I watched The Truman’s Show, a really great film that was worth to see, last night. The film attracted and touched me in various ways: the evil and horrible director, Truman with unswerving determination, the people around the world who all cares about his life…… However, the film not only makes me think about what humanity and ethic are, but also brings to a further question about the world: how could he notice the world he lived was not true? How can we know whether the world we are living is true?
To begin with, it is quite clear that Truman had noticed something in his daily life. An appliance used to shoot the film dropped onto the group accidently. A woman he met told him that all the stuffs he had seen were made up, but she was caught by “her father” and taken away. The radio was repeating all the actions he did by accident. All these scenes made him notice that something strange happened to his world. Well, from my previous description, you may claim that we can determine if we are living in the real world by judging whether everything we meet is strange, or in other words, not illogical. I am sorry to tell you that it is still not perfect. That is no all because you may get cheated by yourself.
And this may explain why Truman had noticed nothing for most of his life. He never drove across the bridge because he was told that it was forbidden by the police. He did not doubt the appliance dropped onto the group because he was told that it was just a component fallen from a plane. Everything seemed logical because the people who made the film made it logical. This told me that we could be easily cheated by “the surface”, by the “logic” that “we” think is logical, and we will never doubt that! If we doubt everything, then we have to doubt the entire world we are living, which is very difficult. We could not easily judge whether the world is true or not because from our own perspective, we have already accepted that the world is true since we were born.
But this does not mean that we do not have any other solution. Do you remember how Truman found out the truth? I remember a scene very clearly when he and his wife was on the car, he successfully predicted the scenes and their orders that would happen in the next minute. He noticed that the cars and the people are just going around and around, and he proved it. And this may be the key to the truth. How can we predict the world? How can we tell what is going to happen? Is it too perfect if everything goes in the way that we want? This makes me think of something interesting called “lucid dream”, a dream where you can notice that is a dream when you are dreaming, which is a skill that is only known by a few people. Fortunately, I am one of those people who have this skill, and I am now able to share my experience. When I am dreaming, I can quickly notice the world is fake by doubting. If I imagine that I can go to the moon by just passing through a door in my house, and I successfully do it (Yes, I go to the moon!), then I can tell I am dreaming.
Well, how are lucid dreams connected to my topic? When I am dreaming, I can judge the world by whether everything can go in the way I imagine. When I am awake, why can’t I judge the world in the same way? Truman found the truth because he noticed that the world he lived was following a kind of rules, which is impossible. By observation, he could finally predict everything that is going to happen! The only feature the true world different from the fake one is that it is disordered and unpredictable. The fake world is made by yourself (dreams) or by others (Truman’s world), which unavoidably have some rules to follow. When Truman finally found the truth and was leaving the fake world, the director asked him to wait and think. He told Truman that the fake world he made for Truman was perfect, comfortable and innocent, while the real world outside was full of lies and misfortune. Truman chose to leave the fake one and went into the reality. I think he made the right decision. Yeah, the true world might seem “fake” for him because it is crueler and less predictable. But he embraced the reality. I believe, for him, the true world was much more exciting and interesting because he would never know what was going to happen in the next second. And this why we live. Though cruel, the real world makes us feel alive. “The fake world is full of real stuffs, but the real world is full of fake stuffs,” I said.
Microcredit, which is a kind of small loan for the poor to help them set their own businesses and get rid of poverty, has experienced an explosive growth in the last decade. Except the non-government organizations, finding a commercial opportunity in microfinance, some for-profit companies have received a huge amount of investment in recent years. However, does microcredit really work well like how it sounds and looks? Will microfinance really help the poor get the rid of poverty? There is no denying that microfinance has many advantages. To begin with, microcredit provides start-up capitals for the people who are willing to set up their own businesses. Capitals may include the cost of machines and raw materials for production. In fact, many people have been benefited by the help of microcredit. For instance, a man in Africa received a microcredit of several hundred dollars because of his plan of shoe-making. The shoes sold well, so he repaid the investment and some interests after the first month. Then he received a larger amount of money, which enabled him to expand his business. Now he owns a shoe factory and a large shop. In addition, microfinance helps people who already own a business to further expand and improve their business. Some business start-ups have difficulty getting rid of poverty because of lack of finance to hire labors or buy wholesales, which may help them reduce their cost and expand their business. Microfinance may solve their problem. A woman in Africa who owns a grocery store received a microcredit, and she used the money to buy wholesales and expand the size of her store. After only a year, she had hired three employees to help her. After several years, she now owns a whole street in a community and lends her lands to others to help more people start their own businesses. So eventually, microfinance can also create more work opportunities, which benefits the whole society. However, not everyone realizes his or her dreams successfully. Microfinance also has an evil side and plenty of disadvantages, which may explain my concern and why I do not believe in and support it. First, it is not possible for all new business to succeed. To tell the truth, the possibility of success for those business start-ups is even lower than 50%. For the aspect of business management, sole traders, which means people who work on their own alone, has an unlimited liability. This means that if their business fails, all they own including their own savings and houses will disappear. How can the losers even pay back their microcredit plus interest? The risk for taking microcredit is too much. Furthermore, microcredit will make the poor even poorer if it is not used in correct ways. For example, some for-profit companies instigate the poor to accept microcredit even though they know that those people will not start a business or pay back on time. A 19-year-old young woman in India took several microfinances and used all money on the wedding and the tuitions for the kids. As a result, she committed suicide because she was not able to pay the loans back. Her mum said with mournful voice that the microfinance company told them to pretend that they had a vegetable store. If we cannot make sure that everyone spends the money on business instead of daily expenditures, microcredit will never end poverty. Instead, it leads to more poverty and more tragedies. From my own perspective, I disagree with the idea of popularizing microfinance in those rural areas now. Success does not mean anything because it is too rare. In fact, we have much more tragedies of failure in microfinance than success. Low requirements, no finance management education, lack of research and studies and for-profit purposes make microfinance way too complicated. In my opinion, before we get to know more about it, we should time our time and think whether there is a better solution. The fight against poverty has still a long road to go.
Definition: Savant Syndrome is a condition in which persons with various development disabilities but astonishing special islands of ability or brilliance.
Origin and history: It was first named Idiot Savant in 1887 by Dr. J. Langdon Down. However, the term Idiot Savant is replaced by Savant Syndrome now. It was used to describe people with IQ lower than 25, but actually those people have an IQ above 40.
Current state: 10% of persons with Autistic Disorder have some savant abilities. Idiot savant occurs in males more frequently than in females in an approximate ratio of 6:1. There are fewer than 25 prodigious savants living at the present time.
Why they have special talents: The most plausible explanation is that their left brains are damaged from pre-natal, peri-natal or post-natal, while their right brains, which are responsible for some talents, develop much better. Left brains develop later than right brains, so they are more likely to be damaged. Those special skills are always liked with phenomenal memory, which is not commonly used by normal people.
What talents do they have: Savant skills occur within a narrow range of human functions, generally in six areas: calender calculating, lightening calculating & mathematical ability, art, music, mechanical abilities and spatial skills. The most common one is musical ability. In some cases, they have a single skill, but in other cases, they may have several different skills.
How to develop: Their talents are abstractly locked in a very narrow coding, but constant practice and repetition can produce sufficient coding, which helps them to develop their abilities. Teachers and others play a major role in developing and polishing the skills.
Because of a film called Rain Man made it almost became a household word. What the most important point is that the savant in the film is a high functioning person with autistic disorder, but the disorder consists of an entire spectrum of disability ranging from profoundly disturbed to high functioning.
For many years, people had tried to help those people. Training is very important and “training talent ” is a valuable approach towards increasing socialization, language and independence. Thus these special skills can be used in many different ways as many useful tools as a conduit toward normalization in these special persons. What’s more, some schools started to include person with Savant Syndrome into classes for the gifted and talented as a method of enhancing further this conduit toward normalization.
This whole post is quoted from my friend Sheng Zhengmao’s blog. The original title is H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” Translation. The Chinese-version translation, which is in PDF form, is copyrighted by him.
This one is for one of my best friends Zhi, who is recently studying the content of dreams as a personal interest. I hope this story could be entertaining for him. Okay, now I would like to talk about this guy called Lovecraft a little. As one of the much recognized horror and fantasy writers in the 20th century, his works are somehow popular due to their unique-ness. Though I personally do not agree with his perspective, which is in this one quote “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” I truly doubt it. For me, I believe our intelligence, courage, and most importantly, curiousity, shall forever pave our way to the unraveling of mysteries. The Chinese translation by me on his work Beyond the Wall of Sleep is attached as PDF. For the original text, please go to: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/bws.aspx
PDF Access: Beyond the Wall of Sleep – Translation
Image 1: the final prototype of Climax OrangeImage 2: the first prototype(left) and the final prototype(right)Image 3: the final design of the bottle created by Photoshop Image 4: my friends in the same group and me wearing dresses when shooting the advertisement video for the project