Category Archives: Ponderings

The great unknown

2017’s gone already? Time for another (belated) annual post.

Things have moved so very quickly this year; the momentum I’d mentioned previously is still very much present now. I find myself hurtling forward at breakneck speed, unable to eliminate the many vagaries of the future.

Sometimes, it’s even a little scary.

Work

It’s not all been smooth-sailing. One major hiccup I’d encountered was probably the failed bid to secure funding to pursue a master’s degree.

I’d first applied for postgraduate funding from my organisation back in 2014, and back then I’d advanced to the interview panel before crashing out. Three years on, I made the application again and was surprised to find myself eliminated even earlier in the process. I think I’ve been contributing more to the organisation in my current position than I had previously, so it’s all rather disheartening and unexpected.

I still think I’m doing pretty well at work (perhaps I’m mistaken) – the environment probably has a big part to play in this. It’s really awesome to be able to work together with highly motivated and competent colleagues (who don’t participate in office politics) and to work under bosses who entrust you with plenty of space to get your work done.

So I’m trying one last time this year. If it fails to go through again, I’ll probably have to think through some decisions like whether to pursue further studies independently of the organisation, whether to follow the default path for career progression, or whether to attempt to stay on in my current unit.

Will the third time be the charm? Only time will tell.

Travel

I think I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to travel as much as I have in the past two years. As someone who’s flown fewer than five times (I’m counting return air travel) before legal adulthood, it’s rather amazing to be able to zip around the world on premium class cabins and staying in nice places.

(This is a rather geeky thing to say, but I was especially glad to have finally made it to Conrad Tokyo in December.)

I’m also more involved with the Milelion now – other than increased writing frequency, there are some side projects the team is working on together. It’s rather exciting to be a part of all these fledgeling dreams – there’s a bit of the feeling of being in a startup, which is probably as much as I’ll have the chance to sample without giving up a relatively stable job.

I really, really think that my travel frequency will be going down pretty soon though (see below), so I’m not too sure how this will pan out once that happens.

Family

Finally, come July, it’s going to be a little more crowded at home. It’s something that I’d already thought about previously, but I guess it took some time to decide it was really the path we wanted to go down.

And now that it’s finally happening, I feel like a whole other universe of unknowns that I’ve previously been ignoring has opened itself to us. There’s still some time to prepare, but I suspect that there’s going to be plenty of just-in-time learning.

2018 seems like it’s going to be all about dealing with unknowns. Not quite my favourite thing to do, but I guess I’ll just have to learn.

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Taking flight

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This year’s annual post follows the proud tradition of 2010 & 2007 with a newly completed Project 366 album, a personal project I’d embarked on at the beginning of the year.

It’s generally been a good year, for which I’m really thankful. Here’re some areas I find myself really gaining momentum in this year…

Writing

I’d attempted to start blogging more regularly, and that worked for awhile, but eventually evolved into a greater focus on travel blogging, with some posts published on The MileLion. There was also that (short-lived) writing challenge I’d embarked on with some colleagues. I doubt I’ll ever become a master writer, but it’s nice to see myself working once more on a hobby I’d used to rather enjoy as a student.

Travel

Primarily because I managed to snag HHonors Diamond status for myself this year, but probably also because this vacation leave thing is rather new to me, I’ve been travelling a lot more this year. This will probably go down in the next few years as I lose the status and probably get saddled with more responsibilities, but I do rather enjoy the new experiences and chronicling them in blog format for future reminiscing.

Work

This might be blind optimism on my part, but I think I’ve done pretty well at my job this year. It helps to have a great positive working environment, but based on feedback it does seem that I have made noticeable contributions to my unit this year. Hopefully, this is real and doesn’t stop this year!

All in all, it’s been a good 2016 (on a personal level – I’m aware that as far as global affairs go, it’s not been all that great). Here’s hoping that things don’t lose too much steam in 2017!

Writing in green

So I’ve been called back for a reservist course and one of the pieces of pre-course homework is a 500-word essay. I kid you not. Since I had to write one anyway, I figure this should also count as my weekly blog post!

What are your thoughts on becoming a Signal CSM?
To fully understand my thoughts on becoming a Signal CSM, it might be best to begin by recounting my NS experience..

It all began in the typical Singaporean manner – enlistment as an NSF, beginning with BMT. I can’t say that I was thrilled to go through NS; but I understood its need and could appreciate having to do my part for the country’s defence. In the typical Singaporean manner, I discharged my duties as I waited for the end of the two (and a half) year service period.

After ORD, I went off to further my studies and left my NS duties behind for a number of years without being called back. Somewhere along the way, though, I was assigned a unit – and thus began my journey as a NSman.

It had been almost 8 years since I had donned the green uniform – and my NSF experience had been as an instructor, not an active unit – so I was really apprehensive about what to expect. I didn’t really remember very much, and fully expected to be completely useless in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, my reservist unit was used to taking in ‘blur sotongs’ like me, and eventually I figured out enough to get by during ICT.

I still didn’t really have much idea of what the overall organisation of the Bde Signal Coy is, though, or its exact operational role. As an individual spec within the Coy, I never really needed to find out – I just needed to fulfil my assigned duty and all would be right. Having been nominated to take on the CSM role, though, that will have to change – having a bird’s eye view of the situation would be beneficial (and even necessary).

Other than supporting the Signal OC in operational matters, the Signal CSM would also be responsible for day-to-day administrative matters, including the overall welfare of the Coy. This is a responsibility I take seriously, as I believe that an having happy personnel working efficiently on assigned tasks would surely boost the effectiveness of a unit.

To be frank, I suspect that one of the main reasons I was nominated to take on the CSM role was my relative newness to the unit (thus having a longer ‘runway’ than the other specialists). That said, I have been discharging my duties responsibly and efficiently, and will hopefully continue to do so as a CSM in the future. The additional responsibility is a bit of a burden as a NSman, but if I am able to help sustain and even improve my unit’s effectiveness, that would be a burden I am indeed willing to take up.

The subjective merits of keeping cool

I’ve been told a few times now by colleagues that I exude an aura of calmness; and that they do rather appreciate this – especially colleagues from my previous supervisory role. It’s not that I don’t care about stuff; I just think it’s fruitless to worry about things outside of my control and I’m usually able to focus on other things instead.

(Of course, I’ve encountered problems that captured my attention, but those tend to be the exception more than the norm.)

At the same time, a previous supervisor had once commented that I’m too laid back – and that I was possibly affecting the officers under me as well. It might be due to the differences in my job scope as well, but given that my current supervisor seems to also appreciate my level-headedness, I suspect a lot of this is about personal values, as well?

It’s no wonder some people consider their immediate boss to be among the biggest considerations for taking up (or leaving) a job…

England, post-Brexit

So on Friday the referendum results were released, and it seems like the UK is now on course to exit the EU. I found it an ideologically disappointing result, but being physically situated rather far away from Europe I can’t say I felt terribly affected by it all.

In fact, as the GBP dropped in value I realised that my upcoming overseas conference in Brighton has effectively been discounted slightly. Yay?

On the other hand, it seems that the referendum has emboldened racist/nationalist sentiment and it might be an unpleasant experience for someone who doesn’t look… traditionally English. Hoping I won’t get such an experience myself during the trip!

In the longer term, it seems quite possible that the results of this referendum might fuel rash populist/nationalist sentiment elsewhere, especially in neighbouring countries. A worrying trend, indeed.

Lent 2016 summary

So… this is my first scheduled post in awhile. At this point of time I should (hopefully) be on a flight out of the country for the Easter long weekend – a little ironic that I’ve elected to take a vacation over this period, given that I’m supposed to be concentrating more on God; but that’s just the way it is with limited vacation days and opportunities to get away, I suppose.

Hopefully this entire faith-related blog series makes up for it! Perhaps I’d started it subconsciously with this weekend in mind, haha…

Well, I’d hoped to reflect more on my faith these few weeks and I’ve certainly managed to do that – at the same time, I don’t think all that much progress was made. I’ve ended up re-examining old doubts; doubt that have been around since my unofficial (re-)confirmation a decade ago, and even before that, truth be told.

To recap, this Lent I wrote on:

So I’ve ended up writing on a whole bunch of doubts – I’m in no way discounting the religion, there are just many things I’ve not figured out yet. If anyone reading this has any thoughts, I certainly welcome any discourse on any of the above topics!

Who is this Paul anyway?

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_Project

This is a follow-up to the post on biblical canon, I suppose. I’ve always wondered about the place of Paul’s epistles in the Bible – why exactly are they there? My (simplistic) line of reasoning in questioning this is that the Old Testament was accepted by Jesus, and most of the New Testament is supposed to be a historical record of the time of Jesus and writings by his apostles – where does Paul fit into this? Sure, he writes rather detailed theology, but what separates him from any other author who does this, such as C. S. Lewis?

Even putting aside disputes over their authorship, the main reason Paul is in the Bible is that he is regarded as an apostle like the original twelve, albeit appointed by Jesus only after his (Jesus’s) death. His miraculous conversion was recorded in the Acts of the Apostles – written by Luke, an associate – perhaps disciple – of Paul’s. Peter (bona fide apostle – arguably Jesus’s appointed lieutenant) apparently referred to Paul’s writings as scripture – this point might have convinced me if not for the fact that the New Testament canon did not exist then and Peter was clearly not referring to the Hebrew bible (Old Testament), which would have been a closed canon then. Did he have another intended meaning for the original Greek word? Did he, perhaps, simply mean that they were useful for instruction, just as many of today’s bible commentaries are?

I am making a number of assumptions here, but in the absence of actual knowledge, I find it difficult to simply accept the veracity of all these claims, and the scriptural status of his letters – and in so doing (effectively) offer up my life to be guided by those writings.

Biblical Canon

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(I feel fairly certain that I’ve written on this matter before, but can’t seem to find it anywhere, so guess I’ll just churn out a 2016 edition this week…)

This is pretty much a continuation of the post on Sola Scriptura, where I explained why I don’t think it’s a good idea to lead your life solely by one’s interpretation of the Bible. Here, I step closer to heresy by elaborating on one reason why I’m not entirely convinced that the Bible is God’s inerrant message to mankind – biblical canon.

For those not so familiar with the development of the Christian biblical canon, here’s my summarised version:

  • The Old Testament comprises a bunch of books accepted as scripture during Jesus’s day (also ratified by the Jews as the Hebrew Bible). The assertion made is that Jesus had accepted these books as true, so we should do likewise.
  • The New Testament comprises books that were generally accepted as canon by various churches (this wasn’t really universal until sometime around the 4th-5th century (e.g. the Book of Revelation only became universally accepted around 419 AD).

Proponents of Sola Scriptura seem to like to gloss over the centuries of uncertainty and lack of universal agreement on biblical canon (which, incidentally, continues till this day), and the common belief seems to be that the canon had been fixed by apostles like Paul, Peter and John. That seems to me to be completely ignoring what had happened in practice, as well as the need for men to come together and make decisions on which books to keep and which to leave out. There are others who argue that this is merely part of God’s plan, that the internally consistent canon we have today is proof of His hand at work – but to me, this just shows that internal consistency was likely a criteria that men used in their decision-making.

For me, the greatest exemplification of this inconsistency that holds true even today is that of the Catholic and Protestant Old Testament canons – the Catholic version includes additional books viewed as canonical that Protestants do not share. Apparently, the Greek version was in common usage during Jesus’s day would have included these books, and the Catholic theory is that’s the version Jesus would have referred to as ‘scripture’. There are various other differences in canons among different Christian traditions, but to me this specific one is a simple example of a jarring difference between two rather sizeable groups of Christians.

If God was truly behind the selection of books to be included in the biblical canon, would there not be greater uniformity in its present state? Even if he was, and the variant forms are corruptions of his intended message, that is to me even more worrying – should I just take for granted that the version I am holding is the correct intended form?

There are other reasons I have for wondering about the inerrancy of the Bible, but the uncertainty about biblical canon is probably my biggest bugbear. So my personal stance is that the Bible is a useful document for understanding God (for Christians, it would probably be the first point of reference). But as something to be accepted as gospel truth? I need a little more convincing, for that.

(Intermission) On Job

So I’ve missed a week updating the series, and rather than totally miss a post, I thought I’d just publish something I’d recently shared via Facebook.

Misery – The New Yorker

Currently reading the Book of Job and this article reflects many of my own thoughts triggered in the process. Even putting claims of textual problems aside, I find its core message to be rather difficult to understand, stomach and accept.

Sola Scriptura

Gutenberg_Bible,_Lenox_Copy,_New_York_Public_Library,_2009._Pic_01

One of my biggest stumbling blocks is that I have great doubt about attempting to know God and his will through studying the Bible. Sola scriptura, the doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority for this purpose, is pretty common among Protestants, and I’ve often heard other Christians quoting scripture and pointing to it as the answer for everything, but that’s something that’s never really resonated with me before.

I’m currently worshipping with a denomination that abides instead by prima scriptura, which makes greater allowance for other paths of knowing God. Still, scripture is meant to be at the centre of it, and at this point I don’t think I’m quite comfortable with that.

One reason for this is really in the reliance on human interpretation for this to happen. Even if you believe that the Bible is inerrant and reflects the entirety of God’s revelation to the human race, it relies on human interpretation for this revelation to take place, whether through the teachings of others or one’s own study of the text.

Take for instance the chapter on covering the head during worship:

On Covering the Head in Worship

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

This is a passage that is pretty well-known as being applicable to only a specific cultural context (and really, I personally find it hard to argue against that), a perspective I think the majority of modern Christians share (though some still abide by the exhortation for women to wear hats). Is there really anything in the text that explicitly states this, though? Not really – there is some reliance on knowledge of the context (that this is a letter written by Paul to a specific group of early Christians) and parsing of the content of the text (pertaining to the proper attire during spiritual acts) for the reader to arrive at that conclusion.

Isn’t that the case for other portions of the Bible? Wouldn’t active interpretation be needed when reading through any portion of the Bible? And wouldn’t this interpretation be susceptible to human error? The usual retort to this is that the Holy Spirit is meant to be the guide for this, and that scripture is meant to affirm itself (so you can cross-check other parts of the Bible to get the correct interpretation), but the wide range of interpretations that exist today give me pause and I am in no way confident enough to conclude that my interpretation of the Bible is the correct one, even if I feel guided by the Holy Spirit.

(I’ve even read interpretations regarding the controversial subject of homosexuality, for instance, that suggest that since Jesus never specifically referred to homosexual behaviour and that the Bible only refers to it in the Old Testament and in Paul’s letters, the passages against such behaviour were culture/time-specific and may not apply today. I feel pretty open to that interpretation – I think it’s plausible – but know plenty of Christians who would reject such a view.)

At the end of the day, from a practical perspective, I suppose the scripture is perhaps as authoritative a source of information as one can get regarding the Christian faith, so it’s still beneficial to attempt to study it. But when so many conflicting attitudes and stances can be derived from it, many of them harmful (in my view), I feel it is somewhat foolhardy to live your life entirely (or even primarily) by one’s interpretation of it.