Monday, December 10, 2012
This logic filters through to media and companies – if you’re not providing them a beneficial use or ratings, you’re useless and expendable to them. If they perceive the benefit you provide them by way of $$ as favourable to them (not you), they will milk you and use you. Despite what you want to believe, there is very little by way of trust – which is why you sign contracts and any breach of a provision will lead to a merciless battle to preserve their sanctity, not yours. In that light, we’re all being used because we can be discarded if circumstances change whereby the benefit you provide is no longer worth the utility cost. By committing ourselves to too much to work, we delude ourselves into believing we’re doing something beneficial to the world, the company and anyone else who benefits down the pecking order. Stop measuring your self-worth by how capitalistic ‘success’ has been defined – how much you earn, what you drive, where you live, what you’ve created, how many ‘likes’ you get. In the end, we're all cogs being used and spit out by the system, sweetie.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The glory of boasting about our creations and being praised for them lies at the heart of privileged societies, which are entitled with this luxury as we have numerous tools at our disposal to create at will, barring innate skill, money and fear as constraints. This is why the religious type are inclined to argue that no such diversity and complexity of life could evolve over billions of years and must be attributed to a higher being, but I digress.
The fact of the matter is through our propensity to create more for self-satisfaction, we end up consuming more, hoarding more and feeding our narcissism. We don’t feel ‘happy’ or fulfilled unless we’re actively pursuing capitalistic tendencies to beat the competition or come up with something new and innovatively creative. Subsequently, some thinking people step back and wonder why we’re still not ‘happy’ and fulfilled because after all, that’s the one Holy Grail we’re all universally chasing after. Living an idle life is frowned upon and deemed a failure if we are physically and mentally able to do something the majority feels you are capable of doing. .
This is a huge reason why I advocate travel and to an extent idleness, where we’re not constantly compelled to create something – it allows us to see the discrepancy of our so-called privileged lives of endless choices contrasted with a life of, for example, a subsistence farmer whose only aim is to feed his family, limited in choice and leaving his or her vices to the weather. A life of routine prevents us from getting a full flavour of what our choices of work are doing with regards to resources and on others as far as income disparity. There is no free lunch. Everything we create or do, despite convincing ourselves it will inspire others or improve their lives, comes at the expense of others indirectly. That’s the capitalistic, self-fulfilling way. Look after yourself at the expense of someone else you can’t see.
In the end, capitalism will always triumph and by getting ourselves stuck in its wheel, you either pay to play in order to maintain status and pride or risk falling out. In order to gain an understanding of why our productive lives, intended to be full of happiness, are not in fact as grand as we imagine, we need to understand that the mechanical acts of endless creation can be futile.
Take the time to be lazy, idle and to travel.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Virginie had very little money so she confessed she had hitchhiked around Australia for 6 months and planned to do so again, camping along the way in a cheap tent without the luxury of being waterproof. She had camped in Thailand and Malaysia the past 4 months, without a cooking stove, subsisting on dry food and trusting in the charity of others. There was a bit of a language barrier, but I couldn’t help myself from asking her a barrage of questions on loneliness, fear, safety and what brought her to embark on this adventure. She had no cell phone, no laptop, no Facebook, no means of direct communication with her parents and very little by ways of possessions. In short, she is a modern day Christopher McCandless (although she wasn’t full of hubris like he seemed to be).
I commended her on her bravery and provided her a place to crash for the night, gave her a solid knife, some rope, a map of Australia and some other things to help her on her way. She defied the typical person we commend today, full of narcissism and a desire to prove themselves through accomplishments, unable to remove themselves from their phone and modern day comforts. Rather, she was keen on exploring the world on her own accord, establishing her independence and realizing her ability for self-sustenance after depending on someone through a 9 year relationship prior to her travels. She had nothing to prove to others other than herself and it showed. Virginie wasn't concerned about vanity and mundane worries, but about the basics (transport, food, shelter) to allow her to travel and explore more. She was astounded by having a simple meat, potatoes and brocolli dish for dinner with us while we tend to worry about cooking temperature and seasoning.
We spent the night talking with my 2 roommates over dinner at home, sharing stories and opinions. She is, by far, one of the most interesting and brave people I’ve ever met. She encouraged me in my plans next year to drop everything and explore the world more, flap free style.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Imagine you’re shopping at a local Saturday morning market, latte in-hand, the other feeling for a perfectly ripe avocado to make guacamole you hope your friends will praise you for. (Enter approval seeking). Suddenly a decrepit, unshaven man walks up to you and asks you (very eloquently) to give your perceptions on the origins of morality. Chances are you’ll scoff and tell him to fuck off and find some shoes. Socrates stated that as sheep, we rarely step back to think about where we’re headed and challenged us to question our assumptions and eliminate those things that rationally made no sense (The Socratic Method) until we arrived at some truth. By insisting we know enough, rather than admitting our incapacity to understand everything, we already limit ourselves.
His student Plato carried his philosophy further by saying most of us live without an understanding the depth of our condition, content to take everything at face value, which is why ordinary citizens would shun the shoeless Socrates rather than answering his questions, because they had never considered them to begin with. By taking things at face value, these men advocated we are bathed in shadows, interpreting these as reality rather than the source of the object. To make a long story short, Socrates rubbed so many people the wrong way until those in power had enough and sentenced him to death, forcing him to drink poison. Luckily, 2,500 years later, his legacy and those of his pupils, Plato and Aristotle, remain strong, but our behaviour generally remains the same.
The thing is, as humans, we’re born into a conundrum. Of all animals, we have one tool at our disposal other animals don’t – REASON. It’s a tool all of us use, but not to its full extent, because beyond a certain point it doesn’t serve to improve our individual survival, which is ultimately what we care about. We like to eat, have sex and drown ourselves in the flavour of the week. This comfort inducing cycle creates such complacency that some of the most developed countries are depressed and have no idea why. Having money, a job, a house, good food, kids and the like is supposed to equate to happiness, right?
I’m not advocating that we need to come out of every comfort zone and think philosophically about every topic because this could even lead us to realize the human condition can be an ugly spectacle. However, the lack of self-reflection and elimination of nonsensical thinking as Socrates fought so hard for could be a genuine reason we’re in such predicaments we have no idea how we’ve gotten ourselves into.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Monday, July 2, 2012
Regarding the necessity of food, what we ideally strive for is optimal health and weight. The vices of satiety and indulgence coupled with the abundant availability of food in developed nations leads to overconsumption and diseases we’ve only had to deal with in the past few hundred years, however. Regarding education, what we strive for is truth through evidence, reason and rationality, but the vice of ignorance amidst the abundance of knowledge and opinions usually leads us toward the path of settling with the information that’s popular, biased and readily available. That’s why nationalism is so strong and religion (and cuisine for that matter) is geographically isolated to particular countries. Humans are very adaptable creatures so you have to acknowledge the fact that what teachings you were born into and inherited over thousands of years may not be correct.
The issue with this mode of learning is it ingrains a very rigid form of dogmatic teaching that an ultimate authority who we dub as God is watching over you like Big Brother, watching your moves and preventing full reign of your thoughts, such as lust, which is worthy of thought-crime. (i.e. you can’t think freely without consequences) Some never step back out of this conundrum to see the sources of the dogmatic teachings. Where did religion originate, why is God revered as Yahweh in the Old Testament when polytheism dominated, how many people were killed to spread God’s word, why was religion created in countries 2,000 years ago when civilizations were suffering through famine and disease for 98,000 years? Why did God wait to intervene with Jesus after watching humans suffer for 98,000 years?
Holding onto such thoughts with a vice grip causes some of the greatest tools at our disposal, reason and free thought, to gelatinize as we follow creeds blindly like lost sheep. This is provides an unfair advantage to children, when their curiosities are in full swing, by implanting the idea to fear death early on and that the world is merely 2,000 years old. Whilst science is constantly unveiling new, sustainable evidence for evolution, a wall is erected, preventing young people from weighing scientific evidence against dogmatic religion and drawing their own conclusions.
We’re constantly mired in uncertainty and knowledge because we can’t foresee the future and know everything, which is ultimately the challenge of existence: selectively learning what we value and making informed choices for our survival, knowing we are all mortal and susceptible to death. What religion does is stifle the beauty of uncertainty by telling us the future is full of happiness and praise after death as consolation for having to blindly praise a God. Frankly, that sounds like a fairy tale to me. The wealth of emotions and uncertainty we experience is what makes our lives interesting and produces texts / art /movies which rock our core but just like that, upon death, God promises a split in emotions as if parting the Red Sea where followers are forever inhumanely jubilant like an artificial environment while others gnash teeth and suffer. The idea of absolute certainty for the everlasting future is not something that sounds appealing as it goes against everything we value. It goes against the principle of reason, rationality and searching for truth by telling us to believe something without a prerequisite of thinking.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
That said, I’ve overcome a lot of fears, but still face a myriad of them and thinking about them is even scary. So admitting that I’m afraid of them and writing them out is a good step to more liberation. So onto my juicy fears:
1) Rejection. We’re all insecure to an extent so this will never temper away completely. Some deal with it by manipulating and using others with tools at their disposal to feel accepted. Beautiful women can get the attention of men. Or you take the safe route and follow fashion trends and earn a lot of money to show off possessions. The general public will accept you, praise your hard work and you’ll feel accepted and less of a reject. It’s the safe route to take toward overall acceptance. However, if you cast an eye and see the machine is fed by this fear mongering and have a semblance of intelligence, you’ll realize how you lie to yourself if you go down this path, gung-ho. I fear rejection by women, social groups, other races, communities etc.
2) Loneliness. I can no longer can tolerate nor settle for company for the sake of keeping me at ease like I did in previous toxic relationships. I feared solitude and facing my demons so much I had to dilute it with someone else's company. You end up dragging out relationships, creating more baggage and superficial friendships. That said, even though I can surround myself with family and friends, I fear long-term loneliness. As Chris Rock says, choose your poison, Married and bored, single and lonely!
3) Meeting the wrong person. A woman’s beauty and peoples’ uncanny abilities to deceive can reveal some nasty cards in the future. My hunch for people has improved, but it’s still a legitimate fear I have. A few bad apples I’ve met this past year have made it creep up.
4) The unconscious grip of power money has on me. My blog renounces the false security money brings, but I still feel the grip it has on me. It makes me greedy.
5) The subpar intelligence of the masses. The lack of self-reflection and uninformed choices people make leads us down the burrow of inevitably bad consequences. We’re fucking ourselves in the way of natural resources, health, finances... Says the guy who works for an oil company. But that’s beside the point. Human beings have lived and evolved for a tiny sliver of Earth’s existence and we’ll inevitably wipe out again with the next ice age or natural disaster... we’re just accelerating this outcome ourselves.
6) I fear smiling at someone and not having it reciprocated.
7) Superficiality and how much power it has to define “culture” and “arts”
8) My long term health.
9) Mind games with women. I’ve had my share of good and bad relationships over the past 15 years from a 4-year long-term relationship to 1 night stands to months of casual relationships where the obvious intent was to use one another to amazing people where the circumstances just didn’t allow it to materialize. At 30 now, I no longer crave sex and intimacy like I used to. A lot of men think with their dicks and will sacrifice their integrity to get a piece of ass and attention, crushing the woman’s self-esteem in the process by using her. (This goes both ways). The whole game of treading carefully to play a balancing act of not appearing too desperate while showing interest is deceptive bullshit. As the one being used, we give up our integrity by lavishing someone with what they want with minimal in return. It’s a game to satisfy our insecurities by playing with another’s emotions. Sure it keeps things exciting in the beginning because our primal instinct to chase things, but why can’t we just be honest and straight forward?
10) Ironically in conjunction with #2 above, long-term commitment.
11) Becoming cynical with age.
12) 2013. My intention to leave my job here next year and travel without health insurance and financial security. It’s all a bit daunting. Unless circumstances change to put me on a path of domestication, it’s still slotted as my top plan. It’ll help me shed fears further.
I No Longer Fear (as much):
1) Aging: I’ve already lost the bulk of my hair but have surpassed 30 in better shape than I was at 20. Shaving it off has been liberating and I give priority to my fitness. Sure some people of the opposite sex won’t give you the time of day because of baldness, your height, weight, race, moles and whatnot. Fuck them and move on because most people of value don’t give two shits. If you can make a girl laugh, you’re already halfway there. Whenever I see people spilling money toward ‘anti-aging’ products, it saddens me.
2) Judgement: Like they say, opinions are like assholes: everyone has one. If you let them shape your edicts without genuinely seeking out personal values yourself, you’re living someone else’s life. Nearly everything we do and say is done in some form to win others' approval.. when you can minimize approval seeking, it's liberating.
3) Idiots: There will be idiots everywhere who hold conventional wisdom, superstitions, pseudoscience, and conspiracies as dogma. Through their ignorance, they feel entitled to try making you feel small. Unfortunately they are the majority, hold a lot of power and are making irreversibly bad decisions. That’s still scary.
4) Horror / spirits: This also used to petrify me. There’s some irony that some of the most religious people I know are most afraid of this category.
Do you have the balls to write down your fears and face them?
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Cambodia’s dark history of genocide in the late 70’s shocked me, when approximately a quarter of their population was wiped out by the Khmer Rouge, driven by fear from Pol Pot’s regime. Any intellectual people such as doctors, teachers, and nurses were all uprooted from their families, tortured and killed, along with their kin. Up to 2 million people were wiped out this way from 1975 to 1979, when the Vietnamese invaded and Pol Pot’s regime fell over. There’s a generation gap clearly evident by the large amount of young people all over Cambodia.
Laos surprised me by its conservative Communist rule and its extreme poverty. Apparently it’s a crime for Lao women to mix with foreigners / Western men. Taking roads through the rural countryside, I felt naive to realize how poor of a country Laos is. I was robbed twice in the course of my travels through Laos, but in hindsight, it was my own lack of foresight that led to these incidents. It also made for a huge chunk of change to a local Laotian’s average salary of a few dollars a day (or less).
These two revelations struck me. While I myself was a tourist snapping pictures, falling into tourist traps and the like, I felt a bit of displacement looking at particular tourists. Those tourists with too much money who travel for the sake of getting another stamp in the passport, adding another to a growing laundry list of visited countries just to say they’ve been there. They scorn the locals, only mix with Westerners on their trip and make a mockery of the culture by poking fun at the language and getting shitfaced amongst luxury accommodations and pubs catered for them. What they fail to realize is how subservient and grateful locals are to tourists, who provide so much in the form of income, tips etc. They go out of their way to learn English and French, vastly different languages to Khmer and Lao, so why do we feel entitled to mock their poor English writing in menus and signposts? English speakers are notorious for knowing only their mother tongue. If we tried to pick up their language they’d have a field day of laughing at us. Anyways, I digress.
The reason for the post is there’s 2 certainties my brain has settled on. 1) We will all die 2) A huge part of the world population subsists on $1/day. Call me an idealist, but number 2 still scares me. The first certainty of death does only mildly now, but only from the perspective that time runs out far too quickly for us to rest on our laurels and make excuses to stay with the status quo and forego things we really want to pursue. My first goal when I started work 6 years ago was to attain a 6 figure salary before I reached 30. I’m 30 now and making a comfortable living, but it feels flat and empty, a means to an ever increasing goal for more money to supplement what kind of lifestyle? Pretention, stuff, material excess, mortgages, cars? No thanks. If that’s the holy grail of success, I have nothing left to prove, nor do I want to prove it anymore.
11 months are left on my contract. The freedom to explore what I want to do next is wide open. Whether I pursue development economics / policy / humanitarian aid is still something that has scratched my conscience for years. Regardless, I’m grateful to have saved a good chunk of change to buy this freedom to take time off next year. Travel, family / friend time, semi-retirement and exploring a new purpose are on the agenda for 2013. 11 months will fly here in Australia, but I can’t wait to take things in stride and off-the-cuff next year.
Friday, February 24, 2012
I discovered he was diagnosed with a severe form of bone sarcoma cancer, which quickly progressed and took his life last April. Religiously following his blog (excuse the irony), I realized how firmly he stood by his faith in God and his religious convictions, never losing hope that all pain he suffered was in the hands of God. As much as I was supportive of him and his battle, I couldn’t sympathize with this side of his blog posts, however, due to my lack of belief in the Judeo-Christian God. That never took away from Daniel’s integrity and character and if anything, it strengthened it.
After having just finished Anna Karenina, a book I consider one of the best I’ve ever read, I couldn’t help but think of Daniel. Tolstoy touches on the topic of religion frequently. He mocks religion as a refuge for characters such as Anna’s husband, betrayed by infidelity, to find comfort in God through his suffering and devise excuses to go back on his word after moments of magnanimity. This theme is tossed around through the meat of the book as Levin, apparently Tolstoy’s alter-ego, expresses his fervent atheism and impious insecurities prior to marrying Kitty, a woman of faith.
The theme of religion was like a hacky sack Tolstoy plays with throughout the book, not giving the reader a real indication of his feelings on religion and bringing it up time to time as an accessory. That is until the very end when Levin goes on his philosophical rants regarding his stance on God, religion and his fit into the cosmos. Levin is one of the only characters in the book I actually liked. The novel really is about learning from the character deficiencies. After reading numerous philosophical texts and unable to come to a conclusion, Levin contemplates suicide as a solution of release from a meagre existence. Levin then realizes that to avoid thinking and living simply with good ideals while satisfying one’s own desires is what makes for happy living. This conviction doesn’t last long, however. After a conversation with a peasant, Levin has an epiphany that living for oneself is futile and converts to Christianity, although he does not reveal his newfound faith to his wife. The book ends there. If his newfound faith is any indication of the other characters’ failures to find happiness through causes larger than themselves, Levin will ultimately not find happiness in his newfound faith and it may be the reason why he doesn’t share it with his wife. We’ll never know, however, but from all the wisdom Tolstoy imparts regarding human behaviour, this is the arena where he leaves us hanging. That’s what makes me appreciate the book even more. Tolstoy doesn’t provide any answers to those things he sees some value in but seems unsure of himself.
The reason it struck me so deeply is that while I, like the former Levin, am an unbeliever and in a phase of reading philosophical texts to understand the reasons for religiosity, I still see the good in religion and the purpose it gives people like Daniel.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
1) Obesity pisses me off
2)Everybody has an interesting life story. Writing people off as boring is easily done to try convincing ourselves we’re more interesting than we actually are.
3) Dogs > Humans
4)Fear is the culprit for myopic small-mindedness, violence, hatred, judgment, and excuses. It stifles dreams and breeds inactivity. Nearly everything with a negative connotation has fear as one of its culprits.
5) Girls are as horny as men.
6) Books can be better company than humans.
7)Texan pride runs deep and dies hard. I can no longer see myself living anywhere else long-term.
8) We can’t have enough freedom. Seeking it in nearly every realm of our lives should be sought after from financial to toxic relationships.
9) Happiness is an elusive fucker. There’s no silver bullet that applies to everyone, so chasing it can be a meager endeavor. The main things I’ve found that contribute to its well being are freedom, purpose, & relationships. Fuck money, possessions and glamour like the media tries to convince us the answer lays.
10) Forget weight machines and workout gimmicks. We’re evolutionarily designed to squat, jump, sprint, pull and press.
11) Simplify. In nearly every realm of your life
12) You shouldn't have to explain yourself. The moment you do, you lose power.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Some say the more you read, the less you write and to be fair I've gotten into some pretty meaty books lately.
After recently returning from a trip home last month that spanned 3 weeks, a realization hit that any semblance of a long-term future will not take place in Australia. My aspiration to buy a car and roadtrip across America for 6+ months still stands. The timing would be perfect. My contract expires in March 2013 at which point I'd move home jobless, settle back for a month and prep for a long roadtrip over summer to avoid the ice and snow of the American West. The trip would entail a lot of backpacking through mountains and some cycling if I can find room for a bike. If this picks up some serious steam I intend to start a blog as an aside as I wind things down here and plan (logistically, financially etc) for the trip. Of course I'll be looking for a partner in crime to do it with, but understand domestic responsibilities take priority so I'll settle for fly in fly out company. Rather than for just a self-indulgent adventure, there's been a lot of thinking behind this I can't seem to swat away.
To be continued...