Friday, September 24, 2010

Poor in spirit

There is this sentence here from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus that has always eluded me. I always thought it to be straight-forward and that it was about knowing you are poor or that by being poor you see God. This Sermon on the Mount happens to be a favorite of Gandhi so in a way I am drawn to it because someone I admire had dwelled deeply in its teachings.

The reason why I bring it up is because of an old couple at church. They have been volunteering at church actively for many years and have sort of grown along with the church. I have never known them very closely but this last few months I have been seeing them monthly as I play the guitar for a group of people who meet on the 2nd Friday of the month to sing some hymns during Taize. I just play the guitar - the level of emotional and spiritual involvement I question at times.

So in these last few months we've had lots of conversations and I hear more about their daily lives. It has been endearing. She loves her husband dearly who is ailing but still keeping strong and when she wasn't well from a fall, she was worried about who would take care of her husband and keep her company, and yet after every singing practice, he makes his way laboriously across the main road to make sure she gets across safely. They struggle and their bodies are taking a beating with age. We drive them back when they don't hastily disappear.

It isn't difficult to be drawn in and take notice of the love they have for each other, the respect they have for the Church and their relationship with God, its all very palpable. The prayers she utters in the group is like a conversation with God and all I do is close my eyes and imagine a benevolent God infront of her. The form in her prayer makes one participate and know that we are in holy presence.

So I think about the Beatitudes (Matthew, Chapter 5) - I haven't opened the Bible for a long long time. I think about poverty in spirit and wonder, is she poor in spirit? I think she knows she and her husband are poor in spirit and that their lives are in God's hands, their very sense of security. But the strange thing is that in their poverty, is a richness in their lives that have flowed to us all. And I actually begin to realise, how poor I am in spirit.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Transfixed in the moment

I am thinking that time and life is passing us by,
Unless we go faster than the speed of light,
It's better to be transfixed in the moment.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A very small forest, the central catchment area is...

Last week I presented some of my students' work at the 8th Flora Malesiana conference. It was on the gene flow of some species of native plants in Singapore (which included Rhopaloblaste singaporensis) and also a short highlight on palm distribution projects that I am starting with my current JC students. The gene flow work was from Shufen's excellent work for her Honours thesis.

In preparation for one of the slides to show where the individuals of Rhopaloblaste singaporensis was collected (with permits from NParks) for the DNA sampling, I realised how small our Central Catchment Nature Reserve is. This area would include Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Macritchie reservoir, Pierce reservoir and Nee Soon Swamp forest.


I used Google Earth to measure the width of the Catchment area and what I got was a little over 5km at some points.... And then it dawned on me also that we could easily walk round Macritchie in 1.5 hours.

So that was one of those epiphanies I got in preparation for that talk and it lingers.

When I brought 2 of my students to map the distribution of palms in Macritchie, they told me their friends had asked them "why work on the forest palms when there are so many palm species in the urban landscape, along the wayside and in the gardens"... Well, it didn't take too long, as we began to map and identify the forest species, before they realised that the forest species are special, threatened and misunderstood.

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