Reflections on the Eve of 2017

With 4 hours left before the inauguration of the new year, I have opted out of all social activity to spend my night at home blogging and cooking Kerala egg curry. This is partly because my original social plans got soured by a personal boondoggle; partly because of my fear of losing a finger or two if I venture outside into the war zone of Manila on New Year’s Eve, with DIY firecracker launches taking the place of the heavy artillery; and partly because I’m just an antisocial old grouch.

A New Year’s Eve spent at home is also an ideal time for reflection, assuming one does not pass out from the firecracker smoke coming in through the window. I do not wish to reflect too much on the fact that 2016 was The Worst Year Ever, even though it indisputably was – from climate doom to the death of the most famous of all Jehovah’s Witnesses to Donald Trump and, perhaps most incredibly, the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother one day apart. No need for another thinkpiece on that topic when everyone already knows it’s absolutely true, anyway: 2016 was the worst year ever. At least, until 2017.

And so, notwithstanding the fact that 2017 may yet bring horrors so appalling that all else will fade into insignificance,  I would like to reflect on the lessons that I hope to apply over the coming 365 days. Some of these are lessons that I only recently unearthed, while others are things I’ve known for a long time but had trouble actually applying. Either way, I believe these are principles that, if put into practice, could help me have a happier 2017 – That is, if I don’t die from a climate change nuke explosion with its ground zero located at a crowded Annual Convention of Beloved Celebrities.

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The Kalabaw Paradox

How how indeed! - S
How how indeed! – Source

Ever since the age of 14, I have devoted inordinate thought to the ethics of meat-eating. Around that age, my mother became a pescatarian; and I, being a hopeless mama’s boy at the time, was quite ready to emulate her example. It wasn’t a difficult decision, and not just because she was the only person I was living with at the time, as well as the one who cooked my meals. I had always loved animals – as a person with autism, I often found them much easier to relate to than people. And although I was certainly a gluttonous little porker, meat was never one of my favorite things to stuff into my greasy little piehole – you could’ve given me a bag of salt & vinegar potato chips over a juicy T-bone any day of the week.

My first memory of wrestling with the thorny issue of culinary ethics was from fifth or sixth grade, on the playground with my inseparable chum Dan. At the time the media was abuzz with the clubbing of baby (“baby”) seals in the arctic, and Dan indignantly declared, with a withering contempt far beyond his years, that the same people who bellyache about seal clubbing don’t care about millions of chickens being killed everyday. I had no answer to this at the time, but perhaps my eventual vegetarianism was a delayed act of spite – an “I’ll show him”, with my revenge exacted a few years too late. He did have a point, though.

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If I’m Gonna Die Eventually, How Can I Be Conscious Now?

Back in my rebellious teenage days, a rotund, sweat pants-wearing Bloggerbels spent the vast expanses of free time afforded by his status as a social pariah on pondering the deepest questions of human existence. Taking Homer Simpson’s classic utterance of “Everyone is stupid except for me” as my non-ironic life’s motto, I furiously scribbled my undercooked “insights” into beaten-up notebooks, presumably so that posterity would not be robbed of my precious gift.

One of the many imagined “epiphanies” that sprung from just below my mussed brown hair was related to the connection between consciousness and the afterlife. How, I asked myself, could I simply cease to exist at death, given that I was quite obviously conscious and aware at that precise moment? If there was clearly some conscious agent present to pose the question, how could that same asker simply seem to exist? How could this seemingly unbroken stream of consciousness simply stop? It would feel like a negation of every undeniably real moment of consciousness that had become before.

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The Horror of the Loving Machines

I recently returned to my beloved pooches in Manila after over five months of travel. Apparently I belong to the “out of sight, out of mind” school of attachment, as opposed to espousing the opposing “absence makes the heart grow fonder” theory – That is, I have to confess I didn’t miss them very much at all while I was off devouring stinky tofu in Taipei night markets and gawking at the opulent marble pedestrian underpasses of Baku.

But upon returning to Manila and settling back into my old life, I quickly realized what a balm it was to be welcomed home each time by hyperactively sweet balls of loving fur. And as I reflected upon how aggressively loving they are, I remembered a term (not original) that a former friend had used to describe dogs: loving machines. And as I turned the term over in my head, it slowly stopped being adorable and gradually became a bit creepy. (more…)

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