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Life

Here’s Why I Write Satire

It would be an understatement to say that I love reading, and that I also love writing. This post is about why I write satire and also why satire is important in a free and democratic setting. To put it succinctly, if there’s one regret I have in life is that there’s just not enough time to read all the great books that are out there in the world.

Francis drops this

There’s just one book I have given up on reading and that was 13 Reasons Why. I felt guilty doing so since it would be a waste not to read. It was a good call, though. (Francis Bacon would nod in agreement.) That book is a waste of pages. I realized that it’s better to give up reading a book if you don’t connect with it since you’re just wasting precious time.

But, Why Satire?

Like I said I love writing, and that alone should offer you an indication as to why I write satire. There’s this excellent article I read called 30 Year Thinking by Nat Eliason. It’s a great article about investing time and effort into skills that you know you’d never give up on, and what you’d like doing for the vast majority of your life. Writing and reading are free, and have a great deal of benefits, which go beyond cognitive and artistic benefits.

Growing up, I recall how writing along with art was, at one time, regarded as a dead-end job. Science was regarded highly. It’s great to see that this perspective has changed. I never chose writing as a profession because it would be lucrative, but, in this era, it has become exactly that. Just like anything in life, you need to practice and practice away at your craft, so that you’re good at it.

George Orwell uses satire to address the subject of the Russian revolution

So, why satire? Well, because it just goes beyond the creative aspect of writing. Satire is used to point at the stupidity of the world. It is a tool to help the reader analyse their own human nature and know where they have erred.

The novel Gulliver’s Travels written by Jonathan Swift was a satirical piece aimed at tackling the nature of humans. One of the most famous scenes in the story is when the main character interacts with the tiny people of Lilliput, satire is used here in the height of the heels worn by the men as a way to mock the Whigs and Tories of the British government.

Jonathan Swift uses satire to take about the nature of humans

In Animal Farm written by George Orwell, satire is used as a way of addressing the subject of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps one of the most famous examples of satirical literature in the world. In Catch 22 written by Joseph Heller, there are plenty of examples of satire throughout the piece. One of the most notable is the general ideal of the Catch 22, which the writer uses as a way to talk about the lack of logic often seen in bureaucracy.

Enter The Sunday Morning

I spent a great many years working at some of the top advertising agencies in Sri Lanka. It was a great time, and I managed to work with some excellent brands. But, in terms of having a rewarding experience I would think that it was working as a feature journalist and editor at a lifestyle magazine that made me most content. Covid-19 did away with the publishing industry, and I transitioned into the tech industry.

Feminism is not a man-hating hobby

The tech industry is proving to be a completely different ball game altogether; however, it is something that I’m enthusiastic about when it comes to learning. Life is short, and learning transcends the excitement that power and money can extend to you. That said I missed creative writing, which is why I was excited when I was invited to have my own column at one of Sri Lanka’s best newspapers.

Satire on the privilege of the patriarchy and the archaic roles that women have to adhere to

I may have started out as a creative writer, but I wanted to move onto other types of writing as well. I’ve done business writing and technical writing. I just want to have the bragging rights knowing that I can do it all. Writing is an experience, and it’s important to me that I can experience it all.

Satire on elitism, the rich and the new rich

This was why I jumped at the invitation to have my own column on The Sunday Morning called Colombo Confessions. It’s a column that has a light-hearted and satirical view of Colombo and it’s denizens. I admit that at times, it does take on a very caustic viewpoint, but then the subject matter happens to be rather heavy, too. How else is one supposed to talk about sexual harassment, elitism and sexual intrigue?

Satire on how a privileged few with their toxic masculinity use both men and women as objects of sexual gratification

Satire, I’ll admit, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but what a brew it is, and that alone is a good enough reason to write satire. Call it a curse or a blessing, but the fact is that writers are empathetic creatures. We observe and we feel. And most of the time, we feel too much. This desire to feel and extend our feelings onto paper is like consuming alcohol. There is that initial high which segues into a feeling of satiation that lulls you into a sense of bliss. This is another reason why I write satire. I’ve never done drugs (except for alcohol, which technically, is a drug) and never will, but, I guess, there is a thrill in chasing that high quite like chasing the dragon.

Satire Is Necessary

Remember that in a world where there is not much choice, to even think beyond the cookie-cutter norms that have been set up by the status quo is an act of revolution per se. Your voice matters as do your own individuality. This is why it is important to express generously. In what is supposedly regarded as a free and democratic world, our way of expressing is the ultimate challenge of the status quo.

Why I write satire is because satire is great in the sense that it has a complete lack of boring and reasonable moderation, and with the subject matter that is addressed, there is no other option either. As an empathetic writer who does possess a certain degree of sensitivity, the pen is that almighty tool used to create awareness of issues and disparities in society. Satirical literature calls attention to these issues and can make readers aware of something they had not been previously considered or understood.

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Life

Death Is Inevitable And That’s Alright

Death has been a running theme in my life, and that has been a reminder enough that death is inevitable. Just like how a doctor is desentisized to sickness and death, I too have been desensitized to the specter of death. This largely is due to the LTTE conflict and JVP insurgence that Generation X grew up in.

This blog post may come across as being quite morbid and despondent, but it doesn’t have to be. Life and everything that it entails is based on perception. Just like how happiness is a decision, you have the choice of choosing your perception.

Our minds alone can defeat the fear of death. It is what we have been taught since childhood that makes us fear the grin of The Grim Reaper. I have a serious bone to pick with monotheism. Death and fear of it was always central to our lives. Such was the fear death commanded, we ended up not living. The irony being we were dead to the world with no drive, ambition or creative spark. Life was spent preparing for the afterlife completely ignorant of the fact that we are just animals and like animals we too will die. Remember this — We’re just another statistic. And this is something that should be liberating.

I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself that just like Thanos, death is inevitable and very necessary. I will reference The Buddha at this juncture — Life is impermanent, and we are nothing, and nothingness is the best thing we can embrace. I think the real reason I chose to write about death is because of how I was forced to deal with it when my mother passed. It was a traumatic time and dealing with it was hard. I hope this post shifts the perception of death and how it is a necessary end to a life that can and should be fulfilling based on the decisions you actively make.

My Mother Died Of Cancer

Cancer doesn’t discriminate

It took the death of a celebrity for the conversation of colon cancer to make its way to the mainstream. That’s just how the world works; importance and value is allocated to those who are rich and famous. Accept it. It is reality.

My mother passed away due to colon cancer

There’s nothing peaceful about passing onto the next life. It is painful, eerie, traumatizing and excruciating. The idea that you die peacefully in your sleep is, I feel, a lie. Your last breath is your last defiance of the inevitable. You’re suffocating with plenty of air around you. This idea that you slip into the arms of some angel is fantastical. No one is there to document the struggle for breath as major organs shut down.

Don’t romanticize death. Romanticizing is that act from the 1800s with its fantastical stories (created by us) to soften the last uppercut dealt by death. I can’t encapsulate the trauma of looking after a dying mother, watching her suffer, and leaving this life with a strained breath as I held her hand. Instead I can write a book or two. Either way as much as it was a terrible time for me, I found meaning in looking after her. It took some time, but I accepted that day of separation.

From an objective point of view, dealing with death was hard because of the lies perpetuated by monotheism. What is religion but just another story to keep questions under lock and key, and wrapped up in a veil of fantasy about heaven and hell.

We are just animals, and just like animals we will die. And it is this thought that is liberating for me. Parking those nebulous tales of life after death at the entrance of your ears, and living your life to the fullest instead is liberation. Period.

I Too Might Die Of Cancer

The statistics are clear. Those who have a family history of cancer have a higher chance of dying of cancer. This is a fact. Colon cancer is one of the most common inherited cancer syndromes known. Among the genes found to be involved in colorectal cancer are: MSH2 and MSH6 both on chromosome 2 and MLH1, on chromosome 3. I possibly have them.

Normally, the protein products of these genes help to repair mistakes made in DNA replication. As many as 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it. People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk. In life, you need to deal with the cards that have been dealt to you.

Here’s Why I’m Okay With That

I’m okay with it because it is reality. We all got to go someday, and the best way to go is having lived by doing what you want in life. I’m also okay with this reality because there is nothing called immortality and there’s no other option. To understand this better, consider this poem, which is about the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Life is built up of memories and moments, and what you have today is fleeting at best. In other words, enjoy life while you can. That is all you can do. Maybe it’s a defeatist attitude to have, but, in reality, it is just a case of self admission. I’ve had the fortune of studying existentialism during my London A’Levels, and Jean-Paul Sartre is an excellent focus of enlightenment when it comes to understanding life and death.

How I View Death

Grin evilly at death and you’re assured of an evil grin back. I’m firmly placed in a culture that believes in its fair share of demons and devils. But the fear of death took on greater importance at church. I viewed death with paralyzing fear, and there’s still pinches of dread that present themselves every time I read a Stephen King novel or watch some morbid Netflix flick.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The above quote by Nietzsche is one that I admire. It is more relevant to the example of someone who fights evil and ends up being evil. I guess you could, in one sense, end up talking about death in this manner, too. Death is inevitable, and it can change you for the worse. Instead of letting our cultural and religious beliefs dictate how we should fear it, simply accept it for what it is — an eventuality.

Until Death This Is How I Will Live

It is best to approach life from a position of blissful ignorance as opposed to arrogance. This isn’t wholly true. What is true and better is knowing your predicament and dealing with it. Carl Jung gives the best advice on how to live. Just be prepared for the next adventure after death, which most probably is a state of nothingness. But, we humans live on hope, and don’t want this existence to end. There’s a fantastic line from this article that resonates with me: Facing death might allow us to feel more accepting and grateful for being alive.

Life expectancy has increased throughout the last few decades, and that’s great, and yet we are constantly reminded that death is inevitable. Modern healthcare has pushed the boundaries of discovery and have created panaceas for most illnesses, and the aspect of health is a personal decision you can make today.

Life is fantastic in itself, and it is we who are trying to make this a terrible situation all by ourselves. There is so much to enjoy and experience in life and that is great.

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Another quote I appreciate by Nietzsche is highlighted above. We may be surrounded by darkness, but there is still a sense of beauty in the mundane and in the dark side of things. Seeing reality is comforting, and one way to do it is practicing mindfulness or Vipassana meditation. Death is inevitable, but so too is life, and this is something that should be embraced fully. The meaning to life is to make it less meaningless. This is what we all must do. We need to find our own meaning whatever it is.

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Life

Here’s Why I Read

Podcasts and YouTube may quite possibly surpass the act of reading, but books were the technology of an era long residing in the dried up pages of nostalgia. Suffice to say, the consumption of content has moved on from reading words printed on dead trees to blogs, podcasts, YouTube and Netflix. It’s not all bad, though; but reading gives the same pleasure as a croissant bursting with Nutella and strawberries with the assurance of a no insulin response. Why I read is my personal attempt at convincing you to read and explain why I find this a seriously rewarding past time.

Just like a Nutella-filled croissant, reading a book offers a sense of warmth in stringing words together to form feelings. It’s magical and very real at the same time. The following assertion is true — We exist because of stories and are experts in generating tales that have created religions, philosophies and political movements.

But, in my case, reading has been an effort to pack a myriad of experiences into what is expected to be a short life. We live in a world where extroversion is adulated and introversion is despised. Non-readers won’t understand the happiness that lies within when you’re sipping a gin and tonic; all the while inviting your eyes to see those cursive fonts that form those magical words, which thread together a story that leads to rivulets of goosebumps on your back.

Escapism

What is the act of reading but an exercise in distraction? A hobby it may be, but it is certainly one which is enjoyable. Anyone who is Lankan, and who grew up in the 80s and 90s would know of the tumultuous times that this island nation went through. Life under the LTTE and JVP were nothing like how a decent life should be. This was a time where access to a telephone or television was a luxury. A smartphone, laptop or Kindle would’ve been straight out of the pages of a science fiction novella that resided in the book shelves at The British Council.

Stephen King is and always will be an all-time favorite author

Speaking of The British Council, this was the one solace that existed for the denizens of Colombo. You see, there was nothing else to do in Colombo during that period except to dodge bullets and bombs while focusing on your education in the hopes of migrating to greener pastures. Oh, how things have changed. For the record, I still escape; usually to worlds and plots concocted by Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Curiosity

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Instead it made the cat smarter. Books are education. Consider Rene Descartes during the 17th century who offered the theory that only humans feel, and that animals are mere automatons. This is why doctors used to dissect live dogs while placing no mind to their screams.

What better way to get connected to your culture and history than to read about it?

Humans are curious by nature, and this leads to progress. Descartes was a participant of some inhumane activity, but it was education and a progressive mindset plus a change in beliefs that led to a change in how we view other species today. While curiosity has led to the concept of imagination being stretched, it has also served to offer a sense of progress.

I will offer you another example in the form of Yuval Noah Harrari. He has been central to the change in the global mindset when it came to humanity’s reliance on religion. The latter had done more harm than good, but religion certainly did have its place. But the shift is happening now; people are trusting science more. The best instance of this is when science told all churches and mosques to stop religious activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the vast majority of the human race believed science.

Entertainment

The entertainment value of books are unparalleled. It’s the cheapest way to travel and the cheapest way to experience brand new feelings. There’s a reason why the written word will always surpass the pixel.

Poetry could be defined as being little heartbeats of words

Netflix may be able to showcase one point of view, but I rather read a book and let my brain expand on the intricacies of plot, tone and character. Books help expand your mind and the universe within yourself. What is life if not for a vibrant and colorful imagination. Today and all the intuitive products we use is an idea that has been dreamt up and created thanks to a creative imagination.

New Skills

Reading the right books can help you expand your perception of the world, and assist you in changing your mindset. What reading does is help you learn the skills that make you relevant. In an era where technology is as pervasive as sugar, it is mandatory to always stay relevant. Consider all the manuals that I used to read on WordPerfect back in the 80s — while it still exists it might as well be redundant.

An important book that helped me expand my skillset

If there’s one book that has helped me stay relevant in 2020, it would be — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. It is a must read for those of us who are in our 40s and are still trying to be relevant. It is a must read for anyone; and will offer a great lesson for any person to always keep learning. Don’t be a Kodak, be an Apple instead. You see, to stop learning is to die.

Real Life

Reading books is living experiences. The suave lines in poetry and literature hints at how people behave. It’s this familiarity of human nature via books that led me to be rather unsurprised by Colombo; unsurprised by how Colombo society is okay with someone stealing someone else’s husband or wife, but bad table manners is a serious faux pas.

One of the first books I read in my late teens that I ignored then but respect now

Reading helps you develop empathy. We all know this is something that is seriously lacking in the world today. Philosophy and knowledge have the answers that we crave. One huge influence in my life has been the observations made by Arthur Schopenhauer; his quote — compassion is the basis of morality — is a fantastic indication of how man should live hand in hand in peace and harmony.

I Read Classics

Simply because classics offer an exceptional view of human nature. All these tales by Dickens and Elliot gives you an opportunity to understand the nuances and intricacies of the human heart.

Consider the tale of Silas Marner: a man who loves the material world, but reluctantly desires that all-important human connection. It is still very relevant today. Capitalism is the God we serve at the expense of real human relationships. This might give an explanation to the recent rise in loneliness, suicide and depression.

The Biggest Lesson That Reading Affords You…

… is discipline and patience. Reading lends these two skills to your life. Your impatience is stilled as is your mind. How else are you supposed to soak up the words and travel a literary route? I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. Books help us live through the people in them. Social media helps us compare ourselves to others. Interestingly, like in other rewards, both learning and cognitive areas play a significant part in the food reward. Who needs comfort food when there’s an increase in the dopamine response from the human amygdala whenever one indulges in cognitive tasks.

It’s understood and accepted that reading and writing can help stave off cognitive decline. As shown in previous paragraphs reading helps keep you relevant and makes you empathetic. As a former literary student and, more recently, a lifestyle journalist, the very act of reading helped me increase my vocabulary and add value to the content I put out. Reading is bliss; and it quite possibly might be the solution to all our problems and worries. Either way maybe less conversation is a better way to get started on the journey of reading the written word.

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Life

Why Are We Envious?

Firstly, let’s define Envy and Jealousy. Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.

We’ve all been there — that insidious purgatory of ill where we are green with envy. Maybe it’s inherent within us or maybe it’s a result of the influences around us. With that thread of thought leading away, let’s look to a Jungian idea for explanation — We are all at war with our own evilness.

It’s true that we have cosseted within the deep and dark recesses of the privacy of our hearts terrible feelings and intentions. I wrote about how we are often the authors of our own destruction. This is largely true. This topic has been discussed over and over again with well-meaning friends until such thoughts have dissolved into bottles of whiskey and arrack throughout the years.

“All of our lives are too unique to copy the path from someone else”.

Master Shi Heng Yi

Surely there’s a salve for this pain we choose to put ourselves through, yes? Maybe the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the way our mind functions so that we can perhaps condition ourselves to react and feel differently. At times you have to wonder if solitude is the ONLY way to know yourself. Other people influence you and shape your character to fit theirs to help their gain. There are very few genuine people in this world but if you find one keep them.

The above paragraph is an attempt at urging you not to keep bad company. Bad company leads to bad habits. Being envious of others may possibly be something that’s learned. Or, could it just be biological?

Envious Hormones

We are animals just like our relatives the chimpanzees — a bundle of neurons, flesh and bone with an ocean of thoughts and emotions stitching our personalities together. Part of such personalities are the cocktail of hormones that make us feel. A new study carried out at the University of Haifa has found that the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.

One or the other

The hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments.

This possibly could be an avenue to hack your biology so that you come out of this internal battle unscathed. Consider mindful meditation, which would be an excellent antidote to those evil proclivities that stand in deep thought within us.

A Solution

Jordan Peterson has a great solution which is to nurse your feelings of envy to fuel your ambition. This is a thought that speaks volumes. One aspect that he mentions hit a nerve at one instance, and that is that you have no idea of the terrible life the person in the Ferrari is having.

Compare yourself to who and what you were yesterday

Our brains have this insidious way of leading us down to a path of taking actions that could be illustrated as being self-sabotage. Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday is a better stab at maintaining your mental wellness that coveting the materialistic illusion crafted by social media influencers and the like.

Memento Mori

Stoicism probably has an answer when it comes to dealing with envy. I’m sure at one time or the other you would have woken up at some liminal hour wondering — Is there life after death? No one knows the answer while you were probably trying to unravel that tangled skein of confused beaded thoughts.

History unravels the tale of how Roman slaves whispered Memento Mori — remember that you must die — to their commanders en route to war. Who would have thought that one verbal phrase uttered in a quasi-whisper would be a stark reminder that one must not be consumed by hubris, and that one must have your feet firmly on the ground.

I view this Latin phrase as a reminder not to waste time. Why waste time when life is short? Why make it shorter by coveting an imperfect life that is not yours? The Stoics used death as a sort of compass towards life, guiding them towards what really mattered to them. In other words, use this reminder to un-worry about other people’s lives and to start living one that is solely meant to be yours.

Stay Envious

Envy is a complex, socially repugnant emotion made up of a mix of inferiority feelings, hostility, and resentment. Maybe it’s not a bad deal after all — to be envious. There is such a thing called Positive Envy where you can use these feelings of green to better yourself. We humans are complicated entities. While one emotion can lead to a state of disrepair, we could flip that same emotion on its head to achieve something positive, and maybe — spectacular.

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Life

Understanding Architecture

Understanding architecture is akin to understanding art. It is, I suppose, similar to subscribing to a story that fits your perceptions. Consider the famous architect — Le Corbusier — who was somewhat minimalist. He desired that the houses of the future be ascetic and clean and frugal. Architecture for him was meant to be about mechanical efficiency. A home had only a few ambitions — to provide shelter, to be a receptacle for light and air, and a place to look at the stars.

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter active during the 17th century

Now consider art by Johannes Vermeer, which is a celebration of the ordinary. His famous work of art — The Little Street — shows the attractiveness and beauty in ordinary life. The Ferrari car, Gucci shoes and Michelin Star meal is an empty and vacuous representation of modern life that is wrongly celebrated.

An architectural design by my friend, Gayan, showing that ordinary lines and curves are indeed beautiful

Maybe society needs to change the narrative towards celebrating ordinary. It is the long walks, the appreciation of the rays of sunshine streaming in through the window, and the smile of a parent that ultimately matters. There is deeper meaning in art and architecture.

Another angle of the same property crafted by my friend Gayan

I’d like to segue into the school of thought perpetuated by Andrea Palladio during the 1500s. It is this school of thought that I would subscribe to. Palladio thought how architecture’s purpose is to make us better people. Calm, harmony and dignity are the virtues promised by architecture as per Palladio.

Although Gayan De Silva, a close friend, whom I’ve known for many years is probably not aware of how his work probably takes on the same philosophy that Palladio promoted, I see similarities. There is less noise in his work. There is balance, symmetry and the focus on space, and the dislike for ostentatiousness. Palladio was all about simplicity and ensuring that everything aligned with proportion.

There’s this assumption that simplicity is easy and cheap. In actual fact it is the opposite. It’s incredibly difficult to create something that is functional and a solution to inconvenience. Grandiosity is a travesty. And such ostentatiousness only serves to be costly and not useful.

Dieter Rams who designed Braun is the epitome of simple and useful design. A quote by HoraceThe art lies in concealing the art — offers an insight into how architecture should be showcased. Considering how influencial architecture has become today, maybe we need to change the narrative we want this influential art form to have.

There’s pleasure in simplicity. Because simplicity shows a lack of anxiety about being ignored. As a modern society that is comfortably cosseted in the 21st century, we possibly need to shift our focus and indeed our ideals onto the values that matter.

Rams and Vermeer possibly have a lot in common, and could offer us all a way when it comes to understanding architecture. Rams creates designs that are for everyday use, while Vermeer did art. The majority of these individuals have in some form or the other contributed so much to architecture. It is the guiding philosophy that we need to embrace.

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Life

Why Are We Addicted?

Jake:
If it’s poison, why do you drink it?

Charlie:
Because there are things inside of me I need to kill.

Why do we drink alcohol? Why are we addicted? The above conversation piece from Two And A Half Men gives an insightful answer as to why. You see, there are demons in our subconscious that lie and lie silent. Lucky for you if you don’t meet them, but most of us do.

I was an alcoholic, and now I’m not. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. I choose gin since it’s keto-friendly.

So, this thing with Addiction — is it something that is predisposed or a choice? It’s neither. It’s the result of our environments. Consider the issue of PTSD afflicting soldiers who survive war.

Addiction, you see, is an attempt at a solution; it is not a problem by itself. As per Gabor Maté, most of our trauma can be rooted in childhood. The subject on this is huge, but a child that is emotionally abused will overcompensate by being overly nice even if they don’t want to.

A child’s brain circuitry is developed while in the mother’s stomach. A stressed out mother leads to a stressed out child. Children when growing up are narcissistic by nature, and believe that they are the center of their own universe. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave from their parents, they carry such dysfunction into their adult lives.

This is the reason why stressed out parents bring up children who are stressed out. This is why children are more prone to autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis and even Cancer.

So, does the fault lie with parents? Somewhat, but the majority of this fault lies with the social, economic and political issues that we have faced throughout the years. For instance, both parents, in recent times, have had to work to bring in the finances thereby leading to their children being neglected with no mother at home. We know that our emotions and physiology cannot be divorced from each other. When one suffers, so does the other.

We are social creatures, and human connections are intrinsic, and looking for comfort in electric connections just won’t do. In fact, it would only lead to those who are vulnerable to resort to a variety of addictions.

Why We Are Addicted

“Nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” – Naguib Mahfouz.

Most addicts aren’t afraid of dying. They are afraid of living. What does alcohol, drugs, food and shopping in excess have in common — they cure pain. The question shouldn’t be — Why is there addiction? The question should be — Why is there pain? Keith Richards in his biography talks of how he sought oblivion through his addictions. Why? Because he was not comfortable being in his own skin.

A truth bomb.

We are addicted because whatever we are addicted to offers respite from the pain that we are feeling or because it gives us pleasure that’s available to us.

Let’s first define this whole concept of Addiction — it is any behavior that gives you temporary relief or pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, and you can’t give it up despite the negative consequences.

Drugs per se aren’t addictive. Many people choose their addiction, and it is all to do with Dopamine and Endorphins. As many addicts claim, the stimulus they are addicted to offers them warmth and comfort and a space that is non-judgemental. This is all an attempt at trying to fill in the void that exists within us. It all goes back to what we didn’t get when we were small.

The Meaning to Life

I wonder at times if addiction can be cured through science. The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the
meaninglessness of life. Love is the highest meaning of
life. We pervert it and fail it a billion times over. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it satiates the spirit like nothing else.

Professor X is kind to those who are flawed

It takes courage and responsibility to be kind to flawed humans as Professor X has shown us. But it’s our highest calling. It elevates everything we do. Any sense
of value or meaning in an
objectively meaningless universe can only be the result of whatever sense of value we subconsciously project onto the world and some of the experiences within it, or in turn, whatever meaning we perceive when we look out into the world.

The very fact that people say — Find your meaning — means there’s no meaning to life. Rather we need to find our own individual purpose, and finding it means there’s a thin line between sanity and insanity.

Leave Well Alone

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within. Buddha said be a lamp unto thyself. The choice we have to make is to heal and be kinder to ourselves. The majority of us are damaged in one way or the other. Yet the only solution, as per Jordan Peterson, is to be strong.

And, if we do choose to move away from the hurt and grief we feel, we’ll realize that we made those first steps towards healing. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll realize that choosing contentment is possibly the only way forward. Once we do heal, the Faroese word — nøgdsemi — gives an indication of how we should live. Nøgdsemi means Life Is Good The Way It Is and it offers a way to accept life just the way it is.

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Life

A Concept Called Happiness

As someone who is at the tail-end of the millennial generation (as per Nielsen Media Research), I’ve seen my share of colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances succumb to mental illness and/or deaths of despair. And, more often than not, it has to do with this nebulous pursuit of this concept called happiness.

Throughout my life, happiness was always defined with a smile or a laugh. But no one spoke of the demons lurking underneath such cheerfulness. Such were the times that I grew up in that happiness was defined as relief — relief that you didn’t die during an LTTE-inspired bomb blast or a JVP-instigated machete attack.

Happiness was being with family and having enough food to eat. It meant there was a secure household, a roof over your head, and an education that could possibly be a one-way ticket to the West. Why the West? Because the basic necessities were not even present then where I lived. Today, thanks to globalization, more people are dying of obesity than war.

Yet the context has changed today. In the 80s and 90s, we found respite in the arms of the church, and the promise of a better tomorrow, along with the chance that one day Jesus will come, and rapture us to walk on streets of gold. Today, the definition of happiness is one which resides within yourself. Happiness is a biological event, and just like hacking your hormones to ensure productivity, we can hack it with a smile or a Prozac or two.

My conclusion is this — Happiness is a Decision. You see, sometimes we are the authors of our own destruction. We give the devil too much credit for our own mistakes. Don’t listen to, or rather, don’t believe the tyrant in your head. He/she is a false god. For someone who lived a very epicurean life, lived through a war, joblessness, bare minimum in terms of food, there is a certain joy present in the mundane.

Some Definitions of Happiness

I suggest you listen to this great podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos about work and job crafting. Humanity has moved from one context to another. We lived through the agricultural revolution and are now in the technological revolution where our lives are all about swiping right. Today, we are trying to find our life’s meaning in a world inundated with pixels and data bombs. We are searching to fulfill our Self-Actualization Needs.

It’s all about the creative life, yo!

Growing up in my generation, the only two types of needs that were satiated were the Safety and Physiological aspects. They were only partly satisfied what with the issue concerning the social-political upheaval of the time.

Achieve Ikigai: it is your reason for living

Ikigai makes sense to me, and while we were taught that Happiness is equal to your Passion, there is more to the whole idea as well. Carl Jung simplifies the whole concept of happiness, which is shown below, and his list has a great degree of similarity with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Ikigai as well.

  1. Good physical and mental health.
  2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
  3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
  4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
  5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

Following most of the narratives throughout the decades, we were compelled to aim to achieve happiness. Happiness was defined as the perfect marriage, the perfect job, and, it was aligned to success. But, as Jordan Peterson states happiness is rare and rather we should aim to have a meaningful life, and be resilient in the process.

My Conclusion

The Stoics and the Greeks all had their definitions when it comes to this concept called happiness. Here is mine — My perspective is that happiness is a decision, but it’s an ambitious state of being. Rather what we should aim for is a state that is far easier to achieve, and that is Contentment with a dose of Peace of Mind. And, you will realize that achieving such a level of bliss is usually just a simple thought that needs to be entertained over a fragrant cuppa Joe.

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Life

Why Art Matters

Let’s talk about books, about paintings; and, all things art. There are plenty of reasons why art matters, and you will realize that the reason for its importance has changed throughout many decades.

Certain things are just waiting patiently to be explored. And that exploration can lead to a change in conversation, and, possibly, a change in culture. For instance, we hear of art in its various forms that had shifted antediluvian attitudes towards women in this era.

Art is a gift, which needs to be generously shared with the world, irrespective of accolades or compensation. Make something that’s worth reading or deciphering so that it’s an idea that spreads. I wrote Crimson Spaces: Art as a Medium of Connectedness which offers an insightful look into what art actually can become. As you would have gleaned from the latter article — Art is carved by the agency of human emotion.

Why Art Matters?

Dillai Joseph’s painting titled Lady From The East — It’s an exploration of the human condition: A Woman Who Has Seen It All

Art, in my opinion, is the exploration of the human condition; and, the human condition is about overcoming adversity. And that’s beautiful since adversity has this dark way of introducing a man to himself. Art is doing that brave thing which is original and human to change someone for the better. 

For instance, art can reflect the zeitgeist of a certain time, like, Britain and the Pre-Raphaelites where art was used to counter the effects of brutal industrialization. Periodically, art has violated the canons of current literary taste during that time to evolve into something else. 

Still, art does have some other uses: art keeps us hopeful, art makes us less lonely, art rebalances us, art helps us to appreciate stuff, and art is propaganda for what really matters. Suffice to say art with its tumultuous imagery bivouacs in our brains for quite a long period of time. 

What Does History Say?

Another painting from Dillai Joseph titled Praying Hands — It is another exploration of the human condition where faith and hope collides

Christian art dominated Europe for a very generous 1000 years by making the whole monotheistic doctrine resonanting, emotionally attractive and incredibly appealing. 

The question of the purpose of art is a modern dilemma, one that didn’t exist in bourgeois society in history. Modern art tried to escape bourgeois society. Ironic that it ended up alienated from the general public and only enlightened millionaires can understand the complexity and mystery of an urinal or senseless colors splashed in a canvas. 

Why do artists offer part of themselves on such a prolific level? It is to connect with others. This generosity gives credence to an artist, and helps him or her to connect and garner a following. 

What I Think Art Means

I take on the position of Théophile Gautier who in 1833 stated — l’art pour l’art or art for art’s sake yet I sympathize with a different definition as well. Art had been an excellent tool for a myriad of intentions, but this is probably something that needs to be done away with. On the other hand, we hear of Marcel Duchamp who desires that art stands to be enigmatic, provocative and reeking of mystery. 

With capitalism being in the forefront of the world in 2020, artists today have become defenders of unfettered free enterprise, and, rightfully so. From reflecting on poverty and its issues, art today has become a veritable tour de force where it is the hobby of the super rich. From the Venice Biennale to art by Banksy, the investment in art is magnanimous. But let’s not forget the real meaning of art, one that Gautier would disagree with, which is to help us understand and appreciate the human condition.