Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freshman Philosopher

When I was in college (that's university to you non-Americans), I took enough philosophy courses to think I had the world and the people in it all figured out.

I decided there were two types of people in the world:

1) People who were blissfully ignorant of "the truth", whatever that was, and therefore happy.

2) People who were smart enough to see the darkness of mankind and futility of life, and therefore in constant angst.

I'd put the bimbos and dumb jocks in the first category, but there were also just plain happy people who enjoyed a sunny day and smiled when they passed a stranger on the street.

In the second category were people such as Sylvia Plath and other suicidal, psycho-suffering artist types. In college, these were the kids who wore all black, pierced odd body parts, and refused to smile except to mock you for smiling at a sunny day.

Philosophers, artists, poets, and other thinkers throughout history have perpetuated this theme over and over again - that if you truly understood the human condition and our role in the universe, you could not be content. In other words, we're either happy idiots or miserable geniuses.

Now that I'm older, wiser, and have learned to see those artists and thinkers as pessimists who just want company in their misery, I've come up with a third category:

People who are smart enough to see the darkness in the world, get over it, and try to create an oasis of happiness in that darkness.

I think that applies to a lot of things, big and small, in our lives. Your husband forgot your anniversary... again? Get over it. Find something else about him to be happy about. You lost your job? Get over it. Look for another one. Have cancer? Get over it. Find a way to live with it and do the best you can for the people around you.

You don't have to be a happy idiot or a miserable genius. Mix it up a little. Be a happy genius.


Louise said...

Your post this morning is exactly what I needed to read/hear.... THANK YOU.... for this and every one of your blogs. You are amazing and I admire your strength and wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

I am glad I am not the only one who tries to look at people's strengths, the good and happy times and not the bad and the problem. Solution Focus - is the solution!!

What sustains me even as I go through a bad patch in my marriage is strength, hope and faith in my God and looking back at the happy times in my marriage and being convinced that these times far outweigh the not so pleasant ones.

Have I formed my own catagory?


Kay said...

I really love your blog and thank you so much for writing it. I haven't read everything you've written but everything I've read has left me with a lot of awe and admiration. I don't know what to say really but when I come here, I feel like I'm entering sacred space. Your sensitivity and compassion as well as your love for your family and humanity makes everything glow in spite of adversity.

Your children are just precious and you all are a really beautiful family.

Your honesty, integrity, and courage are inspiring. It makes me realize that if I can get so bent out of shape over such trivial annoyances, I would never be ever to handle some really BIG thing like cancer. As a Catholic Christian, I should be able to do MUCH better than I do. And thank you for being so openminded about these God-things. I wish you peace of mind whatever you believe--and for today, a few moments at least of sheer joy.
P.S. Sometimes I think it might be nice to be oblivious to the bad things that are happening in the world since usually we can't do much about them anyway. We don't need to know ALL the bad news. But I think it is important to try to create havens of peace and happiness within our homes and families. In spite of all the bad things in the world, there are zillions of things to be grateful for and goodness can be found just about anywhere if one really looks for it.

Shin said...


I'm really curious. Why was this post something you wanted to hear?

Shin said...


Forget categories. You're remarkable all on your own. If the other readers of this blog knew your story, I know they'd agree with me.

Shin said...


Thanks so much for your comments. Everything you and other readers of this blog say about what good my blog has done for you makes me feel I'm doing something worthwhile with this.

What you say about handling a BIG thing like cancer... you'd be surprised. I can handle cancer. I think because I have no choice.

But I DO still get bent out of shape about plenty of petty little mundane things. I get annoyed with myself because I can't make sure my kids are eating nutritious meals. I get irritated at all the things that are broken in our house - the ceiling fan, the light bulbs that need replacing, the bathroom tiles that are moldy and need to be cleaned... on and on.

I think maybe it's because cancer is something I have no control over. The other things, I DO have control over, but can't really do much about because I'm so weak and short-of-breath lately.

It's a strange trade-off, but I've had to give up on the things I CAN control and try to deal with the thing that I CANNOT control.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

I could go on and on about your strength, courage, wisdom and fortitude. What you're going through, how you're handling it and the way you put things right into perspective is beyond amazing. That goes without saying.

But what I really just want to tell you is that you're an amazing writer.

From an ex-Journalist turned (at first reluctant, now convincingly happier) full time mum.


Shin said...


Thanks for the compliment, from another journalist-turned-full-time-mum.

Before I quit work, I was pretty sure I'd be over the mommy thing after three months, tops. I was never really into kids. But I surprised myself. Now, I can't think of a job that could make me want to go back to work.

Anonymous said...

i am carmen
i lost my mother when i was like 3 yrs old
frankly speaking, i do not hav much memory of her
only some flashback which i do not know whether it truely happened, or i got those flashback from my dreams tat i had when i was young
well,20yrs back, video cam and digital camera is not the IN thing yet.
so i must say now, we are lucky to b in this brand new era with all this technologies
you can have countless short videos and shooting session with them
photos and videos, i think, is the best way to preserve memory cos child do hav short term memory when they under 5 yrs old (solely my interpretation cos i dun remember anything tat happen before i turn 5.)
so i do encourage a lot of photo shooting session of daily life, like dinner time, homework time n etc
when i recall back, i only hav less than 10 shoots with my mum who died of cervical cancer 25 yrs ago

Carol said...

Greetings and happiest of happy salutations Shin!

I stumbled upon your site whilst looking for a little info to 'arm' me a little better for my 3-month oncology follow-up this week. (Last year, I learned my 40th year would be the launch of a new adventure - I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.) How happy am I that I stumbled upon your site instead of what I thought I was looking for: more mundane dreariness from the cancer files!!

Yes. Once upon a time i was one of those dreadful scoffing Sylvia Plath types believing only in the possibility of either a happy fool or a sad Aerostotle. Thankfully, those days were put to rest long before my diagnosis last year.

It seems that other than a birth year we both share this improved outlook on life. I wish it weren't so rare. Too often I find myself in the company of those who believe that because I am living with advanced cancer, a disease which will most likely take my life one day, I must be either a heroic emblem for their times or a sad premise of misery to come...

Thank you for choosing to share your ABC journey here in the blogoshpere. And thank you to the search engines that brought me to you! Just the ticket I needed to remind myself to forget about the lumps, bumps, and harrumphs. There will be time a plenty for them whilst sitting bare chested before my brilliant oncologist.

And until then, I will instead remember that today I am upright, smiling, and in very good company!

Cheers Shin. Here's to wishing you a grand day filled with many moments of happy wisdom and little joys!

Shin said...


Your comment put a big smile on my face. You sound like a smart, happy person. Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad you enjoy my public musings.

I'm curious... are you in the U.S.? What did you type into the search engine that led you to my blog?