Word of the Week #193:

Retribution

We all like superheroes, right? 

Who wouldn’t love characters like Batman, who fight crime, go after bad guys, and maintain peace in the world.

However, such individuals are better suited to the fictional world.

In the real world, people who operate outside the law and execute their own brand of justice are not called superheroes. They are are described by a different term: lynch mobs.

Over the past few years, I have noticed that in the wake of any highly publicised violent crime, amidst the usual outpouring of grief, there is a strong public demand for an immediate, equally violent retaliation. Ones who advocate basic concepts like “due process” come to be seen as dinosaurs, and their character comes to be questioned.

While it may seem natural to give in to our basest of instincts in a moment of pain and anger, one most always remember the difference between vengeance and justice. They make look the same when we are blinded by our emotion, but they are quite distinct.

There are practical reasons that could explain why following the due process can be beneficial to the society at large, but the simple fact is that we should not need reason and logic to do the right thing.

Isn’t that the very definition of a civilised society? That we can look past our immediate emotions and do what is right for society as a whole?

As the Chief Justice was forced to articulate, in response to the recent events:

“The criminal justice system in our country must change its attitude towards laxity and the time taken to dispose of each case. But I don’t think justice can ever be or ought to be instant, and justice must never ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge.

—S A Bobde, Chief Justice of India 

Word of the Week #192:

Lamina

Are some people better than others?

“He/she could do so much better…”
“How on Earth did he/she land someone like that!”
“He/she is just not good enough for you…”

How often have we heard these words? How often have we said them ourselves?

It is probably a natural thing to say, I suppose, considering:

  1. I’m at that age where scores of my acquaintances are getting engaged or married every passing week
  2. How pervasive arranged marriages are in my geographical vicinity
  3. I actually said all three of those over the past weekend

However, the question remains… Are some people better than others? 

If we really thought about it, we would conclude that humans are—obviously—too complex to be assigned a single, objective rating, right?

What if we considered something simpler? Something inanimate?

Can we rate different tools in terms of their utility? Are hammers better than crowbars? Pliers over screwdrivers?

The answer would probably depend on whom you ask when. Sure, power drills are useful—and objectively cool—but one would not really use them to fit a new sink, right?

I suppose the same could be true of humans, right? The person I want on my basketball team might not be the one I want on my publicity team. The person I want as a business partner might not be the one I want as a romantic partner.

And, in hindsight, if someone ever questioned my choice of mate, I might be tempted to bash their skull in with a crowbar. Just saying.

Word of the Week #191:

Diaphanous

Is life easy? 

Is your life easy?

Because, sure, you can look at someone else’s life and think, “Boy, they have it easy. If only I…”

We do do that, do we not?

Our own life rarely seems easy.

It can seem good, yes, but knowing how hard we have had to work and how many things have had to go the right way to make it as good, we will never think it was easy. Instead, we might even get anxious about it, right? 

What if I am not able to keep working this hard for the next 5, 10, 20 years? My life will come crashing down!

What if I do keep working hard and things still don’t work out? What if something random goes wrong and my life goes up in smoke.

Knowing that our wonderful little lives are nothing more than a house of cards can be daunting, and knowing that we cannot control how the wind blows can be harrowing.

How do we then keep our lives from crashing all around us?

My answer is quite simple: WE DON’T.

There are some things that are just beyond our control. That fact will never change.

That is the curse of humanity: Sentience and potence without omniscience and omnipotence.

So, what do you do?

Well, you could do nothing, and simply give in to the entropy, but that is not what you want to do, right?

Instead, why not just learn how to rebuild your house of cards? Each time you try it, build it faster and better. 

Simple.

That makes things easier, right?

Any way the wind blows,
Doesn’t really matter to me.

—Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody

Word of the Week #190:

Connive

We can learn a lot about a person or a people by what they choose to allow.

Often—really, way too often—in life, we disagree with what our friends, colleagues, and even governments do, but we have to let it go because it is unfeasible not to.

Often, these are trivial, such as when a certain friend might mispronounce a certain word or a coworker may occasionally wear stinky shoes. It is not ideal, but it is tolerable, and letting this one thing go might be wiser.

However, there are times when these things are not trivial.

We may have a friend who routinely drives under the influence of alcohol, but he may be a good friend in most other regards.
The issue may not affect us directly, but can we allow it?

Our family business may exploit its employees, but it may be highly profitable and therefore good for us.
But can we allow it?

Our firm may help a man clean up his reputation after a slew of credible and appalling allegations of sexual misconduct, but the pay is good so we might as well do it.
But can we allow it?

Our government may disregard human and constitutional rights to oppress minorities and quash dissent, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardise my own comfortable life to fight them.
But can we allow it?

You cannot say, “I voted for Hitler because of his social welfare policies. I wasn’t really on board with the Holocaust and all. See, I’m a good guy.”

If you do not condemn it, you condone it.

You are part of the problem.

Word of the Week #189:

Ruminate

So, I have been thinking a lot about myself.

Surprising, eh? 

Well, to be specific, I was thinking about what I want from my life and how far I am from my goals in each aspect. I realised that random, unfocused thinking would lead to no results. I needed a system.

Thus, I did what I do best: I turned abstract thoughts and ideas into numbers.

Screenshot 2019-11-04 at 10.28.45 PM.png

Looks pretty, right?

I don’t want to propagate the “Lonely Writer Guy” trope. This was really just the status at that very moment. Matters of the heart can change rapidly, and with little warning.

Money is good. I have as much as I could want, right now.

The rest, well, is a work in progress.

It is interesting, right? And helpful, too. Already, I have begun incorporating significant changes in my life based on this assessment.

I have completely transformed my exercise schedule and my diet. I have begun taking better care of my hair and my eyes.

I know what I want, and I go get it.

I wonder if everyone can do this. 

Word of the Week #188:

Verisimilitude

So, I love basketball. I think I have mentioned that a couple of times, here and there.

Still, despite my efforts over the past few years, there are some major deficiencies in my game; and those are quite obvious too, considering my lack of height, athleticism, and any actual training.

  • My jump shot is unreliable
  • My defence is weak against bigger, stronger, faster guys
  • My ball handling is sufficient but by no means stellar
  • I cannot dunk, but just how many normal people can, right?

So what would a guy like me do to live out his NBA fantasies? Why, he’d buy a video games that lets him do it, of course.

And, for the first time in my life, I have both an up-to-date gaming device and enough disposable income to buy the latest game less than a week after it released. 

It was everything I ever wanted… Pretty exciting, right? Right? WRONG!

Turns out, the wise men and women at the gaming company decided to make the game more realistic, whatever that is supposed to mean.

So, now, we cannot make players who are really tall but can also shoot extremely well, although guys like that do exist in real life.

We cannot make guys who are too tall as well as too fast, although guys like that do exist in real life.

We cannot make guys can be excellent at every aspect of the game, although guys like that do exist in real life.

So, basically, you can never create a player worthy of being considered the greatest of all time. I don’t why I thought that was the very point of a video game…

What do I do now? I have to sculpt a player with balanced stats who can be fun to play with. A jack-of-all-trades kind of guy who could be useful in every situation. And, I thought I had done a good job until I realised my specific set of weaknesses:

  • My jump shot is unreliable
  • My defence is weak against bigger, stronger, faster guys, in a league full of big, strong, fast guys
  • My ball handling is sufficient but by no means stellar
  • I cannot dunk, in a league where a lot of guys can dunk

That just makes me sad…

But, as I kept playing, I realised that despite these weaknesses, I was doing pretty well.

Within one season in game time, I was the most important player on my team, and my stats were pretty good. And yet, I was actually pretty much me.

So, in a way, it was almost like I am in the NBA, which is pretty awesome in itself.

I guess that is the point of a video game…

Word of the Week #187:

Lateral

One of the many interesting things about my hair is that I can change their parting upon whim.

And, apparently, not every person can do that.

There have, however, been extensive periods of time when I have preferred one parting, changing it only after several months or even years. 

Most recently, I changed it last week after a period of almost two years.

Now, in the past, I did not think much of it. I am a whimsical guy, after all. I can change my hair whenever I want to.

However, there is something that has recently come to my attention that may make me look at things a little differently.

You see, I have always been distinctly aware of how asymmetrical our faces tend to be. Just try to flip a photo of yours, and the difference is often stark. But, again, I didn’t think much of it.

However, I have recently learned that the facial expressions of each side of our face are controlled by the opposite hemisphere of the brain. Now, these opposite hemispheres also have different other specialisations.

Brain Hemispheres

This means that if you are enjoying a beautiful piece of art, the stimulus will be processed by the right side of your brain, and your reaction would be more prominent on the left side of your face.

So, what does this imply?

This implies that, throughout our lives, we grow up associating certain sides of our faces to certain facets of our lives. We certainly would not notice this, but there are times when we prefer to sit on side particular side of a particular person or view them from a particular angle.

Throughout history, artists have preferred to focus more on the subject’s left side, even more so if the subject is female.

And, as we associate it with others, we do so with our reflections in the mirror as well. We want to focus on certain aspects of our being at certain points in our lives.

Right now, I have two very different jobs: one entirely analytical, mechanical, and learned, and another entirely creative, imaginative, and intuitive. My focus on either can vary significantly, depending on my mood. 

The way I part my hair could be an indication of much more than a whim. It could indicate a switch in my professional priorities and herald the beginning of a whole new era.

However, being left-handed, my hemispheres are not well defined, so which era  this is supposed to be is not something I can tell.

But what I can tell is that, just one week into it, I already want to flip my hair again.

As I said, I can be pretty whimsical.