Longitude 180° E/W

It was my pleasure to be able to cross the 180° W to 180° E line last year (more or less this day), crossing the Pacific Ocean. The feeling of separation, of being thousands of miles from the closest bit of land, was spectacular on its own.

I am not entirely certain what more I can say. For me, this memory is so real I don’t need to use any more words. For anyone reading, these words are mere lines on a screen.

Thinking about it, I can describe a few more things.

One of these would be the sunshine Central Pacific experienced. I never thought it would be like that. I never thought it could be so warm, so calm, so tranquil. But, possibly the name of the ocean is not that wrong even though it can experience horrendous storms. Fernão de Magalhães may have been wrong in the entirety when he named the ocean, but he definitely grasped the occasion of the quiet sea.

The other thing to describe would be the sensation by which the aloneness feels. Sure, I wasn’t actually alone. There were probably about ten to fifteen other people on the vessel I was travelling, but, in general and in the modern world, that is secluded. The closest islands of Alaska and Hawaii were both more than two thousand kilometres away and even so, uninhabited. The closest inhabited place may have been a small town in Alaska.

Added to this distance across the globe I would add the distance above and below. The space above us is forever unlimited, and the space below is normally of no concern to us. Central Pacific in where we were was probably between three and four kilometres deep, and its inhabitants we can only imagine — the last frontier open to us on this globe is the depth of the oceans.

Only water, boundless water, in every direction. What an experience.

Lochranza

One of the places well worth visiting on the isle of Arran is Lochranza. At least, in my mind, that is what I thought before I went there. Lochranza has been in my mind for years with no good idea of what to expect. The castle there has been mentioned in so many different sources, I thought it might be spectacular.

And, it was. Though I would not say it was what I expected. For one, it was considerably smaller than what I had thought. For another, it was more magical than anything I had expected.

Situated in a glen and surrounded by hills, washed by the sea, the spectacular nature of the castle can only have sparked the imagination of the local people.

I did not get a good view of the sea from where I was because I arrived at low tide, but I imagine that at high tide, seeing the sea surround the castle on three sides can only be a wonderful experience. Similarly, to have experienced a storm in the centuries gone by in that castle, overlooking the sea with the fury of Earth straining against the masonry of the castle…

Lochranza wasn’t what I expected; it was better than what I expected.

Lochranza Castle

Sir Walter Scott also wrote a few lines about this:

On fair Lochranza streamed the early day,
Thin wreaths of cottage smoke are upward curl’d
From the lone hamlet, which her inland bay
And circling mountains sever from the world

— Sir Walter Scott, ‘The Lord of the Isle’

Am I a cynic?

I had a very interesting discussion on Saturday with people who kept on insisting that doing things for other people just so they would feel better is a reasonable way of spending time. I, quite naturally, disagreed. I’ll get to the specific examples in a moment, but right now I’ll establish the label that was given to me based on what I said.

Namely, I am supposedly a “cynic”.

To help us with the question of whether I am one, it might make sense to define “cynic” just to be sure we know what we’re discussing. Here goes the Wikipedia version that has probably got quite a bit of it right:

Cynicism is an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity, and other times, realistic criticism or skepticism. The term originally derives from the ancient Greek philosophers called the Cynics who rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in accordance with a simple and unmaterialistic way of life.

By the 19th century, emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions. Modern cynicism, as a product of mass society, is a distrust toward professed ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions, and authorities that are unfulfilled. It can manifest itself as a result of frustration, disillusionment, and distrust perceived as owing to organizations, authorities, and other aspects of society.

That is what Wikipedia says. It is a bit of a mouthful and could probably be expressed in an easier way, but it will suffice for now.

The two specific examples we questioned yesterday were as follows: a) our graduation ceremony is a worthy event, and we should go there; b) marriage reception is an integral part of the ceremony.

My views on those two can be best expressed as follows: a) graduation is a ceremony that does not establish anything of value nor does it grant us anything we would otherwise miss out on, therefore there is no harm in missing said event assuming there is something better that could be done with the time; b) marriage reception is worth it not because of it being an integral part of the ceremony, since marriage is best taken as an institution for an economic and social purpose, but the reception is worth it assuming that people have gone through the trouble of marrying in the first place.

These views were enough to have me labelled as a “cynic”. I disagree, for there is nothing inherently distrustful or hopeless about my attitude — it is rather an expression of a cost-benefit system that evaluates whether an action is worth it or not. If something is worth it, then it should be carried out — which is also incidentally why a reception would nearly always be worth it: as mentioned above, the trouble of organizing things into a marriage would almost definitely ask for a release as a party. The same cost-benefit analysis says that if the time spent on a ceremony as useless as a graduation could be spent on something else that would create value for the people in question then that should be done instead.

So, thus far, nothing cynical — only the best application of one’s time and effort to maximize any outcome from life. I am not sure that every person who reads this will agree with that assessment, but that at least is how I would reason it. For, after all, it is not that I am saying that no one should go to their own graduation — if people find that they can spend their time and effort on something that doesn’t give them anything they cannot find otherwise, then they can obviously go for it. What I am saying is that it is highly unlikely anyone will find me from my own graduation (unless it is by some lucky chance a day off from work) — simply because I will have better things to do with the time.

I will add that in general I follow the good words of Mr Arthur C Clarke — and by that I mean I am not a pessimist about our future. I don’t have the greatest of hopes for humankind but I am of a mind that we will end up somewhere better in time. For the words I speak of are as follows:

“I am an optimist. Anyone interested in the future has to be otherwise he would simply shoot himself.”
— sir Arthur C. Clarke

Which is very true. I think there’s a glimpse of hope for us, and I am sure we’ll get there in the end. It just might be that the road will be long and hard.

Another relevant question might be if I have Cynic tendencies, referring to the old Greek school. Now, that might be true although I am not familiar enough with them to actually answer this in detail. Based on a short look into them giving up most of the desires of people, I would have to say no. My philosophical outlook rather tends to welcome and accept desire, so again I seem to have thwarted being labelled a “cynic” in some way or form.

Although I guess that labels don’t really matter as long as there is a coherent thought process working its way in one’s mind…

Friends/Solitude

Even in the middle of ten thousand people, I am alone.

I have thought of writing about friends for a while, but I have never felt like it. Until today, I guess. What are they really? How good friend is a good friend? If you’re a friend, does that not immediately mean you’re a good friend?

The society’s tendency to classify absolutely everyone you’ve known by their forename for a second as a friend is tedious for me. I most certainly do not do that — however, I also find that trust does not really follow that category. I guess it could: trusting people more if you know them better or for longer, classify them as friends.

Yet I know that there are people I would trust with nearly anything but I don’t really consider them as friends. I don’t even know why — I just guess it is difficult for me to bring anyone to the same level as people I’ve known for fifteen years.

But as I said, that does not necessarily matter. If there are two paths, and on one of those you get a few good people you know well and on the other there are loads of people that are known not-that-well, I am very much a person for the first choice. And I do not mind that at all — it is the easier and more natural option for me.

However, along with all this I am still rather good at guessing what people are about, at least if I can spend a certain time in their company. And that makes me understanding but also cruel in instances where my patience disappears. Self-control is the one item I mostly have (even my dream today was a metaphoric take on that, for some odd reason), except when I need it. Funny how that works.

In the end though, friends and trusting comes down to questions for me. I am not inclined to start talking of myself without someone asking a question in that direction beforehand. So, I remain unknown to most: no one thinks (or dares?) to ask that first question.

Even with ten thousand friends, I would be alone.

Maybe that is for the better.

Difficult Questions

I have been used to asking difficult questions for a long time. Unfortunately, I recently have realized that at some point I have to start answering the very same. And, you can imagine, I was not the most pleased when I could not answer them very well.

So asking difficult questions is all fine until we need to start answering them.

[I also note that this probably should not have been a surprise. :=) ]

K.u.k. (cont.)

As promised, I will now expand on that thoroughly unhelpful post from yesterday that more had the intention of forcing me to write more than to actually say something useful (unless someone has the ability to follow my random thought-jumps without any problems).

Now, from a historic point of view, K.u.k. is a way of addressing the political reality of what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the monarchy that ruled it. This comes from the German phrase “kaiserlich und königlich” that could be just as well rendered into an English “Imperial and Royal” though for my purposes “Imperial and Regal” would be better suited. Or maybe not. In any case, I much prefer the German one just because it has more of a ring to it than “I.R”/”I.&R.” would, at least in my mind.

But what could it signify when we go past the historical meaning?

Now we will use a different tool to delve into that: a dictionary. I’ll use both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster ones to illustrate my thoughts.

Imperial:

relating to an emperor:
the imperial family
majestic or magnificent:
the bedroom is huge and very imperial

of superior or unusual size or excellence

For the sake of clarity, the first explanation there is from the Oxford, second from MW.

Royal:

of a quality or size suitable for a king or queen; splendid:
she received a royal welcome

a : suitable for royalty : magnificent
b : requiring no exertion : easy <there is no royal road to logic — Justus Buchler>
a : of superior size, magnitude, or quality —often used as an intensive

So, to explain what all those quotes might have brought to mind — in ideal conditions, these two words could be used as an adjective of the highest order to describe something. So, why not try to live so that these could be applied to a person’s life? 🙂

That indeed was my thought — that when used in a well-meaning way, these words could be representative of what an ideal person could be like. That is not to say that an ideal person would have to be a monarch, but rather to imply that regular descriptive words are weaker and less all-encompassing than the need here.

There we go.

Friendship

It seems that no matter what we speak of, most questions can be backtraced to trust. Trust, that is then, friendship. Or close enough to be considered the same.

What makes us think we have friends?  What makes us think we know our friends?  How to we decide who we can trust, and who we cannot?

I think that all of these are very personal questions we have great difficulties in determining in general — in other words, there is just a personal answer for everyone out there how they approach the institution of friendship. Institution, I say, just to make it sound more formal, since it is the basis of everything on this Earth. I believe it deserves the formality.

If all of this is so personal, why start speaking of it at all… and maybe, more importantly, what would I say to the very same questions I presented above.

It is easier to believe that we know our friends — I guess it creates a zone of comfort. That is how I approach it at least: assuming nothing bad until something happens. Usually, nothing does becomes most people are reasonable. When something does, it is known that one person in reality was not a friend. As simple as that.

So, the trust is out there. What goes on continuously is keeping the trust intact.

Style

It is so very different — who I am writing to decides exactly how and what I write, and what I begin the sentence with, and whether I use the Oxford comma and all those things. And that’s true in both Estonian and English (and the styles are still rather incomparable).

It is just confusing.

For example, how do I know that for person A the proper greeting is “Tervist” instead of “Tere” or “Hei” ?

Mind works in mysterious ways.

Oscillations

Why on Earth would anyone make things oscillate as they do (aside from the purely mechanical hideous formulae they follow, it is simply awful to try to see what happens next) …

 

Oh well. Listening to a book again now, and have to say  — a far better way of walking than listening to music. Wish I could just remember everything worth saying.  But, think of this:

“What is the good, if not the teacher of the bad? What is the bad, if not the task of the good?”

Might it just be the way of life ?