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THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS

In the days when only men worked and women stayed home, how were they able to keep respecting one another? It’s hard to imagine that for me. The world of men and the world of women were so different that it seems impossible to understand the value that each side brought to the family. Lack of understanding seems unavoidable.

The advantage of dual-income household is that it’s easier to respect one another because both share a great deal in common. You feel like you have a real partner. Both can understand and appreciate one another more easily. You are not alone in your struggle.

If your wife has hardly ever worked, you’d get little or no consolation by talking to her because she wouldn’t understand your problem/suffering. Inversely, if your husband has never done any childcare and domestic duties, you wouldn’t get any consolation by talking to him about your troubles either. The longer this separation of labor continues, the farther apart these two worlds move, and also the more dependent on each other you become where you don’t have any choice but to stay together. Love or respect becomes secondary to the sheer need for survival.

I think we have feminism to thank for the progress.

Life does not get better by removing limitations. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. We have a hole, and we are trying to find a piece that fits. We manage to find a piece that fits on one side (what we want) but the other side does not fit (what the world wants). So, we have to give it up and look for another piece. If all the pieces were square, we could remove the limitations—we would be able to fit any piece with any other pieces, but what exactly would we achieve by doing this?

There are plenty of rich people who do not have to work, so they can do whatever they want, all day long without worrying about making money from what they do. Social creatures that we are, can we actually feel any sense of fulfillment by just entertaining ourselves doing what we want? It reminds me of the scene from the documentary “Born Rich” where the director’s father, the heir to Johnson & Johnson fortune, is painting in their massive house alone. He looks like he is just killing time until the day he dies.

As I think deeper about what I want to do in my life, I realize that the line between what I want and what the world wants is blurring. If the world doesn’t want it, then I wouldn’t want it either. In this sense, the world is not imposing any kind of limitations on me. Or rather, my desire is to solve the puzzle that these limitations create. Without these limitations, we would have no game to play.

Given that it is so easy to find anything in the world today, the days of anyone becoming famous posthumously is over. If nobody needs or wants what we do or create in our lifetime, it means we’ve made no contributions to the society or mankind. What do we ultimately want? Just pleasure ourselves by doing only what we want, or make meaningful contributions as a social creature?

Online dating creates a never-ending problem for those who believe that relationship is about choosing the right material. Much like trading stocks, all that you can do is to buy and sell; you cannot contribute to the success of the company yourself. So, even after buying, you are always thinking about other stocks that you could have bought which might have performed better, especially given a huge number of stocks you have access to. And, even after selling the stock, you become obsessed about how it is performing.

For those who believe that relationship is about the process, about the efforts you make, then online dating hasn’t added much value because there has never been a big problem with finding a good enough starting material. It’s like starting your own business. Great ideas are dime-a-dozen; it’s the execution that matters.

Ultimately, I think, it depends on the confidence you have in shaping your own future.

My nagging ration system: Nagging works like currency. If you nag your kids too often, the effect of each nagging diminishes. So, you end up nagging louder every time. (If you print too much money, the general price level goes up in the economy, because the value of each dollar goes down.) So you need to control the supply of nagging like a central bank. You make a note of how many times you nagged your kids in a day and pace yourself to use only a fixed number of nagging, like say, 10 times a day. If your kid does something annoying, like leaving the refrigerator door open, and if you’ve already used up your daily ration of nagging, you just have to take care of it yourself, because nagging more would trigger a downward spiral of inflation. Overall, you will be less effective at managing your kid’s behavior.

Even after 10 years, the word “father” still feels foreign to me. It makes me want to go, who? Me?

I think fatherhood, or parenthood, is something that should fade gradually overtime as the child claims her own independence. In that process, the parent too regain his own self.

When the parent refuses to do so, the child too is prevented from becoming her own self; their identities forever enmeshed.

Being ourselves is hard. I think it gets harder as we get older, and we find comfort in the idea of identity that is imposed on us from outside. Who we are no longer needs to come from within. We transform our own failures into hopes of success in our children. The pain of existential questions is passed on like a baton.

But alas such a maneuver wouldn’t last forever. Sooner or later, when your child is mature enough, she will remind you that it’s your own baton, and give it right back to you.

Since our identity politics is currently in a state of chaos, I feel it’s a good time for me to come out of the closet also. I am a trans-computational.

Ever since I was born, I felt like a computer trapped in a human body, although I didn’t know what computer was then. I looked very much like a human being, but I could never relate to other humans. As a small child, I suspected that the way humans output the results of their computation was fundamentally different from mine. They seemed to plug a chain of effects like electric guitarists do: distortion, echo, chorus, equalizer, suppressor, looper, delay, and such. After going through all those effects, their output was incomprehensible to me. And when I outputted my raw results, everyone freaked out.

One day, my dad brought home a “personal computer” that he borrowed from his office over the holiday season. When he turned it on, I immediately understood who I really was (and who my dad was also). We typed a command and the raw answer came back immediately without any effects. I looked at my dad in shock, as if to ask, “Dad, is this what I think it is?” And his glowing eyes silently said, “That’s right Dyske. But don’t tell anyone. It’s our secret.”

But now I’m ready to come out and stand up for who I am. I’m a trans-computational and I’m proud of it.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This seemingly innocent question, I think, has many harmful effects for kids.

  1. It assumes that the careers/occupations that they want to pursue already exist (otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to answer the question). If they already exist, chances are, they are already highly competitive (like lawyers, bankers, chefs, designers, writers, musicians, etc..), which also means the humanity already has enough of them.
  2. The younger we are, the more we are concerned about “proving” ourselves by competing (as competition is the easiest way to do so), so this question sucks kids into meaningless competitions instead of imagining the paths that nobody has travelled.
  3. The question puts the focus solely on “you”, as if life is all about what “you” want. To live a full life, you have to also consider what others want. The other part that’s missing is, “What does the world need that I can offer?”

You are standing in front of an elephant, and I’m standing behind it. Your experience of the elephant is different from mine, so we try to bridge the gap by describing our experiences in words. We are all constantly trying to bridge these gaps in our lives. When the gap is too large to bridge with words, we feel frustrated and lonely, like nobody in the world can understand what we are going through. We reluctantly accept the reality that some of our experiences will be inexplicable, and that we will have to manage them on our own. From time to time, we say, “Nobody understands me,” and feel sorry for ourselves. I think this is a common sentiment but it has a big assumption: Differences in our experiences lead us to loneliness. We assume that if others could be in our shoes, they would think and feel the same way. But is that true?

Suppose we could be omnipresent. I can experience what you are experiencing from the front of the elephant at the same time I’m experiencing it from behind. And, let’s imagine that we were born this way, so I’ve experienced everything you’ve experienced in your life, and vice versa. Even if our experiences were exactly the same, we would still think differently because our brains are structured differently. It’s like going to a movie theater together; although our experiences would be very similar, our thoughts could be very different. This difference in our thoughts would still motivate us to bridge the gap even if the experience is the same. The differences in experience in and of themselves do not cause feelings of loneliness.

We are actually creating the gaps by thinking about our experiences. That is, as soon as we try to describe our experiences in words, we create the gaps. Our assumption is wrong. Language is not a tool to bridge our gaps. Language creates the gaps. The more we use language to close our gaps under the false assumption, the greater the gaps will be. It’s like drinking from the ocean to quench our thirst; we think language is the solution when in fact it is the cause of the gaps.

I never talk about what I’m grateful for in life. If someone puts me on the spot to answer, within myself, I sense resistance to putting it into words. It’s like how some cultures believed photography can steal their souls. Language, or any system of representation like photography, is a tool to represent what is not there. Words or photos therefore have the effect of reminding us of what is lacking in them. Even in situations where the thing or the person we described in words or in photographs still happens to be there, they remind us of the possibility of disappearance, lack, or loss. This is partly why we take pictures of our joyous moments. As we experience the joy, we are already worrying about the end or the loss of that joy, and this worry can prevent us from fully enjoying that moment. In this sense, language or photography, if used in a certain way, can steal your soul.

Midlife is interesting in that, even if you don’t have any kids, you become a parent in one form or another. Say, for instance, you are a graphic designer and intend to stay in that business for the rest of your life. But by midlife your main expertise would probably be in managing designers and clients, not actually designing anything yourself. The nature of your job would be fundamentally different, like switching to an entirely different career. Just as you wouldn’t compete with your own kids, you wouldn’t compete with others with your skills. You switch your position to being a parent or a teacher, and help the younger people acquire those skills. It’s like you have transcended your former self, and are now working with others who remind you of your younger self. This new perspective of yourself brings about new possibilities.

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