Where are you from?

I think when one lives “abroad,” there is some upside-down U-shaped curve about feelings towards one’s home country (or passport-holding country).

Before you leave the national borders of the land that you grew up in, you don’t consider that you could be from another country. “Where are you from?” is usually assumed to be the state or province that one is from.

Once you set foot outside, whether to study, live, or tour, at first, you feel proud to answer I’m _________ or I’m from _________ and state your nationality or home country with pride. It’s almost as if it is in these instances that you yourself become explicitly aware of your country of loyalty. In particular if you don’t look like what people usually assume to be the look of a person of such nationality–usually because of your race–then, in these instances you may feel you have to defend your legitimacy with an overcompensating force and each time someone accepts what you say without further questions is a triumph. It’s something that can warm your blood and make you feel more patriotism then you ever felt because sometimes in your own country you may have hunches about some portion of the population simply assuming you are not local and does not bother to inquire.

But hey, after living abroad for over a year, everything begins to change. The concept of being a citizen of a country seems increasingly arbitrary and elusive. “Where are you from?” is now answered with increasing nonchalance and you no longer give two shits about whether people question it or not. You are not bothered by a further explanation if need be. Everything goes. Without your overly confident answers, people feel free enough to even use the term “passport country” as a follow-up clarification. What does it matter, really, on a human level?

I am a citizen of the world. I believe in global interests. I don’t think war is ever the answer. Why do we draw boundaries?

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Moonlight

Got on the bandwagon rather late and only just watched the film, Moonlight, tonight. If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to. You are short-changing yourself and your human experience. **Forewarning of potentially not-so-PC language to follow.** Moonlight is the first all-black cast film that I have seen that transcends race and other categories of identity politics, to be, above all, about the human experience. Watching the film is itself a human experience. It will make you engage within yourself and consume you with questions and just pure awe. It is a film that makes me wonder if I am not getting the most out of this human life by not having explored my potential in art more. It is also during these moments that I know what is art and why art is important. Art is about expression. Not any expression. But, the ability to express what a lot of folks want to, yet cannot express well. And it’s about expressing in a manner that captures you, captures your senses, and makes you question your values and your premises.

Communication is a beautiful thing

There are not as many moments in life where there is raw and forthcoming two-way communication as there ought to be. It’s beautiful and liberating. I hope everyone can practice this more often, losing our facades and just let ourselves and let others be.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These inalienable rights as put forth in the Declaration of Independence by our founding fathers have become truisms. But, being a truism doesn’t mean that these freedoms are always there for us to enjoy. Yes, there can be forces from the outside which threaten these rights, but do not underestimate the forces from within. Sometimes, unbeknownst to our conscious, we create an internal system of shackles that impede our potential freedom and happiness in this life. Let your inner authenticity thrive.

The greatest feeling in the world

…is simple, spontaneous, unconditional happiness.  To feel happy not because one has accomplished a big goal but for no reason at all is in my opinion the sensation to live for. It is an acceptance of ourselves and appreciation of the forces bigger than us. The glory of a clear sunny day after consecutive days of Spring showers is not to be underestimated. We can be happy just to exist, just to be a minuscule part of this magic. Perhaps it is the motivation to witness another clear sunny day that drives us to carry on.

Snobbery and aspiring to roughness

Can they coexist? Well, 21st century hipster culture has certainly proved itself capable. Hipster culture is embodied by food trucks cooking up instagram-friendly fusion foods and coffeehouses serving pricey brews in an industrial setting, among other examples. This culture of juxtaposition is at the heart of the millennial generation. Perhaps, it is a call for help? A sign of being lost and confused? Of having no firm traditions to hold onto for comfort as when one opens up anything and everything to objective analysis, almost no tradition of yesteryear seems like they were founded on firm grounds. Alas, to build anew involves pairing previously contradictory items to bring shock to the system, in hopes that this experimentation will yield something that can be held onto. Perhaps the millennial generation will not find a single yield from the process to be satisfactory, but rather what defines them is this journey of innovation instead. Of course, innovation is not new (*chuckle*), but it is the particular class of millennial innovation, which is not often first-order innovation such as inventing the wheel itself, but rather innovation of the second or third order, such as using old wheels as legs of a cafe table.

Double bass love

Ever since a good friend and amateur bassist introduced me to the sound of the double bass last year, I’ve simply been drawn to it. Its complex and storied sound feels aged like fine wine. In particular, I appreciate jazzy solos where the instrument is plucked and tapped rather than played using a bow as in more classical pieces. In these pieces, the double bass itself feels as if it has a soul that is being expressed by the musician’s masterful interpretation. I only wish I could find more solos online. I wish to share some of my double bass love. Solos by the master, Stanley Clarke, were my first exposure, and only seem to get better with each time that I listen to them. This piece by Israeli bassist, Adam Ben Ezra, is lighthearted and catchy.

Solange is art

It has taken me long enough, but I finally listened to Solange’s music. I regret that my subconscious mind unfairly dismissed her all these years as a lesser-known version of Beyonce. Solange is art. I became curious when her ‘Cranes in the Sky’ won a Grammy in for RnB this year. To be honest, I’d never really understood what constitutes RnB and when I listened to ‘Cranes in the Sky’ for the first time, I couldn’t understand its appeal nor could I appreciate the music video. However, going back to Solange’s works from a few years prior, suddenly her art clicked for me: Lovers in a Parking Lot (2013) really did it for me. I really like the song’s apparent use of rhythmic beats and finally understood the meaning of RnB. Moreover, her funky and eclectic music video really resonates with me. In contrast to Beyonce’s artfully polished music videos, I find Solange’s music videos to be a more authentic expression. After going through her earlier works and gaining a better understanding her artistic style, I’ve also come to appreciate her recent works such as ‘Cranes in the Sky’. Her authenticity and individuality are what make her art.

Is love another form of addiction?

Scrolling through my newsfeed, I caught a glimpse of a video of a commentator commenting on what it means to be a millennial. It seems there is an obsession with defining this generation. That’s probably a topic for another post.

What caught my attention is when the commentator explained that when we receive notifications of text messages and ‘likes’ etc. accorded by the age of social media, these notifications trigger the production of dopamine in our brains, which is a highly addictive pleasure-inducing chemical.  He claims that that is the same chemical that is produced in one’s brain when one takes drugs and alcohol. So, his logic is that just as humans are conditioned to become addicted to alcohol and drugs because of the pleasure-inducing chemicals that are produced during the intake of which, millennials are addicted to instant gratification because of the dopamine that is produced when one is instantly notified of a ‘like’ on a posting on social media.

Taking these claims at face value, I wonder if by his logic, love is also another form of addiction. Certainly, it is pleasurable when we receive notes of endearment and appreciation from a significant other. After starting such a relationship, one begins to expect such romantic gestures from their loved one and wants more and more of such gestures from their loved one, until one decides to drown oneself in such a love by committing oneself to a lifelong bond. Perhaps true love is mutual addiction?

Is addiction always bad? Addiction seems to suggest that one is doing something outside of one’s control. An addicted person is one who has lost his/her agency as he/she cannot express his/her free will. As humans, we seem to value agency as a characteristic that puts us above other living things. Therefore, addiction is naturally regarded as ‘bad’ by robbing a person of his/her agency. If we accept this premise, and accept that love is a form of addiction, does that mean that love is also ‘bad’? Or, accepting that love is a form of addiction, are there forms of addiction that are not inherently ‘bad’? If so, what is that makes some forms of addiction not inherently ‘bad’ and others intuitively appalling?

Happiness is…

Happiness can be many things or one particular thing. Happiness is different at different times. Happiness can be different for different people.

Yesterday, I felt that happiness is being in the company of those that care about you and truly get you. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world when you say something potentially vague and those in your company catch your point completely, including all of the critical subtleties.

senseless musing — Happy New Year

How can one be both an impartial judge and an active participant?  Does objectivity (as much as it is possible) require that one remove oneself to an ivory tower?  If one is no longer an active participant, how does one make up for the loss of that perspective while aiming to make fair judgments?  What if underlying conditions in which one is an impartial judge vs. an active participant are so different that they are actually two different worlds.  Thus, what may be valid for one world may not necessarily be valid or cogent for the other.  If so, then it seems fruitless for one to attempt to become an impartial observer of human events by disengaging oneself.