Saturday, February 6, 2016

January Diaries

This was the stuff of my childhood memories. Friends and conversations and food and laughter. And recounting about old, funny memories one more time. We missed Anirudh a lot yesterday. It was fun. This is what grownups do, right. I wish those guys were in India. Its amazing that we're able to be like that. After marriages and immigrations and lost opportunities and new experiences. But it was also bittersweet. Growing up has been disappointing so far. Mostly when childhood wishes aren't fulfilled. Sometimes because they do get fulfilled and you think, this is it? This is all? Why am I not ecstatic? Isn't this what I always dreamed of? --The context is our dinner with Usha Varun a week after their marriage.

Few things are comparable to the feeling of coming home after a long, hard day at work and taking a steaming hot shower. Relaxing doesn't even come close to it. If, like it is said, a man wakes up in the morning and walks into the war with the world, with every interaction being a battle, to come back home, having given it all and knowing today is one of those days when your effort wasn't wanting, that hot shower makes you feel alive and proud of yourself. Reminds me of that story in 6th class Gulmohar textbook when Jim Corbett writes about how coming back home to a hot bathtub after a hard day in the mines is the best feeling in the world.

I was disappointed by Anomalisa. I couldn't believe any film made by Kaufman and whose trailer opened with, "What is it to be human? What is it to ache?" could be so flat and devoid of feeling. It didn't help that my favourite 'good man' of Cinema, David Thewlis, who's Remus Lupin and Hospitaller mark him, for me, as one of those rare actors who convey a feeling of pure goodness, dubbed for the mean, egoistic protagonist.

Is it just me or do you also compare your lives with those who you wish you were. Like, there are times, when I'm just sitting there, my brain unable to process anything, that this thought hits me suddenly. That at this point in their lives, Farhan Akhtar and Wes Anderson were already working on their first films. I know there's no point fixating about things like those. That Richard Linklater was past thirty before starting work on Slacker. And Charlie Kaufman past forty before Being John Malkovich gained him such critical acclaim. And yet I can't help but think if I'm doing something wrong, if I'm not heeding to the signs, walking the wrong route, being a slacker. But I can't help it. If I have nothing to say when I'm twenty-five, I might when I'm forty. Or I mightn't ever. I don't want to end up creating empty art. Its insulting to both the art form and the audience. All I can do is go with the flow and hope I'm going where I'm expected.

They say you start reading Proust when you encounter your own mortality for the first time. Knowing that you too will die one day, despite everything, pushes you into contemplating what is special about you, what is unique about the life you've lived. And we put away all great books to read when we have time. But, paradoxically, we have time when we're starting out on life, not towards the end.

I signed up for MOOCs in CyberSecurity and Machine Learning. CS is pretty tough because its way outside my purview but ML is fun. I've been reading about Social Graph and I think its pretty cool. I think our brains also store information like that, all entities connected somehow, and when that final piece in understanding something falls into place, there's that sense of Aha! at the Big Picture view. Though how the brain builds a self-aware system from all those connections is the bigger question.

My Goodreads is flooding with books. I sign up for more MOOCs than I can possible complete even if I was doing just them all day, and later un-enroll feeling bad about my indiscipline and lack of commitment. I was reading recently that humans are not built for multi-tasking. That every time we complete a task, our brain squirts dopamine into the bloodstream which makes us feel good about ourselves. Now the problem with multi-tasking is that we start craving for instant gratification over sustained progress because the dopamine release is same despite the importance or level of achievement. Which, come to think of it, kinda sucks because we spend more time signing up for new things than completing the ones we ought to. The feeling of excitement at the prospect of beginning a new book is way higher than the relief and accomplishment of finishing it. Which is probably why the idea of starting something over, from a fresh page, is so powerful.

To take this idea further, think about the idiom, Well begun is half done. It means, "Once a project is well begun, you do not need much effort to finish it." And from all my experiences, I know it is not true. In that sense. It holds, in a perverse way, for all those tasks which were started with utmost sincerity and were dropped halfway through. Beware of the writer who sets his table, gets his coffee, disconnects from the internet, looks appreciatively at the stack of white papers and starts rolling one into the typewriter. Five minutes later, he is so restless that he has to pee, get coffee, go to the dentist, and wonder why he is such a loser. I can attest to that. Life is one messy whole, and no matter what we choose to believe in, it will be that. You can't start over, you can't transform, you can't wait for inspiration. You just have do what you want to do. In that sense, God is chaos and man is trying to find order within it. He's trying to fight against envy, temptation, mal du siecle. And like mythology teaches us, the gods will throw all they can at us. Which is a good thing because we'll stop doing what we think we need to be doing because others are, and do what we are meant to be doing. Having god against me teaches me more about myself than if he were with me.

GRRM writes, "He who hurries through life, hurries through death". And we're in an incessant pursuit of a 'better' life. But instead, only if we could sit down for a while and let life take over, wouldn't that be so much better. A man's baser instincts are the beast within. His conscious voice is the human. One is always trying to convince the other. But if only he stood in the middle of an empty field, and listened to the wind, and caressed the grass, he'd know what he really wants. That sounds like a good idea.

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