Personality: S*****y Explanation

Forgotten Blog Post Draft from 2015

read somewhere recently that I should write down my world view or some of the fundamental belief systems for future comparison purposes.

(note : just came off okcupid, where I caved in and made a dating profile. and also answered a ton of questions, which made me think that maybe personalities are a lot less complex than essays and words sometimes make them seem.)

Our personalities are derived products of our values and our behavior.

Each of our personalities is a combination of values and behaviors. On the surface, we only see actions. Some of those actions are result of conscious decisions on comparing how different actions best represent our values.   Those values are the result of different experiences and key facts. But those values also informed by observations about ourselves. A person with a naturally cheery outlook will have a harder time understand someone who suffers from depression. These values lead to behavior which in turn reinforce those same values, creating a cycle of increasing stubbornness and conviction through age.

That our values are a consequence of our experiences is a very fundamental fact that I believe in. Someone who has never seen understood war will never understand the world the same way as someone who has. One of the ideals during the enlightenment was of the rational self, that the self is this idealized concept that makes completely rational decisions based purely on logic. And if extrapolated to the extreme, it would mean that everyone would eventually arrive at the same conclusion if everyone’s reasoning was sound. I firmly reject that.

This is the way I reason about it. There’s a really interesting idea called consequentialism. ‘holding that the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. ‘ (wikipedia) If you believe in that, then you can see how our judgement of many moral issues will change based on the experiences we’ve had. Now suppose another fact that our experiences form a normal distribution and it’s simply kind of random which experiences we get. we don’t choose our bodies, our families, our background but they pretty much come to define the way we are. And taking these two ideas together, you can reach this conclusion that our values are determined pretty randomly.

Not all moral stances have equal validity (which is something you have to believe in to hold any moral stance I suppose) but it is certainly worth at least wondering the question of what beliefs we may have that are formed/influenced by life experiences that we cannot control? In a very abstract way, I think there is an average case regarding each issue. By average case, I mean an experience that gave someone an insight into both the good and bad sides of a particular issue. For example : there is a case of abortion which allows us to see both the benefits and costs to abortion.

This I suppose is the fundamental question that motivates my interest in other people. In my opinion, honestly most people are alright. We all have our political differences but in the end, few of us want world war 3 and endless suffering. We all have particular ideals because we think they will lead to a better life.  And by this age, my personality is pretty much determined (at least I think) and so I wonder what specific experiences might have caused specific personality/value changes? This is why I like to meet people and hopefully through comparison understand what happened to me. It’s kind of like an experiment. the independent variable being a particular event in question, the dependent variable being our personalities, and so they hypothesis is how this one event in my life may have influenced it.

In other ways, it’s also a curiosity question. I really want to learn more about life, particularly through the lens of humans, see the range of human beings we are able to create, see the parallels between societies, groups, but also celebrate the diversity. Does it make you a better person? I’d like to think so. I think it broadens your horizon. It makes you more approachable, more understanding. In some ways, you could call it training your empathy. So yea, hopefully I’ll find out a little bit more about myself then.

I don’t know fully where this idea came from, but I think humans of new york was an inspiration.



After a whirlwind 48 hours, I found myself on the Boston subway going home.

I was happy.

And I really was. For long time since before college, I looked at everything without any concerns/worries. I think happiness is that then, freedom from worries.

I am single, don’t have any troubling personal issues, or any family issues, no insane financial obligations, no looming concerns about the future, and (at least currently while on holiday) have the time and energy and money to do what I want to do.

Happiness is freedom then, freedom from limitations.

I’ve really enjoyed this past week. Maybe I’ll never find this feeling again because life happens in stages, and maybe I’ll never come back to this point. Is getting old actually about the gradual introduction and acceptance of negative externalities and emotions, like death, loss, disappointment. Or do we learn find happiness in smaller things when we get older? But that is also life, isn’t it?



Attended a wedding this past weekend and got me thinking a lot about the purpose of weddings and some additional considerations in a relationship.

The purpose of a wedding is multi-fold I think:

a) a celebration of the two sides official commitment to each other.

and secondly, a more subtle purpose

b) a sharing of the love story that allowed us to reach this date.

The second is less important when you invite only very close friends and family members. But it is more important especially when you invite those who aren’t in the inner circle of your life, who may have been aware but not part of the growth in your relationship. Because a wedding isn’t a stand alone event in your life, it is a milestone in a culmination of twists and turns that eventually led to this day and retelling those stories gives people and yourself an idea of what has been overcome and what has yet to come.

c) a thanking of the people who helped you along this way

Also important. The relationship is not a product of only the actions between these two people. It’s also the product of actions of people around them. And giving thanks to the appropriate people is hugely important.

I think this is particularly desired in Asian cultures. It is imo, an emphasized point among Asian cultures to prioritze the well being and functioning of the family unit, instead of the individual. And thus, personal priorities are often sacrificed. So on many levels, an appreciation of family members, elders is particularly desired because of what they think you owe them.

It is a separate and equally important discussion of what our obligation towards sacrifices made for you that you didn’t have any say on and in particular didn’t want?  Do you still owe them anything even though you didn’t want them to sacrifice for you? I think this is a large source of the inter-generational strife and conflict in immigrant families. In a perfect world, these sacrifices are mutually agreed upon, appreciated. But in the case of sacrifices that weren’t necessarily desired, what are ones obligations to the responsibilities that came with this sacrifice? A more extreme example would be : Someone decided to donate their kidney for free without your consent, and you in return are responsible of looking after this person for life. I do think there is a lot of inner turmoil among first generations.

But there is often an expectation in Asian culture that elders must be appreciated, especially obvious in the tea ceremony that takes place before the wedding. Managing this expectation and appreciation is especially difficult and hard. If there is an unmatched expectation of appreciation, it leads to further frustration and unhappiness.

d) a meeting and welcoming of people from both sides of the family towards each other.

A wedding as many say is a union of not only two individuals but of two families, and maybe of even two nations sometimes. And I think this is why cross-cultural marriages are difficult. Conflict is always present, but conflict is even more obvious and difficult when you are coming from two completely opposing perspectives. Thus, one can see now some of the logic in arranged marriages.

I do believe in free love and I also desire the individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness, but I also believe in the wisdom of your elders and in the effects of a happy supporting cast (your family and your friends) in your life  on your happiness.


Good friend of mine told me about Misty Copeland last night, an African American dancer too short, too muscular for the typical ballerina body type but is now a soloist at ABT even though she only started dancing when she was 13, whereas typical professional dancers started at age 4. No doubt, an incredible story.

Got quite curious so I tried to find more information about her this morning, especially a video of her dancing. But many of the results I found on youtube were either related to the new Under Armor featuring her and also news stories featuring her. The only videos I found of her doing classical ballet dancing as part of a performance were old talent search ones so I wasn’t able to see much. Not that I have any idea what is good/bad ballet dancing to be honest since I’ve never done it. Also, it might be because of copyright issues that they can’t be found online either.

Then I started reading her Wikipedia article which had a wealth of information about her, a very detailed description of her childhood, her early career, and even performances she had done in the past few years. I then went onto ABT’s site and realized that above soloists, there are actually principals.  As of Sept 2014, I counted 9 female principals and 5 female soloists in ABT. So given this information, Copeland might be considered at least not consistently one of the top 10 female dancers in her company. I also found this post on a ballet forum supporting this thought.

Given her age being 31 and the age of one of the current promotions of soloist to principal dancer this past June 2014, Isabella Boylston, 27, I think it can be certainly called into question the possibility of Copeland ever making the rank of principal. Compared to Copeland’s Wikipedia article, Boylston’s page definitely seems a little short in comparison.

Copeland also published a new memoir/autobiography in March 2014 titled Life in Motion and the new Under Armour campaign that started in 2014. A quote from the article ‘The sponsorship deal has been huge for Copeland, too. Soloists like her, she says, generally make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year at the ballet company. She’s near the top of that pay range these days, and she says the Under Armour deal actually pays her more than ballet does.’

It seems that at least from these recent developments that Misty is looking to publicize her story a bit more. It is unclear whether she wants to be a celebrity or if she just wants to bring her story to light. This quote from this espn site show that she was very interested in the race question

“It seems so simple,” Copeland says. “Race shouldn’t be dramatic when we have a black president. But the ballet world is very traditional, and change is a very scary thing.”

So there are some interesting questions that are raised here.

i. How does one’s starting point determine how we view his/her end point, success? Is there anything such as undeserved attention. I think some definitely think, maybe the principal dancers themselves, that Misty Copeland is receiving outsized attention given that she isn’t the prima ballerina in the company? Will the other prima ballerinas think that they have worked equally hard? But shouldn’t Misty receive outsized attention for what she has done, given her humble beginnings? Or can we say that as soon as Copeland reached the end of high school, she had already joined the mainstream ballet companies so her effort was equal to all the other girls? Or are there still ongoing mistreatments against her within the company, of favoring other dancers due to her body type?

ii. Given a person of her success in this white-dominated world, what is the most advantageous thing for her to do in order to bring progress to the issue of race in this society? How does a person of an ethnic minority of her stature bring progress to the race issue? Should she publicize her story more to bring awareness to the problem, or should she try to break the ranks of principal to clear any doubt that a person of an ethnic minority can be one of the best ballerinas in the world? Or should she pour all her energy into educating the next generation of ballerinas and try to create many success stories for herself?

But I think we have to be cautious of the first option, of simply publicizing the story, because of how many stories we listen to. It is easy for someone’s story to be heard and forgotten. It’s also easy for someone to simply point to Misty Copeland as a success story and exclaim that ‘LOOK! She did it. You can do it if you love ballet. but no children of color LIKE ballet. that’s why there aren’t any girls of color in ballet’, similar to the criticism of affirmative action. People can also easily blame economic class as the REASON for her not ever getting exposed to ballet.

Any -ism is when there is systematic treatment of a certain group of people with a particular trait/feature. And the most compelling evidence for these -isms is always data, not stories, showing this. Stories only tug at people’s heartstrings but they aren’t strong enough stand alone points by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. Misty Copeland is an amazing dancer and individual. There are great reviews of her performance as Firebird during 2012. What she has achieved given her circumstances and the ballet community is absolutely incredible. But I think she has difficult decisions to make in her life.



A regurgitation of thoughts between idealism and practicality.

I. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is very well known for it’s economy, it’s Asia financial center status. I think most people who come to visit Hong Kong and do the usual Central, LKF, the Peak grand tour find life in Hong Kong being very glitzy and glamorous but there is more than meets the eye.

I think a lot of Hong Kong’s youngsters feel trapped. Hong Kong’s cost of living has been steadily going up with the influx of money in China buying pretty much everything under the sun, while inflation-adjusted income has been stagnant. Fancy this equation. A second-hand grade A flat in Taikoo Shing goes for about $10,000HKD/sq ft now. For a two bedroom, this is about 800 sq ft, which comes to about $8m HKD. Consider a down payment of $3m, which is almost 40%, pretty reasonable ratio. Now, how many years would one have to save in order to save for this $3m down payment given that you save about $10k from your $30k salary per month (a crude estimation of the earnings ceiling for a very average white collar job). 3,000/10 = 300 months = 25 years. This is not to mention your mortgage afterwards.

So youngsters feel this increasing struggle to enter professions that pay well, but in Hong Kong, there are a few choices : lawyer, doctor, finance and misc professional services (architect, accountant). They realize they will spend their lives slaving away for a small apartment, for the property developers. Kids don’t see their future anymore. A lot of them just don’t see how it will work out for them. Something has to change in the system.

Given this situation, it is no wonder that there is an unhealthy focus on money, and the glamorous lifestyle that it comes with, the glitzy glamorous life of clubs, of racecars, of boats. Everyone wants to get rich and escape from this struggle. But at the same time, people have become extremely practical about life. It becomes a focus on the practical, what makes money without hardwork, where can I find some benefits? This has become a dominant monoculture among the youth, a focus only on the most practical sipmly because life demands it.

I speak from a privileged upbringing, from a family that was able to provide for me a chance to go abroad for my education, and enough financial stability that I only had to worry about myself. I have no right to criticize.

Compared to the rest of the world, a lot of people live in materialistic comfort in Hong Kong, but I think many of them have imprisoned minds. It’s sad because it imprisons the mind from the truly important. It forces the mind to focus on the very now, and not the things greater than yourselves. That I think is the greatest tragedy. I don’t blame the people but I blame the economy for stripping away the freedom of being able to pay attention to the things you want. (stoicism)

II. ideals

On the plane back this time from Hong Kong, I’ve been reminded how unfair the world is (see old reiteration), and subsequently how fortunate I have been in my life. I have been extremely fortunate to have visited many places given my age and I think the things I saw first hand affected me. The world is a bigger place than the hometown you grew up in. And there is incredible amounts of diversity in this world, cultural, economical, social.

And after you leave this foreign place, you slowly return to the illusion that the small world you currently inhabit and the concerns you have are the only concerns of the world (solipsism). And that a lot of the things in this world that happen don’t affect us one lick, and hence don’t really matter. But at the very same time, the world is becoming more inter-connected and we are after all inhabiting the same world and are of the same species.

And we can blame a lot of things, chiefly among them capitalism, free market, whether money has managed to commoditize everything including our conscience (Breaking Bad comes into mind here). And we can also blame the lack of transparency between our consciousnesses. A (chinese?) story comes to mind here which I can’t seem to find, but the idea is that everyone in this world used to be able to see each other’s heart until one guy started hiding his.

The chief emotion that has been triggered by this realization is guilt. The question now though is whether to let this guilt subside like it usually does, or to repackage it into a productive force.

III. reality

  • Opening a bank account
  • Buying furniture
  • Buying groceries, cooking for yourself
  • Getting a place, signing a lease
  • Sleeping over at boyfriend/girlfriend’s place after work
  • Planning life more than 1 semester at a time, thinking about the future, looking a year in advance.

Been seeing a lot of my friends recently who have started work. Talking to them, I have observed how fast life went from being passive to extremely active. It was 0 to 60 in a summer. S*** gets real fast.

And you realize a lot of the realities of life as well. Friend of mine was telling me how he wanted to switch jobs but basically it made much more sense to switch jobs after 2 more years with experience under his boat. There are bad moments to do things now. There are more considerations and the consequences are more severe once you have to support your own living.

And inertia, the real enemy of change. The extra effort you have to put into securing an option/ an alternative that you don’t even know will pay out versus an existing situation that isn’t great but isn’t awful, and you live with it. I mean that’s life, and that’s real.

IV. meta

Thank you to AM for telling me that life is in stages or I would have tried to convince myself otherwise.

This blog used to be a platform to voice my ideas and thoughts. I thought my ideas were useful to people because of how mature I felt thus how right my ideas must be. But two things are true, all of us can live different lives and achieve happiness. There is no -ism in life that happiness has to follow. And I have also realized how immature I actually am.

Many of the things I have written and I will continue to write about in the future have already been covered here before. Honestly, it’s the same s*** I keep repeating over and over again. They are the same ideas, same strands of thought just repeated in slightly different ways. But what is different is that I am repackaging all these ideas and emotions in a different package, with the proportions of each emotion a little different, in accordance to my life. And I guess that is also life, a series of small changes of how our dreams, hopes, desires, concerns morph day by day.

So this blog just becomes a documentation, a travel journal of my time here.


morality from a cultural perspective.

I’m taking an education class this semester called “cross-cultural perspectives of child development”
i keep telling people i don’t like it because of the way it’s taught.

but tbh, it actually has given me a very broad introduction to psychology and child development, especially pertaining to the social, cultural, moral, developmental aspects of it.

i wanted to write a few words about my reading this week.
The essay I read this week “Culture and Moral Development” actually has gotten me to think a lot actually.

It relates to Kohlberg’s stage of moral development and Turiel’s social interactionist theory. don’t let the names scare you. it’s actually very simple
Kohlberg states there are three states: preconventional, conventional, postconventional.
think of preconventional as doing things because you like them, conventional because society permits them and postconventional because it is morally right to do them.
you can see how the consideration of the actions grow from one person to the universe in the last stage.
he states that human beings advance through these stages.
i learnt about this theory at the beginning of the year and I loved it. cause i was like i’m definitely at the postconventional stage. i’m so awesome.

the second theory is social interactionist theory
which maintains that there are two types of right/wrong
moral truths: stuff is right/wrong regardless of the context
conventional: stuff is right/wrong because of some conseus-defined social practices.

the essay actually does a very good job at theoretically pointing out the flaws of the two theories (and has researching findings to back it up. but it’s all just stats which makes for skimming)
so i loved the Kohlberg’s theory. what’s wrong?
a. the interview required people to speak like moral philosophers. and our ability to understand differs greatly from our ability to articulate
b. if probed correctly, even little children understand rights and wrongs.
c. Kohlberg’s definition of postconventional stage is very specific to discretionary features of the moral code he chose. his theory assumes some normative moral code which is not applicable to everyone.

what’s wrong with social interactionist theory?
a. people in other cultures don’t separate these domains. they sort of seem them as one thing.
an example is Hindi beliefs that eating beef is a sin because cow was our first mother.

the moral of the story (pun intended) is that:
1. a moral code must have some sense of justice.  treat like cases similarly, treat difference cases differently, there’s a sense of justice.
2. a moral code must have a natural law guiding it. something is wrong regardless of the context
3. a moral code must something it is trying to protect, rights, duties, wrongs.
and as long all three parts are non-contradicting, rationally defendable then you have a moral code.

this in some ways is more meta than philosophy.
i guess it’s interesting to realize that all humans are bound to be caught in some cultural mode of thinking. the more big picture way is to look at the different cultures.

but it also coincides with some things i’ve been hearing lately from different sources
on realising you’re never better than someone. any theory that supports that is self-assuming. we’re just different.
it could be said we’re always wrong. the fact that we keep changing over our lifetime seems to point to that fact.
on this realization we are wrong all the time comes the consequence that we are vulnerable beings. we have to embrace that