Clutter and its Discontents

The clutter in my room has been getting to me recently. I can hardly take a step without stepping on something that should really be put away. I don’t know, but somehow this clutter seems to be sapping away my energy.

I am sure many of you have read about or seen “zen” minimalistic approaches towards design, where less is more. Zen, as with many other branches of buddhism, places great emphasis on clarity of mind.

A room that is filled with clutter obviously fights against these principles; as within, so without — a cluttered internal (your mind) tends towards a cluttered external (your room or living/working area). In the very same way, a cluttered environment will often clutter a mind as well, leading to non-optimal thinking.

Look around you — feel that it’s cluttered? It’s time to do a little spring-cleaning!

Goal Setting

At the start of the year, I wrote about setting New Year resolutions. A couple of months into the year, I can only say that I have not regretted having wrote that. The decision to set goals (and the actions I have taken to achieve them) have certainly made life quite a bit more enjoyable than last year, when I didn’t believe in the power of goal-setting.

Goal setting has given me a new sense of purpose; I use the word sense here for I haven’t quite grapsed the concept of purpose yet — one’s purpose in life! What else could it be but an illusion? I think therefore I am — the moment I stop thinking, the moment self-awareness is gone, I cease to exist. Man creates his own world — to each his own… and so on

But if asked if I prefered having a sense of purpose compared to none at all, I would (and quite enthusiastically, no doubt) pick having a sense of purpose, illusory or otherwise. It simply feels good.

The day I decided

On hindsight, I find it strange that I had a transition from manic depressive to mild optimist. Working on the base of mild-optimism, I got myself a self-help book (a genre I have shunned for the last couple of years), and have worked my way up since then.

In a way, life is very much like the stock-market. It goes up, down and laterally. Every once in a while, it corrects itself, causing bearish-times (downards) to become bullish (upwards) and vice-versa. Lateral movements (neither upwards nor downwards) are also common, as we go through a stable period without much activity. If this anology holds true, no matter what happens, life generally moves up (even after the great depression and stock market crashes, stocks have had one of the greatest, if not the greatest, return of investment).

Whatever cause this correction, I have no idea. But I am thankful that it has happened at this time, when I am still young. By the way, I’m staying on in SISPEC, for ASLC. I didn’t expect (nor wished) to stay, but I have — yet somehow, I don’t feel too bad about it, for I know I can still achieve my goals here. Without goals, I would be crying right now.

Set goals if you haven’t already. Try this site, called Goal Setting School for some tips. Don’t bother about their “advanced” goal setting (for which you would have to pay); their “basic” ones are more than enough.

A tip I have for those wishing to set goals would be to create collages of your favourite things, or of the goals you’d like to achieve. Pictures are one of the most powerful leverages one can use in goal-setting. For example, if you’re hoping to lose some weight or get back in shape, past your head on a picture your desired body, and look at the picture first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and anytime in between. Your mind will soon convert that thought (if you desire it strongly enough) into reality!

The Authentic Self

I wonder if it is maturity, or just plain old Uncle Sam/Big Brother influence. I’m starting to lose the angst — the fire! — that used to consume me. I feel now not so much of apathy, but more of an agreement to stop fighting and start going with the flow.

I first realised something wrong with me when I found myself agreeing that Microsoft actually made quality software (for the Mac, no less), and I started to really question what was going on with me.

(Gasp!) Am I becoming one of you? One of the millions of wandering souls without a cause, with nothing to die for… …and nothing to live for?

Before I completely lose myself within the masses, I have to start questioning who I really am, what is my purpose (if any)?

I recall an e-mail I sent to one of my lecturers, sometime in 2003, when I was serving my internship at Giamso Tours. I described to him in vivid detail what I had seen, and felt, on my way back from work: a most distressing trip on the subway.

What I had seen that day was the inside of a giant worm, digging and eating its way through miles and miles of dirt. In that giant worm were people, whom to me, at that time, were no different from the dirt the worm was digging through.

The hundred or so passengers on the train that day, what purpose had they? If they had died right then and there, how much would it have impacted the world? Would the world be any different had they not been around?

At the back of my mind, I refused to ignore the fact that I too, was one of the pieces of dirt, travelling in the belly of the worm I so condemned. I felt despair, desperation, anger… who the f*ck was I?

What is it that I feel now? Quite the opposite. I feel hope, optimism, joy… I feel like I could own the world if I really wanted to. I don’t even think about the reason I’m on earth — I’m here just because… would I be better off knowing the reason I am here? Would the world suddenly become a better place the minute I out why God (if there was one) decided to put me here?

What is the use of knowing these things? What is the use of philosophizing about this world when we can just go forth and live it, and let it be?

Notice the questions I just asked… those are the questions I would expect one of you, the normal, everyday person, to ask — but not me.

I’m a philosopher. I ask questions that cannot or are difficult to answer. I reject this world. I reject optimism and hope, for they are not objective. I believe that there has got to be a reason for everything; and if there isn’t one, it is absurd and therefore another cause to curse and cuss.

But I find my unique, shallow pessimism leaving me. And somehow, it doesn’t quite feel that bad. World, embrace me, for I am now becoming John Doe, #9342080202.

Long Letters

While reading some notes on writing letters, I realised I made a major faux pas in thinking that the best letters are the longest, most detailed ones.

I think frequent lengthy letters are a bore, for they leave nothing to the imagination. Allow me to guess what’s going on in your life.

Have the decency to leave details out, that way, I can ask for them in my reply.

Sometimes, a simple “Thank you for a wonderful evening” can be more poignant than an essay on how your evening went.

My Fastest 2.4

It’s been almost two weeks since I took my IPPT test (a standard physical fitness test to gauge the basic physical fitness of an individual), my best one to date.

The IPPT consists of four stations plus a 2.4km run, which I believe is the highlight of the test itself.

On the day of my IPPT, I remembered doing some mental calculations just before my 2.4, trying hard to predict my timing for that day. My fastest run till then was 10m 45s — which was actually a pretty good time by my standards — but I was not quite satisfied with it.

I wanted to go for gold, which requires a time of 9m 44s and below, but knew that improving by over a minute (with little specific training since my best run) was an almost impossible task. I considered going for silver, which requires a time of 11m 39s, allowing for a very comfortable pace.

But if I went for silver, I would not have been testing my limits. I would have been simply living within my comfort zone. Would I improve if I did that? Nope.

Just before the race, I psyched myself up by playing the Rocky theme song in my head over and over. My toes twitched, my legs itched.

“Get ready, 10 secs to go,” shouted the PTI, “jog on the spot!”


And off I went, at a pace I normally reserved for the final sprint. After running 400m, the run felt surprisingly easy. None of the early fatigue I so often felt on other runs were present. I pressed on, and increased my pace even further, almost to a sprint — this was it.

Every other 100m or so though, my mind would tell me to slow down; everytime it told me to slow down, I would push forward to overtake someone. My heart hated my mind.

My pace slowed a tad at the end, but I knew I had done it. No, not a gold, but a personal best. My time of 10m 02s was the best I had ever run, and put me into contention for gold in my next run.

I never thought I would be this close to gold. Five years ago, I struggled to complete my 2.4 — even a slow jog was too much for me. Four years ago I ran my first sub-12 minute 2.4, and I was esctatic. Three years ago I ran my first sub-11min 30s run. Three months ago I ran my first sub-11min run. Two weeks ago I ran my first 10m run.

Now, I’m going for gold!

Rushing to Wait

One of the things that my friends often complain about in SISPEC (my army camp) is that we are often rushed (to lessons, demonstrations etc.), only to have to wait while the instructors get themselves ready. “We rush to wait, and wait to rush”.

Then I came across a passage in the book The Sane Society, by Eric Fromm. He had this to say:

Alienated man is unhappy. Consumption of fun serves to repress the awareness of his unhappiness. He tries to save time, and yet he is eager to kill the time he has saved.

The ironies of life is quite funny. Often we do things without thinking much about why we do them, only to go round in circles in the end!

Haven’t had much time lately, stuck in camp, doing the things I wish I loved best.

I must say that the army has changed me quite a bit — the discipline I feel I have while in camp is commendable if I might say so myself. But one thing I noticed is that the discipline I have in camp all but disappears the moment I step out of it.

It is as I were two people, and which person I am depends on my surroundings. The feeling of freedom overwhelms me, causing me to do things I otherwise would not do.

It is as if I’m doing things not because I want to do them, but because I can