok! :) *BIG HUG*

Love,
Ann

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Edit: “Compassion that is not pity nor sympathy”

I got that phrase from (who else?) Nouwen. Here’s the excerpt:

At precisely this point (realization that being human means being together with other humans), compassion is born. This compassion is not covered by the word “pity,” nor by the word “sympathy.” Pity connotes too much distance. Sympathy implies an exclusive nearness. Compassion goes beyond distance and exclusiveness.

Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbour shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say,

“In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh; their blood is my blood; their pain is my pain; their smile is my smile. Their ability to torture is in me, too; their capacity to forgive I find also in myself. There is nothing in me that does not belong to them, too. There is nothing in them that does not belong to me, too. In my heart, I know their yearning for love and down to my entrails, I can feel their cruelty.

In another’s eyes, I see my plea for forgiveness and in a hardened frown, I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have murdered, and when someone gives birth, I know that I am capable of birth as well. In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and hate, life and death.”

– Henri J. M. Nouwen, “With Open Hands”

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