She gazed lovingly into the mirror.

I was stuck. Not in war. But in something much worse. A 6 hour Chemistry class. But about halfway into the class, my day just turned around.  A particular girl caught my attention.

The professor droned on about valencies. But the girl oblivious to his rants, gazed lovingly at something in her hand. I couldn’t see what it was. So I assumed it was her phone. Maybe her boyfriend had sent her a romantic text. Or chances were, it was a puppy video. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see someone dodging the bullets of boredom.

I turned my wits back to treacherously long equations.

After an hour or so, I felt my shield running out. I couldn’t take it any longer. If I got even a pinch more bored, I would run from the class screaming! I looked around to see if others in my class felt the same way. To my satisfaction, half of the students were sleeping with their eyes open. And the rest looked like zombies about to snap. But somewhere in that horde of dullness, I saw something shine.

It was that girl. Her eyes were still lovelocked to something in her hand. Which, I could see then, wasn’t her phone. All this time, she gazed lovingly into a mirror. At first I thought it was her narcissistic tendencies. But then I looked at her eyes and saw no pride. Only love. True love.

 

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Piano – A Composer’s Choice

Music composers are magicians. They create magic that can’t be seen. It can only be heard. But the instrument behind that magic is a worldwide standard. Unlike magicians who have a variety of contraptions and techniques, music composers rely on a single instrument – The Piano.

In recent days, I’ve been learning to play the flute. And since a flute has only about 6 to 7 holes, you have to produce variations in pitch by making changes in the way you blow into the flute. So effectively, at a time, you have to take care of two variables at a time. So your brain is working hard just to play a tune right. Now try to compose on a flute. You’ll find it mentally exhausting.

Now let’s switch the instrument to a Piano.

The Piano is a much simpler instrument. It has 88 keys in which all the pitched variations of the 7 notes are included. So while you play a piano, you have to worry about just a single variable – the key you press. That’s it. And by varying the combinations of keys pressed, you can produce beautiful compositions. Even richer sounds can be produced by using 2 octaves (pitch variations) at the same time.

So let’s analyse the piano in the least time consuming way possible!

Simple to operate – check

Can produce complex compositions – check

It is obvious now, why composers the world over prefer the piano. It beats all other instruments in simplicity. It breaks the record in classiness and most of all, the piano doesn’t produce music. It makes magic for the ears.

Art is Glamorous. Engineering isn’t.

Let’s talk about the two extremes of creativity – Art & Engineering. What is your opinion of the two? Which of those you think is cool? Going by the general opinion, you might have most probably said art. And I respect your opinion. Everyone has the right to keep one about everything. But as the self proclaimed middle man between art and engineering, I must push you into thinking about why ‘Art seems cool and Engineering doesn’t?’

To continue our discussion, we must head to the Paleolithic Era. Back then, cave paintings were the rage. Every cave shelter had walls embellished with scenes of hunting, gatherings and other facets of paleolithic life. So in such a stone age settlement, two shelters announced that they had a great news! One of the shelters was inaugurating a cave painting. The other was going to introduce something that would make travelling more easier.

You can guess which event gathered the most visitors.

People flocked to see the unveiling of the ‘Wheel’. The cave painting vanished into history and was never found again. Until millennia later, in the modern world. They were appreciated by the whole human population. Because by then, good paintings were a rarity. As was easy travel in the stone age.

Conclusion

The wheel in this story is the engineering. And the cave paintings are the art. Engineering was glamorous back then as it was rare. Cave paintings adorned every wall and hence weren’t considered as glamorous. In the present, Engineering is everywhere. And in a world where ground breaking technologies pop up at the second, good art is rare. And hence the general opinion that ‘Art is glamorous, Engineering isn’t.’

So if you take away anything from this post, please let it be this – What’s glamorous now, will become boring with time. And the cycle will continue its infinite path. And in the face of such fluctuation opinion, we must remain objectively logical.

 

At a Snail’s pace

Everyone desires a long life. Very few get the honour. And even more few live longer, do more and achieve greater in lesser time than others. But time is the same for everyone on the earth. Then why is there a bias – why do some people achieve more than the others possibly can?

The answer lies in our ability to ‘focus’. Focussing generally means diverting all your intellectual faculties and energies to a single point/task. And when we focus, our brain does something extraordinary.

The current running back and forth between neurons starts running faster. This increases the rate of information transfer to the brain. In turn, your senses respond faster to changes in stimuli. In effect, since your brain has become faster, everything else seems to slightly slow down. What you see in focus, is the world in slow motion. And that is why it feels like time has slow down. But it hasn’t. It is  you who has become faster.

You might have noticed this phenomenon when working for long hours. Time seems to have slowed down. Every minute, every second seems longer and work seems to be happening at a comparatively faster rate. This elongation of time is something we can take advantage of. The longer you work, the more time you get and the more you achieve. The more fuller your life seems.

So if you want to have a long and happy life – work, work, work. 😉

 

Diamonds and Degrees

A diamond is forever.

Proposing marriage with a diamond ring is the norm of today. And we all brush it off as an age old tradition. But before 1947, proposing with a diamond ring wasn’t as popular. Only a few people in the world did it. Mostly the powerful and the filthy rich.

Back then, the De Beers group of companies had total control over the diamond market. And since very few people used diamonds in their daily lives, their sales were plummeting. That was when De Beers devised up an ad campaign to increase their sales. The strategy of the ad campaign read as follows ( according to The Atlantic) –

We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.’

The campaign took off like a blazing arrow, the fire spread across the world. People all over the world saw the ad and that sealed it. Soon, every average joe was proposing the love of his life with a De Beers diamond. And as the ritual was passed down through generations, people forgot where the tradition came from – marketing.


 

College degrees are a logical necessity. It is imperative to have one if you want to succeed in life. And there is no other way to earn an education.

But before the rise and boom of capitalism, there were multiple paths to an education (including degrees).

But the corporations and companies that sprouted with capitalism, needed individuals who were specifically trained to do one particular job accurately. And the college degree was one method of education that did exactly that – training individuals in a narrow area of expertise.

Although the capitalist system wouldn’t work if there weren’t enough employees to staff the corporations of the world. So the College Degree was popularised as the ‘only’ method of earning an a solid education. And like the De Beers ad campaign, it took no time for people to mentally associate a college degree with the concept of success.

The mental correlation goes something like this :

College Degree – Good Job – Great money – Successful life

The real correlation is something like this :

College Degree – Specifically Trained Staff –  More Profits – Successful Business Venture.

Well, some might argue that the increasing profits of corporations around the world also raise the standard of human life. That I have to agree.  But what we forget in the meanwhile, is that College Degrees aren’t a logical necessity for an education. They’re just a consequence of the capitalist structure of our world.

There are other ways to get a solid education for a happy successful life. We have just been following the way of the college degree for so long that we have forgotten the other ways.


 

Elon Musk – “There is no need to even have a college degree.. at all” ( in a TV interview)

Sparrows die everyday

It was an unusual day. A sparrow died. But there’s nothing much unusual about death. I mean, sparrows die every day. And in those multitudes, one should matter. But it did that day.

I was on my post-breakfast walk, when someone tapped my shoulder. It was a homeless looking man. His hands were cupped, as if holding something in his palms.

“Sir, please help me!” He said with begging eyes, “I found this little thing on the road.” He pointed towards a highway nearby.

I was confused, but the fog cleared as soon as he opened his palm. There was a sparrow in it. And it lay deathly still.

Just then, it opened its eyes and tried to flutter its wings. The homeless man tightened his grip a bit so that the bird would calm down.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I saw it lying down on the road, trying to fly. It was failing repeatedly. Maybe it has a broken wing, I don’t know. I picked it up, if I’d left it there, the dogs would have eaten her.”

It was when he said ‘her’, that I noticed the pale plumage. It was female sparrow. And it was hurt.

“Okay calm down. I’ll call animal rescue.” I pulled my phone out and googled for contact shelters near me. Internet was slow in the area, it was taking quite some time for the results to show up.

“Sir, can you please hold her? I have to leave right away for my shift.” The man said, holding out the bird towards me.  I took a step back. Birds disgusted me. What with their erratic flapping and all! Also they had ridiculously sharp beaks. Like someone had designed them to be a nuisance.

“No! Just keep it on the ground for god’s sake!”

“Sir, but the dogs…”

“I’ll stay here until help comes.” I reassured the man.

He then gently bent down and rested the bird onto the ground. And then he left. While I waited for the results to load, a black dog walked up to me. I shooed him away.

And then another dog showed up. He sniffed around and tried to get close to the sparrow. So I drove him away with a hit of my umbrella. And then I looked around to see if there were any other dogs around.

Speak of the devil; a couple more dogs had arrived at the scene. They were gathered with the dogs I had shooed away before. I looked at them and all of them had one thing in common. They couldn’t seem to take their eyes of the dead sparrow.

I looked at my mobile phone, the search results had finally loaded. So I dialled a local animal shelter, just a kilometre away from there. While the call connected, I checked in on the sparrow. It didn’t seem to move.

I nudged it with the tip of my umbrella – no movement what so ever. I nudged it a bit more. The little thing remained motionless. I bent down and looked at its chest, where its pea sized heart was. It had stopped going up and down. The sparrow had stopped breathing. I nudged it one final time.

This time, the body rolled over and its wings fell limp to the ground. The sparrow was dead.

“Hello, is anyone there?” A voice over the phone crackled.

“Sorry, never mind” I said, and disconnected the call.

I came back home and washed my umbrella. It had mud stains on its tip. I’d dug a hole and pushed the sparrow’s body into it. And then filled the hole with mud. This way the dogs wouldn’t disturb the little thing.

Come that day and over the course of the next week, I wrought myself over the possibilities. May be if I’d just picked it up in my hands and walked it to a vet, I would have survived? May be just if I had the god damn guts!  Or maybe not? The sparrow would have died anyway, even if I’d helped him. Because once a sparrow is touched by a human, the other sparrows kill it. Either way, the sparrow was dead. And yet, I couldn’t fathom why it wrecked my conscience.

A sparrow had died. Sparrows die every day. One small death shouldn’t matter. But it did that day. It definitely did matter that day.

Beauty is in function.

Every Time you see a perfect sunset, a clear night sky, a movie star on the red carpet or perhaps just a little butterfly browsing through a field of flowers – only one thought comes to mind .  Beautiful!

But what exactly do we mean by beauty? What is beauty defined as? and Can it be quantified? Such questions are perhaps the most basic philosophical questions. But unlike other fields, in Philosophy, the more basic the question – the more difficult it is to answer.

What is beauty?

If we really get down to the root basics, beauty can be defined as:

the presence of such characteristics in an object (living / non living) that give rise to pleasant sensations through one or more of the 5 senses.

This definition poses one more question. What are these characteristics which we deem beautiful? Is there any one basic characteristic that underlines all that is beautiful? Well there is.

What is truly beautiful?

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, goes an old saying. Simply said, beauty is a subjective term. What one may find beautiful, another may not. But that means that we can never arrive at a universal measure of beauty – that is independent of individual view point. Well, not exactly.

Let’s take examples of objects that we find beautiful, and study the characteristics which make them beautiful.

For example, take a beautiful flower.

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We find most flowers beautiful. And what makes them beautiful? Their petals, right! But those petals are beautiful for a reason. The bright colours help in attracting bees, which in turn helps in pollination.

So here the beautiful petals have a very important purpose – keeping the species alive!

And like we discussed in the definition, beauty doesn’t just come from bright colours. There is beauty in sound too.

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When you hear a piece of music that you find beautiful, what is it that makes it beautiful? Most of the times, you say that a piece of music is beautiful when it connects with you on an emotional or an instinctive level.

Here the music serves the function of conveying emotion. And that is what makes it beautiful to your ears.

And if you compare all such universally accepted beautiful things, they all have one characteristic in common. And that it function.

Beauty is in function

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The true measure of beauty is its ability to serve an essential function. If an object or its appearance serves no purpose, the object is in no sense beautiful.

This simple principle is the founding law of beauty in all fields such as music, photography, writing, engineering and art. And that is why, the useless and the non essential are eliminated from view, in the modern world. Because that which is non essential, is ugly. And that which is essential, is ultimately beautiful.