Tuesday, May 26, 2020

the waking life

it's not very often that i blog about something i've watched or read, but there's something i've re-watched recently as an exception to my rule "life's too short for reruns" just because it's so good: the movie, "waking life"

i've watched the movie several times before, and every watch results in a different part of the movie resonating with me. this time, it was this one line:

Actually, the gap between, say, Plato or Nietzsche and the average human is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human.

this is something i've thought about many times over (well before the re-watch, in fact, and for the last few months if not more), and tried to make my guiding force as a human being.

living life at a higher level than a chimpanzee is not very easy. our world is engineered to keep us at that level. work (ie the civilized equivalent of searching for food), preparing and eating food, maintaining and feeding our interpersonal relationships, maintaining our homes, religion, and to top it all, entertainment. pure mindless entertainment. sports, news, sitcoms, action, sci-fi. all of these appeal to our baser instincts which have not really changed much even though our genes and surroundings have.

thinking about chimpanzees reminds me of my visit with my parents last year at the belfast zoo. the chimps in their enclosure were so human-life it was simultaneously fascinating and eerie.

some time later, while i was introspecting, i realized not much of my life was beyond the realm of a chimp who had grown up in my surroundings would do. sure, i exceeded the chimp's ability in some aspects, (the term code monkey is a joke, i'm sure) but what am i actually doing with my ability? am i using my ability to fulfill the same drives as the average chimp?

and in all seriousness, what is it that separates us from chimps?

i don't have the answers, but while i look for mine, i hope others start doing the same. us humans have turned into a race of sophisticated chimpanzees.

Monday, May 25, 2020

the train picnic

we were all on a train. it seemed like we had the train to ourselves. a mix of friends and family. I sat with my friends, although family was nearby too. the seats were very strangely laid out though, definitely not in a way that made you think of a train. it was more like a metal rectangular room moving on tracks, so I guess that makes it a part of a train. it wasn't a very long journey, maybe a couple of hours. lots of banter, there were some games being played too... I did not participate in them. I was reading something, and I had my ipod. someone had a psp, and we played a bit, taking turns obviously. we reached our destination. a hill station. just before the station, the final stretch was a physics defying bit - the train climbed up what seemed like a spiral track upwards, so steep it was probably 45° or so, before coming to a halt at its destination.

the destination was a regular looking railway station, and as soon as the train came to a halt, grandma was the first to be ready to alight. in fact, she was so eager someone had to tell her to wait until the train had stopped moving!

as the rest of the family alighted, it turned out we had two alternative plans: we had a nearby holiday cottage booked, but those who wanted to stay on the train could do so. i decided to stay on the train, as did most of my friends. the train left the station and moved a few minutes away to the end of the track, where it would remain until the next morning. it was parked in the middle of a field, quite a green grassy one, on a plateau surrounded by flattish hills.

we played games (i remember charades, uno, cards) until it got dark, and then we got started with the drinks as well. i remember i was sitting besides jayashree, although i don't really remember what we spoke about. sometime late in the night we started feeling hungry, and while i don't know how we cooked, i was eventually eating out of the cooking pot i use when camping. it was a mix of khichadi, rajma, peas, fried veggies... and topped with vodka! i think i had mixed all the leftovers together and was eating it. everyone rolled their eyes at my "unholy combination" while i ate it with relish. i was disappointed that nobody wanted to taste it themselves.

people started falling asleep, and ian and i were the only guys left awake. we had an adjacent room which was completely empty except for the door that connected it to our part of the coach. ian and i tried making shadow figures using both our hands and this light source that flickered like it was an old-fashioned sooty oil lamp.

we eventually slept off, and by the time we woke up the train was already back at the station. it looked like the station where my folks had got off, so i was expecting them to get back on the train and ride home, but instead i got off in a hurry. it turned out the train had been at the station for a while, and my parents and brother were waiting for me. we crossed over to the other platform, and were walking along it. my parents were looking for the toilets. that's when i realized I was not carrying anything with me.

i started frantically checking my pockets, as I had a feeling I had left something behind. that worried my mom, who started scolding me for being careless. my pockets had a charging cable. I was relieved, as that was all I had left home with.

At that point, the train started moving, leaving us behind.

and that's when i woke up.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

the dream-reality diary

i woke up from the strangest dream.

it revolved around my diary.

there were so many things happening with my diary-dream i'm kinda losing the link between them. but the essence of my dream was that my diary had a link with reality (whatever happened in my life was written in my diary, as it is with most diaries). the writing didn't happen automatically, because i was writing it down myself. but it seemed like i was writing it as it happened, while not being physically present with the diary wherever it was actually happening. but i was also physically present wherever reality was happening (ie it was happening to me and not to someone else). so it's almost like there were two realities i was experiencing at the same time, one of which was sitting at a desk on a sunny afternoon at my parents place, writing in my diary. however, it didn't "feel" like there were two of me: it was more like my mind was jumping between the two bodies, while simultaneously experiencing both. my reality was all in india, experiences that were plausible with people i remember, but nothing that actually happened although they seemed real at the time.

but then comes the funny part: i could strike off parts of the diary that I had written, and they would cease to have happened. my diary also had scribbles in the margins, and modifying those scribbles seemed to have a two-way link with reality, with a similar feeling of being present in both.

and then, there were the dreams: there were pages in my diary which were clearly dreams, and as i flipped through them i spotted glimpses of familiar ones that i've blogged. and it almost seemed like there was a link between my blog and my diary, because everything i've blogged was also in in. during the dream (which seemed to last a few days), i had a few dreams, which i was transcribing at various points: one was a dream about the differences between being an English-speaking tourist in France and Germany. in the dream within the dream. I was comparing the phrases you'd have to learn to be able to get by in either country. the situations were so weird and the phrases even more so, that i concluded while writing these down that it wasn't reality but a dream that i was transcribing. once i was conscious that i was writing dreams in my diary, i didn't bother editing embarrassing bits out.

another dream within my dream was about shruti having a conversation with two of her friends, and suddenly putting me on the phone. the strange bit about this dream is that i was dreaming of writing my diary while on the phone! so it was a dream of writing my diary within a dream of writing my diary, except that in the dream within the dream, it was the same physical existence that was writing the diary and speaking on the phone. and somehow that convinced me that i was dreaming within my dream!

back out of the diary-dream within the dream, i kept flipping pages in my diary, and even read a few old pages - these were actually days of my life from a few years ago that i can distinctly remember to this day. but the difference between those old pages and the ones that i wrote over the course of the dream was that te new ones felt like reality and the old ones felt like text.

also, the dreams and reality pages of the diary were not adjacent, and i kept cross referencing the two, involving a lot of flipping back and forth, and occasionally getting lost between the two. that was another strange thing about the diary-writing me: i didn't have to struggle to keep up with reality (and i'm a real slow writer!), and i didn't feel any pressure to keep up. i could flip back and forth while writing, even read some stuff in between, and it didn't seem like i was losing sync with reality.

now that i think about it, it almost seemed like the writing of the diary controlled reality!

at one point, i got confused when flipping between the dream and reality sections of the diary (i was searching for reality but read a dream that i didn't remember, and it took a good bit of reading before i concluded it was a dream!). i flipped more carefully, nothing the number of blank pages between both sections. it seems i just had a few dozen pages left of reality before i run out of space to write.

which meant i would need a new diary. i wondered if i should go for a hard-bound one (like my first diary) or a soft bound one (like this one). i also wondered if it would be nicer to switch to green and red ink like i used to, or stick with my current boring black ballpoint pen.

and that's when i woke up.

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