thoughts, dreams, and visions

by john lok

i write about everything. the author is john lok.

on being

A close up of river sediment in cross section. Age: 1.8 Ma. Relates how? Read on…

The past few weeks I have been seeing extreme weather reports all over the world. It seems that we are helpless against mother nature and her whims. There are the fires in Europe, Hurricanes and Typhoons all around the world. We are able now to see the bigger picture of what is happening around the world. And we are also seeing first hand the impacts of more extreme weather.

On top of this, there are also human created problems. Waste, poverty, economic and monetary policies and pollution to name a few. Recently there was an article on Greenpeace about Plastic Particles in Tap Water (This one is quite scary. I tell people to drink tap water and use recyclable water bottles. The answer is to drink filtered tap water with a reverse osmosis filter).

There are trash islands floating around in the ocean. Palm Oil Spills. It seems that we are unable to escape the byproducts of our civilisation. But yet we are addicted the the very things that will destroy us. Palm oil is used in a lot of foods we eat daily.

Perhaps we are all addicts. We may be addicted to different things, but we all need something to fill the void that inevitably appears in our minds. We invented boredom. Some people play sports. Other people read, or garden. Some people are addicted to recognition and fame. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that we were created this way.

It seems that there are a mountain of problems to deal with. How is it possible to cope? I try to limit my news intake. The study of the media has taught me to be careful of what the media says.

It seems that all the problems are related, similar to a huge ball of wires you keep under the table. It also seems that there are a hundred monkeys trying to untangle it at the same time.

It seems that everything is out of control, as if somebody decided that our lives would be a dark satire. We are the most creatively irrational species.

But this whole world out there was merely the picture I got from reading news. In reality, I am in a safe and quiet room in a safe neighborhood. I play music and go surfing.

There seem to be two worlds. The one we create with words, and the one that isn’t.

I thought about what I was doing exactly yesterday.

The only truthful answer is that I’m being human. That type of answer usually gives me puzzled looks, so I invent some more socially acceptable answer. But what (the hell) are we really doing? Can I actually control my life? Is there ultimately anything that will make a difference? (OOOoooh!)

There are things that we can’t control. Certain things are beyond control of anyone. Like when they want to eat. Or when they are hungry. Or when they are tired. Or when they feel the urge to mate. Or even what they think. Have you ever thought to yourself…”I’m going to think about thinking later”?

I think I was concerned at some point in my life whether the actions I did made a difference or not. Or whether they were important. I now believe that it is impossible to judge whether one is “making a difference” or whether something “matters” – and if anyone else tells you different, they are either lying or earnestly ignorant. I even thought about “meaning” for a long time.

Now of course, this may be an unpopular opinion. I believe I had some conversations with some people about this. It seems that to look at the underlying structures that power the fantasy around us is considered impolite. The fantasy has become real. Or is it a nightmare?

I think that there are some things that do matter. And the fact is, we all need something to think matters in order to live a somewhat sane life. Nihilism is a pretty extreme path to take. But how is it possible for the brain to comprehend two conflicting truths? How to reconcile a valueless, uncaring world with the fragile human ego who is obsessed with things like “value”, “meaning”, “truth” and “purpose”?

Many great people have tried before us. Some were lonely people who lived in cottages in the mountain (and stayed unmarried (not that they didn’t try!!)). Others were people who did the same thing every day (it was said that people could set their clocks by their schedule!). The thing is, thinking about these things is extremely impractical. To even think about emotions is impractical. Discipline, moving forward and doing things is what is considered “valuable”.

There is something called “cognitive dissonance” which is basically when the real world contradicts your expectations and the feeling that results from it. There are also ways in which the brain tricks itself into not thinking about such things, or somehow finding a way to make our internal “story” work.

We have somehow created a imagined world full of wonderful things like economies, health insurance, zoning laws, governments and corporations. Is this some type of rebellion against nothingness?

Some people say that we should find some type of goal to work towards. I personally think that this is very practical advice. Doing stuff definitely keeps your mind off things. I find this one very useful. This is why employment and the economy are important. Keep people working and consuming things! They won’t even notice that their time on earth is passing by! Just make sure you’re doing it of your own volition (or try your best to make it pleasant).

But what is it exactly that I personally am not thinking about? Why is it a big deal to be able to not think about things? People pay a big deal of money for experiences that help them not think about anything. Movies…TV, Drugs, Relationships, Alcohol, Possession, the list goes on…

If we are unable to control even our thoughts, and even further unable to control our bodies, then why do we even do things or even bother wasting time thinking? That’s right – you don’t. Don’t think too much.

where we are right now

NASA / JPL / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Alexis Tranchandon / Solaris © PUBLIC DOMAIN

“This image of the North polar region of Jupiter was captured by the JUNO spacecraft during Perijove 6 at an altitude of 12578.8 km on 19/05/2017…” – the image has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, but it does give us a sense of perspective. Earth would fit into one of those swirly things. Also, it’s quite beautiful.

I am lucky to have had time to reflect upon the current state of things around us. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Anthropogenic effects on the environment are increasing. Our daily actions do affect the world around us. Something like buying a bottle of water(the water used to create the bottles may be greater than the actual water in it, especially those tiny bottles that you can take a single sip from), for example, or the type of shampoo we use (see: micro-beads), or how often we drive a car (I’m quite guilty of this one!) can have a small, but cumulative effect, especially when a lot of people do these things.

Our forests and coral reefs provide us with the necessary oxygen we need to survive. However, deforestation for food and lumber, along with acidification of the ocean means that the cost of living (in terms of planetary resources) is the health of our planet, our home.

In addition to these problems, there are also the economic problems we created for ourselves. Current humans work on average, more than they have before. This creates an atmosphere of living where we are too tired and fatigued to see and even act upon what is happening on a larger scale.

It can be difficult for any person who is a human being to make changes that you can’t really see the effect of. Our whole economy was inherited from a previous age where we didn’t know what we were doing. Everything is in plastic wrapping, and we are geared up for consumption. After all, once the rubbish is in the bin, I can’t see it. It’s an SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem).

One actually must consciously act, being very careful to avoid any unnecessary waste. There are opportunities everywhere to consume products, entertainment, services. This is extremely difficult for any average person. Self-restraint is a quality we’re not known for. And, you may even say, consumption is good for the economy! We’re moving capital around. If we spend money, everyone gets richer – people do get richer, in terms of monetary terms. Lets look a bit deeper at why people think this.

Back a couple of decades, we decided to walk down the path of “growth”. Growth, it was believed, would answer our problems. If we increase the amount of resources available for everyone, then everyone would benefit. The problems then were (to name a few) of poverty, lack of security, education and low quality of life (famine, infant mortality, early death) – if you can call these things “bad”.

It was found that if everyone created products and services, and everyone consumed the products that other people created, the economy would have “grown”. It has been a success in terms of the standard of living that many people enjoy now, which would not have been possible before. Fewer people died, and they also lived longer. We also got television, entertainment, air-conditioning, vacuum cleaners..etc. etc. Whether or not these things actually made our lives “better” is another story.

It was found that if we took what was in the Earth and transformed it into products that made people’s lives “easier” (I say “easier” because it seems that the products usually end up making our lives more complicated e.g. cars – getting from point A to B faster – gave us traffic jams!) or made people “happier”, and then we purchased these products, then we could say that our economy had “grown”.

However, this “growth” has not entirely been without cost. Our “growth” has come at the cost of our environment, our societies and communities and mental and physical health. We have measured our progress in terms of “growth”. Have we really grown when we work longer hours, spend less time with family and friends and natural landscapes give way to development projects?

The system that we are in to solve our previous problems have created new problems of their own. Income inequality. Rising cost of living. Waste. Pollution. Overcrowding. Also, the system we take part in tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few.

Lack of government and family support create an atmosphere of fear which keeps people in the system, working for the “greater good” of growth, which keeps the Man in power. It is actually we who create the Man. The Man doesn’t really exist. We choose to let him exist through our actions.

We’re now here, in 2017, and the things that people want seem to be greater in quantity than ever before. We want meaning in our life. We want internet access. We want to look good. We want experiences that will change us. We want to be happy and entertained. We want a lot of stuff. All of this stuff needs to come from somewhere.

It may be entirely boring to live a life where we try to reduce our use of energy resources to a minimum. It would mean relinquishing all our desires and aspirations. It might even mean giving up our identity, which is something that our modern culture has deified. This is the generation of YOU – the hero of your story. God forbid you live a mediocre, glamourless and boring life. What would be the point of living? Major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) would be had.

It is often that I see people around me talking about the food they ate, or the places they went, or the experiences they had. I have found that it is the reflection, or thinking about the experiences, which is more valuable than the experience, as it is that which leads to wisdom. It is possible to go everywhere, and arrive at nowhere at all.

I myself have fallen into this trap of trying to find meaning in my life by pursuing “experiences”, and also consuming more resources than absolutely necessary. However, I try to live as simply as I can. Pursue activities which are not resource-intensive, for example.

I suppose the only thing we can do is we can choose the things we do, and be conscious about the effect we have on the world around us.

it leads to nowhere

judgement and some rhyming words

how could something so good
slowly turn sour

how could we have thought we understood
when everything changed in an hour

memories fade like thermal paper
kept in a wallet so long

we’ll deal with it later,
we said

in the end, it turned out all wrong.

***

i haven’t been writing very often. i always feel that my thoughts are private and the more people know me the more vulnerable i am. but perhaps this means that i am not living in true accordance to my values.

i always say “做人不要比较”, which basically means one should not compare oneself if one is to be a human being. is there any point in making oneself feel inferior when in fact everyone is different? One cannot compare but it is very tempting to do so. However, if one is to compare one should at least compare themselves to their heroes and work towards them rather than feeling content about one’s own status.

the past year i have learnt that it is very easy to judge people. but in fact it is much harder not to judge people. it is very easy to say that something is stupid or that something not to your taste is somehow inferior, but it is very hard to understand why someone does something. if one were to visualize an iceberg, which has 90% of its mass underwater, the tip of the iceberg that is visible to us if we were on the floating on the surface of the water is what we see: the behavior or action. the things we dont see are the reasons behind it, which may be infinitely complex.

that being said, it is also interesting to consider the reasons why people do things. for example, one may post a picture of oneself at an exciting place or event of themselves doing something that represents “who they are”. we should however keep in mind that these things that are shown to other people may only be a very small part of their lives. in the book “steal like an artist” by austin kleon, the author argues that one should share what one believes in and their work. what, however is the value of attention? a favorite, like or comment does no real justice to the complexity of our feelings and emotions, as if the human condition can be simplified into a click of a button. a group of my students complained to me when we went on a hike that we hadn’t taken any pictures to show their parents and friends, which got me thinking about whether we do things for the sake of the thing itself or rather, for a chance to build an image of ourselves on an online profile. i sincerely hope that it’s not for validation from peers for a feeling of self-worth, for if self-worth came from others our lives would be very miserable indeed and at the whims of the moods of others.

it is also difficult to understand oneself. this in fact may be the hardest thing to do, and perhaps is something that may never ever be achieved. i don’t know why i wrote this, but it seemed appropriate to write something in response to the shit i see everywhere (i judged!!!)

alas, it is nearly impossible not to judge unless one lived in an environment devoid of all other human life. also, we need to be able to judge in order to survive and to enjoy life. however, there are many types of judgement, and one should definitely exercise their best judgement when deciding what things to judge and what things not to…

***

why I ride my bike

I try to bike to work from home to work. and from work to home.

However this is not an easy task. For starters there are the drivers.

Bus drivers are a mixed bunch. Sometimes they swerve away to avoid you. some follow you patiently until you pass. Some try to kill you. They go so fast. It’s scary.

Some drivers are very considerate. They pass by the opposite lane. I admire this undertaking but it seems like a lot of risk.

There are also the policemen. I have seen them sitting by the road with their air conditioning on. I thought we were supposed to turn off our engines while idling. They have been amongst the fastest drivers and agressive too.

Taxi drivers seem good overall. however there’s those one or two that swerve near you to scare you. The ones that drive too fast.

On the weekends, the city folk come visit the countryside. they drive in shiny new fat cars. This is the type that honks at you for half a minute and then zooms past you. dear driver: you are not helping anyone resolve anything. why are you in such a hurry? why make your journey unpleasant for yourself by ruining someone elses?

Then there’s the locals. You know because they’re the ones on the weekday. They give a fair amount of space to you.

Today I was coming down a slope while turning. There was a bus stop to my right. A car tried to pass me right before a turn where there might have been another car passing. on the road, two thick white lines lie in the middle of the road. this means that no passing is allowed.

A car passed me. The second car came close to me (I can tell by the size of the shadow the car makes. big = close, small = far.)

I held my ground. I didn’t want anyone to pass at that point.

The car swerved near me while trying to overtake me because a car came around the corner.

The car beeped at me and I got scared. a shot of of adrenline goes into my bloodstream. my heart rate increases by 33%.

I am suddenly filled with the urge to flee. fight or flight? I choose flight.

My legs pump hard, accelerating to roughly 35km/hr.

I feel alive.

People are always rushing around. Trying to get to places as fast as they can.

We are all going to the same place in the end. Why not enjoy the scenery?

have a nice photo!

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reflections of a journey

reflections of a journey

There are so many moments. Where to start…?

I arrived early in the morning, eager to start the day. I arrived at around 8:45am. I tend to look at my watch a lot. It’s two minutes fast.

Apparently, the personalities of people fall into several different types. I tend to focus on the tasks at hand, the progress we can make, the amount of time we do it in, how long it will take. I think this is training left over from my previous studies. I flew planes before and hiked hills. I have rarely been lost.

During our stay at Tai O, which was next to the seaside (one of many, I’ve slept in the most beautiful places around Hong Kong during this journey), Dan and Yaz conducted an exercise. We first did some daily review of our trip about our mental and physical challenges during the day. Then the discussion turned to team dynamics. If there is a team involved, there is a triangle that we need to consider. The three points of the triangle are: Team, Individual (Needs) and Task.

We were each given different scenarios, such as a family vacation, a school project, our current journey. We were asked to stand at the point on which we felt about these scenarios. For example, in the case of the school project (a team project involving multiple parties), I felt that the Task was most important. After all, we need to get good grades, right??

Other people answered differently. One team member emphasised the Team (meaning the group as a whole) during the aforementioned case. Why? She said that as long as the Team was functioning properly, the Task and Individual Needs would come together naturally.

Another answered that Individual Needs were the most important. His reasoning was that individual needs must be met before any person could be a fully functioning team member.

Awareness of my own personality and strengths and the place I take in a team has helped me think about how I can best contribute to the team.

However, I seem to have skipped ahead in time. The first day we arrived we were to set up the ketch we were to sail. The winds were light and the weather was hot. I was asked to demonstrate some basic skills on rigging boats and to lead our team in rigging the boat. I had had some experience before in sailing, so it was just a matter of familiarising myself with the peculiarities of this particular boat. At this point, I think I still felt nervous about leading so many people, but I tried not to show it. I was not particularly confident, but I didn’t know why. I think I have never had much opportunity to lead people, so I never had much practice.

We set off soon after to find that the wind had died down and we had start rowing towards our destination. RT said that it would be faster rowing if we brought down the sails, but I persisted in keeping the sails up (I was skipper at this moment) until we reached the destination as the destination was close and I felt that it would be easier to bring the sails down once we had moored at the pier (near Yim Tin Tsai). I’m not sure whether it was the best choice, but I now understand we have to live with the decisions we make. I also thought about how being a leader requires you to act – not just in the sense that the leader must do things, but also that the leader must act like a leader, in terms of expression, tone of voice and conviction.

After camping at Yim Tim Tsai, we sailed in the morning towards Tung A. The winds were light. I chose to stand back a bit and let others try helming (helping is fun!), so I was the lookout instead. Lookout duty is fun, but is also tiring at the same time. Lookouts, I feel, should be changed every half hour so that they don’t fall asleep. Perhaps on longer journeys or with more experienced crew, the lookout can switch less.

Around Jin Island I took the opportunity to be skipper. Resolute (The name of the ketch we sailed on) was different to the boats I had handled before. I have sailed Lasers and Magics, both of which handled very lightly, meaning that they were responsive to small tiller movements. Resolute was a big and heavy boat, which RT (the name of the Ketch Skipper aboard with us) described as “State of the art, fifty years ago”. It had a main mast and a mizzen mast. Fully rigged, there was a genoa, a main and a mizzen sail. The boat wouldn’t win any races, but it could have done a solid five knots at force four winds with competent crew.

I wasn’t used to this configuration as I had only sailed single mast boats before, but it was an interesting challenge to manoeuvre a big and heavy boat. I would have to use small movements and try to anticipate what the boat would do. To tack I had to use full tiller, and only after three seconds would the boat start to move towards the wind. I would also have to start straightening out the tiller just a bit after the boat faced the no go zone so that we wouldn’t face away from the wind too much.

I was given a challenge, which was to helm the boat around a small island (the name of which I forgot) which was to east side of Jin Island. I was given the choice to either do a port rounding or a starboard rounding. I decided to do a port rounding (the island to the left side of boat). Each option had its advantages and disadvantages. I decided that I wanted to do a port rounding because I did it before in a small boat. I didn’t anticipate that it would take at least five tacks in a large heavy boat from the 1960s. We managed to do it, but not without coming pretty close to the island. The skipper started up the outboard just in case.

Coming into Tung A, I had the task of steering the boat into mooring position. This is hard enough in a small boat. In a big heavy boat with 12 people aboard, this was my first time that I felt so much responsibility. I have a bad habit of trying to do everything myself. I had RT on my side saying “Delegate, delegate!”. I was trying to steer the boat and control the mizzen sail at the same time. I think sometimes I have a problem of trusting people to do things. Perhaps it’s a bit of laziness, it seems like it would be faster and easier to do it myself. Reflecting on this however, I think that it’s true that it’s more difficult in the short term to delegate and trying, but easier in the long term. I think it’s a balance. To be a better leader I must train people more and believe in their potential.

We eventually landed and started to set up camp. I am not the best at sorting out logistics and cooking, so I leave it to the other team members to sort cooking out. I take charge of setting up the tarp on the boat. We eventually finish and we go and eat.

I forget now, but I think we played a game where we had different sized balls. We were asked to pass the ball around in a certain order. We tried to pass the ball around as fast as we could. We found that we got better with practice. Yaz gave us even more balls (which were differently sized), and we were given the task of passing them around as fast as we could. We found that changing the order that we passed the balls around disrupted our rhythm and we ended up passing them around slower than we did when we followed our previous random order. Even if the whole team agrees on a new way of doing things, it may be a period of time before we get used to it and improve. This shows that teams may get stuck in “old” ways of doing things, which may not be the best or most efficient, but are the most familiar to the team, which makes it most efficient for the team.

The next day we sailed to Kiu Tsui. The wind was around force three in the middle of the day, dying down to force two in the afternoon. We sailed slowly and arrived at our destination to find the weekend people on the beach. It was shocking how many people left rubbish on the beach. From a Leave No Trace perspective, Kiu Tsui is an absolute nightmare. Also people were fishing, smoking, snorkelling and disturbing wildlife on the beach. I don’t know how much longer it can survive this abuse. I hope the people change their perspectives on wildlife and nature. There was a person dangling a sea cucumber around on a fishing line taking pictures with it. That was uncomfortable to watch.

We set up camp. In the morning we were to report to the instructors by a certain time. I tried to make sure that the whole team arrived and finished on time. I found that our team were quite slow to wake up. However we finished everything on time. Dan and Yaz brought us (me and Justin) to them and talked to us. They talked to us about how we did certain things very well, but were weaker in others. They pointed out to us that we took on tasks on our own for the team when no one in the team was doing them. This is good in a way but not so good in others. The fact is, is that if we are concentrated on the small tasks, we are unable to look at the bigger picture and make decisions. As before, it is a balance that must be achieved, between doing things for the team and stepping back and looking at the larger picture and situation of any team. As leaders, we must train and delegate duties.

We did our warm up session after. Dan led a kayak paddle familiarisation and we ran around the beach pretending to be motorcycles. That was fun. I’m stealing it for my own kayak sessions. We then did our kayak capsize drills. It was scary the first time we did it. I’ve never been trapped under a boat (thankfully) and this was the first time. The conditions were heavy and windy. We learned about weather-cocking, currents and ocean conditions. We paddled to Tung Lung Chau. I was the leader and navigator and had the responsibility of getting our team to the destination on time and safely. Luckily I am not too bad with maps and time, so we got to our destination on time with a bit of luck (the currents and winds were on our side).

We set up camp. We had an excellent dinner and we were asked to do a self-review of the team. We started talking and we had a very good discussion. It seemed that the team felt like it had achieved a lot, but still had a long way to go. We talked about how the team could be more self-motivated and how we could keep team morale up. We decided that team moral and closeness was something that could not be forced, but would develop organically. We also decided that the expectations of the instructors were interfering with our abilities as we constantly felt like we were being watched and tested. To counter this we agreed to just try our best and be ourselves as much as possible. We also felt that the communication within our team could be improved. This is a very general statement – we meant communication about team choices, food, opinions from the team. We felt that if we all talked more and opened ourselves up we could develop more trust. We were in the “Norming” state of group development, but I felt that we could do with more “Storming”, which is good for the team as well as the quality of decisions we make.

In the evening we did some self review. We were to review our Facts, Feelings, Findings and Future. Facts – everyone’s facts are different. Same for Feelings, Findings and Future. My Fact was that people don’t just wake up and are ready to go. For my team, it seemed that on average it took 20 minutes for people to wake up, brush their teeth and be ready to do things. From then on I added twenty minutes to every morning we needed to do things. My feelings were that I was very task-orientated. This meant that I get quite stressed out about meeting deadlines (or more exactly, not being able to meet deadlines). I am a pessimistic person and believe that if the worst will happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m happy. I think I also need to be able to trust other people more and believe that they can do things. It is physically impossible to do everything myself. I need to develop the ability to separate large tasks into small tasks and be able to delegate the tasks to the team.

For the Future part of the review, I decided to find a style of leadership suited to me. However as Dan said, there is no one “best” leadership style, rather the ability to adapt to the situation as needed is more important.

The next night, after the incident where Antonia and Dan were hit by a king wave and injured, was a subdued one. We cooked dinner and we talked about our different personality styles. Yazid thinks I may have a Diplomatic streak, which means that I think about the feelings of others. While this is sometimes a good trait to have, if done to excess, may lead to me appear to be weak. During our solo, Dan explained to me that there are different ways of being nice to people than not saying anything just because it may offend them. You have to believe that what you are saying is right and that it will help them in the long term, even if in the short term it may cause some conflict. The thing about Diplomats is that sometimes they may hide their true feelings or keep them suppressed. Without a suitable outlet for their emotions, they may kill themselves slowly from emotional pressure. I am aware of this now and I will try to make my feelings and beliefs known more often.

My diplomatic personality was most apparent to me after the incident where our kayaks were hit by typhoon waves and we lost some property. Several spraydecks were lost and at least three large bottles were lost. The previous night Justin had said we only needed to bring one night’s worth of supplies, including water, whereas I had heard Yazid give the instruction to carry everything up to Mr. Wong’s store. Out of avoiding conflict, I agreed with Justin even when I had heard a different instruction. From that moment onwards, I have learned to trust my own judgement and be confident in voicing out my views.

When we did our Solo, I thought about how we all perceive things differently. Every person has their own personality, there are no good or bad personalities, just different takes on the same thing, which is life.

I thought about how I did not love myself fully and how for much of my life I have doubted myself. I have had trouble accepting who I am, but I realised that we can contribute most to the world after we have accepted who we are, the good, the bad. Once we know ourselves we know what direction we need to move towards. For much of my life I have judged myself by external standards such as exams, tests and grades. But the hardest “test” or stick by which you can measure yourself are your own standards.

Solo was a good and eye-opening experience for me. The next day we started our kayak journey towards the gold coast. For me the kayak journey was physically challenging. We were cold and tired and hot and sunburnt. I am happy we made the journey.

When we arrived at Gold Coast I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. In general as I mentioned before I tend to enjoy completing tasks that have been set. If my life were a series of goals I could tick off, I think it would be easier for me. The hard part then, is deciding what those tick boxes are going to be. There are also some things that can’t be “ticked off” since they are so qualitative e.g. be a good musician. Anyway, I slept well that night.

The next morning we continued our journey. Our team as very talkative at first. I think in the beginning we had a lot of spirit. As we progressed through the hike though, we started to conserve our energy as even talking expended energy, which meant we started to talk less. However there were several things that I felt that I did that helped our team complete our challenge.

I decided that Sama should lead the group. First of all I think that if a group goes hiking we should always go at the pace of the slowest hiker. Sometimes however people are affected by their placement in the group. People who had been lagging behind would suddenly become walking machines when placed at the front of the group. I think it’s to do with confidence. My main role during the entire hiking trip was to make sure we stayed together as a team (Justin, Isaac and Fion seemed to have unlimited reserves of energy, whereas I would feel tired and say that we should rest.), and make sure that we didn’t get lost.

Luckily we only walked down the wrong path once, near Sha Tin Pass. At Sha Tin pass I felt like my leg muscles could move no more. I felt like an old man. But it was because I was expending too much energy going downhill, one step at a time. My fear of falling made going downhill extra hard as I had to be tense all the time. Luckily at Shui Long Wo Johnny gave me a few tips on walking downhill, which were to relax and let yourself fall.

I am glad that I exercised good judgement during our hiking journey. At the very least, no one got seriously injured and we managed to complete our challenge. One thing I feel that I could improve on is the ability to feel the group dynamic, to understand what the team is feeling. Sama and I talked afterwards about how she could feel the team spirit, whereas I could think of nothing but our route, how long it took to get from A to B and whether we were late or not. I hope that this will come with experience.

As I look back on what we achieved, I begin to also analyze our team and the different roles that we each took in the team.

There was a moment during the final review of our journey during which we were asked to stand on a map that we drew together of our journey together. We were to stand on the part of the map which represented our proudest and happiest moment. Each person stood at a different place, for a reason (which reflected their values), and we also drew the map differently since we put different things at the forefront of our minds. For me, the trip consisted of the names different places, how far we travelled and how long it took, how much energy was spent. This was why when I was asked to draw the map, I was focused on the map being to scale and having a properly-dimensioned map of Hong Kong which we could refer to. I also put an emphasis on the route we took. Other team members, for example, Sama and Fion thought of the journey in moments of the team coming together. When we were asked to stand on our proudest moment, I stood on OBHK (Outward Bound, Hong Kong, Base), representing the final moment of our journey, the completion. Other members of Phoenix stood on specific moments in our journey where our team was challenged the most, rather than the moment at which we completed our journey.

These facts were made apparent to me when our team met for dinner after the trip. I then began to understand why the team acted in a certain way. For example, I place timeliness and the completion of tasks as the highest of priorities. As a result I woke up earlier than we planned every morning and placed pressure on myself to perform. I think this is a part of my upbringing and it sometimes places stress/pressure on myself, but I believe it is also a good trait in certain contexts. In other contexts it may not be appropriate.

During the last part of the trip, which was the walk from East Dam to West Dam, I was surprised at how slowly the team was walking. I found out later that it was not because they were tired or that their ability was low, it was because they did not want their journey to end, as they had so much fun during the journey. It was when I found this out that I realized that I have been viewing things through a very specific perspective, when there are many different perspectives. I must try to open up my mind to these different types of perspectives.

I thought today about how I view people as well. I think I have been made aware of the fact that I view people in terms of their ability to accomplish a task, rather than just viewing them as people in themselves. I feel as though I have been trained my whole life to view things in this perspective, where the accomplishment of the goal of the first priority, and peoples feelings and emotions are secondary to the goal. But now I think I understand that sometimes the task is not as important as the people and what happens in between them. The goal and the “achievement” are just abstract ideas that we put in our head so that we may have some sense of direction, but the method and manner in which the goal is completed is also important. The value of people cannot be measured solely in their ability to accomplish an arbitrary task, rather, everyone is of value and each and everybody is valuable in their own unique way.

it’s still my home

lights...

i don’t know whether it’s me or something else, or whether it’s the place, or whether it’s a manifestation of my mind. the minute the plane lands phones start beeping and people are impatient. it’s in the air. it’s contagious. whatever it is, it fills my heart with an anxious desire to check my phone, walk faster and be more impatient.

in the long corridors with the mechanical walkways, the same old ads shout back at me like touts outside an airport. buy me, buy me, buy me, they say. here’s one with a bored looking couple standing in a fancy washroom overlooking the city. they are dressed in fashionable clothes. it’s a fucking toilet brand. can shitting be glamorous? apparently so. as long as you wear fancy clothes and your toilet is on the fifty-fifth floor of a building. the world has gone insane.

everyone seems to be walking fast. what is motivating them? they walk as if the fires of hell are on their tails. to be fair, i am infected with the same virus. the eat faster, walk faster, make money faster virus. i feel as if it rots my soul. i run down the corridor proclaiming loudly “i’m walking faster than you, bitches! what are you gonna do now??”

i feel myself slipping back into my old routines. the old vices, like old friends greeting me. “hey, drink me! i’m smoky and sweet and i’ll make you feel relaxed”. “smoke me, i taste like strawberries and old tea leaves”, “eat me, i’ll make you feel good right now.”. my coping mechanisms aren’t very good. everything in moderation, including moderation (oscar wilde).

neon globes fly past my eyes leaving fluorescent trails on my tired retinas. the manmade stars of our city glint in the distance. the train transits through the city docks, the soul of our city. the metal cranes stand guard silently.

i haven’t changed much. but i am grateful for new perspectives. we are materially rich, very much so. it’s now time to be spiritually rich too.

mA

the wonderful series Life on Earth (1979) produced by John Sparks and narrated by David Attenborough is a wonderful example of what happens when great people work together and make something wonderful. the science is sound, the music melodic, the pictures picturesque and the sound engineering astounding.

the many and varied sounds of animals and motion pictures of their movements, behaviours from high up in the sky to deep underwater are captured with technical prowess. extreme closeups and good storytelling. an orchestra playing a different soundtrack for each animal. to think that they travelled a million miles to capture all this footage, edit and air it. applause, please.

reptiles are not really cold-blooded. they just need to absorb heat from the sunlight for their bodies to work properly. we are all descended from fish. turns out we were all a bunch of sea squirts a few hundred million years back. nature can be pretty gross. but it can also be beautiful. there is a species of ant that lives only in the acacia tree found in Africa.

think about it. a few (65-250) million years. that is a lot of time. in that time, the dinosaurs ruled and disappeared from the world, Australia separated from the Antarctic both of which in turn separated from Africa. it makes my waiting for the laundry to be finished seem like a blink of an eye. i will also die in fifty or so years. ah. such short lives we live.

the dinosaurs died out because of a sudden change in climate. some reptiles survived, such as the crocodile. the crocodile, the turtle, the nautilus and the horseshoe crab are all examples of living fossils. they have survived unchanged for millions of years.

at our current rate of living, i am not sure that humans can even make it to the million year mark. we will be but a slice of history in the rocks. perhaps a luckier, less warlike and greedy and more advanced species will look at our fossils and shake its head, proclaiming our foolishness.

being special

today i was painting the underside of a wooden house with mark when he started talking about where we are going. i told him – we all want to go to different places, but in the end we all end up in the same place.

it was the type of job you only do if you had to do it. we were crouching with no height above our heads in the fading afternoon light. we were spreading wood preservative onto the beams of a house. the paint dripped onto our skin and it does not wash off (it is basically tar mixed with turpentine). large spiders and chicken shit surrounded us and mosquitoes buzzed around our head. it was raining. the pitter patter of rain surrounded us.

for some reason we started talking about ourselves. i think it’s natural. he told me “i’ve accepted that i am completely normal and not special at all. the more normal i become, the more myself i can be, and in that way, the more special i become”.

these words had an effect on me. for a while now i have struggled with “being special”. what do i mean? i mean that i have trouble accepting the fact that i am a completely normal human being. i will likely never be very wealthy, i do not have spectacular genes or physique, i am not particularly smart or intelligent. i am not particularly handsome and i am not particularly talented at anything. i’ve always struggled with this. why am i not talented? why am i not original? why have i not created anything that is spectacular? why have i not composed fifty sonatas and fugues? where am i going? why am i here?

from now on, i will try to accept that i am completely normal. i will not try to do anything “original”. i look around and see many things and read many things. it seems that everything has been written about, everything has been drawn and all the music has been played. how do you even compete against the masters of the past?

i think now that it is not about competition. i know but a fraction of the history of mankind along with all its knowledge. i will quit being special, and just do what i like without any concern as to whether i am original, whether people will like what i do or what other people expect of me. i am tired of worrying about how “good” my work will be. fuck, just making work is fun enough already, why worry about what other people will say?

the process is the reward. may we all live wonderful and productive lives.