Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hubris: the lies we tell ourselves

My best friend told me that pride would be my downfall. The incessant need to always be right. 4 years ago, I never understood how that could be a bad thing. I felt that I see clearer than others, knew more, could reason better.

I was invincible.

Yet, also incredibly idiotic.

I can't exactly pin down the day I turned around. I think rejection helps. I've always had my lack-of-lovers-rant keep me grounded that I'm not as awesome as I think I am. It will always be a trouble to accept that part of me, to swallow hubris and come down from my false pedestal.

I am not the king of anything.

Of course now when I recognise hubris in others, it makes it doubly tragic. Yet, I have the humility now to accept the things I can't change, and while I may be their friend and sometimes counselor, I cannot decide for them that the best way is to punish them with "wise words" of "having been there" and make them come to relevation how much their arrogance have hurt those around them.

They may not sincerely care, especially when we're in the zone of the Mountain King (insert Edward Grieg music please).

If I may bottom-line my observations about hubris, it's stems from the Self. The protective need to defend the shell of a person we've created. Smart people have been defined by others and themselves and attribute their achievements to their Being. While those who have consistently failed, have a certain type of note that makes me arrogant because the alternative is unthinkable. To admit that one is a failure is crippling, especially when we're reminded by greatness all the time.

So hubris, while is also a personality trait, is simultaneously the lies we tell ourselves. We create roles or fantasies to assure ourselves. Because they are roles, we can afford not to take ownership of our mistakes, we can afford to blame the invisble "others". We find all kinds of justifications to assure that our fantasies hold water, do not break down due to inherent contradictions.

After a while, we become our lies, and we live is as truth. We devoid ourselves of peace. The paranoia takes over. People are always against you, or are too stupid to understand what you're saying, or do not necessarily see things your way because your logical reasoning reigns supreme.

The most dangerous part is that there is enough droplets of truth in there, to tinge the whole ocean red. It is the assumption and generalisation of some truths that holds up this lie. A person may be exceptionally smart that can pull this off. After all, the best stories are the ones that are littered with enough truth, created under different contexts and based on entirely fraudulent assumptions.

The best lies we tell ourselves are based on fact.

The emperor's clothes is a story of our pathos, and we strut around naked. A laughingstock, and while some may shrug it off and think that being accepted by everyone us overrated (rightfully so), they are also mirrors. Their reaction might be dumb, but their motivations for doing so are not.

Arrogance creeps up on us, and the best of us fall like Troy. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem, or that you're really not that good at it. It's perfectly okay to say that you hate yourself, your life and for everyone to keep telling you what you can and cannot do. But never cheat yourself of living a full life. A meaningful life, a truthful life. We suck, and it's okay. The best will accept the worst of you anyway, and the worst won't blink at your best.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dealing with Singlehood

Late 20s, possibly early 30s. Facebook serves you ads of wedding dresses, baby clothing. To add insult to injury, your aquaintances are all getting engaged, even married. Some have little ones on the way.

And you feel absolutely no joy because you feel like an absolute failure. No matter if you're doing well at work, they will never see you as a whole person until you become married.

Academics call this stigmatisation, and alienation - the process of which you're constantly reminded that there's something wrong with you, and you do not belong no matter how much you tried. We may wax lyrical about the so-called phenomenon, but it gives us knowledge but not comfort in how we should respond or feel, or even act about this forever-alone 9gag feeling.

So I've decided to deploy tactics (thanks de Certeau) to navigate these waters. Lest of making a mountain out of a molehill, there are very real biopolitical powers of singlehood (look up Foucault guys) that makes us see through a very specific set of lens. It is power by perspective and like the Michael Jackson song says, "if you want to change the world, just look into the mirror".

The solution was in pop culture all along.

1. You can't win them all
I've often felt like an immense loser for not having a partner. And no matter how often my friends assure me that there's absolutely nothing wrong with me, this aching sense of rejection never goes away.

It came from the fact that we never really "lost" in life. We win in studies, in our achievements and have been told that wr punch above our weight. However we have never really faced rejection openly. We sweep it under the rug when we've lost, quickly overwritten by other successes.

That sentiment makes us extremely prone to divide people into those haves and have-nots. Yet, life is extremely complex. We all win and lose in many places. We need to stop focusing on the zit and start realising that the rest of us are as beautiful. We cannot win them all, if we could, we'd be angels.

2. Acute sense of skepticism
I must first make a distinction between cynicism and skepticism. A cynic is as bad as a blind faith believer, where any evidence to the contrary will not shift his or her position of belief. Skeptics hold assumptions in question as prima facie, assess the facts before making a call on the conclusion.

So ultimately with Facebook, we think we know everything about other people's lives, when in fact we know very little. Who the hell airs dirty laundry anyway, who dares to explicate their extra-marital affairs. Who would confess they are lonely in their marriages? Who says they feel caught?

We are so fixated in the moment of happiness on our newsfeeds, we forget that all relationships take immense effort and are forged through pain. Buddhism has a very interesting view about this. Romantic love is shared pain, compassion - "co-passion" - and passion taken from the latin word of suffering. In a very cynic fashion, romantic love is about suffering together.

No wonder people feel compelled to publicise happy moments from time to time. Do we feel lousy as singles because we suffer alone instead of together? If so, imagine having to also carry someone else's burden. Hard work guys, it's not all roses. I applaud every couple's determination, y'all deserve it.

Having said, divorce is one the rise. You know, with instant gratification on the rise, I reckon we are less willing to pull through for the long term. Just saying.

3. Rant about it
This is truly a personal preference. It stems from honesty. I have a direct response to shit - admit it, deal with it, move on.

Ranting achieves 2 purpose, it helps to get it out of our system, and it's also a brainstorming session. We throw shit out and sometimes in a rare moment of genius, say a great idea to try. Ranting also brings up fears, and fear, as the BBC series Sherlock mentioned, "is wisdom during the time of danger."

We are inherently notafraid of not being able to find someone in the long term. That's uncertainty. The fear stems from our inability to carr for ourselves when we are older. For ladies, your partners will most likely not outlive you, so it's really no difference if you want someone to take care of you in your golden years. Children? There's no guarantee they'll return, after all people are so mobile these days. The fear stems from within, we imagine monsters from our bed. We should instead trust that we will have the ability to cope when we're older.

So rant on, and in the mean time, let's also introspectively examine and deal with our fears.

Ultimately we are human, we have all kinds of needs - sociological or biological. Being single is not a handicap, neither is being attached some sort of heralded status.  It just happens or does not happen. People may love each other for a long time and never be together, or hate each other immensely when they lay side by side at night. This veneer of perfection is an illusion, and I personally know a handful of happy couples. Like excellence, it lays on a normal distribution curve with the vast average leading very average problems. Only very very few live the happy ever afters.

A sharp reminder to myself to not fantasize or rom romanticise relationships. I'd rather be a statisically rare single, than be in an average couplehood. I know I'll dream better in the former anyway - 夜长梦多.