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Mon, Mar 31, 2014
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When faith keeps people apart
by Richard Lim

I first met her about 10 years ago, when I was looking to buy a three-room corner Housing Board unit in Ang Mo Kio. I had advertised in the Classifieds.

She called and said she would show me several units. I told her I would like a flat near a public pool.

Over the next two weeks, she took me to a number of viewings. I found out that she ran her own property agency with a partner and that she was also a Housing Board-appointed valuer. She was an estate management graduate from the National University of Singapore.

She was in her 30s then, tall, with long hair, and she always showed up in a blouse and a pair of jeans or slacks - and no make-up. She drove and sometimes, after I had parked my car in the lot of a certain block, she would drive me to view other units in the neighbourhood.

She also suggested that I look at some units in the Holland Village area, near the Buona Vista swimming pool.

I liked her professionalism, and I must say I liked her personally too.

She told me that she, like me, was contemplating giving up the condominium where she lived with her mother, to move into a four-room HDB flat.

In the end, I held off buying a flat, and we did not keep in touch. But I kept her name card.

A couple of years later, I bought a five-room flat in the East without using an agent.

It was when I decided to downgrade to a three-room unit nearby three years ago that I called upon her services again.

Now in her 40s, she was still the same, always in a blouse and a pair of jeans or slacks, and no make-up. She sold my flat quickly enough and at a good price.

Meanwhile, I had found a three-room unit several blocks away, but the seller's agent - the friend of the owner's son - was obviously new to the job and was totally incompetent. Between him and the son, they almost botched the transaction.

I told the owner, a genial widow, that she should use the services of my agent instead. Which she did, and the transaction was carried out smoothly.

The process of selling and buying took a few months, and I got to see my agent a couple more times at the HDB Hub where we went to do the documentations.

She told me that she had moved into a four-room flat in the north. I like the fact that she let her mother have the master bedroom with its ensuite bathroom and she took one of the two smaller rooms.

She told me too that she had decided to put her business on hold, to take up a degree course in counselling.

I knew she is a believer, but I didn't know the depth of her devotion to the faith until we went out for dinner soon after I moved into my three-room flat.

We had gone to Jack's Place at Parkway Parade, and she spent almost the entire evening proselytising to me. I just sat and listened, then I told her I believed in science and that it was most unlikely I would share her faith.

She saw that she had pushed too hard, and began talking about other things instead, and the evening ended on a pleasant note.

We started having dinner once every couple of months, and I like her company despite the fact that she will sometimes still talk about her faith.

Once she said: "If there is no Creator, how come we are so perfect? It is impossible to think that we have evolved from an amoeba."

I said to her: "Do you know our brain has three important evolution levels? The first is the 'reptilian brain' which in lizards and other reptiles is the dominant and controlling circuitry. This level is responsible for our instincts.

"The second collection of circuits is called the 'old mammalian brain' because it arose with the evolution of the earliest mammals. This is our limbic system which governs our emotions.

"The third and last set of circuits is the 'new mammalian brain'. It is what makes us humans, with complex mental functions.

"If we had been created whole in the first instance, why hadn't we just have been created with the complex brain, and not have the reptilian and old mammalian parts which are the cause of so much human misery?"

She responded by saying, "This is the typical Darwinian argument which I don't buy. Look at us, we're so perfect."

We changed the subject and talked about her counselling course. It is supposed to finish next year, and she hopes to counsel troubled children, rather than adults.

I must admit that I wish we could get closer, rather than just be friends who meet for dinner once in two months or so. But her devotion to her faith is a barrier which I don't think I will ever break through. And I don't wish to, even if I could.

I believe she likes my company too, but her faith is paramount. Pity.

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