Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for November 2008

Subtle Marketing

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Few weeks ago in a business meeting, a lady told me that Tobacco companies (British-American Tobacco and Philip Morris) were actually the main contributors to the multi-million dollars anti-smoking campaigns in Malaysia, few years ago.

I was puzzled as to why tobacco companies will want to contradict their business model. She assumed it was part of the corporate social responsibility plan.

But I wasn’t convinced, I think there’s more on to that.

After reading an article just now, I finally realized the ultimate reason why tobacco industry are willing to splash huge money on anti-smoking campaigns – it’s all part of subtle marketing.

Tobacco causes addiction, and people always have hard time resisting cravings. Therefore, when a tobacco-addict come across an anti-smoking advertisement, the image of cigarette will simply activate the brain’s nucleus accumbens, an area associated with cravings. Tobacco addiction actually outweighs the fear of  damaged lungs graphics when computed by our emotional calculator while viewing the ad.

In a simple emotion-rule – Addiction > Fear

Crazy bunch of marketers.


Written by elan85

November 27, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Neuromarketing

Majority Rules

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Back in my college days, there was a guy called Jimmy in my class who seemed to be trapped in his own little world. I often heard frustrations from my classmates that he has major problems in communication with his team members during group meetings and he was practically isolated and has no friends in the class. All along, I suspected he has autism and it explained well his inclination to be really introverted – an introvert of the introverts. And he knows nothing about being politically correct and offended many people all time with his straight-forwardness in his comments.

One day during lunch, one of my friends initiated the conversation on Jimmy and promptly said , “I don’t understand how can he sits in the class alone all the day long without talking to anyone. He is so strange!”

As a person who is mildly introverted myself, I didn’t felt right with the comments on Jimmy although it is pretty obvious that he isolates the world all the time.

Certainly, it looked like my friend had made a valid statement by calling Jimmy strange especially when all her friends agreed, thus reinforcing her point of view. To her and most of the people in my class, it is a rock-solid-hard-fact that Jimmy is Strange with a capital S. It is sort of like an universal rule that if you isolate yourself from the world or do not talk to the people around you, then you are strange.

However, the little truth of realization arrived when I too came across another‘strange’ behaviour among common people which I find mysterious and that was the beginning of my understanding towards the Law of Perception. And this strangeness was – Boredom.

I have many friends who vented all the time that staying at home is boring and going out for activities would be more fun. But I always wonder, what can be more blissful than staying at home and doing nothing? That to me, is the ultimate ‘Nirvana’. I find it strange that people likes to go out finding entertainment by socializing and doing activities together. People seemed to easily get agitated by the emotion of boredom and isolation. For instance, I have no problem celebrating my birthday alone, but to most people, it’s like a major taboo. And that to me is … strange.

But who is right and who is wrong? The girls who called Jimmy strange or myself who called most people strange? Both insights are directly contradicting, so what makes her more right than me, and what make myself more right than her? I realized when it comes to cultural values, it is not what both of us think that matters –  it is how the collective individuals think that matter, the bigger the better. Basically, it‘s what the majority say, not you and me.

When a big group of individuals has decided that this is the way how things should be done, then it will be a societal standard. It is a human nature that we human being group ourselves by affinities and certain shared value. Just look at the organizations and associations around us, we have religions, feminist movements, animal rights, labour union and millions of other small one.

Being sociable and extrovert is not a Truth, nor an Universal Rule – It is only something which the majority of people are used to and comfortable with. This is an artificially-construct cultural-value by the society, just like race, nationalism and religion. If we were to go deeper into this, we will come back to the square-one fundamental question – What Is Morality?

Hence, my point here is, instead of treating what we Subjectively think as the Truth and decide what is strange and what is not, we should open up our mind and embrace the diversity of personality. A kind of acceptance on Objective Truth.

The world we are living at today is consist of 80% extroverts and 20% introverts. But think about it, what if the world has a reversed personality where 20% are extroverts and 80% are introverts instead? Then socializing will be something  really really strange and weird to people because society would have set a culture that living in isolation is the way to go, just like leopard and turtle always do. But human and the world is the way it is as already determined by Evolution.

Written by elan85

November 19, 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Philosophy

Number One Human Killer?

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Squirrel naturally have anti-cancer mechanism within its body. Human being on the other hand, is pretty much naked in such defense. I could imagine if a supernova, the explosion of a gigantic star takes place, thus spreading mild level of cosmic radiation to Earth, every human being will die of cancer as our cells will undergo massive mutation. On the other hand, squirrels, fruit flies and cockroaches will just wonder why are we dying out one by one. Well, unless there are some special human being who have this anti-cancer system in their body or else we can say bye bye to humanity.

OK, i will stop digressing.

Exactly a century ago, the case of cancer is literally one in a million. Today, the statistic is staggering especially in US and UK. One in Three people (yes, as in 1/3) will develops cancer in some stage of their life.I could see a correlation between cancer and the rise of economic wealth distribution. But does it imply causation? I will try to reason this out. 

Before the industrialization age, apart from the rich ones, most people eat to live (instead of live to eat) as they have to spend plenty of effort to rear or hunt animals to eat. However, with the rise of the age of consumerism and commercialization, food has become commercialized and is mass produced. Instead of hunting for cow and chicken which lives naturally and healthily in the jungle, today we are eating meat which are chunked out directly from farms. Hence today, human have taken food for granted and strive more on living to eat instead of eating to live. – Ronn.

(I’ve written this before in one of my old post)

Just over few centuries ago, families had their own farms to feed themselves. They reared their own livestock and planted vegetables to eat. If they do not have a farm, they would go to a small local market to buy fresh fruits and meat. Eating meat was actually something of a privilege back then as meat was very expensive. Most family would jump in joy if they got to have a chicken for dinner. But with the rise of age of industrialization, an economic-modernization revolution took place, giving people the opportunity to have ‘jobs’ albeit mostly labour work. When people have jobs, they will have income. As time advanced, we reached the knowledge-economy where labour-based jobs has transformed to knowledge-based jobs. In other words, it is the corporate workforce that we have today. And people’s standard of living is getting higher and higher as time advances.

These economic advancements has caused two massive revolutions in humanity:

1. People are now occupied with work, hence no time for planting, rearing, or hunting for food.

2. Distribution of wealth to common people. With money, we revert back to our basic instinct of seeking luxurious food as eating is something our mind keeps motivating us to do.

3. Thus combine these 2 factors together, the demand for meat, a form of luxurious food perceived by our subconscious mind, shoots up.

Dangerous Meat

With the surge of demand in food, instead of staying in local farms, food producers have expanded their productions network due to economy of scale – the bigger the production is, the lesser the cost, thus higher profit. This is when the real definition of Money Is Evil comes in…. a combination of two factors – the greed of capitalism and the ever demand for affordable meat  from consumers.

One of the most popular form of meat consumed by people is beef. As we know, cows and bulls’ natural diet is grass. But little we are aware of what’s going on in the food industry right now which may be destructing humanity’s health.

The cost of growing grass is pretty hefty as it takes longer time and more effort to plant it. Greedy producers then found an alternative for grass to feed the cows – corn. Using corn as lifelong cow feeds is equivalent to us feeding a baby with rice and porridge and expect the baby to grow up healthily till adulthood. No, the natural diet for cow is grass, just like a human needs a balanced diet of vegetable and meat to grow up healthily.

So, how do food producers keep the cows “fat and fit”? Heck, how could they even keep a calf alive for more than a month? The answer is hormone growth injections. This hormone functions by genetically engineer the cow’s body to fatten and prolonging its life till it becomes an adult and slaughter it right away once it reaches maturity. From the discovery of one greedy food producer, it has now become the industry’s standard.

Now, if we eat something which have been genetically modified, will the food, in turn, modify back our cells, hence causing cancer? Or will the chemicals injected to livestock mutate our cells in the long run? I really do not know. Just some interesting thoughts.

The dilemma is this – if indeed growth hormone is dangerous and slowly killing us with cancer, then why do government do not impose any restrictions or regulations on these chemicals just like how they do on tobacco and alcohol?  On the other hand, if growth hormone is not dangerous, then why the fuss from green movements and pro organic food supporters? If this is so, they will seem like a group of deluded people. Or perhaps the government is closing one eye on this issue as there’s nothing much that can be done since food is the basic essential demand?

You judge.

And by the way, just if you have ever wondered how did Mad Cow Diseases happened, it is because food producers grinded meat and corn together and make it as cow’s feeds (as it will fatten up the cow). Cow, as a herbivore animal, do not take meat and once this ‘no-meat’ stance is violated, it will basically become crazy as the mind and body’s system will go malfunction. Just search in YouTube of cows eating live chickens to watch the horror.

Futile Vegetable/Fruit

Vegetable and fruits do have natural anti-oxidant which can clear away toxins in our body. However, we are back again to square one problem – over-commercialized food. Capitalism has posed two problems in commercialized plants and vegetables here.

1. Vegetables and fruits are planted in the same soil over and over again, hence drying up soil’s nutrients in the long run. The soil is supposed to be left barren for some period of time to recuperate the nutrient on the ground before planting again.

2. Vegetables and fruits are sprayed with pesticide to control pest problems in the farm.The root of the plant/tree will absorb the chemical and so as the skin of the fruit.

As we know the root of a tree/plant absorbs nutrient and minerals from the ground to bring nutrition to fruit or vegetable. Now, we have a problem where fruits/vegetables couldn’t absorb much natural nutrient as the soil has most probably dried up. Making things worse, the plant have to absorb the chemicals along since the root does not have any ‘intelligence’ to filter up what to absorb and what not to. Besides that, eating the skin of commercialized fruits is like a double edged sword – it is the most nutritious, yet the most dangerous at the same time as it indiscriminately absorb all kind of vitamin, protein and chemicals it could get.  

Are we dead?

There must be a reason why cancer has became such a huge issue right now, from 1 out of 1,000,000 one hundred years ago to 1 out of 3 today.

Is it because of the food or because of what is put into our stomach?

There must be a reason.

There must be a reason.

There must be a reason.

Written by elan85

November 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

Posted in General Science

Meditation And The Angel & Devil In Your Mind

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The Angel and Devil

Buddha said the only path to enlightenment is through meditation because meditation unlocks our mind and allow our consciousness to flow freely. Therefore when we meditate, we should focus on Emptiness/Nothingness. Think about nothing, stop your inner voice or the chatterbox in your head from telling you things and concentrate on empty space. This form of concentration is the highest level of concentration because by default, our mind is already wired from the start to dwell in the past and worry about the future. Therefore, to think of nothing is extremely difficult because it defies the way how the mind is hardwired.

A typical person’s chatterbox is extremely noisy. The voice in your head keep telling you what to do for tomorrow, keep commenting on your colleague’s attitude, keep worrying about next month’s income, keep craving for party and alcohol sessions, keep thinking of ‘how nice if I could turn back time’ and etc. It keeps telling and reminding you of what to do.

Based on my understanding, I divide our human mind into 2 different entities. We basically have the inner voice which creates our Persona a.k.a Alter Ego, and YOU the neutral one. Something like Donald Duck’s with his angel and devil in his head.


The angel and devil in our head are not separate entity, but together, they are one. Depending on situations or circumstances, either the angel or devil will be your dominant force in your head and instruct you on how you should think. The YOU is basically a puppet influenced by these two forces, just like a weak emperor manipulated by his advisers and ministers. I will give you an example.

When we see a man hit the table at a restaurant with anger, our mind will automatically label that person as ‘rude’ or ‘bad tempered’. But wait a minute, we have yet to know the real reason why the man furiously hit the table, but our mind has already determined that he is rude. Where does this thought come from? That’s right, it’s from your ‘devil’ inner voice, your presuppose knowledge, or cached thoughts, whatever you call it. However, if we get to learn that the man’s wife just passed away, we will immediately understand his frustration and by an instant, we start to sympathize with him and will not label his as rude anymore. Our ‘angel’ inner voice has become more dominant now in this situation now.

All these emotional turmoil were not caused by you. It was your inner Angel and Devil who directed how you should think and how your emotion should go. It is as though there’s a system or a structure in your head which acts like a framework for the Angel and Devil to conduct the emotional calculation.

IF A Man Hit The Table In A Restaurant, ACTIVATE Devil’s Voice

THEN Tell Ronn That This Guy Is Rude via Chatterbox

BECAUSE We Are Being Emotionally Threatened By His Aggressive Behaviour

THEREFORE We WIll ‘Cook Reasons’ For Ronn To Avoid Him And Increase Vigilance Against Him

then after learning the real reason

<INPUT> The Man’s Wife Just Pass Away,

DEACTIVATE Devil’s Voice AND ACTIVATE Angel’s Voice

THEN Tell Ronn That This Guy Is Pitiful via Chatterbox

BECAUSE We Don’t Feel Threatened Anymore

AND We Need To Give Good Impression To The Society

THEREFORE We Will ‘Cook’ Reasons’ For Ronn to Sympathize Him And Console Him To Make Ourselves Look Concerned (Although the Devil doesn’t give a damn about the dead wife).

Buddha, recognizing the concept of Persona and Alter Ego said the only way to escape this ‘suffering’ is to control your mind instead of letting the mind control you.

It is easier said than done because most people will say – ‘Look, I have self control! I will resist the addiction of alcohol, resist the temptation of buying expensive gadgets, and resist my bad habit of procrastination. See, I’m controlling my mind!’ Yes, that indeed show some self control, but not a hint of controlling the mind yet because our desire and emotion is still floating around. It is only when we could totally relinquish and unattached ourselves from desires and emotions then we could proclaim that we have controlled the mind, which at the end, you don’t say ‘I resist’ but to say ‘I understand’. Again, it is not easy for anyone to fully control the mind because it defies the way how our mind is hardwired (with emotions and desires).

Unleash the Suppressed

One day, Ronn pays a visit to Aunty Nnor’s home to meet up with her. Aunty Nnor then cook dinner for him, and in the dining table they have dinner together.

Aunty Nnor : Ronn, how is the food?

Ronn: *takes a scoop and taste the food*

Devil : Yuck! The food is horrible! Ronn, tell her in the face that the food suck so that she could improve her cooking better next time. Do it like a man just like how Gordon Ramsay always do.

Angel : No, Ronn! You can’t be impolite. She spent some effort to cook for you, so you need to show at least a little appreciation.

Devil : Ronn, tell her the food sucks and you will have given a good reason to her to escape this horrible meal for the night. Don’t tell me you gonna finish up this whole pile of crap?

Angel : You have to finish up your food no matter how bad it taste. Or else, she will think that you’re being rude and will not cook for you next time anymore, and that’s not really nice.

Ronn : Yeah, the food is fine. I like it.

Of course, typically there are not so much voices in our head while thinking of a reply as Ronn had in the interaction above. But as I’ve said, our mind appears to have an emotional calculator where every input is calculated in a flash. The mind then basically weigh both side of the argument and you will carry out the action which the more dominant voice commanded. In this scenario, Ronn was influenced by the Angel’s voice and give a politically correct response rather than telling blatant truth as he was afraid of offending Aunty Nnor. Hence, the devil’s voice is suppressed and the angel’s voice became his Persona and Alter Ego. And consciously, or unconsciously, Ronn is just an observer throughout the experience, like a puppet being swayed left and right by the Angel and Devil.

A vice versa situation could also take place where the Devil suppress Ronn’s Angel voice, and the Devil will become Ronn’s alter ego and criticize Aunty Nnor’s cooking like a food critic. (although it is very unlikely as human being are wired to rely on good image and impression to interact and communicate with each other.)

It is pretty clear to me that human being are nothing but just a puppet to the collective neurons, cells created by the force of Evolution for survival and reproduction purposes.

I have digressed long enough, and now I will get back to the main point and explain the question in my previous post on why people seemingly become bad and evil right before achieving the state of Emptiness in meditation. That’s because once you are about to achieve the state of Emptiness, the suppression system will no longer work well. You will indiscriminately unleash all your suppressed words and feelings by the Angel and Devil to other people, without holding back.

The reason why it seems there’s a tendency for people to be more evil is because if we bother to examine our mind, there are more instances where our Angel suppress the Devil in our mind than the other way round. But as I have said, we will unleash these suppressed feelings indiscriminately, just that due to statistics factor, it seems we are more likely to unleash badness than goodness.

For instance:

Mr. A who was abused during his childhood and suppressed the hatred inside him for years will unleash this hatred without holding back when he is about to achieve Emptiness.

Mr. B who has extremely high libido and suppressed his sexual urge for years will unleash his sexual urge without holding back like sex maniac when he is about to achieve Emptiness.

Miss C who has the habit of picking her nose but was suppressed by her family member will unleash back her bad habit without holding back when she is about to achieve Emptiness.

So how do people overcome this problem? The answer is Acceptance – accepting the fact that YOU are the Devil. Accepting the fact that you are capable of doing evil things or walking the wrong path. The problem always begin when people are in denial of their own weakness. Take for example Mr. A. He unleashes his hatred around but at the same he keeps refusing to accept the fact that the Devil is himself. He tried to suppress the feeling of hatred back to this brain, but unfortunately the suppressing system is not working anymore in the state of Emptiness. He is helpless about it and the feeling will be the same as possessed by a Devil. And then he meditates more hoping to cure the problem, but he will only find himself to depress and unleash more and more of his weakness. That’s exactly how a person could turn crazy from deep meditation without being guided by experts. The solution is either he goes all the way to achieve Acceptance in himself or stop meditating all together.

(Now, I begin to understand the reason why Keanu Reeves, who portrayed as the Buddha in the movie Little Buddha, pulled the Devil out of the water and said something along the lines “I was You and You were Me, but now you’re an illusion” before He was Enlightened, which I find pretty hard to understand at first).

So, how the interaction between Aunty Nnor and Ronn will turn out if Ronn is able to control his mind from the Angel and Devil?

Aunty Nnor : Ronn, how is the food?

Ronn : We eat because we’re hungry. It does not matter if the food is good or bad, as long as it fills our stomach healthily, I’m satisfied.

Ronn utter those words without the influence of Angel and Devil. Here, Ronn essentially Understand and Accept that his desire on tasty food is just an illusion. There will no longer be any Angel or Devil’s voices in his head as he has fully controlled them.

The idea of achieving Emptiness is to free ourselves from the grasp of the Angel and Devil inside us and becoming back Ourself. The original YOU. Because when you essentially master the art of Emptiness, and Accept the Devil in YOU, you will realize all the things a typical human being chase – money, glory, fame, change-the-world, love, good impression etc. are nothing but an illusion chased by the Angel and Devil in your head. The real YOU wants nothing but to live contently without any cravings.

As I have said in my previous post, this is what separates animals and human being. Animals live their life purely following the voices in their head and human being, for most part, do the same too. However, we are aware of the existence of these voices and could do something to defy the Angel and Devil in our head.

PS: The Angel and Devil in our head is just a metaphorical way of me explaining how human Persona and Alter Ego work. It’s difficult to draw the line between goodness and badness as usually there are not only two opposing forces but there are perhaps three, four or more forces which creates the complicated thinking structure in our mind. But to keep things as simple as possible, I will just use Angel and Devil to portray two contradicting forces in this essay.

PPS: So, how do a person who meditates know when he/she achieve Emptiness? It is when he is trapped in pure emptiness without a single thought going through in his mind and could not be interfered by external environment like noise. Just like when we are sleeping, mild level of volume mostly likely will not wake us up. Same goes for deep meditation where people will not be distracted by mild level of noise and interruptions.

PPPS: This is how the conversation between Buddha and the Devil in the Little Buddha went:

*Buddha pulled Devil who disguised as Buddha out of the water*

Devil: You who go where no one else will dare .. Will you be my God?

Buddha : Architect, finally I have met you. You will not rebuild your house again.

Devil : But I am your house. And you live in me.

Buddha : O’ lord of my own ego. You are pure illusion. You do not exist. The earth is my witness.

*Devil vanishes*

Written by elan85

November 3, 2008 at 12:31 am

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology