Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Art and Health

Common Theme: art

1: “The man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.”
André Breton
2: “An ice sculpture in the Sahara makes about as much sense as donkey left open gaping wagon, Sergeant (add cream cheese sparingly). ”
Jarod Kintz, This is the best book I've ever written, and it still sucks
3: “You don't have to make something that people call art. Living is an artistic activity, there is an art to getting through the day.”
Viggo Mortensen
4: “When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time. ”
Lady Gaga
5: “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”
Leonardo da Vinci
Art, along with the written word, music and film, has played a vital role in the communication of some of the most powerful ideas throughout human history.

From graphic depictions of war, to the unusual representations of the world seen in surrealism, art has been a major cornerstone and landmark of the human race.

Viggo Mortensen once said that living is an artistic activity in itself. "You don't have to make something that people call art". Art, as well as any creative endeavour, is subject to the opinions of its viewer, and there is no right answer. Instead, the "correctness" of the art is, and should be, gauged by how powerfully it left the viewer feeling or whether it presented food for thought.

Truly great art is an investment. Made by one person, or by many, great art can inspire a whole nation to embrace new concepts and different perspectives. It can be a pivotal piece in a society's future.

Regardless, there will be those who will argue that art, being subjective by nature, is prone to misinterpretation and promote moral conflicts. Some will argue that science, mathematics and various fields of specialisation where there are results in the form of statistics and scientific proof, are areas that we as a community need to focus our efforts towards.

While there is truth to this belief, there is only so much science can tell us. And as finding the answer to the questions we ask, is there a possibility that we might not want to know what we don't know currently know? What if the truth is far bleaker than we hoped, and that perhaps it were better not to have found out?

Ignorance is bliss. For some people living in difficult, troubling or even dangerous times, science may not provide the comfort that everyone deserves to live out their life. Sometimes we need to paint a picture to show them that while as problematic their situation may be, art can bring people together, despite their differing views, and that a sense of community may be the answer we seek after all.

Leonardo da Vinci once said that the noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. Perhaps if we all took a little bit of time in our day to enjoy art, or even as Mortensen suggested - seeing our daily activities as an art form, we would have a greater appreciation for not only ourselves, but also for nature, the universe and the people around us.


Common Theme: health

1: “Money cannot buy health, but I'd settle for a diamond-studded
Dorothy Parker
2: “Getting fit is all about mind over matter. I don't mind, so it doesn't matter.”
Adam Hargreaves, Mr Lazy's Guide To Fitness
3: “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
4: “the body is wiser than its inhabitants. the body is the soul. the body is god’s messenger.”
Erica Jong
5: “If we are creating ourselves all the time, then it is never too late to begin creating the bodies we want instead of the ones we mistakenly assume we are stuck with.”
Deepak Chopra
We live in an age where diseases that once killed us, or crippled us for life, now live in the history section of medical textbooks. Over time, we have become a great people and the numerous innovations and developments in modern medicine is one we should always celebrate - a true testament to the human genius in all of us.

And yet, every day there is news of war and conflict. It may warfare between people of different values and morals, to the mental conflict that might exist in the mind of a single individual which could lead him or her to commit horrible crimes. Regardless of the source, humans are far from healthy than we might believe.

While good health is typically attributed to being free of disease, in my opinion it is more than physical healthiness. Good health delves deeper than the skin, the flesh and the bone. It also lies in the mind, soul and spirit.

Kurt Vonnegut once said: "We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane". Here Vonnegut suggests a similar belief to my own. We cannot expect to be truly healthy, if our minds are plagued with thoughts of evil, such as greed or revenge.

Likewise, we cannot live a healthy life if our minds are not in sync with the present - that we might regret over past events or worry for the future yet to come. Fear, as Yoda once said, leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

As a person who is heavily involved in the betterment of people's health in the community, I believe it is paramount that I of all people should promote good health considering all facets of the human condition, and not solely the supply of medication.

The human being is a complicated, multidimensional creature and every one of them has different hopes, dreams and goals. While no one desires for illness, we also wish for our own prosperity and happiness. We are all human, one kind.

Steve Job once said in a speech: "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there". Maybe if we can overcome the hurdles within the human condition such as greed, jealousy and hate that divide us, we can find the positive attributes that will help us work together and build a better future for the generations to come.

If there is ever a meaning of life, perhaps it is this.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Wisdom and Freedom

Common Theme: wisdom

1: “Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.”
Mahatma Gandhi
2: “I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.”
Maya Angelou
3: “Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance sake, but for the sake of having done right?”
4: “Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.”
William Edgar Stafford
5: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
Niels Bohr
Even though our footprint as the human race exists only mere seconds on the clock of the universe's timeline, we have grown to be a intelligent species - one that can think both critically and emotionally.

Wisdom is developed through experience and time. Its cultivation period is lengthy but ongoing. We never stop becoming wiser.

However wisdom is not knowledge. It is beyond sheer memory. Wisdom is the application of past experiences to new situations so that we might not make the same mistakes we once did.

A great teacher once said to me: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is not putting a tomato in a fruit salad!"

In a similar light, it has been said that a good man does nothing for appearance sake, but for the sake of having done right. Wisdom teaches us to be more than skin deep, it teaches us about the layers below what we can see. The right course of action is no easy path to walk. It requires compromise and resilience. It isn't difficult to be tempted or lulled by easy choices, for the nature of man, and in fact the universe, is to seek out the path of least resistance.

Some say that wisdom comes from the mind and that humanity comes from the soul. Looking at our past certainly teaches us about the future, and by definition this is what makes us wise. However I believe wisdom extends beyond this notion, and that it does not exist purely in the mind.

Wisdom does not have to be logical. It's about understanding the emotions felt in a situation that moved us in such a way that we were compelled to change our old way of thinking, and to adopt a fresh perspective. Wisdom's legs is the soul, and we need its power to walk through the mud that life set in front of us sometimes.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain". Gandhi suggests that while violence may be the temporary answer to our problems, and indeed something we instinctively consider given the primal traits even modern human beings possess, it is not the choice of wise men and women.

While we share many similarities to animals, we have the powerful opportunity to be greater - to be a truly advanced species. Caving in to our own brutal tendencies that may have once served us well for survival in the wilderness, but it only enhances the notion that we have moved little from our origins. We can be more. We can bring the world to one that is beyond the sword. After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.


Common Theme: freedom

1: “Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”
George Gordon Byron
2: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities
3: “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
Toni Morrison, Beloved
4: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
Rosa Luxemburg
5: “No Statue of Liberty ever greeted our arrival in this country...we did not, in fact, come to the United States at all. The United States came to us.”
Luis Valdez
The human race has come a lot way throughout history. We have overcome various life-threatening diseases, withstood natural disasters and made the world smaller. We've done many great things, although a trade-off is not hard to find. Compromises had to be made.

Freedom is a quality many of us take for granted - freedom of speech, freedom of dress and freedom of religion just to name a few. But for some, freedom does not exist. Not in their world. Luis Valdez once said: "No Statue of Liberty ever greeted our arrival in this country...we did not, in fact, come to the United States at all. The United States came to us".

And sometimes we have to question if freedom is all in our minds. Laws govern the community, yet some feel more or less free than others. We should wonder why that is. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free".

Freedom, in my opinion, is relative, like speed or weight - there's no single, definitive answer. We must endeavour to find our own sense of freedom and ultimately, happiness. After all, those who do not move, do not even notice their chains.

But what is a free world? What is freedom and how far does it reach? Our freedom, your freedom, my freedom - they may be vastly different things entirely. It's important we embrace individuality, and realise that a free world is once that accepts the differences between us. Differences may look to divide us, to segregate or categorise us, but let us use it to bring people together. Maybe that is true freedom.

We must strive to become a society that respects the values and beliefs of each person. My freedom can extend beyond horizon - it can be truly vast, but my freedom ends where yours begins and vice versa. Where our freedoms meet is where we must find common ground.

"Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves" as George Gordon Byron once said. We can't let oppression and injustice define who we are. 

Let us be the ruler of our own lives, not that of others. Let us find our individual sense of freedom and the common ground we share. Ultimately that is what makes us human.

All humans die, but few have lived.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nature and Gossip

Common Theme: nature

1: “The earth has music for those who listen.”
George Santayana
2: “I should like the fields tinged with red, the rivers yellow and the trees painted blue. Nature has no imagination.”
Charles Baudelaire
3: “The only noise now was the rain, pattering softly with the magnificent indifference of nature for the tangled passions of humans.”
Sherwood Smith
4: “Not just beautiful, though--the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they're watching me.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
5: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
Winston Churchill
Nature surrounds us all, but few take the liberty of appreciating it. Nature is what makes us human - it gives us life and a home. Nature is like our bed - something we use every day but only sometimes will we make our bed. Only sometimes do we take care of nature, whenever it is most convenient for us.

Instead, we work hard to adjust nature to fit our needs and desires. We've come to a stage in our existence whereby we can alter nature, albeit to minor extents. Sometimes our egos grow beyond the horizon, and we forget the true power nature possesses. It can obliterate entire cities, it can disrupt whole ecosystems, and it can be the human race's ultimate demise. Nature can destroy lives if it chooses.

It is more important to realise that with the power to control nature (in small ways), we can contribute - not because we want to, but rather because it is our duty - to protect those we care about, including nature itself, our home. With great power comes great responsibility.

George Santayana once said "the earth has music for those who listen". Those who do not listen, fail to appreciate the beauty nature presents. It's not always our fault. Many people today lead busy lives - ones of deadlines, commitment and results. The busier they get, the further from nature they often drift as their work engulfs their life, and sabotages their happiness.

Nature can bring us back to what matters most. Life is not about spreadsheets and pie-charts. It's not about financial gains, while that is important as well. Life is about connecting with each other, and making the people around us live a better life since our intervention. Everyone is different. But one of the few things we all share is our home, the Earth - nature. Protecting it together also brings us together. Ultimately being with others is what makes us happy.

Haruki Murakami once said that "the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they're watching me". We must also understand that nature extends beyond the Earth, and into the universe. And despite its sheer size, the stars are like trees in a forest, and it watches us, like a mother watches her child. While nature has nurtured us since the dawn of mankind, it can also destroy us, especially if we abuse it.

Carl Sagan once pointed out Earth from a photograph taken in space, a mere grain of sand in a beach filled with stars and space. It's a stark reminder of how minuscule we are considering the bigger picture. To paraphrase Sagan: Everything we've ever known and everything we've ever cared about was once on this tiny pale blue dot. We need to realise that nature is great and beyond human measurement, and that we must show humility in order to prosper both on Earth and one day, in space where our destiny lies.


Common Theme: gossip

1: “Count Olaf sounds like an awful person. I hope he is torn apart by wild animals someday. Wouldn't that be satisfying?”
Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room
2: “Gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts.”
Anna Godbersen, Splendor
3: “Bittersweet? No, just bitter, the taste of your tongue.
Words you can’t have back, so they linger.”
Coco J. Ginger
4: “How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
5: “In small towns, news travels at the speed of boredom.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Human communication comes in many forms, from writing to music. Our senses are always being utilised in order to pass on information and news. Sometimes, though, our words can be meaningless as evident by gossip, identified as the casual talk about others that more than often contains details that stray from the truth.

Anna Godbersen once said that "gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts". While gossip is merely words, or pressure waves in the air generated by our vocal chords, it has the power to cause real damage or inflict pain in those with thinner skin.

Gossip is the talk of the weak - people who need a lie to be content with their life. And it isn't them to blame all of the time. The truth can hurt. Honestly, I can identify with those who hide from the truth. Some people use it as a defense mechanism to shield their own egos. It is simply human nature to do so. However, when the truth is bent so that one individual undeservedly benefits over another, we must seek the truth and expose it.

I've experienced gossip personally first hand and I do not doubt for a second that I am the only one. While it is important for us to distinguish playful teasing with gossip, knowing how to act in each case is a slow learning process. Dealing with rumors and petty lies constitutes a large part of our growing up and it helps us mature into better people. Maybe one day we will be people who realise the problems and frustration that gossip presents, so that we may choose not to participate in it.

Steve Maraboli once asked: "How would your life be different if you walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day. You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same".

Let us take this advice Maraboli presents. Today is the day. Gossip not only wastes our breath, but it also has the potential to hurt others more than we could ever know. In a world that already has as many problems as it does, and many solutions to those problems yet to come, why should we drain our time for an unproductive cause?

Let us only speak of positive attributes, for those negative aspects may not speak wholly of one's character. I hope to see a day where people can live without the fear of lies conjured from thin air about them, and that we will seek the truth before submitting to the soap operas that is gossip.

Gossip is not bittersweet, it is only bitter, as Coco J. Ginger once said. Gossip is the taste left behind on the tongue as words cannot be taken back, so they linger.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Charity and Happiness

Common Theme: charity
1: “The one single use of things which we call our own is that they might be his who hath need of them.”
Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays
2: “Don't judge without having heard both sides. Even persons who think themselves virtuous very easily forget this elementary rule of prudence.”
St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way of The Cross
3: “Truly it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there.”
St. Francis de Sales
4: “Frequently give up some of your property by giving it with a generous heart to the poor ... It is true that God will repay us not only in the next world but even in this.”
St. Francis de Sales
5: “The purpose of any charity is simply to turn people's mirrors into windows. An outward view of the world's needs are vast in comparison to an inward one.”
Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It's Too Late
Throughout history mankind has faced many adversities, from war to disease to natural disasters. The concept of giving back to society at a critical time such as these may seem counter-intuitive to survival. When our situation becomes dire, we often look to support ourselves no matter what the cost, even if it may compromise the wellbeing of the people around us.

The idea of charity is most powerful when we are weakest or most vulnerable. Our problems as a whole greatly exceeds each individual's difficulties. Without supporting those around us, we compromise indirectly to our own wellness. Focusing only on our own desires breeds for ignorance and jealousy. Generosity helps the community grow, but more importantly teaches us to be better people and to set an example for others to be inspired from.

It has been said that the purpose of any charity is to turn people's mirrors into windows, and that we need to comprehend that the world around us has far greater needs and problems to solve than our own. Only once we help each other through adversities, can we begin to help ourselves.

The discovery of Helicobacter pylori stemmed from an incredible feat of risk-taking. Barry Marshall, the researcher involved in the discovery and ultimately the treatment of H. pylori compromised his own health for the betterment of patients suffering from the disease. We have to follow Barry's example - not necessarily to drink a broth infested with bacteria, but rather to see the bigger picture, and realise that by helping others, we may inadvertently help ourselves, as evident by Marshall and Dr Robin Warren awarded the Nobel Prize.

In Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" we see a fictional, but no less inspiring example of altruism and charity. The scene depicted is one where a city called Gotham has fallen under the social structures that once made it great. In order to defeat the social corruption that plagues the city where those in authority and power cripple the citizens of Gotham, Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself as inspired by his father's ideals to become the Batman (or Dark Knight) - a symbol of hope in a time of desperation and injustice. In doing so, he chooses to sacrifice his public identity in order to confuse the public that he is indeed the Batman by leading a double life. Little could be a more powerful display of altruism.


Common Theme: happiness
1: “A life of happiness, peace, and love is all within our grasp.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
2: “Love is too precious to be ashamed of.”
Laurell K. Hamilton, A Stroke of Midnight
3: “The process of discovering your fearless self is of refinement, not adding. The best way to reconnect with your freedom is to look at the rules you have that govern your freedom.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
4: “I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
5: “I'd far rather be happy than right any day.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Happiness is arguably one of the most powerful emotions humans have ever experienced, yet its sources can vary to great extents. For some, love brings happiness. Others view freedom as their happiness. Then there are those who view generosity and kindness as their source of happiness.

When we talk about happiness, we often elaborate more on what makes us happy, instead of how we can generate happiness in our community. It makes me happy knowing that I've contributed in some (small) way to the happiness of someone else.

Whether that be through improving their health to a heart-to-heart conversation to writing music that speaks to them or even a silly joke, I believe it is important to realise that happiness comes in many forms depending on the individual and situation.

Working in a busy community pharmacy with a great team has provided me with the motivation to improve my skills from a medical or clinical perspective, but also from a social or charismatic angle which only helps me help others find happiness, wherever they stand in life.

Elizabeth Gilbert once said: "I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises". I can absolutely identify with Elizabeth here. One of the most powerful quotes I've ever heard is this - it's not who you are on the inside, but what you do that defines you.

We make an active decision to be happy many a time. The world is not all sunshine and roses. It will beat us down and keep us there if we let it. But we can be stronger, we can be more. Despite the odds that may be stacked against us, choosing to be happy is ultimately the first step to being truly happy. We can't let suffering define us.

My personal take? Happiness is knowing that I've inspired someone to do something that they would not have otherwise done to make their life a better one.

Some people want to change the world. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. The only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they push the human race forward. Some may even call them crazy. But the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Going back to my roots + 30 minute challenge

To say that I haven't written here in a while would be a severe understatement - my last post was uploaded in the middle of 2014! I can even remember writing that post (albeit vaguely).

And despite the massive time gaps that exist here, I get the occasional query about how my blog is doing, or rather if it is still alive - to which I reply that I am perfectly fine, thanks so much for asking!

But joking aside, I am always pleasantly surprised to be asked about progress of this blog, despite its large hiatuses and inactivity. While it may not look like much on the outside, I have actually invested a decent amount of time here, evident by over 180 draft posts not yet published.

There are a number of reasons why that may be, ranging from time constraints, to simply lacking a solid lead. I like to think that I maintain somewhat of a high quality set of posts here, rather than a large collection of posts that are "fillers" to serve an excuse of not having anything else better to say. Quality over quantity yo.

Having said that, looking back at all the posts that have already been published here, I have noticed a pronounced shift in my writing style. While a large portion of what I have written here is very cringeworthy to me in retrospect, it's important to note that these posts were made with a "tongue in cheek" demeanor, and are to be taken with a grain of salt!

You know, this blog started in 2010 where I wrote frequently. Almost like a journal. Back then my blog looked different, not like what you currently see. The background had an beautiful orange sky overlooking clouds below. It was actually a really nice picture, and I wish I still had it to show you!

Right now you may be asking: "but Ian, if your blog started in 2010, where are the posts?! I want to read your journal and delve into your deepest thoughts, just like Harry Potter did with Snape's memories!!"

First of all, that's disturbing af. Secondly, I took down the posts. Here is the truth: those posts were so cringe-inducing to me that I think I developed an allergy to my own writing! Reading each post required the hasty administration of adrenaline so as to avert the dire consequences of anaphylaxis.

I realise that while I have been caught up in a lot of work over the past year (2015) and months that followed my last post in July 2014, I am looking to get back into writing.

That is exactly why I am launching a new series here: the 30 minute challenges. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6.00pm I will be uploading TWO new posts, each of which will have taken me precisely 30 minutes to complete. That's an hour in total of nonstop writing, fresh off the press for your reading enjoyment! One post will be more argumentative and the other more personal. They will be based on one of, to all 5 random quotes I find on

Given the nature of the challenge, don't expect the writing to be the best you've ever seen. There won't be any editing done once those 30 minutes are up - what you'll see here is all I managed to write! Since I am looking to improve my writing, I would also encourage you to provide me with some of your feedback - what you think I did well, or perhaps could do better in. Conversely, you are welcome to join the discussion and share your thoughts on the topics that will be raised!

I also realise that some people may have enjoyed the cheeky nature of my writing in past times, and to see my blog branch off from my roots may soil their hopes and dreams. Don't you worry now - heaven's got a plan for you! I won't be writing in One Direction only. There will be plenty of bad jokes (like the ones you just witnessed), goofy content and silly pictures to come. Inb4 writing more cringeworthy posts!

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