Teun

@teunvanson

Writing is hard. #100days

13,162 words

Thank Guestbook
You'll only receive email when Teun publishes a new post

37.

I should really start writing earlier in the day. When I postpone it to the end of the day, I not only have it on my mind for the whole day, which is annoying, but I also tend to neglect it entirely. Besides, doing routine stuff early gives me a boost for the whole rest of the day, which is nice.

I recently had a naive thought. I was side-eyeing a video (I wouldn't call it watching, I was half-awake and still in bed) where feminists had a discussion with men's rights activists. It was quite heated although not uncivil, and I started wondering: why is gender such a difficult subject for people? What is there to discuss? Aren't we all just people and shouldn't we just treat each other as people, end of story? I know, naive. First of all, because I know and acknowledge the many difficulties that women and men face because of their gender. Gendered expectations are a thing, and (speaking just for myself here) I know that even men face them. Men are expected to be strong and stoic, to be the rock that the woman can rely on, to be the breadwinner, the rational one, the dependent one. Women, of course, probably face greater problems, yet I don't want to go into that too deeply because I don't have any first-hand experience with that. Nevertheless, I do hate the expectation of wearing make-up every single day. Screw that, seriously. These expectations are problematic and deserve attention. Anyways, my thought was naive for another reason too. I was actually presuming that I'm somehow not a proponent of these expectations and stereotypes. As if I see all people as people only, regardless of gender, age, skin color, clothes, etc. That might be an ideal, but it's not reality. I do, subconsciously, react differently to women than to men. I like to think that I have no biases or stereotypes, but I don't think that's really true. And I'm not saying that that's a problem necessarily. After all, biases are just shortcuts for our brain. Processing every person as if it's the first person you ever see would be exhausting, it would fry your brain in a matter of minutes. So we need these shortcuts. We just have to make sure that these shortcuts are helpful and humanizing, instead of overly reductive and harmful. That "just" in the previous sentence is a very, very optimistic "just", because this is not easy at all. This is basically what the entire project of tolerance and openness is about. Rewriting our personal and collective biases so that they're not harmful to large groups of people. I do see that most people are really trying, though, and that makes me happy. I'm also trying.

Yet I wonder something else. Can we actually change our way of thinking so that we don't divide the world into 'us' and 'them'? Can we make the entire world one big 'us'? I'm an optimist and an idealist, so I'd really like to think that we can. But it would be an enormous shift. For our entire evolution, from when we still had fins until the present day, we've learned to form groups of trusted individuals and to distrust everyone else. Ingroup good, outgroup bad. Those ingroups have been gradually expanding over the course of history; we could now say that our entire country is our ingroup, and Europe is even attempting to make the entire continent our ingroup. Yet it's still an ingroup, and every ingroup is defined by contradiction to the outgroup. What if there is no more outgroup? Can there still be a group? Can we unite as the entire population of planet Earth, if we have no one to fight? Us against what? Space? Greenhouse heat death? That's the kind of shift that's drastically needed, in my opinion, if we are to truly tackle the problems facing us today. But if we can... I'm really not sure.

As a start, I can recommend everyone to watch the short documentary The Overview Effect. It shows that astronauts who have gotten a look at Earth from space, start seeing Earth differently. They realize that Earth is one, and that it is tiny and so so fragile in the vast nothingness of space. Let that be a start.

35.

Despite writing here instead of studying yesterday, my exam still went well! I didn't nail everything, but I had an answer for every question and I think I screwed up quite little. I really liked that I could use not just my knowledge from the course I was taking the exam from (ethics), but also from other courses and even from my own life! There was one particular question that I knew the answer to because I had listened to a podcast with Peter Singer a week earlier. I had no idea that subject was in the ethics course, but I was pleasantly surprised to know the answer. It's such a pleasure to apply knowledge from different places like that. That also means that the things I'm learning at my uni (and even outside of it) are coming together quite nicely, which is very important to me. Studying shouldn't just be gathering pieces of information. It should be a process of building a structure, a building of some kind. Especially in philosophy this is absolutely necessary, because every part influences everything else. And if you take philosophy seriously like I do, you need to think about the implications of what you learn for your own life, your political views, how you see the world, et cetera. And I think that very little can change the way you see the world quite like a philosophy study, because in it, you question all the concepts that you and other people use to make sense of the world. If you say that freedom is important, a philosopher will ask "oh yeah? what is freedom?" and you'll either have a great discussion or you'll walk away annoyed. As for myself, I already ask myself these questions constantly, so studying philosophy is not any more exhausting for me as regular life is. And I think it's important to question the concepts that you use to build the world around you. It's important to seriously consider what a good life is, what the point of politics is, what free will means, what science can tell us, what responsibilities we have to other people, because one way or another, you answer these questions anyways. Every single person answers these questions by thinking and acting in a certain way. In philosophy, you make these questions tangible and tackle them as best you can.

Whew, I've been writing an awful lot about philosophy lately. Let's try something else. Uhm. Food. Maybe not. Oh yeah, my girlfriend and I found out about a vegetables subscription service today, and I think we might go for it. You pay to get a weekly (or bi-weekly) crate of veggies which you pick up, and they also include a recipe in case you have no idea how to use the things you got. I like it, because the price is good, the veggies are local if possible, and they're always fairtrade and biological. I don't really like buying from supermarket chains anyways, even though I'll admit that Lidl generally does have good and well-priced fruits and vegetables. But there's something icky about funneling money to a guy who already has so much that he doesn't know what to do with it. These kinds of chains and these kinds of people don't need my money. They want it, sure. But I don't know them. I don't think that they care about me, or my experience in their shops. What they care about, is my money. So I try not to care about them or their shops. That's why I prefer to buy from a small-ish shop called Pit Stop. I don't actually know much about it, other than that it caters mostly to muslims, but I generally like their produce. They offer a lot of stuff in bulk that other shops don't (like olives!), and they have huge packages for a lot of stuff (beans, rice, sambal (!)), which means less waste. Still, I'd prefer to get my veggies from the subscription service, since it means local and biological produce.

... Maybe writing about something other than philosophy was a mistake after all. Vegetables, really?

34.

I'm writing this as I should be preparing for my exam. In less than 90 minutes I'll have my ethics exam. I don't think I'm ill-prepared though, I feel like this subject is not that difficult for me, and a lot of things are easy to remember or just make sense. It might also be easier because there's a very simple hook to the real world and, specifically, my own world, which is not always the case for philosophical subjects. In ethics, the question is usually "what should I do and why?", and I happen to already spend a considerable amount of time and thought on that anyways. So it's interesting to see what theories exist, and what other, usually very smart, people have said about the matter. As to what camp I belong to, I tend to agree with the basic idea of consequentialism: the idea that it's the consequences of an action that determine whether it's right or wrong. Consequences, as opposed to, for example, intent, character, legality, etc. I think that this theory is most probably true, which is not the same as it being the most useful theory for figuring out what to do. But as far as what is right and wrong goes, if we look back in time to judge people's actions, we should look at the consequences to determine the moral status of these actions. Similarly, I think it's usually smart to keep consequences in mind when determining what to do, and if you're sure that some action is going to have bad consequences, there's absolutely no reason to do it. However, you don't always know what consequences an action might have. My textbook gives the example of the guy who wanted to assassinate Hitler and ended up missing him and killing dozens of innocent people, because the plans changed at the last minute and Hitler wasn't there. His intentions were good, no doubt, and if he'd succeeded, it would've been an amazingly good action for sure: he would've saved millions of innocent lives. Yet the actual outcome was negative, so we can now say that this action was not good. But that doesn't mean we should go on and punish the guy for it. I think that punishment and reward should not be consequentialist concepts, but should be based on intent, virtue, and that kind of stuff. So even though his action turned out to be bad, he's probably not to blame.

So even though I think consequentialism is true, I don't think it's the best way to think on a personal level, or build our society around. The other ethical theories might come in handy here. There's deontology, which says that good and bad are determined by certain duties you have. When you violate your duty, your action is bad. These duties are (usually) based on the categorical imperative, which is invented by Kant. Kant was so enthousiastic about reason, that he thought he could base an entire ethical system on reason alone. So he did. The categorical imperative has multiple formulations, but the most useful one is probably the following: never treat people as a mere means to an end, but always also as a goal in itself. In other words: always respect people autonomy. This rule-to-rule-all-rules gives us some great footing for our day-to-day lives. For example: killing is clearly an example of using people as means to an end. The same goes for stealing. Lying is also not allowed according to Kant. After all, when you lie, you presume to be a good judge of what someone else should and shouldn't know, which means you don't respect the autonomy of that person to choose for themselves.

I think that deontology is quite a smart system, although it does have its flaws (it doesn't seem to care much about animals, which, in my opinion, definitely should have a spot in any ethical system). In terms of practicality, it can be a good supplement to consequentialism, which can be very hard to use for average people.

32.

Another note written on my phone! So this one might be a bit shorter, since the phone keyboard is not the ideal tool for comfortable writing. Actually, I'm writing this from a train, I'm on my way to Brussels. It'll be the first time that I'm there! I'm really curious to see the European Parliament, visit the museum of fine arts, and see Manneken Pis and Jealenneke Pis, two statues of a peeing boy and girl respectively. About these, the boy was there first, and it's a true symbol of the city. Everybody who visits wants to see it in all its glory. And the idea is funny, there's nothing disturbing about it, if you ask me. More recently, they added a female version in another place in the city. And maybe I'm wrong, but if a western city, say in thg e US, built a statue of a peeing girl, including actual water, I feel like that would cause a bit of an outrage. I can imagine people would say it's tasteless, shameless, disgusting, et cetera. Yet I don't imagine the same outrage about a peeing boy. Such a statue is fun, humorous, a bit rebellious maybe. And since the peeing boy has been a symbol of Brussels since forever, people could hardly complain about his female counterpart. That would be obviously hypocritical. Maybe I'm wrong in my view of society, maybe there's no difference in perception here. I certainly don't condone it. I think it's great that there is this equality. In any case, I'm going to see both today. I'm ready to be underwhelmed!

31.

Good morning, world! I slept like crap last night. Sorry for my language, I guess I have to mark this blog 18+ or something, but today is the day for such language. It is how it is.

For a few days, mosquitoes have been plaguing our apartment. That sounds really dramatic, I know, and it's not as bad as I'm making it seem. It's mostly that I feel plagued by them. Also, it's freaking January, they shouldn't even exist for another few months! Anyways, last night was the worst in the mosquito story. I woke up around 2:30 to the sound of buzzing around my ear. Somehow these fuckers systematically ignore the person lying next to me and go straight for my scent. Maybe it's because I sweat so much. Anyways, irrelevant. I hear the bug of death. I know from experience that swatting it away and trying to get back to sleep is an exercise in futility. What will happen is: they go away for a few minutes, scared of the big moving monster, and then try again when you've stopped moving for some time. They come, you wake up, wave your hand around, they hide, rinse and repeat. That's a guaranteed night without sleep. No thanks. So instead, I change my position so that there's more than just my head sticking out of the blanket. (I love burying myself in blankets!) If it's just your head, they'll go for your cheek or forehead, and there's no way you can sleep through that anyways. So I put my arms above the blanket, lie on my back, and wait. The idea is that the mosquito approaches you, finds a juicy spot somewhere, starts drinking, and I either let it do its thing until it's saturated and we can both go back to sleep (I figured that mosquitos don't fly around humans for fun, but only out of hungry desperation, so when they're full they'll stop bothering me), or I grab it while it's quenching its thirst. Good idea, in theory.

The problem was that this bastard was terribly indecisive. I heard him fly around constantly, but it never went in for the kill. My delicious blood was right there, waiting to be drunk, yet the animal wasn't going for it. So I lie there, on my back, my arms slowly freezing in the harsh outside world, and I'm wide awake.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity and a half, the guy (I assume it's a guy for some reason) sits on my arm, I muster up the patience to let it settle (if you move too quickly it will fly away, but once it's drinking it will stay there), and after what seems like another half an eternity, I move my hand and grab it from my arm. Great success! Now mind you, I'm not proud of killing mosquitoes. I'm not for killing animals of any kind, whether it's dogs, pigs, chickens or annoying mosquitoes. But this night my desperation overtook my principles, and I killed the guy.

Now that's not the end of the story, but I'm getting sick of writing about it. So here's the short version: I went back into my sleeping position, happy that this was over. But behold! There was another one. Higher-pitched buzz, same level of annoyance. At least two eternities pass by before I finally take out this one. Yet while this guy was still drinking happily from my arm, I already heard another buzzing sound. I knew exactly what it meant. A third one. And I didn't manage to get this one. It didn't go for the bait. I must've lied in position for another 20 minutes or so before giving up, hoping that he gave up too. He did. I finally fell asleep.

I have no accurate way of telling how long this took, but something in me insists that it must've been three hours. I feel my right to sleep has been severely violated. So this entire morning I was grumpy, angry even, and sad. This feeling is very specific, and lest this post stays without a point, I'd like to present a phenomenology of the day after a bad night:

The feeling after a bad night consists of two parts:

1) Resentment – you're angry that somehow, something managed to keep you from sleeping. You wonder how this could've happened, and why those responsible haven't been punished.

2) Sleepy sadness – the direct result of not having gotten the sleep you needed. Your body desperately wants to go back to sleep. Your brain knows it can't. Your emotional  and cognitive capacities are limited, and your emotional cup seems like it can overflow any moment.

These two parts interact and strengthen one another, thus creating the unique feeling after a bad night.

Sources: none.

29.

Wow, I skipped an entire three days of writing. I think I've already made peace with the non-obligatory nature of this exercise. In any case, if I'm not determined to strictly write every day, I am definitely determined to continue to 100 posts. So I'll blast past 100 and continue until I actually have a hundred of these things. Right now there's so much on my mind that I don't know what I'm going to write about. That's not such a bad thing though. It's mostly my studies that occupy my thoughts. I've just had exams for History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, and Social and Political Philosophy, and both have profoundly interesting ideas that help me a lot in understanding the world. I already talked about Aristotle's conception of god in a previous post. In social philosophy, I'm fascinated by French-Lithuanian philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. But in order to describe him, I kinda first have to describe Hegel, because that's what he's reacting to (that's how it goes in philosophy, you can't really understand one without understanding all of them).

So Hegel said that humans, with all their desires, continuously try to appropriate everything around them. They want to tame nature and include as much as possible into their 'oikos', their household. This appropriation, however, is destructive, and what's worse: it doesn't really get rid of the desire. Think of eating: in eating food, you destroy the food itself, and after a few hours (in my case), you're hungry again! This destructive appropriation is a problem when humans encounter each other. Now, two desiring creatures stand opposite each other, both wanting to appropriate the world, which includes the other human, but also the limited resources on the world. This, according to Hegel, results in a struggle for life and death. Appropriation is a zero-sum game here; if one person appropriates something, the other person can't. Eventually one person will admit defeat, and in fear of death, will submit to the other. The other now becomes the master, and makes his fellow human work for him; he becomes the slave. In a way, the master has appropriated the slave. Yet there's a poetic justice to this whole thing. Because the slave will actually find his true self in the process of labouring. You see, labouring means postponing the gratification of desires, which stops that loop of destructive desire. And instead of gratifying his desires, the slave 'externalizes' himself in his labour, which means that he shapes the world into his image. He's taming nature, and the tamed nature around him is an affirmation of his person-hood. Moreover, he will probably be working with other slaves, which provides yet another way of finding his 'self': through social interactions. The slaves acknowledge each other as equals, and together they find themselves through labour. The master, in the meantime, has gotten no further. The slave acknowledges him, sure, but not as an equal. The slave's acknowledgement rings false, because it's made in an unequal and forceful situation. This means that the masters will disappear over time to become workers, thereby also externalizing themselves and affirming their own person-hood.

Phew, that was all Hegel. In my head that was much, much shorter. Anyways, on to Levinas:

Levinas thinks that Hegel is falling for the same mistake that most of western philosophy falls prey to: thinking about everything from the ego. He called this thinking 'egology'. Levinas thought that it's impossible to solve the problem of the self and the other from the point of view of the ego. Instead, he thought, we should start from the other. More specifically, the encounter with the other. In this encounter, there is one essential thing to recognize: the other is asking me for acknowledgement. This appeal by the other is not forceful. In fact, as we've seen with Hegel, the other cannot possibly force me to acknowledge her, because the acknowledgement will not be true. No, the appeal by the other is powerless, and therefore life-changing. Because this puts me in a position of responsibility. My reaction to his powerless appeal is a defining moment for my own self. My reaction constitutes my self. Do I acknowledge her as a person? Can I live with the fact that she is fundamentally outside of my reach, that I cannot 'domesticate' her? Can I respect her autonomy, her own thoughts and feelings and goals? And can I do all of this without losing my own sense of self? This crucial encounter, not the ego, should be the starting point of thinking about this very difficult problem, thought Levinas.

And all of this, finally, leads to mutual recognition, the holy grail of social philosophy. 

Honestly, I think this is a fantastic idea. Of course, Hegel did do a lot of the preparation work here, even though Levinas thoroughly re-worked his position. But I think the power of both of them is how recognizable it really is (if you're reading this and you're thinking "what the flying F are you talking about?", it's all my fault, not the philosophers'). Levinas never really tried to build a system of ethics; his goal wasn't to tell people what's right and what's wrong. Rather, he constructed a so-called phenomenology of ethics: a description of how it feels to act ethically, or unethically. How it feels to recognize someone as a person, and how it feels to withhold that recognition.

If you find all of this terribly boring, you might not want to go into philosophy. Or read a better source first, I'm not exactly reputable.

25.

Sometimes I'm aware throughout the whole day that I have to write and then I forget, and sometimes I don't think about it in the slightest. Yesterday I didn't think about it in the slightest. I don't feel too bad about it though. I'm doing this for myself, and there's no point in making myself feel bad about missing a day. I think. Of course routine is good and stuff. But I already have routines in meditation and yoga, and this writing is yet another thing I want to do every day. Of course I'm happy when I manage to do all these things (like today, yay!), but I don't beat myself up over missing a day. I do these things not because I like forcing myself into a routine, but because these things make me feel good. Meditation ground me to my state of mind, and it it calms me. I'm actually really bad at putting into words what meditation does and how it helps for me, but it really does. Also, missing one or multiple days becomes really noticeable when I go back to meditating, I feel like I have to scrape a layer of stuff off of my mind before I can get into it. All the impressions I collect throughout the day seem to collect onto my mind, and meditation is my way of scrubbing it off and harmonizing me with myself. There, that's a half-decent way of describing it. Yoga, then, is nice because it's sports (more or less, depending on the day), and it's sports that I don't hate, which is rare. It also makes me feel better in my body, and it's a way of "waking up" my body so that I feel more energetic throughout the rest of the day. I also notice that it improves my posture, and it makes me more aware of how I carry myself, which muscles I use when, et cetera.

Then this writing, why do I even do it? I'm not so sure. But I do know that I'm happy I'm doing it. I feel quite good about writing these things every day. As I've said many times before, I don't think that these things are particularly good, and that's not the goal. But even on the days that I don't feel like writing, I end up writing something that I'm glad I wrote down. Just like I'm now glad that I have that anxious note from four years ago, I'm already glad that I have these writings, as a digital time capsule, a way into my mind in 2020.

23.

Just today I went through some of the notes that I wrote when I was younger (not that much younger, just a few years really, I didn't mean to make it sound so dramatic). I have a tag in my notes app (where I'm writing this) called 'thoughts', and there are thoughts there that go back to 2012. Well, only one actually, and it's a mildly cringey list of my favourite albums at the time. Not so much the list itself is cringey, but rather the things I wrote next to my choices. Let's just say there's an abundant use of the word 'epic' at play.

In any case, the albums list is not that interesting. What's more interesting to me is the personal notes I wrote. The next oldest one, from 2015, states that "for the first time in my life", I'm curious where my life is headed. Damn dude, the first time? That's actually a bit sad. There's one filled with paranoid relationship-related rambles which is even more painful. And then there's one where I describe how I feel about myself. There, I write that I feel like I'm an insignificant human being, that I can't make or write anything original, that nothing that I've done defines me, and that everyone is ahead of me. It's really quite a sad and anxious note. And reading it now, I remember that that's how I really felt. I wasn't a sad person on the whole, but I was somewhat negative about my own life and my personal development. The weird thing is, I might not have it remembered it like that if I didn't have this note. It's not that any of it is particularly surprising when I think about it. It's just that this note is a powerful reminder of my past state of mind. You tend not to notice your own state of mind much, just like fish tend not to notice the water around them. And when it gradually changes over the course of years, it's not something that you immediately pick up on. Notes like this one have the jarring effect of reminding you of how you once felt, without noticing it. And that you changed over the past four years, without noticing it.

I also can say quite certainly that the things I wrote are still true, to an extent. They haven't changed nearly as much as the way I think about them. I can honestly say that I feel better now than I did when I wrote that note. And I'm pretty sure that it's mostly related to how I react to the world around me, not so much the world itself. The way you talk to yourself really matters. The way you react to your own emotions and thoughts really matters. Being aware of your and other people's emotions and moods really matters. Being a kind and loving human being really matters. Compared to that, what I write or make or 'achieve' is insignificant. The change I can make in the lives of myself and others is what truly counts. And that sounds very sappy, but I stand behind it.

Having read my note, I'm thankful to feel more stable and grounded now. It's something that I will try not to take for granted. If I go through something similar later in my life, hopefully I'll remember the ups and downs that I've already been through. And I hope that other people who feel stuck or lost, find the power in themselves to look at themselves with love and kindness.

22.

It's fascinating how different my girlfriend and I write. I mean, I don't consider myself much of a writer at all, but I do write occasional movie reviews on Letterboxd (which I enjoy very much), so that's something I guess. Anyways, the way I tend to write is analytical. I pick stuff apart and try to make sense of the parts to make sense of the whole. So in a movie, I usually go for the characters, story, cinematography (camera moves and such), acting, etc. and talk about how each part fits into the whole (at least, when I can be bothered to write such an extensive review... very often I don't really feel like it and I just come up with a lame joke instead). It's all very dry and very much non-fiction, like these writings I'm writing here, actually! But she writes very differently. She can turn everything into a story. A movie review will almost certainly be in the form of a little story. And by writing this story, she gives every word so much meaning. The words explode in your mind and they give you vivid images of the thing she's writing about. She can describe beautifully, colorfully. She doesn't analyse, she paints with words. I really admire that, and I wish I had the talent to write like that. But when I write, it always comes out like this: long paragraphs, painfully detailing the elements of a thing, to end in an inevitable conclusion. Meh.

I guess my style of writing is stereotypically philosophical, and it probably suits my field of study well. So I'm not so unsafistied with it. But I would also really like to be able to write colorfully, to write in stories, to give flavour to words and sentences. But maybe I'm condemned to write analytically for the rest of my life. To write books full of dry paragraphs, in an attempt to understand the universe, and to end up having written thousands of pages, and without the slightest idea of what this world is about. I'd have made a 0% progress in decyphering life. There might be some poetic, tragic beauty in that future. The meaning lies in the attempt, not in the result, or something. In the end, the only result is the result that we notice, that we feel. So even if we, as humanity, never really "figure out" what the universe is about, maybe it doesn't really matter. What matters is what we think the universe is about. Or our lives. And that we live them fully according to that standard. And that we die having lived, not being the slightest bit closer to the truth about the universe. I guess that's a good thing to strive for.

That might be what I'm striving for, anyways. I'm definitely not striving for some kind of external goal, like money or success or recognition. Why make your end goal something outside of yourself? That makes no sense, if you ask me. Make your own happiness your end goal, I say. Make other people happy if your heart tells you to. Love boundlessly if that's what makes you thrive. I think that's the case for me. So I will do my best.

21.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't be writing this if I didn't feel so bad about missing yesterday. I'm already in bed, and my love is (almost) asleep next to me, and all I want is to caress her face and fall asleep together. But instead I'm writing nonsense because I told myself to. Great going!

So the first movie of the new year turned out to be a blast. I saw Knives Out in the cinema (a very, very crappy cinema at that) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What I loved the most was the compassion that this movie showed, which is rare for something that is essentially a cheesy, dumb, fun Hollywood flick. Usually these movies are also to a degree violent, vile, unpleasant, nihilistic, or a combination of all of these things. Not this movie. It weaves a story without exploiting the people in it. It creates tension without fetishizing violence. And it has a lovely message without telling you what's right or wrong. This movie comes from the guy who made Looper, another great Hollywood movie that really shouldn't be as good as it is. And this movie came at exactly the right time too; sometimes you just need a way to defuse however you're feeling at the moment, and this did the trick perfectly.

Also, I did my first exam of my new study yesterday, and I'm glad it's over, but it also means that I have to start preparing for the next exam! Studying is really exhausting, but it's also quite rewarding for me, because (at least right now) I'm very interested in my field of study. What I also noticed when I started reading today, is that I have a much easier time understanding what's written compared to when I first looked at it and had my first lessons. It seems that things are falling into place, and that's very satisfying.

Well, it's not much, but it's enough for today. Time to go to sleep.

19.

This is one of these writing days where I have no idea what to write about. On some days, like yesterday, I enter with an idea in mind, and usually I manage to expand on it enough for a whole post. But on other days, like today, I just go in blank. Writing as therapy. I think that this is what the challenge is supposed to be. Also, I suspect that the challenge is supposed to be way less "thinky" and more creative, like with fiction and stuff, once upon a time, that kind of stuff, but that's just really not for me. I'm a thinky guy, not a fiction-y guy. I can barely read fiction, let alone write it.

That's not to say that I dislike fiction; I love that it exists and I think it can be fun and valuable and interesting and all that jazz. No, my problem is practical: very often when I pick up a book, I just don't manage to get through it. I stop picking up the book. I read very slowly. I re-read sentences, or skip over them. I'm just not good at finding the movitation to read fiction, and I have no idea why. I think that there's a deep-seated conviction in me that fiction is not really useful, not really worthwhile, and therefore my brain just decides to neglect fiction whenever I try to pick it up. I have really enjoyed novels though: Slaughterhouse Eight is amazing, 1984 is genius, and I loved Narcissus and Goldmund. Maybe the common thread is that they're all books ABOUT something (sorry for the caps, I know it looks hideous, but I don't know if I can use bold here... actually, I think I can, from now on I'll use bold instead of CAPS), like a historical event or an idea. Like 1984 is technically a novel, but it might as well be a political pamphlet. Fiction just happens to be a good medium to convey ideas sometimes. But when I'm just reading about what happens to non-existent people whose names I can never remember, and whose actions don't affect me personally, I have a very hard time staying focused.

I know this makes me look like a book snob, or a philosophy snob, or whatever. I know. I don't like this about myself. I really do enjoy things, I swear. But I also wish I was able to enjoy more things. Beause enjoying things is enjoyable! And there's not really any value in not enjoying things. On the other hand, maybe this is just where I'm at right now, and the best thing I can do is accept it. There might come a time when I cannot stop reading fiction. But that's not now.

18.

Aristotle's concept of god is fascinating. I mean, the man can be faulted for accepting slavery, or more generally just confirming the ethical notions of the time he lived in (shouldn't a philosopher be critical of the status quo?), but the way he describes god is really interesting, if you ask me.

So basically, what he calls god is actually more of a principle of rationality. So it's not a person, or even something that takes the shape of a person. It's not a religious god at all, just a philosophical one. And this principle is the force that causes all movement in the universe. Because you see, everything moves because it has a goal. So the goal of a lion, for example, is to survive and procreate. Rocks fall, because the goal of a rock is to be close to its origin, which is earth. Humans are special; they have rationality, so their goal is to become like the gods themselves. But anyways, the point is that everything moves in a goal-oriented way. And every movement, as we all know from physics class, is caused by some kind of force. Think of billiard balls on a table, and how one ball can make another move. But this leaves us with a question: what caused all this movement? It cannot be something that was itself moved by something else, because then we would just move the problem further back. So, Aristotle says, there has to be an unmoved mover. Something that is the first cause of all movement. Something that is itself unmoved and unchanging, because it is pure form, perfection, rationality, and doesn't have a material shape. And this unmoved mover causes everything to move, like a girl motivates a boy in love to take action (granted, that's not the metaphor he gave, and it's also not very realistic, since all I ever did when I had a crush was stare wordlessly and cry in my room).

The annoying thing about Aristotle's god is, and you probably noticed, how hard it is to put into words. I really think it's quite genius, yet every time I try to explain it, I fall short. I'm quite sure that the above paragraph does not adequately convey what I find so mesmerizing about it. So maybe I haven't understood it well enough yet (the exam is in two days, I still have time!). But there's also something poetic about it. After all, the god I'm trying to describe isn't meant to be understood. In fact, it's absolutely impossible for any human to fully comprehend it, for to understand it would mean to be god. (This is another thing... Aristotle's god is basically a thinking that thinks about itself, and is fully transparent to itself, and since it is the prime principle principle of the universe, the universe is also fully transparent to it.) So maybe it's good that I don't quite understand it, because otherwise I would've ceased to have any material form and turned into an ethereal, abstract principle of rationality (which, to be fair, people sometimes call me anyways).

Anyways, it's late (not really that late, but I'm tired (and I'm using way too many parentheses)), and I'm going to sleep. Nighty!

17.

When I go to Medium, it seems that the people on there can be summarizes as follows: they buy an Apple Watch, so that they can write thinkpieces about how awful its tracking is. People seem more two-faced than ever. They throw themselves in the ratrace of career-ism and commercialism, and when they realize it's making them miserable, they throw themselves into meditation or minimalism or yoga or whatever happens to be hip at the moment. (Apparently dopamine fasting is now a thing? Are people even serious anymore?) BUT (and this is the important part), they don't stop working 60 hours per week. No no no, that would mean actually changing your lifestyle. No, they pretend that the hip neo-new-agey thing they just picked up is going to solve all their problems. Meditate every day and you'll be happy! Turn off the notifications on your phone and your life will be perfect! Stop enjoying stuff and everything will work out!

This is symptom-fighting on a huge scale. Why don't people have the balls to confront their toxic lifestyle and make actual changes? Why do people only do more, and never less? Why is it always about comfort, productivity, and efficiency? What's so bad about not having a plan, not wanting a career, not earning more today than yesterday? Not every solution is technical. Not everything can be achieved by tweaking what's already there. Sometimes you need to take a machete and slash through the jungle of habits you've created for yourself. Sometimes you need to create room to breathe and reflect.

Baaaaaaaaaah this was a hugely satisfying rant. I know that I might be wrong. I know that it's not so simple as I make it sound. But sometimes (forgive me) people seem so ignorant. It's like they don't want to see. Or maybe they can't. Or maybe they're actually happy, and I should stop assuming that everyone works the way I work. But when some CFO who works ceaselessly tells you that he wishes he could be with his family more, what else to conclude than that he should stop working, switch jobs, calm the fuck down for a few days and thoroughly review his life, but that he either feels like he can't or that he doesn't want to.

I'm glad this is off my chest. Now please, message me about how the minimalist-phone-cleanse-protein-detox has changed your life and how it allows you to work 12 hours per day without collapsing in despair. I'm going to continue having no clue what I'm doing, and enjoy it.

16.

Some people think I'm a snob. More specifically, a movie snob. What I understand this to mean is that I'm picky, I'm critical of what I watch. I think about movies, I analyze them. But I also suspect that people think I'm a snob because I don't watch (or like) superhero movies, Fast and Furious, and many other popular things. I'm not sure why this triggers people, but somehow people care a lot when they find out that you don't like what they like, especially when that thing happens to be popular. It's easy to assume that I dislike these things because they're popular. Although I can't say that I never take pleasure in bashing something popular, I also strong feel that I prefer liking stuff over disliking stuff. And I always try to go into movies with an open mind and a positive attitude. That said, I just cannot get into superhero movies. And so I've pretty much given up on these a few years ago. Before that, I watched the entire first "generation" (how do you call these?) of Marvel movies, up until Avengers. And I was genuinely excited for the Hobbit movies, the Star Trek reboots, and even the new Star Wars. And I really enjoyed these movies when I saw them in the cinema. But I also started growing out of them. The last Hobbit movie, apart from truly being a pile of garbage, also opened my eyes to the possibility that the other ones are also not that great. I never rewatched them since. I enjoyed Avengers, but didn't keep up with the series afterwards, and the few movies I did see all amounted to "... eh". All the stranger is that I have a fierce love for the Harry Potter series, which might or might not be fueled by pure nostalgia. But I do genuinely think that these movies are good, even the worst ones.

Anyways, do I think I'm a movie snob? Well, if it means that I'm critical and don't mindlessly consume any corporate drivel that is presented to me, then, yes, I'm guilty as charged. If it means that you go on a rant about corporatism in movies every time someone calls you a movie snob, then I'm even guiltier. My point is, I don't think that being a movie snob in this sense is such a bad thing. I do still like popular things. I loved Paddington, and even the sequel. I enjoy a lot of Pixar movies. I probably like other stuff, but I can't recall right now. (And I think it goes against the spirit of 100 Days of Writing to look it up.) I just thoroughly enjoy movies. And for me, that means criticising them whenever I don't like them. Even movies I dislike are usually worthwhile for me, because they tell me something about myself. It's truly interesting to analyse why you don't like something. That still doesn't make disliking movies better than liking them, though, because a good movie experience can't be beaten.

15.

Happy new year! Fireworks used to be a very big thing for me. As in, as a teenager I spent hundreds of euros each year on fireworks, to burn through on a single day and night, on the 31st of December. I really loved it. Actually, I think that the pre-fun (voorpret, a very underrated Dutch word) was much bigger for me than the actual fun. I used to spend months looking at videos, checking out fireworks catalogues, and making lists of stuff I want. I had a blast just anticipating the last day of the year. The day itself, in comparison, was never as fun as the preparation was. I mean, when you anticipate a day so much, how can it really live up to expectations? When you spend hundreds of euros and many hours of preparation on something, it can never be as satisfying as you want. Still, I loved it.

Now I've kicked the habit, I spend my money on more sensible things (or so I tell myself), and I'm ever more ambivalent towards fireworks in general. In the Netherlands, there are (political) parties that want to ban consumer fireworks completely. And to be honest, I can see why. Every year, they cause dozens of accidents. Eye clinics always run overtime on the night from the 31st to the 1st. Pets are generally terrified of the sounds. And I'm not sure how bad it is for the environment, but it can't be good. Do these harms outweigh the benefits? That's not easy to say. Does fun for thousands of people weigh up against a couple of horrible injuries? You might as well ask the same question about cars. Does driving faster weigh up against the extra deaths that it causes? Even for people whose job is to think about these kinds of questions, I don't think it's easy to answer those questions. Generally speaking, I'd say that reducing harm is a good that should be prioritized. In the fireworks case, what makes this position even stronger is the fact that about half of all injuries are suffered by bystanders. So it's not even always the people who do stupid stuff that suffer the consequences. Rather, it's regular people who suffer from the idiocy of others, who happen to have access to dangerous explosives. But on the other hand, there's plenty of dangerous things we do (like driving) that we would never think of making illegal.

Anyways, I had a blast this year, without fireworks. Cheesily enough, having friends and family around is much more important. And this day isn't so significant anyways. It used to be the most significant day of the year for me. But now, I still have a deadline on the 2nd of February. These things don't care about year borders. So I won't either. I'll continue writing about love instead.

Oh, as for new year's resolutions, I don't really do that kind of stuff. But it is a good time to remind myself of what really matters to me. So I hereby will try to make 2020 a year of love, kindness, warmth, understanding, and forgiveness. Oh, and honesty. That's it, I think! Cheers.

13.

I just read a rambly update by Brian Mimpress, and it really inspired me to keep writing these things. Okay, a bit of background. Brian Mimpress is one of the managers of a group called the AF Gang. It's an online community, really, that's built around the British punk/post-punk/hardcore-punk/whatever-punk band IDLES (yup, all caps). IDLES is probably the most wholesome and loving punk band I've ever heard, and the existence of this community only solidifies that. It's a place where fans can chat about anything, from financial struggles and politics to movies, music and memes. So Brian occasionally updates the group with music recommendations (called Kinky Linky) and the rambly personal updates that I already mentioned. It's structured a bit like a podcast with a rich history of inside jokes (like Hello Internet), in that all the rubrics have evolved naturally over time. So in his update, he goes over this morning's bus tunes, this morning's bus smells, the seat he obtained, the "you fat bastard diet update", and a bunch of personal diary kind of stuff in between. It's honestly really lovely to read.

So why it inspires me, is because it's clearly not a structured or researched piece of text. So apparently, a loosely-written piece of text like that can be valuable and entertaining to read! Now that doesn't mean that I think that what I'm writing here is valuable per se. But just the idea that this kind of writing can be good, is immensely inspiring. (Also, I first thought that this guy is one of the band members, and when I found out that he's not... it didn't really matter. His updates aren't any less interesting!)

Also, I'm writing this in the middle of writing my piece on the philosophical discussion on love, and it's very liberating to be able to just write whatever, instead of having to labour and research and think about every single goddamn word I write. I mean, I could do anything here! I can write beer. Penis. Mouse buttons. Music sucks. See? It doesn't matter. Lovely. Strange that writing is a good break from writing, but the way of writing is so different that it really does work. This feels like discharging more than anything else... definitely not like work. That doesn't mean that I write as effortlessly or uncritically as I'd like to. But on the other hand, I also really really want the things I make to be good, or at least decent. So even this, which is essentially just a brain purge, I want to be as good as possible. I'm not sure if I should really turn off that instinct. It feels profoundly wrong to not care at all about the quality of what I'm producing.

Anyways, that's it for today. This was a great and mind-clearing session. Cheers, don't forget to love your fellow human beings.

12.

I had a major epiphany about love today. Okay, that sounds a bit pompous, but I do think it's a bit of a breakthrough. (Also, I'm allowing myself to backspace again.) So yesterday I wrote that philosophers shouldn't spend so much time and energy trying to figure out "what love is", because there is clearly not one universally-acceptable definition of love. Love means different things to different people, end of story. But (and this is my realization) philosophy is in essence the analysis and clarification of concepts. Philosophers ask questions like "what is justice?" and "what is goodness?". And they do this because people use these words, in the belief that other people have a similar understanding of their content. So the critical question that I asked myself today is: if love means different things to different people, why do we use the word "love" to refer to these different meanings? Mustn't there be some common core to the concept of love that is shared by almost all, if not all, conceptions of it? That, I believe, is the essence of the philosophical inquiry. And to give up this search is to give up on doing philosophy.

Funnily enough, this is the same discussion that Socrates had with the sophists in Athens. The sophists were travelling teachers who taught critical thinking and persuasive reasoning, but always with the goal of personal gain. They were radical relativists, and believed that there is no objective truth. So they also thought that finding definitions to concepts is meaningless, because concepts mean whatever people want them to mean. Socrates didn't like the sophists, and he disagreed with their relativism. He retorted: if you don't believe in the truth of concepts, then my "justice" is different from your "justice", correct? So that means that we should really use different words to refer to these different concepts. If we do that, our language will become unusable. Yet we use our language every day, and it's clearly succesful at communicating ideas. So there must be some common truth that everyone refers to, when they refer to a concept like "justice".

In short: I regained my faith in the philosophical inquiry of concepts by way of Socrates. My teachers would be proud of me.

Oh, and also, I'm writing this in the afternoon. Crazy stuff. I think this is a first! I should do it more often.

11.

I'm writing at a decent time today, and not at 2 at night like a savage, which is nice. I'm going to try something new today: no backspacing. No fixing typos, no correcting grammar, nothing. So prepare for a nearly unreadable ride. Today I read 32 pages about love. It wasn't straightwforward. It was abuout 2 questions: what love is, and whether it can be justified. What love is, I still have no idea of after reading these pages. A lot of people think a lof of ldifferent things. (unrelated: I'm constantly reflexively fixing my typos and then undoing the fixing, ugh.) I feel like love is ome of these things that just cannot be satisfactorily (?) defintes (defined). Wittgenstein talked about the concept of"game" being impossible to define, but rather twe understand what it means through familial likeness (I actually have no idea what the English term is). Basically, games overlap in certain ways, but there's no single characteristic that applies to all games, which makes them so hard to define. If you say " games are supposed to be fnu", you can give russian routelle (ruolette, my god I suck at typing) as a counterexample. And I think so it is with love. There's not really a "core" to love, no single thing to unite all that we call 'love'. Rather, we know it when we see it. So there might be no point in trying to answer the question "what is love" (obligatory baby don't hurt me, don't hur me, no more). So if this is true, a big chunk of the philosophical discussion about love might be completely pointless. I don't know if this is such a bad thing. A philosophical discussion on love might actually not make bpeople better at loving. I think this goes for a lot of things. Knowing the theory doesn't mean living a better life. Studying ethics doesn't mean bein g virtuous . Studying nutrition doesn't mean being healthy. There's a significant part to living which is just... living. Theory is definitely not enough. So there's thousands of self-help books that tell you how to love  (live, goddammit), but they can't guarantee a good or happy life. People claiming to give you a happy life, or the solution to all your problems, are therefore almost certainly fraugds, because they ignore the fact that the good life requires practice. This is what the Greeks called phronesis: practical wisdom. I think that this is an exceptionally wise position. They saw that studying is one thing, and living a good life another. Aristotle, for example, thought that the highest possible goal for humans is to become one with the transcendental rationality (basically his way of describing god: a n eternally rational force that compels all living beings towards achieving their goals). But he also saw that humans are so flawed that this goal is unavailable to them. Therefore, the practical goal to strive for is phronesis; living wisely. 

I wonder how different this 'wise living' was for Aristotle than it is for people nowadawys. His society didn't have a problem with slavery, and Aristotle didn't spend mch time defending it; he simply didn't think about it. That doesn't make him a bad person, I think, beause that position would make almost every person in history bad. But we also like to think that we're making progress as a society; tat abolishing slavery is good, and that equal rights for men and women are good, etc. But based on what can we make that claim? What do we base these evaluations on? If you don't have a very sturdy system of morality, you won't be able to answer this quetsion. 

I could continue my quasi-philosophical, error-ridden rant, but I'm getting tired of myself. I'm just glad that it's not 2 at night.

10.

I think that games with an element of chance are objectively worse than games without it. Bam, that's my universal truth for today. Also, Yathzee (how do you write that?) and Monopoly are terrible games. I'm on fire with my controversial opinions today. Also, I'm going to keep this short, because it's way too late and I'm tired (it's interesting how much of my writing is about being tired. hmmm). Actually, I literally just want to write random words until I've reached a satisfactory number of sentences so I can go to sleep. So I think I'll now engage in some surrealistic writing. Cheese is blue. Purples are grey. Vignettes in aspic listen to Pink Floyd. Indian babies are tiny, but not as tiny as molecules. I feel liberated. That last sentence is meant non-surrealistically. I'm writing without restraints and it's liberating. I'm not sure to what extent I mean that though. I'm mostly just being ironic, which is an easy way to write words on a page. Not to bash irony or anything. Or actually, yes, irony sucks most of the time. It's not like it makes you cool, or convinces anyone that you don't give a shit. Irony is the easy way out. Earnestness is the new irony. Love is love. Honesty is key. I'm getting tired of myself. If this isn't a hallucinogenic fever-dream masterpiece, I don't know what is. This is the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas of writing. Except that actually was a book. A good book. Unlike this. This isn't good. But that's because I want to go to sleep and I have no regard for the quality of what I'm writing right now. Which, if you remember (you being the fictional person reading this), is exactly the goal of this exercise. I shouldn't care about the quality of what I'm rwiting. I should disable the critical eye in my mind, and let my brain flow onto the metaphorical paper, etc. That is why I don't correct my typos. Except I do correct most of them. Just if I like a typo, I leave it in. But I make so many mistakes that my texts would probably become unreadable if I didn't correct them. I mean, I'm not saying that this text isn't unreadable (triple negation, hurray!). But I mean unreadable in a very literal sense, as in: impossible to decipher the individual words.

Hey, I think I wrote enough. Glad that's over. Good night.

9.

One of the biggest pleasures in life is to wear comfortable clothes and lie under a big, heavy blanket when you're cold on the inside. I'm trying to fill these writings with universal truths, preferably at least one per post. That would end up being 100 universal truths (actually already two less, but still), which is maybe a bit much to ask of myself. Nevertheless, I think finding these truths is a good thing to strive for. And I'm convinced that heavy blankets and happiness are very closely related. I say that with the authority of a first-year philosophy student. Which is, of course, no authority whatsoever.

So I'm writing on, of all things, a smartphone today. I don't have my laptop near me, but I also don't want to ruin this moment of not forgetting to write and risk another lost day. So for better or worse, I have auto-spellcheck today, which means fewer typos to fix, but it also means typing on a terrible virtual keyboard. I think that keyboards are one of these things that are just better physical (also in that group: watches, mouses, gaming controllers and these fires that people have in their houses, I forgot what they're called but they also exist on TV's, which is just awful). I actually even prefer these old-timey beige mechanical keyboards, with buttons that you can push in all the way, that came with Windows 98-computers. It's partly nostalgia, sure, but I also feel like the feedback on these things is so tasty that it actually improves the typing experience. And most people type a lot on their computers, so getting that part right is pretty damn important. An underrated part of computer-picking, if you ask me. My Lenovo Thinkpad has a very good keyboard for a laptop. Just some random advice for anyone looking for a laptop.