There’s a sense of gratitude and grace that is heightened by the idea that things are random and could have been a different way

I believe that the universe is essentially random. Moments of beauty and pleasure – we’re lucky to be there when they happen. I don’t believe there’s a greater purpose or meaning to life. We’re here to make our way, and to hopefully make things easier for other people, to live well, to think, to feel. And to be happy. In ways that is not harmful to others or the environment.

I don’t believe in a religious god and I haven’t believed in that for a long time, although I did go to church as a child. I’m not a very introspective person, so I don’t think about this often. I liked organised religion because it gave structure. But my parents were never particularly religious, church was mainly a social activity. And I guess after that I called myself agnostic – no one can really know – but then, not for any particular reason or crisis of faith, I felt more and more certain inside myself that there was no higher power. Not necessarily because I’m very scientific, I do think atheism is a kind of belief in its own way, so I just believe that there isn’t a higher power.

Even believing that the universe is essentially random, I can’t dispute the way I feel. Like I feel that the things I do have meaning in my life. I like to laugh, so I seek to laugh, I like to look at art, so I’m looking at art, thinking about art. There’s a sense of gratitude and grace that is heightened by the idea that things are random and could have been a different way.

Of course we live with contradictions. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.  I don’t pretend that I’m overcome with guilt, but the thought does cross my mind that comparatively speaking I have tremendous wealth and I use it in a very frivolous way, in this hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. I’m always trying to carve out these pockets of time to have experiences for myself, and there’s something inherently selfish about that as well. And then I also feel troubled about my career, and how I can live and work and survive in a way that my net impact is not actively harmful. In the work I find myself in, I often don’t feel very comfortable with what I am doing. So both personally and professionally I face these dilemma’s.

It is actually difficult to live in the way I would want to. And I lived a life of excessive ease. I don’t want to feel guilty, but I do feel that I haven’t done enough with it. Alongside there is a set of anxieties about my personal capacity to really contribute positively or that I am just this passive person who goes along this career path where I feel conflicted. Everything is completely random when it comes to overarching frameworks or the meaning of life, but my choices do have direct consequences, that’s not random. And there is a feeling of obligation I suppose. But whether I live a life that is consistent with this obligation is very dubious.

Assumptions about who I am are mostly a function of race in my case, not so much anything related to what I believe but to how I look. I am ethnically Chinese, so people probably assume I am not religious, but they may have assumptions about how I am culturally. Because I am not Caucasian the assumption is that I don’t speak English as my first language, and when I say that I’m Australian, for most people that is still a surprise. But I was born in Australia, and my cultural link to China is quite limited, so if they have assumptions about Chinese people generally, they may not apply to me. Those assumptions are often that I may be very quiet and studious. In professional environments I feel I’m not taken as seriously as I should be. And perhaps I am forthright and opinionated in ways that people don’t expect. That’s definitely frustrating in my professional life. And interacting with strangers will sometimes have that extra bit of friction. And I have friends who deal with it in different ways, trying very hard to displace that assumption that they are nerdy and quiet. It’s definitely true that there is structural as well as personal forms of oppression against people of colour and women, but for me personally, I think I’m lucky to be quite insulated from it. It’s something I try not to think about too much, but professionally, it’s definitely very obvious!

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