Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Favourite Christmas songs for the year

I have been hearing these two christmas songs playing alot in restaurants and department stores. They are Britney Spear's Santa can you hear me, and Dana's It's Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas. They do give a nice christmasty feeling.

Some of my all-time favourite christmas songs are Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is you and Wham's Last Christmas. I hear them playing on the radio where on car rides and there is a sort of nostalgic sentiment whenever I hear them.

I have grown to like Japanese pop as well since encountering it. Here are Christmas songs from two of my favourite J-pop music groups, Winter Story by Buono, and aitai lonely christmas by C-ute.

I started learning the piano during my time in the national service. One song which I fell in love with when I heard it being played by student at SAJC is Ryuichi Sakamoto's Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. It was the first piece I learned to play when learning the piano. Perhaps I should do a rendition of it and post it up here someday.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas

I woke up late today and did not attend Christmas church service. It is certainly my fault to not set my alarm yesterday evening on my handphone before going to sleep. I do feel guilty missing church service on Christmas.

And so, I spent the morning watching television. The programme that was being played on television was an episode of Christmas special of the Simpson. As how that sitcom usually goes, it is a mic-mash of bizarre and funny story lines. Bart Simpson took a personal trip on the polar express to the north pole, armed with a shot gun, to threaten Santa to give him his desired Dirt Bike for his Christmas Present. Santa, played by Krusty the Clown, was in his seemingly dilapidated office. He told Bart about the hard times that his company has fallen into because the gratuitous giving of free presents for Christmas is simply 'not a sustainable business model', to the extent that he even had to cook his reindeers for his meal. The scene momentarily shifted to show Krusty's Santa looking behind to a set of stoves stewing on heat, and lifting up on a ladle what looks like the bright red nose of Rudolf the Reindeer.

After Bart had left the office, Krust's Santa cynically laughed at the naivety of children in believing his words. He pressed a button in his office, which mechanically redecors the office into a modern posh disco ball, with women dressed up in skimpily-cladded christmas wear coming into the office to dance with him and provide him alcohol. The camera angle zooms out of the room to reveal a corporate building with a running stock market ticker showing the stocks and shares in green surplus. It is an obvious dig at the nefarious corporate culture of America of unscrupulous managers and company directors underchanging their shareholders.

I will be having Christmas lunch with my parents, and then packing my bags for the Varsity Christian Fellowship Camp in Malaysia tomorrow. Till then, have a Jolly good Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Interesting observations from my trip to Hong Kong and Korea

I just came back from my oversease trip yesterday. I shall write about some of the interesting observations I made of both countries.

Hong Kong

I lived in the relatively sub-urban area of Po Lam during my stay in Hong Kong. My father had rented apartment which he stayed in during the past 2 years in which he worked at Hong Kong as a project manager for HSBC bank. I had advised him to come back to Singapore, and given the change in circumstances in the working environment in Hong Kong, he has since decided to come back to Singapore.

- Food is cheaper than in Singapore. I like the generous portions at restaurants. I loved going to a restaurant named Sakana no Aji which served great Japanese food at affordable prices. I just can't find such restaurants in Singapore.
- Hong Kong people are not very friendly or forthcoming in their personalities. They are generally rather serious people.
- An ageing population like Singapore. It is hard to find children or young people anywhere you go. Yum Cha restaurants are filled with old people slowly passing the time reading the newspapers and dining on yum cha cuisines.
- Japanese magazines in shops. I am not sure whether the Hong Kong people speak Japanese, but there seem to be an avid following of Japanese culture into Hong Kong society.
- Hong Kong has a much more developed system of cashless payment than Singapore. Its Octopus card, which is the equivalent of the EZ link card in Singapore, can be used to pay for items from shops in shopping centres.
- Free wifi on the bus which is convenient for a person like me who read
- Most Hong Kong people know only cantonese, and only a handful know a second language like chinese or english. I would try talking to them in chinese first, and then in english, and if all else fail, to point to pictures and labels on the menu.
- Sleazy pornographic magazines are on display at magazine stores which is quite an unusual sight for a Singaporean like me since the sale of pornographic materials are banned in Singapore. The convenience stores like 7-eleven have such magazines quite noticeably displayed at the back of their magazine section. I witnessed a middle-age man in the subway train reading such a magazine and smiling depravely to himself and at passerbys. Quite creepy.
- The Hong Kong people are always dressed up in winter wear even though weather is not that cold, and they don't remove their winter wear when they are in the shopping centres or in public transport where it is relatively warm. Perhaps they like to keep fashionable even at the expense of sweltering under those winter wear.
- Streets are not very well-lit at night. Traffic on roads are heavy and noisy, street sizes are rather small.


I lived in the Western Coop hotel at the DongDaeMun area during my stay in Korea.
-  Steamboat and grill restaurants at every corner kimchi and an array of side dishes at every restaurant. I just love the tasty oil-glazed seaweeds. There are quite novel steam funneling apparatus installed at restaurants at each table to channel away the steam from the cooking.
- Coffee culture with many different coffee chain brands. Most joints have a stock of coffee options such as lattes, mochiattoes, and cappuccinos
- Koreans are friendly and gregarious people. The sales personnels are most forthcoming in their advertising of their products. The locals are quite animated and passionate in their talking to one another.
- Celebrity culture pervades their public space. There are pictures of korean celebrities at every public corner, from subways to shopping centres, and for a range of products, from cosmetics to shoes and bags shops
- The human aesthetic industry is a major one in Korea. Advertisements showing the miraculous effects of plastic surgery with before-and-after photos are strewn in subway advertisment boards. Local cosmetic shops like skin food can be seen on many shopping streets, stocked with the quaintest forms of cosmetic products such as snail cream which is promoted to be anti-ageing.
- There are many Chinese working there as shop assistant. My dad says that they are actually ethnically koreans from the Heilongjiang district of China. The korean government allows them to obtain a work permit to work in the country because they make good workforce personalities with their proficiency in both the korean and chinese languages. For more information on the korean diaspora in china, see here.
- Gas masks cabinets in the subway. I suppose they pick their lesson from the infamous sarin gas attack on japanese subway in tokyo.
- There is quite an extensive and elaborate underground system, and well-furnished shopping centres in these underground areas.
- Korean society is quite affluent. I saw a plasma television placed in a glass case just outside a toilet area showing a music video featuring girls generation. I suppose they have so many television that they can afford to place them anywhere they like.
- Yet, there remain beggars in korean society. These beggars would postrate themselves with their face to the ground, and their palms outstretched. They presented themselves in the most pitiful state possible.
- There are quite cool technology in the public sphere which I have not seen in Singapore before- I saw this transparent glass pane in the  subway station which I can see through it the appliance being advertised. Yet, detailed moving animation forms on the transparent glass pane and play like a video.
- Korean society remains relatively untouched from the forces of globalisation. Korean society has managed to avoid influx of foreign products. Almost everything is local produced, from food, to technology. They have managed to imitate the business of global brands. Macdonalds food is quite effectively imitated as a local brand as LottsBurger, owned by the Korean corporate giant, Lotte. Starbucks coffee are imitated quite well with a local branding called Ediya Coffee which bears a logo quite resemblant to the logo of starbucks.
- Christianity has a popular following. There are residential areas where scores of churches sprout up around the neighbourhood.
- Terrible spitting culture. It is not just the older generation that is spitting about in the street. I saw a young lady, primp and proper, spitting onto the street pavement as well.
- And I made the pilgrimage to Gangnam as a fan of the viral video. It is quite a pleasant shopping area cum business district. Didn't see anyone doing the Gangnam dance there though.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Removal of Asperger's Syndrome from the Psyhciatrists' diagnostic manual; Asperger Syndrome just a label?

Asperger's Syndrome has recently been removed as a clinical diagnosis from the american psychiatrist diagnostic manual (read about it here). Psychologist think Asperger is simply a degree on the autism spectrum and should not be differentiated with a separate label as such. I suppose the Singaporean psychologist community would follow suit and similarly scrape Asperger's Syndrome from their diagnostic manuals.

However, i disagree with the removal of aspergers syndrome from the diagnostic manual. I think that there is a qualitative difference between aspergers syndrome and a plain cold case of autism. In autism, the symptoms manifest itself quite exhibitedly with a general inability to connect with the world and manifest itself with symptoms such as the total inability to communicate, whereas asperger syndrome features symptoms where the individual is cognitively functionable, and able to interact with the external environment, and socially, albeit in an awkward manner.

It would be difficult, in my opinion, for people in the public to recognise this qualitative difference in experiences and the necessary remedies if Asperger Syndrome was treated as simply being on the autism spectrum. I am not sure whether the underlying cause behind Asperger's Syndrome is similar for that of autism. From my reading online, it seems that the medical community has yet to truly identify the cause of autism. It could be due to genetics which affects the neurological development of the individual, or it could be from environmental causes, such as teratogenic agents such as the mercury containing compound called thiomersal formerly used in childhood vaccinations. However, i believe that it might be the case that the underlying cause behind Asperger's Syndrome may be different from autism such that people with Asperger's Syndrome remain functionable cognitively and relatively functionable socially, and it would not be good to assume that Asperger's Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder.

But it is difficult I suppose to define a character type even with the label Asperger's Syndrome. I may possess certain traits of Asperger's Syndrome but not others. For example, i have trouble knowing what to say in group conversation and feel disoriented in social situations, however, i don't think i possess an obsessive interest in any discipline, or exhibit stimming movements, or am socially oblivious (at least I think so). In my opinion, alot of personality archetypes which may be interpreted as simply introversion now falls under this label of Autism/Asperger's Syndrome - eg: The quiet shy girl, the nerdish boy, the emo gothic teenager, the absent-minded professor, the mystical hermit, the reclusive hikkikomori, the detached philosopher, the computer geek etc. It seems to me like it may very well be the case that these are simply manifestation of a certain personality types rather than a disorder or psychological condition of some sort.

Perhaps, the spectrum is not one of autism, but a general introversion-extroversion spectrum, with Asperger being the extreme end of introversion, whilst histrionic personality disorder being the extreme end of extroversion such as to be seen as a disorder. The question is simply one of degree.

So to end off this post, I shall present two videos of these two Aspie vloggers. The first girl is all for undiagnosing herself as having Asperger's Syndrome, whilst the second girl thinks that there is a genuine quality to the condition of Asperger's Syndrome such as to warrant its diagnosis

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tension headache relief from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

My Dad brought me to see a Sinseh(Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor) in the afternoon for my tension headache and nervous tics. There is this Chinese traditional medicine clinic in Serangoon. I told the Sinseh of the tension headache and nervous tics that I have been experiencing. He pressed various nervepoints on my neck, and I could feel a sensation that twitches the muscles in my head. The sinseh says that the headache is brought about by blocked nerves which blocks off the flow of nourishment to the head, causing the symptoms.

The treatment seems to be very effective. Right now, I can feel the tension headache almost completely gone. I am actually very happy about the relief from the treatment for my tension headache which had plagued me daily for 6 months since June.

So it seems like there was something illusory about the feeling of pressure on the brain feeling. In the sense, it really does feel like there is a pressure on the brain, although the MRI scan I had revealed nothing wrong with my brain. And contemporary mainstream medicine is just not able to do anything to treat or relieve the tension headache at all. I was prescribed a host of painkillers, from paracetamol, to naproxen, to tramadol, which were all ineffective, and then I was referred to the psychologist. The psychologist carried out a guided meditation exercise during the consultation and dismissed the symptoms as psychological due to stress. And it just doesn't relieve my tension headache.

I have to say that there is an efficacy to chinese medicine that I think could be better studied and complemented into mainstream medicine. The studies of nerve points and meridian pathways could be incorporated as a discipline in contemporary mainstream medicine for the treatment of tension headaches. Or Chinese traditional medicine could be integrated into our national healthcare system such that patients seeking treatment can be readily referred or recommended to see a Chinese Sinseh if they do not respond to mainstream medicine.

I have the impression that doctors in mainstream medicine do not take an esteemed view of chinese medicine. However, I have seen from my personal experience of the efficacy of traditional chinese medicine to treat illnesses that modern contemporary mainstream medicine is unable to.

I have come away from my experience a believer of traditional chinese medicine as a viable alternative to mainstream medicine. I am not sure about the efficacy of other alternative medicine. Perhaps I might give Indian Ayurvedic a try to test its efficacy some day.

I hope and pray that the tension headache stays away. I still experience bad nervous tics which I hope I would manage to get rid off by having enough time to destress and relax during the holidays. But it is a joy to find a great measure of relief from my chronic tension headache from my trip to the Sinseh today.

The Sinseh also gave some nice words of wisdom. He said don't study too hard. Or at least, don't study until you go crazy. He said he had seen a patient who came back from overseas with psychological disorder from studying, and couldn't work at all after that. I think he is quite right. As the Aesop fable goes, don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reasonable Faith 1 - How do I know Christianity is true?

I began reading on Reasonable Faith, an apologetics book written by William Lane Craig which I borrowed from a law school varsity christian fellowship senior.

The first chapter of William Lane Craig's book brought to my awareness the dispute within the theological world of the role of apologetics to Christian faith and belief. On page 29, William Lane Craig presents the issue of the relationship of apologetics towards belief in Christianity - "Does a case for Christianity proceed from a leap of faith or on the authority of the Word of God, both unrelated to reason? Or is an evidential foundation for faith necessary, without which faith would be unjustified and irrational?"

This tussle amongst the different school of thoughts plays out in the history of the church with various Christian intellectuals holding one view or another.  On one end of the spectrum, there are those who are strict authoritatrian; that is to say, they hold that the ground for faith is sheer unquestionable, divine authority. This authority might be expressed in either the Scriptures or in the church. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are the rationalist with the likes of John Locke who are thinkers borne out from the period of the Enlightenment, who maintain that religious belief must have an evidential foundation and that where such a foundation is absent, religious belief is unwarranted. Then there are those on the middle ground who attempt to provide a rational foundation for authority via historical apologetics (See Thomas Aquinas).

One of the more interesting contemporary views mentioned in the book at page 39 is that of Alvin Platinga. Platinga maintains that belief in God and in the central doctrines of Christianity is both rational and warranted wholly apart from any evidential foundations for belief. He questions why can't the proposition "God exists" be a foundational proposition, such that no evidence is necessary to substantiate it. I have excerpted the nature of his argument as presented in the book at page 40 below.

"Platinga does not deny that self-evident and incorrigible propositions are properly basic, but he does ask how we know that these are the only properly basic propositions or beliefs. If they are, then we are all irrational, since we commonly accept numerous beliefs that are not based on evidence and that are neither self-evident nor incorrigible. For example, take the belief that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in memory traces...The evidentialitst's criteria for proper basicality must be flawed. In fact, what about the status of those criterias? Is the proposition "Only propositions that are self-evident or incorrigible are properly basic" itself properly basic? Apparently not, for it is certainly not self-evident or incorrigible. Therefore, if we are to believe this proposition, we must have evidence that it is true. But there is no such evidence. The proposition appears to be just an arbitrary definition - and not a very plausible one at that! Hence, the evidentialist cannot exclude the possibility that belief in God is a properly basic belief."

And Platinga also maintains, following John Calvin, that belief in God is properly basic. Man has an innate natural capacity to accept truths of perception (like "I see a tree"). Given the appropriate circumstances - such as moments of guilt, gratitude, or a sense of God's handiwork in nature - man naturally appreheneds God's existence.

Personally, I am convicted of the belief that God exists because I see such intelligence of design in the way human beings have their respective predisposition to their various vocations, which requires a certain finesse of allocation by nature to the development of diversity of human talents and potentials, and through this diversity does society functions appropriately.  So we see for example, that in society, there are those who are inclined towards the sciences, some towards the arts, some towards music, some towards athleticism, some towards manual labour, some towards learning and the academia, etc. Society functions adequately with the collectives of this diversity in human talents and potentials. This perception also gives me a sense of place and belonging in the world, that I have a purpose in my existence in contributing to society or to humanity in the way that I am created. I suppose this is what Platinga would qualify as a properly basic belief that is not self-evident that is from the innate natural capacity in man for the perception of truths. I have no doubts that communists would lambast my perception for entrenching the notion of classed-society, existentialists in the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre would deride my notion of human beings having vocation-characterized natures a case of bad faith, and evolutionists would explain away the apparent diversity of human potentials via natural selection (Do tell me if you know where I can find an account of evolutionary theory for this).

I suppose a good theory for the role of epistemology in Christian apologetics allows for a pragmatic functioning of society because not all people in society would have the time or capabilities to determine the truth of Christianity. The above-mentioned theory by Platinga allows for such pragmatism in allowing the common man to accord rationality to his belief without having to become a specialist in Christian apologetics. I don't disagree that a rationalist viewpoint of Christian apologetics would be very difficult on the common man because not all human beings can commit to such an endeavour. However, I see societal structure as providing the framework for which the rationalism filters down in society. It is this concept of the professional class which is obliged to fulfill the rationalist task of evaluating the veracity of religion by evidence, and then presenting their conclusion to the rest of society. Belief by people in society in religion is thence rational as it is backed indirectly by evidence. Such belief is qualified by the weight of authoritaty from expert's conclusion. Inasmuch as we trust the professional opinions of doctors, lawyers, and experts in their various fields, so is it that we trust a professional class devoted to determining the truth of religion based on evidence.

An aside, there seems to be a following of William Lane Craig in the Varsity Christian Fellowship. A law school VCF senior borrows much of his curriculum from William Lane Craig materials in running his Seeker Cell meetings for non-christians interested to know more about the truth of christianity. When I was having dinner with some fellow VCF seniors one day, I heard them talking about the video featuring the debate between William Lane Craig and the late Christopher Hitchens, one of the prominent figures of the New Atheism movement. They were impressed with the delivery that William Lane Craig gave at the debate and his crushing defeat of Christopher Hitchens. In fact, they thought he would have made an excellent law school mooter.

We managed to get 2 converts from the Seeker Cell ministry. The Seeker cell leader commented at a VCF sub-com meeting about how he sees the role of apologetics in VCF ministry from the outcome. We later learnt that the 2 converts were the lovers of 2 of the cell group leaders in the vcf. I jokingly told the seeker cell leader that "While I don't discount the efficacy of apologetics, you certainly can't deny the forces of attraction in evangelism!"

Love is in the air. Within the cell group I am leading, Jireh, there is this 2 year ones, a boy and a girl, who are the more regular year 1 attenders of cell group meetings. The girl seems a little clingly to the boy, but the boy seems kind of oblivious. It's romance in the making, and I shall be hush about it and be in observance of the development of affairs. Now, what can I do as cell group leader to help things along? You thinking what I am thinking? Let's make them the next cell group leaders of Jireh!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Travel Plans; Law School examination; Wisdom teeth extraction; An examination of miracle healing

I just finished my law school examinations a few days ago, so it's going to be a month of school holiday. I will be travelling to Korea and Hong Kong for the holidays. It's going to be my second time to Korea and fourth time to Hong Kong. I did like my time in both countries in my previous vacations over there.

I don't think I did well for the examination, and I would be contented just to pass it. It has been a struggle for me in law school. For this semester, I had been suffering from what seems like a tension headache which makes it difficult for me to concentrate and learn. I don't know why my mind seems to shut off when reading law school materials, and it would not be practicable if I were to painstakingly examine the text sentence by sentence, or word by word, like how I did in the previous semester, in order to elucidate the materials. I find it hard to understand the lectures, take notes, do the tutorials, make my notes, prepare a presentation, and practice on the past year exam papers. I also seem to be having a very bad memory. I either seem to have lost touch with studying after about a 3 years break from schooling, or there is something profoundly different about law school which I am finding it difficult to adjust to. But I think I am getting a hang of it, and I am beginning to understand what law is about and how it works to facilitate society. I do find law interesting, and I wish my mind was more percipient to understanding law school materials and knowing how to go about doing well for law school examinations.

I had my 2 lower wisdom teeth extracted yesterday so my mouth is really sore and feel uncomfortable now. I look like a chipmunk with the swollen lower jaw (Or a Mitt Romney). It is kind of ugly. This was the first time that I have gone for a surgery under general anesthesia. Being sedated is kind of an interesting experience. As I was being administered general anasthesia, the last I could remember before going unconscious was the doctor telling me that i would be going unconscious within a minute as he administered a anesthesia. I was trying identify the point in which I would doze off, but I couldn't pinpoint how I became unconscious. And it seemed like the moment I came to was just as momentary as how I lost consciousness. It's just that my lower mouth felt sore. On the dental tray in front of me was a small container containing my wisdom teeth, broken up into many pieces during the extraction process. I didn't even feel that I was being operated upon during the entire period of unconsciousness. I couldn't believe I slept through so soundly throughout the operation. Tongue-in-cheek word of advice to lawyers or lawyers-to-be - Do not ever find yourself placed on an operation table of a surgeon whom you had represented a client in bringing a successful medical negligence suit against.
I have been thinking of attending a miracle healing session to seek healing for my hearing problems and tension headaches. I mean, I should give it a try before resorting to medical means like wearing a hearing aid right? I know, I have a rather pragmatic philosophy towards finding a solution for curing my illnesses, in the sense, I view miracle healing in my schemata of decision making as a try-and-see course of action before taking any radical medical action. If it works, well and good and praise the Lord. If it does not, that's not something to be too disappointed over, and I would proceed on to medical recourse or try to tolerate and accomodate my lifestyle to my illness if nothing can be done.

I am trying to find out more about how a Christian should be thinking about miracle healings. There are really conflicting sentiments that I have towards miracle healings. On the one hand, Christianity is a supernatural religion which acknowledges the presence of supernatural powers, one of which is miracle healing. On the other hand, there is a relative lack of observable supernatural phenomenas in the contemporary age, and I am not sure to what extent signs and wonders such as miracle healings take place in the current day and age. I also am afraid of being perceived or laughed at as being superstitious in resorting to the supernatural, but I must pause and reflect about the rationality of such fear. Christianity is afterall a supernatural religion, and the bible features things like raising of dead and virgin birth.

I once attended a miracle healing event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium about 3 years ago. The miracle healer was a man named Reinhard Bonnke, a Charismatic Christian evangelist known for his evangelism and missionary work in Africa. Posters featuring the miracle healing event was featured in MRT trains advertisement section prior to the event. I thought that this was my opportunity for to see some live miracles that I always hear about. My brother was keen too. He had seen videos of paralyzed individuals walking after a miracle healing session, lifting up their crutches, and shaking the crutches in the air in jubilation after having received their miracle healing. I asked my church discipleship groups whether they were going to the event, and they were keen on it.

I was fairly skeptical, yet hopeful when I went to the miracle healing event to see real cases and testimony of people being healed. There was first the song and worship portion, and Reinhard Bonnke talked about his experience in the ministry. And then there was the miracle healing segment, where Reinhard Bonnke begin to speak in a fervour to ask for God's presence and healing to come upon the congregation, and there was laying of hands, praying, and speaking in tongues, and an elevation of the mood of the gospel music played in the stadium that works up a good vibe of miracle healing in procession. After that, Reinhard Bonnke invited members who have received miracle healing to come up to share their testimony. There were quite some people who came up to give their testimony, such as a woman who said she has been cured of her sinus, or a man who said his shoulder stiffness went away. I was cynical of the apparent triviality of the miracle healing that were being testified about, and I thought that the congregation was deluded if it had not seen the ostensible cases of people who did not receive their miracle healing that was at the event.  I saw a paraplegic woman on a wheelchair, who at the supposed "high point" of the miracle healing session, was struggling to stand up and walk, her body convulsing in her effort to do so. She tried again and again, each time without success. And then when the miracle healing segment was over, she was back onto her wheelchair. I was praying to God constantly throughout the time of miracle healing that I would see that woman healed, and I wept when I saw her trying so hard to stand up and walk. I was disappointed when I saw that the healing did not happen for her because I felt she had so much faith in God to cure her of her paralysis and deserved to have been cured. I was commenting to my discipleship group mentor about the sheer inanity of the miracle healing session after the event.

Reflecting now about my attitude towards the testimony of miracle healings then, I think my cynicism about the miracle healing is misplaced. I shouldn't be discounting the healings that were testified to as being trivial. It probably meant quite something to those who obtained relief from their illness. I am sure that if I am healed of tinnitus and hearing impairments, and of tension headaches in a miracle healing session, and I were to go up to the front to give my testimony, some people would similarly discount my report of being healed as trivial. But from my own point of view, this would certainly be a meaningful miracle to me. I guess the reason for the skepticism about the nature of such miracle healing is due to the inapparent nature of the healing, such that one cannot verify whether there was any act of miracle healing at all, or that it was simply a placebo effect which had no actual remdying effect. Indeed, an accusation that is levied by conservative Christians and atheists against purported miracle effects in these charismatic miracle healing events is that there are no verified cases of people with ostensible medical defects or illnesses, such as amputees, having received healing for their conditions, which would have removed any ambiguity of the healing having its origin from divine power. But what is not apparent does not mean it was not substantial. Indeed, if I were healed of my hearing impairments and tension headaches, it would feel very substantial to me even if it cannot be verified by anyone else.

I am quite a conservative in my Christian outlook, and am predisposed towards being apprehensive towards charismatic beliefs and practices like prosperity gospel, glossolalia, and claims of divine truth via revelation.  I was pretty vexed by some criticisms about the church from a discipleship group friend who told me that the church we are in is lacking in spirituality or faith because it does not have revelation and prophecies amongst the congregation, the pastors don't conduct miracle healings, and people don't speak in tongues. I thought it necessary to educate my discipleship group peers about these things by reading up on it and telling my discipleship group mates in a discipleship group discussion about the correct biblical doctrine with regards to signs and wonders in the current times.

I read Charismatic Chaos by John F MacArthur in preparing my discipleship group discussion session, which is not exactly a neutral manner to examine charismatic theology as the author presents a rather critical stance from a conservative perspective. In disputing the charismatic's theology of divine revelation in the present age, MacArthur asserts that God works through a historical process to establish the authenticity of the canon so that the whole church might have a clear standard. If we now throw out that historical standard and redefine inspiration and revelation, we undermine our own ability to receive God's truth. Regarding miracles, MacArthur distinguishes between acts of providence and miracles. Acts of providence reveal God's working in our daily lives and often come as answer to prayers, but they are not the kind of supernatural signs and wonders Scripture classifies as miracles. MacArthur asserts that although God continues to operate on a supernatural level today, he does not believe that God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles in the same way he used Moses, Elijah, or Jesus. MacArthur rationalized that the purpose of miracles is to substantiate God's revelation of the Old and New testament, and that since that is finished, the age of miracles is passed. I thought MacArthur put it quite sensibly when he substantiates his point by saying that God wants people to come to him in repentence for sin, and for his glory, not because they see him as a panacea for their physical and temporal ills.

My discipleship group discussion degenerated into a debate between me and my former discipleship group mentor who was formerly a member from a mega charismatic church in Singapore, before he came to my church. He disputed that the purpose of miracles was simply to validate the revelation of the testaments, and that there was a restriction of the gift of miracle healing to the apostles.

I suppose if there was any effect from my discipleship group discussion, it surfaced an perennial theological controversy that has caused a schism in the protestant denomination of Christianity. I realized that MacArthur's arguments were all inferential in nature, and therefore easily subject to disputation. I realized how this entire field was steep in theological controversies when I read up more about it later on. There is one camp, known as the cessationist, who believe that miraculous gifts and powers ended after a certain era of church history, and then there are the continuationist who believe that miraculous gifts and powers continue to the present day.

I take on a more moderate and pragmatic stance with regards to miracle healings these days. I think the cessationist-continuationist debate is moot for me. I don't discount that miracle healings take place in this day and age. I have been watching youtube films of such stuff, and reading up on the internet of purported verifiable miraculous signs and wonders that have taken place and were witnessed by many people, even though I think that it is rare and special, and one should not be too disappointed if he sees himself not healed in a miracle healing session. It is my belief that God works through human means, such as through doctors, to provide healing and relief.

I have come across the websites of some Singaporean churches providing miracle healings. One such church is Lighthouse Evangelism, which is ministered by the controversial pastor Ronny Tan who had previously gotten himself into trouble under the Internal Security Act for uploading a video on his church website featuring him making a remark about Buddhism and Taoism being religions from the devil in response to testimonies by members of the congregation who were former-buddhists. I have taken a look at the church's website. It has a page featuring testimonies from attenders of the service about how they have been healed from their respective infirmities. There is even a mother who shared her testimony about how her son's mild autism symptoms have improved. I think I shall give their miracle healing session a try.

What is the correct attitude towards the possiblity of miracle healings? I suppose I keep my expectations low. In part, I don't want to be disappointed if I don't see miracle healings happening. I want to have an explanation so that I can hold firm to my faith in God. I think that some of my fellow Christians would charge me for having doubts which is why I don't receive what I pray for, and it vexes me that there seems to be something correct in their opinion of things. Indeed, I have trouble about this concept of 'belief' that is necessary for the receiving of healing because it doesn't make sense to me that divine miracles should predicate on belief. Rather, I believe that it should simply be God's will that something should happen or not.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Write-in to Straits Times Forum : Need to ensure safe noise levels at concerts and for issuance of earplugs to protect hearing health of concert-goers

My letter to straits times forum to petition the relevant authorities to take measures to ensure safety of concert noise level to concert goers:

I sustained tinnitus and auditory processing disorder after attending a Sundown Festival concert in 2010. These illnesses have severely afflicted the quality of my life, such that I am afflicted by a constant ringing sound in my ear, and I find it hard to function in social situations because  of the difficulty in making out conversation sounds from background sounds in the environment. There is no cure or aid for these conditions. Hearing aids do not provide any relief.  It is the purpose of my letter to raise awareness of these conditions that may come about from loud noise exposure in loud concert, and to implore the relevant authorities to take action to ensure safety of concert-goers.

I attended the Sundown Festival Concert about 2 years ago. I was 20 years old then, and it was the first concert I was attending in my life after receiving complimentary tickets. There were about a few hundred people at the concert, and the holding area for the concert-goers was situated right in front of the stage. I was standing around 10m – 20m from the stage.

The music was being played at an extremely loud level on the audio system, such that one could feel a reverberation through one’s ears and body at the concert.

I came home that day with a ringing sound in my ear that perpetuated through the night and found it hard to sleep. I thought that the ringing sound would eventually subside, but until today, I still do experience ringing sounds in my ear in relatively quiet environment when I had not experienced so before the concert. This condition has robbed me of some of the pleasures of solitude and quietude in life. 

In addition to Tinnitus, I also suffer from a hearing impairment that makes it difficult for me to make out the meaning of conversation when there are background noises. Speech sounds appear muffled whenever there are normal background environmental sounds. This condition is known as auditory processing disorder in the medical community and it can be induced by loud-noise exposure. A less well-known name ascribed to this condition is “cocktail party syndrome” in reference to the difficulty that the person suffering from the condition has in functioning in a social situation such as a cocktail party because of his difficulty in making out speech sounds from background noise. Hearing aids do not help to resolve this problem as it only amplifies sound to the wearer and do not help the wearer to distinguish conversation sounds from background noise. I have developed a phobia somewhat of social situations in my life because of this difficulty which does not have a cure or any aid.  

It is my heartfelt imploration that the relevant authorities take step to ensure safety of concert volumes at concert to concert-goers, and to necessitate concert organizers to give out earplugs to concert-goers in loud concert so as to allow concert-goers to protect their hearing health. Concert goers are not knowledgeable about the risk that loud sounds from concerts may have on their hearing. Personally, it was my first time to the concert, and I had no warning whatsoever of this personal suffering that I have been facing ever since. I have come across health advice showing the maximum safe duration of exposure to the different levels of noise exposure by decibel(dB). The sound levels of rock/pop concert can range along the level of 130dB – 140dB, and the recommended maximum time exposure to such sounds is listed as being less than 1 seconds. It seems incongruous to these public health findings that there are no policies regulating safe limits for concert volumes. I have read that in Europe, earplugs are dispensed to concert-goers for loud concerts. I believe we should have regulations in place necessitating such protective measures to concert goers in Singapore here as well.

I have read of accounts of individuals who sank into depression from tinnitus, and some who have even been so tormented by the ringing sound that they committed suicide. There are probably many other fellow Singaporeans like me who have incurred tinnitus, hearing loss, or other forms of hearing impairments from going to one of such concert, and who have to live out the rest of their lives with these hearing difficulties. I would like to raise awareness of these unspoken sufferings in society, and implore for measures to be set in place to protect the well-being of concert-goers.

[Afterthought - Reads too much like a personal sob story. I would need to make it more like a public awareness raising message.]

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