Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Why is the Smiley in Front of the Text?

Over-analyzing. That’s something I’m pretty sure we’ve all been guilty of, one way or another. Human beings are complicated. We can never be sure what people think, or what their behavior implies. We assume things, and sometimes we just put too much thought into it that the reasons we give get more and more absurd.

Why did she hold me by the wrist and not by the hand?; Why did she like my status then un-like it? Why does she take at least ten minutes to reply? Why is the smiley in front of the text?

I’m not even going to go into how psychology can be similar to these things. No doubt the analysis in our heads is affected by how we view people in general. I’ve talked to friends who have the biggest optimism on people, seeing the good in everybody; that kind of thing. When you talk to people like these, you’ll notice they tend to over-analyze in ways that they will give the most irrational reasons just to prove that the person meant no harm. Of course there’s the opposite, where a person can view people as mere manipulators trying to get their selfish ways. They would over-analyze in that they will always think that people are merely using them. These are extreme cases, but those in the middle of this spectrum are no different, unless you’re some outlier that simply doesn’t care about what others think or what their behavior means.

So why is the smiley in front of the text? Could it be that she was still thinking about how to answer properly so she put a smiley first? Could it be that I actually made her smile so she put it in first? Could it be that she didn’t like my text but she’s trying to be nice so she put a smiley in it immediately? Could it be that she wanted me to see the smiley immediately so that I’d smile too? So many possible reasons for a very simple thing. This isn’t my example by the way, just so you guys know.

It amazes me how people in movies or books, especially those that involve tactics or strategy, can easily predict people’s reactions. And they’re seldom wrong. Sure we know Sherlock Holmes, Tyrion Lannister, or some super duper expert psychologist, can easily predict behavior. The question is, how do they think? Do they over-analyze things? Or is it simply rock-paper-scissors for them?

I have nothing against ruminating over things. In fact, I am quite the fan of it. It’s just that sometimes it can be dangerous. I always thought the world would’ve been a better place if people wore their hearts out on their sleeves like I used to, but I realized that the truth hurts. The truth can be very ugly. Sometimes things are better left in the rumination stage, in the uncertain stage. Also, things tend to be more beautiful when they start out with uncertainty. Otherwise, they’d be boring. My favorite types of video games, for example, are the ones that aren’t linear, where decisions we make actually matter. There is uncertainty in it, you have to think about things, analyze things. Of course, you won’t see me over-analyzing a video game.

So I say there’s nothing wrong about over-analyzing. It’s actually good because it’s similar to critical thinking. It prepares you for all the possible causes and reactions. However, what actually matters is how you deal with this over-analysis. Because there is uncertainty in almost anything human-related, what we do after analyzing shouldn’t be based on this over-analysis of ours. Empirical data can be strong data. Don’t over-analyze a single incident. People make mistakes. People also grow up. People change. We should keep that in mind when we over-analyze things.

So don’t mind that smiley in front of the text. Just reply to her how you normally would and see what happens after. Keep calm and munch on!

Restoration

One of my dad’s favorite shows on TV is Kings of Restoration. It’s a show where people bring in something old and broken, then the guys in the show try to fix it. When I first watched it, I was a bit skeptical. Why would you bring in this old broken down thing to have it repaired, when you could just buy something brand new? It will look very much different from the old one you brought in after it’s fixed. I had the same sentiments with the old MTV show Pimp My Ride. You have to admit, the cars end up incredibly unrecognizable after they’re done with it. Would that barely recognizable thing still carry the same sentimental value you put on it?

A special friend of mine just told me today that she tore the lining of the stuffed toy I gave her for Christmas. I don’t know how bad the damage is but she insists it’s going to look really different if she tries to put it together again. Apologetic as she was, I told her it was no big deal, after all, it’s just a stuffed toy. I could always get her a new one. But she went on about the sentiment behind it, and that brought us to our deeper, more psychological and philosophical conversation…

If someone you knew really well (and liked very much, for that matter) suddenly changed one day, how would, or should, you react? There was one episode in Grey’s Anatomy about this, I believe it’s the fourth episode of season one. The issue was, the patient had a tumor in his brain near the part where memories and personality were stored. If they took it out via plan A (I don’t like medical terms so let’s just call it plan A), there’s a huge chance that he might not remember the past or his personality would change, but it would give him more or less ten more years of life. Plan B on the other hand assured him of his old memories and old personality, but it would only give him around five years more to live. He had a wife, and the episode pretty much built up their relationship as very sweet and sentimental, full of happy memories, inside jokes, and whatnot. So it was a pretty harsh decision to make. In the end, they decided to go with plan A, which greatly shocked the then intern protagonist Meredith Grey. She said something like (non-verbatim), “would you really be happier in those ten years without his jokes or his memories of you?” and (verbatim) “he’ll be there but he won’t be Jorge. He won’t even recognize you.” And this is what the wife replied

…if it means ten bad years for me, fine. I’ll give him those years because I will give him whatever he wants. And if he doesn’t remember me, if he doesn’t remember what we are, he’s still my Jorge. And I’ll remember for us both.

Inspiring and sweet, isn’t it? But plenty of existentialist issues and whatnot reside in this. “he’s still my Jorge“, she said. Is he? Isn’t his personality, his memory, part of his essence? And therefore, if you remove it, wouldn’t you be destroying the essence? I’ve always been passionate about learning from the past. I always say that the past, even, and especially, the bad parts of the past, shouldn’t be repressed, but nurtured and reflected upon. They’re parts that make us who we are now, after all. If you don’t look at the past, you won’t grow from it. So the past, memories, are important. Now if you take them away, that would compromise a large chunk of who you are.

I’ve had my own share of this problem, but not about memory-loss, more of the personality-change bit. One of my closest and dearest friends, whom I always admired, had a quite sudden personality change. She went from being the happy, fun, lively, caring, and thoughtful girl, to something close to a zombie. She’s coming back to life now by the way, so yay. Nothing against her, I mean, the reasons for her sudden change are understandable, but at that time, they didn’t seem understandable to me, and I hated it. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, hoping to bring my old friend back. Of course, I was also in a stubborn, immature, and impatient state then so it really frustrated me, and worse, it made me depressed. I had lost a friend.

That’s what it felt like for me. So I can’t imagine being in this woman’s shoes. Even now that I’m more patient, it would still seem impractical and extremely difficult. Would “restoring” him be worth it if he won’t be the same anymore? Based on the experience I just shared here, it might still be. Of course, we have to (always) consider the context. My friend didn’t undergo surgery or whatever, so that personality change she had might just be a phase. Plus, as I mentioned, she is coming back. But after much reflection, I thought, if I could go back, I would’ve been more patient with her. I would have still tried to “restore” her early on. And if it didn’t work, I would have still persisted on spending time with her, treating her the same, and still hoping to bring her back. Sentiment, or if you prefer, “love”, grows deep. It grows beyond the physical, beyond memories, even beyond personality, and definitely beyond practicality. So I now understand and appreciate Kings of Restoration. Because you can replace spare parts and whatnot, but you can’t replace the love.

Munch on!

Youngsters

January. It’s such an odd month; a month of beginnings and endings. For people like me, who have embedded their organizations in their lives, this time around we’d be busy with one thing: change. During January, or February for some, elections are held. We graduating comelec members will be ending our journey as officers. The youngsters (as I like to call them) will be starting a new journey. Big changes are coming.

Personally, this time of the year, what I like doing most is talking to individual people as three things. As VP Membership with the added bonus of being a psych major, I feel like it’s my responsibility to motivate the ones who I think have potential to lead the organization for the next year. I take pride in finding potential in people. While it’s true I’ve been mistaken with quite a few, I have been right with almost a lot, or at least I’d like to think so. And I find that motivating them to run for a position or to apply as project head actually encourages critical thinking, which I believe is always good. I wouldn’t call it a bias, as I’m simply telling these people who they are, what they’ve done, and what they could do. Second, as a friend, I want them to see the possibilities ahead, to achieve their potentials or even go beyond, and to feel the support. But that goes without saying. Lastly, though, and I want to emphasize this, I’m doing this because it inspires me, not in that selfish kind of way, but in a communal way.

It inspires me to see the spark in their eyes when these youngsters understand what I’m trying to say; that glimmer when they get motivated; and that subtle faraway look when they think about it. It inspires me to think that these people will be taking all we’ve left to them, the good and the bad, and making something new out of them. It’s amazing. It’s like watching a mother give birth to a child! The birth of a new life… Life. I think that’s very important in the youth today. After all, it’s the ultimate thing that drives us. In the end, when we’ve got nothing else left to fight for, this is all we have. But from it springs forth many things. It’s a beautiful thing, life. And it’s especially beautiful when you see it in the eyes of the youngsters, full of vision, energy, creativity, initiative, and hope for the future. This is what drives change, progress. And this is what inspires me, what comforts me as I leave the organization for good.

All that arrogant talk may have left a bad taste in your mouth, well I’ll try to flush it down here. try. I’m not saying I know all there is to know about what my organization needs as a leader. I am, after all, far from being that ideal leader. And even if I were, I still wouldn’t be omniscient as to know who would be best suited for what. Human beings have that privilege of being wrong. But then again, who are we to say that we were wrong? Just a few hours ago, I was having this talk with two of my youngster friends. I told them (as I have told all the others before them) that I do believe in divine providence. God (or whatever higher being it is you believe in) will always put you in the place you’re supposed to be. Of course, we human beings will never know if we are in the right place. But we get that certain feeling; that feeling of order and structure when things finally fall into place; that feeling of belongingness. Skeptics might call it “being content” or “adapting”, but I’d like to think it’s divine providence. Well, whatever it is, it’s there, and the fact is, we humans with our limitations can only do so much, to the point that all that’s left to do is sit back and watch things unfold before us.

So yes, honestly, I am not 100% sure that these people I’ve talked to are good leaders, but then again, nobody is (sure, I mean). I’m just doing what I can to motivate them to at least try. Humanistic (or cheesy, if you prefer to think about it that way) as it may be, it’s what we humans do. We were given free will so we could do things on our own, so we can choose for ourselves. But we were also given open-mindedness to let others influence us too, because we may not see everything by ourselves. This is why societies exist. No one human being is perfect, so we all need that little push from others to be able to fulfill our maximum potential.

Inspire people. and munch on!

I Party for Open-mindedness… and Shallowness

Some of you may have noticed that the things I write about don’t seem to suit me at all. I mean, with those cold hard blog posts about humanity and psychology, who would’ve guessed it’d come from someone who has been described as “too emotional”, “always in love”, and “who wears her heart on her sleeve”. And while I always put this in, some of you may not have read it, or have forgotten it, so I am emphasizing it in this post: I do not like the ideas behind some of the things I write or think about. I simply think about them and put them out there because they are viable ideas, and they deserve deeper consideration than simply brushing them off because you don’t like them. It’s sort of like doing something new for the heck of it even if you don’t really want to.

A few days ago, I was personally invited to attend a party by our course’s home organization (which I am not part of, by the way), and well, I am dedicated to not turning down any personal invites if I can help it. I very rarely attend these kinds of parties; the ones with the flashing lights, cramped dance spaces, and dressy people. And to have one with my course-mates, people I actually know and actually see everyday, just seemed like a bad idea. In short, I didn’t like the thought of it, but hey, why not give it a try?

I admit I was a bit anxious. As I mentioned, I see these people everyday. It’s not like some random party where you won’t be judged the next day for what you did (or who you did, if that’s the case), what you wore, or how you danced. To top it all off, my gladiators broke just a few minutes before the party, and apparently Mr. Quickie (shoe repair store) isn’t so quick after all. So I ended up borrowing from a dormer friend, who decided to lend me killer heels. Now that I think about it, it may have been a good thing because the heels sort of restrained me from being too wild on the dance floor… yeah. But they killed my feet and I ended up having to cling to my best friend who just so happens to be a guy, so we kind of looked like a couple (with me as a clingy girlfriend).

So I wouldn’t say it’s something I like doing, and I definitely don’t want to do it again anytime soon. But that’s what I mean about entertaining thoughts you don’t like. Sometimes you just have to give in and give it a deeper thought, because you never know, you might enjoy doing so, and you might find more answers (or more confusion, it depends really). Needless to say, I enjoyed the night albeit everything I just said.

For one, it was really great dancing with good friends. And the white flashing light that made people look like really fast snapshots made a lot of people look hotter. Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and be shallow just this once, and also to make it more interesting. For those of you who don’t already know, I am a lesbian. And as I was supposed to be single for the night (except for the clingy girlfriend thing), it was like a downpour of sweet, lovely, honey back there. Seeing my course-mates in party outfits, and getting to dance with them. Seeing her in a party outfit, with those dark flashing eyes. Man, I could spot those eyes even with the lights and in a crowd! And yes, I did; my eyes lingered on her many times, and I wish I could’ve danced with her even just for a short while… Single and shallow, just for one night. One good night. *cough* oh, and the music was great too.

Anyway, enough shallowness. With those experiences, I would say I’m glad I entertained the idea of going to the party, as it is for entertaining ideas that I don’t like. I am passionate about a lot of my principles, but I am also open-minded, so I like to delve into those ideas that I, for lack of a better term, despise. And I think it’s a good thing. After all, acceptance is key. We are only little human beings; one among billions on earth. Who are we to say that our ideas are the only right ones? Why shouldn’t we entertain the ideas of others like us? We all need a little open-mindedness to expand our horizons and deepen our understanding of things. And this is why I write.

Expand your horizons. Try new things. Listen to people with different ideals and beliefs. Entertain different thoughts. And munch on.

Soft-boiled Psychology with Toast Please

This morning (very early this morning, and totally not good for this kind of conversation), I was discussing my thesis with a psych major from another school. It’s a whole lot different from theirs by the way. For starters they have six members in a group whilst we only have two (three supposedly, but that’s still a lot less!) Well, currently we’re on the results and discussion phase of our thesis. They’re already done with theirs (another annoying fact), or at least, they’ve already presented the whole thing. Anyway, I’ll stop ranting now.

On to my point. As psychology majors, we’re tasked to do these studies to basically find the norms, what usually turns up, what usually causes certain things or behavior, or what certain attributes appear on certain people; those kinds of things. And we do it through studies like our theses. Just a disclaimer that I feel needs to be out there: we don’t do voodoo-hoodoos like mind-reading or analyzing a person the moment you meet them. True, we, psych majors sometimes tend to put theories on people unintentionally. But true psychological studies require strict processes that are supposed to eliminate biases and external influences. What I told my companion this morning was something like, “Why the heck do we bother to study these things out of context anyway, when in the real world, there is always context?” Proof of this comes from the fact that different studies (that have almost the same factors all throughout) can produce different results.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. –Friedrich Nietzsche

For philo enthusiasts, the question also stands, “Why bother looking for a single ethical code when it is almost impossible to do so because of context?” Yes, I am a situational ethicist now. I’ve given up on Kant. My point is, context always exists. Everyone is different. Different events happen in their lives and they experience it all differently. If you would go mathematical, I would say that everyone is an integer in an infinity. And in between those integers is an infinity of decimals. This is by the way, the asymptotic density or natural density theory of math. No, I am not a math nerd. I learned that in my metaphysics (philosophy) class. I’ll give an example to make it clearer. Between 0 and 1 is 0.001, 0.00001, 0.000000001 and it would go on forever. In short, it is infinite. I think people are like that. Each person (integer) has its own infinite set of possibilities (decimals) in terms of traits, personalities, way of thinking, behavior, and whatnot. True, we integers are all interconnected through these decimals and in this one big infinity of numbers, but inside each of us is also an infinity that is not shared with the other integers. In my opinion, each person is a world on its own.

A simpler and much more easily understood example I could give is when you ask for advice. Picture this: you have a friend whom you know has experienced the same kind of trouble you are having right now. You ask that friend for advice and you take it. But lo and behold! You failed miserably to solve your problem. This is because you’re different from your friend even though you both share the same problem. Even twins are very much different from each other!

Now that that’s all there, I once again ask, what’s the point of studying the whole number set? We can come up with answers for the numbers, but we can never really get to the infinity of decimals in between. We can study norms (conflicting as they may be), but we can’t really peg this as truth for all beings, which means there are always exceptions and we can never be sure which ones would be the exception. I just thought of a simpler way of saying everything I’ve just typed so far. It’s a soft science. It’s not like physics or chemistry where there’s always a single absolute answer for things (or at least I think so). Sometimes, it’s way too soft.

Why did I come towards this opinion of mine? Well, right now, as we’re writing our results and discussion for our three participants, I find it hard finding much commonality between all of them. Considering our thesis is a narrative analysis and is partly about bringing out the individual from their stereotypical images, this is supposed to be good. But I then find myself asking, “what’s the point then?” What if we succeed in bringing out their individuality? All we would’ve done then is prove that people are all different.

My companion said, and I find truth in what she says also, (this isn’t verbatim as she said it in Tagalog) “they may not be concrete or all-encompassing, but there are theories that have come out from studies like these, and those theories have helped a lot of people.” Her thesis is quantitative by the way, unlike ours, which could be why she was coming from that angle. She has a very viable point. After all, psychology does not claim that everyone follows the norm theories that it has set. It’s simply a guide, something that would probably apply to everyone in the same certain situation. We study integers because we do get answers out of them, even if we’re not sure if it applies given the decimals in between (I hope I got that metaphor right. I’m gonna stop pretending I know math now.)

Hard science majors would go with the question I ask though. I have heard that question many times. My own father, my own flesh and blood, dislikes psychology because of its “softness”. He said (and this is very bad considering I am a psych major) something like, “we can never read people’s minds.” It’s very shallow and a far cry from what psychology really is, but it got me thinking… Is psychology really for us to study? Some philosophers from before have criticized metaphysics as “un-study-able” because we are a part of it. We are a part of reality. The same question could be posted for psychology. Human beings are studying human beings, could it be “un-study-able” for us as well? Could it be a God-study? Something that only a non-human, one who is not part of this community, could truly understand? And if so, would it be possible let’s say, for a human separated from any kind of society, not raised or influenced by any living being at all, and not affected by any natural (genetic and whatnot) influences if that is even possible, be able to study humans in societies? To put it simply, could an alien from another planet study human beings properly and holistically? There is also the issue of experimenter bias, where the experimenter, once he is into the experiment, could be influenced by the subjects of the experiment, and then create bias. That alien could start of unbiased, but end up gaining bias because of the experiment. Ironic how that theory is a psychological theory as well.

We didn’t come to any sort of conclusion by the way, but it did prove to be a very interesting breakfast conversation. I would like to apologize to my fellow psychologists for blaspheming psychology in this post, but it’s just a thought that occurred to me. Again, disclaimer, I do not like the idea behind some of the things I think about, I am simply putting them out there for critical thinking. And after all, isn’t this also psychology’s goal, to fully understand humans and the human mind? In this note, I do invite more insights on this issue right here. After all, two psych majors do not make for good critics of psychology at all. But thanks for reading all that blabber anyway. Munch on!

Homunculus

Water, 35 litres. Carbon, 20kg. Ammonia, 4 litres. Lime, 1.5kg. Phosperus, 800g. Salt, 250 g. Niter, 100g. Sulphur, 80g. Fluorine, 7.5g. Iron, 5g. Silicon 3g, and various other trace elements. Those are the ingredients to make an average adult human body. You can buy these ingredients at the market with the pocket money of a child. Humans are made so cheaply.

Those were the words of Edward Elric, State Alchemist from the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist. If you want to read up on it, it’s here, but I suggest you just watch the series. It’s quite interesting. Why am I mentioning this, you ask? Well, today, I saw a homunculus, defined in the anime as “artificially created human”. Actually, I just saw someone bearing an ouroboros tat on his leg.

oraboris

ouroboros symbol found on homunculi

This second blog entry is dedicated to my dearest friend who unfortunately told me not to write about: a) love b) philosophy. Well, friend, I’m writing about both this time around. What does the homunculi and human transmutation have to do with it? Well, imagine for a second that this homunculi I saw today was real; an artificially created “human”. What would be the grounds on his humanity? He’d be immortal. A philosopher’s stone would be in his chest in place of a heart. How can anyone say if he is truly human? These are some of the issues the anime tackled by the way, so if you weren’t convinced a while ago, then I’m trying again, go watch it!

What are the criteria of being human? Without even watching the anime, critical thinking would lead us to question the humanity of some people in this world, the murderers, the criminals, those are the people who are often targeted with the words “Magpakatao ka.” I cannot (and I’ve tried for 15 good minutes) think of a proper English translation for this sentence. It’s basically saying, “Be human.” It’s a call for humanity. Based on this, it can be presumed that most people’s criteria for being human is LOVE, for it is those criminals, those who act selfishly, who don’t love.

I can already feel a lot of morality questions raising on this. What if you are killing for someone you love? What if you are killing someone because you love him/her? Euthanasia is an issue that has been on debate for ethical philosophers for the longest time. Is it “human” to let someone die intentionally just because there is little hope in them living for long? Is that love?

Several ethical theories spring into mind as I type these words, but as we know, theories themselves can contradict each other. Take for example virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is the ethical theory that promotes simply being virtuous, or doing as a virtuous person would do. Now, since there are several virtues, some of them will unavoidably clash with each other. Now I’m no Nicomachean Ethics expert, but I do believe this issue would have conflicting virtues, or rather, one virtue would be in conflict with itself. The virtue of compassion; would it be more compassionate to let a suffering person die or to let him/her live?

That aside, what about those we call to be human? What of those criminals and inhumane people? Do they deserve to be called human? If we go a step further, do they even deserve to live? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother anime altogether (see Death Note), but it’s worth a thought or two. Getting back to our old anime, what of the homunculi? Some of them have shown capacities for love (or at least, what seems to be love, as it is also very hard to define love), like how Gluttony is with Lust, or (SPOILER ALERT) how the Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist (NOT Brotherhood) started to feel towards Scar. Does that make them human?

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that our terms come with so much ambiguity; they are so equivocal, that it’s really hard to tell what “human” is. As I’m sure it has crossed your mind at least once already, I apologize for not having much of anything new to offer (go watch Fullmetal Alchemist already! Now that show has plenty to offer). My view is simply this: to be human is to love, not in the sense of loving yourself or the people close to you, but loving in itself. As for the definition of love and the acts that follow it, I leave that up to you. The homunculi have spited humans for this “weakness”, saying how it burdens us, letting us choose the illogical options in most cases. Well, that’s humanity, and more accurately, humanism for you.

The world may never get to a single correct answer for the ethical question above, and for many other ethical questions, but I say, whatever you choose to do, do it with love. And yes, I am still crossing my fingers for better grades so I can finally take up philosophy and write my own ethical theory on love (half-kidding).

Thanks for reading! Munch on!