The house of walls

Light.

The tiny streaks of light that managed to dodge the thick drapes that covered the windows were bright enough to illuminate the room. The luminance was soft and subtle without a glare that could strain the eye. There were days when I liked the house to be that way. She preferred a well lit house. Our separation started on that simplest taste over light. 

The bed looked made. It was empty. I couldn’t remember why I had walked in, but I was there nonetheless. This happens a lot to me. I walk into places without a faintest idea of why I got there. I shrugged my shoulder and patted the made bed. I was careful enough to not leave behind a crease. I turned around towards the dresser. Our anniversary photograph stood there, framed and neat. I examined it close to find no trace of dust resting on it. Typical, I thought to myself.

I left the room and made it towards the hall and occupied my usual recliner. I felt fatigued and I wasn’t sure if it was the age that was catching up or the fact that I couldn’t remember if I had any breakfast that morning, that made me feel tired. I sat wondering how my life turned out the way it did. 

Dark. 

Typical, she wondered. Her husband liked to leave the drapes closed, even on bright mornings like the day. He was her perfect opposite in many ways. She liked the house airy and bright. He liked it cold and dark. She had enjoyed cleaning and sorting things into their proper place while he had lived a hobo’s dream of untidiness and grime. Her lips twitched as she found herself lost in thoughts about how they had managed to endure the years together. 

She made the bed and walked towards the kitchen. She filled the water in the kettle and tried to switch it on. It just wouldn’t start. She wanted to call out to her husband. She knew there wouldn’t be an answer. She sighed and gave up on the notion of making tea. She glanced towards the hall to see if he was lazing around his chair. The hall was as empty as most of their life had been. Typical. He had this uncanny ability to never be around when she needed him. Had had never been around when she had needed him the most. Annoyed, in general about everything, she walked to the porch to find solace in the world around. Her chair on the porch had been her trusty support system. She had spent numerous hours sitting there and watching the world go by. The view wasn’t bad. She could spectate her neighbourhood in peace. The pointless business of the world comforted her. Deep down, she felt that the world shared her isolation. Nobody outside seemed to speak to anybody else. There wasn’t a casual chatter to be enviously spy upon. The transactions of the world were just that. Mere transactions. No soul in them. No life in them. To her, everybody seemed to be dead. At least on the inside. 

Shadows.

I heard the door creak. The sudden sound jolted me. I could feel my heart pounding. I knew I was being silly. I presumed it could have been the wind that was playing games on my otherwise dulled mind. Just to be safe and simply out of curious compulsion, I scanned the room to see if there was anybody around. I knew there weren’t. I felt silly over spooking myself over. It was a ridiculous thought. I knew fear had no place, at least not anymore. The worst was already in the past. There wasn’t any place for fears in the present or even the future. Things didn’t work that way. I shook my head in disappointment. The noise had left me unsettled and restless. I couldn’t bring myself to sit anymore. I decided to hit the porch. 

The porch had been a wonderful place of sorts. It held many memories. She had always usually been there. Looking at the world. Smiling at the world. The best of her was when she was outside. I knew the many promises that we had made together , sitting on that porch. I knew the many promises that I broke, that we broke, when we argued on that porch. The porch had become a world of its own ,to us. No one bothered us there. It always felt that we were the only ones , trapped in a wide vast world. 

I stood by the porch. The day had gradually dimmed its glory. It had become a gloomy day. The glum gloominess had somehow seeped away from the house and corrupted the world around. The metal railing felt cold. I stared far into the land, not wanting to focus on anything in particular. My eyes strained towards her unoccupied chair. It pained me to find that empty. The searing pain kept growing. The weight upon my heart felt heavier till I couldn’t bear the burden. I felt ambushed by the overwhelming grief that suddenly found me. I couldn’t explain where all the grief was coming from. The confusion left me dazed till I couldn’t hold on to a thought. Any thought for that matter. Everything started to black out. 

And then I saw a streak of light. 

She sat on her chair and her thoughts lost upon the world in front of her. Thoughts became tears. She couldn’t tell where the stream of tears started from. Was it that time when he screamed at her? It seemed unlikely. It must have been something grave that would have germinated that anger that led to a furious hate. The hate that left her with resentment. The resentment that fuelled her wrath. The blinding wrath had rendered her helpless. She broke down within the chain that bound her. She had endured the cycles of anger and hate till she couldn’t tell the two apart. In her state of misery, she blamed herself for what that had transpired and her guilt and denial alienated her from him. He wasn’t there anymore. He wasn’t there when she needed him the most. He just wasn’t. They weren’t a couple any longer. He was emotionally dead to her till.

The thoughts overwhelmed her. The anger flamed and hate burnt bright. She burned in her anguish. There was only that anger and hate that consumed and kept consuming till there was nothingness. The nothingness led to the dark. She blanked out, lost in thoughts, lost to self, Lost. She shut her eyes tight to cope up with the overwhelming strain. When she finally opened her eyes, all that she could see was the dark. 

The world of real

The door creaked wide open. The house was sparkling clean and tidy. It smelt fresh and unused. The barren house echoed the silence to a reverberating boom. The sound of footsteps amplified as it reflected from one wall to another. 

“This”, the lady proclaimed with a marketable smile, “is fresh in the market. A fantastic two bedroom house. Single owners. No kids. The house is in a fantastic condition and is selling under the market value.” , she concluded her practised pitch. 

She walked the guests through the house. The drapes were drawn and she opened them up to let the natural light spread through the room. The mild chillness of the house vaporised and the house started feeling warm again.

The viewing done, the prospective buyer couldn’t resist the temptation of asking why such a beautiful house was selling cheap.

The realtor paused. She knew the question was inevitable. People usually found out sooner than later. There wasn’t an easy way around it. 

“Sentiment, I presume” she started. “Tragedy struck the previous family. The wife had a long history with depression. You know. Things happen. She took the easy way out. The husband couldn’t cope up with the loss. One evening he went out for a walk and a car ran him over. The case was closed as a suicide. The street’s CCTV footage clearly showed that the guy jumped in. Lousy way to go but it’s still a romantic tale of sorts. The couple couldn’t stay separated. People blame the house!”

Within the Light and the Dark, amongst the shadows, the couple continue to struggle to reconcile and reclaim the life that they once shared. 

Karthik 

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The art and science of deception

If you are here, you’ve already braved the first step. I reckon it’s the curiosity that prompted the click. I guess there is also the boredom that encourages even the meekest of us to brave into newer waters. As long as you are here, might as well indulge me in a little madness. 

Take a deep breath. Chill. Relax. Ask yourself a SINGLE Question. Are we ready? Ok, here it goes. Ask yourself a question. 

I’m still waiting for you to frame that question in your mind. A moment more. Atta boy, that does it. You have now successfully asked yourself a nice little question. 

What was that question about? The answer doesn’t carry any meaning at all. The answer is irrelevant to what I have to say. It is the question that matters. It has always been the question that has always elevated humankind. Intelligence is not the ability to find answers. The art of intelligence is asking the questions that we didn’t even know could be asked. 

If I had to fathom a guess, the question that you asked yourself would probably feature into the following categories.

1. Questions about the immediate self : These include, what am I doing? Why am I here? What do I intend to do this weekend? What is the solution to that specific problem that I was thinking about before I got here to this post.

2. Questions about the bigger challenges in the world : These include, Why is the world in the shape and form that it is? How do we solve the water problem? How can we eradicate poverty? How do we enable a better future for the generations to come? 

3. Questions beyond this realm : Is there really a life after death? Do the different planes exist? 

4. Questions that are detached from the self : Wonder what movie is running? Who is that hero in that Movie? Where did I previously hear this song from? Where was it copied from…

The questions can be many and the questions always and I mean ALWAYS reflect the truest nature of the self. A lamb that’s dressed as a lion, still can only think like a lamb. It takes a lion to be a lion. 

In effect, the nature of questions that one asks is a reflection of how diverse one is in their thought process. The fact that you asked yourself only one question, it also articulates the priority that you internally follow. The magnitude of the question reveals the frame of mind that you are in. 

Let’s try another question. Go on. Ask yourself a question again. I’ll wait. 

Done? 

Ready?

And once again, the nature of question that you’d ask yourself is a reflection of how deep one can be. If one is playful, the second question is sillier than the first. If one feels suddenly pressured to post a serious question, you apparently readjusted your priority and made an effort to think beyond the mundane norm. And that is the wonderful art and science of deception. 

At any given point in time, we are many people, bundled into a single persona. We are thinkers, we are goofballs. We are pessimists and we can also be realists. There is that idealist in us and there is that hopeful optimist. What we choose to expose, at a given point in time, to a given specific audience is a testament to how much we are willing to pretend/stretch/accommodate/adjust in order to gain acceptance. 

It is in our nature to evolve to gain acceptance. Even the brashest, most abrasive version of us seeks that acceptance. That social status of being a misfit, rebel is also a status that warrants acceptance. If nobody cares about that rebel self of us, are we really rebels? Rebels need that acknowledgement in order to assert an identity of being a rebel. 

We are deceptive. We expect honesty in others and are masters at keeping ourselves deceived under the veil of illusion and denial. In buried secrecy, we’d like the world to work in our favour and deceive ourselves by reminding ourselves that the world is unfair and it is unfair for the entire lot. This phenomenon of contradicting realities is attributed as Cognitive Dissonance. The more our conflict, the more drastic is our dissonance. 

This deception can work in our favour, as long as we understand the lies that we tell to the world and ourselves. The world runs on white lies and crumbles when we start to believe our own lies. That , by itself, is a contradiction. Science has a term for this behaviour. Power of Suggestion. 

Power of suggestion is the ability of repetition that convinces us to believe in something. Repeat a lie for a million times and over time, you’d vouch for that lie to be the truest of the true north. And that’s the Mandela effect !!!!

Deception is all around us. Embrace it or be a victim. The truth is only the right question away. Such is the might of asking a question. 

Karthik

Hey

How long must time flow before once stops calling a table the usual table’, I sat wondering. The table had always been the usual table. The brands had changed, ownerships swapped, contracts renewed, and the location of the usual table had always been a near constant. Right by the window. During the summer, the window would be left, ever so slightly open, to let the warm breeze through. The winters were no different either. Different season, the same old warm breeze to gently kiss our faces and leave behind a moist comforting warmth. 

It had been a while though. Five years to be exact. I was surprised that the coffee house was still open. I was even more surprised to find out that the layout remained the same. Some things are better left unchanged. I placed the order and took the usual table. While I was traversing through the many thoughts of the past, the present , the multiple what ifs, the order was served. I was a stranger in my own ancestral home of sorts. A new face that didn’t not attract the familiar warm welcome smile. The bloke stood around waiting to see if I’d request for any besides my order. I offered a smile to close the transaction. Without any words wasted, the event came to a finesse close. The piping hot cup of hibiscus tea was steaming in front of me. The vapours carried the pleasant smell of fruity flowers and it filled the table with its aroma. Uplifting. Yes, that’s how it felt. I sank comfortably into my chair. The train of thoughts had arrived at the station. 

All aboard, I silently screamed. 

Five years is a respectable period of time where stuffs happen in life. Five years, I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost weight. The face now is littered with wrinkles of worries and the million thoughts pondered. The hair line had fallen back by a bit. I stared into the tan exposed on my ring finger. 

Thud-Thudd.. My heart started racing at the mere thought. I still remember the day when I removed the nice silver ring , threw it as far as I could. I screamed from the bottom of my lungs and attracted quite a lot of stares from the onlookers. I distinctly remember not giving them a moment’s thought. Never did ever after either. 

Thud-thud.. The mind ushered a rushed montage of the fight that led to that action. I was surrounded by the demons of my past. The moment long gone, the memories still fresh and nearly ready to start phasing into a fade, the pain and the misery felt horribly fresh. My heart kept beating faster and faster as I descended deeper into that long isolated, distanced memory. 

Thud..thud, and just like that my mind forced me to visualise the first time we had met. The details of the world around had eroded away in time. Her and everything about her never quite did. Floral. The colour whose name I never did make an effort to learn. For me , reds are still reds. Pink is pink. Yellows and blues. Blacks and whites. Every other color is one or the other color that I knew. Everything else was a transient state on my love drenched eyes. Everything else had forever and always remained illuminated. If only there was a color to denote light, the brightness it casts upon the eyes, my eyes. The weightlessness of the shade, the brightness and luminance of the shade of sun’s honey-glazed rays. Yeah, the moment was as vivid as I had first experienced. 

Thud……………………thud. The warmth slowed the beat and filled me with a certain happy, satisfying melodic lullaby. The kind of song that wasn’t meant to put a child to sleep. But to soothe it, comfort it, assure it that it was a beautiful world and that nothing would ever go wrong. 

Five years, I had lived a life without that rhythm. The music had long faded away, the curtains had fallen, the stage cleared, the audience had returned home. I had endured and survived the isolation of an empty auditorium. I had filled myself with echoes of my making, echoes of my breath, murmurs through my silence and thickness of my isolation. The time had been kind enough to fill my world with people, whose faces I had forgotten as quickly as their names I had stored on my phone. I had lived on a borrowed time of pretend smiles and forced laughs. I longed for a moment of a sincere smile. The moment where I could be myself. The real me, without my gilded guarding walls. 

Time had made a man of me. Strong, stiffer upper lip. Poker faced. Cold at heart, colder at mind. The cynic was the last to die. The romantic had died first. The realist died later. The pessimist faded away. I remained a shadow of a former glorious self. I remained. I wasn’t a prize, but survivors aren’t often one. It was the best that I could muster. A de-stringed instrument, discarded, discorded. An instrument nonetheless. In time the anger had dissipated, regrets ignored and then forgotten. I had learnt to live with the present. I had learnt to live with myself. I had learnt to live past the longing and the eyes had learnt to look past it’s desperate desire. 

Thud..Thud… The heart picked pace at the thought of the time my eyes longed. The truth is that the eyes had never ceased to stop longing. I had pretended to stop. I had pretended a lot. As the moment approached, the Five years were now taking a toll. 

What would she say? Would she say she missed me? Would she lie? Would she pretend? Where would it leave us? Where would I be, where would we be. Would we separate again? The questions were many and the answers were scary. I could give myself a happy fate and sit with the happiest of answers. I could lie to myself. I would be happy for a moment longer. I couldn’t bring myself to it though. I could assume the worst, it wouldn’t be far away from the truth. I could, but I sat frozen in thought. Frozen in fears. Frozen. 

There wasn’t much to do but wait. I reached for the cup of steaming tea. 

My eyes strained as I tried to focus on the one walking towards the table. Tears welled up, blurring my sight. Emotions welled up , blurring my existence. A void swallowed me whole and robbed me of words or sound. A ringing sound deafened my ears in that moment of first sight. Everything felt illuminated , once again. Everything was illuminated. 

“Hey!”

I finally managed to call out. 

A silence ensued. A million paragraphs went unsaid, un-typed, unspoken. A million words lost in blackened obscurity. A few seconds of eternity, engulfed in wistful separation , distanced and held together in hopes of a reunion.

‘Hey!’

The world had sunk into darkness while I was drowning in light. 

Karthik 

Inspired by this wonderful couple that I met on the tube the other day. I reckon one was leaving and the other held on, staring into her lovely dark eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder about the million things that went unsaid between the two. 

[Book Review]: Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a fictional take of the journey of a life. Written in the 1920’s, The tale has stood the test of time and does come out shining bright as it always probably has. 

I’d brave to call this book a spiritual fiction. It beautifully marries a fictional journey of life and core principles of spirituality. The audience is neither expected nor forced to accept the path laid out in the book. It only recounts the path taken by the protagonist. Where it works is the fact that the protagonist wanders through life. He makes his own decisions, lives to deliver the consequences of his actions, learns from it, unlearns from it, and eventually manages to elevate himself through the vicious cycles of life.

Born into a family of educated , Siddhartha masters the scriptures and soon awakens to the fact that he has learnt all that he could from the books and that there isn’t much to grasp from it. He makes up his mind to leave the comforts of his house and spend the time with Samanas, who live a saintly life in the forest. Siddhartha is accompanied by his dearest friend, Govinda. 

The ascetic live teaches Siddhartha a better perspective into life. Once again, he is faced with the challenge of stagnation. He walks away from the Samanas’ way of life. The duo chance to meet Buddha. Deeply moved by Buddha’s teaching, Govinda embraces the Buddhist way of life. Siddhartha and Govinda part ways. There is an itch, deep rooted in Siddhartha’s mind that keeps him detached from embracing Buddhism. The protagonist argues that the path of the one is through discovery of self and that there is no teacher who can unlock that mystery on behalf of the pursuer of that truth. With this in mind, Siddhartha, once again, leaves the comforts of a routine. 

Life does take a turn from here on. Siddhartha meets Kamala and in order to spend more time with her, he gets into the business of making money. Caught into the cycle of wealth, wine and wonderful woman, Siddhartha evolves into a very successful business man. His midas touch is spoken about through the land. 

Rest of the tale is about Siddhartha’s quest to discover the self. Does he eventually find peace? The book has the answer to it all. 

I loved the book and mostly because I do tend to view a lot of the traits of the protagonist in myself. I like to learn through actions and experiences. I don’t enjoy the comforts of an instructor led liberation. I’d rather fail on my own accord than succeed by nodding my head and walking without understanding the way of the world in a manner that makes sense to me. 

The book presents the best example of life that can ever be expressed. In life, one thing always leads to another. There is always a path to choose. What we do with that road, often determines the kind of person that we go on to be. There aren’t good or evil folks. There are just folks. Who either carry their actions or don’t. Both , action and inaction, lead to consequences and we enter a cycle of cause and effect , action and consequence. Some of us find ourselves trapped. Some , not so much. 

Then come the multitude of spiritual philosophes throughout the book. I shall not bore you with them. The simplest philosophy that is worth writing about is probably this. 

Believe in yourself. Heed to the inner voice that guides you. Fear is a by product of comfort. When you shed your skin and walk away from your comforts, the first to embrace you would be your fears. When you let that fear go, rest of the world’s million wisdom come running to you. 

Siddhartha’s journey of life is a one with many highs and many lows. It is easy and human to let ourselves get distracted. Getting distracted is not a sin. Getting distracted is pretty much alright too. If that brings you happiness. If that brings you the kind of happiness that sustains. Siddhartha had to go through a series of character defining sins in order to break away from the traps of life and elevate himself. It assures and confirms my faith in the fact that one has to do em all, saturate from it in order to reject the illusion. The book , to me, is a wonderful reminder that salvation is not for the elite. Salvation is only one thought, action, intent away. Rest are barriers made by the mind. 

In fact the crux of the book is that even barriers made by the mind aren’t real. Matrix called it right. ‘THERE IS NO SPOON. THERE NEVER WAS’

Are you a spiritual enthusiast, or a literature buff? Either parties would love the simplicity of this book and the warmth in the tale conveyed. Give it a read, There aint much that one stands to lose by reading this ! 

Karthik 

A world of many worlds

“Breathe in….” I softly whispered to myself. I took a heavy heave. I paused as I could feel my lungs fill up. “Breathe out” I silently thought the words. I exhaled. I repeated the steps a few times. A few iterations later, I stopped feeling dizzy. Dizziness is a natural symptom, or something along the lines , I did remember being told. Or was it something that I overheard , I wasn’t sure. Not that it mattered anyway. I gave up on that immediate chain of thought. 

The lavish field of brown and green was in front of me. A gentle breeze blew that swayed the crops. The view was mesmerising. It was a scene that I knew I’d cherish. I had viewed similar frames on the telly and the big screen a billion times before. The earliest that I could remember was from the movie Gladiator. Russell Mr Crowe would walk in such a field. His sword dripping red, the violence of his life was a beautifully juxtaposition over the peace that nature’s best could offer. 

It almost felt that. I almost felt that juxtaposition. Only, I couldn’t elaborate the things I was comparing the field to. Was it my inner turmoil as opposed to the pleasant view that surrounded me? Was it the stir of the gentle breeze as opposed to the storm that was raging in my mind ? Was it the intellectual arrogance that I knew the word Juxtaposition and was desperately trying to play it cool by using it? I wasn’t sure. I’m also told that this feeling of staying lost and confused was common. 

I took a stroll through the field. I thought that the experience might make me feel epic. It was and then a few steps later, it wasn’t. It felt like the other billion roads that I had previously walked in. The magnificence of the moment soon expired and I was left with the mundane reality of the present. I was all alone in a field, which was probably in the middle of no where. I probably walked a mile more. It was long before I stumbled upon another fellow bloke. He was dressed in red and blue. He was a worker. His attire made no attempts to disguise that fact. He was a man of the soil. He had probably toiled the land for all his life. He had a pleasant face. He carried a warm smile. I couldn’t place his face but deep down, I knew I had seen him somewhere. Maybe in a different life , in a different time. He seemed familiar and I would vouch for that familiarity. 

We exchanged a short burst of greetings. We crossed our paths and walked away in opposing direction. I didn’t make much of that anymore. And soon my feet carried me to a small shop. Rusty and dusty building that probably sold the essentials. Water, bread, fuel, USB charger! I could almost imagine the state of the shop from the inside. I knew with a sort of certainty that my imagination wasn’t far off the mark. I entered the shop and immediately felt a buzzing sound humming inside my head. 

“That wasn’t bad” I exclaimed. I removed my VR headset. It was a bit bulky. The landscape exploration APP that I was working on was slowly getting into a decent shape. The textures felt real. The lighting, the cast of shadows, felt real. The physics engine was nearly spot on. I wasn’t sure about the gravity engine. I hadn’t made an effort to notice how the dynamics behaved but I made a quick mental note to observe if there were any flaws. The testing department of monkeys would find flaws anyway. I knew their existence served a singular purpose of making my life miserable. The apes would pile up their work stack and clear them off just when I’d have my vacation plans. They were consistent at this monkey business. Certain things never did change. I was mentally gearing up for that confrontation. 

Satisfied with the beta run, I wrapped up the day’s work by shooting out pointless emails. Status updates to folks who either didn’t care or didn’t care enough to key in words to acknowledge that they had caught up on my day’s worth of work. None of that mattered. It was all a part of the job. 

I exited the building. I stood facing the city. Barren. Treeless. Nature-less. The city was a void. It had been that way for centuries now. Somewhere in time, someone had mucked up. One by one, the water had first vanished, plants and other flora were next to go. Fauna followed suit. I think the bees were first to go. Sparrows next. No body gave a damnN about them fishes, but they vanished too. Within a blink of an eye, in that splice between three generations, the big ball of blue reduced to a big dust bowl of brown. The surface is now blisteringly hot. We burrow ourselves. We no longer reach for the skies. We reach for the centre of the ball instead. Everything is artificial. Internet, or the web as we call it, exists. That’s all folks apparently needed and desperately wanted. Give them a web and they’d endure through inferno and beyond. It kept their appetite for pampered distraction satisfied. We no longer have water or natural food. Everything is assembled to resemble things that once were. 

I made it back home. Ate the usual pot of goo. I’m told that the goo resembled spinach. It wasn’t green and I don’t know what spinach tasted like. To me everything tastes like sand. We are forbidden to taste exposed soil. I don’t know what sand tastes like. That’s a guess that I can fathom. I turn off the lamination in my capsule and close my eyes to rest. 

I see a lush field of green and brown. 

Sometimes , I don’t know which of the world is a real one. 

Karthik 

Nose Dive : Where fiction meets fact while history repeats and masses are reduced sheep

The title had to be senselessly long. There wasn’t an easy way around it. Trust me, I thought a while and decided to take the longer obscure road. 

The crux is an insight into current events. To connect the dots, the prerequisites include Black Mirror : Episode Nose Dive. China’s beloved Social Credit ID, a little Roman History, a world of religion, Gods appeased and finally Money that absolves all evil. 

That’s a long ask. Lets dig right in. Black Mirror is a smart , slick, TechnoPsychological series of sorts. It offers a view of how the current state of technology has the potential to shape up the human and social behaviour. Nose dive is a special episode in many ways. Personally, I do think the protagonist is wicked gorgeous. That’s beside the point though. Nose dive is about a society that integrates the life with a social credit score of sorts. Timidly put, the better your score in the digital world of pretend avatars, the better is your living condition in the real world of blood and flesh. The protagonist starts on a pretty decent score and has a means to bump her social standing to a whole new league. Bada boom, things go south. As the social popularity and score plummets, her life starts to take a beating. She’s denied access to public services, she’s blacklisted from using the airlines. She gets a beat down car at the rental agency. While hell breaks loose, the protagonist comes to realise that her life , so far, had been a silly futile façade. The episode ends with her locked up in jail and she finally manages to taste freedom through her imprisonment. 

China, being China, decided to go nuts with the concept. I believe I had spoke about this when I came across the news where China had announced that it had plans of implementing such a social scoring system. It’s been less than a year and on an average, it takes me longer than that to even decide upon a routine, China went ahead and implemented the scheme. I caught up on a news snippet which explained the implemented scoring system. Apparently, blokes start on a score of 1000. That’s rather modest of the Chinese to limit themselves to a 1000. 

Each good deed is awarded by a score. Each rude , unruly, undesired public behaviour results in deductions and public shaming. The score has a direct impact on travel and other aspects of daily living. The news showed that a bloke being blacklisted from a train because of a poor social standing. His mode of transport was downgraded from a super fast express train to a bus ride. 3 hours versus 10, to be precise. 

The implementation is nothing short of an epic endeavour. 3D face scanning cameras installed everywhere. Social tracking through diligent use of the big brother infrastructure. And for a good measure, throw in ‘Social Inspectors’ whose only job is to monitor people and scribe down events and scores. Do you remember the good old days from School. The times when teachers were either absent or stuck in a hang over, the class pupil monitor would rise to the occasion of noting down names. Three strikes later, the usual punishment was a simple means of public shaming. The means of imparting such swift justice was through the teacher beating the bejeebus off you in front of the class. 

Yeah. Good times. I learnt a very valuable lesson growing up. I knew I couldn’t stop making trouble. I knew I was slick enough to pocket the pupil leader too. I’d always have dirt of on the bloke or strings to pull. A criminal with an exit road. Professionally speaking, I had my exit covered. It’s a skill that helps and help it does plenty. 

That was a good detour. So China does that. A steadfast way to climb up the social standing is by being good, staying good. OR, start making hefty donations to the Community. 

Money, once again, was a means to atone for the sins of the past. I do know that this aint something new or shocking or even surprising. Where have I seen this social phenomenon. And then it dawned. Charity always begins at home. 

Bribing. When you bribe mortal men, it’s corruption. When you bribe the gods, it’s devotion. Most humans try to equate their sins with tangible trinket or sizeable donation to compensate for their comeuppance. It’s not as sinister as I call it but the general idea still remains true. From coconuts to promises to travel far to visit the houses of many gods, this practice of offering to compensate the blessing bestowed has always been a legitimate trade. Most of us do not harbour sinister motives. Our lies are white and crimes are usually victimless. The bribe feels justified and normal. 

Not so long ago, a certain pope tried this barter system in the ancient roman empire. Not a long while later, the Vatican is possibly one of the richest conglomerate known to mankind. Religion, ever since or better still forever always, has been a profitable venture. Before technology evolved, humanity had attempted this social credit score by exercising moralities and codes of conduct. I’d like to believe that the system failed. Maybe it didn’t. The general idea is that if the big brother does not remind the folks that he’s watching and keeping tabs, most folks would volunteer and welcome the oppression. 

Decades later, humanity is ready for it and doing it. Volunteer disclosure and surrender of every angle and aspect of life is prevalent. All works fine unless someone assumes the role of the big brother and makes a declaration. Then, all hell breaks loose. We don’t have a problem with staying oppressed. We have a problem when someone rubs our egos with it. 

So back to China, While the intent is there, the technology is relevant , the schemes in play, the Chinese have a herculean task ahead of them. It’s called Logistics. Handling such vast data is impractical and given the current means of shoddy implementation, it is unsustainable. Cant have humans police humans. The technology isn’t mature where the Skynet can fully take over. This ushers us right into a page from the cyber punk dystopia that the future is. China sets the example of how social manipulation can be done through use of cognitive assessment of psychological expression. To simplify that statement, it means, in time, algorithms will try to predict what we’d possibly end up doing. Pre Crime , hello Minority Report. Smart algorithms will enforce control over humanity by constantly policing and monitoring. In time, most of us will adapt and play along. As long as no body tells us that we’d then be reduced to being a herd of sheep. We are probably a century away from such a fate. Or maybe just a few decades away really. The ground work has been done today. Rest is inevitable organic progression. Fear mongering will ensure that some state will be smart enough to render its citizens dumb. Oh, Patriot Act anyone? Or Demonitisation ? History on a constant perpetual loop mode. 

It is funny that no matter what we do, we are still doing the same things over again. While the technology has changed, the human element behind the technology has remained unchanged. Maybe the human trait is a constant and fair enough, humanity has remained doomed , only we refuse to accept that. 

Karthik

[Book Review] A Brave New World

A brave new world , by Aldous Huxley is a depressing take on the state of humanity in a futuristic society. This future of mankind is also possibly set in a alternate timeline of history. The tale relies on the current principles and practices of science to forecast a predicted future rather than calling scenarios out of thin air to paint a state of dystopia. The tale felt chilling and terrifying because of its nature of staying grounded in plausible reality. 

The tale kicks off with an introduction of the new London. It’s a London where science triumphed and led humanity into a consumerist civilisation. It is a new land where babies are manufactured and are no longer a planned/unplanned outcome of intimacy. The babies are then sorted into different categories, ranging from Alpha + to Epsilon -, which determine the nature of the future that awaits them. Alpha plus, is the top of the tops of the society. Epsilons are reduced to beings that carry out menial tasks and enjoy almost near perfect invisibility in their world. Nobody really cares about the epsilons. The whole society , however, believes that there is a proper place for each of the classes. 

Science also lends a helping hand in conditioning the society. The science of brainwashing is transformed into an ART of flawless perfection. The babies are conditioned right from the act of inception. Different messages are drilled across different spurts of growth. The conditioning is not just restricted to infants. It alters the formative years of the individuals and kids grow into brain washed adults. The new world accepts this conditioning without exception and without any protest. 

The land has also evolved away from the confines of emotions. This new world believes in the consumerist excess. Love is no longer defined as conditional or unconditional. Love is no longer exclusive. The land enforces a regime of un-exclusivity where the thought of individualism doesn’t exist. It’s a free for all, within acceptable classes, state of existence. 

The passages above are not attempts at passing a judgement over the state of this new world. It exists. In it, there is no crime. There is no greed and jealousy. Mankind has evolved to pursue desires rather than trying to win it over through the acts self control and discipline. Mankind , in fact, would have evolved beyond the need for introspection because a life of excess and fulfilment of pleasures keep the species far away from pointlessness of self or what it means. There is unilateral happiness and contentment across the society. This world is probably a kind of world that most worlds would have desired, at some point in time. 

In a nutshell, there is no judgement because this new world delivers the results of peace and harmony and simplified living. 

And then comes the trouble.

The take kicks off with Bernard Marx. Bernard is an Alpha but has appearances of a delta. This leads to resentment and insecurities within his head. Bernard has an opportunity to explore the uncivilised world and he takes it. Bernard is accompanied by Lenina. Lenina is a woman of this new world. She , like rest of the new world, believes in unrestricted get togethers. The new world has funny interpretations of Relationships. Get-togethers is more like it. 

The uncivilised world resembles the normal world of Gods, Love, emotions and misery. The uncivilised word is not a product of science. It’s a world where men are men and women are women and the two learn to live together , forming meaningful relationships and enduring the miseries of life. This world has a god , who is worshipped, ideals that are pursued and dreams and desires that are worth dying for. 

Bernard and Lenina find the uncivilised world silly. Lenina finds it hard to understand the word Mother. She struggles to understand the logic and reason behind any woman wanting to suffer the process of birthing. To their minds, it’s not a wonder that the uncivilised world is an animalistic mess. Unlike their modern world, People age old in the uncivilised world and oldage manifests and plagues the body there. 

Bada boom, twists and turns later, John and Linda are moved to the new world. Rest of the story is about how the civilians from the uncivilised world cope up with the civilised new world. PS: There is no and then they all lived happily ever after. 

The book, while being a depressing read, is also a fantastic eye opener of sorts. It cruises through the many human emotions effortlessly. The discrimination amongst the classes, the construct of a polygamous society which conditions humans to not express any affections towards any other specific individual. And then there is the absolute disappearance of individualism. It’s also both ironic and interesting to find that irrespective of what and where a human is, humankind will never be free from the demons of insecurities. 

In a stark contrast to the civilised world, the uncivilised world offers the comforts of acknowledging and accepting the many emotions that humans are capable of expressing. Individuality exists and there is a need for a central god to govern. And then there is the misery of just being a human. 

The book presents a wonderful case of what humanity has to shed in order to attain a peaceful and a harmonious existence. It calls out the nature of such a life. Maybe reality is the fact that humans make life a miserable affair and humans would have to be stripped of humanity for peace to prevail. Maybe cold clinical science is the way to go. 

Give it a read , if you have similar questions on what it means to be Human. 

Karthik 

Fancy a cup of tea?

I was late. Late as usual. Parties are meant to be crashed late. I was rushed once and that left me in a whole world of a daze. I chose to not be rushed anymore. He does that. In fact he does that a lot. Prances upon other people’s business and always lending a ready hand to shove those who are waiting to be pushed. I fell for his trap once. I knew I’d not fall for that one again.

The day had been long. I could barely recognize where I was. Each step felt like I was in a land of magic. It was a funny thought that I had. I thought magic was meant to be a source of entertainment to jaded minds. And here I stood. In a magical land, with magical creatures around speaking their foreign tongue. A life was now in magic. The thought mustered. How jaded had to be my life for magic to be of this magnitude. I secretly wished to feel fresh and happy once this grand trick was over. If it got over. I didn’t sit on sureties over the matter. I accepted the new realities of where I was. I had to let time run its course. Besides, I didn’t know how to get back home. There was only way ahead. I was taking it with an open mind.

“Ah already late”, the March Hare( that would be Mr White Rabbit to us all) said. “Don’t you ever learn your lessons Alice? “, he asked looking at me. He was cross. He wasn’t all that great when it came to keeping a poker face.

“6 times, 6 times I tell you and still turn up late!!!!”. 

My face contoured to a disgust. The rabbit was mad. What did he mean SIX. This was the first time I was ever here. Here, wherever it was. I decided against putting up a fight. It seemed rather pointless to me at the moment. I was more interested in getting the day done.

“Over here”, the rabbit continued speaking . “That would be Mr Hatter, we call him Mad Hatter. He’s, ah well, a little mad. You’ll know once he starts talking”.

I stared at the hatter. He sure looked goofy enough. Explicitly long hat. Only his hat looked clean and crisp. His clothes were tattered. His clothes were dirty. Now that I got a good second look at him, he looked a little dirty too. I smiled out of compelled courtesy at him. I didn’t bother to wait and see if that smile was reciprocated or even acknowledged.

Towards my right, I think I saw a rat who was snoring. I shot Mr White rabbit a puzzled look.

“Ah, yes .. yess.. that would be Mr Dormouse” , he said. “Ignore him. He’s lazy as a , as a, Dormouse!!! That’s all he ever does. Sleeps. or pretends to sleep. Never does anything besides sleeping.”

I pulled up a chair and sat across the table. There was a huge ceramic tea pot. I guessed we had enough tea for all of us. In fact, I suspected that we could go seven rounds of tea and there might be a little more tea left. I wondered why I thought of 7. I shrugged my shoulder. I had read it somewhere that 7 was considered a lucky number and 7 out 10 people would associate themselves with 7 as a lucky number. I was amused at how my mind was fixated over the number 7. I wondered for a second about what the rabbit said. Mr Hatter helped me dismiss that thought. His voice was not what I had imagined. He turned out to be pleasantly soft spoken fella.

“So , are you here? “, he asked me.

“I am here, so I must be here!!!”, I replied.

“That still did not answer my question” , he said.

“I didn’t realize that was a question. I thought of to be silly. I’m here. Why even ask if I was here!!!!!”, I sounded annoyed. The rabbit was right. Hatter was mad after all. He had a knack for making pointless conversations.

“But it is a question. When I asked you if you were here, you vouched that you were here. But that can not be right now, can it? A yes confirms that you know what here is ! Such an awareness of the whereabouts also warrants the cognizance of your raison d’etre (reason of being here). ” he said.

I could not believe what the hatter was speaking about. It made no sense and strangely it was all starting to make sense.

“Is there a reason? If there is, and you know it, yes you are here. If you don’t know and still here you are, so are you here? If you know it and not here, are you here? if you don’t know it and you aint here, then where are you, My dear?”. The hatter paused to breathe. 

“Would you like some tea?”, he offered

I nodded. I definitely needed some tea. He gracefully poured the brew into my cup. I took a sip and I smiled. This tea tasted like coffee. 

“Hey this is not tea, this is coffee!!!!!!”, I teased.

“Sure is. I call it tea. I drink this tea all the time. I call it whatever I please.”, said the hatter. “No matter what I call it, it is what it is. Self assured little rascal, this tea is, aint it?”.

I felt lost all over again. I came to wonder if the hatter was mad or profound. I couldn’t call the difference. He looked mad, spoke mad and his body language was equally goofy. I couldn’t judge him yet!!!

I heard a loud yawn that forced me to turn around and seek out the source. The Dormouse had woken up. 

“Oh, so you are here after all Alice, we’ve been waiting for you”, he said.

“Don’t worry, calm your bones. You have travelled far. You shouldn’t have. You hang in there, you’d be back home, safe and sound. None of this will ever mean anything to you. “, he continued. And as abruptly as he woke up, he was the same abrupt and sudden when he slipped back to his slumber.

I found the Dormouse’s words very comforting and yet there was this coldness to it. His kindness rejected my acknowledgement of being here. His comforting voice robbed me of my journey so far. He was quick enough to dismiss the distance I had covered. Yet, he did promise that everything would be ok..

“That’s it. we are getting late again” , the white rabbit announced. off the chair, lazy bones.. we have places to be and time’s not plenty…

I stood up. I took a deep breath. I inhaled deliberately, and exhaled the same way. For the very first time I realized. I was lost and I was finding my way. Not necessarily in that order.

Alice 

[Book Review] The blank slate : modern denial of the human nature

The immediate thing that comes to my mind when I think of the word Psychology is the image of Hannibal Lector , portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. From there on, my mind drifts away to the many serials and movies on crime thrillers whose plots revolve around the super smart sleuth who deduces the criminal based on psychological profiling.

In short, psychology seemed to be the quickest way to identify the worst and the most exciting breed of criminals there is.

Of course, that view is such a juvenile way of viewing the wonderful world of psychology. I’d like to believe that there are many roads that one can take in order to discover and understand oneself. There is spirituality and there is behavioural psychology. Both roads usher us to the same tangible output. The ability to know and understand oneself better.

The Blank slate by Stephen Pinker makes a compelling case for the evolution of behavioural psychology. It dissects the known and accepted views of the world and tries to expand our understanding by explaining the world through the fresh eyes of the science.

There are three fundamental questions that the book tries to answer.

1. Are we born as a clean slate? : In effect, everybody is born the same and the difference is what we do with our life during our lifetime.

2. Are we born with a natural tendency to be good? : In effect, are we noble beings who choose to get corrupted in course of a given lifetime?

3. Is there a purpose to life that involves destiny and souls? : In effect, is being human more than just being a human?

The questions seem to be fundamental enough and interestingly, these are the questions that help shape the human behaviour. If I’m born to be good , I have a destiny that holds an end, if I’m the same as everybody else, one of life’s greatest pursuit would be in search of finding something that sets me apart. If being unique is not my cup of tea, then fulfilling the prophecy that is life becomes a mandate. If there ain’t a prophecy, then as a clean slate, then all I have is the thirst to learn and acquire skills that takes me closer to my dreams.

Contrary to popular beliefs, people are born as artists and of course as murderers too.

This might sound silly at first and it also rubbishes the history of LAW in this world. If people are born with their virtues and vices, how do we hold them responsible to their actions. It automatically becomes a journey of fulfilling their destiny of being an artist or an murderer.

That statement can be viewed through two filters. One, reductionism. Two, Causation which can be proximate and ultimate.

Reductionism is the way of trivialising an understanding. If our nature is in our blood, then we aren’t responsible for our actions.

Causation is the way to justify that cause. I make music because I was born a musician. – Proximate view. I make music because i’m interested in music and I have dedicated years to that cause. – Ultimate Causation.

The reality , or the current understanding of that reality lies somewhere in the middle.

We are born with predisposition to certain behaviours. Science does not know why. Science is seeing the effects though. Most behaviour traits can be traced back to the genetic mark up. This does not explain and guarantee that people born with such traits will always end up exhibiting them. Science, today, says that people born with such traits, have a higher tendency to express that behaviour.

Science is not fully there yet. There is so much that we do not know about the innerverse.

Since this predisposition is shaped by the way the brain is formed and how the emotions are framed and formed, it also defines the understanding that we are all born with the tendency to be good. Evolution points towards survival and self preservation. Intelligence does state that survival and preservation is efficiently achieved by staying good to both the self and the society around.

Behaviour is a curious thing to ponder about. The whole discussion on nature and nurture, it does point to the fact that our surroundings shape up our behaviours. Which is true and truer. We are both with predispositions to be in a certain way. Our surroundings and the nurturing, they both ensure that we either pamper our innate nature or through conditioning, we gain a better control over how we choose to behave. The simplest example is that when in India, we choose to treat the roads as the defacto trash bin. When on international waters, we cultivate a civic sense. We revert states , once we return. This is a good example of nature and nurture at play. While there is an equal opportunity to improve our civic sense, free will takes shape.

The ability to follow a herd and acquire the behaviour that is mandated by the society is equally real to the behaviours of individuals shaping up the behaviour of the society. The ability of individuals to shape up the behaviour of the society has manifested numerous times in the past. It’s easy to cite Hitler but it’s more effective to cite yourself.

In your social circle, there are influencers and there are followers. Each circle exhibits these characteristics. There are people that we gravitate towards. These people are a said to be natural leaders. In such groups, the collective behaviour is often determined by few of its prominent members.

Scale it up and you start seeing that the society behaves in the way its influencers want to behave. When I was with a bunch of musicians, all discussions were around music. Then when I walked a mile with the altruism enthusiasts, it was altruism. I walked a mile with wannabe authors and the pulse was around words. individuals have the capacity to shape up the culture and behaviours of the society around them.

Donald Trump and America. Enough said.

The insight into psychology explains the way the world has shaped up. Collective behaviour is manipulated by Politics. Politics influences policies. Policies structure our daily civilian lives. Civilian lives continue remain in order because of the law. Law is in place to safeguard humans against their ability to be their worst. The cascading effects of behaviour of both individuals and societies impacts the world.

The book leaves you with so many questions about the world around and it offers a lot of things around why we choose to be the way that we are. A better awareness of how psychology works comes handy in identifying how psychology is used to manipulate the world around. It is the fastest way to open a can of worms.

I don’t think I have done much justice to the book. I take accountability over the fact that I’m a novice in this field of science. The book did play its part. I’m more curious than ever. Hopefully, I’ll expand my reading in the time to come.

Karthik

Project Psychology and Paramatma!

Lets talk about a simple day to day way of life. The project that we are running, assume that it hits a snag and push comes to shove, you happen to be in the line of fire. The immediate world holds you responsible and lets face it, you are as nervous as politician sitting in an honesty summit!

I’ve been catching up on Cognitive psychology and so far, it has been a wonderful detour from my usual list of literary fiction and spiritual philosophies. In many ways, it affirms my bias. In many ways, the world of cognitive psychology is more familiar than I initially thought it would be.

Lets dissect the scenario through a few filters.

Let’s start with the easiest of the lot. Determinism.

Determinism as called out in google states that all actions, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will.

That roughly translates to Of all the projects in all of the companies in this world, you had to inherit this one. By virtue of determinism, one is fated for failure and it’s inevitable. Then comes the SKYNET argument. Through stones and studied trinket, one might manage to delay the inevitability. It eventually catches up and one given morning, one would have to face the consequences.

Through determinism, the outcome is predetermined. Either you walk off it or you are tarnished by the event. If success is written, no matter where you find yourself, something will open up. If a failure is branded, no matter what you do, no matter how high you jump, if not this, something else would manifest to bring you down.

The big benefit with such a thought is that there is no point in worrying over it. The ground reality , however, is that we are governed by fear and sit paralysed by it.

Then comes Innatism. Innatism is a bit more scientific and easier to quantify than the deterministic view. Innatism refers to the traits that you express. These are the behaviours that one picks through the formative years of life. We are stuck with it unless we learn to unlearn and adapt. Innatism mandates that just by virtue of being ourselves, we are predisposed to such failures. A good example is that if one is careless and unstructured at work, a slip is a matter of When and not IF. Eventually we’d slip up. Eventually we’d have to face the consequences of such a slip. Innatism is an unholy child of nature and nurture. Our traits, even if we are born with it, are also heavily influenced by the company that we keep and the environment that we are brought up in.

When we work in a toxic workplace, the smarter ones see the signs and plan ahead to keep a good trail that ensures that they are not blamed for all the failures of the world. When we have a lethargic sense of observation of our environment, by going with the flow, we also have to learn to react as and when surprises pop.

While nurture is explained in how we perceive the environment and how we adapt ourselves to it, nature also has a say in the way we are equipped to deal and adapt. Cognitive science explores the modular nature of the brain. The Brain, besides thinking and being underused, is also extensively at work all the time. While we do not acknowledge that, the construct of the brain, the way synapses and neurons work, it impacts our behaviour and hence dictates the way in which we lead our lives.

This is quite interesting because to a great degree, all crimes can be held accountable by the way the brain functions. It’s not in everybody’s construct to execute a cold blooded murder. Most of us don’t because the brain enforces inhibitors that keep us away from doing it. While the example is a drastic one , there are a lot of mellow examples around it. Some of us as people pleasers, some of us are agents of hell don’t care club. We are that way because our brain is hardwired that way. Nature goes hand in hand with nurture. While nurture minimises the risk of such behaviours manifesting, the nature warrants that we are only waiting for the right stimulus to go nuts. We are built for the crime. Unfortunately.

Then comes the philosophy around it all. The Paramatma.

Genetically speaking, the way we are is an outcome of how our mind is constructed and how our experiences fuel the way the mind operates, it also strips us away from accountability of actions. Yes. Purist science says that. Even if I commit murder, I did it because my brain is built that way. Legal definition of a crime is that if an individual is aware of what is being done, and is in the faculties to know the difference between what is right and wrong and still makes a wilful choice to commit the act, GUILTY.

The purist science flags towards nihilism. It says that nothing we do is part of a super plan. There is no grand scheme of things. We do because our brains work in a way they do. We are a product of how the mind operates and mind is influenced by our experiences.

Science sets us free from the burden of birth. Interestingly, spiritual philosophy aims to do just that. It is a means to relieve us from the burden of birth. Only spiritualists tag it to universe both inner and outer. Cognitive science talks about electrical impulses.

Viewing a problem statement through the hats of science , fate and spiritualism, the fundamental question that we ask is often a reflection of what we are.

Ask yourself a question based on the scenario outlined. Ie, the project that you are held accountable for, fails.

?

Done?

Good.

Now comes the kicker.

The question could be anything. There are a few themes that the nature of question could explore.

A few questions that I can think about are

1. What did I do to deserve this?

2. Why is it happening to me?

3. Why am I the only one getting blamed?

4. Hmm, how is this mess going to cost me?

5. Is this the end of my career?

6. Is this going to haunt me forever?

7. OK, Now how do I sort this mess out?

8. Who stabbed my back, who suggested that this failure was because of me?

9. What all and who all do I need to fix this?

10. Whom should I inform, whom would I have to call first to diffuse the situation?

There are many such questions. But the kind of question you ask, describes the kind of person you are. Questions could centre around fears, around resolution, around the future. That, again, is a wonderful thing to think about if you view it through the filters of Cog Psych!

If you think about it, all the explanations in the world, have absolutely nothing to do with the next step of actions that ought to be taken 🙂 Cest, la vie

Karthik