iambetwixt has moved

 

Hello lovely readers and followers!

I am very happy and excited to inform you that this blog has moved to http://ruminatingsundayblogger.blogspot.in/

This move was necessary for personal reasons. But what is important is that you all continue to shower your support, readership and love as always at the new blog too. I am looking forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Love,

iambetwixt

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Are you convinced enough?

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Writing is a compulsive thing for many of us and having been in the blogosphere for quite some time I’ve got a good idea about the struggles and turmoil others like me face. For some the trouble is with the starting, for some with the editing and for some it is commitment to get the writing completed.

As for me, I seem to suffer from the disease of not being convinced ever. Perhaps it has got to do with achieving that standard of perfection I cannot do without that. But it doesn’t take any human more than two years of life to realize that perfection is a total illusion, and thus cannot be attained. It doesn’t stop me from aspiring for it though. So I feel like this little peanut trying to jump of the sphere of the planet just looking at the perfectly lined edge at horizon.

Thus far it has been one endless search for that perfect story to commit to. I do write a lot of short pieces and some fragments of story from a larger novel that I have in mind but never have I been able to work with conviction with one story. After having reflected on this quite a bit, I find the problem is more to do with my notions of what is good and not than the actual substance that the idea carries.

I have realized I have just come to be one scared explorer. And that completely beats the point of writing which is essentially a process of discovery. Now I look back with admiration and yearning at those early years, where I recklessly wrote absolutely anything that struck me. And those were happy and fulfilling days indeed.

I find I’m not alone on this front for I have heard several artists talk about grappling with the loss of innocence in their art. As you grow and learn more about the details of your art you tend to watch out for them with open eyes. But you are actually shutting out the big picture from view which is the sole motivation and purpose that got you into it. It is a case of losing perspective of sorts I suppose.

I’m trying to cope up with this new inertial halt and hopefully I’ll gain some momentum soon. What with the New Year, there is definitely a lot more to discover and experience to propel my pursuits forward.

And lovely readers tell me; do you suffer from the same problem of trying to attain an illusory standard in your own field? How do you tackle it and get going with your work other than the brute force approach?

Books 2014:The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

This book at first, made for a simple afternoon read with all the beautiful imagery of the country side America. One can go on reveling in the images and indulge in its beauty for a long time. But even as one enjoys the loveliness there hangs about in every page, that intense darkness that only a love gone wrong can produce. Robert James Waller knows his art and well.

And at times one cannot be wrong in wondering if he knew it too well. The novel’s minimalistic grandeur shines bright in less than two hundred pages. In a small country side, a marvelous, charismatic man and a beautiful, sweet married woman fall in love passionately. That’s the story in a nutshell. But Robert’s artistry paints a prismatic picture with pretty much that simple, plain prism of a plot.

It wouldn’t be too fair to call it a plot either. As already mentioned, the writer was definitely writing about something too close to him. This can be gleaned from the fact he was a photographer and musician himself.

This book seen from a critical perspective passes off unscathed for Robert’s writing is fresh and free of mulled crafting techniques. But the story in my opinion walks on a tight rope running the risk of toppling completely over to the side of adultery. The author very strategically gives a disclaimer of sorts right at the beginning, masked in sugar glaze, describing the world as a place full of callous, ungentle people. He writes:

“If however, you approach what follows with a willing suspension of disbelief, as Coleridge put it, I am confident you will experience what I have experienced. In the indifferent spaces of your heart, you may even find, as Francesca Johnson did, room to dance again”

His craft is quite remarkable in that this little prologue cum disclaimer actually fits the bill. And it is the craft alone that I take away from this book, for story didn’t impress me much. Robert Kincaid, the wild and free photographer and philosopher of sorts is nonetheless one of the most charismatic characters ever written but does he truly find a place in the hearts of all readers?

Though the book claims to be a marvelous love story and has been accepted as one, it is not completely be justified. For what is there to be sympathized with a woman with a bad fate and no control over herself. As far as is evident from the story, Robert Kincaid, Francesca’s wild secret, himself seems to sympathize a lot with her dull life. Again, as the plot is prismatic, it depends on the angle at which it is viewed. It is interesting however to note the general the view the world had taken.

Of course, here the question is of good old morality which turned shapeless long time ago. But one can hopefully wish it still lurks deep down in the foundations of society and thereby, certainly in the hearts of some readers.

Agreed, her husband was a poor platonic lover in the twentieth century and not as dashing as the wise and wild Kincaid. But, can we truly accept this super dooper glorification of the passionate one week holiday of Francesca and Kincaid?

As a person who questions relentlessly the unquestionable only to receive unpalatable answers from society- no. And as a person who marvels at the clever craft of a writer, this one was certainly worth its salt. On a concluding note, the book is indeed of one of those controversial themes but lucky enough to be brought to light at a time such the nineties.

The New Year Post: Wishes, Resolutions, Some gyan, Books to read this month

Happy New Year Folks! Hope y’all have a fantastic year, twenty fourteen! 😀

Come New Year and everyone starts making those little personal and not so personal resolutions. I am not going to debate about it, for I have accepted human kind for what it is and most importantly its typical specimen- ME 😉

But I can always safely share with you some goals I’ve set for myself. I also happen to know really well that human kind’s got no time today to read a huge essay about my goals. So here’s a little list of those not-so-personal things I want to accomplish this year(in no particular order)

? Write THAT novel!

? Blog once every WEEK!

? Be more PRO social media and have fun!

? Read 30 books (Thank you. I know. I appreciate that you are a pragmatic little fellow Earthling too ^-^)

? INDULGE less in those guilty pleasures( 😦 And, don’t ask what. I ain’t gonna let anyone know THAT!! Except maybe when I’m 80 and famous and people really badly want an autobiography)

? Try new things. Feel liberated.

I have my fingers crossed about all this happening given the calls of the hectic second decade of the 21st century life(That should explain the choice of bulleting style, dear Reader) I don’t know if you’ve realized but it just dawned on me that my list sort of resembles a very possible list by a wrinkled, warm septuagenarian. And let me tell you I have ten more than two scores to get there!

Anyway, some of us are like that. We value these little things in life a lot more than others and it gives us joy unspeakable when we can steal some time off our busy schedules to enjoy them.

If you are a little hesitant about taking the step yourself I advise you to introspect a bit about it this year. After all, “What is this life if full of care”. Good old Davies is a comfort and inspiration any time of your life. As are the Brontes, Alcott, Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Longfellow, Gaskett, Frost… So make it a point to read this year folks. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself in my opinion.

I’m done now, being the responsible fellow Earthling sharing with all you wonderful people some thoughts I felt worth spreading on New Year’s Day.

In other news, I hit the library first thing after my prayers to grab some reads to keep be pleasantly occupied this lovely January. My haul consists of a book I’m super excited to read, a book I’ve been meaning to read for two years, a book I think I’ll thoroughly enjoy and a book by an author with a magical bent of writing.

Here they are, in the order introduced above.

~The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Collen McCullough ~If It is Sweet by Mridula Koshy ~ The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller ~ The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

~The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Collen McCullough
~If It is Sweet by Mridula Koshy
~ The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
~ The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

I have a thing for design and embellishments. Though I don’t chose my books by their covers I can’t help but admire and fawn over  pretty looking covers. Would you look at the cover of the The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet! It’s just too pretty, and I’m sure I’m going to keep turning over to the cover every now and then as I read!

~The pretty front cover of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. For those of you acquainted with the Bennets, I wonder when plain Mary turned so dashing! Maybe McCullough will be able to explain! ^-^

~The pretty front cover of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. For those of you acquainted with the Bennets, I wonder when plain Mary turned so dashing! Maybe McCullough will be able to explain! ^-^

Alright lovely people, enjoy your New Year Celebrations, stay safe, stay happy, keep reading, keep visiting my blog! 🙂

P.S: If you have been a long time follower of my writing from my previous blogs too and if you are wondering at this rather flippant style of writing, blame the cheesy old Mr. Betteredge from The Moonstone.

Dicovering Translated works

I somehow never got around to reading translations much. It was something I had given very little thought to. But strangely, I just realized that there’s always a copy of one translated work on my desk. It is a book I go to whenever I have a hard time whipping my wild side down. Bhagavad Gita by Mani Rao has been with me for about two years now and I have found utmost solace from its substance.

Credit: manirao.com

But I have been completely blind to the fact that it is a translation and by far the best one I’ve ever read. While I did love it for it was I never really gave it credit for the kind of quality it has as a translation. The Bhagavad Gita, the mammoth dialogue between the charismatic super hero Lord Krishna and his friend and warrior in distress, offers a highly spiritual path to success and mental peace to those will read with open mind. It is a bundle of lessons, a wonderful poem captured live while Krishna advises his friend Arjuna, in 18 chapters. And translating it into an easily readable form for today’s audience isn’t easy at all.

And this is exactly what Mani Rao has done. I love the fresh presentation of the Gita yet it encompasses the crux of the matter. What is even more striking is the fact that even after reading it over and over it still appeals to me. The most important words are strung together in a certain way for impact and as it turns out that is exactly what a reader of today needs as a go-to after a taxing and strenuous day. Mani Rao tells that this is a deliberate effort and I commend on this novelty of thought. It is certainly not easy to translate The Gita and in a completely new format too. So, I am so happy to own a copy of this book though it is quite appalling on my side to have not acknowledged this earlier! I guess we do take things that we have very close to us for granted.

And this got me thinking about uncovering more translations that are out there. Being a non-native English speaker and writer, this makes a lot of sense and again I really wish this had occurred to my mish-mashy head sooner. It would definitely be a whole new experience reading about the native in a foreign language and I am excited about what all I will uncover. It is quite strange that I should discover my own nativity through a second eye but that’s how it is right. The world is one global village and the love of my life, English rules the roost for many a reason. The popular Indian journalist, Barkha Dutt once remarked that we do indeed dream in English and I couldn’t agree more. For I grew up with Heidi in the mountains of Swiss and loathed her fresh cheese and milk as while I had my everyday Indian breakfasts just as any kid in an English country would have.

When I started out writing stories I always a faced grave problem while naming my characters. I wondered how I should name my characters. I suppose a bit of the identity crisis in me just popped out during those times. However that stage has passed thankfully and I can now safely name my characters as the plot requires.

And as I typed this post, I also remembered how much I enjoyed reading No one writes to the colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marqueez which was a translated work too! It is a heart breaking story of an old colonel who lives with his sick, old wife in a dilapidated house mourning the death of their son all the while waiting for that letter which can give them some financial relief. The story is so fresh in memory and all the credit goes to the translator, J.S.Bernstein.

There’s much beauty in a well translated work for it offers a convenient view of the inside story of a nation,its people,their stories, dreams and aspirations to the outsider. But in my case, I think I am first going to discover those little things that have gone without notice in my own turf through these translations.

All that said, now I have given myself so many reasons not to hold up that last bit of balance in my account for indulging in some translated works.

New media and the lessons it teaches

English: Chris Anderson is the curator of the ...

English: Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference Français : Chris Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Listening to lectures or classes at school is touted to be the most droll activity imaginable by students all over the planet. It is not uncommon to see children and teenagers being flogged, bribed or advised to attend their classes. Yet it is fascinating to take one cursory glance at facebook and twitter feeds and find them brimming with links to one particular series of talks. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that “All links lead to TED”.

        These talks have a humongous audience and with the aforementioned social media tools they often go nothing less than viral. It made me wonder how countless number of my friends, who are students still, willfully listen to these talks which are essentially lectures too. And that too in an age where the ADH (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity) Disorder grimaces menacingly upon our civilization?

        The answer lies in this very fundamental human faculty. The brain. It is arguably the only machine for which we don’t have an easily accessible manual book to tell its working. But research suggests that teenagers to adults have an attention span of forty minutes, which is a lot of minutes by the TED standards! Most of these talks are less than twenty minutes but at the same time assure the listeners that they will get something solid to take back at the end. As against the standard school or college schedules which see any class span less than fifty to sixty minutes as blasphemous. One may argue against this on one of these lines: The time needed for roll calls, the overheads caused by a group of truants and unforeseen visitors, etc. But I can safely tell there wouldn’t be any need for roll calls or dealing with disinterested students if the educational system took this small cue in terms of the time allotted per class.

        Then comes the bittersweet blessing in the form of that learned Physics teacher who loves to teach but often hops on board a train of unconnected information bits related to that one word “Gravity” acquired meticulously over twenty years of decking the back of his name with alphabets. Now I do not have anything against all those veterans with those countless degrees and PhDs. I salute you for your quest to get to the bottom of it all and where would civilization be without doyens like you? But spare the young ones those ten minutes of time and get straight to the point, that gravity, simply put, brings things down. As such there’s much disquiet about the “slumber factor” of many teachers that some students are seriously deliberating on replacing human teachers with robots. It would be a win-win situation if only people understood that crispness of delivery is as important as the content being delivered. And this can potentially prevent a lot of heartache too for there would be less chances of finding a student confusing “gravity” with “envy”. Both have equal potential to bring things down.

        It was quite revelatory to note a sworn fan of the TED talks telling me that she hadn’t listened to this very famous talk by Mallika Sarabhai on feminism! How could she suppose to have not missed any of the talks if she hadn’t listened to this one? Of course, I should have known. Why would an aspiring Miss India even be bothered about things like, ‘Beauty isn’t skin deep’ and ‘I am beautiful because I am a woman’… In one of his TED talks, Ken Robinson reminds us of a sadly forgotten fact- that humans are organic beings and not mechanistic. But that our current systems of education rest on this misconception of the process of learning being an industrial one.

          Policy makers and benefactors involved in the educational framework feel that increasing the number of engineering, medical and management institutions would lead to more number of professionals and hence lead to a better country. But it is important to consider that the mere burgeoning of access to something is never an end to achieving efficiency. It is the method that matters. Clichéd though the thought is, it will help if we go beyond just merely nodding at truth and letting the cause for most of our problems be attributed to amnesia.

           Some people enjoy the process of differentiating a cosine theta by first principles and some are comfortable when they are recognized to be ‘a bunch of Cambridge ladies’ by the Mathematics Professor and put in a Literature class. And some love both like my Cummings quoting born psychologist of a Mathematics professor himself! While it is okay for a child to prefer strawberry flavored ice creams to butterscotch and to top it with pistachio shreds rather than chocolate sprinkles, they naturally dislike the freedom to choose their subjects of interest snatched away from them. (And which is also the simple reason why I felt the burning desire to pen this down albeit before an exam) We need a system where choice overrules force of any kind, be it from the system’s front or the personal front. Take the example of ‘coursera’. Its popularity is purely because of the interest-centric approach. And more importantly anyone who takes a course there seriously does it solely for the knowledge gain for no one gets a degree at the end of it. And this is very important lesson indeed. People will commit themselves to learning if it if it is presented to them in the right format.

            Freedom is the heartbeat of learning, I would say. On a concluding note, I have this to say. There’s much that the new media can inspire in the minds of youngsters explicitly but it would greatly benefit the harbingers of tomorrow’s great future if we cared to learn from the lessons it teaches implicitly gauging by its reach and impact to implement changes constructive to the structure of prevalent systems of teaching.

Dissecting Karma I: The scientific angle

A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings.

This profound statement by Sam Harris, a neuroscience expert and prolific writer, really struck a deep chord in me. In his marvelous little book ‘Free Will’ he slams that free will is a non-existent thing! As any normal human in this era where liberalism in all its diverse forms happens to be one of the most highly held views, I felt stumped. My main counter went like this: When “my brain” chooses to do something how can that not be free will?

And Sam’s went like this:

How can we be “free” as conscious agents if every thing that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware? We can’t. To say that “my brain” decided to think or act in a particular way, whether consciously or not, and that this is the basis for my freedom is to ignore the very source of belief in free will: the feeling of conscious agency.

Whether I agreed with Sam or not at that time was of little importance. For there was something more striking than the question of free will that his argument sparked off in me. How many of us look at ourselves or perceive or consciously feel that we are biological units? Most of us do. But primarily unconsciously for we take our “free wills” too seriously. And of course in a manner far from the truth.

I was fine with the general theory that if my “my” brain decides for me then I am happily a “free willing” person. Until Sam’s counter point that “every thing that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend”

Our brain has a lot more to do with our identities than we think and in ways which most of us don’t understand. My brain may choose to accept or discard the notion of free will and this decision was taken much before I even consciously remember making such a decision. This experiment that Sam describes can throw more light if you are confounded by my previous statement.

“… More recently, direct recordings from the cortex showed that the activity of merely 256 neurons was sufficient to predict with 80 percent accuracy a person’s decision to move 700 milliseconds before he became aware of it”

So what if my brain knows what I am going to before I am consciously aware of it? It is still “my” brain right?

No. What influences your brain to act or choose in a particular way entirely depends upon previous experiences over which “you” had no control over! This was another profound thing to ponder over.

I found extreme gratification when Sam talks about how some neuroscientists and biologists take the “quantum indeterminacy” in the way neurons work to pave way for “self-generated” thoughts that can prove scientifically the existence of free will. But Sam argues and argues rightly, “…if certain of my behaviors are truly the result of chance, they should be surprising even to me. How would neurological ambushes of this kind make me free?”

At the bottom of it, Sam doesn’t dump the idea of “free will” for no reason. According to Sam, by understanding how we act in a way we do, we correct the things that go wrong by knowing the actual cause for it and by not just relying on the notion of the illusory “free will”( He also proves that thinking of “free will” as an illusion is an illusion by itself! He is truly a delightful writer and scientist to read!)

He says, “Becoming sensitive to the background causes of one’s thoughts and feeling can- paradoxically- allow for greater creative control over one’s life” As an example he explains a  little situation which most of us can relate to. The cause for your bad mood may just be low blood levels and you may just be in need of some food. So you can definitely avoid tormenting your wife with your temper! Now more than one mishap is avoided- one, you can satiate your hunger needs; two, you don’t give your wife the chance to attribute your otherwise rash humor to your “free will” which will show your personality in some very crude light!

This fact can be extended to cases of moral responsibilities and crimes as well. On understanding the direct involvement of our brains and its past experiences we can eliminate cases of deliberate acts of crimes from acts where the offender is himself a “victim” as Sam explains through various interesting examples. Now this is where I was constantly interrupted by the sundry bits of theories I have heard and tried to understand about Karma, a typical eastern(Indian) theory on man, his actions and its consequences.

When I started off with the book I was sure I wouldn’t agree with Sam. And even as I started off this article I was not even fifty percent sure of colluding to Sam’s arguments. But at the end of all this pondering this line stays with me: A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings.

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I do believe this book changed the way I really thought about “free will”, my choices and decisions. Or it has at least made me think in deeper lines on the same. Has any book had a similar influence on you? How and why?

Namaste!

There are so many wondrous thoughts bursting forth already aching to be told. Yet I’ll hold my leashes for the moment and establish my hold here at this brand new little corner of the world wide web.

Here goes the little story of how this began. It was neath a twilit sky that the seed for this blog sprouted like all the other wondrous thoughts that are born. The Beginning.

So, why ictuate about the twilight? Well, the splendid azure of the sky at twilight, according to this dreamy writer, is the most special time of the day. The hour of transition is a marvelous one to observe for new dimensions of the mundane come to light.

However unearthly affairs may be at day or at night it is under the mystical garb of the twilight that resolutions arise. I use this metaphor for my blog, for it is to carry the thoughts of the mind that arise in its hour of twilight.

About the writer:

I live to write and hopefully someday I can write to live. I often listen and more often want to say something. I believe that discoveries and ironies are a way of life. But neath it all, I suppose, the twilight of my mind has so far inferred only humor. Pure cosmic humor.

I intend to share these delectable little gallimaufry of thoughts with all you wonderful readers out there. And another thing. When I am not foraging my neurons I read to feed them. And mind you, they are very hungry little things. So I end up spending a lot of my time for their nutrition. So you can also expect to hear about the books and any other form of the written word quite often.

So, there! It’s all established now…