A Life Less Complex

Life is a series of experiments; we seldom know which choices are best for us until they have run their course. We also seldom know where a path we’ve chosen will take us until we’ve gotten to the end. Robert Frost took the one less traveled, but when did he know that that made all the difference if not at the end? Life is retrospectively coherent. It is complex, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to make it less so.

A few weeks ago, I reckoned I’d move my life into the ordered domain (see Cognitive Edge’s sensemaking framework). I went to see an expert – a Palm Reader in Singapore’s Chinatown – to get some answers. Some Chinese believe that our fortunes are written in the day and time of our birth, in our name, on our palm and on our face. That day a few weeks ago, I was one of them.

The Palm Reader told me many things, but these are what I can remember: I had a near-death experience (this is true – a sewing machine did fall on me when I was 2- or 3-years-old, and I also fractured my wrist when I was 14); there will be travel (this is true – I’ll be attending the ACTKM Conference in Canberra); I have tao hua yun, or people are drawn to me (this is true – I’m very charming). I will accumulate wealth through legitimate means (this is true – nobody has yet asked me to launder money). There were other stuff said, but some of it was lost in translation.

Having earned my trust, the Palm Reader then took measurements of my palm, searched his database, and pulled this out for me. Essentially, it says that I’m a good guy (this is true), although luck is not on my side. It also says that I’ll struggle in my 30s, things will go smoother in my 40s, there’ll be a big crisis when I’m 49, my life will take off in my 50s, and I’ll die at age 77. I especially like the last part, because now I know how far to stretch my retirement funds.

In many ways, my Palm Reader is like a management consultant. He underwent a discovery phase, looked at visible signs (eg, scars on my eyebrow and wrist) and made a diagnosis (my near-death experience). He has seen many like me before, and has used that experience to develop a database of templated answers, including roadmaps. And given the challenges that lay ahead of me before I hit my plain-sailing 50s, he offered a solution (my good luck charm cost more as it wasn’t part of the consulting package).

So having consulted an expert, can I expect more order in my life? Or have I been hoodwinked? I guess I’ll know when the roadmap doesn’t pan out like he said, like when I’m still alive at 78.

4 Comments so far

Gerald Baxter

I’m not sure why Edgar Tan wants to hand his life over to someone else.  I’d prefer to a personal experience which led me to interesting research.
Credible research on near-death experiences (NDEs) is readily found on the website of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS): http://www.iands.org.  I reached IANDS after a personal experience with what I call the “light” during hypnosis.  I clicked on “Research tab” for published papers at the site. New findings, particularly the two written by Dr. Peter Fenwick (neuropsychiatrist) and Dr. Pim Van Lommel (cardiologist) were particularly helpful.  Also, a DVD by Dr. Bruce Greyson (psychiatrist) of the University of Virginia Medical School is about a long list of physiological and pharmaceutical explanations given to explain why these cannot be offered as adequate explanations of NDEs. The DVD is at: http://www.iands.org/shoppingcart/index.php?mainpage=product_info&cPath=48_49&products_id=687.  If you’re interested, further research can be found at http://www.iands.org/research/important_studies/
I discovered that over the past 30 years NDEs have been the focus of many scientific studies at medical centers and universities throughout the U.S. and around the world.
I found that many thousands of documented cases of near-death experiences have occurred.  They are deeply mystical events going beyond the power of words to fully describe them.  Yet, NDEs have elements in common.  While no two experiences are identical: many have out-of-body experiences— accounts of viewing their surroundings from above or outside their bodies while clinically dead or unconscious during surgery, for example—details that are verified by nurses and doctors; meeting and communicating with mystical beings or deceased relatives; having a life review in the presence of “spiritual guides,” etc.  NDE elements cut across all religious traditions including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.  Almost all report that their lives are dramatically changed after their experience, including becoming more spiritual, more loving and caring, and often changing their work lives to the caring or teaching professions.  While near-death-experiences have nothing to do with “faith” or “belief,” they are the essence of the religious experience.

Posted on October 18, 2007 at 12:32 AM | Comment permalink

Edgar Tan

Hello Gerald

I wouldn’t say that I had an NDE, although I nearly died when I was charged extra for my lucky bracelet.

I like your point about NDEs transforming lives. Sometimes, I come across organisations that I think need to experience an NDE before they will realise what bad shape they’re in. Patrick Lencioni suggests that in order to build a cohesive team you need to put them through a crisis situation. I’d go one step further and suggest that we put them through an NDE. In knowledge management circle, for examples, we talk about removing people’s email in order to make them talk to one another. I can already hear some people gasping for air smile

Posted on October 18, 2007 at 11:05 AM | Comment permalink

did u find out what kind of “tao hua” is coming your way?... don’t get too excited! and beware my fren wink

Posted on October 19, 2007 at 06:20 PM | Comment permalink

ONG Lip Hua

I have been “disgnosed” by my photographer on the side, duing my wedding photoshoot session.

The diagnosis was free.  I bought a jade horse, so he’ll do a good job at photography afterwards, for S$10.

Anyway, I have little faith in fortune-telling.  It’s hard to tell the real from the erm, novice.  There is little market information.  But fif you must, read this http://mrwangsaysso.blogspot.com/2007/06/mindhacking-safe-simple-part-1.html

There is a whole string of posts on the same blog for this “thoughts affecting your life”, some even presented in very scientific ways.

As a KM newbie (Mr Kan is teaching me now, and I am sitting for his paper on Wednesday), I would prefer something with a little more facts.

But then, what happens to tacit knowledge?

I came across this very interesting paper by Professor Chun Wei Choo, University of Toronto, which may explain why Asian societies are more accepting of fortune telling than westen societies.


Upon reflecting on his comparison between Devanport and Nonaka’s models, and linking them to the high and low contextual societies of Asian and Western societies, many things make sense, suddenly.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 05:22 PM | Comment permalink

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