What Plato Would’ve Said to Carl and Ellie’s Story (On Love)

Having been aware of the possible accusation of me being moonstruck over a particular guy stimulated by this post, I’ll put it upfront that (even ephemeral) fondness is an inseparable part of life—meaning, philosophers do not simply ignore the existence and elusiveness of this peculiar emotion.

They did–and still do–talk about it. In various parts of the world, students read books on the philosophy of love (‘philo-‘ means love, by the way). No, seriously. They really do. Even if they don’t, I know you’re furtively intrigued by the title. HAHAHA.


To start, in one of those late-night braindances, my friend (an avid thinker himself) and I arrived to this conversation on mankind’s most bewildering concept: soulmates.

Asked we: Do they really exist?


Aside from how much I admire Carl and Ellie’s story, I remained skeptical—I doubted the possible chance of discovering one single male/female that was decided by God to be ‘the one’, especially with this whole mess of people fooling around with each other. Even if it was true, the risk of being exposed to getting hurt as a trade-off for wrong guesses is just too much of a burden.

That is not to mention these unanswered questions:

  • At what point can we be assured that someone is our other half? I mean, if you would only marry your soulmate, how can you confirm such faith before the story even finishes?
  • Is relationship/marriage the only tool to officialize this hypothesis? What about married ‘soulmates’ who get divorced?
  • Does cheating negate the idea that he’s your soulmate? Why so?
  • Is death, then, the only validating mechanism to prove your notion?

As a social scientist, I firmly stand for a quantification of premises. When the society fails to produce these indicators, I must induce that it owns zero utility and shall not prevail.

My friend, however, thought otherwise. Soulmates do exist, said he. But today’s culture has misinterpreted the claim. Soulmates are ought to always be plural–a man can have many soulmates, some of which might as well end up being his bestfriends. When you can perceive an established, subconscious connection, voila, he’s your soulmate.

…wait, what?

That is indeed an intriguing way of portraying a new idea of soulmates, but it mercilessly violates the first rule of soulmate-ship: exclusiveness. I simply fail to see any point in possessing a public good soulmate who is cheaply accessible for everyone.

I mean, a ‘shared other-half’ already sounds like an oxymoron.

Putting the bliblical tenets (and ‘I created thou in pairs’ ayat in Al-Qur’an) aside, the initial blame should go to Aristophanes (who had lived even before Muhammad and Jesus were born) for the crazy idea that he proposed:

…Humans originally had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them.

Thank you, Aris, for the inconvenient visualization. I mean it.
Assuming that he was true, though, my questions would still be justifiable.

As much as the symbolization of this concept sound effortlessly uncomplicated, the practicalities are far from easy. The society’s derivative theses about soulmates, for example, distort our initial, honest judgment. Some of them say that opposites naturally attract–even when it leads to daily disputes–while Javanese tradition believes that you and your soulmate ought to share similar toughts or at least look physically alike.

Confusing, much? I wish God did not forget to drop a Guideline to Soulmate Discovery when He put Adam and Eve on Earth.


Plato, putting Aristophanes’s thoughts into Symposium, added:

I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree must in present circumstances be the nearest approach to such union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love.

I have no idea what he specifically meant by ‘congenial love’, but if his postulation was true, then the reason why today’s planet is filled with more and more unhappy people has been revealed: instead of tenaciously chasing their ‘original true love’ (with the inherent risk of getting hurt and deceived), we run after worldliness that provide us more control. In other words, we deny our genetic urge and hide in the safe haven called ‘productivity’.

Even Walt, one of the most prominent International Relations scholars who is plausibly indifferent to the idea, cared about how realism would see relationships. A realist friend and I shared a similar sentiment, but we brought our discourse on its conceptualization beyond Walt’s, especially on seeing relationships as a form of strategic alliances by state-actors.

Basically, it’s how vigilant calculations on involved parties’ interest and the global structure are required to take place before a country decides to sign a pact.

Some people—having drunk too much Symposium—would romanticize that love is not the union of man and woman, it’s rather a reunion of one unity. This actually belittles the significance of words and grammar rules–affection is a universal language, they would say.

Before we get anywhere else, here’s a beautiful, comforting quote from Aomame in Murakami’s 1Q84:

If you can love someone with your whole heart–even if he’s a terrible person or he doesn’t love you back–life is not a hell, at least.

To fall in love and get extremely happy but having to deal with the unknown future with its hazardous sadness, or to remain fairly ‘okay’ at the middle point by denying how you feel about the magical conversations you always have with that particular person.

The choice is all yours, my dear.


On Publishing a Book

Although flattering, compliments are tricky. They penetrate your subconscious and leave a nice message there: words that—when handled with care—can brighten your gloomy day and motivate you to move forward, but has the simultaneous potential to turn you into an annoying, proud, and conceited human being. That’s why I hate—be it true or dishonest—appraisals in general. However, come to think of it, I twice hate people who deny compliments as an effort of producing fake humility.

“That’s over-rating. I hardly study everyday.”

“No, really, I’m still half-way from trying to lose kilos!”

“These shoes? They’re Zara but seriously they’re very cheap…”

Okay. Cross the last one.

My point is, negating nice things that people say to you will not make them feel any better. When people say you’re a genius or good-looking or beautiful with the outfit you just bought, thank them. Stay humble not by lowering standards that would only lead to further—rather inconvenient—comparisons. Stay humble by being grateful and happy instead.

In some cases, openly admitting your strengths deserve even a greater round of applause, because (1) self-understanding is a very difficult task and (2) you dare to take the risk of being a public enemy. HAHAHA. No, really. Bear in mind, however, in order to play on the safe side, you must master the knowledge of your audience’s background and unique characteristics, so that you won’t sound like a pathetic seller in a free market. I mean, when you know that one of your peer friends is working hard on his/her paper, don’t brag about your twenty-page early submission.

That, my friend, will lead us to my being confused. By the time I posted this, I swear to God that I’m still not sure about what I’m trying to say, but let’s just give it a shot. (Yes this is a personal curhat that you might want to skip.)


In the past week, I was honored to have a number of acquaintances—that’s a soft synonym for complete strangers, but really cordial ones—approaching me to tell that I should publish a book. Well, truth be told, having my name printed on mounting copies of commercial paperbacks does sound nice, despite all the non-mainstream idealism that I uphold. But beyond idealism, I have fears that hold me from even trying. A list of them.

To start, I’m lousy with bahasa Indonesia.

This is not an attempt to pretend that I was born from non-Indonesian parents or romantically raised with liberal values in the United States, but I helplessly sound like a cocky announcer in my mother language. To be fair, I do sound like a cocky announcer in daily conversations… All the more reason I think people would prefer to ‘read’ than ‘listen’ to me.

Second of all, as much as people say they will ‘definitely buy’ my book, I know there aren’t as many people who would.

In addition to my poor language ability, I hardly write on popular topics. I’m not that much interested with pop culture, neither am I into traveling. Love story? Consider it non-existent. I mean, looking at the titles of my posts enable you to judge already. This leaves me no other option than being someone else, if I want to write books that actually ‘sell’. I envy Alanda for being so fluent in the language of inspiration. (Oh and her book is out next week! Make sure you grab yourself a copy!)

Last but most profound, I just don’t have that long-span of focus as well as time to develop hundreds of pages in a limited time.

This post is intended to be some sort of a self-reflection and expression of gratitude to people’s kind, motivational compliments. Somebody told me that being a true writer means being able to put untold ideas into digestible words. Which is a big challenge. And which is why I respect (most) writers.

I hope you don’t get the wrong message. Thanks for reading and good night!


Repetitions, Dragons, and Why People Make Excuses

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history:

…when something happens once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when some event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding.”

Cleopatra‘s beautyfor instance, wouldn’t have gained as much acknowledgement had she not turn a queue of men with gallantries into falling for her. I would complement Hegel’s point by saying that luck and success are separated by a span of repetition–and hardwork, probably. The following article is going to discuss about, basically, ideas that have been self-repeating in my head for the past, wait, 38 days of my blogging hiatus.


1. Why Not Head of Dragon?

I am pretty sure you’re familiar with an old analogy which proclaims (if not ‘assumes’) that being the ‘tail of a dragon’ is much better than being the ‘head of a snake’. People often relate this hypothesis with the options of struggling hard in a competitive community over playing it easy in an underdog team.

This morning, Iman came up with his usual confidence, inquiring upon, “Why not head of dragon?” Well because, I would rebut, not everyone knows what they’re really good at and brave enough to test the water with the inherent risk of being horrendously defeated. Because some people–yours truly included–are just too coward.

Researches (I know this from Pak Kun–a head of dragon himself) show that only 0.0003% of the entire world is blessed enough to champion that prestigious title. These are CEOs of multinational corporations, world political leaders, globally accepted artists, and Nobel Prize winners. But then again, you’ll never know if you’re one of them unless you’re ready to lose at some point.

Once you get there, Iman would say, don’t forget to share your magic and help other snakes to grow into invincible dragons.

2. Leaving or Losing?

Being a free-thinker who’s too proud to rely on religions also means losing your ground–it involves endless questions on what’s gonna happen after we leave this ephemeral realm. Death, therefore, becomes scarier for its extreme level of uncertainty. Until today, I’m still (trying) to hold on to what Islam has been telling me: that good deeds will be rewarded and bad people will have to pay something off. But that is just a tiny part of what death is really about.

Two weeks ago, I finished both reading and watching Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close–a wonderful story about how a(n extremely incredible) boy named Oskar Schell had to deal with his father’s death over 9/11. It took him months of investigation and discovery until he came to accept one bitter truth: that death is real–and it takes your beloved away. Now that, is what death is mostly about for me. Either leaving the people you love–or losing them in pain. The fear is twice as big on me because I’ve never lost any significant other in my life, which gets me used to take them for granted. I just hope that even if we have to part temporarily, we shall meet again in the Afterlife.

P.S. The story as a movie is as enjoyable as it is as a book, in their distinct way. It’s a shame if you miss this five-star!

3. People Make Excuses Because They Love You

Some of you are probably checking out this blog to find a mood lifter after your great fight with someone whom you really care about–you hate them for having lied to you, for making excuses when all you need is an honest apology. Well, I would ask you to humbly forgive them, because maybe they did it all because they care about you, too.

The concept of any ‘excuse’, as I’ve been observing, roots back to necessary (not always hidden) motives or justification for things we should’ve (or should’ve not, in some cases) done. Excuses are heavily influenced by the kind of emotional and/or professional tie we share with the subject. A student makes excuse to his teacher because he still shows some respect. A husband makes up a story about traffic jam because he’s sorry he has made his spouse wait for two hours.

People make excuses because they love you–otherwise they’ll hurt or leave you directly. Of course some would argue that true love appreciates honesty yada yada yada, but at the point that the other party does not want to hurt you–I think it deserves some forgiveness and celebration.

4. Ideology Puts People in Boxes, Deal With It

Quick update: I’ve been (illegally) attending classes at one super awesome philosophy school, cordially abducted by a senior, to which I really am grateful for. In the past weeks, I’ve been enlightened by great Romos about quite a list of ethics’ distinct proponents. They introduced me to a Christian version of Sartre, Levinas, and other distinguished thinkers.

Last Monday, Romo Magniz invited us to see the idea of ‘ideology’ differently: What is it? Why does it matter? Does Indonesia need one? Is Pancasila an ideology? If yes, is it the most appropriate one for our country? What about religions? Are they another form of ideology or–as Marx puts it–false consciousness? What does it have to do with ethics?

In the end of that long discussion, a new mystery evolves in my head: if ideology is a strong ground from which human thoughts can depart and develop, how can you be sure that it doesn’t keep you from truths burried down under that ground? Simultaneously, when would you know that you should stop digging? What basis can one use to clarifies that freedom and liberty is a basic right? Why can’t we debate on that cause?

This puts me in despair: if every consciousness is based on another constructed consciousness, then where is truth? My senior said that each of us need a set of glasses to look at the world–unfortunately, the factory is not capable of producing standardized, identical commodities. That’s where constructivism fills in and try to explain everything–and compromise should hence take place.

If there’s only one thing I know about truth-seekers, it’s that they shall enjoy the most when proven wrong. But the sad thing is, they’ll never know when they have to halt their efforts. Maybe truth-seekers should just keep looking…

5. There Is Such Thing as Historical Necessity

Yesterday, a friend came to me and consult if she should join this prestigious competition which at one side excites her very much, but at the same time forces her to face her own insecurities: meeting even greater candidates. I said if s

he really wants it, she should go for it.

Let’s look around. You’ll find that people regret more because of things they did not, rather than things they actually did. Melissa taught me this. Out of life’s most terrifying failures, there will always, always be a lesson learned. Most of the time, it does not come in a singular form. Fiascos teach us humility and help us jump higher the next time.

Most devastating failures is a historical necessity. Edison would wholeheartedly support me on this. Rather than secretly cursing on people we conceitedly think we’re better from without being able to prove so, I’d rather discover that I’m inferior to them, accept it in peace, and move on to the next opportunities with new hopes. In Rocky‘s words:

…Whether in front of our laptops making sense of the world, doing something for it out there, or both. We all have our places.


6. Why Self-Wander When You Have Friends?

I’m not anti-social, you see. I enjoy other people’s company in a social setting, but I do have to admit that–most of the time–I draw my energy from solitary spaces. Some (self-proclaimed social) people might see this as a problem, but I argue otherwise. Quoting Tintin’s post, being alone and lonely are two different affairs.

In a more specific scale, I enjoy wandering off alone. If I can add to Tintin’s list of why solo traveling, I would come up with this:

  • When it comes to difficult options, you don’t have to suffer from knowing that you’re wrong, because there’s no second opinion. (Familiar with “Tuh kan, udah gue bilang!” phrase?)
  • You don’t have to deal with people rejecting and/or proposing crazy ideas under the name of normalcy and/or fun. (I once randomly approached a girl in Citos offering her a discount coupon because I failed to find an urge to buy anything and it expired the next day.)
  • You can laugh by yourself because someone’s joke suddenly pops up in your head and you don’t have to care if anyone is curious enough to find out why because you’re just ‘some stranger’.
  • You can pretend that you’re a tourist from China and see if Jakartian people are smart enough to not get fooled.

Last and least, not that much of compromise is needed. Well, I enjoy hanging out in groups, too, but I a balanced portion of both sounds nicer.

7. Iconoclasm Is Depressing

Are you one of those hipsters who enjoy doing something before it was cool? Well, I am. It does feel good when you think you’re the only person doing something, right? But let’s wake up: we never are. Bearing in mind that Earth today is filled with over 9 billion people, somewhere in another part of the world, someone else might have the same idea with you.

That’s why iconoclasm or, as Dictionary.com defines it, attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions become more and more depressing today. With social media and such, new values can be easily spread and voila, in a mere week your ‘hipster-ness’ will be part of the mainstream. Sad, huh?

One can indeed contend that iconoclasm is a stupid and narrow way of life because, looking at the bigger picture, one should not become different just for the sake of being different. But then again, is that not mankind’s natural instinct? To be recognized as a unique self?

8. Songs with Good Lyrics Are The Best

Girls have different resons to fall in love, you see: some of them will stick with the guy who’s always there for them. Some others can handle minimum amount of interaction for various illogical reasons. Some others fall in love with the kind of endless disputes they have on a daily basis. In the case of songs, I fall in love with the ones with good lyrics. (A big leap of logical fallacy, much. HAHAHA.)

Jason Mraz (in addition to Jason Reitman–my so far favorite script writer) has been my sole favorite lyric-producer (throw a listen to A Beautiful Mess and Love for a Child) until I met Ingrid Michaelson’s You and IIts simple yet very meaningful lines instantly stick in my head since the first time I listen to it.

With that, I would end this lengthy–but hopefully not pointless–post. Download the song, and have a good, long (and religious, for Christians) weekend!