I’ve Been In Manila. What Happened There Changed Me Forever.
A few days ago, I was going through security at NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) in Manila, the Philippines. I was hungry, sleepy and not in a good mood. Border control was pestering me with questions. All I wanted was to find a cab, get to my hostel, sleep and wait to return home.
I did return home, yesterday and I must say, that my three days in Makati, Manilla, changed my life forever. I can say that a new life started thanks to what happened there or better said, because of the people I have met, as the place, while safe, is not that interesting to begin with.
Let me give you some background. At age 8, I’ve started coding on a Commodore 64 machine. I wrote games in BASIC, first by copying the code from a book, step by step and then by creating my own code. By age 9, I would have written code of tens and even hundred of lines which was impressive for my age, since I was a mini, mini version of myself compared to now.
Later, I’ve got into software development. I’ve never made any money out of it but I’ve impressed quite a few people. This lead to the study of philosophy, logic and business in general. Needless to say, I’ve formed my mind to be extremely logical and rational, somewhat of a computer.
26 year old. In an unhappy relationship that is based on toxic codependency. Near broke. Health not in such a good shape. Smart but honestly, nowhere to use my intelligence. Stuck in a country that is nice but which is a far cry from Europe and to what I’m familiar with. Suffering from borderline depression.
That was me until very recently. For most things, that is me even right now. This is where my logic took me. Through external observation, successful. After all, don’t people want to be entrepreneurs, travel around the world and be in a relationship with Asian girls? From an internal perspective, one that I don’t share with virtually anyone, more on the side of wanting to make Jack Daniels my best new friend and less on experiencing the joyful qualities of life.
I’ve approached life as a computer programmer, with logic and sequence and what I’ve got was a serious case of depression, bipolarity and generally, quite a lot of emotional pain.
And then I’ve got to Manila.
I won’t talk about the awesome people I’ve met. I won’t talk about the amazing friends I’ve met. I won’t talk about the great food we’ve had together. This is because this is not a review of Manila or how awesome it is to stay around like minded people.
I’m going to talk exactly about two people — one that through highly intelligent conversation made me realize how flawed is logic in general and how there is a lot more to life than my 1 + 1 must equal 2 approach and the other person, a young lady, which made me realize that I’m living in a prison build around my beliefs, my fears, my worries and how I make that prison to be a Alcatraz by reinforcing it with hardcore logic.
The first one was as random as it gets. It starts with an hello for easy small talk and it lead to a conversation about the role of art in life, about the creative process, quantum physics and mechanics, the limits of observable causality and how if something can not be quantified this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is just not quantified.
It made me realize two things. The first one is that I use logic as an excuse to prevent myself from experiencing life fully. The second one is that as a human being, I should be a human being and stop acting like a computer. In other words, I should lead with my heart, my soul, my emotions, my creative process and not with my logical brain. In the space of one hour and then a few days of reflecting on this, I have decided to say “screw you Ayn Rand” and to take a 180 opposite approach to life — to realize that while I’m logical, I know nothing about life in general and I’d better do myself a favor and stop putting everything in boxes as just if I can rationalize and tag everything, this doesn’t mean that life actually works this way.
Plus, it did not made me believe in a God but it made me believe in the idea of a behind mechanism, call it causality that it is not visible, of how things fit together, fall together, in such a manner that makes little to no logical sense. Call it ether, call it universe, call it predestination, call it however you want but even someone who studied philosophy for four years and is a hard-core logician (not for long though) admits that existence is a lot more than I can understand and I see only the tip of the iceberg, I draw conclusions from it without having any idea of what is underneath.
The heart knows a lot more than the brain. The brain sees what it wants to see. It uses reference systems based on inferring conclusions based on past events or deducing conclusions based on existing events. For the first time in my adult life, I feel like it is okay to shut down my brain and understand the hidden language of emotions. The brain deals with numbers and abstract concepts and emotions deal with pain and pleasure and in a way, they offer the same thing — an interpretation of reality, just only in two very different languages.
I am trained to believe in what I can see. I am trained to believe that the universe exists based on abstract rules that can be understood and measured and that if something can not be quantified, identified, categorized then it doesn’t exist. And I’m stupid to think that in my arrogance, I’m so smart to understand the world at this level. Just like how chess is not a representation of real world strategy, so logic is not a powerful enough system to understand everything that is around us.
I don’t know if this sounds like the X-Files because it is not meant to be. However, for me, I’ve decided to stop living in denial and believe that I can understand the universe and the metaphysical dimension of existence simply because things don’t fit and there are a lot more things I can’t logically explain then things that I can. And while I was a bastard about this and I considered people that believed in this to live in denial, now I believe that the people who think everything can be quantified and measured and that good existence is a function of the logical interpretation of reality are the ones who are in denial. We’re small little creatures. We know nothing. We believe the truth is represented by what we can see, hear, smell, touch, taste while forgetting that in this moment, around you there are hundreds, thousands of things you can not see, from the flow of the air to the electromagnetic waves produced by your devices to the wi-fi radio field around your room.
The second person actually surprised me. It is not that I haven’t met the rebel, “I’m on my own way” type of people before. I even have David Bowie “Rebel Rebel” in my favorites playlist on my phone.
It is that I’ve met this person exactly when I was supposed to meet her. In the last nine months, I’ve barely traveled at all. Apart from a professional visit to Europe where I’ve had fun with a sassy young German girl, a sophisticated American girl from Miami and a very smart guy also from the USA, I’ve barely met people at all. I’ve fallen into this routine of doing the same things again and again and lying to myself that I’m happy. This is in stark contrast to my early travel days where getting five new contact information a day was the standard and where each day lead to personal growth.
And here she was, a young, beautiful, crazy girl that reminded me of how I’ve approached life before I’ve decided to make my life in Taiwan my own personal prison. It wasn’t admiration, it was actually pain because I’ve been there, done that, knew it is a lot better than what I’m doing now but I’ve decided to stay in my own prison.
For the same reason we all stay in our prisons made out of beliefs and preconceptions. Fear. We fear what we can’t control and we can’t understand. Rationally, taking 100% of a 5 is infinitely better than taking 75% of a 10 or taking 50% of a 20. Certainty trumps uncertainty every time when you calculate reality rationally simply because the upside is generally canceled by the downside.
But you know what? This type of logic is depressing because if my life was actually based on logical, causal events that I can understand, I would have never achieved anything with it. One does not get to a high IQ, high EQ, entrepreneur, student of +300 books and world traveler when he was the epiphany of being average or below average as a kid. I was the ugly, stupid kid. Don’t tell me that rationality and logic brought me here.
And here she was, taking life one day at a time, carefree, enjoying it, not making calculations about the potential for something to happen, not saying to herself “I have a 75% chance of being happy in the future” but simply being happy. And while I can teach people a lot about how to make life work and achieve goals, she taught me something I didn’t even realized at first — that life is not something you can control and that your heart knows the way.
My time in Manila was filled with joy and happiness, to a degree where I feel my emotional tanks full … oops … sorry … where I feel appreciated, understood and loved by those around me. But at the way to the airport, I felt unease. I wanted to leave this place because home is rationally better. And yet, why the heck would I have wanted to leave?
In the airport, I’ve started a series of events that ended my relationship. Today, I have took the decision that even if I’m virtually broke and I have no idea how I’ll make it work, I’m leaving for Ecuador. I want to spend time with the shamans and go through a few spiritual rituals. And even if rationally, my life screams “Red alert … red alert” as it is the perfect storm at this moment, I know that in a few weeks, I’ll be in Ecuador, doing something I’ve wanted to do since I was 14.
And honestly, this is the first day of my new life, because today it is the day that I’ve realized that I have no control over life … that the traffic light I’ve thought existed in life are crap … and that while my mind is impotent in predicting extended hidden causality, my hearth can. It’s going to be a long and painful process of learning of how to listen to my heart but deep inside, I know one thing.
Everything is going to be alright from now on. Things are going to work themselves out as long as joy, happiness, love, for me, for others, for everything that surrounds me stays as my true north.