February 28, 2014

Superstition, Science, Chinese Medicine, etc.

Old Chinese medical chart on acupuncture meridians
Old Chinese medical chart on acupuncture meridians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Chinese medicine is mostly experience, and experience is part of science, so those who fight against Chinese medicine under the name of "science", do not really understand science.

Of course, much of Chinese medicine indeed is superstition. However, modern medicine is also not 100% "scientific". Many modern medicine treatments are not suitable for humans, but they are still in practice nonetheless because of our blind belief in science.

I don't think superstition belongs to a specific knowledge, tradition or custom. Nor do I think it's a privilege of religion. I think it is a human attitude exhibits in all intellectual fields. I think superstition in a sense can be understood as a blind belief in our imagined super power, or "absolute", derived from our despair over human condition. So as long as human race exists, superstition will always play its rule.
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February 24, 2014

Dance Into Sorrow - Julia Lipnitskaia's Free Skate Program "Schindler's List"

I knew nothing about Julia Linpnitskaia and her European Championship program Schindler's List, but when I watched this program during Olympics team competition, I was completely mesmerized.

Probably this program is by far my personal favorite figure skating program. Not only because it's beautifully choreographed and performed, but also because it expresses a deep and complicate feeling I personally hold for life, that life is a co-existence of sorrow and joy. The music is a "gentle" reminder a the greatest tragedy of human race, and a 15 year-old girl, so beautiful and innocent, danced so effortlessly, yet so expressively, making such a strong contrast with the mood of the music. Perhaps, this contrast alone, is already mesmerizing.

The choreograph of this program is extremely unique. I usually see free skating programs begin with slow motion, and at certain point they would changed into fast speed, but this program is quite different. From the beginning to the end, movements are all in a fluent and medium speed, seamlessly match the music's melancholy tone. The design of movements are not at all routine or "cliche", rather, they are creative and expressive, even symbolic, embody the deepest emotions of human kind: struggle, sorrow, hope, wonder, strength, passion and grace.
I think it's worth to mention the choreographer of this program Illia Averbukh, a Russian ice dancer. Without his genius work, this masterpiece would not be in existence.

Julia Lipnitskaia's performance was almost perfect. How could a 15 year-old so meticulously convey such complicated emotion? I have no clue. I am simply amazed.


P.S. I was "struggling" to find "right" words to describe how I feel about this program, however, all the words I found seem to paled comparing with a comment I found in youtube: "I need to punch the wall to be manly again"


February 18, 2014

"Is Selfishness Always Bad?"

The Virtue of Selfishness
The Virtue of Selfishness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My previous post "Is Suicide A Selfish Act" triggered a deeper question by a facebook friend of mine (Dale Cooper): "Is selfishness always bad?" To answer this question, I think we first can look at the definition of "selfishness":

By Wikipedia: Selfishness is placing concern with oneself or one's own interests above the well-being of others.
Dictionary.com: (selfish is) devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

It seems, according to these definitions, suicide is indeed a "selfish act". So the real question is: is selfishness always bad? (Since I don't mean to get into the discussion about fundamental questions of morality, "good" or "bad" in this post simply mean their general use based on common moral standard.)

My answer are both "yes" and "no". I think we have to put selfishness in context. First of all, if a selfish act did not bring harm to others, I think it is not a bad thing at all. We all have right, and should, to treat ourselves kindly, do our best to live a happy life. Secondly, in case that a selfish act did cause others' pain, we still need to examine the circumstance: if the act were motivated by greed, by "entertainment", it is bad, if the act were caused by pain, by suffering, it is not. Of course, there are many more layers between these two conditions, but for me, this differentiation can temporarily serve as "benchmark".

I think in our daily use of this term - "selfishness", we usually mean the kind that brings harm to others, and is motivated by negative reasons, such as greed. That's how this term usually bears a negative "countenance" in most people's eyes. And because of this general use, we tend to ignore some exceptions, some more subtle layers in between, or some extreme conditions, such as suicide.

So here we go again: relativity. I believe most of time we cannot judge things by look at them alone. Because things do not stand alone, instead, they exist as parts of a whole. As parts, things tangle with each other, so we better look at them in context, in comparison, to see how they relate to other parts. So many time I found people (myself included) easily jump into judgement by certain notions, with simple "black and white" thinking style. Certainly "black and white" is a pattern easy to understand, an formula easy to follow, but unfortunately, reality is so much more complicated than just black and white.

Based on this understanding (relativity), I would even go farther, that not only "selfishness" is not always "bad", but altruism is not always "good". However, I better save this topic for some other time.
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February 17, 2014

Is Suicide A Selfish Act?

English: Suicide Point, Kodaikanal
English: Suicide Point, Kodaikanal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I often heard people say that suicide is a selfish act. I wonder why. I can only partially agree with this statement if the persons who committed suicide left their underage children behind, but in most other cases, I think it's not.

A most often mentioned reason for why suicide can be selfish seems to be the fact that people who killed themselves made their loved ones to grief. In other words, they caused others' pain. But, I would argue, that can we really compare our grief (of losing loved ones) to the suffering of those persons who killed themselves? I think no, because to shed some tears is not at all the same kind of suffering as those people who killed themselves suffered, unless grief is severe enough to lead suicide. So, believing that just for the purpose of avoiding live ones' grief, those dead ones should continue their suffering, instead of ending it by committing suicide, this logic, by my understand, is what real "selfishness" is.

Suffering is one of greatest subjects (maybe simply the greatest) of human affair. We who never thought of killing ourselves can never know how it feels like to those suicidal people. And the reasons we never think of killing ourselves not really is because we are selfless, but because we are stronger, weaker, or, our challenges are less serious. No matter what, personally, I think we are just luckier than those who took their own lives.

I believe life, especially a conscious life (namely "human") by default is not a subject to pure happiness, but to both happiness and misery, depend on conditions. And generally speaking, the latter (suffering) is greater than former. For this reason, I believe we are all free to handle our own lives, suicide, endure, enjoy, or whatever else.
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February 14, 2014

Love = Courage? My Thought On Valentine's Day

D. H. Lawrence, world famed author (1906)
D. H. Lawrence, world famed author (1906) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Snow stopped, road cleared, my new "valentine" - newspaper came finally (Two days delayed though). A small article caught my attention: What is love? And the quote of D.H. Lawrence provoke the thought below:

D.H. Lawrence said that love is "having courage of your tenderness." How? How this tenderest act of humans can be interpreted as "courage"? In a cultural tradition that was built upon the absence of love, namely Chinese, love is one of the most coward traits of humans. Coldness, even cruelty are the showcase of "courage". Oh, I feel so sorry for this culture!

But still, why showing our tenderness is a courageous thing to do? Because, tenderness, represents a fully acceptance of another individual, an individual with consciousness, with a whole inner world that could be totally different from our own, yet so identical in a way. It is not another "person" we are afraid, it is another universe, an unknown entity that we are afraid of. It seems, that since human developed consciousness, nothing has been more frightening than "unknown". Death is frightening because it is "unknown", another culture can be frightening, because of unknown. And individual, the most complicated entity, with a whole different "soul", no doubt can be the most frightening subject. Thus, showing our tenderness to another person, to embrace this another "universe" unreservedly, is indeed a courageous act.

Yes, I have to agree with D.H.Lawrence on this, that the true heroes are those who dare to LOVE!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Who Are The Real Tough Ones? Does It Really Matter? My View On Heroism, Truth, Etc.

Heroism & Sacrifice 4
Heroism & Sacrifice 4 (Photo credit: Universal Pops)
If a person were always healthy but suddenly got sick for 2 days, and kept whining for 2 full days, it's likely that not only his/her whining would be well accepted by friends or loved ones, but he/she would also receive tons of compassion from others. However, if a person who were chronic sick, only whined 30 days out of 300 days, not only he/she would not receive much compassion, but also would be taken as "weak", "annoying", whining only for attention, etc.

We often put the words such as "heroism" to those who are strong, those who can endure "unendurable", on the other hand, we put the label like "chicken" to those physically fragile individuals who could not resist a gust of wind. Why? because we adore "toughness" and despise the "weakness". But by my understanding, one cannot really endure unendurable. We were born with different genetic conditions and we all do our best to survive, to strive to success (of course the definitions of "success" can be different depends on persons). A person who climb a huge mountain because his physical condition allows him to do so, and a sick person who cannot climb a few flights of stairs because his/her condition doesn't permit him to accomplish such "achievement". But still, people applaud for those who climb mountain high even though they did it without much difficulty, pay no attention to those who finished the final step of stairway with tremendous perseverance. They call the former "heroes", "tough ones", call the latter "loser", "mentally weak". But by my view, I sincerely believe that very often the "weak ones" are tougher than the "strong ones".

However, I did not mean to say that those chronic sick or weak ones are always mentally tougher than those who climb up mountains. I only mean, that the toughness, the courage, are all relative terms, need to be measured according to ones given conditions. Like I once put: "It takes much more courage to a person who has vertigo standing on the second floor balcony than to a healthy person climbing a thousand foot high cliff."

But, is this distinction really important? I think not. Because through history, it is those "heroes" or "tough ones" who lead humans survived from rough conditions. They were survivors and victors. Wick or sick ones died through time. We venerate those who had "superior" physical or mental power, designate honorable words for them, such as "tough", "mentally strong", not necessarily because they were so, but because they made great contribution to human race. Those who really suffered great deal, no matter how hard they fought, died without merits. Their genes also vanished away.

Yes, this world belong to "strongs", who inherited "superior" genes, who can conquer difficult situations with "ease". And the weaker ones, who inherited "inferior" kind of genes, endured so much more with incredible toughness, but if they could not make their way out, they can only be forgotten. 

The point I've been trying to make is, truth is not always important to human beings. Our whole belief system is not built on truth, but "good", which (I think) means what's best for our lives. So we call those "heroes" "tough", not necessarily because they were truly tough, but because they are "tough" in our eyes, and they embody the ideal attributes of our race.

So again, what is true is not always good, what's good is not always true. Truth, in most cases is useless, only important to some playful minds.

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February 13, 2014

"Some Friends Failed In A Crisis"

Friendship Village
Friendship Village (Photo credit: NYC-MetroCard)
The newspaper I received daily is "News & Observer", a local publication, in which there is a column called "Tell me about it", where people ask a therapist Carolyn Hax for help with their personal affairs. The one I read yesterday was called "Some friends failed in a crisis". The person who asks for help was in cancer treatment during which she/he found that suddenly most of her/his "best friends" failed to show up to offer support, which she/he certainly expected. Carolyn's response is wonderful. First she congratulates the person for her/his not holding grudge, then she suggests that she/he better to express her feeling openly, in case she/he is with those friends again. This is the beginning paragraph of Carolyn's response:
"Welcome to the weirdness of crisis, where your besties can vanish while casual pals surprise and sustain you."

This case certainly rings a bell to me. During the past several years (5 or 6), when my physical condition stayed desperate and chronic, when my financial situation and other aspects of my life seemed to collapse, I found I was left alone by almost all my several friends who had been hitherto keeping close relation with me. They all estranged away by different reasons. It was one of the hardest things in my life for me to ponder. However, after carefully "examining" those friendships, I believe I found answers, at least for my case.

I was an extremely popular personal during my teenage years and my 20s. I never intentionally chose friends because I was always surrounded by "friends". I think the reason for this was that I was an extremely agreeable person, and always put others' needs before my own. I was also a person who was fun to be with. I made people laugh all the time. It's a good thing, I suppose. But now I realized the negative side of it, that is, I was very passive in "choosing" my own friends. I simply let people choose me. I trusted everyone, I believe they treated me kindly, so they must be my friends. Upon the time I was ready to come abroad, there were a few people who made me their best friend. The consequence of this situation is, that after all these years, gradually, as our personalities and intelligence develop, I found I did not have much in common with most of my "besties". No doubt, as time went by, there was less and less for us to share. Plus my extremely health condition, which was hard for anybody to comprehend. So eventually, they chose to drop me off.

Humans are conscious animals. We better do things with consciousness, or so called "conscious choice". If we let others decide for us, we give others the power to judge us, to control us, or, to "trash" us. Of course, we should not judge others (By writing this post, I also do not mean to judge my old friends. As contrary, I respect their choice), but we do have right, and we should, make conscious choice to who we would remain contact with, or stay close. So this is the lesson I learned.  I will certainly try to do better in future.

(I also have thoughts on why I was such a passive person in terms of relationship, but that would be another day's work.)
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One Of The Most Irrational Conversation I've Ever Heard

Пётр Ильич Чайковский
Cover of Пётр Ильич Чайковский
A: Do you know that Tchaikovsky was gay? He was.
B: What?
A: You heard what I said, right?
B: Yes, but...
A: But what?
B: But... I can't believe it.
A: Can't believe that he was homosexual?
B: No, I can't believe that a person did so much for mankind, people can still say such thing to him.
A: What thing?
B: The "thing" you just mentioned.
A: "Homosexual".
B: ... Right.
A: So you think homosexual is bad thing? Should stay hidden forever?
B: No. I don't mean that.
A: So...
B: Please just don't say it.
A: ....

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February 12, 2014

Newspaper Clipping - My Brand New Hobby

I never was a newspaper reader. Just a little while ago, local newspapers started to show up on my front lawn automatically, I began to read them. Surprisingly, I found them interesting and informative, much better than those Chinese newspapers I once read back in China.

As I receive them daily,  they began to accumulate and I have to throw lots of them away. However I wanted to keep desperately those articles interest me particularly. So I started to wonder how and at the same time a word that I never bothered to get into details jumped in my mind: "newspaper clipping". But how to preserve all those fragile pieces? Easy, I "asked" google, and immediately got idea. An album that was used to collect prints of my art works seemed to be perfectly for this purpose. I found the album at the bottom of my bookcase, took all prints out, cut those articles off from newspaper carefully, inserted each of them into perfectly transparent sleeves. The pleasure was immediate and long lasting.

I used to collect stamps. Now this newspaper clipping seems to bring me the same kind of joy. Plus, it will improve my English reading, no doubt.