The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, let it roll

A 250 miles planned road trip on a torrentially rainy day, some musings and pointless observations!

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The wipers kept oscillating at the speed of an inverted runaway pendulum, while the water kept pouring in abundant glory from the bulging clouds. It was raining torrentially, but I was scheduled to move some 250 miles south on that day, and driving in this vast country is always a pleasure and one of my favorite activity. So, there was no looking back, and not a remote chance of canceling the rare and unexpected, one way car rental deal. After exchanging the customary pleasantries with the rental clerk, and obviously falling prey for the extra collision and liability insurance coverage which they insist, in spite of the credit card seemingly covering such rare accidents, I find myself with minimal luggage, a backpack with laptop and the faithful and extremely useful yoga mat, facing a shiny green vehicle, fondly named Kia Soul. Its a small 4 cylinder, 200 hp engine, involuntarily massaging my head with its cheap upholstery but gives a good mileage. Not all statistics about the car are vital or preferred by me, but seems like it will do the job well. I load the vehicle with the luggage, start the push button engine, check the wipers for any residual water marks while rolling, check the headlights, push the driver’s seat all the way back for a semi-comfortable feeling, as my legs easily reach the pedals without the knee getting the required relief. But, you get what you pay for, and I am relieved that I don’t have to spend a lot, and still can drive and reach my destination, instead of schlepping the luggage in any other formal modes of public transport, cramped in an equally tight seat along with my stereotypically pompous fellow brethren.

The ride was quite fascinating, as I squeezed out of the airport facility, and rolled onto the magnificent interstate freeway, along with the fast moving traffic. It was a Sunday, and I wasn’t in a particular rush to reach, although I wanted to maintain a constant speed.

I’ve always admired the tortoise, in the famous “Hare and the Tortoise” story, not necessarily for winning the race, but more for his doggedness in sticking to a process or strategy without allowing boredom or impatience to creep in, and although on many occasions, as required, I’ve enacted the hare too, but the tortoise-like temperament suits my non-gregarious and observant personality.
I traveled through the Appalachian hills, amongst the vast ocean of greenery of trees and grass to the sides of the freeway, and passing by few minor cities and many more inconsequential small towns, which might have had a consequential role to play in the past presidential elections. The freeways are adorned with signage which lures one to take pitstops for leaks, purchases and more often some terrible tasting coffee breaks, unless of course, you’re lucky to hit “Starbucks”, without having to go to the centre of the town a few miles away. Starbucks brand is my personal favorite, not only because of the taste, but because it has a nice range of sugary sides to go along with the dark roasted pike, without cream or sugar. It is also my favorite brand because we’re invested in the company’s growth story for a few years now, and in spite of Howard Schultz announcing his departure from the firm after a long run, possibly to run a bigger political race per rumors, I consider it to still have substantial growth potential remaining, especially in foreign shores, where they’re just about beginning to cast their footprint.

SB

Having said all this, I would jump on to the opportunity of investing 7% of the equity portion of my portfolio into Starbucks, if it ever falls down in the 42 to 45 range, augmenting the yield substantially, and not to forget that the coffee, pastries and the overall experience at the store is never inexpensive yet always fabulous.

I was tempted to pull out of the freeway, and indulge with a Starbucks experience, but the ride was smooth, traffic scarce, and scenery superb, and I decided to let go of the pulling out, stopping to get dehydrated and pulling in again business. Instead, I continued the journey, immersed in being with the roads, its bends, dents and meandered the journey with my own singing, chanting and silence, instead of blasting some advertisements on the FM radio interspersed with some fast paced hip-hop or reggae. Admittedly, this was the first time I chose to drive like this, the entire 250 miles, as usually, the radio or a personal selection of songs on the phone, is what fills the car with various sounds and noises. It was indeed a sweet transition from listening to someone else’s music, to composing your own personal and random playlist, based on the moods and fancy of the driver.

It was all worthwhile and flowing, until the much needed bio break was in order, and I pulled over at one of the the well-designed and massive “Rest Area” of the famous “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, which to its credit was designed during President Eisenhower’s time, way back in the 50’s and covers roughly 50,000 miles of pothole free roads by now, is expertly maintained, and connects this huge nation from one end to another, with a matrix of interstate freeways, enhancing commerce, transport, communication and many ill fated accidents.
The average driving speed of the vehicles on these highways is 65 mph, and I was in no mood to accelerate over the limit more than 5 mph, firstly, to avoid getting any expensive tickets, because that would defeat the entire purpose of keeping this trip a low cost journey, also making the penalty on the ticket more than the rental car cost, and secondly, because I was absolutely enjoying this rainy drive of 250 miles, heading west for 100 miles and southeast the remaining 150 miles.

Dogs

It was very interesting to notice the love people have for their dogs, especially in such “Rest Areas”, as along with themselves, the dog owners, which there were plenty, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if almost all, at the rest area where I stopped, had various dogs of differing sizes, were ensuring that their dogs managed to get a reasonable stretch and they get to pick their fresh droppings, before hopping onto their respective vehicles again to continue their journey.

It was a bit amusing to see some signs pointing out to “Dog Exercise Area” as I felt many of their owners needed equivalent or certainly more exercise and stretch than their cute puppies, and it was also very obvious that dogs naturally knew when and how much to stretch their bodies, as and when necessary, above and beyond the scheduled Rest Area stops, and that’s why the “Dog Pose” in yoga.

But, of course, I wasn’t judging anyone, I was simply observing and being amused, and my obvious smirks perhaps must have generated some strange frowns from folks around me. Any who, I took off once again to finish the remaining journey, amongst the rains, and after paying a meagre toll, for using the freeway, continued southeast towards my new destination, where I am planning to spend a week, before heading out west to the magnificence of the Rockies. The rest of the trip needed much more alertness and care, especially when changing lanes at 70 mph, in hazy conditions, due to the incessant rains and as such was uneventful, but for me as a driver, it was anyways fascinating to be traveling on the roads at fast speeds, humming to my own tunes, without the iPhone connected to the USB or wondering if the bass, treble or balance could be adjusted any further, for a better surround sound experience.

GA

On the way, I crossed Gettysburg, and some portions of the violent and turmoil filled history of this nation flashed into my mind’s eye. It was here that Abraham Lincoln had delivered his famous “Four score and seven years ago…” Gettysburg Address, at the end of the Civil War in 1863, and is considered one of the best known speeches in American history.
It really were troubled times during the formation of a new nation, to be battling amongst themselves, and eventually having to settle after a terrible war, to create the foundation of a United States. I’ve read plenty on the topic in the past, have a fond admiration for Lincoln and respect his role during those times, but decided against visiting the ceremonial visitor’s center, partially because of the rains, and mainly because I felt like continuing the journey forward.
HH

Now, I was in the final section of my journey, and I had to make a judgment call, as it happens to many of us in life, especially just before arriving at the destination, whether to stop for one more bio break, or hold tightly, literally speaking, and reach the final place. It was no different for me, and I wanted to be the “hare” this time, and go for it.

In many ways, it was an arguable decision, but I did go for it, passing a few cars in a rush, changing lanes with acute care, the rains were still on, and to my utter surprise, it was pouring harder and with some amount of gust, which made the visibility harder and the possibility of skidding a little more certain.
Nonetheless, I had put on my “hare hat”, and I was determined to not stop and reach on time, before any accidents happened, and I don’t mean with the vehicle.

Overall, I’m a careful and prudent driver, and like every other subjective space of my life, I’ve strategies on fast driving too, where uncontrolled passion doesn’t overrule any desperate wish to fulfill particular outcomes, and I know where to cut sharply, allow the other to go ahead, discreetly change lanes on an exceptionally rainy day, not irk any fellow drivers with my need for speed etc. – yet maneuver the vehicle in a systematic way to be ahead of others, covering a fair amount of distance much faster, and in spite of wearing my “hare hat”, remain settled within myself with a tortoise-like composure to maintain consistency and balance, both inside and outside of me.
All this didn’t take any effort, it was achieved silently, with the humming or full fletched singing, it was just that it takes awareness and sensitivity to be fine inside, and prudently aggressive on the outside. Its an application of a trick, to trick the mind, to not be ruled by its own gyrations, but instead, meander with a gentler and centered sense of alertness, which brings the desired outcome, in this case speed, but without allowing the mind to get excited or go berserk. Its certainly a finesse, and I have begun to enjoy it, without sacrificing on the desired experience and still achieving the desired outcome!

RHB

So, here I am, 250 miles south from my previous location, intact, and having finished an exciting trip, looking forward to spending a week amongst the flora, fauna, friendships and waters of a new neighborhood with old friends. The trip was necessary, exciting, and revealing and much to my surprise, I didn’t realize how the four and a half hours went by, traveling through three different states, amongst the jaw dropping torrential rains, enjoying the greenery, amused by the rest area musings, imagining the tough times during a civil war, admiring the foresight with which the interstate system of highways was built, rejuvenating with personalized singing and chanting and above all driving a decently built car, optimizing its potential by appropriately racing its engine, interspersed with deliberately slowing down when necessary, especially when it was obvious that the M4 or Sequoia, driving next to me, is neither going to slow down, nor allow me to pass, even if they wished to, considering their superior engine, but it doesn’t matter, as I’m aligned and in tune with “The Doors”, and humming to their lyrics “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, Let it roll, baby, roll, Let it roll, all night long” 🙂

Until next time, Ciao!…

To Binge or Not to Binge

Binging on Schitt’s Creek, a model on incremental productivity and Isaacson’s biography on Einstein.

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Reading Time: 7 minutes.

I finished a very well written and interesting biography on Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson, titled “Einstein: His Life and Universe”, having started the book a few weeks ago, this long weekend. I used to put off biographies for some reason, not knowing why I should be reading about anyone’s life, when I can explore and experience the dynamics of my own life in depth. But, it turns out, like many other realizations, I was wrong in my thinking. Walter Isaacson’s captivating stories of Einstein’s life, was not only mesmerizing, but also has many things one can learn from his life. The book is beautifully structured, and although, a long read, it is engrossing throughout and kept me intrigued. The style is very lucid and I had heard about Isaacson’s penchant for writing beautiful biographies, but it was the first time I had a chance to indulge and enjoy his work. It was quite intriguing how flamboyant Einstein was in one sense, and completely aloof in another, both in his professional and personal life. It seems, he could be very quiet and lost in his scientific work and be equally vocal and gregarious in his expressions, be it politically driven matters or writing a recommendation for his colleague. He did not seem to mind getting involved with media and political dramas or backlashes, if he believed in the cause. He remained equally a wanderer and wonderer, and lived in few countries, was focused and determined to find a unified field theory till the end, attempting to explain the mysteries of the universe, and remained witty, focused, humble and humorous until he passed away at his Princeton residence in 1955. My timing couldn’t have been better in finishing this book, as I am stationed just 10 miles away from his Princeton residence, and am daily walking some trails around his neighborhood.

Walter Isaacson captures few of his final utterances from various sources, few days before his death, quoted below:

To a group of doctors recommending seeing a surgeon for his health condition: “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially, I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”

To his assistant, when asked: “Is everything alright?” Einstein replied: “Everything is alright, but I am not.”

To his son, Hans Albert, on America: “Everything – even lunacy – is mass produced here. But everything goes out of fashion very quickly.”

To his friend, queen mother of Belgium: “The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost. One feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone.”

Isaacson ends the book with this observation – He could be serenely self-confident in his lonely course yet also humbly awed by the beauty of nature’s handiwork. And Einstein remarks: “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

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It has been such a long time that I haven’t binged a particular activity, and I don’t think I’ll ever binge, per the technical definition of the word. Last fifteen years, I have particularly managed a schedule in such a way that, I get involved with an activity, deliberately for short durations and keep hopping to the next relevant activity, which could also be conscious inactivity. Its an arranged experiment to not get hooked onto anything particular for a long time and instead allocate my energies in a deliberate manner to keep changing activities every few hours, remain involved with the new activity and just when it is settling, move on to the next relevant activity. The reason for such an experiment is simple, I want to accomplish various things, incrementally, which I am choosing to bring into the daily routine, but allocating sufficient yet not extensive amount of time to it, so that I can get sufficiently involved but immediately move on to the next one with equal involvement.

The idea is to train the mind to not get hooked on to any particular activity, and simultaneously get unidentified with the need to have an immediate outcome of that activity.

It also helps in retaining attention since I’m not stretching the activity beyond a certain point, knowing very well my capacity to loose attention if the activity takes longer. It also helps me in bringing multiple activities within the realm of the same day, and thus I get the benefit of incrementally building up on the plans for my activities, which have a long term essence for me. As an example, in a given day, I could be allocating my energies to be doing the following things, with much involvement, knowing very well that I would be hopping to the next activity soon – yoga, walking, reading, work, writing, eating, siesta, chanting, sending personal messages to friends, watching my breath, chatting on phone with a close friend, reading shortlisted articles on the internet. Now, none of these activities individually, per se, has much meaning, or at least, that’s how it is perceived by most of us, if that is the only activity we do in the whole day. But, when you keep on doing this routine, day in and day out, over a matter of few weeks, you feel quite super, probably because it brings about a sense of deeper fulfillment, and more importantly, the brain adapts to a pattern which is less stressful, linearly meaningful, with an easily achievable mode of functioning. At least, that is my experience and hence I stick to such routines.

A good friend suggested watching “Schitt’s Creek”, a pretty much Canadian production, with the lead actors being Canadian too, three of them from the same family. Its kind of a dry humor situational comedy, based on sarcasm and satire. Its been delicately created and to me, who’s kind of on holidays, babysitting the progenitors, it was a perfect time to binge the show. Netflix has bought the rights for three seasons and each season ironically has thirteen episodes and each episode is roughly twenty minutes. So here I am in the land of opportunities, after a superb daily long walk in the woods, close to Einstein’s home place as mentioned earlier, I would come back, have a nice home made meal and binge – not on food though. It was indeed very different from the experiment I mentioned earlier, and it was quite amusing to see the confusion which it created in the brain the first few hours, as routinely, my mind was demanding for me to move on to the next task. It didn’t get any, except an occasional and terrible choice of Doritos chips, just for old times sake. So, I broke the routine of the mind, allowed the binging to happen and finished the three seasons in a matter of three days, leaving my friend behind in the unannounced race for completion. I enjoyed the binge, but the drag which comes along with such acts, was easily felt and thanks to the daily dose of yoga and walking, I managed to keep up some aliveness. Watching TV has become a far off and distant activity, which I usually don’t do, not because I don’t like it, but because we don’t have a TV anymore. So, occasional binging like this is remarkably entertaining but I don’t think I can do it very often. I like the small doses of intense activity or inactivity, as I find it more productive, with major long term benefits, and in which I can retain my attention much better. Of course, this works for me only because I have managed to arrange my life in a manner where such things are possible. But, it is worth experimenting with for anyone wanting to incrementally make their lives more intense and productive over a long haul, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!

Pheasant and the Bull

Pheasant and the Bull

Here’s a hilarious joke with a solid punch, applicable for all of us, which Sadhguru shares in the Inner Engineering program. It is so relevant and worthy of reading again, that I thought of posting it today as a reminder 🙂

 
Pheasant and the Bull

It once happened, on a certain day, a bull and a pheasant were grazing on the field. The bull was grazing on the grass, the pheasant was picking ticks off the bull; they are partners, you know?

Then the pheasant looked at a huge tree which was at the edge of the field, and very nostalgically said, “Alas, there was a time when I could fly to the top most branch of the tree, but today I do not have the strength even to fly to the first branch of the tree”

The bull very nonchalantly said, “That’s no problem! Eat a little bit of my dung every day, you will see, within a fortnight’s time you will reach the top of the tree.”

The pheasant said, “Oh, come off it! How is that possible?”

The bull replied, “Really, please try and see. The whole humanity is on it, you could try, too.”

Very hesitantly, the pheasant started pecking at the dung, and lo, on the very first day it reached the first branch of the tree. In a fortnight’s time, it reached the topmost branch of the tree. It just went and sat on the topmost branch and just enjoyed the scenery. 

The old farmer saw a fat old pheasant on the top of the tree. He took out his shotgun and shot him off the tree. 

So the moral of the story is: “Even bullshit can get you to the top, but never lets you stay there.”

The American Dream

Its not how he says that matters, its what he says. George Carlin, on the American Dream!

 

#Carlin #America (Watch Time: 11 minutes 👀🔉💻📱)
Rated R for language

By George! Carlin knows how it really is, but please excuse his profanity, mainly used for emphasis! As always, satire & sarcasm is deeply rooted into his “reflective insights of reality”, when an ancient player like #Carlin starts talking about matters which are so relevant!

Here’s George Carlin expounding in the 2005 TV show “Life is Worth Losing” on HBO – upon the lifestyle, mess, choices & domination of the most affluent country in the world, in his assiduous style, as he reminds us its: “The American Dream – because, you have to be asleep to believe it!

Go Slow

 

#GoSlow #Calvin&Hobbes #Meditation #Flipism #Randomness #Decisions
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It would be a mistake to think that comic strips are meant for amusement and entertainment only. It would also be a mistake to think that our lives are much more than a comic strip. Calvin & Hobbes epitomizes the conflicting nature of confusion and enthusiasm within us human beings. “Flipism” was philosophized by Donald Duck in which he retorts, all decisions in life are made by flipping a coin, and are considered effective due to randomness being an active ingredient of life. While this seems radical, its the duck’s way of sharing wisdom and indicating that, we may be giving much more credit to our decision making ability, than it truly counts for. Alas, not all Donald’s are wise, some come with vice!
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Charlie Munger, the genius billionaire and partner of Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, has been known to repeatedly ascertain: “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”
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Naseem Taleb has written books on Randomness, and has titled his amazing trilogy, “Fooled by Randomness”, “The Black Swan’ and “Antifragility”.
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Osho, incessantly reminds us: “Life is not a problem to be solved, it’s a mystery to be lived.”

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While identifying with our thoughts seem to be the only way of perceiving reality, and asserting that our decisions are the only reason for our success or failure, there’s a side to this whole perceiving business, which remains unexplored, to the fatal unawareness on how consciously were we making those decisions. While it is easy to say and see, that my ability to think, be rational, logical, analytical and present is the basis of my decision making, it is not very easy to realize that simply thinking may not be sufficient to be making conscious decisions and at the end of the day, how conscious we are, decides the fate and quality of our decisions, over simply exemplifying the ability to think.
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Much to our chagrin, we might have erroneously empowered ourselves, with the help of our teachers, parents, friends and solace-laden quotations which we worship, in relying upon our instant ability to be making decisions using thoughts as a supreme vehicle.

A random peek at truly successful beings, indicate a rather opposing view on how they never make instant decisions, knowing well that their first level thinking is heavily conditioned and usually lacking deeper insights. Delaying, yet paying significant attention, is the method employed by them, where they deliberately pause and enable extra sensory attention towards their personal biases and activate a second level thinking to go deeper into their decision making ability. They delay, not to stall, but to bring clarity by being conscious.

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Matters of real significance, have hidden layers of buried impressions, which are not easily visible to the naked eyes. It requires careful and unhurried attention to see those layers, and be able to attribute the connectivity between the outcome and the roles these hidden layers play in their manifestations. Pausing, consciously delaying, adapting to second level thinking, waiting to be more informed, not jumping to immediate conclusions based on our conditioned thoughts etc. are all creative habits we need to cultivate, they aren’t taught. Not adapting these valuable habits, should be seen as the primary reason for a disgruntled world and our desperate attempts at fulfilling our lives. When everyone is in a rush to make things happen, burdened by the instincts of self preservation, seeking immediate attention, wanting instant gratification — the outcome of such rushing, cannot be beautiful or fulfilling. It can only be an endless loop of recurring dramas and furthering of futile attempts at desperately creating beauty. It is easy to see these outside of us, but it takes a pause, a delay, a moment of steadiness, to see it happening within us, to our own lives, and realizing that, we are the mess, we claim to be seeing in the world.
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Its worth keeping a check on the way we make decisions. Its worth being more conscious. Its worth enabling second level thinking, investing in quietude, equanimity and being attentive yet lazy, and acting only upon real opportunities which does not create hindrance.

#GoSlow should not only be a mantra, but a trick to keep our psychological rushing at bay.
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Flipism is not necessary, its risky, enjoyable by a duck within a comic book, but realizing the probability of randomness in life, enabling conscious attentiveness and second level thinking, adopting meditation as an active tool to invite deliberate slowness to our psychological rushing — are real, effective and essential acts needed today, which can prevent us from falling, and provide us a platform for rising beyond the compulsions of improper habits we’ve succumbed to. After all, “There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do.”
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Skit

 

#Kapil #Sumona #Stage #Comedy
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With the advent of stress & depression becoming mainstream individual problems, comedy artists have had a great run, during prime time, on mainstream Indian TV channels. For the past 10 years, both Kapil Sharma & Sumona Chakravarti have particularly done some seriously funny gigs together, sharing an interesting onscreen chemistry, and managing an exponential rise in their show’s TRP. Their growth story is remarkable, style of comedy arguable, perhaps lacking finesse and subtle sarcasm, the sets admittedly cheesy, yet the flow in their content is undeniably engrossing, concepts original, talent and passion brimming, with Kapil particularly exhibiting a radiating neurological functioning, with his spontaneous rants and superb presence of mind and cheer.
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Staged or impromptu skits, admittedly requires a robust neurological functioning, without which the mind seems preoccupied with its habitual worries, and endless routines to enhance one’s effort at surviving.
Kapil & Sumona seem to be doing well in providing some hearty laughs, during prime time, for the Hindi speaking diaspora, with their comedy skits, while the audience seemingly get to relax and be at ease during their performance, unless of course, the dreadful mobile phone honks in between.
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Barring the outrageous uproar of the female judge and Kapil’s occasional nasality, Kapil & Sumona perform a delightful act in this 10 minute gig, being a Maharaja & Maharani.
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