This is what I wrote for Monday Starters on Dec 13
The Dash is a simple poem of 241 words. Written by Linda Ellis in 1996, the poem has taken on a life of its own.
The video clip on the website (http://lindaellis.net/wp) has been viewed 30 million times while some 300,000 products related to the poem have been sold so far.
Last week, a dear friend included the poem in his tribute to his late wife to commemorate the first year of her death.
He could have written a well-deserved eulogy about her but, as he puts it, “my wife would want this memory to contain a timely reminder for us.”
As far as timely reminders go, The Dash certainly does its job well.
It’s hard to read it without feeling that there is much to be done to sort out one’s life before one’s demise.
What is The Dash all about?
When someone dies, two dates are normally included in the obituary advertisement, and subsequently the tombstone. Date of birth and date of death. The two dates are separated by a dash.
The dash represents the time the person spent on earth.
If you are an important public figure in business or in politics, chances are you will have an obituary published in the newspapers. It could be written either by a journalist or an equally famous friend who knows you well.
Your list of accomplishments will be faithfully noted down – the day you made your first million, the many famous people you had dinner with, the day you got a Datukship, etc.
Your faults may be mentioned, although in true Malaysian fashion, obituary writers are generally kind with their words.
But that is just one side of the story. Others may remember you for very different reasons.
In a stanza of the poem, Ellis writes:
So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
Working in the press, I am bemused by the fuss made over an article sometimes, as though it is the most definitive and authoritative account.
The truth is, a person and his actions, will be viewed from numerous angles.
When two companies complete a mega deal, for example, that may be good news to one company, but not necessarily so for the other. The CEO who makes the killer deal may be embraced by the financial press but his family may wonder if his already busy schedule will be further compromised.
It is like saying the weather is bad simply because it is raining. In fact, it is a matter of perspective.
But rich or poor, famous or ordinary, the most meaningful account of anyone’s dash must surely be about how many lives have been touched by this person.
As Roshan Thiran puts it in his column on Saturday, chasing significance instead of success is the key to a lasting legacy.
Pause for a moment as you read this stanza:
It matters not how much you own
The cars, the house, the cash
What matters is how you live and love
And how you spend your dash
What, then, will my dash be – a sprint through the yellow brick road or an opportunity to make a difference on the road less travelled?
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin believes that as the year comes to an end, and we are in the season of bonuses and increments, it would be good not to despair because someone earns more but to remember that many others have to struggle just to make ends meet.