Nevermind, I know nothing

I’m quite embarrassed and ashamed of my last post’s first edition. I’d like to apologize to those of you who had the misfortune to read it.

Today I want to share some things that have helped me feel human lately. Enjoy.

People are starving. They may not know it because they’re being fed mass produced garbage. The packaging is colourful and loud, but it’s produced in the same factories that make Pop Tarts and iPads, by people sitting around thinking, ‘What can we do to get people to buy more of these?’

And they’re very good at their jobs. But that’s what it is you’re getting, because that’s what they’re making. They’re selling you something. And the world is built on this now. Politics and government are built on this, corporations are built on this. Interpersonal relationships are built on this. And we’re starving, all of us, and we’re killing each other, and we’re hating each other, and we’re calling each other liars and evil because it’s all become marketing and we want to win because we’re lonely and empty and scared and we’re led to believe winning will change all that. But there is no winning.

What can be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you and that will give them hope.

-Charlie Kaufman

Cheers,

Elizabeth x

Accepting People as They Are

There are two types of relationships in my life:

  1. friends, and
  2. the formally defined, like teachers, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Friends come and go, and they usually aren’t clearly defined, so friendship problems are easier to solve and let go. But formally defined relationships, especially hierarchical ones, tend to be much more complicated. In my situation, they’ve also caused me significantly more stress than with other social situations. Because I respect and care more about my elders than my acquaintances. Caring has as much potential to bring happiness as it does suffering.

I’ve learned it’s okay to accept people as who they are and be okay with the fact that they may never change into the people we wish they would be. Maybe they will forever be self-aggrandizing children in boomer bodies, but that’s okay.

For example, I used to believe that it was a teacher’s job to teach, but all they need to do is be a teacher. I accept this and do my part.

All I can ever do is my part and my part alone. All I can change is myself. All I expect of other people is merely my own perception. I can only really expect them to fill roles with their existence, and that alone is a blessing. Even if I don’t think my teacher does a good job at teaching, that doesn’t change the fact that the teacher is my teacher and I am responsible to be her student. I still have the will and choice to be a good student, no matter the quality of teaching.

We idealize personable teachers and adults who understand us perfectly, but it’s okay if everyone above us in the hierarchy isn’t necessarily someone that we look up to personally. All we need to do is look up to them formally.

This may sound hurtful and heartless, but in the absence of two people in a formal relationship unwilling to personally change, I think honoring formality and growing outside the relationship as an individual human being is the most one can do.

Acceptance isn’t easy. It’s tempting to believe that one shouldn’t have certain problems in the first place, so why deal with it? (Note: suppression/denial may work in the short run but it’s extremely unhelpful in the long term.) Or it’s painful to accept a reality that falls short of perfect.

But such is life. We can control nothing but how we choose to respond to what we’re given to work with. And choosing to wish for something or someone else to work with rather than first dealing with present realities is not a solution.

You can only change yourself to become the person you want to be, not the person you’re told to be and who you aren’t. So how can you change others to be the person you tell them to be and who they’re not?

You can’t. You just have to accept people as they are, even with the recognition that your acceptance may change nothing but your own peace of mind. The person may stay the same as long as you know them.

Yet you must accept this truth, and them, with lovingkindness no matter what.

P.S. Edit: I no longer fully support the beliefs expressed in this article.

Why you feel bad.

No matter how much you try to philosophize, some situations are universally bad situations to be in. Here are a few examples:

  • Coronavirus pandemic
  • Being physically unfit or unwell
  • Having no order or structure in your day-to-day life
  • Not honoring values and obligations
  • Generally, practicing self-destruction under the guise of “self-care”

It’s only natural to feel unhappy when things are bad and happy when things are good. But I think a lot of the time, we don’t recognize how much control we have over things, so we surrender personal responsibility to the “cruelties of life”* and unironically wonder why we feel like shit.

We can exercise some level of control in the coronavirus pandemic through social distancing. We can overcome most physical health challenges through proper diet, activity, and sleep. We can order our daily lives with routines and rituals. We make the choice daily to honor our values and obligations – or not. We honestly know the difference between real self-care and what marketers try to sell us as self-care; it’s a choice to ignore and indulge in the latter.

For me, what helps is not to moralize decision-making. Meaning, beating yourself up for making poor choices in the past is pretty useless, if not destructive, now. So when it comes to making choices, think about how you want to feel as a person based on those choices. Do you honestly enjoy feeling like garbage and lying to yourself that nothing’s wrong every day? Be straightforward with yourself; the politically correct police aren’t watching.

If not, change. Do what you know to be good for you.

It’s not only for yourself, but for the good of those around you, that you self-improve.

Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

-Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Fifth Mindfulness Training

And I’d like to add on to the concept of self-care. Have you noticed that marketers always try to make the purchase of products integral to caring for yourself? While products are fun to buy and try, this is a lie after a certain extent. Self-care can’t be bought like an item on a shelf. Self-care is a series of consistent behaviors with the intention of doing what’s best for you so you can do your best for others. Self-care is action. Realizing this is the first step to aligning your daily actions with what is true, good, and beautiful.

Or, you could just do nothing and feel bad for the rest of your life… but I hope that you will learn to respect yourself more than that. Me too.

Thank you for joining me in today’s food for thought. Take care; make good decisions, solve problems, and until the next one…

Cheers,

Elizabeth x

P.S. “cruelties of life”* I’m not so naïve as to deny that life really can be cruel, but more often than not, I think people make excuses, my past self not proudly included.

🦀

When the world was closer to normal a few months ago, it was my parents’ eighteen-year wedding anniversary. I thought they were going to do something romantic like get flowers or at least eat out at somewhere fancy. Alas, they didn’t. My mom and dad’s idea of a nice anniversary date was shopping for crabs on sale at Costco.

As we ate the crab meat together for lunch, I asked my mom jokingly, “Is this what you call romance? If so, I don’t want it.”

“No, you do want this in a relationship,” she said as she shelled out more meat from a crab leg. “And it is romantic. Happy boring times together.” She said something like that, anyway.

Now that life is not normal in any sense, I think I understand what she means a bit more.

Some of the best experiences in life are the most mundane. The morning carpool laughter, conversations while driving to appointments, running the same trails on the same creek over and over again. Going to the grocery store, the grandparents’ house, the cousins’ house. Walking the dog. Popping into a favorite cafe to (pretend to) study. Practice after school. School, period.

When everything was normal, repetitive to the point of being dull, I’d spend all of my spare brain power wishing that I were somewhere more exciting. Why couldn’t I be in Paris (which, despite having visited and realized that my notion of Paris was very different from the reality of the city, I continued to fantasize about)? Or Italy, which felt like a second home (not the place to be right now, sadly). Or Japan. I’ve never been to Japan, but my sister and mom used to watch Only in Japan videos every evening in hopes of going. While I made fun of them at the time, secretly I wanted to go too.

It was fun to think of all the places I could go, if only…

One day, I do hope to go. For better or for worse I haven’t yet lost my wanderlust. But I think that more than the fact that these places are beautiful, what drove me to spend so much time dreaming of them was the truth that it wasn’t possible for me to visit them at the time. We tend to crave what we can’t have.

I know I’ve spent many hours imagining I was some jet-setter who could say, “I’ll book a flight this weekend to have fun in London! Why not!” and make that a reality at the drop of a hat. I don’t think I’d actually enjoy this but the fact that it’s nowhere close to possible for me right now is why I wanted it.

But now, I’m dreaming more of something far less ambitious than holidays abroad.

I’m dreaming of a return to normal life, with all the luxuries I took for granted. The luxuries that don’t require huge savings to make possible – like the comfort of a friend’s presence, less than six feet away. Or casually shopping at Costco with another for crab.

Happy boring times together. I can’t think of anything more glamorous.

My mother was right. A normal life is romantic and something to want after all.

Mini Musings

action

Starting with positive changes in action will create positive changes in perspective more quickly than positive changes in perspective will create positive changes in action. Begin with doing, not philosophizing. Philosophy comes later.

travel

I have many happy memories from traveling but many happy memories from here, too. I do not believe that travel is a prerequisite to enlightenment. What travel mostly does in this regard is defamiliarize your surroundings so that you are forced to be aware, in the moment. This mindfulness can be tapped into life at home, too.

books

It’s through books more than anything that I “found myself,” as they say. I’ve parted with most of the copies I had the luck to read, but their memories remain with me. And whenever I wish, I can always ask the library to print my checked-out titles to discover what I’m drawn to again and again and again. Like a primal inclination.

asian-american

Asian-American: I am one. Because my Italian and Scandinavian heritage express themselves more in my features, and I was raised a modern way, it’s not so obvious. But really, doesn’t this term fit me best? I’m Asian-American in the sense of someone with Vietnamese ancestry born in America. Yet I am also white, what Asians from Asia call “American.” So how can I be anything but this halved and hyphenated identity?

friends

I have just a few deep friendships, and I treasure them greatly. These are the people I know that I will stand by and that will stand by me for a very long time – our lives, even. The people I love enough to take care not to lose touch with. The people I can be vulnerable with.

The sad truth is that many friendships are fleeting, but this doesn’t necessarily make the friendship any less true. Maybe you don’t put enough work in after a certain point, or the other person stops caring. It can hurt. A lot.

Sometimes, however, letting go of a friend is the only way to reconnect with him or her.

10 – Corona Quotidien

It’s Friday… welcome back.

I’ve tried ad fasts and news fasts in attempts to protect personal happiness, but I think we’re now entering an era where we can’t do that. It’s civic duty to be up to date and supportive of small businesses.

None of the news is good, and for once it’s not alarmism… it’s real. Very real.

I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything insensitive about the pandemic so far. I have to admit that I have been sheltered from a lot of its effects.

Anyway… today is my thoughts on a book that I promised I’d share with you a few days ago.

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The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

This book is translated from Japanese and it’s about the philosophies of an Austrian psychologist named Alfred Adler. The structure is a dialogue between an old philosopher and a young person who comes to argue against the claim that “Life is simple.”

The rest of the book is the philosopher convincing the youth that such is so. And he makes a very convincing case.

The quote which stuck out to me the most is, “The fact that there are people who do not think well of you is proof that you are living in freedom.”

To find out how that’s possibly true, you’ll just need to read the book.

In addition, please help me add to my reading list!

So far on my dream to-read list, I have:

  1. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (for school)
  2. The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi
  3. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
  4. Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng
  5. Gone by Min Kym
  6. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  8. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
  9. A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto
  10. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
  11. The Yogi Code by Yogi Cameron

After careful consideration and the changing circumstances of my quarantine, I’ve decided to discontinue the Corona Quotidien. So this is the last of a series of daily posts.

Thanks for bearing with me. I’ll send more quality writing your way soon.

Cheers,

Elizabeth x

09 – Corona Quotidien

Happy Thursday!

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Hope you’re all doing okay and not becoming too fatigued. Yesterday, school was delayed to a tentative May Day. I’m surprised they haven’t yet shut the campus until summer. Maybe the district needs to build up a reserve of mental strength before being flooded with parents’ emails about their children’s graduations.

It rained in the morning.

And I read a few articles which I think you’ll find compelling, so I’ll link them below. These chaotic times are perfect to change some of your life philosophies to restore order.

Building a foundation

Reflections on being rooted.

The Value of Delight

An article in defense of nice things.

How Anti-Consumerism Sold Out

Lifestyle consumption and its implications are explored.

Screw Finding Your Passion

Your passion is in front of you.

The Simple Life of One of the World’s Best Marathoners

Eliud Kipchoge is my hero.

À demain.

Cheers,

Elizabeth x