ad astra per alia porci


thinking too much
May 26, 2008, 1:14 pm
Filed under: diary | Tags: , ,

240508

“People like us will never be killed by anything. We can survive anything. But not ourselves. The only people who can kill us are ourselves; we will kill ourselves thinking too much. It is tragic, you know.”

D said that when S, D and I had lunch at Thomson Road. Our conversation revolved around finding purpose in our lives and the dynamics of relationships, before it turned to how people from our former secondary school class (we are former classmates) are similar in the sense that our intense need to ponder and think predisposes us to melancholy, unhappiness and a general inability to connect with others except for those within our class and people who are largely similar in this respect.

D talked about how his friends from Medicine never talked about issues as deeply and intellectually as we do when we converse. I pointed out that the people in his faculty are probably some of the smartest people around. He pointed out that they are not intellectual per se; they had textbook smarts but not lively intelligence.

I can see where D is coming from, and I tend to agree with him, judging from my experiences. The people that I know and talk to are generally disinterested in talking deeply about heavier issues. Most conversations were mostly social banter, revolving around the mundane and unimportant. Personally I seek a deeper connection with the friends I have outside of my secondary school friends, but it is hard to bring up serious conversational topics in a social setting like a school day lunch with 19 year old girls. And I might just scare people off too.

D was quite surprised when I told him that I find the same problem in law school too. D had the impression that law students are the ones that are deeper and genuinely smart, with strong views and propensities to engage the hard questions. I told him that from my experience this is not so. I was quick to state that my experience might be wrong, given my small circle of friends and general unsociability. My general experience is that law people tend to be too caught up with the mundane, like appearances, dressing up, money, false courtesy, pointless cheerfulness and having fair-weather friends.

What I see is rigidity as opposed to fluidity. A preoccupation with the surface as opposed to the deep implications and significance of external circumstances. An unhealthy preoccupation with practicality as opposed to intellectual honesty and a desire to understand something for the sake of it and not the dollars in the wallet at the end of the day. It has always been my belief and desire to study for the sake of knowing more and understanding better the entire corpus of human knowledge, but the way I view some students do it at my school, it breaks my heart at times. And this translates to the kind of conversations and connections that I get.

S chipped in and said that he had much reservations about being “mainstream”. He found being sociable equivalent to bringing himself down and diluting his individuality, because it involve being like others and imbibing their values and their customs and ways. He never saw himself as an “ordinary” person in that he, like us, is never able to fit properly and click well with others.

Is this elitism at work? Is this about being self-indulgent and harbouring delusions of grandeur about our uniqueness? The so-called GEP, holier than thou attitude? I don’t feel that way; rather I see it as an acknowledgment of our common difference from others. I doubt that this difference is a good one to have, and hence all notions of elitism is blown out of the water.

Why is it bad? Well, for one, we feel isolated. We just don’t click well with others. This is different from being socially adept. We can still communicate properly and interact and work with others, but this is where it ends. There always remain a invisible and impenetrable barrier between ourselves and others. We can’t reach the level of intimacy we want with others, other than amongst ourselves.

And much of happiness in life is achieved through intimate relationships and genuine attachment. The sense of isolation is pretty much unbearable at time, for me at least, and it is usually the source of a degree of anxiety, desperation and disappointment. Our minds are hermetically sealed minds. We are doomed to be alone.

I asked S how he can square this need to be true to one’s differences with his desire to work in public relations and marketing, where contacts and sociability are everything. S didn’t pretend to know. He found that much of socialising is pretty empty and to force himself to make friends and act friendly would be exactly that: a forced action. Artificial, fake, contrived. Not being sincere to one’ own inclinations. This is almost Holden Caulfield-ish. Phony.

This is when D quipped that while people like us will never find ourselves destroyed by external circumstances, we will probably destroy ourselves because of our propensity to think and ponder the validity of our actions and our lives. We are our own worst enemies, to use the hackneyed and cliched phrase.

I think this is true. Introverts like us tend to find motivation from within, without much care for public opinion (which inadvertently affects our sociability and the perception others have of us). More “normal” people find motivation from external circumstances. Hence external difficulties, especially social barriers, seldom faze us; we can press on through much difficulties and yet maintain our headstrong demeanour and composure.

However I think D, S and I are introverts with a twist: we think and ponder a lot about every step we take in life. We think about a particular line of speech we took with particular friend, we think about whether a relationship with a girl is appropriate and what exactly we want from it. We ponder the implications of every action we take. We search for meaning as oppose to cursory glances at the surface.

Therein lies our Achilles heels. Thinking too much. It is not merely analysis paralysis, it runs deeper than that. Melancholia, a sense of dissatisfaction with life and relationships and maybe even cynicism follow. We have wills as hard as steel and we probably will never be fazed by much things in life, but we are in conflict with ourselves.

Maybe that explains my tendency to flit towards suicidal thoughts. I enjoy doing things that bring me to the edge. The will to death at work? I also hope to sacrifice myself for a greater purpose, a concrete but inhuman goal. Instead of devoting myself to the benefit of other humans, I prefer to pursue intangible, abstract goals. This probably stems from my periodic misanthropic thinking and my general lack of faith in others, which are consequences of my inability to connect well with others.

Sad? I seriously do not know. But what I know is that I am like that and nothing can change what I am. What I need to do now is to cope and deal with it as best as I can.

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Control
May 16, 2008, 12:21 pm
Filed under: the arts | Tags: , , , ,

Control

Director: Anton Corbijn

“I’ve never meant for it to grow like this. I have no control anymore.”

Ian Curtis was only 23 when he took his own life. That is just one year older than me. Having listened to Joy Division before this movie was made and released, I always wondered what drove rock stars like Ian Curtis and his more prominent counterpart Kurt Cobain to kill themselves just when their popularity and achievement peaked. This movie shed some light on this enigma.

Control is above average aesthetically speaking. Filming the movie in monochrome enhanced the sense of brooding and simmering depression and tension below Curtis’s veneer and complements the overall moody tone of the movie. Curtis was well-played by an excellent Sam Riley, whose performance during the acted concert performances scattered throughout the movie was polished and felt like the real deal. The lack of public crowds whenever public settings like the streets are portrayed in the film accentuates the loneliness and emotional claustrophobia that Curtis endured.

What moved me most was the overall treatment of the subject and my interpretation of it. While Corbijn is a fan and this translated to probably a overly sympathetic portrayal of the tragic frontman, I remain more ambivalent about whether Curtis is truly a tragic figure. He was at the height of this career, and he had a loving wife, but he chose to engage in an illicit relationship with another woman. But on the other hand, his struggle with epilepsy and the outpouring of nihilistic emotions which he had to submerge his entire psyche in in order to pen such powerful songs as “She’s Lost Control” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” earns much sympathy. Perhaps this is why he remains an enigmatic figure. One can never hope to decipher fully what ran through Curtis’ mind as he slipped on the noose and hanged himself.

In a sense Curtis is a romantic figure to which many aspire to emulate. Doesn’t it make sense to bow out when one is at the top? Everything that comes after one’s magnum opus will just seem like an anticlimax and letdown. Contribute what one has to the world, and when the work of one’s life is done, make a graceful exit and seal one’s immortality. Personally I hope to achieve that. I want to find my purpose, fulfill it, and end things at the peak.