Archive Page 2

30
Dec
09

Time and Life Part Four: Seamless but Marked

I was struck by two seemingly contradicting definitions of time:

a. A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future

b. An interval separating two points on this continuum

The first definition talks about a continuum, which means “a continuous extent, succession, or whole, no part of which can be distinguished from neighboring parts except by arbitrary division,” while the second mentions an interval or separator. Ah, time. Continuous but divisible, seamless but marked. Now come to think of it, we can theoretically mark time by the infinitesimal fraction of the second to end up with the continuum again.

I read somewhere about how change in the life of a subatomic particle or the sun hardly matters to a human, because one is too fast and the other too slow to affect him or her. Conversely, the changes in the life of a person are insignificant as far as the sun or the subatomic particle is concerned. As such, I guess change only matters if we can practically observe it.

Like the changes that happen in a year of one’s life. Certain events must have occurred that are significant enough to be noticed. If these changes turn out to be generally desirable then we can say it was a good year. If not, perhaps it’s possible to zoom out to include a wider scope and see if it was a relatively good half-decade. Or to look through the seasons and into the days. Surely there must be moments worth remembering, memories we can feed on during times when life doesn’t seem so good. After all, it’s just a matter of how we mark time.

Happy new year!

07
Dec
09

Time and Life Part Three: Circle and Straight

A day goes by routinely

In the same one singular life

The hours reset perpetually

But the years are finite though rife

Like a wheel that keeps spinning

On a long road unwinding

Up goes down and round and round

But never on the same patch of ground.

inner minds

25
Nov
09

Trust and Tolerance

Someone told me that she just realized that I really do not trust people – I merely tolerate them. Hmmm…I never thought of that. I mean, I do trust people albeit only up to a certain safe extent. Like in lending money, for instance. If someone close to me asks for a loan, I make sure that the amount I lend is not more than what I am prepared to cover in case payment is delayed or defaulted.

And for this I was accused of not trusting but merely tolerating the anticipated worst-case scenario.

I remember this risk management seminar I took more than a decade ago. It taught us that risk has two dimensions: probability and magnitude. So in a four-quadrant matrix, risks are roughly classified as low-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), high-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), low-probability/high-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P100,000), and high-probability/high magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P100,000).

I’d say I’m a risk taker even if the probability of losing is high for as long as the magnitude is low. But once a lot is at stake, I tend to play it safe, no matter how ‘safe’ they say the odds are.

In a certain company, the president explained the importance of credit security. The example he gave was about one sales executive who authorized the sale of goods worth a substantial amount without credit security because of the mutual trust he enjoys with the customer. The president said, “Okay, this customer is very trustworthy in terms of his ability and willingness to pay, and I take that. But what if he suddenly dies of a stroke, and the one who takes over the business is not as reliable?”

I guess we can only trust another person’s intentions, because if we try to consider the possible circumstances beyond that person’s control, e.g., a sudden stroke, we realize that we will be taking risks. However, if the calculated risks are deemed manageable and not unnecessary, it is never unwise to take them.

Perhaps I have unconsciously applied this business principle to my personal life. I do trust people, but only up to their intentions. If I foresee certain significant risks that were not explicitly considered by the person to whom I would be giving my trust, I back out. Unfortunately, sometimes people take it personally.

But some people do have the right to take it personally, especially the one I consider as my life partner, my ‘soulmate’. To hesitate when I think there might be risks unforeseen by the person demanding my trust could mean I don’t trust her judgment. I do trust her intentions; maybe just not her judgment. And in a way, that could mean I don’t trust her at all.

This may be a hard reality for me. But if it’s any consolation, I never totally trust anyone’s judgment – not even my own. I just tolerate and try to manage the calculated risks.

And so to the person who said that I don’t really trust her but merely tolerate her, let me say it this way: I trust you to the point that I can sleep soundly with you by my side with a loaded gun in your hand. Now there’s a risk that you’d have a nightmare of being attacked and so you’d shoot the ‘attacker’ – me, or out of simple clumsiness you’d accidentally fire the gun pointed in my direction. But while the magnitude of the risk is too high, the probability is very much lower than you leaving because you think I don’t trust you. Besides, the magnitude of the risk of losing you isn’t too far from the magnitude of the other risk involving a loaded gun in your hand. inner minds

06
Nov
09

Time and Life Part Two: Slipping Through My Fingers

In Part One we took an impersonal approach on time and life so this time we’ll try to add a little emotion. I’ll do my best not to sound too cheesy though, just enough that the guys would suffer through it while making the ladies smile. Okay, here it goes.

A few days ago I heard the song Slipping Through My Fingers by Abba. Now I’m not going to talk about the movie Mamma Mia lest the guys start packing but rather about the lines from the song and how they relate to time and life.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while

Ah, a mother watches her young daughter leave for school every morning and gets a bittersweet pinch in the chest each time.

The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

I guess sooner or later we will lose everything forever, every single thing dear to us. With this we should be grateful for every shared blessing and cherish it as much as we can even if we cannot really enter our loved one’s world.

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it

Nostalgic as this may already seem, how sad it would be if these experiences never happened at all, or if one is unable to connect with her own daughter:

Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

But do we really need to see what’s in a loved one’s mind? To you freethinkers out there, did you love your parents less when you became ‘enlightened’ and you started to think of them as less enlightened than you? Of course you’d love them more if they opened their minds, but just because they didn’t when you did doesn’t mean you loved them less.

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when she’s gone there’s that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can’t deny

Hmmm…breakfast is a wonderful time for bonding but unfortunately both mother and daughter still have their minds dozing in dreamland, and it is only when one has left that the other realizes what was just permanently lost.

What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did but most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Ah, the could have beens. It is often said that regrets on the things we did can be healed by time, but regrets on the things we did not do will haunt us forever. Mark Twain said something similar to that.

At this point the chorus about trying to capture every minute is repeated. Surely there will be moments really worth capturing – by engraving them in vivid memory or by literally taking a picture – to preserve and immortalize them, as the song’s last lines suggest:

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time

Ah, time. It does things to us, to life. Life is at the mercy of time. And while life is personal and always longing for itself, time is neutral and unforgiving. However, life is also a cycle of birth and death, and linear time is needed to keep this cycle going.

With the psychological arrow of time we remember the past but not the future. And with this time has a given us a very generous gift: memories. And although life cannot survive the funny tricks of time, our memories often do.

inner minds


25
Oct
09

As The Mind Speaks

There are two ways to write (actually there could be more but I only know two): structured and streams of consciousness. Structured means the writer already has the key points – the plot – in his/her mind, and all he/she has to do is fill in the gaps and make the necessary connections. Streams of consciousness, on the other hand, means writing in real time along with the thought process, narrating the thought even as it is forming in the writer’s mind. And with this the writer doesn’t know how the story will develop and especially how it will end. It just goes.

Right now I’m going with streams of consciousness because I don’t have much points in my head. Well I guess the points will just flow as the fingers hit the keys one by one, somehow independent from the conscious mind. I guess here’s one point: a seemingly empty mind can still speak. Now the question is, will it make sense? I guess that depends on what it is empty of. If the mind is empty of everything, it will not make sense if it speaks at all. But with a mind merely clear of distractions and prominent thoughts, one can reach into its deepest recesses and uncover buried treasures. Now the trick is to make sure the treasures don’t fall off on the way to the surface, otherwise it will only be very old dirt coming out of the elevator shaft.

Now what buried treasure could there be left in a mind that has already spoken quite a few times? Let’s see. Ah! How about this: I think the buried-treasure analogy can be augmented with a seed-tree metaphor. Bits of information (seeds) are planted in the brain and they grow into trees of wisdom that often intertwine with one another. This way there will be a renewable source of ideas.

Ah, ideas. One cannot easily force them to take form. Sometimes they start off as small and very fragile sparks that hover just above the floor of unconsciousness. Somehow they need to stay low for a while as they try to grow into steady flames able to withstand the winds of criticism at higher altitudes. Every once in a while an idea gets so refined that it attains the status of an ember where criticism can no longer douse it but fans it into a fire instead.

On the other hand, there are many ideas that should have been quickly extinguished with a single blow of reason. Sometimes, however, the mind itself acts as a barrier to protect these faulty ideas, nurturing them into powerful zombie-like ideologies that just wouldn’t die. These zombies even succeed in biting living human minds and turning them into zombies. Then one day the zombies become the majority, and those individuals who attempt to rise above them are in for some trouble.

Gah! I really find it disturbing when I let my mind wander into streams of consciousness mode and it ends up in an allegory of some controversial topic. I guess I’ll shut up now and try to dig another treasure next time. inner minds

16
Oct
09

Boundaries

I am an only child. Now while the first word that would probably come into your mind is spoiled, I’d say this situation significantly shaped my boundaries. I’ve lived all my life in a three-house compound along with my cousins and later on with my nephews and nieces. When I got lonely or bored or simply missed my relatives (I deeply adore them), I’d go downstairs, walk a few meters and knock on their doors. But the good thing about growing up with no siblings is that when I wanted – needed – solitude, I could easily get it. And perhaps it was because of this very arrangement that I had the chance to reflect a lot.

Now this is supposed to be the part where I go from a personal introduction to a more general issue. That’s how my boundaries are supposed to be. Unfortunately, I’m having a little drink tonight to ease my aching legs from yesterday’s run, and so my boundaries are just a little bit soft…er. So here it goes.

One thing I love about our fellowship with my nephews (they’re my crowd now because my age gap with them is very much closer than with their dads) is that while we are definitely very close, we respect one another’s boundaries. Since we now have cellphones and the internet, we text or chat to plan a house visit. We seldom do the knocking on the door thing anymore.

Nowadays it just seems rude to drive to your friend’s house without calling first. What if your friend is sleeping, making love to his wife, or simply enjoying his solitude with a book or a movie? Even if you are best friends – or lovers – I believe a little boundary is still appropriate – even necessary.

Ah, my boundaries have just snapped shut. Earlier I was talking about my nephews and then I just shifted to a slightly different topic. But I wanna talk about my nephews some more. Wait, let me get another drink….

…Ah, my nephews. My very cool nephews. Their dads – my older cousins – were the ones who taught me how to drink. Now I’m just returning the favor. And I hope one day they too will return the favor. They’re now in their early twenties and frankly, I enjoy interacting with them more than with their dads. (See, I’m not even afraid to say this because their dads don’t read my blog like they do.) And while their dads talk mostly about politics, my nephews talk about philosophy.

Okay, I guess that’s about as far as my boundaries will allow, sober or not. That’s because no matter how important you, my readers, are to me (even those I do not know), I happen to be a very private person. And as much as I am expressive of my innermost thoughts, my personal life is another thing, and it is open only to those whom I know personally.

I’ve read somewhere that most relationships fail not because of too much separateness but because of too much togetherness. This is definitely true not only with couples but also with friends. Although our teenage years are often marked with sleepovers, as we grow older we tend to keep our friends at a comfortable distance. Our fondness for them did not deteriorate – on the contrary, it just got fonder – but somehow we tend to value our privacy more.

And though we don’t see them as much as we did, this only makes every reunion special. inner minds

12
Oct
09

Time and Life

What is time? Does it exist beyond the beginning and end of our universe? From the point of view of the universe there was no time ‘before’ it expanded from a singularity and there will be no time ‘after’ it collapses back into a singularity (that is, if it collapses back). But what about from a hypothetical point of view ‘outside’ the universe? Is there ‘time beyond time’? Ah, things too heavy to ponder on a Monday evening. How about we set that aside for now and shift to something more within our purview. Let’s talk about life – and ‘time beyond life’.

About 14 billion years ago, time began along with the Big Bang. That means we never existed for 14 billion years as far as the universe is concerned. We were practically dead. But then we are born and we live. And at the end of our lives we will become exactly what we were for the past 14 billion years: non-existent. Or will we?

While the term universe is often confused with space, it actually means space and time or the totality of space and time from the Big Bang to whatever scenario the universe ends up to. The universe isn’t just the entire space at this very moment in time; it is the entire space for all the time it exists (note the present tense exists – the universe is present at every minute of its life). And so even after we die, as far as the universe is concerned we will always exist at a certain point in time and space. Points actually, one point for every infinitesimal fraction of every second of our lives.

But then the point is, as far as we are concerned we cease to exist after we die, unless there is indeed life after death. But if there is none, then those we leave behind – our surviving families, friends, and those whose lives we’ve touched – their memories of us will be the only witnesses to our existence. And after they too will all be gone, only the universe will have a record that we once lived.

And if the universe would one day cease to exist, I wonder if there is something beyond to observe all the events from the universe’s birth to its death, capturing the universe’s life and every life it supported – and how each of those lives struggled for survival, evolved, and lived; each joy and each suffering, each triumph and each defeat – immortalizing everything in a ‘time beyond time’. inner minds




Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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