Singapore Writer’s Festival 2017 (Part 2)

Why I Write: The Social Responsibilities of a Writer. Many people struggle with mental illness and there is a need to break the silence of mental illness. Try to live each day with dignity. Life is full of ups and downs. But the question is how we live life courageously in the face of trying circumstances. Writers write because there is something deeply that they care about. It is important to write from the heart (pain/loss). It is also important to place content in a suitable medium (make it accessible to blind readers, for instance). Listening without judgment is a skill that not many of us have. Use your sight to observe others and observe keenly. In life, everyone wants to be understood, even the poor or the mentally less able. Learn to inculcate understanding/ acceptance among others. Learn to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Changing Singaporeans’ mindsets towards mental illnesses is crucial. The aim of most of these books is for Singapore to become empathetic society. Caregivers need support as well and not just the patient/family member etc.

Against All Odds. Sam and her family had a happy life and marriage. They had 3 kids. However, after a fall in Thailand, she was paralyzed from the waist down and this put an end to her sporting endeavors. She could no longer do the things she enjoyed because of this spinal injury. After the incident, she felt depressed and upset with life. However, one day, a penguin came into her house and she found that because she could take care of something so fragile, it sparked inspiration in life and for her to keep going on. If you a writer, something will call out to you. Enjoy the moment in life, carpe diem. The penguin story is a spontaneous thing that happened and it was not planned for. Her husband (Cameron) captured beautiful images of the penguin and told the story of Sam through the bird. The penguin lived with them for 2+ years and the whole family, including the boys adored them. Although Sam can no longer surf, she can still kayak in the lake and train for the para-Olympics competitions. There is a need to learn to compromise after you had a serious accident. You will have to learn to do things in a different way. It is crucial to be physically and mentally active if you want to keep your zest for life. Exercise can definitely help you in a huge way. It is important to remain optimistic in the face of trying circumstances and you will eventually find a way forward.

Aram Across Religions. There are some commonalities across religions. Aram is an Indian word which means ‘what should someone do/what should someone avoid’. It has deep roots in ethics and values. Dhamma is what distinguishes humans from animals. Animals go by their instinct while humans have choice. This is the main difference between animals and humans. Even if you are very intelligent, without aram, you are like a block of wood. Aram consists of 2 main values – basic human values (Do not do harm to others) and values related to one’s life (value-specific ones). Religions all set out with the aim of creating Universal peace. It is interesting because all religious buildings end up with a peak at the top of the structure. Buddha emphasized the importance of discussing points of agreement and not disagreement. There is no need to argue. Literature is important as it portrays experience. All religions move to one being, with common values. There are many things that can be learnt from the Bible. William Wan drove the Kindness movement in Singapore. Love, Kindness, working humbly are all common values that all religions share. However, it is also possible to be an ethical, moral and virtuous person even if you do not faith in God. Buddha also struggled deeply to get rid of his human weaknesses and achieve human enlightenment. There is nobody that cannot be reformed and transformed. It is always important to remain grateful and to remember your roots. You are never good alone as everyone needs the help of others. Rama is a role model for mankind as he shows how to be good when the odds are not in your favor. On the surface, religions have many differences. However, when you go deeper, you will realize that religion is a lot more common than you think. As a human, we need to learn to be passionate and compassionate.

A Brighter Tomorrow? Aram and What the Youth Want. There are 17 Singapore sustainable developmental goals that we all thrive for. It is important to get youth to be involved. Jessica Cheam founded a start-up called Eco-business, which is an NGO. She aims to tackle issues like inequality and climate change. It is important for young people to be passionate about such causes. The story is yours to shape and to develop. The future is in your hands. It is important to give words of encouragement sometimes to others. Help the youth where no one believes in them. Help those people in welfare homes. Ultimately, love is important and if you really care for someone, put your heart into it. Love the person you want to help. Give the opportunity to a young person and you just might change someone’s life. What is the modern Singapore story? Singapore has moved from a third world to first in just 1 generation. However are Singaporeans still hungry? Do they still want to live the material dream? Different generations of people want different things. Migrant female workers are marginalized and can’t speak well. Many are from low-income families and marry poor men. There is too much social injustice. Amanda Chong is doing work in this area to help these migrant workers and their kids. These segments of society need more attention and bringing out the successful stories will help them. Can you be a protagonist in your own story/life?

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