tirsdag, marts 03, 2009

If I were God; on friends, birthdays and postcards

In today's test, there is a question that goes like this:

"If I believe in God and God exists, then I will go to heaven. If I believe in God and God does not exist, then no harm is done. Therefore, if I believe in God, either I will go to heaven or no harm is done. ... Is this argument sound? If it is valid but unsound, which premise is false, and why?"

My answer: "The argument is valid but unsound. Even if God exists, it does not necessarily mean that heaven exists. Perhaps He is a deistic God. Even if He is a theistic God, He may actually want to punish intellectually lazy and greedy people who choose to believe in Him only for prudential reasons and not because they genuinely have faith."

After the test, a friend asked me, "If you were God, what kinds of people would you reward?" And I said, "Those who in their lives loved me unconditionally and promoted good in my name, and those who, through independent intellectual effort and conviction, believed in, remained neutral about, or denied my existence." In retrospect I'd like to add another criterion for the former group: those who belong to it will only be rewarded if they also tolerate the unorthodoxy of, or questioning by, the latter group. And, in general, I'd simply reward everyone who has led decent, responsible and upright lives.

Anyway I proved that a proposition is a contradiction using a method that is different from that which is provided by my textbook. My method is legitimate since it obeys all the rules in logic; so I am prepared to argue with my tutor (and ready to concede defeat if he convinces me) if he deducts marks from me because of that question.

*


Ah Mah has grown so much prettier ever since she left Singapore! We've already known each other for 8 years; but I haven't seen her ever since I sent her off at the airport two years ago. She is from China and is of Korean descent. Actually I applied for tuition waiver to attend summer school at Korea University (KU) so that I can fly over and spend time with her, but I couldn't find anything positive to write about Korea in my personal statement (I don't dislike Korea at all; I'm just really indifferent towards its culture and language), so I simply wrote something completely undiplomatic and foolishly honest - "I want to go to Korea because I wish to meet up with my friend whom I haven't seen for two years." Very unsurprisingly, my application for tuition waiver wasn't successful. I am never skilled at lying through my teeth, and I seriously don't know how to sound passionate about something in which I have very little interest. Neither did I advertise my own strengths - I totally didn't write about how I could contribute to the intellectual life of the programme. I desperately need lessons on how to write a proper personal statement/cover letter.

Nevertheless, chances are that I'll still be jetting off to Korea this June, since our mutual friend, Fifi the Magical Unicorn, is going to KU for summer school, and it would be wonderful if the three of us can hang out together again and relive old times. If I go (and it is likely that I am going, unless some unforeseen circumstances arise), I'll be staying at Ah Mah's place. Fifi the Magical Unicorn also suggested taking cheap inland flights from Korea to Japan for short trips. I just hope that everything will go according to plan.

I'd love to visit Japan, because it is such a civilised country, despite the fact that the government shamelessly refuses to assume responsibility for World War 2. The language is poetic (an online friend of mine who is well-versed in both Mandarin and Japanese says that Mandarin's beauty lies in its subtlety, profundity and elusiveness - which explains why Mandarin is sometimes impossible to translate - whereas Japanese's loveliness resides deeply in its lingering aftertaste); its scientific community is really advanced; its traditional art is sublime; and there are aspects of its popular culture and literature that are enviably sophisticated. And I take pride in the fact that I've been reading Mandarin translations of works by Haruki Murakami since 2003 (and trust me, the Mandarin translations of his writings are much better than the English ones), way before he first became popular among English readers. This shows that I have fantastic taste; and everyone should just trust my taste in literature from now on, thank you very much.

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Strider left for Australia this evening, and he probably will not come back to Singapore again in the near future. I sent him a message this morning asking him to take good care of himself and apologising for not being able to send him off, but strangely he did not reply. Anyway, Strider, if you are reading this, I hope you'll be happy. We may not be extremely close friends but I truly enjoyed the times we went out. Hopefully we will meet again in time to come.

WZ left in 2005; Ah Mah in 2007; Strider in 2009. I am still not immune to the sense of loss - regardless of its degree - that comes with departures.

By the way, I want to watch the Japanese film Departures, which won the Oscar Best Foreign Film award this year.

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Someone asked me for my birthday the other day. I usually choose not to tell anyone my birthday, because whenever someone gives me a gift, I feel as if he has only given me an obligation to return the favour. I am not comfortable receiving presents from just anybody, unless I am close enough to him/her to know clearly that there are no strings attached, that he/she is just using the occasion as an excuse to perform a gesture of love.

I remember last year I went back to school to collect something from Dr Berliner one day before my birthday, and he asked, "It's your birthday tomorrow; how are you going to celebrate it?" And I said, "I'm not going to celebrate it." He looked at me for a while and continued, "You're too young to not celebrate your birthday. Keep celebrating until you reach 30 - then it will be time to stop." And I replied, "My birthday just an arbitrary date." And he revealed a hint of a smile, as if asking me in silence, "Why are you so cynical?" I smiled back.

Life, despite all its glaring imperfections and devastating disappointments, is still amazing. Every year when my birthday arrives, I am reminded of how wonderful it is for me to be breathing and to have a reasonably decent life. Every year, on my birthday - the day life fortuitously decides to bestow its priceless gift upon me - I celebrate life. I celebrate my mother, a selfless woman who always sacrifices herself to save the best for me, who went through great labour pain in order to deliver such a precious gift to me.

Our birthdays are all about something much larger than our own insignificant, transient existence.

-

Fei asked me to send him a postcard. Right now I'm still hunting for nice postcards. If any of you would like me to send you a postcard/letter as well, just email me your home address (unless you prefer leaving a comment here and announcing to the whole world your address), telling me if you'd like your postcard/letter to be written in English, Mandarin or incredibly butchered German. If you wish, you may also include a rough gist of what you wish me to write. Getting a handwritten note from a stranger whose personality you intimately and yet only partially know through his/her blog can be an indescribably magical feeling, a calm overwhelming of emotion that consumes you when you feel the mildly hypnotic spell of a stranger's heartfelt communication with you. This time, the stranger is me. And when I write to you I would be nervously fevered and excited in my flow of expression, because I would wonder who this mysterious person I am writing to exactly is:

Does he love books - does he feel as emotionally engaged as I do when reading, do his favourite books have the ability to countenance vast intellectual exploration? Does he appreciate beauty - when he captures beauty in a gaze, in that moment does he feel as if his life is complete, or does he turn a blind eye to all the enchanting grace around him? Does he hold on steadfastly to beliefs in freedom and justice, despite having experienced tremendous disillusionment and weariness, simply because he does not want to give up? Is his idealism rooted in cynicism, or is his idealism divorced from reality - is he courageous or gullible in dreaming? Is his heart big enough to love an animal unconditionally? How would he feel when he reads what I've written for him? What does he think my handwriting reveals about me? Will he read it during the day or at night, when he can quietly enjoy undisturbed solitude? Is he lonely like me?

Insofar as we do not meet, we might very well be great friends.

2 kommentarer:

Anonym sagde ...

Are those first few lines from Pascal? called the Pascal's Wager?

Miao sagde ...

Yes, that's the infamous Pascal's Wager...