letters to lana del rey (57)

Dear Lana,

I woke in a fever dream around 4:45 AM today with a thought that I had. Why aren’t there any old Disney princesses? It seems that the license to be beautiful is tied directly with youth, that somehow aging is directly tied to the loss of beauty. I would be very curious to discover what Disney princesses are like when they get old, but that would go against the culture industry that Disney creates because it would allow people to be satisfied with themselves at the end of the day, which is not allowed.

The thing is old age isn’t beautiful. I don’t think that’s a gendered thing at all. Everyone gets pretty ugly when they get old. Disease is pretty awful. It’s weird to think about — when Siddhartha Gautama went outside of his palace and had his Four Sights, three of them were age-related: old age, sickness, death. Old age is pretty straightforward. People get sicker when they get older. People die because they get sick when they get older. I luckily have not had any major sicknesses in my life. The worse pain I’ve experienced is either the time I twisted my back when lifting concrete blocks (confining me to bed for two weeks) or when I ate too much brownies that one time in high school (bad, bad stomachache). For the most part, I could get away with these things because I’m still young and my body is pretty much invincible unless I get hit by a car. But, age is bad. It makes me subject to more sickness, which makes me subject to more pain, and I don’t want pain. Pain, bad.

If structuralism is the acknowledgement of the relational aspect of being and society, then wouldn’t memes represent the nihilistic manifestation of culture?

I was thinking back to that scene in The Crown when Churchill stared aghast to the portrait commissioned portrait of him by Parliament. He responded that the picture was an abomination and a betrayal, and the painter screamed back something along the lines of, aging isn’t pretty! It reminds me of that lyric from “Gods and Monsters” – life imitates art. Churchill got old and recognized that he wasn’t beautiful anymore. He realized that his body took an L from being alive for however long he was alive for. He saw ugliness because he was ugly. He was sick, which meant he was suffering from a lot of pain, and I refuse to accept a world in which pain is beautiful. Although I get making pain beautiful as a coping mechanism, I consider pain to be the opposite of beauty.

While we would like to be convinced that our life resembles our reality in some way, more often than not we are living quite separated from our reality. It reminds me a bit of postmodern critiques to Enlightenment thinking, specifically how it is not necessarily accurate to characterize the world into perceivable and unperceivable reality.

On another note, in Itaewon Class, I always thought that Saeroyi should have ended with Soo Ah. Does that say something about me? I don’t think there was ever a point in the series where I liked Yi Seo, mostly because she seems way to full of herself and able to get away with whatever she wanted, which is the entire source of Saeroyi’s feud against Jangga. Yi Seo is literally not a nice person, and her “love” is more of an obsession than anything. There’s a sort of sentimentality between Saeroyi and Soo Ah that always struck me as more genuine than whatever Saeroyi and Yi Seo had going for them. Everything that happened in the series started out between them. Although, I suppose actions do speak louder than words at the end of the day, which gives a better moral message when Saeroyi ended up with Yi Seo.

I’ve been listening to a lot of k-pop lately. Unfortunately, since I can’t speak Korean, this means that I have no ability to sing along to these songs. Lame.

We were born into an unfair world. Some people get what they don’t deserve — both good and bad. Most people, I would stay, still function and contribute to the world in a meaningful manner in which they work for what they achieve, regardless of all the hardships. However, the fact still remains that not everyone gets what they work for and not everyone works for what they achieve. The world isn’t this meritocratic utopia — it has flaws — and true meritocracy is impossible to create. When faced with this challenge, while we can still work hard to achieve, what does that say about our achievement when people who don’t work hard still achieve and people who work hard don’t achieve?

letters to lana del rey (56)

Dear Lana,

I picked up Huxley’s Brave New World again after forgetting to finish it for about half a year. Is it a problem when I read Brave New World, my immediate reaction is: well, this isn’t so bad?

Transhumanism. Focusing on the present. Skepticism towards art and culture. That pretty much summarizes my current beliefs about the world. My ethics are surprisingly aligned with the government of Brave New World. Huxley allegedly criticizes the notion of a government controlling its populace by making them happy to the point they don’t really care about their personal freedom. Personally, that seems alright with me. If I were happy, why would I care about if I was free or not? I thought the point of freedom was to attain happiness.

Bernard allegedly feels alienated being part of a industrial capitalist complex where utility is upheld as the highest virtue. That seems about right to me. He feels alienated from the system in which he is a part of. He tries to make sense of his alienation by creating a moral hierarchy between what he believes in and what the rest of the people in his world believe in. He does not view utility as a virtue, and therefore he does not feel at home in his society. He tries to make sense of what he believes when the rest of the world follows another set of virtues altogether.

A part of me gets him. I’ve always felt alienated from the world before. But, I think I’ve learned to accept that I should grow up from my difference and conform to what society expects of me. Everyone wants to be a rebel, but who wants to be a rebel? There’s not much point in believe something other than what the society around you wants to believe. Doing so causes a great amount of unhappiness, and no one wants that. Bernard seems to be looking for something more than happiness, which is why he avoids the use of soma. But I’m convinced there’s nothing else worth pursuing in the world other than happiness. I haven’t finished the book quite yet, so I don’t know how it ends, but I wonder if he’ll make the same realization. It would certainly make my life easier.

If anything, when Bernard rejects soma he seems to be, if anything, an aesthetic rejection. Doing so amounts to upholding soma into a political ideology, but would you consider the use of drugs to be a political ideology to be any more than you reject the image of poverty?

I was thinking today – sex is very much related to our conception of masculinity and femininity, but sex has very little to do with human nature. Animals have a lot of sex, and animals don’t have a sense of self-consciousness that views sex in another dimension. the experience is one-dimensional to them. In a similar vein, we also pursue one-dimensionality within our structure of gender because it is through opposites we affirm our identity of the singular. Through heteronormative structuralism, we can separate the world into individuals who are alike us and others. Sexuality adds another aspect of dimensionality by introducing another lens to reaffirm the singular.

I keep on coming back to this idea that the world way we can understand ourselves in life is through others. Schopenhauer is literally wrong when he says that the essence of the universe could be found through looking inwards. In the last couple of months, I have become more and more convinced that the essence of the universe is found within in the invisible strings that ground our sense of relationships as oppose to our individual identities. It is only though others there is the one in the same way that there cannot be existence without absence or Jay-Z without Beyoncé.

Is it so bad that Brave New World is a product of a Modern American realism? If there is no freedom, then there is no need to worry. If there is no suffering, there is no need to want anything more. Like sheep who only need to continue to contribute to society in order to take place in a happy society, sheep are at peace. There is no need to want anything when you are a sheep. Reality is pleasant. Contributions are necessary. There is no need for awareness of the world beyond. There is no need for a liberal arts education. All that exists is contribution and happiness. All that needs to exist is contribution and happiness.

letters to lana del rey (55)

Dear Lana,

I’m trying to understand the psychology of simping. It seems quite ingrained in the human condition from some time. Going back all the way to the troubadours of the medieval era, the simp has always been a niche part of society, at least occupying some significant part of the popular consciousness. It seems to encompass predominantly men, to which I’m not entirely sure why, and I wonder if its creation is tied to our collective understanding of masculinity and femininity.

I wonder if there’s some sort of internalized rejection simps live off of. Do simps gain some sort of ineffable satisfaction from simping? Harkening back to Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, I was thinking about her distinction between subjects and objects again, specifically how it ties into gender and Sartre’s concept of bad faith and how that ties to simping. I was reflecting on this idea because I am genuinely curious: Do simps genuinely want their affection to be returned, or do they thrive off the idea that they will never be enough?

Beauvoir articulates the unfortunate associations between subject-identity and masculinity and object-identity and femininity. If these traits are indeed societal, then what explains this deviation found in simps? Although modern society has become progressively more progressive, gender and queerness has always been part of the cultural vocabulary, even when there weren’t words to describe such concepts. One could observe the transgressive nature of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice representing an outsider defined by religiosity but amplified by his cross-dressing disposition. There were simps for Portia in the beginning, but simps don’t get to far in literature, or in life. There is an element of object-identification that seems structuralized… yet I’m not too sure how it originated. Why would anyone seek out to be an object over a subject?

It is quite an enticing idea — inadequacy. It is an especially potent idea if inadequacy is perceived to be permanent. And, after a certain point in our lives, when we finally gain a sense of how much control we think we have in our own lives, it becomes a structure in which we live our lives. Beauvoir draws an equivalency between subject-identity and freedom, but I would hesitate to call object-identity the opposite of freedom. To me, it’s more like not caring about your own freedom, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as the pursuit of freedom. If object-identity is a form of bad faith, then its immune to Freudian structuralized self-shattering. If one adopts object-identity, there is no need for continuance of growth. Jesus takes the wheel, and poof! There goes the rest of your life.

Are simps happy? Is Sisyphus happy? Do they have the same answer?

In many ways, I think there are many parallels between the modern phenomena of simping and The Myth of Sisyphus. When you simp, you are putting effort towards a goal. But, when you attain that goal, you lose your identity as a simp. If you wish to retain your identity as a simp, then you need to let go the prospect of attaining your goal of winning affection; doing so, would result in the destruction of your identity as a simp. Therefore, when living life, simps are presented with a constant dilemma: working towards their goal, or losing their identity. When presented with the prospect of happiness and the prospect of losing your identity, nine times out of ten I am convinced people will choose to retain their identity.

Are simps doomed to a life of unhappiness? No, of course, not. Silly me. Simps are happy. Didn’t I learn anything from Camus? Of course, I would also have to draw a discrepancy between felt happiness and believed happiness. It is simple enough; one is felt, the other is believed. One is in your mind, and the other is in your mind (get it? because happiness isn’t real, and it’s all in your mind). Do simps feel happy, or do simps believe they’re happy? I find it a bit hard to believe that a perpetual state of sexual frustration equates to happiness. But, hey, who am I to say what is happiness (I’ve certainly never felt it… kek).

I’m sure simps understand the extent of their inadequacy. The chad-virgin dichotomy didn’t start from nowhere. If one identifies as a simp, then they must be familiar of the existence of the chad-virgin spectrum, which originates from the same internet cultural genesis that created gave birth to the simp. If the simp falls on the virgin side of the spectrum, then identity formation necessitates awareness of the chad. It is through these metaethics that there exists a causal relationship between existence and identification. Simps cannot exist without chads, just as chads cannot exist without simps. Drawing from the traits of this spectrum, then in order for simps to retain their identity, they must continue to reject subject-identity and all of the freedoms that comes with it.

Ironically, the only way for a simp to stop being a simp is to want to not be a simp. But, not wanting to be a simp amounts to the rejection of object-identification, resulting in a inner catastrophe that would render the torrential blizzard firestorm acid hurricane of puberty merely a gentle drizzle on a Sunday afternoon.

letters to lana del rey (54)

Dear Lana,

I think my News Year resolution this year is to stop ending all of my sentences with “lame.” Lame.

Like that.

Sometimes, I like to think of life as a game of Words With Friends. For a long period, I thought that there was some sort of strategy or skill needed to succeed, as if having a good vocabulary is actually important. Now, I realize that vocabulary isn’t important at all. It is more important to just brute force different combinations of words until you find something that works.

I was thinking back to this phrase from this movie I watched a couple years ago. “不悔梦归处,只恨太匆匆,” which roughly translates to no regret for the passage of the dream, only hatred for it passing so quickly. Happiness / sadness. Echoes.

The problem with life is that you are capable of living multiple lives but you are only able to live one life. This dichotomy between the lives you could have lived and the life that you lived necessitates unhappiness, as long as you pay attention to the lives that you could have lived. While the lives that you could have lived are always there, the attention you devote to the lives you could have lived is not necessary.

I’ve been having this recurring dream lately. I always find myself at my middle school graduation. I don’t exactly remember what happened in my dream because I don’t write down my dreams anymore, but it’s always my middle school graduation. Was that a pivotal time in my life? I don’t think so; I think it’s because my middle school is just across from my house, so I have to walk past it every time I decide to go for a walk.

I don’t think many people live with the realization that at any point their life could fall apart. I could be walking down the street, and per the meme value, an air conditioner could fall on my head as it did with Chidi in The Good Place. Then, my life would end. If it didn’t end, then at least my life would be changed quite a bit. I suppose life is quite different before and after an air conditioner falls onto your head.

With this realization, there aren’t too many ways to live life that avoids this thought. Instead of hoping that an air conditioner doesn’t fall on my head, it might be better to live and plan for the possibility that an air conditioner might fall on your head. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.

letters to lana del rey (53)

Dear Lana,

I think my cynicism is getting really unhealthy. My friend introduced this concept of irony poisoning to me the other day, which is Urban Dictionary defined as “when one’s worldview is so dominated by irony and detachment-based-comedy, that the joke becomes real and you start to do things that are immoral or wrong from a place of deep nihilistic cynicism.”

I feel this. I really do.

If I was up to it, I could write a couple novels about these feelings and attempt to usher in a new age of existential postmodernism in the internet age, but that seems like too much work. Also, right now, I’m feeling too cynical to do anything about it. I’m trying to, as Sartre would want me to, to separate my existence from the essential properties associated with my existence, which is why I said I’m feeling cynical as opposed to I am cynical. Cynicism is a personality trait that can be added or removed with some discretion, so it is important not to associate my identity with a personality trait that is lesser than my existence.

What is real?
What is real?
What is real?
What is real?
What is real?
What is real?

I feel like I’ve been asking that for awhile now. I’ve asked it since I started to do writing on the big sad, and I haven’t really reached a conclusion that is particularly elucidating. The thing about reality is that everything seems so distanced from other things. Things happen in one sphere in the world, and then we respond to it in another sphere. There is this distinct feeling of detachment to the rest of the world that arises through perceiving this imagined barrier between things that happen and things that we perceive happening. The question that arises is: is this distinction existent? Well, it is existent now that I have pointed it out, but does it exist in any merit beyond my perception of it?

In response to this perceived disconnect, or the unsure recognition of its existence, we compensate with the ironic disposition to reject our reality and acknowledge the disconnect. At least, that’s what I think I’m doing. I have a very hard time figuring out what I am doing because even my own self-evaluation is tainted with irony. Through irony, we reject the reality we have been given and call ourselves to what we think is a higher reality but in reality a lesser reality when we do not want to address actual reality. I find it to be quite challenging to navigate because of its ontological self-reinforcement. If only there existed a world where we acted in our best interest. Wouldn’t that be a utopia?

I was thinking of applying a modified Pascal’s wager in this situation. At this point, there are to option: to live life authentically, or to live life ironically. They are both their own philosophical doctrines in their own right. Both are incompatible with the other, just life Christianity and athiesm back in the day. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which one is more “real” — authenticity or irony. At the end of the day, only one thing matters in life, and that is to live a good life. In this regard, living authentically probably secures a better life down the line, regardless of whether or not it is a more “real” way to live lie, whatever “real” means (I’m starting to accept that I will never know what is “real” — moreover, that it doesn’t really matter what is more “real” than another).

Out of all the Hellenistic schools of thought, I probably find myself falling most in line with Epicureanism. There’s something distinctly transhumanistic about, and I think it ages well into the 21st century, which I claim to represent. I’ve already noted the toxic effects of cynicism on my life — it doesn’t allow me to enjoy life as much, it drains my energy away from doing things that I liked, it’s boring — I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to live in the future with this growing force of cynicism. I’m determined to let my cynicism die sometime in the next couple of years. Of course, since it is a parasite attached to me right now, it’ll take some time to shed. I’m sure, before long, I’ll find myself another personality trait to replace it. All in the name of living a better life.

letters to lana del rey (52)

Dear Lana,

Sometimes, I feel ashamed for wanting things. When you want things, you are reminded by what you don’t have. Schopenhauer probably say that it’s bad to have these natural desires, and Nietzsche would probably say to embrace them. What is more human, wanting or not wanting? More accurately, not wanting is just want of not wanting. It seems impossible to escape the spectrum of wanting, so it might be better off to embrace it instead, even though that might lead to unhappiness. Human existence is pretty unhappy. Why bother with anything else?

Marx kept on going off on how horrible being alienated from your labor is. I disagree; I think it’s pretty great. Who actually wants ownership in what they create? It seems like so much… accountability. Who wants accountability? That’s so much… counting.

I realized that if you don’t particularly believe in anything, not nothing particularly matters. Believe is the power of creating attachment. If you do not believe in anything, then you do not get attached in anything. Long lost are ideas like love and duty or whatever. That’s so 18th century. If anything I consider myself pretty representative of the 21st century.

I remember Nate Silver was a transfer pricing consultant at KPMG before he started FiveThirtyEight. After I read his book The Signal and the Noise, I also wanted to be a transfer pricing consultant because that seems like what all the cool kids did these days. He was just vibin’ and creating models in Excel. It seemed like the life I wanted. I would like to vibe.

letters to lana del rey (51)

Dear Lana,

I had a dream yesterday. Two of my friends and I were back at my high school graduation, but for some reason we were back in the first floor of my middle school talking in front of my 7th grade locker. I was trying to open the lock with my combination all those years ago — 35-28-9 — but then I realized they changed up the combination. One of my friends asked me what I wished for. I told her I wished things could’ve turned out the way I wanted them to. She asked to be real since that didn’t work out, so I told her that I wanted to better understand what I wanted.

It had one of those ephemeral qualities to it, as if it was a flashback in a movie to show a formative moment of a character. I could totally believe if that had actually happened in my life. It reminds of that entire sequence where Shirley was asking Kiritsugu what he wanted to be in the future in Fate Zero, which in turn served as a catalyst for the rest of Kiritsugu’s personality following her death. There are so little difference between dreams and memories.

In the next part of my dream, I found myself at the Gherkin in London. It was uncharacteristically cloudy, and the hallways were so barren from any people or things. I was just drifting in this hallway near the blueish gray elevator corridor, not sure what I was looking for. I’ve never been to the Gherkin before, so the interior looked close to the brutalist building I lived in Beijing during my freshman summer. I opened a door and found myself at the same office in my freshman internship. Someone asked me why I was there, and I told them I just wanted to look at the view.

Awhile back, one of my friends once brought up how the study of economics isn’t really about understanding the economics of our current world. It is closer to creating realities with certain sets of assumptions and studying how different the world is. I ended up studying English and economics in college. If you asked me why I studied what I did, I could talk about the parallels between the creation aspect between normative economics and literature. In both of these studies, the goal isn’t to describe the world in its reality but to highlight something about this world by creating another world altogether.

Immediately, after waking up, I searched up who were the tenants of the Gherkin, as if I had some divine calling to work in there. I’ve heard the Gherkin had power to melt cars by redirecting rays from the sun in a specific manner. If that is not divine, then what is?

letters to lana del rey (50)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about life as trajectory. You set out, you are influenced, and you become.

I think there’s a lot about human nature that wants to make sense of things. When things happen to us, we try our best to make sense of what happened to us. This type of thinking also affects our future; we tend to seek a future that makes sense of our past.

There’s nothing more universal than having things happen to us. Although it seems quite contradictory, becoming requires occurrence. You cannot become anything if nothing happens to you. This, I’ve come to realize, is especially true during COVID. Nothing happens, and therefore I am not becoming anything. I am sufficiently isolated from the world around me. Everyone I interact with is sufficiently isolated from the world around them. Nothing happens to us. We do not become anything. Nothing happens. Nothing becomes.

I find myself asking myself, what constitutes resilience? It is supposedly a source of internal steadiness that grounds us in a turbulent external world, but what is it? How much of our lives is supposedly shaped around how resilient we are? Is resilience an image of an uncompromising internal world in the face of external forces? I wonder if there’s such thing as mental fortitude — not necessarily about enduring pain, but more about not letting the pain we experience lead to a need to make sense of that pain in our life.

If you ask someone how they became the way they are, they’re probably able to point to a couple experiences that pushed them one direction over another. They would say, “Oh yeah, XYZ affected me a lot” or “I wasn’t the same after XYZ.”

We construct meaning in our lives through the things that happen to us. Our identity is product, and personal history is cause. Do you ever feel that way, Lana? Did the things that happened to you lead to believe certain things about yourself, defining what you wanted for yourself for the rest of your life?

letters to lana del rey (49)

Dear Lana,