Thursday, June 02, 2005

Negotiations and Reading Proverbs

We hit the ground running.
  • 0900 hours: We check in. I check out the free shots of Baileys at dutyfree
    before we all adjourn as usual to Brek for a carbo load in preparation for what might potentially be an all-night marathon session (a good move considering the utterly tasteless excuse for food on SIA later in the day) and to discuss strategy.
  • 0933 hours: The girls decide on the Dumb Blonde Strategy.
  • 1116 hours: We board, mess around with the plastic airplane food, peruse the Financial Times and the Business Times like proper businesspeople, then the girls haul out the laptop.
  • 1145 hours: The girls proceed to discuss their concerns in relation to the project in impeccably audible fishmarket voices.
  • 1146 hours: The legal shushes them.
  • 1146 (+ 1 blink of an eye) hours: The girls continue unabated in talking-on-handphone-on-MRT voices.
  • 1146 (+ 2 blinks of an eye) hours: The legal shushes them again. [and on and on in Fibonacci progressions, until the plane lands]
  • 1359: We exit the airport and the humid wall of hot air thick with the smell of unwashed bodies hits us. Our driver rescues us, navigates the tinted-window monster through the mad traffic of horn-blaring shiny SUVs, dusty wrinkled cart-pushers, death-wish becaks (trishaws) and kamikaze bemos (enclosed minibuses) and delivers us to an office of polite gentle people and a toilet with no flush.
  • 1500: The Other Side arrives for negotiations.
  • 1501: With the rapid power of ERP gantries, the girls assess the Head of Legal for the Other Side: their quick eyes take in the limp wrist, the sashay, the obvious effeminate lilt, the gentle inclination of the head, the Betty Boo handphone cover...there is a shocked silence...then they giggle... The Dumb Blonde Strategy will cut no path in this terrain.
  • 1502: One of the girls hustles us into a spare room, shuts the door and announces viciously,"Let's eat him!" [this obviously sounds less vulgar in Hokkien, which is in essence a language made up of rude words anyway]
  • 1848: Negotiations are still ongoing. HOLOS starts dabbing peppermint essential oil preparations onto his pulse points.
  • 1956: Negotiations are still ongoing. HOLOS dabs more peppermint essential oil preparations onto the same pulse points.
  • 2019: HOLOS runs out of handcream. The empty tube makes rude sounds under the table.
  • 2023: The girls offer him Kiehls Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. They exchange moisturising tips.
  • 2100: HOLOS is very gay cheerful thereafter. Negotiations wrap up smoothly.

It wasn't all a starvation farm though. We were well-fed: lucious lapis from Igor's, smooth chicken noodles from Depot 3.6.9, sweet fresh crabs and butter prawns from Seamaster, tempeh (the only concession to warung street food), huge boxes of Dunkin Donuts, massively delicious tahu goreng and the most tender barbequed ayam goreng-ed in sweet peanut sauce washed down with refreshing jeruk manis...

The living wasn't too shoddy either. We were chauffered everywhere so we didn't even set foot on a pavement let alone sniff more than a few seconds of air that wasn't air-conditioned. Security personnel cleared the roads for us. Connections opened doors. Home was a cushy suite

with remote-controlled curtains, a comfortable kingsized bed, feather pillows and a tub to soak in.

Sampled the inhouse local delicacies...

oops I mean...

Of all the amenities however, the long soak in the tub at the end of the day was most welcome. Finally got some peace and quiet to read Proverbs in.

Proverbs is really long: 31 chapters in all! It's also a rojak of wisdom: "these are also the sayings of the wise" reads Proverbs 24:23 (the word "wise" being in the plural), the named authors being Solomon (1:1-9:18; 10:1-22:16; 25:1-29:27), Agur (30) and Lemuel (31).

Tried to cut through the mass mess by first establishing the purpose of the author(s) of this compliation. This is nicely stated upfront:
for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;

for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;

for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young-

let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-

for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise (Proverbs 1:2-6)
A quick read-through showed that the wisdom this compliation seeks to impart is not the sort found in silly abstract intellectual debates with philosophy students at the university pub nor the strict liability laws of morality and ethics that are to be pedantically followed. This wisdom is not to satisfy intellectual curiousity nor to help you succeed in life by winning friends and influencing people.

Wisdom seeks to shape your worldview and mould your behaviour. Wisdom teaches you the true way of looking at life and the right way of behaving with that worldview. This right way may not be the same in all situations. The author(s) of Proverbs show this clearly in adjoining and seemingly contradictory wisdom statements, eg.:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.

Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)
Both the basis of this wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) and the goal of this wisdom (Proverbs 2:5) is the fear of the LORD. No one can be truly wise unless he acknowledges the LORD as God and so stands in awe of His righteousness, His almighty majesty, His unreachable power and then, having no other as trustworthy, trusts completely in the LORD with humble dependence, trusting that His words about the world and about our situation are true and accurate in every aspect, and trusting in His goodness towards us.

What does the LORD say about the world through the wise men of Proverbs? A fast trawl -through yields statements which are:
  • value judgements: that one thing is better than another, certain kinds of behaviour are right and good and others are evil and bad etc;
  • purely descriptive: that do not make any judgements of behaviour but simply describe things as they are, eg.""It's no good, it's no good!" says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase." (Proverbs 20:14); the common sound of Singaporean aunties in Chatuchaks all over the world, through all ages...
  • cause and effect: eg.:"Pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before a fall"
This shows that as unclassified and uncategorised the contents of Proverbs may look, the world portrayed by Proverbs is not chaotic but ordered. Proverbs tells us that there is an observable regularity to certain sorts of behaviour that is part of the stable structure of reality.

This structure of reality is far from being an independent closed system. God created the world and continues to govern the world in all its aspects. Everything in the world is subject to his scrutiny, judgement and control, from the "weights in the bag" (Proverbs 16:11) to the outcome of the lots which are cast (Proverbs 16:33).

In the LORD's world, there are 2 types of people:
  • the wise, who recognise the LORD and the order that He has established in the world and live according to that order (Proverbs 3:1-10); and
  • the fools, who refuse to recognise the LORD and the order that is in the world and all ends in disaster for them and their associates (Proverbs 6:6-15).
How do we become wise? The fear of the LORD is the beginning and the goal of all wisdom. So in Proverbs 30, as Agur traces his journey from foolish ignorance to wisdom in the LORD's world, we see that his search for wisdom and quest for instruction ends when he finds the words of the LORD. For there Agur finds the instructions for life from the Lifegiver himself.

More than abstract intellectual philosophy or fake spirituality or unworldly Zen riddles in quiet bamboo groves, wisdom is about living life to the full, living immersed in God's world where the good order He created has been complicated by the intrusion of sin and chaos; living in the disrupted world that we all know yet not conforming to it because we have the instructions for the truly good life from the Creator himself.

Can't wait to sink my teeth into more of this!

For those going to ARPC's church camp this year, Joshua Ng has done some published work on Proverbs:
  • FOCUS Sermons
  • Bible Brief in #283 of The Briefing (mail me if you need a copy)

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