A devious self


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

Cult of impersonality

Koramangala rarely disappoints. This time, it was the Uber ride, and the thoughts it sparked. From Whitefield to Koramangala, I repeatedly watched the driver refusing to learn from his mistakes. e.g. sticking to the right lane and getting stuck behind cars waiting to take a U turn, when we had to go straight. Advice was futile. This (the behaviour, not the driving!) took me in a couple of directions.

First, our species’ (generalising, of course) refusal to rethink belief systems even when new data presents other possibilities. In the last few weeks, I have seen two levels of this. One is at a (public) personality level – from Modi to Tata. While I have little reason to doubt the Prime Minister’s intent in the entire demonetisation exercise, I see the absolute lack of empathy (no, crying and listing one’s sacrifices doesn’t count) and the failure to course correct as arrogant and cruel. When multiple sources indicate that Ratan Tata’s governance wasn’t really spotless, shouldn’t he be attempting a better route than allowing the spat to be drawn into something as silly as Twitter hashtag wars, especially when the claim is that the organisation’s legacy (and not his own) is paramount for him. In both cases, ego could be the barrier. More

Dignity Gritty

Amongst stories of soaring e-commerce valuations, this Mint story on Indiaplaza, and how it ran out of cash, was quite a sobering read. But it wasn’t the business angle that stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I somehow felt that all Mr.Vaitheeswaran was seeking, was a little dignity. I have no idea of what really happened, so I cannot comment on whether that is deserved or not.

A few weekends ago, we were visited by someone who is a consultant for some work we needed done at home. She charged us Rs.2000 for a couple of hours, and after business was concluded, she spoke about how, a few years ago,  she had been a VP at a well known consultancy firm. Her current business, born out of her passion, was not doing well. She wanted to get back to work but was finding it extremely difficult to land a job. After she left, I wondered aloud to D, how she must feel, having to go to strangers’ houses on Sundays, and working for a compensation far below what she might have been earning. What would this experience be doing to her sense of dignity? More

The entitlement of the self

IMO, Season 4 of Mad Men really took it up a notch. I think it’s because the human condition started showing up much more than before. Episode 6 – Waldorf Stories – offers quite the example. <spoilers> To quickly give context to the non viewers, a flashback shows how Don Draper, the show’s lead character and a fur coat salesman then, was hired by an inebriated Roger Sterling (partner at an ad agency) years ago. Don rises right to the top, becoming a partner at the new agency that Sterling, and others form. When the agency wins its first award, Roger feels entitled to an acknowledgement from Don. When he doesn’t get it, he asks for it. Later, in the same episode, Peggy, whom Don ‘raises’ from secretary to copywriter, also feels entitled to Don’s  acknowledgment of her contribution to the award winning ad. In the first instance, Don is gracious and acknowledges Roger’s hand in making him what he is, but in the second, he is furious at Peggy.

It made me think of entitlement. I have read many an article about the millennial generation’s sense of entitlement, but maybe it’s not a generational thing at all. Maybe, it’s just that this generation expresses it more than others, and this is being documented much more courtesy the web. A point of difference is probably what is being asked for – opportunity (millennials) and acknowledgment. (earlier generations) More

Ego message

I’ve been watching myself for a while now. I’ve not been really good at it, and my desire to move up to observing seems a laugh now, but it’s a work in progress. A recent experience gave me quite a lot of perspective on this. My words, humour and actions, as perceived by others, were far away from my intent. Words and humour. Somewhere in my passage through life, I picked up this armour, a defense mechanism so that I wouldn’t have to become invisible. In fact, the experience gave me a sense of deja vu, and made me think of self perception.

I recently read a fantastic post on Ribbonfarm titled ‘Ritual & the consciousness‘ that, among other things, explores the self and the ‘watcher at the gates of the mind’. Not quite along the lines in the post, but I think I have two watchers – one that represents others’ perception of me and another that represents self perception. The universe in a larger context might be indifferent, but in many environments, I realise, it is dangerous to ignore the first. I also realise that the second is, though difficult, where I can make a serious attempt to shake free.  More

Remember that we’ll be forgotten

To my pleasant surprise, an old school friend commented on my breadcrumbs and Black Swans post. I continue to be amazed by how much digital has allowed us to find and discuss shared interests. The post was around a couple of themes – whether the set of digital breadcrumbs we are leaving now (courtesy everyone being a publisher) will allow generations later to have a better sense of our history, and whether, therefore, our species will be more anti-fragile thanks to this data and the predictive analytics AI can build out of it.

My friend shared an article that talked of Vint Cerf’s warning about us being a ‘forgotten generation’. (I had read the Guardian version earlier) Essentially, his fear is that the lack of guarantee in backward compatibility of software means that documents stored many not be accessible at all. Both led me to Digital Vellum and Project Olive, which aims to establish a robust ecosystem for long-term preservation of software, games, and other executable content. More

One off a kind rating

(‘off’ is intentional. Thanks)

A while back, in ‘The Currency of Relationships‘, I’d written this – But there is no standard currency in relationships, and my lesson from this experience is to not to take for granted that my approach is the one that works for people at the receiving end. I should spend some time first in understanding expectations, and then meeting them. Recently, a little incident on Facebook reminded me of this. But first, a step back.

Don’t laugh, but I think of myself as a kind person. This is a recent phenomenon, and one that finds a parallel in my struggles with being judgmental, though I have had more success on that front. Together, a reasonable (and sarcastic) wit, a tendency to see things from a skewed perspective and more often than not, the propensity to see humour in the worst of (others’) circumstances, have made being kind a very difficult task.  I rib people all the while, and am probably the poster guy for “People who don’t know me think I’m quiet, people who do wish I was.” It is very rarely that my intent is to hurt, I try to be mindful of all my words and actions, and that is what has probably created my own perception of the self as a kind one.

kindnessAs with all perceptions, this one too built on itself. Maybe that is why I was quite surprised when a share on Facebook (the message being the same as what you see on the left – via)  – something I believe in and try to practice – elicited one response that I was in no place to ‘preach’ this. It made me think about my self perception, and reminded me of currencies. I also gained a few perspectives – common, yet usually forgotten. (Thanks N)

One is that my words and actions have effects that I might be completely unaware of. This is not a new understanding. In fact, for a while – a couple of years ago probably- when I became aware that my words could hurt, I willfully restrained myself from saying a lot of things I came up with! I realised that it might get laughs and LOLs but I might hurt someone too. (even if that may not have been my intent) But then I realised I was just being miserable and at least with friends, I let go, thinking that I didn’t have to prove the lack of malice. The fact that I was ribbed back by many only reinforced this. My credo since then has been based on “how would I feel if I were at the receiving end?”  But maybe that is a flawed approach. After all, what gives me the right to say when a person should feel hurt and when not. I plan to be a little more careful, and if you’re a friend and reading this, give me a heads up when you think I’m going overboard. :)

The second perspective was that it is probably my ego that wants others to perceive me as kind. If I trust the objectivity of my own moral compass, I wouldn’t need a reinforcement. I should also maybe realise that I can’t have the laughs and the label.

The third perspective came from looking at kindness itself. You might say it’s semantics but I noticed that there is a difference between kindness and compassion. Arguably, compassion is about how you feel, and kindness is about what you do. I can instinctively see that on a relative scale, I am more compassionate than kind. No, this is not me asking for a new label. Both deal with empathy and understanding, but maybe compassion is only the first step to kindness.

Meanwhile, my new ‘social’ plaything ‘Secret‘ is a good reminder. Its prompt when I have to comment on a post is ‘Say something kind’. Sometimes I can, and at other times, I keep quiet. :)

until next time, a different kind


One of the reasons why I liked Gary more than the other two judges in Masterchef was that he played a perfect balance – maintaining that certain amount of gravitas that his role demanded while regularly showing that he really didn’t seem to take himself that seriously.

The best example of that was the show before the finals when there was a role reversal and the judges cooked while the contestants judged. Not only did he take part in some delightful banter, but his reaction when the ‘judges’ found a bone in his dish (strict no-no) was completely priceless.

Mind you, as the accomplishments and the episodes of MasterClass would show you, Gary is damn good at what he does. And yet, its as though he has not allowed any of that to touch him. Which leads me to the thought I’m pondering over – is the lack of ego a function of having complete faith in oneself? If, for a moment, we leave aside the argument that a ‘certain amount of ego’ is necessary for living out this life, is the thought plausible? If the faith in self is absolute, will the ego have no reason to exist or will it completely take over since it has all the reason to exist?

until next time, egologic

Race Trace

Anything is possible when you are young. Then you get older and the thing about getting older is that you don’t need everything to be possible anymore, you just need some things to be certain.

For some reason, this line from Brick Lane (movie) stayed with me. Age might be a number, but we are alive for a finite time frame, and therefore it has its own significance. I think, more than age itself, it is to do with motivation. There does seem to be some relationship between age and motivation levels. Of course that’s quite a generic and simplistic statement, since there are many subjective factors that play important roles.

At different stages we’ve different short term purposes. What these then also manage to give are specific motivations. From getting good grades to the bigger car to the fancy vacation and everything in between. Sometimes they serve as motivation and sometimes as means to the motivation. To reach somewhere or to remain somewhere. Sometimes we run the world’s race, sometimes we run our own.  In both cases, there is a certain amount of hard work that goes into the race. We can bring luck into this context, but I wouldn’t still like to trivialise the effect of one’s efforts. Like I wrote a while back, in the context of my friend R, it is difficult to grudge a person his success when you realise the toil that has gone into it. I read this excellent speech delivered by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang delivered about a year back, which dwells on efforts and doing what you love.

But I’ve also seen that sometimes the efforts are made and the results don’t show. Maybe it has to do with the direction or the efforts themselves or maybe its to do with perseverance. What does one, them motivate the self with? I’ve also noticed, from experience,  that when one resets one’s ‘race’, and tries to figure out a purpose outside the parameters of routine and conditioning, motivation is quite a tough job.  A bit like trying to find an answer to a question you don’t clearly know. Motivation is after all, dependent on the purpose. Thankfully, there’s something else that Hugh MacLeod has captured beautifully.

unfulfilled potential

The mind can will itself to be free of others’ expectations, but can it hold its own against the ego, which has expectations of the self. The fear – if that goes, what motivation exists? Except for the need ‘for some things to be certain.’ And that somehow is existing, and not living?

until next time, track shuffle?

The egoism that lurks…

Sometime back, our yoga instructor spoke to us about the importance of forgiving. While most of it I agreed with, there was one part where I thought i’d a different point of view. She said that forgiving was possible only if the ego had been eliminated (for all practical purposes). My point of view (which unfortunately i didnt have time to express) was that ego was inherent in forgiving, showing that the forgiver is in a higher plane than the one forgiven. But I am assuming that the teaching was fine, there must be a kind of forgiving I am not aware of…yet.

The same kind of thoughts assailed me, when i read this post by mathatheist, where she wrote about charity. (you must subscribe to her daily musings, a wonderful read everyday) She wrote about the need for love (as opposed to pity) in charity. I am in agreement with the role of intent in everything that we do. Intent is what will drive everything else. To be fair to self, I have negligible thoughts of pity in any act of charity. The way i have driven it away is via a simple thought – I imagine someone I love, struck with a fate that the beneficiary has, and compassion replaces pity. I believe there’s a difference between the two. But the compassion is tinged with an enemy that is not so easy to dispose of – the ego. It shows its presence with a smirk and an unhealthy, unnecessary reminder to myself that I’m in a position to donate something (however insignificant it might be) for a cause. But I am assuming that the acts are fine, here must be a state of compassion without the ego, that I am not aware of…yet

until next time, to land the ego….

PS. any Ayn Rand fan here? Egosim is an important part of her Objectivism philosophy, which i am otherwise a fan of 😐