Living an unbalanced life in balance


My personal mission statement to make sense of “me” beween life and death in this strange world

(Updated since 11/16/2014,  Last updated 06/23/2023)

What in the world are we doing?

KojiMiwa 158 photo0128 06042023 ms

     “Another 80 individuals might end their life today in this country alone and 2,000 more individuals in the world … probably” — a thought that I digest with a breakfast coffee. I have never met them in person, but I believe that they possess fundamental human qualities that should be appreciated (e.g., honest, kind, responsible), motivating me to imagine that they are the kind of people I like. Behind those early leavers, there are thousands of people for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and a countless number of individuals taking time off from the human society. Why can’t we live more comfortably, freely, and honestly? While we quite frequently hear motivational speech like “towards a bright future” and “life is more valuable than anything else,” it appears that human society treats individuals’ life otherwise, putting you-are-not-living-right and you-are-not-doing-enough pressure on us to do this and that every day ... to the extent that the large number of minorities appear to be more normal than the rest of us. It is sad that, when I laugh and smile during the day, I need to temporarily push the negative part of the world out of my mind. My day ends with the question “what am I still here for?"

      The fact that I am still alive is perhaps, to me, a remarkable success, but not to other people. This page is about my life philosophy that I have been slowly organizing since June 28, 2012 — the day I thought about ending my life and the day I was “reborn." All that are shown in my CV are nothing but my superficial accessaries, which are evaluated as such only in this specific period of time, by specific people, in a specific context. In other words, their values are going to change or disappear in 100 or 1,000 year’s time, for sure in 10,000 year’s time. By the 100th century, the modern period decorated by the highly developed civilization will have been reclassified into the ancient period. The modern period we live in is just a brief moment compared to the history of the universe. Are humans supposed to survive, say, for 8 hundred thousand years more (as depicted in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine)? If so, why do we make it look like it is so important? From time to time, the whole world looks preposterous to me, as if it is violating Covey’s (1989/2004) Habit 2 "Begin with the End in Mind.”  Perhaps, it is important to re-evaluate our life on a proper scale from time to time… because life, which began without the end in mind, apparently does not have any single clear meaning unanimously shared by all people. If there is no meaning, there is no reason to become angry, feel depressed, or criticize others’ mistake… as far as logic goes.

Nothing matters. I have known that for a long time. So nothing is worth doing.

Then how come everyone’s making like everything that isn’t important is very important, 
all the while they’re so busy pretending what’s really important isn’t important at all?

Why not admit from the outset that nothing matters and just enjoy the nothing that is?

— Pierre Anthon (in Nothing)


IMG PersonalMission 1

It is wonderful that life is hard

      I feel squeezing discomfort in my heart when I face the pressure that I am expected to live like a “normal” person with “common sense.” To me (with mild developmental disabilities and an introvert personality), the societal expectations for “normal” and “common sense” appear to be set abnormally high and, at the same time, not always clear. Even after having completed my school education, I still saw no crystal-clear basis for what was correct and what was wrong; we had been educated (or perhaps brainwashed and trained, with effective educational tools such as verbal and physical abuses) to act and think in what appears to be a normal-human-like way defined from the perspective of the majority of people. Yet, common sense in Japan is not necessarily common sense in other countries.

      Even the simple statement like “we should live” leaves room for reconsideration. Throughout the human history, living has always been the first leading cause of death. In a way (if we seriously face the 100-percent-certain event called death), life itself is a fatal disease. Once we are born, we begin to die, and this is an unstoppable process. The question of utmost importance to me is “knowing that we will die, why shall we live?” In other words, I consider my life to be a longitudinal case study conducted by myself for myself to evaluate the null hypothesis “there is no meaning in life.” To this end, I would like to proceed with a objective and sincere attitude (because the null hypothesis may be correct after all).

      Whenever I ask “why” to whatever I believe to be right again and again, in search for logical bases of my thoughts and actions, I always find myself lost in a groundless place away from civilized societies — Is there a correct way of living as a human? Were we born to die? Is there meaning in life? Why do we assume that, when we talk about the meaning of life, the meaning of the word meaning is shared across all people? Why do I feel like I know the meaning of meaningWhy are life and death always considered to be positive and negative respectively? Should we sacrifice ourselves for the next generation? … and, should the next generation sacrifice themselves for the next next generation? … until the last generation become extinct? There are far too many elephants in the room! How can one possibly criticize others’ way of living without an answer to these questions? These are not rhetorical questions. These questions perhaps do not require an answer, but they require consideration. I personally believe that, by taking these fundamental questions seriously, we can truly become humble and understand ourselves better. I find this attitude important, not because it will give me a good future but because I can better appreciate the fact that I am alive in this moment as a member of humanity, who may become extinct sometime in the future. 


だが、[…] 生きるのが辛いからこそ、それにもかかわらず生きているのは道徳的なんだよ。

— (中島義道 (2005, Kindle版 No. 196)


Basic values

      I have not yet heard the “voice”  that critically determines the mission of my life (or I happened to have been deep asleep when it was delivered). However, I am now fully aware what my life is NOT for. It is NOT for climbing up the ladder of social hierarchy, and it is NOT for competing with other people in terms of accessaries that are socially considered valuable without any fundamental reason (e.g., academic degrees, publication counts, H-Index, blog follower count, social ranks, bank account balance, total number of friends, marital status). I do NOT equate monetary and social values with human values, and and I do NOT equate economic growth with the advancement of humankind. I do NOT believe that humans should be constantly obsessed with making upward progress either. Because these are NOT the fundamental values that drive my life forward, I am accepting my death to a certain extent in this modern/capitalist society, in which people are constantly obsessed with miximally fulfilling their desires and in which only winners of human-made who-is-superior-than-others competitions are considered to be quantitatively valuable humans, based on the majority vote. Interestingly, ever since I started to accept death, there has been growing feeling inside me that I am finally becoming a human: I can now donate what I have (money, blood, knowledge) more happily than before. The more I die, the more I live.

My goal

      I will be the ultimate winner of my life’s journey if, while weighing life against death every day, I can get to the end without feeling uncomfortable and without killing myself on the way. A driving force behind my apparently pessimistic journey is future uncertainty coming from my still limited knowledge — there might be something I need to understand before I die, there might be gentle people who are worth meeting, and there might be indescribably positive heart-shaking experiences that I do not know yet. Such people and experiences will probably … perhaps … hopefully ... help me to understand what makes a human human and who I am. 


      To this end, I make sure to appreciate each day, each moment, by thinking about death so that I can maximize my quality of life and my quality of death (but not to the extent that I win the not-so-prestigious Darwin Award at the end of my life). I find enjoyment in my personal life through thinking about what makes humans human, contributing to (at least by not overtly disturbing) other people's well-being, and maximizing the level of my self-confidence and mindfulness. I am not trying to achieve success that can be approved by all people; if I can live “just a little” better than I expect, that is already satisfactory.

      I am at my best when I live my life towards a goal set by myself, without being obsessed over what people think about me. There must be many people who do not like me for various (sometimes illogical and unreasonable) reasons. However, that is natural, and there is nothing to make a fuss about, as long as such dislikeness does not develop to hatred and rage. I am going to prevent times when I observe my life backward with what-if-I-had-done questions, and I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as honesty, curiosity, creativity, and courage.

Few things are needed to make a wise man happy; nothing can make a fool content;

that is why most men are miserable.

— François de La Rochefoucauld


Work and human relationship

      Given that life itself is not permanent, I am always aware that there is no truly “permanent" job. To enjoy this fixed-term contract, I would like to find employment (1) where I can comfortably live as a minority, (2) where I can find myself growing as a human… or as anything, (3) where I can make trials and errors, and (4) where I can contribute to teaching. In the framework of Dragon Quest, I believe that mastery of level 8 in the classes Scholar, Teacher, and Priest is a prerequisite for me to truly become Koji. To me, the most important criterion for a “good working environment” is people. 

      I do not enjoy socializing with those who criticize other people’s behaviour and way of thinking based on their subjective perspective (established through their limited life experience), those who take advantage of their power to control others, and those who make fun of others (mostly behind their back), not to mention those who use verbal or physical abuse to control others (even for educational purposes). In contrast, I respect (a very minority of) people who can monitor their own behaviours without criticizing others hastily (i.e., practioners of the 7 habits). Unfortunately, there are some people who make me feel extremely uncomfortable. I stay away from those detrimental people as much as possible.

      As for the research side of academic work, although we are constantly motivated to report more and more discoveries, more and more quickly, I believe that there is something more important than that. I am being careful to remain honest not to forget the exciting feeling that I experienced after my first experiment when I was 22.  I am keeping it in my mind that, if I have no choice but to become dishonest, I should (and can) change my workplace or even my career.

      In addition, in cognitive science, scholars usually study what appear to be fundamental characteristics of humans. Yet, it should be kept in mind that this attitude emphasizes the majority and de-emphasizes the minority. Even if individual differences are considered in analyses of humans, I would always like to keep it in mind that understanding an individual human is still difficult (and, to be more precise, impossible, because no two individuals share the same life experience at any moment in life).

In your big mind, everything has the same value. 

— Shunryu Suzuki

Renewing myself

      I will constantly renew myself by focusing in the four dimensions of my life:

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  • Physical dimension (Body) – I enjoy cycling and doing regular exercise. I like bodyweight training.
  • Spiritual dimension (Soul) – I do regular meditation and volunteering, and I read and update my personal missional statement from time to time to review my philosophy. I also donate money and blood to develop my abundance mentality.
  • Mental dimension (Brain) – I read latest journal articles to keep my knowledge up-to-date, as well as books and novels outside my professional field to understand the world seen from other people’s perspectives. Unlike writing, reading does not usually have monetary value; that is why it is valuable.
  • Social/Emotional dimension (Heart) – I strive to establish and maintain interdependent (but not dependent) human relationship in research collaboration and teaching. I seek for qualitity than quantity in interpersonal relationships, and I pay more attention to listening than speaking. Unlike speaking, listening does not usually have monetary value; that is why it is valuable. When I listen, I keept it in my mind that it is perfectly natural that there are people with different ideas.

It is a language rich with words that classify and dichotomise people and their actions. 

When we speak this language, we judge others and their behaviour while preoccupying ourselves

with who’s good, bad, normal, abnormal, responsible, irresponsible, smart, ignorant, etc.

— Marshall Rosenberg

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Things I should pay attention to

  • I practice peace-making language skills in order to achieve nonviolent communication. I do my best not to change my attitude and language depending on whom I am talking with.
  • find values in listening and reading, which are often considered to be less valuable than speaking and writing.
  • I make sure to correctly judge what I can control and what I cannot control.
  • I can do anything I set my mind to. I have courage to say NO in order to prioritize matters of importance. 
  • I make sure not to possess things beyond my need.
  • I make sure to stop procrastinating and start working on paper write-ups; I do not always enjoy writing, but I stick to my writing schedule so that academic writing does not invade my personal life. 
  • I strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life: mindfulness, service, and knowledge.
  • I enjoy finding elemnts of a role-playing video game in my life.

The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that 

there are principles that govern human effectiveness 

— Stephen Covey

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My future direction

      To live comfortably in a life where there is no noble goal for us humans to achieve, my tentative conclusion is that I should  focus on balance. Life requires declicate balance in many aspects: balance between work and personal life, balance between thinking about the future and living in the present, balance between being confident in my ideas adn doubting my ideas, balance between saying and not saying, balance between moving forward courageously and stopping courageously, etc., etc. It is extremely difficult to keep a balance in all aspects of life. Even more difficult is the question of whether a perfectly balanced stable life is satisfying; I am not 100% sure about this. My gut feeling says a balance between balance and imbalance might also be necessary from time to time. I accept asymmetries in my life, but I still want to keep things in balance.

      My most important future contribution to others will be, perhaps paradoxically, try not to actively contribute to others and remain as natural and objective as possible. In my opinion, there is only a fine line between contribution and interference. The world in which everyone believes that they are right and attempts to change others’ perspective (or life) would be chaotic. There are many different people living in this world ― short individuals, chubby individuals, introverts, misanthoropists, highly sensitive persons, individuals with stuttering, individuals with selective mutism, facially unattractive individuals, blind individuals, LGBT individuals, individuals who have made an attempt to commit suicide, individuals with a desire to die, individuals with a developmental disorder, individuals who are in a gray zone between the “normal" and a developmental disorder, middle-aged bachelors, individuals who do not like their family, individuals who are bullied ― and, assuming that there is a value in being alive itself and that there is no definitive answer for why humans should prosper for years to come, I dream of the world in which even minorities find comfort in their life as “humans”… the world in which even economically unproductive people are considered to be valuable…and the world in which we can freely choose to live or die without much social pressure. With this ideal scenario in mind, I keep living in the way I believe to be right and let others live their own life because my experience is limited and because they are different individuals with different life experiences after all. Similarly, I will do my best to avoid those people who enjoy intervening in my life. All in all, I just strive to demonstrate, believing that there are fundamental principles, the principle-centered approach in action throughout my life and continue to cultivate the peace of my mind… remaining ready for heart-shaking moments ... until the moment of my death.


(Works that contributed to my life philosophy and happiness, most of which share a surprising degree of philosophical overlaps)

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