Monday, June 16, 2008

Socrates and his wife.

"By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher," said Socrates about 2400 years ago. Socrates, it seems became a philospher out of necessity after being kicked out by his wife for being useless and not contributing to the household. Interestingly he never mentioned the role of a good husband in any of his philosophical discourses.

So am I happy or a philosopher?

I have to admit I am happy most of the time these days so there is little need for me to ponder too deeply about anything. But then again I am not the one having to attend to a crying baby all day. It is quite often that I come home from a not so fulfilling day at work to find that my wife had an even tougher day. The look of exasperation on her face is my cue to shut up and try to help out. Sometimes I forget and have to pay dearly for it.

I am lucky. My wife has made sacrifices to stay home with our baby. She is willing to take a couple of years off from work to be with him. We're lucky we can afford it. Paying a stranger to look after our child, especially this early in his life doesn't seem like a good idea. Eventually we will have to but not now. Only when he is able to speak and report back to us on daily events will we be comfortable leaving him at a nursery or daycare. Right now we don't even have a maid to help out. My frugal wife says we can't afford one. She'd rather keep the money and do the housework herself while she is at home.

My boy is 10 weeks old now and is still a little colicky, hence the extra work it takes for my wife to placate him. It will pass by 12 to 16 weeks from what I have read. It has something to do with his nervous system finally getting adjusted to his surroundings and his stomach getting mature enough to handle the wind in his gut. So I guess we have a few more weeks of crying to look forward too.

Now going back to Socrates- if he had gotten a job and helped his wife out at home, he wouldn't have been kicked out of the house and be forced to roam the city, making everyone question authority. The world would have lost out on his most important contribution, which is his dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method. Read up on it and you will realise that the scientific method of today as well as political philosophy, ethics or moral philosophy all stem from his dialectical questioning. Eventually, all he got for his troubles was finally being found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth and sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock. What a way to go!

I say it's better to make the wife happy so that you in turn can be happy too. No need for the poison hemlock. It doesn't take much. All you need to make her happy sometimes is to lend an ear and let her unload her grievances or maybe help her carry the baby around for a while and change a few diapers...because if the wife is unhappy there is no way in hell you will be happy. The sooner you learn this the better your life will be.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Religion doesn't figure strongly in my life. I stopped praying on a daily basis when I was about 12 because I realized that no amount of praying was going to stop my father from smoking his lungs out at the time. Back in the mid-80's when I was old enough to think for myself, public service announcement ads about lung cancer and the adverse effects of smoking were everywhere. Those were the days when Dunhill, Peter Stuyvesant and other lifestyle brands were still advertising on tv and sponsoring sporting events like the World Cup football and Badminton matches.

Anyway, I was always a sensitive child growing up and seeing pictures of deteriorating and cancerous lungs on billboards and posters everywhere scared the shit out of me. It always triggered the picture of my father puffing away on his cigarrete and looking deep in thought. My father had been smoking since his teens so it wasn't hard to realize that after all those years of puffing away, his lungs were probably well on their way to looking like those deteriorated lungs on the billboards I had been seeing around town.

Since praying didn't help I tried pleading with my father to stop. That was a difficult task because he usually just brushed me aside and told me not to bother him. His argument was that smoking was all he had to calm him down from his work related stress. Those days no one went outside to smoke. They just smoked right there in front of their wives, kids and toddlers. Second hand smoke didn't seem to bother anyone back then.

I was never close to my father and was sent to boarding school in my early teens so I stopped giving a shit about something I had no control over. It must have been annoying to him having a little kid preaching anyway.

My father did quit smoking about 15 years after I stopping pleading with him. By then I was in my late twenties and he was already in his fifties. Better late than never. He did it of his own accord. My mom couldn't persuade him to quit either all those years ago. The only thing that eventually stopped him was the incessant coughing that was keeping him up nights. Luckily it was nothing worse than that. In hindsight if smoking was his worse vice then I should feel lucky. It could have been a lot worse. No raging alcoholics in my family fortunately.

Nowadays I am not bothered by strangers or friends smoking around me. It's their choice. Personally I am used to second-hand smoke and am immune to it. However, when I see a person blatantly smoking in front of my little child and subjecting him to second hand smoke, that is when I draw the line. That is when I am willing to kick that person's ass down the street. However, I need to set a good example for my boy so I am forced to take a deep breath - full of smoke mind you - and walk away while quietly wishing that person gets cancer and drops dead for their lack of consideration. These days more often than not it is a woman doing the smoking, ironic as it may seem. Or maybe not.

My son is 9 weeks old now and it's fun trying to understand all the grunts and noises he makes. They all mean something. You have to try to comprehend what he is trying to tell you early on. Only then will he be happy. Good news is that he is smiling more these day and even laughs when you try to amuse him. That is the result of us paying attention to him to see what he wants. I'd like to think I can tell when he's bored, hungry, uncomfortable or simply needs a nappy change just by the sound he makes. Of course I could be wrong most of the time. My boy and I are still getting to know each other so it will take some time for us to get on the same wavelength. I need to learn his language before he can learn mine.

I have started to pray again but I have yet to learn how to "pray" properly. I never ask for anything because that is not how it works. Being thankful for what I have and saying a few words is all I do. I am just grateful that I have yet to screw things up too badly. God knows it is very easy to screw things up if you don't watch it.