Thursday, July 27, 2017

A second that lasted for eternity

There's so many things to take picture of and to take videos of, especially when you have a kid. There are kind advice to take more videos and pictures so that you can remember those special 'first' that happened for your child. I remembered that when I was younger, I don't really have much photos to show for. But at the very least, I have some photos to show for. My parents had a lot lesser, and my grandparents even less so. Perhaps each major milestone, they will have a family portrait or so. Those formal, all suited events to commemorate someone's wedding or graduation. Significant events. These days, we take pictures of every little inane thing that happened in our lives. More is not more. As we have more pictures, each picture takes a smaller share of the significance of the collective pictures taken. It's like the last squeeze of the water colour pastel; it's not enough, so you add more water to dilute it so that you can paint the sky blue. But you ended up with a shade of blue so diluted that it's like a copy of a copy of a copy of the real azure sky.

Does having more pictures mean that the next generation will have much more things to remember their childhood? Not necessarily so. A picture or a video can sometimes distract us from enjoying the moment as it happens. Imagine you are looking up the night sky to watch the national day fireworks. In order to enjoy that ephemeral moment for an eternity, you look away at your pocket, whip out your phone, turn to the camera app and look at the fireworks through the filtered lens of your hand phone screen. That picture you took of the fireworks is not the fireworks you actually experience without the distraction of taking a photo. First of all, it's a series of static pictures and is no where near what you can observe directly. Secondly, even if it's a video, there's the missing boom of the fireworks and the accompanying echoes that reverberate through your whole being, or the strange mix of your sweat and the smell of the smoke as the fireworks explodes up, lighting the night sky. Or the feeling of holding the hands of your loved one as you share this special moment together. It's just different from watching a grainy video taken from your phone.

Before my son was born, I was musing over whether to get a good camera to take pictures and videos of our shared experience. I decided not to, because I know I'm not such a person. In retrospect, and on hindsight, I think I made the right choice. I'm know that I'm not such a person, and I also know that I don't want to be such a person. The former is who I am, but the latter will define my future self and chart my destiny. Choice is important. Even if the everyone is doing it, doesn't mean that I should do it too. Why? Choice.

I'll still take my videos and pictures of my son, who is getting more vocal by the day. I'll still take pictures of his silly grins and videos of his funny times. But those are insignificant moments. For the really significant moments, like watching the fireworks with him under the night sky while holding his tiny hands, and watching his bright brown eyes brighten just as the fireworks exploded into a dizzying display of lights and sounds, I know I won't be whipping out my hand phone. I'll be busy enjoying the moment, soaking in the sight and the sound, and committing it to memory.

When I'm old and my vision fades together with my hearing, I know I'll still be there, holding his tiny hands, watching and hearing the fireworks together, like it's my first time.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

We all have our own poison

What's your poison?

Everyone has one. For some, it could be expensive branded watches. For others, it could be handbags with Italian names on it. But a poison need not be expensive things too. It could be something that is 'costly' to your free time, like painting or doing models of tanks etc. It's just something you would willingly go to in your free time.

For those who fuel their poison by spending a disproportionate amount of their salary into it, who are we to say that they are shallow and materialistic? They are not spending our money and they certainly not seeking our permission for it. However, I think as part of the bigger financial bloggers group, we tend to disapprove of such wanton spending. You must save a portion of your salary. Oh, you must separate between needs and wants clearly.

But there is another extreme, someone on the opposite side of the fence. Someone who knows only needs and do nothing to satisfy his wants. It's all the future that matters, and all the spending follows strictly according to plans in order to hit this milestone by that age. Maybe for these people, their poison is an insidious one - to be proud of their own frugality by thumbing down on others. It's something that I hate very much whenever people are talking about hitting x amount by y age. They treat savings like a sports, where everyone is competing with each other by subtle hints of how much they can withstand hardship and control their wants. What's the reward? Boasting rights.

I see financial independence as a more holistic ideal though, not just the cold hard math. To really reach financial independence, you must be free of money. Usually people take it to mean that they have all the money they need for their expenses without having to work ever again. But I think being free of money means we no longer treat money as a symbol to accumulate, to show off, or to satisfy some inner psychological needs, but to see it as a means to exchange it for something that serves a greater good. In that sense, a millionaire who holds his money so tightly is as equally shackled as a indebted man who spends all his money on material goods. Both are still controlled by money, but each is satisfied by different aspects of money, with the former treating money as a security blanket and the latter treating it as a power and status symbol.

Some people are so poor they only have money.

But let's get back to our poison. I used to spend quite a lot of money buying guitars and amps. I'm not that good enough to justify those purchases, so I inherently know it is wrong. After dabbling with it so some years, I hardly touch them now and they are all lying in cabinets and shelf, acting as re-purposed dust collector. Oh, before that, there was a gaming phase where I spend a lot of money buying sega games. Back then, I thought that if only I could have more money, I could spend the whole day gaming away without a care in the world. Little do I know that years later, when I have the means to fund my gaming adventures, living vicariously as an elf or a wizard blasting away at demons that threatened to destroy the world, I no longer have the time to play. How many years of my life had been spent chasing digital gold coins and collecting unique, digital swords, staves and shields?

While I don't regret the time and money spent on such poisons (oh, they are such joy), one must wonder what is it that I do love so much currently that will inevitably walk down the same path as my old sega games and my dust collecting guitars?

Do I want to continue doing it now, knowing that my passion for it might run out in the future? Or should I abandon it and embrace minimalism? Could minimalism be, by itself, a re-purposed dust collector in the near future?

That is a thought worth thinking about. Perhaps, like all medicines, the dosage makes the poison.