Learning from someone more organized than me

organized... or something

Random Observation/Comment #224: Hong Kong and Japan are both wonderful places to visit, but not exactly the best places to live.  Japan is filled with cute small girls and has lots of cool toys, but the hierarchical system is too strict and unbearable.  People really need to loosen up and make adjustments to that old management style.  Hong Kong has so much amazing food and an incredible transportation system, but the people don’t seem particularly friendly.  They seem to have assimilated to the large population of Filipino immigrants and follow a very closely-knit community.  Foreigners stick out like a sore thumb in both countries and those who are different seem to be marked with all the bad stereotypes.  Why so judgmental, Asia?

In a nature versus nurture argument, I’ve mostly sided with nurture.  I believe that my personality is the combination of the personalities that I’ve met throughout my life.  Due to the duration of the influence and the malleable age bracket, my role models mostly consisted of my parents, childhood friends, and media-fed characters (I totally want to be low-tech batman).  A lot of my instinctual decision-making skills come from this foundation that was magically built through those influences.  Some things just feel right and wrong without thinking about them because I was raised believing these values unquestionably.

Many of these feelings towards the decisions are difficult to rationalize, so does that mean I need to rethink them?  Shouldn’t the decisions I am able to make now out-weigh the instincts that were learned while I was growing up? How much evidence do I need to convince myself that the ways that I was taught were incorrect?  Obviously, upgrades are necessary and encouraged as long as the foundation maintains consistency, but what if some things were just wrong? I treat my life as a continuous feedback loop of improvement, yet there’s a level of arrogance built from too many positive experiences that makes the mind difficult to bend – it’s just not as bendy as it used to be.  I don’t think the problem stems from not having an open-mind because I’m open to hearing the different sides of the story, but maybe it’s just difficulty breaking through the level of disbelief from a more mature mind that intrinsically tries to make sense of the world.  It’s sort of like why you don’t remove people from The Matrix when they pass a certain age.  Anyway, I bring this up because I have found an interesting opposition to some of my values, which has led me to reconsider my life and its impact on the world.

We are not so different – him and I.  We’re both engineers with wandering interests and multi-tasking minds.  The world around us is confusing, but we try our best to pick our happy subjects and complain about the rest.  We watch television series religiously while doing work and surfing the internet for other interesting things.  We both try to keep our lives organized, and we both have a lot to say about a lot of random topics.

On the other hand, we prioritize our lives differently, which leads to drastic variations in our life styles.  For example, I believe that I need to improve myself and my community before trying to save the world, but he believes that you can save the world by first improving yourself and reducing your carbon footprint regardless of what others do (the whole “man in the mirror” Michael Jackson song thing I mentioned in an earlier entry to a more complete extent).  In the case where I have given up on being the man to save the world and began making sacrifices to support the overlapping goals of myself and my community, he tries to save the world by making himself this type of “unintentional role model.”  By this, I mean he doesn’t advertise his method of living as the correct way – in fact he doesn’t care what anyone else does with their life – but he just wants to look himself in the mirror and follow his values.  These values may be taken to an obsessive-compulsive extent, but I find it very thorough and I applaud his follow-through.

So what does he do differently that I’ve thought so much as to dedicate an entry in his honor?  In many ways, he’s had this hippy transformation.  He used to drink often, and now he’s quit.  He used to order various exotic meats from themeatguy.com and now he’s a vegetarian.  He used to read about taking over the world with robots – well maybe he still does – but now he also looks at growing his own food with hydroponics.  I’m not trying to bash on these hippy ways (although, I would probably not stop drinking, stop eating meat, or start growing my own food all at once), I’m just surprised at how much this change has built his character.  I’ve grown so much more respect (than had already existed) for such a sacrifice as to maintain a foundation of values that started from a floating thought.  The thought festered and just challenged him by curiosity and principle (I imagined it being like a playground bully saying “I bet you can’t…” thus, leading to the response, “Oh YEAH?!?! Watch this.”)  The interesting part is that he’s not doing this from any type of bet; he’s just testing his abilities of self-control and self-regulation.  You have to admit, to turn straight-edge after indulging in a life that’s anything-but, does deserve much respect.

Now, I am going to tie together that small preface about rationalizing early instincts built from nurtured experiences: Why am I not a hippy? Someone like me would definitely step-up to a challenge that I created for myself in the name of self-improvement and curiosity!

In fact, I’ve tried being sober for a month – it’s not so bad, but removing that restriction and keeping the activity of drinking as a regulated social lubricant is so much better. I’ve tried being a vegetarian – it lasted 4 hours.  I’ve also tried not masturbating or engaging in sexual activity for a month – that was actually quite terrible (I could have poked someone’s eye out with the tent I was pitching).

The main difference between my experiments and his is that I had only changed one thing at a time to keep my other normal variables constant.  I think I would have gone crazy not tipping the scales and doing one of the other things more.  “So I’m not at the bar to drink… I guess I’ll just eat a lot of buffalo wings.”

For him, I think this change runs much deeper than a simple experiment – it’s a new beginning.  No one should really complain about what he’s doing – it’s your personal preference to drink, eat, and learn about different things.  None of the changes in lifestyle he’s made are bad either – if truth be told, most people wish they could live healthier.  So… why can’t I do it? Is it willpower? Did I only treat it as an experiment knowing that I was just waiting for the time I would revert back to old ways?  Is this a flaw with the foundation and a level of stubbornness I’m just not willing to change?

Once everything switches, I’m afraid of losing the personality I built previously.  You know, the idea of going straight-edge actually passed my mind.   It may have latched on and started to grow in the ever-so-tempting challenge, but as for now, screw that: give me my Guinness, rare steak, and blowies.  Someone would probably think I became seriously ill if those things were no longer part a part of my life.  Instead of setting the full restrictions, I would rather give myself regulations.  In this case, I would not be performing the straight-edge style to support any other deeper meaning (like, save the whales type-deal).  Whatever his reason for his life-style adjustments, I give extra props to he who has planted the thought.  Best of luck with that bike ride.

~See Lemons See Room for Improvement