Unbidden Nostalgia

(an exercise in bad poetry… Part 2)

The unbidden nostalgia,
of unwelcome stories,
about events half forgotten,
listened to with a smile
forceful enough to hurt.

Brims to the surface,
from the marshes of my past,
the stench is from the rot,
from when I buried it there.

I’d mutilated these memories,
to make it easier to lie.
A twisted version of reality,
that I could live by.

To Lie in Anger

(an exercise in bad poetry… Part 1)

There was rage.

Hot, boiling, poisonous.

Anger that wanted destruction,
unimaginable ills to befall,
total, uncompromising fury,

Orange with fire,
blindingly bright.

But also dark.

Dark and ugly,
building beneath the surface,

‘Coz there was no vent.

Bound in silence it grew,
corroding my insides,
killing my life,
till it was almost easier,
to convince myself,
I wasn’t just angry about,
I was angry at.

But being angry at,
was a lie.

A lie I told myself,
to make peace with hate,
to channel my disgust,
out instead of in.

But lie that it was,
it returned to bite me,
eons later,
when I was unready.

The lie exposed,
my hate perished.

And try as I might it,
it still felt bad,
to hate at,
instead of about.

An Alternative to Non-Attachment

Non-attachment is preached as a solution to all of life’s problems by a number of people. Let it go. Put it behind you. Forget and it’ll get easier. Give it time.

But this advice, though well-meaning has always felt antiquated to me. This might have worked in an ancient time when the Buddha could preach about eliminating the root cause of suffering and being detached and holding no expectations from the world. But in today’s high-achieving, fast-paced culture of perform or perish, this recipe fails at being implementable and has just become something we tell each other.

How can one work without having aspirations? How can one assert themselves if they always let go when they really shouldn’t? How can one improve one’s life without being attached to it? How can one honestly preach detachment as the cure for heartbreak? While I do not wish to rule out the possibility that letting go might work for certain people in certain situations, to me personally the strategy rings hollow and impractical.

Is there an alternative to Let it Go? I submit that there is: Set it Down. I have tread on this path for the past year now and I can testify to its effectiveness; my shoes show lesser wear, the burden feels lighter and I have even learned to enjoy the journey at times.

So what does setting it down mean? Indulge me a few bullets to punch holes into the sorrows of existence:

  • This path acknowledges that everything in life has its proper place.
  • Your job is to assign things their place.
  • You are the one who gives meaning to the things, people and memories in your life. Use them as you will, when you will.
  • A beginning step in setting things down is to get organized.
  • Setting down tasks: Are there too many things you are supposed to be doing this week? Is the list giving you sleepless anxiety-ridden nights? Don’t let it go, set it down instead. Write these tasks on paper (or electronically), assign times and create schedules. It makes a huge difference!
  • Setting down thoughts: Thoughts that are weighing on your mind are a drain on your productivity. Set them down in a Journal, in a poem, in a drawing (or a blog post).
  • Setting down memories: It is good to remember what your worst failure felt like. Don’t try and erase that memory. Set it down. Revisit it when you need courage. Remember that that thing happened but you’re still here, still trying to be better. And that’s what matters.

The philosophy of setting it down is letting me make more out of life than I knew possible. It treats every event as a learning experience and allows you to put it aside to recall as needed. It does not discard; it does not discriminate. It lets you set down your burdens in a place of warmth and security, so you can carry on living.

Ser Brienne

Brienne of Tarth is my new favourite fictional character. There is a lot to say for her bravery and her tragic love life (for the record, Brienne and Jaime ♥️ forever). But today I want to talk about her truthfulness — a trait that sets her apart from every other character in the world of Ice and Fire.

A failed princess

At every encounter with the heroes and villains that populate Westeros, we are reminded that she is the Lady Brienne of Tarth. But from the very moment we meet her, she is neither ladylike nor in Tarth. She is a far from home among men who throw her title at her as a taunt instead of an honour.

A failed daughter

Lady Brienne carries the guilt of failing her father Lord Selwyn Tarth by first, not being a boy and then, ironically, by being too boyish. Her appearance and lack of grace make it hard for him to marry her off to a suitable groom, putting Selwyn’s entire legacy in jeopardy.

A failed warrior

While Brienne is undoubtedly skilled with a sword and shield, she has never had the opportunity to prove herself on a battlefield. The War of the Five Kings began and features several glorious battles before it ended. And yet her circumstances always prevented her from taking part in a single one of these battles.

A failed Kingsguard

Even when Brienne the Beauty succeeds in getting appointed to Renly’s Rainbow Guard she soon after face failure in the form of a dead Renly with nothing but (false) murder accusations to show for it. She fails at her sacred charge to protect her king and (in the books) has not yet had the chance to exact vengeance.

My point: the Maid of Tarth fails a lot. And I mean a lot lot because these were just her failures up to A Clash of Kings. And there are 3 more books of such sad and unfruitful deeds. But there is one virtue that she embodies better than most: Truthfulness.

A true knight

The true Brienne is not a princess or a daughter, or a warrior or a lover. She is one thing above all else — she is a knight. She is truthfully to the path an ideal knight must tread. Just like a true knight, Lady Brienne is always on a mission — be it to protect her king and give him her services, deliver Jaime to King’s Landing, or find the Stark girls. She is an Oathkeeper (hence her namesake weapon of Valyrian steel). She shows immense loyalty to her lieges and always protects the innocent and the powerless (while also battling a bear with just a wooden sword). She is rebuked each step of the way but she continues to tread on.

Brienne is lesson for us of the modern world. We are often like Jaime — driven by some misplaced notion of glory, wanting to be knights without paying the price. But it takes a Brienne to show us that true glory is achieved by being truthful to your mission, truthful to our selves. It is not easy being a knight, but she puts in the work. And hence, even though we have witnessed many knights — from Sers Hunt to Lannister, Dayne to Selmy, Thorne to Bronn, and Clegane to Payne to Mormont — there is but one true knight in all of Westeros and that is Ser Brienne of Tarth.

New-Age Hippie

  • Firefox instead of Chrome, Opera or Safari.
  • Like reading books and articles on a tiny little 5″ phone screen.
  • Prefer ebooks to physical copies.
  • Expect favourite books, music, news, television shows, movies and porn to be accessible online for free.
  • Grad student. Math.
  • Linux. Windows is disgusting.
  • Neither own nor plan to own any Apple products. Disagree with their non-customizable product designs.
  • Reddit. Facebook is too pretentious. Snapchat? What’s that?
  • Youtube. Because CGP Grey. And Nerdwriter. And Brady. And Destin.
  • LaTeX, for everything.
  • If audio then podcasts, if podcasts then history, if history podcasts then Dan Carlin.
  • More time spent on Google and Wikipedia than all other sites combined.
  • Stackexchange over Quora.
  • Poetry over prose.

The God I believe in

Do I believe in God? It has been some time since I have actively thought about this question. If you’d known me 8 years ago, you’d know that I was what can only be described as a fanatic atheist. I was a rationalist, on my way to be a scientist. I felt that science disposed off the need for an omnipotent omniscient creator and I was ready to debate this out with anyone who’d care to listen to a hot-headed teenager who read a lot of popular-science books.

But in the years since then, I went from being an Ayn Rand egoist-atheist, to having existential angst, then washing up on the shores of my limited but seemingly important life experiences, part nihilist and part an Orwellian pessimist, a believer in human folly, to finally end up as an Asimovian romantic.

Since mentioning how this series of transformations was affected by my surroundings, conversations I had with important people in my life, and events that shaped the path I chose to tread on will no doubt be more an exercise in psychoanalysis than a simple blog post, I will stick to simply penning down my current thoughts and ideas on the issue, lest I change my mind again about my notions of a deity.

Do I believe that God exists? The answer is no, if by God you refer to the idea of the kind of  creator that organized religion would have us believe in. I do have a concept of God, but His superpowers in my ideology are slightly different. For one, my God does not concern himself with violating the laws of physics, giving blind people eyesight, performing miracles, killing demons, or punishing sinners. My God is not concerned with what I do or how I do it. He is simply indifferent to our world. He is neither omnipotent, nor omniscient, nor benevolent. He is apathetic.

What is the use of such a God you might ask? I tend not to use Him for any of His advertised benefits. I don’t use him for explaining natural phenomena that I don’t understand, I look towards science for answering those. I don’t need Him as an excuse to not harm fellow humans, Darwinian evolution is enough to teach me that. I don’t look to Him to scare me away from stealing, a rudimentary moral code guided by societal norms is sufficient for that. I don’t need Him for finding solace in the face of difficulties — my friends and family do that. I don’t ask Him for luck because I have made my peace with both probability and causality.

What is He to me then? He is an idea, a fantasy I’d like it to be true. He is a construct of my mind to placate me when I am lonely and desperate. To distract me sometimes when I would rather internalize my thoughts than look at the world around me (yes, I need to do that some times). He is my placebo. I don’t ask Him for luck but He can make me temporarily feel lucky.  I like to believe that He holds the answers to my problems because then I can trick myself into feeling more confident.  Best of all, He doesn’t get offended by what someone with a different faith might say. Why not? Because He’s not real. I know it, and He knows it. Yes, I realize that the God I believe in is no different from an imaginary friend and much like a child, my imaginary friend makes me feel happy and secure.

Creation for its Creator’s sake

Who has the final claim to a creation? The creator or the source of inspiration? Perhaps the creation itself. Or is it Time, the sole witness to the process of creating, all-observing yet forever silent?

You write these for yourself, not me, she said;
I don’t care for your poems, I heard.

To be fair to her, she was angry.
To be fair to me, I have a heart.

Sorry, she said; never again, I vowed.
But days crept by, I continued to love her —
that would never change nor cease.
Poetry grew in me again,
like weed — resilient, stubborn.
Love to romance to poems.
I held back my feelings, stopped myself, hated her.
Love to hate, turned poetry to poison.

She didn’t realize ofcourse,
didn’t care enough, I suppose.
How long was I to asphyxiate myself?
How long must one wait idle on a battlefield,
for an enemy to even realize that war has erupted?
A very long wait, I learned.
An unglorious victory, I earned.

All that was left then, was to parade my shame;
and get back to the thankless task of writing poetry —
pretending I never had a heart,
that she never broke,
over poems I never wrote,
which were never about her,
never meant for her,
that she did care about.