This is the day the world mourns for the death of the man who transformed Singapore from a lackluster city into a dominant player that it is today. Opinions rarely fall on one side of the ravine. In almost every scenario, an evaluation of a man’s life falls on two buckets—the good he did, and the wickedness that necessarily comes along.

This is almost unavoidable. To please all men is an impossible goal. Even God is not spared from such a feat. Yet so often, the loss of a person’s life is the best time to heap praises. Lee Kuan Yew had his fair share of criticisms and compliments. This day, he failed to outlive the praises that followed from around the globe.

This isn’t new. When Steve Jobs lost the battle against cancer in 2011, we see a reenactment of a similar spectacle, despite having different recipients of the praises that we read today. One who looks at them might ask, “how would I fare compared to them?” The answer varies. Yet when I look at them, I cannot help but look at the nation that received me from birth.

But before I make a comment on that, I find it essential to mention that thanks to Lee Kuan Yew, most people who are born in Singapore have so much to be grateful for. I so wish, and so do the close to hundred million Filipinos, to have the same problems as Singapore have. A person does not choose his ethnicity. He is born with it. A person does not choose his parents. He is born with them. For most of the people in the world, living in a land sheltered from flood, earthquakes, desert storms, hurricanes, even famine is a luxury. Most people in the world would have wanted to live here, and most of them are deprived of such an opportunity.

Gratitude—an often overseen privilege. How shortsighted most of us are. We focus too much on problems, failing to recognize the privilege we enjoy, many of which are not from the choices we make but of those who came before us. How stupid we are, to think that we are victims of circumstances when people in Sudan and Iraq wished they have the life that we have.

When one looks at the person staring back from the mirror, what does he see? I genuinely hope that none of those who read this would look at a person throwing away his life by focusing on the lesser and squandering the better.

We are often confronted with a choice between convenience and influence. Laziness is a malady that has to be expunged. It is a pleasure that you first enjoy the fruits before paying the consequence. Diligence is a pleasure that you first pay before enjoying its fruits. This is a collective problem for all. Diligence is a choice, and so is laziness. At the end of a man’s life, he’ll be branded only with one of these two.

What meaning is there to life when man squanders the time he’s been given? There is no way to recover lost time, and such is also a fair criticism one has to make to people who willfully waste the time of others by their own irresponsibility. The victim of such act is never singular. It is a great evil to misuse money, which can be recovered, but it is a greater to treat time with contempt, which when lost, is lost forever. Even Jesus thought it’s silly to squander both (Matthew 25:14-30).

Most men will never have the impact that Lee Kuan Yew have to the world. Circumstances and diligence has put him in the pedestal that honors him today. The goal is not for one to compete for position with others. Rather, for one, at his deathbed, to look at the life he lived, and find pleasure in knowing that the life he lived is one littered with diligence and integrity.

This is the only life we have in this world, and time has been constantly burning its lamp. Some things in life are forced to us. Our legacy, we force it on others. What will you force people to say about you at your eulogy?

 

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