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 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- 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.


Cafe Nirvana

What is it about old places that makes us feel warm, cozy and blissful? The same cacophony of discussions, the same tilted sepia toned picture hung on the wall. Two mirrors on opposite walls kept at an angle inclined. The signature white uniform with the spotless White and Red Bandana, the rickety tables, the faded blue paint and the inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The same Century old Cash Tally Machine that makes a peculiar sound that proudly proclaims its personality.

Oh! the smell of coffee makes me feel wanted. Feel hope. The coffee brewed here is a metaphor for good living. Filled to the brim, Full of Life, Rich and inviting… I’m in Love. With Coffee apparently.
The coffee I sip brings me to a realization. Its not just the coffee , not just the people, not just the tables and walls. Its all these things put together – and more
The Coffee House is a place where our collective consciousness- as a people and as a culture- resides. Every culture, Every City has its cultural nerve center. The coffee house is one of such places for Bangalore. Visiting the Coffee House is entering the inner sanctum of the city’s collective memories. To experience this, all we have to do is sit down and listen carefully.
What do I find?
A group of businessmen discussing trade over the same coffee that is slowly working its magic with this new couple who sit across from me. I see the girl sipping coffee slowly and stealing loving glances from the boy she’s with. Its the same coffee thats helping the girls sitting behind me form such tight bonds of friendship and camaraderie. Lunch is served to the Salesman who’s sitting in front of me. And slowly he beings to feel lighter- confident. Probably his prospective customer bailed out on him and was feeling despondent. having lunch here has made him realize the fleeting nature of setbacks. I see a Mother telling some story about her times at the coffee house, to her daughter who’s just reached adolescence. I think when this girl experiences Love for the first time- she’ll visit here as a symbolic gesture letting in a guy into her life. This old man sits in a group reminiscing fondly about his life and his times with his wife who’s passed on- to his group of really old friends. They all Laugh- full throated- and most of them don’t even have teeth left. I think of the time when these men came here- maybe decades ago. They weren’t this fat. They had Hair, Teeth, and companions. Now they have each other- one of them may leave us all today evening. But this memory would live on passed through them, through me. It suddenly feels like divine hands are working their way to me.. and before I know it I’m smiling too.
I am all these people- The old Man without Teeth, The Girl who might find love, the despondent salesman, the group of friends, the doting mother and Just-Fell in Love- couple. All these people are a part of me just as i am, of them.
Then the realization dawns on me. The coffee house doesn’t just serve coffee. The coffee isnt an end- its the means to an end- its the magical fount of self realization. A mirror to my soul and simultaneously the hand of hope.
Everyone has a different picture of hope. For some its their husbands/ Wives. For some its their Lovers or friends. My picture of hope is a pot bellied, mustachioed man with no name. He wears the spotless Red and White headgear and a spotless white uniform. His red belt is the widest belt made ever and his shoes are white and polished. With a genuine warm smile he ambles along like Baloo the Bear and brings me my order of scrambled egg Toast and coffee.
We live schizophrenic lives- especially in the cities- Memories shift like sand dunes of the desert. In this shifty world of Maya, I see my picture of hope- as he comes walking to me smiling and conveying at the same time- “I’m here now- and I’m here for you”