The Dark Knight Rises: An Interpretation Along The Jungian Process Of Individuation



[Contains spoilers!]
[For clarifications or criticisms please look at the personal notes at the end of the post]
[I'm assuming some familiarity with Carl Jung's work, if not here is a primer]

It turns out that The Dark Knight Rises is resplendent enough with interesting characters and a plot that encapsulates the Jungian process of individuation with Bruce Wayne's journey being the template for the character conjoining back to the archetype of the Self. Described below is an archetypal analysis of the stages along the process of individuation as portrayed in the movie with the various characters representing (being projections of) the psyche of the Batman/Bruce Wayne ego-entity.

Ego/Persona
A curious feature of modern superhero characters is the question of  "Who made who?" - did the alter ego create the superhero or did the superhero create the alter ego. For example did Bruce Wayne's ego (billionaire, playboy, wounded child) create the Batman's persona (crime fighting hero) or did the Batman's ego create Bruce Wayne as a persona? A not-so-bad analysis is done in this one shot where it is agreed upon that neither is the persona of the other. Bruce Wayne DOES want to be a billionaire-playboy but at the same time wants to be the crime fighting Batman. This is evident from the first movie where he re-appears on the Gotham social scene with two models on either arm and in The Dark Knight with seven. In The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) Miranda Tate mentions that Bruce never attended charity balls, but his pursuit of women shows that he might have accepted his playboy image to a certain level. To conclude, neither the Batman nor Bruce Wayne is the controlling ego but are both a part of the same person - a well integrated balanced personality.

Abandoned Child
Another curious aspect of superhero movies is the archetype of the abandoned child and its projection. Every hero has lost a loved one(s) early in their childhood (Batman - his parents, Superman - his planet Krypton, Spiderman - his uncle Ben, Green Lantern - his father etc) urging the hero to use the rage and pain to do good. These characters, instead of embracing the barren abandoned nature of their psyche project it onto their respective cities (Superman - Metropolis, Batman - Gotham, Green Lantern - Coast City etc) protecting them from villains and the like, playing the role of a protective parent.


The Shadow
The shadow is when things gets interesting in TDKR. Batman's shadow is portrayed by another masked character - Bane. Born of the same spiritual father (Ra's al Ghul) Bane seeks to altogether (metaphorically) eliminate the pained projection of the abandoned child by planning to detonate a "fully primed neutron bomb" in Gotham city. It is characteristic of the shadow to have the same overall goals of the ego only to use methods that have been rejected by it. In the case of Bane his plans includes the building of an army (Batman works alone), expose himself completely (Batman is a symbol) to the press and the people, kill and not be afraid to die himself. Bane is also portrayed as having an emotionless persona (as against Batman's sentimental side) with a strong Extraverted Thinking ("If he's dead, show me his body" - when commissioner Gordon jumps into the sewer) as well as a philosophical bent of thought characteristic of Introverted Intuition ("I was wondering what would break first, your spirit or your body" - before breaking Batman's back) characteristic of an antagonistic ENTJ with many superheroes being portrayed as being ruled by Introverted Sensing (either in an overly conscious or demonically unconscious way, as discussed with Rohit Ramachandran) doesn't allow them to move on from childhood emotional trauma.

Viewing this from Bruce Wayne's perspective, the time he spends in Bane's prison is a stereotypical "dark night"/nigredo experience where the ego has to gain the strength to beat the shadow (climb out of the pit and be physically fit to fight Bane). Bruce Wayne now needed to reach back into that very emotion (fear) which he had triumphantly conquered over (and hence rejected - Bruce Wayne mentions "I'm not afraid of dying") in Batman Begins. Jung explains that integrating with the shadow requires the ego to face all that it has rejected - fear being the motivator that metaphorically characterizes the albedal upward force propelling  Bruce Wayne out of the pit.


Anima
Nolan keeps us guessing here. Who IS the heroine of the movie? Is it Miranda Tate or is it Catwoman (Selina Kyle). For those of us familiar with Batman lore we already know that Miranda Tate (Talia al Ghul) is   Ra's al Ghul's daughter and Nolan doesn't go against the mythology and remains true to her identity. That only leaves Selina Kyle as the anima figure in TDKR.

Selina Kyle has many characteristics of the anima - different goals (she only wants the device that deletes all her records as well as a drive towards freedom, away from Gotham City) but shares Bruce Wayne's sentimentality and compassion. However, she has her own methods (manipulation, thieving, seduction) to achieve her aims - things the Batman never considered (before even having to reject them). Furthermore, symbolic of Bruce Wayne's growth it is Catwoman who finally destroys Bane by shooting him (he forgives her for it of course - they do live happily ever after don't they?) which the Batman grudgingly approves of when he kisses her back at the very end ("Guess we're both suckers then"). On the journey of individuation, when the ego and shadow are in a deadlock, a common participation mystique is when the shadow is overcome or integrated ONLY after encountering the anima and it is her call that gives the ego the strength to finally triumph over the shadow.



Wise Old Man
In usual superhero mythology, the hero is always brought up by a wise old man/woman/couple (Superman - Jonathan and Martha Kent, Spiderman - Uncle Ben and Aunt May etc) where, in spite of a lack of parental figures superheroes have an emotional and moral functioning core (unlike most villains who lack it). In the case of Nolan's Batman that role is played by Alfred, his butler. Although an 'employee' of Bruce Wayne Alfred shows all the love and care that a father would to child but quite mindful that he isn't really Bruce's father. He doesn't hesitate in interfering with Bruce Wayne's matters at what he feels to be the appropriate time ("No. I'm afraid that you want to." - when Bruce asks him if he would fail going up against Bane, burning Racheal's letter in The Dark Knight to save Bruce the pain of rejection from the only person he loved, walking out on him to try to urge him to stop being the Batman etc). He is also always at Batman's side preventing him from slipping into the darkness that always gnaws at his soul (suturing his injuries, researching villains, providing a wiser view on matters, taking care of his fitness and the Wayne estate etc), but never fully aiding him either - aware that it is Bruce Wayne's journey and not his own.


Dark Mother
Miranda Tate's character is one not usually found in superhero movies - The Dark Mother. The dark mother is symbolic of absolute safety, complacency and the temptation of eternal rest away from the harshness of life. In Nolan's trilogy, since childhood Bruce Wayne is fighting a never ending battle against evil with his only hope for a normal life (Rachel Dawes) being killed by The Joker in The Dark Knight and is finally able to lay down his suit after The Joker's arrest. In the beginning of TDKR Bruce Wayne/Batman has not appeared in public for 8 years, characteristic of the emergence of The Dark Mother archetype. It is later revealed that he has been silently working with Miranda Tate to build the fusion reactor which would be his ultimate gift to the world. A curious feature of being under the influence of The Great Mother is feeling safely apart from the world, protected in the mother's womb but looking outside - judging (a depressive episode). In those 8 years Bruce Wayne has shown this characteristic, although not explicitly mentioned his actions of pulling the plug on his fusion project after Dr.Pavlov was kidnapped is indicative of his growing paranoia (in The Dark Knight he trusts the people of Gotham to not blow up the 2 boats). Miranda Tate also served as the one board member in Wayne enterprises that Bruce explicitly trusted and who also initiates sexual relations with him at his lowest point (when Bane's antics in the stock exchange makes him lose all his wealth) - like a mother comforting her wounded son.



The Trickster
The trickster in TDKR is played by Lucious Fox, the sly CEO of Wayne Enterprises. The trickster represents that function of the ego which one believes one has control over but never really does which in the case of Bruce Wayne is Wayne Enterprises. The trickster also aids in the process of individuation by challenging the ego but never in direct opposition (Fox provides the Batman's equipment, financial and political power - 'tricks' necessary for the Batman to operate freely but at the same time weapons when in the wrong hands (Bane takes over the Batman's armory and destroys Bruce's wealth to hand over power to John Dagett)). Many times he acts as a 'partner-in-crime' to the ego/persona but never fully invested in his journey with an attitude of someone going for a ride just for the heck of it.


The Unindividuated Ego
The unindividuated ego is played by commissioner Gordon. He is the hero that could never be. His aims and goals are the same as that of the Batman but he does not do what is really necessary to achieve them. He is willing to play the role of the husband, father and police officer but never to venture beyond that, someone whose every success is directly or indirectly dependent on the Batman's actions (from Gordon's perspective, symbolic of success coming out of a higher calling that has not been addressed yet - beginner's luck). Gordon is aware of the call (allows the Batsignal to operate) but never goes beyond it to take matters into his own hands as a self-actualized individual would (to actively investigate the Batman and find out who or what he is, does not muster up the courage to reveal to Gotham Harvey Dent's crimes). This quote by commissioner Gordon describes himself the best : "There's a point far out there, when the structures fail you. When the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're shackles, letting the bad guy get ahead... Maybe one day you'll have such a moment of crisis. And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I had. Someone willing to... plunge their hands into the filth, so that you can keep yours clean."

Eternal Child
Jung described the Eternal Child as "the man who didn't grow up" - much like John 'Robin' Blake's character in the story. In spite of suffering as a young boy, John holds on to his youthful ideals and becomes a police officer (unlike Bruce Wayne who embraces the darkness to become the Batman). He too feels like Bruce Wayne but has not given up hope of a better future and has faith in the Batman. At the very end of the movie, it is he that as Bruce's spiritual hire inherits the Batman's assets as he too self actualizes (when he throws away the police badge as being ineffective) and is ready to take up the Batman's mantle, but free to mold it to his own liking.



The Self
The archetype of The Self is personified by the neutron bomb/fusion reactor that Bruce Wayne was trying to construct. On saving to fail The Divine Child (Harey Dent in The Dark Knight - the fallen White Knight of Gotham city) Bruce Wayne decides to spend his fortune on developing a prototype nuclear reactor to provide free energy for an entire city. He ceases to focus on his body and mind but rather on the nuclear reactor with additional funds (protective nature of the Dark Mother in whose safe abode delusions of grandeur can be entertained) from Miranda Tate. But just like all archetypes the Self can have a dark side when it becomes corrupted by the Shadow (Bane) and changes into the ticking neutron bomb destined to fulfill Ra's Al Ghul's goal. At the very end of the movie when the Batman self-destructs with the bomb, it is symbolic of the ego finally merging with the Self to create a new third "happier" version of himself - in touch with the Anima (Selina Kyle), exorcises his parents death (gives Selina his mother's necklace), integrates the light and dark aspects of himself (he gives up the Batcave to John Blake and Wayne Manor to Alfred to start afresh) and at the very end gives a warm smile to the one archetype closest to the Self, The Wise Old Man - Alfred

Personal Notes
1. The entire post could just be over interpretation. Christopher Nolan might never have intended it.

2. "Patients suffering delusional episodes often focus their paranoia on an external tormentor. Usually one conforming to Jungian archetypes. In this case, a scarecrow" is a quote (0:33) by The Scarecrow in The Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan does know something about Jungian ideas, or maybe all film makers do. There is also a lot of online literature comparing Nolan's Inception to Jungian active imagination.

3. I've seen TDKR about 7 times now. Yes, Tom Hardy's rendition of Bane is that awesome.

4. Did I already say that Tom Hardy as Bane is awesome?

5. Some mappings between Jungian Archetypes and characters may not be very straightforward. For example

a) Many would argue that Alfred is not the wise old man but rather "Us" in the movie (something Michael Caine himself commemorates in interviews) - an indicative of what a common Gothamite would think if he or she were to know about Bruce Wayne being Batman

b) Alfred-Lucious Fox could be seen together as the "Wise Old Men"

c) Miranda Tate could also be seen as a "Negative Trickster" constantly derailing  (marking the wrong bus as the bomb carrier, providing Bane with information, pretending to be on Batman's ally) the Batman's individuation process

d) John Dagget although having no mention can be seen as a "Negative Wise Old Man" - someone on Wayne Enterprise's board but colluding with The Shadow (Bane)

6. I am just an aficionado of  Jung and am no way qualified for such an analysis. If my analysis is wrong please feel free to mention so in the comments.

Winnicottian State Of Play & The Transitional Object - A Jungian Perspective


Donald Woods Winnicott was a towering figure in the field of Object Relations Theory and came up with creative ideas such as the transitional object and state of play. These theories are highly descriptive of the early stages of development of an adult ego and suggest a process in which new skills are learnt so as to be applied in real life.

Carl Jung made a clear distinction between one's public face (the persona archetype) and the ego-complex (as something closer to its Freudian definition). Modern theorists concur that for a healthy life an ego has to have good levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy, two qualities whose subjective values are largely determined by comparison to other individuals in the outside world. To increase self-esteem and self-efficacy  an individual will have to learn the skills perceived as necessary that will then become a part of their persona, identifying that person with a skill.

Winnicott shows that for there to be healthy learning, a child will go through a phase of uncertainty where the skill/object to be learned/conquered is projected onto a transitional object (eg. In children, a big pink teddy bear might initially be perceived as a threat which would then turn into an object of curiosity and finally into a possession but only when the child feels safe enough to interact with it due to the presence of a parental figure) in a state of play. This similar process can be seen when adults learns various skills as well albeit in the absence of a parental figure, but rather from a sense of trust and confidence in themselves. However, it is a well known fact that an individual's learning ability decreases with age with a peak learning curve seen in early childhood until late teens. Or is that the way it should be?

Jung showed that the child archetype in a prospective role is a representation of future potentialities and psychological maturation. Due to various pressures, as an individual grows up and matures he/she will identify less with the child archetype - disallowing the ego to enter seamlessly into a state of play or to perceive new experiences and skills as transitional objects impairing the rapid assimilation and mastery of new skills and ideas.

In today's fast paced world, in order to survive one needs to constantly be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. These can either be forced onto the individual arising from a sense of fear of being obsolete or can be approached with a sense of play - via one's positive child archetype. These new skills can then leak over onto the persona fueling constant rejuvenation and enrichment of one's public image boosting self-esteem and self-efficacy. Jung posited that the anima/animus archetype is a gateway or guide to the unconscious, but it is the child archetype that can truly act as a guide between the ego and the persona - almost like the opposite face of the anima/animus's golden syzygy.

Traveler Or Tourist?

Why do you travel?

Is it to escape the mundanity of your everyday life?
Is it to visit new places to expand your intellectual, emotional and cultural horizons?
Is it to visit old places to relive memories of bygone days?
Is it just to challenge yourself to go to a new place and survive the experience?
Is it so that you can update your Facebook status and show pictures of your visit to friends and family?

I'm extremely fond of archaeology, history and culture and visiting ancient places is always fascinating to me. I love to spend hours in a museum soaking in my perception of the era and trying to map out where I fit into the grand scheme of human cultural existence - ...till the tour guide tells me that's its time to leave as the group has to make it to the next destination before lunch so that we can visit the destination after that before 4PM because it would be open only until sundown since the local government did not have the necessary funds to maintain the lighting of such a large area.....

And I angrily curse  to myself  "...damn tourists"

Travelling to me evokes a strong response of expansion, learning and a grand sense of purpose. I've learnt that one can do more travelling in one square kilometer of a small town than in visiting all the hotspots in a large city provided one knows how to really use their senses to absorb, interpret and assimilate the new place.

One might have traveled to every city in the world but have not grown even a bit but a mere laundry man might have greater insights into the human condition constantly visiting the same set of houses day in and day out. If you're of the first kind please do us all a favour - stop wasting fuel, you're polluting the environment needlessly.

P.S.: This post got re-blogged at https://www.facebook.com/AboutHappiness Thank you unknown angel!

Albedo



Men are born with wings, they know of them not
earthly lives we lead, in darkness and fear we wrought
as we grow, our wings grow with us unbeknownst
their feathers wilt and fall around us, from where they come we cannot

Like dead weights they grow, our shoulders grow weary
our gait shifts either way making us unsteady
the nigredal night claws at us, urging us to ready
ourselves for the day when our wings unfold, life no longer heavy




The Value Of 1 Rupee


Re 1 doesn't seem to have much value these days. Beggars re-beg at me when I give them a  1 Rupee Coin, the bus conductor no longer deals with odd numbers for change and the price of a half coffee got upped from Rs.5/- to Rs.6/-, Rs.8/- or Rs.10/-

But there is one object that still stands tall in the land of the 1 Rupee Coin - The Matchbox.


The matchbox stands tall as probably THE commodity that provides the most value for money in the Indian market. Densely packed, there are at least 30 matchsticks in a matchbox! I am regularly asked to procure these for my smoking friends and the amount of value 1 matchbox brings never ceases to amaze me. Fire, being one of mankind's greatest friends finds its origin in modern life largely with the matchbox. Smokers use its contents to light cigarettes, slum dwellers to light their kerosene lamps and EVERYBODY uses them to bring light during blackouts.

Is 1 Rupee really that invaluable?

Overthinking


"Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must 
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines."

..sang Maynard James Keenan in a song touted as the greatest metal song of the 21st century...

I disagree

I've been accused of over thinking many times in my life (and believe that people's accusations are true) but I've grown to realize that life would probably worse off without "over thinking". Sure I've made mistakes, but it is the same over thinking that probably led Einstein to develop his theory of relativity, the Buddha to come up with Buddhism or even tech geeks to write better code with a constant quest for "more".. its also the same cold hard belief in logic that urges a person to look for answers while navigating the far reaches of one's own soul and not give in to temptations along the way. Ask any addict.
Most people however don't seem to have a problem with that. Issues arise when dealing with thinking about seemingly mundane things - why are there small brush like things on escalators, why a phone call or text message wasn't returned or why a special friend dumped someone.

Here's the deal with thinking. Its fundamentally a judging function used to judge, conclude or resolve. When the end of a train of thought is usually a conclusion how can one over overdo it? The problem lies not in over thinking rather in incorrect thinking.

Over thinking is usually plain to see when the explanations needed to propose a conclusion seem to loop around one another or extend outward in ever increasing possibilities seemingly leading nowhere. 

In that case:

1. Examine your premises - you've assumed something wrong
2. Take no prisoners - retrace all your trains of logic
3. Most importantly, have the courage to say "I don't know"- Insufficient information in my experience is the most common cause of the disease of  "over thinking"

Coming back to Maynard James Keenan, thinking and analyzing are powerful tools we need to make our lives happy. When used well they bring clarity, a sense of sureness and stability that intuition or feeling can never provide. Every human being needs peace of mind and security before he can explore his or her feelings and intuitions.

Look at the chair you are sitting in, the clothes you are wearing or the communication device you are reading this from. You need to thank somebody's obsessive thought process for bringing them to you. The manager's drive to constantly improve the supply chain to reduce costs, the retailer's to increase sales and even your accountant's who strives hard to see that you have money to procure these things. Sometimes, over thinking could even kick in powerful unconscious intuitions leading to major discoveries as when Kekule discovered the structure of Benzene!

I believe that over thinking, is under rated.

How A God Should Die

God once sat on his throne in all his majesty. Complete and full, he held the devil by a leash - like an obedient dog.

But soon He grew old and feeble and lapsed into a timeless sleep.. and slowly let got of the leash.. and was devoured..



But what if he stuck a gun up his throat and blew a bullet right through his head?


P.S. I have no idea what this post means, just that it had to be "written"

Bring Me The Drugs


According to modern science, this is all there is to life. Is this the right direction??
Courtsey: 9gag.com

Pay Your Bills

As a little kid I was always amazed by crowds. The hustle and bustle of people walking about, busy and full of purpose always enthralled me.

"What could they be so busy about?"

But my biggest question was - "If all these people got their minds together to end the world's problems - cancer, aids, climate change, religious intolerance - won't at least one of them be able to come up with the solutions?"

But now I ask myself - What are YOU doing??

An unverified story about Manmohan Singh



I recently heard an unverified story regarding our current Prime Minster Dr.Manmohan Singh which seemed pretty amazing (my friend could've been making it up as well, but that I somehow doubt!).

It was in the 90's that a conversation between a reporter and Dr.Manmohan Singh went something like this

Reporter(R): "Sir, how would you reduce corruption in India"

Manmohan Singh (MS)(promptly): "There are 5 ways"

R: "Could you share them with us please?"

MS: "Yes, I would change the currency"

.. and the man apparently slowly walked away... Changing the currency with a 1:1 conversion ratio would necessitate all the black money to get converted to white money by exchanging it with the central bank if it were to have any value. This money would HAVE to then be accounted for in the system (at least in theory, but it sure would shake things up for the corrupt)

I don't know about you, but I sure like politicians with ideas like this, even if not the force. I always wonder what the other 4 ideas were.....

Psychological Functions: Their Highest Ideals


Psychological functions are common pop-psychology in modern times - used everywhere from marriage counselling to job interviews with a view to 'type' people all the while trying to draw a comparative analysis of the various skills that people have and can develop.

However these functions, on seeing them well differentiated in their purest form, in the absence of any other function seem to promulgate a world-view highly unique albeit incomplete in the grand chaos of life. Below is a tentative matching of functions with the values (and lifestyle) that they would seem to evoke in an individual. The subject of the statement is always the consciousness whereas the objects for the Extraverted functions lie in external reality while for the Introverted functions they are the internal models.

Extraverted Thinking (Te) - "Is everything in order and going according to plan?"
Introverted Thinking (Ti) - "How better can this be done without breaking too many rules?"
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) - "Is everybody happy? Is there harmony?"
Introverted Feeling (Fi) - "Is this really a thing of beauty and subjective worth?"

Extraverted Sensing (Se) - "The present moment is all there is. Life exists in the NOW"
Introverted Sensing (Si) - "Our culture and traditions define us. Change is not always a good thing"
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) - "There is always something more here. Everything is in a state of flux"
Introverted Intuition (Ni) - "There is a subjective meaning to everything which links up to everything else"

Any suggestions and/or corrections are welcome!

Carl Jung: A Homage


Dear Dr.Jung,

Thank you for teaching us how to bring down the Gods.

Thank you for showing us how to navigate one's soul and the universe.

Thank you for giving us the tools for sowing the seeds of compassion and understanding.

Thank you for showing us that we're simply accidents, waiting to happen.

To end with a quote from the famous travel author and explorer, Laurens Van Der Post
“biology and spirit, science and the demands of the soul, the discipline without and the call within, have common living ground” (Van Der Post, 1975, pg. 91).

On Mourning



My first experience of loss occurred when my grandmother passed away. I was sitting at home watching a documentary on UFO's when my mother suddenly received a call. As she was speaking into the phone, I could see the tears well up in her eyes and as she kept the phone down she could not help but break down completely. Seeing her in tears, I started crying too not knowing what was going on or why my mother was crying. I was 10 years old then. Today, about 14 and a half years after my mother is smilingly preparing breakfast in the next room. What changed? Why is my mother not crying now? Because the mourning is over.

"Time is the greatest healer" is one of the oft repeated statements when dealing with loss. People always get better the greater the time between today and the sorrowful event. So, if people do EVENTUALLY get better, why then is there an initial sadness? What is the purpose of mourning?



Many songs, books and travelogues have been written documenting the mourning process. My favourite is Neil Peart's Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road and the legendary Into The Wild. Both of these document a significant psychological trauma after which the protagonist travel 'away' from the source of the trauma to heal their wounds respectively.

Mourning as a phenomenon is not merely a social custom in man but can be seen in mammals such as elephants, dogs and other primates as well. Therefore it ought to provide an evolutionary mechanism for something - I believe it to be a motivation of creating distance from the traumatic event. Notice that death in the animal kingdom is very rarely self inflicted as in man, but more due to the presence of a predator or some other environmental agent. Therefore if a certain member of the species were to die, the process of mourning might prevent other members of the group form venturing into the same area thereby avoiding the cause of death of the member. It could be the same mechanism that makes time a great healer of trauma since receiving more positive feedback from the environment, over the course of time (even if the environment is the same eg. the same house where the traumatic event occurred) would create the same impression of 'moving away' from the source of the damage.


Your thoughts?

Burning Down The House!

I first heard of the Talking Heads when Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails pointed to Remain In Light as his favourite album of all time. Was it an amazing album? Yes it was! But the music didn't jump out at me and I had to pay a lot of attention to see the brilliance behind David Byrne & Co's masterpiece. I moved on to more of David Byrne's work with Brian Eno in tracks such as Strange Overtones and Home thanks largely to them being on one of my favourite movies - Wall Street 2. But then on a sleep deprived Saturday morning, at 4 AM my friend Dhruva Gautham played this mind blowing song....



.. and I haven't stopped listening to it since. (link to the lyrics) Talking Head's song writing abilities, sheer energy on stage and showmanship is plain for all to see. 

Talking Heads.. here I come!




On Rejection



Rejection is an interesting event that happens to everyone. One could be rejected by a lover, a company, a university or even by a cranky auto driver not willing to drive you to your destination simply because of the one-way in between. Turns out, rejection happens all the time to everyone simply because no person can satisfy everybody all the time. Simple right? But why does it leave such a bitter taste that sometimes takes a long while heal?

Nature has not wired anything into us that we don't need. Everything is useful and fulfills some purpose or the other in life - so what about sadness or rejection? Turns out, as in the case of rejection, as in the case of depression the sadness after rejection seeks to create an atmosphere and attitude to answer one simple question - Why?

Lets say one did not know why the auto-driver refused to take you "Was I rude to him before? Am I  stinking bad body odour? Is he a religious fanatic? Do I look like a terrorist? Does he have a distaste for people from my state?" are some the explanations that you might come up with. But knowing that there is a one-way road along the way makes his decision obvious- and even make you predict it!

But what of the complex case with human relationships? That strange case where boy rejects girl or vice-versa, when the interviewer assures of a job but then you get a rejection letter, when a father kicks the son out of the house for seemingly no reason. What then does one do? There are never any sure answers are there?

But amongst all those who eventually heal, one realization is common. Plainly put - "It's not my fault, I'm still worth it". The rejected individual knows that he/she is worth it IN SPITE  of being rejected! This being the case the individual would never feel the sadness after rejection because they know that it was not caused due to anything that was in their power, but rather by the grand chaos that surrounds us all...

Living With Grace, Living With Efficiency


Everyday morning, I make myself a small cup of coffee. I try to buy the milk a day before whereas the coffee powder and sugar stay on longer. I cut open the milk packet and pour how much ever milk I want into the cup and from there pour it onto the pan yes, Pan!) for boiling. I then pour some coffee powder and sugar into the cup, waiting for the milk to boil.

And there is a dilemna I face everyday - "What do I do when the milk is boiling?"



Efficiency:
1. Read the news on my smartphone
2. Go set up hot water for bath
3. Make your bed/fold your clothes
4. Make a "To-Do" List
5. Check/Reply to E-Mail
6. Do Surya-Namaskar etc You get the picture

(OR)



Grace:
1. Feel the warmth of the morning sun on your face
2. Take a deep breath and enjoy the gradually increasing traffic outside
3. Experience the early morning stillness
4. Be mindfull and thankfull for the wonders of science, economics, labour etc that go into preparing the coffee

Turns out, this is a major issue that nobody is aware off. Busy people are told to 'slow down', 'prepare for the ever changing nature of life', meditate and to experience the 'power of now' whereas dreamers and sensors are told to 'stop being lazy', 'don't waste time' etc etc

Turns out, all such dilemnas have seem to have a simple clever solution - find balance! Easier said that done right? I've noticed that broadly people tend to have a firm preferance for one or the other and with age develop an appreciation for the other side. However, those who fully embrace both sides (and find balance!) are exceptionally lucky and gifted. If you know such a person or are one, please let me know.. or better still .. do write a book!

Why Call Him Greg?

Random wonderings on a Sunday morning..

In BBC's Sherlock in the episode The Hounds Of Baskerville there is a little clipping where inspector Lestrade's real name is mentioned. Below is the clip:




Its Greg! Sure Conan Doyle does mention that Lestrade's first name starts with a G, but could it so be that Steven Moffat is poking fun at none other then Gregory House (from House M.D) by comparing Lestrade, obviously of an inferior intellect than that of Sherlock's to Hugh Laurie's much loved character?


The Economics Of Dowry

A lot has been said and written about dowry in India and it has more or less been accepted as a disagreeable practice to follow, however the institution of dowry is still very prevalent in large parts of the country. There is a lot of literature out there that presents many a cause-affect relationship between dowry and various other issues such as female infanticide. I am not here to doubt any of those factors, but rather take a more clinical approach.

Dowry is an institution that has existed in our culture for many generations and like any other institution that has survived the test of time something about it provides a net addition to society - even if not immediately apparent. This piqued my curiosity and on further investigation realized that dowry might have played the important role of optimal wealth distribution.

Below are a few assumptions:

1. Consider the case of an isolated village with a primarily agrarian economy.
2. The ebb and flow of nature combined with the power of human will and ingenuity would cause an inequality of wealth amongst its members.
3. Presumably the most able (physically, mentally and emotionally) man would amass the most wealth.
4. Wealth is primarily measured in terms of land ownership, the prime capital in agrarian economies.
5. Women do not own the right to own land.

Let us consider the case where the most wealthy man in the community has a daughter who is of marriageable age and he has to find a suitable groom for her. Naturally, he would look for the man who is again the most able (physically, mentally and emotionally - largely determined by consensus within the community) to wed his daughter and ensure his progeny. He would then provide extra incentive for this alpha of the next generation to engage in wedlock with his daughter by giving him the maximum dowry.

This might just seem to be a familial matter, however there is a hidden impact on society at large. The higher dowry that is given to the more able man ensures that the maximum amount of resources is under the direct control of this man thereby promising wiser usage, greater productivity and increased wealth for all (the largest pieces of land controlled by the most able person in the community would lead to higher wages for all those who work on it).

If seen in this way, dowry seems to serve an important function of wealth transfer within the community, cleverly skipping the genetic component of ownership (the father of the bride, could, in theory give ALL his wealth to his able son-in-law while leaving nothing for his incompetent son). Furthermore, since the selection of the alpha of the next generation is an open process where the children within this closed community are constantly monitored by the adults, dowry in this case almost functions as a sort of 'pseudo-democracy' where the 'King' of every generation is 'elected' by common consensus within the community.

Debugging Code with Dr.Gregory House

Gregory House (played by the awesome Hugh Laurie) is the chief protagonist of FOX's hit TV Show House M.D. He also happens to be in my top 5 favourite list of TV Characters of all time. Most likely an INTP, the character is modeled after Sherlock Holmes - only with repressed feelings and a overly expressed hedonistic streak. His curmudgeonic character provides the drive for the show's dry sarcastic humour which although seemingly heartless at times, nonetheless overshadows a highly insightful thought process while implying a deeper meaning. Every episode opens ones mind to new ideas about modern life and the human condition.

I think I'll stop there with my fanboy ramblings and get to the point. It so happened that while catching up on past seasons of House M.D I was also in that phase of my project which is fondly called as 'Bug Fixing Phase'. So I was fixing bugs in the software at work all day, only to come home and watch House fix 'bugs' albeit they were in the human body. The parallels between work in the software industry and the medical profession were laid  out plainly before me when I immediately made connections between what House would say and how that would be interpreted in the software world. Below are a few, hope you enjoy them!


House: "...Everything is conditional. You just can't always anticipate the conditions."
Analogy: All code is logical and based on conditions. There are however a multide of ways to get the job done so predicting why a bug is present is hard to ascertain without a sound knowledge of the bug. Bottom line? Reading other people's code sucks.

House: "You could probably scan every one of us and find fifty doo-dads that look like cancer"
Analogy: Never look at the log for a bug blindly. You're probably going to see plenty of errors not related to what you're working on anyway and just end up spending a lot of time figuring out which is the correct error to look into.

House:"If no diagnosis fits, that leaves only one diagnosis.. the patients faking"
Analogy: Invalid bug! The tester tested a wrong scenario.

House: "I value your opinion. I value rejecting your opinion."
Analogy: There is always this one guy who ALWAYS comes to the wrong conclusion, but helps everybody else reach the right one.

House: "You two, go run your tests for genetic diseases and you can go check the house for toxins"
Analogy:"You two check the code for logical inconsistencies and you can go check the server box for database and threading issues".

House:"Good things usually happen, bad things sometimes happen"
Analogy: Most programmer's code usually works well, is well written and smart. Managers ought to know NOT to judge their programmers but what they do wrong, but rather what they do right. The production server didn't crash right?

House: "Patient's dying, I'm done with clever."
Analogy: The bug has to be fixed, even if it screws up everything else.

House:"Great job. Gonna miss you. Want to start missing you as soon as possible."
Analogy: Every bug fixer's thought after fixing a bug and waiting for the testing team to retest it.

House: "Oh my God. You're not wearing a bra."
Analogy: I'm a software engineer and I'm single.

House: "I'm not deflecting because I'm avoiding something deep. I'm deflecting because I'm avoiding something shallow."
Analogy: The attitude of managers at appraisal meetings. They suck, but have to be done.

A big thanks to http://www.housemdquotes.com/ for keeping track of some of these gems!

The Thayir Sadam (Curd Rice) Test

Deciding on a life partner can be a daunting task. It is filled with doubts and apprehensions of failed expectations or falling short of expectations. In my case I was filled with self doubt and suffered from low self esteem while approaching matters of the heart and never had the guts to express myself to the girl of my dreams. Unfortunately for me, her name was Heidi Klum.

But all my doubts melted away when I stumbled upon 'The Thayir Sadam Test'! For the uninitiated, Thayir Sadam is Curd Rice in Tamil. It is a popular dish in South India and is eaten during most meals. So if Heidi Klum and I were ever to get together, we would have to, at some point, end up sharing a meal consisting of thayir sadam.


Now, take a deep breath, the test can be stated as below:

"Imagine a romantic candle lit dinner with the girl/guy of your dreams. Your partner is looking as gorgeous as ever as you look deep into each other's eye and feel that special connection. You feel the tension heighten and your heart rate quicken as his/her very presence takes over your entire being and your head starts to spin. The two of you, lost in each other's gazes then slowly move towards each other till you can feel your partner's breathe on your cheeks. And in this magical moment your partner's face slowly turns sideways and as he/shes opens their mouth to make that kiss you see the small pieces of thayir sadam stuck in the braces between his/her teeth and a couple of them fall off and onto the table below........."


Does that snap you out of reality? Did that make you feel oddly disgusted? If so, he/she failed the Thayir Sadam test.

If your partner passes the test however, marry him/her.

P.S. This post was inspired by deep and meaningful conversations about life, the universe and everything with Rohit Ramachandran, the world's greatest troll

Smiles And Hemispherical Preference

Its a well known fact that the right brain (more or less) governs creativity, emotional processing and non-linearity  whereas the left deals more with reason, logic and the passage of time. It also does imply that we use different sides more actively while engaging in different tasks. However every individual has a preference for using one particular side more than the other - thereby determining what one is good at.  A simple 'pop-psychology' test would be in deciding which ear you would put onto a closed door if you wanted to listen to what is going on at the other end. Right ear implies left brain processing and the left ear would imply the right.

Then I began to wonder, could there be any other way to ascertain a preference? Thats when I decided to observe half-smiles or smirks as you might call them. Being mostly around left brained people, I realized that most of them always smirk with the right side of the lip going up (Yay! for me) and so I decided to observe  an entirely different set of people - Actors. And no surprise there! About 80% of the smirks I see across TV Shows/Movies shows that actors prefer to smirk with the left side of their lip going up first. Acting, as you may have guessed is a predominantly right brained activity requiring a sense of empathy forcing some aount of 'merging' with the character to be portrayed - something the left brain would find almost impossible.

As an example of what I've been on about, below are pictures of Andrew Scott (who plays Jim Moriarty) and Benedict Cumberbatch (who play Sherlock Holmes) in Steven Moffat's Sherlock.

Andrew Scott has a distinct right-brainer smile..


.. while Benedict has the exact opposite..



If you do observe closely, their acting styles are completely different with Andrew taking on a raw approach (maybe his character demands it, so I might be wrong) whereas Benedict's is highly cerebral (watch him here as well as in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Hope you notice this everywhere you go!