The more I try to know things, the more I realize how little I know.
Lately, I have been thinking about returning to blogging. But up until now I could not get myself to write anything specifically to blog. The truth is, I don’t know what to blog about anymore, as I have lost interest in all the things I used to write about and I have been curling into more and more complex knots inside myself so that it is becoming more and more difficult to be coherent and sensible about anything in particular. When I stopped blogging effectively, my desire for all the things which had kept me going for two years enthusiastically – page views, comments, connections, had finally died after a long decline as I felt more and more disgusted with myself and a majority of people in the blogosphere who had deeply misplaced notions about blogging. The more blogs and the more content I saw, the more insistently the question came in my mind-why do we blog?
Why do we blog? The quick, and right, answer would be – to be heard. But as we observe the evolution of the world of blogosphere, the answers get more and more complex. (Whatever I am saying here is quite obvious and not an exposition of a hidden truth). Blogs used to be individual voices with a platform, with content for people in general or for a specific section of people. As blogs got more and more popular, the content-audience equation began to change. Earlier, the existence of ideas, content and creativity demanded audience and necessitated development of a platform. As the platform or the system ensuring the meeting of the content and the consumer subsumes the values previously stored in the content, content-audience equation changes. And since the value-system of the platform derives from consumer engagement – traffic, page views, likes, comment, subscription and sharing soon dominated. Consumption soon became the dominating variable in the equation of creation-dissemination-consumption. Previously it was: “I have something interesting, I should share it with people”. Then it became: “people want to consume something interesting, I should do/create/write something like that and share it”. The body of the blog post soon becomes unimportant; to widen its readership what becomes important are the post-mortem done on it called SEO, inserting keywords, flooding of tags and labels, and sharing it across all platforms with shameless self-promotion. Before I inevitably say something about social media, I would just like to add that this phenomenon is not limited to various modes of individual self-expression only. All kinds of websites which create content for readers and viewers work according to this phenomenon. Even startups over time are no more the visions of geniuses but late-comers jumping on the bandwagon. The individual consciously/unconsciously starts searching for an idea around which she can build a startup. What lies at the end of it all? Profit motive, of course. But that is to be expected, so no surprises. All this is distortion of the content-consumer equation where content has been relegated to the margins. But the rise of social media has changed the name of the game. The equation is rendered irrelevant. The dichotomy of content and consumer is shattered and transformed into an endless orgy of creation and consumption. Social media stands on three pillars: Consumerism, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism. It is one giant leap towards the perfection of the art form of consumption, the perfect capitalism dream. Interestingly, consumer-oriented production runs counter to one of the apostles of capitalism, Ayn Rand. She would rather force people to consume what genius-billlionaire-playboy-philanthropists of her novels produce for the moral uplifting of the human civilization. However the cycle of production-consumption is central to both conceptions of capitalism; indeed, the whole system itself.
I have strayed far away from the main topic. Coming back to it, all the drivel I wrote above is the reason I gradually got disillusioned with blogging. I wanted attention and recognition, first for content, then through likes, comment, subscriptions and page-views. Now I don’t understand why I was interested enough in all kinds of miscellaneous stuff to write blog posts on it. Maybe it was genuine interest, maybe the result of trying to write more and reach more people. Eventually, I grew tired of it all, and stopped craving empty attention, and forgot about writing itself.
Then why have I returned? Because I can’t forget the simple joy that publishing a blog post gives. Beneath all the reader-baiting, design-flaunting, there is something simple and attractive about writing whatever you want, without the pressure of it being ‘literary’, and talking about and discussing content with people in a more meaningful manner than on social media. As for the second attraction, there might not be any such communities on blogosphere anymore(this is me being too cynical) or they may be too self-contained to be untraceable. But the joy of writing is still there, the freedom of no-pressure writing (though this is easier said than done, as I am aware of a lot of restraints working on me even as I write it).
My desires this time are somewhat contrary to the desires I had when I started blogging. I no longer wish to be popular, or become a small-time internet celebrity(which is the maximum that bloggers can usually aspire to), or an internet rebel or visionary/philosopher through my blog. I am a nobody and wish to remain a nobody, writing in my own way and primarily for my own pleasure. I say primarily because if I didn’t want anyone to read it, I would not have posted it at all. I do want it to be read by people who, like me, are away from the hustle-bustle of the parade on the highway of the internet, and like to write and talk about stuff they like or are concerned with in a simple manner. I hope I find some of them, but even if I don’t, it is perfectly alright.
P.S. – This post in no way implies that I will write regularly from now on. I hope I do.
A line of mercury separates us
What is it? A gulf, an abyss?
Is it her name, or his face?
Or the coming fork on the road?
We struggle, to find our feet
To bridge the gap, to meet
We meet, we part
In the chiaroscuro of our art
And when we part again,
Bearing shards of incomplete pain
I write mediocre poetry, hiding
From the mocking prose, brazen and bold
Hours on the internet
Sucked dry; out of mouth,
out of eyes, fingers creaking
Bent, unused, joints aching
Viral videos, Somebody’s top 10,
Amateur porn, crash course
Pop trash overdose imminent
Sign up if only 18 years of age, or more
Reality blurs along burning paper
Of an unfinished cigarette
n-th of an unending stream
Moving closer, to the bright light
Hazy eyes trace patterns
Among light and dark
Dazed minds stumble
Along a crowded, deserted walk
Facing the absurd
Reveling in the blinding glare
The beautiful revolt from the real
Till it turns into a nightmare
If you think I really love you
And is it cruel of me
To think that I do,
But suspect that I don’t,
And still go on living smoothly,
With kisses interspersed in between.
The days are lengthening now. Nights are getting shorter and noisier.
Another winter is passing away.
I wait for winter every year, more than any other season. For me, winter evokes images of silence, solitude, scribblings, the surreal, the spiritual, and everything unreal and fantastic. Other seasons are a festival of life, an expression of joy that is life. Winters signify something that is beyond life, something that is inside, and at the same time out of this world. When the noise and clamour of the real recedes into the distance, you are free to unfold and expand your inner world, let loose, dive long and deep inside.
However, as each year gives way to the next, life presses on inexorably, relentlessly. Reality demands attention. More attention than the last year. First there are fantasies, joy(borrowed from Christmas cartoons), and an enchanting sense of a wonderful world. Then the joy fades away, but fantasies remain, fantasies of love long lost and regained, warmth in a lonely cold winter. Slowly even the warmth fades away, and fantasies shape into dreams nurtured deep in the heart, yet to come to the surface. Silence and solitude become the refuge from the unceasing din of life.
Still later, reality breaks the shell in the end, buries the dreams, and forces the winter out of the mind. Winter departs, taking whatever remains of the fantastic with it, and all you are left with is a cold weather, which meant something to you, but you can’t quite catch the feeling now. Days are spent in air-conditioned cuboids of factories, maufacturing bits and pieces of distorted reality. Nights are spent eating junk food and cigarettes, and testosterone fuelled entries into dens of desire, where noise is used as a mask to hide the hideous awkwardness of reality facing its own ugliness. Reality begets reality. And it feeds on itself to produce more, deformed, variants of reality.
Next morning, back to work. Manufacture reality. Buy reality. Consume and flaunt reality. Lust for this reality. Fear sleep, silence and solitude, for there is nothing to fill the void in the absence of reality.
There are no winters, no springs and no autumns in this world.
I usually have very bleak judgements about my past actions, or the lack of them, whenever I look back at them. In an annual masochistic affair, I got down to summarize the last year in a review of sorts and pronounce some apocalyptic judgement on myself on 1st January. It went as expected. I proved to be a worthless scum, who did nothing towards his own advancement or development, who frittered away eons worth of time in wasteful thinking(not even wasteful action!), and that I should commit hara-kiri before wasting another second. After my self-disgust was out of the system, I made some motivating notes about the coming year. I hope I won’t be looking at them by the end of the year, cursing myself using the same old vocabulary. It has gotten boring with years.
The year was not so horrible in terms of reading. In fact, not at all. I read a decent amount of 42 books, which I am proud of, considering I read 54 last year(with six months of absolute freedom at my hands) which was my max output. Sometimes I get these pangs of jealousy looking at my super-human Goodreads friends completing challenges of 100+ books every year. But I’ve gotten tired of concerning myself too much with numbers. Stats, stats, stats. Raise your consciousness above such mundane temptations, O aspiring Buddha. Anyways, I can not, and should not, try to challenge myself to such stupendous targets. I will end up getting spondylitis much sooner than expected, which would be a worse outcome than reading filler/self-help books and forgetting them as soon as I completed them.
Also, maybe, just maybe, I’ve found The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in 2014 😉
Now time for some highlights of 2014 in reading:
Flow: The Psychology of optimal experience – Arguably the best self-help book I have ever read, if I can stretch the definition to include this book in the genre. Extremely balanced, based on psychological research, and never overstating its goals and conclusions, this book carefully lays down the author’s experiences and views on human psychology of happiness. It’s a non-economist perspective, which was big plus, since the economic perspective on human psychology, it’s quirks, predictions and indices on happiness, satisfaction and success is the new craze nowadays, inspired and influenced by the likes of Daniel Kahnemann, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Dan Ariely and others. Mihaly Chicks-sent-me-highly is an unassuming author, who speaks with experience and maturity. There are no shortcuts, there are no quick-fixes for your problems regarding happiness. It’s a question of attitude and outlook. There is no secret ingredient.
Anna Karenina – Finally got to read this masterpiece by Leo Tolstoy. Thank you Jaundice and Influenza for giving me a one-month holiday. Wrote my thoughts at length about this bad boy(or girl?) for fear of forgetting why I loved it 2 years hence the way I have forgotten why I loved The Devils and Notes from The Undergound.
Fight Club – Watching a movie multiple times is just not enough.*Tyler Durden voice-over* If you are an obsessed fan, you have to read *Tyler Durden voice-over ends*. The lack of visual badass-ery is compensated for by the narrative, jumping unpredictably from first-person to third-person to bird’s eye to mind’s eye, covering everything that matters and more. It was an excruciating experience, being bred on the movie’s platter-served awesomeness, but an amazing pleasure nonetheless.
An End to Suffering – Finally, read Pankaj Mishra. I was, and still am, fascinated by the man even before reading his works. I was not disappointed. A lot more to read now.
Thinking, Fast and Slow – A giant in behavioral economics and psychology. Reading it was slow, and got slower. It is a book to be savored, and not rushed through. A work of a lifetime by the author.
Philosophy – I got all excited once again about philosophy around September. Read three extremely good introductory books on philosophy. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Edward Craig, What Does It All Mean? by Thomas Nagel, The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. Excellent books. Think by Simon Blackburn is one important introductory book still pending. Anyone wishing to practice their swimming thoroughly in shallow waters before diving in the deep sea should read these books. I think I will understand more of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance now if I read it. Can’t be very sure though.
Stranger in a Strange Land – For long, I confused Robert Heinlein with the founder of Scientology. Stupid me. Kept me from reading this awesome book. This is not sci-fi, this is a document on humanity thinly wrapped in sci-fi plot. I strongly recommend reading it if you’re planning to watch or have already watched PK. If you grok it, congrats water-brother!
The Postman Always Rings Twice – After devouring Wikipedia pages of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett over an infatuation with hard-boiled fiction, I ended up reading this mad piece by James M. Cain. Absolutely loved it.
Cobalt Blue – Brave piece by Sachin Kundalkar, National Award-winning director. What more, this mature and subtle novel, was written by him at the age of 21. I had the pleasure to listen to him at Jaipur Lit Fest 2014.
The Idiot – The last great piece by Dostoyevsky that was pending for reading. There are a lot of things I still need to understand and absorb more fully in this novel. Maybe on a second reading.
You see, not bad at all! Quite amazing in fact. I should not castigate myself unnecessarily over wasted years when there are this many good books to read. Until next year, perhaps.
Wishing all of you an awesome 2015 in reading. May you cross all your perceived boundaries, and reached unprecedented heights, in life as well as in reading. Happy new year 🙂