anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

The Grasp and the Reach

The 26th of December was spent like this:

- Long overdue coffee meet-up with Yuenmei and Tingren at Carpenter & Cook, Lorong Kilat; and
- Dinner with the family at TCC Shaw Isetan, where my dad kept having a go at my brother over this nasi lemak that my parents used to buy back for him all the time, and which he absolutely hated. My brother, being the greedy pig that he is, kept thinking out loud about where to have lunch on Thursday (he's doing an internship now, so he looks forward to his half days with more zest than what is normal in my book); and my dad, being the joker that he is, kept bringing up that nasi lemak from Bukit Batok MRT station. At one point my dad said, 'I know why the stall isn't there anymore. It's because you stopped eating it!' It was hilarious. We were all laughing while my brother covered his ears; and whenever my dad started again, my brother would poke him.

I love my family very much. My brother and I fight over stupid things, but usually in jest, and we are very different people; still, he's my brother, and so I love him by default. It is actually quite amazing to think that my brother has been with one girl his whole life while I've had six different boyfriends and have been with I don't even know how many men (sexually and non-sexually). He seems content with the quiet life while I get bored really quickly and I like to go out and have fun. He seems to like stability and familiarity while I am seemingly always seeking the high of a new thrill, looking for something new and shiny, squeezing excitement out of life like water from a rock. I really don't understand how he can be content like this, but if he's happy, then good for him.


Sometimes, I wish I were a bit less complicated and simpler; maybe then I would be happier and more contented. I'm not saying that I'm unhappy or discontent; but it's also true that I've lived through too many disappointments and heartbreaks. I'm talking strictly about my personal life now; my professional life (insofar as it currently exists) is going quite swimmingly well. I was reading a bit of chapter one of Tamir's Liberal Nationalism at night; it's titled 'The Idea of the Person' and it's about the whole liberal versus communitarian/nationalist (he borrows from communitarianism in this chapter) conception of the self again. I've read a bit too much about this debate, such that it's already a bit trite; but something that he wrote about having a choice struck me. He says, 'Our lives will be better if upon reflection, we choose to remain with our spouses or preserve our communal identity, but not if we do so out of convention and routine.'

What if some people preferred to stick with convention and routine and not reflect on their choices? What if this made them happier? It's not implausible to imagine that there are people like that; after all, the saying 'ignorance is bliss' exists not without a reason. Too much reflection can lead to discontent, which could then (though not necessarily so) lead to a worse life if the person is unable to do anything to correct the discontent. I think that there is something quietly attractive about routine and seeking comfort in its familiarity. It grounds a person to something tangible and real; and as long as it's not toxic or abusive, if it's good, then I think there is something to be envied in people who can be contented like this. People who don't spend too much time reflecting on their choices or thinking critically about them seem to me to have figured out the secret to a contented life; after all, what is the use of reflecting and thinking if it causes you to reach conclusions about life that you can't do anything about? I have reflected and thought, and I have concluded that I will never be a person who does not reflect and think, and thus, it stands to reason that I will never be someone who takes comfort in a routine that's merely good; and if the latter group of people have figured out the secret to a contented life, it also stands to reason that I cannot partake in that secret and experience this contented life. Is my life better because I think and reflect, and I choose to remain who I am? I don't know.

That Friday night before I flew home, when Dominic was in my room with me, he made a comment about how I had high standards (I forgot what it was in relation to), and I said something about how it wasn't always a good thing to have high standards. I didn't elaborate because I didn't want to come across as mopey or negative, and in response to my non-elaboration, he said, 'You're very mysterious.' (Okay, I know that's really funny because I am not mysterious at all.) The thing is, having high standards almost always invariably leads to disappointment, does it not? The average man disappoints; the above average man disappoints; the almost perfect man disappoints even more than the other two combined; and the man that doesn't disappoint is a couple of notches beneath the checklist perfection.

Having high standards when it comes to yourself also means massive, heartbreaking disappointment when you fall short. About three years ago, I had exacting and demanding moral standards, and I thought that I would be a terrible person if I didn't abide by them. I breached them in London. I didn't know what I was doing, who I'd become; and so I dealt with it by not dealing with it, and continued chasing shadows in the dark and seeking empty thrills in between the sheets, just because it felt good, and it was easier to further descend into this oblivion where my sense of self was almost completely shattered than to try and piece it back together. To express it with reference to philosophy: when I first started my course at the LSE, I heartily subscribed to Kantian morality. Halfway through, I began to question it, and I found myself reading Nietzsche one day while doing exam revision even when I wasn't planning on answering questions on him, because I wanted to know what a less exacting picture of morality looked like.

I still think that Kantian morality is the purest form of morality. I think we are only truly moral when we act out of a sense of duty - and to me, this 'duty' also entails adhering to one's own moral code of right and wrong (if I remember correctly, this 'duty' is based on one's good will, which acts as a personal legislator that determines the rules by which one has to abide). But of course, the one area where this is the hardest to do is that of sex and love and romance. I don't know what it is about love and lust and the like that sometimes renders a perfectly rational and reasonable person quite irrational and unreasonable; there is something about it that causes her to act against her better judgement. Of course, it doesn't quite amount to a breach of duty, but still. To illustrate: it would have amounted to a breach of duty if Dominic had tried to kiss me anytime before he actually did kiss me, because I would have been leading him on by keeping him in the dark about the existence of another person (wholly unworthy in retrospect) in my heart, and it would have been wrong to explicitly act in a way that suggested that there was no one else. Does this make sense? I think it does.

In any event, my life experiences have taught me that it's not always productive or desirable to hold near-absolute moral standards. More importantly, it's important to cut yourself some slack; you would go crazy otherwise. Call it a survival instinct if you must, and perhaps that's exactly what it is; but there is no point constantly beating yourself up over transgressions that you wouldn't have been able to help anyway. It's all well and good to look back and say I shouldn't have done that or I wouldn't have done that if given the chance to do it all over again, but that is cheap and pointless because hindsight possesses perfect vision, and so it's tautological to say those things. Obviously you wouldn't have done X if given a chance, since X turned out to be a huge fucking mistake. Duh, right? What kind of person would make the same huge fucking mistake again? There is a reason that the mistake was even made in the first place, and I honestly don't believe that there is ever really a moment when two competing choices competed on exactly equal terms for a decision. One's impulse or inclination is always skewed towards one option more than the other (or others). It is one's moral code that causes one to hesitate. Usually, this moral code stops us from making the bad choice; but sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes, our fallibility leads us down the wrong path, and we make a mistake, and we feel like shit about it, and sometimes it takes a long time - months, years - to recover.

But the point is to recover. The point is also to recognise that it's all part of being human. The point isn't to stop demanding perfection, or to have high standards, but to be aware of the pitfalls of such a choice, and not feel too badly when I fall short. Of course, there has to be baseline standard; but considering the insane moral standard to which I held myself - and still do, for that matter - this baseline standard will always be there. It is the more complicated things that are more worrying.

Unfortunately, I am getting tired, and the coherence of this entry is beginning to fade. I will end by saying that I was slightly sad that Dominic had not written back, until he sent a holding message about 30 minutes ago and promised that he will write the promised detailed message tomorrow and explained why he hadn't done that.

SEE???? THIS IS WHAT I MEAN. A HOLDING MESSAGE. SOMETHING TO LET THE OTHER PERSON KNOW THAT YOU HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN HER. This is called basic courtesy especially when the other party means something to you. For my part, I always reply to him before I go to bed. I take hours in between but that's because the messags are sometimes quite long and it's not some random 'haha how are you' kind of chatting, and so it takes time and effort to write a reply. Dominic is really sweet, but at the same time, it's also the expected behaviour, is it not? In other words, G is an aberration - and he is an aberration in so many more ways than one. I am still pissed, but the anger is slowly fading, as is the urge to write him a final email. All I can is: never again. Never again will I let some asshole mess with my pride because my pride is worth more than any man, especially one that doesn't deserve, and probably never deserved, my time and attention.


I was up till 2.15 am last night watching a movie that I'd already watched before but which I'd forgotten about; it was Starter for 10, with James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch (?) before they became famous. I liked the university setting. It was also funny that they were against Queens Cambridge for University Challenge. Anyway, the point is that I don't want to sleep at 2.30am again, and so I will go to bed now.
Tags: dominic, family, friends, g, immanuel kant, movies, personal, phd, philosophy, relationships

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