Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's wrong with being normal?

I'm a big Heroes fan. Although the narrative of the episodes in recent seasons aren't that excited anymore, I still watch it every Monday night.

Guess who my favorite character is?

Hiro? Yeah he's cute, but no. Claire? She's cute too, but no. Parkman? No. Peter? No.

Alright, let me tell you. Yeah, it's Sylar, the ultimate villain of the series.

"Oh why? He's a devil! Why would you like him??"

What Sylar fascinates me isn't his powers or evilness. The things that catch my attention are the internal struggles he had that eventually made him a monster.

One scene in the episode "The Hard Part" in season one gave me a strong impression: when Sylar visited his mother and eventually killed her. The following is a paragraph from Heroes Wiki about that scene:

As Sylar arrives at his destination, Hiro and Ando sneak around to a window to keep an eye on him. They are surprised to discover that the person Sylar is visiting is his mother, Virginia Gray, who seems happy to see him and is quite unaware of his recent activities. He decides to fix one of his father's old clocks, and his mother laments on how watchmaking is not a real profession; she suggests that he become an investment banker instead. He asks his mother to accept his desire to remain a normal watchmaker, but his mother refuses, saying she knows Sylar is special enough to be President if he wanted.

When Sylar's mom told him that it's not okay to be just a regular watchmaker, Sylar said the following:

"Mom — Mom, don't. Don't, it's just... maybe I don't have to be special. That's okay to just be a normal watchmaker. Can't you just tell me that's enough?"

Yeah, why can't we just be normal?

No, at least the modern world we live in now doesn't seem to agree. It's almost a sin to remain normal. Everyone should advance his/her career, climb the corporate ladder, be a manager, be a CEO, or even better, be a boss. Be rich, be significant, be special.

Last month, two episodes of Sunday Report became very popular in Hong Kong: "港男.講女" ("Hong Kong Guys Talking About Hong Kong Girls") and "港女.講男" ("Hong Kong Girls Talking About Hong Kong Guys"). In the latter episode, the Hong Kong girls in general expressed the following requirements for their boyfriends:
  • Confident
  • Good at communication
  • Have quite an above-average income
  • Well-educated (at least a bachelor degree I'd say)
  • Desire to advance in career (In Cantonese, it's 上進心)
  • Be significant (In Cantonese it's 出色, which means having certain status/authority/achievement in society)
Don't get me wrong, all the things listed above are some very good attributes that every guy should strive for. The thing is, how many guys can actually achieve all these goals?

If you study some kind of probability or statistics before, you should know what a normal distribution is. Never heard of it before? See the diagram below:

Image from Wikimedia Commons

To satisfy all the requirements I list above, I think that a guy will have to fall beyond one standard deviation from the mean (to the right of 1σ). What does that mean? That means that this guy is among the top 16% (no need to argue with me with the exactness of the percentage; my argument makes sense for, say, 30% too) of the population.

Surely, it's a woman's freedom to set whatever requirements she wants for her spouse. After all, it's someone who's supposed to be with her for the rest of her life, how can she make compromise?

Yes, I agree. However, having no room to compromise doesn't mean that the requirements are realistic. Marriage is a one-to-one relationship; how can the top 16% be enough for all the Hong Kong women? This is also true vice versa; it'd be unrealistic for all men to look for women in the top 16% (be it beauty, education, wisdom, kindness, you name it).

Actually, what really annoys me isn't the lovableness of normal people; after all, this is mostly a personal issue. The thing that does annoys me is the view that people who're normal don't deserve the same respect that significant people receive.

In the "港男.講女" Sunday Report program, one Hong Kong girl actually said this

"Honestly speaking, if you're poor, people will look down on you."

This may be the fact, but she said it in a way that it's okay to hold such a attitude.

Wow, do you know how many poor people there're in this world? According to the standard of living in Hong Kong and the Global Rich List, she'd probably have to look down on at least 85% of the people in the world. How many is 85%? Not that many, just around 5.7 billion. This kind of attitude is just plain crazy.

To my mind, a person deserves respect as long as s/he
I do understand why people generally don't like living in a poor neighborhood: not because the people there are poor but the fact that poor people are usually inconsiderate. For example, people in ghetto areas often have dogs that bark throughout the night and make it difficult for their neighbors to fall asleep. Those people deserve to not be respected but they're not the normal people I'm talking about in this post.

In one episode of a BBC tourism program that I watched some years ago, they visited a little store in Italy that sells all kind of fruit jams. After the store owner (an old man) enthusiastically showed the program host the manufacturing process of his jams, the host said to him with admiration

"I can tell that you're a man who loves what you do."

"Yes, I do." Said the owner with a grateful smile on his face.

That old store owner may not make that much money since he only sells the jams in the small town he lives in. He may not have any ambition to be Knott's Berry Farm. He may not even have a bachelor's degree. He's probably just an insignificant old man that only the residents in his local town know had BBC not visited him.

Given all that, can you think of any reason why he doesn't deserve respect that significant people like Walter Knott (the founder of Knott's Berry Farm) receive?

We do need significant and powerful people like President Obama in this world. Nevertheless, it's unrealistic and unfair to ask everyone to be rich and significant. A normal watchmaker, a regular computer technician like Peter and a peaceful old man selling james in his little town are just as respectable as any normal person out there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A tribute to George Kadzis

Tonight's Extreme Makeover Home Edition is one of the few episodes that touched me. George Kadzis, the father of the family who received the help from Extreme Makeover, suffered from brain cancer and died around two days after their new house was built.

I always believe in helping people who deserve it and I think the Kadzis family really did deserve it: they adopted six disabled children from China. Beside extra financial burden, you have to spend a lot of time to look after the adopted children. That's why I always admire people who adopt children without asking anything in return.

Yeah, there are many poor orphans who need help in China and we can't save them all. But they can be saved one at a time, and I'm pretty sure that's what Geroge thought too.

I appreciate the sponsors of the TV program like Sears and those home builders. Yes, they benefit from the advertising of their products/services during the program, but they are also doing some good deeds to society. It's much better than simply paying an agent to create a viral ad.

It seems unfair that people with a kind heart like George would die due to a horrible and painful disease like brain cancer (ABC didn't show his face in the epsisode so I could imagine how the brain tumors have deformed his appearance). However, people who are inspired by him will bring hopes to the most hopeless places in the world, just like how George himself was inspired by Stevie Wonder after he listend to his performance in the 70's.

I can only manage to take care of myself and possibly my own future family now. Someday I wish I can do more though...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Need to take a break...

I'm so busy these days that I don't think I can write on this blog regularly anymore... I still have lots of topics that I'd like to talk about but I just can't squeeze time out to do that. Maybe I assumed too many responsibilities since I didn't say no enough?

Anyways I'll still blog whenever I've time but just don't expect the regular posting frequency I've been keeping. My readers, thank you for reading my blog all along and I hope that you've gained something valuable from my posts. See you soon! :)