It is time of the year, when love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is round the corner, and I have a little something for you towards the end of this entry. I hope though, you have the patience to read through this.
1. Friendship Matrix
Some say no man is an island. We are social species that feed on relationship. We require constant interaction with one another in order to survive and thrive. Is that so? Here is a little exercise for you. First, take out a piece of paper and draw a table of four columns. Then, go through the following steps.
- On the first column, list out your friends, love ones, and the significant few whom you have met in the last one to three years. You may extend to five. My memory does not seem to go that far. Yours may.
- On the second column, put a tick to those who would go out of their ways to catch up with you or proactively set up an appointment with you. For example, I have friends who would drive all the way to where I live and meet me. Or overseas friends who would make a detour in their traveling plan to order to catch up with me. Or we would meet somewhere midway, away from our work places or default habitats.
- On the third column, put a tick to those whom you would go out of your way to meet them or proactively set up appointments with them.
- On the fourth column, put a cross to those whom you have not met in the last six months.
It is a good self reflection exercise. It should come as no surprise that friends who would go out of their way to meet you and you to them are the precious ones, even though you two may not have met in recent days. What happens to those crossed entries with one tick? In my opinion, reciprocation sustains relationship. There is only that many times someone would go out of his or her way to meet you, to bug you for a catch up session.
Or it could be a sign whereby you are not that hot on their matrix, or they not in yours.
2. Free Time
Last week, I lunched with my friend who works in the same area as I do, who brought along two of his colleagues. Jolly good. I love meeting new people. One looks so young and she is a mother of two. Woah. I did not ask but she told me that her first child was born when she was 25. I envy her for starting young. She envies me for having so much free time. It is true. Almost every young parent I have met pours his or her entire life essence and every breathing moment onto his or her children. One friend of mine has indefinitely retired from the computer gaming scene. Every time when I hear someone telling me that having a child is a joyful experience and that I should have one. Inevitably, at the back of my head, I keep wondering if it is a conspiracy theory among parents who want to get more onto the same boat like they do.
One friend recently asked how my free time is allocated. I don’t have a kid. So my free time besides eat, pee, and sheep is basically spent on video gamming, blogging, reading, watching TV (because Cynthia loves it), playing music, and studying Spanish – in that order. I consider my free time utilization pretty much balanced between active and passive activities. I suppose in another time dimension, of a different me, I might have traded these for raising a kid. Perhaps, looking from ten thousand meter above ground, it does not matter how we spend our free time. So long as we are not killing each other, it is OK.
I seldom meet her these days. Maybe she is busy, maybe I am busy, or maybe our friendship matrix has fallen apart (which I hope not). One day, she told me that in her opinion, gamers who indulge in video gaming are not happy with their work, their life, or with both. Playing video games is a form of escapism, to hide away from real life, she said.
She is not wrong. Recently, there is a study showing that among all the gaming genres, first-person-shoot and role-playing-game – especially online type – are the most addictive ones. I can’t shoot for my life. But I enjoy role playing. Role playing is a form of escapism. What about reading a fantasy book? Or watching a fantasy TV series or a movie? We want to be taken to that magical place once in a while. We want to be that Viking who rides on a Night Fury and defeats the most fearsome dragon that terrorizes the land. We want to know … how to train our dragon.
Unlike a TV program or a movie, video gaming is an active entertainment. You don’t sit back and watch the story unfolds. You participate as the story is being told making tons of little tiny decisions along the way. In as much as there are studies against it, there are studies for it. It is a hobby with a divided view. A taboo in most work environment.
4. “No Makeup” Makeup
When we are not playing an online game together, Cynthia spends time on YouTube and on TV. I don’t get it. Almost every episode of Dog Whisperer we see Cesar Millan, his well mannered dogs including Daddy, one or more problematic dogs, and their respective human victims. Almost every makeup video in YouTube starts with a stunning end result, a shockingly plain looking girl applying makeup, and after what appears as an eternity, she arrives at the end result as foretold. Deep inside, I don’t mind peeping onto those YouTube videos playing in Cynthia’s computer occasionally – like I peep onto Dog Whisperer. Because some of these girls are quite pretty. I often say to Cynthia, to master the application of makeup, one must start with the very fundamental – learn to paint and learn to work with colors. If you cannot paint on paper, how then can you paint your face?
Cynthia and I recently have two hot debate topics. One is “no makeup” makeup. Another one is those-are-natural those-are-not. Let’s start with “no makeup” makeup.
Cynthia insists that there is such a thing called “no makeup” makeup. It may take hours to achieve such end result that starts from no makeup and finishes with “no makeup”. You can even Google “no makeup” makeup. To me, it is a myth. But it seems to exist. “No makeup” makeup baffles me. When I watched YUI’s concert recording or alan’s music video – both are young Japanese – I swear I cannot see any makeup. I would scream “See, there is no makeup!” Cynthia would reply “Look, that is ‘no makeup’ makeup! The makeup is so thick!” She would ask me to pay attention to the eyelashes, the contour, the light and shadow around here and there, the concealer, the eye shadow, and that there is not a single drop of sweat on YUI’s face under bright flood light.
Nope. I still don’t get it. I say it is good genes with good skin. Like those naturally gifted ones who possess visually pleasing physical profiles, from head to toe. She would say, “Those are fake!”. And I would say, “Those are not!”
I am a man. I know what is fake and what is not.
5. Love and Obsession
Remember those who drove you crazily in love? Remember those moments that seemed so magical back then, moments that were not orchestrated but happened out of the blue? Remember those days when you felt so hopelessly obsessed, your poor mind was kneaded like a dough? What is love and obsession? Where does it come from and where has it gone? Are you missing that little sparkle in your relationship? Well my friends, little do you know that you could gain some insights by playing an online video game. Fortunately you do not need to play one to gain some. Here is my observation for sharing.
In that game, there are routines that a group of random people meet regularly to achieve a common objective. The routines have become such a chore that most would go through the journey in silence, do their job for the hope of a reward. Within the community, it is joked that we are like married couples having sex. Why then are people so obsessed with the routines?
For this aspect of the game, two kinds of rewards are given. Three if you count the “no reward” reward. One is like a paid wages. You do a lot, you earn a little every time you do it. There is no surprise as in how much you will get. If you are the persistence type, over time, you will be rewarded accordingly. Not handsomely, but accordingly. The second type of reward is a surprise payout. You know what you are after. But there is no guarantee that you are getting it, or when you are getting it. Think of your first kiss, or the first time you hold that someone’s hand. You go through the journey in hope for a non-guaranteed reward that you know exactly what it is that you want. It is constantly bouncing in your mind and your hope over time is high. When you are rewarded with that something you have been dreaming for so long, you experience an emotional spike (and I hope that you partner does too). Then you ask, what’s next? Such obsession only terminates when there is nothing more to hope for or when you lose that hunger of that yearning inner desire.
If you stop and think about it, this is similar to being in a relationship. Are you creating those moments of impromptu rewards of significance for your partner? Do you still have that hunger to desire that loving feeling from your partner? Have you played a part in putting back the sparkle in your relationship? Have you played a part in creating the opportunity for such to happen? Even though life may seem like a chore at times, aplenty [manmade] rewards are just round the corners ready to be unlocked. That is how I see it anyway.
Now, before I forget, I shall drop a note to my friend’s wife telling her that my buddy is secretly hoping to receive a boxer shorts gift from her.