Ethical Crisis and Flappy Bird

A certain fog of sadness has descended upon me with certain revelations about a certain acquaintance and his actions. When the uglier sides (or are they just repressed?) of humanity are unearthed and displayed, so many latent questions are dredged up along them. How should we judge others, and how are we ourselves to be judged? As an extreme hypothetical, suppose someone found the cure for cancer and saved millions of lives but was also a murderer. Where do the scales fall? Where should they fall?

A friend who majored in video games brought up the news article about the game Flappy Bird, whose creator recently revealed that he pulled the game off the market because it was too addictive (link). Which seemed interesting to me because I’m quite skeptical that the elimination of one game, which has already spawned many clones, would meaningfully curtail game addiction. And to give up what’s been reported as up to $50k per day for such a reason seems almost crazy to me. But said friend, the only one who’s a Kantian (or at least who outwardly would admit so), brought up the fact that ethical reasoning doesn’t work in that manner, and mentioning the categorical imperative in a twitter conversation (which, in my book, deserves an award of some kind).

This would be an inconsequential piece of chatter but for my state of mind as outlined in par. 1 above. Somehow, thoughts fill those little moments of vacuum, and then I am sad. Isn’t who we hang out with, and what things we choose to do, a judgment of our character? I was reminded of an incident from college, where one of my dorm mates, whom we thought was maybe a bit eccentric and maybe a bit angry, but otherwise not of special notice in the loony bin that is Stanford, ran over his dad with his car. (Aside: I wonder what percent of the population is an acquaintance with a murderer anyway?) Had it been invented back then, wouldn’t he have been a facebook friend? Was he a bad person? I don’t know the circumstances of his situation and would find it difficult to think that his would be justifiable patricide, but does one notable bad action result in someone being bad?

Some lines of thoughts cross, and I’m left with questions. Given that ballet supports this ideal of thinness as beautiful, am I complicit in girls’ eating disorders? Since I willingly work in tech, am I guilty of promoting income inequality? Maybe these rules are such that there’s no way to win, but who’s to say that we need must play the game?


Recently I’ve been wondering if it was a bad idea to give up on the violin, and if it’s any use to try to take it up again. It’s an odd relationship, violin and me. I take it out of its case maybe once every 6 months, but have kept it with me during every move. It’s sat underneath my bed in so many houses, dorms, apartments. I keep waiting for that divine inspiration to hit, when I will fall in love again and believe that I can play again. It’s been 10 years since Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and I don’t think it’s coming back.

I should be blaming myself. In retrospect, I don’t think I set my goals high enough. Same with getting into Stanford. Accomplishing things is the worst thing that happens to me because of the emptiness that follows. Nowadays, I’m not even sure I have such life goals anymore. But I still feel that calling every now and again. Its name is regret. Whenever one of the teachers uses a piano transcription of the first movement for the plie combination, I get chills down my spine. It’s about as distracting as professional-ballerina-who-wore-a-leotard-that-was-a-little-too-thin-and-transparent-when-she-sweated-and-I-don’t-think-she-was-wearing-a-bra (Show some modesty! Or don’t. Either way works for me.). That melody gets me every time. So beautiful *sob*.

It’s so sad how many activities fall by the wayside during college, or after we start working. The assistant master wrote on my block of wood (literally, a 2×4 piece of wood that we had to punch and chop; those were the days) “Never stop TKD.” Which, of course, I did shortly after freshman year. And then when I tried to pick it up again during grad school, it didn’t stick. And of course I am now “so busy with work” that I don’t have the energy to go back and reconcile with my past self. It gets harder and harder to go home again. And I really don’t see any way of going back now that that hussy ballet has come into my life.

Which is really interesting, because I was recently admiring just how much continuity matters in perfecting an art form (or really anything). Those girls in Cardinal Ballet are really something. It takes such a damn long time to get good at something, a huge amount of dedication to stick it through the rough spots to get to the point where you get good enough to enjoy doing what you do. Each year of sticking with it, each moment closer to the 10,000 hours brings a little bit more depth, a little more maturity, a little closer to perfection. It’s so hard to see in the grind, when the temptations of all the rest of life are there to seduce us away. I feel like I failed. And it breaks my heart knowing how many of these WB girls will give it up once they graduate high school.

Nowadays, when we give up on something that we’ve been doing, it feels like a great loss. Although when we’re young, I don’t think we thought of things that way. New opportunities seemed like new adventures, additional conquests that we could surmount. Although at the end of the day, maybe we realize that so many of those things seem shallow. We can spend our entire lives jumping from obsession to obsession, but what joy does that accumulate for us? Yes, at one point I was pretty damn good at DDR, but now none of my friends play it anymore, and neither do I.

One of my friends has said that TKD is for teenagers, and that ballet is for 13 year old girls, because physically that is the when one is most capable of performing in either, and it slowly goes downhill from there. Having seen septuagenarians in ballet class, elegant as ever, and guys old enough to be my father in TKD who can kick my ass, I have to disagree somewhat. It becomes love of the game that compels us to continue the more our natural talents erode.  I think our bond with the art becomes greater the more difficult it becomes. The struggles define who we are more so than the cupcakes handed us.

?But what makes something worth doing? At my most cynical (i.e. most of the time), everything is equally futile. It’s not like we will ever reach that pinnacle of perfection that inhabits our dreams. Activities just fill up time, and ennui is our enemy. And for those who know me, they know that I don’t subscribe to the pleasure principle. It is not enough for something to make one happy to make it worthwhile. I sometimes try to convince myself that all this effort is building up to something. If it is, I hope I never achieve it.

At some point in our lives, it becomes evident that we can’t do everything that we want to do. It’s that point when possibilities must necessarily collapse, and also when we truly feel our own mortality. Somewhere in the drafts folder of this blog is a very messy post about Never Let Me Go (which, incidentally, is what I thought was the best film of last year (whereby “best” I mainly mean “most depressing”)) which I haven’t the heart to complete. I think one of the most poignant thoughts that lingers with me about the film and book is that our lives are finite, no matter how long we actually live or what our life expectancy is. It doesn’t matter how long, we will always feel the impetus of death. No matter if we live twenty or twenty thousand years, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference; we would still have regret. In my own twisted logic, I actually think they were better off, knowing what fate has in store. But the truth is that their lives are identical to ours. Only the details are different.

Only the unimaginative will have their lives turn out the way they planned. But it doesn’t hurt to be a sometimes dreamer. I guess what I want to say to the musicians is to never stop playing; to the dancers, to never stop dancing.