Being Superstitious

There are many ways to be superstitious. Actually, there are many degrees to being superstitious. The lowest level of it, is trivial.

If you are a cricket fan, especially in India, you will know what I mean. Folks sit in a particular position for the entire duration of the match, lest we lose a wicket. Some of them only listen to the commentary, do not watch the match. There are a million more; all of them quirky.

Then comes the next degree, the personal. They aren’t trivial, but are rooted in long-term observation or experience. Empirical. These are the kind that tend to affect our lives (in a rather far-reaching way, than the result of a cricket match). These are personal, in the sense that these superstitions only affect us and the result is experienced in a very personal way.

Finally there are the global ones. Walking under the ladder, breaking of a mirror, and such. There is no value in the superstition, except that it has been handed down from generations and we accept them for their sake.

And that’s how superstition propagates. From the trivial, to the personal to the global. The trivial ones are easily discarded, for they are temporary. There is a comic element to them, and should be treated as such. The global ones, we just have to deny, for we can find no rational basis in them.

2726: Three Crows

The difficult ones to deal with, and the critical ones — are the personal superstitions. They hold within them the potential to become global, because we often tend to prove with “data” how real they are. Yet we cannot deny our own experience. Especially when it is repeated. The key, perhaps, is to not allow an experience (or experiences) to turn into belief. That’s where the rational mind shuts down.

And when we need its faculty the most, it may not be available to us.

Je Suis Moron

I’d like a T-shirt that says that.

I don’t know what’s the theme and sense of the local social argument around the world. In India, if you have a difference of opinion, or are asking questions (whether innocent or not) – you are a moron. Almost, always, self-styled lieutenants address every other person as a moron. I am a teacher who has taught a beautiful language for more than 40 years. I am a teenager who seeks to understand my world. Just because you have knowledge of a narrow theme (which of course you dwell in) it’s easy for you to call me a moron. I am often amused, when questions are asked of these experts, on a social platform, and the seekers are dismissed as morons.

A Boatman's Question

Not all questions are about casting aspersion. Some are innocent questions. Some are about curiosity. Some a genuine doubts. A leader answers a question, even when they do not have an answer. “I do not have an answer for you at this time, but I am happy to seek an answer to this question, with you,” is a leader’s response. But to call a seeker a moron? In the first instance? Without seeking context? That reeks of a power-obsessed personality, conceit, and some specific delusions of grandeur. What if this moron has dedicated his life and times to study a specific theme all his life?

This conversation happened on Twitter, and perhaps it is easy to blame the platform than the people dancing on the platform. Platforms are as characterless as they get. We often make the mistake of mistaking the person for the platform. Twitter as a platform enables us to have a public conversation. Twitter as a platform enables us to make things better. Twitter as a platform enables us to call people morons. The good and the not-so-good that we publish on the platform is about us. It has nothing to do with the platform.

If this is what it means to be an expert — calling people names — I never want to be an expert on any thing. I am happy to be an amateur and ask that people ask questions of me, so that I may become better; so that they may become better. If asking a question, whether through ignorance, or as a challenge, or to seek more information is about being a moron, then I have only one thing to say. For when I stop asking questions, I’ll be dead and irrelevant at the same time.

Je Suis Moron.

A Thousand Links

Ceremonial and milestone posts are like templates. We end up saying the same things over and over. There are small differences when the ceremonies and the milestones differ; the essence however, remains the same. There’s gratitude, there’s a description of a journey, there’s some description of a meaning, and such things. There’s, always pressure to make an impact.

These are the things that have occupied my mind and heart for the last few weeks. I was getting closer and closer to the 1000-posts mark. Each post, that was the 996th, 997th, 998th, 999th in number wanted to betray this post. The 998th post almost did! That was the excitement of the writer, and the posts, shared the excitement, if not more. All of them — the ones in the 99x series — didn’t mind that they weren’t the 1,000th. They knew their place was critical for this post to exist, to be published. Without them, this one was still far away.

100 Links

In my earlier post, I talked how “It All Comes Together.” Well, given the image above you can see that it doesn’t always come together. Sometimes there’s a zero missing; or a number is 10-times less than it should ideally be. I should have said: almost!

I’ve blogged for 4,125 days on this blog. That’s one post every four days, on an average. And while it may not mean much in relative terms, I am, and have been happy, satisfied, and proud of the last 11 years, 3 months, 18 days. What started as casual dabbling has become an integral part of my life. And succumbing to the template, I must say, I am grateful for that part of me that thought I should not stop.

Needless to say, I spent a few days going through my blog. Some of what I written is quite bad, and friends have told me that, through comments. Some of it is very good. Most, of it however, is somewhere, between. As I re-lived my life for the past eleven years, I am most proud, that I have been honest. Even if the honesty was wrapped in a thick woolly garment of abstraction. What the wool did was to protect my privacy, and that of my friends and family. The thoughts and feelings themselves were uncloaked.

If had to go back to that day in December 2003 and restart this, I would not do it any other way. Such a fulfilling experience is this one that I would dare not disturb or tweak. Many bloggers have come and gone (mostly, to Twitter) and while I have lamented their exit, my experience with my blog has been complete; has been most fulfilling; has been most adventurous.

As I write this, I realise, when you are overwhelmed, you should make a statement and exit. There will be times, later, for you to expand on your feelings, when they don’t crowd you. (This was never going to be an easy post.)

I’ll write soon.

As soon as my emotional paparazzi have dispersed.

Our Sweetest Songs: #Anthem 11

In the “Ode to a Skylark“, PB Shelly writes:

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

9315: Sounds of Innocence

Certain words, in any language, haven’t got their due, methinks. Especially those that are not about happiness, joy and anything that is overall goody-goody. We seek happiness; we encourage it even. In the small and trivial messaging we send out, we ask our people to be happy. Have fun. Enjoy. Have a blast. And such. Being happy is a norm. If we are sad, armies of friends, family, and well-wishers swarm around us to extract us, almost, from the depth of sadness and despair (or whatever name you have for it). They pull our limbs, even if it means we will be torn apart, for they seldom realise where we are stuck

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I am calling it out.

Being sad is an equally important emotion as being happy. When I see people who are perennially happy, my first response is that they are faking it. Some of what we feel is utterly personal. There is no need to share it. Even if we are lexicon-editors, words will fail us, when we want to say how we feel. Silence, often communicates more than words. All the negative emotions that the world is telling us to get rid off, are real. But, they are ours. We have to experience them, if we are to experience ourselves. Unless we know them, we will not experience true happiness. They are, in a way, counter-related. What we should not do (and what our friendly armies and swarms are really trying to tell us, but are failing miserably) is to dwell there. One of my friends, who regularly reads my blog keenly points out the mood of my posts. She dislikes it when I am sad. Perhaps, my sad posts make her sad.

Perhaps, that is where our well-wishers miss it. There are moments of sadness. If we continue to be there, it’s a different thing. It’s called depression. It’s a medical condition, which requires a different solution.

But being sad, or in a grave mood, is just as natural (and I say this without any psycho-medical knowledge) as being happy or elated.

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Paul, long ago, started a ten-anthem challenge. I completed it, in my own sweet time. I posted my ten anthems. I felt, however, 10, was too less to express what music meant to you. And without a number in head, here is the eleventh. This is a beautiful song (playback) by Manna De. The last line in the above-quoted Shelly stanza is the base of this song. [Trivia: The actor in this song, Dev Anand, was often called the Gregory Peck of India]

Question’s Question

I have a friend who asks questions. And asking questions is good. But, to an extent. If the questions you ask are such that you seek truth, knowledge, and pertinent information, they are good. Beyond that, they are cynical. Beyond that, they only seek to create an event, where you are the superhero. If you have already decided what the answer to your question should be, there isn’t a need for asking the question.

Polarisation is the buzzword. We often attribute it to persons and personalities. Here’s a polarising figure, we say. In that instance, we give up our objectivity, I feel. Like a predator, we sit and wait; and the moment when a person says something that we can question, we pounce. But, that’s us. Because we seek that, that would confirm our own sense of beliefs. And we say it out loud. We describe the purpose of the pounce. It isn’t the person. We create the polarisation because of what we think should be.

3286- Blades in the Sun

A question has to be rooted in a belief. It has to be rooted in understanding. It has to be rooted in curiosity. It has to come from a platform of an open mind. Everything in this universe is open to a question. But if your question has no root in this universe, what would be the value of your question?

Teachers often tell their students, that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I agree. No question is stupid, by itself. But some questions are trivial, provocative, and superficial. So-called stupid questions are often from an open mind. They seek to fill the gaps. They come from the view of un-understanding. They are usually accepting. Questions that seek to corner the answerer should not be asked, if you ask me. By the purpose of cornering, your answer is available to you before you ask.

Scepticism is a virtue, and a worthwhile one, at that. It informs that we will not accept something for the sake of it. When it is stretched, however, it becomes a vice. When you question everything, it follows, that you believe in nothing. Which is a big question mark on your sense of being.

In a recent 3AM conversation, a friend affected my belief system. I realised I was questioning it in a predetermined fashion and I promised her, I will learn more of the issue and come back to her with better questions, if at all.

We can ask questions that validate what we already believe, or we can ask questions that help us understand the human condition.

We’ll have to choose.

The Book and I

The same wise man I referred to in my previous post is the reason I love reading. I have many books, and may I say — just like him. As I have said before, I haven’t read all the books I own. I’ve seen books go out of print, in my lifetime, so buying them while they are available makes good sense. It’s, what has been called an anti-library.

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As I have grown, I have toned down my belief in books that are life-changing. There was a time I believed that. Apart from God himself (or herself, as the case may be), I believed Richard Bach and Paul Simon to be Gods. Perhaps, I still do, but I don’t pay as much attention to them. Amit recently shared a trailer of a documentary on Richard Bach. I liked it, but I am not sure I want to see it. God may, indeed, be a human.

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Our Prime Minister, in a recent public address, exhorted us citizens to read biographies of great people. I took it up with some seriousness. And I am glad, I did. I am more than half-way reading a biography of a great person, and it is inspirational, to say the least. It is changing how I think. In a nice way.

113508: Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

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I have recently developed a phobia of publicly claiming books that I am currently reading. I discovered, I end up not finishing that book. And this is backed up by personal empirical evidence. So, this particular book that I am reading, will show up after I have read it. I am more than half-way through it. A little over 600 pages.

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Superstitions, and all.

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Books aren’t life-changing by themselves. We are influenced by what we read, learn, and assimilate. There may be an impressively life-changing book and we may ignore all that it has to offer us. Or we may find meaning in the trashiest of all books. And while Amit (yup, same guy as above) said this in a different context, I think its pertinent to this post:

It’s a sorry state of affair, two misdirected iconoclasts going after each other when they have a lot of common foes to go against, and common ground to build on. Good literature is beyond language. So is shitty literature. And thank [G]od for that! We’re richer because of the vernaculars, and because of IWEs. [Indian Writing in English] Give me more, not less … [Emphasis, and [Edits], Mine]

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And while I have not been able to do justice being a member of a library, I am glad that they are doing a wonderful job of spreading the love of the written word. In an inimitable way.

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Grudge not the unread book. Each one of them has something to say. It’s just foreplay for now. Those inanimate pages will express themselves, when the time is right.

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Meanwhile, embrace what you are reading. May there be a union of what you seek and what is on offer.

Beyond Anger

A wise man once advised me that I should be open about my feelings. Negative, even if they are. Years of suppressing your emotions is the means for creating an unpredictable event at an unpredictable time.

“It’s like trying to force an empty pot, face down, in water. For a while, you will be able to manage it by brute force, but the pot will resist and it will flip out,” he said with a peculiarly balanced tone, “and you will not be able to control the jounce of that flipping pot.”

I smiled. I nodded my head, as if in acknowledgement and agreement. The sense that you could hurt someone with a clinical explanation of your feelings was much to bear. At the time, the unpredictable pot in the future made more sense.

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Sleeping Pot

There’s an ugly side of sarcasm’s coin that I am not fond of. I love humorous sarcasm, heck, I enjoy it. Sarcasm is always a package of what’s said and what’s intended. Funny sarcasm is well-packaged. It’s simple. There’s a wrapper and the content. Completely unambiguous. When you open it, it’s clear as sky. The ugly version has compartments. Many compartments. Often, hidden compartments. That’s the one I dread.

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I am unable to relate to most of my contacts on social networks. I continue to fail to understand their sarcasm, which is veiled in cynical scepticism. Most of them seem angry. The word they are using for anger, nowadays, is outrage. Most of them are taking sides. (Which is, I will admit, so much better than sitting on the fence). There’s too much data. No, not information or knowledge. Data. And these data grenades are being hurled in the dark by people who are blinded by their shades. Each data grenade has a counter-data grenade. The hurling continues. No targets. Just hurling. There is no stock-taking of the damage. Just hurling. And data is never wrong. Data is unintelligent and perhaps, even stupid, but never wrong. It is what it is.

All this anger (outrage), righteous as it is, is an unending ripple in the calm. Minds seem so agitated and busy finding the next counter-grenade, there isn’t peace. In the mind, i.e. We aren’t talking about the world. The narrowness of belonging is sharp, one-way, and unrelenting.

We’ll have to pause.

If you read accounts of enlightened people, you will notice that because they are so open, with so few filters on perception, everything for them is poetry. Everything is alive, asking for attention.

Attention to what? To the divine that hovers beneath the surface of all life. What we respond to in the great paintings of history is the depth of attention the artist had focused on the project. We could even use the word prayer—not in a religious sense, although for some artists that might be accurate. But prayer in the sense of communion with the stuff of creation. [Principle Fifteen: Creative Authenticity]

Anger/outrage is no more an expression, it is a community. Only two sides. With us or against us. Yet, I am sure, there be pastures, where the shades of green and gold abound and call for a sense of being, and not belonging:

Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

[Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore]

We have to stop imagining our life; start living it.