Drawing strength by looking up

  • Opinion
  • Sunday, 24 Jul 2016

When dark clouds threaten, remember the storm will pass and the sun will break through.

IMAGINE yourself looking up into the night sky and, without the aid of a telescope, being able to see the Milky Way, Saturn, Mars, two shooting stars, and the ISS (International Space Station) fly by.

“I’ve never felt so small in my life,” my niece Wei Vern wrote on Facebook on July 8. She was at Tusan Cliff, some 30 minutes from Miri town, on her way to Bintulu.

My colleague Eddie Chua shared something similar in an article which appeared in Star Metro on July 18 entitled “Mesmerised by the Milky Way”.

He was in Kudat, a town at the tip of Borneo, known for its cheap seafood, splendid beaches and pristine night skies.

Eddie was totally mesmerised by the innumerable mass of stars known as the Milky Way in the south-western sky.

He noted that in the mid-1970s and 1980s, the Milky Way could be seen anywhere in Malaysia on a clear night, but along with progress and development came artificial light and dust pollution. The twinkling stars are still there but they have “disappeared” from view.

Eddie is showing his age by mentioning the years but I can understand. For it was also in those years when my friends and I would camp at the beaches in Penang and just look up and be spellbound by the starry, starry night.

And we would always count how many shooting stars we saw on each trip.

I do not want to be naïve and think that we can reclaim developed areas in our country by reducing light pollution so that we can gaze upwards every night and realise how small we are. Considering the damage we have wreaked on our natural resources, we can only hope that pristine places like Kudat and Tusan Cliff will remain as they are.

On a more realistic level, there are still many wonders to behold in our urban settings, but we do not seem to have the time, nor the desire to do so.

For instance, the sunrises and sunsets in my neighbourhood that transform the sky into a kaleidoscope of colours. Sadly, many of us are too busy to look upwards.

I have been to many parks of late. On a walk in one of them, I noticed how empty it was despite being in a very populated and busy enclave of suburbia. The nearby malls beckon, I suppose.

Looking upwards, the majestic cloud formations with patches of blue sky amidst the billowing clouds made me think of the journey I am going through. There were dark clouds, too, some with silver linings as the sun was shone through.

Life is a journey and we cannot run away from its ups and downs. A plaque sitting on my office desk has a poem reminding me that God has not promised blue skies always, or joy without sorrow. But he has promised grace and strength for every trial.

One version of this poem I found on the Internet added a line, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Watching the clouds that day and seeing how they changed shapes and move where the winds carry them, I reflected that we can take the journey better when we know that all things will eventually pass.

A poem that is popular among cancer patients and caregivers entitled “What Cancer Cannot Do” goes like this:

Cancer is so limited...

It cannot cripple love.

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode faith.

It cannot eat away peace.

It cannot destroy confidence.

It cannot kill friendship.

It cannot shut out memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot reduce eternal life.

It cannot conquer the spirit.

Indeed, that may be said for any major illness or crisis in life. To those starting out on similar journeys, may you find comfort from these reassuring words. Look up, and let the glory of the skies put things in perspective for you.

Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is thankful for all things bright and beautiful in nature that refresh his soul.

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