Category Archives: meta-velvet

Medicine and Governance

Why is it that it takes years and years of training to become a doctor, and only a name to become a politician? Doubtless, most of us have wondered that before. And doubtless, most come up with the conclusion that, well, doctors hold our lives on the line. One mistake and the patient might die. Politicians though, they’re not holding scalpels to our chests, so it’s alright if they screw it up. That’s our self-centered view of the issue at hand. To us humans, our little lives are more important than the Nation, than the structure of the community that we all live in. Selfish but human.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones side-by-side can be quite interesting for two reasons. One: the amount of blood and gore can make you hide behind your sheets. Two: you can make a sort of comparative analysis on medicine and governance, and the people involved in them. the surgeons from Grey’s Anatomy undergo rigorous training, and make difficult, sensitive decisions to save lives.

Cristina Yang, M.D. (click for wikipedia page)

Cristina Yang, M.D. (click for wikipedia page)

Dr. Yang graduated top of her class in Stanford, practices non-stop, and works very hard to prepare herself for surgery. Joffrey Baratheon sits idly in his chair thinking about ways to torture people to prepare himself for ruling the seven kingdoms of Westeros.

While it’s true that when Dr. Yang made a mistake using the wrong kind of stitch on a patient, he died,

King Joffrey (click for wiki page)

King Joffrey (click for wiki page)

it is also true that when reckless Joffrey Baratheon couldn’t take a stupid little insult, he ordered his men to slaughter hundreds of innocents. People died all the same. But who caused more people to die? to suffer?

Game of Thrones is set on a different world in a different time, but take a look and you’ll see that their politics is no different from ours, here in the Philippines. Baratheons rule there, and certain names rule here.

I am not undermining the importance of medicine, or the training required for them. No, I am simply questioning why governance should be any different. Doctors hold individual lives in their hands. Politicians hold nations in theirs, nations with complicated structures, histories, and laws, nations involving millions of people. It’s just a wonder why the requirements for being a political figure is a whole lot less than a doctor’s.

Democracy, the current form of government we have, took years to establish. In fact, democracy is more than a thousand years older than our country. Its lifespan far out-ranks that of any man or woman. It has undergone lots of changes, improvements, to suit the needs of man, of society, of the nation. It is important. And it should not be left in the hands of people like Joffrey Baratheon, who think that they’re good enough to lead just because they have the Baratheon surname or because they’ve been sitting and watching their parents govern.

surgeryInterns and Residents of surgery do not get to operate solo until they’ve scrubbed in and assisted on several surgeries. They don’t get to perform surgery just because they’ve watched it done a lot of times. They need to practice, to prove their worth. Even attendings, the big-wigs, the ones who have gone through it all still need to prep themselves before every surgery. They need to know the patient history, what he ate, what he felt, and so on. See where I’m going here?

I doubt that people will actually and honestly see how much governance is as (or more) important as medicine. I, myself, find it hard to give a damn about what the senate is doing while I get on with my daily life sometimes. It feels foreign. It feels like it’s outside of my life, so it doesn’t concern me. But it does. And more than that, it concerns so much more than li’l old me. So no, I don’t want poorly trained Joffrey Baratheon to lead my long-established government, rule my nation of millions, or make decisions for the laws, institutions, and structures that affect my life. I want a well-trained surgeon (not literally, of course) to do that. Because our measly little lives are short-term compared to the long-term government that needs guidance and improvement, continuously.

So yeah, something to think about. Thanks for reading and munch on!

Daghang Salamat, Sugbo

Taoist temple (photo not by me)

Taoist temple (photo not by me)

Cebu, an island in the Visayan part of the Philippines is known for its rich historical landmarks such as Magellan’s cross and the Sto. Niño Basilica, and for other more aesthetically pleasing sites such as the Taoist temple and the butterfly sanctuary, not to mention the cute colorful jeepneys that go around town. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, and if you haven’t, well, it’s all over google anyway.

I just recently came from this wonderful place, and had a long mental list of things to do and see. However, upon arriving, I saw the most beautiful, most wonderful, most breathtaking sight Cebu had to offer, Forever 21 and Payless. SM Cebu was right beside our hotel and boy, did that change things. My plans went down the drain. Hey, I am turning 21. What better sign than that to shop at Forever 21? (Okay, I’m making excuses now.)

Radisson Blu hotel bedroom

Radisson Blu hotel bedroom

After that awesome first stop, I head back to the hotel room. We were staying in Radisson Blu.They have excellent WiFi connection, nice cozy lights, a bath tub, and a walk-in closet (I have a thing with walk-in closets, and no, I don’t think it’s a gay thing). Well, shopping–or rather, window shopping can be tiring. So I plumped in a warm relaxing bath, and just like the water, my adventure plans went down the drain.

So now that I’m back, I can’t help wondering if I wasted my trip. But then, I quickly pushed the thought aside. I’ve seen the Cebu sites many times as a child. Of course I don’t exactly remember all of it. I had a great time. And I finally got to ride a plane again after four years of being trapped in the busy life of college. I missed it. I missed accompanying my parents to these trips, even though I don’t understand much of what their doctor friends discuss. I missed the thrill of the plane’s take-off and landing, and the beautiful view from above. I even missed the airport, albeit its long lines.

All throughout high school and college, I made a lot of effort to do exciting things and (pardon the term) YOLO things within the cramped vacation breaks that I had. Now, with absolutely nothing to do, I find myself choosing to do the simpler things. Yes, I know, I’m getting old. But you know, it’s not so sad. We’re often told to “stop and smell the roses”. So, that’s what I did. That’s my version of “stop and smell the roses”, even though it may not be everyone else’s. Plans are just plans. More often than not, they fail. And sometimes they just don’t seem like the right plans anymore. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And there is absolutely nothing wasted in that day I spent in Cebu.

Thanks for reading! Munch on!

Nimble Life

Hey, reader! Boy, have I got a treat for you! It’s the latest, hottest, juiciest scoop on my oh-so-exciting unemployed life! (I really hope you get the sarcasm here). It’s about this new app I downloaded on my iPad, Nimble Quest. Similar to the classic game, Snake, you go around on a field non-stop and try to avoid obstacles, but it has many twists!

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Nimble Quest

Now, just like I do with every entry I make, I’m going to discuss this one in relation to life and humanity (oh, what a shocker!), just be thankful this one isn’t about Oz anymore.

You start off choosing a main character, or a leader, to lead your soon-to-be long line of heroes. Everything relies on him/her. If s/he dies, everyone dies. Since Blaze is my favorite character, I shall now refer to the leader as Blaze. So Blaze leads the group. He shoots fireballs and collects gems. He also collects other things such as power-ups and other heroes. The other heroes help out with the attacking as well. But what happens if they die? Well, bye-bye hero, and the line moves on. Such is the life of a follower.

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Blaze with other characters

Blaze is like that one thing in us that we hold on to. He is our fundamental option, a term theology students know so well. It is a basic life direction we choose at some point, upon which our other decisions are based. Blaze, as the fundamental option, leads and directs the other heroes, the other life decisions, around the field. What’s amazing about Blaze is that, not only is he the strength (being the leader), he is also the weakness. Being the sole basis of whether or not the team dies, Blaze has the burden of–well, not dying. The fundamental option of a human being is the same. While its strength is apparent in that it leads our lives, its weakness also lies in its frailty. Imagine if one day, the one thing you believe in suddenly seemed so untrue. Imagine if your biggest life principle did not seem applicable anymore. Your life direction wavers, leaving you confused. That’s why Blaze, your fundamental option, needs so much thought and care. We need to pick-up power-ups, shields, and potions, to keep Blaze going, to keep our fundamental option strong.

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Dungeon

What’s interesting about this version of Snake is that the opponents move as well. They don’t just stand by waiting to be eaten. They also attack. The skeleton throws bones. The spider slows you down with webs. They even have healers on their side. I find this twist amazing. In life, we don’t just deal with static people. Just like us, the people around us are mobile too. They change. They grow. They attack. They heal. We choose our paths according to these mobile people. We pursue. We avoid. And sometimes, we clash.

Don’t worry, I have no more boring life lessons or metaphorical whatnot to give. I just want to emphasize how great this game is. Snake will always be a classic, a legend. The twists just make it more interesting. There isn’t a moment of boredom in this game, as you have to watch out for incoming attacks from all sides and at the same time try to collect gems. The character-building and the variety itself of the characters are also great for RPG fans out there, although it would’ve been better if we were allowed to choose our own skills to develop. Overall, it’s just really fun to watch your line of heroes grow as they blast fireballs and other things around to enemies, all the while reflecting on how much metaphysical sense this game makes.

Well, thanks for reading! Munch on!

Unpacking Baggage

The greater the potential for good in any of us, the greater the opposite potential for wickedness -Merlinus Ambrosius, James Potter 2 and the Curse of the Gatekeeper

Unfortunately, this isn’t a continuation of Project Miserably Wicked. I seem to have lost my drive for that, but I will try to continue it, if I ever get the drive again. See that’s the problem with us Feelers (Feeling types from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test). I don’t know if I speak for the whole feeling type population, but here’s my take: we feel too much too fast. When something happens to us, there’s this overwhelming gush of emotions we get, and we tend to take action on them immediately. That also means we process a lot faster too, not to say that we process it right all the time. Art comes from the gush of emotions. Great artists, painters, writers, musicians, and the like, have been known to create beautiful art when they’re experiencing great emotional phases. Not that Project Miserably Wicked is any great art, but I seem to have lost that.

So what does the quote above have to do with anything? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the decisions I’ve made in my four years of college now I’m graduating soon. Most of those decisions were typically results of my Feeling type personality, coming out of deep emotions of happiness, anger, sorrow, jealousy, pride, loneliness, and love. Whatever the reason, I’m sure when I made those decisions, I felt that they were decisions for the greater good. That’s what always runs in my head anyway, every time I make those decisions. And (SPOILER ALERT!) maybe that is what the Bloodline felt when she had to choose between sparing a little girl’s life or resurrecting her parents in the James Potter novel. What Merlin said afterwards though was the cold hard truth,

Even now, she leaves these walls to return to a loveless and bitter life. She has denied herself the return of her own parents so that Lily and you, James, might live. Meanwhile, she watches you go home to loving parents and a life she can only dream of. Don’t think that, despite her actions, she will not lie awake on cold, lonely night, pining hopelessly for her dead parents, and wondering, wondering, if on that fateful night in the Chamber of Secrets she made the wrong choice -Merlinus Ambrosius, James Potter and the Curse of the Gatekeeper

That’s always the thing isn’t it? Not knowing if we made the right decisions. No matter how much we tell ourselves that “it’s for the best”, we are never really sure. And no matter how much we try not to hurt anyone with these decisions, we can never really please everyone, and someone is bound to get hurt. Maybe we even make things worse. “The greater the potential for good in any of us, the greater the opposite potential for wickedness.” It’s a typical Elphaba-type cliché.

That is why, as I thought about my college life, I put myself in the shoes of the people I’ve hurt. Yes, I would’ve been really mad, and yes, I would’ve probably showed it for a couple of days. But that’s also the thing about being a feeling-type; since we feel much more and much faster, we process faster too, so we get over it faster, or at least I think we do. I am still a strong believer that most of us mean well, and that some bad decisions are just cases of these “it’s for the best” kind of thinking. That’s why I forgive others easily, I guess. Of course, some transgressions are merely acts of selfishness and not necessarily misjudged decisions. But hey, we’re all just human beings, struggling with these emotions that are so hard to grasp.

Point is, the greater our drive to “do good”, the larger the effect of our actions become. I mean, just look at Elphie. She has hurt a lot of people by “doing good”. It’s never easy to tell exactly what the right decisions are. Regrets will always come and haunt us, even after we’ve convinced ourselves that we did the right thing. I don’t really believe in karma, or natural justice, or whatever, but I do believe that knowing this, it’ll be a lot easier to forgive, not just other people, but ourselves.

What with the huge amount of free time suddenly dumped on us graduating seniors, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and conversing, mostly with people I did not expect to converse with so soon. And with all that thinking and talking, it dawned on me that I had a lot of forgiving to do for myself. I had this huge, heavy load of guilt on my shoulders accumulated in those four years, and I never really let go of them. Today I just spent a lot of time unpacking all that baggage, unloading all that guilt. I know they say it’s supposed to feel great afterwards, but it doesn’t really. Forgiveness takes time, and apparently it takes longer to forgive yourself. But it’s a start, and eventually that load will lighten.

Clean slates are great and all, but after what I’ve just been through, I think it’s still best to just go through the whole self-forgiveness thing. Who knows, that giant baggage might be the cause of the great potential wickedness in us.

Well, happy graduation to my fellow seniors, and munch on!

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!