Netflix’s “Dark”, Paradoxes, and Determinism

DISCLAIMER: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

“Dark” is a Netflix sci-fi thriller series from Germany co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. I’m not going to fangirl over it but rather use it as an example to discuss a type of quantum phenomenon: time paradoxes (I didn’t put the “time” in the title to avoid spoiling it).

The thing that keeps tickling my mind after watching the second season of this show is the absurd truth about Charlotte Doppler’s mother. Charlotte was adopted as a child, she doesn’t have the slightest idea of who her biological parents are. As an adult she and Peter Doppler got married and they have a daughter named Elisabeth (born in the 2000s). At some point Elisabeth traveled back in time to 1953 and conceived a child (born in the 1980s) with a priest named Noah. Their child, as trippy as it sounds, happens to be Charlotte herself. So, Elisabeth is both Charlotte’s daughter and mother and vice versa.

Setting aside that mind-bender, how are future Elisabeth and past Elisabeth from the same line of descent? How did Elisabeth give birth to herself? How did Elisabeth, Charlotte and Noah get separated?

I thought about this for a while, trying to make sense out of it. It is supposed to make sense seeing the way “Dark” maintains consistency in everything throughout the series. Every scene is consistent with quantum physics theories, there’s no reason this one is not. (The director goes as far as looking for extremely look alike actors to play the younger and older versions of the characters, so that sometimes when the other versions show up for the first time they don’t even need to introduce themselves.)

Then I remembered reading a section about time paradoxes in Michio Kaku’s “Parallel Worlds: The Science of Alternative Universes and Our Future in the Cosmos” that might shed a bit light on this case.

Basically, there are several types of time paradoxes. The first one is the grandfather paradox, which occurs when you go back in time to kill your ancestor (could be your parents, your grandfather, or your great-great grandparent and so on). By destroying your own ancestor, you cannot logically exist, right? But how could you commit the murder to begin with?

The information paradox reminds me of a chapter in “Doraemon” about a manga artist who runs out of ideas. Doraemon and Nobita help him by going to the future to buy a copy of his already published works, and then give it to his present self so he can copy it. Given the work wasn’t created by the artist but only handed to him by Doraemon and Nobita, where did the idea come from? This kind of paradox also applies to H.G. Tannhaus and the time machine he built using the complex blueprints that was given by older Claudia Tiedemann.

In the Bilker’s paradox, you know what the future holds and do something that makes it impossible. Let’s say, you travel to the future and see that you’re destined to marry Anne, but then you go back to the present and decide to marry Louise instead. How come you married Anne in the first version of your future?

The last and the most mind-blowing one is what Charlotte Doppler goes through, the sexual paradox. In this paradox, you give birth to yourself by going back to the past, marrying your spouse and then conceiving a child who happens to be yourself, for instance. It’s biologically impossible, but then there’s a reason why it’s called a “paradox”, a statement that seems self-contradictory or logically unacceptable but is likely to be true. That’s why some physicists brush aside the idea of time travel—because the possibility of time paradoxes is a logical flaw that invalidates the existence of time travel.

So I suppose the answer to this long-winded discussion is simple: it was just meant to be. Elisabeth was destined to be born from this paradox.

Like many other time travel stories, “Dark” raises the theme of determinism, the philosophical belief that all life events have been predetermined (by God, fate, or some other force), which is prominent throughout the series. Ulrich Nielsen tried to kill younger Helge Doppler but somehow failed because it would eliminate Helge’s existence. Jonas Kahnwald time-leaps to change the future, but no matter how hard he tries, his efforts always ended up in the original version of the timeline like an endless loop. It’s the same with Charlotte Doppler, some “unknown hand” decided her fate to be her own mother’s daughter as well as her own daughter’s mother. “Gott ist Zeit. Und die Zeit ist nicht barmherzig (English: “God is time. And time is not compassionate”),” as Adam says. “Dark” proposes (or might propose, depending on how the final season turns out) that free will doesn’t exist, it’s just an illusion.

“Der Anfang ist das Ende, und das Ende ist der Anfang.”
“The beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning.”


References

Kaku, M. (2005). Parallel worlds: The science of alternative universes and our future in the cosmos. England: Penguin Books

“00:00 (Zero O’Clock)”: Every day is a second chance

This is one of the songs I’ve kept listening on repeat for a while now. It has these soothing lo-fi guitar beats, and the lyrics send a comforting message that I believe many of us can relate. So I figured I’d share it with you.

“There are those days when you’re sad for no reason, your body feels heavy, and everyone but you looks busy, fiercely living their life…”

The song “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” from Bangtan Sonyeondan’s new album Map of the Soul: 7 is talking to people out there who feel like no matter how hard they try they’re just never good enough. It’s for all those people who feel like everyone is so far ahead of them.

And it’s telling you that you’ll be fine.

“When this song comes to an end, a new song will begin”

It gives the hope that a better day will come.

Every day is a second chance. Second chance to be happy, second chance to get stronger, second chance to become the better version of you.

“‘Zero O’Clock’ is a time when everything is reset, ready to start again,” as written in the song’s storyline on Spotify.

Once the clock strikes at zero, it’s a second chance. All we have to do is seize it and make the most of it.

Turn this all around
A time when everything is new,
Zero O’Clock”

Listen to “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” here.

My Sehnsucht Experience

“Sun-kissed”
Cortona, 2015

The first thing that comes to your mind when you read the title is probably, “What on earth is Sehnsucht?” I’ll try to explain a bit about it first before we get into my experience.

Sehnsucht (pronounced zeyn-zukht) is a common German word used in everyday conversations, but the translation is complicated. If you look it up, something like “yearning”, “longing”, “craving”, “wistfulness”, “desire”, or in Indonesian “kerinduan” or “damba” might come up, but actually none of these individual words could fully capture the idea. The word itself is made up of two compounds “Sehn” from the verb sehnen (“yearning”) and “Sucht” (“addiction”). So, clearly, this is one of those untranslatable German words.

Sehnsucht is basically a strong yearning for an object, a person, a situation or a period of time that is unreachable. Being thoroughly studied by psychologists, Sehnsucht has been scientifically defined as thoughts and feelings about missing aspects of your life, accompanied with a desire for ideal alternative states, or to put it simply “life-longing”. German educator Dr. Udo Baer neatly summed up the word in this metaphor: if there’s a world of possibilities outside the reality where we live, then Sehnsucht is the bridge from the reality to that world.

Although the word exists only in German, everyone in the world experiences Sehnsucht in one way or another. It’s that feeling when we miss the ones we love so much, when we see pictures of Paris and imagine happy things, or that time when we just can’t wait for the next season of our favorite TV show. It is that thirst of a religious person for spiritual knowledge, that aching Michael Jackson felt in his song “Heal the World”. Or that moment when we find ourselves wondering what could’ve been if we’d done things differently in the past. And I’m pretty sure we feel it too every time we visualize our own versions of a dream job, a happy family, an ideal partner, an amazing personality, or a fancy home. As such, Sehnsucht is a pleasant feeling, but tinged with some sadness because on the one hand we focus on what’s missing, on the other hand we create idealized realities of these missing parts in our mind.

C.S. Lewis, the author of “Chronicles of Narnia”, wrote a lot about Sehnsucht, beautifully describing it in one of his works:

“That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of “Kubla Khan”, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

C.S. Lewis from “The Pilgrim’s Regress”

To me, Sehnsucht is the kind of feeling that makes me happy and sad at the same time. A bittersweet longing for something I don’t really know what it is, for an “unnameable something“. It’s like, you miss a friend you’ve never known or a home you’ve never been, you’ve never had them in your life but you get this strong feeling of familiarity about them. It feels just like nostalgia, but for things you’ve never experienced.

Now that I really think about it, Sehnsucht may play a bigger role in my life than I thought before. All my life (or at least for as long as I can remember) I feel like I’ve been having this constant yearning to stargaze. I often find myself checking outside to look for the stars.

There is this one stargazing moment that still lingers vividly on my memory even though so many years have passed. It was summer, I was lying down on the grass side by side with my sister in an empty field near our apartment in Lößnig (just on the edge of Leipzig), trying to spot some shooting stars. I remember everything, even the little things like the feeling of the breeze against my face, the scent of grass, wildflowers, ripe berries, and a faint hint of grill smoke in the air, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” playing from my earphones. Countless stars twinkled down at me, but I convinced myself I was the one looking down at them to make it feel like I was falling.

At some point, I got carried away deeper and deeper into the sky. My mind started drifting, “This is what people thousands of years ago saw”, “Maybe those stars have long died and I’m only seeing their light,” “There’s no way we’re alone in a universe this vast.” I was overwhelmed by these thoughts, in a good way. So, I just kept staring, and the longer I stared, the smaller I realized I was, how little the world, my worries, and everything mattered in the grand scheme of the universe. It was such a comforting feeling, but most of all, I couldn’t seem to shake the thought that someone moved all this. These billions and billions of stars. The same someone who took care of every drop of dew, every breath of wind, the colors in sunsets, the ocean depths, and among these wonders, me.

Now I see what it is about stargazing that has long fascinated me. It’s not just the smell of nature, the wind on my cheeks, the soothing atmosphere. Nor is it just about the night sky, its infiniteness, its grand simplicity, the inscrutability of its vastness. But perhaps it’s the fact that, in a way, it connects me with something much greater than the universe itself. Something beautiful and perfect but out of reach, so familiar yet full of mysteries just like the distant starry sky. Something that a part of me will forever long for.


References

(1)  https://www.bildderfrau.de/familie-leben/article210066309/Die-Welt-der-Moeglichkeiten-Was-ist-eigentlich-Sehnsucht.html
(2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-pursuit-peace/201709/longing-more
(3) Brazier, P. H. (2012). C.S. Lewis: Revelation, conversion, and apologetics. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
(4) Kotter-Grühn, D., Wiest, M., Zurek, P. P., & Scheibe, S. (2009). 
What is it we are longing for? Psychological and demographic factors influencing the contents of Sehnsucht (life longings). Journal of Research in Personality, 43.
(5) Mayser, S., Scheibe, S., & Riediger, M. (2008). (Un)reachable? An empirical differentiation of goals and life longings. European Psychologist13, 126-140.

Freedom

Picture by Laily

Birds are such free creatures. They can walk on land, soar in the sky, swim in the sea. They can go wherever their little hearts desire.

If only we could imagine the hardship they must face―dodging storms, harsh climates, predators and human threats.

Being free doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. With it come responsibility and consequences.

Use your freedom wisely. Even birds should watch their steps.

Gelesen: Der Alchimist

Als jemand, der viel liest, ist es einfach unmöglich für mich, ein einziges Lieblingsbuch zu bestimmen. Ich finde, jedes gute Buch ist ein Kunstwerk und verdient es, Respekt zu bekommen. Diesmal habe ich mich für “Der Alchimist” entschieden, weil erstens das Buch bei mir einen tiefen Eindruck hinterlassen hat. Und zweitens, ich glaube, es lohnt sich, auf diesem Blog mal darüber zu besprechen. Drittens, ich muss ja sowieso eins auswählen.

Ich kann mich noch heute an meine Begeisterung erinnern, als mein Vater mir das Buch schenkte und sagte, “Dies ist ein Buch, das deine Träume verwirklichen wird.” Leider konnte ich als eine 10-Jährige den philosophischen Sinn des Buches kaum begreifen, deshalb langweilte es mich langsam. Erst nach einigen Seiten, brach ich ab, genau auf der Seite, wo Santiago bei einem Kristallwarenhändler arbeitet. Ich lag das Buch beiseite und nahm es nie wieder in die Hand.

Sechs Jahren später kam ich in Mutters Büro in Leipzig vorbei. In ihrem Raum gab es ein Bücherregal, auf welchem Psychologie Lehrbücher aufgereiht waren. Neugierig sah ich mir die Titel auf den Buchrücken an. Und da entdeckte ich ein kleines, ziemlich dünnes Buch, dessen Titel “Der Alchimist” lautete. Anscheinend war es das gleiche “Der Alchimist”, das ich früher als Kind gelesen hatte, nur dass es auf Deutsch war. Ich hätte nie gedacht, dass ich es geschlüpft zwischen eine Menge Psychologie Lehrbücher finden würde. Ich griff nach dem Buch und fragte mich, ob es wohl einen Unterschied machte, es als eine 16-Jährige zu lesen. Die Antwort ist ja, nun war mir alles klar. Ich bin froh, darauf gestoßen zu haben.

Im Roman “Der Alchimist” von Paulo Coelho aus dem Jahr 1988 geht es um Santiago, einen andalusischen Hirtenjungen. Seit Tagen hat er wiederkehrende Träume von einer Schatz, die bereits am Fuß der Pyramide auf ihn liegend wartet. Mutig folgt Santiago seinen Träumen, auch wenn es heißt, dass er sein Alltagsleben aufgeben muss. Er tritt dann eine Reise durch die Souq-Gassen in Tanger nach Ägypten an. In der Stille der Wüste findet er sich selbst und kommt zu der Erkenntnis, dass es im Leben andere Schätze gibt, die mehr wert sind als Gold.

Auf den ersten Blick erscheint die Handlung recht einfach und etwas naiv. Aber wenn man es genauer liest, steckt eigentlich mehr dahinter. Ich kann die Botschaft, die in dem Buch poetisch geschildert wird, sehr gut nachvollziehen. Eine Sache ist, dass das Buch von jedem anders verstanden wird, deswegen, was ich hier schreibe ist ganz persönlich. Schließlich hat jeder seine eigene Meinung und seinen eigenen Hintergrund—sei es kulturell oder religiös—und hat auch seine eigenen Erfahrungen im Leben gemacht. Wenn Du willst, kannst Du auch das Buch mal lesen und Dich selbst entscheiden.

“Wenn du etwas ganz fest willst, dann wird das Universum darauf hinwirken, dass du es erreichen kannst.”
—Paulo Coelho, “Der Alchimist”

Dieser Spruch soll nicht heißen, dass das Universum die ganze Arbeit für uns macht und wir dann nichts tun müssen, um etwas zu leisten. Nein, so funktioniert es nicht. Sondern eher, wenn wir unserem wahren Schicksal folgen, wird Gott—oder das Universum oder das Leben, egal, wie Du das gerne nennen möchtest—uns helfen, das zu schaffen, auch wenn es uns in dem Moment unmöglich vorkommt. Da sollten wir auf unser Herz hören, Mut fassen und daran glauben, dass, wenn es so sein soll, wird es so sein. Wir geben unser Bestes, beten und Gott wird uns den richtigen Weg zeigen.

Das ist der Grund, warum ich nicht an Zufälle glaube. Nichts passiert durch Zufall oder Glück. Es ist so viel mehr als das. Manche Dinge sind zu perfekt, um ein Zufall zu sein. Denk mal darüber nach, wie Du deinem Partner zum ersten Mal begegnet hast oder wie Deine Eltern sich kennengelernt haben – hätten sie sich nicht getroffen, wärst Du nie geboren worden. Wie bestimmte Menschen, die nun Deine Freunde sind, Deinen Weg gekreuzt haben. Wie Du bestimmte Dinge erlebt hast. Wie sie Dein Leben beeinflussten und Dich zu dem gemacht hat, wer Du heute bist. Selbst der Kleinste, ein einziges, zufälliges Ereignis, kann den Lauf der Zukunft ändern. Alles ist miteinander verbunden, was unser Leben zur Gleichzeitigkeit führt. Zu unserem Schicksal.

In dem Buch muss Santiago eine Entscheidung treffen: entweder Priester werden und seinen Traum aufgeben oder Hirte werden und stattdessen seinem Traum folgen. Er ist mutig genug, sich für das zweite zu entscheiden. Das heißt, er muss meilenweit von Zuhause verreisen, um etwas hinterherzujagen, von dem er nicht mal weiss, ob es überhaupt existiert. Wir alle haben Träume doch nicht alle entscheiden sich, sie zu erfüllen. Manche Leute haben Angst zu versagen; Angst vor dem Unbekannten und Unvorhersehbaren.

Ich bin selbst ein Träumer, denn Träume geben mir Hoffnung und Kraft.

“Die Möglichkeit das Träume wahr werden können, macht das Leben erst interessant.”
—Paulo Coelho, “Der Alchimist”

Und hier ist ein gutes Zitat, das ich irgendwo gefunden habe:

“Wir leben auf einem blauen Planet, der sich um einen Feuerball dreht, mit einem Mond der die Meere bewegt, und du glaubst nicht an Wunder?”

Wunder geschehen, daran glaube ich. Wenn etwas sein soll, wird es passieren. Nichts ist unmöglich, wenn Gott es ermöglicht.

Trotzdem läuft nicht alles im Leben, wie man es sich wünscht oder wie man es plant. “Die Welt ist keine Wunscherfüllmaschine,” sagt August Waters im Roman “Das Schicksal ist ein mieser Verräter.” Aber ich glaube, alles, was im Leben geschieht, hat seinen Grund. Vielleicht soll es einfach so sein, damit man lernt, dankbar zu sein, und glaubt umso mehr, dass neue Chancen vor sich liegen.

Loslassen hilft uns, den Kopf frei zu machen und offen zu sein für neue Chancen, die sich im Leben ergeben. Manchmal geben wir uns zu viel Mühe, erzwingen unsere Wünsche, und sind uns sicher, dass eine Entscheidung die beste ist. Deshalb übersehen wir andere Gelegenheiten, die sogar besser sein könnten.

“Der Alchimist” hat mir eine neue Perspektive auf das Leben gezeigt, indem ich folgendes gelernt habe: meinem wahren Schicksal folgen, auf die Welt um mich herum achten, einen Sinn in allem erkennen, Hoffnung nicht aufgeben, mutig und stark bleiben und Gott vertrauen. Glück kann man überall finden auch in den einfachen Dingen. Man muss nicht um die Welt wandern um Schätze zu verfolgen, die eigentlich für sich schon vorgesehen sind. Was wir suchen, liegen manchmal direkt vor uns.

Would Happiness Exist Without Sadness?

Is it possible to be happy without being sad?

I found myself drawn to this question while writing my research paper about how psychological resilience was related to forgiveness and happiness(1). Behold the result of this research (and my musings)… here are some answers.

Answer 1: No, happiness could not exist without sadness because different degrees of happiness would exist, and the lowest point would be classified as sadness

Before we get into the philosophical stuff, let’s go over the concept of happiness with a mathematical approach. Have a look at this illustration.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

Let’s say, we measure happiness using a 5-point scale; 1 means “very unhappy,” 3 means “neutral” and 5 means “very happy.” The saddest person on earth would probably pick 1.

Now imagine a world whose happiness level was so high that everyone scored above 3 on the happiness scale. This would in turn mean everyone was happy, and the scale might turn into something like this:

4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8

Now with 4 at the bottom of the scale and 8 at the top, people in this fictional world would likely call the feeling experienced by 4-point scorers “sad” since 4 is the lowest point on the happiness scale.

That’s where the concept of relative happiness came from. Even if we lived in a world where everyone was always happy there would be different levels of happiness. The lowest moments, which are perceived as the unhappiest, would be classified as sadness.

Answer 2: No, happiness could not exist without sadness. How could we appreciate happiness if we never experienced sadness?

We’re somewhat familiar with the Yin and Yang philosophy. It represents two seemingly contradictory elements that complement each other to create balance (e.g., dark and light, silence and noise, peace and war, love and hate). According to this principle, happiness is bound to exist together with sadness in order for the world to function harmoniously. So what would happen if there was no sadness at all?

For this hypothetical scenario, suppose we are eliminating pain, disease, violence, and all other bad things. Technically, we would be constantly happy, which implies that taking away sadness does not automatically diminish the existence of pleasure. However, in this so-called utopia happiness would just become a neutral feeling. The people would take it for granted and not even notice its existence because that’s how they feel all the time.

The other side should be there to serve as a differentiation. For example, you can tell 200 cm is tall because there are shorter people to compare it to, but in a society where every single person is 200 cm chances are no one will care about body height although it’s there.

Thus, without experiencing sadness we wouldn’t be able to define and understand the value of happiness. As Carl Jung(2), the founder of analytical psychology, said in an interview,

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”
― from “The Art of Living”

Answer 3: Yes, happiness could exist without sadness because sadness doesn’t exist

Perhaps the concept of Yin and Yang is not as simple as it seems. This philosophy is actually not about duality but how opposites exist as parts of an entity. Think about dark and light. Physically speaking, light exists as waves and particles with certain measurable and physical characteristics, but darkness is simply the absence of light—it doesn’t exist.

Likewise, happiness and sadness are not two different things, but rather they occupy different points on the same scale. When you’re asked how sad you are, you basically measure how much happiness you feel. So in essence, sadness doesn’t exist; it’s just a relative term to describe the state when you don’t feel enough happiness.

This is not a matter of semantics, this is about understanding what sadness really refers to. It seems to me that too often we confuse “sadness” with “suffering,” even go as far as using the words interchangeably which is probably why discussions surrounding happiness are sometimes a little hard to follow. Now I’d like to hit some points about how they both differ from each other.

Psychologists have identified different types of happiness but the one we’re talking about refers to what is called subjective well-being. From this perspective, sadness (so is happiness) is subjective, meaning that what makes someone happy does not necessarily make others feel the same(3,4). For instance, living in a small, decent flat with poor internet connection is sad for some but there are people who feel content despite living in a slum.

Suffering is more universal. In the dictionary the word is defined as “physical or mental pain that a person or animal is feeling.”(5) Natural disasters, war, illness, hunger, abuse, and loss are some of the examples as they equally have the potential to cause physical and mental harm to every human being and animal as well.

Now what if the questions were: Would happiness exist without suffering? Is it possible to be happy if we’ve never been in pain?

I would say yes, the appreciation of happiness doesn’t require having suffered because suffering doesn’t really exist. Just like sadness, it is in your mind. Do people who are going through what we think is pain necessarily suffer? No. Reactions vary between individuals, even physical reactions. In fact, we can be exposed to the same situation and react to it differently depending on many factors (e.g., mental attitude, spirituality, degrees of pain tolerance). For one thing, some disaster survivors experience severe trauma following the event while others thrive and may even feel a sense of gratitude. At the end of the day, it’s how you think and feel about the situation that matters.

In other words, despite its universality suffering has a relative element to it. This is when resilience—the ability to survive hardship—comes into play. As Islamic Prophet Muhammad(6) put it,

“Happy is the man who avoids hardship, but how fine is the man who is afflicted and shows endurance.”
― in Sunan Abi Dawud, 36:4250

Life can throw us anything. The way we deal with it is what makes the difference. Whether life is hard or easy, I believe true happiness exists only in gratitude, acceptance, and forgiveness.


References

(1) Jaufalaily, N., & Himam, F. (2017). Resilience as a mediator of the relationship between forgiveness and happiness among college students. Anima Indonesian Psychological Journal, 32(3), 121-127. doi:10.24123/aipj.v32i3.626
(2) Young, G. (1960). The art of living. In W. McGuire, & R. F. C. Hull (Eds.), C. G. Jung speaking: Interviews and encounters (pp. 443-452). New Jersey: Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
(3) Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. California: Sage Publications, Inc.
(4) Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46(2), 137-155. doi:10.1023/A:1006824100041
(5) Suffering [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary Online, Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/suffering
(6) The Hadith, (pp. Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 36, Hadith Number 4250)

Leben wir in einer Matrix?

“Cogito ergo sum.”

René Descartes

Stell dir vor, was, wenn das Leben nur ein Programm wäre. Nichts ist real. Fallende Blätter, heulender Wind, herrlicher Sonnenuntergang, sich verlieben, tobende Kriege, Elend. Wir sind nur Gehirne, die von Computers simuliert werden während unsere Körper unbewusst woanders in einer anderen Dimension liegen. Leben wir möglicherweise in so einer Welt? Eine Welt der Illusion?

“Matrix” ist ein Science-Fiction-Film unter der Regie von den Wachowskis aus dem Jahr 1999. In dystopischer Zukunft spielend handelt der Film von einem Computerprogrammierer namens Thomas Anderson, bekannt als Neo, der entdeckt hat, dass die Realität eine virtuelle Welt ist, die ursprünglich von künstlich intelligenten Maschinen erschaffen wurde. Sie haben die Welt übernommen und benutzen die Menschen als Energiequelle, um sich selbst damit zu versorgen. Mit wenigen Menschen, die überlebt haben, kämpft Neo dagegen um die Menschheit zu retten.

Wenn ich mal meine Meinung äußern darf: im philosophischen Sinne leben wir schon in einer Matrix. Selbst der Film beruht auf einem philosophischen Hintegrund, nämlich Platons Höhlengleichnis und Jean Baudrillards “Simulacres et Simulation.” In diesem Beitrag werde ich jedoch nur Platons Höhlengleichnis und zusätzlich eine psychologische Theorie erläutern, die ich mir überlegt habe, und dabei ein Einblick darin, wie die beiden mit dem Film und unserem Leben im Allgemeinen zusammenhängen.

Platons Höhlengleichnis

Das Höhlengleichnis wird von Platon aus seinem Werk “Politeia” illustriert. Platon stellt sich eine Höhle vor, worin Menschen als Gefangene von Geburt an eingesperrt werden. Sie sind so festgebunden, dass sie immer nur nach vorne auf die Wand blicken und ihre Köpfe und Körper nicht drehen können weder zur Seite noch nach hinten. Die Höhle wird von einem fernen Feuer erhellt, und diese Menschen können die flickernden Schatten von Bäumen, Tieren und Menschen an der Höhlenwand sehen. Weil diese Abbilder die einzige sind, die sie zu Gesicht bekommen, glauben sie, dass sie die Realität darstellen.

Eines Tages befreit sich ein Gefangener aus den Bindungen. Er dreht sich den Kopf und findet heraus, dass die Abbilder an der Wand, in denen er die ganze Zeit über dachte, sie seien echt, nur eine Projektion sind. Schließlich wird er aus der Höhle freigelassen und sieht die Welt zum ersten Mal.

Was der befreite Gefangener erlebt hat, entspricht eine Metapher für Menschen, die es geschafft haben, sich von dem äußeren Bild der Welt, beispielsweise in Form von Prestige, Macht, Reichtum, Ruhm und gutes Aussehen befreien zu können und die Realität so wahrzunehmen, wie sie ist, nicht wie sie sich erscheint. Platon behauptet, dass diejenigen, die in die Realität kommen, die Pflicht haben, zurückzukommen und die andere zu lehren. Das Gleiche gilt für den Film: Neo wäre der Gefangener, der versuchen würde, die Menschheit vor der Unwissenheit und der Akzeptanz einer falschen Realität zu retten.

Die Maslowsche Bedürfnispyramide

Die Selbstverwirklichung ist nach dem humanistischen Psychologen Abraham Maslow* die letzte Stufe der Bedürfnispyramide. Die Bedürfnispyramide ist eine psychologische Theorie, welche Maslow beschreibt, dass Menschen ihr volles Potenzial in einer hierarchischen Struktur ausschöpfen, meist durch eine Pyramide illustriert. Aber vor der Befriedigung der Selbstverwirklichung muss man nach den anderen Bedürfnissen auf den unteren Ebenen zuerst anstreben. Im Grunde genommen, je niedriger die Ebene ist, desto grundlegender ist das Bedürfnis, und es muss aufeinanderfolgend befriedigt werden. Die Grundlage der Pyramide nehmen physiologische Bedürfnisse ein, wie z.B. Wasser, Luft, Essen und andere Elemente, die Menschen das Überleben ermöglichen. Wenn die Grundbedürfnisse erfüllt sind, strebt man nach der Befriedigung der höheren Bedürfnisse weiter an, nämlich die Sicherheitsbedürfnisse, Soziale Bedürfnisse, Individualbedürfnisse und Selbstverwirklichung.

Ich denke nicht, dass der Film von dieser Theorie beeinflusst wird, weil dies eigentlich nur eine persönliche Meinung ist. Meiner Meinung nach können Neo und die anderen, die aus der Matrix ausbrechen, als selbstverwirklicht beschrieben werden. Währenddessen kämpfen die Leute nach wie vor, die in der Matrix stecken geblieben sind, auf einer der unteren Bedürfnisstufen. Laut Maslows Buch “Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation,”

“Selbstverwirklichende Menschen…leben mehr in der realen Welt der Natur als in der menschengemachten Masse von Konzepten, Abstraktionen, Erwartungen, Überzeugungen und Stereotypen, die die meisten Leute mit der Welt verwechseln.”

Diese Aussage bedeutet, dass selbstverwirklichende Menschen eine klare Wahrnehmung der Realität besitzen. Sie können leicht erkennen, ob etwas richtig oder falsch ist, ob etwas wirklich oder unwirklich ist. Sie neigen dazu, Dinge sorgfältig, effizient und objektiv zu beurteilen. Sie sind unabhängig, nonkonformistisch und authentisch. Sie haben Respekt vor anderen Menschen und sind zu jeder Zeit dankbar für die Welt, die sie umgibt.

In dem Film können Neo und sagen wir mal, die andere “self-actualizers,” alles tun, was sie wollen, weil sie ihr maximales Potenzial bereits erreicht haben. Andererseits bleiben non-self-actualizers noch in dem “System” gefangen.

So ist es ähnlich wie das Leben. Die Gesellschaft ist ein System. Unser Leben ist damit verbunden, egal, ob es uns gefällt oder nicht. Es enthält Regeln und Erwartungen, die uns daran hindern mögen, das Beste aus uns herauszuholen. Manchmal tun Leute Dinge mit falschen Motivationen. Einen bestimmten Studiengang wählen wegen besseren Berufsaussichten, auch wenn man keine Leidenschaft dafür hat, ist nach meiner Meinung die falsche Motivation. Manche Leute entscheiden sich überhaupt für ein Studium, weil es den sozialen Erwartungen entspricht. Arbeiten, nur um Geld zu verdienen und an Prestige oder an Macht zu gewinnen, gehört ebenfalls dazu. Im Gegensatz dazu tun selbstverwirklichende Menschen Dinge um ihrer selbst willen. Sie sind zwar mit dem System verbunden aber ihr Leben ist davon nicht abhängig.

*Anmerkung: In den späteren Jahren seines Lebens ergänzte Maslow die Traszendenz und bestimmte sie als das höchste Ziel der menschlichen Motivation.

Surreal Reality

Picture by Laily

Sometimes I find myself waking up
in a dream so peaceful I wish I could sleep forever,
but dreams fade—like everything else in life;
I wonder if it’s all a dream too.
One day will come
when the sky falls down,
the sea swallows up the hills,
the earth crumbles down to its knees,
and the stars grind into dust—
then sink into nothingness
like our flesh, blood, and names.
All my dreams, my fears,
these words I’m writing
would lose their meaning.
Maybe they don’t really matter;
for I’m not a feeling, a thought,
or a state of consciousness—
I’m a soul.
As with other souls, it shall soar
to the place where it belongs
to cease from this lucid sleep.

To awake.

“And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?”
– Kahlil Gibran

Dear Diary: Life through the Eyes of Hermine Wood (Part 1)

300af7f0148842764d5287f237f7d58d

A story about the life of Hermine Wood and the personal and emotional struggles that she faces as a teenage girl.

Picture by Tara Jacoby


5 September 2015

Dear Diary,

This is a new diary. Sorry, I mean you are a new diary. This is my first time keeping one and I’m trying to figure out what I should put in the first page. Maybe something like hellos and the getting-to-know-each-other thing. Since no rules apply here, I’ll just try to leave a good first impression.

My real name is Hermione. Does it ring any bells? No wonder if it does, either you’re a hardcore Harry Potter fan like my mum, as embarrassing as it may sound, or you’re not. I said “real name” because every time I introduced myself people would look at me oddly, thinking I was being funny.

Another reason is that I prefer to be called by a pseudonym. Not because I don’t like my real name, not because I don’t like Harry Potter either. In fact, once I was so caught up in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the Sydney light rail that I failed to notice I had passed up my stop at Moore Park and was actually at Circular Quay.

The problem with being named after a famous fictional character is that it stirs up too much curiosity. Imagine the exhaustion of having to explain to every single person you meet who cares about the story behind your name. I thought I should make a record of myself and make them listen to it next time.

But that’s not necessary now. Last year, I got myself a new name when I was sitting right in the front row at the opera house, watching La Traviata with my parents. The decision was made the moment my eyes fell on the name of a French soprano in the programme booklet, Hermine Lefèvre. Turns out, leaving out the letter “o” from “Hermione” has created such a profound change in people’s reactions and my inner peace. No one bugs me anymore, thanks to Hermine. So, do me a favour and call me Hermine. Oh by the way, it’s pronounced her-meen.

I’m quite sure by now you might want to know how you ended up here, smudged and scratched with black ink that flowed out of the nib of my fountain pen. What made me pull you out from the shelf at the Chapter Eleven bookshop? Good question. Here’s the story.

The other day, I had a chat with my friend Adrien in the small cozy cafe of L’espresso where we and the gang (they couldn’t come due to afternoon class) regularly spend our after-school time, almost like a ritual. Our conversation went something like this.

“Try practicing sublimation,” Adrien said after I’d finished ranting about life in general.

“Sorry? Speak English please.”

“It’s a form of self-defence mechanism where you direct your troubles, worries, and unpleasant feelings in positive ways.”

“Like what?”

“Like,” he paused and sipped at his decaf cappuccino, as if buying time to search for the right words, “turn your pain into something creative. Put it in a camera, a story, a poem, a song, a lover, a canvas.”

“Lemme guess, you’re giving me advice with a quote from Pinterest?”

“Actually, yes, if you’re talking about the latter. It’s relevant anyway. As for the former,” he handed me a book that seemed like 100 years old, bound in earthy brown leather, “in case you’re interested.”

The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence by Anna Freud,” I read out the faded gold lettering before I opened the cover and buried my face in the pages whose edges were already yellowing. I remember the smell of wood and dust filling my nose, reminded me of the inside of Grandma Rose’s attic. I have always loved the smell of books and the adventures, dreams, magic, spices, colours, music, and wisdom that they hold.

“Give that Pinterest quote a try, wouldn’t you?” Adrien asked.

“Let me see. Forget about songwriting, it’s unfortunate that I’m tone-deaf. A camera and canvas? Nope, no chance. They say that a picture paints a thousand words with which I agree, but I don’t think it will ever be enough to capture the whirlwind of my thoughts and the seesaw of my feelings. But then that’s only an excuse because I’m terrible with pictures. Having a lover by your side is sure a lovely thing, but they’ll leave you at some point, right? They come and go or change or stay and make you see why you don’t need them around. Wait, what else?”

“A poem.”

“Ah, yes, a poem. The only time my poem was worth an A was when Mrs. Spencer assigned us to write a piece of haiku, and mine was about spaghetti so shut it down because I’m not writing any type of poetry.”

“Have you tried a journal?”

“That sounds like a good idea. I might try that.”

“Alright, then. We should go to Chapter Eleven and buy you a notebook.”

I have known Adrien since we were grouped with few other selected first graders for the spelling bee competition practice. We were not surprised to find out that he won first place. He was the one who taught me how to spell “snowflake” and “summer,” words which fell into the “challenging” category. He’s always been that kid who gets straight A’s and a special spot on the top shelf in teachers’ hearts.

Ever since then Adrien has been there for me, putting up with all my quirks and idiosyncrasies, and not once did he show a hint of disapproval about my sometimes outré attitude. I like him because he is not one of those people who tell you to just get over it. He always knows the right thing to say at the right moment.

I can’t promise you anything, but one thing I know is that some of the stories written in here will light up your face and crack you up, others will make you wince, furrow your eyebrows, roll your eyes, and burst into tears. Metaphorically speaking, considering that you have no face.

You might as well have to deal with my nervous breakdowns (sorry in advance) because I’m a mess and life is not always rainbows and singing birds. One moment I would be walking on cloud nine, the next I would be tripping and falling to the ground. That’s what I do all the time. All these things aside, I’m a good person, at least I’m trying to be.

Welcome to my life. And stick with me please.

Cheerio,
Hermine