It all began with a trip abroad to the island of Borneo.
I moved around East Malaysia for exactly 10 days at the end of last year. During my time there, I serviced a local community by building brick walls for their main dining hall and planting a fence around their hilltop church. Upon completing these tasks, I then proceeded to embark on a 4 day trek into the vast Borneon jungles.
Prior to my trip to Borneo, I was always at a blur. I never really knew what I was doing nor why I was doing it. But the island had a real, lasting impact on my outlook on life. I suppose it was a combination of the people I met on the trip, as well as being able to reconnect with nature in its purity – and not to mention binge reading essays by Thoreau and books about Christopher McCandless – that gave me such a fresh perspective on the purpose of living. Although I say “fresh,” in retrospect, I spent much of my time living in an idealised world, where my and only my beliefs were correct and valuable to the betterment of society. Everyone else’s were irrelevant.
Hugely influenced by Thoreau and his faith in human conscience, I believed for a long time, that the only reason as to why anyone would inflict harm on another being is because of greed, which is a quality that is not inherent and has resulted from the concept of monetary value. As such, I thought that if we removed money from the equation and traveled back to the time when we were hunter-gatherers living in small tribes, we would be able to eliminate all the trivial problems that arise from modern civilisation. For instance, we wouldn’t be able to live very long, but that wouldn’t be a problem because we would fully appreciate the short time which we had on this Earth. Likewise, we wouldn’t be able to live comfortably with material possessions, but that wouldn’t be a problem either because then we would start focusing on the things that matter IE our relationships with the people close to us and our connection to the natural world—both secular and nonsecular.
I thought that I had all the answers to the world’s problems; I thought it was a matter of everyone being ridiculous and not wanting to live any less comfortably than our materialistic dependence would allow.
But I was so caught up in this imaginary world where I believed in this whole idea about going back to basics that I didn’t even realise how oblivious I was being to everything else that was going on in the real world. We have bigger problems and as a population of over 7 billion people, we should not even be thinking about going back to lifestyles that existed millenniums ago, for our landscapes have changed so much that there wouldn’t even be enough space for all of us to be hunter-gatherers again. (And I’m not gonna lie, I did think about the possibility of that happening if we somehow managed to drastically reduce world population, but it’s so unfathomably selfish to say- “let’s just organise a massacre on half the people on this planet.”)
But this wasn’t even the worst part.
What I still can’t believe even today is the extent of delusion I was enthralled by. I was constantly thinking about relevant issues, such as population projections, climate change, poverty and the list goes on, but I was so caught up with my own inward thinking that I began to disregard things that were happening in the real world. I never properly spoke about any of these issues to anyone who thought conventionally or anyone who I thought would disagree. I was living in a completely different dimension and I wasn’t even aware of it.
Everything was in my head. Nothing was real.
I haven’t specified the habits I undertook to channel my beliefs, but some of which included becoming a frugal little bitch who wouldn’t spend money on any more than she needed to survive—I stopped shopping entirely. I stopped going to the cinema. In fact, I pretty much stopped going out entirely. The only places I would go to were waterfalls and national parks, but even those were commercialised, and once I realised that, I eventually stopped going out altogether. And so, as you can imagine, my social life hit rock bottom, and subsequently did my career for I would deny every opportunity that came my way.
I tried to detached myself from society as much as possible, but what I didn’t realise was that I am a part of this modern culture and just because I tell myself I don’t want to be doesn’t mean I can flee it.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to integrate oneself into the black hole so that one can give it light?
Since the beginning of 2017, I have been actively trying to work out a balance between these anti-society beliefs and my present life. I have been saying yes to a lot more things and consequently understanding a lot more about the world. I still believe in what I said about the core problem being our relationship with money, but I have since the beginning of January realised that money brings organisation. With such a huge population, we cannot afford to omit that organisation. So until I find a quick, one-stop answer to the fixing the world’s problems, this is all I have for you—be anything but ignorant.