Saturday, February 11, 2006

Less Is More

More is more

I carry a pen and notebook with me most of the time. And I jot down thoughts, ideas, insights, reminders all the time. These grow to quite a pile after some time. And they just gather dust after awhile making the entire exercise rather pointless. Yet I know there are some notable insights in there.

Less is more

Pruning. That's what gardeners do to maintain the integrity of their gardens. I'm an information hoarder. My information garden has grown into a grizzly forest. To maintain the sanity of my mind, i need to prune the little bits of information that i've accumulated. I need to find some ways to organize it. To reduce and yet somehow not dilute. Less is more.

Less is less

Scientists classify warm-blooded animals as either birds or mammals. Birds lay eggs while mammals give birth to live babies. Then came the platypus - a warm-blooded, egg-laying embarassment to the neat scientific categories. Thus, in organizing and reducing, we are subject to the same danger of trying to force fit everything into the categories we've created. Or worse, we develop tunnel vision, seeing only what we want to see; becoming close-minded, ignoring everything that does not fit our categories. Categories that we've created to organize now acts as filters to reality. This , by the way, was one of the things Robert M. Pirsig talked about in his book, Lila.

More or less

More, and we end up with clutter. Less, and we end up with a skewed view of the world. Life always throws curveballs like that doesn't it?

More and less

The beauty of the word "and" is that it is so much more inclusive. In this case, i'd say the way forward is do both more and less but spread them out over time. Divergence, then convergence. First grow, then prune. First accumulate and then organize. Repeat ad infinitum. Just remember to drop the organize/reduce/filter mindset during the divergence/growth/accumulation phase. Instead, adopt an open, curious attitude.

In a more concrete form, we can practice "more and less" in many ways. In the form of a daily summary of all notes taken during the day. In the sunday reflection on the events of the week past. In the reviews done at the completion of a project.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

a grain of truth somewhere

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.

In love, you feel the most alive when your lover is creative and never lets you feel bored.

You'd like to your lover to think you are optimistic and happy.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was ruthless, cold-blooded, and sarcastic.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage something you've always wanted... though you haven't really thought about it.

In this moment, you think of love as commitment. Love only works when both people are totally devoted.

What's Your Personality Type

Your #1 Match: INTJ

The Scientist

You have a head for ideas - and you are good at improving systems.
Logical and strategic, you prefer for everything in your life to be organized.
You tend to be a bit skeptical. You're both critical of yourself and of others.
Independent and stubborn, you tend to only befriend those who are a lot like you.

You would make an excellent scientist, engineer, or programmer.

Your #2 Match: INTP

The Thinker

You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can.
Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.
Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.
A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

Your #3 Match: INFJ

The Protector

You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.
Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.
You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.
You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.

You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher.

Your #4 Match: INFP

The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.
Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.
It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.
But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.

Your #5 Match: ISTJ

The Duty Fulfiller

You are responsible, reliable, and hardworking - you get the job done.
You prefer productive hobbies, like woodworking or knittings.
Quiet and serious, you are well prepared for whatever life hands you.
Conservative and down-to-earth, you hardly ever do anything crazy.

You would make a great business executive, accountant, or lawyer.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

i want a future that is better rather than more...

if i could, i would wish for a future which is better rather than more.

Immanuel Wallerstein defined the capitalist system as one that:

"gives priority to the endless accumulation of capital. Endless accumulation is a quite simple concept: it means that people and firms are accumulating capital in order to accumulate still more capital, a process that is continual and endless. If we say that a system "gives priority" to such endless accumulation, it means that there exist structural mechanisms by which those who act with other motivations are penalized in some way, and are eventually eliminated from the social scene, whereas those who act with the appropriate motivations are rewarded and, if successful, enriched." [p.24, World-Systems Analysis, Duke University Press, 2004]

He says that the current world economy is a capitalist world-economy. If he is right, then we are all in a dismal state indeed. Not only are we engaged in the pursuit of more (endless capital accumulation), the system actually penalizes those who are in the pursuit of better.

His ideas would surely find resonance with the thoughts of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi who wrote:

"So the dangerous idea on which our culture is based is that the political economy has a silver bullet — the free market — that must take precedence over any other value, and thereby lead to peace and prosperity. It is dangerous because like all silver bullets it is an intellectual and political scam that might benefit some, but ultimately requires the majority to pay for the destruction it causes."

I am concerned about how the future will unfold. I agree that the market should never be the final arbiter. I believe that endless accumulation should not the be raison d'etre of the system. I do not want a future that includes only more of the same. I want a future where things get better and better rather than one where i just accumulate more and more things.

I want a world of gardeners, not vandals. A world where people grows and nurtures rather than one that destroys.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

one person can make a difference

We start living when we realize that one person can make a difference.

Realize. Not believe.
Because to realize is an act of rediscovery. Of stumbling over something which has always been there, just waiting to be uncovered. Something which is true, something which is a given.
To believe, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of faith. We hope it is true but every now and then we are not so sure if it really is.

One person can make a difference. That's what I realized.
A realization that frees me to truly begin to make a life. As opposed to merely making a living.

But what sort of life would that be?

In brief, it begins with being conscious of the role i play in society. I can make a difference if i play my chosen role well. Thus making a life means focusing my attention and effort on activities that best fit my chosen role.

Now, for the longer explanation, let's first talk a bit about institutions.

I think of institutions as occupying distinct niches in society. Each of them plays some kind of role in society, affecting it in some way. Metaphors are excellent tools for describing the roles of various institutions in society. For example, newspapers act like spotlights, they direct our attention to various happenings all around us. Without news, many of us will remain ignorant of the things going on around us. The conclusions we draw from the news are all ours but it is newspapers (and similar institutions) that direct our attention to them. Thus newspapers serves the role of directing the consciousness of their readers.

[Most newspapers tend to be "national" papers, focusing their light on a particular corner of the world. In this day and age, should there not be a global newspaper, focusing on the global geoculture, highlighting our similarities and the oneness of the world we are in rather than being nationalistic and partisan?]

I am about to start work in a consulting firm based in Singapore and serving clients in Thailand. The question i ask myself is: What role does the firm play in the Thai society? In the world? And it's important that i ask this because whether i like it or not, the firm will play some kind of role in society. Newspapers direct our collective attention and thus informs our collective consciousness. What does a consulting firm do? There is a role to be played. There's a whole spectrum of possibilities to choose from. I can choose the higher ground, as Clifford often advises Harry S. Truman. One individual can make a difference. Surely, we are not just about making money. I have to contemplate on this and determine what role is best for the consulting firm. If we operate without a clear understanding of the possibilities and the role we can play in society, we will be aimless and we will flounder.

A role in society. Each of us has one. We can be a spotlight or we can be a gardener. Being conscious of our roles or better still, being deliberate in choosing our roles makes us so much more effecting in making a difference.

What about making a living?

Making a life by playing a role in society does not mean that we cannot make a living. Spotlights (newspapers) can and are profitable ventures in a capitalist world-system. Gardeners are too. Whatever role we choose for ourselves, we can find a way to make a living out of it. But first, we must understand what is our role in society. One day, should the capitalist system fail and we have to find some other ways to make a living, our roles and the need for our products remain. I do not for one moment believe that our need for news diminishes just because the marketing department decides to stop advertising in the papers. Understand that making a life comes before making a living.

Taking lunch, or dinner. Washing laundry, and drying them. Sleeping and washing up. All these are tasks we do as part of living. This is not making a life. Making a life is about taking part in activities that fit the role we have chosen in society.

The role of newspapers is to direct attention. However, it is NOT their job to fix anything. Another institution is in charge of fixing things. Yet another has the responsibility to grow things. If we extend the metaphor, I'd like to have an institution which is like a gardener.

Going back to making a life and making a difference. It is about choosing a role to play in society, realizing that we can make a difference if we play our chosen role well. And living well means focusing our attention and effort on activities that best fit our chosen role.

Friday, December 30, 2005

if wishes were fishes...

they met fifteen years ago.
he from israel, she from britain.
totally different backgrounds. very different
the chances of fruitful relationship, slim.
yet she persevered, keeping the long distance relationship alive, somehow...
making the effort to visit him a few times a year...
and at long, long last, the couple tie the knot.
"I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride said on her wedding day as she choked back tears of emotion.

one heart-warming love story?
think again. (read all the talkbacks, trust me on this)

apart from the uh-moment, it's all so very unbelievable.
oh, dalai lama. can i be a dolphin in my next reincarnation?

metaphors: the good, the bad, uses and abuses

there are a few givens in life.

life is complicated, convoluted and complex.
and each of us has limited grey matter and an average of seventy years to make sense of it all.
enter metaphors.

metaphors are useful mental shortcuts to provide us a quick way to grasp what a new situation is all about.
every scenario has its defining aspects and certain relationships amongst those aspects.
a good metaphor provides an accurate mapping between the important aspects of the old situation and the new situation.

more on metaphors to come...

"one" unique life

each of us has our interests.
mine include sports, marathon, programming, a sprinkling of spirituality, writing, keeping close friends close.

it all seems so disparate, messily divided into little fiefdoms.

there is much to be said about having a life that integrates, where the nuggets of wisdom and insights gained in one area of our interests are applied to other areas.

if we think of each area of our lives as having two level, the concrete, surface level and the abstract hidden level, then what i'm saying is that over time, the abstract level becomes an integrated thread.

take for example marathon and programming:

to be continued...

about me

I have started blogging recently and they are mostly entries of a pseudo-technical nature. if you're happen to be interested in technology and various ways a thirty something uses (and abuses) technology, go check out my technealysis blog.

I'm a thirty something (if it ain't obvious by now) and this blog you're reading now, is meant to be more personal in nature. No, not just the kind containing family photos and all (though you might see some of that, shudder!) but also the ups and downs of being a thirty-something in the twenty-first century.