Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friendship and Memories - an Afterthought.

One's character can always be seen by the type of friends he mixes with. It is in fact a reflection who he is, what he aspires to be and where he has desired to head for.

In short, it is a direct, symbolic and personified entity of his life.

Thus we would always consciously or unconsciously delve into the comfortable zone of deducing or even judging what kind of person is one from the types of friends he stays close with.

From the types of friendship he forges, or relationships in the context of a wider and more complex setting, we would be able to catch a glimpse of how this person comes to view, weigh or even value friends. It is in fact the heart of this person that we are attempting to read.

In the world of frienships, my mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of SGI, has this to say:-

"You cannot judge the quality of another's friendship by superficial appearances, especially when things are going smoothly. It is only when we have experienced the worst, most crushing of times—when we have plumbed the depths of life—that we can experience the joys of genuine friendship. Only a man of principle, a woman of resolve—a person who stays true to their chosen path—can be a trusted and true friend, and have real friends in turn."

While many would request others to be truthful and genuine to them, my mentor single-mindedly pointed out that the truest core of a human friendship lies in the inner resolve one has built and constructed, a towering citadel of hope and strength, that rightfully attracts the same degree of calibre of like-minded people. It is certainly from one's inner depth of life that wells forth the determination and courage so needed in facing any crisis in life that these exact elements are the ones that call forth others of the same soul and nature to come together, lending support and illuminating each other's path toward the uphill battle of victory and happiness.

This, in the eyes of my mentor, would be a true, genuine friend who would not retreat even in the face of a deadliest test. It is a relationship that transcends life and death.

I have met one long-time friend James Ng KY earlier today. He has put on a little weight, and is now a father of a beautiful girl. As of all meetings of long-lost or -time friends, I have always felt that there seems a presence of a mystical pair of hands taking two parties to come together. It is never by coincidence or of meaningless event that two persons, having made friends with each other and departed to their own paths later on, come and meet after a long period of disconnectedness.

James is of the same age as me. However he has gone through and encountered some obstacles in his earlier part of his life. The major test of his faith and life came when he was the captain of the Singapore Navy ship 'RSS Courageous'. On the fateful night of 3rd January 2003, he together with a co-captain, were on board the ship when it collided with a 52,000-tonne Dutch container ship ANL Indonesia. Not only was the Navy ship totally wrecked but three navy officers were killed instantly as a result of the collision, with another body never found.

James was thereafter wrought of guilt and pain. He could not avoid the unspoken verdict of him being the cause of his four fellow subordinates, while at the same time he would not wish to relent to the mounting pressure from all sides to have him placed on the stand for an explanation of what had exactly happen. It was a fearful tug-of-war between the official responsibilities and moral obligations he has held closely to his heart, as a captain as well as a good friend, colleague and supervisor to the officers.

Along that unforgettable path, he has been at times unforgiving, and other times uncompromising, both to himself and others. It was truly a hard-fought battle to pull through, for him and his family, with every ounce of his strength and resources utilised to have the case concluded, and finally leaving everything behind. A bitterest winter storm is over, and the warm light and fresh cooling air of Spring has finally arrived.

In our short conversation we have talked a little of everything about ourselves, but just not this matter. It is a deliberate attempt on my part to not bring up a matter so tragic and unfortunate to him, whom I have lost contact for a long period of time. Our conversation, regardless of the duration, should certainly be allocated for a more joyous and meaningful talk. It is, after all, a happy occasion to meet a long-lost friend.

No one knows how a seed would struggle to survive and whether it blossoms in the end; likewise no one in this world can tell how a friendship would come to evolve, and where it will ultimately lead the two persons to. In this aspect, as many would often remark, "only time can tell," we shall let it pen down every single episode of our living and pulsating friendships we have come to plant and nurture. At the end of the day, when one looks back to all that he has sowed and harvested in his life, the rewards are certainly the unseen yet tangible 'fruits of life' that he can savour on. It is certainly a life filled with splendid flavours and unforgettable memories.

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