Posted in Philosophy

Lego House

Imagine that you built a house out of Lego blocks. Now break apart the house until it is reduced to individual blocks. Where is the house now? You could say that the house is still there, except now that it is in the form of a small pile of blocks. On the other hand, you could argue that the “house” itself no longer exists – only its components. The pile of blocks does not have a roof or walls or a living room. It is not a safe, homely place Mr. Lego can return to after work to relax in. However, it has the potential to be a house again. All you need to do is arrange it in a certain way to make it a beautiful home for a nice little Lego family.

What makes the Lego house a house is the specific arrangement of the bricks in an aesthetically pleasing yet functional and practical way – crafted by a creative mind and a set of hands. Through these hands, the blocks can be crafted into a house, a car or even a space station. But without them, they will forever remain a pile of unused blocks stored away in some dark container.

Now look deep inside you and ask this question: what have you made with the Lego pieces that make up your identity? How have you pieced together your strengths, your skills, your experiences and your dreams? We are all unique in the sense that we are born with certain virtues and talents, while gaining various experiences and skills through the chaos that is life. But all of these are just Lego pieces. What kind of masterpiece these pieces will be a component of is up to you to decide, design and build.

Just like Lego, if you don’t are not truly happy with what you see inside you, feel free to tweak it, add to it or even disassemble it and rearrange it into a different final product. Try emphasising your language skills, or chasing after a lost dream. Draw from different experiences and play around with your various strengths. This is not to change who you are completely; no matter how many times you break up and reassemble them, you still have the same components. All you have to do is come up with a new design, build it and judge the product. Hopefully, you will find the right arrangement of pieces that result in a product greater than the sum of its components.

So go on, get building. 1 + 1 = 3.

(Artwork by Nathan Sawaya)

Posted in Philosophy


The Ouroboros is a symbol that depicts a serpent or a dragon biting its own tail, forming a ring. It is the symbol of cyclicality – something that is in a constant cycle of rebirth through the three steps of creation, maintenance and destruction.

The concept of a serpent devouring itself likely stems from the ancient belief that a snake shedding its skin is the act of leaving an old, inferior body to be reborn into a better, new body. The ancient Greeks explained that the Ouroboros connects its beginning (mouth) and end (tail) to form a metaphor for the link between life and death. By forming a circle, the Ouroboros has no beginning and no end; it is an infinite, linear path that cycles endlessly. Because of this, the Ouroboros is also the symbol of infinity, immortality and the cycle of time. An alternate ancient explanation for the Ouroboros is that because it eats itself, it will ultimately end up as nothing.

The Ouroboros was an important symbol in medieval alchemy. Alchemists used the symbol “O” to represent the Ouroboros. To the alchemists, the Ouroboros was an entity that did not place importance in the two natural processes of creation and destruction, but the often-neglected third force – maintenance. This neutral process is the connection between the start and end of anything. Alchemists knew that in any chemical reaction, the process is just as important as the starting ingredients and the final product. The Ouroboros also represented “everything” and “perfection” to alchemists as it connected its own beginning and end. Because of this, the Ouroboros came to represent the Philosopher’s stone.

Perhaps the most relevant application of the Ouroboros to us is the concept of rebirth and cycling. Nothing in nature is permanent. Matter changes states, chemicals react and species evolve. We too are never permanent. There is always room for change – to destroy what you do not like about yourself, create something better and then maintain that state until the next cycle comes. As much as it is important to know to love who you are, it is vital that you continuously recycle, refine and develop yourself to become the person that you are truly happy to call “me”.

Posted in Philosophy

Creation And Destruction

In Hindi mythology, it is said that the universe is controlled by three major gods (Trimurti): Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. Vishnu is the ultimate omnipotent god who is depicted resting on his giant serpent Ananta, tended to by Lakshmi. A lotus grows out of Vishnu’s navel and gives rise to Brahma – the creator. When Brahma awakens, the universe is created. Brahma models the universe according to Vishnu’s dreams and imaginations – dipping into the experiences of his past incarnations. Once the universe is created, it is maintained by Vishnu.

However, the Hindu view of cosmology is that the universe is not fixed. It continuously undergoes a cycle of creation, maintenance and destruction. The god who is responsible for the destruction of the universe is Shiva. When a certain time comes, Shiva dances the tandava to annihilate the universe and all of its contents. But this is not an act of evil. It is for the purpose of rebuilding the universe, reaching closer to a perfect, ideal world. Once there is nothing, Vishnu rebirths Brahma and the cycle begins again.

Remarkably, this is strikingly similar to the current scientific model of how the universe came about. It is suggested that the universe arose from a massive explosion of matter, something we call the Big Bang. Since the Big Bang, the universe has been expanding at the speed of light. However, it is theorised that one day the expansion will decelerate, until the forces of the universe pull it back together to cause a contraction. The universe contracts until all matter is crushed into a single point – an event called the Big Crunch. This gives rise to an extremely dense piece of matter that will eventually undergo a new Big Bang to create a different universe.

Destruction is not an evil force. Shiva is not considered the devil, but a great god who is almost as popular as Vishnu. This is because Hindus (rightly) believe that destruction is a key component of nature, allowing for the cycle of birth and death. A caterpillar must destroy its form within its chrysalis to form the pool of matter that will give rise to a beautiful butterfly. Creation and destruction are simply polar forces that cannot exist without each other and sometimes even the best of things have to fall apart to make way for better things. Furthermore, one cannot forget the importance of the neutral force that maintains the status quo between creation and destruction.

Nature is governed by these three force: plus, minus and zero. 

Posted in History & Literature

Elements: Wu Xing Of The East

In ancient China and Korea, there are five, not four, basic elements (Japan also has five but they are slightly different). In the East, these five elements are called “oh hang (오행, 五行)” in Korean and “wu xing” in China. These are (read in Korean): hwa (火, fire), su (水, water), mok (木, wood), geum (金, metal), and toh (土, earth). When you combined with the theory of Yin and Yang, the concept is known as the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements theory (eum yang oh hang sul, 음양오행설). Wu Xing is quite different from the Four Elements of ancient Greece in that it explains the changes in life and the universe rather than being the building blocks of matter (“wu xing” translates to “five ways”). To first understand Wu Xing, one must understand that each element is more of an abstract concept than the actual object. For example, “mok” does not mean wood per se, but rather a symbol for the life force of a growing tree.

There are two relationships between the elements in Wu Xing: Creation (상생, 相生) and Destruction (상극, 相剋). Creation refers to the cyclic principle of what generates what, and Destruction refers to what overcomes and represses what. The Creation and Destruction of Wu Xing are as follows:

  • 목생화(木生火): Wood creates Fire. Wood feeds Fire.
  • 화생토(火生土): Fire creates Earth. Fire makes ash which becomes Earth.
  • 토생금(土生金): Earth creates Metal. Earth bears Metal.
  • 금생수(金生水): Metal creates Water. Metal carries Water.
  • 수생목(水生木): Water creates Wood. Water nourishes Wood.
  • 목극토(木剋土): Wood beats Earth. Wood takes roots in Earth.
  • 토극수(土剋水): Earth beats Water. Earth absorbs Water.
  • 수극화(水剋火): Water beats Fire. Water quenches Fire.
  • 화극금(火剋金): Fire beats Metal.  Fire melts Metal.
  • 금극목(金剋木): Metal beats Wood. Metal chops Wood.

(Image source

Posted in Philosophy


Solve the following riddle:

It is greater than a god and more evil than a devil.
The poor have it while the rich lack it.
If you eat it, you will die.

To find the answer, you must look within yourself and travel against the flow of time.

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