Controlled by the Illusion of Control

Amidst the noise of a hipster gastropark and a hipster HDB cafe, straining my club-deafened ears, I was grateful for life-chats with dear friends.

At Timbre+ (it calls itself a gastropark), before a tenuously-pitched band came on,
Timbre+, one-north, Singapore
Timbre+, one-north, Singaporeover a trendy beef rendang bowl with onsen egg, salted egg fried chicken, and a bottle each of Brewdog‘s Dead Pony Club and Archipelago Brewery‘s Singapore Blonde Ale,

beef rendang, onsen egg, Brewdog's Dead Pony Club, Archipelago's Singapore Blonde Ale. Timbre+, one-north, Singapore
Timbre+, one-north, Singaporea brother spoke honestly about his difficult childhood, his resulting need to please male figures of authority and the inevitable fall when these men (some even church leaders) manipulated him to their own selfish power-hungry ends. Succumbing to disappointment, he now tried to find satisfaction in work, pounding away at his laptop at all hours of the day and all days of the week, glorying in the exceptional quality of his reports and presentations. It gave him some semblance of control over his own life.

Yet, he knew it was folly. He just wanted it all to become better, just to snap out of it. But he wished people would stop asking him to read the Bible. When a colleague invited him to a retreat that promised an easy encounter with the Spirit that would free him from this habit, he was keen to go.

Sin Lee Foods, 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, SingaporeAt Sin Lee Foods (facebook), at the foot of a block of HDB flats along Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, a sister shared how her regular episodes of binge-eating* too gave her some satisfaction of control over her life. She’d grown up in a loving family and did not understand how she started to compulsively overeat. It shamed her to be found doing so, but she knew herself that the reluctance to change was too great. There was a comfort in being in control.

How lovely it would have been to be able to magick away their addictions. But that’s not how it works in this life.

Sin Lee Foods, 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore

There are some quick (and not very thought-through) thoughts:

1. Illusion of control

Work, the praise of humans, binge-eating, any addiction – anyone can tell, even with a casual glance, that none of these things even remotely suggests that a person is in control. In fact, the converse is true – they are being controlled by their compulsions.

2. Motive for change

Since both friends are Christian, I’ve wondered about the efficacy of them seeing non-Christian psychologists, mainly because there is a fundamental disjunct in worldview. As Christians, we live our lives under God. Therefore:

  • we would not want to change to prove anything to ourselves (no “Oh look, I am finally really in control of myself.”);
  • we would not want to change to prove anything to other people;
  • we should not even want to change to prove anything to God! It is precisely because we are such wretched people that God sent his Son to die for our sins.
  • rather we should want to change because we have already been freed from slavery to sin and brought into a relationship with God. Why continue to wallow in the mud and eat rotten peels when a hot bath has been prepared and a feast after?

3. Method of change

We do not need a fresh experience of the Spirit to change. When we trusted in Christ, God gave us the Spirit – He broke our inability to do anything good, He dwells in us, and conforms our lives to Christ’s. Therefore, what we really need is a constant reminder of God’s truth:

  • God is the only God, so we are not god – we can’t be in control of everything (or, ultimately, anything);
  • God is a perfectly good God, so we will not be able to find satisfaction in anyone/anything else. fact.;
  • God is an unimaginably powerful God, so He is the only one who can change us deep down inside where self-help and positive-thinking fluff can never reach;
  • yet, in a beautiful both-and way, a sovereign God works through human will, human skill (reading God’s word), and human reliance on Him (expressed in prayer) to effect this change.

Sin Lee Foods, 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore

*she tried to describe what binge-eating was. And later, I found Emma Scrivener’s posts here and here to be very helpful.

Mikkeller Singapore, Prinsep Street, Singapore

It was with great excitement that we received the news that a Mikkeller Bar (facebook) was going to pop up along Prinsep Street (120A Prinsep Street, Singapore 187937), just across from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

A few years ago, I’d stopped over in Copenhagen and sampled a few in a basement in Vesterbro

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singaporethe cheerful Mr. Say-Something-For-The-Camera

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, SingaporeNo Geek Breakfast (or other meal) on the menu unfortunately. Since the Bugis Brown, Prinsep Pilsner, and Waterloo Wit were available at no cost, I got a free plastic cup of pilsner, and thought to return to get a lambic.

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore
Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, SingaporeUnfortunately, it was scorching out there. And with little shade (except along the sides of containers) the beer gained temperature very quickly. Dilemma: sip on rapidly warming beer, or gulp the stuff down like it was nothing but tepid tap water?

Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Cracked open Paul Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting while waiting for friends to reply if they were headed down.

In the end, the Tiger Beer-guzzler (a Korean, by way of part-explanation) decided that a free Mikkeller wasn’t worth the effort. I was amused. It was very much like how, when you present some people a pearl of infinite worth – the gospel, and for free, and they snort and trample it underfoot.

Ah well, next time perhaps!

Prinsep Pilsner x Paul Ricoeur's "Memory, History, Forgetting". Mikkeller Bar Singapore, DECK, Prinsep Street, Singapore

Murders, Projector Rooms, Craft Beers, Biblical Interpretation

On the 4th floor of Golden Mile Tower along Beach Road, a made-up hotel room, a two-way mirror looking down onto a bathroom containing a bloodstained toilet bowl and a dustbin full of blood-soaked toilet paper, a wardrobe with louvered doors and a power socket through which you too had a ceiling view of the same hotel room with a half-unpacked suitcase, hand-cuffs, a knife. Vertical Submarine’s newest installation: John Martin, The Butcher and The Surgeon. All of us escape room veterans immediately started attempting to open doors and look into drawers and the mini-fridge and the kettle, and were duly disappointed.

“What are you trying to convey?”

“Oh, it’s up to each person to interpret.”

“…” We didn’t think it was abstract enough to be a visual Rorschach, and felt it might have been a bit of an artistic cop-out.

Outside the door to the exhibit, music could be heard coming from the floor above. I ascended the spiral staircase to investigate: The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower

The ah-pek Golden Theatre’s two halls upstairs had been leased by The Projector, an indie venture showing a range of films, mostly, it seemed, of the cult or independent or Criterion Collection variety. Bookmarked! The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower

Another exciting range of choice of the hoppy variety, few parallel streets away, on Tyrwhitt Road. Druggists (facebook), named for its previous occupiers – the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, offered 23 craft beers on tap in 250ml or 500ml quaffing quantities. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Amused by the consistent use of beer taps to dispense both drinking water and water for hand hygiene.

Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Mikkeller American Dream Pilsner. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Mikkeller SpontanMandarin Fruit Lambic. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road The sight of Mikkeller beers made me ache a little for Copenhagen. Had an American Dream (mmm, canned lychee on shaved ice on a hot summer’s day, crisp, pop-py), and then a lambic SpontanMandarin (sour strawberry, puckertastic) as digestif. That blackboard menu is such a tease: De Molen, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, To Øl, etc waiting to be tasted.

Ah, the famed subjectivity of taste. But most of the time, careful inquiry reveals that the spectrum of perception of the taste of the food/drink itself isn’t terribly wide, rather it is the description of its taste, or taste preferences that are the main variables in food or drink reviews.

In quite a similar way, where postmodernism has done humanity a great disservice is its confused assumption that just because one cannot understand things perfectly, no interpretation is valid. To diss an unequivocal interpretation of a text as a “privileged reading”, alleging that it suits the purposes of that interpreter, while boasting of one’s own authenticity in acknowledging one’s postmodern condition and admitting “the indistinguishable fictionality of all interpretive models”, seems, to me, a whole lot of academic pretension. Afterall, in teaching that very theory, one would have had intended to convey one message, that would not have been open to a plethora of interpretations.

I’d done a training session for the youth group leaders that morning, emphasising the need to be sure of the trustworthiness of the Bible interpretation in the Christian life. The Bible isn’t open to the dip-and-pick sort of reading; neither is the suggestion that “everyone has their own interpretation of Scripture” valid. It is a collection of truths written by one God through various human authors through the ages, to convey exactly what God wants us to know.


11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)