“Respect your elders.” Why, exactly?

This can be considered an addendum or aside or a long postscript to my last post in which I talked (OK, ranted) about getting into trouble with authority figures. Much of that authority, I have seen, comes from people ‘pulling age’ on others: “I’m older than you, and I know better and am wiser and have more experience, etc., and so therefore I can and must tell you how you should shit.” This is not a logically rigorous argument.

I interviewed the other day in what was probably the most subjective interview I’ve ever had in my life. In about fifteen minutes of vague questions to which equally vague answers were provided, because vague questions cannot demand specific answers, the interviewer had determined with near-absolute certainty and conviction that my job of three years as a strategist for a digital media organization wasn’t as much about strategy as it was about servicing, and offered to check in that department, the servicing department, if they had openings and would I be interested in that role?

No.

So no objective test or other unambiguous methodology was used in the conclusion proffered. What got my goat, and is the subject of this post, is the fact that she went on to validate or rationalize her entirely–faulty–subjective impression by referring to her many years of experience in the field and what she is looking for and how I do not fit that particular bill. The offer of an alternate position I wouldn’t take was a poorly offered palliative. Basically what I’m trying to say is, a person’s competence can not be judged subjectively, and the current process of interviewing by the so-called quote-unquote informed opinions of one person means a lot of talent gets passed on for mediocre, but possibly more personable characters, which, great first impressions and suchlike, holds sway in interviews, as has been demonstrated by psychologists often enough to now consider like epistemological fact.

The other issue is the, also, psychological cognitive biases we are entrapped by. But they seem to get worse as we grow older, than better. Age seems to give people the warrant to be firmer and ofttimes absolute about their opinions, antonymic facts be damned. Scientists tell us that we–our minds–actively look for information that support our biases and scorn that which don’t. Which means we must be extra careful of our conclusions about everything: about the political parties we support,–I prefer to hold off judgment until positive outcomes are effected (and each outcome judged on its own merit, not a blanket “support everything this party says” ideology)–the kind of people we choose to associate–or not–with, even how we make choices about our future should be subjected to careful thinking, lest we fall into the trap of reverting to our intuition or “gut” to decide on what’s right or wrong, what’s best and what’s not. Worse, still, is foisting these views on younger people sometimes incapable of deciding what’s right, who defer to the older person’s viewpoint out of ‘respect’ for their age, or are just scared to be kicked out of their home or otherwise harshly reprimanded for ‘going against.’

Respect is also a two-way street. The opinions of someone younger are as important as those of one older. A person less knowledgeable is inviting you to lessen his ignorance, giving you the enormous responsibility of giving them the right guidance. To expect respect without giving any back is a rubbish and arrogant worldview.

Older people should consider the responsibility placed upon them: of being honest to themselves, in order to be honest to younger folks who depend on their guidance; of acknowledging the limits of their minds, so that they can better instruct their wards in the right ways of critical thinking; to be certain only within epistemic bounds, and to revise opinions when better information is available; these are traits that should be striven for and consequently handed over to the young ones. That is your heritage, is what you should leave behind. The alternative is, in today’s age of near-instant information access, your ill-informed opinions will be seen for what they are, and you will lose respect in the eyes of anyone but the most ignorant.

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Troubles With Authority Figures

I was having a random conversation with a friend and we spoke about general childhood stuff and having to deal with elders treating us like kids (because we were kids, but what kid wants to acknowledge that?), which ended up with me thinking back to all the authority figures in my life and realizing that, with few exceptions, I’ve been beaten by mostly everyone, for indiscipline, talking back to elders, or whatever else elders beat kids for. I listed out my parents, grandparents, uncles, teachers, principals, fathers and brothers (the blessed sort), boarding supervisors; pretty much anyone entrusted with my charge acknowledged that I was a snotty, disobedient, a too-smart-for-my-own-good brat, and therefore any degree of punishment wasn’t too much or too far. Still, I hold no grudges against them; I’d knock me about if I were charged with a snot like me.

These are the downsides of precociousness. Intellectual superiority (I used to believe that) to these people made me a) question their authority, and b) their consequent verbal and slash or physical assertion of that authority without any explanation or grounds or validity for being an authority figure vested with the sweeping, constitutionally (I think) illegal powers of child verbal/physical abuse. Like, let’s face it, I clearly know more than you, better than you, and I’m only expressing that fact. Your advanced age or your nominal figurehead status means nothing to me, except an annoyance maybe at your lack of comprehension of your own stupidity and pigheadedness for not acknowledging the power of my brain, one that’d figuratively run rings around your own before you’d even get off the ground (excuse the mixing of metaphors).

So, kids, take heart if you think you’re smarter than your elders; you most probably are. Age doesn’t bring wisdom or experience; that’s a myth propagated by elders to subjugate you, whack you with a fine-tuned bamboo. I say that because I’m now an “elder” and I and everyone I know has no idea what the hell we’re doing. Yes, we’re very much bullshitting as we go along.

The Point Is…

Internet cables have been cut in my area because the Metro is coming up right outside my place. For the last week I’ve been without internet access at home. I didn’t mind it much since I work about 12 hours at the office and I’m constantly connected to the net from my phone — 2G for now until my operator introduces 3G in Mumbai — Which may be a while off considering the paperwork and money involved for all parties. There’s nothing like rampant corruption to put a dent in progress.

This brings to mind the issue of Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption. I will not go into details here because I don’t believe any of you reading this have been living under a rock and need me to elaborate. My personal opinion on him and what he has done for this nation is one of awe and nostalgia (?), remembering the lessons I learnt in school of Gandhi and his very powerful movement of peaceful retaliation, known to us all as “Satyagraha”. Martin Luther King Jr. would have approved mightily.

Having turned 25 yesterday I feel like I’ve hit a milestone. Reflecting back on the years past, I think I’m at my most stable right now (I don’t care to define “stable” because it may mean different things to different people). This may or may not be a good thing, because stability brings with it an ample amount of stagnancy in my personal growth, which is death for my delicate soul.

Finding something to do with one’s life is so very important. A cause, a direction that is in tune with one’s core values, ethics and beliefs. I knew I’d find it, just never thought it would be something I could do for a living, seeing as how anti-establishment I am. Doing Social Media has given me that opportunity and I thank my uncle for pushing me into this field.

Brings to mind a quote by Gandhi, “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it”.
My uncle’s loss has been a great blow to my family and I. I admit I have been a difficult person to live with during my teenage years, but over the last few I’ve been a more sober, calm person with an understanding of my eventual responsibilities. This statement in no way absolves me of my waywardness, but I bear my cross with his strength.
I think he left me with a lot of real life lessons, and I truly wish right now that I’d gotten to know him much better than I did. I regret not having taken that effort. Appreciate the people in your life daily, just for them being there.

An important lesson I’ve learnt over the last year is the value of hard work. There really is no substitute, and yes, that sounds clichéd. Regardless, I believe that working hard AND working smart gets you ahead. It’s ALL about the hustle in the end; whether you hustle or get others to hustle for you (I’d prefer the latter state of affairs, thank you very much).
There is something in setting goals. Daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, half yearly goals, yearly goals, 2 year goals, 5 year goals, 10 year goals, 15 year goals, 25 year goals. Yes. I have goals for ALL those time periods. Do you? Why not?

Make a list, even if it exists only in your head. You will have direction. Never a day will pass when you question the purpose of your existence, because you will be living with a purpose. I read “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” many years back and the one quote I remember to this day from it is “The purpose of life is a life of purpose”. I now know the truism of that statement. Read the book in its entirety to understand the profoundness of this message.

The greatest life lessons we learn are from the mistakes we make and survive. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid of giving up.

That’s all the randomness I have for you today, folks. Stay tuned for more of it. Or not.

Why Self-Improvement May Not Be What The Doctor Ordered

Self improvement is a billion dollar industry. The industry thrives on you believing that there’s something wrong with you. That you’re incomplete the way you are. That you’re worthless.

I am the by-product of billions of years of evolution. A biological machine that is perfect in every regard. I’m primed to do the job I was created for. And that job is to survive long enough to procreate, to pass on my genes and continue the race.

The very basic assumption of our society is that we are inadequate in some way or other. In this manner we are peddled penis enhancements in the same breadth as a certain author peddles a ‘secret’ for better living. Stuff like that makes me nauseous these days. I won’t for a moment pretend I was above such puerile bull, hitching on to the self-improvement bandwagon with ardor. If the whole world tells me that I’m inadequate in some way or another, then I must be! is how my thought process works in this regard, and so does yours I bet.

There’s a noise around us. The noise of people telling us what to do and how to be and what is right or not and what is good and bad. The noise isn’t easy to ignore precisely because it’s all pervading.

It only takes a moment to be aware of the noise that’s around you; the noise of newspapers and magazines telling you that you’re unattractive, of TV ads promoting machines that will give you 6 pack abs with almost no effort; of a million books telling you how to make that first million dollars or the one telling you how you should keep smiling and ‘think positive’, even though you may have lost your job, your home and maybe even family.

The noise tells you that you are only a few steps away from achieving perfection, and yes, you can buy it, and it’s at half rate for a limited period only!

Even if you’re a skeptic at first, somewhere down the line with years of being exposed to that noise, you begin to believe it. You are mired into the ugly web and society conditions you to go to the gym and take your vitamins and put on your sunscreen so that you can look and feel perfect.

What’s happening here in the background you ask? What’s happening is that you are programmed to believe you are imperfect and then given a solution to your imperfections! Hence the popularity of fairness cream (why is being ‘dark’ a bad thing again?) or any of the assorted ‘brand’ images we are bombarded with in every waking moment.

I’m not saying don’t buy into it. That it’s ALL a scam. That it’s only feeding the $500 Billion industry that is Self-improvement. There may be some good people out there who do this so that you can be a better person. But ultimately know this – ALL these people speak through personal experience; and that’s something you can’t buy. Eventually you need to stop reading and get out there and put things into action. Lying back with your head on the pillow and muttering positive statements over and over like some book suggests would probably get you nowhere. But don’t take my word for it. Read all you want and try and put those ‘principles’ into practice. And come back to rub it in my face and tell me how you made your million following those principles. Maybe I’ll renege on my words in this post and dedicate a post on your magnanimousness. Till then, peace, it’s 7 am and I really need to sleep.

A Social Animal

It’s been an ordeal. Yes, that is how I’d like to describe this ‘no social networks’ self-imposed abstinence. This ‘ordeal’ was compounded by the fact that on day 2 (Monday) I formatted my phone and lost my phone contacts. The online backup I managed to bungle and ended up with nothing. 0 frickin’ phone contacts. Upsetting? Yes. Pissing off? VERY.

I had made a note of what I did all through out the first 24 hours and lost that as well. Coupled with a about 2 dozen other notes, some very important. I’ve managed to survive that alongside.

I’m not saying there haven’t been positive developments which have come as a direct result of my fast. It’s got me going out a lot more, making more calls, just wanting the company of people. I think that social networks take care of that to a large extent for a lot of people.

Man is a social animal. That is all I remember from my civics textbook back in school. And it’s something that has been reinforced in me over the years. This need for being a part of a group or society has its roots in our ancestry and is, to a great extent, why humans today are the superior race on this planet. Being social enabled us to fight off stronger foes in the jungle, raise our offspring in a secure and loving environment and work towards the general survival of the societies we were a part of. This is still, largely, how our brains are wired. Our brain rewards us every time we partake in any activity that is deemed as a group or social activity, because it directly influences our survival in a positive manner. On the other hand, if we stay away from interacting with others too long, our brain releases stress hormones that adversely affect our well being. It definitely is a physical response that you feel when you can’t log in to facebook or twitter. Ever heard of solitary confinement and wondered why prisoners dread it? People have gone insane and have been severely psychologically destabilized as a result of being incarcerated in solitary. THAT is how much being alone or without company affects us.

Logically speaking, social networks are a great way to stay in touch with people you can’t reasonably connect with on a regular basis. But take that too far and you end up disconnecting yourself from the real world, preferring to stay connected to people from the comfort of your armchair or through a phone. Ask me if you have any doubts about whether that really happens to people. The thing is, although social networks may give the illusion of being connected, what it really does is allows you to connect and disconnect as you please, switching on or off as your mood fancies. This may seem great at first, having the choice to be with people or being alone, instantaneously, at the push of a button. But ask yourself, is this a really healthy way to maintain or build relationships? Is the time when you switch off spent in fruitful contemplation and productive activity or is it just the interim period between ‘log ins’?

I’ve completed 100 hours of staying logged out of my social networks. I will be the first to admit it has been hard. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park for someone who’s connected 16 hours a day. I sleep the other 8 hours, just in case you wondered. I’m going to quit with this experiment now, for what I had to learn, I’ve learnt while also having a deeper understanding of how things work and my personal duty of going out and meeting people more, as opposed to being virtually connected.

Over the past 100 hours I’ve heard people call me crazy, asking me how I’ve managed to stay away and basically shaking their heads in disbelief. The most important thing I learnt about quitting something is that you don’t try to ‘wean’ yourself off your addiction. That’s never worked for me when I tried to ‘cut down’ cigarettes. What was finally successful was going ‘cold turkey’ and not giving in to the temptation of puffing on a cigarette. Resist long enough and you’ll get used to it. It’s the same with quitting any other bad or unproductive habits I guess. You give it up cold turkey and not think about what happens or how much you need it. Pretty much ignoring every plea your body and mind cry out. Stretches the will power, it does, but you’ll be the better for it eventually. Peace.

Universal Oneness

Ever wondered how big the universe is? It’s pretty fucking huge. Lots of room and if scriptures or whatever sacred authorities are to be believed, inhabited solely by us humans on a grandiose speck of dust we call ‘Earth’. Ain’t that convenient. All that space and just us to excrete in it. Wonder what ‘God’ was thinking. “I’ll build a mansion the size of a country and have it lived in by ants”. Seems strange to me, all that trouble for a bunch of beings who are hell bent on destroying themselves and the planet, not to mention possibly creating rogue particles that may destroy the universe (Read: Large Hadron Collider). Eeps. If there’s advanced intelligent life forms out there, they better watch out ‘coz us humans be coming!’

On a serious note though, we have entered a new year and I sense something. A change that is to come, an awakening of some sort, like on a spiritual level. Bear with me folks, I have a couple of years to go before I’m admitted to a loony bin. Haven’t yet hit the peak of my insanity. There’s a book I read a few years ago, probably the best book I’ve ever read and quite possibly changed the way I viewed the world from that point on. It’s called “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters” by Gary Zukav and it talks about a fusion between spirituality and physics. There are several different pronunciations of Wu Li in Chinese, each with a different symbol and meaning, but spelled and pronounced the same in English. Some of these meaning are : Physics(hence the name of the book), Patterns of Organic Energy, My Way, Nonsense, I Clutch My Ideas, Enlightenment. The book talks about what sages and mystics of old have been saying for thousands of years and what our physics has only just discovered in the past few decades. That there is a connection between everything contained in the universe, a connection so subtle that we cannot ‘feel’ it with our limited senses. When Einstein came up with E=mc2 (where ‘E’ is ‘energy’, ‘m’ is ‘mass’ and ‘c’ is the cosmological constant or ‘the speed of light’)it was a profound statement that changed the way the universe was thought of. What it basically connotes is that energy and mass are the same thing, not just interchangeable forms of the same thing but THE SAME THING. We are all, at our very core, patterns of energy.

The book, in the chapter named ‘Enlightenment’, talks about a theorem that is so on the fringe of theoretical physics that most physicists are unaware of it. It is the most famous legacy of the late physicist John S. Bell and is named ‘Bell’s theorem’ after him. The discovery is known as the most profound in all of science and completely perturbed Einstein, who unwittingly helped further the theory in his quest to debunk it. Bell’s theorem today is largely ignored because of it’s implications to science. If we were to believe in Bell, the universe as we know it is vastly different from the universe as it IS.

Here’s an excerpt from the book. It’s a heck of a lot of reading, but I’m in the mood to inflict pain, so here goes –

“Bell’s theorem showed that either the statistical predictions

of quantum theory or the principle of local causes is false. It

did not say which one is false, but only that both of them

cannot be true. When Clauser and Freedman confirmed that

the statistical predictions of quantum theory are correct, the

startling conclusion was inescapable: The principle of local

causes must be false! However, if the principle of local causes

fails and, hence, the world is not the way it appears to be,

then what is the true nature of our world?

There are several mutually exclusive possibilities. The first

possibility, which we have just discussed, is that, appearances

to the contrary, there really may be no such thing as “separate

parts” in our world (in the dialect of physics, “locality fails”).

In that case, the idea that events are autonomous happenings

is an illusion. This would be the case for any “separate parts”

that have interacted with each other at any time in the past.

When “separate parts” interact with each other, they (their

wave functions) become correlated (through the exchange of

conventional signals) (forces). Unless this correlation is disrupted

by other external forces, the wave functions representing these

“separate parts” remain correlated forever, For such correlated

“separate parts,” what an experimenter does in this area

has an intrinsic effect upon the results of an experiment in a

distant, space-like separated area. This possibility entails a

faster-than-light communication of a type different than conventional

physics can explain.

In this picture, what happens here is intimately and immediately

connected to what happens elsewhere in the universe,

which, in turn, is intimately and immediately connected to what happens elsewhere in the universe, and so on, simply

because the “separate parts” of the universe are not separate

parts.”

PHEW! (What the fuck is Yashvir high on, and where can I get some eh?)

What Bell’s theorem intrinsically ‘proved’ was that the most fundamental particles in the universe communicate with each other INSTANTANEOUSLY, across thousands of light YEARS, probably even from one end of the universe to the other! Faster than light communication. There’s only two things that come out of this. That either there is NO free will, and that everything is superdetermined, or that it leads to the many worlds theory, where the world is constantly splitting into separate and mutually inaccessible branches, each of which contains different editions of the same actors, performing different acts at the same time on different stages, which somehow are located in the same place.

There may be still ways to understand the failure of the principle of local causes, but the very fact that it must fail means that the world is in some way profoundly different from our ordinary ideas about it. (Perhaps we really are living in a dark cave).

So coming back to what I was saying earlier about there being some sort of change and spiritual awakening (I don’t sound all that whacked anymore, do I?) and about feeling these things, there is something in store for us. I don’t know what it is, but this is the best time to be alive, when future generations will look back and imagine what it must have been to live in this day and age of such great changes, where mankind would make the decisions to tackle the challenges imposed upon it and work in unison to create a better planet.

Rainbow Colours Of Somber

For someone who’s supposed to be good with words, I’m all out at the moment. A whole bunch of conflicting thoughts have been running through my head lately, not making much sense, and I hear a voice, more a whimper really, of reason, telling me to snap out of this funk. I feel like a monkey with a million thoughts running through my mind, nothing concrete, always flitting from one random topic to another, not wanting to pause or rest on one and dwell on it out of some unfounded fear that that action may make the other thoughts less important and undeserving of my immediate attention. That doesn’t make much sense logically, but I’m not feeling very logical at the moment. This post really doesn’t have a message or a moral. There is no inspiring or heart wrenching story. Nothing to make you go ha-ha either. While I type this I have no clue how it will end. You’re really wasting your time reading this, instead of wasting your time on other mundane, mind numbing activity.

 

Disturbingly, that’s what life has become for a lot of us. We keep our minds distracted and saturated throughout our waking hours, and when it can take no more, sleep and have muddled, irregular dreams on inconsequential things. What’s worse is that most of us don’t realise that our minds are pretty much programmed to make us act in a certain manner. Breaking the programming creates turmoil, and turmoil is equivalent to pain. Being humans we tend towards pleasure and away from pain, and hence stay within the boundaries of our programming. Going about our day to day activities, not asking the very fundamental questions of our being, our nature and our ‘raison d’etre’ or reason for existence. Most people even believe that asking such questions is unimportant and purposeless, choosing instead to stay ignorant and unenlightened. I think such people fear that what they may discover if they probe too much would be devastating, not in terms of what they find, but in disrupting their long held, carved in rock, belief systems. Belief’s being inexorably tied to our egos, it’s more difficult than it seems to change or modify them. But questioning and refining our beliefs is the first step towards leading a more enlightened and fulfilling life.

 

As I’m nearing the end of my short diatribe, I look at the length of this post and realise that I’ve negated the very first sentence. Hmm.