Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mind Control

Many people grapple with the idea of being in control of their life. Sometimes, whatever one does life seems to be in shambles. When this happens there is a temptation to attribute everything to their inadequacy. It doesn’t help when people say things like "take responsibility for what happens in your life" and "no one but you is responsible for your current situation". Our minds also tend to compare our lives with those of others and we see only what others have. A combination of all these factors leaves one feeling frustrated and an extended period of feeling like this can manifest in self-destructive emotions like anger and depression. As we grow in age as human beings, there is added burden of increasing responsibilities and this burden is growing heavier in this current, fast paced societal set up. In the past, there was competition for food and shelter, and failing to obtain them meant certain death. The capacity to maintain mental balance was never called into question. Control was seized and maintained with physical strength. Our society has now grown. Most of the world has access to enough food and shelter to survive. We now seek wealth, power, popularity and material goods. Welcome to the world of mental strength. One can keep in control of oneself only through mental toughness. This brings us back to the primary question, I asked at the start. How do you get control of your life? How is this related to mental toughness? Is it something that we are born with and can it be learnt? Are some people so smart that they know exactly what to do next? I have gone through this emotion of feeling helpless and I have asked these questions to myself.

My experiences in life have thought me the following answers. Without being too preachy, I will try to explain what I learnt. It can be summed up in a cliché - "I learnt to live in the moment". If I was going through this blog post, about 5 years back, I would read this sentence and be really frustrated. How can living in the moment be the answer to these questions? When I analyze all the circumstances in my past, when I did feel in control, they were mainly situations when I had a goal and I knew exactly what needed to be done to achieve it. That is why, I have felt in control when I played video games. I knew from the start of the game, that I need to collect points and kill the monsters to progress in the game. That is how I knew I would achieve the goal of finishing the game. When I do computer programming, I feel in control. That is because I know the end state that I want to achieve and I know what code to write that will take me there. But, life is not as easy as playing a video game or writing a computer program. It is more complex due to the fact that many of the outcomes, which I try to achieve are dependent on a whole lot of things that I do not have any control over. I tried really hard for a few things that I wanted in my life, but I failed miserably. These failures frustrated me. I blamed myself and felt that I must have done something wrong. So, I tried harder. Yet to no avail. These failures are quite draining and they can leave one feeling helpless. And then, I asked myself the question which is the topic of this write-up. The answer to this question was hard to find when I asked for it. Then, I failed in a few of my goals again. I compared myself to other people and felt that I was inadequate. This is another self-destructive thought. Then I began to analyze my past. If I looked at my life dispassionately from without, I could see successes that I never had recognized before. While trying to strive for my goals, I had achieved other things which were not my goals, but were definitely indicators of success. Then, I felt that I am not inadequate. Maybe, I don't just see the good things in life but am always fixated on what is going wrong. Further 'wisdom' dawned that it was just myself, who viewed me as a failure, but on the outside, people are seeing my successes. Then came a turning point in my thinking. The fact that I failed in a few things is not an indicator of my incapacity as a human being to execute and achieve, but it is an indicator to the truth that my effort was not the only determinant of success and that there are other things not in my control which could change the outcome.

So, again - if things are not in my control, how do I feel in control of my life? For me, the answer to this question started with acceptance of the fact that in reality, things are out of control. For starters, this passive acceptance helped me stop putting pressure on myself to perform. When this inner tension, driven by an irrational desire for an outcome started to melt away, I could feel a kind of clarity emerging. I stopped beating myself up for things that I failed at. The wise men have argued since time immemorial that the root cause of unhappiness is expectation and desire. I believe that when one is unhappy, it is a result of things not going as per expectation and life's outcomes not being as desired. This unhappiness manifests as a feeling of lack of control. Once I recognized this, I knew what I had to give up.  I had to give up expectation and desire. Wait a moment, I have heard this spiritual mumbo-jumbo before. I did not know what that meant, but now I have come to this conclusion myself. This gave me a little bit of confidence. The fact that I came to the same conclusion as the so-called wise men of the past must mean I am thinking in the right direction. This action of giving up trying to influence any outcome was the beginning of taking control of my mind. This gives rise to so many downstream questions – So, do I mean to say I stopped doing things in life? Did I just give up? What is the driving force in life when you give up your desire for output? How is giving up even remotely related to being in control? Isn’t happiness a mental phenomenon that occurs when you get something that you covet?

These are all valid questions. I do believe that I have received my answers to a few of these questions through introspection and experimentation. No, I did not stop doing things in life. I only try to do those things that give me happiness. This was a big change in my outlook. I try to not do things which are governed by the desire to achieve a particular outcome. Instead, I do things which I like and great outcomes can come out of it. I did not stop setting goals for myself. I set lofty goals for myself in the fields that I like. I try to hit those goals dispassionately, without attachment to them. Therefore, I am not sad if I don’t attain them. I am happy about the fact that I will continue to do the thing that I love, irrespective of whether I hit my goals or not. When I don’t hit my goals, I look back at what I have done and try to create hypotheses about the causes for failure. I then create life experiments to test my hypotheses and I learn from these experiments and try to incorporate this learning into my future actions. When things get overwhelming, I will draw a blank. I will just focus on the present and resist any thoughts. The human mind is a beautiful machine. The neural networks in the brain are designed in such a way that one doesn’t need to force the brain to learn. It happens automatically. I just believe that its mechanism is a black box. It takes in data from the senses and from the store of past experiences stored in memory. I try to keep it less occupied in emotions like desire, expectation, greed, anger and fear and use the bandwidth of its neural networks in processing experience data (from memory) and ‘the present’ data (from the senses) in helping me make life decisions. This outlook has enabled me to feel in control of my life.

If the 5 year back version of myself came back to me and asked me this question, I would advise him to read this document, but not take everything as truth. This kind of advice is available to everyone, but in order to really grasp its true meaning and power, one has to experience the feelings of helplessness and lack of direction. Therefore, I would ask the younger me to keep this document as a reference for the future and try to follow the broad framework outlined above during times of crisis. If I have to put it succinctly, it’s a four point approach

  1. Stay in the present moment
  2. Do what you love doing. Set Goals.
  3. Learn by dispassionately analyzing and mining your past experiences
  4. Make hypotheses about things you are unsure of and design life experiments to validate them
When things become overwhelming, just let everything go and draw your mind into the present moment.

I would like to conclude by saying that I am not an expert in this topic and I am still learning. I am ready to accept that whatever I have written may be the wrong approach. But this seems to work for me currently. I will continue to do this, until a point of time in my life, when I believe that it is proved wrong. This is a very personal document containing a lot of introspection that I have done. In case, you do chance upon this piece of writing, please feel free to leave feedback in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Life is Fair

What should you do when you feel that you have been treated unfairly?

Many times, we encounter situations in life, where we believe that we have been treated unfairly. Subsequently, this leads to a conflict in your mind - Should I be vengeful and do some harm to the entity who has treated me unfairly or should I just forgive? Will forgiving not turn me into a pushover?

These are complex questions. Seeing the answer clearly to such questions is not easy and after all, we are human and we do have an ego which is hurt. I would think that when such situations arise, it is best to take a deep breath and not give in to what the mind is thinking. The beginning of control is to let go of all your thoughts and start focusing on the present. Try to focus all your senses into the moment and absorb all the information, so that the mind is occupied in processing this information and there is little mind-space to start thinking about the unfairness of the current situation.

Eventually, this will calm the mind, clear the emotional fog created by the ego and help you see the situation more clearly. Sometimes, it is human to feel that you will take an impulsive action and you compel yourself to believe that you are thinking clearly. More often than not, you are not thinking clearly.

Now, you refocus your mind on what your reaction should be. Calmly, you should weigh the merits and demerits of your action based on your priorities and principles. Forgiving a person for a wrong is not about being a doormat, it is more about your power over your mind and the situation. Forgiving also does not mean forgetting. It means that you will take all steps necessary to understand the situation and why it happened. After this, you will learn how to not have this happen again in the future.

Thinking about revenge is a waste of your resources as you are spending your mind on the wrong problem.

All this said, it is not an easy framework of action to practice, as contexts of the situations vary. Sometimes, there is very little time to react. What you have lost in an unfair situation could also be of varying import. So what I would do is this - Be aware of the framework that I have created for these situations and do my best in adhering to it, given the situation with all its constraints.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Robin Hood is Evil!!??

This excerpt is taken from "Atlas Shrugged" - Ayn Rand's radical novel.

Ragnar: ". . . [Robin Hood] is not remembered as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became a symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, had demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures – the double-parasite who lives on the sores of the poor and the blood of the rich – whom men have come to regard as the moral idea." ". . . Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting, Mr. Rearden. Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive."

Criticism : I am unable to digest how Ragnar is different from Robin Hood in any sense. Ragnar maintains an account for all of "Rand's" heroes so that they he could give them their due - which was taken away by the "looters". Wasn't Robin Hood the same? He took away from rich nobles to give the peasants their due. The peasants had in fact, worked under a nobility which had taken away everything from them. According to Rand's Objectivist philosophy, it is the peasants who actually deserved all the material wealth as they were the ones who did the work. I see a contradiction here, in her criticism of Robin Hood. I may be wrong in my criticism and would like anyone who has read my blog as well as "Atlas Shrugged" to point out any flaw in my argument. I need this because I am trying to evaluate "Objectivism" to see if its a full-fledged philosophy. Any Objectivists reading this blog, please note that the above criticism is a subjective evaluation which may be wrong and any abusive or forceful, irrational language on my blog will not be paid attention to.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fountainhead (Review)

Review of the Fountainhead

The Fountainhead is a must-read. This book was one of those which I had always postponed reading and now that I have read it, I feel that it is something that definitely deserves a review. I cannot say that the characters that Ayn Rand has invented in the book are not larger than life. It is definitely, according to me, a book not to be influenced by unless you have an extraordinary strength of character. I would like to structure the review of the book just as the book is structured - In 4 main parts.

Peter Keating - Through him, Ayn Rand has dissected the mindset of a man with mediocre talent in his field. Peter Keating gets what he thinks he wants just through his people skills. This is something that Ayn Rand has frowned upon throughout the book. Keating is the typical example of an average man living in this world who is driven by materialistic pleasures. He is depicted as unethical, weak, and cut-throat. He takes up architecture even though his calling lies in the art of painting. He is severely scared of Howard Roark - his perfect anti-thesis. There are a few minor offenses that Keating commits in the course of his career which come very close to something that can be punished under law. He is indirectly responsible for the death of Lucius Heyer - one of the major partners of the architectural firm - "Francon and Heyer". This results in Keating acquiring one half of the ownership of the firm. He then betrays Catherine Helsie - his long time love, to marry Dominique Francon. His motivations for this are two-fold. Firstly, Dominque is the daughter of his partner Francon. Secondly, he had always failed to understand Dominique completely and she had never ever been attracted to him during the period of their pre-marital acquaintance. Keating also betrays Roark during one of the trials. Keating seeks advise from Ellsworth Toohey in all aspects of his career and personal life. This further helps Toohey get a grip over Keating's life and turn him into his puppet. Towards, the end Peter Keating is unable to handle the four other big players in the story - Toohey, Wynand, Roark and Dominique. He breaks down and is reduced to nothing at the end. Of what we know of the end, his marriage to Dominique is broken, Catherine will not take him back and his firm - "Francon and Keating" is
crumbling. Of all the characters in the Fountainhead, Keating seems to be the character closest to reality.

Ellsworth Toohey - Toohey is the "man you should not be". In this, I am in complete agreement with Ayn Rand. Well, this is not explicitly mentioned in the book but somehow there is a feeling you get in the sub-conscious, when you read the book that Toohey is being described in a condescending manner. Toohey is manipulative with an unsurpassed lust for power and his tactics are underhand. Toohey works in the Wynand press, where he acquires many followers. His major goal is to rule the world and he sees the press as a means toward achieving his aim. Towards the end, he unsuccessfully attempts to take over the Wynand press. He is a more intelligent and more dstructive form of Peter Keating, who he calls an amateur. Among his flunkies, he has people with money and power. He believes that once every individual in society is kept in ignorance and made to work for things which are pointless, the society can be controlled. As a young man Toohey was mediocre, both in physical appeareance and in his prowess in any field. He passed out of scholl with no great achievement to his credit. He then became a writer for one of the lesser known magazines in the university. This is where he started gaining popularity through a convoluted philosophy that he preached. And then, we joined the Wynand Press through which he achieved fame. Toohey was once shot at, by Stephen Mallory, a staunch individualist who could see through Toohey's manipulation of society. In court, Toohey asked that Mallory be pardoned. Towards, then end Toohey is fired from Wynand Papers.

Gail Wynand - In many respects, Wynand is very similar to Roark. Roark was a self-made man who came straight out of the bowels of Hell's Kitchen, a dark neighhbourhood in the underbelly of New York City. He is described in the book as a "man who could have been". Wynand Papers, a strong enterprise almost dominating the United States and was created by Wynand from scratch. He owns a penthouse and an art gallery. In the art galley, he eps all the works of art that he admires. He never meets the people whose work he loved. He is also said to have destroyed the careers of many individualistic people that he met during the course of his life. These actions probably have a root in his desire for power. The character of Wynand, yet evokes a respect, mainly because he is highly principled and had built his profession without any help. Gail Wynand was in love with Dominique Francon for whom he hires Roark to build a monument. This is when he comes face to face with Roark, his Nemesis. During the building engagement, both Roark and Wynand develop an affection for each other. Wynand sees Roark as a reflection of his mind. There is some sense of rivalry between the two but Roark emerges as the ultimate winner of a noble rivalry between the two of them. Wynand is also credited with incredeible mental strength, stamina and resistance.

Howard Roark - Ayn Rand might have crossed the line in portraying Howard Roark as "the man to be". Her depiction of Roark, seems to be that of a very strong-willed, uncompromising person blessed with an inhuman strength of character. Roark is an egotist. His motivation is his work. He quits his architecture school as he is not inclined to accept what is taught. He believes that one of man's biggest diseases is his reluctance to think independently. He does not believe in using pre-defined templates of the Renaissance for his buildings. Instead he believes that every small square inch of any building must serve a purpose and have a utility. His drawings have no room for aesthetics. He is a self-made man who many a times finds himself in a state of destitution. Even these hardships do not bring him to compromise on his principles. He is highly individualistic by nature, the extent of which can be deduced by the fact that he does not even hire lawyers to defend his work or his actions pertaining to his profession, even when threatened by a long term in prison. Rand's philosophy is that man is individualistic by nature and hence an ideal man must be not be dependent on anyone else for professional progress. Maybe in Rand's time, this could have been a possibility but in the present world with all its interconnections, the feasibility of this idea is wide open to debate. While interpreting the character of Roark, it is very important to note that his individuality spans only the field of his work. In other aspects of life, he is still dependent on society. He may appear to be a non-emotional person but his emotions are abstact and pure, according to Rand.It is also interesting that Roark is a difficult man to destroy as his motivations are not materialistic. He does not crave money, power or recognition. Gail Wynand and Ellsworth Toohey try to destroy him throughout the course of his life but none is successful. It would be very interesting to see, if possible, what would happen to a planet consisting of only Roarks, each one of them having similar character traits but differing only in their varying abilities in their profession. Would this be a Utopia or would the planet just implode?

On reading the book, many people make the mistake of interpreting Ayn Rand,s philosophy. One of the reasons for this could be that her philosophy is not clearly defined in the book. How feasible her philosophy is in today's world compared to her times is a matter of great debate. There is a lot of literature on the above available on the internet. There is no doubt to the fact that original thinkers are the prime movers of the world but to be stubborn to the extent that Roark is might infact destroy rather than create anything. Roark is also highly intelligent and is stubborn because he has the realization that his work is good. What of the people who do not know that their work is worthless. Interest in a particular subject does not neccessarily imply genius in the field. Infact, one can be average in a subject that one is intersted in. Imagine such a person trying to impose his own thinking. I do not see anything constructive coming out of that. It is a sad fact of life that it is always neccessary to be slightly diplomatic to get where one wants to be. Dont get me wrong here. I am not at all supporting the method of operation of the Keatings of the World. Well, he is the other extreme. Everyone in this world is a mixture of Roarks and Keatings. There are a very few Tooheys and Dominiques.

PS : This review is not stagnant and is subject to change as and when I deem necessary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


O' Bloody Demon,
You are much the same.
Beneath that mask of terror,
There is terror in your own self.
You are much the same,
and will be rocked by the principles
on which your foundation lies,
O' Bloody Demon.


It starts with a storm cloud in the mind,
and goes beyond it; It funnels down and saps all energy.
It's so restless that it moves directionless,
though for brief moments it does acquire an aim,
but usually - its never in a place, now on the field
and then on the concrete.
It just blows and what is left is destruction.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Today is a perfect blog day. Got cheated thrice by auto-drivers since morning. I dint exactly enjoy a movie that I watched. You probably have heard of "You reap what you sow". I'm not exactly a fan of this statement in this frame of mind. I am not even brave enough to say that I'd punch the bastard who said this if he ever turns up. Well, I am brave enough to say it but not brave enough to do it. So why lie? When you get back shit from people for doing no shit yourself, you begin to realize that the world is not a fair place and that you don't deserve to be good anymore. Most of my anger today is aimed at Auto drivers because I got cheated of nearly 80 bucks and that's a large sum for 1 day. One of my friends also called me for a party to his house on account of his birthday and I would have had a lot of fun there. Many things are coming to my melancholic mind today and I feel at this point of time that many people have taken advantage of me and now I resolve to put an end to this. Henceforth, I shall use influence, money(lol!!), intelligence and all means possible to get even. I would very much like to make a list of all things that are gong wrong in my life. More than easing myself, I'd be putting myself at danger in putting it in so public a blog. I will put up a list when the time is more convenient which should surely come within the August of next year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Strange people live on Earth

It has been really difficult for me to make a decent conversation with people of late. When a person tells me something, there is a complex thought process in my mind about keeping myself interested in what he/she is saying. I try really hard but soon realize that I am not interested in it because it is basically very serious stuff that he/she is speaking about. Very relevant to the context, of course but rendered irrelevant by my presence as the listener. Sometimes people get together and discuss their work and how hectic it is and how they are fighting these challenges. I manage a smile, not as a sign of my understanding their situation but because, when the person was speaking, I thought about something really funny. But the other person thinks vice-versa which is good for both of us until I have to make a response, by which time I am lost for what I have to say next because I was really not listening all the while to what the person was saying. I end up saying "Hmmm.." or laughing again ( this is in case I get the feeling that the person was describing something sarcastic or funny).

"Hmmm..." is reserved for when I observe profundity in the speaker's expressions. Don't mistake me. I am a logical thinker and hence can deduce that I am a really strange person and a unique one at that and a happy one for which. Being such a person will make you bored because once people learn that there is very little use of speaking to you, statements like, "Hey, Did you see the new restaurant that opened on Cunningham Road?" or "Dude, my work's really boring" will no more be directed at you and nearly all the conversation that abounds in the sound waves today are about such things or the like. You might have observed a paradox in what I say when you point out to me that I have, in my previous statement mentioned that I feel bored when people stop directing their silly conversations at me.

Well, well, this is a complex thing to explain. I may not listen to what the speaker is saying, but it doesn't mean that I don’t like this act of them speaking to me. It is really strange (to you people) that I still want them to talk. There can only be a few possible explanations that people could make for this.

1. I feel human voice is music.
2. I like to ridicule people about their interest in trivial matters.
3. I like to make fun of facial expressions of the speaker.

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that it is not because of any of the reasons that I have listed out. It is because I enjoy attention and I guess no one has guessed that as the reason. It may actually happen that you have indeed guessed the right reason and not even thought of the three points that I have mentioned as what you people may think it is because of. This again shows that my thinking is not in the same "frequency" (If I can say so) as normal people.

But, let me tell you again that I am not abnormal.
You show a child, the script of a strange language and he laughs at the curves.
You make random sounds with your mouth and people around you will laugh.

Well, I am the same. I laugh at life so much, because it doesn't make sense to me. Everything seems disorderly and strange. Therefore, I take solace in orderly things like Mathematics and Science. Philosophy, though a matter of total conjecture (and hence disorderliness) still interests me. I do not know why this is. I myself don’t understand me. One of the reasons for this is because I strangely find myself amused that I used nearly all the personal pronouns (I, me and myself) in the same sentence, in my previous sentence. This discourse has totally mind-fucked me and I would prefer to end here and go eat my lunch. If the reader is anything like me, he sure will read the whole thing but pay attention to nothing.