A Thought

Can someone be spiritually healthy and mentally ill?


RSA Shorts: The Power of Empathy



Lately, I’ve been listening to some music, and I stumbled upon this one song that reminded me of my middle school days due to it’s wonderful composition.

For me, middle school was about 7 years back, and it was a weird time. I was starting to find my way with friendship, some classmates started to date each other, and teasing was still around. I especially did not like the guys who were teasing other guys…though I must sadly admit, I did not do much about it. However, when it came to music (orchestra) class, the dynamics were quite different. It’s funny how the bullies were especially great at playing, so they were the teacher’s favourites, despite being quite disruptive in class.

Since the winds and the string instruments were always separated during practice time, we only knew how we sounded on our own and of our own kind. So, I particularly remember those classes where we all played together as one, where the foreground and background winds and strings came together. It was such an amazing feeling. I could feel it and see it in my classmates…the bullies, and the bullied, the nonexistent group of girls, the populars, and the immature guys…we were all enjoying it…we were all enjoying each other’s accompaniment.

I could be wrong though, I may have misinterpretted the whole situation, and this maybe because I’m a really “feely” person. But from my perspective, we were having a great time together, without words or physically touching each other…we just played music together. It was actually really fun. We complimented each other…we made each other sound great, and I don’t think we could have made each other feel like that in any other class.

I’m not skilled with music knowledge or theory…but I’m just amazed at what music does to people.

Here’s the song I was listening to if you’re curious.

: )


Today, my last assignment for the semester was due. Since I spent the whole weekend working on my essay that was due yesterday, I pulled my first all nighter of the semester to finish today’s painting. As I was carrying my 36″ x 24″ canvas to class, I had to go through several entrance doors before entering the building. I saw a few guys standing around near the doors, and were about to light some cigarettes. I highly despise smoking, and I can’t stand people who choose to do so…however, one of the guys saw me coming, and quickly opened the door for me.

At that moment, all my prejudice against smokers went down the drain…again. I had a similar experience last year at my volunteering placement. I was responsible for unloading and loading equipment for vendors, and when I  approached the vendor’s vehicle, the lady hopped out of her truck with a cigarette in her mouth. Inside, I wanted to lecture her on the spot, just like with all the other smokers I’ve encountered, but of course…I didn’t. At the end of the day, I helped her load back her equipment into the truck, and out of nowhere, she gave me one of her products (for the purpose of privacy, I won’t specify what product) as a token of appreciation. I was flattered, and almost wanted to refuse, but she insisted, so I thanked her.

So…how could people do such nice acts for other, yet choose to do not-so-nice acts for themselves?


Approaches or Departures

Recently, I read ahead in my cross cultural psych and came across two types of thinking, analytical and holistic thinking. Analytical thinking is static, predictable, and focuses on an object’s details. Holistic thinking is fluid, unpredictable, and focuses on the object’s relationship with it’s context or background.
So for example, there are three objects, and you have to pick the odd one out: (1) dog (2) carrot (3) rabbit. If you picked carrot, then that is analytical thinking, if you picked dog, then that is holistic thinking.

My textbook goes on to discussing how Western cultures and religions generally follow analytical thinking and East Asian cultures and religions follow holistic thinking. One study presented two contradicting statements to Western and Chinese students. First, both groups were presented with the statement that smoking leads to weight gain, then to the second statement that said smoking leads to weight loss. A majority of Western students were more convinced that the first statement was correct when presented with the second statement. On the other hand, the Chinese students were the opposite where they considered both statements plausible.

All this reading has made me think about my religious experience. To me, growing up to Christian teachings made almost every thing sound absolute, and for any change to be considered good was linear, which meant, “good change” is only good if it benefits the individual towards Christianity. Change that would stray outside Christianity would be deemed “bad”, or in other words, being tempted by the devil. But I’m just thinking, this way of thinking is so static and certain, such that, if I were to always stay as a believer until my deathbed, then that is deemed “good”, and if I don’t, then that is deemed “bad.” I was even told by “Person A” upon my high school graduation to be careful studying psychology in university because they’re out to mess with me, specifically faith wise. Perhaps, another reason why I am not so fond of the idea of telling my Christian friends about my change in faith is their sympathy for my “loss.”
What especially bothered me with Christianity was evangelism. To me, faith and spirituality is not a math equation. How can one claim that there is one ultimate answer to life and ask someone to see it that way too? Why can’t we share each other’s ways of thinking and ways of seeing the world instead?

I will leave this entry with a Chinese story:

One day an old farmer’s horse ran away from him. His neighbors came by to comfort him, but he said, “How can you know it isn’t a good thing?” And a few days later, his horse came back, bringing a wild horse with it. His neighbors came to congratulate the old man, who said, “How can you know it isn’t a bad thing?” A few weeks later, the old man’s son was trying to ride the horse and he fell off, breaking his leg. When the neighbors came over to express condolences, the old man said, “How can you know it isn’t a good thing?” The next month a war broke out, and all the able-bodied young men were recruited to fight it. The old man’s son did not have to go because of his broken leg, and he survived with his father. (Ji, 2005)

Something New

Recently, I’ve experienced something interesting.

A week of school has passed, which means clubs are out to recruit! I’ve been meaning to check them out, but I just didn’t have the motivation in me. I ran into a friend, and we both had a bit of time before class started. We decided to check the clubs together. We looked at a few, and since my friend is Christian, he checked some Christian clubs, and I tagged along. There was a booth handing out free Bibles, but I was not interested. Side note, I was a Christian. The man was came up close to me, and was explaining some Bible verses. I nodded and smiled. I rejected his offer for a free Bible, and he responded with an “oh” and stepped back into the booth. There were three other people asking me if I wanted the free Bible, and again, I rejected the offer. What instantly stood out to me was their reaction to my rejection. After declining their offer, they didn’t have anything else to say to me. So…how did I perceive this?

First, I never imagined myself rejecting an offer by the people who I once considered, my “brothers and sisters.” As a former Christian, sharing the gospel to non-Christian was always on my mind, and we would discuss a lot about it during fellowship. Now that I’m actually the non-Christian, I’m seeing and experiencing things differently. I wonder…why couldn’t they just strike a conversation, ask me a question before unloading their information onto me…or even after my declination?  I can understand that their goal was to hand out free Bibles, but it would have been nice if they approached me as an individual, rather than a “non-Christian.”

Wasn’t there something they wanted to know about me? I mean, if the organization is religion/faith based, isn’t it about getting to know people? I’m certain that they know that I know they are Christians, but I wasn’t given a chance to introduce myself. I think this is all too one-sided; to have you tell me about your faith, yet I utter not a single word about mine. Perhaps, it is my fault that I did not take the chance to tell them about myself. One of the booth person started a conversation with my friend after knowing he was a Christian because he told the person and agreed to sign up for a free Bible. Yea, they left me alone and I felt a little rejected…because they favored my Christian friend more than me. But I didn’t even say I was a non-Christian, I just declined the offer. So maybe they felt like they didn’t fulfill their goal in giving me the Bible, thus, having nothing else to say to me. Who knows?

Maybe I’m just a little edgy on faith and religion since my transition is fairly new…about four months now. But now, I can tell myself, “Hey, at least you know. Better luck next time.”


What does it mean to truly treat people with love?

I went to chill with a friend last week, and we walked around the public streets that afternoon.  We were minding our own business, when this middle aged looking lady suddenly came up to us and striked a question. After awhile, she continued talking to us, making comments about the city, politics, and a little bit of her life. It was a very rare situation for the both of us. Since we are not the type of person to turn away people, we listened to her talk. We also inspected the her…she didn’t seem very well groomed, she had some wounds healing on her face and hands, and a scent of formaldehyde. She formed her sentences very well, and it didn’t seem like she had any speech problems. The “conversation” went on for about twenty minutes…heck, we didn’t even time it, but it felt quite long. Her goodbye was quite abrupt, but the topics she talked about were overall casual. I honestly didn’t suspect anything strange…despite not knowing if everything she said was true or made up.

The whole situation was so random…it left us completely stumped.

This lady started a conversation out of the blue with me, I didn’t tell her that she made me feel a little uncomfortable, and I stood quite close to the her to the listen to what she had to say. She is a stranger, but I trusted her…I didn’t suspect her to harm me at all. I wonder…did I do something wrong? Perhaps, you could say that I wasn’t looking after my own safety…

However, I’ve been thinking. People talk about wanting more love and peace in the world…and I personally believe in Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” But what does that even mean? Are we to only love and create peace in a controlled environment where safety and comfort is certain? I mean…does light not shine the brightest in the darkest of times?

I wonder…when did talking to strangers on the street become a phobia?  Would I still fight for peace or justice if I knew the consequences were beyond my comfort zone? What if I knew she was going to attack me…would I still have avoided the situation? and if I did avoid her, what would I have learned from that?

I’m not saying that looking after my own well being is unimportant nor am I saying talking with family members and friends is easy. I’m saying,

sometimes it’s not easy to trust or love people…strangers or not. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t.

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