Spring heralds new beginnings. It is a time when the darkness and uncertainty of the winter is replaced by light (actually lots of it) and the certainty or sometimes that hope is here…finally. Spring is celebrated in many cultures by religious occasions that show new beginnings. I often wonder why do not the Roman Calendar begins with the first day of spring – it used to be at one time. But that is the topic for a different day.
We all love new beginnings. Starting afresh has been used so many times that it is more of a fad. Most of the time we have the intent to change – it doesn’t work. We go hard on ourselves citing our lack of willpower – but most of the time new beginnings start with doubt or uncertainty. Let’s think about the creation – God made everything so beautiful, created man and rested on the 7th day. What happens on the 8th,9th or 10th day? There is a certain sense of uncertainty partly because it is inherent by design. In the story of the creation, there was a tree placed right in the middle of the garden with clear instructions that though shall not eat from that tree. Now who would do that? On top of the uncertainty what would happen you place the lever for failure right in the middle of the garden.If one knew what men where, they are known to never follow rules or adhere to order. What happened was exactly as one could easily predict. Observe an young child they will always try out what they should never be trying – or what they have been told explicitly not to be doing so.
Our inability to have new beginnings can be traced to our incapability to adhere to any sense of order. We are not designed inherently to adhere to order or normalcy. We are inherently troublemakers and people ‘who love to poke the sleeping bear’. Thus within a short period of time we end up back to we were prior to the new beginnings. This cycle goes on and on.
If you look at the seasons, you can derive an analogy from it too. If spring heralds the start of a season, we have summer when the new beginnings are at its brightest followed by fall or autumn when it begins to falter and summarized by winter where a full cycle is hence completed.
What am i saying, every great initiative goes through a natural cycle of life and death. This invariably the cycle of life.
New beginnings are no different. They too have to follow the cycle of life. These self evident truths are the very nature of human existence and creation. Mainly because they are the inherent rules of the universe.
But is all hope lost? No, with every cycle there are remnants that keep feeding with each cycle – these are what we call in systems and processes as lessons learned or as history. they keep adding up and slowly the remnants make their way to what the outcome was first envisioned to be.
If there is one progressive benefit of internet, I would unequivocally state that it has given millions of people all around the world, a voice. Over the years we have seen how the voice metamorphized into a roar as more and more people are exposed to the power of this amazing medium. One of the most important aspects of internet is that, you can find answers to your most pressing questions with the help of an array of ‘experts’ from around the world — the prominent one being online reviews. Let’s consider that you want to buy something from online — the first feedback that you would seek to ensure that the purchase is a sensible one, would be to check how well is it rated; 5 stars vs 4 stars vs… The next stop likely would be user comments. By relying on these two sources, the mind naturally starts to develop an opinion. This generation of opinion today has been manipulated heavily to such an extent that one can be really unsure of what is actually happening.
I do Google Rewards surveys regularly, where I answer few non-intrusive questions for paltry Google Play credits which I can use later for purchasing movies, eBooks etc. I regularly check the Google surveys of establishments that I frequent to get an indicator of how well they are performing. Recently I discovered to my aghast, the power of how these reviews can conversely result in bloody consequences. One of the establishments I frequent, on one occasion had a receptionist who was having a particularly bad day. The next day, I received a notification of a new review for that establishment completed by one of Google’s empowered local guides. The receptionist was blasted with the unkindest words in this review by reviewer who even went far to blame the former’s callousness to a spate of mishaps happening external to the establishment, that had affected its patrons. The receptionist was soon let go from their job based on this one review since the corporate office had zero tolerance to negative reviews. As I witnessed this farce, I was flabbergasted at the sheer impunity of ruthlessness — one that takes the human away from the equation and allows livelihoods to be trampled based on some John Doe’s opinions formulated from behind a screen.
To add to this facade, I came across a news article that showed how competitors in the world’s largest online marketplace employs fake reviewers to promote one’s products and demean competitors’ products — including the extent to which these companies stoop in these efforts. These disturbing tendencies have only increased in a commercialized and increasingly competitive world. I have heard that AI provides the employers of today with sophisticated tools that vet people based on their online presence (or even lack of) and develop highly intelligent virtual models of them on which variables can be applied to measure responses. Based on these responses, significant insights on personalities and how they are a ‘best fit’ to the organization can be developed.
To summarize, online reviews has now been reduced an artificial banter of no substance that has been harmful and undermining the purpose of why the internet was established in the first place. It has become a cancer that is slowly devouring online consciousness due to the scale of its savagery. Since this has remained unchecked for a long time and that no one wanted to make the needed efforts, only time will tell what will become of this anomaly.
Walking is an evergreen exercise. From the time we as human beings learn to use our two limbs to walk on this beautiful earth, we are ushered into the infinite possibilities of movement. The ability to walk helps us to seek and discover. It helps us to face and experience the elements in their finest form. As we walk and take our body alongside with us on a stroll we get our entire body accompanying ourselves in a sojourn to new and exciting realms.
Ever since I ready the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, where in he mentions how Steve held official meetings walking barefoot near his office with other guests, I tried to picturize how one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century was able to accentuate his passion to building great things just because he walked. Walking is a tremendous and fascinating exercise of the soul. It helps us feel the earth and align ourselves with the rhythms of the universe.
I have always believed that we are nothing but cosmic dust. Our bodies have forever been considered as vessels for our souls. When we die, our bodies are either cremated or buried. In both cases the physical body returns to earth and the soul leaves the body. By walking we move our body and our ‘being’ (read soul) along with in — aligning itself with the universe. When we are one with the universe- that is when magic flows and happens.
In the book Alchemist by Paulo Coelho there is this famous quote — If you really want something, the whole universe conspires to get it for you. If we are nothing but cosmic dust and if the universe consists of this cosmic dust, think about this — should not we too be having the universe within us? Are we the universe? The entire universe is believed to be expanding at any given point of time. The second law of thermodynamics asserts this entropy. Life is never constant — even if you think it is not taking you anywhere, it is actually in motion. Never ending motion. If you consider the analogous nature of everything we know so far from life and the universe, we are in motion whether we realise it or not.
Now think for a moment- by walking and feeling us walking we may be experiencing that motion, that entropy which has defined the universe for ever.
In understanding the infinite and moving accordingly we get to feel and understand what the universe is- why we were created in the first place and why there may never be any species like us anymore.
‘The Last Jedi’ was a Star Wars movie that ended up polarizing its fan base when it took lots of risks with its unique storytelling and choices that was different for one of the most lucrative movie franchises of all time. In the movie, the story progresses immediately after the end of its predecessor ‘The Force Awakens’ with the presumed protagonist Resistance fighting for its last strands of survival. They were being chased to oblivion by the antagonist The First Order, who were remnants of the vanquished Empire from the Original Trilogy. Upon discovery of a tracking device within the Resistance ship, the movie portrays the attempts by the Resistance to thwart the First Order from totally destroying them. Parallel to the movie’s narrative is the training of Rey, a nobody with the Force trained by one of the veterans of the original series Luke Skywalker. The Resistance believed that Luke will be instrumental to them winning the war with the ‘evil’ First Order and hence was counting on him to help them just as he saved the day in the first movie of the original trilogy. However, Luke beaten by his demons (from a failed assassination bid on his nephew once he found that the latter was moving away from his teaching to the evil side) chose to sacrifice himself by projecting himself across the galaxy to distract his nephew as the Resistance fled to its safety. This portrayal of heroism was unusual to the Star Wars fan base who reminisced how Luke took down the Death Star in the original trilogy and were astounded by the former’s meekness this time around. As a result, the hugely successful movie polarized the fan base so bitterly to this day.
The portrayal of heroism in this movie was duly summed up by one of the supporting characters within the movie, who goes by the name Rose where she mentions:
We have always been taught that any war is fought with a clear black and white narrative — good vs evil. There is a clear definition of who the good guys and the bad guys are. One is supposed to hate everything about the bad guys; and like or adore everything about the good guys. This simple mode of definition — works very well. However, we all know how life is different. One look at world history and we get our answer. During the cold war, USA was portrayed a benevolent superpower whereas the Soviet Union was the evil empire and gained notoriety in art and culture. Yet if one considers the events from the fall of the Berlin Wall till date, the lovable superpower doesn’t look like what it was made out to be. Similarly, the traditional model of warfare between good and evil doesn’t work anymore. If one glances through the social media, the world is clearly polarized than ever before. Take any field and it is difficult to obtain consensus. The entire world economy is crawling because people simply cannot make up their mind on anything like they used to. There is a constant sense of attrition and diatribe. In this context any win would seem not worth it. Maybe if we did save what we believed in, by sacrificing our hatred, the outcome may be different.
Go big or go home’ is the battle cry of capitalism. ‘You need to grow faster or you are toast’ another famous cry to make hay while the sun shines.
There is a Biblical story of Joseph who could interpret dreams and was a prisoner in the Pharaoh prisons. When the Pharaoh saw a dream of seven fat cows being eaten by seven thin cows, no one in the kingdom could decipher his dreams. Upon the recommendation of his butler who was imprisoned for a crime and later exonerated, Joseph foretold a period of fourteen years — seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. He recommended steps to be done during the periods of prosperity so that Egypt could weather the periods of famine. It was a revolutionary idea for the empire building Egyptians who were known for the pyramid tombs and massive expenditures as a result. Since they did not know how to go about this, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his Man Friday. Joseph went about an ambitious program of building huge storehouses to store the produce during the prosperous periods. When the time for famine arrived, it was recorded that not just Egypt but the entire world made its way to purchase food to feed themselves. The windfall that Joseph made for the Egyptians was spectacular. Little did he know that the entire wealth was later used after his lifetime by the same Egyptians to enslave his descendants, the Hebrews (precursor to modern Jews) into building massive monuments — some of which are even standing today.
A decade ago to be precise, was when I first heard of Netflix. At that time there was a store called Blockbuster from where you could rent movies. The shop had priced rentals of movies that you could rent and watch in the comfort of your own homes. Netflix came up with a revolutionary mail-in based DVD subscription program that was successful. However, few years later, they decided to completely move into an internet based streaming service by charging a minimum monthly fee-based subscription model. This upended the industry totally that people stopped at one time going to theatres and embarked on a cable TV cord cutting mission. The conventional media industry that relied on a movie theatre, cable, DVD model was taken aback by surprise. Here you have an internet company come up with a new model of content distribution that was remarkable and disruptive. Aided by Amazon’s servers, the entertainment now streamed 24 x 7 from the internet cloud — changing the way how one viewed entertainment forever.
Fast forward to 2019, and we see a plethora of competitors vying for the same eyeballs with massive volumes of content out there for people to feast upon. The average viewer has never had it too good. Or did they? If you look at the story of Joseph, the massive breakthrough he brought on the Egyptians by a mere deciphering of a dream was used by the former in enslaving generations of his own descendants. The new entertainment model that was envisaged by Netflix has resulted is a massive outbreak of content where the viewer can watch content on every imaginable genre available, but cannot end up liking anything. As the tech giant Netflix tries to grow themselves by piling huge volumes of debt, one can only wait and see how it all ends for the company as ambitious media-based competitors pull their content away from the platform to build their own. It is a race to the finish with diminishing returns and eyeballs for sure as viewers get tired and fatigued of meaningless content and finally resort to watching the few quality ones. With more of everything, it truly becomes the less of anything — and in the end counter intuitive.
Everyone seems to be angry these days and no one knows why. In the age of memes and online trolls, people are agitated, unhappy and spiteful. Despite living in one of the most prosperous times of human existence for a good majority of the world’s population; instead of being happy, spiritual and graceful, the converse has happened. Try watching the news or follow the trends on social media or watch movies, one can find that there is anger and angst everywhere. How did we get here?
How does man’s progress reach a point of sad regress? Instead of being happy with the best of technology and convenience at one’s fingertips, people have become a sorry state of themselves. If one traverses the online world, you can find unhappiness, regret and bitterness all throughout. Be it in the political space, civic space, spiritual space, religious space- there is a general and accentuated degradation of values. Why has this anomaly happened?
If you look at human history, the periods of progress have always been in the pursuit of something i.e., it centred around conquests of countries. Successful conquests brought long period of wealth and prosperity to the victors (mostly plundered) in addition to periods of growth and expansions from the cheap labour that the former permitted. These periods of growth were always at the expense of other human lives and livelihood. Yet their role in progress cannot be denied.
In today’s world, despite having the most cutting edge and technology enhance armour, physical wars are long, drawn out and never ending. This is because it is not easy like ancient times to subdue an entire country like the Romans did to the Jews at the beginning of the century (read Masada). The reasons why this is the case is due to the impressive strides made in human consciousness that looks down and abhors brutality and cruelty.
So what do we do next? We need to shift our focus into a higher realm of development. We need to leave the earth and invest to explore the space. The cost of destroying and permanently damaging our earth in our quest for development is simply not worth it for humans and our future generations. We cannot allow our pettiness and dastardliness to one another define who we are or what we are.
Space is definitely the final frontier for humans and it is only a matter of time before we embark on this quest. I have read somewhere, humans were created to travel, to move and explore and not to be static as it has been facilitated today by technology. We are not designed for the lives we are living today and that is the singular reason why we are angry or there is anger everywhere today. It is because, this is not what defines us as humans.
Time travel has been a pet fascination of mine since time immemorial. Ever since I had a chance to read the Time Machine by H.G.Wells, I have been fixated on the practicality of time travel. Although theoretically it may be possible, it is highly unlikely that one gets to actually travel back in time based on the current plane of reference — our existence on this earth. However it may be a possibility with interplanetary or interstellar travel.
There are two things that are true in one’s lifetime — the passage of time and death. The concept of time is baffling- you can measure time but you cannot go backward or forward in time. This makes it a special entity that one faces throughout his life on this earth. The question remains on what to do with all the time we have on this earth?
I do not think that our influence on time is the entire part of the story but it could be the other way around. Time influences us and develops us to what we are as humans. Time is the factor that makes our destinies dance to the whims and fancies of its choosing. I cannot claim that what I do today or did yesterday can completely influence what may happen to me tomorrow. Because time does not behave like that. It may offer clues but never allows your deeds to always influence the outcome.
I have learnt and understood in this short life that good people always get whacked by fate where as the evil people (if you allow such a distinction) gets a free pass most of the time. It may be easy for us to relate this happening to the power of doing evil lasts more than the power of doing good. However this distinction is wrong. In most cases it is ‘time’ that plays its narrative and not fate.
If you look at the tales of dictators around the world. They all had a long period of prosperity where they were able to impose their evil will on people and get away with it. The victims of their deeds in most cases used to be the poor, unfortunate people. Then one day you hear that the same dictators perish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. It is their time that has come to an end.
I have learnt a simple lesson in life. Good times are like being on the top of a mountain and bad times are like being in the valley. The only way to survive or sustain is to prevent oneself from falling in the case of the former and to prevent digging further in the case of the latter. It is important in those times to withdraw to a shell and maintain the status quo.
Just like the cycle of life, there is also a cycle of time. We commonly hear the words, ‘history repeats’. Time follows the rules of the universe — it repeats, allows many chances. However when one understand this truth, you do not need to travel back or forth in time — you need to travel with time.