Rejections based on refusals to review

I was just browsing, and came across this piece in the Write Back section of Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment from 2015 (13:241). An excerpt:

…the shortage of available reviewers has started to push journal editors toward dangerous waters. For example, one possible response to this shortage is… if a large number of reviewers refuse to review a given manuscript beyond what is expected by chance, then that manuscript is of low quality and should not be reviewed.

Followed by an example:

Recently, an editor of a prestigious ecological journal declined to publish a manuscript because 15 potential reviewers in a row had refused to review it. The editor’s argument relied on the fact that for every 10 potential reviewers invited to review a manuscript submitted to this journal, seven typically decline; at the stated 7/10 or 0.7 refusal probability, the probability of consecutive refusal by 15 reviewers is 0.5% (where [0.7]15 = 0.005 or 0.5%). The editor then argued that this probability of refusal was much lower than would occur by chance, which the editor defined as any probability that was less than 5% (or, nine refusals in a row, where [0.7]9 = 0.04 or 4%).

No citation was given for the example, so it might have been a personal experience of the author. One problem in using such a heuristic to reject articles is: why 5%? Or why 0.5%, or any other number? And the author also later argues that refusal to review is dependent on so many factors not related to manuscript quality, and also, reviewer decline rates are temporally variable. Are you going to adjust the cut-off rate according to seasonal patterns in reviewer availability? Are you going to base this year’s cut-off on last year’s reviewer decline rates? Or last x years? Or on a rate projected for this year?

In all, a poor criteria to rely on, however tempting it may be. But interesting to read someone write about it.


Bridging the engagement gap

A relatively old paper, but makes for good and easy reading: Gibbons et al. (2008; Ecological Management & Restoration 9: 182). A figure lists the different motivations of researchers and policy-makers when it comes to collaborating on projects, lightly adapted below.

Researchers are motivated when the projects:

  1. generate information that they can publish
  2. generate resources for longer-term research, e.g., postgrad scholarships or newer funding
  3. have spin-offs for their teaching or training of graduate students
  4. raise their profile in the media
  5. have demonstrable impacts on public policy, e.g., they are formally acknowledged in a policy document
  6. seek objective knowledge rather than support for an existing position

On the other side, policy-makers are motivate by projects that:

  1. are relevant for a contemporary issue
  2. are acceptable to the current government
  3. identify practical solutions
  4. can be used to identify policy options
  5. is demonstrated to work
  6. does not attract controversy
  7. are effectively and succinctly communicable

It ties in with my own experience working on several government-funded projects.

If government agencies want to motivate researchers, they must allow (or even encourage) them to publish and present the work. This also means that the vetting process for publishing and publicising the work, while understandably necessary, cannot be overly onerous. Also, I have found it disappointing when agencies appear to have used our outputs or recommendations without giving credit or acknowledgement. Finally, yes, we are rather wary when it seems like the agency already has a desired outcome in mind, which usually portends conflict as results may just as easily turn out opposite from what is expected.

At the same time, it is clear that the research must address a particular applied problem of interest to policy-makers and/or management. We also often heard the desire for outcomes to be “immediately operational”. Complex solutions, or those that are not popular or politically palatable, usually end up being ignored. And from reading the article, I realize one reason why agencies often reacted negatively to our recommendations: they like to be presented with options going forward, and not be just told what to do, or worse, that they were wrong in something.

I guess we have to work harder, from both ends. Some more excerpts:

Hamel and Prahalad (1989) noted that many scientists appear to operate under a ‘strategy of hope’, that is, simply hoping that their work will engage management professionals but doing nothing to further that goal… Roux et al. (2006) noted that researchers can be guilty of providing a ‘solution’ with the expectation that it will be embraced and then ‘move on to another project bemoaning the fact that their work was not put into practice.’

How true.

Tea on the lake

are like the waves on the lake
bobbing your little mind-boat up and down






The Cross-Island Line debacle (to be updated)

It took some time, but I’m beginning the follow what may become a fiasco in nature conservation for Singapore: the proposal to build a train line, albeit underground, through a nature reserve.

The alignment for this Cross-Island Line first quietly appeared in the Land Transport Master Plan released to the media on 17 January 2013. When I saw it I was alarmed, but I was also busy with finishing up my thesis-writing at that time.

It appeared again later in the Land Use White Paper, which had tightly followed the other debacle, the Population White Paper. There were many other issues with the Concept Plan in the Land Use White Paper, sufficient for another day.

A letter to Today Voices (“A transportation plan that crosses the line” by Ms Vinita Ramani Mohan, 20 May 2013) put it this way:

I continue to read with dismay the ongoing plans to develop the Cross Island Line, which will cause habitat damage in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

We withdraw from the crowds in urban areas and visibly relax in an environment that alleviates stress.

There is also a strong spiritual and cultural value attached to these places. I see Singaporeans meditating, doing tai chi and stilling their minds in the forest reserves. I see families teaching their children about nature.

The Cross Island Line is worrying because it sends the message that we need not care about stewardship and responsibility.

It would be a pity to see them irreparably damaged by transportation developments.

In a word, destroyed by Singaporeans who have a responsibility to protect their land.

The Nature Society (Singapore) is steadily stepping up its pressure for a realignment of the line. Natalie Kuan of the Straits Times reports (“Route of MRT Line a concern: Nature Society”, 25 May 2013):

The Nature Society… noted that the present design has the train tracks passing through the nature reserve to connect Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio. This will cause habitat fragmentation and soil erosion, leading to significant environmental damage, it said.

The society’s official spokesman on this issue, Mr Tony O’Dempsey, said: “Nature reserves are gazetted for the purpose of conserving native flora and fauna.

“We should not even be thinking of putting infrastructure through our nature reserves.”

I thought that was pretty well-said.

Although the LTA says that it “fully intends to commission an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to study the environmental impact of the Cross-Island Line… before engineering investigative works into the central catchment nature reserve begin”,

…Mr O’Dempsey, who holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Surveying) and has worked in the GIS industry in Singapore for 19 years, feels it is too late to conduct an environmental impact assessment if soil investigation is to begin by this year.

He estimates that a credible EIA would take almost a year to complete. “It is never too late to start but if you start now, there won’t be any possibility of doing soil investigation along the alignment this year,” he said.

Then again, I see the usual conflict of interest here: since LTA is proposing the Line, it should not be the one commissioning the EIA. The NParks, at least, is from another Ministry, although under the same one as the URA which is probably fully supportive of the Line, given that it is the agency that put out the Land Use White Paper. But at least the NParks has the institutional mission to protect the reserves.

At this point, it seems rather curious that the alignment was drawn before an EIA was conducted, rather than the other way around. Talking about doing an EIA now seems rather… insincere, if you were to ask me. In addition, why was there no mention of consulting with NParks on this? Isn’t it obvious that your colleagues whose turf you are digging under would be the first you would seek out for an opinion?

Interestingly, a protest by another environmental NGO has been planned from 22 to 23 June 2013, together with guided walks through MacRitchie Reservoir. Protests in Singapore seem to be getting really common?

Two other Forum writers to the Straits Times weighed in on 29 May 2013 regarding the way an EIA seems like an afterthought. The first appearing in print (“Rethink route of Cross-Island MRT Line” by Chia Yong Soon):

Even if the rail system runs underground, much construction work will have to be done on the surface, such as providing access to transportation and building site offices.

Large tracts of forest would have to be cleared. This means erosion, pollution, noise and a whole host of other ill effects.

One wonders how an Environmental Impact Assessment can have anything positive to say about such a venture.

That such a proposal came to pass throws into question the claims by the Government of its commitment to protect the environment. It seems that even a gazetted nature reserve is no longer protected.

There should not be soft or easy options, and certainly not explanations such as “this is the most direct and shortest route across”.

And the other on the Online edition (“LTA must be proactive in engaging stakeholders” by Eugene Tay Tse Chuan):

Nature reserves are sensitive habitats and gazetted areas, and the LTA should have anticipated the concerns of stakeholders before unveiling its plans in January.

There were apparently no proactive attempts to engage or consult stakeholders before the announcement.

Concerned stakeholders have waited patiently for four months to engage LTA to understand its plans for the Environmental Impact Assessment and feasibility studies. How much longer do they have to wait?

The LTA should come forward with a concrete date for the stakeholder engagement.

Now is the time for it to be proactive and sincere in engaging the Nature Society and interested individuals and groups. The future of our nature reserves is at stake.

With the heat on, LTA’s Media Relations and Education Director Helena Lim responds, first to the Today letter (“LTA will minimise environmental impact”, 30 May) and then the other to the Straits Times Forum writers (“Protecting nature reserves a key consideration”, 31 May), that “the detailed alignment of the Cross Island Line (CRL) has not been decided”.

This is a non sequitur. I can’t see how coarse the current alignment is that it can be refined not to touch any part of the reserves.

Both responses are so similar:

As part of the [EIA/assessment], the consultant is required to develop guidelines to guide the Engineering Investigative Works, [which] will be carried out in compliance with these guidelines.

…We share the environmentalists’ concern on any possible impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and assure that sufficient time will be accorded to address these concerns.

Protecting the nature reserves will be an integral consideration for the project and all efforts would be taken to minimise impact to the environment.

In particular, we would like to assure the public that some of the [concerns/scenarios] that have been [expressed/raised], such as the need or intention to clear large tracts of forest in the nature reserves, or the possibility of there being major construction works within the nature reserves, are not contemplated. We ask for some patience as we continue to make preparations for the consultation and the EIA.

I find it unfortunate to label those concerned as “the environmentalists”. I also noticed the qualification of “major construction works” (emphasis mine). As mentioned earlier, since this is called a nature reserve, there should be NO construction work of any kind, other than that assessed as for long-term conservation benefits.

I wonder if total track rerouting around the reserves would be considered as one of the options to “minimize impact”?

Have the journalists quietly thrown their hat into the ring? A special Sunday Times Life! feature (“Green Gems” by Lea Wee, 2 June 2013) writes rather poetically:

…the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is home to ancient forest trees, crystal-clear freshwater streams and cooling freshwater swamp forests.”

Nice. But newbies taking a bash through our rainforests might be in a for a disappointment, though. Most of the time, you’re probably too busy sweating (cooling?) and swiping away bugs than looking at ancient trees and crystal-clear streams.

The richest and largest remaining pockets of lowland dipterocarp forest in Singapore, and possibly the surrounding Riau island region, are found at MacRitchie.

Now that’s interesting. It’s not surprising given that the Johor-Riau area has undergone massive development, so this may be one of the last remaining spots for this floristic subregion. Put that way, our MacRitchie forests suddenly have broader conservation significance than to just Singaporeans! Another interesting morsel of information is that a small remnant patch of Shorea curtisii of the coastal hill dipterocarp formation in the area may be a relic from the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago. (I think Shawn must have been the one who supplied these tasty tidbits.)

Just a tiny bit of error in this good article:

The two subspecies which are found only in Singapore are the cream-coloured giant squirrel and the banded leaf monkey.

The opinion that our banded leaf monkey is an endemic subspecies is outdated. Observations by Huifang and team that the generally-white newborns have a cruciform set of black stripes running from the head down the spine to the tail and across the shoulders and outer forearms suggest that it’s the same subspecies as the one in Johor.

On 18 July, the Nature Society released its formal Position Paper on this issue (covered by Neo Chai Chin of Today, “Nature Society proposes alternative route for the Cross-Island Line“, and Grace Chua of the ST, “Nature Society suggests different route for Cross Island MRT line“). The headlines say it all. The proposed alternative is supposed to be up to 2 km longer, or the equivalent of four minutes’ train time. From the Today article:

This would present an opportunity to serve residents near Adam Road and visitors to the MacRitchie Reservoir Park, it said. “We believe four minutes is not too much to ask for conserving probably the most pristine part of our nature reserve,” said Mr Tony O’Dempsey, an NSS council member and the society’s spokesperson on this issue.

My personal opinion is that the recent Circle Line already offers a way around the reserve. The Caldecott station, for example, is not too far from MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Perhaps to eliminate redundancy, the Cross Island Line should be two disjunct lines, perhaps names CRL1 and CRL2 in the same spirit as Downtown Lines 1 and 2. Changing stations, however, would add to travel time, and the extra load on that segment of the Circle Line may not be within expectations. However, I fear stations that are situated right at the edge of the nature reserve would exacerbate opportunity cost problems in the future… As described in the Today article’s quote from the Position Paper:

…the non-governmental organisation said nature reserves “should not be treated as vacant State Land available to be used for the convenience of transport infrastructure or other purposes”.

While we’re all hoping that LTA will simply give up on even the thought of carrying out potentially damaging “engineering investigative works”, they’re not:

…responding to TODAY’s queries, an LTA spokesperson assured that “the alignment of the Cross Island Line has not been decided, and that no decision will be made until after an Environmental Impact Assessment has been conducted”.

Any decision made will seek to safeguard Singapore’s nature reserves “even as we seek to meet the infrastructure development needs of Singaporeans”, she added.

Not Endangered: CITES or IUCN?

In an article on Channel NewsAsia (“RWS forecasts 17 million visitors for 2013”, by Dylan Loh, 7th December 2012), the Chairman of Genting Group and Resorts World Sentosa, Mr Lim Kok Thay, said in response to the recent dolphin controversy:

“These are really not endangered species, so it is really no different from, if you want to put it, the panda bears…”

In another article on the same day in TodayOnline (“Bottlenose dophins ‘not endangered’: Genting Group chairman”, by Neo Chai Chin), he was quoted:

“I cannot emphasize enough that the dolphins we are talking about are definitely not on the endangered list,” he said, citing how some have perceived otherwise.

This confusion over what is endangered and what is not arises from someone either having a lazy mind and tongue, or making the common, tiresome mistake of using listing on the Appendices of CITES instead of the the IUCN Red List assessments.

CITES stands for “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora”, but just because there is the word “endangered” in the acronym does not make it an authority for deciding if a species is endangered. CITES is essentially an agreement on trade restriction. There are three lists or “Appendices” in CITES. Appendix I means no import/export unless under really exceptional circumstances. Appendix II means trade must be tightly controlled. Appendix III means a country has asked for assistance in regulating the trade of that species. Whether a species is listed on which of its Appendices depends on bargaining between government representatives, which are swayed by conservation NGOs and lobbyists employed by corporations. Listed species may or may not be threatened/endangered.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species is the correct look-up source for conservation status at the global level. There are various categories, including “Data Deficient” which means there is not enough data but does not mean that the species is not threatened (but usually data deficient = little known = rare = very few left!!), and “Least Concern” which explicitly means not endangered. Of course, a species can be not yet assessed, which like Data Deficient means no one should make any proclamations whether it is or is not threatened. Species are assessed and given a status based on a working group of experts, usually biologists familiar with the populations or ranges of that group of species.

I was wondering which is the case that applies here (I certainly don’t want to be the one with a lazy mind or tongue!), since a while back, a Kirk Leech wrote in the Straits Times (“Sharks fins: one man’s delicacy, another’s poison pill”, 3 February 2011) that only three out of over 400 shark species are regulated by CITES, implying that the endangerment situation of sharks is being grossly exaggerated. A Jennifer Lee wrote back to the Straits Times Forum (“Who says sharks are not endangered?”, 8 February 2011), correcting him that the IUCN status should be used, and

…17 per cent of the world’s 1,044 shark species are threatened with extinction, and 47 per cent of shark species are data deficient.”

So let’s check: are “bottlenose dophins” endangered? There appears to be two species: the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dophin (Tursiops aduncus) and the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), but I have no idea which is the one that Resorts World Sentosa is importing.

According to the IUCN Red List, the status of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is Data Deficient. The status of the common bottlenose dolphin is Least Concern. Assuming that RWS is importing the latter, then Lim is correct in saying that his dolphins are not endangered. Both are listed on Appendix II of CITES, which means RWS had to deal with the proper paperwork to get their dolphins through the customs.

Let’s check too: are pandas endangered?

According to the IUCN Red List, the status of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is Endangered. (Incidentally, it is listed on CITES Appendix I, but China seems to be able to lend it out and back on its own will. Anyway the species is only found in China.)


They’ve done it again

No, I’m not talking about the Worker’s Party.

When I was in my Honours Year, I came across a poster outside the Science Library, which led me to a Christian website that misrepresented some parts of Buddhist doctrine. I have no doubt that it was put up by someone from an organisation on campus.

Just now, a photograph floated up on facebook showing some smiling Theravadin monks and a small girl with hands clasped in anjali. The words were (emphasis mine):

Thailand. The land of the free. The constitutional monarchy is a very well-loved and respected King. The country of smiles.

But did you know? Thailand is a place of little true joy. Buddhism is so much a part of the Thai national identity and permeates into every level of society and culture that only about one hundred Thais accept Christ each year in the country of over 68 million people.

Do you share the burden of being the one small change agent, bringing gospel to the Thais, one at a time?

With its many temples and monks, it is hard to ignore the fact that Buddhism is Thailand’s national religion. With only 1.6% Christians, most Thai students see Christianity only as a foreign religion. The land of smiles needs to hear the gospel message. Come and share with Khonkaen university students that Jesus is the Way, the True [sic], and the Life!

Go. Change. World.

Visit that website, and you will find that it is run by the Campus Crusade for Christ, which has a chapter in NUS.

The style and spirit seemed inspired by the beautifully illustrated but roundly condemned coffee table book, Peoples of the Buddhist World.

Thailand is not the only place they are training people for:


Though most Japanese students profess to be Shintoists or Buddhists, they do not show much interest in religion. Yet, by the power of God, previous Gen12ii teams have had the privilege of seeing converts go on to disciple others and become life-long laborers for the Lord. Will you avail yourself to bring the good news to the Japanese where many have never even heard about Jesus?

[“East Asia”. I suppose this means China.]

As a country that has witnessed one of the fastest growing Christian population, this is an exciting ministry to be a part of! However the spiritual need in this country remains huge. Along with the growth in wealth, East Asia is witnessing increased materialism and moral decline. There is a great need for us to bring the life-changing message of Jesus to them. Will you step out in faith to partner Him to change nations?

[Turkey. Note that instead of writing “Muslim”, they abbreviate it as “M”. Why the stealthy reference? Afraid of search engines?]

In a country where much of the population is M, much prayer and work is needed in this place. As our first team to be sent to this place, you will be reaching an unreached people group. This is a pioneer work where you will get to help start movement on their campuses! Come & be a part of this team and trust God for greater things!

[New Zealand.]

You may remember New Zealand as the filming location for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but do you know that the country has become increasingly secular in recent years? Today, almost 40% of New Zealanders claim to have no religion at all. A new venture for GEN 12ii, go to New Zealand and share the Good News with university students!

[North-East Thailand.]

With its many temples and monks, it is hard to ignore the fact that Buddhism is Thailand’s national religion. With only 1.6% Christians, most Thai students see Christianity only as a foreign religion. The land of smiles needs to hear the gospel message! Come and share with Khonkaen university students that Jesus is the Way, the True and the Life!


The Incredible India, the second most populous country in the world, its cultural history spans more than 4,500 years. India is notable for its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism among the nation’s major religions. Take this chance to help pioneer campus movements at Bihar, which have been previously attempted yet failed for 3 times.

I jumped up, borrowed a camera, and rushed down to the lecture theatre where it was stated to be found, but I could see no signs of it. Only a group of ?students on a bench outside. I could catch fragments of what they said, and they were most probably discussing the issue.

While I must say that since becoming Buddhist, I have mellowed in my opinions and reactions to such things. Still, I had at least some blood boiling to deal with. That is my defilement, and I acknowledge that I need to deal with it.

But meanwhile.

The photo is making the rounds on facebook. Following the case study of Rony Tan, let me guess what’s going to happen:

1. Someone is going to send it to TOC, TRE, ST, or it gets picked up somewhere and the authorities cannot ignore it any longer. Some political leader will speak out.

2. The people responsible will apologize to the Thais and Thai Buddhists, and note that the poster has been taken down at the first opportunity. They say they regret the words, which were poorly chosen, and say they have the highest respect for Buddhism and Thailand, or words to that effect. Maybe they will also beseech everyone not to share the photo.

3. SBF or the elder Sangha will accept the apology, and urge all Buddhists to move on.

4. Everything is then assumed to be well and dandy, and the bad feelings are swept under the carpet.

5. NUS OSA and authorities clamp down on religious and racial student societies. They will use a very big, indiscriminate clamp, meaning that the ones that have never made trouble and on the contrary have always showed great respect for others, such as Catholic Students’ Society, Muslim Society, and of course Buddhist Society, will see greater controls exerted on them. As it is, my juniors have complained to me that they are finding more and more restrictions and demands placed upon them by the administration. One particular conversation was recalled to me: an officer asked the committee if our speakers, who are monks and nuns, can come in ordinary clothes and not robes. So robes are deemed to be religiously sensitive or offensive? At the same time, student societies are experiencing a change in the incentives to join extra-curricular activities.

6. At the next fellowship meeting, those who are unhappy with the noise made about this issue will discuss how it is to be expected that they are being persecuted for carrying out their Good Work, and that such obstacles are a test of their faith.

What is a test of faith? When your loved ones suffer immensely from sickness and misfortune, and you are wringing your hands about how to help them – that is a test of faith. When someone insults you, bullies you, betrays you, trespasses upon you, and you feel that hate rising uncontrollably – that is a test of faith. When emptiness strikes, and life seems meaningless – that is a test of faith. But when you trespass, you impose, you ignore the good that others are doing, and then society and law lays a heavy hand on you, is that a test of faith?

So, will a sorry be enough? I spent the 1.5 hour journey back home thinking about this. It’s very difficult. On one hand, there is no point in an apology if it does not reflect a true change of heart. Saying your regrets and expressing your respect is pure hypocrisy if it just means that you are biding your time for the hue and cry to die down again.

So, should they then remain completely blatant about it? To refuse to repent, to refuse to recant, to stand tall and say, I have not changed my mind about you? But, this was what happened above, and here we are feeling offended about it.

But when they speak their minds, at least everyone knows that this is the truth about how they feel, and what they believe in. Maybe only then can members of society judge collectively. We will have to choose: should people with such beliefs give in and toe an acceptable line on proselytization? Or should the rest of us accept that we should open ourselves up to this, and it is all fair game? Communities have their own way of weeding out behaviour unacceptable to them. As members of this community, our role is to voice out what we feel, and not keep things under wraps.

Unfortunately, one complication is that these are precisely the kind of people that refuse to come to inter-religious forums to talk. Because they find it no point acknowledging the other religions by conversing with them, perhaps?

On this note, I think the people that most deserve an apology are the Thais. Those that are insensitive while misrepresenting the complexities of Thailand should be scrutinized for their views before being allowed in.


The photograph has also been taken down from facebook, along with all the shares (300 at last count) and comments that people had.

One of the comments that disappeared was by a Buddhist friend who noted that these people are pushing the boundaries to see how far they can get away.

*Update 2*

I saw the photo on facebook at 8pm, and by then it was stated that it was posted 3 hours ago. Which means it first appeared around 5pm yesterday. By 12 MN, not only has the photo been removed from facebook, the website that the poster pointed to has also been disabled. This tell us much about these people’s resources.

This also brings up an alternative to the “bowing away” scenario I outlined above, called the “slinking away” scenario. Because the primary sources of controversy has been removed, there is little reason for authorities to blow up the matter further. The mainstream media will probably profit much more from hounding Yaw Shin Leong. Yes, people have saved and re-posted the photo, yes, hardware zone forum moderators have no reason to take down the discussions on it, and yes, maybe it will make it to TOC. But they can now say that they have done all they can to remove the offensiveness. Heck, they probably won’t even need to say sorry about it.

Unfortunately, we all have less of a chance now to learn from the whole matter.

*Update 3*

NUS Provost has issued a circular saying that CCC has apologised.

Have we, however, made any progress along this issue?

a. Was the CCC apologising purely for losing control of what was intended for internal circulation?

b. If the CCC is apologising for offensiveness of the material, why was it endorsed in the first place? Whether internal or external, circulation meant that you approved the message.

c. Does the apology mean that those who created and approve the material have reflected and changed their minds about Thais and Buddhism?

I hope those that were present at the meeting where the apology was issued had asked these questions. If not, nothing has changed.

The Master’s Ego

On the material path
If the Student massages the Ego of the Master
The Student will do well.

On the spiritual path
If the Student massages the Ego of the Master
The Master will do well.
(Not so sure about the Student.)

You’re wrong, George Lam!

Toil and Labour

Push, pull

the only part of the world we have real control of
is our


of it all.


What’s my bit of unhappiness and adversity
compared to the tones of suffering in the world?

I should stop

I wish he was really a Zen Master…

He trashes my ego from his relative position of power.

He regards me with scorn, disdain, contempt, to hide himself from his own inadequacies.

He intentionally refuses to acknowledge my strengths, my abilities, my existence.

It would be a stretch for me to regard him as a Bodhisattva right now.

But thanks to him I have learnt:

How it would have paid for me not to have returned foolishness with foolishness.

How my instant reactions to personal injustices are usually foolish.

How difficult it is to bite back and hold in all those impulsions.

And before one day
I can stop being
so needy
for affirmation
and handle it all with grace,

I bitch and rant
to friends and family,
and learn a fourth lesson:

Thank goodness for them!

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