There’s nothing that drives you further down into introspection like the waning high of your birthday that’s almost about to end (except probably a close brush with death, a bus speeding at 100 kilometers per hour barely colliding with the car you’re in at a highway—but that’s another story.)
Which is to say, you’re no one, dregs of society, scum of the earth, bottom feeder, immaterial, dispensable. What they want to say is: you deserve nothing, you are both noticed and unnoticed, and you are not really sure which is better between the two, when to be seen is to be hated, for people to wish you to die, and often it’s not even a wish, because they’ve killed your kind countless times, you’ve seen it—beating other rats with a stick until their eyes pop out, skulls cracked open until their brains spill over. Or a bath of boiling water, until their fur peels off their body.
Recently, I was in a heated Twitter debate about how people who had animal companions but were not vegan were essentially in a master-slave relationship.
While some of my friends argued with me directly, some chose not to reply and instead resorted to subtweets and snarky, shady remarks. Those who did the latter did not contribute anything substantial to the debate, because contesting ideas directly, while it seems superficially uncomfortable, allows people to test ideas and hones our capacity to argue well.
Suffering, I thought–as I bit on the half-eaten mango that I had stored in the refrigerator yesterday, is inevitable. There was nothing new to this concept: Buddhism’s First Noble Truth discusses the dissatisfaction that arises from changing states–hence, suffering is but a discomfort from a present situation which isn’t exactly what you expect.
But what I was wondering about was whether suffering was diminished the earlier one accepted it.
All travel is fiction, you told yourself, as you walked around Ximending that cold morning. You’ve been too obsessed with getting the details right that you forgot that the experience is more important, the feelings you will take away from this whole trip.
This was a draft I began writing in August 2014. I am not sure why I didn’t get to finish this. I am publishing this now with some thoughts I’ve added, four years later.
Today I had an anxiety attack.
It wasn’t the first, nor the worst, but it crept from behind and surprised me. I was having a pretty good day when it suddenly appeared. I was in the middle of a meeting when it popped out, almost paralyzing me.