Think About It

We, the storytellers (2)

There is a quote that has found its way into many posts on this blog – “Judging a person doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are.” I still subscribe to that. However, motivated by the daily outrage on social platforms on everything ranging from a Coldplay video to a newspaper calling the city by its old name – Bombay, to each other’s political or religious belief systems, and by the behaviour of people around, (and myself when I introspected) I decided to go further along that quote. The result was this tweet

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Knew you, again

Jon Westenberg wrote on a subject I too have been mulling over recently – It’s Sad When Someone You Know Becomes Someone You Knew – on people who have become footnotes in one’s life. I could relate to it, though I do think that many relationships have a context-based shelf life. I have written about this before – way back in 2007.

My recent thoughts on the subject, however, are on a couple of tangents. It’s about how people change across time, and the way we react to it. I’ve noticed that I tend to ‘freeze’ people at the last set of close interactions we’ve had, and be very surprised to realise they’ve changed. Silly but true! In some cases, it seems I have expected them to remain as-is even after a couple of decades, and get annoyed because I find it really hard to relate to their current version! [posts in 2008, 2009 (3rd para)] In other cases, I come across a person’s published work, or opinion, and ‘refuse’ (in my mind) to accept the excellent thought/nuanced perspective because I find it to be incompatible with my view of the person I had known! Someone I know had become someone I knew. More

Work, Parenting & the Monoculture

Sunday morning gave me a fantastic read, via  multiple shares on my timeline – “Why do we work so hard?“, in which Ryan Avent traces the evolution of work (hours) from the time after the second world war, and wonders why a trend was reversed and we started working more hours. She considers her own as well as her father’s experiences, and explores whether it is the treadmill effect, the satisfaction of work, or a combination of both. She sums up one of her answers thus –

It is a cognitive and emotional relief to immerse oneself in something all-consuming while other difficulties float by. The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.

Something about it gave me a sense of deja vu. I realised that this has also been my hypothesis about parenting! Back to that in a bit. Meanwhile, she ends the article with

..precisely why what I’m doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

It reminded me of a short conversation with S recently, where we agreed about how (many) people follow up their introductory “Hi, I am XYZ” with their designation and/or place of work, irrespective of the meeting context.  More

Convenience & Choices

It’s difficult to accuse Mashable of being thought provoking, but I have to admit that “After Harper Lee, will there be another literary recluse?” made me think. The article also brings up JD Salinger. Both the concerned books are personal favourites. Bill Watterson immediately comes to mind in this context of people who did not care for an encore. I can relate more to him because it seems more recent. I discovered the works of Harper Lee and Salinger decades after they became the classics they are.

It is indeed tough to imagine creators of this era shying away from the public eye. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do exactly the opposite. Most of the world would consider that silly! After all, if one is pragmatic, it is easy to see that most art is business. And even if the business is niche, the select target audience needs to hear of it. Even in the cases that it isn’t a business, they are a method of self expression, and in the era of social media, sharing that point of view and starting a debate on it is easy and cheap. Just to clarify, this is not about being  judgmental about it, after all these are choices. More

A shift in the world order

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(via)

It has been a while since I wrote about nation states, or notion states as I call them. Now is not really a good time to bring this up in India, but hey, it’s a free country. Oh, wait! Therefore, let’s talk about Apple vs the FBI on where digital security ends and national security begins. (via The GuardianWashington-Silicon Valley shadowboxing as the publication puts it, and Apple has the support of Google, Facebook and Twitter. [If this were happening in India, by now Tim Cook would have probably been lynched by a mob, and charged for sedition – now a very loose word that can be applied to even things such as sneezing while watching the Republic Day parade on TV]

This battle is interesting as it is because it will set a precedent for an individual’s privacy rights, and is being fought between the world’s most valuable corporation and the world’s biggest (one might even say only) superpower. On one side, we have and entity whose decisions affect billions of lives around the world, and on the other, a country marked by boundaries but influencing policies that affect an equal number. Phenomenally intriguing and layered as this is, I actually find it riveting because I see a couple of my favourite narratives coming to a boil. More

Identity Cleft

..and finally, I got myself to see the last episode of Mad Men. I’d been putting it off because the series was the kind I enjoyed so much that I never wanted it to end. The last few episodes were quite ‘meta’ in the sense that through Don Draper, the show’s protagonist, the show itself was searching for a befitting ending.

<spoiler> These episodes saw Don getting rid of his possessions, until all he had left was an envelope with some money (and a ring) and a cover with a change of clothes. He had lived the previous few years of his life as Don Draper – a name that wasn’t his. The idea of Don Draper though was all his, but somewhere in him, was also Dick Whitman, his original name. Every time he made the confession of taking another man’s name, you could sense his guilt, and relief. Maybe that was the freedom he was looking for, when we was getting rid of all the paraphernalia attached to Don Draper.  More

In Capitalism we bet?

The Book of Life is one of those internet gifts that keep on giving. If you haven’t read/subscribed, now is a good time! One of its articles that I read recently (though it seems to have been written a while back) was On the Dawn of Capitalism. It was about the need for capitalism to expand its scope and address the full range of needs of mankind, and uses Maslow’s needs to frame this. (Reminded me of “Currencies of Engagement @ Scale” from a while back)

The article states that companies are (vaguely) aware of this, and that’s why advertising tries to sell to us with an appeal to higher needs. But, We get promised friendship or love and end up with a 4×4 or a new barbecue set. Our materialism/consumerism is also to blame, but it is attributed to our lack of self knowledge. Capitalism, the argument goes, is capable of tackling the higher, deeper problems of life, and make us more refined, and restrained.  More

Choices & Happiness

A belief system I strongly held on to for a few years was that we always have a choice. Absolutes most usually fail. Some life experiences later, it seemed to me that determinism made more sense. In an everyday life scenario, this meant that many a time circumstances are such that we don’t really have a choice.

On a Wednesday morning, S, my Uber driver for the day’s commute called me. In very good English, he said that while Uber was showing 8 mins on my phone, in reality, he was 20 minutes away, but would try to reach as fast as possible. I wasn’t happy but finding another cab at 1X, I realised, would be a difficult proposition. S arrived about 20 mins later, and we started the trip. At 50 metres, he said that his mobile had switched off and I’d have to rebook. It irritated me because I had lost a lot of time already and would lose more in the process of making another booking and waiting for the cab to arrive. His other phone meanwhile, was repeatedly ringing, despite him cutting the call. He finally took the call and spoke in Malayalam, saying he’d call back later. As his phone was being switched on, he asked me to wait a minute so that he’d be able to take my booking. I did that, and after he gave me a go ahead, requested a cab. Turned out to be another driver, a few minutes away. This imminent waste of time irritated me further. S offered to drop me off where the other cab was. I declined, got out of the car and as I shut the door, said to him in Malayalam that if he didn’t know how to do this job, he probably shouldn’t attempt it.

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Give & Take

Amitav Ghosh is a favourite author, and I find it difficult to answer in my own head which of his works is my favourite. I hadn’t expected The Glass Palace to be equalled, but The Shadow Lines, which I read recently, is quite the competition.

One of the characters in the book is the narrator’s grandmother, a strong-willed person with her own sets of ideals and ideas. A description of hers that has stuck with me long after the book had been finished is “her fear of accepting anything from anyone that she could not return in exact measure.” I can completely relate to that! Sadly so, I’d add. The corollary to that is expectations from others when one is the giver.  It wouldn’t be right to label it as a transactional approach, because the expectation is not in terms of quantity, but more in terms of thought, consideration, acknowledgement and so on. Yet, the expectation exists. And thus a vicious cycle is born. In many ways, it is a subset of the ‘judgment’ themeMore

The immortality of time

Thoughts on immortality and its implications on personal and societal aspects of life have long been a favourite subject here. It has also been an area of interest from a philosophical standpoint. For instance, if we could live forever, what would be the relevance of time? Would our current existential questions be rendered irrelevant?  There is also an understanding that it is a process – our lifespans would progressively increase – as we replace our bodies (and later, minds) with mechanisms (augmented human) even more robust than the ones nature gave us.

I found an excellent post on Quartz which dwells on the evolution of time management and makes the point that time management is actually making our lives worse. It also brings up something I had written about recently in the context of work, money and AI – the never ending race for efficiency. The article argues that the idea that managing time would get one back in control is a fantasy that only works in a finite world and that our to-do list is actually like the mythological Hydra!  More