Is Grey a Disguised Black or a Deceived White?

Some of you might disagree: since thousands of years ago, the most difficult quest of human being is to solve the never-ending riddle of our own complex sets of brain cells.

It is hard, my dear friends, because there is no such thing as a finish line which we can visualize in the end of the road–ergo, it would take perpetual endeavours to do so. Let’s admit it once and for all: our mind evolves. What used to be a ‘truth’ is now a ‘lie’ (Remember when church was the only omnipotent institution?) and, to add an external problem which makes the game even more intriguing, the shape of our world is constantly altering.

Having known that the possibility of discovering a completely satisfactory answer to the mystery of human’s elusive mind is near zero, most of the people fleed to the study of secondary questions: natural science. These people try to explain how atoms react to each other, how numbers have a certain pattern that amaze us all, as well as how carbons are processed in our body. Natural scientists are blessed to experience a temporary happiness of being able to produce knowledge and mastery through experiments–but deep inside, I believe that we all keep that drop of curiosity to find out how mankind produce thoughts.

Social scientists are therefore, brave intellectuals who dare themselves to shed some light on the primary inquiry: how does a person think? What can be the raison d’etre behind one’s action? Why not the other way around?

Some of them are labeled as psychologist, communication expert, theologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and–top of all–philosophers. One tries to explain what comprises fondness, another elucidates the idea behind one community’s political preference, while the rest analyzes our society’s consumptive behavior. If they’re stubborn enough, they might as well go to the extend of explaining why human needs a God–and religion.

Within the past fortnight of not posting here, my brain has been producing quite a list of points to discuss about. Most of them involve human’s idealistic notion of romance, but I also spare enough space for daily observations:


1. In a ladder of fondness, admiration stays at the bottom.

Fahmi and I once debated on whether admiration comprises tinier particles of love or is it admiration that contributes to the bigger building of love. He confidently suggested that love is just 1% of admiration (I’m pretty sure he had Real Madrid in mind when he said ‘admiration’!), while I contended elseways. Unlike admiration which focuses you on one’s fine traits, love helps you see perfection in their flaws.

So, here goes my proposal.

There are at least 3 distinct verbs to express different levels of fondness: admire, like, and love. Of course, English is generous enough to leave us quite a collection of alternatives: adore, care, appreciate, adulate, worship, and the list goes on–but for now, we’ll just stick with the trio.

At the lowest floor of the pyramid, is when you admire a person because you find them attractive. The popular word for it might be–to have a crush? You just seem to notice a certain trait, degree of cleverness, or physical appearance that interest you–thus captivate your attention at some level or another.

The next step is when you like them, triggered by further interaction with this individual. It is, however, a bit tricky, because there comes the two-prone possibility of either losing the interest completely because he/she doesn’t meet your expectations, or falling even deeper into their charm. To ‘like’ does not, however, provide the quintessential tolerance for weaknesses. You simply live in your nice imagination of him being the perfect prince–or her being the most beautiful lady.

The bad news? They’re not. They are, as a matter of fact, just human beings with flaws. There goes the key to get to the next, final level: acceptance.

Have you managed to take these imperfections–be it false tunes, covered wound, or stained habits–as an inseparable aspect of your beloved, you are ready to love them. Indeed, the wind blows tighter up there: every event just seems to reveal itself as a potential threat for your feelings. You will, by then, get familiar with anger and jealousy which are, surprisingly, the validating properties of your fondness.

2. A true leader climbs their ladder.

After a long, midnight discussion with Jessica (while recalling lessons from my Management Principles course a year ago), I realized that a leader is just a person who is foolish enough to admit that he/she is.

You see, being a leader is just a role that human chooses to take from time to time. Some of us needs it to achieve a vision, some of us wants it for money, but it doesn’t matter, really, as long as we understand that being trusted as the leader is never a means to prove that we’re better than anyone else in the team.

It rather means that the rest of the people in the team are better than you in preparing the events, in fundraising, and in doing the publication–but in the end, you get some of the credits because it’s you who decides to stay there, stick them together, stand up and motivate when everybody’s down, and take the blame when a decent coordination does not take place.

We further agreed that a true leader climbs their ladder in order to have a first-hand experience of being a follower. This idea has also been approved theoretically, where leaders are ought to be a staff at their first years so that they can understand the grassroot situation before getting to lead anyone else.

3. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

…including uncertainty. My English teacher once said that in order to survive, human needed a fair, balanced amount of certaintly and uncertainty. A man, for example, needs to be assured that he can eat in the next morning, but at the same time life would be too boring for him if he knows exactly what food he’ll be eating everyday. This has been a very interesting concept to me, and I’ve been trying to find other examples ever since. I take ‘job’ as certainty and ‘projects’ as uncertainty–or ‘marriage’ as certainty and ‘love’ as uncertainty. In this regards, surprises at birthdays still make sense despite the fact that they are very predictable, because the time and place will always remain as uncertainty.

4. Books are sentient beings. Period.

A friend shared me a link to Mortimer J. Adler’s prose on How to Mark a Book. To quote his exact words:

I contend, quite bluntly, that marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but love.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait in there, Mr Adler, did you just say that smearing books with symbols all over its pages is an act of love? I think I have to stand against that idea. He did

make a valid point when he says that:

…But the soul of a book can be separated from its body. A book is more like the score of a piece of music than it is like a painting. No great musician confuses a symphony with the printed sheets of music. Arturo Toscanini reveres Brahms, but Toscanini’s score of the C-minor Symphony is so thoroughly marked up that no one but the maestro himself can read it.

Then again, music scores are nothing like idea-condensed books. (When I said ‘books’, you understand that I refer to thoughtful ones, not some market-based sets of words, right?) No matter how much you love–or hate–a book, it is a sentient being who deserves to be treated well for it is a physical manifestation of thoughts. Great conductors do not make notations on lines of magnificent sentences–they compse new symphony through marking scores.

I say, if you fail to appreciate the body, you can hardly understand the soul. Although in the end, people might express love through different ways,

5. God must be hiding a happy-ending scenario behind the existence of these conflict-triggering religions.

As much as I have this tendency to invent confusing questions about–and for–God, I apparently am still the very conservative girl back then who has an auto-pilot that drives herself into possitive assumptions about Him.

Rumor has it, God closes certain people’s heart from receiving the light for particular religions. My brain has it, it would be a too shallow, and poor, description for Him.

You see, I possess this preposterous habit of watching people walking down the street from the window of my room. One day, it just came up to my mind that each of them–destined for a different story and religion–must play their unique role in God’s master plan. As quoted from Cin(T)a:

Why would God create us different, if He only wants to be worshiped in a single way?

I once said to a friend over coffee that I would feel awfully betrayed if God does not own any happy-ending scenario behind this diversity of religions He has created on Earth. At the status quo, I can say that I still am very much disappointed to the existing conflicts it triggered.

My most favorite story line would be Dwinta’s concept of ‘destination’, while the second-best alternative would be this: God’s actually playing a trick by designing us with a limited container for faith but endless curiosity for truth so that we would ask one another, share ideas, and basically, interact. Because otherwise we’ll just stay at our safe houses of unitary religion.

6. Movie is not a character-killing product.

Instead, it’s a character-producing one.

I wholeheartedly believe that there are many of us who have been let down by novel-based movies, and I’m not proud to say that I used to be one of those furious audience. Harry Potter, Sense and Sensibility, One Day–you name it–true readers don’t really fancy movies.

Of course, I truly understand that movies are intended to please our audio-visual and not mere imagination, and thus are challenged to be eye-and-ear-catching, which are still very tolerable, until I met (the movie) Sherlock Holmes (last year) and Professor Moriarty (yesterday).

Here is all I need to say: my handsomely smart English man has turned into a laughing stock while the brilliant antagonist does not have the fierce expression I expected. So no, people, I won’t take it anymore. I decided to reach out for acceptance through seeing Sherlock (the movie) and Sherlock (Doyle’s) as two different persons.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I rest my last case in 2011. I don’t even know what point I was trying to make back there, but always remember that getting lost in a bookstore might still be the best bliss that we can get so far.

Oh and for 2012, let’s keep my friend’s idea in mind: dreams are not genetic and self-driventhus–before it’s too late–let’s revisit our old dreams and see if we can make them come true (like having–HAHA). Happy new year!


‘Typical’ Chinese Philosophers?

Meet Rocky, my self-proclaimed lost Chinese brother. Like me, he aspires to be an international relations scholar. Yet–unlike me–he still cares how he can directly contribute to the society. If you think you have an answer, please spare some time to comment on this post, thank you!

Rocky: So Fu…I’ve been pondering lately. What can we do as an IR scholar to society? Will we be able to do much for its betterment? Passion memang lah ya, tapi terpanggil juga nggak sih untuk society? Terutama yang sekitar kita. Hahaha aduh maaf tiba-tiba random gini.


Me: First of all, think we need to agree on the degree of ‘scholarship’ that we’re aiming ourselves to get to. Would it simply stop at being a regular lecturer, or would it last until we produce our own IR theory?

Me: Well, jadi dua-duanya bisa tetep kontribusi ke masyarakat sih…in a different way. Kalau gue mimpinya jadi dosen-slash-profesor (amin) yang bisa bikin bibit-bibit pemikir juga. In a way, itu bentuk kontribusi yang pengen gue kasih ke Indonesia (as a state) supaya pembuat kebijakan luar negeri-nya lebih aware dan bertujuan…gitu. Tapi kalo pertanyaan lo gimana kontribusi langsung ke masyarakat sekitar susah juga dijawab sama profesi scholar itu. Gue mah percayanya kita akan selalu punya waktu luang buat bikin projek/kegiatan lain kalau emang mau give back langsung.

Rocky: Memang sih pertanyaan gue mungkin lebih ke fungsi dari scholar sendiri. Apa keuntungan langsung dari masyarakat Indonesia misalnya, kalo ada pencetus teori HI yang menjelaskan politik internasional lebih komprehensif. Gw sendiri awalnya mau jadi scholar karena murni fun bidangnya sih. I’m too much of a philosophical bastard to be an entrepreneur. Oh wait I’m Chinese! HAHAHA.

Me: Me too. There’s no way I’ll prefer entrepreneurship before IR theories (or other theories in general). Semisal nggak ada manfaatnya pun somehow gue rela-rela aja baca buku teori berjam-jam asal diri sendiri senang :))

Rocky: Yak, 100! I had dreams of working for the UN. But then I realized my passion lies in academic studies. Tapi mungkin my Chinese part kicks in here. I long for a profession that directly helps those in need.

Me: Unyu. I always love when Chinese people define themselves.

Rocky: Well, Chinese people love practical and simple things. Jadi ya you see. In my case of being in social studies. I also have a passion in teaching, but I still don’t know how strong it is.

Me: Well find out then!

At one of our World History classes, Diku once pointed out how the Chinese classic philosophers always had this preference of observing ‘what’s on the ground’, instead of ‘what’s in the sky’ like the Western thinkers. This means that they cared about solving problems (Are we identifying existentialism’s tenets here?) more than finding out the reason behind humans’ existence and what life is all about. That premise, apparently, is proven correct through the instance I presented above.

When The Don’t(s) Become The Do(s)

Hi. This is Afu writing, right from the central gravity of a massive organizational chunk that she used to be trapped in. She’s now found the exit door and thus proclaimed herself free (not as a bird, more as a human who’s lost in an unfamiliar jungle—regardless, it feels great). Somehow she does not want the suffer to be tossed into a wastebin, so she agreed to share some stories that might (hopefully) be useful for whoever ends up reading this post.

Her exhausting half-year journey comes down to a single sentence: professional teamwork has a different nature, compared to the usual kinship that you develop with your friends. Thus, your perspective upon life’s don’t(s) might have to shift to a list of significant do(s) under organizational justifications.

[Disclaimer: These notions will not really prevail unless your team comprises complete strangers at the first place.]


1. Do talk about people behind their back.

Well, contextually. You see, organization is not simply about about taking the best people in. It’s more about putting the right people in the right posts. A person’s weakness as a subordinate might be the strength that a leader needs–and vice versa. So yes, if you’re cursed to be a policy-maker, do talk about your candidate staff very carefully with your board. Pay attention to your people’s SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, as well as Threats), their past track record, and put each of them in the best position plausible.

Important: The only benefit of a biased–or stereotyped–judgment is time discount. Other than that, prior subjective information about a particular person will only hold you from seeing the quality of that person completely. I myself have experienced a number of persuaded decisions which, although we managed to get through it, create problematic conditions along the timeline. Do remind and be reminded that, as Ekky puts it, “Sometimes we just need to be a supporting actor, yet we can still get the Oscar.”

2. Do push people off their limit.

In the Dictionary of Organizations, it’s called ‘taking the extra-miles’. Sometimes, people–especially those who take too much on their plate–will stop achieving just because they feel that the limit is there. That they’ve done enough, and they deserve a break for it. What you need to do is telling them it’s just their illusion. If in the real life you’re prohibited to push people off the edge of a cliff, in an organization you’re pretty much encouraged to do so. There’s never, never such thing as a limit for any kind of hardwork. Do take the extra-mile, it’s never crowded there.

3. Do tell people that they’re doing it wrong.

The thing about being Indonesian is that we often feel ‘nggak enak‘ to tell people (especially strangers) that they’re doing a certain mistake–or that they can change a bit of their habit for the greater betterment of the whole organization. What I would suggest: forget your nationality. Scrutinize people’s behavior if you need to. However, you need to do it right–understand the rules. First of all, never do criticism publicly. Spare your time for a private conversation, but at the same time never make it sound personal. Let this person know that you’re saying it on a professional basis. Second of all, follow the Sandwich Theory. It was first introduced to me by Guinandra and later elaborated by Gesa: 1) start with compliments on the good deeds he/she’s done, 2) continue with things that are troublesome–those he/she needs to catch up with, and then 3) wrap it up with what you appreciate from him/her. Might look hard at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it.

4. Do utilize artificial smiles.

No matter how under-pressure you feel, no matter how upset you’re getting, smile, honey. Even if you have to fake it–thus ‘artificial’. Especially when you’re the leader. You are allowed to be uptight at some points, but remember that people lean on you. If you’re not strong enough, how would they survive? Stop blaming, take that chin up, and then start thanking, remind people what to be grateful of. Working together in a committee means living in a village where everything becomes contagious–and so are negative remarks, bad mood, as well as (especially) crankiness. Contain your anger and be that awesome self you always are. In other words, keep calm and carry on.

5. Do reject affection in any form.

Bear in mind that any kind of romantic projection with the person you’re working with, no matter how mature or capable you are in handling yourself, will only slower your work down. Slap to wake yourself up, and repeat this in your mind: You need to focus. If you’ll ever end up marrying that certain person, the time will eventually come, but that’s definitely not when there are a lot of work in your to-do-list. I might sound a bit masochistic, but seriously. Take one thing at a time. Remember this saying: “You can have it all–just not at the same time.

Some might see this article as a stupid and pretentious attempt of an indoctrination of Machiavelli‘s tenets in The Prince, but again she never forces you to follow them all. Do understand that consciously doing something with a certain intention does not automatically mean that you’re not doing it from your heart. The question is then to either miserably succeed, or to be happily mediocre. You choose.