Life Ordinary

Naturally good

Towards the end of The Way of Zen, Alan Watts has a line that creates a binary between natural and good. I must admit that I felt some validation there!

Over many years and experiences, the resident (and dominant) cynic in me has come to believe that “naturally good” in terms of a person’s character and behaviour can only be an act. This is also coming from the unoriginal observation that we have a “delusion of free will”. The choices we make are less based on a conscious free will, and controlled more by a combination of genes which have fought and survived over millennia and one’s own experiences and environment. While cooperation and goodness are indeed a part of the survival toolkit, they are not the dominant aspects. We’re selfish, the only difference is in the degree of the act, and how much we have trained ourselves.  More

“Let them know you’re thinking about them”

You’re familiar with that – it’s one of Facebook’s birthday reminders. Until some time back, I used to religiously wish folks on their birthday. But I have stopped that, it felt like cheating. To me, this sort of wishing reduced the significance of the event and the wish, and almost brought it to the level of an already degraded currency on the network – the ubiquitous ‘Like’. I know, this can be argued quite a bit. At a very simplistic level, wishing someone on the birthday could be like a little shot of dopamine for them, and easy for you to provide too.

But I have at least two perspectives against this. Call it over-analysis if you will. The first is where I draw a parallel with travel. In the case of places, increased access and convenience tend to bring in people with motives different from an earlier set. From travelers to tourists. Right or wrong is subjective so let’s just say that the character of the places, and their residents change. Arguably, the first set of folks had a deeper bond with the place and more of an interest in its well being. And so too, with the wishes on Facebook. My birthday is off Facebook and I know that those who wish me now really have me in their thoughts.  More

Home Outgrown

On our way to the airport, for what would be one of our shortest trips to Kerala, I told D that I didn’t see myself making this journey a decade from now. At least not framed in the way we do it these days – a trip home. I was wrong – it happened way sooner than a decade.

It wasn’t a comment made lightly – after all, to borrow a phrase, I was referring to a city which had all the places that made up a couple of decades of my life.

What does one go home for? The obvious answer is easy – to spend time with people who matter in one’s life. To note – even that changes during one’s lifetime. But if I have to dig a bit deeper, Rana Dasgupta’s words make sense – when one becomes homesick, it is not a place that one seeks, but oneself, back in time. And when one does that, the props matter. The places, the faces, all reminders of different phases. When they no longer exist, the place is no longer a cure for homesickness. More

Confidence, to wit

The Book of Life’s post On the Origins of Confidence made me think about the subject in the context of my own life. In the last few years, I have increasingly felt the importance of confidence in my professional life. It’s not so much what you know, but what you project that matters. Perception is reality, as the phrase goes. Hence the interest in the subject. But before that, a detour.

As far back as I can remember, I have been under-confident. Some of my earliest memories are of stage fright, and since I was into things like singing, elocution etc that are particularly susceptible to this, I have many memories! Despite multiple rehearsals, and prizes that I got over the years, I could never be sure that I would remember the lyrics/lines.

I preferred spending my time reading, and was very comfortable being alone. Ironically though, my friends from my last years of school as well those from my grad and post grad days remember me for my sense of humour, specifically because it could help people laugh or at least smile even in the worst of times. But if you met me, you wouldn’t figure this. This persona is archived in my mind, but at a reunion last weekend, my schoolmate, who is now the funniest guy in our Whatsapp group, told the gathering how I was his benchmark for humour. Embarrassed me much, but we were all drunk, so that was fine! 😀 More

Project Happiness

Our “big” annual vacation typically happens around May-June. But at least six months of preparation precedes it, and my levels of preparation (which D has now been almost coerced into) might be considered way too orchestrated for practical purposes. My defense is that in all probability, this would be the only time we visit the place, so I’d like to make it as hassle-free as possible. Also, the fear of missing out.

As a species, we are uniquely capable of projecting our future in our own minds. My plan is supposed to make us happy. The expectations are already set. And that means that things can go wrong in many ways. For instance, things might not go as planned because of events outside of my control. Or we see other possibilities once we’re in a place but we’ve already committed to our plans in terms of time/money/emotions! More

A working theory of Karma

Karma is one of two aspects of Buddhism that I have not been able to reconcile with my thinking, the other being a related phenomenon – reincarnation/rebirth. My understanding was only based on the limited reading I had done on the subject, this was something I hoped to correct in the medium term. But recently, a post on awareness by Umair Haque put Karma in a nuanced new light.

More searching (google, not within 😉 ) took me to Two Meanings of Karma. The author distinguishes between universal and psychological karma. The former is the cosmos driven moral justice model, probably influenced by the Hinduism version of karma, which I was finding difficult to reconcile. The latter is in line with the one Umair Haque has written about. Our innate sense of morality.  More

A devious self

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These days when I think of the self, I am regularly reminded of this. I use ‘ego’ interchangeably with ‘self’. Ego as in egotism, not the Freud definition. The inflated view of the self that most of us refer to when we say ‘ego’. While the scientific-philosophical perspective is something I am very interested in, it is more the day-to-day reveals that are more frequent.  More

That passion – profession debate, again

In many beer fueled conversations, I have heard the sentiment of “quitting my job and doing something I am passionate about.” While I see merit in that line of thought, these days I also end up playing party-pooper by asking if he/she has a business model in mind, especially since the ‘passion’ is more often than not from the usual suspects list – digital photography, cooking/baking, writing, travel and so on. To clarify, unlike funded startups this model doesn’t even have to scale, but in the medium-long term, the revenue has to be greater than expenditure. That’s a requisite for survival in the world, unless one has alternate sources of income.

I saw a meeting of worlds when I noticed yet another job listing that demanded the person to be “passionate about digital marketing“? As someone who has been working in the domain since 2004, I have seen a version of this phrase appear in many job descriptions. I could replace digital marketing with startups, consumer insights, programming and so on, the question remains the same. More

Free* Will

*Conditions Apply

The first documented appearance of the subject on the blog is in 2011, and I seem to have posted on the subject every alternate year, the last being in 2015. But it’s sheer coincidence and not really pattern following that led me to think, and write, about free will now.

Across my life, I have moved from having a faith and believing in predestination (will of God), to being agnostic and believing in karma, to being an atheist and believing in the influence of luck (random chance) in all the plans I make. In the last version, the view is that my free will is dominant – I make my own choices which dictate my future and nothing is predetermined. The luck explains the good and bad out-of-ordinary things that change my future, but it is random. Karma stories are a forced narrative based on hindsight. More