Just Keep Moving

A couple of years back I was told by a psychiatrist that I had a psychological disorder, specifically Bipolar Type II. It is a quirk of the mind which—and these are oversimplified explanations—drives an individual into either states of highly elevated energy levels even so far into lessening his need to sleep, yet on the flip side plunges the person into episodes of depression. How severe these occurrences might be of course depends on he himself. Yet of course, none of those who are inflicted by bipolarity wishes to endure the feeling of emptiness, the absence of a sense of purpose and all the symptoms that accompany the affliction. Myself included.

While I personally appreciate the occasional bouts of energy surges, I loathe falling into pits of depression. Thus I had to find some way to minimize stumbling into these holes. Psychiatrists are obviously the first and foremost solution. But medication only goes so far. Sure the pills I take have been, and still are invaluable aids, yet at times the much-loathed depression manages to find a way to strike. These instances indicate that I do have to find another method of guarding myself from depression’s proverbial schemes. And I believe I have found one method that might be somewhat useful to fellow bipolars.

I won’t start speaking of ancient rituals or homeopathic remedies to alleviate the more unpleasant side-effect of Bipolar Type II. Rather, the means I accidentally came upon is quite practical, and could perhaps be somewhat useful to one’s daily life. Basically, it’s work.

Depression often struck me whenever I’m stuck in long periods of boredom. Times that come about whenever summer breaks begin, exceedingly long national holidays (Eid al-Fitr, in Indonesia, when the celebrations could last for weeks), and so on. I would sit in my room, roll around in bed, stare at the ceiling, generally watch the paint dry; all the while feeling absolutely nothing and struggling to find any urge to do whatever could or should be done. With the occasional yearning for a swift end. I need not say more to illustrate how unappealing these mini-chapters of my life are. Therefore I sought after a solution.

After months and months of endless searching without finding anything, I realized that the solution was under my nose all along. Whenever my schedule fills up with work, either academic papers or otherwise, I would find myself leaping from task to task, uncaring for anything else that might be going on outside the bubble that is my workstation.

In those moments of nearly endless work, I would feel something different. Something similar to joy, but not completely alike. Such a feeling would perhaps be best referred to as contentment. A condition wherein I could not fall into the arms of depression. For my mind would not be able to focus on anything but the plethora of duties at hand. From the moment of waking until the bells strike midnight, I would not cease my endeavors. Thus I crowd my mind with objectives unrelated to myself, keeping at bay any negative moods I could possibly experience, and when all the tasks are completed my brain would be far too exhausted to focus on anything other than my bed.

However, simply garnering as much chores as possible is not enough. They have to be both important—in some sense—to ourselves, as well as having some sort of deadline. The first to grant us a sense of satisfaction while attempting to finish the deed, whilst the latter to push us when our frankly unstable minds refuse to conjure up sufficient motivation. These qualities are essential, for when they are absent in the works I have, I find myself uncompelled to exert any effort on them; making college papers ideal candidates for my bipolarity relievers.

Yet no solution is perfect. The imperfection with mine is many. Prime among them are the fact that we cannot constantly find work, and that sometimes the currents of depression are far too strong for us to wade through. And when depression washes over us, few things can be of any aid. To these two issues, there are certain things one could do to solve and prevent them.

For the unavailability of work, it is of utmost importance for us to find organizations—both the ones that pay and don’t—that can always hand out tasks. Preferably ones that are intriguing and varied enough so that we do not see them as fruitless endeavors. Those in academic institutions should not find a shortage of such clubs. Though I sadly cannot say the same of those who are working full-time, and can only help they could find the answer themselves.

As for the times when depression becomes overpowering, seek the protection of others. Specifically those who can tolerate the sudden change in demeanor that we undergo on a random schedule. Another aid that comes to mind are the aforementioned tasks. I have in the past found myself struggling to lift my body out of bed just to keep on failing, yet when a certain duty arose—one that was highly personal and better left unmentioned—I managed to cling onto the fleeting burst of energy, and use it to propel myself for the next few weeks.

I fervently hope that the words I’ve written on this document proves useful to some, as they have been to me. Work to those without type II bipolarity may seem like chores, but for us stuck with this mixture of a blessing and a curse, we might be able to help ourselves by burying ourselves with duties. Alas as there are obvious imperfections in my limited fix, I can only wish that someone brighter than I could conjure up additions or even completely different answers for the bipolarity quandary.

An Evening With Flat Earth Believers

A while back, I spent an evening with a few acquaintances. It was at first to be nothing more than gathering of enthusiastic drinkers, smokers, and other minor deviants of the sort. Yet the night proved to be far more interesting than a mere occasion of laughing drunkenly at tall tales. Instead, it hosted perhaps one of the tallest tales of them all, “The Flat Earth Story.” A myth that I cannot bear to stand hearing. Yet as I was not in my own home, I was compelled to be polite and listened to the words of either the misguided or plainly insane. However, another motive came to mind as my brain was assaulted by the endless ramblings of idiocy: Perhaps I could hypothesize on why there are those who could be swayed into a belief system, one that a six year-old could easily disprove.

It is necessary to say that these acquaintances of mine are both graduates and students of various universities. They are not boors who barely know how to read and write. Thus a question surfaces, “Why do these educated individuals choose to reject all the provable—or at least possible—wisdoms they’ve learnt for years?” Surprisingly enough, the reasons are many: the first being the rejection of science as a sufficient lens for understanding natural phenomena, another having to do with politics, humanity’s odd fondness for conspiracies, and even the Devil. Yes, that being of pure, unadulterated evil.

To further elaborate on the backgrounds of my acquaintances, while it is true that while they are educated, they may have not been the brightest pupils. Although a few were from the natural sciences branch of academics, they too imagined that the earth was flat. Hence I asked each one of them why they think that our planet is not spherical, and their answers were particularly fascinating. For them, the laws of physics that dictate the whys and hows of a planet’s formation does not matter. To paraphrase their words, “Science is a propaganda tool utilized by governments and secret organizations to manipulate the masses,” a claim confidently made even though not a one of them has ever read an astronomy book. Why these organizations and governments lie has rather simple answer. It is to gather as much wealth as one can, or in other words for financing society’s one-percenters.

All the funds that go to the creation and development of satellites, telescopes, scientific organizations are all daylight robbery and nothing more. Despite the fact that groups such as NASA are one of the most underfunded government entities amongst the various other governmental branches. Thus, we have the flat Earth societies’ idea that NASA and its kindred are practically government-supported swindlers. And this meme has infested the minds of flat-Earthers, driving them to despise or at least be very suspicious of anything related to science.

Yet the suspicion of theft by astronomy is not the only cause for rage within the flat Earth societies. Another, is religion. For you see, another purpose of lying to the public about why the Earth is round is to support the Devil—Lucifer, Satan, Al-Massih ad-Dajjal, or whatever name he goes by these days. A pillar provided by the aforementioned one-percenters. Science  being an apparatus of the one-percenters is then by extension, also a tool of the Devil and his allies, used to taint the minds of man into disbelieving the holy scriptures of the gods. For few gods had ever stated that the Earth is a sphere. They speak of it, via their proxies or directly, as if the world they had created is flat and that it is also the center of the universe. Hence, with science declaring that the words of the gods are false, they must certainly be in league with the enemies of the gods.

So far, I have spoken of two roots of the flat Earth belief—ones that I could see, though undoubtably there are endless more. But there lies one other that I have yet mentioned, merely alluded to. I have written in one of the first few paragraphs that my acquaintances are not the most intelligent individuals on the planet. They frequently fail to achieve excellence in academics. Failures that likely led them to speak of any matter involving  academia with a tone of disgust and contempt. At this point, I am forced to hypothesize, as I know of no theories related to the topic of humanity’s fondness for conspiracies (my field is International Relations, specifically matters of national security). Thus I ask for forgiveness from you, dear Reader, that I cannot provide concrete evidence and merely offer my speculations on the subject at hand.

It appears to me, that my acquaintances harbor a certain kind of hatred towards academics. It is something that have caused them many hardships and led them to failures that perhaps irreversibly damaged their self-worths. Which birthed suspicion and loathing towards science—the proverbial body which has botched their attempts at their respective understandings of success.

And so my acquaintances, and maybe many other flat-Earthers are shepherded into distrusting science by the scars left on their egos. Either from their time at educational institutions or personal experiences. Why should they believe the words of the things and peoples that have hurt them, made them feel that they are idiots? They have no reason to do so, and because of this lack of motive, they turn to other things. Absurd conspiracies akin to the one we are currently discussing. All for the sake of disproving the laws, theories, hypotheses, they could not grasp. Similar to revenge for personal satisfaction, but one that is sought in the realm of abstractions.

Here we can finally conclude our discussion. There is no doubt at all that the earth is round, that the laws of physics dictated it to be so, and the human species is not at the center of the universe. Why people continue to choose to believe otherwise remains a great mystery to myself.

So far, the only clues I’ve found are a fondness for conspiracies that speak of individuals secretly running the world behind the scenes, reaping resources for the sake of the Devil, alongside a distrust born out of painful experiences regarding academics. To cleanse the world of such erroneous beliefs such as that of the flat Earth tale, there is no solution but greater socialization of the values of science, clarification of even its most basic subjects, and a convincing enough argument that classrooms are not the Devil’s homes. A daunting task, but one that is necessary should we wish that humanity’s progress in understanding the universe not be halted by the misinformed.

The Foolish Tradition of Indonesia’s Academia

Perhaps it is no odd thing to have certain oddities plague one’s country. Especially since said nation has only held independence for not even a century. Yet when one encounters anomalies by civilized or educated standards—the likes of human sacrifice, supposed augurs, et cetera—one certainly would expect that the more enlightened of the populace would abhor such practices and ideas. In some cases, that is true, yet a particular tradition has risen from the allegedly clever minds of Indonesia’s former ministers of education. Why I bother to speak of this abnormality is not for the sake of killing time alone, rather my reasoning lies in showcasing the utter uselessness of injuries, psychological scars, and even deaths that have been both directly and indirectly caused by this academic custom. Of course, with the aim of preventing suchlike atrocities in the coming future.

The tradition is called ospek in Indonesia. Conceptually, it was designed similar to the student orientation days of other schools, specifically from those of developed countries. The same goal lies at the core of it: ease the high-school pupils’ transition into becoming university freshmen. A noble purpose, as based on my personal experience; the sudden load of assignments, complex reading materials, exams that cannot be completed just by memorizing paragraphs of certain books were quite a shock. So how do the Indonesian academic institutions approach this issue? Is it by conjuring up mock-exams and practice essays? Perhaps by holding lectures right before the students begin their university days to display the challenges they would one day face? The answer is none of the above. Instead, the method employed is a mixture of absurdity and unadulterated stupidity.

Mildest of the methods is public humiliation. Each new university student is either verbally abused by seniors personally or in front of the former’s peers, whilst they could also suffer being forced to wear the most ridiculous outfits in public places all the while subjugating themselves to the whims of the elder pupils. Then there are the countless petty tasks the likes of constructing notebooks by cutting up pieces of paper, manually drawing the lines on the minimized pieces and filling them in with whatever useless detail the seniors could come up with. Predictably, no matter how perfectly the juniors have worked on these chores there will always be a mistake, and thus they must be punished. And here we come upon the severe aspects of ospek. To be perfectly clear, I did not exaggerate when I said there have been deaths because of ospek.

The infamy of deaths caused by ospek in Indonesia has led to one famous and highbrow university having a positive reputation for “never having any deaths during their ospek periods.” One must certainly wonder how bad the situation must be, when a claim to fame for a school is that when you study there, you have a higher-likelihood of staying alive. Meanwhile in other places, students are struck by frankly barbarous treatment. I’ve heard from alumni, read articles on newspapers, seen coverages on television, where students were forced to undergo physical “exercises” and punihments that led to deaths of exhaustion, dehydration, heart failure, and so on. The living ones experience agonies such as having melted wax fall and burn on their flesh, beatings, and—if rumors prove true, as they at times do hold some grains of truth—sexual harassment.

What I should mention at this point is that more often than not, both the lecturers and the board of directors of universities either turn a blind eye or have minimal control over the actions of their senior pupils. Why this is so, I have no idea. Though one would be wise to suspect that the seniors likely coerce the juniors to keep their mouths shut year after year. However, it would  still be astoundingly naive to assume that the educators of Indonesia are completely unaware of the unsavory goings-on carried out in the name of their institutions. Perhaps some of them oddly see some merit in ospek, despite the irreversible deaths and traumas the tradition has birthed.

As I believe the reader could clearly see, I see no silver-linings in ospek. I despise it, wholeheartedly. It has failed to achieve its supposed goal and has transformed into nothing more than a tool for the cruel to use against those who have no way to defend themselves. Furthermore, without the guidance of those who actually have expertise in the field of education, what could one expect from seniors—speaking as one, myself—who are still relatively unstable, confused, and likely fail to comprehend the consequences of their actions until they have blood on their hands.

Ospek is a breeding ground for thugs in a place where merit should be accorded to civility, intelligence, moral virtue, so on and so forth. But not one’s capacity for violence nor one’s age, for such things should not even be considered as positive attributes in the realm of education, they are in fact, the exact opposite traits of those who seek enlightenment. Thus, why do the students of Indonesia—and remember that they haven’t even reached the end of their teenage years—have to endure this grotesque adaption of the ideals bannered by academic institutions? I, unfortunately, have not yet found a sensible answer.