All social media sites, even this one, come with buttons for liking a post and adding comments. Ever noticed what your brain feels like, that subliminal surge of neurochemicals, that happens when pressing those buttons, or when those buttons have lit up under your post. It’s quite the Pavlovian, conditioned rush that has gone not unnoticed, but nevertheless normalised over this last decade.Continue reading Digital distancing: Freedom from the Pavlovian grip of the ‘like’ button
The lyrics of Imagine by John Lennon describe a condition in which no borders exist between constructs, like the old cliche, that in nature there are no clear borders. “There’s no heaven, or hell below us, above us only sky”. The song is a thought experiment that asks us to imagine a kind of utopia, everyone in the world as alike. When that is the case, empathy should be easier to achieve, would this end all war and poverty?Continue reading What the edge effect has to do with empathy
Millions of us pan the shallow waters of the information river that flows through our lives, we glean pieces of gold among the stones we think, to use in secretive self esteem wars. In conversation, we draw our phones from metaphorical holsters to prove a point. But what are we proving? That the need to be right outweighs everything else. The lizard brain is in charge.Continue reading How a decade of google searching created easy think
The darkness of my pantry is filling with jars of potions, mixtures of lemons, orange peels and discarded pineapple skins stirred through with precise quantities of water and unrefined sugar. As the weeks pass, the jars swell with exhalations from great white fungal mats that churn the surface. It is like watching dramatisations from New Horizons of a planet where exotic gases are released into the atmosphere from night-coloured roiling lakes. In three months, acidic liquids will collect in these jars that I am supposed to filter out and use for all manner of things from swobbing floors to repelling cockroaches and mosquitos to depolluting rivers and drains.Continue reading The unbearable lightness of being vegan
When did doubt become this thing that plagued us? Inversely proportional to the burgeoning surety we exhibit in online forums and in offline lives.
Does this surety go a long way back to childhood, before screens, the stage, the written word, does it go all the way back to song, was it passed down to the next generation and to the one that came after that? We feel so certain when we tweet, or post. Doubt doesn’t exist anymore like it once did. We assumed certainty belonged only to experts, though even they get it wrong a lot of the time as history would tell us. Science was never scientism, but a process that amended itself by the hour, by the decade, as ideas ideated and changed over time.Continue reading An ode to doubt
I have a small garden, a place in the sky five floors up that keeps me sane even though Margaret Atwood said something to the effect that gardening is an irrational act. I suppose she’s right when so many frugal apartment dwellers have shamed me with eye-rolls about the need for a garden. Those of us who go through the hardships of losing plants and hauling compost in the concrete jungle know that it is a need. Plants, soil, bees and even earthworms seem to be replacements for chemicals missing from apartment brain, an undiagnosed condition that too many of us suffer in silence.
Nostalgia is like a foetal crouch for the soul. This pandemic has been an engine, fast tracking our need to get back to the safety of a warm and golden time, which never really was.
People are stuck at home watching reruns from childhood. Here in India, mythological hits from the 1980s are raking in Game of Thrones ratings. Trapping the past in sepia-tinted euphoric recall, we could be making over our past life, treating it like episodes from The Wonder Years, airing in India now. That ’60s show from the ’80s knew how to package childhood memories and present them to us in a soft cloud. Winnie’s hair was always dancing in the wind, Kevin was eternally innocent, his father strong and brooding, his mother a sweet nurturing figure, his brother a universal bully everyone seemed to enable, mainly because soft focus distorts reality.
To exist is to fight existential dread. The human species survived extinction level events, tribal skirmishes, plagues and world wars, but the descendants of those who survived paid the price with post civilisational trauma. This dread is the background hum to our waking and sleeping existence. It is the anticipation with which we live.
The lockdown is meant to stop us from spreading a very efficient virus. In every nation, leaders and experts use the idioms of nationalism to move people into a war against the virus. But the lockdown did something else that cannot be addressed by those in charge of fighting a tactical war against a virus with medicine weapons and harried physician soldiers at hospital frontlines.
The history of the human species runs alongside that of bacteria and viruses. We have no evolution without them. They have always been in us, around us, on us in every way shape and form. There can be no existence without them, there is no way to eliminate them either. As much as we know about them, we know far too little. We are only now beginning to find out a few things about the creatures that live alongside us, as the latest research leaks out over the blatherspeak of social media. The vast majority of us are incapable of dealing with the magnitude of information on this scale, and its far reaching effects on our minds, and even our bodies. Hindsight is always left to later times.
In my country, as in many other places there are two sides, which mock each other relentlessly. One of these sides coined the term WhatsApp University to imply that people on the other side were getting most of their information from social media sites promoting fake news, which they were indeed guilty of doing. But when the people on the other side heard about WhatsApp University, they quickly cottoned on, and started deriding those on the other side for getting their information from WhatsApp.