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Life and Death Three Ways


Warning! Super long post!  The Squirrel is in a philosophical mood.

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Brompton Cemetery, London (Picture by LGS)

Last weekend was Easter and thoughts of all Christians (including me) was focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   However,  two other deaths occurred over that weekend that made me ponder the whole issue of life and death.  Or more specifically, how our view of life affects our view of death and vice versa.

First Way

At my church’s Good Friday service, one of the thoughts that we meditated on was the fact that Jesus told his disciples that when he went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, he would be arrested and he would be killed but in spite of that, he went anyway.  A death wish?   Christians sometimes say that Jesus was born to die.

All of us die, eventually.  If we are born then we will die.  But of Jesus it is believed that his whole life led to one purpose and that was to die on the cross for the sins of all mankind.  (of course, on Easter, we celebrate his rising from the dead, victorious over death itself).   But my point was that Jesus lived his life with the knowledge that his life’s ultimate purpose would be fulfilled by his death.

Please note that death was not something pleasant even for Jesus.  He knew his death was going to be terrible and costly  physically, mentally and spiritually; that is why he prayed  “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  That is why he wept for Lazarus, his friend who had died, even though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead.  Death is not a good thing.

However, Jesus willingly laid down his life for others because he saw his life purpose fulfilled with his death.

That led me to my first thought:- that we could face death with with more peace if we believed that our lives had purpose and we have lived it to the full.

Second Way

Last Friday, I also learned about the death of one very sweet and very inspiring lady.  Her name was Sharon and she died of cancer.  The doctors had given her less than 6 months to live but she fought on for 21 months.  She had her chemotherapy and suffered through the hair loss and nausea.  She had periods when she was desperately ill and others where it seemed like she was almost untouched by the disease.  But through even the worse of it, she was always ready with a smile and encouragement for those around her.  In fact, her friends say that she smiled with her whole face.

And giving encouragement to others was just what she did.  During those 21 months, she took care of her family and friends, ministering to those who had come to minister to her and she used her energy to set up a Cancer support group for patients and care givers that has been a blessing to several hundred people already.

This was a very special woman and I must add that her compassion for cancer victims did not start only when she herself was stricken by the disease but some 30 years earlier, she had already started to do voluntarily work which included raising money for disabled and abandoned children, and providing support for cancer patients who had their life savings swindled by con men offering fake cures.  Her efforts made such an impression that she was given the keys to the city.  Amazing achievements, I am sure you would agree but I never heard about any of this from Sharon herself.  I only learned about it from the eulogies at her funeral – which only emphasizes just how rare a life Sharon lived.

She had fought the disease as much as she possibly could but she never stopped living life as she wanted to.  She spent her last days spending time with her loved ones (including a couple of holidays), going out to eat her favorite foods (even when she was not able to eat more than a spoonful) and most of all, still serving  and encouraging others.

But, as her life spark began to ebb for the final time, she was at peace.   Death did not scare her because she was confident  in her faith that God who had been with her though it all was ready to lead her to everlasting life after death.

This led me to my second reflection;  if we have hope beyond death, we are able to enjoy life to the full and still be able to let go when the time comes and not cling on to life in desperation and fear.

This is the antidote to the unhappy state that is referred to by  the poet, Dylan Thomas, when he wrote these poignant but sad lines about his dying father;

Do not go gentle into that good night,  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Third Way

The tragedy of the sinking of the Korean ferry is very much in the news; a tragedy made worse by the fact that so many of the victims were young students from a High School near Seoul.   At the moment of this posting, 104 have been confirmed dead and  198 are still missing.   This is so very sad.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of all who have perished.

However, it was the story about the school vice-principle that really touched me.  He was one of the 174 fortunate ones that were picked up and rescued from the sinking ferry.  He had been brought back on land.  He had been given a second chance at life.

He was found a couple of days later hanging from a tree.  Apparently, he had committed suicide.  He was given a second chance at life and he chose to end it.

Why did he do it?  I am sure he felt he had his reasons.  It  could have been from  a sense of responsibility as he had organised the school trip.  It could have been through a sense of fear of the anger of the bereaved parents; how could he face them?  It could have been through a sense of guilt; why did he survive when so many young people died?  I don’t know what was going through his mind that he thought he had to end his life..  It may seem that he had wasted his second chance but I don’t blame him or judge him.  I am just sorry that there was no one there for him at that moment when he needed help.

But as I thought about it, I came to my third reflection;  when we have no more hope in life, then death is welcomed.

Now most of us don’t think much about death and dying cause we are too busy with living and death seems distant.  But I think death sets the context and helps us understand life just as we cannot really understand and appreciate light if we have not experience darkness, sweetness if we haven’t experience sourness etc.

I know I have been incredibly reflective and sombre.  Thank you for sticking with me if you have made it this far down the post.  I guess what I have been trying to say is that we need to examine our understanding of the end of life so that we can live our lives wisely.  I always say that my one wish is to “die happy” cause that must mean that I look back at my life without regret and look forward with hope.

jerusalem squirrel

Tumultuous Times


 

jerusalem squirrelTumultuous times at the Passover Festival.

(a Special Report by LGS)

This year, the crowds coming to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival seemed to be even larger than before and they were charged with excitement. They had heard of the miracles and teachings of Jesus of Nazarene and some even claimed to have witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead; a man who had been dead for at least four days. Since it was known that the religious authorities wished him silenced, there was much anticipation and debate whether Jesus would come to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.

Then, news raced through the crowds that Jesus had been spotted approaching the city, riding on a donkey. The people rushed out and lined the road into the waving palm branches and greeting him with shouts of ‘Hosanna! Hosanna!” The soldiers that had been sent by the religious leaders to arrest Jesus decided to withdraw because of the crowd.

For the next few days, Jesus went about in the city and even to the temple where he caused quite a commotion by chasing the money changers out and debating with the religious leaders; embarrassing them with his wisdom and accusing them of hypocrisy.

For the religious leaders, this was the last straw. On Thursday night, a raiding party sent by them arrested Jesus in a garden on the Mount of Olives. From there, things moved quickly. There was the very unusual (and some say illegal) meeting of the Sanhedrin Council in the middle of the night, which led to the decision to send Jesus to the Roman authorities for execution.

When interviewed, Pontius Pilate says that he is “innocent of this man’s blood”. He insists that he wanted to release Jesus because he found Jesus had done nothing wrong but that the Jewish leaders blocked his attempts to release Jesus.   To emphasis the point, the governor had made a show of washing his hands of the matter.

Subsequently, on Friday, Jesus was stripped, beaten, whipped and crucified. The crowds that had welcomed with such enthusiasm before now jeered and ridiculed him. Above his head,  a mocking sign said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. In this way, the ‘King’ died in the most painful and humiliating way imaginable.

It must seem that with the death of Jesus that his followers would scatter in disarray.   Yet just three days later wild rumors were circulating that Jesus was alive and had been seen by hundreds.  His followers claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead!

Since then, some have referred to that particular Friday as Good Friday because Jesus had laid down his life to bring about the completion of God’s plan to save mankind from the consequences of man’s sinful nature and that he defeated death when he rose from the tomb three days later.   In doing so, he has given all mankind a hope for reconciliation with God and shows God’s love for us all.  And that is Good News!

This is LGS reporting from Jerusalem 2000 years ago. (bet you didn’t know that I was a time traveling squirrel).  Wishing all of you a blessed Good Friday and Easter.

Prank it forward: – Best Shift Ever


Following up on my April 1st post about pranks, I now present a wonderful prank. I want to thank my friend, Nancy Foisy, for clueing me in about this video. In it, we see a very deserving waitress, Chelsea Roff (she raised her younger sister alone from a very young age, overcame an eating disorder and provides free yoga lessons as a means to help others with eating disorders), get the best shift ever. It really opened this ol’ cynical squirrel’s eyes to how positive pranks can be if we just use our imagination. Here is to positive pranks.

Also, for every 1000 views of this video, the producers of the show, Break, will donate 1 USD to charity.

Virginia Woolf is at the extreme left

Who’s Been Punked by Virginia Woolf?


It was 1910 and the sun did not set on the British Empire which stretched around the globe.  It’s navy was held to be the most powerful in the world and it’s most powerful battleship was the HMS Dreadnought;   the first of the Dreadnoughts, a new class of battleship that was considered very revolutionary design and at the cutting edge of military technology.

However it’s reputation and that of the proud  British Navy took a torpedo in the bows when it was targeted by a group of pacifist intellectuals.

On the 10th of February, the trap was sprung.  A telegram was sent to the Commander of HMS Dreadnought, purportedly from a very senior official of the Foreign Office.  He was informed that the Prince of Abyssinia and his entourage wished to be given a tour of the Royal Navy’s best ship and that he was to accord them every courtesy.

The Commander duly received the party with much pomp and circumstance.  The royal party was greeted by an honour guard with the band playing the anthem of Zanzibar (near enough as they did not have the music for the Abyssinian anthem) and shown round the ship by the Commander himself.  As they were shown all the amazing features of the ship, the royals gave appreciative exclamations of “Bunga Bunga” during their 40 minute tour.

However, the royal Abyssinians really consisted of 6 friends which included Virginia Woolf and her brother, Adrian Stephen.   They had darkened their skins with makeup and wore flowing robes and turbans.  Virginia Woolf even sported a luxurious beard.

Virginia Woolf is at the extreme left
Virginia Woolf is at the extreme left

The next day, the leader of the group sent the story complete with photos of the Royal party on the ship to the newspapers and before long the Royal Navy became the laughing stock of the nation.  People were saluting sailors with the cry of “Bunga bunga”!  The Royal Navy was deeply embarrassed and more so because of the pacifist views of the group.

The Navy decided not to prosecute the hoaxers for fear of further adverse publicity and attention.  And so, this has become one of the most well known hoax and one that was extremely successful in its objective of sticking its tongue out at the military and imperialistic establishments.

And so we salute this merry band of anarchists on this April Fool’s Day.

(Warning:  Do not attempt this yourself.  These days you will probably be snatched by a security team and sent to Guantanamo.)

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Nocturnal Squirrel


When I saw this article, I immediately thought of Mago.

According to the article,  a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at lab mice that were kept awake to replicate the kind of sleep loss common in modern life, through night shifts or long hours in the office.   After several days of sleep patterns similar to night workers pulling three days of night shifts with only four to five hours sleep in 24 hours – the mice lost 25% of the brain cells in part of the brain stem.

Dear brother Mago, I remember when you did some night shift work some time ago.  So this is bad news for you …………and for me too.

This new research may finally provide a rational explanation why I have failed to win the Nobel Prize so far.  Several times in my life, I have kept those anti-social hours.  But if I do say so myself, I haven’t done too badly with the 25% loss of those brain cells or maybe I just don’t know any different.

My first bout of pulling all-nighters was when I was studying for my finals at University and I am sure many students over the years can tell the same sorry tale.   As the exams got closer, I found that I could concentrate better at night.  First of all, there were far less distractions at night than during the day.  While the sun was up, I might be tempted to leave the books and go enjoy the great outdoors.  But at night, it felt good to stay in with the books by the warmth of the table lamp.  Secondly, I told myself that I just enjoyed sitting at my table and looking out the window to see the darkening twilight and the lightening dawn.

However, I did take it to the extreme.   I took to studying after dinner at 7 pm and carrying on through the night until about 10 am the next day.  Then I would go out to do errands like grocery shopping, have my lunch and then sleep from about 1 pm to about 6pm.  Repeat cycle.  I did this for about two months.

I made it through my exams but there was a toll.  It  made me vulnerable to depression and for a long time after, I suffered from insomnia.

At the time, flushed with the confidence of youth, I thought I was being smart but I guess the sleepless mice experiment shows that I was probably getting dumber by the day.

So my advice is don’t skimp on the good night sleep.

The Coming of Man


I hope you will take time to look at this video. Notice the squirrels right at the beginning. Now don’t you agree that the world would be a better place if you humans would just return it to squirrel rule?

If you are ready to discuss the terms of your surrender to the Squirrel World Domination Army, please leave a note in the comment section of this post.

Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze.  (phto from The Star)

It’s Hazy and It’s Crazy


Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze.  (phto from The Star)
Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze. (phto from The Star)

Nat King Cole had a song called “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer”.   Do you remember?  Well, these days Malaysia is certainly experiencing the Hazy and the Crazy and some might even say the Lazy and all not in a good way.

The search for missing flight MH370 with 239 souls on board, now entering the 9th day, has been gripping the nation’s attention and that of most of the world too.   It has been a grueling 9 days for the families awaiting word about their loved ones on board as well as for all the investigators and searchers involved.

However, the whole thing has also evolved into a crazy circus; from the way the Malaysian authorities have managed the press conferences and briefings for the relatives with the frequent dearth of  actual information or worse peppered with contradictory statements, denials and false leads, to the ever expanding search area which grew from the relatively small area of sea between Malaysia and Vietnam where the plane disappeared from the ATC radar to the now  wide swath of both land and sea ranging from the borders of Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the Indian Ocean near Australia.  The search area now encompasses an unbelievable 10 % of the world surface and includes the world’s highest mountain ranges to some of the deepest stretches of oceans.  Up to now 25 nations have become involved in the search.

Then there is also the craziness of the bomoh (or Malay shaman) and his followers carrying out rituals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport which involved coconuts, a magical bamboo binoculars and a  mystical flying carpet for the stated purpose of removing the influences of evil spirits which were hiding the plane and hampering search efforts.

Searching using magical bamboo binocularrs
Searching using magical bamboo binoculars
bomohklia
Searching using the mystical flying carpet

His self proclaimed title is Raja Bomoh Sedunia Nujum VIP which translates to “The Very Important Person, Clairvoyant King of all the world’s Shamans”.    It is reported that he claimed at the end of his first session a few days ago that the spirit realm had told him that “the plane was still in the air or that it had crashed in the sea”.  Despite what Dogbert would call the “Gross Prophet Margin”, he might still be wrong if it turns out the plane has landed somewhere in Central Asia.

Still more criticism has been aimed at the perceived slow (lazy?) pace of the investigations led by the Malaysian authorities.  For example, many query why investigators did not go to the homes of the pilots sooner especially to examine a flight simulator at one of the pilot’s home until just two days ago.

The only distraction to all of this for Malaysians is the ongoing drought and water shortages affecting 2.5 million Malaysians as well as our food crop and palm oil crop.  Water rationing has been going on for about three weeks now.  The dry weather has also caused bush and forest fires with extremely bad air pollution and haze as a result.  Yesterday I woke up in the early hours of the morning smelling smoke and thinking there was a fire but then realising that the haze was particularly bad.

And so, pity Malaysia as we seem stricken by a trifecta of ills – lazy, hazy and crazy days are here.

Viewing the World Through the Observation of Squirrels

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