Cheng Chin Yuen

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Moorings against the Wave

Oliver Sacks* describes our ‘memories’ as ‘moorings in time’. It’s a nice analogy of mentally making and revisiting these important pit-stops as we sail (or struggle) through the passage of life. Collectively these moorings form your past and with this constructs your sense of ‘being’. Only then could we ever make sense of our future.

It’s been a week since I returned from my little tour and it has been great catching up with family and friends. But homecoming, I soon realise, takes some financial restraint. An ipod Nano and a Nikon D50 would be nice to have. The ‘want’ department in our brains is always hungry and the feeds from the marts just seem to get tastier by the month.

Fortunately Laos wasn’t too long ago and I hope some moorings made there would help me endure these endless waves of consumerism. In Laos, all my ‘wants’ were carried in 2 bags. Besides the 3 meals (sometimes less) a day, water and a place to sleep, the urge for spending was feeble. The only ipods and D50s in Laos belonged to the tourists. Electronic shops in Laos are a rarity and such advanced products are at the moment unavailable. No source, no temptation, no consumption, no spending, no seems.

We were then in a land where throwing slippers at a stack of bent cardboard cards provided endless entertainment for the kids. I have not seen a single playground in Laos but have valued the countless joyful faces of the village children in the streams and rivers. (quite a contrast to the silent Gameboy-pacified Singaporean child on the MRT or worse at the dinner table) Neither have I seen a cinema or a shopping centre even in Vientiane or Luang Prabang. And there's certainly no Expo and therefore no Sexpo. The predominantly agrarian way of life teaches the people to be resourceful and to save. As eco-tourists, it teaches us these values too but the lesson doesn't lasts as long. I wonder why...

Less than 4 hours south, we too are resource full but they come in packages from someone else’s country. We increasingly live to consume and waste. Simplicity seems to be the anti-thesis of happiness. After all, we do work hard, and seek a reward…and it doesn’t come in the form of a vegetable.

I have gotten over the ipod Nano but the D50 is going to take a little more time…

* ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ by Oliver Sacks is a highly educational read about some bizarre problems of perception some people have and the neurological theories and reasoning behind them.