Where do you draw the line for murder?


On Friday, 5 October 2007 at 17:04 I wrote a note which began as follows: “Is self-denial – the denial of your values, of who you are – justifiable if the end result is good?”

I sketched a situation where someone who seems to be a good person commits an evil act, but for good reasons.

Long story short, I decided not to use the original text because I think when a “good person” commits an evil act – such as murder, for a good enough reason – like saving a hundred lives, he did not really act against his moral values, and he did not really sacrifice his “good conscience” in the same way as someone sacrificing his or her life or a limb to save someone else.

Nevertheless, I thought, surely one must draw a line somewhere:


Say someone saves a hundred lives by deceiving someone else and then killing them in the middle of the night – after winning that person’s confidence, or something like that. The person feels very guilty, but the world is a better place. Is this not also a case of a person sacrificing himself for other people?


Say someone ends up providing long-term shelter to two hundred homeless people by deceiving someone else and then killing them in the middle of the night – after winning that person’s confidence. The person feels very guilty, but the world is a better place – those two hundred people will have a warm place to sleep. Is this not also a case of a person sacrificing himself for other people?


Say someone saves a thousand people’s feelings by deceiving someone who insulted their religion and then killing them in the middle of the night. The person feels guilty, but the world, so he believes, is a better place because the community feels that justice was done. Is this not also a case of a person sacrificing himself for other people?

Where does one draw the line?


The spoken word – and football


On a different note. On 22 June 1986 Argentina defeated England 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Both Argentine goals were scored by Diego Maradona. The first was the infamous “Hand of God” goal. The second, a few minutes later, is described as one of the best goals ever.

Here is how Víctor Hugo Morales, a journalist from Uruguay, described the “Goal of the Century” in his commentary (translated from Spanish):

“He’s going to pass it to Diego, there’s Maradona with it, two men on him, Maradona steps on the ball, there goes down the right flank the genius of world football, he leaves the wing and he’s going to pass it to Burruchaga … Always Maradona! Genius! Genius! Genius! There, there, there, there, there, there! Goaaaaaaaal! Goaaaaaaal! I want to cry, oh holy God, long live football! What a goal! Die-goal! Maradona! It’s to cry, excuse me! Maradona, in a memorable run, in the best play of all times! Little cosmic comet, which planet did you come from, to leave so many Englishmen behind, so that the country becomes a clenched fist crying for Argentina? Argentina 2, England 0! Die-goal, Die-goal, Diego Armando Maradona! Thank you, God, for football, for Maradona, for these tears, for this Argentina 2, England 0.”

The spoken word.

I reckon if someone writes with so much rhythm, so much passion, emotion laden with so much joy and happiness and hope and even sadness, they should be an instant candidate to win the Nobel Prize for literature.


What I believe in, and a few other points


1. It is difficult to say what I believe.

2. It is difficult for me to commit to anything, because I would have to believe in it 100% (see point 1), and I would have to constantly sell that commitment to myself.

3. I sometimes think when you think of a topic, or if you have an idea for a book, that a book has probably already been written about it. 50 years ago people thought along similar lines, and of course it wasn’t true, but now with Facebook and YouTube and Medium and Reddit and Digg emails with highlights from all over the internet it is hard to believe if you have an idea for a book that no one else in the whole wide world has thought about writing such a book. And maybe you do think of something that is more or less unique, but then another author or publisher with more resources see it and think they can do something similar, only better, or more interesting, or funnier. What I do wish I could see more of from other people is cosmic report type writing: I am aware of my existence; I have learned to read and write; I have developed identity; I survive (how?); I function (how?); I write about what I think and how I feel and how I experience things. If I do discover such a long-term writing project from someone else, I wouldn’t compare it to my own literary efforts. I will rejoice. I will eagerly read what that person thinks, how he or she feels, and how he or she experiences life.

4. Ten years ago or so I believed that I could write something, and someone will read it and think, “This guy is right. It needs to be so. I will act differently from now on.”

5. On Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 17:26 I wrote the following: [Perhaps my life is not so different] from the next person’s after all, and I am indeed wasting my time with my so-called writing. On the other hand, I believe there is a slim possibility that I have lived my adult life so far in a way that has given me a unique view of human existence, and the life we live, and that a combination of personality and tertiary education could make it possible for me to write something that would make someone else say, “I like the wording of this. It’s not really something that I haven’t thought of myself, but the way the guy talks about it, makes it easier for me to organize my own thoughts.”

6. On Friday, 31 July 2015 at 10:06 I rolled the drum for an important insight: We often say, “But someone else has already said that,” or “Someone else is already doing that.” Fact is, not everyone heard when that other person said whatever they had said; not everyone has seen that particular movie, or has read that specific book. And even if people have heard what that man or woman had said, or if they have seen a certain movie or read a particular book, they may have forgotten the lights that had come on in their heads! We all forget things! This, at the end of the day, is why important things need to be repeated.

7. On Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 13:26 I wrote: Perhaps the best novel that would ever be written in any language has already been written. But still we have to continue writing. Perhaps the most generous man who will ever walk this earth has been dead for decades or centuries. But still we need to continue being generous.


I have been thinking about this thing that I don’t really know what I believe in for a long time.

Then it hit me like a thunderbolt this afternoon: I believe in trees.

Think about it: trees are beautiful; they provide shelter to people and animals and birds; trees provide food for humans and animals and birds, and insects; trees house ecological systems in which some creatures live out their entire life cycles; trees clean polluted air and make it easier for people to breathe; trees provide wood for houses and huts and other shelters, and for furniture; trees provide wood for heat; trees provide paper for books; a person can become an activist for the cause of trees – in fact, many people are already devoting their lives to this cause; trees can keep growing for hundreds of years; and lastly but not least, if you suddenly find yourself walking naked outside one day, you can simply walk over to the nearest tree, gently break off a sprig of leaves and cover your face.


Broke writer or rich entrepreneur


A thought last night bounced from one thing to another, and before I knew it I had asked myself: What would I rather be, a broke writer or a rich entrepreneur, with the understanding for argument’s sake that I won’t do any creative work as the latter?

It was a tough question.

Ten blocks later (I was on my bicycle) I was satisfied with my initial answer: It’s hard to say, I thought, because exactly how poor will I be, and exactly what will I write?

The implication was that I was still prepared to lead a simple existence for the sake of spending a significant portion of my days writing, but I am not prepared to suffer for the sake of an essay every week or two about the weather in Kaohsiung or something similarly frivolous. The question is also how simple my existence will be. I don’t want to sleep under a tree, even if that means losing some good, inspired pieces in the process. (How much will I produce anyways before a transient poet steals my notebook?) Another thing is that I am not alone. Do I expect my partner to suffer with me? Or will I claim that I am prepared to suffer knowing that it will not be necessary because my partner will take pity on me and share her food with me?

The question, and the thought stemmed from things I need to do over the next few days for one of my sources of income – a freelance service I provide to a few customers. I thought about how I do what is necessary to keep the business going; that is, as long as I do not have to stand on a street corner – so to speak – selling my wares or my service. I also remembered something else I wrote some time ago – about why I should crush any ambitions of starting my own business. Why? I was of the opinion that I didn’t have it in me to dedicate myself 100% to a business. Of course there are other people who are regarded as successful business people or entrepreneurs who are struggling with the same things as me. Why are they successful? Why do they get away with it and I do not? It is not complicated to work out: they employ people or work with people otherwise who do what they cannot or will not do.

It is thus not a case of being unable to attain success as an entrepreneur; I just don’t work with the right people … or rather, I still try to do everything myself.

Another reason why I asked myself the above question is because I have often wondered what I could accomplish if I write full-time rather than trying to keep a half-dozen income sources running. Of course this is an open question. Perhaps all the literary exercise may lead to a few short stories or articles that will actually be read by more than 10 people, and – who knows? – I might even make enough money to buy a new bicycle. Or maybe I will be forced after a year or two to take another look at things I had previously considered beneath me, only now with a pair of hungry eyes.

There is after all nothing like hunger and humiliation to make one forget your bohemian dreams.


To know how to sell


I spent the last few days reading notes from 2010. One thing that became clear was that I had tried desperately to sell things that year – products, services, things that I had thought or believed people needed. That I largely failed is part of a less exciting part of my personal history.

On the way to Fengshan last night I wondered what I would do if I had to try and sell something now, since I have a little more resources at my disposal.

I couldn’t say what I would do.

The idea then pushed up from where all ideas come from that selling may simply not be everyone’s cup of tea.

And then the counter-argument: What is selling? Is it not the same as trying to convince someone of something?

I thought: there is a fundamental difference between trying to sell something to someone and trying to convince someone of something. When you try to convince someone to buy something, you expect that person to spend money that both you and he know will be of benefit to you.

I realized that I do not have a problem with trying to convince anyone of anything. And I do not really have a problem with telling someone something is not for free. To talk about money, especially if someone has to give me money, is definitely not my favourite subject, but I can take care of business. The problem is to convince someone to buy something from me feels to me like a form of begging. And when it comes to begging, my pride kicks in. I would rather die.

I will therefore rather die than to try and convince someone to buy something from me, if I have to carry the story to its dramatic conclusion.

Of course there are situations where I would not have to excuse myself to immediately go and commit suicide in a back room rather than to provide service to a customer. If, for example, I work in a hat shop, and a bald guy walks in and asks for a good cap, I won’t really be too embarrassed to show some caps. Chances are that he may show a preference for a specific cap, which he would admit is slightly outside his budget. In this situation I can see that it would not be too hard for me to try to convince him that the more expensive cap is indeed the one he should strongly consider. I can for example point out the higher quality, the shape, how well it fits on his head, and so on.

The difference is that he already wants to buy a cap. He walked into my hat shop. He asked me for a cap. We both know I am going to smile more enthusiastically if he buys the more expensive cap, but there is no chance that I will feel that I am begging. I will do him a favour. And he knows he will do me a favour by spending more money. But we will both be happy with the deal.

I strongly suspect that my problem is so-called cold selling – to go over to a complete stranger to try and sell something to him or her. Or the internet version where you try to convince visitors to your website to buy something from you. (To be clear, they may be on your website because they are looking for something specific, but not necessarily what you are trying to sell to them.)

Millions of people live out a full existence from birth to death due to old age without trying to sell so much as a glass of water or a new pair of socks to someone else. But if you need to do it, or if you have some items that are of no value to you and which you would like to dispense of at a reasonable price, it is always good to keep some useful rules in mind: It is much easier to sell something to someone if what you are trying to sell provides a solution to a problem, or if what the person is buying from you is something that provides them great pleasure or satisfaction.

I never thought I will be in a position to offer advice on how to be a more successful salesperson. But if you have paid dearly to learn something, you can just as well share it, right?