Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for February 2008

Life of a Conscious Mosquito

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I got bitten by a mosquito on the neck. Or perhaps some other funny insect. I do not know what insect was that, but it is surely the itchiest bite i have ever got in my life. I tried to resist the itchiness but i simply couldn’t. It was the itchiest of the itchiest bites!

While scratching my ‘wound’, i contemplated how will it be to live a life of a mosquito. I read some articles about mosquito and subsequently dwell in my imagination for a few minutes, thinking about the life’s journey… as a mosquito…. a mosquito who questions its’ consciousness.

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I came to life out of nowhere. I’m a female mosquito. I see 300 of my brethren struggling to edge out of their respective larva. But family is non-existent to me. I couldn’t be bothered with their existence. So does my own existence.

I’m all alone by myself. What is this dark place? I have poor blurry eyesight. I can hardly see anything.  Doesn’t matter. All i need is the keen senses on my body. I can detect things which attracts me, as far as 50 meters away. Where do i get this ability? It is inborn. I could care less about it. I will follow where my senses and puny brain leads me to. Do i even have a brain? I’m not sure. I think i’m a mindless mosquito.

I sense many different things while i’m flying. Many strange and unknown smells. But my body tells me to keep flying and keep navigating around. My body is not interested in things which are not interesting. I adhere, and fly, fly and fly.

Suddenly, i feel happy. I don’t understand why, but i feel really happy. I sense something…. something sweet and delicious. I’m happy! I follow the smell. I reach it, land on it, and using my needle-shaped mouth, i feed on it. Apparently, this sweet juice is known as ‘fruit’ in human world. I do not bother. It is sweet and makes me happy. That’s all i care.

Four days passed since i was born. I happily feed on fruits which fill my stomach. Suddenly, a male mosquito sneaked near me. He forces himself on me! This mosquito wants to fertilize me. No matter how and where i run, this mosquito just keep chasing. Finally i give in. I do not know what this male mosquito is trying to do, but it seems something like ‘been there, done that’ sort of thing. It’s like deja-vu. I feel awkward but my body tell me to comply.

Another few days has passed. My diet suddenly swung 180 degrees. I no longer love fruits…. now I thirst for blood! Blooooood! Why? Why the sudden change in my diet? I don’t understand. This is a strange world. I’m a strange creature. I don’t understand. All i know is that i need the blood, to fertilize the eggs in my body, to continue the next generation.

I get very reactive to carbon dioxide. The scent of fruit no longer make me happy. Carbon dioxide and blood do. I can’t sense blood. But when i sting on a object which release carbon dioxide and certain odor, i will get blood. How does my body even know that? Nobody teaches me anything. I seems to have the knowledge subconsciously. A mysterious voice within me which drive my life. The ‘God’ inside me.

Whenever i sting on somebody for blood, they will always try to swat me. I have never experience this with fruits. They just let me sting. But these moving creatures always move their hands around and clapping near me. Were they trying to kill me? I couldn’t control my body. My body automatically moves when it detects shadow. My body is sensitive to light. 

The creature then grabbed a bottle and sprayed something towards me. I’m poisoned. My body feels numb and i can no longer move. I’m going to die. But what is the purpose of my life? Why am i here? Do i just live to feed on fruits and blood and flying around? I do not know. If only i have answers to all these questions.

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Do draw a parallel comparison between the mini-story above with human consciousness. I do not know about you, but i’ve got to see many similarities. We are all alike with the mosquito above. But we just do not question it. One obvious common point is – how emotion drive our everyday life.

Mosquito is said to be the top bio-terrorist in the world, killing millions of people every year by spreading diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Human malaria spreads only between human, with mosquito acting as our agent. However, animals do not get this malaria when bitten by mosquito. Human merciless see mosquito as a pest and thrive to wipe them off from the world.

This is the case where human being exercise our sovereignty over the earth to make sure we destroy anything which harm us. Ensuring humanity’s survival is the utmost important agenda in our everyday mind. We see anything which bring us harm or disadvantage as enemy. It’s instinctive.

The existence of mosquito and other insects are generally viewed as a nuisance by human being. They serve no purpose at all. To be honest, even for myself, I don’t see how cockroach and mosquito living in urban areas is important to the ecology, unless i missed something. I mean, you don’t see big lizards or frogs roam around the city feeding on cockroaches and mosquito. Or eagle catching rats in the middle of the city. They are all usually being exterminated by human using chemicals.

Therefore, in some sense, human has invaded and sabotaged the natural ecology through urbanization. So, am i gonna be a Buddha and reject modernization? No. I enjoy it, even if it means sacrificing part of the nature. However, i will not want myself to have the mindset that me, as a human, is the king of the world. It was just so happened, human has won the struggle over animals.

“Struggle is the father of all things. It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle. If you do not fight, life will never be won.” – Adolf Hitler.

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Written by elan85

February 29, 2008 at 3:51 pm

What Is …

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Socrates famously asked – ‘What is Justice?’

It is easy to define what Justice is. Just grab a dictionary, look for the definition of Justice and you would have answered a classic ancient philosophical question.

Not so easy.

Socrates wasn’t interested with the definition or meaning of Justice but rather the nature of justice. Socrates knew it is not easy to describe the nature with words.

Now, let’s define what is justice – According to dictionary : The quality of being just or fair.

So, is it fair to say punishing people who murder someone else is justice? An eye for an eye. Yes it is. Then, if i kill someone who is deemed evil and doing it for the sake of humanity, is it also a justice? Yes it is. So, is it fair to punish me? Perhaps not.

Why not?

If i kill someone, which i think is the sake for justice but many people do not agree on, is it still justice? Maybe not. Therefore, it seems justice is what the majority define and agree on, not the definition itself.

Socrates does not accept this reasoning as final, and points out that doing harm is far worse than receiving harm, for ‘doing injustice harms yourself internally’. In turn, to harm any person is the act of the unjust, and the just man will not harm another, because by doing so the just man will prove himself the opposite of what he claims to be.

The argument will go round and round, and i can easily present a counterexample to counter every single point. That’s exactly what Socrates did which earned him the nickname The Instigator.

What is Courage? We Don’t Know Yet We Know.

In the dialogue with Laches, an Athenian general, Socrates asked – What is Courage? Laches defined courage as standing firm in battle without fear and giving up. Courage is a sort of endurance of the soul.

Socrates came out with a counterexample for this definition. A general might stand firm in battle but simply out of foolish persistence, putting himself and others around him in danger. A brilliant and intelligent general should know when to stand firm and when to retreat.

Laches agreed and then separated courage into two groups – Wise Courage and Foolish Courage. Socrates asked for the differences between them, and Laches described that the former is something noble while the latter is described as hurtful and should not be considered as courage. Socrates then asked, why shouldn’t Foolish Courage be considered as courage despite fulfilling the definition of courage?

You may see people who practice blind courage as foolish but these people may see themselves as being honourable. Suddenly, the whole conversation became paradoxical. So, What is Courage?

After several more attempts by Laches to define courage, Socrates concluded that we can come out with any definitions to describe courage or pointing out the common and peculiar features of courage. But we will always remain ignorant about what the essential feature is. Even though Laches is courageous himself, he was unable to define what courage actually is. It seems that even to him, the ‘essence’ of courage is hidden.

Yet the counterexamples method Socrates employed suggested that, at some level, we do possess this knowledge of courage. Laches was able to recognize that someone who has foolish persistence in battle is not truly courageous. If Laches did not know what courage was, how would he able to recognize that he has been confronted with a counterexample?

Hence, Socrates argued that courage is already a knowledge that we possess in our mind from birth. It is innate. We are just unable to bring this knowledge to surface and make it clear and explicit. We basically, can’t use words to describe it.

What is Beauty?

Forget about FHM 100 Sexiest or Maxim Hot 100. You will never ever get all the 6.6 billion people in the world to agree with you that Jessica Alba is the hottest girl in the world at the moment. Never. Beauty itself is subjective and as described by Socrates, something which we will never understand the underlying essence of it.

I did some soul-searching and this is how i interpret Beauty. Beauty is a feeling we get when invoked by our sense of pattern matching.

I was playing around with the piano in my friend’s house… for fun. Having no knowledge with the instrument, what i did was just simply poking around the keys and see what tune i could come out with. But it was utterly boring and meaningless. That’s when i realised something cool – you can’t compose a good piece of music with a piano by just randomly jumble up the tunes and call it .. “music”. A beautiful piece of music has a smooth constant flow of patterned rhythm and tunes. It is a flux which leads us from start to end and matches certain patterns inside us – An indescribable pattern which we already understand from start.

It is the same when looking at girl’s beauty. A typical desirable qualities of a girl are – long healthy hair, sharp and pointed nose, curvy body figure, shiny eyes, sharp chin, etc. There seem to be a systematic pattern which we will use to define beauty within us. I do not know how to explain it.

Something which i believe but cannot prove – There are 2 reasons why we perceive certain things as ugly or undesirable. One, it is too peculiar to our pattern-matching senses. And two, I believe we perceive certain animals or things as ugly because our inner mind tell us that it may be harmful to our body. Generally, we perceive snake, scorpion, spider, cockroach, corpse, feces, blood, as ugly or disgusting because there’s a high chances of us getting poisoned or infected when contacting them. So, by making us thinking that they are ugly, we will automatically avoid contact with them for our safety purposes – Evolution at work. Why do we think a panda looks better than a cockroach? Perhaps our instinct tell us that panda will be a safer meal to eat than a cockroach? I don’t eat panda of course, but i can imagine that since human is omnivorous by nature.

The ability to perceive beauty is an innate ability. No words can define what beauty is all about. What is beautiful to someone may not necessary be beautiful to other people. Therefore, nothing is pretty or ugly by default. It is up to the experience of the beholder to subjectively judge it. So, at the end of the day, what is the definition of beauty? I don’t know. I could describe it with my feelings, but not words.

Written by elan85

February 26, 2008 at 4:07 am

Posted in Philosophy

Dreaming About Evolution

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You know the moment when you are dozing but not completely fell asleep yet? That sleeping stage is so called the ‘creative stage’ where we are able tap into our inner mind and conceive crazy ideas. There were already several occasions where i got ideas from there, and just 2 days ago, i got another one. This time, i dreamt about Evolution. (Not really earth-shattering stuffs, just some basic logic about it which i have not thought off before)

Evolution is a natural process which works within scientific law.

When you pour ice to a hot cup of water, the cold will nullify the heat, thus reducing the water’s temperature. That is chemistry. You can’t walk upside down on the ceiling because the gravity will pull you down. That is physics. Life constantly evolve to adapt to its environment. The bigger the resources capacity for survival of the place it is residing, the more complex life will evolve. That is biology. Evolution is Biology. Therefore, my point is – Evolution, just like other scientific theories, are obeying certain scientific laws that show us how the nature works. It is science.

Then, why is Evolution a controversial subject? Why does it receive so much opposition from people? It is due to the ‘Human Factor’. We separate ourselves from the nature because we perceive ourselves as a ‘Conscious’ entity. Trees are not conscious, gravity are not conscious, computers are not conscious, and the moon is not conscious but human are conscious. We perceive ourselves as the sole conscious and intelligent being on earth and more superior to other entities. Hence, some people refused to put ourselves as a subject which is governed by scientific law. It makes more sense that we are ‘created’ by some divine being rather than evolved from this chaotic world.

I believe whatever that can happen in this world is Natural. We evolved according to what scientific law permit us to. Things which are unnatural and not within scientific boundary will not happen. The universe has exist for billion of years, and given such a long period of time, anything Natural which has possibility to happen, may happen.

My idea, which i’d conceived several seconds before i fell asleep, is just a simple logic and pretty self-evident. What puzzled me is, why can’t people accept Evolution? Is Faith stronger than Logic?

Written by elan85

February 21, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Evolution, Philosophy

The Insignificant Me

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I love watching astronomy shows. Astronomy shows fascinate me. The video below is one of the most fascinating i’ve ever came across. Watch it.

I always get a ‘special feeling’ every time i watch the stars, planets, black hole and galaxies. It makes me feel insignificant. It makes me think the earthly problems we are facing are so tiny compared to the universal scale.

Human beings are so ignorant. We champion extreme discrimination and ideologies which are so pointless – Racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism, sectarianism, speciesism, homophobia, ableism, etc. Our mind is confined in an earthly scale where we put humanity and our ideologies above everything else. We think that we are significant being. That bring us many illusions of things that we chase, desire, champion are real. Human is bind by emotions and ideologies. An example – many people are afraid of death, consciously and subconsciously. But the truth is …. Nothing is permanent. What goes around comes around.

We have to accept that life is not something given but only a temporary state of being. I am basically part of the nature’s cycle and process and so does everyone else. And the animals and plants. And the microbial creatures too. And other stars, planets, blackholes, galaxies and universes. And the atoms. Basically everything in this universe is part of the grand nature.

We are not significant by any means. It is all  due to human arrogance that we think we are. If i vanish from existence at this very moment, nothing will stop the earth from rotating. Nature will keep moving on because we are just one small fraction part of it.

Written by elan85

February 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Philosophy

Love Is An Illusion?

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Many years ago, i’d observed that older couples are less loving towards each other compared to younger couples. Naturally, i asked myself .. why so? I could have settled for a simpler answer like – the feeling has faded or they no longer love each other or whatsoever. However, i refused to. I remembered myself absurdly asking my female friends about this (to get some female perspectives) during our casual conversations. But i wasn’t satisfied with the answers… and soon, i gave up. It was only in recent years, i finally found the answer for this old little puzzle of mine. And i have to thank Mr. Arthur Schopenhauer for this.

To Schopenhauer, the ultimate purpose of human being is to breed and have children and continuing the next generation. Everything in our life is geared towards that goal. The survival of species is the ultimate quest in all living creatures. It’s biological, it’s instinctive, it’s in our Will, something which is beyond our conscious control. Not surprisingly, his work inspired the work of latter generation such as the study of subconscious mind by Sigmund Freud and Evolution by Charles Darwin.

Schopenhaeur said falling in love is a ‘blind biological urge’ in us – love is basically an illusion which pull men and women together. Love in our mind is magical, sweet, sensational and is a symbol of happiness. But little did we know that these emotions come together with Love as a whole ‘package’. When human are able to derive positive emotions out of something, we gain satisfaction. And this satisfaction is what keep our desire alive. It’s instinctive, and we are basically slaves to our own instinct and desire (Schopenhauer called it Will).

Schopenhauer believed that the truth is ugly. Marriage is a trap to confine couples together. Living as a husband and wife means halve both of their rights and double the duties. Having children will require the couples to put in more effort and resources to maintain the family.

Therefore, only a force as strong as Love can ‘blind’ us, bringing men and women together in a same roof. When we are finding our potential partners, we do not think of making babies with them, rather, we think of Love. It seems that we have no choice but to fall in love and the illusion of love (which gives extreme positive emotions) will conveniently wipe away all the misery of a married life and having babies. Schopenhauer’s magic word – Biological is stronger than Reasons.  Buddha’s magic word – Emotion arise from Desire, hence an Illusion.

This perfectly answered the question i had and i think it is safe to conclude the reason why older couples are still together is due to respect and responsibility rather than still genuinely loving each other. I always believe human are polygamous by nature. But due to the development of human culture (of the different role between men and women), and more importantly the influence of religion such as Christianity, the nature rule has been replaced by human rule, thus championing the monogamous way.

I whole heartily agree with Schopenhauer’s reasoning on love. However, i’m sure i will never follow his way of remaining single and living in solitude life till the end of my day. I do want to have a life-long companion (wife) and a family. This is my reasoning – if human are biologically a social animal and hardwired to fall in love, then why should we go against the nature? As Schopenhaeur said, Biological is stronger than Reasoning, hence if we insist on following the literal Reasonings, wouldn’t it be a challenging difficulty for human to adapt to this deprived-of-instinct-fulfillment-life? Wouldn’t it be a distress to live in a life where at one hand, we can’t take love seriously as we know it is just an illusion and on the other hand, we persistently being pestered by our biological instincts to fall in love. We would be trapped in a no-man’s land. That to me, is a miserable lose-lose situation. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, no?

As much as i love and respect Schopenhauer’s philosophical works, i can’t help but to think that he is a miserable pessimist who was trapped between logic and his inner feelings. You could just see how pessimist he was towards humanity and nature by reading the quote below, something which he said on his death-bed.

If God made this world, then i would not want to be the God. It is full of misery and distress that it breaks my heart. –Schopenhauer

I had a wicked thought while i was writing this blog post. I questioned, why do parents are willing to put their lives at stake in order to protect their children? In many circumstances, the parent may even trade life to make sure the survival of their children. It seems divine and noble in the first glance. But it is not logical.

  • If the parents are willing to sacrifice themselves, despite saving their children, they lose their lives. Not only that, they will have absolutely no control over the fate of their children once they are dead. (if later on the children faced danger again and die, then the sacrifice of the parents will be futile.)
  • If the parents are not willing to sacrifice themselves, their children will die but the parents are able to retain their lives. If they are healthy enough, they could breed again and replace the dead children with new children. They could oversee the growth of these new children and will able to drive their fate to a certain direction.

Isn’t it logical to choose the latter option rather than the former one? But many parents will choose the first option, much to the influence of our instinct. I may sound a little sadist and not politically correct, but i’m only treating this just as a daily thought-exercise, nothing more. Period.

This gave me a little idea that human are not 100% rational and logical as we would like to believe in ourselves. I have not thought much about it yet, but i’m damn sure this will be a very interesting post to write in the future.

Written by elan85

February 16, 2008 at 3:33 am

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology

Are You Smart?

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When i was young, i thought one need to be extremely intelligent to solve problems. The more complex the problem is the more intelligent you need to be. But today, i realised i was dreadfully wrong. Let me tell you why.

There are several approaches a person can take to practically solve problems. Through my observation, i noticed a common method which most people do to become smart – keep reading and learning. Read tons and tons of books and articles and remember all of them by heart. When a situation arises where you need to solve a problem, this is what you will do – whip up all the knowledge that you have learned, apply relevant solutions to problems from your knowledge and there you go, problem solved. Sounds simple isn’t it? I bet almost everyone is doing it all the time.

I have came across a number of individuals who from my first impression, i thought they were intelligent people. But as soon as i get to know them better, i realised they are just book-smart people with average intelligence. They read a lot, they are knowledgeable and they are sharp of manipulating their knowledge well to solve problems. But there is no depth in their thoughts. They were just following ideas of other people all along. That’s the difference between smart and intelligence in my opinion.

I deduced two reasons on why this approach of solving problem is widely adopted. For the first reason, I believe this approach has become popular due to the extremely fast-paced world we are living in right now. Time is gold. What is the fastest way for myself to become a super smart guy? The answer is to read, read, read and read. Whenever i encounter a problem, i will recall on all the relevant things i have read, and then apply, apply, apply and apply. It is fast, effective and practical.

The second reason is due to the global education system. In school and university, we are basically being constructed a mindset of following and memorizing a chunk load of stuffs. They do not aim to produce thinkers and innovators but rather ‘robots’ who have substantial practical knowledge to tackle problems faced by business corporations and organisations. Basically, we are being chunked out by schools and universities to help run the country’s economy and get manipulated like a pawn by corporations and government. That’s the reason why i have always been rebellious and disliking the education system from the start. Until today, i still do not understand the purpose of having exams and test which we are expected to give text-book answers rather than answering from our own thoughts and ideas. But many people do not question such practice anyway, so i guess it is a blessing for the government and business organisations. Quoting Adolf Hitler, “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, i do not against or despise this approach of solving problems. This is merely a result of my observation and i’m just making a point. However, if there’s one concern i have out of this situation, it would be the slow death of ‘aesthetic expression’ in our thoughts and ideas. The world has became a punishing place today for ‘elegant-hermit-style-thinkers’ who love to take their sweet time to conjure their thoughts out, such as myself. This is now an express world where everything has become quick and instant. You can’t afford to take your time or else you will lag behind. The fast pace world basically discourage people to spend considerably amount of time to develop complex thoughts and ideas.

At one hand, i really believe we should adapt and keep up with this fast-pace-ever-changing world which is a good sign for our societal advancement. But on the other hand, the lack of aesthetic and originality in contemporary thoughts certainly raised some concerns, to me at least. I’m not such fussy-perfectionist person who bothered about the artistic side of thoughts and ideas. Rather, it is my concern of people falling in to the lazy habit of thinking by just blindly following other people’s thoughts or accepting the current life systems imposed by other people without questioning. I don’t know about you, but generally, i have certainly felt the ‘lazy’ aura in modern thinking today. Most people are not bother to think deep enough and happy to settle with superficial answers. Also, it seems people no longer interested to invent and innovate their own thoughts anymore. Most people will just .. follow. We can easily see that in marketing and management world.

“Hey, we have a marketing problem, what should we do?

According to Philip Kotler, he said so and so and so. I’m sure if we follow this so and so and so, we will boost our sales by 1000000%. Or should we try a way which Seth Godin has been using? This one may look appealing to our customers!

Alright, let’s try out Godin’s idea. “

Aesthetic is dead.

Written by elan85

February 11, 2008 at 3:20 am

Posted in Philosophy

random reflections …

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It took me more than 12 hours over the span of 3 days to complete my previous post, Intelligence : Nature vs Nurture vs Random. This is certainly not my first time spending a great deal of time writing out a post. I clearly remember it took me a quarter to half of a day to write the post Science isn’t Strange. We Are. 

It is not as if i started writing a post from scratch without having any ideas on what to write. I have them in my head. All of them. Rather, it was the process of ‘translating’ my thoughts to words which sucked my time away. It’s pretty absurd to me – what’s so difficult writing my thoughts down? But this is in fact some pretty stubborn obstacle in me. I can still vividly recall my writing experience 18 months ago when i took 3-4 hours to construct a nice little post (roughly around 1,000 words) to support my argument in a discourse. Within 30 minutes, i received an equally long reply from the opposite side. I was like .. wtf? Is that guy extraordinary good in writing or am i just being horrendous? 18 months later, which is today, i realised, the speed of my writing did not even improved by a bit.

Talking about talent, I know i have zero talent in writing. Absolutely ‘un-gifted’. I’m slow in expressing my complex ideas in words, my vocabulary is shallow and it seems i’m prone to occasional grammar mistakes too. I was reluctant to start a blog initially. I questioned – why do i need to start a blog when i can effortless construct ideas in my head? However, i was pretty glad i gave blogging a chance. Blogging and writing is surely a mentally exhaustive and time-consuming activity for myself, but i have to admit, for some strange reasons, i think it is fun. It is fun to express my ideas in words.

As a winner of a business idea competition organised by MDeC (Multimedia Development Corporation Malaysia) 2 years ago, I thought of sharing plenty of business ideas especially on the internet and Web 2.0 arena i’d conceived all along these years. But suddenly in recent months, i totally lost my passion in business ideas. Looking back at all the blog posts i have written all these months, i noticed i have only been covering topics on science and philosophy. Ahhh… perhaps the problems and questions posed by science and philosophy is more challenging than the ones in business area? I do not know, but i know i’m enjoying what i’m writing in this blog.

I guess this is one of the rare moments where i will write something personal in this blog. I’m not entirely fond of writing personal stuffs anyway because, well, there’s nothing much interesting and colourful with my life. Strange it may sound, but i’m extremely comfortable with this dull life of mine.

Written by elan85

February 10, 2008 at 4:04 am

Posted in Personal