It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Children, Children, Where Art Thou?

Malaysia has been flooded with kidnap cases (well, being "flooded" would imply massiveness, but we can never be so "few" with kidnap cases). From Nurin, to Sharlinie, to some others, including the poor young girl named Nurul Nadirah, who was torched alive.

I still remember one discussion with my friend when I was undergoing my bachelor's studies, and he presented an idea to tackle this issue - controversial, yet might be effective. My friend hypothesizes that part of the reason why a kidnapper kidnaps a child is because of the satisfaction it brings when it becomes a national news, when it appears on the front page of major newspapers. To the mind of the kidnapper, gaining fame this way is an achievement - perhaps from the underachieved childhood that he or she experienced earlier.

So, what my friend proposed in that very heated discussion is that one way to bring the kidnapper out in the open is to, well, not to bring him out in the open. By silencing the media, and by not publicizing the particular case at all, it would make the kidnapper feels as if what he or she has done is not a big deal, and we can imagine this can upset him or her. If there is one thing most offenders share in common is that they all can experience nervous breakdown if there is one hiccup in their plan.

I'm not sure if this would be effective at all, but don't you think it's research-worthy? Don't you think it's something that we can look into? Whatever it is, I just hope that all parties in this country play their role to reduce or prevent kidnap cases at all, including the public, and the parents.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Positivity Bias

Positivity bias is a cognitive bias where older people have the tendency to recollect memories that are pleasant rather than the counterparts. It is observed among the older people, but I believe it also happens to younger people. Consider a girl who broke off her engagement to a guy she loved truly because of some reasons. Give her some times, and ask her to remember back the time she was with his ex-fiancee, you'd more likely find her thinking, or remembering about the good times rather than the reasons why she broke if off int he first place.

Positivity bias might be considered as a bias, or an error of human cognition, but for me it has its own advantages. Let me tell you a story of me spending a fortune on a delicious muffin. I went to a convention that was held in PWTC. As usual, places like PWTC are places where foods are way overpriced just because of the reputation. When I was walking around inside, I saw a food stall, at which there was a basket of scrumptious muffins, big and looking fluffy. Those muffins were sitting there practically asking me to come over and have a bite. I approached the stall owner and asked how much would one muffin cost. Much to my dismay, it was RM7 per muffin. I went to more expensive bakeries before and that was the most expensive muffins I had ever set my eyes on.

I immediately experienced cognitive dissonance, the conflict between the "you want it, so have it" thought and "that muffin is not worth my RM7". So, my solution was to buy it, of course, and I enjoyed that muffin right away. It was, as I guessed, as delicious as it looked. But still, a little part of my heart ached because of the imbalance payment to a little piece of food.

So, now, today is a couple of months after that very not-a-big-deal experience. Whenever I look at any muffins, I'd remember about the one overpriced muffin I enjoyed in PWTC, and much to my surprise, most of what I remembered was how delicious it was, and the money I spent on it was way back of my mind. I had no regret, in fact I think I'd only regret it if I didn't buy that muffin. So, I remember the one cognitive error I read about earlier, "Positivity Bias" and can't help but to be impressed how very purposeful everything is in the world.

So, perhaps Positivity Bias serves as a bias especially when you lack the skill to learn from the history, but it also serves as a way for you to enjoy life and the decision you make. Like Betty's father said to her (God, how much I miss this show...), adulthood is not about making the right decision, but about dealing with the decision you make. How can you deal with it until you can see silver lining of it right?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Once Upon A Time

I just bought a book, "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales" with the book vouchers government so generously gave to Malaysian students. Funny, they decided to give them now. Hmm. Well, I digress. Let's talk about the book.

According to the author, the search for the meaning of life begins as early as childhood. However, it's just the method and ways of understanding that are different. While adults actively search for the meaning of life by relating to the purposes and goals, children view the meaning of life as the way to differentiate between good and evil.

Fairy tales offer these children just that. While being simplistic (that people are either good or bad, and that people are either beautiful or ugly, etc.), they successfully tell children what this life has to offer. According to the author, this is why fairy tales often deal with the unspeakable miseries, such as the death of a parent, poverty, losing one's love, because, well, it is life after all. Though they rarely could verbalize their view of life effectively, they still cope with various life's problems - just like adults.

Try to compare the traditional fairy tales with the modern children literature. The author argues that modern children literature are aimed at entertaining or informing, or both, and they are also very shallow. Children, in social sciences, are considered as minorities and in scientific inquiry, there are certain ways to communicate and study minorities. One thing that modern science fails to understand that is that children have the cognitive capacity to understand the world, although not as expressively as adults, but they have their own language - and fairy tales, are their language.

As a result of that assumption, people tend to have "gentle" and "easy" ways of communicating with children, and this is reflected in the designation of modern literature. Modern children literature always deal with problems that are "childish" and that seem to be easy to face - fighting with a friend, or the consequence of stealing a cheap snack, or failing in school. But fairy tales tell stories of life and death, loneliness, and those life challenges that we presume only adults could comprehend.

For those who are in search of an interesting, academic, yet understandable, yet leisure-ish book, "The Uses of Enchantment" is one good choice for you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hopeful Songs

Lately, we have all heard at least once a song that depicts a broken heart. Adele, for example, won a number of Grammy awards for her album that is full of melancholy from a broken relationship. But, there are also some songs that give you hope and the light that future will be much better. Let me suggest some.

1) Maher Zain - Insha Allah.

I cannot agree more if someone says that this song inspire him or her to feel hopeful because there is "He" up there to watch over us. Religion has been shown to be an effective coping mechanism in times of difficulties and this song is just about that. It's about when you can't just seem to depend on anything, you know that there is God, who loves you more than you yourself do.

2) Christina Perri - A Thousand Years

Say what you want about this song, and despite the fact that this is a theme song for a movie that everyone seems to hate, I have a personal interpretation which I think would not astray much from the intended meaning. I believe that the lyrics are about a person who would not give up love, even when he or she has not met the other half. "A Thousand Years" tells us, as I see personally, that the person believes when the time is right, love will come, and he or she has prepared enough love for that.

3) Fun. - We Are Young

This song has everything about being a youth - that you cannot prevent from making mistake at least once. But when we are young, it's also a time when we learn and learn and learn, until we are adults with wisdom. This song asks us to embrace "youngness" and find friends who can "bring home" when we feel like falling down.

4) OneRepublic - Good Life

What is more hopeful than a song that sees this life as a good life. OneRepublic admitted to some screw-ups in the lyrics, but at the end of the day, whatever screw-ups there may be, this life is still a good life. This is optimism to the core.

5) OneRepublic - Marchin' On

I don't know why, but OneRepublic's second album is filled with positive songs - and "Marchin' On" is one of them. It calls for the need for us to move forward and force ourselves to "swim" to the better place. The song is right - whatever happens, we keep moving forward, and here we are, surviving! We keep marchin' on, mostly because we have this automatic faculty inside our mind that picks us up. My most favorite piece of lyrics is, "There are so many wars we fight, there's so many things we're not, but with what we have, I promise you that, we're marchin' on..."