Q3 2023 Musings: Life Through The Eyes Of A Practitioner

October 1, 2023

This post is nothing technical nor philosophical. It’s been a while since I wrote something personal and reflective, and I think it’s about time I put some of my thoughts down so that I can look back one day and reminisce about my journey. I also wanted to write something more relatable after a somewhat technical post on Feng Shui Period 9 and before the heavy topic of cultural appropriation in Chinese metaphysics. I will need some time to frame my thoughts correctly because “cultural appropriation” is a serious topic.

I know people wonder why I get so worked out about certain things. Trust me, I wonder too. I wonder what a life selling Feng Shui items for $80,000 to $100,000 would be like. I hate being lied to because that’s the ultimate insult and sign of disrespect, which is why I can’t understand why some people lie to themselves. With my gift of the gab, flamboyant writing, and my experience and technical expertise through reading charts – I’m sure I can sell at least one such item a month and get a revenue of around a million or more a year. As I’ve said, I can sell someone something right before they have a good year, and they will attribute their success to that item when all they need is to believe in themselves. Someone with rudimentary BaZi knowledge can pull off this trick.

I sometimes wonder what the lives of all these item-selling practitioners are like. My wife always tells me she would have never married me if I made money that way, and then I look at the spouses of other practitioners (if they even have one), and I feel better. The kind of spouses we ended up with is a good enough answer from Heavens for whether I’m on the right path.

Anyway, this post is just for me to jot down some things I’ve been thinking about for the past week.

Finding Your Footing At 30

Some of my blog posts will bring up the Confucian saying of 「三十而立」。 I bring it up once in a while and also shared that the year when I turned 30 was a remarkable year where everything fell into place. I met my wife, and my journey of becoming the practitioner I am today slowly started to gain traction. Mind you, I do not do advertisements, and everything you see today comes from years of writing about the things I’m passionate about, connecting with the right crowd, and doing my best for each client, which thankfully led to some meaningful media features that allowed me to tell my story.

I sometimes talk about how everyone else is doing over dinner conversations with my wife and close friends, but not in the sense that I compare our achievements and want to keep up with the Joneses. I study charts, after all, which also means I study people. It’s interesting to see how everyone’s life turned out and how it branches off into so many different realities and scenarios, even when given the same resources. In my jargon, some people trend up like the Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 chart-holder that everyone hopes to be, whereas some spiral out of control like the other two categories.

A central theme of 2023 for me so far was celebrating the achievements of many of my friends I love deeply while cutting off some people I no longer wish to be friends with. There was a ‘clean-up’ of my community. My wife knows this, and she knows I can cut someone off immediately if I know the friendship will not uplift both sides, meaning, and as cheesy as it sounds, the friendship isn’t what Aristotle would classify as a “friendship of virtue”. If I can cut my biological family off, there’s no issue cutting friends off. I am not afraid of loneliness or having nothing to do on a weekend because there is always something to read or learn, and those who know me well by now know that I grew up learning to enjoy solitude.

Most of my friends, naturally, are around my age. Some of their stories are amazing. One was a mother of none when we first met but became a mother of four and recently opened a childcare centre; one has probably the most successful gay bar in Singapore; one was working in Dublin and was an army regular who went to Afghanistan, but he is now moving to Amsterdam and will marry his boyfriend there. These are just a few of the many stories I’ve had the privilege of knowing, and these people’s stories can probably be made into heartwarming short films.

On the flip side of things, there’s another group of people I used to or never considered friends whose lives went in the opposite direction or didn’t go in any direction at all. Stagnant. Not being in a job you feel passionate about is fine because that makes the most of us, but I can’t understand people who choose to wreck their own families even after becoming parents. Some people are already in their second marriage and have a child, but despite that, they still decide to cheat on their spouse with someone else who is also in a marriage and with a child. Of course, not all cases are that dramatic, but they are more common than you think.

This saying of 「三十而立」is something I’ve known for a long time, and I never felt it was simply about finding a job you love or your Ikigai. Most people don’t end up in a job they love, but they still do it well because it pays the bills, and not doing it well also means harming someone else. 「三十而立」, to me, encompasses a lot more, and the simple way to put it is that you need to make sure you get your shit together. Let’s assume that 30 is the midpoint of your life: you either start building a life you can be proud of, or you’ll still be spending the next one or two decades still figuring your stuff out when a good thirty years have already passed. Of course, the context is a bit different now. Back in ancient China, you were expected to start exploring what you wished to do when you reached 15. We tend to take a lot longer these days because the world is much more complex now, so I guess we can adjust the dial slightly without being too hung up about the numbers.

That said, turning 30 is a significant milestone because we also know that, astrologically speaking, that is when you get your Saturn Return. You do need to grow up by then because if you don’t, I can assure you that Saturn will humble you so that you don’t end up a menace to humanity. My point is this, and I am sure many people would agree. There comes a point in your life where you can no longer afford to make certain mistakes – such as wrecking your own family or making excuses for yourself by saying things like, “But no one taught me to be a parent, and I’m trying my best”. To that, I have two things to say: Firstly, you have a brain – you can teach yourself. Second, your best is, sadly, someone else’s worst – so that says a lot about you.

Perhaps the lack of direction leads to these situations because a lack of direction could only mean infinite distractions, and people become mere drifters who aren’t making a conscious decision to live well and live effectively.

Knowing Why You Exist At 40

I find it a huge pity if someone still doesn’t know why they exist by age 40. During our cordial banter, friends sometimes challenge me by saying, “Do you know why you’re here?” to which I reply, “Do you not see what I’ve been doing?” We resume drinking immediately after because the answer is clear as day.

I don’t want anyone to feel you need a grand vision or aim to change the world. Knowing why you exist can be as simple as being the best friend or parent you could or travelling to places you’ve always wanted to go, or it could be perfecting your craft no matter what it is. Our obsession with looking good on the surface makes us feel that our reason for existence needs to be grand, and I don’t agree with it.

The whole passage in the Analects goes: 「吾十有五而志于学,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳顺,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩。」I gave a very irreverent interpretation of this on my Instagram:

Now that my cosmic PMS is over, let me try again. At 15, one needs to start figuring out what one wishes to learn or do; at 30, you find your footing in life; at 40, there should be no doubts about your direction anymore; at 50, you know why you exist; at 60, you reach a stage where nothing bothers you anymore because you’ve done your part; at 70, you enjoy the fruits of your labour.

The interpretations may vary because, remember, we are the ones interpreting it for ourselves, and Confucius himself said 「书不言尽,言不尽意」。 Books, and even language itself, are sometimes not enough to express the meaning behind certain things because of the transcendental and almost ethereal nature of what one is trying to express. Some things are for you to experience with your being, and a mere intellectual understanding doesn’t quite cut it. How do you understand love intellectually? You can’t.

Let’s not talk about the 50s because it’ll take a while till I get there. Let’s talk about our 30s and 40s because I’m almost done with the former and about to taste the latter. I’d like to think that I handled my 30s well because I found a job that I enjoy and love doing and am hopefully good at. I can support myself and my family, and with that support and material security, I will be able to build upon that and hopefully get even better in a virtuous cycle. I’ve found a craft that I am happy and willing to commit to.

I’m reaching my 40s, and it is the 「不惑」phase where I need to have absolutely no doubts about my path. A more pragmatic way of putting things is that I cannot afford to change paths again – not that I want to. For me to even be so clear on my path is already a huge blessing. Hopefully, when I’m 50, the calling will be even clearer, and Heavens will give me an answer for why I was set on this path.

I don’t want people to misunderstand me and think I need to be on Netflix and become famous to know or find my calling. I’ve already found it, and I’m doing what I can with it and leaving it to Heavens’ will to see where it leads. Knowing that new people from all over the world are visiting my website and getting something out of it is good enough for me.

Having The Right People Around You

Friendship is a topic I’ve not dedicated an entire blog post to, but I do bring it up once in a while. My philosophy on friendship is heavily influenced by Aristotle because it’s the easiest to relate to. According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendships: 1) Friendships of pleasure, 2) Friendships of utility, and 3) Friendships of virtue.

“Friendships of pleasure” are friendships that are based solely on pleasure. They’re basically your 酒肉朋友, and in Singapore’s context, those that can only go drinking at KTVs with you, and you go home with either a lipstick mark on your neck or an STD. “Friendships of utility” are those where the relationship exists solely for each other’s benefit, but instead of thinking it’s exploitative, it’s describing how two people exchange goods and services or promote each other at a networking event. Friendships of utility aren’t bad per se.

Aristotle believes that “friendships of virtue” are the best. In his words, a good, virtuous friendship is like “One soul dwelling in two bodies.” Together, virtuous friends go through trials, learn together, and uplift one another. They bring out your best and make you want to be better. Although it’s not explicitly stated, I don’t think it means you can’t have fun or have business dealings with these friends, just that friendships of virtue become so much more. I make it a point to be such a friend to people around me and tell myself that the first step to being a good friend is not to burden them with a character flaw.

This ties back to me saying that you will never see a Cat. 1/2 chart-holder hanging out with a Cat. 3/4 because I can assure you they define friendships differently, and they know the Cat. 3/4 chart-holder will eventually feel imbalanced and jealous and try to drag you down with them. The Cat. 1/2 person knows the value of a meaningful friendship and will always celebrate your achievements with you, whereas the Cat. 3 or 4 would instead stick to their kind for ego-preservation purposes because it’s human nature to avoid situations and environments that make you feel inadequate.

I hope people trust me when I say this, especially given the background I came from and had no family connections. I’ve spent time with people on different ends of the spectrum at different stages of my life. Having the right people around you is crucial to your success and happiness. I am explicitly using the word “having” instead of “keeping” because I don’t want it to be misconstrued that we are opportunistic about friendship. Like everything else, we need to work on ourselves to deserve to have these right people in our lives, too, similar to how I always say you’ll only marry someone with the same chart quality because everyone’s charts are supposed to paint a congruent picture, and there should be no contradiction.

People, especially those with the problematic BaZi charts, must realise this: You will eventually run out of people willing to tell you that you must get your act together. No one owes you anything; other people also have their own lives to focus on. Whether you like it or not, the world does not revolve around you and will move on without you.

You Still Have Time Vs Serves You Right

Everyone should know by now that I am exceptionally harsh on older people. The funny thing about my job (and I won’t say “industry” because I’m still one of the youngest practitioners around) is that people who are much older than me come to me for what they like to call “advice”. I struggle to use this word because it presumes that what I say is the best option, which isn’t necessarily true. After all, I do not control how something wants to manifest, and I always tell myself my role is more about shifting perspectives.

The most dramatic cases I encounter are usually those in their 40s to late 50s because if you still don’t get it right by then, you can imagine how messed up their lives can be because their 40 to 50 years of life were nothing but one mistake after another. Some are in absolutely horrid places you’ll never want to be, whereas some are just plain unhappy. It’s not just people in their 40s and above. Some people sometimes mess up so badly in their 30s that their entire lives are gone, such as Nickel Sage and Four-Eyed James Bond.

We all love a positive spin on things like how you’ll never say an orgasm doesn’t feel good. If I wanted to take a more positive and uplifting stance, I would say, “There is still time left. Do your best. It’s never too late.” But if you know me well enough by now and remember that I embrace both Yin and Yang, you’ll know I am not shy to say, “Serves you right.”, especially when you do something knowing you’ll end up harming others.

Sometimes, the perplexing thing about life and my job is that you question what the other person truly needs – the positive spin or the negative, harsh stance. Does the positive stay that way, or does it devolve into something negative eventually? If you understand Chinese wisdom, you will know that positive and negative are the same. Like the birth of Yin and Yang and its endless cycle, one leads to another. Nothing ever stays the same.

Words of comfort sometimes encourage someone to continue their behaviour, whereas an acrimonious tirade is needed to set someone’s life on another path. Just like how your troubled past can be your greatest gift that you will wear like armour, your privileged past can be your biggest downfall because it gave you everything but took away your spine.

People sometimes ask me why I have to be so brutal with others. My answer is that I’ve lived long enough to know that some people will never learn until they’re about to die, knowing no one will bother showing up for their funeral if you keep spinning things positively and say something like, “You still have time.”. You’re 50; if you’re lucky, you have another 20 years, but you would have already missed the best phase of your life, and your chances of finding a life partner at that point are slim. These people who refuse to wake up did not have the fortune of having someone point out what’s wrong with their lives – which is extremely sad because it just goes to show no one cares anymore. I derive no joy from being brutal, and I cannot help but be incensed seeing that the wilful act of wanting to be a degenerate harms others. The anger is real.

If someone in their 40s or 50s with two children comes to me and says their family are in shambles and nothing is what they’ve hoped to be, what is the right thing to say? I don’t mean to put myself on a pedestal, but I have to exercise my judgement based on their current level of self-awareness. Some of these people approach me when they know they’ve screwed up, and to that, I will say, “You still have time.”, which they do, technically speaking. Others come to me still faulting their children and spouses while not knowing that they are the problem, which they will then get a “Serves you right. Wake up!” from me with no hesitation.

Let’s just put it this way. I am whatever the situation needs me to be. I’m happy being this way, but I also have no choice at the same time. I don’t have a fixed playbook I go with. How I behave and react is different for every scenario.

The Role Of A Modern-Day Practitioner

It’s funny. People have been telling me they can’t get a grasp on me. Those who know me exclusively online are surprised by what I’m like in person, whereas those who know me in real life can’t believe what they see online sometimes because they didn’t think I could be that verbose. By virtue of my Pisces Sun and Gemini Moon, I am an incredibly versatile person who can, thankfully, balance logic and emotion, the spiritual and the practical. I can be the nicest person you’ve ever met but also cold-blooded if the situation calls for it. My malleability and many sides are strengths I always knew I had, but perhaps I didn’t give myself enough credit.

This is still a question I’ve been thinking a lot about this year, and I think I’m getting closer, or rather, more certain of my answer. Living effectively, making people suffer less, or simply telling someone not to be stupid. I suppose all these are different ways of framing what I do, but how I describe what I do is beside the matter.

I cannot speak for astrology as a whole because every civilisation has its unique form of astrology and way of understanding the world and its hidden laws. I can only speak up for Chinese astrology and Chinese metaphysics for the obvious reason that I am Asian and Chinese. The 5 Arts of Chinese metaphysics – 山、医、命、相、卜 – are still very much relevant today. However, the pity is that only Traditional Chinese Medicine (医) has had rigorous preservation and proliferation of its knowledge. The rest are, well, as far as I know, in a mess.

My objective is not to be the animus of rivalry between civilizations or different types of astrology, but as I prepare to write about cultural appropriation and how some ‘practitioners’ in the West utterly disrespect and bastardize Chinese metaphysics, its history, philosophy – and thereby, us – may this also be the start of a rallying cry to remind everyone to be proud of our roots, our ancestors, and what they have passed down. If you’ve been paying attention, it is an opportune time to be in this part of our world, and I assure you you’ll see this change within this 20-year period, which started in Dec’20.

It is an utter disgrace that the first thing people think of when we say “Chinese people” is that we are obsessed with money and superstitious. We forget legendary figures like 伏羲,周文王, and 孔子 existed, and these are just a few of the many figures that helped build a great civilization, and their influence remains with us even today. We live in an era when even people of our own ethnic origin are bastardizing our roots and culture by saying inanimate objects can change lives and that Pi Xiu bracelets are regarded as traditional jewellery. As I’ve said, most practitioners make a living by insulting your intelligence. Do not expect anyone else to set the standards for you.

As much as you’re the enabler of the nonsense I’ve spent my entire career debunking, you can also be the spark of the next renaissance and perhaps the golden age of Chinese thought and culture.

My online persona may be irreverent, and as Western-educated as I may look, there is nothing I’m more proud of than my ethnic origins and heritage, just as anyone else should be proud of theirs. And even though I wasn’t born in Singapore, if there’s anything I’ve learned from having the privilege and fortune of being bred here since I was four months old, we defend and respect not just our heritage – but others too because when we are proud of ours, it will spill over to others because we know they will be proud of theirs.

And no, I would rather eat my livestream the BBQing of my balls than be in politics. There’s too much fornication going on in parliament recently. Also, I can speak and write Chinese fluently if I want to – just that it needs some polishing. Just saying.

– Sean


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