WHAT can explain some people’s bond with things which are old, their love for the grey soul who still sings? How they go on and on about the virtues of that which once was, that which is now changed?
I, at a relatively young age, may be one of these people, which goes to show that not only your Pa and Ma, and Grandpa and Grandma, speak in that manner.
For I like to consider a lot, and speak quite freely, about that which is old, that which has a storied past and a serene present. And, perhaps, a future long and bright.
Who are these old ones? Well, my church, Kajang Assembly of God, celebrated its jubilee yesterday. Our nation is 57 years old this year. My mother turns 79 in six months. My alma mater, Kajang High, is 95. NST is 169 years old. And the nearby forest which I dearly love goes back even deeper in the wells of time.
It seems most of the earthly things closest to my heart, my companion being the exception, are, in human terms, well advanced in years. Yes, they are but an infinitesimal dot in the galactic clock, but they are a part of me, being like muscle is to bone, blood to life. I am, then, deeply rooted in the past.
A preacher, well into his 50s but still incredibly nifty with words, says this of people who are fond of speaking of the past: “The past cannot change, and so is a source of certainty and comfort for many. But the future is always terrifying, surprises and changes lurk around every corner.”
And, he continues, “you will hear people tell of how things were better in the ‘old days’. How so and so was a saint when he was in charge”. (This translates into, “the person in charge today is the devil”.)
The preacher stops there. But I shall continue on his behalf and tell you of what some others speak from their hearts quite often.
“Years ago we gave our all to the country. Young people nowadays take all they can from the country.”
Quite excruciatingly common is this jab: “People could speak and write excellent English those days.” Um.
“The teachers in the 1960s and 1970s were wholly committed to their profession.”
“The newspaper writers then were much better.” I like this best.
Solomon, in deep wisdom, cautioned against such exclamations: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.”
Why so? Well, a revealing interpretation of the monarch’s words, found in a voluminous text from Tyndale House Publishers, says: “The ‘good old days’ are easy to talk about, but they may never have existed. Sometimes, we remember only the good things about the past, forgetting that those days also had problems.”
Ah yes, that’s something useful for writers to keep in mind before the commanded hand shifts the pen. And for speakers to weigh on their tongues before meaningless words slip out into the air.
What then, shall the careful historian, social commentator and people like you and I say about Malaysia’s past 57 years, about the ‘black’ and the ‘white’ and the ‘grey’ in between?
What shall I say about NST, about my church?
The answer lies in an ocean of memories which sit unstirred in a cavernous chamber, which shall come alive with swells and storms and sweetness, only when we choose to be honest with ourselves.
On the occasions when I make such a choice, words such as these may wash ashore from pure and crystalline ‘waters’, and glitter in the birth of the morning sun:
Dear Malaysia, Kajang Assembly and Mummy,
And to Kajang High, NST and trees on the valley’s lip,
You have ‘wounded’ me, you have reshaped me,
I shall not forget you till I sleep the unending sleep.
Really, there are no good old days. And this the heart that sings to the grey soul knows very well. email@example.com DAVID CHRISTY - NST Columnist 7 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:05 AM