The Senseless Seven

An object will be in a state of uniform motion until something external affects it, said Newton. If you open the box, you might have killed the cat, said Schrodinger. But then Murphy came along and said “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. If nothing messes with the normal proceedings of your daily routine, you will not be disturbed. If no one opens your box, you will not be killed. But since both of these are possible, they will certainly happen, and you will be disturbed, and also might be killed. Now, moving away from the morbidity of this revelation, I tried to make a list of all those inherently awkward things that we hope do not happen, but they always end up happening, handing Murphy the trophy. The tiny insignificant things that make your day irregular and make you sigh and give up – insignificant maybe, but certainly there!

Junk Song Syndrome: Those ridiculous lyrics, that cacophony, the ultimate test of your song-skipping reflexes. Where blood pressure and ear infection are directly proportional to the frequency and volume of song. But it pops up in your head at the most unexpected of times, one bit of the song playing over and over again, and God forbid you accidentally hum it in front of those judgmental humans! These are the times I wish I could Disapparate or at least Obliviate muggles with the same reflexes I would normally use to skip that song.

I was almost in tears when the movie “Inside Out” so beautifully captured this process!

Brain-to-Mouth Wiring Fault: This phenomenon embarrasses the best of social butterflies and the most cautious of us. Some are subtle, like when you don’t know how to respond to sudden compliments and do the grin-haha-thank routine. Others are plain horrendous – those times when you just can’t believe yourself for what you just “ejaculated”! That’s my favorite expression (courtesy PG Wodehouse) for going out of control and blurting out things that I never thought my brain was capable of thinking. The split-second reaction which I did not see coming. Sometimes foolish (can be rectified with a foolish-er grin), sometimes unacceptable (this is where you lose friends).

Spam-Clearing Compulsion: It could just be harmless inclination of having a clean email, or could eat into your everyday routine and paralyze your neurons if not done. If the “Hooray! No spam here!” message calms your nerves and clears your bronchoalveolar tract and lightens you up, you might have a slight problem, especially when you know you can do better with your time. There are some that are on auto-pilot and can vacuum-clean the spam folder within seconds with their eyes closed, and some others who would scan the messages before doing that – this is the type of entertainment that makes or breaks someone’s day(s), much like the decision to go bar-crawling on a Friday night – you either have the time of your life, or you black out and spend the weekend recovering.

Bipolar Laughter: This is most impossible to figure out, personally. The entirety of your social life depends on politely smiling at not-at-all-funny jokes people crack. But what I cannot fathom is when truly funny wisecracks barely make your lips curl, but the lamest of jokes makes you holler, at which point you can clearly hear others judging you. Why can’t we have laughter control in our heads?

Self-Improvement Initiatives: I go to bed almost every single day planning the whole of next day, starting at 7 in the morning, even set alarms. But when my first alarm goes off, I obviously want to believe it’s just a bad dream that will stop ringing. It isn’t as bad when someone else makes the plans for you – like a class, or a meeting that you must attend. It’s the self-inflicted “I-can-do-it” “I-should-be-responsible” plans that hurt the most. Especially if someone else is involved. To add to the angst of it all, if you fall back on your pillow after turning off your alarm, well, you might as well just die in your sleep than explain to your manager why you were an hour late to a meeting you scheduled.

The Final-Second Memory Impairment: The phenomenon when you clearly remember everything you have to do until the very second of action arrives. You have drawn a flowchart in your head – walk down the hall, pick up the notebook on your way, and carry on. But you just walk down the hall and… carry on. Low fuel – drive down this lane, take a left (taking a right will lead to 15 min detour before you get to a gas station), fill gas, then go to work. But you just drive down the lane… did you guess right? Of course. Right.

The Borborygmous: When your insides want to be heard. It’s like farting – only more embarrassing because this is the sound sans the stench and it can actually be traced to a person. There are certain times when it goes unnoticed – when people are talking loudly, while watching TV. And other times when I want to go back to Disapparating – in the pregnant silence after a fight, when you are presenting, when you are in a serious, quiet meeting (if it’s after lunchtime you can’t help but cry to your stomach about how unfairly it treats you)

Oh My God!

the_force

I recently watched a Star Wars anthology series, called Rogue One. Thoughts can come from anywhere, and here’s one that sprung up during the movie, when a blind Force-believer dies, and his atheist (for want of a non-existent word for people who don’t believe in the Force) aide now starts believing in the Force suddenly. Pause.

Translating that to our wretched world, with a very long prologue first – I’m agnostic. But I want to believe that there is no such thing as a supreme power or a God. I think hope is a lie, that keeps the weak-minded from giving up. But hey! Now I’m certain that was the reason this God character was created in the first place. Because the world is such a surprisingly disastrous place, and is full of shocks and calamities and sorrow at times. And well, people were getting into trouble, and a few heads got together to make up a nice story so they can live in hope for a while. It was all a lie, but hopeless people hung on to it. They cherished the idea, they gave divinity to coincidences, and hence Man gave birth to God! What happened after, is all well-known history. Humans have the tendency to over-utilize everything – fossil fuels, their brains, and of course the hollow theory of God. That happened. Investors and businessmen (that’s not a modern job description, that’s a state of mind) rubbed their hands in glee, and started feeding on the foolish hopeless layman. Now, multiple Gods came up, just like we have Samsung and Apple and LG making the exact same phones with different operating systems, and fighting over the market. They didn’t like each other, made people fight, and kill. This concept of religion, was at first responsible for unifying human populations. It gave people a rule-book to live by. Chanakya in the 4th century wrote a truckload of theories on how he thought a kingdom must be run. And that is exactly what the king followed, and that is exactly what the citizens had to follow!! I wonder of any of my readers have read Chanakya’s Arthashastra. If you have, you would know why my sentence has such an appalling tone to it. It was written by a human being (however wise), who thought what he saw fit must be the law. Sounds familiar?

Religion was once the basis of bringing people together, to unify them, give them an identity, and help them become part of a race. I think this idea was perfect, to start with. Sans religion, each individual person, in my opinion, would have developed an identity crisis and would have become a disaster in the making, considering what out neural networks can do. But alas, now we don’t have that concept anymore. We are left with the remains of what was once a brilliant idea, but is now only a pain in the neck (much like grad school for many).

Getting back to my Rogue One thought, this movie was set at a time when nobody believed in the Force anymore. They thought it was a farce, that Jedis don’t exist anymore, and the world was a place of darkness and fear and destruction under the realm of Lord Vader. But, there was one man who still believed that the Force existed and was constantly urging others around him to follow. The interesting part is that his aide, a complete non-believer sees something miraculous happen to him, and his faith in the Force is resurrected. He now completely believed in it. And well, we all know the Force exists because we know the Jedi clan is still alive and Obi-Wan is in hiding, so we smile in glee as people start to accept the Force.

But wait. I call this phenomenon on Star Wars an emotional beauty, but when the same thing happened during the birth of multiple religions on Earth – when one believer instilled that faith in a million others – I call it a total fail? Why? Because the Force is not an entity. It does not have a face, it does not have multiple arms, it does not walk on water, it does not have a symbol, it does not teach to preach or to fall prey. It teaches to live in peace. It teaches to live in harmony and to protect. It is a way of life, like all other religions we humans have, only it is a feeling, not an identity. It protects and enlightens Humans and Ewoks and Wookies alike, it is like the Sun.

God, in most people’s opinions must be like Schrödinger’s God I presume. If people open their minds to investigate the existence, and find that there is technically no God there…oops! Now they killed the concept of God for themselves. If only they had never opened it! Then there is the other type who are such staunch believers, they think that if they refuse, they can be certain they will be punished for their disloyalty (much like Lord Voldermort). I think it is unfair to strip people of the hope that they find comfort in, but I think it is not only fair, but absolutely necessary to strip ourselves of that irrational, unnecessary, insecure cloak that we call religion, that clouds our view and muffles our hearing, and chokes our airways. A complete revamp of the way people see and conform to religion is what we need.

Like Dr. House says, “You can tell me you put your faith in God to put you through the day, but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways”.

May The Force Be With You!

The Importance of What We Don’t Know

This, being my first ever blog post, is a concept close to my heart. Something I regularly observe. A perspective of how our intellectual standing is left to the society for determination, and about how we have been conditioned to overlook the role played by unawareness.

Knowledge, information, understanding, are all almost everyday keywords if you are a grad student or a researcher (actually “data” tops all these, but more on that later). We are all constantly moving towards gaining more knowledge, more information, more awareness.

How do we do it? Books, teachers, parents? Yes, all of these to an extent. But these are finite, and these are the means of gaining more information, not the reasons.

What actually teaches us is unawareness. Not deliberate ignorance, but unfamiliarity. The concept of “not knowing” is always underestimated. It is ridiculed, it is something we are asked to move away from, and it is frowned upon. You feel left out in a coffee-time conversation about the Superbowl, you are made to feel uncomfortable in a research lab meeting if you cannot understand or contribute to a concept. But that is not the problem – the problem is what you feel after the coffee or the meeting, what the effect of determining your unawareness is. We often walk out feeling mediocre and ordinary. We fear the judgement of our peers, of our superiors.

Let’s for a moment troubleshoot this scenario. Society has never taught us to feel “okay” about not knowing. Take school – the more information you cram into your head the more points you score on a test. And hence, they decide that you are more knowledgeable than your classmates. Education stops after an assessment. In my opinion, that is where it should start. After being assessed for what we “know”, we should be urged to know what we don’t. But instead, we are left to mull over lost points trying to figure out where we went wrong. “Not knowing” is not wrong, it is a gateway to knowing more.

The lab meeting, the coffee-time talk, the test, were all determinants of the fact that you lack some knowledge. Cherish that outcome. Be positively cognizant of the fact that you do not understand an experiment, or a sport, or a mathematical derivation. Use that as a force to propel you toward knowing more. Be glad that you are fortunate enough to be in possession of an organ that can gather information endlessly.

Another important element of one’s unawareness is those stares and scoffs and frowns we are all so familiar with – we either get them or give them. We have grown culturally to be a judgmental society. We judge nervous classmates, and know-it-all classmates, we judge colored hair and bald heads, we judge alcoholics and teetotalers. Bringing about a societal change is next to impossible, however much it is encouraged. Let’s try it at a personal level, a selfish level – let’s accept this judgmental society, and move on to be better by our own standards, not by the society’s.

To give this another perspective, one huge effect of this societal judgment is withdrawal. We tend to only surround ourselves with people we are familiar and comfortable with. People who will not mock or snigger at us for not knowing. Having said that unawareness is the root of learning, let’s look at this society as a method of determining our obliviousness, and in turn a way of empowering us intellectually. Stepping out from familiar circles, and interacting with the smirking society, can actually be turned around to be helpful instead of denigrating.

Almost every single day in the past five years, I have been going to my biology lab, and performing tons of experiments. All the successful experiments have made me happy. I hum a gay tune while drinking some coffee. And all the unsuccessful experiments have made me a better scientist. I tend to not thank my failed experiments enough for what I am today, and often thank my coffee instead, but this is my chance, to acknowledge and dedicate my first blog post to them. For after all, they made me drink more coffee in the first place.