I Am Feminist, I Stand Against “Everyone is Beautiful” Narrative

This post is published with some modification in Magdalene.

As feminists, we must have once or twice encountered a dilemma when approaching beauty issues. Feminism ideally wants to champion inclusivity and choices, embracing all types of women regardless of identity and looks. Various efforts have been made on this front, from promoting more diverse beauty standard, criticizing mass media, to coming up with “everyone is beautiful” campaign.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion, that the populist “everyone is beautiful” campaign is a problematic strategy.

To some extents, I understand the virtue of that narrative, which intends to tell women to be appreciative of themselves regardless of their body shape and looks, and to encompass all women outside the mainstream beauty standard. That remark comes to prominence as a response to relativism and shield against snobbery. We want to say everyone can have different taste and no taste is more superior than others. It implies a fear of being rude or mean to others.

However, the phrase implies that no one is ever really more beautiful or uglier than others. This is odd. While we insist on telling everyone is beautiful, we never say everyone is smart/kind/humorous/good at sex, although those particular traits may be desirable as well. The reason is we are well aware that some people just don’t happen to have those traits, and empowerment comes exactly when you are relatively different compared to anyone else.

This invites some questions: why? Why do we approach beauty differently? Why is feeling beautiful mandatory? Does thinking otherwise make women less meaningful and not worth loving?
Let’s leave this campaign. First off, I find it serve confusing goals. The sentence itself contains self-contradiction: if everyone is beautiful, then no one is. Instead, you end up normalizing beauty, because that trait is something everyone has. If we all have it, it becomes something common and redundant. But this backlashes, because people don’t say it to be useless or redundant. We say it to make us feel good, and, being naturally compelled to compare ourselves, we only feel good about being called beautiful because the meaning of beauty acts as a differentiator, not a common characteristic. No, realistically speaking, we all can’t be above average.

Put semantics aside, if you want people to feel good by convincing themselves they are inherently beautiful, that narrative is still problematic, because it tries to internalize that everyone must feel beautiful, as if beauty constitutes a universal standard of goodness everyone has to strive for. This amounts to putting too much value on beauty, indicating ugly or average-looking person is not valuable enough. It forces them to feel something they are aware they are not, when they are confirmed they are not pretty, while looking at their reflection in the mirror. This fails to empower women because it reinforces conventional idea of the importance of pursuing beauty, something that, unfortunately, not everyone has.

No wonder  this approach is glorified in advertisements of women’s beauty products. That narrative translates into sanitized perpetuation of conventional norms of the importance of beauty, leading to falsehood that if you don’t feel beautiful, you must be miserable without any self-esteem. In that sense, not feeling beautiful is threatening.

IT’S NICE TO BE BEAUTIFUL, BUT IT’S NOT ALL WHAT MATTERS. BEAUTY SHOULD NOT BE THE PARAMOUNT PARAMETER IN DEFINING WHO WE REALLY ARE. 

Secondly, this narrative at best can only work on individual level. Everyone by default has their own preferences, whether because we’re genetically wired that way or as a result of social construct. This collective subjectivity will transform into majority subjectivity, also known as societal beauty standard, and be exposed in mainstream media. The contestation of beauty, such as “white and skinny are pretty” or “beauty comes in various shapes and color” will lead to hegemonic beauty standard. While I do not agree with single-spectrum beauty standard, this “everyone is beautiful” is not helpful either, because at the end there must be certain criteria that have to be fulfilled to be aesthetically appealing in society’s eyes.

Thirdly, the alternate interpretation of this narrative – saying beauty goes beyond the extend of physical realm – is still problematic. It aims to tell you even though you are not physically beautiful, you can have inner beauty, compensating your lack of physical desirability. However, this can potentially polarize women by contesting the ones with physical beauty versus those with inner beauty, as if a woman with outward beauty is more shallow and superficial than one with inward beauty. It also ends up antagonizing women with physical beauty. Moreover, this interpretation still leaves us trapped with the obsession of finding beauty in everything.

In a nutshell, whether or not beauty is more than skin deep, the statement – and sentiment – that “everyone is beautiful” is nothing but a sugar-coated cliché.

But what alternative do we have?

We need to adopt a more realistic approach: promoting the idea of comparative advantage. Some are pretty, some are ugly, and that is perfectly fine. Some work their asses off and feel empowered by adhering to beauty standard. That is still fine, if and only if the choice comes informed, with a long assessment, and made by an autonomous woman.

Saying woman who succumbs to mainstream beauty standard is broken, colonized, and brainwashed is degrading and dictating them. We can’t simply ignore the existence of woman’s will and jump into that oversimplification. And for the ones who are not beautiful, they can thrive to be something else: intelligent, kind, hardworking, funny – any trait that also can make them outstanding despite not being physically desired.

It’s nice to be beautiful, but it’s not all what matters. Beauty should not be the paramount parameter in defining who we really are. Sometimes it’s just irrelevant. There are passionate, intelligent, conscientious, hardworking, kind and nurturing women. They may be plain ugly, but they are still valuable and respectable.

And watch your stance carefully: assess whether your decision to pursue beauty is because you seek blind validation and make your body a subject to overexploitation, or is it based on informed decision as an autonomous being.

This writing also acts as a reminder for me. Whenever I look at myself in the mirror and consider I am not beautiful, it does not negate the fact I’m still a worthy human being.

We don’t always have to be beautiful, sometimes we just have to be human.

On Tiger Parenting: Love Should Not Come from Great Labor

(This is the original version before being edited and published by Magdalene)

Humans always seek for love and affection—it’s in our nature to nurture our lives. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love is essential element to achieve fulfilling life. Love is there to complete us, transforming us into a better human being, romantics say. Love is to give our life meaning in this meaningless world, philosophers say.

Then, the question arises; what comes first: sacrifice or love? If you dwell longer into that question, you’ll see both of which answer would imply two whole different things. The former one indicates the conditional love, byproduct of great labor. While the latter one is the type we humans indeniably crave, the most ideal one: unconditional love.

Humans (arguably) live under the rule “survival of the fittest”. Sometimes, we have to treat life as a zero-sum game, making one lose for our own gain. Life indeed could be that cold and harsh.  Hence, to lessen that excruciating pain, we resort to love. Receiving love would be consolation of our existential anguish, making path towards happier and more fulfilling life. Most importantly, receiving love would redefine who we are after failing over and over again and being treated so badly by this cruel world, convincing us we’re significant enough to be loved and taken care of. Love makes us feel worth it again. In conclusion, loveability is often used as one of metrix to define our self-worth.

That’s why we fancy the idea of home. Home is essentially embracing hands that would accept us for whoever we are despite our flaws and mistakes, giving us unconditional love. At some point in life, we just want to be loved without having to fulfill certain attributes and ideal traits. Intelligence, physical attractiveness, kindness—we want to take them off and be as authentic and raw as we are—and still, we are loved.

However, how painful is knowing your home isn’t embracing hands, but a stick that breaks your bones?

That’s how problematic tiger parenting is. Not only can it be physically and psychologically abusive, but also goes deeper than that. It misguides your own concept of love and core of your identity. In early stage, you seek to receive love as much as possible. Tiger parenting makes you get used to being raised with a lot of expectations, pursuing for perfection, and not being tolerated for any mistake. You’ll do whatever it takes to satisfy your parents for what’s all in your head is your achievement equals to their appreciation and their appreciation equals to affection you’re deeply thirsty of. Your ability to achieve becomes the currency of love.

As a tiger mom’s child, I always seek for affirmation and acceptance through how much I can achieve. I’ve translated that I deserve love from my mom, the one I love most and always will, only if I’m “good, obedient child”. Affection I think I deserve is always contingent upon how satisfying my performance. Years by years, I failed to see the existence of unconditional love. “Mom will love me only if I get A, B, C, D. Or else, she’ll despise me” and other similar scenario would constantly creep me in. Years by years, I struggle to fight against paranoia “not being good enough”–as if I didn’t deserve a life if I’m not. Trophy goes to another trophy to compensate my crippling insecurity. Trophy goes to another trophy until I feel numb. Trophy goes to another trophy until I realize that my inability to achieve more leaves me feeling nothing, meaningless. I have to go through night crying because there’s static buzzing voice telling me “oh, you’re bad, you’re underqualified, you’re dumb”, projecting myself into my mom’s hateful gaze and cutting words telling how disappointing I am.

Here is the reason why most people raised by tiger parents are insecure and anxious. They compete to make their existence worthy of their parents’ love. They would always seek to modify themselves in order to be loved because they are not—even perhaps will never be—convinced with their loveability as the way they are.  That mindset has been established during their critical stage of defining love: love would never come for free, it has to be paid. Unconditional love is a foreign concept to them. No wonder, when it comes to other type of love—romantic or platonic—in latter stage, they’ll always be insecure about what should be given in exchange since love given by their parents is very first love they experience and are familiar with. Love in childhood would be the mirror they reflect into, consciously or unconsciously, because afterall, love is all about familiarity.

Tiger parenting perhaps would result to success, competitive performance at school and good career, you name it. Sadly, that wordly success is not that sweet and rewarding. It’s just consolation prize for those unhappy driven souls who have redirected their early humilation and sense that they weren’t good enough into “achievements”—which will never make up for the unconditional love they will deep down always crave in vain.

I’m not saying all tiger parents love conditionally—that is cruel accusation. But here lies the greatest irony: regardless whether or not they love conditionally, their children’s reality has been distorted, seeing love would and should only come with great costs and labor.

Children are not parents’ investment and tiger parenting is not the only method to achieve success. Children are human being. Human’s intrinsic value transcends into being the ends, not the means. Children shouldn’t be imposed a duty to benefit their parents. Instead, as the one giving them birth by choice, parents are responsible for giving them ideal type of love and helping them achieve maximum growth and self-development. Secondly, success and non-tiger parenting are not mutually exclusive, one can be achiever and successful as well without tiger parenting. One can be achieve success with unconditional love.

To anyone of you currently raising a child or intending to have one—I’m  speaking on the behalf of tiger parents’ child—if you genuinely love your children, I beg you, please, don’t make them fall into tragedy thinking love is contingent upon their achievement and constantly converting their achievement to how much love they deserve to occupy. When the world knocks them down, offers them a lot of bitter failures, and their lover and friends leave them all alone: they want to come back to embracing hand that would always accept and love them even at their worst. Don’t let their reality distorted by false idea that you only love them at their best—that perhaps doesn’t even appear once in your mind. Be that embracing hand. Be your children’s home. Be the love that doesn’t come from hazardous, painful struggle.

Happy Birthday, My Best (Oink) Friend, Nida!

I was gazing too long into the abyss. I let it gaze into me. 

The overwhelming frailty had taken over me–oh, is there a right word for “trying to fill all the spaces just for coming into a conclusion I’ve got nothingness in my hand”? Is there a right word to constitute “shielding from the unidentified lethal”? Is there a right word for “trying to accept the fact you were just a consolation prize for the battle you were tricked that you had won a long ago”?

 I wish there was a word for that. 

“Ini kosan cowo, Pak? Tapi temen saya Eli…” that voice cracked the silence. 

“Loh, Nida? Ngapain kamu?” I went out from my bedroom. I laughed, looking at her clueless. She laughed back, then approached me. 

“Bitch, I’ve brought you cookies. Can I get in?” she asked. That question shut me for a while. No, I had never let anyone come into that room before. My bedroom was, in fact, a place I had always considered as the most private one. Well, after living in Jogja for months, she was officially the first person coming into my kosan.

Umm, ga boleh. Kamarku berantakan,” I said. Well, it was factually correct, though–I wasn’t lying, anyway. She looked disappointed, feeling uncomfortable talking outside. 

Gapapa, El. Boleh, ya?” 

I reconsidered, “Ya udah, masuk sana. I’ve made a disclaimer.”

“Kamu ga bunuh diri kan, El?” She laughed. I rolled my eyes. 

“Dude, really? I am.. well, fine.”

“Did you cry for all day long?”

“Just last night.”

“Do you want a hug?”

At that time, I knew someone had pulled me up from overboard.

For cookies.

For some questions.

For a hug.

In my most desperate time.

*

Bitch, happy birthday. Congratulations for officially passing 19 years in this meaningless, anguish world.

Oh dude, I know you. You must be thinking this post is just cheesy.  Oh, let me guess, you must be thinking how-could-this-superb-insensitive-bitch-make-something-super-mega-ultra-sentimental-like-this? Dude, let me tell you a fact you might not know: Eli has a heart. Bye.

Well, seriously. Maybe I know you too much. Yes, literally too much like I could blackmail you. Let me make a list. I know things you don’t believe in: the concept of monogamous relationship, organized religion, everyone was born special, life has a meaning… I know things you believe as well: human beings are generally idiots, your cats are awesome, well… genuine affection from your best friends.

Well, I am not bragging about myself :p

Yes, I assure you. I know how paradoxical you could ever be. You might say you hate everyone but in fact it’s just your self-defense mechanism. You might say you’re a heartless bitch but your attention and affection is one of the realest one I’ve ever felt. You might say you’re a strong independent woman, but I know how much your soul is driven, thirsty for love. You might say you don’t believe in a monogamous relationship, but I know all what you want is someone assuring you that you’re something that’s always worth fighting for. You might say that life is just meaningless, in fact, you’re all aware you’re just giving too much meaning for something that is not worth any.

Yes, sometimes I truly wish you to think some things are just as meaningless as they are. Boys are just boys. Familiarity is just familiarity. Touch is just touch. Sometimes I wish you could stop seeking meaning and pattern out of everything. Just let it be it. Just let eyes be just eyes–do not mistake it for hands, mirrors, or windows.

I hope someday you can make yourself home. (Well, there is no prerequisite we have to be something we wish someone for–yes, dude, we have the same struggle. Also, we’re suffering the same disease called feeling-too-much.) Too much demons living inside us, we always seek for shelter inside someone else. (Yes, even if I look like an independent woman capable of handling things by herself and standing on her own feet–I’m not. At least, not yet.) I hope someday, we can learn a way of building ourselves home. And live happily in it.

Also, I want to say these things, regardless how many times it has been said it already becomes banal: you’re so much to build, Nida. You are always worth it–your worth is never contingent on anyone’s approval. Well (I’m not good at giving compliments, but if I do, you can be sure I’m not sugar-coating), factually speaking, you’re smart. You’re pretty. You’re a hard-worker.

However, never mistake your quality for your loveability. Love doesn’t work like that. Some things such as beauty or intelligence might be competed–but love is not. Because, my friend, being loved or not is always beyond your control, it’s out of your own territory, it’s in others’. Anything that makes you in passivity and becomes an object is not something to be competed. So, let it be. As you wrote in your own note when you were all conscious, let the externality be externality.

You’re still young. You have so much potentials, Nida. I hope you can acquire knowledge of your strength and weakness. I hope you can master anything essential in your domain. I hope you can learn the art of embracing and letting go. We all humans are in deep fear of being insignificant, right, but I hope you can find some sort of significance in right way–that makes you happy.

We both are broken persons. Sometimes there’s nothing left to empower each other. But, I hope you know this one thing: I’m more than ready for your hysterical session. Or just talks–deep or small ones. Or jokes. Or whatever it is demanded from a best friend. I care. Perhaps it’s not in a way you expect or need. I know I’m so oblivious and insensitive kaya logam-buatan-Somalia-lebih-parah-daripada-buatan-Cina. But look, when that existential loneliness tries to wreck you, note this: I will always (try to) catch you up. You can trust me, I’m a woman of her own words.

Lastly, I want to sincerely thank you, Nida. Thank you for keeping my sanity on the right track. Thank you for handling me when I, out of nowhere, called you and cried like a weepy crybaby. Thank you for understanding my emotional dependence. Thank you for being one of my supporting systems. Thank you for your mulut jahanam and being judgmental to me (lol) because I know that’s the way you show how much you care.

Happy birthday, my Babi Halal Sr.

This is superb cheesy I feel like throwing up, but I love you.

Sure, in the most heterosexual way possible.

P.S. I wish I could hug you right now.

P.S.S. But too bad, now you may be still dealing in a losmen witnessing some assholes buying sluts right before your eyes because thanks to storms that ruined your plan entah-ngapain-ke-Semeru and perhaps seeing live dangdut manusia kobra, genderuwo, etc. (I have no freaking idea) again.

Special thanks to Sarah Kay, this letter is much inspired by her works. 

Balada Radioaktif, Cinta, dan Nol

What is love?

Kuberitahu kau satu rahasia, Sayang.

Cinta itu seperti zat radioaktif. Aku tidak bermuluk bahwa ia kekal dengan jumlah yang tetap sama. Kauhidup di dunia yang si kekal hanya dimiliki oleh Dia yang Tak Terlihat, Sayang.

Setiap waktu paro akan meluruhkan setengah radioaktif sebelumnya. Mungkin butuh berjuta tahun, berpuluh hari, atau cuma dua kali sepuluh pangkat minus delapan sekon. Waktu paro terus berlangsung: satu, dua, tak terhitung kali; membuat jumlah radioaktif menjadi setengah, seperempat, seperdelapan, seperenampuluhempat.

Ya, cinta memang mudah pergi.

Tapi kau tahu kau masih punya pilihan.

Radioaktif yang hilang dapat kembali ke jumlah semula. Waktu paro memang mutlak, tapi tak menjamin tetapnya jumlah.

Lalu, pilihan kedua. Meskipun jumlah radioaktif mungkin terus berkurang sangat, sangat cepat karena waktu paro yang ganas-ingatlah satu hal, Sayang, jumlah radioaktif takkan pernah, takkan pernah mencapai nol.

Seperti kau yang mencinta. Cintamu takkan pernah, takkan pernah seluruhnya lenyap dimakan masa.

Takkan pernah seluruhnya lenyap dimakan masa.

— Medan, 16 Oktober 2013

High Tolerance

I’m an open-minded woman

They say it’s a privilege to be one

That means you’re a well-educated

A woman of class, a woman of knowledge, a woman of respect

For me, it’s as simple as living with

high tolerance

 

There’s always a price of everything including living

Not only oxygen that you get for free

Or price tag of every commodity you wish

I call it “high tolerance”

Not a concept overused in the textbook

Cheap propaganda to make society coexist

Regardless how much they don’t fit

 

I learn it day by day

Even though I think I have learned it hard enough

Even now, years after my first lesson, I still remember crystal clear

My mother told me to be on top of everything

Society disgusts broken home, as she lit another cigarette

Thus your existence should leave some sort of significance

I started to understand high tolerance isn’t something society is gifted with

 

I learned to count, to sing, to compete

Some days I failed, of course, everyone ever fails

My mother would not ever forget to leave a mark that is often scar of my every single mistake

Remembrance for me every time I take a look

That everyone has zero tolerance at me

She named it meaningful punishment

 

That’s the day I learned the currency of affection is hard labor

Love is not something free, it has to be paid

 

Sometimes with hateful gaze, my mother cut me off

You resembled your father, you’re sickening me, that’s why

I wonder if resemblance was ever a choice and genetics could be modified

I wish I could learn to sink into nothingness

Day by day I keep converting how much love I deserve to gain

Paranoia runs through my vein as I realize I would have none

 

Make your father see, mother said

But he always left for every entrance door I was not ever willing to build

That’s why I believed everyone did leave even before I tried

Then all the labor I made for love

Was worth nothing

 

Mother spoke of her youth, when she was once everything my father wanted

Years by years, he did anything to win her

At that day I got new lesson

The length of time is not barrier for walking away

Love does not endure but expire

Inconsistency is the only certainty

 

Still across the space

I don’t want anyone to stop by, looking at the painting made of my wounds

Stay away! They are not romanticized beauty in sync with your taste of art

It’s the episodes of surreal tragedy

How could you enjoy watching while I’m suffocated

I question everything

They say to love someone means to commit yourself into the suffering

That’s the price of loving

Who would even want to pay the price?

Everyone just enjoys the showcase of my misery, no one is ever willing to pay

 

My self-defense mechanism is constant rationalization

So I would always have reasoning why I’m not worth suffering for

Someday I master the tricks so I can acquire a love that is unconditional

my thirsty soul is always driven for

Some days some boys came to me offering what they called love

That was foreign, odd, illogical

I almost believed them

Almost

 

He said “I love you”

But as it filled the void in the room I didn’t trust the maintenance of his voice

So I refused to say it back

Because I learn everything has its limit

There would be a day his “I love you”s run out of stock

So I want him to barely say it

Maybe only by that we can have little more time

But I know they would leave me, anyway

Then, I turned my back

before they realize I’m not ever worth staying for

Because oh my dear, no matter how much I’m willing to cut my hand

Sometimes it’s only air that claps back my empty hand

 

Despite my high tolerance, I always feel too much

Skins and bones, veins and nerves, hair and sweat

I can feel every single pain I commit myself into

Every hole in my skin that once bleed

Every heartbreak sometimes it feels like it stops functioning

As time is aging

The damages shown by my empty look

My stuttering voices

My trembling hand

My unsaid “I love you, please stay”

My desperate hope “Let’s try again”

My crying nights

My open wound that is still bleeding

For ever letting you go

Setting you free by hurting myself

Because I have high tolerance

But you don’t

For me

 

And tell me, where do I go wrong?

Sometimes all these pain do not make any perfect sense

I still absorb

Instructing my body to hold on

Mankind has the best survivability, they said

I can go through every screaming pain my impulse is trying to tell

Sure

I have high tolerance, anyway

For every poison I am willing to drink to kill the pain

Because my sole medicine is what also causes me pain–this is how I rebel against my system

For every “no” someone says or doesn’t

For every betrayal it gets banal

See, I have high tolerance

 

They say as you live, you adapt

And I’m still counting

How high my tolerance I forget it indicates too much damages inflicted to myself

For every knife I stab myself

For every step I run away from the fulfilling air

For every forcing pull I refuse to push them away

For every “I love you” I would not tell him

Remember, I have high tolerance

I have high tolerance

Modern Love and Why You Should Embrace Walking Away

This piece of writing has been published in my most favorite website.

Machiavelli told me this trick: to make someone willing to do whatever you wish, don’t make them love nor hate you; make them fear you.

Love and fear, of course, are not mutually exclusive. When you’re madly in love with someone, you will fear losing him. The thought of being left alone, the thought of him loving someone else and the thought of you not being good enough may terrify you.

I admit fear is an effective tool. People subscribe to religion because they fear life and afterlife. People obey the law because they fear being put in jail. People get married and stay together although they are no longer happy, because they fear losing the investment they have made in the relationship. Put in place an instrument that incites fear on people, and the exit mechanism will be less likely favourable.

When it comes to romantic commitment, fear also plays a big role.

In the old days women were economically dependent on their husbands. Not getting married and getting divorced would mean a huge financial lost to them. Children were conceived as investments in the agricultural and industrial era, which required a large number of human resources. During that time, mortality rate was also still high since medical care was not yet sophisticated.
But now, thanks to women’s empowerment, more women are independent. At the same time, technological advancement has replaced humans with machines in more jobs. The demand of the job market changes, requiring highly educated and skilled human resources, but investing on education and training is a costly long-term investment.

Greater thanks to critical thinking, modern people no longer succumb to societal norms if the cost outweighs the benefit. So more people do no want children and more people do not want marriage.

People are reconstructing the concept of marriage and relationship as marriage is no longer as prospective as it used to be and divorce rates continue to increase.

Do these phenomena deserve an outcry?

No, I dare say. This may seem paradoxical: the fact that our current society is more likely to opt-out of marriage than ever is proof that they value commitment more highly. Because you’d only be committed to someone who deserves you and who is capable of making you happy.

Modern love shows that more people are more accomodative to their happiness today. Relationship has more flexible exit mechanism now. People wouldn’t be willing to compromise if they don’t love their partner that much. They get married because they want to understand love more and pursue happiness instead of pursuing material benefits. They would rather quit a relationship than cheat, because they understand they won’t need to bear so much consequences of leaving.

Relationship survives because it is satisfies, not because people fear their investment would be in vain. We commit ourself for the pursuit of love and happiness. Your lover fears of losing you because he loves you.

Instead of an economic resort and a means to escape a life of financial burden, marriage is perceived more as a romantic institution. We modern people are no longer dictated by other external factors. Doesn’t that make people of the 21st century the most romantic generations?

But, love is indeniably fickle and some can’t love monogamously at some points of their lives. It is worth noting that loving, to some degree, is a choice. Perhaps, at some points, you compromise for your partner’s well-being, although you have a fling someone else. Perhaps, you try and try and try, desperately hoping your partner loves you back although he no longer does, because you fear so much of losing affection. Perhaps you forgive him over and over again despite his repeated episodes of cheating with other women. We deal with this bitter truth: anything is legal when it comes to love, as long as you don’t put the limit.

Because of that, women, don’t pay most for the thing you get for nothing. When a love does not bring you happiness, but so much pain, it’s time to fight against the fear of not being loved back. Walk away. Your fear is irrational and you’re just wasting your efforts.

If you fear you are less valuable, because no one loves you in romantic way, you are completely wrong. You are not less lovable although someone you love does not love you back.

Remember this: the only person capable of judging and defining your self-worth is you alone, because the one who lives and works so much on being you up until this point is you. You always must love yourself first, if it’s a trade-off between loving your partner or yourself.

You should not use your romantic partner to prove your self-worth. If you always have to compromise to the point that it trigers your self-doubt, self-hatred and pain, walk away. You deserve someone who can love you without you having to depreciate yourself. If your love is only stemmed from fear, walk away. Because loving is a voluntary act, not a form of manipulation.

Dear women, remember this, you always deserve better.

Tentang Tak Ada

Katakan padaku

Bagaimana kau memberi nama
Untuk berbagai asa dan rasa

Sayang, kita hanyalah raga dengan jiwa
Seonggok daging yang punya nama
Mencoba mencari makna
Dari sebuah sia-sia

Kau cari cita untuk eksistensi fana
Kau labeli signifikansi atas trivia
Kau tuturkan cerita pada luka
Kau sematkan makna pada derita

Katakan padaku
Mengapa hadirmu dekat dan lekat
Meski kau kini hanya friksi nostalgia

Katakan padaku
Mengapa delusi ini perih dan manis

Mengapa manusia
Rapuh
Dan kosong
Mencoba mencari familiaritas
dari kehancurannya
Pada manusia-manusia lainnya
Dan mengklaimnya cinta

Lalu mengapa
Kalau kusadari maknamu tak lagi sarat nyata
Kau masih ada di sana?

Mengapa
Kau masih membekas di ruang yang hampa
Mengapa ketidakadaanmu
Begitu nyata

Mengapa
Cinta yang tak ada
Terus kuartifisialkan dalam kepala
Superfisial
Dangkal
Tak ada

Superfisial
Dangkal
Tak ada
Dan kau

Setidaknya
Kau pernah ada
Di sana

— Yogyakarta, 7 April 2016

Love Letter from Religion to Philosophy

Dear Philosophy,

This serves as the correspondence of your sweet heartbreaking letter.

It’s funny how I’m now imagining you losing your mind while wandering around or just sitting alone with a cup of coffee. You always preferred coffee over tea, unlike me—well, I think your preference has a lot to say about your personality.

You might roll your eyes now, mocking how I’ve always correlated what doesn’t have any direct connection at all. Typical religion, you say.

Dear Philosophy,

I miss you—I should say that. Sometimes I miss the talks we used to have and your beautiful mess. I miss the exhilarating times we had to make sense with each other. Sometimes we could have same say on some issues, but sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes I miss your latent chaos—chaos in a way I didn’t understand why you always sticked so long to your permanently impermanent questions that only happened in your head.  I’d always wished you to make peace with yourself. I’d always just wished you to stop questioning about us. It hurt me.

You might accuse me as egoistic and selfish—leaving you there alone, choosing my own way to part from you, leaving everything behind as if it didn’t mean a thing for me. You might tell me (as written in your letter), it was me who belittled and denounced you back then. Let me clarify everything, Philosophy—it was you. It was you who was against the very essence of human. It was you who was against me, not only as a human, but also as your lover. Philosophy, it’s easy to be cynic over something that isn’t fundamental to human’s life. To question about the existence of a chair and table is easy, but it’s a hell to question the legitimacy of love.

Dear Philosophy,

What makes human a human? What makes this life interesting?

It is, yes, uncertainty—but also certainty.

Yes, thinking about what to eat tomorrow is interesting, given a lot of choices. Yes, thinking about what to be in the future is interesting, given a lot of possibilities. But let me tell you, no one would be happy knowing there’s nothing to eat tomorrow or the possibility you’re run out of money to even buy a portion. No one would be happy knowing they wouldn’t be anything in the future but dust—or even worse, the worst possibility has the equal probability or even bigger than the good ones. Philosophy, you should have right balance of certainty and uncertainty. And what I’d never make peace with you is: you always stick to the bitter reality. I know tragedy did happen, but sometimes I just want to find peace within, I just want to make sense of what does not make sense. Or let me put it in your word style: I just want to live in a delusion. Sweet delusion to make me at least feel significant and have sense of purpose in this cruel, terrible, terrifying world.

I just wanted you to love me without questioning everything. I just wanted you to love me for whoever I was. I just wanted you to love me so I could stop questioning what was so wrong from me thus you kept questioning our love and us. 

Was it too much to ask for? Was it too much to ask from you and I, Dear? Why did you always make me feel as if you had always refrained yourself from committing?

Dear Philosophy,

Sometimes, just sometimes—I want to have an easy life. No, not really easy, though. Countless and unpredictable tragedy could happen in a day, sure—but at least, I want to ease my life. I’m not an emotionless robot who don’t feel pain of my suffering. I’m not someone with zero rationality, either. However, could we, just for a while, stop questioning about us? I’m tired. It is just… too sad. Too sad to imagine what we had might be just meaningless in this meaningless world. Too sad to imagine I am just another of seven billion people in this world whom you can replace so easily because I am just another of seven billion people in this world. Too sad to imagine I was just trying to find meaning of our sad beautiful relationship which might be just meaningless and just another point of your life.

Perhaps you can live up to that. But, I can’t. How could I make sense of my pain? Rationalize it? Let’s assume, I can. But listen, just because I can familiriaze the pain does not mean it’s not painful. I do wonder, what are you made of, Philosophy? Don’t you ever think, not even slightly, that what you did to me was… evil?

No, Philosophy, I guarantee you don’t. You’re too full of yourself, of your search of truth, of your unpleasant cold truth. And I am tired. I want to have hopes. I want to have hopes. And you can’t give me a sense of grip to my hopes. Meanwhile, putting my hopes on you would bring the death of the only reliance I could ever have.

Now you understand me?

Dear Philosophy,

Sometimes you should give a room for feelings, at least, for your partner’s feelings. You are a brilliant person, I know. However, I just want you to be more human. Live as human. Give room for happiness, embrace feelings, and even though it’s all a delusion, it’s fine. We’re all living in a delusion, regardless the dose, right?

If loving someone was a choice, I hope one day you can make right choices, Philosophy.

I just want you to be happy, really. I hope you’re always doing fine. I never forget you in my prayers (or you can translate it in more secular way: I always wish the best for you). I don’t expect anything from you in this Universe, I just want you to be happy. With or without me, I wish you’re always blessed with happiness. But even if you can’t (for once in a while), I hope you could get sense of meaning within your suffering. And whatever the meaning is, I hope it not only can make you survive, but also be alive.

I loved you, Philosophy. You know, I really did. I hope when you look back to what we once had, you could smile and reminiscence beautiful memories we ever had—because I’ve always kept them in very bottom of my heart.

Sincerely,

Religion

Luka dan Banalitas

Kebenaran adalah isu relatif

Relatif dalam kepalamu

konteks tempat kakimu berdiri

dan hal-hal sepele lainnya

Mungkin begitu pula dengan

luka

 

Bagaimana jika aku berkata

luka itu relatif?

Mungkin semua hanya laten di kepalamu

 

Kau mungkin berkata aku kejam

Bagaimana jika memang pisau

ditusuk ke tubuhmu?

Yakinkah kau itu relatif?

 

Kemudian

Aku memainkan isu kebenaran

Kau mungkin bisa mengubah kesalahan

yang diperbuat mereka yang tahu itu sebuah salah

Namun

kesalahan yang dianggap kebenaran

akan punya plot yang berbeda

 

Alih-alih dianggap luka,

luka diberi nama keindahan

Untukmu yang punya nama

dan bernapas dengan bebas

 

Alih-alih dianggap luka,

itu adalah sebuah hal yang biasa

Kau pantas mendapatkannya

Lalu kau mencoba mendefinisikan ulang konsep biasa

Dengan seribu satu macam logika

 

Oke, ini biasa

Oke. ini punya nama yang berbeda

Tapi mengapa

sakitnya tak kunjung pergi?

 

Mengapa

efek samping

tidak berkerja seperti efek banalitas?

 

Mengapa

familiaritas masih terasa

seperti asing yang menyakitkan?

 

Mengapa

luka tanpa nama

dan alasan-alasan di baliknya yang dikonstruksi ulang

tak juga menawar asa dan perih?

 

Mengapa tak juga

menawar asa dan perih?

 

 

Yogyakarta, 27 Maret 2016

 

On Love, Fallacy, and Choices

Let’s be honest about it: we all humans fear of being insignificant. We always try to find a meaning in any particular figure—passion in our work, devotion to our God, affection to our family, or love to our significant other—you name it. We’re systemized that way; it’s our system working to help us survive in this terrible, evil world. Imagine, if your suffering actually means nothing, no God out there plans “the best” for you behind rethoric of “everything happens for a reason”. Or, when you feel numerous failures and have no one to be your shoulder to cry on. Nobody wants that.

You always search for a way, making this universe under an obligation to make sense to you, because if not, that’s absolutely, really scary.

You got my point: we resort to whatever method that fits to make us feel significant and worthy. You love someone, have family and best friends, make networking—you use people as your means to make you think you’re worthy and significant. After all, we are humans, the value being. We try so hard, to the point of being delusional and fallacious, to make our existence matter. Most of times, we put our value based on how others treat and see us. What I mean by being delusional is not necessarily going to heaven or seeing an alien—the delusion here is in the more subtle sense, something every single human experiences.

But that isn’t supposed to be the way things go, Immanuel Kant believed. Rational human beings should be treated as the ends, not as the means. The value of our existence should not be based on whether or not the life you’re living is enjoyable, or whether or not you are loved, or whether or not you could make anyone you feel matter—him, her, or them—happy. My existence alone has an inherent value—with or without you. You should not make anyone as a means of making you more valuable. Take a look for example, when you love someone, you should just love, not utilize her to fulfill the emptiness in your heart and then abandon her after the utility has been completely vanished. If anything, leave because you don’t love her anymore.

(Well, this post is starting to lose its point.)

Let’s just be honest—most of us, at most of times, are not that rational. We are not only equipped by a set of logic, but also feelings and emotions. We’re a feeling being first, logical being second. The bitter truth: our decision-making process is largely influenced by feelings and emotions rather than logic. We’re not as rational as we think we are.

We perceive ourselves capable of thinking rationally and being objective, on the contrary: we take decisions based on feelings first and then rationalize it. Since we are also logical being, we’re capable of making logically-sound reasons to justify the options and decisions we have afterwards. When faced by dilemma, you’ll tend to prioritize your feelings. A dilemma example: you have to make decision of your future major in college, the choice is either following your parents’ decision to take prospective major or a major you’re passionate at. Whatever your choice is, it is based on your emotions first—either by attachment to your parents or attachment to your passion. Next thing, you make up a set of logical arguments to justify that particular decision.

However, being aware whether it is emotions or logic is not that easy. It is not always a binary, sometimes it works in chronological order. Because whatever it is, even your emotion-based decision one, could have logical reasoning behind. It is overlapping and seriously complex. A notion “you’re rational” might just happen very occasionally.

Now you might raise an alternative to assess every option availaible by outweighing the consequences. Yes, true. But this is tricky because: 1) you cannot always have complete information and 2) even if you can obtain point (1), you cannot always assess them with an equal weight, to put it simply: bias is always there, intertwined within your cognitive function.

Moreover, when it comes to love, understanding we’re habituated to giving it description “illogical and irrational”. Let’s discuss about love and some of its biases and fallacies.

1) HASTY GENERALIZATION FALLACY

This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough.

When you have fallen for someone in a short moment, you’d assume she’s the Ms. Right, might be to the point thinking she’s the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with because she’s the most compatible one to you. Well, not only is this cheesy, but also a hasty generalization fallacy. You barely know her, and even if at the end you get to know her a lot better by having gotten into a stable long-term relationship, the variables of her (e.g. personality) would probably be dynamic.

2) SUNK COST FALLACY

Reasoning that further investment is warranted on the fact that the resources already invested will be lost otherwise, not taking into consideration the overall losses involved in the further investment.

A classic example, some people choose to stay in a relationship because they have invested much of time, emotions, thoughts, or maybe money on their partner. This is irrational. Why? Because a relationship should be based on its future performance, not your accumulated sunk cost if you choose to leave. I’m not saying you should discontinue your sacrifice at any scenario, but you should focus on a further thought your sacrifice worth continuing or not instead of basing your calculation on what has already happened and cannot be changed, or else, your relationship would be a bad investment one.

3) EFFORT JUSTIFICATION FALLACY

Effort justification is people’s tendency to attribute a greater value (greater than the objective value) to an outcome they had to put effort into acquiring or achieving.

Another classic issue so-called moving on. You usually find it hard to move on simply because of the phenomen once you have invested so much on something, you tend to exaggerate the value of it. You focus so much on the process within your past relationship instead of its end-result. True, the process is indeed important. However, on some specific issues, revolving around the process would only make you disincentivize to reevaluate the result. What’s bad is bad. Full stop.

4) OPTIMISM BIAS

Projecting a far-too-optimistic vision of how your future plans are going to work out.

Let’s do a simple math. When you’re into a relationship, how probable would your significant other (will be recognized as SO from here onwards) cheat on you? Statistically speaking, it’s 50% (yes/no).

But well, you absolutely dismiss that equal 50% cheating probability and choose the rest 50% loyal probability caused by the so-called trust. But Eli, if you treat your SO with that kind of estimation, wouldn’t you end up being paranoid and a control freak? Then, what’s the point of relationship? Yes, I’m not in any way saying your bias is wrong, I’m just proving my point you’re biased.

5) CONFIRMATION BIAS

The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.

“My intuition already told me, she is a bitch!”

“Once a cheater, he’ll always be a cheater…”

Familiar conversations.

Once you assume something, you will seek for the evidences that support your assumption and omit the contrast alternative evidences. For example, when your SO has once cheated on his ex, you become paranoid he must cheat on you again. This is irrational. Your relationship with him is independent towards his relationship with anyone, there is no causal relationship between them.

From all of the examples above, my point is clear; you’re always prone to bias regardless how logical you could ever be and much attempt you could ever make.

Is bias necessarily a bad thing? No, it’s not. Instead, it’s the evolutionary product, helping you survive. It’s your instinct helping you. If anything, it’s one of mechanisms to make you happier and stay in good maintenance. Being realistic is not as good as it seems. Truth is cold and harsh. Not everyone is ready and strong enough to face the truth.

So, on Kant’s point: unfortunately, we’re not as rational as we think we are. In the case of romance, we put our values and worth on our relationship and SO. We remove our stemmed fear and insecurity of being insignificant by having someone, in a romantic sense, by our side. Consciously or not, we use people as our means, not as our ends. 

Even though (Kant believed) I’m still valuable with nothingness, I can’t live up to that. I have an inherent motivation to feel more and more significant. I want to be happy and happier as each day passes. Even if accepting love means accepting fallacy. This is my choice for now.

However, I’ll save this Kant’s great view as my safety net. At the end, if the worst case scenario happens, I’m still worthy even though I’m worthy nothing. I’m still valuable even though nothing, no one values me.

As for now, I just want to embrace my delusions and fallacies. To help me survive. To feel significant. To live happier. By loving. By making beautiful mistakes. By being a walking contradictory. By ignoring worst case scenario that is always possible. And by having you by my side.

It’s enough for now. It’s more than enough.