Expectations

 

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The word ‘expectations’ like the meaning suggests is pregnant with expectations! All kinds of expectations, without limits, no boundaries, adjust themselves according to the context, are situational and are potentially infinite. It is like the universe, ever expanding, infinite and unbounded. Expectations are all pervading and no one can escape from them. Everyone has all kinds of expectations from life, from their partners, friends, job, society and ultimately life. It is one of the most basic instincts in all living things even animals and insects. Just look at a spider waiting in its web expecting a prey to pass by and get trapped. Look at the crocodile waiting in water, with just eyes out, expecting a calf or a deer to stop by for a gulp. It is amazing how it is built into our psyche, we don’t need to be trained or instilled with it.

Expectations start right from infancy and keep growing as we grow and later assume unexpected proportions so much so that they start driving our life. The nature of expectations too changes as we grow. During childhood, they are innocent limited and most flexible. The child of a beggar on the streets is happy with an odd snack or a broken toy. However, a kid from a well to do family expects a pizza or a burger for a snack and a remote controlled toy or a tab to play with. Here the situation has shaped the expectations. However, expectations have an uncanny ability of growing exponentially. As we grow, the expectations start growing like water hyacinth, slowly but surely until the entire lake or pond is covered. Just picture this, in school, we expect our parents to buy us a better school bag, better compass box, better stationery, better tiffin box, better story book etc. In college we expect better clothes, better accessories, better shades, better bike, better girlfriend etc. Further in life, when we start earning, we start expecting a better job, better pay, better car, and better house and now we find ourselves completely trapped in our own and others’ expectations! That’s right; now others also start expecting from us, our boss, our spouse, our children, our colleagues and even our friends. Day in and day out, we are under the spell of expectations. Our boss expects us to perform better at workplace, put in more hours, more effort and more innovation. Even the team that rolls up to you starts expecting you to fulfill their expectations!

After a hard day’s work, when you come home to relax, you face the brunt of your spouse’s and children’s expectations. Just when we expect the expectations to reduce, they bounce back with even greater force and on a larger scale. However, they are not always bad. If they are nurtured and handled properly, can have a positive influence on the situation. God forbid, but if you find yourself in a bad situation, expecting the situation to improve can help in cultivating a positive outlook in that situation. It is kind of a double edged sword, you have to do a tightrope walk if you want to come out unscathed. If you drill down a bit, expectations are results of attachment. Our attachment to things, our near and dear ones, places and situations triggers expectation. Humans by nature are selfish and they expect a reciprocal gesture for every deed, feeling and action. Being part of the society, we are all caught in the web of expectations, all the time. Even God has not been spared of our expectations. Don’t we always expect good health, wealth and life from him irrespective of our deeds? This becomes the cause of our misery. Now we cannot get rid of all the expectations but can certainly keep them minimum and in proper perspective. Not expecting at all or expecting the unexpected seems to be the mantra here. I can’t help but quote Alexander Pope:

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”

 

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Our Origin and Purpose

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About twenty odd years back, I vividly remember sitting idle in my house, just brooding over something when suddenly, I had this strange feeling. For a few moments, I was no longer thinking like ‘myself’. My mind seemed to detach a bit and asked “who am I and what am I doing here?” It was kind of losing my identity and questioning my existence. Well, I came back to normal and again started thinking like ‘me’ or not thinking at all! Not that it was a profound life changing experience but that question does keep coming back to me. I am sure many of us are also plagued by the same question. What is it that got us here, in this form, in this time. What is the purpose of our existence and what difference does it make? I was born like millions of others, grew up to adulthood, got a job, started a family, got about with my daily chores, got through mental and physical upheavals etc.. But does it make any difference to this earth, the solar system, the galaxy or the Universe as a whole? Is the Universe affected by me being a CEO or a beggar or me committing a crime or a good deed? Now that is not exactly an ethical question but let us just consider it for the sake of argument.

We are much too insignificant in the larger scheme of things. The earth is not even a spec when it comes to our Galaxy, leave alone the Universe. And there are theories that there are parallel universes!! So why are we really here and what is our role in this universe? On the face value, our existence seems entirely inconsequential, devoid of any meaning except for the fact that we are too tied down with our own lives, our relations, things that we own and above all our identity.

With my limited 3-dimesional intellect, there are two ways to address these questions. First, through science as we know it and second through spirituality which also is a science but NOT as we know it. As we are all aware, conventional science has and is still trying hard to answer these questions. Genetic engineers have decoded the human genes and mapped our DNA and one day might be able to produce human clones. Haven’t they done the same with sheep? Astronomers and physicists have been trying to calculate the age of our Galaxy and the Universe and how everything came into being. New theories are being propounded almost every year and the old ones are being discarded. But they remain just that, theories with no definitive proof. And we have not got any closer to the question of why and how the nature got created the way it is and what we should be doing to have any discernible impact on the Universe as a whole. Clearly, conventional science has extremely limited capabilities. What is needed is something really out of the box, literally.

That brings us to the other side, spirituality. Neale Donald Walsch has tried to answer the question in his book “Conversations with God“. According to him, God, the super entity wanted to experience “itself”. Since God was all that was and there was nothing else, another reference point had to be created to experience “itself”. A simple example, if I want to experience myself, I would have to be someone else, another reference point, to really know or understand what am I like. Similarly nature, which we are a part of, got created through which that super entity is trying to experience itself. Drilling down further, the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedanta and the Upanishads have detailed explanations of this. Particularly interesting is the Samkhya philosophy of creation quoted below from the book “Meditation mind and Patanjali’s yoga”.

IMG_20160130_124248942It says, there are two types of super entities called ‘Purusha’ which is pure consciousness or pure sentience, uncaused and eternal and ‘Prakriti’ which is unconscious primordial matter. Though Prakriti is uncaused, it is the cause of everything in this universe, the matter, the energy or even the mind. Prakriti has three constituents, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas also called Gunas. Needless to say, all these exist at a very subtle level which we cannot perceive. These three Gunas have their own characteristics and are in perfect harmony and equilibrium before creation. The process of creation starts when Prakriti borrows consciousness from the Purusha and begins acting like a conscious entity. At this juncture, the equilibrium between the Gunas is lost and as a result Prakriti starts evolving and changing. The gradual transformation of Prakriti leads to the formation of manifold universe. According to this philosophy, there are as many Purushas as there are conscious beings. So the conscious beings are a combination of matter and consciousness.

Prakriti’s first evolved state is ‘Mahat’ or cosmic intellect. The next evolved state is ‘Ahankara’ or cosmic ego. There are three kinds of cosmic ego or Ahankara:

  1. Ego with preponderance of Sattwa.
  2. Ego with preponderance of Rajas.
  3. Ego with preponderance of Tamas.

The Ego with Sattwa or Tamas cannot evolve by themselves, they borrow their energy from the Ego with Rajas. From the Ego dominated by Sattwa evolved the Jnanendriyas or Sense organs, the Karmendriyas or the Motor organs and the Mind. From the Ego dominated by Tamas, evolved the five subtle physical essences or Tanmantras. The Tanmantras are the potential elements or the Generic essences of sound, taste, colour, smell and touch. From the Tanmantras evolved the five gross elements, Akasha(space), Vayu(air),  Agni(fire),  Ap(water) and  Kshiti(earth). The five elements mingled together following certain permutations and combinations to become the manifold tangible universe as we know it.

It is all very interesting and intriguing when we think that we are a part of the same super entity, only in a gross form, trying to ‘experience itself’. All the Vedas, Upanishads and religions constantly exhort us to be one with God or that Super Entity and the cycle of birth and death is merely a journey towards that goal. So right now am pretty happy to be a part of that Super Entity!

 

The “Routine Wave”

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It has been four months now since I sat down to write. Amazing….considering the fact that just about an year ago, I was churning out, if you may, atleast one post a month and was very upbeat and confident about my writing. I reminisced about the past few months and soon found out that nothing significant had happened that would have prevented me from even trying to write something.

I had been busy with my work and played my part in delivering a project as per the “SLA”, meeting client expectations, no issues/defects in production blah blah blah which incidently most of us do, so nothing to shout about there.  Travelled to my native place to celebrate diwali with my family and then travelled again to the same place for getting my driving license renewed. The icing on the cake being the fact that my driving licence had expired 3 years back but I found out about it a few months back and on top of it, was lucky enough not to get a traffic ticket. Also, I drove back from my home town to Pune, a decent distance of 750km with a slightly damaged engine crankshaft bearing, without an incident. Guess I was too charming for Lady Luck! However, this misconception was quickly dispelled when I had to shell out 40,000 bucks to have the engine overhauled. Innumerable mails to the General Manager-Service and fights with the technicians to get a discount bore no fruit. There was no doubt left in my mind that my charm had dried up.

I continued riding the “routine wave” for the next forty five days, visting friends, attending family functions, getting some repairs done in my house, taking the family out for dinners which every ordinary householder does. In between, there was a team event wherein I went out with my colleagues to a nearby beach resort. Everybody had a hell of a time since the event took place after almost an year. Even though I enjoyed it to the hilt, I was completely exhausted, sleep deprivation being the culprit. The body gave ample indications that I was now on the “other side” of the hill. Getting back to work was not easy and took another day to recover from the after effects. Soon it was “appraisal time” and the pain started. Even though it is one of the occupational hazards, the process of judging people, pointing out mistakes and discussing them at length is particularly stressful. It takes up hours of slander, mudslinging and lots of bad blood to arrive at a mutually agreeable(mostly it is agree to disagree) list of top and low performers. But hold on, the pain is not over yet. Putting across the negatives, “areas of improvement” being the sugar coated term, to the affected ones is the highlight of this process. I am particularly bad in this area. No matter how well you put out the facts, the human tendency of not accepting the improvement points starts another round of angst, protests, unwanted comparisons and sometimes tears!  Incidently, this is marked as an area of improvement for me!! Well, this is part and parcel of the brutal corporate life.

So looking back, it has been pretty much “business as usual” but here I am, trying to break that “routine wave” that is always taking me for a ride but in few hours from now I would be back at work. Unlike the wave surfer who catches the wave, here the wave never fails to catch me and never lets me go.

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.

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!