Koh Phi Phi Series No. 3: A Single View On Dichotomies

I am tempted to make this entry political and expand on how much, to my mind, any sort of dichotomy is a social construct that often serves to marginalise groups by making us except a division that does not necessarily has to be there. Minority-majority, straight-LGBT, moral (because legal) – immoral (because illegal), and so forth.

Yet this time I’d like to expand on a sort of cognitive dichotomy that, I bet, more people experience.

What do I mean exactly?

A very basic thing: taking your life and whatever you do for granted. When everything you do seems absolutely natural to you. I mean, how else should your life seem to you, right?

My sister, for instance, can knit the most beautiful napkins I’ve ever seen. She also sews nicely, decorates glass bottles using…various techniques (woooh, I almost revealed her secret methods here!), can fold almost anything out of paper, and, well, the list continues. And it’s a pretty awesome list, I always remind her.

When I say that to her, she just shrugs her shoulders. ‘Eh, maybe’ is a completely overly modest reaction that I get from her. OK, one thing – she does know that all I can do with a bottle is simply empty it, and if I had to knit something it would take five minutes before I’d throw everything on the ground, say ‘I’d be rather solving chemistry equations’, and leave the room having my confidence and dignity resources heavily depleted. Therefore, receiving a compliment coming from me is not the same as receiving it from someone who actually has a talent. But still.

While in Phi Phi, I met an awesome girl who has completely supported herself financially all the way through university. I used to think that my scholarships were a sweet deal, but this case was incomparable. I can’t even imagine how much of various inner resources it must have taken and how many blog posts it would take to describe. I told her: “Wow, you must realise that what you did is absolutely inspiring.”

How she responded simply surprised me. It was something like: “Well, I guess so.”

And then it struck me: the importance of that more conscious living (I’m slipping into enlightenment-related affairs now and so I might run the risk of losing some of my readers right here; I can’t afford it, not in the middle of my blog entry!!!).

On one hand, everything you do seems natural to you. Yes, I’m biking to a market to buy some organic fruit; yes, I’m baking a cake; yes, I don’t die after 50 minutes of cardio; yes, I can knit a scarf in three hours; yes, I go diving every day; yes, I received a prestigious scholarship to go abroad (I hope my Fulbright friends are reading this!); yes, I can drive a vehicle without breaking it or injuring people around me; yes, I …

A quick disclaimer for the people who don’t know me too well: this is not my actual list. If anything, it’s very far away from my actual list! What I wanted to say is that everyone’s list is unique and uniquely great.

Definitely, it’s important to look at whatever it is you’re doing and whatever you are capable of without slipping into the treacherous web of arrogance.

At the same time, I didn’t name this entry ‘A Single View On Dichotomies’ for no reason.

This is where the ‘on the other hand’ part comes in.

On the other hand, why not to step back and take a look at the seemingly natural course of your own life? Why not to be more conscious about what you do and where you are? (this is where I may lose the remaining readers as I’m potentially approaching the concept of awakening; no worries, I’m not that advanced).

And you know what? I am convinced that we all approach that more conscious living (sticking to my own – and thus limited – definition) through what we have already. Our friends. Our travel companions. Our, I’ll naively expect, blog readers.

It’s good and even rather necessary to have people around who would tell you from time to time: “This is awesome!” The power of such words is greater than one might think. After a couple of such comments I myself might start thinking: “You know what, I think it is!”

I am on a tropical island (it is a tropical island; I had my suspicion it might be subtropical, but I checked, and it’s not), getting some way-too-intense tan on December 31st, I have just finished a banana shake on the beach and will be hitting a bar for an afternoon cocktail in a moment. Yes, it is me doing all this, so of course it feels all natural. But then, on the other hand, this is awesome!

At this moment some of you might like to disapprove or completely dismiss my whole writing by saying that what I am advocating is simply reinforcing the egoic mind which always needs reminders of how it is greater than anyone else. I would respond to your hypothetical comment by saying: maybe.  I mean, c’mon, all my blog entries are dictated to me directly by my ego, which also tells me to check the site statistics every six hours.

Yet let me come back to (my senses?) the conclusion of this ‘c’mon, everybody, be happy!’ sort of piece.

You don’t need to be on a tropical island or in a foreign country to enjoy that dichotomy. I myself don’t want to believe that this awesomeness will stop after leaving Southeast Asia. So what I need to do now is to train my brain to notice and enjoy all those small dichotomies in life: when it feels natural, yet it is really cool at the same time.

It might be difficult to train my brain to discover the awesomeness of waiting for my mom to leave her computer so that I could watch a movie on a decently-sized screen. It’s way easier to see that greatness while enjoying a fruitshake on the beach, I reckon, but – as Žižek would say – my god, it seems like an important skill to have.


ps. what I not-so-secretly hope now is that the next time my sister knits a lovely napkin she will look at it and won’t need my help to realise how freakin’ cool it is.

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