A philosophical birthday post

  • Noodles eaten? Check.
  • Birthday wishes received? Check.
  • Generous gift from parents? Check (thanks Mom!).
  • Beauty-product related present and upcoming homecooked meal from MB? Check.
  • Contemplating the end of the world as we know it as I creep yet another year closer to 40 and away from 35? Double check, but not today. :)

This year is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been too busy to think too much about my birthday. Every day I think, What schoolwork do I have to do? Will I have time to get a workout in? What are we having for dinner tonight? What’s on Hulu?

Last night MB asked me if I felt any different now that I’m 37. Not really. I feel different than a few years ago, and certainly than several years ago, but I don’t think age has anything to do with it.

What with learning, or trying to learn, about phenomenology in one of my classes, I’ve been thinking a lot about Buddhism. The two seem similar, and it’s easier for me to understand the concepts in Buddhist terms rather than in the terms philosophers use. For instance, phenomenology (which is a bitch to spell) talks about a pre-reflective state – a state in which you are basically simply living in the moment, and not reflecting on it, or the past moment, or the next. Philosophers say it’s basically impossible to reach this state, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a snippet here and there. In Buddhism this seems to be enlightenment.

What the two also seem to have in common is the awareness of the body. While for Descartes, the “mind” was separate from the body, in phenomenology the body is always present and inseparable from the mind, whatever that is. So in design principles, the body also has to be taken into account, not just the mind. In Buddhist meditation, the practice seems to involve concentrating on your body and how it feels, and moving through each part of it.

Something I try to keep in mind, and which may or may not have to with Buddhism, are the ideas of illusions and perception. Sometimes I get worried – about the future, about stuff that hasn’t even happened – and in the past I’d get caught in this cycle of imagining whatever might happen again and again, and getting more and more upset, as though it had really happened.

Now when I feel myself falling into that cycle, I try to tell myself, Those are illusions, they’re not real, you made them up.

In terms of perception, again when I start to worry about stuff like having to give a presentation or some annoying task at work, I try to remind myself that what I’m worrying about is actually not so bad – only my perception makes it seem that way Like presenting – I get deathly afraid, but there’s nothing to be afraid of if I’m prepared. I’m not in danger; no bodily harm will come to me. And any psychological distress is from myself and how I think I’m coming off.

I tell myself it’s okay to feel that way. I acknowledge my nervous feeling, my heart pounding, and my stomach tightening, and take deep breaths to try to alleviate those physical reactions. If I boil down my nervous feeling to just a pounding heart and tight stomach, it seems easier to tackle, and without judgment. The heart and stomach aren’t good or bad, they just are.

Anyway, it takes lot of practice.

Something else I like to try to remember is a quote from Damages, of all things. A character basically says that in hell there is no present, there is only the past and future. This isn’t to say that that to not be in hell there can’t be a past or future, but there has to be a present too.

And presents, preferably. :)


  1. Happy Birthday!!!! Presents are good, as are just getting lots of love and ice cream and cake :)
    I hope you have fantastic weather out there this weekend, in your honor of course.

  2. happy birthday.