This week started with the onset of Chinese New Year, with the Year of the Snake having now begun. Never been much keen on the snake. Perhaps it is my Genesis upbringing and the memory of the serpent’s temptation at the biblical dawn of our race. Or the memory of stories of villagers in the district of Parsa in Nepal, of their loved ones dying beneath a tree from venomous snake bite, and the acceptance that emergency treatment is too far away for a life to be saved…
On the Eve of Chinese New Year, we enjoyed great Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, at the house of C.K. Lee (see my Facebook page for homely photographs of the event). They tasted a bit like Nepalese momos, accept that the chutney, achar sauce had quite a different taste. Our hosts explained that they would eat plate fulls of these until midnight. Somewhat incongruously, even though I knew our friends to be Christians, Lee presented me with a biblical treatise to read as we said our goodbyes, a book that examined the genealogies in the book of Genesis and calculated precisely when Adam was born and lived. He explained that he had been given the book by his local pastor and was very effusive in recommending it to me, to read and to keep. I took the book thankfully, wondering if I would ever read it. I have dipped into it since, but have to conclude that I now often find such ‘theological fundamental’ works difficult to read for their unflinching acceptance that all that is written in the Bible is (historical) truth.
Then mid-week we celebrated the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, at my local Catholic Church, and an uplifting homily from our enthusiastic priest from Melaka, who was upbeat about the joys of chastity, fasting, alms giving and other penances for this period of 40 days. I still can’t quite get used to his rousing sermons that are punctuated with emphatic Amens, to which we are bound to reply Amen too. I often don’t feel I can respond as I am called to do with a genuine heart, and feel a pang of guilt at my weak faith and my lack of evangelistic and Christian fervour. As a child I was quite attentive to giving up something for Lent; and my son has resolved to abstain from chocolate this year. Good for him. Perhaps I am achieving something as a Catholic parent after all! I intend to ‘give up’ alcohol for this 40 days, and will do my best to be more disciplined about chocolate and coffee intake – not quite saying that I will definitely give them up. I lack faith in my own capacity for such self-discipline these days!
And then it was Valentine ’s Day. A card and a present for my beloved wife, who is really not that bothered, but a ritual which I cling to not least for our children, and especially for my son, who will one day operate in a global and probably a more western culture, and will have a girlfriend or two to please. I feel he must learn something of this modern culture so that he can at least ‘know the right thing to do’ if called upon. I also like my wife to know that I am still a romantic at heart, even if she is not, and even if I am nearing fifty and she is not!