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Courage August 11, 2012

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Every now and then people would say to me that they think I am brave, courageous, or some other words to that effect. For some reason, the word would never sit well with me, but I couldn’t quite explain why.

I just figured it out.

Most of the time when I’m compelled to act, it’s because I’ve figured out something else that frightens me more than inaction. That’s all it is.

That’s why the word feels incongruent, because I never feel courageous, quite the opposite. Courage is not being fearless, it’s to keep going in the face of fear.

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Hiroshima July 21, 2012

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I just got back from a vacation in Japan, visited four major cities – Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. As amazing and wonderful those cities were, Hiroshima is the one that made a lasting impression.

Hiroshima is the anti-911. I am not talking about the moral (and pointless) evaluation of which one is worse, the dead couldn’t care less if it was terrorists or the US army that killed them. What I’m talking about is the way the two cultures chose to memorialize and interpret these horrible events.

In both cases, the victims are innocent civilians. The difference is that the Japanese don’t call the victims “heroes”. The dead in both tragedies are victims of terrible violence and don’t deserve what happened to them, but how does the concept of heroism get mixed into this?

Without exception, the Japanese memorials all speak of hope for lasting world peace, whereas the 911 slogan is “never forget”. Never forget what, exactly? Yes, it’s very skillful (someone’s mass communications professor would be proud) to leave it ambiguous, so everyone can fill in the blanks on their own. But it’s also manipulative, dishonest and ultimately disrespectful to the actual victims of the atrocities.

Why I am against marriage January 29, 2012

Posted by ethlite in Uncategorized.
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Contrary to popular belief, marriage is neither a natural nor inevitable conclusion to a monogamous relationship. It’s a Christian institution that was popularized via Western conquest of the world, before which monogamous marriage as we know it did not exist in any other human culture. It is as intrinsic to the human experience as male circumcision, both of which are Judeo-Christian gifts to the world, bequeathed as part of their subjugation of the local population.

If something is not intrinsic, but rather a human construct, then it should bear examination on its merits. Supporting something just because it’s customary is not a good idea, otherwise we’d all be in support of foot binding and arranged marriages. Having gone through divorce twice against my wishes, I have every incentive to think deeply and honestly about what exactly marriage is and isn’t.

So let’s take a closer look. First, why do people get married in the first place? Most would say it’s a commitment to staying together, until death do them apart. But isn’t it also common sense to say that two people who want to be in a committed monogamous relationship can do so without marriage? Furthermore, most people would agree that no marriage should survive if one or both people are no longer happy together.

In other words, marriage is superfluous to whether or not two people will stay together in a committed monogamous relationship. It’s superfluous in the same way that God is superfluous for understanding how the planets go around the sun – ” Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là”You can choose to believe in God if you wish, but it makes no difference to the outcome.

Second, and my more serious objection to marriage is how it ends. When couples decide to go their separate ways, the only difference marriage makes is that it forcefully involves the government into what should be the most personal and private area of your life. It gives the state the power to delve deep into every corner of your life. In particular, the state has the power to interrogate your children about your relationship with them and decide exactly how many hours you are allowed to see them. Anyone who has kids can tell you just how unimaginably harrowing that is.

I’ve been called a cynic for my stance on marriage. I am not a cynic. A cynic is someone picks apart other people’s beliefs without any of their own. I have strong beliefs about relationships, which I will state clearly here. I believe that people should be free to pursue happiness without government intervention, especially in personal relationships. I believe that true love, connection and commitment can and should exist without marriage. Instead of focusing on marriage, I’d rather focus on building a relationship that doesn’t need external validation. I think that’s a far more honest and romantic position to take than the conventional ideal, which basically amounts to “get married and stay married”.

No, I am not a cynic. Nor am I a dolt, which is someone who makes major commitments like marriage without figuring out for themselves exactly what it is they are committing to. Socrates said  “unexamined life is not worth living”, I’d like to add that “unexamined beliefs are not worth having”.

We become the monsters we fight October 10, 2011

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… and that’s a good thing!

No, really. Hear me out.

Like many people, I consider Steve Jobs to be a life long inspiration. His life philosophy has inspired and informed many of my own attitudes and decisions, and the main reason why I chose to spent 11 years at Apple under him.

However, I did feel conflicted about one aspect of his incredible life story – his evolution from being the guy who made boxes that hacked phone companies for free calls, who proclaimed “1984 wont be like 1984”, to the man responsible for creating the most authoritarian, locked down ecosystem in the history of the world. It’s as if he got tired of fighting The Man and decided to instead show them how it’s done.

But I had an epiphany after reflecting on his life after his death. I realized that being the very thing you started off fighting against is, in fact, the proof that you have lived your life to the fullest and fulfilled your life mission…

Bear with me for a bit more…

If you step back a bit from the good/evil, black/white, order/chaos dichotomy, you will see that they are simply two sides of the same coin. There is no absolute good or evil, just a giant pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. The sixties counterculture flower children became the “greed is good” yuppies in the eighties. Most people, myself included, would say that the Boomers have sold out, but now I realize it’s not that simple. It’s irrelevant whether or not the Boomers have sold out, it was their destiny to rebel against the stifling social order, and they pushed the pendulum from one end to the other, and back again. The seed of its destruction is planted at the apex of any movement, that is how pendulums work.

Our lives are not solely our own, we are all part of something larger. We exist to push the evolution of the human civilization forward, and the way we do that is to swing that pendulum as hard as we can in the direction that was assigned to us. You can picture it as a grand theatre, in which you don’t get to pick your part, but you can choose how well you play your assigned role. It is not our place to question why, but it is our individual choice to embrace our destiny or turn away from it.

The lesson of Steve Jobs is not to be like Steve – it is to be yourself, and never settle for anything less.

May you live well and long enough to become the very thing you loath in your youth, and be at peace knowing that is as it should be.

Oh, and cheers, Boomers, I don’t hate you anymore. 🙂

Why we fail (Epic Edition) March 29, 2011

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Like most of us, I had fantasies of doing amazing deeds that earn the adoration and admiration of millions in my youth. These fantasies mostly involve my creating some amazing breakthrough in science or technology, but I think we’d all agree nothing is more epic than saving the entire world from some terrible disaster.

So what happens in real life if you do, indeed, save the world from nuclear holocaust?

As it turns out, nothing. Nada. You are lucky if they let you keep your job.

Stanislav Petrov single handedly prevented, in all likelihood, an all out nuclear war between US and USSR back in the 80s. If Stanislav didn’t exercise his judgement and ignored the false alarm due to faulty equipment, we’d probably all be eating cans of dog food, wielding shotguns and have extremely bad personal hygiene at this point.

So what did he get for this most epic prevention of failures, not to mention the end of human civilization?

He was reassigned to a less sensitive post, took early retirement (although he emphasizes that he was not “forced out” of the army, as the case is presented by some Western sources), and suffered a nervous breakdown.

“we, as a society, only reward apparent success, and never prevention of failure.”

I was wrong about one thing though. It’s not just corporate America, it’s pretty much yet another serious design flaw of the human mind.

So much for Intelligent Design, eh?

Love potion March 1, 2011

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If we accept that scientific fact that romantic love is chemical based, and has an average lifespan of 2~3 years, it’s not a huge leap to think that we can come up with a drug to sustain romantic love in the near future.

Conceptually, it’s really no different from antidepressants and other drugs that eliminate undesirable mental states. One can argue that it’s a design flaw of the human species that we are built for infidelity and suffer for the transiency of romantic love.

Note, this hypothetical drug won’t work unless you are already in a romantic relationship. It’s not a love potion to make people fall in love, all it does is to sustain what’s already there.

Now would you take this drug with your partner? If not, why not?

Chief Tyrol and The Junior Knuckledragger (that’s me!) April 5, 2010

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Non-actionable idea February 23, 2010

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I came up with the term non-actionable idea today while talking to my friend. Basically it means thoughts and beliefs that don’t lead to anything you can actually act upon.

Every time you find yourself thinking about something but can’t seem to get anywhere, ask yourself, what would you do differently based on the answer? If you can’t come up with anything, then it’s a NAI.

As in, “don’t waste your time worrying about why Lindsay Lohan is such a mess, or who Shakira is dating, it’s all NAI”. Other examples include intellectual dead ends such as “is there a God” and “is there life after death” also qualify.

This is why I don’t watch TV or what mass media refer to as “news”, it’s mostly just NAIs that you can safely ignore, saving your time and energy on things do matter to you.

Thought for the day February 22, 2010

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How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

– Henry Thoreau, 150 years before the invention of blogs and twitter

quiet desperation February 22, 2010

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To cease suffering, it is only necessary to cease wanting

   but without desire there is no reason to live

      therefore living is suffering

         don’t be afraid of hell, because we are already in it

      there is no God, but brief respite in the throes of passion

   as for me,

Give me Love, or give me Death