Our Singapore sojourn is over. We have packed up our stuff in Singapore and are now back in Sydney. Saturday was New Year, or Naw-Ruz, for many people in the world including the Baha’is. It was a propitious day to take the keys to our new place in the Parramatta region of Sydney.
It is good to be back and close to the archives I need to consult for my writing. I am looking forward to two conferences which will take place in Sydney in the middle of this year – DH2015, the international Digital Humanities Conference hosted by the University of Western Sydney and the annual Australian Historical Association conference hosted by the University of Sydney. It is the first time in the twenty-six year history of the Digital Humanities Conference that it will be held outside Europe and North America.
Today the Professional Historians Association of NSW and ACT published a blog post I wrote about practising history in Singapore. It is based on an interview I did with an historian, Kevin Blackburn, who has been researching history for many years in Singapore. Talking to Blackburn and writing the post opened my eyes to how the act of researching history differs greatly from place to place. The operation of archives varies greatly around the world and within nations.
I still have loads of posts to write about Singapore. When we knew the date of our departure we became enthusiastic tourists and made sure we visited as many places as possible in Singapore – the popular and the more unusual. You can read about the famous tourist spots anywhere so I’ll concentrate on sharing the less well-known attractions and more about the culture of Singapore.
My work on the book has continued albeit at a slower pace during the move. During the last couple of months I have concentrated on improving my programming skills. Staying in temporary accommodation has enabled me to finish a good book about the inner lives of British soldiers in World War I – The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War by Michael Roper.
As the last of our household goods disappeared from our apartment and were placed in the container in Singapore I was reminded of an observation that Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith made when He was a child in nineteenth century Iran. He had been watching a puppet show about a king and was struck by what happened after the show ended:
This Youth regarded the scene with great amazement. When the royal audience was ended, the curtain was drawn, and, after some twenty minutes, a man emerged from behind the tent carrying a box under his arm.
“What is this box,” I asked him, “and what was the nature of this display?”
“All this lavish display and these elaborate devices,” he replied, “the king, the princes, and the ministers, their pomp and glory, their might and power, everything you saw, are now contained within this box.”
I swear by My Lord Who, through a single word of His Mouth, hath brought into being all created things! Ever since that day, all the trappings of the world have seemed in the eyes of this Youth akin to that same spectacle. They have never been, nor will they ever be, of any weight and consequence, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. How greatly I marvelled that men should pride themselves upon such vanities, whilst those possessed of insight, ere they witness any evidence of human glory, perceive with certainty the inevitability of its waning. “Never have I looked upon any thing save that I have seen extinction before it; and God, verily, is a sufficient witness!
Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts
Our possessions stuffed in a container are indeed, insignificant.