Rethinking Religion and Its Relevance in the Now

Hope, is not something innate. At least, I don’t believe so. Not like love or fear, I don’t think that we have hope when we were born. I don’t think we are even capable of expecting something really. I mean, literally,  we can’t even see back then. Let alone to hope for something that we don’t understand yet.

We learn hope. By interacting with our surroundings, with the people around us, we learn this humane trait of hope. Be it from being introduced into this dream of being a fireman, astronaut or Richie rich. Or even from something as simple as getting a new bike, because you just got good scores in our school report. This notions of winning something that we set a target for, that created hope. We were trained to hope.

Back in 2012, I spent almost 3 weeks in Cambodia volunteering at an orphanage. It was a fairly normal experience, life changing of course, but for a voluntary mission, it was fairly regular. There, I had to paint a classroom, teach English, treat kids hairs for lice, nail bamboos to make a floor for a simple house, those sorts of things.

The kids was of course very grateful and charming. They were all really sweet and full of smiles, different from the kids here in Jakarta (you know what I mean, those little bastards have had it coming), and they were all really discipline in their way. They would always clean whatever they used, they would help each other out, they would finish their homework and they would pray.

Now, this particular orphanage is run by a christian organisation. The guy that brought me there, which was a really inspiring teacher of mine, is a christian priest.

In the end of our mission, they held a service for us and prayed not only for their own blessings, but also for ours, who volunteered there for a week or so. These orphans, who doesn’t have a family apart from each other looked really happy at that time. They played music, they danced, they joke around and most importantly they smiled. Not the kind of smile when somebody open the door for us, not even the kind of smile when you finally got that amazon package we were waiting for. But a real genuine one. A big happy face smile.

These kids, who were not born into a family. Who lived in a country, that (only just around 10 years before) was massacred, tortured and enslaved. These kids who are supposed to hate the world for the unfairness that they are facing. These kids that could never dream of having a happy meal, while on the other side of the world, that very food was being thrown away just because they already got the toys. These kids can genuinely smile.

But how can they smile with their predicament? How can they smile when I can’t even smile that way, and I have all the privileges in the world of being a normal kid.

I asked that question every day after I got home from that mission. Until one day it hit me. They had hope. Their religion gave them hope.

They don’t need money, or new bikes or anything to give them a sense of hope, because in their mind (and heart) they have their God to wait for. They have their heaven to be hoping for. And that may just be enough to keep them happy everyday, knowing that they belong to the same heaven as anyone who may have more things that they have.

I am not a religious person myself. I was quite an avid prayer because of my mom when I was a kid, but now I rarely go to church or even pray. I pray for my food because it has become an involuntary habit, but other than that, as far as your concern, I’m the devil.

tolerance

But I am always fascinated by religion and how it affects people. Be it in a large group, small group or even in an individual level.

The laws of religion has rarely changed, but the way people interact with it, is very unique. I never think of religion as a problem or a solution. I always think of it as a way of life and a guidance to help you take your steps. You don’t necessarily need it, but some people prefer to have it anyway.

And for so long, this guidance has never change whatsoever. It has never made any attempt to adjust itself to be more relevant to the age that they are living in. That’s why you can always see conflicts like the blasphemy case in Jakarta every now and then. Be it with Gus Dur, Ahok or anyone that has not follow the guidance as is really. And that’s why (partly) we have terror groups and racism.

Yet, once or twice, you see figures like the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis saying something really far from the normal things that the guidance would say and it makes you wonder.

Just recently, Pope Francis hinted that He might be okay with married Priest in the catholic church. This is huge, considering that for the past 2000 years that this religion exist, this rule has always been there and is seen as one of the most important ones. Yet, with decreasing numbers of priests and followers, and with the changing nature of our society along with the ever-moving time, these supposedly stubborn guidance has showed its willingness to adapt. I mean the pope has an Instagram, if that’s not enough proof.

Does this mean religion is cool? I still don’t think so. I think religion is a personal experience, and whether we choose to follow a certain religion or not is totally an individual call. It has shown its ugly sides, yes, but it has also shown its willingness to adapt and to be more than just an archaic novelty from the past. It is with no doubt an important part for a lot of people’s life, and a source of annoyance for many others. But I think religion serves a certain purpose in life, and while its function might not be the same along the time, I think it is wrong to disregard it entirely.

For more than 2000 years, we’ve gotten used to a certain role of religion, when I think that role is overdue for a change. Its governance was a fit for the roman empire, but its old value needs to be adapted into a more open value that our society have already attain. Otherwise, the hope that a lot of people have, will only turn into terror, hatred and fear.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind – AE

Purpose?

Often in life, the sense of feeling lost. The fleeting sense of purpose is, more often than not, the only thing we can count on. Especially at an early age. Being 22, I never had a sense of certainty. Except for those few days that I had just graduated; only for me to realise a week later, that I have no squat of anything closer to an idea on what to bloody do.

Even now, having a job that pretty much suits my passion, the feeling of satisfaction is far from being reached. Let alone knowing why am I even here in the first place.

Thing is, all those lecturers, teachers and parents forgot to tell us about the real world when they told us to dream. And I am not trying to discourage you from achieving anything, I’m sure if you’re determined enough, you can.

desert20cartoon.jpg

But when we fall into a trap of devoting everything we do in life into one purpose, at first, we will (or at least I have) be disappointed by the hollow feeling of achieving virtually nothing, but that job title (or that thing you’ve been wanting to buy, or that girl you’ve been dreaming to date.)

It is quite hard to grasp at what our purpose really in life. Is it pre-determined? is it totally in our control? Do other aspects play parts in it too?

And no, I’m not here to help you answer any of that. Frankly, I’m writing here so that I can ask that question myself.

But being almost 23, what I get so far is that, there is no one purpose. There shouldn’t be. And I’m now quite sure that it can either be very individual and selfish, or very social and unselfish.

As things stand, I have the job of my life, I earn a liveable income and I am as healthy as a randy rabbit. But somehow I am still hollow. And I’m not even worried about being single or anything, I’m not sure that it would make any difference anyway. It’s just that I’ve been very pre-occupied with the process of getting all these things, that when I’ve sort of settled a bit, those things that make me happy (or once I thought to be) has either slipped away or not even there at the first place. And once you see the things around you slows down and settle, then your heart will start to form holes.

Problem is, I’m not quite sure why’s that the case.

Once you make enough mistakes in your life (buying things you don’t need, dating someone you know won’t make the time worth, losing someone who’ll actually make the time worth, going places with somebody you loathe, going places by yourself, going places with the people you love, ladidadida, the list could go on for literally days), you begin to build barriers, that helps you inhibit yourself from doing such thing again. You just sort of refrain yourself from doing the things you once can’t wait to do, because you either know that it will only lead to fake satisfaction, or that you know it won’t worth your time (because you just know it won’t be as good as the last time).

So chances are, you’ll more often end up not doing anything at all. Except of course if you know it will be worth it or at least, give you the same feeling as last time.

Or maybe, you’re just simply too sick and tired of doing those things again now that you feel like you are already an “adult”.

I get into what I do now, by dreaming that I could change the world while having happy moments in life and the things that I want. And as it turns out, it is a very achievable but extremely high order, given my age.

You got pat so often in the back, that you forgot about the fact that the real world is a jungle. And even when you thrive in the jungle, nobody would pat you no more now. And even if you have worked hard to climb the highest trees, there will be others that are more productive, skillful, and successful than you are.

No matter how great of a treehouse you have made there, it’s a jungle nonetheless. Others can easily get in and out of that place and loot whatever the fuck they want.

So I guess the keyword here is “purpose”. And it needs to be progressive. It needs to be tangible. I mean you shouldn’t, by all means, forget who you are. But you shouldn’t be trapped by a drive that’s been expired for years too. By a fuel that has now run out and unsuitable for the current environment.

Evolution, it seems, is there for a purpose after all.

But I’m Not The Only One


“The true role of religion is to remind us the fact that we are parts of humanity and the universe.”

It was not quite a normal morning that I woke up to. Two explosions and shootings was reported just some distance away from where I live. Naturally family calls was the thing that woke me up. Followed by a call by the office, asking me to come earlier.

Yes, the moment I stepped into the newsroom, the panic were apparent. But it was not the sort of panic that’ll make you run away. It was just all eagerness, from hundreds of dedicated newsman, trying to provide as much information that they can find.

Not stopping for even just a second, to rethink about what they’re getting themselves into. All we know is that we need to provide the scared people on the streets some certainty. Some silver linings.

I once heard that people tend to run away from danger. And of course, people will. It’s only natural and instinctual to do that. That being said, here in Indonesia, it was not quite that natural.

We run towards the explosion.

Same thing happened when our correspondent heard a (supposedly) what sounded like an explosion. He, without any hesitation, run towards the source. Funnily enough, it was just a tyre burst.

One thing is for sure, every single of us are trying our best to give the most reliable information, not only to keep people safe by being aware, but also to make people calm.

What amazed me even more, is that every person that I know are desperate to do something (even if they don’t actually have to). Even just by asking whether they should share anything on their social media or not.

And no, I am not going to condemn anybody from doing that, because it is only natural to do so. We need something to channel our need of catharsis after all. And what I want to underline is people’s intention of sharing anything. They genuinely were worried, and even during their worries, they still think about what they’re sharing before actually sharing it. Well, at least, the people that I know. Even more interesting is that after some times, the discussion has shifted from what we should know, into what we should share, into what hashtags to use. People were supposedly worried about the economy or something.

If there are  anything that we can be sure about today, is that we can never be sure. But we can also see that our people are strong. That our government are strong. And instead of pointing fingers, instead of blaming one or another, we stayed calm and leave it all to the authority. Something a bit rare nowadays, when a terror is received as a cue for people to buy guns and bring them to their nearest 7/11. “Because we can never be too safe”.

Well here today, there was no hatred as far as I can see.

People just want to know that their fellow countryman are safe.

Peace then, may seem like a very unachievable word now, and it might as well be. As for there are no peace without chaos.

But one thing is certain, we cannot be scared by anything. A-N-Y-T-H-I-NG.

Because if there are any winner from what happened today, well I think we won that war.

By not caring, by marching on, by ignoring any unreliable claims, by asking questions instead of throwing curses. By giving prayers instead of pursuing vengeance.

I witnessed the incident from the beginning till the end today, and I can tell you not even one people panic. Some people are so calmed, they even bought Satays just some stone throws away from the crime scene.

I honestly don’t know why I write this thing. It is by far my worst writing as far as I can tell. But all I want you to take away from this, is that we have handled this well. And that they will not get whatever it is that they are looking for. Because judging from how we, as a society, acted today, we are formidable.

Here, I just want to applaud every single of you for showing just that today.

For reminding me that we can respond to things instead of just reacting to it. And that us human is not that fragile after all.

As for today, we have shown that we can become light. As for today, we have shown that no matter how dark canthey be, we will never step into their side.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  – MLK Jr.

 

 

Fleeting Moments

Time. Funny thing it is. So bizarrely lively and fluid, while yet at the same time deceitfully quiet. It doesn’t really tell you what’s going on as you go along. It just moves along with you. Observed you, get into every single of your breath, side by side without disturbing the very soul in your heart.

It can be wonderful if you think about it. Because what is time if it’s not a reminder of our limitation. Help towards our expectation. Mirror to the reality.

People tend to think that moments and time can go together. Assumptions that together, they can make some sorts of dancing harmony around each other. Leading one another to something. Something.

But if I’m being honest, it hasn’t been the case so far.

The infinite trait of time, the illusion of having no visible limit, is the deceitful thing about time.

It degrades moments, it lessened importance, it takes away emphasize.

They glaze away what’s real and what’s not with hundreds, if not thousands of presumptuous layers. Yielding what people often call selfishness.

Depressing comfortableness.

Bringing you into being used to living with agony, with over awareness.

Like Meerkat in a lion’s den. Waiting to be preyed.

Do you know what’s worse?

Is that time, can talk.

And they have the tendency to be late. To be fucking too late.

When the moments are already gone. When agony is all that remains.

When what you can remember is twice the feeling of the moments, without ever knowing of any single possibility of having it back.

It just sorts of shy away quietly into the wilderness. And again, walk quietly beside you. Teasing every single breath that you take.

Only to once and a while gives you a tender whisper, reminding you of what you’ve thrown away.

Shit happens they say. Murphy’s law or whatever crap that is.

All I ever care about was that sip of coffee. All I ever care about was that gentle smile behind that mind-bogglingly wonderful talks. All I ever care about was that absurd jokes and laughs.

Home is never close enough after all.

Home might even be farther now and on.

Do you know what’s even worse?

Hope. . . . .

 

 

While Ye May

While Ye May ….

Gather Ye Rosebuds

The thing about producing news is, you never really know what people expect. I mean you sort of know what the moods are from the people on the field. You read people’s thoughts on twitter and so on, but you never really know. It is no exact science, because when numbers don’t lie, it also doesn’t adapt.

Human being is a very fluid being. One morning I can believe that God doesn’t quite exist, only to find out the day after that I desperately need some sort of God figure and decided I should go to church. But that doesn’t quite paint the point I am trying to make.

Anyway, if there is anything more confusing than being a newsman, is being a newsman in this so-called contemporary media culture with its digital age and “modern” new media concept.

I would say that working in the media is harder than being a politician, or even a president because at least you can force your beliefs and negotiates it.

Meanwhile in the media, the fact of the time matters, the opinion of the morons matters, but your opinion doesn’t really interest anybody. Not even your boss’s.

Don’t get me wrong though it doesn’t mean that if you work in the media, you can’t bring something that you believe in into your work. It’s not like that at all. Its just when you work in the media, the thing that you believe in needs to have millions of layers of facts and figures behind it before you can be sure that it is good enough for people to know.

Double standards right?

gather ye

The thing is when we do that to people or politician. When we try to apply some layers of common sense, it goes against the freedom of speech. They are allowed to believe in anything moronic, as long as people vote for them.

They don’t quite need to maintain their integrity, while in the media; integrity is all that we have. And like it or not, anyone who works for a media is highly disposable, especially when anything that they do affect the organisation’s integrity.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it? If politicians and political party have the same kind of policy, what kind of world would we live in?

People often ask me, or rather mock me when I have to work over the weekend, or when I have to work for few weeks without a day off. Or when I tell them how much I got paid, and that with that kind of effort, I can make twice the money if I open my own business or if I work in marketing.

Well, I can’t quite explain why myself.

I have to admit, working in the media especially in news, is not for everybody. Be it for a dotcom, broadcast, or whatever forms it is. For me, being a newsman is a calling, and maybe a privilege.

You see anyone have the right to do what they want with their time. It’s their fucking life after all. And when you know somebody in a tiny dark room somewhere is watching a show that you planned, that you work really hard for, it really is amazing. To know that people can hear your concerns, the thing that you think matters, and to have the slight chance to make a mental agreement with somebody that you don’t even know. For me, all that is really amazing, and it worth the time and effort that I gave.

You see, the way we’re raised is that as an adult, we should make enough money, that we should be able to fund our own family with our own effort. That we should not ask our partner to work as hard as we do. Well, at least my culture told me to do so.

That sort of takes away the privilege that comes with every different occupation. It throws away the value and enjoyment that one could’ve got from a job. All it only becomes is a place where you make money and would like to get away from as often as you can.

Life would then be less colourful wouldn’t it?

I find it really saddening, that what determines success around me is how much people get paid for, or the kind of holiday they can afford, or the type of car they own. But maybe that’s what people want deep inside at the first place?

 

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

Old Time is still a-flying

And this same flower that smiles today.

Tomorrow will be dying.

Constituent of None

 “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” 

The thing about democracy, and why it is such an appetising concept for our social structure is that on paper, it promises a very well balanced form of community. A sense of justice and equality, and a chance to voice concerns and be heard.

The thing is, it is a very “only if” concept, that requires more from its participant than it offers.

Indonesia has undergone their biggest election yet. Or at least, it supposed to be the biggest. 269 Regional governments were supposed to be elected on the same day by the people. In reality, only 264 places went with the election, but that’s incredible enough.

vote-cartoon

A group of almost 240 million people was supposed to choose their own leader for their hometown. Leaders who are supposedly more able to change their fate. Leaders who can actually tailor regulations that favour specific region with its specific challenges.

Yet, during this election, the voters’ turn-up are suspected to be very low. Indonesia is the country that make the world glanced over for a second for their last presidential election. But even at that time, the numbers of voters only reached 69,58 percent, even lower than the election on 2009 with 75%.

I have to confess, I did not vote for the last presidential election. I did, however, vote for the parliamentary election just before that, and when I know for sure who the candidates are, I decided not to vote for the presidential one.

Perhaps, this low numbers shows some sort of constructive vote of no confidence, or perhaps it just shows that democracy is not the right system for Indonesia.

At the very least, we may not be ready.

I regretted not coming to the election booth last year. Partly because I had to work that day, but mostly because I missed my chance to intentionally cast an invalid vote. Because that way I can say to myself that I care about the election enough to come, but the candidates are shit, so I’m going to not make my vote counts.

Thing is, I was still immature last year, and even now. I’m pretty sure in few years, I will kick myself for not voting one or the other.

The problem, from my point of view and experience, is that I did not know how the system works. All I heard was this candidate is this way and that candidate is that way. I have no understanding of the governmental system, I have no understanding of the multi-party system, I have no understanding of the coalition goal, and I have no understanding of the consequences for not voting.

All I know was that if enough people do not vote, the election could be cancelled until we have a good enough candidate.

It is this lack of understanding and immature emotion that drove me into not voting. And I am quite proud of myself at that time. It’s not like I’m a dummy dumb dumb who doesn’t have any adequate education or live far far away in Bekasi. Yet, I still have that problem.

All it shows is that an election in a democratic system requires a community that are aware of its own system, ability and inability. It requires a certain level of knowledge and a certain amount of information, Information and mentality that are shaped not instantly but over a certain period of time in a certain contextual situation (let’s call it school or something).

The Indonesian Election Commission blame the problem on lack of socialisation, but living in 2015, that is just either a bullshit or a stupid call. I mean with all buzz on the news, the Internet and your office giving you a day off and all, people will at least think that something important is going on right?

Democracy is a privilege, not just a system, and we should protect it somehow. and we can only do that by caring about it even if it’s just a little bit. Because if we only desire democracy as only a system to live with, then it will only exist as a camouflage for corruption and oligopoly.

Double Standards

It’s been a week, believe it or not, since the Paris attack. 129 died then, and thankfully the number holds as the city is recovering from the terror and possible PTSDs. I originally wrote something about the attack on the day that it happened. But I cannot, for the life of me, write anything that I thought matter for me to share with you all. It just stroked me how much life has gone in vain that day.

It is such a big journalistic moment for any kind of news organisation, that I sort of distract myself from making any judgement and tried to just concentrate on the news as the story develops.

I won’t dwell much about the event itself because there is nothing to say there really. It was a horrible thing; I can’t even start to imagine the sorts of thoughts that went into the attackers’ mind. It was just unthinkable for anyone to ever proclaimed themselves as human to ever even think about doing that.

double standards

Instead, I want to dwell more about how we react to the event itself. As I always have.

The first thing I did apart from tunning on to the news at that time was to check my Facebook page and see how much of a damage the event has done towards my timeline.

I didn’t mean that in a bad way, but nowadays, the way the society around you reacts to this sort of tragedy, for me, defines the very nature of your own self-identity. And sure enough, the attention has shifted from the death of human beings into the use of France’s flag on one’s profile picture.

I myself change mine. I couldn’t care less honestly. It’s just a way to show that I care. It’s like putting on a poppy. It does nothing really. It is just a show of respect. Do it, not do it, it’s entirely anyone’s decision.

But of course, we have to make a big deal out of it and compared this event with such death in Syria and other crisis. Saying that we take one more seriously than the other.

But I moved on from that thought relatively quickly, because first, it is honestly just a rubbish thought. But more importantly, I was intrigued by the way our society sort of sees itself as putting emphasize on one’s death more than the other.

Because like it or not, if this attacks had happened somewhere else, which actually happened in Beirut the day before, people won’t care as much.

As that debate went off on one side of the Internet, I started to wonder whether news organisation has put us as a society in some kind of polarised judgement, with double standards. Making us care more about one thing rather than the other.

As someone who meddles with international news every day as a job, and is responsible for choosing international news for a news program, I find myself in a really curious state.

I myself have always put forward these sorts of reporting. Be it in an Afghan city, African city, or anywhere in the world, if there are bomb attacks and dozens of people died, I will always try to squeeze them in into my rundown.

Sadly at the same time, I will find myself being reminded by my superior that I should choose sexier news. That after a prime time discussion people just wants to end the program with happy thoughts. That the news of the death is just going to send the viewers away. That news about the TPP deal has nothing to do with our audiences no matter how important it is because it bores them.

This really brought me into a dilemma, when my ideology meets the reality of my job.

Have we, as a society, been so vanilla, that we can only care about something that we know? Even if the death of a person at one place is still going to be called the death of a person at the other place?

Are we as a society responsible for the ongoing conflict in Syria or Israel because we frankly didn’t care enough? Because we pay more attention to something else? Because we are too sick and tired of dead people on the news?

Well evidently not really, because when Paris happened, we care a lot. And don’t be all angely and start saying to me that you also care about the Japanese earthquake or the Beirut bombing. Because frankly, if Paris wasn’t attacked, you wouldn’t even open the news section of the news. You’ll just jump right in into the sports section, or the entertainment section. Or even worse, you just sort of rely on that friend of yours that loves reading, and wait for him to share his favourite article of the day to appear on your timeline.

I asked my sister just before I write this piece earlier, whether she knows about what happened in Mali.

And she it’s not like she is the average person that lives an average live with an average education. She has a master degree from the best university in Australia. She didn’t even know where Mali is.

Yet when I asked her about what happened to Charlie Sheen. She immediately said AIDS. Well, technically it’s HIV, but at least she knows.

This is exactly the point that I am making. That us as a society pretend like we care about every single thing that happened to humanity. Yet, we need the death of Aylan Kurdi to care enough about the refugee crisis and we need the death of 129 people to realise the imminent threat of ISIS.

Yet, here I am, reporting the death of dozens of people every single day in the middle east, and in the Mediterranean sea (which happened because of the same reason by the way) and nobody bats an eye.

I’m sorry, but I have to give you a problem without a solution here. But I cannot for the love of me see what makes this the way it is. I refuse to blame either the news agency or the society. It just doesn’t work somehow along the way.

I could only begin to imagine what would happen to the Israel, or Syrian conflict if we care about it as much as we care about Paris. But, I guess that’s still way ahead of us.

 

Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.Walter Cronkite