Mar 31, 2010

Fragility and Plasticity

I turned 45 three days ago, and have accepted the fact that reading glasses are now a part of daily life. I was in denial for a few years, until a few months ago when some tourists on Orchard Road asked me for directions to Chinatown, and I could not read the names of the MRT stations on their map! Being quite short-sighted as well (775 degrees on each eye), I now have numerous pairs of glasses, each for different occasions, such as - whether I’m only reading and not going anywhere; whether I’m wearing contact lenses as well; whether I need to drive and read street maps etc.

Though it is said that one reaches career peaks in their 40s and 50s, this period also reminds one of life’s fragilities. Two of my Varsity classmates revealed in an email loop that they had just had heart bypasses. Someone I know of my age just had a stroke. As for our parents, they would be in their 70s and facing tougher health challenges.

What is truly amazing is the indomitable spirit which makes human beings fight to recover.

On a short getaway recently, I finally managed to read a book (I read a book every 5 years or so). It described the friendship between Ike Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, which developed from the 1940s through to 1965 when Churchill passed away. In it was mentioned how Churchill had suffered several strokes, but, as doctors will tell you, the human brain has plasticity and can find new pathways to compensate for blocked ones. Churchill recovered sufficiently to carry on in the onerous office of Prime Minister of Great Britain. As he once said: “Politics is like riding a horse. If you are knocked off, you must brush yourself off and remount”.

In Aug 2006, I attended the National Day Dinner organised at Potong Pasir Constituency by veteran MP Mr Chiam See Tong. Someone there bought me a pot of orchids. Not being a person with a green thumb, I did not care for the orchids consistently over the years, leaving them sometimes overgrown with weeds and dehydrated. However, each time I remembered and started watering them, they would start to bloom again, just as they are now.

There is always so much to do, and often too little time. We should remember to take care of ourselves, so that we can do more for others.