A hidden irony behind the inventor’s death

One of my friends in Facebook once posted a picture featuring a sombre comparison between a mammoth, world-changing mover-and-shaker like Steve Jobs with one starving kid in Sudan waiting to be swallowed by a vulture a few days ago. I clicked towards the image, and found out that more than 1,000 people – as of today, now it’s more than 4500 – had shared the pictures worldwide, irrespective of national or geographical borders. What astonished me the most was the message written below: one dies, million cry, million die, no one cries. To be honest, this conveyance had seemed to be like a large hammer knocking down my subconscious mind. The popularity of one man’s death could transgress that of one million.

I admit that Steve Jobs had been a miracle to our world. Through decades of persistence, resilience, and almost seemingly unsinkable gusto, he had built Apple from a garage into a world-changing conglomeration whose products had given endless hopes to millions of people. If there were no Steve Jobs (don’t forget Wozniak as well), the world would not have been as colorful as now it has been, millions of blind and deaf people worldwide (as Stevie Wonder quoted it) would not have lived a brand new world without the assistance of Apple’s inventions, music industry (as some musicians said) would not have ever revived into an entirely new stage, that is now known as digital music industry, and there would have been no Pixar, whose eye-popping, brightly-tinted animation movies have been seen by hundred million people worldwide. Steve Jobs’ inventions had spread like magic, beyond anyone’s expectations. The world has progressed rapidly through the introduction of firstly Macintosh, then iPod, Macbook, iPhone, and currently, iPad. Out of these products, there were still a pantheon of inventions Apple had contributed to the whole planet.

Nevertheless, that’s the source of the irony. And unfortunately, it is a fundamental weakness of us as humankind. One man’s popularity may exceed dozens of news headlines taking place on the world. Often when we had been hypnotized by someone’s fame, we began to forget there is something more important we should have known. At the same time Steve Jobs has passed away, some of us only began to realize that something that should be larger than it is coming off in other parts of the world. Starvation is happening in Somalia, where millions are struggling to stay alive amidst the hostilities between al-Shabaab combatants with government forces. The war in Libya has usurped more than 25,000 lives since NATO-led military invention in March. Few people know there was once a devastating genocide taking place in Rwanda which took off more than 1 million lives of the Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus. And still not many people know much about the reality.

One psychologist, Paul Slovic, once mentioned what he termed as ‘fundamental deficiency in our humanity’. Automatically, we have been programmed by our subconscious minds that we pay greater concern on one person than one thousand masses. This was proven after a series of psychiatric tests conducted by Slovic and his partners, one of which the participants were shown two statements, the former contained one statement written down ‘one child’, and the latter with ‘eight children’. Afterwards, the participants were given an option how much money they would like to donate after taking a brief look at these statements. In the end, most of the participants decided to ‘donate’ 11 dollars on this ‘one child’. What about these ‘eight tenderlings’? They only contributed 5 dollars each. Thus, another test was conducted. The participants were again shown posters, but this time, there were 3. The former showed one girl from Mali named Rokia, the latter was a statement with ‘hundred thousand kids in Africa are starving’ sign, and lastly, the other showed Rokia’s picture and the statement, all combined. In the long run, the participants were willing to donate 2.25 dollars for Rokia, but were only disposed to give away 1.15 dollars for these so-called ‘statistical lives’, and the individual amounts of money given only slightly improved after responding on the third poster, in which they bequeathed 1.40 dollars for Rokia and these children combined.

Slovic concluded, as quoted by one article I copied from bigthink.com, like this, “As the world watches but, insufficiently moved, fails to act to prevent mass starvation or stop genocides in Congo or Kosovo or Cambodia or so many more, who would not agree with such a lament. But as heartless as it seems to care more about the one than the many, it makes perfect sense in terms of human psychology. You are a person, not a number. You don’t see digits in the mirror, you see a face. And you don’t see a crowd. You see an individual. So you and I relate more powerfully to the reality of a single person than to the numbing faceless nameless lifeless abstraction of numbers. “Statistics,” as Slovic put it in a paper titled “Psychic Numbing and Genocide”, “are human beings with the tears dried off.”

What’s more, Slovic also pointed out that another ‘fundamental deficiency in our humankind’ is that we often respond ignorantly on calamities that have been taking place for many years, or decades. This is logically straightforward to explain, as of my perspective. We are often told that for every problem, there is a solution; as soon as there is a will, there is always a way to solve it. But so many things in the world have happened for a very long time, and there are too many matters to be solved. When we have attempted myriad times to solve a problem, but it turns out to be unchanged, or to a lesser extent, worse, the highest probability we would conduct is to leave this business alone, and let others accomplish it.

To sum up the note, let me pick up someone’s quote. Once Joseph Stalin, the all-time notorious-yet-respected leader of Soviet Union, said like this: one death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic. Steve Jobs’ death has been one example; numerical figures, no matter how Cyclopian they are, do never have emotional power like one does. At this perspective, Stalin’s quote wins the debate.






For more understanding about human’s ‘fundamental flaw’, click here.

God’s real name is not God…but we don’t have other better alternatives

When did humanity begin to have preconceptions of God? As I read from National Geographic a few months ago, some scientists argued that as soon as our ancestors began to learn farming subsistence 10 thousand years ago, the idea of belief in God began to fluorish (archaeologists summed up the conclusion that the first harvesting period began to give them inspiration that ‘miracle’ was working on the plants). Nevertheless, the others argued vice versa. They came out with another theory, suggesting that the plasma nutfah – the vocabulary biologists give to extraordinary plant seeds – these hunter-gatherers found in the grasslands instead had inspired themselves inspiration that something ‘larger than life’ is working out there, creating all these sorts of miracles. I am not sure which one is better, because either one may be correct.

Almost all religions in the world (truth be told, the number of religions in the world may vary from 4200 to more than 10.000) emphasize on the semipternal existence of God. But few tend to have tendencies to deny, particularly Buddhism. They instead propose of this idea: that the God all of us have been praising for centuries may not be the real eternal God we are used to believing in. But they do believe in Karma, the what-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap eternal law that has been ruling this universe, whose authority is only rivalled by that of God.

When I was still a small boy, I had no doubt that I had to believe in God, no matter how whether God is real or not. As time passed by, I began to develop my own theories about the supreme being. If God is omnipower, It must have been able to create a castle that is ‘larger than universe’. If God is omnipower, then God must have created something that is even larger than Itself, so large that God may look like a dust compared to the thing It creates. If God is omnibenevolent, won’t It forgive all the sins humanity has ever made in their lifetime? Won’t there be hell?

To be honest, I find it hard whether to believe in God or not. Even Buddha once emphasized through this quote, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own common sense.” So, who should we believe and rely on in this world? So far, only hypotheses are able to provide the answers. God may either be what that has existed, without beginning and without ending, or what we agree that seem to exist. What we conceive and what we see and what we believe in is merely the tip of an iceberg.

Instead, I do believe more in the hypothesis of God reflecting the universe Itself. I do believe more in the theory stating that the universe is a hollow state that will remain forever existent than the Big Bang theory in which cosmic-scale fabulosity started as soon as atoms began to split within trillionths of a second. Let us not debate whether which theories on existence of God and universe are the most correct ones; I never like to force anybody to either accept or follow my theory. Theories are merely about things that are according to our minds acceptable. The real problem is that we hold on to different principles on how we believe everything is taking place.

But I believe that no thing in this universe will ever last forever. From an atom to a galaxy, from something that is unseeable through our visible eyes until things that are beyond our current borders of knowledge, there is nothing that is infinite. Change is always taking place. Atoms collide and split. Ocean waves move in and out, back and forth. Continents split and reunited within a period of hundred million years. Apes evolved into human beings within 2 million years. Galaxies dissolve, stars explode, and planets are formed. Our hearts pump the blood, and cells carry on oxygen and carbon-dioxide every time. A baby grows up into a toddler, into a child, into a teenager, until he/she ages and passes away. Change is always permanent, and it always requires energy. As we used to learn in physics textbooks about energy conservation theory, it is always emphasized that energy is something that is both unmade and indestructible. So, the main question is: is God the energy? Given that logic, it might be correct.

Perhaps the largest of all the large problems humanity faces lies on how we have to make use of our own free will. Ever since every human is born into this planet, he or she has been given choices. But here comes the main problem: we often believe we have no limits. We often misuse it, and often at the expense of others. What I want to do may be unsuitable with what others expect me to do. And there comes out conflicts. To a larger scale, humanity had witnessed endless numbers of wars, battles, disputes, and conquests. There’s always upheaval almost every time. Why doesn’t God intervene? Even if It existed, perhaps It wants to emphasize something behind this: in the end, all of us have to reap what we have sowed. That in the end, everyone, including me and you, is equal. We get paid for what we have done.

It’s up to you whether you believe in God-like figures or not, but you may have to believe there is something larger than life that superintends all of us. Personally, I am not sure whether that ‘something larger than life’ is God or not, but I’m sure that we are being watched. On atomic level, we are all the same. We are all made of atoms which combine to form molecules and DNA and thus, seeds of life begin to form. The only thing that precedes all the problems in the world begins with us, and our free will. But this has always been the reality of the world, and it will always be.

The main question is this: is there God? There are questions whose answers are unknown unknown. It is not important to doubt and argue whether God exists or not, but the most important thing lies on how we’re all going to make use of our lives. When all of us are born into this planet, we are all still pure souls, like paper which has not been stained with even a single dot of ink. We are responsible for what we are going to do with our lives, and what we are going to do with this world, as well. Everything about God is just a matter of belief. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s more about ‘what’, less about ‘why’. That’s what I always believe in.

But then, at last, I will always tell my friends like this, “May God bless you always.”

What has been, has been, and what will be, will be.

Life, as you (will never) know it

“Really? You wanna move?” My English teacher replied. She seemed surprised with me.

“Yes, I do.”

“You never reconsider it back?”

“I’ll never change it. I’ve been certain that I want to pursue International Studies.”

I have been thinking about it for a very, very, very long time. It took almost 7 months to rack my brain regarding to the decision whether to move to Science Class – commonly conceived by parents as ‘headquarters of the geniuses or at least the not-so-bad buddies’ – or Social Class – of which majority of the students are conceived by majority of the teachers as ‘helpless’. That happens in my school (to make it more convincing, I’ll just write down the name of it), SMA Sutomo 1 Medan. I am not really sure about other schools, because so far, the truth is undeniable that majority of the parents (I hope that your parents are not primarily included, especially those in my hometown), still have tendencies to underestimate students from Social Class and regard them as ‘lethargic’ (that is: students from Social Class do not need to learn anymore about the complicating formula in Physics and Chemistry so there won’t be any additional tuitions about them, or the higgledy-piggledies about the trigonometric equations in Mathematics, but they do still learn Civics, Geography, Economy, History, Sociology, and whatsoever). That is not uncommon; there are frequent negative sentiments whenever parents or teachers hear about students from ‘Social Class’. Whether this sentiment is contagiously spread nationwide, I am not much clear about it.

Or am I just too sensitive?

In the past, I had a dream of becoming an architect. I don’t know where that will-o’-the-wisp came from, but as soon as I saw the pictures of the skyscrapers gleaming over the big cities on the postcards my grandmother and my auntie, I had that much interest on it. I aspired to design as many skyscrapers as I like. And until now, I still have that interest on it.

The problem is: I am not as much mastering well in mathematics as I think I could. The latest Semester examination in the long run proved that. I performed, perhaps, the worst, all the time. Out of 30 queries given from the paper, I did not have adequate time to answer the remaining 3 questions (all of these unanswered questions were about ‘three-dimensional structures’, the one that requires your imagination and a mess of architectural crinkum-crankums to comprehend it); when I tried to match all the answers I had written on another piece of paper with my friend (so far, only him and only him), there were slightly 14 differences between his and my answers. All right, that is my first reason.

Before that, I had also researched deeper about what fields of knowledge I am much more dominant in. I was firstly introduced to a local-made encyclopedia of countries in a Gramedia bookstore in 2004. All of a sudden, it seems that I had fallen in love with it. Not only for the first time, but the second time, as well. The book may have been dog-eared and severely torn, but I would not simply trash it away. I was nuts on the population, about the history, about the ethnic composition, about their ideologies and their forms of governments and percentage of religions represented by the populations, and a long list to go on. I can tell you, honestly, I prefer spelling the names of countries or capitals than all these obnoxious elements over the chemical table.

Almost nobody has a hint of what ‘ethnography’ is all about. A few have even never heard about that. But this is another field that I have a deep interest in. More or less there are thousands and thousands of ethnicities and communities scattered worldwide through diasporas, and it does really help me in understanding about the ‘true colors’ of the world.

I also fell in love with writing. Thanks to Microsoft Word (once again, I had no intention to promote the product and I am under nobody’s pressure to advertise it), typing really makes me look like a ‘grown-up’. Or there have been ‘writing genes’ deeply coded in my DNA composition? Okay, just let the curiosity kills the cat. My mother told me that she liked writing when she was in her early childhood years, but slowly vanished as she became more matured.

Despite the fact that I will be moving to Social Class next month, I have not completely lost in touch with Sciences. I like Sciences, but that does not imply that ‘I love sciences’. In harnessing knowledge, I don’t want to differentiate what it is and where it comes from. Whether it is about nuclear science, or chemistry (altogether with these obnoxious elements), or global economy, or ecology, or motivation, or countries, I am always open to devour all of them, as long as I am able to comprehend in my own sense.

This is what life has shown me for. When I was a small child, I had never had such dreams. I did more use to visualize myself as ‘having been a professional architect’, but now, I have completely given up that to pursue for another. As if life had many intersections, and we are the ones who sojourn them. One thing that I learn from life is it has its own mysterious ways to show us which path suits us the best. One who aspired to be a professional physicist instead became a professional businessman within an interval of 20 years. Or a graduate of Faculty of Physics in a world-class university ends up as a Buddhist monk. Or a Wall Street investment banker ends up as a dancer. Or a graduate of Engineering Faculty became one of the most respected bankers nationwide 50 years later. We may have set our certain goals for our lives in the future, but sometimes life has its own unusual formula.

Perhaps, in certain times, you began to feel bored of what you are right now doing. Not simply bored, but you may be totally unhappy in doing it. You are doing the daily accounting duties. You are being faced with the similar burdens whenever you are in business meetings. You spin your brain many times whenever someone shows you your company’s financial graphs. You see patients and you examine their bodies vividly. You take care of the business your parents had worked to grindstones to succeed. You give tuitions for your students everyday. You are filled in humdrums, and you do really aspire to do something different. Then just do it! Whenever life begins to knock your heart, and says, “Well, it seems that my excitement rate has diminshed.”, take any actions. Find some time to relax, at first. Do what you like. Write. Blog. Visit a new restaurant and review all the dishes you eat. Watch a movie and make a review of what you think about it. Spend more time with your beloved pet. Create some cupcakes. Picnic to a jungle. Learn organic farming. Learn a new language. Read more critically-acclaimed novels. Taste a new kind of music. Paint some pictures. Play with your beloved children. Get to know a local vendor around you. Browse a new, unique website (porn sites are not recommended). Get involved in charities. Play a guitar. Help someone arranges his or her messy room. Backpack to a country you have been wanting to visit the most. Learn diving. Know more about dinosaurs. Take a salsa course. Taste the wine. Learn to meditate. Make some noodles of your own, cook them, and let all your family eat your self-made dishes. Cook and stew vegetables. Play badminton. Watch inspiring videos on Internet. Write a story. Know more about types of fish. Volunteer yourself in a local NGO. Watch a theatre drama. Get to know more about English’s longest words. Learn to do belly-dancing. Take some pictures. Enroll in a photography class. Collect chocolate products. Collect stamps. Collect wine bottles. And still, a long list to go on (continue it yourself). Weekends are always the best moments to do things that increase ‘excitement rate’ in your life.

Also, you can afford to make use of hobbies as sources to provide increment for your income. As told by one of our country’s most respected real-estate moguls, Ciputra: entrepreneurship is about turning dirts and scraps into gold. You may have your book published as soon as you have completed it. Sell some paintings, earn a few bucks. Innovate your methods in playing guitar, make an album, and release it. Take some pictures, and set up a little gallery, or a photography studio. Or, here is a weird concept of mine: collect some chocolates, don’t trash the wrapping paper into the dustbin, but instead collect them, and build what you soi-disant as ‘chocolate museum’. Whenever you think you are happier with it than the job you previously held in, just resign. Start an entirely new life, learn to obey more on what your life desires, not on others’ expectations.

And now, I am no longer part of the Science Class. Let’s see 50 years later. Who knows I am going to be organic-farming specialist, who knows?