About six weeks ago, my friend and kindlemalaysia.com cofounder Tan Wee Khien took my two kindles away from me, because he needed them for the purpose of demo during Read Malaysia Book Fair 2018In return, he left me with his Kindle Voyage, and a large collection of ebooks bought from Amazon India ( if you don’t know, Amazon India ebooks are a lot cheaper than Amazon US, bookworms would surely love it!)

I wasn’t too happy initially: I have a lot of unread books inside the two Kindles, and taking them away from me would derail my plan to finish them. But being a good friend, I just let him did whatever he thought was the best.

So in the end, I got this Kindle Voyage, covered in pink ( !!) color case.

Upon obtaining the kindle, I just did what I normally do– just pick a book to start reading. I know that he has a large collection ( because Amazon India does have a kindle collection that can rival the size of Amazon US), but I was unsure whether I would enjoy his books.

In the end, I was glad that we did exchange Kindle. I’ll tell you why later, but first, let me  introduce you two books that I read and enjoyed:

The Jews: Story of a People

The first book I read was The Jews: Story of a People. I was only ten page or so through the books, before I was thoroughly hooked.

I love the Jews, and I was quite acquainted with their checkered stories from the time of Abraham until now. But this book still managed to entertain and educate me. The author, true to his reputation as a skilled novelist, tells the story of the Chosen People with humor in a very engaging style ( I love Jewish authors in general, they are very verbose, yes, but they are also very engaging and enlightening, except George Soros, but Soros is just a failed philosopher who happens to make big money on Wall Street). Reading through the pages, one can literally feel the pain and the persecution faced by the Jews, and the author did such a fine job in describing how this group of nomads gradually morphed into the people of the scrolls, that their struggle in the deserts trying to find grass and water, their scaling of Palestinian cities, their establishment of ancient Judea and Israel kingdoms , the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora and so on and so on…. literally leap out right in front of your eyes as you cruise through the pages. I can even feel them debating Talmudic laws in the synagogues!

So when a part of these creativities get unleashed into the secular world, we see that a disproportionate amount of writers, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs and what-have-you came from this group of people.

One thing to note is that as a Jew himself, the author didn’t think being the Chosen People is a privilege, rather, it is a burden. Being the Chosen One means that the Jews “must silently and without complaint endure the unspeakable horror and suffering in the quiet conviction that somehow he must suffer for all men”. I was quite amused at this way of looking at the history– but then, who can say he is wrong? Jews did suffer persecution from time to time, and while they did endure unspeakable horrors, the way they fought back was not via weapons or state might ( they only got their state back in as recent as 1948, and they would still want to buy their peace through the exchange of land rather than firearms), but rather, via their wits and their knowledge. According to the author, they are just like the suffering servant described in Isaiah 53….This is so unorthodox that I don’t know what to make of this observation.. Two Jews, Three Opinions, indeed!

Whether you like the Jews or not, this is a book you must read. The entertaining value alone is enough a reason for you to spend your time on it.

The Book of Joy:

The second book that I enjoy a lot, is a book written jointly by two great spiritual masters, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They are so famous that I don’t even bother to link to their Wiki pages, you can Google them up easily.

In the book they talk about Joy, coming from different religious traditions– Tutu from Christian’s perspective, Dalai Lama from Tibetan Buddhism. Don’t ever think that since they are the outdated religious leaders, all they know about is to just quote from their respective old, rusty scriptures, and when they do speak, they speak in a serious, dull and parish tone that would put fellow believers to sleep in no time.  No, I found that they can be surprisingly fun to listen to, because when they speak, they speak with light-heartedness, humour and a sense of self-depreciation. They joked a lot throughout their conversations, poked funs at everything, especially themselves. The pain that they went through were very real, but they could look at it with a detached eye. You can literally feel their joy flowing, despite the suffering they went through. No self-pitiness, no condemnation, just empathy, love and forgiveness.

An old proverb says that forgiveness is not being kind to the offenders, quite the contrary, the forgiveness is being kind to yourself. A person who cannot forgive is a person who is forever punishing himself for the crimes others have committed. Desmond Tutu suffered from South Africa Apartheid regime, and Dalai Lama lost his homeland after Tibet was colonized by China. But they chose to let go, they chose to forgive, they chose to live a life that is kinder to them. In the end they are happier, and their lives more fulfilling. We only get to live once, so why so serious?!

And not only that, they are very MODERN as well!! In the book they talk about how meditation helps them in calming their nerves, helping them think better and making them a better person. And they got scientific experiments to back them up.  As a Christian ( Soon Hui), I practice meditation and silent prayer and can quite attest to the validity of the claim.  Of course I do believe that my style of meditation has other benefits, but that is for another post to talk about.

Wait! You are 700++ words through your blog post, so what is it that you want to say? What’s your point?

Now, here comes the REAL point:

Try different things, uncomfortable as they may seem, because you don’t know what you will get. 

Sometimes we are simply too occupy with our routines– we got deadlines to meet, we got list of things to do, that we rarely take a step back and enjoy the unanticipated things that come our way. Before I exchanged my kindles away, I wasn’t even aware that reading books– a list of preselected books– has become a routine of mine. So that’s why I was a bit upset when suddenly I needed to get another kindle and another collection of books to read. But God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that I would need to break my habits once in a while.

And boy, I was really blessed because of this. Because I get to read books that I don’t normally read, I absorb information that I don’t plan to collect, and I (re)discover the joy of unanticipated discoveries. I feel that I am back to my childhood days when I just read everything I can get my hands on. I just learnt, and learnt, and enjoy, with no expectation of what to learn.

I can feel that the childlike wonder which has gradually faded from me as I grow up come back to me once again whenever I open a new, unfamiliar book. It’s a wonder that fueled Einstein’s prolific scientific career, and I hope that it would be a wonder that I can later make use of, and a wonder that I can pass on to my children.