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Thoughts

These Old Eyes

The other day I learned how much my eyes deteriorated again. I had taken off my blinkers for funsies and realized the words on my laptop display were a mess. It was a strange feeling.

For the past decade, I have never had any issues using a laptop without glasses. Sure, the text would be slightly blurry but I could still get things done. This time it was different.

I couldn’t decipher the text in front of me, which meant I couldn’t work. My laptop was at the usual distance away from me, approximately fifty centimeters. Regular brightness, standard resolution, etcetera. The only variable was my lack of spectacles.

Here’s an approximation of what I saw:

One hundred percent true

I promptly put my vision apparatus back onto my nose and there they remained until the end of the day. Of course, I removed them in the shower. I, too, worry about rust.

The incident opened my eyes to how damaged they were. It made me think about how I take my eyesight for granted. My silly brown irises.

I used to tell myself I didn’t need my optical equipment to survive. I had no issues driving without them, provided I didn’t need to follow signboards. I could read books, use the computer and go about my daily life with naked corneas.

What caused this disaster? Was it age? Bad habits? All those years of swimming without goggles? Who knows. Probably a combination of everything, like everything else in life. What I do know is that it’s an affliction I’ll have to spend the rest of my existence with.

I used to tell people, and I still do, that I wear goggles because they give my appearance character. And I look weird without them. That hasn’t changed, but I have one more reason to add to the list: I enjoy people mistaking me for a famous activist I can’t see well enough.

Cultivated Loyalty

Whenever I need to pump gas into my car, I’d head to the nearest Shell station. And for the longest time, I didn’t have a reason why I chose that petrol station. Not that anybody asked. I didn’t know how to justify my loyalty to the brand.

I was like a soccer fan who couldn’t tell you why I supported a specific team. Even when any excuse would have sufficed because you didn’t know anything or care about the sport, you were just being polite trying to make conversation.

Just say you watch them because they have the hottest guys, or they can always pull crazy comebacks. Or they wear your favorite color. Or shoes. Anything! It doesn’t matter!

Why did I choose Shell? After all, fuel from all major brands is meant to be interchangeable without damaging your vehicle. There’s no particular reason to use one brand over another other than for convenience’s sake.

And so, the other day, on one of my introspective drives home, the answer came to me. My obsession with Shell started a long time ago. Back when I was a kid tasked with pumping petrol for my mom, while she waited in the car.

She would hand me the cash or credit card to pass to the attendant or cashier, I’d grab the pump (after making sure it wasn’t diesel), slot it into the fuel tank, and pull the trigger. If there was no lock, I’d hold it until I felt the pump stop.

I enjoyed the smell of petrol and it felt like such a grown-up thing to do. I enjoyed the chore. My mom got to relax in the car. It was a win-win situation.

Back then, we didn’t have any gas station loyalty. It was whichever happened to be on the way to our destination, we played no favorites. One day, that changed.

I don’t recall the exact point in time but it was at least 1998 because that was when BonusLink launched. My mom got herself a card and because Shell was the only petrol station they partnered with, she made sure that she would only get gas from there. She wanted to collect as many points as possible.

In addition to giving the cash or credit card to the staff, I also had to hand over a BonusLink card.

The only time when we didn’t pump Shell was when our fuel tank was reaching empty and had no other choice. Even then, we wouldn’t pump the car to full. We’d only get enough gas for the current trip and head back to Shell to top off the remainder. We had to maximize our points!

Not that it was a bad thing, mind you. If I owned a reward card for a particular gas station, I would have done the same thing.

For years I helped my mom pay for gas at Shell stations until I was old enough to drive. Then I was given a BonusLink card (which was under my mother’s account) to buy Shell fuel for my own car as well.

I don’t remember when we stopped using BonusLink but it didn’t matter. All those years of pumping gas at Shell stations had done a number on my brain. Until this day, I haven’t stopped filling my car at the McDonald’s-themed gas stop (it’s red and yellow too).

I have no incentive to fill my car at Shell. My family hasn’t used BonusLink for years. I still do it anyway.

Hearing anecdotes over the years about how Shell fuel is more efficient than other brands also reinforced the belief, in my already biased brain, that I’ve been making the right choice. I tell myself and other people that I’m not picky about where I pump gas, it doesn’t matter to me. But somehow, I always find a Shell to pull up into.

When I know there’s a Shell up ahead, my brain tells me to push the car a little further to get fuel from there instead of Petron, Caltex or Petronas. Or god forbid, BHP. I can’t even rationalize why their stations look so unappealing to me. Something about the orange and yellow, even though I normally like those colors.

Thank you, BonusLink. One day, I’ll break the cycle.

Coincidences, Attraction/Prediction

On Friday I was chatting with a colleague and the law of attraction came up. The topic ended with them saying, there are two magical outcomes if you believe this theory. You think so much about something that it happens because you attracted it or you’re a fortune-teller because you predicted something before it happens.

Despite the many anecdotes (some of them outrageous) I’ve listened to about this theory coming into play, I’ve always chalked them down to coincidence. It’s simple, really, thanks to our cognitive biases.

Think of all the times when you’ve really wanted something, thought about it, and never got it. There are way more of those incidents than successful ones. Since there are fewer successes, it’s easier to remember what they are.

Objectively speaking, there’s no winning at this ‘game’. Not everything you think about is going to come to fruition and things will happen in life — whether you think about them or not.

On the same night of the law of attraction conversation, two incidents happened. First, this video popped up on my YouTube feed:

For context, here’s what my typical feed looks like (screenshot from today):

It’s mostly gaming videos, music, and random crypto crash videos because I was on a Coffeezilla binge a few weeks ago. Nothing philosophical or pseudoscience related since it’s been a while since I’ve watched videos like that. A video on “the backwards law” was completely out of place.

Out of curiosity, I watched it and I’m glad I did. I’m no expert on such topics, but the video resonated with me. Since I agree with the points discussed in the video, my cognitive biases made me feel that it was informative (as opposed to useless).

When you try to fall asleep, your effort will keep you awake. Only when you stop trying, you’ll doze off… When we stop trying to be happy, we’ll be happy because there’s nothing we need beyond what is… Thus, the only way to have what we want is not to want it and that’s what the backwards law teaches us.

The backwards law teaches us not to be fooled by the idea that the pursuit of happiness leads to happiness. And with that knowledge, we’re able to enter that blissful state of ‘not wanting’ a bit more often.

Stop Trying to Get It And You’ll Have It | The Backwards Law

My key takeaway is the backwards law is the opposite of the law of attraction. Instead of focusing your thoughts on what you’re lacking (your wishes), make the most of what you currently have. I’ve been unconsciously practicing it. No wonder I’ve been told that I’m too apathetic or relaxed about everything around me.

Turns out I’m just zen.

As someone who’s all about the present (sure, I whine about the past in my lyrics but I’m a singer-songwriter) and never thinking about the future, this video validated my views on life in a more articulate manner.

Next, this video appeared on my feed the same night.

Guess what happened after that? I ate a curry puff for supper and had diarrhea that lasted until Saturday. Urgh.

What a coincidence, especially after watching a video about dirty water.

I was going to eat the bad curry puff that night. I could have skipped it, but I was hungry. Nobody told me it was going to make me suffer. That would have changed my mind about consuming it. Was it my own fault? Doesn’t matter.

Just like how I ruined my watch’s ability to function as a credit card when I updated the Samsung Pay plugin yesterday. Fuckin’ Sammy, please revert this change.

That’s a story for another day.