Archive for June, 2008

Working on the Thesis - A Confession

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Forgive me…. for it’s been a long time since the last time I put myself on the thesis …
If only working on the thesis were as fun as playing the computer games…angry with myself

My Favorite: Reader Digest’s Short Piece

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Reader’s Digest in the Family: A Note


It was my grandfather who introduced me to Reader’s Digest, decades ago. My grandfather a former officer in the forestry ministry was known for his faith, honesty, kindness, wide perspectives and love for books. He read, wrote and spoke Batak, Indonesian Language, Dutch and English.


When grandfather was very sick, my mother, my father and I visited him. Back then, he lived with grandmother in Pematang Siantar, a nice tender weathered city in North Sumatra. Then one day, I opened one of grandpa’s book cabinets and found dozens of Reader’s Digest. All in a very good condition. I picked one, read it and immediately fell in love with it.



His son – my mom’s eldest brother – a kind-hearted and honorable vet, also had the same taste. I discovered that my dearest uncle also read Reader’s Digest. When paying my last respect and in grieve letting him enter the heavenly eternity, I saw stacks of Reader’s Digest in his study. As a memento, I picked one.



I must admit that I am not a truly fervent Reader’s Digest subscriber. There was time, that I bought the whole year issues of Reader’s Digest Asian Edition, but many more (years) I didn’t even buy a single copy. But even if I didn’t buy a copy, I sometimes re-read my Reader’s Digest collection and once again (and again) amazed by its wonderful stories and humors.

Below is one of my favorite short piece. I had typed and printed it. And for years kept it hanging on my room’s wall. Now, I just want to share it with you…

Check the article on (later I found it became someone else’s favorite too)



By Jim Bishop


There is no God. All the wonders around us are accidental.

No Almighty hand made a thousand-billion stars. They made themselves.

No power keeps them on their steady course. The earth spins itself to keep the oceans from falling off towards the sun. Infants teach themselves to cry when they are hungry or hurt. A small invented itself so that we could extract digitalis for sick hearts.

The earth gave itself day and night, tilted itself so that we get seasons. Without magnetic poles, man would be unable to navigate the trackless oceans of water and air, but they just grew there.

How about the sugar thermostat in the pancreas? It maintains a level of sugar in blood sufficient for energy. Without it, all of us would fall into coma and die.


Why does snow sit on mountain-tops waiting for the warm spring sun to melt it at just the right time for young crops in the farm below to drink? A very beautiful accident!


The human heart will beat for 70 to 80 years without faltering. How does it get sufficient rest between beats? A kidney will filter poison from the blood, and leave good thing alone. How does it know one from he other?

Who gave the human tongue flexibility to form words, and brain to understand them but denied it to all other animals?

Who showed a womb how to take the love of two persons and keep splitting tiny ovum until, in a time a baby would have the proper number of fingers, eyes, and ears and hair in the right places, and come into the world when it is strong enough to sustain life?

There is no God?

Reader’s Digest, December 1993



Educate the Woman. . .

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

On Friday, June 13rd 2008, I attended the launching of Madame Margaretha Siahaan’s book “The Mirror of Life”. Miss Marga was the one who introduced me to the community of Monday Manna. The book compiled her life experiences, thoughts and wishes. The book both revealed the dark and bright of herself. Yet, genuinely Miss Marga admitted that the book was not a form of revenge. It was simply a compilation of her perspectives, a description of her life from with others can learn. The book was dedicated to God, family, friends and to those who were in opposition to her.

The launching itself went successfully, taken the new modern Gramedia Book Store at Matraman, East Jakarta as the venue. Miss Marga’s friends, colleagues, family and also publishing crews gathered to celebrate friendships. What a superb bunch of buddies ranged from mid-twenties to mid-ages yet shared the same exhilaration. Among her friends dated from her university life in the mid of the 70’s, was Mrs. Meutia Farida Hatta Swasono, state minister of woman empowerment. She was Miss Marga’s senior in the university and kindly wrote a foreword in the book. She also gave speech in the launching ceremony.

With her soft and nice voice, Mrs. Meutia congratulated Butet (that was Miss Marga’s nickname) and commented the book. As an anthropologist, Butet was accustomed to observed people, adding her talent to that mannerism and born the book. Later – in other section of the ceremony – Mr. Ahmed Kurnia from the BUMN magazine – the moderator reckoned that anthropologists (take Miss Marga and Mrs. Meutia as examples) tend to write descriptions.

At the end of her speech, Mrs. Meutia as national officer included a phrase that sounded like common ‘propaganda’. But later, while I pondered, it became reasonable… After extended her expectation to read another and another books of Miss Marga, she then asked the audiences to work together to educate woman.

By educating woman, we helps man as well – She said… Smart woman eases the life of man. Man no longer needs to train woman. As simple as that. Education for woman doesn’t mean to take woman at the higher level than man or to dominate over him. It makes woman as man’s best counterpart not precisely equivalent but perfectly matched. Well-educated woman will be an equally qualified partner for man. She will be an active companion with whom man can discuss over all matters and work side by side to lead and to rear the young - with much more sophisticated intellect – generation.

Should my ladies students be bright, brave, beautiful and brainy. Of course, I hope the same for the boys…

The eyes are the window to the soul…

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

The eyes are the window to the soul… They emanate the persona of the soul and reflect the understanding level towards every encountered events and persons. So, what happens if the window can’t pass on a signal of recognition, does it mean that all path to the soul is blocked? If a pair blind eyes stare, do they obstruct the way to know the soul? If the window shut down can’t we catch the beauty of the soul? I believe we still can. The splendor of the soul reflects through the whole being, not only through a pair of eyes.

Many years ago, at a railway station I had to get on the train. It was quite a struggle because the door of the train was much higher than the place where I stood. No stairs to mount… (where all the stairs went? They all disappeared, like many parts of the commuter train in this city did – I talked about the rolling doors, the windows, the fans, the seats and the floor-coating of the electric railway train). From downside I raised my right hand and started to shout the S.O.S., hoped someone would hear my voice, take my hand and then pull me up to the cart.


Everyone seemed devoted to his or herself. Rushed up… My cry for help was ignored. Until… a hand seized my hand then helped me to get on the train. And the owner of the helping hand was a blind (train) busker ( = singer). Not having a sight didn’t hamper him to help others. He still had a pair of ears to listen to, a pair of hands to extend help to, a pair of feet to walk with, a nice voice to entertain others, moreover a big heart to response to someone’s need. The gentleness of his soul beamed through the whole being. I thanked him. Since then every time I see him singing in train, the story revives.


In the opposite side, wide-opened eyes can be meaningless, nothing – but emptiness – came from a pair of beautiful eyes. This is what I found in one of my class this semester. A handful students with perfectly bright sights, none of them even wore glasses. But, almost every time – in the middle of my statistics lecture – when I looked in to these eyes, I felt as if I bumped in to the void space. I stuck in nothing-ness… The young eyes convey nothing. O My God, O My Lord. . . What had I done… All my students felt in a mass-faint. “ Hello… Do you still with me?” I mumbled and kept myself busy writing on the white-board silently, voiceless . . . No Response. Empty sights. Gone all years of my teaching experiences. I failed!


Come-on… I wandered . . . several of my dazzling students, now follow my step as lecturer and become my colleagues. In general, I see they are still have the same enthusiasm to learn, to teach, to explore, to conduct research, to be fully developed as in their younger days.

I still remember, when I was about to commence explaining the Student’s T distribution, just finished distributing the statistical tables to the class, a handsome young boy with his intelligence sight exclaimed, “Look, with the degree of freedom = infinity the value of T is exactly the same with of the z normal distribution with the same alpha value…” I had undergone those golden moments, while teaching means meeting young energetic souls, just by looking into the eyes. What a reminiscence to enlighten the burden of having task to motivated the empty-sighted students (if next semester I still have the alike students), so that the empty-sighted students can be as radiant as my past students. Say no to the Empty-Sighted Generation! What a hard work!

“I’ve seen a Dying Eye”
Emily Dickinson


I’ve seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room –
In search of Something — as it seemed –
Then Cloudier become –
And then — obscure with Fog –
And then — be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
‘Twere blessed to have seen –


The Authentic Thomas

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

The festivities of Easter and Resurrection of Christ had long passed by, yet the story of Thomas lingered in my mind. Relate Thomas the Disciple – then also known as Saint Thomas the Apostle – to Easter and we will find a high level of doubt. Christianity long had ordained him as an icon of doubt towards the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, towards His power to conquered the sting of death, towards the prophecy of His works. Even the term of “Doubting Thomas” originated from this person. (Wikipedia noted that Doubting Thomas is used to describe someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence; a skeptic)

Illustration of The Doubting Thomas

lllustration of Doubting Thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Caravaggio

Thomas became a symbol of skepticism, it was an irony since he was counted as one of the closest persons to Lord Jesus, the one who for three years practically was by the Lord’s side… See, it is not surprising if today skepticism towards faith and religion prolifically grows. As an example, from the very beginning of its life, Christianity (as one of the major religion in the world) dealt with skepticism and it came from the very inner circle of the founder… So, don’t take it to the heart, if someone, some books and some movies try to swerve you from your faith. Let’s observe how Thomas got his faith, and why the preacher on the Easter service in my church entitled him as Authentic.

Thomas believed in God because he experienced God. He believed not because someone told to do so, or to coerce to do so… He believed because he personally knew the Lord and because God face-to-face fulfilled his needs. Thomas and God entangled in a very intimate relationship. So intimate, that God even criticized him for his factualism. That is the authenticity of Thomas.

And the most authentic thing in Thomas was that he didn’t hold on to be forever doubtful. In sincere humbleness, after God answered his questions, after Christ let Thomas to put his hand where the spear went into His body, Thomas proclaimed his faith; … My LORD and my God… the early and the nucleus version of Apostles’ Decree had declared. Then up to his last breath, Thomas practiced his faith.

So, from Thomas we learn that it is not wrong to doubt or to reason the supremacy (or even the existence) of God. After all, God Himself creates our brain and navigates our mind. I believe God appreciates the uniqueness of thought… I think. the stubbornness and the rebel are what displease God. So just like Thomas, you might be doubtful, but don’t become stubborn or rebellious…

IMHO, the story of Thomas conveys this simple message: Believe in what you personally believe… the faith that God has customized perfectly fit you…

At last, I thank God for Thomas… and for all the saints who not perfectly perfect exactly as we are now…

Have you experienced God?

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