Month: August 2023

Suffering and Survival: From Trial to Enlightenment

When I ponder the question as to why anyone in this world would ever consider spending time writing novels, I often think about the world’s greatest works of literature…. And that thought, idle as it is, often leads me to think of the great Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

What did these men have in common? 

Were they both rich? Aristocratic? History tells us that the answer is no – while Tolstoy surely was an aristocrat of the highest order,  Dostoevsky was compelled to write novels because of his financial difficulties. 

Was it something special on the part of the Russian character? Maybe.

At the same time, the sheer variety of different personalities and inclinations around the world is so varied that any attempt to speak of a systematic difference between human beings purely on the basis of national origin is likely to fail.

Still, it is worthwhile to investigate – what else was common to them? They lived in one of the most torturous environments that the world had ever known, and survived. 

That they did is a miracle, as it is for the survival of all of us to different degrees amid the circumstances of life – and as almost all of us know, either through teachings or simply through life experience, whatever does not kill us shall only make us stronger.

Russia in those years was a place of cold, frost, political absurdity, and deprivation; it was a time of revolution and chaos, as multiple people attempted to usurp the prevailing powers because they could not accept the society that they had been thrust into. As they went through profound searches for spiritual and moral grounding in a world that they could not accept.

It is in that light that I think about the seminal work that they must have accomplished and consider how all those words that came out of them perhaps were responses to their environment. 

I imagine them sitting by their bedside tables writing through the winter as they pen down words as if trying to stave off the onset of the punishing cold that encroaches at every minute just from the outside. I imagine them poring over manuscripts as the toils of deprivation, war, and social theories gone wrong amidst a chaotic civilization play out in a theatre of the absurd that it is easiest not to confront but rather to escape from by departing into a world that is outside the concerns of the ordinary. 

I see them in my mind’s eye creating worlds that do not exist to compensate for one that does exist and is crushing in exterior form.

Suffering conditions the mind in this fashion by forcing it to look inwards, and to reflect upon circumstances, and to consider that at the end of the day, when a person simply is sitting there and reflecting on the inner self, they can realize certain things that they may not have been able to if they were simply consumed with the external world, and things that might otherwise be favorable in an alternate state of reality.

It is neither to say that suffering is desirable, nor to say that we should wish it upon our fellow men, but certainly it can be said that some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs are breakthroughs that were brought about in the same manner that Dostoevsky and Tolstoy brought about the Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace, respectively, through this period of inner contemplation and insight, which I think that suffering facilitates and makes a part of daily experience, but that somehow or another we are able to integrate into our daily lives by simply becoming mindful and dedicating time towards reflection. 

Perhaps though, that may be something altogether too optimistic. 

Perhaps reflections or breakthroughs of that level are only possible when or if someone truly goes through the process of formulating the daily decision to pursue through a journey or quest towards one’s intellectual truth, each and every day, regardless of the circumstances, running towards it as if a madman, deprived of water and overcome with rabies, rushes towards the direction of water that cannot quench his thirst.

Yet, it would be altogether wrong to say that suffering is part of an aetiology of success. Not all suffering leads to excellence, for if it did, then the entirety of Russia perhaps would have solely been a nation of Dostoevskys and Tolstoys, though we do not see that this is the case. Suffering exists everywhere and in every nation, from the richest to the poorest, from those beset by intense drought and heat to those overcome by the onslaught of unyielding cold and ice. 

Whether it is by fire or ice that any world should end, though, there are always some who can thrive in their particular response to their surroundings. And it is within this response and the way that it comes about that the true miracle of any emancipation must surely come about. 

It is perhaps as Mewtwo said in the Pokemon movie…

I believe this to be true in many cases, and across a range of possible environments.

The mind is an incredibly powerful though, and it is interesting to consider the means by which a person might reach the state of enlightenment that the two seminal authors that I had mentioned had arrived at as they arrived in a pantheon of eternal enshrinement within the hallowed halls of commemoration that celebrated our finest literary masters.

As I contemplate their lives, I wonder how and to what extent it is possible to implement some of the lessons from their sufferings and to translate those into the broader question and its answers of how a person may reach progressively deeper levels of enlightenment in the course of this life.

One immediate thing comes to mind though. People are remarkably resilient, although oftentimes it is unclear what it is that they are being resilient for; they often do not suffer from laziness in the way that we would expect, because if given a suitable direction to progress in, most people would in fact go forward without abandon, provided that they have the right process in place.

USApps and More

Over the last week, I had the chance to drop by USApps, the event that Chen Chow began many years ago and that caters to the needs of Malaysian students all around my country who want to, for some reason or another, pursue higher education in the States.

I too benefited from this event many years ago, and it was a joy to come back for the second time in two years, an opportunity that I would not have had if not for Hamdi Hakimi, who randomly called me out of nowhere and asked me to speak at last year’s USApps event.

It was strange then, and it remains strange now, that things happened the way that they did, but suffice to say, I think it was all for the better.

Was very grateful to speak to many interesting people along the way and started a small new project in which I interview different people just in general about education and their reasons for valuing it, which has brought me into contact with people from lots of different universities, and all of uniformly high and boundary-breaking intelligence.

Beyond that though, it’s opened up an interesting new vista of… well, I don’t really think I should call this opportunity, but rather just interest in pursuing a course that I just find interesting and meaningful.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to watch the interviews that I have been doing in the hope that they will be interesting and enlightening to you. Have a look here.

– V


My mind constantly catches itself entangled in various thoughts, leading to frequent distractions. My thoughts whirl around like a tornado, often appearing out of control, beyond my reach. However, in reality, many things are within grasp. Sometimes, I believe I just need to pause, lie down, and allow my brain to enter a catatonic state, much like Nao. 

As I lie on my bed, eyes closed and heart open to the world, I find myself pondering the future. I question why things happen the way they do and often find no answers. I would be misleading if I claimed to understand every step of the journey that unfolds, but somehow, things have always worked out in the past. 

It would be equally inaccurate to predict a smooth journey in the future or even the present, based on past success. Yet, I find myself in a better situation now than I was before. Despite the complexities of life, I see no reason to believe that the issues I face are unfixable. 

Striving forward seems necessary, even when it feels peculiar. As I rest my weary body, I realize that life is like a Newton’s cradle, a constant state of motion and rest. This cycle repeats until one day, everything comes to an end. The inevitable entropy of the universe expresses itself through the cessation of my bodily functions. This mystifying end remains beyond my comprehension, except through literature, art, and history, which paint a tantalizing image in my imagination.

As I gaze at the screen that has been my silent confidant, I am pleasantly surprised. The screen effortlessly transcribes the words I’ve been uttering for the past few minutes, revealing that technology is progressing at a speed I hadn’t anticipated. My vision of a time when we could converse with our devices seems to be materializing. These devices are beginning to power our lives in ways currently beyond our comprehension. 

I have no concept of what the future holds, nor any predictions. How could I possibly foresee what’s to come when things are moving as rapidly as my thoughts? The reality we’re transitioning into is something I could not have fathomed just a year or two ago. There are countless things to look forward to, endless unique possibilities, some of which I hope for, others I find unlikely or impractical. Yet, everything seems inevitable as we move forward, and the intricate pieces of a grand puzzle, too vast for our full appreciation, begin to fall into place