Inevitability

Occasionally when things seem too out of control, I wonder if the idea of control itself is an illusion. I am not a very religious man, and yet, when things spin out of my circle of understanding, I can’t help but wonder if there is some higher power driving it all.

In spite of all my belief in logic and the possibility of a scientific explanation for all things unexplained, there continues to be a part of me that believes (hopes) that there is something out there that defies human understanding, that there is an entity that oversees, if not manipulates, all that happens throughout existence. While this belief itself speaks volumes about my confidence in the human race, the notions of God and the Supreme Power that humans have deliberately invented to suit, more often than not, their geo-political interests, are even more ridiculous.

And yet, the idea that we are mere puppets in someone else’s hands, too is a bit difficult to digest. Seven billion puppets. That is, only counting the human beings. And then what would be the point? If it turns out that this is a mere game for some higher being, akin to us playing with our pets, I wonder how many giant egos would be hurt. Rationality dictates that there must be some purpose to our being given free will. Question is, if it is free will at all?

Haven’t we often ended up in situations we have been desperately trying to avoid, in spite of all our efforts? Is it possible that the ends we are going to reach in life are all predetermined, and all we get do is choose our path to that end? Or walk the path that has been chosen for us? While it is a little bleak to think about our lives in such a fashion, and many might call all this the talk of people not willing to take initiative in their lives, is it not possible?

And anyway, we are backbenchers. All we have are possibilities.

Guilt.
One of the worst emotions a human being can feel.
Guilt, about things you have done years back, or more recently, can drive anyone mad. It is difficult to understand the nature of this rather queer feeling, for you are not as worried about your self and your own well being, more often than not, it is someone else’s suffering on account of your actions that triggers it.
This is what bothers me about the nature of wrongdoing. If, in that moment, you do not feel the need to stop yourself from committing an action, then why does the mind think about the same action years later, and feel the need to analyse its consequences, and repent.
I guess this is what growing up is about. The wealth of experiences that you acquire, make you rethink your own actions, how you could have taken better decisions, made better choices, done and not done some things.
And hence, Guilt.
Or maybe it’s just the time of the night that makes you think of things that you’d rather not.
It is 3:00 a.m. after all.

On Scientific Reporting

As the scientific community, makes progress by leaps and bounds to achieve a utopia of technological prowess, the importance of knowledge exchange cannot be ignored. A time tested tradition, continues to be the publishing of scientific progress in well known scientific journals. While this does provide credibility to the work being published, as more times than not, the results are cross-verified and tested for accuracy and reproducibility; a recent spurt in the number of journals themselves, and the myriad of non-scientific attributes attached to scientific publishing, has led to an overall decrease in the level of scientific discourse in today’s journals.

While this is my personal opinion, I am sure, many of my colleagues in the community will agree, that while journals with very high impact factors, still remain accountable and continue to publish only good quality, verifiable research, there has been a massive decline in the quality of scientific publishing in the less impactful journals.

Part of the reason for this is the recent trend where the overall quality of one’s research acumen is gauged by indices that rely heavily on scientific publishing parameters. This has increased the pressure on the scientists themselves to prove their mettle by publishing more and more. As the quantity increases, the quality is bound to decrease. Tampering with experimental data to make the experiment more likeable for publishing is no longer just heard of in the movies. A majority of the younger researchers are forced into this rat race of ‘publishing papers’, because that seems to be the only way to climb the ladder to the top of academia. Students as young as sophomore undergraduates are now focussed more on getting a ‘Publications‘ section under their CV, rather than pursuing the actual art of science, and exploring this ever expanding frontier. What gives fuel to this fire among younger students at the very least is that these publications are becoming a criteria for higher education admissions to top colleges and universities.

What we fail to understand is that good research takes time, and involves months, if not years of painstaking perseverance. Add to that the pressure of regularly publishing work, is an added burden that does more bad than good. Research work is like banging your head against the wall, and hoping that the wall breaks first. While there is no denying the importance of publishing papers, publishing good papers is even more important.

Both publishing houses and administrative bodies across the research arena need to realise the effect that uncontrolled publishing mania can have on the progress of science, and ensure that this is curbed. Only then can science in its raw magical form, be truly understood and appreciated.

On Religion

God has always been a concept, much debated and fought over, yet little understood. Religion has always been a means for us humans to explain the inexplicable. But as more of these mysteries are unraveled by one means or the other, I can’t help but notice that religion has had more elaborate purpose all this while.

Is it not easy to see, how religion has molded our societies, and our entire belief systems? And doesn’t this at times, if not always, seem to be for the benefit of some specific political entity/idea? That is not to say, that I do not appreciate that aspect as well, for that too has played a very crucial role in shaping the world today as we know it. Today, I happened to come across a definition of an ‘Agnostic’ as a person who believes that the existence of a supreme entity, God, can neither be proven nor disproved. And that made me question, yet again, my own religious beliefs.

I happen to remember some excerpts from my (very) preliminary reading of ‘A Brief History of Time’ (which is an excellent book, albeit a little difficult to comprehend) by Stephen Hawking; where he talks about the unification of all scientific theories into a single Unified Theory. I can’t help but notice the similarity this idea possesses, to the idea of there being one supreme God. Hawking further goes on to say that the search for the latter might be analogous to the search for the former. While this idea is a beautiful one, a coming together of science and religion, it is not an easily acceptable one, for science, always, needs hard evidence, and while the search continues, answers are still very much shrouded, or at least are way too incomprehensible for the human kind. Hawking goes on to argue that if there is a Supreme Power, then why at all would it be interested in revealing itself to the people, how can one be sure that the results from our search are perfectly accurate. Doesn’t this Supreme hold the reins to our efforts and results as well? That is intriguing, to say the least.

Being born to Hindu parents, I have had a huge number of beliefs, rituals, superstitions, and even Gods thrust upon me. Personally, I do believe in the existence of a Supreme power. We, puny humans, can’t be the most intelligent creatures in this mighty, mighty universe (or multiverses, if we are to believe Hawking). I do not see stronger beings being very benevolent to the weaker ones here on earth, and that makes me a little fearful of this Greatness. That, it has let us survive for so long, makes me reverent. But the interpretations that humans have developed of its powers, and miracles, and elaborate mythologies in scriptures, I find appalling. While in terms of building a society, they have been very helpful, their staunchness has also resulted in disintegration of communities, something that I can not stand.

While, even today, questioning religions, and the values they propagate remains a rather uncomfortable occupation, it is good to see that people are developing a more objective approach to their lives and beliefs, notwithstanding the spiritual comfort that is found in the idea of a benevolent GOD.

As has been iterated all over the world of ideas, religion must be confined to a part of a person’s identity and not the whole of it. Only then is peaceful cohabitation, even a possibility.

 

Ignorance

Sometimes, like in this moment, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of my ignorance. There is so much knowledge in the world, so much to learn, so much to know, so much to think about. And I know so little, so very little.
And accompanied by this emotion, is an urge to acquire as much from this vast ocean, as I can. While this would seem to be a very positive outcome, believe me when I say this, it is not.
There is only so much that an ordinary human being can understand and assimilate. And what is left out, leaves a searing hole in my expectations with myself.
As a future engineer, I take it as a responsibility to come up with solutions to the problems that mankind faces on a daily basis. As I move closer to becoming a professional, I feel myself growing more and more detached from society. Education should have been about connecting the various spheres of my life, and giving me the tools to understand their interactions and interdependencies. So, I took it upon myself to learn history, economics and literature. I ended up learning very little.
Isn’t trying to do too much at once, the key to ending up not doing anything at all?
Is it not alright, to not know some of the things about this vast world around us?

I’ll be lazy… later…

Ever since I started leading an independent life away from my parents, it seems as though it has been a blur and a mix of short periods of intense under pressure activity, and long periods of laid back procrastination. While I understand the havoc that laziness can wreck upon someone just about to step into the professional world, I do not even consider myself lazy. A procrastrinator, on the other hand, – most definitely.

Are the two the same?

No. Not really. While lazy implies that the individual is unwilling to use his energy at all, the procrastinator simply puts it off till it comes up higher on the list of priorities. The problem comes, when the procrastinator, turns out to be a bad planner. The reason these two ideas have been mixed up so much is that usually we are not very good planners, and the end result in both the cases turns out to be the same, a muddle of incomplete tasks, missed deadlines, and lost opportunities.

With experience and care, all non-lazy procrastinators can be fairly successful. I usually work well under pressure. So, I begin when I am close to the deadlines, and put in a concentrated amount of effort, to get the job done. The key is to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, so you can decide when is it late enough to start, and make sure, make very sure that you start by then.

Then again, why procrastinate at all? This question is more like the meaning of life questions. No humanly understandable answer possible. Everybody has his/her own reasons, and we don’t go around asking people, why on time?

To some it is the thrill of having to race against time for each deadline, to others it is the long periods of nothingness that give them the opportunity to just sit and think, and some are just plain old lazy.

But while laziness is a sin, and needs to be dealt with, procrastination is simply a trait, that can be moulded the way you want with proper planning and devotion.

Or at least, that’s what I think (and hope!).

Titles

I might have mentioned in passing in my previous post that I was working on a magazine of sorts, and we were stuck with deciding a name for the magazine as a whole. While it is supposed to be collection of student written articles, both literary as well as technical – related to my field of engineering; we are hoping to arrive at something that is a bit different and mature at the same time.

Which brings me to the idea behind this post. How deeply does the title of an article or a story, or the name of a magazine affect the probability of the reader sticking to it? I, deriving from personal experience would say that I have often (very often), been fooled by a good title into stumbling into a book that follows the same old story with new names for its characters. I am an avid reader of romance novels, and a majority of contemporary romance is centered around some very basic themes, all with exquisitely designed covers and titles. This kind of repetition is rampant in the paranormal and erotica genres as well.

But then, do the publishers have an option? There’s only so much that can happen in a story and eventually after so many decades of story telling, repetition is bound to happen. Are there limits to human imagination? Maybe. We all derive inspiration for our writings from our experiences, and our surroundings. And I have started believing that we are moving into a world of literary stagnancy. There is the occasional thriller or romance that I really enjoy, but the majority of the authors around the world seem to be repeating the same themes over and over again. In part, this may be attributed to the increase in the sheer number of people who now have access to the writing medium and the time and passion to write. While I deeply appreciate the fact that writing is now becoming more and more acceptable as a profession and pastime – as even the readership is increasing, people have easier access to literary content; I would even deeply appreciate a spurt in the originality in their content.

Meanwhile, when the arena is flooded with the same kinds of stories, the only thing left to differentiate them upon is their cover and title. Which means over the coming years, unless there is some kind of a story telling revolution, covers and titles shall continue to commoditize the very same stories.

What do you think?