Slower, Harder, Better!

My mind had started to be plagued with the idea of slow living right after I read the first couple of pages of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. I was introduced to the idea of living in the moment by that book which is really ironic due to the fact that I have practically been brought up in Buddhism (Cambodia is a Buddhist country), yet I have never really known that mindfulness was one of the core teachings of Buddha. Even as a (closeted) atheist, I do appreciate a lot of Buddha’s teachings on the way of life. Continue reading Slower, Harder, Better!

Born Perfect?

Lady’s Gaga hit song “Born This Way” has surely won the hearts of many struggling audiences in coming to terms with themselves, but should we really trust it entirely?

There has always been this question floating around when you contemplate about yourself, your strengths and your flaws. The question is “should I be who I am born to be? Or should I strive to be better?

If you decide to go on the first path, self-development is a no-no for you. You would only do what you think is best and you will have to accept whatever flaws you have. If you were born biased, then you will have to be biased for the rest of your life, and be proud of it – a proud bias (how cringe-worthy).

Conversely, if you decide to stick to the second path, you’re all about self-development. If your guts told you to pick that cute grey shirt out from the store, you have ten more voices telling you that you shouldn’t because your sense of fashion is not that good and that it needs improvement. Better listen to your friend who has a higher sense of fashion and improve yourself first.

I have only picked out the worst of those two cases to showcase just how bad it can be sticking to only one end of the spectrum.

My take on this is that there are two types of “stuff” that makes you who you are, namely your preference and your character.

Your preference is what you prefer. It’s your own style, and it’s unique. Your preference includes your favorite color, your favorite book/movie genre, your favorite hairstyle, your favorite types of clothes, your favorite hobbies. It’s your own taste. When it comes to preference, just follow your guts. I mean… loving the color orange is not better than loving the color grey. They are just different. That’s all. You were born to have those preferences, so be proud of them. Though don’t go around telling people which to choose because they also have their own rights to preferences.

Now secondly, your character is your habits, your personality, your traits, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. These are what you should keep a look out for improvements. You were not born to be lazy, unproductive, chronically late, dishonest, or cowardice. You learn those traits and that means you can unlearn them. Your characters need refinement all the time, whether it be learning from somebody else, from a movie, from a book, or from self-reflection. By all means, change and improve them. Do not ever use “I was born this way” as an excuse for a flawed character.

So the conclusion is that you shall be proud of the preferences you were born with, and at the same time strive to be a better person with more refined characters.

iZombie Apocalypse: the Symptoms

What comes to your mind when you read the title and adding it to a Phnom Penh context? A freshly wounded zombie hunting for a yummy brain like the ones from RUN while holding an iPhone? Well, the zombies I am going to discuss here today will be a little bit different. They are the so-called iZombies. They don’t need your brain and don’t go around saying unintelligible words like Gah! Or Aaah! Well, they are just more human.

My friend, NyRo, once said, “y’all are zombies!” when we met over for a round of ice cream. I turned away from my phone screen (like our two other friends who turned away from their computer, and phone screens respectively) and stared dumbly at him. We didn’t have anything smart to counter, because what he said really hit the nails on our heads! Internet users in Cambodia reached 2.136.625 in 2012, a bloom of 548% from the past years! The same study found that there were 1,100 people joining Facebook everyday! There were at least 700,000 social media users back in 2012. The trend seems to be progressing, and it’s expected that the number has rose a whole lot from last year.

With the bloom of mobile devices available, and more internet connections, AN EPIDEMIC HAS BROKEN OUT! Go to any internet cafés here in Phnom Penh, and you’ll see teenagers and young adults alike staring fixedly on the screen of their devices. You go in a class, and rest assured that there’s at least one person (who is usually situated at the back of the class) staring at their phone (and is likely to be checking Facebook). You go in a restaurant and you see a family sitting together, all looking at their separate devices; kids playing games, the teens updating their Facebook status, and parents following the so-called “Facebook news”! These people are the zombies I am talking about! If you are reading this, then it is likely that you are infected already! I know I am! If you are not sure, here are the symptoms of an “izombie”:

Oh! I have to wait for class to start; better update my status!
Oh! You’re driving? Cool, let me sit at the back and destroy these candies.
Wow! Time to sleep? Let me look at his/her profile just one last time. (besides, sleep is for the weak.)
I just passed by Angkor Hotel! Let’s check in! (You don’t want to waste any opportunity, do you?)
We’re going on a trip tomorrow? Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to take all the photos. (and share them on social media websites later on,duh)
I’ll have a lemon juice, please. Thanks, and what’s your wifi password?

Sounds familiar enough? If your answer is yes, read on. If your answer is no, you’re lying; admit it, it was a yes! Don’t be sad though, most people are the same. We are not fools, we know how helpful technology is and how it has changed our (social) life for the better. Those games, blogs, Facebook feeds have given us so much information and entertainment. I can go full on with an essay on all the advantages of technology, but I am sure we all agree on the ground that we need technology (and our devices). However, when it comes to a point when you literally can’t stand over being away from your phone, or checking your news feed/playing your game (cough-cough Hayday) even when you are on the toilet, then it’s high time for an intervention.

If you are still not convinced that too much staring-at-your-devices is harmful, here are some more disadvantages of doing so (I am going to cut over all the health crap, because let’s face it, we don’t give a lick about it):

  1. facebookYou miss out on your social interaction: having a social media account to keep up on current events and your friends’ activities from afar is alright, but clutching your phone and looking at it in the presence of friends is a no-no. A lot of people prefer to chat with their old friends through Facebook even when they have people in front of them in flesh! Here are all the opportunities to make REAL social interactions, and possibly more friends, and you lose it over your phone. All these amazing people and stories behind them ready to be unveiled and you miss it because you are too busy being fixated by your best friend’s photo of a Chattime drink.
  2. Are you masking? Sometimes, you don’t really need to check your news feed, or play your game, you want to mingle with the real folks in front of you. However, they look too intimidating and unfriendly; for the fear of rejection, you pretend you have some amazing things happening inside your phone! Fear of rejection is only one of the causes.
    doge Some people, however, like to show off their devices. Their Hayday imaginary cows could have waited, but no, they had to dive in and get it all organized, so that other people would know they had enough money to afford an Ipad; or some just want to look cool holding an expensive device. Honey, if you need a lifeless disposable 250cm by 190cm box of plastic that squeaks silly noises to feel better about yourself, then you have some serious self-esteem issues! Masking all these deep psychological issues aren’t going to make them go away, they will still be there! You are focusing your attention on hiding the wound rather than healing the wound!
  3. YOU MISS THE MOMENT: Thinh Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk, said happiness comes from living in the moment.

    “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (21)”
    Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

    You might be there thinking like: he’s a monk, his words ain’t got no scientific proofs! Well, if thousands of devoted Buddhists isn’t a good enough proof, let’s take a look at this. A Harvard doctoral student, Matt Killingsworth, through an app called Track Your Happiness has gathered scientific information for his research on happiness. The result is his breakthrough PhD paper concerning happiness and living in the moment. Basically, he concludes that you live happiest when you focus on the moment. If you are interested in this topic, Killingsworth’s Ted Talk may very well be the starting point of your quest! So to sum it up, if you are not living in the moment (but are rather concerned about what your friend is having for lunch) then you are being less happy than you might have been in the moment.

You might have noticed that every situations I mentioned happens when you are supposed to be doing something, but you hold your phone instead. You see, I am not opposed to using your phone when you have free time on your hands, but if it dominates every single minute of your life, then you, my friend, is already infected. Now go away before I drive an axe through your head.

No, I’m just kidding (of course, I am). If you have just realized you are an iZombie, and you want to be disinfected, then stay tuned for our next post: iZombie Apocalypse: the Cure.