Journal Entry #6- Truth

Jonathan made an eloquent and much needed attack on one epistemologically disturbing trend which sorely needs to be addressed. To quote him:

It is a commonly held perception in civilized society that we are required to respect the opinions of others, regardless of how absurd and nonsensical they are.

The human mind may be well-trained and naturally inclined to handle pleasure and pain, but I thoroughly believe that its faculties are flawed when it comes to truth. This relates to the important, main point of this week’s journal: that which is desirable is not necessarily true.

There are some things which just aren’t true, even if the truth may be hard to swallow.

To be completely honest, I’m not the most passionate advocate of the existence of objective, absolute truth (debating has that curious effect on you), but I am pretty convinced that ones personal tendencies, wishes, and desires, even in a collective group, can do nothing to affect objective truth (assuming that it exists).

An example most of us can relate to would be the existence of imaginary friends. Most of us, at some point in our childhood, talked to things which weren’t really there- imaginary people, soft toys, blankets (my blanket was named Cousin Blanky- I originally wanted to name it Blanky, but my brother claimed the copyrights to that name before me) and other similar, inanimate objects. In retrospect we laugh at how silly it all was, and we can all unanimously agree that those imaginary friends we had never quite existed, and all the soft toys we gave names to have been, and and still are, lifeless combinations of cloth and stuffing.

However, it is easy to forget that at those very moments in our childhood, when we were seven or eight or nine or ten, there was no doubt, in our hearts, that these things were real. Our happiness and sadness was so closely intertwined with our imaginary friends to the point that the mere conception that all of it was untrue was impossible- we simply refused to believe it. We told the truth the same way a wide-eyed child would tell the truth: these things existed, and they meant the world to us.  But did our sincerity have any effect on what actually existed, and what didn’t? No.

It is absolutely possible for people, in fact, billions of people, to believe a lie just because it is a lie which makes us happy- a lie that tells us that everything is going to be alright, that the future is nicely planned out ahead of us like a rolling mat which unfurls with our every footstep. But the fact that all this is pleasurable doesn’t change the fact that all this is still what it actually could be : a lie.

This is something that we need to seriously think about: do we still need to be childish in our thoughts, and protect ourselves with our wishes and fantasies; or do we want to be adults, and deal with the world as it really is?


Journal Entry #5- Sex

I have never been able to comprehend Government’s (or any third party, in any case) obessession with a citizen’s private use of his / her sexual organs. It consistently bewilders me how the state sees it within its ambit to criminalize acts such as oral sex and sodomy as punishable crimes even if said acts are committed with a consenting party.

I specifically refer to laws such as Section 377A of the Penal Code in Malaysia, (no pun intended with ‘penal’) in which , ‘any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of the penis into the anus or mouth of the other person is said to commit carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. The definition of the offence intuitively, brings forth two questions:

1. Why is ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ worth prosecuting, and

2. Even if it were worth prosecuting, which things are ‘against the order of nature’, and which things aren’t?

To address the first question, the only possible reason I can imagine that a Government can use as an excuse are the ‘potential harms’ of carnal intercourse. Which doesn’t quite add up because firstly, carnal intercouse isn’t dangerous- or at least not significantly more dangerous than regular sex, which probably has all the potential harms that carnal intercourse could bring. Secondly I’d say that granted that Government already legalizes personal lifestyle choices like smoking, which not only harms yourself but also others, it’s a huge contradiction to ban carnal intercourse.

With all that said, I find the second question even more damaging to the whole question of prosecuting ‘carnal intercourse’- what on earth is ‘natural’ and what isn’t? If ‘carnal intercourse’ is unnatural, then things like clothes, medicine and law would all be similarly ‘unnatural’ and should be discarded. Secondly, if it really were ‘unnatural’, then why would we be doing it in the first place? Paradigms and values shift with time, and the last thing we need for a healthy societal concept of sex is the Platonfication of it- that there is only one ‘pure’ form of sex out there, and that we should adhere to it the best we can. Sex, like everything else, evolves and changes, mostly for the better. Embracing and understanding those changes would be a better use of our time.

With that cleared, my criticism of sex is not limited to Government- it is also specifically directed at you and I. Chances are that most of us indulge in sexual bigotry- we gasp and squeal when sex scandals appear in the newspaper, we gossip when people sleep with each other, and we just generally hold a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude regarding sex. We are prudish and bigoted, but most of all, we judge for no good reason. I could sympathize with Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek when he maintained that Malaysians behaved ‘holier than thou’ when news of his sex scandal broke. The fact that he has extramarital sex was probably wrong- but only wrong in the limited sense that he betrayed the trust of his wife, or his children, and not in the public sense that all of a sudden all his credit and effort as Health Minister would warrant being cancelled out.

My stance is clear. Sex is a completely personal and private act between two parties in which few other people have a right to fuss about. Furthermore, the prosecution of sex also has no place in modern jurisprudence. Sex is an integral part of our life, and the least we can do is to think about it more maturely.

Journal Entry #4- Kaizen

So one of the things that some people ask me is this:

“Why is your name Keefe Kaizen Chan on Facebook? What on earth does Kaizen mean, you weird J-pop wannabe? I see that you’ve watched too much Naruto! Are you planning on dyeing your hair red and eating ramen for the rest of your life?” (ok maybe not the latter part)

At any rate, the answer for the question is that kaizen is the Japanese pronunciation for 改善 (Gǎishàn), which in English, means improvement. That essentially means that my Facebook name is literally read in English as ‘Keefe Improvement Chan’ (I know, it looks and sounds horrendous- like ‘Bruce Dangerous Lee’ or something. Now you know why I chose to put it in Japanese).

So why the name change in the first place?

I’ve always found the notion of improvement terribly fascinating. It’s like growing a tree- watering and pruning it religiously daily for the purpose of watching something grow- to invest in something, and to look at the colourful, bloomed flowers at the end of the day and know that that achievement was all yours, and yours alone. Exactly why artists spend years putting finishing touches on their own Rembrandts and how writer edit and reedit what they hope to be their magnum opus. In more colloquial, gamer terms, this whole self-improvement thing is like ‘leveling up’ your character in an MMORPG like World of Warcraft (or in my case, a few years back, Maple Story. Yes, you may laugh at me now, but wait till you witness the might of my level 72 Spearman). It’s the reason why gamers spend hours and hours in front of a computer, gradually moving up the skill tree and getting better gear.

The reason why I mentioned gaming is because I find it analogous to my quest of self-improvement. The thrill and sense of achievement that one can get from attaining, perfecting, and finally, mastering a skill is immense, if not unobtainable elsewhere. That’s probably one of the reasons I was, and still am addicted to debating- watching your average speaker score rise by that fraction of a mark every tournament only makes you want to come back for the next one.

I look forward to a better Keefe- a more reliable, trustworthy, erudite, hardworking, friendly, loving, punctual, early-sleeping (this one is important), and healthy Keefe. Kaizen.

Kaizen- improvement. (from, my brother's blog. Give him a read! Good stuff.)


Journal Entry #3

(Another late night blog post, yay)

In Standard 4, I filled up one of my friends’ autograph books (it was black and diary-sized, if I recall. One of those mass produced organizers that companies send around and no one really uses). I really like autograph books- they’re some kind of cryogenic freeze on our personalities that allow us to analyse and smile at our previous selves. And from there, we notice the things about ourselves that changed (“Hobbies- collecting stamps”) to the things that didn’t change (“Birthday- 29 December 1992”).

After I filled up the autograph book, it was soon passed around, and people started talking about it. I then realized that quite a few of my classmates (the boys, mainly) were looking at my page and giggling. Something they had noticed in particular was what I filled up in the “Hobbies” section. While my other male friends usually filled that row up with things like “sleeping, cycling, playing com games, reading (all quoted from my own autograph book- they’re authentic)”, I filled in something else.

My row went something like this:

Hobbies: Talking to girls

which apparently, most people found amusing (Standard 4 Keefe was probably just being the honest, cheeky boy that went around pulling girls’ hair and stealing water bottles which ended up with a coalition of girls complaining to his mother on Report Card Day- but more on that another time). I suppose that’s one thing that really hasn’t changed much; my friends are disproportionately female, except either one or two close male friends (the figure usually hovers around the number ‘one’, and very occasionally enters the realm of ‘two’)

I’ve never really been one for cliques- at least not the kind of cliques that I’ve seen so far. Personal, one-on-one interaction has always been something I’m more comfortable with. I like intimacy and touch- in some ways I think that my connection and bond with someone is directly proportional with the amount of physical contact we make. I love the feel of a handshake and the warmth of a hug- it closes the gap between two people in a irreplaceable manner.

The two premises: 1) I have primarily girl friends, and 2) I touch my friends a lot (typing this out actually makes me realize how odd this sounds, hmm) necessarily leads to conclusion 3) I touch girls a lot, which has also necessarily gotten me into quite a bit of trouble. There are generally two possible groups of people which this trait of mine can offend:

1) People who don’t quite like being touched

When I meet people in this category I’m usually in for a rude shock. Awkwardness (which may or may not be prolonged) usually follows- along with apologies (“Sorry sorry I didn’t know that you didn’t like hugs / don’t shake hands / aren’t allowed to touch boys without your dad’s permission). These are people I can genuinely sympathize with, and I usually apologize quite a bit to them. However, there also are:

2) People who feel uncomfortable with me touching other people

This group includes people who go “it’s really not appropriate to touch at this age- people might get the wrong impression / don’t be such a pervert / why your hands so itchy one”. I, on occasion, have slightly less tolerance with people in this category. Most of them certainly are well-meaning, so there really isn’t much to rant about, actually. I actually do owe quite a bit to people from this group, because I do have the tendency to cross the line, from time to time, so thank you, dear reader-friend, if you happen to be one of the kind-hearted people who’ve advised me at any point in time. So- thanks! 🙂

At the end of the day, I genuinely think that touch has the capacity to make better relationships (any kind, in fact). I should seriously consider starting a political party which advocates more hugging. Hmm.

(A note to readers- the “Journal” series is posted every Saturday- English homework. Hi Miss Diana! :] )

Journal Entry #2

I like books. Not necessarily just from reading them, because there is some sort of weird, subliminal joy which I get from walking around with a whole thick stack of books in my arms; the same sort of pleasure I feel when I look at a row of mint-condition books neatly arranged on a bookshelf. There is some sort of power that a book grants you as you hold it in your hand (power directly proportional to thickness, of course)- something that just seeps through your fingertips and travels straight to the part of the head which keeps words and phrases and quaint little quotes.

Part of me thinks that I’m not actually in love with reading per se, but with the idea of reading. I capriciously pick titles, most of them of which are consistent with my pledge earlier this year to read as many books from the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels (my current score is 4/100, which is a decidedly pitiful figure). Making book choices based on the decisions of a few old men and women huddled up in a room is probably not the best way one can go around choosing books, but much can be deduced from how I view book.

I read to feel powerful- the kingdom that I wish to build is not of bricks or wealth, but of words. The same reason probably motivates my subscription to the Economist, and it probably also explains my frantic, wide-eyed hysteria when I pick up my book, only to find its spine creased, or its pages dog-eared.