I looked at Kenneth. "You expect me to believe that ?!"
We were making our way through Borders, but the unlikely conversation had begun back in Bedok before OCBC Bank, when I asked him what he intended to buy at Borders.
"You don’t read fiction do you?" He said he didn’t read it much.
Kenneth said he was looking for the dao de jing, and I looked quizzically at him and asked him how that came about. He said it was deep, it has the kind of sentences that you read and have no idea what it’s going on about. "You aren’t going to read it in chinese are you?" "Of course not, it’s in english, but you know what I mean"
Walking towards Best Denki at Taka, I asked him what happens after you become enlightened. He had said that some people are so happy they cry when they suddenly get it. "You will know what life is all about. Everything becomes clear to you." You get there by meditating, getting rid of your thoughts, and in this state of thoughtlessness, you somehow get enlightened. I’ll have to ask him again about this.
As we stepped out of the train into Orchard MRT I said, "You know it’s like reading the Bible. It’s dreadfully boring, but it’s good for you."
"Whatever happened to that book on intuition you were reading?" We were at the escalator at the MRT station at Orchard.
"I’m thinking that if I’m a ballsy investor and I say I can weather the downturns, why would I need to diversify with say bonds or large cap funds if small caps have historically given the highest returns ? What would be the problem with the greater risk ? " We were in the MRT. Speaking the lingo makes me feel like I’m already smarter than half the mumsy investors who buy because their friends do it. There is no method to their stock picking. It is based on hearsay and gut feeling. I can’t help but feel condescension at my mom when I say this. The Bible would refer to this as the vanity of man.
At food republic at Wisma Atria, our table was just beside 4 other women. There was a white woman with 3 presumably singaporean chinese women. At the time, there were only the white and the chinese at the table. The white lady asked how big Singapore was, but the Singaporean was unsure, and said she’d wait for their friend to get back and ask her. I was tempted to tell her, what, 50 km across, 30km the other way? The rest of their companions filled up the table, and the lady sitting beside Kenneth was quite attractive, although more middle-aged than young. I asked Kenneth, "So, when is a good age for a guy to get married?" It seemed like a very different opening from how big Singapore was. I wondered what she was thinking when I said it. Surely she had heard me. All of them had probably heard me, we were seated so close together.
Boredom, Security, They want to dominate / be dominated, they think it will make them happy forever. But how long does that chemical happiness last before it tapers off ? Someone to be there.
"MMA lessons cost 200 dollars a month" I said I thought that it was fun to beat people up, but there was definitely an attraction to being beaten up as well. You want to channel your frustration, your anger, everything negative at beating the other person up. Being beaten up also lets you do the same to these pent up feelings? Maybe it’s because you want to parade your machoness before you colleagues. The bruises, the implication of violence and grittiness. I agreed with him, but I also tried to explain it, I can’t put a finger to it either. Pleasure and pain are intimately related. Was it possible to experience them both at the same time? He said it was, just like you can be happy and sad at the same time.
He was deliberating over the embellishments for his shirt. He had already settled for a pink shirt, but whether to go for darker pink stitching on the collar, or a white edge on the collar, and perhaps the cuff, or white insides to the collar and cuffs, or a white strip on the insides of the front, were difficult decisions that had to be made. He complained again about how hard it was to visualize the options, but I was already losing interest. I couldn’t help thinking how much time I had already wasted.
Back again on the MRT, I tried to get at the futility of buying things. "The consumerism of capitalist society" I put it. Buying things, it just never ends, does it. "Isn’t that how it is with everything?", he asked. But self discovery, knowledge, seem to be more noble pursuits. But I noted how hypocritical this conversation was, after he had just blown $170 at a shop I only knew too well. Well, at least you know that this is happening. "Isn’t there some Confucian thing about knowledge without application being… "
"Useless ? " He finished my sentence for me.
In a consumer society, there is a constant demand for new products and the need to constantly repackage and sell old products with new slogans and ad campaigns. In Marxist theory, this is understood as the way that capitalism is dependent upon the overproduction of goods and the need for workers to be consumers and spend large sums on mass-produced goods. A capitalist society produces more goods than are necessary for it to function, hence the need to consume goods is an important part of its ideology. In a consumer society a large segment of the population must have discretionary income and leisure time, which means that they must be able to afford goods that are not absolutely necessary to daily life but which they may want for an array of reasons, such as style or status.
— Practices of looking, an introduction to visual culture
It makes for depressing reading to have this accusation levelled at you. A consumer who spends frivolously on unnecessaries. And society requiring that there be large swathes of such people. Now I recall taking the escalator at Orchard MRT down to the trains. The train had just arrived and there was a large group of people gathered at the foot of the escalator making their way up.
I remember Jeff writing about the throngs of people milling about at Orchard Road.