A long ride on bus 151 on 20th April 2022
- Nothing is eternal, yet we are always obsessed with forever.
- Beauty is no different from ugliness - it’s just a word we use to describe things that are desirable to us. Yet we go all out to achieve and possess beauty. Both eternity (or maybe just long durations) and beauty are likely results of natural selection, and are traits that are preserved by our evolution.
- Old age: we hate to old, because it signifies that we are near our end. Yet another trait preserved by our natural selection.
- Early and late: things are never early or late. They are as they are. Like Gandalf said, a wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.
- Life is full of dichotomies, life is full of binary choices. We tend to prefer one side of the dichotomy over the other. But moderation is key. The truth is always in the middle. (Kierkegaard: If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or if you do not marry, you will regret both; whether you marry or you do not marry, you will regret both.)
- I seek comfort. Who doesn’t? We all seek comfort for ourselves, comfort in all forms. At the same time, we seek fun. Fun stimulates the mind. Boredom is its antithesis, the very opposite of fun. The mind is bad at tolerating boredom. So we seek both comfort and fun. The mind never stops thinking, even if sometimes that thinking will lead us to be sad. One thought leads to another; one stimulation leads to another thought.
- Meaning in life: meaning can come from many sources: work, people, knowledge, power, status, wealth, comfort, luxury, adventure, experiences. Fulfilment and meaning drives the human mind.
- Our childhood shapes our memories. Our memories shape who we are.
A building may appear white to me and grey to you. So is it either grey or white? Or both or neither? Who would know? The building exists independently of our perception (as far as our human perception tells us); even if all humans were to be removed from Earth at once, it should exist at least for a while.
When that happens, who is to say the building is white or grey? Who is to say it is both or neither? Who is to say who is right or wrong? Who is to even articulate the truth?
Yet, truth still exists. The building still exists (as far as we understand). We like to think that we are the arbiters of truth. We seek truth in different ways: through science, through art, through music, through words, through faith, through religion, through philosophy. But truth exists regardless of our presence. So I say that, regardless of our medium of choice, we only approach or attempt to uncover the truth, but never fully approach or uncover it. The human mind and human words cannot adequately express the whole truth.
We are but one mere expression of truth: all of us, our lives, ours words, our actions, our thoughts are just different expressions of the same truth.
That’s why it is sometimes almost impossible to convince someone else of your opinion, because that’s just the left hand arguing with the right hand on which hand is better or more important.
So the building is not white or grey; it is not both or neither. It just is.
Life is undeniably sad. It is sad because the things that we were selected for, by natural selection—preference for beauty, preference for eternity, preference for efficiency, and others—are preferences for the very things that either don’t exist, or don’t last very long.
Life is cruel in that it teaches and conditions us to seek and value the things that are ephemeral. Things like love and attachment, attachment to all things physical and emotional. We are in fact characterised and described by the things that we seek attachment with. But that is not say that attachment is wrong. Each life in this world is one expression of the truth. Each life and each human is correct expression of the truth: that includes opinions.
How to see past attachment? Be reminded that all things are ephemeral (even the building above). Choose a life that gives you the most comfort for the least anxiety. More importantly, choose a mindset that leads to a life with the most comfort for the least anxiety. This set of comforts is defined by you (remember, you are one correct expression of the truth); its corresponding set of anxieties are also defined by you. E.g. I may have anxiety over romantic relationships but you don’t, so my comfort comes from being single while you derive comfort from a romantic relationship. Who is correct, you or me? Both are.
That’s why philosophy is such a rich field. So many philosophers seem right to you (or to me, at least). Who is right? All are right. But no one is absolutely right. And the most common or popular may not be the “rightest” or the best. So take your time, pick and choose. Assemble your own philosophy, one that defines your comforts, defines your mindset, defines your anxieties - most importantly, one that defines your expression of truth!
Courtesy: another selected trait. We thrive under cooperation. So at some point, it became important to be likeable, and hence courteous.
The law is there to make sure social cooperation is as high as possible, i.e. low crime, peace to achieve greater things. Government: same idea. (庄子 was never concerned about politics and government.)
Everyone does what they think is right, but they don’t know how to minimize anxiety and disappointment.
Be inconsistent. We are not meant to be consistent. Or at least, we have yet evolve to that level of consistency that we expect from machines and computer programs. So I say it’s perfectly fine to act on your whims.