The Chase From My Chaise

“Was she too fast for you?” my Hongkonger friend asked the other day. She? She was a one of the hottest girls in school. I shall call her Lois, after Lois Lane, Superman’s girlfriend. Why Superman? The Hongkonger reminds me of Superman for his exploits during those young days were legendary. I could only marvel at him, the way he zoomed from one girl’s house to another was as speedy and heroic as a Marvel hero. Why Superman’s girlfriend? Because as in the movie, Superman gets the prettiest girl but I hasten to add that Lois in my story did not fall for him. Lois was a superb athlete in our school. She was the undisputed champion in the 100m sprints, the 200m, the 400m as well as the decathlon. In those days, girls could only join our school in Form 6. At 18,  the introduction of the opposite sex to our boys-only school was a ploy, I think, for the authorities to wreak havoc on our biological system when we were most susceptible to hormonal eruptions. I was dorky and shy. When my pimples erupted, I was not just dorky and shy but also taciturn and withdrawn. Encumbered with the need to wear glasses from an early age, I was neither sporty nor athletic. Sure, I was tanned and healthy-looking but only from sun-baked afternoons playing barefoot football against guys who were appropriately protected with proper football boots. Was Lois too fast for me? My legs were splayed widely on my chaise lounge when the question was asked. So, I started to chase my memory and cast my mind back to events leading up to how I met Lois. I never could run fast, often languishing in the middle of the pack until the last fifty of the 400 metre race when I would join the last few stragglers to cross the imaginary line. Possessing neither speed nor stamina, it was no surprise that they didn’t pick me to represent the school’s blue team in anything. I was a foreigner to Paul House even though blue was my favourite colour – I had strength of character but they wanted strength. Lois was a darling of the red team. Somehow I ditched the Paul supporters and started to cheer for the red team which was named Barnitus House. But, later I discovered she was actually running for the blue team, so I switched back to be an ardent supporter of Paul House. On most days in the late afternoons, after I got myself browned like a Malay boy, I would stay back to watch the real sportspeople train. Lois was always there, running, jumping, leaping, flying. Apart from athletics, Lois was a big name in the softball circle. She could hit the softball as hard as how Wonder Woman would deflect bullets with her metal bracelets. So, why didn’t I ask to race against her? I knew I was no match for the boys, but why wasn’t I curious to find out if I could pit my strength and speed against her? Beat her? So, when my Hongkonger friend asked his question, I could only wonder and remain silent.

Was she too fast for me? Maybe in more ways than one. I never saw her up close until at least half the year was gone. Lois was the Wonder Woman in our school. Her eyes were as shining and beautiful as Wonder Woman’s, her young and full figure as tantalising, her natural curls bouncy and shapely and always just at shoulder length, and her sweet smile as disarming and as alluring. A wonderful girl, it was no wonder all the boys vied for her attention. A scrawny boy like me knew to keep a distance lest he be ridiculed by those leading the pack. No, I did not dare chase her, this Wonder Woman. That is my conclusion as I let my mind wander from my chaise.

I met Lois through the Hongkonger. Back then, his nickname was Long Chin, not because Chin was his surname but because the skinny teenager with a narrow face was experiencing an outburst of growth in his jawbone. It was Danny’s mum who first called him that. Adults in those days used to call kids by names of animals, such as Ah Kau (dog) or Ah Tu (pig) or Ah Gu (cow), but it was never the practice to call someone by their distinct body part. It would be most misappropriate to call anyone Long Dong, right? Since those young days, the Hongkonger has put on weight and grown a thick beard. It is no exaggeration to describe his as a Antonio Banderas look-alike. Sexy and suave, I can still see him in his open shirt with the 70’s long sharp pointed collars and bell-bottoms, gliding about on the dance hall assuming the role of John Travolta in Grease in his mind. Lois was there too. Fun-loving and cheeky, she was a live-wire at the party. She laughed a lot, her deep-set eyes happy and bright and her high cheeks adorned a beautiful face. The problem attractive girls have is that they attract everybody including those they didn’t want to attract. Lois was busily swatting some away like flies. Long Chin was in his element that night. Although we went to the party together in his Honda N360, I felt totally out of place and left early. Shaking my body, flailing my arms wildly and gyrating my legs to loud music didn’t make any sense to me. My eyes couldn’t adjust to the dark room and my ears hated the noise. So, I walked home.

My friends say I think too much. That it is a waste of energy to let my mind wonder all the time. Sadhguru said that thought isn’t intelligence. I call him my sad teacher, because the more I learn from him, the sadder I become. In uni, I was elevated by Descarte, when I read about his first principle in Philosophy. “I think, therefore I am.” Our consciousness makes us who we are. But, our senses can often deceive us. As Sadhguru said, thought is not intelligence. So, I feel stupid after that. We often confuse intellect with intelligence. Intellect allows us to think by processing ideas from a bank of data or memory. Our brain is simply churning out biochemical algorithms – our intellect depends on how much of our brain we use; computers can do that better than us. Intelligence and memory reside in all our cells. Intuition is not an outcome of thought. It just happens a lot faster because we have learned it. An example is jumping. We know how to do it without thinking about it anymore. Sadhguru has a word for pure intelligence, i.e. mind without memory – Chitta. Chitta is always on, making life happen. Without intelligence, we cannot live. Try and breathe using our intellect, we can’t! Chitta connects us with our consciousness. Consciousness is the essence of life. A.I. cannot have that. I get it now, the more I think, the more I project my stupid ideas to my friends. Who am I? Whatever I have gathered in terms of feelings, beliefs, biases, experience and knowledge, I can say they are mine, but it’s not me. So, who am I? I may dress shabbily and present myself unkempt with entangled long hair, or smell unwashed having had Murray (my son’s pup) on my lap all day (as extremely careful as he is, sometimes he leaves pee near his groin). I may like BOSS clothing to remind myself I am boss but all that is just my shell. Maybe it is just as well I do not have a special identity. I may not like who I am. Sadhguru said our body is like the peel of a fruit. Once we consume the fruit, the peel is discarded. The peel is meaningless without the fruit – it is only there to protect it. So, the physical creature comforts that we enjoy will not be good enough if we do not nourish the fruit inside us. Chasing this idea of who I am from my chaise has got me nowhere.

You are not your body and lifestyle, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.

Epictetus, Discourses, 3.1.39b-40a

I happened to chance upon a seminal study that looks at the traits of the top investors of our time by looking at their personality type and mapping that to their returns and keys to success. It looks at the time preference (short vs long term), analytical approach (intuitive vs quantitative), focus (broad vs narrow) and risk appetite (risk averse vs risk-taking) of each legendary investor. Warren Buffet can be pigeon-holed as a long term investor, highly analytical using Quants, focused in just a few big plays and is famous for being risk averse. I thought it would reveal why I have been such a lousy investor in my time in the sharemarket. I promised The Mrs she could divorce me if I were to ever return to investing in shares again. I took part in the free personality test and discovered my personality type is Architect, INTJ-A which describes me as Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinker, Judger. Introverts often like to work alone or in small groups, and like to focus on one task at a time. Intuitives focus on the big picture, value innovation and seek creative solutions to problems. Thinkers tend to make decisions logically and value honesty and fairness. Judgers are organised and stick to plans and are comfortable following most rules. That’s me! Those in the study that are in the same category include Bill Miller, Chamath Palihapitiya, Steven Cohen, and Michael Burry. Cathie Wood and George Soros are ENTJ’s, whereas Warren Buffet is ISTJ. It made me happy, I had three of his four traits. I do not have Buffet’s S. Sensors are realistic people who focus on facts and apply common sense and past experience to find practical solutions to problems. So, the only difference is I am intuitive whereas Buffet is realistic. Oh and yes, he is mega successful as an investor and I am not. Those who are most successful rank analytics as the most important driver, focus being the second most important followed by longer timeframes in their preference and then their appetite for risk – more risk more return. The Mrs told me not to bother analysing further. My dismal track record of heavy losses already shows what type of investor I am. A very poor one. So, I returned to my chaise and stopped chasing my dreams.

The current book on my bedside table is John Grisham’s The King of Torts. I found it stashed away on the bottom of a cupboard in the formal dining room – a room that was never used as intended by the architect. We converted it into a study by dividing it from the formal lounge with a plywood wall. The formal lounge was also a room that never fulfilled its purpose as intended by its designer. We aren’t Brits and so there is very little that is formal about the way we live. The formal lounge is now a guest bedroom. How foolish to have a guest room when we hardly have guests coming to stay. That room is the least used room and serves as a prime asset with a very poor yield. The book looks old yet it is hard to guess its age. There is a distinct lack of dog ears but its yellowed pages made me wonder if I did read it once upon a time. Published in 2003, it looked familiar but my mind had no recollection of the story even though I have finished Chapter 11. On Sunday, when I came across the last sentences on page 89, I felt a bolt of lightning had struck my head. My head was spinning violently and I felt breathless with excitement. John Grisham was writing about a wonder drug that could cure addiction to opium and cocaine. He called it Tarvan. Take it and your craving for crack is gone, forever. Freed from our addiction to drugs – just like that! Think of the lives saved, the crimes that would not be committed, the misery families would be lifted from. It actually felt eerie after I had recovered my composure from the initial shock. Earlier that same morning, I had heard about Mike Tyson’s “medicine” in his interview by Mark Moss. Could John Grisham’s “Tarvan” be Tyson’s “Toad”? Let’s hope not, because Tarvan in the novel makes 8% of its users kill. Plain and simple.

A book I forgot I had read many many years ago

My job is to change the way you think about money because almost everything you have learned is wrong.

Mark Moss

Mike Tyson was a write-off after his illustrious boxing career ended. You know, he was into the ‘usual’ things that people usually do in America. Drugs, cocaine, ice, alcohol, sex with strangers, he was killing himself. He would simply leave the car he wrecked on the roadside and buy another one. But, one day, he did something that changed his life in an instant. He called it a “sucker punch intervention”. A friend gave him “sandy dust” which he smoked from a crack pipe. He calls it his “medicine”, his “God molecule”. He couldn’t describe it but it was spiritual enough for him to invoke God. He talked about people being “high” on drugs but this thing “elevated” him. Suddenly, it wasn’t about him anymore. It was all about the medicine. All he has achieved since wasn’t his doing, Tyson said. It was the medicine. Mark Moss said sure, it was still him, right? You took it and it lifted you. You lost a hundred pounds in four months. You’re back in great shape, you’re focused, you’re back to boxing, you’re now into entrepreneurship, investing in new endeavours, giving motivational talk shows. “That’s all you, right?” Moss asked. Tyson simply laughed and said his interviewer can’t understand what he’s saying. No, for Mike Tyson, it can’t be him. He is not that person. What he is today is from this God molecule. His toad. They call it DMT, short for 5-MeO-DMT. A wonder drug that a recent European study showed that after one single use, it gave the patients a “sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, and easing of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Mike Tyson said in interview, “I look at life differently, I look at people differently. It’s almost like dying and being reborn… It’s inconceivable. I tried to explain it to some people, to my wife, I don’t have the words to explain it. It’s almost like you’re dying, you’re submissive, you’re humble, you’re vulnerable — but you’re invincible still in all.” It is sometimes called “The Toad” because it is derived from dried venom secreted by the Bufo alvarius toad, a toad found near the Mexican border with the US. A puff of it will elevate you to heaven. Many say they “see God” and their lives change instantly. They become clearheaded, focused and their minds change back to their previous healthy state. I wonder what my sad teacher would say to that. Would Sadhguru agree that this dust from the desert elevates us to reach Chitta? Enough chatter. Chasing truth from my chaise today has only clouded my mind.

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