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A Letter

By Alvin Vista

 

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Let us begin in the beginning. You might be wondering what this book is all about; what I might be trying to say; or whether I am preposterous enough to actually claim to be the creator of this reality. So before you will be wasting more time sifting through unclear phrasing common in most philosophical treaties, I am going to state my primary statement without further ado. I AM THE CREATOR OF THIS REALITY, AND YOU, DEAR READERS, ARE EXISTING IN IT. So there it is. At this point you have at least two options -- 1. Slam close this book, snort indignantly at such egotistical and delusionally psychotic claim, and cause this book to cease to exist or 2. Read till the end (or at least to the point where you could not take it anymore) and see if option number 1 should have been the right thing to do but you just didn't back then and so you have wasted a considerable portion of your finite existence.

 

Although I am the creator of this reality, it does not mean I am omnipotent, nor does it mean that I am invulnerable. It does not, actually, mean that I am any more special than any of the entities existing in this reality, including you. This might seem to be nonsensical at first but I will try to help you understand what I am trying to express by offering an analogy which I will call THE DREAM ANALOGY.

 

Suppose you are dreaming. A perfectly ordinary dream, say you are in your house or office doing about whatever it is you do. Naturally, there are people in it, your family, or your officemates, also doing about whatever it is that they do. The dream, everything in it, the family members, officemates, furniture, the whole dream-reality, existed because you are dreaming it. Should you cease to dream that particular dream -- if you wake up, for example -- then the dream-reality will also cease to exist. Incidentally, there could be entities in the dream-reality that happen to also exist in your present reality. Your real boss could be in one of your dreams, for example. As such, although the dream-reality might cease to exist when you wake up, it does not necessarily mean that they will also be nonexistent in the present reality. In the same manner, those entities who were unfortunate enough to exist only in the dream-reality will be no more as soon as you wake up.

 

This DREAM ANALOGY is the closest layman’s explanation for you readers who happen to be laymen. For those who have multiple postgraduate degrees and so would not suffer to be called laymen, this analogy would still be the most easily understandable exposition since you cannot hope to fully understand the mind of the creator of this reality.

 

This introduction is now drawing to a close. I will now make my secondary statement which is: I EXIST, AND I WILL ALWAYS EXIST. However, I am not certain if this reality will always be. Consequently, I cannot be certain if you, dear readers, will continue to exist even if this reality had ceased to be. But take heart, if you do continue to exist even if this reality is no more, then well and good. If you happen to cease to exist the time this reality comes to an end, then it hardly matters since nothing could matter to a nonentity. Either way, you have no reason to worry what might come after all this come to pass. What might come after does not matter. Only what comes now, this very moment, while you are living, matters. And since you are living in my reality, I have an unsolicited feeling, much like an annoying landlord, to give unsolicited musings about my tenement and how the tenant may be able to maximize the stay.

 

Dear beings who are living in my reality, I am writing this only because there is no way I can speak to all of you in a reasonable amount of time. I would have liked to talk to each and every one of you in person. We could have a little chat on a beach, sipping fresh juice, amidst the quiet beauty of this reality. I would have wanted to do that, if not for the fact that I am NOT a god in my reality; I have to resort to writing books to reach as many of you as I can.

 

Dear beings,

In these times most of you feel you have gained so much knowledge and understanding that it seems you know everything there is to know about life and the universe in which you live. Unfortunately, there is only one certain fact in life, one solid rock in the middle of an ocean of transient knowledge. This ONE truth is old and, if you think about it, an obvious one. The only thing certain is your existence my dear beings. I can assure you, if you are reading this, that it is absolutely true that you exist. All the rest, the fact that the earth moves around the sun, or that one about death and taxes, are only relative and transient truths. If before you feel that you are on a continent of solid ground built upon by thousands of years of human intellect, I am now opening your eyes and making you realize that the ground you are standing upon is in fact ice, and underneath is the ocean of uncertainty. Amidst all the floating ice, only the truth of existence stands firm; it will always stand firm and you can always have this firm ground to stand upon. Yes, you could still venture on the ice and it does not mean that the ice underneath your feet will give way soon. But you must realize that the ice COULD give way. Perhaps not now or in a thousand years, but it could give way.

However, do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you stay put in your rock. Life is too precious to spend sitting on a rock. In fact, I will be urging you to venture upon the ice, but know that it is ice you will be standing on and not terra firmae. Realize, too, that although it is floating on unsteady waters, the ice itself is real. And in your own way, you could find value on the ice more that you could on solid ground. Except for the ONE truth, everything else is relative and the value of all things depend on us and us alone. How we value things and choosing which ones matter most is a difficult task. A task that is made more difficult if we increase the number things that we choose to value. I decide to value only a handful of things and, even if I am the creator of this reality, what I value has absolutely no bearing on your choices of what matters. Nevertheless, since I am the one writing here (even if you regard my CLAIM as totally preposterous) do hear me out -- you have little choice anyway -- as I tell you what I think matters or should matter in one’s life.

 

Happiness matters, and I believe that happiness is more of a matter of choice than something inherent in ourselves. It seems that it’s fashionable these days to be angst-filled. We like to rant about the hopelessness of our situation or about life in general. We feel lost, and the term “lost generation” is now in vogue more than ever before. We may use different words in describing our sadness – some call it angst, others call it depression, blues, or black mood. Most of us nurture sadness, though we do everything we can to eradicate that feeling in our lives. No wonder there’s a proliferation of anti-depressants, alternative healing, and more psychotherapists than we know what to do with. All these just to get rid of our so-called sadness. And yet most of us find it easier to be sad than to be happy. Most of us who complain about lots of things are not only unhappy but seek a reason to be sad. These are the people who go out into the world and say “if only…” and live most of their lives without contentment. When people chose to be sad, no amount of anti-depressants could help them.

I chose to be happy. I’ve realized that this world, this life, is so beautiful to pass up by being unhappy most of the time. I will not live forever, so I will watch the sunset instead of waste my time analyzing my being lost in the karmic universe (or whatever). I chose to see and appreciate beauty around me, rather than be dissatisfied on how my room lacks esthetic appeal and be discontent for not being able to hire an interior decorator to do something about it. It is hard to be content, we are wired to be dissatisfied with things. After all, discontentment is the cornerstone of human civilization. Had we been content from the dawn of humanity, we would still be living in caves until now. But then again, if we are now living in caves and happy most of the time, I’d rather have that than our modern world where the best selling drug of all time is Prozac – the famous  “happiness in a pill”.

I chose to be happy, because in the end it will be the only thing that matters. What does it matter if we have less-than-perfect lives, or that we have not fathomed the big questions such as “Why?”.  I only want to be able to say on my dying day that my life had been worth living, and that I spent my time living rather than pondering the big questions.

 

Beauty matters. Why? I don’t know. I am not a philosopher, and even if I am I won’t discuss the philosophical meaning of aesthetics and why we find something beautiful as beautiful. I believe that everytime we analyze an object or concept, that object or concept looses a bit of its meaning and value. And if we go on analyzing, we would soon find out that we lost the object itself.

Beauty matters for me and I offer no explanation why it does. The natural is more beautiful than the man-made and, in all of creation, there is nothing more beautiful than a young girl’s face. Although it is true that beauty is relative, it is only true after a certain cut-off level. It is also true that individual differences on beauty matters less and less the higher you go along the ladder. It's the same with wealth. It hardly matters if your net worth is 10 billion or 40 billion. But there is a cut-off point, say $1,200 a year (which is incidentally the average annual income in my country), where you cannot be described as wealthy regardless of what the prophets say about the poor owning the kingdom of heaven.

Speaking of beauty, it may be the only thing I now seek. When I was young (when I was adolescent and idealistic, I mean), I seek for the answer; Answer with a capital A, that answers the ultimate question about everything. But as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I realized that the Answer is not out there. I will never find it, and nobody will, ever.

I have always enjoyed beauty, and whenever I have a chance, I look, listen, touch (I particularly enjoy touching or tactile stimulation), indulge my senses and my mind.

I find life beautiful and I find beauty as what makes life worth living. The passage below is, on my opinion, the most beautiful passage concerning life. Whenever I read it from time to time, it never fails to move me in its simplicity.

 

What is life?

It is a flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

--An Indian chief

 

Perhaps most importantly (in terms of our relationship with others), being GOOD matters. It might sound obvious to some but most people don’t realize that being good indeed pays off. Being good is more important that being right, although this is partly semantic gobbledygook since both words depend on subjective interpretation and does not have absolutely definite meanings. What I am trying to say is that you must do what you feel and believe personally to be good. Doing so would eventually lead to your personal well-being and happiness. Although I accept that the concept of good and bad is relative -- what might be good for a person may not necessarily be good for another -- we must not use this relativity to rationalize certain actions that are INDEED bad. We must use the most basic and fundamental meaning when we define the word “good” so that it does not merely mean “advantage”. Rather, we must look into our hearts find what we believe to be good and value that good as a benchmark for our lives.

 

Learning the lessons of life matters. We do that by living life, by loving, by feeling pain, by failing miserably and getting back up, by trying again and again. I value the quest to find my way. Most of you dear beings ask yourselves this question: “Where am I now?” An interesting question. A question which, in the past, I only ask to myself when I am already lost.

I am not ashamed to be lost now, as I had been so many times in my life, because I could never experience the joy of finding my way if I am never lost. After all, a great mathematician once said that true pleasure lies not in the discovery of truth, but in the search for it. I feel, at this moment, that I am not lost.. I may be wrong. Perhaps I am still lost. But now, for the first time since the onset of puberty, I am beginning to find my way.

 

You might wonder at this point how a creator of this reality could possibly be lost in a reality he himself created. It would be like getting lost in a house you built yourself. Well dear beings, as I have said many times before, and now I will say again, I am not a perfect being in my reality and I do feel lost from time to time. I also happen to scratch my butt, pick my nose, and fart really smelly farts now and then. I also STATED that I FEEL lost from time to time. You might find my reasoning mere semantic squabble but there is a difference between FEELING lost and being ACTUALLY lost. It might turn out after all that I really was incapable of being lost in my reality, but that does not prevent me from feeling lost once in a while. In any case, a house-builder CAN and sometimes DO get lost in his or her own house.

 

Enough of that -- why waste time in mere semantic squabbles. Dear beings, I want you to realize that every moment of your existence is of immense value. Let me say that again. EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR EXISTENCE IN THIS REALITY IS OF IMMENSE VALUE. It is of value to you because every moment is passing and, once passed, will NEVER be experienced again. What’s more, I cannot guarantee that your existence will continue once this reality is over -- although I can guarantee you that this reality WILL be over. There is a chance that your existence is not forever and that the seconds of your lives is finite. Nevertheless, even if you have an eternity to exist, each passing moment remains a fragment of irreplaceable beauty and treasure.

Live not for an end. The end might not come or you could find out that when the end does come everything you’ve done won’t matter after all. Live because you have life to live.

 

The future can NEVER be predicted. We can consider possible outcomes and try to calculate the statistical probabilities, but despite all the possibilities that we can simulate, the future would choose from among the infinite possible outcomes the one we’ve never thought off. Looking at this from a mathematical viewpoint, it is obvious enough: the are an infinite number of possibilities and we can only consider a finite number within a period of time, naturally there will always be an infinite number left that we haven't considered. Nevertheless, the rest of you, and even I, will always attempt to foresee the possible outcomes to an event, and it is only natural for us to do so. We do no not want the unpredictable; we fear the unknown.

That is why hope is powerful. Hope is simply belief, in the absence of concrete proof, that everything will turn out fine.

Never loose hope, dear beings, for the future is open and not even I, the creator of this reality, could tell you what tomorrow brings and what surprises each day of the rest of your existence offers. This reality will always surprise you. And for that alone you have reason enough to live for the next day, and for the day after, until the days run out.

 

Time is change. Let me put it this way -- time exists because there is change. Imagine a box with several balls inside and nothing else exists except those balls. If those balls do not move or undergo any change at all, then time does not exist inside the box. Quantum physics tells us that mere observation of a system changes the system, so for every observable system, time exists. In other words, there is no system that we can observe, directly or indirectly, that is timeless. What of the systems that are unobservable? Would it be possible for a box to exist which time does not exist in the interior if the interior cannot be observed? The answer is NO. Dear beings, anything that cannot be observed does not exist. “Nothingness” does not and cannot exist. If a box exists and there is no way to observe its interior, then the interior does not exist. It would then be meaningless to talk about the properties (which include time) of the interior just as it would be meaningless to describe something that does not exist. It then follows that time is inherently present in every system in this universe.

We observe that time seems to flow only forward, but could it be possible for it to flow in the opposite direction? That is, could the present precede the past? We go back to the box with balls. Imagine the balls moving randomly (this randomness will be guaranteed again by quantum mechanics) in all directions. Each configuration of the balls in a given instant marks a definite moment in time. Time flows forward because the random movement of the balls does not repeat. Time would only flow backwards if from a present configuration the balls would somehow trace back their movements exactly and return to a previous configuration. Although the possibility of that event happening is not zero, it is extremely small as to be practically zero as much as we can consider lim 1/x as x to be zero.

So there we have it. The flow of time cannot be reversed and the past can never be made present again. What we did before stays done and there is no way to undo them. Not like in the word processing programs where you can hit the “undo” button everytime you make a mistake. Remember that everytime you are about to do something important.

 

Life is a complex web. It is made up of paths that branch again and again. However, for the person living a particular life, it will seem linear to him, that is, one thing follows the other. One will not be able to see the branches because one only follows a single path and once a path is taken, the alternate paths disappear. Only for those who are on the outside can see the web and the particular paths taken from the infinite choices. We live life this way -- we follow a linear path then come to a branching, we then decide (consciously or not) which among the many to take, then move on. Life then is made up of these choices, these decisions that we take, and the zigzag path that we make becomes the story of our lives.

Our decisions are therefore very important, and we must make sure that, whenever we consciously know to be on a branching point, we make the best choices we can. And when the choice is made and the path taken, take responsibility for your action. Realize that on the decisions you made, success or failure is all your own.

Dear beings, take responsibility, but do not feel guilty for your failures. Guilt and conscience are two different things. Conscience is a guiding inner voice that comes before an act; guilt is a useless burden that comes after the act is done. Get rid of guilt, it does not do you any good. It is a useless baggage you can very well do very without.

 

  In our existence, whether we exist for now only or for always, there is one thing that is and will always remain to be very special, and that is LOVE. The capacity to love is what makes us human, and the potential to be loved is what makes being human worth it. Love is the central value of many of the world’s major religion and although I am not a fan of any major religion, I believe that love should be our central value. Why? Well, I can’t tell you why. But if you had given and received love, you will know that it should simply be so.

 

Everything comes to an end, stories about life, life itself, existence, this letter too. In a very short while, my words will end and my one-way conversation to a person I have not and perhaps never will meet will be over. Before that, let me allow you to have a glipse at my real, or shall we say human, aspect. So that you will remeber me as a person, and not as an entity.

Let me tell you something about myself. As an only son, I don't have brothers or sisters but plenty of close first cousins, all of them younger than me. My home, where I spent my childhood, is a rather small and quiet town by the sea, so I got sunburns almost every week from staying too long at the beach. Then I moved to the city for my high school years and stayed with my grandfather. Since then, I had never been home for real, my longest stay in my hometown would be merely two months and I always feel I'm just a guest, to move on when vacation is over. I was only 12 years old at that time. We can say that learned to be independent at an early age. I love my childhood, I remember with nostalgia and great fondness.

How do other people see me? For that I will quote two of my friends who gave possibly the best portrayal of me (the best portrayal because it portrays the best of me).

Female friend: “Simply, I believe he is just like anybody - only better. He is exceptionally talented in the sense that he could understand so much in such a short span of time a literary work, a film, a gesture, and even just a simple smile. I know … coz I've seen him do his stuff. It is incredible how this gift, as I call it, could enable him to grasp easily what goes on around him.”

Male friend: “Well, he knows everything sometimes. And he's a great guy. Just ask him. The world is but a dream. He is the world. Hate him, like him … curse him, praise him … cheat him, trust him … hurt him, laugh with him. Whatever you do, he responds appropriately like the average normal person he has always wanted to be but he is not.”

I am young, I am in my twenties this moment that I am writing this letter to you. I have never left my country. It is very possible that you are more experienced than me in many ways. Still, I have learned some things which you may or may not know, or know but in denial. Here are some of my meager observations. They may or may not be true, and for those of you who had more experience on a particular matter, I would be happy if you could point out my error and enlighten me. We could talk it over tea or something.

 

My Observations    

Hard work pays off.

 

We do not always get our way, because if we do life would not be as exciting as it is now - we would forget how to crave, to desire, and to strive.

 

The best part of a woman's body to touch are her hands.

 

Physical attraction is like the bottom rungs of a ladder. When you're already on the top, they're not so important anymore, but you couldn't have reached the top without passing them first.

 

The best "white noise" is rain on the roof.

 

To make the best beer, take a mug, fill it with ice cubes to a third, pour the beer slowly to prevent foaming, then swirl it until the ice melts a little.

 

People die. And when they do, it would be quite extremely improbable that you'll ever see them again. In the whole history of mankind only one had been verified by a significant number of people to have returned physically after dying, so we can say that the chances of it happening again is something like 20-30 billion to one against.

 

Knowledge is absolute, yet it does not last forever. Beauty, being so relative, is eternal.

 

You cannot be courageous if you are not afraid in the first place.

 

The portrayal of woman being taken from man's ribs means that one is never complete until he or she finds the other.

Sometimes things just happen for no reason at all. This inherent randomness gives meaning to free will since it contradicts the notion of predetermination.

 

Traveling is probably the best past time of all.

 

Love takes time and demands a lot of work to develop, but once it does, it's the most wonderful thing in this world.

 

The best part of the day is the golden hours of the afternoon.

 

Solitude is not synonymous with loneliness.

 

It's the little things, the unexpected things, the things that weren't planned for, that makes us happy.

 

Humans need other humans.

 

If I were to die, the one thing I'd miss the most would be life.

 

The older we grow, the happier our memories of childhood become.

 

It's no use dwelling on the painful memories of the past.

 

For women, weight in pounds should be less than height in centimeters. For men, IQ should be greater than waist measurement in centimeters.

 

Music is the most soothing of all the art forms.

 

As the moon waxes, it rises later and later each day.

 

There is no such thing as the perfect someone, but it's comforting to imagine his or her existence.

 

If we were to film our lives as it happens, it would be the most boring film of all. It does not mean, however, that we lead uninteresting lives. It simply means that a greater part of our lives is spent doing uninteresting things.

 

Attraction just happens. There are no rules, no conditions, we won't know why or when until it happens. And when it does, sparks fly, we have a feeling of lightness, our hearts melt, and we are bursting with an unexplainable feeling. Unlike love, which is slow in unfolding, attraction happens in an instant and under the right conditions, such as attraction being mutual, it is the most magical feeling of all.

 

 

  Apparent power is often not the same as actual power.

 

Guarding a secret would be much easier if no one knows you have a secret to guard.

 

We can never see ourselves as other people see us. This is the reason why we can never be totally confident on our standing with the world; self-consciousness is ever present when we are with other people.

 

No amount of simulation can equal the real thing. The real thing is always full of surprises.

 

Most, if not all, lessons in life are learned through living it.

 

TV is mostly crap. The remaining non-crap usually does more damage to humanity than the crap part.

 

The most remarkably intricate part of the human body aside from the brain is the iris. The iris produces color through its texture and not through pigments.

 

The Earth is, according to the current cosmological theories, the center of the universe after all- but not in the way the ancients imagined it.

 

  Standing on a beach, the horizon is normally 8 to 10 kilometers away.

 

People can partly interpret nonverbal signals, they can sometimes sense the intangible, but they cannot, ever, read other people's minds.

 

Packaging is as important as content.

 

Perception is reality.

 

Fashion is to Italy as movies are to the United States - their most important contribution to the world of modern art.

 

Nostalgia is edited memory.

 

No one can hurt you more than you can hurt yourself. In the same way, no one can make you happy unless you want to be.

 

When in doubt, shut up.

 

It's always a hard choice deciding which is worse: saying the things that you don't mean or not saying the things that you do.

 

Life is composed of a limited number of non-repeating and individually unique periods of time we call moments.

 

Risk only those that you can afford to lose.

 

The longer it takes, the more unpredictable it becomes.

 

Preservation of self, preservation of others, protection, care, love. The evolution of love.

 

Women have regular mood fluctuations that can usually be attributed to biological reasons, men are moody for no justifiable reason at all.

 

Dreams are called dreams because they did not happen. Otherwise, they will be called history.

 

Mountains are majestic, vast and fertile rice fields can stir the soul, massive cumulus clouds pierced by a single shaft of sunlight is a magnificent sight, a rosebud wet with dew is lovely, but in all of creation, nothing is as beautiful as a young girl's face.

 

The best way to travel is by land and by not sleeping during most of the trip.

 

Solitude is the price of freedom.

 

The best, and perhaps the clearest, way of letting someone know that you love her is to tell her.

 

 

I admit that some of these observations are trivial or even useless, most are personal and thus could only be true for me, some could indeed be simply wrong. But there is one observation that deep within my being I believe to be true, for me and for you dear being. I cannot offer logical reason for its certainty, I can only believe that...

 

In the end, everything will be all right.