I start to cry too, as I wonder what’s the meaning of it all, what’s the purpose of a like like Ah Gu’s. I don’t know, I really don’t know, why there’s schizophrenia, if there’s a reason at all, and why Mum has to walk alongside him for 30 years. Is there a reason at all in all of this? Why do those six words of his, nothing more than a string of syllables, fly like knives into my heart, into Mum’s heart?
… I keep looking from one to another, from left to right, from right to left … I think of Ah Gu and those like him … whose broken lives no amount of talk can embrace, who have no choice but to walk a humble, lonely life; whose histories if we bothered to search them out, could maybe teach us that the only thing separating their present from their past – the only thing separating them from us – is a slight sound, a note with the sound of ‘sch’, a sound so small that we hardly hear it, hardly notice it, a sound that echoes in the schism, between past and present, between them and us, a schism that can be barely bridged – perhaps that can only be bridged if we listen to the echoes and hear the beauty in a small, small sound.
Okay, how about this. Maybe the meaning, the beauty, is in the response.
Response to what?
To his illness, to life. You say he’s never complained, that he still led a useful life sweeping the leaves of the PA, that you respect him for his courage and quiet dignity, right?
Yah, but so what? So what if he responded well? What’s the purpose of being born into this world, suffering, responding to the suffering, but in the end nobody knows and nobody cares?
But you know, don’t you?
So what if I know? Doesn’t make a difference to anyone.
It’s made a difference to you right?
Yes, but so what if it’s made a difference to me? Is that all there is to life? To suffer for so many years, to sad such a sad, lonely life, just to be witnessed by one or two people around you?
Isn’t that true for most of us, unless you are the rich and famous? Don’t all our lives that get witnessed by just one or two people around us? That’s life, and life is always flowing, moving forward, history is about moving forward, not just about the past.
Okay, not about history again. Spare me, will you, Mr. Historian?
But it’s true. Meaning can only be found in that flow, in that moving forward, in my response and how it impacts your response, and how your response in turn impacts someone else’s response, and so on, and you can’t just take one point in that flow and expect to find the meaning all wrapped up in a bundle there.
These are the parts of the book that I found exceptionally striking, the book truly did bring out the struggle of (Ah Gu’s) mental illness, how it didn’t just affect one but everyone else surrounding him in the Singaporean context. (also no copyright intended!!)
thanks to E for lending me the book and the teachers who chose this as the unseen for prelims!!