Monthly Archives: May 2012

What it means to have an active mind

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means for a person to have an active mind that is constantly thinking and questioning (as opposed to a passive one).

For example: we’ve all heard in some form or another that “coffee is good for you…coffee is bad for you” and it’s always backed by some sort of ‘study’ done up by some ‘scientists’. I think that most people would just accept which ever conclusion suited to their own beliefs and reaffirm it to themselves with the claim that the study was conducted by a group of scientists. Most people wouldn’t even question the validity of the study nor question the actual scientists because the general view is that they’re all rational, intelligent people who are not swayed by personal beliefs and as such one can leave all the thinking up to them.

Now someone with an active mind would take the time to research into the effects of coffee, look into these studies and form a conclusion on their own, based on their understanding. A passive type of person wouldn’t think about it, but would say “if it was done by scientists, then that’s good enough for me” and they go about their usual routine of seeking out distractions rather than exercising their mind. Now I don’t mean to say that any person who doesn’t go out of their way to research into a study (such as the consumption of coffee) about some topic, doesn’t have an active mind. Seeking out an answer for something as trivial as coffee consumption doesn’t determine whether you have an active mind; rather my point is that a person with an active mind is someone who seeks answers and the truth in any facet of their life (even if it’s about one topic of interest).

A person with active mind will know to be alert and to always be questioning and formulating answers, not evading them. Having said this, I don’t think that many people (at least the many people I’ve had encounters with) have this type of active mind where they’re always questioning and seeking answers. Sure you have your varying levels when it comes to the type of (active or passive) mind you have, but I think that most people lean towards the passive side.

I’ve noticed that with a lot of people that  I know (ranging from friends to co-workers, to acquaintences), when ever they have some spare time (so whether it’s on a lunch break, on public transport, or just a free day) they don’t use that time to be productive, rather they usually have a smartphone in their hands or a Nintendo DS or watch some TV show or some other form of entertainment that’s designed to assist you in seeking out those everyday distractions that don’t require any serious thought. It’s so easy to take the ‘easy way out’ when given the option of exercising your mind or playing a game on your phone. All my friends are like that and I’ve noticed that there’s only so far I can take an intellectual type of conversation with them.

I think that if you spend most of your free time (so by free time I mean any time outside of work, university, or whatever your daily routine is) preoccupying your mind with mindless entertainment (so anything that requires next to no effort from your mind), you put a halt on the development of your intellectual self (this is particularly true of children, then again most adults who take this path started off like that as children) and you reach a certain mental level where you subconsciously go for the easy way out when there’s no immediate benefit to you (as opposed to thinking about the long term benefits, for instance: actively working every day to better yourself in a chosen field, whilst painstakingly difficult at the time, rewarding in the long run). I know it’s hard to change certain aspects of yourself after years of making such habits, but I don’t think the majority of people realise what this does to your mind.

Since you’ve allowed yourself to think only about the immediate benefits, on the short-range, you condition your mind in such a way where you actively seek out anything to preoccupy your mind with, and that doesn’t always contribute to the advancement of your life/career. You won’t know how to challenge certain ideas, how to challenge politicians and other people who are more knowledgeable than you. There’s a saying that goes “knowledge is power” and it’s very true. Those who don’t possess any knowledge are leaving their minds at the mercy of anyone who can identify their vulnerability and use it against them by persuading/convincing them to adopt their views. Once someone comes onto the stage who seems to know what they’re talking about, who shows some form of confidence, well who is the average person who has never bothered to exercise their mind to question them? How would they know to question them? What questions would they bring up? etc.

The type of society that the Western world has reduced itself to encourages this type of thinking, of taking the easy way out, of turning to your smartphone to play that game, of doing anything that will preoccupy your mind for that moment, and this is all so easy to do owing to the countless TV shows, electronic devices and other products that we have (I’m not attacking technology though). This all reminds me of an interesting ‘comic’ I read a while ago entitled “Huxley vs. Orwell” and I think that it’s very much true. Then again hasn’t humanity always been like this? Thinking back to the Roman empire where they had those gladiator games that would get the local population worked up and have them something to look forward to. In a way it is a form of control and the Roman leaders knew this all too well that pacifying a people is the best way to rule them. These days it isn’t the government that’s doing that, but the culture and the so called ‘intellectuals’ who seek to undermine what the Western world really represents. The worse part about it all is that I truly believe that any Western government could care less, that it wants its population to preoccupy itself with mindless entertainment, to leave everything up to the government, to not bother themselves with thinking, but to leave that up to politicians and ‘intellectuals’.

I’ve even found myself giving in to such mindless distractions every now and then, and I understand how hard it can be to get yourself out of such habits when you’ve conditioned your mind to such an extent. But that’s when I remind myself to ‘step out’ and take a look at myself from the outside, see what I’m doing wrong and how I should go about to rectify it. Whilst I’ve always focused mostly on exercising my mind, on reading a book on a topic that interests me, reading a magazine on engineering related topics, or anything else that makes me think, I’ve only just identified the nature of this ‘habit’ or ‘thought pattern’, within the past year or so, and I’m glad that I have since I realised how easy it is to find yourself wound up in your life, in obligations, paying bills, trying to make ends meet, etc. I realise that once you get into the cycle of preoccupying your mind with mindless entertainment, once you’ve conditioned your mind to only expect that, it’s incredibly difficult to change.

Pretty long post so I’ll leave it there.

 

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Living alone

Until last Saturday I was living by myself for some 2 months. My sister left for Turkey last November, to teach English, and my mum left in early March to visit family in some Eastern European country.

I gotta say that it was the best time I’ve had in a while and I guess I should have expected it seeing how it was the first time that I’ve lived on my own. Having lived with my mother and sister all these years, I’ve sort of “had enough” and have come to realise that as much as I try to help them on certain matters, there’s no point in stressing over them when I’ve got my own life to think about; so living alone made me realise this in a different light. I also realised that we will grow apart and it’s entirely normal, as well as healthy.

Coming back home to an empty house after I sent my mum off at the airport wasn’t as “strange” as I thought it would be. I discovered a new sense of freedom as I made my own house rules (that doesn’t mean that I become something of a slob; I’m usually a very clean person) and realised that after having spent my entire life sharing a house with the same people, it felt great to be on my own.

I actually didn’t think about it that much, living alone, since I was either at work all day or at uni and the free days that I had off were either spent doing housework or homework. But there was one instance where I woke up at around 4am and for some reason I thought to myself: “I really am alone here and it’s something I should probably get use to.” Not to say that in some negative way, rather I realised that there would come a time where I’d ‘move on’ and start to develop my own life independent of my mother or sister (although I wish I’d started that earlier).

I guess the whole point of this post is me realising that there’ll come a day where I’ll be on my own (and probably even more so if my plans to leave this city come about). Not that I’m scared or worried about living alone, just that it’ll be a different environment and such. But there’s also the possibility of being in a relationship and living with the guy, but I’m not sure how I feel about that now.

The other thing that got me wondering about living alone was talking to a friend about it. I said something along the lines of “living alone is something that we’ll have to get use to if you want to grow up and be on your own; even if it means not having a partner” and so on. I noticed how he shuddered at the thought of it all and his response surprised me (but then again, knowing his general beta-male, man-boy, personality, I should have expected it). But I still couldn’t quite understand why he was so apprehensive to the idea of being on your own and he even criticised this girl that he knows who quit her job here to go and work in Disney Land in the US.

I don’t like idea of depending on someone else so as to avoid some outcome, whether it’s parents, a partner, or a few friends that you decide to move in with to avoid living alone. There are certain things that we need to accept as reality if we want something out of our lives and I think that everyone wants something out of their life; but it comes down to how badly you want it. As much as I disagree with my friend and his generally apathetic outlook, I still tried to get him to see what I was trying to say.

I could relate this with the culture of our world, how this ‘man-boy’ ‘beta-male’ type of personality doesn’t encourage an individual to make the most of their life, rather to take a more timid approach where you don’t think much beyond your own security. And at the end of the day they know that they always have someone else to fall back on: government, family, friends (these last two aren’t necessarily ‘bad’, just that there comes a point where a person shouldn’t always have to rely on others), and in worse scenarios people will fall back on the likes of food, alcohol, drugs and anything else that helps you escape this reality.

Then again living on your own (or in a share house away from your family) doesn’t guarantee any sort of maturity development, and in fact the few people that I do know who either live on their own or in a share house, do not exemplify any of the characteristics that I’d associate with a young, professional adult (well ok, maybe one).

I don’t care about living alone; if anything the freedom that comes with it is great, and even if I don’t have the right partner to share that with, it’s not something I’ll keep myself preoccupied with.