“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?

Scared? who me?

July 12, 2007

Today will go down in history as the day swamy ever tasted fear, was for ever afraid of nature’s fury. Yes, this evening had been some sort of life changing phase for me. Ok i’ll cut the bullshit, but to tell you the truth I was oozing adrenaline out of my nose today. So what trigerred this abnormal reaction to this otherwise strong superhuman?
 Well today was one of those most vicious, scary, bone chilling display of natures fury that I’ve ever witnessed. It exactly isnt a big tornado (I aint exactly dorothy), nor a flash flood, it was the one hour of awe inspiring lightning and thunder that pounded chennai for atleast couple of hours. The story goes like this. The evening was really pleasant,  I was returning home from spencers and I could sense that it was going to rain. I was carrying my laptop and so had to rush home before the shower started, but that bitch nature beat me to that. So I was stranded on the side of the road for a good 15 mins. After that the intensity of the rain had come down and so I resumed my journey home. When I got home,  I plugged in the laptop and was surfing as usual when all of a sudden the first scenes of a thirller movie were begining to be played. There was nothing unusual about it at first, windows banging, occasional lightning that you always wanted to look straight into, but were very afraid to, because you’ve seen in so many bad indian movies how a lighting could render you blind forever. Temperature dropped drastically, the room had a pleasant feel to it, and for once I dint feel the heat from my laptop. Thats when it happened, the brightest streak until now ripped the sky open and making it scream as if the sky had been stabbed. I remebered the old chinese proverb just then “whenever there’s any thunderstorm, the first thing to do is to turn off your laptop, TV and other electrical items”. I haven’t stuck to this rule before because I’ve personally never seen any TVs being blown out or etc. To me it was some urban legend that usually happened to your friends friend or some house the street next. I wanted was to get a first hand glimpse of what was actually happening out there, so I stepped out and looked up. Just then, without any warning i saw the badest, meanest streak of light in my life, it was powerful, roaring and unmerciful. I guess ‘raw’ would be another good way to describe it. Imagine you are Paris Hilton who’s just been released from jail facing a swarm of papparazzis with the brightest, most poweful flashes, now multiply that flash by atleast a 20 (yeah I dont want to exaggerate), that’s how bright it was. For the next minute or two I could see the typical lightning rod image wherever i looked. After that I got into the house and cursed myself for being such a careless asshole. Thats when I got a call from my sister. You see she just given birth to my beautiful niece three days ago. She wanted me to get her something to eat since the canteen food in the hospital sucked ass. I told her how the condition was outside but i could sense that she wasnt excatly in the mood to listen to all that. She was in a closed air conditioned room, sealed completely from the outside world, so she had no idea what was going on. I told her it would take atleast an hour before I even think of venturing out. She obvisouly was pissed off with my attitude, all she could see was that she was one poor hungry young mother and I was the lazy bum with no good work. But had she witnessed that grand spectalcle, would she be expecting the same? I thougt for a second. Right then, right there, BAM! I just could not write how I felt at that time, the most bad ass of them all struck directly inclose proximity to my house. I say that with so much conviction because the thunder that followed it had the clear tell tale sings of Apocalypse. Yup, for a second there, I did fear for my life, why lie? not for a second, the fear lasted for some minutes. I gathered myself after that, tried to maintain calm and my sanity. But what I had seen was only the first of the two part installement from hell. Within just five minutes, it struck again, with the same vigor, power and might. Since we only die once,  I did not feel the same way I felt for the prequel but nonetheless I could not just take another. I wanted to call my sister, I reached for the landline, but it was dead, indicating the magnitude of the situation. I decided it would be a good reason to shut the windows and remain calm inside. This is exactly where your belief system will help you out, but to some helpless atheist like me, who had no prayers to offer, it was proving to be too much of an ordeal. Also I could not console myself that it was all the part of god’s short temper . To me, there was no heaven in waiting if i were to die in a million volt shock. I had to somehow collect myself and get ready for the mean task of getting food to my sis.
 I waitied for half an hour for it all to settle down and for peace to reign in again. It was still drizzling outside, but half an hour after that incident I was much more mature and devoid of fear. So I kicked my bike to start it. I was suprised to find that it started with just 3 kicks than the usual 5, even on the hottest days this was not possbile. Was this a clear sign from ‘Him’ that my odyssey to the hotel to get dinner for my sis would be devoid of any danger? Yeah right, enough of my sarcasm. I glided through the wet roads, high on the chilly breeze and balls stiff due to the temperature. I rode extra slow to the hotel. I’m an exceptionally slow driver, since most of my thinking is done on the bike or when i’m in loo, but at that time I was driving very well below the daily normal. I guess the main attraction of driving on a wet road is the mind blowing lights show. The wet road reflects the brake lights, the neon billboards, the the street lamp and oh! what a great sight it was. I’ve not seen the northern lights but I could say it was as close to that. That wet road was as enthralling as the light show in pink floyd’s “echoes”(the concert, not song). Soon i forgot all about the fury and the drama and was one with the lights, lost in strech of a continous rainbow.
 Could i say this was a life changing incident? not at all, but it was a good experience that I would not forget until say tomorrow. But come to think of it all now after a long 3 hours, was i really scared back then? hmmm may be.