Monday, June 28, 2010

Viewing a sunset

Yesterday afternoon marked the end of four intense, exhausting days. I chose the opportunity of an important, but what could have been a fairly routine presentation to make a first breakthrough step in adapting Jay Forrester’s Urban Dynamics simulation model to Singapore and an Asian Context. This took more that fourteen hours of completely focused concentration - no interruptions allowed. It was good to know that I am still capable of that sort of modeling work. Then there was designing just the right Power Point slides - simple but elegant; to be viewed, not read; each with a simple, clear message, sparsely phrased.

When the event and the luncheon that followed were over, I had to acknowledge that I was completely drained. It was not the Buddhist state of ‘emptiness’ but my mind was a blank, resisting any new onslaughts of will power. I returned to my apartment, did a chore or two, sought inspiration by reading a few pages of Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography and collapsed.

I had planned an afternoon and evening of catching up on four days of neglected emails, but knew I was not up to the task. I decided on a walk through Clementi Park, adjoining the Kent Vale apartment complex, followed by a Hawker’s stand meal at the West Cost Marketplace.

Kent Vale is located on “Kent Ridge” one of the highest points on Singapore’s west side. The Park adjoins it on a hillside sloping down to the busy West Coast Road. On the other side of the road is a commercial area, Housing Development Board apartment flats, and further west, the West Coast Beach Park and a busy cargo container complex. Every scrap of land in Singapore is used for something.

Kent Vale is a ‘gated community’ with gates manned by security guards 24 hours each day. They work twelve hour shifts, six days a week. It is hard to see why this is needed in Singapore. Perhaps the university administration believes it makes the foreigners who are Kent Vale’s principal residents feel more secure. One of the gates, at the top of the hillside, is an exit from the community to the park.

Working as a security guard is boring. I remember this well from my days of military service - and I never stood twelve hour watches. You wait - and wait - and wait - for the time to pass. Sometimes you wish for a disturbance or emergency, just to break the monotony.

As I walked from my apartment to the gate, I had no agenda. One project was done and I had not even checked my short and long-term ‘to do’ lists to see what came next. I had space to view and enjoy a surpassingly beautiful sunset. The sun was partially hidden behind two layers of grey and white clouds. The sky was orange-red, shading towards blue-grey between the cloud formations more distant from the sun. The thought came to mind. If I were a security guard, I would be able to watch this transition from daylight-to twilight-to dark every day --- and I could write Haiku about it.

I had not thought about Haiku in years. But some years ago, during an interval between relationships following a divorce, I wrote six haiku a day for an entire year. There were nearly three thousand of them. All were lost during a transition between computers, but no matter. The point of writing them was not so they would be read by others.

My friend, Peter, one of the security guards was manning the gate. When there is not a lot of traffic we always talk and joke for a few minutes. Last evening we admired the sunset together and then I asked him if he knew anything about Haiku. When he said he did not, I explained and suggested he might write some to pass the time - like about the sunset. After a while, I continued, perhaps he could collect them in a book, sell the book and retire on the proceeds. We were joking of course, but I said I would give him some information about Haiku. Last night, I searched the web and printed a description of the genre, along with some examples from my favorite Haiku poet, Issa. I will drop them off on the way to work this morning.

I don’t know if Peter will start writing Haiku. I hope that he may. I would love to read what he writes. But as a result of the conversation, potential Haiku now keep popping into my head, like:

Viewing the sunset

A security guard’s job

Need not be boring

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home