I feel sometimes that I am like a bird, caged and its wings clipped. Sometimes, I feel like I’m trapped in my own mind, unsure what is reality and fantasy. Sometimes, I feel claustrophobic enough to have a hard time breathing.
Sometimes, I wonder why the caged bird sing. Is it really because it is happy? I don’t think that is the reason. I don’t believe anyone would be happy chained like a slave, like a criminal. Maybe it is because the bird wants to be free, to soar like an eagle in the great open sky. Maybe it’s because the bird is lonely, and it is calling out to someone to answer. Perhaps, it is because there are so many things tying down the bird that it needs to download.
Birds are meant to fly. But I am not sure if people are meant to be loose. Without control and rules, people tend to go a little crazy and often give in to temptation, desire and sin. But I believe that people are meant to be free. Free from the responsibility of living for the sake of other people. Free from the constraints of tradition and customs. Free from being confined within a box that just see the piece of sky that is available to us. Free from the responsibility for someone else’s life.
Freedom is a hard thing to come by. We may look free from the outside, but it is freedom from ourselves that are hard. How can we break free from the chains of sin, if not for Christ dying on the cross? How can we break free from the cycle of hatred and revenge if not for compassion and mercy given to us?
I still feel like a caged bird longing to fly.
Okay, so I have tried to be very quiet about this whole issue in the past few months. It is only because I am still trying to figure out where I sit on the fence. And unfortunately, I don’t have an answer yet. But after some reflection, I think I finally come to terms with several things.
When people claim to be “ethical” or “moral”, I honestly don’t know where that comparison comes from. If we each believe that we are doing the “right” thing, then even the killers and rapists can say that they are doing the “right” thing by their standards. If everyone weighs their thoughts, words and actions by their own individual standard of morals, then wouldn’t the world be in chaos? We can say that our morals are taught from our parents or teachers, but then who taught them? The question is still unanswered. If we really believe in evolution or the big bang theory, are we then saying that our morals were evolved from nothing or from animals? And if that is the case, why do most people find killing others is wrong where as it seems perfectly normal for one animal to kill another? For our morals to have the impact that we want it to have, we need something external to compare it to. How do we know that killing, stealing, cheating, lying is wrong?
People always talk about true love. Okay, so let’s talk about true love. There are many different kinds of love, we all know this. The Bible even highlights different levels of love. There is storge love, which is the love of family and reflects upon natural affection. There is eros love, which is the erotic love between men and women. There is philia love, which is about brotherly love, love between friends. Then, there is agape love, which does not come naturally to humans. Here is what I perceive as what we humans think. Many of us think of love as physical and emotional. I have been brought up thinking that love is merely an emotion, just like happiness, sadness, fear and anger. Like all other emotions, it is more passive and is often is the trigger for our actions and behaviour.
It is easy to love people who you have affection towards, such as your family and friends, but if that is what all love is, then our world would have no chance left. Jesus Christ came to earth to be nailed on the cross for our sins, even when we spat, hatred, ignored and killed Him. Why? Sure, some people would believe that he is crazy. But if God didn’t love us enough to do that, I would think He would have drowned the entire world with floods and not let Noah build that ark. To sacrifice Himself for us, that is what true love is. Knowing that we would probably still hate and ignore Him even after that, that is what true love is. Choosing to die willingly to save us, that is what true love is.
Some people say that love is not just a feeling, but a choice. I would say, I agree. But I would imagine that the choice is not just about what action to take, but choosing to love even though your heart and head says otherwise. We often make the mistake of thinking that love must mean that we are comfortable. But I found that it is not necessarily the case. Someone once told me, God is not really interested in your comfort. At first, I was baffled by this statement. But as I thought about it, I think Jesus wouldn’t have been every comfortable on that cross at all, yet it is God’s love for us that He endured the suffering so that we have eternal hope.
Another baffling thing is that some people talk about the incident in the Bible where the woman was found guilty of adultery. Now, many people just talk about how Christians should be forgiving, compassionate and graceful. I agree 100% on this. But the problem I see is that, this is where the conversation ends. Do people not read on and find Jesus telling the woman to “go and sin no more”. Having grace and forgiving someone does not mean that they are not faced with the responsibilities of their actions. Jesus forgave the woman and saved her from being stoned to death. But he didn’t say to her, “you can go on with your life as before and commit adultery again.” I think the problem is that people wants Christians to be graceful and accepting of everything but also throw away the consequences that come with every one of our actions.
Okay, I have two more points to make. First, people talk about political correctness. There was this debate before about people suing other people for the things they say. On the one hand, I understand the need to be inclusive of everyone and not to condemn or judge other people, but if eventually comes a day where we are breaking the law for saying anything that is not “inclusive” of everyone, then I think a problem of silence will occur. It is not just about being politically correct though. There is a whole issue about being careful with what we say. Sometimes, we can’t say Christmas because not everyone is Christian so let’s rename it to “season’s greetings”. Sometimes, we disagree on an opinion and suddenly we are “phobic” of someone or something. They even changed the Bible, where originally translated as “brother” now has “brother and sister”. I believe that soon, we will spend twice the time thinking about what we want to say, how to say it, and less time actually communicating, and even in the end, not being clear about what our position is because we have to be sensitive to other people.
Lastly, while I am trying to avoid the topic itself, I must comment of something of my personal stance on this issue. Facebook and social media have recently popped up “Celebrate Pride” event in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision. While I understand what they are trying to do, I just wondered if people knew that long before it became a symbol for pride in 1978, it was used for other things such as a symbol of cooperation, peace and indigenous pride. But even before those, the rainbow itself was a symbol of God’s promise. The promise that He will never again destroy the world with a flood. It was God’s symbol of His agape love for humanity, and that He chose love over judgement on us.
Okay, so I have rambled on for a while now and got some things off of my chest. But I would like to leave you with one final thought. Over the course of our lives, we are fed an overload of information and through that information, we are drawing out the map of our lives. How would you know where to go? Or whether or not yours is the right path? What or who is your compass? Where is your final destination?
Many people believe that they have enough self-control to not be give in to social pressures, or other pressures. Some believe that an innocent bet at the sports tab, a lottery ticket, or $20 at the slot machines, can be done without getting addicted to them. May be, they can, I’m not sure.
I always believed that it is easier for people to control themselves when it comes to violence or drugs. Yet, the power of having something extra that they desire is much more intriguing and welcoming. Maybe we think that we deserve it. Certainly, we can believe that we slave the day away, we have the right to indulge ourselves and “get what we deserve”. It seems justified. It doesn’t seem wrong in any way. Many who “set up camp” in the casinos will often say, the casino has so much money, they should give us some of it. People believe that they are entitled to these money.
Certainly, some of us believe that we are not getting addicted to gambling of any kind even though they spend regular amounts of time and money on the matter. Some believe that it is just a hobby, that they are not doing it for the money, but enjoy the game itself more. Some say that they can quit anytime they want but they won’t because they are having too much fun. That to me is a load of bull. What is more worrying is that these people won’t stop especially if they are winning at the game.
Maybe they are right. Gambling is not addictive. It is just entertainment. It is not destructive at all. I cannot express my frustration at the gaming industry. The casinos claim to have a “responsible gaming” team. What I don’t get is, how can gaming ever be responsible. Once you fall into their grasp, it is difficult to pull out. It is like an itch that unless you scratch it, it feels really uncomfortable. But here is the catch, once you do scratch it, it bleeds and leaves a scar on you.
While at first, you think it is fun, especially if you are winning, what happens when it consumes you to a point where you care nothing other than the greed? What happens when you can’t control it and you end up losing more than you earn? What happens when you start to go into debt and the relationships you have are now distant because you have borrowed so much money that you can’t repay anymore? Do not tell me it can’t happen because I have seen it firsthand. It is like a drug, a poison that will slowly eat you up, not physically but emotionally and spiritually.
Someone had once said, there is nothing good about gambling. With other productive things, we give back to the community, to the world, we serve others. But with gambling, we serve no one else but ourselves. There is no moral achievement in gambling, only greed and selfishness.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
If we end up gambling, we are not only gambling our finances, but also our souls away. We become unwilling servants of money, and money is harsh and unfair master. Serving money only will bring unhappiness in the end, no matter how much money you end up with.
To some, life can be darkness.
Maybe it is because they can’t see the colours that swirl around us everyday or they refuse to see the light of life. To some people, they look for another escape because the life they are living now is not working out for them, or because the pain is so unbearable that it is hard to breath.
We can laugh about this all we want, but who really knows the inside story behind each and every one of those faces. Some put on a happy smile as a facade because they are afraid that if they don’t, the world of darkness will envelope them completely. Some shut off because the pain they face is too real and too close to forgive and forget. We may think about how crazy are the people who tried to find another way to deal with pain. But do we really understand them? Not about the why, but just about what they are feeling.
Sometimes, I don’t blame them. The pain that they feel in their souls are so painful that in order to forget about them for one second, they want to divert that emotional and spiritual pain into a kind of pain they can manage, physical pain. Sometimes, maybe they want to prove that they are still alive and they can still feel pain, as well as all the other emotions that we have. They may not know how to face the situation, so they make do with what they have and what they can.
Sometimes, we want to be better. To learn how to live life and continuing to grow. Sometimes, we try hard to suppress those urges that may lead us down the track which we may regard later. Sometimes, we understand that what we are doing is not the best solution, and we learn to take it one step at a time. Learning to how to deal with the pain… Yet, at times, it doesn’t go away and we drift into a state of mind that we submit to it. What do we do then?
While I don’t think that depression, self-harm and ultimately attempting suicide is the solution to any problem, it is hard not to think about that path sometimes. I found that there is one solution. Hope. It is the hope that the next second which we live is better than the second that just past. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next second, but if we don’t live to see it, how do we know that it couldn’t have been better?
Miracles do happen. Pain will ease. It may not get erased but pain can be forgiven and let go. Hope provides the opportunity for miracles. They may not be big miracles like water turn into wine, nor be done spontaneously. Yet, miracles happen everyday. They may take baby steps but somewhere down the path, if you believe in them, miracles will eventually come to pass.
So don’t ever give up hope. Situations may be tough, and the pain can be unbearable, but having hope means that the world around us will have a light at the end of it. And life will not be completely dark.
So, I am very disappointed that I did not find out about this back in 2012 when the Australian production of “Love Never Dies” came to Sydney. I missed the chance to see it live, but do hope that in the near future, it would somehow come back here.
So I have seen the Australian DVD version and I have to say, I fell in love with the musical. First of all, let me just get this out of the way. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius. His musical compositions are masterpieces and combined with brilliant storytelling, a musical becomes alive with characters which we can relate to and feel for.
Okay, I will review this in two parts. First, I will give my thoughts on the story itself and the performances from the Australian cast. Then I will talk in depth about some of the songs from the musical.
The story has its perks and flaws. But from a viewpoint of a writer, the perks far outweighs the flaws. So let’s quickly go over what I think of the story. It is believable. I mean, depending on how you are affected by The Phantom of the Opera. I mean, if you are a fan of Raoul, you will probably not like Love Never Dies. But I loved it. I thought the story was beautifully written, everything a writer wanted is there. There is action, drama, romance, tragedy and surprises.
So the story is takes place ten years after the original on Coney Island. Christine and Raoul comes to America and who do they meet but the Phantom. Oh, the romantic tension between Christine and the Phantom is great, but be prepared for a tragic ending.
Now, I do not need to say anything about the cast because seriously, they speak for themselves. First, there is Anna O’Byrne. She has the voice of an angel. Her vocal range is so high, powerful and mature. Her training in opera had really shown through the performance. I see big future for her on the stage and beyond. Then there is Ben Lewis, who is handsome just like that. His voice is deep but strong and gives a firm performance as the dominant yet sensitive Phantom.
The young boy has a voice just like his mother and the cast has great chemistry together. I believe there is a difference between stage acting and film acting. Essentially I believe that in film, because the camera is angled on your face, the emotions that you act is natural. But on stage, people in the back row won’t be able to see your face, so emotions will need to be expressed through body language. Hence, some find it exaggerated. But I found it to be real and raw in some ways. The emotions are just as real as if you were face to face with them.
I originally was going to talk about all of the songs in the musical. But it is 10.34pm and I am tired. I will say a few things though. The titular aria, “Love Never Dies”, was just an amazing number by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The lyrics told of the Phantom’s undying love for Christine. In the scene where Christine first read the music, her reaction to it was just brilliant. She realized not only his love for her after 10 years but also her own feelings towards the masked composer. The other song that spoke to me was “Look With Your Heart”, because it talks about how we need to look beyond what we see and to stop to acknowledge our hearts and feelings.
Anyways, if you haven’t seen it, give it a chance. If you think you won’t like it, still give it a chance. You may be surprised. The musical had reignited my passion for music, for storytelling and for writing. Maybe it will ignite something in you too.
Recently, I went to see the new movie starring Russell Crowe – Noah. I must say that I wasn’t expecting to cry during it, it was actually very surprising.
I have heard many Christians make comments about how inaccurate the movie was to the Bible, and how exaggerated it was. However, I had a very different viewpoint. I knew that it was a Hollywood blockbuster so I wasn’t expecting a Biblical retelling of the flood. Instead, I was deeply affected by the message behind the plot.
Firstly, Tubal-Cain mentioned that since man was created in the image of God, then man should have the power to decide whether he lives or dies. Yet, when the flood came, none is invincible to nature’s (therefore God’s) wrath.
This also brings me to the second point, where originally, Noah thought that God chose him because he could get the job done. But as the revelation for him comes through in the end, Ila tells him at the end of the film, maybe God didn’t choose him because he could get the task done, but because God knew that he had a merciful heart. Through Noah’s viewpoint, we saw the wickedness of men as they cannibalised one of their own in order to survive, but more importantly, we saw the goodness in men as well.
Like a metaphor, God needed to have justice done and punish the wicked, but He more importantly wanted to flourish grace and mercy upon us. Instead of destroying humanity at that point in history, God chose love over judgement and gave humanity a second chance.
I loved the humanity in the film. The possibility of Noah’s humanness and how he was chosen, not because he was holy or fit for the job, but because God saw the goodness in him. Noah’s struggle with what he thought was right in God’s eyes was an echo into our own lives.
Watching this film makes me happy that God’s image is still visible all over the world, not only where the church is, but also engraved in each of us. Noah’s story in the Bible reminds us of God’s incredible love for us, that instead of wiping out humanity, God chose a method of salvation that brings us closer into God’s kingdom.
Originally posted on Finding Grace:
I think I completely missed the point about prayer. Admittedly, I have never been much of a prayer person at all. I think I tend to make excuses that I get caught up with the busyness of life to try to make the effort of setting a daily ritual of prayer. Sometimes, I have this theory that since God is all knowing, there is no real necessity for us to pray because God has everything under control. Sometimes, I even felt that prayer is one of two things. First, it is used by pastors and preachers at the front of the church on a Sunday service, using big words and fancy language to impress the church goers. Secondly, I guess sometimes there is pressure to pray out loud just to conform to the way of Christian living. Occasionally, out of desperate need, I would shout out to God in urgent…
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