Contemplate the Heavens (Pt 1)

starry-night

Booking under: Keith

Sometimes I wish the skies above home can be like this. On a typical Hong Kong evening, you’d be lucky to see even one or two stars. But even if I don’t have a blanket of stars above me, I still like to do what stars are most known for making us do: contemplate the heavens.

My theme for August was to practice gratefulness and to imitate a spiritual leader. Let’s see how I did:

1. KEEP A GRATITUDE NOTEBOOK

man-writing-notebook

How do you know this isn’t me? My desk is nowhere near this clean!

Fun fact about me: I keep three different journals/notebooks, which I use during different parts of the day. In the morning, I jot down learnings and reminders from my daily Bible reading plan into a devotional notebook. During the day, I keep a “work journal” in which I note down all the things I worked on/achieved that day and any project updates I need to track. Finally, before I sleep, I write down five things I am thankful for that day. Some of them can be big (e.g. receiving a gift) while others can be more minor (e.g. having a seat on the bus-ride to work). But the key is find five things I am grateful for and to note them down.

Pursuing this habit has had quite an effect on me. Each time I write down a new date to start a new entry, I realize that the previous day has gone and will never come back. This reminds me our time each day is limited, and we should make the best of it. Of course, I still try to take appropriate breaks to recharge and occasionally do procrastinate. But keeping a journal of everything I have learnt/done/am grateful for each day gives me a sense of urgency to not waste any time. In particular, keeping a gratitude notebook has constantly reminded me that I have much to be thankful for and should keep complaints to a minimum. I really do recommend this habit to you and your family/friends!

2. IMITATE A SPIRITUAL LEADER

david-hume

Two portraits of “The Good David”. Isn’t he dashing?

David Hume would’ve been quite surprised to be anyone’s “spiritual leader”. After all, the man was almost certainly an atheist and strongly opposed organized religion during his life. Although I differ from Hume on religious belief, I am very interested in his thoughts on a variety of philosophical topics and believe he had much to say on these deeper questions.

In carrying out my commitment to study more of Hume’s works, I want to share some of his thoughts on morality. Unlike many philosophers who believe morality can be derived from reason (i.e. if we think very hard about something, we can tell if it’s right or wrong), Hume believed morality had nothing to do with reason. Instead, he thought sympathy for others is a natural instinct and largely informs our moral attitudes. According to Hume, I don’t have to think very hard to realize that hurting someone is wrong – it is something I can immediately “feel” to be wrong when I imagine the pain they would be feeling.

Hume was very adamant that reason and morality were separate. In fact, he proposed there is an “Is-Ought Gap” between facts and values. If he’s right, that means we can never move from a statement about the world to a statement about what we should do. This, unsurprisingly, ties directly into our daily lives. For example, some media publications like to begin with a news report and then conclude with how the reader should feel or act. But Hume noted that just because a certain fact is true (e.g. a government has passed a certain reform), it does not automatically entail a moral obligation (e.g. all citizens should obey it/the reform is just) – there are other moral factors we must consider before moving from a fact to a value. But of course, just because Hume believed this, it does not mean you have to think so as well! So the question remains: Do you agree with Hume that reason is distinct from morals? Why or why not?

FROM LAST MONTH

My commitments last month were to indulge in a modest splurge and spend out (ideas as well as money). Since I’ve had a few special occasions gone by and a few coming up (read on to find out about what’s coming up!), I’ve been using a little bit of money for gifts this month. Here’s hoping the gifts will be well received!

As for spending out ideas, I came up with an idea at work that will hopefully lead to increased sales for our software product. This idea will be materialized via new webpages that address a big annual sporting competition (so no, not the Olympics). I was very excited to pitch the idea and am happy it’s been accepted. So now, it’s down to further research, design, execution, and measurement. Let’s see how things turn out!

SUMMING UP

to-do list

August has been a good month, and taking time to practice gratitude and to contemplate deeper issues has been very rewarding. Looking ahead, I already know I have something to be thankful for because the birthdays of some of the most important people in my life are coming up. In fact, why don’t you join me now to wish my mom, Nicole, and her mom an early happy birthday! (Don’t worry. They don’t all share the same birthday!) While she accepts your early birthday wishes, I know Nicole is applying herself at work and also preparing an awesome blog post for your reading pleasure. Tune in next week to see what she has to share!

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