Archive for July 2009

Complaining

July 23, 2009

In his Meditations Marcus Aurelius writes,

“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now. But if anything in your disposition gives you pain, who hinders you from correcting the principle at fault? And even if you are pained because you are not doing some particular thing which seems to you to be right, why do you not act rather than complain? ‘Some insuperable obstacle is in the way.’ Do not be grieved then, for the cause of its not being done depends not on you.” 

The point is pretty simple – Don’t complain about that which is in your power to remedy, precisely because it is in your power to remedy. Hence any complaint is futile because you might as well fix the problem instead of complaining. Likewise, if the object of your complaints exists outside your ability to change, then your complaints are equally as futile as the squeals of a sacrificial pig. 

However, I think that Marcus Aurelius is missing an important point – that people often LIKE to complain! Often times People enjoy the empathy that they receive from others when they complain. At first I was tempted to draw the conclusion that people who frequently complain have weak characters since they constantly seek the emotional embrace of others – that is, those who would be offering their empathy. However, this is too quick. There are, after all, many reasons one might have for complaining (excluding the ostensive object of complaint, of course), and not all of them are malevolent or craven. Sharing the things which cause us grief can be (but not always are!) like sharing a piece of ourselves – albeit not information-wise (i.e. the ‘these are the types of things that bother me’ sort of information), but emotion-wise. What I mean is that grief is like an emotional weight (this is no secret). When one person vents his or her grief on another, it is as if that person is helping the other support his or her emotional weight. In many ways this event creates a bond between two people, much like the way sticking up for a person who is enduring embarrassing scrutiny tends to form bonds of friendship. Often time I have observed people complain to another simply for the sake of forming this sort of precious bond. And what’s so bad about that? 

One thing is for sure – when someone complains, the intentionality of their complaint is almost never directed against the ostensive object which grieves them.  

Dostoevsky in his novella Notes from the Underground observes this sort of malignant complaining from people – he uses the example of a man who loses his wife and parades in the streets in distress, however it is clear that his is enjoying the activity of expressing this grievance through his complaints. From this the Underground Man (not necessarily Dostoevsky) famously concludes that people enjoy suffering! 

Perhaps they enjoy not the actual suffering itself, but the empathy, the emotional support they receive from others in response to their complaints?

July 23, 2009

Virtue, methinks, is the power to excite virtue, both in oneself and others.

July 23, 2009

Some learn to do what technology tells them, others learn to tell technology what to do.

July 19, 2009

Just found out that a bow is considered to be a sign of respect because it shows the most vulnerable part of your body (your neck) to your acquaintance.

My Next Project

July 17, 2009

Recently I’ve been studying for the LSATs and am hence in dire need of a distraction (studying for this test is horrendously boring!). Come to my rescue from the clutches of lassitude is the AWESOM-O 4000. My project is to build an autonomous – that is, self-exploring (non-remote controlled and non pre-programmed), environment re-acting robot from scratch! 

AWESOM-O 4000

I’m pretty excited about this project. First, it marks my first introduction to the world of microcontrollers. Basically a microcontroller is a chip that acts as an on-board computer within the circuit – in other words, its an integrated circuit that contains memory, processing units, and input/output circuitry. My job is to write a program on my computer and upload that program (read: firmware) onto the microcontroller in order to make my robot ‘smart’. I’ll also be using an infra red scanner to take distance readings so that AWESOM-O can sense walls and (let’s hope) avoid them. Second, this will be my first adventure into the world of robotics. Once I ‘get my feet wet’ and overcome this first hurdle, I’ll be able to advance to more complex, interesting, and functional projects. Finally, and this I’m most excited about, I hope to develop a more thorough understanding of the appliances around me. For example, the microcontroller that I’ll be using in this project is the same device (though probably a different model chip) that we use in our every day appliances like microwaves. We all have so much technology floating around us just about everywhere we go, yet few of us (myself included) have a detailed (or even sufficient) knowledge of the workings of these devices. Obviously I understand that it would be impossible (or at least impractical) for everyone to keep him or herself up to date on the inter-workings of the latest technology that has been developed by those who have dedicated their lives to advancing the complexity of such technology, however, I don’t think that that point alone warrants total technological ignorance. Technology, whether we like it or not(!), plays a huge role in our lives, and I think we owe it to ourselves and our community(!) to keep ourselves technologically savvy.

July 5, 2009

Selfishness is a tic buried in the head of every higher consciousness, only those who have examined themselves can remove it.