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On Stoicism

06 May 2016

On Stoicism

After what felt like several years of cold, summer finally arrived in Taiwan, with its beautiful shifts of before the storm weather, bursts of typhoons, and sweltering zero entropy humidity. With it, I began to wake up late, lulling to “Summertime” by Girls, and the rest of that half of the album. With the summer laze, I feel I can relax, be apolitical, do some useless professional work for a high rate of capital. So, I thought, it would be an excellent time to read some Stoicism, especially Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Here, it seems, I found my childhood’s ethics (Moderate Ethics, Early Ethics, I’m Fortunate). Be responsible, diligent, do your work, focus on work. But I was a child, Marcus was a Roman Emperor. It seems he never grew up out of these childish ethics. He did his work diligently until death. He lived a rather normal life.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Book one’s ethics merely sketches the model of a socially normal, straightforward father: the model of the role he played. To play that role was his goal, the plan, for him, and then by him.

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

He avoided the difficulties of academic philosophy, granted he was reared to become an Emperor. He avoided thinking deeply. He didn’t think of the problems of philosophy, mind (psychology), humans (anthropology), society (social philosophy, political philosophy). By avoiding it all, he lacked critical thinking in these areas.

He also avoided art, in the education from it, and the process of creating it. His communication was restricted to human languages: rhetoric.

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

He never experienced what it is to be someone else, poor, a slave, in a different place, excluded, etc. He probably didn’t think deeply of these problems either; It’s against his principles. Therefore, his view of societies and individuals was very limited.

If my childhood ethics match his, then perhaps he too didn’t experience or concieve what it would be like to be raised and live in other societies and their cultures. He kept the same role, job, class, but physically moved for work purposes. It almost sounds like the ethics of a good suburban child, which makes it seem as if he derived much of his philosophy within the walls of his isolated cozy dwelling, which contradicts the reality of an Emporer’s life.

His ethics are shallow. His cherished traits avoid the discovery of knowledge (of humans and natural science), art, design, and technology. Therefore, he is merely reduced to an interlocutor with good rhetoric and socially normal ethics. This may have worked for the role of an Emporer, but it doesn’t work for a society (easily apparent for Ancient Greece, with its many philosophers, artists, and formal and natural scientists).

Stoicism in Taiwan

It seems the culture of Taiwan have many characteristics of Stoicism embedded [into it]. Perhaps there is some overlap between Confucius ethics and Stoicism. The culture still reads Ancient Greek philosophy as part of their early and late education. The country lacks contemporary forms of art (entirely: in education, museums, and the hippest art districts); their medium is mostly the Chinese language and physical crafts (which is basically the only forms in the history of Chinese art). The culture restricts people from expressing themselves, prioritizing responsibility (or benevolence?). The culture doesn’t understand the process of creativity, throwing diverse people and ideas together in the same space, thinking, expressing, out of passion, out of intrinsic desire, altering society. There have never been any great artists (three exceptional filmmakers, also art here being a very limited definition), philosophers (according to the West), designers, or inventors from the country.

The same contradictions of Stoicism exist in Taiwan’s culture: they work diligently without questioning why. There isn’t deep thought into social philosophical problems. This allows capitalism to nearly freely determine the lives of the people. They work diligently for capital without questioning why. Work is work, and life is so. Perhaps it’s hard, but what can be done? That is the ideology. An ideology which contains stoicism.

There are no passions to do more, to create, to consume crazily for gestalts, to think independently, to go out and dance all night, to make games all day, to analyze deeply of social or cultural problems, to desire social or cultural change, to innovate to solve social or urban or environmental problems, to engage in dialectic with institutions internationally to cooperate academically, to obstruct society or individuals in any way, to engage in any kind of serious conversation with other individuals.

Thus, all there is to do in the culture is to live a Stoic’s life: to live “responsibly”, work, consume (increased by capitalism), have shallow experiences (because aesthetics have not developed), shallowly understand others (and make huge generalizations of entire races and countries), yet be kind toward all, living unexamined lives.

It [stoicism] creates a society that is unartful, dispassionate, uncritical, apolitical, uniform.

A Note

Though I am critical of Book 1 of Meditations and of Marcus, these are only a few selected highlights which I wanted to focus on and argue against. I actually think there are a ton of good or interesting things said in the book. I just had to get this bit out of my mind before I continued.

It seems, thus far, though Marcus wrote well of Stoic ethics, Epictetus (and probably Seneca too) reaches much deeper in philosophy.

This website provides good info for translations, and a good introduction book.

Selected Highlights and Notes on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Book 1:

To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.

To practice philosophy, and to study with Baccheius, and then with Tandasis and Marcianus. To write dialogues as a student. To choose the Greek lifestyle—the camp-bed and the cloak.

– No sports, focus on philosophy! Also, writing dialogues seems like a good method of learning. And, having a camp bed, to allow the body to live simply, is great. The cloak, I’m guessing refers to war, which in the context of time, is also a great decision, and really must have shaped their body, attunning them to reality. Of this last bit, I feel related to my desire for nomadism, to avoid sedentarism.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.

– *** Avoid abstract philosophy, stick to reality, action, practical philosophy. Practice, not academic philosophy

Independence and unvarying reliability

– ***

pay attention to nothing, no matter how fleetingly, except the logos

– *****

And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures—and loaning me his own copy.

– Mmm, Epictetus book of lectures, maybe includes the enchiridion!

What it means to live as nature requires

– and later again, That I was shown clearly and often what it would be like to live as nature requires
– Second time mentioned this. I guess it’s just stoicism from earlier stoics.

…the principles we ought to live by.

– Should humans have principles?***** It seems to me Marcus took a set of principles, ethics, to live by, but is it possible that such a set could be successful? Doesn’t life require different sets for different goals? To experience different states of minds. I don’t think any stoic would make a good artist, or many other personalities. They are a narrow set of personalities made for the Senate.

His ability to get along with everyone.

– *** Reminds me of Ivar. Getting along with everyone is different from being everyone, or another. There is still a class difference. One can get along with a slave, but to do nothing about the fact slavery exists is wrong.

To recognize the malice, cunning, and hypocrisy that power produces…

– Sneaky power tricks of upper classes

…the peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from “good families.”

– Mmm, corrupted upper class

Not to be constantly telling people (or writing them) that I’m too busy, unless I really am.

– ***** very important. I think Taiwan’s culture is good with it. But with such small deeds, could one ever specialize knowledge? And change society through discovery or technology?

Similarly, not to be always ducking my responsibilities to the people around me because of “pressing business.”

– ***** Responsibilities to the people around. Sounds like a spatial thing there. But yes, perhaps being responsible is another stoic standard. But, did he ever think of why he was responsible for them? Does he not think of what other groups of people or societies are responsible of? Is he simply a completely digiligeny socially normal person?

…conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.

– ***** this is beautifully simple

Doing your job without whining.

– Slave-like thought, if the job I’d actually harmful to society, or useless

…his advance planning (well in advance)

– ***** as opposed to desiring socio-political change now, slow change for the slaves

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

– *****Neither a politician or an artist

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

– Fortunate in capital too, no experience of being excluded or poor

That when I became interested in philosophy I didn’t fall into the hands of charlatans, and didn’t get bogged down in writing treatises, or become absorbed by logic-chopping, or preoccupied with physics.

– Not science, not philosophy treatise, not minute logic. Just the practical bits that can be applied to life: notably, ethics.
— (end of Book 1 selected notes and their highlights)

[todo: possible quotes:

The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.
– Wikipedia, Stoicism

According to Stoic ethical theory, the stage in which a human being merely keeps himself alive leads to the stage in which he chooses the good and rejects the bad; this leads to the exercise of choice out of a sense of duty of which he is not fully conscious. The fourth stage is the state of continuously making the correct choice. The final stage of ethical development sees the individual abstracting from experience and forming general ideas about good and evil. This results in an understanding of the natural order of the cosmos to which choices are to be made to conform. In other words, he sees the harmony of the Whole, which is the good, because the harmony is nature. He then chooses to conform to the harmonious Whole, being fully conscious of its nature through abstraction.

]

Leave a comment | Categories: Area, Art, Essays, Ethics, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Personal, Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Travel

Capitalistic Behavior

19 April 2016

[todo: this might become my largest post, which may involve my experience in each society (from childhood to now), my desire to reverse it, and perhaps use Marx’s Capital to continue thinking about it.]

“What is the point of mentioning the word profit1?”
Mencius, Mencius, first sentence

When one physically sees the masses that move across streets in large cities — New York, Seoul, Taipei, and especially Tokyo — one wonders, why are they walking to their destination? Are they thinking? Are they human, or zombies? Is their mind separated from their body? Must one use music to stop thinking in order to move the body?

“Gotta get up, gotta get out, gotta get home before the morning comes
What if I’m late, gotta big date, gotta get home before the sun comes up
Up and away, got a big day, sorry can’t stay, I gotta run, run, yeah
Gotta get home, pick up the phone, I gotta let the people know I’m gonna be late”
Harry Nilsson, “Gotta Get Up”

The body needs to be somewhere at a certain time. But with current technology, is it necessary for many jobs? Why not simply communicate through digital means?

[Singapore and Hong Kong: Asia’s businesses cities. Let’s not talk about them please. I could only stand half a day in Singapore, and I was happy to purchase a flight out of Hong Kong as soon as possible.]

In Seoul, one really gets a strong sense of capitalistic behavior. That, the economic system is almost in entire control of the society. That nobody is thinking about their actions. The entire society blindly follows what capital wants. If capital wants technology, that is what they will give it (hence the economic boom). Capitalism determines the actions of all its citizens from professional business to art to everyday life. The way shopping malls (thinking of Rick Roderick’s Philosophy and Human Values) determine where people go and what they buy, the entire city is planned to control Seoulites position and advertise their feeble minds to purchase commodities. A good dungeon master or game developer could easily create the material structure and rules for them to follow. (Unfortunately, the masters are boring, rich capitalists.) Capitalism determines their place in society. If capital values exchange-value, that is what society values. A higher salary actually is valued in this society. Go figure.

In Tokyo, the capitalistic behavior pervades, but perhaps is weaker in some parts. Of work, it is the same as Seoul: the old bergousie wealth culture, mannerism still exist. But it doesn’t extend to entertainment, or their everyday life after work. They have unique arts, though, itself extremely insular. When they have free time, they don’t go to malls (well, many do), but they might actually go home and play some video games, or actually go to a park.

In Taiwan, the capitalist behavior is the weakest [of East Asia], hence the lack of economic boom. Somewhere in the culture (Confucius?, benevolence is prioritized over ‘profit’?) having an experience (a la Dewey) at a good price is prioritized. Every experience is calculated, from snacks to flights. Thus, perhaps, going to Thailand is better than going to a developed country, because there is more experience in Thailand. Maximizing experience is the categorical imperative. Strive to make every action a social experience. Try anything. Nothing is looked down upon, instead people cheer you on (加油). It doesn’t matter what the direction is, therefore, capital does not affect their actions; It doesn’t matter if an action generates capital or not; Just do it for the experience. Go on, try (试试看) riding a skateboard, or hunting wild boars with aboriginals. Who cares. If one fails (which is pathetically often the case), oh well. It was worth trying; It was worth the experience of trying. If one runs out of capital, well, one must work (工作) for it, it’s one’s duty (负责). Playtime (玩) is over. But surely after work, maybe even during work, and after saving a little, one can play again. Thus, capital here is merely something needed in order to try things, to take actions in desired, natural directions. Those directions could be to have an experience (try something new: food, travel, art), urbanize a comfortable place, or volunteer to try to do good (热情) for one’s society. Capitalism limits behavior, but only for the time necessary to earn capital.

[todo: America.

three parts? VA, SF, and NY?

[applies to all] Work and play. Work hard, play hard. Life is separated from work. Work is completely alienated. One goes into some work zone, physical and mental, then comes out 8 hours later, then proceeds to a social space, a bar, a cafe, an event, home, etc, to not think about work again. Because the wages are so high, benevolent thoughts, politics, society, are not thought of. One doesn’t need to think about how to create a better society, because one is already surviving quite well off.

In Virginia, the suburbs of which I’ve come from, corporations have nearly defeated all small businesses and replaced them with superstores which contain a million commodities, which makes it impossible to imagine the labor that went behind it all. Industrialization is in full force in the suburbs. Cashiers are automated now. So is security. Go on, get your manufactured milk and cereal and check ’em out yourself!

The work in Virginia is either corporate or government, the latter, having a large military presence. Do the engineering for some part of some battleship or spacecraft or secret intelligence program. They’re huge enterprises, and the work is a tiny cog (todo: link to Helplessness Blues). My school spit out cogs for SPAWAR, NAVSEA, NASA, and DARPA. But somehow, no student saw the simple ends: war, wasting capital toward positive science, and building an Orwellian society. That’s the American education. Hurray science! Use a STEM-pack. Ah yeah, that’s the stuff!

SF, see Silicon Valley and Capitalism.

NY?]

[todo: every other society I’ve experienced]

[very much related to my posts on criticism of capitalism.]

1. profit – the Confucius definition seems to be to gain, but usually in the context of gaining as an end, which goes against the categorical imperative of benevolence

possible things to read:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_capitalism

Leave a comment | Categories: Determinism and Free Will, Ethics, Experience, Humanities, Japan, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophy, Psychology, Social Philosophy, South Korea, Taiwan, Travel

The Ideology of Taiwan

09 May 2015

[TODO: mind dump part 1:]

In the past I’ve professed many characteristics of Taiwan that I enjoy, and even would want in an ideal society: Taiwan: First Impressions, Taiwan and Japan: Active and Passive lifestyles, Autonomy of Taiwan.

Poke some questions at a Taiwanese person and one will quickly come to the conclusion that Taiwan lacks ideology. Ask them their identity, what they’ve done, are doing, and want to do, what they like and don’t, the common response is “I don’t know”. But watch for a moment and their ideology comes to view, like cute ants they create incredibly cute mounds for everyone to live in, high quality tools for everyone to use, and still have a soft spot for their traditions: old and new.

Positive Facade

Everything is done with a seemingly positive attitude, so it’s quite difficult to see the struggle. During the protests, their struggle expressed itself in the least forceful ways: sunflowers, posters, decorative arts, and sit-ins. Again, ask them how they feel about the protest and the common answer is “The government is bad. I don’t know what to do. Taiwan is always struggling.” with a cute angry face.

Another example of this positive facade: it is common to see people happily working, yet once one reads their Facebook posts, their journals, their LINE messages, struggle appears in the form of sad emoticons from LINE, FB cat emoticons, and short writings.

Why the positive facade? Why not simply directly express negative feelings? Was negative expression punished and rid of during education? Frowned upon (should endure)? Is this simply a cultural difference in negative expression?

When a positive facade is created in society, perhaps it becomes more difficult to express negatively, simply because it is against the norm. The resulting conflict being a positive facade opposing another positive facade.

This seems to be the case in employee-employer relationships. Both work seemingly happy, but force exists, and in covert messages unhappiness exists.

The unhappiness doesn’t seem to stem from working, but rather, working for another person. Whenever one encounters an individual worker, say a street food cart worker, or a small school teacher, they seem to have to no qualms. It is a happier choice to have one’s own business in a less developed area than to work for another in a more developed one. (And I agree!)

[Even the slightest force is avoided. An aversion to force.]

Cute and Happy World

The cute and happy aesthetic even manifests itself in material: cute advertisements, products, applications, fashion, shoe-gazing music. Perhaps the same can be said for Japan. It creates an incredibly safe environment for all ages. One may feel quite difficult to find anything remotely socially bad in even Taiwan’s largest city.

The happiness of the people and material makes seeing the problems in society, consciously thinking about them, ever more difficult. This may be my largest criticism against Taiwanese society. So although there is plentiful cuteness in food stands, pet stores, foreigners, and any new product, worthy of several photos to the social norm, few seem to see the butcher of animals, the tiny cages pets live in, whatever awful things foreigners often do, and the factories in which the products are made.

The Cute Impulse

The response to cute aesthetic is a savage impulse. Like reacting happily to eating of tasty food or watching a cat video, it requires no rational. It is a an impulse, a feeling. And in this way, Taiwanese society seems to often react impulsively.

Technology has exasperated this problem. LINE is Facebook, Instagram, Vine, voice-messaging, maybe even Skype, all-in-one. Feelings are expressed in emoticons. Messages are shorter than twitter messages. The sublime is captured by phone cameras. Action is taken without waiting.

If it Works, Integrate it

[Action without thought. Buying things at 7-11, McDonalds, without thought of consequence. Whatever works, the society will integrate it. Hostels work? Build hostels. Tea, snack shops, cafes work? Build them! Too many in Taipei? Develop the rest of Taiwan!]

They have a knack for creating hospitable places, have high regards for health.

Good design.

Leave a comment | Categories: Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Thoughts, Travel

Nuclear Families and Communities

05 December 2014

In a past post I described Taiwan as active and Japan as inactive:

An active life, that is, one is constantly making decisions before taking action. One thinks to call a friend, cook something, go to a park, embark an adventure, not because they were told to, but because one decided themselves to do so.

The narrow passive consumption of Japan is more akin to the suburbs. One consumes the media around them or computer (although the computer is a more interactive form of consumption). The only new stimuli is media (if they chose a new one) and the social experience with people of whom they already have a relationship with (if they even created new relationships outside the ones they were born into i.e. their family).

I would stereotype the two countries’ societies as so: Taiwan is the social island nation where the people are always friendly and happy; Japan is the dsytopian future where media and machines replaced human interaction.

In another view, I feel that they have opposite social conceptions of community. I feel that Taiwan is a community and that Japan is a bunch of nuclear families (or, in the case of cities, single households).

In Taiwan, there are a few kinds of housing options: single without bathroom, single inclusive (suite), shared apartment, and entire apartment. The single rooms are often connected, and sometimes the people know each other, especially if it’s near a school.

I imagine it’s similar for Japan.

In American cities, people tend to live together in two to four bedroom apartments, or even a house.

Though Taiwan and Japan have similar housing, it feels as if there’s less time spent in a Taiwanese household. The people are out, day and night. Perhaps thanks to the street culture.

In Japan, it feels more common to go home. There’s even formalities of entering and exiting a home. A home feels like a really important part of their culture. They buy groceries (which are almost as expensive as a meal outside) and cook food for themselves or their household, which may contain a nuclear family (or mate). They eat at home. They have a library of media at home — bookcases full of manga, DVDs, and games.

Because more time is spent in the household, experience becomes limited to it. Experience is constricted to the social relationships in the home, media, and now, the internet.

I’ve personally always been a kind of street kid. It seems that Japanese culture doesn’t work for street kids. People go to a library (or cafe) to take a book home, not to read at the library. There’s less communal areas, less public spaces, because there’s a less need of them.

In a country of nuclear families, media increases in power as a means of communication. Contrarily, public communication, solidarity required to take mass action, decreases in chance. It’s the suburbs effect. Except in the case of Japan, it includes the cities.

This thought was raised after spending a day with a nuclear family. The people only talked of food. The leisure time to think and talk about it is a privilege that no one can see. The time one could spend thinking of others (outside of the nuclear family) was thought about a few times, but never lead to action.

I always face a tension when coming into relationship: how much time should be spent on relationships, and how much should be spent on others.

I feel Japanese people spend more time on relationships, and emphasize the importance of them greatly through parenting, culture (especially rituals), and it permeates to work relationships. Being a part of society means having relationships. Being outside of society is viewed as extremely bad. In this view, bums should not be cared or helped for, because they chose to be outside of society.

Though Taiwanese people spend a lot of time on relationships, it seems there’s less emphasis. One could be a part of the society without many. Outsiders are welcome. All people are cared and helped for. One could be invited to eat a meal with another social group, even a nuclear family. The outsider isn’t seen as such, it’s another person, another part of the community.

In this post I use Taiwan and Japan. In another view, Taiwan could represent a city and Japan the suburbs. In another, Taiwan represents traditional societies (Nepal, small towns) and Japan modern (most developed countries). I feel the vital, simple difference in society this: one is aggregate of communities, the other is a community of communities.

[todo: can extend with thoughts about living in a nuclear household compared to a larger household, care for elderly, care youth, etc.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Japan, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Thoughts, Urban Philosophy

New York and Taiwan

04 December 2014

aka In Praise of Taiwan

[todo: way too long, accumulates several ideas, need to clean up.]

When one is away from their home, forced to be in a place they don’t want be in, one becomes homesick.

An artist’s home often isn’t just a dwelling. It’s a community, which could be in the form of a group of people, a city, a country, or even the world. It’s a place where one feels the urge to take action. The artist belongs in an active place, and desires it, though breaks may be needed (or breakdowns if one fails to take a break).

Now, away from a home and in isolation for nearly half a year, I can hear two: New York and Taiwan.

Since my stays in both of them, they’ve been on my mind, as a place I tell myself that I’m going to come back to.

From personal experience, I know the environment affects me greatly. Whether that’s a lack of willpower or responsibilities doesn’t matter. It affects my social construction of the world and what I do — for work and art. Therefore, the choice in environment is the greatest.

In Searching for the Greatest Environment Ethics, I came to the conclusion that:

A single small community is exclusive (the reason for my apathy of college towns). The community must be inclusive. A community of communities, including public interaction — a city, or even a country.

An inclusive city or country is better than an exclusive institution.

In Philosophy from Media versus Life; New York versus the World I questioned:

Does America consume more media than the rest of the world? Especially compared to social nations such as those in South East Asia and Taiwan?

I don’t think so. Taiwanese people consume a lot of media too. But the way they consume it is different. They do it while living a very lively life, and use their phones to watch television or movies. I’ve only seen old people sit at home and watch television. This contrasts greatly with the suburbs, where media is consumed solely.

All one needs is a few good relationships, creative ones, and both would work.

Now I begin to question this, is a few good relationships really enough to make up for the deficit of good characteristics of the environment?

From Public Places:

In East Asia, it didn’t matter where I slept; There’s no crime there. I’d sleep when I was tired, or at a friend’s house, or at a park. It cut commute time.

In Taiwan, it didn’t matter where I ate. The food was cheap enough to eat anywhere. There was no reason to go home. I could eat, sleep, work, anywhere. Absolute freedom.

Though I feel quite confident in nearly every part of the world, there is a bit more freedom felt when crime does not exist. As a night person who enjoys the company of people awake at night, or just strolling around at night, this is much appreciated. It enables me to stay active day and night, regardless of when I am awake.

Though I could live with a box of cereal and some fresh fruit in my backpack, the prevalence of cheap food allows me to worry about one less thing. And this thing is important as it’s required for survival. It being delicious and healthy are extra.

Public Places as a Savior from Commoditization:
Public places in cities I think are closely associated to freedom. The sense of freedom gets lost in social norms of the artificial. People are conditioned to sleep at home, cook and eat at home, work in offices, and work more at home or at a cafe, leaving bars as the only place to socialize. This is the result of commoditization, people feel (and often do) that they have to pay to use a computer, pay to rent a book or dvd, pay to sleep, pay a cafe to use the internet, pay to park, pay to sleep, pay to travel, pay to pitch a tent, pay to drink water, pay to wash clothes. Without a healthy street life, worse, in the suburbs, it’s possible that people live without knowing they could actually meet friends at a park, have a barbecue, and enjoy.

Though I’ve become quite resistant toward commodities and an adherant of minimalism ethics, I fear that over time that it may be possible to recondition my mind toward more capitalistic behavior.

During my short time in New York, just by following the belief of not eating out alienated me of several chances of social interaction.

I neither wanted to be inside of a building in front of a screen or inside another building paying for something to do something. I just spent the time in the public, talking, thinking of ideas based on time in the public. And they were some of my best ideas, I felt. It was just a simple matter of thinking of design philosophy and walking around.

The law of America felt restraining too. I watched bums gets kicked out of parks. And it showed too, in the ways people acted in society. Not just refraining from doing unlawful things, but in taking several extra unnecessary actions in daily life (todo: see if i can find examples in thoughts).

I usually feel the freedom of New York only half of the time. Sometimes I feel I could takeover any abandoned building in New York and run an event there. Other times I feel pushed constrained by society to into a tiny space to make something on a computer, which leads to a huge problem.

There is no free wifi in New York. Its age is showing. I don’t think modern architecture can be blamed there. Also, there aren’t any outlets. One has to rely on commodity.*

A lot of my negative thoughts of New York are based on my visit after traveling, which is kind of unfair. Even worse, I spent quite a bit of time on Manhattan because the school is there. It was quite a suffocating experience. When I used to live in Brooklyn, things seemed much peachier.

From I Still Don’t Understand:

To live in a society where one has to constantly, consciously and unconsciously, make decisions to avoid doing wrong, especially in simple daily actions such as buying food and discarding trash, to ignore indoctrination and propaganda, obvious or not, is the result of a failed society.

All nations suffer from these things. No nation is pristine; Shit is prevalent.

I feel there’s far less of this kind of decision-making taking place in Taiwan. Less research, more doing. I find a local service person to do whatever I need to do, and it just works. My money goes to the street vendor, the healthcare shop, bike shop, or whatever. Convenient stores may be the only decision-making I remember (suck it 7-11!). There was no research of ratings or quality assurance of the places I went to. I just have faith in the people. I’m not sure if I’ve quite quite built that much faith in New York, especially for professional services. I only feel good in a good neighborhood, which is usually an ethnic enclave.

I felt quite good in San Francisco too. Though, I lived in a Chinatown there. Perhaps it’s just the friendly nature of the people there, of which a great amount are Asian.

Yet, because less developed societies are just that, the problems are less developed too. Government may be corrupted, but people at least know what they’re eating, drinking, where their trash is going, how their dwelling was made, who their children’s teachers are, have less equality problems, and can afford and/or have free emergency healthcare. Also, with less money, there’s less chance of government committing large-scale wrongdoing such as imperialistic wars.

Taiwan throws out the trash themselves, know what they’re eating and drinking (kind of, hah), take care of educators, have affordable healthcare.

New York suffers greatly from this. It is an entirely artificial world. People throw trash anywhere, nothing is recycled (though it’s negligible compared to larger matters), there’s over-consumption and over-production, teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated, and the food comes from the top food manufacturers which themselves have awful ethics. Poor ethics exist from the top to bottom.

From Creativity as Organization from Chaos:

If this is the case, then it is best to live on the edge of society. Cities are the most potent area of human organization. One needs distance, surround oneself with less common materials, then create. It will also lead to a more creatively efficient lifestyle, as the mind struggle to piece together the world into new designs and idea

During the two times I spent in New York, I never left it. I didn’t go into any kind of nature, save public parks, and that’s frightening. I didn’t see any farms, beaches, hills, mountains, forests, anything. A friend said he was able to camp just an hour away. So it was possible, but I didn’t think of it. I was so far into nature, I just didn’t think about exploring out of it on any weekend. Everything I experienced was artificial.

Taiwan has nature, bounds of it, and I actually feel it, and can quickly hike a nearby hill, or even bike to the beach.

In San Francisco, I also spent quite a bit of time biking around Golden Gate park, to the beach, and up and around some other places. Nature naturally attracts me, and if it’s accessible, I spend time with it.

Taiwan feels it goes further though. I can go to other cities, towns, or farms, beautiful natural places. This is because Taiwan has a fantastic train system that goes around the country at every hour, whereas the public transportation of America is limited to the metro system and infrequent buses with no stops on the coasts.The train has a huge enabling effect. I have a friend who works on in one city and commutes to another one-quarter across the island. It was very easy for me to move to another city and work. There’s a feeling that one could work anywhere on the island, save the mountains in the middle, because of it, and people do. Many people in Taipei school or work for a short period, or even commute from other cities everyday. Low-cost trains have such a strong effect that I bet if America was linked by trains, the suburbs would have died much quicker, having people move into cities.*

From The Ideal Neighborhood:

Developing countries with problems may sway one toward human rights and politics. Living in two contrasting societies can make one feel that the other is absurd.

Though not developing, Taiwan sometimes feels so. I don’t feel much difference from Taiwan and Thailand. And I do feel much closer to people, as opposed to materials.

Creativity in cities can lead to furthering of aesthetics. My history clearly shows that I think of aesthetic ideas while living in a city where I consume contemporary art. Though, that may be from reacting to it. I do often think about high art in less developed places too, but it’s greatly affected by the locality, perhaps using less technology and more local materials: local craftsmen, bamboo, food carts, natural landscapes.

As a foreigner in Taiwan, even after living there for quite some time, I still haven’t quite adapted to everything to the point I’ve forgotten the artificial. Also, going to the arts shop on Canal St. isn’t quite the same as going to a random shop in Taipei to buy junk. I feel quite alright to cut a tree for wood, go to a mine for minerals, find metal at a scrapyard. I feel this is incredibly important for any creative profession. Materials is precisely what I feel lacks in the developed world, full of digital data. Though I’m sure people feel comfy in a workshop in Dumbo, I wasn’t able to achieve such heights.

And again, this closeness to nature may have been gained because of the simple access of trains.

Creativity in developing countries, or any society other than one’s own, also provides another perspective, which will shape what one creates. It forces the creator to be more mindful of the audience, resulting in a more universally appreciated art, one that works in their past society and current society, fitting for structuralism. It could have elements of traditional cultures, different political systems, different amounts of wealth. I feel Ai Wei Wei exceeds because of this. He can use craftsmen in China to create a massive piece, understanding their place on a human and political scale.

I think just living in two kinds of societies is enough: developed and developing. Africa might just be too mind-bending for me. Learn the aesthetics before going to the developing country.

Creativity in developing countries can also lead to practical applications, useful technology. In a developed country, technology seems to have passed the needs of humans. Each individual could live with 50 things or less. Living with less would increase the chance of creating something useful. If it is useful to someone with less, it is likely be useful to the rest.

Therefore, I believe creating in a developing country may be better for artists, humanists, innovators, hippies, and, perhaps, anyone of age. With the internet, it is easy to catch up current sciences and aesthetics. Being a part of a human rights community would surely lead to more practical technology. If one has time, one can continue creating high aesthetic art with a unique perspective, likely more political. Though, it may be difficult without a community, such as those that exist in cities.

I don’t think Taiwan suffers from much human rights problems to the level of developing countries. It seems they’re gotten rid of most of the bad things. But it’s quite possible for me to take a very cheap flight to Indonesia for empowerment, which could be conducive to practical innovation. Though, perhaps the same could be said for Central America.

New York has great communities; Taiwan is a community. The recent bailout in America and protests and elections results of Taiwan proved that.

It’s possible to live in a community and ignore anything higher in structure, but I think, especially of people who have the knowledge and time to worry about things on grand scale — international affairs, politics, imperialism, etc., it’s human to care for it.

If a failed government doesn’t have the solidarity for successful activism, not just Ferguson, then the I think that the people of the country don’t care much for their own country or of others.

To even have morals (and not confused with patriotism and “defense”) is new to me. Though I attended John Stewart’s march and Occupy Wall St. I didn’t have much hope in it. Contrarily, The Sunflower Movement was a profound experience.

There’s no better way of understanding a country than traveling around it, and any traveller will tell you that like Southeast Asia, Taiwanese people are polite, courteous, and extremely helpful.

The effects of the ethics show in the way modern society was shaped: it’s clean, convenient, people are not wasteful, people are willing to spend time to talk.

Stay in a country with those ethics, and one starts to build a deep appreciation and affection for the people.

Ethics override financial factors. Besides, it’s the Information Age, professional work is now location-independent.

When a country has ethics you appreciate, working, even the lowest service job, doesn’t feel so bad. As a person who’s had a decent salary before, I don’t mind working as a street vendor, or even in a popular tea shop in Taiwan. The customers are nice. The shops are outdoors, so there’s good public interaction and vision. It feels good. I don’t think I would feel the same if I were to work at McDonalds.*

Perhaps the main question is, are the ethics of a country more important than a select few amazing people?

Yes. Yes it is.

And with that, I now know, Taiwan will always be my destination.

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, New York, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Urban Philosophy

A Strange Moment during Humans of Taiwan

08 November 2014

10/10/13
I failed to talk to people for the purpose of humans. It was a waste of time. Wanderlust in the city. No social time. No work. No learning. Like the weekends in San Francisco. I need routine. A moment of a schizoid. This only happens when I am alone, otherwise I’m quick, watching time. In that moment in Wenhua, I was stuck. An extreme care for bums and lower class people. Hesitant of communicating with them. The humans project is a psychological battle.

This was indeed a strange moment.

I was in 萬華區 taking photos for Humans of Taiwan. It’s the grittiest part of Taiwan. The metro exits into a park full of people. Many not even Taiwanese. It’s visibly poorer, filthier, with an extremely high density of people.

The past few days I did well in talking to people and taking pictures. This moment changed that. After talking to a few people and taking a picture, at some point I was unable to continue. I couldn’t talk to some, or anyone anymore. My mind stopped forming Chinese sentences. Perhaps facing the poor caught up to me emotionally, and my care for them stopped me, from doing anything.

I mean, what was I doing anyway? To them I am perceived as a tourist taking a photo with them, or a language student, taking a photo of them. Taiwanese people know how Taiwanese people are. Was I really gaining any unique insight into human nature?

My bane: Unable to make meaningful social interactions with lower class people while living a higher class one. Extreme care? So powerful that it stops me for hours.

Leave a comment | Categories: Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Travel

Autonomy of Taiwan

01 July 2014

aka Why I Love Taiwan.

1. With the last [Philosophy and Human Values] lecture ending with apocalypse outcome, I feel the civil unrest of American has a little in common with Taiwan. The difference is Taiwan reacts in solidarity with protests whereas America doesn’t. Is this a result of post-modern society, or because White Terror killed many?

2. Taiwan is a single organism. What I love most about Taiwan, and similarly, Southeast nations, and mountain peoples (including Nepal and Northeast India), is solidarity of the community.

These civilizations contain those such basic human characteristics which seem to have disappeared in the Western countries, save in small town America and similar small town feel neighborhoods of large cities. Though nearly all of these nations suffer or have suffered greatly, the peoples seem to have achieved the highest state of ethics. They actually care for others. They will treat you out, or help you, whereas Western concepts of exchange of goods or services have become detached from morality. Basically, they have a heart. They look forward to life, and the simple pleasure in it. It is worth comparing it to Western society and seeing what went wrong [todo, another blog post. Street life and simple pleasure. Time and self-interest. Several generations in one country.].

A nation of solidarity, not the temporary directional kind, leads to autonomy. All of these nations have enough resources to be self-sufficient, no matter what their international relations are. Taiwan takes it further, being a part of the Four Asian Tigers, gaining and efficiently using modern technology. And yet, throughout several political turmoils Taiwan lives on, in a rather good standing compared to the rest of the world in human development.

Solidarity and autonomy are characteristics of an anarchy. In Taiwan, the police are rather complacent, lax on laws — foreigners run illegal shops, and there isn’t much over-enforcement of shallow laws, such as parking tickets, and they hold good morals, never pushing a homeless person out of a park, yet some laws are very strict, such as those on drugs. The hospitals are affordable (I don’t know how). NGOs actually hold some power. Universities hold more. It feels as if society is checked by society itself. Everyone knows everything going on (perhaps that giant bulletin board system has a part in this). It feels like a neighborhood on a country level. The result is the greatest achievement in politics: just as the individuals it consists have, the society has a heart too.

3. Do protests work? Why not go further, boycott a KMT business?
Chomsky says yes and emphasizes methods of activism, which activist organization of Taiwan have done so well, thanks to past experiences, but though with outstanding protest results, did not sway political decisions, or win much praise from foreign countries (perhaps they are busy and content with other imperialistic concerns).


Update. Much after writing this, I’ve found some relevant articles and readings:
post-politics
autonomism

Semiotext(e)

And surprisingly, and relevant, these Tao classics:
莊子
Penguin Great Ideas edition

道德經
Penguin Great Ideas edition

Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action and practices the teaching that uses no words.

The myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority;
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.

It is because it lays claim to no merit
That its merit never deserts it.
Laozi, D.C. Lau (translator), Dao De Jing

Leave a comment | Categories: Humanities, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Thoughts, Travel

Taiwan and Japan: Active and Passive Lifestyles

02 May 2014

I had to leave Taiwan to renew my visa, so I came to Okinawa, and one day in, I am reminded not just why I dislike the country, but also why I love Taiwan. The difference between the two countries is that the lifestyles — the way people act in their environment — are the opposite. Taiwanese people live an active lifestyle; Japanese people live a passive lifestyle (Okinawa may not be a good test sample, but my time in Osaka and Tokyo mirror this).

I’m going to step back into the time before I left America.

At that time, I thought Japan would be a really interesting experience. In my perspective, Japan has polite ‘n’ quirky people, it’s the most developed of the East Asian countries, and of course, it probably has the most alien culture of developed countries. I wasn’t attracted to the things otakus are; I wanted to see people being as silly as they are in those whacky game shows, who often are shy but react in hilarious ways. Those playful people.

Before leaving, I thought Japan would be the apex of my trip in Asia. I started in Taiwan and I loved it. Then I decided to go through South East Asia, saving Japan for another trip.

When the time came I checked WikiTravel and planned silly fun things to do: see arcades, sleep at a capsule hotel, sleep at a manga cafe, see fashion trends in harajuku, eat at the fish market, see modern art, talk to people at modern art places, attend a game convention, etc. And although some of those things were fun, the people and environment were not. The fun ended quickly as I was unable to create many social experiences during my travels with people outside of my hostel.

In contrast to my expectations, Japan did not have anything I desired. It was the rest of Asia that I had experienced that did.

Japan’s culture is uninteresting to me because people passively consume media. Furthermore, the media they consume is narrow, and over time it becomes more narrow, to the point it becomes alien to the world. The otaku culture that I was not interested in made more sense once I saw Japan. Kids and adults alike over-consume manga, anime, computer medias, pop music, and whatever else. So much time is spent consuming that they don’t move. They spend most of their time indoors, reading, playing single player repetitive games, perhaps talking to someone next to them who is doing the same thing.

I wouldn’t want to live in a country where the most social interaction is reading next to another person. I want to actually interact with the other person, or at least consume reality — travel, food, talking.

Everything in Japan takes place either indoors or at machines. Shopping for groceries, buying snacks, ordering at a restaurant, transportation, before work, working, after-work, having fun, all the time. There’s nothing to see on the outside. There is no street culture. The most one can witness is the mass of people commuting to and from work in Tokyo’s busy areas.

There’s not enough external stimuli for me. And if I can’t socialize with the people, then there’s no other hope to fulfill my need for it. There’s nothing to see or talk to. And I don’t enjoy passively consuming, even in the company of others.

Taiwanese people, in contrast live a highly active lifestyle. They’re talking all of the time. With their friends next to them or through LINE, to the public (food and drink vendors [not machines!], service industry). Far less spend time is spent playing dull games or consuming dull media in the company of others. Perhaps they will play in a subway, but that is because none of their relations are physically around them.

They even consume a more diverse media. They watch American, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong, and Chinese media. All somehow dubbed to Mandarin for the masses. Their English is better. They’re curious of other cultures. They want to talk to other people, which is the main motivation to learn a language. In Japan, the people seem to simply not be interested in other cultures, which probably explains their low English rate. A cram school won’t help if one isn’t actually interested in talking to people who speak the language, or another culture’s media.

Even their [Taiwan] environment is highly active. They retain the social street culture similar to poorer countries, which provides as much or even more external stimulus than a developed big city such as New York. Scooters zoom by, day markets flourish with fresh vegetables during the day, night market brings tons of people out to shop, or just to look and walk, or to a nearby mountain or park for a quick meal. Most traditional restaurants are open-air. The senses are blasted with hordes of market strollers and wafts of stinky tofu.

It is this broad-consumption of daily life that allows one to live a more social, happy, creative (socially creative at least [as opposed to creating media]), and active life.

An active life, that is, one is constantly making decisions before taking action. One thinks to call a friend, cook something, go to a park, embark an adventure, not because they were told to, but because one decided themselves to do so.

The narrow passive consumption of Japan is more akin to the suburbs. One consumes the media around them or computer (although the computer is a more interactive form of consumption). The only new stimuli is media (if they chose a new one) and the social experience with people of whom they already have a relationship with (if they even created new relationships outside the ones they were born into i.e. their family).

I would stereotype the two countries’ societies as so: Taiwan is the social island nation where the people are always friendly and happy; Japan is the dsytopian future where media and machines replaced human interaction.

I like technology, but only if it has a social aspect.

A nation of consumption caused by its culture. Koreans are more introverted, opting to use cell phones to communicate than talk, and TVs to live life rather than going out. It’s the suburban Asian nation. Media through Samsung TVs easily influenced the crowd.
9/13/13 in Busan

I would add South Korea alongside Japan.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Japan, Personal, Taiwan, Travel

Travels End: The Return of Unsocial Life

25 November 2013

[Old draft. Did not read. Looks like interesting personal history / thought.]

When I arrived in Taipei I was excited, to travel, to create, to learn Chinese, to socialize. It started with the normal intense feelings of travel where I’d consume everything and think at incredible speeds to continually have new experiences; Life is an adventure. I especially consumed Chinese as it was one of my goals, furthering my social life. I was extremely happy and extremely social. I’d go out with hostelmates, schoolmates, meet artists, and even talk to people on the street (Humans of Taiwan). I had several ideas I was excited to share and begin.

It worked well, for about two weeks. I felt a slow decline. I forced myself to continue. First, Humans of New York stopped, I was unable to talk to strangers again. Many weeks later, I don’t care to talk to strangers. I don’t care to talk to anyone really, anymore.

“Do I want to be a normal member of society, or should I be my hermit self, ignoring the world?”

“I ignored everyone in Hampton Roads, why should I spend time with people in Taipei? Unless it’s a small town feel.”

“Focus on art: film studio, humans, Vincent moon, etc. Stop going out for social situations. Explore instead.”

“Be social to keep speed to life.”

10/5
Transforming into my former hard-working self. Need to relax, stay outside, be social, work at a cafe or school, freelance art and programming.

No! Don’t be so anti-social. Talk to people on a daily basis. It’s how you keep track of time.

Get a scooter. Buses are a waste of time.

Teach at a nearby school, work at a nearby cafe, be social, stay outside, be creative as you were while traveling.

Be quick like the guy from Toronto.

10/6
Yesterday and Today, I feel great, relaxed. A direction was chosen. The problem of last week was indecision.

I still feel extremely restless every morning, but learning languages, talking to people, walking outside, eases it.

I can’t wait to find an apartment, get a scooter, make things. Still, I have to be careful of time. The other classmates have already found an apartment!

Today I felt on top of the world. No deadline. Nothing needed to be done. No stress. Worry free life. Is that what I need for art? Is that why India did not work? Was it too emotional for me? Consuming without creating?

Fuck. Wasted more time. Need to control myself. 8 hour workdays, including cafe and tutor

I need to control my time. That’s my greatest problem. Follow the plan.bless wanderlust.

10/7
Take time to sleep, think creatively, then make a move. But make decisions quick! Keep living.

Learning a language requires routine. There’s no way around it.

I have no idea of what life is. Should I care for the less fortunate? Innovate? Live happily in a third world country? It seems all I can do is live. Spend less time in indecision and do as much as I can, while still taking the time to design and plan.

Nap anywhere anytime. But try to stay up during the day, to do work with people.

Schedule yourself

Don’t worry about money. Freelance programming! Focus time on learning, work, and travel.

Plan less, do more? Need more projects! Need more life!

我不喜歡commuting in Taipei, or, I’m being indecisive again, as usual. I need to calm down, stay in my neighborhood, make stuff. Work more, walk less.

I’m missing out on so much life.

Create stickies of humans, Vincent moon, edward yang, babycastles, languages, and calavino at home and at my workplace.

Power generator, food cart, projector.

Keep exploring, keep taking on new projects, keep talking to people, keep enjoying life.

10/8
Consuming the things around me as opposed to something specific. Have to learn when to consume around and specific. Time self.

10/9
I didn’t do much today. My brain was slow. Social life stopped after 6pm. I slept in an air conditioned library and computered a little. I accomplished nothing. Caffeine withdrawal? At least when I have caffiene, I’m fighting for life, doing something. Without it, I have no social energy or interest.

I need to maintain one of he following to stay active: social life and excitement, caffiene, or exercise.

There was so much time in a day. What the fuck happened to it today? I need to consume more of the world around me. I was ignoring too much. If I ignore the world, I can always watch a film, but I failed to do that. I just went through the day, meaningless.

After taking a nap, one should do something social.

Difficult to live and create simultaneously. Study hard at night. All phrases, vocab, writing, listening.

I’m waking up without reason, creativity. I really miss that. I’m unable to balance life and work. It distracts me from my personal direction. My motivation.

Learning a language without a motivation is really difficult. I need reason to talk to people, not just for the sake of practicing.

Dont let anyone take you in the wrong direction. You don’t have to spend time learning chinese with classmates if it doesn’t motivate you. Learn it in your own way. It’s more fun, more serious, much more interesting, in my view. See the beauty in the world.

Being with people, I lose interest in people, and I lose creativity.

Remember, you don’t have to do anything. It’s up to you. It’s okay to sleep, explore, in fact, it’s necessary.

I should be social about things I love. That’s why babycastles worked. They were people with similar interests. I need to hang with people with similar interests, or, completely foreign people that no one knows.

Use 30 minutes of memrise in the morning and evening for each language. Watch some TV. No, that’s unsocial. Spend time with people. Get a professional or social job. Fuck the library.

Never overwork yourself.

school, very social

Half way through the class I made the decision that, although I failed to do what I set out to do — join or create a new media company — I would finish the Chinese class. Feeling that my classmates would do better by going to class and studying after school, I started to go back to class, and hang out with my classmates. Besides, they were my closest friends. My Taiwanese friends all have jobs.

I was social. I’d go to class. Hang out with the classmates after school, and often at night. Sometimes after class I’d go to the Language Corner, which is something a few people at school started to help people learn Chinese. I started going there because I realized I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, so I started talking to them.

With the class, after-class activity, and hanging out with the people at my hostel, my day was booked. I’d be social until I needed to sleep. I’d drink with hostel mates at the hostel, or a nearby bar. I didn’t mind spending time with people. In fact, I want to.

I made sure whatever I did was interactive. I doing things with people. That’s all that mattered. I felt that if I weren’t doing something with someone, then it was meaningless, as if the moment in time wouldn’t exist.

I moved to an apartment. This made me quite lonely.

Near the end of class I basically gave up on Chinese. I started using English, thinking in English, not caring for the class. The intrinsic motivation was completely gone. I wasn’t traveling, I didn’t want to talk, so why learn Chinese? It didn’t make sense. I need the urge to talk to Chinese-only speaking people to learn Chinese. This is why I don’t like school. But this is also my failure, as I was unable to retain motivation for three months, barely one.

I wasn’t fighting for time. I wasn’t maximizing my time in a country that I would never be in again. I didn’t have a project I was striving for. I wasn’t fighting to make every hour of my life count. I started to become lazy. Forgetting that I am in debt. I needed some kind of reality check, but it never came. I just decided to give up until class ended. After that, I’d have to do something. I’d have to get a job.

after school, alone

Was I social for the sake of learning a language? For the sake of traveling? So I don’t forget about other people? The Humans project? A normal social life?

Half way through class I felt I consumed all I could from Taipei. I’ve seen everything. Nothing excited me. So, I stuck to my classmates. I followed them. Zero creativity. I just followed. It was fun, socially normal. The problem was whenever I was alone, I had trouble be social with other people. I just wasn’t interested in the rest of the world anymore. I tried movies, but movies were still too far from life. It was a tough time. I didn’t feel like doing anything at times. I’d just “study” Chinese. I didn’t care for the Humans project. I didn’t care for making games. I didn’t care for art. A depression, for sure.

After the class ended, I stopped waking up on time. I lost circadian rhythm immediately. I lost social life. I didn’t contact anyone. I failed to use technology to maintain a social life. I failed to be creative. I failed to be social enough to new people.

A few depressing days followed in which I’d wake up late, not be social, not want to create my own direction, overeat, oversleep, plan a lot, but do nothing in reality. Everything is in my head. No actions are taken. Just thoughts. Over-thinking, over-planning, over-researching, indecision. Failing to “just do it”. Social interaction is how I track time. Without people’s feedback, I’m unable to see progress. I need people. I did absolutely nothing, or, I was radically changing, again.

I started to create my own path. More things to do. More in my own direction. I was okay with being alone. I could think quite clearly. I exercised. I still slept whenever I wanted, but I felt good. My former self. On top of the world in a different way. My own way. I didn’t consume anything. I did what I wanted.

Which life is better? A social conformist one or a loner creative? Why am I unable to balance the two? All I need to do is spend a few hours being social, and a few hours being myself, yet I fail and fall into extremes. As always. I’m too obsessive.

The solution? Have someone to schedule my life everyday. Or, create a timer and follow it. Somehow.

Or continue to be social during the day and do my personal work at night, when everyone is asleep.

Leave a comment | Categories: Experience, Personal, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Self-assessment, Taiwan, Travel

Taiwan: First Impressions

15 October 2012

[Old draft, posting anyway. More like a journal entry, but contains lots of shallow observations of Taiwanese people. It’s quite important to know that I lived in America my entire life before coming to Taiwan.]

Disclaimer

This is completely subjective. Stereotypes are made.

Taiwanese people are happy

Taiwanese people are overall happy. Check the happy index on Wikipedia. All classes of society are happy. Not faking happy for the face of the company they work for. Real happiness.

Taiwanese people are very friendly. I thought perhaps it was my brown baby face, but the other hostel travelers agree. We’ve all had many situations in which a person went out of their way to help. One of the hostel travelers, Floor, watched fireworks for Valentine’s day that occurred at a nearby river. When it was over, a family asked if he had dessert, they then proceeded to take him out to a desert shop that sold shaved ice with mango, and even paid for it. Another hostel traveler needed directions once and was given a ride on a scooter to their destination. I’ve similarly been helped several times. Just on the first day, I had trouble finding my hostel at night. I asked two kids pushing a closed food cart. They didn’t know where, but they asked others and eventually found it. Another time, I asked for a certain bus station, a girl took five minutes to walk me to it. Furthermore, the bus driver insisted I didn’t pay and made sure I got out at the right stop. Yet another time, I was asked by a mother of a family of three to join them for dinner, then out for a day trip the next day. All of this within my first week in Taipei.

Typhoons come, people make mistakes, they forgive and they forget.

Nearly all of Taiwan is developed, yet ambition and competition is low, which is surprising for a developed country.

Taiwanese people are more organized, courteous, and protective

Taiwanese (and likely other East Asian) people are organized and courteous. On escalators, people who want to stand stay on the right side, people who want to walk, on the left. I’ve never seen anyone block a pathway. The same organization applies to vehicular traffic. I once saw a scooter get nudged by a mini pickup truck. The scooter curved off direction, stopped, looked back at the offending vehicle, then moved on. He shrugged off the incident as if it were a baby that dropped food.

Taiwanese people (and likely Asians in general) can sometimes be overly neat or organized. People wore raincoats during the water rapids ride. An entire family. They wanted to ride but didn’t want the inconvenience of getting wet.

I thought about how my friend described Japanese subways. How extremely organized the people are. The train is packed yet no one makes a noise out of the courtesy of others. Japanese people (and likely other East Asians) care about others. They understand people are tired from work, and perhaps even expect the same from others. I haven’t been on a Japanese subway, but I think I would become bored of such routinely commute. I’d wish for a Black American to be there. To make some noise. Add some excitement to it. Living in a homogeneous country, one appreciates diversity.

Two travelers from the hostel, Vidit and Floor told stories of their times in Korea in which there is a beach near Busan where there are buoys and helicopters to make sure Koreans do not pass a certain distance.

When the day market is over, the store owners clean their store front, and even the space around them, together, like a community. The same occurs when the night market is over. The same occurs, when the trash truck comes.

The trash truck
The trash truck deserves an essay of it’s own. Taiwanese homeowners don’t leave their trash out to rot. They keep it until the trash truck comes. The truck drives slowly around neighborhoods, and people are expected to bring the trash to it in a timely manner. When it comes, an American may mistake for an ice cream truck. It plays music, similar to the music that is played when school children are to clean up. People come out to throw their trash in the truck. There’s a recycling bin and liquid waste bin too. The whole event is surprisingly communal. Neighbors come out, often hilariously chasing down the truck in their nightwear and flip flops. It’s a moment of the day I cherish.

Gladly, Taiwanese people are still quite balanced. Taiwanese people remind me of the people of San Francisco, where people are also happy and will take time to help others, but likely have more money and fit the young professional category. In Taiwan, these good characteristics apply to all classes of society.

Media influence

The influence of media is astounding.

Like moths to a light bulb people are attracted to what is marketed to them. They take pictures of movie posters with their iPhones and upload to Facebook for their friends to see, not thinking about the films they could make with it. They play games on their smartphones during transportation, missing an opportunity to talk to a very interesting person in front of them.

Night markets rise every night in every area. People shop. It’s often the same items everywhere, yet people still browse and buy things. It’s natural; Consuming is a necessity of life.

Yet, I often felt that the consumption of the youth is quite high. Bubble tea, colorful clothes, giant fried chickens. Kids come out and enjoy. Many work at the night market, some with their parents. Or perhaps this is my perception because I was traveling and not living. I’ve been to a lot of night markets myself and enjoyed eating a stick of five boiled quail eggs and drinking a papaya milk shake. An alternative social scene? I’ve become tried of night markets, but if I were meeting some friends for a quick bite, it’s quite convenient. It’s fun.

Taiwanese people are healthy

There are very few fat people in Taiwan, yet they seemingly eat all the time, 5 or more meals a day. It’s so hot and humid I never feel like eating. When I do, it’s either meat or sugar, usually in the form of fried meat and tea.

Taiwanese people will tell you if you are fat. It’s not rude. It’s a problem that can be fixed. I love it.

JV’s Hostel

[move to another more personal post]
I was a little apprehensive about the hostel. Everyone was so relaxed. I felt like an outsider. But the next day, I found it was just my perspective. And by the end of my second day, it felt like home.

The experiences I had during my stay at this hostel, my first days of travel, were some of the greatest moments in my life. It reminded what living is.

The people here were outstanding, the staff and the travelers.

The staff consisted of the pleasant owner and three girls working part-time during summer vacation. They lived fast pace lives, going to places, doing things, consuming, Facebooking, having a blast. They took the travelers out to places to eat, things to do, making sure everyone was having as much fun as they were. They’re all smart too; two went to SFSU and were continuing studies in Taiwan. I was able to get close to one, have conversations about sociology, Taiwan, the Asian mentality, and life in general.

The crowd was diverse. In just three days I’ve met people from the Netherlands, Shanghai, Seoul, Arizona, The Bay Area, India, and Sweden.

One guy from the Netherlands seems to work for a few months to get money, then go out to travel again. One was there to renew a Korean visa while teaching there. Three girls from Korea were travelling Taipei for a week. One guy from Germany was seemingly wasting away. One girl from Berlin shared interests in contemporary writers, the contemporary art scene in big cities, and making bubble sculptures. One guy from US was able to find an English teaching job, find an apartment, and basically begin a new life. One guy from Guangzhou had the time of his life, thoroughly enjoying every moment away from his apparently boring life in China with restrictive parents. One girl found a job at a pet store and quit once she found out there were more dogs in smaller cages in the back of the store. One Australian guy was able to speak Chinese fluently, doing exchange for his language studies.

During the time there, I didn’t feel right. I was consuming as opposed to creating. I was becoming someone whom I previously despised, a mindless consumer. I was consuming too much. Yet, in hindsight, staying at this hostel is something I miss dearly and will never forget. The people I met here were all amazing. It was quickly apparent that my travels had to be about meeting people.

Taipei

I was surprised at how Taipei is to New York, or any other city. The same personalities, classes, consumerism, markets, etc. I think once you’ve lived in a city, a rural area, and a suburb, you’ve lived everywhere.

It’s also surprising how easy it is to travel in a place where everything is written in a foreign language, and everyone speaks in a foreign language. The design of the metro system maps are very similar to any other. Color coded, designed well enough to understand. English where it’s necessary.

I had a difficult time the first day, but the next day was somehow easier. All I needed to do was figure out how to get from the hostel to the main street on which the metro is. The street signs are difficult to find, so I remember by landmarks. Many times I don’t know the landmark, but remember the sight once I see it. A smartphone isn’t necessary; It’s a little more fun to find the way to the destination asking people nearby to help, but it’s also a waste of time when you need to be somewhere.

Downtowns are all the same — big businesses, big banks, big brand shopping centers, big chain restaurants, but that’s not all there is in a city.

Taipei is a microcosm of Taiwan. You can find everything you want from Taiwan here, or very close to it. Really, there’s a hot spring a little north, the beach a little further, a mountain to the southeast, shops, neighborhoods. It’s not as exciting as going to Guanziling hot spring, or Alishan, and it doesn’t quite have the charm and pleasant weather of the east coast, but it’s enough.

If you’ve been to a city, one could feel that there isn’t much. It’s mostly shopping and eating. I’m not going to complete tourist destinations either. The city is repetitive; Night markets, giant malls of popular designers, random temples. Even other travelers at the hostel agree that there isn’t much to see.

Once I digested the new things to me in Taiwan, my narrow interests to contemporary art events: an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a performance at the Digital Art Center, an indie music and film festival at an abandoned building near the last subway stop to the east, and a playing of Metropolis at Huashan park with live music from an electronic duo from Europe. The city’s contemporary art may not be as ambitious as New York, but it exists. Taiwan National University is the center of it, and venues and artist villages exist in Taipei. A friend mentioned the only other city with art is Kaohsiung, still, it doesn’t compare to Taipei.

West coast; more cities

East coast

Other / temporary

Of course, this is my perception. A person who’s lived a secluded life and then began living a normal life once I started travelling. Competitive by nature. Valuing fine art over time

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