Sunday, February 21, 2016

Causation: the caustic mix


The question we wail over when a loved one departs from us suddenly.


The question we raise in a meeting when faced with a professional crisis.


The question we punch into the dry wall when our partners leave us.

Why indeed?

We have all kinds of theories, and the stories or explanations we tell ourselves balms the raw caustic wound. It helps us cope with loss as well as success. Such an explanation, while valid, may not be true. The devil's charm lies in an otherwise pure statement that sits in an entirely different context. Because it is a statement of validation, it inherently also affirms and validates our ego. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In reality, a person's success or failure, can be completely random. It might be due to ability, or chance. It might be due to fortuitous family fortunes, or ancestral path dependencies. We find reasons when there is none, and we own both of those. We also equate the Whys in life with the Hows. How often do you hear that the question of "how do you do it" followed up with an answer that starts with "because..." instead of "the process was..."

Whys are potent caustic chemicals that feed and destroy. Whys are mechanisms we use to justify our actions. Whys are the source of our strength as well as weakness. Do we therefore stop asking questions of causation?

I'm not entirely sure if I am personally capable, after all Buddhism preaches that everything is nothing, and in nothingness, everything. In Judeo-Christanity, God is the why and center of everything. It doesn't mean that the root of causation lies in the heart of faiths (or Faiths). The caustic solution of causation is not in seeking an answer (which we may not find), but when the answer to our questions stop at "I".

I have realised that when faced with Whys, the sensation of looking at the reasons causing the circumstances I'm in, is the same as looking at a night of a starry-lit sky. It is so large, so vast and so infinitely scaled, that our minds can only process the light that took a million light years to reach us. Reasons, or causation, is exactly the same. Factors in our life, crisscross in intersecting networks that one small quiver in the distant web, sends vibrations across all other nodes of our lives. It's on the same cosmic scale of complexity that any train of thought that reasons the Why of where we are and where we're from boils down to just one permutation of causation when in actuality, life (re)aligns itself continuously all the time.

There is a cucoon of stasis, of a dynamic equilibrium that we have from a day-to-day that makes our lives seem ceaselessly repetitive. Yet when we look at back at our lives, we see so much changes and wonder where all the time has gone. We sit on a scale of being human while factors like time run in an entirely different dimension.

The reasons and search for answers must never stop, and more importantly, never stop at your own star. We are constellations and our light reaches others in ways we may not understand. We touch others way ahead or behind us - our legacy sits within a galaxy where forces influence this dance we have.

Everything happens not for a reason, but for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes, we just have to trust, accept and let it go.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thoughts on Defensiveness

Happy Lunar New Year folks! I hope the feasting has kept us all full for the entire year. This time of year always reminds me how lucky I am to be situated between cultures. Hey, we get to celebrate 2 new-years AND Christmas. How about that.

Fat die us.

In any case, this year I've been stock taking on the events past, 2 or even 5 years ago. I've decided to check something below the bridge, to see if the water is clear as I once initially assumed.

To confess, I've been slightly unsettled lately - keeping myself busy to avoid most social gatherings because I'm not in a particularly social mood. There's a thorn in my chest I want to remove, and I've been upset by circumstances outside my personal life.

So after all that personal rambling, sorry I mean context, I've decided to come out to ponder upon this skeleton in my closet - defensiveness.

Recently, before the lunar new year, I was chatting with a good friend about how I constantly look for reasons behind. Why? How? The sense of life that can be not just explained, but discovered. Over the years, I suppose the number of books and my penchant for reading spoilers have kinda proved the fact. More importantly, I got away with it because I've been blessed with a good sound mind.

Some of you who follow my writings know I expound on pride, arrogance, hubris. Defensiveness is the lion licking it's wounds.

Like all wounds, it appears in many shapes and forms. Taking it personally, reflecting back on the user ("you did it too!!"), being nonchalant, or finding still more evidence to suit your case. On rare occurrence, I see defensiveness get manifested into a kind of one-upper or the other extreme, self-pity.

I admit to committing all of the above. I still do - ultimately Humans are humans despite our achievements. Lest I commit an 18th century error in psychology for type I generalisations to label these behaviours as pathos, this is in no way an exercise to call people out or to even to say that we have a societal problem.

I mean, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, it's called contemplation.

When we are defensive, we have something to guard, to protect. More often than not, we protect our ego, our sense of self-worth. Personally for me, I was extremely defensive when my work also became my identity. Humans achieve a great deal, but we are not only define by what we are capable. Ultimately there will always be someone better, even though. we may be pretty near the top of the pinnacle in terms of wealth, health, smarts. I mean hasn't Victor Hugo outlined very clearly in Les Misérables that "little people have power too". Revolution has turned over regimes, no matter your wealth, health or smarts.

So ultimately, what constitutes identity is something we have to evaluate for ourselves. However what my reflection thus far has taught me is that, if we are defined by what we do, our jobs, I sense that my self-serving monster rear it's head.

"What are you trying to prove? To whom are you proving it to? Why are you defending yourself?"

We all defend a part of ourself we don't like and don't want people to know. Which is why I find the failures of Sherlock as dazzling as his constant successes. There is no shame to be vulnerable, even if you are the worst kind of human. If you are the worst kind of human, since when do you give a fuck about what others think?

Let it go, it doesn't matter anymore.

The best can accept you at your worst - Bonny had Clyde.