Veintiuno y Quatro: What I’ve Learned Turning 25

July 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

“I love not man the less, but Nature more”, photo by Marina & Enrique

Turning 25, it sure feels more like 21 +4. In one way the grown-upability looms large and clear now, like the midday sun. Or in other words, I look at how much I have learned since I was 21, which I find to be the age where I became conscious of some of my incompetencies. Not to make it sound harsh, but how do we really know where our social skills stand, if we are not conscious of what we’re lacking?

Human Relationships

One thing I’m only beginning to learn, even if I’m still making mistakes about it, is to avoid getting involved, directly, or in conversations about neurotic relationships. Obsessing over twenty-something relationships is a huge waste of energy, effort, time, and money.

When defining himself in a personal blog profile, Kaj Sotala says this about his view on being a romantic:

When it comes to fiction, thinking about romantic relationships and pairing fictional characters with each other? Hopelessly so.

When it comes to real life? Not so much. Give me statistics and the scientific method, please.

I tend to agree, and I suspect this misunderstanding between both is a major contribution for neurotic relationships. Mistaking fictional romance with reality. Kaj’s view may seem like polar opposites, but being able to separate one’s emotions from decision making is crucial in avoiding the big storms in life. I don’t have a good answer how one goes about doing this. Ironically, as a fictional treatise on a love triangle, one of my favourite quotes from Casablanca seems to put things in perspective. Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine says “it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”  I leave myself open to be proven wrong by this quote.

We may not have control over life’s random occurrences thrown at us from all sides, but we certainly have control over how we react to them.

I will never be strong enough or smart enough to fight my emotions. But it would be good enough if I understand that I am culpable of being fooled by randomness, that much of my actions are dominated by my actions.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests using tricks in life, such as keeping one self away from potentially emotion-stirring elements, or in Odysseian terms, stuffing your ears with beeswax to resist the Sirens.

On Pursuing Stoic Beliefs

The life of virtue and beliefs I try to build for myself has always been a struggle, I know that. My biggest weakness is the art of non-complaining understanding the randomness of life, never uttering a word about life’s lot, but instead exercise will and control over life’s dirty tricks.

Travel

The words of  authors  like Thoreau, Whitman, and Krakauer have often expressed times when they felt a sense of connecting better with nature than with fellow human beings.

What was that poem of Lord Byron’s that was so prominently featured at the beginning of Sean Penn’s film treatment of Into The Wild?

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and the music in its roar,

I love not man the less, but Nature more.

My desire to travel, not in groups, tours, not mainly to cities and tourist hotspots, but to where nature has revealed itself in its finest.

Tha insight into Lord Byron’s words “a nature, where none intrudes” I tapped into, spending four hours standing in the waves along Railay Beach, or standing on the peak of Mount Kinabalu, staring into the abyss that is Low’s Gully. That opening yourself to nature’s might, be it the endless sea, or that deep dark abyss that might swallow, should you choose to let yourself fall into it, the thought is at once frightening and awesome. I am also aware that 25, I feel the desire to revive those “coming of age” rituals of risk taking that seems terribly overdue.

Some people hear it calling, but never find the courage to respond to it at all. The Great Himalayan Adventure awaits.

Looking at the present and future

Beyond the desire to achieve, produce, and live a meaningful life, I’ve found it very helpful in many circumstances to keep it light, at have a laugh at myself.

This was something I lacked in my early twenties and during college days.

Nerve wrecking tango beginner at a social dance? Frame it as a foray into foreign lands, loads to learn, people to meet, make a fool of yourself and get a laugh out of it. Isn’t that what adventure is all about?

Doctor Viktor Frankl, in his remarkable work Man’s Search For Meaning, says that humans “must make use of the specifically human capacity for self-detachment inherent in the sense of humor.” As years pass, and as I spend more time talking with others (I favor one to one conversations, a lot more frank and honest than group scenarios, less bullshitting) and learning to smile, to find the humor in most absurd situations. Isn’t all comedy a play on the tragedy of others and self?

That said, Dr Frankl highlights that there are a few ways of discovering meaning in life, which, as gargantuan a project it might sound, shouldn’t be thought of “What am I supposed to do with my life?” but “How can I contribute to life?”

1. by creating meaningful work or doing a deed

2. by experiencing something or encountering someone

3. by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

I would guess my desire to travel fits into (2), which I believe enables doors to open to (1) and (2: encountering interesting people)

****

On a side note, I am trying to fulfill a birthday wish of sponsoring a girl’s education in a developing country for a year.  If you’d like to take a look,

-Here’s my donation page

-Here’s more information about Room To Read’s Girls Education Programme, if you want to understand about the plight that is educational opportunities for young women in many developing countries.

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