Birth, Natality and Renewal

Low Jun Hong | Public Policy and Global Affairs Year 2 | 7th May 2017

Nothing is as liberating as the idea of being born anew, whether literally or metaphorically; spiritually or psychologically.

The idea of an emergence, that is at least random, spontaneous and out of nothingness carries with it something special. In movies, you see the unexpected emergence of a hero – someone who like the rest of us, has been propelled into the apocalyptic mix of events that necessitate a transformation of your average Joe. The ordinary layman in the spur of the moment takes on new powers, finds his purpose and takes the responsibility of defending humanity.

A similar narrative is portrayed even in games. One of the recently acclaimed best role-playing game of 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn has aptly captured the idea of rebirth and natality. (Spoiler alert!)

The female protagonist, Aloy was a DNA clone of the original scientist Dr. Elizabeth Sobeck who has died approximately 1000 years ago. In Aloy’s world, human civilisation has reverted back to primeval times resembling a tribal society as a result of some calamity. Aloy, unlike the rest of the tribe members, was conceived through an artificial womb without a birth mother. As a result, she was casted out at birth and raised by an “outcast” living far from the tribe. Throughout her childhood, she was forsaken by the tribe and no one from the tribe was allowed to speak to her. 

However, when she grew up and was confronted with the same forces that wiped civilisation a thousand years ago, somehow out of necessity and spontaneity, she rose to the challenge. Something was born anew. In fact, it was a “bi-birth”. The first birth was when Aloy came into this world and the second, a spontaneous spiritual one was the moment she took on her spear and resolved to defend humanity.  [1]

The idea of birth embodies tremendous hope, change and spontaneity. If anything, it is in every nation, every creed, every society’s responsibility to honour birth and its extensional characteristics.

In a recent news article published by Straits Times, a LASALLE student had decorated a staircase near her flat with gold foil in the name of art. When interviewed, Ms Priyageetha explains that the flat which she resides in belonged to her grandma, who had previously relocated from the slums. In a meaningful way, the new home represented a new lease of life and she named her work “Staircase to Heaven”.

Despite receiving no complaints and even receiving an approving thumbs-up by an architect who lives near her flat, town council laws forbade her work of art and claimed that Ms Riyageetha had no formal authorisation by the town council. Sadly, she removed her art shortly. In response, she explained in her own words “I consider this work as art and not vandalism… My work does not seek to obliterate a public space; vandalism in all sense has no respect for another individual”.

In a way, Ms Priyageetha’s personal work of art expresses a birthing or renewal of experience by illuminating one of the many dull, grey staircases in her flat. One could imagine residents who are intrigued by the gold staircase as they see it and speak about it. Such work of art breaks the monotony, brings new insight to life for both contemplation and a sense of something new. In fact, the case of her story being published on Straits Times as a story of ‘spontaneous art or vandalism against the backdrop of legal regulation’ while initiating conversation is proof of the potential of art as spontaneous and liberating. If Ms Priyageetha’s art has merely resided in the recesses of her mind and not manifest itself in her work of spontaneity, there would simply be no conversation, no public discussion, simply nothing. [2]

In a similar vein, a family who recently moved to Kansas, United States, decided to make small Gnome houses around the Overland Park near their home. As an attempt to find meaning at their new home and to cope with the emotional turmoil that comes with a nomadic lifestyle; relocating frequently due to the father’s work demands, the family has decided to make small Gnome houses and place them in the forest. This act of spontaneity was well received by the families living there. In one incident, a family who has lost her 3-year-old daughter, Allie to brain cancer placed a small note in one of the Gnome houses as remembrance of their daughter. The note read “In memory of Allie Fisher, 10/16/09-6/13/13, Love you Little Owl”.

When the grief-stricken family came back to the same place where they left their note some time later, they were surprised to find a small Gnome house carved into a tree with a teal-coloured door which read “Little Owl”. For the grieving mother, this act of spontaneity from a stranger that came out of nowhere brought comfort and a moment of liberation from the emotional loss. Unfortunately, the Park authorities removed the Gnome houses because they did not receive the Park authorities’ approval. In one of the interviews with the director of Overland Park services, Greg Ruether said “That is my response to make sure we approve what goes into our parks”. [3]

Efforts to thwart spontaneous works, which harbour the potential to disrupt the monotony of life brings a sense of renewal and birth, eliminates essentially any human characteristic of kindness, hope and empathy. It is these small, spontaneous acts performed in the spur of the moment that expresses genuine creativity, kindness and a love for the community at large. In seeking legal authorisation and permission, the spirit of spontaneity is lost.

Very often, it is the uninhibited “Eureka!” moment that sparks anew creations worthy of public exhibition.



[1] B. Romero, “Horizon Zero Dawn: Story and Ending Explained,” TWINFINITE, 1 March 2017. [Online]. Available:
[2] A. Lim, “Gold stairs earn praise but are out of step with rules,” The Straits Times, 8 March 2017. [Online]. Available:
[3] S. Liese, Director, The Gnomist. [Film]. Herizon Productions, 2015. Available:





On This Day (March 07)


The telephone is patented by Alexander Graham Bell

Samuel F.B. Morse’s invention of the telegraph in 1843 had made nearly instantaneous communication possible across great distances. However, the telegraph still required the manual transfer of messages between telegraph stations and recipients, and only one message could be sent at a time. Bell wanted to improve the situation by creating a “harmonic telegraph,” a device that would be a cross between the telegraph and record player, that would enable individuals to communicate with each other from a distance.

Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the use of the telephone to an audience.


Hitler orders the reoccupation of the Rhineland

The leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, violates the Treaty of Versailles by ordering German military forces into the Rhineland, a demilitarized zone along the Rhine River in western Germany. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919 after World War I, dictated that Germany’s military forces were sharply reduced in number, and the Rhineland, a critical industrial area, was to be demilitarized. However. after seizing power in 1933, Hitler repudiated the terms of the treaty, unilaterally cancelling the military terms of the treaty in 1935 and re-militarizing the Rhineland in 1936.

German troops marching into the Rhineland.


US President Jimmy Carter meets with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

This meeting with Rabin would lead to the Camp David peace talks held between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Rabin’s replacement, Menachem Begin, in 1978. During the meeting, Carter attempted to reassure the Israeli prime minister that any Middle East peace talks would be centered on attaining defensible borders for Israel, and would also require that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) acknowledge the existence of Israel. Although this initial overture was rejected by Rabin, Carter’s sincere friendship with Sadat, and Begin’s receptivity to Carter’s suggestions, moved the talks forward and the fragile Middle East peace process advanced. In 1978, at Carter’s presidential retreat, the president witnessed Begin and Sadat’s signing of the Camp David Peace Accords.

President Carter touches glasses with Prime Minister Rabin during the official reception at the White House.