Debt and Conspicuous Consumption Speak Fundamental Problem

2007111850020101.jpgDebt and conspicuous consumption are symptoms of a much fundamental problem.

The subprime crisis, consumer debt issue, and negative national saving rate don’t happen together out of sheer chance like giving birth to triplets. They demonstrate the change in people’s values and perception from past decades. What is the difference?

It is a fact that life can be a bitch and some are very unfortunate to be much handicapped to begin with. However, it is also a fact that they are the minority of the population who have no choice being in poverty. Here today, let’s focus on the majority of the population who has the luxury of the freedom to choose.

At the end of the day, people deep down know what they need to do for themselves regarding their finance, but somehow somewhere along the timeline, people stop admitting to reality and ignore what they know. They prefer to be denial, and may even do their best to stay in ignorance, so they can justify themselves. Ah, ignorance is a bliss… but not really. There is always a choice, and people choose to be ignorant so they can be superficially happy through materialism and instant gratification. They like taking the easy way out, though it is only temporary, but they don’t care if it’s only temporary.

Being in denial, people try to become something they are not. And whether they know it or not, that builds up a void within… you can think of it as a spiritual void or a feeling of emptiness. Call it what you want. As this void gets bigger, people try to fill it with external things, which are paid for with money or credits — money they don’t have. These external things provide instant gratification and the perfect noise to mask that void. As time goes on, they lose a great deal of responsibility, integrity, discipline, and compassion with such behaviors.

I don’t think people should blame credit cards. Credit cards are merely financial tools and dead object. Like subprime mortgage, like all other forms of intelligent(dumb)financing program. Like money. They are all dead objects. How can they be held accountable? Companies make them available, and people choose to use them.

I think life is structured a way that allows us to make many mistakes. We can make a lot of mistakes at different times, as long as we recover from each. And frankly, we all make mistakes in life. We need to do our best to stay aware and catch and correct mistakes as quickly as we can. I cannot fathom that it is one big mistake that brought everyone down to their knees. Humans are tough and adaptive creatures. The key lies in being aware and always learning — the opposite of being in denial and ignorant.

It only becomes the big issues today as people remain in denail and continuously make the same mistakes, until one day — WHAM!!! — they found out they are holding on to a thread hanging off a cliff. They tried to chase after the something that they vaguely see and believe that will bring happiness but won’t and now they need to catch themselves before they fall. They need to recover from their mistakes, and they will if they choose to.

Indeed, we need external things for survival and for pleasure. It’s a part of life. But when you look to ONLY externals for happiness, you are chasing after shadows.

I believe happiness happens when you look within yourself first. When I said to look within yourself, I mean to find the values in life that are important to you. You need to get to know yourself. Know what you want in life. To each person, there are many important values, so you must prioritize, and I dare claim that no one should have money and fame at the top of the list. With such a list, you shall know what is “enough” and hence, be able to distinguish between “wants” and “needs”. You can then simplify your life and not have excessive externals yet be content, though remember being content does not mean being satisfied and complacent.

Problem happens when people never stop to find out their values. Again, they try to become what they are not. I don’t believe it is entirely the people’s fault because of how they become conditioned the way their are — constantly being distracted by advertisements, bombarded with information, and conditioned about money/appearance/fame. As a result of those: They think they will be happy when others see them as rich. They think they will be happy when they have that next-best-thing. They think they will be happy when they beat their neighbors.

However, there comes a time for each of us to come to understand that such a culture doesn’t work and therefore, learn not to buy into such a culture. It is not easy, but it is what we need to do. This is where discipline comes into play, and where we take responsibility for ourselves.

So at the same time you are learning and reading about all those “methods” on how to get rid of debt or to build your wealth, why not take a pause to learn about yourself and get your values straightened out? Because if you don’t, your changes will likely be short-lived because your character has not changed.

You can shred your credit cards, but if you don’t fix the problem by fixing the fundamentals, the problem will come back as easily as it is to shred the credit cards.

Originally posted 2008-03-28 10:22:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Why No Way is the Way

A way can be said to be a predefined set of pattern or behavior.

It has been a long time that our various social structures and cultural patterns base on our mutually exclusive definition of good and evil, right and wrong have done us well. That is great. However, it is about time for us to move beyond.

Impermanence IS the only absolute of nature, as base on the fundamental teaching of Buddhism and also base on the fundamental understanding in physics.

Time is changing. As we relentlessly continue to develop technology that accelerates the speed for which we and our society change, the more so that any pre-defined set of pattern and behaviors are to become obsolete. That is to say, it is very likely that pre-existing ways will have less and less benefits and more more harms the longer we hold on to it.

In a state of chaos, no predefined patterns, no premeditated thoughts can help us.

That is why having “no way” is the only way to behave suitably as time proceeds from here on. It has never been more true.

Having no way does not mean to fight and to abolish any existing way. Quite oppositely, having no way means MORE so that we need to study and fully understand all, or at least as many as possible, existing ways that we know of. But without being attached, as in clinging to any particular one of them…. only then, we can spontaneously apply a suitable way that maybe one or more of the pre-existing ways in combination, or create a new one, in any particular situation.

And this is only possible if you don’t cling on to a specific way.

Understand both what are defined as “right” and “wrong”… and know that at any time, “right” could become “wrong” and “wrong” could become “right”. Seeing sides without taking side.

This may seem very dangerous and foreign to our mind conditioned to follow patterns of behavior in the last few thousands of years. It is in-arguable that we have the brains to move beyond that.

That is the kind of mentality, living attitude that more and more mankind needs if we are to live harmonically among ourselves and with our environment.

That is the kind of world leader we need, even just as people with influence.

Bruce Lee’s JKD is actually of no particular style. It has its basic routines, training patterns. Many of those may have been drived from Wing Chun or any other style that Bruce Lee studied, and they are good starting point. But you should not be restricted by any of them. He did not even want to call JKD as JKD if he can get by without words.

We have to be able to move beyond all the ways that we have.

As the “no-mind” teaching in Zen, it means for us to go beyond our mind. Reality lives beyond our thinking, our logical intelligence. This is also why the only thing a Zen master really ever does is either destroy all your existing concepts and ideas — including what you think of Zen, or if he thinks you are close, directly points you to the “no-mind” state of being and perception.

To deal with reality optimally, we need no-mindedness and make no-way the way.

Then of course, this choice cannot be made up in the mind as a decision like we usually do, but instead it is a choice that is to known by our heart.

Originally posted 2010-08-23 23:33:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Saving Interest Rate Is Not Low Enough

I’m sure that’s what all the banks think. “If only we can somehow make it 0% interest and still get people to deposite their money…”

This post is provoked as I am doing my monthly accounting and noticed this in my ING Direct Saving account.
ing_july_rate

So 1.5% is not low enough and they make it 1.4%, whaaaa….

They are really being unhelpful for those of us who are saving their money.

There are those people who think, “I will lose my money if I put them in stock market. I will not make any interest if I put them in saving. I will also lose money to inflation if I put them under my mattress. To hell with it, I’m going to spend it all.”

For sure that is not the right mentality to have, respective to saving and being frugal, but surely, we can all see why people feel that way, no?

PS. Hope everyone had a good July 4th weekend.

Originally posted 2009-07-05 16:01:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Four Aspects of Personal Growth

I would like to clarify the growth that can happen to us into four separate categories.

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Financial

I know the line between mental and emotional can be blurry, but I’d like to distinguish them because in this case, mental means personal mental strength and emotional indicates more people-related feelings/thoughts. Already we can see how growing in these two categories can affect each other, and it is not difficult to create links between the four areas. In other words, when we grow in one area, it provides support for us to grow in another. Examples such as, when we grow physically, becomes healthier and more fit, we have an improved sense of confidence that strengthen us mentally. In return, the mental strength provides the discipline needed to continue to exercise, and the discipline we used in that can spill over to let us have control over our money. And then by having control over our financial life, we feel more secure and thus, able to divert our mental energy to better purposes than being stressed out all the time about money. Or when we become more emotionally stable, there will be less situations where emotions take over us and allow our logical side to help resolve the situations for us. Stability in the other three areas help our emotional stability… etc…

As we can see, that is exactly why we need to grow and never give up in all four directions on our paths of personal development. They are closely related. None of the four should be neglected because lacking any of them will weaken the other areas drastically. To visualize this, let’s picture what would happen to a four-legged stool if one leg is missing. You get the idea.

Somewhat related to this, I’d like to quote myself from a conversation I had today, “Only if we’re truly independent, we will make real friends in life.” This is a bit vague, but “true” independence amounts to reaching certain level/independence in each of the four areas I mentioned. What I said is what I fully believe in my heart. “Inter-dependence (friends) is possible only after Independence (self)”.

Originally posted 2007-04-11 20:43:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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