A blog of yet another quirky guy out there

Instead of accepting the things they can't change, some people are trying to change the things they cannot accept[1].

What if a large enough number of people pick up one thing that considers unacceptable.

Then, each member of that group consistently spend time on it —thinking, reading, writing, talking, sharing—every single day.

Since this group of people is large enough and we live in a hyperconnected world, chances are a subgroup of those individuals meet each other at some point. When that happens, a subgroup of individuals became a community.

People within the community cooperate according to their possibilities. Some might devote their whole life to fix the thing, others could only afford to become part-time activists; everything counts.

What if you knew that a large enough number of people will eventually join, and the only prerequisite is that someone starts doing something, what would you try to change?

[1] Dirty White Gold: The Seams of Sedition by Leah Borromeo

Byung-Chul Han has dramatically changed the way I see the world. His books use a simple language—something unusual from an academic—the ideas are accessible for the general public. He is not a popular writer, though. None of his books will ever make it to any of the “prestigious” bestsellers lists, and thus, excluding certain circles, he remains an unknown philosopher.

New ideas may be easy to apprehend but hard to embrace, especially when our core beliefs are challenged. Growing up as someone interested in technology—which now makes a living as an engineer—I systematically rejected ideas criticising the—then potential, now real—threats of new technologies. Some benefits of technology are undeniable true, but that's only one side of the coin. Close friends —usually older than me and working outside technological areas—patiently tried to help me on expanding my view but failed—only now, many years later, some ideas start to make sense. When I read Han's books, it feels like an old friend patiently talking to me, kindly inviting me to look beyond appearances. I must listen more carefully this time.


The Exploitation of Freedom

Freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude. Freedom is felt when passing from one way of living to another — until it turns out to be a form of coercion. Then, liberation gives way to renewed subjugation. Such is the destiny of the subject; literally, the 'one who has been cast down'.

The opening paragraph of pshychopolitics is problematic already; we live in a society that claims to be free, where freedom is a core value. Are we capable of having a critical view of our freedom?

Next, the author states that freedom is felt (does that mean it exists?) in the transition between states, being only a flashing moment in between (which again reminds me Emile's post).

If something characterizes our current society, it is our extreme individualism. The most important subject is me (or I), and fulfiling my desires (that no my needs) is the top priority in my world. It is worth noticing the etymological root of the word subject is “person under control or dominion of another,” specifically a government or ruler. As free individuals living in a (post)modern world, Are we still dominated by an external force? Is that the only form of domination?

#ByungChulHan #Psychopolitics

Monday to Friday, I take cold showers.

Why

The first half of 2020 was a difficult period for me — among other things — I went through economic struggles and some drama related to my thesis work.

As soon as I opened my eyes every morning, I felt miserable. During the day, I ruminated on all sorts of negative thoughts. I blame myself for all the “wrong” decisions I had made — one of them was to quit my fancy job at home enroll in grad school on the other side of the Atlantic, or that's what I told myself at the time. I had a hard time focusing on the task in front of me, and my lack of productivity caused the anxiety to build up.

A few years back I had read about Wim Hof, the Dutch snowman. As I was running out of ideas, I gave _ Wim Hof's method_ a try. And it helped. A lot.

Using his breathing exercises as preparation, I forced myself to take morning cold showers every day. I hated it, every time. But stuck to it. I practised his breathing exercises throughout the day as well.

What happened next

The struggle of those days did not disappear completely but somehow helped. And everything went well in the end.

This cold shock therapy became a permanent habit. I tweaked my initial approach though. Now, I allow myself to take warm showers on weekends. It feels luxurious, it is part of what makes a weekend different for me.

It became easier with time, but I wouldn't call it enjoyable. I kind of hate cold water. Those few seconds before jumping into it I hear this voice inside my head saying: “Why the hell am I doing this?” Before this dubious voice can answer its own question, I'm already shivering under the showerhead. The body adjusts pretty quick. It helps to be aware of your breathing while transitioning to a “stable state” in the cold, then it is no big deal.

Why I keep doing it

I'll skip the health benefits of enduring cold, information is easy to find on the Internet if you're interested — Wim Hof's feats had triggered a lot of research in this area by the way. A non-exhaustive list is:

  1. It short-circuit negative thoughts. Even when a myriad of negative thoughts was bouncing inside my head, the cold water causes a sort of short-circuit in my body-mind; it is something that can't be ignored. No other thoughts can occupy my mind at the same time. This experience creates a sort of space in between that dissipate the paralysing power of the negative thoughts that besiege my mind.
  2. A first quick win to start the day. When I'm going through a dark period, I feel so fucked up as soon as I open my eyes; the feeling sometimes paralyzes me. Besides any claimed physical benefits of taking a cold shower, the psychological parties worth it in and of itself. As mentioned earlier, I really dislike cold water. Doing this first in the morning gives me a sense of accomplishment that is empowering.
  3. Trains your body-mind to endure discomfort. I believe most of our current issues as a society come from our comfortable lifestyle. People —myself included— might get really angry if you take away a bit of comfort from their lives. A cold shower is a simple discomfort training. In my case, it triggered many other helpful habits.
  4. You don't crave that morning coffee. I love coffee. But there is a big difference between enjoying and need something. A cold shower wakes me up, a hot cup of coffee is not required to start my day — I can get my first coffee mid-morning, not a problem.

And by the way, it's free.

I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling a bit down and running out of ideas to get better. Ideally, as part of a morning routine in which you wake up at the same time every day.

This isn't yet another “novel” idea coming from the wellness industry. Nobody is profiting from you taking a cold shower every morning — well, you might even save some money if it becomes a permanent habit.

#100DaysToOffload #Negativity (75/100) P.S. This post is part of an experiment about negativity (read about it).

When I made this blog public, I turned on the email subscriptions, then I disabled them the next day.

There are no subscriptions for you, sorry. You can use RSS if you want, or even fediverse. But I don't recommend it.

Our inbox is overflowed already, one email more only increases the noise.

I don't want to be on your screen by default, I don't want any of these words being shoved down your throat, I really don't.

But you're welcome to come by anytime you want.

I don't have strict writing schedules, but (based on the historical data) you will find something new every month. Once a month visit is enough.

Broadly, there are three categories of posts:

  1. Rants, a coping mechanism to get through my days; you should skip those.

  2. Topics I deeply care about, somehow personal, and maybe irrelevant to everyone else. You might want to give those a try from time to time.

  3. Random ideas that come to mind. I'm not sure where these come from though. I used to ignore them but they came back insistently. It feels like there are ideas that want to be written down, that's it. Not trying to sound esoteric, but maybe some of these ideas want to find you, and this blog serves merely as a meeting place.

Unfortunately, posts are not categorized. Although, I add hastags here and there.

Sorry, no subscriptions for you, and no subscribers for me. But you are welcome to come by anytime you want.

I'm a grumpy person in the mornings. I've trained myself to be a “morning person”, but it does not come naturally for me. At night, I feel great, even If I'm really tired—my wife, exactly the other way around.

She complained about waking up every day with a grumpy person — not a great way to start. I understood, rationally. At the same time, I felt there was nothing I could do about it; it is not like I wanted to be a grumpy person, I just could not avoid it.

One day, she asked me: “as soon as you're awake, smile, at least smile when you look at me”.

Okay, that sounds doable, it was an actionable and specific request, nothing compared to “stop being grumpy”. Furthermore, she said: “look at children; any child wakes up with a big smile on her face”. She was right. Children are happy and energized after sleeping (probably way too happy and way too energized for the misfortune of the parents).

So I did it.

And eventually, my mornings were different.

I cannot say I'm not grumpy anymore. But that trivial change made me feel better, and apparently, that was more than enough to please my wife as well.

I don't believe in “positive thinking”, or “visualization”, or any of the recipes offered by the wellness industry. But I do think there is a body-mind interrelation, that is, that my body affects my thoughts and feelings, and the other way around.

Detailed knowledge about the body-mind is part of canonical Buddhist teachings — developed more than 2,500 years ago. Recently, there has been copious scientific research in this area as well. But above all, it is something anyone can experience. When you have anxious thoughts, you can feel them in your body as well. You can also notice that your mind is clearer after a workout session. You don't need to (and should not) blindly believe in Buddhism or Science. Get a first-hand experience!

A second observation is on the importance of being actionable and specific with our requests. When my wife complained about my grumpiness, I got stuck. It was not that I did not care; I did not know how to change that — or if it was even possible. It was a great move of her to change that to “smile as soon as you wake up”. Okay, that I could do. It was fake at first, but you know what they say: “fake it 'till you make it”.

#100DaysToOffload #Negativity (74/100) P.S. This post is part of an experiment about negativity (read about it).

An important lesson learnt during this negativity experiment is how harmful it is to compare myself with others.

It is a painful habit. Why do I keep on doing it?

We are bombarded with messages such as: “Be yourself”, “Live your own life”, “Do it your way”, and so on. Okay, great, but how?

An idea: dial down the noise.

The Internet is a powerful noise amplifier. One big mistake is to believe that we can ignore the noise. I can't. I need to turn it off.

LinkedIn and Mastodon are the only social media I use, and I spend less and less time on them. As I read about the struggles some people had gone through with social media, I'm glad I stayed away from it. Social media is mostly noise.

Family, (IRL) friends, colleagues might also contribute to the noise. Don't turn them off permanently, but it is okay to mute them sometimes. Give yourself the space to look at your life with some perspective, without the pressure from others and the world.

As the noise goes down, I find myself less prone to chase absurd goals frantically. I care less about what other people have achieved in their lives, I'm even genuinely happy about it. I don't have this constant need of feeling special. Being the number one (in whatever category I'm interested at the moment), for what? what does that even mean?

Is the voice in my head that says I'm “not good enough” quiet now? Not at all. He sometimes whispers, other times yields at me. I don't fight him anymore, I simply dial down the noise.

#100DaysToOffload #Negativity (73/100) P.S. This post is part of an experiment about negativity (read about it).

There are important things and there are popular things.

Important is often overlooked; popular, extolled.

Not all important things are popular, not all popular things are important. Don't mix them up.

If you work on important things, you are alone.

If you chase popularity, you are surrounded by many.

Important is silence; popular, noise.

It is important to see greatness in little things. It is popular to despise great things.

Spending time on the important is fulfilling, but painful. Wasting time on the popular is fun, but ephemeral.

There is no consensus on what is important, everybody agrees on what is popular. Important is a gut-wrenching doubt; popular, a deceiving certainty.

Important is a personal endeavour; popular, an impersonal pastime.

Important is a question with an unknown answer. Popular, an answer for an unknown question.

#100DaysToOffload #Negativity (72/100) P.S. This post is part of an experiment about negativity (read about it).

Hace unas semanas escuchaba una entrevista al Profesor Enrique Dussel. Se hablaba del Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA), partido político de muy reciente creación que llevó al poder al actual presidente de México (quien dicho sea de paso, fue su fundador). El Profr. Dussel forma parte del instituto de formación política de dicha organización.

En algún momento de la conversación, el profesor mencionó que lo primero que debemos enteder claramente es qué es la Democracia, su definición correcta y precisa. “Muchas personas creen que la Democracia consiste solamente en el derecho ciudadano de elegir a sus gobernantes por medio del voto. Desde luego, eso es un componente importante de la Democracia, pero no lo es todo”, después continua diciendo “otro componente de la Democracia es la obligación de dichos gobernantes de representar los intereses del pueblo, por el cual han sido mayoritariamente elegidos” Aunque esto parece muy obvio, me ha hecho pensar que éste segundo componente de una verdadera Democracia es comúnmente minimizado, pareciera que nos conformamos con tener la ilusión (y muchas veces es sólo eso, una ilusión) de poder elegir a nuestro gobernantes.

¿Qué es lo más importante en una verdadera Democracia? En mi opinión, que los gobernantes vean por la gente.

Tener votaciones limpias hace posible (más no garantiza) la elección de buenos gobernantes. Pero incluso en éste caso, donde cada voto es respetado y contabilizado correctamente, y el candidado con más votos es elegido, ¿podemos decir que hemos dado el primer paso hacia la Democracia? No necesariamente.

Lo medios de información manipulan la opinión pública. Casos como el de Cambridge Analytica nos han enseñado que aún con el voto “libre y secreto”, las votaciones se pueden manipular (si tienes los suficientes recursos).

Yo no tendría problema con que un buen gobernante estuviera ahí dos, tres, o cuatro periodos. No creo que eso sea anti-democrático, siempre y cuando dicho gobernante realmente trabaje para su país.

Tampoco me molestaría que dicho gobernante viviera bien, incluso con cierto lujo. Pero por favor, apartamentos lujosos en CDMX, ranchos de miles de hectáreas en diferentes partes del país y propiedades en Miami, miles de millones de dólares en paraísos fiscales ... me pregunto si pueden siquiera disfrutar de todo eso.

¿Vivimos en una Democracia?

No, y aún nos falta mucho para llegar ahí.

#Spanish

He estado al tanto de los lamentables hechos en Colombia a través de medios de comunicación alternativos. Mi corazón está con la gente de Colombia durante éstos momentos difíciles.

Considero a la América Latina mi hogar. Los latinoamericanos compartimos los mismos dolores, estamos sumidos en el mismo hoyo. ¿Será que viviré lo suficiente para ver a los pueblos latinoamericanos unirse para superar nuestras adversidades?

Es irritante ver las noticias en los grandes medios de comunicación. CNN muestra al presidente de Colombia dando su comunicado oficial — un discurso lleno de eufemismos — donde dice que “no permitirá la actuación de las fuerzas armadas fuera del marco constitucional”, y remata con esa palabrita que les encanta a los mandatarios en América Latina: el “Estado de Derecho”.

En los intentos fallidos de golpes de estado en Bolivia y Venezuela (que nunca fueron presentados como tales en los medios de comunicación) no se les dió la misma oportunidad a los mandatarios de esos países hablar. Rápidamente se les descalificó. Palabritas como “régimenes autoritarios” volaban por aquí y por allá. Crisis humanitaria y violación sistemática a los derechos humanos se podía leer en los encabezados de las notas. ¿Por qué no vemos ese mismo estilo de presentar la información para lo que está pasando en Colombia?

¡Hipócritas!

Aplaudo es la valentía de los Colombianos al salir a las calles y no aceptar una reforma tributaria que, como siempre, terminaría cobrando el costo de la crisis a las clases medias — las cuales han sido y siempre serán las más castigadas ante estos eventos.

Espero que todo éste dolor sea el preámbulo de un cambio positivo, uno que realmente beneficie a la sociedad.

#Spanish

Ayer fuí a la oficina. Por la mañana, un compañero de trabajo me mostró una nota (en un sitio de noticias holandés, escrito en el idioma local) sobre el accidente del metro en la Ciudad de México.

Recuerdo cuando esa línea fue inaugurada, desde entonces era bien sabido todas las irregularidades alrededor de la construcción de ésta obra pública. Un proyecto que costó muchas veces más de lo presupuestado (3 veces más si recuerdo bien), se retrasó varias veces y desde el momento de su inauguración, presentaba claros signos de averías.

Los trenes eran nuevos, por fuera se veía todo bien. Habré viajado en esa línea un par de veces. Recuerdo personas comentando que era un línea de metro de “primer mundo”.

La noticia del accidente me llenó de profunda tristeza. Ésto es la consecuencia de la corrupción, de una sistema corrupto, no podemos señalar una sóla persona como responsable.

Todas las personas que están detrás de éste incidente y que deberían ser juzgadas por ello, no serán tocados. Son demasiado influyentes y demasiado adinerados. Sus nombres nunca apareceran en las noticias, y cualquier problema será resuelto por sus abogados estadounideneses (los cuales cobran miles de dólares por hora).

La gente que va a la cárcel son aquellos que roban (o incluso matan) para poder llevar un pan a sus familias, aquellos que son tan pobres que nunca podrían pagar abogados; las cárceles mexicanas estan llenas de esas personas.

La corrupción es un problema sistémico, vidas humanas se desvanecen diariamente como consecuencia. A pesar de los aparentes esfuerzos del gobierno actual por erradicar la corrupción y la impunidad, la meta aún no se divisa en el horizonte. La sociedad mexicana deberá atravesar por una dolorosa transmutación y luchar contra los poderes fácticos, nacionales y extranjeros, que se benefician de ésta corrupción (mismos que financian medios de comunicación y manipulan la percepción social).

Uno puede hacer conclusiones — tan simplistas como estúpidas — que la corrupción en México es consecuencia lógica de que los mexicanos son corruptos. Aúnque bien es cierto que una sociedad corrupta está hecha por personas corruptas, eso no aborda preguntas fundamentales como ¿qué hace a una persona corromperse?, o ¿qué lleva a una sociedad, en su conjunto, a corromperse?

Nada de ésto es casualidad, la misera y corrupción que caracteriza a los Americanos que viven al sur del Río Bravo hasta la Patagonia no es fortuita. Peor aún, nuestras sociedades no son capaces de ver ésto por ellas mismas, aceptamos que la “vida es así”, o “ésto es lo que nos tocó vivir”. Pareciera que es una ley natural (o divina) que debemos aceptar.

Los millones de usuarios del sistema Metro en CDMX son gente trabajadora, gente que muchas veces hace dos horas para llegar a su trabajo (cuatro horas diarias si contamos el regreso). Salen de casa a las 5:00 a.m. y llegan a las 10:00 p.m. No ven a sus hijos crecer, pero es el precio que deben pagar para ganar un sueldo miserable que les permita llevarles un pan y proveerles con un techo. Ellos son los que fallecieron en el accidente de ayer.

Durante el almuerzo en el trabajo, la noticia comentada fue que Bill Gates y Melinda Gates habían anunciado su divorcio.

#Spanish