The Writer’s Block Conspiracy

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One of the many creative urges, it’s far from many though, that I started getting lately is writing. People usually tend to get creative under extreme pressure, exceptional circumstances, a flash within or pure in-born talent. However, for someone like me who is exceptionally sedate, laid back, perpetually short of ideas and with a distinct lack of initiative, it’s a kind of mystery. Nevertheless, I sat down to write and that itself was an achievement. But that’s how far I went! Suddenly the enthusiasm, thoughts and ideas(as if I had many) went dry like a solitary tap in the middle of Sahara. But I was not giving up so easily. My mind frantically scrambled to look for ideas, past experiences, my interests, trending topics and anything under the sun! I closed my eyes trying to summon the thoughts within, then looked here and there and finally burned few calories pacing up and down the house. But all I got was vast emptiness, like deep space, finite but unbounded. Like a car with critically low battery, the thought engine would just not kick in.

writers-blockFinally I decided to take recourse to what else, Google! I searched for topics to write and was flooded with hundreds of topics, techniques and writer’s block. What I was experiencing was essentially a writer’s block. At some point of time or the other, every writer had or still has writer’s block. So now I gleefully shifted the blame on this phenomenon and restored my self-esteem. Usually am not inquisitive, but decided to take a deep dive. Soon I found out there was tons and tons of data or research on writer’s block. There are thousands of pages written about what are the common blocks and how to overcome them. The more I searched, the more I started getting lost. I kept opening new tabs and windows for different blocks and the ways to overcome them. The RAM on my laptop was now getting suffocated and my head was getting hazy.

There were so many types of writer’s blocks like not being able to come up with an idea, not able to build upon that idea if any, you have an outline but cannot get started, you are in the middle of a plot and don’t know what happens next, you simply get bored with your characters, you keep imagining that people would not like your story, you can’t think of right words to convey the idea, you have a great story lined up but suddenly go numb, you think you are good in a topic of your interest but just can’t write anything significant about it, you are revising your work but can’t seem to get past the blocks, phew!! The list goes on and on and there are equal number of ways listed out to get past them. From the search results and the amount of content written on this phenomenon, am smelling a conspiracy to blow the problem out of proportion and prevent budding writers like me to write. Even there are forums where people are ever ready to dish out advise on how to overcome the block. The more you search ways to get around the problem, the more you get entangled and finally after sometime you forget what kind of block you had and end up getting totally disillusioned.

They have created a whole industry out of this writer’s block with many books, articles, blogs, support forums and what not. Am all the more convinced about the writer’s block conspiracy but hey, I just got an idea to start a conspiracy theory series similar to what Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota had.

Feeling Small in a Big Cosmos 03: Proverbs

Putting things in a perspective.

Write Science

by Shane L. Larson

On 19 April 1610, Johannes Kepler wrote an open letter to Galileo Galilei, musing on possible future voyages that would allow explorers — human explorers — to see what Galileo’s telescope had shown.  He mused that some day inventors might “provide ship or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will not fear even that void.” Kepler called on Galileo to join him in preparing the way for those so0n to be travellers, and create a new science to light their way: astronomy.

Yuri Gagarin and the Vostok 1 launch on 12 April 1961. Yuri Gagarin and the Vostok 1 launch on 12 April 1961.

It was almost exactly 351 years before Kepler’s speculations were realized — on 12 April 1961 the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space. In a flight that lasted only 108 minutes, Gagarin orbited the Earth in a capsule bearing the callsign Kedr (“

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Arial Super Highways

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Recently, British Airways passengers flying from New York to London were pleasantly surprised to arrive at their destination, one and half hours earlier than the scheduled time. No, the aircraft did not have more powerful engines neither did it take a shortcut. It was just lucky enough to ride a powerful jet stream! In spite of all the abuse heaped upon her, mother nature is generous enough to offer this gift to the aviation industry. Jet streams are fast flowing currents or streams of air usually found anywhere between 23000 ft to 52000 ft above sea level. A jet stream is usually thousands of kilometers long, few hundred kilometers wide and few kilometers thick. The most natural question would be how and why they occur. Well, they are formed when two masses of air with substantial temperature contrast meet. Now the air does not flow from the high temperature mass to the low temperature mass. Instead, it flows along the boundary of the air masses due to the Coriolis effect.

jetstream-110512 (1)There are two types of jet streams. The polar jets are the stronger ones found between altitudes of 23000 ft and 39000 ft. The subtropical jets are the weaker ones found between altitudes of 33000 ft and 52000 ft. The northern and southern hemispheres have their own polar and subtropical jets. The speed of the jet stream depends on the temperature gradient. Greater the temperature difference, greater is the speed. While the average speed is around 110mph, speeds up to 250mph have been recorded. The effects of the jet stream were noticed as early as 1883 when the Krakatoa erupted. The smoke and dust that rose up high into the atmosphere was carried a long way and was tracked over several years. In 1920s, a Japanese meteorologist, Wasaburo Oishi, used balloons to track these winds. The first man to fly solo around the world in 1933, American pilot, Wiley Post, noticed that sometimes his ground speed greatly exceeded his air speed. However, the real understanding of the jet streams is credited to WW II pilots who flew repeated sorties and found tail winds in excess of 100mph.

There is another interesting story about Sir Richard Branson when he and Per Lindstrand successfully attempted flying across the globe in a balloon. When flying across the Pacific, as luck would have it, they had lost two-thirds of the fuel but had another 7000 miles to cover. They had two options, resign to fate and wait to get drowned in the Pacific or try to get into a jet stream and cross the Pacific. Per Lindstrand was an experienced balloonist and they somehow managed to catch a jet stream. However as soon as they got into the Jetstream, the balloon which was more than 6 storeys high rocketed ahead horizontally with the capsule being pulled behind!! The airspeed shot up from 70mph to 230mph! They missed their target landing area, Los Angeles, by 4000 miles and landed up in the Arctic but survived. Also, mountaineers, trying to scale peaks like the Mt. Everest routinely encounter jet streams clocking more than 100mph. They have no option but to stay put in the tents.

The jet stream does affect the climate. In some regions it is known to have caused hurricanes while the Hawaiian Islands have mostly managed to avoid those due to jet streams. While the aviation sector has been using these to cut down on fuel and time, scientists are finding out ways to harness the potential wind energy to generate power. It is estimated that only 1 percent of the wind energy in the jet streams is sufficient to meet the world’s energy needs! However, the technology might take another 15-20 years to develop. The bleak side of the story is, the jet streams are  expected to get weaker as a result of global warming. Hope we learn from our past mistakes and stop messing around with mother nature so that we are able to take advantage of this wonderful phenomenon. Long live the jet stream!

Failure……Really???

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While going through the newspaper today morning, I stumbled upon an article “Bolster your CV with a failure”. Wonder why, of all the news and the articles I chose this one to read. The article was about entrepreneurs who did not succeed in their first shot at what they wanted to do. They initiated startups but due to some reasons did not work out the way they wanted it to. They would be branded as ‘failures’, until now! Like Bob Dylan would say ‘For the times they are a-changin’, times are surely changing and for the better. Some of the big corporate companies are hiring these very people! The reason being, they have been through the rough and tumble of the game. They had the guts to dream and give it shot. They toiled hard with blood and sweat. They’ve seen it and did it all. Do you need any better reason? Remember, things we learn in a ‘failure’ stay with us for the rest of our lives. These corporates want to use precisely this experience and insight in their ongoing battle to gain an upper hand in the market. They feel that these battle hardened men and women are better equipped to handle real world situations than the number crunching wiz kids who have fancy MBA titles. So times have really changed and it is no longer a taboo to fail.

We just keep forgetting the famous examples of people who never gave up. Abraham Lincoln was unsuccessful as a businessman, as a lawyer and even as a politician. Edison’s teachers in school considered him incapable of learning anything! He was fired from his first two jobs and he tried close to 1000 times before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb. Einstein could not read until he was seven. One of his teachers described him as mentally slow, unsociable and forever lost in foolish dreams! Steve Jobs’ attempts to get HP and Atari interested in his personal computer were rejected. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking imagination and good ideas. In 1947, a certain Norma Jean Baker was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because the producer thought she was unattractive and couldn’t act. Amitabh Bachchan was rejected for having a deep baritone by All India Radio and was considered too tall by earlier film makers. Mahatma Gandhi was not successful as a lawyer. One thing is clear from these examples, all the great mean and women had much greater vision, wider horizon and a bigger canvas to paint. Their talent and creativity did not fit into the conventional mold that time. It would be interesting to know what all these men and women who rejected the famous personalities, thought at a later stage once they found out you know what………

After all what we perceive as failure is just something that did not work out as expected or the way we thought or perceived it. Something that did not fit in our narrow conventional frame of mind. Something that did not meet the expectations. So it’s all relative, perceived, not conforming to a set of human made rules. Our society and education has instilled a deep embedded fear of failure in all of us. Or maybe the devil in us derives pleasure in others’ failures. Failures have so far been stigmatized. No credit is given for the intention and the effort. Instead, the focus is on the result. But that should hopefully be changing now. With the society and the corporate world recognizing the intent and the efforts, this could have a positive multiplier effect and people would be encouraged to come up with groundbreaking ideas, innovations and processes, ultimately resulting in a better world. Who knows, the word ‘failure’ may one day be removed from the dictionary.

What dimension are you in….

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In the 1980s, when television made its debut in India, there was a series being telecast called Cosmos by Carl Sagan. For the uninitiated, Carl Sagan was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, author and lot more. Those days, the series was telecast every Sunday. The celebrated astronomer would discuss and explain the intricacies of the solar system, milky way, galaxies, constellations, comets, asteroids and extra dimensions in his own inimitable style. Using groundbreaking special effects, models and simple language, he would make the most complex concepts appear simple even to a layman. I always had the fascination in the concept of dimensions, our existential dimension and the extra dimensions that are supposed to exist. No, am not doing any research or that kind of stuff (nor do I have that capability )but I have “googled” and “you tubed” a lot. References to these can be found in many scientific journals, in Vedanta and even in movies like Interstellar. Scientists still believe that black holes, stargates and wormholes are the gateways to other dimensions or universes. The String theory suggests that there are other parallel universes that co-exist with ours. Theoretically, that means, I could have multiple copies of me existing in other dimensions. Interesting…wonder if my copy in the other dimension is having a better life.

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Tesseract

To get your feet wet, let us go back to Carl Sagan, when he explains the concept of a tesseract to drive home the point of extra dimensions. When we project a square, a two dimensional figure, perpendicular to its sides, we get a cube, a three dimensional figure. The third dimension being the height or depth. Similarly, projecting the cube to the fourth dimension, we get a tesseract. Our existence is limited or bound by the three dimensions. We cannot experience or see the fourth dimension. Here is the video that beautifully explains this concept. Carl Sagan uses an example of a two dimensional “flatland” that has only length and breadth but no height. The inhabitants do not know or experience the third dimension, height. So when a three dimensional entity enters this two dimensional world, it would be only seen as a cross section or some shape. Similarly, we are trapped in our three dimensional world or rather four , the fourth dimension being time. Upgrading to an additional or higher dimension does enhance the capabilities or insights or powers, if you may. For example, if a super entity, that exists in the fifth or sixth dimension, observes your life, it would appear as a tape with frames of you at different points of time. In a single instant that entity would see your past and future! That is the advantage of additional dimensions. It is believed that there are eleven dimensions! So in all probability, God may be an entity that exists in one of those higher dimensions. The question remains, how do we experience or go into other dimensions?  In our scriptures, it is said that Gods, saints and sages would travel to other worlds or “lokas”. Did they have special powers or deep understanding of portals to other worlds? May be they connected with other dimensions through meditation. Do the other dimensions really exist? Are there portals which lead us there?

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Slowly but surely the line between fact and fiction is getting blurred. NASA has discovered portals in the Earth’s magnetic field that connect directly to the Sun’s magnetic field. NASA calls them X points that open and close randomly few times a day and open a path to the Sun’s magnetic field.  It is believed that our three dimensional universe, or at least the way we perceive it, is floating within a multidimensional universe. Imagine if we were able to travel to some other world or dimension through the stargates or wormholes. What if I landed a job in another world where life is much easy and simple. I might as well take my entire family over there and start a new life! Or maybe I could just go for a vacation in another world, spend a few days and come back. The only catch is, those few days should not equal few years on earth else, you can imagine the consequences! Another possibility, if I somehow manage to elevate myself to another dimension, I might get the ability to read other’s thoughts or foresee the future or influence events! The possibilities are endless.

We have just started to scratch the surface and who knows, one day time/interdimensional travel could become a reality and while quoting our address, in addition to the city, state and country fields we might have to add a “dimension” field!

Its All Inside..!

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I came home at 2 am in the morning last night, yes, for me it was still night. After all, isn’t it all relative? After a quick small snack and some water, I hit the bed. This has been my routine since last one and half years. Talk of work life balance! I was woken up by a steady clucking sound of a construction machinery at 0830 in the morning. It has been now been a good seven days since the construction work on an adjacent plot of land has started. I have sort of got used to that sound. Amazing how we adapt to not exactly pleasant situations. The monsoon has just set in and is making its presence felt since last couple of days. Heavens have poured more than 40mm rain since yesterday and still don’t look like easing off.

The morning is damp and hazy and even the refreshing cup of tea has not driven away the sedatory effect of the rains. Just finished reading the newspaper, it’s an old habit. The news about muggings, robbery, agitations and dirty politics has added the “icing” on this morning’s “gloom” cake. Why can’t they report on the sunny side of life? Why can’t I have a cheerful start for the day? Am I going to allow these external situations influence my morning or in the larger context, my life? Unfortunately, most of the times that is the case. Unknowingly, we tend to focus on things that are unpleasant or negative. The mind always “slides down” towards the negative because that is the easiest path, just like water rushing down the gradient. So, if I have to make things better, I have to make a conscious effort to literally “pull up” my mind towards the positive.

Applying that to my morning situation, the unearthly time when I come home, I encounter minimum or no traffic, that really helps. The sound of the construction machinery presents me an opportunity to filter out the unwanted and focus on what I am doing at that point of time. If I practise this, it would help me concentrate on what i’m doing instead of getting distracted. This is especially handy in a densely populated and noisy country like India. The next factor rain, has actually brought down the temperature, made the outside terrain pleasantly greener, helped fill up the catchment areas and has provided me a reason to go out on a long drive to the nearby outing spots. Hmm…not bad! Moving on to the newspaper, I can just filter out the bad news and read the neutral or good ones or else just read a book of my liking. Easier said than done, but worth giving it a try. Also, I can push up the energy levels by doing some indoor workout like stretching, push ups and some brisk skipping.

Here, am strongly tempted to quote the now famous Indian mystic, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. He says, we cannot change the situation because we have no control over it but we can certainly change the context through which we look at it. In my case, if I change the context, my “gloomy morning” becomes a  “good morning”, literally. Vedanta, the awesome spiritual scripture goes still further. It says the mind is a fertile soil which has a harvest of thoughts, impressions and experiences. These have grown over a period of time. If I sow good thoughts, good impressions and nourish it with positive experiences, the harvest would be all positive. The key is to weed out all negative thoughts and impressions. If someone is talking to you but your mind is distracted by some other thought, you would not really understand what he is saying even though he is looking at you and you can hear him. This is because the mind is focussing somewhere else which is also commonly known as being absentminded. Similarly, I should be absentminded to negative influences.

I have to observe the flow of thoughts and train the mind to cultivate only the positive ones. Our life, says Vedanta, is only a projection of our thoughts and impressions. If you have all the positives stuffed inside, you would radiate positivity outside. So all that matters is what is “inside”. If I manage my inside, my outside is taken care of!

A Different Shot

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Far off I could see the sun going down. The sky had got an orange tinge to it. The birds were flying back to their nests. My day was about to start and I was feeling good about it. It was Friday evening and slowly but surely the crowd was building up on the streets. The office goers were hurrying back to their homes looking forward to the much awaited weekend. They radiated exuberance and excitement. Their body language was that of a school child going home after a long day. Meanwhile the lights on the streets and in the shops had come up giving the whole place a festive look. By now the billboards which had lighted up, gave a larger than life feel to the place. The roadside stalls too were ready to serve their customers. The aroma of the pav bhajis, the biryanis, the vadapavs and dabhelis wafted through the air. The street food aficionados were already thronging the stalls.

Nearby, a well-known bigger hotel too had its customers lined up while the valets frantically worked to park the vehicles. Being a weekend, there were more families at the hotel with the young, the not so young and the old dressed in their best attire waiting to have a go at the food. On the streets, I could see youngsters zipping  on their bikes to their weekend party destinations. It was hard to miss the contagious enthusiasm. By now, the shopping crowd was building up and the salesmen at the stores had their hands full catering to the customers. The customers at the apparel store across the street, not satisfied with the variety of clothes on display, kept asking for more options. The kids could not stop ogling at toys in the toy shop next door. While some persistent kids could force their parents to visit the store, other mellow ones kept pleading to go in there.

The grocery store too had its share of the crowd with people picking up their wares for the upcoming week. These are the people who are busy the entire week and this is the time they can stuff the grocery for the upcoming week.  The traffic policeman stationed at the busy road junction was having a tough time controlling the burgeoning rush of vehicles. I always enjoy the view from up above. It gives me a different perspective of the scene around. The buzz on the street had reached a crescendo.   It sustained for a few hours and in accordance with the nature’s law, started to wane . The rush was subsiding and the crowds started thinning out. The stalls were preparing to wind up. The bigger shops were in the process of calling it a day. It was now significantly quiet and a chill had built up in the air. The clock had ticked well past midnight and the busy road junction which was buzzing with activity a few hours back now had a subdued feel to it.

Time passed by and the dawn was breaking out in the eastern part of the sky. The sun was about to light this part of the globe and my light was about to go out. After all, a street light is supposed to go off in the morning!!

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