Sunday, January 15, 2017

“Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Those who’ve read the Book of Ages never admit to it."

A wonderful review of the movie Arrival and Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life in The New York Review of Books.

"For what’s sure in a universe that dopplers
away like a siren’s midnight cry?"

Sarah Howe, Relativity (poem dedicated to Stephen Hawking)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"— for this I have abandoned
All my other lives."

Robert Francis, Waxwings

“And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
Of a craving for something I cannot find
And of the shame of never finding it.”

T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"... [Derek Parfit] is most famous for the view that personal identity – the conditions under which you continue to exist as you – does not, contrary to appearances, really matter. We are psychological bundles of memories, inclinations, intentions. In the future there will be bundles who will go by my name, who will share many of my memories, and act on some of my intentions. They will think they are me. At a certain point – my death – there will cease to be any such bundles, though there will be other bundles who remember me and perhaps even carry on some of my projects. From this perspective, the boundaries between ourselves and others begin to dissolve. So too, perhaps, does the horror of my death."

Amia Srinivasan, Remembering Derek Parfit

Friday, January 6, 2017

The children cannot be blamed for the sins of the fathers, but it would be a sin for the children to be oblivious or dismissive of moral burden of those nefarious deeds. I speak in a metaphorical sense, with regards to the history of medical and psychiatric tyranny.

Here is a wonderful and sobering article by Andrew Scull on the history of lobotomies and the horrendous treatment of the patient H.M. at the hands of medical professionals (a review of Dittrich's book).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I'm quite late to this, but I saw the first 3 episodes of Girls today.... all the characters are annoying as hell! The show has many virtues; I am not commenting on the greatness or quality of the show, just the fact that I'm not sure it resonates with me. It is interesting for me to wonder why I found it to be so annoying. Most shows have a few characters that can be irksome, but vexation appears to be a universal feature of the Girls universe. The characters in the show all appear to defy some professional or personal ethic that exists in my mind, and that I clearly value enough to be annoyed at its flagrant violation in a show that has clear intentions to satirize. 

I don't think that my annoyance with the characters is because of any patriarchal reasons. I think I am primarily irked by the depiction of character flaws such as self-absorbed narcissism and irresponsibility. Would I have found them less annoying and more comedic in a male character? I don't think so, but I am possibly not the best judge of that.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"How lush the world is,
how full of things that don’t belong to me—"

Louise Glück, Vespers:Parousia

“Writing down your thoughts is both necessary and harmful. It leads to eccentricity, narcissism, preserves what should be let go. On the other hand, these notes intensify the inner life, which, left unexpressed, slips through your fingers.”


Continuing with the theme of introspection into my motivations, I feel it is important to clarify what this blog is about and what are my motivations for resuming blogging.

At times in the past I have tried to sell the blog as offering something to the readers; the effort was perhaps misplaced. It would be a mistake for me to pretend as if the blog offers material of great philosophical, literary or artistic merit to the reader; I don't think it does. I am no Marcus Aurelius and these are no Meditations. Even in cases where philosophical and literary musings are dished out, that has not been the primary point. I think the blog has always primarily been an avenue for me to process my own thoughts and emotions, to share things of beauty and art that have an influence on me, and to preserve a record of my intellectual development. I started this blog at a point in my life when I was lost and alone, desperately in need of a voice, and I return to it again for solace in a time of confusion. I hope to rediscover myself through resuming a dialogue with the self.

There is something worthwhile about engaging in this sort of personal writing without seeking any financial or professional gains. In the past I have sought fame, but at this point I am not even concerned with amassing a following. Trying to actively promote the blog now feels like sacrilege... I have nothing to offer but the mediocre workings of my own mind. The fact that some people may find it worthwhile to follow is a pleasant surprise, and one I'm glad for.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love lends itself well to re-watching. I saw it for the first time more than 4 years ago, and I had been wanting to return to it for a while, finally getting a chance today.

It's a wonderfully artistic exploration of love, infidelity, marriage, beauty, regret, time, moral restraint, society. Kar-wai is an expert in creating desired atmospheres and moods. Lights, colors, angles, music, attire (the unforgettable succession of gorgeous cheongsam dresses!) are adeptly used. It is a subtle expressionism that everything in the environment, from dresses to lightening to movement to music is utilized in creating an emotional resonance. The plot is cleverly minimal and ambiguous, opening it up to multiple interpretations, To a large extent, this ambiguity is not because of deliberate withholding of information, but rather an ambiguity that arises from all that can be, and is, left unsaid in a relationship. It reminds me of certain romantic experiences from my own past, which remain ambiguous to me, and I have subjected them to multiple interpretations over years. Perhaps what I love most about the film is the poetic idea that romance transcends dialogues and physical boundaries, and resides in the atmosphere around the characters; the lovers can no more escape it than they can evade the air they breathe.

A grief that cannot be shared is a terrible loneliness.

Beginning around mid-December, I developed a growing sense of melancholy and fatigue. I suspect I was getting psychologically burnt-out following a few stressful months. This led to a period of prolonged introspection, and a couple of scattered realizations.

* There is a need for times of personal leisure and idleness. It would be mistaken to view leisure simply as time to recover to work again. It is not just a break from work in the service of productivity, but a goal in itself. It provides creative and emotional breathing space for the mind. The recreational artistic, literary and philosophical pursuits are among the things which make life worthwhile. I had forgotten this for a while, and I have suffered as a result. 

* I also became aware that my life had become too busy and I was taking on too many projects and responsibilities. I had to take a step back to ask myself why am I doing what I am doing, and what am I getting out of it. This introspection into my motivations led to a simplification of what I had been planning to do in 2017, and I ended up discarding many plans that had seemed important to me earlier but no longer seem to have any enduring value in my educational and career development.

* I have been seeking opportunities for further research training after residency, and I was getting incredibly frustrated by the fact that my particular personal and marital circumstances were making it impossible for me to pursue many of these options. When it came to potential work options, I was so focused on the prestige of the position and the institution that I was ignoring there is more to work and career than that. Equally important, if not more so, is the workplace culture and relationships, and the need to balance career with family and personal life. If a prestigious career comes at the cost of the impoverishment of my personal life, is it really worth it? It would be unwise to tie my happiness to things that are inconsequential in the end.

* There is something to be said about the great fortune of having a great group of friends, yet it does not entirely make up for the lack of great individual friends. The ideal of a great friendship I have in my mind is perhaps too idealistic: presence of common passions and interests; emotional intimacy; a friend who is appropriately non-judgmental; intellectually open; artistically curious; there is mutual admiration; there is available time and energy for frequent-enough interactions (whether in person or virtual); and lastly there is an element of platonic love. Despite this being too idealistic, I am fortunate to have had a few friends over the course of my life where the friendship came pretty darn close. While I have a great group of friends at present, possibly the best group friendship I've had, I do not have an individual relationship that comes anywhere close to this idealistic notion. I suppose it is too much to ask this of life. The lack, nonetheless, make me feel quite alone at times.

Much of what is above consists of rehashed truisms; no insight is in any way remarkable or original, yet, the psychological realization of the truth of a cliched truism is quite another thing.

"The biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net, I'd catch only beautiful things."

The OA

Saturday, December 31, 2016

This morning
I can feel the weight on my shoulders
Of all the potential lives I have not lived
And all the potential lives I will not live
A hunchbacked Atlas
I fear, one day
The sky will come crashing down
All the unlived lives raining fire and ice
It will be the triumph of regret over love

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mixed feelings about this 2015 absurdist film. I can intellectually and artistically appreciate what the film is about and what it is conveying, but emotionally it just falls flat. It gave me no pleasure or joy in watching it... which I understand is deliberate, the film intentionally is monotone, but still.
 
It's a pithy satire of society's exaltation of companionship and marriage, and of the explicit and implicit rules that govern who we are attracted to and we who choose as our mates. It's also depicts the futility of a rebellion in the sense that a group of people who unify around the defiance of dominant social rules can end up with social rules of their own which can be just as suffocating.
 
I found the idea of the film to be quite refreshing; the actual film, not quite as much. Which leads me to wonder about the different reasons why we see a film and what we expect out of it. I always seem to judge a movie in the context of what my expectations were; even if I realize afterwards that my expectations were misplaced, I cannot take away the disappointment experienced during viewing from the failed expectations, and that invariably colors how I feel about it, and how I judge it.
 

Monday, December 26, 2016

I don't even know if anyone still follows the blog anymore. I did abandon it; I wouldn't be surprised. I even thought of taking it down, to be honest. I have returned to it out a certain feeling of isolation, a need to clear my head, and perhaps at this point writing on this blog is like shouting out into the void... which may be what I am looking for any way.

*spoilers*

I finished the Netflix series "The OA" 2 days ago. I found it beautiful and brutal, illuminating and infuriating. We are confronted with two possibilities, either her story is true, or it is false. Our rational understanding of the world would lead us to believe that the story is false; the over-all force of the narrative wants us to believe it is true. For it to be true requires a leap of faith... in OA's honesty as well as her sanity. It would be a ridiculous truth but it would justify everything, make everything meaningful. The other alternative is that she is delusional, and that the five got trapped in a cult of sorts, which makes the whole thing so cruel.

The way the story has ended is deliberately ambiguous, it could be either way. It's Schrodinger's cat. Reflective of the ambiguous reality of our own existence... there may be nothing but atoms and the void, or there may be something transcendent. We don't know, and therein lies the anguish.

It appears that the question of whether the show would have a season 2 is an open one. I don't know how the story can progress further without collapsing this uncertainty. We would gain something, no doubt, perhaps some well-needed consolation of the truth of OA's vision, but we would also lose the illuminating and infuriating ambiguity.

Just finished reading In the Woods by Tana French today. What a wonderful book... I can't remember the last time a novel made my heart so heavy. I feel like I am grieving over a devastating loss. *Spoilers ahead*

What saddens me the most is the breakdown of Ryan and Cassie's relationship over a blunderous decision, and Ryan's subsequent inability to deal with it. Their friendship was something rare and beautiful, and the fact that he messed it up beyond redemption breaks my heart. I wish the author had given him a chance to redeem himself. I wish I could somehow rewrite the ending. I do not know why this particular aspects distresses me so; perhaps it touches a nerve somewhere in my cortex.

It is terribly hard for us to communicate with others in a meaningful way when it requiring confronting our fears and insecurities. To make oneself vulnerable involves a risk that one will be understood and acknowledged. A risk that, sadly, in many cases does not bear fruit, but at the same time in some cases it does, and some relationships are worth it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"You’ve been half my life, all of my madness."

The Last Kingdom, #1.03

Monday, June 20, 2016

"What kind of god would do something like that?"
"The one we've got."

Game of Thrones, #609 Battle of the Bastards

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"And the last long lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust."

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Friday, June 17, 2016

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”

J. D. Salinger, A Girl I Knew

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire."

Anna AkhmatovaYou Will Hear Thunder

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"I have realized that I seek out bitter-sweet feelings... in myself, in others, in music, literature, and art; the dreamer in me thrives on them... and what is more bitter-sweet than a longing for what you can never have?"

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"...one should not demand from the philosophical treatment of a subject more certainty than the subject admits."

Thomas Nagel, paraphrasing Aristotle

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Friends, and more than friends, and nothing more.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The vast majority of beauty in the universe is unfriendly to us, if not outright lethal.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We are programmed creatures, and while it is absurd to follow the inbuilt algorithms, it is equally meaningless to rebel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It is midnight
The ceiling opens up its secrets:
a graveyard of massacred butterflies
I do not know whether to mourn their lost innocence
or their lost beauty

In the grandest scheme of things, one's position is invariably one of humility. In a sense, all conceit is an illusion derived from the relativity of perspectives.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"I'm glad to see you out in the open. Believe me, I am. To see you speak with your own voice, and make your presence felt, it gives me a certain pride. You weren't always like that. There was a time when you could only whisper, and I was lucky that you entrusted your whispers to me. I gave you my voice, and in turn you took my mind to new heights. I miss that. I miss that connection. I do not long for it to come back, I do not long for things to be the way they were, I am not foolish or selfish. But by God, I do miss that."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I co-translated one of the short stories (Pandokey) in this collection with Ali Madeeh Hashmi, published by Penguin India. If you can get your hands on the book, check it out.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I have come to the realization that the central theme of most of my dreams is failure in the face of an over-whelming obstacle. In various scenarios and manners,in one dream after another, I am trapped without escape, fleeing only to be caught, or struggling with a task in vain.

To what end? I do not know.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gifts from gods to men are often also curses, but rarely vice versa.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"The abstract intelligence produces a fatigue that’s the worst of all fatigues. It doesn’t weigh on us like bodily fatigue, nor disconcert like the fatigue of emotional experience. It’s the weight of our consciousness of the world, a shortness of breath in our soul. Then, as if they were wind-blown clouds, all of the ideas in which we’ve felt life and all the ambitions and plans on which we’ve based our hopes for the future tear apart and scatter like ashes of fog, tatters of what wasn’t nor could ever be. And behind this disastrous rout, the black and implacable solitude of the desolate starry sky appears. The mystery of life distresses and frightens us in many ways. Sometimes it comes upon us like a formless phantom, and the soul trembles with the worst of fears – that of the monstrous incarnation of non-being. At other times it’s behind us, visible only as long as we don’t turn around to look at it, and it’s the truth in its profound horror of our never being able to know it. But the horror that’s destroying me today is less noble and more corrosive. It’s a longing to be free of wanting to have thoughts, a desire to never have been anything, a conscious despair in every cell of my body and soul. It’s the sudden feeling of being imprisoned in an infinite cell. Where can one think of fleeing, if the cell is everything? And then I feel an overwhelming, absurd desire for a kind of Satanism before Satan, a desire that one day – a day without time or substance – an escape leading outside of God will be discovered, and our deepest selves will somehow cease participating in being and non-being."

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Buddhism is a deeply psychological tradition and the Buddha's pleasure palace is a striking image of the mind in denial. We naturally want to hold suffering at bay and it is tempting to protect ourselves in a carapace of heartlessness. But our own and other people's pain will always penetrate our defences and break our hearts. Only then, the myth tells us, can our spiritual quest begin."


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Given that serious harm in life is practically inevitable, is it better to have lived than not to have existed at all? David Benatar makes a strong case in favor of non-existence, particularly when it comes to the issue of procreation. He believes that the morally responsible thing to do is not to procreate, because "the only way to prevent harm altogether is to desist from bringing children into existence". Here is a summary of Benatar's position in his own words.

As anticipated by Benatar, my immediate impulse is to argue that there is significant good in life that justifies existence even if it doesn't outweigh the harms, but on reflection I recognize that to believe (baring exceptions) that it is better to be alive than not is essentially a value-judgement, and it is a value-judgement that springs not from pure rational considerations but rather from the brute, biological will to live.

There is another way to frame this question aside from the context of procreation. The ability to create life puts us in a miniature God-like position. Now imagine God pondering over the decision to create this universe (more specifically, the decision to create sentient beings capable of subjective experience). The same considerations of harm vs good in existence present themselves but on a much grander scale, applying to the whole of creation. Is it better to bring into existence beings who would experience the excruciating horrors of this world, even though at times they would have their share of bliss as well? If God did create this universe, then God made the value-judgement of preferring life over non-existence. From Benatar's perspective, this decision was morally irresponsible on God's part. He should've let non-existence be.

This is not a mere philosophical problem of no consequence. The decision to have or not have kids is a decision that the vast majority of humanity has to make at some point during their lives. Most of us decide either thoughtlessly or selfishly, but few pause to wonder what is the better outcome for our potential children. Are they better off alive or notional? We don't know, and we have no way of knowing, and yet we have to take that decision anyway.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"The worst sin in heaven is blindness."

Often times psychotic patients make statements that sound poetically meaningful when taken in isolation, but can become nonsensical when considered in context. For example, the above statement (which strikes me as quite profound) was immediately followed by "And the second worst sin is cancer".

Looks like posting patient quotes is becoming a common thing on the blog. So, there is a tag for it now. Enjoy!

 

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