Monday, April 25, 2022

Offensive uncertainty

The thing about social media is that you get to know mainly of what offends people, what outrages them. After a few hours on it, you get a certain impression about human beings as being compressed cans of outrage in search of a reason to vent; as frowns of displeasure trawling the world for reasons to be displeased.

It is a given, of course, that people assume offense in anything that others do if those others belong to a different belief system from their own. Also, of course, if you dislike a person he can scarcely draw a breath without offending you. Now these are areas where the offense arises because you are certain about the other person...the blackest of villains who God, in an off moment, inflicted on Earth.

In the bygone days, when interactions between people involved swords and maces and such as often as they involved words, showing open hands in one form or the other was an indication that, this time, the intention was to interact using words. Thus, empty hand = no weapon = peaceful intent. Manners, you see, started off like that. When you are uncertain about the other person, you had these prescribed ritual actions which indicated his intentions.

And, thus, starts the taking of offense because of uncertainty. You are the boss, you walk in to the office and some people do not wish you. "How dare they disrespect me?" comes from the uncertainty of whether you are truly respected or not. True, humanity being the perverse creation that it is (God must have created the whole damn lot of us in an off moment, it seems to me at times), people DO try to push their boundaries all the time but if YOU walk around in a perpetual haze of outrage at that chap not noticing you walk behind his desk and this chap peering into his laptop instead of looking reverently at you and so on...well, THAT outrage comes from your own uncertainty. Impostor syndrome or some such learned label, I think, applies.

Where then does this come from, you think? "You do not even care to remember our anniversary," and so on? The uncertainty about whether the other person really cares for you or not, right? It is not that date, it is how important she thinks you are in her life which is the issue there.

The outrage about a friend not coming over to your wedding, about a colleague not inviting you to a party which you could not have gone to anyway, about your child not opting for the choice of course that you much of it is outrage because you are uncertain about your importance in their life?

And so, after years of diligent practice, you now get offended and outraged by the form of things with scant regard to the substance. Like a spouse caring two hoots about being really loved as long as the anniversary gift arrives!

But, then, what's the use of substance? It's the form that can be shared on Instagram!

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Righteous and the Self-righteous

"Too many people are getting righteous these days. That's the problem with the world," I declaimed.

You know how it is. One of those days where you feel that only you have the insight into how to make the world a cleaner, better place. Like it happens with all of us every now and then. Of course, if that's the way you feel all the time, you become a social reformer or a politician or, at least, a social media pest...err...influencer.

"Who screamed at you for smoking in a public place today?"

There you go! This is the problem with can hardly discuss anything at a conceptual level without someone making personal remarks.

"That's not what I mean, drat it. What I'm talking of is this thing about getting righteous about the way you dress, what you eat, yada yada."

"Are you talking about being righteous or being self-righteous?"

"What's the big difference?"

I mean, really! This thing about nit-picking on words is getting to be too much.

"Well, being righteous is trying to control what YOU do in accordance to your own morality. Being self-righteous starts where you try to control what OTHERS do in accordance to YOUR morality."

"So, you mean that I'm not allowed to propagate my own morals?"

"I suppose there is no point in having morals if you cannot flaunt them."

You know, somehow, that did not seem complimentary...or even supportive.

"No, that's not what..."

"Or, perhaps, you think that righteousness is when YOU are enforcing YOUR morals. And self-righteousness is when the other guy is."

THIS happens every time. How is it that I cannot even wish a guy 'Good morning' without the conversation ending in a listing of my own inadequacies?

"So, what IS self-righteousness? Is it righteous ONLY when I silently practice my morals and becomes self-righteous if I try to convince another guy to do so?"

"Convince! THAT's the operative word," he said.

I was absurdly pleased. To think that I could contribute as important a thing as an operative word!

He immediately set about taking the wind out of my sails.

"Of course you do not realize what 'convince' means. The idea of 'convincing' STARTS with the conception that the other person may have SOME legitimacy to his view-point, if only that of custom. AND, so, you need him to be convinced to see things a different way. Self-righteousness does not operate that way."

"And HOW does it operate?"

"A self-righteous ass ASSUMES that the other guy is either a fool OR a villain! More often than not, the latter. Self-righteousness does not believe in convincing people, only in judging them."

"In my opinion, that's also righteousness. It's only a play on semantics to call it by a different name."

"Opinions are like arseholes, as someone said. Everyone has them"

"Well, if everyone has them, why can't I?" I said triumphantly. 

He was silent for a second. Aha! Maybe this was going to be one of those rare times when I got the last word!

Then, he said, "The problem with opinions is not where they are the same as arseholes. It is in where they are different."

"In what way?" I asked, incautiously.

"Comes to arseholes, everyone has them but almost noone is eager to flaunt them in public."


Monday, April 11, 2022

Success and Happiness - Concluded

If you indeed have been going through this series on 'Success and Happiness', it would seem to you that Serotinin-the mood stabilizer; Endorphins - the painkiller/pleasure chemicals; Dopamine - the Reward chemical; and Oxytocin - the Love chemical exist in watertight compartments. It was convenient to discuss them that way but, in reality, they tend to coexist. AND more than one get produced by the same activity.

When you go running, for example, the sunshine improves your serotonin levels and the exertion kicks off the endorphins. If you also have target timings to achieve, the achievement of the targets will give you a dopamine high. AND, if you are doing it as a part of a group practicing for a Marathon, the camaraderie kicks off the Oxytocin as well.

That is not only an example, it is also to tell you that you can tailor an activity to increase your happiness levels. Even in the pursuit of success. You'd have heard about the highs of a small group involved in a start-up. The 'we are in it together' feel that sets off oxytocin, the joy of doing what you want to do which comes from dopamine and serotonin - that's the sort of joy which is hard to replicate in a established organisation unless the organisation itself provides the environment for it.

The pursuit of success in an area which you love to work in, in conducive company, in a healthy, non-obsessive manner, and where you can still spare the time to round off your life with non-work related relationships and activities IS a pursuit which can actually enhance happiness.

Too often, people think of blindly pursuing success and, having achieved it, devoting the rest of life to the pursuit of happiness. THAT's the sort of plan that works successfully as often as an aspiring actor in Bollywood becoming a Shah Rukh Khan.

More often than not, what happens is that either success eludes you or you have lost your relationships by then or you have lost your life before then.

Life is short and uncertain. It is not wrong to aspire to the fruits on top of the mountain. What is abysmally stupid is to keep your eyes so focused on those fruits that you ignore all the berries on the way.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Success and Happiness - V

The one thing that gets everyone interested is this word 'Love'. I should have titled this post the 'Love Chemical', perhaps, because that is what Oxytocin is - the chemical that causes the happiness related to love.

It is not just romantic love which sets off the Oxytocin. All human relations - parental, sibling, friendships, camaraderie - and even your relationship with your pets gives you a Oxytocin rush. That 'Jaadu ki jappi' - the high of hugging - is a Oxytocin high.

Forming lasting relationships, relationships which you can lean back on IS the one source of happiness which can be said to raise your mean level of happiness. All the others are happiness of the moment - there for that time and then gone unless you repeat the experience.

Relationships though come with attendant risk. GOOD relationships give you joy but purely good relationships exist only in your fantasies. All relationships also carry an element of stress - where the mutual expectations mismatch and, thus, come with a proportion of unhappiness. To nurture the happiness and to, over a period of time, reduce the friction is the hallmark of good relations. Toxic relationships tend to end up maximizing anxiety and stress for at least one of the parties to the relationship.

Success - the achievement of goals in the broadest sense and commonly understood to be the achievement of career goals - can and does, as it seems to more often than not, get in the way of Oxytocin. 

You can neither develop or sustain a healthy relationship without spending time continuously on it. AND people tend to take away time from relationships to give to the pursuit of success. After all, the time needed by relationships is seldom 'URGENT' - as in needed at exactly THAT moment - whereas urgency is the middle name of a career pursuit.

And, so, while piously intoning 'Never let the urgent overwhelm the important', you miss your kid's birthday for that urgent presentation; send your family on a vacation while you attend the eighteenth important meeting on cost control in the last 2 months; religiously 'like' your boss' post on balancing work and life from his golfing holiday while he has ensured you slave in your office on your wedding anniversary on the urgent report he requires the moment he comes back to office...and, at the end of it all, scream about how ungrateful your children are for all the sacrifices you made for their well-being.

Your nature can make things even worse. If you start seeing people around you as rivals who are to be overcome; casual acquaintances and friends in terms of whether they are less or more 'successful' than you; every setback as the Universe's conspiracy to ensure that you do not short, if you make 'success' an obsession, rest assured that happiness of any sort can never stay with you for any length of time.

Happiness CAN coexist with a pursuit of success. If you pick the right way, happiness can be a result of the pursuit of success.

What Happiness cannot exist with IS an obsession for success.