The canvas of life, painted with love: Even in times of trial, there are opportunities to reach out and make a difference to the people whose paths we cross

Updated: Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 7:49:00 AM

The canvas of life, painted with love


Even in times of trial, there are opportunities to reach out and make a difference to the people whose paths we cross.

HAVE you ever watched an artist at work? Most artists paint in private but there are also those who do not mind letting people watch them work. On a recent trip to Penang, I came across a group of artists along Beach Street – which is part of the heritage zone – and I wondered how they could paint with so many curious onlookers hovering around them.I noticed that while they were looking at the same scene, with the clock tower at the end of the road as the centerpiece, their interpretations were quite different. Some used water colours, some used acrylics, and there was even one who used charcoal.

There was one lady artist who was painting in the minutest detail while a nearby gentleman must fancy himself a Picasso with his abstract strokes.

Like all tourists, local or foreign, I took the easy way out and just captured that same scene with my camera.

In last week’s column, I shared with you 10 heart-and-soul resolutions and I am thankful that it struck a chord with so many of you.

On New Year’s Day, instead of the usual New Year greeting, I posted this on my Facebook: “As the new year begins, may you fill the empty canvas before you with the things that matter. May success be measured not by material gains but by the significance of your words and deeds. Let us all reach out and touch lives, wherever God has placed us.”

Our journey in life cannot be demarcated by the calendar year. To the person struggling with terminal illness, and being given months, if not days, to live, his way of looking at the new year is quite different, even if he can see the fireworks display from his hospital bed.

But if a year in our life could be nicely fitted into an artist’s canvas, how would your finished work of art look like?

If you only measure success by material gains – a fat bonus, a nice increment, a new car, maybe even a datukship – would you be able to fill the canvas by Dec 31, or would your canvas come out blank?

I have read many commentaries about how horrible 2013 was and the sense of despair that this year may not be that different.

Today, I too am feeling troubled by some events early in the year and wonder if the actions of a few might inflict scars upon the nation that will take a long time to heal. My immediate instinct is to ask: Where are the peacemakers? Where are the leaders who will raise the call for us to build bridges that connect and to tear down the walls that divide?

But I am reminded at the same time that the bridge-builders are everywhere, and we could also be one of them if we do not allow others to envelope us with their hatred, so much so that we cease to even reach out in love when given the opportunity to do so.

The art critics seem to be able to tell us, when they look at the works of great artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo, if the artist was happy or angry when he painted a particular painting.

I think the same applies to us if we were to start filling up the canvas for the year. If we start the year angry, with many burdens brought over from 2013, we might go for dark colours in broad strokes and fill up the canvas even before we cross January.

But if we begin the year on a clean slate, we might go for pastel shades and slowly paint in the many interesting details day by day. And when each stroke represents a significant word or deed that makes a big difference in the lives of every fellow human being whose paths we cross this year, a masterpiece will emerge.

Soo Ewe Jin ( is reminded of that famous prayer that tells us, among other things, to sow love where there is hatred; truth where there is error; and hope where there is despair.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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