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.

Design for an Infinite Life

I was barely past half the day, and I was already bored. One can suffer through 5 hours of boring lectures, but never five more. But I was resigned to sit through an additional 5 hours because of low attendance. That was when the professor walked into class. With a swift motion of his hand, he wrote a few words on the board and read them aloud.

“Design for an Infinite life!”

That eerie phrase jerked me out of my slumber. The professor then went on to describe a host of technical formulas. I won’t bore you with the details. But this got me thinking.

What if we were designed for an infinite life?

To answer this question, we must first turn to the design of life itself.

Life is specific amount of energy infused into a very specific combination of matter. The energy mentioned, is obtained from the surrounding universe. Life on earth gains its ultimate energy from the sun, which in turn generates energy from a fusion reaction between hydrogen and helium atoms. These atoms are set in motion (gain energy) by the forces of nature, which in turn receive their influence from the universe, which has a finite amount of energy + matter. Since the universe possesses a finite amount of energy and matter, it doesn’t give away freely. Like a bank, the universe loans us a small portion of that energy so that we can live. And like every loan, the universe expects it to be paid back in full.

And when we die, our energy debt is repaid to the universe.

Therefore, we plainly arrive at the conclusion that …

Life is designed to be finite.

But a curious mind must venture into an impossible reality. Imagine if the Universe had an infinite supply of energy and matter. As a consequence, life wouldn’t be constrained to a finite span of time. That would mean that there could very well be immortal humans.

Let’s investigate the life of one such immortal.

An immortal would have no reason to eat, since he would never die. So we’d never know the pleasure of eating a luscious peace of steak. Or the ecstasy of fine dining. And by extension, we won’t have a mouth. Also speech would be non-existent  – Since it is just a time saving method of expression. But as we don’t need to save time in an infinite life, we wouldn’t communicate through speech. We could take the time to evolve communication through brainwaves.

Also, since no one ever dies, there would be no logical reason for sex to exist. The death of romance, seduction and other erotic pleasures would follow. Also, men wouldn’t have penises to boast of and since women wouldn’t give birth, they wouldn’t have breasts and vaginas that men adore. In fact, there would be no separate genders in an immortal human. There would be just one neutral gender. Talk about the death of one kind of chemistry!

Also in an infinite life, there would be no fear of death. And since there would be no death, there would be no ambition. And an ambition-less world would sincerely be an evolution less world. We would never evolve from single celled organisms. Or may be bunches of proteins themselves wouldn’t evolve to the single celled organism stage. Or maybe, atoms wouldn’t come together to form proteins. Or if you extend this logic to the sub atomic level, there would be no cause for subatomic particles to form atoms.

In short, the universe would just be a gigantic soup of energy flowing around aimlessly.

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Look at the image above. This is what the universe would look like if life were infinite.

Empty.

The Engineer’s Manifesto

Manifesto –  a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer (individual/group/political party/government.

Engineers are a highly underrated component of modern society. And that is because not many people truly understand what engineering is about. So here is an Engineer’s manifesto, that in a concise manner, maps out the engineering philosophy.

The duties and principles of a true Engineer are laid out in the following manifesto:

  • Search for problems: The calling of an engineer is in solving the problems encountered in daily life. But not all problems are in plain sight or visibly evident. A true engineer must actively seek out new problems to solve.
  • Expectations into reality: The knowledge of theory gives us a solid base upon which to build our technology. But having a foundation doesn’t mean the building is ready. An engineer has to bridge the gap between theory and practicality.
  • Solve problems: Finding problems isn’t enough. A solution is necessary. An engineer must apply the basic sciences and devise a solution to a problem.
  • Create: Sometimes, a problem is so unique and untouched that no one ever solved it. At this juncture, the engineer must create a solution from scratch. This employs humanities most industrious personality trait – the desire to create something new. Thus an engineer must always be creative.
  • Modify: No solution is the best one. There will always be a possibility of a better solution. An engineer must recognize the potential for a better solution by looking at a previous solution.
  • Ease the efforts of life: Making human life better is the ultimate aim of all engineering practices. Above all a true engineer must aim to eliminate the pains of life.

By now, I hope that the person reading this has gained ,at least, some insight into an Engineer’s work. The luxuries that we enjoy, the free time we have, all of that is a result of Engineers all over the world, slaving their days off incessantly, to better the life of their fellow humans.

They ask not, but do deserve all the respect that we can give them. For the arsenal of a great nation wouldn’t have existed, if it wasn’t for the pen of a tinkerer.

Salute to these silent heroes!

Romancing the rains…

The Sun is the ultimate source of all energy on the Earth. It is also the reason, our planet exists in the first place. So, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to call the Sun, Earth’s mother. And then comes the second most important source of life – water. If there was no water, life would be impossible. And I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I wouldn’t exist even if there was no Sun. Then which of the two is more important?

To find an answer to this question, we must turn our minds to a simple metaphor.

The Parent and The Lover

Our Parents are the ultimate source of everything we are, in this life. They are the reason we exist and they are the nurturing force behind our actions. In principle, they’re the Sun to our Earth.

But as life goes on and our joy is scrambled by ambition, we become more and more weary of our parents. It is only natural, they have been in our lives even before we knew what parents were.  The Sun has been shining even before we were born. And if you have the fortune of living in a desert, you start hating the Sun. You have seen the Sun every single day of your life. Although it is the single most source of your existence, you can’t bare its monotonous glare anymore.  You start craving for rain.

And that is when rain comes, and so does love.

Our Lover is who breaks the monotony of our Parents. He\She adds a fresh angle to your life. Like the rain brings greenery with it. You begin to enjoy the downpour, the cool environment and gloomy skies.

But as is human nature, the desert dweller gets weary of the rain too. We can’t keep liking one thing for ever. After we get used to something we like, we become tired of it. So the desert dwellers starts craving for the Sun to shine again. And then the pendulum bobs back and forth between the Parent and the Lover.

So if you were to ask, which of the two is most important – the Parent of the Lover? the Sun or the Rain?

I would have no answer. I would only advice you to keep bobbing back and forth like a ceaseless pendulum. For a one can only live without blood as much as they can live without the air they breathe.

 

The Prime Comedic Principle

Comedy, in its numerous forms, is the finest remedy to a disturbed mind. But like every medicine, comedy works on a simple principle – which I call ‘The Prime Comedic Principle’

The Prime Comedic Principle

Comedy is mainly of two type – visual and verbal. In the past when recording device weren’t developed, visual comedy was the norm. And after the advent of audio recording and talkie films, comedy gradually became more and more verbal. Irrespective of which kind of comedy you prefer, it revolves around one principle.

The Prime Comedic Principle states that in order to be humorous sequence or speech must form an expectation in the minds of its audience and then overthrow that expectation.

Demonstration

Take a look comic scene from the hugely successful SITCOM ‘Friends’

Joey, Chandler, Monica and Rachel are looking at an old home video of Monica, when she was fat.

Joey points to fat Monica on the screen and screams

“Some girl ate Monica!”

The audience laughs.

Monica dismisses him quoting a popular TV phrase

“Shut up the camera adds ten pounds”

Now the usual expectation is that the joke ends here.  But that expectation is overthrown as Chandler stretches the joke one last time.

“So how many cameras were actually on you?”

The audience bursts into laughter on this final punchline.

Conclusion

If you want to make someone laugh, create an expectation and then destroy it. The more expert comedians go the extra mile, destroying a single expectation two or three times over.  So if you are pursuing a career as a comedian or are just looking to improve your sense of humour, this rule is for you.

Note : The Prime Comedic Principle is just a rough guideline. Comedy is an art; art thrives on the occasional breaking of rules. So don’t follow the principle to the letter, but just keep it in mind.

 

Informal Education is a needless Taboo.

What is informal education?

Informal education is style of education that diverges away from the formal structure of education. Unlike the the fixed curriculum, a finite number of exams and the emphasis on physical presence in a classroom ( the features of a formal education), informal education promotes more flexible methods of learning which involve – self learning, experiential learning, out of the box thinking and acceptance of new trends.

The history of Formal Education

Ever since the modern education system began, a majority of the human population has subscribed to that system. The reason for this bias was that the formal structure of education was more dependable, predictable and had a potential to show consistent results. This is why, the formal education system spanned every nook and corner of the civilized world. There was no second thought to whether a different style of education might be better in some way or the other. Formal education became the way to go, if you wanted to become successful in life. And more so, after the beginning of formal education, every field adopted the structure. And before we knew it, engineers, doctors, accountants, artists and even military men were being subjected to the same style of education. Despite having contrastingly different occupations, they followed the same classroom approach to everything they needed to learn.

Since the system was proving to be successful, no one ever thought to question it. And by question it, I don’t mean completely overthrowing it. I mean thinking hard and sound about whether formal education is appropriate for oneself.

Think to yourself. After you’d finished high school, you would have spent days, even months on choosing a field of learning that best fits your interest. But you never even for one second, spent time evaluating your style of learning. If you had, you would have asked yourself this question –  “Formal and informal education, which of the two am I comfortable with?”

But instead we go on, without questioning the style. We dive into the water, without judging the depth.

Why is informal education a taboo?

We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.

-Christof, ( The Truman Show – 1998)

Now since the belief in formal education has been reinforced over many generations, usually everyone instinctively chooses formal education. Why wouldn’t they? It shows success and everyone follows it. From their standpoint it is completely logical to blindly follow formal education.

And a rare few stop to logically evaluate the two styles of learning. Some of them arrive at the decision that informal education is better for them. And to those who have stepped into formal education  with blind faith, choosing informal education seems completely illogical.

The fish in the water looks at the bird in the air and despises him.

That is why when someone chooses to follow the informal structure, they’re termed as crazy, lazy, and other degrading terms.  And since formal education is the norm everywhere in the world, informal education has become a global taboo.

Why it is a needless taboo?

It is completely illogical to not question your style of learning. And more mindless is to choose your style of learning based on what others have done in the past. What ever style you choose should be a reflection your particular strengths and weaknesses. Your style of learning is your identity and should be chosen after proper evaluation of the alternatives.

And if after such a process, one arrives at the decision that informal education is the best for them, it is their personal choice. No one has the right to insult a person who choses to educate themselves outside the bounds of a classroom. It is their own choice. No one  (Not even parents )has a right to interfere in what route of learning an individual chooses.

Snippets from my life

Exactly one year ago, I got around to evaluating whether pursuing a degree was right for me. I reached the conclusion that I wasn’t comfortable with the structure of formal education. I wanted to learn things on my own terms. My interests are highly divergent. I have a professional interest in a variety of fields such as engineering, physics, filmmaking and writing.  Having such a wide scope of interest, being subjected to the a singular field of interest for half my day is uncomfortable.

And when I communicated my thoughts to my parents about me wanting to discontinue formal education, they erupted into hysteria. They called me crazy. When I said I didn’t want to be like everyone else, the asked me why the hell did I want to be different? They didn’t understand me back then, and they don’t even now.

So to them, I have this to say.

I love learning but on my own terms. I’m uncomfortable dedicating 4 years of my life to a singular interest. I want to learn everything, and I want to do that all the time. From your standpoint this might seem logical, but it isn’t. What is illogical and completely psychotic is that you yourself have never evaluated your style of learning. I pity you because you cannot see through my eyes, because you are missing out on all the sides of this world that I can see and you can’t, because you have closed your mind.

So whatever you say or do to force me into formal education, the reality won’t change – you followed the masses blindly, like mindless sheep. It was your choice. And to not live blindly is mine. I didn’t interfere in your choices, please leave me alone in mine.