Wednesday, August 14, 2013


About judging others and staying balanced.

It is not everyday that you learn something new about yourself. Even if the discovery is not very gratifying. Most of the times it is not, they are embarrassing in fact. But the fact that you realized them makes for tremendous satisfaction. How that realization comes about is not always clear. Perhaps it has something to do with constantly pulling oneself out of the rut and being generally inquisitive. It might very well be just random. I recently had two such sparks of wisdom shine upon me. One at the deep subconscious level and the other at the very physical end of the spectrum.
Whenever i interact with a new person the first thing that i do is judge. Not a long complicated assessment of the human being in front of me, but a split second judgement coming from the most ancient part of the brain, telling me just one thing. Is this person better than me? If i think this person is better than me, then i become a bit defensive. I tread cautiously. If i decide, by whatever yardstick that my primitive brain applies, that i am better than the person i am talking to, then i am a bit more relaxed. I take it easy. Mind you, i am unaware of all of this while it is happening. It is only by chance that my mind wonders on to itself and i get to witness my subconscious in action. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the primal fight or flight instinct. Appropriately mellowed down by our safe (relative to a jungle) and secure (relative to hunting-gathering) lifestyle. So instead of a bearing of teeth and clinching of fists in readiness to fight i might just add a slight condescension to my tone, and establish my superiority (self-proclaimed). And instead of fleeing full blast i might nod my head a little more vigorously in agreement, and concede my inferior position. Perhaps there are some advantages to all this. After all nature in all its wisdom has given us (or is it just me?) this instinct. But i wonder how it would be if i could treat everyone i meet as my equal. At least to begin with. Give the benefit of doubt to everybody before i start judging them. It will be mighty hard.
Me: He is shorter, less smart, less intelligent perhaps. I can take him on.
Myself: No. He is your equal. Don't think you are superior to him.
Me: Wow he is a Rockstar!  I look like a pitiable idiot in front of him.
Myself: No. You are his equal. Don't think you are inferior to him.

I am a naturally left handed person. So any task that needs control, deft or power is delegated to the left side of the body. So much so that even seemingly symmetric actions like walking, running or riding a bike are actually done led by the strong side and the weak side kind of just tags along. Once you realize that your body is favouring one side, you can feel it almost every minute of your waking life. It is a feeling of imbalance. I realized it when i was playing the drums and my right hand just could not keep up with my left. Or when i am running and my left foot follows a perfect path while my right foot is just trying to keep up. Again there might be some evolutionary advantage in being lopsided  but i don't get it. I am trying to restore my balance one action at a time.
Brushing my teeth with the weak hand...not easy
Putting the key in a keyhole and turning....not easy
Eating with the weak hand....not atall easy



Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ship of Theseus

Before I begin, let me say this up front. Ship of Theseus is a weird movie. Yes. I believe any film which starts with a huge human eyeball filling the screen and bobbling around can be considered weird. In fact, any film which does not have the likes of Salman Khan or Govinda in it has a potential of being weird. Some how these heros have the ability to kill any creative urges (read shaky camera angles, off focus frames, random scenes which don't really go anywhere) that the director might have. But just because it is weird does not mean it is not good. I liked it a lot (says something about me now does it?).

Trying to understand what the creators of this film were trying to 'say' through it does not make much sense. So i will not go there. Everyone will look at it through their own eyes and their unique circumstances. To me, it seemed like a series of questions. Questions meant not to get definite and unambiguous answers but to wonder, ponder and explore our lives and minds. It starts with this one.

The Ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus's paradox, is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Is the whole just a sum of its parts? Or is there something more to it? This is true about most of the human body as well. Our cells are constantly dying and getting formed. So perhaps my hand is not the same as the one i had last year. So am i a new person now? Aristotle was an intelligent man. He proposed this. Every object is made of some materials, granted. But that is not all there is to it. It also has a design. It has a purpose for which it is built. In this case the materials changed but the design and purpose remained the same.

Fascinating how this might apply to us and not just inanimate objects. When do we say we have changed? With time? Sure, but that changes us only physically. Like this ship we are talking about. Ever heard someone say that they feel like a new person? Ever got that feeling yourself? Perhaps that is related more to purpose than materials. If i find a purpose, a passion, in this lifetime i will surely be a changed person. When someone says they don't feel like themselves anymore perhaps they might have lost their sense of purpose.

All the three main characters in the movie experience certain things which change them. Physically as well as mentally.

There was a photographer in the movie who asked me an interesting question. If we create something by accident and it turns out to be great. Should we take credit for it? A photo, a painting, a piece of code. The character in the movie did not want to take credit for the great shots that she got accidentally. She thinks that way she will loose control over her art. I wouldn't mind it so much. I guess art is anyways a little beyond control. So whatever you do or create you cannot take the whole credit for it. But it is also unique to you. If you ask someone else to do the same thing it will turn out different. So you cannot discredit it completely either.

The monk asked me how far am i willing to go to uphold my values. Values are tricky contraptions. The trickiness comes from the fact that they need to be consistent. If they are not consistent they are not really values. If you follow traffic rules, then you need to follow them even when you are terribly late for the most important meeting of your life. This monk takes it to the extreme. By his standards i don't have any values at all. We say we will not steal, stealing is bad. But in the face of intolerable hunger, will it hold? Should it hold? We find the easiest way out of a situation and say chalta hain yaar. There is ample time to justify our actions later on. The problem with that is we become inconsistent and confused ourselves. Meaning and purpose become harder to find. Is it better to be consistent even if you might be wrong, or is it better to be haphazard and perhaps get it right?

The third character was a typical one. Fed up with the 'social work' in his family he goes straight and hard for the mullah. He is in a hospital for a surgery where he sees a shocking incident of a poor helpless person being swindled big time. He finds himself fighting for that person. But fighting for someone else is not easy. For one, how do you know its over? That you have won? Your definition of winning might differ from the person you are fighting for. Is it best to accept the victim's judgement in this regard, even if you know it is wrong?

But i guess most of us won't be bothered by this question much. We usually don't find ourselves fighting for anyone but our friends and family, do we? :P