Monthly Archives: November 2019

Expiry Date

Everything comes with an expiry date, including us. We all know that taking a medicine past its expiry date will do more harm than good. But, without giving it any thought, we are not only consuming but administering so many ‘medicines’, well past their expiry dates. These ‘medicines’ or rather ideas, notions, beliefs and practices, were once meant to cure a problem during a different age, in a different context. Those problems may not exist anymore or might need different solutions, but we are just stuck to the same old ideas.

They could be in different forms in different fields – Religion, Culture, Politics, Economics. Take Communism for example. What was once considered a perfect solution has long since proved ineffective and outdated, but so many among us still cling on to it and expect it to work today. What befell Communism could happen to Capitalism someday when it ceases to be relevant. Consider the economy. Debt, which was at some point in our history, considered a taboo and even a few decades back was not even an opttion, is everyone’s cup of tea today – though as bad as tea perhaps. These examples are staightforward to accept maybe. How about love, sex or compassion. Aren’t these supposed to be the reason the world is functioning. These have stood the test of time and will continue to be relevant in future too. Right?

Wrong! Though hard to believe they may have their expiry date as well. Imagine, Universe as a person and think of how long it had known love, sex, compassion or any other human emotion. The 13 billion years old universe, has known humans for a mere few lakh years, or roughly .0023% of its lifetime – not even a blink of an eye. To believe that these ‘man-made’ concepts would exist forever is heights of optimism – yes they would probably exist till you and I die, but forever – No.

When even our core values and notions are not indefinite, we have to scrutinize what has been drilled into our head by systematic upbringing, media and society. Clinging on to outdated idealogies inherited from our parents and dumped on to us by other, is not only dangerous for us but for others as well. Let’s open up our mind, the more we learn, the more we read and travel, the better we would be in understanding and accepting new and exciting aspects, concepts and ideas.

The Pressure to be Happy

Of late, I am seeing this funny thing where people are so stressed and pressurized to be happy or make others happy on an important day – say Birthday. If it were not for them being my close friends, I could almost enjoy it like a stand up comedy.

Often times the monotonocity and drama that surrounds the special day is in itself worth exploring. We have the Birthday Man or Woman (all grown up you see), who gets wished through all modes of communication possible (phones, whatsapp, in-person and even SMSes from Finance companies). Those who call on the phones are the most vulnerable. After wishing the usual “Many more happy returns of the day” or just plain “Happy Birthday” or even the newer “<Substitute religional translation of Happy Birthday>”, they end up in this awkward state where they have to speak something but don’t know what to say. They usually end with “So, what’s the plan?”

What would be the plan Bro? You tell me. What do you expect? Of course, it would be the mandatory cake cutting, which people go to lengths to keep a secret while you know what they are upto but have to act as if you don’t. It would also be the gift giving ceremony where the only happy person is one who bought shares in Amazon or Flipkart. There has never been a case of a surprise gift landing well. Mostly, the struggle is between hiding the disappointment creeping on the right side of your face after seeing the gift and the mental maths that your left side of the brain does to guess the price they paid to get you this damn thing.

There have been cases where the expectation of a surprise was so high that the person was dissappointed with the actual surprise they eventually got. Now, this whole businesss of surprises confuse the shit out of me. I don’t understand how it can be a surprise when the person is expecting it. I can imagine the person opening the wardrobe almost expecting some shining package, opening the car door and feeling sad that there is nothing in the driver’s seat, so on and so forth. So, by the end of the day I can assure you that they end up with more disappointing moments on the ‘special’ day compared to happy moments on any other ‘ordinary’ day.

Now, spare some thought for the planners. They want to make the day special for this overgrown birthday baby. They stress themselves out for days, if not weeks thinking of what to do, how best to surprise the already ‘surprise-greedy’ person and also keeping everything under wraps, lest this ‘amazing’ surprise be known before hand. I have seen friends fight it out just because someone spoiled the surprise. Really guys! Can’t we let go off this ‘surprise-planning-gifts’ headache and just have fun that day. Eat, drink and make merry – stop trying to be happy and for once, just be.

An Old Irrelevant Fool

As people age, there one thing that they fear the most. No, it is not health, not even wealth or that they will be missing their charming youth – It is becoming irrelevant. It is the thought that they would brushed aside and no one would even try to explain stuff to them as it would be deemed too much of an effort or worse unnecessary and useless. So, as people age, they try and do stuff that is like “See, I too know it”. That is why you see the posts of “Radiation tonight, switch off your moblies or you will be blown to oblivion” kind of posts from parents and grand parents. Well, this post is not intended to make fun of them. They still mean good but yes they are becoming irrelevant faster than their ancestors.

That brings us to today’s post. What is happening to our elders is also happening to our religion but as usual we choose not to accept it. Religion, which enjoyed so much respect and relevance in the past is fast loosing it. In really old times, religion did several important functionality. It was a “Completed Encyclopaedia of Science” – anything that required explanation from rainbows to thunder storms were documented in full detail. It had definite, beyond doubt convictions about birth, death and even after death. It had clear description of the process of creation and the eventuall end of universe too. It was also the one point “Legal Reference Section”. If you had any doubt how much needed to be paid to the owner of a slave girl, who you had mistreated, you can readily find the answer. List of Punishments (sometime laugable by today’s moral standards) were provided with clear conditions. It also helped the ones in power, including Kings to keep the masses in check and to provide them with a common purpose and meaning to their life. Above all, it brought in love and hope to the poor, suffering downtrodden masses as it promised something out of thin air – a hunger-free, melodious, peaceful retired after life.

Let us see where these stand now. Science has completely taken over and no one in their right minds believe we have a hell lurking beneath our feet now. We also know that we are not the centre of universe or creation but just another species which evolved from monkeys, living in just one of many planets in one of many star systems in one of many galaxies in our immensely large universe. Nothing revolves around us except just one pathetic moon. We know how rainbows and thunder storms happen. The Governments and Courtrooms have their own reference manuals now and religion has been stripped of all legal status except to take oath, now.

However, there is still one major role that religion plays, though it is clinging for dear life there. That is, giving hope of a better afterlife to millions of people who’s earth life is still miserable as they endure suffering, discrimination and oppression at the hands of the powerful. Even, for well off people, during times of personal grief and stress, religion offers a powerful alternate that can surpass all challenges and go beyond what mere mortals can hope to achieve. It also offers solace (It is definitely a pleasing thought to picture your departed loved ones, beaming with pride near your God as it is to think that those who wronged you on this earth will be brought to justice later, even after death). But time is running out for religion. The day when we overcome all health hazards including death, it will become extremely challenging for religion to stay relevant in its current form. However, if there is one big plus for religions, I think it is the ‘love’ that all religions invariably speak about and propogate and personally, I think if they stick to only that and be a religion without ‘laws’ but with lots of ‘love’, then they could be relevant for a long long time.

Manipulated Ignorance

They say “Ignorance is bliss”. If you have seen MIB, where agents work with extra terrerstrial life forms, at the end, when his memory is being wiped off, the senior agent says “I will be able to appreciate the beauty of the stars now” as he would be ignorant of aliens. Or, take “Matrix”, a movie where before revealing the truth that his mind is in a virtual reality while his body is in a heat producing farm, Neo is given a choice of “Being in happy ignorance” or “Entering the hard truth”. Actually there is a character in the same movie that wants to go back to this convoluted lie rather than suffer the bitter truth. Another movie “Truman Show” where an entire city is a set full of actors to keep one person ignorant of the fact and sell it as a reality show to the world. These are examples of alternate reality being setup on unsuspecting victims.

That brings us to today, where we are not victims anymore but architects of our own Matrix or Truman city. We carefully pick what we want to hear, see and perceive. We pick family, friends and associates that match our liking, we setup our home, car, office as we want them. But not everything is in our control, for that matter even the US president can’t control everything. So what do we do, we choose to ignore facts that contradict our views by setting up filters in our mind. Even when the naked truth is in front with eyes that bore into us, we manage to see through it and keep acting our part in this well orchestrated drama.

The funny thing is since everybody does this as a society, it becomes easier for a group play as we can collectively form a Matrix from which there is no escape. That not only makes us hypocrites of the first order, but also dangerous since for someone to escape from this well woven web is extremely difficult. Heck, it takes a lot of effort to know that the web exists in the first place. This has resulted in general, group indifference to news, people, occurrences and sufferings around us as our mind carefully chops it off. So we end up with no guilt and free of all moral bindings, to go on living our happy mundane life. We can get to the specifics but then, even when we read it, we would still be able to justify our case, giving an ‘innocent’ verdict to ourselves, better than even the lawyer who took the school plumber off the hook from the rape of a 7 year old.

The purpose of Life

So, as physicists always look for a single equation that can explain everything from relativity to quantum mechanics, we also look for a single meaning or purpose that can explain all of life itself.

On the outset, it feels very complicated to understand the purpose of life. What if life had NO purpose at all – what if, like the dog on the street we were all meant to life and die without any reason for living or dying. Not an encouraging start I know, but, what if. You might argue saying that they are people who have lived a meaningful life. How can we compare the various different meaningfulness?

Let’s take an example. For Abdul Kalam, the purpose of his life was probably inventing Misslies and conducting nuclear tests. Almost every Indian would bet his life that Kalam’s life has been meaningful and filled with purpose. Why so? What if a buddist in Malaysia thinks that it is meaningless to pursue warfare and anything that remotely supports it. By his interpretations, Kalam’s life not only lacks any meaning but was detriemental to others as well. So, purpose or meaning is derived from something which a person believes in.

In our family and friends we have some ardent followers of Christianity, if we set aside the fact that their family were pious hindus not too long ago. Even though they have a flawed theory of religion and sprituality, within their own fabric of reality, they experience life’s purpose life no one else can. Imagine this – you absolutely believe that you are doing good by converting people to your religion and you are 100% sure that you are doing it as part of a divine plan drafted by a God who is the creator of the universe. Now, can you compete with the depth of meaning that this setup would provide.

Finding your own meaning or purpose is very tricky, but there is at least one that is not going out of business any time soon – reducing the net suffering in the world by whatever means feasible to you.

Am ‘I’ doing What ‘I am’ doing

The title might remind you of the “Me talking to me” meme of Nithyananda. But really, when I look around people and myself sometimes, I see that we are a nothing but a bunch of zombies or for the elite among us – under Imperius Curse. No, no – I am not against technology or social media and am not propagating the idea that we should all go back and live in caves. But, next time you do something – anything, just stop a moment and think “Did I decide to do ‘this whatever’ I am doing”. Why and how did I happen to end up doing this.

Take a simple case of unlocking your phone. In a day, backed with statistical proof, I can safely assume that we unlock over 100 times, easily, even for a conservative user like me. It is probably double or more for others. So, I pick up the phone 100 times and do something with it. Now, of these 100 times, about 95+ times I have no idea why I picked up the phone till it is already unlocked and am staring at some stupid app.

So I decided to slow-mo or unwind this process and try and act with full intent and under complete consiousness. Like, if I have to do something, I need to first analyze and decide to do it. That is when I realized the immense difficulty of this seemingly benign process. For the first few days, I didn’t even last few minutes. As a random example, I would be in some Chrome Tab, browsing some website before it hit me that I never deliberately wanted to do it in the first place. Slowly I was making process and now I last a few hours with full control over my actions. I did it purely out of self interest and as a fun activity but it did throw up interesting results.

It helped me observe similar and stronger patterns in people around me. It also led me to think of the ‘Head Office’ inside us that was directing us to do things which consiously we were not aware. We can just term it as our subconsious self but the more I think about it the more interesting it seems to me that something can control us from within without our explicit approval. For a lack of a better analogy, this seems almost like a Computer Virus, an intelligent program that is capable of silently taking over the entire system, with or without malicious intent.

But then, Think about it for a moment. This same inner intelligence also does 100s of other important activities like pumping blood, heart beat, digestion and so on. So, we can’t term it as malicious but does it have its own agenda or goals that it is trying to fulfill through us – like the classic ghosts of Indian movies. Will ponder more on this . . . .