About / Just Because

The Value of Vulnerabilities

Most days I ride a 50 cc scooter to the university. I started doing that in 2010 after a trio of parking tickets in as many weeks left me furious. There are other options, of course, bicycles (including the electric ones) public transport and taxis. I won’t go into the reasons why I chose a scooter apart from the fact that where I live riding a ‘moped’ only requires a car driver’s license.

So three years of riding on the uneven, winding streets of Brisbane have taught me a number of lessons, of which the most valuable is the advantage of coming face to face with your vulnerability as a human being. Despite the padded jacket, gloves and helmet I don religiously there is scant protection when I ride. Side by side with utes with engines an average of 60 times more powerful than my dinky little red devil, it is a truly humbling and terrifyingly vulnerable position to be in.

Yet, the value of vulnerability is in what it enables you to see and experience, the view of those less protected (literally!), the view of those ignored or dismissed and the view of those slower. Being on a scooter or a moped brings you closer to the street and the people around you. It deprives you of that cocoon of upholstered comfort, musical choice, air bags and tinted windows but it opens you up to so much more.

To ride a scooter you need to pay attention. Any stray wanderings of the mind can cause a nasty spill (touch wood!) and lots of pain. But I’ve found that the focus on one level of my mind means that on another level, my mind finds space to simply exist and become free of fretting and petty quarrels, free to just take in the world around me. So, like the gentleman on his scooter and sidecar featured in my header photo, one is free to observe life and take in all in one’s stride.


I'm a research fellow at an Australian university where I work on a number of projects. These include projects to do with new media and migration and the Chinese diaspora in Australia, projects on the Malaysian internet, ethno-religious issues in Singapore and Malaysia. And, before I forget many of the photos I use on this site were taken by my sister, Jessie and myself. All rights are reserved.