I. converting to hedonism
II. graduation travel brain
III. real world productive brain
V. case study: hong kong
I’ve always been told I think too much and I’ve noticed that a little in myself too. This is most apparent on weekends at 1am when I’m at a club or house party and suddenly there is this voice in my head that says to me that it’s ‘all for nought’, which sort of suddenly sobers me up and I have this third person view of myself and I wonder what I’m doing right now (, which subsequently makes me sleepy and want to go home).
It can give you some sense of superiority because in that moment you see yourselves as above the others who you think are blindly pursuing drunken euphoria. But I have to admit it’s definitely not a pleasant experience. It actually takes the fun out of everything.
I’ve been slowly coming down from my pedestal and realize that there’s no reason for such lucidity all the time. If you live with such lucidity all the time that life is meaningless, then you will go through life being unable to find excitement or joy in anything. Life, as I think of it now, should not be lived with the attitude that ‘life is meaningless’ but simply with an understanding of it.
I guess the simple piece of logic that convinced me is that if you’re going to live for so long anyway, why not live it happily. Why do you have to insist on living in reality when it makes life so not enjoyable and makes you unhappy when you can live in a dream? If it is ‘all for nought’, nothing changes if you decide to live this life in a dream than in reality.
I am converting to hedonism.
It’s been kind of a party ever since I signed my lease in December, not in the literal sense, but in a mental sense. During spring semester, I knew I only had to graduate so didn’t stress much. Most of my semester was focused on writing the zanhealth webapp for MED International and spending time at home. Lots of memories at 199 Powa.
Because of the realization I had in (I), I have been trying to turn off my brain for an extended period of time like a month or so and just try to feel more emotions instead of being preoccupied with the unanswerable questions about life. Stopping that little voice and this insistence I have that ‘unless I’m thinking about the meaning of life’, I’m wasting my time.
So I did turn off my brain ever since I left campus for my travels. But traveling does require and favor that kind of receptive brain, one that is more receptive than it usually is. After all, the point of traveling is to observe and see.
My travels in the world have been inspiring. Many thoughts go through my head in a day and many of them I don’t really stop to consider. But I try to remember the scenery and usually that helps me bring back the thought that accompanied that moment.
One of those moments was the second last day in Dar. It was on libya street which itself has pot holes and smells kind of funky like sewage water and it’s a wide street so there are cars parked horizontally next to each other on both sides instead of in a line as you see in street parking and there are lots of people around, car mechanics surrounding hoods, taxi drivers hollering at us asking ‘taxi?’, women carrying buckets with dirty utentsils and big pots on their heads, and just a large crowd of people sitting around talking and starting, and the sun is beating heavily on my head as I sweat profusely in my button-down shirt and black pants.
But I am back, and have been back for about two weeks. I’m trying to retrain my brain. During my month-long travel, I let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go. That’s beneficial when you’re travelling and trying to absorb as much as you can in a short period of time, but much less productive when you’re in a stable environment and want to start focusing again. Productivity requires focus.
But throughout this short brain experiment, two ideas have kept resurfacing in my thoughts.
- attention : deeply psychological and philosophical fact about us.
- compromise and suiting your philosophy to fit you
How you experience the world is determined by what you choose to pay attention to.
Throughout the years, I keep coming back to ‘This is Water’ by DFW, each time marveling even more at the genius that was David Foster Wallace (RIP). I can’t put it in better words than he could.
“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars – compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: the only thing that’s capital-T true is how you get to decide how you’re going to see it.
With reference to (1) and ideas from my previous blog post, it becomes quite clear that your philosophy or however you decide to live to try to be happy needs to take into account your natural tendencies. We don’t all see the world the same way simply because we have the same five senses. A tall person sees the world different from a short person. It’s not that hard to realize how differently we must then experience the world around us.
I have a theory related to this as to why happiness doesn’t increase after our income levels exceed a certain threshold. Maybe it’s because past that threshold level, there are more things that to pay attention to than we can, so we immediately filter out the stuff that we take for granted, the privileges that made us happy in the first place.
I think most people have had this experience. When I returned from Africa, this first shower I took was just so amazing because it was consistently hot. But now, I do it without even thinking about it. It’s the same shower. The water is the same temperature but yet why the first time was such an amazing experience. It was because I was paying attention to it, and it provided such a stark contrast that it became so much more memorable.
So we have to keep chasing grander and more elusive experiences because the original ones have lost its wonder and we no longer choose to experience them.
In today’s world, information is so easily available and so easy to consume. Platforms have given us the opportunity to package and repackage into nice little fast food boxes that let us swallow without even savoring it.
But it’s especially in this information innudation that we are turning towards even and even easier mediums of information. From web 1.0 articles, to facebook posts, to 140-character twitter posts, to picture snaps, to tinder of yes/nos. We’re going towards the nightmare of Newspeak that Orwell predicted but of our own accord Soon, we will no longer be able to express anything more complicated than good or bad.
(Facebook’s whole ‘feeling <insert emotion here> thing is another horrifying step in that direction)
It’s also dangerous (if you believe in my hypothesis) because we are focusing our attention on these pieces of information, which robs us of the chance to focus that same attention on the other things, the sudden breezes, the hot showers, the nice pastries, the crickets chirping. We lose sight of the things we strove hard to achieve to make us happy in the first place.
I feel like (IV) rings especially true in Hong Kong. I have one idea as to why.
Because of many economic realities (which I hope to address in a later blog post), Hong Kong people feel trapped and helpless. It simply is inconceivable if you do the math of how someone in Hong Kong, without the help of their parents can afford an apartment and live a comfortable life. So a lot of people see life as a hell that they want to escape, which leads to the mass popularity of things like 9gag, candycrush. Short, little bursts of entertainment that are just meant to help you pass the time, help you forget you are in a crowded, stifling, expensive shoebox that is Hong Kong.
It’s hard to find intellectual folk in Hong Kong. There’s too much to do. busi-ness is the nemesis of reflective thought. So for many reasons, I do enjoy the dark nights. There’s always people around me at home. The silence gives me room to think out loud.