Can you create (ideas)// Are humans creators?

When feeling depressed, I feel that life is meaningless (Hevel). All ideas have already been thought of, and people have written them better than I have – what’s the point in studying and writing? Think about the people whom I learn about in school: Marx. Engels. Marcuse. Ancient philosophers; Socrates, Plato. They were the ones who thought of all these things before; even if I am fascinated by something ‘new’, it never actually is ‘new’.

But

  • What is a ‘new’ idea

All ideas are built on one another, much like a new chapter in a narrative, or a volume which follows, rather than something entirely different like, another planet.

  • There is such a concept of a new idea

We have contemporary philosophers and thinkers and do-ers. That’s why people still can get phDs. New stuff is being researched and thought about. New technologies. And there are still new ideas out there which have yet to be thought about: if all ideas were thought of, there won’t be any problems in our world (we are still looking for ‘perfect solutions’ to world problems).

  • There is no proof that all ideas have already been thought of

 

Firstly, not all ideas have been recorded down. Secondly, even if they were all recorded down, we don’t have the capacity to sift through all the ideas of the human race.

 

To counter meaninglessness: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them–for this is their lot.” (Ecc 5:18). Simply, don’t dwell on it.

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Light Pollution

Christmas season is upon us, and so are the lights. Walking down the ‘great street’ in Singapore (i.e. Orchard), it is indeed beautiful. The lights create a festive mood, people take photos, and are happy. But despite the aesthetics, I consider the ironies and contradictions of our society: what about the light pollution rhetoric? Electricity wastage? This situation isn’t good for us, yet we, like moths, are drawn to these flames.

It got me thinking about cities’ lighting situations and the readings that I’ve done this semester (a particularly interesting one about the ‘geographies of comfort’ and how the notion of comfort differs from place to place – e.g. people from the tropics may naturally like higher temperatures than people who have spent their entire lives in the upper latitudes/altitudes. The main point is about the adaptability of people, using different solutions/learning from other cultures – Japanese ‘heat share’/central warming to save energy).

We should have less lights in our cities. I don’t know about safety and security – yes I admit that there is an impact: light affects psychology? People know that they can be seen and hence are likely to behave better in lit areas – but I’m thinking that perhaps we could have see-in-the-dark CCTVs to manage this. And instead of having many streetlamps, how about ‘personalised lighting’ (similar to the notion of personalised heating/cooling for individuals – if you are cold/hot, wear more/less. Or the story about the king who wanted to ‘pave the whole town with leader so his feet would be comfortable when he roamed the streets, until someone told him to just cover his feet with leather; i.e. shoes’).

Sure, ass lighting could still be used in highly populated areas (shared lighting), but I do know that there are many spaces which have unnecessary lighting. Do we need street lamps, or can we just have shared lighting in buildings?

Suffering of Christ

(I’m going to assume in this post that readers acknowledge the truth of Christianity and hence discuss the suffering of Christ.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt something for faith. I’m usually apathetic: I don’t like acknowledging feelings nor thinking too much about the burdens of life (life has enough unhappiness). I don’t have much sympathy for complainers nor people who tell me about their struggles. I don’t even deal well with my own pain. But today’s message got me to think about what I have forgotten: to acknowledge ‘suffering’ and think about what God went through.

Oftentimes we feel that no one understands our pain; we feel alone in our suffering. Even if someone has gone through something similar, it’s never ‘entirely the same’. Yet how does the intense suffering of Jesus stack up to ours? How can we understand his pain?

I remember thinking about this many years back: the medieval times were absolutely disgusting. People have died worse deaths than Jesus, right? He wasn’t the first (nor last) to be crucified, there have been many terrible deaths in history (you can just google terms like ‘worst torture methods’ or stuff like that). So, who cares what Jesus’ suffered? It isn’t THE WORST?

But there is something special, something different about Jesus, which makes his life/death and all suffering more intense than our own pains (?? Arguable, since he is God, after all, BUT think more), or even the pains of people who have seemed to ‘suffer’ most (I can’t remember if I wrote a post about this topic before, but I once thought about how all pains are relative because of their many different forms and different capacities of the sufferers; I argue that perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned with who suffers more/less because there is no effective relativity, BUT put that aside).

Jesus suffered in a multitude of ways:

  • Physical

He underwent physical suffering; think about his 40 days of fasting in the desert: hunger, heat, pain, sickness and all the sufferings of being man. Before death, he was mutilated, such that it was disgusting to look at him – the physical destruction was so great that he bore no likeness of the human body. He was beaten, spat on, mutilated, flogged etc. Even after death, his body was cut up. (Think about your own experience: I’m quite squeamish; I don’t like looking at slightly deformed things. Think about how we avert our eyes from the homeless, those who stink. Simple things like missing or yellowed teeth.)

  • Social

Consider his humble background and reputation (of being a carpenter’s son, his mother had him out of wedlock – think of the scandal! How can the saviour of the world be born of a single mother! And in a manger, with stinking animals! Not to mention that the people were expecting the Messiah to be a political hero to free them all; they expected someone of standing, someone spectacular.) He was a Nazarene (‘can anything good come out from that place?’) He was not particularly handsome, charismatic, nothing would draw you to him (yet I think about the historical records which talked about how Jesus came to power; surely he had something for him? I don’t know.)

  • Spiritual

He was separated from God before; in a way, from himself.

  • Emotional

Even those closest to him, his family and disciples, did not, could not understand him. No one knew what it was like to be God, nor for that matter, what was it like to be God and have to come down as human. How great the fall! Think about our human limitations – our senses, that even animals have better capabilities than us. His own emotional suffering – his creation, lesser beings, hated him.

  • Economic

He wasn’t rich. Could you even say he was poor? Perhaps, in the same way that monks may be poor (owned nothing?)

  • Mental
  • Societal/institutional

He was controlled – he had to live by the rules of that culture. He could not completely change everything, because it simply wasn’t heaven. He was at the mercy of people (who determined that he be crucified). Who hurt him, who controlled him, who subjected him to law and court.

Contemplate on those who suffer much more than you

Why read // how reading has changed me

I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve changed as a person. I’ve always liked reading, but I think it’s only in university that I’ve read a lot more. Gained lots more information, from books (read lots more fiction, I’ve been reading more than a hundred books these last 2 years? Yes, I skim sometimes and some books are really easy to read/short), readings in school and from videos as well (documentaries, short educational clips. I don’t find those Kdramas/movies attractive anymore. Haha, I think I’ve grown rather old in that sense. Gosh, I’ll rather watch the news than see a movie…). University education has grown me greatly in knowledge, but not ‘holistically’ like in college.

Anyway. I was thinking about how important is to me. I recall listening to audiobooks – the bible, and feeling very touched as I listened to the epistles/letters from the apostles. I think about how they were written to people. And as a letter writer, I felt particularly moved: they were writing to people, to me! Christians displaced from where the apostles were, Christians whom they would never meet, Christians of the future, even! Words are so emotive, and they’re different from news/mere information. I think about the experiences of my friends: despite studying about climate change, how animals have been exploited etc., they are content with going back to their old way of life because it is too troublesome. Perhaps we should not tell people the current situation, but how it would be like in the future.

I remember the intensity of feeling I experienced, reading David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks. The last chapter/last few chapters, I can’t remember. Basically it described the future. It was a horrendous one, anarchy and climate change issues. It was terrible, disastrous, I didn’t cry but I felt like I could have.

I challenged my mother to think – she didn’t have the best childhood; poor, post WWII and stuff. What is something that she cannot ‘go back to’ from her childhood? She said the lack of sanitation; people didn’t have their own toilets. Toilets that did not flush and the pans had to be cleared by someone every other day.

Reading Mitchell’s work, I felt scared to live in a world where there is no ‘progress’, ‘improvement’. I can’t imagine a world which is worse than my current world, as a youth. I can’t imagine living in a world without constant electricity. But that’s a very possible and real problem, isn’t it? (This imagination, this fiction, has indeed influenced the changes in my life. A more, environmentally conscious one, albeit flawed and limited).

Read (fiction, too). There is emotion in the pages, it can change your life. It has changed mine.

Self evaluation of intelligence

I’ve been questioning my identity/my intelligence. My mom called me an intellectual snob before, which I suppose does somewhat accurately describe me. I do respect intelligent people very easily, more than those who are rich (I think. But yes, different ways of being intelligent as well; as what Galileo said: I’ve never met a man so dense whom I’ve got nothing to learn from). I do agree that sometimes I can be impatient with people who are slower, so may (unconsciously) think that their value as a person is less.

But I wonder if I really think I’m smart. I don’t think so? I think I’m quite willing and reasonably quick to say that I’m stupid (not in a low self-esteem way, but an acknowledgement of my limitations). Yes, I can say/think intelligent things, but I don’t mind talking about my failures. I’ve failed many times in my life haha.

But somehow I think I give the impression that I’m smart/intellectual – I think it’s simply because talking about ideas interest me, more than ‘what did you eat for lunch’ and gossip about people/people’s lives (unless it’s the life of the person I’m talking to).

I hate it when people allude to my intelligence, it makes me uncomfortable. And I HATE IT when grades come out and they assume that I did well/ask me what I got/and then pronounce out loud/to everyone ‘HUH HOW COME YOU DID SO BADLY’. Thanks. Or look shocked/disappointed. It’s like I disappointed myself, and even worse, others? I don’t mind talking about my failures, but I don’t like talking about my current failures (hmm that’s normal for everyone right).

This is an incomplete thought, but I’m still pondering about how ‘intelligent’ I really am, and if indeed I’m so prideful, as my mom claims.

Wisdom from Sociology

Some very wise words that I attained from my sociology professor this week:

Firstly about power and our agency.

I feel depressed often when I ponder on the lack of power that I have in this world (no matter what I do, nothing seems to change. ‘Starving myself would not solve world hunger’) and my lack of agency (constrained by social forces and institutions, I am not free). But she told us to see it as an advantage – it is precisely because of my nothingness that I can act, that I’ve got nothing to lose. There is no one dependent on me, I am not responsible for anyone. I can easily choose not to consume, choose to do certain things which other people who are more ‘powerful’ are unable to – companies perhaps may find it difficult to change to more ethical fuel sources since there are many others who count on them for jobs; they have many mouths to feed. They could make gradual changes (we must not excuse their poor decisions), but we must recognise that huge institutions have greater inertia and definitely more resistance. And so, all us small people can decide to do something.

Next, about privilege.

She drew from Allan Johnson’s ideas (‘What can we do?’ Becoming part of the solution. 1999) – as privileged people, we must recognise our privilege and the power that maintains this privilege. Next, know that privilege doesn’t mean a good life and happiness (think about why is there so much depression in ‘nice’ societies – sure, anomic suicide and all, but it’s more than that as well. Humans are made to be sad – rather, discontent –, in a sense haha). And also, know that privilege ironically oppresses those who are privileged. (I didn’t fully understand this point, but this is from what I gathered – that privilege oppressed those who are privileged. I think about how I feel trapped even though I’m privileged. I’m expected to conform to my privilege, to ‘make it big in the world’ since I’ve got all the opportunities, the education, and have everything working out for me. – aside, I just read the paper, it’s really easy to read, do read it if you can!! but yeap I liked the ideas Johnson talked about, they’re very relatable. This oppression that the privileged feel in maintaining their privileged position is their poor ‘emotional and spiritual lives’ and the ‘energy’ they use, feeling guilt and dispensing it by blaming others and all that stupid stuff).

‘You don’t understand who I am as a person, right now. And I feel sad since I consider you someone ‘close’ to me. Not close, in the sense that you understand me, nor are we physically proximate much of our lives, but we have long histories together and though you do not know me, I know that you love me and are deeply concerned about me. I wish that there wasn’t that contradiction – that you loved me and understand who is this person you love.’