Life

Repost: 2 Sides of Life (Dec 2005)

I was searching through my old blog for some articles I wrote years back about some technology, and I came across this one. Very meaningful. In fact, I was actually going to write the exact same topic from scratch. Now I don’t have to.

As I re-read what I wrote, I felt heartened, because I still hold the same philosophy that I penned 5-1/2 years back.

“Do not wish that you’d change your life yesterday, but strive to forge your destiny tomorrow.”

Monday, 05 December 2005 (original post)

I watched a Hong Kong film over the weekend starring Andy Lau, who took a potion that lets him grow up exponentially. When he realised that what he did was wrong, that he should not have wanted to grow up faster, he begged the scientist to help him undo the effects. The scientist sighed, “You should have known the consequences, and now you have very little time to live. As long as there is tomorrow, life is full of hope. The sad thing about life is that there is no starting over. The good thing about life is that there is no need to start over.”

With these profound words, I started to form some thoughts on it. Indeed, we should be so thankful that we don’t have a choice to restart our lives as we want. While I’m sure everyone loves the idea of “going back in time”, it probably would not have changed anything. On the contrary, having the choice will make our lives even more miserable.

Life is a one-way path. Once you made the turn, you have to stick to the path until you reach another crossroad. Imagine if you were allowed to return to the last crossroad and re-choose your path, you will still face a new path of uncertain roads. Whichever path you choose, you can never be certain of what is coming next, because with each new choice leads to new roads. The only way for the path to be the same is when you select the same path all over again.

I’m sure we have watched enough movies to understand this point. From the iconic ‘Back To The Future’, where Marty (Michael J Fox) wanted to change his past. One wrong move and it could mean he himself will cease to exist in the future.

Remember the 1980s there is these series of game books called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’? I was a fan of it. As you read the story, you are given choices by jumping to the indicated page. Sometimes you would reach a dead-end, and you would conveniently back-track to the previous ‘crossroad’ and choose the other path, until you reach the happy ending.

Let me bring up another movie starring Ben Affleck. Paycheck talks about a scientist who is paid to erase his memory on the project he works on to protect client confidentiality. For this project, he was being set-up by the client even after his memory was being erased. However, using the machine he built for his client – ability to see his future – he planned his getaway by leaving many clues along the way.

Let’s say this invention is true. Imagine how many attempts Mr. Affleck has to make in order to perfect his getaway path. Because, as he remapped his moves, the path changes with him, thus requiring him to re-plan his following move, and so forth.

One final example: if you happen to play games like chess where it allows you to undo, by undoing your step does not mean you can predict the next step.

So if we all were given this power to go back in time to re-select some of the decisions we made, our lives would be much longer, much more arduous, much more painful, because for the same period of time, we ended up living through multiple times.

And really, it doesn’t help if we can skip to the future, because for that period of time that you decided to skip, you are actually ‘missing’ from the timeline of events, thus your existence is subject to questions, another element of uncertainty and torment.

I always ask myself: would life be the same if I were rich or famous? Frankly, you will have another set of problems you could never fathom. Life is not about ‘what if’. Life is about adaptation and self-contentment. If you are able to do that, you have achieved success in understanding the meaning of life

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