Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Delving beyond

This was written by Patrick Lee, a friend of mine:

    One of the greatest things about being a writer is that you get to find out how things are beneath the surface. How people are beneath the veneers that they present to the world around them. People aren't objects, but it is easy to label and condemn them as such; as insensitive beings devoid of mercy and compassion, dreams and hopes, feelings and wants. People are who they are because of various things: their upbringing, life and circumstance. When someone does something, there is always a reason for it. Nothing is truly random, except to those that don't understand or care. For behind every strange story, oddity or speck of so-called randomness is a story, and behind that an idea, and behind that a thought. It is up to us that write to collect these ideas and thoughts and stories and present them in a way that would answer whatever questions we have, and raise more hidden questions that need be asked. If we do not do this, if we do not dive beneath the surface and find the whys or whats or hows that lie within our deepest, darkest reaches, we do more than a disservice to ourselves, but we also condemn each other to wallow in a false contentment and an enforced helplessness. Ask, listen and then create.

As a journalist, one of the things I enjoyed the most was listening to people's stories. Because I was in features and didn't do hard news, I could afford to spend more time on interviews (except when interviewing celebrities!) and I learnt all kinds of interesting things from talking with various kinds of people from different fields.

To me, people are fascinating because they always have so much hidden beneath the surface. Every semester, on the first day of class, I look out at the sea of faces and wonder what each individual's story is -- who are they, really? -- and what will they be like? How will we get along? What kind of conversations and discussions will we have? As I quickly put names to faces, each one becomes a unique individual to me. Yes, sometimes it's tempting to think of a student as "that lazy boy who never does homework" or "that girl who keeps falling asleep in class", but it's not useful, and it isn't true. It isn't true because that's not all there is to the person, and as someone who always wants to know why, I keep thinking that if only I were able to reach a little bit farther into this one's mind and heart, perhaps I could discover the key which would spark his or her interest in learning, or discover the best way to motivate him or her.

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