“Why Nations Fail” by Acemoglu and Robinson sparked my newfound love for history. I’ve learned how much society’s economic and political dynamics were influenced by critical junctures of the past. But reading about history also gave me an impression that the struggle for the past centuries was mostly man vs man.

Fast forward to today. Societies now are more self aware, and are gradually evolving to have a proper check and balance in place to eschew oligarchic control and to encourage innovations. The struggle is slowly shifting out of man vs man.

Over time I’m confident that the world will take care of itself, and the invisible hand will reign… Especially since globalization and technology are inevitable forces. And they make ideas travel faster, thus making people smarter, thus making it hard for the elites to rule and extract from the mass. Also we prioritize “solving” man vs man because it directly affects how we live our lives now.

This is an optimistically bold statement… But my gut tells me to give it a maximum of a century or 2, and global societal peace will happen organically.

However one thing that is not getting better over time organically is climate change. Just because we can’t yet feel the effects now, we ignore. It’s the elephant in the room that can crush us all. But for the few who care, they know how the scale and intensity of its impact will take a toll on how the future generations will live their lives.

The man vs man struggle will gradually improve over time.
But man vs nature, a much much difficult struggle, is already within a stone’s reach. We need to act fast. And act now.
As of now I don’t know yet what to do, how to go about this. The insight just came to me now midway the book. But there are a lot of things to do including researching and immersing myself in the issue.

on economics and changing the world

Economics is the field of study which can directly influence the welfare of humans. Economic policies goad market movements and prices, consumption, investments, and savings, which inflict real impact on the population’s well-being. I realized this 2 weeks ago when we shopped for Noche Buena goods, and prices were gog damn high. I thought some macroeconomic policy could have influenced the prices. (And I can only do so much in digital advertising. It is a heavy sentiment.)

But the power economics wields is merely romantic. The concepts are highly theoretical and ideal. And people who have the real heart to alleviate their country’s/ the world’s condition, at the same time have a knack for the craft, and have the resource and charisma to implement it are almost fictional.

Maybe Monsod is the closest economist who realized this. And she chose to spend her scarce time resource to teaching and inspiring her students, which can potentially yield exponential results–more economists with honor and excellence.

I wish I realized this early on. It would have given me inspiration and strength to be good at the craft. Unfortunately the big picture answer to “why economics?” came to me 7 years late. I hope economics students recognize that they have the potential to make the world a better place. (Cheesy, but why not :P)

thoughts about nirvana 2

A Long Pause, and then this.

Outside Shang. We are only two in this balcony. Me and another guy. The shadows of the potted palm trees shroud us from the 2pm sun.

Can I attain nirvana under the shade of the palm plant, like how Buddha attained it under the Bodhi Tree?

And now we are three.

To live in the present, and not mind time.
To detach self from the past and future, to be void of worries, and to be cleansed of memories.
To focus on the city sounds. Skidding of cars. Under the slightly overcast sky.
To feel the cigarette against my dry lips, and the smooth sliding of pen against paper.
To be in the present, and the present alone.
And to hear the rustling of the finger-like leaves, as reply.
To be hyperconscious.
To pause…
To revel in stillness of body and thought.
To feel alive.

How should we live life? So bodies are conceived into this world of expectations and obligations. The things we do, we do partly because the world expects us to. Even the most mundane tasks are according to norms: eat during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sleep at night. Be active in the morning.

The janitor who is in the balcony with me is arranging the chairs and cleaning up cigarette butts, because it is part of his job. Why do his job? To get paid. Because he needs money to live.

In a sense, are we not puppets of society? A man-made society driven by an invisible hand?

Four words: inertia to status quo.

thoughts about nirvana

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor shared in her TED Talk the scientific answer to attaining nirvana: letting go of the past and the future.

So if I want to achieve the ever-elusive peace of mind— nirvana— now, I need to forget everything about the past. I need to sweep away the old pains and pleasures. And I need to consciously disconnect myself from the future, including the repercussions of my present’s actions.

Unwrinkle the brow.
And connect with the world.

But it ain’t easy to attain. We are conceived to a culture of societal norms, rules, and obligations. And it is not easy to severe the self from the expectations, especially when it fulfills our physiological needs [and now Maslow’s pyramid makes so much sense].

It must be then that nirvana is the anti-thesis of the world’s expectations. -_-
Sad? Yes. But I think once in a while it is forgivable to experience the disconnect. Or the delightful intense connect to the present.

Tara na sa nirvana?

On a lighter totally unrelated note, don’t you think sneezes and yawns are cousins…

thoughts while in-transit

July 19 2010, 1035pm, in the shuttle to Doña Soledad

I learned how to read piano notes as early as 5. But I was one of those pupils intimidated by their quintessential old piano professors who exercised corporal punishment by slapping their students’ incompetent hands. I quit after I finished Grade 1 level. Over the years though, I found playing the piano therapeutic, so until now I try to learn pieces both classical and pop and Respekt (albeit more often than not unsuccessfully).

I figured that there are three piano skills one should acquire to attain mastery.

Assuming “mastery” = “the ability to sight-read”,

(1) One must be able to read notes, which could be acquired via formal lessons coupled with practice.
(2) One should learn how to optimize finger movement, which is actually taught in formal piano lessons.
(3) And my newest realization: One should be able to play the notes without actually looking at the music sheet, as it would be impossible to constantly glance back and forth from the sheet to the keys especially when the tempo is fast.

But there are many other definitions of mastery I cannot yet or ever deconstruct, like composing and playing by ear. Good luckt.

Insight of the night. Bow.