06 September 2008

Arroz Chaufa, Marinated Eggplant + Something Like A Daiquiri

Erika and I made Arroz Chaufa for her uncle's housewarming lunch at his place in Constitución. The rice was really good and the vegetable soup was warm and satisfying (one possible antidote on such a rainy and miserable day).

Afterwards, we took a colectivo to Shi Yuan where we ate some of the best vegetarian Chow Mein noodles and aubergine dish I've had in years. I'm not joking. It brough out this agressive gluttony in me that was kinda uncomfortable, to be honest. I was ready and willing to stab someone with the sauce spoon if they moved in too close to me.

From there we took a taxi where Fred and I continued our conversation about Confucius and the gift of purgatory in Buenos Aires, the way it's not only acceptable, but even necessary to be unsure of where you want to go in your life when you come to this city and stay for longer than a few weeks. After all, that's usually one of the reasons you came, not just to place constraints on your sensuality as you trot around on the dance floor, but also to celebrate the places between places. There's so much you can do with a blank page.

At Milion, we finally met Dave and Mersal who we both liked very much, in addition to their UBA expat friends. Mersal and I talked about being Arab in America. I also had a great conversation with Rachel about her native land of South Africa. I think I surprised her that I knew a few things about her country. But then again, the bar has been set so low with Americans and their lack of knowledge of other countries, that it probably wasn't hard to make a good first impression. I did appreciate singing a Johnny Klegg song with her though, I have to say . . . And Henry and I connected--however briefly--about Seattle and the importance of unsatisfied desire in the pursuit of happiness. No matter how much we wish that we could have everything we want, the truth is, it's so important that we never get it. Happiness isn't in the acquisition of things but in the basic awareness of who and what we are, and in the things we know how to love . At least in our gospel.


Anne said...

Not only is it not important, having "everything that you wanted" is illusory since the goal posts could always be moved further and further away whenever we're even close to reaching them. Agreed it's nice to be in a "place in between places" but staying too long could numb the senses that would otherwise propel you to your true destination. (Speaking personally of course).

Tina said...

Wow, deep stuff.

The third paragraph about the gift of purgatory in Buenos Aires is amazingly right on, at least for me.

Robert Evans said...

"Happiness isn't in the acquisition of things but in the basic awareness of who and what we are, and in the things we know how to love . At least in our gospel."

A lot depends of what scale you are using, no? For example, money does appear to correlate with national happiness [1].

On a more personal scale, I think the same, generally, holds true. Although, I think one needs to be careful about diminishing marginal utility and expensive status games -- cheap status games have much greater overall utility. ;-)

[1] http://www.willwilkinson.net/flybottle/2008/04/16/maybe-money-does-buy-happiness-after-all/

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...


I already wrote this in your Facebook account, but to rehash: agreed. That's exactly the point I think, that's it's essentially impossible to achieve true happiness. The pain lots of people experience, is in the idea that some specific object, aspiration, identity, status will make them happy. But like you said the goal posts are always moving, and that's why humans have to not only learn to appreciate the spaces between spaces and the places between places, but not doing so will make them miserable. We can only control so much of our lives and we can achieve only so much of what it is that makes us happy. The real art is the ability to be happy no matter where it is you are in your hierarchy of personal aspirations. Not that certain places couldn't make you happier, but an optimist can be happy in Death Valley and a pessimist can be miserable in poverty and in great wealth. So you have to know who you are what is it that you love, that's always a good start. Confronting and living in uncertainty or living with constrained happiness (spaces) doesn't numb your senses at all, in my opinion, because you can't take anything for granted. Routine is much more effective at putting you into a sensory coma. Just look at New Yorkers on their commute. . . Or you after a 14-hour day.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Thanks Tina. Great minds.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Maybe Rob, but money does NOT seem to correlate with a sustainable personal happiness, which I'd argue is more important. There were a bunch of studies done by anthropological economists in the 90's and early 2000's and as it turned out, people of every income bracket, thought they'd be happier if they'd simply made 20%-30% more than they currently did when they'd taken the survey, and it didn't change once someone's income went up in future years. If what you were saying is true, then people who made more money would logically be happier and feel that they needed less money to stay happy. But in actuality, their income had very little effect on the feeling that more money would equal more happiness. So though we all FEEL that more money will give us more happiness, the truth is when we make more money we are almost never in fact happier.

anne said...

Jackson, I didn't mean that living in uncertainty would numb the senses but rather that living in a "place in between places", as exciting and unpredictable as that might sound, could also evolve into a state of regularity and routine. I just mean that during the times when we are exploring ourselves and gaining clarity on the next steps in life it is crucial not to lose sight of the things that truly stimulate. People are so susceptible to settling (comfort, happiness and security versus risks and potential high rewards) that I feel it is necessary to constantly evaluate and re-hash plans.

(It would appear that your blog does welcome my comments afterall :))

Robert Evans said...

"Maybe Rob, but money does NOT seem to correlate with a sustainable personal happiness, which I'd argue is more important."

Really? Go tell that to folks living on less than a dollar a day.

The study you point out reinforces the point I made about decreasing marginal utility.

"So though we all FEEL that more money will give us more happiness, the truth is when we make more money we are almost never in fact happier."

Who is this unqualified we you are referring to? Won't more money make the undernourished in India and China more happy?

Not trying to bust your balls but I just don't understand where you are coming from. I agree that money has diminishing marginal utility and that folks in the advanced economies often times get caught up in status games but you seem to be saying quite different that I find troubling.

BTW, did you read Daniel Gilbert's book?

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...


Well, I spent a good year in the 3rd poorest country in the world and to be honest, if money = happiness, then the people in Burkina Faso, based on your macroeconomic calculation, should be miserable. In many ways they were much happier than most Americans I 've known who have so much more materially than the rest of the world does, and yet many Americans aren't happy at all. They're on a million painkillers, they drink themselves to sleep, they watch 5 hours of TV, take pills for everything moving legs to fatigue. How in the world did we epitomize happiness? We know very little about true happiness!

I'm not saying people in poorer countries wouldn't like more money or that it couldn't make a difference in their life, but I think it's erroneous to think that money necessarily correlates to greater happiness. And the study I was referring to was a series of studies, actually, done over almost a decade. The fact is, wealthier people aren't happier than less wealthy people in America, and Americans aren't happier than people from poorer countries. The suicide rate, for example, for the upper class is MUCH much higher than it is for lower classes. And even when Americans move up the income bracket, they don't feel happier because their goals of happiness (at least financially and materially speaking) move up along with them. The point is, we're never satisfied. Our wealth doesn't make us happier, it just makes us feel more free. For like a second.

Now, that being said, I'm not arguing we shouldn't try to help less developed countries become prosperous. I think it's our moral obligation to do so for a million different reasons. But, I do personally think it's a huge cultural fallacy to assume that this wealth will lead to a sustainable happiness, because that depends on someone's ability to embrace his or her life and see the beauty in it, and someone can do that at any income bracket, with or without money. It's just not intrinsic, that's all. Just look at how many sad wealthy Americans there are and then compare that to all the people living on less than a dollar a day who still see beauty in their lives. Both classes of people might both believe that more money will make them happy--true or not--but only one class of people, the happy and often poor ones, already have the secret on why life is beautiful right now, and that's partially based on the simplicity of their lives, their survival instinct, and the fact that they are essentially free of the consumerist mind-fuck that developed countries plug into us. Money can complicate our lives, create needs we didn't think we had and give birth to aspirations we never possessed when we had less money. No, I'm not saying we should all give away our worldly possessions or aspire to poverty necessarily--though as a Buddhist I find it tempting. But our lives as insatiably prosperous Americans would be so much easier if we could learn to live with less and be happy whatever it is we own as we try to improve our lives and make them better.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Agreed Anne. But the people that are prone to settle aren't the same ones that tend to be comfortable living in great uncertainty, nor the ones that travel (two examples of the space between the spaces). Yes, we find clarity ultimately even in that chaos and that lack of definition, but clarity and harmony aren't the same thing as stagnation. And also, I'd argue that since the world is constantly changing (subatomically) and the galaxy continues to expand, our true destination really is in the spaces between spaces. That might not be where we're comfortable, but that's where everything is until we see things more clearly. And to me, that's not numbness, it's the opposite of numbness. It's where I'm entitled to be the most alive.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Rob and Anne,

Henry just sent me this video which is eerily synchronized to a number of conversations I've been having with both of you. Simply out of curiosity you should check out: