Reflections

I was talking to my best friend on Skype this morning, and our conversation took a rather philosophical turn. I find it interesting, so I’m going to share it with you guys.

On New Years, I usually take time to look back at the year before and find out how much I have progressed in life, how far I’ve gone, the things I’ve achieved, and how I’ve developed in that one year. So far, my reflections have been positive. These past years I have grown, both through self-development and external achievements. However, as I was talking to my friend about this, I understood that I’ve always had the fear of looking back and realizing that I am still in the same place that I was in last year. Or worse: that I am going backwards.

Upon discussing about this, we came to a good, satisfactory conclusion. We agreed that our reflections should not be based on our external achievements, such as work, academics, or money. Instead, we should look more on personal self-development, our relationships with loved ones, spirituality (if you are religious/spiritual), and other little things that matter. It doesn’t matter much if we don’t get into the school we want to, if we fail in our businesses, if we lose our jobs, as long as we have things to be grateful about. For example, it is much better to gain trustworthy friends than to meet important people. It is much better to have a low-paying but satisfactory jobs than to have a lot of money but no happiness.

I am not saying that worldly things do not matter. I myself love being able to buy the things I want and to travel wherever I want. However, it is important to see that they are only temporary, and that the truly great things in life are free, as the famous saying goes.

However, there will be times where we do not advance in our personal development and relationships. There will be times where we seem to move backwards, where we became less happy and less connected to our loved ones than before. This is not a good thing, but it is not a cause for distress. Rather, it just shows that things need to change. Maybe we need to change. Think about it as a blessing, as a warning that we could have been better. Without it, we would have stayed in the same place again because we made no move to improve.

On a side note, please check out a travel blog I made with my sister and friend: https://mypassengerdiaries.wordpress.com

Finally, I’d like to say that it doesn’t matter if we fail. When looking back we realized that we have fallen so low, we needn’t worry, because as long as we have a future, things will get better as long as we have the will to work for it.

No Boundaries

Okay, so I watched the movie “Theory of Everything” yesterday and I have to say that this was one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. What struck me most about it is the words “no boundaries” Hawking said during a speech. And I came to think that maybe it’s true.

Of course, that’s not to say that we can control everything in our lives. There are greater powers outside of ourselves, or at least I believe so. Sometimes things just spiral out of control, and there is nothing we can do about it. Hawking’s life is a good example. However, despite whatever misfortunes life might be giving us, we are still able to do something. We are still able to shine, just like he did.

I have been going through a lot of thinking lately. I am uncertain about my future, and it scares me. However, I came to the conclusion that there is no use worrying. Sometimes there are things we aren’t able to control. Sometimes we just have to see where life goes, and do our best. Whatever we’re going through, I believe that there will always be little blessings, things to be grateful about. There are always some help out there, be it from family, friends, even complete strangers. And when no one is out there to lend us a hand, we might just find a little source of strength inside us that will push us through.

Back to the “no boundaries” subject. There are limits to us, there is no doubt about that. Maybe we are financially limited. Maybe we are not as healthy as we would like to be. Maybe we don’t have the opportunities that we deserve. Maybe we are alone, without people to back us up. However, we should not focus on our limitations, but on what we have instead. Maybe we are smart or talented. Maybe we are creative. Maybe we have good friends or good family. There is always something that makes us shine, that makes us special, and when we use it to our advantage, we will find that there is no boundaries that can hold us back.

Maybe this sounds a bit unrealistic or too optimistic, but this is just how I feel.

How Far Have We Gone?

Firstly, sorry for the very late update! I know I always say I will be more active, but life has been very busy, especially since my mom and sister came to visit us in the United States. It was fun, but I barely have time to do anything :D

Okay, so to get on with the writing. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of news concerning racism, discrimination, and violence. Murders, kidnappings, rapes, shootings, and all other sorts of violent things seem to happen every day. Conversations start to turn dark as we discuss about the events that had happened lately. However, what concerns me the most is how people seem to have given up on society at large, because they are so discouraged by the things they see and hear. Some people live in contempt, hate, even fear.

However, I want to state that even though we might be surrounded by a lot of ugly things, we still have reason to hope. I was learning about US history last semester, and I found that compared to what it was a few decades ago, the US we live in seem like a very good place. Just compare the past to now. Racism still exists nowadays, but compared to back then, we have come so far. Discrimination still exists. Violence does too. However, let us not lose hope. If we look at what the world seemed a few hundred years, even a few decades ago, it might seem like a horrible place without any hope of ever becoming better. Yet we have grown so much since then. That is why we should not give up, and always try to make the world a better place. Of course it’s hard, and it might seem impossible, but if we look at history, it shows that humans can change, as long as people fight for it.

Anne Frank

Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within, and that you will still find happiness.

-Anne Frank

It is hard to believe that those words were written by a 14-year-old girl. I think it is true that suffering makes people wise, for when I read her diary, I cried a few times from how relatable and how insightful they are. It’s also almost miraculous for a person who had been stuck in the same rooms for over a year to be optimistic, to still believe that good things will come.

I personally believe that our world is how we make it to be. When we expect good things, when we see it with positiveness, we will have no choice but to see good things as well. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes outside influences are too much to bear. Sometimes we try to be positive, but the things we go through everyday simply crush us. But that is not the end. Like Anne wrote, happiness in your own heart can only be veiled. Maybe things would not go as you planned, but there would always be things you could count on, things you could be grateful of.

Things did not end well with Anne. She was found out and taken to a concentration camp. However, I like to think that she made it through strongly. After all, her writings shows us how strong she is.

This is just my ramblings, because the book makes me think and feel a lot. It’s hard to believe that it’s based on reality. Sometimes humans are so cruel, but her writings tells us that amidst all the horrible things there were always good to be found. And that’s very reassuring.

Difficult stuff.

I know. Horrible title. Don’t hesitate to suggest a new one ;)

For my history class, I had to read a novel called Out of this Furnace by Thomas Bell, which told the story and lifestyle of an immigrant laborer in Industrial America. I find the story very interesting, but the thing I’m going to write about today is a conversation that struck me as very true.

In the story, a workman called Kracha was talking to his friend, who was another worker. He complained about the bosses who kept cutting wages and making them do difficult work, but then his friend said that they couldn’t blame them, because if they were in the bosses’ place, they would probably do the same.

This seemed very true to me. We tend to complain about other people, but if we were in their shoes, would we do the same? We think that we are better than most, but are we? Maybe, if we were given the choice to get whatever we want by sacrificing the wellbeing of others, we would do it. After all, we do not know them.

I don’t really know what to think about this. Maybe I am no better than the people I hate most. Maybe if I were in their position, I would turn out exactly the same. Who knows?

I think this teaches me not to judge others too quickly. I am very limited, and I do not know what is going on in other people’s lives, and therefore I have no say in anything. There seems to me to be much more about this subject, but I haven’t dug deep enough.

This is just my ramblings for today. Feel free to share your thoughts!

Is love a bad thing?

Yesterday, as I was doing my late-night tumbling, I came across a picture that was heartbreaking.

 Leonard Matlovich gay vietnam veteran medal for killing two men discharge for loving one don't ask don't tell

Doesn’t it show just how messed up our world is, for us to understand hate more than we understand love? After all, we awarded a man who killed two others, but when he admitted to love another man, he was let go. 

Why is it that a lot of us understand the reasons behind wars but we cannot accept the fact that one man might love another? I don’t know how to think about this, but strange as it might sound, we put more importance on other things other than love.

Is it so hard to understand that one man loves another? He is not trying to hurt anyone. We claim that it is abnormal, that it is a sin, and that it is not what God intends for us. But why do we care about that? Loving someone is an act of love, not of hate. If there is one thing God intends for us, it is for us to love one another. That man is not trying to hurt anybody by his sexuality. When does killing someone become more respectful than loving? 

I have to admit that I had been one of those people that see homosexuality as a sin, because the Bible says so. But lately my mind has changed. I had always lived in a conservative surrounding, and I have never opened my eyes about these issues. I have always blindly followed what my teachers and the priests told me. But living here in the US has changed the way I see things. It is so strange how we, as Christians, are all right with wars and executions (even though we are always taught to forgive), but we cannot tolerate two men, or two women, who love each other. Doesn’t the Bible teach us about love? If God’s teaching could be summed up in one word, it would be “love”. But why is it that we try to stop people from loving each other, just because it is not “normal”?

I am not saying that Christianity is bad. I am not saying that from now on I am going to stop believing in God. I’m just trying to sort out my priorities here. Should I care how people love each other? No. If anything, it teaches people to be kinder, to be more caring and loving. And I think it is far more important than judging others.

Again, I’m sorry for the inactivity. Sometimes I sit down and try to write, only to realize that I don’t have any topics to write about. So from now on, I am going to write short stories and poems too, just to keep writing. :)

Silence

“We are so accustomed to noise, that we are not able to appreciate silence anymore.” Those are the words a very wise old man told me in Lake Shrine, a very peaceful mediation area in Pacific Palisades, just an hour away from the heart of LA.

I agree completely. Every day we are exposed to noise, from conversations, the drones of cars, the ringing of phones. We don’t know it, but we never truly experience silence, and for that reason we have missed a lot of things.

We tend to dismiss silence, branding it as useless, strange, and boring. We look at people who are quiet and think that they are odd. When we are alone in our home, we turn on the TV so that we can hear voices. What we forget is that sometimes we need silence, for it has the power to make us realize a lot of things that are hidden from us.

I have to say that silence actually speaks a lot, teaching us about ourselves. Have you ever been somewhere so quiet, with no sound to be heard, and felt like the silence is very loud? I have, and I can say that it allows you to think. Rather than believing that silence is useless and boring, I’d like to say that it actually speaks to us, telling us about ourselves and the world, making us think more than we are able to when we are surrounded by noise. Through silence I discover parts of myself I have never known before, I find new ideas that have been buried for so long, and most importantly, tells me what is important and what is not. A few hours of silence can help us sort out our problems, because most of our worries are actually not that important anyway.

Of course, I’m not saying that noise is bad, and that we should all stop talking. I like good, interesting conversations more than anything, but sometimes we need a break from all that. Sometimes we need quiet. Sometimes we need a time to think. Sometimes we need to let our worldly problems go and just appreciate life. :)

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Here are some pictures from Lake Shrine. It’s a truly wonderful place. We all know that LA is a bustling, busy city with plenty of stress, and this little sanctuary is a treasure.

 

Phones

I went to Long Beach yesterday, and while at the pier, I realized that everyone, me included, was looking at the beautiful scenery through their phones, taking pictures and videos. It made a very strange impression, and I wonder if this has become the new normal.

Isn’t it weird that we look at beautiful things through lenses? Why can’t we be satisfied with looking at it with our own eyes? While we are trying so hard to capture the moment and make it last forever, we are missing out on the things we could have experienced if only we put our phones down and enjoy ourselves.

I remember the time I was going hiking in Henninger Flats. There were no outlets there and my phone died within hours of getting there. I was very disappointed at first, for I wasn’t able to take pictures to send to my family and friends. However, I also realized that it was actually better. I could focus on the things around me, I could have lots of fun with my friends without the phone distracting me, and best of all, I could see everything as they truly are, without having to pull out my phone whenever I see something beautiful. What I love most was looking down at the city below us in the middle of the night, watching the city lights blinking like stars while overhead, the real stars were spread out across the night sky. It felt magical.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if I had my phone at that time, will I lose the moment? Will I see the things I noticed that night, or will I just be spending half of my time taking photographs?

Phones have become such a huge part of our lives, and I agree that they are very important. However, there are things that it can never capture. Taking pictures and looking at them afterwards is a very different experience from observing things and letting it sit in your memory. Talking to someone face to face is much more intimate than telephoning or texting. The sad thing is that we are getting more and more dependent on our phones. Even when we are surrounded by our friends, we still check our phones often. Is that natural? I don’t think so.

From now on I am going to limit my phone use. I won’t be bringing my charger everywhere with me anymore. I’ll save battery power to get home by not using it for unnecessary things. And I am also going to reduce the amount of data I get in a month, from 2 gb to 600 mb. I think baby steps to overcoming this phone addiction would be a nice change. :D

There goes my rants, now have some pretty pictures I took yesterday. Don’t worry, I didn’t spend all my time taking pictures.

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Poverty

Hi, first of all I would like to apologize for being so inactive for so long. School turns out to be time-consuming after all, but now summer vacation has started, and although I am still going to take summer classes, I hope I can write more.

 

The topic I’m going to write about today is that of poverty. A lot of people see poverty with pity, disgust, even resentment. Some even consider it to be a sin. But is it really a sin? After all, some people cannot help but be poor. What if they are born in a poor family? Is their mere existence a sin? Besides, as long as they do not harm anyone, then that should be okay, right?

However, I came to understand that poverty is sin, but it is not the sin of a single person, but that of the whole society. As we all know, we live in a world where money is worth more than anything else, and where the rich get their wealth from the less fortunate. And it just goes on: the rich gets richer and more powerful, while the poor’s struggles become even more difficult. Therefore we can conclude that poverty is really a sin, not that of the poor, because most of them can do nothing to get out of the dark pit they’re thrown in, but a sin of the rich, because they can do something but never do. It is especially a sin of those who conquer the world, who turn a blind eye on the suffering of others, and who exploit them instead of helping them, all for the sake of themselves. 

As we all know, most crimes stem from poverty. People will do what they can to survive, even if they have to kill. Moreover, poverty also creates jealousy, envy, resentment, and other negative feelings that would later turn into actions. And this makes me think: if we address poverty, if we tackle them and try to make society more prosperous, would the world be a better place? After all, if everyone is well-clothed, well-fed, and sheltered, there would be less crimes, for people won’t be pushed to doing things they are not proud of just to survive.

I read an article about countering homelessness which really angered me. However, it also shows our mistakes in the way we perceive poverty. Instead of seeing it as a sin of us all, we tend to blame it on the poor. But do they have a voice? No. And that is why we have to be more compassionate, more helpful, and try our best to help, no matter how small the action might be.