Friday, November 29, 2013

Then And Now

Right before I got my first degree, there was a period of time that I worked in a pre-school. Long story... (no, I'm not telling it all in this post)

Once, I was asked to attend to the children as they woke from their afternoon nap. The youngest of the group was a 4-year-old girl - an adorable little thing with an angelic face. She burst into tears she moment she was awake, and wouldn't say what was wrong. The older children told me she cried every day after their nap.

Not knowing what to do, and not wanting to call one of the real teachers for help, I did what I probably shouldn't have - I placed the girl on my lap, hugged her, sweet-talked her, and did her hair up with pretty ribbons... basically, I spoiled her until she stopped crying. Then, I took her along with the other children down to the dining room for their afternoon snack.

The kitchen prepared porridge that day. The little girl sat there motionless, looking melancholy, not touching her food. I asked her why she wasn't eating. She just shook her head. I asked if she was hungry, if she wanted to eat. She shook her head again. Then, I did, again, what I probably shouldn't have - I asked if she'd like me to feed her. She looked at me, in all her wide-eyed innocence, not protesting... so I did. She took each spoonful willingly and obediently, and emptied the entire bowl quickly enough.

In hindsight, I wasn't so competent a care-giver. The right thing to do was to encourage the child to be independent, and not let her charm me into spoiling and spoon-feeding her. Yet, even then, I knew that part of the reason I did what I did, was that it was the easier path to take.

There have been many, so many, times in the course of my career (thus far) that I was tempted to desert the rightful road, because it is just so much harder. If I were to just give my students what they're after - everything served on a spoon - my work will be much less frustrating... much less work too, in fact. But I just can't bring myself to give in. It is not what I chose this profession for.

I haven't had to deal with unreasonable students regarding my no-spoon-feeding principle (specifically, no softcopy tutorial solutions) for some years now. I am thankful - extremely thankful - that my students understand that this, the harder way, is the right one.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thought Experiment

I'm sure many readers would have heard of this one: Trolley Problem.

A fast, unstoppable trolley is heading towards 5 people stuck in its track. You are within reach of a lever which, when pulled, will change the path of the trolley to another track, with 1 person on it. If you pull the lever, the trolley will strike and kill 1 person, rather than 5 of them. Will you do it?

Sometimes, I like to state the obvious - so, here it is: it isn't moral or immoral to decide either way. The problem is designed such that responses from subjects help scientists understand cognitive processes, logical reasoning, emotional irrationality and stuff (I'm not a social scientist =P)

I assume you've made your choice. If you decided sacrificing 1 life to save 5 makes a better option, I'm sure many others feel the same. Let's try again:

A fast, unstoppable trolley is heading towards 5 people stuck in its track. You are within reach of a fat man, who you can push onto the track, into the way of the trolley. The trolley, striking (and therefore, killing) him, will stop short of crashing into the 5 people. Will you do it?

The outcome will be exactly the same as the first scenario: 1 life for 5, or not? However, a lot more people will have difficulty making the decision.

I had, many years ago, read a more interesting version:

You are driving a high-speed train. Ahead of you, you see 5 children playing on the track, in the way of the train. You will not be able to stop the train in time, but you are within reach of a lever to divert the train to an adjacent track which is no longer in use, to avoid them. However, on this abandoned track, there is a lone child playing. Will you pull the lever?

Will you?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Illusion

I've always been more idealistic than being a perfectionist, as perfectionist is commonly defined. I like things the way I like them - which isn't always the way everyone else prefers, and usually not what society deems perfect. I've once written what my the ideal idea of love is. That was four years ago. I had the same ideal when I first fancied myself in love, some fifteen years ago. I still do.

My first relationship,which ended barely a year after it began, was held for a long time, as the most ideal in my memory. It was almost everything that I wrote in the post, and we never had arguments. None at all. He was the closest, I thought, to a soulmate that was mine. For a long time, I felt I could not find the same feeling with another - the seeming "perfection" simply didn't exist. I willed myself to let it go. Comparison, I reasoned, wasn't fair, because of how short-lived my "benchmark" love was, such that all there ever was time for, was the dreamy, passionate, honeymoon phase. We never got to the rough patches.

I was wrong.

It wasn't the brevity; not that we weren't together long enough to start annoying each other; not any of that. It was that the imprint of my own idea of a lover is so profound that my ideal love has become a mere illusion. I scorn those whose perfect partner characteristics include good looks, being dramatically romantic and sensitive, remembers birthdays and anniversaries and plans lavish celebrations etc., and was always proud that I never expected any of that from mine. Those poor, frivolous, common girls! Ha! However, the truth is, men like that were far more probable than the illusion I want.

For, I was also wrong about not being able to find someone I could love as I want to love - the impossible feat is getting him to love me as I want to be loved. And ultimately, that is what I want.

I want to be loved the same as I want to love.

One might argue that I'm just making myself miserable for no good reason... but, one wouldn't be happy just by telling oneself to be happy. Sure, one is fine when one isn't sad. Unfortunately though, fine isn't happy.

Life is short. Don't waste time looking for something you might never find.
Life is short. Don't settle for less than what your heart really wants.