The Importance of Discourse

Moral principles require reasoning and discourse to discover the certainty of their truths; they lie not open as natural characters engraved on the mind.

-John Locke

Consider the above quote.

I don’t want to go much into politics, I’d rather leave that to my thesis, but at the same time, it’s also something that is slowly becoming unavoidable.  Presidents and Prime Ministers all over the world are becoming increasingly populist, with mandates to help the people, to make it seem like their voices are being heard.  But are they?

Take the unnecessary tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in London about a week back.  Take the uproar British PM Teresa May caused when she refused to talk to the victims of the disaster.  Take any religious/racial/gender conflicts happening not just on a wide scale, but even small arguments you might have about it with a friend, or see around the neighbourhood.  Or rather, take any disagreement, take any misunderstandings that have offended others or you.  Aren’t these all the result of the lack of discourse between each other?

So what is discourse? It’s just another fancy word for written or spoken communication.  It means talking to each other, exchanging opinions, and being open to new ideas.  Ancient Greek philosophers had a pretty good idea of it, seeing as because they placed importance on discourse, they believed that democracy (people power) would work.  I think it would, but if and only if everyone is willing to cooperate in discourse.

My point here, is not only that discourse is lacking in politics, and so there is such a huge disparity between what we vote for, and policies that are executed.  Or that the lack of political discourse means that more and more people are disappointed and discouraged to be politically active, which is actually something that is extremely necessary for a functioning society.  But that there is a lack of discourse in general in every day life.

How often do you sit down for a cup of coffee with a friend and talk about a controversial topic, or a subject you don’t agree on?  Even more important, how often do you sit down with someone you don’t really get along with and have a long conversation with them? It doesn’t happen because we avoid it.  We avoid it because it can makes us frustrated that the other person doesn’t see things in your way, or because to you, what they believe in is just unbelievable.  But the whole point of discourse, is so that you become more open to the fact that there are people who think and see things differently to you, and that its also important to think and see things for their perspectives.

And the base here, goes back to the human.  When you start to realise that you are speaking to another human being, that’s a step towards tolerance.  And the more questions you ask on why they think that way, what made them see things like that, you start to understand their reasoning and thought process and more often than not, you realise that it’s a logical conclusion they have come to.  This obviously works both ways, and the person you are talking to should be just as willing, open and tolerant to you too.  But by being mature, being curious and not judgemental, you realise why there is a difference of opinion, and you might even be able to come to a neutral conclusion of what you both agree to be true.

I honestly believe this is so important, not just on a political level, but on a banal level to. Our daily lives are shaped by communication, and if we as human beings can take that further to understanding each other, it would lead to a much more accepting, tolerant world.  Call me an idealist but I do think so.

 

Have a lovely day, full of deep, meaningful discourse. x

Also, to anyone who is interested, this TED talk is a great talk on this topic:

Help. My earphones broke. 

Such a privileged problem. My earphones broke, and now I cannot listen to music or cancel outside noise while I ride the train or cycle to school. My initial reaction to the so called “crisis” was to immediately buy new ones because “I need them”.
But let’s take a moment here.

In the end, It’s been 2 days since they broke, and I still haven’t bought new ones for a few reasons.

One, the day after, I realised how incessantly spoiled my thoughts were, and how those who live in the 1st world just have this automatic mindset that once something is broken or lost, you have to replace it immediately (on a side note, I don’t actually like the phrase “1st world problems” because there are just as many people who cannot afford bare necessities in the first world as there are in the 3rd world). But do you? When I asked myself just how necessary my earphones were, the true answer was, not necessary at all. What is necessary for me? Was my next question to myself, and the answer to that was: food, water, shelter, minimum clothing, education. All of which at least 1/3 of the world (that’s at least 1/3 of 8 billion people more or less) don’t have. When you come to terms with that, it is incredibly humbling. Why did I even think I needed earphones…earphones! In the first place?! Be more human.

Second, was the realisation of how I always cancel out noise, and how I mindlessly do this. And I don’t think this is just me. When I walk around in the city, at least 1 in 3 people I see walk around with earphones or headphones in. I think it’s become this security blanket, or at least it is for me, not to have to feel exposed to the outside world. When I’m outside, I put them in to avoid potential conversation, or not to have to endure a train ride listening to other people’s conversation. When I’m cycling, it’s a security blanket to save me from the silence and the continuous thoughts inside my head. In other words, music is helping me not to think, and not to converse.
Which leads to my third reason, which is the 2 days of not having earphones have been unbelievably productive. On the first day, i didn’t look at my phone as much because I didn’t need to, I was also a lot more aware of the dangers of cycling with earphones in, but at the same time got to my destinations quicker, and I was more aware of the people, the environment I was in, and got to enjoy the very banal things in life like eating lunch at a cafe, sitting on public transport and so on. The second day, not having the excuse to listen to music actually led me to turn off my phone completely for as long as it took to finish my essay. And it worked. I didn’t touch my phone until I finished, and it was probably the most efficient essay-writing time I’ve had. So basically, in the 2 days I realised that while music is great, it can also really limit your ability to get in touch with yourself and others, and also limit productivity. Be more human.

Another thing I’d like to point out, is that I wrote my essay yesterday in Starbucks, which is just so full of noise, but it didn’t bother me much at all. And I was so impressed by the ability of the brain to automatically cancel out noise when I am concentrating. Which seems like something I should have known as an athlete, but nevertheless, it was so surprising that my brain could do that under command.
So essentially what I am trying to say, is that our phones, laptops and music are all incredible privileges that we take for granted. We believe they are necessary to our everyday lives, and always feel the need to replace the gaping whole of not having something when it’s broken or lost. But truth is, we don’t really need it, or at least we can certainly continue to live without it. So I invite you to spend one day with something you feel you need; maybe your phone, maybe your laptop, or something as small as earphones. It makes us more human and it makes us more aware of our words and actions, and our thoughts, which initially may seem very scary, but in reality are all parts of what it means to be human. Be human, expose yourself and enjoy what you can see out there, and focus less on how you present yourself in here (here being the digital world).
I must admit that somewhere along the line I will buy new earphones, but not now, not yet, I’ve started to enjoy this scary exposure to the outside world. ✌🏼🌎

What is a human?

Lets get philosophical.

I admit, in retrospect, I think I should have started out with this post, because this is ultimately what the blog revolves around: being human.

This semester has seriously made me think, and rethink a lot of things.  The courses I took were on Human Security, Buddhism and Confucianism and Religion in Global Politics.  All of which made me question how to define a human, how it differs to a person, and how identities are formed.

So going back to the question, what is a human? I find this really fascinating.  According to the Oxford dictionary, a human is defined as 1) relating to or characteristic of human kind or 2)of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses … And you probably thought the same things that I did, which was “huh?!”. On the other hand, a person is defined as 1) a human being regarded as an individual.

Honestly, reading these definitions confused me even more than I originally was, but here’s my take on what a human is.  It’s perhaps one that is more influenced by the classes I took (especially the one on Buddhism and Confucianism), so ultimately I’d love to hear your comments too.

A human, for me, is something that is objective.  A human stands on two legs, has all these intricate neurological, muscle, bone and nerve functions that allows us to walk, talk, think, be self-aware and be creative.  A human, for me is therefore the very basic nature of what we are… I suppose similar to just categorising ourselves a the homo sapiens species, which makes the definition quite scientific.  A person on the other hand, has more subjective connotations.  What I mean by this, is that a person is an individual whose identity has been formed by layers of attributes that were given to them (such as a name) and experiences that shape how they think, how they behave and what they say.  So when I say objective or subjective, I suppose what I mean is that a person has a sense of identity, and has cultural connotations, while a human is the basic structure of what we are.  I am fully aware that these thoughts are not universal, these are my own thoughts.

The reason why this difference interests me so much is because in everyday life, while we are unaware of it, the layers of attributes that makes a person, affects our decisions and actions both in positive ways but also negatively.  The belief system that we were raised in that has shaped our sense of values, differ greatly person to person, but as the world becomes more globalised and we are exposed to different types of people, it becomes clear that these values that we were taught growing up, is not universal, and is not necessarily applicable to everyone.  This concept of cultures and values is something that I have always had difficulty with, because I don’t identity myself with one culture or one belief system.  As a Japanese national who was born in Switzerland, but was raised in the Netherlands yet had a British education throughout, perhaps you can see my struggle.  What was considered the norm in the Netherlands, did not always resonate in the UK, and a lot of it would most certainly not be deemed socially acceptable in Japan. So my identity was shaped less by cultural or religious values, but more through personal experience.  But this in itself is unique to each individual, and so doesn’t resonate to everyone else.  This struggle with identity, had resulted in me trying to communicate with people as a human.

I totally appreciate each person has their own culture, and their own identity, but for me, I now try and see them as a human.  A human with values and opinions, but a human I can talk to because they are human too.  In other words, I try not to get my values and opinions as a person get in the way of speaking to someone else with their own values and opinions as a person. And with this, I’ve made a lot of friends that I might not have before, and have definitely broadened my world and perspectives. While it’s important to respect your own values, it’s just as important to respect someone else’s because now more than ever, when its possible to travel to different countries and expose yourself to new cultures, things can get complicated.  One word or sentence that was said completely out of context might offend someone else, or an action might have serious consequences. It’s normal to that we take things personally, but I honestly believe that if you start to look at people as human, stripping off the extra layers of cultural, economic and social status, we can relate to one another a lot more than you might think. We are all social, we all want the best for each other, and we all want to help each other.

And, as a small addition to the argument, being human makes us feel less superior towards other sentient and non-sentient beings (animals, plants) and allows us to be much more appreciative of the environment too.

Hope you all have a lovely day. x

PS. I’d love to hear your comments too on the subject!

Sometimes, all you need to do is look up.

Komorebi (noun). Light filtering through the trees.

Some words are not translatable to English, but have such a beautiful meaning, and this is one of them.  I was cycling through my university yesterday, which incidentally is an unusually green campus considering its in Tokyo, and just happened to look up and saw all these light filtering through the trees… literal Komorebi.  Not only was I able to feel the nice warms of the rays of sun, but I also realised just how tall and impressive trees are.

And that’s where the thought struck.  Often times we are so bogged down with work, looking down at the paperwork, looking in front when walking amongst the crowd, but rarely do we ever look up.  It sounds silly, but when I looked up towards the top of the trees, towards the sky, it was so freeing, and inspiring to say the least.

You realise that you are just a one small being in a world of 8 billion people, and it really puts your worries and stressors into perspective. On a daily basis I might be stressed about the amount of work I have to get through, I might be annoyed at someone for how they made me feel, I might be upset that something didn’t turn out how I wanted to.  And when you feel these things, these problems become the most significant to you personally, and you start to get so engulfed in the emotions that almost everything else is irrelevant.  You start to really look inward when you feel these negative emotions, and physically you also start to look down.  So what I found was that just by physically changing your posture and looking up, you realise how minute these problems are. It doesn’t solve it for you, it’s not a solution to the actual problem, but it helps you realise that you’re not the only one carrying troubles, thousands of others do too, as do thousands of other animals. And once you feel you are not alone, you feel better, even if its just a bit, and that, and that alone can help you get on course to a positive start to the day.

So today, even if it’s just once, try and look up. Even if it’s raining, try and look up, see where the light or water is falling from. And even if its just for a few seconds, when you feel the warmth of the rays or water from the rain, just take a moment to soak it all in. Breathe in and out, and just believe that it’s going to be okay.

Hope you all have a lovely day. x

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what is happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what is happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience. Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self”

-Sharon Salzberg

A Wholehearted Welcome.

First and foremost, a very warm welcome, and a huge thank you for passing by.

I admit, I am new to the blogging sphere, and despite contemplating on making a blog like this for a very long time, the internet has always intimidated me and so I sort of avoided it for a while.
However, recently, I’ve learned so much about the meaning of being human, the meaning of life (although this is naturally just a lifelong endeavour), and I felt I couldn’t avoid it anymore, and it became important for me to share with you, all of what I’ve learned in my inconsiderable years and continue sharing as I keep learning.

This blog is ultimately a lifestyle blog, the aim of which is to provide a dose of mindfulness in a world of stress and competition.  It also provides vegan recipes for those who want to become vegan, and also my book recommendations.

I hope you enjoy, learn, and be more human!