Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Retribution and revenge

“Retribution is the exclusive revenge for the powerless.”

Let me first qualify - the following blog entry did not come about because I'm angry with anyone or anything. This is purely a philosophical self-discovery piece.

I came up with the quote because I’m always fascinated when people talk about retribution and bad karma. And I realize retribution is a theme that always comes up in those periodic drama, and less so in modern movies. I get attentive when someone around me says, “don’t worry… I’m sure he/she will get retribution for the deed!”

Not being one who’s naturally inclined to religion, the concepts of “retribution” and “karma” do not occur to me other than watching movies and hearing people talk about them. Of course, as a kid I was petrified of the horrific scenes in the 18 levels of Hell at Haw Par Villa. You got to give it to the Chinese – they have a way of making the punishment really visual! Don’t bother going to the temple to confess your sins – it doesn’t work that way. Once a person committed a sin, it’s recorded down in the book of life so the proper punishment can be meted in the afterlife accordingly. You can’t click “undo” or clear the “cache” like other religions. Nice… and they wonder why people are turning to other religions?

Back to “retribution” and “karma”, you’d notice that people only use these concepts when they are not in the position to take revenge? Of course, there are a lot of people who are capable of claim vengeance but not keen to do so, and they also rely on the concepts of retribution. However, people who are powerless to take revenge can only use “retribution” to console themselves, that Heaven will punish the evildoers (in time to come – no less).

Will “Heaven” really punish evildoers? Perhaps not now, but at the opportune moment? That’s what powerless people want to believe, for they are unable to seek revenge with their own strength. They believe divine powers will seek redress for them, and since it is improbable that the redress will happen immediately, they will “wait” for retribution to hit the evildoers. Should something unfortunate befall the evil parties, “retribution” is deemed to have occurred.

The point is – even if some people can get back at the other party they can choose not to avenge any wrongdoings and instead rely on divine “retribution” for redress. The powerless on the other hand, have no choice but to depend exclusively or solely on heavenly punishment, since they are unable to avenge any wrongdoings. So other than being more superstitious, people in the past also live in a feudalistic period where the justice system is subdued under a class/caste system. There is little you can do about the evil and rich upper class other than to curse them with retribution if you’re a poor peasant.

Today we have a much more advanced justice system in place, and society is generally considered to be more fair and just. However, little acts of injustice continues to plague our society, and there are times which we are powerless to get back at the other party. So the next time you wish retribution upon the other party, look deep within yourself and ask if you’re simply powerless to take revenge, or do you seriously entrust the Heavens to mete out the punishment to your tormentors. If vengeance is a commercial product, it’s probably something that a Swedish furniture company can probably sell under a name called REKVENGE perhaps. It’s best to do-it-yourself, and it’s cheaper and a lot faster too!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Classical music can be fun two

I hate cheap bastardized cover versions of classical pieces. Playing a classical piece with electronic instruments to a faster beat does not make it modern – it makes the music sound like cheap crap. And please… don’t make it worse by mixing it with some Gregorian chat rubbish.

But I was bowled over when I came across this video sometime ago on YouTube. The video featured a kid with baseball cap covering his face, playing Johann Pachelbel's Canon (playing… not playing with… scrub your mind). Even if you’re not familiar with classical music, I’m sure you’ve heard this piece (popularly known as Canon in D major) being performed at some wedding ceremony. Canon (the music piece, not the camera company) is a classic piece that one would normally associate with slow and stately pace. What happens when someone else turns it on its head and churns out a version on the electric guitar?

Normally that would be dog crap, but not in this case. Much to the chagrin of pure classical music lovers, the rendition of this re-arranged Canon in D Major was an instant hit on YouTube, becoming one of the top ten most viewed videos with over 60 million views and counting. Taiwanese guitarist JerryC rearranged the music, and a South Korean teenager Lim Jeong-hyun (known by his online alias funtwo) played the amazing piece on guitar. The new arrangement was now known as Canon Rock.

The success of this hit hinged on several factors. First is the arrangement of a classical music piece that many people played but nobody imagined that it could be rearranged to such an extent. Secondly, the growth of the internet made it possible for unintentional collaboration between two teenagers from different countries who did not know each other to build upon each others’ talent. And finally, the ability of the internet to showcase the immense talent of the teenagers. Both JerryC and funtwo became overnight internet sensation and received coverage on traditional media after the video was posted on YouTube.

For me, I’m just amazed at the clever rearrangement of music and the skills of funtwo in playing the piece. I’ve no musical talent whatsoever, but I believed it took many hours of practice to get to that stage of guitar skills even for a talented individual. Unfortunately, Lim expressed no wish to carry on playing as a professional guitarist, and would rather carry on playing guitar simply as a hobby. Perhaps he understood that once he turned professional, guitar playing would cease to be fun?

Whatever his path lies, the moral behind this story is simple - the fusion of talent and potential of youth is intoxicating. Lim Jeong-hyun may not see it, but many people would die for his talent and fame. If you have a talent, be sure to guard it well and build upon it, and not take the high and haughty stance by walking away from a gift you were born with. Do not worry about handling success; you can deal with it later when it comes. But let success walk through your door first, by welcoming it with your talent and hardwork.

Get inspired. Recognize your talent and take charge of your own life.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Return of the King

You know the cave drawings of cavemen hunting the T-Rex or any other dinosaurs? How about the imagery of the polar bears and penguins mucking around (in the Coke commercial)? People are funny… they like to juxtaposition stuff which never existed together naturally. The truth is that both scenarios never happened – they are divided by time and geography. Dinosaurs died out millions of years before the first man ever walked the earth, and penguins live in the South Pole of Antarctica while polar bears reside in the North Pole of Artic. They will never meet, except in the imagination of mankind.

People are naturally fascinated when two rivals of different era and geography meet. Remember Jurassic Park or Aliens vs Predator? The excitement of pitching highly competent individuals against one another in scenarios which one never thought would be possible sends the pulse racing. Which is apt that fans of F1 racing were thrown into frenzy after Michael Schumacher announced that he will temporarily return to racing to replace Felipe Massa who was knocked out of action in a freak accident.

Michael Schumacher (or Schummy to his chummies) is the living legend in F1 racing. Unlike Aryton Senna, Schumacher is alive and kicking at just 40 years young. Statistically speaking, he is the most successful F1 driver with the most number of wins, podiums and pole positions. At the top of his game, Schumacher retired in 2006 and became the advisor to the Ferrari racing team, sharing his considerable racing experience with the current drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen.

After Michael Schumacher retired, the F1 fans were focused on the strong rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Alonso. Hamilton quickly became the new darling of the media with his strong billing as a young driving prodigy, who also became the youngest driver to win the F1 championship. There were several F1 drivers who showed sparks of brilliance, such as Jenson Button and Alonso, but the question remained on everyone’s mind – will there be another driver who is as dominant and consistent as Michael Schumacher?

Imagine the flurry of excitement when Schumacher announced that he will return to racing to temporarily replace Massa in the F1 championship! Finally, the world will see a match between “the greatest” and the young turks. How will a 40-year old champion fare who has never driven for 3 years, fare against the zestful and ambitious competition? Can good old experience and maturity win against youth and unbridled drive? Everyone wants to know if young and explosive Lewis can hold up against the brilliant German strategist, to determine if brawn/stamina or brains/experience is the more potent weapon in the high-speed stakes of F1 championship.

But beyond the obvious excitement in the clash of the titans, one can sense how the strength of the Ferrari team lie beyond the simple technical superiority of their cars. Having a world-class champion and a brilliant strategist who stayed with Scuderia Ferrari to impart knowledge and skills, as well as a team of dedicated staff who perform their duties with the precision of clockwork, and such camaraderie that everyone knows their own roles and will chip in to help beyond their work roles. A great car might help a team win a race or a championship, but it is the spirit of a great team that helps a team stay as champions in the long run, even in seasons where their cars are not the greatest. The stewardship of Scuderia Ferrari and their recognition in retaining the best staff and talents is what makes Ferrari great. Any darn fool can make a fast car in one season, but it takes a truly great management to keep the gears of a great team oiled when the season is dry.

Those who know me will understand I’m not just talking about Ferrari.