The Idiotic Villager The Idiotic Villager The Idiotic Villager

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The strings that make us dance...

"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
-Master Oogway (The Turtle in Kung Fu Panda)

Are we part of some bigger plan that we cannot perceive with our limited faculties?
Are we really in control of our lives?
Do we all have a pre-determined destiny?
Is there some higher agency controlling and coordinating our every move, choreographing life as we know it?

These questions creep up on you like the stalker wearing rubber soles, who sent you thirteen of her eyelashes last week and has been following you around and pretending to be talking on the phone when you turn around. They seem mostly harmless, but are always at the back of your mind, just sulking around like cultist kids in the dark corners, making everybody uncomfortable. So I've decided to call them out into the light and confront them head on.

I would like to assure everyone concerned that I have not gone off my rocker, at least not any further than I previously was. Which means that I am looking for possible scientific and logical answers to these seemingly unanswerable questions.

Some lives, when taken individually, seem to have been scripted like a blockbuster movie. Be it a story of impossible luck or of unthinkable tragedy, there are always examples that make you want to think that there is actually some mighty being pulling the strings. This is where statistics come in though. If we look at the whole of humanity in general, it is inevitable that a few in almost 7 billion lives should have such a choreographed quality.

Still, is it possible for forces beyond our control to influence our day-to-day activities? Well, obviously a large meteor crashing into the earth and wiping out all human life would be out of our control, but I don't think that qualifies as influencing day-to-day life as there would be no such thing left afterwards. 

Let us explore now the not-so-obvious forces, like temperature. We have all felt cranky or happy depending on whether the room temperature is within our comfort zone or not. I distinctly remember instances where I yelled at everyone in a room for no apparent reason and then realized that it was just because the air was too hot. Clearly, climate can affect our moods and hence the way we behave and consequently our actions and hence our destiny. Come to think of it, I'd probably be a Nobel laureate by now if not for global warming. Don't look at me like that! We can blame global warming for everything nowadays. She just takes it like the little bitch that she is.

What about celestial objects? Like planets and stars and constellations? We can clearly see the influence of the Sun and Moon on the tides. Is it not possible that all the celestial entities have a similar influence on our blood streams? Biological science believes that small changes in the status of our blood can have drastic effects on our mind. So is it not possible that astrology does indeed have some basis? Yes, it is very much possible that our moods and hence our destiny is indeed influenced by everything in the universe that has mass. (Thank you Sir Isaac Newton.) But to think that we can actually predict the effect of these forces by looking at star charts is utter nonsense. I have no doubt that as science grows, so will our understanding and control of these forces. At least we will be able to find some way to shield ourselves from them if not manipulate them. Till then we are at their mercy, and at the mercy of innumerable other similar forces. In fact, there is a very good chance such forces when combined actually cancel each other out thereby letting us be masters of our own destinies.

What I have said above does not support the existence of god. Yes, there may be forces beyond our control or understanding that can influence us, but this does not mean they are intelligent forces. It also does not mean that these forces will forever be uncontrollable. As long as these forces follow the laws of physics (the only system of laws that applies to our universe), we will eventually understand and tame them. This effectively takes care of god, as god does not follow the laws of physics, or any known system of laws, and hence is an impossibility in our universe.

In conclusion, although it may seem on the surface that we are indeed being controlled, it is just an illusion we use to abstract out the otherwise maddening complexity of interrelated agents that effect each others.

Translation: We are fooling ourselves.

Please feel free to air your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The chains we bind ourselves in

Prejudice: A preconceived opinion or feeling, usually unfavourable.

Every human being is prejudiced. Yes, even Jesus. Yes, he was a human being. No, virgin births are not possible and this particular one was definitely faked. Now that I have taken my usual stab at religion, I can peacefully proceed with my post.

Most of us have experienced being on the receiving end of prejudice. Some common ones follow:

1. Religious prejudice: All Muslims are terrorists; all Jews are crazy about money; all Christians have an IQ less than 50; all Hindus are tree-hugging hippies... the list is never ending.

2. Economic prejudice: All poor people are criminals/thieves/good for nothing; all rich people are cold-hearted; all middle-class people are suck-ups... once again, a long and tedious list.

3. Prejudice based on Jobs: Lawyers have no souls, undertakers are damned for eternity, butchers like murder, candlestick makers enjoy stuffing candles in body cavities... It's starting to get ridiculous now.

4. Prejudice based on body weight: All fat people are lazy. Oh yea, this is a prejudice too! As Eric Cartman will tell you with no lack of profanity, "I am not fat, I have big bones!"

5. Prejudice based on age: All kids are stupid; all old people are senile; all grown-ups have obsolete knowledge... I once met a 10 year old who challenged me to a game of chess and proceeded to swiftly hand me my ass.

The list goes on and on. Most prejudices have no basis in fact and are just ways people use to try and hold on to their irrational beliefs. Quite a few of these prejudices are even harmless, although a lot are harmful and hinder the smooth function of our world; but some, a select few, are actually useful.

Consider this one: All cannibals will eat you if they get the chance.
An unsuspecting adventurer who, by some chance, is not aware of this would happily unzip his pants for a beautiful woman who offers him lip-service in the jungle and be deprived of a vital extremity in the process.

Although I have now forgotten the point I was originally trying to make, I'll make one anyway. It is that although prejudices may seem to be mostly harmful, it is not so. Indeed, many prejudices are based in some facts and help people to be prepared while going into unknown and possibly hostile environments. The fact that some prejudices have stood the test of time does to some extent show that they are useful, if not in a productive way, at least in a fun way. 

I am prejudiced too. My favourite prejudice is religious in nature. I absolutely believe that every single person that believes in god is stupid. They may hide it behind layers of apparent intelligence and pseudo-rational thought processes but at the core, every single theist is cuckoo, stark raving man. Why? Now that's a topic for another post which is currently clogging up my metal pipeline.

Until next time then,
Stay happy, stay prejudiced.