Hedgehogs’ Dilemma

(This time the credits go to Halimun Muhammad and his Facebook note.)


“Look at those cute furs–wait. What?”

Imagine yourself as a hedgehog, irresistibly cute yet so ‘edgy’ that anyone would have to think twice before getting too close because they don’t want to get hurt. You might survive without problems during the Spring, Summer, or even Fall, but when the breeze of Winter comes, you might need to consider having friends to warm up together.

The hedgehog dilemma was first coined by a German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer to portray mankind’s constraint in social relationships. In his metaphor, a group of hedgehogs are assembling to feel warmer in the Winter. However, given their thorns as ‘borders’, they should keep a certain distance so that nobody would hurt one another.


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

His main argument was that human’s need of social relationships will always clash with our basic characteristics to hurt one another. This analogy later became popular in psychology after quoted by Sigmund Freud himself. The result of these two contradicting natures is a dilemma all and every man should face. In most cases, mankind ‘deal’ with the dilemma through creating ‘safe space’ where they can interact with other men without getting hurt. ‘Politeness’ as well as ‘good manners’ are two essential tools to stay secure. There are, however, people who ‘has enough warmth in themselves’ and opt to create huger space–by completely restraining themselves from social lives. A trauma might be one good reason to commence such behavior.

The villains in most superhero stories offer us alternatives: ‘to abandon free will’, ‘to be independent’, ‘to focus on individuality’, as well as other indicators that separate one human from their ‘social-ness’. The conflicts of loneliness would then vanish beacause ‘all are one’, and ‘one is all’. This is almost similar to the action of peeling these hedgehogs’ thorns.

The question would then be, as quoted from Halimun,

Apakah perbedaan selalu menjadi duri yang menyakiti sehingga harus ada jarak atau durinya harus dicabut? Bukankah landak sebenarnya bisa melipat duri mereka sehingga bisa berkumpul sedekat mungkin tanpa saling menusuk?

(Do differences always hurt like thorns so that there should either be a space or peeled? Can’t the hedgehogs bend their thorns so that they can assemble as close as possible without being afraid of pricking one another?)

How can we, human, hold one little hedgehog in our hand and don’t bleed? Does that mean we got tougher skin? Can’t the hedgehogs use some ways to make them immune towards their own ‘edgy’  thorns?

I consider myself as one pessimistic hedgehog who prefers to not let myself wounded by creating ‘enough space’ from others, but not too wide indeed. I still consider myself friendly as I always try to be as cordial as possible. There are, however, people who are more ‘socially optimistic’ and ready to make new friends and have bonds with new people.

What do you say?


The Case for Religions

I bet many of you have been astounded by Karen Armstrong’s work on The Case for God (well if you haven’t previously, you’re about to). Read these two paragraphs:

We regularly ask God to bless our nation, save our queen, cure our sickness, or give us a fine day for the picnic. We remind God that He has created the world and that we are miserable sinners, as though this may have slipped His mind. Politicians quote God to justify their policies, teachers use him to keep order in the classroom, and terrorists commit atrocities in his name. We beg God to support “our” side in an election or a war, even though our opponents are, presumably, also God’s children and the object of his love and care.

Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. …Like any skill, religion requires perseverance, hard work, and discipline. Some people will be better at it than others, some appallingly inept, and some will miss the point entirely. But those who do not apply themselves will get nowhere at all. Religious people find it hard to explain how their rituals and practices work, just as a skater may not be fully conscious of the physical laws that enable her to glide over the ice on a thin blade.

A subtle, delicate way to define God and religion, two magic words that people utilize (underrate, I should say) in almost everything they do. Bearing in mind that Karen’s an (more than) expert in comparative religion study, the fact that she uses common examples that are so close to us is simply mindblowing. Both concepts are huge and saturated, hence people would usually opt their unique way to explain it to others. Karen Armstrong, she…fluently, flawlessly, define them in such flowing sentences.

Related to that, this Thursday evening I had a date with three single ladies, going out to the movies and watched Gnomeo and Juliet. If you thought that we’re going to have some pathetic talk on love in the sleepover afterwards, you’re utterly wrong. With all credits going to Dwinta Kuntaladara (and a Rama-Sitta painting on my wall that stimulated the whole thing), we had an IR-ish discussion on religions, and an epiphany came across my head. Said her:

Jadi Fu, aku punya pikiran kayak gini: Imagine God being the center of gravity–bukan Clausewitz, bukan (strategis perang, red). Just, the center of everything. And then there is you, standing at its North, me at its South, terus Ipeh…you’re at the East, dan Candini di Barat. Every single one of us tries to get ourself closer to God. How? Afu, since you’re here (pointing on ‘N’), you move southward. I, I move northward. Ipeh akan bergerak ke Barat, dan Candini bergerak ke Timur. Arah-arah itu adalah apa yang agama kita masing-masing suruh kita untuk lakukan. In the end, we’re reaching the same destination.

The clash happens when you see me going to the opposite direction of where you’re traveling to. Some people would tell, “Hey, kamu jalan ke arah yang salah. Jalan menuju Tuhan itu ke Utara!” Padahal, dari posisi kamu Fu, South is where you should go to.

My reaction was, as most of you probably are, stunned. “I love the idea, Dwinta. I. Totally. Do.” I love the idea that God is a destination and religion is a map to get there. It’s simply impossible that everyone’s going towards the same direction because God made you born with different initial positions, different stories. MAN, THAT PERSPECTIVE CAN ACTUALLY PUT THIS WHOLE WORLD IN PEACE! I’m saying this with goosebumps all over me.

Many people are busy sharing their ‘map’ with others, debating on which publisher created the best map, and overlooked the obligation to actually describe what you’ll find in the end of the road. God, the divine being, in form of Allah, Yahweh, avatars, or whatever other different names humans label Him with.

In addition to that, I’m a true believer that language and semantics bear some of the guilt of mankind’s misunderstandings towards each others’ religion. The fact that the oldest Bible was written in Hebrew and got translated to almost every language in the world leaves a part of me questioning on its purest meanings. Same assumption applies to Islam’s Qoran, Buddha, and Hindi’s handsome scripts.

Abrahamic religions densify God into one single image to Whom their believers can cling on, ask for, and be weak to. Dharmic and Taoic religions, however, believe that God is a grand construction that is all-encompassing, present wherever humanity is present. After all, we’re looking for the same light. After all, we believe that there is something else, something big, beyond what is physically seen.

Being Creepy Is Alright

Do you have something (an activity or subject) that really, really excites you even when you only ‘think’ of doing it without actually doing it?

I do.

People name it inter-language study, I name it ‘the beauty of language enigma’. The process of discovering uniqueness of expressions, grammatical structures or metaphors in a certain language and how they aren’t present in other languages is simply spellbinding. I’m addicted to traveling into different dimensions where each and every word has a history standing behind it, an (borrowing Thomas Kuhn’s term) ‘incommensurable’ frame of reference that has no comparable ally.

That isn’t what I want to point out in this post, though.

I happened to stumble upon a random ‘motivational’ TV program on which the (aged yet handsome) host talked about ‘finding your true passion’. A classic debate that previously didn’t matter to me. Tell you what, it apparently does.

Out of 10 people who read this post, only 3 of them know what their passion is. Worse, only 1 of them strives and works in accordance with this passion.

Now which one of them are you? The unfortunate 7 or the semi-fortunate 3? I hope that you’re the rare 10%.


You may also refer to this Venn diagram for a healthier career.

I consider myself as one of the big three. I mistook international relations as my major yet am lucky enough to have plenty opportunities to live my passion independently on the sidewalk. Am also grateful that the main road I’m taking is surprisingly very enjoyable. No regrets, no.

Now what does passion have to do with your life? How would ‘knowing passion’ benefit you?

Imagine a bike rider. Imagine him aimlessly pulling the pedal with no certainty of where he wants to go to. Or, at the very least, where he ‘should’ go to. He’s got the bike and energy to spend, but not a destination.

Imagine another bike rider who craves for going to the mountain. Imagine him, equipped with enough information of how to get there, preparing tools to efficiently accomplish his goal. He might not have everything that he requires at present, but the intention can drive him to get focused on what he wants to achieve.

See. Your passion may not be your (current) profession (always believe that there might be a turning point in the end of this road). Nor must it be something you’re really good at. But just to have it is like finding out a hidden, everlasting source of energy to feed your soul!

Some people overrate obsession and misunderstand it as passion. They pretend, or they assume that there is this certain adrenaline rush of exhileration when they actually don’t. You may take that as a positive mistake with many bright-sides, yet don’t forget that the shine is very likely to blind you in finding your true passion.

I hate when people misuse (if not abuse) the word ‘passion’ in rethorical sentences. To me passion does matter. When you talk passionately, your face becomes more radiant than ever. Passion has the magic to keep you awake for hours doing a single thing. Passion matters. It really does.

Passion may turn you into some creepy, ununderstandable geek. But that’s just alright. (Seven of you may not comprehend this notion at all, three would nod in doubt, and one last, luckiest one would close their browser tab smiling.)