Sunday, November 17, 2013

Contemplations on human nature, as always

Human beings are fussy creatures. We have endless amounts of desires, many of which seem to just happen to us at random times of the day. We feel famished, we are itchy, we get thirsty, we are bored, we're over-stimulated, we want a hug, we want sugar, we want to be with people, we need some alone time right now; we are suddenly nostalgic and need to call/go home; we suddenly feel spite towards an ex and deeply desire some form of revenge action, etc.

The buddhist tradition recognizes that these desires come out of nowhere and leave again if we can just recognize this happens, sit on the desire, and let it pass. The thing is, the moment when we think we've achieved the awareness and feel good about ourselves, we let our guards down momentarily and let the next desire guide our actions again. At least this is how I've been feeling over the past few years.

Many other religious and cultural traditions use rules to tell people to suppress their desires and behave a certain way in their daily lives according to the books. They are often successful to a point, but of course, people occasionally slip. People usually either lie to themselves and legitimize their actions with some elaborate explanations or feel totally guilty and swear they will follow the "shoulds" from now on.

What I dislike about the second method is that we are made to think that without rules and religions, we would all be constantly committing immoral actions all day long, killing and cheating each other every chance we get. In addition, sometimes the cultural norm is so ingrained that people don't even realize that their ways of thinking only apply within their cultural and not worldwide. This isn't so much of an issue if they spend their entire lives only among those who were brought up in the same type of culture, but it is indeed a problem if they talk about their values as if they apply universally while living in another country.

Currently I feel like I'm seen as slightly too submissive by my colleagues and significant other, but my parents, aunt+uncles, cousins, sister etc all see me as too selfish and not considerate / compliant enough. I think my defiance is a result of them keep trying to tell me what to do and who to be. I cannot be respectful of their ways if they keep asking me to change myself to conform to how they think a person should be. I guess if I could be more charmeleon-like, I could aim to be more assertive in my normal life, and pretend to agree with everything family members say when I do go back home. Sounds straightforward, but I feel like if I can achieve that, I can be CEO or even president somewhere. Seriously.

I know the readers of my blog have kindly commented, telling me to just be myself and forget about trying to please my family. But the issue is not about pleasing my family. I don't think I've ever tried very hard in that department in my life, which why they disapprove of me so much. My biggest struggle has been how my family and some friends can live in North America for decades, have the chance to see alternatives ways of running a family, and still not distinguish the difference between "universal shoulds" (not sure if there is such a thing) and "traditional values that only apply to our culture". I feel like I have been aggressively coerced to submit to the traditional cultural norm for so long that, as I slowly and gradually make my way back up to the surface, like a deep ocean scuba diver, I'm learning about the different levels of "awakeness" -- what is human nature, what is cultural, the range of open-minded and close-minded "ness" among family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I'm struggling a lot in my relationship because we were raised by guardians with radically different values. I know some people choose to find partners from similar cultural family backgrounds. I guess I purposely avoided that because I wanted to get as far away from my cultural as I can. Turns out whether I like it or not, I am still influenced by my culture and carry traits of it no matter where I go and what I do.

Sometimes I think like would be easier if I were one of those people who never contemplate about the purpose of life, whose sole focus in life is to be the most typical textbook mother/wife within their culture (and the definition of the perfect mom/wife is quite different in every culture). But that's not how my brain works. I fundamentally don't want to be a stereotype, not even a successful one. I guess my fate is to continue to struggle through life, trying to discover how I am meant to useful to this world while being so quirky, and try to connect with like-minded, or at least supportive beings. It's a challenging journey, but I just don't see any other way to do it.


  1. Read "Nisargadatta gita" by Pradeep Apte if you have some time. Download is free on internet.

    1. Thanks Tony! Downloaded it and will give it a read when I get a chance.