On Not Writing

There is a fascinating story of creation behind every product. Dozens of unrelated technological innovations coming together to create this new product that will be utilized elsewhere. It is sad, however, that we do not ascribe the same importance to the written word. Every word written, every essay penned is the result of words that came before it and of other words that did not quite make the cut.

Behind this boring post about how there is a wonderful story behind even the most mundane things, is a wonderful story. Things are almost always not how they seem. Now that I’ve got your brain going in loops, let’s move on to the fact of the matter. There is a story behind the existence of this post you’re reading right now. I’ve always been wary of responsibilities and deadlines. This is especially true this year since I’ve joined the Post A Week challenge. Mondays roll in and I’m filled with dread because I don’t even have a first draft ready.

So far, I’ve managed to whip up something in time, thus ensuring that my streak isn’t broken. This last week, I decided to sit down early and get something ready for the weekend. Now you would be forgiven for assuming that someone who shares his tips for beating writer’s block would have no trouble finding something to write about. But history has a cruel way of repeating itself, and I came up short of any ideas.

Over at Aeon, I read this essay on how the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer can help navigate a midlife crisis. This essay, combined with a well-written reddit comment on how to avoid regrets in your 40s, formed the basis for a post I had in mind.

I ended up trashing this idea because I’ve had quite enough of philosophy. I frankly don’t want to be stuck in a place where I am forever quoting philosophers and thinkers and arguing why this school of thought is better than that school of thought. Sure, philosophy is enjoyable and can lead to healthy debates, but when you eat and breathe philosophy, you lose track of your own life and thoughts. Secondly, a 20-something with no life lessons of value mouthing off about a mid-life crisis isn’t the best of things.

Fresh out of ideas, I concluded that a movie might get my creative juices flowing. I have these rare moments in my life where my near-perpetual existential crisis seems to contract. It is precisely in these moments when the masochist in me takes over. Over the weekend, I made myself watch the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Yes, you read that right, I watched all three of the prequel movies and none of the originals. Fans of Star Wars might know the pain I endured over those 7 hours, as robotic dialogues were delivered by characters I had no interest in a sterile CG scene.

The wide variety of emotions that one feels when watching the prequels is enough material to write about. I personally felt the five stages of grief flow through me, like the lava on Mustafar. Why anyone would knowingly put themselves through this traumatic experience is beyond me. Okay, I am exaggerating – the prequels aren’t that bad. I could write about just how disappointing these movies were, and how much of a masochist I am for spending an entire weekend watching these movies. But at the end of the day, I didn’t find the whole premise funny or interesting enough. Not that half-baked ideas have always been abandoned.

The last hope I had for getting some writing done was The Daily Post. They put up a prompt yesterday, which I took on as a challenge. I thought I’d write a short story, probably a mystery-thriller. What I ended up with was half a story, in the vein of Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Annihilation’. The fact that my story seemed similar to Annihilation did not bother me; the movie comes out this month, so I figured my story would be a respectful nod to the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I gave up on the short story because I was doubtful of my ability to stick the landing – to craft an ending that was satisfactory, with the kind of weak plot that I’d developed. I think that’s just how it is – sometimes what you write isn’t up to the mark. And that’s okay.

To be honest, I consider this post to be quite an achievement of mine. Not only did I make it meta, by talking about other posts that could have taken its place, I also included a bit of irony into this post. Here I am writing about how I don’t have any ideas to write about. In this single post, I’ve written about all three of my previous ideas, something that wouldn’t be possible if I had chosen to work on one of the three.

The #postaweek task has been quite demanding of me, simply because I don’t have a routine for blogging. Churning out content every week, while also maintaining the same level of quality as before is a fine line to walk on. I can only expect the last few posts have been good enough. But that is sort of the point of this task, I guess. Getting to a place where writing is an essential part of my weekly routine, not just something I do an hour before the deadline. So here’s to hoping I have my post ready well in advance next time.

If I haven’t put you to sleep already with my incessant ramblings, please consider liking my Facebook page. While it might not end world hunger or curb global warming, it sure will put a smile on my face. Or maybe not, because of all the data Facebook has about us. 😉


Where Do We Go From Here?

The first week of 2018 is behind us, and boy has it been a wild ride! From hanging corpses to nuclear buttons and sold-out books, the first week of 2018 looks exactly like an extended version of 2017. Not to be outdone by the dumpster fire that is the world outside, I wasted spent the whole week inside like a recluse. Zero productivity, unless you count the many hours I spent pondering about the state of the world.

As a rule of thumb, I tend to avoid new year resolutions as much as I can. The reason for this is simple. I am not delusional about what I can do. I know for a fact that I will fail any goal I set for myself in a week or two. So I don’t bother with it at all. However, two things that I had decided coming into 2018, were to read and write more, or at least marginally more than what I had managed in 2017.

Remember when I said I spent the whole first week like a recluse and got nothing done?

Most people would try to put that one week to good use by writing, but being me, I did not. I did, however, in my usual fashion, daydream about how much I’d write this year and how I would soon slide into a fixed weekly posting schedule. I even had a couple of ideas floating around in my head about what I would write about.

Needless to say, none of that has materialised.

So where do we go from here? Truth be said, despite my anti-resolution stance, I do like the idea of writing more, at least once a week. Going forward that might be a thing or it might not. The first week may have been a dumpster fire, but that doesn’t mean every other week has to.

How has 2018 been treating you? How many of your resolutions have failed? Are you still going strong with your resolutions? Let me know. Here’s to a great year ahead! [I should have said like a week ago :/ ]

As always, thanks for reading this and making my day. Please consider liking my Facebook page. This will award me the validation of people on the Internet that I so profusely crave. /s

A Primer On Death Part 2

Before you begin, read Part 1 here.

Socrates believed that death was a passage to another life. This would explain his calmness when he was sentenced to death. But Epicurus, born about sixty years after the death of Socrates, outright rejected the concept of an afterlife. He did not see death as being good or bad in itself. Being a materialist philosopher, death was just the end of sensation to him. Consider this thought by Epicurus:

“Death is nothing to us, for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.”

What he meant was that, on dying, we stop feeling. Our senses stop working and the abstract concept that is “you” or “me”, the person, ceases to exist. From this point on, we feel nothing, so we don’t feel death at all.

I think that the concept of an afterlife or an eternal heaven is, in reality, a means of sating our fear of death. We want to believe that death is not the end. So if death is not the big bad thing that we thought it was, then that leaves us to our devices with nothing to fear. But that leaves us with a quandary. What to do with the time that we are alive?

You can spend your life in a way that minimizes your suffering. This is what The Buddha strived for. In Buddhist philosophy, it is not death that is the big bad thing. It is the endless cycle of rebirths and lives spent suffering that is to be avoided. It is not necessary to believe in this concept of reincarnations, but you can see the appeal of living a life with no suffering. Over in the world of Western philosophy, Epicurus and his school of philosophy called Epicureanism, also tried to live a life free of pain and suffering, with friends who would always stick by you.

So not only were there thousands of people thinking about death long before you and I, they were also thinking about the most basic of questions: how to lead a good life? The simply answer to that would be, while you are awaiting death, lead a life with deeds that make it a good life. Or as the Stoics would call it, a virtuous life. What they meant by the term ‘virtuous’ is quite different from what the word would mean to us. A virtuous life was a life that was lived in accordance and in tune with nature and its flow. Not surprising, considering that they thought of the Universe as an all-encompassing God.

It is here that Stoicism diverged from Epicureanism and moves closer to Buddhism, in its total indifference to the events that happen in your life. Nothing that happens in your life is good or bad. By practising a strong detachment from everything, as in Buddhism, the Stoics were able to remove emotional reactions from all events and view them as objective actions. The goal was not to be a rock without feelings, it was to treat every situation with the same calm and to experience happiness from any situation.

More than anything, Stoicism is a philosophy teaching us to be strong enough to endure anything and still be tranquil. As Lary Wallace writes,

“Joy and grief are still there, along with all the other emotions, but they are tempered – and, in their temperance, they are less tyrannical.”

This is a good way of living life, according to Stoics, because it acknowledges that life is not always a bed of roses and that there are events that might be labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but you decide to look at them as just events.

But this does not mean that we simply while away our time detached from everything. It is about leading a life in accordance with nature, as the original Stoics said. That would need updating for our times, but it simply means that you go about your life, doing good deeds, and an indifference that would amaze mere mortals.

But what is a good deed? What separates it from a bad deed? What meaning or value, if any, does a good life hold? What meaning or value does our existence have? A discussion on that, next week.

Check in next week, for part 3 of this little meditation on life, death and everything in between. If I haven’t put you to sleep with my ramblings, please like my Facebook page. If you’re one of the cool kids who don’t use Facebook, follow this blog via email. You won’t have to worry about spam, because I’m inconsistent like that.


A Primer On Death

“Every breath you take is a step toward death.” – Ali

Death, the one thing that comes to us all. The one thing that we keep ignoring, because don’t we all have other pressing matters to attend to? We insulate ourselves from the concept of death right from childhood. When we do come to terms with our mortality, we realize that death is the worst thing that could happen to someone. Thus, we begin living our lives, ignorant about our impending demise. One could almost say that we are ignoring our deaths, rather than being ignorant about it. But none of us can tune out that little itch at the back of our heads in its entirety. That low voice reminding us that death is creeping nearer every passing second.

But here’s the thing. We never engage ourselves in thoughts about death. We do not think about it the way we should. Our minds are like dragonflies that keep shuttling from one twig to another. When we let our minds wander, our train of thoughts might take us to think about death and mortality. But our conscious mind makes it no more than a fleeting thought, flying off to a different thought, like the dragonfly. At this point, there are two statements that we need to consider and accept as facts. One, we will die. Every last one of us. Two, most of us are scared of death, of our mortality. We try not to think about it, or somehow try to postpone it, only to fail.

So great is our fear of death, that some of us go to extreme lengths to delay or even avoid it, without any success. As Ernest Becker has written, everything we do in our lives is a way of managing our fear of death. This death denial is central to our lives and the lives of people we create. Popular culture is full of such characters mortified of their own deaths. This irrational fear of death drives them to act. By avoiding death, they become immortal, which sets them apart from everyone else. Voldemort, attempting to be immortal, creates horcruxes by splitting his soul. Even the name Voldemort translates to “flight from death”, thus foreshadowing his fear of the end.

Even as a child, Anakin Skywalker is afraid of his mortality and that of his mother. This fear clouds his judgement, which Yoda sees through. It drives him to violence, to kill, and gives him a semblance of control over death, though momentary. He is then confronted with two systems that have differing views on death. The path of the Sith, to indulge in passions and seek control over death, is tempting to Anakin. The Jedi, as we know, are more resigned to death, treating it like a friend, an inevitable event. In the end, Anakin chooses the path that he thinks gives him control over death. This tension within him, that fear of death is what drives him to the dark side.

We fear death, not because we stop existing after we die. We fear death because we know we will miss out on the future. Call it existential FOMO. It is hard to accept that there will be, in the future, conversations, events and moments that we will not be part of. As James Gleick has written in Time Travel,

The past, in which we did not exist, is bearable, but the future, in which we will not exist, troubles us more. I know that in the vast expanse of space, I am an infinitesimal mote – fine. But confinement to an eyeblink of time, as an instant never to return, is harder to accept.

But this existential FOMO is nothing more than a constructed fallacy, if you think about it. As Thomas Nagel says, if you don’t feel a deep sense of loss, at what you missed before you were even alive, why should you feel loss at what you’ll miss after you die? You have missed thousands of years of human civilisation, so why feel sorrow at missing out on the future?

But long before you and I, Socrates rejected the fear of death. According to Socrates, death was not something to be afraid of, so men should face it with calm. He proposed that death could be one of two things. Death might either be an eternal dreamless sleep, or it could be a passage to another life. If it was the former, it would be a pleasant experience, a nice rest after a long life. And that is not scary. If death was the latter, a passage to another life, then we would get the chance to hang out with other people who have already died. And isn’t that a wonderful experience in itself, Socrates thought. So either way, death was not a scary ordeal, it was just something that happened to every one, a great equalizer.

“And they die
An equal death, – the idler and the man
Of mighty deeds.” – Homer

Continue reading, with part 2 of this little meditation on life, death and everything in between. If I haven’t put you to sleep with my ramblings, please like my Facebook page. If you’re one of the cool kids who don’t use Facebook, follow this blog via email. You won’t have to worry about spam, because I’m inconsistent like that.


Unopened Doors

I opened the door and quietly sneaked in. I now wish I hadn’t.

What happened to me wasn’t some eldritch horror. It was a routine call, pretty late at night. It was a few degrees above zero, but my skin told me it was much colder than that. I answered, arrived at the location and got in. There were people inside, walking around, being busy. Or at least, they were doing a good job of pretending to. Nothing had been touched, they said, in so far as any object can be left untouched. But then, nothing needed to be moved. Continue reading “Unopened Doors”


A River’s Death

I remember when the plains used to be.

I remember when the plains were not.

I remember the river that once flowed, tirelessly creating its path. It cut through forests and grasslands on its way. It met rocks, huge ones. The river could not move those giants, but it did wear them out, shape them according to its will. But the river did not care, for it did not find meaning in what it did. It just flowed. At least, that’s how I looked at it.

Continue reading “A River’s Death”


In Which I Search For Ideas

What’s that I hear you asking? No motivation to write?

Not exactly. It’s just that when I do write, I have both the motivation and the inspiration to write. Right now, I’m incredibly motivated to write. Given a topic, I could probably tackle 500 words without a break. But as (bad) luck would have it, I’m all out of topics right now. I guess I could use the daily prompts, but the thing is, single word prompts aren’t exactly my style. I could never have imagined that my own words would come back to bite me in the ass.

Continue reading “In Which I Search For Ideas”