sarah the sad squid

Today, the stock market dropped by 15% amidst fresh fears that COVID-19 will continue to stall economic recovery. It was quite counterintuitive. Even though the Fed promised to not raise interest rates for the remainder of the year, US bank equities continue to decrease in value. Recently, a bank hired my team to advise them on liquidating assets to sustain bottom-line growth. It involved mass layoffs.

On the other hand, the housing market on the outskirts of New York is doing well because people don’t really want to live in the city anymore. Considering how often I fly to Manhattan, I considered buying a house near Manhattan for a time. It’s been six years since I started working, but I’m still not used to the feeling of flying. Motion sickness really does not go away with time. Buying a house, in a way, would cure my motion sickness.

My favorite place in Manhattan is Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach is a short walk from Coney Island. From Manhattan, taking the F train to its terminal stop would get you to Coney Island. After walking through the empty amusement park, you will get to a beach unlike any other beach. It is a beach, but in New York. You don’t typically imagine beaches and New York being synonymous with each other. Therefore, this beach was special.

The waves fluttered into the shore with pathetic thrashes into the sand. It was quite unlike the unrelenting force that resulted in Neiman Marcus to file for bankruptcy. I worked at the Neiman Marcus in Hudson Yards when I was in 10th grade, gently letting people know the difference between money and taste. They had good discounts for my tastes.

I was visiting in-laws, who lived in a condominium in Manhattan beach, this weekend. My wife told me we were having a seafood themed dinner. I haven’t had crab in some time, and the thought of having crab again excited me. I also haven’t seen my in-laws, but that excited me less.

There is very little meat in crab, but I suspect that it is precisely because there is very little meat in crab that people like to eat crab. People tend to value things when there is very little of a thing. Since we have an industry that produces crabs for us, we have an abundance of crab. Yet, there is still very little meat in crab, so it reminds us of a different world we have not lived in, one in which crab was truly scarce. It was a world before the world we lived in right now. Although, crab was still very expensive.

Their condominium took an entire floor, so when we arrived on the 14th floor, we arrived at their home. Her father greeted me first with a stern handshake followed by a tepid smile. He wore the same light blue button-up as me as if we were about to walk into a client presentation together. I didn’t like her father, but I returned a warm smile anyways. He was one of those fathers that didn’t like any guy that his daughter dated. I suspected it was because he wanted to have his own daughter for himself. Not sexually, but he was probably resentful to some extent that he raised a girl for all of her life only to have some random guy swoop up and take her away from him. It was quite a possessive mentality. He did not like me even before I met him, and it was beyond me to put any effort into changing that.

Her mother, on the other hand, greeted me with warm hug, telling me how nice it was to see me. I smiled back. Her wrinkles were becoming very evident around her eyes, which was a product of her abundant smiling, but it was also an indicator of age. Her mother was ten years older than her father. I have no idea how they started dating, but I wasn’t going to ask. It was one of those conversation topics that would only sour our relationship. High risk, low upside. In-laws are one of those figures where an ounce of politeness is the ideal state of being. Genuine connection is neither warranted nor desirable, as it could only lead to conflict. True intimacy is contained within significant others and no one else.

Dinner was already served when we walked into the dining room. All the seafood was served in white plates and covered with saran wrap. My wife removed all of the saran wraps while I sat down with her mother and father.

“How is work?” asked her father.

“We’re doing remote for now,” I replied. “So that has been an interesting transition. But I should be on track for a promotion by the end of the year.”

“Congratulations,” said her mother. “Did you know about this, pumpkin?”

I was allergic to pumpkin, so the word pumpkin triggered me.

“Yes, mom,” replied my wife.

I looked at the table, and I noticed that there wasn’t any crab served. I wasn’t really disappointed considering the current landscape of the world. Since the world was on the brink of collapse, not having crab for dinner seems quite inconsequential. It seems that most of the things that happened in my life is quite inconsequential. Senior year of college, when I received an offer at my current company during recruitment, I considered that to be the most accomplished I have ever felt. Not coming from a target school, it was a pretty big deal between my friends and an even bigger deal with my parents. But now, I’m not high enough in the corporate hierarchy where I get to choose which projects I get staffed on. Before COVID, most of the time I was staffed on industrial projects in the middle of Ohio. After COVID, if I die because of COVID, I doubt that the world would change that much. My wife would be sad, of course, but she would get over it eventually. My company would hire another consultant from a rival firm, and the profits will continue to be maximized. Such is capitalistic equilibrium.

We didn’t do much talking after the food started. Food has that sort of silencing effect on people. In the middle of the table was a grilled squid, chopped at horizontally a couple centimeters apart from each other. I decided to name this squid Sarah out of boredom.

Sarah the squid had a purple hue to her. I brought a piece of Sarah to my plate and poked her for a bit. I jabbed Sarah with my fork piercing her with the same consistency as the time I accidentally jabbed my inner cheek with a cotton swab. It also reminds me of when kids used to “taser” me in elementary school by jabbing their fingers into my ribs. Sarah did not respond. Of course, Sarah did not respond. Sarah was dead. Sarah was a grilled squid. Sarah was very dry now because she had been grilled. Even though Sarah was a grilled squid, I imagined Sarah’s sliminess when she was still alive. At one point, Sarah was very much alive. Her dryness marked her death. Obviously, Sarah was also grilled, so she had a mark from her time on the grill as well.

My wife was talking about the latest case on which she was staffed. She was pricing bread for a multinational conglomerate attempting to enter a new market. I already heard about this case from two weeks ago, so I stared outside at the crashing waves through the window to my left. At this point, the sun was setting, so I could see my reflection against the faint blue exterior. The waves flowed softly against the shore, and the shore absorbed the waves into its caress. I lost focus and found myself looking back at myself in the window. It is funny how windows have that effect of being simultaneously reflective but also transparent. What an aspirational way to live life. Yet, I was sitting here with my wife and my in-laws. At one point in time, I met these people for the first time ever. Now, I’m at their house eating Sarah the grilled squid.

Today, I met Sarah the grilled squid for the first time ever in my life. I suspect, after I finish eating Sarah, I will never see Sarah again. Well, technically, I will be taking a shit in a couple of hours, and then Sarah will come out of my back end. It wouldn’t be the first time I treated a Sarah like a piece of shit. That was a while ago. There are so many people in my life whom I met once and never met again. Those people in my life come with the wave and leave with the wave. Yet, those countless people have affected me in one way or another to form the person I am today. Rocks on the shore are eroded by the countless cycle of waves that come and go with the tide. In that regard, a lot of my current existence is the product of a series of interactions with some people affecting me more than others.

If I go to live in the mountains, will I be free from the waves? I could live for myself, live far away from people. There wouldn’t be anyone that could affect me, and I would have complete power over my own emotional being.

Then, I looked back at Sarah the grilled squid. I wonder what Sarah was like before she was captured and converted to a grilled squid. She was alive at one point. She was slimy. She was able to swim the vastness of the ocean, all alone, and let the deep undersea current carry her wherever she wanted to go. It would be so dark, like death, and taste the sweetness of falling out of existence. There would be nothing she would see. There would be nothing to see either. Being able to float in the middle of infinity — that’s something humans will never be able to experience, at least in my lifetime. She could very well fall out of existence at any point in the depths. There could be a predator lurking in the corner, ready to gulp her up at any moment.

This constant fear of death while embracing the feeling of death equates to the fundamental feeling of existence.

I wonder what it’s like to be like Sarah the grilled squid, floating in the middle of the ocean, where it would take hours to reach the surface or the ocean floor. One day, I would like to be like Sarah the grilled squid. If I could not see the daylight, I would never know what time it is. I would exist in this endless plane of darkness. It would very much be like death. Timeless darkness. For many people, I suspect that it is a scary thought — being forced to perceive time pass by in the sea of darkness. I suspect Sarah the grilled squid perceives time quite unlike me. If there is nothing to contextualize time, then how can we understand time? Sarah the grilled squid could not contextualize time, so does she even have a sense of time?

I started to poke Sarah again. I don’t know if she likes my poking. Why would I care? Sarah is a grilled squid. Sarah died to become my food. If I do not eat Sarah, I effectively have wasted her existence. She had a life before. Then, her purpose was reduced to become my food. Some fisherman enforced his purpose on Sarah, and Sarah was reduced to be food for me. Sarah probably wanted to have a lot of sex before she died. There are probably a lot of squids who wanted to have sex with Sarah. But, unfortunately, Sarah won’t be able to have sex with all of those bachelor squids who wanted to have sex with her. That’s quite unfortunate. I imagine Sarah was pretty disappointed that she was not able to hook up with numerous hottie squids who hangs around the coral reef.

When humans are bored, they tend to do things to alleviate their boredom. This rejection of boredom amounts to the essential motivation of existence.

I wonder if Sarah was bored a lot. The ocean is very big, so it’s not like you have a lot of places to hang around. When I was a teenager, I used to smoke weed with my high school friends in this abandoned textile factory in the middle of the industrial district. I was very bored back then. I’m no so bored anymore. There aren’t that many abandoned textile factories in the ocean, I bet. There are shipwrecks, but you need to dive very deep to get there. I guess coral reefs are the abandoned textile factories of the ocean. That’s right. A lot of fish and other creatures hang around coral reefs. Coral reefs are definitely the abandoned textile factories of the ocean. Although, I guess coral reefs are more like the mall. What am I thinking? No one goes to the mall anymore. This isn’t the 80s. Where do people hang around nowadays? Right, the hang around abandoned textile factories. Wait. Cities. They exist too. People hang around cities. But, coral reefs have a distinctly different vibe from cities. For one, cities are not colorful. Coral reefs, on the other hand, are colorful. I wonder if Sarah liked brutalism. I really like brutalism.

Boredom is the equivalent of feeling time pass by. It is a reminder of existence. The perception of time is a reminder of existence. Most of the time, I don’t like to be reminded that I exist. I don’t like to be bored.

“– what do you think, honey?” asked my wife.

Instinctually, my attention returned back to the dinner table. I distantly recall my wife mentioning about US-China relations.

“Yeah, it’s crazy what’s going on,” I replied. “I heard 20 Indian soldiers died in a border clash today.”

My mother-in-law stopped showering to speak. “Are you serious? That’s serious.”

The prospect of nuclear war was a distant possibility, I suppose, but unlikely.

I poked Sarah some more with my fork. I made some replies to questions asked towards me. I decided to not eat Sarah. Although, not eating Sarah would equate to negating her existence. How cruel would that be? Why would she care? Sarah is a grilled squid.

the world beyond destiny’s island

The first Kingdom Hearts game is a story of three children who were born and raised on this island called Destiny’s Island. It was one of those games that defined my childhood, which in turn defines my longings in adulthood. Throughout the beginning of the first Kingdom Hearts, you play as this character who was preparing to leave the island and see the world outside of the island. Then, right before you depart on your own accord, you are thrown into the immensity of the universe and a constant need to run.

I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and then I went to college in the city of Philadelphia. I have traveled around the world here and there, but I have met so many people in college who have traveled from so far away to be in Philadelphia. Commuting twenty minutes from my college apartment to my home home during breaks, I cannot help but feel some sort of envy towards individuals who are able to feel so distant between school and home. I wish I had that sort of physical separation in my life.

I think there’s a lot about the Asian American experience that delves into the feeling of constant alienation deriving from a label of being other. There are many coping mechanisms for this. Some of my Asian friends do all in their power to emulate the epitome of whiteness. Some of my Asian friends delve into alternative communities that offer some semblance of acceptance. Some of my Asian friends insert themselves into Asian communities as a source of solidarity in an era of indifference.

For me, I like doing what I have done all my life: run away.

I often reflect on whether my glorification of running away is a coping mechanism for feeling profoundly unattached to my surroundings. If I could, I would have studied abroad every semester of college. People often say that relationships take time to form, but I wasn’t really capable of forming meaningful relationships even with time. If the only thing that holds people back from running away is attachment, the natural conclusion to my past is the realization that there is nothing holding me back from running away.

There are so little relationships to be formed in life, yet so much of life to see.

During my time as an undergraduate, I constantly attempted to understand what constitutes a relationship, as if understanding how relationships are formed would allow me to better understand how to insert myself into one. But, gradually, I realized that no amount of theory I learned could ever address the void of the practice of feeling loved. It reminds me of the conflict between ideology and practicality that occurred after Mao Zedong’s death between Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping. Ultimately, Deng was able to convince the Communist Party that practical economic policy deserved more attention than the continuation of the revolution, and practicality is the name of the game in post-1978 China.

I think I have achieved a somewhat similar realization in my life. Sometimes, I adhere to these head-in-the-clouds-type theories that I wanted to govern how I lived my life. It is Ayn Rand that said that every philosophical system should be closed and that one philosophical system should be able to address all issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy. But, specifically, in the field of metaethics, I was constantly searching and theorizing for this one philosophical system that would be able to address all of my questions regarding my relationships. But, I now realize, I should stop searching.

This philosophical system that would solve all of my questions regarding my relationships may or may not exist is the Moby Dick of my existence. I have spent all of my life searching for it and attempting to spear it. But, I think I am at the point in my life where it is probably to let it go and guide my life through practice.

There is a life out there that is going to be experienced, and I intend to experience that life. Regarding the relationships I wasn’t able to form — I have learned to take this fish I have raised all of my life and throw it back into the ocean where I could watch it swim away with me, along with the responsibility of ensuring the fish would grow. I could either continue to theorize about a philosophical system that in actuality has little practice in my life, or I could learn to let go of this false solution to a problem that is better left behind. I am letting go of a false fish. I choose to sail ahead.

On Destiny’s Island in Kingdom Hearts, there are a lot of comforts. There is community and friendship and safety, but it is also a world away from other worlds. For me, I never felt the comfort of Sora on Destiny’s Island, so it wasn’t that that kept me there. Instead, it was an attempt to make sense of my experience in Destiny’s Island in all of its alienation. But, during all the time I spent on Destiny’s Island to understand my experience in the first couple years of my life, the world beyond Destiny’s Island awaits. There is no amount of reflection that will allow me to understand why my experience in Destiny’s Island was the way it was. But, there are other worlds out there that could offer me what I have missed.

I understand now. As long as I continue running, there will eventually be a world that will allow me to have what I have left behind.

our bluest eyes

Sometimes, I think my childhood was pretty traumatizing. Then, I read some stories by Toni Morrison, or about Toni Morrison’s childhood in general, and I realize, maybe my childhood wasn’t the bad after all. But I find this way of thinking to be self-pitying and disturbing from a humanitarian point of view, especially when contrasted with the following indifference.

I’m not sure if this train of thought is considered productive. The thing with fantasizing about completion in your head is that it provides a source of temporary catharsis to otherwise obsessive thoughts. Yet, at the same time, the fantasy only reinforces itself in the face of the injustice of reality. So often, we turn our eyes away from reality into the world of fantasy to hide from how cruel reality can actually be.

The thing I realize about life is that so often, it does not work in the same arcs that follow novels. There is no “redemptive arc” of the protagonist where the events later on in life somehow justify the events that happened earlier on in life. Yet, we constantly search for these arcs because we have been conditioned by literature to do so. I could even venture to say that it is a part of human nature to search for arcs that make good literature.

I often talk about forgetting the past as a solution to all of my problems, and I believe that strongly. But, since I literally cannot forget my past but it is physiologically impossible, I am stuck with the memories that I have.

Why is it when I read about Pecola and Polly in The Bluest Eye that I feel a sense of comfort? I can’t tell if it’s a recognition of solitary between my experience and her experience or a sense of gratitude stemming from a realization that my life is not as bad as I thought it was.

To some extent, I feel that a lot of minorities growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods feel an acute awareness but also contempt for their own race. After all, it is the phenotypical markers of race that are the source of derision among children who cannot help but internalize societal understandings of aesthetics in accordance with western beauty standards. And, since we lack understandings of racial dynamics to blame society when we are children, we typically internalize the blame to ourselves and hate ourselves. Even when I could not articulate it at the same, I felt the same sense of unattractiveness originating from a sense of difference.

For me at least, I never wanted to have blue eyes as a child, but I did want to have a different nose. I also wanted to have double eyelids. For most Asians, I feel the acceptance of identity comes from the acceptance of your eyes and nose. In some supplementary readings I read for a class, Sui Sin Far postulated that the origins of discrimination against Asians come from accented phenotypical differences in the process of assimilation. Since humans tend to identify with themselves, these observable differences become formulations of identity as we age. It just so happens children are especially vocal with their observations.

Physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Unlike Pecola, no one killed a cat in front of me when I was a child. But, nevertheless, I still have my fair share of experiences that still occupy some space in my head despite my alleged temporal distance from them. And, just like I am doing right now, I try to do whatever I can in order to free myself from those reflections of the past.

Similarly, there are a lot of things that happen in life that are pretty bad. There is a lot that shouldn’t happen, and there are so many injustices that exist in the world at every given moment that even attempting to list them would do an injustice to the sheer magnitude of its existence. Things happen to people, and we turn to art, literature, and music as a means to understand the experiences that happen to us. For people who don’t understand the negativity of these experience, they will label it as other and associate it with negativity they do not understand without realizing that it is just an attempt to move on in any way they can.

To me, the role of art has never been a means of communication for others to understand. Communication does come, of course, as a byproduct. But, at the end of the day, it is mostly a means for us to understand our own experiences in all of its disillusionment.

Pecola does obtain blue eyes by the end of The Bluest Eye. But, this realization of this desire comes at the price of her sanity. We may all want to have peaceful pasts that wouldn’t consume our thoughts, but the reality is that it is one of those rare lives, like having blue eyes, that is out of reach for most people. For most people, I’d imagine, there will always be some sort of trauma that persists from the past to the present. But, resolving the lack of something through the possession of something does not necessarily solve our trauma. It certainly did not work for Pecola.

We all do what we do in order to make sense of what has happened to us. There is always a set of blue eyes we will never have, an absence that has caused us a lot of pain in the past. We all can do what we can to move on because moving on, and not holding on, is how we can truly live a fruitful life unencumbered by the past. There are always things we wished we did when we were younger. But, acquiring or doing those things, won’t solve the gap their absence left behind. Life, lived for the good life, can only go forward into a different future, a future seperate from the past.

美国的自由

我这几天读很多关于自由的文件。反正我也没有事干。我在学校经常读马克思主义的文学,没有什么机会读更多马克思主义的文学。从我了解,很多资本主义的作家经常说马克思主义不尊重人的自由。美国社会的文化特别重视人的自由,但是我觉得这很奇怪因为我没想到美国有那么多自由。

当然跟中国或者俄国比起来,美国比别的国家自由很多从政治角度来说。而且美国比很多跟穷的国家的经济自由多很多。美国向批评领导就可以批评领导。我想在没有开始工作,所以我还可以讨论政治。我可以说我不喜欢美国现在的总统。美国也有好精子和字数让很多人又舒服的生活。美国比别的国家的公民权利多很多。理论上,美国的司法系统对所有的任命一样。在实践中,美国的司法系统对两种人最好:有钱的人和白人。在这些方面来说,美国有很多自由。但是我觉得美国的自由没有自己想的多。

要是你想开一个商店在美国,你可以。但是要是你想开个商店在所有的别的国家,你也可以。经常我发现很多资本主义的文学家讲你可以干什么在美国。要是我想买有天在美国,我可以。但是实话说我觉得又很少美国人想吃油田。要是我开了一个油条店,我肯定很快就没有钱了。我觉得这些了解忘记别的国家的存在,也忘记经济自由和人自由不一样。美国不是最为容易的地方做生意。曾经在中国的经济特区,所有的人都想创业。美国也不是最容易的地方尊重公民权利。美国的国家经常其实尊重公民权利。当然所有的国家都其实尊重公民权利,但是我学的很多资本主义的文学家经常忘记。

我想再多几个艾恩兰德的书了。我还不了解为什么她觉得资本主义是为一个可以保持自由的注意。我了解她从苏联移民的,所以她肯定对苏联有怨恨。但是她观美国民权运动以前的美国社会怎么向美国是一个很公平的社会呢?

民权运动之前,黑人和白人不能再一样的餐馆吃饭,不能再一样的学校上学。不到一百年以前,奴隶制还存在呢。在二战时,上前的日本移民被送到拘留营。在别的国家,美国经常推翻民主选举政权因为他们不喜欢一个总统的政治。我了解为什么很多人觉得美国比别的国家自由很多。但是我觉得说美国自己很自由忘记美国很长的历史其实小数民族。现在美国还继续不尊重自己国家的公民和别的国家公民的自由。我不继续这是纯自由。

经常资本主义的文学重视自由市场 (“the free market”)。对经济来说,自由市场对社会的赚钱很有帮助。但是自由市场永远会对一小部分人最好。这是马克思一个批评。在资本主义里,要是你有钱你可以活一个很自由的生活。你想买什么可以买什么。要是你有钱,你都不需要工作。我这几天得到了我的签约奖金。我用了这钱买了一个电子钢琴。但是要是你没有钱,你不可以生活一个自由的生命。你需要工作。你不能买什么东西因为所有你挣的钱回去生活开销。你不能买一个电子钢琴因为你没有钱买一个电子钢琴。要是你工作完了付完了生活费没有钱了,你就完蛋了。而且在纯的资本主义没有政府。没有保护人的法律。那你真的完蛋了。

我想在没有事干。我刚毕业大学,也没有做也可干。我找到工作了,所以我不需要花时间找工作。我下个月才开始工作,现在还没有活儿。我现在跟我家长住着呢,不需要管房租,不需要管伙食费。当然我不可以跑来跑去。现在还有一个伙食费在发生。但是在家里,我想干什么就可以干什么。我这几天在自己学唱歌。我也搭了一个帐篷,在里面读书。在一个富裕的郊区里,我的生命没有什么变化。但是对大部分的美国人来说,冠状病毒牺牲了很多的愿望。他们本来想做的是不能做了。失业率现现在比 2008 年的是由还高。大部分的人用他们的所有的力气杨家保持生命。而且要是没有政府,肯定有更多问题了。这是自由么?

metaclarity

This year, when I applied at the beginning of September, my proposal for a creative writing thesis was rejected.

I think back to the summer, around this time, when I met with a creative writing professor to prepare my thesis application. We discussed some ideas here and there and then I left for New York to start my summer internship. Although the creative writing thesis had been the reason I wanted to be an English major in the first place, which subsequently defined my collegiate academic experience accordingly, it was the last thing on my mind that summer.

When I got off work that summer, I did not work on revisions of my thesis proposal. Instead, I studied finance and industrial organization until I promptly went to sleep at 11 PM. On weekends, I would do more readings on finance and do practice cases with some people. By the end of that summer, I read numerous textbooks and finished more than 60 practice cases. Although I have spent the near the entirety of my time as an undergraduate longing for love, this was a summer where none of it mattered.

The philosophy goes: love comes and goes, but full-time recruiting only happens once in a lifetime. Besides, there’s not really any point in longing for love when longing for love doesn’t make it any more real.

The thing is — this is not something I regret. This was one of the clearest points of my time as an undergraduate. I had a distinct purpose — prioritize my professional interests and don’t fuck up full-time recruiting — and I recognize what I was willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals — my social and artistic pursuits. It was a moment of clarity when I looked at previous moments of clarity and rejected them. Even though I thought a lot about my employment prospects throughout my time as an undergraduate, so much of it was just stress and anxiety over a topic in which I knew nothing about. I claimed to have clarity under states of duress, but there can be no clarity in states of duress. That summer, I had enough security to recognize what mattered most and understand what was necessary to consecrate those objectives. Bridging those disconnects equates to one of the fundamental challenges to achieve clarity of clarity.

At the end of the day, I feel that what matters in life most of all is clarity — recognizing among what you consider to be clarity, which is the clearest. Unfortunately, clarity is something I did not have for a lot of my life.

Some people come into college with a somewhat good understanding of what they want out of the experience. Some of my friends are extremely purpose-driven. They had a good idea how what they wanted to do coming into college, and they continue to have a good idea of what they want to do as they graduate. I had a friend who knew she wanted to be a doctor since middle school (like me! except not at all). She received all A’s throughout her entire time as an undergraduate and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She still has the same goal now that she did at the beginning of college. I had another friend who knew she wanted to become an investment banker the moment she stepped foot on Locust Walk. Four years later, after two different investment banking internships in two different product groups in two different banks, she continues to pursue her passions in investment banking.

I wish I didn’t to college wanting to study medicine because this short blip in clarity resulted in confusion for the next three years. I have another friend who transferred from another school to Penn who wished she knew more about what kind of school she wanted to go to before she committed to a college. During my time in college, I wished I questioned myself more — and I mean, genuinely questioning my values, as opposed to questioning myself to the bare minimum when I thought I was questioning myself without questioning what was truly worth questioning. In terms of those moments lacking clarity, it is so easy to ascribe another reality in which things were more clear. Because, among the realities that we occupy, we can only find clarity within the reality we currently occupy. How easy would life be without navigating that reality disconnect.

And so, even though I had little idea of what I valued throughout my experience in college, I have found a new clarity through comparing my existing clarities with one another. It is only through comparison can there be an understanding of additional purity in clarity. As an extension of Levinasian metaethics, we can only understand ourselves through our understanding of others. Within our inner world, we can only understand our thoughts relative to other thoughts. From the sheer magnitude of the emotional spectrum, we can discover a new reality within the context of a different permutation of thoughts and emotions. Living equates to experiencing multiple realities given these permutations of thought and emotion given external context. Within the different clarities we have obtained from the different realities we occupy, we can understand which clarity is the clearest through accessing all of the other clarities we have discovered. This comparative study amounts to metaclarity.

Surely, my vision isn’t as clear as those individuals who have known their interests for most of their lives and who have utilized the past four years to strengthen their resolve in those goals. But, I learned from them — the people who understand their interests and values with the discipline to follow through on those interests and values. Recognizing what truly constitutes clarity amounts to the fundamental goal of existence. Attempting to parallel this difference equates to a Sisyphysian task. But that, of course, is the 👏meaning 👏 of 👏 life.

the invincible summer

In the Wharton graduation, I heard from my girlfriend that one speaker ended her speech with a quote by Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, [within me], an invincible summer.”

She forgot to say “within me,” which I would say is probably the most important part of the quote. At first, I got annoyed because one of my biggest pet peeves is people in business misquoting literature for the #clout. She was talking about finding things to do or about yourself that make quarantine not as bad as it was. I considered this a misinterpretation of the quote. My girlfriend did not.

I read most of Camus’ works during my semester abroad and am fairly familiar with his philosophical system. I think I understand why he thinks Sisyphus is happy. As for this quote, it comes from one of his shorter essays titled “Return to Tipasa”, which details the memory of a young man in his time at Tipasa as a child. The invincible summer, in this story, refers to the childhood memory that cannot be taken away. It is a way of viewing the world that transcends whatever happens following this period in life.

I have experienced a fair share of sadness throughout my life. Yet, I don’t think it is this sadness that has allowed me to become more resilient. It isn’t the amount of misery that I have experienced in my life that allows me to understand what constitutes a happy life. In fact, I would argue that the sadness I have experienced in the past makes it even more difficult to experience happiness in the future. But, on the other hand, I would also argue the absence of sadness in the past makes it impossible to understand happiness at all. Happiness can become real regardless of experiences past.

In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Ivan Denisovich is condemned to live in a Russian gulag. The story details his day-to-day life in prison.

When devising psychological torture, there is a lot of literature discussing how shoveling gravel is one of the worst forms of punishment because it takes away an individual’s sense of purpose. After all, when you shovel gravel from one place to another only to shovel the gravel back to its original location, there is very little purpose involved. This was what Ivan Denisovich did all day. Yet, he approached the task as Sisyphus would in Camus’ interpretation. Even though every part of his life was designed to be as unpleasant as possible, he refused to approach life with this mentality.

There was one scene where he was eating mushy rice or something. The rice is, well, mushy, and bland, just as it had been since he arrived. Yet, he ate each bowl of rice as if he were eating a Popeyes spicy chicken sandwich for the first time ever. Despite his hellish external world, the world he ultimately experiences is internal. Diverging from the objectivist way of thinking, the world that an individual experiences is ultimately their creation. While there is a lot of influence of the external world on the internal world, at the end of the day, the phenomenological experience created by the internal world is something that the external world cannot dictate.

When I concluded high school, I thought I found an invincible summer because of the sheer amount of sadness I have experienced since the beginning of my life. But, obviously, I have also experienced a lot of sadness in college as well. The sadness I feel, I would imagine, is a function of my internal world. Despite a seemingly average experience in college, I always found room to find sadness, which is quite the opposite experience as Ivan Denisovich. While Ivan Denisovich finds positivity even in the most wretched moments, I find sadness in even the most comfortable moments.

I keep on wondering: What is this invincible summer that Camus speaks of? I understand now that what the within me” part means. The invincible summer is something that truly can only be found within. But, as for how to find it, I’m still figuring that out myself.

But I know that the invincible summer is not an object. I am not going to one day find a thought that will solve all my problems with sadness. It’s close to something that I build — a framework of thinking that is resilient to all of my external circumstances. Compared to where I was four years ago, I am, for sure, closer to seeing its completion than before; at least now I know what I am constructing. But, until the moment where I become truly resilient to all the winters that life can throw at me, in all of its coldness, I still have ways to go.

stochastic processes

When I was recruiting during fall semester of senior year, I met this first-year associate at one of my information sessions who was willing to schedule a 15-minute phone conversation after the information session was over. I asked her a couple of questions, and she responded with some very insightful answers. This was a position in finance, and considering how little exposure I have in finance in my life, I asked her for advice on how to navigate the finance recruitment process when I have not had any prior experience in finance. Then, she ended the phone call with some questions that touched upon what I wanted for myself in my career.

I wrote a cover letter and sent in my resume to its link in Handshake. I did not expect to hear back because, well, why would anyone want me? But a couple of weeks later, I received a first-round interview for the position. I had a pretty good idea of the culture and responsibilities. Yet, no matter how many practice interviews I did with my friends, it seemed that it was to no avail because I absolutely bombed that interview.

But, clearly, something was working because I got an invitation to a Superday a couple of days later. I never attended a Superday in my life before, so I sent another email to the first-year associate I met at the information session, and she gave me some more advice on how to navigate Superdays. In particular, she told me that it was composed of many interviews, so it’s okay if I shit myself in one of them as long as I do well in the rest of them. Low and behold, I shat myself in the first interview but kept my head held high because I knew I still had four more interviews to go. I exited the interview feeling conflicted. But, clearly her advice paid off because I received an offer a couple days later.

I am always amazed how how random our lives are. In the professional world, it is a seemingly set of random people in our lives that completely shape our understanding of what we want from ourselves. I originally had studied up on finance purely because I wanted a better shot at consulting — knowing how valuation works really helps with private equity cases.

I was fascinated with finance, but I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to recruit for finance at all in the beginning of the semester. Unlike individuals who have studied finance in college, the entirety of my knowledge of finance came from background knowledge from studying for consulting. But it was through my meeting with her, and countless others, that convinced me that I should pursue this interesting regardless of my background.

It got me thinking about the tone of my remembrances.

So often, I always think about what didn’t happen to me — the communities I have never formed in college that would have given me something to miss when I left college. This process is random. Yet, it is precisely its randomness that results in the separation of individual experiences. Some people meet certain people that causes them to think about the world in one way; some people meet other people that causes them to think about the world in another way. It doesn’t have to be close friends; every person we interact with changes how we think about the world one way or another, no matter how small the impact.

Yet, at the same time, so much of our live is also how we act in reaction to those interactions.

The nature of stochastic proccesses is that random variables behave, well, randomly. The same could be said about seemingly random events and people that come into our life. So often, I feel resentment towards life for not working out in the way that I wanted it to. There were so many experiences I have never had and so much life that I felt as if I wasted. But, I now realize, there isn’t really any point in living life being angry at a random variable.

So much of my life, I feel, has been waiting around for the outputs from a random variable that I could not control. I would be continuously running a rnorm function in R, and I would be blankly watching the outputs hoping that the results would somehow change without changing the mean and variance.

But, at the end of the day, a random variable still acts in accordance with the parameters you specify for it. A random variable is defined, and its function will not change unless someone changes its definition.

I reflect on my life for the past semester and wonder why it has been so much happier than all of the semesters that preceded it. Sure, I got all A’s this semester and have a girlfriend now. But, I’ve had these things in the past. There were moments in the past where I seemed to have everything I wanted, so why is the happiness I feel now so special?

I realize — more important the meeting a potential romantic partner is following up on the encounter. More important than finding someone who loves you is actually allowing yourself to be loved at all. More important than the things that happen to us is how we react to them.

sklavenmoral and the politics of careers

This past winter, when I was walking around in Frankfurt, I pointed a building and asked if it was the Deutsche Bank building. My tour guide said, “Yes it is. But I prefer to call them the empire of evil.”

Going to Penn, it seems that most people end up working in finance, consulting, or tech. Within my immediate circle of friends, I don’t know a single person not working in these fields. Since I am friends with my friends, I tend to not see them as evil. Of course, there are issues with industries such as finance, but I don’t finance to be an “evil” industry. I wonder if it is because I surround myself with these circles of people that make me less capable of seeing finance as purely “evil”.

When I first started college, I wanted to go to medical school. Being a pre-med, I didn’t know that much about finance. And, considering my aesthetic association between finance and the financial crisis, I had extremely negative views towards finance. But then, after a couple of years of college, I started becoming friends with more and more people who were working in finance. When I started to learn about finance, I realized that the industry itself is amoral and that the financial crisis was a lot more complex than just blaming banks for bad risk management. I stopped seeing finance as a purely evil force in the world.

In The Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche postulated the concept of good as being positively defined through individuals describing themselves. In terms of the master-slave relation, the concept of good was invented by slaves in order to exact revenge on masters by describing themselves as good and describing the masters as evil. It was a way for them to “curse” the masters by condemning their lifestyle through culture. Given the inability for slaves to exact specific revenge on their masters, all they can resort to is a clever cultural reframing to privilege their own state of existence.

Explicit roles such as “master” and “slave” no longer exist in most developed countries, but class divisions are still drawn through wealth inequality. Industries such as finance, consulting, and tech become easy targets as the “master” label because of the sheer amount people in these industries are paid. In response, the popular tide of society as turned against these industries to label them as evil. Because of the exclusivity of these industries, people who don’t work in these industries leverage cultural authority to label them as evil.

Nietzsche said that people self-describe their lives as good lives. When asked, what qualifies as a good life, people describe their own lives. You can observe this in the spectrum of political ideology divided through class. Poor people view rich people as corrupt, greedy, and snobby, and rich people view poor people as lazy, dumb, and uncultured. Regardless of where individuals fall in the political spectrum, they label the lives they live as a good life and the lives others live as an evil life. Paired with a tribe mentality that prevents individuals from sympathizing with others who are unlike them, political ideology falls within the norm of self-identification.

As long as I continue to operate within the social class that works in finance, my morality will continue to operate within the ethics set forth by the master-slave morality dichotomy. In this way, Nietzsche’s claim on human nature would indicate that the cohesion of these moralities would be impossible. It is only through the divisions of master and slave morality can there exist ethics at all. And, because capitalist society is driven by the existence of classes, then there will always be resentment towards the priviledged classes of society, which translates into a new formulation of morality depending on the master-slave morality dichotomy.

caving in

Dauntless
So careful
Praise be to the ones who never sought sonder

Reckless ways
Untold days
The past lived on in the most dangerous color

Vivid sights
Tearful eyes
The silence of the past lives on in those who cry

I never once
Let you know
Why I never say grace when I eat my food

Hand in hand
Hand on throat
The only moment of silence is when I’m with you

Flowing sounds
Rivers crossed
A stone skips slowly when it is thrown too low

Musical ears
Bite the chords
Only two for love can save our souls