23 May, 2013

Conquering Towers

We just had dinner. Spending the past six hours in the amusement park walking long distances going from one ride to another had finally taken its toll on most of us, but I was totally against the idea of filling up our stomachs too soon. I was just as tired and hungry as they were, but I didn’t care since we still hadn’t gone to the Extreme Tower. I really wanted to go to the Extreme; I was the most excited for it. But I didn’t want to eat and then go free-fall from 200 feet in the air afterwards. I wasn’t going to pay for burgers and French fries only to throw it all up later.

Yet there I stood with the rest of them in front of the daunting tower under the night sky. All of our stomachs were full. Four of my friends were excited to go, totally neglecting the fact that they just ate, and immediately went in line. I was left outside with one who was afraid of heights, one who has vertigo, and one who has tried the ride before and didn’t want to do it again.

The Extreme Tower is an amusement ride where people are lifted up a large vertical structure to the top and then released to a free-fall. The process usually takes less than a minute: about 50 seconds of mental anguish as you see yourself getting higher and higher up in the air, seeing the landscape and the structures below you getting smaller, with the lingering fear and anticipation that you’re about to drop; and then the actual fall will be very quick, give or take maybe 2 seconds.

Describing it alone was already exhilarating. It was all I wanted to try.

The problem was I just ate and my biggest fear in life is the act of vomiting. I was never terrified of the ride.  I was worried I might experience that terrible nauseous feeling and then taste in my mouth that horrible acidic mixture of digested food and gastric fluid. It wasn’t going to be pleasant.

“So you’re not going, Ollie?” One of my friends who was standing beside me asked. I shook my head as we watched the group of people before us slowly rise above the ground. The ride was making its typical machine sounds. The lights of the tower were blinking, almost hypnotically. They were going up, up, and up. . .

“Too high,” I muttered, looking up. “That’s too high. Stop it, that’s too high!” I yelled. They weren’t even at the top of the tower just yet. They just kept going higher. That was when I realized I do have a slight fear of heights. I was certain it was no longer just the fact that I had dinner and I was afraid to vomit. I was thoroughly afraid of falling from that height.

“Chicken,” I heard my friend say. Then came the click sound signaling the halt, and then swoop, the ride plummeted. It was that quick. People barely had time to finish their screams, but they left their seats obviously awe-struck by the experience and walked to the exit with smiles and laughter. They were all glad they had done it.

That awakened the daredevil in me. I’m the kind of guy who likes to try different things that can make me happy, and seeing the joy in those people who took the ride greatly compelled me to go on, do what I wanted to do right there and not worry about anything. You only live once, baby.

YOLO sounds like a corny thing to say now only because of stupid teenagers who have used it as an excuse for making fools out of themselves, tarnishing the validity of such a valuable life philosophy. It is true that we only get to live one life, and it’s not proper to waste it with worries. I have faced more difficult situations in the past where I would get morally stuck in deciding whether to pursue doing something or not. Through all that I have learned that in a struggle of figuring out who you are, where you go and what you do, and weighing out the possible consequences of your actions, only one question shall aid reason to your judgment: “Why would you keep yourself from being happy?”

I was staring at the top of the tower. The lights were blinking. My heart was beating fast. Too fast.

“Screw it.” I dropped my backpack and left it with my friends, and then ran to the others who were already next in line. In the end I was glad I did it.

kudos to the brave.

26 April, 2013

Job's Done

As you all know already, since I've had nothing else to harp about in this blog for a long time other than how terribly busy I am with school, and how close I was to the borderline of losing my sanity, I have been working on my undergraduate thesis for the past couple of months and the reason I was not blogging for a huge span of time was because I had no other concern in my life aside from finishing my work. Well, that's only partially true. I did have some other small concerns and ended up not following through with my self-imposed punishment. I did go out on parties and had some sort of fun leaving my manuscript unfinished on some occasions. Like, come on, I'm not going to be 19 forever. I don't wanna be spending my last teenage year with my head buried in my desk. Breaking that personal vow doesn't matter anymore. (I've broken a lot of personal vows in the past, this one has become trivial!) It doesn't matter because I did finish my thesis on time, and it was fulfilling.

It was the same kind of feeling I had when I finished my newsletter project. For some reason seeing the materialized output of your intellectual property is like seeing your child getting born.

Right now, my classes are over: all final exams and papers are done. I spent the past ten days arranging documents I'm required to fix for graduation and applications, and I'm very close to getting it all worked on. So, surprise, I'm graduating college very soon. That's absolutely true.

It sounds funny. It's like everything was just a while.

University life has been fun. Kudos, Batch 2013.

for the love of chemistry.

20 January, 2013

Locked in Loser's Lodge

The wind is really cold outside. I went out to buy some food wearing only very light clothes and on my way back I realized I was shivering like hell while pushing myself through current after current of cold, chilly gusts of wind. The temperature is almost insane because I thought I was nearly freezing, which is of course an exaggeration since it doesn't actually snow where I live, and also because just last year everyone was complaining about the extremely hot temperature we're experiencing. Talk about fluctuating temperatures and we're all gonna go back to the same old discussion of how global warming is ruining nature. Our planet has totally gone crazy.

I like to go in sync with nature, and therefore I too have gone crazy. I decided this January that I'm not going to have ANY fun until I actually finish my thesis. This means I'm not going out on Friday nights anymore, nor during weekends. I'm not going to a bar, a club or anything. I'm not going to any party. I'm not going to go out with a friend. I'm not going to go out on a date. And I'm not going to look to have sex with anyone. This is my way of punishing myself for suspending the work that I could have finished last year if only I focused all my mind and efforts to the one thing that truly mattered.

Although it's hard since I have not had sex with anyone other than myself for more than six months already.

I could be joking.

Okay, so I know I shouldn't be too hard on myself and I'm ready for any form of consolation from you guys since the reason I actually put off my thesis work last year was another actual work I also had responsibility in doing. I cannot help but feel guilty about this matter though because I feel like I had put my professor down. Before he left to another country last October, he had trusted me to finish my experiments and I had told him that I'm going to finish everything by December, but look where I am now: I'm struggling with the experimental mistakes I need to fix and there's still a lot of tests I haven't done and January has only a few days left.

That is why I keep telling myself something along the lines of, "Oliver, this is the only thing that matters to you right now. Nothing else. Finish your thesis for now, and then you can screw around all you want later." This mindset may not be very healthy, but at least it gives me enough motivation to actually move forward and make important progress.

We all have goals, and in order to achieve them we need to make plans. We need to set these plans in motion. If you don't have the proper mindset, it's kind of not having any fuel to an engine and it's hard to get anything to move. Sometimes we need to focus our whole being into that one thing we want to accomplish in order to achieve it, and I have learned through experience that that is a fool-proof plan. Does that have to involve punishing yourself by not having any fun during the process? Not necessarily, but that depends on your character. Does that have to involve you being a total loser who wouldn't socialize just to finish the work that needs to be done? I wouldn't agree with that either because you know what? At the end of the day the loser isn't the one who never went to a party nor got laid because he was too busy with work; the loser is the one who ends up screwing his life for not seeing the things that were of the most value.

So I may be a loser right now who is alone and covered in blankets, shivering while reading books and typing words on my blog in bed, but you're gonna see me later at the center of a bar in February proud and satisfied and accomplished. Until then, I'm going to be living in this fort.

kudos to hermit crabs.

04 January, 2013

It's Always Sunny

It was one of those hot sunny afternoons where people in the house just decided to sit around, quietly and lazily together, after getting tired of the same routines they get stuck doing in their distant online lives. You would think that most people never get sick of the vastness of the Internet and the different pleasures it conveniently offers, but eventually, somehow, maybe after enough twitches of the eyelids, back cramps, and carpal tunnel syndromes, or perhaps it's our genetic impulse to socially interact with other humans in the physical realm that forces us, my sister and I finally decided to just lay back in this world we live in to witness. Looking out the window and seeing the blazing sun, the sweltering asphalt, and those almost visible waves of heat I swear I’m not just imagining that's clouding the air, it's almost impossible not to notice that the Earth must be having a dangerously high fever.

"This is our fault," my sister spoke. "Humanity's fault." She's holding a glass of ice-cold water in her right hand and fanning herself vigorously with the other. "This is global warming at its worst, caused by humanity's selfish desires to always just live easy and comfortably: digging up oil, cutting trees, burning fuel here and there, building machines, consuming electricity and everything. Behold the consequences."

Like my sister, I have always complained about the overwhelming heat of the sun. It's just natural for us to. I am aware that this kind of temperature and atmosphere didn't really exist before when I was a kid. I remember the sunny days of the 90's meant a fair day outside the house where kids could gather in the streets to play. Now parents in our neighborhood worry that if their children stayed outside in the heat they might get sick, and so they would rather have them tucked in their bed taking an afternoon nap. Not a lot of kids go outside to play anymore these days anyway, not with all the different kinds of gadgets and gaming consoles our modern Santa Claus'es have in store for them each year. I can imagine the 80s, 70s, and the other decades way back mostly had only trees and bare soil covered with grass as their outdoors, and they must have had cooler sunny days with more wind and clouds. My mom would say that’s right; she's born in 1955.

See, it is natural for me to get mad that there's too much heat in the air because it takes away a lot of fun, but the idea that this trouble is mainly brought by human technology, as pointed out by my sister, still bothers me. "So would you rather have nothing? No cars, no electricity, no Internet? Nothing?" I asked her. It is typical in our house to start arguments about different topics. We all get along that way.

"Yes. The Earth was better before. Life was normal," she said.

"But we can't survive without electricity, fuel and machines," I told her.

"You just think you can't, because you've gotten so used to it."

I honestly believe that the way people live in the modern era depends hugely on fuel and technology. I cannot deny the fact that a lot of inventions were made solely for the purpose of entertainment and that there are some things I can do away with. It's just gotten hard though for many to say they could live without television and computers. Life without the Internet is a nightmare to many, including myself, but these pieces of technology we only grew to depend on recently and could very well be considered as luxury should not be the basis of any judgment that the inventions brought about by human intellectual progress are not truly essential to life. Imagine life without fuel that speeds up transportation, electricity that set forth the creation of many wonderful inventions and has allowed access to new useful knowledge, and the automated machines that mass-produce our food. These things did not exist before and humanity thrived, but we cannot deny that today, in our time, these are key to our survival. What if all of a sudden, our online systems collapsed and people could not use their credit cards or withdraw cash from the ATM? What if our new sources of energy disappeared, public transportation stopped, the factories ceased to manufacture supplies and nobody could produce enough food for everyone?

It would be a total chaos.

I flinched. I looked outside and saw a few clouds had started to drift across the sky and yet it still failed to cast a shadow on the concrete which already seemed to begin steaming. The scenario I imagined was hard to bear and it couldn’t prove my point that technology is not to blame for our problems. If anything, that supported my sister’s argument that the world would have been better if these things weren’t created, in the sense that the human race would not have organized themselves in a way that such loopholes existed. We would not have been too dependent on things which if disappeared, such disorder would arise. Maybe after all, it was the greatest mistake humans ever made which our planet is now suffering from: going astray from a life that was more “normal.”

History had its way at some point. Even from the very beginning, human intellect strived, and triumphed, to bring about more efficient ways to live. Agriculture, animal husbandry, masonry and mining – these were the very first foundations of human technology. These gave rise to more developments as population grew and societies expanded. Technology was always there to improve life, not to destroy it. To demand a life that is more basic is to demand a stop in the technological timeline. To think that humanity in the 21st century could survive with only the more basic forms of technology is a dangerous, imprudent assumption.

I am more keen to look at facts rather than create assumptions and scenarios in my head. And what are the facts that I see? That we have seven billion people in this world right now needing more energy than the Earth is able to supply. An increase in food production implies clearing more lands and fewer forests. An increase in energy demand implies more mining and oil drilling, and even fewer forests. The plants and trees whose photosynthesis we depend on would’ve long gone scarce had we not come up with ways to improve agriculture and access to cellulose for biofuels. Technology is always meant to help us; the drastic change in human activity and behavior is what propels its repercussions. Maybe if population did not grow to what it is now, things would be better, but we need not gripe about how much better life used to be and wish it was still that way. What we are more capable of doing is to do, not to undo. We continue to seek new ways to reduce carbon emissions, finding alternative renewable sources of energy, and more people are becoming more aware of the threat of overpopulation to the planet. Technology is what we have now, and with enough people thinking scientifically in the world, solutions would never be far from our reach. 

I leaned backwards on my chair, feeling more exhausted as the day went on and the heat never resigned. My sister placed her glass on the table, beads of water condensing on its outside. I looked at her sun-bathed face. Her eyes were closed and her left hand seemed to have been programmed to never stop fanning herself tirelessly.

“We cannot,” I reiterated, regaining my confidence. “We cannot survive without technology. We have billions of people in the world and the Earth would have no way to sustain human life if human technology were not involved. The only way we are able to continue to live on this planet anymore is because of humanity’s scientific progress.”

She opened her eyes, looked at me, and stood up. “We should agree to disagree,” she said. She smiled, and left to her room.

“Fine,” I said. I took the glass of water she left on the table and drank the little amount that was left of it. It was icy.

kudos to modern technology and environmental activists.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...