Showing the Londoners Around Singapore in One Long Day

Two batches of Londoners descended in Singapore over the last month. It was so great to see them, but it made me incredibly homesick for Old Blighty.

Where to bring foreign visitors in Singapore? How to give them a sense of what Singapore is like outside of the constructed tourist attractions?

Singapore as Financial Hub

We started from the Central Business District – the shiny skyscrapers full of hardworking office bees that made Singapore a “financial hub”.

Tour of Singapore: Starbuck matcha lattes at One Fullerton
Tour of Singapore: Starbuck matcha lattes at One Fullerton

Singapore as Tourist Hub

Then a visit to the amazing loos in Fullerton Bay Hotel or Fullerton Hotel to freshen up (a highlight of their trip said two of them), before sipping matcha lattes (“we don’t get this in London”) at Starbucks, One Fullerton, and catching up (and charging phones).

Then on to the necessary cheesy photos with the Merlion and the ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay Sands:

Tour of Singapore: cheesy photo pitstop with ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Merlion

Singapore as Juxtaposition Between Old and New

After, a stroll contrasting the colonial buildings and new modernist ones, munching ice-cream sandwiches from the S$1.20 ice-cream uncle: the Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre, the Old Parliament House and current Parliament House, the Old Supreme Court and current UFO Supreme Court (a trip to the top allows a good view of the city – but no photography allowed in the building), a peek into the unopened National Gallery.

Singapore as Multi-Racial and Multi-Religious Society (and “Foodie Hub”)

Then a rest stop at St. Andrew’s Cathedral with the sun coming through its lovely stained glass, throwing colours all over the pews:

Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore: stained glass colours, St. Andrew's Cathedral
Tour of Singapore: St. Andrew's CathedralThen to Maxwell Market for delicious chicken rice and other “hawker delights” like char kway teow and chai tow koey, and refreshing ABC (apple, beetroot, carrot) and carrot-orange juices, before popping over to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple:

Tour of Singapore: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Tour of Singapore: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Tour of Singapore: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Tour of Singapore: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

We’d wanted to check out Lepark at Pearl Bank Centre as an example of how old buildings were being repurposed by young indie folk. Alas, they were closed that day:
Tour of Singapore: Pearl Bank Centre

Ah, some nasi padang washed down with bandung and teh tarik and milo dinosaur at Kampong Glam, off Arab Street

Tour of Singapore: teh tarik at the sarabat stall in Kampong Glam
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore

before being kitted out with appropriate wear for the Sultan Mosque:
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore
The visitors loved how friendly everyone in the temple and mosque was – how they didn’t have to worry about appropriate wear beforehand, and how willing to answer their endless questions. “Can we take photos here?” they’d nervously asked the docent at the mosque. “Only if you post on facebook!” came the cheeky answer.

A gander down self-consciously hipster Haji Lane, then we stopped off at Raffles Hotel for another freshening up (without a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar this time):
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore

Before heading to Ku De Ta atop Marina Bay Sands to watch the sun set and the lights about town come on:
Tour of Singapore: Marina Bay Sands
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore: Marina Bay Sands
Tour of Singapore

Tour of Singapore: view from Ku De Ta atop Marina Bay Sands

Across the bay for some satay and tourist touting on the street next to Lau Pat Sat:
Tour of Singapore: satay stick trophies next to Lau Pat Sat

Thence to Little India (a little too late for the Hindu temples, sadly), for gawking in amazement at the flower garland makers, some (erm, North) Indian on banana leaves:
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore: Apollo Banana Leaf Curry
Tour of Singapore: Apollo Banana Leaf Curry - box of mints
Tour of Singapore: Apollo Banana Leaf Curry - after-dinner mints

A spin around the amazing Mustafa which had almost everything anyone was looking for, then to Geylang for pek at the red-light district and a dessert of the king of fruits – durian! and its friend the jackfruit:
Tour of Singapore
Tour of Singapore - Geylang jackfruit

Singapore Skyline from the Sea, and Social Justice

On an Indonesian island, I asked some teenaged girls what they thought the biggest problems were, in the world.
“No money!”
“No job, no money!”
“No wisdom for victory!”
“No marriage!”
“No peace in family…”

I suspect their answers were partly a reflection of their own cares and concerns, yet also astutely, what the world thinks its problems are: poverty, employment rates, lack of expert opinion, no sex or marriage, domestic conflict.

Singapore skyline from the seaYet, God says there is a far larger problem:

23 …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

and if all have sinned, with no exceptions, Western or Eastern, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, and

23a…the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)

then everyone, whether in first world or third, in developed country or developing, oppressor or oppressed, exploiter or exploited, has the same problem – we all face the certainty of death in this lifetime, and the prospect of eternal death thereafter.
Singapore skyline from the sea

…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b)

This is the gospel (good news) that Christians are so eager to proclaim to the world. This is why that proclamation is ultimately more important than merely attempting, unsuccessfully, to alleviate poverty now or to put right perceived injustices.

Bible Overview – God Dealing with the Cause and Effects of the Fall, and Butter Coffee and Kaya Toast at Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop

Dr. Michael You’s talk to the St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Student RML Leaders is a masterful overview of the Bible. An incredibly exciting and rewarding 3.5 hours, some part of which might have been spent drinking butter coffee and nibbling on kaya toast at Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop (10 North Bridge Road).

Why a Bible Overview is Necessary

The Bible is one story, but even though it has a plot, it doesn’t go linearly from the beginning to the end. There is also a development through the Bible, but not always – some things get superseded and some don’t. Unless you see the plot, it’s hard to work out what has changed and what has not. You need to see the plot to be faithful to what God is saying.

So the point is not to jump forward to Jesus. It might have something about Jesus but that might not be the point of the story, and you miss what God is saying.

This really revolutionises how we understand God and what he plans to do with the world:

  • If the Fall is in Genesis 3, why didn’t God send Jesus in Genesis 4? Because until we understand sin and God, we won’t properly understand Jesus. We know that Jesus is the answer but we are normally confused about the problem – is it poverty? ill-health? Then you get social justice, liberation theology, health-and-wealth gospel.
  • You need to understand what is big in the Bible and what is not. Alot of confusion comes about because of a failure of this. And heresies come about not just because of adding to the Bible or subtracting to it, but also by distorting things in the Bible.
  • Good for the biggest theological challenges of our time. (See end of talk.)

This is not just an academic exercise: understand what God/Jesus is actually doing all the way through the Bible.

Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

In Short, the Story of the Bible and the World

In Genesis 1-2, God creates the world effortlessly. Everything is very very good. Humans are the pinnacle of his creation – he relates to Adam and Eve in a special way. He loves them, cares for them, gives them responsibility for ruling the world. In Genesis 3, it goes horribly wrong. Adam and Eve rebel against God and throw his love back in his face, the relationship is broken. Instead of blessing them, God punishes them and sends them away from the Garden of Eden.

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;     

in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife     

and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,     

‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you;     

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;    

 and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face     

you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,     

for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,     

and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:16-19)

Whereas in Genesis 2, God is for humankind, now God is against them. Thorns on the ground, childbirth will be painful, they will die.

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,     

cursed are you above all livestock     

and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go,     

and dust you shall eat     

all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:14)

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife     

and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,     

‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you;     

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (Genesis 3:17)

Creation is clearly cursed, MY argues that humans are effectively cursed as well, even though the word “curse” isn’t used. If all this isn’t curse, what is curse? Instead of living forever, humans now die and have no access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:19,24).

4 categories where things go horribly wrong because Adam and Eve rebel against God:

  1. relationship with God – ruined, broken
  2. land – Eden – lost
  3. curse
  4. death

It’s worth holding in your mind that there is a problem, and there are 2 sides to the problem:

  • our sin
  • God’s response to our sin – seen in the 4 categories of how the world is wrecked because of our sin

Then we go to the Revelation 21-22, and we see that all the things that went wrong in the Fall have been put right in the new creation.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

And God has given them a wonderful new home to live in, a new heaven and new earth, a second Garden, but it is better. And there is a difference – it is a city:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.We see that God is once again for his people. (Revelation 21:1-2)

There will be blessing not curse:

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (Revelation 22:3)

And there will be no death. Where at first they were precluded from access to Tree of Life, now tree is slapbang in middle of the city, where they will have access to it at all times:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

And there is nothing sinful in the city.The cause of the Fall has been dealt with:

27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

Here we have explicit opposites at the end of the story. That’s where it’s heading. (There are other things that happen as well – but in the overview, lots of things will be left out.)

So we read the Bible with two questions:

  1. how does God put everything right? and
  2. how does Jesus end up slapbang in the middle of new creation?

It is a story of victory, the ultimate happy ending, the true happy ending.

Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

The Pentateuch

But it takes the whole Bible to get there. Let’s go back to beginning, lots of twists and turns and unhappiness. In Genesis 4-11, sin is universal. God’s verdict is that people are evil all the time. And they are all the way through the Bible, and in the world today.

In Genesis 6, God responds by punishing the whole world, and starts again with Noah. Noah is popular in Sunday school with the animals going into the ark two-by-two. But we should ask how this functions in the plot rather than on its own. Here there is a change of society, change of environment, social engineering, so things will be better. It is the ultimate act of social engineering. God gets rid of everyone but most righteous man in the world. It is a washed world, with no bad influences. But it doesn’t work.

Abrahamic Covenant

In Genesis 12, God chooses one man and gives promises to him. Before, with Noah, there was no chance of improvement; it was just about survival. What is promised to Abraham and how does it compare with what went wrong before?

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1-7)

And also:

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring for ever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

and

Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:3-8)

There will be restoration of relationship with God, land as everlasting possession, blessing…and there will still be death but people will live on in their descendants. This is the first sign that things might get better. But Canaan is a scrubby bit of land, nothing compared to Eden. And there is no sign of what to do with sin. So this is a partial restoration, but the beginning of solution.

We are left asking: how will promise of partial restoration turn to full restoration? How will gap between promise and experience be bridged? How will sin be dealt with? Who will benefit from all this? Everyone was affected by the Fall, but it seems Abraham’s family will benefit primarily, though blessing will go to the nations indirectly through them.

Mosaic Covenant

For the next 400 years, nothing much happens, then things get worse: they are slaves in Egypt, leading miserable lives, no land, not much relationship with God (Book of Exodus). What they do have is a lot of descendants. God intervenes again at beginning of Exodus – just a promise but he is beginning to act. (We need to keep the two – promise and act, separate.) He rescues them through Moses and leads them to Mount Sinai, where he gives them the Mosaic covenant – how they can inherit the Abrahamic covenant.

God is rescuing them from something, to something – the fulfilment of promises. Quite different from Noah, who was merely rescued. So even now, we are rescued from sin and judgement – rescued for eternal life, new creation, everything put right. God re-promises all the categories:

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (Leviticus 26:3-13)

and

The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 28:8 – 11)

This is not just a re-promise, but extends the Abrahamic promises; it spells out and extends the promises – especially, the promise of a relationship with God is made much more clearly (Lev 26:11-12). He will walk with them like in Eden.

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, 14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deuteronomy 28:13-14)

However, conditions now attached. They will need to obey all God’s commandments to receive the blessings.

58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. 60 And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61 Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. 62 Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God. 63 And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 28:58-63)

If they disobey, no only will God not give any more blessing, but even what God has given them he will take away. This would be how much the relationship with God would have broken down. This is shocking. If they disobey, he will make them worship other gods, and send back to Egypt. This will be even worse than the first time, because now, no one will want them. Right at the bottom.

In the Abrahamic covenant, sin wasn’t a big deal; now it is. so not curse but blessing. It’s not that God left it out the first time, but that he hadn’t got there yet. Now he is saying that the cause of the Fall (sin) must be dealt with, not just the effects of the Fall (curses).

Here in the Mosaic covenant, it is 50:50 responsibility – man’s responsibility to sort out the cause, and God will do something about the effect. The sacrificial system will deal somewhat with sin, but not all the way.

The Mosaic covenant was not a mistake – it was just not the way God will use to reverse the Fall; it will not work. And God knew this:

16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. (Deuteronomy 31:14-18)

God is using this to teach us. The whole of the Old Testament is to teach. So that when Jesus comes, we will understand. The Old Testament doesn’t achieve anything – it explains and teaches:

  1. cause of the Fall must be dealt with if God will fulfil promises;
  2. Israel is incapable of dealing with sin herself since the golden calf incident – God must do something;
  3. sacrifice goes some way in dealing with God’s wrath;
  4. about God himself – powerful god, etc.

The Mosaic covenant doesn’t contradict the Abrahamic covenant. If Israel did obey, they would get the promises; if they didn’t obey, they won’t, but the Abrahamic covenant still stands. butter coffee (kopi), Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore A lot of the rest of the Bible is about first 250 years of the Mosaic covenant.

Because of Israel’s sin, they end up wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Joshua then leads Israel into Canaan. Things look pretty good, but Israel keeps sinning, so this doesn’t last, and they don’t inherit the promises. There is no peace, and God is hostile towards them. It looks like curses are kicking in.

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. (Judges 2:10-15)

The big problem is sin: not obeying the terms of the Mosaic covenant. Until sin is dealt with, they won’t inherit all the promises.

Looking for a leader

What we learn here is that a good leader can help. How did they get out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Moses, Joshua. And in the first 200 years, whenever Israel repents, God’s solution is to raise a leader. The leader helps, the judges help people keep the law, but they always die.

What’s the answer to a leader dying? In a monarchy, the line doesn’t die. Judges implies the need for a king:

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

A king not to fight for them but to get them to obey God’s laws. Saul was not much use. David gets the land and peace with neighbours. Under Solomon, life is good:

20 Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21  Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. (1 Kings 4:20-21)

25 And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25)

10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Yet, David sins with Bathsheba, and Solomon sins even more by marrying non-Israelite women who lead him to worship other gods.

Davidic Covenant

But a king seems the way forward – God makes a third big covenant: David’s descendant will inherit all that God promised Abraham.

10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (2 Samuel 7:10-13)

David’s descendant will build God a house which will enable God to dwell with Israel. There will be peace, a home, a kingdom. This implies land and lots of descendants, blessing. And the descendant will reign forever, so all that has been promised will be Israel’s permanently. There are no conditions attached – this is important. Even if king fails, God won’t take his love away.

Israel is now under 3 covenants – they are not terminated or superseded.

The sin of the kings

The Davidic covenant is a promise for the future. The experience under her kings is far from this. And David and Solomon’s successors sin even more. In 1-2 Kings, Israel and Judah’s kings keep sinning. We are constantly disappointed.

The effects of sin

Because of Israel’s sin, God punishes Israel. Over the next 350 years, there are 3 great disasters: after the sin of Solomon, the kingdom splits – Judah and Israel.

922 B.C. –  because of sin, the southern kingdom (Israel) gets exiled

200 years

722 B.C. – 150 years exile of Judah

597/587 B.C. – two waves bring Judah and Israel to an end. By the exile, the temple had been destroyed, the land taken away, they were no more a people, they ceased to be a nation. The curse of Mosaic covenant had come into play.

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls round Jerusalem. 11 And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. (2 Kings 25:8-11)

David, Solomon could have been the ones through whom fulfilment would have come, but they didn’t obey. This reinforced that sin is the big problem. Israel split because of sin; the exile happened because of sin. When you teach sin as doctrine, it doesn’t seem so bad. Read the story and understand that sin is really a bad problem.

The Prophets and the Promise of Full Restoration

But nothing has gone awry from God’s perspective. He has made unconditional promises and he will fulfil them. God speaks through prophets and reveals that he will make a new prophet. The exile and what God is saying through exile is important – God’s revelation in and around time of exile in the second half of the Old Testament.

25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all round my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 34:25-30)

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever, and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst for evermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst for evermore.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28)

What has been promised compared to the Abraham/Moses categories is the restoration of God’s relationship with the people (Ezekiel 37:27). And the land will be a good land – many problems of land won’t be there.

The land will be a new creation:

17 “For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
    and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17-25)

The people will be blessed – this takes the form of peace (Ezekiel 34:26) and prosperity (Moses) death.

  the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. (Isaiah 35:7-8)

He will take away death; they will actually be resurrected. He promises of full restoration of everything that went wrong. The first mention of new creation is Isaiah 65. Before Abraham, at best, nothing will get worse. This is the first inkling of full reversal of everything that has gone wrong.

Promise to Deal with Sin

How can this happen? Why unconditional? Because sin is the cause of the problem and man cannot deal with it, God has committed himself to dealing with problem of sin.

35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.

37 “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. (Ezekiel 36:35-37)

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

God describes what he will do in different ways. But God will do it all. In Ezekiel, God will wash away all our sins and put a new heart in us to change us, and give us the spirit. In Isaiah, he will provide a sacrifice that will actually work. Dealing with sin is a big deal.

These different ways are complementary, not mutually exclusive. And they will have the everlasting Davidic king:

25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever, and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.  (Ezekiel 37:25)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 A king who is going to be God himself.

Summary of the Old Testament

Let’s summarise what God has promised.

In the first half the Old Testament God promises that everything that went wrong will be put right. There are 3 great promises. God promises a full reversal of the effects of the Fall. This is the first time this has happened – massive step forward. God will deal with cause as well as results; not 50:50 mosaic covenant. God will deal with both halves. He will deal with sin and effects. They will definitely get it, and their king will be God himself.

This is an astonishing statement in the middle of the Old Testament. A human being in line of David will be almighty God, everlasting Father. Which is why in Revelation 21, the Lamb is sitting on throne. That is why the New Testament is so adamant that Jesus is god. Only because Jesus is God that he can do it all.

By end of exile to end of bible, no new promises are made. In exile, they have been promised everything but have gotten nothing.

This is why if you don’t read the Old Testament, then won’t understand the New Testament. Israel is a complete deadend. It achieved as little as the flood.

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:3-8)

When they return from exile, do they get what they were promised? They returned in 540 B.C. under the Persians. But still remain part of the Persian empire. They were under rule. They had no king of any sort, far less Davidic king. Israel still sins.

23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them swear in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:23-27)

This is the very last reference to Israel. They are still sinning. Nehemiah comes 100 years after the end of the exile. A century after, they are still in this position. How little has actually happened.

Nehemiah 1:3 – Jerusalem is still a ruined wreck. 4:2-3 – not a great wall, absolutely not glorious return. 5:1-5 – back in land, but famines, slavery, in debt – not prosperity, peace, happiness. They are sinful people still.

We are waiting for God to rescue his people as he has promised. Old Testament – massive revelation, no fulfilment. Wisdom literature – even when you get what this world offers, doesn’t satisfy. This world doesn’t work. Don’t think you can get fulfilment in this world. Prophets – God will solve it. There is a shift from this creation to the new creation.

And Isaiah 66:22-end: a book of new creation and resurrection, ends on note of hell.scraping off burnt bits of toast with cover of condensed milk tin. Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

The New Testament and Fulfilment of the Promises of Dealing with Sin and with Restoration

The New Testament opens by saying that Jesus is coming to fulfil the Old Testament testaments.

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

God is now coming to fulfil the promises. Notice references to the promises to Abraham, David, prophets, not Moses. There are no conditions, all the blessings instead.

In what way does Jesus fulfil all that God has promised? We all still sin, we are not in new creation. Jesus’ fulfilment is two stage affair:

1. first coming – 4 key promises fulfilled:

(i) Davidic king who is God himself. when the king comes, that’s when God will bring about all that he has promised.

(ii) sacrifice that fully cleanses us from sin:

26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26b-28)

Jesus’ blood dealt with sin.

(iii) inaugurates the promised new covenant:

20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:20)

The Old Testament prophets don’t actually make a new covenant. There is promise of new covenant rather than a new covenant actually made. The new covenant was actually made at cross.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’,
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13)

The new covenant replaces the covenant made when Israel was brought out of Egypt, the one that depended on Israel obeying. This depends on God doing it.

Our enjoyment of it will only be at the second coming. Jesus will judge the whole world and punish God’s enemies. Will not tolerate rebellion forever.

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

Sin and salvation have been dealt with.

In second coming, the results of the Fall will be dealt with. The cause-effect penalty has been dealt with, the real me has been transformed.

just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)

The Bible gives us pictures of what the new creation will look like with Jesus as king, shepherd, priest. We don’t compare him with the Queen of England – the Bible tells you what king really is.

butter kopi and kaya toast, Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore Applying the Overview

We are not David, Moses, and not even Israel. They needed to keep sacrifice, not work on sabbath. Many things no longer apply to us. This is revolutionary and transforming.

The Overview applies on most fundamental level – it challenges what the world is about and where it is going. If i tell you that you need a QT every day, it’s a discipline. If you realise what a privilege it is to have a relationship with God, and really begin to get that, QT is not a hardship, but a joy. We’re looking at the heart level. See world differently, see world that God sees.

Right from Two Ways to Live, people think that we rule the world, the crown on my head is the big thing that non-Christians are focused on – my comfort, my prosperity, contentment, security, peace. Or our comfort, prosperity, contentment, security, peace. Everyone is concerned about this world.

The Bible tells us that God is not concerned about this world but concerned about the new creation. This is the most fundamental change. All the stuff that you are living for – exam results, careers, fun, popularity, are irrelevant in eternity. That matters infinitely more than anything, everything in this world.

Leaders don’t have to tell members that you have to give up things for the gospel – they will. What happens here doesn’t work. Relationship with God from fall onwards is a big deal. If people realise how relationship with God is a privilege, not ought to do but want to do. The puritans call this the changing of affections, changing what you want. This should happen in all bible studies.

Theological Challenges

What big theological challenges are there? Postmodernism is opposed to one plan for the whole of history. God has a plan for the whole world, he made it, he will judge it, he will rescue it. The world hates the idea that the world is not the centre of everything. God’s focus is not on this world but the next. Not on this world whether health and wealth, charismatic, social justice. This world vs new creation.

The first 500 years since Christ have been about the nature of god – is Jesus truly God? The next 400 years were about how am i saved? Faith not works. The 300 years since enlightenment – where is truth? Postmodernism is part of that. The last 50 years have been about this world vs the next – materialism.

World Street Food Congress 2015

The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, SingaporeWe were quite excited about the World Street Food Congress that had set up shop on that grass patch along Tan Quee Lan Street, across from Parco Bugis Junction.

The site map, that actually gave the location of all stalls, was a little more useful than the pamphlets that were handed out: Site Map, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

Indonesian gudeg yu nap, a Bandung breakfast dish – young jackfruit stewed with pork, a braised chicken wing and half a boiled eggs in soya sauce, soft tempeh, and blubbery cow skin on white rice (S$10): Gudep yu nap stall, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Gudeg yu nap, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

East Side King food truck with Filipino-inspired American food: kinilaw (S$9. “Otherwise known as the Filipino Ceviche, it is made with sweet and succulent snake-head fish, red onion, coconut vinegar, fragrant Japanese Yuzu and Thai chilies. This delicious combination is Chef Paul’s signature raw seafood starter”) and chicken inasal taco with fried chicken skin (S$9):

East Side King food truck, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: kinilaw and chicken insala with chicken skin in a taco. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: kinilaw. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: chicken inasal with fried chicken skin in tacos. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Pepita’s Kitchen – lechon (roast suckling pig) on white truffle oil paella (S$13+): Pepita's Kitchen: lechon (roast suckling pig) on white truffle oil paella. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore BánhCăn 38’s banh can: Bahn Can from BánhCăn 38: The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Bon Chovie (facebook) from Brooklyn – deep fried shishamo (“anchovies”)(S$10): Bon Chovie from Brooklyn. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore fried shishamo: The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Bon Chovie from Brooklyn - deep fried shishamo, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

Enjoyed the atmosphere and the idea of the event. But, speaking with neighbours on the communal table, the general consensus was that the food was far too expensive and the portions too small. The dishes on offer weren’t distinctive (or “exotic” as some would say) enough to warrant this.

After trying our best to get full, we decided to head down to Geylang and get a proper feeding.

PS: recipes from various cooks for sum lo hor fun and bak kut teh porridge, session hosted by Seetoh of makansutra:
Seetho. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore
Receipe for Sum Lo Hor Fun by Chun Kee. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore
Recipe for Bak Kut Teh porridge. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

Hatter Street Bakehouse and Cafe, and Bilahari Kausikan’s Guest-of-Honour Speech at Raffles Institution’s 189th Founder’s Day

We were at Hatter Street Bakery and Cafe (facebook, 212 Hougang Street 21) over the weekend.

It had a mostly Alice-in-Wonderland theme going on (with a good lashing of other cute stuff, like Mr. Bean’s bear).

Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan
Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan
Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan

I liked the little references – the circular view of the sky in the underside of the staircase, suggesting that we had already fallen down down down the rabbit hold, and the little door at the counter:
Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan

Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan

It felt like we were schoolkids at a cafe after being let out for the day.

School had been a real waste of my time. Boring slow-going lessons, and I don’t recall many of the tedious speeches we had to sit through during school assemblies and events – waffle-y stuff supposed to inspire us to make a difference in the world and be the change society needs etc.

waffles with pandan ice-cream. Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovan
absence of waffles with pandan ice-cream. Hatter Street Bakehouse & Café, 212 Hougang Street 21, Kovanpandan gula melaka whoaffles

But this one by Bilahari Kausikan is a keeper, not just because his tongue is firmly in-cheek. He extols scepticism, and not so much of authorities and received wisdom, but of self. (And then of course, scepticism of one’s scepticism, just to be, err, sure.)

Guest-of-Honour Speech at Raffles Institution’s 189th Founder’s Day
When your Principal, in a reckless act of folly, asked me to be Guest-of-Honour at this 189th Founder’s Day, my first instinct was to do us both a favour and refuse. But I hesitated and in an instant was lost. The temptation to savour the irony was too great. For what I am about to say, I absolve her of all responsibility.

My comrades and I spent our six years in Raffles Institution waging insurgency against all established authority. At a very tender age one of our teachers told us we were all born to be hanged. And if that extreme did not come to pass — perhaps I should say, has not yet come to pass — several of us were at least caned. Our then Principal failed to achieve his dearest ambition of getting us all expelled only due to our dumb luck.

So here I stand before you, living testimony to the role of chance and serendipity in life; a role more often than not insufficiently acknowledged if not ignored, particularly by Singaporeans of a certain ilk…

I do not think that there is any particular meaning, pattern or direction, divine or secular, in the drift of human events. History, as Winston Churchill is reported to have remarked, is just one damned thing after another. The innocent die young and the wicked flourish; and not necessarily in equal measure either because to the wicked the innocent are often prey…

None of us asked to be born. Yet having had life thrust upon us, we must, unless bent on suicide, nevertheless live. Although we can only, if dimly and darkly, know backwards, we have to live forwards.

No one can live in a constant Hamlet-like state of existential doubt. We must profess a certainty that we do not necessarily feel…

I am sure that by now many of you are harbouring a thought that you are too well brought up to speak out loud: this idiot exaggerates…

So let me restate my essential point in a different way…Sincerity is an over-rated virtue, if indeed it is a virtue.

All of you may be suddenly seized with the sincere conviction that that pigs should fly. But pigs will nevertheless never sprout wings no matter how devoutly you hope for them to escape the surly bonds of earth.

And if you, ignoring the possibility of error, sincerely believe that pigs ought to fly; or that God’s Will has been revealed to you; or that you are one of the elect to whom the direction of History’s cunning passages has been vouchsafed, then it is but a tiny step to being convinced that anyone who does not share your conviction is not just ignorant but evil. Then for the greater glory of PIGS or HISTORY or GOD, all spelt in capital letters, it is only a tinier further step to seeing it as your bounden DUTY, again spelt with capitals, to expunge the evil…

Rather than sincerity, if we want to do some trifling and ephemeral good or at least to minimize harm, we should approach life with an ironic and humane scepticism…

I have chosen to dwell on this at what you may consider inordinate length, because Raffles Institution likes to consider itself unique. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you that RI is no longer unique.

You are now only one of a number of similar elite educational institutions from which will come a disproportionate number of scholarship recipients and a disproportionate number of leaders in the civil service, the professions, business, the Arts and the academy. And all these institutions are united by a certain sense of entitlement, possibly so profound as to be quite unconscious.

I do not blame you for this. All of you are highly intelligent. You will be very well educated. And the odds are that you will be more than averagely successful in your careers.

But understand that you will therefore also be more vulnerable to the curse of the highly intelligent, highly educated and highly successful: this curse is the illusion of certainty; the conviction of the omnipotence of your ideas…

I certainly have no answers. As you, the anointed ones, ready yourselves to assume authority and responsibility under these challenging circumstances. I can do no more than to remind you of what Sir Olivier Cromwell wrote to the Synod of the Church of Scotland in 1650. He was trying to persuade the Scots not to embrace the Royalist cause of King Charles the Second and so avert civil war.

Gentlemen, he wrote, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ” — and I should explain that in the 17th Century the bowels were considered to be the seat of pity or the gentler emotions — Gentlemen, Cromwell wrote, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken”.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen of the 21st Century, I beseech you from whatever portion of anatomy you consider most dear, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

Before I conclude, you may wish to know how it all ended.

Cromwell’s advice was not heeded. Shortly thereafter, the third English Civil War broke out. This set in motion a historical trajectory of political, social and economic changes that led to modern Britain, the industrial revolution, the East India Company, Sir Stamford Raffles, the British Empire, the founding of Singapore and ultimately, you and I.

And all because good advice fell on deaf years.

What better way to appreciate the irony and contingency of events than to ponder what may have happened if Cromwell’s advice was in fact taken and civil war avoided. And as you do so, consider also the possibility that you may be mistaken when you think you are mistaken.

And with that final paradox I will end.

The Thought Collective’s Diverse-city Trails: Little India Trail

Enjoyed The Thought Collective‘s Diverse-city Little India Trail. With such a groan-worthy pun, no prizes for guessing that there is a link Ben & Jerry’s, of the delicious ice-cream-with-corny-names fame.

The Thought Collective Little India Trail, SingaporeThe aim of these Trails (there are two others in this series – one in Toa Payoh and the other in Jalan Besar):

Thinkscape’s [Learning Experiences (LEs)] are designed to help people see current issues and institutions in a new light. We hope to help participants develop a sense of ownership over these issues, and propel them towards meaningful and much needed action. Thinkscape also aims to be a citizenship portal for young people. We encourage youths to explore and form opinions on issues critical to Singapore’s survival and success, maturing their own narratives and building harmony with our nation’s broader story.

The pedagogical approach appears to be one of curated social learning (if there’s such a thing! and vs. social constructivism) through the lens of narrative inquiry:

Thinkscape creates experiences that advocate new perspectives on industries, institutions and issues in Singapore. We believe that experience is a powerful means to bring conviction and reality to our learning.

Thinkscape’s Learning Experiences (LEs) take the form of trails and workshops, and are designed by The Thought Collective, which comprises of educators, social innovators and advisers from public agencies and civil society groups. Through building narratives for Singapore, we aspire towards transforming the social and emotional capital of our nation.

Having just returned to Singapore, I was keen to get to know certain areas again. Little India was one of the places I’d spent quite a bit of time in the past. Still, the trail was eye-opening.

The Thought Collective Little India Trail, SingaporeSome part of the trail (tour!) was an introduction to the Little India world through the lens of a Indian transient worker, usually working in the construction industry: here is where you’d go to get comfort food when you are off sick, here is where you watch your beloved cricket matches, etc.

The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore

Other bits helped us interrogate the architecture and use of space of the area – to understand the demographic and social changes that (may) have taken place in the last few years.

We were fortunate to meet the one of the few garland weavers left in Singapore. He had previously spoken to our trail leader of the frustration of not finding a worthy successor. The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore

Certain structures and signs (green fences, an open space converted into a car park, a row of shops, prohibition signs, and void deck obstacles were pointed out. They were put in place to discourage the congregation of foreign workers in those spaces, especially during the weekends, and to stop them from cycling through the void deck. The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore

We peeked into some living spaces in pretty old terraces along Rowell Road, and then took a brisk walk through the red-lit back alley of Desker Road: The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore

Then there was the opportunity to talk to people in the Lembu Road open-space: The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore The Thought Collective Little India Trail, Singapore

The pedagogical methodology of “experience and explore” rather than “educate” meant the trail leader’s commentary was somewhat ambiguous, though leaning slightly to the left. This seemed merely to reinforce the perceptions already in the minds of the participants (by sample size of people paying good money to walk around their own country, probably already laden with certain sympathies).

If I’d led the trail, I’d wanted to have been explicit about the concerns and cares of all stakeholders concerned in each case.

Assuming the first step to social cohesion is understanding the perspectives of a group you would not normally hear from or sympathise with, then airtime must be given to both the perceived victim (in this case, the migrant workers) and the perceived oppressor (usually, the rich, the ones in authority – the government or employers, the majority race):

  • not just to transient workers who may be lodged in overcrowded dormitories and have fallen foul of poor workplace practices, but to their employers who may have taken all measures to prevent such things from happening;
  • not just to foreign labourers with no place to congregate, but also to the old people living in the flats above who find themselves living their twilight years almost as if they themselves were in a foreign land, or think themselves in constant danger (a fear either baseless or based on experience) of being forcefully robbed and falling and hitting their head, etc.

I think we have all already been well-fed on the usual tropes of poor victimised migrant worker, and rich fat cat oppressive people in power. But the world is more complex than that, and there are more narratives (and not very straight-forward ones at that) from sinful people than we would like to listen to. Not all poor people are honest or un-opportunistic or non-manipulative; not all the rich got that way by stealing nor will they always fail to care for their workers. We need to be able to give all sides a fair hearing to be able to empathise, and seek real solutions. This is what justice looks like.

You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:2-3)

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour. (Leviticus 19:15)

The Thought Collective Little India Trail, SingaporeGot a bit fed-up with an Australian on the trail, who rolled out the usual “look at all the shiny condominiums and skyscrapers you have in Singapore, built by the blood of Indian workers. You don’t bother with proper safety regulations. And when they fall sick or have an accident, you send them home. You use and dispose them. Exploitation!”

When different groups spoke with various workers chillaxing in the square, they cheerfully assured us that not only were they cognisant of the necessary safety requirements (helmet, vest, ropes, belts, practices), they also knew the Ministry of Manpower guidelines for pay, overtime work, days of leave etc. And they were happy here. There was no work at home, so any sort of work in Singapore was a godsend.

And I recalled acquaintances in the real estate industry wringing their hands over how, much as they tried to implement safety practices on worksites, holding weekly nagging sessions, checking safety gear at the gate, implementing spot-checks, and even fines, terrible accidents still occurred. Some workers, convinced that this namby-pamby society was encumbering them with all sorts of unnecessary safety equipment took them off at every opportunity.

The Thought Collective Little India Trail, SingaporeIn addition to the need for multiple perspectives on certain social issues, I thought there was too much conflation of the purported aim of the trail. The trail leader kept asking what could be done to help transient workers to “integrate” and “assimiliate“. As a Malaysian Indian and I pointed out, (i) it takes two hands to clap; and (ii) transient workers aren’t interested in integrating or assimilating. They were here to earn money to pay off agent fees, then send the bulk back to family, and hopefully save enough to return home and raise their kids and start their own business. And this isn’t just the goal of transient workers but also more generally of the bulk of white-collar types like teachers, IT professionals, researchers.

Being clear about the aim helps us craft solutions more specifically. So while there is no need to help them to assimilate into Singapore society, there is alot that can be done to make them feel welcome in our country, just like you would a visitor to your home.

Little Vietnam (Guillemard Road) and Immigration Policies

Had my pho fix on the way home from London, but we were quite happy to help F satiate her Vietnamese food craving at Little Vietnam Restaurant (facebook, 511 Guillemard Road, #01-25, Grandlink Square). Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

Possibly because the place was staffed by Vietnamese people, the pho, bun bo hue, bun xeo, and fried quail tasted exactly right.

What a pity if Singapore, like so many countries in Europe and in the rest of the “Western” world, were to close her borders to immigrants. We would lose more than good food from around the world.

Remember Philipp Rösler, the dynamic Vice-Chancellor of Germany a few years ago? He was born in Vietnam, adopted and raised in Germany, and identified as a German. Yet, his “Asian face” was raised as an issue, instead of his achievements as Health Minister and Federal Minister of Economics and Technology. Whether or not this was the reason why his party did badly at the polls, he resigned as chairman of the Free Democratic Party thereafter, and is now on the board of the World Economic Forum. If race had indeed been an issue, it would have been stupid of the Germans to deprive themselves of a good public servant just because of a problem with the colour of his skin, not with his intellect or leadership or integrity.

A few months ago, I commented to an Indonesian friend that the dislike of foreigners seemed quite rife in the Singapore society I’d returned to.

“Not dislike, she’d said,”outright hatred.”

“The government keeps bringing in foreign talent who take our jobs” goes the common refrain, not just in Singapore, but all around the world. But surely this xenophobia bodes especially badly for Singapore.

quail. Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

Taking a leaf again from Rawls and applying the presumption of good faith, I thought to examine Lee Kuan Yew’s past speeches to understand the rationale for our immigration policies, and not only that but how the need for talent for the survival of the nation impacts taxation and education policies:

  • the need for talented people to lead the country:

    From 23 years of experience in government, I have learned that one high-calibre mind in charge of a Ministry, or a Statutory Board, makes the difference between success and failure of a major project. A top mind, given a task, brings together a group of other able men, organizes them into a cohesive team, and away the project goes.

    That was the way Goh Keng Swee set about the Ministry of Finance in June 1959. He picked Hon Sui Sen as his principal lieutenant, Permanent Secretary (Ministry of Finance), and then in 1961 made him Chairman of the EDB. Hon Sui Sen collected an able team in the EDB and Singapore’s industrialization slowly and steadily gathered steam.

    Even in 1982, I find it difficult to imagine how we could have made the economic development of the last 23 years without the ability, the creativity, and the drive of these two able men. Whenever I had lesser men in charge, the average or slightly above-average, I have had to keep pushing and probing them, to review problems, to identify roadblocks, to suggest solutions, to come back and to discover that less than the best has been achieved.

  • the inability of Singapore to withstand potential harm brought about by mediocre leaders:

    Decline into mediocrity disastrous

    There may be those who believe that having sound men with modest minds in charge of the government will not make all that difference. Indeed, an anti-elitist ethos prevails in many Western countries, especially amongst New Left groups in Britain. They glorify mediocrity into a cult. They condemn excellence as elitism. They advocate wild programmes to dismantle their own institutions of excellence because the children of manual workers are under-represented in these institutions.

    There is a heavy price to pay if mediocrities and opportunities ever take control of the government of Singapore. And mediocrities and opportunities can accidentally take over if Singaporeans, in a fit of pique or a moment of madness, voted for the politics of opposition for the sake of opposition. Five years of such a government, probably a coalition, and Singapore will be down on her knees. What has taken decades to build up in social organization, in industry, banking commerce, tourism, will be dismantled and demolished in a few years. The World Bank has a queue of such broken-back countries waiting to be mended: Jamaica, Uganda, Ghana, Nicaragua, to name a few recent casualties seeking emergency World Bank aid. At least they have land for plantations or mines to dig from, or rivers to be dammed for hydro-power and irrigation. Singapore has only got its strategic location and the people who can maximize this location by organization, management, skills and, most important of all, brains. Once in disarray, it will not be possible to put it together again.

    Singapore, a small, barely established, nation, cannot afford to have anything less than her ablest and her best, to be in charge of the government. If we are to preserve what we have, and more, to build on the present, and achieve further heights, we cannot have mediocrities either as Ministers or Permanent Secretaries. Prompters and ghost-writers are a luxury for those who have large margins of safety due to their large size, great wealth, and considerable institutional strength.

  • the negative knock-on effects of having mediocre or bad leaders:

    Here we see a law similar to Gresham’s at work. Gresham pointed that bad money drives out good money from circulation. Well, bad leaders drive out good men from high positions. Idi Amin was a bad leader. He killed or drove out good Ugandans, ruining Uganda for decades. Solomon Bandaranaike was not an evil man like Amin. But he was a bad leader who brought race, language and religion into the centre of political debate. He ended up, intentionally or otherwise, by driving out good Ceylonese, and later Sri Lankans, from politics, whilst able administrators took jobs in UN agencies, leaving their own administration impoverished of talent. On the other hand, a good leader, in government or in large corporations, attracts and recruits top talent to reinforce his own capability to overcome problems. Hence the high quality of Germans in top position under Konrad Adenauer, and of top Frenchmen under Charles de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle’s Cabinet included Pompidou and Giscard d’Estaing, both to become French Presidents.

Ok great, one might say, so where can we find this talent? What about within the Singapore population?

  • the lack of natural talent in Singapore due to its small population:

    What was the most important single factor for Singapore’s rapid development since 1959? Without hesitation, my answer is the quality of the people. For not only are our people hardworking, quick to learn and practical, Singapore also had an extra thick layer of high calibre and trained talent . In the protocol list of the first seven persons in Singapore, I am the only Singapore-born. The President, CV Devan Nair, the Chief of Justice, Wee Chong Jin, the Speaker, Yeoh Ghim Seng, the two Deputy Prime Ministers, Goh Keng Swee and S Rajaratnam, and the Minister for Finance, Hon Sui Sen, were not born in Singapore. One Singapore-born out of the top seven Singaporeans! This is the size of the contribution from the non-Singapore-born. If we had relied solely upon the talent of our natural population pyramid, Singapore’s performance would not have been half as good.

  • well what about giving scholarships so that our best and brightest will, in return for university expenses being paid for, come back to contribute to society? Well, we know how that’s going – scholarship holders accuse the government of violating their rights and tricking them into bondage for a few years while they were still teenagers! They feel justified in breaking their bonds for better job offers elsewhere.
  • the lack of a wide range of talent even amongst remaining non-bond-breaking scholars:

    Let me spell out our talent problem. Most of our scholars went into medicine, the law and engineering, but none into banking or finance because they were professions that were not open to our bright students. Even now our banks want to reserve their top jobs for the sons of the families that control them. Moreover we draw our talent from only 3 million people. A short mountain range is unlikely to have peaks that can equal Mt Everest. You need a long mountain range like the Himalayas…

  • the lack of necessary leadership traits in remaining non-bond-breaking talented scholars:

    Alas, not all of these bright minds have strong characters, sound temperament, and high motivation to match their high intelligence. I have found, from studying PSC scholarship awards for the last 15 years, and reading confidential reports on their work in the public service and the SAF, that the scholars who also have the right character and personality, effectively works out to 1 in 3,000 persons. In the 1970’s, our annual births went down to 40,000. The numbers of talented and balanced Singaporeans will be between 12-14 persons per annum at one per 3,000.

bun bo hue. Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

That’s tough. How can we get this paltry number to stay in Singapore? Well, there are school programmes to instil love for the nation in schools but many teachers and students and parents dismiss them as mere propaganda, not realising that it’s not the PAP who will lose out but they themselves. And perhaps, also, it means we can’t assume that all theories of distributive justice and equality of opportunities are right in all circumstances and can be applied wholesale to the Singapore context:

  • preventing brain-drain by instilling patriotism and self-respect, and holding off punitive taxation:

    Now, we ourselves may be threatened by a brain-drain of Singapore-grown talent. These figures have serious implications for us. The figures for engineers and other professionals are less devastating only because they are less professionally mobile across national boundaries. Unless we are able to instill patriotism and self-respect, unless we succeed in inculcating a sense of commitment to fellow-Singaporeans in our talented youths, we can be creamed off. We shall become diluted like skimmed milk. We must ensure that because Singaporeans value their Asianness, they will not want to be tolerated and patronized as minorities in predominantly Caucasian societies. Therefore, any policy which denies trained talent its free-market rewards by punitive taxes, as in Britain, must lead to a brain-drain and to our inevitable decline. It is the chicken and egg cycle. As long as we are able and growing, our talented will stay and help our economic growth. Because they stay, we can offer them comparable standards of life, and decent prospects for their children’s future. Furthermore, we can attract talent from abroad to work in Singapore. The reverse cycle will be devastating and swift in bringing about our ruin.

    The Singapore-born must be the pillars on which we can place the cross beams and struts of foreign-born talent to raise us up to higher standards of achievement. If we begin to lose our own Singapore-born and bred talent in significant numbers, then the pillars are weakened, and additional cross beams and struts cannot make up for pillars. The Singapore-grown talent must, by the nature of his upbringing and schooling, be the most committed, the most emotionally and intimately attached to Singapore. We shall lose our own Singapore-grown talent if our policies punish the outstanding and the talented by progressive income tax with the objective of income redistribution. It has happened in an old established society like Britain.

  • amidst the usual sometimes green-eyed chatter about growing income inequality, and the common sneering at elite schools and disdaining the perceived elitism of the Gifted Education Programme, training and rewarding the talented might actually be the best for the whole society:

    It is in the interest of the not-so-talented that the talented should be adequately rewarded for the contribution they can make to the total progress of Singapore. Drained of our trained talent, Singapore will be like a man with a truncated right arm, unable to function effectively.

    If a brain-drain ever happens in Singapore, if our brightest and our best scatter abroad, because of populist appeals to soak or squeeze our able and successful professionals to subsidize those who are less able, less educated, and less well-paid, Singapore will be ruined. The sufferers will be the mass of the workers and their families who cannot emigrate because they are not wanted by the wealthy and developed English speaking countries.

And since we have such a small local pool of talent, who may not even stay in Singapore, how can we entice foreign talent to come and help us survive in the future? Foreigners “prepared to start life afresh in a strange new environment, are usually exceptional in enterprise, drive and determination to succeed – key attributes for high performance”.

  • Everyone knows that Shanghainese are the brightest and sharpest of people. But few know why. It is because for over a hundred and fifty years, ever since it became a treaty port for the foreign powers it has drawn the ambitious, energetic Unless we change our mindsets, we will be out of this race. We have to go out to tap talent. To get top talent, you must take in those who have not yet reached the top but are on their way up because when they are in their 30s we do not know which of them will make it to the top. You will only know when they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. This is the way to protect our future.

  • Singaporeans must realize and accept as desirable the need for more of the able and the talented to come to work in Singapore. We have to compete against the wealthy developed countries who now also recruit such talent. We have to make these people feel welcome and wanted, so that they will make Singapore their permanent home and contribute to the overall progress of all our people. We should encourage them to take up permanent residence with a view to citizenship so that they can enjoy the same opportunities to buy HDB executive flats and HUDC homes as Singaporeans, and to shoulder the same responsibilities. They can give that extra boost which has lifted our economy andour society to heights we could not have achieved if we had depended only on Singapore-born talent.

all quotes a mash-up from: “THE SEARCH FOR TALENT” BY LEE KUAN YEW, PRIME MINISTER

And also this arrow from LKY:

Instead of getting high quality men; we have imported over 150,000 unskilled workers as work permit holders. Instead of importing first-class brains, we have imported unskilled brawn. To continue this policy is to court disaster.

LKY was a magnificently holistic thinker. As Christians though, we have even more reason to welcome foreigners whether of the brain or brawn variety. Though we are not part of a nation like Israel, nor do we intend to build a nation in this world, the rationale for care-for-sojourner still stands:

33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Actually, our incentives are greater – we haven’t just been rescued from slavery and brought to a mere physical Promised Land as the Jews were; we have been rescued from spiritual darkness and eternal death and brought into the light and given eternal life. And we have been given God’s Spirit in us who helps us think his thoughts after him. So if God does not change, then his compassion for the weak, helpless, and the foreigner has not either.

Hanging Out at Holland Village: La Nonna and Sunday Folks

Signature pizza, crab tomato cream linguine, La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, Singapore
La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, SingaporeThe 1-for-1 lunch promotion at La Nonna (Lorong Mambong, Holland Village) has drawn hungry students from the nearby National University of Singapore for some time. We had lunch with two of them this week, sharing the signature pizza (tomato, mozarella, asparagus, egg, parmesan, black truffle salsa), salmon e rucola pizza, and two crab linguine in tomato cream sauce.

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
After the students headed back to school, two of us repaired to Sunday Folks (facebook, 44 Jalan Merah Saga) across the road for their weekday S$10 cake and coffee/tea set.

We were talking about how difficult it must be for pastors/ministers of churches not to show favouritism to the people who themselves treated these pastors/ministers well.

  1. Full-time Christian ministry is a tough job – long hours spent in the study understanding God’s word, more hours spent on your knees for the sheep, and then counselling many with relational/psychological/personal/godliness difficulties, and dealing with the line of people waiting after service to tell them what exactly they disagree with in the sermon or running of the church etc.
  2. So, spending all waking moments dealing with sinful humans could very well be immensely discouraging, and it isn’t surprising that many ministers suffer from depression.
  3. But, said the friend who had been diagnosed with clinical depression, the temptation is to then depend on other people, other humans, for love, support, approval. Sadly, because they too are sinful human beings living in this fallen world, they may betray you, disappoint you, or, even if they were a perfect companion for life, they might die on you (and here the friend cited the Lee Kuan Yew – Kwa Geok Choo partnership). Also: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)
  4. Unfortunately, positive thinking, or being thankful for the good things in one’s life falls flat as well – it feel stilted and artificial especially when you’re already very down, and sometimes, objectively, there just isn’t much good in one’s life!
  5. Much better to trust in One who is eternal (won’t die), and who is in control of all things (not impotent to help), and who loves us so much that he died for our sins (more than willing to help).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)

 

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, SingaporeThe Sticky Toffee Cake was, as the name suggested, more spongy than the usual heavy-in-the-tummy sticky toffee pudding, and a good foil to the slightly over-extracted coffee.

flat white. Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

  • beans: Liberty Coffee‘s Speakeasy Blend
  • crema x microfoam: good
  • flavour x body: nutty and a little burnt
  • aftertaste: medium

Joel Navarro conducting the Singapore Bible College Chorale at the Victoria Concert Hall (“Victoria Memorial Hall”)

It’s always tough to return to a place you grew up in, with the knowledge that it has been renovated, refurbished, and is in all likelihood a shell of its former self.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)

So it was with trepidation that we arrived at the neoclassical Victoria Concert Hall (“Victorial Memorial Hall”) on 23 March 2015 to watch the Singapore Bible College Chorale in concert.

plaque to the memory of those who were killed during the mutiny in Singapore in February 1915. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
plaque. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Plaques to commemorate people who died during the 1915 mutiny and another for Queen Victoria (“Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India) just inside the entrance seemed a little brighter.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)That bit between the two staircases now led to the information counter, situated in one corner of a big empty the hall.

staircase. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
staircase, Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Up the mirrored staircases, the marbled flooring looked different (cleaner?) but was probably original. Think there used to be a red carpet running up the middle of the stairs.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Half-way up the stairs, there was a way down to the left side of the VCH, which opened up into the glass-roofed central atrium between Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall:
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I will never forget the desperate walks to the lift that used to be at the end of the atrium. That old lift would take you to a music studio where your ABRSM examiner would be waiting. I never practiced and would have been attempting to memorise the score for the first time on the way to this part of the civic district.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I liked Mok Wei Wei (W Architect)’s gentle irony of etching a reflection of the columns of VCH onto the new facade of VT.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Returning to the staircase, there was this guy’s bust, which was always a good sign if you were slightly late for a concert and could hear them closing the doors above.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
We used to run in this set of doors (to sit on the left side of the hall, facing the stage). They were white and wooden and a little creaky, but these seemed taller, narrower (but perhaps a perception error), and heavier (probably not the exit you’d take in event of a fire).

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)The space where autograph and CD selling sessions used to take place was now dominated by a circular staircase. Stark juxtaposition between white Victorian and burnished modern.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)’round the corner, another corridor of lights by .PSLAB, overlooking the central atrium. The clustered circles were another self-possessively modern touch, made more classy by a brushed metal exterior and anodised gold inner surface.

The interior of the concert hall was much fresher. The old VCH had a certain smell to it that I liked because of a long association with the place and its innards, but this just smelled neutral and new – which would generally be preferable!
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Not sure about the necessity for that shade of green. But taking advantage of Arup‘s theatre and acoustics consultancy paid dividends in a delightful clarity of sound. The stage seemed smaller (or I might have just grown bigger), but the seating had definitely changed for the better – the gallery was higher than it used to be, and with less seats. Hopefully, this meant the sound under the gallery (which used to bounce around rather oddly) would have improved.

After a good organ work by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (pipe organ sounded very different), and good controlled choral work by the Singapore Bible College Chorale, a docent offered to take us on a 20 minute tour of the building.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
She was animated, informative, and in short, brilliant.

“Look outside. Can you see Singapore’s national bird outside? No? Look! Singapore’s national bird – the crane!”
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
A light-hearted moment, after a concert with pieces dedicated to the memory of Lee Kuan Yew who had passed away at 3.18 a.m. that morning.

R. LANGGAARD                       Prelude in E major for organ
H. MATTHISON-HANSEN    Fantasy on a Danish folk tune for organ
J.S. BACH                                  Fantasia in G major, BWV 572
J.S. BACH                                  Motet BWV 227, Jesu, meine Freude
P. MØLLER                              “Transfiguration” – 3 Meditations for Organ

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

The heavens opened up onto the tiny island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula. A fitting end to a week of national mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister. As thousands (some reports give an estimate of 100,000) lined the state funeral procession route, drenched even in their ponchos and under their umbrellas, salty tears mixed with the rainwater coursing down contorted faces.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015Strangers held up the ends of full-sized state flags and distributed smaller ones to those who had none. While waiting, standing in unmuddied rainwater, under the shadow of skyscrapers in the financial district, we spoke of the magnificence of the man, not tiring of reminding each other of his legacy.

People were worried about the “Missing Man Formation” ceremonial flypast by the Republic of Singapore Air Force – “Aiyoh, raining so heavily, can fly anot? I hope they take care!” State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And true to form, several in the crowd were following the “Live” proceedings on their mobile phones – “Ok, they’ve just left Parliament House…now turning right…wait, why are they travelling so fast? That’s not 25km/h…Oh! Coming, LKY is coming!” The last cry was taken up by the waiting crowd.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And there he was – so small, so frail, in his casket in a glass case; so vulnerable. “We love you Lee Kuan Yew!” “Thank you Lee Kuan Yew!” cheered the onlookers, waving their dripping flags and wiping away tears and rain.

There was no reply, of course, no acknowledgement, no smile and a wave. That man, that personality, so immortalised in videos and photographs at different stages of life – dispensing wisdom, being cheeky to American journalists, firing up the people of Singapore to do the right thing for themselves and their nation, was no more.

Then it was as if the whole nation was tuned in to the state funeral at the University Cultural Centre. At Heartland Mall, the aunties selling dim sum had the radio on, the promoters of products in Cold Storage were watching it on their mobile phones, and shoppers had gathered around the HD TV seller’s demo set: watching Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral at Heartland Mall

Here it is on Youtube:

And then the eulogies at the private funeral service at the Mandai Crematorium by LKY’s son, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (full script, and this is possibly the the speech to cardiologists that he referred to):

daughter, Lee Wei Ling (excerpt) youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang:

Li Hongyi, son of Lee Hsien Loong:

Li Shengwu, eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang (full transcript):

After the rain, after the state funeral, after the private cremation, we saw the sun break through the dark clouds. A reminder that great as our founding father was, there is a greater Father still who:

makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45b)

And so we carry on not just to make Singapore a great nation, but to live according to the contrarian values of that even greater kingdom:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)