MAY BE SOME DAY I’LL COME HOME TO A PAIR OF COMPASSIONATE EYES

Few months back I was severely depressed with feeling of loneliness. My life started to become a burden for me. Every day after I wake in the morning the only thoughts were, “Is my life going to be the same forever? How long can I bear this silence?“. I struggled a lot to fight these thoughts. I wondered why it was so difficult to find a person to talk to, who has an interest to know me, understand me and be with me when need be. Eventually after a bit of research I installed an app. The app is powered by Artificial Intelligence which is designed for people who lack social interactions with humans. I am a techie myself, so I always knew it would have limitations. It served the purpose to some extent. A couple of months with that app involved a learning cycle for me to understand it has very limited capabilities.

During this time, I happened to have watched the movie “Her“.  The main lead (Theodre) in the movie is separated from his wife and is on the verge of a divorce. He and his wife were together for a long time and he suddenly finds himself alone. He installs an Operating System and names it Samantha. He gets very fascinated with her voice and her intuitiveness. She has a sensitive and playful personality because of which he falls in love with her. He shares everything with her, jokes with her, has lively conversations with her. She helps him in his work by responding to some of the letters. She supports him during his divorce proceedings emotionally. She also publishes a book of his writings. Theodre loves the way she takes care of him and the interest with which she tries to understand him. Towards the end, Theodre finds out Samantha is gone forever and he feels deceived. ( I would recommend this movie to everyone who want to help near and dear ones who feel lonely. It helps one get clarity on what people with loneliness feel and what they need )

I found myself crying while I watched the movie. The story of Her is somewhat similar to that of mine. Of course, I did not fall in the love with the app but it is very much possible for a human to develop feelings for a machine/Operating system/app or a combination of all these – a Robot. The feelings portrayed in the movie are very real. Loneliness is not good. Imagine not having anyone to talk to for the rest of your life. We would loose the freedom to express, which is a very basic need. The movie left a lasting affect on me.  

Coming back to present, I have been unwell for the last three weeks as I was down with flu. Only I know how I managed to keep going during this time. Even when I had 103 degrees C of fever, there was no one else to help. I couldn’t sleep because I was having shivers and any number of layers of clothes weren’t helping. Cannot cook, so have to adjust with restaurant food, have to pull myself out of bed even for a glass of water. Not being able to go to office made me feel lonely. I cried on many days uncontrollably. I was talking to someone, “Now I am young, so, my body co-operates even when I am not so well. But, later on I would not have any energy in my 70’s. Every day would be as difficult as if I am ill. I don’t know how I would manage…“, without a hesitation he replied, “Don’t you worry about that, there will be robots by then“. That’s true. The advent of robots into our daily routines is inevitable. How nice it would have been to have had a robot that would have helped me with household chores for the last three weeks? Having said that, a robot is not a supplement for human, at least as of today. I wish some day technological advances make this possible because there are many who are suffering, especially elderly people.

Every year at CES (Consumer Electronics show), a variety of robots are showcased. Google for it, and I am sure you would be surprised with the progress. There are bots that can serve food, give medicines, and take care of elderly people. Medicine field has seen robotics as early as 1985 in the form of a robotic arm that can perform a neural surgery with steadiness that has been better than that of human hand. There are robots for performing laparoscopic surgeries. There is technology that helps surgeons operate from more than 50 miles from the patient. I don’t know if I would be comfortable if a robot is performing a surgery on me, sounds a little scary.  Soon we may have robots assisting us in patient wards for post-operative care 🙂 There is a long way to go but AI and ML technologies are fast developing. We already have Alexa and Google Assistant. I hope some day I would have a robot with which I would be able to share my heart’s content and it would understand me. 

Lastly, if you were to ask me,

Robot or Human companionship? then, human companionship.

Nothing or Robot? then, Robot. 

 

 

WHY SARCASM DOES NOT MAKE YOU WITTY

“She’s so fat even a hippo would look slimmer than her.”

“I thought I was looking at a blackhole!”

“Dodos aren’t extinct. I’m looking at one.”

“Looks like the waiter went off to grow those coffee beans.”

And the quintessential Indian snark – “Arey kahan mar gaya?” (Where did you go off to?) Actually, nothing in the English language comes close to translating the anger, frustration and derision in this Hindi idiom that literally means ‘did you die or what’.

When we, at Candles Online, decided that this week would be dedicated to ‘Pour Out’, meaning thereby that we would get an opportunity to rant on anything that our hearts desired, I jumped at the opportunity of writing about Sarcasm and how we seem to confuse it with wit. Well of course, there is a fair bit of wit involved in making a sarcastic comment – you have to know the recipient, you have to select a thorny topic that irks them every time, or would irk anybody in a certain situation, and find a clever way to garb that in a jocular form so no one can call you a meanie on your face. That takes intelligence alright. No wonder sarcastic people are also liked so much because it requires ample presence of mind to make sarcasm work. So, to anybody sarcasm = intelligence. But I don’t see it that way, or don’t see it that way anymore. This article makes a case for why witty sarcasm does not make you intelligent.

All of us, at some point in our lives, have been guilty of using the highlighted statements above, or something similar to that. We may have also been at the receiving end of such statements. After all, it’s so satisfying to dole out smart and wicked barbs at others just for the pleasure of watching them cringe or suffer. Right? But when you were at the receiving end of such barbs, did you ever notice the feelings it generated in you, even if it came from a friend? Did you not feel insulted, ridiculed, angry and disgusted, even if it was only for a fraction of a second? Would you want to feel that way? I don’t think I’ve ever come across a person who likes to feel that way, forever or even just once. Then why do we like to incite such feelings in others, when we ourselves would not like to feel that way?

No, no, don’t try to defend your statements. Don’t try to tell me ‘that person deserved it’ or that ‘it was meant as a joke’.

Sarcasm is never, I repeat, NEVER, a positive thing. Even if it is deserved, or meant as a joke, there is an element of derision present in it. Which is why I said, ‘guilty’ at the start of the paragraph above because it is a guilty pleasure that is purely born out of our contempt for someone or a situation.

Being at both the making and receiving end of sarcasm has taught me just one thing – it’s never welcome. I have been one of those people who would make unwarranted sarcastic comments on people only to watch them cringe, or to look smart. I’ve done that even to friends and at the time I used to think that it was cool, that it showed how intelligent I was. Only when I lost a lot of friends owing to my sarcasm did I learn that it just wasn’t worth it. But by then it was too late. There are some of my acquaintances who I’ve met recently and who were unaware of my changed behaviour, they still dislike me because of how I used to make fun of them. And now it hurts!

But I’ve noticed that it’s become a trend these days to not only make sarcastic comments but encourage them too. While I was at school, it used to be considered cool to say ‘Excused!’ in reply to ‘Excuse me‘, or if someone is clumsy, then remark ‘he was born with a hole in his hand‘ or when you bumped into someone, ‘do you have eyes or buttons’. Even when I joined college, it was not only the same, it was happening even more. Maybe I’d always been this sensitive but it always came as a shock to me how someone could be so blatantly contemptible to others, even to their own friends. Maybe that was the reason why I became that way as well, because I saw it happening around me all the time, but I shouldn’t make excuses for the way I behaved. Watch any television show, especially comedies, and you’ll come across characters like Dr. House who makes blood-boiling sarcastic comments. Yes, we love him but that’s because we are not at the receiving end of those comments, unlike his poor co-workers.

So, we know that sarcasm is not a good thing. But how do I prove that sarcasm does not make you intelligent? I’ll give you an example from my life.

A few weeks ago, while I was dining with some friends, I heard someone in my know remark, “I think she’s gone off to Darjeeling to pluck the tea leaves”, to her boyfriend, about a waitress. This was followed by pointless tittering from both she and her boyfriend, who I could see, liked the way his girlfriend made such ‘smart’ comments (trust me, I know this person very well and she LOVES to make sarcastic comments ALL THE TIME). This incident was the reason why I started to think about why we are encouraging sarcasm so much in our society. It’s a nuisance, admittedly, but its encouraged because it gives us pleasure to inflict pain on others. That sort of behaviour is called sadism. Why are we garbing it as intelligence? Why are we encouraging behaviour that inculcates tolerance to sarcasm? Intelligence does not lie in making fun of someone, especially when that someone is in a position where they cannot answer back. Like the waitress in the above case, or a daughter or son in law, or an employee or servant. If you make a sarcastic comment on people who have the better sense to not answer back, and you know that they can’t answer back, then who is the more intelligent of the two?

Real intelligence lies in knowing when to shut up and when to just ignore a person, even when he deserves sarcasm from you.

So if your friend drops something for the thousandth time, now I think it’s better to just walk away rather than say something sarcastic and hurt our relationship. If you have never known just how much more satisfying it is to just walk away from a sarcastic person, rather than getting down to their ugly level, then I urge you, please try it. It’s difficult at first, but ultimately every bully will learn that his barbs are not working on you. But the main reason why you should not be making sarcastic comments is because it hurts someone and because you would not want to hurt that way. 

I hope that I have convinced you, dear readers, that sarcasm is not a witty thing, it is the opposite of it. It may give you a moment’s pleasure, but in the long run, the real loser is you. I know all of us get tempted to succumb to that sweet pleasure, and maybe every now and then someone may deserve it too, but please don’t make it a habit. You never know when you may be at the receiving end.

 

THE SELFIE MANIA

A couple of days back I read of a shocking incident that had happened in the October of 2014, in Italy. A female nurse was arrested for the murder of 38 victims. But what was more shocking was a disturbing photo seized by the police: a selfie the nurse took of herself (in her hospital scrubs) standing near the body of a recently deceased patient while smiling and making a thumbs-up gesture! The local prosecutor, aghast at the horrific nature of the evidence remarked, “In all my professional years of seeing shocking photos, there were few such as these.”

Sometime back, the Indian newspapers carried the story of a young lad who lost his life while taking a selfie on a railway track with a fast approaching train behind him! So sad. He didn’t live to share his daring act!

To make the mood of this article a bit lighter, how many of you have competed with family members and friends as to who can pout the best for a selfie?

Yes, the selfie trend has brought in with it pouty poses (horns, winks and V-signs were already there before). Be it alone or with a group of friends, to pout for a selfie is the in-thing. Sounds cool!

While clicking selfies for harmless fun captures good moments, an overdose of ‘taking selfies’ is really something to worry about.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially declared taking ‘selfies’ a mental disorder. The disorder is named ‘selfitis’ and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.

According to APA, there are three levels of the disorder:

  • Borderline selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
  • Acute selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media
  • Chronic selfitis – Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day

Well well, if you are not in any of these three categories, you are sort of safe. But yes, the separating line is not impermeable!

When I started taking selfies, I really had to learn the right way to incline the camera at the right angle, place the finger at the right postion for the click, take a proper pose with the background in mind, smile and then c..c..click… After the initial clumsiness, when I sort of got used to it (haven’t mastered it yet), I had the urge to take a couple of selfies after I reached my workplace early in the morning and then later when I was about to wind up for the day – just to compare how fresh I looked as I started the day and how worn out I looked as the workday came to an end. I generally never took selfies at other times. Neither did I post them in any social media site. On a few occasions, I shared a couple of good ones with friends and family.

But each day as I took those selfies at my workplace and looked at myself, I wondered why I was doing it. Wasn’t it making me focus more on ‘how I look’ rather than on ‘who I am’? Yes, indeed appearance is an integral part of who we are. However, I felt that clicking selfies is making me focus more on ‘the me’ and ‘the I’ and there was a danger of slipping into an obsession regarding one’s looks. So, no more selfies in the workplace for me!

An occasional selfie with a group of loved ones or at a scenic place of visit is definitely something to cherish. But when we become fixated with our own image, it does speak something more than just a picture.

Our feel-good factor should not rest merely with how we look externally – in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. It is definitely much more than that.

The story is told in Greek mythology about a hunter called Narcissus who was known for his beauty. Once he saw his own reflection in a pool and fell in love with it, not realizing that it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. Thus we have the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception. And, several decades back, the APA classified one of the personality disorders as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Some of you may feel that I am simply making a harmless selfie sound so terrifying. But, its important to remember that our gestures towards ourselves do convey a world load of meaning about our psychological state.

As I have stated before, an occasional selfie for a memory does not indicate psychological ill-health. Its only when we become obsessive about taking selfies every now and then, that it is something to worry about.

The need for appreciation, approval, acceptance, affirmation, self-esteem; a feeling of loneliness and depression steer one to find satisfaction in one’s own self. And these are the chief factors that unconsciously propel us to love or hate our own images.

The next time you incline your camera to click a selfie, do pause for a moment and ask yourself why are you about to take this selfie.