Reflections from a funeral

Reflections from a funeral

My grandma passed away recently. She was 96. She was a matriarch of 5 generations, and it was significant enough that a Chinese evening tabloid covered it. I have no significant memories of my grandma; I attended the funeral as a matter of custom and tradition, and for my mum. But that was it. Along the way I realized the reality of such things as tradition and custom. While often deemed as irrational or ‘backward’, in the face of the mystery of death, these traditions and customs have a powerful effect on worldviews. In this sense, the funeral I participated in was not so much an emotional one, but a chance to participate in the worldviews of others, and along the way, to gain other insights. There are other findings and realizations, some more urgent than others. This was an all-Chinese funeral. I saw people born in the my parents generation, those born in the 50s and 60s. I begin to realise that traditions and customs are a powerful force in their right; in that educated PMETs would even willingly conform to such worldviews. Perhaps they lived in a different Singapore, where opportunities were structured much differently than they are today. These are the people for whom education was optional, where individual intuition mattered more. As we live today, the magnitude of these changes are difficult to comprehend, but it is the recognition of these chasms that require attending to for any would-be strategist intending to change any trajectories. The people in the 18-35 age group have to attend to that worldviews chasm as they (we) live in a Singapore that will be dominated demographically by the people born in the different setting a generation ago. I realise that the family played a far greater role than today; whereas today I inhabit a friend-based networks, my parents inhabit a world where economic relations and kinship ties frequently overlapped. I am distant from my kin-contemporaries in a way that my parents would have thought anathema regarding theirs. There is also another aspect to these observations, and this pertains to the cultural aspect. I am realizing the importance of cultural and aesthetic diversity. Why should music of various Asian traditions (and I acknowledge the difficulty of such labels) be any less valued than music of european traditions? Or for that matter, why should aesthetic education be deemed less valuable than scientific knowledge? This is not being anti-science, but the recognition that the task of meaning-making takes many forms, of which scientific knowledge is but one. I’ve only recognized the implications of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED, and so the potential of those ideas for a more enriching experience for our lives remin unfulfilled. A Malay wedding is being held across the road in the void deck of another flat – a reflection of the intersections that exist in our society. These intersections need to be attended to as well, as we proceed towards an uncertain future.

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