Here’s an interesting question: can sex help us find ourselves? In other words, besides the external practical knowledge about bodies, their movements and the various different ways to please, does sex also provide us with internal wisdom about who we really are?

In some sense, it wouldn’t be a lie to immediately answer yes and ask back: how could it not? After all, there are nuggets of wisdom in pretty much every conscious human activity. Do something long enough and you’ll learn not only its essence, but also what it is to learn something new, acquire discipline, achieve mastery and find meaning along the (at times inevitably difficult) way.

The question then takes a more refined form: how can one use sex to learn more? Continue reading Sex as a way to Individuality — Using Sex to find out Who You Truly Are

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As someone who’s always carried in his heart a great dose of curiosity and a desire to hear and express new opinions, I have always felt intuitively drawn to the concept of freedom of speech. 

In fact, the political considerations and importance of it only really became clear to me at a later stage in my life. Prior to that, it was my love for ideas that was the source of my commitment to free speech.

Sadly, free speech is increasingly being threatened in the modern world. In fact, to be frank, I am really talking about the U.S. here — most other countries in the world have never quite committed themselves to the principle in the first place. European countries, let alone other non-Western ones, have multiple times shown their willingness to censor speech and shut down minority views. And so my U.S.-centrism in this article is simply the natural result of my beloved First Amendment and the freedoms it protects.

So, this is ultimately why It hurts me greatly to see the onslaught of anti-free-speech arguments circulating in the U.S. intellectual sphere these days. It’s truly a scary thing to witness — how an authoritarian anti-speech ideology is openly advocating for censorship.

The truth is, the arguments given against free speech are not in themselves too surprising. They all basically argue the same thing: free speech is not compatible with comfort, safety or dignity. And historically speaking, this is why virtually all prior and current human societies have always tried to restrict the words people can utter in public. It seems that people are finally realizing that freedom of speech is not a societal free lunch, but rather a nuanced and radical idea. The problem is, many of the radicals today are fast beginning to reject it.

So, what’s so problematic about free speech that people are beginning to question it? Continue reading In Defense of Free Speech

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Isn’t it a bit strange how inconsistently modern western culture approaches the topic of feelings?

On one hand, in the societal and political arenas, feelings seem to be more important than facts. Being offended is having won the argument, no further discussion allowed.

Yet, when it comes to relationships, feelings are suddenly a sign of weakness. Isn’t it amazing we have become accustomed to phrases like “catch feelings”, as if feelings were a sort of disease to be avoided or cured? 

The truth is, young western people today are learning to approach their sexuality in an incredibly strange manner. It all begins with an open embrace of online dating as primary (hello Tinder) and the subsequent alienation and real-world awkwardness that occurs. Then it all continues with a manipulative fascination with power. Who will message first? Who will message last? At what time? How much time before the next message? How much time before you text him/her after the first date? Continue reading Sex and Feelings Today

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One of my favorite pastimes has always been exploring my local area. Whether it be on foot, on a bike or with the aid of a vehicle, a boat or a train, seeing what’s out there has never failed to lure me. You could call it wanderlust, but one label could never quite describe it, neither explain the philosophical significance of it.

As I was on one of my regular walks yesterday, the desire for solitary wandering unexpectedly overtook me and I started walking along the railways near my city. Step by step, the city started to fade away and disappear from my surroundings — first on the right and then on the left. It was still afternoon, and, because it’s winter here, quite chilly. Yet I didn’t care. The excitement of walking along a new and unknown path, combined with the necessity to always be on the lookout for giant moving pieces of metal, or trains as we normally call them, naturally heightened my senses. Thus, as soon as the buzz of the city died down, and Nature revealed itself, I was ready to experience it. Continue reading Wanderlust — Integrating Life and the Unknown

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These days it seems ever more trendy to find novel ways of bashing masculinity. The narrative has been so skewed by ideology that any out-in-the-wild masculine behavior is seen as wrong or misguided. Guys are told to be more caring, less aggressive and more vulnerable. They are told they are toxic and that’s the reason why the world is bad as it is.

Frankly, such patronizing talk is quite annoying. Especially so, when no one on the other side seems to consider that there are good reasons why men behave the way they do.

Incidentally, I am far from ecstatic about the term “masculinity” and its use as a prescription of certain male behaviors. Yet, there are certain patterns one cannot help but recognize among most men, the few exceptions to them notwithstanding.

I wanted to write this post because I have spent years trying to understand what it means to be a man and why certain things appeal to me and others don’t. Throughout this journey, I have seen and heard many opinions about masculinity. Sadly, very few of them rang true. At least to a young guy like me, most things said out there about what being a man means seems at best out of touch and at worst a malicious attack on what is construed as an ideologically problematic group of people.

I want to stress this last word: people. It’s a sign of the times that this needs saying, but: men are people too. In other words, we do make mistakes and our views are not always right. But the same applies for women and everyone in general. To single out the bad without acknowledging the good in a person is not only to be biased and unfair, but to demand perfection in a world which has none.

Before I begin, I want to stress out that I understand the topic naturally involves generalizing statements which I’d prefer not to make. But the term masculinity is itself a sort of generalization  which we as men supposedly all possess. And since that is the language of the accusations leveled against men, that will naturally be mine too (even if I’d much rather deal with separate individuals as opposed to abstract groups)

With that said, let’s talk about men. And what better place to start than the much discussed male sexuality. Continue reading Modern Lies about Masculinity

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Three years ago, I went through a period fraught with personal difficulties. A relationship I was deeply invested in broke apart, my wrist got fractured playing handball, and my mom lost her job amidst the natural state of depression that defined my life at the time.

Something interested emerged from the chaos, however. Forced to acknowledge that happiness was impossible (whatever the ever optimist marketers might be saying…), I had to ask myself if there was a life beyond it. At the time, I felt that If life was all about happiness, mine was pretty much over. But maybe, there was another way to live in which experiencing suffering and pain was not synonymous with failure.

As it happened, I spent Christmas and New Years Eve alone in Oxford, far away from friends and family. This period offered me much needed solitude to think about the question above. I slowly came to realize that the suffering was fine as long as I was growing as a person. If only I could just get to the end of the academic year successfully, without giving up and without adopting useless identities (such as “mentally ill”, “depressed”, etc.; fortunately I only needed to think about this just thought in order to dispel it). If only I survived and managed to thrive despite (thanks to?) the suffering, then I would be content.

Thus, I spent the evening of New Years Eve writing about the inherent contradiction I saw between seeking happiness and seeking growth. To be happy was to look into the present (or the past) and stay still in perception. It was essentially a passive yet conscious meditative state. On the other hand, to grow was to struggle against reality and either win or learn from the mistakes. It was at times painful, at times not, but always active and subject to a purpose.

The contradiction was in the opposite directions the two ideals were pulling. Action vs non-action, acceptance vs change, non-purpose vs purpose. As everybody knows intuitively, to truly grow in anything requires many sacrifices of pleasure and present joy. And conversely, to be truly happy, one cannot be too preoccupied with making progress; one must let go.

In a moment of epiphany, I consciously realized this deep truth and set go to explore the consequences. What if I embraced my pain and used it to grow instead of wallowing that happiness was being unfairly taken away from me? Both points of view were on the table, but only one really kept me truly alive. If nothing else, adopting a growth-based mindset was the most practical solution to my problems at the time.

In any case, while in Oxford I made my choice to pursue growth and live with the blues if necessary. It worked well — I matured significantly over this period and became more resilient to life’s downs. Crucially, I confirmed my doubt that happiness was overhyped. A great life wasn’t necessarily based around a pursuit of happiness (although it’d be a shame not to enjoy it from time to time). I saw that one could well be more than content with pursuing his/her ambitions and let happiness happen if it should or not if it shouldn’t. Continue reading The non-Wisdom of looking for Happiness instead of Meaning

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Like many of us, I have been following the modern conversation around sex closely.

Now, it is no secret that our society is divided on the issue.

To be honest, internally I am divided too. 

The modern insistence on consent, or rather the practical philosophy that emerged around it, always leaves me feeling ambivalent. 

In our society, there is the intuition that some sexual acts are undesirable, perhaps immoral, and should never be allowed to be imposed from the outside. But as we are learning fast, there are also many other intuitions which are hard to square up with the conservative consent-based modern zeitgeist.

It’s always been hard to encode into law a spirit of justice and fairness. Words are imperfect instruments and can at times sometimes lead us astray if we read too much into them. I think something like this has happened to the idea of consent.  Continue reading Consent — Intuition and Reality

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At the occasional moments when sexuality transcends the confines of one of society’s greatest taboos, it is often spoken in the context merely of a physical act. 

Indeed, in an attempt to redeem as much as possible from the realm of the sexual, we have ended up with a conception of sexuality too narrow and uninteresting. As a result, we do many sexual actions  such as dressing provocatively, staying in shape, covertly flirting while at the same time feeling the inner need to deny their sexual character.

In the past few years, analytical as I am, I have been thinking a lot about sexuality. More precisely, I have been pondering what a life looks like that takes the sexual just as seriously as, say, a pursuit of knowledge or beauty. Elevating sex to such a high degree might seem a strange thing to do, but for me such a view has been the result of a rejection of religious norms and an honest introspective look at what it is that makes my life enjoyable. The way I look at it is this: virtually everyone enjoys sex, but few consciously design parts of their life around it.

Consequently, my view of sexuality has broadened up. A deep and careful look into what makes for a good sex has led me to develop or strengthen multiple new interests. Crucially, the act itself, albeit important, has been transformed into a mere culmination of many distinct pursuits — artistic, intellectual, corporal. Continue reading Sexuality beyond the Act

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Many of the most important relationships we all partake in are between us and some sort of a greater community. Whether it be the market, the nation, the language group or a favorite online forum, it is communities that in large part define our lives and experience of the world.

Of course, everybody knows such relationships inherently have two opposing sides. 

One side expresses the ability of communities to foster creativity, encourage sharing, spread wisdom and overall increase well-being. The other expresses the ability of communities to oppress, stifle and hinder individuality as well as divide people in multiple warring sub-factions. 

This dualism inherent to any community has always been a source of great political and philosophical conflict. To take one particular example, individualism has frequently been attacked as selfish, uncaring or blind to the fact that human success depends invariably on the work of others and hence can never be attributed to the individual as such.

Thus, the caricature of the selfish individualist was born, i.e. the one that avoids communal life and thinks him/herself self-made whilst clearly dependent on the cooperation of others.

Politically, all of this ends up expressed as moral accusations of cold-heartedness and ingratitude to the rest of society. Why doesn’t the individualist want to join the rest of society? Why don’t they want to contribute? Why do they avoid being a part of the wider community? Continue reading Individualism and Public Policy: Not all Communities are Horizontal

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I don’t know if mine is a common experience, but I can remember vividly the first moment when I emotionally felt the true significance of death.

I was on the brink of puberty, lying down in bed at night. (as those things usually go). As I was thinking about life and existence, the sudden and forceful realization hit me with emotion:

I was going to perish! My consciousness would one day wither away!

It wasn’t like I hadn’t thought about death before that. And it wasn’t like I didn’t know what the word meant. But my knowledge was merely conceptual. It was far removed from the emotional reality of life. 

It would be fair to say that this experience changed my life.

Partly as a result, I subsequently became deeply interested in Christianity. Moreover, I also acquired a fascination for the various views on death that people hold or have held throughout history.

***

As I was enjoying one of my regular walks yesterday, I started thinking about the ways my sense of personal mortality has informed the way I have come to approach my life. 

And although our culture tends to avoid discussing the topic, I find articles about it important, fascinating and thought-provoking. So, this is why I sat down and started writing this…

***

Now, In the west, we don’t like talking much about death. 

And honestly, It’s difficult to judge this cultural decision good or bad:

Maybe it is nothing but a foolish denial of the most basic and certain fact about the human condition? 

Or, maybe it’s potentially the wisest thing one could do — to keep silence about a thing we don’t really understand.

I don’t truly know.

But the fact is, many cultures and religions have focused their attention on death. From the Roman “memento mori” to various religious ideas, death has played an important role in human history.

As I mentioned above, I was first drawn to Christianity as a way of coping with the feelings caused by a deep contemplation of death. 

Ironically, however, Christianity also lead me to an understanding that death might not be so scary after all.

In the end, my animal brain was equally baffled and terrified by both eternal death and eternal life. There is something incredibly mysterious and scary about the prospect of a never-ending existence. (just try to understand what it means that you’ve been born to never die; that there is nothing that will ever be beyond your life because you’ll always be; I don’t know about you, but all of this truly freaks me out!)

Thus, I gradually recognized that death might not be such a bad thing, after all. True, it sucks to die as early as we do now, after less than a hundred years. But compared to living forever, maybe it’s preferable to just leave this world at some point? Maybe  in the final analysis death is acceptable, perhaps even desirable?

***

Fast forward a few years and I was no longer a Christian. 

In the meantime, one of my grandmas had passed away. It was my first close experience with the actual way death happens. Maybe I was too young at the time for it, but I didn’t feel an impulse to cry or mourn excessively. To be frank, life just seemed to change and continue ahead pretty much the same, only grandma was missing. (a fact which was not necessarily that painful after you’ve come to see her life descend into a series of strokes leading to an inability to even stand up straight and walk)

I have often reflected why I reacted so indifferently back then. (especially since I am not sure next time would be the same!)

In recent years, one of my theories has been that I might have just been too young to  appreciate grandma fully. Maybe I just didn’t have time to grow long enough around her and so I consequently found it hard to miss her?

Of course, it all could have been because I just have a natural inclination to accept death easier than most. To be frank about it, I have never really found the dark and painful side of life expressly unnatural. After all, it is no surprise to anyone that life is not all roses. So, what’s the point in suffering needlessly when we get reminded of that fact?

Perhaps this is why my next stop along the way of exploration of death was buddhism and taoism. 

In reading Alan Watts, for example, I came to appreciate the impermanence of everything in life, including life itself. I resonated deeply with many eastern notions. I understood that death didn’t necessarily feel like a tragedy because, well, it had to happen at some point — life just wasn’t going to last forever! Moreover, there was nothing that could really be done about it. Once you were gone, you were gone. Life better move on.

To be frank, having both a Christian and a Buddhist/Taoist interpretation of death is quite the experience. Where one philosophy sees the biggest of tragedies, the other sees just another change along the way, no special and no more tragic than any other. Where one sees the beginning of an eternity for the personal soul, the other sees the end of a temporary illusion of a fake self.

In truth, Buddhist/Taoist views about death can bring great calm. Yet, they also suggest that the whole sense of anxiety is most irrational — there is no self to begin with, so why worry about it ceasing to exist?

At least to my western ears, this was a step too far from my intuitions. I wasn’t ready to believe myself an illusion quite yet.

***

Fast forward once again, and you suddenly find me an undergraduate at Oxford.

My university years were generally a continuation of my teenager fascination with the life lessons of death.

It was during this period that I discovered Stoicism. I read Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. I learned and understood phrases like “memento mori”. Crucially, I realized that I was not alone in looking for life lessons at seemingly the unlikeliest of places — death — the only place totally devoid of any life by definition.

It wasn’t just the discovery of stoicism, however, that my university years gifted me with.

I also saw that the lessons of death do not necessarily come after, but before it as well. In other words, I discovered how wise old people can be. 

Indeed, up until that point I had been a lot more irreverent in my attitude towards the old. I just didn’t see why age should matter as to how wise an opinion is. I guess what I learned was not that age matters per se, but that life experience does. By the time I got to university, I had had time to pose myself enough big questions (should you marry? should you have kids? should you care about money or lifestyle first? etc.) that the opinion of those on the other side of life started to acquire greater and greater significance for me.

Still, perhaps the most interesting development of my university and post-university years was that for the first time I started to consciously resist the passage of time.

Of course, attempting to do so was futile, non-sensical and certainly impossible. Yet, wanting to push back the seconds and retain my youth forever was definitely a very real internal experience for me…

Granted, even now, one year later, I am still in the beginning of life. Nonetheless, I am slowly finding myself in an unknown, aged world.  Many people associate the innocence of youth with a lack of sexuality, but I have to see it in more than just that. There is also the innocence of not having to think about your eating “right”, exercising or arranging regular check-ups for various diseases. In a way, for the first time I am starting to feel that life is not just about living, but about preserving living as well. 

And all that is totally new…

Of course, none of the above considerations are ever-present in my mind. Yet, they are starting to visit me more and more frequently. 

One of my high school teachers used to say “Every second we are always dying”. I remember finding the phrase too grim years ago. Now, I believe I am starting to understand its meaning.

The fascinating thing about all of this is that I now expect the next revelation about death the future will bring me without much fear. I wonder what my 30, 40, 50, … year-old selfs would have to say on the topic of death. I wonder what revisions they would make to this article..

Until the next revelation, however, I, like many others, will keep entertaining hopes that my generation will finally be the one to beat aging and live to 150, 200, or even more. 

Frankly speaking, without the promises of religion and away from the Buddhist whispers that there is no self, it seems that the only remaining hope of saving oneself from death marches under the joint flags and harmonious sounds  of science and technology. 

Nevertheless, I find myself skeptical. Am I not just discovering late a millennia-old vain desire of immortality? Am I not back where I started — lying in bed, thinking about death and, yet again, finding it terrifying?

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