Personal Reflections: David Quan
Even occurrences of the inevitable can be unexpected and cause great disturbance. Just a couple of days before the National Student Leadership Summit (NSLS), as my mind was flooded with endless uncertainty and excitement, my father informed me that a close family friend, who is like a grandfather to me, was hospitalised and living out his final days. Dad had booked for us to depart for China right after the summit. My week in China involved many hours in the hospital along great emotional upheavals and a final goodbye which was imbued with sadness, satisfaction and meaning.
In our modern world, advancements in technology and science have severely lowered the impacts of famine, plague and war. Yet the uncontrollable force of nature – old age and human mortality – continues to impact our lives. We often envision that our elders can dispense unique insights and perspectives through their accumulation of experiences. Indeed, whilst in hospital, my family friend suffered from his physically deteriorating illness, but he still demonstrated clarity and wisdom. The insights he passed on though, only boiled down to a few succinct points which I believe are relevant to each of us:
- Life is full of ups and downs – handle both with integrity
- Relationships are crucial
- Meaningful memories are immeasurable
For most of us, these three lessons are common knowledge and certainly not ground-breaking wisdom. Yet these can often be drowned in the cacophony of conflicting noises within our own minds and overshadowed by the many tasks we have at hand. It is important to take some time to ponder how we are looking after ourselves and the people around us because this is what matters most. In my opinion, whilst our lives are short, ordinary and insignificant in the grand scheme of evolution, it is certainly long, impactful and meaningful in regard to our own social context.
During my flights to and from China, the books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, written by historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, further captivated and allowed me to reflect on our lives, behaviours and desires. One particular explanation that interested me was when he put forward that: ‘The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction but craving for more’. There is a fine line between complacency and contentment, and I have to agree that the balance is subjective for each individual. Hence, perhaps we need to confront our most unwelcoming thoughts and attempt to hear our authentic voices in order to truly reach satisfaction, because it seems that what matters at the end of a life is not necessarily materialistic belongings or possessions. Rather, it is more the abstract, subjective and personal.
My own life experiences and (a lack of) knowledge encourages me to believe that our time at Saints, whether as a student, staff or parent, is comparable to a lifetime: there are significant moments of collaboration, challenge, confrontation, calm and composure. We should live with a sense of urgency, before the emergency, by always giving our best efforts to learn, improve, be humble in victories, resilient in defeats, be kind, and to ultimately make a positive difference to those around us. What more satisfaction can we experience than to be able to walk away from the walls and fields, proud of how we have handled the ups and downs, how we forged strong relationships, and how we have engendered immeasurable meaningful memories which we can treasure forever.