Quotes from Norwegian Wood

I’ve finished reading Murakami’s Norwegian Wood few months ago, but I feel that some of quotes in his book are very relatable with life in general. Maybe, that’s the reason why it is so popular. This are my favorite :

Death exists, not as the opposite but as part of life

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking

Everything was too sharp and clear, so that I could never tell where to start- the way a map that shows too much can sometimes be useless

If you need me, use me. Don’t you see? Why do you have to be so rigid? Relax, let down your guard. You’re all tensed up so you always expect the worst. Relax your body and the rest of you will lighten up

What’s the point of saying that to me? If I relaxed my body now, I’d fall apart. I’ve always live like this, and it’s the only way I know how to go on living. If I relaxed for a second, I’d never find my way back. I’d go to pieces and the pieces could be blown away

Why can’t you see that? How could you talk about watching over me if you can’t see that?

I saw these paradoxical qualities of his from the start and I could never understand why they weren’t just as obvious to everyone else. He lived in his own special hell.

When you’re surrounded by endless possibilities, one of the hardest things you can do is pass them up. How can you ignore it? You have a certain ability and the opportunity to use it: can you keep your mouth shut and let it pass?

Try not to get so worked up about things. Whatever happened – or didn’t happen – the end result would have been the same.

Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment.

If I am going to test myself, I want to do it in the biggest field there is – the nation. I want to see how high I can climb, how much power I can exercise in this insanely huge bureaucratic system.

You’re very clear about what you like and what you don’t like. You make it obvious you don’t care whether people like you or not. That makes some people angry.

“What happens when people open their hearts?” “They get better.”

Its because I hated the place so much. I wasn’t going to let it beat me. If I’d let it get to me once I’d be finished. I was scared I’d just keep slipping down and down

Never sure where I was, never sure I was headed in the right direction, knowing only that I had to keep moving, one step at a time.

This was nothing new for me. Whenever I get involved in something, I shut out everything else.

“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only arseholes do that.” “I’ll keep it in mind”. We shook hands and went our separate ways, he to his new world and I back to my swamp.

Do you find something that you like from the list above?

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Age is just a number

I know it sounds really cliche.

But it is.

No matter how long you have lived, how old you are, the way you spend your time depends on you. The way you optimise or waste your time, depends on you.

Maybe you have 30 minutes meeting that more efficient than 2 hours meeting in another building with the same purpose.

Maybe now, you have 2 hours reading that give you more knowledge than 100 hours you spent before.

Maybe you spend your last 2 hours meaninglessly scrolling social media, while you can use it to do things that matter to you.

We all have 24 hours a day, but the way we use it will reflect a lot on our current state now. I’ve seen people with younger age than me that achieved more. I’ve noticed 20-something people that wiser, more knowledgeable and more mature than another 30 or 40-something people.

Be careful, that your 20-something age now might not be better than yourself in the last year. So, make sure you use your time wisely.

The Secret Weapon : Curiosity or Endurance

Hallstatt, Austria (picture was taken by me)

So this is how the story goes.

I’ve read it somewhere, a popular quote from Albert Einstein “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

This quote struck my mind when I read it for the first time. I never acknowledge myself as a passionately curious person. I tend to have several questions, but most of the time, I am satisfied when there is one closest answer that I can find, or sometimes I just leave some questions to remain unanswered, especially one that related with ambiguous or trivial subject.

Sometimes, I question myself, why am I not critical enough? Why is it easy for me to understand and not disagree with the reason of other’s idea (as long as it makes sense)?

Along the time, I understand myself as a fox type of person. So, according to philosopher Isaiah Berlin, inspired by Greek poet, repeated by Kahneman in his book, there are two types of people, hedgehog or fox.

The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The hedgehog account for particular events within a coherent framework, and confident with his forecasts. The strength of the hedgehog is in his focus and central vision. The fox is complex thinker, he doesn’t believe that one big thing drives the march for history. The power of the fox is in his flexibility and openness to experience.

The hedgehog never wavers, never doubts. The fox is more cautious, more pragmatic, and more inclined to see complexity. Kahneman said that the hedgehogs make good tv programs, especially when they are on a different side, while foxes are less likely to be invited in tv debates.

That explanation gives me some idea why I see the world as a combination of several different entities and forces, the reason I can understand and not being “critical” enough when other give their statement because I believe that their point of view can be true as well.

However, knowing that I am a fox type person does not make me feel any better. Go back to Einstein’s quote, I am neither talented nor passionately curious, so what is the “special thing” that I have? This question always running back in my mind, especially being in the environment when everyone seems to have strong opinion and asking questions that do not align with their perspective.

Until yesterday, I found a trivial quiz from Adobe, asking “what is your secret weapon? Curiosity or endurance?”

and it just hit me like a lightning strike. I never consider my endurance as a secret weapon. I know that I am not a quitter, but I don’t recognise that along the process, I endure a lot of the things, the temptation to quit, the sleepless nights, the struggle to overcome barrier, the critics, rude comments or even insults. There are many times that I feel like I want to quit, but here I am, make an effort to continue anything that I’ve started.

It is funny how I always looking for things that I don’t have and never see the things that I actually do in my daily life.

As Kahneman said “We’re blind to our blindness. We have very little idea of how little we know. We’re not designed to know how little we know.”

As I embrace one more knowledge about myself, I realise there are tons of things that I don’t know about myself, too.

The Things That Matter

Have you ever felt that you just trying to complete your routine and not intentionally living your life?

Have you ever felt so upset for things that actually not having that much impact in your life?

Last year, I have an online mentoring session with a lady from Microsoft. So, I shared with her that I felt I was just doing routine activities, not really intentionally living my life. She shared with me her story that left me with a lasting impression.

She said that everyone has priorities or things that matter in their life. For her, it is her family. She said that it was unbelievable when she saw her calendar and realised that she couldn’t attend most of her family gathering because of other appointments. Since that moment, she plans her calendar and always make sure that her activities align with her priorities. She consciously makes plan for family lunch or dinner and ensures that she always be there.

“It is conflicting how we say that our priority is something, but actually we don’t really do thing that aligns with it.”

Seoul, Korea (picture was taken by me)

So, how many times do you think your family or friends matter, yet you rarely call them?

How many times do you say that constant learning process such as reading is important, but from 24 hours that you have, the time that you allocate for that activity is very less compared to watching movies or scrolling instagram feed?

How many times do you say that you want to maintain your health, yet you eat junk food and never exercise?

How many times do you get angry about some strangers discussing things on the internet?

So many conflicting things have been done that do not represent the things that you think are matter.

So, before we put (and waste our) effort on to something, ask yourself “Does it really matter? Is it my priority?”

When Opportunity Knocks

View from Kapuzinerberg, Salzburg. (Picture taken by me, Feb 2019)

The ancient wisdom always says “if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” But, what if you have several doors and opportunity knocks on them? Which door that you should open?

That thing comes to my mind in this past few months, thinking what should I do next. It feels like what Nagasawa said to Watanabe in Norwegian Wood playing again in my mind ”When you’re surrounded by endless possibilities, one of the hardest things you can do is pass them up. How can you ignore it? You have a certain ability and the opportunity to use it: can you keep your mouth shut and let it pass?”

Knowing that you have the opportunity, knowing that you have the ability, can you let it pass?

As I exercise my options, try to come up with the best judgement that I can, I realise that one narrative exists, there, deep inside in my mind: is it align with what I want in the future? The best decision will be something that fulfil my happiness, something that wouldn’t cost my peace in the long term. So, some guideline that I use when deciding this matter :

  • Is it something that you like?

I forget where I read it, but there’s saying that you shouldn’t do something that you hate, otherwise you will be really good at it and there’s no turning back. (Except for some context, it might happen that you will love it once you master it)

  • How’s the package?

Understand the whole context of scenario is important. Instead of deciding whether you should do job in multinational company or startup, you should judge the company as a whole package. How’s the environment? How about the people? How’s the benefit of working there?

Another example will be for studying abroad. Instead of only state the fact that you want to study abroad, it will be better if you can decide the country as well, such as study in UK/US because you don’t need to study another foreign language or study music in Austria, because Mozart is from there.

  • How’s the money?

Money is important because it can give you freedom. I am not saying that you should be a top billionaire, but with enough money, we can perform daily (or extra) activities without worrying about basic necessities.

I remember few years ago, someone asked me what is money for me. That time, I answered money is like air. You should have enough of it, otherwise you can have problems.

  • Is it align with your priority?

We always have one (or some) important thing that we would like to prioritise. For some people, it might be family, others might be career or beauty. Whatever it is, deep down, you always know, you feel empty when it is not fulfilled.

As I evaluate my options, I imagine scenario for each opportunity, and I begin to understand which one that I should choose. It still hard to pass another opportunity, especially the one that you know you have ability to go with. However, let’s hope I make best judgement for now.