Day 12: Emotion Versus Reason (Continued)

It was a good feeling beyond my capacity to explain it in words to wake up on my bed at home here in Bangkok. The weather was far from perfect, I must admit. That said, home’s always home, and there is a good reason for most people to “feel at home” when they are at home. I was tired from traveling on the jet plane, but was still able to get out of my bed before noon, which was partly because it was too hot to still be lying down. I did manage to proceed to get every item of my morning rituals checked, except getting on my bike and ride it to work since I did not bring it with me to Bangkok (and given how hot the weather is and how dangerous Bangkok’s streets are, I might have been one of my best ideas in a long time). Coffee was an important ritual, which I managed to do right after I got up. I did try to stay away from checking my emails and texts during the first half and hour after my ears had been exposed to sunlight in order to avoid the bluelight from the screens of my electronic devices, and eventually gave in before I was really curious to know what the constant blinking light on my phone entailed. One piece of good news concerned the fact that an interview I did with a local magazine a few months ago just came out, which I believe to the best account of my personal history to date. Written in English, this six-page interview was written by a colleague who patiently spent three hours interviewing me, after hours of doing research on my previous and current work, for this article. This colleague of my Ms. Rhine Lu  awesomely compose this piece. My Chinese is still not good to enough to appreciate its high level of literary craft, but every Chinese person I knew who has read the interview said it is pretty amazing. So, I’d like to thank Rhine for doing this. At some point, I’ll have it translated into English. While I don’t think my life is that interesting, there’re some stories worth sharing about how a rural boy from an undeveloped part of a developing country in Southeast Asia has  become who he is today, without much help from my parents, and why I hate pretentious people so much.

One part that I remember telling Rhine during the interview was how I did not have many friends during my years in a technical school in where I studied architectural design in Thailand. Because I found myself comfortable in a liberalism of American culture when I was there for high school, when having to return to Thailand to continue my study in a technical college because my family could no longer, in the midst of Asian economic crisis, support me to stay abroad, I found myself in a very difficult situation having to blend into the hyper conservatism of Thai culture. I didn’t have many friends — in fact I could only remember two friends I had throughout those years in a technical school full of either children of highly traditionalistic working-class, or rich conservative families. I did try very hard to blend in, but the more I tried the most I distanced myself from them. I couldn’t do things simply because it’s what other people, or we all, did. As always, I needed the people (mostly my classmates) who wanted me to do things with them a good reason why I should do things with them. I simply refused to do things with them if I couldn’t get a good reason from them, and often I gave them the benefit of the doubt so I only demanded just one good reason, not two or three. I never received any thing that satisfied even my minimum requirement. I later found out that it was because they themselves also did not know why they did what they would like me to do with them. As for them, “because other people were also doing it” was a good enough answer for them to be convinced that they should also be doing it. These classmates smoked, drank, and got into fights excessively throughout the years that I was their distant classmate “who never wanted to do things with them.” These classmates did not like me, no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I gave up, and spent most of my time in both the school’s and department’s libraries. Because our technical school had a long history, these two libraries were the most resourceful libraries for architecture, art, and urban studies books in the country. Because I didn’t have any friends, I spent 6-8 hours/day regularly in these two libraries simply reading every single book on which I could possibly get my hands. So, during those years, not only did my English reading skill was pretty much forced to improve (through the process of forced familiarization that I intentionally gave myself) but my learned ability to think even more critical rose very quickly. By the time I graduated, I had read everything all canonical texts on Western art and architecture, which happened to be the same texts that my future mentors and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) held dear. This may explain why I was accepted to their graduate program with an extremely generous admission scholarship on top of the Fulbright Grant which I had already been awarded to go to MIT.

Although I try to be reasonable whenever I can, my close colleagues and friends seem to think of me more as an emotional rather than a rational person. I am a passionate being, who tries to make everything counts. So, whenever I decide to do something, I put all my heart and soul into it. I want to get to the very core idea of things, and I do not see the point of stopping half way, or simply trying out with no real sense of integrity and sincerity in wanting to get to the bottom of it. So, when I am “in the zone,” I let my emotion take the steering wheel, while reason are riding shotgun. Again, I couldn’t agree more with Hume that we shouldn’t see passion as an enemy. Passion is what enables us to operate as a human being. I wouldn’t be one without it. When my friend I mentioned in the last post (who is no longer a friend) told me that I should try to be less emotion, I couldn’t help but to conceive immediately two thinking points, both in the question form, in my head. First, would my life be different from what it is right now had I been using my reason more than my emotion? The answer is there’s no way I could know for sure that which would be the case. It’s true that I often regret things that I did without having thought it through first, and one of them, needless to say, will haunt me for the rest of my life because it got my father very worried and may have cost him his life. I always think of that scene from the last season of Mad Men when Don Draper saw a plane flying by from his window when he was about to present an idea for a project about which he didn’t feel that good, and then decided that enough’s enough and then just left the room. I had done many of those things like that in the past. So, yes, maybe I can’t know it for sure, but I have a feeling that had I been more reasonable when I was younger, I would have had a much longer time with my father, as I wholeheartedly believe that he would have lived longer, and would have been much more happier. I was young, but there’s only so much I could blame on my immaturity.

Second, if my life today is life driven by passion, what is my feeling toward my life in and of the present, say, right now while I am typing this? This I can know for sure that I am content with my life at the moment. So, although my life could have been better had I been different, I don’t think my life in the present is that bad and/or regretful neither.

LIFELUX Scope on Non

A full page from the latest issue of a local magazine LIFELUX featuring my story as an anthropologist in the field.

For the above interview, the PDF version of it could be downloaded by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “Day 12: Emotion Versus Reason (Continued)

  1. Pingback: Day 13: Living Stoically | 100 days of writing

  2. Pingback: Day 62: Paradise; or, Reflecting on the Urban | 100 days of writing

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