交通碩士

我們需要下幾天來走的辦法。再精確地說:我們需要對於我們舒服宿舍與市鎮中心之間的來走辦法。他就此到來,就是為了駕那輛讓我們開開心心地通勤的公車。也許在我們想像中他因此只是這所謂的公車司機。

但是他說:“我不只是一位公車司機,我是交通碩士。” 過後他驕傲地宣告他在家鄉是抱有這一種名稱,並且取得了證書。有些人可能以為他只為了讓自我介紹增加興趣度而開一下玩笑。但是,他為職業所驕傲使我感動。我敬慕他。

在新加坡這一個城市,也在多數的其他商業中心,我們習慣了認同職業層級。我們認為高級經理、律師、醫生、和其它薪水高的職業是有得敬佩的。越低級與報酬低的工作,就越不優秀、越不可敬佩。在這種社會之內,一種像公車司機簡簡單單的職業是不可能令人注意的。

但我厭恨與反抗這種理念。一個人的職業的價值是必定要根據它的經濟潛能、它的權威、或它所需要的教育資格嗎?

這位交通碩士在歐洲的許多國家開過車,他對付了各種文化的人和地方,他在多年中收取了安全與高效開車、路線優化、對付交通擁堵、認識合適的停車地點這些多種有利經驗。他願利用這些知識技巧讓我們通勤得一帆風順。他就此願意也不要求股票期權、一等機票、豐富酒店套房等。並且,他驕傲地提供服務。

原本英文寫作: Original Post in English

交通硕士

我们需要下几天来走的办法。再精确地说:我们需要对于我们舒服宿舍与市镇中心之间的来走办法。他就此到来,就是为了驾那辆让我们开开心心地通勤的公车。也许在我们想像中他因此只是这所谓的公车司机。

但是他说:“我不只是一位公车司机,我是交通硕士。” 过后他骄傲地宣告他在家乡是如此抱有这一种名称,并且取得了证书。有些人可能以为他只为了让自我介绍增加兴趣度而开一下玩笑。但是,他为职业所骄傲使我感动。我敬慕他。

在新加坡这一个城市,也在多数的其它商业中心,我们习惯了认同职业层级。我们认为高级经理、律师、医生、和其它薪水高的职业是有得敬佩的。越低级与报酬低的工作,就越不优秀、越不可敬佩。在这种社会之内,一种像公车司机简简单单的职业是不可能令人注意的。

但是我厌恨与反抗这种理念。一个人的职业的价值是必定要根据它的经济潜能、它的权威、或它所需要的教育资格吗?

这位交通硕士在欧洲的许多国家开过车,他对付了各种文化的人和地方,他在多年中收取了安全与高效开车、路线优化、对付交通拥堵、认识合适的停车地点这些多种有利经验。他愿利用这些知识技巧让我们通勤得一帆风顺。他就此愿意,也不要求股票期权、一等机票、丰富酒店套房等。并且,他骄傲地提供服务。

原本英文写作: Original Post in English

Plato’s Just Medicine

‘When a carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a rough and ready cure; an emetic or a purge or a cautery or the knife,–these are his remedies. And if someone prescribes for him a course of dietetics, and tells him that he must swathe and swaddle his head, and all that sort of thing, he replies at once that he has no time to be ill, and he sees no good in a life which is spent nursing his disease to the neglect of his customary employment; and therefore bidding good-bye to this sort of physician, he resumes his ordinary habits, and either gets well and lives and does his business, or, if his constitution fails, he dies and has no more trouble.’
–Book III of The Republic by Plato (English Translation by Benjamin Jowett)

Plato’s concept of justice resides in an isomorphism between the state and the individual. A just state is a well-ordered state in which each individual is just in so far as he performs a suitable role.

Life is beautiful: we behold fair sights, we animate social tendecies, we nurture learning yearnings, we create magnificent constructs. In death all dissolves.

Yet, ought we to fear death so much as to erect protective barriers between us and our station in life? One who fears death may go at length to preserve his subsistence, even if in doing so he loses spirit and forsakes that which his soul yearns for. Do we incapacitate ourselves and constrain our industrial and intellectual leanings? No. We do what we can to be healthy and strong, but where death may strike even so we push on in courage.

For death to suceed life is a certainty, for death to supersede life is a pity.

‘Ne pleure pas, Alfred ! J’ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans !’
–Évariste Galois

The Closed Door

‘Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.’

Knock, I did.

I was knocking, and I was ringing the doorbell incessantly. But the door did not open.

They told me so. They said it was dangerous. What was I thinking, travelling alone and renting a room from someone I had only barely acquainted with online? Oh yes, there were some ‘reviews’ from previous tenants.

He seemed nice enough when I met him earlier. So nice that I felt completely comfortable with leaving my luggage, knapsack, and laptop in the apartment while I left for a quick dinner and beer. He did of course pass me the key. Either the key was not the right one, or there must have been an additional bolt on the inner side of the door, because the door would not open despite turning the key in the keyhole.

I had nothing on me except my wallet, phone, and passport. I did not have a German phone line. Did I mention I also had my comb and earphones? As if those would help. The sensor-activated stairway light turned itself off, leaving me in darkness. Day turns to night quickly. I could still catch a fading glimmer of light on the way back from dinner, but now it was dark.

I was confused. I was in disbelief. I had never experienced such danger in my sheltered life, and I could not imagine it happening to myself. An ounce of hope remained, that perhaps it was merely a mistake. On the other hand, fear started to creep in. Yet, along with it came a sense of excitement. I had an inexplicable tiny desire to be in danger. To be one day left alone on the streets in a foreign place, with nothing to aid me but this personality that defines me and my free will. As inane as it sounds, I almost wanted it to be true.

It was amidst this mix of separate sets of emotions, directed at two distinct possibilities of uncertain probability, that I realised I might still have had a lifeline. I reached for my phone, hoping that I had recharged the battery for long enough the previous night.

Master of Traffic

We needed to get from place to place over the next few days. More precisely, we needed to go to and fro between our homely hostel and the town centre. So there he was, to drive that bus in which we would sit and by which we would happily commute. In our minds he was probably just that. A bus driver.

But he said: ‘I am not just a bus driver, I am a Master of Traffic.’ Thereafter he proudly proclaimed how he was recognised by that title in his hometown and even given a certificate for it. One might assume he was merely jesting to make his self-introduction more interesting for us. But for me, his pride of his profession and trade reached deeper within me. I admired him.

Here in the city of Singapore, and I assume likewise in some other busy commercial centres, we are conditioned to recognise an occupational hierarchy. We see high-level corporate managers, lawyers, doctors, and other high-paying occupations as respectable. The further down the chain and the less pay a job offers, the less glamorous and respectable a person’s occupation is. In such a society, an occupation as simple as a bus driver could never come close to being noteworthy.

But I detest and challenge that notion. Must the worth of a person’s trade and profession necessarily be tied to its financial potential, its authority over others, or its required educational attainment?

Mr. Master of Traffic drove in many countries across Europe, dealt with passengers and places of different cultures, and acquired a wealth of experience in driving safely and efficiently, route optimisation, dealing with traffic, and recognising good pickup and drop-off locations. He would use all that to make all aspects of our bus rides there as pleasant and smooth as possible. He would do all of that without demanding stock options, first-class air tickets, luxurious hotel suites, and whatnot. Moreover, he took pride in what he did.

Cheers to those who hone their trade rather than plot their careers.

This post has been translated into Chinese: 简体中文翻译 | 繁體中文翻譯

Memory, Unphotographed.

There lay two neat rows of trees on both sides on the path, stretching as far as I could see. Endless symmetry–it was beautiful. For a moment my mind activated the cognitive resources required to reach my hand into the left pocket of my pants–for my camera-phone. I hesitated. I stopped.

No.

No, there was something precious about that view–no, that moment–it felt as though taking a photograph would ruin it. As though cutting a small fragment off a little gem. ‘Live in the moment.’ I did. The morning air was fresh and cool. Up above the leaves rustled gently with the breeze. To the side a narrow stream flowed, and in it were some ducks. One was feeding and the other three were still asleep. In the distance I could hear birds cooing every now and then. It was after four days in a Paris filled with flocks of tourists and heavy traffic, and that tranquility soothed me so.

Memory is imperfect. Imperfect in the way it records, stores, and recalls information. But that imperfection comes with our will to make meaning of things. Thus so, that moment became a part of my memory–imperfect yet with meaning. A photograph would not capture it that way.

My shoes crunched softly along the path by the narrow stream, where the north segment of the medieval wall of Provins used to be. Je reviendrai, France!