Rome was such a surreal experience. Surrounded by ruins that are 2,000 years old, I am filled with awe, wonder, curiousity, and yet in lying in the background was an unshakable sense of impermanence. 2000 years later, we can only form hypotheses of what had actually happened, and what was once so painstakingly built and glorious is now very beautiful rubble.
Today I woke up with a depressive claustrophobia, a pervasive feeling I often have – that I am trapped in my life, my body, and my mind. I used to spiral hopelessly into the depths of these feelings and they would render me handicapped. I would be unable to surface out of these feelings, and I would feel like I am drowning in an unending ocean of sadness and bleakness. These days, I still spiral, but on the side I am observing myself with almost cruel humour, wondering why do I give so much power to my feelings, why are mere bodily sensations capable of such control over my life?
I think about how we are a species and a civilisation run on feelings: pride, self-importance, saviour complexes, grudges, vengeances, the desire for validation, control, comfort and pleasure, etc. How much of our history is played out a certain way because of someone’s feelings?
I find it interesting to juxtapose the vividness, the seeming importance of my feelings right at this very moment against a place that has contained the passing of 2,000 years. There were probably once dreams, ambitions, broken hearts, courage, bitterness held by the people who lived here 2,000 years ago, and now there are virtually no traces. Nobody remembers who they are, unless their name happens to be Julius Caesar, nobody cares how much or how little they have felt. I bet nobody really cares about Caesar too.
Everything is just a blip in the ruthless passage of time – that is if we actually believe in time although quantum physicists would argue otherwise – we could see that nothing really matters or we could argue that a tiny blip is still a blip. My current view – subject to evolution – is that to live a sustainable, healthy, meaningful life, one has to know when to zoom out and when to embrace the tiny moments. That life is full of paradoxes, such as even if nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things, the fact that we are choosing to believe we matter, the fact that we somehow still care, that is something worthwhile to think about. Nothing in this world points to the fact that we matter (unless you are religious but I am not) or that we have to care for the other. I complain a lot that as a species human beings are both suicidal and homicidal, but to endeavour to care for the greater good, that there are some of us who wish to care for all sentient beings, that is something that is uniquely human (for now).
Another paradox: in what we know about human psychology, we need to learn how to care about our feelings before we can truly let them go. A sign of an imbalanced psyche is obsession, like my obsessive ruminating sadness. It is not something that I can control, but the more I ignore my feelings, the more they haunt me. In relation to my earlier point, because we are ruled so much by our emotions, I think true freedom in life is emotional freedom: the ability to choose what are the feelings we want to have, which are the ones we have to let go of, or to just co-exist with them without letting them consume us. Imagine what life can be without our invisible chains…to not blindly pursue something simply because we were conditioned to, but to really learn how we truly wish to exist for that tiny blip in an infinite, possibly inherently meaningless universe. Some people choose to believe the meaning of life is what we choose to give it meaning, but in reality, how many of us have the capacity to do so (that is not profoundly influenced by conditioning or limited by circumstances)?