Lost in abstraction

Lost in abstraction

10 trillion-The number of cells in an average human being. That’s more cells than the number of people on the planet. 10 Trillion cells. All working in unison humming every second or two.  From a certain point when we tumble forth into the World.

Such enormous complexity in such a simple and fragile exterior. All it takes is a poke, jab, blow, or fall to end it all. What is the end of it all anyway?

Then there is the brain. The most amazing few million cells. Lets call them “the specially chosen”. The brain that is capable of observing, and being observed at the same time. capable of perceiving reality and understanding abstractions. Capable of writing love songs and planning the most vile campaigns that are meant to destroy every living being in its vicinity.

Life surely flows through streams and rivers of thought- through fables of heroes and the horrors of villains. Through the frustrations and pain of suffering to the serenity of contentment and love. Life is everything and nothing- all in one. The proverbial World that is presented to us through the eye of a needle.

For millenia – scientists, doctors, healers and the curious ones have been studying the “how” of life. How does so and so work? Every year we recognize and reward those who tell us something truly unique about the how’s of life. I wonder how many of us have asked this question.

Why?

Why must we live? and why is the opposite of living- dying? What is living really? Is it me perceiving the things around me and other people seeing me move? If that’s the case then I’m no more alive than a car or an airplane. If living means learning, understanding, moving, and observing- that means the laptop I’m typing on is as alive as I am (and maybe better at it!) If it means feeling emotion- then half of the organisms that scientists classify as “living” aren’t really alive. And if it does mean responding to stimulus- then a dead person is as alive as a person alive- the body still responds to the stimulus (of rapid deoxygenation) by turning blue.

Yet somehow, all these suppositions and arguments seem incongruous.

A brief objective and dispassionate look at the World seems to suggest that its nothing more than an experiment in motion. Just like a scientist who mixes chemicals in the lab- just too see if the result, a great thinker suggested that nature is one big experiment called evolution. Random, chaotic, survival rather than living, and a constant state of flux. Where every being survives day to day.

That does throw our moral compass out of gear though. If survival is the goal, then there is no “good” way to survive, no “honorable” way to live and no “destiny” to fulfill. All that matters is eat or be eaten, kill or be killed.

And then- the biggest doozy of all time- is there a soul? if so what is it?

There’s something very reassuring about believing that there is a soul. Something that survives out brief existence of 50-60 summers in a planet that has probably has a hundred billion of them. Something that is ours- something that is us – that transcends. Gives value to learning, meaning to life. Just like the Philosophers Stone gives value to lead- turning it into gold. The kiss of death- something so scary- now turns into a divine transformation, where we are free of the physical bonds that bind us and many a times- burden us, into a sense of complete freedom. This is where we transcend into an abstraction- where we transcend flesh into thought. There have been so many books written by so many incredible thinkers, who after years of digging at the stem of life, discovered roots that were inexplicable and incredible- roots that were – for a lack of a better word- “divine”. Where does all of this fit into the grandest experiment of life- The evolution of the Universe?

I would like to believe that my life has meaning. And that meaning can be found by learning and understanding. I would like to believe that the crazy parts of life and the fun parts of life are there for a reason, that  my mind – muddy lake that it is- can be made transparent- and then I would be able to see the depths of cognition and perception. I would like to believe that the air around us is cackling with magic every moment of everyday- taking life from some, while giving life to others. Parching some parts of the World, while creating cherry blossoms in another.

I would like to believe that friendships and true relationships transcend time and lives, and the dead are not gone forever. I would like to believe that the voice in my head, constantly chatting with me, chastising me, motivating me, and protecting , is all the magic of the World somehow creating a “Reverse Butterfly effect” where I can travel through space, time, distance, and people, without moving an inch.

And I would like to believe that there is more to life then living, like there’s more to death than dying.

I also know that this entire premise rests on one word.

Hope.

Hope- the principal human delusion- simultaneously the source of our greatest achievements and failures.

And so I remain lost in this World of hallucinations- called Maya. Knowing that for every fact, there is an equal and opposite fact that’s every bit as true.

Like Le Petit Prince- my World has everything. And nothing.

Everyday in this World, I lose my self- in this wondrous abstraction called life.

Hallelujah!

Over the past past few days I’ve realised just how beautiful this word is. I’ve been an agnost most of my life, and continue to be so, but this particular song made me realise that there is so much beauty in the World- such magnificence. Such magic!

While there’s still a some way for me to reach ‘old age’ I cant help but imagine a 70 year old version of me, and I must admit, at the best of times, its a scary image that emerges.

All good things in life have a habit of sneaking upon you when least expected, slowly seep into your soul until you realise, just how beautiful everything around you is!

These three aspects of life, i.e. beauty, old age and hope, were presented to me, by an amazing septuagenarian- Leonard Cohen and I have to say a Hallelujah for him!

While there have been good songs, bad songs, and memorable songs, I think this is one song that, if listened carefully, springs forth like a fount of hope- something altogether magical!

This is a song that needs to be experienced – so – to enter wonderland-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLk4vdY28Q&feature=fvst

As I see him sing- I wonder about the horrors that the World had offered him in his formative years- The Second World War, Personal Tragedies, a very long era of self doubt, various paths of realization – the spirit of Music has remained with him.

If, after another 50 odd years (Assuming I live till then- which is doubtful!!),  if I can have the kind of passion, humbleness and grace that Leonard Cohen (again, click on the link). I shall consider my life well lived.

This is  the closest I’ve been to divinity- and a song that I’d want to listen to on my last day on Earth. Just to give me hope- that as long as the human mind and the human heart can compose music as beautiful as this- perhaps- Human life is blessed after all!

A Hallelujah to you Mr Cohen! A Hallelujah to you, for giving me something of permanence in this Evanescent world of ours!

 

 

 

The Raincloud

Big brown eyes -This is how I will remember her long after she forgets my name and my very existence. Big brown eyes contain within it all that is beautiful in the world. Her big brown eyes opened doors that I had shut in my life- ages ago. I still wonder how I picked up an invitation into her life. I’m not sure it was meant for me.


She stands in front of me in that time of the night where street lights throw strange shadows on the streets. She stands in silent repose- Handles gently tucked into her jeans pocket, the soft breeze brushing past her cheeks and gently blowing her hair. The din of the night grows louder, and the people around begin to wonder about two people talking, non stop. This is beauty- in its simplicity – conversation without a care in the world. Its the simple things in life that make for the most powerful memories. I am going to remember the day half a century from now. Right down to the slight chill in the air, the dampness after the first rains. I can’t help but feel a sense of irony at the situation. She has come into my life like the first rains of the season – Bringing so much life, so much joy and so many colours. She stays true to her name- the bringer of hope to parched souls.

To call a person a raincloud is to put an entire generation’s hopes on a young girls shoulder. And as she moves around in life- I see her at work and I realise she is fighting toward realizing her Dharma- to prove to be a symbol of hope for a million parched people- like the first appearance of a raincloud over a parched sunny city. For a person I’ve just gotten to know, it’s amazing how she’s turned my life upside down. Whether it’s her gentle demeanour or directness of talking or a million other aspects of conversation, she has undoubtedly brought colour into my life. Or it may be a so many trinkets all perfectly color- coordinated, that make me wonder if I’d become so used to feeling grey that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have so much colour in life.

Sitting at the desk writing a piece about a woman I’m just getting to know is superfluous, but again, very few people in the world are worth writing about. And even fewer people have it within them to stir up such passions and such warmth in people. I just hope, over a course of time, the spirit of good does not get tarnished by the morbid cynicism of the soulless zombies that traverse the world and office spaces..

A little tribute to my Valkyrie on a Honda- The Raincloud!

Of Animals and Man

After a month of frenzied action the world cup has finally drawn to a close. Young stars twinkled brighter than ever as old stars faded away.Many memories will remain- The football named Jabulani bouncing around with a football named Diego Maradona. Old men wilfully pumped up their BP while supporting their teams while the the young opened themselves up to a whole lot of going crazy. A beautiful month celebrating another edition of the beautiful game went by leaving in its wake memories of Love, affection, heartbreak and wonder.

What I would remember remember the most is a rather adorable cephalopod, about 2 years old, eyes forever half closed in a pose of meditation, moving around in a tank somewhere in Germany, probably wondering why every once in a while he wassubjected to a zillion flashes of light.

What amazes me, more than the obvious discussions, is the depth of human feeling Paul has elicited. Depending on where you stay the name could mean anger, hope, expectation, cynicism, contentment, belief, or prayer. Say what you will, I’m thankful to Paul because over the past one month, he has shown us a little more about what it means to be human.

Its nice to know that that very animals we pay so little attention to, teach us so much about what it means to be a human. One world famous chef announces that he is sharpening his knife while the president of another country announces relief measures ranging from temporary protection to adoption for Paul (or is it Pablo nowadays?). All the while I’m sure Paul ponders over the mysterious source of his next tasty tidbit.

Some more examples to show how much certain animals mean to us-

Sir Nils Olav commands a huge army and is a symbol of everything that’s good in the Norwegian Kings Guard. One must watch the respect he commands and the awe he inspires during parades as he waddles all along proudly displaying his rank on his flippers. Sir Nils Olav is an emperor Penguin

Lance Corporal William has been one of the Queens best in the army. He has had a wild time in the army- headbutting a drummer during the Queen’s eightieth birthday. He was even put through a disciplinary hearing for that offence and demoted to the rank of fusilier before being promoted again. I wonder- perhaps the Drummer upset him, or perhaps LC. William didn’t have his daily dose of whatever goats eat. Ya, apart from Being in the Queens Royal Guard and living a life of ‘discipline’ LC. William walks on all fours and bleats! Would you really blame a Kashmir Goat for Headbutting to show its annoyance?

– I can almost dramatize the disciplinary hearing scene in my Head

Colonel. LC. Wiliam, do you know why you’ve been called here?

LC. William: Maaaaaaaaa!

Colonel: You Headbutted a drummer- you made your company look bad, you disobeyed a direct order, you were found lacking in discipline, and you insulted the Queen

LC.: Maaaaaaaa!

Colonel: You are demoted to rank of fusilier. Now leave and think about the shame you’ve brought to all of us!

LC: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! (Trans: Idiot bipeds mumbling! Ooh there’s a pretty leaf and it just feels so right J )

All the while, our generation have grown so disconnected to each other- I think it becomes imperative to look elsewhere for inspiration- to see life a little bearable with a little hope- I guess that motivates most of us to look to the animals. In hope, in wonder.

What were the major happenings of this decade? Its easier for us to rattle off the attacks and deaths and doubts about government than it is to list 5 amazing things that made us feel happy to be humans. It almost seems like each one of us is a little Island of distress, doubt, sadness, some love, and a dimly flickering ray of hope.

In times like this perhaps- the tentacles of Paul, or the Flippers of Sir Nils Olav or the goat antics of LC. William give us that much needed bridge to understand other humans without being judgemental of them- for a moment forgetting the things that keep us grounded to rationalism and for a little while take us to the sky in our little flights of fancy- just like when we were kids.

So that was my most favourite happening of the world cup- a 2 year old octopus providing us a bridge to talk to each other all the while allowing us to laugh to ourselves a little bit! Allowing us to drop our pretence of seriousness and smile without expectation! I’m sure I could say Thank you, but he wouldn’t understand- I’m about as knowledgeable about octopus language as Paul is about English. But I’ll make it a point to buy him a nice tasty shellfish if i’m ever in Germany. Not so much because he predicted 8 matches right (How did he???) but because he gave us something else to see- no the blood and gore, not the intense competition of the World Cup, supposed referee blunders or the annoying Texas Chainsaw called the Vuvuzela, not the regional, national and international dangers that await all of us. He gave us 15 mins of tranqulity- to see a peaceful octopus swim from one end of his tank to another, open a tasty morsel of food, and each it- with the satisfaction of a 2 year old child. He gave me something to hold onto in an otherwise evanescent and shifty world.