Noticing the Ordinary

Noticing the Ordinary

Let’s consider the socially awkward Clark Kent. He constantly makes a total fool of himself in front of the charming Lois Lane. He stumbles, falls and never fails to embarrass himself when he’s around her as she overlooks the ordinary Clark. As beautiful Lois is to Clark, we know that she feels inadequate in front of the indestructible Superman. This is the Superman who is after all, the same Clark Kent whose invincible knees can’t seem to keep from going weak in the presence of her kryptonite eyes.

I find that the Clark-Lois narrative can be a powerful critique on humanity’s vanity and selfishness. We constantly fail to see the love, kindness and compassion of others even when it’s in front of us. We constantly fail to value the ordinary. It’s maddening to think that we crave the perfect person, the perfect moment, the perfect feeling only to fulfill our selfish needs. While in fact, noticing the ordinary can be extraordinary. It’s an unhealthy obsession as we find ways to disappoint ourselves with impossible expectations. We are selfish partly out of fear, a fear of accepting of who we are and what we have. But how do we prevent this foolproof method of self-destruction?

We need to start valuing the ordinary around us more: the summer night skies, the taste of warm milk, old brick walls, the presence of our partners in the stillness of the dawn and the grey silence of the early morning. To take notice of the Clark Kent’s of our lives. When we start noticing these things, we will begin to hear a more humbling message. We already know this in our hearts. It comes from a deeper, quieter part of us. We can finally start to realize our utter insignificance. When measured against eons of time and space, we are nothing. When measured against Superman, we are nothing. We think ourselves as too important. Hence, we are selfish to ourselves and to others. We exist too much in the minds of ourselves, a suffocation of vanity. We are the perpetual overdramatizers of who we are and what we expect. To free ourselves from the constant debilitating fears, we need to grasp this morbid but truthful insight.

There is a weakness in our field of vision. The truth is that there is so much courage and heroism in being able to identify this selfless perspective. Perhaps we will finally learn how to give than receive, to learn how to love than look to be loved, to learn to save than to be saved.

The Stranger

The Stranger

He is an undeserving prisoner of a very broken reality. The stranger cannot accept any standard answers of why they are the way they are. He sees hypocrisy and sentimentality everywhere and cannot overlook it. The stranger is an individual who cannot accept the explanations that is normally given to him to explain about the workplace, educational system, religion, family, relationships and the mechanism of governments.

The stranger comes from a place that creates only first world problems. One can live a life ever so unspectacular and be so ignorantly blissful. But the stranger chooses to stands outside of the bourgeois life; highly critical of materialism, it’s pinched morality and narrow concerns of money. Clearly, the stranger could have had a more privileged life. Ultimately, the life we all live is a superficial game and he refuses to play it. But for how long? He is a constant wanderer.

In the most extreme way of thinking, the stranger has once thought that we may just be biological matter that is spinning senselessly on a tiny rock in a corner of an indifferent universe. The stranger has (for a very long time now) concluded that life and the people around him can be hollow and even insincere. He has met men and women with many faces. All the while, realizes that the mask he wears is one as well.

While our lives can be absurd in the grandest of schemes, the stranger has seen light in the end of a very hollow tunnel. He resist utter hopelessness or nihilism and argues that we have to live with a knowledge that what we do will be utter futile; soon forgotten and our species irredeemably corrupt and violent. And yet, we should endure nevertheless. The stranger reminds us we should cope as well as can while accepting this absurd background. Even, triumph over the constant possibility of hopelessness. That is his purpose in this world.

Perhaps, there is a stranger in all of us. A stranger who pretends to be a part of the fabric of society but in reality, walks alone. The stranger reminds everyone that life can be worth enduring. And in turn, he lives life with full of intensity and wisdom. Once an individual realizes that life is absurd, one will perhaps be on the verge of despair. The stranger would otherwise live life more intensely; ever so committed to it’s pleasures. The stranger sees life as a lucid invitation to create beautiful things in the midst of bleakness. He is a great champion of the warmth of the sun, freshness of the clear waters, the richness of cultures and the gorgeous bodies of beautiful beings. The stranger’s philosophy: it is okay to feel that everything is a little hopeless but still live life delightfully and perhaps ironically.

Inspired by the works of Albert Camus.

Raw Passage: Our Grief

Raw Passage: Our Grief

Who knows how long I have been awake now. My mental aches are showing. Since the new year, I have been in grief. I dare not say the reasons. I may be misunderstood in ways, unimaginable. At first, it felt like a small disaster. After a while, it grew into a world-wind of thoughts and anxieties crashing down. Perhaps, my grief is a form of revenge of the many ideas I’ve pushed away. I find that my grief is not unique; it is felt by many through their own respective reasons.

There is an ultimate insight to this collective feeling: we must learn to let it take its course. During this time, I am certain crucial things we have to think about will bubble into consciousness. We will start to think about truths, ideas, perspectives, appreciations and so on. This matters intensely to our self-understanding and development. What I’ve learn so far from my grief is that, it is a chance to return to a bigger duty: to ourselves.

What we think about during our grief would sound so absurd to so many people. This is because we are needed in a certain way. We are needed to be leaders, family members, company men, bureaucrats, a good friend and so on. Our instincts won’t allow us to let them down. But their expectations have choked off important expects of who we are. Our grief becomes an opportunity to look beyond their expectations.

Now, we should dare to investigate the big questions we normally push away which had manifested itself in past thoughts and anxieties. We start to untangle feelings and ideas. Perhaps, it’s time to look into those ideas we’ve had for so long. Our grief will allow us time to get ourselves together. Our grief can become a friend to the slow process of growth.  Our grief will allow us to grow to a more complete selves. Our lesson? We shouldn’t be in such a rush to escape it.

Imperfect, Impermanent and Incomplete

Imperfect, Impermanent and Incomplete

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken pieces.” – Earnest Hemingway.

Lately, I’ve received compliments. Compliments that I can never get used to. Compliments awfully undeserved. I was told ‘you’re amazing’, ‘you’ve done great things’. And this was followed with ‘you’ve changed’. I may never be able to live up to the former statements. But I can accept the notion of change. Humans go through stages of change in love, passion, sadness, happiness and so on. We are broken down by our experiences.

There’s a Japanese world view and eastern aesthetic called Wabi-sabi. This Eastern philosophy describes as one of beauty that is ‘imperfect, impermanent and incomplete’. Wabi-sabi comes from a Buddhist centered thinking but I feel this is something that we can all learn from regardless of different religious beliefs. I accept the idea of embracing our wounds and our brokenness. Impermanence, imperfections and fractures don’t represent the end of someone but an essential moment in one’s history. Our flaws should not be hidden from inspection but should be adorned with golden significance.

To repair these broken pieces require transformation, change. Personally speaking, I’ve changed by my own experiences and I honestly feel I’ve become a better person. I feel it in my bones. The truth is, the pristine is less beautiful than the broken. The shape of us is impossible to see until it’s fractured. We are unable to truly know ourselves until the broken crack runs its length. We are turning our broken selves into pieces of something more beautiful than the original product. Ultimately, imperfections are perfect. But only when we are able to change and like Hemingway said, come out stronger in broken pieces.

Raw Passage: The Cafe

Raw Passage: The Cafe

The cafe is an early riser as it starts to operate while the world is still asleep. Four in the morning seems too early, even for the birds to wake and carry out their worm hunts. Chairs are put down and tables wiped. Curtains are pulled up so hastily while the first batch of coffee beans is brewed. Making coffee is almost mundane to the unwise but crucial to others. There is a secret in coffee machines, an untold narrative. The hidden world of technicians that made it possible: the thin metal tube fashioned somewhere in industrial Japan, the tiny filter from neighboring South Korea and the pot crafted steadily from a much farther place in exotic Brazil. There is a process, almost an art, that I don’t quite understand. Or at least, unable to comprehend just yet. Perhaps, I belong to the mundane? Still, unwise. But what I do know is that what it produces carries mass parts of the nation’s needs.

As youngsters, we can be curious and careless in our free thought. Now, we take the coffee into stronger consideration of its importance in our daily rituals. When we consume it at the cafe, we start to think about ideas, associations and feelings. Drinking it is an unexpected tool for thinking. We are readier to forgive, to feel love and to dare to hope again. With the songs playing in the background, we can experience extraordinary sounds and symphonies. The songs are usually random. So, we create different worlds for every different songs played. And we accept these worlds like we’ve been living in each of them for a short happy time. Nostalgia catches us like flu.

In the cafe, it is easier to love humanity. Everyone is a stranger here. We can guess the sorrows or happiness that brought them to this place. A student who struggles to memorize a hypothesis for an upcoming exam. A disappointed participant in a meeting regrettably arranged online. A conversationalist strutting her skills in speech for her peers. The sadness and sorrow is not necessarily depressing. Everyone is a little broken. The loneliness we carry about inside us meets with others and is redeemed. Meanwhile, the smiles and happiness we portray becomes an inspiration. Throughout the day, the cafe selflessly continues its task to help us to return to ourselves. Until, the chairs are put back up again for tomorrow. And the following days that come after.

Our Moral Compass

Our Moral Compass

What guides our moral compass?  What makes us so sure that something is morally wrong or right?

Morality is what we are suppose to do; what we are ought to do. In religious cultures, holy books and scriptures are filled with moral rules on how we’re suppose to act to align yourself with God. The Quran forbids from killing an innocent, the Torah forbids pork and so on and so forth. Religiosity are felt more strongly in cultures where the community is the central unit and not the individual. Religion is the easy answer to our moral compass. Like many others, I am proud of my own religion and have the opinion of having the superior belief than others. Don’t you? That is something very human. Religion, even my own, is a topic that I ought to leave out though. When I do discuss it, it’s something that I will always try to thread carefully. Abraham Lincoln once said “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” For now, let’s talk about the individual because the reason I started this blog is to challenge ideas and explore different perspectives of truths. Ultimately, to the best of our abilities, to think philosophically.

Reality is malleable. Reality is alterable and people are persuadable. Glaucon once puts a great question to Socrates. Worded in the popular “would you rather” style: would you rather be an honest person and have everyone believe that you’re a liar or would you rather be a liar but have everyone believe that you’re an honest person? It’s easy to say the former is better than the latter. One can argue that our minds are perfect ‘reasoning devices’ made to find what is to be true despite having to go down as a villain. However, the reality about us is that our minds are less equipped for reasoning than they are for justification. David Hume said “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”. Intuitions and emotions rule. We instantaneously react towards our bias (for or against) and investigate for answers not because of the truth but a way to justify of what we have already decided.

Have you ever told someone they’re wrong with a forceful tone? That person senses confrontation and the ‘reasoning devices’ in their heads that works to find the truth, goes to work finding the reason to why you are wrong instead! Human beings are outstandingly adept to finding justifications to our emotions. Let’s use examples to stimulate the brain even more!

Case #1: Vietnam War

Back in the 60’s and 70’s, many were against the Vietnam war. One of them was Noam Chomsky. He gained public attention for his vocal opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. To summarize, while the U.S. was fighting a war that they categorized as ‘legal’, Chomsky thought otherwise. He strongly believed that the U.S. was ‘illegally’ invading Vietnam. One would argue that the state would have the best of intentions and would guide our moral compass to what is wrong or right. Chomsky challenged this and his reality of what was ‘legal’ was distorted. I read somewhere that patriotism is not necessarily to obey to what the State tells you what is morally correct but instead to uphold principle of what you think the State should see is morally correct.

Case #2: New Shoes

Let me give a more innocuous example: your best friend just bought a new pair of ugly shoes. You should say it looks bad but instead you say it doesn’t because you don’t want to hurt his or her feelings. The moral rule is to don’t tell your best friend that his shoes are ugly. Maybe it’s right to tell your best friend that his or her shoes are unflattering. You value the truth, even if it hurts. Another legitimate moral rule: always be honest.

Case #3: Minions

I just saw the new Minions trailer and it was hilarious. Their experiences with the ‘evil’ Tyrannosaurus, Dracula and Napoleon Bonaparte was utterly ridiculous. But, it made me think. Why do they align themselves with villains? And yet, we love every bit of these cute little creatures. While we can easily hate the Dracula’s and Napoleon’s for being dastardly, we forgive the Minions for following their evil orders. Why do we forgive good looking people or cute little things even when they do something wrong?

Thinking back, perhaps the advantages to being a liar is far more beneficial than being an honest person. Would you think so? Now that we have established the acknowledgement of our intuitive nature to get what we want, we have a better understanding of moral rules. The point of this post is to ask the readers question our everyday moral compass. Our morality is more fluid than we think it is and we see this even through our most mundane actions. There exist flexible realities and fluid moral rules. All of these are real moralities and each foundations are product of millions of years of adaptations. When someone tells you something is wrong or right, question it. The best of people can navigate through sinuous realities. Maybe, we should too?

A New Chapter

A New Chapter

As part of my research thesis, I study the anthropology of identity. Broadly speaking, identity is a fluid and transformative element. Even already knowing all that and reading dozens of books from Stuart Hall to Franz Fanon, the concept never ceases to amaze me. While there are many reasons and circumstances that negotiates our identity, it also changes depending on the time of the day. Tonight, I declare myself a writer again, a better writer than any time of the day. In fact, a better writer any day, a year ago. My identity as a writer only seem to choose to manifest when the sun goes to sleep. Perhaps, it’s because of the calm surroundings. Or maybe perhaps, it’s the thought that we only truly take off our inscrutable veil that hides our self during the dark. We always seem to try to find deeper meanings or reasons behind the strange things that we do. One thing that is very sure is that my mind is always clearer during the quiet night. It is as if I told the world to “shut up” and it obeyed. We live in a world of noises but all we really need is just to whisper. Tonight, I restart my blog which have been dormant for about a year or so. My reasons of dormancy:

  • To read more. The more you read, the better writer you become.
  • To allow myself to understand people and the world in different perspectives.
  • To travel more and maybe even backpack from one country to another.
  • To create new ideas and experience different truths.
  • The more likely, general laziness.

Over the past year or so, I’ve experienced so many amazing things, accomplished personal goals and slayed demons. Through these events, I unknowingly changed physically and mentally in such a positive way. Tonight, I start a new chapter of my blog. My reasons to write again:

  • To continue to improve my writing skills and become a consistent writer.
  • To write about the amazing people I’ve met and the perspectives I’ve learned so far.
  • To share stories from my travels.
  • To share the new ideas created and truths discovered.

Check out my new (and lazily made) logo that fits the occasion. I look forward to providing more questions than answers. Welcome!