Pouring Out Scattered Thoughts

Thoughts swirling in the head tend to take up precious mental bandwidth, and consume emotional and psychic energy. Here's pouring them out, and writing my way into clarity and freedom of mind.

Some scattered thoughts on TINA, on the danger of success, on difficult questions for consultants, on two types of work worth doing, and on giving more than money.

1. There is no alternative. TINA.

Capitalism, because there is no alternative. Status quo, because there is no alternative. In fact, there is no deficit in possible worlds, but there is a deficit in the ability to dream, to disclose, and to create new worlds.

There is no alternative if, and only if, you don't believe in one. Alternative or not, it is not reality, but perception; it is not fact, but belief. And it is your choice.

The mantra of TINA is the easy way out for cowards. It is the first line of defense of the vested interests trying to avoid inevitable change.

If there were no alternative, our species would still be walking on four legs, or our society would still be practicing slavery. History is a sequence of alternatives coming true. Yesterdays improbable alternative is today's reality. So, forget about TINA. Create new worlds.

2. The danger of success

We become successful in doing things a certain way. Then, we start to believe that it is the only way of doing things.

3. A list of difficult questions that consultants (and sustainability professionals) should ask themselves.

- If I don't need money, would I be doing what I am doing now?
- If I am not working for this client, nor does my livelihood depend on their largess, will I offer the same advice? Will I interact with them in the same way?
- Can one serve god (as a metaphor for truth) and serve clients at the same time? "...for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (John 12:43)
- Are we winning the small battles slowly and painfully while losing the whole war fast? 
- Is the war being lost at such an alarming rate that we should find no relief or refuge in the small, incremental battles we are winning? Is not the consolation prize pacifying and self-deceiving?
- When sustainability becomes an industry, are we carrying over the same "industrial mindset"?

4. Two types of work worth doing

There might be two kinds of work worth doing. The work that brings you joy, and the work that brings the world harmony. 

The first type of the work is joyous in and of itself. The joy and pride of a skilled craftsman -- crafting arts, words, and souls. If you are doing work that makes you happy, you are almost certainly making the world happy. But not always. For example, there are scientists who love their atomic research, but their work might be used to bring destruction.

Vice versa, if you are bringing harmony to the world around you, you are almost certainly happy yourself. But not always. For example, soldiers fighting against evil, or martyrs that sacrifice themselves for a cause, might not enjoy the content of their work, but they are willing to do it for the greater good.

Luckily, most good work combines both individual and societal joy and peace.

5. Giving away 1% of total savings per month. And that's not enough.

Over the past few months, I've enjoyed the liberating feeling of giving away at least 1% of my total savings per months, to worthy causes like Hampshire College, urban gardens, intentional communities, local history preservation, Wikipedia. I wish that for the rest of my life, no matter how much I have, I can continue to give away 1% of the total asset per month.

But, giving money is the easiest and the most bourgeois way of contributing. Money given to institutions are prone to be wasted in corrupted ways. It is like sending slaves (money) to do our share of duty for us. Giving time, effort and love, are much better way to internalize the struggle and the difficulties. So, let's get our hands dirty, not just purse open.


Anonymous said...

Hey Zilong, I was looking for some information about the German education system for my homework, and I ran into your blog. I'm just kind of curious, do you speak German? There are definitely not many Chinese people who can speak German and English. Besides, your English is really good. You got no accent at all. You're almost like a native speaker of English! I'm Chinese, by the way. Since I'm not sure if you can read Chinese or not, I just leave an English comment here.


Anonymous said...



Joyce Chen said...

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Jason Huynh said...

Hi Zilong, I think your story and bike ride is amazing. I'm just a university student, but it'd be great to meet and listen to your thoughts! I'm in the midst of planning my own adventure and learning experience.


Juliette said...

Always great to read your posts. I also have been feeling surrounded by TINA mindset. Impossible is such an absurd idea. Using examples from the past -what if the Earth wasn't flat?- has been the easiest way to have people think about the weirdness of TINA.