|i could go on for 40 days and 40 nights about my blog title and bore you to bits and pieces with 10,000 different ideas i actually had for the name of this blog but because of the 500 characters limit that is imposed upon this mechanism which, by the way, is supposed to promote free speech, i shall shorten it to just two words basically describing what the hell this is all about and who this hell belongs to.|
Saturday, August 09, 2008
how i saw God in seven thousand words of academia
'God spoke to me today!' is one sentence that you do not want to be seen shouting along the streets. in fact, the only places where i think one can afford to do so without risking being put into an asylum is at an evangelical meeting or some other place of religious purpose. you see, throughout the history of mankind, humanity has learnt that God usually speaks only to a select few. they include the insane, people on drugs, or people who are simply trying to find a substantial reason to commit mass murder, terrorism, or make a quick buck. of course, that still doesn't stop the multitude from claiming that the almighty creator (or some other higher entity of equal stature) hath thus spoken to them.
Benjamin Folds (better known as Ben Folds) once wrote a song (Not The Same) which features a guy who climbed up a tree while tripping on acid. the next day, he came down saying that God spoke to him while he was up in the tree. he became a born-again Christian since then. then there's Diane Duyser who was touched by the 'holy toast' when she took a bite into a homemade sandwich in 1984 and realized that it had an effigy of the Virgin Mary on it. in 2004, it still hadn't grown mouldy and in fact, she sold it for $28,000 via e-bay1-2. and as if that wasn't enough, George Bush in 2004 declared to a group of 60 Amish in Pennsylvania, that 'God speaks through me.'3 okay okay, to be fair, the whole phrase that he actually said was 'I trust God speaks through me. Without that I couldn't do my job.'4 which brings about the question... 'what job?' either there's something seriously wrong in the communication process or there's something wrong with the listener. a point of irony worth noting would be that God incidentally spoke to Moses through a burning bush in a desert. burning BUSH (hur hur!).
so everyone seems to be hearing or seeing or even eating the voice of God and other God-associated phenomena these days, but i still don't see the light of it. or in this case, 'hear' the voice of God. one of the reasons why i still can't wholeheartedly bring myself to Christianity (despite having been brought up in a Christian home for practically twenty years), is this refusal to believe that God is about as effective as the Bush administration when it comes to global affairs. everything happens for a reason, yes we get that overused point. the wars, the famines, the earthquakes, the droughts, the rise of the Superbugs, the increasing oil prices, ERP increments, all this happens for a darn good reason which we mere mortals just can't see the light of. it would be much appreciated though, if God would actually give a decent explanation as to why shit happens in this world. like a memorandum or a circular or some sort ('Okay okay, i sneezed while i was trying to fix the damn tectonic plates, everyone affected by it has their loved ones restored to life and gets a free beach house in a country of their choice').
this actually makes me contemplate whether the world would be a better place if God actually spoke to us via some method of communications. for one, we would have a hundred lesser versions of the Bible to squabble over. we wouldn't have to scrutinize the scriptures for the exact meaning of things. we wouldn't have so many different denominations believing in the same God yet, having different beliefs. but then again, humanity is equally screwed up as proven through history. i mean, look at the Isrealites that Moses brought out into the Wilderness for forty years. they had a substantially better system of communications with God5. most items of concern went via Moses who spoke and interceded on their behalf. they whined, they complained and they had little faith that God would actually lead them into the Promised Land. yet God accommodated with all their bull. it's actually almost like Singapore. we're 43 this coming 9th of August and still a nation of whiners and complainers. just look at our local newspaper forums.
so mayhaps a direct communicative link to God might not be that great an idea after all. given the thousands of implications that could prolly exist only in an alternative reality, we're better off figuring out why God does the things He does.
after all, what is a faith, without faith?
two thousand words is not a lot of words. that's what i've been trying to convince myself for the past month. comparatively, it's about the size of Genesis Chapter 1-3 (2,124 words). it's half a chapter of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (the 1st chapter's worth 4,950 words). it's a few hundred Little Misses and Mr. Men books combined together. obviously, two thousand words is not a lot of words to read. but vice-versa, two thousand words is a lot of word to churn out into an academic essay. now throw in the date, 28th July 2008 and four essays worth a total of seven thousand words and you've got the due date and the amount of words i have to generate into four essay of substantial quality.
one part of the pursuit of academia that i've come to love and hate at the same time would be that of essay-writing. admittedly, i love to write. i could sit hunched on a chair, typing and typing and typing for hours on my laptop. and that wouldn't deter me from the qwerty feel of the keyboard, the romantic glare of the laptop screen, the random indie band or trance anthem blasting from my media player. a love for the English language just adds more passion to the whole thing. which basically leads me to declare that writing for me, is like having sex with the English language.
but you know what it's like having too much of something that one likes - it basically kills all pleasure that can be derived from it (which is what's happening to me now, btw). four essays worth seven thousand words which the procrastinator in me refused to even start till the 25th of July. admittedly, it's not even a matter of procrastinating, but rather, a combined effort between laziness, complacency and bad time management.
thus, it was with three days left to the submission date, that i began to write out my random bits of academia substantiated with citations and references. the initial thought was that if i poured my heart and soul into the writing, i could actually churn out those seven thousand words within seventy-hours. besides, my command of the English language was pretty good if not better than average. expressing my opinions about mentorship, qualitative vs quantitative research and a journal article is really easy-peasy when compared to the stuff i write online. but as with most things in life, the reality is always far from the truth.
trawling online for journal articles is indeed not an easy thing to do. one moment, the opinions of the articles seem to sway towards you. and the next, they seem to be going against. before i knew it, i was lost in a sea of articles and quotations that i didn't know how to translate into proper, meaningful words. and thus three days later and many citations such as Oermann6 (1999) claims that the essay 'provides an opportunity for students to select, organize, and present their ideas in writing and to develop creative and original responses to questions' (pooi!), i only managed to generate a total of 1,954 words into the essay titled, 'describe ways in which the mentor can facilitate learning and assessment in the clinical environment'. it's time like these when i wish i could do the damn essay in point form and actually still get marks for it.
so there i was presented with a dilemma. i could either hand up one assignment and pass one module for this semester and retake the other two the next (which on hindsight, is a really stupid idea). or i could try writing something less substantial and less perfect than my allowed standards and make do with mediocre marks for this semester and fall short of getting my first class honours. when i think about it now actually, either way, i'm screwed. so i decided to put on a great amount of humility and head down to the school to ask for an extension. on the day of submission itself, no less.
arriving at the school which was located at a busy corner of the central business district, i saw many of my classmates still struggling to print their assignments. some had forgotten to label page numbers. other had forgotten to print their 'acknowledgement of work' page. all of them had basically finished their assignments. it made me feel rather awkward when they asked me 'hey, you finished all your assignments already?'
alas, the administrator (a nice lady with stylish bangs in her late 30s) refused my request for an extension politely. not helping was the fact that two porky-looking administrators (i received their name cards which simply stated that they were 'Country Managers' for the Singapore branch of the school) kept on going 'oh, you're the boy who got the highest marks for the previous assignment!' and simply added to my shame.
all hope was seemingly lost. that was until i stepped into the classroom to find another classmate still heavily attacking her assignments. when i relate to other people of my experiences of her, i call her the 'Tupperware mother'. she's a little plump, she's dowdy, she sells tupperware (she gives me a Tupperware catalogue every month), she attends PTA meetings, has two young boys and rides a scooter of a colour better described as 'bile' or 'vomitus'. though she's genuinely a nice person and all, she has certain traits that really irk me. she's the type that constantly asks the lecturer to review her assignment in class. and once she has a finished product, she asks the lecturer again. and with the reviewed product, she would do her thang again. so much so, that it's a bit of an act of desperation sometimes. and desperation, is sometimes quite an ugly thing.
none the less, she was my saviour of sorts this time as she gave me a piece of good news when she saw my resigned looks. 'the lecturers in UK have decided to extend the submission date! you can hand in the assignment on Wednesday instead! there's still hope, Jon!' apparently, what transpired was that the online submission was a bit faulty during that particular period of time. many people submitting the assignment at the same time caused the server to crash. the submission date was extended due to this. which basically translates into me having TWO MORE DAYS to finish the damn assignments. the first thought that crossed my mind was 'Oh my God'. the second was 'God, oh my... My God, oh... Oh my God!'
apparently, despite my own ugly acts of resignation and desperation, my mind somehow clicked. it seemed like God decided to just somehow push the assignment submission dates a little further. i looked up and actually smiled. which must have looked really crazy. because all that was available to look at when i looked up was the air-conditioning vent and some crummy-looking ceiling boards. actually, if you look closer, you can see the air-condition vapours swirling around to form what seemed like an effigy of Jesus. but then again, i was in a celestial mood. so i can't vouch for it.
and thus, the rush to type began once again. this time, i managed to finish a thousand word critique of a journal article ('The motive of the study was clearly stated in the abstract' & 'The reference list was very well-presented and organized in chronological order' - imagine a thousand words of such obvious facts) and another two thousand words of comparing and contrasting qualitative and quantitative research methods. the latter could be simply solved by actually drawing a straight line through a piece of paper and then sorting them out into points.
on Wednesday evening, i was near the stipulated time for online submission. i still had one remaining article left which i knew i was doomed to not finish. that one was about a recent healthcare initiative and how it has affected the nursing scene. the only things you actually see about nursing in the Singaporean newspapers revolves mainly around pay raises (rare), complaints about service standards (all the time) and touching chicken soup-styled stories about nurses who go the extra mile. perhaps if i SOMEONE gave me more time.... i could actually finish it... of course, this was an idea that didn't cross my mind at that point of time. i was more obsessed with trying to submit my assignments online in the face of some technical difficulties (the server crashed on me as well).
none the less, everything was done by 7.30pm on Wednesday with the one assignment about healthcare initiatives left untouched. i was too tired to think anymore given that i was post-night shift and didn't sleep a wink, plus i had to be at work by 9pm. interestingly, it was while on the way to work that i got a text message from one of my classmates. apparently, the Singapore branch of the school declared that there was a need to submit a hard copy as well in the event of unreceived soft copies via online submission. those who couldn't hand it up by that night, had to do so by tomorrow morning. i got the message at 8pm. i was well on my way to work by then. so on one hand, i had to print out hard copies of all the assignments i've done, which is quite the hassle. yet on the other hand, i have nearly half a day more to actually finish my last assignment at work. if this is not Divine Intervention, then i dunno what it is.
in the end, i decided to not finish up the assignment at all. it was too rushed, and i don't like to hand up work that is of substandard quality. in fact, because of the last minute nature of asking for all our hard copies, i decided to not even go hand in the hard copies which would be flown to the UK. which basically resulted in the school constantly calling me the entire morning the next day while i was trying to sleep post-night shift. they even called my father because i refused to take their calls. and my father being the great abider of rules, woke me up just as i was about to sleep and offered to send me down to the school to hand in my assignments.
at the school, i was filling up the acknowledgement receipts and talking to the receptionist at the same time. it was through her that i found out that once again, God had a hand in this whole submission business. apparently, i was the only one who had not submitted all the hard copies of my assignments. furthermore, the only reason why they could afford to chase me was because the DHL man could not make it for the agreed collection time of the assignments. 'You're very lucky you know, you're very lucky!' and as if that wasn't enough, it was at that point of time when she said 'lucky', that the DHL man stepped in pushing a large trolley to collect the boxes of assignments. God, truly has quite the sense of humour.
so it was through my seven thousand words of academia that i dunno.... saw God for the first time in my life. not literally, but through the various little things that he did. not that i will become a full-fledged Christian after that whole event. but, at least, i can now believe that someone is watching over me (George Gershwin). of course, who wouldn't wish that they had something physical to cling on to when they believe in something? but that is what faith is about, no?
1. Woman 'blessed by the holy toast'. (2004, Nov 17). Retrieved 1st August, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4019295.stm
2. Gilin, E. (2004). Your Own Personal Jesus Toast. Retrieved 1st August, 2008, from http://blacktable.com/gillin041202.htm
3. Bush says "God Speaks Through Me" But what does he really mean?. (n. d.). Retrieved 1st August, 2008, from http://www.irregulartimes.com/godspeaksthroughme.html
4. Kamen, A. (2005, October 14). George W. Bush and the G-Word. Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/13/AR2005101301688.html
5. Moses and the Wilderness. (n. d.). Retrieved 2nd August, 2008, from http://bibletime.com/theory/history/moses/
6. Oermann, M. (1999). Developing and Scoring Essay Tests, Nurse Educator. 24(2), 29-32.
(it's a long and wordy post. but thanks for reading my boring experience)
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