“By explaining the rainbow, he has destroyed the beauty of it”
– John Keats on Isaac Newton

Two days ago I woke up from my sleep abruptly, partly because of heavy drinking the night before. No matter how much I tried I was unable go back to sleep. So I decided that I’ll do a little reading since that usually puts me to sleep quickly. It
was around 5.45 in the morning and the dawn was about to break, so I thought it would be wonderful to goto my terrace and read something while watching the sunrise. I’ve always liked the first gentle streaks of the sun fall on my face, it somehow felt revitalizing. So I went upstairs, opened a book and started reading. After a while the sun began to rise and I concluded it would most appropriate to just watch this everyday phenomenon in its entirety since I’ve heard that there’s nothing more beautiful than to watch the sun rise early in the morning. I closed the book, tossed it aside, then began observing the giant fireball move up almost un-noticeably. At first I found it a bit hard to concentrate, though it was just rising and hardly had any of its midday might, I couldn’t observe it without constantly blinking or getting distracted. What I indeed was hoping for was a sudden rush of blood or goosebumps or some sort of sign which indicated that even this banal daily routine is actually magical if observed closely. I waited, time flew by and still even after about 15 minutes nothing breathtaking happened. Exhaustion and boredom was what I could feel and there was no sign of the sudden awe or ‘enlightenment’ that most mystics or transcendentalists talk about. And thats when it hit me. All this time I was not looking at Sun as how those people from primitive civilization saw it, but indeed looked at it as just another star or a cosmic entity that was some 146,000 miles away. Also I knew why the sun rose and understood the reason for its orangish glow, knew why its rays were warm and got hotter as the day progressed. It was pure and simple, just by understanding all that was happening to the sun, I failed miserably to be enthralled by it.

Making sense of it all.
When we were little babies, we never understood anything but were continuosly amazed by even simple things . Though our brain tries from day 1 to piece together all the information it senses, it takes atleast about a year or two to come to even some basic conclusions. Until that period everything around us is a source of surprise, astonishment and awe. I see this everyday with my niece, she’s just 6 months old. She could go on looking at the ceiling fan and keep smiling at it. She doesn’t’ try to comprehend it, she cannot even if she tried hard, she just stares at it in total amazement. We on the other hand are hardly bewildered by anything that is so monotonous. If you really think about it and wonder what is that which makes babies get blown away by normal everyday happenings you’d come up with a couple or more conclusions. You would argue that the brain in the baby is not well developed or has limited comprehension and so on. Though this is partially true it is not the complete answer. The answer to this lies in the complete meaninglessness of the baby’s perception. The baby doesn’t know that it is a “ceiling fan” to being with, not just the concept but the name or the label by which it is remembered in the mind. There are no abstract assumptions nor is there any preconceived notion. The child sees everything as a whole and not as ideas or abstractions. The Buddhists called this Tathata or suchness, it is state where no meaning is formed in the mind and we sense things only as what they are. So be it a rising sun, a ceiling fan or the monotonous soaps on the TV, to the baby it all appears as something new and without meaning. That is the principal reason for its amazement at just about anything it senses. To give you a hint, when we look at the night sky filled with gleaming stars we immediately try to make something out of it. We already know what stars are, why they look so small, why they twinkle and why they appear only at night. There’s nothing special to be amazed about, we know that nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen at that moment. Even if a meteorite suddenly flashes above, we would be thrilled for a second or so but will immediately return to our normal state. It would take a humongous effort on nature’s part to come up with something to keep us up on our toes even for about 15 minutes, but sadly nature doesn’t do tricks.

Everything has been comprehended.
The 20th century has been one of the most ‘profitable’ centuries in terms of knowledge gained in all major fields of science. Biologically speaking, we understand what genes are, we understand that we are just ‘survival machines’ which the genes have built around themselves so that they could prosper. Not that they consciously do this, but this is something that has occurred naturally and we have come to terms with that. Relativity and quantum physics have basically turned our view upside down, old concepts like absolute time (which Newton thought “flowed” through space by the act of God) and space have been completely replaced with a relativistic view. Yes, I agree that there is lot of research going on in quantum electrodynamics and the search for a unified theory keeps the coffee in the research labs always boiling hot, but what does it all matter to common folk like you and me. We have just about enough knowledge to understand everyday phenomenon like rain, sunrise or wind which only 4000 years ago were worshiped in most parts of the world and considered divine. The modern man can never afford to go out of his way now and find something interesting because so much has already been comprehended. If you think deeply about it, this is indeed the age of boredom. Even feelings such as love, friendship and anger have all been reduced to works of hormones and genes and what not. Atheism has never been popular or as acceptable as before, and even the so called believers don’t really agree that the world was created in just 7 days or monkeys helped a warrior king cross an ocean. Time magazine famously proclaimed ‘God is Dead’ about 4 decades ago and as the years pass by we only seem to be agreeing more to it. Even if something out of the ordinary is proposed about the universe, something as radical as relativity, how long would it last before we comprehend everything about it and lose the enthusiasm that we initially had?

We have reached the end of the cauldron of knowledge that we have been sucking on for millennia using science as a straw and soon there’s going to be nothing but just sound of the the air crackling through indicating an empty pot. What happens when everything in the world is known? When we understand all, and nothing is left unturned? Will it be for the better or will people just find life not that exciting at all? “Mother” Earth is already turning into a giant, lonely and boring blue piece of rock circling endlessly around an always exploding, titanic hydrogen bomb which exists in a dark, chaotic, dreary, flavorless and godless universe. Could things get any more uninspiring and boring?

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Nope, it hasn’t rained yet, still 15 mins left to midnight, but the chances of this blog becoming #1 is far greater than the chances for a shower before midnight. It has been a day of personal triumph. Let me explain to you whats happening here. Come August and you just cant bear the festive spirit of chennai, its just too much to handle. There are loud speakers tied to every lamp post that keep playing really really awful devotional songs. Yes i’m talking about the mariamman (said to be a form a goddess Durga) festival that is usually held in the first sunday of August. The speciality is that unlike other festivities like ganesh chaturthi or diwali, people celebrate this festival by walking on fire. Like this guy right here

fire walking idiot

Whats funny is that anyone can do it. You, me or even jimmy there (i’m talking abt christians etc). Even more funnier is the fact that they dont walk, they run, run like wildboars. Its a scary site to see, and some get pushed down. There have quite a few accidents here, but nothing too serious. The interesting part is that, for the last 5 or 6 years, everytime this arcane ritual happens here, it always rains that night. My mom always attributes it to the divine power of god. I have tried to explain to her that it could for any number of reasons

1.It could be that the smoke from the burning wood, causes a micro-climatic change, and since this ritual actually takes place at many parts of chennai during the same day, it might cause rain throughout the city. (Vague i know, but it could happen)

2. A conspiracy theory,  I sometimes suspect that they fire some kind of rockets (the firecracker ones), that bring in artificial rain. (Yeah, i’ll come up with anything to prove them wrong).

3. More widely accepted is that it rains beacause its monsoon season.

Inspite of the above arguements, I’ve somehow felt like I’ve been losing the argument everytime it rains. But today,  it dint and I feel like the losing battle has been won in one swift blow.

Update: Midnight has passed, yippie!