Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pengalaman yang baru

day before yesterday, i decided that i wouldn't go home yesterday night. this was because:
- The Wife is away attending Kursus Induksi.
- without her at home, the time and expense of travelling home becomes rather un-worth-it.
so, i called up joshua chin and asked, "eh, u got anything on tomorrow night ah?"

which was how i ended up watching "After Our's", a play, at KLPac last night. it was my first time watching a play (someone told me that "Beauty and the Beast" doesn't count 'cos it's a musical, not a play).

the play was, in my non-expert opinion, very well done. i enjoyed it. there was lots of smoking, swearing, and implied extramarital sex. now, i don't condone these things, but my friends tell me that the situations in the play are more-or-less representative of real life in certain segments of Malaysian society. so is it Art imitating Life, or Life imitating Art? is a moral judgement called for if the medium is seeking to honestly portray reality, and not necessarily condone it?

A pic of the cast, with one guy missing

those are just two of the many questions and thoughts which were bouncing around in my skull as i watched the acts unfold. there were 6 acts, each one involving a couple (straight, gay, or plain confused) who are having a conversation just after having sex.

in the aftermath of the play, we had some pretty interesting discussions. for one thing, we agreed that we had not found the play obscene. considering that the whole concept is somewhat risque, i wondered why. we concluded that:
- obscenity can be quite subjective, as different people (and cultures) are offended by different things.
- obscenity, besides being offensive, is designed to incite lustful feelings.
the play had deeper meaning and a message behind it, and was not overtly intended to arouse the audience sexually. i think that's what caused us to perceive it as not obscene.

but here there is a danger. i hadn't been warned in advance by joshua about the content of the play, and as such am only now able to practice hindsight. if it became widely known that i had gone to see this play, it might have negative repercussions on people's perceptions of me as a full-time christian worker, and also on Scripture Union's reputation. if you are one of those people, i implore you to consider the following points:
- it was an accident. i didn't know what i would be watching.
- it was my first time. if it is made clear to me that i ought not to watch such plays, then let it be the only time.
- it is necessary for us who call ourselves Christians, to understand (note: understand, not follow) the culture and thinking of the world around us. otherwise, how can we communicate God's love and truth to them?
- consider Jesus - He mixed with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes. who are we then to say that it is wrong to enter the world of those who need Christ?

then again, it's difficult. the person who tries to do this must be able to stand firm in their principles and knowledge of the truth, and not be influenced to just follow along in the ways of the surrounding culture. at the same time, they have to be flexible and gracious enough not to appear as prudes and holier-than-thou pharisees to those of that culture. a tall order indeed... if i have stumbled you, please forgive me. leave a comment if you would, so that i can be more careful in future.

anyway, before this post gets too long-winded, i'll just end with this thought. i think that the main point behind the entire play was a statement of moral relativism (there's no absolute standard of right and wrong; what's right for me is right for me, what's right for you is right for you). it's ok to lose your virginity before marriage; it's ok to be gay or lesbian or bi or exploring; it's ok to be a prostitute, it's ok to cheat on your partner, it's all ok. as long as you're open and honest about it and not pretending to be someone you aren't.

i agree with the high value this statement places on openness and honesty. good, true relationships and friendships can't be built without it. however, i cannot agree with the assertion that it's all ok. it's not. i believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong. i believe that this absolute standard has it's origins in the character of God, and because we humans are created in His image, we have it in our hearts, too - though it might sometimes be twisted and marred to fall far from it's original design. that's why we have conscience, and we know when we've done wrong... at least the first few times we do it. yes, we often fail to meet this absolute standard in the things we do and say everyday. but that doesn't mean that something's wrong with the standard. rather, it's an indication that something's wrong with us.

Christianity offers an explanation (a pretty good one in my humble opinion) of what went wrong with us, why we're so bent that we'd rather say "there's no absolute standard" than admit "yes, i've done wrong". and Christianity also offers hope of a way we can be made whole and right again, through the God who became Man. if you are struggling today with doing something you know you shouldn't; and if you're tempted to give up, give in, and say, "everyone's doing it anyway, and it's not like i'm harming anyone"; i encourage you to turn to Him. His name is Jesus, and i need His grace and forgiveness, every day. =)

don't know what it means to turn to Jesus, or how to do so? drop me a comment. i promise i'll do my best to help.

hate what i said, think i was wrong to watch the play, disagree with my conclusions? drop me a comment. i'm open and willing to listen, learn, and discuss.

p.s. will be leaving for batu pahat on friday afternoon for School of Evangelism. do pray for us as we travel, connect with students, teach sessions, impart skills, and motivate students to evangelise. it's a spiritual work and will bear no fruit without prayer. thanks! =)


lordson said...

hey yo man, good review of the play, i agree with your writings, though i do intend to make one point clearer: The one where you said Jesus mixed with sinners etc etc.

I believe in living not of the world but in the world, wary of such things is true indeed, but nevertheless such exposure will benefit us when accompanied with caution. So i think the play was good, and i do hope no one take offense in you for going to this play hehehe

ps: this is not the most controversial or offending play made, i've been to worse.

ms.jotling said...

Hey Sieh Jin

As a was heading back home that night, I thought about you and asked myself why you chose to watch this play and plus it IS after all, your first. I wished that I had asked you then...but now I know.

I read your review/pengalaman baru and I understand where you are coming from. As you have mentioned, what you have witnessed on stage was a portrayal of the world we live in and we shouldn't be naive about these things because they really do exist. You are also right to point out the danger due to how individuals perceive things differently. Thing is, the play did not make any commentary on the issues it touched on and that's probably the reason why it was provoking or problematic for some of our audiences. The play didn't do what you did, which is to point out 'flaws' (for the lack of a better word) in regards to those issues.

Well, followers of Christ are called to be a SOLUTION. I'm glad that you have that in your conscience having watched 'after our's'.

Btw, I think steven curtis chapman is a great songwriter! And...yeah, the nerve thing, I still get stage fright till this day you know, especially when I don't know what I'm doing.

Wanna catch your second play? There's an on-going play at the Actor's Studio Bangsar called "Hero" by Instant Cafe Theatre Company. They do really good stuff. It's running till 31st this month. Bring your wife with you!

Bless you both too!

siehjin said...

@Lordson: hey man, thanks for your comment =)

i agree with what you say here, but i would contend that we need to filter the messages that are put across by the media and these kinds of shows. not just blindly applauding, but analysing it to see what's true and what's not. what you wrote on your blog, for example, doesn't explore the issues brought up by the play at all - it's just a general statement saying that the message was good. that may mislead people who haven't seen the play and don't know what it's really about.

not good, right? 'cause the fact is that, weaker ones may be stumbled. so i think it's better to give a more balanced and critical account of the play, than just saying that the message was good. =)

@jotling: hey, thanks for visiting and dropping a comment! =)

'flaws'... i don't think the play was flawed, per se. like i said, it was well done. but but i do think that there's a basic difference between the worldview and values portrayed (advocated?) by the play, and those held by myself (mine are supposed to be christian and biblical, heheh).

one of the things i wondered, after watching the play, is whether i would be able/willing to act in it, if i were an actor. i'm still pondering about it. i think it might be difficult... there would be a tension between what i believe to be true and right, and what the play is portraying as true and right. do u face such a tension? how do u deal with it?

haha, well, i've sung and acted before church audiences before (strictly amateur, nowhere near your level) with less butterflies in my stomach! =P i think the nervousness had more to do with the fact that i was proposing than anything else =)

thanks for the invite, but i doubt i'll be able to watch plays very often. don't want to blow our budget, which is pretty tight with house instalments to pay off. also, we actually stay in seremban, so it's difficult. but i certainly do hope to bring The Wife along to another play, someday...=)

Dillon said...

Like before i always say I like the way you justify everything you did.. your actions, your decisions etc....

I believe these are the things that are important as a blogger and to take care who are those that read your blog.

Keep up the good work and continue to be the light that shines....

your sis said...

Hey bro!

I was going to say the "in the world but not of the world" thing, but Lordson did it first :P Anyway, if we were to keep ourselves so separate from all kind of things/situations, then how would we ever be able to be salt and light? Sometimes I feel we are very 'protected' in the Christian circle, we don't know stuff like this is going on outside. So in that respect I think the play was a good eye-opener.

Regarding Jotling's comment, plays are not meant to make commentary but a good play will make its audience think, like how this one made you think about things.

The Hedonese said...

to speak the truth in love, holding on to values that dignify life and sex while befriending people who trivialise it is a tightrope to walk :)

siehjin said...

yeah, it is! thanks for the comments everyone =)

it seems that whenever i write any post that has some relation of reference to sex, the number of comments shoots up... hmmm... =P

Dillon said...

Oh must say that my comment has nothing to do with your reference to sex... You should know the direction I was coming from....

Unless you CHOOSE to think so....

hehe, :P