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
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.
Continue reading The dread
Were we always like this? Precocious virtual conquerors. Facebook, WhatsApp groups are filling with so many of us seeking instant validation: each one a more concerned citizen than the next. It’s counter intuitive but, perhaps, this is how everything went wrong. Everyone a plastic activist, animal lover, tree planter, vegetarian or crusading meat eater. We should have changed the world for the better, except for the troubling evangelism of the unquestioning do-gooders—Us.
Continue reading The virtual alter-ego
It was all quite innocuous, till it was not. Looking up crockpot chicken dinner recipes on YouTube would lead me to a puzzle at the heart of the modern world.
There is a theory doing the rounds that we all live in bubbles of our own making and this is supposedly behind the divisiveness of the present time. In an earlier post, I tried to work out the fundamental problems with the bubble theory. Social media is probably more responsible than we are for the bubbles of our own making. Although, it is true that we live in bubbles we fill with biased opinions and people that second these views, bubble-living isn’t unique to this or any other time period.
Continue reading Not yet Westworld: Do social media algorithms determine how we think?
When sentient beings search for meaning it often leads to gibberish. Markets and newspapers burgeon with spirituality columns, self-help books and religious cults that claim to tell you the meaning of life. Closer home, your own mainstream religious books claim to have an all-access pass to special meaning found nowhere else.
Extrapolating from religions, caste groups and race identities, individual humans will also find ways to explain whatever they do in the light of their own imagined virtue. Pattern-finding, an innate human faculty, can be employed in the cause of personal gain. We will extract seeming meaning from what appears to us as chaos. Ever watch a television show in a language you didn’t understand? Unable to translate as days pass you become familiar with the characters and a vague plot develops in your head. You find a way to understand what you really don’t mostly through inference. No proof is sought, most of any understanding arrived at is intuited. Literature has a kindred function with its allowance for interpretations, criticism and readings. Sometimes even a single line in a text of art can undergo myriad elucidations.
Continue reading The skewed search for life’s meaning
Gravity piles it on top of itself, floating, then falling, adding layer on unabating layer, never stopping. The dust that envelops us all is almost Shakespearean in character. It’s minute and ephemeral, but can bury whole civilisations under its weight. When the sun lights it up in delicate animated motes, it is even beautiful.
Continue reading A wistful history of dust
Identities are stubbornly quantum and resistant to definition. We think ourselves into being one day as one thing, and another day seek to be something else entirely. This process repeats itself in perpetuity. Trying to build a solid edifice out of your identity is well-nigh impossible, as the bricks of its structure are really quantum bubbles jumping all over the place, weirdly etherous. It is hard to strike a balance between an identity’s simultaneous solid and vapour states.
Continue reading The Quantum identity