On the flip side of obsessions

It would seem that my fidelity to this little corner of the Internet is in doubt. Once again, I have become the harbinger of neglect by staying away for so long. Thus, for the umpteenth time, I extend an apology to my readers (here, once again, I assume plurality). However, my conscience isn’t as burdened this time around as it was the past few times, as my absence has been more due to factors beyond my control as opposed to procrastination on my part.

In fact, the entity which caused said preoccupation is a huge contributor to the contents of this post. By a stroke of good fortune, and strenuous effort on my part, I managed to secure a month-long internship at one of the best research institutes in the country (bragging rights must be awarded here). Said internship was supposed to train me in basic laboratory protocol and techniques which may be of use to me later on in life when time came for me to take up science professionally. Things, by yet another stroke of luck, took a steep turn for the better. It so happens that I am now as involved in research as one could possibly be at this stage of their scientific education.

That more or less lays the background for the post (and gives me an excuse to feel better about myself), and so I feel confident when I launch into this post, which discusses one of the greatest ills which plagues me.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with “mixed obsessive-compulsive disorder”. The small black ink writing was definitive proof of a suspicion which I’d been harbouring for a few years, and it was bittersweet seeing that diagnosis officially confirmed: on the one hand, it told me that there was something the matter with me, something which would require an effort to overcome; on the other hand, it told me that a lot of my shortcomings were not entirely my fault. The latter, I think, was more therapeutic than the months of therapy that followed.

For years, the obsessive-compulsive tendencies had been getting on my nerves, and the glorification of “OCD” by western television had done nothing to help. All around me, people claimed to have, or worse – be, OCD, thinking that somehow having an all-consuming mental disorder made one “cool”. It bothered me that something which made daily tasks an ordeal for me was being mimicked and mocked around the world. You don’t pretend to have cancer to be cool, I’d say to anyone who would listen, so why OCD?

Until my internship started this Monday, I had always given a negative connotation to obsessions. Having been incapacitated by them all my life, it was only natural that I should have a sour feel about them. However, this week changed things, hopefully for the better. I realised the value of obsessions as I saw my guide poring over anomalies in the data which we had obtained from our experiment. He ran the same test multiple times, always getting visibly distressed, and intrigued, with the anomalies which repeatedly cropped up.

The following days involved me getting involved with the data analysis too, and I found myself obsessing over the data as well. There were times of introspection when I would curse my obsessive nature for causing me to get hitched on to trivialities, but then a rationalisation would intervene. I realised that this maniacal obsessing was essential for scientific advancement, and the ability to get hung up on tiny things which people wouldn’t normally give a second glance to was perhaps the greatest asset of anyone hoping to be anyone in science.

I’ve always been fond of dramatics and have been justly accused of melodrama and exaggeration of circumstance, and so maybe it’s me tapping into the inner drama queen when I say that this realisation was accompanied by the world spinning all around me.

Scientific research is inherently a slow process; it consists of visiting and revisiting of the experiments and the data, reviewing of basic principles and concepts, and so much more. Science demands reproducibility and repeatability. The simplest of experiments must be conducted over and over again to ensure that the results obtained aren’t anomalies but follow a pattern. I realised that obsessiveness plays a vital role in science (something which was reinforced today when I had to weigh out an infinitesimal amount of a compound, and obsessiveness wouldn’t let me go even a little over or under).

I have undergone many regimes to help me overcome my obsessive tendencies, none of which have had much success. Usually, I’d be awning for something therapeutic to come along and put my mind at ease. Recently, however, I’ve realised how big an asset obsessiveness can actually be. At the end of the day, it’s all about realising what you want to be obsessed with, and coming to terms with the fact that your obsession will consume you utterly.

Of course, things never really work that way. Despite this realisation, I found my obsessions just as disabling as they were before. I still spend half an hour this morning deciding what I would wear to the lab, and a further ten minutes deciding which route to take. However, these are quirks which have been an annoyance for years, whereas the positive spin is new, and by virtue of it being new and positive, it is more dear to me than the regular rigmarole. For a long time, I plan on revelling in the benevolence of my obsessive nature, and to channel as much of that obsessiveness in my work as possible.

As a poster in my lab proudly proclaims: “Research requires dedication and money”. Thanks to the obsessive tendencies, the dedication part is taken care of by itself.

 

The Proper Reader

One of the few good things, as some may argue, that have come out of this age of digitisation, is a great increase in the reader population of the planet. Be it non-fiction, fine literature, high or low fantasy, young adult or even Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (which, in fact, does merit a category of its own), reading has taken a great leap to the top spots amongst the hobbies of people today, along with masturbation and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. And so the writers are happy because they are being read more, and the readers are happy because there is more to read. But, as is the unfortunate case with the world we live in, someone is ALWAYS unhappy. So, in this day and age, WHO is that someone?

That someone is the Proper Reader. That someone is a person who understands the intricacies of language, appreciates the magnificent beauty of fine literature, and finds him or herself unable to withstand the torture being inflicted upon young and older minds alike under the guise of literature.

And why is it, you may ask, that we must conform our choices and preferences in reading to the opinions of this unknown, self-proclaimed and more or less snobbish “Proper Reader”, so to speak? What makes this Proper Reader qualified enough to tell us what literature is good and bad, and indeed what makes some things literature and other things not? Who is this Proper Reader to tell us that works such as My Name Is Red and Norwegian Wood are finer pieces of literature than, say, the atrocities of Chetan Bhagat, or the Casio scientific calculator manual which has never to this day been fully perused?

Experience is the answer, to put it rather metaphorically and in one word. It is the vast experience which the Proper Reader has which allows him or her to discern good quality writing from the hogwash which can be seen commonly floating around the Internet and in the regular columns of printed dailies. And this experience isn’t garnered by glancing over the new threads and notifications on GoodReads, though that is a great place to start. No, that experience comes from flipping page after page of aeons of the written word, learning to appreciate the finesse of a seasoned writer and acquiring the art of telling the skilled pen apart from the hastily typed up sob story written by exhausted individuals looking to kill some time.

Of course, the real question on all our minds is, how does it really matter? Through books, if indeed James Dashner authored onslaughts can be so called, we are provided with entertainment and amusement, and we get to learn something, even though it may be very, very little. So how does it matter if we only read the hogwash, and leave the most intricate works for scholars and people who don’t have to go to 25th-floor, morning jobs trampling through the subway? So what if we are content with The Devil Wears Prada and would rather read Eat Pray Love than Madame Bovary?

At this point, the Proper Reader, assuming he or she hasn’t had a fatal heart attack, would promptly rise and display before us a picture of the Eiffel Tower, and then show the image of a garbage heap in the corner of a dark alley. The Proper Reader would then ask us: “why do you gaze upon the Eiffel Tower with such awe and admiration, and not even give a second glance to the pile of garbage? If you need something to look at, something for your eyes to do while you dine or chat with friends, then why not just stare at the garbage and contend yourself?” And, of course, the Proper Reader would be right.

It is about the preservation of the unique and the brilliant. It is about appreciation of the art and talent of individuals who have given their life to creating something for the world to admire. But more than any of that, it is about exposing ourselves to that which not only makes us better individuals but also makes us a smarter and overall better civilisation. If we cannot, at this stage of brilliance, appreciate the talents of the Jules Verne and Charles Dickens above the likes of John Grisham, then what right do we carry of calling ourselves civilised?

It is our duty as men and women of knowledge to distinguish the extraordinary from the mundane, to revere the fine above the brutish and to elevate the former so high that when the oceans of ignorance sweep over our existence, we are purged of the latter. We must commit our cause to these higher beings, who have given us such treasures which we may behold, and may one day look upon and beam with pride as we recognize that we belong to the civilisation which created them.

All that said and done, HOW does one gain this experience, without spending an eternity absorbed in books? Isn’t there an easier way out, the chance to appreciate the peaks of literary perfection without having to slog through trilogies of overdone sex stories turned into catastrophic movies starring Jamie Dornan in a less than flattering role?

The answer, if not already obvious by the hinted sarcasm in the question posed above, is no. However, we don’t have to go through all works which have been deemed great over the course of history to find the epitome of good literature. All that we need to do is incorporate some of these revered texts into our daily lives and to see how much of a difference they make. Just replacing one subpar novella with a collection of O. Henry short stories will be the change of a lifetime, and from there on, the journey through the world of literature is, literally (so to speak) endless.

We only need to pick up that one literary book which gets us by the guts and drags us down to a literary Nirvana which we could never have found without the guidance of that particular writer. Sure, the first “great” book that we pick up may not do the trick for us, but we must keep trying, and therein lies the secret of the Proper Reader. The Proper Reader is relentless in his or her pursuit to find that literary work which transcends time and space, and places the reader firmly within the mind of the writer, allowing there to be flawless communication of beautiful thought and feeling.

The Proper Reader, were he or she able to address you, would surely just say this. Put down whatever insignificant story you are pretending to engage in at the moment, and ruffle the pages of history to find the writing which calls to you. Just give it a chance. Allow the timeless work of a beautiful mind to remain timeless, and prevent it from being swallowed up and buried beneath miles of neglect. The Proper Reader, and the human civilisation, and maybe even the universe, would be forever thankful to you.

In honour of the written word…

“You can’t call people fat!”

The past few weeks have been remarkably eventful, thus launching me into another spell of absence from this little corner of the Internet that I have come to be so fond of. More importantly, however, these weeks have given me a lot to think about, thus, as though by some crooked sense of consequence, a lot to write about. Dwindling between the sweetness of slumber and the cruelty of consciousness, I find myself unable to give much thought to the topics at hand, and so I’ll write about something which has been on my mind for quite some time.

Recently, in an attempt to show that we care about society as much as we care about ourselves, the institute where I study commissioned a trip to a cancer hospital and a nursing home, to be headed by the Student Council, of which I am a part. And so a meeting was scheduled by the president of our council to discuss the trip and our respective roles in the project. For reasons best left to the imagination, philanthropy isn’t my strong suit. My distaste for charitable activities is evident for the best of causes, and here I was at the centre of one of the most pretentious undertakings I had ever seen. Needless to say, emotions ran high.

Using every last device of cunning left in my arsenal (pardon the exaggeration; it was more along the lines of trading favours with the council president), I managed to get out of going to the ghastly place, while boisterously announcing my relief. As expected, tones of disapproval rang sharp in the background. People who have very questionable morals of their own started lecturing me about my heartless nature, and how I need to “get over myself” or need to “have a heart”.

And once again I was face to face with an arbitrarily defined sense of social correctness. A set of defined morals was somehow governing my life and deciding whether or not my opinions were socially acceptable. People who were vaguely aware of society’s definition of good or bad carried the license to judge me on my beliefs, while completely disregarding their own in favour of what the “world” deemed correct. Almost all the people seated in that room were of a similar opinion to mine, and yet when I voiced mine, pandemonium seemed to reign. Hypocrisy, it would seem, had once again dominated a social gathering.

It wasn’t just here, though, that I had spotted such behaviour. Every once in a while, I’d make the grave mistake of stating my opinion amongst people who, curiously enough, shared that very same opinion, and almost every time I would get shot down for being rude or uncouth or insensitive or, in the particularly amusing cases, inhuman. Not four days ago, I was given a present by a good friend of mine, and I reacted in a way which wasn’t particularly warm, but was certainly not hostile, and, above all, it was honest. From the tone of this sentence and the post in general, it is not difficult to infer the discussions that followed with my friend, who seemed thoroughly upset that I had reacted the way I had.

These examples, and so many others like them, seem to deliver a clear message: you can’t speak your mind if what you think or feel isn’t socially acceptable. Leaving personal opinions aside for a second, we are faced today with a society which condemns even the most objective of statements, if they seem to clash with social correctness. The title of this post is an allusion to the same, but it is also a small reference to something which I’ve always had problems with. I still remember being forcibly told that calling people fat was wrong, and being given no good reason for it.

Such pointless doctrine has been instilled into society so forcibly that any kind of social reform is a distant dream. We are so oblivious to the value of unadulterated honesty and so sensitive to our own insecurities that having them realised in the form of words is deeply unsettling. Instead of coming face to face with the ideas of one another, we wish to shy away from our thoughts and insecurities, because someone sometime ago decreed certain things incorrect.

The end of this spiteful posts hopes to see some kind of a social reform in the near future, so that I can speak my mind without threat of persecution.

Kill it with Kindness

This post is long overdue. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a symposium on “Remembering Charles Darwin”, during which the concept of Parent-Offspring conflict was extensively discussed. One aspect of the Parent-Offspring conflict was the constant attention-seeking tactics of the child, which caused the parents to devote their attention to the offspring, thereby preventing them from having the time to create more progeny. The parents, of course, cannot blame their young one for this particular phenomenon, and so the unconceived sibling is effectively “killed” by the kindness that the parents show towards the child.

This concept sent me a long way back to when I had read “The Taming of the Shrew”, where Petruchio alleges that he is killing Kate’s spirit, but he is doing it with kindness. His definition of kindness is rather crooked, for he categorises starving his wife and depriving her of sleep as kindness. In his defense, brutality at that time was physical abuse, so this kind of psychological trauma could be seen as kindness, if only in a very screwed up way.

But the phrase has evolved considerably since the Bard used it, and today it has taken on a different meaning entirely, one which is much closer to the one referenced in the case of the Parent-Offspring conflict. Today, to kill with kindness is to shower the subject of your affections with so much kindness and love, that they (figuratively) choke on the intensity of the emotion. We see it more commonly that we assume, with couples constantly asking for “space” from each other, or children needing “time” away from their parents, or any other of the myriad of examples available.

Even literature has reflected this change. The expression of affection has become more and more superficial over the years, be it the teary-eyed romance of The Fault In Our Stars or the pseud-passionate love affair of *shudder* The Fifty Shades of Grey. Art forms, in general, seem to have taken it upon themselves to be proponents of this new form of kindness genocide, with increasing amounts of pop music reflecting sickly sweet ideas which are not only gag-worthy but also completely ineffective.

The popular song by Florence and the Machine entitled “Dog Days Are Over” inevitably comes to mind when discussing this concept. To those who may not have heard this song, there is a line in it which goes: “she killed it with kisses”, and that line, for me, is a perfect representation of this idea.

We have, in my humble opinion, lost the subtle art of expressing ourselves and our emotions effectively, without making unnecessarily overt gestures. Only the other day, I was reading something written by an acquaintance of mine, and couldn’t help but notice that a very simple (and very overused) concept had been presented with gross overuse of words and an unflattering amount of literary elements. Everything stated in that page long passage could have been better expressed in a simple paragraph by a competent writer, and, of course, got me thinking.

Is it simply an unprecedented extrapolation of the age old adage “the more the merrier” which has landed us here today, at a stage where we feel it necessary to pile things on to such an extent that we eventually end up crushing our object itself?  If so, proverbialism has done us a great disservice.

In keeping with the theme of this post, I shall stop writing here, with deep hope in my heart that the mass murder of things by kindness will cease shortly.

The life of an If-You-Can-Type-In-Full-Sentences-Sexual

Sapiosexuality, it would seem, is a sin in this day and age. Apparently, to covet a beau (yes, I dare to use that word) who is able to hold a conversation for longer than ten minutes without talking about the specifications of your fun bits is a ghastly mistake. With a population that is growing exponentially and a world that is growing smaller by none too small a rate, this lack of intellectually stimulating partners is frustrating, to say the least. The Age of Idiotic bedmates is upon us, gender irrespective.

There have been numerous occasions when someone of interest has had all the necessary physical charms, is the right age and the right distance away, and is otherwise ideal for casual merry-making, but have lost their appeal the moment they spoke. Words, which so often “seal the deal” where other factors simply cannot, seem to be the downfall of these circumstances, leaving me deeply disheartened and thoroughly deprived of a good evening. Individuals with increasingly lucrative prospects have driven me to the edge of sanity in awe of their charisma, before rudely pushing me back into the heartless reality which gleefully blares that: “no one has it all”.

And so, it seems, no one does. Indeed, the time has now come when I cannot even remember the last time I was associated with a person whom I found stimulating, in the only way that really counts. Not that I devoutly search for physical attributes when looking for possible courters (not that I would ever admit to it here for fear of appearing shallow) but it would be nice if, once in a while, a pretty face were blessed with a shadow of aesthetic common sense. In fact, the physical traits may be entirely ignored in the case of a person who, as the title of this rather an age inappropriate post proudly proclaims, can type in full sentences.

Nothing, in my opinion, is a bigger turnoff than dreaming of chatting up a beautiful specimen of mankind, coming up with a witty introduction to yourself and receiving the words: “lol. hw r u” in response. There are days, however, when those not quite Adonis-like respond to messages in language to impress, but the rarity of those events compared to the frequency of the former makes the overall issue a rather solemn one. One good chat does not a satisfied teenager make.

I wish I could give mankind the benefit of the doubt and say that only the gender which I have approached with less than sandbox-playmate intentions has presented me with such sorrowful results; alas, it is not so. Adamant to find myself the perfect blend of charm and humour, of beauty and wit, of intellect and goof, and basically any other balance there is, I expanded my horizons beyond the boundaries of gender discrimination. Finally, after years of having society define me as heterosexual, and me defining myself as bisexual, I was forced to conclude that I was, in fact, a sapiosexual and that there was nothing that I could do about it.

Of course, the fact that I am distinctly unable to maintain good relations with people is one which I have conveniently overlooked more times than is healthy. Only recently, I found myself thoroughly immersed in an individual who seems to have been formulated out of the concoction of characteristics I mentioned above, with a face to put Narcissus to shame. I would like to tell you the tale of how well we resonate, and how you are all invited to our wedding, and to the high school graduation parties of our daughters Clarisse and Daniela, but then I would have to lie, and I feel we know each other too well for that by now. And so no, there has been none of that, and I am more or less to blame.

You see, I have become so unequipped with coming across a person with whom I can connect intellectually, that I have forgotten how to deal with the situation when it does arise. I find myself trying to squeeze in too many seconds into the one minute, too many minutes into the one hour, too many hours into the one day and so on in a futile attempt of getting as much out of that person as possible. Somewhere in a very deep, dark, unfriendly and decidedly asexual corner of my mind lurks a little voice which convinces me that if I don’t soak up this individual thoroughly at every chance, I shall be left to die in a miserable corner of my one-bedroom-apartment, overdosing on Class A drugs.

I don’t claim that I am superiorly intellectual (as I would like to believe) but just that it is very rare for me to find people who stand where I stand, on the Kinsey and other scales. Over time, I have come to accept that even when I am presented with such miracles of nature, I am bound to drive them away, and so the need to have an abundant supply of them in my vicinity has greatly increased, leading to my becoming more flustered and unbearable. And so the vicious cycle entraps me within its iron hold.

Just before I conclude this completely unnecessary piece of Internet space, I would like to acknowledge that this is, in fact, my first official “coming out” post of sorts, and to all those who receive great shocks at the revelation of my sexuality, I’d like to say just this: really, you should have known.

To those of you who are cursed with sapiosexual friends/relatives/children/siblings/cats: please excuse the narcissism, it’s not really our fault.

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

Why was this post not published yesterday, seconds after the news of her death rattled the world? Because there are times, albeit very few, when the mind is enslaved by the heart. The mind will know what must be done and when, but the heart will put a stop to it, it will put shackles around those thoughts and force you to just feel for a second, and that second will never end.

Barely a month after souls were ripped from their bodies across the globe at the traumatic news of Alan Rickman’s death, another grave tragedy has befallen us. Death has gotten used to the taste of benevolent souls, and has forgotten that balance must be maintained in the world. For the first time in my life, I am angry with Death for being greedy, for wanting the best for itself.

She was old. Unlike with the death of Alan Rickman, the shock factor wasn’t dominant here. Maybe that is the reason the thought of Alan Rickman only crossed my mind while I was writing this post: the emotions associated with both their deaths are so different that it makes no sense to draw analogies. And so, of course, I will be helpless in drawing analogies.

On the day of Rickman’s death, I remember feeling thoroughly cheated. I felt angry, shaken, shocked to my core, and more upset than I can explain. Yesterday, though, there was a kind of resignation in the sorrow that I felt. I knew that this day was coming, and I was prepared for the bombshell to drop, and so there was no great shock to mask the sorrow. Yesterday, I felt truly sad after a long time. I felt sad like I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was the raw force of the sadness, unmasked by any other emotion, which I think was so crippling, causing the delay in this post.

I had first read “To Kill a Mockingbird” sometime in the middle of seventh grade, and had taken an instant liking to Scout. Little did I know that Scout was more or less a spitting image of her creator. Over the years, Scout and I have come to be the best of friends, and Harper Lee was like out guiding figure, a motherly presence watching as her brainchild went ahead and made friends. Two years after reading the life-altering book for the first time, I got to know Harper Lee well, due to an assignment set to us in English class.

It was easy to get to know her. I suppose it was because I knew Scout so well by then that learning about Harper Lee was just like having another conversation with Scout. Lee was a firm presence throughout my life from that point onwards, and I was secure in knowing that a wrinkly woman somewhere in the US was alive and well.

When her book came out last year, I was nothing short of elated. Getting to see her in action again was surreal! My expectations weren’t well rewarded, however, and I decided that the only memories I wanted to have of Lee were those related to her original work. All was good yet again: tarnished memories had been forgotten, disagreements had been resolved, and Scout and I were on speaking terms once more.

Then I logged into my computer yesterday evening, and things took a turn for the worse. Amidst a horde of news items about the JNU fiasco (which did nothing to alleviate my foul mood) was a single story, saying something along the lines of: “Harper Lee dies at 89”. I don’t well recall the events immediately following this one, and I don’t think I want to. Something seemed to have slipped inside: not broken, but slipped. Broken implies shattering, or an unforeseen even causing irreparable damage. No, this was different. Something had slipped, and I still don’t know what it is, or where it’s slipped from, or where it’s slipped to. Maybe I’ll find it someday and place it back, who knows?

“Harper Lee is currently thriving at the remarkable age of 84” is how I had concluded my presentation that day in English class. Death, it seems, took my remark of “remarkable” as a challenge. Death does that sometimes, in an attempt to prove itself omnipotent, it uses our words to play with us. It’s sad, really.

And so something slipped. Something was wrong. The feeling of being hollowed out will take some getting used to, which is exactly what I say every time something disturbing happens. I don’t have a problem wrapping my head around the fact that she’s gone, as I did with Rickman. But here, there is something which I’ve never felt before, and hope to never feel again, because it’s a very permanent feeling with no end in sight. That feeling, the simple feeling which is much less insidious than others but sticks on forever, is a feeling of impending nothingness, the “what not” state if you will.

So, what now?

Death has taken a step out of line this time, because whatever may have happened, one thing is undeniable: It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

On the illusion of being well-informed

Once again, I find myself indebted to the mainstream system of education for presenting me with the opportunity, and to some extent the content, of yet another post. Instead, it is better said that the academic ordeal of which I speak wasn’t a direct contributor to this occurrence, but merely the dreaded path through which it was achieved.

Earlier this week, I was faced with the horrendous task known as “journal writing”. The task, which is a regular atrocity, entails copying content from one piece of paper mindlessly onto the other, for what I assume is the sadistic amusement of the examination board. It is, in my opinion, the most dreadful of all assignments conferred upon the students by the Indian education system, and I feel confident in stating that the Indian student body would unanimously benefit from its exclusion.

However, the extent of my displeasure with this particular catastrophe isn’t the subject of this post. No, today I wish to talk about how painstakingly putting myself through that displeasure led me to a profound realisation, albeit one which the world has made many times over already.

In a wildly desperate, yet wildly successful attempt to bring an end to the monotony of mindless copying, I put on some music from my playlist, which, by common consent, is quite distasteful. It was when one particular song was playing that my epiphany made itself apparent, and thus gave rise to this post.

The song of which I speak has now come to be one of my favourites, yet there was a time when I would very contemptuously skip that song whenever it had the audacity to play. When I’d first heard that song, and indeed for a few times after, I’d convinced myself that the lyrics of the song were not possible to be deciphered, on account of the singer’s poor enunciation. Recently, frustrated by my inability to make sense of what is an insanely popular song, and crippled by my all consuming obsession with song lyrics, I gave in and “Googled” the words.

As though a dense fog had been lifted off my mind the moment I read the words upon the screen. What’s more, whenever I had heard the song hence, including on the fateful evening of which I speak, I found myself clearly understanding the lyrics which had so far been nothing but elusive. And so while I was mechanically scribbling away into my notebook and this song played, I found myself humming along with it, whispering the words into the air, completely unaware that I now knew the lyrics well enough to sing along.

It was then that I had to pause the gruelling task which was engaging me, and think back upon the days when I had thought the song incomprehensible. The epiphany ran thus: our knowledge, all our knowledge, is an illusion, brought about by incidences of learning which we do not give due credit to. To make this rather cryptic statement clearer, I’ll take the example of what I have been talking about thus far. It is now impossible for me to think of a time when I did not know the lyrics of this particular song, because they seem so obvious in the light of the new knowledge I have acquired.

How is it possible that something which is so thoroughly apparent to me now, was so utterly elusive then? How has the simple acquisition of knowledge made me forget the sensation of being ignorant? And so I extrapolated this particular theory, if you will, onto other aspects of life and existence. I came to the rather startling realisation that a lot of the information we take for granted is actually a compilation of things we never knew, and things which we thought we never would be able to understand, until such time as we found them out.

The favourite colour of your best friend, perhaps, may serve as an example. Your favourite dish, another. A third could be the knowledge of the grammar of your first language. There is so much knowledge within us which we assume is a given, or which we take for granted, not realising that we are born with nothing in our heads, and that even things which seem like they’ve always been there, haven’t.

Of course, shortly after realising this, I saw the bulk of content before me still waiting to be written, and I left the realisation of this epiphany for another day. At this point, I’d like to end this very vague post with one question: does it count as an epiphany if it’s merely reflection upon something you’ve always known?

Food for thought, I guess, or something to distract yourself with this Valentine’s Day. Happy Loving, everyone.

Pandora’s Jar

Recently, I have had a lot on my plate, perhaps more than I can handle, maybe even more than is sensible to have. There are times when I simply wish to recede into a small, dark corner of the world and wait for the time to pass until I can resurface in a simpler place, with less worries gnawing at the edges of my sanity. Perseverance and the promise of the light at the end of the night seem to be companions of a past which has long since passed.

Hope, like many other things of immeasurable value, can be extremely difficult to locate, what with the constant aura of negativity around us. Therefore, I believe, that it is our duty to congratulate and hold on to people who have found hope, for they are our escape route from the murky waters of depression.

Today is a day of immense importance. Today marks the birth anniversary of a person who is perhaps the living image of hope. If hope were to come out and assume a humanoid form, I am convinced it would be that of the person of whom I speak. This person isn’t a wise, learned old scholar who has spent days wandering the narrow, dark, dismal corridors of an exasperated mind. No, this person is a kind-hearted, intelligent soul who believes that eventually we will overcome, for there is nothing which we, when we unite as one, cannot surpass.

These views have always seemed, to me as I do consider myself quite the pessimist, to be optimistic to the point of being ridiculous. Hope is not the answer to the very real, very tangible issues plaguing the human civilisation and, indeed, Planet Earth itself. Hope is not the solution to the absence of hope, for if it were then many a psychiatrist would be out of a job. Hope is not the key to unlocking the secrets of a greater and more promising life. Along the lines of these are further arguments which frequently cross my mind whenever this person and I engage in a conversation about the derogatory nature of society, yet I refrain from voicing them.

It is not about hope being the answer, though, as I have recently learnt from this person of whom I can only speak highly and with sheer respect and admiration. Hope is not about finding the answers, or the keys or anything really. Hope is about keeping up with the negativities and telling them to give you some breathing room so that you can think, you can process what is happening all around and assess you situation, so that you can come up with the best solution to the problem at hand.

Now this lesson hasn’t explicitly been given to me, but I have managed to interpret this and even though this leaves room for error, I take comfort in the fact that these are the kind of messages I am now able to derive from the words I once considered foolish and childishly optimistic. It gives me a certain sense of hope too; it gives me the hope that not everything and everyone in this world is rambling on about nothingness, that there is at least one person who knows something worth knowing.

Another remarkable thing about my unofficial mentor is that I have never seen even the slightest trace of hardship on this person’s face. We all have our issues, some are mountains looming in the near future challenging our paths ahead, some are demons from our pasts threatening to pull us back into their devilish clutches, and some are elephants in the room we willing to turn our backs upon. In any case, we have negativities plaguing our minds, and this is perhaps one of the defining features of our consciousness, a significance of ours as human beings. Yet even when worst comes to worst, I have never see our subject give way to the vortex of sorrows, which I believe is one of the greatest achievement’s of anyone, ever.

I am, of course, highly biased in favour of the person who taught me the meaning and importance of hope, but I cannot say it enough times for the words to successfully describe the sheer aura of positivity and the extent of hope that radiates from the aforementioned. It is my strong-founded belief that it would take something phenomenal for my mentor’s hopes to be deterred; and should such a scenario ever present itself, I shall take it for granted that mankind has seen its end.

Coming back to my situation of having bitten off more than I can chew: I was sorely tempted, until the beginning of writing this post in fact, to follow my tried and tested, and rather unsuccessful, method of disappearing into the shadows of the world. However, as I sat there, flitting from one task to the next, starting each one and leaving it midway, I though of how much further I had come ever since that one fateful night in the middle of September of last year. I thought about how my choices reflected the people I chose to associate myself with, and what I had learnt from them.

Suddenly, like a brilliant flash of inspiration, it hit me that even in the darkest, most dreary times of all, one can find hope, if only one has the strength to look for it, and stay on their course against all odds. There may seem times when all hope is absolutely lost, which is more often than not every other day of my life; in such cases, one simply has to do some soul-searching and create hope from within, which will promote the discovery of further hope, just like a chain reaction.

I knew that this realisation absolutely hadn’t come from within the dark and hollow pits of my plagued mind, and so I was, for a few moments at least, at a loss for the source of this inspiration. Needless to say, after having said it multiple times I mean, that the source of this sudden bout of positive energy was my dear friend.

That little jolt of inspiration is, in fact, all I needed to get back on my feet, and now I am ready to tackle whatever it is that needs tackling, until I hit my next low point of course. I realise how this would not have been at all possible had it not been for the wonderful person to whom I dedicate this post, as a small token of gratitude; thank you for showing me how to find myself when all seems lost.

Happy birthday.

Dealing in joy

It has often come to my attention that the Universe has, over the course of the few billion years of its existence, lost its grip on the balance of things which usually governs everything we do. I tend to flatter myself every now and then and thus took it upon me to restore the balance which I so very sorely missed.

A word of advice here, one which I have myself created and which has nothing to do with the habit of which I spoke previously: maintaining the balance of the Universe is easier said than done. Valiantly though I had set out upon my conquest, I gave up unfortunately quickly.

Often, you will find that the need to be useful, and the desire to be productive can work miracles in the case of despair. The very same happened with me earlier this year. Feeling downhearted at the prospect off having let go of my noble desire, rather mission, I found solace and, for all intents and purposes, inspiration, in chocolate, of which too I have promised to speak.

It was perhaps the sinful, bitter taste of chocolate which awakened my senses as no imbalance of the Universe had. I looked around me and was startled to see that people spoke with one another in monotonous, expressionless tones and with dull, lifeless faces. Scattered amidst these scenes of indifference were façades of intense, unyielding misery.

I myself am a great admirer of joy: sheer, unadulterated humour is my idea of time best spent. To see this lack of joy in abundance in a surrounding which I was associated with did not sit well with me. I then decided to spread as much joy as I could, which at once reminded me of the restoration vow I had taken earlier. This got me thinking about how one large, integrated vow was much easier to keep than two rather difficult ones.

This logic, at the time of its conception, had made wonderful sense and so I was prompted to follow it through to the end. I did, and I can proudly say that I found a way to bring my integrated vow to life and to hold on to it. Fortunately, the plan unfolded flawlessly and seemed to have a lot of promise in store.

It is rather a simple pan you see. For every sad, miserable, teary-eyed person I find, I shall provide some form of joy, humour or comic relief to another. In such a way, I play my own trivial part in the restoration of the Universal balance along with spreading joy, thus fulfilling both of my vows. At the end of the day, I sit and match up my joyful people with the Universe’s miserable ones.

Soon, I spotted a glaring flaw in my thus far beautifully logical act of charity: the people that I do distribute joy to eventually become miserable too. And so, I decided to instigate a small change in my M.O. Instead of providing joy to a person for every miserable person I see, I decided to give out joy to as many people as I could.

One fine day, while championing the great cause of Universal balance, I was struck with brand new realisation. Since I was helping the Universe with restoring its balance, it would be senseless if the Universe didn’t pay me back somehow. And so, based upon that completely vague, absolutely abstract and downright senseless deduction, I set out looking for a gift, more payment than gift really, from the Universe. Adamant to prove to myself that I wasn’t in fact going crazy, I actually found something which could very well be Universe’s sign.

You see, every once in a while, when the Universe feels grateful for my help, it pays me back with ready-made humour. It may be a scenario which greatly amuses me, or seeing people laugh out, or anything which makes me feel like my conquest is, in fact, paying off. This may make absolutely no sense, but once you start to give out some joy, then you shall see the feeling of greatness which accompanies seeing joy in action. For spreading joy has a joy of its own.

Happy with the progress  I was making, I decided to tell my friend about my noble act, whose only query was regarding the identity of my dealing partner. I am an atheist, and so it made no sense to my friend that I should talk about the Universe as an entity. My response was rather obscure and is really quite difficult to explain but I shall try my best nonetheless.

When I talk about the Universe needing help or the Universe paying me back I don’t mean a particular entity who is somehow in charge of the various ongoings of things around us. I refer instead to the Universal sense of balance which is so very sorely missing nowadays. This is the same sense of balance which is responsible for the existence of day and night, for desert and ocean, for sky and ground, for good and evil, for light and dark.

“Who creates that balance? Looks to keep it stable?” asked my friend and, momentarily, I was stumped. Then I answered as best as I could: the beauty of the Universe is that it doesn’t need anyone to balance. Every single particle, every single molecule works to maintain that balance by its own. Every particle in the Universe will go about doing what it is meant to do irrespective of whether we spot it or not.

My friend’s next question was even more trying: “How do these particles know that it’s their job to give you funny stuff to laugh at?” And yet again I thought that my brilliant theory had met its close, but it hadn’t. The Universe doesn’t create anything for me, or for you, or for anyone. The Universe simply exists, it prolongs its own life, and should one spot something which they feel is out of place and they meddle, well so be it.

The only reason that the Universe seems out of balance to me is because I spot something and that it is out of balance. Maybe it is not so at all, maybe the Universe is perfectly in balance, maybe my meddling will have not make any difference at all and we will end up exactly where we were  supposed to in the first place.

My friend doesn’t like the concept of anything predestined. To all such people: maybe nothing is meant to be a particular way, maybe the Universal balance has been disturbed, maybe its been disturbed because ages ago someone meddled, maybe my meddling will also cause some effect, maybe the Universe does need someone to spot its discrepancies.

Whatever may be the case, as long as what I am doing doesn’t have any detrimental effects, I feel confident in carrying on with my mission. I shall keep doing what I do, until I can sense that the Universal balance has been somewhat restored. Wish me luck.

Dancing Tables

There is something undeniably eerie about the mysterious companion we lovingly call memory. I have found myself, on more occasions than I can name for lack of remembrance, thinking about the unending onslaught of memory. The devious monster parts ways with us when we need it most of all, but returns with vivid images of a past we have long forgotten when we are least on guard. Usually these flashbacks are a consequence of lack of activity, yet there are days when the cunning scythe of memory eradicates all in its path and resurfaces, unabated.

Today was one such day. You see, I had been busy all day long, and whereas I had willingly kept myself preoccupied with trivial ongoings, I was largely unavailable for random thought through no effort of my own. Yet despite being so very engaged, and with yet a truckload of very consuming chores lined up ahead, I found my mind drifting off into a time which I vaguely remembered. After fighting the subconscious recollections of that past for some time, I gave in and decided to embrace my enemy as a friend.

But I refused to be thrown into a pit of sorrow on a day when things had been favouring the tide. So instead of wallowing in the more demoralising parts of my existence, I decided to focus on the fair. I am proud to say that I did not fail. In fact, I succeeded rather remarkably. I managed to look deep into the recess of my mind and find the one memory which is the high to all lows, the up to all downs, the sunshine to all clouds. It is a memory of the simpler days, when being carefree was the only care we had.

Amongst the many great things about this one memory which has helped me through thick and thin is that I can share it with someone. It may seem like a trivial point, but in a way it makes all the difference in the world. I do not know what it is, but there is a feeling which fills your mind when you think of a happy moment spent in the company of someone you swore never to forget, and that feeling drives all worries from your mind. The feeling probably cannot be described, for it is slightly irrational, making it all the more satisfying.

Only the other day I was telling a close friend of mine about the basic principles which govern our lives, for no other reason that to make conversation, when I realised how flawed all my theories would have been were it not for this particular memory. For I have based almost all my life’s greatest decisions on the sensation of comfort which this memory gave me. Today, while trying to remember the feeling which the memory always left me with, I was presented with the greatest curse to have befallen mankind since temptation: forgetfulness.

I have spent the last few paragraphs speaking about the sweet comforts of a memory which I claim has stayed with me all these years and has been a  great part of my life, yet I honestly cannot recall most of the details of the memory at all. I do not know what I was wearing that day, what the weather was like, what time of year was it, or even how I ended up in that particular place at that particular time. So why is that memory so significant?

I do, despite my rather pitiful recollection powers, recall the person I was with, the joke which had us laughing for almost half a day hence, the place where we were and the disinterest of those around us. The disinterest, in the most corrupt way possible, gives me hope: it tells me that even when no one else cares about that one day sometime in the last ten years, I always will.

Does that suffice? Are a few details about a once happy-go-lucky time spent with an old childhood comrade enough to imbibe the feeling of warmth, comfort and security? Is that all it would take for someone to calm me down: a sketchy picture of a past I barely remember?

Somehow, I find that very unconvincing.

It is not always that I sit at my desk and lose myself in a sea of memories only to resurface hours later bathed in the sweet joy of recollection. In fact, when asked, I would say that I am amongst those few unfortunate souls who condemns dwelling in the past. And so I find myself justified when I say that there is something about this memory which not only allows me to let go of my principles, but also encourages me to indulge myself in a habit I can only ever call pathetic.

Think as I may, I cannot find the answer. I do not intend to pile upon your already swamped lives the trifle tale of a troubled boy, and I shan’t either, but in this time of the unknowing I find it best to share my woes while harbouring the illusion that someone is listening. You will find on multiple occasions that you, too, have this sketchy, unusually comforting memory, with no apparent reason for its existence; tell me when that happens, and I shall be all ears.

Life has always had a way of presenting me with opportunities to create great memories out of, and I shall be forever grateful for that. However, I do wish, on occasion, that since life is so gracious in giving memories, if it would be just as gracious with taking them, if only to create space for new ones. It is not that I do not value this particular memory above all others, for I do, but as long as this one has caught my hold, I doubt I’ll be able to move on to a newer, potentially more comforting one.

At last, I would like to thank the person who shares this memory with me, making this memory and my life come alive when I most need it. For I may one day forget all the details of this memory, and I may forget the memory itself, and the feeling that this memory leaves me with and anything about this memory, but I shall always remember my companion.

Thank you dear comrade: Dancing Tables.