23th Nov 2012. By Natasha Kim. CM –
People are always going to tell you that you need to be of strong character to move mountains, but one can still conquer mountains in life when you aren’t strong or capable. You can even conquer them while you are weak and vulnerable.
Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
In Asian culture we love to be control of everything. We search so hard for the perfect lives but some study so hard and search so hard only to end up in jobs and lives where we constantly ask ourselves each day, if this is the right thing for us.
Su-Zen says, “Vulnerability is something that I have been struggling with for a long time and it is something I’ve been working through until today, especially in a society that constantly pushes you to have to be capable, to have to excel and to have to succeed. The words, “I can’t” or “Can you help me?” is rarely uttered.”
Su-Zen Low was a student in King’s College, London. The first two years, Su-Zen and her sister, Suwen, stayed above a goth pub. As her story goes, their neighbours were drug dealers and Su-Zen even found out later that these neighbours of hers were even running a high class porn house. In her final year, she had to opportunity to live alone and loved the self-contained lifestyle she led, where she could do what and when she wanted on her own terms. Individualism, there is nothing wrong with that, but it allows one to focus too much on oneself. Sometimes self dependency can give us the false illusion of freedom. “I was always the sort of person who viewed the need to be with people all the time as weakness.” she says.
To Su-Zen, self dependency and emotional detachment was strength. When she lived alone she was not lonely. She became very self dependant and placed a lot of value on her home, because it was where she felt most safe and secure. It was a space she had complete control of.
All control just collapsed and faded away
One fine day, a few weeks before her graduation, her flat burnt down. It really shook her and she felt like she was sort of “floating” and at a state of numbness. She had placed so much of herself into her house. That major event in her life made her realize however, that people are far more important than possessions. “We can live our lives building up these bubbles around ourselves directing our lives to go a certain way and a certain direction but that can all change in an instant. We can bury ourselves deeper within ourselves or we can build our walls up higher to hide from the hurt, to hide from the shame and shy away from vulnerability, but when we numb ourselves to emotion, you will end up in a constant state of default.” she says.
She went on to share more by saying, “It made me realize that self dependency and emotional detachment doesn’t necessarily mean strength. In fact, we are actually building up our own prison walls. You can’t step out of your comfort zone and still want to feel safe and secure. It doesn’t work that way.”
After graduating, she came back to Kuala Lumpur and did not have many friends. “I realized that it is during extreme moments of vulnerability that can give birth to innovation, to faith, to hope, to change”, she says. It was in trying times that she found the meaning in people and the meaning of community. A lot of times people think that we will lose our identity when we belong into a community but that is not true because one can gain strength from others to do what one cannot possibly do by oneself. Su-Zen Low co-founded CultureRun with her sister Suwen early this year to initiate a culture of learning in Malaysia. It was founded during a period where she was lost and lonely. For those who do not know, CultureRun is a platform to organize real life classes and workshops (ShareShops) designed towards promoting social and community development through the sharing of skills, ideas and passions.
Being Arts Majors and without and business background or technology, she says, “I was a terrible student to start a learning platform.” They took that step of faith anyway because they saw an opportunity to serve a bigger purpose. They saw that there were people out there in the city that wanted to learn passionately, outside of their classrooms and outside of the education system. “We believe in the everyday expert, that everyone has the skills, passions and talents worth sharing in the community. Most importantly we wanted to build human connection” says Su-Zen.
The first few months was tough for her, especially times when she was asked difficult questions. She was ashamed that she was not smarter or more business savvy. She would go home and cry because she felt so stupid and that she could not live up to what she created. “I thought I had to know everything or at least something but there were very many times that I knew nothing. This taught me that I could not depend solely on myself and reach out to others for help. It is so difficult though to say that “I’m struggling and I’m weak” she shares.
The original definition of courage comes from the Latin word “Cor” which means heart and the original definition of courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart, soul, and mind. “Courage is the ability to say, “I’m sorry”, the ability to be compassionate and kind, without expecting anything in return, standing up in what you believe in, investing in a relationship even if there is no guarantee, and it is to love without fear.
“My sister and I learnt very much about courage, but we also learnt to depend so much on prayer, on family, friends and on complete strangers. That is what brought us through and that is what continues to bring us through up to this day.” Su-Zen says.
In society we tend to be ashamed of admitting our weakness. We do not want to admit it, in fear of losing “face”. Vulnerability is outward focus, not attention seeking, not self-absorbed, it has nothing to do with being careless and dismissive without emotions. Vulnerability seeks to uplift and bring out the best in others, not to shame or destroy. She says, “It is so humbling because it pushes the mountains of pride inside you, it doesn’t complicate matters of the heart, but rather helps us to love in all its simplicity.”
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.
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