Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Two Winged-Horses. Both Losing a Wing Each.


"You have one head and one heart, you will put them TOGETHER to overcome this. 
This too, shall pass. I promise." 



 Plato once illustrated humans making choices with the chariot allegory. According to Plato, we are the charioteer pulled by two winged horses - "First the charioteer of the human soul drives a pair, and secondly one of the horses is noble and of noble breed, but the other quite the opposite in breed and character. Therefore in our case the driving is necessarily difficult and troublesome."

This "troublesome" horse depicts our passionate desires that commonly lead us into awkward circumstances. Plato advises his contemporary to follow the stream of reason, the horse of noble breed because it will lead you upwards to enlightenment. But we also realize that our instincts and "desires of the heart" cannot be easily ignored because they resonate in your mind repeatedly, urging you to follow its instructions regardless of the outcome.

In Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide, he theorize that this primal instincts is the most developed in humans. As evolution of humans follow, we develop the prefrontal cortex where the means of reason and foresight comes into play. The existence of a significantly larger prefrontal cortex is what separates us from other animals; an ability to analyze pros and cons - to foresee the positive/negative outcomes. But, since the prefrontal cortex was the last to develop, it also means that it is less developed compared to the part of our brain that controls our primal instincts - our brain stem - the medulla oblongata/limbic system. Hence, the prefrontal cortex is prone to errors, more so than the brain stem.

Was Plato wrong then? because he had no knowledge of neuroscience and MRI scanners? No. Later in his book, Lehrer similarly explains the errors our instincts make.

In the last chapter, he wrote that the crucial bit is to examine which matters is better decided by our instincts or reasoning. When should we follow our heart, and when do we follow our "common sense".

So when exactly? I don't know if I can effectively write this down now. But I picture my chariot with two winged-horses, both losing a wing each. Each disabled in its way. To know when to follow which, I really have to listen to both and determine the source of its ways. Unlike other animals, we humans have the ability to perform metacognition - to think about what you're thinking about. If you are thinking about inception, you are close.  Perhaps you can picture it to be like a movie depicting scenes of filming another movie. We have the ability to step out from our own movies/thoughts/desires and acknowledge where they are coming from. And I think this ability of metacognition (though very limited), puts us closer to god's perspective. The ability to observe our possession of free will.

I do not think that this is an easy task because often one horse could always overpower the other and you get lost trying to keep both in check to be able to stay above the waters. Sometimes, we get so tired, we give up and follow the turbulence and pick the default in our lives. But before that happens, stop for a moment, and see where your horses are coming from. Listen to their expression of disappointments, anticipations, hopes, hopelessness, vulnerabilities, stoicism. Listen to them without shutting either of them out. And then decide.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Making a Big Deal About New Year's Day

Is New Year's Eve and New Year's Day a big deal to you? At December 31st of every year (or perhaps approaching that day), do you think back about what happened in the past year and how has it change the person that you are?

My friends asked if I am doing anything on New Year's Eve and I thought to myself, is it a big deal to be physically out and about with friends and family to make 2012 or 2013 a worthy year to celebrate for? Honestly, I don't know.

When I was younger, New Year's Eve usually meant having dinner and watching the fireworks on television with my family and close relatives. The fireworks would be one displayed by the Petronas Twin Towers a.k.a. the government with taxpayers money. All 8-10 of us would gather around a television (not a flat screen one) no larger than 26 inches, timing the duration of the fireworks. For us, the duration of fireworks display from the government indicated how much money the government has to burn.

Shorter ones = We have to tighten our belts next year.
Longer ones = Cheers! We have a good year ahead!

(Not that any of my family members or relatives work for the government, actually)

This could be coming from the melancholy of Anna Nalick playing in the background; but, don't we all associate the fate of something in this world with our own fates? We read into the bible verses with certainty that we are reading our own fates; we watch movies relating ourselves to the misunderstood protagonist. We root for a team or for the underdog because we relate to them; because, in some ways, the fate of the football team or underdog is correlated with what is going to happen in our reality. They become our symbols of hope for a more beautiful day.

So, how does this relate with going out on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day? I don't know. Honestly, I have not documented my thoughts for a long time (including for papers/assignments - because I graduated) so the words are coming out like word vomit.

Well, if I have to take a stab at it, I would say - Being in the New Year's crowd, listening to friends/strangers disappointments, achievements, cherished moments, frustration of 2012 and anticipations, wishes, resolutions of 2013, simply listening and celebrating with them, we walk a short path of that memory with them and we see meaning in their stories - meaning we project onto our own lives.

For me, 2013 is one where I resolute to document my thoughts and memories. And where I start being more honest with my self and my relationships. One post at a time.

Seriously, if you want that feeling of melancholy, please listen to the Anna Nalick station on Pandora. 

Blessed New Year. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Knowledge




begins with the fear of the Lord.
(Proverbs 1:7)

This fear is generally understood as a reverence of God. An understanding that He is Lord of lords and the highest of kings. He is Alpha and Omega; He is beginning and the end. A surrender to His greatness. In other words, knowing that we are unworthy but redeemed by Him out of love. My friend asked me if it's possible to recognize his greatness without realizing we're shit.


We don't see our unworthiness then see the greatness of God. But we come to understand that God is TRULY GREAT; then we know how unworthy we are. How can we call ourselves great when we had a glimpse of what greatness truly is?

We can only learn if we truly humble ourselves to do so. The problem is not with us knowing too much but always the problem with us thinking we know more than enough. I struggle with complacency. It sets in when I lose the perception - "the fear of the Lord". I think too much of myself. I need to reexamine my yardstick, beginning at the fear of the Lord.


I am currently at the crossroad of deciding if I should go to graduate school. (Yes, I can hear Shannon's voice in my head saying "go to grad school" implying it in the tone that it should not be a question) I know I need that Masters or PhD eventually. To teach. I'd love to enter that challenge of graduate school. But I don't know if I am ready for grad school. I have been in school for the past 16 years. I really do see it as my comfort zone. I enjoy sitting in classes a lot. I enjoying being a knowledge consumer; but not sure if I'm cut out to be a producer.



But when I look at God's work in this world,
this idiotic crossroad seem so petty.


Truth is, I have always been scared of making decisions. I rather the choices be made for me. Then, I can rant about it all I want and not own up for obstacles that come my way.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Crossroads

A few days ago, I met a 15-year-old girl whom I've not seen for a year. The first few words that came out of me was, "You know, the later years will be easier. Now, it's bad. It's terrible. But later, it'll be better." There were no replies, just nods. So I nodded along, and said, "Yup, so you may go back to do your own things now."

I don't think I'm cut out to be a counselor.

When I was 15 or 14 or 16 or 17, I was constantly wondering what sort of person did God made me to be. There must be a purpose for my life, a purpose worth pouring my life into. I thought to myself, only a few more years away and I'll come to know the person I am and my purpose in life. I looked forward to getting older, and older and older.

I'm still looking forward to getting older.

I guess I finally come into terms that I will be constantly discovering who I am in god. This journey will be long and maybe hard but I'll never be alone.

I have been upset about not being where god want me to be. Not doing what I should. But my friend Sophie snapped me out of it. "What's all this 'should be' talk? Our god is immanent. He relates to you now, as who you are, not as how you were before, or his dreams for you to be his daughter that best represents him in your world. He wants you to know everyday of your life that you are not alone. He wants you to be happy, to thrive."

"Don't be too proud to allow our god to lavish his love over you."

Oh Lord, I pray for this reality to illuminate my spirit.