for my parents, Albert & Nancy Khoo
Thank you for the bequest of street entrepreneurism and everything under, beyond, inside and before the sun.
I don’t know gets harder and harder when it seems there is more and more available on the internet, and more ecosystems of human connections cohere, never to the speed and scale seen before, experienced before, graspable before.
Global events seem unprecedented.
Question is, has there been a marked change in human-earthly affairs or is it that there is perhaps a lot more “noise”?
Is there meaning and value in chatter in the ecology of human societal organisations and the dynamic ordering of universal harmony?
COUNTDOWN T MINUS 6 Days – July 1, 2019
I can’t quite recall how the idea of information and coordination goes in the General Equilibrium Theory – the first cut. I think it just proofs mathematically, that should these conditions exist, there can exist a general equilibrium that clears market – meaning that the price mechanism is able to organise resources to meet every need in every state of existence.
This is a bit like a fairy tale. It is like the general promise of everything. But still, I hold on to it. Why?
Because the math says that it could be.
“Life is not maths,” I can hear the realists jumping in now.
“Simplify it,” the pragmatists longing to implement this reality start to pipe in.
“Teach us,” the learners express their enthusiasm.
That was the temptation I nearly fell for.
A theory isn’t yet implementable from thought to action.
A theory is a way of thinking. It is a tool. The IDEA of A Silent Dancer in a Pregnant Pause eventually took 3 years to be incorporated into the twin engines of The Silent Dancer Pte Ltd and The Kind Weaver Pte Ltd.
The shares or equity of the two corporations are currently both held by Bilberries Blue Pte Ltd.
Pte Ltd represents Private Limited. It is a separate legal entity so that there is a veil of incorporation between the shareholders and the actors and subsequent actions of the company. A Pte Ltd is governed under the Company Law of the jurisdiction of the nationstate in which it has been incorporated.
When shares are transferred from one shareholder to another, it is between the shareholders.
When goods and services are offered by the private limited company, they are offered by the Pte Ltd.
The Pte Ltd is its own separate, legal entity. Under Company Law, it stands and represents itself as a being.
There are Codes of Corporate Governance that exist that help set the international best practices for each of the nationstate jurisdiction on how a company operates. It suggests and mandates the best ethos and conducts for the leadership of a company, typically delegated by the holders of shares, shareholders, to the Board of Directors. The Financial Reporting Standards drive the accounting of the records of activities, and these get an independent audit at the end of each year. Shareholders activities are administered by the Company Secretary, which include Shareholders and Board members activities.
And currently, globally, the ESG (Environmental Social Governance) mandate is already incorporated in the international company best practices guidelines.
And it is also incorporated by many Funds, because many Funds are organised as a company, meaning, even Monetary Capital has been mandated to be ESG.
ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is already baseline.
Everything in between then, is up to the company, meaning the organisation of people, either holding the shares or equity of the company, or working in the company – either as co-founders, board members, employees, consultants or agents, or interacting with the company – either to exchange goods and services or prospecting for these possibilities, or those who have an externalities relationship to the company.
Externalities mean, the activities of the company, have not priced in the impact of the company on those not having a direct legal relationship with the company. This is typically the impact on the environment, or recently, the impact on the social fabric of the wellbeing of society.
(Because work-life balance is now blurred, and work is life, life is work, as livelihood issues become more and more urgent, for many households, and work is now through emails, Whatsapps, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. The chatter is non-stop. Meaning the bosses get to change their minds every second and bark instructions at the speed of thought. Thinking that their thoughts MUST equal INSTANT organised actions.)
This is a very tall order of things that the company has been tasked to price in. To incorporate the price of externalities.
The holders of shares or equity would cry, “Foul! My investment doesn’t serve such a big mandate. It cannot. What is the return on investment on my money?”
The people who are working in the company would cry, “Foul! My salary isn’t even enough to cover my household expenditure, how can I reduce my salary and increase my scope of work to take care of the environment and people, and governance? What is the state for then?”
Those who buy and sell the goods and services being produced by the company would cry, “Foul! I am paying for it all, either through more taxes (Goods & Services Tax), or increased prices. I don’t have enough MONEY to go round.”
So MONEY gets stretched. The Money folks have to allocate and distribute Money. So, they do the rational, up the Returns on Money or the Price of Money, also known as Interest Rates. So ROI on Money gets higher, to where money has been stretched because that demand that is so stretched would pay the highest ROI for the supply of money. This manifests as a dreaded economic phenomenon, a very global painful lesson of 1974: INFLATION.
Then comes in the Transaction Support guys, “I can’t turn money so fast. Pay me more to compensate for my 100 hour workweek. Plus when I am sleep-deprived, I am trading health for keeping my career, so I need more money for my future wellbeing (say in an insurance programme which funds rehabilitation of all sorts),” which begins the trade with the future. And TIME comes in.
If the State has a Treasury
The State (if it has a treasury), would come in and say, “I think we need some intervention here. But where?”
Under the Theory of the Firm, it is a blackbox. Economic Theory has a disconnect to Business, as it is practised in real life.
Under the Theory of Industrial Organisations, it is a case of “Don’t pick winners.” Because when you pick winners, you lose innovation. You miss the economic mechanism adapting to the complex adaptive system.
Nobody did Family then in Economics. We were kids, how would we know about Family. The theorists conveniently called this Household. And all households behave the same (in theory, every Homo Econimicus is rational and behaves the same). They think about bequests. Again, time comes in.
Zoom past my 30 year old references. 30 Years of Observations later.
Robustly framed and tested. (Or so I think!) I see companies as Sustainable Enterprises.
The consistency of it suggests a theory. It is not anecdotal evidence. It is method. Methodology. It is a framework. It is a model. It is workable. It is consistent. A Sustainable Enterprise has 8 Functions. And it has emerged from EXPERIENCING FAILURES. Lots of it. Lots and lots of it. Because the testing was precisely, where this or that didn’t work, and why, and how do we respond, and what is missing?
How does it look like? A Sustainable Enterprise?
It is up to you to order it to adapt to the needs you serve.
Suddenly, we saw a PATTERN.
It is a fabric of possibilities. And that was why The Kind Weaver became the twin of The Silent Dancer.
WHAT IS MISSING?
What is missing is theory. It is thinking, a continuation of theory into practice, and it doesn’t stop there. It loops back to theory, because, if you don’t centre yourself in the process, you will end up in a dance of circles.
Circles can be fun, and exhilarating, but it may have too much randomness to it, so you need to PAUSE, and THINK.
AND META-THINK. Think about your thinking. i.e. meta-cognition.
And this is why we called in Nora Bateson.
She carries the LINEAGE of the ECOLOGY of Mind and the MIND of Ecology.
I don’t know what happened, but as I was allowing myself to be infused by Nora’s writings, I woke up realising I might just have two minds. My new mind suddenly being aware of my old mind, and suddenly, not being afraid of my new knower seeing my past known. Quoting from “Small Arcs of Larger Circles” by Nora Bateson:
“I want to emphasize that whenever we pride ourselves upon finding a newer, stricter way of thought or exposition; whenever we start insisting too hard upon ‘operationalism’ or symbolic logic or any other of these very essential systems of tram-lines, we lose something of the ability to think new thoughts. And equally, of course, whenever we rebel against the sterile rigidity of a formal thought and exposition and let our ideas run wild, we likewise lose. As I see it, the advances in scientific thought come from a combination of loose and strict thinking, and this combination is the most precious tool of science.” – Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind
I used to think bequest was about gifts. Because I have had to do all those lovely examinations on Inheritance Taxation literally in the dungeons of cold examination halls between 1994-1997 London under the Tube system.
I never regretted one bit of that professional qualification under ICAEW. Never one bit. Though in my inter-growth years as a woman and professional, I might sound like a very lamenting female. In Singapore, there isn’t as much a ceiling at work. At home, we can be more supported, as most of our moms and helpers love family work and rally around the professional girl championing to break the corporate glass ceiling. The conflict, for me, wasn’t that I didn’t get support. The conflict was the truth of reality:
I couldn’t do both.
I knew if I missed the early years (and I am finding, middle years, adolescent years, their whole lives) of raising my children, that I would regret later on. My personal insurance against regret back then in 2000, was to 1) be a mother, and 2) and let my career adapt.
It was a very big risk. It was in effect, a leap into nothing.
Ponder with PEK
My ground zero became the Household. I tried to templatise everything. I understood that it is a School of Life. And my helper, Melba, is my wisest friend. She said to me with her beaming courage and wisdom, “It is a Happy Heart. No need the school.” I was polling for names to rename what I thought was a very egotistical name for a company. One that completely lifted up the veil of incorporation to reveal who I am.
Back to The Story of Bequest
Another phrase in Nora’s book made my eyes go _____. I don’t know how to describe eye communications. But it was a bit like Chewy. He is a wookie. Wookies are humanoid. Just a clarification for those of you who can’t quite get the hairy features of human(oids).
(I will figure my videos, so that I can show you how wookies communicate.)
The phrase, get ready:
It made me tear up because it made me recall why I dumped the household and jumped back into the marketplace.
PEK & her Mommy, Nancy
Making Tapioca Balls Rolled in Fresh Coconut
Moonriver Lodge, Sigar Highlands, 2019
It is because of my parents.
PEK, Loida & Keith
Filming the making of Sigar River Park
Sigar Highlands, 2019
They had gifted me the gift of global literacy and mobility, by first making sure I had an education and broke the inherited limited legagies of being a girl at my birth, by naming me with the same generational name as my brothers, and daring to let me fly. My name is Courteous Swallow. Which is the bit they missed. Recently, my dad’s lawyer said to him, “Your daughter has been silent.” My dad gave him a bemused look (& warning), “She isn’t silent, she is loud.” And after 49 years, he takes a nip at me, “She should have been a boy.”
And this time, instead of raging, I cheekily smiled at his play of goading me to my highest heights, and asked, “Why?” He replied without missing a beat:
“Because I can’t control girls.” (meaning my mom!)
“Too bad, dad, I am a girl,” I said to him and his lawyer, and they chuckled out loud, and we got on with the lawyering. Because an accountant has to work with lawyers. And because this accountant has just decided to work with her father, also an accountant, but decided to try something new – integrate and expand Household Affairs to include Family Business, in her cooky economics-entrepreneurism. In a way, only a woman can, “Too bad for patriarchy, and actually matriarchy, too.” Again to no one in particular.
And suddenly I find myself: an accidental sustainable township developer.
The Bequest of Street Kid
Sigar Highlands, 2019
Here’s my 74 yo dad driving me to action cam the site.
He was starting to crab up on me, and I said to him, “How am I going to market this if you don’t tell me how big is the land? Very few people can visualise 1,000 acres.”
So, I filmed it. The drive on the highway, along the length of the land, adjacent to the highway.
And he drove me, and he said that his back hurt, and that it was hard growing old. I told him, “You are not old, dad.” And then I went on and rattled about telomeres and neuroplasticity, but I have no credibility in this area, so he didn’t nod.
The real point I was making to him was this, “If you don’t show me how to do this, how are you going to transmit this knowledge to me?”
Stay tuned, the story of the land is coming up soon. And bequest, for me, became inter-generational love-family-work-play-friendship.
And the inner pain, fears, longings, conflicts – dissolved, into the latent field of everything I now know as an inner sanctuary called A Happy Heart.
He never once said, “I am scared,” when I was growing up. He and my mom did not have the luxury of vulnerability. They came from 1940s Malaysia where most things were either gangsterism or making yourself grow up straight and narrow. They get yelled at or socked on the ears or a slap behind the head if you lose your path in the midst of post WWII nation-building. Either that or you get lost in the curfews. So you stay at home as newly married 20 year olds during a curfew, and that was how I was conceived.
I suppose if they had demonstrated on the streets, I wouldn’t be born. Hmmm, an interesting thought for the next story.
“Happy birthday, curfew baby,” my dad in his wry humour greeted my 49 years on earth. I grinned to myself and was glad I had reconciled my own historicities with my personal hysteresis, and have just come out of a very long existential search.
I said to both my parents on my birthday, “Thank you Mom and Dad. For everything.”
In any case, they broke many inherited trappings of their times, and this is the continuity. They are still breaking through the limits of entrepreneurism, and now with us.
Hero or Pilgrim?
That’s tomorrow’s chapter.
A pedagogical documentation is like this. It brews tomorrow’s chapter, even as today and yesterday are re-brewed.
A Story of Moonriver Lodge
Good Workers’ Quarters
Sigar Highlands, 2019
It was really an Accidental Lodge.
It was really all accidental something for me.
I thought to myself, what is my driver? I looped in centuries and space-time, until I understood, I have been trying to solve the pain in my heart, when I see others in pain, and the pain in my own heart, when I am in pain, and when I understand that mortality is 100% real.
The driver of The Economics of Universal Wellbeing is actually a river of love and friendship.It flows where it is called. Where it is needed.
We tried to beat it away. We tried to beat it to death. Yet love keeps surfacing to be named.
I made a conflicted choice:
I married my best friend.
And together, we gave birth to our two best friends.
Toadstools under a Forest Shelter
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore 2019
“Why are you hugging the forest mushroom (sculpture)?” I asked my 16 yo, just yesterday after our post-lunch walk. “Because it is nice and cold,” she was literally melting under the heat, and was wisely seeking a solution. Ordinarily, this would be deemed odd. But, behaviour, once the intent is revealed, no longer look odd, but is actually sensible communication.
I don’t know any other relationals. Except that society is necessitated by governance relationals, which morphs and adapts, and in which we are a part of, and out of which we also surface,
A way of one’s own.
Which at every step becomes a step of one’s own being, and eventually, if we are honest about it, it is about our own personhood, after it is being said and done, we are one with earth, and the cosmos, and the multitudes of galaxies, and when we meet each other, we are walking, talking, emotional, thinking, playful, mobile organisms of multitudes.
I suppose that’s one way of thinking about it all.
So what remains is the meeting, and the exchange of mutual dignity.
And what gets acted can be a thought, it can be a smile, it can be a wave, it can be some solid building of stuff.
And what gets transacted. That is the really tough zero-ing in.
For livelihood matters, and the whole market mechanism to maintain its dynamism, we use prices. The price of something. And then we exchange using that currency of exchange that is accepted by the reciprocity of the exchangers.
If we don’t use the price mechanism, it can be a gift. That’s a gift economy. But it is still transactional.
If we just meet, and be silent. Perhaps, that’s nothing.
But perhaps, that is everything – because not knowing is latency.
It is latent possibilities.
My VC (Venture Capital) friend kindly barred me from mentioning space-time in my deck. I thought about that for three years. My response, “Naah, if not now, when?”
So, Quantum becomes embroiled in Economics, in this very messy theory-making living exercise.
Finally, the place where I love most.
Conversations, connections and friendship-making.
I was looking through all my pedagogical documentation of the last 3 years.
It was unbearable even for me, but the one thing that withstood it all. The power of family and friendship.
And the power of listening.
What are we Emerging with Nora Bateson?
Thoughts on Chalkboard
BB Studio, 2019
In listening, we wait. In waiting, wholeness emerges. As it is. And in that, is the seed sprouting, after a very long winter.
Bilberries Blue Bookmark
It is spring in the eternal summer of all seasons.
And we welcome the rain, as well as the sun.
Snowdrops, the first buds appear out of nowhere.
The mushrooms sprout in between cracks.
Concrete earth becomes cement to hold her children.
And like butter, we melt into the burst of onde-onde
of the sweet, surprising
Inside a Sunhat
And the story in this is that if I have not lived it, how could I integrate it?
So, the story forward for me is to dare to live it. To keep living into the unknown.
Daughter with Mother
Denali National Park, Alaska 2008
And into the forest we go – trolley bag, ponchos, and everything.
A Collaborative Microsummit for Global Sustainability & Flourishing by