My Pet Theory about Time

(Drafted on 17 January 2010.  Time flies!)

Ever heard about how time starts to go faster as we grow older?  I heard that when I was a kid and over the years, I begin to observe this phenomena myself.  As a kid, we could play for a really looong
time and find that it is only lunch time, and still have the whole afternoon to go.  Or in some cases, do some boring homework for a long time and still have even more to go.  We would check the time and it would only be 5mins into the homework session.

When we are in our teens, we start to experience our day go by a little faster.  Maybe it is because we cannot wait for the lessons to end or to get home to do what we want.  But by the time we go past our teens and reach our 20s, time continue to speed its way past.

This is my theory, a pet theory.  Time, is a product of our perception of our experiences as it happens.  But our experience and perception of time itself is coloured by our past experiences of time.  More accurately, it is compared unconsciously with our past experience of time.

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How About That Fish?

Recently when I was in Kuala Lumpur (KL) to speak at a conference, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of 50~60 nice folks from Kelantan, Malaysia.  Very friendly and lovely bunch I must say.

I noticed that some of the locals in KL were eating live seafood and so I quizzed them on how that relates to the first precept of non-killing.  After a very lively discussion, we concluded that eating live seafood crossed the line for non-killing.  Consider how the fishes were happily swimming around in the tanks … ok, maybe not so happily … but nonetheless, alive and swimming.  Then someone may come along to the restaurant and order a meal, resulting in one or more of them being killed for our consumption.  At that point, it became clear that the meal was quite the cause of death or at least the reason.  So far so good, as far as understanding how we relate to the first precept of non-killing.

Then someone pointed out that sometimes, actually most of the time, only one person do the ordering, so perhaps he is the only person bearing the karma of killing.  I threw it open to the floor for discussion and went through a few possible scenarios regarding the causal consequences of the meal.

Case A: Person ordering get 100% of killing karma, while the eaters get none.
Case B: Person ordering get a majority percentage of say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma.
Case C: Everyone gets an equal share of the killing karma.  So if there were five diners, each get 20%.

Then someone further suggest that those who eat more, should be more responsible!  So the formulae became

Case A: Person ordering get 100% of killing karma, while the eaters get none.
Case B1: Person ordering get a majority percentage of
say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma.
Case B2: Person ordering get a majority percentage of say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma on a pro-rata or weighted basis.
Case C1: Everyone gets an equal share of the killing karma.  So if there were five diners, each get 20%.
Case C2: Everyone gets a share of the killing karma depending on the amount they ate.

Things were getting complex!  In the end, we simplified and just considered the original three cases, although as you will see, the reasonings for each case would lead us to similar conclusions.  Bear in mind that we did not assume any of the case to be the actual mechanism behind how karma would or should work out; we simply cover all possible scenarios as much as we can.  So for the following analysis, we then look at each case and say, if this were true, how would or should we act differently?

Case A, while the person ordering gets 100%, should Buddhists who embrace values and qualities like Loving Kindness and Compassion allow someone to bear the brunt (100%) of painful results for one’s meal while one selfishly tucks into the meal knowing that someone else (both the fish and the orderer) is suffering for us.  While highly unlikely, we saw it unseemly for us to partake in such a meal as it is both selfish and unkind.

Case B, letting someone get the majority share and each diner receiving partial payout for the karma of killing didn’t seem to be such a good idea as well.  Nope.

Case C, for most people in the discussion, going pro-rata seem to be the most likely mechanism for karma, but it then becomes even clearer why we should not partake in the meal altogether!

We could have, and were tempted to, gone further and consider many other factors, including those who arrive late, those who fail to turn up but were on the diners’ list, those who were not, but turn up after the ordering, those who were not but turn up before the ordering etc etc.  But we did not.  Most were duly satisfied with the discussion and analysis and left it knowing how better to relate to the precepts in future.

So what did you eat today?

PS: I do not advocate eating as a means of enlightenment, and the discussion of food was really a day-to-day affair that to me mattered to some of those lay Buddhist I met.

Making the Choice to be Happy

It’s interesting when we think about how we often talk about pursuing happiness in life bla bla blah, when in real life, no one will quite answer “I’m pursuing happiness” when asked “What are you pursuing in life right now?”.

When I meet some new people, I like to ask them “What do you do?”.  They would then tell me they are in whatever trade or profession they are in.  When I ask them “What you are doing these days?”, they would reply with a gist of whatever projects or activities they are currently engaged in.

When you ask them what they hope to see happen in their life 10 to 20 years later, maybe some will say marriage, a good career etc etc, depending on their age, direction in life and so on.  I’ve yet to meet someone who would tell me, they are “pursuing happiness” right this moment.

Maybe it’s because you cannot just go to the mall to get it.  Or that it’s so intangible.  While you are experiencing it, you barely think about it, when you loose it, then you realise its absence!  Nevertheless, I would like to suggest this, for you and everyone to do this for yourself:  Make a choice to be happy!

Now I am not suggesting for us to start making yet another wishlist of “If I have XYZ I would be happy”, but to start making a different list this time.  This time, make a list that says “Whether or not I get XYZ, I will choose to be happy!”. 🙂

Later on, I’ll suggest some ways for staying happy regardless of outcome XYZ, in the mean time, feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

See also The Mathematics of Happiness

A Middle-Aged Princess Grows Up

Here’s an article I would like to share with you all. While the ‘princess’ in the blog is a lady, the lesson from it applies equally to all, men and women alike.

An extract below … complete post after the break below

I’ve made some profound changes in my life since then. First and foremost, I stopped blaming everyone else for my own problems. This was the hardest. For my entire life I was told – and I believed – that as a woman, I could do no wrong, that I was not responsible, that I was always the victim in some way. Over and over I had to tell myself that only I am responsible for my happiness.

Once I learned to stop blaming the world, I taught myself to be pleasant and nice. This was hard as well. I had always mistaken pleasantness for weakness. This is not the case. A new colleague at work – a woman from the South – showed me very clearly it’s quite easy to be nice and be strong at the same time.