The Human Spirit

I don't remember how old I was when I fell in love with computers. It was a gradual process, I suppose. There was no wonder, no magic. I used to believe it was my destiny, but I don't believe any more there is such a thing as destiny, which denotes something that serves a pre-determined purpose. Even though I love computers so much, I have had a hard time looking for a job related to what I love to do for a few years. I have talked to many people- friends who got the jobs I want, career counselors, recruiters, interview skills trainer- and I realized I had indeed a lot of shortcomings that proved to be great obstacles of letting my talent shine. Although I can't say I have overcome all of those shortcomings, I am proud to say that I have tried my best to overcome them. Nonetheless, I am getting the same response so far- rejection after rejection. I am sick of hearing sorry. I don't quite understand why I am rejected all the time, except that I have been cast as the main character of a Kafka story. I have better grades and skills than my classmates. I have tried much harder than them to look for jobs – so far I submitted 80 applications and got only 3 interviews. Most of my friends got more interviews and job offers already even though they applied to less than 20 openings. I get so little of what I deserve. The world has become a completely hostile environment to me, as if it doesn't want me to survive. People are trying to screw or exploit me all the time, or, at best, they are totally indifferent to me. I am very close to giving up. That's the original reason why I want to write something. I wanted to tell the world how much I suffered. I want to give testimony to a very sad story that is my life. However, in the process of doing so, I realize there is something else more important than making people feel sorry for me. There is something positive I can do here, not only for myself but for the whole world. I want to make some fundamental and lasting changes to how people treat each other, although I had no idea how as I started writing. So pardon me if this article/essay is very badly organized. But this is something I wish very much to share, especially with people who have suffered as much as I do.

As I was saying, I don't believe in destiny anymore. I believe our life is governed by a kind of soft determinism allowed by the uncertainty principle. There is always a possibility that an event may not have happened if we can go back in time and go through everything all over again. No human being is an isolated system. The way we think influences the way we act, and the way we act in turn influences our environment and circumstances. I suppose that is a truth we learn in psychology 101, which also tells us that what we are is 50% determined by our genes and the other 50% by our environment. Oops. There seems to be little room for free will. There is no question life is full of free choices: you can determine which restaurants you go to, what cars you drive, but we are seldom aware that those choices are within a limit that is pre-determined by the state of the past. If a computer has consciousness, would it not think as if it can think freely? So what is free will then? What are the nature of those conscious actions that our nature tells us we are so in control of? I believe that, at best, it is the result of some wave function collapse of a microscopic "controller" inside our brain, and at worse a deterministic macroscopic wave function collapse that saves us from the possibility of waking up in another planet tomorrow. What pessimism! As my ex-girlfriend would say.

I often wondered: if we indeed have no "real" control of our actions, then why do we bother trying to "make a difference"? If whatever we do is pre-determined, isn't it impossible to make any difference at all? As a teenager I struggled to answer that question, and I tried to find an acceptable answer in philosophy. For a while idealism was the answer I accepted: if mind is the only reality, then the question of whether "I" am free to make a difference has little consequence, because whatever difference "I" can make is within the limit of what "I" perceive. After all, if I make a difference in the world whose existence is only relevant in relation to mine, what difference does it make when my own existence is in question? Unfortunately, this line of reasoning smells very foul of solipsism, skepticism, even nihilism. Fortunately, as Husserl points out, if we "bracket" the existence of an objective world that is independent of our existence, we are losing none of the richness and meanings of its phenomenological essence that we perceive. What does it matter if the color red we perceive is actually blue to God?

Existentialism tells us that we define values and purposes for ourselves that are worthless and purposeless to others and on their own. In other words, the only purpose of life is to live. Life is not a means to achieve some grand purpose but an end in itself. Naturally, everyone has his own desires and goals, and in principles the culture of our society does nothing to discourage them, as long as they are socially acceptable. We are free to pursue any dreams we want. There is no dream that is inferior to any other. The problem with that is, in the process of realizing one's desires, we are often crushing those of others without realizing it. Even if we realize it, we simply don't care. There are only so many resources we have. The concept of fairness only matters when we are on the wrong side of it. It's better me than you. The diffusion of alienation and the repression of sympathy in our society are thus legitimized. But how can it be wrong? As an individual we have every right to protect ourselves. But somehow I believe we are better than that. On some level we are no different than the Nazi, except that, instead of murder, we punish people, we reject people, we ignore people, we deny people existence in our world. People we don't agree with. People we don't like. People who are different from us. People who we believe are inferior to ourselves. We call them evil, retarded, handicapped, ugly, fat, bad-tempered, unfriendly, useless, etc, without realizing that they were no different than any of us when they were born. They didn't ask for existence. We were all thrown into the world without any sense and will of what we would become. They didn't force their way in so they could become monsters, freaks, losers, etc. We were all nothing when we were born, and that's why I believe essentially we are all the same. We had no idea who we are. It doesn't take long, though, before we start drawing circles around ourselves, and then building fences and walls. But I believe that, ultimately, neglecting others would only hurt ourselves because we are all in this together. We are all in this together for the purpose of living, and that can only be achieved if we all realize that. Most of Hegel's philosophy is nonsense, but I find the idea of World Spirit rather motivating. I would call it the Human Spirit. Even though you cannot initiate any spontaneous change within yourself, it doesn't entail someone else cannot initiate that change. Unlike God, you don't have to create something out of nothing. The change can start here and now. We can all change if someone else does. All we need is sympathy and understanding, for sympathy begets sympathy and understanding begets understanding. But only if you allow your system to open up. It is going to be a gradual process, I suppose. No wonder, no magic. Otherwise we are all in this alone for nothing.

After so many years, I have realized there are more important things than writing the coolest computer programs, solving the most difficult math questions and the mystery of the universe. Those are important, of course, but if you are not able to do it someone else is going to. They will still be there in the same form tomorrow. They can wait. They are not going to be hurt by your indifference, inaction. They are not going to suffer and die. Every moment of suffering is a share of humanity lost forever. According to the World Bank, 80% of humanity lives on less than $12 a day. Twenty-percent lives in extreme poverty. In other words, at least 20% of people are living in hell right now. There is no chance in hell they can get the hell out of there by themselves. Google is not going to suffer if you cannot work for them, but if you are able to spend a little time to help someone in need, your achievement is something unique and inexpendable in the service of humanity. That is something way more meaningful, a much stronger achievement, than working two jobs so you can buy a Mercedes for yourself.

My mom always urge me to keep on praying, as though it would solve all my problems, as though it would make people nicer to me. I suppose prayers wouldn't hurt, but to be honest I don't pray. I refuse to pray for the same reason I don't talk to a mule. Prayers by themselves are useless. Instead of praying to God to help someone we love, we should rather spend less time with God who doesn't need our help and spend more time with those in need. The question is not whether God exists or not because the question is irrelevant. It's fine to talk about something that cannot be observed. That's metaphysics; but expecting some metaphysical entity to interfere in the physical world is insanity. That's my belief; I don't claim that miracles will never happen because, as Hume explains, there is always doubt about whether what we construe as truth is truth indeed. The silver lining is, whenever we have doubt, there is always hope, no matter how little that is.

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