Jenson Chen / 23 / Pasir Ris, Singapore / English Major
What do you live for?
I live to piss off at least one person each day.
Well, to piss off someone is a way of making sure you count in someone's life. To make an impact, so to speak. And not just any kind of impact but something deep and meaningful, that changes something within them. The best kind of change being that which is uncomfortable because it propels you into deeper, unknown territory. Of course also because in pissing other people off, you sharpen your wit and rhetoric which makes you a better speaker, listener and asshole, which can come in handy from time to time.
What is some of the best advice that you have been given/want to give our readers?
I study words, I play with words, I work with words. Words surround and fill us, so why not study how people use them to what effect? My favourite activity is to try and describe things around me a practise I do whenever I am commuting. Have you ever tried describing another person's face? Try going beyond describing his hair and spectacles. What are the shape of his eyes? Are they droopy or bright and alert? Or his ears bent forward like a hawk, attenuated to their surroundings, or folded back like a beagle? It's to practise creating images, transferring ideas to other people using language, which I find sadly lacking in most people. It's like the other day, when I worked on a group project with Science and Engineering projects the other day and they honestly sounded like babies, babbling words in the hopes of getting the right idea when one would do. You know, Wittgenstein had this idea that that which cannot be spoken, must be passed over in silence, which really means that by knowing words, you know ideas and concepts you otherwise would not. Take zeitgeist, ennui or epiphany for example. Check out what they mean and discover how they encapsulate what you've always tried to say, in one word. So don't take words for granted.
...worry that life is too short.
Something random you'd like to say?
I don't consider myself Chinese. Only in South-east Asia, does the concept of race still exist. Elsewhere, even in China, people use "ethnic group" instead. It was used in colonial times to simply mark where one came from. Malays came from Malaya, Indians came from India and Chinese came from China. It was never meant to substitute your ethnic group/tribe, like the Javanese/Bugis tribes in Malaya, Bengalis and Punjabi in India and etc... So I wish Singapore would move that way, away from race and towards ethnicity, allowing everyone to discover who they truly are, rather than creating enclaves like Chinatown/Kampong Glam and telling us that's our heritage is.