The Slippery Slope That Is Nostalgia

“It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.” – Ally Condie

Nostalgia. It was something I heard grown-ups talk about a lot when I was a kid. I couldn’t grasp what it meant at the time, and I didn’t give much thought to it. As time has passed though, I find myself torn between active wool-gathering and passive longing for the past. I’m either making up grand futures in my mind, or I’m replaying moments that have already passed. Somehow I do get my things done, so that’s good, I guess.

While we’re still on the topic of nostalgia, I’d like to mention my ambivalence towards nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a powerful tool. On one hand, it can rescue us from moments of self-doubt and sadness. By replaying those key moments, we rediscover all the trials and tribulations we have successfully overcome in the past. It gives us the strength to face the current challenges; nostalgia reminds us that we have it in ourselves to beat those challenges. Continue reading “The Slippery Slope That Is Nostalgia”

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Looking For Life In Alderaan Places

Looking For Life In Alderaan Places

A Star Wars pun. So original, I know. Couldn’t resist. Please tolerate me.

When news about the discovery of a new exoplanet pops up, it is usually followed by massive speculation. Is it in the Goldilocks zone? Does it have a protective atmosphere? Is there water on the planet?

That last bit always irks me to no end.

Continue reading “Looking For Life In Alderaan Places”

Counting Stars While Drunk

Times flies fast when you’re having fun. Or when you’re in shitty situations. Here’s what I’ve been upto of late.

Times aren’t exactly the best right now. Some days depression just ends up getting the best of you, and there isn’t much you can do except wish you were dead. Or in a coma.

What could make it better would be a friend to talk to, someone who can understand you without judging you. Someone who’s there to listen to you, even if they can’t do anything to help you out. I actually prefer people who don’t help me out, but listen to me. The problems I face are entirely my own, and I don’t want anyone else to have to share any part of it. What I do like is someone who puts in the effort to actually listen to me. Is that too much to ask for?

I sometimes hate the fact that I try to look detached from everything around me, but I am in fact very affected by what happens. Maybe I am a pussy after all, and I don’t have what it takes to actually follow the tenets of Buddhism; detachment from everything.

I know I’m incredibly late to the party, but I’ve finally completed listening to S-Town, the new spinoff podcast from Serial and This American Life. Following the void and existential crisis that follows the ending of a show/podcast, I’ve travelled further into the abyss, by adding even more podcasts to my list. Of particular interest, are The Message and Lif-e.af/ter, two fiction podcasts from GE Podcast Theatre and Panoply. The story-telling and narration, along with the sound editing are just off the charts and truly shows the possibilities that podcasts afford in journalism and storytelling. The quality of the sound and the importance they’ve given it remind me of Twenty Thousand Hertz – a podcast inspired by 99% Invisible – which is completely about the different sounds around us and the unseen (and unheard) world behind them.

Some days are just the worst and it’s in those days that you realise the true enemy of us humans is stress. You keep worrying about how things can go south and you start making contingency plans for when shit hits the fan. But then, shit does hit the fan in a completely different way and you have no idea what to do, except maybe take the punches as they come in. The stress and the worrying is like being in a slow pressure cooker, you literally feel your life being wasted away, as you’re crushed by the weight of everything that’s on your mind, you feel your mind turn to mush like an over-boiled potato.

Nothing kills a mind faster than stress, but the true perfection in stress is that nothing shows on the outside, and the actual effects see the light of day long after they’ve manifested in the mind. But enough of this negativity, I guess.

A visit to the beach sure is an escape from the bland reality of the mundane existence we’ve eked out for ourselves on this little planet. It really takes your mind off the fact that every second of your life is slipping past you, never to be recovered or experienced again; that you’re slowly inching towards death, that final sleep that all of us try to avoid and not think about, but which comes for us all. So there I was, on a Sunday evening, long after the sun had set, with six friends of mine. It must have been a glorious sight to behold: seven slightly-drunk 20-somethings, semi nude and playing around in the waves at night.

After a while, I got tired and just sat there at the shore, waves nearly covering me whole, while I counted the stars up in the sky. It’s actually been a long time since I’ve seen some real, literal stars, and it felt great. The whole experience was humbling and relaxing in an eerie way. I was instantly reminded of how small and puny I was in this Universe, but I was also overjoyed by the fact that I had the opportunity to gaze up at this canvas of infinite beauty that no human mind could have conjured up; at least not the minds that I know of.

This wasn’t exactly how it looked like.

At this point I realised that my problems weren’t that big of a deal anyway. They were puny little inconveniences in the greater scheme of things. None of my problems and worries would exist after I die, and none of them would ever matter to the vast infinite void of the Universe, even when I’m alive. So to hell with my problems, I’ve got to life to live. Of course, this feeling only lasted till I reached back home and then the feeling of dread and anxiety and worry all came running back to me, like pet dogs greeting their master after a long day. Conversely, it was at this point that I realised these things are my siblings, with Depression being my conjoined twin.
Anyway, though I haven’t really done anything all month, I’ve been incredibly busy with random things that have popped up on the way. That’s one of the things about being busy – you’re not being productive. But enough of this productivity bullshit, let’s get down to movies. I found Dust, a channel that features great sci-fi short films with amazing visuals, from emerging story writers and directors. There’s loads of short films on the channel, making Dust a binge-watcheable delight. One of the movies I saw was The Decelators

I don’t want to go into much detail and spoil it for you, but the film involves a group of people who feel life is moving too fast, that they’re losing their time. So they try different methods to slow down time and finally create a machine that captures them in one moment. A single moment that they thought was perfect, running in a loop over and over again. That got me thinking, if you were in a moment that made you happy, would you know it? What if there would be a happier moment in your future? You wouldn’t know it and you’d be forever stuck in the single moment. Personally, I’d rather prefer living out my whole life, in hopes that there’d be a more perfect moment in the future, than have a machine that lets me slow or pause time.
Well that’s about it really. It’s been a hectic month and these are all the stupid thoughts I’ve had in the course of that month. If you’ve somehow managed to reach this point and not fall asleep, consider liking my Facebook page. You won’t find any memes or funny videos, but you will find occasional updates and links to all my posts.

Image courtesy: SnapwireSnaps on Pixabay

Recollections From December

December was a fast-paced, busy month for me, with semester finals and various other activities that expanded to fill all of my time. I’m really happy 2016 is behind us and I can’t wait to experience everything 2017 throws our way; after 2016, I’m pretty sure nothing can be worse than that. This post should have come out sooner and before the year ended, but it got sidelined due to my confession post. Here are a couple of thoughts I happened to write down and other things I’ve been upto in December. 
Certain days of the month, I wished to myself that I was better at consoling people and cheering them up, motivating them when they were down in the dumps. When we’re younger, we believed consoling needed to be done to make sure that those people forget the pain and misery. As we’ve grown up, however, I think we’ve realised that pain is an integral part of our lives, and now, we only console people to make them forget the pain temporarily. The pain and misery is still in them, hidden out of sight. For now.

December was also the month where I realised (for like the millionth time) that my impulse purchases are a bitch I have to learn to deal with. I spent a whole lot of money on things and activities I didn’t really need and later regretted them. This month made me realise I need to get my tendencies in order and not be such an asshole when it comes to money. And this is just the 4th of the month!

By the 5th, I’m basically hating myself for my spending spree. Self-loathing and what not. It certainly did look like my depressive episodes were about to make a comeback. Yet another thing that completely surprised me in this period was how unpredictable humans can be when it comes to reactions. Say one thing at a particular time and you get one reaction. Say the same thing at a different time and you get a totally unrelated reaction. The main obstacle I face in dealing with humans is that every word I utter is a ticking time bomb. I can never be sure which word of mine will trigger an avalanche of sorrow and sadness in others. Sometimes I just hate myself for having ruined someone’s perfect day and sometimes I hate having to interact with people in such a careful manner.

The rest of the month passed by, with a couple more cynical thoughts that are just too silly to share here. The highlight of the month was that I finally got to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a movie I’ve been waiting for since April. Without getting into much spoilers, I just absolutely loved the movie and the dark gritty tone it took, unlike the other Star Wars movies. Zack Syder, if you’re reading this, please do watch Rogue One, that’s how you make a good, gritty, dark movie. Whereas The Force Awakens had a sense of childish adventure in it, with Rey and Finn and introducing us to the new generation, Rogue One got right down into the war, in a very sombre way. The main challenge for Rogue One is that everyone knows the ending, by default. We have Episode IV, so we know the rebel spies manage to steal the Death Star plans. Where Rogue One shines is in the execution. It certainly did feel like the stakes were pretty high and there were certain points where I really doubted if they’d be able to pull it off anyway. The movie starts a bit slow and jumps a lot between planets but that’s just the first act. The other two acts are edge-of-your-seat action and great storytelling.

Diving deep into spoilers now, here’s what I loved about the movie.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • The movie showed us a glimpse of all the evil things the Rebel Alliance has done. It’s not a black and white Universe anymore, with the Empire being evil and the Rebellion pure good, as was conveyed in the Original Trilogy. The Rebel Alliance has done its share of morally questionable acts too. I loved it when Cassian killed his informant to prevent any information leaking to the Empire. He had no choice but to do it, for the greater good of the Rebel Alliance.
  • The diversity of the cast in the movie. A Mexican actor in the leading role, a female as the leader of the team, a much more inclusive team than in other movies. Now, I don’t fully embrace the idea of inclusion merely for the sake of diversity, but Rogue One did it in a subtle way that didn’t seem shoehorned in. The characters, their history, takes us away from the central storyline of the Skywalker family and introduces us to normal people, living in the Galaxy and shows us what the rebellion means to them, how it affects them. 
  • The Vader scene at the end. Hot damn, that scene made me squeal like a 12 year old girl. The scene could be considered fan service for all the fan boys out there, but I believe it is probably the best representation of Darth Vader on screen. It just shows how much of a badass killing machine he was. As thousands of people have noted before, the movie looked just like a horror slash-flick when Vader started slicing through Rebel scum like a hot knife through butter. Also, Disney, I wouldn’t mind paying for a solo Vader movie where it’s just two hours of Darth Vader slicing through Jedi and rebels and hunting them down. 
  • The characters being killed off at the end. Not many movies have the guts to kill off the entirety of its cast, but that’s exactly what Rogue One did. There they were, with no way to get out alive. They are now unsung heroes of the war, who might go down in history with no recognition or fame. They gave up their lives trying to steal the plans and transmitting it, in the hopes that someone might be able to destroy the Death Star. This gives a whole new meaning to the title of Episode IV. The sacrifices made by the rebels take on a whole new level of depth after you’ve watched Rogue One. 

To celebrate the end of the year and to welcome the new year, I did something pretty different. Instead of hanging around with a book and wishing everyone at the stroke of midnight, I went out to a New Year’s Eve party, with real people. Trying to overcome my social anxiety in this way, dancing to music and being in large crowds of people is a pretty new experience for me, and was kind of unsettling at first. But hey, it’s a new experience and I kind of liked it. We rung in the new year with great excitement and it felt good to have friends right next to me during and after the countdown.

Now, ringing in the new year means one thing: resolutions. I’m not really a resolutions kind of guy, and I subscribe to the idea that the best time to make changes is now. However, this year I’ve planned to read and write more. I’ve actually made a list of books I’d like to read and/or finish reading this year. 

  • 1984 by George Orwell. Yes, I began reading this back in July but I still haven’t completed it. 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It… Every Time by Maria Konnikkova
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal 
  • Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To by Dean Burnett
  • The Lonely City: Adventures In The Art Of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

There’s no guarantee that I might be able to finish this list, but that’s certainly what I’m hoping for. A couple of books have been on my list for quite a long time, but haven’t yet been purchased because book prices in India are just too high, even online marketplaces have stupidly high prices because they import books. The high prices of most books in India is the topic of another long post and I could go on and on about it. Public libraries aren’t an option either because they’re poorly funded, the selection of books isn’t that good either and the whole system of public libraries is pretty much in shambles in India. I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, so that’s pretty much my reading list for the year.

How was your December? How is the new year looking for you? We’re already 10 days into it, are your resolutions still holding up? Let me know in the comments below. 

Escaping Reality

​Regardless of what everyone might tell you, real life isn’t all that interesting. If it was, we wouldn’t have escapist media like movies and fantasy novels. Over time, the lush veneer of the exterior gives way to the dull, drab interior of mundane, monotonous existence. We get stuck in a rut and wish for an escape from this world where every day is the same.

I’m the kind of guy who daydreams. A lot. I also procrastinate a lot, so that mixed with the daydreams means that most of my days are spent in a semi-conscious haze of actual decisions and frantic work to meet deadlines. I used to be so addicted to dreaming of possible future scenarios and alternate timelines of my life that even the first piece of fiction I wrote involved daydreaming as its central plot point.

So what is it about reality that bores me and pushes me into daydream mode? Maybe it’s the fact that I am unsatisfied with my life and want one with more action and a better starting position, so to speak. Maybe it’s the fact that every day is kind of the same and the routines have lost their novelty. But that’s not what this post is about. I’ll admit, this is probably the most honest I’ve ever been when writing on this blog. So this is like a confession that I’m (kind of) ready to put out there.

I keep blabbering to people about how honest I am when it comes to uncomfortable truths and why they’re immature for finding it hard to accept them. Sure, I do blurt out uncomfortable truths without thinking, even in situations where convention dictates otherwise. The problem is that I lie to myself all the time. And that translates into lying to others subconsciously.

Over the years, I’ve carefully crafted an exterior which, to me, is close to perfection. Hard as a rock, calm even in the worst of situations, detached from everything and just a macho man who never cries. But my whole personality is built on these lies. I’m a soft crybaby inside and though it might look like I couldn’t care less about burning bridges, I am actually really affected by them inside. I don’t know if people can often see through the bullshit exterior personality I’ve created or not. Maybe they can, and just don’t bring it up. Who knows?

What’s more, I actually advise people to not conform to preconceived notions of how they should look and/or behave. I advocate a lifestyle that places importance on personal freedom and rights and not bending to society’s ever-shifting likes. And yet, here I am, moulding a fake personality that has everything people might expect from modern men. Unflinching in the face of crises, detached from negative emotions, never sad or in sorrow. So yeah, hello world, hypocrite here. 👋

Moving on, I always advise people (Yeah, I should stop doing that altogether. 😅) to look for the good in people. I believe in the fact that humans are neither black nor white, it’s a whole grey area. So despite the fact that humans are grey when it comes to morality and general goodness, I usually advice the people around me and proclaim that I only look at the good in people. Turns out, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I’m always doubtful, almost cynical, of the moves people make. Maybe a help here or there, or a favor without me asking for it. Stuff like that always brings out the skeptic in me. When people are kind towards me, I tend to act defensively and see it as a way to accomplish their own selfish needs. I try to find motives behind the kind acts of people around me and in my life, even when there are none. I think and overthink trying to come up with possible favors they might ask of me in the near future. I know I’m an asshole for doing this, but it’s just the way I am; this is the real me. I’ve been trying real hard to change, and progress has been slow and uncertain. This might seem pretty obvious to the people in my life, but it’s really hard to admit to myself that I’m a cynic.

Another thing that happens is that I often catch myself in between all this negative thinking and then get disgusted at myself. I beat myself down about it and that usually triggers my depression. And once that sets in, boy, there’s no coming back.

Before I close this confession and move back into myself to sob over what I have become (not really 😅), here’s a bonus point to in case I still haven’t managed to convince you. I’m such a hypocrite I actually write about how society is filled with hypocrites. Oh the irony! It took me the greater part of a month to come to terms with this and find the courage to sit down and actually write this. The experience hasn’t been easy, what with me facing all the negative traits in me that I’d usually hate in others, but I find myself trying in earnest now to change myself, to reach a state I’ve labelled simply as Not This.

I believed it was the experiences someone had that shaped his or her writing. For me, writing this post has had a similar, albeit reversed, effect; the writing is beginning to shape who I am as a person. As this shitty year comes to a close and a hopeful new year glimmers in the horizon, I hope this shitty part of my personality dies with 2016,and I’m a better person next year. Happy Holidays everyone! 

Regrets, What It Means To Be Human, And Nihilism

The thing about regret is that it’s a dish always served cold, by life. The moment you take a decision, it is never clear if the path you choose will cause you regret and heartbreak later in life.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the probability of there being regrets, later in life, is what causes people to skip or delay making tough decisions. It’s literally a game of chance and most of us choose not to take a risk. So we put off making the actual decision. We yearn for information on the choices we have, as a mean of avoiding regrets, but being able to see how each choice will unfold along the line and comparing them is impossible. This is why we dislike tough decisions, and to a certain extent, change. Where there’s change, there’s bound to be decisions waiting to be made as part of the response to the change.

This past week, the question that’s been running around my mind is “What is a life well-lived?“. Needless to say, I was pretty clueless about the answer. I posed the question to a close friend of mine. Ever the optimistic, cheerful existentialist, she replied thus.

For me, a life well-lived consists of being of use to someone. Making at least one person smile every day. Doing things with passion and effort, no matter how mundane or small the task might be. Filling my life and the lives of others around me with positive thoughts. All the good in this world far outweighs the bad, so why not be positive all the time?

A life well-lived is one where a descendant or friend gets teary-eyed decades after your death, reminiscing of the role you played in their life and the respect and adoration they have for you. A life well-lived is not one in which you were happy, but one where the people around you where happy, because of you. A life where you gave back to the world instead of just taking. A life where you didn’t just win, but also learnt from your mistakes and failures.

Purely out of coincidence, Oh Wonder, a musical duo I’d just discovered (seriously, check them out!), published a music video at around the same time. They reached out to filmmakers and artists around the world and asked them “What does it mean to be human?“. The resulting video, with people sharing their thoughts and answers to this question, and the music mixed in, is a pleasure to watch. 2016 has been a pretty shitty year and this video was like a ray of sunshine amidst the storm.

To be able to connect, with another person, to set aside all your differences and to just treat each other as equal humans is a truly surreal experience. We’re all equal and we all deserve this world. Sure, there might be differences and disputes, but that doesn’t mean we forget the fact that they’re human and start hating them. This year has been really stressful, with a lot of lives lost and hatred, bigotry and xenophobia spreading on a global scale. Personally, 2017 can’t come fast enough and I just hope things are much brighter next year and people around the world connect with each other on a more human level.

Though the answers to the two questions above are hard to find, there is a part of me that finds this exercise futile. Maybe the search for these answers is yet another way of trying to attach a meaning to our lives. Think about it this way. What’s the point of life? What’s it all mean? Who are we living for? Why are we even alive? There are no answers to these questions. Why do people go around chasing jobs, fast cars, huge mansions and money, when, in the end, nothing goes with them to the grave. And it’s not just the material possessions. I’m also talking about the friendships and relations that are forged over a lifetime; things that have an expiry date, but people just choose to ignore the hard truths, and pretend there’s no such thing.

Now, there might be people who counter with “Yeah, all lives come to an end and we know it. So we enjoy it the best we can.”. I’ve tried, but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is yet another vain attempt to stick meaning and purpose to life. Maybe what we should be doing is to stop trying to find a meaning for our lives.

Humans are naturally curious and we have this innate desire to understand and caregorise everything. It’s almost like we have this obsessive compulsive need to label everything, define it all in terms of ’cause and effect’, to be able to explain everything and find meaning in everything that happens. Maybe that’s why we try to find meaning in life. And we shouldn’t. Maybe we should admit the fact that life has no value intrinsically, it has no purpose, no motives, no goals and it only gets a meaning or purpose when we attach one to it. 

We’re all insignificant, roaming around every day with a false sense of purpose, while everyone ignores the basic truth, there is no purpose. Nobody knows why we live, but we all feel compelled to invent some meaning for it.

“There is no justification for life, but also no reason not to live. Those who claim to find meaning in their lives are either dishonest or deluded. In either case, they fail to face up to the harsh reality of the human situations.” –  Donald Crosby

Sure enough, the philosophical path one takes is their own choice, and before I wrap this entry up, I’d like to know what your perspectives are, with regards to the questions above. What would your answer be? Let me know in the comments below.