Twenty-Four Hours: On Erotic Love and Long Haul Flights

With transit in Saigon and Paris, my flight time reaching Tel Aviv is exactly twenty-four hours.

The transition is not merely countries, but I will be leaving the peaceful safety of my home and into the occupied territories, where armed soldiers freely walk with AK47s and are at liberty to interrogate and take what they want from me, where people are killed by snipers from long distances and where one can be detained without charge. Am I afraid? From the world’s most liveable city to a refugee camp, from the freedom of my life in Australia into the restricted and immobile space where I am at a much higher risk of being killed? Of course I am scared.

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It is in moments like this where you are confronted with guilt or with regret, where you find yourself wishing you could have said something that you buried within, or even reminisce on love and all that is beautiful and sad. Who are you and what have you done with your life? Who do you love, your family, friends? We can all imagine ourselves to be as honest as St. Augustine, but the truth is that most of us are – either intentionally or unintentionally – liars, especially when things are comfortable. We sometimes knowingly deceive and try to keep up appearances despite the utter exhaustion and anxiety doing this, and other times we are genuinely unaware of what we or others are doing. The long-haul flight has me thinking about the past, present and future, sometimes the echoes of the pointlessness of my existence and the futility in everything that I do, but mostly I think about what it is that I want in life.

The Past: Erotic Love

As I meander through Ho Chi Minh airport waiting in transit, the endless supply of lollies and souvenirs compelled me to crunch down some freeze-dried durian crisps, despite the empty calories. I am an extreme minimalist although I am a great cook, eating what is necessary as Dozer from The Matrix would approve given the sludge they ate: “It’s a single-celled protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals. Everything the body needs.” These delicious pieces of dried fruit are not what the body needs neither was the disgusting airline food, so I do feel guilty. I then remind myself that it is a much deserved delight given the next twelve hours will be spent flying into Paris and the anxiety of having to sit in close proximity beside a stranger is too difficult to digest, so let me digest something sweet!

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It initiates thoughts leading to this confession. I am not going to deny it, but despite all that I do – from my profession to my creative pursuits, or hiking and travelling – it seems that only one man has occupied my thoughts for a long time. I will admit that over the last three and a half years, I have thought about him everyday and I oscillate between love and anger, hope and hopelessness, the latter becoming more and more ever since he made it abundantly clear when he recently refused to even say hello despite seeing me. I think the reason he never left my thoughts was because my heart was unsettled, because he never allowed me to speak or to retrieve the answers I needed to lay things to rest.

The truth is, I did love him. There, I said it! Although it is completely insane, that is what I felt and I was embarrassed to admit that for a number of reasons, claiming it was brotherly love. It wasn’t. I was compelled by erotic love. Everything about him was wrong, reason and logic told me something completely different because he behaved like a moron and his lifestyle remains far from anything that I would admire or respect, but I still felt something. It was terribly confusing. It is like my intuition spoke to me without words and told me he was the one and that has never happened to me before, not with anyone. It was everything else that was sensible and logical telling me to run the other direction, to push him away and indeed all his wrongdoing created the silly things that occurred between us.

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I often asked myself what did he want as I hated all the games and feeling like I needed to lie just to communicate with him – which was why I was compelled to confront him physically as though saying ‘here I am’ with my presence – but then I realised the question I should be asking is what do I want? He once said to me that his girlfriend controls him and he has no idea how, which I guess is not that surprising. I cannot be with a man who doesn’t know what he wants, where I would have to manipulate and indirectly convince him to stay with me. I want a man to want me and for him to clearly articulate that, as an equal, someone who feels a strong desire to be my friend and admires me for what I do and how I think. The question what do I want? was enough to make me stop chasing a ghost and to really think about the value of my own personhood and I guess in some respects I should thank him for that.

I can write about everything wrong about him, but the reality is that I loved him and he doesn’t know neither did he reciprocate any feelings, that I have traditional standards of male/female courting and that I am someone that a man needs to earn and fight for, a challenge he refused. An unrequited love story really, nothing spectacular. It feels great admitting that I really did have feelings for him rather than trying to make excuses or attack him or deny my feelings as I have been doing for quite sometime. I felt something real and it was very powerful.

I have left the possibility of encountering him in public with the hope he may be encouraged to say something to me, I have moved far away and intentionally disconnected from the online forum where his ghost haunted me and what originally compelled me to return. I don’t mind indulging in the hope that he may one day find the courage to sit with me and talk as two adults and two friends, something I would have been deeply grateful for and perhaps the reason for my activities the last year. But sometimes you have no choice but to live with the scar. I smile at my now healthy, plump 59kg body that is no longer starved as I was several years ago, of how I am no longer sad and heartbroken as I was when flying out to Italy in 2015. I am rested,  my soul at peace today. My voluptuously athletic womanhood is a testament to the improvement of my mental health and I look forward to meeting someone else who has the courage the person I fell for lacked, to find a man that is not vain and who does not tolerate the things I find intolerable. I am eager to fall in love again as the new me.

 

The Present: Me

It was only a few hours before I landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to pass the horrible time flying for almost twelve hours that I watched Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander who was refreshing for her honest and powerful appearance and I suddenly understood what envy can feel like.

I want adventure!

 

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And here I am on my way to make a documentary. Suddenly, I am overcome by the dread that I will ruin everything because of my lack of experience, especially with audio. As said by George Lucas:

“I feel that sound is half the experience… filmmakers should focus on making sure the soundtracks are really the best they can possibly be because in terms of an investment, sound is where you get the most bang for your buck.”

My thoughts seemed to be occupied by the fear I am going to ruin the whole experience because I am not that confident in my audio skills. I have a Takstar SGC-598 Shotgun Microphone that I will use on a Panasonic GH4 and I have tested it and it works perfectly well. It is directional, however, and in the case of filming groups of people in a room, the audio will clearly need to done more adequately. I could not afford wireless lavalier mics to attach on the main people, although I do have one Rode wired lavalier with an extension cord that I can connect to the DSLR and great for any one person interview I might do. To manage the group thing, I needed a condenser microphone that I could attach to a boom, but the costs of anything good and the weight it would add to my pack made it an issue for me given that I am completely broke. I instead purchased a Tascam DR-40 that I believe works really well in concert environments and any echoes can be removed in post. I may try and attach the Tascam to a boom pole with some duct tape if I have trouble feeding the voices into the inbuilt mics. I wish there were inflatable boom operators slash audio experts I could take with me!

Take a deep breath, I think to myself, and remember this is just something small, something so many others have done before me. I am learning, experiencing, going on an adventure both morally and mentally. And I am excited.

 

The Future: My Family

I open the window to see the sunrise before we land in Tel Aviv and such is the beauty! The slithers of pastel pink and purple wave over the tidal sky like sand underwater, burnt orange shattering the horizon that blinded me from the screen in front of me that played the pianist Shoshana MichelA Prelude to A Dream, perfect for this moment between me and the stunning sunrise high above the clouds. The contrails left from the planes tear across the skyscape like a sword slicing through fog, the lid of grey mushrooms below was blinded by the glare until suddenly the light came together and awakened the view.

It is nice to stretch the legs after such a long flight where I was trapped in the window isle for twelve hours and I feel dystrophic. This exhaustion is aligned with my somewhat indifference to Paris and I am glad that I am leaving, despite the nationwide celebrations for winning the world cup. I am not a tourist, I like to get lost in cities walking around and visiting strange and quiet places, including gardeans and galleries. While I am happy for the country and intrigued by the politics behind sports that is reminiscent of the Roman Empire, it is not the time to feel like a mouse among millions of drunk people and the garbage they seem to produce.

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I think that my attitude is telling of how I am as a person, that while I am happy for others and what they choose to do with their life, I much prefer the quiet solitude of home. A home has always been what I wanted, for someone to actually love me where together we can provide for one another. It is funny, for most people that is normal, a given, but it is something I have never had and that safety and togetherness is what I long for. It is probably the reason why I feel a little glad that I am navigating back to my parents and have begun communication with them, building a new relationship and a new way of living. Despite the difficulties of a past of wrongdoing, my focus is only on the future and only strengthening our bond. To get to know them as they are or the people that they are and not because they are my parents.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

My mother has changed considerably, she is showing more affection and is responsive and happy, something that she never was before. My father has changed too, he is calm and we can have some great conversations about history and politics. He seems to have bonded well with my sister’s husband, Mark, who is American and I think he admires how he treats my sister and their daughter. He told me that I am the only person who he feared to hurt and always wanted my blessing and approval as I would always respond and fight back as a child, leaving home when I was very young because I disapproved of his behaviour toward my mothers, the violence culturally embedded and normalised.

While I admit that it is strange to have started a relationship with my parents, they still remain somewhat alien to me. I am not Turkish, I am not drawn to the culture at all and feel no connection to it. I felt more at home in Tel Aviv then I did trawling through the streets of Istanbul. I feel no emotional love for anything it offers other than the experience a tourist would have. It makes me understand them better and why we never connected or formed a bond. My siblings are a different story, there is still some work that needs to be done with them because they are not excused for their behaviour given that we were raised in the same environment and I was never as cruel as they had become. I was belittled for a considerable amount of time by most of them that I lost the opportunity to learn about my own identity.

My respect is something earned, however if I remove those expectations that I have in others and take a relativistic approach, that if I remove the emotions I feel for a negative history and instead try to understand who they are from a sociological and psychoanalytical method, I can work through the emotions that I feel and I simply love that challenge. It is navigating and creating a better future, a positive one.

 

My Journey Into Documentary Filmmaking

It is not that I am talented in so many different fields from philosophy to law, politics to astronomy neither am I genius, far from it. Actually, I would say that I am probably one of the most stupidest people I know. I have absolutely no idea how to be social for a start, probably because I have a nobullshit policy. That is not some flamboyant dismissal due to an arrogant indifference to others, but a very simple, unassuming honesty. Men find me attractive, for instance, but how come I don’t know about it? Because they never say to me ‘I really like you’ or ‘I would love to take you out for coffee’ and instead I get men batting their eyelashes and giving me long, affectionate stares. What am I supposed to do with that? Do they behave that way because they are nervous and fear rejection, or are they nervous because their conscience is aware that they are being deceitful, the same kind of nervous someone feels before stealing?

I have long been intrigued by this inauthentic mental state that enables one to become immersed in their own imagination, creating this physical duplicate of themselves where consciousness becomes symbiotically absorbed into an illusion. It is like watching a movie or reading a fiction novel but dreamily imagining that emotional responses to this fictional reality is characteristic of something actually real. Someone who believes in their own lies. I never trust such men because they simply use women to imagine something exciting, an object where he can have one or two weeks of secretive lovemaking to escape the terrible boredom of his own life and by creating this fictional world, this duplicate existence, his consciousness becomes absorbed into the fiction that enables him to forget reality. It is only when actual reality sobers his perceptions that suddenly he tries to escape any responsibility, create excuses and justifications, even lie or slander. It would be no different for me to interact with a drunkard. They do not want to be responsible for their own actions and over and over again, repeat themselves in this cycle rather than change the source that is causing them to behave that way in the first place, whatever is going on in reality that they are trying to escape from.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People seem to understand one another using this indirect language and are comforted by meandering communication to prevent self-defence mechanisms from being provoked. People are fictional. In the movie V for Vendetta, Evie said: “Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” I have been quarantined from this imagined landscape and so all I see are zombies playing strange games with one another.

This leads to my flare for the theatrical – burning bridges, causing trouble, that sort of thing – because I am that artist who enjoys provoking the ego in order to expose the truth, a quiet part of me that creates the exhibition because the irrational reactions that others have in an attempt to cover the truth up verifies my position on the subject. I find myself trying to figure out what language I can speak to such people who are evidently sleepwalking, how I can ‘wake them up’ from their existential lethargy.

So, it is not that I am talented. The real problem lies in the mental energy that people exert thinking about bullshit, giving all their cognitive space to this secondary layer of reality, this unwritten and yet largely understood social identity. The constant continuity given to pointless thoughts like what other people are wearing, how they look, how they appear to others, material goods, even to the importance of how many likes one can get on Instagram or Facebook, all that takes up most of their mental energy and time, all of which are mindboggingly pointless to me.

I understand fiction. Storytelling has given me the opportunity to find that point between these two worlds, creativity breaking the barriers through this dichotomy between the real and unreal, the imagined and the actual. I have access to a way of expressing the truth using film as a medium without forcing people to decide or make them think what I want them to think, unlike Hollywood or especially contemporary Asian cinema that has a hidden political agenda within the plot to subtly coerce an opinion. Documentary film is simply as it is.

 

My History in Film

My first ever degree that I was accepted into was the Bachelor of Film and Television at Swinburne University. I did Studio Arts as a subject during high school and was permitted to do film, making a number of short videos predominantly of a comedic nature. To name one, Lowered Expectations, a mockumentary about a Muslim man hoping to find an obedient wife but who accidentally exposes his desire for blonde women with big breasts. This was before the September 11 attacks at a school filled with wogs or kids from an ethnic background and we instantly became a hit. No one took offence back then when Semiha borrowed her dads Muslim gear and a girl with a fake moustache played a Muslim man. Copies of the mockumentary were distributed on VHS and parents would identify us at the local shops and remark at how funny we were. It continued, a horror mockumentary called The Reebok Killer that involved Lisa’s pigeon-toe feet sprawling around school killing people, and another about a soul-searching Kung Fu expedition Triple Dragon involving violence, witches and dangerous flips off the school roof. The funniest bit was the fight scene between me and my best friend Sureyya, where I provoked her in agitation to attack me by screaming “come on!” repeatedly while ripping my clothes off as she awkwardly stared at me, until with one punch I was down. I was the funniest person in school and everyone wanted to be cast in my videos, to hang out with us spending most of our days mucking around and getting kicked out of class. I had the best time because we had a video camera.

My main project was a folio on Luis Bunuel and that introduced the movie The Obscure Object of Desire to me, which is predominately about the sexual frustration of a middle aged man. What Bunuel did, however, is challenge the symmetrical idea I had of film and his surrealism expressed through human emotions like desperation and the grotesque made me think about the diversity and opportunity I had to express myself.

Sadly, I could not undertake the degree because I could not afford the costs. For someone living independently the $2000 per semester price-tag was excessive. I could barely make ends meet, working at Hudson’s Coffee and KFC at $6-8 per hour, sometimes both on the same day where I would make coffee from 5am-1pm with a short break as I make my way to sell fried chicken from 2pm-10pm. The pleasures of having nothing, but by the time I turned eighteen I had managed to save $800 to buy my first car, a brown, beaten-up 1983 model Toyota Cressida. What a car! It was the best thing that happened to me and my friends, enabling us to travel around Melbourne and watch movies most weekends from mindless action films at Hoyts to my favourite classic at the Astor. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties in a cinema rather than a nightclub, with Yul Brynner rather than a boyfriend.

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My favourite actor of all time Yul Brynner. Give me John Wayne, Orson Welles and Steve McQueen over anyone! 

I decided to pursue studies in politics and international relations instead and moved into other areas of thought including human rights law, literature and philosophy. Things started to change with my friends as I was the only one studying and our interests, well, we just became different people. It was emotionally difficult for me as I became more and more aware of how different I was and that made me feel more and more isolated. So I decided to enrol myself into a small media and film group at Latrobe University at the time and made short films as a way to interact with like minded students. It was a strange time for me. I was away from everything that I was familiar with and I could not really connect with the other students and so I expressed myself in those films in ways I did not entirely understand, trying to regulate the emotional stress of all the changes that were occurring in my life at the time. You could see the confusion through the short films that I did or the screenplays that I wrote.

It was until I took a subject in my final year with Richard Freadman called Writing Autobiography that gave me a chance to recognise that I had buried deep within me something I did not completely understand. It was clear because I was unable to write autobiography, indeed anything at all about me. I needed to fictionalise my life because whenever I thought about my reality, a feeling of anxiety and neuroticism would manifest. I could escape those feelings through fiction or when I focused on scientific facts and figures. I admitted my predicament to him after nervously reading my short story in his tiny office with other students in the class and he said that I write like a cross between Simone de Beauvoir and Voltaire, which remains the greatest compliment I have ever received. While people often assume that tortured artists are geniuses, the fact is that they are unable to adequately piece together their own story, that their creativity is really their search for an answer, but often in all the wrong ways.

While I found peace in science and where politics and philosophy satisfied my intellectual needs, hidden deep within me remained the creative pangs of a venture I had not been able to undertake. Until only a few years ago when my story within, when all that pain that I had buried finally released and I was forced to face my demons. I had to learn how to write autobiography and slowly I started to speak about my father and my mother, about my siblings and a childhood of constant belittling and harassment, to recognise that esteem, my identity and self-hood until I finally found that peace within myself. To understand how to film a documentary is to piece together a narrative, to form a person on camera and explain an identity, something that cannot be achieved without first being able to tell your own autobiography.

It seems that most of my decisions in life ended up looping in one cycle back to the very beginning, as though all the effort I made learning about so many different interests was to broaden my knowledge and understanding so I could reach this point in my life. It just suddenly made sense, my passion for justice, human rights and peace, my difficulties and overcoming them, writing autobiography, my philosophical obsession with authenticity in our thoughts and who we are, my work with children and education, all the way to what is now my creative pursuit in making honest documentaries and telling real stories.

 

My Panasonic GH4

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As a hiker, I get the chance to meet some amazing people and luckily met a friend who was a professional in the industry where we discussed our interest in film. It was one of those moments where – without prejudice or assumptions interfering – we just both comfortably connected and talked openly about movies and cinema, about equipment and my decision to learn video and documentary as a creative pursuit on the side of my professional desires. I am already in a job that is perfect for me doing community work with children and I was recently promoted into a senior role. I feel comfortable in my job and so many people in my community know me and respect me. It seemed the right time to renew my creative side that was abandoned so many years ago. I began that process by purchasing a Panasonic GH4 that is capable enough for my amateur beginnings.

My amazing experience as an intern at Tel Aviv University and my visit to Bethlehem enabled me to form a strong partnership with a small school at a refugee camp nearby that teaches children non-violent expression through creativity and the arts, including dance, theatre, and music where talented people from all over the world come and teach the children there. My friend Phil from the United States is coming to teach children painting, and Ray from Australia is directing a play with the children. While I will be teaching women about human rights law, I will also be spending most of my time documenting the play and filming it on my Panasonic GH4, telling the story of several young students who are starring in that play. I have no political agenda, no fiction to add to the story but want to give others the opportunity to witness the real. Authenticity and honesty, love and peacefulness, human rights and justice, everything that I am is being expressed through this documentary.

I am one week away from my journey and I will write more about this in the coming weeks.

The Desert of the Real

It was in Raymond Gaita’s book Romulus, My Father that exposed to me an intriguing thought. Romulus, living in an isolated town in Central Victoria, wrote letters to a woman, Lydia, back in his home country of Romania and she responded with the same feelings of affection that he had. His interest in her became so intense that he invited her to be his wife and she accepted. Yet, his deep and unswerving commitment to his principles put him into a state of disarray when Lydia betrayed him and married another man, developing into a madness that Raymond called, “a passion whose force and nature was mysterious and that anyone who came under its sway should be prepared to be destroyed by it.” This romantic love exposed the deeper vulnerability and loneliness he had within and the mysterious force is the powerlessness he felt for this isolation where a panic begins to manifest, so much so that insanity became the safer option than allowing the anxiety to continue and Romulus shut down, a man of resolute principles and dedication to his duty grew disillusioned before he gave up and admitted himself into an institution.

Kant explains the possibility of transcendence from learned knowledge, the ability to occupy thoughts that are independent from our experiences of them, an autonomy where we contribute to our own understanding of moral principles. Our cognition as children develops through conditioning that articulates the relationship between you and the external world through ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour and we are automatically prompted to react with the same fight or flight response when confronted with a problem. It is an automaton mode of being or relation that is inherently limited and consciousness develops as our brain matures that enables one to become conscious or self-aware. Synaptic pruning occurs in all humans that sheds neural connections that are formed in the brain during childhood in order to make room for a more refined capacity for adult use. The young adult begins to experience conscious impressions of objects that enables him to experience a self.

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We become conscious of ourselves and this self-awareness lacks the solidity that we have in our orientation with the external world, a ‘nothingness’ between our mode of being and our interconnection within an object-oriented world. There are a number of barriers such as childhood trauma, lack of education or adequate guidance such as problematic parenting that disassociates this natural engagement with our own cognitive abilities. The social and religious constructs that are entrenched in our environment conditions one to respond against any deviation from the rules as ‘bad’ (fight or flight) that impoverishes our capacity to reach self-hood. The experience of independence and self-realisation becomes fragmented as we are not prepared to acknowledge the responsibility for our decisions and this is further thwarted by feelings of anxiety that deters us from proceeding down the rabbit hole of consciousness. It is like – for a moment – the plug in your brain that treated your existence as a safe, virtual reality awakens to see that reality is, well, real. The emotional response to this realisation is anxiety and it is anxiety because we simply do not know how to be ourselves. There is no language in this independence because we have never used it before and so we cannot explain and articulate our perceptions and identification to our experiences. This is referred to biblically as being born again, the path which is narrow and few are able to find it.

We naturally want to avoid anxiety and are compelled to things that give us happiness. Ignorance is devoid of these emotional responses. Like Romulus, we either retreat to insanity – a realm where one gives up entirely any cognition or responsibility that thus removes the pain of the emotions – or one completely conforms to a belief-system, society or even a person and in effect becoming what Hegel would call a slave where they lose their ability to feel because they get others to think for them. To avoid retreating, familial support can enable a gradual move toward transcendence or independent thinking however reliance on this is ambiguous particularly with the fact that in Australia 132 divorces occur every day and 1 in 4 children are exposed to domestic violence. As language is a tool that enables us to articulate and communicate our understanding, education becomes the primary necessity for building adequate knowledge that explains this ‘unknown’ self hood.

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.

As it is a cognitive disposition that we each possess, we are not capable of retreating without forming an imagined meta-narrative, an abstract representation of reality that becomes an apparatus to form an identity within the margins of something imagined and that can be rationalised. Our temporal and spatial representations become linked to a faux ‘unity’ with our environment that conceptualises our identity as homogeneous and timeless, similarly like what Romulus felt when he fell in love with a picture and a letter. In romantic love, we form a symbiotic attachment as a way to possess our beloved and we imagine that this possession – which stems from that inner anxiety – is actually a real connection by framing it within a meta-narrative of true love and other imagined ideas drawn by social constructs and further fed by a false authenticity. It is a self-defence mechanism that enables us to experience the world without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact honesty and authenticity can have, which explains why people become very defensive when this fictional meta-narrative is openly discussed. Social constructs give validity to the imagined narrative and the more people do the same thing, the more real the experience becomes since there is a shared acceptance of this imagined transaction.

Love is something that we give. It is a process that is only enabled once we reach that state of transcendence because authenticity – which is a state of mind or how we interpret our perceptions and experiences – is necessary since love can only be real when we express it through this self-hood. That is, when our motivations and intent are no longer tainted by these imagined meta-narratives but expressed in synthesis or unity within ourselves. Without this, our engagement with the external world is about receiving – where people present themselves like a Hegelian slave by adhering to socially constructed archetypes – where they imagine they are connected to society – and yet there is really no inner connectedness. We are prompted or motivated by the need to be recognised by others and by adhering to social constructs we receive recognition. There is no giving. It is all about wanting. It is essentially a deep vulnerability and these superficial connections based on how well we perform socially only further alienates one from this self-awareness.

Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority

We each have layers of cognition similarly to the Freudian triptych between the Ego, Id and Superego, and Bandura explains these stages of cognitive development (coming of age) where consciousness, the unconscious, and our imagination structures our responses through socially learned expectations. Our motivations are filtered and controlled by probable reactions and rewards that we will receive from others. This is why people lie as though they are protecting themselves from punishment, just as much as these meta-narratives protect one from the pain of anxiety since our emotional responses can be just as unpleasant as the threat of punishment. Heidegger concludes that this anxious response is causally rooted to fear, the fear of something threatening and that compels us to lie and to be self-defensive. The cure is to overcome this fear, to have the courage to be actively engaged with your inner self and accepting the responsibility you have for this cognitive freedom and independence. Moral consciousness suddenly switches directions; it is about developing your own awareness and deciding your own moral standards where you are motivated by an authentic connectedness with your own being. One transcends the narrowness of the imagined narratives and the self-defensive responses to make decisions independently and thus become aware of our cognitive faculty and the possibilities of knowledge a priori and thus reach our epistemic capacity by overcoming all the barriers. It is a type of love for oneself, a belief or faith in your ability.

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defence, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.

 

Forgiveness 

Words are physical. They can be as violent as hurting someone physically and carelessly scolding someone with hurtful words can be as violent as physically injuring them. I know this because I have experienced this and it hurts even more when these words come from people you love. They can penetrate deep as though poison that changes the way you feel, think and behave until you depart from such toxicity, where following the time needed to withdraw from both the experience and the spatial dependence you may have had, eventually recover enough to become conscious of your vulnerabilities. However, so many fear or feel trapped from departing or separating themselves from such people and to adapt to their circumstances delude themselves by normalising their experiences, conditioned to tolerate as though subconsciously believing some validity exists behind the experience. If you work with people who are terribly abusive, changing the layout of your desk is not going to alleviate the abuse. Those who prolong toxic relationships by making superficial changes are merely prolonging a bad environment and there appears to be no prompt in their mind to tell them that they are worthy or that they deserve better, their motivations filtered by socially learned expectations that react unconsciously to superficial rewards

The youngest of three sisters and one brother, I grew up in an environment where each of them mistreated me and it was not uncommon to hear you are dumb or you are ugly from them on a continuous basis, sometimes even harassing me to do things and threatening me if I did not oblige such as ostracising me from family activities. They would together justify their behaviour as though I deserved it. One attack after another they would nevertheless claim to be my fault. I was a non-person. And I tolerated the abuse – being only a child –  since all my siblings being older than me and being the people that I wanted to love and wanted to be close to, knew better than I did. I was a non-person to me too. In similar vein to a slave, I would serve them and silenced my own suffering almost to a pathological point where I was not even aware that I was even suffering. I was able to confront this self-awareness during the process of my transcendence where I came to recognise my self-worth and who I was. This reality was frightening to me because I never knew who I was or how to think for myself.

It was inspired when I first thought I loved a man and that mirrored a reflection of my own consciousness, that I actually existed, so when I thought he may have liked me in return it produced within me a severe anxiety. This anxiety exposed all the barriers that I created, those imagined ‘truths’ that I was a non-person and when this disintegrated, I was left with nothing but me. I became real. It was deeply disturbing and it exposed a vulnerability because I suddenly became aware of the abuse from my siblings and how much I had actually been injured by them. It took a long time from that point, but removing myself from the toxicity and with the right care, I recovered from the injuries and over time have healed.

The main way I know is  I have learnt that despite any antagonism towards me, I remain self-assured, that I do not believe in the antagonism. I believe in myself. I healed by having the courage to continue to learn and develop my own language or voice – despite being new to it – and I did this through continuous self-reflective practice. I found forgiveness because I found the ability to love, to give love. This forgiveness is primarily self-directed.

The Monster That Changed My Life

I could barely lift my head. I managed, holding myself up against the washbasin and stared deep into my own, dismal eyes. I felt wretched. Weak. There was a part of me that hated this, a dark voice within that mocked this physical tragedy, the echo of her laughs at the sight of my swollen neck, my skinny arms shaking as they tried to hold me up, my shrunken breasts as she drummed ha ha ha at what was left of this person. If you could call me that. I was dying. No. I was killing myself.

There has never been a quote that parallels this moment in my life better then Nietzsche: “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

This is perhaps the most difficult post for me for a number of a reasons. I can happily say that it is a bildungsroman but one that stripped years of my life. It is about my experience being bullied, my eventual decline, and my transformation. It is very personal. No matter how often I speak of my past, each moment is uncomfortable, sometimes even unbearable, but I know that it must be done. It must be done for twofold reasons; because I mentor young girls and I want to inspire them to do the same, and I want to inspire them because I know it has the power to heal past wounds. Sometimes our experiences are shattered into a number of pieces, time no longer linear and all that is left is a mess of thoughts and confused emotions. We need to create an arrow of time, some temporal order. A timeline. A timeline of our experiences, articulate it into a story from beginning to end in order to understand the experience, and to understand ourselves in that experience.

I never knew myself until I encountered this man. He was a very bad man. The damage that he wreaked was born purely out of ignorance, the violence of his words challenged my emotions, my psychology. He frightened me. Threatened me. And above all, I loved him. Not the love you think, not the romantic love.

Giving love should flow unconditionally. One cannot select who they give love to whether it is a person or an object, while at the same time fail to give love to all others. That is not love, as Erich Fromm states, that is just an enlarged egotism. Love is moral consciousness, it is our response to the world, a choice that permeates and transcends the determined landscape and given to all people and all things by choice. Even bad people. Giving love is something that you give. This is different from accepting love into your personal life and indeed there are conditions that you need to set to avoid becoming Nietzsche’ monster.

The experience of seeing this man daily over a period of seven months made me confirm that such proximity to one so toxic is dangerous as much as it would be being near any type of poison. He was lost. He knew nothing of himself and the instability of his moods reflected the chaos of his personal afflictions. I believed that I knew how to help him, despite his forceful reactions and impulses that blurred any possibility of being reasonable, least of all his conscience, if indeed he even had one. Yet, within such an extreme personality lied a terribly fragile child, insecure to such a degree that he copied others, sometimes almost pathologically. The wrong others.

It could not be put more perfectly than this:

[I]f you have high testosterone levels and a deviant peer group you may become conduct disordered – yet if you have that same high testosterone and circulate in a non-deviant peer group you are instead led to become a leader.

I believed that my moral obligation was unconditional towards him, that I truly believe he could improve, that my knowledge and understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder could eventually help him.

I was wrong.

Meeting Him: The Bully


I was working for a large marketing services business that assisted business clients with customer service support through call centre facilities that they managed. I initially worked in a customer service contract. It was great fun working there and I made some really close friends that I have even till today. I primarily answered emails and performed other administrative requests until a new project started with a different company and I moved up to become a quality assurance analyst. That is where I met him. He, along with another woman and me would work closely together as a team.

My initial impression of him was very negative. His introduction involved constant and coercive indifference that bordered contempt, becoming even clearer when he attempted to ostracise me by talking about me to our colleague, which she later admitted to and apologised particularly for believing him. He seemed attracted to her and while she was married also appeared to have an interest back, although it came to my attention from staff who knew her that she had a history of enjoying the attention she received from men without ever taking it further. I believe her apology to me came only after he realised she was married and so she became resentful of his dismissal.

When I became aware that he had slandered me, I felt an anxious discomfort but also a deep embarrassment for encountering a grown man who was audacious enough to behave in such a manner. I was nevertheless resolved on improving the environment. I ignored what happened and continued to build on encouraging better relations between both of them. I baked for them on their birthday and attempted to get to know them a little better by trying to have and make the time to converse with them. The conversations with him, however, were often uncomfortable. He would talk about selling drugs and smoking marijuana. He would explain how he was part of a neo-Nazi group when he was younger, how there were underground fighting ‘fight club’ spaces in secret pockets in the town where he grew up, that he decided to take steroids to bulk up for his fitness career. He was a brutish man, twice my size and height with fierce eyes and a fierce presence.

My interest in his psychology, however, was sparked not long into our working relationship. We were sitting and having a conversation while doing some tedious paperwork and to pass the time we discussed nutrition and health. He spoke of the benefits of zinc and other minerals and I spoke of metabolism and how I can eat large portions of food to compensate for the highly active lifestyle that I had. It was at this point during our conversation that something drastically changed in his behaviour. I said, “I end up losing weight really fast if I do not eat large portions of food,” before his eyes widened as though he were dreaming and as he stared out in front of him, he rocked back and forth on the chair he was sitting on. I was confused at his sudden change of demeanour and while I observed his intense eyes, he blatantly snapped “why don’t you?” (stop eating and lose weight).

It was not the fact that he insulted me that made me feel uncomfortable, but it was as though he temporarily disappeared. His abrupt irritability and detachment from his surroundings as a way to manage the feelings he was experiencing astonished and disturbed me at the same time. He missed the rational steps that could lead one to prevent such eruptions, leaping past any cognition that determined his behaviour as he appeared only to rely on his irrational emotions that further perpetuated his anxiety because the emotions were negative and not understood, enveloping him to further distress. He could not rationalise that he was unhappy being there and doing menial tasks – as I could – and that the conversation was terrible but necessary to avoid an awkward silence. He skipped that. He wanted it to end, but he was not cognisant of this, could not articulate this to himself and so responded to the negative feelings without concern for how his response affected those around him.

This continued time and time again. One time, I briefly talked about the cow’s lick that I had on the side of my hair and he snuffed, “because you are going bald.” The constant insults about my appearance, my mind, my person was hurting me despite being capable to rationalise each time why he would say that or respond that way. For instance, he had mentioned the emotional effect his significant hair loss had caused him after he ingested a product that he was not aware would cause baldness. One after the other, it was like each insult was a small cut made by a sharp tongue, until finally his behaviour stabbed me deep when he said ‘women deserve to get bashed.’

The more I attempted to build a professional relationship with him, my attempt to overcome the initial difficulties by strengthening a positive working culture, the worse things became. It was becoming apparent at this time that he was forming some attachment to me. One time, he informed me that our manager had asked him to do some additional work and was required to come in earlier than our standard start time, asking me if I could accompany him so that I could assist him with the accuracy of the spreadsheet he was required to work on. I initially thought it was a simple request where he wanted the company of someone who was good at her work and so I agreed, but at the end of the day on my way out, I bumped into my manager at the elevator and informed him of the situation, which he clarified that he knew nothing about. It became evident that he was luring me to come in early so we could be alone.

I came in an hour later than we had agreed and at a time I knew we would not be alone for very long and when I came in he immediately began to compliment me. “Are you wearing foundation?” he asked, before he continued following my response with, “you look beautiful!” It was clearly rehearsed, a very nervous announcement of my appearance. This raised my alarm bells and I smiled and said that I am going to make breakfast, taking a very long time to do so until I heard another person had come in. Another time he said to me, “I am going to the park. I am not feeling really well,” as he looked at me with a mild, almost sad expression. I am a very warm person and it was as though he expected me to further enquire. He wanted me to go with him. “Ok,” I responded, rather uneasily and intentionally did not enquire, my heart at this point racing knowing he was again trying to lure me.

The question that continuously came to mind at this point was what did he want? Did he like me? Did he want to get close to me? Or did he want to lure me? Potentially hurt me? With his constant insults that were beginning to cause me sleepless nights, it felt likely he wanted to hurt me.

The latter became more and more potent as time progressed as did his strange behaviour. During working hours, he spoke of how he had witnessed earlier in the morning a cat walking upright like a person, his eyes wide that displayed the paranoia of someone who had taken drugs and incapable of distinguishing reality. His failure to speak openly about what he wanted may have left him feeling humiliated and his inability to rationally understand his experiences resorted in his ‘explosive’ or harsh reactions. I came into the office one day and unawares that I did not acknowledge him as I was preoccupied, he exploded with yet another indirect comment that women deserved to get bashed, yet this time with a very serious and aggressive tone. I left home early that day and several staff members who witnessed his outburst implored that I go to human resources to make a complaint, particularly since my distress was very visible as I could not stop shaking and crying. He soon after declared that he had built a bunker that no one knew about in his rural town, a place where he could do what he wanted and no one would ever know. He boasted about the film Streetcar Named Desire as he attempted to convey his resemblance to Marlon Brando and no doubt my resemblance to Vivienne Leigh, who was raped. This fear was almost solidified when he said that I should watch the movie Irreversible, a French film about a woman being brutally raped and beaten. He said to me that he was interested in making gunpowder and when I asked why he would want to make gunpowder, he smiled and remained silent.

I started to feel real fear. He was psychologically tormenting me with constant and indirect threats, continuously insulting my appearance that made me feel really ugly, and he manipulated the situation by consistently boasting about his partner to others as though this would afford him the protection that he actually had no interest in me and that he was a good man. I would not be surprised if he continued this slander about me even to his partner so as to extend this immunity from any guilt in his actions. He made it out that it was all me. If his behaviour was indirect and if he pretended to a wonderful life elsewhere, a life where a woman – who clearly knew nothing about him – would speak highly of him, how could anyone think he was this monster? And yet, he was audacious enough to exclaim to me that he leads a double life. What was going on in his head?

I could no longer sleep. No longer eat properly. I had severe anxiety and several times had anxiety attacks. My attempt to appeal to his conscience by disclosing my troubled childhood did not work, on the contrary it almost made him laugh. I was afraid that his indirect threats that he will rape me, kill me or attack me would manifest. In all this, I did not go to HR. I did not follow through with the advice given by colleagues who told me to pretend I had a boyfriend. In all this, I still believed in him. I believed that there was a way to help him that would in turn help me. I told myself that he was similar to me – by that I meant that he had a good heart – and that being so he had a chance to redeem himself. So I attempted to help him progress professionally, hoping through that he may mature. My manager would often ask me to do things as he wanted to train me to move into management, but I would replay that offer to him with the intention that it may both help him, preoccupy him, and even impress him enough to like me and stop the constant onslaught of hurt. I wanted to be his friend and I wanted him to be mine.

By the end of this, I could no longer contain the anxiety that I was feeling and I started to explicitly show my distress. I reached that final point the last few weeks before I had a major car accident.

My Decline


I was lying in hospital and all I could think about was making him think that I am fine. I could not make him think I was weak, vulnerable, that was just how distressed I was. Despite the fact that I was injured and that I had no family or next of kin, I sent a picture of myself pretending that I was fine to a colleague at work who I explicitly asked to send out to others. I was injured, alone, frightened and irrational. I was no longer working, at home attempting to recover both physically and mentally having lost so much. I continuously ruminated how alone I was, a wound that was very deep and very old. I shut everyone out, while people wanted to help and be there with me, I cocooned myself inside as the anxiety worsened my already deteriorating health. I cried almost every day and had regular anxiety attacks, sometimes so disabling that it would last well over an hour as I lay helpless on the floor attempting to breathe through the pain.

I cannot be absolutely sure given the circumstances, but this harrowing behaviour continued online. My Facebook page at the time had a continuous flow of random people attempting to befriend me and who I consistently rejected and blocked; while this can occur, the timing it suddenly started and even now upon reflection when it stopped and never occurred again as it did, along with the similarities of those created people (they all had no friends or a very small number of friends and had no posts) made it clear that it was one person creating multiple accounts. I had disclosed that I am a regular on a philosophy forum a long while earlier and a person who clearly presented the same ideas, behaviours, even the way he articulated himself suddenly made private contact with me that left me in no doubt at the time that it was him. Only now he was protected by virtual reality, fabricating archetypes that once again made him immune from scrutiny.

I was in a constant mental battle at that time between the need to get rid of him, or the attempt to help him understand how to use his conscience, to have empathy. I would try and say things that I hoped would stop his harassment while at the same time attempted to help him better understand himself. I told myself that he had absolutely no idea just how much he was hurting me, on his side or from his perspective I felt confident that he thought it was a game to be played, hiding and protecting himself from the reality that on the other end of the computer there was a girl who was dying because of his behaviour. I became very sick and lost an extreme amount of weight. I was giving up on my life, my state of mind heavy and my outlook darkened by an irrational mind and an injured body.

Whatever I said, stories I told, methods I used to try and appeal to his conscience, he misunderstood, ignored, tossed aside and it was back to square one. On the contrary, he actually believed that he was there because he was helping me. I cannot describe the emotional sensation I felt at that moment when I realised this, but it evoked a feeling a person would have if someone had raped them before helping them put their clothes back on. It was until Christmas day, alone and at home so terribly unwell, he made his final monstrous comment that I knew he had no chance of improving. My love was worthless. I made it clear as such that he was stuck and will never under any circumstances become a good man, that whatever it was in his life that made him become such a monster has poisoned him beyond repair, and that I have come to the realisation that I have wasted my time on such a worthless endeavour. He laughed at my comments.

I tried to rescue a drowning man only to be drowned by him. I deleted my account on the forum and that evening went to bed with the greatest chest pain I had ever had, a feeling of paralysis across my neck and face as I wheezed in a breathless pain. I closed my eyes as though I knew that would be the end.

My Transformation


 

As said in the English Patient:

“If you take in someone else’s poison – thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you.”

I am thankful to say that the very next day, I woke up and have never again experienced such anxiety. No chest pain, nothing, it was as though it miraculously disappeared. I was still profoundly sad, but I was protected by a peace from the anxiety that enabled me to slowly heal. It took several years from that day to achieve this and these steps I can now reflect on as being very important for anyone. The first and primary being the removal of all such toxic people from my life and although I was alone and it was incredibly difficult, this loneliness allowed me to form a clean slate without being tempted to concede to living or associating with the wrong kind of people. Authenticity, moral consciousness and love is an expression, something we give and we should only welcome those into our personal space who are capable of understanding and appreciating this, despite giving this love universally. Some conditions need to be set to protect yourself.

The healing powers of creativity is yet another essential, as a previous holiday to Italy because of a chance opportunity given to me through TAC (Transport Accident Commission) following my car accident reawakened my love for art and classical music that I began to find ways to heal through writing, books and food, something that I had lost over the course of this experience. Writing or drawing your experiences, piece by piece, enables you to form a timeline and articulate who you are through a story and why storytelling, parables and metaphors are so important. As Hannah Arendt said so perfectly:

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

We find meaning in the work that we do and whether it is creative pursuits or professional ones, it is necessary for us to give back in some way and so when I was given the opportunity to work for an NGO as a youth worker, I found my ambition and my motivation. I met young girls who had experienced some terrible things and found healing within me by helping them. I also worked with some of the most beautiful and kind women who knew that I was incredibly fragile at the time and helped me feel protected and secure when I still felt so unsafe. They compelled me to believe that love still existed and that enabled me to articulate my experiences during childhood with my family, my siblings who had also mistreated me and healing from my past through forgiveness.

The greatest experience, however, was seeing him again. I had began a new role and while working on a charitable project saw him by chance at the local shop. He intentionally ignored me, but it was clear he saw that I was there. I came to realise my feelings over the years had solidified into an imagined notion of him being something more than what he was, no doubt because I was so afraid and irrational at the time that I imagined him to be good person, someone with the chance of being wonderful despite his chronic and pathological behaviour. I imagined him capable of apologising, capable of being my friend, of caring enough about me to stop hurting me so much, but the sight of him pretending like that, I realised that this incredible possibility was all in my imagination. I cared for him at the same time as wanting to protect myself from the pain that he was inflicting, but that maybe it was more the latter, maybe it was selfish of me. I sometimes oscillate between this disdain towards him and this love for him, but that day when I saw him, all I felt was pity.

A friend asked me about my future plans for adoption and how I would like to raise a son. He remembered that I said I would like to raise a feminist. I guess there is a part of me that always believes that people can improve because I have, that love will always reign supreme as it does with me, but I have increasingly become aware that self-respect and self-love projects outward. It is the foundation for our capacity to give love. I want him to see the strength in being vulnerable, and to be wholeheartedly dedicated to honesty and to loving-kindness. Without the right disposition, the right lifestyle or the right mind, it would be impossible for me to give love. I would like to raise a son who will form such self-respect and self-love so that he can learn to give the same to all people, men and women, the elderly, children, animals, the environment. And I will do that by loving him with all my heart and that I may inspire him to do the same to others.

It was not that I was weak that he was able to take away so many years from me while at the same time remain oblivious to the hurt he has done. It was not because I was vulnerable that I almost died from all his psychological threats that made me confused and irrational as to how I should respond to his violence. It is not my fault that he played deceitful games with others to save himself from the guilt of his behaviour – the more people he had believing in him, the more right he became despite the fact that even he knew it was lies – and I am not to blame.

He was just a bad man. Whether it is those in close proximity to him that have made him such a bad person or whether he has no conscience or empathy no longer matters, he chose that life he is living and the people that he associates with. I think David Hume perfects how I view him now: “The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds.” 

If you experience bullying, harassment or threats of any kind that make you feel uncomfortable, anxious and scared, please seek help. There are laws against bullying and harassment, especially if it repeated over a lengthy period of time. You are never to blame no matter how hard they try to make you believe it is your fault that they behave that way toward you.

 

A Non-Conceptual Nature of Time?

The problem of time and whether it exists has remained a controversial topic in physics, cosmology, and philosophy. Is time relational as Leibniz espouses and therefore measured only in relation to motion, or is it absolute as Newton envisioned, where space and time were fundamental and independent from our perception of it? If we consider time to be real and not an illusion, then time is change, whether these changes are stretched out through our vast universe over billions of years to the immediacy of a thought, though both exist at the very same time in the future. We dream for a few seconds but wake believing we had spent hours in the dream. And yet, there is the past, of consciousness, or is the fundamental nature of reality a series of snapshots contained within the now?

And how is time-consciousness relevant to moral philosophy or love? I have often reiterated that love is eternal. As such, the concept of time became the source of my phenomenological struggles since our perceptions, our experience, thoughts and thus our very being are stitched into the fabric of temporality and all contribute to the essential structure of consciousness, of our perceptions, memory and our imagination and as such preserve our capacity to reach a truthful understanding of our identity. To be honestly self-aware at an atomic level. While I once perhaps held a transcendental-cognitive view that time was merely a construct that my mind created similar to the views held by Kant[1] (however indecipherable his language on the topic!), that our mind contains the necessary conditions to experience the properties of space and time but that experience conforms to our subjective deductions of reality. We must cognitively have innate categories prior to our temporal experience of space and our mind and senses merely verify whether such categories apply to the objects we experience. Think of it as a type of encoded, genetic molecule that converts information as part of a linear yet evolutionary process that continues to expand; without the source of this initial encoded information, there would be no capacity to acquire the preliminary information or experience. A type of thermodynamic entropy of sorts, but the chaos of the immeasurable absorption of information causes the brain by design to transfer large quantities of data and store it elsewhere, for the sake of argument we’ll say our subconscious and instead leaves a residue or ‘picture’ of reality. This is perhaps an unsatisfactory or at the very least an entirely broad understanding of Kant’ view on transcendental deduction. For Kant, ‘categories’ or pure concepts of understanding are unified with our sensory experience; that some apriori concepts (knowledge independent of particular experience) apply to some experiences, but not verified by any empirical means.

When I grew up, I came to realise that such a view on time-consciousness was somewhat unsatisfactory, or at the very least obscure. Whilst I enjoyed traversing through the maximally supersymmetric realm of epistemological foundationalism, the typological concept of time and the relationship between experiences in what ‘appears’ to be linear properties or a temporal order came to be of interest. According to John Ellis McTaggart, there exists a series of temporal positions that appear to us prima facie, namely ‘Earlier’ or ‘Later’ where each position is either ‘Past’, ‘Present’ or ‘Future’ although “an event, which is now present, was future and will be past.”[2] It is because time requires these distinctions that according to McTaggart proves time itself is unreal. In addition, there exists two distinct modes labelled as A-series – where there are a series of positions from past [near and far] to present to future [near and far] – and B-series, which are a series of positions that run from earlier to later.[3] The properties [A-properties] being past, being present and being future, with the relations [B-relations] as being earlier than, being later than, and being simultaneous with.[4] Change is essential to the A-series but an inherent contradiction exists with the properties and relations of change events from future, to present, to past where time appears to be severed from a spatial order of events and instead comprised of timeless properties. Basically, the future, the present and the past are incompatible and yet time itself possesses all three. This infinite regress of temporal attributions or tensed predications is the paradox.[5]

This is the point where I began to muse the possibility that time is an illusion and in doing so, the threads that bounded my existence to reality were suddenly disrupted and I instantaneously collapsed into an anti-social state where ‘vanity’ and ‘existentialism’ seem to consume me within a vortex of a gaping infinity. But, I digress. Phenomenologically, temporality is a requisite for experience, to perceive, to concern or reminisce. Husserl purports that consciousness can intentionally transcend itself, that from infancy we perceive but it is not yet assigned a referent and by referent I mean that the perception of an object is synthesised into a coherent pattern that we ‘see’ and interpret, making perception as interpretation, that the structure of consciousness captures and characterises the modes of temporal objects.[6] From a biological perspective, the brain as a neurological mechanism or tool constructs an interpretation in order to articulate the nature of the physical world, thus reality could remain within the boundary of mere psychology and language [I am planning on writing more on Kant and Deleuze in the near future]. If in the physical world time is an illusion, it seems only plausible and somehow my initial liking to transcendental deduction and the conceptual and subjective formation of time becomes appealing once more. While the brain is fundamental in our capacity to experience the world, the problems of the ‘illusory’ remain. Schrödinger wrote of the paradox of the mechanistic idea of the material world, where atomic singularity is met with a conceived negative tension with the senses:

“Galenus has preserved us a fragment (Diels, fr. 125), in which Democritus introduces the intellect (dianoia) having an argument with the senses (aesthesis) about what is “real”. The former says: ‘Ostensibly there is colour, ostensibly sweetness, ostensibly bitterness, actually only atoms and the void,’ to which the senses retort: “Poor intellect, do you hope to defeat us while from us you borrow your evidence? Your victory is you defeat.”[7]

Thus any objective description of colour – for instance through an electro-magnetic wave – cannot adequately provide an explanation of the conceivable characteristic of it. Is my experience of the taste of pomegranate the same as everyone else? It reminds me of a memory I have when in grade four, where I was sitting at a table with others in my class as we were colouring in and I lifted up the turquoise ‘connecter pen’ with pure joy at both the fact that such a texter could connect with other texters but also the colour, which struck me and in my excitement I turned to the girl next to me to inform her of this blissful opportunity to share the experience I was having. Her perfunctory glance before shrugging her shoulders and turning back to her rather aggressive colouring confused me entirely and I thought to myself that maybe she sees the colour brown, a colour I found aesthetically ugly and had someone shown me that colour that I too would have done the same. I remember actually trying to think of how that would be possible, how I saw turquoise and she saw brown but somehow she was taught to think that the actual, concrete “brown” was called turquoise and though we both saw different colours were somehow tricked into believing the names of those different colours were the same. The problem confused me at that point and I left it at that, a theory I later came to realise was spectrum inversion. There was also a part of me that was sceptical of her state of mind, but physical properties as represented by the object are subjective and that “[w]hat is purely intuitable is not communicable,”[8] thus qualia is subject to intrinsic properties and subjective sensations simply cannot be expressed. Galileo observed that whether a ship was still or moving at a constant speed, the effects on board the ship – such as throwing an apple from one person to another – would be exactly the same and thus, “Galileo had shown that terms like “moving” and “standing still” are merely labels.”[9]

For Einstein, space and time are relative and all events are imbedded into a four dimensional space-time continuum, as said by Minkowski: “Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”[10] It quite simply just exists, the past and the future stretched on a timeless ‘line’ but rather than delving into the special theory of relativity or time dilation, the relativity of simultaneity returns us back to the question of past, present and future and that it is dependent on the reference frame of an observer. As said by Einstein: “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated.“ Accordingly, the past, present and future exist simultaneously and that the illusion is to believe that they are separate; to a degree, those moments in time are states that spatially contract to make one whole rather than a static ‘now’.

Quantum mechanics and the theory of time incite discussions of determinism and free will, an especially important debate for me when examining love and our moral obligations. Einstein himself was a determinist and that future events is determined by preceding events, famously stating, “God doesn’t play dice.” This causal completeness purports that therefore a killer will kill at [x] point in time and since it is determined, therein exists no morality or culpability. Newtonian physics fall under the same deterministic umbrella, Halley’s comet an example of causal relationship between the past and nature. According to Michio Kaku, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle challenges nomological determinism since behaviour cannot be absolutely predictable and as such, there exists some free will. From a scientific perspective, this appears inadequate, however, observing the psychological  or cognitive and therefore the perceptions of the individual agent, it naturally leads us to the problem of consciousness. When we observe consciousness at biological level, to be sure determinism plays a major role in mind and ultimately experience, and so it should. Taking a compatabilist approach, why exactly do we need to separate the two? To me, free-will, however, is an extension of determinism, evolutionary to a degree in that competency is designed in the brain and evolves. Having the cognitive capacity to question, to ultimately think “why” in a calculated effort is the very experience of free-will because the moment one questions, they are in a position of responsibility for what comes after, for the deliberation that evolves at conscious level. The obligation rests in our capacity to share information through language and as such, free-will and moral responsibility function mutually.

With the inherent contradictions that capture the enigmatic nature of time, it seems that I would be justified in believing that the universe is a pianola and we are stitched into the musical roll of an eternal pneumatic mechanism that automatically plays “The King Clown” by Joseph Kiefer over and again and yet somehow deluding myself into believing that the opinions of others regarding the way that I dress is existentially relevant. The only element that is disturbing is the possibility of negating free will and yet if ‘now’ no longer exists, then neither does time and thus, neither does existence and therefore death.

 

[1] A. C. Ewing, Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 125 (Jan., 1923), pp. 50-66
[2] J. Ellis McTaggart, The Unreality of Time, Mind 17 (68):457-474 (1908)
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] L. Nathan Oaklander, Quentin Smith, The New Theory of Time, Yale University Press (1994) 195
[6] W. Hopp, Husserl on Sensation, Perception, and Interpretation, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38:2 (June 2008) 219-246
[7] Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life? Cambridge University Press (1967) 163
[8] Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic, Northwestern University Press (1980)
[9] Dan Falk, In Search of Time, Thomas Dunne Books (2008) 156
[10] W.L. Craig, Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity, Springer Science & Business Media (2013) 191

 

The Cycle of our Nature

Everything in the universe has a life cycle, where nature destroys and renews itself cyclically. For instance, stars are made from a fusion between two hot and light gases – hydrogen and helium – whereby in the core the former burns into helium and gradually begins to form heavier elements such as carbon.[2] Eventually, our sun – considered a yellow dwarf – will become an inert white dwarf but will continue to emit light as it will fall below the main sequence and it emits light as the temperature is still hot due to the presence of nuclear fuels until depleted, becoming black dwarf. Depending on the mass of the star, once hydrogen has been depleted the core will begin to contract [the helium is displaced and the outer surface begins to expand due to the thermal pressure and this contraction loses elements or materials] while the surface expands, leading them to either become supernova or a planetary nebula [the remnants of a supernova] though there are other types of nebulae such as protoplanetary that is causally a result of stars shedding or detaching from the surface.[3] Stars are also born in nebulas. The cycle eventually moves towards – as mentioned – white dwarfs, but also neutron stars where protons and electrons collide to form neutrons from the collapsed core of the star.

That is, a black hole, which is formed when matter is squeezed into a very dense space as a result of the stars’ supernova where the force of gravity is so great that it, collapses into itself. And yet, it is from a black hole that stars are born, driving the galaxy into continuity.[4] Life itself – along with a range of other factors – is only possible through the light emitted by stars, our very own sun a g-type main-sequence star with a temperature between 5,000 – 6,000K.[5] We can see stars such as Bellatrix with our naked eyes despite its distance of 244.6 light years[6] or 76.92 parsecs because it is 8.6x solar masses or the equivalent of 1.671 × 10^31 kg and is 3.16 times bigger than our sun with a radius of almost 2,200,940.06km.[7] All the stars will collapse and form into new ones and when our sun dies, our planet – which is pulled by the gravity of the sun – will ultimately float aimlessly into space until captured by the gravity of another star and be renewed once more. Perhaps intergalactic travel is the very reason why we have life on earth in the first place.

The cycle of our very own seasons is continuously rounded and renews every six months due to our perfectly precise location in orbit around the sun along with our moon orbiting around earth. The celestial sphere is an imaginary radius with earth fixed at its centre (since the earth’s position or axis remains fixed) and earths equator is aligned with the celestial equator, as are both the north and south celestial poles. Since the rotational tilt of the earth that sits at precisely 23.5° and its rotational axis around the sun, the ecliptic plane – which is the path of the sun in this sphere – as it travels and rotates the northern and southern hemispheres are doused with either more or less sunlight.[8] You can see this movement or rotation when the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening, or as the stars move when gazing at night. The earths circular orbit around the sun and distant stars is the sidereal period, a sidereal day or for a star to reach the same point is 23.56 hours and they rise earlier each night [up to four minutes] as the earth rotates around the orbit.[9] Equinoxes are the rotation when the ecliptic touches the equatorial plane, and a summer solstice contains the most amount of daylight while the winter solstice contains the least or shortest amount.

Everything in nature is a cycle. Everything is born and then dies. As people living in a world where everything dies, including us, well then in that vanity what could possibly be our purpose?

Our capacity for self-reflective practice and to reverse the temporal arrow of time as our experiences remain locked in our memories, this pattern illustrates a cyclic repetition where we are able to study ourselves objectively. When one thinks of scientific cosmology, it is the study of the large, the whole and by understanding the origin, one is able to articulate the evolution and the properties that make up the universe. If we think of cycles, is the universe itself going to infinitely expand or is it going to collapse into itself, or is our universe only one of many ‘pocket’ universes each dying and creating new ones?

Hegelian cosmology is just that, a reality that “is composed of a plurality of finite persons”[10] inclusive of ourselves; being a finite property, our lives are finite and ultimately determined, however rather than analysing the individual components or properties that make our lives, the objects and properties become the tools that enable consciousness, allowing us to transcend and become aware of our personhood as being part of a greater ‘whole’ which, to Hegel, is a supreme Being; that is a part of God.[11] God has no contingent parts and consequently “God is Spirit.”[12] Questioning the nature of reality and being a part of this whole rather than an individual component, immortality or an eternal continuum becomes possible and that our very lives are also non-temporal.[13] If we are a part of something greater than ourselves, our death becomes meaningless and in our lives our only purpose or obligation is to the well-being of that which is greater than ourselves. It being practical, a moral application. ‘I’ may die, but ‘we’ continue to exist.

While it may appear that I am endorsing an atheistic naturalism, I must clarify that I am not here attempting to identify the existence of God through this thesis, but rather attempting to explicate why the transcendence of consciousness enables us to realise the significance of being morally responsible; what becomes our ‘purpose’ and St. Thomas Aquinas also developed a similar thesis that argued a continued existence is dependent on beings.[14] McTaggart who critiqued Hegel’ cosmology, believed that the “passing of time is an illusion, and that nothing ever changes.”[15] His interpretation of time involved a series of contrasts and incompatible determinations between past, present and future through two notions entitled A series and B series and that the world is composed of nothing but souls.[16] But questions of time are impossible to empirically verify and therefore should only be viewed symbolically as representative of our subjective place in an external world.

While we may be a product of a whole, where exactly do ‘we’ or our personhood – free will – come into being? It is sufficient to say that freedom is an extension of determinism, that we possess the faculty through rational knowledge and will that enables us the capacity to become self-aware. That is, consciousness is a product of this deterministic social whole, which is why those that attain this transcendence become aware of their moral obligations and the value of virtue. There is a temporal anomaly here: we get caught or stuck repeating the same mistakes and fail to transcend to this freedom or autonomous consciousness. When I think about individual experiences broken into a shattered narrative that I attempt to dissect and understand, who I am is intricate and complex but when I view myself as part of a sum of all my experiences, there is no longer a temporal domain, but I exist as I am in present and thus view the product of my being as part of the whole. Upon doing so, what I am becomes clear.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[2] John R. Gribbin, The death of the Sun, Delacorte Press (1980) 180
[3] John Bally, Bo Reipurth, The Birth of Stars and Planets, Cambridge University Press (2006) 181
[4] http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/12/new-discovery-supermassive-black-holes-create-their-own-galaxies.html
[5] Gunter Faure, Teresa M. Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 461
[6] http://www.astronomyenthusiasts.com/constellations/
[7] http://astropixels.com/stars/brightstars.html
[8] William Millar, The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere, Cambridge University Press (2006)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Gustavus Watts Cunningham, The Philosophical Review, Cornell University Press, Volume 12 (1903) p 189
[11] M.J. Inwood, Hegel: Arguments Philosophers, Routledge (2013) 202
[12] John 4:24
[13] G. E. Moore, “Mr. McTaggart’s “Studies in Hegelian Cosmology”” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 2 (1901 – 1902), pp. 177-214
[14] http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/essencex.html
[15] Brian Garrett, What is this Thing Called Metaphysics?, Routledge (2007) 76
[16] http://www.iep.utm.edu/mctaggar/

Aloha ‘āina Hawai’i

Aloha. Welcome to Hawai’i,” the taxi driver said as he approached me with a warm smile at the airport, stretching out his right hand before he gently placed his left over mine as if to solidify his sincerity.

He slowly placed my luggage into the trunk as I nervously tried to find the Airbnb apartment address in my wallet.

“I’m sure you’ll find it,” he smiled, “no need to worry.”

The word Aloha is visible everywhere. But Aloha does not simply mean hello or welcome as most tourists would think and remains deeply embedded in Hawaiian culture, the very spirit of how the Hawaiian people choose to live. It is an inherent respect for the eternal connection between the individual and nature, the fixed relationship between your soul with the fabric of the world. Compassion and empathy are weaved into every action and decision, in every word, and where the suffering of others would mean your own suffering. Nature, animals, the earth itself is a part of who you are.

Aloha is a commitment to take care and protect the environment one lives in just as much as one would take care of themselves. There is no individual, but an individual consciousness as part of a whole. There is no individual, but an individual consciousness as part of a whole. As globalisation begins to transform our world, the concept of individualism means that people identify themselves as separate from nature, where our priorities are to protect our own assets and whatever is of benefit to us and those important to us alone.

We begin to see the impact of this through global environmental degradation, where deforestation, pollution and urban sprawling oils the mechanics of globalisation that only strengthens this distance between us and nature. Aloha, the suffering we are supposed to feel for harming nature and failing to protect this cultural spirit is lost to the idea of buying the best things or anything that feeds our wants that we soon forget how to give back.

I chose to remember that when I spent several weeks travelling between the islands with only a seven-kilo backpack that contained a few bits and pieces of old clothing that I simply tossed in the bin, making room to add things along the way. Make-up? Not a chance.

Hawai’i is not just Waikiki and surfing but offers one the opportunity to really absorb themselves into nature and culture with each island conveying its own unique personality. Snorkelling, swimming in waterfalls, there is so much you can do! Drive around The Big Island of Hawai’i and you will visually witness the sharp climate changes with significant differences in the landscape – from dry and arid to tropical rainforest – in only a few minutes that prove just how wonderful the eight climate zones that encompass such a small island can be.

For those like myself who love to trek, Hawai’i has so many different trails that you can experience and I had the privilege in the short time I spent there to enjoy many. Unlike Australia, you won’t find dangerous animals lurking about, in fact, that only danger you have is either falling or something falling on you! If you find yourself lucky enough to visit this amazing place, the following favourites should be included in your itinerary:

Kalalau Trail (Kauai) – the Kalalau Valley along the Nā Pali Coast offers the most stunning views that truly inspire a deep appreciation for the Hawai’ian landscape. There is the option of breaking up or extending the trail into a multi-day and other options also include the short but strenuous Kalepa Ridge Trail. The dirt is slippery and you will find yourself walking very close to the cliff edge, so if you are afraid of heights, beware. It is absolutely spectacular.

Maunakea Trail (The Big Island of Hawaii) – you will need permission to hike the summit of Mauna Kea and it is only a short 10km trail starting at the visitor centre, but nevertheless incredibly tough due to the altitude and it is best to go with a private guide or be a very experienced hiker and well prepared. But, what an experience! Mauna Kea holds special significance to the people of Hawai’i and it is important to respect that and do you research prior to the climb, but you will get a chance to see the observatories high above the clouds.

Volcanoes National Park (The Big Island of Hawaii) – taking the Kalapana road (12km) to the volcanoes is only the first step and the beginning is littered with bike stalls that can ease the hike into a shorter ride. But, moving right when you reach the end of the road and hiking for another 8kms over the dried lava is absolutely monumental. Eventually, you can reach very close to pockets of molten lava that oozes out of the ground. Go in the afternoon and take a torch, as I was lucky enough to hike back as it became dark and the experience with the stars above me was phenomenal.

Canyon Trail (Kauai) – The Waimea Canyon is just stunning and there are a number of various trails that you can do throughout Koke`e State Park that will give you great views of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Mokoliʻi (Oahu) – a part of Kualoa Regional Park, you will need to rent and kayak over to Mokoliʻi or ‘Chinaman’s Hat’. This is a tough hike because you will need to rock climb incredibly steep terrain and while short can nevertheless be quite dangerous. But, what a view!

(re-published from the Hiking Society: https://www.thehikingsociety.com.au/2017/10/09/aloha-aina-hawaii/ )