Saturday, January 16, 2016

In defense of not being different

'Think Different', the advertisement advises.
Those who do think differently (in the mode that the advertisement is hinting at) are considered to be cool, inspiring and worth emulating (ironically enough!)
Those who aren't different are denigrated, even if it is of their own volition. Their disgrace is in simply being a part of the crowd.

This is not unlike society in general. I find that this is a strange situation. Why is this the case? Why do people feel the need to be different? Alternately, why is it bad to be a part of the crowd, regardless of whether it is of free choice or not?

Now, I can understand the value proposition of being different, purely from a utilitarian perspective. Those who think differently can innovate and create value that did not exist before they thought differently. But, as is often the case with innovation, breaking an existing mould implies the creation of a new one. Of what use is the trailblazing leader without inspired followers? Do we not rely on a certain degree of sameness to enforce laws, to ensure order and economize and scale? It seems evidently true to me that any difference that adds value requires large amounts of sameness to achieve greatness.

So, to hell with the arrogance of the different. To hell with being different for the sake of it. If it is true (and seems to me that it is) that there is no purpose to life except that which we arbitrarily assign to it, why dogmatically assume that difference is inherently more valuable than sameness?

The impetus for writing this post was provided by this interview - Irfan interviews Varun Grover (whose work I greatly admire) in this video. Here, Varun Grover explains why he chose creative pursuits in spite of having a  conventionally stable/successful job. His logic was that he felt small by being same.

Friday, October 24, 2014

And then there were no numbers

Xanxsosi was a devout Lapelarian. He had taken Lapelar's name fifty times a day all through his life, just as the Toxoh had commanded. Now on his deathbed, he said 'Xi kom Lapelar' (Here I come Lapelar) softly to himself. Then he calmly turned to his wife and said, 'I'm ready, dear'. He had already said his good-byes to his family earlier, so there was no reason for more talk. His wife took Lapelar's name, turned off the respirator, wiped the tears from her eyes and walked out of the room.

Xanxsosi knew the science of what was about to happen to him. He had studied this well while preparing himself for his death. Being in the business of science himself, he was dispassionately able to assess the amount of pain and suffering he would have to endure if he went the way he was planning to go. 'A few minutes of extreme discomfort were worth eternity in Lapelar's kingdom', he had convinced himself and his family in the days and months prior. 'Besides', he reasoned, 'what was the point in living like a vegetable and causing extreme inconvenience and pain to others?'

Over time, he had formed a complete mental picture of how Lapelar's kingdom might be. He'd get to see his parents who had preceded him by thirty years. And Koxsisi, his brother who had died in a fiery car crash not too long ago. He especially was looking forward to meeting Kibsisa, his childhood sweetheart, who he had heard had passed away due to a heart attack several years ago and Pinso, his beloved German Shepherd. He was a tad afraid of meeting Lapelar. He knew he had disobeyed Lapelar on several occasions in his life and that there would be a price to pay once he got to Vaixuns. But he was ready to do his penance and begin eternal life.

Hypoxia set in between the second and fourth minutes after the respirator had stopped working on his behalf. Cardiac arrest followed soon after. Starved of fresh oxygen and unable to be replenished by fresh blood, his brain cells began playing out their endgame. A sudden flash of white light was followed by what felt like a few minutes of intense rain. Once the rain subsided, he clearly saw Vaixuns in the distance. 'Lapelar, xi kom, xi kom Lapelar', he said once more. He had never felt this way all his life. There was a certain lightness to his presence. Everything seemed a brilliant bright, as though the word had new meaning to him.

For reasons he was unable to fathom, though, he remembered at that instant an incident Xobise, his neighbor had recounted when he was rescued from drowning in the Xongo river. Xobise, a Kiskotist, had seen something eerily similar in the few minutes after drowning before being miraculously spotted by the rescuers and pulled out from the water. There was the same flash of white light, the rain. But Xobise had not seen Vaixuns as Xansosi now saw before him. Instead, the Kiskotist had been ushered in by the angels to the ethereal lake, where he had cleansed himself. And before he could experience anything more, the rescuers had resuscitated him back to life.

Xanxsosi felt a strange sense of insecurity grip him. He had suddenly realized that his religious belief and Xobise's had all but their respective Gods in common. They had each formed mental pictures of how their heavens would be and their brains had simply played these out by combining remnants of their memory with the vestiges of their consciousness in the last moments of their lives. The last moments of his life at any rate. Xobise had of course gone on to live a healthy and productive life after his tryst with Kiskotist heaven.

The sense of lightness Xanxsosi had felt just moments ago was replaced by intense pain, the exceptional effulgence by an all-pervading blackness.
'Black', he thought amusedly to himself - '0, 0, 0'. And then there were no numbers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Gun Debate

When watching episode 4 of season 1 of 'The West Wing' - 'Five votes down', I was struck by how the gun-control debate hasn't moved an inch in the last 14 years. The same polarization, the same fear of the NRA primary-ing Congressmen, the same talk of African-American youth being disproportionately affected by gun violence and so on. It's as though time has stopped when it comes to this issue.

And now there's talk of the NRA promising the fight of the century. Boy, these folks sure dig deep. The tyranny argument strikes me as fallacious. The weakest governments these days have firepower that can easily destroy reasonably-armed militia. I don't see how having ARs can protect people against governments turning tyrannical. Also, isn't voting-in a democratically elected government slightly besides the point when you mistrust them so much you need to sleep with a Bushmaster and a few thousand rounds of ammo close by just in case jackbooted government thugs decide to come by and pay you a visit? 

Thursday, August 04, 2011


I finally bought a Macbook Pro after much debate with myself. On the lines of 'It's too expensive, you can buy two (shitty) W7 books for the price. But it's awesome...And you can work on a real Unix based system, that's much more robust and less prone to malware than the W. But then, why don't I buy a Linux book instead. Yeah, but the graphics in Linux are semi-good and well, it's got that open source feel to it...And yeah, Mac's too damn expensive. But dammit, it is awesome....' for days on end.
After a lifetime of criticizing Apple fanboys I've turned into one myself today. Not solely due to the quality of the product, but because using the damn thing is a constant reminder of what a difference passion and vision can make in our lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ZNMD, agreed, but...

So I watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara over the weekend. I found the movie to be average, unlike some of my friends who really liked the movie. Parts of the movie bored me and most scenes seemed like fillers between the more laugh-worthy scenes. Maybe watching a movie in a theater does that to you - the audience reaction is strongest when an actor cracks a good joke.
I also found the movie to be a gorgeous, three hour extended advertisement for Spain. The Spanish government will doubtless felicitate Zoya Akhtar for doing yeoman's service to the Spanish tourism industry in the days to come.
The endeavor seems cliched. We've all heard it, right, all the time? Carpe Diem, seize the day, live every moment as if it were your last, yada yada...
So we're made to feel that working too hard is pointless and a waste of one's lifetime because, well, it's just work. That it may also be one's passion incidentally comes across in the character of the artist and we immediately have a contradiction. Life, on the other hand, a truly meaningful life, apparently involves doing things like witnessing nature's beauty, facing one's demons and coming to terms with that imperfect relationship one is stuck in and having no regrets. Doing things to earn a living is run-of-the-mill but doing them for oneself is apparently what matters, is what we're indirectly told through couplets scattered throughout the movie and through the medium of the artist. Work is work, silly, not life. I don't know if you felt it too, but this vague sense of being talked down to pervaded the movie.
And so, despite all the spontaneity of Farhan Akhtar and the beautiful Spanish vistas and the wonderful music in the song, Jo bhi ho so ho, I found the movie to be just average.
And yeah, the lyrics of the song don't suit the chorus (or the other way around). So this dude feels his life has changed after this moment and now he doesn't give a f&^k about what happens, right? But he's supposed to, correct? Carpe Diem and all that jazz? Nitpicking, am I?

Friday, May 27, 2011

South of the Border

Watched this documentary recently.
Seemed gushing and lacked equal depth, concentrating more on Chavez than other leaders.
But it is informative and provides an alternate perspective to the US MSM narrative of South American politics, leaning leftwards now more than ever before in the second half of the 20th century. It's difficult to get an unbiased viewpoint in these matters, but if you have two extreme viewpoints at opposite ends of the spectrum one can often assume that the truth sits uncomfortably in between.
I especially liked Stone's monologue towards the end in which he says something to this effect "...this interventionist capitalism must be replaced by a more benign capitalism..."
Amen to that.