I’ve recently been reading a book called Making Time by Steve Taylor. The tagline for the book is: Why time seems to pass at different speeds and how to control it.
I bought it just before we all departed for Beijing. While in Beijing and on the planes I read a little bit. Then after we got back it sort of laid around… maybe I glanced at a few pages, but two weeks or so ago I decided to finish the book. It’s been quite phenomenal actually. It’s totally restructured my sense of time and how it affects our lives. I know everyone says that stuff like: “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come”, however, just by stating that they corrupt their view of time to a disadvantage.
The concepts of past and future are human inventions. Humans invented abstract units of time to present life in a uniform way so that we can perceive the passing of time, but all of these time “units” are mostly all abritrary. Yes, one day is one spin of the earth, but it’s a reification of the “unit”. So when people say “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come” they essentially create the future. They’re aware of it, and thus it impacts your present time. Yes, the future is never for certain, that we know by now, but bringing the future into your present is task that completely inhibits your present. I don’t even want to start talking about the past, that’s even worse.
What I’m trying to get at is, that all we have for certain is the present. I know this sounds so immensely corny, but it’s something that in my opinion, people need to grasp to “live” life. The present is the complete awareness of your senses at given moment, without having other thoughts (or thought-chatter/ego as the book describes) floating around your head. For example the “ego” is when you’re walking to the shop and all you can think of is when the cooking’s done, where’s the kids, what do I have to buy, what can I wear tonight etc etc. Thus, riddance of the “ego”/thought-chatter makes you consciously more aware of the present. It leads to a higher state of consciousness that normally alludes stressed people.
I’m not saying, you should stop thinking, but think of it in the ways of child. They’re often extremely interested in all their surroundings. Touching things, putting objects in their mouth, looking in strange places etc. That’s the kind of place where we need to be, to be truly in the “now”, if I can use that vague term. It’s the conscious decision to become more aware of your senses. For example next time you’re walking somewhere, look up, look around, try spotting something you’ve never seen, listen, listen, listen. Do you hear sounds in the distance? Birds chirping perhaps? Did someone just close a gate? Feel the wind, feel your clothes touching your skin. Smell the air, is it fresh? Clean? New?
The morning commute, just as an example, becomes fascinating. We take in new fresh information everyday, instead looking at your feet going on a mission, letting your thoughts run rampant. The ideal here is that when people say “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come”, they’ve got it all wrong. Being “happy” with your life is not trying to make the future better or making up for the past, it’s the destruction of the concepts of future and past. If I may use another extremely corny methapor: life is not a destination, but a journey.
What I’m saying, might sounds like a really placid perspective, but it’s actually the acceptance of that all you have now is NOW: time is actually timelessness. They way to live in the “now” is to become more aware of your senses, for they tell you what’s happening in the “now”. I use a personal example: my walk to class is usually a very short 5 minutes walk from my flat. I usually rushed to class thinking what we’re potentially doing. My destination was to get there on time. I didn’t look around I just mission to class. It’s as if the class was already in my mind. Now, however after reading the book, I’ve made the conscious decision to become more aware of my senses. I walk slower, look around, see leaves dangling, hear people chatter in the distance, look at their clothes and interesting demeanours, look at passing cars, perhaps seeing something interesting on the dashboard, or I look on the nearby bushes as the light reflect on it, or a piece of wrapper that wasn’t there the day before as it floats in the wind.
I hear the different sounds car engines make, I hear lorries tooting in the distance, I hear the sounds of my feet shuffling etc etc. I had an awesome moment this morning when I walked up the three flights of stairs I walk four days a week to get to my Mandarin class. Usually I just wanna get there as soon as possible, skipping steps and groaning the repetition, but now this morning it was amazing. I walked on every step listening intently as the sounds of my footsteps echoed around the chambers of the stairs. Somewhere in the recesses of the building someone opened a door.
All this awareness has a strange feeling. You lose sense of time, for you’re in the “moment”. This is what I’m trying to get at. Your senses and thoughts create your sense of time. Mundane tasks need not be mundane anymore. That’s why people want to “Live like it’s [their] last day, for tomorrow might never come”. They hate the boring parts in between and want to create “memorable moments”, but that’s the problem. Don’t despise the “boring”, savour it. In this way you truly experience time and life.
Your ego doesn’t control your perception. Your ego tells you this is a waste of time, but nothing really is. That’s why time have different speeds. It’s flies when you’re having fun, that’s because you’re engrossed in the situation, or time goes slowly when you’re stuck with your ego, such as waiting in line or something similar. However if you make the conscious decision to highlight your senses, waiting in the line, is now interesting. Time becomes a constant heightened conscious awareness where time is timeless.
I would just like to stress, this is not an excuse to while away your time doing nothing, but rather whatever your situation is, that you should savour it. Up until I read the book, I had the exact same perspective as that corny quote. I thought it would be great to have a “death” date so that I can maximise my time and not waste it, but now I found my ways were erroneous. I was focusing on my “future”, not living in the present. Thus, I implore people to become more aware of their senses, leave the past and don’t project the future, it inhibits the present.
*insert the usual I’m not updating my blog enough post*
So, yeah, that’s done. Since this is my personal site/blog, I’m going to write a few posts on my philosophy of life. If you can learn from it great, if you’ve got some insight, that’s also great! However, this is mostly as a way for me to start writing my ideas of life down. The process of writing, I’ve found solidifies your ideas more permanently, other than a mess of thoughts hanging around your head that yearn for attention.
So please, if you come across these “Philosophy of Niel” posts please comment and help me “find meaning”: that’s kinda lame, but yeah, do join in!
Sorry that I’ve not been updating this blog very much lately. I’ve been too busy blogging at Twindie.net. Since the trip to China things have been going really good. To avoid some obvious cliches, that trip really changed life and perspective. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go on such a trip. I’ve met some really awesome friends that I’ve since been hanging out with. Sometimes once in a lifetime opportunites like Beijing trip really impacts your life and you often don’t realize how important it was till much later.
I don’t know when I would ever go on such a tour/summer school with random people and experience a new culture together. It such an unique experience that would never forget it.
In other news, I’m still harnessing my inner entrepeneur with new sites and projects.
Also me and my twin brother are currently working on some new tunes. It’s going good! Also his site Tweekly.FM is doing amazingly well!
Anyhoo, I’ll try and update this blog more often!
Last night we chilled at the park again. Always so nice. I wish Stellenbosch had a nice big lawn somewhere where you can bring a beer and just chill on hot summer nights.
This morning I met Jenny outside the res, and missioned with her back to Zhongguancun’s International Comic City, which has this one floor with just nerd/anime culture items! She and I agreed it’s every nerd’s wet dream. We bought many awesome stuff for friends and if it wasn’t for the money I would’ve bought the whole floor. Jenny missioned to meet a Chinese friend so I decided to visit a nearby arcade. I jammed some cool rhythm games and then left for the Bird’s Nest.
The Olympic Stadium’s and the whole area there is really impressive. I went into the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest. It was actually cheap on a student discount, but somehow I was underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong the places are impressive, but I expected more of the place. I guess it would’ve been different if you were there during the Olympics. It, however, was cool to see everything and sort of envision the opening ceremony going on.
Tonight, we’re going for munchies with our South African teacher and then perhaps going out afterwards!
So, last night we missioned back to Wangfujing to eat some scorpions. You pay RMB20 for four fried scorpions, who by the way were still alive. Everyone shared a stick: I ate one whole scorpion. It was surprisingly yummy! If it wasn’t so expensive and had like next to no meat on it, I would’ve bought it for dinner. I kid you not. It tasted like slightly burnt chicken skin. We then missioned around the street some more, did some shopping and ate some more strange market food. Me and Jenny were busy munching these dough balls sprinkled with sugar on the street, when randomly a small kid and his dad came to sit almost next to us. The kid then without any remorse took down his pants, took a pee, while the dad was looking in a sort of “yes, yes well done my son” kinda way. The kid then pulled up his pants and then the family darted off. This is was in a big tourist public place. WHAT THE F—–! I was so disgusted.
Alas, we left along with another long packed subway journey ahead and arrived the res all sweaty. After a quick shower some of us got some cheap drinks and went the park on campus to have a little kuier. It was fun. We’re planning on doing it tonight again. Anu, who bought the bottle of Great Wall Wine (which was good by the way), walked to restuarant nearby to let them open the bottle. To her and everyone’s shock a rat jumped from ceiling onto the counter and onto the floor and darted off. Can you say crazy “cliche”?
Today, after class, I was planning on going to the Bird’s Nest, but got sidetracked by Erin and Jenny to go back to the Pearl Market. Oh man, now I realize how people can become shop-a-holics. I bought the most randomest crap that I’ll probably never use! Got some presents for friends though, but that was just ridiculous. Tonight, we’re again going to chill at the park with some cheap beer (RMB2 a can).
Tomorrow, I’m definitely going to the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube.
So like I said, yesterday was “catch up on sleep day”. Today, I got up for my early morning class and afterwards missioned to Zhongguancun E-Plaza. I’ve told you guys about this place. It’s a huge huge huge computer/electronics market just a block up from Renmin University. I spent like three to four hours there shopping and looking around. I got some really awesome presents for my friends. I’ve got some crazy surprises (for me included!). You’ll see when I get back. Alas, on the downside my money is running low, but I’m going to manage. Still need to do some leftover shopping for some friends.
Tonight we’re going back to Wangfujing street to eat some fried scorpions! Yummy! Mark, one of my classmates, ate a snake and he said it tasted like burnt popcorn. haha. I guess a scorpion would taste very crispy and bland. I’ll let you know! Then we’re going to buy some wine and chill on campus for the night. Also on my to-do list is to see the Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium) and go to the Silk Market.
You know, I’ve been finding this week kinda strange. I’ve gone from talking about things I miss from home (good food, friends etc) to talking about stuff I’m going to miss from Beijing (hilarious menus, bargaining etc). This place is starting to grow on me.
Anyhoo, cheers for now!
So, like I said, last night we went out like 10pm to catch the last trainsto Wudaokou. Our mission was to party all night and then mission to Tianamen Square for sunrise. First, we went to Lush, again like I previously posted, is this tiny place above a bookshop that reminds me of a smaller, but better ventilated Bohemia. On Sunday nights, it’s open mic nights, so there were many people jamming their own tunes along with many cover tunes. Flight of the Conchords was popular that night! The house band playedtunes between the performers and were really good. There was this one girl who played in the house band, who was just mesmerizing: she had this red haired uber-sultry look, good voice, could play guitar and wait for it… did beatboxing! If there ever was love at first sight that would be it. hahaha.
Anyhoo, drinks were flowing and many people played more covers. Later the night two dudes called PG Restricted did some Eminem rhymes. It was hilarious! They even took off their shirts. The things people do for a free beer. A comedian also strutted his stuff, with some crazy offensive material. It was so edgy that some of the girls in our group got offended and flipped the guy off stage. The guy’s got some balls. I found it funny though. Each to his own I suppose.
After Lush we missioned back to Propaganda again: danced, drank and played pool with Nigerians. 4am came surprisingly quick after we went back to Lush to grab their 2-4am burger special. We then took a taxi to Tiananmen Square to watch the sunrise, but what we found was one of the more unique experiences I’ve had the privilege to experience.
At about just after 4 the square was filled with people and tour groups. Apparently the sunrise is very popular! I took some videos: it looks a huge concert! I’ve never seen so many gather at such an arbritrary time. It was so strange. People were flocking to the front, looking towards the Forbidden City and Mao’s big portrait. Just before 5am a group of soldiers walked onto the plain for the a flag ceremony while the national anthem played in the background. After that the guards were relieved of their position, the crowd was let loose to do whatever they pleased. So so so strange. We took the early morning subway back to res, but one train took like 20minutes to arrive which made me very agitated as I was craving sleep like crazy. I only managed to get in bed at 7am. Slept till 4pm and the rest of the day will continue to be a chill day.
The upcoming week I’m going around to do some leftover shopping.
Cheers for now
Last night after the Great Wall I took an early night. Was very tired, but I managed to spend two hours on my Rubik’s cube. I’m determined to finish this thing!
Anyhoo, this morning we got up late morning to go the Forbidden City. Again, the place is absolutely packed with tourists and sellers. Each one of us are getting really irritated by all these people. They never stop trying to sell things, doesn’t matter where you are. It’s so annoying. They just can’t take a hint! If I wanted your item, I would’ve gone to you and bought it, but don’t shove it in my face. When me, Erin and Jenny, were walking back to the station a rickshaw dude followed us all the way trying to sell his service. He was the most stubborn seller ever. I just started speaking in Afrikaans and even then he couldn’t take a hint. Jenny continously said Zaijian (Goodbye) to get him off our backs, but to no avail. GRRRRRRRRR. However after like 2 kilometres he got the hint.
Photos with Westerners are also very popular, especially if you’re with blonde-haired girls like Erin and Jenny. Once a person asks for a photo, the whole family/tour group have to take each picture individually. You even start gathering a crowd. At first it was funny, but now it’s just getting annoying.
The Forbidden City, like the Great Wall, is amazingly impressive, but all the people and heat make it slightly unpleasant. Tourist spots will in the end remain tourist-y. Tonight, I’m going to take a nap then go out later for some partying and then see the sunrise on Tianamen Square.
Cheers for now!
So after my previous post, we (me, Erin and Jenny) went to play Ping pong with one of Erin’s Chinese friends (who is kinda stalker-ish, which makes it very funny). Erin invited us with so that she won’t be alone. The table is on the 10th floor of a random building on campus just outside an elevator. Super duper random. We took turns, and in the end it was rather fun. The dude taught me a “magic” trick with a ring and chain, which I’ll show you guys when I get back.
Anyhoo, after the games we rested the afternoon and then decided to check out the English Corner on campus. It’s such an amazing concept. People come together at the University to practice their English. We went there without any expectations, but woah there were a lot of people! We were quickly swamped by people asking us questions. Most people don’t believe us when we say that we’re from South Africa. Some still think Nelson Mandela is president. They asked me many questions about South African politics, its industries and equality. Some talked to my about me studies and such. One guy asked me how strong the South African army is… er… wait… how strong is our army? Does anyone know? haha. It was an interesting experience!
After that we missioned for the night to HouHai district. WOW! I’ve never been so impressed with a nightlife area ever. I was overwhelmed. Every single place had the awesomest character and there were at least a 100 hundred places. The only downside though is the prices. It cost me 25Y for a beer. Ouch! Alas, it was worth it. We only spent a short time though, but we chilled at a jazz cafe which had live jazz. Really great place! All my friends will love it!
The rest of the night we strolled around the whole place looking for cheap booze, but alas none was to be found. When we’re about to go I found a guy playing some guitar on the streets. His tunes were amazing so I bought impulsively bought his CD. Can’t wait to listen to it at home! We got back fairly late though, and I got like under 4 hours of sleep.
I almost overslept for the bus this morning to the Great Wall. We all made it though, but very sleepy. Now, the Great Wall. It is amazingly impressive, however, it is SO crowded by tourists. It’s another example of a great place losing it’s touch because of all the tourists. We went to the Badaling area of the Great Wall which had two sides to walk on (left or right). We decided to take the left route. Although it was shorter and didn’t go as high as the other side, it had way less people. It made the trek much more bearable! Still, even when you get to the top, there are vendors trying to sell you things. You’d think you’d escape them on the Great Wall, but alas no you still here, “Look here! Cheap Price, just for you!”.
When we took the bus back, we, to our suprise, stopped at this random Cloisonne factory. It was so pretty and mesmerizing. We had lunch at the place too, which some amazing Chinese food. It reminded me of South African Chinese food ala Magic Flavour. I loved it!
Now, the plans for the weekend in still undecided. Chilling tonight, but tomorrow we might go to the Forbidden City and then party all Sunday night to see the sunrise on Tainamen Square! However, I’ll keep you guys updated!
Cheers for now