Spiritual Advocates — The missing superheroes of the hour!

“Vanity… Definitely my favourite sin!”, John Milton, The Devil’s Advocate.

The defining trial of the age of man is underway at a grand scale. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced mankind to put its core moral values on trial. At stake is our very humanity. The plaintiff is our moral code demanding that we put the collective good of the species ahead of the needs of the individual. The defendant is our very biology that drives us to take risks in pursuit of ephemeral emotions such as happiness and the satisfaction derived from indulging our basal instincts. The judge and jury is our collective intelligence. The only actors missing are the lawyers to represent both sides to ensure that the law is upheld. But will justice be delivered? Or rather can there be a just resolution to this eternal dispute between the body and the soul?

Maybe it is our vanity that is the real culprit here. After all, in our vanity we have strived to control every aspect of our natural world in spite of having been repeatedly shown our place in the natural order by Mother Nature. Why does the species as a whole then persevere in this endeavour? After all there has never been a dearth of the enlightened souls who have tried to make us see the glaring fallacies in our reasoning. These messiahs have even been able to resist the lure of vanity and have stayed true to their cause. Instead it has taken a global pandemic to force humanity to put itself on trial.

So let us then try to explore what has been missing from the cast of characters. The God and the Devil are present and so are angels and demons. Then we have human beings with varying moral standards spread over the entire spectrum from outright altruistic to downright evil. We have teachers, preachers, and gurus to guide us and marketeers, profiteers, and politicians to beguile us. The one unfulfilled role seems to be that of a lawyer, nay an advocate, who can help us represent our true selves and argue dispassionately on our behalf in a court that is inherently biased towards ruling in favour of our materialistic needs.

If the Devil needs an advocate to try and bend our free will then why should God rely only on his angels? Enter a Spiritual Advocate!

True to the definition of the word, a Spiritual Advocate must primarily be responsible for arguing to our flawed intelligence to strive to achieve a balance between our diverse needs. They should help us rein in our desires to feel morally justified whilst indulging our biological needs. And in turn they should help alleviate our guilt arising from bending our moral compass whilst striving to stay true to our very basic purpose as living things: to carry on living to the best of our abilities!

The situation is further complicated by the undeniable fact the homo sapiens species is the only species that consists of individuals who are prey and individuals who are predators and of individuals who are primarily producers and individuals who are primarily consumers. This results in a dichotomy in our very plane of existence producing two distinct worlds: one which consists of individuals who are driven to live by strict adherence to an agreed upon set of social laws and the other wherein each individual is truly empowered to establish their own moral code and live by it. And thus required to mediate between these two worlds are advocates who can straddle the schism that separates these two worlds and thus maintain the peace.

The spiritual advocates are themselves certainly not free of the lure of vanity as they face off against the Devil’s advocates who are entrenched in both the worlds. It is this herculean effort that they put in to stand their ground that makes them the true superheroes of our time! Let us then call out to these spiritual advocates to come out of the shadows and in to the limelight to help us restore some sense of order to this world devoured by the forces of good and evil at a scale never before witnessed in the history of our species!

This story was first published at Spiritual Advocates — The missing superheroes of the hour! | by Yatin Kulkarni | Feb, 2021 | Medium.

Don’t let anyone force you to be a villain in your own story!

My favourite scene from the movie As Good As It Gets has to be the dialogue below:

Melvin Udall: I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true.
Carol Connelly: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful.
Melvin Udall: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay, here I go: Clearly, a mistake. I’ve got this, what – ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never… all right, well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills.
Carol Connelly: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me.
Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.

I am pretty certain that just because everyone loves a happy ending, Melvin is granted moral redemption at the end of the movie and they walk off in to the haze of flour. But it does make one wonder whether Melvin’s character was meant to be a hero or a villain or simply be a protagonist of a heart warming story. I am willing to bet that the writers were happy to let the audience make that choice for themselves.

But this is not a movie review, I am writing this blog to shout out in to the cosmic void that I refuse to become a villain in my own story! Or a victim for that matter. I am simply the protagonist of my story and I will tell it the way I please. Why? Simply because I can!

Do not worry though, I don’t intend to bore you with my story. It is full of cliches and stereotypes and with a fair share of idiosyncrasies given the rather unusual road that I have been privileged to walk down. The intention of writing this blog post in the first person is rather sinister: To patronise you in to feeling sorry for me. And therein lies the rub as the bard said. Most of the sentient members of our species are all too eager to belong to a group, a society, a culture, a nation and in doing so they thrive on the collective empathy that enables the human society to exist in a quasi peaceful state. We thus feel empowered to righteously point fingers at individuals who have the audacity to stand apart. At the same time we are ever so eager to practice idolatry and we find a steady supply of heroes to idolise – willingly or unwillingly – that is a moot point.

Those that we find worthy of our disdain are either cast out to be ridiculed or are politely ignored as their monetary contributions to the society are hard to pass up on. I wish to acknowledge that I belong to the purgatory that exists within these two extremes.

Of course, there are the true villains amongst us, embodiment of pure evil: capitalists, politicians, lawyers, and lest we forget religious preachers. I too particularly detest the devils and demons disguised in religious paraphernalia. But I am digressing here. Let me turn the spotlight back on to myself.

I am not an evil person. I am fairly well educated, well travelled, and well read. But somewhere along the way I was seduced by the dark side: Liberalism. That I subscribe to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism would be the nail in the proverbial coffin. Add to that my uncanny ability to patronise with impunity and my often misunderstood unabashed pride in my state of mind and you have all the makings of a narcissistic sociopath. As a matter of fact I am being evaluated by a clinical psychologist as to whether I suffer from Anti Social Personality Disorder. Apparently, it is now politically incorrect to label someone as a sociopath or a psychopath unless they pose a clear danger to themselves or to those around them.

But nevertheless I am a human being with human needs and so I find myself, at the age of forty six, in a rather unique situation. Sans the details let me just tell you that I face the prospect of either betraying myself or losing my tenuously held place in society. There are those even within my own bloodline who continue to try and get me to see the light and try and mend my ways. They warn me of the perils that lay ahead and how I should humbly allow myself to be subjected to the social norms so that I may benefit from being part of a family and a society that takes care of its own. But I refuse and subsequently I am being branded a villain hell bent on destroying my life and thereby causing irreparable damage to those nearest and dearest to me.

Well dear reader this is where I had an epiphany: What if this is as good as it gets for me? I am sure I am not alone in being in this situation so the socially responsible thing to do was to post this out there: a message in a bottle tossed in to the ocean of humanity. Those who would be unlucky enough to find and read this must excuse me for trying to pull the ground from under their feet. Alternatively in the age of #MeToo and #MenToo those who find themselves being forced to ask the same question – may this be a beacon of hope. Or maybe you are unable to find the words and the voice to question why those nearest and dearest to you are so impacted by your choices. My suggestion is that you look at yourself in a mirror and ask: Why does it even matter? Sometimes being a necessary evil is better than being an unnecessary influence which only time can decide as to whether it was good or bad.

But please don’t come knocking on my door for empathy; I am too busy living my life and having a hell of a good time! After all, I did warn you of my evil super power!

Nationalism: The Achilles heel of progress?

In view of recent events, this article is neither a critique of leaders across the world nor is it a commentary on the current global political quagmire. Instead, this can be construed as an open ended question being posed to the collective human intelligence with an unconditional admission that even an attempt to answer the question might be a futile endeavour pandering to our vanity as the dominant species on this planet. We shall instead start from an opinion expressed by a newly minted product of our broken educational system who declared in an article posted a couple of years ago that:

“Nationalism is a dangerous, slippery slope, and it’s a problem we have created ourselves in our human, global community.” – Sina Samali in The New Englander on March 28, 2018.

Sina Samali was a senior at New England College (NEC) in Henniker, New Hampshire, USA, pursuing a degree in Communications and a minor in Psychology at the time of publication of this article. He was also the captain of the Men’s Soccer Team.

It is refreshing to see someone as young as Sina taking on a topic as complicated as this even if just for a short op-ed for the college newspaper. Unfortunately, the article is far too short and Sina seems hesitant of saying it out loud that one nation’s terrorists are another nation’s martyrs. It most certainly makes academic sense to be politically correct when you are a Communications major!

We shall however take a more broad sweeping view of how nationalism impacts the world at every level imaginable: hindering progress of the human species itself and threatening the very ability of the planet to sustain life. In that sense the question being posed can be considered as a corollary to the previously published article “Is intelligence an evolutionary mistake?” but unlike intelligence, nationalism seems not to be a product of evolution. It is even distinguished from patriotism with both terms appearing in common literature in the late 18th century. The interested reader is referred to the articles on Nationalism and Patriotism on Wikipedia for the origin stories. To further add to the confusion almost every nation has even engaged in practising jingoism to a degree due to the ever expanding threat of global terrorism. But we shall steer clear of that for the moment.

Let us focus then on nationalism as per the following definition from Wikipedia:

“Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a group of people) especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation’s sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty). It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history — and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation’s traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements.”

Anthropologists would argue that the evolutionary forces that enabled us to transcend the biological barriers to co-operation beyond families and progressively form bigger constructs conducive to the progression of the species such as groups of hunter gatherers, tribes, villages, cities, nations, and finally civilisations are what has led us to develop such a strong sense of nationalism. It is rather ironic then that nationalism has lead us down a slippery slope from its peak in the 18th century and that too because we managed to bring about the Industrial Revolution right around the same time. 

While the First Agricultural Revolution also known as the Neolithic Revolution led to Homo Sapiens becoming the dominant species on the planet, the Industrial Revolution led to a glut of supply that far outstripped the demand. The American revolution had also necessitated the need to overcome the moral conundrums being faced by the imperialistic empires formed by annexing sovereign city states through military might over the course of the colonial era. The stage was thus set for the “entrepreneurs” of the colonial era to corrupt the “noble” concept of Nationalism to promote the use of colonialism over imperialism to extend the monopolies over trade that they had enjoyed over the centuries. Thus while the “colonies” rejoiced in succeeding in gaining freedom over the course of the first half of the twentieth century little did they realise that the rapid progress in technology enabled their old colonial masters to enslave them yet again albeit in a new guise.

Nevertheless, all the conflict of the twentieth century cannot undermine the progress that we continued to make as a species. It is not surprising then that Neil Armstrong chose not to say “One small step for man… One giant leap for Americans” as he extended the dominion of our species beyond the heavens. We whole heartedly embraced Globalisation without an inkling as to its impact on our evolved sense of Nationalism.  Unfortunately, history has repeatedly stood a mute witness to the fact the most evil deeds are often the result of good intentions. 

It thus behooves us to swallow the bitter truth that the prevalent notion of Nationalism is a corruption of a fundamental law of Nature that is necessary for the survival of a species through the process of evolution. While the fittest amongst us continue to succeed on a global scale just as we did in the past; the weakest amongst us cling on to a hope to overcome adversity sustained only by the intoxicating fervour resulting from imbibing vast quantities of “Nationalism Kool-Aid” on a daily basis. The situation is far worse for the most unfortunate amongst us who are in turn oppressed in the name of Nationalism. It should be accepted beyond any doubt that the grief felt by every mother who has ever lost a child to a conflict fuelled by a misplaced sense of nationalism or jingoism cannot be alleviated by glorifying the dead as martyrs.

But then there are those who fall in the spectrum in between these extremes who find themselves either on a fence unable to move or being torn to pieces in the ensuing tug of war: the fabled middle class.      

The great institutions of democracy across the globe have figured out the perfect means of leveraging this middle class through yet another construct: Protectionism.  While superficially it is an economic policy that attempts to balance the ugly side of capitalism inherent to the nature of globalisation in its infancy; Protectionism is a cowardly approach to promoting nationalism. Yet it seems that it has helped rally the working class across the globe behind a rather toxic form of nationalism and silence the free thinkers in almost every developed country by labelling them as “anti-nationals”.

Thus we find ourselves at the edge of the proverbial precipice staring in to a chaotic abyss wherein the survival of all sentient life itself and not just of our species is at stake. But then we are just an accidental alignment of stardust insignificant in scale and devoid of any grand design. So it is but natural that we are accelerating our assimilation back in to the cosmos as stardust.

“From ashes to ashes, dust to dust!” 

Let’s save our Superheroes…

By freeing them from our shackles!

Metro Man said it best: “I DO have a choice! I can be whatever I wanna be! No one said that this hero thing had to be a lifetime gig!”

So why do we then rejoice at the end of the movie when Megamind becomes the reluctant superhero that Metro City so desperately needs? Maybe he ends up being this miserable misfit constantly at odds with the good and evil personas within himself.

If you were to look carefully at all the superhero characters each and everyone of them contends with the choice that Metro Man made. Assuming that all the superheroes are mortal as was so persuasively depicted in Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles, let us consider that maybe they too need the help of the common folks rather than always being led to slaughter in our defence. Does it not then behoove us to help them? After all it is Martha that saves Superman from being killed by Batman in Dawn of Justice! And in turn, Batman realises that only Lois Lane can be “the Big Guns” that can bring the rogue Superman under control in The Justice League.

Maybe the underlying message in all of these is that it is actually our Superheroes that need to be saved by us… the very people that they are here to save! Thats a paradox and an oxymoron bundled in to one. So how shall we unravel this interdependence? Or is this interdependence the whole equation in the first place? Let us ponder a bit more before throwing in the towel.

The answer is rather elementary, as one of the original superheroes would be happy to point out, “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” Superheroes are the creation of feeble human minds. These people believe that the limits of human ability can only be transcended by beings either of alien origin or ordinary humans augmented by technology created by those of us with far superior intellect. Aliens have always been expected to earn their right to live amongst their gracious hosts in their adopted countries, one of which is the country from where most of the superhero stories have originated. So naturally Superman is so indebted to his adopted parents and the planet Earth on which he grew up that he is forced to sacrifice his own species from being resurrected.

The humans amongst us with superior intellect are in turn forced to apply their genius so as to invent technology – military and medical that will protect the ordinary citizenry. The monetary gains from the invention of such technology are underplayed purposefully to portray these super-humans in a morally correct view. Morals that were, surprisingly, invented by people of far lower intellect and with a populist viewpoint that benefits people in power achieved through questionable methods.

Even, God himself is not exempt from this convoluted logic as the article published in BBC titled “The disabled Christians reinterpreting the Bible”. If God, admittedly the most ingenious creation of the worst amongst us, needs to be re-defined to be in tune with the modern world then so should we take the effort to redefine the nature of Superheroes and possibly give them an opportunity to lead a life that we all crave: A simple and carefree life. Unfortunately, the prerequisite is the existence of a utopian universe; which obviously remains far outside of the reach of humans with feeble intellect. Hence, in the interim the worst amongst us will continue to demand that the blood of countless Superheroes be spilled in our service. After all we are their creators!

Is intelligence an evolutionary mistake?

A consistent theme in the history of the homo sapiens species seems to be that intelligence begets evil. Given the very nature of life what is beneficial for one living thing is most likely harmful to some other living thing. However, it can be argued that if we go up the proverbial intelligence ladder the behavioural traits of a species can be mapped against a moral scale ranging from altruistic to evil. Animals sacrificing themselves for their young ones as opposed to running away to live another day can be considered as beyond the realm of survival instincts and hence altruistic. Similarly, when animals of prey kill the unprotected offsprings of predators one can argue that the needle of the moral compass seems to be pointing towards evil. Of course, given our inability to communicate effectively even within our own species we are certainly incapable of mapping our moral scale to those of other species if indeed one even existed for those species.

If we then extrapolate this line of thinking to a distant future wherein we have learned to communicate effectively with other species of similar intellect as our own, one could argue that Thanos is hardly the villain that he was made out to be in the earlier movies of the Avengers franchise. His quest for restoring balance in the universe as portrayed in Avengers: Infinity War is noble if not outright heroic. Let us examine the basis for this seemingly outrageous claim before dismissing it as delusional or worse: psychopathic!

While, we will use the fictional character of Thanos as the subject of our thought experiment, it is pertinent to point out that numerous authors across the vast compendium of human literature have pondered along similar lines as those of Thanos in a number of different scenarios such as Asimov in the Foundation Series and in I, Robot; The Wachowski Brothers in the Matrix; and Simon Kinberg in X-Men: Apocalypse to name a few. And since human literature has almost always been inspired by observed human behaviour and vice versa a number of humans have even succeeded at the same task as Thanos, albeit with far less noble intentions, such as the Jewish Holocaust by Hitler and the Nazis; Holodomor in Ukraine by Joseph Stalin; and the Rwandan genocide. Thus, while the events portrayed in the movie may never come to pass, we are certainly justified in considering the following statement as an axiom:

“An intelligent species will always give rise to individuals who carry out the most horrific and evil acts.”

In this context then we can righteously propose that Thanos and not the Avengers is the true hero of the Marvel cinematic universe because his premise is that the unchecked growth of intelligent species is leading to the inevitable destruction of all habitable planets in the known universe. Subsequently, the only holistic solution to the problem is to commit genocide at an universal scale but with absolute apathy and in a manner that involves no suffering whatsoever. Given the powers bestowed by the combination of the six infinity stones the nature of random elimination of life portrayed seems to have been unnecessarily prolonged for emotional impact rather than being shown in the most nondescript manner actually possible. His willingness to sacrifice that what he truly loves makes his actions noble and his battles agains the combined might of the Avengers is outright heroic.

So why is that good and evil are two sides of the same coin; for ever destined to co-exist and always locked in eternal conflict with each other. Although both good and evil deeds are equally performed by people along the entire spectrum of human intelligence, it can be established on an empirical basis that people of lesser intelligence are highly likely to be inspired to do good deeds or provoked in to committing evil deeds by someone else, invariably of an higher intellect. Thus, it would be safe to ignore the actions of people below a certain level of intellect and focus instead on people of a high intellect who either inspire or incite others. Let us then examine the apparent causality between higher intellect and evil acts.

One apparent relationship is that intelligent people are more likely to be plagued by Plato’s ghost forever wondering “Whats next?” Episode 1 of Season 2 of the popular HBO tele-series, WestWorld, has a quote that goes as “The greatest shame in life is to perish without purpose.” While one can argue that we are biologically “hard wired” to have a purpose – for all practical intents the purpose it to simply reproduce. However, while sentient beings would be at absolute peace in not questioning this purpose, intelligent beings insist on seeking an higher or an more in-depth purpose for a “raison d’être”. Maybe then the need for purpose is the root cause of all evil – directly or indirectly.

Furthermore, this can be contrasted quite easily against the cardinal sin of Greed. While one might immediately be tempted to consider that greed is synonymous with evil; one could argue that while both greed and evil demand power of control over others; greed is primarily the need to sustain one’s way of life at the expense of others. Evil on the other hand can be considered as perverse entertainment. Empirically then people of higher intellect demand more and varied forms of entertainment and in turn are most likely to be capable of evil; but not every greedy person of a lesser intellect is likely to be capable of true evil.

Thus, we may claim that sentience and intelligence are at irreconcilable odds in human beings driving us inevitably down the path of destruction of life itself. The question is whether evolution will have time to correct this mistake and delay ever so slightly the serenity of chaos promised by the second law of thermodynamics: “In all spontaneous processes, the total entropy always increases and the process is irreversible.”

Social Media: The “Dhobi Ghat” for life experiences!

In the context of the recent news of a prominent Silicon Valley CEO being “let off too easy” in spite of being found guilty of habitual wife abuse the following post on a leading social media site is of particular interest:

“My name is Yudi and I want to shout out in to the cosmic void that my second marriage is a failure! The question that I am desperately seeking an answer for is whether to go for a divorce or to maintain a delicately balanced facade for the sake of our beautiful children.

Before you jump to any conclusions let me tell you that I am a wife beater and the most recent incident that occurred was so disturbing that my conscience is unwilling to let me and my wife and our families sweep the matter under the thick carpet of everything else that is right in our lives. So this is as sincere a shout out for help as there can be.

But then why am I not turning myself in to the police to do the right thing by the book of law? Why write about this on social media? Ok so there are more than one pressing question. Did I mention that I am a liar too? And a male chauvinist pig and a irresponsible spender and a bad son and a conniving brother and the list goes on.

Where do I go from here?”

Please do note that names and certain details about the post have been changed to maintain privacy.

The intent of this article is not to try and analyze the behaviour of the perpetrators or the psychology of the victims or to dissect the circumstances under which these crimes were committed but rather to understand the role that social media can play in helping to bring about a dialog on the topic. And extending this logic a little further to highlight how different personas choose to use social media so differently yet for the same underlying reason: To express themselves and seek attention either from a narcissistic intent or to genuinely seek help!

Given the courage that it took for Yudi to pour out his guilt on to a social media platform knowing fully well that he could very well be subjected to a lot of trolling not to mention legal action leading to imprisonment it is easy to develop some sort of sympathy for his particular situation. This is especially easy for a person who may not personally know Yudi. But what about the victim? It is clear that the victim is in need for even greater help than Yudi is. It behooves Yudi’s friends and relatives to help the victim, first of all, to find expression for their anguish and then to give them the courage to seek a resolution to the matter. No one should have to put up with physical abuse at the hands of a relative especially a loved one. The TED Talk Our story of rape and reconciliation by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger is a rather heart wrenching tale of how the victim and the perpetrator were able to reconcile with each other and more importantly with themselves after a long period of self deprecating misery.

So assuming that, in the case of Yudi, social media would facilitate the process of rehabilitation for Yudi and his wife it is interesting to then ponder upon what else is possible? Can we further assume that the awareness raised due to this will reduce the incidents of domestic abuse globally by an order of magnitude? Its easy to see where this is going and at best all we can say is that every drop counts. Therein lies the true crux of what this article is about.

As much as we can all agree that social media is helping raise awareness on a large number of issues and is bringing about real change it would be hard to dispute that the underlying need to express ourselves on social media is leading to a “wash, rinse, and repeat” cycle being repeated over and over fuelling the growth of digital narcissism at an alarming rate. It is in interest of the corporations running the major social media sites and networks to keep this laundromat running at over capacity 24×7. But whats in our best interest? We do all need clean linens everyday but life experiences are a very different matter. As much as we crave for more we should also focus on – not making do with less – but rather on investing in making ours unique. But then what does “unique” even mean today? Thats a topic for another blog! Stay tuned.


Living In Wonderland: An Impossible Dream?

Ending scene of the latest instalment of Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass goes as follows:

Alice: “This is all but a dream… Not reality.”

Hatter: “Who is to say which is which?”

Maybe the Hatter isn’t as mad as one might be led to believe.

For some of us everyday starts in Wonderland. The morning sky has an uncanny ability to make one believe that a perfect day lies ahead of us full of opportunity. In those fleeting moments between the grim darkness of the night and the harsh sunlight of the day the world seems to be filled with promise. And so off we go dreaming about how today is going to be the best day of our lives and in typical fashion the dream breaks just around the time when we are getting to the best part.

And then there is the sky just after a summer thunderstorm with billowing white clouds moving lazily against an azure blue backdrop leaving one feeling satiated as if the rain had quenched some deep thirst within us or allaying fears that the storm has broken and the worst is behind us. Of course all of us have dreamt of chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Kanaha-original-Rainbow Image courtsey of Susan Baker (http://betheeffect.com/2013/02/04/mermaid-mondays/kanaha-original-rainbow/)

We all know that neither does the sky exists nor does the rainbow have an end let alone a pot of gold. It simply is an illusion. But that does not stop us from dreaming of the perfect moments spent under the perfect sky. So why not stretch the illusion a bit further?

Therein lies the moral dilemma. The central tenet of our moral code is that we should strive to continually find happiness in the harsh reality of our everyday lives and be thankful for our state of existence because it is a gift and there are so many who suffer a fate worst than ours. Charity is the antidote that keeps our narcissistic tendencies at bay. Even vanity is a virtue when practised in small doses so that we may make our charitable contributions to iconophilia that is critical to give hope to the desperate masses.

Are we sacrificing our dreams at the altar of political correctness?

While fame and fortune maybe the stuff that most dreams are made of let us not forget the one thing that we value above all: Love. We dream of finding our soulmate but how far are we willing to go to realise our dream? The prevalent theme on social media today seems to be about protecting ourselves from the hurt that unrequited love causes and focussing instead of being satisfied with being truly in love with ourselves. Furthermore, extensive studies are being carried out as to how social media is leading to increasing cases of depression because of the perception that our lives are not as good enough as of those around us. But the truth is an unknown and as elusive as the dream of finding the perfect soulmate.

Even our dreams of fame and fortune seem to be destined to suffer the same fate. Everyone is far too eager to join in on the current crusade against the uber rich and find a way to cut them down to size. Perplexingly though, at the same time, we are ready at the drop of a hat to make messiahs out of those who are actually making loads of money for the same reason as everyone else: greed. The end result seems to be that hypocrisy is being forced on to people in the form of unwanted humility because the “less fortunate” find it beyond themselves to be able to afford privacy to the “more fortunate” amongst us. Why should be the dream of fame and fortune be at odds with the dream of living a simple life devoid of the burden of social scrutiny?    

So as we look through the looking glass at the beginning of each day do we try and ignore the Wonderland that lies beyond or instead step through in an attempt to infuse a sense of wonder… a healthy delusion in to our lives? In the end none of us know to where we are headed but we all just keep walking because we can. So why not live our lives inside of an impossible dream and seek respite in our delusions without losing our sanity? After all, inception is just a mouse click away!


Stay Calm! Just put on a mask and take sides…

“No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.” – Christian Bovee


Such is the sad reality of our times! But may be this is exactly what our reality demands today. On one hand, one would be deemed naive to dream of a future wherein the human race has finally found answers for some of the worst issues that we face today. But on the other hand, we might just be cowering under the delusion that we are hurtling towards a dystopian future. Given the dogmatic species that we have been thus far in our relatively short evolutionary journey one cannot but be in awe of what we have been able to accomplish as compared to any other species in the history of the planet. Or as a species we collectively suffer from delusions of grandeur that we are the masters, the rightful owners, of this fragile and unique, yet equally inconsequential spec of dirt floating around in the cosmos.

Faced with such contradictions at every step, we seem to find solace in the strangest of ways. Religion helps us to put on a mask or even a cloak of spiritual supremacy over our fragile bodies and we convince ourselves that the eternal nature of our souls triumphs over the ephemeral existence of our bodies. Science on the other hand gets us drunk ever so easily on the promise of a better physical environment for the duration of our brief lives with the ultimate goal of extending our life span to eternity. In both cases we seem to be hell bent on finding a purpose, a justification for our lonely existence in a harsh universe, when in all likelihood we are simply one of the many inevitable outcomes of an uncontrolled experiment in the cosmic laboratory.

And then there are those lucky few amongst us who would be least bothered to apply themselves to even acknowledge the contradictions staring at them in their faces. For them life is a well defined path with prescribed activities and achievable goals to be walked upon in earnest. Questioning the very ground that they stand upon is simply not an option to be entertained. They are certainly aware that the outcomes of the prescribed activities are not guaranteed and they are remarkably stoic in a rather oxymoronic manner. That is to say that even their laughter, tears, screams of anguish, and all other assorted reactions seem to be straight out a script.

The parallel universe of social media offers plenty of perplexing alternatives to choose from. An anonymous post of relevance in this context goes as follows:

“I am asking some questions to myself…

Do I need to be connected  all the time?

Do I need so much information?

Do I need to respond to every stimulus immediately?

Do I need to hear somebody’s opinion on everything?

Do I need to have an opinion on on everything?

Do I need to be entertained every second?  What is it that is so boring or uneasy about myself that I need all this?” (sic)

Certainly thought provoking and maybe the answer simply is that more powerful than the urge to fit in to the chaotic world of social media is the urge to let loose the eternal, unabashed, and naive optimist within with the hope that in the ocean of humanity adrift in time and space there is someone else who might just be waiting to find a version of ourselves that is best kept hidden from the rest of the world. Until then it would be prudent to put on a mask, pick a side, and entertain yourself to make the wait bearable.

Or maybe one would be better off putting on the mask of a self righteous a**hole, sticking to their version of the truth and trudging along the lonely path to enlightenment. In all likelihood somewhere along the way you might look back and find that you have more followers than you could ever care for.

As the wise man once said: “Be careful what you wish for!”

A shepherd in wolf’s clothing – The unsung hero?

“You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker to The Batman in The Dark Knight.

The world today seems to defy all logic. Subsequently, are the generally accepted norms for the responsibilities of leaders, teachers, parents, and as such anyone who would be considered to be a “hero” still valid? Conversely, is anyone who wilfully chooses to not adhere to these “generally accepted roles and responsibilities”, by definition a bad person? A villain? Just as a “bitter pill” is exactly what is required to heal the body maybe a “crooked mirror” is exactly what is required to jolt our perception of the world around us thereby forcing us to wake up from our stupor. The person who manufactures this distorted mirror and more importantly fools people in to using it then might just be the hero “we deserve” rather than the hero “we need”.


With all due consideration the Joker is not a hero in any context. So let us look instead at another character, that of Professor David Gale in the movie The Life of David Gale. A very well educated and successful family man with the usual moral flaws who finds himself at the receiving end due to a mistake that certainly did not deserve the dire consequences that follow. So then what do we make of the path to redemption that he follows? Is he to be remembered as a martyr for a higher cause? Or would it be right to diagnose him as a sociopath – a psychopath – or in medical parlance: a person with an antisocial personality disorder; who deludes himself in to performing horrific acts just to make a point that would just as easily counteracted by the system? Certainly a matter that can invoke a significant debate.

Let us turn our attention towards a few recent event in the real world.

The debate around “Freedom of speech” seems to be growing more fierce rather than being quickly put to rest for obvious reasons. We simply cannot call ourselves a sentient species if we were to curtail our core liberties. On the other hand words thrown around carelessly, even without malice, tend to be able to incite violence far too easily for everyone’s comfort. So how do we differentiate between people who are eager to abuse the power of words so as to generate conflict and those who can twist words around to encourage people to think differently and more importantly to think for themselves? Neither the protagonists nor the antagonists of the recent drama on the premises of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University are worthy of being elevated to the position of a martyr or a revered leader. Maybe the true heroes are the students that still managed to attend classes and carry on with their studies in spite of all the distractions and disruptions around them. We would never know if they were taunted or otherwise harassed for refusing to participate in the matter.

Another example is that of the heart wrenching refugee situation that is threatening the very concept of the European Union. The pictures of a dead child were plastered all over the Internet to highlight the perils that the refugees undertake in an attempt to escape war, famine, and all other (un)imaginable atrocities in their homelands. The developed nations are caught in a moral dilemma in terms of to how to integrate the refugees that survive the hazardous journey given the strain that puts on their respective economies and local cultures. Isolated incidents of crimes committed by and towards the refugees further muddle the waters considering the ethnicity and religious orientation of the refugees that is in contrast with the local populations of the host nations. Are the leaders who encourage their nations to welcome refugees with open arms the true heroes that the European Union needs or the leaders who take a tough stance on the refugee situation the heroes that the situation deserves?

Reality seems to be stretched across far too many more shades of grey than fiction!

All over the world it seems that ideological differences between different groups are increasing and the seeds of discontent thus being sowed are surely going to result in increased conflicts through the foreseeable future. The need of the hour are people who can somehow find a way to align with multiple yet disparate ideologies and find common ground through very unconventional and unorthodox means. It is inevitable that such people will be disparaged and maligned by the countless other conventional and orthodox leaders of today who insist that standing fast atop an arbitrarily defined moral high ground is the only way to ensure the survival of their way of life. Most of the “ordinary” people in turn are will not be able to see past this propaganda and will eagerly join in on the hunt to drive out such wolves from their lands.

But what if these wolves are the shepherds that would lead the wayward flock that is the human population today on to the path less travelled? Maybe then somewhere along the way we would rediscover our humanity and achieve a delicate yet sustainable balance with this fragile little world that we call home so that our future generations can continue the journey for eons to come.

They are the true heroes that we need but don’t deserve!

Temptation thy name is “The Low Hanging Fruit”

The term low hanging fruit is a commonly used metaphor for doing the simplest or easiest work first. The urban dictionary defines low hanging fruit as “targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort”. It is human tendency to do the least effort required for survival. Conservation of energy is is Survival 101!

Consider the following scenario: You are extremely hungry and are standing at the bottom of an apple tree. There are fruits are various stages of the ripening process all over the tree. Unfortunately the luscious and delicious red apples are on the top branches and the green and bitter apples are within arms reach. What will you do? Look for a ladder so that you can reach for those luscious red apples at the top or simply pick the raw ones from the bottom branches? In the absence of a ladder within reach and due to the lack of a prehensile tail, that evolution forced us to sacrifice, you will most likely grab the apples that are convenient to reach i.e. pick the low-hanging fruit. A few days later the ripe fruits at the top go bad and now you are out of food for real. Then it might dawn upon you that if only you had taken the time to build a ladder and had eaten the ripe fruit first you would have had the raw fruit ready to eat by now. Moral of the story? Read on…

Speaking of morals it is interesting to observe that morality is mostly at odds with mortality at an individual level. The primary reason for that is that a moral code is typically enforced to foster collaboration amongst individuals to share resources that they would rather instinctively choose to fight over. The evolutionary rule of “Survival of the fittest individual” has itself evolved to “Survival of the fittest group”. A recent article in the Scientific American magazine also offers evidence of this dating back to our earliest ancestors that migrated out of Africa. But while the homo sapiens species as a whole has certainly thrived it is obvious that certain individuals or small groups thereof have benefitted more from this moral code based on cooperation than the majority. This social inequality has in turn contributed to the conflict between morality and mortality that the entire species is struggling with.

If we are to extend the scenario described above to include two individuals standing under an apple tree one could postulate that the matter could be easily resolved by one individual offering to allow the other individual to climb on to their shoulders so as to reach the ripe apples at the top. The risk of grievous injury and the reward of a steady food supply could then be equally shared between the two individuals and all would be well. But real life scenarios are hardly as simple as this hypothetical asexual “Garden of Eden”. It could even be argued that in majority of the real life scenarios the “bitter yet low hanging fruit” would be far more tempting. Let us examine some such scenarios.

In our daily lives we tend to take the route of least effort to get through. We tend to put off things that are difficult or tedious and simply do the easier tasks.  For example, students generally tend to study the subject they like most first, putting off subjects that they dislike or find boring or tough. As adults too, we tend to put in only as much exertion as is required for survival especially in our professional lives content with reigning in our ambitions in the process.

The tendency to use the easy way out extends to the way we interact socially in the virtual world. Take Facebook for instance; There are so many people who love to post every small incident that occurs in their life, sometimes posting status updates such as “hungry…” or “I am so sleepy”, innumerable selfies, and shared events such as having coffee or lunch with friends.

Then there is a group of people who only seem to be content with ‘Like’ing other people’s status updates. They don’t really take any efforts to share any valuable information. Neither do they really change their status updates. Instead they only go about liking other people’s status. Such people want a presence on the web but tend to take the easy way out.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who hardly ever post anything on their Facebook page. They don’t want to devote any effort on keeping their profile page active. They would no doubt check their Facebook every day and would check other people’s status and posts but neither reply nor comment on the same or even ‘Like” it – voyeurs of the digital world!

In all these scenarios described above we are tempted to opt for the low hanging fruit knowing fully well that it is less satisfying and possibly detrimental in the long run. Of course you might not even want to take the effort to be introspective enough to be aware of this temptation in the first place. So thank you for falling prey to the temptation to grab the low hanging fruit and thereby reading this article. Any inconvenience caused due to the self criticism that is bound to follow is sincerely regretted.