Many winters pass me by

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.

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2014 in Reading

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 🙂