Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Life is a cruel joke

Sometimes I feel as if life were a punishment... As if it were out to prove us wrong and teach us humility over and over again. You swear we will never do something only to find yourself doing it. You judge others only to become like them. You fall in love only to fall out of love. You wish for peace but are confronted with war. Life gives you beauty, then takes it away. Life gives you a dream, and replaces it with reality!...

It all starts when we are babies. First we are one with our mother and never feel hungry or cold. Then we are born. That is where the shit (both figuratively and literally) starts. All of a sudden we feel hungry, cold and wet. We are unhappy and we cry to get our mothers attention. And then (when she finally arrives) she doesn't always seem to understand what we need!... :( Darn!... Things used to be so perfect back in her womb! Why this?

So there goes lesson number one in life: learn to cope with your frustrations cause life is not always going to give you what you want! Unfortunately we are not done yet. No, you are going to have this same lesson taught to you over and over again little fellow! Wohoo!

Let's continue shall we? You are a kid: you still believe in fairy tales and the sky is the limit. You are going to change the world and be the next superstar, Einstein, Bill Gates, Ronaldinho!!! Years later you have not become Einstein neither Ronaldinho. And you realise that you never will (lucky are those who die young). So, you try to scale down your dreams: Ok, I guess I can also be happy with a nice job and a loving partner. You think that is a modest wish? Behold, for in fact these are as unattainable as becoming Einstein was in the first place!..

Let's assume that you do get your dream-job and you do get your dream-partner. Now, remember, life has a lesson to teach you, so sooner or later you will get disillusioned with your dream-job and/or fall in love with someone else!.. Ouch... So what is one to do then? Seems like there are two solutions: either you stick with what you got or you leap into the unknown.
  • Option number one: Stick with what you got and you will most probably be left with feelings of discomfort, frustration and “what if” thoughts for the rest of your life (sure, you can always sweep them under the rug, but truth be told, they are observing you from their dark hidding place).
  • Option number two: You take the leap only to find yourself in the exact same situation a few years down the line with absolute happiness still not attained! Again you have to choose whether you flee or stay.
So either way, you are never perfectly happy! The worse part is that somehow life has given us the illusion of absolute happiness. What it fails to give us however, is a “perfect reality” to match this. We are thus stuck in a complicated and imperfect world with our idealistic notions of happiness. How incredibly cruel!..
Once again life is laughing at you: still haven't learned your lesson?

So what do wise men (and women) say to this? Well, I don't know enough to give a representative account (:p), but one thing that does come to mind are those saying about how one should “free themselves from desires” in order to attain happiness. Seems logical given the impossibility of finding the perfection we desire... I can totally see how this works for material things. Sure, you'd be much better off not desiring that new, huge and unaffordable flat TV screen! But if you truly have no desires at all, you in fact do not even have the desire to live anymore..! You don't have the desire to wake up in the morning, to meet others, to eat a nice meal, to help a fellow human being. In short: you just wait for death to come!... Hmmm... That cannot be the solution then can it?... Life's cruelty thus goes on and on....

Strange enough though life seems to have an other, more cooperative side as well. You ask questions and somehow the answers come to you. Circumstances change to fulfill your deepest desires. Opportunities present themselves. You find hope where there was none. You find love and understanding where you least expected them. Ephemeral but beautiful. As if there was a bigger plan or a loving hand guiding your way.

So, what is one to conclude? I really don't understand this anymore! What is this insane mix of punishment and help??? Of giving and taking? What is life trying to teach us at all?
Perhaps this is just the same good old lesson over again. Perhaps it is life's way of saying:
“Suck it up Philo, you will never understand what life is about!”.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doing groceries as if it mattered

So once again I am standing in the supermarket trying to figure out which kind of tomatoes to buy. They all have different names, taste (I hope) and prices. But to complicate matters more they also come from different countries! So, how am I to choose? I decide to go with the most “environmental friendly” tomatoes. I assume those must be the Dutch ones (since they most probably have the smallest carbon footprint for transport) so I reach out to grab one. But wait a minute: this is not “tomato season”!... Tomatoes don't naturally grow in winter! So this means these are greenhouse tomatoes. Hmmm... Are greenhouses environmentally friendlier than import? I don't know....Shoo... :( Desperate I just go for the cheapest Dutch ones.

Then I reach the avocado section. Oh how delicious they look!... So tempting!... But I resist: “I am not going to buy you you little “polluters”. You come from the other side of the world!” and I run to the check-out counter. Later at home I regret my decision.... What if those avocados were the primary source of income of some country and what if everyone thought like me? Then we would have just forced an entire village into oblivion!...

Oooww... :( I can't do anything right, can I?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Why have children?

This might sound like a strange, almost insane question. But since it is possible to ask oneself this question I will. So, why have children? Here are a few of the answers I have gathered over the years.

“Why do you think rabbits have babies? It's nature.”

- Yes, nature it is, but as humans we have a choice. One can choose to not have children.

“So that the human race can continue.”

- Hmmm.. Interesting but in vain. After some billions of years the sun will have stopped shining, the earth will have disappeared and our whole universe will have turned into stardust. I highly doubt that the human race will survive all of this. Furthermore, if you really want to help the human race it might be better, considering the looming and catastrophic overpopulation, to not have children at all...

“Well, I want to have something to re-incarnate into. Hahaha”

- Interesting... Very selfish but interesting... Still, if that were really true, how do you know you wouldn't be better off re-incarnating into another species, on another planet?

“I want to give another person the gift of life.”

- You might like your life but how do you know your kid will enjoy his/her life too? There are so many things out there that can cripple your body and mind... How do you know he might not one day, out of desperation, pull the trigger and commit suicide?

“I want someone to give my love and care to.”

- Even though it sounds very noble it is rather selfish... Just because you have a certain need you are going to bring another human being into this world. If your intentions were really that noble why not give your love to someone who needs it ? (an orphan for example)

1.“If you ever have a child you will experience how it is to love someone unconditionally”

2. “The day you have a child you become complete as a woman” (or man..? )

3. “At some point you grow older, you have done so many things, you've become bored. Then, if you have a child that gives a new twist to your life. You can start living for your children then.”

- In all of these cases the reason for having a child seems rather selfish. Just because you want to "feel complete", "experience unconditional love", and fill your life, you are going to bring another human being into the wolrd. Just because you have certain needs.

“The relation between a child and his parent is the most complex and beautiful relationship out there. You will love no one more than your child.”

- Hmmm... Probably this is usually true, though not always... And I guess if it is true, then your child will have his “most beautiful relationship” with his own child (not you, his parent: for all he might hate you). Tricky...

“Why do you ask this question? What else is there in life?”

- …I am afraid I don't have a clue...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Humans VS ants

I finished reading Deborah D. Gordons book on ant behaviour [5] and came across some curious/funny similarities between ant and human behaviour. Sit back and enjoy. :)

Choosing a destination

Ants: “If the density of the ants at the new site is high enough, the scouts will go back to the old nest and recruit the rest of the colony to move. The scouts merely asses the numbers, not the satisfaction of the ants in the new site, but because satisfaction is linked to the probability that an ant will stay in a new site, numbers of ants in the new site are correlated with its quality”

Humans: Isn't that kind of how it works for choosing a vacation destinations as well? The rule of thumb seems to be the same: if a lot of people are enjoying themselves over there it must be a nice place to visit.

Dare to explore

Ants: “Another example of positive feedback is that foragers are stimulated to leave the nest when successful foragers come in.”

Humans: Only few brave ones dare to leave for the unknown. Once it has been proven however that the journey is worth the while others follow in masses.

What you see is what you become

Ants: “An ant that is not performing midden work is more likely to switch to do midden work then its rate of contact with midden workers is high”

Humans: What you have seen people in your near environment doing while growing up will influence what you consider possible and what you will become.

Unemployment and work-force reserves

Ants: “As an ant colony grows, if all the new ants are not foraging, what are they doing? Surprisingly, the answer seems to be that they are doing nothing. As a colony grows larger, the proportion of reserves grows.

Humans: It looks as if every time you have a society that uses collaboration to create food reserves (i.e. not every single individual needs to produce his/her own food) unemployment seems to be a natural consequence. At the same time this enables the members that are not occupied with food production/foraging to do other tasks (nest maintenance). Ant and human societies seem to be alike from this point of view.

Task fidelity and specialisation rates

Ants: “In an older (and larger) colony, ants tend to perform the same task from one day to the next unless there is a drastic change in the environment”

Humans: When societies are small everyone needs to be able to perform almost all tasks necessary for survival. As our societies grew division of labor increased as well. If you (say) design clothes for a living today, you don't need to know how to build a house or milk a cow. It suffices that you know how to make nice clothes.

Youth obsessed with their appearance

Ants: “younger workers spent more time grooming themselves”

Humans: I sort of suspect that this is the same for humans...

Xenophobic ants

Ants: You got them in all varieties. Super-hostile ants and super-peaceful ants. Ants that “hate” their neighbors and ants that more worried about ants that come from far-far away.

Humans: Alike...

Sabotaging the competitor

Ants: There are a lot of ant-plant symbiotic systems. In those cases the ants live in the plant and feed from it. In return the ants take care of the plant: they protect if from dangerous bugs and go as far as to sabotage and kill neighbouring plants! The Myrmelachista schumanni ants climb onto neighboring plants, chew a hole in it and fill it with formic acid. As a result the plant dies...


A bunch of kids or a career?

Ants: “In fact many ant queens appear not to do much besides laying eggs. But workers do a great many things. […] A species in which some individuals reproduce and others do not is called 'eusocial', truly social.”

Human: Are we eusocial as well?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

IKEA: Design your life.

Can't really control your life? Feel you don't have a choice? Don't know what to do with yourself? Feel like there are not enough outlets for you to express yourself?

Well, have you ever considered spending all your energy on creating yourself the perfect interior then? Cause that is what IKEA's advertisement suggests you should do:

"IKEA. Design your life." (quote from radio)

Because this is what our pathetic consumeristic existance has come to:
designing your interior = designing your life

So cheer up, when there is nothing else left to do to give yourself a sense of place, belonging and achievement, you can always re-do your interior!

PS: If you are as frustrated as me, here is another cheaper alterative for you: start a blog! :P