letters to lana del rey (62)

Dear Lana,

It’s the hours before sunset. I have trouble concentrating during these periods. Usually, I would use this time of mental unrest to go to the gym, but I’m still letting my tattoo heal before I do. I live near a somewhat busy street, so I could hear the quiet white noise of cars passing by, even a Tesla speeding through a yellow light.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had during sophomore year, when I discovered what twilight meant for the first time ever, and the blue that accompanies it. Like back then, it is blue now. It is the time of day where the room is too dark to do any work but too bright to turn on my warm yellow lights. So I am left in the dark. I also remember this time as the last time I saw my ex, just laying in the bed at twlight, before I had to leave at sunset.

I’ve noticed I’ve become more intolerant of my friends lately. In the sense, I expect more out of my friends now than I did before, and I do not care to keep friendships that do not meet my standards in reliability and connection. This is similar to how I was a couple of years ago, but there are a couple of things that are different. I’m not really interested in making friendships that do not progress. This includes incidents in which I feel like a friend has let me down. I think, before, I was willing to overlook these incidents because I didn’t have that many friends. Nowadays, I have less friends than I did before, but I also have less of a desire to maintain connection with people who I don’t see a future with. My desire to be with people has gone down significantly. People who let me down are the first to go.

I watched Wednesday yesterday. I really think that Wednesday is everything I want to be in life. I wish I could be more like Wednesday. Her biting sarcasm, gothic aesthetic, and blatant disregard for public opinion really speaks to what I want in life. But sadly Wednesday is not real preson, and all of her quirks and achievements only exist in the fictional universe in which she occupies. It is neither realistic nor possible to be Wednesday in my reality.

My voice is dry from singing and my fingers are blistered from playing violin, so I can’t rely on those activities to pass the time. I don’t have the focus right now to study, so I can’t do that either. Instead, I’m this sort of in-between state, unable to delve into any activities. I suppose I’ll just take a shower and hope my brain fog washes away. Knowing myself, probably not.

letters to lana del rey (61)

Dear Lana,

I’ve moved to SF. I forgot if I’ve mentioned it to you.

Things are a bit lonely here, but it’s also been inspiring artistically. I’ve decided to get back into drawing and violin, letting myself feel my middle school trauma again. I know there’s a trade-off between personal happiness and artistic output, and I’m on the latter end of that right now. It’s fine, I guess. I’m living in a pretty dead part of SF that is two blocks from my office, so I don’t have to encounter a lot of external stimuli on a regular basis. That has made me less sad compared to when I was in college, when there was stimuli everywhere.

I decided to take CFA Level II even though I said I wouldn’t proceed with the curriculum last year. I don’t have friends right now, so I might as well make the most out of my time. My apartment is really pretty, thanks to the various furniture and stringlights I bought from Ikea. It reminds me of what would happen if a tumblr sadgirl grew up to work at a hedge fund.

My goals in life right now are to make a billion dollars and to post thirst traps.

I got more tattoos lately: two on my chest, and a leg sleeve. I haven’t been to the gym in a while because my tattoos have been healing, which isn’t great for my journey to be an Instagram thirst trapper. My local Equinox is opening up again, so I think I’m going to sign up for it. Not sure if it’s worth it, but I’ve always been curious to what a luxury gym could buy me. Hopefully, it would just reveal that I don’t need to go to a luxury gym after all. Worst case, it makes me unable to go to a regular gym again in my life.

I’m trying to sleep earlier, maybe around 11 PM, so I could wake up earlier, hopefully around 5 AM, so I could study and otherwise be productive. I’m getting so old. Mostly, I think this desire is a reflection of my social life. I don’t really have friends right now, so I don’t go out, which means there’s little reason to stay up late at night. I would rather spend my valuable brain power before work than after work. My valuable brain is mine.

I’m not sure how my future here in SF is going to evolve. I’m not really in a rush to make friends, but it would certainly be nice to have them at some point. Not sure where that would happen though. Maybe at Equinox or a climbing gym, who knows. I assume if I get fit enough to post thirst traps, I would make friends then. If not, then I’ll rethink how I approach life, again. But that’s how my life has been ever since I settled down.

letters to lana del rey (60)

Dear Lana,

I feel so sad lately. I always feel sad but especially lately.

I think something I realized through my therapy sessions is that it’s not so much friendship that I want as opposed to belonging. I just want to belong somewhere, and friendship is just a tool to make me feel belonged.

But I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I think there were a few times in my life in which I felt like I belonged somewhere, but I don’t feel that anymore. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. All I have for certain is just myself, and I don’t want just that. I want people. I want people in my life to make me feel as if I belong somewhere, but I don’t have that now. The times that I did have it were short-lived. Now I am living the rest of my life that doesn’t fit my life during these short-lived periods. I don’t want it to be this way. I don’t like it here.

letters to lana del rey (59)

Dear Lana,

In the song “Money, Power, Glory”, you said: “I want money, power, glory.”

I, too, want money, power, and glory.

I think at least part of the reason I want money, power, and glory is because of that song. How did you get money, power, and glory, Lana? Things worked out for you, but what if they hadn’t? There is an element of luck involved, isn’t there? Not everyone’s life works out in the way they want, even if what we want changes depending on what we have. If your life didn’t turn out the way it did, would you regret not having attained money, power, and glory?

Lana, this letter collection is addressed to you, but it’s not really addressed to you. It’s more of a narcissistic journal entry than a genuine call for connection. I never really had a phase where I wanted to stan over someone. It just seemed very dehumanizing — reducing someone to an ideal. I think I cared too much about what was going on in my own life to do something like that. I think that you were the closest thing to a celebrity for whom I stanned, but I was more doing so because that just seemed like the thing to do, as opposed to a genuine feeling of connection to you through your music. I just found some of what you wrote to be relatable — I don’t really know much about you beyond that, and I know that.

At the end of the day, I think I care too much about myself to care about you that much. The only life that matters is my life because that’s the life I am living. Your music is a pretty big part of my life, but the money, power, and glory that I want belongs to me. There are people I look up to here and there, but at the end of the day my life is mine. I don’t want to live my life for other people when I could life life for me. No matter how influential, I have my own thoughts regarding how I think people should live life. I only wish to communicate my ideas and not other ideas.

What is the purpose of life? To control cultural consciousness. That is true power. To be able to dictate what people consider to be attractive or unattractive, beautiful or not beautiful, desirable or undesirable. It changes the way they think about themselves, and when you can make people believe certain things about themselves then they start to believe what you want them to believe. Art has the power to control aesthetics. It changes the way we think about our own lives at every point in time — from making dinner in the kitchen to showering in the morning to looking out the window during our morning commute. We all think of ourselves as the object of art in our own life.

I was thinking about this Foucault quote today:

What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?

By controlling our sense of aesthetics, we control our sense of ethics. By controlling ethics, we effectively can control politics. By controlling politics, we control the world.

It’s so weird how influenced are by aesthetics. It’s like the Dunning-Kreuger effect. Even when we are aware of our aesthetic influences, we still cannot necessarily avoid them. But if we cannot attain freedom from influence, what we can control is our ability to influence this narrative. We have the power to create the dominant narrative to influence others instead of being influenced. If we have enough people listening to us, then we can speak and people will listen. If we aestheticize our words, then we change the way people behave. If we control the narrative, we can be free from the narrative. If that is not freedom, then I don’t know what is.

letters to lana del rey (58)

Dear Lana,

I think the only thing harder than trying to care about the world around you more than you care about yourself is trying to unsubscribe from The New Yorker email listserv (I’ve went on their website on three separate occasions, and now I have settled to blocking all incoming emails with “The New Yorker” in its email body). A lot like Norton antivirus software, The New Yorker email listserv is a lot like malware disguised as something helpful (it is not).

Sometime in middle school, I decided that I was going to be a jealous person. This was long before I went through my Nietzsche phase during senior year of high school. Jealousy is the realization of the schism between the life you have and the life you want. It is realized through other people because we are unable to contextualize our self except through perceiving others. Nietzsche said that jealousy is a good thing because it allows us to focus our attention where we lack the most, which I would largely agree with, but it is also something that is controllable. By controlling our exposure, we can control how jealous we are. If we want to be more jealous, then we could easily just download Instagram and simp over some celebrities or influencers. If we don’t want to be jealous, we could easily just delete social media and live the contemplative life. But that would be really boring, right?

During senior spring of college, I started watching a bunch of commencement speeches because I was bored out of my mind and since my commencement got hit with the ‘rona. I remember in the end of Steve Jobs’ speech, he said something along the lines of: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” He’s an entrepreneur, and I’m not an entrepreneur, so I have no intention of being foolish. My life is just a series of risk-averse decisions piled on top of one another. I could fuck with the “be hungry” part though. I thought I reached the point in my life where I wanted to settle down, move to suburban New York, and work a 9-5 until the end of time, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet. I know I joke around about being a k-pop star a lot, but I genuinely want to be a k-pop star. The question, however, is how much risk am I willing to take and how hard am I willing to work to achieve that goal?

I was reading some writing by people who have quite similar ideas to me but express them in way that’s significantly less edgy than the way I do. Most of the time, I think I’m too cynical for my own good. I do recognize that it’s a problem, but I’m not sure how I should deal with that yet. I like to think that I have reasons justify my edginess compared to other people, but I think my life falls within a standard deviation of what most people would consider to be a “normal” life, at least as normal as it gets for an middle-class Asian American male growing up in a white suburb. Nothing made me this way; there are certain things that have influenced me one way or another, but I chose to let those parts of my past influence me.

When people write autobiographies, they pick and choose what parts of their lives influence them. But, at the very end, it is we who actively choose what we want to become; we simply justify the parts of our past that influenced our decision afterwards.

I was watching some of xQc’s content the other day, and I was interested in how he made a brand out of in-game toxicity. Tyler1 has a similar appeal. Considering a lot of their viewers are male, I wonder how much of this toxicity is baked into masculinity. Considering how my writing is quite edgy sometimes, I wonder how much of my own views on the world fall within this same commodification of toxicity. I don’t do it on purpose; it’s just what naturally bubbles up in my thoughts. I would hate it if toxicity was a part of my brand, but my writing is naturally quite toxic (although not as toxic as it was three years ago). I would say I’m just as edgy in real life, not necessarily in the things I say but more the things I do — mixing designer and thrifted clothes together in the same outfit, buying knock-off products online on purpose, ironically being sad. It’s a life choice. Being “normal” probably makes it a lot easier to fit into society, but it’s not particularly a choice I want to make.

A lot of philosophers idealize the idea of being an outsider. I think that’s kinda dumb. Why would you want to be an outsider when it would make your life 10x harder? I think the move is to ironically be normal, then you can stay true to your values but also fit into society and function like a productive contributor to consumerism.

letters to lana del rey (57)

Dear Lana,

I woke in a fever dream around 4:45 AM today with a thought that I had. Why aren’t there any old Disney princesses? It seems that the license to be beautiful is tied directly with youth, that somehow aging is directly tied to the loss of beauty. I would be very curious to discover what Disney princesses are like when they get old, but that would go against the culture industry that Disney creates because it would allow people to be satisfied with themselves at the end of the day, which is not allowed.

The thing is old age isn’t beautiful. I don’t think that’s a gendered thing at all. Everyone gets pretty ugly when they get old. Disease is pretty awful. It’s weird to think about — when Siddhartha Gautama went outside of his palace and had his Four Sights, three of them were age-related: old age, sickness, death. Old age is pretty straightforward. People get sicker when they get older. People die because they get sick when they get older. I luckily have not had any major sicknesses in my life. The worse pain I’ve experienced is either the time I twisted my back when lifting concrete blocks (confining me to bed for two weeks) or when I ate too much brownies that one time in high school (bad, bad stomachache). For the most part, I could get away with these things because I’m still young and my body is pretty much invincible unless I get hit by a car. But, age is bad. It makes me subject to more sickness, which makes me subject to more pain, and I don’t want pain. Pain, bad.

If structuralism is the acknowledgement of the relational aspect of being and society, then wouldn’t memes represent the nihilistic manifestation of culture?

I was thinking back to that scene in The Crown when Churchill stared aghast to the portrait commissioned portrait of him by Parliament. He responded that the picture was an abomination and a betrayal, and the painter screamed back something along the lines of, aging isn’t pretty! It reminds me of that lyric from “Gods and Monsters” – life imitates art. Churchill got old and recognized that he wasn’t beautiful anymore. He realized that his body took an L from being alive for however long he was alive for. He saw ugliness because he was ugly. He was sick, which meant he was suffering from a lot of pain, and I refuse to accept a world in which pain is beautiful. Although I get making pain beautiful as a coping mechanism, I consider pain to be the opposite of beauty.

While we would like to be convinced that our life resembles our reality in some way, more often than not we are living quite separated from our reality. It reminds me a bit of postmodern critiques to Enlightenment thinking, specifically how it is not necessarily accurate to characterize the world into perceivable and unperceivable reality.

On another note, in Itaewon Class, I always thought that Saeroyi should have ended with Soo Ah. Does that say something about me? I don’t think there was ever a point in the series where I liked Yi Seo, mostly because she seems way to full of herself and able to get away with whatever she wanted, which is the entire source of Saeroyi’s feud against Jangga. Yi Seo is literally not a nice person, and her “love” is more of an obsession than anything. There’s a sort of sentimentality between Saeroyi and Soo Ah that always struck me as more genuine than whatever Saeroyi and Yi Seo had going for them. Everything that happened in the series started out between them. Although, I suppose actions do speak louder than words at the end of the day, which gives a better moral message when Saeroyi ended up with Yi Seo.

I’ve been listening to a lot of k-pop lately. Unfortunately, since I can’t speak Korean, this means that I have no ability to sing along to these songs. Lame.

We were born into an unfair world. Some people get what they don’t deserve — both good and bad. Most people, I would stay, still function and contribute to the world in a meaningful manner in which they work for what they achieve, regardless of all the hardships. However, the fact still remains that not everyone gets what they work for and not everyone works for what they achieve. The world isn’t this meritocratic utopia — it has flaws — and true meritocracy is impossible to create. When faced with this challenge, while we can still work hard to achieve, what does that say about our achievement when people who don’t work hard still achieve and people who work hard don’t achieve?

letters to lana del rey (56)

Dear Lana,

I picked up Huxley’s Brave New World again after forgetting to finish it for about half a year. Is it a problem when I read Brave New World, my immediate reaction is: well, this isn’t so bad?

Transhumanism. Focusing on the present. Skepticism towards art and culture. That pretty much summarizes my current beliefs about the world. My ethics are surprisingly aligned with the government of Brave New World. Huxley allegedly criticizes the notion of a government controlling its populace by making them happy to the point they don’t really care about their personal freedom. Personally, that seems alright with me. If I were happy, why would I care about if I was free or not? I thought the point of freedom was to attain happiness.

Bernard allegedly feels alienated being part of a industrial capitalist complex where utility is upheld as the highest virtue. That seems about right to me. He feels alienated from the system in which he is a part of. He tries to make sense of his alienation by creating a moral hierarchy between what he believes in and what the rest of the people in his world believe in. He does not view utility as a virtue, and therefore he does not feel at home in his society. He tries to make sense of what he believes when the rest of the world follows another set of virtues altogether.

A part of me gets him. I’ve always felt alienated from the world before. But, I think I’ve learned to accept that I should grow up from my difference and conform to what society expects of me. Everyone wants to be a rebel, but who wants to be a rebel? There’s not much point in believe something other than what the society around you wants to believe. Doing so causes a great amount of unhappiness, and no one wants that. Bernard seems to be looking for something more than happiness, which is why he avoids the use of soma. But I’m convinced there’s nothing else worth pursuing in the world other than happiness. I haven’t finished the book quite yet, so I don’t know how it ends, but I wonder if he’ll make the same realization. It would certainly make my life easier.

If anything, when Bernard rejects soma he seems to be, if anything, an aesthetic rejection. Doing so amounts to upholding soma into a political ideology, but would you consider the use of drugs to be a political ideology to be any more than you reject the image of poverty?

I was thinking today – sex is very much related to our conception of masculinity and femininity, but sex has very little to do with human nature. Animals have a lot of sex, and animals don’t have a sense of self-consciousness that views sex in another dimension. the experience is one-dimensional to them. In a similar vein, we also pursue one-dimensionality within our structure of gender because it is through opposites we affirm our identity of the singular. Through heteronormative structuralism, we can separate the world into individuals who are alike us and others. Sexuality adds another aspect of dimensionality by introducing another lens to reaffirm the singular.

I keep on coming back to this idea that the world way we can understand ourselves in life is through others. Schopenhauer is literally wrong when he says that the essence of the universe could be found through looking inwards. In the last couple of months, I have become more and more convinced that the essence of the universe is found within in the invisible strings that ground our sense of relationships as oppose to our individual identities. It is only though others there is the one in the same way that there cannot be existence without absence or Jay-Z without Beyoncé.

Is it so bad that Brave New World is a product of a Modern American realism? If there is no freedom, then there is no need to worry. If there is no suffering, there is no need to want anything more. Like sheep who only need to continue to contribute to society in order to take place in a happy society, sheep are at peace. There is no need to want anything when you are a sheep. Reality is pleasant. Contributions are necessary. There is no need for awareness of the world beyond. There is no need for a liberal arts education. All that exists is contribution and happiness. All that needs to exist is contribution and happiness.

letters to lana del rey (55)

Dear Lana,

I’m trying to understand the psychology of simping. It seems quite ingrained in the human condition from some time. Going back all the way to the troubadours of the medieval era, the simp has always been a niche part of society, at least occupying some significant part of the popular consciousness. It seems to encompass predominantly men, to which I’m not entirely sure why, and I wonder if its creation is tied to our collective understanding of masculinity and femininity.

I wonder if there’s some sort of internalized rejection simps live off of. Do simps gain some sort of ineffable satisfaction from simping? Harkening back to Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, I was thinking about her distinction between subjects and objects again, specifically how it ties into gender and Sartre’s concept of bad faith and how that ties to simping. I was reflecting on this idea because I am genuinely curious: Do simps genuinely want their affection to be returned, or do they thrive off the idea that they will never be enough?

Beauvoir articulates the unfortunate associations between subject-identity and masculinity and object-identity and femininity. If these traits are indeed societal, then what explains this deviation found in simps? Although modern society has become progressively more progressive, gender and queerness has always been part of the cultural vocabulary, even when there weren’t words to describe such concepts. One could observe the transgressive nature of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice representing an outsider defined by religiosity but amplified by his cross-dressing disposition. There were simps for Portia in the beginning, but simps don’t get to far in literature, or in life. There is an element of object-identification that seems structuralized… yet I’m not too sure how it originated. Why would anyone seek out to be an object over a subject?

It is quite an enticing idea — inadequacy. It is an especially potent idea if inadequacy is perceived to be permanent. And, after a certain point in our lives, when we finally gain a sense of how much control we think we have in our own lives, it becomes a structure in which we live our lives. Beauvoir draws an equivalency between subject-identity and freedom, but I would hesitate to call object-identity the opposite of freedom. To me, it’s more like not caring about your own freedom, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as the pursuit of freedom. If object-identity is a form of bad faith, then its immune to Freudian structuralized self-shattering. If one adopts object-identity, there is no need for continuance of growth. Jesus takes the wheel, and poof! There goes the rest of your life.

Are simps happy? Is Sisyphus happy? Do they have the same answer?

In many ways, I think there are many parallels between the modern phenomena of simping and The Myth of Sisyphus. When you simp, you are putting effort towards a goal. But, when you attain that goal, you lose your identity as a simp. If you wish to retain your identity as a simp, then you need to let go the prospect of attaining your goal of winning affection; doing so, would result in the destruction of your identity as a simp. Therefore, when living life, simps are presented with a constant dilemma: working towards their goal, or losing their identity. When presented with the prospect of happiness and the prospect of losing your identity, nine times out of ten I am convinced people will choose to retain their identity.

Are simps doomed to a life of unhappiness? No, of course, not. Silly me. Simps are happy. Didn’t I learn anything from Camus? Of course, I would also have to draw a discrepancy between felt happiness and believed happiness. It is simple enough; one is felt, the other is believed. One is in your mind, and the other is in your mind (get it? because happiness isn’t real, and it’s all in your mind). Do simps feel happy, or do simps believe they’re happy? I find it a bit hard to believe that a perpetual state of sexual frustration equates to happiness. But, hey, who am I to say what is happiness (I’ve certainly never felt it… kek).

I’m sure simps understand the extent of their inadequacy. The chad-virgin dichotomy didn’t start from nowhere. If one identifies as a simp, then they must be familiar of the existence of the chad-virgin spectrum, which originates from the same internet cultural genesis that created gave birth to the simp. If the simp falls on the virgin side of the spectrum, then identity formation necessitates awareness of the chad. It is through these metaethics that there exists a causal relationship between existence and identification. Simps cannot exist without chads, just as chads cannot exist without simps. Drawing from the traits of this spectrum, then in order for simps to retain their identity, they must continue to reject subject-identity and all of the freedoms that comes with it.

Ironically, the only way for a simp to stop being a simp is to want to not be a simp. But, not wanting to be a simp amounts to the rejection of object-identification, resulting in a inner catastrophe that would render the torrential blizzard firestorm acid hurricane of puberty merely a gentle drizzle on a Sunday afternoon.

letters to lana del rey (54)

Dear Lana,

I think my News Year resolution this year is to stop ending all of my sentences with “lame.” Lame.

Like that.

Sometimes, I like to think of life as a game of Words With Friends. For a long period, I thought that there was some sort of strategy or skill needed to succeed, as if having a good vocabulary is actually important. Now, I realize that vocabulary isn’t important at all. It is more important to just brute force different combinations of words until you find something that works.

I was thinking back to this phrase from this movie I watched a couple years ago. “不悔梦归处,只恨太匆匆,” which roughly translates to no regret for the passage of the dream, only hatred for it passing so quickly. Happiness / sadness. Echoes.

The problem with life is that you are capable of living multiple lives but you are only able to live one life. This dichotomy between the lives you could have lived and the life that you lived necessitates unhappiness, as long as you pay attention to the lives that you could have lived. While the lives that you could have lived are always there, the attention you devote to the lives you could have lived is not necessary.

I’ve been having this recurring dream lately. I always find myself at my middle school graduation. I don’t exactly remember what happened in my dream because I don’t write down my dreams anymore, but it’s always my middle school graduation. Was that a pivotal time in my life? I don’t think so; I think it’s because my middle school is just across from my house, so I have to walk past it every time I decide to go for a walk.

I don’t think many people live with the realization that at any point their life could fall apart. I could be walking down the street, and per the meme value, an air conditioner could fall on my head as it did with Chidi in The Good Place. Then, my life would end. If it didn’t end, then at least my life would be changed quite a bit. I suppose life is quite different before and after an air conditioner falls onto your head.

With this realization, there aren’t too many ways to live life that avoids this thought. Instead of hoping that an air conditioner doesn’t fall on my head, it might be better to live and plan for the possibility that an air conditioner might fall on your head. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.