Word of the Week #181:

Fundamentalism

You must have encountered some of these individuals in your lifetime, right?

People who believe the Earth is flat and static like a plate and the sky covers it like a dome…
People who think they were specifically designed by a supernatural entity to be better than everyone else…
People who argue that the world is not on fire and their actions should have had no consequence.

These people annoy me. 

I mean, there is one thing to say you don’t believe in evolution. Maybe you are just too stupid to understand it… And that is okay!

You can be too stupid to understand a topic as complex as evolution and decide not to believe something you do not understand. You choose to believe something simpler and dumber, like the fact that you were built the same way we build Barbie dolls.

You can be too stupid to understand the Big Bang—who isn’t, right—and choose to believe the entire universe was created in six days.

It is okay. It is unfortunate, but it is okay.

However, it does get annoying, beyond a point.

It is one thing to deny a concept you cannot understand, but quite another to deny basic, empirical facts because they do not align with something you have already decided to be true? That is unacceptable.

If you do not have all the facts, or if you cannot understand facts, that is one thing. But to choose to ignore facts because you cannot tolerate an attack on your baseless beliefs? That is unacceptable.

The worst is when such people deny the fact visible to the lay man and question the accomplishments of the men and women smarter than them.

No, we are not trying to defraud you by saying the Earth is round and the sky isn’t solid and vaccinations are important and climate change is real. We are trying to save you, and everything around you, while you sit back and rely on stories and superstitions from the Dark Ages.

If you are stupid, okay. Just, keep it to yourself.

“The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”
—Isaac Asimov

 

Word of the Week #172:

Paramount

What is the most important thing in life?

I have been wondering about that for a while, now.

Now, there are many who might say love. And while I appreciate it, I think love gets too romanticised too often.

Many would say money, but, really, money is just a tool. It could become worthless at any given moment.

Before we begin our thought experiment, though, I would like to lay down some ground rules. Here, we are considering ourselves to be a live human of sufficient health living in normal circumstances.

After all, life is the most important thing. Can’t do nothin’ if yo’ dead, right?

Secondly, if you are alive, the second most important thing is that you stay alive. If you have life, but you are struck with an incurable disease that is very certain to kill you very  soon, there is nothing you can do about it.

And, thirdly, we consider normal circumstance because if you are a live, healthy man who has just been flung off a plane 10km above ground, you will find your priorities suddenly changing. What is the most important thing for you in that situation? Love? Money? Family? Pride? Nope. You would probably trade all of them in to get a working parachute and the ability to use it.

Thus, we have established the parameters.

Now, if you are a reasonably healthy human in normal circumstances, what is the most important thing for you?

I will be honest, I had not thought of an answer, as I started to write this; nor should I necessarily have one, to be honest. My role, as I see it, is not to give you the right answers. It is merely to ask you the right questions.

This time, however, I believe I do have an answer.

What is the most important thing in life?

Control.

If you have control, you have everything.

Earlier today, I was ill. By my own estimate, I was at 40% of my abilities. What did I do? I used my limited abilities to treat my own body, and I now feel much better. I am probably in the 75-80% range, but that is so much better. 

If I had less than, say, 10% of my abilities at my disposal, I might have failed to do that.

So, what is the difference between 10% health and 40% health? The ability to fix myself. Control. 

What is the difference between having $10 in your bank account and having $100,000,000? Control.

What is the difference between knowing how to use the power of science to make life better and not knowing the difference between a geode and a diode? Control.

What is the difference between having 10 followers and 100,000 followers? Control.

If we look at it objectively and analytically, even love is a form of control.

Education, passion, discipline, skill, strength, they are all simply means of exerting control over your surroundings.

No matter what the domain, no matter what the means, if you have control, you have everything.

And if you have everything else but you lack control, you really have nothing.

Word of the Week #155:

Esse

Last week, we tried to answer an important question that people tend to ask us: Why do we write?

But there is another question, one that is arguably far more important, that comes to mind that one must try to answer.

Why do we live?

In a way, I am glad it does not come to my mind too often, for there is no simple answer I can offer.

Should life be more than the mechanical execution of our mundane routines, the fulfilment of our fundamental needs? Should life be more than just a checklist that we have to complete before we run out of time?

Should life have some sort of meaning or purpose? Should we need a reason to get off the bed every morning besides our bladders?

What about us artistic types who live in our own world and are unencumbered, at least relatively, by the mundane? Do we live to write? Or do we write to live? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Well, the later is absolutely true for me, and I believe Stephen King would agree.

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Stephen King

So, why do we live?

Does our life, our existence, make a significant impact on the grand scheme of things to warrant the effort we have to exert on a daily basis?

Directly, probably not.

The simple truth is that too few of us will achieve greatness in our lifetimes. And even if we do, that too is fleeting.

Every year, over 60 players join the NBA; so far, only 111 players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 111 players in almost 70 years… And I would be surprised if you can name 5 of those players who were inducted before your parents were born. Hell, I would be surprised if you could name one.

Too few. Too fleeting.

Not every scientist will be the next Newton. Not every writer will be the next Shakespeare. And I highly doubt that too many carpenters can claim to be the next Jesus.

But you can definitely earn a footnote in someone else’s discovery that changes life on this planet, and possibly beyond. You can always hope your stories inspire one child to see the world in a different light. And you can absolutely provide someone the comfort of a cosy armchair after a long, hard day.

If you think about it, we are the grand scheme of things, and it is a cumulation of every single thought, word and action of every single being that creates the world as we know it.

Life must, therefore, contain within itself the potential to change everything in the entire universe. And possibly beyond…

But that is the answer to a different question altogether.

The question remains, why do we live?

My answer is actually quite simple. ‘Cause it is all we know.

Word of the Week #117:

Maladroit

From the brilliant minds that brought you Demonetisation ’16, comes another blockbuster that will melt your brains: Plastic Ban ’18.

And in the few days since its implementation, it has already shown to be as imbecilic.

Now, I do not mean to be overly harsh. The industry and the people at large did have three months to prepare for the switch. And on the very face of it, banning plastics does seem like a good thing to do, with respect to the environment, sanitation and other such concerns.

Plastic is one of the few things that can be described as being ubiquitous. Replacing it from every single application may be possible, but is it actually viable? And how will this discarded plastic be disposed of? Surely you cannot just throw it in the dumpsters and forget about it. If that had worked, we wouldn’t need to worry about it in the first place, right?

However, the biggest problem with such a step is actually quite simple: We do not have a viable alternative.

You cannot possibly sell cookies in paper packages, especially in the monsoon. They won’t last a day.

And what if I order some hot soup from a restaurant nearby. Surely, paper cups cannot hold that for long. Will you use metal cans? Those are actually not the most eco-friendly of materials. Glass is too bulky and fairly fragile. Not to mention, both are significantly more expensive. That does make a difference in an economy like ours.

What about silicone, though? It has almost all the upsides of plastics, but that is just the beginning. It is safe and durable. It is expensive, but not prohibitively so. Being based on silicon and not carbon, it is significantly better for the environment if disposed of correctly.

But therein lies the problem: Silicone is not biodegradable either.

Sure, it can be recycled, but that is predicated on, surprise surprise, proper disposal. And, if you are anyway going to do that, might as well get your plastics recycled.

Yes, that’s right. Many plastic products can be recycled. It would not be nearly as big a nuisance if all of plastic waste could be reused or recycled, but no. We want to dump it in a landfill, right?

plasgran-guide-to-plastic-recycling-grades

I am sure you must have encountered these labels, right? Usually on the bottom of a soda bottle or such… Ever wondered what they mean?

Well, this is the gist:

  • #2, #4 and #5 are the best. Use responsibly, and recycle. Plastic bags, which are primarily made from LDPE (#4) have been banned.
  • #1 is good enough, but try to avoid it. Interestingly enough, soda bottles made from PET (#1) have been exempt.
  • #3, #6 and #7 are bad. Avoid. However, thermocol decorations (#6) will be allowed till the end of a major religious festival in September. Because, priorities.

Unfortunately, our government seems to lack the nuance required to craft a thoughtful, thorough policy to implement waste disposal techniques that actually work. Instead they choose to harass local business owners and consumers for long-exsisting systemic failures.

It is quite clear that more thought and research goes into my weekly blog posts than in governmental policies.

Yes. Let that sink in.

Word of the Week #110:

Chastity

Now, as most of you would already know, I tend to be a bit of a loner.

Most hours of my day are spent in the musty interiors of my room, furiously staring into a screen.

Even when I do go out, unless I am with a close friend, I will probably just sit in a corner and mind my own business. Striking up a conversation with a middle-aged man sitting at the table next to mine is usually the last thing I would do.

And yet, oddly enough, that is exactly what I did today… And, I came out of it with a few interesting thoughts.

You see, some people are just, as the kids these days call it, ‘woke’. They are conscientious enough to question this world of ours, and intelligent enough to glean some answers.

Now, to quote eden ahbez,

While we spoke of many things,
Fools and Kings,
This he said to me:

Of all sexual aberrations, chastity is the strangest.
— Anatole France

Of course, I am not quoting him verbatim, but when do I ever do that?

Essentially,  his argument was quite simple. Our society has an extremely unhealthy outlook towards sex, and that needs to be changed.

Now, obviously, nobody can quite deny that, but his candid ideas were unexpectedly refreshing.

I think I will quote him verbatim, this time:

“Is it unfair for the youth of our country to expect the freedom to cherish a candid moment with their beloved in a public place that is maintained by their own tax payments?”

Well, it is fair, right?

He was of the belief that what India needs is a more sexual revolution, presumably similar to the one that originated in America in the ’60s.

Me? I am more of a moderate. I believe society will change as we, the parents of the future, choose to mould it to our liking.

Of course, having seen this glacial change come to a halt through his lifetime, he probably thought I was naive to think things what change unless we force them.

Well, even Newton’s First and Second Laws of Mechanics seem to support him. But, on the other hand, I must cite the Third Law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Nonetheless, things cannot be allowed to stand the way they currently do. Right now, far too many people have a warped understanding of sex.

As long as we keep viewing sex as something one person gives and another gets, instead of it being seen as an experience to be shared by two (or perhaps more, but let us stick with the basics for now) persons, there is no way forward.

And, as the gentleman paid his bill and rose to leave, he leaned over one last time to leave me with his parting words, “By the way, I am a big follower of Osho.”

“Ah,” I responded, as realisation dawned on me. “I see.”

 

Word of the Week #96:

Vitriol

We are at a very interesting point in human history.

Why interesting?

Well, on this very day 70 years ago, a man who preached peace and brotherhood to a torn and troubled people was shot and killed for his troubles…

Of course, this was 70 years ago. You would assume things have changed since then, right? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not true.

The sort of ideology, or rather dogma, which led to that assassination, as well as countless others thereafter, has not been exterminated from our society. Instead, it has thrived. Every passing year, its voice only seems to grow louder and bolder, as the common man continues to sit idly by.

One cannot do much but wonder why the world works this way, right?

The answer is simple.

2012-03-14-GEORGE-CARLIN-on-assassination.png
Source: Zenpencils

Word of the Week #67:

Theism

It has always been my conviction that the human mind does not appreciate blank spaces; the ones it cannot fill with truth, it fills with tripe.

And no, I am not talking about haggis…

For instance, the concept of atmospheric pressure was not known to mankind till at least 1640AD, and not correctly understood until 1648AD. How, then, does one explain wind? Why, the answer is quite simple: GOD.

Most ancient cultures attributed a god to every force of nature, with such beliefs being prevalent across geographical divisions, until the rise of the Abrahamic religions and their tenet of monotheism.

Of course, one would expect that, almost five centuries since the Age of Enlightenment, the world would have been long rid of these ancient, and often ludicrous, beliefs. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.

Now, that in itself might not seem like an issue, until we come to the realisation that the mind, once filled with tripe, no longer has space left for truth.

What is tripe? What is truth? That remains the question.

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.
—Isaac Assimov