Friday, April 14, 2006

Half the Complexity, Twice the Happiness

Half the Complexity, Twice the Happiness

This blog is my Walden Pond in cyberspace--a place for me to retreat and examine my thoughts in silence. The older I get, the more I appreciate solitude, and nothing appears more appealing to me than a simple, self-sufficient life.

And that is what I strive to accomplish everyday--to unravel complexity, to do more with less. The human mind delights in simplicity: when we see a complicated mathematical problem being solved in a few simple steps, we marvel at its beauty; we admire works of art which succeed in expressing a lot with an economy of means. As de Bono, so rightly suggested, just like how quality is treated as a holy grail, every enterprise should also strive for simplicity as a goal in itself.

One can learn to simplify one's life by focussing on things that are truly essential. We often fret about things that are beyond our control--like how other people behave, what other people think about us. It's much simpler not to be bothered.

By definition, celebrities are people who choose to lead complex lives: their fame depends on people's acknowledgement of their beauty, talent or personality. They work hard for their fame and certainly deserve to enjoy the fortune that comes with it, but there is always the extra factor of 'public opinion' that they have to consider in everything they do.

So Mawi cannot go on a fishing trip with Diana Rafar without upsetting his fans. That's the price of fame. Of course, the public has no right to intrude into the lives of the rich and famous. But then again, it is this very irrational obssession of the public that made them rich and famous in first place.

By choosing progress, we invariably admit greater complexity. We want to consume more power--so we build hydro-electric dams and in the process, destroy the equilibrium of our ecosystem. We want speed and convenience, so we buy more cars, burn more fossil fuel and pollute the air even further.

That's OK, we say, for we can always achieve sustainable development through proper planning and better technology--build more efficient cars, find cleaner sources of energy. And as we gain more and more control over nature, we can take over the complex role of managing its sustainability ourselves. Human ingenuity knows no limits--we can always invent technology to solve the problems caused by technology. Basically adding more complexity to counter complexity.

In theory, it might be possible one day for us to possess the technology to control and manage every tiny aspect of our environment. But Mother Nature's management plan covers eons, we humans only think of realising benefits within our own lifetimes. Greed and selfish interests will always get in the way.

To manage nature, we first have to manage the imperfections that are inherent in our ourselves--our inner nature must be subdued first. Where do all that greed and selfishness come from? The imperfections that we see out there is but a direct reflection of the imperfections inside.

What if we reduce our wants by half? Live with half the conveniences, half the comforts at half the speed? Will our happiness be reduced by half too? I seriously doubt so.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A State of Being

A State of Being

The Bride (Uma Thurman):
You can relax for now. I'm not going to murder you in front of your daughter.

Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox):
That's being more rational than Bill led me to believe you were capable of.

The Bride:
It's mercy, compassion, and forgiveness I lack; not rationality.

--Kill Bill Vol 1, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

Mercy, compassion and forgiveness--these are all Buddha-like qualities. How much of these qualities do we have within us? When we show compassion to someone, don't we appear weak? Why do we even need to possess such qualities?

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would want us to believe that the only people qualified to lead the masses are those who do not possess such "weaknesses". Only a "Superman" (Übermensch) who can stomach cruelty is a worthy leader--not the mantra-chanting wimps who shed tears for the the sick and the lame.

We all have the innate ability to behave cruelly, when our physical survival or our possessions are threatened. We don't have to cultivate it. It's already there. Self-preservation is a strong instinct in all of us. They are rooted in the ego's fear of self-annihilation.

The spiritually-inclined tries to transcend such fears. They believe that the body and other material possessions are but temporary. All efforts to preserve them are futile and would only result in suffering. Ultimate happiness can only be found beyond the physical world which the ego identifies with. One must show compassion and forgiveness his fellow human beings, so that the soul can be free from the pain which greed, pride and selfishness ultimately bring.

Which world do you choose to live in? A dog-eat-dog world of cruelty and selfishness? Or one that is full of love and compassion?

A world of love and compassion, of course.

But whose idea of love and compassion?

Therein lies our problem.

When the word "idea" appears, it means the whole thing has already been intellectualized. There's an ideology, a framework, a best practice--a religion.

Is it possible for us to love without turning it into an idea?

Yes--only when the ego is dissolved, and there is no longer any pride or attachment related to ideas. When love is no longer an idea, but a pure state of being.