Free expression – matching bed linen – philosophy



“Convinced that his journey of self-discovery was far from over […] broke free from artistic convention […] became both sculptor and subject […] abandoned the […] style that he had become famous for […]” ~ about Ju-ming, a Taiwanese sculptor

He went to New York, was exposed to a new world of colour, medium, texture and form. He returned to Taiwan free to experiment, free to create, free from the constraints of conservative masters.

He started his career as a temple carver.

He produced two series: “Tai Qi” and “Living World”.

“[…] taking risks […] creating their own fortune […] seeing the big picture.”


I think back to summer 2000: because I was not busy on a daily basis becoming my Ideal Self – or even better, being my Ideal Self – I was, for all practical purposes, in appearance to others and to myself a prime example of a person who hated what he was doing for a living and who consistently failed to satisfy essential emotional and physical needs. In desperation I grabbed at any emergency measure that could save me from the situation. The “musician” vision was consequently pursued with feverish enthusiasm. Of course I also thought, “If only I had a million dollars …”

By making this note I am being my Ideal Self: someone who thinks about things, and who writes about what he thinks. This note is a manifestation of my Ideal Self. It is ritual as much as it is free expression of my experience of reality.


“… balancing confidence and credibility.” (China Post, 1 July 2005)

* * *

What did the Dutch government do in 1945 when their suffering under Nazi rule was over? They rallied together their troops and rushed back to Indonesia to continue their oppressive rule over the Indonesian people that had been disturbed by the Japanese.

Oppressors one day; oppressed the next; oppressors again as soon as they had the opportunity.

The history of the Second World War must be read on the same page as post-war efforts to re-establish European control over former colonial territories. This applies to all the European colonial powers of the time – Britain in Southeast Asia and Africa, France in Southeast Asia and Africa, the Netherlands in Southeast Asia, and Portugal in Angola and Mozambique.


This afternoon I purchased a whole new set of bedding – fitted sheet, duvet and two matching pillow cases. The guilt over paying what was in fact a very reasonable price, and the uncertainty about how the change in bedding would alter my view of myself kicked in before I had even reached the elevator of the department store.

A few months ago I was still adamant about my blue duvet, my other duvet with the huge arum lily, and the pillow cases that did not go with anything. I told [N.] the day I buy bedding where everything matches is the day I trample under my feet the aesthetic expression of how I see myself, and with it all it symbolises. She agreed that the value of matching bed linen was totally overrated, that it is indeed quite unnecessary. My bedding, so she thought, was perfectly okay. Weeks later she still thought there was nothing wrong with it. I, on the other hand, was suddenly convinced that it looked “common”. (In my defence, I should mention that the fitted sheet had frills hanging from it, which is not exactly my style. The only reason I started using that specific sheet was because I had put a thicker mattress on the bed and the only sheet that was big enough was one that my friend, J. had left me two and half years ago when she left Taiwan.)

Then, this afternoon, while [N.] was still on holiday in South Africa, I went out and bought that entire new set of bedding – stylish, matches the colour motif of the bedroom, no frills, nothing.

“Was I supposed to spend my entire life sleeping on old linen where nothing matches just because I fancy myself an anti-bourgeois intellectual?” I shouted at myself on the way home. “Should I hang my head in shame because I violated Rule # 17 of the Free-thinking Intellectual’s Handbook on Houseware and Bed Linen? Did I forget that no self-respecting critic of everything that is middle class should ever stoop so low as to lay two pillows with matching covers on a bed?”

Then I thought: what is the value of free thinking, of self-definition when it comes to who and what you want to be, and of free choice when I have to live for the rest of my life under the punishing regime of my own caricature of a leftist critic? If I cannot choose to blow money on stylish, matching bed linen, what other choices are there where my so-called freedom is restricted by my own idea of what my life is supposed to look like, since I labelled myself a writer with anti-middle-class opinions? Who is my master when it comes to these issues? Did Marx or Lenin’s bed sheets and pillows match? Does Michael Moore buy his bed linen at three different garage sales to prevent one sheet from inappropriately matching a duvet cover, and Great Revolutionaries forbid, to avoid buying anything that might actually be new? I thought I served my own agenda! I thought I make my own free choices! I thought what I was doing with my life, where, with whom, and how I decorate my house as an expression of my self-image and personal beliefs are all self-defined!

It is thus one hundred percent in line with my beliefs and my integrated philosophy and understanding of life when I say it is okay: you can in all credibility be progressive in your views and opinions, and criticise how other people live their lives, and at the end of a productive day cast your weary body on a bed where the fitted sheet matches the duvet cover, and where the pillow cases do not violently clash with the colour motif of your bedroom.


Strange what positive consciousness is stimulated in the deepest parts of your being when someone who matters to you uses the pronouns “we” and “us”.


Whilst reading Ayn Rand’s For The New Intellectual I am again reminded of the fact that, because I never undertook a thorough and formal study of philosophy, I do not consciously subscribe to any particular school of thought. There are however examples of direct influence: Jean Paul Sartre’s “exist, appear, confront, define”; Nietzsche’s “will a self and thou shalt become a self”; Wittgenstein’s theory of language as a factor in how the truth is understood; and Karl Marx’s “in an ideal world a man can tend sheep in the morning without ever becoming shepherd …”