Wiktionary: (idiomatic) A long-term strategy or endeavor.

When you pass your half-century, the game doesn’t seem that long anymore. You’re closer to your death than you are your birth. But when even making the transition from this life to the next is merely that—a transition—you know you still need to play the long game.

When I held our grandson in my arms not too long after his birth, I thought of all the dreams his parents (and grandparents) have for him and how God already has a plan for his life. As Star Trek’s Mr Spock would put it, that he would “Live long and prosper”.

Interestingly, at this juncture in Singapore’s existence, many of her leaders have been including in their speeches mention of long-term strategies, so that Singapore can “live long and prosper”. One that I particularly liked was shared by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in his capacity as the Guest of Honour at our friend’s book launch. He talked about the three components for living life to the fullest: lifelong learning; making kindness a way of life; and getting involved in the community. He took pains to emphasise, during a more recent speech that lifelong learning isn’t “motivated fundamentally by the need to deal with economic disruptions, in other words, that people should learn skills in case they lose your job, so they can find another job.… Lifelong learning is really about that desire for mastery and quality, and how we develop it throughout life.”

His three components for living life to the fullest really resonated, because they placed value on relational transformation. Even the lifelong learning is not just an individualistic endeavour, but an effort to develop the potential of “the team”, in this case Singapore. And making kindness a way of life, as we’ve seen in Galatians 5 isn’t an inward-looking exercise, but one that presumes life in community. The last point about getting involved in the community is something that we, as Christians, can say “Amen” to.

Looking at economic indicators and the state of play of world trade, the future of Singapore can be a cause for concern. But if we learn from the past and return to not just building up our human capital but to building up our communal quotient, I think there is much to be hopeful about. So many ground-up initiatives have sprouted because someone saw a need and, motivated by a love for neighbour, decided to inch towards meeting that need.

I can remember attending a conference on “Christians and Nation-building in Singapore” many years back when I discovered how integral Christians were in laying the foundations for healthcare, education, social welfare, even industry. So, when we look at the long game, we need to heed God’s words as told to Jeremiah,

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” … For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:7,11 NIV)

While we’re on the subject of the long game in the context of Singapore’s future, the elephant in the room also needs to be addressed. Who will lead us? We have spent the last five decades reminding ourselves that “we pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.” And yet, when it comes to the leadership of this island-nation, we seem to be unable to shake off the shadow of the Chinese majority in our leadership choices. As one of our sons said, when I questioned some of his decisions and choices as a teenager, “You have to have more confidence in our upbringing!”

Did I mention that I would confidently vote for DPM Tharman to be our next Prime Minister without any hesitation whatsoever?