Word of the Week #174:

Obsequies

For the longest time, I did not appreciate the concept of lengthy funerals and the ceremonial nonsense that tends to follow.

After all, it does not benefit the dead, right. They literally could not care less. If anything, it just adds more burden to the grieving, who would much rather be left alone in their grief.

Now, while I would not discard the arguments I have mentioned above, from my own recent experiences, I have learned how there is a lot more to those ceremonies.

Firstly, grief is heavy. Not everyone should be left alone with it. Some people might think they would prefer it, but dealing with it in a vacuum can get extremely unhealthy.

The second thing that can real hurt you in a situation like this is your own helplessness. You are always left wondering if you could have done something—anything—to change the outcome. Regardless of the answer, the question itself can break your soul.

So, how does one mitigate them both?

By immersing oneself in a series of activities that feel very important but cannot really go wrong.

This helps you deal with your grief slowly and in stages, surrounded by your family and friends.

It also gives you back the sense of control, as you make all the arrangements that are required. It might seem pointless to some, but just the chance to do something and have the results go according to your will can be extremely empowering.

Having burdens you can actually lift and problems you can actually solve helps you deal with the ones you cannot.

The structure provided by these ceremonies provides you with the foundation on which you can recover from your loss and rebuild your life.

It is not the end of your grief, of course, but it is a good way to conclude one chapter of your life and feel prepared enough to begin another.

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Word of the Week #173:

Providence

Planning. Weirdly enough, it is one of the most important things one can do, while also one of the most futile.

Personally, I have a very weird relationship with plans. 

I love being prepared. If I’m going to a restaurant, I love knowing exactly what I’d like to order, after having meticulously examined the menus and reviews.

On the other hand, if I go there and find out that I cannot order what I had planned, because maybe they have run out of a key, or their oven is malfunctioning, or something else out of the blue that makes your plans and your expectations meaningless.

That is the problem, right? No matter how well you plan something, you cannot control the outcome because you cannot control all of the variables.

And the most unfortunate part is that any person who likes making plans would definitely not be a person who can accept having those plans destroyed by the most random of events.

It is the most infuriating.

Imagine spending your entire career preparing for an Olympic event, employing the perfect diet, the perfect work out regimen, the perfect technique, and the perfect equipment, and then slipping and falling outside the event venue and shattering your kneecap.

Yeah, that could entirely happen.

Irony, you know. Not a big fan of it.

I guess that is the curse of being a sentient mortal, right? Just enough power to think you are in control, followed by a rude awakening to the truth of your crippling impotence.

Now, realising your limitations and still continuing to persevere is what adulthood is all about, right?

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.

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 #171:

Efficacious

“That field has no scope.”

How often have we heard that when we say we want to devote our lives to studying and practising the arts, be it writing or singing or painting or dancing?

Last week, we spoke about how the scope of traditional fields like engineering are grossly overrated in our society, and we tried to analyse the reasons why.

Tonight, let us look at the scope fields like writing do offer but are often grossly underestimated in our society, often for the same reasons.

Writing is fun. But is it really a profession? Is it feasible to think you can get paid to write?

Well, what if I tell you that I do get paid to do just that? And I get paid plenty, if I may say so…

So, let us ask ourselves, how did I end up here?

Am I particularly gifted? Well, that’s debatable.
Am I very rich? Nah, but I did have enough support to never have to worry.
Did I receive any specific training? Nope. None.

Then what did I do to reach financial stability while pursuing, and really focusing on, my artistic passions?

The answer is stupidly simple: I worked really hard for a really long time.

For five and a half years, I kept work on my craft, with no pay and little appreciation from beyond my inner circle, slowly but surely improving at what I do, spreading my roots in the industry, and seeking out opportunities wherever I could find them.

That’s hardly any more time than what most people spend on college and stuff, right? At least my route was totally worth it.

Tell me, how can a writer make money?

The first and most obvious would be by publishing books. But as any writer would tell you, the investment in that is extremely high, and the rate of success is exceeding low. Of course, that is no reason to not do it.

Essentially, one could say that it is the most likely to be artistically rewarding, and the least likely to be financially rewarding. And as we go further down this list, the former will continue to decrease, while the latter continues to increase.

If you want to make easy money as an author, one can try to write non-fiction books that highlight certain individuals or organisations. Co-authoring an autobiography can make you a lot of money.

Of course, you could also make some money by publishing articles in successful magazine or newspapers, or you can monetise your own blog.

Or, you can write for advertisers. That’s where Salman Rushdie started his career.

Or, you can write for TV or movies or, heck, even video games. Sidney Sheldon started his career in TV.

Or, you can find all sorts of jobs that require writers, from PR to content writing to creating subtitles. Really, the opportunities are endless.

And if all else fails, you can always work as an editor. As long as there are writers in the world and AI is not yet entirely up to speed, there will always be jobs for editors.

So, keep working, keep learning, and keep looking for opportunities. Your success might not be guaranteed, but that can be said about anything you try.

In the end, if you have spent every waking moment of your entire life in a passionate pursuit of your dreams, would that not count as a success?

Word of the Week #170:

Ambit

“That field has no scope.”

How often have we heard that about careers that are even slightly outside the mainstream?

According to these people, everything apart from a handful of disciplines has no scope.

Why do they think so?

Well, I believe there are two reasons for that.

Firstly, Indians love structure. If you want to be an engineer, your life has a structure. 13 years of school, 2 years (minimum) of heavy coaching, and 4 years of college. Work for 19 years and you’re an engineer.

Now, the fact that this mechanism has been churning out 15 lakh engineers every year for almost a decade, while the industry simply does not have enough jobs for each one seems to be lost on them.

Secondly, Indians love success stories. One of their friends’ kid, or cousins’ kid, or neighbours’ kid, or even some random kid, got a great job and built a great life doing something? Then it is natural that their own kids should do that.

In doing so, however, they seems to forget about the rest are of the kids who didn’t get the jobs they wanted, or didt’t get any whatsoever.

Only 3% of Indian engineers find jobs doing what they were actually trained to do. According to some estimates, only 20% are capable of finding any job in the market.

If you bring that up, naturally, you’d be told, “Of course, you have to excel at it. The best students get the best jobs. Survival of the fittest.”

So, you want kids to excel in the field you choose for them, with little to no regard to their abilities and preferences and only a slight chance of success?

Looks like education has failed you, and you have failed your children. You should not be surprised when your children fail you too.

Word of the Week #169:

Clique

So, I do not have a lot of male friends.

Well, I don’t really have a lot of friends in general, but a lot of my closer friends tend to be female.

I don’t think I have any problems bonding with men one-on-one. I can always find enough common ground to build a foundation for a viable relationship.

The problems arise with the prospect of “hanging out” with groups of male friends. As a kid, I never quite realised why being in groups brought out the worst in each member. Thinking about it now, the answer seems quite obvious. Groups of guys are based on the one thing a majority of men have in common: toxic masculinity.

While I did not quite realise this at the time, it did repel me from all such groups, and, by extension, from all such male acquaintances who could have otherwise become close friends.

This occasionally made me wonder if they were the normal ones and I was the weirdo. Most other times, though, I was convinced I was too great to bond with those mere mortals, anyway.

Recently, having had time to meet a lot of people and decide whom I like best, I have ended up with a colourful group of weirdos, and am beginning to realise that the male bonding experience, though often highly glorified in movies, does have value in one’s life.

Specifically, it has already added value in my life, and I am better for it.

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things, does the heart find its morning and is refreshed.”

Word of the Week #168:

Dilemma

Generally, I pride myself on two qualities which may seem rather paradoxical:

  1. My ability to plan and prepare such that I never have to get things done at the last moment.
  2. My ability, whenever required, to always get things done at the last moment.

However, there are instances when I happen to disregard the former and rely on the latter, and while I do get the job done, it comes at a cost.

Today, I could have written a post earlier in the afternoon and had it scheduled to be posted around midnight. Instead, I chose to spend my time doing something that, for the life of me, I cannot recall.

I can get it done at any time I want, right? I am good at this.

And now, with less than half an hour to midnight, I am typing away on a touchscreen device just hours after having dislocated my left thumb.

Yes, it hurts.

No, I won’t go to the doctor.

Now, shall I conclude that I am struggling to get things done because I chose to wing it and should never do that again, or should I always chose to wing it because I can always get things done regardless how much I am struggling?

Either way, considering I started 28 minutes before my deadline and finished with 14 minutes to go, I think this is a good choice to have.