Do Not Limit Yourself

I have been formulating this post the past few days and let me begin with a related clip from the Daily Show that I happened to come across today. I love coincidence.

And allow me to share a little bit about myself also. Now, I have spent roughly half of my life in Hong Kong and half in the States. For folks with similar “moving” experience, majority of them either stick to their own culture or the American culture. Their scale is always tilted to one side or the other.

I spent the time before college adapting and trying to become American, but by the time I get to college, I spent a bunch of time re-learning things of my “own” culture. And then I was also studying Japanese too, so I learned a great deal about theirs. As it goes, in front of American, I am Chinese, and in front of Chinese, I am American, which matters not to me. I see the good and the bad in cultures, but more so importantly, the truth is that they are not mutually exclusive. That is why I don’t identify with any culture, because it is foolish. I don’t have a side. Some may consider this blasphemy.

The conjunction of the video and my own story leads to the topic for the day. We as human beings put a lot of limitation on ourselves by identifying ourselves as a part of an age group, organization, classfication, culture, political party, religion, etc. And quite often, they do so strictly. And before you run away, I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. This is more like a choice thing.

The video suggests this “clustering of like-mind” trend and it seems to have enough negative influence so that it is worth mentioning as a book. I say it is the consequence of a bigger phenomenon of self-limitation, and I share with you my point of view below.

I can suggest couple reasons why people cluster and get stuck with certain idea and belief:

  • Set pattern for Comfort
    No one can deny this first bullet. People like to stick with what is familiar and comfortable.
  • Silver Bullet Symptom
    Because an idea works well in one place or area in life, let’s use it everywhere!
  • Pride in Belief
    People believe so zealously in a belief that they will defend it at all cost, even at the cost of harming themselves and loved one. I can sum up such mentality as this, “How dare you try to destroy this castle I have lived in my whole life?”
  • Compartmentization
    You fit yourself into a role (be it certain job or certain position in the family), and because of that, you take responsibility ONLY as that role and neglect the whole picture. It is preposterous for you to take care of things outside of that role. Or, you do well in a role and you focus on that role alone, nothing else.

As a very very simple example… I am supposed to be an adult, so I cannot be naive and child-like (actually, being childish sometimes doesn’t hurt). That is just one thing. Think about all the other rules and restrictions that an adult is supposed to follow. If that’s the case, I don’t want to be an adult. For me, part of me is every age that I have gone through. So for myself, I am every bit 5, 12, 18, and 25. If I am always stuck at 25, things probably get pretty boring.

Another example, we live in a society where man is supposed to be an inexpressive, dominating being without tears and yet remain human. Any signs of weakness or having a soft-side will lead a man to be called homo. And the opposite happens for female. Just research what Hillary Clinton had gone through.

Democrat, Republican, conformists, non-conformists, religious affiliation, atheist all exert such limiation… When people place themselves into one of those, they often surrender the ability to learn and understand the perspective outside of those realms. That is why I choose to be myself and at most, a human being. And that is what everyone of us is, a human being. The rest are illusions.

I am being myself, where I pay attention to my own state, my surroundings, and my values that I do best to hold true to. However, I am not rigid. I would adapt and learn and change as I go through life. I am still Kin, but I am changing everyday. Pliability is important. Just think about how a stiff tree is more easily broken than bamboo or grass in a heavy storm. As Bruce Lee said, “Be like water.”

Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to dispute any existing knowledge, doctrine, theory, or such. I am not saying you should go around challenging and disputing people’s belief. They exist for a reason and there are great values to learn from everything. It is only with respect that one can learn and only by learning them that one can have the knowledge and insight to adopt his own way. Basically, you first learn, and then unlearn, in order to mold your own way. This is similar to the formless form in martial art, where you must learn the discipline of the various footowrk and forms of attack and defense and build the foundation. Once you reach a certain level of experience and understanding, you take what you learned and find what’s useful to make your own style. Books are dead. Scriptures are dead. Styles are dead. You are alive.

So I say, define your own way. Do not limt yourself. Would not this be better? To allow yourself the opportunity to explore anything. I do not claim it is easier. In fact, easier is by following a pre-defined path, or rules written by other people. That is easy. Difficult is walking a pathless path alone and only through relentless learning and the discovery of yourself, you move forward. Difficult, yes. But that is exactly the fun part.

To me, part of growing up, getting wiser, and becoming responsible for the self, is this continuous process of learning and then unlearning. This is the way of no-way. Learn the different ways, but walk the way of no-way. At the same time of gaining, you will need to let go. You let go so you can be empty to accept new things. A cup is only useful if it’s empty. And hence simplification becomes a result where excess is removed, but simplication should not be the goal. That would be focusing on the finger pointing to the moon and missing the beauty of moon entirely.

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