Everyone is afraid of the future, and why it’s a good thing

future

 

“I’m so afraid I can’t cope up with the lessons.”

“I don’t know if I can survive such a tough university life.”

These are the sentences that my juniors, and also my friends, told me on Facebook. And, yes, honestly speaking, these were pretty much the same things that I once asked my own seniors before I came to university as well. As the first person in my family to study overseas, there are of course tremendous expectations, and also unexpected circumstances, those that one can anticipate, and those that one can hardly hope.

Well, it is so a humane thing to have fear on anything, especially on something that may be existing in our own ‘uncharted territories’. Reminiscing myself two years earlier, I was back then a half-excited, and a half-nervous, soon-to-be university student. Being half an optimist, but at the same time overtly a skeptic, these are the very feelings that I could describe days before coming to the university. My parents were university graduates, but they studied in the same hometown I was born and raised; I would be the first to leave, and to experience, a bigger perspective of the outside world. Meeting new people with completely different cultural values and social norms, yes, I got that uneasy, initial feeling, too; life became split into two possibilities, all in the presence of the unexpected. First, it leads you to rediscovering yourself, or second, you fail to cope with the changes that you just ‘withdraw’ yourself from the existing reality. Thinking of the fact that I have to do laundry myself, get in to surrounding places by my own, organize stuff through my own planning, and to be completely independent in the absence of my family (but I am grateful that my aunt, uncle, and cousin helped me so much in transiting to university life) were the fears I always thought of in the future.

Back then, it was 2013; flash forward to 2015, I’m already on my halfway. I am utterly grateful that I can complete the transition phase fairly well, and truth be told, I am now more open-minded than I was two years earlier. Stereotyping still lingers in my mind, but now in a rather controlled setting. I’ve met a lot of new people from various countries and backgrounds (well, not all of them had my positive impressions), but pretty much I learned to understand their values and their own stances towards certain areas that may not be suitable to our own cultural notions. Yes, I do my best to tolerate them.

Still, it can’t stop me from fear of the future. With Indonesia’s currency values dropping over 40% in the last two years, of course it keeps me worried about my chances of getting into higher, postgraduate education. Or whether in spite of my (relatively) good grades, I can afford to get a stable job in the future. Excluding my random thoughts about any ‘plausible’ (but not necessarily possible) scenarios in the very distant future (perhaps things befalling the elder me or my future generations). It is as though my mindset were set in a constant, survivalist mode.

Fear itself doesn’t have to be a paranoia-inducing idea; you don’t have to kill someone off just to eliminate it, because truth be told, we can’t eliminate fear. It is one of the most powerful legacies that evolution has ‘bestowed’ us within millions of years; fear, if stimulated into a controlled setting, can actually be a good thing by itself. I am not a psychologist, but I would rather derive the benefits from my own understanding and common sense.

One: fear enables us to outline contingency plans

Simply speaking, don’t put all eggs in one basket.

Two: fear conditions us (most of us) to value the present moment

Nothing in this physical universe is destined to last forever; the only constant is change, oftentimes unexpected. I don’t believe in the ideal of ‘benevolent universe’, so much so as I believe in that of a savage one; we see everything, from both sides and the extremes, taking place simultaneously. The universe is just damn indifferent, after all. So, for all the best and the worst, enjoy this moment now.

Three: fear stimulates us to learn something new we have never learned before

We can’t completely anticipate the unexpected, but learning new skills and things beyond our usual passions and expertise can actually help us cope with circumstances much better than having none. Simply speaking, just because we don’t precisely know what will happen in the future.

Four: fear prepares us to adjust to new realities much more easily

There are things we can avoid, and there are things we can’t help avoiding but slowly adapt. Nostalgia is a good thing, but too much reminiscing into the past will not make any adjustment into the future much better. Understanding the impermanence of the present, no matter how difficult or painful it will be (more often than not it is), helps us better in adjusting to new, and constantly changing, circumstances.

Five: fear enhances responsibility

Specifically, our own responsibilities as family members, friends, group members, or wherever any positions we are in charge of. It ‘forces’ us to put out all our efforts to accomplish a goal.

Anyway, not all, or not even any, of my advice is inherently useful. Too little fear induces arrogance, our propensity to underestimate all possibilities, or even a sense of superiority. We have seen enough how conflicts, wars, and other disasters have taken place, oftentimes out of the ignorance resulting from such ‘too little fear’, but too much thinking about them also unnecessarily robs the happiness out of us, making us closer to asylums than to happily living our lives. A balanced dose of fear is necessary, and even beneficial, if one can apply it in a careful, wise approach.

I am just writing as a student, not yet deeply experienced in any real-world stuff by the age of 20. Realizing the day-to-day fear that soldiers, doctors, surgeons, firefighters, police, scientists, entrepreneurs, parents, or even refugees have to face all the time (and almost all occupations inclusive), they surely have more to tell, and much more to share, than I do.

Bonus: some of the world’s best and most serious thinkers do even share their fears of what will happen to human civilization up to 50 million years to come (some exaggeration intended).

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Tali Sharot: The optimism bias

optimism

 

Optimism, or Pollyanna you want to call it, has remained an inseparable trait of human nature. We need optimism as it gives us silver linings for all possible positive consequences of everything we see, whatever we do, or how the reality perceives us to be. The belief that the world will be a better place than yesterday, that our future will be more fulfilling than the lives we are living today, or that we will find our eternal love life, thus giving no spaces for all unexpected occurrences.

Up to that point, however, optimism has shown itself to be a bias. When we are being tottered with our ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ about reality, that things will go smooth as everything is under control, that our marriages will go well with zero probabilities of divorce, or that our career will flourish with little or no stains, we often overlook any harbingers, any dangerous signs that may have been lurking deep within it, all beyond our vision.

Things strike like we never predict, afterwards. 40% of marriages in Western world (where most people surveyed dismiss any possibilities of a split) end up in divorce, millions of people are laid off, accidents happen, financial collapse is inevitable, etc, etc. Optimism bias, one that has so blinded us with way too many positive interpretations about the reality, instead becomes our own double-edged sword.

Cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot will talk in details about optimism bias from numerous aspects and ways we can do to handle its side-effects.

Listen, and think again.

 

Interview with a cannibal

cannibal

 

 

A bizarre interview with Issei Sagawa, a notorious Japanese cannibal. Read the full interview on Vice.

And here’s his little profile, as excerpted from the website:

On the afternoon of June 12, 1981, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa walked into the woods in Bois de Boulogne, France, carrying two suitcases. The postgraduate student at the Sorbonne had shot and killed a female exchange student, a classmate of his, the day before. After eating portions of her body, he tried to dump the corpse in a remote lake. Witnesses saw him and he was soon arrested. According to reports, Issei uttered the following to the French police who raided his home: “I killed her to eat her flesh.”

French psychologists found Sagawa to have been legally insane at the time of the crime and, therefore, unfit to stand trial. He was subsequently exempted from prosecution. He returned to his homeland, where Japanese authorities tried to put him on trial for murder. French justice officials refused to hand over the necessary documents to carry on and he was again set free.

The psychology of curvy architecture

qatar 2022

 

Zaha Hadid’s latest work for Qatar’s World Cup 2022 football stadium – intended to reflect the shape of dhow, a traditional Arab fishing boat – triggered much criticism, some of whom claimed it bears more resemblance to vagina. But what, in your own perception, do you see?

 

After centuries of rigorous architectural principle which favored the quintessence of straight lines, a new trend has been surging in grassroots level to dismantle the current tenet. Curvy architecture – as some have recently called it – is now an emerging, avant-garde concept being used in some of the world’s major cities.

The question is: what psychological factors that account for the emergence of such brand-new principle? Some experts, having conducted experiment on certain individuals, perceive that this trend itself is in parallel with an ever-growing popularity of environmental conservation movements worldwide, which assume curvy lines do ‘lean’ more to the side of nature. Others, however, point out another, one that some can assume as ‘dirty-minded’: this architectural style is a further extension of human’s sexual expression. On an objective view, one can neither say that this theory is fallacious, though.

And what do you think, in your own opinion?

Read the full article on CNN International.

Redefining differences

defining the differences

 

It is undeniable that we have learned, by our own instincts, to discover differences among individuals surrounding us. As babies, we begin the lifelong lesson by making preferences either with our family members or with peers of the same origin – say the least, of racial background. Maturing up, we make the differences all the more obvious: we configure our own circles, befriend those of the similar interests with us, of equal skills and capabilities, of the same hometown or skin color, and consider others different from us as adversaries, or something less than humane. Take that to a larger scope, either about schools, cities, ethnic groups, religions, or even nation-states. Unexpectedly, it brings tremendous effects to human civilization.

Wars have been fought because of political interests and differing ideologies; some countries end up shattered and others peak into the paramount victories of the superpower phantasm. Myriad lives have been lost due to conflicts, ranging from microscopic-scale inter-tribal wars (often fought simply because of differing cultures, languages, or even accents), until Armageddon-scale high-technology battles involving predominant world powers. We all envision the heavenly notion of ‘eternal world peace’, but the ‘notion of differences’ we all have formed in our mindsets contradicts in perturbing how we should progress to achieve this dream.

Can we really afford to remove the entire differences defining us as the human race? This essay on Aeon Magazine attempts to explain the complicated human nature regarding perceiving the differences. This is also worthy of a leadership lesson about group unity.

 

Excerpt from the article:

 

The idea of ‘us and them’ was crystallised in the 1906 book Folkways by the American sociologist William Graham Sumner. In his vision, it wasn’t just ‘us and them’ but ‘us versus them’. ‘The insiders in a we-group are in a relation of peace, order, law, government, and industry, to each other. Their relation to all outsiders, or others-groups, is one of war and plunder, except so far as agreements have modified it,’ he wrote. For Sumner, these relations demanded each other: ‘Loyalty to the group, sacrifice for it, hatred and contempt for outsiders, brotherhood within, warlikeness without — all grow together, common products of the same situation.’

He introduced the term ‘ethnocentrism’ to describe ‘this view of things’ in which one’s own group is ‘the centre of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it’. The term included the tendency for groups to regard others as less than fully human: ‘As a rule it is found that nature peoples call themselves “men.” Others are something else — perhaps not defined — but not real men.’ Sumner saw ethnocentrism everywhere, from Papuan villages in New Guinea ‘kept separate by hostility, cannibalism, head hunting, and divergences of language and religion’, to the great powers, each of which ‘regards itself as the leader of civilisation, the best, the freest, and the wisest, and all others as inferior’. Whether they wielded stone axes, like the Papuans who were still isolated from outside influence by the New Guinea highlands, whether they built ‘dreadnought’ battleships, as the great powers were racing to do, humans would always conjure up an Other to threaten with their weapons.

 

Google this: eproctophilia

fart

 

 

A British scientist has invented a neologism for ‘someone sexually obsessed in flatulence’. That even takes an extensive academic report in explaining this out-of-the-universe phenomenon.  This is the excerpt copied from the website:

“One subtype of olfactophilia [a paraphilia where an individual derives sexual pleasure from smells and odors] is eproctophilia. This is a paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by flatulence. Therefore, eproctophiles are said to spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about farting and flatulence and have recurring intense sexual urges and fantasies involving farting and flatulence. To date, there has been no academic or clinical research into eproctophilia. Therefore, the following account presents a brief case study of an eproctophile and given a pseudonym (Brad). Brad gave full consent for his case to be written up on the understanding that he could not be identified and that he was guaranteed full anonymity and confidentiality….” 

These resources must be indefinitely abundant in gross-out comedy flicks.

 

Source: Improbable Research

Why we’ll never truly ‘leave’ high school (and its scientific explanation)

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High school, as many of us concede, is undeniably a truly-defining, coming-of-adulthood moment in welcoming us to life and reality itself. It is not that high school is all an ultimate, utopic phantasmagorism; within it, we encounter problems, worries, and to a further extent, thanks to our puberty, excessive fear. But it is also the time that we found friends to share our burdens, to express all the preemptive madness we all face as teenagers, and to cherish the first years of coloring the beginning of our often rambunctiously-spirited adulthood.

As time goes by, though, we can’t always celebrate such moments. Changes strike in, and we have to prepare for that bittersweet process. There comes the limit to which our teenage mischief should end, and instead – like how an eagle trounces its old beak for a replacement – that new, obnoxious, and clumsy one named ‘adult responsibility’ should rake in our spirits and be welcomed by all of us, willingly or not.

Nevertheless, questions arise. Why are there some adults who can hardly put out the ‘seventeen-forever’ syndrome (psychologists term it as ‘reminiscence bump’), while some others may easily be oblivious about virtually all the high-school memories? A team of scientists attempt to unravel the answers, and the implications to our lives, in fact, may be more far-stretching than we have always preconceived.

Read the 6-page full report in New York Magazine.