Dying is no big deal: it’s living that’s the trick. – Red Smith, US sportswriter.

If anything can go wrong, it will. It’s Murphy’s Law, and Edward Murphy, an Air Force captain, should have been shot for it but he was promoted instead and his eponymous saying stuck around long enough to become an adage for the ages.   

There are others as well. There was Jonathan Wright who seemed to think that the world was horribly wrong because Wright’s Law is sinister enough: “Everything is just out of reach.” And the italics aren’t mine so you can just imagine the gravity of its  portent. And if you think that is bad, Wright’s Constant will cause you to abandon hope altogether. It simply states: “Nothing is easy”.

In short, Wright should have been shot ahead of Murphy.

We may conclude that there was nothing right about Wright and we’d be right but a constant is an inexorable, unchanging thing like pi, the mathematical constant.

Imagine you have just been born. There you are, naked, wet and hungry and you are then told that it (life) will get worse. 

I should have realised this a long time ago. Right back to the time when I was 6 and taken by my father, for the first time to school. You can imagine my astonishment  then, when I was woken early the next morning for the same thing. “What, again?” I cried, bewildered, and he laughed and said it would continue for the foreseeable future. 

I began to grasp it when I was 16 and grappling with the arcane mysteries of calculus. In frustration, I asked Mr Chan Lok Chin, our Add Math teacher: “Why should we learn this? It’s pretty hard.” 

Mr Chan regarded me with a grim, if bespectacled, eye. “Because I said so,” was his implacable reply. And that was that. 

Nothing was easy because everything was hard and that was how life’s cookie crumbled. 

Mark Twain observed that “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” Hadi Awang would probably agree with him. Jho Low would certainly agree. 

In fact, he’s the sort of guy who’d make lemonade if life handed him lemons but then would find the guy handed vodka so they could have a party. Except for the nightmares about the police, you could say life rolled easy for him.  

But the average Mat Q Public would probably agree with writer Lewis Grizzard Jr who said that life was like a dogsled team. “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes,”

The secret to life may lie in not sweating the small stuff and not taking everything so seriously or as cartoonist Charles Schultz noted: “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today; it’s already tomorrow in Australia.” 

So we might as well take it easier; stop and smell the coffee as it were. We are all on the Hindenburg anyway and there’s no point fighting over the window seat. 



As I write this, I realise it’s May 1 which makes it Labour Day which rules out any unemployment jokes: none of them work anyway. 

Unemployment is not a matter to be facetious about, however. In truth, it is a bitter pill to swallow for it robs a person of self-respect, his dignity and his self-worth. 

Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. 

By 2004, many of us in the industry knew that things weren’t going swimmingly in the international media. Over the last two years, a number of my colleagues in the Far Eastern Economic Review had been laid-off. Then, our only serious competitor in the region, Asiaweek shuttered and we finally began asking ourselves when the chop was coming.  

In my case, I’d been on leave but was still at home, and alone as my wife was abroad. I heard the doorbell ring and was astonished to see my immediate boss outside the gate. 

He looked as pale as I was about to look, and tried not to meet my eyes. It wasn’t any lack of work on my part, he assured me, the whole magazine was closing courtesy of the boffins in New York whose number crunching had, apparently, carried the day and sealed a very respectable magazine’s fate.  

On hindsight, it wasn’t the money aspect that bothered me. It was a whole lot of other feelings that crawled in and refused to leave: shame, self-loathing and a refusal to leave the house for fear of meeting people. 

It was wholly unreasonable, even illogical and I knew it. But try as I might, I couldn’t shake the feeling. But my wife and my daughter were greatly supportive, and, in the end, it all worked out, as life normally does.  

Indeed, it took me about two weeks to straighten out my head and I got a job in a Singapore-based publication a month later. The retrenchment benefits didn’t hurt either. 

But my point here is that no one deserves to have the emotive fallout of sudden unemployment thrust on him. It can be emotionally crippling. 

Or maybe not. 

I mean, not everyone reacts that way. Some take it coolly, indeed, so philosophically that it can be downright perplexing.

Take my first driver Hassan. Now there’s self-confidence for you. I mean, it took me about three months to discover that he was illiterate, or as Shakespeare might have said: He aspired to “neither a reader nor a writer be.” With those street-creds, you’d have to wonder how he obtained his driving license. 

When I asked him how many previous employers he’d had, he shrugged mathematically as if to suggest its number was a Biblical “Legion” or “X” where “X” was any number greater than 25.

Life, in the world according to Hassan, was a reality teeming with myriad disappointments, one of which was sudden unemployment, which ranked right up there with gout, but wasn’t as bad as, Heaven forbid, impotence.  

It was the sort of calm sanguinity and detachment that might have impressed your average enlightened Buddhist monk. 

What happened to Hassan, you ask? To answer, allow me to indirectly quote British writer “Saki” H H Munro: 

“He was a good driver as drivers go, and as drivers go, he went.”