Categories
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.

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.

Categories
Tech

The Social Dilemma Is Why I Left Social Media

Do you know why this post has a title that states — The Social Dilemma is Why I Left Social Media? Read on to understand why. Whether it’s eloquently stated by Tristan Harris, Yuval Noah Harari or Cal Newport, the evils of social media are well-documented. It’s true online toxicity is real, and so too is suicide. Ironic then how I went from being a Social Media Manager at a Digital Marketing Company in Sri Lanka to someone who left social media twice. That said I will state that social media has its place in any content strategy, but that is a different topic for a different day.

Have you noticed the lack of civil discourse, the misinformation present, fake news, and the division within relationships present on social media? The Social Dilemma attempts to raise awareness around important issues like design ethics and data privacy (like the Cambridge Analytica data breach), and succeeds.

Tristan Harris reminds us that — If the product is free, you’re the product. That realization never dawned on me until much later. The first time I left social media was in 2014 when the whole process of posting how fantastic life was just plain tiresome.

This will be the best documentary that you’ll watch this year

The second time was in 2020, and the social media landscape seemed more dysfunctional than the first time. Tristan Harris speaks of how Facebook is a social persuasion machine and is excellent at monetizing your attention. And with all the brands I handled working for the above-mentioned digital agency that was exactly what I was doing.

We hear of how social media companies use attention engineers to make these social media entities as addictive as possible. Profit can be maximised thanks to you giving attention and handing your data over. The University of Stanford talks of the Magic of Maybe, where we really do care about what others think of us — think Likes, Comments and Reactions. This is all a reference to the shot of dopamine you get. Some sources say that this shot of dopamine is equivalent to the levels experienced when consuming cocaine. Additionally there are ethical implications of data extraction even with the new products of Facebook.

Social Comparison Theory

Facebook Depression is a thing

Showiness is often mistaken for reality. What you can gather from this is that more often than not, social media perpetuates that endless cycle of being fake. And I’m not talking about political fake news. Social Comparison Theory is something that is pertinent at this juncture. We have a proclivity to compare ourselves to people who have similar characteristics to us. This can boost or destroy our confidence.

Leon Festinger has a theory, which suggests that there are two types of social comparison — Upwards and Downwards. Upwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is less than or inferior to ourselves. Downwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is superior or better than us.

The theory basically states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others they perceive as somehow faring better or worse. No surprise then that so many suffer from what is known as Facebook Depression, which leads to less life satisfaction and more sadness.

The Antidote To Social Media Is Deep Work

A truth bomb

Seth Godin makes a mention of how — one should not become a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific. That’s a pertinent thought for any individual or company. Social media is a waste of time, unless you’re a brand. It does have its place in crafting out a brand’s journey. And if you’re career-minded, it can assist unless you commit yourself to that heinous dopamine-driven feedback loop, which affects your cognitive function.

Cal Newport mentions how our attention is being fragmented to such an extent we cannot concentrate. The solution is deep work that’ll help you focus on rewarding work minus the distractions. We are all part of the attention economy, and social media companies are competing for your attention. But with social media morphing into more of a business than just a social interaction tool, it became an entity that could be best described as being nefarious.

Unsubscribe

All the moral panics are real. The Trauma Floor showcases the issues faced by Facebook moderators, and it is harrowing. More so are the issues with your supply of attention, which focus on your short to midterm goals being decimated. Chamath Pahaliyapitiya said it best — If you feed the beast, it will destroy you. And so, this is my conclusion, especially if social media doesn’t benefit you in a way that’ll help you becoming a meaningful specific (like an author): Unsubscribe.

Categories
Tech

Here’s Why I Switched To Android

Here’s Why I Switched to Android isn’t a tale about how bad iOS is. Rather it is a tale of boredom. Tolstoy defined boredom best — a desire for desires. Boredom does lead to terrible things like: starting a relationship, whoring around, busting up the last few thousand rupees on your credit card, or drinking a bottle of arrack while gurgling a melody in some ditch. 

Boredom: This is the Reason

Boredom can also lead to wonderful things like the start of something new like this blog. It’s fitting then that this is my first post. I would suppose it would be prudent to Thank God for modern capitalism, which has multiplied amusements and consumables. And, capitalism probably is the reasoning behind the statement — Here’s Why I Switched to Android.

I popped my smartphone cherry with a flagship phone (back when virginity was a thing). The first Android smartphone I had was a Galaxy Note 2 that ran on Kit Kat. One inebriated night, I slipped and the Amoled screen fell flat on its face and became a mosaic of shards. Despite a list of fancy vanity specs, there were hiccups like S Pen Notes crashing while typing important articles etc. 

Then I bought an iPhone 5S. This led to a 6S Plus, and finally an iPhone 7. There’s a reason I stuck with Apple products including a Macbook Air, which I bought in 2017. Everything was just better. And predictable. Any writer worth his salt will fall in love with Apple’s catchy terminology. The Apple Watch Sport’s glass is actually Gorilla Glass that had been used by many electronics for so many years. 

But trust Apple to serve up such plainess with a description promising goosebumps: “We used an alumina-silicate glass that’s especially resistant to scratches and impact. It’s fortified at the molecular level through ion exchange, with smaller ions being replaced by larger ones to create a surface layer far tougher than ordinary glass.”

Apple Music coupled with JBL headphones IS fat loss

Before I bought a Samsung, I’ll be honest: I was looking at an iPhone 11, but I was curious about what delights an iPhone 12 would bring. Yet, based on research, I realized that iOS 14, which the iPhone 12 would be powered by, is slated to offer the comfort of predictability, and not the chaos of excitement. Widgets are also on the cards, something that Android had since Adam and Eve romped around Eden. 

The Transition

So, what was the final deciding factor? It was cost. I trundled over to One Galle Face, checked out the iPhone 11, gave it a grunt and a look of derision (similar to one deployed by a Colombo 7 aunty from behind her Gucci spectacles), and went towards Samsung Lanka. 

The iPhone 7 cost me north of LKR 130,000 three years ago. The Galaxy Note Lite was just over LKR 100,000 with a JBL speaker thrown in; this purchase was made in August of 2020. When you have passed the 40 year old mark, you tend to be more pragmatic and conservative. The zeal to be cool is something that you resist (this is mainly because you are guaranteed to fail). It is this desire for pragmatism that leads you to research any future purchase with manic fervor. 

There are a few things that I miss about iOS like the buttery smoothness of the transition from app to app. I miss the privacy features and the industry-leading security that iOS offers. Apple Music is something that I use a lot, and this app crashed twice on the Note while playing Muse, which destroyed my sweaty rhythm on the treadmill. 

2 Reasons Why

Forgiveness can be extended to all these gremlins since the Note 10 Lite is a completely different beast powered by Android 10. Two important factors are key for me: 

  1. The incredible battery life thanks to a 4500 mAh battery and a 25W fast charger, which lasts close to 1.5 days with heavy usage, and 
  2. The ginormous screen at a price that the iPhone cannot beat. I’ve actually moved onto using the Lite for all my article writing much to the chagrin (I suspect) of my MacBook Air. 

I could go on about the camera, which is on par with the camera setup on the iPhone 11, but this is a redundant subtopic. Gone are the Instagram (ahem, foodstagram) days, and now functionality is what I’m after. I don’t hate iOS by any stretch, and I enjoyed how incredibly reliable it was/is. But, for now, the Lite as a midrange smartphone has got my vote. Speaking of midrange phones, the Lite behaves like a flagship, and I do think, at present, that midrange phones are the new flagships

The battery life on this thing is crazy good

Things have changed drastically in the smartphone world, even more so with our individual desires and requirements being all over the place. The best takeaway I can offer you today is that there’s a phone for everyone whatever the budget, and that Android and iOS are on par when it comes to most things.

Stuck wondering what to choose? Maybe a quote in Paco Underhill’s book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping may offer an idea; an idea that you could unbox like your next smartphone — “How you present your ideas and information is just as – or more – important as the ideas themselves.” 

I’ll Conclude by Saying…

It is after all the idea that you are subscribing to, which you buy. Both operating systems are great like the devices they support themselves. Android, for me, is all about flexibility, functionality, and freedom of choice — it’s the perfect mix of ingredients to keep the spectre of boredom at bay.

iOS, on the other hand, changes people into an audience that has good taste in digital products. If you do decide to transition, remember that there’s a great deal to love in both ecosystems. The level of difficulty adjusting is all based on how long you’ve spent in the comfort of one operating system.

And on a final note, remember that a smartphone (whether it runs on Android or iOS) is merely a tool to access your content that is happily residing on the cloud.