Chicken, Egg and 50 shades of evolution

I’m usually not in the habit of maintaining a cheat sheet to structure the flow of thoughts. There is always a first time and first time it shall be now.

The crux of the thoughts are around the following lines

Tabula rasa – > Innatism – > Nature vs Nurture , that challenges evolution ; Empiricism in conflict with determinism and not good friends with innatism. Nihilism vs opposite of that!

Righty roo.

I have my eyes on the book, The Blank Slate and to prepare for the book I started to read a little on the subject. In a way, this blog would be a pre condition check and once I’ve read the book, hopefully, I should have grown wiser! Tough luck there, but I’ll keep an open mind. it’s not everyday where I get to mock my opinionated self.

Lets try to structure the circus that runs in my mind. Chicken , egg and evolution. The age old question, which came first is a classic example of pointlessness. We were not around to witness the birth of the chicken or the delivery of the first egg. Ergo, the loudest wins or the most geekiest explaination stands to win. To me, I couldn’t care less about the origin of my omelette.

The journey of words led me down a wonderful path. The path is outlined as the following

1. I am what I am. – > What I am is a collection of all my bias, experiences , innate talent and acquired skill. The whole conversation of acquisition of skill trumps innate talent is still wide at play.

2. I am what I’m meant to be – > The big predisposition of fate and destiny comes into play. In my futile attempt to justify all the bits and bolts of life, I can take a little comfort, and I’m lying through my teeth here , in knowing that I’m meant for things and whatever that I’ve gone through and will go through, will be in line with what’s in store in my destiny. I don’t subscribe to this view of destiny and determinism. That’s an open area of contention.

3. Like everyone else, My life will have a purpose or just like everyone else, none of our lives are meant to serve any purpose at all.

These three are often indicative of all the justifications that we offer in the face of a defeat. Either we accept, learn adapt and bounce stronger. Or we accept and drag in the universe to assure ourselves that our loss was destined. Or, we say things are meant to be that way and something better is in the making. The degree of our failure is dependent on what we choose to believe and what that keeps us comfy and smug in denial.

Tabula Rasa , aka, blank slate states that we are like clay. We can be beaten and shaped up to be anything. It also means that entire life ahead is an outcome of stimulus and that means, we are what we are and that is defined by our experiences and our reactions to them. This makes sense and only it doesn’t as well. Our genetic fabric has information locked within it. We carry forward information that helps with our survival. While at the primal level, this makes sense, it need not mean that everything that we need , comes within our blood. Should that be the case, why would we bother learning anything at all.

The fact that our blood does not define what or who we are, it’s not a stretch for me to debunk the role of an entire vast universe in deciding my fate.

That’s just me. Empiricism talks about our ability to learn and adapt through experiences. It says that we are a product of our society and our interaction with it. The case of nurture versus nature. It banks on Nurture and conditioning. While this is true for most of us, This view also conflicts with both Destiny and Innatism. Since we learn from the world around, we are a product of our choices, we therefore are not left at the mercy of the universe and we aren’t at the mercy of our genetic markup.

If we are a product of the choices that we make and refuse to make, it also conflicts with the ‘Ghost in the machine’ ideology. Ghost in the machine, like it’s cyber punk relative, Ghost in the Shell, talks about mind and the body as separate entities. The impact of choices on mind as an entity and the body, now that baffles me. Mind has a mind of it’s own and so does the body. How do the two work in order to evolve us? That’s a question that has many answers and it depends on where one is looking for those answers.

The mark of a good book is not around how many questions for which it offers an answer. In fact it’s quite the opposite. It’s around how many questions that it makes us ask.

I’d like to believe that this book would open up a few questions that I didn’t know even existed. All that said, it’s been fun to contemplate around the many fears that surrounds our existence. From doubts around capabilities, to fears around history’s ferocity in wanting to repeat itself. From fate that wants us to fail to stars that remain mute and stones that bring better luck. Us humans are complicated and we are so , only because of the things that we tell ourselves to justify the soil upon which we make our shaky stand.

Karthik

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[Book Review] : A state of freedom

A state of freedom by Neel Mukherjee.

A state of freedom is an anthology of sorts that outlines the lives of five people. It’s a beautifully written book that effortlessly carries a very serious, grim tone throughout and at the same time, it does effortlessly manage to hold on to our attention span. The anthology helps break the monotony of reading through a single individual’s darker than dark, deeper than abyss view of a pessimistic world.

Freedom is a lot of things to a lot of people. In my opinion, the book tends to blur the boundaries between a sense of freedom and the desperate want for a liberation. In fact, I am tempted to call out the subtle difference between the state of feeling liberated versus the longing towards finding an escape from the talon like clutches of life.

The book deals with loss, sacrifice, ideology, poverty and a double dose of poverty there.

It tries to explain the elusive view of freedom that the characters long for. The mundane, vulgarly abundant , unassuming nature of the circumstances that the characters endure also beautifully sets the tone of a reality that a lot of us accept, acknowledge and choose to ignore. The down to earth characters will win your heart as the pages unwind the aspects of their daily lives and the hidden meanings behind their valiant struggles.

The anthology approach is convenient to pick and pause. It’s always fun to keep guessing over how all the independent stories eventually connect. This book would throw its final curve ball there. There is and isn’t a big connect. What we are shown is the variance in our perception of the characters. The better we understand the circumstances governing their lives, the better our understanding of the whys of their lives becomes. Speaking of the characters, there is a bit of an element of diversity. Not everyone is plagued by the same demons. Two rich enough blokes and the rest are poverty stricken. I must admit, while I remained nearly stoic for most parts of the book because of the familiarity to the divide that money provides, the author manages to effectively dwell deeper into the poverty and painstakingly define what it means to live in near poverty. That left me saddened.

The book’s biggest win is the interpretation of freedom. It changes all the way. It evolves. There is liberation, there is escape and there is a thin balance that separates the delusion of liberation and the frustration from a longing for an escape.

The characters face that line. It’s up to the readers to make sense of what they read. I came to view it as the point of near rock bottom.

The book offers no redemption. This is a serious book that will plunge you into a state of ponder. It does not rely on cheap Deus Ex Machina to set everything alright. This is , in my opinion, one of the best quality of the book. It offers enough to harbour a hope. It offers enough reality that would pamper to your sensibilities to put an end to the misery of the characters by wanting them to give up and just die. The book would let you dictate the character’s fate in your head.

The book is a wonderful example of a classy writing that does not sugar coat the realities of a lot of people in the world. Each story has a style of narrative. Each story is a glance into an aspect of a living. I quite enjoyed the tale.

Sure, give it a shot. It’s worth the thoughts.

Karthik

Coming up next : The vegetarian. Now that’s a trippy book that scores really high on the cringe meter!

[Book Review] : Tibetan book of the dead

If there was an illusion that could be called the mother of illusion, I think spirituality would be just that.

The Tibetan book of the dead is a fantastic book on spirituality. I’ve not read many books on the matter, so to me, it’s good enough. It just has way too much information that my jaded mind struggles to comprehend.

This review will stay away from the bias of a spiritual aspirant. This is my attempt at writing a non spiritual view of a quintessential spiritual book. Here goes. Fortune favours the brave.

Reverse Engineering : The process is a product to conception approach to problem solving. Just because all the parts and clockwork are there, it doesn’t translate to an easy approach. It does however establish the building blocks required to conjure the final finished product. Life’s biggest antonym is Death. What better way to define life than starting at death and sweeping back to the point of origin. The book of the dead does exactly just that. It’s a book about the list of things that ought to be passed on to folks who are near death. It’s still not a cool idea to say ‘ PSSST, you are gonna konk out bro’ .

Whilst the ideals are to help the near dying transition better into death and beyond, the principles work like a charm if the living were to follow it. That’s like having an issue in the production system, painful escalations and an extensive RCA later, one figures out that blokes did not bother having a review or running a unit test case.

The point is, knowing what matters in the end is a fantastic guideline to accommodate practices while we are still alive and kicking.

Fears , Regrets and messy closet! : Oh but I am trying hard to not sound like a frantic wannabe spiritualist trying to solicit the words of wisdom from a book. Through the eyes of psychology and behaviour, the message is not that difficult to understand. Bottom line, fear. Fear leads to everything else. Fear of failure results in lack of actions which results in regret. Fear of failure leads to insecurity which leads to lack of actions. Fear of failure, leads to inertia which leads to lack of actions. I think when fear paralyses the mind, we find ourselves incapable of progressing with life.

Science offers a way to confront such fears. Fish bone analysis, Root cause analysis, cause and effect analysis, they are all roads to identifying what fails and what the consequences of failures are. One can start with, I get this wrong and my entire life is wasted. By virtue of sitting down and deconstructing the effects of consequence, one might soon realise that not many things usually lead to a life getting wasted. Mess up a delivery, mess up the immediate appraisal. That’s a cause and effect. But assuming that one would always mess everything up hence forth is just paranoia taking creative control over all the choices we stand to make in life.

The worst that can happen is one can lose one’s job. The worst that can happen post that is one may never find a job. The question to ask is, why am I so unemployable? That question alters a lifetime of unemployment. It facilitates options that we had never considered before.

The road to a happy death, and a happy staying alive is taking a stock of the things that scare us crazy. It’s human to fail. It’s human to fear that failure. It’s very human to assume that there is no success ever , after a failure. It is also human to have a bit of a common sense and argue that one has to be an idiot to volunteer to carry out the same set of mistakes over and over again. That special skill is called reluctance to learn , adapt, evolve and grow. Science or spirituality can do very little to help such people from their moment of inertia.

Acceptance and denial: The big deal is, when you are about to die, would you rather accept everything that you’ve done or would you choose to die staying comforted by the talons of denial. Denial is the ability of a person to blame oneself or rest of the world in order to justify why one deserves misery.

Acceptance is the ability of a person to accept that one might have been responsible(partly or in complete) to actions that led to a failure. Acceptance leads to acknowledgement that there is something to learn and something new to adopt to. Acceptance is key to evolution and growth. Either lead a life in denial and face the moment of truth where time doesn’t really matter anymore or make that effort to accept, face your failures, make an effort to call out the different grades of consequences to deal with and live a life of choices rather than feeling helpless and saying ‘i’m going with the flow’.

Forget about the million gods and billion souls. It’s psychology one on one. One either learns or resists. Resistance is futile. Consequences are inevitable. One faces them one day.

Illusions and Illusions of illusions : The biggest take away from the book is that once we reach the choice of acceptance or denial, should one choose to accept, one also sees through the illusions that one has always been surrounded by. We are not talking about the entire world being an illusion. I’d very much like that if that were to be the case. It isn’t. Violence is real. Hunger and poverty is real. Abuse is real. Misery is real. Pain is real.

The things that aren’t real are our forced choices to stay succumbed and imprisoned to the realities. Violence is real and walking away from it is a choice. Hunger is real, but trying hard to stay away from it is a choice. Abuse is real, standing up against it is a choice. We love our excuses. We hide behind words like ‘Insignificance’, ‘Powerless’, ‘What can one person really achieve’, ‘ its my fate’, ‘Destiny’ to stay comfortably numb , connected strong to such illusions.

There is no miracle cure. There are no one stop shops. Embracing science or spirituality for the sole reason of escaping the choices that one couldn’t find the courage to make is the biggest illusion of them all. In that context, Spirituality is the biggest illusion of them all. We are so eager to surrender and embrace something divine in order to distance ourselves from the responsibilities of the choices that we’ve already made and the choices that we hesitate forever to make It boils down to acceptance and denial. We awaken from one illusion only to embrace another.

One doesn’t need to read ancient scriptures or words of the wise to know this simple truth. As kids , we were told stories about god helps those who help themselves. As adults, we hide behind convenience that words from various sources provide.

And so even from a purist skeptic point of view, I do feel refreshingly enlightened by the book. It was easier to distance the imagery and symbolism adopted in the book and associate myself with the lessons that were intended to be imparted. I see the argument of science versus spirituality as a quintessential epitome of pointlessness. They are the same, different words and both leading to the fundamental simple truth. WAKE UP , SMELL THE ROSES, and START LIVING

Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya – From darkness, lead me to light

Karthik

Autobiography of a yogi : A spiritual wilderness to wander

How do you guys manage to do it? I’d often ask. I only got a smile in response. The smile conveyed a lot.

Context is king and I’ll set the context using that question as an example. I’m a fitness enthusiast and I’ve been battling the bugle earnestly for a few years now. My trainers, they have no trouble gaining or losing their weight. They do it at will. Their smiles reveal a simple secret. Hard and smart work. A thorough understanding of how their bodies work. Sweat and Consistency helps them reap the benefits.

To me, it’s still nothing short of magic. I lack the conviction to go all the way. I have my array of excuses. It’s hard. It’s tough. I work and I don’t have the time to dedicate myself to the cause. I’m cold and sick. The well of excuses never runs dry. Long story short, ‘they’ are able to do it because they understand the clockwork better. I struggle because my efforts are scattered and so is my investment to the cause.

Autobiography of a yogi is a book that houses a wealth of spiritual knowledge. I feel compelled to soak myself with thoughts about it. I am excited to pour my thoughts about it. Honesty is the right way to make a start. With honesty, I shall.

The fact that everybody in the book seemed to live with the universe, the astral travel, the peaceful realization of oneness with the universe, the energies, the power of meditation, I believe in most of them. Some, I couldn’t. Instead of trivialising it as ‘Not possible’ or as ‘Fantasy’, I paused to ask myself a simpler question. Do I have trouble believing because I don’t understand how things can work, or is it because I don’t think things are possible? I feel fortunate to acknowledge that I lack the skills required to understand the clockwork. Just like I lacked in the scenario of the gym. I made peace with my ignorance and accepted that I still have a long way in my journey.

With my scepticism addressed, my heart feels lighter and conscience a little more clear, I can now focus on bliss of the things that I managed to learn.

Power of faith:

There are days when I question my delusion about meditation and the universe. Did I ever witness the vast universe at play or did I manage to appease my delusion. I still don’t have an answer to that question. What I have is the ability to believe. That, to me, seems to be crucial enough. A battle cannot be won when there are doubts seeded in the heart. How can one pursue the universe and experience the singularity that the universe is, if we ourselves aren’t certain about their existence. While I cannot substantiate the existence of the spiritual universe, I also don’t care if it’s real or otherwise. I’m not looking for a proof of their being. I’m convinced, beyond doubt, that there are things out there. Beyond my comprehension, beyond my reach. I’d still choose to wander. I ask for the sense to know where my delusion ends and where the truth spans. Someday, I might know that difference.

I strongly believe in this power of faith. Believing in the power of meditation and the power of a still mind. A state of mind where we can visualise the clutter of noise that sits within our minds. A state of ability where we can brave to quieten that clutter. It is only possible if we believe in it.

Karma:

For a while now, I’ve put my faith around karma. Not in the way where I obsess over good karma and bad ones that I accumulate. I don’t have sight of the ledger and how it pans to balance. I do believe that karma exists. It ties back to the soul. We birth through lives, carrying the learnings and desires of our karma. The good that we do, helps us awaken each birth. The bad karma that we have, keeps us locked in desires and misery. To simplify, when nothing matters to us, that’s the influence of the good karma. When we view life through pain and pleasure, that’s a result of karma which influences our character and the choices that we make across each lifetime. The rule of cause and effect takes precedence. We are therefore locked in a cycle of births and rebirths in effort to either reconcile or compensate the effects of choices made in the past. This also goes to determine the choices that we stand to make in the future. The linearity of time goes for a toss. Our choices impacted by the past, alters both the present and the future. The past itself is corrected, reconciled, healed in the present or the future. Everything converges to this moment. Each moment is therefore a step in a given direction. Any direction.

Contrary to the conversations that I’ve had, based on the words and lives of Baba ji, Lahari Mahasaya, Yukteshwar , Karma is transferable in parts. The masters have absorbed the effects of karma to help their followers. Why them? What makes them special? I don’t have an answer. I can speculate that help is given when help is deserved. We get to decide when we are deserving of that help.

Free will versus Surrender – The question of individuality:

I’ve always struggled to reconcile freewill and surrender. I wouldn’t surrender my freewill and my individuality in favour of unconditional surrender. Unconditional surrender is a step toward the universal singularity. I felt that I was destined to remain forever banished from spiritual progression. Based on Yukteshwar’s discussion with Yogananda, post his resurrection, there is a mention of this said individuality. We retain that version of self as we progress in our spiritual path. When we merge with the singularity, it’s a union of our individuality with the singularity. This is special to me. It taught me a simple lesson. We would continue to be our own self. As we progress, maybe there won’t be anything that differentiates that version of self and the singularity. We strip ego off as we progress. With each iteration, we distil and purify ourselves removing the effects of causes and choices made across the many lives. With each iteration, we start to resemble the singularity. The apex of our pristine pure self, therefore becomes that singularity. Harmonious and homogeneous with the singularity. Freewill and surrender are therefore illusions. There wasn’t anything to fight to hold on to. There isn’t anything left to surrender. The inertia of our life distorts that vision.

Coincidences and people:

The lives of the people called out in the book, they felt connected. It felt as if the lives gravitated towards the inevitability of crossing paths with the masters. In that sense, the lives that we lead, we are predetermined to keep meeting the same set of people, rather souls, across the many lives that we take. The reason is to help us distil the version of ourselves. We meet, not because we have learnt our lessons and healed, but because we still haven’t and are waiting to heal. That’s precisely why we keep meeting the same people. That’s precisely why coincidences orchestrate the journey of our souls. Timing is very important. Don’t get me wrong, when I said timing, I didn’t mean the right opportune moment. I meant, unless we are ready, the timing is always wrong. The minute we are ready, coincidences would direct us towards the inevitable. Healing of the soul is inevitable. It might take longer, it might take a very short duration of time, but that healing is inevitable.

This coincidence, people and karma brings me to understand the game of births. I am not wise enough to call out the reasons yet, but I can fathom a guess. The pains and suffering of this life, the wins and jubilation of this life, they are an outcome of choices made across lives. I suffer because I haven’t woken up to the realization that there is nothing here to suffer over. I rejoice and celebrate because I haven’t realized that the wins and losses are for this body. To a soul, that sees many a lifetimes, what one stands to accomplish from 60 years of a lifetime is still only an incremental step. I don’t mean to trivialise this life or this birth. All I’m guessing is that the nature of choices that we make, matter more than momentary pain or pleasure.

To put things into perspective, the reasons of our birth are unknown to most of us. Our pains and suffering are because of the choices that we’ve made in this life. The answer to the question, ‘Why me?’, ‘What did I do to deserve such a fate’? , I could manage to glimpse a response from the book.

Pain and suffering helps us move away from the inertia of this birth. The pain fuels us to reject this reality and see the illusion that surrounds us. Instead of victimising ourselves over what did we do to deserve the misery this life, it could be seen that a soul has learnt a few-many lessons and it wants us to wake up from the illusion of this life. I do not endorse misery as a way of life, it’s just that, many lives stitched together, the way this life presents; it could be a reflection of what our soul is learning and how much of itself it is healing. By virtue of calling out many lives of the past as a means to impact the life at present, I do not see it as a means to escape from the accountability of this life. All I’m saying is that, we experience joys for a reason. We experience the misery for a reason. That reason, beyond the choices made in this life, are also deeply connected to the progression of the soul.

How we treat the present life, the choices that we go on to make, determines the nature of the cycle or births that a soul is a part of. A spiritual awakening is not the first solution to a lot of us. Some eventually do so. That helps them with the healing process.

Experiencing it all:

The biggest takeaway from the book is around Anubhava. The masters speak about it. What does it mean to experience spirituality? What does it mean to experience the universe? Honestly, I don’t know to articulate it. There are moments of sublime peace that I feel during a meditation. I feel lighter for a while when I awaken. Besides that, I don’t feel anything new or anything different. It brings back to the question on delusion versus truth. We experienced gravity even before we knew what word described it and what that word meant. Similarly, we experience the universe even at a time when we do not have the necessary tools to articulate on it. I’m not talking about astral projections or telepathic means of communication. When in dire need of help, sometimes we do get it from unexpected folks. When we are in need for that strength, we do muster that courage. Somehow. A lot of life lived along the banks of Somehow. The skeptic in me has terms and definitions for them. The spiritual aspirant in me, wants to see this as that ability to suspend doubts and believe that the universe is there to help, if and only if, we are able to channelize our thoughts at it and seek its help. That sure explains how the followers of the masters were able to simplify their lives. Power of faith comes into play. How can we stand to experience in things beyond us, if deep within our hearts we are flowering doubts on the very same things that we also desire to experience? Doubts negate the process. It is one thing to question everything, it’s another to doubt. Questions have answers whereas doubts wait for our perspectives to clear before evaporating away.

The cycle:

 

The chapter on Yukteshwar’s resurrection was a revelation. It did help me with a few more thoughts on the cycles of life and death. There aren’t just 7 rebirths. In fact there are as many rebirths as required by the soul to heal and distil itself. The astral plane, to my mind, resembles the human view of heaven and hell. While alive, we create a heaven and a hell through our thoughts and energies. When we die, we head out to the astral plane where that thought and view manifests. Each time we die, we spend time in the astral plane before we are born again. I don’t know what we do during that phase.

The karmic ledger probably comes into play. We take a stock of what we still long and desire, the list of lessons that we’ve learnt. Based on them, we birth again, to satisfy the needs of both the soul and the desires carried forward from the previous lives. The popular term is karmic balance. We birth again to pay dues. I see this as a negative connotation. The universe does not want to TEACH us a lesson. It wants our soul to heal. We carry forward the traits and lessons and baggage of each life into the next life. Our ability to heal or otherwise goes on to influence the choices that we would stand to make. The cycle endures.

Another beautiful lesson that I got to learn was along bliss and the complacent nature that it warrants. Beyond the astral plane, there is the causal plane. Beyond the causal plane, there is the Singularity. Souls stagnate at each of those levels. Without reconciliation, souls are tied to physical bodies and we birth and die on Earth. Once in the astral plane, I guess there is more to reconcile. Unless we do that, we aren’t free to enter the causal plane. There, same deal. It does seem like an iterative process of cleansing of the soul before it’s ready for the big union. One thing at a time, I aint ready for any of it yet.

The road ahead is long and I’m not alone.

karthik

A shoulder to go

I’ve never had trouble lending a shoulder to lean on. Offering a shoulder for folks to lean on is both a gesture and an emotion. It transcends the boundaries of age and gender. I’ve had friends across the spectrum rely on my shoulder , lean away in a comfort and loiter away in a maze of crisscrossing thoughts. Some times, being a good listener is all about keeping your shoulders open and mouth shut.

The comfort, as I’d call it, also was a service offered to the general public that was either in transit or on a routine commute. Yes. I’ve had strangers doze away in happy oblivion. I never did have the heart to discriminate and rudely awaken people. I let the heads be in their resting position and carry on with my book or music.

The thing about different days is that I usually can’t predict about the people who’d turn up and turn on their snooze button. I had the most awesome girl in the world who found her cozy comfort in my shoulder. Left shoulder to be exact. I’d place her at about less than a year of mileage in life. The morning train, as crowded as ever, she sat obediently for a while watching the strange giants around her. Her boredom inspired her to brave new conversations. A few stops later, the little lady got chatty. A world of her own, a language of her own. Rest of the world would find warm smiles , thanks to her presence.

As the train progressed on its predestined path, fatigue crept up on the little girl. She started to doze away into her slumber land. I’d sneak a glance from time to time and return my eyes to the book that I had in hand. A little person who had just started life , on my left. A book about a bunch of 70 year olds on the spectral end of life, in front of me. It wasn’t hard to ditch a concentrated focus on reading about life fading away into retired obscurity. With the little one now asleep, with the drama from moments ago vanished, I had no choice but to pay more attention to the book.

I felt a tender tug on my arm. The little one had lost balance and had found cushioned comfort in my arm. Her mother , in her pursuit of maintaining public decency and decorum, repositioned the kid a few times. Repetition ushered monotony. Thankfully, the mother gave up and let the kid be. I hadn’t even considered thinking about protesting for my personal space. It was a victory of convenience.

The thing about babies is that there are only two easy ways around them. One, either you make one or Two, you take one. I’ve not aligned myself to either of those opportunities. That said, I’ve not been a stranger to thoughts on having one. I still remember the pointless conversations that I’ve had in the past about them kids. Conversations destined to fade away in time and fade slower in thought. As chance would have it, I bumped into a wonderful kid the other day, when I was in Chennai. This kid was not any cuter than any other kid I’ve come across. This kid was not as familiar as other kids have been. Yet we shared a very small connection. We both knew it’s mom. If life hadn’t taken the course it had, there was a definite chance that that kid wouldn’t have been a stranger to me. Could have been mine.

It’s funny how life introduces moments. They pop in at a time least expected, they leave us impacted in ways unimaginable. When the events conspired, it left me with very few thoughts. A sign that I wasn’t the same bloke from the past. A sign that I had travelled a few miles from where I had once started.

It’s nice to know that an open shoulder goes a long way. Unperturbed by the comforts of once being shackled by chains of choice. Unperturbed by the uncertainties of chance. It felt nice to know that a shoulder left open ushers limitless possibilities that the future lines up. A shoulder to go on is a commitment to stay away from inertia. It is a reflection of an open mind, it’s a reflection of a willingness to give oneself a fair shot at life. Despite the challenges, right through the curve balls. It’s nice to know that I don’t know who the next stranger is who might make a dazed effort of borrowing a strangers shoulder. It’s a fantastic , insignificant, inconsequential subplot of the tale called life.

A smile and a toast to the many journeys in life.

Karthik

It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way 😉

Karthik

Because, it’s easy!!!

I absolutely don’t think that this world would have gotten here if it had all the enablers it has today.

I mean , lets take a very simple example. Ten commandments. Moses has his day with the inscriptions. If one were to pause and wonder about it today, how would the immediate reactions be like?

1. Google search string : What is ten commandments?

2. Google search string : Does the ten commandments exist?

3. Google search string : is it true, the ten commandments ?

4. Google search string : Ten commandments Fake/Ten commandments scam

5. Google search string : Did god really write the ten commandments ?

And so on and so forth. The average Joe today endures a conflict of belief. For any acquired snippet of information, we are inundated with “facts” and opinions that either support the cause or debunks them. For every snippet of information, a controversy is waiting to be uncovered. We’d have passionate theorists across the table, defending their views with gusto.

There are two ways of viewing this situation. One, are we making smarter informed decisions? Two, are we banking on convenience which drives us to pick a side and consolidate all the justifications that we can get hold of?

I used to think that by virtue of asking questions , by virtue of doubting the world around, just by being a skeptic, we were better placed to understand the world better. I used to think that being a skeptic was a means to challenge the status quo. I soon realized that being a skeptic was a cover to mask a simpler agenda. It was easier to debunk , dismiss something rather than believe in it. I reckon the wiser term the occurrence as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias refers to the ability to isolate evidences and see ONLY the things that we’d want to see. So when one doesn’t want something to be true, One does burn the midnight lamp in order to prove that something isn’t true. It’s quite natural for humans to pick a side and die defending the chosen side.

I do wonder at times. Is the foolishness that inspires a blind faith any different from the foolishness that drives people towards blind scepticism ? Once again, like everything else, context comes into play. I’d rather ask my questions to see if I’d want to believe in something rather than ask those questions to keep myself away from believing in things. The nature of questions remains to be the same. The intent varies.

And so as I coast through another day of musing over the idiosyncrasies of what it means to be human, I do find myself pondering about faith and belief. In today’s world, sages can never meet gods. Doctors and WebMD would tag the saints as blokes suffering from Dissociative identity disorder. In today’s world, the passion of the Christ wouldn’t be made of gold. The big J would exhibit classic attention seeking behaviour, would be found guilty of punishing oneself and restraining oneself from staying free. In today’s world, miracles don’t happen. Mostly because we’d not let it happen.

Science has never been a good antagonist against faith and belief. Misguided people have always served as the apt villains.

What do you believe in ? Rather, what are the things that you refuse to believe in? Was it because it was easier to remain an atheist ?

Karthik

[Book review]: kafka on the shore

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive” – Kafka on the shore

Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami.

Ever felt incomplete? Ever felt a void in you, the kind of emptiness that consumes you and renders you helpless and alienated from all the smiles and happiness of the world that surrounds you? Kafka on the shore is a testament to life that is defined by the sense of incompleteness experienced by the characters. This is a wonderfully layered book that makes you wonder what it means to feel complete again. We are born complete and along the way, fragments of our inner self disintegrates and remains forever lost on us. Some succumb to that void. Some accept it and carry on , lifeless without colours. Some acknowledge that emptiness and find a way to plug that deficit.

Kafka on the shore is a story of incomplete people. The characters find themselves in pursuit of find that which completes them. The book introduces us to Kafka Tamura, Mr Nakata and Ms Saeki. Now that I’m penning my thoughts about the book, I do find it a strange coincidence that each of the central character called out , also is very closely associated to a secondary character. Ms Sakura, for Kafka. Mr Hoshino for Nakata and Mr Oshima for Saeki. I’m not sure if the secondary characters are the perfect counterbalance to their corresponding primary, and that being said, I’ll rake my brains to see if there is a novel hidden between the lines.

All the characters are incomplete. Kafka has no memory of his mother or his sister. His mum had separated from his father when he was very young. Kafka has a faded memory of a moment they spent in a beach. That’s the extent of his recollection of either his mum or his sister. He estranges himself from his father and decides to run away from his house on his fifteenth birthday. Kafka is burdened by a curse. Kafka feels incomplete because he has no one.

Nakata is a very strange bloke. He has an ability to talk to cats and yet neither can read nor write. Nakata was a very bright kid until an accident rendered him dumb. He views himself as a guy with the intelligence of a door mat. He feels incomplete without his intelligence.

Saeki was , at some point, one of the brightest starlet that the region had ever seen. Her music inspired thousands. She eventually throws it all away and leads a life as a recluse. Saeki’s loss of her love renders her incomplete. Nothing ever matters to her anymore. Fame doesn’t interest her and in fact , there is nothing left in life that she looks forward to.

The worlds of the characters start to converge. Nakata is on a mission to find a missing cat. His quest leads him to murder. Kafka spaces out from time to time without a single recollection of where he was or what he did. One evening, he finds himself soaked in blood and he begins to suspect that he might have murdered someone. Saeki’s waiting to die.

Will Nakata ever find his smarts again? Will Kafka ever meet his mother? Will Saeki move on with her life? The rest of the story is about the journey of the characters in trying to plug that void in their lives.

The book leaves us with a lot of questions. The void in people is beautifully called out. It would be a grave oversight if we were to assume that Nakata’s lack of intelligence is what the makes him feel incomplete. It’s not the intelligence that matters. It’s how the lack of it makes him feel that conveys a story. Nakata’s esteem , his view of himself is something to ponder about.

It’s the same with Kafka and Saeki. It’s not the state of not having anyone to love or losing someone that was deeply loved that ushers the void in these two. it’s leading a life with that void is what that renders them incomplete. Kafka sees his loss as his inability to be loved. Saeki sees her loss as the end of the line. She exists and ceases to live.

The book is an emotional roller coaster. Nakata is incapable of loving or being loved. He is numb to it. Saeki’s loss of her love keeps her robbed of love for all eternity. She’s unable to replenish that love back into her life. Kafka’s longing for his mother , alienates him from everybody else. He tries to see his mother and sister in everybody that he meets. It’s not the person’s loss that affects Kafka. It’s what Kafka is missing in himself that drives him to be what he is.

The book is big on the nature of a soul. The incomplete soul and how it affects people. Each soul is unique in the way it feels incomplete. The book plays out the fantastic irony of haves and have nots. The have nots, feel devastated by what they don’t have. The haves, who have what others are looking for, don’t give a hoot about what they have. Aint that the story of the world.

The book also speaks about the transcendence. Souls exist beyond the realm of linear time. They blend and morph seamlessly. The multiple lives converge and separate based on moments. This book represents loss and the endeavour of the human spirit to recover it and complete itself. Happiness is irrelevant.

Give it a shot. Choose to be amazed and left dazed by the wizardry of Murakami.

Karthik

A little faith

‘And you, whats up with you? You look like shit. Feels like a truck ran over you!!’

That, to me, is a compliment of the best kind. It affirms my faith. There are masks that we wear and there are days when the face reflects the storm that’s raged within the mind. I do look like shit. It affirms my mind. It’s definitely the kind of a deal that says that there are days when words are best that will ever be. It is a reminder that words mean.

And so just like that, I found myself in the usual crowd of the train. The more I think about the morning, the more I feel amused at the irony that faith has guided me to. There was a point in time where I believed. There was a time when I didn’t anymore. And then there was a time when I choose where I got to invest my faith into. Life finds many ways to remind me that the choice wasn’t a bad one.

Words got me here. Words got me to this calm forest of faith. I jumped in clueless. I jumped clueless to conclusions. I then stopped jumping, I was still clueless. Today, I’m comfortably clueless. I’ve moved away from facts and evidences that once inspired my thirst for curiosity. I choose to experience these days. Experience without bias. Experience without exerting an effort to understand the far corners of the whys and whats to the plot. It is quite something to just experience and refrain from the desire to understand the bigger picture. It’s quite a challenge to curb that innate curiosity to judge real from delusion. For what it’s worth, I do like to believe that experience comes first and understanding of it might come someday.

The simplest example is that of coincidences. I see far too many coincidences to a lot of things. I’m surrounded by coincidences. It does place me in a tricky spot. Am I seeing what I want to see? Am I seeing something that’s not real, but does sound surreal and good? Am I seeing a lie that I’ve subconsciously made a reality of sorts? The exhaustion from wanting a proof does act as a naughty accomplice. I don’t want a validity and is that because I believe or is it because I don’t want to lose a faith? I could argue both ways.

The fact is, irrespective of the side that I choose to pick, I still end up witnessing coincidences unfold before my eyes. I couldn’t brush them away.

This morning, off the blue, I decided to shut my eyes a bit and reach out to the infinity above and the vastness below. Like a spoilt brat, I reached out to the universe and the earth. I bridged myself firm between the two extremes. The drill was usual. I grounded myself to the earth. I asked for a favour from the universe to share a bit of light. I deliberated the energies trapped within me to run down through my body, reach to the depths of the earth and neutralise themselves.

This was different from the ones I’ve tried before. I wasn’t seated in the comforts of a room. I didn’t have a music to keep me company. I was in a loaded train. I was standing and conscious of the stations passing by. I had heard a station’s name call out. I knew I had time.

And so one by one, chakra by chakra, I deliberated that transfer of energy. Despite the rushed endeavour, the experience felt similar. I had managed to jump right into the phase where I didn’t have to spell out the sentences and words in my mind. They naturally truncated themselves. There only and intent of a thought. Intent manifested.

I disconnected my chord with the earth and looked above for a light of protection. Ask and it shall be given. I asked and it was graciously granted.

Faith is a tricky and slippery business. I don’t know what worked today. Did I convince myself of a lie? I did feel fresher and rejuvenated. I could feel the strength booming back into my body.

Did the exercise really work? Did my mind trick the body and prove the mind over matter theory?

It could be anything. When you go searching for a proof, you shall find one. When you experience and don’t bother about the logistics of what, why , how and when, nothing really matters. The biggest proponent of faith is when you don’t get what you pray for. It tests you. It makes you question your faith. It doesn’t really mean much to harbour a faith when every prayer goes answered. That faith defines you as a person when you hold on to it at a time when nothing goes in your favour. I’d like to believe so.

And so the coincidences keep me assured that I have my faith in the right spot. If that aint true, I’m at least blissfully foolish.

One day

‘As a child’ I started and paused for a second to see if she was paying proper attention. She was. Instinctively I smiled at her attention. I’ve always been a charismatic speaker. I’ve always been arrogant too. The lines had blurred a long while ago. I existed believing in the nonexistence of such a line.

This wasn’t a bad place to be in. The last few years of relentless pursuit of cases, the taste of victory, the parties and after parties, the ever growing stash of money in the bank, It definitely wasn’t a bad place to be in. On any other day, I’d have argued that this resort was the , or was to be treated as the eventual fruit of my labour. It hadn’t been an easy road. I had left behind many people and principles. I had grown accustomed to a solitary life. I grew into a life without strings attached. None of that mattered to me before. I don’t think it matters much now.

It hadn’t been an easy life though. I’ve always toiled hard. First, it was that struggle for being popular and noticed. I had neither at my disposal. Then it was the struggle to compete and get noted. There was a price to pay. I had exiled myself from the world in pursuit of that glory. Once I graduated, I didn’t have the need to turn back and take a stock of all my sacrifices. Only losers have the time to sit back and reflect on all the things they’ve lost. I wasn’t a loser. Not in my book. I was a winner. I went for the things I wanted. I fought for the things I wanted. I didn’t care about the moralities of the things that I wanted. If I wanted something, wrong was a word that ceased to exist. Everything was fair game. In fact, everything was a game to me. I kept winning and that’s all that mattered.

When I was a kid, I had many great many promises. All of those promises started with the words, ‘One day’. ‘One day, I’d be rich that people would flog around me’. ‘One day, I’d be successful that the world would stay envious of me’. ‘One day, I’d be too busy having fun that I wouldn’t notice that people who went missing from my life’. ‘One day I would jump of a plane and float free in the sky’.

My promises were both innocent and tainted. I promised myself a better life. I promised myself tangible treats for all the sacrifices that I had once made. I didn’t have the time to pursue the silly promises though. There was one case after another, one alleged perpetrator after another whom I had to protect in a court of law. I walked in with the guilty and usually walked out with the innocent. That’s my life. Ever heard of the phrase ‘ Swimming with the sharks’. I am a ruthless shark myself.

‘As a child, I had made many promises darling. Most of them started with the words, One Day’ I continued. She shook her head in disbelief.

I had taken my first proper , sober vacation in years. It gave me a lot of time to think. All the memories of my world gravitated back to one person. I was sitting by the beach, soaking the warm rays of the sun. I typed away a lot of lines at first. I read them once. Dissatisfied with them all, I deleted a lot of lines and gave it another iteration of a review. The lines still felt wrong. I deleted a few more. Eventually I settled down with the ones that I was happy with.

‘It’s been a while. Hope this is still your mail id. It’d be nice to hear from you’. I pulled the email address from the contacts list. It was a name that I hadn’t reached out to in decades. I had nothing to lose. This was beyond the point of pride.

I waited a week for a reply. None came. I shrugged my shoulders and flung the phone across the bed. The vacation had come to a close. I had bags to pack. I left another email. This time , I had left my mobile number. I prayed a bit , remembered god for a bit and then hit the send button. Prayers, God and my recipient, none of them answered.

Over the last few weeks, I did have a lot of time on my hands. I hadn’t taken a case. Money wasn’t a problem. I needed the time out. A few more mails sent and no responses received. I had shared the non consequential bits and bob of my life. About work, about the thrills of winning a case, about the raging parties , about how I had turned out to be a maverick. Email by email, I had opened up myself to a mailbox that didn’t reply. In course of the mails, I had learnt a few things about myself too. I had turned hollow inside. I now wasn’t even a shade of my former self. I had swapped excess in lieu for a wholesome life that had been constantly denied. I had rejected the world with the same passion that the world had used to reject me. I had gotten even with the world. Getting even and living in peace weren’t the same things.

I then opted to stop the emails. The saga had run for a month. I started to feel foolish about the exercise. I reverted to my current self. I had nothing to lose and it did help to nurture the ‘hell don’t care’ attitude. The attitude had served me well for so long.

‘So’, she asked. ‘What does that have to do with anything. We’ve talked about this before. I think you are being a stubborn child now. You are doing this because you are afraid. You are running away from life, just like you’ve run away from everything that had mattered before. This is serious.’

She did have a point. She would have made sense to me if I was the kind of a person who had the right kind of smarts to listen to people and learn from them. I wasn’t that. I had made my choice. There wasn’t much that would sway me away from my choice. I can be very dense when I’m that way. Occupational hazard, I’d tell her that. Today, the charm wouldn’t work on her. She wasn’t there to sit transfixed by my charm. She was there because she meant business.

‘I don’t care. I don’t want to care. Can you stop bothering me please?’ and finally the holy grails of emails had arrived. I read through the lines and smirked arrogantly. Of course that wasn’t the intended meaning. There was anger. Yes. There was so much hate. Yes. There was also a mobile number , right under the body of the mail. I read between the lines.

‘The thing is, I’ve lived an entire life waiting for that one day.’ I said. ‘I have a choice now. Right here, Right now. I can either sit here and make another promise that starts with One day, or I can just call tomorrow as that fateful One day and start living things up. I pick the latter. I think tomorrow is a wonderful start’. I concluded and started outside the window. The skies , dark as ever, felt inviting.

‘This is insane’ she replied. ‘I wonder what the hell made you decide such a thing’

It wasn’t a hard choice to make. Of course I didn’t feel like telling her about it. I had reached out to the mobile number. Since my number wasn’t published, my call was picked and answered. Answered it was. It drove her completely nuts. Disbelief took over her. Then came anger. Then came wrath. Then came her slew of abuses. Ten years of resentment and contempt , articulated using the flimsiest of abuses. She had vented out the block of boulder that had been buried in her heart. I listened to it patiently.

‘SAY SOMETHING’ she finally screamed. It wasn’t bad. The call wasn’t cut off. I smiled and thanked my stars for that emotionally super charged welcome.

‘I’m dying Sonia. Could be a year. Could be less. cold be more. But there is no escaping it. I can either stay here in the rehab centre while they try to prolong my life, or I can spend a bit of my time seeing you, spending a few moments and making a few memories before I conk. So the choice is yours. You are the only world outside these walls that matter to me. Either you agree to meet me, or You don’t hear from me after this’

Life wasn’t how I planned it to be. Of course, Sonia couldn’t care less if I lived or died. She refused to meet. I didn’t feel like sitting in a room and spend the time waiting for my death. I made a nice little list of the things that I wanted to do, people with whom I wanted to make a few amends. If I were to die, I’d die on my own terms.

I guess I’m arrogant that way. Or brave. I don’t know. That line had been blurred a long while ago.

‘I want to die on my own terms Doctor‘ I told her and hugged her.

‘Fine. It’s your life after all’ she said and stormed off the room. I looked at my packed bags and the empty room. It felt weird. It felt both right and wrong. I felt the pangs of anxiety grip me. In a nutshell, I finally felt alive.

#Fiction

Karthik