By Aslam Shah
As we commemorate the annual hoo-ha of PSLE results and are introduced to higher standards of ‘’kiasu-ness’’ amongst parents, it is timely for Singaporeans to reevaluate our stance on gratification. As an adult, it is simple to belittle an examination as such, with many joining the bandwagon to show how they turned out ‘’fine’’ despite their results. It is important to remind ourselves that it is okay to be invested in different ambitions, at different points of our lives. It is okay to be disappointed when we don’t achieve them. How many of us can confidently say that PSLE was no big deal to us when we were taking them and wont be invested in it when our children are taking them? How about the many who actually did not turn out ‘fine’ due to their results or those whose PSLE results catapulted them to a domino effect of success and opportunities?
The focus of this piece shall not be on the PSLE. Instead it will be on gratitude. Why not success you may ask? Well, happiness through success it is a little tricky concept to grasp. It opens the desire for more happiness. A person who gets 250 for example will not be happy with a mediocre O-level score or if he/she didn’t get into a top university. A person with 150 for example will be delighted to just get into university. All this is hypothetical of course but the pattern can be applied in any context. If you are on $2000 a month job, you don’t want your next job to pay any less. If you have travelled across many countries, a trip across the border may not render as much excitement as compared to one who did not have such opportunities. A person who has derived huge success in his/her field will find it harder to deal with disappointment when it inevitably comes at some point in life, as compared to someone who regularly experiences failure. Happiness through success is indeed tricky. Hence, it is vital to appreciate the importance of gratitude that must be embedded in each human being. With gratitude, you are always guaranteed a certain degree of happiness. Can you be unhappy when you are filled with gratitude?
The age-old Singaporean parent dialogue with his/her child will be to look at children from other countries who have no parents, no food to eat etc. and be grateful. I think this concept is too deep for children to appreciate but as adults, we have the maturity to do so. The idea of us even debating which PSLE score is better and how it affects our lives stems from several structural establishments in our society but more crucially, in my opinion, the absence of gratitude.
A famous french proverb reads ‘’Gratitude is a memory of the heart’’ . In essence, it encapsulates the need for self reminder for gratitude to exist. To all you readers out there, mainly students, let me tell you that whatever your current state or circumstances, it’s important to always be grateful to others and even to a superior being you believe in.
As you walk into the lecture hall each morning, a cleaner has to clean your path. As you sit down on the chair, getting ready for your professor to begin lecture, note that a craftsmen had to design that chair you were sitting on and somewhere in this world, someone had to assemble or manage the assembly of the chairs you sit on as you seek knowledge. A lumberjack had to chop the tree and a carpenter to cut the wood into the tables you study on and the tons and tons of papers you consume were once held by strangers before it reached you. The clothes that keep you warm were once sewn by the children your parents used to tell you were the less fortunate and its cotton was harvested by hardworking farmers who may be struggling to keep themselves warm or struggling under harsher conditions. The very essence of your modesty, is the handwork of strangers. As the professor comes in, and the lecture hall starts to fill, you become one in the crowd . The knowledge he shares is the result of many people who struggle their lives to earn the understanding that is served on your plate. The many designers, builders, architects, labourers who shelter the building you sit in everyday and sleep in every night to keep you safe and more importantly, alive. And you see different clothes, different lives, different belongings, different journeys to be where they are today, in this hall with you. A whole complex interconnectedness of service from all over the world, past and present. Then you look at the different times of the day, where your whole existence is also a result of service from strangers. Then there are the different places in a day and the different days of your years and the different years in your life. Every single second, someone is, or has served you. Millions and millions of people have served you without you knowing who they are and without them hearing a word of appreciation from you. There is just so much to be grateful for.
Keep reminding your heart to be grateful, and you will never need to struggle for joy.